MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A bomb planted by the Taliban destroyed 22 NATO trucks carrying supplies to their forces in northern Afghanistan, the Taliban and police said on Wednesday.
Eighteen fuel trucks and four supply vehicles were parked in Aibak, the capital of Samangan province, when a bomb ripped through them, wounding one person, local police said.
"At 2 a.m. the mujahideen attacked the invader NATO trucks," the Taliban said in a statement, referring to the wagons which had been driven from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan's north.
The trucks were attacked in the same province where prominent anti-Taliban lawmaker Ahmad Khan Samangani was killed on Saturday at his daughter's wedding, in a suicide bomb attack that killed 22 other guests.
"We believe the Taliban carried this out. Eighteen trucks have been totally destroyed, the rest were damaged by fire," Samangan police chief Khalil Andarabi told Reuters.
Separately, police in neighboring Baghlan province said they had detained 10 suspected Taliban members with so-called magnetic bombs, which they were trying to attach to supply trucks.
Pakistan recently reopened its border crossings with Afghanistan for NATO supplies after shutting them in November after a U.S. airstrike unintentionally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
(Reporting by Bashir Ansari, writing by Mirwais Harooni, editing by Amie Ferris-Rotman)
Cardboard and Plywood Hydrogen Car Snags Design Award By Alexander George July 18, 2012 | 6:30 am Categories: Alt Fuel, Cool Cars, Design
Photo: Aston University Eco Marathin
Most of us think of the future of eco-friendly cars in miles per gallon (or miles per kilowatt-hour). But a design team from Britain’s Aston University looked at the carbon consequences of the shipping required to move tons of steel and batteries from the factory to the garage. Their unnamed but fully functional concept is made of plywood, cardboard, and a little bit of metal. The whole thing can fold into a flat, light, and stackable package.
The car won the Eco-Design award at the 2012 Shell Eco-Marathon held in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, last May. The event saw 200 teams from 24 countries competing to see who could build the next innovation in fuel efficiency. The teams built the artistic, ugly, and sometimes goofy cars that would circle the streets in the city on just one liter (0.26 gallons) of fuel, or one kilowatt-hour of electricity. The cars that went the farthest on that meager bit of fuel were the winners of their category.
Teams produced a spectrum of designs with different approaches to aerodynamics and lightweight building materials, but Aston University went with sustainable materials that are plentiful, cheap, and, most importantly for this competition, very lightweight.
The body is comprised of cardboard sandwiched between two layers of plywood, the materials of which are certified sustainable by the British Forestry Commission. The tire covers are made of a bio resin and burlap fibers. A Nexa Ballard hydrogen fuel cell moved the cardboard and wood around the track. Christian McLening, the team’s academic head, said, “The assembly offers the opportunity for the chassis to be sub-assembled so a flat-pack vehicle could be shipped in a more compact form for easy assembly at its final destination.”
The car didn’t snag a victory in any distance or efficiency metrics, but Shell granted the team the eco-design award for creating a vehicle that approached sustainability with wood and cardboard. McLening said, “The team were keen to explore the wider implications of sustainability and not just the power source. The manufacturing approach plays a significant role in a car’s impact, and wood and cardboard composite structure was ideally suited to a laser-cut, flat-pack assembly.”
Performance awards went to other entries into the competition, three of which broke previous event records. Team Electricar Solution from France had a range of 262.6 km (163.2 miles) per kilowatt-hour. DTU Roadrunners from the Technical University of Denmark got up to 611.1 km per liter (1,437 mpg). MAC Eco Team from the Netherlands manage to get 416.3 km per liter (979 mpg) efficiency. Those are not typos: With a lightweight car, engineers can get miles per gallon into the thousands.
Don’t expect the Chevrolet Volt or Honda Fit EV to swap sheet metal for cardboard anytime soon, but the design will hopefully be a harbinger for lighter and more sustainable automobile construction.
Sebastian Stan Returns For ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’
by Rob Keyes 17 July 2012
During the Iron Man 3 panel at Comic-Con 2012, Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Feige laid out and confirmed the upcoming slate of films coming from the studio post-Avengers. Among the films, and releasing after Iron Man 3 and the Thor followup, is the sequel to Captain America, which we now know is titled Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
By dropping the number system for the next Captain America and throwing in “The Winter Soldier” subtitle, they’ve confirmed rumors from over a year ago and revealed exactly what the story will be about, and at least one new character who will be (re)introduced.
Syrian rebels claim they staged bombing that killed defense minister and his deputy
By Babak Dehghanpisheh and Joby Warrick Updated: Wednesday, July 18, 6:33 AM
BEIRUT —A bombing in Damascus on Wednesday killed Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha and his deputy, Asef Shawkat, who was the brother-in-law and close confidante of President Bashar al-Assad.
The deputy commander of the Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest and most dramatic sign of upheaval in more than 16 months of civil revolt.
“The Free Syrian Army carried out this attack in retaliation for the massacres committed by the regime and because of the international silence,” said the official, Col. Malik Kurdi. “We promised that we are going to hit the regime in its most sensitive axis. This was necessary for us.”
The explosion at the National Security building came during a meeting of cabinet ministers and top security officials and added to growing questions about the government’s ability to keep control of the capital, where fierce clashes between security forces and rebels have raged since Sunday.
Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar was seriously injured in the bombing but was in stable condition, Syrian news outlets reported. The death of Shawkat, who was married to Assad’s sister and for years was head of military intelligence, was considered an especially powerful blow to Assad’s tight inner circle.
“This cowardly act won’t affect us,” the defense ministry said in a statement that was read on state-controlled television. “If the people think they can force Syria in a certain direction by killing these people, they are delusional.”
On Tuesday, Syrian opposition groups said their fighters were converging on Damascus. Despite the overwhelming firepower of government troops, rebel forces appeared to hold their ground in several neighborhoods where the fighting was heaviest, according to members of the opposition.
The intense fighting in the capital marked the first time that many Damascus residents had seen overt signs of the bloody uprising against Assad that has left at least 14,000 Syrians dead.
“It’s obvious that what’s happening in Syria represents a real escalation in the fighting,” U.S. Defense Secretary Leon M. Panetta said Wednesday, at a previously scheduled Pentagon news briefing with British Defense Secretary Phillip Hammond. “This is a situation that is rapidly spinning out of control.”
Both Panetta and Hammond said the violence underscores the need for Assad to peacefully cede power, under a transition plan brokered by U.N.-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan. In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the bombing and called on all members of the U.N. Security Council, including Syrian allies Russia and China, to pressure Assad to accept the Annan plan.
Al Jazeera reported that Wednesday’s bombing was carried out by one of the bodyguards for Rajha. Other outlets said a car bomb outside the building caused the explosion, which sent a huge plume of smoke over the Damascus skyline. It was not clear whether the bombing was a suicide attack or was detonated remotely.
Independent analysts who have tracked the uprising say the rebels are staging more attacks nationwide and inflicting significantly more casualties than they were even a month ago. In June, the number of reported clashes hit a new high — 256, or an average of 8.5 per day — and the pace of fighting has surged since then, said Jeffrey White, a former analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency. The figures are extrapolated from data provided by Syrian opposition committees and human rights organizations.
“It’s gone from intermittent clashes to sustained fighting in key provinces,” said White, a defense fellow for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a nonpartisan think tank.
Opposition fighters said they had shot down an army helicopter in the Damascus district of Qaboun, the Reuters news agency reported. The downing of the helicopter, if confirmed, may raise questions about whether rebel forces have received a shipment of antiaircraft weapons and other heavy arms they have been seeking for months from foreign supporters, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Rebel forces are better equipped than they were even a few weeks ago, with an apparently plentiful supply of ammunition along with more machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, White said. As a result, casualties among Syrian troops have soared over the past few weeks, to about 150 killed and wounded each day, he said. The rebel Free Syrian Army also is becoming more effective at destroying military vehicles and commandeering weapons and supplies from government forces and pro-government militias, he said.
Adding to the sense that some kind of showdown may be at hand, the Syrian government was moving troops from the Golan Heights toward Damascus and other trouble spots, Agence France-Presse reported.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebel forces are converging on Damascus to help with the fight. Kurdi, the deputy commander of the Free Syrian Army, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that the recent clashes marked the beginning of the group’s big push to take control of the city.
“Our strategy is to bleed down the regime forces and take over government buildings and key places in the capital,” Kurdi said. He denied that the opposition had been sent any heavy weapons.
With the government under extreme pressure, some observers have asked just how far Assad will go to defend his power. In an interview with the BBC on Monday, Nawaf al-Fares, a former Syrian ambassador to Iraq who defected last week, said that Assad is a “wounded wolf” who may resort to using chemical weapons.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Syria is moving its large arsenal of chemical weapons, which includes sarin and mustard gas. White House spokesman Josh Earnest declined to comment Tuesday on conjectures that Assad might use such weapons against Syrians but said, “What we have seen is inhumane brutality from the Assad regime, and that is something that has aroused the concern.”
Kurdi said he had heard reports of the army distributing chemical masks to troops.
U.S. officials and independent experts acknowledge that an end to the conflict is not in sight. Despite heavier losses and some high-profile defections, the regime has managed to keep its regular military divisions intact, particularly the elite units dominated by ethnic Alawites loyal to the Assad family, analysts said. The Alawites and other key ethnic and religious minorities appear to consider the conflict a struggle for their survival, having tied their fate to the success of Assad’s efforts to crush the rebellion through brute force.
“Once you’re committed to doing it that way, the only way to deal with resistance is to escalate,” said Anthony Cordesman, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “There is no easy way out.”
Heavy shelling of residential areas of Damascus continued Tuesday as the army deployed armored vehicles and helicopters in an effort to root out the rebels. Opposition groups posted videos showing thick black smoke rising from Midan, one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods.
The state-run Syrian Arabic News Agency reported that the army was fighting “armed terrorist groups” in several areas. An electricity converter station was attacked in Qaboun, according to the agency, which said security forces were trying to find the saboteurs. Another pro-Assad news site reported that the city’s deputy police chief had been killed in clashes with opposition fighters in Midan.
In Moscow on Tuesday, Annan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and said afterward that he hopes the members of the U.N. Security Council will agree to language on a Syria resolution.
Russia, along with China, has blocked U.N. action on the crisis. Russia fears a Western military intervention and argues that Assad still has significant support among Syrians and should not be forced out by external forces. It also warns that the crisis is providing an opening to Islamist extremists and has called for both sides to desist from violence.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said later that it should be possible to reach consensus. “We are open to it,” he said, according to the Interfax news agency.
Lavrov had said Monday, before his meeting with Annan, that he thinks the Western powers are trying to “blackmail” Russia into agreeing to a resolution.
There was no comment in Moscow about the rebels’ claim that they had shot down a helicopter in Damascus — presumably a Russian-made aircraft. Syria has been Russia’s most reliable arms customer in the Middle East, and Russia recently completed the overhaul of a shipment of helicopters, which are being returned by sea to Syria.
“A helicopter was shooting with a machine gun on the rooftops,” one Damascus resident, who asked that her name not be used for security reasons, said in a direct message chat on Twitter. “I saw it with my own eyes. It was unbelievable.”
Another woman, a 30-year-old Damascus resident who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said she saw two large buses carrying government troops crash Tuesday morning, leaving dazed and injured soldiers wandering across the al-Mezzeh highway.
“I feel that the city is going into chaos,” she said in a telephone conversation. “This is scaring me.”
At least 23 people were killed in the fighting in the city Tuesday, according to the Local Coordination Committees, an activist network.
BURGAS, Bulgaria (Reuters) - A suicide bomber carried out an attack that killed seven people in a bus transporting Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, the country's interior minister said on Thursday, and Israel said Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants were to blame.
Iran denied it was behind Wednesday's attack at Burgas airport, a popular gateway for tourists visiting the Black Sea coast.
Video surveillance footage showed the bomber was similar in appearance to tourists arriving at the airport, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said.
The bomber had been circling around a group of buses, which were about to take Israeli tourists to a resort near Burgas, for about an hour before the explosion, the surveillance footage showed.
"We have established there was a person who was a suicide bomber in this attack. This person had a fake driving licence from the United States, from the state of Michigan," Tsvetanov told reporters at the airport.
"He looked like anyone else - a normal person with Bermuda shorts and a backpack," he said.
The bomber was said to be 36 years old and had been in the country for between four and seven days before the attack.
Special forces had managed to obtain DNA samples from the fingers of the bomber and were now checking databases in an attempt to identify him, Tsvetanov said. Bulgarian security services had received no indications of an imminent attack.
The foreign ministry said seven people were killed in the attack, including the Bulgarian bus driver and the bomber. The Israeli foreign ministry confirmed that five Israelis were killed.
The tourists had arrived in Bulgaria on a charter flight from Israel and were on the bus in the airport car park when the blast tore through the vehicle. Body parts were strewn across the ground, mangled metal hung from the double-decker bus's ripped roof and black smoke billowed over the airport.
On Thursday, the airport in Burgas - a city of 200,000 people at the center of a string of seaside resorts - remained closed and police prevented people from approaching.
Beyond the cordons, about 100 holidaymakers waited for their flights but had been told they would be there until midnight. Officials were setting up portable toilets and tents for stranded travelers and Bulgaria's parliament opened with a one minute silence in memory of the bombing victims.
"It felt like an earthquake and then I saw flying pieces of meat," said Georgi Stoev, an airport official. "It was horrible, just like in a horror movie."
At Varna airport, also on the Black Sea, police with dogs were checking for explosives and tourists were asked to carry their luggage to their planes, national radio reported.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the Tehran-backed Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah carried out the bombing. "The immediate executors are Hezbollah people, who of course have constant Iranian sponsorship," Barak told Israel Radio.
Israel however indicated it would not hasten into any open conflict with Iran or Hezbollah, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to "react powerfully".
Barak said Israel would "do everything possible in order to find those responsible, and those who dispatched them, and punish them" - language that appeared to suggest covert action against individuals.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev linked the arrest of a foreigner in Cyprus earlier this month on suspicion of plotting an attack on Israeli tourists there with the Bulgaria bombing.
"The suspect who was arrested in Cyprus, in his interrogation, revealed an operational plan that is almost identical to what happened in Bulgaria. He is from Hezbollah ... this is a further indication of Hezbollah and Iran's direct responsibility," he told Reuters.
Bulgarian officials have not said publicly who they think ordered the bombing and Iran's embassy in Sofia said the Israeli accusations were "unfounded".
The blast occurred on the 18th anniversary of a bomb attack on Argentina's main Jewish organization that killed 85 people. Argentina blamed Iran, which denied responsibility.
Medical officials said two badly injured Israeli tourists were taken to hospitals in Bulgaria's capital Sofia. One woman was in intensive care with head and chest injuries and a man was in a critical state with burns covering 55 percent of his body.
About 70 Israeli tourists, including those lightly injured by the blast, left Burgas on a Bulgarian government airplane to Israel, the interior ministry said.
The European Commission and NATO condemned the attack, joining criticism from the United States, Britain, France and Germany, and the mayor of Burgas announced a day of mourning.
Israeli officials had previously said that Bulgaria, a popular destination for Israeli tourists, was vulnerable to attack by Islamist militants, who could infiltrate via Turkey.
Israeli diplomats have been targeted in several countries in recent months by bombers who Israel said struck on behalf of Iran.
Although Tehran has denied involvement, some analysts believe it is trying to avenge the assassinations of several scientists from its nuclear program that the Iranians have blamed on Israel and its Western allies.
Israel and Western powers fear Iran is working towards a nuclear bomb but it says its uranium enrichment work is strictly for peaceful ends. Both Israel and the United States have not ruled out military action against Iranian nuclear facilities.
(Additional reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova in Sofia, Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem and Madeline Chambers in Berlin; Writing by Sam Cage; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Giles Elgood)
DIY: 10 Geeky Ideas from Mason Jar Speakers to Floppy Disk Planters By Jan Halvarson 07.19.12 6:30 AM
We love making stuff here at Wired Design, and the projects we geek-out on most tend to include some electronic element. Marrying gadgetry with off-the-shelf materials can be tricky, but also highly satisfying to pull off. Contributor Jan Halvarson, Co-founder and editor of maker blog Poppytalk put together this roundup of 10 rad DIY projects with a techie twist.
No smoking gun — or alien — in British government's release of documents.
By Mike Wall updated 7/18/2012 6:01:13 PM
Alien spacecraft and little green men remain elusive figures in the latest trove of official UFO files released July 12 by the United Kingdom government.
There's no smoking gun anywhere in the 6,700 pages, which represent the ninth collection of government UFO files made public by the U.K.'s National Archives in Kew. But the new batch, which contains documents dating from 1965 to 2008, are full of interesting tidbits nonetheless.
For example, the files recount the story of a hotel owner on the Welsh coast who said she spotted a UFO in 1977. She claimed to see an object the size of a minibus fall from the sky and land in a field at the back of her property.
As she watched, two "faceless humanoids" clad in silver suits emerged from the mysterious craft, unnerving her so much that she asked the local authorities to investigate. [ Ten Alien Encounters Debunked ]
Somewhat surprisingly, they did. An officer from a nearby Royal Air Force base checked out the field, and other military personnel made some inquiries locally to get to the bottom of the mystery.
While the investigation didn't produce any definitive results, it did zero in on one likely explanation, said David Clarke, senior lecturer in journalism at Sheffield Hallam University and author of the book "The UFO Files: The Inside Story of Real-life Sightings" (The National Archives, 2009).
"It turned out that they suspected, as a result of this investigation, that someone had been involved in a practical joke, and that they'd borrowed a firefighting suit that had been on display in a local shop," Clarke said in a video produced by The National Archives to accompany the new release of UFO files.
"It was sort of white with a big black visor over the face," Clarke added. "This person had been walking around in this suit late at night, and maybe this had been what caused some of these weird sightings."
The new batch of documents also reveals what it was like to work at the U.K.'s UFO Desk, a Defence Ministry organization that assessed UFO reports for intelligence value before it shut down in late 2009.
The job wasn't quite as exciting as it perhaps sounds, according to a document written by a UFO Desk officer.
The idea of investigating unidentified flying objects "tends to suggest to the public that there are top secret teams of specialist scientists scurrying around the country in a real life version of 'The X-Files' …. [but] this is total fiction," the officer writes.
In reality, much of the work consisted of performing Internet searches, the officer added, according to National Archives officials.
The files also reveal a healthy dose of skepticism among governmental UFO investigators in the U.K. For example, in a 1978 briefing, one officer throws cold water on the thought that aliens may have visited our planet many times in the recent past.
"One is driven to the conclusion that a visit to an insignificant planet, such as the Earth, of an uninteresting star (the sun) would probably not occur more than once in 1,000 years or so, even if one assumes that every intelligent community makes, say, 10 launches a year," Clarke said in the video, reading the officer's report and paraphrasing his reasoning.
"He basically says that, therefore, claims of thousands of visits in the last decade by alien spacecraft to planet Earth is just too large a number to be credible," Clarke added.
Neanderthals in Northern Spain Had Knowledge of Plants' Healing Qualities, Study Reveals
ScienceDaily (July 17, 2012)
An international team of researchers, led by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the University of York, has provided the first molecular evidence that Neanderthals not only ate a range of cooked plant foods, but also understood its nutritional and medicinal qualities.
Until recently Neanderthals, who disappeared between 30,000 and 24,000 years ago, were thought to be predominantly meat-eaters. However, evidence of dietary breadth is growing as more sophisticated analyses are undertaken.
Researchers from Spain, the UK and Australia combined pyrolysis gas-chromatography-mass spectrometry with morphological analysis of plant microfossils to identify material trapped in dental calculus (calcified dental plaque) from five Neanderthals from the north Spanish site of El Sidrón.
Their results, published in Naturwissenschaften - The Science of Nature this week, provide another twist to the story -- the first molecular evidence for medicinal plants being used by a Neanderthal individual.
The researchers say the starch granules and carbohydrate markers in the samples, plus evidence for plant compounds such as azulenes and coumarins, as well as possible evidence for nuts, grasses and even green vegetables, argue for a broader use of ingested plants than is often suggested by stable isotope analysis.
Lead author Karen Hardy, a Catalan Institute of Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) Research Professor at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and an Honorary Research Associate at the University of York, UK, said: "The varied use of plants we identified suggests that the Neanderthal occupants of El Sidrón had a sophisticated knowledge of their natural surroundings which included the ability to select and use certain plants for their nutritional value and for self-medication. While meat was clearly important, our research points to an even more complex diet than has previously been supposed."
Earlier research by members of this team had shown that the Neanderthals in El Sidrón had the bitter taste perception gene. Now trapped within dental calculus researchers found molecular evidence that one individual had eaten bitter tasting plants.
Dr Stephen Buckley, a Research Fellow at the University of York's BioArCh research facility, said: "The evidence indicating this individual was eating bitter-tasting plants such as yarrow and camomile with little nutritional value is surprising. We know that Neanderthals would find these plants bitter, so it is likely these plants must have been selected for reasons other than taste."
Ten samples of dental calculus from five Neanderthals were selected for this study. The researchers used thermal desorption and pyrolysis gas-chromatography-mass spectrometry to identify both free/unbound and bound/polymeric organic components in the dental calculus. By using this method in conjunction with the extraction and analysis of plant microfossils, they found chemical evidence consistent with wood-fire smoke, a range of cooked starchy foods, two plants known today for their medicinal qualities, and bitumen or oil shale trapped in the dental calculus.
Professor Matthew Collins, who heads the BioArCh research facility at York, said: "Using mass spectrometry, we were able to identify the building blocks of carbohydrates in the calculus of two adults, one individual in particular having apparently eaten several different carbohydrate-rich foods. Combined with the microscopic analysis it also demonstrates how dental calculus can provide a rich source of information."
The researchers say evidence for cooked carbohydrates is confirmed by both the cracked/roasted starch granules observed microscopically and the molecular evidence for cooking and exposure to wood smoke or smoked food in the form of a range of chemical markers including methyl esters, phenols, and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons found in dental calculus.
Professor Les Copeland from the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, University of Sydney, Australia, said: "Our research confirms the varied and selective use of plants by Neanderthals."
The study also provides evidence that the starch granules reported from El Sidrón represent the oldest granules ever to be confirmed using a biochemical test, while ancient bacteria found embedded in the calculus offers the potential for future studies in oral health.
The archaeological cave site of El Sidrón, located in the Asturias region of northern Spain, contains the best collection of Neanderthal remains found in the Iberian Peninsula and one of the most important active sites in the world. Discovered in 1994, it contains around 2,000 skeletal remains of at least 13 individuals dating back around 47,300 to 50,600 years.
Antonio Rosas, of the Museum of Natural History in Madrid -- CSIC (Spanish National Research Council), said: "El Sidrón has allowed us to banish many of the preconceptions we had of Neanderthals. Thanks to previous studies, we know that they looked after the sick, buried their dead and decorated their bodies. Now another dimension has been added relating to their diet and self-medication."
Fieldwork at El Sidrón, conducted by researchers from the University of Oviedo, is funded by the Department of Culture, Principality of Asturias. The dental calculus samples used in this study were provided by the laboratory leading the study of the human remains discovered in El Sidrón, which is located at the Museum of Natural History in Madrid -- CSIC.