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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 127775 times)
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« Reply #6270 on: Feb 28th, 2012, 08:31am »

Science Daily

Ultra-Fast Outflows Help Monster Black Holes Shape Their Galaxies
ScienceDaily (Feb. 27, 2012)

A curious correlation between the mass of a galaxy's central black hole and the velocity of stars in a vast, roughly spherical structure known as its bulge has puzzled astronomers for years. An international team led by Francesco Tombesi at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., now has identified a new type of black-hole-driven outflow that appears to be both powerful enough and common enough to explain this link.


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The supermassive black holes in active galaxies can produce narrow particle jets (orange) and wider streams of gas (blue-gray) known as ultra-fast outflows, which are powerful enough to regulate both star formation in the wider galaxy and the growth of the black hole. Inset: A close-up of the black hole and its accretion disk.
(Credit: Artist concept credit: ESA/AOES Medialab)


Most big galaxies contain a central black hole weighing millions of times the sun's mass, but galaxies hosting more massive black holes also possess bulges that contain, on average, faster-moving stars. This link suggested some sort of feedback mechanism between a galaxy's black hole and its star-formation processes. Yet there was no adequate explanation for how a monster black hole's activity, which strongly affects a region several times larger than our solar system, could influence a galaxy's bulge, which encompasses regions roughly a million times larger.

"This was a real conundrum. Everything was pointing to supermassive black holes as somehow driving this connection, but only now are we beginning to understand how they do it," Tombesi said.

Active black holes acquire their power by gradually accreting -- or "feeding" on -- million-degree gas stored in a vast surrounding disk. This hot disk lies within a corona of energetic particles, and while both are strong X-ray sources, this emission cannot account for galaxy-wide properties. Near the inner edge of the disk, a fraction of the matter orbiting a black hole often is redirected into an outward particle jet. Although these jets can hurl matter at half the speed of light, computer simulations show that they remain narrow and deposit most of their energy far beyond the galaxy's star-forming regions.

Astronomers suspected they were missing something. Over the last decade, evidence for a new type of black-hole-driven outflow has emerged. At the centers of some active galaxies, X-ray observations at wavelengths corresponding to those of fluorescent iron show that this radiation is being absorbed. This means that clouds of cooler gas must lie in front of the X-ray source. What's more, these absorbed spectral lines are displaced from their normal positions to shorter wavelengths -- that is, blueshifted, which indicates that the clouds are moving toward us.

In two previously published studies, Tombesi and his colleagues showed that these clouds represented a distinct type of outflow. In the latest study, which appears in the Feb. 27 issue of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the researchers targeted 42 nearby active galaxies using the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton satellite to hone in on the location and properties of these so-called "ultra-fast outflows" -- or UFOs, for short. The galaxies, which were selected from the All-Sky Slew Survey Catalog produced by NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer satellite, were all located less than 1.3 billion light-years away.

The outflows turned up in 40 percent of the sample, which suggests that they're common features of black-hole-powered galaxies. On average, the distance between the clouds and the central black hole is less than one-tenth of a light-year. Their average velocity is about 14 percent the speed of light, or about 94 million mph, and the team estimates that the amount of matter required to sustain the outflow is close to one solar mass per year -- comparable to the accretion rate of these black holes.

"Although slower than particle jets, UFOs possess much faster speeds than other types of galactic outflows, which makes them much more powerful," Tombesi explained.

"They have the potential to play a major role in transmitting feedback effects from a black hole into the galaxy at large."

By removing mass that would otherwise fall into a supermassive black hole, ultra-fast outflows may put the brakes on its growth. At the same time, UFOs may strip gas from star-forming regions in the galaxy's bulge, slowing or even shutting down star formation there by sweeping away the gas clouds that represent the raw material for new stars. Such a scenario would naturally explain the observed connection between an active galaxy's black hole and its bulge stars.

Tombesi and his team anticipate significant improvement in understanding the role of ultra-fast outflows with the launch of the Japan-led Astro-H X-ray telescope, currently scheduled for 2014. In the meantime, he intends to focus on determining the detailed physical mechanisms that give rise to UFOs, an important element in understanding the bigger picture of how active galaxies form, develop and grow.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120227162801.htm

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« Reply #6271 on: Feb 28th, 2012, 09:28am »

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Governor's Dinner at the White House Feb 2012



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« Reply #6272 on: Feb 29th, 2012, 08:41am »

LA Times


Top Al Qaeda leader reportedly arrested at Cairo airport

by Jeffrey Fleishman
February 29, 2012 | 5:02 am

REPORTING FROM CAIRO -- A senior Al Qaeda leader wanted for the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa was arrested at Cairo International Airport on Wednesday, after arriving on a flight from Pakistan, according to Egyptian security officials.

Mohammed Ibrahim Makkawi, once a confidant of Osama bin Laden, allegedly plotted the near simultaneous attacks on U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya that left more than 200 people dead. A militant Islamist for decades, Makkawi is linked to the 9/11 attacks and the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat following Cairo's peace treaty with Israel.

Makkawi, a former Egyptian army officer, has often been described as a military and intelligence strategist and onetime chief of Bin Laden's security detail. He's known by the alias Saif al-Adel, which in Arabic means the "sword of justice."

He's written terrorist manuals, including one reportedly called, "The Base of the Vanguard," and trained militants in Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Sudan.

"Al-Adel is thought to be affiliated with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), and is believed to be a high-ranking member of the Al Qaeda organization," according to a wanted poster issued by the FBI. The U.S. has offered a $5-million reward for his capture in connection with the African bombings.

The wanted poster gives few other details about Al-Adel, listing his height, weight and build as "unknown"; his birth date is between 1960 and 1963, it says.

The Associated Press reported that the man arrested claims he's not the Makkawi wanted by the U.S. and is the victim of a case of mistaken identity.

"Speaking to reporters at the airport, Makkawi said he was not the senior Al Qaeda leader known as Saif al-Adel and that he had nothing to do with the terror group since 1989," the AP said.

The official Egyptian news agency, MENA, reported that the Makkawi authorities have in custody is the terrorist leader. It quoted officials as saying that he had intended to turn himself in after decades on the run.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/02/top-al-qaeda-leader-reportedly-arrested-at-cairo-airport.html

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« Reply #6273 on: Feb 29th, 2012, 08:46am »

Washington Post

Mitt Romney wins Arizona, Michigan primaries

By David A. Fahrenthold
Published: February 28

Mitt Romney won both of Tuesday’s Republican presidential primaries, routing Rick Santorum in Arizona and narrowly securing Michigan, his birth state.

The victories will provide an important boost for Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who has sought to cast himself as the GOP’s inevitable nominee. He has now won primary contests in six states: New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada, Maine, Michigan and Arizona.

“We didn’t win by a lot, but we won by enough. And that’s all that counts,” Romney told supporters Tuesday night in the Detroit suburb of Novi.

He said nothing about Santorum in his speech, instead criticizing President Obama at length and trying to boil down a complicated economic message.

“I’m going to deliver on more jobs, less debt, smaller government,” Romney said. Later, he returned to another three-point message about government: “I’ll make it simpler, smaller and smarter.”

Santorum and former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) have won a total of five states. On Tuesday night, Santorum cast the close outcome in Michigan as a sign of success, noting that it came in Romney’s “back yard.”

“A month ago, they didn’t know who we are, but they do now,” Santorum told supporters in Grand Rapids. “The people of Michigan looked into the hearts of the candidates, and all I have to say is ‘I love you back.’ ”

Santorum avoided the kind of incendiary rhetoric that has drawn criticism in recent days — including an attack on Obama for suggesting that young people should go to college. Instead, Santorum talked about small government and praised the women in his family for their hard work at home and in their careers. He spoke about how his mother had gone to college and received at least one advanced degree.

Romney’s victories on Tuesday are unlikely to solve the larger problems that have held back his campaign. Even after months of work and millions of dollars spent, he has not won over a vast swath of Republicans.

That was clear from Michigan exit polls, which showed that Santorum had beaten Romney decisively among important Republican blocs. The former senator from Pennsylvania held a 15-point lead among voters who identify themselves as “very conservative,” a 40-point edge among those who say they want their candidate to be “a true conservative” and a 41-point advantage among those who want a candidate with “strong moral character.”

Romney, by contrast, bested Santorum among voters who care strongly about beating Obama in November, and among those who say the economy is their chief concern.

He may have been helped by Santorum’s strident stands on social issues in recent days. The former senator called Obama a “snob” for wanting young people to attend college and said that he almost vomited after reading a speech by John F. Kennedy about the separation of church and state. Santorum later said he wished he could take back that statement.

Among his fellow Catholics, Santorum lost to Romney by 43 percent to 37 percent, according to exit polls.

Negativity takes toll

As voting was underway, an unkind race turned positively insulting. Santorum called Romney a “bully,” and Romney called Santorum an “economic lightweight” who was engaging in political dirty tricks.

In particular, Romney attacked Santorum for a recent robo-call in which his campaign urged Democrats to vote for Santorum in Michigan’s open primary.

“I think Republicans have to recognize there’s a real effort to kidnap our primary process,” Romney said. “And if we want Republicans to nominate the Republican who takes on Barack Obama, I need Republicans to get out and vote and say no to the dirty tricks of a desperate campaign.”

Early exit polls in Michigan seemed to show that the negative campaigning had weighed on the state’s Republicans. Less than half of voters there said they backed their candidate “strongly.” About one in seven said they made their choice because they dislike the other options — four times the proportion that said so in this political season’s first votes, at the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.

The polls also showed that a large number of Democrats had, in fact, crossed party lines in Michigan. About one in 10 of Tuesday’s voters identified themselves as Democrats in exit surveys. That was a higher figure than in any of the other early GOP contests.

Earlier Tuesday, Santorum defended his efforts to reach out to those Democrats, saying he was seeking to attract the kind of blue-collar voters who had crossed party lines before.

“We’re going to get this economy growing again,” he said. That, he said, is “a message that we’re selling to not just Republicans, but Republicans and Democrats. Reagan Democrats, who are the key for us winning Ohio and Pennsylvania and Michigan.”

Speaking in Perrysburg, Ohio — that state will vote on Super Tuesday next week — Santorum said Romney had benefited from Democrats and independents in past primaries. He said it was wrong for him to complain about the tactic being used against him.

“That’s what bullies do,” Santorum said. “You hit them back and they whine.”

Romney, who took questions from the media for the first time in three weeks on Tuesday, blamed himself, not his campaign aides, for what he acknowledged has been a difficult quest for the nomination.

“I’m very pleased with the campaign, its organization. The candidate sometimes makes some mistakes, and so I’m trying to do better and work harder and make sure that we get our message across,” Romney told reporters during a visit to his Michigan campaign headquarters in Livonia.

Among his mistakes, he said, were recent remarks that highlighted his wealth, including a statement that his wife “drives a couple of Cadillacs.”

When reporters asked if those comments had hurt his campaign, he replied: “Yes. Next question.”

Romney suggested that Santorum was winning the support of the GOP’s most conservative voters with “incendiary,” “outrageous” and “accusatory” comments.

“It’s very easy to excite the base with incendiary comments,” he told reporters. “We’ve seen throughout the campaign that if you’re willing to say really outrageous things that are accusatory and attacking President Obama, that you’re going to jump up in the polls. You know, I’m not willing to light my hair on fire to try and get support.”

The two other major Republican candidates, Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.), did little to contest Michigan or Arizona. On Tuesday night, Gingrich held a rally with at least 500 supporters at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton.

Staff writers Philip Rucker in Livonia, Mich.; Nia-Malika Henderson in Perrysburg, Ohio; and Amy Gardner in Georgia contributed to this report.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/mitt-romney-im-not-willing-to-light-my-hair-on-fire-to-win-conservative-votes/2012/02/28/gIQADDk9fR_story.html

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« Reply #6274 on: Feb 29th, 2012, 08:52am »

Wired

eBay Cools Desert Data Center With Hot Water
By Caleb Garling
February 29, 2012 | 6:30 am
Categories: Data Centers, Energy, Servers


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eBay's data center containers bake in the Phoenix sun. Image: Green Grid


The typical data center is air conditioned. As massive electrical units work overtime to cool servers and other hardware, the temperature hovers somewhere between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. But in an effort to save power and money — and ultimately the environment — eBay is running at least part of its new Phoenix data center at temperatures as high as 115 degrees. The temperatures are so high, eBay can cool the facility with hot water.

According to eBay, the water in its outdoor tower tank can reach 87 degrees on the hottest of summer days, and even this is cool enough to operate the heat exchangers that keep the facility’s servers from reaching the extreme temperatures where they might malfunction.

“If we can solve this in a desert,” says Dean Nelson, eBay’s senior director of global foundational services and the man who oversaw the project, “we can solve this almost anywhere.”

Nicknamed “Project Mercury,” eBay’s data center is part of a sweeping movement to reduce power consumption and save costs in the massive computing facilities that run the web’s big name services. Google has long advocated hotter data centers, insisting that servers run just fine at temperatures well above 80 degrees, and countless other operations have followed suit.

Many of these outfits have also built data centers in mild climates so that servers can be efficiently cooled with the outside air, and Google has even gone so far as to cool its Finland data center with the frigid water from the Baltic Sea. But eBay’s facility is different. It has achieved seemingly unprecedented efficiencies in a rather warm climate.

eBay didn’t put its facility in Phoenix just to prove a point. It put the facility there because it needed a data center in the area. Then it found a way to run it efficiently. “Wherever we have our data centers,” Nelson says, “we’re going to optimize our infrastructure.”

The facility includes traditional server rooms that sit atop a raised floor so that cool air can be pushed into the machines, but eBay has also placed data center “containers” on the roof of the building. Pioneered by Google, these contraptions resemble traditional shipping containers. Pre-packed with servers and other gear, they let you piece together data centers in much the same way you’d stack building blocks.

According to an official report from The Green Grid — a non-profit consortium of tech companies that works to optimize data center design — the entire facility has a power unit effectiveness (PUE) of 1.35 when there’s a 30 to 35 percent load on the servers. And the best case scenario is a PUE of 1.26.

PUE measures the efficiency of a data center, and the closer to 1, the better. It’s the ratio of total amount of power used by a data center to the power delivered to computing equipment. A PUE of 1.35 is good but not great. Google says that in 2011, the average PUE for all of its data centers was 1.14. But eBay — a member of The Green Grid — has achieved far better results with its rooftop containers.

If you consider the containers on their own, their PUE was a mere 1.018 when they were in operation this past January. And even when the outside temperature reached 115 Fahrenheit in the middle of August, the report says, the 20-rack rooftop containers still has a PUE of 1.046. Up to 12 containers can sit outdoors on the roof, in direct sunlight.

There are caveats. The “partial” PUE ratings don’t consider some of the upstream transformers and power sources that are required to operate the entire Phoenix data center. But as Data Center Knowledge points out, a 1.018 appears to be unprecedented.

John Pflueger — the principle environmental strategist at Dell and the company’s representative to The Green Grid — says “Project Mercury” is result of big-name companies sharing their data center strategies with the rest of the world. Other Green Grid members include Facebook, Microsoft and HP.

“This resets the bar for what’s possible in the data center,” he says. “The companies whose data centers are like factories are really the ones [incentivized] to squeeze efficiencies out of their data centers.”

But eBay’s Nelson says that cooperation isn’t the only way to improve data center design. You need a healthy amount of competition as well. At its Phoenix site, eBay has actually pitted Dell and HP against each other to see who can provide better better hot water cooling system. Dell has implemented a tower cooling system, while HP is using an adiabatic system, which uses sharp pressure alterations to change water temperature. Nelson declines to say who’s winning, but the point is that both are determined to do so.

http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2012/02/ebay-desert-data-center/

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« Reply #6275 on: Feb 29th, 2012, 08:55am »

Deadline Hollywood

James Murdoch Out As News International Executive Chairman

By DAVID LIEBERMAN
Executive Editor
Wednesday February 29, 2012 @ 9:14am EST
Tags: hacking scandal, James Murdoch, News International

He’ll focus on News Corp’s pay TV operations once he moves to New York, the company says. It makes no mention of the fact that under James Murdoch’s watch at News International the UK publishing operation became embroiled in a humongous phone hacking and bribery scandal. But it’s telling that Tom Mockridge, who became CEO of News International in July, will now report to COO Chase Carey — not Murdoch, who retains his title as News Corp’s Deputy COO. Also noteworthy: CEO Rupert Murdoch’s citation of James’ accomplishments doesn’t include his management of UK publishing. James credits the unit’s “tremendous momentum” to ”the leadership of my father and Tom Mockridge.” News Corp has scoffed at speculation that it might dump its troubled newspapers — a move that some investors believe would boost the stock price. “Our focus is on managing these businesses and improving profitability,” Carey told investors yesterday.

Here’s today’s release about James:

New York, NY February 29, 2012 – News Corporation today announced that, following his relocation to the Company’s headquarters in New York, James Murdoch, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, has relinquished his position as Executive Chairman of News International, its UK publishing unit. Tom Mockridge, Chief Executive Officer of News International, will continue in his post and will report to News Corporation President and COO Chase Carey.
“We are all grateful for James’ leadership at News International and across Europe and Asia, where he has made lasting contributions to the group’s strategy in paid digital content and its efforts to improve and enhance governance programs,” said Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, News Corporation. “He has demonstrated leadership and continues to create great value at Star TV, Sky Deutschland, Sky Italia, and BSkyB. Now that he has moved to New York, James will continue to assume a variety of essential corporate leadership mandates, with particular focus on important pay-TV businesses and broader international operations.”

“I deeply appreciate the dedication of my many talented colleagues at News International who work tirelessly to inform the public and am confident about the tremendous momentum we have achieved under the leadership of my father and Tom Mockridge,” said James Murdoch. “With the successful launch of The Sun on Sunday and new business practices in place across all titles, News International is now in a strong position to build on its successes in the future. As Deputy Chief Operating Officer, I look forward to expanding my commitment to News Corporation’s international television businesses and other key initiatives across the Company.”

http://www.deadline.com/2012/02/james-murdoch-out-as-news-international-chief/#more-237745

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« Reply #6276 on: Mar 1st, 2012, 08:36am »

New York Times

March 1, 2012
Two American Soldiers Die in Shooting at Afghan Base
By GRAHAM BOWLEY

KABUL, Afghanistan — Another two United States soldiers were killed in Afghanistan on Thursday when an Afghan soldier in league with a civilian Afghan literacy instructor killed a tower guard and attacked with gunfire and a rocket the barracks where American soldiers were sleeping at a joint base in the south of the country, officials said.

The killings follow the shooting deaths of four American soldiers last week and two more Americans at the Afghan Interior Ministry after the outbreak of nationwide protests in reaction to the burning of Korans at a NATO base in Afghanistan.

Four other Americans were injured in the attack on Thursday, which took place in pre-dawn hours around 2.30 a.m. local time at a joint Afghan-NATO base in Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan.

The two shooters fled but American forces called in air support, and the two men were killed by helicopter gunfire more than a mile from the base, said Masoom Khan, the chief of police of the Zhari district in Kandahar Province where the attack took place.

The base in Kandahar Province is close to the hometown of the Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, and Mr. Khan said the two men were suspected of having links with the insurgency.

He said the Afghan Army soldier was a platoon leader and had taken part in joint patrols with the Americans.

“We believe that both of the attackers had links with the Taliban,” he said.

In a statement, NATO would only confirm that two coalition service members had been killed in the attack.

“Two individuals, one believed to be an Afghan National Army service member and the other in civilian clothing, turned their weapons indiscriminately against International Security Assistance Force and Afghan National Security Force service members in southern Afghanistan today, killing two ISAF service members,” the statement read.

Two earlier American deaths — in the Afghan Interior Ministry on Saturday — prompted NATO to immediately withdraw hundreds of military advisers and trainers from government ministries in Kabul. On Thursday, a NATO spokesman, Brig. Gen. Lewis Boone, said some advisers were returning to ministries, but he did not specify which offices were involved.

On Wednesday, three investigations were begun into the Koran burning at Bagram Air Base last week. Days of deadly protests ensued, claiming at least 30 Afghan lives in addition to the American solders.

One investigation is by Americans, one is by Afghans and one is a joint Afghan-American inquiry. The formal American military investigation is the only one that can lead to punishment, while the other two will include recommendations but do not carry formal legal weight.


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/02/world/asia/afghanistan-two-nato-soldiers-killed.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #6277 on: Mar 1st, 2012, 08:42am »

LA Times

Egypt allows 7 American pro-democracy workers to leave country

Charges against the seven, including Sam LaHood, son of transportation chief Ray LaHood, haven't been dropped, but lifting the travel ban soothes relations.

By Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times

March 1, 2012
Reporting from Cairo—

Egypt'sdecision Wednesday to allow seven Americans accused of instigating unrest to leave the country followed weeks of intense negotiations and signaled a possible end to the worst diplomatic crisis between Washington and Cairo in decades.

The lifting of the travel ban on the Americans, including Sam LaHood, son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, stems a precipitous free fall in relations between Washington and one of its closest allies. There are bruised feelings on both sides, but Egyptian and U.S. officials appeared anxious to avoid the rupture of a relationship that could alter the dynamics of the Middle East.

State television reported that Egypt's prosecutor general, Abdel-Maguid Mahmoud, permitted the Americans to travel but did not drop the charges against them. Forty-three pro-democracy workers, including 16 Americans, went on trial Sunday accused of operating nongovernmental organizations without a license and receiving millions of dollars in illicit foreign funding.

Most of the Americans had left the country, but seven had sought refuge atthe U.S. Embassyto avoid arrest. None of the Americans or other foreigners charged in the case joined 14 Egyptian defendants in the courtroom when the trial began against groups including the U.S.-based International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute.

The prosecutor's decision follows Tuesday's recusal of the three judges who had been presiding over the case. In a memo, the judges said they were stepping aside for "uneasiness and embarrassment." The document offered no specifics but some in the Egyptian media suggested the judges may have felt political pressure.

"Egyptian relations with the United States are hanging in the balance in this trial and no judge would want to be the man making a ruling that could hamper or jeopardize such relations," said Mahmoud Abdel Razek, a law professor at the University of Zagazig. "Any verdict might have historical consequences for the whole country."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a House committee hearing that the case was close to being resolved but that talks were difficult because the Egyptian government is in a state of uncertainty as it transitions to a democracy.

"Once we make progress on the NGO issues, then we can have a broader discussion both with the Congress and with the Egyptian government," Clinton said. "Of course, one of our problems is we don't really have an Egyptian government to have a conversation with. And I keep reminding myself of that because it is an uncertain situation for all the different players."

The months-long case has been a test for the Obama administration and Egypt's ruling military council. The charges against the Americans highlighted Washington's changed role in a region swept by uprisings and revolts that altered the traditional balance of power. And for the Egyptian army, the matter helped stoke nationalism while deflecting criticism against the military's human rights abuses since last year's overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.

The question now is whether Egypt's army-appointed government can finesse to the public its apparently softer stance toward Washington, which is increasingly viewed as pressing U.S. and Israeli interests. The case gave a platform to Fayza Aboul Naga, minister for international cooperation, who vilified the pro-democracy groups for working with intelligence agencies to threaten Egypt's sovereignty.

The generals, at least initially, backed Aboul Naga and appeared to misjudge how angry Washington would be over the arrests of the pro-democracy workers. The military quickly faced calls from members of Congress threatening to cut $1.3 billion in annualU.S. militaryaid. Egypt's economy and foreign reserves have been plummeting and analysts believed the generals did not want to further jeopardize relations with Washington.

"I think the whole trial will fade away in the coming weeks," said Kamal Saad, researcher at Al Sharq Center for political studies. "I don't think the U.S defendants will be coming back for any hearings."

The case has also pointed to Egypt's new political landscape. The Muslim Brotherhood, which now controls nearly half of parliament, announced that Egypt might reconsider its commitment to the 1979 peace treaty with Israel if the U.S. cut aid.

Egyptians have long been suspicious of foreign pro-democracy nongovernmental organizations. Mubarak tolerated the groups, including the International Republican Institute, but his regime would not grant them licenses. The organizations, which worked on election and democracy programs, operated in a gray area.

Aboul Naga, a holdover from the Mubarak government, stepped up pressure on the groups at the same time Egypt's military-backed government was heavily criticized for crackdowns on activists. The organizations weren't technically licensed — their paperwork had been submitted — which resulted in raids on their offices and charges against their employees.

If the Americans don't return for the trial in April, it is uncertain how the court would try the 14 accused Egyptians without angering the public. There is also the question of how relevant the case would be as Egypt grows preoccupied with drafting a constitution and electing a new president in May.

"I think there will be little time for anyone to remember the case of nongovernmental organizations," said Saad.


http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-egypt-americans-20120301,0,3412602.story

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« Reply #6278 on: Mar 1st, 2012, 08:48am »

Wired Danger Room

U.S. Wants You to Hunt Fugitives With Twitter
By Noah Shachtman
March 1, 2012 | 6:30 am
Categories: Info War

A worldwide manhunt kicks off at the end of March — a search across America and Europe for five fugitives, identifiable only by their mugshots. The successful team of trackers not only gets a $5,000 bounty from the U.S. State Department. They demonstrate to the planet’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies that they can hunt down fleeting suspects using nothing but their wits and social media connections.

The “Tag Challenge” isn’t the first contest designed to show how a networked crowd can unearth seemingly obscure information in a hurry. But this simulation may be the one with the widest scope — and the most relevance to government agencies.

Five jewel thieves are at large in New York, London, Washington, Stockholm, and Bratislava: That’s the (rather thin) conceit behind the Tag Challenge. At 8 a.m. local time in each city on March 31, contest organizers will release a picture of the local burglar. Contestants will then have 12 hours to scour their cities, find each of the volunteer crooks, and upload photos of them to the Challenge’s website.

Exactly how teams will pull off this manhunt, even the Challenge’s organizer’s aren’t sure; finding one man among millions won’t be easy. But it’s clear that the job will require dozens and dozens of sleuths, and a way to share tips almost instantly.

“How will teams mobilize and coordinate this network?” project organizer J.R. deLara asks. “Unknown.”

Cops have routinely shared mugshots with one another — and with the general public — for ages. But distributing the photos globally, and hoping for an instant capture in five places at once? That’s anything but routine.

Even previous contests — like the one Wired ran in 2009 — seem relatively simple, in comparison. Wired’s writer-on-the-lam Evan was a known commodity, at large for a full month, and spilling clues along the way. The Tag Challenge’s five fugitives in the will only be known by their faces, and will have to be caught in half a day.

Darpa’s $40,000 “Network Challenge,” launched around the same time as Wired’s, was a nationwide hunt to find 10 giant, red balloons. Some U.S. intelligence professionals considered the task to be “impossible by conventional intelligence-gathering methods” because of there were so many possible locations for the balloons, and so few clues. Of course, the balloons didn’t hide or move around. These runaways will.

George Washington University graduate student J.R. deLara looked at these contests — and others — as part of a State Department-sponsored conference on trans-Atlantic security and social media. The contests “were making these claims about the ability of social networks to accomplish real-time tasks in real life. That this wasn’t just a parlor trick,” deLara tells Danger Room.

“So we thought: Let’s test this. Let’s test this question,” he adds. “Could you really use these strategies to find a person of interest, a vehicle of interest, or some actionable intelligence?”

A proposal quickly followed, and State Department funding followed quickly after that.

Already, similar contests have sparked considerable interest in military, law enforcement, and intelligence circles. When a team from MIT won the Network Challenge — by recruiting 4,400 to help in the hunt — it was the first time many in the American government realized the power of social media to mobilize large groups of people. The MIT crew became the darlings of Darpa; several team members were sent to Kabul to help run a secret intelligence program that relied on seemingly-obscure data to gauge the vitality of the Afghan insurgency.

So get ready, manhunters. This challenge may lead in all sorts of unexpected directions.


http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/03/u-s-wants-you-to-hunt-fugitives-with-twitter/

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« Reply #6279 on: Mar 1st, 2012, 08:52am »

Science Daily

Earthworms to Blame for Decline of Ovenbirds in Northern Midwest Forests
ScienceDaily (Feb. 29, 2012)

A recent decline in ovenbirds (Seiurus aurocapilla), a ground-nesting migratory songbird, in forests in the northern Midwest United States is being linked by scientists to a seemingly unlikely culprit: earthworms.

A new survey conducted in Minnesota's Chippewa National Forest and Wisconsin's Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest by a research team led by Scott Loss of the University of Minnesota and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has revealed a direct link between the presence of invasive European earthworms (Lumbricus spp.) and reduced numbers of ovenbirds in mixed sugar maple and basswood forests.

The results are detailed in a paper published online in the scientific journal, Landscape Ecology.

European earthworms are invading previously earthworm-free hardwood forests in North America the scientists say, and consuming the rich layer of leaf litter on the forest floor. In turn, herbaceous plants that thrive in thick leaf litter and provide cover for ground-nesting birds are thinning out, replaced by grasses and sedges.

As a result, ovenbird nests are more visible and vulnerable to predators and ovenbirds searching for nesting sites reject these low-cover areas outright. Areas of reduced leaf litter also contain fewer bugs for the ovenbirds to eat, requiring them to establish larger territories, resulting in fewer birds over a given area.

The worms invading northern Midwestern forests (and forests in the northeastern U.S. and Canada) have been in the U.S. since soon after the first European settlers arrived. Loss explains the worms were brought over inadvertently in the ballast of ships, in the root balls of agricultural plants or on purpose for use in gardening. Only now is the leading edge of their continued invasion, caused mainly by logging activities and fishermen dumping their bait, reaching interior wilderness areas such as parts of the study site in the remote forests of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

"Night crawlers [Lumbricus terrestris] and the slightly smaller red worms [also called leaf worms or beaver tails, Lumbricus rubellus], have the most damaging impacts to the soil, litter layer, and plants in forests that were historically earthworm-free," Loss says.

"Everyone has probably heard at one time or another that earthworms have really positive effects in breaking down soil and making it more porous," Loss explains. "This is true in agricultural and garden settings but not in forests in the Midwest which have developed decomposition systems without earth worms."

Because the forested areas of the Midwest U.S. were once covered in glaciers, there are no native earthworm species present in the soil. "These earthworm-free forests developed a slow fungus-based decomposition process characterized by a deep organic litter layer on the forest floor," Loss says.

Earthworms feed on this layer of leaf litter and make it decompose much faster, Loss explains. "As a result, we see the loss of sensitive forest-floor species such as trillium, Solomons seal, sarsaparilla and sugar maple seedlings and a shift in dominance to disturbance-adapted species like Pennsylvania sedge."

One result is reduced nest concealment for the ovenbird and increased predation by squirrel and bird predators.

The researchers found no decline in three other species of ground-nesting birds included in their survey -- the hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus), black-and-white warbler (Mniotilta varia) and veery (Catharus fuscescens) -- nor did they find a correlation between ovenbird decline and invasive worms in other forest types, such as red oak, paper birch and aspen.

"Our results suggest that ovenbird density may decline by as much as 25 percent in maple-basswood forests heavily invaded by invasive earthworms," the researchers conclude. "Maple-basswood forests are among the preferred ovenbird habitats in the region, comprise a considerable portion of the region's woodlands…and are experiencing Lumbricus invasions across most of the northern Midwest."

Previous studies have demonstrated that invasive earthworms also are harmful to other native North American species, such as salamanders.

There is reason for concern that the overall population of ovenbirds could decline, Loss points out. "Ovenbirds migrate to Central America and the Caribbean and back every year-a trip during which they can fly into buildings and towers or get nabbed by a cat as they rest on the ground--and they also face loss of habitat on their breeding and wintering grounds. Now, here is yet another potential threat to their survival."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120229142225.htm

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« Reply #6280 on: Mar 1st, 2012, 08:56am »

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« Reply #6281 on: Mar 1st, 2012, 10:49am »

New Google privacy policy allows even more access to personal information

Published March 01, 2012
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO – If you're amazed -- and maybe even a little alarmed -- about how much Google seems to know about you, brace yourself. Beginning Thursday, Google will operate under a streamlined privacy policy that enables the Internet's most powerful company to dig even deeper into the lives of its more than 1 billion users.

Google says the changes will make it easier for consumers to understand how it collects personal information, and allow the company to create more helpful and compelling services. Critics, including most of the country's state attorneys general and a top regulator in Europe, argue that Google is trampling on people's privacy rights in its relentless drive to sell more ads.

Here's a look at some of the key issues to consider as Google tries to learn about you.

Q: How will Google's privacy changes affect users?
A: Google Inc. is combining more than 60 different privacy policies so it will be able to throw all the data it gathers about each of its logged-in users into personal dossiers. The information Google learns about you while you enter requests into its search engine can be culled to suggest videos to watch when you visit the company's YouTube site.

Users who write a memo on Google's online word processing program, Docs, might be alerted to the misspelling of the name of a friend or co-worker a user has communicated with on Google's Gmail. The new policy pools information from all Google-operated services, empowering the company to connect the dots from one service to the next.

Q: Why is Google making these changes?
A: The company, based in Mountain View, Calif., says it is striving for a "beautifully simple, intuitive user experience across Google." What Google hasn't spent much time talking about is how being able to draw more revealing profiles about its users will help sell advertising -- the main source of its $38 billion in annual revenue.

One reason Google has become such a big advertising network: Its search engine analyzes requests to figure out which people are more likely to be interested in marketing pitches about specific products and services. Targeting the ads to the right audience is crucial because in many cases, Google only gets paid when someone clicks on an ad link. And, of course, advertisers tend to spend more money if Google is bringing them more customers.

Q: Is there a way to prevent Google from combining the personal data it collects from all its services?
A: No, not if you're a registered user of Gmail, Google Plus, YouTube, or other Google products. But you can minimize the data Google gathers. For starters, make sure you aren't logged into one of Google's services when you're using Google's search engine, watching a YouTube video or perusing pictures on Picasa.

You can get a broad overview of what Google knows about you at www.google.com/dashboard, where a Google account login is required. Google also offers the option to delete users' history of search activity.

It's important to keep in mind that Google can still track you even when you're not logged in to one of its services. But the information isn't quite as revealing because Google doesn't track you by name, only through a numeric Internet address attached to your computer or an alphanumeric string attached to your Web browser.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/03/01/new-google-privacy-policy-allows-even-more-access-to-personal-information/#ixzz1nsounlou
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« Reply #6282 on: Mar 1st, 2012, 6:47pm »

Hey Swamp! cheesy

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« Reply #6283 on: Mar 1st, 2012, 6:50pm »

The Moderate Voice

Ex-Senators Graham and Kerrey Suggest Saudi Arabian Government Tied to 9/11
Posted by JOE GANDELMAN, Editor-In-Chief in International, War.
Mar 1st, 2012

A lingering question over the years has been whether the Saudi Arabian government was tied to 9/11. Two former Senators are suggesting it was and are calling for more scrutiny of the Saudi’s role:

Now, in sworn statements that seem likely to reignite the debate, two former senators who were privy to top secret information on the Saudis’ activities say they believe that the Saudi government might have played a direct role in the terrorist attacks.

“I am convinced that there was a direct line between at least some of the terrorists who carried out the September 11th attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia,” former Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, said in an affidavit filed as part of a lawsuit brought against the Saudi government and dozens of institutions in the country by families of Sept. 11 victims and others. Mr. Graham led a joint 2002 Congressional inquiry into the attacks.

His former Senate colleague, Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, a Democrat who served on the separate 9/11 Commission, said in a sworn affidavit of his own in the case that “significant questions remain unanswered” about the role of Saudi institutions. “Evidence relating to the plausible involvement of possible Saudi government agents in the September 11th attacks has never been fully pursued,” Mr. Kerrey said.

Their affidavits, which were filed on Friday and have not previously been disclosed, are part of a multibillion-dollar lawsuit that has wound its way through federal courts since 2002. An appellate court, reversing an earlier decision, said in November that foreign nations were not immune to lawsuits under certain terrorism claims, clearing the way for parts of the Saudi case to be reheard in United States District Court in Manhattan.

Lawyers for the Saudis, who have already moved to have the affidavits thrown out of court, declined to comment on the assertions by Mr. Graham and Mr. Kerrey. “The case is in active litigation, and I can’t say anything,” said Michael K. Kellogg, a Washington lawyer for the Saudis.

The Saudi Arabian government is vital to the United States due to its role in the Middle East, its role as a frequent diplomatic ally and, officials always note, U.S. national security. Some say it’s a love hate relationship — and 9/11, if the Saudi government officials were involved (and it is unlikely we’ll ever know) would be an example of the latter.

The Saudis are seeking to have the case dismissed in part because they say American inquiries — including those in which Mr. Graham and Mr. Kerrey took part — have essentially exonerated them. A recent court filing by the Saudis prominently cited the 9/11 Commission’s “exhaustive” final report, which “found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi individuals funded” Al Qaeda.

But Mr. Kerrey and Mr. Graham said that the findings should not be seen as an exoneration and that many important questions about the Saudis’ role had never been fully examined, partly because their panels simply did not have the time or resources given their wider scope.

Unanswered questions include the work of a number of Saudi-sponsored charities with financial links to Al Qaeda, as well as the role of a Saudi citizen living in San Diego at the time of the attacks, Omar al-Bayoumi, who had ties to two of the hijackers and to Saudi officials, Mr. Graham said in his affidavit.
And the Justice Department is backing the Saudis on this lawsuit.

Still, Washington has continued to stand behind Saudi Arabia publicly, with the Justice Department joining the kingdom in trying to have the lawsuits thrown out of court on the grounds that the Saudis are protected by international immunity.
Most likely: a definitive answer that settles all of the questions will never emerge.

http://themoderatevoice.com/140157/ex-senators-graham-and-kerrey-suggest-saudi-arabian-government-tied-to-911/

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« Reply #6284 on: Mar 2nd, 2012, 07:50am »

New York Times

March 1, 2012
For Obama and Netanyahu, Wariness on Iran Will Dominate Talks
By ETHAN BRONNER

JERUSALEM — Nearly four years ago, when Senator Barack Obama was running for president and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was head of the opposition, they met here in what aides described as a warm atmosphere.

“Senator,” Mr. Netanyahu said to Mr. Obama, “as president, many things will cross your desk, but the most important, by far, will be stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.”

On Monday, the two will meet again in the shadow of an American presidential election, and Iran will again dominate the conversation. But the bonhomie will be replaced by wary intrigue as Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Obama try to sort out their differences, in timing, messaging and strategic bottom lines, on how to grapple with Iran — while also managing their own strained relationship.

Mr. Netanyahu, who will address Aipac, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, right after his White House meeting, is hoping to prompt more clarity from Mr. Obama on how he sees increasingly tough sanctions and diplomacy with Iran playing out in the coming months.

He also wants to press Mr. Obama on where his red line lies: how and when the United States will decide whether sanctions are succeeding or failing, and how committed he is to the use of force, officials and analysts following the discussions on both sides said in recent days.

For Mr. Obama, the challenge is to deliver two competing messages. He wants to join Mr. Netanyahu in warning Iran to abandon its nuclear program or face military action, but also to press him to give time to sanctions and diplomacy and hold back his military.

“This is being billed as the most important encounter ever between the two,” said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a prominent Jewish leader. “Both of them need success here. There has to be a serious understanding, there has to be real trust, and so far I don’t think it’s there.”

Much has divided the two leaders in the eight previous meetings they have held during the three years they have been in power, especially what Israel should do to promote peace with the Palestinians, including stopping settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

But with the region in turmoil and the Palestinian peace talks frozen, the central concern the two men are facing is the Iranian nuclear program.

The talks are complicated, especially for Mr. Obama, by domestic politics. Israel’s security and the Iranian nuclear program have drawn the most attention of any foreign matters in the Republican primaries. That leaves Mr. Obama with somewhat less room to maneuver than he would have at another moment in his presidency. The men will meet the day before the Super Tuesday nominating contests in 10 states.

“Whether they say it or not, both will be influenced by their own domestic politics,” said Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington who presides over an advisory group for Mr. Netanyahu on American-Israeli relations. “Public opinion polls in America are about 50-50 on whether America should take a role in an eventual military operation against Iran. This is not the main element in a decision, but it will have some influence on the candidate, who happens to be president.”

Some argue, therefore, that if Mr. Netanyahu decides to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, he is more likely to do so before the November election, figuring Mr. Obama would find his hand forced into at least tacitly supporting the move.

But others make two counterarguments. The first is that Mr. Netanyahu believes that Mr. Obama is likely to be re-elected and does not want to alienate him. The second is that no matter who is in the Oval Office, Israel will not outsource what it views as its vital security interests based on an American promise to take military action if sanctions fail. Israel’s goal is an American attack on Iran, but it seems unlikely to wait till it no longer can do it by itself.

This is because the red lines that Israel and the United States draw regarding Iran have been in different places.

For Israel, it is Iran’s capacity to build a nuclear weapon quickly; whereas for Washington it is the actual building of the weapon. Moreover, the American military has more, better and more sophisticated equipment so it can attack at a later date and still be effective even if Iran’s enrichment facilities have been moved underground beyond Israel’s reach.

All of this is making for complex calculations on both sides. If Mr. Obama trusted Mr. Netanyahu more, he might issue a more muscular statement of military threat to Iran, confident that Israel would not move too quickly without coordination. And if Mr. Netanyahu trusted Mr. Obama more, he would be less jumpy over every statement of caution emerging from Washington, like one by Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that it would not be prudent to decide to attack Iran now because it would destabilize the region.

Five Republican senators were in Israel recently and met with Mr. Netanyahu. Senator John McCain of Arizona told reporters afterward that “there is clearly significant tension that now exists on how to approach this whole issue,” adding, “There should be no daylight between America and Israel in our assessment of the threat.”

Thomas E. Donilon, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, also spent two days here recently, along with a team of intelligence and defense officials, meeting with Mr. Netanyahu and his lieutenants. Both sides contended that the meetings were highly successful. The Israelis were told that the administration not only says it would use military force if sanctions against Iran failed, it is also doing the planning for it.

Still, Mr. Netanyahu and several of those closest to him doubt that Mr. Obama would ultimately take military action against Iran. Others in Israel, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, are more persuaded by Mr. Obama’s assurances.

Sallai Meridor, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, reflected a widespread Israeli view that the world has done little to block unstable countries from obtaining nuclear weapons.

“Look at the record,” he said. “Pakistan was allowed to go nuclear. I don’t think anyone thought that was a good idea. One can assume that if Israel didn’t do what it did in 1981, Iraq would have been allowed to go nuclear. Then imagine the 1990 gulf crisis.”

Even some Israeli officials who believe that Mr. Obama would use force say they cannot wait until an attack is beyond their abilities. If Israel, in a nod to allowing sanctions and diplomacy to work, allows Iran to get past the point where it can effectively strike, it will have handed over its fate to the United States. While it would like Washington to strike, it does not want to wait past its own abilities, because even an ironclad promise of action could prove fickle.

When Mr. Netanyahu spoke to Aipac two years ago, he invoked World War II and two of the past century’s greatest statesmen to make a point about self-reliance, a point that his staff applies to Mr. Obama.

“Seventy-five years ago, the leading powers in the world put their heads in the sand,” Mr. Netanyahu said then. “Untold millions died in the war that followed. Ultimately, two of history’s greatest leaders helped turn the tide. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill helped save the world. But they were too late to save six million of my own people. The future of the Jewish state can never depend on the good will of even the greatest of men.”

Isabel Kershner contributed reporting.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/02/world/middleeast/for-obama-and-netanyahu-wariness-on-iran-will-dominate-talks.html?_r=1&hp

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