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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 70558 times)
hyundisonata
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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7740 on: Dec 14th, 2012, 11:50am »

Being a big fan of Tolkien I bought the trilogy and own an original copy of the hobbit but this film is a major NO, NO. They should have laid it to rest after the return of the king
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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7741 on: Dec 15th, 2012, 09:48am »

on Dec 14th, 2012, 11:50am, hyundisonata wrote:
Being a big fan of Tolkien I bought the trilogy and own an original copy of the hobbit but this film is a major NO, NO. They should have laid it to rest after the return of the king


Good morning Hyundisonata,

I LOVE the Tolkien series. I was wondering whether or not to see the Hobbit. I'm not sure I want to see this. Maybe I'll wait until it hits dvd and get a copy.

Crystal
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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7742 on: Dec 15th, 2012, 09:55am »







Uploaded on Dec 27, 2010


Season 1 Episode of CBS's live CLIMAX! drama program. This is an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde". Hosted by Bill Lundigan, this episode was originally aired on 28 July 1955 (Season 1 Episode 34). The story was adapted for television by Gore Vidal.

This is a complete kinoscope recording. All advertisments, studio ids, ad-caps, etc are present. This is the full 60 mins program, not the edited 45 minute video version. This recording has been mastered from a VHS dupe. Some minor cropping has been undertaken to remove tracking issues that were present on the image.

Director: Allen Reisner
Producer: Edgar Peterson
Production Company: Columbia Broadcasting System

This video is available for downlaod in my Internet Archive Collection:
http://www.archive.org/details/Climax-DrJekyllAndMrHyde

~

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« Reply #7743 on: Dec 16th, 2012, 09:52am »

Reuters

Tales of heroism emerge from 'evil' school shooting

By Chris Kaufman

NEWTOWN, Connecticut
Sat Dec 15, 2012 3:07pm EST

NEWTOWN, Connecticut (Reuters) - Elementary school library clerk Mary Ann Jacob heard gunshots and shouted "Lockdown!" to a class of fourth graders. Then she discovered the classroom door wouldn't lock.

Quickly, quietly she and other library staff got the 18 children down on the floor and crawled with them to a classroom storage closet. Hiding from the gunman who killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, they barricaded themselves inside by shoving a file cabinet against the door.

"We settled them down with paper and crayons," Jacob told reporters on Saturday.

The gunfire suddenly ended and police came pounding at the door. But the library staff refused to open it until they slipped a badge under the door, Jacob said.

In the aftermath of the massacre, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy on Friday said "evil" had descended upon the small community of Newtown. But emerging a day after the carnage were tales of heroism by school staff members, including the six who died.

There was first-grade teacher Vicki Leigh Soto, 27, who police said "put herself between the kids and the gunman's bullets" and whose body was found huddled with the students in a classroom closet, according to The Wall Street Journal.

And there were selfless survivors like first-grade teacher Kaitlin Roig. She told ABC News she scrambled her class into a cramped bathroom, locked the door and "told the kids I love them" in case those were the last words they ever heard.

A school custodian reportedly raced through the hallways echoing with gunfire to check that classroom doors were locked from the inside, the Newtown Bee newspaper said.

On Friday morning fourth graders were in Jacob's library classroom when the intercom sputtered to life with what sounded like a struggle in the school office.

"We heard some scuffling noises and stuff and I thought someone made a mistake," Jacob said. "So I called down there and the secretary answered the phone and said ‘There's a shooting.'"

Then Jacob heard "popping noises" that she realized was gunfire.

"I shouted ‘Lockdown!' and I ran across the hall and told the other class it was a lockdown," Jacob said.

She dashed back to her classroom and discovered that the door would not lock. Spying the storage closet in the room, Jacob and the rest of the library staff guided the children in a group-crawl to safety as the gunfire continued.

"We tried to minimize it with the kids. Just tried to keep it calm and quiet," she said. The staff told the children it was an active shooter drill that they had practiced before.

Later, Jacob said she found out that "the kids who died were in two first-grade classrooms."

Panicked parents converged on a firehouse near the school on Friday afternoon, terrified by the thought that their children might be among the dead.

"The teachers lined up, held up signs, the kids lined up behind them," Jacob said.

"There were a lot of parents running around. It came out pretty quickly that there were almost two full classes missing," she said.

(Writing by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Xavier Briand)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/15/us-usa-shooting-connecticut-heroes-idUSBRE8BE0BK20121215

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« Reply #7744 on: Dec 16th, 2012, 09:55am »

New York Times

December 16, 2012

Egypt Islamists Expect Approval of Constitution

By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and KAREEM FAHIM

CAIRO — Millions of Egyptians voted peacefully on Saturday in a referendum on an Islamist-backed draft constitution, hoping that the results would end three weeks of violence, division and distrust between the Islamists and their opponents over the ground rules of Egypt’s promised democracy.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the main Islamist group aligned with President Mohamed Morsi, predicted a big win for ratification. In the districts that voted Saturday, including the opposition strongholds of Cairo and Alexandria, about 57 percent of voters approved the new constitution, according to preliminary tallies by state news media early Sunday morning.

Half of the country will vote next Saturday, in predominantly rural areas that are expected to heavily favor the charter. The relatively narrow margin of victory for the charter so far, combined with low turnout — 33 percent, according to the unofficial tallies, down from 41 percent in a referendum on a temporary constitution last year — seemed likely to embolden the non-Islamist opposition that has called for Mr. Morsi to scrap the charter and convene a new constitutional assembly.

A spokesman for the main coalition opposing the charter said that it had found widespread irregularities in voting and that its leaders would speak later on Sunday. In Cairo, the biggest city, about 56 percent voted no, according to an unofficial tally by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Regardless of the results, the orderly balloting and long lines marked yet another turning point for Egypt’s nearly two-year-old revolution. After three weeks of clashes and threats of a boycott, millions of voters appeared for the moment to pull back from the brink of civil discord and reaffirm their trust in the ballot box, spending hours in long lines to vote in the sixth national election since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak 22 months ago.

It remained to be seen if the losing side would accept the results, or how long the peace might last. Many who voted yes said they were doing so to end the chaos of the transition rather than to endorse the text of the charter. Despite opposition warnings of chaos, the streets of the capital were free of major protests for the first time in weeks.

And if the constitution is approved by the margins his supporters predict, the smooth vote could fortify Mr. Morsi’s power and legitimacy.

Military officers guarded polling places, and there were few reports of violence. Egyptian state media reported nine injuries in clashes around the Nile Delta town of Dakahleya, and that unknown assailants threw Molotov cocktails near the headquarters of a liberal party that had been part of the opposition under Mr. Mubarak.

As they waited in line to vote, neighbors continued to spar over the contentious process that produced the charter. Some said that it had been unfairly steamrolled by Egypt’s new Islamist leaders over the objections of other parties and the Coptic Christian Church, and that as a result the new charter failed to protect fundamental rights.

Others blamed the Islamists’ opponents for refusing to negotiate, in an effort to undermine democracy because they could not win at the ballot box. Many expressed discontent with political leaders on both sides.

“Neither group can accept its opposition,” said Ahmed Ibrahim, 40, a government clerk waiting to vote in a middle-class neighborhood in the Nasr City area of Cairo. Whatever the outcome, he said, “one group in their hearts will feel wronged, and the other group will gloat over their victory, and so the wounds will remain.”

The referendum once promised to be a day when Egyptians realized the visions of democracy, pluralism and national unity that defined the 18-day revolt against Mr. Mubarak. But then came nearly two years of chaotic political transition in which Islamists, liberals, leftists, the military and the courts all jockeyed for power over an ever-shifting timetable.

The document that Egyptians voted on was a rushed revision of the old Mubarak charter, pushed through an Islamist-dominated assembly in an all-night session, after Christian and secular representatives quit in protest. Many international experts faulted the charter as a missed opportunity, stuffed with broad statements about Egyptian identity but riddled with loopholes regarding the protection of rights.

Worse still, for many, was the polarizing endgame the charter provoked. Leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood said more than 35 of its offices, including its Cairo headquarters, had been attacked and vandalized over the last three weeks. A night of street fighting between his Islamist supporters and their opponents killed at least 10 people.

Many voters waiting in line on Saturday said they rejected the exploitation of religion by both sides: the Islamists who sought to frame the debate as an argument over Islamic law, and opponents who accused Mr. Morsi and his Islamist allies of laying the groundwork for a theocracy.

“It is not about these emotional issues,” said Talan Hassaballah, a businessman who was voting in the Nasr City neighborhood. “I am going to vote no, but not because I disagree with the Muslim Brotherhood or the president.”

Like most who said they would vote no, he faulted its provisions on “social justice,” like guarantees of human rights, workers’ rights and social services. “They are vague,” he said.

Tensions with Egypt’s Christians, believed to make up about 10 percent of the population, were rubbed raw by the debate. Ultraconservative Islamist satellite networks often faulted angry Christians for provoking violence, and many Christians were shocked that the Islamist leaders of the constitutional assembly had pushed the draft through even after representatives of the Coptic Church had withdrawn.

“The entire Christian community was offended,” Nagwa Albert, 56, said after she voted against the constitution. Speaking of the Islamist leaders’ statements to rally support for the draft, she said: “It feels like the beginning of a war.”

In the Cairo neighborhood of Shubra, Muslim and Christian voters took turns contradicting each other. Sarwat Mikhail, a 53-year-old Christian, blamed Mr. Morsi for recklessly rushing to ratify the constitution. “We still have not found someone who respects us, and fears for his people,” he said.

Nadra Mandoor, a 49-year-old Muslim lawyer next to him, insisted that her Christian neighbors misconstrued the constitution. Opposition leaders “do not want the country to move forward,” she said. “Should we allow the dictatorship of the minority?”

Several Muslims voting no said they were offended by imams who had urged them at Friday Prayer to vote yes in the name of religion. In Alexandria, one such appeal by an ultraconservative sheik set off a street fight that injured more than a dozen people.

One Muslim who complained about pressure in his Cairo mosque, Ehab Abdel Hafeez, a 35-year-old salesman, said he had voted for Islamists in last year’s parliamentary elections but intended to vote no on the constitution, in part because he saw the president’s Islamist supporters battling their opponents in the streets last week.

“What I saw there was savagery,” he said. “They were like monsters with the dragging and the beating. The Islamists have cut Islam to their own measurements, and it is not the Islam we know, a religion of mercy. Now we look like terrorists to the world.”

The voting will be held in two phases, with the second next weekend, but the voting on Saturday was expected to be more decisive, because it included Cairo and Alexandria. The voting next Saturday in rural areas is expected to heavily favor the constitution.

Talaat Mohamed, 48, said he trusted Mr. Morsi not to abuse his powers as his authoritarian predecessors had, in part because he was a believer. “If President Morsi did not fear God, he would be like Sadat and jail all who oppose him,” Mr. Mohamed said, referring to former President Anwar el-Sadat, who was assassinated in 1981.

Others opposed to the constitution vowed to continue their protests even if it passed. “The constitution will remain a problem, because the foundation of the house is going to be flawed,” said Rami Yusef, 23, an engineering student waiting to vote in Nasr City. “The protests will go on.”

But Mr. Hassaballah, the Nasr City businessman, was less worried. Asked if the outcome would be accepted, he asked, “You mean by people like us, or the political people?”

“I am 45 years old,” he said, and the post-Mubarak transition “is the first time I have voted.”

“I think the referendum is beautiful.”


Mayy El Sheikh and Mai Ayyad contributed reporting.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/17/world/middleeast/egypt-constitution-vote-results.html?ref=world&_r=0

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« Reply #7745 on: Dec 16th, 2012, 10:05am »

Journey of Hope blogspot

Led by murder victim family members speaking out...

Telling their stories of love, forgiveness and understanding. Hoping for an end to the cycle of violence.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Making Sense of Evil (new book reviewed from The Forgiveness Project)

Making Sense of Evil
May 9, 2012

This week sees the publication of an outstanding and beautifully crafted redemptive memoir by Marian Partington, whose sister was murdered by two of Britain’s most notorious serial killers – Frederick and Rosemary West.

Since founding The Forgiveness Project some eight years ago I am frequently sent novels, poems, memoirs, first-person accounts, critiques and sermons on the subject of forgiveness. I’m sorry to say that I find the majority either so proselytizing as to be unpalatable or so badly written as to be unreadable. Even the books which are not like this are often heavy going, dull or repetitive. So what I found so inspiring about reading Marian Partington’s If You Sit Very Still was that here was something entirely different – terrifying, authentic and beautiful. It was like entering a new world.

I first met Marian Partington just a few weeks after the start of the Iraq war, in 2003. At a time when the whole world was talking about retaliation, I was trying to collect stories from people who had considered forgiveness in the face of atrocity. I’d been told by a friend about Marian’s remarkable journey of healing following the kidnap and brutal murder of her younger sister, Lucy, at the hands of the Wests. I wanted to find out how anyone could line themselves up for forgiveness following an event of such unspeakable savagery. It was an important and pivotal moment for me. It was only after hearing Marian’s story that I realised that the ethos behind my own project could never simply be to present inspiring stories which drew a line under the dogma of vengeance, but rather must provide a place of inquiry for people to explore the limits and complexities of forgiveness.

I subsequently distilled our intense four-hour discussion into a short first-person testimony which, together with a stirring portrait of Marian by photographer Brian Moody, went on display alongside 26 other stories in an exhibition at the Oxo Gallery in London in 2004. I called the exhibition The F Word because by then I knew that forgiveness was a messy business; it was something which no one could agree on and seemed to inspire and affront in equal measure. Marian’s story of moving through murderous rage to a place of understanding and compassion made me realise that forgiveness should never be sanitised or glorified, that it was difficult, painful and costly, but also that it could be the crucial ingredient to transforming deep and unresolved pain.

Since that time I’ve been privileged to witness Marian sharing her story with numerous people in many settings, but mostly in adult male prisons, including one sex offenders’ wing. It is always a profound experience, to watch her telling her story to men who have harmed others. Invariable, and in an astonishingly short time, fixed perceptions start to shift, hardened attitudes soften, and even the most resistant begin to unbend.

Above all, it is when Marian brings out the little, woollen, hand-spun bag, carefully woven from stray sheep’s wool by her sister when she was eight, and passes it around the group that the mood settles in the room. It has always struck me that allowing countless strangers, one after the other, session after session, to handle and hold in the palm of their hands this most precious and delicate of gifts is an extraordinary gesture of generosity. By trusting these men with an object invested with so much emotional value, Marian transforms this story of hell into a message of hope.

I read If You Sit Very Still over one twenty-four hour period. I was mesmerized by the language and gripped not only by the need to know what happened next, but also to understand how anyone can truly reconcile with such evil. You feel you’ve been taken by the hand, led gently along a terrifying path (which few will mercifully know) into previously unchartered territory, and allowed to share in this deeply personal chronicle of grief.

Emerging through trauma, pain and finally to transformation, the author seeks to explain and give voice to a humanity born out of intense sorrow. She repeatedly and painstakingly searches for and then grasps the exact word or expression to faithfully describe every step of the journey until a new narrative emerges. This is a journey towards becoming forgiving – the only creative route Marian could find to soothe and mend her broken world. There were times I stopped to read and re-read the words as they unfolded on the page, in awe of her ability to explain the inexplicable, give meaning to the incomprehensible and describe such deep agony through the towering lyricism of her prose.

The great accomplishment of this narrative of healing, is its capacity to uncover the gift in the wound which, to paraphrase W.B.Yeats, permits “a terrible beauty” to be born.

http://thejourneyofhope.blogspot.com/2012/06/making-sense-of-evil-new-book-reviewed.html

http://www.valapublishers.coop/ifyousitverystill

Crystal

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« Reply #7746 on: Dec 17th, 2012, 07:47am »

Woman With Quadriplegia Feeds Herself Chocolate Using Mind-Controlled Robot Arm

Dec. 17, 2012 — Reaching out to "high five" someone, grasping and moving objects of different shapes and sizes, feeding herself dark chocolate. For Jan Scheuermann and a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC, accomplishing these seemingly ordinary tasks demonstrated for the first time that a person with longstanding quadriplegia can maneuver a mind-controlled, human-like robot arm in seven dimensions (7D) to consistently perform many of the natural and complex motions of everyday life.

In a study published in the online version of The Lancet, the researchers described the brain-computer interface (BCI) technology and training programs that allowed Ms. Scheuermann, 53, of Whitehall Borough in Pittsburgh, Pa. to intentionally move an arm, turn and bend a wrist, and close a hand for the first time in nine years.

Less than a year after she told the research team, "I'm going to feed myself chocolate before this is over," Ms. Scheuermann savored its taste and announced as they applauded her feat, "One small nibble for a woman, one giant bite for BCI."

"This is a spectacular leap toward greater function and independence for people who are unable to move their own arms," agreed senior investigator Andrew B. Schwartz, Ph.D., professor, Department of Neurobiology, Pitt School of Medicine. "This technology, which interprets brain signals to guide a robot arm, has enormous potential that we are continuing to explore. Our study has shown us that it is technically feasible to restore ability; the participants have told us that BCI gives them hope for the future."

In 1996, Ms. Scheuermann was a 36-year-old mother of two young children, running a successful business planning parties with murder-mystery themes and living in California when one day she noticed her legs seemed to drag behind her. Within two years, her legs and arms progressively weakened to the point that she required a wheelchair, as well as an attendant to assist her with dressing, eating, bathing and other day-to-day activities. After returning home to Pittsburgh in 1998 for support from her extended family, she was diagnosed with spinocerebellar degeneration, in which the connections between the brain and muscles slowly, and inexplicably, deteriorate.

"Now I can't move my arms and legs at all. I can't even shrug my shoulders," she said. "But I have come to the conclusion that worrying about something is experiencing it twice. I try to dwell on the good things that I have."

A friend pointed out an October 2011 video about another Pitt/UPMC BCI research study in which Tim Hemmes, a Butler, Pa., man who sustained a spinal cord injury that left him with quadriplegia, moved objects on a computer screen and ultimately reached out with a robot arm to touch his girlfriend.

"Wow, it's so neat that he can do that," Ms. Scheuermann thought as she watched him. "I wish I could do something like that." She had her attendant call the trial coordinator immediately, and said, "I'm a quadriplegic. Hook me up, sign me up! I want to do that!"

On Feb. 10, 2012, after screening tests to confirm that she was eligible for the study, co-investigator and UPMC neurosurgeon Elizabeth Tyler-Kabara, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Neurological Surgery, Pitt School of Medicine, placed two quarter-inch square electrode grids with 96 tiny contact points each in the regions of Ms. Scheuermann's brain that would normally control right arm and hand movement.

"Prior to surgery, we conducted functional imaging tests of the brain to determine exactly where to put the two grids," she said. "Then we used imaging technology in the operating room to guide placement of the grids, which have points that penetrate the brain's surface by about one-sixteenth of an inch."

The electrode points pick up signals from individual neurons and computer algorithms are used to identify the firing patterns associated with particular observed or imagined movements, such as raising or lowering the arm, or turning the wrist, explained lead investigator Jennifer Collinger, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R), and research scientist for the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. That intent to move is then translated into actual movement of the robot arm, which was developed by Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab.

Two days after the operation, the team hooked up the two terminals that protrude from Ms. Scheuermann's skull to the computer. "We could actually see the neurons fire on the computer screen when she thought about closing her hand," Dr. Collinger said. "When she stopped, they stopped firing. So we thought, 'This is really going to work.'"

Within a week, Ms. Scheuermann could reach in and out, left and right, and up and down with the arm, which she named Hector, giving her 3-dimensional control that had her high-fiving with the researchers. "What we did in the first week they thought we'd be stuck on for a month," she noted.

Before three months had passed, she also could flex the wrist back and forth, move it from side to side and rotate it clockwise and counter-clockwise, as well as grip objects, adding up to what scientists call 7D control. In a study task called the Action Research Arm Test, Ms. Scheuermann guided the arm from a position four inches above a table to pick up blocks and tubes of different sizes, a ball and a stone and put them down on a nearby tray. She also picked up cones from one base to restack them on another a foot away, another task requiring grasping, transporting and positioning of objects with precision.

Read More: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121217030957.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Fmatter_energy+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Matter+%26+Energy+News%29
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« Reply #7747 on: Dec 17th, 2012, 08:15am »

Good morning Swamprat. Thank you for that article.

Crystal



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« Reply #7748 on: Dec 17th, 2012, 08:19am »

Reuters

Special Report: Greece's triangle of power

Mon Dec 17, 2012 5:23am EST

A nexus of media, business and politics lies behind the country's crisis, say critics.

By Stephen Grey and Dina Kyriakidou

ATHENS (Reuters) - In late 2011 the Greek finance minister made an impassioned plea for help to rescue his country from financial ruin.

"We need a national collective effort: all of us have to carry the burden together," announced Evangelos Venizelos, who has since become leader of the socialist party PASOK. "We need something that will be fair and socially acceptable."

It was meant to be a call to arms; it ended up highlighting a key weakness in Greece's attempts to reform.

Venizelos' idea was a new tax on property, levied via electricity bills to make it hard to dodge. The public were furious and the press echoed the outrage, labeling the tax ‘haratsi' after a hated levy the Ottomans once imposed on Greeks. The name stuck and George Papandreou, then prime minister, felt compelled to plead with voters: "Let's all lose something so that we don't lose everything."

But not everyone would lose under the tax. Two months ago an electricity industry insider revealed that some of the biggest businesses in the land, including media groups, were paying less than half the full rate, or not paying the tax at all. Nikos Fotopoulos, a union leader at power company PPC, claimed they had been given exemptions.

"It was a gift to the real bosses, the real owners of the country," he said. "The rich don't pay, even at this time."

This time the media made little fuss. "The news was not covered by the media ... because media owners were among those favored," Fotopoulos said later. Leading daily newspapers in Athens either did not mention or downplayed his claims, a review by Reuters found.

To many observers the episode illustrates the interplay between politics, big business and powerful media owners. The interwoven interests of these sectors, though not necessarily illegal or improper, are seen as an obstacle to Greece's attempts to rescue its economy. They are, say critics, partly to blame for the current crisis and for hindering reform.

Leading media owners contacted by Reuters denied exerting any improper influence or seeking favors, or did not respond to questions.

But given the international impact of Greece's crisis, concerns now extend beyond the country. A source in the troika of lenders keeping Greece afloat - the European Union, International Money Fund and European Central Bank - said: "The system is extremely incestuous. The vested interests are resisting reforms needed to make the economy competitive."

Opposite sides of the Greek political spectrum speak about the subject in colorful terms. "In Greece the real power is with the owners of banks, the members of the corrupt political system and the corrupt mass media. This is the triangle of sin," said Alexis Tsipras, leader of Syriza, the main opposition.

Panos Kamenos, leader of the right-wing Independent Greeks party, said: "The Greek media is under the control of people who depend on the state. The media control the state and the state controls the media. It's a picture of mutual blackmail."

Others are more measured. Asked about the haratsi tax, Venizelos acknowledged there were some "blatant cases of paying less tax or none at all", but blamed this on poor records held by the state-run electricity company. "In no way was there any discrimination in favor of specific property owners," he said.

Simos Kedikoglou, a government spokesman, said officials were monitoring the property tax and any errors would be rectified.

Previous efforts to curb potential conflicts of interest - in particular relating to the media - have had little effect, according to a European Commission report on media freedom and independence, published in December 2011. It said Greek media policy "has remained highly centralized in the hands of the government of the day," and that it "has been thoroughly influenced, albeit in opaque and informal ways, by powerful economic and business interests who have sought to gain power, profit, or both."

RISE OF PRIVATE MEDIA

Interplay between politicians and the media is common in many European countries, notably in Italy where Silvio Berlusconi was both prime minister and head of a media group, and in the UK, where media owners such as Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp, have had contacts with successive prime ministers.

But critics say such connections are particularly significant in Greece because the state plays a large role in the economy, and because of the way media has developed there.

Private radio stations and TV channels emerged only in the 1980s, after decades of state media control. As businessmen hurried into the fray, regulation was haphazard. Successive governments let broadcasters operate without proper licenses, according to the 2011 EU report on Greek media. This semi-regulated approach led to Greece having a large number of media outlets for its population of 11 million.

In 2009 the country had 39 national daily newspapers, 23 national Sunday papers and 14 national weekly papers, according to an earlier EU study of media. Per capita, Greece has far more national newspaper titles than, say, Germany or the UK. The country also has nine national TV stations, six of them privately owned, and numerous private radio stations.

A 2006 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Athens, obtained by Wikileaks, noted: "How can all these media outlets operate profitably? They don't. They are subsidized by their owners who, while they would welcome any income from media sales, use the media primarily to exercise political and economic influence."

At the same time, much of the economy outside the shipping industry depends on state contracts or licenses.

"Most companies in Greece are essentially waiting to get money from the state," said Theodoros Roussopoulos, a former government press minister. "Greece is officially capitalist, but in effect socialist."

Media owner Ioannis Alafouzos told Reuters that some of the media "are in effect press offices for business groups." Alafouzos, whose family owns SKAI TV, Greece's fifth largest station, and Kathimerini, a leading newspaper, added: "It's developed into a completely unhealthy situation. The purpose of media has been largely to execute specific tasks for their owners."

Alafouzos, whose wealth comes from shipping, said his family had been careful not to depend on government dealings. His critics say that SKAI was among the companies found to be paying no haratsi tax - an omission SKAI says was caused by local bureaucracy - and that his media interests benefit from state advertising. Alafouzos described the latter as a minimal proportion of his media interests' revenue.

FAMILY CONNECTIONS

One nexus of interwoven interests is MEGA Channel, Greece's biggest TV station, which is co-owned by businessmen who are leaders in, or have strong connections to, other sectors of the economy.

The biggest collective stake in the TV station is owned by members of the family of George Bobolas. One of his sons, Fotios, is a director of Teletypos, the channel's holding company. Another son, Leonidas, is chief executive and a major shareholder of Ellaktor, a construction giant founded by his father that has participated in multi-billion euro contracts with the state. Leonidas has no stake in Teletypos.

The Bobolas family also controls Ethnos, a popular daily and Sunday newspaper, other print media and websites. From the large, grey headquarters of their publishing company in Halandri, a northern suburb of Athens, the extent of the family interests is evident. Nearby is the Athens ring-road, built by an international consortium that included Ellaktor. Alongside the road is a new railway line to the airport, also built with Bobolas involvement.

George Bobolas did not initially respond to questions about his family's various interests. Instead, his newspaper Ethnos published several articles in the days after Reuters submitted questions to him. One alleged that Reuters "continues, it seems, to target our country, the Greek economy and entrepreneurship." Another described Reuters as a "fifth column" for the troika and alleged that Athens was being flooded by foreigners out to "undertake the demolition of public figures according to Anglo-Saxon practices."

After a further request from Reuters, Bobolas said in a letter: "I have never used the media owned by companies in which I participate, for the promotion of interests of the holding company Ellaktor S.A. ... Newspaper Ethnos has never used influence or asked any favors from rulers, for the benefit of Ellaktor."

Bobolas said former prime ministers could verify he had never asked for any favors and added: "One could say that Ethnos' severe judgment on governmental actions and politicians in general, could be considered as obstacle and not help to Ellaktor's corporate interests".

In a written statement, construction firm Ellaktor said its subsidiaries engage in both private and public contracts, and that it pursues public contracts "by participating exclusively in open international tenders, in accordance with Greek and European legislation."

Other figures involved in MEGA Channel include the family of Vardis Vardinoyannis, who is prominent in oil and shipping, and Stavros Psycharis, who controls the DOL media company.

George Vardinoyannis, son of Vardis, serves on MEGA Channel's board, and the family also owns a smaller station called Star Channel. The family is also the major shareholder in Motor Oil Hellas, one of two Greek refinery operators.

more after the jump:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/17/us-greece-media-idUSBRE8BG0CF20121217

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« Reply #7749 on: Dec 17th, 2012, 08:23am »

Seattle Times

Originally published December 16, 2012 at 7:35 PM
Page modified December 17, 2012 at 6:14 AM

Fears rise over Syria’s chemical-weapons stocks

By Craig Whitlock and Carol Morello
The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — As Bashar Assad’s hold on power steadily weakens, U.S. officials are increasingly worried that Syria’s weapons of mass destruction could fall into the hands of Islamist extremists, rogue generals or other uncontrollable factions.

Last week, fighters from a group that the Obama administration has branded a terrorist organization were among rebels who seized the Sheik Suleiman military base near Aleppo, where research on chemical weapons had been conducted. Rebels are also closing in on another base near Aleppo, known as Safirah, which has served as a major production center for chemical munitions, according to U.S. officials and analysts.

The opposition Free Syrian Army said it did not find any chemical weapons at the first installation. But the developments have fanned fears that even if Assad does not attack his own people with chemical weapons, he is on the verge of losing control of his formidable arsenal.

A former Syrian general who once led the army’s chemical-weapons training program said the main storage sites for mustard gas and nerve agents are supposed to be guarded by thousands of Syrian soldiers, but he predicted that they would be easily overrun.

“They’re not secure,” retired Maj. Gen. Adnan Silou, who defected to the opposition in June, said in an interview. “Probably anyone from the Free Syrian Army or any Islamic extremist group could take them over.”

President Obama and other leaders have warned Assad not to use chemical weapons, calling that a “red line” that would force them to take military action. But the White House has been vague about whether and how it would respond if Assad is toppled and Syria’s chemical weapons are left unprotected or end up in the hands of anti-American insurgents.

The Pentagon has drawn up plans for responding to possible scenarios involving Syria’s chemical munitions, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Friday during a visit to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, about 60 miles from the Syrian border. He declined to give details.

Defense officials, however, said in interviews that they have been updating their contingency plans in recent weeks as chaos has overtaken Syria. They said they are working closely with Israel, Turkey, Jordan and NATO allies to monitor dozens of sites where Syria is suspected of keeping chemical weapons and to coordinate options to intervene if necessary.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government and some European allies have hired private contractors to train Syrian rebels in how to monitor and secure chemical-weapons sites should Assad abandon or lose control of any of his stocks, according to CNN.

http://seattletimes.com/html/nationworld/2019920326_syriaislamistsxml.html

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« Reply #7750 on: Dec 17th, 2012, 08:27am »

Hollywood Reporter

Jack Black, Shine America Team for Paranormal Comedy Web Series

4:00 AM PST 12/17/2012
by Philiana Ng

Jack Black's production company Electric Dynamite and Shine America have teamed up for a new project: the paranormal comedy web series Ghost Ghirls.

The 12-episode Ghost Ghirls, which wraps filming in Los Angeles at the end of this week, will debut in spring 2013 on Yahoo! Screen. Black, New Girl's Jake Johnson, Molly Shannon and Jason Schwartzman are among the celebrities that will appear in the web series, though more names will be revealed later. The episodes will be roughly 10 minutes each.

Ghost Ghirls, created by Jeremy Konner, Amanda Lund and Maria Blasucci, revolve around two young female ghostbusters -- played by Lund and Blasucci -- who attempt to solve the mysteries behind paranormal phenomena, all with a comedic twist.

Konner, Lund and Blasucci serve as executive producers, with Black and Priyanka Mattoo as EPs; Konner directs.

"People are passionate about the space. It's fun, it's interactive, it's bite-sized; you don't have to spend a lifetime to consume it," Vivi Zigler, president, Shine 360° and digital, Shine America, told The Hollywood Reporter of heading into the digital space.

Zigler continued: "We hope to make people laugh, that's first. If you make good content the business part tends to follow."

With Yahoo! distributing the series in the U.S., Zigler noted that Ghost Ghirls may be eyeing distribution abroad.

Added Black in a statement: "Ghost Ghirls is the funniest idea for a TV show that we've seen since I've been in the business."

Ghost Ghirls joins an original Yahoo! web series slate that includes Burning Love and Sketchy.

As Zigler tells it, expect more original digital content from Shine America to come your way in the future. "We have lots of ideas in development that we're talking to lots of different platforms about. Some are a glean in our eye, some are a pitch that came in weeks ago and some that are further along," she said.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/ghost-ghirls-jack-black-shine-403092

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« Reply #7751 on: Dec 17th, 2012, 08:39am »

Wired

Dec. 17, 1790: Accurate Calendar Requires Sacrifice, You Dig?

By Randy Alfred
December 17, 2010 | 7:00 am
Categories: 18th century, Culture, Social Sciences

1790: Workers doing repairs in Mexico City unearth a massive stone bearing ancient symbols. It turns out to be a representation of the Aztec calendar and will eventually become a national treasure.

The disc-shaped stone measured 12 feet in diameter and 3 feet thick. It was covered with pagan symbols. The Spanish had contemptuously buried it underneath the Zocalo, or central plaza of the city, soon after they toppled the Aztec empire in 1521. The new rulers also tore down the pagan grand temple and, at the opposite end of the plaza, built a large cathedral to worship their own deity.


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Soon after its 1790 discovery, the 25-ton stone was again ritually subjugated to the new religion, this time by embedding it in the wall of the cathedral’s western tower.

When Mexico achieved independence from Spain in the early 19th century, it retained the Catholic religion but also developed a growing interest — and pride — in its indigenous history and culture. General Porfirio Diaz (nominally president, in reality a dictator) ordered the stone removed to the national Museum of Archaeology and History in 1885.

Though the stone carries calendrical and astronomical decoration, it’s now thought that it wasn’t used primarily to keep time, but as an altar for human sacrifice. Mexican anthropologists refer to it as the Cuauhxicalli Eagle Bowl or simply the Sun Stone — for the sun god Tonatuih, whose visage appears at the center.

Based on the earlier Mayan timekeeping, the Aztecs used two different types of year. A ritual calendar of 260 days rotated 20 divine symbols into a “week” with 13 numbered days. After 20 weeks, each sign (associated with a god) had appeared in each of the 13 slots, and the cycle was complete.

A secular, agricultural calendar kept pace with the seasons. It had 18 months of 20 days each. The month was divided into four market cycles (or “weeks”) of five days each. At the end of each year, an extra, monthless period of five unlucky days topped up the year to 365 days.

The new year of the two calendars coincided every 18,980 days, or once every 52 years. At that time, Aztec priests performed a special ritual to light a new fire in the bleeding chest of a sacrificial victim to ensure that, in their world view, the sun would not die. The 12-day New Fire rite was a period of abstinence marked by the destruction of old idols and the dousing of the ritual fires of the old cycle.

But the 12 days added to the calendar to conclude the cycle amounted to adding 12 leap days per 52 years. The Julian calendar then in use in Europe had a leap year every four years. The Gregorian calendar established in 1582 has 97 leap years in every 400. It turns out that the Aztec calculation of an average 365.2420 days per year is actually closer to the real value of 365.2422 days than the old Julian value of 365.2500 days or even our current Gregorian value of 365.2425 days.

The Sun Stone was hand-carved in the 52-year period from 1427 to 1479. Because the double calendar determined the timing of sacrifices, the sacrificial stone was decorated with calendar marking. A glyph on the outer rim marks the date 13-Reed, probably its creation date in the ritual calendar. Nearer the center, a circle of glyphs representing the 20 day names surrounds the face of the sun god.

When Mexico opened its modern, new National Museum of Anthropology in 1964, the Sun Stone was given the central place of honor among 120,000 works of artistic and cultural relevance. Two million visitors a year gaze upon it.

http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2010/12/1217aztec-calendar-stone-rediscovered/

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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7752 on: Dec 17th, 2012, 3:47pm »

From New York Lily:

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« Reply #7753 on: Dec 17th, 2012, 3:58pm »

Lol very good, I must admit it appeals to my sense of humor.
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« Reply #7754 on: Dec 17th, 2012, 4:13pm »

Thank NewYorkLily for me Swamprat grin

Good one!

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