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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 146386 times)
WingsofCrystal
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« Reply #6750 on: May 28th, 2012, 08:08am »

Reuters

Yemen army tightens grip on militant-held town

Mon May 28, 2012 8:35am EDT

ADEN (Reuters) - Yemeni troops tightened their grip on Monday on a southern town largely controlled by an al Qaeda-linked group as they fought to dislodge them in a new U.S.-backed offensive against Islamist militants.

An army official said five militants were killed in clashes with government troops on the eastern edge of Zinjibar, which was overrun by Islamist fighters a year ago, whilst former President Ali Abdullah Saleh grappled with protests against his rule.

Yemeni forces pushed into the centre of Zinjibar on Saturday, recapturing key positions, but the militants still hold a considerable chunk of the town and have planted mines to cover their retreat, officials said.

The United States and its Gulf Arab allies have watched with mounting alarm as militants exploit political instability in Yemen to gain a foothold there, particularly in the southern province of Abyan.

Jaar, another militant stronghold in Abyan, is being surrounded from all sides by the army.

American intelligence and counter-terrorism officials say their ability to conduct operations against militants inside Yemen has improved significantly since President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi replaced Saleh earlier this year.

Several militants were killed in an air strike in al-Baydah province, north of Abyan, on Monday, the Defence Ministry said. Local sources and militants said a U.S. drone was behind the attack.

"This afternoon, American planes targeted a vehicle belonging to militants... The bombardment resulted in the deaths of two bystanders and one (militant) brother..." militant group Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law) said in a text message.

A local official said the target of the strike was a provincial militant commander and his brother, both of whom survived.

U.S. drones have frequently killed civilians and are deeply resented by Yemenis, even the many who abhor al Qaeda.


(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf; Writing by Isabel Coles, editing by Diana Abdallah)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/28/us-yemen-militants-idUSBRE84R0D820120528

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« Reply #6751 on: May 28th, 2012, 08:14am »

Wired

Keep Out: NASA Asks Future Moon Visitors to Respect Its Stuff
By Adam Mann
May 25, 2012 | 2:55 pm
Categories: Space


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The moon is about to become crowded.

In the next few years a slew of countries, including China, India, and Japan, are looking to put unmanned probes on the lunar surface. But more unprecedented are the 26 teams currently racing to win the Google Lunar X Prize – a contest that will award $20 million to the first private company to land a robot on the lunar surface, travel a third of a mile, and send back a high-definition image before 2015.

With all this activity, NASA is somewhat nervous about its own lunar history. The agency recently released a set of guidelines that aim to preserve important heritage locations such as the Apollo landing and Ranger impact sites. The report, available since 2011 to members of the private spaceflight community, was publicly posted at NASA’s website and officially accepted by the X Prize foundation on May 24.

“NASA has recognized that these sites are important to mankind and have to be protected to make sure there’s no undue damage done to them,” said John Thornton, president of Astrobotic Technology Inc., a company competing for the prize.

Though NASA has no way of enforcing the requirements, they are designed to protect materials and scientific equipment at historical lunar sites as well as future landing sites. The guidelines have been made available internationally, and the agency welcomes other nations to participate in and improve upon them, said NASA spokesperson Joshua Buck in an e-mail.

NASA is asking anyone that makes it to the lunar surface to keep their landing at least 1.2 miles away from any Apollo site and about 1,600 feet from the five Ranger impact sites. The distance should keep the old equipment safe from a terrible accident or collision. It will also would put the new equipment “over the lunar horizon” relative to the relics, and prevent any moon dust – known to be a highly abrasive material – from sandblasting NASA’s old machines.

The Apollo 11 and 17 sites — the first and last places visited by man — are singled out in particular for extra care and respect. Robots are prohibited from visiting both sites and are requested to remain outside a large radius (250 feet for Apollo 11 and 740 feet for Apollo 17) to prevent a stray rover from accidentally harming hardware or erasing any footprints.

“Only one misstep could forever damage this priceless human treasure,” reads the report.

Looking toward a possible high-traffic lunar future, the report also warns that frequent and repeated visits would have a cumulative and irreversible degrading effect on the historical sites. Other guidelines ask that rovers avoid kicking dust onto existing scientific experiments, like the laser-ranging lunar reflectors that are used to measure the distance between the Earth and moon.

Once a team has successfully landed, both the guidelines and the Google Lunar X Prize actually encourage them to go near some of the historic landing sites. The X Prize will award an extra $4 million to any company that can snap photos of a man-made object on the moon, including the Soviet Lunokhod rovers. And NASA has placed less restrictive protective radii around their other Apollo-era sites and artifacts, asking that robots merely remain three to nine feet from flags, tools, storage bags, and other pieces.

There is currently little data on what sitting for 40 plus years on the lunar surface does to man-made objects. The moon is an extreme environment, with wild temperature swings and full-on exposure to solar radiation, dust, and micrometeorites, all of which could severely weather materials.

Scientists and engineers are eager to obtain some before and after shots of artifacts that have been exposed to the elements for so long. It could give them insight into building future long-term structures on the moon, such as manned bases or mining operations.

Though the guidelines come from NASA, the agency worked with members of the private spaceflight community before releasing them, said Robert Richards, founder of two companies competing for the Lunar X Prize, Moon Express, Inc. and Odyssey Moon Limited.

“It’s not a decree, we were able to participate and comment,” he said. Richards added that the instructions simply reflect common sense, decency, and respect for other people’s property on the moon.

Image: NASA’s proposed radius around the Apollo 17 landing site, which would prevent damage to any historical artifacts from future missions.

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/05/nasa-moon-guidelines/

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« Reply #6752 on: May 28th, 2012, 08:23am »

Telegraph

British woman facing death penalty after arrest on suspicion of trafficking cocaine in Bali

Lindsay Sandiford has been arrested for allegedly smuggling cocaine into the Indonesian island of Bali, and may face the death penalty under stiff anti-drug laws.

Sarah Dougherty in Denpasar
10:02AM BST 28 May 2012

Customs officials detained the woman, identified as Lindsay June Sandiford, 55, on May 19 with almost five kg (11lbs) of cocaine after arriving at the airport in Denpasar on a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok.
Police also revealed that they today arrested another British woman, two British men and an Indian man they believe may be connected.

"We arrested the suspect after we found 4,791 grams of cocaine in her suitcase. She hid it in the lining of her suitcase," said Denpasar airport customs chief I Made Wijaya told reporters.

"We conducted an X-ray scan on the luggage, found a suspicious substance in it and then examined it," he said.

The cocaine has a street value of more than £1.6 million and Sandiford, who told officials she is a housewife, faces the death penalty for drug trafficking, Mr Wijaya said.

Indonesia enforces stiff penalties including life imprisonment and death for drug trafficking.

The suspects are still being held at Denpasar police headquarters but if charged will be serving long sentences in Bali’s famous Kerobokan prison, home to Australian beauty therapist Schapelle Corby and at one time, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s brother, Ronald.

It is likely the death penalty will be sought in the case of such a large amount of prohibited drugs.

Two members of an Australian drug smuggling gang known as the "Bali Nine" who were arrested in 2005 are on death row, while seven others face lengthy jail terms.

Another Australian, Schapelle Corby, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for smuggling 4.1 kg of marijuana in 2005, recently had her term slashed by five years after a clemency appeal to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The 34-year-old is due to be released in September 2017.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/indonesia/9294413/British-woman-facing-death-penalty-after-arrest-on-suspicion-of-trafficking-cocaine-in-Bali.html

Crystal

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« Last Edit: May 28th, 2012, 08:35am by WingsofCrystal » User IP Logged

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« Reply #6753 on: May 28th, 2012, 08:38am »

NBC Washington d.c.

Thousands Roll in for Rolling Thunder

This is the 25th annual event honoring those who died while serving.

Monday, May 28, 2012
Updated 9:35 AM EDT

Don’t worry about that roaring sound you hear, it’s just the sound of thousands of motorcycles cruising into town for annual Rolling Thunder event.

Thousands of motorcycles are rolling through the city Sunday to honor those who sacrificed their lives to ensure our freedom.

It’s the 25th annual Rolling Thunder Run, and the bikers have plenty of events planned.

On Sunday, they plan to meet on the National Mall and hold a ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial. The plan called for bikers to gather in the Pentagon parking lots before moving up Washington Boulevard in Arlington to the Memorial Bridge. Crossing into the District, the procession moved down Constitution Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue. Turning onto Third Street, the route took a hard right onto Independence Avenue before turning off at the Tidal Basin and coming to a stop on Ohio Drive.

On the holiday Monday, there are multiple events scheduled, including a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery and a remembrance ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

For a complete list of events going on this weekend with the Rolling Thunder Run, head to their website: http://rollingthunderrun.com/

http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Thousands-Roll-in-for-Annual-Rolling-Thunder-Run-154743345.html

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« Reply #6754 on: May 28th, 2012, 09:26am »

on May 28th, 2012, 07:51am, WingsofCrystal wrote:
Holy Cow! This kid is scary smart. Thanks for that article Swamprat.

Thank you Swamp for your service. Our military gives and gives and gives and asks very little in return. Thank you.

Crystal


Yes Swampy, Thank you for all you've done for our country!
Then there is this effete, pretentious moron:

http://newsbusters.org/blogs/mark-finkelstein/2012/05/27/chris-hayes-im-uncomfortable-calling-fallen-military-heroes#ixzz1w6mBDLvo

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/msnbc-panel-struggles-over-using-the-word-hero-to-describe-fallen-soldiers/

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De Opresso Libre! I Have Been many Men, In Many Times, I Shall Be Again!
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« Reply #6755 on: May 28th, 2012, 11:25am »

Thank you, Crystal and Lone! Lone, the wonderful thing is, Chris lives in a country where he is free to MAKE those comments! wink
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« Reply #6756 on: May 28th, 2012, 11:55am »

You're very welcome Amigo!
It is sad that this over-educated snob doesn't realize that and will never see it until he loses that right because he and his circle of friends are useful idiots. They are always the first against the wall when it's all said and done!

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« Reply #6757 on: May 29th, 2012, 07:40am »

Reuters

Attack on candidate's HQ as vote polarizes Egypt

By Yasmine Saleh and Tamim Elyan
Tue May 29, 2012 8:20am EDT

CAIRO (Reuters) - An arson attack on the headquarters of one of the two candidates in Egypt's presidential election has marred campaigning for the second round in a vote that has polarized the nation with the choice of an Islamist or Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister.

Protesters set fire to storage rooms and smashed computers late on Monday at the campaign headquarters of Ahmed Shafiq, a 70-year-old former air force chief and Mubarak official, who was confirmed as a run-off candidate after the first round vote.

His rival is Mohamed Mursi, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's main Islamist group which controls the biggest bloc in parliament after an earlier election. The deciding presidential vote is on June 16 and 17.

Mursi, 60, drew support from a disciplined group of backers of the Brotherhood, banned under Mubarak, and Shafiq attracted Egyptians who want a strongman to restore law, order and prosperity after 15 months of turmoil since Mubarak's ouster.

Neither won more than a quarter of votes cast in the first round, leaving an agonizing choice for a sizeable portion of the electorate who backed more centrist candidates and do not want a conservative Islamist or an ex-military officer at the helm.

Thousands of Egyptians took to the streets on Monday night in protest after the results of the first round were confirmed by the election committee. Some held up posters of Mursi with a cross over his face. But most were chanting against Shafiq.

Dozens then marched from the protests around Tahrir Square, where hundreds of thousands played out a drama that toppled Mubarak, to Shafiq's headquarters in the upscale Cairo district of Dokki.

"They seemed to know what they were after and they went directly to the storage rooms and set them on fire using petrol bombs," said Ahmed Abdel Ghani, 30, a member of Shafiq's campaign, surveying a scene of unusable, charred campaign flyers and leaflets scattered on the ground.

The main villa escaped the flames but protesters smashed laptops and computers inside, he said. Daubed on the wall outside the villa were the words: "No to Shafiq, no to feloul," an Arabic word referring to "remnants" of Mubarak's era.

Shafiq has made no secret of his admiration for Mubarak, describing him as a role model after his own father. Protesters threw stones and shoes at him when he voted in Cairo last week.

"We condemn the attack but we still don't know who is behind it and will wait for investigations. But we are continuing our work and path and hopefully all will end well," said one official in the campaign, who asked not to be named.

BLOODY TRANSITION

The flare-up was the latest in an already messy and often bloody transition to democracy since generals took over from Mubarak after a popular uprising forced him out on February 11, 2011. The army has pledged to hand over power by July 1.

Even before the first-round vote, revolutionaries who led the demonstrations that brought down Mubarak had promised to hit the streets if Shafiq progressed in the vote to become president of the Arab world's most populous nation.

Yet any violence could help Shafiq's cause as his strongest card in the race is his promise swiftly to restore law and order, which collapsed after Mubarak's downfall.

Many Egyptians were happy to see the back of Mubarak, yet are now desperate for stability to revive the shattered economy. Shafiq is seen as having the army backing to achieve that.

Both Shafiq and the Brotherhood are now trying to rally support from more centrist voters in the second round. But youth leaders of the uprising fear they would be surrendering their revolution by voting for Mursi or Shafiq and liberals are also deeply uncomfortable with the available candidates.

Liberal and other political groups have often criticized the Brotherhood for being slow to join the anti-Mubarak revolt, acquiescing too quickly to the ruling generals and seeking to dominate the political scene after their parliamentary success.

Mursi's supporters believe Mursi and the Brotherhood, which has a social network with grass-roots support across Egypt, are the best hope for reforming a corrupt state.

"Protests are expected. Not everyone will be satisfied with the result, some will object to it but we hope that the people's choice will be with the revolution," said Fareed Ismail, a senior figure in the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party.

"The situation in Egypt is in a critical and dangerous phase. We must work together so that the revolution isn't lost," he told Reuters.

The Brotherhood denied any role in the attack on Shafiq's headquarters. Other candidates who lost in the first round also condemned the violence.

Hamdeen Sabahy, a leftist candidate who came third in the race and now being courted by the Brotherhood, said in a statement it was the "right of the people to express their opinion provided demonstrations were peaceful".

A Brotherhood source, who asked not to be named, said the Islamist group had prepared a menu of options to tempt rival groups and politicians to its side, including backers of first-round loser and ex-Brotherhood member Abdol Moneim Abol Fotouh.

Until now, fourth-placed Abol Fotouh has called for his supporters to "stand united against the symbols of corruption and oppression" - a reference to Shafiq - but has not explicitly said he would back Mursi.

Like Sabahy, fifth-placed former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, once a favorite, has not backed either candidate.

The ultra-orthodox Salafi Muslim Al-Nour party, which controls the second biggest bloc in parliament and had backed Abol Fotouh, has thrown its weight behind Mursi.

The Brotherhood source said the group has offered: creating a five-member advisory council to advise the president; assigning the posts of prime minister or vice-president to Abol Fotouh and Sabahy; distributing cabinet posts to other parties; and offering compromises on planned laws and on an assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution.

Four candidates complained about the vote conduct but the election committee dismissed all the complaints.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said he was broadly confident about the election process although Carter Center monitors highlighted several irregularities, notably lack of access in the final aggregation of national results.


(Additional reporting Tamim Elyan and Dina Zayed; Writing by Edmund Blair, editing by Peter Millership)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/29/us-egypt-election-idUSBRE84M0A920120529

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« Reply #6758 on: May 29th, 2012, 07:46am »

Wired

Meet ‘Flame’, The Massive Spy Malware Infiltrating Iranian Computers
By Kim Zetter
May 28, 2012 | 9:00 am
Categories: Cybersecurity, DuQu, Stuxnet


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Map showing the number and geographical location of Flame infections detected by Kaspersky Lab on customer machines. Courtesy of Kaspersky


A massive, highly sophisticated piece of malware has been newly found infecting systems in Iran and elsewhere and is believed to be part of a well-coordinated, ongoing, state-run cyberespionage operation.

The malware, discovered by Russia-based anti-virus firm Kaspersky Lab, is an espionage toolkit that has been infecting targeted systems in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, the Israeli Occupied Territories and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa for at least two years.

Dubbed “Flame” by Kaspersky, the malicious code dwarfs Stuxnet in size – the groundbreaking infrastructure-sabotaging malware that is believed to have wreaked havoc on Iran’s nuclear program in 2009 and 2010. Although Flame has both a different purpose and composition than Stuxnet, and appears to have been written by different programmers, its complexity, the geographic scope of its infections and its behavior indicate strongly that a nation-state is behind Flame, rather than common cyber-criminals — marking it as yet another tool in the growing arsenal of cyberweaponry.

The researchers say that Flame may be part of a parallel project created by contractors who were hired by the same nation-state team that was behind Stuxnet and its sister malware, DuQu.

“Stuxnet and Duqu belonged to a single chain of attacks, which raised cyberwar-related concerns worldwide,” said Eugene Kaspersky, CEO and co-founder of Kaspersky Lab, in a statement. “The Flame malware looks to be another phase in this war, and it’s important to understand that such cyber weapons can easily be used against any country.”

Early analysis of Flame by the Lab indicates that it’s designed primarily to spy on the users of infected computers and steal data from them, including documents, recorded conversations and keystrokes. It also opens a backdoor to infected systems to allow the attackers to tweak the toolkit and add new functionality.

The malware, which is 20 megabytes when all of its modules are installed, contains multiple libraries, SQLite3 databases, various levels of encryption — some strong, some weak — and 20 plug-ins that can be swapped in and out to provide various functionality for the attackers. It even contains some code that is written in the LUA programming language — an uncommon choice for malware.

Kaspersky Lab is calling it “one of the most complex threats ever discovered.”

“It’s pretty fantastic and incredible in complexity,” said Alexander Gostev, chief security expert at Kaspersky Lab.

Flame appears to have been operating in the wild as early as March 2010, though it remained undetected by antivirus companies.

“It’s a very big chunk of code. Because of that, it’s quite interesting that it stayed undetected for at least two years,” Gostev said. He noted that there are clues that the malware may actually date back to as early as 2007, around the same time-period when Stuxnet and DuQu are believed to have been created.

Gostev says that because of its size and complexity, complete analysis of the code may take years.

“It took us half-a-year to analyze Stuxnet,” he said. “This is 20-times more complicated. It will take us 10 years to fully understand everything.”

Kaspersky discovered the malware about two weeks ago after the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union asked the Lab to look into reports in April that computers belonging to the Iranian Oil Ministry and the Iranian National Oil Company had been hit with malware that was stealing and deleting information from the systems. The malware was named alternatively in news articles as “Wiper” and “Viper,” a discrepancy that may be due to a translation mixup.

Kaspersky researchers searched through their reporting archive, which contains suspicious filenames sent automatically from customer machines so the names can be checked against whitelists of known malware, and found an MD5 hash and filename that appeared to have been deployed only on machines in Iran and other Middle East countries. As the researchers dug further, they found other components infecting machines in the region, which they pieced together as parts of Flame.

Kaspersky, however, is currently treating Flame as if it is not connected to Wiper/Viper, and believes it is a separate infection entirely. The researchers dubbed the toolkit “Flame” after the name of a module inside it.

Among Flame’s many modules is one that turns on the internal microphone of an infected machine to secretly record conversations that occur either over Skype or in the computer’s near vicinity; a module that turns Bluetooth-enabled computers into a Bluetooth beacon, which scans for other Bluetooth-enabled devices in the vicinity to siphon names and phone numbers from their contacts folder; and a module that grabs and stores frequent screenshots of activity on the machine, such as instant-messaging and email communications, and sends them via a covert SSL channel to the attackers’ command-and-control servers.

The malware also has a sniffer component that can scan all of the traffic on an infected machine’s local network and collect usernames and password hashes that are transmitted across the network. The attackers appear to use this component to hijack administrative accounts and gain high-level privileges to other machines and parts of the network.

Flame does contain a module named Viper, adding more confusion to the Wiper/Viper issue, but this component is used to transfer stolen data from infected machines to command-and-control servers. News reports out of Iran indicated the Wiper/Viper program that infected the oil ministry was designed to delete large swaths of data from infected systems.

Kaspersky’s researchers examined a system that was destroyed by Wiper/Viper and found no traces of that malware on it, preventing them from comparing it to the Flame files. The disk destroyed by Wiper/Viper was filled primarily with random trash, and almost nothing could be recovered from it, Gostev said. “We did not see any sign of Flame on that disk.”

Because Flame is so big, it gets loaded to a system in pieces. The machine first gets hit with a 6-megabyte component, which contains about half-a-dozen other compressed modules inside. The main component extracts, decompresses and decrypts these modules and writes them to various locations on disk. The number of modules in an infection depends on what the attackers want to do on a particular machine.

Once the modules are unpacked and loaded, the malware connects to one of about 80 command-and-control domains to deliver information about the infected machine to the attackers and await further instruction from them. The malware contains a hardcoded list of about five domains, but also has an updatable list, to which the attackers can add new domains if these others have been taken down or abandoned.

While the malware awaits further instruction, the various modules in it might take screenshots and sniff the network. The screenshot module grabs desktop images every 15 seconds when a high-value communication application is being used, such as instant messaging or Outlook, and once every 60 seconds when other applications are being used.

Although the Flame toolkit does not appear to have been written by the same programmers who wrote Stuxnet and DuQu, it does share a few interesting things with Stuxnet.

Stuxnet is believed to have been written through a partnership between Israel and the United States, and was first launched in June 2009. It is widely believed to have been designed to sabotage centrifuges used in Iran’s uranium enrichment program. DuQu was an espionage tool discovered on machines in Iran, Sudan, and elsewhere in 2011 that was designed to steal documents and other data from machines. Stuxnet and DuQu appeared to have been built on the same framework, using identical parts and using similar techniques.

But Flame doesn’t resemble either of these in framework, design or functionality.

more after the jump:
http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/05/flame/

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« Reply #6759 on: May 29th, 2012, 07:53am »

Science Daily

Groundwater Depletion in Semiarid Regions of Texas and California Threatens US Food Security
ScienceDaily (May 28, 2012)

The nation's food supply may be vulnerable to rapid groundwater depletion from irrigated agriculture, according to a new study by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and elsewhere.

The study, which appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, paints the highest resolution picture yet of how groundwater depletion varies across space and time in California's Central Valley and the High Plains of the central U.S. Researchers hope this information will enable more sustainable use of water in these areas, although they think irrigated agriculture may be unsustainable in some parts.

"We're already seeing changes in both areas," said Bridget Scanlon, senior research scientist at The University of Texas at Austin's Bureau of Economic Geology and lead author of the study. "We're seeing decreases in rural populations in the High Plains. Increasing urbanization is replacing farms in the Central Valley. And during droughts some farmers are forced to fallow their land. These trends will only accelerate as water scarcity issues become more severe."

Three results of the new study are particularly striking: First, during the most recent drought in California's Central Valley, from 2006 to 2009, farmers in the south depleted enough groundwater to fill the nation's largest human-made reservoir, Lake Mead near Las Vegas -- a level of groundwater depletion that is unsustainable at current recharge rates.

Second, a third of the groundwater depletion in the High Plains occurs in just 4% of the land area. And third, the researchers project that if current trends continue some parts of the southern High Plains that currently support irrigated agriculture, mostly in the Texas Panhandle and western Kansas, will be unable to do so within a few decades.

California's Central Valley is sometimes called the nation's "fruit and vegetable basket." The High Plains, which run from northwest Texas to southern Wyoming and South Dakota, are sometimes called the country's "grain basket." Combined, these two regions produced agricultural products worth $56 billion in 2007, accounting for much of the nation's food production. They also account for half of all groundwater depletion in the U.S., mainly as a result of irrigating crops.

In the early 20th century, farmers in California's Central Valley began pumping groundwater to irrigate their crops. Over time, groundwater levels dropped as much as 400 feet in some places. From the 1930s to '70s, state and federal agencies built a system of dams, reservoirs and canals to transfer water from the relatively water-rich north to the very dry south. Since then, groundwater levels in some areas have risen as much as 300 feet. In the High Plains, farmers first began large-scale pumping of groundwater for crop irrigation in the 1930s and '40s; but irrigation greatly expanded in response to the 1950s drought. Since then, groundwater levels there have steadily declined, in some places more than 150 feet.

Scanlon and her colleagues at the U.S. Geological Survey and the Université de Rennes in France used water level records from thousands of wells, data from NASA's GRACE satellites, and computer models to study groundwater depletion in the two regions.

GRACE satellites monitor changes in Earth's gravity field which are controlled primarily by variations in water storage. Byron Tapley, director of the university's Center for Space Research, led the development of the GRACE satellites, which recently celebrated their 10th anniversary.

Scanlon and her colleagues suggested several ways to make irrigated agriculture in the Central Valley more sustainable: Replace flood irrigation systems (used on about half of crops) with more efficient sprinkle and drip systems and expand the practice of groundwater banking -- storing excess surface water in times of plenty in the same natural aquifers that supply groundwater for irrigation. Groundwater banks currently store 2 to 3 cubic kilometers of water in California, similar to or greater than storage capacities of many of the large surface water reservoirs in the state. Groundwater banks provide a valuable approach for evening out water supplies during climate extremes ranging from droughts to floods.

For various reasons, Scanlon and other experts don't think these or other engineering approaches will solve the problem in the High Plains. When groundwater levels drop too low to support irrigated farming in some areas, farmers there will be forced to switch from irrigated crops such as corn to non-irrigated crops such as sorghum, or to rangeland. The transition could be economically challenging because non-irrigated crops generate about half the yield of irrigated crops and are far more vulnerable to droughts.

"Basically irrigated agriculture in much of the southern High Plains is unsustainable," said Scanlon.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120528154857.htm

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« Reply #6760 on: May 29th, 2012, 07:57am »

Hollywood Reporter

Memorial Day Box Office: 'Men in Black 3' Soft in U.S., 'Moonrise Kingdom' Cleans Up
10:05 AM PDT 5/28/2012
by Pamela McClintock

"MIB3" clears $203.2 million worldwide but underperforms in North America with $70 million; horror pic "Chernobyl Diary" also tepid with $9.3 million; Wes Anderson's specialty release "Moonrise" posts the highest per-location average of all time for a live-action film.

Despite a $203.2 million worldwide opening, the jury's still out on whether Will Smith threequel Men in Black 3 can recoup its $230 million production budget and hefty marketing spend.

The Sony tentpole grossed a modest $70 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend in North America, compared with the $75 million to $80 million that the studio was anticipating (rivals thought the film would do $90 million to $100 million).

Part of the issue: MIB3, which returned the sci-fi franchise to the big screen after a decade-long hiatus, played best to older moviegoers, with 56 percent of those buying tickets over age 25.

There's no doubt that MIB3 performed far better than fellow May event pics Battleship and Dark Shadows -- both of which bowed much closer to box-office monster The Avengers' opening -- but MIB3's inability to crack $100 million further fanned concerns about the summer box office so far, excluding Avengers.

MIB3 does have the bragging rights to being the film that finally bumped Avengers from the top spot, albeit in Avengers' fourth weekend.

Overseas, MIB3 earned an estimated $133.2 million from 106 territories, fueled by strong performances in Russia, Asia and Latin America territories. It struggled in many parts of Europe, where good weather kept moviegoers otherwise occupied.

Sony says it's more than pleased with the performance of the film, which is Smith's first in four years.

"The numbers in the U.S. are terrific, plus we took over the world," Sony worldwide president of distribution Rory Bruer said. "It's playing well in every theater, and it's great to have Will Smith back in theaters. Moviegoers and reviewers think it's the best installment in the franchise."

MIB3 likely will have to gross $500 million or more globally for Sony to come out ahead. Sony insiders say they're confident the pic, which received a B+ CinemaScore, will have a great multiple and indicated another installment is possible based on the film's early returns.

Overseas, MIB3 debuted to $19.5 million in China, the seventh-biggest opening of all time and beating the openings of Avengers and Battleship. It scored the sixth-biggest debut of all time in Russia, grossing $18.9 million, and earned $8.5 million in Korea and $8 million in Japan.

In the threequel, Smith's character travels back in time, where he meets a young Agent K, played by Josh Brolin. Tommy Lee Jones returns to play the older Agent K, while Barry Sonnenfeld returned to direct after helming the first two installments

Sony says MIB3 is the best-performing film in the franchise in terms of its three-day weekend gross of $55 million. However, Men in Black grossed $84.1 million during the course of its six-day debut in July 1997, while Men in Black II posted a five-day debut of $87.2 million in July 2002 (both those films debuted around July 4th).

In North America, moviegoing was down a sizable 31 percent from Memorial Day 2011, when The Hangover Part II and Kung Fu Panda 2 debuted to strong numbers, with the Hangover sequel alone grossing north of $135 million for the four days.

Disney and Marvel Studios’ Avengers remained a formidable force in its fourth outing, grossing an estimated $46.9 million for the four days, including a three-day gross of $36.8 million -- the second-best showing for a film in its fourth weekend behind Avatar. Also during the weekend, Avengers became the fastest film to reach $500 million (23 days) domestically.

Avengers' global gross is now $1.31 billion -- just short of the $1.33 billion earned by last year's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the third-biggest title of all time. The superhero pic's domestic gross through Monday was $523.6 million, while its international cume was $781.6 million.

Alcon Entertainment and FilmNation's horror pic Chernobyl Diaries, Memorial weekend's other nationwide release at the domestic box office, grossed a muted $9.3 million for the four-day weekend to come in No. 6. The low-budget film released by Warner Bros. on behalf of Alcon earned a dismal D+ CinemaScore.

Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom made big headlines at the specialty box office. The Focus Features film, which opened the Cannes Film Festival this month, grossed $523,006 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for the three days for a record-breaking per-location average of $130,752 -- the highest of all time for a live-action film, beating previous record holder Dreamgirls ($126,317 in 2006).

For the four days, Moonrise Kingdom grossed $669,486 for a staggering location average of $167,371.

The Weinstein Co. also did well with French comedy The Intouchables, which grossed $103,507 from four theaters for the three days for an impressive location average of $25,877.

And Fox Searchlight's specialty film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel came in No. 8 with a four-day gross of $8.2 million as it expanded into a total of 1,233 theaters. The film's cume is $18.4 million.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/memorial-day-box-office-men-in-black-3-330057

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« Reply #6761 on: May 30th, 2012, 08:07am »

PRlog

UFO Crash in Dalnegorsk, Russia, Disclosed in New Book, "Russia's Roswell Incident"

Although the leaders of the former Soviet Union did not allow citizens to speak freely about UFOs, a new book finally reveals major UFO cases that have surfaced since the USSR fell, including the reported 1986 crash of a UFO in Dalnegorsk, Russia.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Russian Roswell Incident
PRLog (Press Release)
May 29, 2012

Witnesses say something not of this world crash-landed on a hilltop in the Russian mining town of Dalnegorsk in 1986, according to the new book Russia's Roswell Incident and Other Amazing UFO Cases from the Former Soviet Union by former Soviet refugee Paul Stonehill and British UFO expert Philip Mantle. Metal fragments recovered at the site of the Dalnegorsk crash continue to puzzle scientists today. When subjected to heat, some of the elements “disappear” and are replaced by others. Some fragments display anti-gravitational properties.

Early in 2012, media headlines throughout the United States announced, “Russian Roswell UFO Artifact Featured at National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas.” For most Americans, it was their first exposure to one of the world’s most intriguing UFO stories since the reported crash of a UFO near Roswell, New Mexico, in July 1947. The mysterious 1986 crash-landing of a spherical flying object on a hill in the town of Dalnegorsk in Southeastern Russia was finally getting the attention it has long deserved.

At the National Atomic Testing Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, a clear glass case displays glassy spheres and bits of metal in vials recovered from a red orb that streaked over the Russian mining town of Dalnegorsk and crashed into Mount Izvestkovayaon January 29 1986. The exhibit’s description reads: “Three Soviet academic centers and 11 research institutes analyzed the objects from this UFO crash. The distance between atoms is different from ordinary iron. Radar cannot be reflected from the material.

“Elements in the material may disappear and new ones appear after heating. One piece disappeared completely in front of four witnesses. The core of the material is composed of a substance with anti-gravitational properties.”

The case is notable because of this extremely strange trace evidence, which continues to intrigue researchers today. It is also noteworthy because of recently released Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) documents, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which indicate that the U.S. intelligence community apparently took a great interest in the Dalnegorsk UFO crash.

Often called “Russia’s Roswell,” this unusual event is fully explored in this new book by Paul Stonehill, founder of the Russian Ufology Research Center, and U.K. researcher Philip Mantle. In addition to complete analysis of the Dalnegorsk crash, the book fully covers the mysterious 1908 Tunguska Event in Siberia, which some people believe was an alien spacecraft that fell to Earth.

Stonehill said, "Unidentified objects have been seen both on land and in the sea throughout Russia’s history. In addition to an in-depth analysis of two reported UFO crashes, each of which has been called 'Russia’s Roswell Incident,' our book also gives you an overview of the most important cases, observations, and sightings in the lands formerly known as the Soviet Union."

"Russia is a huge country. Many of its areas, especially in Siberia, Far Eastern provinces and the Arctic regions, have not been completely explored even today, in the early 21st century," Stonehill added. "During the last one hundred years Russia has gone through bloody revolutions, wars, transformations of its economy, purges, famine, invasions, and other life-shattering events. Millions of Russians perished in concentration camps created by Soviet Marxist Leninists and German National Socialists. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, died from famine and starvation. Others were exiled, banished, maimed, their lives torn apart by terrible events of the 20th century."

"And yet, even in the darkest of times, there were those in the USSR who had observed strange and perplexing unidentified flying or submersible objects and found ways to preserve their observations. Such anomalous phenomena had never escaped the attention of the Soviet rulers and the nation’s armed forces."

Since UFOs were a forbidden subject for citizens of the Soviet Union, this book mostly contains UFO reports by scientists, pilots, military personnel, cosmonauts, and other Soviet “officials” with a high enough standing to risk telling their stories. As a result, the reader will not find accounts from random, run-of-the-mill citizens who, after their encounter, ran to the local newspaper to “tell all.” Instead, the UFO sightings in this book are mostly from sources generally considered to be “highly reliable,” including many highly-trained observers such as astronomers, cosmonauts, and aircraft pilots.

Among the incredible stories told in the book is that of a close encounter at a major Russian missile base in 1994. The authors report that a UFO measuring about 75 feet in diameter made a soft landing on three landing support legs in front of the main building at the base that is a key part of Russia’s air defense system.

The report states that “something” resembling a flying saucer landed in the plaza in front of the main building. Five minutes later all soldiers not on combat duty formed a perimeter around the UFO, their machine guns at the ready. Observing the object from a distance of 300-500 feet, the soldiers said it was a classic “saucer” – a silver disk with a dome on the top, three semi-spheres on the bottom, and three landing supports.

As noted, the object’s diameter was about 75 feet, and the dome’s diameter was about 20 feet. The three semi-spheres on the bottom were about 15 feet in diameter. The object’s silver color was accentuated by a slight hint of blue, and it gleamed very brightly in the sunlight of mid afternoon.

Within 10 minutes of the landing, the military unit’s watch officer reported the UFO to superiors. The soldiers were ordered not to approach the UFO and to cease all activities that might be viewed as aggressive and might initiate a retaliatory response from the object. The orders also instructed the base to get ready to receive an airplane containing a “mobile laboratory” of government UFO researchers. The plane carrying 15 military research specialists arrived about three hours later.

After filming the object on their approach to the site, the researchers split up into three groups. Dressed in shiny, hermetically-sealed, biohazard suits, and waving various instruments, the rapid response team approached the UFO. When they got within about 20 feet, the object or the surrounding air suddenly “rippled” as if struck by some type of distortion wave. A strange sizzling noise was heard, and the soil shook a little underneath the observers’ feet. Then the UFO began a slow ascent, and as it lifted off, it “pulled” the asphalt-covered surface of the plaza towards it. That “pull” extended from the edges to the center of the plaza.

Paul Stonehill was born in Kiev, USSR, in 1959 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1973. A recognized expert on the history and culture of the former Soviet Union, author, TV consultant, lecturer, and researcher of Eurasian paranormal phenomena, Paul founded the Los Angeles-based Russian Ufology Research Center in 1991. Paul has excellent sources in the UFO research community in Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe.

Philip Mantle is the former Director of Investigations for the British UFO Research Association, former Mutual UFO Network representative for England, and an honorary member of the Research Institute on Anomalous Phenomena in the Ukraine. He is an international lecturer on the subject of UFOs and has also worked for a variety of TV and radio companies around the world.

Their new book, Russia's Roswell Incident and Other Amazing UFO Cases from the Former Soviet Union, 302 pages in length with many rare UFO photos from the Russian UFO archives, retails for $14.95 and is available at http://RoswellBooks.com and all online book sellers.

http://www.prlog.org/11887168-ufo-crash-in-dalnegorsk-russia-disclosed-in-new-book-russias-roswell-incident.html

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« Reply #6762 on: May 30th, 2012, 08:10am »

Reuters

Mubarak sons face charges over stock market fraud: TV

Wed May 30, 2012 8:25am EDT

CAIRO (Reuters) - The two sons of Egypt's ousted President Hosni Mubarak will face charges in a criminal court of alleged stock market manipulation, state television reported on Wednesday, three days before a court was due to issue a verdict in a separate trial for their role in alleged corruption.

Gamal and Alaa Mubarak are already standing trial with their father in a case in which the former president is facing charges of graft and complicity in the killing of protestors who rose up against him last year. The verdict in that trial is expected on Saturday.


(Reporting by Edmund Blair; Editing by Catherine Evans)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/30/us-egypt-court-sons-idUSBRE84T0OO20120530

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« Reply #6763 on: May 30th, 2012, 08:25am »

Wired

May 30, 1898: Krypton Discovered, Decades Before Superman Arrives
By Randy Alfred
May 30 12:00 am
Categories: 19th century, Chemistry


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A vial of glowing ultrapure krypton.
Image: Jurii/Wikimedia



1898: Two British researchers discover the element krypton. It’s real, but it would inspire fantastic fiction.

William Ramsay, a Scot, and his student Morris Travers, an Englishman, were searching for gases in the helium family. They boiled a sample of liquefied air until they got rid of the water, oxygen, nitrogen, helium and argon. Then they placed the residue in a Plücker tube connected to an induction coil. It produced a spectrum with bright yellow and green lines.

Because they had suspected its presence, but had to look for it by removing all that other stuff, Ramsay and Travers gave the element with atomic number 36 the name krypton, from the Greek kryptos for hidden (think cryptography or encryption).

Within weeks, the scientifically dynamic duo had detected a duet of other noble gases: neon and xenon. Ramsay was already responsible for discovering helium (with Lord Rayleigh) in 1894 and argon in 1895, giving him ownership of nearly an entire column of the periodic table. (The noble gases used to be called the inert gases, but they have been found to be slightly reactive, forming compounds such as krypton difluoride and xenon tetroxide.)

King Edward VII made Ramsay a Knight Commander of the Order of Bath in 1902. Ramsay received the 1904 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Krypton has a variety of uses today: in flashes for high-speed photography, in fluorescent lights in combination with argon, and to make so-called neon signs that have a greenish-yellow light. (Neon itself glows red.) Between 1960 and 1983, the meter was defined as 1,650,763.73 wavelengths in a vacuum of the orange-red radiation of the krypton 86 isotope.

When Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman in Action Comics No. 1 (published June 1938), they named their superhero’s home planet after the chemical element discovered 40 years earlier. Retellings of Superman’s origins place his arrival on Earth around the time of World War I, a mere 20 years after Ramsay and Traver’s discovery of krypton.

Siegel and Shuster may have been inspired by the element’s cryptic name, its ghastly glow or perhaps just its sound, like George Eastman favoring the strength of the letter K.

Regardless, Superman and his legion of fans have made the fictional planet Krypton far better known than the real element. The fictional mineral kryptonite, which threatens Superman’s strength and vitality, even has a real-life counterpart, almost.

Mining researchers in Jadar, Serbia, in 2007 unearthed some sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide and learned that’s what’s written on a case of rock containing kryptonite in the film Superman Returns. “The new mineral does not contain fluorine,” a mineralogist told the BBC, “and is white rather than green but, in all other respects, the chemistry matches that for the rock containing kryptonite.”

But the miners named it jadarite, because the mineral does not contain the element krypton, and internationally accepted rules of nomenclature thus prevented it from being named kryptonite.

Spoilsports.

Then again, doesn’t Jadar sound like the name of one of Superman’s cousins or something on the planet Krypton?

http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2008/05/may-30-1898-krypton-discovered-decades-before-superman-arrives/

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« Reply #6764 on: May 30th, 2012, 08:31am »

The Hill

Bankrupt wireless firm LightSquared cuts employees, but not lobbyists

By Brendan Sasso and Kevin Bogardus
05/30/12 05:00 AM ET

Wireless startup LightSquared has laid off nearly half of its workforce and filed for bankruptcy, but isn’t parting with its extensive network of Washington lobbyists.

Philip Falcone and his investment firm, Harbinger Capital Partners, invested billions of dollars in LightSquared’s plan to build a high-speed wireless network that would have served more than 260 million people, but federal regulators denied it permission to launch in February over concerns that it would interfere with GPS devices.

LightSquared assembled an impressive roster of K Street names to push for the network. Last quarter, at least 14 different firms lobbied for LightSquared, according to disclosure forms.

The company spent more than $2.8 million on lobbying in 2011, according to records, roughly quadrupling 2010’s total of nearly $700,000.

But the lobbying offensive wasn’t enough to get LightSquared’s network proposal past regulators. The company announced plans in February to lay off nearly half of its 330 employees, and filed for bankruptcy in May.

Despite the financial troubles and staff cutbacks, LightSquared has yet to disband its lobbying army — an implicit acknowledgment that the company’s future is contingent upon what happens in Washington.

John Scofield of Shockey Scofield Solutions said his firm would still be lobbying for LightSquared.

“We are proud to be part of the LightSquared team and look forward to helping them successfully navigate the regulatory and political process to deploy its nationwide broadband network,” Scofield said. “LightSquared’s voluntary Chapter 11 filing was necessary to preserve the value of LightSquared’s business and to enable continued operations. We have not and will not let up and expect to be successful in the end.”

LightSquared is still looking for ways to salvage its network. When it filed for bankruptcy, the company released a statement saying the move was intended to give it “breathing room” from creditors to continue working on ways to launch its 4G network.

The company has suggested technical fixes could solve the GPS interference problem, and floated the idea of switching to new wireless frequencies farther away from those used by GPS devices.

A source close to LightSquared said the company needs to keep up its K Street spending to fight GPS companies that have been lobbying against their network. GPS companies including Trimble and John Deere have formed their own group, the Coalition to Save our GPS, to urge regulators and lawmakers to block LightSquared.

“If they lay down and quit, there’s no telling what may happen,” the source said.

The source said that the company’s lobbying efforts have “basically not changed” since the bankruptcy filing. The source has seen “no evidence of mass terminations or cutting back” on advocacy spending, and predicted that the company won’t significantly scale back on lobbying until it makes it through the bankruptcy process.

Nonetheless, LightSquared has canceled lobbying contracts with at least two firms, the Podesta Group and Ballard Spahr, according to termination reports filed last quarter. Podesta reported ending work for LightSquared on March 3, while Ballard Spahr reported ending work on Feb. 29.

The startup also cut off its contract with public-relations powerhouse Burson-Marsteller.

Several lobbying firms did not return requests for comment when contacted for this piece.

Other lobbyists, including former Rep. Jim Walsh (R-N.Y.) of K&L Gates and former Rep. Bob Walker (R-Pa.) of Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates, referred questions to LightSquared when asked about their firms’ representation of the company.

LightSquared declined to comment.

Some Republicans have questioned whether LightSquared’s dozens of lobbyists inappropriately influenced the White House and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) held up President Obama’s two nominees to the FCC for four months in a bid to force the agency to turn over its internal documents on the company.

In a speech on the Senate floor last week, Grassley accused the FCC of not taking the GPS interference problem seriously until late in the review process.

“It seems strange that a project that was so obviously flawed was allowed to go so far, but LightSquared had help,” Grassley said, pointing to the lobbyists.

House Republicans have launched their own investigation into the FCC’s review of the company.

In its bankruptcy filing, LightSquared listed the holders of its 20 largest unsecured claims. That list included Boeing, to which it owes $7.5 million, and Alcatel-Lucent, which it owes $7.3 million.

Also on that list was Burson-Marsteller, which LightSquared owes nearly $265,000. Another $20,000 is owed to Mehlman Capitol Strategies, along with $35,000 to Shockey Scofield.

Paul Cordasco, a spokesman for Burson-Marsteller, said the firm is going through the “normal channels” to recover its money, but declined to specify whether that would include filings in LightSquared’s bankruptcy proceeding.

Now that the company has filed for bankruptcy, some of the decisions about which bills to pay will be up to the judge, though the source close to LightSquared said the firms will not be left out to dry.

“I don’t anticipate there are going to be problems with payment,” the source said.


http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/229937-bankrupt-lightsquared-cuts-employees-but-not-lobbyists

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