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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 16176 times)
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« Reply #6360 on: Mar 15th, 2012, 12:14pm »

io9.com

(I included this article for the synopsis re: "The New Kind")

By Annalee Newitz
Feb 20, 2012 3:39 PM

The most exciting animated series we’ve seen in a long time

The New Kind is an anime-influenced series set in the post-human future, and this breathtaking trailer will leave your heart pounding and your brain wanting more. And you can get more, too — if you donate to the Kickstarter project that's funding the 250 artists who already started work on this series just for the sheer joy of doing something awesome.

Here's the synopsis:

Darvin and Yuka (17 and 18) fall in love but have never physically met — a psychic link connects them. They are The New Kind; The next link in Humanity's evolution. If they ever find each other, it will cause a chain reaction, instantly transforming all young people into god-like beings. But before that can happen, Darvin and Yuka must survive an evil force hunting them.


Created by Roninfilm, which is run by Peter Hyoguchi, The New Kind will hit the internets in August of this year with two full episodes. Of the 250 VFX artists who've already contributed to the project are people who have worked on Star Wars, Avatar, The Matrix, and Harry Potter. Roninfilm even got the use of a motion capture studio, for free, to film some scenes. The group is seeking $100,000 to complete the project....

more after the jump
http://io9.com/5886692/the-most-gorgeous-animated-series-weve-seen-in-a-long-time


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« Reply #6361 on: Mar 15th, 2012, 12:40pm »

Japanese mythology link:

http://www.interq.or.jp/www-user/fuushi/e-myth-a.htm

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« Reply #6362 on: Mar 15th, 2012, 1:47pm »

Radio glitch delays 5-rocket launch to edge of space

By Tariq Malik
Published March 15, 2012

A radio system glitch on one of five small rockets aimed at the edge of space has forced NASA to cancel a barrage of overnight launches tonight that promised to dazzle East Coast skywatchers with glowing midnight clouds.

The malfunction was detected as scientists prepared for the late-night launch rocket launches, which were scheduled to blast off within about five minutes of one another at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. The initial launch was targeted for 12 a.m. EDT (0400 GMT) on Thursday (March 15).

"We scrubbed for tonight and our next attempt will be no earlier than Friday night, March 16," NASA spokesman Keith Koehler told SPACE.com from the Wallops launch site on the Atlantic coast.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/03/15/radio-glitch-delays-5-rocket-launch-to-edge-space/#ixzz1pCOrJgdk
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« Reply #6363 on: Mar 15th, 2012, 9:27pm »

on Mar 15th, 2012, 1:47pm, Swamprat wrote:
Radio glitch delays 5-rocket launch to edge of space

By Tariq Malik
Published March 15, 2012

A radio system glitch on one of five small rockets aimed at the edge of space has forced NASA to cancel a barrage of overnight launches tonight that promised to dazzle East Coast skywatchers with glowing midnight clouds.

The malfunction was detected as scientists prepared for the late-night launch rocket launches, which were scheduled to blast off within about five minutes of one another at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. The initial launch was targeted for 12 a.m. EDT (0400 GMT) on Thursday (March 15).

"We scrubbed for tonight and our next attempt will be no earlier than Friday night, March 16," NASA spokesman Keith Koehler told SPACE.com from the Wallops launch site on the Atlantic coast.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/03/15/radio-glitch-delays-5-rocket-launch-to-edge-space/#ixzz1pCOrJgdk


Disappointing.
Hi Swamp! cheesy
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« Reply #6364 on: Mar 15th, 2012, 9:32pm »

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« Reply #6365 on: Mar 16th, 2012, 09:11am »

Washington Post

North Korea says it will launch long-range rocket carrying satellite
By Chico Harlan
Updated: Friday, March 16, 5:49 AM

SEOUL — North Korea said Friday that it intends to blast a satellite into space using a long-range rocket, an announcement that drew international condemnation and seemed to run counter to Pyongyang’s recent promise to halt weapons tests in exchange for food.

North Korea described the launch as both and scientific and celebratory: It will take place between April 12 and 16, to mark the centenary of founder Kim Il Sung’s birth.

The news sparked immediate concern from Washington, Tokyo and Seoul, with South Korea’s foreign ministry calling the rocket test a “grave provocative act against peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia.”

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, citing U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban North Korea from using ballistic missile technology, said a launch would be a “direct violation” of Pyongyang’s international commitments.

“Such a missile launch would pose a threat to regional security and would also be inconsistent with North Korea’s recent undertaking to refrain from long-range missile launches,” Nuland said in a statement. “We call on North Korea to adhere to its international obligations, including all relevant U.N. Security Council Resolutions. We are consulting closely with our international partners on next steps.”

The North’s announcement comes just 16 days after an agreement with the U.S. in which the famine-stricken North Korea said it would halt parts of its nuclear program and suspend all weapons tests in exchange for 240,000 metric tons of food aid.

Even if the North’s rocket propels a satellite, rather than a weapon, into orbit, the launch could jeopardize the food deal — which U.S. officials had described as a tentative first step to better relations with new leader Kim Jong Eun.

Both U.S. and South Korean government officials have characterized the North Korean satellite program as a cover for long-range missile tests, because the technology for launching either is similar, and it is difficult for outsiders to distinguish one from the other. The key difference is a matter of payload: Satellites are designed for communication and observation; missiles are for destruction.

After a similar purported satellite launch in April 2009, the United Nations tightened sanctions against the North, adding a measure to ban Pyongyang from any future launches using “ballistic missile technology.”

“If North Korea does conduct the launch, it kills the food deal,” said Dan Pinkston, a Seoul-based security expert at the International Crisis Group. “For the Obama administration, it becomes politically impossible.”

The North, which has signed an international space treaty, argues that it has every right to launch satellites for peaceful purposes. Friday, in a statement carried by its state-run news agency, the North promised “maximum transparency” and added that the launch would encourage the “building of a thriving nation.”

The Kwangmyongsong-3, designed as a “polar-orbiting earth observation satellite,” will be launched from a station in the northwestern corner of the country, bordering China, and blasted in a southern direction, the North said. This is different from a launch three years ago that traveled over northern Japan.

“A safe flight orbit has been chosen so that carrier rocket debris to be generated during the flight would not have any impact on neighboring countries,” the North’s news agency said.

Previous North Korean launches have succeeded more in sparking international ire than in showing off indigenous technology. The North said its previous long-range rocket launch, on April 5, 2009, placed into orbit a satellite that broadcast patriotic songs honoring leaders Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung. But outside analysts say the launch ended in failure, with no object of any kind entering orbit. The first stage of the rocket landed in the Sea of Japan; the remaining stages and payload dropped into the Pacific Ocean.

Angry about global condemnation of that launch, North Korea expelled international nuclear inspectors from the country and walked out of the multi-nation (or six-party) talks on its weapons program.

One month later, Pyongyang also conducted its second nuclear test.

Analysts in Seoul said that six-party member countries — which include the United States, South Korea, Russia, China and Japan — could now see a similar breakdown in relations, particularly if North Korea interprets the latest condemnation of its satellite launch as an international vendetta.

South Korea later this month will host the Nuclear Security Summit, which will bring together some 50 world leaders, including President Obama.

In recent weeks, the Obama administration had been seeking new diplomatic opportunities with North Korea and Kim, who assumed power after the Dec. 17 death of his father, Kim Jong Il. U.S. officials approached talks tentatively, in large part because of North Korea’s track record for making denuclearization deals in order to receive aid, then backtracking once the aid arrived.

But North Korea’s latest apparent reversal differs from previous ones, because the food-for-nuclear weapons deal hasn’t been completed, and Washington hasn’t sent any of its food aid.

The North’s announcement on Friday, some analysts in Seoul said, felt more like evidence of a divide within Pyongyang’s leadership, rather than a well-orchestrated strategy to gain leverage.

“This is more complicated than typical North Korean behavior,” said John Delury, an assistant professor at Seoul’s Yonsei University. “One of the only things I can think of is, there isn’t total unanimity in the direction of foreign policy. Maybe we are seeing some confusion within the system.”

The North, for years, has promised its people a nationwide celebration in mid-April of this year, pledging to become a “strong and prosperous” nation with something akin to first-world status. A satellite or missile test at that time, some experts said, could be sold domestically as evidence of North Korea’s strength.

“For now, it is unclear what is behind this decision,” said Ryoo Kihl-jae, at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies. “But even if North Korea is to go on launching its missile or satellite, there aren’t any more measures for the international community to take. ... All possible sanctions have already been imposed.”

Special correspondent Yoonjung Seo contributed to this report.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/north-korea-says-it-will-launch-long-range-rocket-next-month/2012/03/16/gIQAraWtFS_story.html?hpid=z3

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« Reply #6366 on: Mar 16th, 2012, 09:15am »

Reuters

Iran buys U.S. wheat again, trade set to grow

By Karl Plume
Fri Mar 16, 2012 10:10am EDT

Iran has purchased 60,000 metric tonnes (66,139 tons) of U.S. wheat, the U.S. government said on Thursday, raising the two-week tally to 180,000 metric tonnes, which industry sources said reopened grain trade ties between the two countries embroiled in a stand-off over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Iran's purchases of U.S. wheat this year are its first in three years, and the sources said the OPEC member was close to completing purchases of another 220,000 metric tonnes to be shipped as early as April, and in talks with exporters to buy another undisclosed amount.

The price tag for the 400,000 metric tonnes -- 180,000 confirmed and 220,000 yet to be formally declared -- could be around $160 million, export sources said.

Prices were believed to be above world market prices by around $25 to $30 per metric tonne to account for the greater risk shipping grain to the volatile region.

Trade sources said grain giants Cargill Inc. and Bunge Ltd were the likely suppliers to Iran, but the two companies declined to comment.

The two companies were also major sellers of wheat to Iran three years ago when Iran, normally self-sufficient in wheat, imported nearly 7 million metric tonnes on the world market, including 1.8 million metric tonnes from the United States.

Iran has purchased some 2 million metric tonnes of wheat from several origins since February as it stockpiles food in response to tough new sanctions aimed at containing its nuclear program.

"If they need something really quick and reliable, the U.S. is there to do it," said a U.S. wheat trader, asking not to be named.

"You can only get so many cargoes out of Brazil or Germany quickly. Russia obviously still has some logistical issues and if they want more, and they want it in April or May at the latest, they're going to have to come to the U.S.," he said.

LARGE APPETITE FOR WHEAT

Wheat traders said they were not surprised that Iran was seeking grain from its arch rival, but were impressed by the size of Tehran's appetite for imported grain and urgency of that need.

"They seem to be taking hundreds of thousands of metric tonnes a week. If that's the case and we repeat 2008, if they buy 7 million metric tonnes of wheat, this is going to be a huge deal for the market," said another wheat trader, citing the last time when a drought-reduced wheat crop prompted Iran to book U.S. wheat.

He cited a recent Iranian purchase from another origin that was booked then began loading within a few days.

Global wheat stocks are hovering near record levels, but supplies in major exporting countries in position to be shipped quickly were far less abundant, traders said.

Iranian imports could top 5 million metric tonnes this year, with the majority of that by the end of May, they said.

"They are scaling up imports because of fears of poor crops due to severely dry weather in the region. Expectations for seasonal output have been reduced, and inventory levels have come off," said Shelley Goldberg, director of global resources and commodities strategy at research company Roubini Global Economics in New York.

The United States has imposed sanctions hitting Iran's oil trade and central bank to pressure Tehran to shutter its nuclear program, which Iran says is for peaceful purposes. A U.S. advisory group said last month that the sanctions are squeezing Iran's oil exports even before they take effect in June.

The sanctions are making it increasingly difficult for the country to pay for staple foods, causing hardship for its 74 million people. The wheat sales are approved under a humanitarian authorization from the Treasury Department to ensure food and other needed items reach the Iranian people.

Iran also has approached Pakistan and India and has bought wheat from Russia, Germany, Canada, Brazil and Australia in recent months in an effort to build its food stores.

(Additional reporting By Emily Stephenson in Washington, KT Arasu in Chicago; Editing by Alden Bentley and David Gregorio)

(This story was corrected to fix the spelling of Shelley Goldberg, in paragraph 15)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/16/us-usa-wheat-iran-idUSBRE82F0S620120316

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« Reply #6367 on: Mar 16th, 2012, 09:18am »

Wired

The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)

By James Bamford
March 15, 2012 | 7:24 pm
Categories: Crypto, Cybersecurity, Miscellaneous, NSA, Paranoia, privacy, Surveillance

The spring air in the small, sand-dusted town has a soft haze to it, and clumps of green-gray sagebrush rustle in the breeze. Bluffdale sits in a bowl-shaped valley in the shadow of Utah’s Wasatch Range to the east and the Oquirrh Mountains to the west. It’s the heart of Mormon country, where religious pioneers first arrived more than 160 years ago. They came to escape the rest of the world, to understand the mysterious words sent down from their god as revealed on buried golden plates, and to practice what has become known as “the principle,” marriage to multiple wives.

Today Bluffdale is home to one of the nation’s largest sects of polygamists, the Apostolic United Brethren, with upwards of 9,000 members. The brethren’s complex includes a chapel, a school, a sports field, and an archive. Membership has doubled since 1978—and the number of plural marriages has tripled—so the sect has recently been looking for ways to purchase more land and expand throughout the town.

But new pioneers have quietly begun moving into the area, secretive outsiders who say little and keep to themselves. Like the pious polygamists, they are focused on deciphering cryptic messages that only they have the power to understand. Just off Beef Hollow Road, less than a mile from brethren headquarters, thousands of hard-hatted construction workers in sweat-soaked T-shirts are laying the groundwork for the newcomers’ own temple and archive, a massive complex so large that it necessitated expanding the town’s boundaries. Once built, it will be more than five times the size of the US Capitol.

Rather than Bibles, prophets, and worshippers, this temple will be filled with servers, computer intelligence experts, and armed guards. And instead of listening for words flowing down from heaven, these newcomers will be secretly capturing, storing, and analyzing vast quantities of words and images hurtling through the world’s telecommunications networks. In the little town of Bluffdale, Big Love and Big Brother have become uneasy neighbors.

Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

But “this is more than just a data center,” says one senior intelligence official who until recently was involved with the program. The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes. And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications—will be heavily encrypted. According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”

For the NSA, overflowing with tens of billions of dollars in post-9/11 budget awards, the cryptanalysis breakthrough came at a time of explosive growth, in size as well as in power. Established as an arm of the Department of Defense following Pearl Harbor, with the primary purpose of preventing another surprise assault, the NSA suffered a series of humiliations in the post-Cold War years. Caught offguard by an escalating series of terrorist attacks—the first World Trade Center bombing, the blowing up of US embassies in East Africa, the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, and finally the devastation of 9/11—some began questioning the agency’s very reason for being. In response, the NSA has quietly been reborn. And while there is little indication that its actual effectiveness has improved—after all, despite numerous pieces of evidence and intelligence-gathering opportunities, it missed the near-disastrous attempted attacks by the underwear bomber on a flight to Detroit in 2009 and by the car bomber in Times Square in 2010—there is no doubt that it has transformed itself into the largest, most covert, and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever created.

In the process—and for the first time since Watergate and the other scandals of the Nixon administration—the NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens. It has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas. It has created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes. Finally, the agency has begun building a place to store all the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net. And, of course, it’s all being done in secret. To those on the inside, the old adage that NSA stands for Never Say Anything applies more than ever....

more after the jump
http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/all/1

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« Reply #6368 on: Mar 16th, 2012, 09:21am »

Deadline Hollywood

High-End Dramas Like ‘Downton Abbey’ Expected To Get Tax Break In The U.K.

By NANCY TARTAGLIONE, International Editor
Friday, 16 March 2012 11:39 UK
Tags: Downton Abbey, Elizabeth McGovern, Julian Fellowes

On Wednesday night, the Obamas, the Camerons and UK Treasury chief George Osborne broke bread at the White House with Downton Abbey’s Lord and Lady Grantham themselves, Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern. Today, it looks like they might have discussed more than just Mary and Matthew’s wedding plans. When the British government unveils its new budget next week, Osborne is expected to announce a consultation on a tax break for producers of so-called “high-end” TV shows like Downton, reports say. The move is an effort to stem runaway production and is also a eyed as a way to encourage foreign shows to come to the UK. Britain’s “cinematic” TV industry is a £2.2 billion business with Downton Abbey among the rare exceptions of shows produced at home. (The upcoming Titanic miniseries, written by Downton creator Julian Fellowes, was produced in Canada and Hungary.) The shows eligible for the break would be productions that cost £1 million an hour or more to produce. In order to qualify, they would need to pass a cultural test to prove their Britishness with at least 25% of spend occurring in the UK. Alternatively, projects could be eligible under an agreed co-production treaty.

A tax credit for films already exists in the UK and offers as much as a 25% break on pictures shot locally. The scheme has helped boost production with more than 200 films supported in 2010 alone, including Warner Bros’ final Harry Potter installment. A recent report by consulting firm RSM Tenon and media law specialist Wiggin LLP estimates that a tax incentive for big budget shows “would transform the world TV economy” and would make the UK the location of choice for local and international producers. The groups estimate an additional £350 million of production spend would be generated each year. In a statement regarding the break, Fellowes said: “British television is second to none but unfortunately, time and time again, great British programs are being made overseas where the tax climate is more favorable. If the budget can address this, it would be a fantastic move forward for our industry and the country as a whole, as a host of new productions would undoubtedly be produced here. As they certainly should be.”

http://www.deadline.com/2012/03/high-end-dramas-like-downton-abbey-expected-to-get-tax-break-in-the-u-k/

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« Reply #6369 on: Mar 17th, 2012, 08:28am »

New York Times

March 17, 2012
Two Blasts Strike Near Security Agencies in Damascus
By ANNE BARNARD

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Two large explosions, believed to be car bombs, struck the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Saturday morning, hitting intelligence and security buildings in busy sections of the city and killing or wounding dozens of civilians and security personnel, Syrian state media reported.

The back-to-back bombings in President Bashar al-Assad’s seat of power — one exploding in the same area where a state security headquarters was bombed in December — shocked residents who have enjoyed relative calm during the yearlong uprising against the government and a fierce and crackdown. And the blasts stood as a direct challenge to the government’s recent claims that it was close to restoring order.

Syrian media reports, quoting the health minister, Wael al-Halki, said at least 27 people had been killed and 97 wounded in the explosions. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

It was the fourth time in three months that mysterious bombings have hit security compounds in Damascus and Aleppo, the country’s commercial hub and largest city. They stoked fears that, as an uprising that began peacefully transforms into a grinding, asymmetrical war, Syria could become an arena for forces that neither the government nor the opposition fully controls.

The government first blamed t Al Qaeda and later, more vaguely, “terrorists” — a term it often uses for the people behind an uprising it portrays as a foreign-inspired conspiracy — for the bombings. Syrian rebels have denied involvement, though no one knows with certainty the activities of all the loose-knit groups fighting the government. Some anti-government activists have even suggested that the government staged the bombings to demonize the opposition.

SANA, the state news service, said one of the bombings on Saturday struck a crowded area between Baghdad Street and Al Qassaa. That area is part of a bustling residential and commercial neighborhood several blocks from the Old City, the symbolic heart of the capital. Syrian state television said the attacks had struck the aviation intelligence department and the criminal security department.

Syria’s Addounia television continuously broadcast scenes of the bombings, including graphic footage of charred body parts mixed with the mangled wreckage of cars. At the scene of the explosion near Customs Square in Kfar Souseh, in the west of the city, clouds of white smoke rose in front of a government building that seemed to be inside a compound. In the blast in Al Qassaa, no government building was immediately visible. The explosion appeared to have gutted a row of parked cars and the facades of several buildings.

Addounia showed a bloodied older woman in a lavender cardigan being carried on a stretcher. Another shot showed what appeared to be a typical middle-class Damascene living room with one of its walls shorn off, wooden cabinets still standing next to broken furniture and rubble. A woman in a house dress was having her arm bandaged after her door hand been blown off by the blast. Men in civilian and military clothes milled around.

A woman lying in a Red Crescent hospital, her face bruised, struggled to speak as she told Addounia: “I saw blood coming from my feet, which were stuck under a piece of iron. I was worried about my children.”

The explosions came two days after thousands of people, some of them coerced, rallied in Damascus in support of Mr. Assad on the anniversary of the initial mass demonstrations that turned sporadic protests against his government into a nationwide movement.

One of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, Damascus has been largely spared the violence that has scarred the rest of Syria, taking at least 7,500 lives so far, according to United Nations estimates. The capital has remained a haven for many Iraqi refugees fleeing violence in the neighboring country. Cafes and restaurants have remained busy in the vine-swathed streets of the Old City.

But the recent string of blasts has set many on edge, and the deadly blasts on Saturday terrified supporters of the opposition and the government alike.

Selene N. Khuri, a lawyer who served time in prison after working on behalf of detained opposition activists, said she had been awakened by her floor shaking. People streamed into the streets and began calling family and friends to check on their safety, she said.

“Such blasts are become a serious problem for the people here, who are becoming more nervous,” she said.

In an interview on Addounia, a young man said he and his family had been at home when “the roof fell over our heads”; the other family members were in the hospital, he said.

“It’s terrorism, terrorism,” another man said. “Who does something like this? Does anybody kill his family ?”

One resident speaking to Addounia blamed a foreign conspiracy, referring to the United States, Saudi Arabia and the Syrian National Council, the main exile opposition group that meets in Turkey. “This is the humanitarian aid,” he said. “These are the Istanbul meetings.”

But Ms. Khuri, the opposition lawyer, suspected a different conspiracy, on the part of the government.

“It’s a security chess game, moving the stones the way they want,” she said in a telephone interview. “It’s a trick.”

She said she feared that the many prisoners held in security officers could be injured in such bombings.

She said the Qassaa neighborhood, where a security office stands among residential buildings, is mostly Christian with some Sunni and Shiite Muslims and few members of Mr. Assad’s Alawite sect. A doctor in the Red Crescent hospital told Addounia that most of the victims he had treated were women and children.

Reporting was contributed by Hwaida Sa’ad in Beirut and Hala Droubi in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/world/middleeast/damascus-syria-two-large-explosions-reported.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

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« Reply #6370 on: Mar 17th, 2012, 08:30am »

Reuters

Mauritania arrests Gaddafi spy chief, says state agency

By Laurent Prieur
NOUAKCHOTT | Sat Mar 17, 2012 9:00am EDT

Mauritanian authorities arrested Muammar Gaddafi's chief of intelligence and right-hand man Abdullah al-Senussi as he entered the country on a false passport, Mauritania's state news agency said on Saturday.

Senussi, who for decades before the late dictator's fall inspired fear and hatred in ordinary Libyans, is sought by the Hague-based International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity. If confirmed, his arrest will put an end to months of uncertainty over his whereabouts.

Official Mauritanian agency AMI said Senussi was arrested late on Friday as he arrived at the airport in the West African state's capital Nouakchott on a regular flight from Casablanca in Morocco. It said he was bearing a falsified Malian passport.

Mauritania has not signed the Rome Statute governing the ICC and authorities were not immediately available to confirm the arrest or comment on what they would do with Senussi, the last significant former Gaddafi regime figure still at large.

ICC spokesman Fadi El-Abdallah said he was aware of reports of Senussi's capture.

"We will ask the Mauritanian authorities for an official confirmation and in this eventuality, seek their cooperation for the surrender of the suspect to the court," he said in a statement. "Mauritania is not a state party (to the Rome treaty), but has been, like all U.N. members, urged by the UNSC (the U.N. Security Council) to cooperate with the ICC."

Senussi is suspected of a key role in the killing of more than 1,200 inmates at Tripoli's Abu Salim prison in 1996. It was the arrest of a lawyer for victims' relatives that sparked Libya's Arab Spring revolt in February last year.

The ICC has charged Senussi and Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam as being "indirect co-perpetrators" of murder and persecution.

Saif al-Islam was captured disguised as a Bedouin in the Sahara in November is awaiting trial in Libya on rape and murder charges. Libya's National Transitional Council says he will get a fair hearing but his supporters want him sent to the Hague.

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, an army general who was toppled his predecessor in a 2008 coup, won election in a 2009 vote decried by rivals as rigged.

Yet France has hailed him as a "key partner" and he went on to play a leading role in the awkward African diplomacy over Libya that finally led to the continent recognizing the National Transitional Council as its new leaders.

The case of Senussi may revive interest in international incidents long shrouded in mystery, from the days in the 1980s and 90s when Gaddafi's Libya waged undercover war on the West.

Senussi's name has been linked with the Lockerbie bombing of 1988, while France has said it wants to try Senussi over a 1989 airliner bombing over Niger that killed 170 people including 54 French nationals.

(Reporting by Laurent Prieur; Writing by Mark John; Editing by Giles Elgood)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/17/us-libya-senussi-idUSBRE82G07Q20120317

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« Reply #6371 on: Mar 17th, 2012, 08:41am »

Wired Danger Room

How to Kill China’s ‘Carrier-Killer’ Missile: Jam, Spoof and Shoot
By Spencer Ackerman
March 16, 2012 | 3:44 pm
Categories: China

China has developed a missile that would turn an aircraft carrier into a two-billion-dollar hulk of twisted metal, flame, and dead sailors. Publicly, the U.S. Navy downplays its importance. Privately, the sailors are working out several different options to kill it before it kills them.

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Navy’s top officer, explained to reporters during a Friday breakfast meeting that the Navy has ways of exploiting some of the DF-21D missile’s formidable technical capabilities, even before opening fire and praying.

DF-21D missile’s formidable technical capabilities, even before opening fire and praying.

As Greenert sees it, there’s a menu of options. Some involve convincing the DF-21D that the carrier is in a different place. Others involve masking the electronic emissions of the carrier. Still others are more traditional — like blasting the missile out of the salty air.

“You want to spoof them, preclude detection, jam them, shoot them down if possible, get them to termination, confuse it,” Greenert said. “The concept is end-to-end, and the capabilities therein [are] what we’re pursuing”

First up: the missile’s guidance systems. This is where Greenert wants the Navy’s investment in jamming and electronic warfare generally to pay off.

“If whatever is launched has a seeker, can you jam it?” Greenert mused. “Yes, no, maybe so? What would it take to jam it?” For now, that’s a job for the flying, jamming Growlers which messed with Moammar Gadhafi’s anti-aircraft systems in Libya last year. Later on, the Navy will have a next-generation jammer, also built onto some of its jets, which it wants to use to infect enemy systems with malware. Alternatively or in supplement, the strike group would go radio silent, to stop the missile from homing in on its electronic emissions.

Then comes the “more popular” part, Greenert said: shooting the missile down. The Aegis missile-defense cruisers included in an aircraft carrier strike group would be tasked with that over the next decade. Afterward, the Navy wants to use giant shipboard lasers to burn through incoming missiles. But it’s by no means clear the Navy really can clear all the technological obstacles to oceanic laser warfare by its mid-2020s deadline.

And shooting down this new missile isn’t a guaranteed proposition. “When do you have to engage it? On the way up? Mid-course? Terminal?” Greenert said.

His answer: all of the above. “We call it links of a chain,” Greenert said. “We want to break as many links as possible.” Navy weapons have to be ready to disable the DF-21D — either through jamming it or shooting it — during “all” phases of its trajectory.

There’s also something that Greenert didn’t mention: he has time on his side.

The Navy conceded in December 2010 that the DF-21D had reached “initial operating capability.” But its intelligence chief quickly added that blowing up a carrier is still past China’s means. Hitting a moving object is difficult. Testing the thing at sea is too. Then China needs to integrate the missile into its general surface warfare plans. And after all that come the countermeasures Greenert outlined. Solving all that takes time.

And while China works on that, the Navy will continue its own development. If Greenert is freaked out by a weapon that can punch through one of the most potent symbols of American power, he’s doing a good job of hiding it in public.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/03/killing-chinas-carrier-killer/#more-76196

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« Reply #6372 on: Mar 17th, 2012, 08:53am »

Science Daily

Past in Monsoon Changes Linked to Major Shifts in Indian Civilizations
ScienceDaily (Mar. 16, 2012)

A fundamental shift in the Indian monsoon has occurred over the last few millennia, from a steady humid monsoon that favored lush vegetation to extended periods of drought, reports a new study led by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). The study has implications for our understanding of the monsoon’s response to climate change.


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Map of the Indian peninsula, showing where the monsoon winds blow (white arrows) and how the salinity (white lines) is lower in Bay of Bengal due to monsoon rain over the Bay and rivers draining into the it.
(The black arrow represents non-monsoon wind.) The study's sediment core (red dot) was extracted from a “sweet spot” in the Bay of Bengal where the Godavari River drains the central Indian peninsula and over which monsoon winds carry the most precipitation.
(Credit: Courtesy of C. Ponton and L. Giosan)



The Indian peninsula sustains over a billion people, yet it lies at the same latitude as the Sahara Desert. Without a monsoon, most of India would be dry and uninhabitable. The ability to predict the timing and amount of the next year’s monsoon is vital, yet even our knowledge of the monsoon’s past variability remains incomplete.

One key to this understanding lies in the core monsoon zone (CMZ) – a region in the central part of India that is a very sensitive indicator of the monsoon throughout the India peninsula.

“If you know what’s happening there, you know more or less what’s happening in the rest of India,” said Camilo Ponton, a student in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography and lead author of the study recently published in Geophysical Research Letters entitled "Holocene Aridification of India". “Our biggest problem has been a lack of evidence from this region to extend the short, existing records.”

The study was designed by WHOI geologist Liviu Giosan and geochemist Tim Eglinton, now at ETH in Zurich, and makes use of a sediment core collected by the National Gas Hydrate Program of India in 2006. Sailing around India aboard the drilling vessel JOIDES Resolution for several months, Giosan enlisted colleagues from India and US to help with the project. Extracted from a “sweet spot” in the Bay of Bengal where the Godavari River drains the central Indian peninsula and over which monsoon winds carry most of the precipitation, the core has provided the basis for a 10,000-year reconstruction of climate in the Indian peninsula’s CMZ .

“We are fortunate to have this core from close to the river mouth, where it accumulates sediment very fast,” said Ponton. “Every centimeter of sediment contains 10 to 20 years’ worth of information. So it gives us the advantage of high temporal resolution to address the problems.”

When put together, the research tells the story of growing aridity in India, enables valuable insights into the impact of the monsoon on past cultures, and points scientists toward a way to model future monsoons.

To assemble the 10,000-year record, the team looked to both what the land and the ocean could tell them. Contained within the sediment core’s layers are microscopic compounds from the trees, grasses, and shrubs that lived in the region and remnants of plankton fossils from the ocean.

“The geochemical analyses of the leaf waxes tell a simple story,” said Giosan. “About 10,000 years ago to about 4500 ago, the Godavari River drained mostly terrain that had humidity-loving plants. Stepwise changes starting at around 4,000 years ago and again after 1,700 years ago changed the flora toward aridity-adapted plants. That tells us that central India – the core monsoon zone – became drier.”

Analyses of the plankton fossils support the story reconstructed from plant remains and reveal a record of unprecedented spikes and troughs in the Bay of Bengal’s salinity – becoming saltier during drought periods and fresher when water from the monsoon filled the river and rained into the Bay. Similar drought periods have been documented in shorter records from tree rings and cave stalagmites within India lending further support to this interpretation.

With a picture emerging of changes in the ancient flora of India, Giosan tapped archaeobotanist Dorian Fuller’s interest.

“What the new paleo-climatic information makes clear is that the shift towards more arid conditions around 4,000 years ago corresponds to the time when agricultural populations expanded and settled village life began,” says Fuller of the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. “Arid-adapted food production is an old cultural tradition in the region, with cultivation of drought-tolerant millets and soil-restoring bean species. There may be lessons to learn here, as these drought-tolerant agricultural traditions have eroded over the past century, with shift towards more water and chemical intensive forms of modern agriculture.”

Together, the geological record and the archaeological evidence tell a story of the possible fate of India’s earliest civilizations. Cultural changes occurred across the Indian subcontinent as the climate became more arid after ~4,000 years. In the already dry Indus basin, the urban Harappan civilization failed to adapt to even harsher conditions and slowly collapsed. But aridity favored an increase in sophistication in the central and south India where tropical forest decreased in extent and people began to settle and do more agriculture. Human resourcefulness proved again crucial in the rapid proliferation of rain-collecting water tanks across the Indian peninsula, just as the long series of droughts settled in over the last 1,700 years.

What can this record tell us about future Indian monsoons? According to Ponton, “How the monsoon will behave in the future is highly controversial. Our research provides clues for modeling and that could help determine whether the monsoon will increase or decrease with global warming.”

The study found that the type of monsoon and its droughts are a function of the Northern Hemisphere’s incoming solar radiation – or “insolation.” Every year, the band of heavy rain known as the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ, moves north over India.

“We found that when the Asian continent is least heated by the sun, the northward movement of the rain appears to hesitate between the Equator and Asia, bringing less rain to the north,” said Giosan. “The fact that long droughts have not occurred over the last 100 years or so, as humans started to heat up the planet, but did occur earlier, suggest that we changed the entire monsoon game, and may have inadvertently made it more stable!”

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120316145802.htm

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« Reply #6373 on: Mar 18th, 2012, 09:04am »

Seattle Times

Originally published March 17, 2012 at 8:16 PM
Page modified March 17, 2012 at 10:06 PM

UW's Tony Irving is the go-to man in the red-hot world of meteorites

A chance meeting between a pair of treasure-hunting brothers and a geology professor affiliated with University of Washington has led to the discovery of some the most extraordinary and valuable meteorites in history.

By Craig Welch
Seattle Times environment reporter

Long before he met the wealthy brothers, before he traveled to Morocco and received extraterrestrial nuggets in FedEx packages, Tony Irving got to touch the moon.

The Australian-born geochemist affiliated with the University of Washington spent his early career working with lunar fragments from the Apollo missions. Then, life being what it is, he returned to studying earthly matters — rocks that rise from the planet's mantle during volcanic eruptions. But a chance meeting brought him full-circle.

In the late 1990s, two adventurous computer entrepreneurs with a passion for metal-detecting and gold-panning brought Irving a strange rock. They thought they'd stumbled upon material from space.

They hadn't, but Irving and brothers Adam and Greg Hupé, of Everett, hit it off. The trio grew into an unorthodox team, becoming central players in a thriving international subculture — an obscure band of treasure hunters who scour the planet collecting, buying, selling and studying meteorites.

In this Byzantine world, geology is king. The brothers travel and barter to obtain uber-valuable celestial rocks. They mail pieces of the cosmos to Irving, who is now a leading expert at distinguishing real meteorites from their mundane terrestrial cousins, what he calls "meteor-wrongs."

"None of us realized what a bonanza it would be," Irving said.

It's a marriage that has given Irving a rare glimpse of far-flung corners of the universe, especially Mars.

"He's probably looked at more Martian meteorites than anyone in the world," said Irving's colleague, UW astronomer Don Brownlee, lead investigator for NASA's recent $212 million mission to study comet dust.

Lately such skills have been in high demand.

The market for meteorites exploded in the past dozen years, leading to ever more amazing discoveries — and some shenanigans. In January, a meteorite trader returned a 4.6 billion-year-old asteroid fragment he purchased from a thief who'd stolen it from a New Mexico museum. A dealer in Colorado was recently arrested, accused of selling lunar fakes.

But the number of documented meteorites from Mars also has doubled in less than a decade. This year, Irving helped confirm a fireball that streaked across the North African sky last July was a Mars meteorite. He did so by analyzing pieces of the rock gathered and sold by nomads in Morocco.

The find is only the 61st documented meteorite from the red planet, the first witnessed Martian meteorite to fall in 50 years, and the fifth such fall ever recorded. "Tissint," named for a village near where it landed, enthralled geologists around the world.

"This is actually the most exciting meteorite that I've come across so far in my career," the curator of London's Museum of Natural History told the BBC after examining a fist-size chunk. "Possibly it will be the most exciting meteorite that I will ever come across."

But for Irving and the Hupés, Tissint is one of many extraordinary finds.

Bonding over treasures

In fact, the brothers and Irving meeting each other may be their top discovery.

Adam and Greg, now both in their late 40s, ran a company called Computer Performance, but had bonded over their love of treasure hunting. They'd received a metal detector as a gift from their father in 1976. Over time it got so easy to find lost jewelry that they started panning for gold instead.

After stumbling on their weird fragment while prospecting — it turned out to be chromite — they talked to Irving about meteorites.

"I was just fascinated," said Adam Hupé, who now lives in Nevada. "This was a form of treasure-hunting, but a lot more rewarding than just going after gold. We could hunt for something with scientific value."

Tens of thousands of meteorites have been found on Earth. Most are fragments of asteroids, but a few are the result of "ejection by impact" — when an asteroid hits a moon or a planet hard enough to blast rocky specimens into space. The atmospheric gases trapped in rocks from the moon or Mars are unique and can be compared with gas samples gathered by NASA.

By the late 1990s, rising wealth and the Internet made it easier for people around the world to buy and sell obscure merchandise, including meteorites. While governments in Antarctica scoured the white snow for celestial rocks, a booming private market developed for rocks discovered in North Africa, where gray-black fragments stood out against hot-orange sand.

After decades of working 14-hour days, the Hupés sold their business and used their proceeds to buy meteorites online. Eventually, they financially backed meteorite-hunting trips. Irving evaluated their finds.

"We've got many different objects in the solar system, and there are only two ways to find them," Irving said. "Either you go there, or they come here. Luckily, with meteorites, you've got a delivery service."

For Irving, who had worked decades earlier with moon rocks at the University of Chicago and NASA's Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, the brothers' enthusiasm was infectious. The brothers liked the hunt — the thrill of collecting something unique with scientific value. Irving liked applying forensic expertise to understanding exotic pieces.

"I'm not saying it's not cool to hold in your hand a piece of something that is from Mars — it is," Irving said. "But ... I don't collect things, I document them. But I can't document them without someone else collecting them."

The Hupés introduced Irving to more collectors, but it didn't hurt that the Hupés also were very good at collecting.

"Planetary pieces"

"As a team, I'd say we've put together more planetary pieces than anybody else on Earth," Adam Hupé said.

Greg, the more adventurous of the two, splits his time between meteorites, diving in Florida rivers for fossils or hunting gold doubloons from Spanish shipwrecks. The brothers, especially Greg, began making dozens of trips to Morocco, primarily to buy meteorites from nomads and villagers. Some of the fragments were worth thousands of dollars a gram.

"I'd receive samples from Moroccan partners and make a judgment call," Greg Hupé said from Florida, where he now lives. "That graduated, in time, to sending the samples directly to the UW and paying for them to analyze them for us. Over the years we got to know exactly what to look for."

In late 2000, an expedition they helped finance purchased a large lunar chunk, known as NWA 482. Irving believes the rock is at least 4.4 billion years old.

"It was one of the crown jewels," Greg Hupé said. "It was just like, 'Wow.' "

A few years later, the brothers tracked down a Mars meteorite and, in 2007, pulled out their ultimate treasure — NWA 5000, a 26-pound lunar piece so precious Adam Hupé constantly moves it around to keep it safe.

"It appraised at $14.5 million," Adam Hupé said, adding that he's not in it for the money. He'd like to keep the rock intact and someday sell it to a museum.

"Hundreds of years from now, I don't want to be remembered as the jerk who cut the thing up into a million pieces for money," he said.

Figuring out what to do with that piece has put Adam's adventures on hold, but just last week Greg announced the discovery of another new meteorite type.

Meanwhile, Irving this week is scheduled to give a talk in Houston about Tissint. But he's also hoping to confirm soon that existence of two more meteorites from Mars.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2017779219_meteorite18m.html

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« Reply #6374 on: Mar 18th, 2012, 09:13am »

Reuters

UK says Iran blocking website in censorship battle

By Michael Holden
LONDON | Sun Mar 18, 2012 7:49am EDT

Britain accused Iran on Sunday of blocking a website days after it was launched by the British government to reach out to Iranians, in the latest spat over media censorship.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the "UK for Iranians" website which he launched on Wednesday with a personal video message had been blocked three days later by Tehran.

"I condemn this action by the Iranian government. We have no quarrel with the Iranian people and regret that the Iranian authorities fear their own citizens' interaction and involvement with the outside world," Hague said in a statement.

Britain is at the forefront of Western opposition to Iran's nuclear program, supporting tough sanctions against Tehran which it fears is seeking the bomb. Tehran says its atomic activities are entirely peaceful.

Relations hit new lows last November when protesters stormed the British embassy, prompting London to evacuate its Tehran staff and expel all Iranian diplomats from Britain.

Iran said that was an over-reaction and accused London of censorship when its state-run English language news channel Press TV was banned from British airwaves by media regulator Ofcom in January.

Britain's public service broadcaster, the BBC, said on Wednesday it had suffered a sophisticated cyber-attack following a campaign by Iranian authorities against its Persian service.

Hague said the website (ukforiranians.fco.gov.uk/en in English and ukforiranians.fco.gov.uk/fa in Farsi) and the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter were an attempt to engage with Iranians and explain British policy.

Iran blocked a similar website set up by the U.S. State Department as a "virtual embassy" hours after its launch in December. Washington has had no diplomatic presence in Tehran since its embassy was stormed in 1979, the year of the Islamic Revolution and has led the global push to isolate Iran.

"Iran's people have had to endure an ever-tightening stranglehold of censorship," Hague said.

"The blocking of our website is only a very small part of what Iranians undergo daily: millions of websites blocked, access to e-mail services denied, international television channels jammed, films and theatre productions closed down, books unpublished, traditional Persian literature rewritten and newspapers banned."

Many Iranians get around a government filter that blocks vast numbers of Western news and social media sites - including Facebook and Twitter - by using virtual private network, or VPN, software.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/18/us-britain-iran-website-idUSBRE82H05120120318

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