Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7200 on: Aug 18th, 2012, 10:13am »
In Japan, new taxes levy political toll on Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda
By Chico Harlan, Published: August 17 Updated: Saturday, August 18, 2:00 AM
TOKYO — Yoshihiko Noda’s greatest legislative victory could also become his last major move.
The Japanese prime minister swore for months that he was willing to risk his job for a controversial plan to double the country’s sales tax to 10 percent. Now, political analysts in Tokyo and Washington say, Noda has won support for that increase, to be phased in by 2015, but he is nearly out of a job, having burned almost all of his political capital in order to push the bills through a notoriously inert parliament.
Noda, they say, has proven far more capable than Japan’s previous five prime ministers, all short-lived in office. He is unlikely to keep his job much longer than any of them, though, because of concessions made to win opposition support for the tax hike, which he says is necessary to stabilize Japan’s balance sheet.
After less than a year on the job, Noda is expected within the next several months to dissolve the more powerful lower house and call for a “snap election” — a promise he made to leaders of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and New Komeito during tax negotiations. That’s troubling for Noda because his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which currently holds a slim majority in the lower house, has an approval rating of just 12 percent.
Barring a drastic shift in public sentiment, analysts in Tokyo say that Noda’s party is likely get trounced in the next election, leaving the next prime minister to be selected by the new ruling party.
“Noda is exactly the kind of person, with style and grit, that Japan probably needs right now,” said Sheila Smith, a senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “He’s determined; he’s a coalition-builder by nature; he’s interested in the governance of the country. And the irony is, Japan may have . . . that person taken away from them” in the next election.
Noda has spent the last days dealing with the consequences of his tax hike. When he met the domestic press earlier this month, he began by apologizing for causing a burden to the Japanese people. But he also defended his strategy, saying that Japan — saddled with soaring social security costs and one of the world’s highest debt burdens — needed to make hard decisions to stave off a European-style fiscal crisis.
“People ask me why I often say that I will put my political career on the line for this reform,” Noda said. “Unless I was resolved to put my political career on the line, we may have wavered, deferred, avoided, or hesitated to take action.”
In pushing for the tax hike, Noda said he faced “difficulties beyond my imagination.” As he dealt with opposition parties, dozens of protesters from his own party staged a mass defection. Political critics pointed out that the DPJ’s original manifesto said nothing about a tax raise. Noda meanwhile drew ire for other reasons, particularly his push to restart a pair of nuclear reactors in western Japan, which sparked weekly protests outside his office.
If Noda’s DPJ loses power in the next elections, it will underscore the rocky road the party has traveled since it took over from the LDP after a half-century of near-uninterrupted rule. Rising to power with a landslide victory three years ago, the DPJ promised a new era of politics here: The party would work with greater transparency, depend less on bureaucrats, and push for a generous populist agenda, eliminating highway tolls, bumping up the minimum wage, even giving extra money to parents to raise children.
Little of this happened. The first two DPJ prime ministers, Yukio Hatoyama and Naoto Kan, were quickly driven from power. The 2011 natural and nuclear disasters made a new priority of reconstruction in the hard-hit northeast. Fears about Europe’s failing finances and a double-dip global recession prompted a focus in Japan on fiscal austerity, and leaders like Noda called for restrained spending and higher taxes.
The DPJ’s approval rating is only slightly lower than the LDP’s, which stands at 21 percent. Almost half of Japan’s voters favor no political party, making it likely that the next ruling party will be formed with a broad coalition, behind the LDP.
Asked how Noda will be remembered as a politician, Tokyo-based political analyst Eiken Itagaki said, “The prime minister who raised consumption tax . . . The prime minister who broke the DPJ.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7201 on: Aug 18th, 2012, 10:19am »
Blue Sky Project Will Use Drones to Deliver 3-D Portraits By Wired UK August 18, 2012 | 8:30 am Categories: Art, Design and Fashion
The Blue Sky project would set up an artistic outpost at Burning Man where people could pose for 3-D-printed portraits. The resulting models would be delivered by quadrocopter drones. Image courtesy ReAllocate
By Olivia Solon, Wired UK
A nonprofit called ReAllocate is developing an art project — called Blue Sky — for Burning Man that will scan people and 3-D-print a model of them before delivering it by drone using GPS tracking.
Visitors to ReAllocate‘s dome — made out of shipping containers — at the notoriously creative festival will be invited to strike a pose in a photo booth featuring a Kinect camera. This will capture the person’s 3-D image, which will then be converted into a 3-D file that can be printed by a Cubify 3-D printer.
The person can then leave the dome, taking with them a GPS transponder. Once their miniature figurine is finished, it will be placed in a container hanging from a multicopter unmanned aerial vehicle.
The drone will then track the GPS signal from that person’s transponder down. When it is close by, it will trigger an alarm on the transponder. When the person looks up, they will see the quadrocopter descending and will be able to take their sculpture.
All ReAllocate asks for in return is that the people contribute to a documentary about the project and that they return the GPS device.
ReAllocate is a nonprofit organization that brings together talented teams of designers, engineers, business professionals and community organizers to enable humanitarian efforts.
Project Blue Sky is a pilot for an entrepreneurship center in a shipping container that could be deployed in deprived communities to provide resources and mentorship for local entrepreneurs to build businesses.
The team is currently seeking funding to make the artwork possible using IndieGogo. There are four days left to donate to help them hit their $15,000 target. Check out the project page here. Burning Man starts Aug. 27 in the Nevada desert.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7202 on: Aug 18th, 2012, 10:21am »
Published on Aug 17, 2012 by ConspiracyTheory2012
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Mind Programming / UFOs / Sci-Fi Shows Thursday August 16, 2012
In the middle two hours, founder of Sovereign Mind Radio, Sonia Barrett, talked about how the mind is programmed. First hour guest, editor of Unicus Magazine, Robert Stanley, spoke about UFO sightings over Washington DC. Last hour guest,... Host: George Noory Guest(s): Sonia Barrett, Robert M. Stanley, Marc Zicree
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7203 on: Aug 19th, 2012, 10:14am »
NASA unveils Mars rover Curiosity’s travel plans
By Irene Klotz, Published: August 18
The first destination of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity will be an area near its Gale Crater landing site, where three kinds of terrain come together in a striking and unusual way.
The rover’s primary mission is to reach the base of Mount Sharp — a three-mile high mound with layers of exposed rock — as it searches for the building blocks of possible Martian microbial life.
But the six-wheeled Curiosity will first visit a site in a different direction because of the three adjoining rock formations, which scientists say could help them better understand the history of the crater and of Mars. They named the site Glenelg after a rock formation in northern Canada.
“Probably we’ll do a month worth of science there, maybe a little bit more,” lead mission scientist John Grotzinger told reporters during a conference call Friday. “Sometime toward the end of the calendar year, roughly, I would guess then we would turn our sights toward the trek to Mount Sharp.”
The timing of road trip to Glenelg depends in part on how well Curiosity cruises through the rest of its instrument check-out.
Soon, the rover will test-fire its powerful laser to pulverize a bit of bedrock uncovered by exhaust from Curiosity’s descent engine. A small telescope will then analyze the vaporized material to determine what minerals it contains.
The combined system, known as Chemistry & Camera, or ChemCam, is the first of its kind to be used on Mars. It is designed to make about 14,000 measurements throughout Curiosity’s mission, said lead instrument scientist Roger Wiens, with the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
“There’s a high-power laser that briefly projects several megawatts onto a pinhead-size spot on the surface of Mars,” Wiens said. “It creates a plasma, or a little ball of flame or spark.”
The telescope, which can observe the flash from up to about 25 feet away, then splits the light into its component wavelengths. Scientists use that information to determine the chemical composition of the rocks.
Travel to Glenelg, about 1,600 feet from Curiosity’s landing site, should take a month or longer, depending on how many stops scientists decide to make along the way. The name Glenelg is a palindrome — a word that reads the same backward — and particularly suited as the name for Curiosity’s first destination. That’s because the rover will have to come back through the site to head to Mount Sharp.
The one-ton nuclear-powered robotic science lab landed Aug. 6 in a large crater near Mars’s equator. Last week was largely spent uploading new “surface” software for the rover to replace the complex code used as it traveled 354 million miles to Mars and then successfully executed the most complex and daring landing ever tried.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7204 on: Aug 19th, 2012, 10:17am »
Libya: Saif Gaddafi to go on trial next month
Libya's newly-elected government intends to put Saif al-Islam Gaddafi on trial next month in the mountain town of Zintan, after striking a deal with the independent militia which caught him trying to escape across the desert last November.
By Nick Meo, Tripoli 7:00PM BST 18 Aug 2012
The son of the country's late dictator Muammar Gaddafi will be charged with urging supporters to kill demonstrators and revolutionaries during last year's uprising, and will face execution by hanging if he is found guilty.
Previous attempts to bring him to trial had foundered over the insistence by Libya's transitional government, formed soon after Saif al-Islam's father was driven from Tripoli a year ago this week, that he face justice in the capital. The fiercely anti-Gaddafi Zintan fighters who took him prisoner refused to hand him over, fearing that he might escape with the help of friends and sympathisers in Tripoli, or that he would be treated leniently.
The breakthrough came after Libya's first democratic elections, held last month, and a decision by ministers of the new government to compromise on the trial's location, so long as it was conducted under the national legal code.
Some were fearful that the long delay was encouraging remaining Gaddafi loyalists to view the late dictator's second son - the most charismatic of his surviving children, and the only one still inside Libya - as a figurehead.
The decision was also complicated by a demand from the International Criminal Court that Saif be tried at The Hague.
But now Libya's prosecutor has made clear that the ICC will play no role in the trial. The court's relationship with Libya was poisoned after four of its personnel were detained for alleged spying during a visit to Saif. They were held for four weeks in Zintan before being released last month.
Plans for the trial of Saif were revealed to The Sunday Telegraph in Tripoli on Friday by an official of the prosecutor-general's office, Taha Naser Bara.
He said: "We are sure that the evidence we have gathered is solid and it will shock and surprise the world. We believe we are capable of holding a fair trial."
Giuma Atigha, deputy head to the newly elected president of Libya's assembly who was jailed for 10 years by the old regime, said: "It is important to hold the trial. We want to show the world what we can do."
Libya's new rulers still fear a terrorist campaign by Gaddafi loyalists, hundreds of whom escaped the chaos of last year's revolution to exile in Egypt and Algeria with billions of stolen dollars. They have been blamed for bomb attacks and plots in recent weeks, and the Libyan authorities believe pro-Gaddafi exiles have attempted to spring or bribe jailed friends from prison.
Three Libyan judges will hear the case, which is expected to last for up to six months, with two prosecuting counsel.
So far Saif has refused to appoint a Libyan defence lawyer, and unless he does so the court will appoint one for him, Mr Bara said.
Dozens of witnesses from across Libya will be called to give evidence, but the charges, which have not yet been finalised, will only relate to the period from Feb 15 to Aug 20 last year when Saif had an allegedly leading role in repression.
The prosecutor refused to name the witnesses because of fears for their security – assassinations are still commonplace in Libya – and he said that although most of the hearing will be in public, some evidence will be heard in secret.
Evidence for the prosecution case has been gathered by two experienced lawyers since Saif's arrest in the Sahara last November after he fled the battlefield, he said.
"The prosecution case includes tape recordings, video clips, statements from people, and written documents, as well as his declarations on television stations during the revolution," Mr Bara said.
A key piece of prosecution evidence will be grainy mobile telephone footage of Saif grabbing an automatic weapon and urging his followers to fight, recorded in February as the regime prepared to send tanks into Benghazi and attempt to crush the revolution.
The Sunday Telegraph understands that telephone recordings of Saif giving orders during the revolution, stolen by defectors, will also play an important role in the case against him.
Former underlings captured by revolutionaries last year will also testify about his role. At the beginning of the revolution some demonstrators hoped that Saif would leave his father's orbit and join them, because of his record as a reformer during the regime's final years.
Instead, the prosecution will argue that he played an important role throughout the uprising in directing attacks and egging on his father's brutal supporters.
Mr Bara said the prosecutor is now studying the file and will decide whether - as is hoped - there is sufficient evidence to proceed immediately to trial. A delay could be ordered if more investigation were needed, but he was emphatic that the prosecutor wants to begin the trial at the first available session of Zintan's criminal court next month.
A second and separate investigation is still under way into alleged corruption, which may lead to further charges. The details are not yet known but the investigators are expected to scrutinise Saif's contacts with powerful figures in the West before the uprising, including Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson.
The decision to go ahead with a trial without international involvement in Zintan, an impoverished backwater four hours drive south of Tripoli, is likely to prove controversial and will raise questions over the credibility of the legal process – especially after Saif last month made it clear that he would prefer be tried before the International Criminal Court, fearing a show trial inside Libya. He had previously indicated that he wanted to be tried in his own country.
According to an ICC defence document, Saif told the legal team from The Hague in June: "There will be no truth if witnesses are faced with possible life sentences for simply testifying in my favour. I am not afraid to die but if you execute me after such a trial you should just call it murder."
Mr Bara said that under Libyan law Saif could be tried anywhere in the country.
He said: "We will not take the risk of transporting him from Zintan to Tripoli where security could be penetrated."
Holding the trial in the mountain town would also be a recognition of Zintan's growing power in the new Libya. After resisting a siege for several months, the town's militia played a major role in the drive into Tripoli a year ago that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, and it has now taken key positions in the new government, including that of defence minister.
Officials in Tripoli were clearly bitter about the role of the ICC team which was arrested in June.
Libyan officials have told The Sunday Telegraph that Saif's ICC defence lawyer Melinda Taylor passed coded documents to the prisoner from a fugitive former intelligence chief, who was trying to set up an escape plan from his hiding place abroad. She may have been doing this unwittingly, they said.
The alleged messages were part of an escape plan masterminded by Colonel Mohammed Ismael, a former right-hand man of Saif.
Mr Ismael, who is the subject of an Interpol red notice, was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2003 and accused of planning the assassination of Crown Prince Abdullah.
He is now near the top of the list of former regime fugitives being sought. He is believed to be based abroad, probably in Egypt, where officials think he is scheming to secure Mr Gaddafi's release.
The claims against the ICC have been embarrassing for the organisation. Libyan officials say it has apologised but not denied the spying claims.
Fadi El Abdallah, a spokesman for the ICC, said it had repeatedly requested a report on the incident from the Libyans and would not comment until it received one.
Fawzi Abdelali, the Libyan interior minister, said: "We found some coded messages and drawings showing places and times in Zintan. The way we look at it, there was an escape plan with people based in Libya and abroad. What they couldn't do was pass information to Saif. We blame the ICC delegation for passing on these messages."
On her release Mrs Taylor said Libya was not capable of holding a fair trial for Saif. She did not respond to a request for an interview but has previously denied any wrongdoing.
There have been few independent reports about the circumstances of Saif's captivity. Rebels denied cutting off his fingers when he was captured, and he himself insisted that they were amputated after he was injured in a Nato airstrike. But at the time his captors were watching him carefully.
Since his capture he is thought to have been held in heavily guarded private homes in Zintan, a hot and scruffy town which was neglected during his family's rule.
A researcher from Human Rights Watch who interviewed him in December found him in relatively good spirits. But now his father is dead he is probably the most hated man left in Libya today.
"I wish the rebels had just killed him when they captured him," said one elderly man in Tripoli.
"That would have been an end to the Gaddafi family. I don't know why we are wasting time on a trial. They will hang him anyway."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7205 on: Aug 19th, 2012, 10:22am »
Julian Assange Calls on U.S. to End WikiLeaks 'Witch Hunt'
7:36 AM PDT 8/19/2012 by Georg Szalai
Speaking from Ecuador's embassy in London days after the country had granted him asylum, he also commented on the prison sentence against Russian band Pussy Riot.
LONDON - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Sunday continued to make headlines and draw media coverage as he made a statement from Ecuador's embassy here that criticized the U.S.
his first public appearance in two months, Assange, wearing a blue shirt and red tie, spoke at around 2:30pm local time from a balcony of the embassy, with much international media in attendance. Some news networks showed the appearance live.
"The United States must renounce its witch hunt against WikiLeaks" and whistleblowers, he said. "There must be no more foolish talk about prosecuting any media organization - be it WikiLeaks or the New York Times."
Assange also said: "As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of all of our societies."
He also commented briefly on the prison sentence against female Russian punk band Pussy Riot. "There is unity in the oppression," Assange said. "There must be absolute unity and determination in the response." The three band members on Friday were sentenced to two years in jail for reciting a "punk prayer" criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin during a performance at a cathedral earlier in the year.
Ecuador had on Thursday officially granted him political asylum, drawing criticism from the U.K., Sweden and the U.S. Assange thanked the country and its president on Sunday, and he thanked his supporters, saying "thank you for your resolve, for your generosity of spirit."
Assange had walked into Ecuador's embassy here earlier this summer to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces charges of sexual assault, but London police signaled they wouldn't let him walk free. Following reports that Britain may even consider entering the embassy to get to Assange, Ecuador on Thursday said "such a threat [by the U.K.] is improper of a democratic and civilized country."
Assange said Sunday that Wednesday night's threat brought out supporters to the embassy "to watch over it." He added: "If the U.K. did not throw away the terms of the Vienna convention it was, because the world was watching and the world was watching because you were watching." Assange and his supporters have suggested that an extradition to Sweden could eventually see Assange end up in the U.S. They fear that the U.S. is looking to prosecute him for espionage and conspiracy.
WikiLeaks had announced late in the week that Assange would speak outside the Ecuadorian embassy here, but not said where exactly. The British Foreign Office had said that the embassy building’s common areas, such as its staircases, were considered British territory.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7206 on: Aug 19th, 2012, 10:30am »
August 17, 2012 3:15 PM
USS Constitution to sail under own power for second time in over a century.
Multiple Coast Guard resources escort the USS Constitution, Boston's beloved "Old Iron Sides," on June 11, 2005 in Boston, Massachusetts. (PA3 Kelly Newlin/U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images)
AP) BOSTON - The world's oldest commissioned warship will sail under its own power for just the second time in more than a century to commemorate the battle that won it the nickname "Old Ironsides."
The USS Constitution, which was first launched in 1797, will be tugged from its berth in Boston Harbor on Sunday to the main deepwater pathway into the harbor. It will then set out to open seas for a 10-minute cruise.
The short trip marks the day two centuries ago when the Constitution bested the British frigate HMS Guerriere in a fierce battle during the War of 1812. It follows a three-year restoration project and is the first time the Constitution has been to sea on its own since its 200th birthday in 1997.
Before that, it hadn't sailed under its own power since 1881. The Constitution is periodically tugged into the harbor for historical display.
Chief Petty Officer Frank Neely, a Constitution spokesman and crew member, said the crew wants to honor and preserve the Constitution with Sunday's sail.
"This ship is a national icon to us. ... She's very special to us. We think she's very special to the United States," he said.
The Constitution was under the command of Capt. Issac Hull when it engaged the Guerriere off Nova Scotia on Aug. 19, 1812. The young war was not going well for America, which had surrendered Detroit to the British with basically no resistance a week earlier.
But the Guerriere proved no match for the Constitution, which was heavier and longer. The vessels blasted away at each other at close range, even colliding at one point, during the 35-minute battle. The Constitution's 24-pound cannonballs felled the Guerriere's mast, while the British vessels' 18-pound cannonballs had trouble penetrating the Constitution's two-foot thick live oak hull, said Matthew Brenckle, a historian at the USS Constitution Museum.
Brenckle said a sailor's memoirs recorded how one cannonball seemed to slightly penetrate the ship, before dropping into the sea. The sailor then called out the quote that would give the Constitution its nickname, "Huzzah, her sides are made of iron! See where the shot fell out!"
It wasn't the first naval win in what would be a divisive, expensive war, but it set off celebrations around the country, Brenckle said.
"Strategically, it really did nothing to change the course of the war," he said. "But the morale boost that that provided for the American cause, I think was quite important."
During Sunday's sail, the Constitution's crew of about 65, accompanied by 150 sailors selected to be part of event, will unfurl four of its 36 sails, Neely said. The tugs will stand by as a precaution when the Constitution sails on its own. And the trip can't happen unless the weather conditions are right.
The ship won't move in winds less than five mph and anything over about 15 mph would put too much stress on the vessel, Neely said. But the forecast looks favorable.
The lengthy work in preparation for Sunday's sail was largely on the Constitution's aesthetics, though the masts were restored, Neely said. The crew also underwent extensive training on how to handle a vessel that's unlike any other in the U.S. Navy.
"A lot of hours of work went into this one day right here," Neely said. "I wouldn't be surprised if I broke a couple of tears after this."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7208 on: Aug 20th, 2012, 10:14pm »
Britain visited by one UFO a month but MoD rules they pose no threat
The Ministry of Defence will no longer investigate UFO sightings after ruling there is “no evidence” they pose a threat to the UK despite a senior aviation official admitting the country is visited by one unidentified flying object a month.
By Richard Gray 9:00AM BST 19 Aug 2012
It is official at last: Britain is not at risk from unidentified flying objects.
Those who have long feared an invasion from Mars or further afield can relax – at least, that is, if they believe the Ministry of Defence.
An end has been ordered to all official investigations of Unidentified Flying Objects, or UFOs, after the ministry ruled they do not pose a threat to the nation’s security.
It comes as the head of UK Air Traffic Control admitted the country is visited by around one unidentified flying object a month.
Asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme about the existence of UFOs, Mr Deakin confirmed they were still being seen by his staff.
He said: "Occasionally there are objects identified that do not conform to normal traffic patterns. It does not occupy a huge amount of my time. There are approximately one a month."
Yet despite this, the MoD insists it will no longer investigate UFO sightings.
The ruling came after the careful collation over the years of reports of strange lights in the skies, odd noises and apparent close encounters.
The move to end all investigation was disclosed after a dedicated hotline for UFO sightings was discontinued for cost grounds, and the “UFO desk”, which cost £44,000 a year was also removed.
Now officials say that any UFO investigation would divert valuable resources and instead a sophisticated network of radar infrastructure and anti-ballistic missile systems to monitor British airspace will spot any genuine threat.
An MoD spokesman said: “In over fifty years no UFO report revealed any evidence of a potential threat to the United Kingdom.
“The MoD had no specific capability for identifying the nature of such sightings and there would be no benefit in such an investigation. Furthermore, responding to reported UFO sightings diverted MOD resources from tasks that were more relevant to defence.”
The abandonment of the UFO hotline and dedicated desk officer in 2009 had already caused concern among those who believe in the phenomena.
Now the decision to abandon investigations entirely has frustrated some members of the public convinced they have glimpsed the extraterrestrial – and those who are simply unsure of what they have seen.
Jane Randall, a housewife from Woking, Surrey, captured a strange looking object in the skies above Silbury Hill in Wiltshire when she took a photograph using her mobile phone while taking part in a field trip to learn about the archaeology in the area.
She said: “I didn’t see anything at the time, nor did the ten people I was with, but when I looked back over the photos there were two pictures a second apart with this strange conical shape hovering behind the hill.
“The pictures I took either side of this didn’t have any mark on them so I don’t think it could have been dust on the lens.
“I’m just an ordinary person, but thought I should report it to someone so they could take a look. When I phoned the police, they said it was not a police matter and I spoke to someone at the RAF who said they did not investigate UFOs any more.”
Nick Pope, who ran the MoD’s UFO desk from 1991 to 1994 and now researches UFO sightings privately, said: “One of the problems was that an increasing number of the reports the MoD was getting were low quality.
“When someone has a photograph though, that should be considered to be a different situation. The MoD has the personnel and equipment to very quickly analyse an image to tell whether it has been altered and identify what an object might be.
“A lot of ordinary members of the public feel it is their duty to report anything out of the ordinary.
"I get a lot of people contacting me now about sightings and it is frustrating that there is no where official that they can report them – it has become a black hole.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7209 on: Aug 21st, 2012, 08:45am »
Iran unveils new missile, starts air defense site
By Yeganeh Torbati Tue Aug 21, 2012 8:59am EDT
DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran unveiled on Tuesday what it said was an upgraded short-range missile and said it would build a new air defense site, in what appeared to be an attempt to show its readiness against any Israeli attack.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi attended a ceremony at which officials unveiled the fourth-generation Fateh 110 short-range missile, with a range of about 300 km (180 miles), and other upgraded hardware.
Ahmadinejad said Iran's military upgrades were purely for defensive purposes and should not be taken as a threat, but said they would dissuade world powers from imposing their will on Iran.
"Defensive advances are meant to defend human integrity, and are not meant to be offensive moves toward others," Ahmadinejad said, according to Mehr news agency.
"I have no doubt that our defensive capabilities can stand up to bullying and put a halt to their plans."
Separately, Iran announced the start of construction on an air defence site, to be built in the south of the country about 210 km (130 miles) from its uranium enrichment facility in Isfahan, officials said.
The 200-hectare air defence installation in the Abadeh area would be the largest in that part of the country and will be built by Khatam al-Anbia, the engineering arm of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and will eventually employ 6,000 people, Fars reported.
"If (the enemy) ever has the intent of attacking this soil, we will make the Persian Gulf their grave," Abadeh's governor, Mohammad Javad Askari, was quoted as saying at a ceremony marking the start of construction at the site.
Israel, believed to be the only atomic power in the Middle East, views Iran's nuclear program as an existential threat, citing Iranian threats to destroy the Jewish state.
There has been an upsurge in rhetoric from Israeli politicians this month suggesting Israel might attack Iran's nuclear facilities ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November.
Iran, which denies trying to develop a nuclear bomb, says it could hit Israel and U.S. bases in the region if it comes under attack.
It has also threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, the neck of the Gulf through which 40 percent of the world's sea-borne oil exports pass. Such a move would probably invite a military response from the United States.
"HARD NUT TO CRACK"
Paul Beaver, a London-based defence analyst, said Tuesday's moves appear to be geared at showing the world Iran is prepared for an attack on its nuclear facilities, and said Iran had been able to upgrade air defence systems dating from before the 1979 Islamic revolution with Russian and perhaps Chinese equipment.
"We have seen 20 years of development of the Iranian air defence system," Beaver told Reuters. "I believe that Iran is a very hard nut to crack."
Iran is also locked in a years-long dispute with Russia over the high-precision S-300 air defence system, which Moscow has refused to deliver to Tehran in order to comply with expanded U.N. sanctions passed in 2010.
Iran said earlier this month that it had successfully test-fired the new Fateh-110 model and that it was equipped with a more accurate guidance system.
"This missile is one of the most precise and advanced land-to-land ballistic missiles using solid fuel," Vahidi was quoted as saying by Fars.
In July, Iran said it had successfully test-fired medium-range missiles capable of hitting Israel, and tested dozens of missiles aimed at simulated air bases.
It also presented a more powerful, 5,000-horsepower sea-borne engine, the Bonyan-4, Fars quoted Vahidi as saying. A previous version had 1,000 horsepower, the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) said.
Military experts have cast doubt on Iran's claims of weapons advances, especially its assertions about its missile program, saying Tehran often exaggerates its capabilities.
"The Fateh-110 has a crude guidance and control system that operates during the missile's ascent" rather than during final descent, said Michael Elleman, senior fellow for missile defence at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
"The Fateh-110 appears to lack the subsystems needed to effect terminal steering," he said in an email.
Iran on Tuesday also presented Armita, an "airborne laboratory" to help test aircraft launch systems and oxygen generation and train fighter pilots, Fars reported.
Vahidi said it was named after the daughter of Dariush Rezaeinejad, an Iranian scientist who was shot dead last year.
Iran believes agents working with foreign intelligence services including the American CIA and Israel's Mossad are behind the assassinations of several of its nuclear scientists.
(Additional reporting by Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; Editing by Myra MacDonald)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7210 on: Aug 21st, 2012, 08:49am »
Did Bush’s Broadband Deregulation Upend His Own NSA Wiretapping?
By Julian Sanchez 08.21.12 6:00 AM
As Congress prepares to reauthorize the controversial FISA Amendments Act of 2008 — which effectively legalized the notorious warrantless wiretap program launched by President Bush — much about the law remains shrouded in secrecy: The National Security Agency has refused to give legislators even a rough estimate of how many Americans’ communications have been swept up in the digital dragnet.
Yet even four years after the FAA’s passage, one of the biggest mysteries isn’t how the law has been used, but why it was necessary in the first place. One surprising — but surprisingly plausible — explanation points to the unexpected consequences of broadband deregulation.
In other words, it seems entirely plausible that the Bush administration’s deregulation of cable broadband service accidentally led to a secret court refusing to approve a sizable chunk of the NSA’s wiretapping activities. That ruling then precipitated a dramatic political battle full of overblown claims of threats to America and eventually resulted in the passage of a measure expanding the NSA’s ability to intercept communications inside the United States.
For those who don’t remember, the FISA Amendments Act was introduced to replace the short-lived Protect America Act of 2007, and both were designed to enable large-scale programmatic surveillance of communications between the United States and other countries.
Controversy over a provision granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications firms that participated in the original, extralegal warrantless wiretap program stalled the bill in Congress for months in late 2007 and early 2008: Senator Chris Dodd filibustered the initiative, and then-senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama opposed the bill, but finally agreed to support it, while promising to revisit and reform the bill once in office. Despite that promise, the Obama administration has now declared the reauthorization of the FAA without substantial changes a top legislative priority.
At the time, Americans were told that the FAA (and before it, the PAA) was needed because of a ruling by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that had prevented the government from intercepting purely foreign-to-foreign communications that happened to pass over American wires.
That came as a surprise to surveillance experts, because the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act from 1978 had always defined the interception of the contents of a “wire communication” as “electronic surveillance,” requiring a court order if and only if either the sender or the recipient of that communication was inside the United States. Intelligence surveillance of strictly foreign-to-foreign wire communications was always understood to be allowed, even if the interception was done domestically, when the communication happened to pass through a U.S. telecom switch.
But apparently in early 2007, something changed.
Then-House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) publicly declared that a secret ruling by the (normally highly deferential) FISC had found a problem with a National Security Agency surveillance program, and had limited NSA’s ability to intercept even wholly foreign communications.
Supporters of broader spying powers characterized the decision as requiring a warrant for all interception of foreign-to-foreign communications, including phone calls, but that turns out not to have been quite accurate: Kenneth Wainstein, then a high-ranking Justice Department official, later clarified that the problem was specifically related to interception of e-mail, where the locations of both parties to the communication might not be known to NSA in advance.
Even this, however, was a little peculiar.
E-mail was not exactly a new technology in 2007, after all, so what had changed? At the time, those of us who closely-followed intelligence policy mostly assumed that the issue had to do with the greatly increased breadth of the surveillance NSA was trying to conduct. But there is another possibility that fits the public evidence very well –one hinted at very indirectly in the new edition of the standard legal reference text on FISA law, David Kris and Douglas Wilson’s “National Security Investigations and Prosecutions.”
To understand what might have happened requires a brief detour into both the complex structure of the FISA law and the specifics of how the NSA’s Internet surveillance worked.
Thanks to whistleblower Mark Klein, formerly an engineer at AT&T, we know that the NSA maintained a series of secret rooms at the offices of major telecommunications companies, where the entire stream of Internet traffic was copied and diverted into a sophisticated piece of surveillance equipment: the Narus Semantic Traffic Analyzer. The NSA could then program the device to filter out and record particular communications for human review according to selected criteria, such as e-mail or IP addresses, and probably also particular keywords in the e-mails themselves.
Initially, this almost certainly would have been classified as “electronic surveillance” of a “wire communication” under FISA, one of four somewhat complicated categories of “electronic surveillance” defined by the statute. Specifically, it would have been covered by 50 U.S.C. 1801(f)(2), which requires a warrant for the “acquisition by an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device of the contents of any wire communication to or from a person in the United States.” Crucially, FISA’s definition of a “wire communication” covered any communication– telephonic or digital — in transit over facilities operated by a “common carrier.” This is actually a bit of an anachronistic holdover specific to FISA: The statutes governing criminal wiretap investigations were amended in 1986 to make a provider’s “common carrier” status irrelevant, but the language in FISA remained.
Then, in 2005, came the Supreme Court’s decision in National Cable & Telecommunications Services vs. Brand X Internet Services. On its face, the case had nothing to do with surveillance, but with the contentious debate over “net neutrality.” In 2002, the Bush-era FCC issued a controversial deregulatory ruling stating that broadband Internet over cable wires should be classified as an “information service,” rather than a “telecommunications service” (like traditional telephone service).
Small ISPs like Brand X, as well as supporters of government-enforced “net neutrality,” argued that federal law required broadband to be classed as a “telecommunication service” subject to “common carrier” requirements — just as phone companies are. That designation means, in part, that they had to make their infrastructure available at low cost to competitors.
The Supreme Court ultimately rejected that argument, finding that the FCC had discretion to decide how cable broadband should be categorized, even if there were grounds to question that choice. The FCC promptly acted on that ruling, but provided for a one-year transition period before those common carrier requirements entirely expired.
This gives us a conspicuous coincidence: The mysterious FISC decision described by Boehner would have happened shortly after broadband providers were freed of the last vestiges of “common carrier” status.
“If FISA’s reference to ‘common carrier’ were interpreted in accord with the Communications Act,” Kris and Wilson explain, explicitly citing the Brand X decision, “information (such as e-mail) being carried on a cable owned and offered by a cable modem service provider would not be a ‘wire communication’ under FISA, and acquisition of such information would not be ‘electronic surveillance’ under” the definition that applies to traditional phone calls.
But then, what would it be?
The most likely answer, as Kris and Wilson argue, is that such digital eavesdropping would now be covered by 50 U.S.C. 1801(f)(4), which was originally primarily intended to cover surveillance using hidden microphones or cameras, but now also governs the acquisition of stored e-mails and documents from U.S. servers. This definition explicitly excludes surveillance of a “wire communication,” which means it would not have applied so long as Internet providers were considered “common carriers,” but otherwise covers any “installation or use” of a surveillance device “for monitoring to acquire informationŠ under circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a warrant would be required for law enforcement purposes.”A surveillance system that targets known foreigners or foreign IP addresses could run afoul of that definition even if it scrupulously avoided intercepting their communications with Americans, because it departs from the standards that apply to “wire communications” in several important ways. Instead of specifically requiring a warrant to intercept the “contents” of a message, it covers any kind of “monitoring to acquire information.” Instead of turning on the location of the senders or recipients of a communication, it applies whenever “a person” –not limited to the parties to the communication, and so potentially including also the provider itself — has some reasonable expectation of privacy.
Finally, it depends on whether comparable surveillance for law enforcement purposes would require a warrant, and in many cases it’s clear that the statutes governing both “live” interception and acquisition of stored communications for criminal investigations would require a warrant, regardless of the user’s location.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7211 on: Aug 21st, 2012, 08:58am »
American CEO of Czech Truck Maker Detained in Graft Case
Aug. 21, 2012 - 08:13AM By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
PRAGUE — American Ronald Adams, the chief executive and owner of Czech-based truck maker Tatra, has denied graft allegations linked to a Czech defense contract for which he has been detained, Tatra said Aug. 21.
The case involves a 2008-2009 military contract for 588 Tatra trucks valued at 2.7 billion koruna (109 million euros, $135 million).
Adams was detained Aug. 20 after former Czech defense minister Martin Bartak, accused in 2010 of attempted corruption linked to the same contract, testified against him, a Tatra company spokesman told AFP.
“Within the framework of an investigation into the case in which Mr. Bartak is charged with corruption, Bartak said that Mr. Adams offered him a bribe,” Vladimir Bystrov told AFP.
“Tatra is confident that the ongoing investigation launched on the basis of the testimony of persons already charged with corruption is without foundation,” Bystrov said.
A decision on whether Adams will be remanded in custody is to be made within 48 hours of Adams’ detention, he added.
“It is evident that the principle objective is to put in doubt the credibility of Mr. Adams as a witness and to intimidate him along with all other persons who dare testify openly about corruption at the highest levels in the Czech state,” a Tatra statement said Tuesday.
Bartak, 45, served as deputy Czech defense minister in 2006-08 and defense minister in the ex-communist NATO state from 2009-10.
In 2010, he was accused of attempted corruption based on the testimony of former U.S. ambassador William J. Cabaniss who served in Prague from 2003-05.
In Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perception Index, the Czech Republic ranked 57th alongside Namibia and Saudi Arabia on the list of 183 countries, topped by squeaky clean New Zealand and ending with Somalia.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7212 on: Aug 21st, 2012, 09:03am »
Lao Skull Earliest Example of Modern Human Fossil in Southeast Asia
ScienceDaily (Aug. 20, 2012)
An ancient skull recovered from a cave in the Annamite Mountains in northern Laos is the oldest modern human fossil found in Southeast Asia, researchers report. The discovery pushes back the clock on modern human migration through the region by as much as 20,000 years and indicates that ancient wanderers out of Africa left the coast and inhabited diverse habitats much earlier than previously appreciated.
The researchers found skull fragments that date to 63,000 years ago. (Credit: Laura Shackelford)
The team described its finding in a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The scientists, who found the skull in 2009, were likely the first to dig for ancient bones in Laos since the early 1900s, when a team found skulls and skeletons of several modern humans in another cave in the Annamite Mountains. Those fossils were about 16,000 years old, much younger than the newly found skull, which dates to between 46,000 and 63,000 years old.
"It's a particularly old modern human fossil and it's also a particularly old modern human for that region," said University of Illinois anthropologist Laura Shackelford,
who led the study with anthropologist Fabrice Demeter, of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. "There are other modern human fossils in China or in Island Southeast Asia that may be around the same age but they either are not well dated or they do not show definitively modern human features. This skull is very well dated and shows very conclusive modern human features," she said.
No other artifacts have yet been found with the skull, suggesting that the cave was not a dwelling or burial site, Shackelford said. It is more likely that the person died outside and the body washed into the cave sometime later, she said.
The find reveals that early modern human migrants did not simply follow the coast and go south to the islands of Southeast Asia and Australia, as some researchers have suggested, but that they also traveled north into very different types of terrain, Shackelford said.
"This find supports an 'Out-of-Africa' theory of modern human origins rather than a multi-regionalism model," she said. "Given its age, fossils in this vicinity could be direct ancestors of the first migrants to Australia. But it is also likely that mainland Southeast Asia was a crossroads leading to multiple migratory paths."
The discovery also bolsters genetic studies that indicate that modern humans occupied that part of the world at least 60,000 years ago, she said.
"This is the first fossil evidence that supports the genetic data," she said.
The researchers used radiocarbon dating and luminescence techniques to determine the age of the soil layers above, below and surrounding the skull, which was found nearly 2 1/2 meters (about 8.2 feet) below the surface of the cave.
Researchers at Illinois used uranium/thorium dating to determine the age of the skull, which they determined was about 63,000 years old.
Research fellow Kira Westaway, of Macquarie University in Australia (who dated the soils around the famous "hobbit" fossil found on Flores Island in Indonesia in 2003), conducted the luminescence analyses. These techniques measure the energy retained in crystalline particles in the soil to determine how much time has elapsed since the soil was last exposed to heat or solar radiation. She found that the layer of soil surrounding the fossil had washed into the cave between 46,000 and 51,000 years ago.
"Those dates are a bit younger than the direct date on the fossil, which we would expect because we don't know how long the body sat outside the cave before it washed in," Shackelford said.
"This fossil find indicates that the migration out of Africa and into East and Southeast Asia occurred at a relatively rapid rate, and that, once there, modern humans weren't limited to environments that they had previously experienced," she said. "We now have the fossil evidence to prove that they were there long before we thought they were there."
The research team also included scientists from Université Toulouse III; the French National Center for Scientific Research, Paris; the Department of National Heritage, Lao PDR; the Institute of Geology, University of Strasbourg, France; the Louvre, Paris; the Illinois State Geological Survey, and the geology department, both at the University of Illinois.