White Shark Diets Show Surprising Variability, Vary With Age and Among Individuals ScienceDaily (Sep. 28, 2012)
— Many white sharks shift from fish to marine mammals as they mature, but individual sharks show surprising variability in dietary preferences.
White sharks, the largest predatory sharks in the ocean, are thought of as apex predators that feed primarily on seals and sea lions. But a new study by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, shows surprising variability in the dietary preferences of individual sharks.
The researchers described their findings in a paper published online September 28 in PLoS ONE. They analyzed the composition of growth bands in shark vertebrae to trace variations in diet over a shark's lifetime. Stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen incorporated into an animal's tissues serve as a natural tracer of dietary inputs.
"We did find that white shark diets changed with age, as expected, but we were surprised that the patterns and extent of change differed among individuals," said Sora Kim, who led the study as a UCSC graduate student and is now at the University of Wyoming.
The researchers analyzed vertebrae of 15 adult white sharks that had been caught along the west coast (14 off California and one off Baja California). Sharks in this population consume a wide range of prey, including seals, sea lions, dolphins, fish, and squid. But not every shark eats the same mix of prey, said coauthor Paul Koch, professor of Earth and planetary sciences at UCSC.
"We confirmed that the diets of many individuals observed at seal and sea lion rookeries shift from fish to marine mammals as the sharks mature," he said. "In addition, we discovered that different individual sharks may specialize on different types of prey. These two types of flexibility in feeding behavior are difficult to document using traditional methods, but may be very important for understanding how the population is supported by the eastern Pacific ecosystem and how it may respond to changes in that ecosystem."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently announced that it will consider whether to protect the west coast population of white sharks under the Endangered Species Act.
Tagging studies have shown that the white sharks found along the California coast have a regular migratory pattern, cruising coastal sites from late summer to early winter and moving to offshore areas during the rest of the year. While sharks within this population may have predictable movement patterns, the new study shows that there are important dietary and behavioral differences among individual sharks.
The study relied on vertebrae obtained from white shark specimens in various collections. The sharks had been caught at different times and places along the coast from 1957 to 2000. "Interestingly, we do see a small shift in diet as marine mammal populations increased after the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972," Kim said.
In addition to Kim and Koch, the coauthors of the paper include James Estes, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCSC, and Tim Tinker, a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and adjunct professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCSC. This research was funded by the National Science Foundation.
Tom Cruise and Scientology's David Miscavige: 'Most Intense Bromance in History'
9:06 AM PDT 9/28/2012 by Dana Kennedy
The most powerful Scientologist in the world has the movie star under his thumb. How does Miscavige do it?
Tom Cruise barely had a breather between what had to be one of the worst summers of his life and the smash opening of the Scientology-inspired movie The Master in New York and Los Angeles.
The Master examines what one reviewer has called the "crypto-romantic relationship" between a charismatic cult leader, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, and his "favorite disciple" (Joaquin Phoenix). The movie, which director Paul Thomas Anderson screened in advance for Cruise, comes on the heels of the actor abruptly being dumped by his third wife, Katie Holmes, in July and subjected to a humiliating media feeding frenzy, some of which included speculation about Cruise’s close relationship with Scientology’s powerful and controversial chairman, David Miscavige. Ex-Scientologist Marc Headley, who says he worked closely with Miscavige for 15 years during his long tenure with the church, calls it "the most intense, expensive bromance in history."
The church’s star member could become a liability, much the same way Phoenix eventually becomes a source of trouble for "the Master." Holmes’ divorce action against Cruise resulted in intense coverage of the church’s controversial inner workings -- including Vanity Fair’s September cover story. (Karin Pouw, a representative for Scientology, wrote to The Hollywood Reporter that the recent attention is merely the work of "anti-Scientologists who were kicked out of the Church by Mr. Miscavige, most over eight years ago, [who] used Mr. Cruise’s divorce to further smear the Church with lies so they could promote themselves." Nevertheless, she writes: “More people have accessed our websites and come in to our Churches over the summer than ever in our history. [The coverage] is having a very positive affect [sic] on people wanting to get accurate information about Scientology for themselves.”
Some people, both in Hollywood and within the circle of former church members, wonder whether Cruise might leave Scientology -- as a smart career move if nothing else. But some insiders insist he’d never defect.
"Why should he?" asks veteran publicist Howard Bragman. "You’ve got to realize the difference between a crisis and a controversy in Hollywood. For most people, this is a controversy. It’s not necessarily going to impact his career."
According to Mike Rinder, who says he was the chief spokesman for Scientology before leaving the organization in 2007, people in Hollywood seem content to look the other way as long as Cruise is making hit movies. "But they act as if his association with Scientology is as harmless as Madonna spending time with the Kabbalah people," he says. "They don’t realize Tom Cruise is hanging out with someone who is the emotional equivalent of Jeffrey Dahmer."
Representatives of the church have called Rinder, Headley and other ex-church members interviewed for this article a cadre of apostates and have gone so far as to publish a special issue of Scientology magazine Freedom with the headline “A Posse of Lunatics.” The issue’s cover features a caricature of a group of former Scientologists, including Amy Scobee, Jason Beghe, Rinder and Tom DeVocht, sitting around a broken-down car in a field. Stories inside the magazine refer to Beghe as a "Hollywood psycho," DeVocht as the “consummate con man” and Rinder as "a walking ‘hate crime.’ "
Much of Hollywood continues to focus on other aspects of Cruise’s life, namely that he remains a likable guy who made $75 million last year and still is one of the town’s biggest names.
"You’ll never hear anything but positive stuff about anyone who’s ever worked with him because it’s always a positive experience," says a high-ranking source involved with the production of Cruise’s next film, the actioner Jack Reacher, which comes out in December. "Tom’s great in [Reacher], and it’s going to do really well at the box office. And that’s what matters."
But former Scientologist Steve Hall, who says he headed the church’s marketing division for 20 years as a writer and producer of its films, videos and TV spots, thinks box office isn’t all that matters. He says Cruise could have been viewed as an unwitting victim during his early years in the church but no longer.
"There’s a point of no return, and I think Tom has crossed it," says Hall, who worked closely with Miscavige and knew Cruise slightly. "The time for him to leave was a long time ago. The lines between him and Miscavige are so blurred now."
The consensus from interviews conducted during the past two months with dozens of former Scientology members who freely divulge church secrets was that Cruise’s relationship with Miscavige was symbiotic. Rinder says Cruise was a "really nice guy" when he first joined the church but, over time, took on more and more of Miscavige’s personality traits. "In Scientology, it’s called being in someone’s valence," says Rinder. "Cruise has assumed a lot of Miscavige’s qualities."
Church literature defines the concept of valence in part as "another’s identity assumed by a person unknowingly; a valence is a substitute self taken on after the fact of lost confidence in self or a failed valence or as a solution to a problem."
Karen De La Carriere, who says she was one of Scientology’s most well-known and respected auditors until she left in 2010, notes that Cruise was "practically channeling" Miscavige during his infamous interview with Matt Lauer on Today in 2010.
"The way he lit into Matt Lauer, calling him glib and attacking him -- that was exactly how David Miscavige deals with people," says De La Carriere. "That was the purest example of how Tom is in Miscavige’s valence. It’s a scary thing to watch."
If true, being in Miscavige’s valence might be why Cruise remains so devoted to him despite what former Scientologists say are Miscavige’s frequent betrayals of him.
Former Scientologists told Vanity Fair as well as THR that Miscavige openly mocked Cruise behind his back. Several sources have told THR that they witnessed Miscavige reading personal details from auditing files aloud. (Scientology lawyers sent a letter to Vanity Fair, which they also posted online, denying that such files exist and that Miscavige had read them aloud.)
Former church member Claire Headley says she witnessed Miscavige talking about information Cruise divulged in what were supposed to be confidential auditing and interrogation sessions a number of times during her many years with the church.
Not long before she left, in 2004, Headley was in charge of "examining" Cruise after he underwent what the church calls a "security check" at the main base in Hemet, Calif. Cruise was at a high enough level in the organization that he was required to undergo a "sec check" every six months, says Headley. Sec checks are interrogative counseling sessions, according to Headley, in which Scientologists are asked questions to make sure they are aligned with the ethics of the church.
Scientology protocol is said to call for an examiner to briefly meet with everyone undergoing a sec check after they have completed it. Headley said she "picked up the cans" – a term for the auditing E-meter -- and asked Cruise a few post-sec check questions.
But something unusual happened. "He didn't pass," says Headley. "The needle wasn't floating."
Headley says the needle usually floats on the E-meter after a session when a Scientologist has "released" whatever negative charges he was carrying.
"Tom was all surprised," says Headley. "He was supposed to leave the next day. The fact that he didn't pass became a big deal."
Miscavige, who was on the base at the time, called a meeting that night, says Headley. According to her, about eight people were there, including Miscavige's wife, Shelly. Miscavige began talking about some of the confidential information Cruise had revealed in the sec check -- mostly about relationships in his life, including issues he was having with one of his children. Miscavige also had looked at the videotaped record of the session with Cruise, according to Headley. (In the end, Headley says, Miscavige wrote up a statement that was given to Cruise, and he was able to leave the base next day, as was originally planned.)
Sharing information gathered in audits is, according to past reports, against church policy. In a 2009 Australian case in which a coroner requested church documents relating to an investigation into the suicide of a member, the church cited "confessional privilege" in its refusal to turn them over. A Scientology spokesperson at the time said members’ audit files are "privileged and sacrosanct" and went on to say, "The church has very strict protocol concerning the confidentiality of a parishioner's personal information in pastoral counseling.”
Headley says she witnessed many instances in which Miscavige spoke in a derogatory manner about Cruise or his then-wife Nicole Kidman -- some of it based on information obtained from Cruise's auditing sessions.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7397 on: Oct 1st, 2012, 08:10am »
Time Bomb: Military Ordnance in Gulf of Mexico Poses Threat to Shipping, Says Expert
ScienceDaily (Sep. 28, 2012) — Millions of pounds of unexploded bombs and other military ordnance that were dumped decades ago in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as off the coasts of both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, could now pose serious threats to shipping lanes and the 4,000 oil and gas rigs in the Gulf, warns two Texas A&M University oceanographers.
William Bryant and Neil Slowey, professors of oceanography who have more than 90 years of combined research experience in all of Earth's oceans, along with fellow researcher Mike Kemp of Washington, D.C., say millions of pounds of bombs are scattered over the Gulf of Mexico and also off the coasts of at least 16 states, from New Jersey to Hawaii.
Bryant says the discarded bombs are hardly a secret. "This has been well known for decades by many people in marine science and oceanography," he explains.
Military dumping of unused bombs into the Gulf and other sites started in 1946 and continued until 1970, when it was finally banned.
Millions of pounds -- no one, including the military, knows how many -- were sent to the ocean floor as numerous bases tried to lessen the amount of ordnance at their respective locations.
"The best guess is that at least 31 million pounds of bombs were dumped, but that could be a very conservative estimate," Bryant notes.
"And these were all kinds of bombs, from land mines to the standard military bombs, also several types of chemical weapons. Our military also dumped bombs offshore that they got from Nazi Germany right after World War II. No one seems to know where all of them are and what condition they are in today."
Photos show that some of the chemical weapons canisters, such as those that carried mustard gas, appear to be leaking materials and are damaged.
"Is there an environmental risk? We don't know, and that in itself is reason to worry," explains Bryant. "We just don't know much at all about these bombs, and it's been 40 to 60 years that they've been down there."
With the ship traffic needed to support the 4,000 energy rigs, not to mention commercial fishing, cruise lines and other activities, the Gulf can be a sort of marine interstate highway system of its own. There are an estimated 30,000 workers on the oil and gas rigs at any given moment.
The bombs are no stranger to Bryant and Slowey, who have come across them numerous times while conducting various research projects in the Gulf, and they have photographed many of them sitting on the Gulf floor like so many bowling pins, some in areas cleared for oil and gas platform installation.
"We surveyed some of them on trips to the Gulf within the past few years," he notes. "Ten are about 60 miles out and others are about 100 miles out. The next closest dump site to Texas is in Louisiana, not far from where the Mississippi River delta area is in the Gulf. Some shrimpers have recovered bombs and drums of mustard gas in their fishing nets."
"The bottom line is that these bombs are a threat today and no one knows how to deal with the situation," Bryant says. "If chemical agents are leaking from some of them, that's a real problem. If many of them are still capable of exploding, that's another big problem.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7399 on: Oct 1st, 2012, 09:37am »
Iran rial plunges as Western sanctions bite
By Yeganeh Torbati Mon Oct 1, 2012 10:12am EDT
DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's rial plunged against the U.S. dollar in open-market trade on Monday, taking its loss in value over the past week to more than a quarter in further evidence that Western sanctions are shattering the economy.
The freefall suggests sanctions imposed over Iran's nuclear program are undermining its ability to earn foreign exchange and that its reserves of hard currency may be running low.
The rial traded at 34,200 per dollar according to currency-tracking website Mazanex, down from about 29,720 on Sunday. It was trading at 24,600 last Monday, according to website Mesghal.
There is no clear sign that economic pain in Iran has reached levels that would prompt the government to compromise on its nuclear program, which Western nations say aims to develop an atomic bomb but which Tehran insists is peaceful.
However, the currency crisis is exposing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to criticism from enemies in parliament.
The rial's losses have accelerated in the past week after the government launched an "exchange centre" designed to supply dollars to importers of some basic goods at a special rate slightly cheaper than the market rate.
Instead of allaying fears about the availability of dollars, the centre seems to have intensified the race for hard currency by linking the special rate to the market rate, meaning that even privileged importers will face sharply higher costs.
"The government's initiative ... brought to the surface a tremendous lack of confidence in its ability to manage the currency," said Cliff Kupchan, a Middle East expert at the Eurasia Group, a political risk research firm. "The attempt to fix it triggered a worse crisis via market psychology."
The rial's sinking value will fuel inflation, officially running at about 25 percent; economists estimate the real rate is even higher. Rising costs could worsen the job losses which Iranians say are hitting the country's industrial sector.
On Sunday, Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Iran's economy was "on the verge of collapse" and estimated the government had lost $45-50 billion in oil revenue because of the sanctions, which have slashed the country's oil exports and largely frozen it out of the international banking system.
But that kind of language is premature, said Hassan Hakimian, of the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London, because Iran has stockpiled some basic goods.
"I am not aware of any shortages of basic necessities as yet," he said. "Well before that, the government will resort to some kind of basic rationing so as to introduce a safety net."
Some Iranian officials continued to insist on Monday that the exchange centre, which is supposed to be funded by dollars earned with Iran's oil exports, would eventually meet demand for hard currency and thus strengthen the rial.
"The exchange centre is operating and once the next phase of the plan is implemented, the price of currency will drop," said Gholamreza Mesbahi-Moghaddam, who heads parliament's planning and budget committee, according to the Mehr news agency.
But the rial's accelerating slide indicates many Iranians have lost faith in authorities' ability to support it, and are scrambling to buy hard currencies to preserve their savings.
"There is very little, effectively, the central bank and authorities can do to calm the situation because even when they take extraordinary measures to calm the market ... the market interprets those additional measures as a sign of abnormality," Hakimian said.
At the end of last year, Iran had $106 billion of official foreign reserves, enough to cover an ample 13 months of imports of goods and services in normal times, according to the International Monetary Fund.
But Nader Habibi, economist at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University in the United States, estimated last month that the government now had about $50-70 billion of hard currency reserves left.
Iran does not disclose timely data on its reserves but if they have dropped steeply, the central bank may have become reluctant to run them down by supplying dollars to the market.
In a statement on Sunday, the central bank said just $181 million had been traded on the new exchange centre since its launch six days earlier - a fraction of Iran's imports of goods and services, which total around $2 billion per week in normal times.
"The president has deliberately kept the market agitated," Elias Naderan, who sits on parliament's economic committee, said on Sunday, according to Mehr.
"I really don't know what Mr. Ahmadinejad is thinking. What plan does he have, what is his expectation of the system, and how does he plan to manage this disorder?"
The crisis has also prompted criticism of the central bank and authorities by private businessmen.
"When the exchange centre provides only 10 to 20 percent of the market's demand, one cannot expect it any more to play a role in the exchange market," Mohammad Nahavandian, head of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, was quoted by Mehr as saying on Monday.
(With additional reporting by Zahra Hosseinian; Writing by Andrew Torchia; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7400 on: Oct 1st, 2012, 09:43am »
Pakistani women drive retail boom By Michele Langevine Leiby Monday, October 1, 2012
LAHORE, Pakistan — A perfectly coiffed model, draped in diamonds, shoots a sultry gaze from the cover of a glossy in-room magazine at a luxury hotel chain in downtown Lahore. The cover line on the ad-packed issue screams: “Wow! World of Women.”
And with good reason. Economists say that, in recent years, Pakistani women have fueled a retail boom in name-brand shopping as they move from a traditional homebound life into the working world.
“You can go into any shopping mall or any cafe, and you will see young girls sitting, having lunch, chatting away,” said Rashid Amjad, vice chancellor at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics in Islamabad. “Despite all this conservatism that has been growing at the same time, you have a change.”
In many urban centers, the days when girls were forced to abandon education and eschew employment in favor of remaining within the walls of their homes seem to be mostly a memory.
Traditionally, men here bear the burden of sustaining the household, so for many middle-class women, their paychecks are entirely their own to spend — a boon for the newly booming retail industry.
“I can afford to spend whatever I like,” said Rabiya Bajwa, 37, a lawyer. “My income is roughly 20 percent more than what it was five years ago.” Bajwa does contribute to the household budget, but her two-income family enjoys a comfortable “cushion,” and she splurges on expensive designer clothes.
But this good fortune is not evenly distributed, said Hafiz Pasha, a noted economist at Beaconhouse National University in Lahore. Pakistan, he said, is still far behind other countries in terms of women’s economic contribution.
“This growth is witnessed in urban centers where middle-class working women are found,” Pasha said. “In rural areas, although the participation of women in the economy is more than the urban centers, they are not well-paid, and their share in the economy is much less.”
Although women have long been underpaid and subject to discrimination in the Pakistani workforce, they are coming into their own at a surprising rate. Since about 2002, Amjad said, participation by women, traditionally low, has been rising.
Many men left agriculture jobs, so work was being generated and women readily moved in, Amjad noted. Now, somewhere between 28 percent and 36 percent of women work in Pakistan, he said, but many work in home-based businesses, so their numbers are not easily ascertained.
In schools and colleges, young women study side by side with their male counterparts. “They seem to be very easy together, they talk very easily, and they discuss issues quite comfortably,”Amjad said, “so in a way higher education has increased female confidence to work with men, and that has helped.”
Three retail store owners surveyed in Lahore said most of their customers are working women, and they credited them with increasing their business.
“We started from a small store, but now we have five outlets in various parts of the city,” said Hasan Ali, manager of Bareeze, a leading brand of women’s clothing. “We have been in the market for the last 10 years, and roughly the business has expanded 40 percent in that period. . . . There are those out there who don’t even ask the price, and pay.”
Rukhsana Anjum, 47, a senior instructor at the Government College of Technology in Lahore, said she earns about 100,000 rupees, or $1,054, a month. “Gradually in the last five years I have become brand-conscious,” she said. “Today, definitely I spend more on my clothes and jewelry.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7401 on: Oct 1st, 2012, 09:52am »
Oct. 1, 1950: Come Fly With Me, Says BBC By John C Abell October 1, 2010 | 7:00 am Categories: 20th century, Communication, Transportation
1950: The BBC airs the first live, in-flight TV broadcast, from a specially outfitted plane flying over London. It is not free of glitches, but once TV stations are introduced to the concept of air supremacy, news coverage will never be the same.
Live TV from an aircraft was bound to happen — this wasn’t a serendipitous Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups event. And this modest experiment — with no audio! — has been left in the dust in the annals of live TV history.
We’ve witnessed Jack Ruby murdering Lee Harvey Oswald. It’s been 41 years now since we first saw live TV from the surface of the moon. We’ve seen a string of space shuttles screaming to reach escape velocity, viewed from cameras bolted to their solid-rocket boosters.
Still, broadcasting live to a TV audience under inhospitable conditions remains a thing of wonder — witness a mere two months ago the coverage of the coverage of NBC embed Richard Engle broadcasting live from a combat vehicle accompanying U.S. combat troops as they departed Iraq. This “Because We Can” spirit, which in 1950 required taking a behemoth of a camera to stream real-time video from a lumbering air freight is a feat geeks still find tantalizing six decades later.
In 1950 television was in its infancy, still trying to unseat radio as humanity’s primary medium. So even though the BBC’s proof-of-concept stunt was bound to be done by someone someday somehow somewhere, actually doing it was really something.
Indeed, one of the most iconic moments in the history of live TV was still more than a year in the future. Edward R. Murrow dazzled a U.S. audience tuning into the Nov. 18, 1951, premiere of See It Now with live shots of both San Francisco’s Golden Gate and New York’s Brooklyn bridges on a split screen. And that was from fixed, terrestrial camera positions.
The logistics and risks of BBC’s 1950 “Operation Pegasus” were daunting. Cameraman Duncan Anderson was outfitted like a member of the crew — sporting a (now) vintage, fur-collared flight jacket totally necessary as he stood at an open, doorless hatch to do his job, while the Bristol Freighter aircraft cruised over London and the surrounding countryside for about an hour. The BBC did test flights for a week before the live Sunday broadcast and solved the last of the problems with only a couple of days to spare.
“Everything seemed set for another page in television history,” intones an uncredited (but possibly tuxedoed) BBC news reader in a filmed story about their story. (Coverage of the coverage goes way back. See video above.)
The Beeb continues:
But throughout a week of test flights the flying television crews were faced by difficulties that threatened the outcome of the proposed program. Thanks to nonstop work by the engineers, all the problems have apparently been solved. But it was not until Friday that one of the most difficult — interference on the waveband used by the airborne television transmitter — was overcome.
Perhaps not entirely. There was no recording made of the live broadcast, and the British Film Institute says of the test transmission: “Images are of poor quality with a great deal of interference.”
The unprecedented program that the network had gone to considerable lengths to make possible was somehow not earth-shattering enough for BBC Head of Television Programmes Cecil McGivern. He wrote two nasty memos to subordinates, vexed that the “Operation Pegasus” broadcast had run 30 minutes into what should have been the start of The Children’s Programme — without any warning from an announcer.
McGivern’s concern may seem like typical British uptightness, but in a way he was quite prescient about viewer expectations. A similar scenario played out in reverse 18 years later, during the infamous Heidi game. NBC was airing an American Football League game between the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 17, 1968. At the stroke of 7 p.m. EST, the network was contractually obliged to cut to the classic children’s movie Heidi.
The Jets were leading 32-29. There were only 65 seconds left in the game. What could possibly go wrong?
The Raiders scored twice and won. The NBC phone switchboard melted down. The incident became the next day’s leading story, with one rival network news anchor reading passages from Heidi over clips from the Jet-Raiders game, Daily Show style.
Strangely, the BBC didn’t go airborne again for another five years — perhaps McGivern put the kibosh on things. And fixed-wing aircraft would play basically no role in live electronic newsgathering.
Helicopters became the must-have aircraft. Local stations started making helos standard in the ’70s, when microwave technology was widely embraced, and a lot of Vietnam era pilots were suddenly available. Helicopters remain a staple of daily reporting on traffic in many markets and, of course, of such breaking news as high-speed car chases and wildfires.
And now anyone can be a broadcaster — a narrowcaster, anyway — with a smartphone, a Qik account and in-flight internet.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7402 on: Oct 1st, 2012, 09:55am »
How Memory Load Leaves Us 'Blind' to New Visual Information ScienceDaily (Oct. 1, 2012)
— Trying to keep an image we've just seen in memory can leave us blind to things we are 'looking' at, according to the results of a new study supported by the Wellcome Trust.
It's been known for some time that when our brains are focused on a task, we can fail to see other things that are in plain sight. This phenomenon, known as 'inattentional blindness', is exemplified by the famous 'invisible gorilla' experiment in which people watching a video of players passing around a basketball and counting the number of passes fail to observe a man in a gorilla suit walking across the centre of the screen.
The new results reveal that our visual field does not need to be cluttered with other objects to cause this 'blindness' and that focusing on remembering something we have just seen is enough to make us unaware of things that happen around us.
Professor Nilli Lavie from UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, who led the study, explains: "An example of where this is relevant in the real world is when people are following directions on a sat nav while driving.
"Our research would suggest that focusing on remembering the directions we've just seen on the screen means that we're more likely to fail to observe other hazards around us on the road, for example an approaching motorbike or a pedestrian on a crossing, even though we may be 'looking' at where we're going."
Participants in the study were given a visual memory task to complete while the researchers looked at the activity in their brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging. The findings revealed that while the participants were occupied with remembering an image they had just been shown, they failed to notice a flash of light that they were asked to detect, even though there was nothing else in their visual field at the time.
The participants could easily detect the flash of light when their mind was not loaded, suggesting that they had established a 'load induced blindness'. At the same time, the team observed that there was reduced activity in the area of the brain that processes incoming visual information -- the primary visual cortex.
Professor Lavie adds: "The 'blindness' seems to be caused by a breakdown in visual messages getting to the brain at the earliest stage in the pathway of information flow, which means that while the eyes 'see' the object, the brain does not."
The idea that there is competition in the brain for limited information processing power is known as load theory and was first proposed by Professor Lavie more than a decade ago. The theory explains why the brain fails to detect even conspicuous events in the visual field, like the man in a gorilla suit, when attention is focused on a task that involves a high level of information load.
The research reveals a pathway of competition in the brain between new visual information and our short-term visual memory that was not appreciated before. In other words, the act of remembering something we've seen that isn't currently in our field of vision means that we don't see what we're looking at.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7404 on: Oct 2nd, 2012, 09:02am »
Our revolution has been stolen, say Libya's jihadists
By Suleiman Al-Khalidi Tue Oct 2, 2012 8:46am EDT
DERNA, Libya (Reuters) - From the mountains of Afghanistan and the streets of Baghdad to the iron cages of Guantanamo Bay, Libyans from Derna have made their small city a big name in global jihad.
Now, with their nemesis Muammar Gaddafi gone, many are home - but say their battle for an Islamic state has only just begun.
The death of the U.S. ambassador last month in the sack of Washington's consulate in Benghazi - an assault Washington says may have involved al Qaeda-allied militants - has shone a global spotlight on armed Islamists across eastern Libya.
One effect of hostile reactions at home and abroad has been that some Islamist groups, part of a patchwork of militias which fill a vacuum left by Gaddafi, have made a tactical retreat from view, in some declaring their brigades to have disbanded.
But Islamist fighters in Derna make clear they will seek redress for grievances, many with little to do with religion, some dating to colonial times, others rooted in a sense that victory in the fight against Gaddafi they began years ago has been "stolen" by his former henchmen and stooges of the West.
Though their numbers, arms and alliances are hard to gauge, there is little doubt that Derna, a down-at-heel harbor town of 100,000 five hours drive east of Benghazi, is home to hundreds of battle-hardened men who want a Islamic state - and a share of the oil wealth they believe was denied the east while Gaddafi was crushing their aspirations during decades of bloodshed.
Salem Dirbi, a veteran Islamist fighter, thinks his revolution has been hijacked by former Gaddafi loyalists now back in power while those who "sacrificed their blood" to overthrow the dictator have been elbowed aside.
"How do you expect us to have confidence in the state?" asked the forty-something Dirbi, now trying to establish himself in the electrical appliances business. "They are putting in the same old people and just changing their titles to fool people."
Dirbi waged a long war against Gaddafi. Like many of the commanders of the Islamist units who helped topple the "brother leader" last year, Dirbi had spent years in the mountains during a bloody guerrilla struggle against him in the 1990s.
His home town boasts that it has sent more Islamist militants to fight in more holy wars - from Iraq, to Afghanistan to Syria - than any other town in the Arab world.
Today's Islamist fighters in the town say they are the victims of a conspiracy, made plain when they were accused of being behind the attack on the U.S. consulate.
"The state is making up this conspiracy. The state deliberately ignores the fact that there is an Islamic renaissance," said Dirbi, whose brother was among more that 1,200 Islamist inmates machine-gunned by guards in a Tripoli prison in 1996.
"I want to see Gaddafi's men on trial, not being rewarded and honored," Dirbi said in his newly furnished office near the Ateeq mosque, one of 70 mosques and tombs that have earned Derna a name for religious piety.
The uprising that toppled Gaddafi was ignited by protests linked to the Abu Salim prison massacre, when the families of those killed there demonstrated in Benghazi in February last year to demand the release of their lawyer.
Many of Derna's jihadists, drawn from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group that led the insurgency in the 1990s, joined groups such as al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Iraq and Chechnya. Gaddafi turned a blind eye to this exodus, happy to see the Islamists go somewhere else.
The town's radical reputation has lately been burnished by the presence of several former Guantanamo prisoners, including Sufyan bin Qumo, who heads the Ansar al-Shariah Islamist group blamed by the American for the U.S. embassy attack.
Abdul Qader Azouz, 42, a survivor of the Abu Salim massacre who spent almost a decade in Gaddafi's prisons, says the attempt to impose Western-style democracy on his conservative Muslim country is what most angers him and his followers.
"In Libya it's only been a year and the idea of democracy and political parties is difficult for people to absorb. The people have not responded to this imported, packaged democracy. We don't accept it. We have a religion that needs to be taken into account," said Azouz, an English teacher who belongs to one of Derna's most prominent families.
Libya's new leaders, backed by their Western allies, are gambling they can forge a political consensus which will allow them to sideline the heavily armed revolutionaries in the streets before security collapses.
For the Islamist groups, which are part of a Salafi movement whose members try to model their lives on the early followers of the Prophet Mohammad, the legitimacy of the newborn Libyan state is highly questionable.
"It's the revolution that made the state and some of the opportunists who did not participate in the revolution or shed any blood for the revolution are the ones who are forcing their orders on us," Azouz said.
High on the Islamists' list of demands is drafting a constitution that enshrines Islamic laws.
"The solution is to draft an Islamic constitution ... and set up Sharia courts so that people can trust that this state is a true Islamic state," said Azouz.
"RELIGION AND STATE"
To reinforce that message, a big banner hanging in the street reads: "God's law is the basis of rule. Islam is both a religion and a state."
Azouz and Dirbi and other Islamists say the country's new rulers are beginning to sound like Gaddafi, who cast Derna as an al-Qaeda stronghold in order to win support from the West.
"This is not new, the city has long been victimized and for years they would say it is a base for al-Qaeda and extremists. The new rulers of Libya are now saying the same thing," Azouz said.
Some jihadists are already preparing for what they see is an inevitable showdown with those who seek to turn Libya into an "apostate" nation. They can see no compromise with an infidel West bent on changing Libya's Islamic identity.
Islamist fighters who have tasted real power in the uprising's aftermath - backed up by weapons believed to be hidden in the picturesque green mountains outside the city - insist they will not cede authority to the central government until their demands for an Islamic state are met.
The deep streak of radicalism in eastern Libya that fed on the neglect of towns such as Derna during the Gaddafi era is still strong these days. Many jihadists say the country's new rulers are favoring Tripoli just as the former dictator did.
"In the east we paid in blood," Azouz said. "We were the ones who created the revolution and we went and fought and after that handed it to them on a platter of gold," Azouz said.
"There is now real fear in the east that it will suffer the same fate as under Muammar. I wish they could convince us of their vision and plan before they insist on asking us to hand over our weapons," he said.
Others take a harder line. "These people are not fit to govern. We reject anyone who sits on the seat of power and follows a foreign agenda," said Yousef Jehani, a supporter of the Ansar al-Sharia Islamist group.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Giles Elgood)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7405 on: Oct 2nd, 2012, 09:05am »
Oregon farmer eaten by his hogs, authorities say Oct. 1, 2012 04:17 PM Associated Press
COQUILLE, Ore. -- Oregon authorities are investigating how a farmer was eaten by his hogs.
The Coos County district attorney's office says 70-year-old Terry Vance Garner never returned after he set out to feed his animals Wednesday on his farm near the Oregon coast.
A family member later found Garner's dentures and pieces of his body in the hog enclosure, but most of his remains had been consumed.
The district attorney's office said in a statement Monday that it's possible Garner had a medical emergency, such as a heart attack, or was knocked over by the animals before he was killed. But criminal activity has not been ruled out.
Authorities estimate the hogs weigh 700 pounds. The DA's office says one hog had either bitten or been aggressive with Garner previously.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7406 on: Oct 2nd, 2012, 09:10am »
What Do Google and Goldman Sachs Have in Common? More Than You Think By Cade Metz 10.02.126:30 AM
Some people will tell you that Google and Facebook and Amazon are beside the point.
They acknowledge that Google designs its own computer servers and other hardware for the massive data centers powering its web empire. They admit that Facebook does much the same thing, contracting with manufacturers in Asia to build its custom hardware. And they realize that most of the big web players — from Google, Facebook, and Amazon to Twitter and Yahoo — build all sorts of custom software platforms for juggling unprecedented amounts of online data. But they say the big web players aren’t like other companies, that this custom engineering work doesn’t mean that much for the rest of the world.
And they couldn’t be more wrong.
In the world of business tech, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and other web giants have become the bellwethers. They build stuff to solve problems no one else has ever faced, and then that stuff trickles down to everyone else. This is true of software, with the big web players spawning widely used open source platforms such as Hadoop. But it’s also true of hardware.
No, the average business isn’t designing its own servers. But many companies are now borrowing more than a few hardware ideas from the likes of Google and Facebook as they seek to significantly reduce the cost of running a data center. A prime example is Goldman Sachs, the big-name New York financial house. Its network of data centers isn’t nearly as large as the networks run by Google and Facebook, but it still faces many of the same problems — and it can benefit from many of the same solutions.
“Finance is a very technology-dependent business,” says Don Duet, one of Goldman’s chief information officer. “We have a substantial infrastructure footprint, and over the past four or five years, we’ve been moving into a scale-out-type model that’s very similar to the big web firms.
“We spend a lot of time with the Amazons and the Facebooks and the Googles of the world. We find that a lot of our computational problems are consistent [with theirs] and that a lot of the ways we think about building out our architecture are very similar to the large scale web companies.”
Like another big-name financial house — Fidelity — Goldman is part of the Open Compute project, Facebook’s effort to shake up the hardware industry. With Open Compute, Facebook is not only sharing its low-cost server designs with the rest of the world. It’s working with a wide range of other companies to open up the world’s hardware supply chain, so that anyone can more easily purchase the gear they need.
Facebook contracts with “original design manufacturers” in Asia to build its custom servers. This means it’s cutting out the middlemen. These same ODMs build servers for big-name hardware sellers like Dell and HP. But going straight to the ODMs is rather complicated, and part of the aim of the Open Compute project is to facilitate such relationships.
According to Duet, Goldman is already buying some of its gear straight from ODMs or similar companies, and he says this is indicative of a larger trend. “We have a number different people we work with today, from the ‘majors’ you’d expect to a lot of the other players, including a number of the ‘white label’ companies,” he says.
Four or five years ago, Goldman built a large server farm for doing Monte Carlo simulations, a way of predicting how investments will play out, and this is when the company made the move to the ODMs, or “white label” companies. It needed a large number of servers to work in concert on a single task, but it didn’t need a lot of the bells and whistles that typical come with a server. In other words, it needed servers a lot like the ones that Facebook or Amazon uses.
Leaning on the ODMs, Duet says, is “a lot more common than you might think,” and others indicate much the same thing. Diane Bryant — who heads Intel’s data center business — recently told us that eight server makers now account of 75 percent of its server chip sales. Just four years ago, that 75 percent was divided among a mere three names: HP, Dell, and IBM.
One of those eight is Google, which only makes servers for itself. But Bryant pointed to the rise of such ODMs as Quanta and Supermicro. Quanta, a Taiwanese outfit, builds some of the gear for Facebook and other web giants. Supermicro, an American company with a operations in Asia, keeps a relatively low profile, but it’s used by a wide-range of other familiar net names, including Dropbox.
Duet also points out that the big-name server makers are working to change their businesses so that they can compete with this new challenge from the ODMs. Dell, for instance, now operates a unit called Dell Data Center Services that seeks to provide custom gear for large operations.
Goldman has not adopted Facebook’s custom server designs. They don’t fit — physically — into its existing infrastructure. But working in tandem with Goldman and others, AMD and Intel have released specs for a similar servers that use a more traditional shape, and Duet says Goldman intends to adopt these designs when they’re ready.
Duet says it hopes to have these servers up and running within six months. “We want to get the point where we have machines that inherit some of the properties of the original Facebook designs, but actually work in more classic data centers.”
The company may purchase from traditional “original equipment manufacturers” such as Dell and HP, Duet says, but it may also use the ODMs and other companies that operate outside the traditional channels. A company called Synnex, for instance, is trying to streamline the path to the ODMs, and some of the Asian ODMs, such as Quanta and Wistron, have now opened operations here in the US.
In another echo of the big web players, Goldman has also made the move to “containerized” data centers. About eight years ago, Google started piecing its data centers together using shipping containers packed with servers and other gear. The idea was to improve the efficiency of data center construction by creating a standard building block. These data center containers, or pods, not only made it easier to build data centers but expand them as well, and now, Goldman is taking much the same path with data center containers built by a company called IO.
Goldman is installing these containers in its own data centers, but its also using them in facilities it shares with other companies. “It lets us be much more nimble,” Duet says.
No, other companies aren’t like Google or Facebook. Except that they are.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7407 on: Oct 2nd, 2012, 09:15am »
Bryan Fuller's 'The Munsters' Remake All But Dead at NBC 7:12 PM PDT 10/1/2012 by Lesley Goldberg
UPDATED: The project, which starred Portia de Rossi, Jerry O'Connell and Eddie Izzard, was considered a big bet for the network.
The network is unlikely to move forward with Mockingbird Lane, its high-concept reboot of The Munsters from Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.
NBC ordered additional scripts and presented a four-minute sizzle reel of Fuller's reimagining of the 1960s CBS comedy to San Diego Comic-Con in July, where the footage won over a skeptical but loyal Fuller crowed.
Fuller penned the script for the project, which starred Portia de Rossi as Lily, Jerry O'Connell as Herman and Eddie Izzard as Grandpa Munster in the story that revolved around a young Eddie as he learned of his werewolf tendencies.
Fuller envisioned the series -- which received the stamp of approval from the original Eddie Munster, Butch Patrick -- as more of a family drama than anything supernatural.
"This is about embracing the freak of your family and being proud," Fuller said in July. Filmed on the Universal lot, Fuller planned to incorporate other famed monsters from the studio's famed library.
"We wanted this to look like if Hitchcock was directing a Harry Potter film," he said, noting he was inspired to retell the Munsters story after seeing Tim Burton's art exhibit in New York.
Mockingbird Lane -- Fuller's third incarnation of the Munsters reboot -- was originally developed for fall but pushed back to summer after challenges associated with the casting process. Under NBC Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt, the project evolved to tell the story from Herman's point of view.
"It was really tricky to cast the show; the tone of it is very specific," Fuller told THRin July. "I tend to write in a very specific tone and there were a lot of people who were afraid."
Fuller, meanwhile, still has Hannibal, the Silence of the Lambs series starring Hugh Dancy on tap at NBC.
Updated: Fuller late Monday took to Twitter to dispel word that the project was likely dead, noting: "NBC just informed me that the Deadline article regarding #MockingbirdLane was Dead Wrong. Stay tuned for updates!"
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7408 on: Oct 3rd, 2012, 09:06am »
Proposed Split of Large Institutions Fight Looms Over EU Plans for Bank Reform
By Stefan Kaiser
Europe's major banks have never been in quite this much peril. Even when they tore entire economies into chaos and had to be bailed out with taxpayers' billions, their core structure was never called into question.
Now, however, a group of advisors to the European Commission has called for dangerous banks to be split up. They want the banks' deposit-taking business, known as retail banking, to be separated from risky own-account trading in securities and derivatives and other investment banking activities. That is the core message of the report submitted on Tuesday by the group headed by Bank of Finland Governor Erkki Liikanen.
"We must get away from a system in which profits are private and losses are public and burden the taxpayer," Liikanen said at the presentation of the report. The idea is that if the high-risk activities of banks are organizationally separated from the rest of the business it will be easier to let those parts go bankrupt -- without causing the entire financial system to collapse as nearly happened with the insolvency of Lehman Brothers in 2008.
No one knows if the plan would work in practice. But it offers better chances than the current system in which the interconnectedness between retail banking and high-risk own-account trading forced governments to step in to bail large banks out. A bank collapse caused by investment banking losses would automatically have hit lending and damaged the real economy.
Not all banks have cause to be worried. The report that Liikanen wrote in conjunction with experts including former Deutsche Bank board member Hugo Bänziger envisages dividing up banks only if own-account trading makes up a "significant share" of their business.
In a first phase the line could be drawn where the portion of a bank's securities held for its own trading amounts to between 15 and 25 percent of its total securities holdings. Alternatively, an upper limit of €100 billion ($129 billion) could be set for the value of securities held for own-account trading.
"The smallest banks would be considered to be fully excluded from the separation requirement," the report says. Hedging deals on behalf of clients wouldn't have to be segregated either.
Proposals Would Hit Deutsche Bank
But Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest bank, would definitely be hit by changes based on the recommendations. According to its most recent annual report, it holds €240 million in securities for own-account trading. That doesn't include derivatives trading.
Under the Liikanen proposals, banks like Deutsche would have to be split into two parts. Each would have to refinance itself independently and each would have to satisfy regulatory requirements in terms of equity capital and liquidity. However, the bank would be allowed to hold both units under the roof of a single holding company. So Deutsche Bank as an entity would remain intact.
In international terms, the proposals aren't groundbreaking. The United Kingdom has already decided to "ring-fence" retail banking operations from investment banking. In the United States, the so-called Volcker rule bans commercial banks from engaging in own-account trading.
In Germany too, there are growing misgivings about the power of the financial sector. Many industry leaders such as the head of specialty chemicals group Evonik, Klaus Engel, have expressed concern about the speculative trading of banks, and the sheer size they have grown to.
And even banking legend like former Citigroup chief Sandy Weill recently called for separating investment banking from the business with private and corporate customers.
Germany Getting Behind Bank Split Idea
The center-left Social Democratic Party has seized on the issue. In July, SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel launched a vitriolic broadside against banks, saying they should be split up because they were holding countries to ransom and dictating government policy. Then Peer Steinbrück, nominated as the party's challenger to Chancellor Angela Merkel in the next general election scheduled for late 2013, presented his own detailed set of proposals for banking reform last week. His suggestions were largely the same as those made by Liikanen's group on Tuesday.
Germany's ruling conservative parties are also warming to the idea. On Tuesday, Markus Feber, parliamentary group leader of Bavaria's Christian Social Union in the European Parliament, said there should be a "high firewall" between investment banking and classic customer business.
"Small depositors must be protected in the future from the consequences of the banks' gambling and high-risk deals," he said.
The Liikanen report could also stir the German Finance Ministry into action. Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble had been waiting for the EU experts' recommendations.
Even the pro-business, laissez-faire Free Democratic Party, the junior partner in Merkel's center-right coalition, has voiced agreement with the recommendations. The Economics Ministry led by FDP leader Philipp Rösler last week responded to Steinbrück's plan by saying it had already been working on similar ideas.
Banks Attack Proposals
The banks are already storming the barricades in protest against the proposals. "In the view of the German banking sector, an organizational separation of all trading activities by universal banks would diminish the scope for internal risk spreading," the German banking associations said in a statement on Tuesday.
That means that the riskier part of banks could no longer be secured by customer deposits in the more stable part of their operations.
A separation could indeed be very expensive for the big banks because their investment divisions could no longer rely on public bailouts, and would therefore have to pay far higher interest rates for credit from investors. Many banking operations would no longer be profitable.
It's uncertain whether the Liikanen reforms will be implemented. The legislative process in the US and the UK has shown just how adept the powerful banking lobby is at diluting tough proposals.
That is why Michel Barnier, the European Commissioner in charge of regulation, sounded cautious on Tuesday, saying the report will "feed our reflections on the need for further action." All parties had to be listened to first, he added. The first one he mentioned was the banking sector.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7409 on: Oct 3rd, 2012, 09:13am »
Butler stole papers pope wanted destroyed: police
By Philip Pullella and Naomi O'Leary Wed Oct 3, 2012 9:47am EDT
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict's former butler stole highly sensitive papers the pontiff had marked "to be destroyed" and compromised Vatican security through his actions, the Holy See's police told his trial on Wednesday.
On the third day of Paolo Gabriele's trial, testimony depicted a man fascinated by the occult, Masonic lodges, secret services and past Italian and Vatican scandals.
"You can understand our unease when we saw these documents. This was a total violation of the privacy of the papal family," said police agent Stefano De Santis, one of the four agents who said they found the papers in Gabriele's home, using a Vatican term for the pope's closest aides.
Gabriele's leak to an Italian journalist of sensitive documents, some of them alleging corruption in the Vatican, caused one of the biggest crises of Pope Benedict's papacy.
It threw an unflattering spotlight on the inner workings of a city-state eager to shake off a series of scandals involving sexual abuse of minors by clerics around the world and mismanagement at its bank.
Gabriele, a trusted servant who served the pope meals, helped him dress and rode in the popemobile, has admitted passing papers to the journalist at secret meetings, but told the court at a previous hearing he did not see this as a crime.
The former butler sat impassively and occasionally smiled during Wednesday's 75-minute session as Vatican policemen told the court how they searched his apartment in the Vatican on May 23, the night of his arrest, and what they found.
The mass of incriminating documents, most of which were hidden in huge piles of papers stashed in a large wardrobe, included personal letters between the pope, cardinals and politicians on a variety of subjects.
Some papers, De Santis said, bore the pope's handwriting and had been marked "to be destroyed" by the pontiff in German. He did not say what those papers concerned.
Some of the documents were copies of encrypted documents. "One photocopy was enough to threaten the operations of the Holy See," De Santis told the court, without elaborating.
The agents said they found a mass of documents and books filled with newspaper clippings on the occult, secret services, Masonic lodges, yoga, political scandals in Italy, scandals involving the Vatican bank and other subjects.
Defense lawyer Cristiana Arru sought to turn the spotlight on police methods during the search, drawing out several agents to say that they had not used gloves when they handled the documents, and a gold nugget and a cheque for 100,000 euros made out to the pope which were also found.
Police said Gabriele, once one of fewer than 10 people who had the key to an elevator leading to the private papal apartment, had printed instructions on how to hide files in computers and how to use cellphones secretly.
Bishop Francesco Cavina, who knew Gabriele in the Vatican, told Italian newspaper La Repubblica on Wednesday that the butler, a father-of-three, may have a "disturbed mind" and "a split personality".
Two of the four policemen who testified on Wednesday also rejected Gabriele's accusations, made on Tuesday, that he was mistreated for several weeks after his arrest.
Gabriele told the court's previous hearing that for up to 20 days he was held in a room so small he could not stretch out his arms and that the light was left on 24 hours a day, causing him eye damage.
A Vatican judge ordered an investigation into the allegations.
De Santis said the search turned up "many more" papers than appeared in a book by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, who wrote a muckraking expose early in 2012.
The letters to the pope included one in which a senior Vatican functionary expressed concern about corruption in the Holy See's business dealings with Italian companies.
The letter-writer, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, was posted to Washington after raising the issue, despite begging to be allowed to stay at the papal state.
The trial adjourned until Saturday, when a verdict is expected.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella and Naomi O'Leary; Editing by Andrew Heavens)