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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 92020 times)
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« Reply #7440 on: Oct 9th, 2012, 10:32am »

Hollywood Reporter

'Lincoln' New York Film Fest Screening Turns Oscar Race Upside-Down (Analysis)

8:11 PM PDT 10/8/2012
by Scott Feinberg

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, which had a high-profile sneak screening Monday evening at the 50th New York Film Festival, was greeted by sustained applause and an immediate burst of enthusiastic tweets. Based on my own evaluation of the film and its prospects, I expect it will be a sure shot for Academy Award nominations for best picture, best director, and best actor for two-time Oscar winner winner Daniel Day-Lewis, playing America’s 16th president during the final months of his presidency as he fights for the passage of the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery.

I think it stands a very strong shot for further noms for best supporting actor Tommy Lee Jones, who plays the powerful Republican congressman Thaddeus Stevens and best supporting actress Sally Field, who appears as Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. And I also expect Spielberg's incomparable stock company of below-the-line craftsmen -- cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, film editor Michael Kahn, composer John Williams, et. al. -- to garner their usual noms as well.

In short, Lincoln appears to be Oscar-bait incarnate. As he did with his most ambitious historical films -- Schindler's List (1993) and Saving Private Ryan (1998) -- Spielberg, who has made a career of blurring the line between art and commerce, has risen to the occasion. Although the film runs two hours and twenty-five minutes, every scene felt tight and necessary, undoubtedly in large part because Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner penned its script, drawing from a small section of Doris Kearns Goodwin's rigorously researched historical study Team of Rivals.

There’s sure to be much talk about Day-Lewis’ performance. I’d argue that its every bit as great as Henry Fonda's iconic portrayal in Young Mr. Lincoln (1939). Jones, who has the most prominent supporting part -- others are played by Oscar nominees Jackie Earle Haley, John Hawkes, Hal Holbrook and David Strathairn, plus Adam Driver, Walton Goggins, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jared Harris, S. Epatha Merkerson, Tim Blake Nelson, James Spader and Michael Stuhlbarg -- recently told an interviewer, "This is not a Lincoln that's just stepped off the dollar bill or just arisen from the Lincoln Monument. This is not the icon or the hero and he's not the joke of the old 'Honest Abe' nonsense. This is a real man, and I don't think Lincoln has ever been done as well."

(If Brit Day-Lewis wins his third Oscar for his portrayal of fabled American leader Lincoln, it will be poetic justice for American Meryl Streep winning her third Oscar for her portrayal of fabled British leader Margaret Thatcher earlier this year; I would argue that they are the cinema's greatest living actor and actress, respectively.)

Lincoln's buzz has been all over the map in recent weeks: its first trailer was widely criticized for being dull, with some harping on the somewhat high-pitched voice with which Day-Lewis chose to play Lincoln (even though the history books support his take); but its second trailer, which aired on TV after the first presidential debate, won over at least as many people as the initial one had disturbed. Many didn't know what to think. Then, late last week, word leaked out that the New York Film Fest's secret screening would be Lincoln, and it quickly became the hottest ticket of the festival.

Attendees had to turn over all of their electronic devices and promise not to review the film – which led at least one audience member to post an enthusiastic tweet with the hashtag #notareview. Among those in the house on behalf of the film were Spielberg, who received a thunderous standing ovation when he was brought out to introduce the film (he said, "Working on this Lincoln portrait was a singular privilege... unlike anything I've ever done before"); Kushner and his husband, the noted author and Oscar blogger Mark Harris (on hiatus this year due to his conflict-of-interest); Field, accompanied by her son Sam Greisman (who this week became the subject of a viral video), Strathairn, and Merkerson; and Spielberg's longtime producer Kathleen Kennedy. Also present was actress/TV host Whoopi Goldberg, who starred in Spielberg's The Color Purple (1985); former Fox co-chairman and CEO Tom Rothman; and producer Scott Rudin.

Like Martin Scorsese's Hugo, which also had a high-profile "work-in-progress" sneak at last year’s New York Film Fest, this should be just the start of a long awards road for Spielberg’s movie. The film will have its official world premiere on Nov. 8, the closing night of the AFI Fest, and it is set to be released nationally on Nov. 9. It had been rumored that DreamWorks was deliberately holding it until after the Nov. 6 U.S. presidential election to prevent it from being politicized by either party -- indeed, there are some striking parallels between Lincoln and another tall, lanky and oratorically-gifted but aloof lawyer-turned-president from Illinois who spent a lot of post-election political capital pushing through controversial legislation for the other major political party, but who might instead have been a slave but for Lincoln's efforts -- but that concern was clearly not great enough to keep the film from being shown in New York.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/race/lincoln-new-york-film-fest-377317

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« Reply #7441 on: Oct 10th, 2012, 09:50am »

Washington Post

Ex-head of US military team in Libya: security weak in Benghazi, where ambassador was killed

By Associated Press
Published: October 9
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 7:43 AM

WASHINGTON — The former head of a 16-member U.S. military team in Libya says the consulate in Benghazi, where the U.S. ambassador was killed, was never able to get the number of forces it needed to protect the compound.

Lt. Col. Andrew Wood’s testimony, prepared for a House hearing Wednesday, said that security protection in Benghazi remained a struggle the entire time he was in Libya from mid-February to mid-August.

He said that in April, there was only one U.S. diplomatic security agent stationed in Bengazi.

State Department officials who served in Libya are expected to testify that requests for more security were ignored or denied.

Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack on Sept. 11.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/congress/ap-sources-state-dept-officials-deny-linking-attack-to-anti-islam-video-raising-questions/2012/10/09/38f341b4-1274-11e2-9a39-1f5a7f6fe945_story.html

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« Reply #7442 on: Oct 10th, 2012, 09:53am »

Reuters

U.S. home heating oil cost to rise 19 percent this winter: EIA

Wed Oct 10, 2012 10:04am EDT

(Reuters) - U.S. households that mainly use heating oil to warm their homes should pay 19 percent more for it this winter compared to a year earlier, as low distillate stocks and new fuel regulations drive up prices, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

The roughly 6 percent of U.S. homes that rely on the fuel will pay an average of $407 more this winter, according to the government agency's Winter Fuels Outlook. About 80 percent of all U.S. homes that use heating oil are in the Northeast.

The report said low inventories in the U.S. East Coast and Gulf Coast, as well as new low-sulfur diesel regulations for New York state, would tighten the market for distillates. Such fuels include heating oil and diesel.

The EIA said 17 percent of the cost increase would be due to higher consumption, while 2 percent would be based on elevated prices.

Mild weather limited heating fuel consumption last winter. The EIA based its pricing assumptions on near-normal temperatures for this winter.

Natural gas consumers, which account for about half of U.S. homes, should expect to pay 15 percent, or $89, more than last winter, due primarily to forecasts of higher consumption.

Residential natural gas prices for the Northeast are seen rising by 4 percent during the winter months, while in the South prices are seen declining by 3 percent, according to the EIA forecast.


(Reporting by Matthew Robinson in New York; Editing by Dale Hudson)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/10/us-eia-outlook-winter-usa-idUSBRE8990XM20121010

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« Reply #7443 on: Oct 10th, 2012, 09:58am »

Wired

Navy Lasers’ First Target: Enemy Drones
By Spencer Ackerman
October 10, 2012 | 6:30 am
Categories: Drones, Lasers and Ray Guns, Navy


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In an undated photograph, a BQM-147a Dragon drone shows damage after getting shot by a Navy laser weapon in China Lake, California.
Photo: U.S. Navy



One of the first tasks the Navy expects to assign its forthcoming arsenal of laser guns: shooting down drones that menace its ships.

The Navy is confident that laser cannons will move out of science fiction and onto the decks of its surface ships by the end of the decade. Its futurists at the Office of Naval Research still have visions of scalable laser blasts that can fry an incoming missile at the rate of 20 feet of steel per second. But now that laser guns are approaching reality, Pentagon officials are starting to consider the practicalities of what they’ll be used for, and they’re not thinking missiles — yet. Among their initial missions will be the relatively easier task of tracking and destroying unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, that fly too close to Navy ships.

Attacking drones is “a near-term application for the type of lasers we’re talking about,” says David Stoudt, a Pentagon policy official. “If you’ve got a UAV coming at a ship,” he explains, “maybe you use the laser for UAVs and keep your missiles for higher-end threats.”

Stoudt, the Pentagon policy office’s senior director for naval capabilities and readiness, chairs a relatively new steering group inside the Navy and Marine Corps that’s thinking through exactly how they’ll use this new “directed energy” technology — i.e., lasers and other ray guns. It’s got some bureaucratic heft to it: About 20 to 25 admirals and generals sit on it; and below them, another 150 to 175 captains and other officers of lower rank, from across the fleet and the Corps, comprise a working group that fills in some of the detail.

“What it gets down to is the topic of lethality,” Stoudt explains in an interview in his Pentagon office. “What are you going to try to shoot with this laser system? Ultimately, what kind of power density does it require on the target? What is the tactical scenario that you’re going to be in?” Pointing your index finger and going pew-pew-pew, it turns out, is not an answer.

Lasers have been promised — and promised, and promised — as a holy-grail weapon for decades, with little to show for it outside a laboratory. Congress is skeptical, particularly about the most advanced laser systems, and is starting to warn the Navy that it needs to design newer destroyers with sufficient power generation to fill the focused-light magazine of its lasers without draining juice from a ship’s propulsion systems. Nor do sailors think of lasers as combat weapons, Stoudt says, and so his working group pulls them together to teach them “you can do this, you can’t do that.” The easiest way to snuff out the laser guns right when they finally look like realistic weapons is to overpromise on what they can do, and under-deliver.

Which makes shooting down drones seem like a risky choice to lead off with — exactly the kind of thing that, should it fail, would make the Navy’s laser program look like a very expensive, nerdy amateur hour. Stoudt is undeterred. He’s convinced that the solid-state lasers that the Navy is looking to use in its first wave of laser weaponry can handle the challenge, even though testing has yet to generate a beam of 100 kilowatts of energy, which the Office of Naval Research’s futurists estimate is desirable for weaponization.

Stoudt points to tests the Navy’s conducted at its surface-warfare proving ground in Dahlgren, Virginia that have pit lasers against drones. Neither he nor Dahlgren officials nor the Navy’s aviation command would say much about the tests. (“We’ve had multiple UAV engagements that were successful,” is about as much as Stoudt will elaborate.) But some information on them has become public.

In 2009, an Air Force laser weapon shot down five robotic planes with a beam of a mere 2.5 kilowatt intensity during a California test. The following year, a Phalanx gun tricked out with a laser beam “successfully tracked, engaged, and destroyed” a drone in flight over the sea, the Navy’s sea-systems command boasted.

And while it’s not a drone test, it’s worth noting that the Maritime Laser Demonstrator, a decommissioned destroyer used to test laser weapons, last year blasted away the outboard motor of a moving boat in California waters from a mile’s distance in choppy waters. That solid-state laser used a beam of merely 15 kilowatts — which the proud director of the Office of Naval Research noted at the time, “can be operated in existing power levels and cooling levels on ships today.”

Blasting drones is just one of the initial tasks Stoudt’s group envisions for first-wave lasers. “Early applications will focus on supporting forward deployed forces to defeat Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs); artillery, mortars, and rockets; intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance systems; fast-attack craft; fixed and rotary-wing aviation; and subsonic anti-ship cruise missiles,” reads a passage from a document his working group finalized and quietly circulated in January, called A Directed Energy Vision for U.S. Naval Forces, and acquired by Danger Room.

That’s not going to mean that the first wave of Navy lasers will blast insurgent bombs out of the ground. Stoudt and his team are talking more about using the laser’s capabilities for identifying all this stuff, and then aiding existing, conventional weaponry in attacking it. “Ultimately, this laser will have an excellent telescope and great sensors associated with it,” Stoudt says, “and what you can do with that in terms of combat ID is really rather remarkable.”

In other words, it’s a mistake to think of laser guns as taking the place of traditional weapons, Starship Troopers style. They’re going to work in tandem, especially in their early phases. The old school weapons will still take on the bigger adversaries, like enemy ships. But for smaller attackers, there may be a new way soon to ward them off — one that relies on focused light, not hardened metal.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/10/navy-laser-drone/

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« Reply #7444 on: Oct 10th, 2012, 10:03am »

Hollywood Reporter

First Look: David S. Goyer's Starz Drama 'Da Vinci's Demons' (Exclusive Photos)
7:00 AM PDT 10/10/2012
by Lesley Goldberg

The scribe who co-wrote "The Dark Knight Rises" and "Man of Steel" will explore religion in the historical drama about Leonardo Da Vinci.

David Goyer is shifting from Batman and Superman to … Leonardo Da Vinci.

The scribe who co-wrote The Dark Knight Rises and the upcoming Man of Steel will set his sights the famed artist's adventures with Starz's Da Vinci's Demons, an eight-part historical fantasy drama about Leonardo Da Vinci's quest to expose the lies of religion.

The action-adventure drama stars Tom Riley as Da Vinci and tells the "untold" story of a 25-year-old Da Vinci during his turbulent youth in Renaissance Florence as the artist, inventor, swordsman, lover, dreamer and idealist struggles to live within the confines of his own reality and time. He begins to not only see the future but invent it.

"The show is insanely ambitious in scope, schedule, action and the nature of Leonardo's mind," Riley tells The Hollywood Reporter, noting his challenges during the production has been to learning to do things left-handed to accurately portray the ambidextrous genius.

"My apartment is littered with sketches in various stages of completion that I attempted with my weaker hand, as well as reams of backwards writing," he says. "I've got a handy pair of foam nunchuks that I've been given to increase dexterity in my left wrist, so the double-handed sword fighting comes more naturally than it otherwise would. Safe to say, this job has pushed me harder and into stranger directions than any I've had before."

Check out an exclusive first look at Riley as Da Vinci in the photos above and below. Starz will present a first-look at the series on Saturday at 1:45 p.m. New York Comic-Con. The panel will feature Goyer, Riley, co-stars Laura Haddock and Lara Pulver and be held in room 1A21.

Da Vinci's Demons, a Starz/BBC Worldwide Productions co-production, will premiere next year on Starz.


photo gallery after the jump:
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/david-goyer-da-vincis-demons-tom-riley-starz-377551

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« Reply #7445 on: Oct 11th, 2012, 08:41am »

Reuters

Gunmen kill U.S. embassy employee in Yemen

Thu Oct 11, 2012 7:41am EDT

SANAA (Reuters) - Masked gunmen shot dead a Yemeni man on his way to work at the U.S. embassy in Sanaa on Thursday, a security source said, the latest in a wave of assassinations in the Arab state where Washington is battling al Qaeda militants.

The attackers on a motorcycle opened fire on a car carrying Qassem Aqlan - who headed an embassy security team - in the center of Yemen's capital, the source told Reuters.

"This (assassination) operation has the fingerprints of al Qaeda which carried out similar operations before," said the source who asked not to be named.

The Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and other militant groups strengthened their grip on parts of the country during an uprising that ousted veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh in February.

There have been a number of assassinations attempts, some of them successful, on security officials and politicians since Yemen's army drove Islamist fighters out of several southern towns earlier this year.

Washington, wary of the growing power of al Qaeda, has stepped up drone strikes on suspected militant positions, with the backing of Saleh's successor, President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Men armed with machine guns and rockets attacked a security checkpoint in Yemen's southern city of al-Dalea late on Wednesday, injuring two policemen, a local official said on Thursday.

The attackers, whose affiliation was not immediately clear, fled the scene, the official said.


(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/11/us-yemen-assassination-idUSBRE89A0F820121011

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« Reply #7446 on: Oct 11th, 2012, 08:44am »

Der Spiegel

11.10.2012

Dangerous Cargo from Moscow

Syrian Jet Incident Ups Turkish-Russian Tensions

By Raniah Salloum in Beirut, Lebanon

The development must have come as a terrifying surprise for the 35 passengers and crew members. Their jet, a scheduled Syrian Air flight, had barely entered into Turkish airspace on a flight from Moscow to Damascus when it suddenly found itself flanked by two Turkish fighter jets. At 5:15 p.m. local time, Turkish officials forced the aircraft to land in Ankara.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu later declared Turkey had "received information this plane was carrying cargo of a nature that could not possibly be in compliance with the rules of civil aviation." It is believed that the plane was carrying a Russian delivery for Bashar Assad's military.

"We are determined to control weapons transfers to a regime that carries out such brutal massacres against civilians," Davutoglu said. "It is unacceptable that such a transfer is made using our airspace."

This may sound like a new version of the Cold War -- with NATO member Turkey on one side and Russian ally Syria on the other. And it can also be certain that Ankara only forced the plane to land after close contact with its Western allies. It is also likely that the information about "non civilian cargo" on board came from American intelligence.

In recent months, Washington has repeatedly asserted itself in order to stop weapons deliveries to the Syrian regime. In June, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went public about a Russian delivery of combat helicopters that was being shipped to Damascus.

Officials in Moscow declared at the time that the country was not providing new weapons, but was merely fulfilling previous orders under contracts that had been concluded prior to the insurgency. In the end, the US pressure led the British company that insured the ship to repeal its policy because the cargo violated the European Union embargo on weapons deliveries to Syria. And if it now emerges that the jet forced to land in Ankara was in fact carrying Russian weapons, then it will almost certainly prove to be an embarrassment for Moscow.

Conflicting Reports on Plane's Cargo

It is still uncertain what Turkish special units found in the cargo hold of the Syrian Air jet on Wednesday night. Various Turkish media reported investigators had found some 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of military goods on the aircraft. Turkish news channel NTV reported that "rocket parts" had been found, while CNNTurk claimed "communications devices" were on board that were intended for the Syrian military. Without citing a source, Turkish state television TRT reported on Thursday that the intercepted plane had been carrying military communications equipment, news agency Reuters reported. And Yeni Sefak, a newspaper close to the Turkish government claimed it had been carrying 10 containers that contained radio receivers, antennas and "equipment that is thought to be missile parts."

The Russian news agency Interfax on Thursday morning cited an unnamed source in a Russian arms exporting agency stating that neither weapons nor military equipment had been on board the plane.

On Thursday, the move to force the plane to land drew criticism from both Syria and Russia. Lebanese broadcaster al-Manar quoted Syrian Transportation Minister Mohammad Ibrahim Said as claiming that the decision to force the plane down had been tantamount to "piracy." And the Foreign Ministry in Moscow claimed in a statement that "the lives and safety of the passengers were placed under threat." The Airbus A320 aircraft had been carrying 17 Russian nationals on board.

Meanwhile, media outlets aligned with the regime concentrated on reports that all passengers were safe after the plane was allowed to continue its flight to Damascus on Wednesday night. On Wednesday, night, Turkish officials sought to de-escalate the situation. Following border skirmishes last week, Turkish-Syrian relations are tenser than ever before during Bashar Assad's 12 years of rule.

In order to prevent provoking a Syrian reaction that could threaten to escalate into mutual reprisals, Ankara has ordered Turkish aircraft to avoid Syrian airspace. A correspondent with the news agency Reuters even observed a Turkish aircraft as it swiftly turned just before reaching the Syrian border.

Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu emphasized he didn't believe the incident would have any influence on Turkish-Russian relations. But that appeared uncertain on Thursday after Russian President Vladimir Putin cancelled a trip to Turkey that had been planned for Monday. Officially, Putin's staff said he had a scheduling conflict that would prevent him from meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. However, the Russian daily Vedomosti quoted an unnamed Kremlin source claiming that Putin did not want to appear to be taking sides in the escalating conflict between Damascus and Ankara.

Efforts to Halt Weapons Deliveries to Syria

The flow of weapons and military equipment to the regime in Damascus has been a major concern for the international community for months now -- a worry that is shared as much by Ankara as it is by Washington. US politicians have applied pressure on Syria's neighbor Iraq to prevent possible weapons deliveries to Assad. In September, the US provided officials in Baghdad with a list of 117 Iranian civil aircraft that it believes are used almost daily to fly weapons and military forces from Tehran to Damascus. Washington also claims that Iranian trucks are being used to transport weapons to Damascus via Iraq. Iran is one of Syria's closest allies, but Tehran is also an ally of Russia.

Washington's efforts to work together with Baghdad on the issue don't seem to be functioning nearly as well as those with Turkey. Although US troops continued to be stationed in Iraq until the end of 2011, Baghdad tends to be more on the side of Assad and the Russians in the Syria conflict. On Oct. 9, Moscow announced that Baghdad would buy more than $4.2 billion worth of Russian weapons under contracts signed in recent months.

There have also been instances of Iraq cooperating with the Americans. Responding to US pressure, Baghdad last week demanded that an Iran Air flight traveling through Iraqi airspace land for inspection. Officials later declared that nothing illegal had been found on board the aircraft.

There are frequent allegations circulating in Syria that Assad uses Syria Air in order to deliver weapons from Damascus to hard-fought Aleppo because ground routes have become too unsafe for the regime. It has been impossible, however, to confirm such reports.

In its fight against the insurgents, the Syrian military has had to rely heavily on air power. Indeed, the United Nations has frequently condemned the regime for deliberately targeting civilians in air strikes. The Syrian army is also better equipped than the insurgents, who have fewer and very often lighter weapons.

Through its allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, the US has provided support and weapons deliveries to the rebels -- primarily offering Kalashnikovs and munitions. But a recent New York Times report noted that Washington has shied away from providing the rebels with anti-aircraft missiles out of concern they might fall into the wrong hands.

So far, an estimated 30,000 people have been killed during the 18-month uprising in Syria, according to Reuters.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/russian-plane-suspected-of-carrying-arms-for-syrian-regime-a-860709.html

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« Reply #7447 on: Oct 11th, 2012, 08:51am »

Telegraph

'Striking Mom' Jessica Stilwell refuses to clean up after 'disgusting' children

Jessica Stilwell, a Canadian mother, has become an internet hit after going on strike for six days, refusing to tidy up after her three daughters, and setting up a blog called 'Striking Mom' that documented the ensuing chaos.

1:25PM BST 11 Oct 2012

Mrs Stilwell, from Alberta, Canada, sat back with a glass of wine and recorded the mess that ensued on Facebook and subsequently on her blog.

She explained on her blog that she is a full time social worker and mother of three daughters - twins aged 12 and a 10 year-old - Olivia, Peyton and Quinn.

"I recently went on a 'mommy strike' and have been sharing my experiences about it in a 'logbook' type fashion on Facebook," she first wrote.

"I must admit I am very proud of myself for figuring this out. It seems I have waaaay more time on my hands now that I am not a full time maid. Yeah me!"

Mrs Stilwell did not actually tell the children she was going on strike, instead just waking up on one morning and stopping, after spending a weekend at home alone with the children while her husband Dylan was away playing golf. She realised that after a day of running the children around, when she sat down none of the mess was hers.

The strike officially began on October 1 and continued for six days when "all three children caved" because the house was in such a mess.

"They actually began turning on each other," she wrote. "It got ugly. Each one blamed the others for the mess and they began yelling at one another to pick up after themselves. Oh the irony. I wish I had filmed it. The drama and fight was Oscar Award winning worthy, or a nomination at the very least."

The children "turned" on their parents and asked why they were not cleaning up. So the parents took them round the house pointing out the mess. Eventually the children apologised and thanked their mother for what she does for them.

On the final day she wrote: "Today began the cleanup. I am not touching a thing and this house is on lock-down until it is to my standards. I’m sitting on the couch drinking coffee that I made them make for me. Quinn continues to gag and mini barf in her mouth every time she goes near the sink. She had to sit down as she felt sick.... awe muffin...are you ok?"

The blog has attracted multiple followers and comments - particularly from mothers who know exactly what Mrs Stilwell is going through.

One reader, Liz McLennan, wrote: "While I am sorta bummed that this hysterical journey is over, I am thrilled for you, because I suspect that you second-guessed yourself a zillion times, as mother sometimes do.

"But Mama...this is one incredible lesson for your kids (and will likely be for mine too, when I, inspired by this blog, stop being their slave. It's gonna happen, I can feel it.)and you've brought light and belly-laughter to so many of us out here.

"So really, you're like the gift that keeps right on giving. It's Thanksgiving in Canada...today, I'm thankful for you!"

A second wrote: "I read sections to my 14 and 10 year old daughters. They are worried that I might copy this brilliant idea. One is cleaning her room and the other is vacuuming the living room...out of fear that this mama might go on strike! I think I will go pour myself a glass of wine...."

Another reader claimed to be a TV producer in Los Angeles and said she was interested in chatting with her more.

Speaking at the end of the ordeal, Mrs Stilwell said she took action because she was worried "we are raising a generation of young people whose attitudes will be 'What are you going to do for me?'"

"Well dude, it's called a pay check, get your --- to work," she said. "I want to end this parenting race with employable, successful, well-rounded happy adults with real life skills."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/9601625/Striking-Mom-Jessica-Stilwell-refuses-to-clean-up-after-disgusting-children.html

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« Reply #7448 on: Oct 11th, 2012, 08:54am »

Science Daily

Prospective Alzheimer's Drug Builds New Brain Cell Connections, Improves Cognitive Function of Rats

ScienceDaily (Oct. 11, 2012)

Washington State University researchers have developed a new drug candidate that dramatically improves the cognitive function of rats with Alzheimer's-like mental impairment.

Their compound, which is intended to repair brain damage that has already occurred, is a significant departure from current Alzheimer's treatments, which either slow the process of cell death or inhibit cholinesterase, an enzyme believed to break down a key neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory development. Such drugs, says Joe Harding, a professor in WSU's College of Veterinary Medicine, are not designed to restore lost brain function, which can be done by rebuilding connections between nerve cells.

"This is about recovering function," he says. "That's what makes these things totally unique. They're not designed necessarily to stop anything. They're designed to fix what's broken. As far as we can see, they work."

Harding, College of Arts and Sciences Professor Jay Wright and other WSU colleagues report their findings in the online "Fast Forward" section of the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

Their drug comes as the pharmacological industry is struggling to find an effective Alzheimer's treatment. Last month, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, reported that only three of 104 possible treatments have been approved in the past 13 years.

"This 34-to-one ratio of setbacks to successes underlines the difficulty of developing new medicines for Alzheimer's," the trade group said in a news release. Development of the WSU drug is only starting. Harding and Wright must first satisfy the Food and Drug Administration that it is safe. Only then would clinical trials begin to see if a drug that works in a rat will work in a human.

Safety testing alone could cost more than $1 million, says Harding, who is looking to fund the drug's development through his and Wright's company, M3 Biotechnology Inc., the WSU Research Foundation, and ultimately large pharmaceutical company partners.

Harding, a medicinal chemist, and Wright, a neuroscientist, have been working on their compound since 1992, when they started looking at the impact of the peptide angiotensin IV on the hippocampus, a brain region involved in spatial learning and short-term memory. Typically, angiotensins have been linked to blood pressure regulation, but Harding and Wright noticed that angiotensin IV, or early drug candidates based on it, were capable of reversing learning deficits seen in many models of dementia.

The practical utility of these early drug candidates, however, was severely limited because they were very quickly broken down by the body and couldn't get across the blood-brain barrier, a cellular barrier that prevents drugs and other molecules from entering the brain. The only way the drug could be delivered was by direct brain application.

Says Harding: "We said, 'That's useless. I mean, who wants to drill holes in people's heads? It's not going to work. It's certainly not going to work for the big population.'"

Five years ago, Harding designed a smaller version of the molecule that he and Wright called Dihexa. Not only is it stable but it can cross the blood-brain barrier. An added bonus is it can move from the gut into the blood, so it can be taken in pill form.

The researchers tested the drug on several dozen rats treated with scopolamine, a chemical that interferes with a neurotransmitter critical to learning and memory. Typically, a rat treated with scopolamine will never learn the location of a submerged platform in a water tank, orienting with cues outside the tank. After receiving the WSU drug, however, all of the rats did, whether they received the drug directly in the brain, orally, or through an injection.

"Same result, every time," says Harding.

Harding and Wright also reported similar but less dramatic results in a smaller group of old rats. In this study the old rats, which often have difficulty with the task, performed like young rats. While the results were statistically valid, additional studies with larger test groups will be necessary to fully confirm the finding. Currently, the "gold standard" compound for creating neuronal connections is brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, a growth-promoting protein associated with normal brain development and learning. Autopsies of Alzheimer's patients have found lower levels of BDNF in the brain.

In bench assays using living nerve cells to monitor new neuronal connections, Harding, Wright, and their colleagues found Dihexa to be seven orders of magnitude more powerful than BDNF, which has yet to be effectively developed for therapeutic use. In other words, it would take 10 million times as much BDNF to get as much new synapse formation as Dihexa.

"We quickly found out that this molecule was absolutely, insanely active," says Harding. These results further suggest that Dihexa or molecules like it may have applications in other neurodegenerative disease or brain traumas where neuronal connections are lost.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121011090653.htm

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« Reply #7449 on: Oct 11th, 2012, 09:05am »



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« Reply #7450 on: Oct 12th, 2012, 09:01am »

Wired

Review: CIA Plays the Hero for a Change in White-Knuckle Thriller Argo
By Hugh Hart
10.12.126:30 AM

CIA spies are the good guys for a change in Argo, director Ben Affleck’s shrewd reconstruction of a bizarre mission aimed at retrieving six Americans from Tehran during the 1979-1980 Iran hostage crisis.

Smart, funny and suspenseful, the R-rated Argo is the first CIA-themed movie in a long time that doesn’t make you want to slit your wrists over the Agency’s acts of incompetence or nastiness. Affleck stars as ballsy “exfiltration” operative Tony Mendez, but his most astonishing accomplishment comes in directing an uplifting spy story that actually seems credible despite decades of depressing films that make the nation’s top intelligence agency look like an amoral bully.

Moviegoers looking for a reason to hate America need look no further than Argo predecessors like the Jason Bourne trilogy, which painted the CIA in 50 shades of black for its eagerness to experiment on humans to destroy inconvenient truths, or 1975′s stellar Three Days of the Condor, which fed on the public’s Watergate-era disgust with all things governmental and depicted Agency operatives as homicidal butchers obsessed with Middle East oil.

Argo differs from its forebears by neither demonizing or deifying the CIA. Downplaying standard genre fixtures including conspiracies, muddled moral quandaries and wham-bam action theatrics — there’s not a single gunshot fired over the course of the film — Affleck delivers a happy ending by narrowing the film’s focus to one mind-blowing chapter of Agency history.

(Spoiler alert: Minor plot points follow.)

Here’s the scheme, declassified in 1997 by the Clinton administration (and recounted a decade later in Wired’s feature story, “How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans From Tehran“): Mendez recruits a Planet of the Apes prosthetics expert and an industry hack (played by John Goodman and Alan Arkin) to create a fake production company that supposedly wants to film a sci-fi movie called Argo in Iran.

Posing as the film’s producer, Mendez arrives in Tehran and hands out fake identities to cabin-fever-wracked Americans who’ve been hiding out for weeks in the Canadian ambassador’s house. The nervous “film crew” drives through throngs of hostile crowds to the airport to get the hell out of town as enraged Revolutionary Guards give chase.

Argo’s blistering simulation of Mendez’s high-wire sting opens on crowd scenes, filmed in Istanbul on handheld cameras, of furious anti-American protestors swarming over the American embassy. Re-staged with strict allegiance to archival source material, these images pack a sickening punch as the movie hits theater just weeks after terrorists attacked the U.S. consulate in Libya.

So where’s the feel-good stuff? Affleck counters the stomach-churning footage with dry humor drawing on the sheer absurdity of Mendez’s enterprise. Goodman and Arkin lighten the tone like a couple of veteran vaudeville shtickmeisters during the sun-splashed second act set in Los Angeles. And back in Washington, D.C., Mendez listens to his Beltway superiors spitball a plan in which the stranded Americans would pedal smuggled bicycles 300 miles to the border in the dead of winter. Affleck/Mendez astutely describes his fake location-scouting plan: “This is the best bad idea we’ve got.”

Unlike most of its predecessors, Affleck’s CIA movie neither denies nor embraces the Agency’s considerable karmic baggage. Argo‘s preface points out that the CIA installed the corrupt Iranian Shah and propped up a regime that used torture and secret police, which clearly sucks.

Still, Affleck, scriptwriter Chris Terrio and a crackerjack production team including costume designer Jaqueline West, Oscar-nominated cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Brokeback Mountain) and production designer Sharon Seymour make the case for a heroic CIA in thrillingly straightforward fashion: Six civilians who did no harm might get killed or tortured unless they escape Iran. Tony Mendez saves their lives. Canada gets the credit, and everybody breathes a big sigh of relief.

As an actor, Affleck possesses no light touch, but he excels at brooding and he puts his tall, dark persona to good use in Argo. Moving through the action in beard and Beatle cut like a wary bear carrying the weight of the world — or at least six innocent humans — on his shoulders, Affleck smartly delegates the jokes to Goodman and Arkin. The six civilian characters convince as ordinary people who are understandably freaked out at the prospect of getting caught and strung up on a construction crane like the poor guy they see dangling down the street from their hideout. (That gruesome shot is modeled to near perfection on a famous photograph from the period.)

This kind of fanatically fact-checked realism oddly enough sells Argo as a feel-good thriller. Hollywood frequently reminds us how badly the CIA can screw things up, and no doubt Agency archives overflow with redacted records documenting morally bankrupt black ops. But here’s a memo to the CIA: If you’re sitting on more secret missions in the Argo vein, call Hollywood and get cracking. We’re a captive audience.

WIRED Ben Affleck’s taut performance as ballsy spy anchors an expertly reconstructed piece of history that casts the CIA in rare heroic light.

TIRED Besides the housemaid, was every Iranian really that pissed off?

http://www.wired.com/underwire/2012/10/review-argo/

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« Reply #7451 on: Oct 12th, 2012, 09:04am »

Reuters

Taliban's "Radio Mullah" sent hit squad after Pakistani schoolgirl

By Jibran Ahmad
Fri Oct 12, 2012 6:52am EDT

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - One of the Taliban's most feared commanders, Maulana Fazlullah, carefully briefed two killers from his special hit squad on their next target.

The gunmen weren't going after any army officer, politician or Western diplomat. Their target was a 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl who had angered the Taliban by speaking out for "Western"-style girls' education.

Tuesday's shooting of Malala Yousufzai was the culmination of years of campaigning that had pitted the fearless, smiling young girl against one of Pakistan's most ruthless Taliban commanders.

Their story began in 2009, when Fazlullah, known as Radio Mullah for his fiery radio broadcasts, took over Swat Valley, and ordered the closure of girls' schools, including Yousufzai's.

Outraged, the then-11-year-old kept a blog for the BBC under a pen name and later launched a campaign for girls' education. It won her Pakistan's highest civilian honor and death threats from the Taliban.

Yousufzai was not blind to the dangers. In her hometown of Mingora, Fazlullah's Taliban fighters dumped bodies near where her family lived.

"I heard my father talking about another three bodies lying at Green Chowk," she wrote in her diary, referring to a nearby roundabout.

A military offensive pushed Fazlullah out of Swat in 2009, but his men simply melted away across the border to Afghanistan. Earlier this year, they kidnapped and beheaded 17 Pakistani soldiers in one of several cross border raids.

Yousufzai continued speaking out despite the danger. As her fame grew, Fazlullah tried everything he could to silence her. The Taliban published death threats in the newspapers and slipped them under her door. But she ignored them.

The Taliban say that's why they sent assassins, despite a tribal code forbidding the killing of women.

"We had no intentions to kill her but were forced when she would not stop (speaking against us)," said Sirajuddin Ahmad, a spokesman of Swat Taliban now based in Afghanistan's Kunar province.

He said the Taliban held a meeting a few months ago at which they unanimously agreed to kill her. The task was then given to military commanders to carry out.

The militia has a force of around 100 men specialized in targeted killing, fighters said. They chose two men, aged between 20-30, who were locals from Swat Valley.

The gunmen had proved their worth in previous assassinations, killing an opposition politician and attacking a leading hotelier for "obscenity" in promoting tourism.

Their trademark is to kill by shots to the head.

Such hits, although dangerous, are also a badge of honor among the Taliban. The fighters who carry them out often receive personal calls of congratulations from senior leaders and may also get cash or guns.

Now it was Yousufzai's turn.

"Before the attack, the two fighters personally collected information about Malala's route to school, timing, the vehicle she used and her security," Ahmad said.

They decided to shoot her near a military checkpoint to make the point they could strike anywhere, he said.

On Tuesday, the two men stopped the bus she was riding home in. They asked for Yousufzai by name. Although the frightened girls said she wasn't there, the men fired at her and also hit two other girls in the van. One of them remains in critical condition.

Shot in the head and the neck, Yousufzai still lies unconscious in hospital, unaware that world leaders from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to U.S. President Barack Obama have pledged support. Schoolchildren in Swat prayed for her recovery.

"The American people are shocked by this deplorable shooting of a girl who was targeted because she dared to attend school," a statement from the White House said.

On Wednesday, the singer Madonna dedicated a song to Yousufzai during a L.A. concert. In a gesture that bemused many Pakistanis, she performed a striptease that revealed Yousufzai's first name, Malala, written across her back.

Her would-be killers said they had no idea their attack would propel their victim, already a national hero, into a global icon.

"Actually the media gave it so much importance and now even Ban Ki-moon used dirty language against us," Ahmad said. The international community stayed silent when the Pakistani security forces killed women during a crackdown, he complained.

Now that they had failed to kill Yousufzai, they would target her father, Ahmad said.

Ziauddin Yousufzai, the headmaster of a girls' school, is on their hit list for speaking against them, his activities to promote peace in the region and for encouraging his daughter.

"We have a clear-cut stance. Anyone who takes side with the government against us will have to die at our hands," Ahmad warned. "You will see. Other important people will soon become victims."

(Writing by Katharine Houreld)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/12/us-pakistan-girl-idUSBRE89B0IG20121012

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« Reply #7452 on: Oct 12th, 2012, 09:09am »

Washington Post

Officials say they lacked authority over pharmacy involved in meningitis outbreak.

By Lena H. Sun, Sarah Kliff and David Brown
Published: October 11
The Washington Post

Federal and Massachusetts officials said Thursday that they lacked clear authority to take action earlier against a now-shuttered specialty pharmacy that set off safety alarms at least six years ago and is now at the center of a burgeoning meningitis outbreak.

In a teleconference with reporters, the officials described a murky, archaic regulatory apparatus that hampered their ability to keep pace with the rapid changes in compounding pharmacies. That industry, which traditionally has consisted of mom-and-pop operations making customized medicines for individual patients, has expanded to include high-volume pharmacies that rival the production of drug manufacturers.

Deborah M. Autor, deputy Food and Drug Administration commissioner for global operations and policy, said it was “really unfortunate that it sometimes takes a tragedy” to bring about change and called on industry officials and lawmakers to adopt a new “regulatory scheme that appropriately controls the risk.” She also said the company could face criminal prosecution.

The officials were responding to questions about why state and federal authorities didn’t move more aggressively against New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., after the FDA found problems during an inspection in 2006. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced an investigation of the NECC after state health officials said the company appeared to violate state licensing requirements.

Fourteen people have died and 170 have been infected from batches of steroid injections contaminated with fungus that were made by the NECC. About 14,000 people received the injections, though it’s not clear how many of those shots were tainted, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said. Some lawmakers already are calling for a criminal probe and new authority for the FDA as a result of the outbreak.

The CDC officials also reported the first infection in a joint — an ankle — that may have been caused by the tainted medicine. More cases of both types of infection are expected.

Fungus causing human disease is notoriously slow to grow and hard to identify. Thirteen cases have been caused by a fungus of the genus Exserohilum and one by the genus Aspergillus. Fungus has been detected in about 50 vials from the company and from clinics that got the product.

J. Todd Weber, the CDC physician leading the investigation of the outbreak, said these are the first meningitis cases caused by Exserohilum ever reported.

The infections have occurred in 11 of the 23 states that got potentially contaminated methylprednisolone acetate from NECC. The medicine is a high-potency, long-acting steroid used to suppress inflammation and relieve pain in people with herniated disks and certain types of arthritis.

The CDC recommendations for treatment of the fungal infection call for two drugs that have to be given intravenously for months. Weber said the drugs are “very strong and can be very difficult for patients to tolerate.”

In 1997, legislation was enacted spelling out the roles of the state and federal governments in regulating compounding pharmacies. But the federal role faced court challenges. As a result, it’s “a murky area,” former FDA commissioner David A. Kessler said.

Other former FDA officials said the agency has sufficient authority over the compounding pharmacies.

“They have all the regulatory authority they need,” said Peter Barton Hutt, a former FDA chief counsel who is now a senior counsel with the law firm Covington & Burling. “They couldn’t ask for any more. What they need are better resources and better coordination.”

He argued that the NECC case was less a result of inadequate authority and more of ineffective communication between state and federal regulators. “Both of them were aware of the problem and neither followed up to make sure the problem was solved,” he said. “Clearly something went wrong there.”

Mary K. Pendergast, who was FDA deputy commissioner from 1990 to 1998, said the agency barely has enough resources to inspect large pharmaceutical plants. “There’s a legitimate worry of spreading resources too thinly,” she said.

As a result, she said, “They play Whac-a-Mole with compounding. If there’s a problem, they whack at it. That’s not necessarily an irrational approach when you consider the bigger problems they’re dealing with.”

Federal and state officials said that the day-to-day operations of compounding pharmacies are governed by state boards of pharmacy. When it comes to FDA authority over compounding pharmacies, much depends on the quantity and type of products.

The agency has long known that compounded drugs can pose safety risks. A 2006 agency survey found that one-third of the compounded drugs sampled had problems, including contamination and incorrect strengths. From 1990 to 2005, the agency learned of at least 240 serious illnesses and deaths associated with improperly compounded products.

Still, the agency has traditionally not taken enforcement action against pharmacies engaging in traditional small-scale compounding, such as making medications for individual customers who are allergic to specific ingredients or preparing medications for children who may be unable to swallow pills or need diluted dosages.

But the agency signaled, in guidance issued in 2002, that it could take action when a pharmacy’s activities raise “the kinds of concerns normally associated with a drug manufacturer.”

The FDA said it could consider action if compounding pharmacies’ drugs were essentially copies of commercially available products, for example, or if the companies were making drugs before receiving specific prescriptions.

“If the question is, could the FDA regulate this type of facility if it produces any large-scale productions? The answer, of course, is yes,” said Boston University’s Kevin Outterson. “But does the FDA know which, out of a couple thousand facilities that are compounding pharmacies, which ones are doing that? Do they have a mechanism to force them to register? That’s not so clear.”

Even given all the uncertainty in the law, “if there is clear evidence that a pharmacy is acting like a manufacturer and in a dangerous manner, there is no question that the FDA has authority to move,” said Jonathan Berman, a lawyer at Jones Day who works on FDA matters.

In fact, the FDA sent the NECC two warning letters in 2006 about potential safety problems with its products. In one, the NECC and four other firms were warned to stop compounding and distributing topical anesthetic creams marketed for general distribution rather than for individual patients.

In the second instance, the FDA and state investigators inspected the plant and found numerous problems. The NECC was making two products — an eye solution and another medicine — that were commercially available. The firm was also promoting an anesthetic cream by giving physicians free samples, much like a drug manufacturer.

The agency was also investigating complaints that the company was repackaging an FDA-approved injectable drug for cancer, Avastin, into syringes for subsequent promotion and sale to ophthalmologists, according to the warning letter. Opening any sterile container immediately compromises sterility, the agency said

The agency also said it had been informed that the NECC, while it requires individual prescriptions for drugs, had told doctors they could use a staff member’s name on the prescription.

Andrew Pavin, a spokesman for the NECC, said this week that the company “had resolved its differences” with the agency but did not provide details. The FDA’s Autor said the agency and the NECC exchanged correspondence, and the company assured regulators that it is protecting patient safety.

State officials also said they had no complaints about the company until 2011, and that was related to a physical expansion. The state received a complaint in March that is under investigation, they said.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/officials-say-they-lacked-authority-over-pharmacy-involved-in-meningitis-outbreak/2012/10/11/331d1c4a-13e8-11e2-bf18-a8a596df4bee_story.html?hpid=z3

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« Reply #7453 on: Oct 12th, 2012, 09:20am »

Telegraph

Syrian plane 'carried military equipment from Russia'

The Syrian passenger plane forced down by Turkish fighter jets was carrying Russian arms and military equipment to Bashar al-Assad’s regime, Turkey’s prime minister alleged on Thursday night.

By Richard Spencer, Middle East Correspondent
7:48PM BST 11 Oct 2012

As the row between the three countries escalated into a new diplomatic crisis, Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a fierce defence of Ankara’s decision to intercept the plane as it flew over Turkey from Moscow.

He told reporters that equipment seized from the aircraft was still being examined but that it included ammunition and other military equipment. This included military communications devices and missile parts, according to the Turkish media.

“The Russian arms exporting agency was the sender and the receiver was the Syrian Defence Ministry,” Mr Erdogan said. “The material has been confiscated and is being examined. Carrying such materials through our airspace is against international rules.”

Russia’s ambassador to Ankara was summoned to the Turkish foreign ministry on Thursday to have the allegations put to him in person.

The Syrian Arab Airlines flight was forced down at Ankara airport by Turkish air force F16 fighter jets on Wednesday evening. The 35 passengers on board, who included 17 Russians, later complained bitterly to Russian media.

“Four people onboard have been beaten up, two crew and two passengers, as they tried to force them to sign documents,” an air stewardess was quoted as telling Russia Today television station.

The Syrian authorities accused Turkey of “air piracy” and insisted that all the equipment on board the plane was for civilian use.

Russia insisted there were no arms on board the plane, in line with previous statements by President Vladimir Putin that it does not export weapons to Syria that could be used for internal purposes. It also complained that the way in which the plane was forced down was unsafe and that passengers were given no access to consular staff.

“The Russian side is insisting on an explanation of the reasons for such actions by the Turkish authorities,” a foreign ministry statement said. “The lives and safety of the passengers were placed under threat.”

But Mr Erdogan has shown himself unwilling to be diverted from putting pressure on the Syrian regime in any way he can short of outright war.

In the last week, he has continued to authorise artillery attacks on Syrian territory in response to cases where shelling from the regime side in the Syrian civil war has fallen on the Turkish side of the border.

While Turkey’s Nato allies, including Britain, have warned against a further escalation of the crisis, Turkey’s chief of military staff, General Necdet Ozel, on Wednesday threatened to go further. “We responded and if it continues, we will respond with more force,” he said.

However, Mr Erdogan is also under pressure at home, with opinion polls showing opposition to Turkey’s being dragged into a conflict with Syria, and a worsening of attacks by the Kurdish terror group the PKK in the south-east of the country which Ankara believes are supported by Damascus.

His actions may be directed as much towards Moscow as Syria. Russia has hinted that it is dissatisfied with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria but has shown no sign of dropping its diplomatic backing at the United Nations security council or putting further pressure on him to stand down.

Riad Kahwaji, director of the Insitute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, a think-tank, said Turkey might now be trying to show Russia there are consequences for allowing matters to continue to deteriorate.

“This is definitely a clear message from Turkey to the Russians,” he said. “Turkey is feeling its national security is threatened to a level where it is ready to take measures against both Syria and those who are helping the Syrian regime.”

Turkey is justifying its action under Article 35 of the Convention on Civil International Aviation, which states: “No munitions of war or implements of war may be carried in or above the territory of a State in aircraft engaged in international navigation, except by permission of such State.” It has refused to divulge the nature of the intelligence that caused it to act.

On Thursday night, there were signs that Russia would not allow the incident to be a long-term obstacle to relations. It confirmed that a visit to Turkey by President Putin, originally planned for next week but postponed before the plane incident, would go ahead, possibly at the beginning of December.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9602752/Syrian-plane-carried-military-equipment-from-Russia.html

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« Reply #7454 on: Oct 12th, 2012, 09:23am »

A bit scary.Reminds me of "Rise of the Apes" movie from last year..on Oct 11th, 2012, 08:54am, WingsofCrystal wrote:
Science Daily

Prospective Alzheimer's Drug Builds New Brain Cell Connections, Improves Cognitive Function of Rats

ScienceDaily (Oct. 11, 2012)

Washington State University researchers have developed a new drug candidate that dramatically improves the cognitive function of rats with Alzheimer's-like mental impairment.

Their compound, which is intended to repair brain damage that has already occurred, is a significant departure from current Alzheimer's treatments, which either slow the process of cell death or inhibit cholinesterase, an enzyme believed to break down a key neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory development. Such drugs, says Joe Harding, a professor in WSU's College of Veterinary Medicine, are not designed to restore lost brain function, which can be done by rebuilding connections between nerve cells.

"This is about recovering function," he says. "That's what makes these things totally unique. They're not designed necessarily to stop anything. They're designed to fix what's broken. As far as we can see, they work."

Harding, College of Arts and Sciences Professor Jay Wright and other WSU colleagues report their findings in the online "Fast Forward" section of the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

Their drug comes as the pharmacological industry is struggling to find an effective Alzheimer's treatment. Last month, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, reported that only three of 104 possible treatments have been approved in the past 13 years.

"This 34-to-one ratio of setbacks to successes underlines the difficulty of developing new medicines for Alzheimer's," the trade group said in a news release. Development of the WSU drug is only starting. Harding and Wright must first satisfy the Food and Drug Administration that it is safe. Only then would clinical trials begin to see if a drug that works in a rat will work in a human.

Safety testing alone could cost more than $1 million, says Harding, who is looking to fund the drug's development through his and Wright's company, M3 Biotechnology Inc., the WSU Research Foundation, and ultimately large pharmaceutical company partners.

Harding, a medicinal chemist, and Wright, a neuroscientist, have been working on their compound since 1992, when they started looking at the impact of the peptide angiotensin IV on the hippocampus, a brain region involved in spatial learning and short-term memory. Typically, angiotensins have been linked to blood pressure regulation, but Harding and Wright noticed that angiotensin IV, or early drug candidates based on it, were capable of reversing learning deficits seen in many models of dementia.

The practical utility of these early drug candidates, however, was severely limited because they were very quickly broken down by the body and couldn't get across the blood-brain barrier, a cellular barrier that prevents drugs and other molecules from entering the brain. The only way the drug could be delivered was by direct brain application.

Says Harding: "We said, 'That's useless. I mean, who wants to drill holes in people's heads? It's not going to work. It's certainly not going to work for the big population.'"

Five years ago, Harding designed a smaller version of the molecule that he and Wright called Dihexa. Not only is it stable but it can cross the blood-brain barrier. An added bonus is it can move from the gut into the blood, so it can be taken in pill form.

The researchers tested the drug on several dozen rats treated with scopolamine, a chemical that interferes with a neurotransmitter critical to learning and memory. Typically, a rat treated with scopolamine will never learn the location of a submerged platform in a water tank, orienting with cues outside the tank. After receiving the WSU drug, however, all of the rats did, whether they received the drug directly in the brain, orally, or through an injection.

"Same result, every time," says Harding.

Harding and Wright also reported similar but less dramatic results in a smaller group of old rats. In this study the old rats, which often have difficulty with the task, performed like young rats. While the results were statistically valid, additional studies with larger test groups will be necessary to fully confirm the finding. Currently, the "gold standard" compound for creating neuronal connections is brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, a growth-promoting protein associated with normal brain development and learning. Autopsies of Alzheimer's patients have found lower levels of BDNF in the brain.

In bench assays using living nerve cells to monitor new neuronal connections, Harding, Wright, and their colleagues found Dihexa to be seven orders of magnitude more powerful than BDNF, which has yet to be effectively developed for therapeutic use. In other words, it would take 10 million times as much BDNF to get as much new synapse formation as Dihexa.

"We quickly found out that this molecule was absolutely, insanely active," says Harding. These results further suggest that Dihexa or molecules like it may have applications in other neurodegenerative disease or brain traumas where neuronal connections are lost.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121011090653.htm

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