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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 110821 times)
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« Reply #7635 on: Nov 18th, 2012, 08:34am »

Good morning Swamprat cheesy

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« Reply #7636 on: Nov 18th, 2012, 08:37am »

Reuters

Israel, Gaza fighting rages on as Egypt seeks truce

By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller
Sun Nov 18, 2012 9:04am EST

GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel bombed Palestinian militant targets in the Gaza Strip from air and sea for a fifth straight day on Sunday, preparing for a possible ground invasion while also spelling out its conditions for a truce.

Palestinians launched dozens of rockets into Israel and targeted its commercial capital, Tel Aviv, for a fourth day. The "Iron Dome" missile shield shot down two of the rockets fired toward Israel's biggest city but falling debris from the interception hit a car, which caught fire. Its driver was not hurt.

In scenes recalling Israel's 2008-2009 winter invasion of the Gaza Strip, tanks, artillery and infantry massed in field encampments along the sandy border. Military convoys moved on roads in the area newly closed to civilian traffic.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was ready to widen its offensive.

"We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and the terrorist organizations and the Israel Defence Forces are prepared for a significant expansion of the operation," Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting, giving no further details.

Palestinian officials said 56 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including 16 children, have been killed in small, densely populated Gaza since the Israeli offensive began, with hundreds wounded. More than 500 rockets fired from Gaza have hit Israel, killing three civilians and wounding dozens.

Israel unleashed intensive air strikes on Wednesday, killing the military commander of the Islamist Hamas movement that governs Gaza and spurns peace with the Jewish state.

Israel's declared goal is to deplete Gaza arsenals and press Hamas into stopping cross-border rocket fire that has bedeviled Israeli border towns for years and is now displaying greater range, putting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in the crosshairs.

AIR STRIKE ON MEDIA CENTRES

In air raids on Sunday, two Gaza City media buildings were hit, witnesses said. Eight journalists were wounded and facilities belonging to Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV as well as Britain's Sky News were damaged.

An employee of Beirut-based al Quds television station lost his leg in the attack, local medics said.

The Israeli military said the strike targeted a rooftop "transmission antenna used by Hamas to carry out terror activity", and that journalists in the building had effectively been used as human shields by the group.

Three other attacks killed three children and wounded 14 other people, medical officials said, with heavy detonations regularly jolting the Mediterranean coastal enclave.

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi said in Cairo, as his security deputies sought to broker a truce with Hamas leaders, that "there are some indications that there is a possibility of a ceasefire soon, but we do not yet have firm guarantees".

Egypt has mediated previous ceasefire deals between Israel and Hamas, the latest of which unraveled with recent violence.

A Palestinian official told Reuters the truce discussions would continue in Cairo on Sunday, saying "there is hope", but that it was too early to say whether the efforts would succeed.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be in Egypt on Monday for talks with Mursi, the foreign ministry in Cairo said. U.N. diplomats earlier said Ban was expected in Israel and Egypt this week to push for an end to the fighting.

Asked on Israel Radio about progress in the Cairo talks, Silvan Shalom, one of Netanyahu's deputies, said: "There are contacts, but they are currently far from being concluded."

Listing Israel's terms for ceasing fire, Moshe Yaalon, another deputy to the prime minister, wrote on Twitter: "If there is quiet in the south and no rockets and missiles are fired at Israel's citizens, nor terrorist attacks engineered from the Gaza Strip, we will not attack."

SYRIAN FRONT

Israel's military also saw action along the northern frontier, firing into Syria on Saturday in what it said was a response to shooting aimed at its troops in the occupied Golan Heights. Israel's chief military spokesman, citing Arab media, said it appeared Syrian soldiers were killed in the incident.

There were no reported casualties on the Israeli side from the shootings, the third case this month of violence that has been seen as a spillover of battles between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces and rebels trying to overthrow him.

Israel's operation in the Gaza Strip has so far drawn Western support for what U.S. and European leaders have called its right to self-defense, but there was also a growing number of appeals from them to seek an end to the hostilities.

British Foreign Minister William Hague said on Sky News that he and Prime Minister David Cameron "stressed to our Israeli counterparts that a ground invasion of Gaza would lose Israel a lot of the international support and sympathy that they have in this situation".

Israel's cabinet decided on Friday to double the current reserve troop quota set for the Gaza campaign to 75,000. Some 31,000 soldiers have already been called up, the military said.

Netanyahu, in his comments at Sunday's cabinet session, said he had emphasized in telephone conversations with world leaders "the effort Israel is making to avoid harming civilians, while Hamas and the terrorist organizations are making every effort to hit civilian targets in Israel".

Israel withdrew settlers from Gaza in 2005 and two years later Hamas took control of the slender, impoverished territory, which the Israelis have kept under blockade.

NETANYAHU IN RE-ELECTION BID

Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama, said the United States would like to see the conflict resolved through "de-escalation" and diplomacy, but also believed Israel had the right to self-defense.

A possible sweep into the Gaza Strip and the risk of major casualties it brings would be a significant gamble for Netanyahu, favored to win a January election.

The last Gaza war, a three-week Israeli blitz and invasion four years ago, killed 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians. Thirteen Israelis died in the conflict.

The current flare-up around Gaza has fanned the fires of a Middle East ignited by a series of Arab uprisings and a civil war in Syria that threatens to spread beyond its borders.

One significant change has been the election of an Islamist government in Cairo that is allied with Hamas, which may narrow Israel's maneuvering room in confronting the Palestinian group. Israel and Egypt made peace in 1979.

On Saturday, Israeli aircraft bombed Hamas government buildings in Gaza, including the offices of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and a police headquarters.

Israel's Iron Dome missile interceptor system has destroyed more than 200 incoming rockets from Gaza in mid-air since Wednesday, saving Israeli towns and cities from potentially significant damage.

However, one rocket salvo unleashed on Sunday evaded Iron Dome and wounded two people when it hit a house in the coastal city of Ashkelon, police said.


(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem and London bureau, Writing by Jeffrey Heller)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/18/us-palestinians-israel-hamas-idUSBRE8AD0WP20121118

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« Reply #7637 on: Nov 18th, 2012, 08:41am »

Wired

Hints of Life in Deepest Scientific Marine Samples Ever Collected

By Jeffrey Marlow
November 16, 2012 | 9:12 am
Categories: Science Blogs, The Extremo Files

Elizabeth Trembath-Reichert recently returned from the Research Vessel Chikyu off the coast of Japan’s Shimokita Peninsula, where she served as a member of the microbiology team aboard a (literally) groundbreaking leg of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. The expedition resulted in a new world record for deepest scientific marine drilling to 2,440 meters beneath the seafloor. But were there signs of life so far down? Here, Trembath-Reichert offers some answers … or at least what pass for answers for a suitably cautious scientist….

Jeffrey Marlow: What was your daily work schedule like?

Elizabeth Trembath-Reichert: Life on board had different phases. Initially, there was a lot of preparation because we had a lot more time than we had expected before the first samples arrived on deck. The idea was that the scientists would get on board, the drill would be ready to go, and we would start drilling right away. But that didn’t end up happening, so there was a lot of opportunity to plan our experiments.

As soon as cores started coming up, the majority of my time was spent processing the samples. We would get a core, and our microbiology team would actually physically do the cutting and distribute different pieces to the various teams. Off-shift time, I would process my own personal experiments and help out with the cell counts. I worked a 12-hour shift, starting at midnight and ending at noon.

Marlow: So spill it, is there in fact life at 2.4 kilometers below the seafloor?

Trembath-Reichert: Well, there are a couple of lines of evidence for life. The one that we’re currently leaning on most heavily is this relative ratio of C1 to C2 compounds [or, molecules that contain one carbon atom to those that contain two]. This is a good proxy for life because if you’re just thermally producing methane from breaking down a complex organic substance by heat, you would get multiple sizes of organic compounds. But if biology is breaking it down, microbes will produce more C1 compounds because it will break everything down to that lowest level – methane, carbon dioxide, those sorts of products.

There is an indication of a very high C1:C2 ratio in these deep samples; therefore, it looks like there are biogenically produced signatures down near the coal beds.

In addition, there are indications of microbes intimately attached to sediment particles that are believed to have come from the deep subsurface. We saw these by staining the samples with chemicals that stick to DNA and then looking at them under a microscope. The official numbers are very close to the background detection limit, so while I’m pretty sure that those cells came from the deep subsurface, I can’t officially say it was substantially above the limit of detection.

Marlow: With so much drilling fluid cycling through the borehole, I would imagine that contamination is a big concern. How did you deal with that?

Trembath-Reichert: There’s a big question of contamination. With riser drilling, you have to cycle this drilling fluid through the system, and the majority of the cores used this rotary barrel system that actually turns the core. As it turns, you would sometimes get little chunks that would separate out, and the drilling mud could enter the fractures in between. It would turn, stop, and start again, and each time it started it would create a little fracture, and there were lots of places where you could see that the drilling mud had gone in, especially in the less lithified sections.

One of the main parts of the microbiology on board was to look at contamination. To monitor it, we had a pretty good idea of how many cells were in drilling mud, and then how many were in the cuttings, and then we would just always have negative controls, so eventually we could figure out how many cells were from the deep coal beds themselves.

It proved to be very difficult because the whole system was based on this automated counting microscope. But the cells are so small and there are so few of them that it was hard to have the microscope computer do it all. The background sediment can get through and is about the right size and shape as our coccoid cells, so it’s hard to get an accurate reading.

To really figure out the cell counts, this procedure has to be re-done in land-based laboratories, and they have clean rooms designated solely for this job at JAMSTEC. In the clean room, since there won’t be other scientists next to you chopping up rocks at the next seat down, there probably won’t be as much particulate contamination, and it will be easier to identify cells more definitively.

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/11/hints-of-life-in-deepest-scientific-marine-samples-ever-collected/

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« Reply #7638 on: Nov 18th, 2012, 08:45am »

Daily Mail


'There were clusters of fireballs': Multiple Florida residents report UFO sightings in two days

A cell phone video taken by Cape Coral resident, Jeremy Rebstock, on November 13 shows three orange lights in the night sky slowly moving from east to west

Other residents in the area have reported similar sightings

Peter Davenport, director of the National UFO Reporting Center in Washington state, said that recent sightings have been reported around the country

By Daily Mail Reporter
PUBLISHED: 15:12 EST, 16 November 2012
UPDATED: 16:23 EST, 16 November 2012

Residents in southwest Florida are reporting several recent UFO sightings.

A cell phone video taken by Cape Coral resident, Jeremy Rebstock, shows three orange lights in the night sky slowly moving from east to west. The video was taken on November 13 during a local festival.

Two more residents, Bob Buehler and his wife, were leaving the Coconut Festival when they noticed the same thing.

‘Up in the air I would say 20 of them, a little group of three or four,’ Buehler told Fox4. ‘I think it was UFOs. I have no other explanation.’

Buehler says he is still shocked at what he saw and that he has never seen anything like it.

video and more after the jump:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2234153/Florida-residents-report-multiple-UFO-sightings.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

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« Reply #7639 on: Nov 18th, 2012, 08:51am »

Hollywood Reporter

'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' Sparks Chat In Doha on Terrorism and Diplomacy
7:57 AM PST 11/17/2012
by Stuart Kemp

DOHA, Qatar -- Fundamentalism, Al-Qaeda, the post-9/11 terror threat and the complex relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan were among the hot topics on the agenda after Mira Nair's The Reluctant Fundamentalist made its Middle Eastern debut to journalists from the region.

Partially funded by the Doha Film Institute and based on Mohsin Hamid's novel, the film tells the pre- and post-9/11 story of a young Pakistani man chasing corporate success on Wall Street in the era of globalization.

Riz Ahmed stars alongside Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber and Kiefer Sutherland.

While none of the cast made it to Doha for the press conference, Nair was supported by Hamid and co-screenwriter Ami Boghani.

The film, set to open this year's Doha Tribeca International Film Festival Saturday evening, unspooled to the international and local media, sparking a lively response.

Nair, responding to whether or not she is concerned about the potential reaction from American audiences to her film, was upbeat.

"The film has been really embraced on the festival circuit,” said Nair, citing its outing at the Mill Valley Film Festival in California where it won a prize and also the film's slots earlier this year in first Toronto, then Venice and London movie jamborees.

Nair stressed that she and the screenplay writers Hamid, Boghani and William Wheeler had spent over a year making sure the script reflected a balanced and human portrayal of the world of terrorists, religion, capitalism and the American dream.

“People have been longing for this bridge and dialogue because so often in the US you only get one side of the story,” she said. “Portraits of America in this film are as varied as America itself; not at all a condemnation but a portrait of real life in America today.”

Nair pulled fewer punches than her movie's balanced argument when it came to screenwriters, though.

The filmmaker, who has spent many years based out of New York, said she had taken Hamid's novel and her vision to a number of "A list Hollywood writers" to adapt but had been frustrated and surprised to be confronted by "ignorance and arrogance" about Pakistan and beyond.

IFC will rollout the film in North America from April 26, 2013, Nair said, something she said pleases her because it gives the film a chance to be seen by a "wide audience."

Hamid told the gathered press that all too often the media paints too basic a story about relationships between the US and other countries.

"Very often in the news today we get a very simple story," he said. "America is good or America is bad, Pakistan is good or Pakistan is bad, India is good or India is bad. We [the filmmaking team] all feel that part of our job was to recomplicate what has been simplified and to show complexity in a story – in which one person is neither right nor wrong."

Boghani said one of the biggest challenges and fun parts was turning Hamid's novel, written as a monologue, into a script by having to flesh the other characters out from the single voice.

Nair's inspiration for the film came from a visit to Pakistan in 2004 and her own experience as a child growing up as a Lahore in India before it was partitioned, she said.

"My trip to Pakistan inspired me because I got to experience the deep culture that I remembered as a child and I wanted to make a film about modern day Pakistan which is so different to the country you often read about in the news," she said.

Doha Film Institute CEO Abdulaziz Al Khater, opening the buzzy presser, said Nair's film led the charge for this year's DTFF which aims to celebrate cultural diversity.

“The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a remarkable piece of work that talks about cross cultures. We at DFI have been privileged to be part of this journey,” he said.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/reluctant-fundamentalist-sparks-chat-doha-391689

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« Reply #7640 on: Nov 19th, 2012, 10:58am »

Reuters

Big banks give $22 billion in mortgage relief under deal

By Rick Rothacker
Mon Nov 19, 2012 9:45am EST

(Reuters) - Five U.S. banks have provided about $22 billion in mortgage relief to customers under a deal to settle borrowers' accusations over foreclosures, a report by the settlement's monitor said on Monday.

The report said that Bank of America Corp (BAC.N), which owes the most, improved in providing first-lien mortgage modifications to customers, trailing only JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) through September.

Bank of America provided $889.2 million in first-lien modifications that reduced loan balances for consumers, a turnaround from August when the bank had completed none. JPMorgan Chase & Co's (JPM.N) total was $903.1 million in modifications, the most of the five banks.

Monday's report by Joseph Smith, the former North Carolina Banking Commissioner who is serving as the settlement's monitor, said the five banks together have provided about $22 billion in customer relief, up from $10.6 billion in August.

The banks reached the settlement in February with state and federal officials to resolve allegations of faulty foreclosures. The pact requires banks to provide around $20 billion of consumer relief by taking actions such as reducing loan balances for struggling borrowers and refinancing loans for customers whose homes are worth less than the value of their mortgages.

The banks, however, have not necessarily met their obligations yet because the settlement only provides for partial credit for certain kinds of relief. The banks only receive credit for $0.45 of every dollar of a writedown through a short sale, for example.

Short sales - in which borrowers sell their homes for less than the value of the mortgage - accounted for the largest portion of the total relief, about $13.1 billion.

Bank of America delivered $11.8 billion in total relief to consumers, the most of any bank, with short sales accounting for $7.4 billion of its total. JPMorgan provided the second most relief - about $6 billion.

The other banks in the settlement are Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) ($2.5 billion in total relief), Citigroup Inc (C.N) ($1.1 billion) and Ally Financial Inc ($587.8 million).

"The relief the banks have reported is encouraging," Smith said in a statement, while noting that the banks' obligations still need to be reviewed and credited.

If a lender does not meet its required relief within three years, it will be required to pay a penalty of no less than 125 percent of its unmet commitment, the report said.

Bank of America, which acquired troubled lender Countywide Financial in 2008, owes the most out of five banks, about $11.8 billion in consumer relief and other payments. The bank has said it will meet its obligations within the first year. >

Counting $4.2 billion more in active trial modifications, the five banks have provided $26.1 billion in relief through September to 300,000 borrowers, according to the report.


(Reporting By Rick Rothacker in Charlotte, N.C.; Editing by Grant McCool)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/19/us-mortgage-settlement-banks-idUSBRE8AI0LU20121119

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« Reply #7641 on: Nov 19th, 2012, 11:01am »

New York Times

Israeli Iron Dome Stops a Rocket With a Rocket
By ISABEL KERSHNER
Published: November 18, 2012

JERUSALEM — An abiding image of the former Israel defense minister Amir Peretz was a photograph of him peering at a military drill — with the black lens caps still on his binoculars. Mr. Peretz resigned months after the 2006 war in Lebanon, which was widely regarded as a failure.

Yet on Sunday, as rockets fired by Gaza militants streaked toward Tel Aviv, Ashdod and other Israeli cities, Mr. Peretz, a resident of the rocket-battered border town of Sderot, was being hailed as a defense visionary for having had the foresight while in office to face down myriad skeptics and push for the development of Iron Dome, Israel’s unique anti-rocket interceptor system.

The naysayers now are few. In the five days since Israel began its fierce assault on the militant infrastructure in Hamas-run Gaza, after years of rocket fire against southern Israel, Iron Dome has successfully intercepted more than 300 rockets fired at densely populated areas, with a success rate of 80 to 90 percent, top officials said. Developed with significant American financing and undergoing its ultimate battle test, the Iron Dome system has saved many lives, protected property and proved to be a strategic game changer, experts said.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak toured a newly deployed mobile unit near Tel Aviv on Sunday and described Iron Dome as “probably the most technologically impressive achievement in recent years in Israel.” He called its performance “almost perfect.”

By preventing mass casualties, experts said, Israel’s leaders have retained public support for the continuing operation and have had more time to weigh a possible ground incursion.

Three Israelis were killed last week in a rocket attack on Kiryat Malachi, and on Sunday two Israelis were injured in Ofakim when a rocket crashed near their car. But casualties on the Israeli side have been kept low by the Iron Dome system and the fact that most Israelis have followed the instructions of the Home Front Command, taking shelter in the 15 to 90 seconds they have between the warning sirens and the landing of a rocket.

About a decade ago after primitive rockets fired from Gaza began crashing into Sderot, the Israeli defense industries’ research and development teams started working on defending against short- and midrange rockets that now travel 12 to 50 miles.

Soon after the monthlong war in Lebanon in summer 2006, when the Lebanese Hezbollah organization fired thousands of Katyusha rockets and paralyzed northern Israel, Mr. Peretz, officials said, budgeted roughly $200 million for the first two Iron Dome mobile units.

With the Israelis racing against the growing capabilities of rocket developers in Gaza, the first units were deployed in March 2011. An upgraded, fifth unit was deployed on the outskirts of Tel Aviv on Saturday, two months ahead of schedule. Iron Dome is part of what professionals describe as a “multi-layer shield” that includes the Arrow system, which is being upgraded, and the Magic Wand, now in development. When finished, the system should guard against destruction from crude, short-range rockets made in Gaza to ballistic missiles from Iran.

Iron Dome shoots down rockets with a radar-guided missile known as Tamir, which was developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, an Israeli company. The radar was developed by Elta, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, and another company, Impress, developed the command and control system.

Because each interceptor missile costs $40,000 to $50,000, the system is designed to aim only at rockets headed for populated areas and to ignore those destined for open ground outside cities and towns.

Israeli officials say that the cost is offset by the lives and property that are saved.

About three years ago, Israel received $204 million from the United States to help pay for the country’s third through sixth mobile units. In February, Israel again approached the Obama administration for urgent support for four more batteries. They received $70 million immediately, and an additional $610 million has been pledged over the next three years, according to a senior official in Israel’s missile defense organization.

Dennis B. Ross, a former adviser to President Obama on Iran and the Middle East and now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said in an interview that the funds came despite “a very stringent environment for assistance, where it was being cut across the board,” and that they were “emblematic” of the administration’s commitment to Israel’s security.

A defense industry official said that there were hopes the system could be exported and that the more the missiles were in demand, the cheaper they would be to make.

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems’ president, Yedidia Yaari, a former commander of the Israeli Navy, said on Israel Radio on Sunday that other countries were interested in the Iron Dome system, though there were “very few countries on the planet with threats such as we have.”

“When I have time I’ll sell to others,” he said. “Right now we are busy protecting the state of Israel.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/19/world/middleeast/israeli-iron-dome-stops-a-rocket-with-a-rocket.html?ref=world

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« Reply #7642 on: Nov 19th, 2012, 11:09am »

Science Daily

Leap Forward in Brain-Controlled Computer Cursors: New Algorithm Greatly Improves Speed and Accuracy
ScienceDaily (Nov. 18, 2012)

— Stanford researchers have designed the fastest, most accurate algorithm yet for brain-implantable prosthetic systems that can help disabled people maneuver computer cursors with their thoughts. The algorithm's speed, accuracy and natural movement approach those of a real arm, doubling performance of existing algorithms.


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These diagrams trace the accuracy of various trial scenarios of the ReFIT algorithm developed at Stanford. On the left is a a real arm. In the middle, the monkey uses ReFIT and on the right the monkey uses the old algorithm. Note the tendency of the old algorithm to overshoot the target and, conversely, how the ReFIT traces closely resemble those of the real arm.
(Credit: Vikash Gilja, Stanford University)



When a paralyzed person imagines moving a limb, cells in the part of the brain that controls movement still activate as if trying to make the immobile limb work again. Despite neurological injury or disease that has severed the pathway between brain and muscle, the region where the signals originate remains intact and functional.

In recent years, neuroscientists and neuroengineers working in prosthetics have begun to develop brain-implantable sensors that can measure signals from individual neurons, and after passing those signals through a mathematical decode algorithm, can use them to control computer cursors with thoughts. The work is part of a field known as neural prosthetics.

A team of Stanford researchers have now developed an algorithm, known as ReFIT, that vastly improves the speed and accuracy of neural prosthetics that control computer cursors. The results are to be published Nov. 18 in the journal Nature Neuroscience in a paper by Krishna Shenoy, a professor of electrical engineering, bioengineering and neurobiology at Stanford, and a team led by research associate Dr. Vikash Gilja and bioengineering doctoral candidate Paul Nuyujukian.

In side-by-side demonstrations with rhesus monkeys, cursors controlled by the ReFIT algorithm doubled the performance of existing systems and approached performance of the real arm. Better yet, more than four years after implantation, the new system is still going strong, while previous systems have seen a steady decline in performance over time.

"These findings could lead to greatly improved prosthetic system performance and robustness in paralyzed people, which we are actively pursuing as part of the FDA Phase-I BrainGate2 clinical trial here at Stanford," said Shenoy.

Sensing mental movement in real time

The system relies on a silicon chip implanted into the brain, which records "action potentials" in neural activity from an array of electrode sensors and sends data to a computer. The frequency with which action potentials are generated provides the computer key information about the direction and speed of the user's intended movement.

The ReFIT algorithm that decodes these signals represents a departure from earlier models. In most neural prosthetics research, scientists have recorded brain activity while the subject moves or imagines moving an arm, analyzing the data after the fact. "Quite a bit of the work in neural prosthetics has focused on this sort of offline reconstruction," said Gilja, the first author of the paper.

The Stanford team wanted to understand how the system worked "online," under closed-loop control conditions in which the computer analyzes and implements visual feedback gathered in real time as the monkey neurally controls the cursor to toward an onscreen target.

The system is able to make adjustments on the fly when while guiding the cursor to a target, just as a hand and eye would work in tandem to move a mouse-cursor onto an icon on a computer desktop. If the cursor were straying too far to the left, for instance, the user likely adjusts their imagined movements to redirect the cursor to the right. The team designed the system to learn from the user's corrective movements, allowing the cursor to move more precisely than it could in earlier prosthetics.

To test the new system, the team gave monkeys the task of mentally directing a cursor to a target -- an onscreen dot -- and holding the cursor there for half a second. ReFIT performed vastly better than previous technology in terms of both speed and accuracy. The path of the cursor from the starting point to the target was straighter and it reached the target twice as quickly as earlier systems, achieving 75 to 85 percent of the speed of real arms.

"This paper reports very exciting innovations in closed-loop decoding for brain-machine interfaces. These innovations should lead to a significant boost in the control of neuroprosthetic devices and increase the clinical viability of this technology," said Jose Carmena, associate professor of electrical engineering and neuroscience at the University of California Berkeley.

A smarter algorithm

Critical to ReFIT's time-to-target improvement was its superior ability to stop the cursor. While the old model's cursor reached the target almost as fast as ReFIT, it often overshot the destination, requiring additional time and multiple passes to hold the target.

The key to this efficiency was in the step-by-step calculation that transforms electrical signals from the brain into movements of the cursor onscreen. The team had a unique way of "training" the algorithm about movement. When the monkey used his real arm to move the cursor, the computer used signals from the implant to match the arm movements with neural activity. Next, the monkey simply thought about moving the cursor, and the computer translated that neural activity into onscreen movement of the cursor. The team then used the monkey's brain activity to refine their algorithm, increasing its accuracy.

The team introduced a second innovation in the way ReFIT encodes information about the position and velocity of the cursor. Gilja said that previous algorithms could interpret neural signals about either the cursor's position or its velocity, but not both at once. ReFIT can do both, resulting in faster, cleaner movements of the cursor

An engineering eye

Early research in neural prosthetics had the goal of understanding the brain and its systems more thoroughly, Gilja said, but he and his team wanted to build on this approach by taking a more pragmatic engineering perspective. "The core engineering goal is to achieve highest possible performance and robustness for a potential clinical device, " he said.

To create such a responsive system, the team decided to abandon one of the traditional methods in neural prosthetics. Much of the existing research in this field has focused on differentiating among individual neurons in the brain. Importantly, such a detailed approach has allowed neuroscientists to create a detailed understanding of the individual neurons that control arm movement.

The individual neuron approach has its drawbacks, Gilja said. "From an engineering perspective, the process of isolating single neurons is difficult, due to minute physical movements between the electrode and nearby neurons, making it error-prone," he said. ReFIT focuses on small groups of neurons instead of single neurons.

By abandoning the single-neuron approach, the team also reaped a surprising benefit: performance longevity. Neural implant systems that are fine-tuned to specific neurons degrade over time. It is a common belief in the field that after six months to a year, they can no longer accurately interpret the brain's intended movement. Gilja said the Stanford system is working very well more than four years later.

"Despite great progress in brain-computer interfaces to control the movement of devices such as prosthetic limbs, we've been left so far with halting, jerky, Etch-a-Sketch-like movements. Dr. Shenoy's study is a big step toward clinically useful brain-machine technology that have faster, smoother, more natural movements," said James Gnadt, PhD, a program director in Systems and Cognitive Neuroscience at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health.

For the time being, the team has been focused on improving cursor movement rather than the creation of robotic limbs, but that is not out of the question, Gilja said. Near term, precise, accurate control of a cursor is a simplified task with enormous value for paralyzed people.

"We think we have a good chance of giving them something very useful," he said. The team is now translating these innovations to paralyzed people as part of a clinical trial.

This research was funded by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Foundation; NSF, NDSEG, and SGF Graduate Fellowships; DARPA ("Revolutionizing Prosthetics" and "REPAIR"); and NIH (NINDS-CRCNS and Director's Pioneer Award).

Other contributing researchers include Cynthia Chestek, John Cunningham, and Byron Yu, Joline Fan, Mark Churchland, Matthew Kaufman, Jonathan Kao, and Stephen Ryu.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121118141520.htm

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« Reply #7643 on: Nov 19th, 2012, 11:15am »

The Wrap

Sony Tops $4B at Box Office as 'Skyfall' Becomes No. 1 Bond Ever
Published: November 18, 2012 @ 9:54 am

“Skyfall” became the highest-grossing James Bond film ever this weekend, and pushed Sony Pictures Entertainment over the top for its best box-office year at more than $4 billion worldwide.

"Skyfall," the 23rd James Bond movie, raised it overall worldwide box office total to $669.2 million, passing the previous-best $599.2 million worldwide total taken in by “Casino Royale” in 2006. “Skyfall” grossed $49.6 million overseas this week, bringing its international total to $507.9 million. It added another $41 million in its second week in the U.S., where its overall gross is $161 million.

The milestone caps a big year for Sony, which is the top-ranked studio at the box office and has had nine No. 1 films. This year, Sony has brought in $1.6 billion domestically and a studio record $2.4 billion overseas.

In addition to “Skyfall,” the studio’s biggest earners included “The Amazing Spider-Man” ($754 million worldwide), “Men in Black 3” ($624 million), and Sony Pictures. Animation’s "Hotel Transylvania" ($283 million worldwide).

“Exceeding $4 billion globally is a true rarity in this industry and it’s an extraordinary accomplishment for all of us at Sony Pictures,” said Jeff Blake, chairman of worldwide marketing and distribution for Sony Pictures, in a press release. “From ‘The Amazing Spider Man’ and ‘Skyfall’ to ‘21 Jump Street,’ ‘Resident Evil,’ The Vow’ and ‘Hotel Transylvania,’ we couldn’t be more proud of the way our films have performed all over the world.”

Sony Pictures Entertainment has one more film on its release calendar, “Zero Dark Thirty,” which will receive a limited release in New York and Los Angeles on Dec. 19.

The “Skyfall” haul and the monster $199.6 million first-week take of “Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2” were the biggest numbers, but not the only noteworthy overseas performances.

Warner Bros.’ “Argo” raised its overall foreign gross to $40 million by taking in $8.7 million from 3,451 screens in 38 markets – just a 29 percent drop from last week.

Sony’s animated “Hotel Transylvania” added $7.8 million from 38 markets to up its overall foreign gross to $140 million and its worldwide total to $281 million.

“Cloud Atlas” upped its overseas gross to $15.4 million after taking in $5 million from four territories.

Paramount rolled out the DreamWorks Animation tale “Rise of the Guardians” in China, and took in $3.1 million from 7,500 locations.

The studio’s “Flight” took in $1 million from 400 theaters in Russia over the weekend. It will play in most major territories in January and February, once the awards season starts.

http://www.thewrap.com/movies/article/sony-tops-4b-box-office-skyfall-becomes-no-1-bond-ever-65596

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« Reply #7644 on: Nov 20th, 2012, 10:01am »

Der Spiegel

Thirst for Revenge
Syrian Rebels Have Lost Their Innocence
By Christoph Reuter
11/20/2012

The rebels didn't hesitate long after capturing a checkpoint near Sarakib, southwest of Aleppo, on Nov. 1. They rounded up the surviving soldiers and militia members fighting on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, made them lie on the ground and shot them to death. At least eight men -- or 11, according to other sources -- were killed.

The "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights," a small human rights group based in Great Britain that is trying to keep track of the dead on both sides, called the act a "massacre." But the victims weren't the only Assad supporters to be murdered by rebels.

When the Syrian opposition established a new coalition last week, Amnesty International sent an appeal to its political leadership urging them to prevent more possible war crimes like the killings in Sarakib. There is also disagreement over the issue within rebel groups. "Revenge is the religion of cowards," said opposition members from the city of Masyaf, in an indictment of their brutal comrades from Sarakib. "That's not why we began the revolution. This behavior is disgusting."

The perpetrators, though, would seem unlikely to agree, as the manner in which the world learned of the apparent executions shows: The rebels filmed themselves and subsequently posted the video on YouTube. The comments on the video include both sharp criticism and approval.

The Sarakib murders highlight paradoxical developments underway as the war drags on. On the one hand, rebel units belonging to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are becoming increasingly organized. At the same time, new, unmonitored rebel groups are giving free rein to their hatred in desolate, sparsely populated parts of the country. While committees of lawyers are beginning to routinely monitor the FSA-run prisons, other rebels are simply shooting their prisoners on the side of the road. Incidents of growing brutality exist alongside equally numerous attempts by the rebels to avoid becoming like the Assad regime they are fighting.

Thrown from the Roof

The circumstances are rarely as clear as with the Sarakib massacre. What began as a peaceful uprising against the dictatorship in Syria has turned into an extremely brutal war, in which only a handful of foreign journalists are able to observe what is actually happening. Nevertheless, the web is filled with thousands of videos and mobile phone photos, often gruesome, and almost always blurred and shaky. They can be used to support any assumption and any cliché, because no one can verify what exactly the videos show.

Even when serviceable recordings exist, it is often difficult to clarify the events depicted. In mid-August, for example, a shaky video surfaced on the web that showed a group of people cheering as bodies were thrown from the roof of a multistory building. The video was made in al-Bab, a small town in Aleppo Province.

It is a horrific document, one Russian broadcaster Russia Today used it to demonstrate why Moscow must support the Assad regime. It seemed to clearly show rebels killing government employees. As Russia Today portrayed the incident, the bodies that were being thrown from the roof of the post office building were those of innocent postal workers.

The building was indeed the postal service headquarters, the tallest structure in the small city. But the bodies being thrown from the roof were in fact those of several snipers who had terrorized residents for weeks from their perch high above the town. This, at least, was the outcome of an on-site investigation conducted by Human Rights Watch.

Shifting Moral Standards

Only at the end of the fighting for al-Bab did rebels manage to surround the snipers, kill them and throw their bodies from the roof. It was still barbaric, but it wasn't what the Russian television producers were trying to lead their viewers to believe.

The monstrosity of the regime, it would seem, has shifted moral standards. Assad's units often massacre the residents of entire blocks, as they did in late August in the Damascus suburb of Daraya, where hundreds of bodies were recovered. Some of Assad's men have now taken to cutting off their victims' ears as trophies. Many Syrians have thus begun to find it normal and understandable for rebels to take an eye-for-an-eye approach, abusing members of the brutal Shabiha militias, in particular, and killing those who have already killed others.

This helps explain why many rebels were unable to comprehend the overseas outrage triggered by a video similar to the one from Sarakib that appeared on the web on July 31. It shows rebels shooting and killing at least four men belonging to the Berri clan in Aleppo, a mafia family which had assembled a pro-Assad militia. Immediately prior to the assault on his fortress-like estate, clan leader Saino Berri had broken a previously negotiated cease-fire with the FSA by killing 15 rebels.

Killing the Berri fighters "was certainly a mistake," General Abdel Jabbar Al Okaidi, one of the FSA commanders in Aleppo, later admitted in an interview. "We shot the gangsters who had previously murdered dozens of people. But how does that compare to the bombardments and the thousands of dead?"

No Longer News

Western reporting on the fighting in Syria has lost its symmetry. Because both sides are shooting at each other, the feeling that each party to the violence must be assessed in the same way has become widespread. In a report published on the situation in the country in September, for example, Amnesty International sharply criticized the large-scale air strikes and the shelling of villages and cities with tanks and mortars perpetrated by the Assad regime. But then, in a single paragraph, the report accused rebels of using poor-precision weapons in residential areas and thus endangering civilians. The report gave rise to the following headline on the website tagesschau.de: "Amnesty Levels Serious Charges against Both Sides."

Moreover, the fighting in Syria has already been going on for so long that the regime's brutality is simply no longer seen as news. For months, the army and the air force have been bombing 60 to 200 towns and villages a day, and hundreds of civilians die every week. Last week, more than 40 people were reportedly executed by firing squads in the suburbs of Damascus alone.

But with each passing day and each person killed, the risk of a storm of revenge grows. Only after the regime has been overthrown will it become clear who gains the upper hand among the rebels: those who demand reprisals for their dead, or those who, at a demonstration following the Daraya massacre, held up a sign with the message: "No revenge! Stay on course! We will put everyone on trial!"

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/syrian-rebels-have-drifted-into-regime-style-violence-a-868213.html

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« Reply #7645 on: Nov 20th, 2012, 10:07am »

The Canadian

UFO Archontic-like entities fly in threes over Pennsylvania

Date: 19 November 2012
by Raymond

Two testimonies were received separately of sighting three flying entities in the sky from two different places at the same date of Nov 16th, 2012. One was received on the MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) whereas another report of the sighting from a different person was received by the UFO Sightings Daily.

Both the witnesses explained seeing three flying objects between 04:50 to 5:00 P.M. in the evening. The Council Woman of Apollo Borough Cynthia Virostek accompanied by the Mayor of Borough Apollo, Karen Kenzevich and Secretary Cynthia McDermott witnessed the incident. She explains what they saw.

“The three of us were on our way to a council meeting when we noticed three strange objects in the sky.”

The witness elaborates on the movement of the objects.

“These objects were moving very close to each other at a slow speed. They were also not making any noise at all which was strange and was nothing like any other traditional jet we ever saw.”

The witness to emphasize what they saw took pictures of the three entities through the cell phone (Cynthia McDermott, Secretary of Borough took the pictures) along with many other people that submitted their clicked photos of the flying objects over Apollo.

“We only had our cell phones with us through which we took some pictures of the amazing site we were viewing.”

Another similar sighting of three unknown objects seen on the same date at 04:50 P.M. in Shelocta, Pennsylvania was reported to MUFON. The city of Shelocta is at a distance of 14.5 miles from the city of Apollo according to Google Map. The witness defines his position of the sighting.

“I was driving and was on my way to Pittsburgh from Johnstown, PA and was moving west on the interstate 422 when suddenly a glowing ball caught my attention.”

The witness intricate more on the details of the sighting.

“The glowing ball that came towards me was joined by another ball after a few miles and after they converged together the third one joined them. They formed a triangular formation. Also when they moved they seemed as round in shape but when they stopped they had flames like shape coming from behind much more like a jellyfish.”

The witness reports of having seen these objects for 10 minutes after they disappeared and reappeared after another 15 minutes. The witness also claims to know what military jets look like and defines the objects in resemblance.

“I know a lot about the military and their jets and these objects were nothing like them. They firstly moved independently, then in the formation and then disappeared without leaving any trail at all, like any commercial flight or a military jet.”

The Witness also submitted still photographs as he was unable to film it. He further supports his witnessing.

“There were many other individuals who witnessed the incident and took pictures but I do not know any of them.”

There have been several sightings in the past where witnesses define seeing formations of three in UFO sightings. Many define it as a way aliens try to communicate to us. The question here is why do the aliens choose the formation of three and not any other number?

One theory presented by Dr John Lash is that according to the ancient Pagan Gnostics, the Archons which are demonic, artificial, inter-dimensional life forms always appear in three.

This theory is further supported by researchers according to whom al apocalyptic destruction occurs in a theme of three. Please check the alien numerology in this video. (Outline of regressive alien numerology)

According to researchers many destructive occurrences have taken place on days, months or year that were either perfectly divisible by three or formed a perfect recurring after decimal of three, e.g.646.333333. Fukishima and the war on terror are examples of being held on dates that are divisible by three where as World War 1 and 2 were held in years which was either divisible by three like WW 1 started in 1914 which is completely divisible by 3 or resulted in a recurring decimal of 3, like WW 2 started in 1939 which when divided by three gives a recurring after decimal of 646.33333.

It is therefore concluded that alien activities that appear in form of three accompany or foreshadow regressive alien intrusion.

photos after the jump:
http://www.agoracosmopolitan.com/news/ufo_extraterrestrials/2012/11/20/4895.html

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« Reply #7646 on: Nov 20th, 2012, 10:14am »

Wired

They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside

By Noah Shachtman
11.16.12 6:30 AM

The master wears an amulet with a blue eye in the center. Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun.

The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. “Read,” the master commands. The candidate squints, but it’s an impossible task. The page is blank.

The candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidate’s eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.

The master starts plucking hairs from the candidate’s eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are “symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning,” the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his hand on the master’s amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.

For more than 260 years, the contents of that page—and the details of this ritual—remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St. Petersburg. Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.

It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic “sight-restoring” ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least that’s what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.

In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany.


more after the jump:
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/11/ff-the-manuscript/all/

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« Reply #7647 on: Nov 20th, 2012, 10:18am »

Scientific American

How Far Away is Mind-Machine Integration?

Forget voice control or gesture recognition. Gadgets may soon link directly to our brain.

By David Pogue
20 November 2012

Okay, great: we can control Our phones with speech recognition and our television sets with gesture recognition. But those technologies don't work in all situations for all people. So I say, forget about those crude beginnings; what we really want is thought recognition.

As I found out during research for a recent NOVA episode, it mostly appears that brain-computer interface (BCI) technology has not advanced very far just yet. For example, I tried to make a toy helicopter fly by thinking “up” as I wore a $300 commercial EEG headset. It barely worked.

Such “mind-reading” caps are quick to put on and noninvasive. They listen, through your scalp, for the incredibly weak remnants of electrical signals from your brain activity. But they're lousy at figuring out where in your brain they originated. Furthermore, the headset software didn't even know that I was thinking “up.” I could just as easily have thought “goofy” or “shoelace” or “pickle”—whatever I had thought about during the 15-second training session.

There are other noninvasive brain scanners—magnetoencephalography, positron-emission tomography and near-infrared spectroscopy, and so on—but each also has its trade-offs.

Of course, you can implant sensors inside someone's skull for the best readings of all; immobilized patients have successfully manipulated computer cursors and robotic arms using this approach. Still, when it comes to controlling everyday electronics, brain surgery might be a tough sell.

My most astonishing discovery came at Carnegie Mellon University, where Marcel Just and Tom Mitchell have been using real-time functional MRI scanners to do some actual mind reading—or thought recognition, as they more responsibly call it.

As I lay in the fMRI, I saw 20 images on the screen (of a strawberry, skyscraper, cave, and so on). I was instructed to imagine the qualities of each object. The computer would try to figure out, from every two objects, the sequence of the two images I had just seen (whether strawberry had come before skyscraper, for example). It got them 100 percent right.

It turns out that, regardless of our native language or personal history, the same parts of our brain “light up” when we think of certain nouns. For “strawberry,” we might think “red,” “eat” or “hold in one hand.” The computer knows which brain areas are active for which qualities. The system can also guess what number you're thinking of or which of 15 emotions you're feeling.

Now, much needs to happen before we can change TV channels just by thinking “CBS.” In these early days, most BCI research is focused on how to help the disabled move or how to detect lies. And that work is raising plenty of questions about ethics, privacy and credibility. There will be other questions when thought recognition does come to gadgets. What happens if you get distracted when you're mind dictating an e-mail? Who wins if your spouse and you think about two different channels? And who's going to submit to an MRI to adjust music volume?

Just, who runs the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon, isn't worried about that part. “Our machine is a monster,” he told me. But “someday some biophysicist is going to develop some far smaller device, probably operating on a different principle.” At this point, it is too early to see where BCI will land or even when it will take off. And that's fine. After all, when somebody invented the wheel, he or she probably didn't imagine Acela trains, roller coasters or skateboards right away.

Still, I've had my mind read, and I'm a believer. There's something brewing, and millions of dollars are being poured into the effort to refine it. The next great interface breakthrough may tap into the electrical device you were born with.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-far-away-mind-machine-integration

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« Reply #7648 on: Nov 21st, 2012, 12:15pm »

New York Times

November 21, 2012
Hamas and Israel Agree to Cease-Fire, Clinton Says
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, ETHAN BRONNER and RICK GLADSTONE

CAIRO — Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire on Wednesday after eight days of lethal fighting over the Gaza Strip, the United States and Egypt said after intensive negotiations in Cairo.

The cease-fire, which is to take effect at 9 p.m. local time (2 p.m. E.S.T.), was formally announced by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr of Egypt at a news conference here. It appeared to avert an escalating battle between Palestinians and Israelis that had threatened to turn into wider war.

“This is a critical moment for the region,” Mrs. Clinton, who rushed to the Middle East late Tuesday in an intensified effort to halt the hostilities, told reporters in Cairo. She thanked Egypt’s president, Mohamed Morsi, who played a pivotal role in the negotiations, for “assuming the leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone of regional stability and peace.”

The negotiators reached an agreement after days of nearly nonstop Israeli aerial assaults on Gaza, the Mediterranean enclave run by Hamas, the militant Islamist group, which had fired hundreds of rockets into Israel from an arsenal it has been amassing in the aftermath of the three-week Israeli invasion four years ago.

The agreement came despite fears that a bus bombing in Tel Aviv earlier in the day, which Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups applauded, would scuttle the negotiations. There were also fears that Israeli strikes overnight into Gaza had further dimmed the prospects for success by Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Morsi.

Egyptian and American officials did not immediately divulge details of the agreement, and it was unclear how it would be enforced.

An agreement had been on the verge of completion Tuesday, but was delayed on a number of issues, including Hamas’s demands for unfettered access to Gaza via the Rafah crossing into Egypt and other steps that would ease Israel’s economic and border control over other aspects of life for the more than one million Palestinian residents of Gaza, which Israel vacated in 2005 after 38 years of occupation.

The Hamas Health Ministry in Gaza said the Palestinian death toll after a week of fighting stood at 140 at noon. At least a third of those killed are believed to have been militants. On the Israeli side, five Israelis have been killed, including one soldier.

Around noon on Wednesday in the Gaza Strip, according to the Hamas government media office, a bomb hit the house of Issam Da’alis, an adviser to Ismail Haniya, the Hamas prime minister. The house had been evacuated. Earlier, a predawn airstrike near a mosque in the Jabaliya refugee camp killed a 30-year-old militant, a spokesman said, and F-16 bombs destroyed two houses in the central Gaza Strip.

There were 23 punishing strikes against the southern tunnels that are used to bring weapons as well as construction material, cars and other commercial goods into Gaza from the Sinai Peninsula.

Within Gaza City, Abu Khadra, the largest government office complex, was obliterated overnight. Businesses were also damaged, including two banks and a tourism office, and electricity cables fell on the ground and were covered in dust.

Separately, a bomb dropped from an F-16 created a 20-foot-wide crater in an open area in a stretch of hotels occupied by foreign journalists. Several of the hotels had windows blown out by the strike around 2 a.m., but no one was reported injured. By morning, the hole in the ground had filled with sludgy water, apparently from a burst pipe, appearing almost like a forgotten swimming hole with walls made of sand and cracked cinder block.

Surveying damage near a government complex, Raji Sourani of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights said Gaza civilians were “in the eye of the storm,” and accused Israel of “inflicting pain and terror” on them. Israeli officials accuse Hamas of locating military sites in or close to civilian areas.

Overnight, as the conflict entered its eighth day, the Israeli military said in Twitter posts that “more than 100 terror sites were targeted, of which approximately 50 were underground rocket launchers.” The targets included the Ministry of Internal Security in Gaza, described as “one of Hamas’s main command and control centers.”

While there was no immediate or formal claim of responsibility for the bus bombing in Tel Aviv, a message on a Twitter account in the name of Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip, declared: “We told you IDF that our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are, ‘You opened the Gates of hell on Yourselves.’ ” The letters I.D.F. refer to the Israel Defense Forces.

On several occasions since the latest conflagration seized Gaza last week, militants have aimed rockets at Tel Aviv, but they have either fallen short, landed in the sea or been intercepted. Hundreds of rockets fired by militants in Gaza have struck other targets.

But the bombing seemed to be the first time in the fighting that violence had spread directly onto the streets of Tel Aviv.

On Tuesday — the deadliest day of fighting in the conflict — Mrs. Clinton arrived hurriedly in Jerusalem and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to push for a truce.

Her visit to Cairo on Wednesday to consult with Egyptian officials in contact with Hamas placed her and the Obama administration at the center of a fraught process with multiple parties, interests and demands.

Before leaving for Cairo, Mrs. Clinton visited the West Bank to meet Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, which is estranged from the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip and has increasingly strained ties with Israel over a contentious effort to upgrade the Palestinian status at the United Nations to that of a nonmember state. Mr. Abbas’s faction is favored by the United States, but it is not directly involved in either the fighting in Gaza or the effort in Cairo to end it. Like Israel and much of the West, the United States regards Hamas as a terrorist organization.

The Israelis, who had amassed tens of thousands of troops on the Gaza border, had threatened to invade for a second time in four years to end the rocket fire.


David D. Kirkpatrick reported from Cairo, Ethan Bronner from Jerusalem and Rick Gladstone from New York. Reporting was contributed by Jodi Rudoren and Fares Akram from Gaza, Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem, Alan Cowell from London, Andrea Bruce from Rafah and Christine Hauser from New York.


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/22/world/middleeast/israel-gaza-conflict.html?hp&_r=0

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« Reply #7649 on: Nov 21st, 2012, 12:21pm »

Science Daily

Handaxes of 1.7 Million Years Ago: 'Trust Rather Than Lust' Behind Fine Details
ScienceDaily (Nov. 21, 2012)

— Trust rather than lust is at the heart of the attention to detail and finely made form of handaxes from around 1.7 million years ago, according to a University of York researcher.


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Handaxe nicknamed 'Excalibur' from Atapuerca, northern Spain, which appears to be the earliest deliberate grave offering, 0.5 million years old.
(Credit: Image courtesy of University of York)



Dr Penny Spikins, from the Department of Archaeology, suggests a desire to prove their trustworthiness, rather than a need to demonstrate their physical fitness as a mate, was the driving force behind the fine crafting of handaxes by Homo erectus/ergaster in the Lower Palaeolithic period.

Dr Spikins said: "We sometimes imagine that early humans were self-centred, and if emotional at all, that they would have been driven by their immediate desires. However, research suggests that we have reason to have more faith in human nature, and that trust played a key role in early human societies. Displaying trust not lust was behind the attention to detail and finely made form of handaxes."

The 'trustworthy handaxe theory' is explained in an article in World Archaeology and contrasts sharply with previous claims that finely crafted handaxes were about competition between males and sexual selection.

Dr Spikins said: "Since their first recovery, the appealing form of handaxes and the difficulty of their manufacture have inspired much interest into the possible 'meaning' of these artefacts. Much of the debate has centred on claims that the attention to symmetrical form and the demonstration of skill would have played a key role in sexual selection, as they would have helped attract a mate eager to take advantage of a clear signal of advantageous genes.

"However, I propose that attention to form is much more about decisions about who to trust; that it can be seen as a gesture of goodwill or trustworthiness to others. The attention to detail is about showing an ability to care about the final form, and by extension, people too.

"In addition, overcoming the significant frustrations of imposing form on stone displays considerable emotional self-control and patience, traits needed for strong and enduring relationships."

Handaxes, or bifaces, appeared around 1.7 million years ago in Africa and spread throughout the occupied world of Africa, Europe and western Asia, functioning primarily as butchery implements. Handaxe form remained remarkably similar for more than a million years.

Dr Spikins said: "Trust is essential to all our relationships today, and we see the very beginnings of the building blocks of trust in other apes. The implication that it was an instinct towards trust which shaped the face of stone tool manufacture is particularly significant to our understanding of Lower Palaeolithic societies. It sets a challenge for research into how our emotions, rather than our complex thinking skills, made us human.

"As small vulnerable primates in risky environments where they faced dangerous predators our ancestors needed to be able to depend on each other to survive -- displaying our emotional capacities was part of forming trusting relationships with the kind of 'give and take' that they needed."

Dr Spikins points to other higher primates, particularly chimpanzees, as well as modern human hunter-gatherers to back up her theory of trustworthiness.

"Long-term altruistic alliances in both chimpanzees and humans are forged by many small unconscious gestures of goodwill, or acts of altruism, such as soothing those in distress or sharing food," said Dr Spikins.

"As signals of trustworthiness, these contribute to one's reputation, and in hunter-gatherers reputation can be the key to survival, with the most trustworthy hunters being looked after most willingly by the others when they are ill or elderly.

"The form of a handaxe is worth considerable effort, as it may demonstrate trustworthiness not only in its production, but also each time it is seen or re-used, when it might remind others of the emotional reliability of its maker."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121121075756.htm

Crystal
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