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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 44108 times)
WingsofCrystal
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« Reply #6840 on: Jun 13th, 2012, 08:20am »

on Jun 12th, 2012, 4:23pm, philliman wrote:
Yeah, the other one is a stray. Still not sure what kind of dog it is. grin


A cat? You say it's a cat?? Are you surehuh shocked My, that explains a lot! grin


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« Reply #6841 on: Jun 13th, 2012, 08:25am »

Reuters

Pakistan not "gouging" over NATO's Afghan routes: minister

Wed Jun 13, 2012 9:13am EDT

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's foreign minister said on Tuesday difficult talks with the United States to repair frayed ties and re-open NATO supply routes to Afghanistan were not being thwarted by a Pakistani demand for high tariffs on the supplies.

Pakistan cut the routes for NATO supplies in November last year to protest against the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers killed in cross-border fire from NATO aircraft.

The supply lines for goods shipped in to the Pakistani port of Karachi and trucked in to landlocked Afghanistan have been vital for U.S.-led forces over their more than 10-year involvement in Afghanistan.

Now, the routes are seen as important for the withdrawal of most foreign troops from Afghanistan before the end of 2014.

But talks on getting the routes re-opened have become snagged on a Pakistani demand for a substantial increase in the fees Pakistan charges on the supplies, media has reported.

But Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar rejected that.

"Pakistan is not in any sort of price-gouging debate right now. So these impressions are indeed incorrect, wrong and must be dispersed as soon as possible," Khar told reporters.

"The U.S. side knows very well the needs and requirements to enable us to move in that direction, to enable us to take that decision," she said, referring to re-opening the routes.

She did not elaborate.

The two trucking routes, one to the southern Afghan city of Kandahar and the other to the capital, Kabul, accounted for almost a third of all cargo shipped to NATO forces in Afghanistan before they were suspended.

The United States has rebuffed Pakistan's demands for an apology for the air strike in November in which the 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed and ties have become severely strained.

The two sides failed to agree on the tariff and the United States said on Monday it was withdrawing negotiators from Pakistan without securing a deal after six weeks of talks.

A senior U.S. official told Reuters on Tuesday that Pakistan's civilian government should "bite the bullet" and re-open the routes to ease tension.

With the Pakistan routes unavailable, NATO has turned to countries to the north of Afghanistan for more expensive, longer land routes.

Resupplying through the northern route is about 2-1/2 times more expensive than through Pakistan, a U.S. defense official told Reuters.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on a visit to Australia on Wednesday NATO still hoped to reopen the routes despite securing transit deals with three Central Asian states.


(Reporting by Anam Zehra; Writing by Qasim Nauman; Editing by Rebecca Conway and Robert Birsel)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/13/us-pakistan-usa-idUSBRE85C0IN20120613

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« Reply #6842 on: Jun 13th, 2012, 08:30am »

Washington Post

Obama campaign’s rough patch concerns some Democrats

By Karen Tumulty, Published: June 12
The Washington Post

Is it time for Democrats to panic?

That’s what a growing number of party loyalists are wondering, amid a rough couple of weeks in which President Obama and his political operation have been buffeted by bad economic news, their own gaffes and signs that the presumed Republican nominee is gaining strength.

Obama’s team insists that it is unfazed by the recent bumps in the political road.

By November, “it’s going to be about: Who do I trust more in [his] approach to the debt? Who do I trust more to create middle-class jobs? Who do I trust more to create an energy future? Who do I trust more as it relates to Afghanistan?” said David Plouffe, who served as Obama’s campaign manager four years ago and is managing political strategy in the White House this time around.

“That’s what’s going to decide the election, not the contretemps of the moment,” he said in an interview. “We’re very cognizant of that.”

That kind of unflappability is a hallmark of the Obama political operation — and was a crucial ingredient in its success in 2008. But some Democratic veterans are wondering whether the reelection campaign, run by the same tight-knit group that led it four years ago, is equipped for what lies ahead.

“The bad thing is, there is no new thinking in that circle,” said one longtime operative in Democratic presidential campaigns who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid.

Eight other prominent Democratic strategists interviewed shared that view, describing Obama’s team as resistant to advice and assistance from those who are not part of its core. All of them spoke on the condition of anonymity as well.

The latest alarm came in a memo Monday from Democracy Corps, a research group headed by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and political consultant James Carville.

Based on their analysis of focus groups conducted late last month among swing voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania, they wrote that the current campaign message — which stresses the fragile progress of the economic recovery — is out of touch with the daily pain voters are feeling.

“We will face an impossible head wind in November if we do not move to a new narrative, one that contextualizes the recovery, but, more importantly, focuses on what we will do to make a better future for the middle class,” Greenberg, Carville and pollster Erica Seifert wrote. They added: “They know we are in a new normal where life is a struggle — and convincing them that things are good enough for those who have found jobs is a fool’s errand.”

The memo came days after Obama handed the Republicans new ammunition with his declaration at a news conference that “the private sector is doing fine.”

However difficult the task, the president may have little choice but to try to make voters feel better about the economy. Successful presidents have run for reelection on the strength of their records, as well as on the hope they offered for the future.

But successful presidents also have benefited from presenting voters a choice — between their stewardship and their rivals’. Obama’s defenders said that although the Greenberg data reflect voters’ frustrations with the economy, they are not a good gauge of Obama’s vision vs. that of GOP challenger Mitt Romney.

The president’s message “has been spot-on in terms of where we are and where we’re going,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.).

The latest economic news, including a report that the economy added only 69,000 jobs in May, made that challenge more difficult for Obama and his top strategists.

Obama will deliver a major campaign speech Thursday in Cleveland in which he will try to frame the election as a choice between two economic visions — one that protects the middle class and another that takes the country back to the failed policies of the past, campaign officials said.

“Now all the stories are about the flawed Obama team and strategy, which is ridiculous,” said Mark McKinnon, who was a top campaign strategist for George W. Bush. “They are not any more or less smart than they were four years ago. The dynamics are just different. This time, the wind is in their face instead of at their back.”

Still, some Democrats say that the campaign has lost its bearings at some turns recently. Some have suggested that the president’s team is flailing in its attacks against Romney.

When his campaign ran an ad criticizing the Republican’s methods as a corporate turnaround artist — with one laid-off worker describing him as “a vampire” — Newark Mayor Cory Booker described it as “nauseating” and former Pennsylvania governor Edward G. Rendell called it “disappointing.”

And when the campaign pivoted to an attack on Romney’s record as Massachusetts governor, Obama strategist David Axelrod held a news conference in Boston, only to be drowned out by pro-Romney supporters.

Plouffe dismissed the suggestion that the Obama operation has become too caught up in daily skirmishing.

Romney, Plouffe said, is “out there every day misrepresenting what the president has done on the economy, on spending, on foreign policy. Those things should not stand. But it’s also important for people to understand this isn’t simply a question of a referendum on the president. It’s a choice between two visions and two records.”

Running for reelection poses additional challenges for the political team that so successfully positioned Obama as an outsider and an agent of change in 2008.

For one thing, the candidate now has a day job and therefore cannot devote five or six days a week to the campaign trail as he did then. Indeed, Obama was slower off the mark even than his predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Where Bush held his first big reelection campaign rally in March 2004, Obama’s did not step out for his until last month.

And where Obama was the one who had superior financial resources in 2008, this year he is virtually certain to be outgunned by the combined forces of the Romney campaign and its allied super PACs. In May, Romney and the Republican National Committee raised nearly $77 million, while Obama and the Democratic National Committee brought in $60 million.

There is still the power of the presidency. But the bully pulpit is not what it once was, given that this is an era in which people get information from far more sources than they did in the past.

Obama’s advisers say his campaign has advantages that will be critical if the race remains close. While the Republicans were slugging it out in a long and bitter primary, the Obama campaign was building its ground operation in key states — to a degree that Democrats think Romney won’t be able to match.

“They are laser-focused on the key 13 states, and within those key battleground states, there is a world of work being done,” said Durbin, who added that he has had three extensive briefings on Obama’s grass-roots operation.

Even compared with the impressive ground campaign of 2008, “they know more about the swing voters and how to reach them,” he said.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-campaigns-erratic-behavior-concerns-some-democrats/2012/06/12/gJQAedXZYV_story.html

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« Reply #6843 on: Jun 13th, 2012, 08:33am »

Wired

When GPS Goes Down, Pentagon Still Wants a Way to Fight
By Katie Drummond
June 13, 2012 | 6:30 am
Categories: DarpaWatch

The navigational system used by the military for just about everything from guiding drones to dropping bombs is increasingly under threat of attack. Now, the Pentagon’s desperate to replace it. Or, at least, reinforce it enough to stave off a looming storm of strikes.

That’s the thrust of a new venture from Darpa, the military’s premier research arm and the brains behind GPS’ initial development in the 1950s. On Tuesday, the agency announced the second phase of their program, “All Source Positioning and Navigation (ASPN),” that’s trying to “enable low-cost, robust and seamless navigation solutions … with or without GPS.”

The program, which Darpa quietly kicked off last year with two awards for theoretical research, is one part of a larger military effort that’s trying to steer the Pentagon away from its GPS dependency.

Why? First off, there’s the growing risk of GPS signals being jammed by adversarial forces. Enemies on the ground can also “spoof” a GPS system — essentially tricking it into showing an incorrect location. And these are far from hypothetical risks: Mere weeks ago, a fatal drone crash in South Korea was attributed to GPS signal jamming from north of the border. Last year, Iranians (perhaps dubiously) claimed they jammed the GPS signals navigating an American spy drone, then spoofed the system to land in Iran’s clutches.

And those GPS-thwarting capabilities continue to grow — at a pace that’s exceeded the military’s ability to keep pace — largely because of a booming commercial market for GPS-jamming technology. Such electronic warfare “was once the province of a few peer-adversaries,” Darpa deputy director Ken Gabriel told the House Armed Services Committee’s panel on emerging threats earlier this year. “It is now possible to purchase commercial off-the-shelf components for more than 90 percent of the electronics needed in an [electronic warfare] system.”

The risks now inherent in GPS are well-known, but it doesn’t look like Darpa’s ready to give up on the system altogether. Instead, they’re after a navigational system that can swiftly move between different combos of devices, using a “plug-and-play” approach. Right now, the agency notes, the military’s navigation systems primarily rely on a pairing of two devices: GPS, which uses satellite data, and what’s known as an Inertial Navigation System (INS), which relies on “dead reckoning” (using estimates of speed and direction, without external references) to provide locational intel.

It’s a tactic that’s accompanied by several problems. For one, INS — because it uses internal, ongoing estimates — is notoriously error-prone without a GPS system to back it up, so it can’t be relied upon exclusively. And INS systems often obtain their starting position and velocity from a GPS device. Which means if the GPS is under attack, the INS risks leading military personnel (or the drone or weapon they’re navigating) astray.

These navigational systems are also extremely inflexible. Typically, Darpa notes, they’re programmed to accommodate, maybe, one additional sensor (say, a magnetometer) and unable to plug into any others. As a result, personnel can’t respond to “new threats or mission challenges” in real time. Not to mention that, even as consumer navigation tech becomes more sophisticated (Apple Maps, anyone?) the military can’t take advantage of the most cutting-edge products.

Of course, there are already plenty of GPS alternatives available. Radio beacons, which transmit signals from static locations to receiving devices, allow the calculation of location based on proximity to various beacons. Ground feature navigation extracts the positions of tracked objects and then uses them as points of reference to gauge a vessel’s locale. And stellar navigation systems use the coordinates of celestial bodies to assist in a vehicle’s navigation.

Darpa’s dream navigational system would go beyond those kinds of discreet systems — by incorporating pretty much all of them. The ASPN system, according to Darpa’s announcement, should be able to accomodate any available sensor, and be versatile enough to incorporate new sensors “as they become available in the marketplace.” The key benefit to such adaptability would be the mitigation of GPS-dependency. Personnel would instead have myriad sensors at their disposal, and be able to toggle between them as necessary. In other words, a suite of backup tools to work, in conjunction, as a safety net in case of GPS failure. Among the ton of gadgets that Darpa wants the system to utilize: 3-D imagers, LiDAR, temperature sensors … and good old compasses.

It remains to be seen whether ASPN can restore the “spectrum dominance” that Gabriel and his Darpa cohorts are chasing. At the very least, though, it should help them keep pace with the commercial sector. Especially because, as Darpa’s announcement notes, ASPN testing will rely on “the Android operating system.”

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/06/darpa-gps/

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« Reply #6844 on: Jun 13th, 2012, 08:43am »

Hollywood Reporter

'Lone Ranger' Budget Back Up to $250 Million

Insiders say the Johnny Depp western, which was cut to $215 million, is well over its revised budget -- in addition to possibly being weeks behind its filming schedule.

5:00 AM PDT 6/13/2012
by Borys Kit

When Disney briefly shut down the Johnny Depp western The Lone Ranger in August amid concerns about a budget that had ballooned to $250 million, the principals -- including Depp, director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer -- agreed to cut action sequences and their own upfront fees to bring the cost down to about $215 million. Well, don't look now, but Lone Ranger is riding headlong into budget trouble again.

Insiders say the movie, which began shooting Feb. 28 in New Mexico, is not only running days or possibly weeks behind its 120-day shooting schedule, it's also over its revised budget. Several sources say that the effects-heavy Lone Ranger is now back at its original cost of $250 million, while one source close to the production says it has surpassed that figure.

"It's up to a number they didn't want," says one insider.

Verbinski is again being asked to cut scenes -- he already made such sacrifices as losing a major train sequence in the first round of trims -- and rewrites are under way, according to a source. (A Disney spokesperson says the $250 million budget number is inaccurate.)

Many working with Verbinski are not surprised by cost increases. The Pirates of the Caribbean filmmaker is known for budget-busting on many of his projects. Period trains are a huge element in the movie, say sources, and Verbinski opted for the production to construct its own locomotives from scratch rather than employ existing railroad vehicles. Plus, several sources say the project has experienced severe weather disruptions, including wind and dust storms that damaged the pricey set.

At the same time, the executive turnover at Disney -- studio head Rich Ross resigned in April amid criticism of his lack of film experience -- has left a void during production. Newly installed chief Alan Horn started in the job June 11, so he is just beginning to get familiar with the Lone Ranger situation, which will likely be one of the first challenges he faces in his new role.

The film is not expected to finish shooting until August, which still gives it plenty of time to meet its July 3, 2013, release date. And the buzz generated by some who have seen footage say Verbinski has a chance to do for Westerns what he did for pirate movies -- make the genre popular internationally.

"It's out of control," says one insider of the spending, "but if you were going to bet on anyone, it would be on Gore, Johnny and Jerry."

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/lone-ranger-budget-johnny-depp-336526

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« Reply #6845 on: Jun 13th, 2012, 9:28pm »

Huge Asteroid to Fly by Earth Thursday: How to Watch Online

by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 13 June 2012

An asteroid the size of a city block is set to fly by Earth Thursday (June 14), and you may be able to watch it happen live.

The near-Earth asteroid 2012 LZ1, which astronomers think is about 1,650 feet (500 meters) wide, will come within 14 lunar distances of Earth Thursday evening. While there's no danger of an impact on this pass, the huge space rock may come close enough to be caught on camera.

That's what the team running the Slooh Space Camera thinks, anyway. The online skywatching service will train a telescope on the Canary Islands on 2012 LZ1 and stream the footage live, beginning at 8:00 p.m. EDT Thursday (0000 GMT Friday).

You can watch the asteroid flyby on Slooh's website, found here: http://events.slooh.com/

2012 LZ1 just popped onto astronomers' radar this week. It was discovered on the night of June 10-11 by Rob McNaught and his colleagues, who were peering through the Uppsala Schmidt telescope at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia.

Researchers estimate that the space rock is between 1,000 and 2,300 feet wide (300-700 m). On Thursday evening, it will come within about 3.35 million miles (5.4 million kilometers) of our planet, or roughly 14 times the distance between Earth and the moon.

Because of its size and proximity to Earth, 2012 LZ1 qualifies as a potentially hazardous asteroid. Near-Earth asteroids generally have to be at least 500 feet (150 m) wide and come within 4.65 million miles (7.5 million km) of our planet to be classified as potentially hazardous.

2012 LZ1 is roughly the same size as asteroid 2005 YU55, which made a much-anticipated flyby of Earth last November. But 2005 YU55 gave our planet a much closer shave, coming within 202,000 miles (325,000 km) of us on the evening of Nov. 8. A space rock as big as 2005 YU55 hadn't come so close to Earth since 1976, researchers said.

Astronomers have identified nearly 9,000 near-Earth asteroids, but they think many more are out there, waiting to be discovered.

http://www.space.com/16131-huge-asteroid-flyby-2012-lz1-webcast.html
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« Reply #6846 on: Jun 14th, 2012, 08:51am »

"An asteroid the size of a city block is set to fly by Earth Thursday (June 14), and you may be able to watch it happen live.

The near-Earth asteroid 2012 LZ1, which astronomers think is about 1,650 feet (500 meters) wide, will come within 14 lunar distances of Earth Thursday evening. While there's no danger of an impact on this pass, the huge space rock may come close enough to be caught on camera."


That's exciting! Thank you Swamprat. And good morning to you.

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« Reply #6847 on: Jun 14th, 2012, 08:52am »

Reuters

Pakistan calls again for apology for NATO strike

Thu Jun 14, 2012 8:58am EDT

KABUL (Reuters) - Pakistan's foreign minister said on Thursday that the country wants an apology for a NATO cross-border strike that killed two dozen of its soldiers last year before it considers reopening supply routes to foreign troops in Afghanistan.

"Pakistan still wants an unconditional apology and the reassurance that the Salala type of incident does not happen again," Hina Rabbani Khar told reporters, referring to the place where the incident took place.


(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/14/us-pakistan-nato-idUSBRE85D0U320120614

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« Reply #6848 on: Jun 14th, 2012, 09:00am »

MSNBC.com

Military clears up Beltway UFO mystery

By Thomas Tobin and Carissa DiMargo
14 June 2012

Beltway traffic in Washington, D.C., is bad enough without adding extraterrestrial vehicles into the mix.

On Wednesday night, Facebook and Twitter users went wild over sightings of a saucer-shaped vessel being towed on local highways. The buzz called to mind the frenzy in 1947 Roswell, albeit in a much more modern way.

Drivers spotted the craft on I-270 and on the Beltway as it was pulled behind a tractor trailer.


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But we can take the "unidentified" out of "unidentified flying object." (And yes, we realize that it wasn't actually flying, either.) The military has confirmed to NBC News affiliate News4 that the 82-foot-long craft is an unmanned military aircraft, known as an X-47B.

Maryland State Police towed it on a flatbed trailer from Garrett County, Md., to Naval Air Station Patuxent River.

The drone had come all the way from California -- and yes, it "always attracts attention," a military spokesperson told NBC4's Melissa Mollet.

The craft is the second of its kind to come to the area. An X-47B arrived in late 2011 -- although if they towed that one on the Beltway, no one must have noticed.

"In the coming months, you can expect to see the X-47B flying over the base and surrounding area along the Chesapeake Bay," said Matt Funk, lead test engineer.

According to a military press release:

The X-47B is the first unmanned vehicle designed to take off and land on an aircraft carrier. As part of the program's demonstration, the X-47B will perform arrested landings and catapult launches at Pax to validate its ability to conduct precision approaches to the carrier. The base is one of only a few sites in the world where the Navy can run performance tests on aircraft-carrier catapult operations at a land-based facility with flight test and engineering support resources not available on a ship.

Although Maryland State Police helped orchestrate the the drone's Wednesday night commute, even they didn't know what it was at the time, police told News4.

"Don't worry, that's not an alien spacecraft, just a flying military robot. [That was a] totally normal sentence in 2012. I love the future," Ben Jacobs tweeted.

http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/06/14/12220049-military-clears-up-beltway-ufo-mystery?lite

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« Reply #6849 on: Jun 14th, 2012, 09:04am »

Seattle Times

Originally published Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 10:02 PM

Australia creating world's largest network of marine reserves

The Australian government announced on Thursday the creation of the world's largest network of marine reserves, covering 1.2 million square miles of ocean, including the entire Coral Sea.

By Juliet Eilperin
The Washington Post

The Australian government announced on Thursday the creation of the world's largest network of marine reserves, covering 1.2 million square miles of ocean, including the entire Coral Sea.

Environment Minister Tony Burke said the government expects to pay about $100 million to the fishing industry in compensation for the new restrictions on operations that will take effect this year.

Highly protected areas such as the Coral Sea off Australia's northeastern coast and the adjoining World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef would also be protected from oil and gas exploration. Both areas, which cover a total 500,000 square miles, have shallow reefs that support tropical ecosystems with sharks, coral, sponges and many fish species.

Burke said he wanted the reserves to set a benchmark for the world in environmental protection and food security — the access to and consistent availability of food. The plan aims to guarantee future fish stocks by preventing overfishing.

The move, which comes on the heels of California's vote last week to create the largest marine reserve network in the United States, signals a growing movement to put some of the sea's most ecologically valuable areas off-limits before they are damaged beyond repair.

But they also reflect the political and economic pressures elected leaders face as they balance conservation with activities such as fishing and oil drilling.

The Australian plan, for example, angered commercial fishing interests while disappointing some environmentalists by falling short of the protections they envisioned.

In California, the just-finalized network of state underwater parks drew complaints from a Native-American tribe that said the new restrictions could infringe on their long-held harvesting rights.

The drive to create marine reserves — some of which are fully protected from exploitation, others which allow for activities including fishing and mining — is taking place on two fronts.

It targets several of the most remote, biologically rich spots in the ocean, such as Australia's Coral Sea, along with some nearshore areas where local communities are willing to restrict their activities.

"If we're going to protect 10 percent of the ocean by 2020, the first places that need to be protected are the last wild places in the sea," said Enric Sala, a National Geographic explorer in residence. "But we still need to create hundreds of thousands of protected marine reserves in places where people live and fish to make a living."

The centerpiece of Australia's announcement is a no-take reserve (where exploitation is prohibited) of 193,000 square miles in the Coral Sea, roughly the size of Spain, which will rank as the world's second-largest fully protected marine reserve. The region east of Australia's Great Barrier Reef boasts vibrant reefs and deep-water sharks, tuna and marlin.

Joshua Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group, whose organization has lobbied for a no-take reserve in the Coral Sea and in other regions ranging from Bermuda to the Falkland Islands, said these remote areas need to be protected before they become accessible and depleted.

In addition to more tropical waters, the new plan would protect areas in cold-temperate waters off southern Australia, where blue whales, whale sharks and Australian sea lions live.


Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2018426618_oceans14.html

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« Reply #6850 on: Jun 14th, 2012, 09:08am »

Washington Post

Posted at 08:48 AM ET, 06/14/2012

Iraq ambassador nominee vote could be delayed

By Emily Heil

Brett McGurk, the White House’s pick to be the ambassador to Iraq, is slated for a Tuesday vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But we’re hearing that the controversial nominee could get bumped off the panel’s agenda in the face of mounting criticism on and off the committee.

Six Republicans on the panel on Wednesday sent a letter to the White House asking them to withdraw McGurk’s name. And the opposition to McGurk isn’t just coming from their side of the aisle. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the panel’s number-two Democrat, is said to have deep reservations about him, too.

“There are strong concerns about Mr. McGurk’s qualifications, his ability to work with Iraqi officials, and now his judgment,” the GOP letter states. It is signed by Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Jim Risch of Idaho, Marco Rubio of Florida, James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Mike Lee of Utah.

McGurk’s path to securing the nomination got more complicated last week, when a racy e-mail exchange surfaced between McGurk and a Wall Street Journal reporter covering him. In the letter, the senators said such “unprofessional conduct ... will affect the nominee’s credibility in the country where he has been nominated to serve.”

They also indicate that they were not previously aware of the e-mails, which were posted online anonymously last week. “The fact that this information was not disclosed to Senators is also disconcerting,” they wrote.

The e-mail exchanges date from when McGurk was working in Iraq for the National Security Council under then-President George W. Bush. Reporter Gina Chon was stationed in Baghdad and the two struck up a romantic relationship. They are now married, and Chon on Tuesday announced her resignation from the Journal.

In the e-mails, the two joke about McGurk providing Chon with information and access. And while the e-mails don’t indicate that McGurk actually shared any sensitive information with Chon, they come at a time when the Senate is focused on stanching national security leaks.

Even in the face of controversy, the White House stood by its man.

“We believe the United States will be greatly served by Mr. McGurk’s experience in Iraq, which is substantial,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday.

Other concerns about McGurk predate the e-mail exchange being revealed. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had previously criticized McGurk’s handling of U.S. policy in Iraq, including the inability of U.S. and Iraqi negotiators to reach a deal that would have left a small U.S. military presence behind. All U.S. combat troops left Iraq last year after those negotiations broke down.

In the letter, the Republican members of the Foreign Relations Committee echoed that criticism, noting that McGurk played a “lead role” in the “botched” negotiations.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/in-the-loop/post/iraq-ambassador-nominee-vote-could-be-delayed/2012/06/14/gJQA1X5ZaV_blog.html?hpid=z3

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« Reply #6851 on: Jun 14th, 2012, 10:04am »

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« Reply #6852 on: Jun 15th, 2012, 09:05am »

Seattle Times

Originally published June 15, 2012 at 4:55 AM
Page modified June 15, 2012 at 6:08 AM

China sending first woman in space to test module

China will send its first woman into space Saturday along with two other astronauts to work on a temporary space station for about a week, in a key step toward becoming the only third nation to set up a permanent base in orbit.

By NG HAN GUAN
Associated Press

JIUQUAN, China —

China will send its first woman into space Saturday along with two other astronauts to work on a temporary space station for about a week, in a key step toward becoming the only third nation to set up a permanent base in orbit.

Liu Yang, a 34-year-old air force pilot, and two male colleagues will be launched Saturday aboard the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, which will dock with the bus-sized Tiangong 1 space module now orbiting at 343 kilometers (213 miles) above the Earth.

"Arranging for women astronauts to fly is not only a must for the development of human spaceflight, but also the expectation of the public," space program spokeswoman Wu Ping said. "This is a landmark event."

Two of the astronauts will live and work inside the module to test its life-support systems while the third will remain in the capsule to deal with any unexpected emergencies. Wu said the mission will last more than 10 days before the astronauts travel back to Earth in the capsule, landing on Western Chinese grasslands with the help of parachutes.

The rocket began fueling Friday at the Jiugquan Satellite Launch Center on the edge of the Gobi desert in northern China, Wu told reporters at the center. The launch is scheduled for 6:37 p.m. (1237 GMT) Saturday, she said.

Joining Liu, a major, is veteran astronaut and mission commander Jing Haipeng and newcomer Liu Wang, both air force senior colonels.

"You could say this mission is a combination of the old and the new and coordination between the male and female," Wu said.

Success in docking - and in living and working aboard the Tiangong 1 - would smooth the way for more ambitious projects, including the creation of a permanent space station and missions to the moon, and add to China's international prestige in line with its growing economic prowess.

China is hoping to join the United States and Russia as the only countries to have sent independently maintained space stations into orbit. It already is in the exclusive three-nation club to have launched a spacecraft with astronauts on its own.

The mission demonstrates China's commitment to "long-term human spaceflight" and marks a test of "the technological capabilities requisite for a future permanent space station," said Joan Johnson-Freese, an expert on the Chinese space program at the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island.

Still, that is some years away. The Tiangong 1 is only a prototype, and the plan is to replace it with a permanent - and bigger - space station due for completion around 2020.

The permanent station will weigh about 60 tons, slightly smaller than NASA's Skylab of the 1970s and about one-sixth the size of the 16-nation International Space Station.

Analysts say China's exclusion from the ISS, largely on objections from the United States, was one of the key spurs for it to pursue an independent program 20 years ago, which reaches a high point with Saturday's launch.

The three astronauts will perform medicals tests on the effect of weightlessness on the human body, as well as other scientific and engineering tasks on Tiangong, or Heavenly Palace, which was put into orbit in September.

Wu said the capsule would first dock by remote control, then later separate and dock again manually, to prepare the technology for a permanent space station.

"After we have realized both the auto and manual docking technology, we can completely master this technology," she said.

China first launched a man into space in 2003 followed by a two-man mission in 2005 and a three-man trip in 2008 that featured China's first space walk.

In November 2011, the unmanned Shenzhou 8 successfully docked with the Tiangong 1 by remote control - twice to show the durability of the system.

While operating with limited resources, China's space program is a source of huge national pride and enjoys top-level political and military backing. This has left it largely immune from the budgetary pressures affecting NASA, although China doesn't say what it spends on the program.

The selection of the first female astronaut is giving the program an additional publicity boost. State media have gushed this week about Liu, pointing out that she once successfully landed her plane after a bird strike disabled one of its engines.

Shortly after Wu's news conference, reporters were driven to a second building for a question and answer session with the astronauts, who were dressed in blue jump suits and seated behind a glass partition.

"We won't let you down. We will work together and successfully complete this mission," said Liu Yang, who like China's other female astronaut candidates is married and has a child, a requirement because of fears that exposure to space radiation could affect fertility.


AP reporter Christopher Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this report.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2018437934_apaschinaspace.html

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« Reply #6853 on: Jun 15th, 2012, 09:11am »

ClickHouston.com

Rescuer identified in fiery crash near toll booth

Published On: Jun 13 2012 01:16:55 PM CDT

HOUSTON - A man who helped rescue a woman from a fiery crash near a toll booth in southeast Houston is a member of the Texas Air National Guard.

On June 1, Staff Sgt. Mitchell Corbin of the 147th Reconnaissance Wing was heading to Hobby Airport when he saw a vehicle on its side in one of the toll lanes in the 5400 block of South Sam Houston Parkway.

Corbin jumped on top of the burning vehicle, broke the passenger side window and pulled a woman to safety moments before the car was engulfed in flames. He administered first aid and stabilized the woman until paramedics arrived on the scene.

Once the paramedics took charge, Corbin left the scene and continued to the airport to catch his flight, without being identified.

The woman was taken to a nearby hospital to be checked out. Her injuries were described as non-life threatening with a broken hip.

Two westbound lanes at the Southeast Plaza were shut down for roadwork repair.

http://www.click2houston.com/news/Rescuer-identified-in-fiery-crash-near-toll-booth/-/1735978/14803296/-/ou7wkkz/-/index.html

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« Reply #6854 on: Jun 15th, 2012, 09:16am »

Wired

9-Year-Old Who Changed School Lunches Silenced By Politicians

By Maryn McKenna
June 14, 2012 | 9:02 pm
Categories: Science Blogs, Superbug

For the past two months, one of my favorite reads has been Never Seconds, a blog started by 9-year-old Martha Payne of western Scotland to document the unappealing, non-nutritious lunches she was being served in her public primary school. Payne, whose mother is a doctor and father has a small farming property, started blogging in early May and went viral in days. She had a million viewers within a few weeks and 2 million this morning; was written up in Time, the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, and a number of food blogs; and got support from TV cheflebrity Jamie Oliver, whose series “Jamie’s School Dinners” kicked off school-food reform in England.

Well, goodbye to all that.

This afternoon, Martha (who goes by “Veg” on the blog) posted that she will have to shut down her blog, because she has been forbidden to take a camera into school. She said:
This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today.
I only write my blog not newspapers and I am sad I am no longer allowed to take photos. I will miss sharing and rating my school dinners and I’ll miss seeing the dinners you send me too.

A little later, her father Dave (who helped her set up the blog but has been hands-off on the content), added to her post:

Veg’s Dad, Dave, here. I felt it’s important to add a few bits of info to the blog tonight. Martha’s school have been brilliant and supportive from the beginning and I’d like to thank them all. I contacted Argyll and Bute Council when Martha told me what happened at school today and they told me it was their decision to ban Martha’s photography.

Can we all agree how monumentally stupid this is?

Here we have a kid who got excited enough about feeding children well that she not only changed the food in her own district — within two weeks, officials were allowing children in her school to have “unlimited salads, fruit and bread,” which apparently was the policy all along only someone forgot to say so — but also got children around the world excited about their lunches too. Over the blog’s seven weeks, she received images of school lunches from Germany, Japan, Finland, Illinois, Spain, Washington State, a school in Atlanta that keeps kosher, and on.

And no, to stave off the inevitable snark, she’s not a bratty entitled kid. Here’s how we know: By her 19th post, she decided she’d gotten enough attention that she wanted to redirect it somewhere useful, and she asked her followers to donate to a charity called Mary’s Meals that funds school food in Africa. She started off the donations by sending Ł50 that she got from a magazine that reprinted some of her photos. By today, according to her father’s note, she had raised Ł2,000.

We anguish about getting kids to be enthusiastic about healthy, sustainable food — to not prefer the bad stuff, not waste the good stuff, and not be entitled little monsters who whine about when their next chicken nugget is arriving. And then a child emerges who, out of her own creativity and curiosity, does all of that, and gets other children around the world excited about doing it too. And then she gets told she is offending the powers that be, and is slapped down.

Those would be the powers who told a 9-year-old that she was making “bad choices” out of the food being served at her school, without ever taking responsibility for what they had allowed to be offered. (Which is not necessarily the norm for school lunches in Scotland, as this piece from the Daily Record makes clear.)

Infuriating.

If you’d like to tell the Argyll and Bute Council, who made the decision, exactly how idiotic they’ve been, their webpage is here. (And they are @argyllandbute on Twitter.)

If you’d like to send support to Martha, you can leave a comment on her final post. (Her email is on the same page.)

And if you’d like to honor her ingenuity by supporting the school-food charity she picked, the donation page is here.

(While I was writing this post, the news of the no-photography rule was posted by the Argyll News and the media site STV-Glasgow. The Argyll and Bute Council has not responded.)

Thanks @MJRobbins for flagging NeverSeconds’ goodbye post on Twitter.

Update, 12 hours later:

So much happened overnight:

•Huge amounts of public support, including from Jamie Oliver (who tweeted “Stay strong, Martha!”) and Neil Gaiman.

•214 news articles worldwide in the past 12 hours.

•Another half-million pageviews at the NeverSeconds blog (and almost 1,000 comments on her Goodbye post, up from about 150 when I posted last night).

•The Guardian proposed that people take pictures of their lunches and tweet them #MyLunchforMartha
Disappointingly, the Argyll and Bute Council remained thick-headed, releasing (at 10 a.m. UK time) a jawdroppingly unkind and accusatory statement that also appears to misrepresent what actually happened. (As several of the stories linked above make clear, Martha’s father cleared her photo project with the teachers at her school, Lochgilphead Primary, and she did not criticize “the catering staff,” only the lunches.) Thinking they might regret what they said, I took a screengrab of the statement, which I’ll get up shortly; meanwhile Twitter user @PeterWalker99 posted the text here.

Update 2:

The charity for which Martha asked support, Mary’s Meals, says that NeverSeconds’ supporters blew through the Ł2,000 she hoped to raise, and have donated enough so far to build an entire new kitchen in Lirangwe Primary School, in Blantyre, Malawi.

Update 3: Martha wins!

Three hours after its defensive statement was issued, the leader of the Argyll and Bute Council, Roddy McCuish, went on the BBC’s World At One program on Radio 4 and announced they were backing off the ban in response to a request from Scotland’s education minister along with vast pressure from social media. Here’s the BBC story.

Sincere thanks to everyone who expressed support for NeverSeconds here and also via Twitter. The response truly was enormous — last night,the pageview counter on the NeverSeconds blog was updating about once per second, and this morning the hashtag #NeverSeconds was updating too fast to follow. It’s a big win for transparency and for the importance of good food for children. Bravo all of you.

more after the jump:
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/06/neverseconds-shut-down/

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