Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7590 on: Nov 8th, 2012, 08:53am »
Originally published November 7, 2012 at 4:56 PM Page modified November 8, 2012 at 6:00 AM
U.S. marijuana vote may have snowball effect in Latin America
One expert said that if U.S. states such as Colorado and Washington could permit a system for consumption of marijuana that didn't cause usage to soar, "it could mark a snowball effect on Latin America."
By Tim Johnson McClatchy Newspapers
MEXICO CITY — Voters in Colorado and Washington state who approved the recreational use of marijuana Tuesday sent a salvo from the ballot box that will ricochet around Latin America, a region that's faced decades of bloodshed from the U.S.-led war on drugs.
Experts said the moves were likely to give momentum to countries such as Uruguay that are marching toward legalization, to undercut Mexican criminal gangs and to embolden those who demand greater debate about how to combat illegal substances.
"The trend is toward legalization," said Jorge Castaneda, a former Mexican foreign minister who's an advocate for decriminalization.
The decision by voters in Colorado and Washington to legalize marijuana for recreational use puts those states — the first to approve outright legalization — at loggerheads not only with the federal government but also with global treaties that label marijuana a controlled substance.
U.S. diplomats in Latin America said Wednesday that President Obama would hold firm against efforts to soften drug laws.
"The government of my president is totally against any initiative that weakens rules or laws on the sale or offering of illegal drugs," P. Michael McKinley, the U.S. ambassador to Colombia, told Caracol Radio there.
Uruguay, a small South American nation led by a former leftist guerrilla, has moved ahead since August on a proposal to legalize marijuana under a government monopoly.
"Chile also has a bill before its Congress. I'm guessing that Argentina may also follow suit. This will go from south to north," Hope said.
He added, however, that change would come over years, not months.
"We need to tamp down some of the expectations. None of this will happen quickly," he said.
Castaneda concurred, saying marijuana legalization remains "a radioactive issue" and the contours of the debate will change only with time.
Experts said nations — or states within nations — couldn't easily buck global treaties that included marijuana as a criminal substance.
"It's a direct breach of the 1961 U.N. convention on narcotic drugs," said Martin Jelsma, a Dutch scholar on drug-control laws at the Transnational Institute, a center in the Netherlands that advocates for less punitive global-drug policies.
Jelsma said nations and states "will have to find a way to reconcile" their laws with the global treaty, which has some 190 signatories. Some may choose to follow the path of Bolivia, which said in the middle of last year that it would withdraw from the convention to protest the U.N. classification of coca leaf as an illegal substance. Many indigenous people in the Andes chew coca leaf as a medicinal and social practice.
Jelsma said that if U.S. states such as Colorado and Washington could impose a regime of control on marijuana that didn't cause usage to soar, "it could mark a snowball effect on Latin America."
Among those unhappy with moves to legalize marijuana are likely to be Mexican organized-crime groups, which earn billions of dollars a year smuggling pot to the United States.
A study published last month by the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, a nonpartisan-research center that examines the effects of globalization, said that as much as a third of crime groups' revenue came from smuggling pot.
Hope, a co-author of the study, said crime groups, particularly the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, could "lose 24 percent of their gross-export revenues" as U.S. states softened laws on marijuana.
"This would reshape the Mexican criminal underworld in interesting ways," he said, including slashing the number of jobs involved in smuggling an estimated 2,000 tons of marijuana northward each year.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7592 on: Nov 9th, 2012, 08:54am »
Fri Nov 9, 2012 9:01am EST
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Import prices rose more than expected in October but price hikes for imported oil slowed, pointing to only modest inflation pressures.
Import prices climbed 0.5 percent last month, the Labor Department said on Friday.
Driving the overall gain, the cost of petroleum imports increased 1.3 percent during the month. America imports much of the fuel it consumes, and higher prices at the pump threaten to hurt consumers' pocket books.
But the increase in the cost of imported oil was well below the 4.7 percent gain in September and the 6.2 percent increase in August.
Analysts had expected overall import prices would be flat.
U.S. stock index futures dipped and were on track to post their worst week in five months as the euro zone crisis was seen hitting France and Germany and investors fretted over the possibility the United States could raise taxes and cut government spending in 2013. Prices for U.S. Treasuries rose.
Still, there were signs that foreign suppliers of goods and services had a little more leverage to raise prices last month.
Non-petroleum import prices rose 0.3 percent in October, the biggest gain since March. Prices for imported consumer goods other than cars rose 0.2 percent.
The U.S. economy has shown some signs of perking up in recent months, with consumers spending more readily and housing construction picking up.
Prices for imports from Canada rose 0.5 percent, while those from Mexico gained 0.4 percent. Prices from China, however, dropped 0.3 percent. The three countries are America's biggest trading partners.
Despite stronger consumer spending, factory output in the United States has looked relatively weak, with businesses investing less and exporters troubled by the European debt crisis and the cooling global economy.
In October, export prices were unchanged, the Labor Department said.
(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7593 on: Nov 9th, 2012, 08:58am »
New York Times
November 8, 2012 Missteps by Rebels Erode Their Support Among Syrians By ANNE BARNARD
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syria’s rebel fighters — who have long staked claim to the moral high ground for battling dictatorship — are losing crucial support from a public increasingly disgusted by the actions of some rebels, including poorly planned missions, senseless destruction, criminal behavior and the coldblooded killing of prisoners.
The shift in mood presents more than just a public relations problem for the loosely knit militants of the Free Syrian Army, who rely on their supporters to survive the government’s superior firepower. A dampening of that support undermines the rebels’ ability to fight and win what has become a devastating war of attrition, perpetuating the violence that has left nearly 40,000 dead, hundreds of thousands in refugee camps and more than a million forced from their homes.
The rebel shortcomings have been compounded by changes in the opposition, from a force of civilians and defected soldiers who took up arms after the government used lethal force on peaceful protesters to one that is increasingly seeded with extremist jihadis. That radicalization has divided the fighters’ supporters and made Western nations more reluctant to give rebels the arms that might help break the intensifying deadlock. Instead, foreign leaders are struggling to find indirect ways to help oust Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.
And now arrogance and missteps are draining enthusiasm from some of the fighters’ core supporters.
“They were supposed to be the people on whom we depend to build a civil society,” lamented a civilian activist in Saraqib, a northern town where rebels were videotaped executing a group of unarmed Syrian soldiers, an act the United Nations has declared a likely war crime.
An activist in Aleppo, Ahmed, who like some of the others who were interviewed gave only one name for security reasons, said he had begged rebels not to camp in a neighborhood telecommunications office. But they did, and government attacks knocked out phone service.
One fighter shot into the air when customers at a bakery did not let him cut into a long line for bread, Ahmed recalled. Another, he said, was enraged when a man washing his car accidentally splashed him. “He shot at him,” Ahmed said. “But thank God he wasn’t a good shot, so the guy wasn’t hurt.”
Twenty months into what is now a civil war, both supporters and opponents of the government are trapped in a darkening mood of despair, revulsion and fear that neither side can end the conflict. In recent months, both sides adopted more brutal — even desperate — methods to try to break the stalemate, but they achieved merely a new version of deadlock. To many Syrians, the extreme violence seems all the more pointless for the lack of results.
The most significant shift is among the rebels’ supporters, who chant slogans not only condemning the government but also criticizing the rebels.
“The people want the reform of the Free Syrian Army,” crowds have called out. “We love you. Correct your path.”
Small acts of petty humiliation and atrocities like executions have led many more Syrians to believe that some rebels are as depraved as the government they fight. The activist from Saraqib said he saw rebels force government soldiers from a milk factory, then destroy it, even though residents needed the milk and had good relations with the owner.
“They shelled the factory and stole everything,” the activist said. “Those are repulsive acts.”
Even some of the uprising’s staunchest supporters are beginning to fear that Syria’s sufferings — lost lives, fraying social fabric, destroyed heritage — are for naught.
“We thought freedom was so near,” said a fighter calling himself Abu Ahmed, his voice catching with grief as he spoke via Skype last month from Maarat al-Noaman, a strategic town on the Aleppo-Damascus highway. Hours earlier, a rebel victory there ended in disaster, as government airstrikes pulverized civilians returning to what they thought was safety.
“This shows it was a big lie,” Abu Ahmed said of the dream of self-government that he said had inspired him to lead a small rebel fighting group from his nearby village, Sinbol. “We cannot reach it. We can’t even think of democracy — we will be sad for years. We are losing victims from both sides.”
A chain of calamities has fueled disgust and frustration on all sides, dozens of interviews with Syrians show.
In July, a rebel bombing killed four senior officials in a heavily guarded Damascus building, bringing new insecurity to government supporters. The rebels’ growing use of large bombs that kill bystanders spurred concerns on both sides.
Poorly executed rebel offensives brought harsh consequences. In September, rebels launched an offensive in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, an ancient town that stood for centuries as the proud legacy of all Syrians. The fighting failed to achieve the turning point the rebels had promised.
The government, trying to curb soldiers’ defections and reduce the strain on the military, kept more forces on bases and turned to air power and artillery, flattening neighborhoods with abandon. But the change in strategy did not restore control or security.
After seeing a rebel bombing and small-arms attack on a downtown Damascus government building, a chauffeur for a wealthy businessman complained that conspicuous security measures made him “live in fear” — without being effective.
“I want someone from the government to answer me,” he said. “The government cannot protect its key military and security buildings, so how can it protect us and run the country?”
Even within Mr. Assad’s most solid base, his minority Alawite sect, discontent spilled over last month in a clash that began in a coffee shop in the president’s ancestral village, Qardaha. Some were shaken recently by heavy casualties in the disproportionately Alawite military and militias, according to Fadi Saad, who runs a Facebook page called Alawites in the Syrian Revolution.
On the rebel side, the Aleppo battle catalyzed simmering frustrations among civilian activists who feel dominated by gunmen. One Aleppo activist said she met with fighters to suggest ways to cut government supply routes without destroying the city, to no avail. “You risked the lives of the people for what?” the activist asked. “The Free Syrian Army is just cutting the nails of the regime. We want results.”
Nominal leaders of the Free Syrian Army say they embrace ethical standards, contend that the government commits the vast majority of abuses and blame rogue groups for bad rebel behavior.
But that did not ease the disgust after last week’s video. It shows men writhing on the ground, staring up and screaming in terror. Rebels stand over them, shouting a cacophony of orders and insults. They move like a gang, not a military unit, jostling and crowding, kicking prisoners, forcing them into a pile. Suddenly, automatic weapons fire drowns out the noise. Puffs of dust rise from the pile, now still.
“All the ugly stuff the regime practiced, the F.S.A. is copying,” Anna, a finance worker in Damascus, said of recent behavior.
She blamed the government for making society abusive, but she said the rebels were no better. “They are ignorant people with weapons,” she said.
In Maarat al-Noaman after the airstrikes, the disappointed fighter, Abu Ahmed, said Syrians would weep to see destruction in the city of “our famous poet and philosopher,” Abu al-Alaa al-Ma’arri.
The poet, a skeptic and rationalist born in the 10th century and buried in the town, wrote often of disillusion, and of the fallibility of would-be heroes: “How many times have our feet trodden beneath the dust / A brow of the arrogant, a skull of the debonair?”
Abu Ahmed said he found the town’s mosaic museum looted and littered first by soldiers, then by rebels. “I saw bodies of both rebels and regime forces, I saw beer bottles,” he said. “Honestly, honestly, words are stuck in my mouth.”
Hala Droubi contributed reporting from Beirut, and an employee of The New York Times from Aleppo and Damascus, Syria.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7594 on: Nov 9th, 2012, 09:05am »
The Hobbit Could Send Movie Fans on Unexpected Journeys — or Start a Nerd War
By Lewis Wallace 11.08.12 7:58 PM
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will make Tolkien fans face their own epic decision: Which format will they see Peter Jackson’s movie in? The call they make might send them on their own unexpected journey — or launch a nerdy war over the latest movie technology.
The first installment of Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy is the first movie ever shown in the controversial new high-frame-rate format, dubbed “HFR,” that displays the film at 48 frames per second (twice the standard). HFR’s extra-crisp image met mixed reviews in early screenings.
While the combination of the geeky Lord of the Rings fan base and cutting-edge movie technology should kill at the box office, it could also be a new source of nerd outrage, according to Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at Boxoffice.com.
“They have this sense of what a Lord of the Rings movie looks and feels like. So, if you mess around with that, it’s potentially dangerous,” Contrino told Wired by phone. “I could see hard-core fans loving [HFR], and loving the realism, and I can also see hard-core fans saying, ‘No, don’t mess with something that works. Give me the version of Lord of the Rings that I like.’ You know, you’re talking about the same crowd that bashes everything new that comes out in the Star Wars universe.”
Like 3-D, which got a giant boost when Avatar wowed the world, HFR is the movie industry’s latest shiny new technology aimed at filling cinema seats. But like 3-D, HFR has its detractors: While HFR is Jackson’s preferred format, footage screened at movie industry convention CinemaCon this spring left some viewers grumbling.
“It reminds me of when I first saw Blu-ray, in that it takes away that warm feeling of film,” an anonymous theater chain owner told Variety after the Las Vegas screening. “It looked to me like a behind-the-scenes featurette.”
Contrino, who saw the 10 or 12 minutes of unfinished 2-D Hobbit footage shown at CinemaCon, called the depth of focus and clarity of the image amazing, but said it could be “a jarring experience.” While he admitted that “reactions were less than enthusiastic,” he said anybody claiming HFR will meet an untimely death is akin to naysayers in the early days of cinema who groused about the additions of sound and color.
“Do I want to be the one that bets against new technology? No.” Contrino said. “Nothing is perfect when it starts.” While he hasn’t seen any 3-D HFR footage, he predicted that the two would be a perfect fit.
In addition to the potential controversy over the high-def imagery, HFR adds another acronym to the alphabet soup of formats ready to baffle moviegoers. Anyone shopping online for an advance ticket to The Hobbit will see the movie listed in six formats: HFR Imax 3-D, HFR 3-D, Imax 3-D, Imax 2-D, regular 3-D and boring old 2-D. To make matters worse (or better, depending on your taste for the latest tech), there’s an audio wild card: A few theaters will be screening the film using Dolby’s new 64-channel Atmos sound system, an option that could increase bewilderment.
Since not all theaters can show the movie in all formats, viewers set on a certain type of experience will need to do some advance legwork to locate the appropriate theater. Moviegoers hoping to catch the film in the highest-possible definition might be facing their own unexpected journey: Only 450 U.S. theaters are equipped for HFR screenings, according to the Los Angeles Times, so road trips might be in order.
Many movie fans and Tolkien freaks will undoubtedly be seeking out their first look at the latest technology. To ease the search, Tolkien superfan site TheOneRing.net has compiled a Hobbit Theater Cheat Sheet that breaks down exactly which formats the movie will be shown in at various locations. It might not be quite as magical as Thorin’s map, but it’s still incredibly useful.
Made up your mind on the best format for you? Tickets for The Hobbit went on sale Wednesday. The movie is making a strong showing, with 33 percent of tickets sold through Fandango, putting it ahead of two big competitors: new James Bond movie Skyfall (31 percent) and sparkly vampire flick The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 (28 percent), according to figures provided to Wired by the ticket retailer.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7595 on: Nov 9th, 2012, 09:23am »
Feel-Good Hormone Helps Jog Memory, Finds Study of Seniors ScienceDaily (Nov. 8, 2012)
— The feel-good hormone dopamine improves long-term memory. This is the finding of a team lead by Emrah Düzel, neuroscientist at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) and the University of Magdeburg. The researchers investigated test subjects ranging in age from 65 to 75 years, who were given a precursor of dopamine. Treated subjects performed better in a memory test than a comparison group, who had taken a placebo. The study provides new insights into the formation of long lasting memories and also has implications for understanding why memories fade more rapidly following the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
The results appear in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Dopamine is a multi-faced neurotransmitter. It provides communication between nerve cells as well as between nerve and muscle cells. If this signal transmission becomes disturbed, the consequences can be dramatic. This is illustrated by Parkinson's disease, whose symptoms -- akinesia and other movement disorders -- can be traced back to a lack of dopamine. On the other hand, when someone is pleased or motivated, a flood of dopamine is released in the brain, which is why the term "feel-good hormone" has become popular. There have already been indications of the special role of dopamine in forming long-lasting memories for some time. The signs came from various studies and also from the fact that rewarding incidents and other important events can usually be remembered for a long time. Researchers led by Düzel, who is also affiliated with University College London, have now been able to confirm this effect in older people.
"Our investigations for the first time prove that dopamine has an effect on episodic memory. This is the part of long-term memory, which allows us to recall actual events. Occurrences in which we were personally involved," Düzel says. The Site Speaker of the DZNE in Magdeburg and Director of the Institute of Cognitive Neurology and Dementia Research at the University of Magdeburg adds: "Episodic memory is that part of our capacity to remember, which is first affected in Alzheimer's dementia. This is why our results can contribute to a better understanding of the disease."
In particular animal studies have indicated that to store experiences permanently the brain has to release dopamine. Düzel and his colleagues examined whether this also applies to humans: the task of the test subjects ranging in age from 65 to 75 years was to recognise photos which they had been shown previously. Half of the test participants had first taken a placebo and the remainder had taken Levodopa. This substance, also known as L-DOPA, is able to reach the brain from the bloodstream, and there it is converted into dopamine. In this way the researchers could exercise a targeted influence over dopamine levels in the brains of the test subjects. "Neurons, which produce dopamine, decline with age," Düzel says. "Increasing dopamine levels in these elderly subjects, should show a clear effect." The neuroscientist mentions another reason for undertaking the study with older people: „In old age the episodic memory declines. This is why the topic we are investigating is particularly relevant for elderly people."
The participants were first shown black and white photos of indoor scenes and landscapes. They were to differentiate these images from others, which they had not seen before. When they first viewed the pictures brain activity of the participants was monitored using fMRT, a special form of magnetic resonance tomography. The photos which triggered hardly any activity in the memory centre were of particular interest to the neuroscientists. The reason: If this brain area is only slightly active, then it should cause little or no dopamine release. "In such cases the memory of these pictures should gradually fade. As they have been encoded only weakly," Düzel says, "we wanted to find out whether the memory of these pictures could nevertheless persist."
Effect after six hours
Two and six hours after the participants had memorized the photos, they were requested to recognise and distinguish them from new images.
In the test after two hours there was no significant difference between participants who had taken Levodopa and those who had consumed a placebo. However, after six hours memory performance changed. Test subjects with Levodopa recognised up to 20 per cent more photos than the members of the comparison group. The ratio between the amount of Levodopa taken and the body weight of the test subjects proved to be decisive for an optimal dose. "This confirms our assumption that dopamine contributes to anchoring memories in the brain on a permanent basis. You might say it improves the survival chances of memory content," Düzel indicates. "Our study also shows that the survival of memories can be regulated, regardless of how strong these were originally encoded. This is a new finding."
But why did the effect emerge only after six hours? Düzel sees the cause in the way in which the brain stores memories. "When memories are encoded, certain changes take place at the nerve endings, the so-called synapses," he explains. "This activation is however only temporary, and afterwards the state of synapses change back again. This is unless dopamine is available so that newly formed synapses can be stabilised over a long period of time." The test after two hours must still have taken place during the period of short-term synaptic activation, according to the neuroscientist. Both test subject groups therefore had similarly good results. However, at the later time the memories of the test participants with the placebo had already started to fade. Now, the influence of the dopamine was noticeable for the other test subjects.
In this study participants had taken the dopamine precursor before memorizing. The finding that the persistence of memories can be influenced -- independent of whether memory encoding was weak or strong -- might open the way to further investigation. "It is conceivable that participants might receive the supplement at a later stage," Düzel says. "The idea is that they learn something, then take dopamine afterwards and still don't forget what they have learnt."
In addition, the study gives food for thought for the treatment of Alzheimer's dementia. "The episodic memory suffers substantially when affected by Alzheimer's. Our results show that in addition to current forms of treatment, which chiefly target certain protein deposits in the brain, other aspects should also be taken into consideration," Düzel says. "Here dopamine and the so-called neuromodulatory systems, which release chemical messengers into the brain are of particular importance. But so far, research into this topic is still in its infancy."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7596 on: Nov 9th, 2012, 2:22pm »
CIA Director Petraeus resigns: intelligence official
Fri Nov 9, 2012 3:16pm EST
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - CIA Director David Petraeus has submitted a letter of resignation to President Barack Obama, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on Friday.
"Dave's decision to step down represents the loss of one of our nation's most respected public servants," Clapper said in a statement without giving a reason for the resignation.
White House spokesman Jay Carney did not provide any details but said: "We'll have something from the president on it today."
Petraeus said in a message to the CIA workforce that he was resigning because of an extramarital affair.
"After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours," Petraeus said.
(Reporting By Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Jackie Frank)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7599 on: Nov 11th, 2012, 08:18am »
FBI probe of Petraeus began with "suspicious emails"
By Tabassum Zakaria and Mark Hosenball Sun Nov 11, 2012 1:02am EST
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The FBI investigation that led to the discovery of CIA Director David Petraeus' affair with author Paula Broadwell was sparked by "suspicious emails" from her to another woman and Petraeus was not the target of the probe, U.S. law enforcement and security officials told Reuters on Saturday.
But the CIA director's name unexpectedly turned up in the course of the investigation, two officials and two other sources briefed on the matter said.
The FBI was looking into "an issue with two women and they stumbled across the affair with Petraeus," a U.S. government security source said.
The FBI probe was triggered when Broadwell sent threatening emails to an unidentified woman close to the CIA director, a security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. It was unclear what the relationship of the woman who received the emails was to Petraeus.
The woman went to the FBI complaining of cyber harassment and the law enforcement agency traced the threats to Broadwell, the security official said. The FBI then uncovered explicit emails between Petraeus and Broadwell, The Washington Post reported.
Attempts by Reuters and other news media to reach Broadwell, an Army reserve officer and author of a biography of Petraeus, have not been successful.
The FBI and CIA declined comment on Saturday.
Many questions in the case remain unanswered publicly, including the identity of the second woman; the precise nature of the emails that launched the FBI investigation; and whether U.S. security was compromised in any way.
Nor is it clear why the FBI waited until Election Day to tell Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who oversees the CIA and other intelligence agencies, about its investigation involving Petraeus.
In attempting to explain the time between Petraeus' FBI interview two weeks earlier and the DNI's notification on Election Day, the security official said there had been no evidence any crime had been committed.
The CIA director announced his resignation suddenly on Friday, acknowledging an extramarital affair and saying he showed "extremely poor judgment.
The developments likely ended the public career of one of the United States' most highly regarded generals, who was credited with helping pull Iraq out of civil war and led U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
New details emerged on Saturday about developments in the final days leading to Petraeus' departure from atop the CIA.
Clapper was notified by the FBI on Tuesday evening about 5 p.m. - just as returns in the U.S. presidential election were about to come in - about "the situation involving Director Petraeus," a senior intelligence official said. Clapper and Petraeus then spoke that evening and the following morning.
WHITE HOUSE NOTIFIED WEDNESDAY
"Director Clapper, as a friend and a colleague and a fellow general officer, advised Director Petraeus that he should do the right thing and he should step down," the official said.
Clapper is a retired Air Force lieutenant general; Petraeus served nearly four decades in the U.S. Army and retired as a four-star general.
On Wednesday, Clapper notified the National Security Council at the White House that Petraeus was considering resigning and President Barack Obama should be informed, the official said.
U.S. law enforcement, security and intelligence officials agreed to discuss the Petraeus matter only on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity and because it is the subject of a law enforcement investigation.
Once Petraeus' name turned up in the investigation, the importance of the FBI inquiry was immediately escalated, as investigators became concerned the CIA chief somehow might have been compromised, the law enforcement official said.
However, the official and two sources briefed on the matter said no evidence has turned up suggesting Petraeus had become vulnerable to espionage or blackmail. At this point, it appears unlikely that anyone will be charged with a crime as a result of the investigation, the official said.
The FBI investigation began fairly recently - months rather than years ago, when Petraeus would still have been in uniform as one of the U.S. Army's top field commanders, the official said.
Representative Peter King, Republican chairman of the House of Representatives' Homeland Security Committee, said in an interview on MSNBC: "It's hard to believe this went on for four or five months at this level without the president or somebody in the White House being told about it by the FBI. I would have thought the FBI had an absolute obligation to tell the president when this type of investigation is going on."
"And then we're told the White House was told about it the very day after the election is (over). It raises a lot of questions. I'm not into conspiracy theories but this one just doesn't add up," said King, who is a frequent critic of the White House.
FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce and acting CIA Director Michael Morell will separately brief the chairman and top Democrat of the House intelligence committee on Wednesday about Petraeus, a committee aide told Reuters.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a Republican, is "very concerned and has got a lot of questions," the aide said.
Several officials briefed on the matter said senior officials at the Pentagon, CIA and Congress knew nothing of the FBI's investigation of Petraeus until Thursday afternoon at the earliest, and some key officials were not briefed on the details until Friday.
There is no evidence at this time that anyone at the White House had knowledge of the situation involving Petraeus prior to the U.S. presidential election on Tuesday, which saw Obama elected to a second four-year term.
Another U.S. government security source said it was not until Friday afternoon that some members of the House and Senate intelligence oversight committees were notified about Petraeus' resignation by Clapper's office.
The congressional committees were told that it was a personal issue that Petraeus had to discuss with his wife. When pressed, a representative of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said it involved another woman.
(Writing by Warren Strobel; Additional reporting by Doug Palmer and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Todd Eastham and Eric Walsh)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7600 on: Nov 11th, 2012, 08:22am »
For China’s next first lady, a lowered profile
By William Wan, Published: November 10
BEIJING — Next week, when her husband is expected to be introduced as China’s new leader, Peng Liyuan will probably be out of sight.
Her image won’t be splashed across any front pages; her name is likely to go unmentioned on state-run TV’s breathless coverage of China’s once-a-decade leadership transition.
Such is the fate of first ladies in China.
No Michelle Obama-style advocacy. Nor Jackie Kennedy-like glamour. Simply the expectation that one will fade into the black cloak of secrecy that surrounds all of China’s leaders.
And yet if anyone could break free of that muted tradition, it would be Peng, one of China’s most recognizable folk singers.
For most of her marriage to China’s current vice president, Xi Jinping, her fame has eclipsed his. A civilian member of the Chinese army’s musicale troupe, she was admired by hundreds of millions for her annual performances on state television’s New Year’s Eve shows. And according to people who have met her, she exudes an easy grace, a confident grasp of conversational English and a seemingly sincere heart for charitable causes.
“If this were the West, one would say she has the perfect requirements for being a leader’s wife: beauty, stage presence, public approval,” said one party intellectual, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid jeopardizing his work teaching future government officials at party schools. “But things are different in China.”
Here, the names of top leaders’ wives are blocked on search engines and censored from microblogs. Even the most innocuous articles about them are often scrubbed from existence.
It all stems from a traditional Chinese fear of women in politics, said Hung Huang, a fashion editor whose mother served as English tutor to Mao Zedong, the country’s first Communist leader.
“In China, unfortunately, women and power mix like oil and water,” she said. “You see it in some of our traditional proverbs warning against the dangers of beautiful women and powerful men.”
No one embodied those fears more than Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, whose grab for power, purge from the party and death by suicide remains a cautionary tale taught in middle schools across China.
The latest example emerged this year with Gu Kailai — wife of purged Communist leader Bo Xilai — who was depicted at her murder trial as an emotional, paranoid and scheming woman who poisoned a British businessman.
Out of the spotlight
Against that stereotype, vibrant, positive female role models in China’s political world are sorely lacking.
Few people even know the name of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s wife, Liu Yongqing, and even fewer could point her out in a crowd.
Hu’s predecessor, Jiang Zemin, occasionally took his wife, Wang Yeping, on trips abroad, but little is known about her beyond a smattering of details gathered by media overseas, beyond the reach of censors.
Following suit, Peng, 49, began lowering her own profile as a singer in 2007, after her husband emerged as the likely appointee to the presidency. Once famous for wistfully crooning popular patriotic songs of the 1980s and 1990s, she quit the annual New Year’s show altogether the next year and stopped performing except for at a handful of charity and Communist Party-related events.
She now rarely is seen with Xi, 59, and never talks about her husband of more than 20 years in public.
At the same time, she has taken new roles that allow her some public exposure, albeit within fairly controlled environments. She became a volunteer for the government’s work on AIDS in 2006 and its ambassador for tobacco control in 2009. Last year, she was appointed ambassador for the fight against tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS for the World Health Organization.
“She doesn’t keep her distance from people,” said Zhang Ying, president of a non-governmental organization that helps AIDS orphans in Anhui province. Zhang has worked on the issue repeatedly with Peng, most recently in September, and described her as down-to-earth, chatting freely with other volunteers about her own daughter, asking questions about their families. She was also a patient woman, Zhang said, entertaining orphans with songs during the difficult filming of public-service announcements.
A chef in Zhejiang province — whose restaurant Peng often frequented while Xi was that region’s party chief — recalled how long Peng waited on her first visit, arriving without a reservation. She had dressed down, making her harder to recognize.
“She didn’t know reservations were required, so there were no tables free,” he said. “One word to the waiters that she was the wife of a party secretary and she would have had a table, but she never mentioned it,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because talking about top leaders’ families in China is discouraged. “Later, she also came with her parents and her daughter, but never together with her husband.”
Background stories lacking
Few articles have been written about her relationship with Xi, and the ones that have survived censors often detail them in sickly sweet Communist caricature: hardworking husband torn between duty to country and to family; his supportive, caring wife eager to be with him but knowing her country needs him more.
One such interview — the most in-depth so far on the topic — was posted online in 2006 by a small, local state-run media group, without the permission of central authorities, according to a media official within the party, speaking anonymously to detail internal decisions.
In that article, which has since been scrubbed from many Web sites, Peng described their first date in 1986 and how she deliberately wore ugly army trousers to see if Xi would be attracted to her personality rather than her looks.
Instead of asking her about popular songs or her earnings as a music star, she said, he veered toward the philosophical: “How many different techniques are there for singing?”
“I was moved at that time. ‘Isn’t he the one I want in my heart? He has a simple heart but is thoughtful,’ ” she said in the interview, noting that Xi also later told her, “I recognized that you were the one to be my wife less than 40 minutes after we met.”
Such media appeal and Peng’s ease at handling the spotlight after decades as a singer could give her husband a boost on trips abroad, experts say.
“It’s a terrific thing for China to have someone with that glamour, culture and prominence representing them abroad,” said Robert Kuhn, author of “How China’s Leaders Think.” “It humanizes China a little and breaks them out of that stereotype of the stiff, gray soviet suits behind a podium.”
How she will play domestically, however, is less clear.
“To be honest, I don’t know how much she’ll be able to reverse pressure of tradition and take on a more prominent first-wife role,” one former party official said. “Leaders may think the risk is too great and the benefit domestically limited. After all, our leaders aren’t elected, so it’s not like the West where a spouse is needed to boost approval ratings.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7601 on: Nov 11th, 2012, 08:25am »
Elbit Sues Israeli Gov’t Over Turkish Contract Default Nov. 9, 2012 - 11:40AM By Barbara Opall-Rome
TEL AVIV — Israel’s Elbit Systems is suing the Israeli government for some $74 million in damages due to revoked MoD export licenses for a long-range aerial photography program for the Turkish Air Force.
The Haifa-based firm announced Nov. 8 that its subsidiary, Elop Ltd,. “was compelled” to file suit following “unsuccessful efforts to reach an appropriate compensatory settlement” with the government.
It marked the first time in Elbit’s history that the privately held, publicly traded firm took legal action against its host government. Due to sensitive security and defense trade information likely to be aired by plaintiffs and defendants alike, the government has imposed a media blackout during the entire course of closed-door proceedings.
The case in question stems from a 2005, $141 million contract with Turkey between prime contractor Elop and Elta Systems, a subsidiary of state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), for Lorop reconnaissance pods for Turkish Phantom fighters that had been upgraded by IAI. Technical and competitive business hurdles forced a temporary suspension of the contract, but after active intervention from Israel’s MoD and the Israel Air Force — with whom the Turkish Air Force was cooperating intensively at the time — the program was reinitiated in 2009.
But late last year, in response to deteriorating ties with Ankara over Israel’s 2008 incursion into Gaza, the killing of nine activists during an Israeli raid of a Gaza-bound Turkish ship, and Turkey’s expanding strategic ties with Iran, Israel’s MoD took the unusual step of barring both firms from completing deliveries of the sophisticated spy system.
The decision exposed Elta to $55 million in lost revenue while Elbit reported losses of $90 million due to write-offs and other costs associated with the terminated program.
At the time, executives from both firms voiced understanding for the strategic and political considerations driving the government’s decision to scrap the program, yet insisted they be compensated for termination liabilities incurred through no fault of their own.
“It’s an unprecedented step, but just as the government has sovereign obligations, Elbit as a private company has responsibilities to its shareholders,” an industry executive said Nov. 9.
As of press time Nov. 9, MoD had not issued a statement in response to the Elbit lawsuit.
As a government-owned company, industry executives expect IAI to wait patiently for positive resolution of two export licensing issues pertaining to Turkey. In addition to the $55 million in damages due to the terminated Lorop program, IAI’s Elta risks losing its lucrative position as preferred subcontractor to Boeing on the high-profile U.S.-Turkish Peace Eagle airborne early warning and control program.
IAI has been lobbying for more than a year for permission to deliver the last two of four Elta-produced electronic support systems ordered by the Seattle-based firm. Early last September, as part of the government’s clampdown on defense technology transfers to Turkey, MoD decided to hold, rather than suspend, Elta’s export license to Boeing.
Without near-term resolution, industry sources say Boeing may be forced to declare Elta in default. Such a step, industry sources say, would cause considerable damage to Elta’s reputation as a reliable supplier, expose the firm to liability penalties and compel Boeing to select another supplier for the electronic subsystems.
“There’s a danger that Boeing will have to declare force majeure and kick us out of this prestigious program, which we hope will serve as a springboard for major future business,” an Israeli executive said in an interview last year.
IAI declined comment on its ongoing deliberations with MoD over the two Turkish-related export issues, but an industry source said the sides are making progress “toward positive accommodation, at least on the matter of lifting the license hold to Boeing.”
Boeing plans to deliver the first Peace Eagle aircraft by the end of the year, and the remaining three planes are expected to enter service toward the end of 2013.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7602 on: Nov 11th, 2012, 08:28am »
Times of India
Over 100 UFOs seen along China border Nov 6, 2012, 05.15AM IST
NEW DELHI: The Army troops deployed along the China border from Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh in northeast have reported more than 100 sightings of "Unidentified Flying Objects" (UFOs) in the last three months.
Agencies including the Army, DRDO, NTRO and the ITBP have not yet been able to identify these luminous flying objects.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7603 on: Nov 12th, 2012, 08:53am »
New York Times
November 11, 2012 Wave of Evictions Leads to Homeless Crisis in Spain By SUZANNE DALEY
SEVILLE, Spain — The first night after Francisco Rodríguez Flores, 71, and his wife, Ana López Corral, 67, were evicted from their small apartment here after falling behind on their mortgage, they slept in the entrance hall of their building. Their daughters, both unemployed and living with them, slept in a neighbor’s van.
“It was the worst thing ever,” Mrs. López said recently, studying her hands. “You can’t image what it felt like to be there in that hall. It’s a story you can’t really tell because it is not the same as living it.”
Things are somewhat better now. The Rodríguezes are among the 36 families who have taken over a luxury apartment block here that had been vacant for three years. There is no electricity. The water was recently cut off, and there is the fear that the authorities will evict them once again. But, Mrs. López says, they are not living on the street — at least not yet.
The number of Spanish families facing eviction continues to mount at a dizzying pace — hundreds a day, housing advocates say. The problem has become so acute that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has promised to announce emergency measures on Monday, though what they may be remains unclear.
While some are able to move in with family members, a growing number, like the Rodríguezes, have no such option. Their relatives are in no better shape than they are, and Spain has virtually no emergency shelter system for families.
For some, the pressure has been too much to bear. In recent weeks, a 53-year-old man in Granada hanged himself just hours before he was to be evicted, and a 53-year-old woman in Bilbao jumped to her death as court officials arrived at her door.
Yet at the same time, the country is dotted with empty housing of all kinds, perhaps as many as two million units, by some estimates. Experts say more and more of the evicted — who face a lifetime of debt and a system of blacklisting that makes it virtually impossible for them to rent — are increasingly taking over vacant properties or moving back into their old homes after they have been seized.
Sometimes neighbors report such activities. But often, experts say, they do not. It is a temporary and often anxious existence. But many see no alternative.
The Rodríguezes fell behind in their payments trying to help their daughters, who both lost their jobs and have three children between them. Their daughters had come to live with them after being evicted themselves. “I could not let my children and my grandchildren starve,” said Mrs. López, who used to work as a cleaner in a home for the elderly.
No one tracks the number of squatters. But Rafael Martín Sanz, the president of a real estate management company, says squatting has become so common that some real estate companies are reluctant to put signs on the outsides of buildings indicating that an apartment is available.
“The joke is that half the people touring apartments that are on the market are actually just picking out which apartment they want to squat in,” he said.
Most of the evictions take place quietly, with embarrassed families dropping the keys off at the banks. But in some working-class neighborhoods, there are weekly clashes with the police and bank officials, as housing advocates and volunteers try to resist the evictions.
In Madrid’s Carabanchel neighborhood, a crowd protesting outside a basement apartment recently shouted “shame on you” to a cluster of bank and court officials who had come to evict Edward Hernández and his family. But Mr. Hernández’s lawyer, Rafael Mayoral, sized up the picture and predicted he would be able to negotiate a postponement. The crowd of supporters, he said, outnumbered the police officers.
Mr. Hernández, 38, who worked in construction, bought the apartment for $320,000 in 2006, but he lost his job three years later, he said. He thought he had negotiated with his bank to pay less for a while. But one day, he said, he got a letter saying that his apartment had been auctioned.
Mr. Hernández and his wife have their eye on an empty apartment they intend to occupy. Failing that, the couple will have to split up, he said. His wife would go back to live with her mother, who is behind in her own mortgage payments and already housing her other adult children. Mr. Hernández would live with his brother, who lives with his young family in a studio apartment.
By the end of the morning, bank and court officials had agreed to postpone Mr. Hernández’s eviction for six weeks. He still faces a debt of more than $330,000, more than he paid for the apartment. In Spain, mortgage holders are personally liable for the full amount of their mortgages. Then penalty interest charges and tens of thousands of dollars in court fees are added at foreclosure. Bankruptcy is no answer, either — mortgage debt is excluded.
Trying to stem the flow of homeless, the Spanish government has asked the banks to adhere to a code of conduct that protects, to some degree, the very poorest Spaniards, and many of the banks have signed on. But advocates say that the code offers relief to such a narrow slice of homeowners — those who have no working adults in their household and who paid less than $260,000 for their homes — that it is unlikely to have much effect.
Elena Cortés, the councilor for public works and housing for Andalusia, the region that includes Seville, said that during the boom years the government rarely built any low-income housing. On top of that, the country has never had much rental property. Now, as families are evicted they have nowhere to turn. In a written statement, Spain’s banking association, the A.E.B., said banks were looking to avoid evictions whenever they could through negotiation.
The Rodríguezes began living in the luxury block, Corrala Utopía, in May with only a few belongings, a move that was organized by members of the 15-M movement, the name given to people who became organized after the countrywide protests that began on May 15 last year. One member of the group, Juanjo García Marín, said the property was chosen because it was mired in legal proceedings that might give the families more time to stay there.
Neighbors have given them furniture, and donations of food arrive most days. On a recent evening, Mrs. López was using a generator to keep her lights on and her refrigerator running. Others in the building also have generators, but some cannot afford the gasoline to keep them running.
After dinner, Mrs. López’s 13-year-old grandson arrived, announcing that he needed a place to do his homework. His mother’s apartment upstairs had no lights.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7604 on: Nov 12th, 2012, 08:58am »
NSA Outs Top-Secret Report That Missed the Future of Supercomputing
By Robert McMillan 11.12.12 6:30 AM
The mid-1990s were dark years for the National Security Agency. Its budget had been slashed, top technical talent was seeping out, and the company that made its supercomputers was in trouble.
You can get a sense of the agency’s worry — and its myopia — in a top-secret report on the state of supercomputing that the U.S. spy agency recently declassified.
Originally published in the winter 1995 edition of the NSA-only code-breakers’ journal Cryptologic Quarterly, the report opens a small window onto the secretive agency — although the glimpse it provides is now rather dated. One thing it does show is how wrong everyone was in the mid-’90s about what lay ahead for the supercomputer. Even the United States’ premiere supercomputer user was in the dark.
The report calls on the NSA to do what it can to save its favorite supercomputing company: Cray Research Inc., or CRI. “The commercial viability of CRI and the rest of the supercomputing industry is critical not only to NSA but also to the entire Western world crytanlytic community,” says the report.
Cray Research was sold to Silicon Graphics the next year and then spun into another company. Although the new Cray still makes some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, they’re nothing like the futuristic freon-cooled machines the NSA was trying to preserve.
The NSA did get some things right. It correctly predicted the rise of companies such as IBM, whose Unix processors would become important in the supercomputing space. But it missed the major change that would completely reshape supercomputing over the course of the next decade: the rise of cheap consumer PCs clustered together and — most importantly — the rise of open source software such as Linux that made this all possible.
Clustered systems started taking over the supercomputing space just five years after the report was published, according to supercomputer expert Jason Lockhart, who spoke us via e-mail. Lockhart should know; he’s one of the Virginia Tech researchers who shocked the world in 2003 by building one of the world’s largest supercomputers out of cheap Macintosh PCs.
“The advances in commodity computing architectures made purpose built systems almost completely un-viable financially,” Lockhart says. “We saw most of the large system vendors collapse. Both SGI and Cray had to completely rethink their R&D efforts in order to remain alive in the marketplace.”
It’s hard to fault the NSA for missing these trends, says Matthew Aid, an NSA historian who first blogged about the report. After all, the entire technology industry was taken flat footed by the rise of Linux.
But the report was also published during a particularly tough time for NSA’s code-breakers, who were hammered by budget cuts in the early 1990s. “In the span of eight years. the NSA literally went deaf because of the changes in the technology,” Aid says. “The NSA lost a third of its manpower and third of its budget in the five years after the Soviet Union collapsed.”
Today the NSA is again building the world’s most powerful supercomputers, including a 260,000 square feet Multiprogram Computational Data Center at Oak Ridge National Labs. It is set to be completed in 2018.