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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 79142 times)
Swamprat
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« Reply #6570 on: Apr 23rd, 2012, 8:16pm »

I'm baaaack! Yawn...good night, Crystal! tongue
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« Reply #6571 on: Apr 24th, 2012, 08:15am »

on Apr 23rd, 2012, 8:16pm, Swamprat wrote:
I'm baaaack! Yawn...good night, Crystal! tongue


Yea! Missed you around here Swamprat.

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« Reply #6572 on: Apr 24th, 2012, 08:19am »

Washington Post

Pentagon establishes Defense Clandestine Service, new espionage unit

23 April 2012
By Greg Miller

The Pentagon is planning to ramp up its spying operations against high-priority targets such as Iran under an intelligence reorganization aimed at expanding on the military’s espionage efforts beyond war zones, a senior defense official said Monday.

The newly created Defense Clandestine Service would work closely with the CIA — pairing two organizations that have often seen each other as rivals — in an effort to bolster espionage operations overseas at a time when the missions of the agency and the military increasingly converge.

The plan, the official said, was developed in response to a classified study completed last year by the director of national intelligence that concluded that the military’s espionage efforts needed to be more focused on major targets beyond the tactical considerations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The new service will seek to “make sure officers are in the right locations to pursue those requirements,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the “realignment” of the military’s classified human espionage efforts.

The official declined to provide details on where such shifts might occur, but the nation’s most pressing intelligence priorities in recent years have included counter­terrorism, nonproliferation and ascendant powers such as China.

Creation of the new service also coincides with the appointment of a number of senior officials at the Pentagon who have extensive backgrounds in intelligence and firm opinions on where the military’s spying programs — often seen as lackluster by CIA insiders — have gone wrong.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, who signed off on the newly created service last week, served as CIA director at a time when the agency relied extensively on military hardware, including armed drones, in its fight against al-Qaeda.

Michael Vickers, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence and the main force behind the changes, is best known as one of the architects of the CIA’s program to arm Islamist militants to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan in the 1980s. He is also a former member of U.S. Special Operations forces.

The realignment is expected to affect several hundred military operatives who already work in spying assignments abroad, mostly as case officers for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which serves as the Pentagon’s main source of human intelligence and analysis.

The official said the new service is expected to grow “from several hundred to several more hundred” operatives in the coming years. Despite the potentially provocative name for the new service, the official played down concerns that the Pentagon was seeking to usurp the role of the CIA or its National Clandestine Service.

This “does not involve new manpower . . . does not involve new authorities,” the official said. Instead, the official said, the DIA is shifting its emphasis “as we look to come out of war zones and anticipate the requirements over the next several years.”

Congressional officials said they were seeking more details about the plan.

“My question is, why? What’s missing and what’s going on?” said a senior Senate aide who had been given a preliminary briefing on the new service.

In some respects, the broad outlines of the plan are reminiscent of Pentagon efforts under Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to move the military into areas of intelligence that had long been the domain of the CIA.

But a second congressional official, who also was not authorized to discuss the program publicly, said the coordination behind the new plan, in which the DIA’s program will be more closely modeled on its CIA counterpart, has eased some of those long-standing concerns.

“If this were an attempt of the type we saw during the Rumsfeld years to consolidate human intelligence to have a better bulwark against what the CIA is doing, that would be a concern,” the second congressional official said. “But I don’t think that’s what's going on.”

The plan was unveiled about a week after a senior U.S. Army officer with extensive experience in Special Operations and counter­insurgency fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan was nominated to serve as the next chief of the DIA.

While serving in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn published a harsh critique of intelligence operations in that country, criticizing collectors as being too focused on tactical threats and failing to understand the broader demographic and political context of the battlefield.

About 15 percent of the DIA’s case officers will be part of the Defense Clandestine Service, the defense official said. New, more clearly delineated career paths will give DIA case officers better opportunities to continue their espionage assignments abroad, he said.

The new service fits into a broader convergence trend. U.S. Special Operations forces are increasingly engaged in intelligence collection overseas and have collaborated with the CIA on missions including the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan and ongoing drone strikes in Yemen.

The blurring is also evident in the organizations’ upper ranks. Panetta previously served as CIA director, and that post is currently held by retired four-star Army Gen. David H. Petraeus.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/pentagon-creates-new-espionage-unit/2012/04/23/gIQA9R7DcT_story.html?hpid=z3

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« Reply #6573 on: Apr 24th, 2012, 08:27am »

Der Spiegel

04/24/2012
Egypt's Search for a Leader Plunges into Chaos
By Alexander Smoltczyk and Volkhard Windfuhr

Despite its victory in parliamentary elections, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has been weakened in the race to elect a successor to former President Hosni Mubarak, after its two most promising candidates were disqualified. Meanwhile ordinary Egyptians, who care more about making a living than about religion, are looking for a strong leader for the country.

The image of a smiling man with a gray beard hangs on every street corner. He could be mistaken for a member of a folk music group. But the man on the posters is actually Hazem Abu Ismail, and his message is plain: "Al-Islam huwa al-Hall" -- Islam is the solution.

Until recently Abu Ismail, a television imam, was the ultra-conservative Salafists' candidate for one of the most powerful offices in the Arab world, the Egyptian presidency.

But now his candidacy is finished. Even if Islam has an answer to many things, one question remains unanswered: How on earth could the mother of the deeply religious Abu Ismail, now long dead, have applied for a green card, or permission to live and work in the United States? And why did she even obtain US citizenship afterwards, a circumstance that now excludes her son from running in the presidential election at the end of May?

Under the country's election law, both parents of a candidate must be Egyptian. And although the Salafists respect God's law above all and have had little use for earthly elections until now, Abu Ismail's supporters took to the streets and raged against foreign "falsifications" and "conspiracies." Abu Ismail himself even threatened to trigger an "Islamic revolution."

But despite the fact that tens of thousands demonstrated on Tahrir Square for the first time in months on Friday, this revolution hasn't materialized yet. In fact, many Egyptians seem relieved that a politician is out of the running who believes that girls in puberty are old enough for marriage, that a woman should not come into physical contact with a man at work, and that Sharia law should completely replace current civil law.

Feeling of Relief

Some who voted for the Islamists in the parliamentary elections during the winter and helped them achieve victory are secretly breathing a sigh of relief. "Stoning for adultery? That isn't consistent with Egypt at all," says Egypt's best-known playwright, Lenin al-Ramli. "I believe that the Islamists have already passed the height of their popularity." Of course, writers are allowed to exaggerate.

Egypt's Supreme Presidential Election Commission disqualified 10 of the 23 candidates, including three of the most promising ones. They include, in addition to Abu Ismail, the millionaire and leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood Khairat el-Shater, as well as Omar Suleiman, Hosni Mubarak's former intelligence chief who was also vice president for a short time.

El-Shater's downfall was that he had a previous criminal conviction. Under Mubarak, he was imprisoned as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and, most recently, had been sentenced to seven years in prison for alleged money laundering. The election commission decided that this still disqualifies him today. El-Shater's attempt to contest the decision failed.

In Suleiman's case, the problem was that he lacked just 31 notarized statements of endorsements from a single province, from a total of 30,000 endorsements required to enter the race. He had become ensnared in an election law noose that the former regime had once constructed itself. It's no wonder that conspiracy theories are blossoming in Cairo. "Suleiman's candidacy was probably a tactical move by the military from the start," says Ahmed Osama, a well-connected liberal and human rights activist. "They wanted to make people at home and abroad believe that the Egyptians needed a strong man."

At any rate, the Egyptian presidential elections have declined in entertainment value since last week. With the forced exit of the strongest and most polarizing figures, the contest has turned into an ordinary drama.

'Unfounded Fears'

One of the potential beneficiaries lives in an urban villa on Tehran Square, surrounded by suitors and assistants. He can't conceal a certain satisfaction over the course of events. "I'm sleeping a little more now," says Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister and secretary-general of the Arab League.

Now that the three prominent candidates have been eliminated, the 75-year-old stands a good chance of reaching the runoff election in June, when he will presumably face Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a moderate, 60-year-old Islamist who left the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood after deciding to run for president. Aboul Futouh also enjoys the sympathy of some members of the Tahrir Square generation.

His country doesn't need demagogues and ideologues, says Moussa, but a "statesman who was granted the opportunity to gather experience" -- in other words, Moussa himself. He doesn't fear an Islamic revolution of the sort Abu Ismail has threatened to unleash. "Islam has always been an important component in Egypt, and that won't change, in principle. The rest are details."

Would those details include corporal punishment and a ban on alcohol like in Saudi Arabia? Some 100 members of parliament have just advocated passing new laws that would give authorities the power to cut off the hands and feet of convicted thieves in the future. "These are unfounded fears," says Moussa. "The majority of Egyptians don't want to jeopardize the achievements of the revolution."

Desire for a Strong Man

For the candidates, being viewed by the public as a strong man will be a key factor in their success. The fact that a figure like Suleiman, who disappeared from public view after Mubarak was overthrown, was able to come practically from nowhere to become one of the top candidates also shows how insecure voters are, a little more than a year after the revolution.

Besides, the Egyptians will be electing someone whose responsibilities are not even clear yet, because the country still lacks a new constitution. This prompted the ruling military council to demand that the constitution be completed before the elections. But this will be difficult, since the constitutional convention no longer exists. The body, established by the parliament, was recently disbanded after the Islamists had awarded themselves the majority in the convention.

In addition to coming under growing pressure in recent weeks from the old elites and the military, the Muslim Brotherhood has seen its aura as a party of social rebels gradually disappearing. Cairo's poor were undoubtedly offended by the disqualified candidate El-Shater's offhanded remark that his companies were worth "only 25 million Egyptian pounds" (about €3.1 million or $4.1 million).

What is more important, however, is that while the Muslim Brothers have the largest number of seats in parliament, they have no significant posts in the government and the administration. The ordinary people care very little about the differences between the legislative and the executive. This confronts the Muslim Brotherhood with the dilemma of being held responsible for unemployment, uncertainty and inflation, even though it has no power to do anything about these problems -- not yet, at least.

Inspired by the Turkish Example

This explains the Brotherhood's hasty decision to send its own candidate, El-Shater, into the race, even though it had consistently promised that it would not seek the presidency. The Muslim Brothers are determined to secure power while they still can.

For all its banner-waving and raging against "the enemies of the Islamic project," the Brotherhood has accepted the disqualification of its candidate in order to avoid a falling out with the military council. It fears an investigation of the parliamentary election for fraud, as the secular camp is demanding. Two ambassadors from Arab countries in Cairo, who preferred not to be identified, estimate that if there were new elections, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists would probably fall short of the 50 percent mark.

Now the Brotherhood has only its alternate candidate, Mohammed Morsy, the somewhat bland chairman of their Freedom and Justice Party. But because Egyptians tend to vote for individuals rather than parties, the renegade Aboul Fotouh is expected to capture a large share of the Islamic vote. A doctor and former student leader, he has been popular ever since he once picked a quarrel with then-President Anwar Sadat in a televised debate.

Aboul Fotouh believes that democratic principles are compatible with Islam and leans toward the example set by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turks have enjoyed an impressive economic boom under Erdogan, whereas the economic situation in Egypt one year after the revolution is unpromising.

'Egypt Needs a New Pharaoh'

In Imbaba, a poor district of Cairo, 43-year-old Aiman Kutb is casting Egyptian gods and kings like Anubis and Akhenaten in synthetic resin in his workshop, a shack in a narrow, unpaved alley. Outside, the muezzin leads the call to afternoon prayer. Kutb has had to let his 60 assistants go since the Chinese began supplying cheaper Nile gods and pyramids. "It already wasn't easy under Mubarak," says Kutb, "but the revolution was the last straw. When there are no tourists, nobody works here anymore."

more after the jump:
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,829189,00.html

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« Reply #6574 on: Apr 24th, 2012, 08:31am »

Deadline Hollywood

Movie Pirate Caught Filming At CinemaCon

By DAVID LIEBERMAN, Executive Editor
Tuesday April 24, 2012 @ 3:30am EDT
Tags: CinemaCon, Movie Piracy

Interestingly, CinemaCon executives tonight warned the audience that security personnel were using night-vision goggles and other technologies to nab potential movie pirates. It seems to have worked: CinemaCon Managing Director Mitch Nauhauser said one person was caught filming and turned over to local police.

http://www.deadline.com/2012/04/movie-pirate-caught-filming-at-cinemacon/

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« Reply #6575 on: Apr 24th, 2012, 08:39am »

Wired

April 24, 1184 B.C.: Trojan Horse Defeats State-of-the-Art Security
By Randy Alfred
April 24, 2012 | 6:30 am
Categories: Miscellaneous


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The story of the Trojan Horse, whether true or mythical, profoundly influenced Western civilization and inspired many artists.
Giovanni Tiepolo painted The Procession of the Trojan Horse into Troy in 1760. Courtesy National Gallery, London



1184 B.C.: During the Trojan War, the Greeks depart in ships, leaving behind a large wooden horse as a victory offering. It is hauled inside the walls of Troy, and Greek soldiers descend from the horse’s belly after dark to slay the guards and commence destruction of the city.

Whether this actually happened, and whether the traditional date given is true, archeological evidence has established that a Trojan War did occur in Asia Minor around 1200 B.C. You can debate how much of the accounts in Homer’s Iliad, Virgil’s Aeneid and elsewhere is legend. But it is in no way mere legend. The war and its lore are a firm part of Western culture and have enriched our language.

The war began when a prince of Troy eloped with the king of Sparta’s wife, Helen. Christopher Marlowe called her “the face that launch’d a thousand ships.” (Three millennia after the Trojan War, scientist and science-fiction author Isaac Asimov defined the milliHelen as the amount of feminine beauty sufficient to launch one ship. Generations of snickering male college students would rate women in various hundreds of milliHelens.)

Cassandra was a Trojan prophet who warned against accepting the gift. Today, her name means a person whose warnings are ignored. Another skeptic was Laocoon, who Virgil says first uttered, “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”

Then, of course, there’s the name Trojan horse for software that seems to perform one action but actually performs another, usually with malicious intentions. So, what cybersecurity lessons might we learn today from the first Trojan Horse?

•Persistence: The Greeks had besieged Troy for 10 years without result.

•Epistemology: Things are not always what they seem to be.

•Virgil, updated: Beware of strangers bearing gifts.

•Social engineering: The horse flattered the Trojans, who loved horses and were delighted with the gift.

•Engineering: The horse was on wheels, designed to make it easy for the Trojans to pull it inside their defenses.

•Ignoring warning messages: Cassandra and Laocoon were both disregarded.

•Delay: The Trojan Horse did not do its damage immediately, but waited for the opportune moment.

•Size: It only took a handful of Greeks to unleash a lot of damage.

•Negating security from inside: They killed the guards and opened the gates from within, rendering Troy’s strong walls useless. The Greek ships had come ashore again, and their army poured in.

•Scope of damage: Troy was burnt and destroyed.

•Permanent effects: Troy lost the war.

You, of course, could only lose your data, your hard drive, your thesis, your job, your money, your business, your identity or some awful combination of these.

http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2012/04/april-24-1184-b-c-trojan-horse-defeats-state-of-the-art-security/

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« Reply #6576 on: Apr 25th, 2012, 06:56am »

Seattle Times

Originally published April 24, 2012 at 6:29 PM
Page modified April 24, 2012 at 6:52 PM

Robot can be controlled by thought, Swiss show

On Tuesday, a team at Switzerland's Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne used only a simple head cap to record the brain signals of a man who lost control of his legs and fingers in a fall and is partially quadriplegic.

By FRANK JORDANS
The Associated Press

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Swiss scientists have demonstrated how a partially paralyzed person can control a robot by thought alone, a step they hope will one day allow immobile people to interact with their surroundings through so-called avatars.

On Tuesday, a team at Switzerland's Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne used only a simple head cap to record the brain signals of Mark-Andre Duc, who was at a hospital in the southern Swiss town of Sion 62 miles away.

Duc's thoughts — or rather, the electrical signals emitted by his brain when he imagined lifting his paralyzed fingers — were decoded almost instantly by a laptop at the hospital. The resulting instructions — left or right — were then transmitted to a foot-tall robot scooting around the Lausanne lab.

Rajesh Rao, an associate professor at the University of Washington, who has tested similar systems with able-bodied subjects, said the Lausanne team's research appeared to mark an advance in the field.

"Especially if the system can be used by the paraplegic person outside the laboratory," he said in an email.

Duc lost control of his legs and fingers in a fall and is partially quadriplegic. He said controlling the robot wasn't hard on a good day. "But when I'm in pain it becomes more difficult," he said.

Background noise caused by pain or even a wandering mind has emerged as a major challenge in the research of so-called brain-computer interfaces since they first began to be tested on humans more than a decade ago, said Jose Millan, who led the Swiss team.

To get around this problem, his team programmed the computer that decodes the signal so that it works in a similar way to the brain's subconscious. Once a command such as 'walk forward' has been sent, the computer will execute it until it receives a command to stop or the robot encounters an obstacle.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2018061559_mindcontrolrobot25.html

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« Reply #6577 on: Apr 25th, 2012, 07:01am »

Reuters

South Sudan accuses Khartoum of declaring war

By Yara Bayoumy and Michael Martina
JUBA/BEIJING | Wed Apr 25, 2012 7:52am EDT

South Sudan accused Sudan on Tuesday of mounting bombing raids on the newly independent country's oil-producing border region and President Salva Kiir said the latest hostilities amounted to a declaration of a war by his northern neighbor.

Weeks of cross-border fighting between the former civil war foes have threatened to escalate into a full blown conflict in a region that holds one of Africa's most significant oil reserves.

Although both Sudan, ruled by President Omar al-Bashir since 1989, and South Sudan, which became independent last July under a peace deal with Khartoum, can ill-afford a protracted war, both countries have fuelled tensions with bellicose rhetoric.

The United States, China and Britain urged both sides to return to the negotiating table.

"We strongly condemn Sudan's military incursion into South Sudan. Sudan must immediately halt the aerial and artillery bombardment in South Sudan by the Sudan armed forces," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Sudan's foreign minister said he was ready to discuss security issues with the South.

Philip Aguer, spokesman for South Sudan's army, or the SPLA, said Sudanese Antonov aircraft had flown up to 40 km (25 miles) into South Sudan's territory to bomb the settlements of Teschween, Panakuach and Roliaq on Monday night. Taban Deng Gai, governor of Unity State where the raids occurred, said bombs had hit Lalop market and Panakuach.

The raids came after the SPLA said Sudan bombed a market early on Monday near the oil town of Bentiu, capital of Unity state, and killed two civilians, an attack they said amounted to a declaration of war. The United Nations condemned the attack.

The Sudanese army denied carrying out air strikes.

CHINA URGEST RESTRAINT

Speaking in China, which has significant oil and business interests in both African countries, Kiir said Sudan had declared on his country.

"It (this visit) comes at a very critical moment for the Republic of South Sudan because our neighbor in Khartoum has declared war on the Sudan," he told Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Hu called for restraint, urging the two neighbors to settle their disputes peacefully.

In addition to halting nearly all oil production, the recent fighting has displaced some 35,0000 people in areas around Heglig, Talodi and other parts of South Kordofan, the U.N. Refugee Agency said, citing its local partners.

"The urgent task is to actively cooperate with the mediation efforts of the international community and halt armed conflict in the border areas," China's state television paraphrased Hu as telling Kiir.

South Sudan said on Friday it would withdrew from the disputed Heglig oilfield it seized earlier this month, bowing to demands from the U.N. Security Council.

The SPLA's withdrawal from the oilfield, which used to produce about half of Sudan's total oil output, reduced the risk of an all-out war but Juba has accused Khartoum of daily air bombardments on its territories since then.

"We have not declared war but the SPLA is on maximum alert because if they attack they will not (catch) the SPLA off guard, Aguer told reporters in Juba.

"If they don't stop bombardment, if they don't stop the incursion into our territories, I assure you the SPLA is capable of retaking all of these areas that they are occupying by force," he said.

SUDAN READY TO TALK

South Sudan became independent last year, breaking up what was Africa's largest country under a 2005 peace agreement that ended two decades of civil war.

But the two territories have yet to settle a long list of disputes including the position of their shared border, the ownership of critical territories and how much the landlocked South should pay in oil transit fees to Sudan.

The disputes have already halted nearly all oil production, choking the two countries' largely oil-dependent economies.

For China, the standoff shows how its economic expansion abroad has at times forced Beijing to deal with distant quarrels it would like to avoid.

A South Sudanese official, deputy chief of protocol Gum Bol Noah, said China had agreed to provide technical assistance on an alternative oil pipeline to Kenya, but would wait until the situation was calmer.

Juba has said it wants to build a pipeline within one year to end its dependency on Sudan's oil transit and export facilities, but experts say the project is not viable without significant new oil discoveries.

Bashir has ruled out a return to negotiations with Juba, saying the South's government only understands "the language of guns".

But Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti said Khartoum was ready to negotiate with the South on "security issues".

"I'm now ready to talk, but on the security issues," Karti told reporters in Addis Ababa after meeting officials from the African Union, who have urged both sides to return to talks.

South Sudan Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said Kiir's visit to China was intended to improve relations that were strained after Juba expelled the head of a China-led oil consortium it accused of helping Sudan to "steal" southern oil.

"The relations we have been having with them (China), with Khartoum on the other side, have not been clear," he told reporters in Juba.

"There must be some sort of relationship where China can play a positive role, even in this war. You see it is like a case of a husband with two wives," he said referring to China's relationship with both Sudans.


(Additional reporting by Hereward Holland in Bentiu, South Sudan, Aaron Maasho in Addis Ababa, Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Jeff Mason aboard Air Force One; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Giles Elgood)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/25/us-sudan-south-conflict-idUSBRE83O0I720120425

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« Reply #6578 on: Apr 25th, 2012, 07:05am »

Washington Post

Confidants: Secret Service agents contend misbehavior on trips not unprecedented

By Carol D. Leonnig and David Nakamura
24 April 2012

Some Secret Service employees accused of misconduct in the Colombian prostitution scandal are privately contending that their conduct didn’t warrant dismissal because senior managers tolerated similar behavior during official trips, according to people familiar with the employees’ thinking.

Several of the men who agreed to resign under pressure last week are also considering reversing their decisions and fighting to keep their jobs, said the people knowledgeable about the case.

The prospect of Secret Service agents sharing embarrassing tales about rank-and-file employees and superiors partying to the hilt could bring more anguish to an agency reeling from scandal.

Those close to the accused employees said that in an effort to fight for their jobs they could opt to divulge details of how colleagues spent some of their downtime on presidential trips — drinking heavily, visiting strip clubs and cavorting with women for hire.

“Of course it has happened before” said one agent not implicated in the matter, remarking on the Secret Service’s history of occasionally licentious partying. “This is not the first time. It really only blew up in this case because the [U.S. Embassy] was alerted.”

In a statement Tuesday, Assistant Director Paul S. Morrissey said the service “is committed to conducting a full, thorough and fair investigation in this matter, and will not hesitate to take appropriate action should any additional information come to light.”

President Obama, visiting the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Tuesday, faced questions from late-night host Jimmy Fallon about the quality of the president’s protectors. Obama stressed that the actions of a few should not overshadow the dedication of the agency.

“The Secret Service, these guys are incredible,” Obama said, according to a press pool report of his visit. “They protect me, they protect our girls. A couple of knuckleheads shouldn’t detract from what they do. What they were thinking, I don’t know. That’s why they’re not there anymore.”

Twelve Secret Service employees and 11 military service members have been implicated in the misconduct ahead of Obama’s trip this month to Cartagena, Colombia, for an economic summit. The men are accused of heavy drinking, visits to strip clubs and payments to prostitutes.

Last week, the agency moved to oust six of the service’s employees, including two supervisors, and cleared a seventh of serious misconduct. On Tuesday, it made decisions on the other five, saying that two more had agreed to resign, two would retain their service employment but face demotion, and another would be recommended for dismissal but could work for other federal agencies.

Lawrence Berger, attorney for several employees who were recommended for removal, declined to comment on his clients’ cases.

As the investigation continues, differing accounts have emerged about the men’s alleged behavior on the night of April 11 and morning of April 12. Congressional officials briefed on the investigation have said some of the men argued that they did not know the women were prostitutes when they brought them back to the Hotel Caribe, where they were lodging, not far from the Hilton where Obama was scheduled to stay.

In an internal employee-only briefing Tuesday, Secret Service security officials said that not all of the men may have had sexual encounters with prostitutes, according to a person familiar with the briefing. But the officials said that the employees implicated in Cartagena violated policy simply by soliciting prostitutes and negotiating prices for services, whether they received the services or not. In Colombia, prostitution is legal, but hotel guests are often asked to pay a fee if an additional guest joins them overnight.

The people familiar with the accused employees said some of them have said there was no sexual activity because the men were so drunk that they fell asleep immediately after bringing the women to their rooms.

Agents not involved in the Colombia trip, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss matters publicly, said the events in Cartagena may be embarrassing, but they are not without precedent. They pointed to a 2009 visit to Buenos Aires by former President Bill Clinton, whose protective detail included agents and uniformed officers. During that trip, the agents said, members of the detail went out for a late night of partying at strip clubs.

“You take a bunch of guys out of the country and have a lot of women showering them with attention, bad things are bound to happen,” one agent said.

The scandal has been a deep blow to morale among current and former agents, who feel tarred by the behavior of the relatively small group of men, said James Huse Jr. , a former assistant director. He called the alleged misconduct “an egregious failure on the part of those people involved.”

One former agent disputed the suggestion that agents and officers accused of misdeeds in Cartagena risked impairing their abilities to perform their assignments after Obama arrived two days later. “Some guys could have a good time Wednesday night, and Friday morning they would be on their post, shaved and ready to go,” said this person, who emphasized that he does not condone paying prostitutes for sex.

Huse said he is particularly dumbfounded that the men partied so openly during an era when smartphones and social media can so easily spread details of misbehavior. “We live in different age that makes the behavior of these people more impossible to comprehend,” he said. “What were they thinking?”


Staff writer Justin Jouvenal and research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/confidants-secret-service-agents-contend-misbehavior-on-trips-not-unprecedented/2012/04/24/gIQAJ5hZfT_story.html?hpid=z1

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« Reply #6579 on: Apr 25th, 2012, 07:15am »

Wired

10 Angry Robots You Shouldn’t Let Inside Your Home
By Christina Bonnington
April 25, 2012 | 6:30 am
Categories: R&D and Inventions


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The Raging Scotsman
A group of tech-minded teenagers from northern California’s Piedmont High School donned purple kilts to show their school spirit with their equally spirited purple robot, The Raging Scotsman.(Piedmont High's mascot is the Highlander.)



Some robots play soccer. Others just want a hug. But at Robogames 2012 last weekend, all eyes were on combat robots. Better known as combots, these hulking masses of metal and rubber battle to the death, vying for gold medals in boxing-style weight classes.

Robogames is an annual competition that pits robots head to head in more than 50 different events. There are foot races, soccer and hockey matches, maze-mastering challenges, and even a robot version of autocross.

It’s sort of like the robot version of the Olympics, but the focal point of Robogames, held at the San Mateo Fairgrounds in California, is its combat arena. Inside a 40-square-foot, Lexan-enclosed battlefield, combots weighing as much as 220 pounds duke it out while spectators scream for blood -- or dismembered robot parts? -- on the sidelines.

"There is definitely something visceral and addicting about the combat robots," Simone Davalos, the organizer of Robogames, told Wired. "Combat is the gateway drug that gets kids into designing and building for other events, and I'm incredibly happy when we can inspire people in that way."

In case it isn’t clear enough already, these aren’t the kind of robots you take home to vacuum your floors. No, the 10 combots we feature here should be best enjoyed from the safety of your computer chair. Enjoy the photos!

gallery after the jump:
http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/04/robogames-2012-gallery/

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« Reply #6580 on: Apr 25th, 2012, 07:19am »

.










Published on Apr 21, 2012 by tempusmaster

Featured on http://www.robots-dreams.com - COMBOTS, the battling, spinning, sometimes fire breathing,
robots that attempt to smash each other into oblivion, started the preliminary rounds during the first day of RoboGames 2012.

~

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« Reply #6581 on: Apr 26th, 2012, 07:42am »

Washington Post

White House approves broader Yemen drone campaign
By Greg Miller
Published: April 25

The United States has begun launching drone strikes against suspected al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen under new authority approved by President Obama that allows the CIA and the military to fire even when the identity of those who could be killed is not known, U.S. officials said.

The policy shift marks a significant expansion of the clandestine drone war against an al-Qaeda affiliate that has seized large ­pieces of territory in Yemen and is linked to a series of terrorist plots against the United States.

U.S. officials said that Obama approved the use of “signature” strikes this month and that the killing of an al-Qaeda operative near the border of Yemen’s Marib province this week was among the first attacks carried out under the new authority.

The decision to give the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) greater leeway is almost certain to escalate a drone campaign that has accelerated significantly this year, with at least nine strikes in under four months. The number is about equal to the sum of airstrikes all last year.

The expanded authority will allow the CIA and JSOC to fire on targets based solely on their intelligence “signatures” — patterns of behavior that are detected through signals intercepts, human sources and aerial surveillance, and that indicate the presence of an important operative or a plot against U.S. interests.

Until now, the administration had allowed strikes only against known terrorist leaders who appear on secret CIA and JSOC target lists and whose location can be confirmed.

Moving beyond those rules of engagement raises substantial risks for the Obama administration, which has sought to avoid being drawn into a fight between insurgents and Yemen’s central government.

Congressional officials have expressed concern that using signature strikes would raise the likelihood of killing militants who are not involved in plots against the United States, angering Yemeni tribes and potentially creating a new crop of al-Qaeda recruits.

Critics have also challenged the legal grounds for expanding the drone campaign in Yemen. In an opinion piece published in The Washington Post on Sunday, Bruce Ackerman, a law professor at Yale University, argued that war measures adopted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were not aimed at al-Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate and don’t provide Obama “with authority to respond to these threats without seeking further congressional consent.”

The Post reported last week that the CIA was seeking authority to expand the drone campaign in Yemen. The approval of that enhanced authority was first reported Wednesday on the Wall Street Journal’s Web site.

CIA and White House officials declined to comment.

Administration officials stressed that U.S. airstrikes in Yemen will still be under tighter restrictions than they have been in Pakistan. CIA drones flying over Pakistan’s tribal belt are allowed to strike groups of armed militants traveling by truck toward the war in Afghanistan, for example, even when there is no indication of the presence of al-Qaeda operatives or a high-value terrorist.

In Yemen, by contrast, signature strikes will only be allowed when there is clear indication of the presence of an al-Qaeda leader or of plotting against targets in the United States or Americans overseas. In recent months, U.S. spy agencies have collected intelligence indicating plots against American diplomats or U.S. special operations troops who are working alongside Yemeni counter-terrorism units.

But much of the expertise that the CIA and JSOC will employ in Yemen is likely to draw heavily on the agency’s experience in Pakistan. There, officials said, the CIA has become so proficient at monitoring militant groups that it can tell when an al-Qaeda leader is present at a compound through chatter on signals intercepts, security precautions taken before the dignitary’s arrival, as well as the number and behavior of al-Qaeda security personnel around the perimeter of the site.

The target of this week’s strike was an alleged al-Qaeda operative, Mohammed Saeed al Umda, who is thought to have trained at a camp in Afghanistan before the U.S. invasion in 2001. Yemeni officials described Umda, reportedly also known as Ghareeb al Taizi, as a commander of military operations for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.

But Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen expert at Princeton University, has questioned whether Umda was a high-ranking figure in the group as well as the wisdom of the expanded drone operations.

“Body bags are not a good barometer for success in a war like this,” Johnsen wrote on his blog, responding to reports that the CIA was seeking to use signature strikes. “I would argue that U.S. missile strike[s] are actually one of the major — not the only, but a major — factor in AQAP’s growing strength.

AQAP has significantly expanded in numbers, strength and territory since one of its top leaders, the U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed in a CIA drone strike last year. White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan described AQAP as “very, very dangerous” in a speech at New York police headquarters last week, according to an account by CNN.

AQAP has more than 1,000 members in Yemen and “close connections” to al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan, Brennan said, according to CNN. “We are very concerned about AQAP. It’s the most active operational franchise.”

AQAP has been tied to terrorist plots including the 2010 attempt to mail parcels packed with explosives to addresses in Chicago and the attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009.

The U.S. military has carried out airstrikes using drones as well as conventional aircraft and ship-based missiles for several years. The CIA joined the hunt last year when it opened a secret drone base at an undisclosed location on the Arabian Peninsula.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/white-house-approves-broader-yemen-drone-campaign/2012/04/25/gIQA82U6hT_story.html

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« Reply #6582 on: Apr 26th, 2012, 07:47am »

The Daily Caller


Rural kids, parents angry about Labor Dept. rule banning farm chores

By Patrick Richardson
1:31 AM 04/25/2012

A proposal from the Obama administration to prevent children from doing farm chores has drawn plenty of criticism from rural-district members of Congress. But now it’s attracting barbs from farm kids themselves.

The Department of Labor is poised to put the finishing touches on a rule that would apply child-labor laws to children working on family farms, prohibiting them from performing a list of jobs on their own families’ land.

Under the rules, children under 18 could no longer work “in the storing, marketing and transporting of farm product raw materials.”

“Prohibited places of employment,” a Department press release read, “would include country grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions.”

The new regulations, first proposed August 31 by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, would also revoke the government’s approval of safety training and certification taught by independent groups like 4-H and FFA, replacing them instead with a 90-hour federal government training course.

Rossie Blinson, a 21-year-old college student from Buis Creek, N.C., told The Daily Caller that the federal government’s plan will do far more harm than good.

“The main concern I have is that it would prevent kids from doing 4-H and FFA projects if they’re not at their parents’ house,” said Blinson.

“I started showing sheep when I was four years old. I started with cattle around 8. It’s been very important. I learned a lot of responsibility being a farm kid.”

In Kansas, Cherokee County Farm Bureau president Jeff Clark was out in the field — literally on a tractor — when TheDC reached him. He said if Solis’s regulations are implemented, farming families’ labor losses from their children will only be part of the problem.

“What would be more of a blow,” he said, “is not teaching our kids the values of working on a farm.”

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the average age of the American farmer is now over 50.

“Losing that work-ethic — it’s so hard to pick this up later in life,” Clark said. “There’s other ways to learn how to farm, but it’s so hard. You can learn so much more working on the farm when you’re 12, 13, 14 years old.”

John Weber, 19, understands this. The Minneapolis native grew up in suburbia and learned the livestock business working summers on his relatives’ farm.

He’s now a college Agriculture major.

“I started working on my grandparent’s and uncle’s farms for a couple of weeks in the summer when I was 12,” Weber told TheDC. “I started spending full summers there when I was 13.”

“The work ethic is a huge part of it. It gave me a lot of direction and opportunity in my life. If they do this it will prevent a lot of interest in agriculture. It’s harder to get a 16 year-old interested in farming than a 12 year old.”

Weber is also a small businessman. In high school, he said, he took out a loan and bought a few steers to raise for income. “Under these regulations,” he explained, “I wouldn’t be allowed to do that.”

In February the Labor Department seemingly backed away from what many had called an unrealistic reach into farmers’ families, reopening the public comment period on a section of the regulations designed to give parents an exemption for their own children.

But U.S. farmers’ largest trade group is unimpressed.

“American Farm Bureau does not view that as a victory,” said Kristi Boswell, a labor specialist with the American Farm Bureau Federation. “It’s a misconception that they have backed off on the parental exemption.”

Boswell chafed at the government’s rationale for bringing farms strictly into line with child-labor laws.

“They have said the number of injuries are higher for children than in non-ag industries,” she said. But everyone in agriculture, Boswell insisted, “makes sure youth work in tasks that are age-appropriate.”

The safety training requirements strike many in agriculture as particularly strange, given an injury rate among young people that is already falling rapidly.

According to a United States Department of Agriculture study, farm accidents among youth fell nearly 40 percent between 2001 and 2009, to 7.2 injuries per 1,000 farms.

Clark said the regulations are vague and meddlesome.

“It’s so far-reaching,” he exclaimed, “kids would be prohibited from working on anything ‘power take-off’ driven, and anything with a work-height over six feet — which would include the tractor I’m on now.”

The way the regulations are currently written, he added, would prohibit children under 16 from using battery powered screwdrivers, since their motors, like those of a tractor, are defined as “power take-off driven.”

And jobs that could “inflict pain on an animal” would also be off-limits for kids. But “inflicting pain,” Clark explained, is left undefined: If it included something like putting a halter on a steer, 4-H and FFA animal shows would be a thing of the past.

In a letter to The Department of Labor in December, Montana Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg complained that the animal provision would also mean young people couldn’t “see veterinary medicine in practice … including a veterinarian’s own children accompanying him or her to a farm or ranch.”

Boswell told TheDC that the new farming regulations could be finalized as early as August. She claimed farmers could soon find The Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division inspectors on their land, citing them for violations.

“In the last three years that division has grown 30 to 40 percent,” Boswell said. Some Farm Bureau members, she added, have had inspectors on their land checking on conditions for migrant workers, only to be cited for allowing their own children to perform chores that the Labor Department didn’t think were age-appropriate.

It’s something Kansas Republican Senator Jerry Moran believes simply shouldn’t happen.

During a March 14 hearing, Moran blasted Hilda Solis for getting between rural parents and their children.

“The consequences of the things that you put in your regulations lack common sense,” Moran said.

“And in my view, if the federal government can regulate the kind of relationship between parents and their children on their own family’s farm, there is almost nothing off-limits in which we see the federal government intruding in a way of life.”

The Department of Labor did not respond to repeated requests for comment.


http://dailycaller.com/2012/04/25/rural-kids-parents-angry-about-labor-dept-rule-banning-farm-chores/

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« Reply #6583 on: Apr 26th, 2012, 07:52am »

Reuters

Mubarak's PM back in Egypt election race

By Tom Pfeiffer and Marwa Awad
Thu Apr 26, 2012 8:23am EDT

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's election committee announced on Thursday that Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister could run for president after all, only two days after it had disqualified him, stoking confusion before next month's vote to replace the disgraced ex-president.

Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force chief, had been ruled out under a law passed by the Islamist-led parliament stripping political rights from top Mubarak-era figures.

Shafiq appealed and the committee changed tack, drawing a rebuke from the Muslim Brotherhood which dominates parliament and championed the law.

"After listening to Shafiq's appeal, the committee decided to halt the decision to exclude him from the presidential race," Farouk Soltan, the head of the election committee, told a news conference called to unveil the final list of 13 contenders.

Chronic confusion over who can run for president underlines the fragility of a democratic transition in the Arab world's most populous country and raises questions over the military's willingness to give up power after the formal handover in July.

Adding further uncertainty, Soltan said the Supreme Constitutional Court would review the law that would have ejected Shafiq, and suggested that the presidential contest could be jeopardized if the court upheld the law.

"The committee will continue its procedures until the election process ends unless the relevant state authorities decide to halt the election," he said, when asked about public concerns about a possible vote delay.

Shafiq is a strong contender because of his links to the ruling generals and could appeal to some Egyptians who see a man with military experience as their best hope for an end to the political turmoil since Mubarak's overthrow

ANGERING ISLAMISTS

His re-entry could split the anti-Islamist vote, making it a tougher race for Amr Moussa, a liberal who was head of the Arab League, as well as a former foreign minister under Mubarak. Ministers were not among those targeted under the new law.

It will also anger Islamists and pro-democracy groups who fear Shafiq's candidacy is a ploy by old regime figures who want to restore the tightly-controlled politics of the Mubarak era.

The Brotherhood and other groups have called for a demonstration on Friday called "Saving the Revolution", which is expected to focus anger at the army and those like Shafiq viewed as trying revive the political fortunes of Mubarak's allies.

Mahmoud Ghozlan, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, said the election committee's job was to apply the law and that its decision to restore Shafiq had damaged its credibility.

"Its behavior is clearly characterized by confusion: today no, tomorrow, yes, and the truth is this shakes its status and its position as a neutral committee," Ghozlan told Reuters. "It has a law and it is obliged to apply it and it is not its business to examine whether or not it is constitutional."

Soltan defended the committee's neutrality.

"The committee confirms it is not against, or in confrontation with, anyone who has been excluded," he said.

The vote is set for May 23 and 24, with a run-off scheduled in June for the top two candidates. No one is expected to win more than 50 percent of the votes to win in the first round.

Some opinion polls have put Moussa in the lead, although that was in late March. Several candidates have emerged since then and some have been disqualified, including Mubarak's former spy chief, as well as the first-choice Brotherhood candidate.

Other front-runners include the Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi, who had been held in reserve, and Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, an ex-Brotherhood member who is trying to project a broader appeal.

Shafiq said in February he would run for president because he had the experience to maintain good ties with the generals and ensure a smooth handover to civilian rule.

The 71-year-old, who was civil aviation minister for a decade, said he can bridge the divisions in Egypt, which has been led by army officers since King Farouk's overthrow in 1952.

A popular Salafi sheikh was also barred last week from the vote and remaining Islamist contenders, including the Brotherhood's Mursi, are wooing his supporters.

The voting intentions of Salafis, ultra-conservative Muslims whose main party came second behind the Brotherhood's party in the parliamentary vote, appeared divided. Their votes could prove crucial in determining if an Islamist wins and who it is.

A religious body whose decisions are respected by many Salafis and other Islamists endorsed Mursi on Wednesday.

"The Religious Authority for Rights and Reform announces its full support for Mohamed Mursi and appeals to all national and Islamic forces to announce their support for him as well to unite the word, strengthen the revolution's march and to achieve the renaissance project," it said.

But the main Salafi al-Nour party, which has said it may back a moderate Islamist candidate, accused the religious group of jumping the gun.

"I consider this announcement of its decision in this timing and in this way is a departure from the consensus initiative adopted by the Salafi call and is going ahead of the efforts to agree on one Islamist candidate," said Mohamed Nour spokesman of al-Nour in a statement.

Another leading Salafi group has yet to pronounce, but has been meeting leading candidates in recent days.


(Additional reporting by Marwa Awad and Tom Perry; Writing by Tom Pfeiffer; Editing by Edmund Blair and Alistair Lyon)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/26/us-egypt-election-candidates-idUSBRE83P0JY20120426

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« Reply #6584 on: Apr 26th, 2012, 08:00am »

Scientific American

The 4th U.S. Case of Mad Cow Disease: Should You Be Concerned?

By Philip Yam
April 25, 2012

On April 24, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported the fourth confirmed case of mad cow disease in the U.S., the first since 2006. In an official statement, the department’s chief veterinary officer John Clifford said that the animal (a dairy cow from central California), “was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food supply or human health.” That’s good news: it means that the USDA protection system—banning cattle that cannot walk on their own and testing them for disease—worked. But this latest discovery also suggests that a new case will appear every few years and that a few such cows may have entered the food system in the past.

What’s interesting about this latest cow case is not so much that the animal had bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the medical name for mad cow disease, but the type of BSE it had. Biochemical tests on its brain tissue showed that the cow had an “atypical” variety of BSE—that is, the disease did not come from tainted feed, which triggered the U.K. epidemic in the late 1980s and led to deaths from the human version of the sickness, known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). Most nations, including the U.S., have instituted regulations that limit the odds of cattle eating contaminated feed, an approach that has succeeded in containing the classic form of BSE.

Instead, the Californian cow had the “sporadic” form, which arises not because of contaminated feed but because of other, unknown reasons. Humans also suffer from sporadic forms of this brain-wasting ailment, which is caused by malformed proteins called prions. And despite decades of work trying to find environmental and genetic triggers for it, scientists have come up empty. Part of the reason lies in the rarity of this random form of prion disease: it hits about one in a million people—mostly in their later years.

No one knows the prevalence rate of sporadic BSE—there just isn’t enough data. The USDA’s targeted surveillance program tests roughly 40,000 cows per year. But to determine if sporadic BSE exceeds the human rate of one per million, researchers would need to conduct tests on three million randomly selected older cattle, according to a 2006 analysis by researchers led by Paul Brown, a longtime prion disease expert from the National Institutes of Health.

But one in a million is a reasonable assumption to make for cows if sporadic prion disease is truly random. So let’s work the numbers. According to the USDA’s livestock slaughter summary report (pdf) of April 2012, 34.1 million cattle were slaughtered last year, and 8.7 percent were dairy cows (which typically end up as ground beef rather than as steaks). According to the paper by Brown and his colleagues, about 10 percent of sporadic human cases occur in middle-aged individuals whose cattle-equivalent age is about seven to 13 years, when dairy cows typically face slaughter. (In contrast, beef cattle are usually killed before they reach two years old.) So that means about 0.3 sporadic cases of BSE (or 34.1 million x 0.087 x 0.10, divided by one million) can be expected to occur each year, or one every three to four years.

That’s a very low rate. And even if a couple of slaughtered dairy cows with sporadic BSE slipped into our food supply over the past 10 years, the risk of contracting the human form of the illness is extraordinarily low. At the height of the European mad cow epidemic, when millions of people unwittingly ate risky beef, only 222 became infected and developed vCJD since surveillance began in 1990. (Three others got sick via blood transfusions from asymptomatic donors.) A theorized second wave of human cases, based on genetic profiles, has not materialized—and at this point, given that so much time has passed, probably never will.

If sporadic BSE has been with us for decades, then cows with the illness probably entered the food system in the past (especially before the U.S. implemented more stringent rules in 2003). They did not cause any known problems for human brain health. That’s even more reason to think that the latest case doesn’t mark some sort of silent BSE time bomb. Reactions such as a South Korean retailer suspending the sales of U.S. beef there are overblown.

In fact, we should expect to discover a sporadic BSE case every few years. Not finding them would mean the U.S. surveillance program needs to be tightened. A watchful eye on our herds is important, because the behavior of prion diseases is notoriously difficult to predict, especially if the prions jump species and establish new strains. Then, all bets are off.


http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2012/04/25/the-fourth-u-s-case-of-mad-cow-disease-should-you-be-concerned/

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