Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7680 on: Nov 29th, 2012, 10:38am »
UFO activity creates explosive light over Arizona
Date: 29 November 2012 Posted By : Raymond
A witness has reported sighting an explosive burst of light in the city of Kingman in Mohave County, Arizona on the 25 November, 2012 at 2:15 AM. This report has been obtained from a testimony included in the database of Mutual UFO Network (MUFON).
The witness begins the report by describing the location and time of the sighting. He also describes the direction of the explosion.
“I was driving East on the I-40, near Flagstaff, AZ. It was approximately 2AM. It was very dark and desolate. Suddenly, the sky became very bright. My attention was drawn to the sky, North, toward Nevada.”
The witness then describes the explosion and how an object appeared out of it. He also describes the appearance of that object.
“Within aprox 1000ft AGL, there appeared an enormous, energetic explosion of light, mostly blue and white, that cast down a shower of sparks, somewhat similar to en electrical surge. The explosion seemed to create a ring-like effect, out of which, it seemed, emerged a large, oblong, glowing object. It had a blue, lazer-like appearance.”
He further describes the movement of the object, its direction and speed.
“The object rapidly "skittered" and dashed across the sky, westward, covering at least a couple of miles (or perhaps many more) in a matter of only 5 or 6 seconds. It seemed to leave a trail of "sparks" or some kind of flaring energy.”
After that, he tells us how the sky returned to normalcy, abruptly.
“The entire event seemed to end suddenly, in another display of explosive light. The sky immediately returned to its normal state, and it was over.”
Finally, he tells us about his reaction to the sighting.
“I felt shocked, amazed, and afraid and excited, all at once, during and immediately after the event. I even wondered if I had hallucinated or imagined the entire thing because it seemed so "unreal." It was like nothing I have ever seen before, not even in movies.”
The above quotes were edited for clarity.
MUFON requests that readers do keep in mind that many reports of UFO sightings can be explained scientifically as natural phenomenon.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7682 on: Nov 30th, 2012, 10:26am »
The Tools of Mexico’s Drug Cartels, From Landmines to Monster Trucks By Robert Beckhusen 11.30.12 6:30 AM
It can be a little deceiving to think of Mexico's drug cartels as simply gangsters. Instead, they've blurred boundaries between organized crime and quasi-military insurgents, seized swathes of territory and become some of the world's most dangerous criminal gangs. They've also acquired plenty of firepower to back it up.
The Zetas are one of the most disruptive and aggressive of them all. Formed by ex-military men who became armed enforcers for the Gulf Cartel, the Zetas split with their former patrons nearly three years ago and have since become one of Mexico's largest and most dangerous cartels. While most of those ex-military founding fathers of the cartel are now dead or in prison, they've retained a culture of military loyalties, if not so much the discipline and hierarchy. Or much in the way of taste. In September, Mexican police arrested Ramiro Pozos, the alleged leader of drug gang "The Resistance" and Zeta ally -- with his gold- and silver-plated AK-47. Meanwhile, coming up on Saturday, incoming president Enrique Pena Nieto takes office, the first change in the presidency since the drug war exploded across the country more than six years ago. Aside from reducing the level of violence, one of his priorities will be wrenching back control of cartel territory, and putting it back under the control of the state.
It won't be easy. To enforce their claims, the Zetas — and other criminal groups like the Sinaloa Cartel and the Gulf Cartel — deploy an extensive amount of hardware, nearly rivaling Mexico's own military. Police forces are often corrupted or threatened into compliance, and almost always outgunned. Here's a look at seven examples why.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7683 on: Nov 30th, 2012, 10:30am »
Special Report: Greeks rage against pension calamity
By George Georgiopoulos and Lefteris Papadimas Fri Nov 30, 2012 4:08am EST
ATHENS (Reuters) - In the heat of a June night, Eleni Spanopoulou found her audience at an Athens hotel turning ugly. Mutiny and violence hung in the air.
For hours the leader of the Greek journalists' social security fund had been chairing a meeting about disastrous losses on retirement savings caused by the country's economic collapse. "She tried to present herself as the fund's savior and asked (members) to double contributions to 6 percent of salaries," said one of those present that night at the Titania hotel. Spanopoulou, 58, did not succeed.
When she rose to leave around midnight, enraged fund members first swore, then waded in punching, kicking and tearing at her clothes, according to witnesses. A bodyguard managed to bustle her out of the room, but another group caught her just outside the hotel and gave her a second beating. She spent the night in hospital.
It was a brutal sign of the fury many Greeks feel at the way the country's debt crisis has dashed hopes of a comfortable old age. Greece's pension funds - patchily run in the first place, say unionists and some politicians - have been savaged by austerity and the terms of the international bailout keeping the country afloat.
Workers and pensioners suffered losses of about 10 billion euros ($13 billion) just in the debt restructuring of March 2012, when the value of some Greek bonds was cut in half. That sum is equal to 4.6 percent of the country's GDP in 2011.
Many savers blame the debacle on the Bank of Greece, the country's central bank, which administers three-quarters of pension funds' surplus cash. Pensioners and politicians accuse it of failing to foresee trouble looming, or even of investing pension fund money in government bonds that it knew to be at high risk of a 'haircut' - having their value reduced.
A Reuters examination of previously unpublished data from the Bank of Greece reveals the bank invested pension fund money in 1.18 billion euros of Greek bonds after the economic crisis began.
Prokopis Pavlopoulos, a lawmaker in the ruling coalition's conservative New Democracy party and former interior minister, said: "From July 2010 it was obvious that a debt restructuring would be inevitable. While foreign banks were unloading their Greek government bonds, no one moved to tell Greek pension funds to do something, that a haircut was coming."
Spanopoulou, while deploring the violence she suffered, said: "The Bank of Greece knew about the haircut on bonds well in advance and should have informed (our) fund."
The losses compound the woes of Greek pensioners, many of whom have seen their income fall; further cuts are expected as part of the latest austerity package voted through parliament in November.
The Bank of Greece rejects the criticism, arguing its room for maneuver was limited. Around the world pension funds routinely invest in government bonds, and the bank says the scale of Greece's economic meltdown was not obvious when most of its pension fund investments were made.
"More than 90 percent of the bonds that eventually suffered a haircut had been bought before 2009," said Mihalis Mihalopoulos, a Bank of Greece official who invests money on behalf of Greek pension funds.
That is not enough to assuage critics, who say the pension fund crisis is one of the most neglected facets of the Greek catastrophe. "At the very least ... pension funds were not warned," lawmaker Pavlopoulos said. "The government ... knew it was heading for a haircut and did nothing for these people, which I find hard to stomach."
HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS
Having grown up piecemeal over decades, the Greek pension system is highly fragmented with about 200 official bodies running different funds, with different costs and benefits, covering numerous occupations.
Broadly, though, the majority of people rely on schemes with an element of government funding as well as contributions from employers and employees. The state also plays a pivotal role in deciding how such funds invest, and appoints the boards on many of them.
Under a law passed in 1997 and refined in 2007, pension funds have to place 77 percent of any surplus cash in a pool of "common capital" managed by the Bank of Greece. The law requires the common capital to be invested only in Greek government bonds or Treasury bills (T-bills). The remaining 23 percent of funds can be invested in other assets, such as mutual funds, shares and real estate.
The aim of the measures, officials said, was to ensure that most of the money was safely tucked away for a steady return. In the good times, this worked. But it was to have disastrous consequences when the credit crunch that began in 2007 led to a crisis in sovereign debt.
When the incoming government of 2009 revealed Greece's finances were far worse than previously admitted, ministers initially dismissed the idea of reneging on some of the country's debts. But in some circles the prospect rapidly gained ground, according to a former Greek representative to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
"The IMF ... was more open to securing the sustainability of Greece's debt via a writedown (than the euro zone countries)," said Panagiotis Roumeliotis, a former economy minister and Greece's IMF representative at the time. Foreign investors were not slow to see the danger.
Many scrambled to sell their holdings of Greek debt, but officials managing pension fund money at the Bank of Greece did not. Pavlopoulos claims that while foreign investors dumped more than 100 billion euros of Greek government bonds from 2009 to 2011, the country's pension funds actually raised their holdings by 9 billion euros.
The central bank disputes his figures. It says that between January 2009 and May 2011 it invested pension fund money in government bonds with a nominal value of only 1.18 billion euros, after which it stopped. It also said, in a letter to Pavlopoulos, that from the end of 2009 to the end of 2011 pension funds' total holdings of Greek bonds fell by 2.5 billion euros.
Despite those figures, Pavlopoulos remains dissatisfied. "The Bank of Greece did nothing to protect the pension funds," he said.
Amid the wrangling over exactly who bought what when, one thing is clear: when the financial storm struck, the pension funds remained heavily exposed. Bank of Greece figures show that the pension funds still held 19 billion euros of Greek bonds and 1.4 billion euros in T-bills as the country teetered on default in early 2012.
Mihalopoulos, the central bank investment manager, said selling the bonds would not have helped: "Had we liquidated the bond portfolio we would have realized a loss of 8 billion euros as prices had come down sharply."
In the end, however, the pension funds appear to have suffered an even bigger loss. In March, Greece completed the largest-ever sovereign debt restructuring as part of its bailout by the "troika" of euro zone members, IMF and European Central Bank. In a move known as "private sector involvement" or PSI, Greece replaced old bonds with new ones worth 53.5 percent less.
Bank of Greece figures show that by June the pension fund assets it controlled had plummeted to 11.1 billion euros, made up of 8.7 billion in bonds and 2.4 billion in T-bills. In the space of three months pension funds had lost about 10 billion euros.
Former Labour Minister George Koutroumanis told Reuters the losses were unavoidable. "How could we have asked to protect our own pension funds and let all the others take the blow, it could not have worked that way," said Koutroumanis, whose former department is in charge of the pension system. "The billions of euros that pension funds lost because of the PSI was a significant hit. But it has to be weighed against the need to ensure the viability of the country in the euro and the system's continued funding."
That argument does little to stem the anger of those facing impoverishment. Before the PSI, the journalists' pension fund had assets at the central bank worth 115 million euros; after the PSI they were worth 59 million euros, according to Bank of Greece figures.
Employees at ATEbank, a state-run institution that recently had to be rescued, are among others to have suffered. "The (health and supplementary pension) fund of ATEbank's employees is collapsing ... as a result of the PSI, which cost 70 million euros," said Konstantinos Amoutzias, president of the bank's employee union. "We have asked the Bank of Greece since the summer to provide us with data on the investment of our funds and they haven't answered us yet."
A senior Bank of Greece official, who declined to be named, said: "Any fund which has asked for data on transactions and market prices has received it." He added that, for reasons of legal confidentiality, the central bank could not reveal full details, such as the names of the banks from which it had bought government bonds in the secondary market.
Vaso Voyatzoglou, secretary general of insurance at the bank employees' union OTOE, said: "Eventually all pension funds will end up suing the Bank of Greece in order to find out what exactly happened and how they lost their money."
THE HUMAN COST
Among individuals on the receiving end of the losses is Constantine Siatras, 79, a retired lieutenant-general, who says his income has fallen by 33 percent during the crisis.
"We should not have illusions that our pension fund will recoup what it lost from the haircut on its government bond holdings," he said. "It's very hard to get by as a pensioner the way things are going."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7684 on: Nov 30th, 2012, 10:35am »
'Expendables 2' Stuntman Sues Over Injuries in On-Set Explosion
5:01 PM PST 11/29/2012 by Matthew Belloni
A stuntman injured in an explosion on the Bulgaria set of The Expendables 2 has sued the film's producers seeking damages for his pain and suffering.
Nuo Sun filed suit Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court against Millennium Films, claiming an Oct. 27, 2011, stunt at the Ognyanovo Reservoir/Dam near the village of Ognyanovo was recklessly staged by the producers of the Sylvester Stallone action sequel. Sun, who news reports have suggested was a stand-in for co-star Jet Li, alleges he was engaged in a stunt in a rubber boat when an explosion severely injured him. Another stuntman on the film, Kun Lieu, was killed in the same explosion.
As a result of the alleged negligence, Sun claims he has suffered "severe shock and injury" to his "nervous system, neck, head, body, arms and legs, all of which injuries may be permanent and all of which injuries have caused and continue to cause plaintiff great mental, physical and nervous pain and suffering," the lawsuit alleges.
We've reached out to Millennium for comment and will update with a response. At the time of the accident, the company issued the following statement: “Our deepest condolences go to the family of Kun Lieu. His passing is tragic. Our sympathies also go to Nuo Sun, who was seriously injured as a result of the same explosion. We have been informed his condition has stabilized. He has been transported to Munich, Germany, where he is receiving top medical care from the best specialists.”
The complaint, filed by attorney Robert Klein, alleges causes of action for negligence and strict liability against defendants Millennium, Barney's Christmas Inc., Second Choice Productions International and Second Choice Production Services.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7685 on: Nov 30th, 2012, 11:29am »
Scientists Discover Water Ice On Mercury: Ice and Organic Material May Have Been Carried to the Planet by Passing Comets
ScienceDaily (Nov. 29, 2012)
— Mercury, the smallest and innermost planet in our solar system, revolves around the sun in a mere 88 days, making a tight orbit that keeps the planet incredibly toasty. Surface temperatures on Mercury can reach a blistering 800 degrees Fahrenheit -- hot enough to liquefy lead.
Perspective view of Mercury’s north polar region with the radar-bright regions shown in yellow. (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)
Now researchers from NASA, MIT, the University of California at Los Angeles and elsewhere have discovered evidence that the scorching planet may harbor pockets of water ice, along with organic material, in several permanently shadowed craters near Mercury's north pole.
The surprising discovery suggests to scientists that both ice and organic material, such as carbon, may have been deposited on Mercury's surface by impacts from comets or asteroids. Over time, this volatile material could then have migrated to the planet's poles.
"We thought the most exciting finding could be that this really was water ice," says Maria Zuber, the E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, and a member of the research team. "But the identification of darker, insulating material that may indicate complex organics makes the story even more thrilling."
Zuber and her colleagues published their results this week in the journal Science.
Mounting evidence for ice
The possibility that water ice might exist on Mercury is not new: In the 1990s, radar observations detected bright regions near Mercury's poles that scientists believed could be signs of either water ice or a rough planetary surface. However, the evidence was inconclusive for either scenario.
To get a clearer picture of Mercury's polar regions, Zuber and her colleagues analyzed observations taken by NASA's MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging) mission, a probe that has been orbiting the planet and mapping its topography since April 2011.
Mapping the planet's surface is a challenging task, as the craft must weather the sun's intense radiation, which can "play havoc with electronics," Zuber says. What's more, the probe moves from pole to pole in an elliptical orbit, making for an extremely tricky mapping mission, both dynamically and thermally. Despite these challenges, MESSENGER's onboard laser altimeter has amassed more than 10 laser pulses that have been used to map topography and measure the near-infrared reflectance of the surface.
Last year, researchers analyzed the probe's topographic observations and created a high-resolution map of Mercury; they then overlaid previous radar observations. They found that the bright regions detected in radar lined up with permanently shadowed craters at the planet's north pole -- regions that never see the sun, and which are potentially ideal places for ice to survive. This finding was one more piece of evidence that Mercury might harbor water ice.
In this latest analysis of MESSENGER's observations, scientists believe they have found conclusive evidence for water ice on Mercury, although the data was at first puzzling.
The team found that the probe's reflectance measurements, taken via laser altimetry, matched up well with previously mapped radar-bright regions in Mercury's high northern latitudes. Two craters in particular were bright, both in radar and at laser wavelengths, indicating the possible presence of reflective ice. However, just south of these craters, others appeared dark with laser altimetry, but bright in radar.
The observations "threw us off track for a long time," Zuber says, until another team member, David Paige of UCLA, developed a thermal model of the planet. Using MESSENGER observations of Mercury's topography, reflectance and rotational characteristics, the model simulated the sun's illumination of the planet, enabling precise determination of Mercury's temperature at and below the surface.
Results indicated that the unusually bright deposits corresponded to regions where water ice was stable at the surface; in dark regions, ice was stable within a meter of the surface. The dark insulating material is consistent with complex organics that would already be dark but may have been darkened further by the intense radiation at Mercury's surface.
In addition, MESSENGER's neutron spectrometer detected elemental hydrogen in the vicinity of Mercury's north pole. The combination of the compositional, spectral and geometric observations and the thermal models provided a strong, self-consistent explanation for the unusual radar backscatter observations.
Paul Lucey, a professor of geophysics and planetology at the University of Hawaii, points out that MESSENGER has also revealed a number of regions where surfaces were much darker than in previous radar measurements. Lucey interprets these results as possible evidence of receding ice on Mercury's surface.
"This suggests that in the past, ice was more extensive on Mercury, and retreated to its current state," says Lucey, who was not involved in the research. "Even Mercury experiences global warming."
MESSENGER will continue to orbit Mercury, and Zuber says future data may reveal information beyond the planet's surface. "There are still some really good questions to answer about the interior," Zuber says. "I'll tell you, we're not done."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7687 on: Dec 1st, 2012, 11:10am »
New View of the Sun: Radio Telescope Could Save World Billions Through Advanced Warnings
ScienceDaily (Nov. 30, 2012) — A small pocket of Western Australia's remote outback is set to become the eye on the sky and could potentially save the world billions of dollars. The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope, unveiled November 30, will give the world a dramatically improved view of the Sun and provide early warning to prevent damage to communication satellites, electric power grids and GPS navigation systems.
The $51 million low-frequency radio telescope will be able to detect and monitor massive solar storms, such as the one that cut power to six million people in Canada in 1989 during the last peak in solar activity.
In 2011, experts warned that a major solar storm could result in damage to integral power supplies and communication networks of up to US$2 trillion -- the equivalent of a global Hurricane Katrina.
The MWA will aim to identify the trajectory of solar storms, quadrupling the warning period currently provided by near-Earth satellites. This is timely as the Sun is due to re-enter peak activity in 2013, with a dramatic increase in the number and severity of solar storms expected, with the potential to disrupt global communications and ground commercial airlines.
The completion of the MWA realises eight years of work by an international consortium of 13 institutions across four countries (Australia, USA, India and New Zealand), led by Curtin University.
The Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO: operated by CSIRO) was chosen by the consortium because it is the world's best location for low frequency radio astronomy. The site has also been selected as the future home for a major part of the Square Kilometre Array.
"The MWA will keep watch on the Sun during the upcoming period of maximum solar activity. It has the potential to deliver very real and immediate benefits to the entire global population. It is a tremendous achievement and testament to the innovative technologies that have been developed to support this instrument," said Director of the MWA and Professor of Radio Astronomy at Curtin University, Steven Tingay
The MWA is ground-breaking in other ways too -- it will offer scientists an unprecedented view of the entire history of the Universe, to gain a better understanding of how the early Universe formed and the relationship between gravity and dark matter evolved, including how the very first stars and galaxies formed.
"Understanding how the dramatic transformation took place soon after the Big Bang, over 13 billion years ago, is the final frontier for astrophysicists like me. It has taken eight years to get to this point and it is incredibly exciting to have completed construction and to be collecting scientific data from the MWA," Professor Tingay said.
"Preliminary testing, using only a fraction of the MWA's capability, has already achieved results that are on par with the best results ever achieved in the search for the first stars and galaxies.
"We anticipate a 10-fold improvement in performance when the full capabilities of the MWA are pressed into service in early 2013," Professor Tingay told a group of eminent scientists and VIPs who had travelled from all over the world to attend the telescope's unveiling.
This sentiment has been supported by 2011 Nobel Laureate and member of the Murchison Widefield Array Board, Professor Brian Schmidt, who described the telescope as a highly ambitious project: "With it we will, for the first time, be able to look at the transformation of the Universe from a rather boring environment of hydrogen and helium to the point where the stars, galaxies, and black holes create the vibrant Universe as we know it," Professor Schmidt said.
"This telescope is an exciting and necessary part of the process of discovery and I see it as a step towards, if not the tool for, an important scientific breakthrough."
The Murchison Widefield Array will have four primary areas of scientific investigation; as well as looking back into the time to the early Universe, soon after the Big Bang, and its in-depth study of the Sun -- Earth connection, the data produced by the telescope will also be used to better understand our galaxy and distant galaxies, as well as violent and explosive phenomena in the Universe.
The MWA has been supported by both State and Federal Government funding, with the majority of federal funding administered by Astronomy Australia Limited. The MWA project recognises the Wadjarri Yamatji people as the traditional owners of the site on which the MWA is built and thanks the Wadjarri Yamatji people for their support.
Murchison Widefield Array Facts
Located 370 km north-east of Geraldton (nearly 800 km from Perth) the MWA is situated in the Shire of Murchison, an area of approximately 50,000 square kilometres (19,300 square miles) and has a population of 114 people. The MWA is located at CSIRO's Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO).
The Murchison Widefield Array will pick up radio waves that have travelled between 8 minutes (the Sun) and more than 13 billion years (soon after the Big Bang) to reach Earth. The telescope spans a 3 diameter kilometre area and is entirely static (no moving parts). It uses 2,048 dual-polarisation dipole antennas arranged into a strategic formation of 128 groups (16 dual-polarisation dipoles per group).
Each of these antennas has been constructed from a flat-pack style design and built in-situ at the MRO by a team of undergraduate students from Curtin University, known as the Student Army.
The telescope is considered low-cost, with each antenna costing approximately $3,000. Comparatively a high frequency dish telescope costs in the region of $500,000. Radio waves collected from the sky are digitised, producing a new image of the sky every few seconds. These are then sent via high speed optical fibre, an early part of the National Broadband Network, to a processing and archiving facility over 700 kilometres away in Perth (the $80m Pawsey HPC Centre for SKA Science).
When operating at full capacity the telescope will produce the equivalent of a 2 hour long HD movie every 10 seconds (approximately 4 GB every 10 seconds).
Technology giants IBM and Cisco, as well as Western Australian based firm Poseidon Scientific Instruments (acquired by Raytheon in July 2012), have worked with the consortium to create highly specialised hardware to process the vast amount of data created by the telescope.
The primary archiving facility will be the $80million Pawsey HPC Centre for SKA Science, which is being built in Perth. Information is also being automatically transferred to MWA partner organisations in Boston in the United States (MIT) and Wellington in New Zealand (Victoria University of Wellington).
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7689 on: Dec 2nd, 2012, 08:58am »
DIA sending hundreds more spies overseas
By Greg Miller, Dec 02, 2012 01:36 AM EST
The Pentagon will send hundreds of additional spies overseas as part of an ambitious plan to assemble an espionage network that rivals the CIA in size, U.S. officials said.
The project is aimed at transforming the Defense Intelligence Agency, which has been dominated for the past decade by the demands of two wars, into a spy service focused on emerging threats and more closely aligned with the CIA and elite military commando units.
When the expansion is complete, the DIA is expected to have as many as 1,600 “collectors” in positions around the world, an unprecedented total for an agency whose presence abroad numbered in the triple digits in recent years.
The total includes military attachés and others who do not work undercover. But U.S. officials said the growth will be driven over a five-year period by the deployment of a new generation of clandestine operatives. They will be trained by the CIA and often work with the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, but they will get their spying assignments from the Department of Defense.
Among the Pentagon’s top intelligence priorities, officials said, are Islamist militant groups in Africa, weapons transfers by North Korea and Iran, and military modernization underway in China.
“This is not a marginal adjustment for DIA,” the agency’s director, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, said at a recent conference, during which he outlined the changes but did not describe them in detail. “This is a major adjustment for national security.”
The sharp increase in DIA undercover operatives is part of a far-reaching trend: a convergence of the military and intelligence agencies that has blurred their once-distinct missions, capabilities and even their leadership ranks.
Through its drone program, the CIA now accounts for a majority of lethal U.S. operations outside the Afghan war zone. At the same time, the Pentagon’s plan to create what it calls the Defense Clandestine Service, or DCS, reflects the military’s latest and largest foray into secret intelligence work.
The DIA overhaul — combined with the growth of the CIA since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — will create a spy network of unprecedented size. The plan reflects the Obama administration’s affinity for espionage and covert action over conventional force. It also fits in with the administration’s efforts to codify its counterterrorism policies for a sustained conflict and assemble the pieces abroad necessary to carry it out.
Unlike the CIA, the Pentagon’s spy agency is not authorized to conduct covert operations that go beyond intelligence gathering, such as drone strikes, political sabotage or arming militants.
But the DIA has long played a major role in assessing and identifying targets for the U.S. military, which in recent years has assembled a constellation of drone bases stretching from Afghanistan to East Africa.
The expansion of the agency’s clandestine role is likely to heighten concerns that it will be accompanied by an escalation in lethal strikes and other operations outside public view. Because of differences in legal authorities, the military isn’t subject to the same congressional notification requirements as the CIA, leading to potential oversight gaps.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7690 on: Dec 2nd, 2012, 09:02am »
Suicide bombers attack U.S. base in Afghanistan
By Rafiq Shirzad Sun Dec 2, 2012 9:43am EST
JALALABAD, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Suicide attackers detonated bombs and fired rockets outside a major U.S. base in Afghanistan on Sunday, killing five people in a brazen operation that highlighted the country's security challenges ahead of the 2014 NATO combat troop pullout.
Local police officials said bodies in Afghan police and military uniforms were scattered around the entrance of the airfield in the eastern city of Jalalabad after a two-hour battle. A Taliban spokesman said the militant group had launched the 6 a.m. assault.
The Taliban, who have been fighting U.S.-led NATO and Afghan forces for more than a decade, sometimes dress in uniforms for attacks.
Two suicide bombers died after blowing themselves up in cars, said Nasir Ahmad Safi, a spokesman for the provincial government.
Seven other bombers were killed in the a gunbattle with Afghan and coalition forces. Three Afghan soldiers and two civilians also died, said Safi.
U.S. helicopters circled overhead.
"There were multiple suicide bombers involved," said Major Martyn Crighton, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Several coalition troops were wounded, he said.
The United States and Afghan government are scrambling to stabilize Afghanistan before most NATO combat troops withdraw at the end of 2014 and hand over security to Afghan forces.
Some Afghans doubt government security forces will be able to defend the country against any Taliban attempts to seize power again after foreign troops withdraw. There are also growing fears that a civil war will erupt.
President Hamid Karzai's government say Afghan security forces have made good progress.
Afghanistan's defense ministry spokesman said there were rocket attacks at the Jalalabad base followed by suicide bombings.
In a text message, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said : "This morning at 6 a.m. a number of our devotees attacked the major U.S. Base in Jalalabad city and so far have brought heavy casualties to the enemy."
In February, a suicide car bomber killed nine people at the base, almost exclusively used by NATO and the U.S. military.
(Additional reporting by Martin Petty in KABUL; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Ron Popeski)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7691 on: Dec 2nd, 2012, 09:19am »
Originally published December 1, 2012 at 8:03 PM Page modified December 1, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Investors see profit potential in new pot law
Two Seattle-based Yale MBAs emerge as the button-down straight men on the business frontier of marijuana, as legalization in Washington and Colorado turbocharged pot into a mainstream business opportunity.
By Jonathan Martin Seattle Times staff reporter
Brendan Kennedy's work at Silicon Valley Bank required him to put a value on startups and emerging industries. But he quit his job and became an investor himself when he saw limitless potential in one new industry. Marijuana.
The industry was fragmented, rife with unprofessional managers, and the medical-marijuana business couldn't get access to capital.
"And yet, despite all those problems, it had annual revenues" in the billions, Kennedy said. "I became fascinated with it."
Two and a half years later, Kennedy and Michael Blue, two Yale MBAs with backgrounds in banking, are emerging as button-down straight men on the business frontier of marijuana. Their leap into the fledgling industry seems prescient, especially as marijuana is poised to explode from the medical niche to mainstream recreation this week.
"It's the biggest opportunity I'm ever going to see in my lifetime," said Kennedy, 40.
Their Seattle-based private-equity firm, Privateer Holdings, is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation to focus exclusively on marijuana.
But Kennedy and Blue won't be alone for long.
Votes in Washington and Colorado last month to legalize pot for recreational use turbocharged marijuana as a legitimate business opportunity.
Business people packed a marijuana-industry conference in Denver the day after the election, and shares of publicly-traded companies spiked — one that sells marijuana vending machines jumped 3,000 percent — on giddy enthusiasm.
The ripest opportunities are among cannabis-focused businesses ancillary to direct selling or growing of marijuana — from media to insurance, from hydroponic suppliers to specialty software.
Kennedy compares it to the corn industry, which is supported by supply warehouses, makers of high-fructose corn syrup and corn insurers.
"There's whole sub-industries around corn. None of that exists in a mature fashion around marijuana," he said. "It all needs to be built. It all needs to be grown."
The decades-old federal ban on marijuana has constricted such investment, with investors nibbling at the edges.
But the potential size of a recreational marijuana market is now simply too big to ignore. In Washington alone, more than 360,000 people are projected to buy at state-licensed marijuana stores should they open in 2013, creating a billion-dollar industry.
Lawmakers in four Northeastern states are planning to introduce legalization measures.
"The wall of prohibition may crumble sooner than anyone imagined possible," said Troy Dayton, CEO of a marijuana-industry angel investor network, The ArcView Group. "If that happens, this is the next great American industry."
Cannabis is already big business. There are at least 20 publicly-traded companies — including indoor farming suppliers, pharmaceutical labs and financial-services firms — that market directly to the marijuana industry. Several of the companies have market capitalizations of $40 million or more.
A 2011 analysis by See Change Strategy estimated the medical-marijuana industry was $1.7 billion in 2011, and could grow to $8.9 billion by 2016 — and that was before legalization measures.
"Now, people aren't talking about the medical-marijuana industry, they're talking about the marijuana industry," said Chris Walsh, editor of Medical Marijuana Business Daily, an online publication that sponsored the Denver conference.
Medical-marijuana startups have largely relied on private investment from friends and family. The ability to keep a bank account remains one of the industry's biggest obstacles because federally insured banks view marijuana businesses as illegal.
"Businesses don't like uncertainty in general, and this industry has so much uncertainty," said Walsh, a former business reporter for the Rocky Mountain News. "It could collapse overnight."
The federal government has not indicated how it will respond to Washington's Initiative 502 or Colorado's Amendment 64. Govs. Chris Gregoire and John Hickenlooper of Colorado recently pressed U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to say if he will intervene, and at least 18 members of Congress signed onto a bill to ensure federal authorities wouldn't pre-empt the state marijuana laws.
Silence is interpreted as a good sign by entrepreneurs such as Sean Green, a former real-estate agent who opened a dispensary, Pacific Northwest Medical, in Shoreline, and hopes to expand.
"The longer the feds won't say anything, the more the investors drool," he said. "Before Nov. 6, it wasn't a good risk-reward ratio. Now, people are reconsidering."
The ballot measures in both states allow for-profit growers and retailers, and Washington's law calls for regulating marijuana like alcohol.
Seattle marijuana-industry attorney Hilary Bricken said mainstream business people are quickly emerging, in part because voters approved the initiative by 12 points.
"That margin of victory just wholesaled marijuana to white yuppie America," she said.
Pot for soccer moms
Kennedy and Blue did their risk analysis two years ago. They won a business-planning competition at Yale in 2005 before veering off into business — Kennedy, who'd already started and sold two tech companies, went to SVB Analytics, valuing startups; and Blue into private-equity firms in Connecticut and Arkansas.
Blue, 34, said he had no qualms after talking to conservative friends and family in his native Arkansas. "The feedback was, not only is this a good opportunity, you guys have the chance to do something really good," he said.
They brought on a third partner, Christian Groh, and set up shop two years ago in Seattle, where Kennedy's wife is a Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer.
Privateer Holdings started small and focused. It is closing a first-round investment pool of $7 million, and intends to buy existing marijuana-related businesses with a mainstream profile — "something that appeals to a soccer mom," Kennedy said. They are currently considering buying the manufacturer of a marijuana vaporizer.
They are targeting those kinds of ancillary businesses, not those growing or selling marijuana, because of the federal risk.
Kennedy said their lawyers vetted the strategy, but he said he has not talked with federal authorities.
Privateer Holdings' approach is the most common approach for the two dozen investors involved in The ArcView Group, which provides seed investment for marijuana startups, Dayton said.
"There's the Mark Twain saying, 'When people are looking for gold, it's a good time to be in the pick and shovel network,' " said Dayton. "And gold wasn't federally criminally illegal. There's even more reason to be in picks and shovels."
The first purchase was Leafly.com, a slickly designed website offering more than 40,000 reviews of about 500 marijuana strains. The website sorts them for medical use — from anxiety to seizures, and for effect — from lazy to tingly.
Medical-marijuana dispensaries in eight states upload their menus to Leafly so the site can send customers to a nearby retailer.
Kennedy emphasizes the need for professional management in an industry that is, at times, its own worst enemy.
"I'm waiting for the day when we can go to a conference, and you don't have to listen to Bob Marley," he said.
He's run six Ironman triathlons, and says he didn't use marijuana for about 20 years before trying it this year, on the theory that "I have to practice what I preach."
It has been hard to get this far: They were rejected by nine banks before finding one willing to do business.
But he and Blue are bullish, especially after the Nov. 6 votes.
"I've seen a lot of small companies that grew to be big companies," said Kennedy. "This is unlike anything I have ever seen."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7692 on: Dec 2nd, 2012, 09:23am »
NFL Stars React to Kansas City Chiefs Murder-Suicide 6:05 PM PST 12/1/2012 by Aaron Couch
NFL players and fans are expressing shock and grief over reports that Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend and then committed suicide.
Police say Belcher fatally shot Kasandra Michelle Perkins in the couple's Kansas City home at around 7:50 a.m., before he drove to Arrowhead Stadium and killed himself in front of members of the team's coaching staff. The couple had a baby daughter, The Kansas City Star reported.
Perkins’ mother was visiting from New York and witnessed the shooting. Chiefs coaching staff told police they attempted to prevent Belcher from harming himself, and said he had not threatened them prior to him killing himself outside of the stadium.
Belcher’s teammates were among those expressing grief online.
Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali:
I am devastated by this mornings events. I want to send my thoughts and prayers out to everyone effected by this tragedy.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7693 on: Dec 3rd, 2012, 09:47am »
Clinton: U.S. will act if Syria uses chemical weapons
By Anne Gearan, Updated: Monday, December 3, 6:43 AM
PRAGUE — The United States will not tolerate any use of chemical weapons in Syria and will act quickly if that threat appears imminent, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday.
“This is a red line for the United States,” Clinton said. “I'm not going to telegraph in any specifics what we would do in the event of credible evidence that the Assad regime has resorted to using chemical weapons against their own people. But suffice to say we are certainly planning to take action.”
Clinton did not directly address new reports that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be moving chemical weapons or making other possible preparations to use his known stockpile. But the Associated Press, citing an unnamed U.S. defense official, reported that international “intelligence sources” have detected signs in recent days that Syria has been moving chemical weapons components to new locations.
The official, who according to AP spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about intelligence matters, said officials don’t believe any developments with the weapons are imminent but are trying to figure out what the Syrians are doing. Intense fighting was reported Sunday on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, with government forces bombarding rebel strongholds.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry strongly denied that the military would resort to chemical weapons, news services reported. “Syria has stressed repeatedly that it will not use these types of weapons, if they were available, under any circumstances against its people,” the ministry said.
Syria is believed to have several hundred ballistic surface-to-surface missiles capable of carrying chemical warheads. Its arsenal is a particular threat to American allies Turkey and Israel.
Clinton spoke Monday in the Czech Republic, which is acting as the United States’ diplomatic agent in Syria since the U.S. Embassy there was shuttered. Her statement echoed one made in August by President Obama, who declared that Assad’s deployment or use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” for U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war.
The Obama administration has never publicly spelled out how it would respond, but one option is an airstrike to destroy weapons before they could be used.
“There is no doubt there is a line between even the horrors they have already inflicted” on civilians, and the use of chemical weapons, Clinton said Monday.
NATO is expected to approve new missile defenses for Turkey at a meeting Tuesday, but a U.S. official traveling with Clinton said there are no plans to broaden that defense to include a no-fly zone or other more assertive military measures in Syria.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity ahead of a closed-door session of NATO foreign ministers.
The Patriot missiles expected to be deployed in Turkey would come from the United States, Germany and the Netherlands. Those governments would have to issue separate approvals after the NATO decision. The missile defenses are probably several weeks from deployment, the official said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7694 on: Dec 3rd, 2012, 09:50am »
Internet Hangs in Balance as World Governments Meet in Secret
By David Kravets 12.03.12 6:30 AM
There’s a lot of sky-is-falling doomsday predictions about the World Conference on International Telecommunications, which opens Monday in Dubai with some 190-plus nations discussing the global internet’s future.
That’s because much of the accompanying proposals from the global community have been kept under lock and key, although some of the positions of nations have been leaked and published online.
The idea behind the meetings is to update the International Telecommunications Regulations governed by the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency known as the ITU, that is responsible for global communication technologies.
But the outcome of the two-week session isn’t likely to make much change, as no proposal will be accepted if not agreed to by all nations. And the biggest fear — that the session will lead to net censorship — has already come to pass.
“Member States already have the right, as stated in Article 34 of the Constitution of ITU, to block any private telecommunications that appear ‘dangerous to the security of the State or contrary to its laws, to public order or to decency.’ The treaty regulations cannot override the Constitution,” said Hamadoun Touré, the ITU Secretary-General.
Emma Llanso, a policy attorney with the Center for Democracy & Technology, said proposals by various governments to treat internet connections like the telephone system are cause for concern regarding privacy and the unfettered, free flow of information.
But there is no “doomsday” internet kill switch scenario, she said.
“There’s not going to be some kind of doomsday scenario that there’s a treaty that makes the internet go dark,” Llanso said. “What we’re seeing is governments putting forward visions of the internet and having discussions.”
The last time the International Telecommunication Regulations global treaty was considered was in 1988. But technology has changed dramatically in the past 25 years.
On the table for discussion are spectrum and technology standards to improve global interoperability and efficiency. Cybersecurity, spam and data retention are also on the table.
Brett Solomon, executive director of Access, a digital rights group, is livid that the debate will be done largely in secret, with limited input from stakeholders.
“The ITU and its member states have attempted to respond to our criticisms and other challenges about the WCIT, but they fail to address the critical flaw: It’s a closed, government-controlled agency that should not be making decisions about internet policy,” he said. “Such decisions necessarily require the participation of governments and the private sector and civil society.”
The United States is battling plans to treat the internet like the telephone when it comes to transmission agreements. Some European and Middle Eastern members are calling for so-called termination fees, in which networks where a web session begins must pay the routing cost for the session’s destination — like phone companies work with phone calls.
“That model, in general, lends itself to fewer providers, higher prices, slower take-up of internet, slower economic growth,” said Terry Kramer, the head of the U.S. delegation.
Llanso said termination fees, which would obviously be paid for by consumers, also opens the door to more internet monitoring.
“You can also read it as a campaign,” she said, “to make all internet communication more traceable and more trackable, invading users’ privacy.”
The dot-nxt site has published a clearinghouse of leaked documents regarding member proposals.