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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 72487 times)
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« Reply #6720 on: May 22nd, 2012, 09:17am »

Wired

Leaked Memo: Afghan ‘Burn Pit’ Could Wreck Troops’ Hearts, Lungs
By Spencer Ackerman
May 22, 2012 | 5:00 am
Categories: Af/Pak

For years, U.S. government agencies have told the public, veterans and Congress that they couldn’t draw any connections between the so-called “burn pits” disposing of trash at the military’s biggest bases and veterans’ respiratory or cardiopulmonary problems. But a 2011 Army memo obtained by Danger Room flat-out stated that the burn pit at one of Afghanistan’s largest bases poses “long-term adverse health conditions” to troops breathing the air there.

The unclassified memo (.jpg) http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/dangerroom/2012/05/KSCN0007a.jpg, dated April 15, 2011, stated that high concentrations of dust and burned waste present at Bagram Airfield for most of the war are likely to impact veterans’ health for the rest of their lives. “The long term health risk” from breathing in Bagram’s particulate-rich air include “reduced lung function or exacerbated chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, atherosclerosis, or other cardiopulmonary diseases.” Service members may not necessarily “acquire adverse long term pulmonary or heart conditions,” but “the risk for such is increased.”

The cause of the health hazards are given the anodyne names Particulate Matter 10 and Particulate Matter 2.5, a reference to the size in micrometers of the particles’ diameter. Service personnel deployed to Bagram know them by more colloquial names: dust, trash and even feces — all of which are incinerated in “a burn pit” on the base, the memo says, as has been standard practice in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade.

Accordingly, the health risks were not limited to troops serving at Bagram in 2011, the memo states. The health hazards are an assessment of “air samples taken over approximately the last eight years” at the base.

The memo’s findings contradict years of U.S. military assurances that the burn pits are no big deal. An Army memo from 2008 about the burn pit at Iraq’s giant Balad air base, titled, “Just The Facts,” found “no significant short- or long-term health risks and no elevated cancer risks are likely among personnel” (.pdf). A 2004 fact sheet from the Pentagon’s deployment health library — and still available on its website — informed troops that the high particulate matter in the air at Bagram “should not cause any long-term health effects.” More recently, in October 2010, a Pentagon epidemiological study found “for nearly all health outcomes measured, the incidence for those health outcomes studied among personnel assigned to locations with documented burn pits and who had returned from deployment, was either lower than, or about the same as, those who had never deployed” (.pdf).

Over the years, thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have experienced respiratory and cardiopulmonary problems that they associate with their service. Some have sued military contractors for exposing them to unsafe conditions. For months, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) has urged the military to create a database of vets suffering neurological or respiratory afflictions, a move that’s winding through the legislative process. But the military has argued it doesn’t have sufficient evidence to associate environmental conditions on the battlefield with long-term health risks — and it argued that months after this memo is dated.

“As recently as April, in correspondence with the Defense Department and in discussions with my staff, the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs both continued to maintain that research has not shown any long-term health consequences due to burn pits,” Akin tells Danger Room. “They also maintained that remaining burn pits in Afghanistan were away from military populations to reduce exposure. It is disturbing to discover that at least at Bagram the military concluded that burn pits posed a serious health risk.”

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has collected “hundreds” of anecdotes from vets complaining of health problems connected to serving near burn pits. “It’s good to see someone in the military is acknowledging there are going to be long-term problems with burn pits, but it’s disturbing that this memo is more than a year old and it doesn’t seem like the military has done anything about it,” says Tom Tarantino, IAVA’s deputy policy director, who deployed to Iraq in 2005 as an Army captain. “I lived next to a burn pit for six months at Abu Ghraib. You can’t tell me that was OK. That was pretty nasty. While I was there everyone was hacking up weird shit.”

Any visitor to the sprawling Bagram airfield knows the burn pit — if not by sight, then by smell. It’s an acrid, smoldering barbecue of trash, from busted furniture to human waste, usually manned by Afghan employees who cover their noses and mouths with medical breathing masks. Plumes of aerosolized refuse emerge from what troops refer to as “The Shit Pit,” mingle with Parwan Province’s already dust-heavy air, and sweep over the base. In February, that was where soldiers at the nearby Parwan detention facility accidentally incinerated the Koran.

At the time of the memo’s issuance, it noted that the affected population on the base contemporaneously was “40,000 Service Members and contractors.” Hundreds of thousands have cycled through the giant base since the U.S. seized it in 2001. Bagram is a major transit and logistics hub for the Afghanistan war, and one of the first bases the U.S. took and continuously operated during the war. Millions more have served in Iraq and Afghanistan near similar burn pits.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, studies conducted on the effects of breathing in Particulate Matter 10 and 2.5 have determined “a significant association between exposure to fine particles and premature mortality.” The Army memo reports that Bagram’s air had twice the amount of Particulate Matter 10 than the federal National Ambient Air Quality Standard, and more than three times the amount of Particulate Matter 2.5 as the standard.

Burn pits remain in use across Afghanistan. And although a study by the Institute of Medicine and sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs found last October that there is insufficient data to correlate those pits with health risks, troops’ cardiovascular problems are clearly on the rise: There were 91,013 cases reported in 2010, up sharply from 65,520 in 2001. A 2010 study found half of a small sample of soldiers who struggled to run two miles had undiagnosed bronchiolitis. Hundreds of troops have sued the pits’ contractor operators after experiencing chest pains, asthma and migraines. For years, the U.S. government has pled ignorance about the causes of those veterans’ ailments. And unless the military formally acknowledges that the burn pits pose a long-term health risk, it will be difficult for veterans to receive long-term health care for associated respiratory and cardiopulminary ailments from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“The acknowledgement that air-sampling data is now indicating that burn pits may pose a risk of chronic illness to our servicemen and women validates the need for the national burn pit registry that I have proposed,” Akin says. Tarantino backs him up: “We don’t want another Agent Orange scenario, where it takes 40 years for the military to admit the stuff was bad and then has to spend all this effort tracking down affected servicemembers.”

The U.S. Army and the NATO military command in charge of the Afghanistan war did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Even casual visitors to Bagram know that the air is a menace. Within days of my most recent reporting trip there, in August 2010, I developed a disgusting, productive cough that kept me from sleeping comfortably. Airmen and soldiers joked with me about catching “Bagram Lung.”

But for at least a year, the U.S. military has known that “Bagram Lung” won’t stay at Bagram. There’s a significant chance that it will plague a generation of Afghanistan veterans for the rest of their lives.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/05/bagram-health-risk/

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« Reply #6721 on: May 22nd, 2012, 09:44am »

Deadline Hollywood

Philippe Mora Pulls Strings On Australia-Set Sidney Nolan Puppet Pic
By THE DEADLINE TEAM
Monday May 21, 2012 @ 8:24pm PDT
Tags: Philippe Mora, When We Were Modern

Freelance journalist Don Groves is a Deadline contributor, based in Sydney

After laboring for years to make a live-action film centered on a ménage a trois involving famous Australian painter Sidney Nolan, his wife and mistress, Philippe Mora is taking an innovative approach by shooting the film using puppets. The Los Angeles-based filmmaker has started production on When We Were Modern, the saga of Nolan (seen in his self-portrait here) and his lover Sunday Reed, who was married to the surrealist artist’s patron John Reed. Clayton Watson (The Matrix Reloaded, 33 Postcards) will voice Nolan’s character, and Mora is casting the roles of John and Sunday. Mora’s Hard Drive Pictures is producing and Arizona-based Needle & Associates will handle worldwide sales.

In 2004-05 Mora had Alec Baldwin lined up to play John Reed and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Sunday for the live-action version, but the Australian funding bodies rejected the project. The film will utilize a combination of hand puppets, stop motion and conventional animation, with the last act in 3D, supervised by 3D cinematographer Dave Gregory. Mora, who knew the Reeds as a child, says: “Personally I loved John and Sunday, and Sweeney Reed, their adopted son, was my best friend as a kid. My parents helped John and Sunday set up the Museum of Modern Art of Australia. This Nolan-Reed ménage is an important story that must be told honestly, no holds barred. It’s a great Australian epic of love and modernism. We are using puppets done in the style of the painters involved.”

This is Mora’s second project revolving around a romantic triangle. In early 2013, he plans to start shooting in Australia The Surrealist, a 3D movie about an imaginary threesome between Salvador Dalí, his tempestuous wife Gala and the Mona Lisa. Alan Cumming will play the Spanish artist with Judy Davis as Gala. Some believe Mona was actually a man, so Mora is toying with the idea of casting an actress to play a bloke impersonating a woman, a la Victor/Victoria, or an actor playing a woman. The $US20 million film is a co-production between Australia’s Column Pictures (in which Mora is partnered with Charles Waterstreet and Fred Bestall), Canada’s Arrow Entertainment (which is also sales agent) and Germany’s Peter Kreutz.

http://www.deadline.com/2012/05/philippe-mora-pulls-the-strings-on-sidney-nolan-puppet-feature-set-in-australia/#more-276247

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« Reply #6722 on: May 22nd, 2012, 09:47am »

on May 22nd, 2012, 09:15am, HAL9000 wrote:
...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.

HAL


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There's a saying, "You can't fix stupid". And "He Who Gets Dressed In The Dark" said thanks for the money yesterday in Chicago. rolleyes

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« Reply #6723 on: May 23rd, 2012, 08:24am »

Seattle Times

Originally published Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 6:14 PM

Flight diverted, woman removed after note raises fears of bomb

After the woman handed a flight attendant a note saying something was hidden in her body, the crew feared a terror scenario and notified authorities. U.S. fighter jets were scrambled, and the plane made an emergency landing in Bangor, Maine, where the woman was arrested.

By Tribune Washington Bureau and The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The crowded US Airways flight from Paris to Charlotte, N.C., had just reached the northeastern tip of Canada when one passenger, a French citizen who was born in Cameroon, handed a flight attendant a cryptic note that said she had something hidden inside her body, raising fears of a terror scenario that security officials had warned about.

Alarmed that the woman could be carrying a surgically implanted bomb, the crew notified authorities. U.S. fighter jets were scrambled, and the pilot was told to make an emergency landing in Bangor, Maine.

State and federal agents met the plane when it landed, and the woman was arrested.

An examination by two doctors aboard the plane found that the passenger had no scars or incisions, said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who was briefed by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) chief John Pistole.

The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI warned airlines last year that terrorists may try to surgically implant bombs inside the bodies of passengers.

"We have seen intelligence identifying surgically implanted bombs as a threat to air travel," said Collins, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee.

U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who was briefed on the matter, said the woman was traveling alone without any checked baggage and intended to stay in the U.S. for 10 days.

The passenger flight, which took off from Paris early Tuesday with 179 passengers and nine crew members, crossed the northern Atlantic and was scheduled to fly down the East Coast of the United States to its final destination at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

But once the crew alerted the TSA of "a passenger who exhibited suspicious behavior" on board, the pilot was told to change course, head west into Maine and land at the Bangor airport, said Sterling Payne, of the TSA.

A pair of F-15 fighter jets launched from Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, Mass., said John Cornelio, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD. The jets met the airliner, US Airways Flight 787, and escorted the plane through U.S. airspace.

The Boeing 767 was about 40 minutes from Bangor when local officials were alerted. After landing, it taxied to a remote part of the airport where law-enforcement officials removed the passenger, said Tony Caruso, acting airport manager.

Passengers were advised to keep the shades down during a movie and didn't realize fighter jets had been dispatched, said Stuart Frankel, of Baltimore. Also, there were a couple of calls on the overhead speakers for doctors, but that didn't seem unusual, he said.

Eventually, the pilot advised that the jet needed to land for fuel in Maine.

"We saw lots of police and federal customs people take a woman off the plane in handcuffs," Frankel said. "People were amazed at what was going on. We didn't know what was happening until we landed."

Several passengers said they'd noticed the woman because of her slight stature and big eyelashes. They said she had attracted attention by walking up and down the aisle throughout the flight.

William Milam from Richmond, Va., said he'd spoken French with the woman and helped her put her luggage into an overhead bin.

After the woman was removed, passengers were informed that they'd have to leave while the jet was checked for explosives, Milam said. "This is like, 'Wow,' " he said. "I'm thinking drugs. And they're thinking explosives."

The passengers were kept in a secure area before being allowed back onto the jet, which departed 3 ½ hours later for Charlotte, N.C.

The TSA issued a statement saying the passenger exhibited suspicious behavior warranting the unscheduled stop.

"Out of an abundance of caution, the flight was diverted to (Bangor) where it was met by law enforcement," said Payne, of the TSA.

The Bangor airport is accustomed to dealing with diverted flights.

It's the first large U.S. airport for incoming European flights and the last U.S. airport for outgoing flights, with uncluttered skies and one of the longest runways on the East Coast. Aircraft use the airport when there are mechanical problems, medical emergencies or unruly passengers.

Home to a Maine Air National Guard unit, the airport also serves as a refueling hub for military aircraft transporting personnel and cargo to and from Europe and the Middle East.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2018263675_flightdiverted23.html

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« Reply #6724 on: May 23rd, 2012, 08:41am »

Wired

May 23, 1985: Selling Stealth Secrets to the Reds Comes at a High Price
By Tony Long
May 23, 2012 | 6:30 am
Categories: 20th century, Warfare and Military


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1985: Aerospace engineer Thomas Patrick Cavanagh is sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of trying to sell secrets of the stealth bomber to the Soviet Union.

Cavanaugh was arrested at a hotel in Commerce, California, in December 1984, by FBI agents posing as Russian spies. For 25 grand, Cavanagh was preparing to hand over the technology that made the bomber undetectable to most radars.

During his trial, the FBI described Cavanagh, who worked for Northrop, as “debt-ridden,” then accused him of being “willing to take $25,000 in cash for technology that cost us billions to develop.”

Cavanagh was remorseful and apologized for his actions, which he called “desperate and disgraceful.” District Judge Matthew Byrne Jr. agreed, apparently, sentencing Cavanagh to life.

The cloaking technology was later used in both the bomber and fighter versions of the stealth aircraft. The fighter plane saw action several years later during the first Gulf War.

http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2012/05/may-23-1985-selling-stealth-secrets-to-the-reds-comes-at-a-high-price/

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« Reply #6725 on: May 23rd, 2012, 08:46am »

Reuters

Exclusive: Eurozone tells members to make contingencies for "Grexit"

By Jan Strupczewski and Claire Davenport
BRUSSELS | Wed May 23, 2012 9:30am EDT

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone officials have told members of the currency area to prepare contingency plans in case Greece decides to quit the bloc, an eventuality which Germany's central bank said would be "manageable".

Three officials told Reuters that the instruction was agreed on Monday by a teleconference of the Eurogroup Working Group (EWG) - experts who work on behalf of the bloc's finance ministers.

"The EWG agreed that each euro zone country should prepare a contingency plan, individually, for the potential consequences of a Greek exit from the euro," said one euro zone official familiar with what was discussed.

The news comes at a highly sensitive time, just hours before EU leaders gather to try to breathe life into their struggling economies at a summit over dinner on Wednesday.

Although minds will be focused by the prospect of Greece exiting the currency area, which has earned the monicker "Grexit" and is something policymakers say they want to avoid, disagreements over a plan for mutual bond issuance and other measures to alleviate two years of debt turmoil have already been laid bare.

In its monthly report, Germany's Bundesbank said the situation in Greece was "extremely worrying" and it was jeopardizing any further financial aid by threatening not to implement reforms agreed as part of its two bailouts.

It said a euro exit would pose "considerable but manageable" challenges for its European partners, raising pressure on Athens to keep its painful economic reforms on track.

Greek officials have said that without outside funds, the country will run out of money within two months.

For the first time in more than two years of debt-crisis meetings, the leaders of France and Germany have not huddled beforehand to agree positions, marking a significant shift in the Franco-German axis which has traditionally driven European policymaking.

Instead, new French President Francois Hollande met Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in Paris to discuss policy, before the pair travel to Brussels for the 1800 GMT summit.

Despite fears Greeks could open the exit door if they vote for anti-bailout parties at a June 17 election, Spain, where the economy is in recession and the banking system is in need of restructuring, is at the frontline of the crisis, with concerns growing that it too could need bailing out.

After meeting Hollande, Rajoy said he had no intention of seeking outside aid for Spain's banks.

Hollande's election victory has significantly changed the terms of the debate in Europe, with his call for greater emphasis on growth rather than debt-cutting now a rallying cry for other leaders.

That has set up a showdown with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who supports growth but whose primary objective is budget austerity and structural reform.

At his first EU summit, Hollande has chosen to make a stand on euro bonds - the idea of metalizing euro zone debt - despite consistent German opposition to an idea that has been hotly debated for more than two years.

He will have support from Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, among others. But Merkel shows no sign of dropping her objections to the proposal, which she has said can only be discussed once there is much closer fiscal union in Europe.

The Netherlands, Finland and some smaller euro zone member states support her.

"Introducing euro bonds is the equivalent of ringing the bell for a happy hour so the inebriated can postpone their hangover indefinitely," one EU diplomat said.

NO MAJOR DECISIONS

No decisions will be made at Wednesday's summit, which is intended to promote ideas on jobs and growth ahead of another meeting at the end of June, but it is clear the debate will be intense, not just over euro bonds but over how to rescue European banks and whether to give more time to struggling euro zone countries to meet their budget deficit goals.

Officials tried to play down any prospect of a rift.

"This shouldn't be a tense discussion because it's a broad debate about propositions that are on the table. We are not there to negotiate or take decisions," a French presidential adviser said.

"Germany today is not firmly against euro bonds forever, and that's what makes a discussion possible. What is the time frame and what (budget) commitments would we require, that's what the discussion will be based on."

Having rallied on Tuesday, European stocks dropped 1.6 percent as investors priced in a lack of dramatic policy intervention. Spanish and Italian borrowing costs rose in turn.

A German two-year debt auction gave a stark illustration of how money is dashing for safe havens. Investors snapped up the 4.5 billion euros of paper on offer even though it came with a zero coupon - offering no return at all.

As well as exploring ways of resolving the sovereign debt problems that have torn the economies of Greece, Portugal and Ireland apart, the leaders will assess how to stabilize their banking systems.

Spain is a particular concern, with a number of its banks laden with bad debts from a property boom that turned to bust and still has some way to go before it touches bottom.

One proposal on the table is for the euro zone's rescue funds to be allowed to recapitalize banks directly, rather than having to lend to countries for on-lending to the banks.

But that is another idea with which Germany is uncomfortable, even though Merkel said on Tuesday a way should be found to dismantle banks across borders, a possible nod to a pan-euro-zone bank restructuring scheme.

With the euro zone registering no growth in the first quarter of the year and threatening to slip back into recession, the formal summit agenda is jobs and growth, with policymakers touting three ideas they hope will provide near-term stimulus:

- 'Project bonds' backed by the EU budget to finance infrastructure projects alongside private sector investment.

- Doubling the paid-in capital of the European Investment Bank, the EU's co-financing arm, to a little over 20 billion euros.

- Redirecting structural funds which tend to flow to poorer countries, to other areas where it might reap more immediate growth rewards.

Even if all three proposals were to be activated quickly economists and analysts say they will not provide a sufficient shot in the arm to the euro zone and wider EU economy.

"The hard truth is that there are no magic solutions to solving this crisis. We will all have to keep our spending in check, pay off our debts and swiftly introduce healthy reforms. This is what will kickstart growth," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.


(Additional reporting by Luke Baker in Brussels, Julien Toyer in Madrid and Catherine Bremer in Paris, writing by Mike Peacock; editing by Anna Willard)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/23/us-eurozone-greece-idUSBRE84M0P420120523

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« Reply #6726 on: May 23rd, 2012, 08:51am »

PR.com

Open Minds Production Launches New Webseries Spacing Out!
Exploring Space, Ufos and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life

Spacing Out! a weekly webseries airs every Friday on http://www.openminds.tv/spacingout/

Tempe, AZ, May 23, 2012

Open Minds Production, LLC, a multi-media company with a mission to investigate and report evidence of extraterrestrial, UFO and other phenomena has launched a new weekly webseries entitled Spacing Out! The thirty-minute webseries explores UFOs, space, the search for extraterrestrial life, and other mysteries of the universe.

The show is hosted by Jason McClellan and Maureen Elsberry, features current news and exclusive content, including interviews with experts and enthusiasts alike. Viewer-submitted content is an element of the show, which includes stories of personal UFO sightings, UFO/space-related artwork, and more. Spacing Out! will also feature highlighted UFO cases from the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON).

Jason and Maureen are immersed every day in the world of UFOs, space exploration, and extraterrestrial life as team members at Open Minds. They share a passion for these topics, as well as a passion for presenting objective information about these topics to the public on a comprehendible level.

The show is uploaded to YouTube and www.OpenMinds.tv/spacingout every Friday and will soon be available on other streaming video platforms. Spacing Out! is also available as a podcast on itunes or via blogtalkradio.com/spacingout.

About Open Minds:

Open Minds was formed in 2008 in Tempe, Arizona, and is comprised of a team of UFO researchers, investigative journalists and media professionals with decades of experience. Their mission is to investigate and present evidence of extraterrestrial, UFO and other phenomena to a global audience. Open Minds is composed of Open Minds Magazine, Open Minds Radio, the International UFO Congress and an online UFO news site http://www.openminds.tv.

Contact Information:

Open Minds Production
Maureen Elsberry
480-302-2147
Contact
www.openminds.tv


http://www.pr.com/press-release/414761

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« Reply #6727 on: May 24th, 2012, 08:34am »

Washington Post

24 May 2012

Secret Service scandal: Did agency cut corners in rush to handle embarrassing incident?

By Carol D. Leonnig

Federal investigators are looking into allegations that the Secret Service deviated from normal polygraphing methods in the wake of a Cartagena prostitution scandal — including claims that polygraphy experts inside the service were uncomfortable with the deviations.

Senior Secret Service managers are said to have ordered the unusual methods in a rush to take swift action and put the humiliating episode behind the storied law enforcement agency. But now the inspector general for the Service’s parent agency — the Department of Homeland Security — is probing whether such variations and rushing could have led to flawed conclusions and unfair punishments for some men implicated in the scandal, according to two individuals briefed on the probe.

The public disclosure last month that a dozen Secret Service agents and officers had gone out for a night of heavy drinking while on a presidential business trip to Colombia and returned to their hotel rooms with prostitutes raised questions about the agency’s culture, and whether Director Mark Sullivan would keep his job. As President Obama faced a stream of questions about his bodyguards rather than his international economic summit in Colombia, Sullivan assured the White House and Congress he would move rapidly to investigate and root out the problem agents.

Some individual agents whom the Secret Service identified as bringing women to their Cartagena hotel rooms the night of April 11 were subjected to multiple polygraphs, a departure from past practice, according to those briefed on the case.

The Secret Service also questioned some employees in significant detail about their sexual activities on the Colombian trip. In a typical misconduct investigation, however, the Secret Service uses a more general “national security” polygraph test that seeks to assess an employee’s truthfulness and whether their actions posed a potential risk to national security.

The sources said that some agents implicated in the Cartagena prostitution scandal were pressured to resign almost immediately after being shipped out of Colombia on April 13 — but prior to being given polygraph examinations. Some were separately put under significant duress during extended polygraph sessions, conditions that could lead to faulty or inconclusive results, the individuals said.

A spokesperson for acting Inspector General Charles K. Edwards declined to comment on the details of the probe, and whether it has interviewed any members of the Secret Service’s polygraphing unit.

Edwards did confirm in testimony before the Senate Wednesday, however, that he has opened a separate probe to interview the 12 employees implicated in the scandal. He indicated then that he plans to review how many polygraph tests and what types were conducted on agency personnel.

The Secret Service has moved to dismiss nine employees and has cleared three of serious misconduct.

The Post reported exclusively Wednesday that at least four of those employees are fighting the agency’s push to dismiss them, arguing they didn’t break any rules. Some argue they are single men allowed to make their own decisions on personal time. Others insist the agency supervisors tolerated such off-duty partying, in a culture that allowed what happened on the road to stay on the road.

The new inquiry will be trained on whether Sullivan’s internal investigation was rushed or whether the move to oust most of the men involved was proper, according to legal officials familiar with the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the nature of the inquiry.

Edwards said at Wednesday’s hearing his ongoing probe will expand to not just review how the agency investigated itself but also the broader culture of the agency.

His office plans to review notes from interviews with nearly 200 agency employees who were in Colombia and 25 employees at the hotels in Cartagena.

Edwards told lawmakers that he received his first briefing on the situation on April 13, the day that the 12 Secret Service employees were returned to the United States.


Staff writers David Nakamura and Ed O’Keefe contributed to this article.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/secret-service-scandal-did-agency-cut-corners-in-rush-to-handle-embarrassing-incident/2012/05/24/gJQAwYCTmU_story.html?hpid=z1

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« Reply #6728 on: May 24th, 2012, 08:40am »

Der Spiegel

05/24/2012
France Dominates EU Summit
Hollande Steals the Show from Merkel
By Carsten Volkery in Brussels

French President François Hollande managed to set the tone at his first EU summit with his proposal for euro bonds. It was the first such meeting in years that was not dominated by Chancellor Merkel. Hollande wanted to send the message that France will be more assertive in the future.

The air was stuffy in the French press room of the European Council building, which was crowded with journalists. Everyone wanted to see the new French president during his first press conference after a European Union summit. Shortly after 1 o'clock on Thursday morning, François Hollande held court just as his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, once had, explaining his "vision for growth" for nearly an hour.

In the room next door was German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In front of her were just a few rows of chairs and some cameras, and the room was half empty. She had decided not to hold a full press conference. Instead, she gave a brief statement, answered two questions and left after five minutes. She apparently knew that she didn't have much of a chance against the appeal of her new French counterpart. It almost seemed as if she was happy to concede the stage to Hollande without a fight.

The parallel appearances in Brussels in the early hours of Thursday had symbolic value. It was the first EU summit in years which was not dominated by Merkel. Instead, Hollande set the tone at the informal dinner attended by the leaders of the 27 EU member states, even if he only spoke briefly himself and showed surprise at the lengthy comments of some of his colleagues.

Striking Change

But with his demand for euro bonds, he set the main topic of discussion at the dinner. Hollande has deliberately put the controversial proposal for jointly issued bonds at the center of his growth agenda. His aim is to challenge the German chancellor. His unspoken message at the summit was that Merkozy, and the symbiotic relationship between Merkel and Sarkozy, was history. In the future, France will assert itself again.

Hollande's desire to distance himself from Merkel is partly inspired by electioneering. On June 17, the French will vote for a new parliament. During the election campaign, the Socialist Hollande cannot afford to be perceived as a puppet of the conservative German chancellor.

Although Hollande said that he didn't want to make any decisions without Germany, the summit marks a striking change: It is the first time in years that the German and French leaders did not meet ahead of the summit to agree on a common position. Instead, on Wednesday evening they found themselves in opposing camps. Hollande argued that euro bonds are part of the debate on growth. They would benefit countries such as Spain by allowing them to save money on interest payments which they could reinvest elsewhere, he said. Merkel countered that jointly issued bonds violate EU law and are not a suitable tool to promote growth in Europe.

During the dinner, it became difficult to keep track of the various positions. One leader after another took turns to speak, arguing for or against euro bonds. According to participants, the tone remained friendly, but the positions became hardened. Hollande received support from countries such as Italy, Austria and Ireland, while the Finns, Swedes and Dutch were on Merkel's side. Ahead of the summit, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had said it was possible to "withstand" the pressure from France. Merkel, therefore, is not entirely isolated in her struggle against Hollande.

Controversial Proposal

Speaking afterwards, Hollande said that there were even countries that are more strongly opposed to euro bonds than Germany. He did not want to reveal which camp was larger. "We did not count," he said, explaining that there were more than just two positions. Some countries, he said, can only imagine joint bonds happening in the distant future, others would only support such bonds for specific purposes while others are opposed to them on principle. Merkel, too, said that the positions were "highly differentiated." In any case, no resolution was passed at the meeting, which was only intended as a forum for discussion.

A growth package will only be decided upon at the next regular EU summit in late June. Whether euro bonds, in whatever form, are part of that will probably become clear over the next few weeks. European Council President Herman Van Rompuy has the task of collecting the proposals and deciding what will be on the agenda at the June summit.

Almost equally controversial is the proposal by Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti that the permanent euro rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), should in the future be able to support banks directly (under the current rules, it will only be able to lend money to national governments). Hollande remarked in passing that he agrees with Monti on many points. The implication was clear: The adversary is Merkel.

So far, the 27 heads of state and government have only managed to agree to boost the capital of the European Investment Bank (EIB), to use the EU's structural funds in a more targeted way to help crisis-hit countries and to issue so-called project bonds for infrastructure projects. Whether those measures will be called a "growth pact" will be decided in June, Hollande said.

Diversionary Tactic

At the informal summit, the French president was able to give new momentum to the long-running debate on euro bonds. But it is unclear whether the euro zone is any closer to implementing the controversial bonds. Hollande himself admitted that the EU treaties would have to be changed for euro bonds -- something which seems practically impossible in the foreseeable future, given that Britain and the Czech Republic already rejected an amendment to the treaties in December. Back then, the issue was the fiscal pact, which would have required far less intervention in national budgets than euro bonds would.

The fundamental debate about euro bonds almost seems like a diversionary tactic to distract attention from the burning questions about Greece. The EU's leaders have no new answers about how to deal with the crisis-hit country.

In a joint statement, they reaffirmed that they would not abandon the country. But that is unlikely to reassure the skeptics. Ever since the attempts to form a government in Athens collapsed two weeks ago, there has been speculation on the financial markets regarding an impending Greek exit from the euro zone. There is considerable unease over a possible victory of the left-wing Syriza party, which wants to renegotiate Greece's international bailout, in new elections on June 17. European politicians have warned that they will stop financial aid to the country if the new Greek government fails to carry out the agreed reforms. The result would be a Greek default and a possible exit from the euro zone.

Hence, the messages coming from Brussels, Berlin and Paris are contradictory. On the one hand, EU leaders want to reassure the financial markets that they will prevent Greece from leaving the euro zone. On the other hand, they are threatening Greek voters and politicians with precisely that.

This dilemma will persist until the Greek election. Up until June 17, the euro zone will remain paralyzed. Diplomats in Brussels hope that once the Greek and French elections have passed, things will become clearer. After that, it will also be easier for Hollande to reach out to the German chancellor.


http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/euro-bond-discussion-dominates-european-union-summit-a-834865.html

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« Reply #6729 on: May 24th, 2012, 08:45am »

Defense News

Pakistan Acknowledges Sea-Based Nuclear Deterrent
May. 23, 2012 - 12:17PM
By USMAN ANSARI

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has acknowledged the existence of a sea-based nuclear deterrent with the recent inauguration of the Headquarters of the Naval Strategic Force Command (NSFC) by the head of the Navy, Adm. Asif Sandhila.

A May 19 press release by the military’s Inter Services Public Relations stated the NSFC “will perform a pivotal role in development and employment of the Naval Strategic Force,” and was “the custodian of the nation’s 2nd strike capability.”

Mansoor Ahmed, lecturer at Quaid-e-Azam University’s Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, and who specializes in Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programs, said this is all but specific confirmation of the widely speculated submarine-launched variant of the Babur/HATF-VII (Vengeance-VII) cruise missile.

Analyst Usman Shabbir of the Pakistan Military Consortium think tank said Pakistan has been working on its sea-based deterrent for some time.

“When the Babur was first revealed in 2005, it was claimed that it is mainly designed to be deployed from submarines. There was at least that speculation,” he said.

The Navy “has pretty good experience in using similar systems, for example, both submarine-launched Harpoon and Exocet use a similar system, and [the Navy] has operated both for a long time.”

Shabbir speculates that the launch method may be similar to the UGM-84 Harpoon’s method of being fired from torpedo tubes.

However, other analysts are not so certain the Navy can afford to undertake the responsibility of the nation’s second-strike capability.

Former Australian defense attaché to Islamabad Brian Cloughley said the size of Pakistan’s submarine force is too small to carry out this task.

“Pakistan’s current submarine fleet is not adequate in numbers [although well-trained] to be able to undertake detection and effective interdiction of the Indian fleet, given its size — which is increasing, even if slowly,” he said.

Currently, Pakistan’s submarine flotilla comprises two refurbished 1970s-era Agosta-70s and three 1990s-era Agosta-90B submarines. The latter are equipped with air independent propulsion (AIP) or are in the process of being retrofitted with the AIP module, and incrementally entered service from 1999.

Cloughley said interdiction of India’s fleet “must remain [the Navy’s] first priority,” and considers “conversion of the present assets to take Babur not only costly but a most regrettable diversion of budget allocation.”

“I would go so far as to say that, in present circumstances, it would be a grave error if such a program were to go ahead,” he added.

The Navy, however, has a requirement for new submarines and wants to increase their number. The Agosta-90B design has been superseded twice, once by the DCNI Scorpene, and briefly by a paper design called the Marlin before it was absorbed into the Scorpene family.

There is a confirmed requirement for 12 to 14 submarines to meet Navy expansion plans. This would allow for a constant war patrol of at least one deterrent-tasked submarine, leaving other submarines to carry out more traditional tasks.

However, Cloughley is still certain that Pakistan does not require such a capability.

“[Pakistan] has plenty of nuclear-capable SSMs and strike aircraft, and does not need a Navy-oriented second-strike capability,” he said.


http://www.defensenews.com/article/20120523/DEFREG03/305230004/Pakistan-Acknowledges-Sea-Based-Nuclear-Deterrent?odyssey=tab

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« Reply #6730 on: May 24th, 2012, 08:57am »

Hollywood Reporter

Science Channel Snags 'Fringe' in Syndication Deal

9:29 PM PDT 5/23/2012
by Philiana Ng

Discovery Communications' cable network Science Channel has snagged off-network syndication rights to the sci-fi cult drama, a source confirms to The Hollywood Reporter. The deal is said to be non-exclusive, which will allow studio Warner Bros. TV to offer another syndication window to a streaming service.

The news comes one month after the network renewed the low-rated critical darling for a fifth and final 13-episode season, enabling Fringe to reach the all-important 100-episode mark for syndication. The series, which was J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, was moved to Friday nights in its third season, and hit ratings lows on multiple occasions in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demo this past season. The drama hovered around 3 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

The perennial bubble show has maintained a vocal fan base, with critical and awards support, including two Emmy nominations in technical categories.

Fringe reruns will join a network schedule that already includes Ricky Gervais' An Idiot Abroad and reruns of Nathan Fillion's cult drama Firefly. Fringe's John Noble will host the six-part series Dark Matters: Twisted But True on Science, premiering Aug. 31.


http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/fringe-science-channel-328844

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« Reply #6731 on: May 24th, 2012, 09:05am »

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« Reply #6732 on: May 24th, 2012, 09:58am »

New York Magazine

23 May 2012 at 6:12pm
Oxford Would Like Any Bigfoot Hair You Have Lying Around
By Dan Amira

Scientists from Oxford and the Lausanne Museum of Zoology, having solved all other animal-related problems, are asking for anyone in possession of suspected Bigfoot hair to send it in so its DNA can be analyzed. Many have already complied:

Bryan Sykes of Oxford University said the group had already received many offers of samples to test, including blood, hair, and items supposedly chewed by Bigfoot.

Overhead in Oxford laboratory, 35th day of testing: "Another dog."

http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/05/oxford-seeking-bigfoot-hair.html?mid=rss

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« Reply #6733 on: May 25th, 2012, 08:47am »

Science Daily

Asteroid Nudged by Sunlight: Most Precise Measurement of Yarkovsky Effect
ScienceDaily (May 24, 2012)

Scientists on NASA's asteroid sample return mission, Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx), have measured the orbit of their destination asteroid, 1999 RQ36, with such accuracy they were able to directly measure the drift resulting from a subtle but important force called the Yarkovsky effect -- the slight push created when the asteroid absorbs sunlight and re-emits that energy as heat.

"The new orbit for the half-kilometer (one-third mile) diameter 1999 RQ36 is the most precise asteroid orbit ever obtained," said OSIRIS-REx team member Steven Chesley of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. He presented the findings May 19 at the Asteroids, Comets and Meteors 2012 meeting in Niigata, Japan.

Observations that Michael Nolan at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico made in September 2011, along with Arecibo and Goldstone radar observations made in 1999 and 2005, when 1999 RQ36 passed much closer to Earth, show that the asteroid has deviated from its gravity-ruled orbit by roughly 100 miles, or 160 kilometers, in the last 12 years, a deviation caused by the Yarkovsky effect.

The Yarkovsky effect is named for the nineteenth-century Russian engineer who first proposed the idea that a small rocky space object would, over long periods of time, be noticeably nudged in its orbit by the slight push created when it absorbs sunlight and then re-emits that energy as heat.

"The Yarkovsky force on 1999 RQ36 at its peak, when the asteroid is nearest the sun, is only about a half ounce -- about the weight of three grapes on Earth. Meanwhile, the mass of the asteroid is estimated to be about 68 million tons. You need extremely precise measurements over a fairly long time span to see something so slight acting on something so huge."

Nolan and his team measured the distance between the Arecibo Observatory and 1999 RQ36 to an accuracy of 300 meters, or about a fifth of a mile, when the asteroid was 30 million kilometers, or 20 million miles, from Earth.

"That's like measuring the distance between New York City and Los Angeles to an accuracy of two inches, and fine enough that we have to take the size of the asteroid and of Arecibo Observatory into account when making the measurements," Nolan said.

Chesley and his colleagues used the new Arecibo measurements to calculate a series of 1999 RQ36 approaches closer to Earth than 7.5 million kilometers (4.6 million miles) from the years 1654 to 2135. There turned out to be 11 such encounters.

By combining the radar results from Arecibo Observatory with infrared results from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, the scientists also learned that asteroid 1999 RQ36 is very light -- it has around the same density as water, Chesley reported.

"This study is an important step in better understanding the Yarkovsky effect -- a subtle force that contributes to the orbital evolution of new Near-Earth Objects," said Dante Lauretta, the mission's principal investigator and professor of planetary science at the University of Arizona.

Lauretta added that "this information is critical for assessing the likelihood of an impact from our target asteroid and provides important constraints on its mass and density, allowing us to substantially improve our mission design."

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is to launch in 2016, reach asteroid (101955) 1999 RQ36 in 2019, examine it up close during a 505-day rendezvous, then return at least 60 grams (~1.9 ounces) of it to Earth in 2023.

"In addition to the exciting Yarkovsky results, the low density shows that 1999 RQ36 is probably a loose aggregate of rocks--a so called rubble pile," said Jason Dworkin, the mission's project scientist and Chief of Astrochemistry at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "This makes it an ideal target for OSIRIS-REx to collect loose surface material."


http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524215341.htm

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« Reply #6734 on: May 25th, 2012, 08:50am »

Seattle Times

Originally published May 25, 2012 at 3:39 AM
Page modified May 25, 2012 at 6:24 AM

Higher enrichment at Iranian site

The U.N. atomic agency has found evidence at an underground bunker in Iran that could mean the country has moved closer to producing the uranium threshold needed to arm nuclear missiles, diplomats said Friday.

By GEORGE JAHN
Associated Press

VIENNA —

The U.N. atomic agency has found evidence at an underground bunker in Iran that could mean the country has moved closer to producing the uranium threshold needed to arm nuclear missiles, diplomats said Friday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has found traces of uranium enriched up to 27 percent at Iran's Fordo enrichment plant, the diplomats told The Associated Press.

That is still substantially below the 90-percent level needed to make the fissile core of nuclear arms. But it is above Iran's highest-known enrichment grade, which is close to 20 percent, and which already can be turned into weapons-grade material much more quickly than the Islamic Republic's main stockpile, which can only be used for fuel at around 3.5 percent.

The diplomats - who demanded anonymity because their information is privileged - said the find did not necessarily mean that Iran was covertly raising its enrichment threshold toward weapons-grade level. They said one likely explanation was that the centrifuges that produce enriched uranium initially over-enriched at the start as technicians adjusted their output - an assessment shared by nonproliferation expert David Albright.

Albright, whose Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security looks for signs of proliferation, said a new configuration for the cascades set up in tandem at Fordo means they tend to "overshoot 20 percent" at start up.

"Nonetheless, embarrassing for Iran," he wrote in an e-mail to the AP.

Calls to Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's chief delegate to the IAEA, were rejected and the switchboard operator at the Iranian mission said he was not available. IAEA media officials said the agency had no comment.

Iran is under several rounds of U.N. sanctions for its failure to disclose information on its controversial nuclear program. Tehran says it is enriching uranium to provide more nuclear energy for its growing population, while the U.S. and other nations fear that Iran doing that to have the ability to make nuclear weapons.

The latest attempts to persuade Iran to compromise and let U.N. experts view its nuclear program ended inconclusively Wednesday at a meeting in Baghdad. At the talks, six nations - the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - failed to gain traction in efforts to persuade Tehran to freeze its 20 percent enrichment. Envoys said the group will meet again next month in Moscow.

Iran started enriching to 20 percent last year, mostly at Fordo, saying it needed the material to fuel a research reactor and for medical purposes. Still, its long-standing refusal to stop enrichment and accept reactor fuel from abroad has sparked fears it wants to expand its domestic program to be able to turn it toward making weapons.

Those concerns have increased since it started higher enrichment at Fordo, which is carved into a mountain. That, say Iranian officials, makes it impervious to attack from Israel or the United States, which have not ruled out using force as a last option if diplomacy fails to curb the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

Even though Wednesday's talks were unproductive, diplomats saw hope in the promise of another meeting.

"It is clear that we both want to make progress and that there is some common ground," European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is formally leading the talks, told reporters. "However, significant differences remain. Nonetheless, we do agree on the need for further discussion to expand that common ground."

Saeed Jalili, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, offered a lukewarm assessment of Wednesday's negotiations, in light of European and American refusal to lift tough sanctions against Iran as Tehran had hoped.

"The result of the talks was that we were able to get more familiar with the views of each other," Jalili told reporters.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said significant differences remain between the two sides and that it's now up to Iran "to close the gaps."

"Iran now has the choice to make: Will it meet its international obligations and give the world confidence about its intentions or not?" Clinton said.

Iran went into Wednesday's talks urging the West to scale back on recently toughened sanctions, which have targeted Iran's critical oil exports and have effectively blackballed the country from international banking networks. The 27-nation European Union is set to ban all Iranian fuel imports on July 1, shutting the door on about 18 percent of Iran's market.

The diplomats said a confidential IAEA report on Iran's nuclear program to be released later Friday to the agency's 35-nation board will mention of the traces of 27-percent enrichment found at Fordo.

Iran already has around 700 centrifuges churning out 20-percent enriched uranium at Fordo. The diplomats said the report will also note that - while Iran has set up around 350 more centrifuges since late last year, at the site - these machines are not enriching.

While the reason for that could be purely technical, it could also serve as a signal from Tehran that it is waiting for progress in the negotiations.

The report is also expected to detail the state of talks between the U.N. nuclear agency and Iran that the agency hopes will re-launch a long-stalled probe into suspicions that Tehran has worked on nuclear-weapons related experiments - charges that Tehran denies.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2018282765_apirannuclear.html

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