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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 48118 times)
WingsofCrystal
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« Reply #7695 on: Dec 3rd, 2012, 09:54am »

Telegraph

Alien Investigations, Channel 4, review

Gerard O'Donovan reviews Alien Investigations, a Channel 4 documentary which examines four "alien sightings" from the last five years.

By Gerard O'Donovan
9:00PM GMT 03 Dec 2012

On Channel 4, Alien Investigations (Channel 4) was more successfully exploring another murky recess of the human brain - the one that encourages some people to believe aliens not only exist but even make occasional visits to planet Earth. The aim was to explore four separate incidents in Mexico, Peru, Panama and Long Island, New York, where the remains of supposedly alien beings have been discovered in last five years, with a view to uncovering… the truth.

The Panamanian case was discovered to be a rumour put about by some teenage boys and was swiftly dismissed. But the other three incidents had already received international media attention and were undoubtedly intriguing. Especially the case of a tiny, vaguely humanoid creature discovered in a rattrap on a farm in Metapec, Mexico. DNA tests, we heard, had been inconclusive; the debate as to its true origins still raged. Elsewhere, a skeletal “mummy” with a cone-shaped head found in the Andes was declared an Inca alien by the man who discovered it; on a Long Island beach, photos taken of the bloated corpse of an unidentified quadruped were dubbed the Montauk Monster (despite the creature being less than two feet long) and instantly declared extraterrestrial by the local media, whereupon the body mysteriously disappeared.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of this film was the degree to which Alien Investigations was intent on debunking rather than perpetuating these stories. In every case it succeeded in doing so in fine style, gaining impressive access where possible and proving – through the appliance of some forensic science, expert opinion and journalistic inquisition – that all the remains were of undeniably earthly origin. In the Mexican case they even secured something of a good old-fashioned scoop: an on-camera admission that it had all been a prank, by a bored taxidermist with too much time and a rare breed of marmoset monkey on his hands.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/9714984/Alien-Investigations-Channel-4-review.html

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« Reply #7696 on: Dec 3rd, 2012, 09:58am »

New York Times

December 1, 2012

In Panicky Russia, It’s Official: End of World Is Not Near
By ELLEN BARRY

MOSCOW — There are scattered reports of unusual behavior from across Russia’s nine time zones.

Inmates in a women’s prison near the Chinese border are said to have experienced a “collective mass psychosis” so intense that their wardens summoned a priest to calm them. In a factory town east of Moscow, panicked citizens stripped shelves of matches, kerosene, sugar and candles. A huge Mayan-style archway is being built — out of ice — on Karl Marx Street in Chelyabinsk in the south.

For those not schooled in New Age prophecy, there are rumors the world will end on Dec. 21, 2012, when a 5,125-year cycle known as the Long Count in the Mayan calendar supposedly comes to a close. Russia, a nation with a penchant for mystical thinking, has taken notice.

Last week, Russia’s government decided to put an end to the doomsday talk. Its minister of emergency situations said Friday that he had access to “methods of monitoring what is occurring on the planet Earth,” and that he could say with confidence that the world was not going to end in December. He acknowledged, however, that Russians were still vulnerable to “blizzards, ice storms, tornadoes, floods, trouble with transportation and food supply, breakdowns in heat, electricity and water supply.”

Similar assurances have been issued in recent days by Russia’s chief sanitary doctor, a top official of the Russian Orthodox Church, lawmakers from the State Duma and a former disc jockey from Siberia who recently placed first in the television show “Battle of the Psychics.” One official proposed prosecuting Russians who spread the rumor — starting on Dec. 22.

“You cannot endlessly speak about the end of the world, and I say this as a doctor,” said Leonid Ogul, a member of Parliament’s environment committee. “Everyone has a different nervous system, and this kind of information affects them differently. Information acts subconsciously. Some people are provoked to laughter, some to heart attacks, and some — to some negative actions.”

Russia is not the only country to face this problem.

In France, the authorities plan to bar access to Bugarach mountain in the south to keep out a flood of visitors who believe it is a sacred place that will protect a lucky few from the end of the world. The patriarch of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church recently issued a statement assuring the faithful that “doomsday is sure to come,” but that it will be provoked by the moral decline of mankind, not the “so-called parade of planets or the end of the Mayan calendar.”

In Yucatán State in Mexico, which has a large Mayan population, most place little stock in end-of-days talk. Officials are planning a Mayan cultural festival on Dec. 21 and, to show that all will be well after that, a follow-up in 2013.

Russians, however, can be powerfully transported by emotions, as the Rev. Tikhon Irshenko witnessed during his visit to Prison Colony No. 10 in the village of Gornoye. In an interview with the Data news service, Father Tikhon said he was summoned to the prison in November. The wardens told him that anxiety over the Mayan prophecy had been building for two months, and some inmates had broken out of the facility “because of their disturbing thoughts.” Some of the women were sick, or having seizures, he said.

“Once, when the prisoners were standing in formation, one of them imagined that the earth yawned, and they were all stricken by fear and ran in all directions,” the priest said. He lectured the inmates about the signs of the apocalypse according to the New Testament, he said, and after that “the populist statements about the end of the world were dispelled and the tension eased.”

More common are reports about panicky buying. In Ulan-Ude, the capital of the Buryatiya region, citizens have reportedly been hoarding food and candles to survive a period without light, following instructions from a Tibetan monk called the Oracle of Shambhala, who has been described on some Russian television broadcasts. A similar account appeared in a local newspaper in the factory town of Omutninsk, about 700 miles east of Moscow.

Viktoria Ushakova, the editor in chief of the newspaper, told the Interfax news agency that she ran the article as entertainment on the last page of her newspaper, in a section entitled “Relax” that also includes crossword puzzles. The ensuing panic, accompanied by a barrage of calls from distraught readers, lasted for a week and a half and then spread to nearby villages.

“I checked myself today,” she said. “There are no candles in all of Omutninsk.”

Last week, lawmakers in Moscow took up the matter, addressing a letter to Russia’s three main television stations asking them to stop airing material about the prophecy.

“You get the sense that the end of the world is a commercial project,” Mikhail Degtyaryov told the newspaper Izvestiya. “Just look at how many swindlers are trying to make money on this affair, starting from the pseudo-magicians, ending with people selling groceries and other rations.”

Though news outlets are likely to pay a price for this episode, Maria Eismont, a columnist for the newspaper Vedomosti, argued that the government’s recent embrace of archaic religious conservatism set the stage for apocalyptic thinking. At the blasphemy trial against the punk protest band Pussy Riot last summer, she noted, the young band members were sentenced in part on the basis of writings by Orthodox clerics from the seventh and fourth centuries.

“It would be unfair to consider Omutninsk a unique site of flourishing mysticism,” she wrote. “If Cossacks in operatic costumes march in downtown Moscow, and the State Duma is quite seriously considering introducing punishment for the violation of believers’ feelings, then why shouldn’t people living in a depressed town a thousand kilometers from Moscow not buy matches out of a fear of cosmic flares?”

As the first three weeks of December melt away, Russians will approach the deadline with their characteristic mordant humor. An entrepreneur in the Siberian city of Tomsk, for example, has sold several thousand gag emergency kits, a cleverly packaged $29 parcel including sprats, vodka, buckwheat, matches, candles, a string and a piece of soap.

The motto on the package offers a classic Russian commentary on the end of the world: “It can’t be worse.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/world/europe/mayan-end-of-world-stirs-panic-in-russia-and-elsewhere.html?_r=0

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« Reply #7697 on: Dec 3rd, 2012, 8:46pm »

Japan Today

Humanoid robot to keep Japanese astronaut company on space station

Technology
Dec. 02, 2012 - 11:00AM JST

TOKYO —

A small humanoid robot that can talk will be sent into space to provide conversational company for a Japanese astronaut on a six-month mission, according to new plans.

The miniature robot will arrive at the International Space Station next summer, a few months ahead of astronaut Koichi Wakata, Japan’s Kibo (Hope) Robot Project office said.

At 34 centimeters tall and weighing about one kilogram, the little android is programmed to recognise Wakata’s face and to communicate in Japanese, the project office said, adding that it will also take photos during the trip.

The robot will send information to Earth from the Japanese Kibo laboratory on the space station, where it will spend its time while Wakata is busy carrying out his mission as ISS commander.

A cartoon sketch of the space buddy was released on Thursday and showed a black-and-silver figure with bright red boots.

Mission organisers are asking for suggestions from the public for a name for the robot, which will also have a twin brother on Earth doing public relations.

A team of Tokyo University researchers, leading advertising agency Dentsu and robot creator Tomotaka Takahashi are organising the project.

The project’s website can be found at:

http://kibo-robo.jp/

http://www.japantoday.com/category/technology/view/robot-to-keep-japanese-astronaut-company-on-space-station

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« Reply #7698 on: Dec 4th, 2012, 10:15am »

Reuters

Egypt to push on with referendum despite opposition protests

By Alistair Lyon and Yasmine Saleh
Tue Dec 4, 2012 7:07am EST

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's opposition called for mass protests on Tuesday against the Islamist-led government's drive to hold a snap referendum on a new constitution after sweeping aside judicial obstacles.

President Mohamed Mursi ignited a storm of protest when he temporarily assumed extraordinary powers on November 22 to prevent a judiciary still dominated by appointees of ousted predecessor Hosni Mubarak from derailing a troubled political transition.

Riot police mustered around the presidential palace after activists said they would march towards it later in the day in a "last warning" to Mursi, an Islamist narrowly elected by popular vote in June.

A few hundred protesters gathered near his house in a suburb west of Cairo, chanting slogans against his decree and against the Muslim Brotherhood. Police closed the road to stop them from coming any closer, a security official said.

Liberals, leftists, Christians and others have accused Mursi of staging a dictatorial power grab to steamroller through a constitution drafted by an assembly packed with Islamists.

Egypt's most widely read independent newspapers did not publish on Tuesday in protest at Mursi's "dictatorship". Banks planned to close three hours early, one bank official said.

However, so far there has been only a limited response to opposition calls for a campaign of civil disobedience in the Arab world's most populous country and cultural hub.

"The presidency believes the opposition is too weak and toothless. Today is the day we show them the opposition is a force to be reckoned with," said Abdelrahman Mansour in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the cradle of the anti-Mubarak revolt.

"Mursi must come out to talk and hear the people, the opposition," the activist said. "The opposition says 'no' to the constitution and 'no' to autocracy."

The Islamists, who have already pushed the army out of the political driving seat, sense their moment has come to shape the future of Egypt, a longtime U.S. ally whose peace treaty with Israel is a cornerstone of Washington's Middle East policy.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, who staged a huge pro-Mursi demonstration on Saturday, are confident that enough members of the judiciary will be available to oversee the December 15 referendum, despite calls by some judges for a boycott.

Cairo stocks gained nearly 3 percent in early trading as investors took heart at what they saw as prospects for a return to stability in a country whose divisions have only widened since a mass uprising toppled Mubarak on February 11, 2011.

Mohamed Radwan, at Pharos Securities brokerage, said the Supreme Judicial Council's agreement to supervise the referendum had generated confidence that the vote would happen "despite all the noise and demonstrations that might take place until then".

"NO WAY PERFECT"

Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, a technocrat with Islamist sympathies, said in an interview with CNN: "We certainly hope that things will quiet down after the referendum is completed."

He said the constitution was "in no way a perfect text" that everyone had agreed to, but that a "majority consensus" favored moving forward with the referendum in 11 days' time.

The Muslim Brotherhood, now tasting power via the ballot box for the first time in eight decades of struggle, wants to protect its gains and appears ready to override street protests by what it sees as an unrepresentative minority.

It is also determined to stop the courts, which have already dissolved the Islamist-led elected lower house of parliament, from throwing more obstacles into their blueprint for change.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the coordinator of an opposition National Salvation Front, has said Mursi must rescind his decree, drop plans for the referendum and agree on a new, more representative constituent assembly to draft a democratic constitution.

In an opinion piece published in the Financial Times, he accused Mursi and the Brotherhood of believing that "with a few strokes of a pen, they can slide (Egypt) back into a coma".

ElBaradei, former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, wrote: "If they continue to try, they risk an eruption into violence and chaos that will destroy the fabric of Egyptian society."

Despite charges that they are anti-Islamist and politically motivated, judges say they are following legal codes in their rulings. Experts say some political changes rushed through in the past two years have been on shaky legal ground.

A Western diplomat said the Islamists were counting on a popular yearning for restored normality and economic stability.

"All the messages from the Muslim Brotherhood are that a vote for the constitution is one for stability and a vote against is one for uncertainty," he said, adding that the cost of the strategy was a "breakdown in consensus politics".


(Additional reporting by Tom Perry and Marwa Awad; Editing by Edmund Blair and Mark Heinrich)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/04/us-egypt-politics-idUSBRE8B30GP20121204

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« Reply #7699 on: Dec 4th, 2012, 10:22am »

Der Spiegel

12/04/2012

Stashed in the Alps A Tax Evasion Bonanza Hidden in a Swiss Bank

Public prosecutors in the western German city of Bochum have found some €2.9 billion hidden in accounts at the Swiss bank UBS after analyzing a CD with the names and bank data of clients thought to be evading taxes, according to a Monday newspaper report. Authorities said the discovery was one of their most lucrative ever.

The Tuesday edition of the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports that the CD contains 1,300 cases of potential tax evasion -- 750 of them involving German foundations.

The western state of North Rhine-Westphalia has been one of the most eager in recent years to buy CDs, created illicitly from anonymous bank employees and then sold to officials in Germany, with data from Swiss banks on tax evaders. The state government has bought four such CDs in recent months. Initial estimates put the amount of potential tax revenue that could be collected as a result of those CDs at €1.3 billion. The most recent CD reportedly cost about €3.5 million.

The first such CD purchase was in 2007. Authorities have typically given tax evaders a chance to come clean before they are prosecuted. Since 2007, some 40,000 people or institutions have taken advantage of such amnesty programs. Still, very few of the cases contained on the most recent CD -- a mere 135 out of 1,300 -- involved clients who have already turned themselves in.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has said the practice of paying for data on tax evaders undermines the federal government's efforts to come up with a broader agreement on tax evasion with Switzerland. A treaty negotiated between Berlin and Bern was blocked last month by the opposition Social Democrats and Greens in Germany's upper legislative chamber, the Bundesrat, which represents the interests of Germany's 16 states.

Swiss-German Tax Treaty Nears Failure

The opposition said the current treaty with Switzerland is too weak, and that Germany should push for a better deal. The Bundesrat is now negotiating changes to the treaty with the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, which had already approved the original treaty. Any changes would have to be approved by Switzerland as well.

Swiss President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said Switzerland is not prepared to give any more concessions to Germany, and that the failure of the agreement would be "good news for German tax evaders."

"They could continue hoping to remain unexposed until the statute of limitations on their tax crimes expires," she said in an interview with SPIEGEL. "With a 'no,' we'll be keeping the status quo."

Swiss banks have proposed giving their clients the choice to either voluntarily declare their assets to German tax authorities or close their accounts. Despite this, Widmer-Schlumpf said the tax agreement is still a better deal for Germany.

"German coffers get nothing when German clients, out of fear of prosecution, close their accounts in Switzerland and take their money elsewhere," she said. "With the tax treaty, in contrast, Germany can expect these clients will come clean with their finances. That will bring the German state a lot of money. Why Germany should say no to those billions of euros -- that's something the politicians rejecting this treaty will have to explain to the taxpayers in their constituency."

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/german-city-finds-3-billion-euros-hidden-by-tax-evaders-in-swiss-bank-a-870831.html

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« Reply #7700 on: Dec 4th, 2012, 10:25am »

Wired

In an Unlikely Echo Chamber, Lucasfilm Captures a Cinematic Gunshot

By Nathan Hurst
12.04.12 6:30 AM

The trek to the bottom of Bay Bridge pillar number 7 (westbound) starts down a ladder below a squeaky metal trap door, continues downwards 80 feet or so on narrow metal stairs sandwiched in a column tight enough to touch either side at once, and ends by passing through a crawl space in about 3 inches of salt water.

Once there, in a round concrete chasm, sunk beneath the San Francisco Bay, there’s enough room to stand up, which is what Benny Burtt does. And in the dim light of a little flashlight, he pulls out a pistol.

It sounds like a scene from a Hollywood thriller, but it’s not — though the sounds involved might someday show up on the silver screen. Burtt, an assistant sound effects editor for Skywalker Sound, the audio arm of Lucasfilm, is inside the new Bay Bridge on a rainy Friday with three other Skywalkers. They’re firing blanks with the gun to help record the sonic impulse response — an audio impression — of the bridge’s interior before the bridge opens and Homeland Security closes it off.

The project is mutually beneficial; the Skywalker team came to the bridge in search of new sounds, looking for audio effects that could appear in a Lucasfilm — or now Disney — movie. And the California Department of Transportation invited Skywalker Sound as a way to record and preserve the distinct impression of the bridge’s interior, through sound.

“The first things you think about showing people are visual,” says Bart Ney, communications manager for the Bay Bridge. “Everything’s visual. But when Skywalker comes out … they really come out and look at the project in a different kind of way.”

When you’re a recording team, the bridge is something more than architecture, and sonic imaging is an alternative to photographing.

“It’s kind of another way to preserve the legacy of the bridge, because the acoustics will be out there and somebody will be using them,” says Ney.

The new eastern span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge is one of the biggest engineering projects in recent California history. Scheduled to open next Labor Day, construction on the $7 billion bridge began in 2002. The process has featured innovations from directional lighting to weight transfer to earthquake resistance.

“So this would be a bad place to be during an earthquake?” Burtt asked as he descended below the water line on his way to the bottom of the column.

“This would be a good place to be during an earthquake,” Ney responded.

A few minutes earlier, the gang had hiked along the inside of the bridge itself, just under where the cars will go. The tunnel, about 25 feet wide and 25 feet tall, with a metal walkway suspended near the middle, stretches for more than a mile, 100 feet above the bay. Ducking through a hole in one of the diaphragms that break up the tunnel, the Skywalker team emerged into the E6W-4E section and began to set up their equipment.

more after the jump:
http://www.wired.com/design/2012/12/bay-bridge-skywalker-sound/

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« Reply #7701 on: Dec 4th, 2012, 10:29am »

New York Times

Pushing Science’s Limits in Sign Language Lexicon

By DOUGLAS QUENQUA
Published: December 3, 2012

Imagine trying to learn biology without ever using the word “organism.” Or studying to become a botanist when the only way of referring to photosynthesis is to spell the word out, letter by painstaking letter.

For deaf students, this game of scientific Password has long been the daily classroom and laboratory experience. Words like “organism” and “photosynthesis” — to say nothing of more obscure and harder-to-spell terms — have no single widely accepted equivalent in sign language. This means that deaf students and their teachers and interpreters must improvise, making it that much harder for the students to excel in science and pursue careers in it.

“Often times, it would involve a lot of finger-spelling and a lot of improvisation,” said Matthew Schwerin, a physicist with the Food and Drug Administration who is deaf, of his years in school. “For the majority of scientific terms,” Mr. Schwerin and his interpreter for the day would “try to find a correct sign for the term, and if nothing was pre-existing, we would come up with a sign that was agreeable with both parties.”

Now thanks to the Internet — particularly the boom in online video — resources for deaf students seeking science-related signs are easier to find and share. Crowdsourcing projects in both American Sign Language and British Sign Language are under way at several universities, enabling people who are deaf to coalesce around signs for commonly used terms.

This year, one of those resources, the Scottish Sensory Centre’s British Sign Language Glossary Project, added 116 new signs for physics and engineering terms, including signs for “light-year,” (hold one hand up and spread the fingers downward for “light,” then bring both hands together in front of your chest and slowly move them apart for “year”), “mass” and “X-ray” (form an X with your index fingers, then, with the index finger on the right hand, point outward).

The signs were developed by a team of researchers at the center, a division of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland that develops learning tools for students with visual and auditory impairments. The researchers spent more than a year soliciting ideas from deaf science workers, circulating lists of potential signs and ultimately gathering for “an intense weekend” of final voting, said Audrey Cameron, science adviser for the project. (Dr. Cameron is also deaf, and like all non-hearing people interviewed for this article, answered questions via e-mail.)

Whether the Scottish Sensory Centre’s signs will take hold among its audience remains to be seen. “Some will be adopted, and some will probably never be accepted,” Dr. Cameron said. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens.”

Ideally, the standardization of signs will make it easier for deaf students to keep pace with their hearing classmates during lectures. “I can only choose to look at one thing at a time,” said Mr. Schwerin of the F.D.A., recalling his science education, “and it often meant choosing between the interpreter, the blackboard/screen/material, or taking notes. It was like, pick one, and lose out on the others.”

The problem doesn’t end at graduation. In fact, it only intensifies as new discoveries add unfamiliar terms to the scientific lexicon. “I’ve had numerous meetings where I couldn’t participate properly because the interpreters were not able to understand the jargon and they did not know any scientific signs,” Dr. Cameron said.

One general complaint about efforts to standardize signs for technical terms is the idea that, much like spoken language, sign language should be allowed to develop organically rather than be dictated from above.

“Signs that are developed naturally — i.e., that are tested and refined in everyday conversation — are more likely to be accepted quickly by the community,” said Derek Braun, director of the molecular genetics laboratory at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., which he said was the first biological laboratory designed and administered by deaf scientists.

Since at least the 1970s, deaf scientists have tried to address the lack of uniformity by gathering common signs for scientific terms in printed manuals and on videotapes. The problem has always been getting deaf students and their interpreters to adopt them.

Often, at science conferences, “local interpreters that we never met before would often use different signs for the same terms, leading to confusion,” said Caroline Solomon, a biology professor at Gallaudet University who is deaf.

Gallaudet has tried to take a democratic approach to the problem: in 2009, the school set up the ASL-STEM Forum, a wiki-style Web site dedicated to “enabling American Sign Language to grow in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.” Anyone can submit, critique and vote for science signs, which are demonstrated in short videos. The idea is to let those who are hearing-impaired and learning science decide which new signs should become standard.

So far the crowdsourcing approach seems to be effective, at least at Gallaudet. While “many of the signs posted on the ASL-STEM Forum are by Gallaudet students and faculty,” Dr. Solomon said, and therefore are already in use on campus, there have been other signs “posted by non-Gallaudet users that we like better and have started to use ourselves.”

Making sciences more accessible to the deaf is a priority not just to those with hearing problems, but also to science educators in general. As they look to ease a worldwide shortage of STEM teachers, groups like the Institute of Physics, a global scientific society based in London, are financing projects that make it easier for people with disabilities to enter careers in science.

“We not only want to provide support, we want to raise aspirations, to say to people, ‘you can do this,’ ” said Peter Main, director of education and science at the institute, which helped finance the Scottish sign language project.

Surprisingly, some deaf students say that relying on sign language gives them an advantage over hearing students. Because it is acted out, with everything from facial expressions to speed of motion available as tools to convey meaning, and because it is in many ways less codified than written language, sign language can illustrate difficult scientific principles better than traditional languages can.

“There’s often a lot of confusion in early years of physics between mass and weight” for hearing students, because the two concepts are so similar, said Mr. Main, who is not deaf. But because mass has no universally accepted sign, interpreters are free to create hand motions that illustrate its meaning specifically in opposition to weight.

For example: “If I wanted to indicate mass, I would probably hold up a balled fist,” said Kate Lacey, an interpreter at George Washington University who often works with science students. “Then, to indicate weight, I’d drop that fist toward the floor.” The implication is that weight represents gravity’s effect on mass, which is about as clear a definition as one is likely to find.

Such elegant personifications of tricky scientific concepts leave some deaf students feeling sorry for those who rely on their ears. “One of my students was telling me recently that she can’t imagine the difficulty that hearing instructors must have in describing concepts through spoken English, because of the linearity of spoken language,” Dr. Braun said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/04/science/sign-language-researchers-broaden-science-lexicon.html?hp

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« Reply #7702 on: Dec 5th, 2012, 08:55am »

Reuters

Special Report: How foreign firms tried to sell spy gear to Iran

By Steve Stecklow
Wed Dec 5, 2012 6:31am EST

LONDON (Reuters) - In the summer of 2008, Iranian security agents arrived at the family home of Saleh Hamid, who was visiting his parents during a break from his university studies.

The plain-clothes agents, he says, shackled him and drove him blindfolded to a local intelligence detention center. There, he says, they beat him with an iron bar, breaking bones and damaging his left ear and right eye.

Hamid says the authorities accused him of spreading propaganda against the regime and contacting opposition groups outside Iran. The evidence? His own phone calls.

"They said, ‘On this and this day you spoke to such and such person,'" says Hamid, now 30 and a human rights activist in Sweden. "They had both recorded it and later they also showed me the transcript."

Hamid was not the only one. The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center and other human rights groups say they have documented a number of cases in which the Iranian regime has used the country's communications networks to crack down on dissidents by monitoring their telephone calls or internet activities.

Now a Reuters investigation has uncovered new evidence of how willing some foreign companies were to assist Iran's state security network, and the regime's keenness to access as much information as possible.

Documents seen by Reuters show that a partner of China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd offered to sell a Huawei-developed "Lawful Interception Solution" to MobinNet, Iran's first nationwide wireless broadband provider, just as MobinNet was preparing to launch in 2010.

The system's capabilities included "supporting the special requirements from security agencies to monitor in real time the communication traffic between subscribers," according to a proposal by Huawei's Chinese partner seen by Reuters.

Huawei also gave MobinNet a PowerPoint marketing presentation on a system that features "deep packet inspection" - a powerful and potentially intrusive technology that can read and analyze "packets" of data that travel across the Internet. Internet service providers use DPI to guard against cyber attacks and improve network efficiency, but it also can be used to block websites, track internet users and reconstruct email messages.

Huawei says it has never sold either system to MobinNet and doesn't sell DPI equipment in Iran. But a person familiar with the matter says MobinNet did obtain a Huawei DPI system before it began operating in 2010. The person does not know how MobinNet acquired it or if it is being used.

Asked to comment, Vic Guyang, a Huawei spokesman, said in a statement, "We think it's not for us to confirm or deny what systems other companies have." He later said, "It is our understanding that MobinNet does not have such equipment." An official with MobinNet declined to answer any questions, saying only, "So you know the answers. Why do you need confirmation?"

The relative ease with which Iran has been able to obtain technology that enables surveillance illustrates the cat-and-mouse nature of the American-European campaign to contain Iran's nuclear ambitions through crippling economic sanctions. It wasn't until this year that Europe and Washington - which primarily have focused on Iran's banks and oil industry - targeted the sale of monitoring gear to Iran. But even now, the ban is not global, and does not extend to Chinese companies.

Reuters reported in March that China's ZTE Corp had recently sold Iran's largest telecom firm, Telecommunication Co of Iran, a DPI-based surveillance system that was capable of monitoring landline, mobile and internet communications.

ZTE later said it intends to reduce its business in Iran. Huawei made a similar announcement a year ago.

FIXING "THE PROBLEM OF YOUTH"

In the case of Huawei, the documents seen by Reuters challenge statements made by the company that it doesn't sell any internet monitoring or filtering equipment. In a statement still on its website that was posted last year, the Shenzhen-based firm says, "We have never been involved in and do not provide any services relating to monitoring or filtering technologies and equipment anywhere in the world."

But the documents' descriptions of the Huawei systems pitched to MobinNet emphasise their filtering capabilities and ability to enable monitoring by security agencies.

For example, a proposal made to MobinNet dated April 2009 offers what it calls a Huawei "lawful interception" solution. The proposal was prepared by China's CMEC International Trading Co which states in the document that it had selected Huawei as its bid partner.

"As we know, lawful interception is mandatory and sensitive for the operators in Iran," the proposal states.

An accompanying diagram illustrates how the system can duplicate data streams and transmit the copies to multiple "monitoring" centers. It also states that more than 0.5 percent of all subscribers could be targeted and that individuals would not be aware their communications were "being intercepted."

The "lawful interception (LI) solution was developed by Huawei," the document states.

CMEC is a part of an engineering conglomerate that includes a unit that for years has been under U.S. sanctions for allegedly helping Iran and Iraq obtain weapons of mass destruction. CMEC didn't respond to a request for comment. Huawei says it no longer partners with CMEC.

U.S. and other international sanctions are designed to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons; Iran says its nuclear program is aimed purely at producing domestic energy.

Although Huawei maintains it doesn't sell any filtering technologies, its presentation given to MobinNet, marked confidential, repeatedly says its "DPI Solution" features "URL filtering," which can be used to block specific websites. The presentation also cites a number of customer "success" case studies - including in Britain, Russia, Colombia, and China - where it says telecommunication operators were using its system to filter websites.

For example, the presentation states that a Chinese telecoms firm was using the Huawei system "to settle the problem of youth getting secure and healthy access to websites, and the traffic should be controllable." The presentation also states that the system was used during the 2008 Beijing Olympic games to block "illegal" internet phone services, filter websites and to conduct "user behavior analysis."

In a series of emailed statements, Guyang, the Huawei spokesman, did not address Huawei's claim that it doesn't "provide any services related to monitoring of filtering." But he says website filtering is used by many telecoms, including in the U.S., "as part of efforts to counter cyber terrorism, child pornography, smuggling of narcotics and other crimes, as well as illegal websites and data."

He said Huawei "did not sell products containing this function in Iran." He also said the Huawei system described in the proposal - the Quidway SIG9800 - can't access "content" in the telecommunications network.

But a former Huawei employee who has worked in Iran said the SIG9800 can be used to reconstruct email messages provided they are not encrypted. "This product has some special usage which Huawei customers do not like to share ... especially in Iran," this person said.

STORING EVERY TEXT MESSAGE

The proposal to MobinNet for the Huawei lawful-intercept system states that it includes technology from a German company called Utimaco Safeware AG. Utimaco says Huawei is one of its worldwide resellers but that neither MobinNet directly - nor Huawei on behalf of MobinNet - purchased or licensed its products.

The proposal also states that Huawei equipment at another Iranian telecom had "already successfully integrated with" an Utimaco product "and accumulated rich integration experience, which will be shared."

The other Iranian telecom isn't named but Malte Pollmann, Utimaco's chief executive officer, confirmed that in 2006, Nokia's German unit had purchased Utimaco software for MTN Irancell, Iran's second-largest mobile phone operator which has a major contract with Huawei. He said the product hadn't been maintained for several years and that Utimaco believes it no longer is being used.

MTN Irancell is 49 percent owned by South Africa's MTN Group, Africa's largest telecom carrier. It declined to comment about the Utimaco product.

Interviews and internal MTN documents reviewed by Reuters show that prior to MTN's launch, Iranian intelligence authorities took a keen interest in the capabilities of its lawful-intercept system, and pushed to make it more intrusive.

Like most countries, including the United States, Iran requires telephone operators to provide law enforcement authorities with access to communications. But people who have worked at Iranian telecoms say authorities sometimes abused their access, targeting certain individuals without a warrant or with little or no explanation.

In response, a spokesman for Iran's mission to the United Nations in New York emailed a section of Iran's constitution which states that recording telephone calls, eavesdropping and censorship "are forbidden, except as provided by law."

The terms of MTN Irancell's license agreement stipulated that Iran's security agency could record and monitor subscribers' communications, including voice, data, fax, text messaging and voicemail, the internal MTN documents show. "At least 1 percent of all subscribers" could be targeted, and authorities wanted access to their location - "within 10 to 20 meters" - as well as billing information, according to the documents.

more after the jump:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/05/us-huawei-iran-idUSBRE8B409820121205

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« Reply #7703 on: Dec 5th, 2012, 09:05am »

Reuters

Panel seeks accountability after Benghazi attacks

By Tabassum Zakaria and Susan Cornwell
Wed Dec 5, 2012 1:07am EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After a car bomb struck the U.S. ambassador's residence in Lima in 1992, the State Department convened a special panel to answer the same questions now hovering over a review of the September attacks in Benghazi, Libya: How much security is enough? What is the right role for U.S. diplomats?

The Lima panel, known as an Accountability Review Board, issued a final report "that didn't find anybody had been delinquent," former U.S. Ambassador to Peru Anthony Quainton said. That report was never made public.

Whether the report by the Benghazi Accountability Review Board, expected to be completed in mid-December, comes to the same conclusion could affect the arc of a controversy that has seen the Obama White House subjected to withering criticism over security arrangements in Libya and the administration's shifting explanations of the violence.

The attacks on the diplomatic mission and a nearby CIA annex in Benghazi, in eastern Libya, killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, and raised questions about the adequacy of security in far-flung posts.

The panel, led by veteran diplomatic heavyweight Thomas Pickering, is expected to consider whether enough attention was given to potential threats and how Washington responded to security requests from U.S. diplomats in Libya.

A determination that top State Department officials turned down those requests, as Republican congressional investigators allege, could refuel criticism - and possibly even end some officials' careers.

Also in the balance is the future of funding for embassy security and of a policy, known as "expeditionary diplomacy," under which envoys deploy to conflict zones more often than in the past.

Central questions raised after the Benghazi attack include why the ambassador was in such an unstable part of Libya on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

The board, which meets at the State Department, could determine whether security was at fault or whether Stevens and the State Department emphasized building ties with the local community at the expense of security concerns in a hostile zone.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has pledged to make some of the report's findings public.

NO. 19

Benghazi is the 19th accountability review board convened by the State Department since 1988 to investigate attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities. Until now, only the report on the deadly 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania has been made public.

Attacks in Pakistan and Iraq triggered the most review boards - three each - followed by Saudi Arabia with two. In addition to Kenya and Tanzania, there was one each for violence in Peru, Honduras, Greece, the Philippines, Bolivia, Jordan, Gaza, and Sudan.

The five-person independent board usually includes retired ambassadors, a former CIA officer and a member of the private sector. It has the power to issue subpoenas, and members are required to have appropriate security clearances to review classified information.

"The board is meeting and is hard at work. We have decided to keep the deliberations confidential to preserve the integrity and objectivity of the board's work in accordance with the statute providing for its activity," Pickering said in a statement.

ARBs, as they are known, are not expected to take cookie-cutter approaches but to review issues specific to each diplomatic post.

"In the case of Lima, the issue that arose above all those other issues was what was the purpose of the attack? I guess this is also a Benghazi question," Quainton said.

"Was it an attempt to assassinate the ambassador - meaning me - or was it an attack on one of the official symbols of U.S. power flying the U.S. flag, the ambassador's residence in my case, and the consulate in Benghazi. And that is partly a question of intelligence," he said.

Quainton added that he "happily was some distance away" at the time of the Lima attack, which killed three Peruvian policemen. Stevens by contrast was in the lightly defended Benghazi post, became separated from his security men, and died of apparent smoke inhalation.

FIXING PROBLEMS OR ASSIGNING BLAME?

The Africa accountability boards did not single out any U.S. government employee as culpable, but found "an institutional failure of the Department of State and embassies under its direction to recognize threats posed by transnational terrorism and vehicle bombs worldwide."

The report recommended improving security and crisis management systems and procedures.

Philip Wilcox, a member of the Nairobi board, said the State Department took its recommendations to heart.

"Security is never something that can be absolutely achieved. And to provide absolute security for American embassies and American diplomats abroad would be to shut down our overseas operations," said Wilcox, now president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace.

"There is no way to enable diplomats to do their work, to meet with foreign officials, foreign citizens, to move around the country, with total security," he said.

Lawmakers and administration officials have praised Stevens for being the type of diplomat who ventured out to meet with Libyans of all walks of life.

The job, diplomats say, is always a balancing act between trying to forge local ties and heeding security concerns.

One former U.S. diplomat, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity, said the underlying concept of accountability review boards from the beginning was a belief that it had to be somebody's fault and to assign blame.

But Wilcox sees value in the process.

"As a result of the accountability review board that I served on, more money was appropriated, a great many steps were taken to fulfill the recommendations in the report," he said. "So it's not true these are vain, useless exercises."


(Editing by Warren Strobel and Mohammad Zargham)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/05/us-libya-usa-review-idUSBRE8B407520121205

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« Reply #7704 on: Dec 5th, 2012, 09:19am »

Scientific American

5 December 2012

How to Use Your Ears to Influence People

Listen up: being attentive to others' needs allows you to wield more influence

By Tori Rodriguez

We tend to think of smooth talkers as having the most influence on others. Although the gift of gab is indeed important, being a good listener provides even more of an advantage, according to new research.

In a study from the June Journal of Research in Personality, former work colleagues rated participants on measures of influence, verbal expression and listening behavior. Results indicate that good listening skills had a stronger effect on the ratings of influence than talking did. The authors suggest that listening helps people obtain information and build trust, both of which can increase influence. “Expressive communication has received the lion's share of attention in leadership work, but receptive behavior matters, too,” says study author Daniel Ames of Columbia University. The research also found that being good at both is better than being better at one or the other.

For those who wish for better listening skills, here are a few ways to do it well: don't zone out or interrupt; be open to alternative points of view; incorporate details that someone said previously into a current conversation. Basically, pay attention.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-to-use-your-ears-to-influence-people

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« Reply #7705 on: Dec 5th, 2012, 09:27am »

Deadline Hollywood

Disney-Lucasfilm Deal Cleared By Feds

By DOMINIC PATTEN
Tuesday December 4, 2012 @ 4:20pm

The Federal Trade Commission today gave Disney’s $4.05 billion purchase of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise the green light. The FTC posted an “early termination” to its typical 30-day regulatory waiting period online Tueday. That clears any merger and antitrust issues for Disney. Announced October 30, the company’s acquisition of Lucasfilm can now formally move forward. No date of when the deal will actually close has been given by either Disney or Lucas. The year 2015 was given, however, as the date for the new Star Wars movie by Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger when the deal was announced.

At least two more Star Wars movies will follow in the next few years. Lucas himself has handed over the running of Lucasfilm to Kathleen Kennedy but is serving as a consultant and brand manager. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire scribe Michael Arndt was announced on November 9 as the screenplay writer for Episode VII.

http://www.deadline.com/2012/12/disneys-lucasfilms-purchase-gets-cleared-by-feds/

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« Reply #7706 on: Dec 6th, 2012, 10:31am »

Reuters

Exclusive: New Pakistan Taliban chief emerging, will focus on Afghan fight

By Mehreen Zahra-Malik
Thu Dec 6, 2012 5:34am EST

WANA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistan's Taliban, one of the world's most feared militant groups, are preparing for a leadership change that could mean less violence against the state but more attacks against U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, Pakistani military sources said.

Hakimullah Mehsud, a ruthless commander who has led the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for the last three years, has lost operational control of the movement and the trust of his fighters, said a senior Pakistan army official based in the South Waziristan tribal region, the group's stronghold.

The organization's more moderate deputy leader, Wali-ur-Rehman, 40, is poised to succeed Mehsud, whose extreme violence has alienated enough of his fighters to significantly weaken him, the military sources told Reuters.

"Rehman is fast emerging as a consensus candidate to formally replace Hakimullah," said the army official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. "Now we may see the brutal commander replaced by a more pragmatic one for whom reconciliation with the Pakistani government has become a priority."

The TTP, known as the Pakistan Taliban, was set up as an umbrella group of militants in 2007.

Its main aim is to topple the U.S.-backed government in Pakistan and impose its austere brand of Islam across the country of 185 million people, although it has also carried out attacks in neighboring Afghanistan.

The militants intensified their battle against the Pakistani state after an army raid on Islamabad's Red Mosque in 2007, which had been seized by allies of the group.

Mehsud, believed to be in his mid-30s, took over the Pakistan Taliban in August 2009. He rose to prominence in 2010 when U.S. prosecutors charged him with involvement in an attack that killed seven CIA employees at a U.S. base in Afghanistan. His profile was raised further when he appeared in a farewell video with the Jordanian suicide bomber who killed the employees.

Reuters interviewed several senior Pakistan military officials as well as tribal elders and locals during a three-day trip with the army in South Waziristan last week, getting rare access to an area that has been a virtual no-go zone for journalists since an army offensive was launched in October 2009.

Three senior military officials said informers in the Pakistan Taliban told them Mehsud was no longer steering the group.

Pakistan Taliban commanders did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the possible leadership change.

U.S. officials said that while Rehman was Mehsud's natural successor, they cautioned about expecting an imminent transition. Mehsud's standing in the Pakistan Taliban might have weakened, but he still had followers, they said.

Washington has offered a reward of $5 million for information leading to the capture of either Mehsud or Rehman.

One Pakistan military official, who has served in South Waziristan for more than two years, said his Pakistan Taliban contacts first alerted him to Mehsud's waning power six months ago, when constant pressure from the Pakistan military, U.S. drone strikes and poor health had hurt his ability to lead.

"Representing the moderate point of view, there is a probability that under Rehman, TTP will dial down its fight against the Pakistani state, unlike Hakimullah who believes in wanton destruction here," said the military official based in the South Waziristani capital of Wana.

The official said this might lead to more attacks across the border in Afghanistan because Rehman has been pushing for the group's fighters to turn their guns on Western forces.

Other factions within the Pakistan Taliban such as the Nazir group in South Waziristan and the Hekmat Gul Bahadur faction in North Waziristan have struck peace deals with the Pakistani military while focusing attacks on Western and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.

A change in the Pakistan Taliban's focus would complicate Western efforts to stabilize Afghanistan before most NATO troops leave by the end of 2014, said Riaz Mohammad Khan, a Pakistani diplomat who has held several posts dealing with Afghanistan.

The United States is already fighting the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, which is based along the unruly frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan and which is perhaps Washington's deadliest foe in Afghanistan.

The last thing U.S.-led NATO troops need is a new, formidable enemy in the approach to 2014.

Such a shift in emphasis, however, could reduce the number of suicide bombings that have plagued Pakistan in recent years, scaring off investment needed to prop up an economy that has barely managed to grow since 2007.

AT EACH OTHER'S THROATS

The Pakistan Taliban, who are close to al Qaeda, remain resilient despite a series of military offensives. They took part in a number of high-profile operations, including an attack on army headquarters in 2009, assaults on military bases, and the attempted assassination of Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai in October, who had campaigned for girls' education.

The Pakistan Taliban were also blamed for the 2008 bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad which killed more than 50 people.

Under Mehsud, the organization formed complex alliances with other militant groups spread across Pakistan.

But it has long been strained by internal rivalries over strategy. Mehsud has pushed the war with the Pakistani state, while others such as Rehman want the battle to be against U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.

"Rehman has even held secret negotiations with the Pakistani government in the past but Hakimullah always stood in his way, wanting to carry on fighting the Pakistani military," a second Wana-based military official said.

The two were at each other's throats earlier this year and hostilities were close to open warfare, Taliban sources said.

"Differences within the ranks have only gotten worse, not better, rendering the TTP a much weaker force today than a few years ago," the second military official said.

A source close to the Taliban told Reuters there had been months of internal talks on the Pakistan Taliban's decreasing support among locals and fighters in tribal areas where the group has assassinated many pro-government elders.

"The Taliban know they are fighting a public relations war, and under someone like Hakimullah, they will only lose it," added the source, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

It isn't clear whether Mehsud will hand over the leadership to Rehman without a fight.

A power struggle could split the group, making it more difficult to recruit young fighters and also disrupt the safe havens in Pakistan used by Afghan militants.

According to accepted practice, a leadership council, or shura, will ultimately decide whether to formally replace Mehsud with Rehman.

Intelligence officials said Mehsud had not commanded any recent operations, including an August 16 attack on the Minhas Airbase in Pakistan and a suicide attack on a street market in May that killed 24 people.

Military sources said Rehman planned the April 15 jail break in Bannu in Pakistan that freed 384 prisoners, including an estimated 200 Taliban members and an al Qaeda-linked militant who had attempted to assassinate former president Pervez Musharraf.

FALL FROM GRACE

Intelligence officials in the area said Mehsud's brutality had turned his own subordinates against him, while the more measured Rehman had emerged as the group's primary military strategist.

"If a leader doesn't behave like a leader, he loses support. For the longest time now, Hakimullah has done the dirty work while Wali-ur-Rehman is the thinker. Taliban fighters recognize this," said the first Pakistani military source.

A local elder described Mehsud as "short-tempered and trigger-happy".

"(Mehsud) used to work 24 hours a day, tirelessly. But he would also put a gun to anyone's head and kill them for his cause," said a local shopkeeper who has family members involved in the Pakistan Taliban.

Mehsud gained his reputation fighting with the Afghan Taliban against U.S. and allied forces in Helmand province in Afghanistan. He was later given command of Taliban factions in the Bajaur, Orakzai, Khyber and Kurram regions.

He took over the Pakistan Taliban after a weeks-long succession battle with Rehman following the death of Baitullah Mehsud in a drone strike. The two Mehsuds were not related.


(Additional reporting by Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar; Editing by Randy Fabi, Michael Georgy and Dean Yates)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/06/us-pakistan-taliban-idUSBRE8B50G920121206

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« Reply #7707 on: Dec 6th, 2012, 10:33am »

New York Times

December 6, 2012
Apple to Resume U.S. Manufacturing
By VICTORIA SHANNON

For the first time in years, Apple will manufacture computers in the United States, the chief executive of Apple, Timothy D. Cook, said in interviews with NBC and Bloomberg Businessweek.

“Next year, we will do one of our existing Mac lines in the United States,” he said in an interview to be broadcast Thursday on “Rock Center With Brian Williams” on NBC.

Apple, the biggest company in the world by market value, moved most of its manufacturing to Asia in the late 1990s. As an icon of American technology success and innovation, the California-based company has been criticized in recent years for outsourcing jobs abroad.

“I don’t think we have a responsibility to create a certain kind of job,” Mr. Cook said in the Businessweek interview. “But I think we do have a responsibility to create jobs.”

The company plans to spend $100 million on the American manufacturing in 2013, according to the interviews, a small fraction of its overall factory investments and an even tinier portion of its available cash.

In the interviews, Mr. Cook suggested the company would work with partners and that the manufacturing would be more than just the final assembly of parts. He noted that parts of the company’s ubiquitous iPhone, including the “engine” and the glass screen, were already made in America. The processor is manufactured by Samsung in Texas, while Corning makes the glass screen in Kentucky.

Over the last few years, sales of the iPhone, iPod and iPad have overwhelmed Apple’s line of Macintosh computers, the basis of the company’s early business. Revenue from the iPhone alone made up 48 percent of the company’s total revenue for its fiscal fourth quarter ended Sept. 30.

But as recently as October, Apple introduced a new, thinner iMac, the product that pioneered the technique of building the computer innards inside the flat screen.

Mr. Cook did not say in the interviews where in the United States the new manufacturing would occur. But he did defend Apple’s track record in American hiring.

“When you back up and look at Apple’s effect on job creation in the United States, we estimate that we’ve created more than 600,000 jobs now,” Mr. Cook told Businessweek. Those jobs include positions at partners and suppliers.

Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Apple, declined on Thursday to provide additional details on Apple’s plans, referring to Mr. Cook’s interviews.

Apple has for years done the final assembly of some Macs in the United States, mainly systems that customers buy with custom configurations, like bigger hard drives and more memory than on standard machines.

Mr. Cook’s statements suggested Apple is planning to build more of the Mac’s ingredients domestically, although with partners. He told Businessweek that the plan “doesn’t mean that Apple will do it ourselves, but we’ll be working with people, and we’ll be investing our money.”

While Apple’s products are typically made in Asian factories owned by other companies, Apple itself often purchases the sophisticated manufacturing equipment required to make its cutting-edge designs, spending billions of dollars a year on such machines.

Foxconn Technology, which manufactures more than 40 percent of the world’s electronics, is one of Apple’s main overseas manufacturing contractors. Based in Taiwan, Foxconn is China’s largest private employer, with 1.2 million workers, and it has come under intense scrutiny over working conditions inside its factories.

In March, Foxconn pledged to sharply curtail the number of working hours and significantly increase wages. The announcement was a response to a far-ranging inspection by the Fair Labor Association, a monitoring group that found widespread problems — including numerous instances where Foxconn violated Chinese law and industry codes of conduct.

Apple, which recently joined the labor association, had asked the group to investigate plants manufacturing iPhones, iPads and other devices. A growing outcry over conditions at overseas factories prompted protests and petitions, and several labor rights organizations started scrutinizing Apple’s suppliers.

Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold in 2011 were manufactured overseas. Apple employs 43,000 people in the United States and 20,000 overseas. An additional 700,000 people engineer, build and assemble iPads, iPhones and Apple’s other products, mostly abroad.

At a meeting with Silicon Valley executives in 2011, President Obama asked Steven P. Jobs, then the Apple chief executive, what it would take to make iPhones in the United States. Mr. Jobs, who died later that year, told the president, “Those jobs aren’t coming back.”

Nick Wingfield contributed reporting.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/07/technology/apple-to-resume-us-manufacturing.html?hp&_r=0

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« Reply #7708 on: Dec 6th, 2012, 10:37am »

Defense News

Japan Deploys Destroyers for N. Korea Rocket

Dec. 6, 2012 - 11:22AM
By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO — Japan on Dec. 6 dispatched three destroyers to waters over which North Korea says its satellite-bearing rocket will travel.

Television footage showed three Aegis destroyers armed with SM-3 missile interceptors leaving their base in Sasebo, some 900 kilometers (560 miles) west of Tokyo.

They were reportedly bound for the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan, a stretch of water known to Koreans as the East Sea.

Separately, a naval ship carrying PAC-3 (Patriot Advanced Capability-3) ballistic missiles arrived in the Okinawan island of Miyakojima the same morning.

Television footage showed Self-Defense Force units unloading the missiles from the vessel at a harbor on the island, which lies on the expected flight path of the rocket.

In Tokyo, the defense ministry has deployed another PAC-3 battery at its headquarters as part of its effort to intercept anything headed toward the Japanese mainland.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s cabinet plans to hold a security meeting Dec. 7 to issue an advance order to shoot down the rocket if it looks set to fall on Japanese territory, Jiji Press reported.

Immediate confirmation of the reports was not available.

The communist North announced Dec. 1 that it would launch a rocket between Dec. 10 and 22 — its second long-range rocket launch this year after a much-hyped but botched attempt in April.

Japan took similar defensive steps at the time.

It has reportedly notified neighbors, including Japan, of the trajectory of the planned launch.

Pyongyang insists its efforts are directed solely at the peaceful use of space, but many in the international community say the satellite launch is a poorly disguised missile test.

Washington and Seoul urged Pyongyang to scrap the launch while Tokyo postponed talks due this week with North Korea.

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20121206/DEFREG03/312060003/Japan-Deploys-Destroyers-N-Korea-Rocket?odyssey=tab

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« Reply #7709 on: Dec 6th, 2012, 10:40am »

Science Daily

Astronomers Discover and 'Weigh' Infant Solar System: Young Star With Rotating Dust Disk Is Youngest Still-Forming Planetary System Yet Found

ScienceDaily (Dec. 5, 2012)

— Astronomers have found the youngest still-forming solar system yet seen, an infant star surrounded by a swirling disk of dust and gas more than 450 light-years from Earth in the constellation Taurus.

The star currently has about one-fifth the mass of the Sun, but, the scientists say, will likely pull in material from its surroundings to eventually match the Sun's mass. The disk surrounding the young star contains at least enough mass to make seven Jupiters, the largest planet in our Solar System.

"This very young object has all the elements of a solar system in the making," said John Tobin, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Tobin and his colleagues used the Submillimeter Array and the Combined Array for Millimeter-wave Astronomy to study the object, called L1527 IRS, residing in a stellar nursery called the Taurus Cloud.

The nascent solar system is no more than 300,000 years old, compared to the 4.6-billion-year age of our Sun and its planets. "It may be even younger, depending on how fast it accumulated mass in the past," Tobin explained.

The young star is one of the closest examples of the earliest stage of star formation. The astronomers used the millimeter-wave observatories to detect both dust and carbon monoxide around the object. They were the first observers to conclusively show that the young star is surrounded by a rotating disk of material, and the first to be able to measure the mass of the protostar itself.

By measuring the Doppler shift of radio waves coming from carbon monoxide in the disk, they were able to show that the rotation speed in the disk changes with the material's distance from the star in the same fashion that the orbital speeds of planets change with distance from the Sun.

This pattern, called Keplerian rotation, "marks one of the first essential steps toward forming planets, because the disk is supported by its own rotation, will mediate the flow of material onto the protostar and allow the planet formation process to begin," said Hsin-Fang Chiang of the University of Illinois and the Institute for Astronomy of the University of Hawaii.

"This is the youngest protostar found thus far to show that characteristic in a surrounding disk," Tobin said. "In many ways, this system looks much like we think our own Solar System looked when it was very young," he added. Previous observations from the Gemini Observatory suggested the presence of a large disk surrounding the protostar. This motivated Tobin and his team to pursue high-resolution millimeter-wave observations, confirming the presence of the disk and measuring its rotation.

The astronomers have received approval to improve their understanding of L1527 IRS by making high-precision observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international telescope system nearing completion at high elevation in northern Chile.

"ALMA's advanced capabilities will allow us to study more such objects at greater distances," Tobin said. "With ALMA, we will be able to learn more about how the disks form and how quickly the young stars grow to their full size, and gain a much better understanding of how stars and their planetary systems begin their lives," he added.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121205132401.htm

Crystal
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