Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7560 on: Nov 2nd, 2012, 08:34am »
One month until they regulate the Internet??
By John Brandon Published November 01, 2012
Better enjoy Facebook while you can.
A U.N.-sponsored conference next month in Dubai will propose new regulations and restrictions for the Internet, which critics say will censor free speech, levy tariffs on e-commerce, and even force companies to clean up their “e-waste” and make gadgets that are better for the environment.
Concerns about the closed-door event have sparked a Wikileaks-style info-leaking site , and led the State Department on Wednesday to file a series of new proposals or tranches seeking to ensure “competition and commercial agreements -- and not regulation” as the meeting's main message.
Terry Kramer, the chief U.S. envoy to the conference, says the United States is against sanctions and believes management of the Internet by one central organization goes against free speech.
The conference will be run by the International Telecommunications Union (ITC), a U.N. agency that has typically provided a welcome service by making sure that the Internet works across countries. Many of its guidelines were first instituted in 1988. Most haven’t changed since then.
The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12 ) is the first such meeting since those guidelines were created, and businesses are taking it seriously: U.S. delegates will include representatives from AT&T, Cisco, Facebook, GoDaddy, and dozens more.
“Some of the proposals that could clearly have consequences address the high cost of mobile roaming, taxation of calls, issues associated with the routing of calls, cybersecurity and combating spam,” Handley told FoxNews.com. “A major concern is with any attempt to make the International Telecommunication Regulations prescriptive and force regulation.”
Indeed, the same statement in which Johnson urges calm mentions a possible vote for more regulation.
Josh King, an attorney with legal advice site Avvo.com, said the ITU will make stronger proposals at a 2015 conference in Dubai. For now, the goal is to restructure so the telecommunication companies in each country have more control over what is on the Internet.
“The open, multi-stakeholder approach that has led to the massive growth of the Internet over the last 15 years [would] be replaced with a system of top-down, international regulation,” he told FoxNews.com. Michael Embrich, a spokesperson for Internet advocacy group TestPAC, defines that goal as a way to level the playing field on the Internet and give developing countries a fair shot. Smaller countries want more regulations to help them compete with the U.S, he said.
At the conference, the ITC will even propose regulations that go offline, further than the Web.
Emrich said one proposal, to be funded by $53B in U.S. dollars, is to connect North and South America using a massive telecom pipeline. Another rule would cover cell phone batteries.
“They would like to implement a law that would require all makers of rechargeable batteries to make them 30 percent smaller and more efficient. They claim to have a study that says they can do this though proper regulations and requirements,” Embrich said.
Handley told FoxNews.com that it is likely some of the proposals at WCIT will be enacted over the next five years. What were formerly considered rough guidelines will become more precise governances, she said.
“The impact will be determined by the proposals that are adopted,” Handley said. “[Previous regulations have been viewed as] high-level principles, which means that countries have been able to implement them as they have seen needed.”
Vivek Mohan, a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and a former Microsoft attorney, says the talks should be taken seriously, even if there might not be any short-term impact.
“This is a fight for life for the ITU. If they don't assert authority and jurisdiction, they will become irrelevant,” he told FoxNews.com.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7562 on: Nov 2nd, 2012, 08:53am »
Scope of Sandy's devastation widens, tempers flare
By Edith Honan Fri Nov 2, 2012 8:59am EDT
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Four days after superstorm Sandy smashed into the U.S. Northeast, rescuers on Friday were still discovering the extent of the death and devastation in New York and the New Jersey shore, and anger mounted over gasoline shortages, power outages and waits for relief supplies.
The total killed in one of the biggest storms to hit the United States jumped by a third on Thursday, to 98. In New York City, 40 people have been found dead, half of them in Staten Island, which was overrun by a wall of water on Monday.
Among the dead in Staten Island were two brothers, aged 2 and 4, who were swept from their mother's arms after her car stalled in rising flood waters. Their bodies were found near each other in a marshy area on Thursday.
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Agency Deputy Administrator Richard Serino planned to visit Staten Island on Friday amid angry claims by some survivors that the borough had been ignored.
Scenes of angry storm victims could complicate matters for politicians, from President Barack Obama just four days before the general election, to governors and mayors in the most heavily populated region in the United States. Obama so far has received praise for his handling of Sandy.
"They forgot about us," said Theresa Connor, 42, describing her Staten Island neighborhood as having been "annihilated." "And (Mayor Michael) Bloomberg said New York is fine. The marathon is on!"
Citing the boost it brings to the city's economy, New York Mayor Bloomberg decided to hold the world's largest marathon on Sunday, as scheduled.
Adding to heated tempers, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut drivers were also confronting a shortage of gasoline. Even before dawn on Friday, long lines of cars snaked around gasoline stations around the area, and police were in place at many spots to keep the peace between furious, frustrated drivers.
In one instance, a man was charged in the New York City borough of Queens with threatening another driver with a gun after he tried to cut in on a line of cars waiting for gas.
COLDER WEATHER AHEAD
Forecasts for colder temperatures only added to the tension, since many in New Jersey and elsewhere have been using fuel-powered generators to run lights and heaters while waiting for utilities to repair downed power lines.
At a Hess Station on late Thursday night in Fairfield, New Jersey, people waited more than three hours to fill-up their cars and gas cans. Four police officers directed traffic.
"This is a pretty apocalyptic situation. How far do we have to go to get gas - Tennessee?" said Ricardo Meehleib, 30, as he waited in line.
While power was expected to be returned throughout Manhattan by Saturday, it could be another week or more in suburbs and more distant towns along the coast. About 4.5 million homes and businesses in 15 U.S. states remain without power.
Fury has been escalating throughout New York at Bloomberg's decision to proceed with the marathon on Sunday, vowing the event - which attracts more than 40,000 runners - would not divert any resources storm victims.
"If they take one first responder from Staten Island to cover this marathon, I will scream," New York City Councilman James Oddo said on his Twitter account.
Staten Island, which lies across New York Harbor from lower Manhattan, is home to about 500,000 residents, many blue-collar workers whose families have lived there for generations.
In New Jersey, where at least 13 people were killed, entire neighborhoods in oceanside towns were swallowed by seawater and much of the Atlantic City boardwalk was destroyed.
"There's nothing more precious to people than their homes. Those are where their families are, their memories and possessions of their lives, and there's also a sense of safety to home," New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said.
"That sense of safety was violated with water rushing into people's homes at an enormous rate of speed and people having to literally swim, climb, jump for their lives," he said.
The financial cost of the storm promised to be staggering. Disaster modeling company Eqecat estimated Sandy caused up to $20 billion in insured losses and $50 billion in economic losses, double its previous forecast.
At the high end of the range, Sandy would rank as the fourth costliest U.S. catastrophe ever, according to the Insurance Information Institute, behind Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the September 11, 2001, attacks and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
In blacked-out New York City neighborhoods, some residents complained about a lack of police and expressed fears about crime. Some were also concerned about traffic safety.
"People feel safe during the day but as soon as the sun sets, people are extremely scared. The fact that Guardian Angels are on the streets trying to restore law just shows how out of control the situation is in lower Manhattan," said Wolfgang Ban, a restaurant owner in Manhattan's Alphabet City neighborhood.
The Guardian Angels are a group of anti-crime volunteers.
Sandy started as a late-season hurricane in the Caribbean, where it killed 69 people, before smashing ashore in the United States with 80-mile-per-hour (130-kph) winds. It stretched from the Carolinas to Connecticut and was the largest storm by area to hit the United States in decades.
The presidential campaign has returned to full swing after being on hold for several days because of the storm. Obama, locked in a tight race with Republican challenger Mitt Romney head of next Tuesday's election, appeared to gain politically from his disaster relief performance.
Christie, a vocal Romney supporter, praised Obama, and Bloomberg, a political independent, endorsed Obama on Thursday.
(Writing by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Mary Milliken and Vicki Allen)
By Dylan Tweney November 2, 2010 | 7:00 am Categories: 19th century, Computers and IT, Mathematics
1815: English mathematician George Boole, who would help establish what is now known as Boolean logic, is born.
Boole’s breakthrough was the insight that logic, which had previously been considered a branch of philosophy, was actually closer to mathematics. All you needed to do was express logical problems in a symbolic format, and they could be solved in a way similar to mathematical problems.
Largely self-taught, Boole’s education began at home, where his tradesman father taught him basic mathematics. Boole began working as a schoolteacher at age 16, and spent his evenings reading such lightweight fare as Isaac Newton‘s Principia.
By the time he was 24, he was already submitting mathematical papers on differential equations and linear transformations to major journals. Boole won recognition from the Royal Society in 1844 for a paper on methods for combining algebra and calculus.
He became a professor of mathematics at Queen’s College in Ireland’s County Cork, at 33, despite not having a college degree of his own. Boole became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1857.
But it’s Boolean logic, or Boolean algebra, for which he’s known today. The concept goes far beyond the and and or operators most of us have learned to use in the “advanced” options of search engines. In fact, it reduces all logical problems to symbols that can be manipulated.
Ultimately, in the field of computer science, that logic would prove extremely useful. Claude Shannon found that a binary-numbering system (where all digits are either 1 or 0) combined with the basic Boolean operators (and, or and not — plus not-and, not-or, exclusive-or and exclusive-nor) can be implemented in electronic circuits. You can then use this combination of binary and Boolean to solve any mathematical problem, from addition to computing derivatives to plotting the arc of a virtual grenade as it soars toward the zombie on your computer screen.
Just as important, Boolean logic can be used to construct computer programs that not only process mathematical problems, but can also manipulate text and images (represented as binary digits), store data, communicate with other computers, fling virtual birds at virtual pigs or capture an image of your daughter’s face and then redisplay it in real time in a Skype window 3,000 miles away.
However, that insight — about the universal programmability of computers — would have to wait another century, for 20th century genius Alan Turing to discover it.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7564 on: Nov 2nd, 2012, 09:10am »
NASA'S Fermi Measures Cosmic 'Fog' Produced by Ancient Starlight
ScienceDaily (Nov. 1, 2012)
— Astronomers using data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope have made the most accurate measurement of starlight in the universe and used it to establish the total amount of light from all of the stars that have ever shone, accomplishing a primary mission goal.
This illustration places the Fermi measurements in perspective with other well-known features of cosmic history. Star formation reached a peak when the universe was about 3 billion years old and has been declining ever since. (Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)
"The optical and ultraviolet light from stars continues to travel throughout the universe even after the stars cease to shine, and this creates a fossil radiation field we can explore using gamma rays from distant sources," said lead scientist Marco Ajello, a postdoctoral researcher at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University in California and the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley.
Gamma rays are the most energetic form of light. Since Fermi's launch in 2008, its Large Area Telescope (LAT) observes the entire sky in high-energy gamma rays every three hours, creating the most detailed map of the universe ever known at these energies.
The total sum of starlight in the cosmos is known to astronomers as the extragalactic background light (EBL). To gamma rays, the EBL functions as a kind of cosmic fog. Ajello and his team investigated the EBL by studying gamma rays from 150 blazars, or galaxies powered by black holes, that were strongly detected at energies greater than 3 billion electron volts (GeV), or more than a billion times the energy of visible light.
"With more than a thousand detected so far, blazars are the most common sources detected by Fermi, but gamma rays at these energies are few and far between, which is why it took four years of data to make this analysis," said team member Justin Finke, an astrophysicist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington.
As matter falls toward a galaxy's supermassive black hole, some of it is accelerated outward at almost the speed of light in jets pointed in opposite directions. When one of the jets happens to be aimed in the direction of Earth, the galaxy appears especially bright and is classified as a blazar.
Gamma rays produced in blazar jets travel across billions of light-years to Earth. During their journey, the gamma rays pass through an increasing fog of visible and ultraviolet light emitted by stars that formed throughout the history of the universe.
Occasionally, a gamma ray collides with starlight and transforms into a pair of particles -- an electron and its antimatter counterpart, a positron. Once this occurs, the gamma ray light is lost. In effect, the process dampens the gamma ray signal in much the same way as fog dims a distant lighthouse.
From studies of nearby blazars, scientists have determined how many gamma rays should be emitted at different energies. More distant blazars show fewer gamma rays at higher energies -- especially above 25 GeV -- thanks to absorption by the cosmic fog.
The farthest blazars are missing most of their higher-energy gamma rays.
The researchers then determined the average gamma-ray attenuation across three distance ranges between 9.6 billion years ago and today.
From this measurement, the scientists were able to estimate the fog's thickness. To account for the observations, the average stellar density in the cosmos is about 1.4 stars per 100 billion cubic light-years, which means the average distance between stars in the universe is about 4,150 light-years.
A paper describing the findings was published Thursday on Science Express.
"The Fermi result opens up the exciting possibility of constraining the earliest period of cosmic star formation, thus setting the stage for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope," said Volker Bromm, an astronomer at the University of Texas, Austin, who commented on the findings. "In simple terms, Fermi is providing us with a shadow image of the first stars, whereas Webb will directly detect them."
Measuring the extragalactic background light was one of the primary mission goals for Fermi.
"We're very excited about the prospect of extending this measurement even farther," said Julie McEnery, the mission's project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
Goddard manages the Fermi astrophysics and particle physics research partnership. Fermi was developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy with contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden and the United States.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7565 on: Nov 2nd, 2012, 09:13am »
‘Skyfall’ Passes Last ‘Potter’ To Break 7-Day UK Record; Now Year’s 3rd Highest Grosser
By NANCY TARTAGLIONE, International Editor Friday, 2 November 2012 12:59 UK Tags: Box Office, James Bond, Skyfall
After being primed to hit $100M globally on Thursday, Skyfall has secured the biggest 7-day gross of all time in the UK. With £37.2M ($59.86M), the film overtook Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2’s first week gross of £35.7M ($57.4M) to make UK box office history. The 23rd James Bond film opened last Friday, October 26, and was Britain’s 2D all-time biggest Friday opener and 2D biggest opening weekend.
It clobbered previous records set by the two other Daniel Craig/007 movies almost everywhere. It’s also overtaken Ted to become the third highest-grosser of the year in the UK behind The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers. Skyfall opens in North America on IMAX screens November 8 and goes wide on November 9.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7568 on: Nov 3rd, 2012, 09:36am »
Uploaded by smpr12 on Feb 24, 2012
A 1959 horror/gangster/heist film directed by Monte Hellman and starring Michael Forest, Frank Wolff, Richard Sinatra (Son of orchestra leader Ray Sinatra, and cousin of Frank Sinatra) and Sheila Carroll. Filmed in South Dakota, it tells the story of bank robbers fleeing in the snow who run afoul of a giant spider that feeds on humans.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7569 on: Nov 4th, 2012, 10:01am »
Cold hits storm victims ahead of U.S. election
By Michelle Nichols and Robin Respaut Sun Nov 4, 2012 10:46am EST
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Victims of superstorm Sandy on the U.S. East Coast struggled against the cold early on Sunday amid fuel shortages and power outages even as officials fretted about getting voters displaced by the storm to polling stations for Tuesday's presidential election.
Overnight, near-freezing temperatures gripped the U.S. northeast. At least two more victims were found in New Jersey, one dead of hypothermia, as the overall death toll from one of worst storms in U.S. history climbed to at least 112.
Fuel supplies continued to rumble toward disaster zones and electricity was slowly returning to darkened neighborhoods after a storm that hit the coast last Monday. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it would be days before power is fully restored and fuel shortages end.
Bloomberg on Friday abruptly called off the city's marathon, which was set for Sunday, bowing to criticism that the event would divert resources from flood-ravaged areas. Hundreds of runners planned informal runs to deliver food and clothes to the borough of Staten Island and elsewhere.
More than 1,000 people, many who had planned to run the race, crowded onto two Staten Island Ferry boats early on Sunday, headed to the stricken borough with relief supplies including food and plastic bags to help residents store belongings from damaged or destroyed homes.
New York's Central Park was also crowded with runners near what would have been the marathon's finish line, scores of them shivering in the lingering overnight cold. A group called run4allcauses was collecting donations for Sandy victims.
Power restorations over the weekend relit the skyline in Lower Manhattan for the first time in nearly a week and allowed 80 percent of the New York City subway service to resume. Some 2.5 million homes and business still lacked power across the Northeast on Saturday, down from 3.5 million on Friday.
Temperatures dipped to 39 Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) early on Sunday morning in New York City, the lowest in days, with below-freezing temperatures expected on Monday. An early-season "Nor'easter" storm was expected to hit the battered New England coast this week with strong winds and heavy rain.
Bloomberg urged those without power and heat to head to shelters where they could keep warm and receive food.
President Barack Obama, neck-and-neck in opinion polls with Republican challenger Mitt Romney, ordered emergency response officials to cut through government "red tape" and work without delay to help affected areas return to normal.
Officials have expressed concern about getting voters displaced by Sandy to polling stations for Tuesday's election. Scores of voting centers were rendered useless by the record surge of seawater in New York and New Jersey.
New Jersey is allowing voters displaced by Sandy to vote by email. Some voters in New York could be casting their ballots in tents.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday found that 68 percent of those surveyed approved of how Obama handled Sandy and just 15 percent disapproved.
The post-storm chaos in the region has overshadowed the final days of campaigning.
"I'm not thinking about the election too much right now," said Frank Carrol, 59, a retired New York City transit worker who lives in Staten Island. He planned to vote, but did not know if his local polling station would even be open. "We'll stop by and see what happens," Carrol said.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ordered county clerks to open on Saturday and Sunday to accommodate early voters and ensure a "full, fair and transparent open voting process."
New Jersey authorities also took the uncommon step of declaring that any voter displaced from their home by Sandy would be designated an overseas voter, which allows them to submit an absentee vote by fax or email.
The two new deaths in New Jersey - where the storm came shore last Monday night - included a 71-year-old man who suffered from hypothermia and another man, 55, who died from smoke inhalation in a house fire, police said on Sunday, raising that state's death toll to 24.
On Saturday, Bloomberg put New York City deaths at 41.
Sandy killed 69 people in the Caribbean before turning north and hammering the U.S. Eastern Seaboard on Monday with 80 mile-per-hour (130-kph) winds and a record surge of seawater that swallowed oceanside communities in New Jersey and New York, and flooded streets and subway tunnels in New York City.
As the biggest U.S. city slowly returns to normal, Bloomberg said the "vast majority" of New York's 1,750 public schools would reopen on Monday.
New York City's overstretched police got a break with the cancellation of Sunday's marathon, a popular annual race expected to draw more than 40,000 runners to the city.
Lara Duerrschmid, 27, was among the marathon runners boarding a ferry to help residents of Staten Island. "I know it's going to be tough to see (the damage), but I just wanted to do something good," she said.
Tight gasoline supplies have tested the patience of drivers - fistfights have broken out in mile-long lines of cars - but a reopened New York Harbor meant fuel was reaching terminals.
Bloomberg said the fuel shortages would be easing soon, and the U.S. Department of Energy confirmed on Saturday that most filling stations in the metropolitan area had fuel.
Some 731,490 customers in New York state were still without power, the governor's office said on Sunday. In Manhattan, electricity had been restored to most neighborhoods.
(Reporting by Reuters bureaus throughout the U.S. Northeast; Writing by Jonathan Spicer and Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Will Dunham)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7570 on: Nov 4th, 2012, 10:06am »
UFO enthusiasts admit the truth may not be out there after all
Declining numbers of “flying saucer” sightings and failure to establish proof of alien existence has led UFO enthusiasts to admit they might not exist after all.
By Jasper Copping 8:50AM GMT 04 Nov 2012
For decades, they have been scanning the skies for signs of alien activity.
But having failed to establish any evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial life, Britain’s UFO watchers are reaching the conclusion that the truth might not be out there after all.
Enthusiasts admit that a continued failure to provide proof and a decline in the number of “flying saucer” sightings suggests that aliens do not exist after all and could mean the end of “Ufology” – the study of UFOs – within the next decade.
Dozens of groups interested in the flying saucers and other unidentified craft have already closed because of lack of interest and next week one of the country’s foremost organisations involved in UFO research is holding a conference to discuss whether the subject has any future.
Dave Wood, chairman of the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (Assap), said the meeting had been called to address the crisis in the subject and see if UFOs were a thing of the past.
“It is certainly a possibility that in ten years time, it will be a dead subject,” he added.
“We look at these things on the balance of probabilities and this area of study has been ongoing for many decades.
“The lack of compelling evidence beyond the pure anecdotal suggests that on the balance of probabilities that nothing is out there.
“I think that any UFO researcher would tell you that 98 per cent of sightings that happen are very easily explainable. One of the conclusions to draw from that is that perhaps there isn’t anything there. The days of compelling eyewitness sightings seem to be over.”
He said that far from leading to an increase in UFO sightings and research, the advent of the internet had coincided with a decline.
Assap’s UFO cases have dropped by 96 per cent since 1988, while the number of other groups involved in UFO research has fallen from well over 100 in the 1990s to around 30 now.
Among those to have closed are the British Flying Saucer Bureau, the Northern UFO Network, and the Northern Anomalies Research Organisation.
As well as a fall in sightings and lack of proof, Mr Wood said the lack of new developments meant that the main focus for the dwindling numbers of enthusiasts was supposed UFO encounters that took place several decades ago and conspiracy theories that surround them.
In particular, he cited the Roswell incident, in 1947 when an alien spaceship is said to have crashed in New Mexico, and the Rendlesham incident in 1980, often described as the British equivalent, when airmen from a US airbase in Suffolk reported a spaceship landing.
Mr Wood added: “When you go to UFO conferences it is mainly people going over these old cases, rather than bringing new ones to the fore.
“There is a trend where a large proportion of UFO studies are tending towards conspiracy theories, which I don’t think is particularly helpful.”
The issue is to be debated at a summit at the University of Worcester on November 17 and the conclusions reported in the next edition of the association’s journal, Anomaly.
The organisation, which describes itself as an education and research charity, was established in 1981. Its first president was Michael Bentine, the comedian and member of the Goons.
It contains both sceptics and believers in UFOs and has been involved in several notable sightings and theories over the years.
Its current president Lionel Fanthorpe has claimed in its journal that King Arthur was an alien who came to Earth to save humans from invading extraterrestrials.
The summit follows the emergence earlier this year of the news that the Ministry of Defence was no longer investigating UFO sightings after ruling there is “no evidence” they pose a threat to the UK.
David Clark, a Sheffield Hallam University academic and the UFO adviser to the National Archives, said: “The subject is dead in that no one is seeing anything evidential.
“Look at all the people who now have personal cameras. If there was something flying around that was a structured object from somewhere else, you would have thought that someone would have come up with some convincing footage by now – but they haven’t.
“The reason why nothing is going on is because of the internet. If something happens now, the internet is there to help people get to the bottom of it and find an explanation.
“Before then, you had to send letters to people, who wouldn’t respond and you got this element of mystery and secrecy that means things were not explained.
“The classic cases like Roswell and Rendlesham are only classic cases because they were not investigated properly at the time.”
But Nick Pope, who ran the MoD’s UFO desk from 1991 to 1994 and now researches UFO sightings privately, said there was a future for the subject: “There’s a quantity versus quality issue here.
“So many UFO sightings these days are attributable to Chinese lanterns that more interesting sightings are sometimes overlooked.
“The same is true with photos and videos. There are so many fakes on YouTube and elsewhere, it would be easy to dismiss the whole subject out of hand.
“The danger is that we throw out the baby with the bathwater. And as I used to say at the MoD, the believers only have to be right once.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7571 on: Nov 4th, 2012, 10:10am »
New York Times
November 3, 2012 Close Army Ties of China’s New Leader Could Test the U.S. By JANE PERLEZ
BEIJING — On one of his many visits abroad in recent years, Xi Jinping, the presumptive new leader of China, met in 2009 with local Chinese residents in Mexico City, where in a relaxed atmosphere he indirectly criticized the United States.
“There are a few foreigners, with full bellies, who have nothing better to do than try to point fingers at our country,” Mr. Xi said, according to a tape broadcast on Hong Kong television. “China does not export revolution, hunger, poverty nor does China cause you any headaches. Just what else do you want?”
Mr. Xi is set to be elevated to the top post of the Chinese Communist Party at the 18th Party Congress scheduled to begin here on Nov. 8 — only two days after the American election. He will take the helm of a more confident China than the United States has ever known. He will be assuming supreme power in China at a time when relations between the two countries are adrift, sullied by suspicions over a clash of interests in Asia and by frequent attacks on China in the American presidential campaign.
In the last four months, China has forged an aggressive, more nationalistic posture in Asia that may set the tone for Mr. Xi’s expected decade-long tenure, analysts and diplomats say, pushing against American allies, particularly Japan, for what China considers its territorial imperatives. The son of a revolutionary general, Mr. Xi, 59, boasts far closer ties to China’s fast-growing military than the departing leader, Hu Jintao, had when he took office. As Mr. Xi rose through the ranks of the Communist Party, he made the most of parallel posts in the People’s Liberation Army, deeply familiarizing himself with the inner workings of the armed forces.
Even if Mr. Xi does not immediately become head of the crucial Central Military Commission as well as party leader, he will almost certainly do so within two years, giving him at least eight years as the direct overseer of the military.
This combination of political power as head of the Communist Party and good relations with a more robust military could make Mr. Xi a formidable leader for Washington to contend with, analysts and diplomats in China and the United States say.
“The basic question is whether Xi will suspend the drift in the U.S.-China relationship and take concrete steps to put it on a more positive footing — or will he put it on a different, more confrontational track?” said Christopher K. Johnson, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, and until recently a China analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency.
The answer appears to lie somewhere in between.
In a speech in Washington in February, Mr. Xi said that China and the United States should forge a “new type of relationship between major countries in the 21st century.”
Mr. Xi offered little specificity beyond respect for each side’s “core interests and major concerns,” “increasing mutual understanding and strategic trust” and “enhancing cooperation and coordination in international affairs.”
But essentially, said Jin Canrong, a professor at the School of International Studies at Renmin University in Beijing, Mr. Xi was challenging the global leadership of the United States by suggesting that Washington needs to make room for China’s rising power.
“China should shoulder some responsibility for the United States and the United States should share power with China,” Dr. Jin said. “The United States elites won’t like it,” he added, “but they will have to” accept it.
Dr. Jin predicted that the Chinese economy would continue to grow at a much faster pace than America’s. “That fact will change their minds,” Dr. Jin said of American attitudes toward sharing power with China.
Before becoming heir apparent — ascending at the last party congress in 2007 to the position of first secretary of the Communist Party and then a few months later to the vice presidency of the Chinese government — Mr. Xi had little exposure to the world beyond China.
Significantly, though, he spent much of his career before moving to Beijing in the coastal area of Fujian and Zhejiang Provinces across from Taiwan, which China regards as a breakaway province. In that capacity, he nurtured economic ties with Taiwan, and met frequently with Taiwan business leaders who made huge investments transforming the two provinces into one of China’s most powerful economic engines.
In 2003, when he was elevated from provincial governor to party chief in Zhejiang, the top position there, Mr. Xi kept the portfolio of relations with Taiwan, even though Taiwan affairs were usually relegated to the governor, said Joseph Wu, a former representative of Taiwan in Washington and a member of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party. In the medium term, Mr. Wu said, he expects Mr. Xi to be “tougher” in calling for greater integration between Taiwan and the mainland, a policy that Taiwan has resisted so far.
Since becoming vice president, Mr. Xi has visited more than 50 countries, a concerted effort to get to know the world before taking power, said Bo Zhiyue, senior research fellow at the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore, who tracks elite politics in China.
In contrast, Mr. Hu made 17 foreign visits during his tenure as vice president, Dr. Bo said.
One of the big changes from the past decade, when China’s foreign policy was focused on securing raw materials from abroad for its soaring domestic economy, will be a stronger emphasis on building up the military to protect China’s interests in Asia and expand its reach abroad. Mr. Xi is perfectly positioned to take on that role.
“The P.L.A. considers he is their man,” said Dr. Jin, the professor at Renmin University.
Mr. Xi will be in charge of a military whose budget almost certainly will grow at a pace with the economy, or even faster. The People’s Liberation Army is awaiting an array of sophisticated weaponry now under development, including space and long-range missiles capable of use against American aircraft carriers in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The question is how it plans to exploit them.
“There are voices in China saying that now that the military has the capacity, they should use them,” said Phillip C. Saunders, director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at the National Defense University in Washington.
As vice president, Mr. Xi has served as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission since 2010 under President Hu. As part of the brutal factional politics at the top of the Communist Party, Mr. Hu delayed Mr. Xi’s rise to the deputy post by one year, but that did little to undermine his longstanding ties to army leaders, Chinese officials say.
The Chinese military’s new buoyancy comes as America’s allies across Asia — Japan, South Korea, Australia and other friends, particularly Singapore and India — worry whether the United States has the money, and the will, to enhance its military presence in Asia, as President Obama has promised.
In this situation, China will try to make inroads across the region, Asian diplomats say.
But Mr. Xi, with his strong standing with military leaders, may also find himself called on at times to restrain the ambitions of the army. “Xi will have to guide strategy,” Dr. Saunders said. “Then he has to go back to the P.L.A. and say, ‘This is how it will be.’ That is potentially contentious.”
Even before his watch begins, many see the stiffer hand of Mr. Xi in disputes in the South China Sea with the Philippines and Vietnam and in the East China Sea with Japan.
Chinese officials and commentators have alluded recently to what they see as the need for Japan to distance itself from the United States, even forgo the mutual defense treaty with Washington.
When Mr. Xi met with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta in Beijing in September, he delivered “an earful,” and left the unmistakable message that the United States should stay out of the way in the standoff between Japan and China over claims to the disputed islands.
Many see that as a harbinger of an effort by Mr. Xi over the next decade to increase the power and presence of China in Asia, a region where the United States has held the upper hand since the end of World War II.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7572 on: Nov 4th, 2012, 10:15am »
SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden: Film Review 9:44 PM PDT 10/29/2012 by Tim Goodman
The National Geographic Channel might have won the race to be the first to portray the events that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden -- beating Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty to the big screen by rushing to the small screen Nov. 4 -- but it’s still too soon to say if being the first is the same as being the best.
Nat Geo will air SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden at 8 p.m. Sunday (and has opened in theaters internationally). The film comes from The Weinstein Co. and is directed by John Stockwell (Into the Blue, Turistas, Crazy/Beautiful) and produced by Nicolas Chartier, who was a producer on The Hurt Locker, Bigelow’s best picture Oscar winner.
Both SEAL Team Six and Zero Dark Thirty have been pre-emptively called enablers for President Obama, since the killing of bin Laden was a major coup for him. But SEAL Team Six will come under more scrutiny because it will air two days before the election and then be available the next day on Netflix.
Still, it’s hard to imagine this film -- or even the unseen, save for trailers, Zero Dark Thirty -- moving the needle on an election. Why? Because everyone in the world knows what happened and how it ended. The whole thing is in the history books. And with the publication of No Easy Day from SEAL member Mark Owen, it’s not like the world lacks for details if people really want to seek them out.
But if any Republicans are worried that this sneaky little move by Nat Geo and TWC could be a knockout blow or even a jab in next week's election, they should rest easy. That’s because the film really isn’t that good.
All the compelling parts are precisely as you’d imagine them to be: the intelligence reports that unearthed bin Laden’s whereabouts in Pakistan, the risk of every attack option, the stark reality that the intel might be wrong and the United States -- and, by extension, Obama -- would be embarrassed and finally the nerve-wracking mission itself.
It doesn’t take much of a genius or even a dramatist to understand that those are the core elements. In fact-based dramas, knowing the ending is a real hindrance because there’s no mystery or suspense. When the SEALs enter the compound, you know they’re not going to be killed. You know they’re going to get bin Laden, they’re going to get away and the near screw-up with one of the two helicopters going down in the compound is not going to ruin everything.
So where’s the drama? Technically, you don’t need any more drama than all of the action listed above; you just need a director and a budget that’s going to make the whole thing pulse-pounding and badass. Parts of SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden make that happen, but the 90-minute film misses the essential element that it needed (and Bigelow’s film will need): character development.
Stockwell’s film resorts to the now-boring conceit of having the participants talk to the camera. This exposition is not only a cheat, cutting corners by telling when it could be showing, but it never lets the audience feel anything for the characters. They are mostly cardboard cutouts.
SEAL Team Six stars Cam Gigandet as Stunner, the team leader; Anson Mount as Cherry, the more renegade SEAL who has trouble being led by the younger Stunner; rapper Xzibit (Alvin Joiner) playing Mule; Freddy Rodriguez as Trench; and Kenneth Miller as Sauce rounding out the team. Robert Knepper is billed as merely Lt. Commander.
The problem with that list is that Gigandet is allowed almost no time to show the audience he’s the team leader. Mount steals the better material and only in rare flashes do we learn anything about the others. In fact, there’s so little of Sauce in the film that he’s barely a seasoning. You can’t mine drama from characters you’re not manipulated into liking or loathing.
The person who gets the most mileage out of SEAL Team Six is Kathleen Robertson (Boss) as Vivian Hollins, the CIA analyst who has been hellbent on getting bin Laden since the Sept. 11 attack on the Twin Towers. There are two problems here. First, any fan of Homeland, the Showtime series that just swept the Emmys, will think is that Robertson is essentially Claire Danes playing Carrie, the CIA analyst hellbent on bringing down the fictional Abu Nazir after the Sept. 11 attacks. Robertson, who does great work on Boss, isn’t given anything remotely interesting for her character – like Carrie’s mental issues and her love of jazz – and instead gets the most clichéd, rote dialogue to read as she talks to the camera in those faux interviews.
Eddie Kay Thomas and William Fichtner are in this movie as well, but they are also ghosts who leave little memory for the viewer.
That’s not to say that some of the combat scenes in SEAL Team Six are not riveting, as is the aforementioned final days and minutes leading up to the raid on Bin Laden’s compound. But with almost no emotional interest in these undeveloped characters, the movie feels more like it was tossed together in an effort to be first on any screen – small or large.
SEAL Team Six is interspersed with photos and interviews of Obama and the players around him during that difficult decision process, and if you’re really into that sort of thing you could spot one or two moments that certainly looked like political ads. A photo of Obama mulling over something enormous certainly gives him gravitas and there’s more than a few shots with American flags after the news of Bin Laden’s death.
But this is a movie that feels like a documentary at times, a cheesy docudrama at others and some kind of slapped together film that wants to be taken seriously as well. Whatever you may think of how it was sewn together, SEAL Team Six isn’t particularly bad, it’s just not particularly good or interesting.
What is interesting is that in the Nat Geo press materials, Stockwell gets a page and a half for a “director’s statement,” then another page and a half for an essay called “Can a Movie Swing an Election?”
The latter isn’t particularly convincing and the former brings up interesting questions about the process that might have made for fantastic dramatic scenes. Unfortunately, they’re not in the movie. For example, here’s something Stockwell writes in his statement: “What if bin Laden had fled the compound when he heard the approaching choppers? Would we have pursued him through the streets of Abbottabad? What if the Pakistan military had shot down one of our helicopters; engaged in a firefight with our troops and took hostages; or used fighter jets? There were also suspicions that the house was rigged to explode or that the occupants had a cache of Stinger missiles and the enclosed rooftop patio was the perfect launching pad to take down the vulnerable hovering Blackhawks. What if large numbers of the women and children in the compound had been injured or killed? What if there had been Americancasualties? And the most potentially disastrous outcome – what if any of the above had happened, and the intended target of the raid wasn’t even there?”
What if, indeed.
Those are great questions raised by the director. But what if he was able to convey all of them more convincingly and more dramatically in the actual movie? That would have been something.