Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7456 on: Oct 13th, 2012, 10:35am »
Published on May 16, 2012 by OldMoviesRadioAndTV
Heading for a newly inherited island, the boys are shipwrecked and marooned on an atoll which has just emerged from the sea. Along with their cook, a stowaway and a girl who is fleeing her fiancé, they set up their own government on the atoll. Uranium is discovered and world powers begin fighting over ownership of the island.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7457 on: Oct 14th, 2012, 10:14am »
Shut up and play nice: How the Western world is limiting free speech
By Jonathan Turley Published: October 12
Free speech is dying in the Western world. While most people still enjoy considerable freedom of expression, this right, once a near-absolute, has become less defined and less dependable for those espousing controversial social, political or religious views. The decline of free speech has come not from any single blow but rather from thousands of paper cuts of well-intentioned exceptions designed to maintain social harmony.
In the face of the violence that frequently results from anti-religious expression, some world leaders seem to be losing their patience with free speech. After a video called “Innocence of Muslims” appeared on YouTube and sparked violent protests in several Muslim nations last month, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that “when some people use this freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate some others’ values and beliefs, then this cannot be protected.”
It appears that the one thing modern society can no longer tolerate is intolerance. As Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard put it in her recent speech before the United Nations, “Our tolerance must never extend to tolerating religious hatred.”
A willingness to confine free speech in the name of social pluralism can be seen at various levels of authority and government. In February, for instance, Pennsylvania Judge Mark Martin heard a case in which a Muslim man was charged with attacking an atheist marching in a Halloween parade as a “zombie Muhammed.” Martin castigated not the defendant but the victim, Ernie Perce, lecturing him that “our forefathers intended to use the First Amendment so we can speak with our mind, not to piss off other people and cultures — which is what you did.”
Of course, free speech is often precisely about pissing off other people — challenging social taboos or political values.
This was evident in recent days when courts in Washington and New York ruled that transit authorities could not prevent or delay the posting of a controversial ad that says: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.”
When U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer said the government could not bar the ad simply because it could upset some Metro riders, the ruling prompted calls for new limits on such speech. And in New York, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority responded by unanimously passing a new regulation banning any message that it considers likely to “incite” others or cause some “other immediate breach of the peace.”
Such efforts focus not on the right to speak but on the possible reaction to speech — a fundamental change in the treatment of free speech in the West. The much-misconstrued statement of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes that free speech does not give you the right to shout fire in a crowded theater is now being used to curtail speech that might provoke a violence-prone minority. Our entire society is being treated as a crowded theater, and talking about whole subjects is now akin to shouting “fire!”
The new restrictions are forcing people to meet the demands of the lowest common denominator of accepted speech, usually using one of four rationales.
Speech is blasphemous
This is the oldest threat to free speech, but it has experienced something of a comeback in the 21st century. After protests erupted throughout the Muslim world in 2005 over Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, Western countries publicly professed fealty to free speech, yet quietly cracked down on anti-religious expression. Religious critics in France, Britain, Italy and other countries have found themselves under criminal investigation as threats to public safety. In France, actress and animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot has been fined several times for comments about how Muslims are undermining French culture. And just last month, a Greek atheist was arrested for insulting a famous monk by making his name sound like that of a pasta dish.
Some Western countries have classic blasphemy laws — such as Ireland, which in 2009 criminalized the “publication or utterance of blasphemous matter” deemed “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion.” The Russian Duma recently proposed a law against “insulting religious beliefs.” Other countries allow the arrest of people who threaten strife by criticizing religions or religious leaders. In Britain, for instance, a 15-year-old girl was arrested two years agofor burning a Koran.
Western governments seem to be sending the message that free speech rights will not protect you — as shown clearly last month by the images of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the YouTube filmmaker, being carted away in California on suspicion of probation violations. Dutch politician Geert Wilders went through years of litigation before he was acquitted last year on charges of insulting Islam by voicing anti-Islamic views. In the Netherlandsand Italy, cartoonists and comedians have been charged with insulting religion through caricatures or jokes.
Even the Obama administration supported the passage of a resolution in the U.N. Human Rights Council to create an international standard restricting some anti-religious speech (its full name: “Combating Intolerance, Negative Stereotyping and Stigmatization of, and Discrimination, Incitement to Violence and Violence Against, Persons Based on Religion or Belief”). Egypt’s U.N. ambassador heralded the resolution as exposing the “true nature” of free speech and recognizing that “freedom of expression has been sometimes misused” to insult religion.
At a Washington conference last yearto implement the resolution, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared that it would protect both “the right to practice one’s religion freely and the right to express one’s opinion without fear.” But it isn’t clear how speech can be protected if the yardstick is how people react to speech — particularly in countries where people riot over a single cartoon. Clinton suggested that free speech resulting in “sectarian clashes” or “the destruction or the defacement or the vandalization of religious sites” was not, as she put it, “fair game.”
Given this initiative, President Obama’s U.N. address last month declaring America’s support for free speech, while laudable, seemed confused — even at odds with his administration’s efforts.
Speech is hateful
In the United States, hate speech is presumably protected under the First Amendment. However, hate-crime laws often redefine hateful expression as a criminal act. Thus, in 2003, the Supreme Court addressed the conviction of a Virginia Ku Klux Klan member who burned a cross on private land. The court allowed for criminal penalties so long as the government could show that the act was “intended to intimidate” others. It was a distinction without meaning, since the state can simply cite the intimidating history of that symbol.
Other Western nations routinely bar forms of speech considered hateful. Britain prohibits any “abusive or insulting words” meant “to stir up racial hatred.” Canada outlaws “any writing, sign or visible representation” that “incites hatred against any identifiable group.” These laws ban speech based not only on its content but on the reaction of others. Speakers are often called to answer for their divisive or insulting speech before bodies like the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
This month, a Canadian court ruled that Marc Lemire, the webmaster of a far-right political site, could be punished for allowing third parties to leave insulting comments about homosexuals and blacks on the site. Echoing the logic behind blasphemy laws, Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley ruled that “the minimal harm caused . . . to freedom of expression is far outweighed by the benefit it provides to vulnerable groups and to the promotion of equality.”
Speech is discriminatory
Perhaps the most rapidly expanding limitation on speech is found in anti-discrimination laws. Many Western countries have extended such laws to public statements deemed insulting or derogatory to any group, race or gender.
For example, in a closely watched case last year, a French court found fashion designer John Gallianoguilty of making discriminatory comments in a Paris bar, where he got into a cursing match with a couple using sexist and anti-Semitic terms. Judge Anne-Marie Sauteraud read a list of the bad words Galliano had used, adding that she found (rather implausibly) he had said “dirty whore” at least 1,000 times. Though he faced up to six months in jail, he was fined.
In Canada, comedian Guy Earle was charged with violating the human rights of a lesbian couple after he got into a trash-talking session with a group of women during an open-mike night at a nightclub. Lorna Pardysaid she suffered post-traumatic stress because of Earle’s profane language and derogatory terms for lesbians. The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal ruled last year that since this was a matter of discrimination, free speech was not a defense, and awarded about $23,000 to the couple.
Ironically, while some religious organizations are pushing blasphemy laws, religious individuals are increasingly targeted under anti-discrimination laws for their criticism of homosexuals and other groups. In 2008, a minister in Canada was not only forced to pay fines for uttering anti-gay sentiments but was also enjoined from expressing such views in the future.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7458 on: Oct 14th, 2012, 10:21am »
Feds Move Closer to Suing Google Over Search
By Marcus Wohlsen and Michael V. Copeland
Over the past few years, enough complaints have come Google’s way claiming it games its search results to rank competitors lower that the company felt compelled to post a FAQ, “Facts about Google and Competition.” In response to its self-posed question “Does Google have a monopoly on search?”, the company says: “No. On the Internet, competition is one click away.”
For federal regulators, that answer might not be good enough anymore.
According to reports late Friday, the feds are getting ready to pull the trigger on an antitrust lawsuit against Google for allegedly using its massive scale to squash competition and keep online advertising prices high.
Based on a wide-reaching investigation that began more than a year ago, Federal Trade Commission staff are readying to recommend that a suit be brought against the search giant, according to the New York Times. If the commission decides to bring a case, it would be the largest anti-trust suit brought by the FTC since a similar legal case took on Microsoft in the late ‘90s. Microsoft lost, but the ultimate resolution dragged on for years. Google did not immediately respond to a Wired inquiry seeking a statement on the FTC’s possible move.
As with Microsoft, the Google investigation has poked into virtually every part of Google’s business. The gist is that as Google has expanded beyond its core search business, into things like online shopping and smartphones, it is using its muscle to favor Google products over competitors. So rather than showing results from say, another shopping engine or restaurant recommendation service, it favors Google’s own versions of those products. In the mobile world, the FTC is looking at whether handset makers have the freedom to pick and choose the Google products they want if they choose to use Google’s free Android mobile operating system.
Even if the final recommendation of FTC staff is to sue Google, that doesn’t mean it will necessarily happen. Bringing a formal suit requires three of five FTC commissioners to vote in support of legal action. In September, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said a decision on whether to sue would be made by the end of the year. In Europe, a similar antitrust investigation into Google is already moving forward as European regulators look to lessen Google’s grip on the Internet.
In a settlement recently pitched to European Union antitrust regulators Google reportedly proposed to clearly brand all links to Google services returned in a search to mark them as distinct from “neutral” search results. The Texas attorney general’s office has also been investigating Google’s search practices for the past two years.
Google has long denied any anti-competitive practices, and for its part had this to say: “We are happy to answer any questions that regulators have about our business.” The FTC did not immediately respond to a Wired message seeking comment.
If some websites have problems with how they turn up in Google’s search rankings, web users themselves don’t seem to find Google’s results wanting. Last month in the U.S., a full two-thirds of all web searches were made using Google, with Microsoft’s Bing a very distant second and Yahoo coming in third, according to comScore. With numbers like that, it’s easy to see why other sites that don’t fare well on Google would claim that a low ranking equals internet invisibility. But it’s hard to believe that any settlement the company reaches in the event of FTC action could do much to harm its own rank as the world’s de facto default search engine.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7459 on: Oct 14th, 2012, 10:23am »
Iran says Hezbollah drone sent into Israel proves its capabilities
Sun Oct 14, 2012 10:17am EDT
DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran said on Sunday the launch of a drone aircraft into Israel by Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah was a sign of the Islamic Republic's military capabilities.
Hezbollah claimed responsibility on Thursday for the launch of the drone aircraft which Israel shot down last weekend after flying 25 miles into the Jewish state, saying the drone's parts were manufactured in Iran and assembled in Lebanon.
Tensions have increased in the region with Israel threatening to bomb the nuclear sites of Hezbollah's patron Iran if diplomacy and sanctions fail to stop Iranian nuclear activity the West suspects is meant to develop a weapons capability. Tehran says it is seeking only civilian nuclear energy.
Iran has threatened in turn to attack U.S. military bases in the Middle East and retaliate against Israel if attacked.
"Iran has great capabilities and our capabilities are at the service of the Islamic nation," Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi told state television. "The Zionist regime (Israel)...was defeated in this respect and it can no longer bully Islamic nations," he added.
Vahidi said Iran believed Hezbollah had the right to launch the drone into Israeli airspace since Israel's warplanes "repeatedly violate Lebanese airspace".
Iran has said the incursion exposed the weakness of Israeli air defence, indicating that Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile defence system "does not work and lacks the necessary capacity". The Iron Dome system, jointly funded with Washington, is designed to down short-range guerrilla rockets, not slow-flying aircraft.
Hezbollah, a powerful Shi'ite Muslim militant and political group backed by Syria and Iran, was established with the help of Iran's Revolutionary Guards after Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
Hezbollah last fought Israel in 2006 during a 34-day war in which 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, were killed.
(Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian, editing by Diana Abdallah)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7460 on: Oct 14th, 2012, 10:36am »
NASA's Ironman-Like Exoskeleton Could Give Astronauts, Paraplegics Improved Mobility and Strength ScienceDaily (Oct. 12, 2012)
— Marvel Comic's fictional superhero, Ironman, uses a powered armor suit that allows him superhuman strength. While NASA's X1 robotic exoskeleton can't do what you see in the movies, the latest robotic, space technology, spinoff derived from NASA's Robonaut 2 project may someday help astronauts stay healthier in space with the added benefit of assisting paraplegics in walking here on Earth.
Project Engineer Shelley Rea demonstrates the X1 Robotic Exoskeleton. (Credit: Image courtesy of Robert Markowitz)
NASA and The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) of Pensacola, Fla., with the help of engineers from Oceaneering Space Systems of Houston, have jointly developed a robotic exoskeleton called X1. The 57-pound device is a robot that a human could wear over his or her body either to assist or inhibit movement in leg joints.
In the inhibit mode, the robotic device would be used as an in-space exercise machine to supply resistance against leg movement. The same technology could be used in reverse on the ground, potentially helping some individuals walk for the first time.
"Robotics is playing a key role aboard the International Space Station and will continue to be critical as we move toward human exploration of deep space," said Michael Gazarik, director of NASA's Space Technology Program. "What's extraordinary about space technology and our work with projects like Robonaut are the unexpected possibilities space tech spinoffs may have right here on Earth. It's exciting to see a NASA-developed technology that might one day help people with serious ambulatory needs begin to walk again, or even walk for the first time. That's the sort of return on investment NASA is proud to give back to America and the world."
Worn over the legs with a harness that reaches up the back and around the shoulders, X1 has 10 degrees of freedom, or joints -- four motorized joints at the hips and the knees, and six passive joints that allow for sidestepping, turning and pointing, and flexing a foot. There also are multiple adjustment points, allowing the X1 to be used in many different ways.
X1 currently is in a research and development phase, where the primary focus is design, evaluation and improvement of the technology. NASA is examining the potential for the X1 as an exercise device to improve crew health both aboard the space station and during future long-duration missions to an asteroid or Mars. Without taking up valuable space or weight during missions, X1 could replicate common crew exercises, which are vital to keeping astronauts healthy in microgravity. In addition, the device has the ability to measure, record and stream back, in real-time, data to flight controllers on Earth, giving doctors better feedback on the impact of the crew's exercise regimen.
As the technology matures, X1 also could provide a robotic power boost to astronauts as they work on the surface of distant planetary bodies. Coupled with a spacesuit, X1 could provide additional force when needed during surface exploration, improving the ability to walk in a reduced gravity environment, providing even more bang for its small bulk.
Here on Earth, IHMC is interested in developing and using X1 as an assistive walking device. By combining NASA technology and walking algorithms developed at IHMC, X1 has the potential to produce high torques to allow for assisted walking over varied terrain, as well as stair climbing. Preliminary studies using X1 for this purpose have already started at IHMC.
"We greatly value our collaboration with NASA," said Ken Ford, IHMC's director and CEO. "The X1's high-performance capabilities will enable IHMC to continue performing cutting-edge research in mobility assistance while expanding into the field of rehabilitation."
The potential of X1 extends to other applications, including rehabilitation, gait modification and offloading large amounts of weight from the wearer. Preliminary studies by IHMC have shown X1 to be more comfortable, easier to adjust, and easier to put on than previous exoskeleton devices. Researchers plan on improving on the X1 design, adding more active joints to areas such as the ankle and hip, which will, in turn, increase the potential uses for the device.
Designed in only a few years, X1 came from technology developed for Robonaut 2 and IHMC's Mina exoskeleton.
NASA's Game Changing Development Program, part of NASA's Space Technology Program, funds the X1 work. NASA's Space Technology Program focuses on maturing advanced space technologies that may lead to entirely new approaches for space missions and solutions to significant national needs.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7461 on: Oct 15th, 2012, 09:46am »
New U.S. envoy to Libya pledges support
Mon Oct 15, 2012 8:16am EDT
TRIPOLI (Reuters) - The U.S. envoy sent to Tripoli following the death of the American ambassador in an attack last month said on Monday the United States remained committed to supporting Libya.
Veteran diplomat Lawrence Pope said in his first comments since arriving in Libya last week that the United States would "continue on the path" of ambassador Christopher Stevens, who along with three other Americans was killed in what the United States has called a "terrorist" attack in Benghazi on September 11.
The incident has triggered a debate in Washington over whether the ambassador, and the U.S. mission in Benghazi more broadly, were given sufficient protection.
"The United States remains deeply committed to supporting the aspirations of the Libyan people as they build a sovereign, stable and economically prosperous nation," Pope said after talks with Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdulaziz.
He said the United States was determined to bring to justice the perpetrators of the attack which killed four Americans.
The assault forced the evacuation of U.S. personnel from Benghazi, the eastern city that was the hub for the Libyan rebel movement that, with the assistance of NATO-led air strikes, toppled former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi last year.
Pope came out of retirement to take up the position of "charge d'affairs", the title given to a diplomat who represents a country in the absence of an ambassador.
He had retired in 2000 after a 31-year career as a foreign service officer. He is a former U.S. ambassador to Chad and senior State Department counter-terrorism official. He speaks Arabic and French.
(Reporting by Ali Shuaib in Tripoli; Writing by Tom Perry in Cairo, editing by Diana Abdallah)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7462 on: Oct 15th, 2012, 09:48am »
Softbank acquires 70 percent of Sprint
By Chico Harlan and Hayley Tsukayama Monday, October 15, 6:05 AM
TOKYO — In the priciest-ever overseas acquisition for a Japanese company, Softbank Corp. on Monday announced that it would buy about 70 percent of Sprint Nextel Corp., giving the U.S. carrier a much-needed cash infusion and boosting its chances to challenge giants Verizon and AT&T.
The $20.1 billion deal links a struggling U.S. mobile company, still trying to build up its high-speed next-generation network, with a Japanese wireless carrier noted for its history of risky — though so far fruitful — acquisitions.
In a joint press conference Monday with Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, Softbank’s billionaire founder Masayoshi Son said it was imperative to push overseas at a time when Japan’s own market, with its population declining and its economy stagnant, leaves little chance for growth. Softbank has a net debt of about $10 billion and it needed several major loans to finance the deal, but the strong yen gives the company greater purchasing power. The corporation’s stock plummeted in recent days after rumors of the deal leaked.
“When we make a challenge, usually risk comes along with it,” Son said. “I know it’s not an easy path to go business-wise.” But then Son noted Japan’s low birthrate and added, “However, without challenges [into new markets] we may face even bigger risks.”
The acquisition must still win approval from the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission. Sprint must convince the FCC that the deal is in the public interest to overcome a 25 percent limit on foreign investment in telecommunication companies.
Sprint, the nation’s third-largest wireless carrier, likely will argue that the proposal would increase competition in the United States and help it compete more effectively with Verizon and AT&T. Those two companies both have roughly twice the subscribers that Sprint does, and Sprint so far has struggled to break the duopoly.
Sprint, now a consolidated subsidiary of Softbank, has a net debt of about $15 billion after a half-decade of losses. At the Monday press conference, Hesse admitted the company was in shambles — at one point losing one million customers every quarter — when he became its top executive in 2007.
With its pockets drained, Sprint also held back on investment and left its customers on two separate networks. Now, Hesse said, Sprint is ready for what he called the “investment phase,” with the creation of a 4G network and improvements to the 3G network.
“We’re building a world-class platform,” Hesse said.
To acquire its share of Sprint, Softbank is buying up $12.1 billion in existing shares, at $7.30 per share. Sprint is also issuing $8 billion in new shares, which Softbank will buy at $5.25 per share.
Pushed together, Sprint and Softbank have 96 million customers. That makes Softbank the world’s third-largest mobile operator, behind China Mobile and Verizon.
Son said that he sees the potential for growth in the U.S. market and believes SoftBank can improve the “unbearable” network speeds in the United States.
Son praised Hesse’s leadership at Sprint and said that SoftBank’s investment and company history will accelerate the firm’s turnaround.
“This is a company that will turn around very quickly from here on,” Son said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7463 on: Oct 15th, 2012, 09:53am »
By Angela Watercutter 10.15.126:30 AM
CULVER CITY, California — If you want to make the mind-bending interactive “television” show of the future, it’s not a bad idea to harness a science fiction writer to craft the stories. Sci-fi scribes are at least familiar with the territory. For up-and-coming transmedia outfit Fourth Wall Studios, that linchpin storyteller is Sean Stewart, a novelist whose nerdy love of role-playing games, remarkable luck and unusual résumé make him an ideal weaver of intricately nested tales.
“I read Henry James for fun,” Stewart says, sitting in Fourth Wall’s office in Southern California. “I come from a very old-media world, but by pure fluke, being right-place/right-time, I was bitten by a radioactive narrative and suddenly transported into this world of incredible new ways of telling stories.”
Stewart is head writer at Fourth Wall, the studio he launched five years ago with CEO Jim Stewartson and Chief Creative Officer Elan Lee to make the kind of interactive programming that very few people — save maybe a few smart techno-futurists — could’ve even imagined 20 years ago. In Fourth Wall’s seamless web series and video shorts, characters call viewers’ cellphones and send them text messages or e-mails, effectively bringing entertainment into the real world. Sometimes entirely different storylines play in separate windows during the program’s arc.
One of the studio’s early shorts, Claire, which Stewart wrote, focuses on a young telepathic girl who finds herself at the scene of a liquor store hold-up. She diffuses the situation by listening to the thoughts of both the robber and the woman behind the counter — thoughts that come to viewers through phone calls. In Dirty Work, which won an Emmy for achievement in interactive media last month, viewers follow a misfit murder-scene cleanup crew and get text messages from the crew’s foul-mouthed British boss.
Tech the company has in the works — like a forthcoming companion app that will allow characters to walk off the computer or TV screen and onto a smartphone — signals that the current slate is just the beginning. It would be an odd place for a traditional novelist or screenwriter, but a sci-fi writer fits right in.
“Not hating the future helps,” says Stewart, who says he’s “as sentimental about books as the next guy” but gets a bounce from his background in science fiction. “The bedrock understanding that sometimes the culture follows the hardware that it’s built on maybe made me less interested in kicking against the pricks and more able to see the opportunity here.”
Well-suited to the task? Yes. Destined? Maybe not so much. In fact, Stewart’s current role as Fourth Wall’s head writer is something of a fluke — or, more exactly, a stroke of luck stemming from the fact that his last name begins with “S.”
In the early 1990s, Stewart was a struggling novelist living in Vancouver, Canada. He periodically attended sci-fi writer gatherings at the University of Washington bookstore, where all the authors would be seated at a long table alphabetically during book signings. One year (probably 1993 or ’94), he happened to be seated next to a guy named Neal Stephenson, who Stewart “didn’t know from Adam, but it turned out a year from then was going to be the hottest science fiction writer in the world.” The two struck up a friendship and by the next year, Stephenson had become a fan of Stewart’s work and Stewart was asking his alphabetical neighbor how the success of his seminal cyberpunk novel Snow Crash was treating him.
“I didn’t understand what he was referring to,” Stephenson says by e-mail to Wired now. “Since I’d been hard at work on Diamond Age, I had been strangely oblivious to this. Sean understood that Snow Crash was a successful novel before I did.”
The chance connection paid off later, when Stephenson recommended Stewart for a gig working on a game to accompany Steven Spielberg’s film A.I. Artificial Intelligence. When Jordan Weisman, then creative director of Microsoft’s entertainment division, called Stewart to discuss the A.I. game, they had a nice chat for a few minutes about things they could do to create a world around the movie.
Then Weisman stopped short and asked, “By any chance do you know what a role-playing game is?”
Stewart, who by this time was making a name for himself as a novelist — even The New York Times had written favorably about his 1998 sci-fi book Mockingbird — wasn’t necessarily a known member of the 12-sided die set.
“My answer to Jordan’s question is, ‘If you’re looking for someone who has played Empire of the Petal Throne with the RuneQuest damage tables — that would be me,’” Stewart recalls. “Unbelievably enough, I had this dark past where I was one of those kids who wouldn’t play D&D because D&D was a lame role-playing game.”
He was brought on the A.I. team to work with Weisman and his future Fourth Wall collaborator Lee, who was lead game designer on the soon-to-be-released Xbox. (“I think that phone call, as [Stewart's] told me many times, changed his life in pretty significant ways,” says Weisman, who is now CEO of gaming company Harebrained Schemes.)
“The task was, ‘Build an Xbox game for this thing,’” says Lee. But A.I. was a fairly sad story about an artificially intelligent boy who just wants to be loved. It wasn’t the kind of material that typically lends itself to addictive videogame play. “We had a problem: We had built all these games and we knew no one was going to want to play them because we knew it was just not an appropriate topic,” Lee says.
So he, Stewart and Weisman built something else: The Beast — a murder-mystery game set in A.I.’s futuristic world that played out over phone numbers, e-mail addresses, websites, live events and fax machines. By Lee’s count, there were 1,000 people playing the first day and 2.5 million playing in the first month.
As a writer, the success of this proto-ARG was an “ah-ha!” moment for Stewart. As part of The Beast’s multimedia narrative, he composed e-mails as one of the story’s characters that were sent to participants each morning. When one such message revealed that the woman who raised the character died, thousands of condolence e-mails poured in the morning after Stewart’s e-mail blast.
“Nobody writes to Scarlett O’Hara and says, ‘Sorry it didn’t work out with Rhett, too bad about Atlanta burning down, hope it all works out,’” Stewart says. “Because she’s not real, she’s in a book. Whereas this character, because you heard her voice on the phone [and] her e-mail came to your inbox, she was as real to you as your cousin in Cleveland.”
In 2003, after The Beast was birthed, Stewart, Lee and Weisman teamed up with Stewartson, who Weisman had met when Stewartson was at a visual communication company called Eyematic. They formed 42 Entertainment, and the shop soon became a go-to for what became known as alternate reality games. 42 Entertainment created the payphone-ringing Halo 2 ARG ilovebees and the massive online and real-world ARG for Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero. The work was great, but at a certain point — as Lee puts it, “I was sick of selling Toyotas and Doritos” — he, Stewart and Stewartson began contemplating setting out on their own.
“We were in the middle of a big project and it felt like we were kind of repeating ourselves — and that’s what the client wanted,” Stewartson says. “They wanted what we’d done before. ‘Could you do ilovebees with this other thing?’ And we just thought, ‘Hey, we really don’t want to keep doing the same thing over and over again.’”
The trio met at Stewartson’s house in Oakland, California, on Labor Day weekend 2007. At the time, Lee was still in Seattle and Stewart was living in Davis, California, but the trio had been working together electronically for years. They started brainstorming ideas and figuring out the basic shell of what they wanted to do: They knew they wanted to tell their own stories — not those associated with a new videogame launch or album release — and they wanted to use what they’d learned from their time making ARGs to bring people into their fictional worlds. They started writing down potential names until someone said, “Every project we work on should break the fourth wall.” It was the last thing on their list.
Each of the three founders said their goodbyes to 42 Entertainment and launched Fourth Wall Studios. The firm started doing projects for outside clients to build a portfolio and get some cash flowing. Their first job was to make an online component for Paramount Pictures’ Eagle Eye. (The project, called Free Fall, looked a lot like the shows the company produces today.) By 2009, they’d begun pitching their concepts to traditional television networks. Two shows got picked up for pilot but never went anywhere and Stewartson remembers one meeting — he won’t name the network — that was the nail in the coffin for Fourth Wall’s flirtation with traditional TV.
“We had the head of television, the head of marketing, the head of digital, the head of dot-com and they were all going to converge on the room to make this happen,” Stewartson says. “They came into the room and they started to introduce themselves to each other and hand their business cards to each other across the table. They’d never met. So we’re looking at each other like, ‘Wow.’ So I knew two things on the spot: This show is going nowhere — sadly, because it’s a really cool show — but also we’re in the wrong place at the right time.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7464 on: Oct 15th, 2012, 09:57am »
Courier Press (Indiana)
Mutual UFO Network investigates sightings
by RYAN TRARES Daily Journal Evansville Courier & Press
Posted October 15, 2012 at 9:23 a.m., updated October 15, 2012 at 9:23 a.m.
GREENWOOD, Ind. — A glowing light hovered in the early-morning sky over Franklin.
Large and bright, the object seemed to pulsate and give off colored waves from the edges. Suddenly, the object ascended rapidly as an airplane passed by.
Other reports from throughout the county include strange lights in a dipper formation over Greenwood, bouncing orbs over Whiteland and orange triangular aircraft that make otherworldly whooshing sounds.
When local residents see something in the sky that they can't explain, they call the Mutual UFO Network. The nationwide organization receives dozens of similar reports every year of unusual lights in the night sky.
The group is dedicated to tracking sightings of unidentified flying objects and investigating the causes, whether those are from nearby aircraft or something potentially extraterrestrial.
"It's too much to say, 'Where is this from?' The best that we can do is thoroughly research it to the end," David MacDonald, executive director of the Mutual UFO Network, told the Daily Journal (http://bit.ly/Tk9KhN ). "You rule out a satellite. You rule out a comet. You rule out a shooting star. Then all you have left is 'What could this be?'"
The Mutual UFO Network has collected more than 30,000 reports of unidentified flying objects since it was founded in 1969. Almost all are strange lights that have shown up in the sky, although plane crashes, weather balloons and completely unexplainable occurrences have been recorded, as well.
Since 2006, Johnson County has been named in 20 such reports. Bright lights, orange fireballs and bouncing orbs are common. On one occasion, a person in Greenwood reported a thin, blue line of light traveling quickly just above the horizon.
Another person said he saw a strobe-like light along a stretch of State Road 135, near Bargersville.
"As far as physical evidence of UFOs, there really is no such thing," said Stewart Hill, Indiana director of the Mutual UFO Network. "What seems to be evidence turns out to be more items that you'd find naturally out in the world."
Scientifically based, the Mutual UFO Network tries to piece together evidence of what sightings are. They collect witness statements, photographs video and examine the ground around where the sighting took place.
Jill Beitz is the chief investigator for the state of Indiana. Active in paranormal groups throughout Indiana, she had her own UFO sighting and became involved with the network soon after.
"You see something, and you don't know what it is. I couldn't explain what I saw, and I wanted to," she said.
As chief investigator, Beitz reviews the reports that are submitted to the Mutual UFO Network. Often, she'll travel to the site and interview the witnesses. Through questioning, as well as any kinds of photos that the people involved might have taken, she can weed out any hoaxes or fakes that are being reported.
The network's roots stretch back to a loose collection of investigators in the 1950s and 1960s. Reports of weird lights and unusual aircraft were regular topics of discussion for local people. The existence of UFOs were widely believed by the general public.
"Back in the '50s, when I was a kid, these things were published in the newspapers," Hill said. "You'd read or see something about them all the time."
The federal government conducted a study with the University of Colorado about unidentified flying objects and concluded that further study of the phenomena was no longer needed.
But people were still seeing strange things in the sky.
Walt Andrus, a longtime tracker of aerial phenomena, organized a network of investigators throughout the Midwest to track reports of UFOs. That group eventually spread throughout the country and the world.
"It sort of exploded when the Internet came about. It's really all about the spread of information," Hill said.
The organization now has more than 800 trained field investigators and rapid-response teams that can mobilize to investigate potential evidence of an extraterrestrial aircraft.
"We have a network set up to track these things across the country. If someone sees something in Utah, we can go state-by-state as it moves to follow it," MacDonald said.
MacDonald read his first UFO book when he was 10 and has been hooked ever since. He would seek out any information he could get on extraterrestrial life.
"I always had this nagging pull of 'What is that?'" he said.
The owner of an air carrier business in Cincinnati, MacDonald helps coordinate the network's international activities.
Anyone can submit a UFO report to the network. The group's Web page has a simple form allowing people to put in where the sighting was located, attach any photos that they've snapped and describe what they've seen.
"The hoaxes are usually pretty easy to spot right off. But it's not to say that any kind of anonymous report is a hoax. Often, these people can be very afraid of what they've seen and are hesitant to come forward," Beitz said.
Significant sightings are singled out for investigation, MacDonald said.
The network trains people to be investigators to look into specific cases. Before the volunteers ever go out into the field, they are provided with the tools to scientifically look into potential UFO sightings.
They are taught how to interview witnesses of an event and to read witness body language to determine the validity. They learn how to draw conclusions from the evidence presented to them by witnesses, news reports and the physical location of the event.
A knowledge of weather patterns, astronomy, the lighting configurations of aircraft and space satellites also helps determine what a sighting might be.
Most often, the reports can be explained naturally. Refracted light in the sky, electric flashes high in the atmosphere or meteors easily can be mistaken for UFOs.
But organizers want to be thorough in their investigation, in case evidence of a true extraterrestrial experience presents itself.
"If it's anything more than light in the sky, we want to be ready," MacDonald said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7466 on: Oct 16th, 2012, 08:58am »
"I take responsibility" for Benghazi: Clinton
By Andrew Quinn Tue Oct 16, 2012 8:47am EDT
LIMA (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton assumed responsibility on Monday for last month's deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, which has become an issue in the hard-fought U.S. presidential campaign.
"I take responsibility" for what happened on September 11, Clinton said in an interview with CNN during a visit to Peru, adding that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden would not be responsible for specific security instructions for U.S. diplomatic facilities.
"I'm in charge of the State Department's 60,000-plus people all over the world," Clinton said.
"The president and the vice president wouldn't be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals. They're the ones who weigh all of the threats and the risks and the needs and make a considered decision."
Clinton's comments followed stepped-up criticism of the Obama administration over the Benghazi attack, which Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney has sought to use to dent Obama's foreign policy credibility before the November 6 election.
Republicans in particular have focused on the Obama administration's shifting explanations for the attack, which Clinton said in two separate television interviews on Monday were the result of "the fog of war."
"Remember, this was an attack that went on for hours," Clinton told Fox News. "There had to be a lot of sorting out. ... Everyone said, here's what we know, subject to change."
The administration initially attributed the violence to protests over an anti-Islam film and said it was not premeditated. Obama and other officials have since said the incident was a terrorist attack.
The Benghazi assault, and the Obama administration's response, has become a contentious election issue and Clinton's comments came a day before the second presidential debate.
"What I want to avoid is some kind of political 'gotcha' or blame game going on," Clinton told CNN.
"I know that we're very close to an election. I want to just take a step back here and say from my own experience, we are at our best as Americans when we pull together. I've done that with Democratic presidents and Republican presidents."
Romney has accused the administration of not providing adequate security to American diplomats and misrepresenting the nature of the attack, which resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Romney's criticisms have sought to undercut the foreign policy record of Obama, who has been praised for the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the withdrawal of troops from unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Those attacks sharpened after last week's vice presidential debate, when Vice President Joe Biden said "we did not know" of requests by U.S. diplomats on the ground in Libya for more security - a statement that contradicted testimony given two days earlier by State Department officials at a congressional hearing.
Clinton told the networks that Obama and Biden had not been involved in security decisions related to the consulate.
"The decisions about security are made by security professionals. But we're going to review everything to be sure we're doing what needs to be done in an increasingly risky environment," Clinton said.
Congress has increased pressure on the State Department to release information about the attack. Obama and Clinton have both vowed a full investigation.
(Additional reporting by Margaret Chadbourn; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7467 on: Oct 16th, 2012, 09:02am »
10/16/2012 New Powers for Brussels Germany's Schäuble Presents Master Plan for Euro
Wolfgang Schäuble knows that the quiet on the markets over the past few weeks has been deceptive and that the euro crisis could erupt again soon. After all, doubts remain about whether Greece can remain in the currency union in the long term. If it triggers a chain reaction, the entire euro project could collapse. In addition, the willingness of many euro-zone member states to eliminate the design defects of the common currency appears to be diminishing.
Cash-strapped Greeks, fatigued Europeans -- Germany now wants to solve both problems for the long term. "There will be no state bankruptcy in Greece," Schäuble said in a speech in Singapore on Sunday. He also wants to give a new boost to the reform impetus for restructuring the euro zone. "We now need to go a major step in the direction of a fiscal union that will go beyond the proposals made so far," Schäuble said on Monday night during his flight back to Berlin.
The finance minister, a passionate advocate of deeper European integration, has said he wants to concentrate on a small number of far-reaching reforms:
■The European commissioner for economic and currency affairs is to become equally powerful as the commissioner for competition. The competition commissioner is entitled to make decisions independently and does not require the agreement of the other commissioners in making those decisions. If the currency affairs commissioner were truly independent when it came to decision-making, it would depoliticize that office holder's position. That would enable the commissioner to make decisions based on content rather than interests.
■In order to strengthen the position of the currency affairs commissioner, individual member states would have to hand over part of their budget sovereignty to Brussels. Under Schäuble's proposal, the currency affairs commissioner, by now one of the most powerful positions in the EU, would be equipped with veto power over national budgets. The procedure might look like this: If a euro-zone member state sent its budget proposal to Brussels and the commissioner felt the deficit in the draft was too high, then the country's parliament would be asked to prepare a new draft. Member states would retain the power to decide which revenues to increase and which spending to to cut. But the proposed change still represents an improvement over the status quo. Under current rules, the European Commission's power is limited to making recommendations to member states on improvements to budgets.
■Schäuble also wants to create more democratic legitimation for European policies by including the participation of the European Parliament at a fundamentally earlier stage in all important processes. The representative body of the people would also be changed so that votes would only include members of the European parliament from the countries that would be directly impacted by proposals considered. For decisions relating to the euro-zone, for example, only members of parliament from the 17 nations in the common currency area would meet to vote -- and not MEPs from all 27 EU countries. Although critics will note that this ultimately cements the idea of a two-speed Europe, the advantage of the proposal is that it would enhance democracy without making decision-making processes that are already very difficult to understand any more complicated.
In principle, there is nothing new about these ideas. What is new, though, is that one of the most influential politicians in Europe has cherry-picked concrete measures from the complex reform suggestions for the currency zone and strung them together as his own reform package.
The chances of success for Schäuble's plan aren't bad, either, because the German finance minister already presented them to other other euro-zone members before going public. The four leaders of important European institutions who are currently tasked with putting together proposals for reforming the currency union -- European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, Euro Group President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi -- have also been briefed.
Schäuble's proposals may play a role as soon as this week's EU summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday. Their implementation would require changes to the European treaties -- a process the finance minister would like to begin as soon as possible. Schäuble would like to convene an EU convention by the end of the year in which members of the European and national parliaments would work on a draft that would then have to be ratified by the 27 member states. Even if the process proceeded under the most optimal of conditions, it would still likely take one-and-a-half years before the changes could become law. However, it is more realistic that the changes would then go into effect at the beginning of 2015 at the earliest.
That, of course, assumes that Britain, which is not a member of the euro zone and which often opposes steps towards closer European integration, will play along. If it doesn't, it won't be possible to change the EU treaties. Euro zone governments would have to come up with a separate treaty as they recently did with the fiscal pact. It wouldn't be an optimal solution, but it wouldn't be acceptable.
The British should not underestimate Schäuble's determination to solve the euro crisis. Chancellor Angela Merkel backs the proposals even though Schäuble admits: "The chancellor is still a little more cautious than me." He added with a smile: "That's also why she is a little more successful than me."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7468 on: Oct 16th, 2012, 09:13am »
Report: People, Maintenance Drive Asia Defense Spending Boom
Oct. 15, 2012 - 04:12PM By ZACHARY FRYER-BIGGS
Overall defense spending in Asia might be up, but the increases are mostly due to large troop numbers and maintenance costs, not massive investment in cutting-edge research or equipment, according to a new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The report, which analyzed official budget documents from China, India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan from 2000-2011, found that all five countries had increased defense spending in constant dollars. China led the group, increasing total spending by 13.4 percent, followed by South Korea at 4.8 percent.
While spending increased throughout the decade, 2005 through 2011 saw the larger increases in four of the five countries.
However, despite the increases, spending per soldier, a significant measure of modernization, did not match the growth in overall spending, largely due to increased troop levels.
“While overall defense budgets of the five Asian countries are quite substantial, per-soldier defense spending is not (with the exception of Japan's),” the report said. “The underlying reason for this marked difference between total and per-soldier defense spending is the extensive force structures sustained by all countries but Japan in relation to the size of their overall defense budget.”
Japan was the exception to the spending trends, based largely on its heavy investment per-capita. “While the other four countries spent between $28,200 and $43,600 per service member in 2011, Japan allocated $238,100 per soldier in the same year,” the report said.
Per-soldier spending levels can be used as a rough indicator of the capability of the forces, the report said. “The significant gap in per soldier defense spending between China, India, South Korea, and Taiwan and the major European militaries and the United States suggests, at least to some extent, differences in the quality of military forces,” it said. “It remains to be seen if this issue will be addressed given the increase in Asian defense budgets.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7469 on: Oct 17th, 2012, 10:14am »
Putin says Russia will not be dictated to on arms sales
Wed Oct 17, 2012 10:53am EDT
MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that only the U.N. Security Council could restrict Russian weapons sales abroad, a remark that appeared aimed at defending the Kremlin against criticism of its arms supplies to the Syrian government.
"Only sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council can serve as a basis for limiting weapons supplies," Putin said, according to state-run Itar-Tass news agency.
"In all other cases, nobody can use any pretext to dictate to Russia on how it should trade and with whom," he was quoted as telling a meeting of a state commission on the arms trade.
The West has criticized Russia for vetoing, along with China, three U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at putting pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end a conflict that has killed an estimated 30,000 people in 19 months.
Russia sold Syria $1 billion worth of weapons last year and has made clear it would oppose an arms embargo in the Security Council because of what it says are concerns rebels fighting Assad's government would get weapons illegally anyway.
Putin said in June that Russia was not delivering any weapons to Syria that could be used in a civil conflict.
Turkey said on October 11 that a Syrian passenger plane grounded en route from Moscow to Damascus was carrying weapons. Moscow said the cargo included radar parts that were of dual civilian and military use but were fully legal.
Moscow in 2010 scrapped plans to deliver high-precision air defense missile systems to Iran, citing sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council over Tehran's nuclear program, a move welcomed by the United States and its European allies.
Russia denies trying to prop up Assad, who allows Russia to maintain a naval supply facility in the port of Tartus that is its only military base outside the former Soviet Union.
But Moscow says Syria's crisis must be resolved without foreign interference, particularly military intervention.
(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Jon Boyle)