Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7711 on: Dec 7th, 2012, 10:34am »
Special Report: From abuse to a chat room, a martyr is made - Jane's Jihad
Fri Dec 7, 2012 8:37am EST
* Chapter One in a four-part series
By John Shiffman
(Reuters) - "Kill him."
The American who called herself Jihad Jane read the words on her computer screen. Colleen LaRose was fiddling on the Internet, passing time in her duplex near Philadelphia, when the call to martyrdom arrived from halfway around the world.
The order came from an al-Qaeda operative. The date: March 22, 2009.
This was it, she thought. Her chance. At 45, LaRose was ready to become somebody.
A compact woman with a seventh-grade education, LaRose was a recent convert to Islam. She found a place for herself quickly, raising money and awareness online for the plight of her Muslim brothers and sisters. They were underdogs, just like her.
During her darkest days, LaRose had endured incest, rape and prostitution. She surrendered her life to drinking and drugs, from crack to crystal meth. Now, if she accepted the order to kill, she would surrender her life to a higher power: Allah.
The man who issued the directive called himself Eagle Eye. LaRose knew him only by his online messages and his voice, and he claimed to be hiding in Pakistan. Eagle Eye wanted her to fly to Europe to train as an assassin with other al-Qaeda operatives, then to Sweden to do what few other Muslim jihadists could: blend in.
The terrorists believed that her blonde hair, white skin and U.S. passport, even her Texas twang, would help her to get close enough to the target: Lars Vilks, a Swedish artist who had blasphemed the Prophet Mohammad by sketching his face on the head of a dog.
"Go to Sweden," Eagle Eye instructed LaRose. "And kill him."
A year later, when U.S. authorities revealed the plot, they repeatedly described the Jihad Jane case as one that should forever alter the public's view of terrorism. At the time, one official said the conspiracy "underscores the evolving nature of the threat we face." A second said the case "demonstrates yet another very real danger lurking on the Internet" and "shatters any lingering thought that we can spot a terrorist based on appearance."
The case was so serious, authorities said, that they charged LaRose with crimes that could keep her in prison for the rest of her life.
The court filings and press releases draw a frightening portrait of the Jihad Jane conspiracy. But an exclusive Reuters review of confidential investigative documents and interviews in Europe and the United States - including the first with Jihad Jane herself -- reveals a less menacing and, in some ways, more preposterous undertaking than the U.S. government asserted.
"I got so close to being able to do this," LaRose says today of the plan to kill Vilks.
In truth, what happened proved more farcical than frightful, more absurd than ominous.
The conspiracy included a troubled trio of Americans, each a terrorist wannabe: LaRose; a Colorado woman named Jamie Paulin Ramirez; and a Maryland teenager named Mohammed Hassan Khalid. All have pleaded guilty to breaking U.S. terrorism laws, but only LaRose was charged in the plot to kill Vilks. Her sentencing was recently rescheduled to May 7 from December 19.
Since the 9/11 terror attacks, the FBI has investigated hundreds of cases similar to the Jihad Jane conspiracy. With each investigation comes a challenge: how to prevent acts of terrorism without violating civil rights or overreacting to plots that are little more than bluster.
"We are going to err on the side of caution," says Richard P. Quinn, the FBI's assistant special agent in charge for counter-terrorism in Philadelphia. "We will go after operatives and operations that are more aspirational than operational because to do otherwise would almost be negligent."
At least at the outset, authorities had no way to be certain how much of a threat LaRose might pose, given her resolute conviction and her unique attributes - primarily the way she looked. No one disputes that LaRose and Khalid managed to make contact with overseas al-Qaeda operatives and with a loose affiliation of young American-born male Muslim jihadists inside the United States.
Quinn says the case exemplifies al-Qaeda's new approach to terrorism. He says the Jihad Jane conspiracy - from recruiting to planning -- "represents the many new faces of the terrorist threat."
But some civil rights advocates say the U.S. government has exaggerated the danger posed by aspiring terrorists - in this case and scores of others.
"You can't say these people are totally innocent - they aren't, and there's something wild and scary about them - but almost all of them seem to be incompetent and deluded in some way," said Ohio State University professor John Mueller, who has written extensively about how the government has handled terrorism cases. "When you look closely, many of these cases become interestingly cartoonish."
Interviews and documents, many composed by those involved in the Jihad Jane case as the conspiracy unfolded, often reveal their innermost thoughts. They also show the gullibility of the main players or the ways that they botched almost every assignment along the way.
Khalid, a troubled high school honor student who lived with his parents in Maryland, inadvertently linked his secret jihadist blog to a page on his school website.
Ramirez, a lonely Colorado woman known as Jihad Jamie, headed to Europe to train for holy war. She was lured to Ireland by a Muslim man promising a pious, married life but soon came to believe that all he really sought was a cook, a maid and a sex slave.
Perhaps most intriguing is the story of LaRose, the aspiring assassin whose devotion and naiveté left her susceptible to recruitment but prone to failure.
In the only interview she has given, LaRose says she became devoted to the Muslim men she met online and blindly followed their instructions because they seemed righteous. "I just loved my brothers so much, when they would tell me stuff, I would listen to them, no matter what," she says. "And I also was ... lost."
Indeed, just weeks into her jihad, she became homesick. And days before returning from Europe to America, she emailed the FBI -- to see whether the government might spring for her airfare home.
Despite the media attention the case has received, many details haven't been previously disclosed. Among them: how LaRose, Khalid and Ramirez became radicalized; how they found one another; how they repeatedly bungled the plot that authorities say posed a "very real danger;" and how they came to sacrifice everything for a group of strangers who promised immortality but delivered ignominy.
"Jihad Jane is a perfect figure in some ways because it's like a soap opera," says her intended victim, the artist Vilks. "This is today's most interesting part of terrorism - the amateurs."
Colleen LaRose's path toward terrorism began with what devout Muslims would consider a sin - a one-night stand.
Her tryst occurred in 2007, two years before LaRose agreed to kill Vilks. At the time, she was in Amsterdam on vacation with her longtime boyfriend, Kurt Gorman, and the two were arguing.
They had dated for five years and were living in suburban Pennsylvania. They had met when Gorman, a radio technician, was dispatched from Pennsburg, Pa., to repair a 307-foot radio tower that stood near cotton fields south of Dallas. LaRose was living beneath the tower in a single-wide trailer she shared with her sister, her mother, her stepfather, and two ducks named Lewis and Clark.
Gorman, who declined to talk to Reuters, was a few years younger than LaRose. Colleen found him mellow, gregarious and adventuresome. He fell for her loud, infectious laugh and her penchant for practical jokes. He flattered her with attention and spoiled her with generosity. When she told him that she wished she had bigger breasts, he paid to get them enlarged. Her new size DDs came to dominate her 4-foot-11 frame.
One night during the Amsterdam vacation, the two were at a bar and LaRose got loaded. She could be a mean drunk and she lit into Gorman. He left the bar. LaRose remained.
A short time later, a man approached her. He was Middle Eastern, a Muslim - and handsome. She went home with him, in part to spite her boyfriend, in part because she was curious.
The decision would change her life.
The Amsterdam dalliance with the Muslim man sparked an interest in Islam, one that LaRose kept secret from her boyfriend Gorman when they returned to Pennsylvania.
To learn more about the religion, she began visiting Muslim websites. To meet Muslim men, she signed up for a popular dating site, Muslima.com.
She used Gorman's credit card to pay for access to the site. When Gorman saw the bill, LaRose laughed it off as a lark.
LaRose believed in God but she had never followed any particular religion. As she continued to explore Islam online, she met a man in Turkey who became an especially helpful mentor. He explained the Five Pillars of Islam, and LaRose learned the wudu, the Muslim washing ritual. She ordered a Koran.
After a few weeks, she discovered that converting was easy; she didn't even have to visit a mosque. All she had to do was recite the Shahada, a pledge to accept Allah as her only God and the Prophet Mohammad as his messenger. Just months after her one-night stand in Amsterdam, while chatting with a Saudi Arabian man, LaRose typed the Shahada and converted to Islam via instant messenger.
Sitting before the Dell desktop computer, an unusual feeling washed over her. Happiness.
"I was finally where I belonged," she recalls today.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7712 on: Dec 7th, 2012, 10:38am »
Protein Linking Exercise to Bigger, Stronger Muscles Discovered; Finding Might Lead to New Therapies for Muscle-Wasting Diseases
ScienceDaily (Dec. 6, 2012)
— Scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have isolated a previously unknown protein in muscles that spurs their growth and increased power following resistance exercise. They suggest that artificially raising the protein's levels might someday help prevent muscle loss caused by cancer, prolonged inactivity in hospital patients, and aging.
Mice given extra doses of the protein gained muscle mass and strength, and rodents with cancer were much less affected by cachexia, the loss of muscle that often occurs in cancer patients, according to the report in the Dec. 7 issue of the journal Cell.
"This is basic science at present," commented Jorge Ruas, PhD, first author of the report. "But if you could find a way to elevate levels of this protein, that would be very exciting. For example, you might be able to reduce muscle wasting in patients in intensive care units whose muscles atrophy because of prolonged bed rest." Other applications, he said, might be in disorders such as muscular dystrophy and the gradual loss of muscle mass from aging.
Bruce Spiegelman, PhD, the senior author, led the Dana-Farber team that identified the protein, PGC-1 alpha-4, in skeletal muscle and said it is present in mice and humans. Resistance exercise, such as weight lifting, causes a rise in PGC-1 alpha-4, which in turn triggers biochemical changes that make muscles larger and more powerful, said the researchers.
The protein is an isoform, or slight variant, of PGC-1 alpha, an important regulatory of body metabolism that is turned on by forms of exercise, such as running, that increase muscular endurance rather than size. "It's pretty amazing that two proteins made by a single gene regulate the effects of both types of exercise," commented Spiegelman.
The researchers found that the new protein controls the activity of two previously known molecular pathways involved in muscle growth. A rise in PGC-1 alpha-4 with exercise increases activity of a protein called IGF1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), which facilitates muscle growth. At the same time, PGC-1 alpha-4 also represses another protein, myostatin, which normally restricts muscle growth. In effect, PGC-1 alpha-4 presses the accelerator and removes the brake to enable exercised muscles to gain mass and strength.
"All of our muscles have both positive and negative influences on growth," Spiegelman explained. "This protein (PGC-1 alpha-4) turns down myostatin and turns up IGF1."
Several experiments demonstrated the muscle-enhancing effects of the novel protein. The investigators used virus carriers to insert PGC-1 alpha-4 into the leg muscle of mice and found that within several days their muscle fibers were 60 percent bigger compared to untreated mice. They also engineered mice to have more PGC-1 alpha-4 in their muscles than normal mice who were not exercising. Tests showed that the treated mice were 20 percent stronger and more resistant to fatigue than the controls; in addition, they were leaner than their normal counterparts.
Mice engineered to have extra PGC-1 alpha-4 showed "dramatic resistance" to cancer-related muscle wasting, the scientists found. The mice lost only 10 percent mass in a leg muscle compared to a 29 percent loss in mice with cancer that did not have additional PGC-1 alpha-4, according to the report. The altered mice were also stronger and more active than the normal mice.
Ruas, the first author, is now in the faculty at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Other authors are from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, the University of Colorado, the University of Virginia, and the Mayo Clinic.
The research was supported by NIH grant DK061562 and a grant from Novartis.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7713 on: Dec 7th, 2012, 10:42am »
Kathryn Bigelow's 'Zero Dark Thirty' Sets Washington D.C. Premiere (Exclusive)
6:35 PM PST 12/6/2012 by Pamela McClintock
The Jan. 8 event at the Newseum is expected to draw politicians, members of the executive branch, opinion-makers and journalists.
Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal will go to the nation's capital for a special premiere marking the nationwide release of their new film Zero Dark Thirty, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
The Jan. 8 event at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., will come just days before Zero Dark Thirty expands nationwide on Jan. 11. Sony opens the critically acclaimed film in New York and Los Angeles on Dec. 19, following a premiere in Los Angeles on Dec. 10.
Zero Dark Thirty -- chronicling the U.S. government's long intelligence hunt for Osama bin Laden and the Navy SEALs raid that led to his death -- initially drew the ire of some conservatives for allegedly glamorizing President Barack Obama. They also claimed that the Obama administration went out of its way to help Boal with his research.
Bigelow and Boal, who will be on hand to discuss the film following the screening, have insisted their movie is apolitical (indeed, there only fleeting images of Obama). The decision to host the screening in D.C. signals that the filmmakers aren't afraid to promote the film among politicians, members of the executive branch, opinion-makers and Washington journalists.
(No guest list is available, but the invitation notes that if federal ethics rules require members of Congress or the executive branch to pay the fair market value for seeing the movie, they can write a check to Sony for $12.)
Zero Dark Thirty, Bigelow and Boal's follow-up to the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, is generating strong awards buzz and this week was named the year's best picture by the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review.
Sony and Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures, which financed and produced Zero Dark Thirty, originally intended to host the Washington screening Dec. 4 but decided to make it more of a premiere on the eve of the movie's nationwide expansion.
It's not unheard of to use Washington as a launching pad for films with strong U.S. government storylines. Sony premiered Black Hawk Down there in 2001. A year later Paramount followed with the premiere of The Sum of All Fears.
By going to Washington, Zero Dark Thirty also could be hoping for the same press mileage that fellow awards contender Lincoln is enjoying as it makes the rounds in the nation's capital.
President Obama hosted a special White House screening of Lincoln in November while U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell banded together Thursday in urging fellow senators to attend a Capitol Hill screening of Lincoln on Dec. 19, saying Steven Spielberg's film offers instruction in how present-day lawmakers can come together and solve the fiscal cliff crisis.
Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays the storied president, will be on hand for that screening.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7719 on: Dec 10th, 2012, 09:50am »
Egypt army gets temporary power to arrest civilians
By Marwa Awad Mon Dec 10, 2012 9:44am EST
CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's government has temporarily given the military the authority to arrest civilians to help safeguard a constitutional referendum planned for Saturday, the official gazette said.
The order, gazetted late on Sunday, said the military would support police and liaise with them to protect "vital institutions" until the referendum result is declared.
The decree gave army officers the right to make arrests and transfer detainees to prosecutors.
Despite its limited nature, the edict will revive memories of Hosni Mubarak's emergency law, also introduced as a temporary expedient, under which military or state security courts tried thousands of political dissidents and Islamist militants.
But a military source stressed that the measure, introduced by a civilian government, would have a short shelf-life.
"The latest law giving the armed forces the right to arrest anyone involved in illegal actions such as burning buildings or damaging public sites is to ensure security during the referendum only," the military source said.
"The armed forces secured polling stations during previous elections when it was in charge of the country," the source said, referring to 16 months of army rule after Mubarak fell.
"Now the president is in charge. In order for the armed forces to be involved in securing the referendum, a law had to be issued saying so," the source added.
Presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said the committee overseeing the vote had requested the army's assistance.
"The armed forces will work within a legal framework to secure the referendum and will return (to barracks) as soon as the referendum is over," Ali said.
On Saturday, the military urged rival political forces to solve their disputes via dialogue and said the opposite would drag the country into a "dark tunnel", which it would not allow.
A statement issued by the military spokesman and read on state radio and television made no mention of President Mohamed Mursi, but said a solution to the political crisis should not contradict "legitimacy and the rules of democracy".
A military source close to top officers said the statement "does not indicate any future intervention in politics".
A military council took over after a popular revolt ended Mubarak's 30 years of army-backed rule last year. It then handed power to Mursi, who became Egypt's first freely elected leader in June. The military has not intervened in the latest crisis.
The army statement said the military's duty was to protect national interests and secure vital state institutions.
"The armed forces affirm that dialogue is the best and only way to reach consensus," it added. "The opposite of that will bring us to a dark tunnel that will result in catastrophe and that is something we will not allow."
Hassan Abu Taleb of the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies said Saturday's army statement suggested the military wanted both sides to talk out their differences, but discounted the chance of direct military intervention.
"They realize that interfering again in a situation of civil combat will squeeze them between two rocks," he said.
(Additional reporting by Yasmine Saleh; Writing by Alistair Lyon; editing by Philippa Fletcher)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7720 on: Dec 10th, 2012, 09:54am »
U.S. Spies See Superhumans, Instant Cities by 2030 By Noah Shachtman 12.10.12 8:00 AM
3-D printed organs. Brain chips providing superhuman abilities. Megacities, built from scratch. The U.S. intelligence community is taking a look at the world of 2030. And it is very, very sci-fi.
Every four or five years, the futurists at the National Intelligence Council take a stab at forecasting what the globe will be like two decades hence; the idea is to give some long-term, strategic guidance to the folks shaping America’s security and economic policies. (Full disclosure: I was once brought in as a consultant to evaluate one of the NIC’s interim reports.) On Monday, the Council released its newest findings, Global Trends 2030. Many of the prognostications are rather unsurprising: rising tides, a bigger data cloud, an aging population, and, of course, more drones. But tucked into the predictable predictions are some rather eye-opening assertions. Especially in the medical realm.
We’ve seen experimental prosthetics in recent years that are connected to the human neurological system. The Council says the link between man and machine is about to get way more cyborg-like. “As replacement limb technology advances, people may choose to enhance their physical selves as they do with cosmetic surgery today. Future retinal eye implants could enable night vision, and neuro-enhancements could provide superior memory recall or speed of thought,” the Council writes. “Brain-machine interfaces could provide ‘superhuman’ abilities, enhancing strength and speed, as well as providing functions not previously available.”
And if the machines can’t be embedded into the person, the person may embed himself in the robot. “Augmented reality systems can provide enhanced experiences of real-world situations. Combined with advances in robotics, avatars could provide feedback in the form of sensors providing touch and smell as well as aural and visual information to the operator,” the report adds. There’s no word about whether you’ll have to paint yourself blue to enjoy the benefits of this tech.
The Council’s futurists are less definitive about 3-D printing and other direct digital manufacturing processes. On one hand, they say that any changes brought about by these new ways of making things could be “relatively slow.” On the other, they rip a page out of Wired, comparing the emerging era of digital manufacturing to the “early days of personal computers and the internet.” Today, the machines may only be able to make simple objects. Tomorrow, that won’t be the case. And that shift will change not only manufacturing and electronics — but people, as well.
“By 2030, manufacturers may be able to combine some electrical components (such as electrical circuits, antennae, batteries, and memory) with structural components in one build, but integration with printed electronics manufacturing equipment will be necessary,” the Council writes. “Though printing of arteries or simple organs may be possible by 2030, bioprinting of complex organs will require significant technological breakthroughs.”
But not all of these biological developments will be good things, the Council notes. “Advances in synthetic biology also have the potential to be a double-edged sword and become a source of lethal weaponry accessible to do-it-yourself biologists or biohackers,” according to the report. Biology is becoming more and more like the open source software community, with “open-access repository of standardized and interchangeable building block or ‘biobrick’ biological parts that researchers can use” — for good or for bad. ”This will be particularly true as technology becomes more accessible on a global basis and, as a result, makes it harder to track, regulate, or mitigate bioterror if not ‘bioerror.’”
Some of the Council’s predictions may give a few of Washington’s more sensitive politicians a rash. Although the Council does allow for the possibility of a “decisive re-assertion of U.S. power,” the futurists seem pretty well convinced that America is, relatively speaking, on the decline and that China is on the ascent. In fact, the Council believes nation-states in general are losing their oomph, in favor of “megacities [that will] flourish and take the lead in confronting global challenges.” And we’re not necessarily talking New York or Beijing here; some of these megacities could be somehow “built from scratch.”
Unlike some Congressmen, the Council takes climate change as a given. Unlike many in the environmental movement, the futurists believe that the discovery of cheap ways to harvest natural gas are going to relegate renewables to bit-player status in the energy game.
But most of the findings are apolitical bets on which tech will leap out the furthest over the next 17 years. People can check back in 2030 to see if the intelligence agencies are right — that is, if you still call the biomodded cyborgs roaming the planet people.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7721 on: Dec 10th, 2012, 09:57am »
New York Times
December 10, 2012 U.S. Forecast as No. 2 Economy, but Energy Independent By THOM SHANKER
WASHINGTON — A new intelligence assessment of global trends projects that China will outstrip the United States as the leading economic power before 2030, but that America will remain an indispensable world leader, bolstered in part by an era of energy independence.
Russia’s clout will wane, as will the economic strength of other countries reliant on oil for revenues, the assessment says.
The product of four years of intelligence-gathering and analysis, the study, by the National Intelligence Council, presents grounds for optimism and pessimism in nearly equal measure. The council reports to the director of national intelligence and has responsibilities for long-term strategic analysis.
One remarkable development it anticipates is a spreading affluence that leads to a larger global middle class that is better educated and has wider access to health care and communications technologies like the Internet and smartphones. The report assesses global trends until 2030.
“The growth of the global middle class constitutes a tectonic shift,” the study says, adding that billions of people will gain new individual power as they climb out of poverty. “For the first time, a majority of the world’s population will not be impoverished, and the middle classes will be the most important social and economic sector in the vast majority of countries around the world.”
At the same time, it warns, half of the world’s population will probably be living in areas that suffer from severe shortages of fresh water, meaning that management of natural resources will be a crucial component of global national security efforts.
But these developments also bring significant risks, allowing radicalized groups to enter world politics on a scale even more violent than that of current terrorist organizations by adopting “lethal and disruptive technologies,” including biological weapons and cyberweapons.
The study warns of the risk that terrorists could mount a computer-network attack in which the casualties would be measured not by the hundreds or thousands killed but by the millions severely affected by damaged infrastructure, like electrical grids being taken down.
“There will not be any hegemonic power,” the 166-page report says. “Power will shift to networks and coalitions in a multipolar world.”
It warns that at least 15 countries are “at high risk of state failure” by 2030, among them Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also, Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, Uganda and Yemen.
The study acknowledges that the future “is malleable,” and it lists important “game changers” that will most influence the global scene until 2030: a crisis-prone world economy, shortcomings in governance, conflicts within states and between them, the impact of new technologies and whether the United States can “work with new partners to reinvent the international system.”
The best-case situation for global security until 2030, according to the study, would be a growing political partnership between the United States and China. But it could take a crisis to bring Washington and Beijing together — something like a nuclear standoff between India and Pakistan resolved only by bold cooperation between the United States and China.
The worst-case situation envisions a stalling of economic globalization that would preclude any advancement of financial well-being around the world. That would be a likely outcome after an outbreak of a health pandemic that, even if short-lived, would result in closed borders and economic isolationism.
The chief author and manager of the project, Mathew Burrows, who is counselor for the National Intelligence Council, said the findings had been presented in advance in more than 20 nations to groups of academic experts, business leaders and government officials, including local intelligence officers.
In an interview, Mr. Burrows noted that the audiences in China were far more accepting of the American intelligence assessments — both those predicting China’s economic ascendancy and those warning of political dangers if there was no reform of governance in Beijing — than were audiences in Russia.
To assess the validity of this study, the research and analysis team graded their past work on global trends, an effort undertaken every four years since 1996. Past studies, they found, had underestimated the speed with which changes arrived on the global scene.
Concerns were raised that past reports may have suffered “blind spots and biases.” Among the examples cited in the new study were that past reports did not thoroughly detail the roles of state actors versus nonstate actors, and that previous studies did not sufficiently acknowledge the possibility that “crises and discontinuities” could drastically change the trends predicted by the authors. And while grand “isms” like fascism and communism might not be on the horizon, this study noted, previous assessments should have paid greater attention to ideology.
About 50 countries around the world will be at risk of internal conflict or wars with neighbors, the study says, most sparked by increasing nationalism and border rivalries fought out in the absence of any regional security architecture to resolve them.
The risk of conflict within a state — like a civil war or an insurgency — is expected to decline in Latin America, but will remain high in sub-Saharan Africa, in parts of the Middle East and South Asia, as well as in some Asia-Pacific island hot spots, the study warns.
“A more fragmented international system increases the risks” of conflict between states, the study also cautions. “Additionally, increased resource competition, spread of lethal technologies and spillover from regional conflicts increase the potential for interstate conflicts.”
Most worrisome — and already part of the global security dynamic — is an assessment that future wars in Asia and the Middle East could include nuclear weapons.
Other important demographic trends will be aging populations in Europe, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, which could slow their economies further. The report warns that Russia’s economy will join these nations in their “slow relative declines.” The United States will benefit from its domestic oil and natural gas supplies and new technologies to tap them, allowing the nation to become energy independent and even a net exporter of fuel.
“China alone will probably have the largest economy, surpassing that of the United States a few years before 2030,” the report states.
In general, it found, “the health of the global economy increasingly will be linked to how well the developing world does — more so than the traditional West.”
In addition to China, the developing nations that “will become especially important to the global economy” include India, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa and Turkey.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7722 on: Dec 10th, 2012, 10:01am »
Archaeologist sues Lucasfilm for (kinda) stealing that crystal skull
By Matthew Jackson 10:12AM on Dec 10, 2012
A lot of us have a beef with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, though most of us probably wouldn't bother suing George Lucas and company over it. But a real-life archaeologist is going after the flick, not because it was a letdown, but because the creators allegedly owe money for using the crystal skull as a plot device.
Dr. Jaime Awe, director of the Institute of Archeology of Belize, has filed suit against Lucasfilm, its new owner the Walt Disney Company, and Indiana Jones distributor Paramount Pictures, claiming that all three companies owe a share of the profits from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to the nation of Belize, because that's where the titular skull came from.
According to Awe, the original crystal skull was taken from Belize by the treasure-hunting Mitchell-Hedges family nearly 90 years ago, and has since been used for profits that the home nation hasn't had a share in. Awe claims the three companies owe a share of the "illegal profits" they earned from a "likeness" of the skull to Belize, and also demands the return of the original skull to its rightful home.
"Lucasfilm never sought, nor was given permission to utilize the Mitchell-Hedges Skull or its likeness in the Film," Awe's lawsuit claims. "To date, Belize has not participated in any of the profits derived from the sale of the Film or the rights thereto."
But there are a couple of problems with Awe's claim. For one thing, in the movie the crystal skull originates in Peru, not Belize. And for another, the Mitchell-Hedges Skull was quite possibly a hoax itself. The Mitchell-Hedges family member who found it (young Anna Mitchell-Hedges) never did quite get her story straight, so it's very possible Belize was never the "original" skull's home.
Even if it's a complete fabrication, the lawsuit is rather entertaining, particularly because it's rather conveniently timed to coincide with Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm. Sure, the movie came out more than four years ago, but why quibble over little details like that?
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7723 on: Dec 11th, 2012, 09:34am »
New York Times
December 10, 2012
Libyan Reluctance Hampers U.S. Investigation Into Deadly Benghazi Assault
By ERIC SCHMITT and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
WASHINGTON — An unarmed American military surveillance drone now flies virtually every day over Benghazi, gathering information and poised to respond at a moment’s notice if any of the suspects believed to be behind the attacks last Sept. 11 on the American Mission in the Libyan city are located.
But three months after the assault that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, the investigation into the attacks has been hobbled by the reluctance of the Libyan authorities to move against Islamist extremist suspects who belong to powerful militias, officials briefed on the investigation said. While the F.B.I. has identified several suspects, none have been arrested and some have fled Benghazi.
In an effort to generate as many leads as possible, the F.B.I. issued a global appeal last month asking anyone with information about the assailants to send tips in an e-mail, a text message or a post on a bureau Facebook page.
Even as frustration builds over the inquiry’s sputtering progress, American officials insist that at least for now they intend to fulfill President Obama’s vow to bring the killers to justice by working with the Libyan authorities, though that means sorting through delicate issues like sovereignty and the weakness of the Libyan government. For now, a decision whether to try suspected assailants in Libyan or American courts has not been made, officials said.
“This case is surrounded and intertwined with sensitivities — it is a process of doing business there and respecting their sovereignty,” said one American official who has been briefed on the investigation and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry is continuing.
Under increasing pressure from the Obama administration, there have been some halting steps forward in recent weeks.
Since first visiting Benghazi in early October, F.B.I. agents have returned to the city at least twice, accompanied by small United States military and Libyan security teams, to interview witnesses and collect other information related to the attack. Libyan witnesses have identified suspects caught on surveillance cameras at the mission and in photos taken during the attacks, American officials said.
Gen. Carter F. Ham, the head of the military’s Africa Command, said in an interview that investigators now believed that they had identified some but not all of the major actors in the attack on the diplomatic mission and the nearby C.I.A. annex, but “we don’t yet have sufficient information to indict anyone. They’re still collecting and building information.”
“The Libyans clearly accept responsibility” for investigating the attack, General Ham said, but “I have expressed to the Libyans that it hasn’t proceeded as quickly as any of us would have liked.”
A senior F.B.I. official is leading a team of what the American official described as “handpicked counterterrorism agents experienced in working overseas.” Many agents are from the F.B.I.’s New York office, the official said. The F.B.I.’s legal attaché from the United States Embassy in Cairo has also been involved with the investigation.
The official said that in contrast to a typical investigation in the United States, which is focused on making a case in a courtroom, the F.B.I. agents in Libya are primarily focused on establishing what occurred before and during the attacks.
“This is an intelligence-driven investigation, the goal is to establish the facts,” the official said. “Like this and other cases abroad, we have to be very sensitive. Every country is different when there is investigating on their turf.”
Among the obstacles the F.B.I. has encountered in Libya has been a reluctance by some police and government officials there to target members of Ansar al-Shariah, a local Islamist group whose fighters joined the attack, according to witnesses.
Government officials in Benghazi have said it would be impossible for their weak, lightly armed forces to arrest militia members. Leaders of Benghazi’s most powerful militias, some of whom fought with Ansar al-Shariah members during the Libyan uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, say they would be hesitant to act against suspects unless they were presented with conclusive proof of their involvement.
One witness in Libya said in an interview that the F.B.I. tried to question him in front of other Libyans, making the witness nervous that the Libyans could reveal his identity. Other witnesses have said they fear that the F.B.I. will not protect them if they cooperate with the investigation.
The American official acknowledged that working with the Libyans may not be ideal but said there was little the F.B.I. could do because of the need to respect the government’s sovereignty.
“When you deal with a foreign country, you have to play by their rules,” the official said. “You can’t just go around the world and conduct an independent investigation wherever it is happening.
“This is nothing specific to Libya. You wouldn’t be able to go into London or somewhere in Canada, where you think you think they would be cooperative and friendly, and just do whatever you want. It is just a fact of doing business outside the United States.”
The official said: “You do the best you can. There are ways to address and mitigate some of the realities we face there to some degree. But the fact is that this is a fact of life of how different countries interact around the world.”
Representative Peter T. King, a New York Republican who is the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said he was concerned that the Obama administration appeared to be treating the attacks like a criminal issue, not an act of war. He said the military, not the F.B.I., should have the lead in the investigation.
The top-secret Joint Special Operations Command has compiled so-called target packages of detailed information about possible suspects, senior military and counterterrorism officials said. Working with the Pentagon and the C.I.A., the command has been preparing the dossiers as the first step in anticipation of possible orders from Mr. Obama to take action against those determined to have played a role in the Benghazi assault.
A number of Libyan political figures have expressed wariness that unilateral military action by the United States, like a drone strike, would fuel popular anger and add a destructive new element to Benghazi’s persistent insecurity. So for now, the Obama administration is pursuing the criminal justice route with Libyan authorities.
“It would be a serious mistake to return to the policy of treating attacks as a law enforcement issue,” Mr. King said. “To me, this is a war — this is not a street crime and should not be considered a criminal justice issue.”
Kareem Fahim and David D. Kirkpatrick contributed reporting from Benghazi, Libya.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7724 on: Dec 11th, 2012, 09:38am »
12/12/12: filmmakers across the globe to capture 24 hours
Thousands of documentary makers across the globe will simultaneously record their lives over a 24-hour period on December 12 to create a film entitled One Day on Earth.
By Alice Philipson 2:27PM GMT 11 Dec 2012
Wednesday December 12, 12.12.12, will see the launch of the third collaborative filmmaking event in the One Day on Earth series after 10.10.10 and 11.11.11.
The day is seen as auspicious by some given it's the century's last sequential date. Dates such as 10.10.10 and 11.11.11 have traditionally seen couples flock to get married and a similar surge is expected tomorrow.
Couples in Asia are particularly keen to tie the knot on the lucky date as it's thought to signify love.
However, some internet doomsayers have picked tomorrow as the date for the world's end.
One Day on Earth is organised by the United Nations, along with more than 60 non-profit organisations. It is thought that hundreds of schools and students will also participate in the simultaneous recording.
Filming will take place in every country in the world.
On the event's twitter feed, dozens of random facts about what happens on a day on Earth have been posted.
On an average day, 4,489 new books are published, eight billion text messages are sent and passengers will board planes at 48, 357 airports, according to the tweets.
Humans spend an average of 1.1 hours travelling and 13, 741 toxic chemicals are released into the atmosphere in one day, other tweets say.