Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7575 on: Nov 5th, 2012, 08:18am »
New York Times
November 4, 2012 Housing Nightmare Looms in Wake of Storm By MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ
New York City officials said on Sunday that they faced the daunting challenge of finding homes for as many as 40,000 people who were left homeless after the devastation of last week’s storm, a situation that the city’s mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, compared to New Orleans’s after Hurricane Katrina.
The mayor said that the 40,000 figure was the worst possible case given by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and that a more realistic assessment was 20,000 people — most of them residents of public housing. Even in the best possible case, he said, the task will be formidable.
“We don’t have a lot of empty housing in this city,” Mr. Bloomberg said at a news conference on Sunday. “We are not going to let anybody go sleeping in the streets or go without blankets, but it’s a challenge, and we’re working on that as fast as we can.”
It is a task shared throughout the region, as officials in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut struggle to meet the demands of those whose homes have been left uninhabitable. In some cases, the solution may be a familiar, if unwelcome sight: the trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency after Hurricane Katrina.
Craig Fugate, director of the agency, said most displaced people would probably be housed in hotels or apartments. But in some regions, like Long Island with its many single-family homes and few large apartment blocks, he said there was a shortage of vacant housing.
“It has got to make sense for the neighborhood,” Mr. Fugate said, adding that it was up to the states to request the trailers. “We are going to bring all potential housing solutions and look at what works best for each neighborhood.”
Even as utility companies work to restore power to millions of customers, a northeaster, projected to land midweek, may hit the already battered coastal areas with heavy winds and strong waves that could cause more flooding and tear down power lines recently replaced and stop repair workers in their tracks. “The first concern is slowing the army that we’ve got down; the second is more outages,” said John Miksad, Consolidated Edison’s senior vice president for electric operations. “It certainly does complicate the restoration.”
A week after Hurricane Sandy tore through the region, millions have regained electricity, mass transit is on the mend, and volunteers have rushed in to help those who are desperate. On Sunday, some runners who had expected to compete in the New York City Marathon, which was canceled, instead pitched in to haul fallen trees and to distribute clothing and food in the city’s most heavily damaged regions. Others ran a modified marathon route in Central Park.
In many regions, power is still lacking and fuel is nowhere to be found. As of Sunday, the number of utility customers without power was over 1.8 million, the Energy Department said; that included more than 900,000 in New Jersey, 280,000 served by the Long Island Power Authority and 198,000 Con Edison customers — nearly half of them in Westchester County. Gas shortages persisted with rationing imposed in New Jersey and lines at some gas stations stretching for miles.
And with recovery times in some areas projected to last not days or weeks, but months, a sense of desperation appeared to have set in. In parts of Staten Island, Long Island and coastal New Jersey, many still reside in dank, waterlogged houses and survive on food handouts from federal agencies and the National Guard.
FEMA announced over the weekend that it would begin providing free hotel rooms for up to two weeks to victims whose homes are not habitable, as authorities try to move people out of emergency shelters. Individuals must register with the agency to get the assistance, which also in some cases can include rental assistance for temporary apartments.
As of 3 p.m. Sunday, 182,000 residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut had applied for disaster assistance, and a total of $158 million has been approved, he said. Some share of that total will need a temporary place to stay.
Word that some may have to leave their homes permanently caused further confusion and fear, particularly in public housing complexes heavily damaged by the storm.
At the Hammel Houses, a public housing complex in the Rockaways, saltwater stains from the storm surge were visible above first-floor windows, which like many in this part of New York City were all dark. “They tell us we might evacuate,” said Gloria Evans, 47, who has lived at apartment 1B at the houses since she moved there 26 years ago as a new mother.
“Are they going to help us? They can’t just move everyone out and have no place to put them,” she said.
It is still uncertain how many people would ultimately need housing, temporary or otherwise. In New Jersey alone, over 5,000 people remain in shelters and tens of thousands who evacuated their homes now reside with relatives and friends. Those with no homes to return to will have to find a new place to live.
“We lost a lot of housing here in New Jersey,” Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security secretary, said in Hoboken with Gov. Chris Christie. “We don’t even know yet which houses are reparable.”
In making his reference to Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Bloomberg said that to his recollection the number of displaced people in New York may have been similar to that in New Orleans. That estimation seemed inaccurate since several hundred thousand people were placed in federal housing in the months after that storm.
Officials were scrambling to prepare for the onset of cold weather. New York City has opened heating shelters and is passing out blankets to residents without electricity.
Temperatures throughout the region were expected to fall Sunday evening into the 30s, and the National Weather Service issued a freeze watch for parts of New Jersey, including the coast, the scene of some of the worst damage. Officials have urged residents across the region to head to shelters.
Volunteers were also trying to help. In the narrow streets of Midland Beach, one of the hardest hit areas on Staten Island, they carried hoes, rakes, brooms and shovels as they went door to door offering their labor. Others circled the blocks in pickup trucks full of food, blankets, clothes and cleaning supplies. Impromptu distribution centers, piled high with food and secondhand clothes, sprung up on every other corner.
On Sunday morning, runners dressed in orange marathon gear crowded onto the Staten Island Ferry and headed to the storm-ravaged borough to help. They packed blankets, food, water and flashlights in shoulder bags. Some planned to run to battered areas once the ferry docked.
“There are people suffering on Staten Island, and we’ve got to do something about it,” said Neil Cohen, 42, from Riverdale in the Bronx.
On Sunday, gas lines seemed slightly shorter in some places than in the previous few days, but many stations were still closed. The authorities set up three fuel depots in New Jersey to provide doctors and nurses with up to 15 gallons apiece to allow them to get to work.
The gas crisis in the New York metropolitan area appeared to be easing, according to information released late Sunday by the Energy Department. As of Sunday, only 27 percent of the gas stations in the region reported to be out of fuel, down from 67 percent on Friday.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a news conference that tankers and barges were on the way to ease shortages. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced that Port Elizabeth, N.J., reopened on Sunday to receive its first shipments. Other Port Authority seaports remained closed.
“We do believe it is a short-term problem,” Mr. Cuomo said, adding that shortages could continue for several days.
As for the subways, all of the numbered lines were running to some degree, said Joseph J. Lhota, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The No. 1 train has been extended south to 14th Street, and transit officials said they hoped that it would reach Rector Street by Monday. On Sunday evening, Mr. Lhota announced that Q train service had been partially restored to Kings Highway.
The South Ferry station, although the water has been pumped out, remains unusable. The L train from Brooklyn to Manhattan and the G train from Brooklyn to Queens also remain suspended with no estimated time for resuming service.
Mr. Lhota said trains would arrive at stations less often on Monday than on a normal weekday. “It’s an old system,” Mr. Lhota said in televised remarks. “It needs tender loving care, and it just had a major accident.”
Monday morning would also bring another change: the return to school of nearly a million children. About 96 percent of the city’s school buses are expected to be operating, and a vast majority of schools should be open, Mr. Bloomberg said. Students at closed schools will be sent to other locations, though the mayor said that keeping everyone informed about who goes where was proving difficult. The city has made over a million robocalls to parents and has purchased full-page advertisements in Monday’s newspapers with information about scheduling changes.
Mr. Bloomberg also set the stage for possible confusion at polling places during the election on Tuesday. About 143,000 voters in the city will be assigned to polling sites outside their districts, and the mayor expressed hope that the New York Board of Elections, which he has criticized for mismanagement, would be prepared.
Asked whether he thought the board was up to the task, he replied: “I have absolutely no idea.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7576 on: Nov 5th, 2012, 08:22am »
HSBC fears U.S. money laundering fines to top $1.5 billion
By Steve Slater and Matt Scuffham Mon Nov 5, 2012 7:12am EST
LONDON (Reuters) - A U.S. fine for anti-money laundering rule breaches could cost HSBC significantly more than $1.5 billion and is likely to lead to criminal charges, Europe's biggest bank said on Monday.
HSBC said the U.S. investigation had damaged the bank's reputation and forced it to set aside a further $800 million to cover a potential fine for breaches in anti-money laundering controls in Mexico, adding to $700 million put aside in July.
"It could be significantly higher," Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver told reporters on a conference call, saying the latest provision was based on discussions with the various U.S. authorities involved in the probe.
The timing of any settlement is in the hands of regulators and is likely to involve the filing of corporate criminal and civil charges, the bank said.
A U.S. Senate report in July slammed HSBC for letting clients shift potentially illicit funds from countries such as Mexico, Iran, the Cayman Islands, Saudi Arabia and Syria. HSBC had warned earlier in the year it could face criminal or civil charges as part of the investigation.
The London-based bank has said the issue was "shameful and embarrassing" after the report criticized a "pervasively polluted" culture at the bank and said HSBC's Mexican operations had moved $7 billion into its U.S. operations between 2007 and 2008.
"The report undoubtedly caused considerable reputational damage to HSBC. The extent to which that has resulted in loss of business is hard to measure, but it has undoubtedly damaged our brand," Gulliver said.
He said a number of staff had left the firm as a result of the investigation and a number had had pay clawed back.
Shares in HSBC were down 1.4 percent at 617.5 pence by 1130 GMT, slightly weaker than a fall in the European bank index.
"The money laundering provision is a concern, particularly given the uncertainty on what the final figure might be," said Richard Hunter, head of equities at stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown.
The issue is another blow for the reputation of British banks, after rival Barclays was fined $450 million in June for rigging Libor interest rates and the industry has had to set aside more than 12 billion pounds to compensate UK customers for mis-selling insurance products.
Gulliver said it would take time to clean up the mess.
"There's a whole series of things that came from probably a decade in the 2000 to 2008-09 period that have surfaced now that the industry needs to sort out, remediate, and make sure doesn't happen again.
"It will take a chunk of time to clean the system and then it will take a little bit longer than that for trust to be restored more fully," he said, adding that it was his job to get HSBC back to a position "where it's regarded as the best of the bunch".
HSBC Chairman Douglas Flint will appear before UK lawmakers investigating culture and standards later on Monday. He will be quizzed alongside new Barclays CEO Antony Jenkins and Santander UK boss Ana Botin at 1600 GMT.
COST CUTS, JOB CUTS
HSBC reported an underlying profit - after stripping out the impact of disposals and changes in the value of its own debt - in the July-September quarter of $5.0 billion, up from a revised $2.2 billion a year earlier.
It was helped by a bigger-than-expected drop in losses from bad debts and a solid performance by its investment bank arm.
Underlying operating expenses rose by 16 percent during the quarter from a year ago due to higher compliance and regulatory costs, which the bank said amounted to $200 million to $300 million.
Gulliver is well into a three-year restructuring plan to streamline the bank and he said he expects to surpass his target of cutting annual costs by $3.5 billion, after driving through $3.1 billion of savings already.
But subdued revenue growth and the higher compliance costs left its underlying cost/income ratio at 63.7 percent in the third quarter, well above his 48-52 percent target. Gulliver admitted hitting that was "proving challenging", but said he remained committed to delivering it by the end of 2013.
HSBC took another $357 million charge for mis-selling payment protection insurance in Britain, lifting the total amount set aside to $2.1 billion. The bank said it paid out $1 billion in compensation.
Gulliver said more job cuts were likely before the end of 2013 at his bank, whose origins date back to 1865 as a financier of trade between Europe and Asia and operates in 84 countries.
HSBC has cut almost 30,000 jobs in the last two years - close to what Gulliver had predicted under his revamp - although about half of those have been due to disposals. "In terms of the organic reduction, there's still some way to go," he said.
He has sold or closed 41 businesses as part of that plan, including selling its U.S. credit card arm and half of its U.S. branches, and said he was about three quarters of the way through that plan.
(Additional reporting by Sarah White; Editing by Philippa Fletcher)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7577 on: Nov 5th, 2012, 08:32am »
Researchers Help Green Light the Record-Breaking 425 Mph Jet Reaction Bike ScienceDaily (Nov. 2, 2012)
— Research at the University of Huddersfield could help ensure that a daring Briton soon becomes the fastest man on two wheels, reaching speeds of 425 miles per hour and beyond.
Richard Brown is determined to wrest back the world motorcycle land-speed record for Britain with his machine Jet Reaction, powered by an afterburning jet based on a helicopter engine (pictured being tested at RAF Benson). (Credit: Image courtesy of Jet Reaction)
Richard Brown is determined to wrest back the world motorcycle land-speed record for Britain with his machine Jet Reaction, powered by an afterburning jet based on a helicopter engine.
It develops massive power, but it has taken the team behind the project into new scientific and technological territory. How will a jet-powered two-wheeler behave at such speeds? The Jet Reaction engineers decided that in addition to their own aerodynamic tests they would call on experts with special expertise in flow science.
So they contacted Professor Rakesh Mishra of the University of Huddersfield and he agreed to carry out a detailed aerodynamic investigation of Jet Reaction. For this, he enlisted PhD researcher Taimoor Asim, who is a specialist in the increasingly important field of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD).
Richard Brown furnished Taimoor with computer files containing the design and the dimensions of Jet Reaction, and the Huddersfield researcher spent three months carrying out a detailed analysis of the ways in which air would flow around the elongated machine, with its specially-designed nose cone.
It was a complex task that needed the full power of a 12-core computer newly available to Taimoor.
"At such a high speed as 425 mph, the air becomes compressible. Modelling of compressible flows using Computational Fluid Dynamics is quite challenging," said Taimoor.
"Jet Reaction wanted to know if they would be able to attain that speed and if there are any safety risks involved. At such speeds, will the bike be stable enough?"
Taimoor ran a long series of computer simulations and found the project fascinating and valuable. It gave him a chance to investigate the effects of compressibility of air on the aerodynamic behaviour of a motorbike.
When the project was completed, the results were sent to Richard Brown. The University of Huddersfield researchers were then told that their data, using CFD techniques, was a close match to the experimental findings of the Jet Reaction team.
"We were very pleased to hear that!" said Taimoor.
Jet Reaction has paid tribute to the University of Huddersfield work: "When designing a vehicle to travel at very high speed, although aerodynamic principles are incorporated at the initial concept, it is essential to verify the principle applied.
"The main aim of this report was to analyse the aerodynamic effect on Jet Reaction as it reaches its target speed of 425 mph. This excellent report has verified the design and allowed Jet Reaction to continue to the next phase of manufacturing the bike."
Taimoor Asim, aged 27, was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and did his first degree there before coming to Huddersfield and scoring a distinction for his MSc in automotive systems. After two years lecturing in his home city he took up an opportunity to return to the University of Huddersfield for PhD study supervised by Professor Mishra.
Taimoor praises the environment and the facilities at Huddersfield and is keen to do further research once his PhD, now in its final year, is completed. Computational Fluid Dynamics is becoming vital in a wide range of industries, including oil and gas.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7578 on: Nov 5th, 2012, 08:40am »
Inside Lucasfilm's Tangled Web of Rights: What Disney Bought for $4B
Published: November 04, 2012 @ 6:39 pm by Brent Lang
The Walt Disney Company will have to untangle a complicated multi-studio web of rights in order to fully exploit its massive purchase last week of George Lucas' most memorable characters.
The Mouse House's deal to buy Lucasfilm is a near-total recall of its $4 billion purchase three years ago of comic-book company Marvel.
It's not just the dollar figures that were nearly identical. As with the comic-book company, Disney may have to shell out a hefty sum on top of the $4.05 billion it already spent to make the deal pay off, either by buying back rights or producing new films.
That's because any gold to be mined from those earlier space operas has to be shared with rivals.
The rights to the first film in the "Star Wars" franchise, retroactively titled "A New Hope," are wholly owned by 20th Century Fox, an individual with knowledge of the deal told TheWrap. And Fox's claim on Luke, Leia and Han Solo doesn't stop there. While Lucasfilm controls the other films in the series, Fox maintains theatrical and home-video distribution rights to those films through May, 2020, historically charging a fee of between 6 percent to 8 percent of receipts.
Disney claims that it has no immediate plans to exploit Lucasfilm's other crown jewel, the Indiana Jones franchise, but should it change that stance, it faces another barrier.
Paramount, which distributed all four films in the adventure franchise, has an option to distribute any future sequels, an individual with knowledge of the pact told TheWrap. It only earns a distribution fee for its pains, but that will eat into any profits for Disney.
Should another Indy film make it out of the gate, that fee will be on the order of what the studio charged to handle the 2008 rollout of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull": Roughly 12.5 percent of theatrical, home entertainment and television revenue.
It's a safe bet that Disney and its team of lawyers will be poring over contracts that Lucasfilm made with Paramount and particularly Fox to determine how expansive their claims on these films are and if they extend into digital avenues of distribution.
After all, in an industry struggling to compete with online streaming services like Netflix, the "Star Wars" films remain big sellers. When the six-disc set of "Star Wars: The Complete Saga," was released in 2011, it sold $84 million worth of Blu-rays worldwide in its first week of release and became the highest-selling Blu-ray catalog title in history.
Seth Willenson, a Hollywood valuation expert and consultant, believes that while the planned 3D re-releases of the "Star Wars" movies may generate substantial profits both in theaters and on Blu-ray and DVD, the series' true value is as a bulwark against the rapid evolution of entertainment -- an ecosystem that is being challenged by digital upstarts and new distribution streams daily.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7579 on: Nov 6th, 2012, 09:02am »
James Bond-style raid as axe-wielding bikers storm shopping centre
A gang of motorbike-riding raiders roars through a shopping centre during James Bond style smash-and-grab heist at a shopping centre jewellery store.
By John-Paul Ford Rojas 2:25PM GMT 06 Nov 2012
In a daring raid reminiscent of the opening scene of the new James Bond movie Skyfall - where Daniel Craig races through the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul - robbers, stormed into the Brent Cross shopping centre shortly after it opened this morning.
Police said six suspects travelling on three motorcycles pulled up near the entrance to New Look, before the three pillion passengers ran on foot towards the Fraser Hart store on the ground floor of the centre.
Armed with axes and bats, they smashed a glass display window before helping themselves to watches and jewellery, and fleeing back to the waiting vehicles which then headed towards Hendon.
The motorcycles were found around 15 minutes later near a golf course in the Mill Hill area. All the suspects were wearing dark clothing and helmets with the visors down.
No one was injured during the raid although and elderly man was treated for shock at the scene.
Seconds later the three bikes came roaring towards him past Clarks shoe store.
He told the Evening Standard said : “I did not have time to be frightened, the whole thing did not seem real.
“It was like the James Bond film, you could not believe something like this was happening inside Brent Cross.
“I just grabbed my camera phone and managed to get one picture. The guy on the front bike shouted something at me when he went past.
“The whole place was going mad. The women in John Lewis were screaming and the man in the jewellery store ran out after the robbers.
“Watches were just dropping off the motorbikes as they went. They accelerated away and I don’t know where they went after that.”
Detective Superintendent Mark Strugnell said: "We are appealing to anyone who may have seen the sequence of events at the shopping centre, which had only just opened its doors to its first shoppers only moments before, and to anyone who may have seen the three motorbikes being driven from Brent Cross to Mill Hill."
A spokesman for Brent Cross said: "We can confirm that there was an incident at the centre earlier this morning when there was an attempted robbery on a store at Brent Cross.
"The police have cordoned off a section of the centre to investigate the incident and we are assisting them with their enquiries.
"A small area is closed off to the public and Brent Cross staff are directing customers to alternative entrances. The majority of stores remain open as normal."
The raid was likened to the classic British crime caper The Italian Job, in which a gang of thieves led by Michael Caine makes off in Minis along staircases and through tunnels after a daring gold bullion raid in Turin.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7580 on: Nov 6th, 2012, 09:05am »
Putin Fires Defense Minister in Corruption Scandal Nov. 6, 2012 - 08:44AM By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Nov. 6 fired his defense minister over a corruption scandal, the most dramatic change to the government since he returned for a third Kremlin term amid rising discontent.
Putin replaced Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov — who had been implementing an unpopular but Kremlin-backed military reform — with Moscow region governor and former emergencies minister Sergei Shoigu.
Analysts said that the sacking of a top official who had enjoyed Putin’s unconditional support was aimed at instilling fear in the elites as the Russian strongman struggles with the worst political crisis of his almost 13-year rule.
Putin said Serdyukov, one of three people in Russia with access to nuclear launch codes, had been relieved of his duties so that a thorough investigation can proceed into a suspected $100 million property scam at a defense ministry holding company.
“Taking into consideration the situation around the defense ministry I have made a decision to relieve Defense Minister Serdyukov of his post in order to create conditions for an objective investigation of all the issues,” Putin said in televised remarks.
A former furniture salesman who rose to head the Russian tax authority, Serdyukov became the first civilian to serve as post-Soviet Russia’s defense minister when he was appointed in 2007.
His lack of military credentials and controversial military reform program earned him derision in the defense ministry as he tried to push through the army overhaul.
In the past, Putin had repeatedly resisted calls from within the military for Serdyukov to leave his post, even though he is believed to have made powerful enemies in the government and the Kremlin administration.
Serdyukov is the son-in-law of Viktor Zubkov, a former Russian deputy prime minister and a long-time Putin ally.
“There are no indispensable people for Putin,” a defense ministry source told AFP, adding that the military greeted Serdyukov’s sacking with “moderate joy.”
“This decision is very much in the spirit of Stalin,” Pavel Felgenhauer, a military commentator for opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, told AFP. “You need to keep the elites in fear.”
“Putin has decided to turn Serdyukov into an example of the fight against ‘elite’ corruption,” he added, noting he did not rule out that Serdyukov would be arrested and eventually prosecuted.
The Interfax news agency reported, citing the spokesman for the influential Investigative Committee, Vladimir Markin, that Serdyukov might be questioned as part of the ongoing probe.
Serdyukov’s sacking came on the heels of a probe into a defense ministry holding company and reports that Serdyukov had left his wife for a woman at his ministry.
Russian investigators had on Oct. 25 searched the offices of defense ministry holding company Rosoboronservis, in a highly unusual move after opening a criminal probe into a suspected $100 million property scam.
Serdyukov at the time was summoned for a meeting with Putin, which raised immediate questions about his future.
Compounding the embarrassment for Serdyukov was the fact that when investigators arrived at the home of one of the suspects last month, they found none other than the defense chief himself, the pro-Kremlin lifenews.ru website reported.
The 33-year-old woman, the former head of the defense ministry’s property department Yevgenia Vasilyeva, was living in a luxurious apartment and had an expensive collection of jewels, which security forces confiscated.
The defense minister’s sacking comes as the government is planning to dramatically ramp up military spending that experts say will come at the expense of financing education and medical care.
Putin said the new minister should be able to implement “grandiose plans to rearm the army and the fleet that have been put forward.”
“You can be that person,” Putin told Shoigu.
Shoigu is seen as one of Putin’s closest friends and allies, serving as emergency situations minister from 1994-2012. He was appointed to the key job of Moscow region governor only this year.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7581 on: Nov 6th, 2012, 09:08am »
Exclusive: China leaders consider internal democratic reform
By Benjamin Kang Lim and Michael Martina Tue Nov 6, 2012 6:45am EST
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's outgoing leader and his likely successor are pushing the ruling Communist Party to adopt a more democratic process this month for choosing a new leadership, sources said, in an attempt to boost its flagging legitimacy in the eyes of the public.
The extent of the reform would be unprecedented in communist China where elections for the highest tiers of the party, held every five years, have been mainly exercises in rubber-stamping candidates already agreed upon by party power-brokers.
The Communist Party, which has held unbroken power since 1949, is struggling to maintain its popular legitimacy in the face of rising inequality, corruption and environmental degradation, even as the economy continues to bound ahead.
President Hu Jintao and his heir, Xi Jinping, have proposed that the party's 18th Congress, which opens on Thursday, should hold elections for the elite Politburo where for the first time there would be more candidates than available seats, said three sources with ties to the party leadership.
The Politburo, currently 24 members, is the second-highest level of power in China from which the highest decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, is chosen.
They are chosen by the roughly 200 full members of the Central Committee which is in turn chosen by the more than 2,000 delegates at this week's Congress.
Under their proposal, there would be up to 20 percent more candidates than seats in the new Politburo in an election to be held next week, the sources said. It was unclear if competitive voting would also be extended to the Standing Committee.
"Hu wants expanding intra-party democracy to be one of his legacies," one source said, requesting anonymity to avoid repercussions for discussing secretive elite politics.
"It would also be good for Xi's image," the source added.
Xi is considered certain to replace Hu as party chief at the congress, with Li Keqiang, currently a vice premier, tipped to become his deputy in the once-in-a-decade transition to a new administration. Xi would then take over as president, and Li as premier, at the annual full session of parliament in March.
China experts said a more competitive election for the Politburo would mark a historic reform that could lead to surprises in the formation of Xi's administration, with wider implications for further political reform.
"This is a very, very important development," said Cheng Li, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
"It would provide a new source of legitimacy. It would not just be dark-box manipulation ... The party's legitimacy is so low that they must do something to uplift the public's confidence."
However, Li and other experts remained skeptical that the proposal would be adopted, given that it could still be vetoed by party elders or conservatives.
'OPENING UP THE GAME'
Under the proposal, a Politburo with, say, 25 seats would be contested by a maximum of 30 candidates, leaving five of the candidates put forward by party power-brokers at risk of defeat.
Given the Standing Committee is chosen from the Politburo, such a reform could also lead to surprises at the most elite level of the party, which is normally decided by painstaking consensus in a series of back-room negotiations.
China experts said that of the main candidates for both the Politburo and Standing Committee this time, there are a few whose chances could be improved in a competitive Politburo vote and some who would probably sweat over the outcome.
Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a Chinese politics expert at Hong Kong Baptist University, said such a vote might help reputed reformers such as Wang Yang, Guangdong party boss, and Li Yuanchao, head of the party's powerful organization department.
"It gives back a chance to leaders like Wang Yang or even Li Yuanchao to get elected, provided - and this is a big if - they are included on the candidacy list," Cabestan said.
Wang is well known for launching limited democratic reforms in the village of Wukan this year to quell an uprising, but his chances of reaching the Standing Committee came under question recently when sources said he had been left off a preferred list of candidates drawn up by Hu, Xi and former leader Jiang Zemin.
However, front-runner Liu Yunshan, the party's propaganda chief, could have the most to fear from a more democratic vote, said Chen Ziming, an independent scholar of politics in Beijing.
"Many people do not like his work," Chen said. "They also have to take public opinion into consideration," he added.
Sources said the Hu-Xi proposal would also significantly extend the competitiveness of elections to the party's third tier, the Central Committee, a body of roughly 200 members where a very limited form of competitive voting already takes place.
At the last congress in 2007, there were 8 percent more candidates than seats for the Central Committee, up from 5 percent in 2002, according to Central Party School professor Gao Xinmin writing in the Study Times, a party mouthpiece.
Under the proposal, that could rise to up to 40 percent this time, the sources said.
The State Council Information Office, which doubles as the party spokesman's office, declined immediate comment.
The Hu-Xi proposal has been put forward at a time when the party is split between leftists who worry about major economic inequalities that have opened up after three decades of free-market reforms and those who want to accelerate those reforms.
The split revealed itself dramatically this year in the downfall of Politburo member Bo Xilai, a favorite of the left, in a murder scandal in which his wife was implicated and jailed. Bo has been expelled from the party and is to stand trial on charges including corruption.
"If you extend the (number of candidates) then the level of uncertainty opens the game up and allows people to compete and maybe coalitions to form within the party," said Cabestan of Hong Kong Baptist University.
"It opens the game in both direction - for friends of Bo Xilai as well," he added.
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Mark Bendeich and Jonathan Thatcher)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7582 on: Nov 6th, 2012, 09:15am »
Watch the world fall apart in 1st footage from World War Z
By Krystal Clark 9:28AM on Nov 6, 2012
The countdown for World War Z in on. In a couple of days, Paramount will release the first trailer for the zombie epic. But why wait when you can get a sneak peek at the footage now?
It feels like we've been waiting for World War Z forever. To say it's had a troubled production would be an understatement. After countless delays and budget concerns, it's finally heading to theaters. Based on Max Brooks' hit novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, the film centers on a United Nations employee (Brad Pitt) who races against time to stop a zombie pandemic.
The creatures quickly topple governments and destroy armies in their wake. No one is safe, and no one can be trusted. The trailer showcases global hysteria, followed by complete destruction.
World War Z opens June 21, 2013, and co-stars Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox and David Morse
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7583 on: Nov 7th, 2012, 08:24am »
Greece to vote on austerity, protests intensify
By Michael Winfrey and Karolina Tagaris Wed Nov 7, 2012 2:55am EST
ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's coalition government hopes to overcome its own divisions and defy protesters' fury at parliament's gates on Wednesday to push through an austerity package needed to secure an injection of aid and avert bankruptcy.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is expected to narrowly win support for the budget cuts, tax hikes and labor reforms. The smallest party in his conservative-liberal coalition oppose the measures, leaving him with a margin of just a handful of votes.
Tens of thousands of union workers plan to descend on the assembly in a second day of a nationwide strike that has brought most public transport to a halt, shut schools, banks and government offices, and caused garbage to pile up on streets.
Backed by the leftist opposition, unions say the measures will hit the poor and spare the wealthy, while deepening a five year recession that has wiped out a fifth of the Mediterranean country's output and driven unemployment to 25 percent.
"If lawmakers vote in favor of the measures... they will have committed the biggest ever political and social crime against the country and the people," said Nikos Kioutsoukis, secretary general of the private umbrella union GSEE.
"We won't let them destroy the country."
The wage cuts and tax hikes amounting to 13.5 billion euros by 2016 will unlock a loan tranche of more than 31 billion euros ($39.63 billion) from a European Union/International Monetary Fund bailout.
The bailout was put on hold in recent months when it emerged Greece had fallen far short of earlier fiscal commitments.
The vote is the biggest test for Samaras's government since it came to power in June. A 'yes' vote will give Athens cash to shore up its ailing banks and pay off debt coming due late this month. A 'no' could rend apart the fragile coalition.
Jean Claude Junker, chairman of the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, said Greece had no choice but to continue painful cuts in its bloated public sector.
"Our Greek friends have no options or choice," he told the Foreign Correspondents' Association in Singapore.
"They have to do it. And my impression is that the reforms which are (being) undertaken in Greece are increasingly better understood by the Greek citizens."
DIVISION OVER LABOUR
Samaras has said the package will comprise the last cuts to wages and pensions, cold comfort for middle class Greeks, whose living standards have plummeted in repeated deficit-slashing schemes that have hit wage earners and retirees hardest.
"You live in constant fear and uncertainty. You never know what's waiting for you around the corner," said Panos Goutsis, 58, who works in a small corner shop in Athens.
"How many times will they tell us these are the last measures? We're sick of hearing it."
The austerity measures are accompanied by steps to make it easier for businesses to hire and fire workers, including reductions to severance pay and the warning employers must give workers before they let them go.
The junior ruling Democratic Left party has refused to support these, saying they have no bearing on Greece's fiscal targets under the bailout plan. A handful of MPs from the second ruling party, Socialist PASOK, have also wavered.
But the Democratic Left has pledged to vote "present" rather than "no" to the measures, which should allow Samaras's New Democracy and the remaining PASOK MPs to win a vote expected late on Wednesday with around 154 of Parliament's 300 seats.
The small leftist party has also said it will back the 2013 budget in a vote on Sunday, a second hurdle Greece must clear to receive the aid tranche and seen as a confidence vote in the government.
The protests will put deputies under added pressure, as throngs of detractors are expected to gather on parliament's doorstep in Syntagma Square, frequently the site of violent clashes between black-hooded demonstrators and police.
Crowd numbers are seen eclipsing the 16,000 that showed up in marches on Tuesday, union leaders said, as Greeks look for a way to denounce a government they accuse of sparing the country's wealthy from feeling the pain of the crisis.
"They've taken everything we have - our money, our jobs, our lives - and they won't stop until they've finished us off to satisfy the Europeans," said Popi Alexaki, 40, a former nurse in a dentist's office who lost her job in August.
"They make me sick. Enough, enough, enough!" ($1 = 0.7823 euros)
(Additional reporting by Lefteris Papadimas and Kevin Lim; Writing by Michael Winfrey; Editing by Peter Graff and Anna Willard)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7584 on: Nov 7th, 2012, 08:31am »
Nov. 7, 1905: Remote Control Wows Public By Randy Alfred November 7, 2011 | 6:30 am Categories: 20th century, Gadgets, Inventions
1905: Spanish engineer Leonardo Torres-Quevedo uses a radio remote controller to operate a boat more than a mile away in the Bilbao estuary. The crowd is amazed.
Guglielmo Marconi’s famous wireless demonstration at London’s Toynbee Hall in 1896 used a fixed telegraph-key transmitter to ring a bell attached to a receiver that a colleague carried around the room. You could debate whether ringing a bell is just sending a signal or remotely controlling a device.
Nikola Tesla patented a wireless device for “controlling mechanism of moving vessels or vehicles” in 1898 and demonstrated a radio-controlled boat at New York’s Madison Square Garden the same year.
Torres-Quevedo (aka Torres Quevedo and Torres y Quevedo) began his work around 1901, as a way of testing dirigibles without risking human life. He built a prototype of his Telekine (or Telekino in Spanish, both from the Greek for distance-motion) and obtained patents in 1902 and 1903. He was soon able to control a tricycle almost 100 feet away, using a telegraph key to make it go back and forth and to steer it left and right.
He went on to test small boats in a pond at Madrid’s Royal Country House in 1905. But the big public demonstration came in Bilbao late that year.
Torres-Quevedo stationed himself on the balcony of the yacht club. The boat, the Vizcaya, carried eight passengers (.pdf).
The Telekine aboard would receive radiotelegraph commands to control the Vizcaya’s electric engine. Using just a wireless telegraph station, Torres-Quevedo guided the boat from the yacht club to the middle of the estuary, executed turns and reverses, and brought her back in.
Christian Hülsmeyer’s January 1906 patent application for radar precursor included a channeling technique to ensure a device would respond only to the signals intended for it. He off-handedly suggested the same technique could also be used turning lights and other switches on and off. But Hülsmeyer’s invention never went anywhere.
Marconi, Tesla and Hülsmeyer notwithstanding, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers recognized Torres-Quevedo as the originator of “modern wireless remote-control operation principles.”
Torres-Quevedo’s advances in dirigible engineering helped the British and French armies to counter the aerial domination by Germany’s zeppelins during World War I. He also designed the Aero Car cable ride over the Niagara Whirlpool in Canada.
The remote control you know best is for television. The first wireless TV remote was the Zenith Space Commander in 1956. It relied on ultrasonic tones and was a big hit, even though it upped the cost of the TV set 30 percent. Ultrasonic remotes were superseded in the 1980s by infrared control.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7585 on: Nov 7th, 2012, 08:36am »
Brian Cox and his Stargazing Live crew were banned from searching for life on a newly discovered planet because BBC bosses feared aliens may breach editorial guidelines.
By Nick Collins, Science Correspondent 1:58PM GMT 07 Nov 2012
Prof Cox, who hosts the show with comedian Dara O'Briain, said he had hoped to point the Jodrell Bank telescope at the planet Threapleton Holmes B after it was discovered live on air last year and listen for signs of life.
But he claimed he was prevented from doing so because the Corporation was concerned that any aliens discovered on the planet could swear or violate other BBC regulations.
Speaking on the BBC Radio 6 Music breakfast show on Wednesday, Prof Cox said: "The BBC actually said 'You can't do that. We need to go through the regulations and health and safety and everything in case we discover a signal from an alien civilisation'.
"[I said], you mean we would discover the first hint that there is other intelligent life in the universe beyond Earth, live on air, and you're worried about the health and safety of it?
"It was incredible. They did have guidelines. Compliance!"
The incident was not the only time that producers have failed to appreciate the significance of a potential discovery of alien life, Prof Cox added.
The Stargazing Live team had considered filming a feature on Mars which would ask the audience to help search for signs of geological activity which could point to past or current life on the planet.
"Someone from the BBC said to me, 'Would there have to be a prize if someone discovered it?'" he said.
"[I said], what do you mean? You're going to say to someone: 'You discovered the first evidence for alien life beyond Earth, and here's a book voucher as well? You think that's going to make it better? Nectar points?'"
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7587 on: Nov 8th, 2012, 08:22am »
Congress to continue probes of Benghazi attacks
By Mark Hosenball Wed Nov 7, 2012 3:55pm EST
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Just because the election is over, that does not mean that U.S. President Barack Obama is going to get an easy ride over his administration's handling of the September 11 attacks on U.S. missions in Benghazi, Libya.
While Republican attacks on Obama over the handling of the assault, which killed four Americans including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, became a major part of the campaign in recent weeks, an investigator said on Wednesday the inquiry was never related to the election.
With majority control of the House of Representatives, Obama's Republican critics will continue to wield broad investigative powers, including the ability to subpoena evidence and testimony from administration officials.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which held a contentious hearing in early October on the Benghazi attacks, will continue its investigation, a spokesman for the committee said.
The Republican vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, said his panel would proceed with its review of the Benghazi attacks.
Investigators seek to understand "how terrorists were able to successfully breach our diplomatic facilities, why the administration obscured the role of al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists in its presentations to the American people, and why there appears to be a lack of urgency in finding and holding accountable those responsible for the deaths of four Americans," Chambliss wrote in an email to Reuters. He also said the investigation was never related to the campaign.
The office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who chairs the committee, could not be immediately reached for comment. Last month, Feinstein announced that the panel would hold a closed oversight hearing about Benghazi on November 15, with additional hearings to follow.
A spokesman for the White House had no comment on the Congressional inquiries and the State Department did not respond to an email requesting comment.
One step Capitol Hill investigators might take is to conduct on-site visits to Libya to pursue their inquiries, said a Republican Congressional aide.
Republicans also want to investigate the questions of who set a policy under which security measures at U.S. diplomatic posts in Libya were supposed to be inconspicuous and convey an appearance of normality, and what the Obama administration knew about the reliability of Libyan militias on which U.S. diplomats in Benghazi relied for security.
The aide said congressional investigators may also seek to examine whether security measures at other diplomatic posts in the region, and elsewhere around the world, match up to intelligence reporting on potential threats.
U.S. officials now acknowledge that in the months before the attacks, there was extensive intelligence reporting about the activities of Islamic militants in the Benghazi area. They also acknowledge that within hours of the Benghazi attacks, the U.S. had information indicating that people affiliated with three militant movements - Ansar al Sharia, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Egypt based Muhammad Jamal group - were likely involved in the attack.
During the final phase of the attack - in which mortar rounds were fired at the CIA's relatively well-fortified Benghazi base, killing two security officers - the attackers also managed within a space of a few minutes to adjust the aim of the mortar, indicating what multiple government officials said was some measure of skill or training on their part.
Before the election, some Republicans harshly attacked the Obama administration for making public statements that played up the possibility - subsequently discredited by intelligence reports - that the assaults were a spontaneous protest against a U.S. made anti-Islamic video, while playing down the involvement of militants.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7588 on: Nov 8th, 2012, 08:25am »
Boeing To Trim Executive Ranks, Shuffle Defense Unit Nov. 7, 2012 - 01:28PM By ZACHARY FRYER-BIGGS
Looking to reduce costs, the Boeing Co. announced Nov. 7 that it would make a number of moves within its Boeing Defense Systems (BDS) unit to cut overhead, including the elimination of many executive positions.
Targeting a 30 percent reduction in executive positions by the end of 2012 compared with 2010, the company will also look to cut facility space, the company said.
To achieve the reduction in executives, the company is consolidating a number of its organizations within BDS:
• Mobility, which is responsible for the V-22 and C-17, among other programs, will join Surveillance & Engagement in the Boeing Military Aircraft group to form the Mobility, Surveillance & Engagement division. The fixed-wing aircraft currently in Mobility’s portfolio will follow the division to its new home.
• Rotary wing aircraft such as the V-22 and the CH-47, which were previously part of the Mobility group, and the AH-6, which was part of the Global Strike division, will become the responsibility of a new Vertical Lift division.
• Weapons programs that were previously part of the Missiles and Unmanned Airborne Systems division, such as the Small Diameter Bomb, will be moved to the Global Strike division.
• The Electronic & Mission Systems and Information Solutions groups will be joined to form an Electronic & Information Solutions division.
Boeing isn’t the first company to shake up its divisions in recent months in the hopes of prying loose executives and cutting cost. Lockheed similarly shuffled its divisions in October, targeting $50 million per year in salary savings by cutting roughly 200 jobs that were largely executive positions.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7589 on: Nov 8th, 2012, 08:39am »
Asian hornets are at "the gates of Paris" as the dangerous, bee-killing invaders sweep through France towards Britain, experts have warned.
By Henry Samuel, Paris 12:54PM GMT 08 Nov 2012
The death of a man stung this week by several of the black and yellow-striped Chinese interlopers has exacerbated fears of attacks in the French capital, home to 300 beehives – the hornets' principle source of food.
News of the insect's rapid advance north came as France officially declared the pest a "harmful and invasive exotic species" – a move that could lead to a nationwide bid to eradicate the invader.
The species Vespa velutina is thought to have arrived in southwestern France from the Far East in a consignment of Chinese pottery in late 2004.
Unmistakable due to their dark hue and yellow feet, the hornets quickly spread to surrounding areas along waterways, thriving due to a total lack of indigenous predators.
They have now colonised 39 of France's 100 departments, with a nest discovered last month in Jouy-en-Josas, just south of Versailles and only 10 miles from Paris' city centre.
With their arrival now imminent, the Paris town hall is launching a campaign to trap the pests.
Beekeepers at the Jardin du Luxembourg and on the roofs of the Opera Garnier and other landmarks are at the ready with traps and may even employ human hornet sentries to ward off attacks.
The predators hover over hives and pluck honeybees in mid-air, ripping out their juicy thoraxes. A handful can destroy a beehive within hours.
Unlike in Asia, where honeybees form a ball of workers around the intruder and kill it by heatstroke, French bees have yet to come up with a defence strategy.
On Monday, a 54-year old married father of three died in Coron, a village near the Loire wine-growing village of Saumur, died after disturbing a nest while cutting his hedge.
Fabienne Giboudeaux, deputy Paris mayor in charge of green areas and biodiversity warned against hysteria. "While the hornet is dangerous, one sting is not deadly for a human. But we need to be prepared and be able to locate the nests and think about prevention", she told Le Parisien.
Franck Muller of the Museum of National History in Paris recently predicted that the hornet could cross into Britain by 2014.
"We have modelled its potential spread by cross-checking data from France and Asia, and concluded it is capable of living anywhere in Europe and certainly in Britain," said Mr Muller.