Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6405 on: Mar 23rd, 2012, 08:19am »
New counterterrorism guidelines permit data on U.S. citizens to be held longer
By Sari Horwitz and Ellen Nakashima, 22 March 2012
The Obama administration has approved guidelines that allow counterterrorism officials to lengthen the period of time they retain information about U.S. residents, even if they have no known connection to terrorism.
The changes allow the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), the intelligence community’s clearinghouse for terrorism data, to keep information for up to five years. Previously, the center was required to promptly destroy — generally within 180 days — any information about U.S. citizens or residents unless a connection to terrorism was evident.
The new guidelines, which were approved Thursday by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., have been in the works for more than a year, officials said.
The guidelines have prompted concern from civil liberties advocates.
Those advocates have repeatedly clashed with the administration over a host of national security issues, including its military detention without trial of individuals in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay, its authorization of the killing of U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in a drone strike in Yemen, and its prosecution of an unprecedented number of suspects in the leaking of classified information.
Officials said the guidelines are aimed at making sure relevant terrorism information is readily accessible to analysts, while guarding against privacy intrusions. Among other provisions, agencies that share data with the NCTC may negotiate to have the data held for shorter periods. That information can pertain to noncitizens as well as to “U.S. persons” — American citizens and legal permanent residents.
The director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., has signed off on the changes.
“A number of different agencies looked at these to try to make sure that everyone was comfortable that we had the correct balance here between the information-sharing that was needed to protect the country and protections for people’s privacy and civil liberties,” said Robert S. Litt, the general counsel in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NCTC.
Although the guidelines cover a variety of issues, the retention of data was the primary focus of negotiations with federal agencies. Those agencies provide the center with information such as visa and travel records and data from the FBI.
The old guidelines were“very limiting,” Litt said. “On Day One, you may look at something and think that it has nothing to do with terrorism. Then six months later, all of a sudden, it becomes relevant.”
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the government has taken steps to break down barriers in information-sharing between law enforcement and the intelligence community, but policy hurdles remain.
The NCTC, created by the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, collects information from numerous agencies and maintains access to about 30 data sets across the government. But privacy safeguards differ from agency to agency, in some cases hindering timely and effective analysis, senior intelligence officials said.
“We have been pushing for this because NCTC’s success depends on having full access to all of the data that the U.S. has lawfully collected,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee. “I don’t want to leave any possibility of another catastrophic attack that was not prevented because an important piece of information was hidden in some filing cabinet.”
The shootings at Fort Hood, Tex., and the attempted downing of a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009 gave new impetus to efforts to aggregate and analyze terrorism-related data more effectively.
In the case of Fort Hood, Maj. Nidal M. Hasan had had contact with Awlaki but that information had not been shared across the government. The name of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the suspect in the 2009 airliner plot, had been placed in a master list housed at the NCTC but not on a terrorist watch list that would have prevented him from boarding the plane.
Officials said the privacy safeguards in the new guidelines include limits on the NCTC’s ability to redistribute information to other agencies.
“Within the intelligence community, there’s one set of controls for terrorism purposes, a stricter set of controls for non-terrorism purposes, and an even stricter set of controls for dissemination outside the intelligence community,” an official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. An entire database cannot be shared; only specific information within that data set can be shared, and it must be with the approval of the agency that provided the data, the official said.
Privacy advocates said they were concerned by the new guidelines, despite the safeguards.
The purpose of the safeguards is to ensure that the “robust tools that we give the military and intelligence community to protect Americans from foreign threats aren’t directed back against Americans,” said the American Civil Liberties Union’s national security policy counsel, Michael German. “Watering down those rules raises significant concerns that U.S. persons are being targeted or swept up in these collection programs and can be harmed by continuing investigations for as long as these agencies hold the data.”
Other homeland security experts said the guidelines give officials more flexibility without compromising individual privacy.
“Five years is a reasonable time frame,” said Paul Rosenzweig, a former senior Department of Homeland Security policy official. “I certainly think 180 days was way too short. That’s just not a realistic understanding” of how long it takes analysts to search large data sets for relevant information, he said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6406 on: Mar 23rd, 2012, 08:34am »
Mohamed Merah and the Secret Services A Serial Killer Under Observation
By Stefan Simons in Paris
A debate is beginning in France over possible failures of the country's security and intelligence agencies. Prior to his killing spree, Mohamed Merah had been placed on a government list of radical Islamist fundamentalists. And there were even clues leading to his mother after the first murder. Could authorities have acted sooner?
At first, there was a volley of praise and recognition directed at the security forces who had participated in the raid in Toulouse. At an improvised press conference not far from the stormed apartment of Mohamed Merah, French Interior Minister Claude Guéant lauded "the professionalism and the selflessness" of the men of RAID, the elite special operations tactical unit of the National Police, who he claimed had been surprised by Merah's "intense reaction" and were mourning the fact that two of their members had been wounded in the raid.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy added his applause for the dedication of the police, legal officials and the interior minister with a patriotic allusion to "our Muslim countrymen, who have no ties to the crazed motivations of a terrorist." At the same time, Sarkozy announced a series of criminal consequences "against those individuals who regularly access websites on which terror is excused or that invoke hatred and violence."
Sarkozy also assured his listeners that people who go abroad and "participate in ideological indoctrination that leads to terror" will be prosecuted, and he exhorted his "dear countrymen" to stand together in unity after this ordeal.
The appeal is necessary because -- just four weeks before the first round of voting in the presidential election -- the praise for the security forces has also already been joined by the first questions about possible failures on the part of security and intelligence agencies.
Possible Intelligence Failures
Francois Bayrou, a candidate for the centrist Democratic Movement (Modem) party, said he was shocked by the fact that Merah had been able to obtain dozens of firearms without having aroused the suspicions of officials. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right Front National party, has openly criticized what she sees as the government's failures in combating Islamic fundamentalists, a danger she has vociferously branded as "green fascism."
Even French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé has acknowledged that there had been "a discussion of possible weaknesses" before quickly adding that he had no knowledge of such instances of negligence.
Merah was shot to death by sharpshooters after his ground-floor apartment was stormed and he tried to escape via the balcony. While the circumstances surrounding his death hardly give rise to any disputes, the debate is now focused on the work of domestic investigators before his apartment was surrounded and raided. Indeed, Merah was no stranger to officials. His name was already known by the DCRI, France's domestic intelligence agency, after regional officials listed him as one of half a dozen individuals with Islamist sympathies who were known for their proximity to jihadist organizations.
The young man of Algerian descent had grown up in one of the so-called "sensitive suburbs" of Toulouse. He had already drawn the attention of law-enforcement and court officials after having committed more than a dozen minor offenses -- including acts of violence, theft and attempted robbery -- that had landed the trained auto-body repairman in jail on several occasions.
Banal Explanations Were Sufficient Enough
It appears that it was the stints in jail that led the petty criminal to radical Islamic Salafism. "He was radicalized during his time in jail," leading French Prosecutor François Molins said, adding that prison time itself wasn't necessarily what drove Merah to radicalization.
Two times, Merah was rejected when he sought to join the army and the French Foreign Legion. And three years ago, Merah traveled to the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan for the first time -- on his own dime.
There, at camps set up by armed groups in Waziristan, he sought to forge ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network to train to become a mujahedeen -- but it appears he rejected the idea of being deployed as a suicide bomber. It is also possible that Merah may have even taken part in fighting with Taliban guerrillas. The army arrested Merah during a routine patrol in Afghanistan in 2010 and he was deported back to France by United States forces. The Wall Street Journal even reported that Merah had been placed on the US no-fly list because he had been in custody in Afghanistan. Merah's career as a jihadist came to an end a year later after he contracted Hepatitis A.
Back in Toulouse, Merah's exotic travel destinations raised the attention of local security services. The young man was called in for questioning several times, but each time Merah appears to have dispelled officials' concerns. "In November 2011, he was ordered to appear at the regional office of the DCRI (France's domestic intelligence agency) to explain what he had done in Afghanistan and Pakistan," French Interior Minister Guéant said on Wednesday. "He informed them that he had gone as a tourist and produced photos as evidence."
It appears the banal explanation was sufficient enough to convince the interrogation experts that Merah was harmless. A complaint by a mother, who claimed that Merah had locked her son into his apartment and forced him to watch violent videos showing the bloody decapitation scenes of apparent "infidels," also apparently failed to raise red flags. And tips from Spanish intelligence service colleagues that Merah allegedly attended a meeting of Salafists in Catalonia in 2011 somehow weren't enough to trigger further independent investigation by French officials.
More perplexing yet is the fact that a man who has been described by prosecutors as an "atypical, self-radicalized Salafist," had comprehensive contacts to the fundamentalist scene in Toulouse. By 2008 at the latest, according to police documents cited in reporting by the French daily Le Monde, Merah and his brother Abedelkabir had already been linked to a group of future jihadists in their home town and in the Ariège region. After the arrest of the "Toulouse Group" in 2008, Merah even visited one of his former buddies in jail.
'He Had Been Monitored for Several Years'
It was only after the first murder of a sergeant in Montauban on March 11 the Merah came up on the investigators' radar. The IP address of a computer located in his mother's home was recorded when Merah expressed interest in the motorcycle offered by the paratrooper. But a total of 576 IP addresses had been collected.
It took six days until the experts had matched up a full list of names with those IP addresses. "It was an unusual amount of time for a procedure that would usually take between a few minutes and a maximum of 48 hours," the French online news site Owni reported, citing the security service responsible. "It took some time to process this list," prosecutor Molins said on Thursday.
During the first comparison of data with the domestic security agency's files, the suspect slipped through the dragnet created by criminal investigators because the IP address was registered under his mother's name.
After the second attack on two soldiers in Montauban, the DCRI domestic intelligence agency created a list of possible suspects, and Merah was among them. "He had been monitored by the DCRI and its agents in Toulouse for several years," Interior Minister Guéant confirmed.
Despite these insights, it was only after the third deadly attack on the Jewish school in Toulouse that investigators were able to get on Merah's trail through his mother's computer.
But why did it take so long? There had already been evidence of conversations between Merah and his victim after the mobile phone of the first soldier he killed was secured. In the end, it was a tip given by a motorcycle dealer that helped to decisively locate the perpetrator.
After a customer had come into his shop asking how to deactivate the electronic chip installed in scooters to prevent theft, a Toyota dealer contacted police. The customer had been Merah's brother Abdelkader. That information, taken together with the IP address of their mother, enabled police to identify the killer.
Could the security officials have prevented the attack on the Jewish school by acting sooner? "I don't think so," French Defense Minister Gérard Longuet told the radio station RTL, "unless we want to turn France into a police state."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6407 on: Mar 23rd, 2012, 08:40am »
Scientists Wrest Partial Control of a Memory March 22, 2012
Scripps Research Institute scientists and their colleagues have successfully harnessed neurons in mouse brains, allowing them to at least partially control a specific memory. Though just an initial step, the researchers hope such work will eventually lead to better understanding of how memories form in the brain, and possibly even to ways to weaken harmful thoughts for those with conditions such as schizophrenia and post traumatic stress disorder.
The results are reported in the March 23, 2012 issue of the journal Science.
Researchers have known for decades that stimulating various regions of the brain can trigger behaviors and even memories. But understanding the way these brain functions develop and occur normally -- effectively how we become who we are -- has been a much more complex goal.
"The question we're ultimately interested in is: How does the activity of the brain represent the world?" said Scripps Research neuroscientist Mark Mayford, who led the new study. "Understanding all this will help us understand what goes wrong in situations where you have inappropriate perceptions. It can also tell us where the brain changes with learning."
On-Off Switches and a Hybrid Memory
As a first step toward that end, the team set out to manipulate specific memories by inserting two genes into mice. One gene produces receptors that researchers can chemically trigger to activate a neuron. They tied this gene to a natural gene that turns on only in active neurons, such as those involved in a particular memory as it forms, or as the memory is recalled. In other words, this technique allows the researchers to install on-off switches on only the neurons involved in the formation of specific memories.
For the study's main experiment, the team triggered the "on" switch in neurons active as mice were learning about a new environment, Box A, with distinct colors, smells and textures.
Next the team placed the mice in a second distinct environment -- Box B -- after giving them the chemical that would turn on the neurons associated with the memory for Box A. The researchers found the mice behaved as if they were forming a sort of hybrid memory that was part Box A and part Box B. The chemical switch needed to be turned on while the mice were in Box B for them to demonstrate signs of recognition. Alone neither being in Box B nor the chemical switch was effective in producing memory recall.
"We know from studies in both animals and humans that memories are not formed in isolation but are built up over years incorporating previously learned information," Mayford said. "This study suggests that one way the brain performs this feat is to use the activity pattern of nerve cells from old memories and merge this with the activity produced during a new learning session."
Future Manipulation of the Past
The team is now making progress toward more precise control that will allow the scientists to turn one memory on and off at will so effectively that a mouse will in fact perceive itself to be in Box A when it's in Box B.
Once the processes are better understood, Mayford has ideas about how researchers might eventually target the perception process through drug treatment to deal with certain mental diseases such as schizophrenia and post traumatic stress disorder. With such problems, patients' brains are producing false perceptions or disabling fears. But drug treatments might target the neurons involved when a patient thinks about such fear, to turn off the neurons involved and interfere with the disruptive thought patterns.
In addition to Mayford, other authors of the paper, "Generation of a Synthetic Memory Trace," are Aleena Garner, Sang Youl Hwang, and Karsten Baumgaertel from Scripps Research, David Rowland and Cliff Kentros from the University of Oregon, Eugene, and Bryan Roth from the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill.
This work is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and the Michael Hooker Distinguished Chair in Pharmacology at UNC.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6408 on: Mar 23rd, 2012, 08:45am »
March 23, 1983: Reagan Taunts the Russians With ‘Star Wars’ Plan By Tony Long March 23, 2012 | 6:30 am Categories: 20th century, Warfare and Military
1983: President Reagan announces his “Star Wars” missile-defense program.
The program, known formally as the Strategic Defense Initiative, was meant not only to shield the United States and its allies from a massive Soviet missile attack, but to put as much pressure as possible on the Soviet economy by forcing the Russians to try and keep pace technologically.
SDI earned its “Star Wars” sobriquet from detractors who mocked the idea of space-based battle stations and laser-equipped satellites, which were features of the Reagan administration plan. The lasers were to be used to destroy incoming Soviet ICBMs, a goal that in 1983 seemed about as plausible as running into a bunch of ex-pat aliens at an intergalactic bar.
In any case, it wasn’t the feasibility of SDI that doomed the program, but the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
In 2007, U.S. missile defense remains pretty much what it has always been: a ground-based missile system designed to cope with individual ICBMs, and not the all-encompassing shield envisioned in SDI.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6409 on: Mar 23rd, 2012, 9:12pm »
Uploaded by Computationer on Mar 16, 2012
The mysteries of the Puma Punku ruins in South America are explored. Investigators tap into forensic evidence and computer tests to study whether aliens may have inhabited this sophisticated complex.
This episode investigates Bolivia's 14,000 year-old Puma Punku ruins where an ancient civilization constructed sophisticated and intricately carved blocks that inter-lock together, and suggests the site was not built and inhabited by humans, but by advanced extraterrestrials.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6410 on: Mar 24th, 2012, 07:38am »
North Korea meetings set to boost young leader's power
By Jeremy Laurence and Sung-won Shim SEOUL | Sat Mar 24, 2012 7:55am EDT
North Korea said on Saturday it will hold a special parliamentary session next month during which the reclusive country's new young leader, Kim Jong-un, is expected to be given a top title aimed at consolidating his grip on power.
The North has planned a series of events next month to mark the centenary of the birth of the state's founder, Kim Il-sung, including a rare ruling party conference and the controversial launch of a ballistic rocket it says will carry a satellite.
Experts say the young Kim, believed to be in his mid to late 20s, could be given two of the countries' senior most titles during the celebrations -- secretary general of the party and chairman of the defense commission.
The North's state media said on Saturday the Supreme People's Assembly, which has the formal mandate to appoint the chief of the National Defence Commission, the state's supreme military body, would meet on April 13.
The Workers' Party conference is also scheduled for the middle of next month.
The young Kim's appointment to the top posts would cement his position as paramount leader and ease lingering fears of a power struggle plunging the country into turmoil.
Kim took power after his father died in December and many analysts had feared a chaotic succession.
The young Kim only holds a military post in the ruling party. His father was chief commander of the 1.2 million-strong armed forces and general secretary of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.
ROCKET LAUNCH WARNING
The United States has warned that the North's rocket launch next month will impact an area between Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines, an Australian newspaper reported on Saturday.
The Sydney Morning Herald said that U.S. envoy Kurt Campbell on Friday briefed Australia's Foreign Minister Bob Carr on the ballistic missile's southward trajectory from a North Korean launch pad.
"If the missile test proceeds as North Korea has indicated, our judgment is that it will impact in an area roughly between Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines," the paper quoted Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, as saying.
"We have never seen this trajectory before. We have weighed into each of these countries and asked them to make clear that such a test is provocative and this plan should be discontinued."
The North has said the rocket's trajectory will be southwards and that will not impact neighboring countries.
North Korea wants to use the celebrations around Kim Il-sung's birthday on April 15 to showcase its emergence as a "strong and prosperous nation", even as millions go hungry and it begs for international aid.
Its vow to fire a rocket carrying a working satellite has put in jeopardy a deal struck in February with the United States to get food aid in return for a moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear tests.
The North's Foreign Ministry warned that it was "intolerable double standards" for some countries to assert that the North was the only nation not allowed to launch satellites while for the same countries, satellite launches were commonplace.
"If there will be any sinister attempt to deprive the (North) of its independent and legitimate right and put the unreasonable double standards upon it, this will inevitably compel the (North) to take countermeasures," the ministry said in a statement late on Friday.
PHILIPPINES ON ALERT
An Australian foreign ministry official told Reuters Canberra has expressed concern about the flight path which "suggest a southerly trajectory for the missile, with booster rockets landing in the Yellow Sea and off the coast of the Philippines".
Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said this week the North's launch was "unacceptable", and that it was relying on U.S. help to track it. Indonesia has also condemned it.
North Korea has conducted two similar launches. The last one, in 2009, provoked outrage in Tokyo because the rocket flew over Japan. As it did three years ago, Japan says it is prepared to shoot the rocket down if it threatens its territory.
The rocket launch, which the United States and other countries say is the same as a ballistic missile test, is banned under U.N. resolutions.
Even China, North Korea's main ally, has expressed its worry over the launch, scheduled for between April 12 and April 16, and has urged the North to "stay calm and exercise restraint and avoid escalation".
The secretive North has twice tested a nuclear device, but experts doubt whether it yet has the ability to miniaturize an atomic bomb to fit inside a warhead.
The North's rocket launch is expected to be one of main issues up for discussion when about 50 world leaders gather in Seoul on Monday for Nuclear Security Summit. Among those attending are China's president, Hu Jintao, and U.S. President Barack Obama.
(Additonal reporting by Manila, Canberra and Jakarta bureaus; Editing by Jack Kim and Robert Birsel)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6411 on: Mar 24th, 2012, 07:50am »
Giant 'UFO fragment' falls from the sky in Siberia
A giant "UFO fragment" has fallen from the sky near a remote village in Siberia, Russian media have reported.
7:44AM GMT 22 Mar 2012
The U-shaped object, resembling a silvery dome, is currently under inspection by Russian experts, after being covertly removed under cover of night from the possession of villagers who found it.
After discovering the device on Sunday, locals from the village of Otradnesnky had managed to drag the “UFO fragment” from the thick forest where it had fallen. They attached it onto a trailer and took it through the snow to their village, where local inspectors then examined it before alerting Moscow authorities.
In an official statement, Sergey Bobrov, who found the object, agreed to keep it safe.
But following their stealthy removal of the 200-kilogram metal fragment, police have it under close guard, on orders from unnamed authorities.
The device has not had its provenance confirmed as of yet. However, the object does not come from a rocket or missile or be in any way associated with terrestrial space technology, it has been announced.
“The object found is not related to space technology. A final conclusion can be made after a detailed study of the object by experts,” said Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.
Experts have also examined the object to determine whether it poses a hazard.
“We measured the radiation level near and inside the object. We found no radiation here,” said Yuri Bornyakov, who heads the rescue service department of the Kuybyshevsky district in the Novosibirsk region.
Part of the fragment is made of ultra-strong titanium, said Valery Vasiliev, the head of the Kuybyshevsky Department for Civil Defence and Emergency Situations.
Speculation that it had come from a bungled Kazakhstan rocket or satellite launch was also denied.
“You can see inside it, all is open, it’s empty, no danger here. We were asked to take and store it. We brought it here. And now we are going to wait until they come to take it if they need it,” said local police spokesman Sergei Sulein.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6412 on: Mar 24th, 2012, 08:00am »
Highly Flexible Despite Hard-Wiring: Even Slight Stimuli Change the Information Flow in the Brain ScienceDaily (Mar. 23, 2012)
One cup or two faces? What we believe we see in one of the most famous optical illusions changes in a split second; and so does the path that the information takes in the brain. In a new theoretical study, scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, the Bernstein Center Göttingen and the German Primate Center now show how this is possible without changing the cellular links of the network. The direction of information flow changes, depending on the time pattern of communication between brain areas. This reorganisation can be triggered even by a slight stimulus, such as a scent or sound, at the right time.
Images or cup? Due to the rapid reorganization of networks in the brain we perceive different elements of the image. (Credit: Demian Battaglia/ MPI for Dynamics and Self-Organization)
The way that the different regions of the brain are connected with each other plays a significant role for information processing. This processing can be changed by the assembling and disassembling of nerve fibres joining distant brain circuits. But such events are much too slow to explain rapid changes in perception. From experimental studies it was known that the responsible actions must be at least two orders of magnitude faster. The Göttingen scientists now show for the first time that it is possible to change the information flow in a tightly interconnected network in a simple manner.
Many areas of the brain display a rhythmic nerve cell activity. "The interacting brain areas are like metronomes that tick at the same speed and in a distinct temporal pattern," says the physicist and principal investigator Demian Battaglia. The researchers were now able to demonstrate that this temporal pattern determines the information flow. "If one of the metronomes is affected, e.g. through an external stimulus, then it changes beat, ticking in an altered temporal pattern compared to the others. The other areas adapt to this new situation through self-organisation and start playing a different drum beat as well. It is therefore sufficient to impact one of the areas in the network to completely reorganize its functioning, as we have shown in our model," explains Battaglia.
The applied perturbation does not have to be particularly strong. "It is more important that the 'kick' occurs at exactly the right time of the rhythm," says Battaglia. This might play a significant role for perception processes: "When viewing a picture, we are trained to recognize faces as quickly as possible -- even if there aren't any," points out the Göttingen researcher. "But if we smell a fragrance reminiscent of wine, we immediately see the cup in the picture. This allows us to quickly adjust to things that we did not expect, changing the focus of our attention."
Next, the scientists want to test the model on networks with a more realistic anatomy. They also hope that the findings inspire future experimental studies, as Battaglia says: "It would be fantastic if, in some years, certain brain areas could be stimulated so finely and precisely that the theoretically predicted effects can be measured through imaging methods."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6414 on: Mar 24th, 2012, 08:46am »
'The Big Bang Theory' Lives Long, Prospers With Leonard Nimoy (Photos)
"I thoroughly enjoyed myself," the "Star Trek" legend tells THR. "[They're] a talented company and a smart show; they made me welcome."
1:57 PM PDT 3/23/2012 by Lesley Goldberg
While Leonard Nimoy will be heard and not seen when he guest stars on next week episode of CBS' The Big Bang Theory, CBS has released a pair of photos of his time on the set of the hit comedy.
The Star Trek icon -- aka Sheldon's (Jim Parsons) hero -- will voice a role as Spock in the episode but won't appear on-screen. In the meantime, the show's dream guest paused to take photos with the cast, which were released Friday.
"I thoroughly enjoyed myself," the Star Trek legend tells The Hollywood Reporter. "[They're] a talented company and a smart show; they made me welcome."
Nimoy has been at the top of the producers' wish list for guest stars, as Sheldon's obsession with Star Trek has been well documented on the series, with the famed Nimoy-signed napkin Penny (Kaley Cuoco) gave Sheldon framed on the set. "Amazing!" Nimoy said of seeing the set piece.
"For years, we thought it would be fantastic to have Leonard Nimoy appear on the show and we think we’ve found a really different and fun way to make that happen," executive producer Steve Molaro told THR at the time of the casting. "As thrilled as we are he's doing it, we're even more thrilled just to get our pictures taken with him.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6415 on: Mar 25th, 2012, 07:58am »
Uploaded by Computationer on Mar 24, 2012
This episode examines the legends of Bigfoot, a creature described as half-man/half-ape that allegedly stalks remote woodlands around the world, and suggests the creature may have connection to an alien species that may have visited Earth in the ancient past.
Investigators discuss the various sightings of Bigfoot footprints, the ancient myths and legends that speak of an ape-like giant, and ancient astronaut theorists who believe there is evidence to link Bigfoot to a visiting alien race.
People all over the world have claimed to have found giant footprints. Ancient myths and legends speak of "giants" stalking the Earth. What if there is evidence to connect Bigfoot with an alien species that once visited Earth in the distant past?
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6416 on: Mar 25th, 2012, 08:04am »
At CIA, a convert to Islam leads the terrorism hunt By Greg Miller March 24, 2012
For every cloud of smoke that follows a CIA drone strike in Pakistan, dozens of smaller plumes can be traced to a gaunt figure standing in a courtyard near the center of the agency’s Langley campus in Virginia.
The man with the nicotine habit is in his late 50s, with stubble on his face and the dark-suited wardrobe of an undertaker. As chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center for the past six years, he has functioned in a funereal capacity for al-Qaeda.
Roger, which is the first name of his cover identity, may be the most consequential but least visible national security official in Washington — the principal architect of the CIA’s drone campaign and the leader of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. In many ways, he has also been the driving force of the Obama administration’s embrace of targeted killing as a centerpiece of its counterterrorism efforts.
Colleagues describe Roger as a collection of contradictions. A chain-smoker who spends countless hours on a treadmill. Notoriously surly yet able to win over enough support from subordinates and bosses to hold on to his job. He presides over a campaign that has killed thousands of Islamist militants and angered millions of Muslims, but he is himself a convert to Islam.
His defenders don’t even try to make him sound likable. Instead, they emphasize his operational talents, encyclopedic understanding of the enemy and tireless work ethic.
“Irascible is the nicest way I would describe him,” said a former high-ranking CIA official who supervised the counterterrorism chief. “But his range of experience and relationships have made him about as close to indispensable as you could think.”
Critics are less equivocal. “He’s sandpaper” and “not at all a team player,” said a former senior U.S. military official who worked closely with the CIA. Like others, the official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the director of CTC — as the center is known — remains undercover.
Regardless of Roger’s management style, there is consensus on at least two adjectives that apply to his tenure: eventful and long.
Since becoming chief, Roger has worked for two presidents, four CIA directors and four directors of national intelligence. In the top echelons of national security, only Robert S. Mueller III, who became FBI director shortly before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, has been in place longer.
Roger’s longevity is all the more remarkable, current and former CIA officials said, because the CTC job is one of the agency’s most stressful and grueling. It involves managing thousands of employees, monitoring dozens of operations abroad and making decisions on who the agency should target in lethal strikes — all while knowing that the CTC director will be among the first to face blame if there is another attack on U.S. soil.
Most of Roger’s predecessors, including Cofer Black and Robert Grenier, lasted less than three years. There have been rumors in recent weeks that Roger will soon depart as well, perhaps to retire, although similar speculation has surfaced nearly every year since he took the job.
The CIA declined to comment on Roger’s status or provide any information on him for this article. Roger declined repeated requests for an interview. The Post agreed to withhold some details, including Roger’s real name, his full cover identity and his age, at the request of agency officials, who cited concerns for his safety. Although CIA officials often have their cover identities removed when they join the agency’s senior ranks, Roger has maintained his.
A native of suburban Virginia, Roger grew up in a family where several members, across two generations, have worked at the agency.
When his own career began in 1979, at the CIA’s southern Virginia training facility, known as The Farm, Roger showed little of what he would become. A training classmate recalled him as an underperformer who was pulled aside by instructors and admonished to improve.
“Folks on the staff tended to be a little down on him,” the former classmate said. He was “kind of a pudgy guy. He was getting very middling grades on his written work. If anything, he seemed to be almost a little beaten down.”
His first overseas assignments were in Africa, where the combination of dysfunctional governments, bloody tribal warfare and minimal interference from headquarters provided experience that would prove particularly useful in the post-Sept. 11 world. Many of the agency’s most accomplished counterterrorism operatives, including Black and Richard Blee, cut their teeth in Africa as well.
“It’s chaotic, and it requires you to understand that and deal with it psychologically,” said a former Africa colleague. Roger developed an “enormous amount of expertise in insurgencies, tribal politics, warfare — writing hundreds of intelligence reports.”
He also married a Muslim woman he met abroad, prompting his conversion to Islam. Colleagues said he doesn’t shy away from mentioning his religion but is not demonstrably observant. There is no prayer rug in his office, officials said, although he is known to clutch a strand of prayer beads.
Roger was not part of the first wave of CIA operatives deployed after the Sept. 11 attacks, and he never served in any of the agency’s “black sites,” where al-Qaeda prisoners were held and subjected to harsh interrogation techniques.
But in subsequent years, he was given a series of high-profile assignments, including chief of operations for the CTC, chief of station in Cairo, and the top agency post in Baghdad at the height of the Iraq war.
Along the way, he has clashed with high-ranking figures, including David H. Petraeus, the U.S. military commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, who at times objected to the CIA’s more pessimistic assessments of those wars. Former CIA officials said the two had to patch over their differences when Petraeus became CIA director.
“No officer in the agency has been more relentless, focused, or committed to the fight against al-Qaeda than has the chief of the Counterterrorism Center,” Petraeus said in a statement provided to The Post.
Harsh, profane demeanor
By 2006, the campaign against al-Qaeda was foundering. Military and intelligence resources had been diverted to Iraq. The CIA’s black sites had been exposed, and allegations of torture would force the agency to shut down its detention and interrogation programs. Meanwhile, the Pakistani government was arranging truces with tribal leaders that were allowing al-Qaeda to regroup.
Inside agency headquarters, a bitter battle between then-CTC chief Robert Grenier and the head of the clandestine service, Jose Rodriguez, was playing out. Rodriguez regarded Grenier as too focused on interagency politics, while Grenier felt forced to deal with issues such as the fate of the interrogation program and the CIA prisoners at the black sites. Resources in Pakistan were relatively scarce: At times, the agency had only three working Predator drones.
In February that year, Grenier was forced out. Rodriguez “wanted somebody who would be more ‘hands on the throttle,’ ” said a former CIA official familiar with the decision. Roger was given the job and, over time, the resources, to give the throttle a crank.
Grenier declined to comment.
Stylistically, Grenier and Roger were opposites. Grenier gave plaques and photos with dignitaries prominent placement in his office, while Roger eschewed any evidence that he had a life outside the agency. Once, when someone gave him a cartoon sketch of himself — the kind you can buy from sidewalk vendors — he crumpled it up and threw it away, according to a former colleague, saying, “I don’t like depictions of myself.”
His main addition to the office was a hideaway bed.
From the outset, Roger seemed completely absorbed by the job — arriving for work before dawn to read operational cables from overseas and staying well into the night, if he left at all. His once-pudgy physique became almost cadaverous. Although he had quit smoking a decade or so earlier, his habit returned full strength.
He could be profane and brutal toward subordinates, micromanaging operations, second-guessing even the smallest details of plans, berating young analysts for shoddy work. “This is the worst cable I’ve ever seen,” was a common refrain.
Given his attention to operational detail, Roger is seen by some as culpable for one of the agency’s most tragic events — the deaths of seven CIA employees at the hands of a suicide bomber who was invited to a meeting at a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan, in December 2009.
An internal review concluded that the assailant, a Jordanian double-agent who promised breakthrough intelligence on al-Qaeda leaders, had not been fully vetted, and it cited failures of “management oversight.” But neither Roger nor other senior officers were mentioned by name.
One of those killed, Jennifer Matthews, was a highly regarded analyst and protege of Roger’s who had been installed as chief of the base despite a lack of operational experience overseas. A person familiar with the inquiry said that “the CTC chief’s selection of [Matthews] was one of a great number of things one could point to that were weaknesses in the way the system operated.”
Khost represented the downside of the agency’s desperation for new ways to penetrate al-Qaeda, an effort that was intensified under President Obama.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6417 on: Mar 25th, 2012, 08:15am »
03/23/2012 05:45 PM SPIEGEL Interview with Tomas Sedlacek 'Greed is the Beginning of Everything'
In a SPIEGEL interview, Czech economist Tomas Sedlacek discusses morality in the current crisis and why he believes an economic policy that only pursues growth will always lead to debt. Those who don't know how to handle it, he argues, end up in a medieval debtor's prison, as the Greeks are experiencing today.
In his bestseller "Economics of Good and Evil," first published in the Czech Republic in 2009, 35-year-old academic and political advisor Tomáš Sedláček defied the boundaries and stereotypes of his profession by exposing the roots of the economy in the cultural history of mankind.
From 2001 to 2003, Sedláček was an economic advisor to then Czech President Vaclav Havel, who valued his "new view on the problems of the contemporary world, one unburdened by four decades of the totalitarian Communist regime." Until 2006, Sedláček advised the Czech finance minister in a dispute over the consolidation of the budget, as well as the reform of the country's tax, pension and healthcare systems.
In the introduction to Sedláček's book, Havel wrote that most politicians "consciously or unconsciously accept and spread the Marxist thesis of the economic base and the spiritual superstructure." Sedláček, however, turns this hierarchy on its head on his philosophical journey through cultural and economic history. For him, all of economics ultimately revolves around the question of how we ought to live. The Yale Economic Review described him as one of the promising "five hot minds in economics."
Today, Sedláček is the chief macroeconomic strategist at the major Czech bank SOB, a member of the National Economic Council and a lecturer at Charles University in Prague. The German edition of his book was on the SPIEGEL bestseller list for weeks after it was published in February. The book was turned into a very successful play in Prague, which translates the author's parables and arguments into dialogue and engages the audience. An English translation of the book was published by Oxford University Press in July.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Sedláček, in Oliver Stone's 1987 film "Wall Street," the fictional tycoon Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, pronounces the provocative motto of neoliberalism: "Greed is Good." Has the crisis in financial capitalism reduced greed to what it was once before, one of the seven deadly sins?
Sedláček: Gekko succeeds with his greed, but then he falls victim to it. Mankind's oldest stories tell us that greed is always Janus-faced. It is an engine of progress, but it's also the cause of our collapse. Being constantly dissatisfied and always wanting more seems to be an innate natural phenomenon, forming the heart of our civilization. The original sin of the first human couple in the Garden of Eden was the result of greed.
SPIEGEL: Not of temptation and curiosity?
Sedláček: Desire and curiosity are sisters. The snake merely awakened a desire in Eve that was already dormant inside of her. According to Genesis, the forbidden tree was a feast for the eyes.
SPIEGEL: Just like the suggestive images of modern advertising.
Sedláček: Eve and Adam grab the opportunity and eat the fruit. The original sin has the character of excessive, unnecessary consumption. It is not of a sexual nature. A desire for something she doesn't need is awakened in Eve. The living conditions in paradise were complete, and yet everything God had given the two wasn't enough. In this sense, greed isn't just at the birthplace of theoretical economics, but also at the beginning of our history. Greed is the beginning of everything.
SPIEGEL: So evil is the result of insatiability?
Sedláček: The demands of people are a curse of the gods. In Greek mythology, the story of Pandora, the first woman, who opens her jar out of curiosity, thereby releasing poverty, hunger and disease into the world, tells the same story as the Bible. In Babylonian culture, the Gilgamesh epic shows how desire rips man out of the harmony of nature.
SPIEGEL: Does the human species define itself by its existential dissatisfaction?
Sedláček: The saturation point, like the end of history, is never achieved. Consumption works like a drug. Enough is always just beyond the horizon. The Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek put it this way: "Desire's raison d'être is not to realize its goal, to find full satisfaction, but to reproduce itself as desire."
SPIEGEL: Which is why life is ultimately a Sisyphean task?
Sedláček: The economics of equilibrium are doomed to failure. Eve's desire -- in economic terms, her demand -- will never subside. And Adams's offer to toil by the sweat of his brow will never be enough. In the film "Fight Club," based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, the protagonist Tyler Durden says to his nameless friend, who despises his profession in the auto industry: We work at jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. That is the expulsion from Paradise, transferred to the modern age.
SPIEGEL: And yet man always comes back to the dream of escaping the treadmill and finding the harmony of equilibrium. The memory of the paradise we have lost isn't extinguished.
Sedláček: Progress or satisfaction, that's the anthropological dilemma of the human condition. You can't have both. People are riding a dangerous animal. There seem to be two ways to reduce the discrepancy between desire and satisfaction, demand and supply. One can expand the supply of goods and the purchasing power needed to acquire them. That's the hedonistic program, which we have chosen since the days of the Greeks and Romans, but which threatens to fall apart in the debt crisis. The monetization of our society has strengthened the illusion that all the things we desire are within our reach.
SPIEGEL: In contrast, saving, rigorism and moderation are now the words of the day.
Sedláček: That's precisely the opposite program: that of the ancient Stoics. Demand is to be reduced so that it corresponds to supply. The Stoics had to spend their entire lives learning to limit their needs. Diogenes in the barrel was convinced that the less he had, the freer he was.
SPIEGEL: Except that he would hardly be an accepted role model today.
Sedláček: That was probably never the case, but his philosophical message is certainly modern. Diogenes is the prototype of the critique of civilization and technology.
SPIEGEL: A preacher of the limits of growth, which the Club of Rome also tried to establish, albeit unsuccessfully, in 1972.
Sedláček: The equation "more is better" doesn't add up anymore. This makes Diogenes a contemporary. The moment in which we realize that science and technology are ambivalent marks the end of modernity. After all, the Club of Rome was concerned with responsibility for the future of mankind.
SPIEGEL: It's easy to increase consumption, but decreasing it is much more difficult to do. Doesn't the uneven distribution of wealth also propel the wheel of desire, based on the motto that I want what others have?
Sedláček: Yes, the social ladder becomes sticky on the way down. The view of economists is that each individual seeks to maximize his benefit. The only problem with this is that we cannot precisely define what the optimal benefit is for us. We don't know what we want. That's why we need comparisons, examples and suggestion. Try imagining an object of your desire, a beautiful woman, for example. It doesn't work as an abstract idea, because the imagined image in your head is volatile. You need a photo, a description, a model. Someone has to tell you what you think is so great that you find it irresistible -- society, neighbors and colleagues, but also the advertising and entertainment industry, ads, films and books. All desires that exceed our basic biological needs are determined by culture. We want to live as if we were actors portraying ourselves.
SPIEGEL: The debts of Western countries haven't grown in the last 30 or 40 years as a result of need, but of abundance.
Sedláček: Aristotle, the philosopher of the golden mean, viewed excess as man's greatest weakness. He believed that one could only avoid excess through moderation.
SPIEGEL: Sure, but what's the right measure? Economists preach growth as the sole remedy. Is economic activity like riding a bike -- if you don't pedal you'll fall over?
Sedláček: I believe that the economy is more like walking: You can stand still without falling over. This reflects the idea of a Sabbath economy. God rested on the seventh day, after he had created the world, not because he was tired, but because he felt that what he had created was good. According to biblical custom, the fields were to be left fallow once every seven years, and debts were forgiven after 49 years. There's a saying that the good is the enemy of the better. It's correct the other way around: The best -- or chasing it -- is the worst enemy of the good.
'Marx Probably Wouldn't Recognize Need for a Revolution Today'
SPIEGEL: Communism, under which your generation grew up, didn't achieve this form of self-sufficiency in half a century.
Sedláček: Because it wasn't viable. In truth, it isn't communism but capitalism that drives the permanent revolution. It drives people to work harder and harder, because it presents them with the very credible possibility of success. Communism could never do that. Karl Marx thought and wrote in the world of Oliver Twist. If he were alive today, he would probably not recognize the need for a revolution.
SPIEGEL: So in our part of the world, we all essentially live in societies shaped by social democratic ideas?
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6418 on: Mar 25th, 2012, 08:27am »
March 24, 2012 at 7:43 PM
50 years later, Monorail enthusiasts still in awe
Seattle Center Monorail operators, celebrating the line's 50th anniversary, said the trains are running fine after three years of renovation.
By Keith Ervin Seattle Times staff reporter
The King of rock 'n' roll may be dead, but the Monorail he famously rode half a century ago is alive and well, thank you.
That was the "Y'all come" message delivered by Seattle Center Monorail operators Saturday as an Elvis impersonator crooned and gyrated on the passenger landing to help mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the one-mile transit line. Saturday's celebration kicked off six months of events commemorating the 1962 World's Fair.
Once touted as a model for transportation in the 21st century, the Monorail connecting downtown Seattle to Seattle Center fell on hard times when maintenance was deferred and a series of mishaps drove riders away.
Passengers had to be evacuated from stalled trains in 2001, 2006 and 2008, an electrical fire in 2004, and a sideswipe train collision in 2005.
Those troubles are behind the system now, after a lengthy period of city-funded refurbishing, Seattle Monorail Services General Manager Thom Ditty said.
"We've just done a wonderful three-plus-year renovation of the trains. The reliability of the trains is top-notch. It's almost never out of service now, and if we're delayed, it's by 10 or 15 minutes," Ditty said — a significant improvement from the hourlong delays that plagued the operation a few years ago.
It was a celebration of all things Monorail.
After 50 years — and a million miles — of service by each of the two trains, several adult fans called the Monorail "cool."
"It's a nifty little system. I've always loved it," said visitor Chris Maser, who wants to see a more extensive Monorail system.
Jayme Gustilo, who rode the train as a child in 1962 and who has been a driver for more than two decades, said the excitement has never left him.
"You're 30 feet above ground on the highway of the future," said Castilo, who Saturday gave guided tours of the Monorail. "And kids still jostle to be in the front like I did, to be with the driver in the seat up front."
Einar Svensson, who was chief structural engineer for the Monorail line designed by Germany's Alweg Rapid Transit Systems, remembered some of the people who rode up front on the early rides.
One was England's Prince Philip, who wanted to know what kept such a wide train on its single concrete track. The prince accepted Svensson's invitation to visit the maintenance area below the landing and look at the "bogies," or chassis with wheels on the tops and sides of the guideways.
And then there was President Kennedy, who asked, "Why is it so short?"
It's a question Svensson, an evangelist for monorail, continues to ask. Alweg, which is no longer in business, designed monorail lines to Everett and SeaTac Airport, but they were never built.
Svensson, now president of Urbanaut, which built a monorail system for Incheon, Korea, touts the technology as quieter and cheaper to build and operate than light rail. He has, unsuccessfully, tried to sell the idea of a rubber-tire monorail from Seattle to the Eastside and to Spokane.
Visitors got a chance Saturday to see the same bogies Prince Philip looked at, from the top and the bottom.
Maintenance engineer Russ Noe pulled out a floorboard to reveal the top of a large tire he called part of "the rubber centipede" that keeps the train on the beam.
Noe and Ditty both called Alweg's Monorail design "brilliant," and said it explains why the trains run fine 50 years later.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6419 on: Mar 25th, 2012, 6:47pm »
THANK YOU, PING
Written by a Florida golfer:
On Monday, I played the Disney, Lake Buena Vista course. As usual the starters matched me with three other players. After a few holes we began to get to know each other a bit. One fellow was rather young and had his wife riding along in the golf cart with him. I noticed that his golf bag had his name on it and after closer inspection it also said "wounded war veterans". When I had my first chance to chat with him I asked him about the bag. His response was simply that it was a gift. I then asked if he was wounded and he said yes. Then I asked more about his injury, his response was "I'd rather not talk about it, Sir".
Over a few holes I learned that he had spent the last 15 months in an army rehabilitation hospital in San Antonio Texas. His wife moved there to be with him and he was released from the hospital in September. He was a rather quiet fellow; however, he did say that he wanted to get good at golf.
We had a nice round and as we became a bit more familiar I asked him about the brand new set of Ping woods and irons he was playing. Some looked like they had never been hit. His response was simple. He said that this round was the first full round he had played with these clubs.
Later in the round he told me the following. As part of the discharge process from the rehabilitation hospital, Ping comes in and provides three days of golf instruction, followed by club fitting. Upon discharge from the hospital, Ping gives each of the discharged veterans, generally about 40 soldiers, a brand new set of custom fitted clubs along with the impressive golf bags.
The fellow I met was named Ben Woods and he looked me in the eye and said that being fitted for those clubs was one of the best things that ever happened to him and he was determined to learn to play golf well enough to deserve the gift Ping had given him. Ben is now out of the service, medically discharged just a month ago. He is as fine a young man as you would ever want to meet.
Ping, whose products are made with pride here in America (Arizona), has the good judgment not to advertise this program.
God Bless America and the game of golf. Thank you “PING "!