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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 15170 times)
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« Reply #6705 on: May 19th, 2012, 08:47am »

Scientific American

Millennia-old Microbes Found Alive in Deep Ocean Muck
By David Biello
May 18, 2012

A sparse community of microbes can persist for eons in the clay beneath the deep blue sea. When scientists drilled into the Pacific Ocean bottom and pulled up a long core of clay, they also pulled up microbes living on so little that it was hard for the scientists to tell if they were alive in the first place.

The microbes are still being precisely identified but they are not like the other deep-sea extremophiles that scientists have found everywhere from hydrothermal vents to more than a kilometer beneath some parts of the ocean floor. These microbes, like those closer to the surface, rely on oxygen to live—unlike other denizens of the deep sea muck that find the reactive element inimical to their lifestyle and were driven to the dark, secret places of the planet when photosynthetic organisms like plankton began to fill the atmosphere with oxygen more than 2 billion years ago.

The site where these microbes were found is beneath the North Pacific Gyre, a massive whirl of current north of Hawaii. Since there is hardly any land nearby, precious little dead plankton and other nutritious detritus falls to the seafloor—only 0.2 millimeters accumulates every thousand years—and what does mostly gets consumed by quicker-living microbes on the surface of the seafloor. But when scientists drilled a core during a cruise of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Knorr research vessel, they found roughly 1,000 cells of these bacteria and archaea living in extreme slow-motion per cubic centimeter’s worth of mud core from 20 meters below the bottom of the ocean.

That depth suggests these microbes have persisted for 86 million years and haven’t seen fresh food since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. To cope, these newly-found microbes use oxygen to respire—or convert food into energy and release the waste byproducts—10,000 times slower than microbes on the surface of the seafloor, leading the scientists who conducted the research, and published it in Science on May 18, to write that “these microbial communities may be living at the minimum energy flux needed for prokaryotic cells to subsist.”

That also suggests that these microbes might be thousands of years old—or even older—thanks to an extreme lifestyle of eating, breathing and building new cells only every few hundred years or more. In other words, live slow to die old.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2012/05/18/millennia-old-microbes-found-alive-in-deep-ocean-muck/

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« Reply #6706 on: May 19th, 2012, 08:58am »

Reuters

Bomb at Italian school kills teenager, wounds seven

By Elisa Forte and Daniele Mari
BRINDISI, Italy
Sat May 19, 2012 9:27am EDT

BRINDISI, Italy (Reuters) - A bomb exploded in front of a girls' school in southern Italy on Saturday, killing a 16-year-old girl and wounding seven others, suspicion quickly falling on the local Mafia.

The explosion, near the entrance of a school named after the wife of murdered anti-Mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, occurred as girls were arriving for the start of the school day, which in Italy includes Saturdays.

Authorities said at least two gas canisters appeared to have been placed in or near rubbish containers at the school, which local media said was located near the main court in Brindisi, a port city on the "heel" of the Italian peninsula.

The general director of the Perrino hospital in Brindisi, Paola Ciannamea, told local television that one girl was stable after surgery but in very serious condition, and at least six others were being treated for burns that were not life threatening.

"This is a tragedy," Mimmo Consales, the mayor of Brindisi, told SkyTG24 television.

There was no claim of responsibility and no indication of who had planted the bomb, but initial suspicions were directed at the local mafia, known as the United Sacred Crown.

Consales noted that the incident occurred just a few days before the 20th anniversary of the murder of Falcone and his wife, Francesca Morvillo, by a bomb in Sicily on May 23, 1992. An anti-Mafia march had been planned in Brindisi later in the day.

"You can understand the symbolism of this and what it all signifies," he said.

Twenty years ago the Sicilian Mafia bombed Milan, Florence and Rome, killing 10 people, in response to a crackdown on organized crime that had been spearheaded by Falcone and his fellow magistrate Paolo Borsellino, who was also assassinated in 1992.

SHATTERED GLASS

Television shots of the scene in Brindisi showed a cement wall blackened by fire next to the school's entrance gate.

Shattered glass and other debris covering the pavement on a sunny spring day.

Schools in the region were immediately closed and a group of investigators, including Italy's top anti-mafia prosecutor, were summoned to meet later on Saturday.

Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri said organized crime's involvement could not be ruled out, pointing out that the link to Falcone's wife, but cautioned that there were no firm indications.

"I prefer to be prudent, but this is a striking fact," she told SkyTG24.

Cancellieri announced plans several days ago to step up security around sensitive targets including official buildings after a series of threats against tax officials.

Italy's main tax collection agency, Equitalia, has been attacked with a series of small bombs as public anger mounts over the high taxes imposed to shore up public finances and combat the economic crisis.

The head of Ansaldo Nucleare, a nuclear engineering company owned by the defense technology group Finmeccanica, was shot in the leg in an attack claimed by an anarchist group, adding to concerns that extremist groups may try to exploit the public anger.

Prime Minister Mario Monti, who is at Camp David attending a Group of Eight summit, said his government was determined to prevent a return to the political violence of the past.


(Reporting by James Mackenzie in Rome, Emilio Parodi in Milan, and Daniel Flynn in Paris. Writing by Steve Scherer.; Editing by Tim Pearce/Maria Golovnina)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/19/us-italy-bomb-idUSBRE84I04K20120519

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« Reply #6707 on: May 19th, 2012, 09:02am »

.





Published on May 13, 2012 by PokeHQ

http://www.thepoke.co.uk

An auto-tuned hip-hop extravaganza starring Alistair Campbell, Charlotte Church, Hugh Grant, James Murdoch, Kelvin Mackenzie, Piers Morgan, Robert Jay, Rupert Murdoch, Sienna Miller, Sir Brian Leveson, Steve Coogan, Andy Coulson, Ian Hislop, Rebecca Brooks, JK Rowling and Max Mosley.

by Alex Vegas.

http://www.facebook.com/PokeHQ
http://twitter.com/#!/thepoke

Category:
Comedy

~

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« Reply #6708 on: May 20th, 2012, 08:40am »

Seattle Times

Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 3:43 AM

SpaceX rocket launch aborted in last half-second

A new private supply ship for the International Space Station remained stuck on the ground Saturday after rocket engine trouble led to a last-second abort of the historic flight.

By MARCIA DUNN
AP Aerospace Writer

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. —

A new private supply ship for the International Space Station remained stuck on the ground Saturday after rocket engine trouble led to a last-second abort of the historic flight.

All nine engines for the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket roared to life Saturday morning. But with a mere half-second remaining before liftoff, the onboard computers automatically shut everything down. So instead of blasting off on a delivery mission to the space station, the rocket stayed on its launch pad amid a plume of engine exhaust.

Even NASA's most seasoned launch commentator was taken off-guard.

"Three, two, one, zero and liftoff," announced commentator George Diller, his voice trailing as the rocket failed to budge. "We've had a cutoff. Liftoff did not occur."

SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said that high combustion chamber pressure in engine No. 5 was to blame. During an inspection later in the day, engineers discovered a faulty valve and worked into the evening to replace it.

Tuesday is the earliest that SpaceX can try again to send its cargo-laden Dragon capsule to the space station. The California-based company - formally known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp. - is targeting every few days for a launch attempt to save fuel in case of rendezvous problems at the space station. Wednesday also could be a launch option.

This was the first launch attempt by the several private U.S. companies hoping to take over the job of delivering cargo and eventually astronauts to the space station for NASA. Only governments have accomplished that to date: the United States, Russia, Europe and Japan.

NASA is looking to the private sector, in this post-shuttle era, to get American astronauts launching again from U.S. soil. SpaceX officials said that could happen in as few as three years, possibly four. Several other companies are in the running.

An estimated 1,000 SpaceX and NASA guests poured into the launching area in the wee hours of Saturday, hoping to see firsthand the start of this new commercial era. They left disappointed. The abort was especially disheartening given the perfect weather and the absence of any earlier countdown problems.

Shotwell was asked by a reporter whether she considered Saturday's abort a failure.

"This is not a failure," she said. "We aborted with purpose. It would be a failure if we were to have lifted off with an engine trending in this direction."

She added: "The software did what it was supposed to do" with the engine shutdown.

Everyone around town, at least, is rooting for a successful flight.

"Go SpaceX," read the sign outside Cape Canaveral City Hall. Until NASA's space shuttles retired last summer, the sign had urged on the launches of Discovery, Endeavour and, finally, Atlantis. Those ships are now relegated to museums.

Late last month, SpaceX conducted a test firing of the nine first-stage rocket engines at the pad. Each engine - including No. 5 - was "rock solid," Shotwell said.

The first flight of the Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, in June 2010, encountered similar last-second engine trouble, but there was enough time to fix the problem and fly the same day. SpaceX has just a single second each day to launch this time around because of the space station rendezvous.

Six months after the initial Falcon 9 flight, SpaceX launched another rocket with a Dragon capsule that reached orbit. It was the first time a private company put a spacecraft into orbit and then recovered it. The newest Dragon also is meant to splash down into the Pacific, returning space station experiments and equipment.

For Saturday's launch attempt, SpaceX's billionaire founder, Elon Musk, was in the SpaceX Mission Control in Hawthorne, Calif. He helped create PayPal and founded SpaceX 10 years ago. He also runs Tesla Motors, his electric car company.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2018240946_apussciprivatespace.html

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« Reply #6709 on: May 20th, 2012, 08:44am »

Reuters

Lockerbie bomber Megrahi has died in Libya: brother

By Hadeel Al Shalchi
Sun May 20, 2012 8:59am EDT

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - The former Libyan intelligence officer convicted of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people has died, his brother said on Sunday. He was 59.

Abdel Basset al-Megrahi died at home after a long battle with cancer. His health had deteriorated quickly overnight, his brother Abdulhakim told Reuters.

"He was surrounded by his family and died in his house," Abdulhakim said on Sunday.

Megrahi had been in and out of hospital for weeks and he was taken for an emergency blood transfusion in April.

He was held in a prison in the town of Greenock in western Scotland after he was tried and convicted for the bombing under Scottish law, although the trial was held in the Netherlands.

In November 2008, Megrahi's lawyers asked a court to free him on bail, saying he was suffering from advanced prostate cancer. He was later released from the Scottish prison on compassionate grounds and returned to Libya, a decision criticized by the United States.

Megrahi, who served as an intelligence agent during the rule of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, denied any role in both the bombing and suspected human rights abuses in his home country before Gaddafi's fall and death in a popular uprising last year.


(Additional reporting by Ali Shuaib; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/20/us-libya-megrahi-idUSBRE84J05H20120520

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« Reply #6710 on: May 20th, 2012, 08:47am »

Telegraph

Electricity bills set to rise to pay for wind farm subsidies

Household electricity bills will rise by as much as a quarter to pay for wind farms and other forms of renewable energy, according to a new report.

By Robert Mendick, Chief Reporter
8:00AM BST 20 May 2012

The study challenges the Government’s claims that energy bills will actually fall in the next eight years because of energy efficiency savings.

The Coalition is relying on the savings to offset the price increases caused by renewable energy subsidies. Those extra costs are added on to household bills in the form of consumer subsidies.

This week the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will publish its draft energy bill, setting out how it plans to reform the electricity market and reduce the cost to households.

DECC has insisted that energy bills will begin to fall from next year and will be reduced by seven per cent - or £94 - by 2020 because of new energy efficiency policies.

These include the Green Deal, which will provide loans to fund loft and wall insulation; the roll-out of 'smart’ meters to help control and monitor energy consumption; and the improvement in the energy efficiency of kettles and other appliances.

But a study of the Government’s own figures by the Renewable Energy Forum (REF), a specialist renewable energy consultancy, has accused DECC of deliberately misleading the public.

REF claims its analysis of the Government’s own figures shows that two-thirds of households, about 17 million in all, will be worse off - even if energy efficiency targets are met in full.

In a 54-page report published tomorrow [Monday], REF will conclude: “DECC has made unrealistic assumptions about the use of energy efficiency measures to offset the costs to households, but even on those optimistic assumptions 65 per cent of households will still be net losers.

“In fact there is every reason to suppose that the efficiency measures will not live up to these expectations and that costs have been understated.”

REF estimates that the UK’s climate change policies - which promote wind farms and other forms of renewable energy - will be responsible for 'major increases’ in the retail price of electricity and gas.

It estimates that electricity prices on domestic bills will rise by 27 per cent by 2020 and by 34 per cent on bills for medium-sized companies. Gas prices will rise by seven per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

The row over the cost of renewable energy - especially wind farms - has caused tensions in the Coalition with DECC run by first Chris Huhne and then Ed Davey, both of them Liberal Democrats.

Earlier this year, 101 backbench Tory MPs wrote to David Cameron demanding that the £400 million a year subsidies paid to the onshore wind turbine industry be “dramatically cut”. In all, REF estimates that £1.5 billion a year is paid out in subsidies for all forms of renewable energy - including on and offshore wind - and that figure will rise to £8 billion a year by 2020.

A DECC spokesman said obtaining a “diverse energy portfolio is crucial for our energy security and to shield our homes and businesses from the sort of price shocks that we’ve seen filter through into our energy bills as a result of rocketing global gas prices”.

The spokesman added: “We are going to revolutionise the energy efficiency of millions of homes and businesses across the nation through the Green Deal which will launch later this year.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/renewableenergy/9276895/Electricity-bills-set-to-rise-to-pay-for-wind-farm-subsidies.html

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« Reply #6711 on: May 20th, 2012, 08:56am »

Hollywood Reporter

God's Neighbors: Cannes Review
5:34 AM PDT 5/20/2012
by Todd McCarthy

Meni Yaesh's Critics' Week film follows three young men who take it upon themselves to police their Bat Yam neighborhood for transgressions against the letter of religious laws.

What looks at the outset to be a straightforward vigilante movie about a trio of hot-headed religious watchdogs in Israel turns into a worthy study of personal maturation and growth in God’s Neighbors. Shot in a punchy, nervous style in synch with its impulsive young characters, this impassioned low-budget production trades in tough guy behavior and rough street violence of a sort that doesn’t fit comfortably with usual international art house specifications. But the film’s raw power and controversial content make it a good festival item and will ignite strong reactions among Jewish and Israel-minded audiences.

A trio of twentyish skull-capped guys, Avi, Kobi and Yaniv, have taken it upon themselves to police their Bat Yam neighborhood for transgressions against the letter of religious laws. Handy with baseball bats and their fists, they’re particularly hot to go after Arabs who have the effrontery to play loud music and otherwise disrupt the Sabbath, but they’re also rough on more relaxed Jews who keep their stores open too late on Friday nights, don’t dress right and so on (the film’s Hebrew title can best be translated as The Supervisors or The Monitors).

While they pursue Torah studies seriously with a notably inspiring and charismatic rabbi, the boys aren’t exactly exemplars of conservative behavior, as they smoke weed regularly and are generally unruly, answering only to their own overbearingly physical interpretation of doing God’s will. Long sections of the film play like a religiously charged American buddy movie devoted to noisy, rambunctious scenes of young bloods getting high, horsing around, listening to music and trying to find alternative outlets for their raging hormones.

The arrival of an attractive, independent-minded woman, Miri, into Avi’s life causes the expected, and resented, disruption in the young men’s dynamic. Ari wrestles with his desires in predictable ways, but where God’s Neighbors feels fresh is in his portrayal of his intense religious struggle. In a convincing and involving manner, first-time writer-director Meni Yaesh presents Avi’s inner turmoil through the character’s painful internal debate, as the young man attempts to reconcile his interpretation of God’s commandments, his habitual and violent implementation of them and his feelings for Miri and their future.

The result causes a moving and entirely plausible growth of character, one spurred—of course, since this is in part an action movie—by a final round of bloody violence. But the final stretch gives the drama a heft and impressive perspective that are not necessarily evident up to that point.

Director Yaesh freely admits he grew up loving Van Damme and Chuck Norris action movies and there’s more than a trace of this visible in his in-your-face style; if he had come of age in the heyday of Golan & Globus, there can be little doubt he would have started his career with them. But instead, he’s both used genre tropes and gone beyond them, resulting in a scrappy, hard-hitting debut.

Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Critics’ Week)
Production: BiZiBi, Transfax, CNC, Israel Film Fund
Cast: Roy Assaf, Gal Friedman, Itzik Golan, Rotem Ziesman-Cohen
Director: Meni Yaesh
Screenwriter: Meni Yaesh
Producers: Jerome Bleitrach, Marek Rozenbaum
Director of photography: Shahak Paz
Production designer: Udi Tugendreich
Editor: Asaf Korman
Music: Shushan
102 minutes

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/gods-neighbors-cannes-festival-review-326968

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« Reply #6712 on: May 20th, 2012, 1:32pm »




"Re-enactors" by Miller Mobley



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« Reply #6713 on: May 21st, 2012, 08:15am »

New Zealand Herald

UFO reports skyrocket in North Island
11:37 AM Monday May 21, 2012

There have been an "unprecedented" number of UFO sightings reported in the North Island over the past two months, UFO watchers say.

And aliens may even have visited Northland in the past five weeks, with one man reporting seeing a UFO land in the region, Suzanne Hansen, director from Ufocus NZ research network said.

She said: "He's a very credible source. He saw an object that had landed and said it was definitely not an aircraft or like anything else he had seen.

"I've got 30 (UFO/UAP) reports on my desk at the moment from the upper North Island and Northland from the past couple of weeks that we're yet to process [on top of the many others] ... It's unprecedented."

Maungakaramea resident Charles Gillard reported seeing strange lights hovering above the Tangihua ranges just after 4am yesterday.

Mr Gillard said the white and blueish lights were definitely not a helicopter or plane and darted about at speed for several minutes before simply vanishing.

"I've never seen anything like it before, but it definitely wasn't somebody with a torch or vehicles as it was above the skyline, not on the hills," he said.

Inquiries could not find any helicopters or planes operating in the area at that time yesterday morning.

Ms Hansen said Mr Gillard's sighting was similar to others reported recently in Northland and Ufocus would be looking into all such reports made to its website www.ufocusnz.org.nz.

"Researchers we work with in Australia have reported the same things happening there with what we call a "UFO Flap" [an outbreak of UFO sightings] there as well," Ms Hansen said.

However, the NZ Skeptics (New Zealand Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) says UFO sightings can be easily explained, usually by natural phenomena.

NZ Skeptics spokeswoman Vicki Hyde said despite the "unprecedented" number of UFO sightings recently this was the first the public had heard of the situation.

"The problem with UFO sightings is that there are a such a huge number of possible explanations for them.

"Something like 80-90 per cent are people mistaking things like Venus for UFOs."

- APNZ

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10807316

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« Reply #6714 on: May 21st, 2012, 08:18am »

Reuters

Putin dominates new Russian government

By Gleb Bryanski and Douglas Busvine
MOSCOW | Mon May 21, 2012 7:34am EDT

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled a government dominated by loyalists on Monday, tightening his grip on the economy and limiting Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's ability to pursue his reform agenda.

Igor Shuvalov, a powerful Putin ally, kept his post as first deputy prime minister in overall charge of economic policy and Anton Siluanov, a career bureaucrat, remained finance minister.

Putin also consolidated his power over the security structures, with Anatoly Serdyukov staying on as defense minister, and kept faith with long-serving Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

"Work will be difficult, given the concrete situation in the world economy ... there are very many uncertain factors," Putin told a meeting of the new cabinet team in the Kremlin, where he sat at the head of the table with Medvedev on his right.

Medvedev, 46, named premier after Putin returned to the Kremlin on May 7, has pledged to launch pro-growth policies and a privatization drive to wean Russia's $1.7 trillion economy off its dependence on oil.

Even though the partners in Russia's ruling 'tandem' announced they would switch jobs as long ago as last September, the lengthy and secretive process of forming a government has raised concerns that it will be riven by factional conflict.

Putin's return to the Kremlin has been accompanied by the biggest protests of his 12-year rule against alleged fraud in the national elections, led by an emerging opposition that says its views - and those of millions of Russians who want political change - are being ignored by the country's leaders.

The government line-up brought in some new faces from the team of young market liberals that served in the Kremlin during Medvedev's four-year term as president.

Arkady Dvorkovich was named one of the six deputy premiers. Media reports said he would have responsibility for energy and industry policy, areas over which he had limited influence while serving as Medvedev's economic adviser.

The energy minister's job went to Alexander Novak, a former deputy finance minister, indicating that Putin's energy 'tsar' Igor Sechin would maintain control over Russia's strategic oil and gas sector despite leaving the government.

WHO'S IN CHARGE?

Putin, 59, extended his influence over economic policy by ensuring that the finance and economy portfolios were taken by placemen who identify with his credo of state-led economic development.

A pro-Putin economist, Andrei Belousov, was promoted to economy minister in a sign that Putin wants to take direct control of economic policy, traditionally the preserve of the prime minister.

The country's top banker German Gref, a former economy minister, said however that Putin was ready to heed the views of Russians and act to put the economy on a sustainable footing.

"The election campaign has shown that Putin is ready for a serious transformation - I know there is a lot of skepticism about that," Gref, who is chief executive of Sberbank, said before the government announcement.

Although latest figures show Russia's economy grew at a 4.9 percent rate in the first quarter, that has been pumped up by lavish pre-election spending that has driven up the oil price at which Russia's budget will balance in the future.

"The oil curse will get us sooner or later," added Gref. "The government has no option but to create a favorable climate for investment and growth."

PROXY BATTLEFIELD

Gref's bank is at the top of a list of state assets slated for privatization, but the sale of a 7.6 percent stake planned for last September has been repeatedly delayed.

Shuvalov recently vetoed a near-term sale due to poor market conditions, that have since deteriorated further, reducing the value of the stake to $4.3 billion.

Shuvalov stays despite media reports over his wife's lucrative financial dealings with Russia's billionaire oligarchs. He has admitted the deals but denied any impropriety.

The English-speaking lawyer is seen as one of the few officials who can mediate in the battles for power and influence between the market liberals and another faction of men with a background, like former KGB spy Putin, in the security services.

Sechin, the informal head of the siloviki - or men of power - leaves his post as deputy prime minister but is expected to keep broad control over the oil industry in the world's largest crude producer.

In his last act as prime minister, Putin nominated Sechin to the board of Russia's main state energy holding company, a position that would allow Sechin to wield huge influence even if he loses his government post.

Since Putin's election victory on March 4, Sechin has brokered three major offshore exploration deals involving state oil major Rosneft, sought to block the privatization of state oil pipeline monopoly Transneft and acted to reassert state control over the power sector.


(Writing by Douglas Busvine; Additional reporting by Melissa Akin; Editing by Timothy Heritage)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/21/us-russia-government-idUSBRE84K07Y20120521

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« Reply #6715 on: May 21st, 2012, 08:26am »

Defense News

NATO Signs $1.7B Global Hawk Contract
May. 21, 2012 - 06:27AM
By KATE BRANNEN

CHICAGO — At the end of the first day of the NATO Summit in Chicago, the transatlantic alliance signed a $1.7 billion contract with Northrop Grumman for five Global Hawk UAVs.

The Block 40 Global Hawks, which are unarmed reconnaissance UAVs, are part the Allied Ground Surveillance (AGS) system.

NATO first announced the purchase in February but officially closed the deal May 21. A NATO official predicted it would cost NATO another $2 billion to operate the aircraft during the next 20 years.

“These are five Global Hawk drones that provide the kind of surveillance capability that we saw in the Libya operation was so vital to the effective operation of our military,” U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder said at a press conference.

Although European air forces carried out the bulk of bombing missions in Libya last year, they relied heavily on drones provided by the United States to identify and hit targets during the campaign.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters that NATO had not discussed where the aircraft could be deployed.

Of the 28 NATO member countries, 13 are currently contributing to the acquisition of the aircraft. They are Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States.

Every NATO member is expected to participate in the long-term support of the program.

Northrop Grumman will be the prime contractor for NATO AGS and will build the Global Hawk air vehicle and its various payloads, including the ground surveillance radar. European industry will develop and deliver the system’s ground support stations.

Northrop Grumman officials, including CEO and President Wes Bush, joined NATO leaders and 28 defense ministers from NATO member countries for the signing in Chicago.

The main operating base for the AGS system will be at a NATO base in Sicily, where the U.S. Air Force bases Global Hawks and the U.S. Navy has the broad area maritime surveillance (BAMS) variant of the UAV.

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20120521/DEFREG02/305210001/NATO-Signs-1-7B-Global-Hawk-Contract?odyssey=tab

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« Reply #6716 on: May 21st, 2012, 08:33am »

Seattle Times

Originally published May 21, 2012 at 5:58 AM
Page modified May 21, 2012 at 5:59 AM

3 dead, 2 missing after crowded weekend on Everest

Three climbers who scaled Mount Everest died on their descent and two went missing during a crowded weekend on the Himalayan peak, raising concerns Monday about congested trails and poor conditions near the summit.

By BINAJ GURUBACHARYA
Associated Press

KATMANDU, Nepal —

Three climbers who scaled Mount Everest died on their descent and two went missing during a crowded weekend on the Himalayan peak, raising concerns Monday about congested trails and poor conditions near the summit.

An estimated 150 climbers tried to reach the top Friday and Saturday as they rushed to use a brief window of good weather in what has otherwise been a troubled season for climbing. Many of the climbers had been waiting at a staging camp for several days for their chance.

The three climbers who died Saturday were believed to have suffered exhaustion and altitude sickness, Nepali mountaineering official Gyanendra Shrestha told The Associated Press. Officials were still gathering details from descending climbers, he said.

The victims were identified as German doctor Eberhard Schaaf, Nepal-born Canadian Shriya Shah, and South Korean mountaineer Song Won-bin. The missing climbers are a Chinese national and his Nepalese Sherpa guide.

"There was a traffic jam on the mountain on Saturday. Climbers were still heading to the summit as late as 2:30 p.m. which is quite dangerous," Shrestha said.

Climbers normally are advised not to try for the summit after 11 a.m. The area above the last camp at South Col is nicknamed the "death zone" because of the steep icy slope, treacherous conditions and low oxygen level.

"With the traffic jam, climbers had a longer wait for their chance to go up the trail and spent too much time at higher altitude. Many of them are believed to be carrying a limited amount of oxygen, not anticipating the extra time spent," Shrestha said.

The climbing season normally runs from late March to the first week in June, and the Nepalese government places no limits on how many climbers can be on 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) mountain, the world's highest. The season's first clear conditions were on Friday and Saturday, but that window already was closing by Saturday afternoon with a windstorm at higher altitudes, Shrestha said.

Ang Tshering, an Everest expert and former president of Nepal Mountaineering Association, said the government should impose a system of climbing schedules so that scores of climbers are not trying to summit on the same day.

Tshering said the race to the summit on Saturday meant that climbers likely expended all their energy on the way up and had little in reserve for the way back down.

"That is one reason that some climbers collapse after they reach summit. The other thing is when they put too much efforts, when they are very tired it also causes the altitude sickness," he said.

The deadliest day on Everest was May 10, 1996, when eight people were killed. The main reason was said to be that climbers who started their ascents late in the day were caught in a snow storm that swept the mountain in the afternoon.

Some climbers and environmentalists have expressed concerns that climbing conditions on Everest are worsening each year, possibly due to climate change.

An unusually light snowfall this year has added to this season's danger, renowned Everest climber Conrad Anker said.

"Because there is little fresh snow, icy surfaces on the slopes make climbing more difficult and dangerous," Anker said, adding that "the snow acts as glue stopping rocks from falling on the climbers."

Well-known expedition organizer Russell Brice cited the mountain's precarious condition in his decision in early May to cancel this year's climb for more than 60 clients.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2018252623_apasnepaleverest.html

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« Reply #6717 on: May 22nd, 2012, 08:54am »

Seattle Times

Originally published May 21, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Page modified May 22, 2012 at 6:45 AM

Catholic groups turn to courts in contraceptive fight

Bishops resolve that Catholic institutions must present a united front after some organizations greeted an accommodation by the Obama administration positively.

By Seattle Times news services

In an effort to show a unified front in their campaign against the Obama administration's birth-control mandate, 43 Roman Catholic dioceses, schools, social-service agencies and other institutions filed lawsuits in 12 federal courts Monday challenging the rule that their employees receive coverage for contraception in their health-insurance policies.

The nation's Catholic bishops, unable to reverse the ruling by prevailing on the White House or Congress, have turned to the courts, as they warned they would.

The bishops say the requirement is an unprecedented attack on religious liberty because it compels Catholic employers to provide access to services that are contrary to their religious beliefs.

The mandate is part of the Obama administration's health-care overhaul, which the bishops say they otherwise support.

An advisory panel from the Institute of Medicine, which advises the federal government, last year recommended including birth control on the list of covered services, partly because it promotes maternal and child health by allowing women to space their pregnancies.

However, many leaders across faith traditions and political ideology argued the mandate's exception for religious groups was too narrow. The original rule generally allowed churches and other houses of worship to opt out, but kept the requirement in place for religiously affiliated nonprofits, including hospitals, colleges and charities.

The political furor caught the administration by surprise. In response, President Obama in February offered to soften the rule so insurers, instead of religious groups, would pay for birth control. However, the bishops and others have said the accommodation doesn't go far enough to protect religious freedom. An Obama administration official said the rule still was under discussion with religious leaders.

When some Catholic organizations broke with the bishops and greeted the accommodation positively, the bishops resolved that Catholic institutions must present a united front.

Among those filing suit are the archdioceses of New York, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis; the dioceses of Dallas, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Rockville Centre on Long Island and Springfield, Ill.; the University of Notre Dame and the Catholic University of America; and Our Sunday Visitor, a Catholic publication. All are being represented by the law firm Jones Day.

Defendants are the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury. At least 11 other Catholic and evangelical groups already had filed lawsuits, but those cases are pending.

The University of Notre Dame in February had praised Obama for pledging to accommodate religious groups and find a way to soften the rule. The Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, said the school since had decided to sue because "progress has not been encouraging" in talks with administration officials.

White House officials declined to comment Monday, instead providing Obama's comments when he announced his attempt at a compromise: "These employers will not have to pay for, or provide, contraceptive services. But women who work at these institutions will have access to free contraceptive services, just like other women, and they'll no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars a year that could go toward paying the rent or buying groceries."

Some legal experts said the suits could face trouble, mostly because the mandate would not take effect until August 2013 and the White House still is taking comments on the proposal.

"I think all these lawsuits are legally premature," said Ira Lupu, professor at the George Washington University School of Law. But if courts do hear any lawsuits, he added, it is difficult to predict whether the law would be found to limit the freedom of Catholic institutions.

"Both sides have very respectable sets of arguments," he said.

Lupu also noted that the Supreme Court next month could throw out the entire health-care law. In addition, presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney has said he would kill the mandate if he is elected president.

By most accounts, Obama's compromise likely would bring little change to Catholic institutions in Washington state. In February, for example, Gerald Huffman, vice president for human resources and university services at Seattle University, a Jesuit Catholic university, noted that two employee plans and student plans already include oral-contraceptive coverage "consistent with state law."

Elsewhere, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the president's accommodations are vague and insufficient and still would compel Catholic organizations to violate their consciences. "They sound like empty promises," she said.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said the suits reflect frustration with the administration and Congress.

"Time is running out, and our precious ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now," he said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood criticized the suits.

"Access to birth control is a critical health and economic concern for American women," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "It is unbelievable that in the year 2012 we have to fight for access to birth control. Yet this lawsuit would make it harder for millions of women to get birth control. Insurance companies should cover birth control just like any other preventive prescription, as the independent Institute of Medicine recommended."


Compiled from The New York Times, The Washington Post, Tribune Washington bureau, The Associated Press and Seattle Times archives

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/health/2018257858_contraception22.html

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« Reply #6718 on: May 22nd, 2012, 08:57am »

Reuters

Afghans back Chicago deal, warn West to keep promises

By Mirwais Harooni and Rob Taylor
KABUL | Tue May 22, 2012 9:10am EDT

KABUL (Reuters) - People in Afghanistan were surprisingly optimistic on Tuesday about NATO's plan to pull combat troops out of their war-ravaged nation by the end of 2014, but warned Western leaders to stick to aid and security promises.

A Chicago summit meeting of the 28-member bloc, attended also by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other world leaders, endorsed an exit strategy on Monday that calls for handing control of Afghanistan to its own security forces by the middle of next year.

But it left unanswered questions about how to prevent a slide into chaos and a Taliban resurgence after the pullout.

Despite the sense of combat fatigue in Chicago and frustration that nearly 11 years of military engagement had failed to defeat Taliban Islamists, Afghans were surprisingly upbeat. They said the agreement showed Western nations would not abandon their nation after a decade-long war and a massive aid and reconstruction effort.

"I don't think foreign nations will leave us as easily as they say. The international community has spent billions of dollars here now," said university student Tawab, speaking to Reuters at a park near a mosque in central Kabul.

"The conference has decided that some foreign forces will stay in Afghanistan, so it's like back-up support."

Housing prices in Kabul have jumped 15 percent since U.S. President Barack Obama, who declared on Monday that the 10-year war was "effectively over", visited Kabul to sign a long-term security deal with Karzai on May 2.

Donor nations have been negotiating agreements with Karzai's government committing to ongoing aid and reconstruction support, as well as government and agricultural advisers, for at least a decade beyond the two-year NATO drawdown ending in 2014.

Since a U.S-led coalition helped Afghan forces topple the Taliban government in late 2001, Afghanistan has been one of the world's largest aid recipients, with more than US$57 billion spent on development to help counter support for insurgents.

In volatile southern Helmand province, one of the most violent parts of the country and the scene of several major clashes between the Taliban and Western troops, villagers said their lives had improved.

AND NOW WE HAVE A HEALTH CLINIC

Ezatullah, a shopkeeper in the town of Marjah where NATO troops fought one of the bloodiest battles of the war, said a 35-km (22-mile) paved road connecting to the provincial capital Lashkar Gah had nearly been completed, cutting costs and travel time to prevent vital food supplies spoiling in the area's searing summer heat.

"And now we have a health clinic built three years ago which provides most services to people. But still people are facing problems, as it's not enough. There should be at least a clinic in every big village," he said.

Security had also improved since 15,000 U.S. and British surge troops ousted around 2,000 insurgents from the area, said Marjah resident Nisar Ahmad, draining support from the Taliban.

"Now this district is fully protected by Afghan Local Police. Almost all of our schools are open and boys and girls attend schools. But we still face a lack of electricity despite the billions of dollars spent," Ahmad said.

In the Arghandab district of neighboring Kandahar province - where U.S. troops suffered heavy casualties in 2010 - local resident Hajji Shah Mohammad Ahmadi said economic progress had been spurred by roads, schools and new health clinics.

And even in restive eastern provinces, where Western troops are still fighting to choke off insurgent supply routes across the mountainous Pakistan border in one of the last major offensives of the war, local people counted improvements.

Abdul Naser, from Chapa Dara district in Kunar, said where once there had been no roads, water canals, electricity, schools, clinics or security, now there was vehicle traffic, power generators, doctors and education.

"We got two clinics during the past months with female doctors. We have paved roads. But some projects were not well built and people still face some security threats," he said.

However, an April poll by the privately-run Tolo TV channel found just over 50 percent of Afghans though civil war would break out again after foreign troops withdrew, while 26 percent saw no change and 23 percent thought security would improve.

Still, property dealers in the capital Kabul - once convulsed by civil war but where cars have now replaced bicycles and some high-rise apartment buildings have sprung up - say business is thriving despite worries.

"People's morale and economic morale have gone up," said Mohammad Nader Faizyaar, the owner of the high-end Faisal Business Centre mall that retails everything from women's fashion accessories to furniture.

"People feel that the future of this country is stable and everyone can hopefully invest."

Sarwar Akbari, 38, a Kabul resident in the Wazir diplomatic district, said international backers had to now honor their promises not to abandon the country amid pressure on aid budgets, particularly in cash-strapped Europe. He also said they had to reach some kind of agreement with the Taliban.

"If they don't fulfill their promises, and if they don't stop neighboring countries from interfering in Afghanistan and reach a peace with the Taliban, then this conference and any others will be useless," he said.


(Additional reporting by Jack Kimball; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/22/us-nato-summit-afghanistan-idUSBRE84L0NQ20120522

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« Reply #6719 on: May 22nd, 2012, 09:15am »

...Sarwar Akbari, 38, a Kabul resident in the Wazir diplomatic district, said international backers had to now honor their promises not to abandon the country amid pressure on aid budgets, particularly in cash-strapped Europe. He also said they had to reach some kind of agreement with the Taliban...

So they want the troops off their ground, but we have to keep pouring money into them.

The Taliban will become the de-facto government withing two years. They already call the shots.

Even the Russians saw this and got out.

Why is the West so blind ? Surely not just ego.

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