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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 126457 times)
WingsofCrystal
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« Reply #6465 on: Apr 2nd, 2012, 09:11am »

Seattle Times

Originally published April 1, 2012 at 8:12 PM
Page modified April 2, 2012 at 6:34 AM

As TV habits change, campaigns focus on how you surf Web

The Romney campaign thinks it has found the way to get ads in front of the increasing number of voters who are not watching traditional television: Find these people on the Internet, and show them the commercials there.

By JEREMY W. PETERS
The New York Times

MILWAUKEE — Just because you own a DVR or watch television online does not mean political commercials are not coming soon to a screen near you.

The Romney campaign thinks it has found the way to get ads in front of the increasing number of voters who are not watching traditional television: Find these people on the Internet, and show them the commercials there.

Here in Wisconsin, which holds its Republican primary on Tuesday, carefully targeted potential voters will see two Romney commercials on their Web browsers. One is a positive message hailing the candidate's economic and business credentials. The other is an attack ad criticizing Rick Santorum as "a Washington insider" who compromises his core beliefs.

Both commercials, which have been airing repeatedly on television across the state, have gone unseen by considerable numbers of voters — as many as one-third of them, by some estimates.

The Romney campaign and a team of online behavior analysts have spent 18 months sifting through data on the browsing habits of tens of millions of computer users as the campaign builds a richly detailed cache of potential supporters.

Romney's strategists are hoping to turn the Internet into a political persuasion tool, signaling a shift in the way modern campaigns view digital advertising. It is no longer merely a supplement for traditional mediums like television. In some cases, it is a substitute entirely.

One recent survey on television viewing habits, which is often cited by Romney advisers, found that 31 percent of likely voters in battleground states had not watched television "live" — that is, at the time it was being broadcast, as opposed to online or on a recording device — in the past week. And of those who watched programs recorded on devices like a DVR, 88 percent skipped through the commercials.

Many campaigns were beginning to integrate the study of online behavior into their strategies, said Darrell West, director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution. "In many respects, it's analogous to the emergence of TV advertising in the 1960s."

Television will still account for the vast majority of the money spent on political advertising — billions this year, and nine of every 10 advertising dollars, strategists estimate. But with the return on that investment becoming less of a sure bet, campaigns are taking advantage of technologies to track and model browsing behavior as never before.

The Obama digital team, for example, knows when supporters have opened an email from the campaign and whether they have clicked on tabs in the email that direct people to BarackObama.com. It uses that information to determine whether to send more or fewer solicitations.

The campaign has also hired a "chief scientist" who worked in the private sector finding ways to discern consumers' interests from data online, and then used that information to target messages to entice people to buy certain products.

Looking for an audience

Rather than buying ads on specific websites, the Romney campaign sees greater value in buying audiences — which remain anonymous, identifiable only by a numeric code — that are built through careful analysis and predictive behavior modeling.

"We are site agnostic and audience specific," said Zac Moffatt, the Romney campaign's digital director. "It doesn't bother me what site they're on. I'm just looking for an audience."

Using outside digital strategists, the campaign commissioned surveys from Democratic and Republican pollsters that determined, among other things, how often people were watching live television versus recorded or on the Web. Then strategists took that data, paired it with browsing histories and built a model that can identify people who are not likely to be watching live television.

Reaching those people is only one element of the campaign's effort to reach individual voters online. Though the Internet has always been useful in preaching to the converted — soliciting donations, rounding up volunteers, rallying voters on Election Day — it has been far less effective at coaxing undecided voters.

So the campaign set out to identify potential voters who are most likely politically conservative and might vote for Romney but need a little more persuasion. Here in Wisconsin, these people will see Web ads with the positive message about Romney's economic leadership, but not the one that mocks Santorum.

The group the campaign has designated as potentially persuadable was culled from surveying thousands of online readers about their party affiliation, positions on key political issues and opinions about the president. From those responses, the campaign's outside digital strategy firm, Targeted Victory, was able to narrow down the type of people it wanted: 18 and older, Republican-leaning and possessing a strong dissatisfaction with the current administration.

Using Web histories

Using the Web histories of the people who fit that profile, Lotame, an audience analytics company the campaign has hired, uses algorithms to find other computer users who might harbor the same political sentiments based on their browsing histories. Looking at what these people do online — what they read, where they leave comments and what content they share with friends — helps refine the sample.

When the Romney campaign puts its ads in front of these people, it can tell whether they watched the videos, how long they spent watching and whether they took any actions because of the ad, like sharing their email address, donating money or posting the content to Twitter or Facebook. Knowing who is responding to the ads helps the campaign refine its ideal audiences even further.

"When I look at the people who click on that banner ad or looked at that video or went to the donation page, we can unpack a whole new set of behavioral variables," said Adam Lehman, Lotame's chief operating officer.

Along the way, the Romney campaign has learned a few common characteristics of its online supporters. They tend to like to take online quizzes on news and entertainment websites. They like to share photos. And they are interested in topics like technology, literature, home repair and child care.

The campaign also has discovered certain characteristics that tend to be associated with people who do not respond to Romney's ads. For example, their online behavior shows they are interested in video and casino games, bowling, martial arts and jazz.

The results of putting this data to use have been encouraging so far. Targeted Victory says that people who see audience-specific Romney ads engage with them at a rate three to five times higher than they do with a standard display ad.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2017890267_campaign02.html

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« Reply #6466 on: Apr 3rd, 2012, 09:14am »

Telegraph

Nick Clegg promises plans to snoop on emails will get 'highest possible safeguards'

Plans to spy on every email and phone call will be subject to "the highest possible safeguards" to stop them becoming Orwellian, Nick Clegg has said.

2:34PM BST 03 Apr 2012

The Deputy Prime Minister attempted to defend the Government’s new "snooping" laws, as he faces pressure from his own party and privacy campaigners over whether they constitute a breach of civil liberties.

The plans will allow police and intelligence officers to monitor who someone is in contact with and the websites they visit, although the content of communications will not be accessed.

Asked how he would protect privacy, Mr Clegg suggested the Government was open to amending its “draft” proposals, adding that "anything in this area is highly sensitive".

He claimed there would be no central Government database, which would have a "real Orwellian air". He also promised to make sure "hard-fought civil liberties" are properly protected.

"We're prepared to look at any safeguards that make sure people feel comfortable these are not the draconian proposals they have been portrayed as being," he told the BBC's World at One programme.

However, Mr Clegg insisted the measures are necessary as police cannot track criminals using internet programmes such as Skype to make phone calls.

He said the Government is trying to deal with a "simple pragmatic issue" but declined to say whether local councils and other governments agencies would have access to the records.

"We haven't published the proposals but this is essentially about how you go after criminals and terrorists," he said. "Clearly the people who are most involved in this are the police."

Julian Huppert, a Liberal Democrat MP and critic of the plans, said he felt reassured that the plans were "not a fait accompli" within the Government.

However, the Coalition is facing a growing backlash over the move, which is a revival of plans first raised then abandoned by the last Labour government – and which the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats both criticised.

David Davis, the former Shadow Home Secretary, has said the plan is “an unnecessary extension of the ability of the State to snoop on people.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/journalists/rowena-mason/9183503/Nick-Clegg-promises-plans-to-snoop-on-emails-will-get-highest-possible-safeguards.html

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« Reply #6467 on: Apr 3rd, 2012, 09:20am »

New York Times

April 2, 2012
Libyan Militias Turn to Politics, a Volatile Mix
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK

TRIPOLI, Libya — The militia leaders who have turned post-Qaddafi Libya into a patchwork of semiautonomous fiefs are now plunging into politics, raising fears that their armed brigades could undermine elections intended to lay the foundation of a new democracy.

The militia leader from Zintan who controls the airport here in the capital has exchanged his uniform for a suit and tie and now talks about running for office — with his 1,200 armed men at his back. The head of Tripoli’s military council is starting a political party, and the military council in Benghazi is preparing its own slate of candidates for local office.

Regional militias and the ruling Transitional National Council have already blocked the city of Bani Walid, once a bastion of support for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, from choosing its local government. Other militia leaders are volunteering their armed support as the military wings of newly formed parties.

Five months after Colonel Qaddafi’s death, Libyans are counting on the ritual of the ballot box to end four decades of rule by brute force. The brigades formed to fight Colonel Qaddafi, and many others that sprang up after the fact, have thwarted the consolidation of a new central authority and become a menace to security, trading deadly gunfire in the streets of the capital, detaining and torturing suspected Qaddafi loyalists, and last week even kidnapping two members of the Transitional National Council for two days.

Libya’s interim leaders say they hope an elected government will have the legitimacy to rein in those militias, and the country is rushing to hold votes. The two largest cities, Benghazi and Tripoli, plan to hold local elections by May, while the Transitional National Council has promised elections in June for an assembly that will govern as it writes a new constitution.

Without a national army or police force, though, many civilians worry that the militias could bully voters, suppress votes or otherwise dominate the process, leaving Libya mired in internecine violence, torn by regional tensions or — as a recent poll suggests many Libyans may now expect — vulnerable to the rise of a new strongman.

Even civilian politicians alarmed by the interplay of guns and politics say they may be powerless to resist it. “We are very clearly saying we don’t want to be part of that,” said Ali Tarhuni, a former interim oil minister and deputy prime minister now starting one of the new parties. “But down the road, what can we do?”

Mr. Tarhuni and others say they fear that Libya could repeat the experience of Lebanon, where armed militias formed during its civil war became a permanent part of the political landscape. Already some brigades around the country, including the one at the airport, led by Mokhtar al-Akhdar, have developed independent sources of revenue, primarily from providing security services. “Protection,” Mr. Tarhuni said.

Others say Libya may yet confound the expectations of chaos on the various election days. The relatively homogeneous city of Misurata recently held peaceful elections. Here in the more divided capital and across the country, Libyan officials admit that they are banking on intangibles, like Libya’s tribal traditions, the unifying spirit of the revolution and the patriotism of its young militiamen, to maintain a degree of order. Nevertheless, Mustafa Abu Shagour, deputy prime minister of the interim government, said he expected to see guns in the streets.

“I am very worried,” he said.

After 42 years of a through-the-looking-glass dictatorship that billed itself as a participatory “rule of the masses,” Libyans appear to distrust democracy. In a poll of Libyans conducted in December and January by a research arm of Oxford University, only 15 percent of the more than 2,000 respondents said they wanted some form of democracy within the next 12 months, while 42 percent said they hoped Libya would be governed by a new strongman. Perhaps most worrisome: a significant minority, about 16 percent, said they were ready to use violence for political ends.

The leaders of the regional militias insist that they are the guardians of democracy, compensating for the leadership failures of the Transitional National Council. But they often continue to rely on armed might outside any legal or political process.

When a peaceful demonstration in Benghazi urged federalism, the interior minister — a militia leader from Misurata — publicly threatened to lead an armed force from his hometown to fight what he called a threat to national unity.

Fawzi Bukatief, commander of an alliance of 40 eastern brigades based in Benghazi, said he was close to announcing a national union of militias, independent of the Defense and Interior Ministries. He said the union could use its firepower to crack down on other armed groups still operating in Tripoli.

“We will stop them, or imprison them,” he said. “We know the fighters. We will decide who is a revolutionary and who is not.”

“The militias are the problem,” he added, “but also the solution.”

In a tweed jacket instead of camouflage, he said he was considering running for office in Benghazi. Doing so while his fighters oversee the vote “can be a conflict,” he said with a shrug, acknowledging that he “will have to step out” of his militia role.

The interim government has been powerless to stop attacks on tribes or neighborhoods suspected of supporting Colonel Qaddafi, much less to guarantee them a right to vote.

In the Abu Salim neighborhood of Tripoli, a militia brigade still operates from a heavily fortified bunker, with roof-mounted machine guns pointing down into the streets. Residents — especially those with dark skin, often suspected of belonging to tribes that fought for Colonel Qaddafi — said they were afraid to walk past the bunker. Inside the bunker, prisoners were banging on the metal doors of small cells.

Abdul Salem el-Massoudi, 42, the neighborhood military council’s chief of “interrogations,” said the militia was still hunting down the suspected perpetrators of a massacre by Qaddafi forces. But as for the dark-skinned Libyans from the city of Tawarga, he suggested that they had themselves to blame.

“Their sons got them into this trouble” by fighting for Qaddafi, he said. “Now, they are refugees everywhere.”

Interim government officials still insist that they plan to control the militias by the election day in June, in part by hiring the militia fighters to create a national guard. It is unclear, however, how much loyalty the money is buying.

Flush with oil money, the interim government has started handing out pay to thousands of militiamen for the work of securing the capital — the equivalent of about $2,000 for each fighter who is single and about $3,300 for each one with a family.

Last month, local brigades began lining up by turns to collect their pay at an old police academy, which happened to be in Hadhba, another neighborhood known for its loyalty to the former dictator. But then a group of fighters from the more rebellious neighborhood of Souk el-Juma decided that they were not getting paid fast enough and, besides that, did not like collecting their cash in a loyalist stronghold.

So a truckload of a few dozen fighters attacked the academy. In a hail of gunfire — many were armed with Kalashnikovs, a few with knives, and they were backed by three machine guns — they broke down the iron gates, tore off some of its pointed spikes as weapons and smashed the windows of the gatehouse.

“Run away! We will kill you!” one fighter shouted to the fleeing neighbors. Another declared: “This is ours right now. We are the owners here.”

Two days later, the Souk el-Juma brigade leaders were distributing the payments to their members at their own headquarters, undercutting any hope of transferring the fighters’ loyalty to a central authority.

Former Qaddafi officials, who are also talking about forming a political party, say they hear an echo of the past. “They are speaking the same language we did,” said one former Qaddafi adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity for his safety. “We used force. They are using force. Nothing has changed but the flag and the national anthem.”

Suliman Ali Alzway contributed reporting.


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/03/world/africa/libya-militias-turn-to-politics-a-volatile-mix.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #6468 on: Apr 3rd, 2012, 09:28am »

The Wrap

10 Producers Who Will Change Hollywood In 2012
Published: April 02, 2012 @ 8:06 pm
By TheWrap

Even Brian Grazer started with a little movie called "Splash," starring a then-unknown Tom Hanks.

True, that was a Disney movie, but the days when new producers can align with major studios are long gone. Now, to get a project off the ground, it takes workaday jacks-of-all-trades who spend their days scrambling to find projects and the money to finance them.

And even when they taste success, they’re still juggling.

“When 'Margin Call' won an Independent Spirit Award -- and I have it on my mantle at home -- it felt pretty great,” Neal Dodson, a partner with Zachary Quinto and Corey Moosa at Before the Door Pictures, told TheWrap.

At the same time, “the first major benchmark for us will be a time when our movies aren’t sort of hand-to-mouth. Right now, we’re basically making fees on our movies that allow us to extend the life of our company for ‘X’ number of months," he said. "I’d love to not be movie-to-movie. I’d like to be – movie to two movies.”

Dodson, Moosa and Quinto -- better known as "Star Trek's" latest Spock -- are among the most interesting young producers in Hollywood. Their projects are ambitious, challenging and successful.

TheWrap has identified nine more like them:

Hollywood's future Grazers (and Robert Rodriguezes and Kevin Smiths). They are listed in alphabetical order.

Keep your eye on them.

ANNAPURNA PICTURES
Megan Ellison

The daughter of billionaire Oracle founder Larry Ellison, Megan Ellison has the financial ability to do pretty much what she pleases.

And she's chosen to make movies. Good ones. With talented directors.

Her Annapurna Pictures has worked with Spike Jonze, Kathryn Bigelow and Paul Thomas Anderson. She executive produced 2010's Oscar-nominated "True Grit" and smaller projects like 2010's "Main Street," starring Colin Firth and Ellen Burstyn.

Her production company is executive producer on “Cogan's Trade,” starring Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini, and producer of “Lawless," both slated for release later this year by the Weinstein Co.

"Cogan's Trade," is a mob drama from director Andrew Dominick, whose last film was the acclaimed "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford."

"Lawless" is about a gang of bootleggers during the Depression who are threatened by authorities who want a cut of their action. The John Hillcoat film, which was formerly titled "The Wettest County," stars Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce and Shia LaBeouf.

With four projects in post-production and another filming, Ellison has established herself and her company as a significant force in Hollywood based on the quality of her output, even as she has remained low-key, shunning interview requests and the spotlight.

more after the jump
http://www.thewrap.com/movies/column-post/ten-producers-who-will-change-hollywood-in-2012-36606

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« Reply #6469 on: Apr 3rd, 2012, 09:32am »

Science Daily

Sparrows Change Their Tune to Be Heard in Noisy Cities
ScienceDaily (Apr. 2, 2012)

Sparrows in San Francisco's Presidio district changed their tune to soar above the increasing cacophony of car horns and engine rumbles, details new Mason research in the April edition of Animal Behaviour.

"It shows a strong link between the change in song and the change in noise," says David Luther, term assistant professor in Mason's undergraduate biology program. "It's also the first study that I know of to track the songs over time and the responses of birds to historical and current songs."

The study, "Birdsongs Keep Pace with City Life: Changes in Song Over Time in an Urban Songbird Affects Communication," compares birdsongs from as far back as 1969 to today's tweets. Plus, the researchers detail how San Francisco's streets have grown noisier based on studies from 1974 and 2008.

Luther wrote the study with Elizabeth Derryberry, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Tulane University and a research assistant professor at Louisiana State University's Museum of Natural Science. "We've created this artificial world, although one could say it's the real world now, with all this noise -- traffic, leaf blowers, air conditioners," Luther says. "A lot of birds are living in these areas, and what, if anything, is this doing to their songs?"

Turns out, quite a bit.

Just as we raise our voices to be heard when a car speeds past, birds making their homes near busy intersections have to tweet a little louder, Luther says. But it's more than just whistling the same tune and turning up the volume. Most birds stopped singing some old songs because those ditties couldn't cut through the racket.



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White crowned sparrow.
(Credit: © Brenton W Cooper / Fotolia)




The bird they studied is the white-crowned sparrow, a small bird that sports a jaunty white cap with black stripes. Only male birds were studied.

Even birds from the same species don't sing the same song. "Some bird species sing in different dialects just like the way people talk differently if they are from Texas or California or New York, even different parts of New York," Luther says.

The sparrows warble in low, medium and high frequencies.

"It's the really low hum where almost all of this human-made noise is -- in this very low bandwidth. The birds can often sing at the top end of that low bandwidth," says Luther, whistling a lively bird tune, "and if there's no traffic around, that's just fine. But if they're singing and there's this," he says, making a low humming noise, "the lowest portion of that song gets lost, and the birds can't hear it."

So the birds changed their tune. Sparrows in the Presidio used to sing in three distinct dialects when famed ornithologist Luis Baptista made his recordings in 1969. When Luther worked with Baptista some 30 years later, those song stylings had dropped to two, with one higher-range dialect clearly on the way to be the only song in town.

"One dialect had basically taken over the city," says Luther, adding that it is officially called the "San Francisco dialect."

Songs need to be heard, not just because they sound pretty -- birds use them to talk to each other, warn away rivals and attract mates.

"If you go into a bird's territory and play a song from the same species, they think a rival competitor has invaded its territory," Luther says. "It's just the same way if you're in your house and you hear strange voices, as if someone broke in."

If the rival bird can't hear the song and vamoose, then it may come to bird fisticuffs. That can lead to injury or death.

To do the study, the researchers found territories of 20 sparrows in the Presidio where there's lots of traffic, especially in the morning rush hour when the birds do most of their singing.

They set up an iPod speaker, shuffled the sparrow songs from 1969 and 2005 and waited for a reaction.

The result?

"The birds responded much more strongly to the current song than to the historic song," says Luther, adding that the sparrow flew toward the speaker while chirping a "get out of here" song. "The (current) songs are more of a threat."

Chirps from 1969 didn't raise a feather. "They don't think that bird is as much of a threat," he says.

This study sets up the next one, Derryberry says. The next question is whether the females care about these changes or if any song will do. "We want to understand if the females discriminate between these songs as well," she says.

White-crowned sparrows are interesting birds because their songs changed with the noise environment, Derryberry says. "Here's a bird that's able to hang around," she says. "A lot of species haven't been able to adapt to and live in an urban environment."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120402162710.htm

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« Reply #6470 on: Apr 4th, 2012, 08:46am »

Washington Post

GSA conference went ‘over the top’
By Lisa Rein and Timothy R. Smith
4 April 2012

The biennial conference hosted by the General Service Administration’s western outposts has always been a team-building affair. Employees exchange ideas, share best practices and, for four days, have some fun.

In recent years, they flew to New Orleans, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Lake Tahoe, where the Caesars hotel provided lakefront views, a lagoon-style indoor swimming pool and a 24-hour casino.

Then, two years ago, the “Western Regions” conference went over the top.

The gathering of 300 employees from the agency’s Public Buildings Service in October 2010 was billed as a “Showcase of World-Class Talent” at the luxury M Resort Spa Casino off the Las Vegas strip. VIPs — including then-buildings chief Robert Peck — stayed in two-story, 2,400-square-foot loft suites with wet bars and multiple HD televisions. There were after-hours parties, a $7,000 sushi reception, $44-per-head-breakfasts, a $3,200 mind reader and $130,000 spent on pre-conference scouting trips.

In another example of the conference’s less-than-work-focused approach, organizers held an “awards ceremony” on the last day, complete with a “Red Carpet” show and a “Talent Award Showcase” that recognized musical performance rather than contributions to government operations, according to the GSA’s inspector general. Employees were told that the event was called an “awards ceremony” so federal money could be spent on food — a “a running joke” among employees.

And a GSA event planner who attended the conference told a hotel manager that she “could not live without” a $98 purse from the gift shop and asked for a discount. “I can give you a $30 comp,” the manager told her, and the purse was hers.

It was, according to a scathing report issued this week by the inspector general, a devil-may-care culture that made a mockery of the Obama administration’s pledge to run a more efficient civil service.

The excess led the White House to order the resignation of Administrator Martha Johnson. Two of her top deputies, including Peck, were fired. Within hours of taking the reins of the agency Tuesday, Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini told employees that he was canceling conferences similar to the Las Vegas blowout, ones held exclusively for “internal staff.”

Tangherlini said he has canceled numerous conferences and will review every planned off-site meeting for its business justification.

“We cannot allow mistakes or misjudgments of a small number of individuals to slow our progress or take our focus from our goals,” he wrote.

Four regional commissioners have been placed on administrative leave pending further disciplinary action.

Among them is the Las Vegas event’s main organizer, the acting administrator for the Pacific Rim region, who, according to the report, told the event planners on his staff to make the conference “over the top” and “bigger and better” than previous conferences. Employees who suggested this was a bad idea were ignored. Sources familiar with the investigation identified the administrator as Jeffrey E. Neely.

Neely did not respond to requests for comment.

Neely hosted an in-room “party” on the evening of the closing dinner, and according to the inspector general’s report, a relative of his helped select food for the party and co-hosted, though the relative is not a GSA employee. The relative contacted the event planner to add more food, commenting, “Knowing we have a bit more money in the budget helps,” according to the report.

“Minimizing expenses was not a goal,” the report said.

Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, will investigate the misuse of federal money.

“The Las Vegas fiasco is just the tip of the iceberg,” Mica said during a news conference Tuesday, where he also complained about vacant or underused government buildings.

Mica offered tepid praise of the Obama administration for taking swift action at GSA.

Arthur Turowski, who worked in the Public Building Service in Washington for more than 30 years ending in 2007, said his conference experiences were much different.

“It was middle-of-the-road hotels,” said Turowski, now a senior vice president at the real estate brokerage firm of Jones Lang LaSalle. “Three stars, maybe two-and-half out of five. Not Motel 6s, but not Ritzes. It was always government-rate stuff.”

“Entertainment was on your own — and that was buying drinks at the bar and maybe going out to the closest restaurant. This was mundane. This was meat and potatoes.”

Capital Business staff writer Jonathan O’Connell contributed to this report.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/gsa-conference-went-over-the-top/2012/04/04/gIQAi23suS_story.html

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« Reply #6471 on: Apr 4th, 2012, 08:50am »

Japan Times

Storage of large amounts of radioactive water near Fukushima No. 1 sparks safety concerns.
4 April 2012

Long-term no-go areas considered

Kyodo

The government is considering designating areas near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant as off-limits for residents for an extensive period, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Wednesday.

Concern is growing that a large amount of water contaminated by radioactive materials being stored at the crippled plant could threaten the safety of people living in the vicinity, government officials said.

The central government also believes it will be necessary to secure the area around the plant so workers can safely carry out their assignments while they remove melted fuel from the facility's reactors.

The government currently plans to classify the current no-go zones into three types based on local radiation levels. Apart from this plan, areas to which residents cannot return could be designated even though their radiation levels are low.

At Wednesday's news conference, Fujimura, the top government spokesman, quoted reconstruction minister Tatsuo Hirano as saying at a government meeting late last month that some areas should be off-limits near the crippled power station for an extended period, regardless of radiation levels.

During a meeting Tuesday with Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato and some mayors in the prefecture, Hirano said people won't be able to return soon to areas in the vicinity of the No. 1 nuclear plant.

To set the areas where residents can't return, it will be necessary for the government or Tokyo Electric Power Co. to use the power of eminent domain to purchase the land, observers said.

Cesium found in smelt

Kyodo

MAEBASHI, Gunma Pref. — Smelt caught in Akagi Onuma Lake in the city of Maebashi were found to have 426 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram, exceeding the new government limit of 100 becquerels, the Gunma Prefectural Government said.

The new limit took effect Sunday. The previous limit for food, set tentatively after the March 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant accident, was 500 becquerels.

The smelt were caught March 28, the prefectural government said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Shizuoka Prefectural Government said green tea leaves produced as test samples were found to contain cesium below the new government limit for tea of 10 becquerels per kilogram.

The tea was grown in a greenhouse at a prefectural laboratory in the city of Kikugawa to test the concentration of cesium before the first harvest of leaves this year in late April, Shizuoka officials said.


http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120404x2.html

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« Reply #6472 on: Apr 4th, 2012, 09:12am »

Wired

MIT Project Aims to Deliver Printable, Mass-Market Robots
By Daniela Hernandez
April 3, 2012 | 6:32 pm
Categories: R&D and Inventions


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Insect printable robot.
Photo: Jason Dorfman, CSAIL/MIT



Printers can make mugs, chocolate and even blood vessels. Now, MIT scientists want to add robo-assistants to the list of printable goodies.

Today, MIT announced a new project, “An Expedition in Computing Printable Programmable Machines,” that aims to give everyone a chance to have his or her own robot.

Need help peering into that unreasonably hard-to-reach cabinet, or wiping down your grimy 15th-story windows? Walk on over to robo-Kinko’s to print, and within 24 hours you could have a fully programmed working origami bot doing your dirty work.

“No system exists today that will take, as specification, your functional needs and will produce a machine capable of fulfilling that need,” MIT robotics engineer and project manager Daniela Rus said.

Unfortunately, the very earliest you’d be able to get your hands on an almost-instant robot might be 2017. The MIT scientists, along with collaborators at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, received a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation for the 5-year project. Right now, it’s at very early stages of development.

So far, the team has prototyped two mechanical helpers: an insect-like robot and a gripper. The 6-legged tick-like printable robot could be used to check your basement for gas leaks or to play with your cat, Rus says. And the gripper claw, which picks up objects, might be helpful in manufacturing, or for people with disabilities, she says.

The two prototypes cost about $100 and took about 70 minutes to build. The real cost to customers will depend on the robot’s specifications, its capabilities and the types of parts that are required for it to work.

The researchers want to create a one-size-fits-most platform to circumvent the high costs and special hardware and software often associated with robots. If their project works out, you could go to a local robo-printer, pick a design from a catalog and customize a robot according to your needs. Perhaps down the line you could even order-in your designer bot through an app.

Their approach to machine building could “democratize access to robots,” Rus said. She envisions producing devices that could detect toxic chemicals, aid science education in schools, and help around the house.

Although bringing robots to the masses sounds like a great idea (a sniffing bot to find lost socks would come in handy), there are still several potential roadblocks to consider — for example, how users, especially novice ones, will interact with the printable robots.

“Maybe this novice user will issue a command that will break the device, and we would like to develop programming environments that have the capability of catching these bad commands,” Rus said.

As it stands now, a robot would come pre-programmed to perform a set of tasks, but if a user wanted more advanced actions, he or she could build up those actions using the bot’s basic capabilities. That advanced set of commands could be programmed in a computer and beamed wirelessly to the robot. And as voice parsing systems get better, Rus thinks you might be able to simply tell your robot to do your bidding.

Durability is another issue. Would these robots be single-use only? If so, trekking to robo-Kinko’s every time you needed a bot to look behind the fridge might get old. These are all considerations the scientists will be grappling with in the lab. They’ll have at least five years to tease out some solutions.

In the meantime, it’s worth noting that other other groups are also building robots using printers. German engineers printed a white robotic spider last year. The arachnoid carried a camera and equipment to assess chemical spills.

And at Drexel University, paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara and mechanical engineer James Tangorra are trying to create a robotic dinosaur from dino-bone replicas. The 3-D-printed bones are scaled versions of laser-scanned fossils. By the end of 2012, Lacovara and Tangorra hope to have a fully mobile robotic dinosaur, which they want to use to study how dinosaurs, like large sauropods, moved.

Lancovara thinks the MIT project is an exciting and promising one: “If it’s a plug-and-play system, then it’s feasible,” he said. But “obviously, it [also] depends on the complexity of the robot.” He’s seen complex machines with working gears printed in one piece, he says.

Right now, the MIT researchers are developing an API that would facilitate custom robot design and writing algorithms for the assembly process and operations.

If their project works out, we could all have a bot to call our own in a few years. Who said print was dead?





http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/04/print-your-own-mit-robot/

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« Reply #6473 on: Apr 4th, 2012, 09:17am »

Deadline Hollywood

NBC Apologizes For Editing George Zimmerman’s 911 Call About Trayvon Martin
By THE DEADLINE TEAM
Tuesday April 3, 2012 @ 5:08pm PDT
Tags: George Zimmerman, NBC, Trayvon Martin

NBC News apologized today for the way a 911 dispatcher’s conversation with George Zimmerman concerning Trayvon Martin was edited for broadcast last week. The edited version made it appear that the neighborhood watch captain’s decision to follow Martin in the Sanford, Fla., housing complex might have been racially motivated. Zimmerman subsequently shot the unarmed 17-year-old during a struggle. Martin’s death has resulted in nationwide protests.

Following a Fox News before-and-after broadcast comparison of of the unedited and edited version, NBC News launched an investigation. “During our investigation it became evident that there was an error made in the production process that we deeply regret,” NBC News representative Lauren Kapp said in a statement. “We will be taking the necessary steps to prevent this from happening in the future and apologize to our viewers.” The segment Today broadcast last week ran as “Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.” The full conversation ran as: “Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about. Dispatcher: OK, and this guy – is he black, white or Hispanic? Zimmerman: He looks black.”

http://www.deadline.com/2012/04/nbc-apologizes-for-editing-george-zimmermans-911-call-about-trayvon-martin/

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« Reply #6474 on: Apr 5th, 2012, 08:35am »

Well-preserved strawberry-blond mammoth discovered in Siberia

Written By Jennifer Viegas
Published April 04, 2012
Discovery News

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A juvenile mammoth, nicknamed "Yuka," was found entombed in Siberian ice near the shores of the Arctic Ocean and shows signs of being cut open by ancient people.

The remarkably well preserved frozen carcass was discovered in Siberia as part of a BBC/Discovery Channel-funded expedition and is believed to be at least 10,000 years old, if not older. If further study confirms the preliminary findings, it would be the first mammoth carcass revealing signs of human interaction in the region.

SUMMARY
The carcass of a well-preserved, frozen, juvenile mammoth carcass has been discovered in Siberia.

The remains include much of the mammoth's pink flesh and blonde-red fur.

Humans likely butchered parts of the mammoth at least 10,000 years ago.

The carcass is in such good shape that much of its flesh is still intact, retaining its pink color. The blonde-red hue of Yuka's woolly coat also remains.

"This is the first relatively complete mammoth carcass -- that is, a body with soft tissues preserved -- to show evidence of human association," Daniel Fisher, curator and director of the University of Michigan's Museum of Paleontology, told Discovery News.

Fisher, who is also a professor, worked with an international team of experts to analyze Yuka. French mammoth hunter Bernard Buigues of the scientific organization "Mammuthus" saved the specimen from falling into the hands of private collectors.

Although carbon dating is still in the works, the researchers believe Yuka died at least 10,000 years ago, but may be much older. The animal was about 2 ½ years old when it died.

Fisher described what likely happened on that fateful day:
"It appears that Yuka was pursued by one or more lions or another large field, judging from deep, unhealed scratches in the hide and bite marks on the tail," Fisher said. "Yuka then apparently fell, breaking one of the lower hind legs. At this point, humans may have moved in to control the carcass, butchering much of the animal and removing parts that they would use immediately.

"They may, in fact, have reburied the rest of the carcass to keep it in reserve for possible later use. What remains now would then be 'leftovers' that were never retrieved."

He explained that the removed parts include most of the main core mass of Yuka's body, including organs, vertebrae, ribs, associated musculature, and some of the meat from upper parts of the legs. The lower parts of each leg and the trunk remain intact.

Buigues added that it appears the humans were particularly interested in the animal's fat and its large bones, which they kept close to the body of the carcass. He believes it is possible that a ritual may have taken place involving the bones.

'They may have reburied the rest of the carcass to keep it in reserve for later use.'
- Daniel Fisher, curator / director, University of Michigan's Museum of Paleontology

Kevin Campbell of the University of Manitoba also studied Yuka. Campbell famously published the genetic code of mammoth hemoglobin a few years ago.

"Most permafrost-preserved mammoth specimens consist solely of bones or bone fragments that currently provide little new insight into the species' biology in life, even if DNA can be extracted and sequenced from these samples," Campbell said. "This extremely rare finding of a near complete specimen, like the discovery of the baby mammoth Lyuba in 2007, will be a boon to researchers as it will help them link observed phenotypes (morphological features that we can see) with genotype (DNA sequences)."

Such information could help reveal whether or not mammoths had all of the same hair colors that humans do. An intriguing and controversial application would be to bring a mammoth back to life via cloning.
Campbell supports pursuit of that goal, saying it "may well lead to important new discoveries in bioengineering." Buigues is also in favor and said, "I'm not against having a mammoth in my garden in future."
Tim Walker, producer and director of a forthcoming BBC/Discovery Channel show called "Woolly Mammoth"that will feature Yuka, told Discovery News that cloning a mammoth could take years or even decades.

"Then, if it did happen, wouldn't a single mammoth be lonely and sad?" he asked. "They were, after all, communal animals."

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/04/04/well-preserved-strawberry-blond-mammoth-discovered-in-siberia/?intcmp=features#ixzz1rAjGaDvN
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« Reply #6475 on: Apr 5th, 2012, 08:47am »

""This is the first relatively complete mammoth carcass -- that is, a body with soft tissues preserved -- to show evidence of human association," Daniel Fisher, curator and director of the University of Michigan's Museum of Paleontology, told Discovery News."


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« Reply #6476 on: Apr 5th, 2012, 08:59am »

CBC News (Canada)

Long-gun registry in Quebec court as bill set to become law

Quebec filed court injunction Tuesday, C-19 passed at 3rd reading in Senate next evening

CBC News Posted: Apr 5, 2012 8:56 AM ET
Last Updated: Apr 5, 2012 9:17 AM ET

Ministers from the Harper government are set to celebrate the official end of the oft-maligned long-gun registry this morning following the passage at third reading late Wednesday of C-19, the Conservatives' bill to not only end the registry, but destroy all the data it contains about registered gun owners across Canada.

But while Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government celebrates in Ottawa, the Quebec government is poised before a Montreal judge Thursday, armed with 68 pages of legal arguments filed Tuesday in an attempt to block the destruction of the records.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, his parliamentary secretary, Candice Hoeppner, and Quebec Minister of State Maxime Bernier spoke to reporters in Ottawa on Thursday morning and confirmed the process to begin destroying the registry's data would begin this afternoon, when the bill is expected to become law.

Bill C-19, the Act to Amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, passed at third reading in the Senate just after 5:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, by a vote of 50-27. The legislation is expected to receive royal assent on Thursday afternoon, the final step in becoming law.

In anticipation of its passage, the Quebec government filed arguments in court, seeking an injunction if C-19 becomes law to protect the registry's data until such time as a judge can consider Quebec's position that the federal government's actions are unconstitutional.

Data destruction 'unconstitutional'

Quebec Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier said Tuesday that more than a million long guns would disappear from the radar screens of law enforcement agencies in Quebec if the data is destroyed.

"In 2010, we [seized] 2,500 guns from people who owned those guns, because they were dangerous [to] themselves or other people," Fournier said.

The province believes that it has a right to the data because it helped collect it and claims that its destruction is unconstitutional.

Quebec has long demanded relevant registry information be transferred to the province, so it can create its own list. It says starting a new registry from scratch would be prohibitively expensive.

"What we want is to have all the information that is pertinent, for our own registry," Fournier told reporters on Tuesday.

Quebec's opposition parties support the preservation of the gun registry, but Parti Québécois justice critic Bernard Drainville accused the Charest government of waiting too long to make its move.

The injunction, filed in Quebec Superior Court, asks for the registry to be preserved until a judge renders an ultimate decision.

Feds believe data must be purged

C-19 seeks to eliminate the requirement for gun owners to register their long guns and other weapons that are not restricted or prohibited. It also provides for the destruction of records that are currently held in the Canadian Firearms Registry, a measure that caught many off-guard when the bill was introduced in October.

Opposition MPs were angry that the government is destroying the data, saying the records should remain intact for police or the provinces to use in the event they want to establish their own registry once the federal one is gone.

The government wants to scrap the registry because it says it is a waste of money, ineffective at improving public safety and preventing crimes and it targets law-abiding gun owners instead of criminals. Getting rid of the registry means getting rid of the information in it, the government has said in defending the move to destroy the data.

About 7.1 million non-restricted firearms were registered in the database as of September.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/04/05/pol-gun-registry-data-quebec.html?cmp=rss

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« Reply #6477 on: Apr 5th, 2012, 09:04am »

Reuters

Analysis: In Iraq, oil majors play north versus south

By Patrick Markey and Peg Mackey
Thu Apr 5, 2012 6:29am EDT

In the weeks before Iraqi Kurdistan revealed that Exxon Mobil had signed up to explore for oil there, executives at rival Shell faced a dilemma over whether or not to join the U.S. oil major in its foray north and risk angering Baghdad.

The fields in the autonomous region offered rich potential, an easier working environment, better security and attractive contracts. That seemed a winning combination for smaller oil companies already working there, such as Norway's DNO, even though they struggled to collect profits.

But at the 11th hour, industry sources say, Royal Dutch Shell backed out and decided to focus on a $17 billion gas deal in the south rather than sign exploration contracts with the Kurdish Regional Government, which the central government could dismiss as illegal and could prompt reprisals.

Shell's caution, Exxon's silence on its deals and this week's renewed dispute between Baghdad and Kurdistan over export payments reveal how delicate is the balance companies must manage between a central government and a Kurdish authority locked in a struggle over who controls Iraq's vast oil wealth.

The dispute over oil is at the heart of a wider disagreement between Iraq's central government in Baghdad and the Kurdish region, which are also increasingly at odds over regional autonomy, land and political influence.

Iraq has ambitious plans to develop its huge southern oilfields - potentially the world's biggest source of new oil over the next few years - and few oil firms dare risk being barred from such a bonanza by angering Baghdad.

But increasingly, some executives say, Kurdistan's potential is also coming up in boardroom discussions, as sluggish output, red tape and infrastructure bottlenecks in the south take some of the shine off the central government's oil program.

Oil majors are now waiting on the sidelines, watching the outcome of Exxon's balancing act between Baghdad and Arbil, the northern capital. France's Total is the latest company to provoke Baghdad's ire by acknowledging interest in Kurdistan.

"What companies are trying to do is get to the point where they are investing in the north and the south," said one industry source working in Iraq. "But at the moment they cannot do that. And that is what you have to build in when you decide whether to move in or not. You balance the risks."

After decades of war and sanctions, Iraq has signed multi-billion dollar agreements with Exxon, Shell and BP to develop fields in the south where most of its crude is pumped, hoping to become a major global oil exporter with output targets of around 8-8.5 million bpd.

But two years on, only modest gains have so far been notched up in production by companies frustrated by infrastructure constraints, payment disputes and logistical hurdles. Output last year averaged 2.7 million barrels per day versus about 2.4 million bpd in 2009, the year of Iraq's oil tenders.

The government in Baghdad has driven a tough bargain with foreign companies, offering fee-for-service contracts with tightly controlled profit margins and little chance to benefit from high energy prices.

Firms have experienced problems getting visas for contractors and security staff, delays in bringing in armored vehicles and holdups securing operating licenses. Such hassles make Kurdistan's offerings look more tempting by comparison.

"Every delay we face cuts off a significant part of the internal rate of return," said one oil company source. "Sometimes I wonder if we picked the wrong region."

This year Norway's Statoil became the first major company to abandon one of Iraq's lucrative new oil deals, selling its stake in West Qurna Phase-2 field to Lukoil.

POLITICAL CRISIS

The renewed stand-off between Baghdad and Arbil over oil is playing out against the background of a political crisis in Baghdad that jeopardized the shaky power-sharing agreement intended to prevent a return to ethnic and sectarian warfare.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite, heads a coalition that also includes Kurds and Sunnis. Just as the last U.S. troops left the country in December, Maliki's government issued an arrest warrant for the country's most senior Sunni Arab politician, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.

Hashemi fled to the Kurdish region, and Kurdish regional President Masoud Barzani refused to turn him over for trial, infuriating Baghdad.

Barzani has since given speeches increasingly antagonistic to a central government he says is trying to undermine Kurdish autonomy. He has accused Maliki of concentrating power in his own hands, and has warned in vague terms that Kurdistan may reconsider its relations with Baghdad.

Iraq's central government is also being challenged by other regions like oil hub Basra in the south and Sunni-dominated Anbar who see Kurdistan's autonomous status as a model for their own drives for more freedom from Baghdad's control.

Autonomous since 1991, Iraqi Kurdistan runs its own internal government and armed forces, and escaped the sectarian warfare that saw the rest of Iraq hit by suicide attacks and car bombs since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Kurdistan's stability proved an attractive draw to oil explorers, and its government has offered production-sharing deals, which allow firms to profit directly from oil sales rather than just taking a negotiated fee for their work.

Small and medium-sized companies like DNO, British oil company Afren, Gulf Keystone Petroleum and Canada's Talisman Energy, are pushing ahead with exploration in Kurdish oilfields.

Peter Wells of geological consultancy Neftex Petroleum said Baghdad's service contracts make sense for developing existing, discovered oilfields with only small technical risk attached. Arbil's production-sharing contracts encourage exploration, by offering greater potential gains for greater risk.

Big Oil prefers the production sharing deals, which let firms count reserves on their books, make more money per barrel and gain if the oil price rises. They get operational control and an easily tradeable asset.

"Put it this way: they want us in Kurdistan," says one oil executive. "But it doesn't feel that way in the south."

CATALYST FOR ACCORD

But however attractive Kurdistan may seem, companies operating there face one fundamental challenge: getting paid.

The Kurds receive 17 percent of Iraq's total oil export revenue - a huge sum that has fuelled an economic boom in the region - but in return, Kurdish oil can be legally exported only by the central government.

As long as the legal status of Kurdish oil deals is disputed in Baghdad, companies operating in Kurdistan have had no way to bring oil to market and collect a profit.

Under the Iraqi constitution, the central and regional governments should work together on ways to manage oil and gas reserves and distribute revenues. But Kurdish and Arab lawmakers in Baghdad have been at loggerheads for years over an oil and gas law to sort those issues out.

Exports from the north to a pipeline through Turkey began flowing last year under an interim agreement. Baghdad promised to collect revenue and pay companies their costs, leaving the question of firms' profits to be decided later.

But Baghdad and Arbil argued from the outset over how much oil was being pumped and how much money was owed.

This week, Kurdistan said it had halted those exports because Baghdad had failed to pay the companies for their oil. Iraqi government officials said Kurdistan was failing to meet its export obligations and illegally smuggling oil abroad.

Oil firms may have hoped that Exxon's push into Kurdistan would act as a catalyst to force the two sides to work together and enact an oil law. But for now, the increasingly shrill rhetoric on both sides hardly inspires confidence that a solution is growing closer.

When Kurdistan's government announced last year that Exxon had agreed to exploration deals for six Kurdish fields, Baghdad responded with outrage. Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani - architect of Baghdad's oil program - said the U.S. firm could forfeit the contract on its huge West Qurna-1 oilfield in the south if it did not halt work with the Kurds.

Baghdad has since barred Exxon from bidding in the next round of oil deals, although it says the decision is not final. Exxon was also removed from its lead role in a water injection project in the south, although Iraqi officials denied the move was linked to the Kurdish deal.

The central government now says that Exxon has written to it twice since early March to say that its deals with the Kurds have been suspended. The Kurds say Exxon has not halted work in Kurdistan and have challenged Baghdad to publish Exxon's letters.

Total has become the second supermajor to say it is considering investing in Kurdistan, although it has not yet announced deals there. Chief executive Christophe de Margerie, long a critic of Iraq's service contracts, said Total will not seek deals in the central government's next bidding round.

The conditions on offer from Baghdad, he says, are not attractive enough.

(Editing by Peter Graff)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/05/us-iraq-kurdistan-idUSBRE8340CD20120405

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« Reply #6478 on: Apr 5th, 2012, 09:21am »

The Hill

Obama, Romney see each other as vulnerable to charges of elitism
By Alexander Bolton
04/04/12 05:59 PM ET

The race for president may boil down to which candidate is viewed as the bigger snob.

President Obama and Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP nominee, have begun to circle each other over the charge of elitism, which both see as a threat.

The economy has shown signs of strengthening, but with the national unemployment rate at 8.3 percent and gas approaching $4 a gallon, winning over voters might hinge on showing empathy for their financial difficulties, say Democratic and Republican strategists.

Obama called out Romney by name on Tuesday and poked fun at his use of the word “marvelous” to describe the House Republican budget plan, implying Romney’s vocabulary is lofty if not downright posh.

“And he even called it ‘marvelous,’ which is a word you don’t often hear when it comes to describing a budget,” Obama said before pausing with comic effect. “It’s a word you don’t often hear generally.”

Democrats plan to use gaffes Romney has committed on the campaign trail — most of them caught on video — in television and online ads to argue that he cannot relate to average Americans.

Democrats’ favorites include Romney’s casual offer to bet then-presidential contender Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) $10,000 during a debate dispute over healthcare; his claim during a healthcare speech that “I like being able to fire people”; his remark during a CNN interview that he’s “not concerned about the very poor”; and his revelation that his wife “drives a couple of Cadillacs”.

Romney’s plan to lavishly renovate his family’s $12 million oceanfront home in La Jolla, Calif., gives Democrats more ammunition.

Obama’s "marvelous" quip certainly got the attention of the Romney campaign.

Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior adviser to Romney, tweeted out a link to a media report detailing three occasions in which Obama used the word “marvelous.”

And Romney did not mince words after winning GOP primary races in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia on Tuesday.

“It is important to understand one astonishing fact about this election: President Obama thinks he’s doing a good job. No, I’m not kidding. He actually thinks he’s doing a great job.

“It’s enough to make you think that years of flying around on Air Force One, surrounded by an adoring staff of true believers telling you what a great job you are doing, well, that might be enough to make you a little out of touch,” Romney shot back.

Obama’s dig, which came during a speech at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel in Washington, D.C., appeared premeditated and part of a broader political strategy.

During an interview that aired Sunday on CBS, Vice President Biden said, “I think Gov. Romney’s a little out of touch.”

“I can’t remember a presidential candidate in the recent past who seems not to understand, by what he says, what ordinary middle-class people are thinking about and are concerned about,” Biden said.

Democratic strategists say the “out of touch” label is one that Obama’s campaign will try to slap on Romney in the fall.

“I think it’s going to be part and parcel of the entire messaging operation. We all know who Mitt Romney is,” said Mike Lux, a Democratic strategist.

Lux said even Republicans know “Romney is the Thurston Howell, III of this campaign" — a reference to the "Millionaire" on the "Gilligan's Island" TV show — that he is out of touch and has no idea how to relate to common people.”

Rick Santorum, who continues to wage a losing battle for the GOP nomination, has tried to draw a clear contrast with Romney by reminding voters, “I don’t come from the elite.”

But Obama could have a harder time making that argument. Democrats acknowledge the president falls short of Bill Clinton when it comes to showing he feels the pain of the working class.

“President Clinton was the most natural and empathetic politician I’ve ever known and our generation will ever know,” said Lux, who worked in the Clinton White House. “Obama obviously is a different guy. He has a lot of empathy but he’s a little cooler in his demeanor. He’s a different kind of person. Each of them has their strengths but very different personalities.”

Clinton defeated former President George H.W. Bush by portraying him as aloof from the economic realities of most voters. Bush committed a damaging mistake when he appeared mesmerized by the grocery story checkout scanner.

Obama struggled to escape the elitist label during the presidential 2008 campaign. He gaffed in 2007 during an appearance at an Iowa farm when he asked: “Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?”

His hometown newspaper, The Chicago Tribute, poked him lightly for having more appeal to professional “wine-track” voters than working-class “beer-track” voters.

Obama stumbled again more than six months later at a fundraiser in San Francisco when he tried to explain anti-immigration sentiment in small Pennsylvania towns.

“It’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,” Obama said.

Advisers to rival Hillary Clinton, now Obama's secretary of State, milked the comment for weeks to argue that Obama had trouble relating to white working-class voters.

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, gained traction briefly by airing a television ad subtly mocking for bring “the biggest celebrity in the world” who refused to expand offshore drilling to reduce gas prices.

Four years later, Romney’s allies are trying to use gas prices to paint Obama as out of touch.

“Any time any American goes to the pump and it costs them $50, $60 or $70 to fill up — he knows the president is out of touch when he says he doesn’t want to build a pipeline,” said a Republican National Committee member close to the Romney campaign. “He’s out of touch on almost every issue that he’s touched.”

Danny Diaz, a GOP strategist who worked for McCain’s 2008 presidential bid, said Romney made that argument Tuesday.

“Gov. Romney is communicating that President Obama’s rhetoric is completely severed from the reality of his policies,” said Diaz. “While the President states he wants to increase employment, his policies punish job creators; while the President says he wants to pay down the debt, his policies have caused it to explode; and while the President claims our nation is more energy independent, his policies have resulted in gas prices skyrocketing.”

http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/220043-obama-and-romney-see-each-other-as-vulnerable-to-charges-of-elitism-

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« Reply #6479 on: Apr 5th, 2012, 09:28am »

Hollywood Reporter

'Heroes' Star Milo Ventimiglia, Andie MacDowell Wrap Filming on Thriller 'The Firstling'

The movie, which is wrapping up its shoot in Savannah, Ga., co-stars Rebecca DaCosta and Louis Gossett Jr.

6:45 PM PDT 4/4/2012
by Borys Kit

Milo Ventimiglia, Gabriel Macht and Andie MacDowell are wrapping up shooting on The Firstling, a ghost story movie directed by Peter Antonejevich.

The Firstling is pulling up its stakes after a shoot in Savannah, Ga. Rebecca DaCosta, and Louis Gossett Jr. co-star in the movie, which was written by Nissar Modi.

The movie tells of a pregnant woman who is afraid she'll lose her unborn child if she doesn’t avenge a supernatural entity.

Peter D. Graves (Killer Elite), David Jones (Dr. T & the Women) and Warren Ostergard (Freerunner) are producing under the TinRes Entertainment production banner.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/firstling-milo-ventimiglia-gabriel-macht-andie-macdowell-308335

Crystal
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