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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 127197 times)
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« Reply #6870 on: Jun 18th, 2012, 08:58am »

Wired

California Nuke Simulator Is World’s Most Powerful Computer
By Robert McMillan
June 18, 2012 | 3:00 am
Categories: Government, Microprocessors, supercomputers

A massive liquid-cooled supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has received the bragging rights that come with being the world’s most powerful calculating machine.

With 1.5 million processing cores, Livermore’s Sequoia supercomputer weighs about the same as 30 elephants, and it can do more calculations per second than any machine ever built. How many? 16.3 quadrillion, according to benchmark numbers researchers at the national lab submitted for international supercomputing benchmarking contest called the Top500 list. In benchmarking terms, that translates to 16.3 petaflops per second.

That blows away the reigning top supercomputer, Japan’s K computer, installed at the Riken Advanced Institute for Computational Science, which can deliver 10.5 petaflops per second.

Sequoia will simulate nuclear explosions to a degree that was previously impossible, but it will also give researchers insight into what’s happening to weapons in the country’s weapons stockpile without actually testing nuclear bombs.

“Supercomputers such as Sequoia have allowed the United States to have confidence in its nuclear weapons stockpile over the 20 years since nuclear testing ended in 1992,” Lawrence Livermore said in a statement.

Sequoia was built by IBM, a company whose BlueGene/Q supercomputers are now resurgent. Back in November, the last time the Top500 list was published, there weren’t any BlueGene systems in the top 10. Today, there are four, including an 8.2 petaflop system at Argonne National Laboratory and others in Italy and Germany.

Intel’s Xeon chips rule the Top500 list, but Intel is now cooking up a new processor that’s specially made for supercomputers. That chip, which Intel named Xeon Phi on Monday, will have more than 50 processor cores and should be capable of doing 1 trillion calculations per second when it starts shipping later this year.

Intel doesn’t want to cede any ground to IBM in the high-performance computing market, because it sees this as a high-growth area over the next few years as more and more companies start using supercomputer-type programming for everything from financial modeling to movie-making to oil and gas exploration. “This represents a major growth segment for the business, and therefore a major area of investment into new capabilities and products,” says Raj Hazra, the general manager of Intel’s High Performance Computing Group.

When Sequoia is really firing on all cylinders, also sometime later this year, it will hit 20 petaflops per second. The way Livermore explains it, if every single person on earth worked nonstop on a calculator for an entire year, they could do the same number of calculations in 320 years that Sequoia cranks out in an hour.

http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2012/06/top500-llnl/

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« Reply #6871 on: Jun 18th, 2012, 09:01am »

Seattle Times

Originally published June 18, 2012 at 3:35 AM
Page modified June 18, 2012 at 6:37 AM

Chinese spacecraft docks with orbiting module

A Chinese spacecraft carrying three astronauts docked with an orbiting module Monday, another first for the country as it strives to match American and Russian exploits in space.

The Associated Press

BEIJING —

A Chinese spacecraft carrying three astronauts docked with an orbiting module Monday, another first for the country as it strives to match American and Russian exploits in space.

The Shenzhou 9 capsule completed the maneuver with the Tiangong 1 module shortly after 2 p.m. (0600 GMT), 343 kilometers (213 miles) above Earth. The docking was shown live on national television.

Astronauts will live and work in the module for several days as part of preparations for manning a permanent space station. The crew includes 33-year-old Liu Yang, an air force pilot and China's first female space traveler.

The docking was a first for Chinese manned spaceflight. In November 2011, the unmanned Shenzhou 8 successfully docked twice with Tiangong 1 by remote control.

Monday's docking also was completed by remote control from a ground base in China. A manual docking, to be carried out by one of the crew members, is scheduled for later in the mission.

Liu is joined by mission commander and veteran astronaut Jing Haipeng, 45, and crew mate Liu Wang, 43. About three hours after the docking the three were shown on live television entering the Tiangong 1, grabbing handles as they floated along in their blue spacesuits.

They will spend at least 10 days in space on China's fourth manned mission, which was launched Saturday from the Jiuquan center on the edge of the Gobi desert in northern China.

China is hoping to join the United States and Russia as the only countries to send independently maintained space stations into orbit. It is already one of just three nations to have launched manned spacecraft on their own.

Another manned mission to the module is planned later this year. Possible future missions could include sending a man to the moon.

The Tiangong 1, which was launched last year, is due to be replaced by a permanent space station around 2020. That station is to 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.

China has only limited cooperation in space with other nations and is excluded from the ISS, largely on objections from the United States.

China first launched a man into space in 2003 and conducted a two-man mission in 2005. A three-man trip in 2008 featured the country's first spacewalk.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2018462199_apaschinaspace.html

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« Reply #6872 on: Jun 19th, 2012, 08:30am »

Seattle Times

Originally published Monday, June 18, 2012 at 9:27 PM

Alaska militia leader, 2 associates convicted

Cox was a charismatic leader who almost won the Republican primary in Fairbanks for a state House seat in 2008, and he came to the attention of the FBI after a series of speeches to militia and conservative organizations in Montana.

By Richard Mauer and Lisa Demer
McClatchy Newspapers

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An Anchorage jury convicted Fairbanks militia leader Schaeffer Cox and two of his confederates of nine federal charges, including conspiracy to kill federal law-enforcement officers and possession of illegal weapons.

As the verdicts were read by U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan, Cox's eyes darted from juror to juror and then to the full courtroom, and he grew more agitated as the guilty verdicts piled up.

"The prosecutors withheld evidence from you guys!" he shouted to the jury.

"Mr. Cox, please," said the judge.

Federal prosecutors charged Cox, 2; Coleman Barney, 37; and Lonnie Vernon, 56, with amassing illegal weapons and with threatening the lives of law-enforcement officials and judges. Cox was leader of the Alaska Peacemaker Militia, but his ideology was much broader, combining evangelical Christianity, a sense of an impending national collapse and the assertion that the state and federal government held no authority over him.

Cox and Vernon were each convicted of the most serious of 16 counts in their indictment, conspiracy to murder federal employees including law-enforcement officers. The jury deadlocked on whether Barney was also guilty of conspiracy to murder, and the judge declared a mistrial on that count. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

All three men were convicted of conspiring to possess unregistered silencers and destructive devices. Cox was convicted of soliciting the murder of a U.S. officer.

The jury rejected all five counts in which prosecutors charged the defendants with carrying a firearm during a crime of violence. But Cox was found guilty on a total of nine counts and Barney and Vernon twice.

Bryan, a visiting judge from Tacoma, set sentencing for Sept. 14, about when he returns to Alaska to conduct another federal trial in which Vernon and his wife are defendants. They're accused of threatening to murder the federal judge who presided over their losing tax case.

Cox was a charismatic leader who almost won the Republican primary in Fairbanks for a state House seat in 2008, and he came to the attention of the FBI after a series of speeches to militia and conservative organizations in Montana.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2018468556_militia19.html

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« Reply #6873 on: Jun 19th, 2012, 08:33am »

Wired

Peterbilt Crowdsourcing Future Big-Rig Designs
By Doug Newcomb
June 19, 2012 | 6:10 am
Categories: Design

Big rigs may move the bulk of freight and rule the roads of the US, but their blocky designs aren’t exactly aerodynamic, sucking up lots of fuel as they shuttle cross-country. Plus, they’re just plain boring. So semi manufacturer Peterbilt is looking for more fuel-efficient tractor-trailers by holding a competition in conjunction with open source car company Local Motors to develop innovative aerodynamic designs.

The RIG2: Road Icon Generation 2 contest kicked off June 5 and is open to entries through June 26. Peterbilt is offering up $15,000 in prize money. The overall winning entry will nab $7,500. The second-place finisher gets $2,500 and third earns $1,500. The rest of the top 10 will win $500 each.

To further the crowdsource element of the competition, all finalists will be chosen by community voting, although the top prize will be selected by Peterbilt from the top 10 entries. Voting starts June 28 and runs through July 8. Winners will be announced on July 23. Contestants can access tools such as CAD and Photoshop files as well as regulations, guidelines requirements at the Local Motors Forge website.

Following the launch of its Forge collaboration site at the SEMA Show last November, the Local Motors partnership with Peterbilt comes on the heels of building its similarly crowd-sourced Rally Fighter. Local Motors includes a community of 17,000 designers, engineers and enthusiasts using an open source approach to design, manufacture and sell unique cars.

The platform also gives would-be vehicle designers the chance to find out how their ideas stack up in the real world, and possibly on the road. Customers can build their co-created vehicle at the Local Motors Micro Factory with professional assistance in two three-day build weekends. But a Peterbilt-like big rig would probably take a little longer.

http://www.wired.com/autopia/2012/06/crowd-sourced-big-rig/

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« Reply #6874 on: Jun 19th, 2012, 08:37am »

Washington Post

Supreme Court split over defendants’ rights to confront lab analysts

By Robert Barnes, Published: June 18

A fractured Supreme Court on Monday took a tentative step away from its recent decisions that said criminal defendants have the right to confront technicians and analysts who prepare crime-lab reports used against them.

The 5 to 4 decision upheld the rape conviction of an Illinois man. But it exposed the divisions on a court that is trying, as Justice Elena Kagan noted, to apply the 18th-century right to confront one’s accusers with 21st-century evidence such as DNA testing.

In the end, the justices split in ways that scramble the court’s usual ideological divide.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., joined by two of his fellow conservative justices and one liberal, gave prosecutors more leeway in presenting laboratory reports without making analysts testify to their accuracy.

Kagan dissented, joined by two fellow liberals and conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. She said the constitution’s confrontation clause was violated when a state expert testified about a DNA report even though no one from the company that prepared it was called to vouch for its accuracy.

Justice Clarence Thomas decided the outcome. He agreed with the Alito plurality to call the case in favor of Illinois prosecutors, but for reasons that none of the other justices endorsed.

Douglas Berman, an expert on criminal law at the Ohio State University law school, called the 98-page decision that was six months in the making “a bloody mess.”

But he said it was born of a genuine and “collective concern about modern innocence issues” and the best way to accommodate prosecutors’ worries about an overwhelmed criminal justice system.

The case began with the 2000 rape of a Chicago woman. Police gathered semen samples from the victim and sent them to the Illinois State Police lab. That lab sent the samples to Cellmark Diagnostics Laboratory, based in Germantown, Md., which prepared a male DNA profile.

An Illinois forensics expert, Sandra Lambatos, conducted a computer search and found that the profile matched that of Sandy Williams, who had been arrested on unrelated charges. The victim picked Williams out of a line-up.

At Williams’s trial in 2006, Lambatos testified as to how she made the match, but the Cellmark lab report itself was not introduced into evidence.

Alito said that Lambatos was free to testify about the process and Cellmark’s role and that Williams’s attorney had the opportunity to cross-examine her. She was not testifying to the truth of the Cellmark report, the justice said.

He noted that the purpose of the report “was to catch a dangerous rapist who was still at large, not to obtain evidence for use against” Williams.

The Obama administration and 42 states had urged the court to accept such a position, saying that to do otherwise would hamper the use of expert testimony common in criminal trials.

Kagan wrote in dissent that the decision diminished recent rulings that had revived the importance of the confrontation clause.

“Before today’s decision, a prosecutor wishing to admit the results of forensic testing had to produce the technician responsible for the analysis,” she wrote. “That was the result of not one, but two decisions this court issued in the last three years.

“But that clear rule is clear no longer.”

Thomas reasoned that the rape conviction should stand because the Cellmark report “lacked the requisite formality and solemnity” to be considered the kind of testimony subject to the confrontation clause. But his view did not attract the support of any of the other justices.

“Indeed, Justice Thomas’s approach, if accepted, would turn the Confrontation Clause into a constitutional geegaw — nice for show, but of little value,” Kagan wrote.

The case is Williams v. Illinois .

The decision came on a day when the court was packed with spectators and lawyers, all of them aware that the court’s most important decisions — such as those addressing President Obama’s health-care law and Arizona’s immigration crackdown— will come within the next 10 days.

Kagan acknowledged the public anticipation of those rulings when she announced that she had written one of Monday’s decisions, about whether a Michigan man could challenge the government’s decision to take land into trust on behalf of an Indian tribe.

“This is a case about sovereign immunity and prudential standing — maybe not what you’ve all come for today,” she said to laughter.

The court will issue more decisions on Thursday.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/supreme-court-fractured-over-defendants-rights-to-confront-lab-reports/2012/06/18/gJQAV3kbmV_story.html

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« Reply #6875 on: Jun 19th, 2012, 08:41am »

UPI

Undersea object probably not a UFO

Published: June 18, 2012 at 8:14 PM
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, June 18 (UPI)

A mysterious object at the bottom of the Baltic Sea isn't a UFO, Swedish researches say, but they add they don't have a sure idea of what it is, either.

The object, located on the sea floor between Sweden and Finland, is some sort of "natural, geological formation," Peter Lindberg, the leader of the Ocean Explorer team, told FoxNews.com.

Lindberg and other scientists and divers spent 12 day exploring the 200-foot-wide roughly circular object under the Baltic they had first seen in sonar scans a year ago.

"It's not obviously an alien spacecraft. It's not made of metal," he said.

Lindberg concedes that it could be an alien space ship but only if aliens chose to construct their spacecraft out of meteor-like rocks.
"Who says they had to use metal?" Lindberg joked. "This trip has raised a lot of questions."

The central object appears to be a giant stone, "the kind divers see in keys and harbors," Lindberg said.

"There are other, loose stones lying around as well," he added. "The formation of rocks is 60 meters (200 feet) in diameter."

Strangely, there appears to be a pillar holding up the 200-foot-wide object, Lindberg said.

"We're going through the footage right now," Lindberg said.

http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2012/06/18/Undersea-object-probably-not-a-UFO/UPI-54761340064847/#ixzz1yFKg9ifF

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« Reply #6876 on: Jun 20th, 2012, 09:17am »

Reuters

Problems loom as Greece parties seal coalition

By Lefteris Papadimas and George Georgiopoulos
Wed Jun 20, 2012 10:06am EDT

ATHENS (Reuters) - The parties that have dominated Greece's discredited politics since 1974 agreed a coalition government on Wednesday intent on renegotiating the terms of an international bailout that is staving off bankruptcy but fuelling social tensions.

The government brings together the conservative New Democracy party and Socialist PASOK in an uneasy alliance of rivals facing an emboldened opposition determined to fight against austerity.

Party leaders said a team would be formed to renegotiate the terms of the 130 billion euro ($164.79 billion) bailout, setting up a showdown with Greece's European partners who say they will adjust but not re-write the document. Europe's debt crisis began in Greece. Two and a half years and four bailouts later - two of them for Greece - there is no end in sight.

"Our efforts have yielded a parliamentary majority to form a durable government which will bring hope and stability," New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras told President Karolos Papoulias, three days after he narrowly won a Sunday election.

PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos warned of a "big battle" in Brussels to craft a new deal that would promote growth and contain unemployment.

"The most critical issue is the formation of the national negotiation team and ensuring that it is successful," he told reporters.

PASOK will back the government in parliament but there was no word on who would serve in the new cabinet. Venizelos said the make-up of the government remained to be fixed and would be discussed by the evening.

The conservative-socialist alliance will also be backed by the small Democratic Left party, whose leader, Fotis Kouvelis, called on the government "to gradually disengage from the terms of the bailout that has bled society."

An official from one of the three parties in the coalition said that they had agreed to name National Bank Chairman Vassilis Rapanos as finance minister.

ARCH RIVALS

New Democracy narrowly beat the radical leftist Syriza bloc, which had vowed to scrap the withering terms of the bailout blamed for driving the country into depression.

New Democracy and PASOK have little history of cooperation, having alternated office from the fall of military rule in 1974 until last year, when the economic crisis brewing under their watch forced them to share power in a short-lived national unity government.

They will face immediate pressure to try to soften the bitterly resented austerity measures demanded of Greece under the bailout deal agreed in March with the European Union and International Monetary Fund, Greece's second since 2010.

At the same time Samaras must contain the rising social tensions created by the crisis and hold together a coalition in the face of Greece's most severe economic test since World War Two.

He inherits a nation facing its fifth year of a recession that has left one in five workers jobless, seen tens of thousands of businesses close and a growing number of homeless on the streets. The capital Athens is scarred by repeated bouts of violent protest.

Democratic Left party members endorsed a motion to back a coalition if a final agreement is reached, but according to party sources refused to place senior politicians in the cabinet, a move which potentially weakens their commitment to the new government.

PASOK, the former ruling party humbled in a May 6 inconclusive election and Sunday's re-run, may also stop short of sending senior leaders of its own to serve in the government.

Greek media reported that Venizelos had clashed angrily with other senior party leaders over his insistence that the Socialists should not put ministers of their own in a cabinet led by the right.

Both centre-left parties could nominate technocrats from outside politics to serve in the cabinet but their reluctance to throw their own weight behind the new government may not augur well for the battles ahead.

"It will be a very weak coalition," said Nikos Konstandaras, managing editor of leading conservative daily Kathimerini, pointing to the decades of enmity between New Democracy and PASOK, the two traditional giants of Greek politics.

SUSPICIOUS

Germany, the euro zone's biggest economy, remains suspicious of Samaras, who switched from opposing the bailout when PASOK was in power to cautious endorsement when the Socialist government began to unravel late last year.

"What is needed is more decisiveness in swiftly implementing the measures which have already been agreed," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told the weekly Die Zeit in an interview.

However European Union officials have signaled that some adjustments are likely to a program that has slipped behind target in the weeks of political uncertainty following the May election and a deeper than expected recession.

With Greek society deeply split, a repeat of the violent anti-austerity protests seen last year is a constant threat.

Greek electoral law gives New Democracy a 50-seat bonus for coming first, so an alliance with PASOK would have 162 seats, a majority in the 300-seat parliament. Adding the Democratic Left would give it 179 seats.

Fast running out of money, the new government's first mission will be to convince officials from the so-called "troika" of European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund inspectors to sign off on the next installment of aid from the bailout.

Patching up funding gaps, gas supplier DEPA overcame a cash crunch with a 100 million euro bank loan to pay foreign suppliers and avert an imminent energy crisis, a company official said on Wednesday.

"The money was cashed in earlier today. It gives us a breather to pay for July and August deliveries," the official said on condition of anonymity.

($1 = 0.7889 euros)


(Additional reporting by Harry Papachristou, Tatiana Fargou, Karolina Tagaris, Greg Roumeliotis and Dina Kyriakidou; Writing by James Mackenzie and Matt Robinson; Editing by Janet McBride)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/20/us-greece-idUSBRE85H0HO20120620

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« Reply #6877 on: Jun 20th, 2012, 09:23am »

Wired

Physics Community Afire With Rumors of Higgs Boson Discovery
By Adam Mann
June 20, 2012 | 6:30 am
Categories: Physics

One of the biggest debuts in the science world could happen in a matter of weeks: The Higgs boson may finally, really have been discovered.

Ever since tantalizing hints of the Higgs turned up in December at the Large Hadron Collider, scientists there have been busily analyzing the results of their energetic particle collisions to further refine their search.

“The bottom line though is now clear: There’s something there which looks like a Higgs is supposed to look,” wrote mathematician Peter Woit on his blog, Not Even Wrong. According to Woit, there are rumors of new data that would be the most compelling evidence yet for the long-sought Higgs.

The possible news has a number of physics bloggers speculating that LHC scientists will announce the discovery of the Higgs during the International Conference on High Energy Physics, which takes place in Melbourne, Australia, July 4 to 11.

The new buzz is just the latest in the Higgs search drama. In December, rumors circulated regarding hints of the Higgs around 125 gigaelectronvolts (GeV), roughly 125 times the mass of a proton. While those rumors eventually turned out to be true, the hard data only amounted to what scientists call a 3-sigma signal, meaning that there is a 0.13 percent probability that the events happened by chance. This is the level at which particle physicists will only say they have “evidence” for a particle.

In the rigorous world of high-energy physics, researchers wait to see a 5-sigma signal, which has only a 0.000028 percent probability of happening by chance, before claiming a “discovery.”

The latest Higgs rumors suggest nearly-there 4-sigma signals are turning up at both of the two separate LHC experiments that are hunting for the particle. As physicist Philip Gibbs points out on his blog, Vixra log, if each experiment is seeing a 4-sigma signal, then this is almost definitely the long-sought particle. Combining the two 4-sigma results should be enough to clear that 5-sigma hurdle.

Of course, Gibbs reminds us that the rumors come with some caveats, such as the fact that they are vague and not completely reliable. Scientists outside the experiment also don’t yet know how much data has been analyzed from this year, meaning that the rumored results could disappear with further scrutiny.

The Higgs boson is the final piece of the Standard Model — a framework developed in the late 20th century that describes the interactions of all known subatomic particles and forces. The Standard Model contains many other particles — such as quarks and W bosons — each of which has been found in the last four decades using enormous particle colliders, but the Higgs remains to be found. The Higgs boson is critical to the Standard Model, because interacting with the Higgs is what gives all the other particles their mass. Not finding it would severely undermine our current understanding of the universe.

While discovery of the Higgs would be a remarkable achievement, many researchers are also eager to hear the details from the experiments, which may indicate that the Higgs boson has slightly different properties than those theoretically predicted. Any deviations from theory could suggest the existence of heretofore-unknown physics beyond the Standard Model, including models such as supersymmetry, which posits a heavier partner to all known particles.

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/06/latest-higgs-rumors/

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« Reply #6878 on: Jun 20th, 2012, 09:27am »

Deadline Hollywood

Ashton Kutcher’s Katalyst Sues California DMV Over Reality TV Deal

By THE DEADLINE TEAM
Tuesday June 19, 2012 @ 7:44pm PDT
Tags: Ashton Kutcher, Katalyst Media

Ashton Kutcher’s production company is suing the California Department of Motor Vehicles for $1.4 million in damages for pulling out of a reality television series deal.

The lawsuit, filed today in LA Superior Court, alleges the DMV breached its contract with Kutcher’s Katalyst Media and Soda and Pop, Inc. According to the suit, the DMV committed in writing to collaborating with Katalyst on the series in June 2010. But just six weeks after signing the agreement, the suit says the DMV “abruptly and without justifiable excuse, changed course.”

Katalyst alleges in the suit (read it here: http://www-deadline-com.vimg.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/bc486747__120620024620.pdf) that it had already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in pre-production for the show. The series was to feature employees and patrons of the DMV in various “humanizing and entertaining” situations that arise on a daily basis” in DMV offices throughout California.

http://www.deadline.com/2012/06/ashton-kutchers-katalyst-sues-california-dmv-over-reality-tv-deal/

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« Reply #6879 on: Jun 20th, 2012, 09:30am »

Seattle Times

Originally published Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 4:29 AM

Obama asserts executive privilege

by PETE YOST
Associated Press

WASHINGTON —

The Justice Dept says that President Barack Obama has asserted executive privilege to withhold documents a House committee is seeking in an investigation of a flawed gun-smuggling probe.

In a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., a Justice Department official said the privilege applies to documents that explain how the department learned that there were problems with the investigation called Operation Fast and Furious.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/politics/2018474481_apusfastandfurious.html

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« Reply #6880 on: Jun 21st, 2012, 09:09am »

Washington Post

Fast and Furious scandal: House panel recommends contempt vote on Eric Holder

By Sari Horwitz and Ed O’Keefe
Published: June 20
Updated: Thursday, June 21, 6:49 AM

A congressional committee voted Wednesday to recommend that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. be held in contempt after the Obama administration, citing executive privilege for the first time, refused to turn over documents pertaining to a botched gun-trafficking operation.

The party-line vote at a marathon session of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee intensified a feud between the Obama administration and Republican lawmakers and dealt an embarrassing blow to the nation’s highest-ranking law enforcement official.

House leaders said they will schedule a vote of the entire chamber on the matter next week unless the attorney general turns over certain documents on Operation Fast and Furious. If the full House votes to find Holder in contempt, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia — who is employed by the Justice Department — will have to decide whether to criminally prosecute him.

In a statement, Holder called the vote “an election year tactic” and blasted it as “an extraordinary, unprecedented and entirely unnecessary action, intended to provoke an avoidable conflict between Congress and the Executive Branch.”

Speaking Thursday from Copenhagen, Denmark, where he is attending meetings with European Union officials, Holder said the administration had given the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee a proposal to negotiate an end to the conflict.

“I think the possibility still exists that it can happen in that way,” Holder said, according to the Associated Press. “The proposal that we have made is still there. The House, I think, the House leadership, has to consider now what they will do, so we’ll see how it works out.”

The vote against Holder marks only the third time in 30 years that a congressional panel has held an attorney general in contempt. At Wednesday’s often-heated hearing, Republicans railed against the former judge and U.S. attorney, accusing him of repeatedly stonewalling them in their investigation.

Democrats blasted the GOP for allowing the dispute to devolve into personal attacks against Holder.

At its core, the conflict centers on a particular set of documents that the oversight committee’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), subpoenaed from the Justice Department in October for the investigation he launched into Operation Fast and Furious in the spring of last year.

The operation, named after the popular movie series, was run out of the Phoenix division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives between 2009 and 2011, with the legal backing of the U.S. attorney in Phoenix. As part of the operation, ATF agents purposefully did not interdict more than 2,000 weapons they suspected of being purchased at Arizona gun shops by illegal buyers known as “straw purchasers”; agents hoped to later track them to a Mexican drug cartel.

ATF lost track of most of the firearms, some of which have been found at crime scenes in Mexico and the United States. Two of the guns connected to the operation were found at a scene in the Arizona desert where a Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry, was killed in December 2010.

While lawmakers have already conducted an investigation of the operation, they are seeking to determine who in the Justice Department knew about the tactics used in Fast and Furious and when. They are also trying to find out whether any officials tried to cover up their knowledge of the tactics once Congress began investigating.

Last year, a Justice Department official told lawmakers in a letter that ATF had not ever “sanctioned” or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico. Ten months later, the Justice Department withdrew the letter, acknowledging the botched operation.

That episode has heightened suspicions among Republican lawmakers, who have demanded that the department hand over the records of any deliberations it had about Fast and Furious after the Feb. 4, 2011, letter.

Justice officials have insisted that no senior officials in the department knew of the controversial tactics, which were approved by ATF’s Phoenix division. They also have said they have worked hard to cooperate with requests from Issa’s committee. Over the past year, Justice officials have turned over 7,600 documents relating to the operation, as well as documents relating to another operation involving “gun-walking,” as the tactic is known, in the George W. Bush administration.

Holder has testified to congressional committees about Fast and Furious nine times over the past 14 months.

But Issa and his investigators said the Justice Department was not fully cooperating with their request, arguing that the records turned over were only a sliver of the 80,000 documents that Justice has given to the department’s inspector general, who is also investigating the gun operation at Holder’s request.

In recent weeks, Issa has narrowed his request to documents relating to “internal deliberations” over the operation. Justice officials have insisted that they do not have to hand over those files based on long-standing executive branch policy. They have also said that many of the documents delivered to the inspector general pertain to ongoing criminal investigations and legally cannot be released to Congress.

In a bid to head off a contempt vote, Holder met with Issa and several other lawmakers Tuesday evening. The attorney general agreed to turn over documents that Justice officials think would answer Issa’s questions if the committee would consider the subpoena issues related to Fast and Furious to be “resolved.” He told reporters afterward that the set of documents “pretty clearly demonstrates that there was no intention to mislead, to deceive.”

Issa declined the offer, however, saying he would not make such a determination until he saw the documents.

On Wednesday morning, just minutes before the scheduled hearing, committee staff members said they were informed by the Justice Department that Obama was invoking executive privilege to withhold the contested documents. After a six-hour hearing, the panel voted 23 to 17 to hold the attorney general in contempt.

“Fast and Furious was a reckless operation that led to the death of an American border agent, and the American people deserve to know the facts to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again,” House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a statement after the vote.

House Democrats quickly denounced their plans to bring a vote to the floor next week.

“If Mr. Boehner takes this to the House, he will be seen as one of the most extreme speakers that ever took charge of the House,” the oversight committee’s ranking Democrat, Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), told reporters.

He noted that in the Clinton administration, then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) declined to bring to the House floor a vote on contempt charges against Attorney General Janet Reno.

“Instead of going after guns, the Republican majority is going after the attorney general of the United States,” Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) told reporters. “This is a political witch hunt during the witch hunt season, and the witch hunt season will probably not end until Election Day.”


Staff writer Julie Tate contributed to this report.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/fast-and-furious-scandal-obama-exerts-executive-privilege-house-panel-moves-forward-with-contempt-vote/2012/06/20/gJQAGImIqV_story.html?hpid=z1

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« Reply #6881 on: Jun 21st, 2012, 09:13am »

Der Spiegel

06/21/2012
The World from Berlin

'Rio+20 Has Become the Summit of Futility'

Twenty years ago, the United Nations summit held in Rio de Janeiro paved the way for landmark agreements on the climate and the environment. This year's meeting, on the other hand, has been widely criticized for its lack of vision in the face of accelerating degradation of the planet. German commentators are critical as well.

"Let me be frank. Our efforts have not lived up to the measure of the challenge." That is the verdict handed down by none other than United Nations Secretary General Bank Ki-moon during his opening statement at Rio+20 on Wednesday. "Nature does not wait. Nature does not negotiate with human beings."

Ban is not alone in his assessment of the conference, which had set as its target the establishment of clear goals for sustainable development, poverty reduction and environmental protection. Even as up to 100 heads of state and government are expected to attend the conference, known officially as the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, many delegations have criticized the draft document to be signed on Friday as weak.

"I was disappointed that we did not go further," said Nick Clegg, the deputy British prime minister. French President François Hollande echoed the sentiment, saying "disappointment, yes, there's always a bit of disappointment."

Many have also cited the fact that several world leaders have declined to attend the conference at all, including US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Compared to the first Rio conference 20 years ago -- which achieved landmark agreements on biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions, paving the way for the Kyoto Protocols -- this meeting lacks anything in the way of bold action.

About the only achievement that leaders can point to is a movement toward including environmental degradation on company balance sheets and factoring the environment into countries' gross domestic products. Several countries, including the United States, Britain, France and Germany, have agreed to create "natural capital accounting" rules. But China, one of the world's biggest polluters, and Brazil, which fears that its exploitation of the Amazon rain forest would weigh heavily, have declined to participate.

It seems unlikely that the draft agreement will become much stronger by the time the conference ends on Friday. "Everybody has things that they have given up in the document in one way or the other," said Todd Stern, the US special envoy on climate change. "This is the thread that once you start pulling on it, it unravels quickly."

German editorialists take a closer look at Rio+20 on Thursday.

Center-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"Since 1992, nothing has changed when it comes to species conservation and climate change. There are neither controls over what happens in the world's oceans nor is there a reliable agreement on protecting global forests. All of which makes this conference all the more striking: The final statement has already been agreed to and it is full of the empty words and weak citations of previous agreements. To be sure, all of the great questions facing humanity make an appearance in the document, but without any attempt at a binding agreement. The Rio+20 conference, which really should have provided a new spark, has instead shined the spotlight on global timidity. Postpone, consider, examine: Even the conference motto -- 'The Future We Want' -- sounds like an insult. If this is the future we want, then good night."

"If all countries are satisfied with the lowest common denominator, if they no longer want to discuss what needs to be discussed ..., then the dikes are open. There is no need anymore for a conference of 50,000 attendees. Resolutions that are so wishy-washy can be interpreted by every member state as they wish. No one needs Rio."

Mass-circulation tabloid Bild writes:

"World leaders are not even trying to find solutions anymore. Their premature final statement is essentially a declaration that the conference is unnecessary -- before the conference even began. It has become the summit of futility. Those not wishing to discuss should not fly to Rio. Shame on you summit participants! Your job is to secure the future of our planet. You can't give up before you've even started."

Left-leaning daily Die Tageszeitung writes:

"Essentially, the Rio+20 summit was over before it was officially opened. The weak closing document, pushed through with acclamation by Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota on Tuesday, is not likely to be changed in any fundamental way. In the middle of the raging financial crisis, the environment doesn't stand a chance. Berlin and Brussels would rather use their billions in tax revenues to save banks rather than to make it easier for the poor countries to the south to carry out the environmental restructuring of their societies."

"That the gulf is deep between the objective need for reform on the one hand, and the agreement based on the lowest common denominator on the other, is inherently part of UN mega-conferences. Real steps toward socio-ecological change are much easier to take on the local, regional and even national level."

In an opinion piece provided to the Financial Times Deutschland, in addition to several other papers around the world, Jeffrey Sachs, professor of economics at Columbia University's Earth Institute, writes:

"We have known for at least a generation that the world needs a course correction. Instead of powering the world economy with fossil fuels, we need to mobilize much greater use of low-carbon alternatives such as wind, solar and geothermal power. Instead of hunting, fishing, and clearing land without regard for the impact on other species, we need to pace our agricultural production, fishing and logging in line with the environment's carrying capacity."

"Instead of leaving the world's most vulnerable people without access to family planning, education and basic healthcare, we need to end extreme poverty and reduce the soaring fertility rates that persist in the poorest parts of the world. In short, we need to recognize that with 7 billion people today, and 9 billion by mid-century, all inter-connected in a high-tech, energy-intensive global economy, our collective capacity to destroy the planet's life-support systems is unprecedented. Yet the consequences of our individual actions are typically so far removed from our daily awareness that we can go right over the cliff without even knowing it."

"Twenty years ago, the world tried to address these realities through treaties and international law. The agreements that emerged in 1992 at the first Rio summit were good ones: thoughtful, far-sighted, public-spirited, and focused on global priorities. Yet they have not saved us. Those treaties lived in the shadow of our daily politics, imaginations and media cycles. Diplomats trudged off to conferences year after year to implement them, but the main results were neglect, delay and bickering over legalities. Twenty years on, we have only … failing grades to show for our efforts."

-- Charles Hawley

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/widespread-criticism-of-rio-environment-summit-a-840181.html

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« Reply #6882 on: Jun 21st, 2012, 09:18am »

Seattle Times

Originally published Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 4:03 AM

Syrian defector allowed to stay in Jordan

By JAMAL HALABY
Associated Press

AMMAN, Jordan —

A Jordanian security official says a Syrian fighter pilot who defected to Jordan will be allowed to stay on "humanitarian grounds."

The official said the Syrian defector would be tortured or killed if he were sent home. He declined to say what Jordan will do with the Syrian jet.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the matter.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2018486203_apmlsyria.html

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« Reply #6883 on: Jun 21st, 2012, 09:22am »

Big Shiny Robot

By Dagobot

The Wizeguy: What did I just see?
Tuesday, June 19th, 2012 at 5:14 pm

In December of 2006, I saw a film that blew my imagination. ‘The Fountain’, directed by Darren Aronofsky. However, as the credits rolled, I didn’t know what I had just seen. And I wasn’t the only one. An elderly woman who was seated to my right, turned to me as the lights came back on and asked ‘Can you explain to me what that was about?’ I just shrugged.

If you haven’t seen ‘The Fountain’, I wont spoil anything for you. I won’t even recommend it. I will say that the movie itself was an amalgam of science fiction, history, religion and fantasy with a ‘Fear Of Death’ theme running though it. I have seen this movie over ten times since then and each time I take something new away from it.

‘Prometheus’ came out earlier this month. The original “Alien’ holds a place in my top ten movies of all time. I can put this one on a loop as well. The thought of a sci fi horror prequel directed by Ridley Scott and a screenplay penned by one of the minds from the mass pondering TV series, LOST had my attention. So much so, I attended a midnight screening.

When it finished, I immediately thought of ‘The Fountain’. My mind was a cluttered mess. The meaning of life, faith, metaphysics, creation and spaceships. While not as ‘chest bursting’ driven as ‘Alien’, my initial feeling was that I loved it.

There are many bits to this cinema puzzle, and a lot of things you can imagine on your own, or rationalize and speculate about. If anything, the makers should be commended for creating a work that isn’t spoon feeding the viewer and guiding them along. Call me whatever you wish, but it feels as though this trend in wanting all the answers spelled out is indicative of a greater shift in what a consumer wants from a film…clear-cut, thoughtless, entertainment.

Whether some people think ‘Prometheus’ is some astonishing piece of high art and others might think It’s nothing more or less than a film with an incredibly poorly written script. It’s clear to me that some needed a voice-over. They can’t handle not knowing. It’s the internet age where people get their jimmies all rustled when they can’t just look up the answers.

The fervor of ambiguous nature of the film has forced the hands of those involved to connect some of the dots. Go ahead and search out Ridley Scott’s comments on ‘Space Jesus’, or Lindelof spilling on some of the secrets.

That sounds boring to me. I don’t want the creator of any work to come out and tell me what it means. It’s much more satisfying to figure that out for myself. Now whether ‘Prometheus’ is the best use of our time to try to parse out meanings, that’s an open question. I for one was not disappointed, but demanding that the writer/director/whoever has to provide us with answers takes some of the fun out of it.

It would be an arrogant cop out if the movie gave us a definitive solution. The takeaway for me was that these aren’t easy answers to come by. I had SO MANY QUESTIONS when I walked out of the theater. It’s all about the perspective. There is supposed to be mystery, and a feeling as though you’re piecing this together, trying to understand through the conclusions you believe in. A great example of getting a ton of clues and that when you sit down to focus on the movie afterwards you start to see the whole picture.

And above all else, this movie catalyzes discussion. There is plenty of material to pick apart, interpret subjectively, and discuss with others. It’s part of the fun and that’s why I’m even beginning to like it even more. I’ve been thinking and rethinking about Prometheus since I saw it. To me it was pure science fiction porn, keeping me visually and mentally engaged the whole time. Just like ‘The Fountain’ did.

I think I get it now. Ok, maybe not.

-Dagobot

http://www.bigshinyrobot.com/reviews/archives/41646

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« Reply #6884 on: Jun 21st, 2012, 09:25am »

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