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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 79603 times)
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« Reply #6300 on: Mar 4th, 2012, 08:22am »

Military.com

CIA-Led Force may Speed Afghan Exit

March 04, 2012
Associated Press
by Kimberly Dozier

WASHINGTON - Top Pentagon officials are considering putting elite special operations troops under CIA control in Afghanistan after 2014, just as they were during last year's raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan, sources told The Associated Press.

The plan is one of several possible scenarios being debated by Pentagon staffers. It has not yet been presented to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, the White House or Congress, the sources said.

If the plan were adopted, the U.S. and Afghanistan could say there are no more U.S. troops on the ground in the war-torn country because once the SEALs, Rangers and other elite units are assigned to CIA control, even temporarily, they become spies.

No matter who's in charge, the special operations units still would target militants on joint raids with Afghans and keep training Afghan forces to do the job on their own.

The idea floated by a senior defense intelligence official comes as U.S. defense chiefs try to figure out how to draw down troops fast enough to meet the White House's 2014 deadline. Pentagon staffers already have put forward a plan to hand over much of the war-fighting to special operations troops. This idea would take that plan one step further, shrinking the U.S. presence to less than 20,000 troops after 2014, according to four current and two former U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the program involves classified operatives.

Pentagon spokesman George Little denied the idea is being discussed. "Any suggestion that such a plan exists is simply wrong," Little said Saturday. "United States special operations forces continue to work closely with the intelligence community to confront a range of national security challenges across the world."

Reducing the U.S. presence faster would be a political boon for the White House and the Afghan government, with Afghan sentiment raw over incidents ranging from civilian casualties from U.S. strike operations to the recent burning of Qurans by U.S. troops.

But a CIA-run war would mean that the U.S. public would not be informed about funding or operations, as they are in a traditional war. Oversight would fall to the White House, top intelligence officials, and a few congressional committees. Embedding journalists would be out of the question.

Two senior defense officials said that neither the CIA nor Special Operations Command has put this plan forward officially to Panetta. The other officials who said they have been part of discussions about the plan say it would require the assent of the White House and congressional oversight committees, and would be contingent upon the approval of the Afghan government. The idea has not yet been presented at any of those levels, the sources said.

The CIA's intelligence and paramilitary elements regularly work alongside special operations units, both in the war zone and in areas where militants operate. On a case-by-case basis, elite special operations units are assigned to the CIA for missions when the U.S. wants total deniability, usually in areas where the U.S. is operating without the local government's permission, as in the bin Laden raid.

The notion of longer-term assignments to the CIA does not sit well with some senior special operations commanders, who want their units to remain autonomous in order to keep their troops under Defense Department legal parameters. If CIA-assigned troops are captured, for example, they are treated like spies, not protected by the Geneva Conventions, which govern the treatment of prisoners of war.

But putting special operations troops in the CIA's employ in Afghanistan could be attractive to the Afghan government because it would make the troops less visible and give Afghan President Hamid Karzai the added bonus of being able to say U.S. troops had withdrawn from his country. Technically, he would be right: Troops would have been rendered as spies by answering to the CIA's Kabul station chief instead of a U.S. military commander.

Such troops would presumably augment the CIA's current training and partnership with Afghanistan's own elite paramilitary intelligence forces, the Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams.

Afghan officials, and the general public in Afghanistan, express much warmer sentiments toward the CIA than to U.S. special operations troops, after a decade of occupation has built up anger and bitterness over civilian casualties from special operations night raids. The CIA as an institution seems to have escaped that collective Afghan resentment, with Afghan officials eager to tell visiting reporters that they regularly work with "OGA," or "Other Government Agency," the slang term for the CIA.

CIA Director David Petraeus, a former Afghanistan war commander, is grappling with a vast new global mission and far fewer troops than he is used to - or that he needs to carry it out, especially if the CIA ends up with the bulk of the mission after troops withdraw from Afghanistan, according to current and former officials familiar with internal CIA debates. The CIA's paramilitary Special Activities Division that both gathers intelligence and works with local intelligence and security forces numbers only a few hundred people, and the overall clandestine service has less than 5,000.

Petraeus took charge at the agency last year, while Libya was still convulsed by civil war and leader Moammar Gadhafi was on the loose. He ordered his top officials to "send all your available teams into Libya," only to be told they already had deployed all the manpower available, a single team, two former officials said.

To make up for such shortfalls, the agency normally hires extra people, often retired special operators with the requisite security clearance, military training and language ability. But the government mandate to slash contractor use has meant cutting contracts, according to two former officials familiar with the agency's current hiring practices. Special operations troops could fill that gap, officials said.

http://www.military.com/news/article/cia-led-force-may-speed-afghan-exit.html?ESRC=sm_todayinmil.nl

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« Reply #6301 on: Mar 4th, 2012, 10:31am »

Bloomberg News

Chinese Military Spending Will Rise 11% in 2012

By Bloomberg News
March 04, 2012

China plans to increase defense spending 11.2 percent this year as the country’s expanding global commitments and lingering territorial disputes drive demand for more warships, missiles and fighter planes.

Military spending is set to rise this year to about 670 billion yuan ($106.4 billion), Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for China’s National People’s Congress, said yesterday ahead of a speech today by Premier Wen Jiabao to open the annual 10-day session of the country’s legislature.

China’s defense spending, the second highest in the world after the U.S., has risen in tandem with the expansion of its economy and a new focus by the Obama administration on the Asia- Pacific region. China is also involved in spats with Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan over control of oil- and gas-rich waters and has a lingering territorial dispute with India that erupted into a war in 1962.

“China’s got a lot of things that require a state to have military hardware for,” Geoff Raby, who was Australia’s ambassador to China until last year, said in a telephone interview. “China lives in a neighborhood where it doesn’t have any natural allies or friends.”

Spending Doubles

Defense spending has more than doubled since 2006, tracking a rise in nominal gross domestic product from 20.9 trillion yuan to 47.2 trillion yuan in that time. The growing defense budget has stoked concerns among China’s neighbors and the U.S., which announced last year a strategic shift toward Asia including deploying forces to a base in Australia. Chinese defense spending as a percentage of GDP was about 1.3 percent in 2011, falling from about 1.4 percent in 2006.

“The Chinese government has maintained reasonable and appropriate growth of defense spending on the strength of rapid economic and social development and the steady increase of fiscal revenues,” Li said.

He spoke a day before the start of the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, the 3,000-member parliament that is legally the highest governmental body in China. Sessions will run from Monday to March 14.

U.S. analysts say actual Chinese defense spending is much higher than the amount announced by Li yesterday. Phillip Saunders, director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at National Defense University in Washington, estimates China’s true defense spending is 50 percent higher than the official budget because items such as research and development as well as foreign weapons procurement are not included. Li said research and procurement are included.

Off-Budget Items

Taylor Fravel, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies China’s relations with its neighbors, said the number of off-budget items such has foreign arms procurement have decreased in recent years. China includes support for veterans in its budget while the U.S. does not, Fravel said.

While Chinese military spending is still officially less than a fifth of U.S. defense spending, its neighbors are concerned about the country’s expansive territorial claims. China claims indisputable sovereignty over the islands, reefs and shoals of the South China Sea and their surrounding waters, demarcating a tongue-shaped claim on Chinese maps extending hundreds of miles from mainland China.

It also contests control over the Senkaku, or Diaoyu islands with Japan, which sparked a diplomatic standoff in 2010 after Japan detained a Chinese fishing boat captain when his vessel collided with a Japanese patrol boat. Vietnam recently filed a protest saying China assaulted its fishermen and prevented them from entering the Paracel Islands. China responded by claiming sovereignty over the islands and said it didn’t board the vessels.

Showing Restraint

“China scared its neighbors,” Saunders said in an e-mail. “Now it is back on the path of greater restraint, but its neighbors are still alarmed.”

U.S. concerns, Saunders said, stem from Chinese progress in developing modern fighters and precision ballistic missiles that can target U.S. aircraft carriers.

In the past year, China began sea trials of its first aircraft carrier, a refurbished Soviet-era vessel acquired from Ukraine more than a decade ago.

Beijing is also continuing a military buildup across the Taiwan Strait. The U.S. is obligated by a 1979 law to provide defensive weapons to Taiwan, which China claims as a province. A Pentagon report published last August said that as of December, 2010, China’s People’s Liberation Army had deployed between 1,000 and 1,200 short-range ballistic missiles to units opposite Taiwan even as cross-Strait ties have improved.

Last year the U.S. announced it would sell Taiwan $5.3 billion in upgrades for its 145 Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) F-16 fighters.

Economic Interests

Economic interests around the world, including 812,000 workers abroad at the end of 2011, mean China’s military may increasingly deploy across the globe. China set a frigate to Libya last year to help evacuate thousands of Chinese nationals during the revolt that saw the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi. Li said Chinese warships have made eight deployments to help international efforts to protect sea lanes from Somali pirates. Chinese peacekeepers now patrol as part of a United Nations mission in Sudan.

The country is also increasingly dependent on global commerce for its well-being, factors which in past eras led countries such as the U.K. and the U.S. to boost military spending. Combined imports and exports last year amounted to $3.6 trillion, and China, the world’s biggest energy consumer, is also the world’s second-biggest oil importer after the U.S.

Pentagon’s Plans

The U.S., with an economy less than three times the size of China’s, has a military budget about between five and six times as big. The Pentagon is asking for $613.9 billion next year, which also includes $88.5 billion in supplemental spending for wars. Unlike China’s, the U.S. defense budget is shrinking. The Pentagon’s request is $31.8 billion less than the amount enacted by Congress for 2012.

China’s defense spending increased an average of 16.2 percent a year from 1999 to 2008, according to figures from a defense white paper published in 2009. While building up spending, China has also proclaimed that it takes a nonconfrontational approach in the region.

“China’s limited military strength is aimed at safeguarding sovereignty, national security and territorial integrity,” Li said. “It will not in the least pose a threat to other countries.”

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-03-04/chinese-military-spending-will-rise-11-percent-in-2012

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« Reply #6302 on: Mar 5th, 2012, 08:22am »

New York Times

March 4, 2012
Slum Dwellers Are Defying Brazil’s Grand Design for Olympics
By SIMON ROMERO

RIO DE JANEIRO — It was supposed to be a triumphant moment for Brazil.

Gearing up for the 2016 Olympic Games to be held here, officials celebrated plans for a futuristic “Olympic Park,” replete with a waterside park and athlete villages, promoting it as “a new piece of the city.”

There was just one problem: the 4,000 people who already live in that part of Rio de Janeiro, in a decades-old squatter settlement that the city wants to tear down. Refusing to go quietly and taking their fight to the courts and the streets, they have been a thorn in the side of the government for months.

“The authorities think progress is demolishing our community just so they can host the Olympics for a few weeks,” said Cenira dos Santos, 44, who owns a home in the settlement, which is known as Vila Autódromo. “But we’ve shocked them by resisting.”

For many Brazilians, holding the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics on Brazilian soil is the ultimate expression of the nation’s elevation on the world stage, and the events are perfect symbols of its newfound economic prowess and international standing.

But some of the strengths that have enabled Brazil’s democratic rise as a regional power — the vigorous expansion of its middle class, the independence of its news media and the growing expectations of its populace — are bedeviling the preparations for both events.

At stadium sites, construction workers, eager to share in the surging wealth around them and newly empowered by the nation’s historically low unemployment rate, are pushing aggressively for wage increases.

Unions have already held strikes in at least eight cities where stadiums for the soccer tournament are being built or refurbished, including a stoppage in February by 500 laborers in the northeast city of Fortaleza, and a national movement of 25,000 workers at World Cup sites has threatened to go on strike.

Construction delays are fueling problems with FIFA, soccer’s world governing body. The group’s secretary general, Jerome Valcke, said late last week that Brazilian organizers were falling behind, adding, “You have to push yourself, kick your arse.” Brazil’s sports minister hit back over the weekend, saying Mr. Valcke’s comments were “offensive.”

Meanwhile, residents in some of the favelas, or slums, who face eviction are pulling together and standing their ground, in stark contrast to the preparations for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where authorities easily removed hundreds of thousands of families from the city for the Games.

Favela residents are using handheld video cameras and social media to get their messages across. And they are sometimes getting a helping hand from Brazil’s vibrant and crusading news media, arguably the envy of other Latin American countries.

Not only have the news media and newly-created blogs focused attention on the evictions, but they have also dogged officials with their own pursuit of corruption allegations swirling around the Olympic and World Cup plans.

“These events were supposed to celebrate Brazil’s accomplishments, but the opposite is happening,” said Christopher Gaffney, a professor at Rio’s Fluminense Federal University. “We’re seeing an insidious pattern of trampling on the rights of the poor and cost overruns that are a nightmare.”

Brazil’s political culture has done its share in contributing to delays, with corruption scandals involving high-ranking sports officials.

But the favela evictions have struck a particular nerve on the streets. A network of activists in 12 cities estimates that as many as 170,000 people may face eviction ahead of the World Cup and the Olympics. In Rio, evictions are taking place in slums across the city, including the Metrô favela near the Maracanã stadium, where residents who refused to move live amid the rubble of bulldozed homes.

The evictions are stirring ghosts in a city with a long history of razing entire favelas, as in the 1960s and 1970s during Brazil’s military dictatorship. Thousands of families were moved from favelas in upscale seaside areas to the distant Cidade de Deus, the favela portrayed in the 2002 film “City of God.”

As Rio recovers from a long decline, some of the new projects are largely welcome, like an elevator for a hillside favela in Ipanema, or new cable cars in the Complexo do Alemão slums. Authorities also insist that evictions, when deemed necessary, abide by the law, with families receiving compensation and new housing.

“No one is resettled if not for a very important reason,” said Jorge Bittar, the head of Rio’s housing authority.

But some favela residents accuse the authorities of contributing to already considerable inequalities. Brazil’s economic boom has led to evictions around the country, sometimes independent of the Games. In city after city, favela residents often do not learn their homes could be razed until they are literally marked for removal.

In Manaus, the Amazon’s biggest city, residents found the initials B.R.T., referring to a new transportation system, spray-painted on homes to be destroyed. In São José dos Campos, an industrial city, a violent eviction in January of more than 6,000 people captured the nation’s attention when security forces stormed in, clashing with squatters armed with wooden clubs.

In Rio, many of the people facing eviction live in the western districts, where most of the Olympic venues will be, and favelas persist amid a sprawl reminiscent of South Florida, with palm-fringed condominiums and shopping malls.

“Brazilian law is adapting to carry out the Games, rather the Games adapting to fit the law,” said Alex Magalhães, a law professor at Rio’s Federal University.

Organizations formed by favela residents are also using the law and social networking, in a country with the second-largest number of Twitter users after the United States.

One of the fiercest property battles is over Vila Autódromo, the settlement slated for destruction to make way for the Olympic Park.

“Vila Autódromo has absolutely no infrastructure,” said Mr. Bittar, the Rio housing official. “The roads are made of dirt. The sewage network goes straight into the lagoon; it’s an absolutely precarious area.”

Many in Vila Autódromo see things differently. Some have spacious houses that they built themselves. Guava trees shade yards. Some driveways have parked cars, a sign of making it into Brazil’s expanding lower middle class.

Residents took their fight online, posting videos of sharp exchanges with officials. They began working with state prosecutors to file injunctions aimed at blocking their removal, though they lost a critical ruling in recent days.

Journalists have weighed in, reporting that Rio’s municipal government paid two real estate companies more than $11 million for land to resettle Vila Autódromo’s residents; both companies had donated funds to the campaign of Eduardo Paes, Rio’s mayor. Mr. Paes denied any wrongdoing but promptly canceled the land purchase.

Still, authorities say they plan to remove the settlement to make way for roadways around Olympic Park, leaving residents scrambling to devise new strategies to resist eviction. “We’re victims of an event we don’t want,” said Inalva Mendes Brito, a schoolteacher in Vila Autódromo. “But maybe if Brazil learns to respect our choice to stay in our homes, the Olympics will be something to celebrate in the end.”

Erika O’Conor and Taylor Barnes contributed reporting.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/05/world/americas/brazil-faces-obstacles-in-preparations-for-rio-olympics.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #6303 on: Mar 5th, 2012, 08:24am »

Reuters

U.S. to offer legal backing for "targeted killing": source

By Jeremy Pelofsky
WASHINGTON
Mon Mar 5, 2012 8:26am EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Monday plans to outline how U.S. laws empower the government to kill Americans overseas who engage in terrorism against their home country, a source familiar with the matter said, months after a drone strike killed a U.S.-born cleric who plotted attacks from Yemen.

Civil liberties groups have been pressuring the administration to offer justification for what has been described as a top-secret "targeted kill" program in which Americans who have joined al Qaeda or other militants are deemed legitimate targets to be killed overseas.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder plans to address the issue and the underpinning legal principles for using lethal force during remarks at Northwestern University School of Law on Monday afternoon in Chicago, the source said Sunday on condition of anonymity.

The Obama administration has stepped up using unmanned aerial drones against terrorism suspects including the September killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born cleric who went into hiding in Yemen who had been directing al Qaeda militants to launch several attacks against the United States.

U.S. officials have refused to talk much publicly about the program but some officials said last year that Americans like Awlaki could be placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior U.S. government officials which then informs the president of its decisions.

Holder will likely couple the justification with another argument that the administration has repeatedly made about terrorism: both traditional criminal courts and military tribunals work to prosecute terrorism suspects, the source said.

The speech will be the latest attempt by the administration to address the issue, an unusual break from past precedent of eschewing virtually any discussion about the top-secret program.

Defense Department lawyer Jeh Johnson last month referred to the so-called "targeted kill" program, saying that it pursued legitimate military targets overseas and rejected suggestions that the United States was engaged in assassination.

"Under well-settled legal principles, lethal force against a valid military objective, in an armed conflict, is consistent with the law of war and does not, by definition, constitute an 'assassination,'" Johnson said at Yale Law School.

The American Civil Liberties Union on February 1 sued the Obama administration in federal court, demanding that Holder's Justice Department release what it believes are legal memoranda justifying targeting Americans overseas using lethal force.

The ACLU called such power a "breathtaking assertion" and warned that it would be available to future presidents as well.

"At bottom, the administration is asserting the unreviewable authority to kill any American whom the president declares to be an enemy of the state," Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU's deputy legal director, said in a statement.

U.S. officials have linked Awlaki to several plots against the United States, including the 2009 Christmas Day attempt by a Nigerian man to blow up a U.S. commercial airliner as it arrived in Detroit from Amsterdam with a bomb hidden in his underwear.

When the bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in a U.S. prison, authorities said that Awlaki himself approved and directed the plot from Yemen.

Civil liberties groups have complained that such militants should be captured and prosecuted in a U.S. courtroom where practical. They also fiercely oppose using military courts for terrorism cases.

The Obama administration has run into difficulties trying prosecute terrorism suspects in the U.S. court system, facing criticism over giving terrorism suspects full legal rights and whether they addressed security for the trials sufficiently.

Republicans in Congress and even some of Obama's fellow Democrats have demanded that they be tried in military tribunals and blocked moving terrorism suspects from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the federal prison system.

Administration officials have insisted that terrorism suspects can be successfully prosecuted and incarcerated in both legal systems and said that the Abdulmutallab case was an example of the traditional courts working effectively.

(Reporting By Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Howard Goller and Doina Chiacu)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/05/us-usa-security-americans-idUSTRE82402420120305

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« Reply #6304 on: Mar 5th, 2012, 08:32am »

Honolulu Star Advertiser

Dog survives 53 days in wild, reunited with owner

By Martin Griffith
Associated Press
POSTED: 03:21 p.m. HST, Mar 04, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 03:25 p.m. HST, Mar 04, 2012

RENO, Nevada - Barbara Bagley says she never gave up hope that her dog would be found alive in the Nevada desert after the animal bolted from the scene of a crash that critically injured her and killed her husband.

But the Salt Lake City woman endured plenty of frustration until her beloved 4-year-old Shetland sheepdog, Dooley, was tracked down Feb. 18 after surviving 53 days in the wild on roadkill and scattered ranch water sources.

"I would think about Dooley constantly," she said. "There were TV commercials with dogs that made me think about him and cry. He's just the sweetest dog."

The Dec. 27 single-vehicle accident on Interstate 80 near Battle Mountain, about 225 miles east of Reno, sent Bagley and her 55-year-old husband, Brad Vom Baur, to the hospital in critical condition. Their other sheltie, Delaney, was killed in the wreck. Dooley ran away and vanished.

Bagley, 48, suffered a concussion, broken ribs, a shattered wrist and two punctured lungs. As soon as she mustered up enough strength, she turned her attention to a search for her dog in the sprawling sage-covered plains and hills of northeastern Nevada.

Realizing what Dooley could mean for her recovery, dozens of Nevada volunteers responded to a Facebook plea for help in looking for him. But the search was canceled before it began after the Jan. 6 discovery of what appeared to be the dog's remains along the interstate. The same day, her husband died.

"It was a horrible day for me," Bagley recalled. "But something inside me told me Dooley was still alive out there. I wasn't 100 percent sure, but I didn't grieve for Dooley like I did for my husband and our other dog."

More than three weeks later, Bagley's spirits were buoyed after a woman reported spotting "a Lassie-type" dog near the accident scene. A subsequent search joined by Bagley turned up nothing, but a railroad crew spotted a dog matching the same description in mid-February in the same area about 15 miles east of Battle Mountain.

Further searches netted a positive identification of Dooley but frustration as well because the skittish dog kept fleeing from Bagley and other searchers. Finally, Shannon Sustacha of Lamoille, who was on horseback, and a Bagley friend driving a Jeep cornered Dooley only five miles from the crash scene. The friend managed to nab the sheltie and put him in the Jeep.

An ecstatic, tearful Bagley arrived at the scene a short time later.

"Barbara got next to us and said three times, 'You think he'll remember me?'" Sustacha said. "When Barbara opened the door and looked at him, she said, 'My beautiful boy, my beautiful boy, you're home.' Oh, boy, all of us cried. I knew his adventure in Nevada was over. I also knew he and Barbara could start healing together."

A short time later, an exhausted Dooley sat on his owner's lap in the Jeep and fell asleep. He later began following Bagley around.

"I was overjoyed that I was going to have him back in my life. I think he felt the same about me," she said.

During his ordeal, Dooley's weight dropped from 44 pounds to 20 pounds. He was once spotted devouring a dead coyote along the roadway. A long bird bone was pulled from his throat by a veterinarian.

Since then, the dog has gradually put on weight and resumed regular walks with his owner. While Bagley is still going through the grieving process over her husband's death and recovering from her injuries, Dooley's presence has picked up her spirits immensely.

"He's the physical and mental affection that I need to recover," she said. "I owe him so much for the hope I have now and the renewed faith I have in prayer. Dogs are so great because of their unconditional love."

Bagley, a phlebotomy supervisor at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, also thinks her husband had something to do with Dooley's safe return home.

"It's a message from my husband who was looking out for him," Bagley said. "It was a miracle that we got Dooley. He couldn't have survived much longer out there."

http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/breaking/141377713.html?id=141377713

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« Reply #6305 on: Mar 5th, 2012, 08:46am »

Wired

Photographer of Underwater Dogs Actually Turns Buzz Into Traction
By Jakob Schiller
March 5, 2012 | 6:30 am
Categories: Books, Business, Internet, Miscellaneous, Photo Gallery, Travel



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Photo: Seth Casteel



On a recent trip to a watch store in Seth Casteel’s hometown of Los Angeles, a salesperson started making small talk by asking him what he did for a living.

“I’m a photographer,” Casteel said.

“Oh, have you seen those underwater dog photos that are going around?” she responded immediately.

“Yeah, I shot those,” Casteel said.

“No way! I can’t believe you’re in the store right now,” the clerk shouted.

Similar scenes have played out a handful of times in the past few weeks for Casteel, whose unique underwater dog photos went viral earlier last month and became a global phenomenon.

“It’s been pretty unreal,” Casteel says.

Before the photos spread across the world, Casteel was doing okay as a freelance photographer. He sometimes struggled to pay the bills, but his list of clients was growing. He was actually on a shoot for Animal Planet when the photos first started to get around.

Now everything has changed. On that fateful February 9th, the photos mysteriously landed on Reddit, Facebook, Google+ and then Warholian, becoming one of the hottest trends amongst viewers on at least five or six continents.

More than 1,000 people all over the world have subsequently asked him to shoot photos of their pets. He’s got a line of publishing houses fighting to get the rights to his forthcoming book of underwater dog photos, and he’s made appearance on, or in, most major American news publications from the The New York Times to Good Morning America.

“I could have never predicted anything like this,” says Casteel, who seems to have remained humble in the face of his newfound fame.

While many viral stars have floundered under the attention, Casteel says he was actually well positioned to deal with the onslaught. His website crashed a couple times because of the hundreds of thousands of hits he continues to receive, but that seems to have been the only hiccup.

He credits his licensing and PR firm, Tandem Stills + Motion, with successfully converting his new audience. Where many internet stars fade away after a few days of intense popularity, his firm capitalized on the traffic by handling most of Casteel’s business transactions and press requests.

“The business side is so important because you can have something go viral and be silly about it and you won’t make a dollar off it,” Casteel says. “Without [Tandem Stills + Motion] it would have been a fail.”

The company’s smaller size and client focus was also instrumental. “If I would have been with Getty or Corbis it would have been a mess,” he says.

The only detail Casteel will reveal about his new financial situation is that he has gone from “a struggling entrepreneur to someone who is going to have a career.”

He raised his prices, but only slightly. His on-land photos shoots went from $375 to $450 for an hour. An underwater shoot, which takes several hours, now starts at $995.

“I want to be accessible,” says.

The only things Casteel has thought about splurging on are an additional underwater housing for his Canon 7D and some new dog tattoos. He’s currently working on an entire sleeve of dog portraits but hasn’t found much time to get new ink because he’s constantly in a pool.

The most exciting part of the success for him, however, is how the attention has already helped his non-profit, Second Chance Photos, which aims to increase the quality of animal adoption photos at shelters across the country by providing photo equipment and technical training for shelter staff. Better photos, Casteel says, means increased adoption rates.

He got involved in helping animals after some kittens wandered onto a movie set he was working on and he agreed to do their adoption photos. From there he moved on to volunteering at the West Los Angeles animal shelter and then started Second Chance.

Now Casteel’s recent success has lead to an increase in donations to the non-profit. It’s also led to invitations from animal shelters outside the U.S. who are interested in the workshops.

“That’s the thing I’m most surprised about,” he says. “That the photos have resonated with so many people across the world. In the end I’m just super grateful and excited that it’s been such a positive thing.”

photo gallery after the jump
http://www.wired.com/rawfile/2012/03/underwater-dog-photographer-actually-turns-buzz-into-traction/

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« Reply #6306 on: Mar 6th, 2012, 08:37am »

New York Times

March 6, 2012
World Powers Agree to Resume Nuclear Talks With Iran
By ALAN COWELL

LONDON — The global powers dealing with Iran’s disputed nuclear program said on Tuesday that they have accepted an offer to resume negotiations that broke off in stalemate more than a year ago, according to a statement from the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.

The powers are the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain — and Germany. The European Union is the contact for the group’s dealings with Tehran.

The contact group is seeking a freeze on Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which Western leaders suspect is designed to give Tehran a nuclear weapons capability. Iran says the program is for peaceful purposes.

Talks about resuming the negotiations have been going on for weeks and Iran’s nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, suggested new discussions in a letter in February. The previous discussions broke off in January 2011 in Istanbul.

In a response on Tuesday to Mr. Jalili’s proposal, Ms. Ashton said the European Union hopes that Iran “will now enter into a sustained process of constructive dialogue which will deliver real progress in resolving the international community’s longstanding concerns on its nuclear program,” The Associated Press reported. The timing and location of the talks have not been announced.

In a separate statement, the British Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “We all agree that the international community should demonstrate its commitment to a diplomatic solution by acknowledging Iran’s agreement to meet, by testing its desire to talk and by offering it the opportunity to respond to our legitimate concerns about its nuclear intentions.”

“It is time for Iran to choose a different path and to show the world that it wants a peaceful, negotiated solution to the nuclear issue. It is for Iran to seize this opportunity and we urge it to do so,” Mr. Hague said. “The onus will be on Iran to convince the international community that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful, by taking concrete actions.”

The prospect of new talks comes as Israel signals increasing readiness to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities while the United States wants more time for economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure to press Tehran toward a settlement.

At a meeting in the White house on Monday, President Obama urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to give diplomacy and sanctions a chance to work before resorting to military action. But Mr. Netanyahu said later: “We waited for diplomacy to work; we’ve waited for sanctions to work; none of us can afford to wait much longer.”

There were conflicting reports on Tuesday about Iran’s readiness to permit inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear supervisory body, to visit a secret military complex to which they have been denied access. An Iranian news agency, ISNA, said that Iran had reversed its refusal to permit I.A.E.A. inspectors to visit the complex at Parchin, southeast of Tehran.

But a news release from Iran’s representatives at the I.A.E.A. headquarters in Vienna suggested that the offer was conditional, preliminary and limited to only two of the five areas that the agency’s experts wished to investigate. It also accused the agency of ignoring an agreement to postpone its request to visit the secret site at Parchin until after a meeting this week of the agency’s board of governors.

The ISNA report was apparently based on the same news release , which the Iranian mission at the I.A.E.A. said it had issued on Monday.

The I.A.E.A. believes that secret military work has been carried out at Parchin and has been pressing for access. Last month, a senior delegation from the atomic agency held its second round of talks in a month with Iranian officials in Tehran.

“During both the first and second round of discussions, the agency team requested access to the military site at Parchin. Iran did not grant permission for this visit to take place,” the I.A.E.A. said at the time.

“Intensive efforts were made to reach agreement on a document facilitating the clarification of unresolved issues in connection with Iran’s nuclear program, particularly those relating to possible military dimensions. Unfortunately, agreement was not reached on this document,” its statement said.

But in the news release on Monday offering their own version of the talks in February, the Iranian mission at the I.A.E.A. said Tehran had repeated its readiness to “take practical steps including granting access on two issues” — detonator development and high explosive initiation — but the I.A.E.A. team “did not accept the offer” and returned to Vienna on the instructions of the agency’s director general Yukiya Amano.

Access to the Parchin site may test whether Iran will ever allow the kind of intrusive inspections that most Western officials say are necessary to establish whether Iran has conducted research on weaponization.

The last report by the I.A.E.A. in November said Iran had gone beyond theoretical studies about how to detonate a nuclear device, building a large containment vessel at Parchin for testing the feasibility of explosive compression. It called such tests “strong indicators of possible weapon development.”

I.A.E.A. officials offered no immediate response to the Iranian version.

But a Western diplomat familiar with the issue, who spoke in return for anonymity, insisted that Iranian officials had refused to permit the I.A.E.A. team to visit Parchin during the February visit and had instead offered to show the agency’s experts a different site which was not part of their mission.

The conflicting versions of what had transpired seemed to be part of Iran’s negotiating position and an effort by Tehran “not to be seen as unhelpful,” the diplomat said. But, the diplomat said, the agency wanted to pursue the negotiations to gain access to the Parchin site.

At a news conference in Vienna on Monday, Mr. Amano, the agency’s director general, said: “Iran did not provide access to the Parchin site, as we requested.”

“Nevertheless, the Agency will continue to address the Iran nuclear issue through dialogue and in a constructive spirit. The basic objective is to restore international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities. “

The reported offer to permit access to the Parchin site was the second apparently conciliatory gesture by Tehran in as many days. On Monday, the Supreme Court of Iran has tossed out the death penalty conviction of a former United States Marine accused of spying and ordered a retrial in a separate court, Iranian news services reported.

The reports quoted a state prosecutor as saying that shortcomings had been found in the case against the American, Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, and that a new trial would be held.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/07/world/middleeast/iran-agrees-to-inspection-of-secret-military-site-report-says.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #6307 on: Mar 6th, 2012, 08:40am »

LA Times

President may order killing of American terrorists, Holder says

The attorney general offers a rationale for how the airstrike that killed U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki in Yemen last year is in line with the Constitution.

By Richard A. Serrano and Andy Grimm, Los Angeles Times
March 5, 2012, 10:50 p.m.

Reporting from Washington and Chicago— The president has legal authority to target and kill American citizens working with Al Qaeda and its allies overseas, according to Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., who declared that when such people pose a threat to the country and cannot be captured, "we must take steps to stop them."

Speaking to an audience at Northwestern University Law School, Holder gave the most complete explanation to date of the Obama administration's legal rationale for killing people such as American-born Anwar Awlaki, who was targeted in a U.S. airstrike in Yemen last year.

Such killings can be ordered "in full accordance with the Constitution," but it requires "at least" an imminent threat in a situation where capture is not feasible, and when the strike is "conducted in a manner consistent" with the rules of war, Holder said.

"In this hour of danger," Holder said, "we simply cannot afford to wait until deadly plans are carried out. And we will not."

Holder spoke as the top legal representative of a president who came to the White House pledging to try terrorist suspects in federal courthouses in the U.S. but who has accepted a broad view of the executive branch's power to target and kill those — including American citizens — they believe threaten the country from abroad.

The administration came under considerable pressure after the slaying of Awlaki to explain how targeting and killing him without a trial squared with the oft-repeated stance from Holder and the White House that terrorism suspects should be brought to justice in federal courts. Awlaki, born in New Mexico, was an American citizen.

The speech, delivered to an audience of 800 law school professors and students, was the administration's response to those demands for an explanation. Holder said the right to order a targeted killing has two legal bases. One is the law passed by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that authorized the president to use all necessary and appropriate force against the perpetrators and those who helped them. The other is the president's power "to protect the nation from any imminent threat of violent attack."

That authority is "not limited to the battlefields in Afghanistan," Holder said, adding that "we are at war with a stateless enemy, prone to shifting operations from country to country."

For a targeted killing to be carried out, three conditions must be met, he said.

First, the government has to determine that the individual being targeted "poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the U.S." That evaluation would consider the "relevant window of opportunity to act," the possible harm to civilians and the likelihood of heading off future attacks.

Second, "capture is not feasible."

Third, the operation has to be conducted in a manner consistent with four fundamental rules of war: The target must have military value; the target must be lawful, such as combatants or civilians engaged in hostilities; collateral damage must not be excessive; and the weapons chosen must not "inflict unnecessary suffering."

Critics have argued that such killings are illegal because, in part, the president needs to show a federal court that the targeted individual poses a threat.

"The administration is asserting the authority to kill any American whom the president declares to be an enemy of the state," said Jameel Jaffer, a national security attorney with the ACLU. "That's a breathtaking assertion."

But Holder countered that those determinations by the executive branch do not require any court oversight because they "depend on expertise and immediate access to information that only the executive branch may possess in real time."

The Constitution "does not require judicial approval before the president may use force abroad against a senior operational leader of a foreign terrorist organization with which the United States is at war — even if that individual happens to be a U.S. citizen," he said.

Several international law experts criticized Holder's comments as not offering enough detail to justify the administration's legal case. Many have called for releasing the White House legal opinion that authorized the strike on Awlaki.

Eugene Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale University, said that while "the executive branch can stand its ground on this, politically it's untenable" not to give a better explanation for targeting and killing Americans and not releasing an Office of Legal Counsel opinion authorizing the use of lethal force.

"Capitol Hill won't stand for this, they will want a better explanation," Fidell said. "And so will the public."

Matthew Waxman, a professor at Columbia Law School and a former Pentagon and State Department official, said the Obama administration "has tried to walk some difficult lines." He said Holder was "asserting broad and geographically expansive war-fighting powers while assuring critics that they are limited, justifying actions that remain covert and officially unacknowledged, and promoting government transparency while protecting sensitive intelligence programs and diplomatic relations."

Obama in the 2008 campaign pledged to close the military prison at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and he and Holder have repeatedly insisted that suspected terrorists should be tried in federal civilian courts rather than military tribunals. But after intense pressure from Republicans and some key Democrats, they backed off on shutting Guantanamo Bay and their desire to try five alleged top Sept. 11 plotters in New York.

Since the attack that targeted Awlaki and also killed a second American citizen, Samir Khan, critics have cast the administration as two-faced in its policy in terrorism cases. The government has asserted that Awlaki was personally involved in operations such as the attempt to bomb a civilian airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, though it has not fully disclosed its evidence for that claim. (Another American, Awlaki's 16-year-old son, Abdul Rahman, was also killed in a separate drone strike in Yemen, though U.S. officials said privately he was not specifically targeted.)

Holder did not specifically refer to those slayings. Nor did he discuss or even acknowledge the existence of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel document giving legal justification for lethal use of force. Several organizations have filed suit to make it public.

Holder did not take questions from reporters after his remarks, and though he originally was going to answer questions from the law school audience, on Monday morning he abruptly canceled that plan.

The 40-year-old Awlaki, a radical cleric, was a major propagandist for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He also was linked to Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who is being court-martialed in the 2009 rampage that killed 13 people at Ft. Hood, Texas, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian sentenced in federal court in Detroit last month to life in prison without parole for trying to ignite the bomb on the jetliner on Christmas Day 2009.

The government has alleged that Awlaki gave operational support to Abdulmutallab, and Holder on Monday strongly suggested that someone like him meets the three criteria for an attack with lethal force.


http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-holder-awlaki-20120306,0,4658910.story

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« Reply #6308 on: Mar 6th, 2012, 08:43am »

DARPA Cheetah





Uploaded by DARPAtv on Mar 5, 2012

This video shows a demonstration of the "Cheetah" robot galloping at speeds of up to 18 miles per hour (mph), setting a new land speed record for legged robots. The previous record was 13.1 mph, set in 1989.

The robot's movements are patterned after those of fast-running animals in nature. The robot increases its stride and running speed by flexing and un-flexing its back on each step, much as an actual cheetah does.

The current version of the Cheetah robot runs on a laboratory treadmill where it is powered by an off-board hydraulic pump, and uses a boom-like device to keep it running in the center of the treadmill. Testing of a free-running prototype is planned for later this year.

While the M3 program conducts basic research and is not focused on specific military missions, the technology it aims to develop could have a wide range of potential military applications.

The DARPA M3 performer for Cheetah is Boston Dynamics of Waltham, Mass. Read more about DARPA's M3 program at http://www.darpa.mil/Our_Work/DSO/Programs/Maximum_Mobility_and_Manipulation_...

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« Reply #6309 on: Mar 6th, 2012, 08:55am »

The Wrap

'Terra Nova' Canceled by Fox; Studio Shopping Series to Other Networks
Published: March 05, 2012 @ 8:30 pm
By Tim Kenneally

"Terra Nova" is no more -- at least on Fox.

The Steven Spielberg-produced dinosaur drama has not been picked up for a second season, the network confirms to TheWrap. 20th Century Fox Television, the studio behind the series, is currently looking for a new network home for the show.

The series got off to a tumultuous start even before its September 2011 premiere -- with a reportedly runaway budget and a canceled preview in May 2011.

The show proceeded to drew lukewarm ratings: The show's premiere drew a respectable 3.1 rating/7 share in the adults 18-49 demographic and 9.2 million total viewers, but dropped off to a 2.2 rating/6 share with its December season finale.

http://www.thewrap.com/tv/article/terra-nova-canceled-fox-studio-shopping-series-other-networks-35984

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« Reply #6310 on: Mar 6th, 2012, 1:00pm »

.





Uploaded by UFOsOnEarth on Mar 6, 2012

A blinking light was recorded moving slowly over Vila Medeiros in São Paulo, Brazil on February 17th 2012 22:45. The blinking pattern is not like from any conventional craft, it blinks very fast and not in any particular pattern.
More info: www.ufosonearth.com

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« Reply #6311 on: Mar 7th, 2012, 07:54am »

New York Times

March 7, 2012
Data Hint at Hypothetical Particle, Key to Mass in the Universe
By DENNIS OVERBYE

After 40 years, more evidence is being reported Wednesday that the end of the biggest manhunt in the history of physics might finally be in sight.

Physicists from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., say they have found a bump in their data that might be the long-sought Higgs boson, a hypothesized particle that is responsible for endowing other elementary particles with mass.

The signal, in data collected over the last several years at Fermilab’s Tevatron accelerator, agrees roughly with results announced last December from two independent experimental groups working at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, outside Geneva.

“Based on the current Tevatron data and results compiled through December 2011 by other experiments, this is the strongest hint of the existence of a Higgs boson,” said the report, which will be presented on Wednesday by Wade Fisher of Michigan State University to a physics conference in La Thuile, Italy.

None of these results, either singly or collectively, are strong enough for scientists to claim victory. But the recent run of reports has encouraged them to think that the elusive particle, which is the key to mass and diversity in the universe, is within sight, perhaps as soon as this summer.

Beate Heinemann, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who has been deeply involved in analyzing data from the Large Hadron Collider, said recently of the CERN results, “This very much smells like the Higgs boson.” But, she noted, the signal could also go away when more data is obtained.

The Higgs boson is the key piece of the Standard Model, an ambitious suite of equations that has ruled the universe of high-energy physics for the last few decades, explaining how three of the four fundamental forces of nature work. But the boson itself has never been observed. The theory describes how it should work and behave but does not predict one of its key attributes, namely its mass.

Last December, two groups, which run giant particle detectors named Atlas and C.M.S. from the CERN collider, reported that they had found promising bumps in their data at masses of 124 billion electron volts and 126 billion electron volts, respectively, those being the units of mass or energy preferred by particle physicists. (By comparison, a proton is about a billion electron volts, and an electron is about half a million.)

The Fermilab physicists have found a broad hump in their data in the same region, between 115 billion and 135 billion electron volts. Those results came from combining the data from two detectors operated on the Tevatron: the Collider Detector at Fermilab, and DZero. The chances of this signal being the result of a random fluctuation in the data were only about 1 in 100, the group said.

Dmitri Denisov, a leader of the Fermilab effort, wrote in an e-mail on the way to La Thuile, “It is clearly not the answer to crossword, but an important piece of the puzzle!”

Rumors of sightings of the Higgs boson have come and gone at both CERN and Fermilab in the last few years, but invariably where one group saw a bump, another saw a dip in the data, and with more data the bumps went away.

This is the first time in the long search for the particle that different groups, indeed different colliders, are in vague agreement.

It has led to a joke in physics circles now: The Higgs boson has not been discovered yet, but its mass is 125 billion electron volts.

The Atlas and C.M.S. groups will be trying to combine and reconcile their data in the coming weeks. The Hadron collider, now on winter break, will start up again in April, with protons colliding at four trillion electron volts apiece. CERN has said that the collider will gather enough data this year either to confirm the existence of the Higgs boson or to rule it out forever.

Either outcome, physicists say, will be exciting. If the Higgs does not exist, they will have to come up with a new model of how the universe works. If they do find the Higgs, studying it might give them clues to deeper mysteries the Standard Model does not solve.

The Tevatron, which was the most powerful accelerator in the world for 20 years, shut down last September.


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/07/science/higgs-boson-may-be-indicated-in-new-data.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #6312 on: Mar 7th, 2012, 07:57am »

LA Times

Syrian Christians worry about life after Bashar Assad

They fear civil war and revenge attacks if President Bashar Assad falls, an anxiety fed by the sectarian violence seen in Egypt and Iraq.

By Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times
7:21 PM PST, March 6, 2012
Reporting from Damascus, Syria

For 40 years, Um Michael has found comfort and serenity amid the soaring pillars and ancient icons of St. Mary's Greek Orthodox cathedral.

But as a priest offered up a prayer for peace one recent Sunday, the 70-year-old widow dabbed tears from her eyes.

"I was wishing that life would go back to the way it used to be," she said.

At night, Um Michael can hear the echoes of fighting near her home in Bab Touma, the centuries-old Christian quarter of Damascus. Like many Christians here, she wonders whether Syria's increasingly bloody, nearly yearlong uprising could shatter the veneer of security provided by President Bashar Assad's autocratic but secular government.

Assad has portrayed himself as the defender of the nation's religious minorities, including Christians and his Alawite Muslim sect, against foreign-backed Islamic extremists. Opposition activists scoff at that notion, saying he has deliberately exploited sectarian fear to stay in power.

But warnings of a bloodbath if Assad leaves office resonate with Christians, who have seen their brethren driven away by sectarian violence since the overthrow of longtime strongmen in Iraq and in Egypt, and before that by a 15-year civil war in neighboring Lebanon.

Many here fear revenge attacks against minorities, who helped buttress four decades of repressive rule by the Assad family, and the emergence of what they describe as a new dictatorship by the Sunni Muslim majority.

"If the regime goes, you can forget about Christians in Syria," said George, a 37-year-old dentist who, like others interviewed, asked to be identified by either a first name or nickname. "Look what happened to the Christians of Iraq. They had to flee everywhere, while most of the churches were attacked and bombed."

Although not all of Syria's Christians back Assad, their fear helps explain the significant support he still draws despite the ferocious crackdown on what began as mostly peaceful protests and his government's increasing international isolation.

Worried Christians have only to look to the strife-torn city of Homs to see what a civil war might look like. There, residents say, Sunnis, Christians and the Alawite community, a small offshoot of Shiite Islam, have fallen victim to gruesome kidnappings and killings.

The rise of Islamist parties in post-revolutionary Egypt and Tunisia has added to the feeling among Syria's Christians that they are under siege. Some find affirmation of their fear in the demonstrations that take place every week after Muslims' Friday payers, when antigovernment protesters spill out of mosques nationwide, chanting religious and political slogans.

"Of course the 'Arab Spring' is an Islamist movement," George said angrily. "It's full of extremists. They want to destroy our country, and they call it a 'revolution.'"

Syria's Christians, who represent no more than 10% of the country's 22 million people, trace their origins two millenniums to the beginnings of the faith. The apostle Paul is said to have converted to Christianity on the road to Damascus, from which he went on to spread the religion across the Roman Empire.

Church leaders have largely aligned themselves behind the government, urging their followers to give Assad a chance to enact long-promised political reforms while also calling for an end to the violence, which has killed more than 7,500 people on both sides, according to United Nations estimates.

Ignatius IV, patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, described Syria as an oasis of religious tolerance where Christians can worship freely, build sanctuaries and run schools, activities that are restricted by varying degrees in a number of Middle Eastern countries.

Christian clerics are frequently shown on television taking part in joint prayer services with their Muslim counterparts. The defense minister is a Christian, as are other senior members of the government and security forces.

"Wherever you go, you find Christians and Muslims," said the patriarch, who has a photograph of himself with Assad displayed on his office wall. "There is no distinction."

Although there are dissenting voices, few dare to speak publicly, said a priest who did not want his name published for fear of retribution. In January, a fellow cleric was shot and killed while trying to help an injured parishioner in the city of Hama, a center of the uprising. Each side blamed the other for his death.

"In my opinion, [Assad] did not protect minorities, he protected himself," said the priest. "It's a regime of family, friends and corruption. And corruption does not have a religion."

Opposition activists blame the government's own policies for the deepening sectarian divide, including the use of Alawite-led security forces and a predominantly Alawite militia to beat, torture and kill protesters.

"This is their game," said Abdu, a 27-year-old Christian activist who has taken part in numerous antigovernment demonstrations. "They are playing the sectarian card."

Abdu is not afraid of a government dominated by Sunnis. He said he has often prayed in mosques, because that is where protesters gather before a demonstration.

"We were very welcome there," he said.

But after months of unrelenting violence, he fears that the government's propaganda may become reality. "I think we are headed into a civil war," he said.

Louay, 26, a recent university graduate, said he never thought the Arab Spring would spread to Syria.

"I thought we lived in one of the best Arab countries," he said over tea at a trendy Damascus cafe, where wealthy women and their fashionable offspring while away the afternoon.

When he heard that demonstrators were being shot and killed, he worried that the government "was going overboard with its repression." But now, he said, he is just as repelled by the main opposition leaders.

"They are acting like the regime in some ways, not caring about how much killing is happening," said Louay, who fears that the opposition is too fragmented to keep a lid on religious and ethnic tension.

"I think the best solution is for the government to stay," he said. "I hope they will give Bashar al-Assad another chance."

Special correspondent Rima Marrouch and another Times employee in Damascus contributed to this report.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-syria-christians-20120307,0,4802686.story

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« Reply #6313 on: Mar 7th, 2012, 08:04am »

YumaSun.com


UFO hunters point to YPG image
March 06, 2012 7:55 PM
BY CHRIS McDANIEL - SUN STAFF WRITER

Is the U.S. Army testing a UFO captured from little green men at Yuma Proving Ground?

That question has been on the minds of Internet-savvy UFO hunters after the recent discovery of a satellite image showing what appears to be a classically shaped UFO resting on a runway at YPG.

Author Tom Rose, a regular contributor to the website gather.com, wrote that the image would "spark the imagination of UFO hunters around the world" who might wonder if the object is "a secret program to reverse engineer alien technology."


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PHOTO COURTESY OF GOOGLE MAPS
THIS SCREEN SHOT SHOWS what some have theorized to be an alien aircraft sitting on the runway of the Laguna Army Airfield




The satellite image of the object was discovered by an observant user of Google Maps who shared it with the Internet community.

The object in the image has spokes that attach a central point to an outer ring. The spokes look similar to that of a bicycle wheel, although the central point and outer rims are brighter than the spokes. The object is on one of the runways at Laguna Army Airfield, a location commonly used by NASA for testing purposes.

But the object is not of extraterrestrial origin.

According to YPG public affairs officer Chuck Wullenjohn, the object is actually a compass rose recently painted on the ramp.

"A compass rose shows the various settings of a compass and is used by flight crews to align the backup compasses used aboard aircraft."

The compass rose, which is painted on the tarmac, can be seen more clearly using maps on Bing.com.


http://www.yumasun.com/articles/object-77305-image-ufo.html#ixzz1oRK1aOas

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« Reply #6314 on: Mar 7th, 2012, 08:16am »

Wired Danger Room

A Year Later, Mysterious Space Plane Is Still in Orbit
By David Axe
March 7, 2012 | 6:30 am
Categories: Spies, Secrecy and Surveillance


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Photo: U.S. Air Force


The Air Force’s secretive X-37B space plane gets more mysterious by the day. Designed to spend up to nine months on unspecified errands in Earth’s orbit, the second copy of the Boeing-made craft, known as Orbital Test Vehicle 2, has now been in space for a year and two days — and is still going strong. The endurance milestone is unqualified good news for America’s space force at a time when its funding and future missions are in doubt.

There’s just one thing. We still don’t know exactly what the 30-foot-long X-37B is doing up there.

Since the launch of Orbital Test Vehicle 1 in April 2010, the Air Force has insisted that the X-37 program is a purely scientific endeavor. But analysts say the spacefaring craft, which launches into orbit atop a rocket but glides back to Earth like an airplane, is capable of much more than that. It could be an orbital spy — in essence, a more maneuverable satellite. Or it could be used to tamper with enemy satellites.

With its pickup-truck-size payload bay, the estimated billion-dollar craft could even haul small batches of supplies to the International Space Station. In October, Boeing program manager Art Grantz proposed to build an enlarged X-37C model that could also carry astronauts to the station, filling a gap left by the retired NASA Space Shuttle.

Though unlikely, the X-37B could even function as an orbital bomber. “You could stick munitions in there,” said Eric Sterner, an analyst with the Marshall Institute, “provided they exist.”

The latest rumor has the Air Force extending OTV-2′s time in orbit in order to perform close passes on the new Chinese space station, which has been in orbit since September but does yet have astronauts on board. Some analysts have noted that the X-37′s path nearly intersects with that of the Tiangong station. Others point out that the two spacecraft would pass each other at thousands of meters per second, making useful surveillance impossible. “If the U.S. really wanted to observe Tiangong, it has enough assets to do that without using X-37B,” Brian Weeden from the Secure World Foundation told the BBC.

In any event, the space plane’s impressive endurance can only boost the Air Force’s space credentials at a critical moment in U.S. orbital capabilities. The Obama administration’s proposed 2013-2017 budget plan cuts satellites and rockets, and entirely eliminates the office that oversaw the X-37′s development. Meanwhile, Boeing is preparing to shut down its “Building 31″ facility in California, where the X-37s were assembled.

Insiders believe the space plane will safely maneuver into a new line of funding, preserving it even as other space systems wither away. All the same, the Air Force has a strong incentive to demonstrate its space prowess in order to stave off deeper cuts. “We should not be surprised if the Air Force is pushing the envelope,” Weeden tells Danger Room.

The X-37′s efficient design means its performance limits could be farther out than even the most fervent space boosters anticipate. Deftly combining the vehicle’s solar panels and rocket-fuel reserves, Air Force and Boeing operators have refined the space plane’s operations to an art. “It sips fuel like a Prius,” one space insider boats. “It could be on station into April for all I know.”

Doing who-knows-what.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/03/spaceplane-year/

Crystal
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