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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 10850 times)
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« Reply #7860 on: Jan 8th, 2013, 07:51am »

Science Daily

Exocomets May Be as Common as Exoplanets

Jan. 7, 2013

— Comets trailing wispy tails across the night sky are a beautiful byproduct of our solar system's formation, icy leftovers from 4.6 billion years ago when the planets coalesced from rocky rubble.

The discovery by astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Clarion University in Pennsylvania of six likely comets around distant stars suggests that comets -- dubbed "exocomets" -- are just as common in other stellar systems with planets.

Though only one of the 10 stars now thought to harbor comets is known to harbor planets, the fact that all these stars have massive surrounding disks of gas and dust ‑ a signature of exoplanets -- makes it highly likely they all do, said Barry Welsh, a research astronomer at UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory.

"This is sort of the missing link in current planetary formation studies," Welsh said. "We see dust disks -- presumably the primordial planet-forming material -- around a whole load of stars, and we see planets, but we don't see much of the stuff in between: the asteroid-like planetesimals and the comets. Now, I think we have nailed it. These exocomets are more common and easier to detect than people previously thought."

Welsh will present the findings on Monday, Jan. 7, during a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, Calif. Three of the new exocomets were reported in the Oct. 2012 issue of the journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific by Welsh and colleague Sharon L. Montgomery of the Department of Physics at Clarion University.

Welsh also will participate in a media briefing on Tuesday, Jan. 8, at 2:30 p.m. PST in Room 204 on Level 2 of the Long Beach Convention Center.

Welsh summarized the current theory of planet formation as "interstellar dust under the influence of gravity becomes blobs, and the blobs grow into rocks, the rocks coalesce and become bigger things -- planetesimals and comets -- and finally, you get planets."

Many stars are known to be surrounded by disks of gas and dust, and one of the closest, beta-Pictoris (β-Pic), was reported to have comets in 1987. In 2009, astronomers found a large planet around β-Pic about 10 times larger than Jupiter. Three other stars -- one discovered by Welsh in 1998 -- were subsequently found to have comets.

"But then, people just lost interest. They decided that exocomets were a done deal, and everybody switched to the more exciting thing, exoplanets," Welsh said. "But I came back to it last year and thought, 'Four exocomets is not all that many compared to the couple of thousand exoplanets known -- perhaps I can improve on that.'"

Detecting comets may sound difficult -- after all, the snowballs are typically only 5-20 kilometers (3-13 miles) in diameter. But Welsh said that once comets are knocked out of their parking orbit in the outer reaches of a stellar system and fall toward a star, they heat up and evaporate. The evaporating comet, which is what we see with comets such as Halley and next year's highly anticipated Comet ISON, creates a brief, telltale absorption line in the spectrum of a star.

The six new exocomet systems were discovered during three five-night-long observing runs between May 2010 and November 2012 using the 2.1-meter telescope of the McDonald Observatory in Texas. The telescope's high resolution spectrograph revealed weak absorption features that were found to vary from night to night, an outcome that Welsh and Montgomery attributed to large clouds of gas emanating from the nuclei of comets as they neared their central stars.

All of the newly discovered exocomets -- 49 Ceti (HD 9672), 5 Vulpeculae (HD 182919), 2 Andromedae, HD 21620, HD 42111 and HD 110411 -- are around very young type A stars, which are about 5 million years old, because Welsh's detection technique works best with them. With a higher resolution spectrograph, he might be able to detect comets around the older and yellower G and F stars around which most exoplanets have been found.

Nevertheless, all evidence suggests that these dusty A stars should have planets, and planets are the only thing that could knock a comet out of its orbit and make it fall toward its star.

"If it quacks, waddles and has feathers, then it's probably a duck," he said.

The work was supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130107162222.htm

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« Reply #7861 on: Jan 8th, 2013, 3:55pm »

My husband and I just received the most amazing gift. I received a box with the return address FOB Sharana. I thought my soldier must have been sent home and I missed the mailstop email, so something I sent him was being returned.

I was p.o.'d that he didn't get his box. When I looked closer it was from the soldier himself. From FOB Sharana. Huh? Alan and I opened that box. There was a flag, a certificate and a note.

They flew that flag over FOB Sharana on 17 October 2012 in honor of Alan and I!!!!!!!!! shocked

My soldier added his combat patch and an infrared flag.

In the note he thanked us and expressed his gratitude.

I am putting that flag right in the living room in a place of honor.

I haven't been this thrilled and touched by a gift in years. And I'll be 59 years old next Summer, that's a lot of years, LOL

I can't express how much this means to me.

FOB Sharana and my soldier are the best in the world!

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« Reply #7862 on: Jan 8th, 2013, 4:00pm »

Congrats Crystal,
Very, Very kool!
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« Reply #7863 on: Jan 8th, 2013, 4:16pm »

That's really a nice present. A nice present for a very kind lady. smiley
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« Reply #7864 on: Jan 8th, 2013, 8:27pm »

Crystal, that had to get your heart pumping! Enjoy--you've EARNED it!!

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« Reply #7865 on: Jan 9th, 2013, 09:01am »

Good morning Lone, Phil & Swamprat,

I'm still grinning this morning. I will treasure that gift forever. The soldiers I adopt are my children while they are there. My "deployement kids", LOL

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« Reply #7866 on: Jan 9th, 2013, 09:04am »

Reuters

India lashes Pakistan after deadly Kashmir encounter

By Ashok Pahalwan
Wed Jan 9, 2013, 7:29am EST

JAMMU, India (Reuters) - India denounced Pakistan on Wednesday over a firefight in the disputed territory of Kashmir in which two Indian soldiers were killed, but the nuclear-armed rivals both appeared determined to prevent the clash escalating into a full diplomatic crisis.

India summoned Pakistan's envoy in New Delhi to lodge a "strong protest", accusing a group of Pakistani soldiers it said had crossed the heavily militarized Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir of "barbaric and inhuman" behavior.

The body of one of the soldiers was found mutilated in a forested area on the side controlled by India, Rajesh K. Kalia, spokesman for the Indian army's Northern Command, said. However, he denied Indian media reports that one body had been decapitated and another had its throat slit.

"Regular Pakistan troops crossed the Line of Control ... and engaged the Indian troops who were patrolling the sector," India's Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement after Pakistan's high commissioner to India had been called in.

"Two Indian soldiers were killed in the attack and their bodies subjected to barbaric and inhuman mutilation."

India's foreign minister sought to cool tensions, however, saying that exhaustive efforts to improve relations could be squandered if the situation was not contained.

"I think it is important in the long term that what has happened should not be escalated," Salman Khurshid told a news conference. "We cannot and must not allow the escalation of any unwholesome event like this."

"We have to be careful that forces ... attempting to derail all the good work that's been done towards normalization (of relations) should not be successful," he added, without elaborating on who such forces might be.

MOST SERIOUS INCIDENT IN 10 YEARS

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their independence in 1947, two of them over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, and both are now nuclear-armed powers.

Away from the border, ties had appeared to be improving of late. Pakistan's cricket team completed a two-week tour of India on Sunday, its first visit in five years.

Firing and small skirmishes are common along the 740-km (460-mile) LoC despite a ceasefire that was agreed in 2003.

However, incursions by troops from either side are rare. Retired Indian army Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal, who previously commanded a brigade on the LoC, said Tuesday's incident - about 600 meters from the de facto border - marked the most serious infiltration since the ceasefire was put in place.

Indian army officials said cross-border firing broke out hours after the clash but, on Wednesday, the LoC was quiet.

Naveed Chand, a shopkeeper in Chatar village just 2 km from the LoC on the Pakistani side told Reuters by telephone that there had been a pick-up in cross-border firing recently, unusual movements of army trucks and reinforcement of bunkers.

"We think something is up. People in the area are very alarmed," he said.

It was not possible to independently verify events in the remote area, which is closed to journalists on both sides.

Pakistan's foreign ministry denied India's allegations of an incursion as "baseless and unfounded" and said in a statement that it was prepared for an investigation by a U.N. military observer group into recent ceasefire violations.

Like New Delhi, it stressed the need to pursue better relations, adding: "Pakistan is committed to a constructive, sustained and result-oriented process of engagement with India."

PROPAGANDA

Nevertheless, a Pakistani army spokesman described India's charges as "propaganda" aimed at diverting attention away from an Indian incursion two days earlier in which one Pakistani soldier was killed. India denies that its troops crossed over the line during last weekend's incident.

Mushahid Hussain, a Pakistani senator and member of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, said the Indian government - dogged by corruption scandals and facing a tough election as early as this year - was returning to "the war-like language of the past" for domestic political reasons.

"Pakistan has its hands full with a full-blown insurgency inside its borders. It doesn't suit Pakistani interests at all to raise the temperature along the LoC," Hussain said.

There was little coverage of the skirmish in Pakistani media, but a succession of commentators voiced fury on Indian news channels and the main opposition party urged the government to expose Pakistan's actions to the international community.

"Pakistan can be named and shamed for this brutal attack," Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley told reporters.

India considers the entire Kashmir region of snow-capped mountains and fertile valleys an integral part of its territory. Muslim Pakistan contests that and demands implementation of a 1948 U.N. Security Council resolution for a plebiscite to determine the wishes of the mostly Muslim people of Kashmir.

Some commentators drew parallels between Tuesday's clash and a conflict in 1999 when Pakistan-backed Islamist infiltrators occupied the heights in Kargil, in the north of Indian Kashmir. India lost hundreds of troops before re-occupying the mountains after fighting that almost triggered a fourth war.

"India's response will be measured but, as a former soldier, I do not rule out a measured military response to teach them a lesson," said retired Brigadier Kanwal. "You cannot tinker with bodies."

(Additional reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik and Katharine Houreld in ISLAMABAD and by Sanjeev Miglani, Arup Roychoudhury and Satarupa Bhattacharjya in NEW DELHI; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Robert Birsel)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/09/us-india-pakistan-attack-idUSBRE9070GO20130109

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« Reply #7867 on: Jan 9th, 2013, 09:14am »

Hollywood Reporter

CBS Gets Record Prices for Super Bowl Ads

6:11 PM PST, 1/8/2013
by Alex Ben Block

With an average price of almost $3.8 million, CBS chief Leslie Moonves calls the big game "the greatest broadcast day of the year for this entire corporation."

Whichever team comes out on top during Super Bowl XLVII, CBS is already a winner. CEO Leslie Moonves confirmed Tuesday that all of the available advertising slots in the game have been sold at a record average price of about $3.8 million, with some going for more than $4 million.

That's up from an average of about $3.5 million that 30 second ads sold for when NBC handled the telecast in 2012.

Moonves, during a press briefing on the game plan for the broadcast in New York City, also said that the CBS flagship station in New York City has also sold some ads during the telecast for more than $1 million, and predicted the Super Bowl would be “the greatest broadcast day of the year... for this entire corporation."

"This entire corporation is getting behind this event in a way I don't think has ever been done before," said Moonves.

CBS has sold out the spots in about the same amount of time it took NBC but not as fast as Fox did when it telecast the game in 2011. Moonves said that had nothing to do with the amount of interest from advertisers or the state of the American economy. Instead, he said CBS held out for the highest prices it could get, which required more time.

CBS president of network sales JoAnn Ross and exec vp of sports sales and marketing John Bogusz had told The Hollywood Reporter in November that they had only a couple of ad units left at that time. Ross said that the CBS gross revenue for the game would be more than $225 million.

Besides the spots in the game itself, CBS also sells back up and contingency time slots in case the game goes into overtime.

CBSSports.com, which will stream the game live, will also stream the halftime show for the first time. Jason Kint, general manager of CBS Interactive's Sports Division, said the digital unit is close to selling out its advertising inventory as well.

Moonves told reporters he was thrilled when the NFL suggested that Beyoncé perform at halftime. "She's been great for awhile, but it feels like the timing couldn't be better," said Moonves. "With her, and the baby, and Jay-Z, and what they represent -- plus she's at the height of her musical career, so we're really excited."

CBS also has an extensive line up of programming leading up to the big game, which will feature announcers Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. There will be seven hours of pre-game coverage before the official kick off at 3:30 pm pst. And for the entire week, CBS News will base all of its broadcasts in New Orleans, site of the game. The CBS Evening News will originate from there on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Several network shows will also air from there, including The Talk, hosted by Julie Chen, which will do a week of live shows from the Big Easy. The Talk will target women viewers of the big game -- and last year CBS estimated about 43 million women watched the big game last year.

Last year's Super Bowl set a record as the most watched TV show in American history, the third year in a row it set a record for viewership. Nielsen said an estimated 111.3 million people watched the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots 21-17.

That close game helped; in his comments Tuesday, Moonves said he's hoping for another close game, unlike the thumping Alabama gave Notre Dame Monday night in the BCS Championship. That had high viewership to start but it went downhill after the Crimson Tide rolled to a four touchdown lead in the first half.

Moonves also joked that while the inventory is gone, if an advertiser wants to offer CBS $5 million or more for an ad, they might be accommodated. While that may be true, the NFL limits the number of ads in the game so it would require some serious juggling.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/cbs-gets-record-prices-super-410157

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« Reply #7868 on: Jan 9th, 2013, 09:31am »

Telegraph

Burma Spitfire search finds water-filled crate that may contain plane

An excavation team searching for a stash of Second World War era British Spitfires in Burma says it has found a wooden crate believed to contain one of the planes, but it is full of muddy water.

By Telegraph reporters
9:43AM GMT, 09 Jan 2013

It was not immediately clear how much damage the water may have caused, and searchers could not definitively say what was inside the crate.

But British aviation enthusiast David J. Cundall, who is driving the hunt for the rare Spitfires, called the results "very encouraging."

"It will take some time to pump the water out ... but I do expect all aircraft to be in very good condition," Mr Cundall said from Rangoon, Burma's main city.

The single-seater Spitfire, which helped Britain beat back waves of German bombers during the war more than six decades ago, remains the most famous British combat aircraft.

Britain built a total of about 20,000 Spitfires, although the dawn of the jet age meant the propeller-driven planes quickly became obsolete.

As many as 140 Spitfires – three to four times the number of airworthy models known to exist – are believed to have been buried in near-pristine condition in Burma by American engineers as the war drew to a close.

The wooden crate located in northern Burma was found in Myitkyina in Kachin state during a dig that began last month. It is one of several digs planned nationwide, including another near the airport in Rangoon.

Mr Cundall said the search team in Kachin state inserted a camera into the crate and found it was full of water. It was unclear what was inside the crate, he said, but the water will be pumped out during an operation that could take weeks, he said.

The go-ahead for excavation came in October when Burma's government signed an agreement with Mr Cundall and his local partner.

Under the deal, Burma's government will get one plane for display at a museum, as well as half of the remaining total. DJC, a private company headed by Mr Cundall, will get 30 per cent of the total and the Burma partner company Shwe Taung Paw, headed by Htoo Htoo Zaw, will get 20 per cent.

During the project's first phase, searchers hope to recover 60 planes: 36 planes in Mingaladon, near Rangoon's international airport; six in Meikthila in central Burma; and 18 in Myitkyina. Others are to be recovered in a second phase.

Searchers hope the aircraft are in pristine condition, but others have said it's possible all they might find is a mass of corroded metal and rusty aircraft parts.

Mr Cundall said the practice of burying aircraft, tanks and jeeps was common after the war.

"Basically nobody had got any orders to take these airplanes back to (the) UK. They were just surplus ... (and) one way of disposing them was to bury them," Mr Cundall said. "The war was over, everybody wanted to go home, nobody wanted anything, so you just buried it and went home. That was it."

Stanley Coombe, a 91-year-old war veteran from Britain who says he witnessed the aircraft's burial, travelled to Burma to observe the search.

It is "very exciting for me because I never thought I would be allowed to come back and see where Spitfires have been buried," Coombe said. "It's been a long time since anybody believed what I said until David Cundall came along."

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/burmamyanmar/9789830/Burma-Spitfire-search-finds-water-filled-crate-that-may-contain-plane.html

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« Reply #7869 on: Jan 9th, 2013, 09:39am »

Wired

Brain Cancer-Causing Virus Strikes West Coast Raccoons

By Brandon Keim
01.09.13, 9:30 AM
Categories: Animals, Biology

An outbreak of a previously unknown virus that causes fatal brain cancer in raccoons has been detected in northern California and southern Oregon.

Tumors and the new virus were found in 10 raccoons autopsied between March 2010 and May 2012. Nothing like them had been seen before in raccoons, in which tumors are very rare.

There’s no reason to think the virus could be contagious to humans. Its emergence does, however, raise fascinating questions about how it evolved and whether patterns of suburban development actually fueled its rise.

“We need to understand how infectious pathogens are empowered by global changes,” said veterinary pathologist Patty Pesavento of the University of California, Davis, leader of the team studying the new disease, which was reported in the January issue of Emerging Infectious Disease. “If there’s a new niche, pathogens will find it.”

Nine of the raccoons came from around Marin County, just north of San Francisco, and the 10th was sent from southern Oregon. The raccoons had been spotted wandering in daylight, approaching humans, falling unconscious and generally displaying signs of neurological distress.

Tumors appeared to have formed in their olfactory tracts, spread to their frontal lobes and compressed their mid-brains (see picture below). Reviews of scientific literature and calls to veterinary pathologists across North America found no precedents.

In each of the tumors, but not in brain tissue from raccoons tested for comparison, Pesavento’s team found an unknown form of polyomavirus, one of a group of viruses known to cause a rare form of skin cancer in humans and tumors in other animals, including mice and birds. Pesavento’s team called it raccoon polyomavirus.

“The connection between the novel polyomavirus and these raccoon brain tumors is strong,” said disease ecologist Richard Ostfeld of the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies, who was not involved in the research.

The exact virulence and contagiousness of the new virus is unknown, but there’s reason to think it’s high. Raccoons killed by the tumors accounted for more than one-fifth of all the raccoons Pesavento’s group autopsied between March 2010 and May 2012, and the cases they saw are likely the disease’s tip.

“Raccoons go and hide when they’re sick,” said Pesavento. “The reason we’re seeing this at all is because they don’t know what they’re doing. They’re neurological.”

Also unknown is whether the virus is unique to raccoons, or if that species is a so-called dead-end host for a disease transmitted between other animals, such as skunks or opossums.

It’s also possible that the virus is an opportunistic pathogen signaling some deeper problem in raccoons, just as outbreaks of Kaposi’s sarcoma, a once-rare type of cancer that thrived in the compromised immune systems of people with AIDS, signaling the HIV epidemic’s beginning.

Though much remains unknown about raccoon polyomavirus, preliminary examination by Pesavento’s team has turned up some interesting information. Unlike other polyomaviruses, it doesn’t seem to fuse with the DNA of its host cells, but instead floats outside the chromosomes, potentially representing a new mechanism by which the virus induces cancer.

“That’s known to have happened in a dish, but nobody believed it happened in an animal,” said Pesavento.

The new virus also appears to be more closely related to human than animal polyomaviruses, suggesting a possible origin in our own species. Raccoons are known to frequent sewage drains, and exposure to polyomavirus-laden human waste is almost inevitable.

That contact creates opportunities for a mammalian species-hopping polyomavirus to thrive. If the raccoons are physiologically stressed, or are isolated from other populations, it may become even easier for viruses to cross the species gap.

“Their immune systems are not as rich, not as deep,” said Pesavento. “All of a sudden, we’ve created an evolutionary petri dish” for viruses that would otherwise have died out.

Fragmented suburban ecologies and stressed animal populations “create an environment where a virus can work towards species-jumping,” said Pesavento.

Ostfeld cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the new virus’s origins, which could instead be in rodents, bats or some other animal.

“There’s really nothing in this paper to indicate what might have caused the outbreak,” he said.

But disease ecologist Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance, sees the raccoons as a potential sentinel for changing conditions. “Urban development drives changes in ecology that promote the emergence of disease,” he said.

A variation on this type of evolution is the lethal Hendra virus in Australia, which jumped to humans as a consequence of development-driven changes in the habits of flying foxes, its traditional animal hosts.

Unlike the Hendra virus, it’s extremely unlikely that the raccoon polyomavirus could infect humans. And unlike influenza viruses, it’s unlikely that genes from the new virus will be transferred into human-infecting strains, said Pesavento.

“Polyomaviruses have never been shown to recombine like influenza does,” said Pesavento. But, “as humans, we have the responsibility to these animals to understand how we’re affecting them,” she said.

Daszak echoed her reassurances that the new virus won’t infect people, but warned that creating reservoirs of any new disease is an unnecessary risk. “The message from this is not that wildlife are scary,” Daszak said. “The lesson is that we need to protect wildlife.”

Citation: “Novel Polyomavirus associated with Brain Tumors in Free-Ranging Raccoons, Western United States.” By Florante N. Dela Cruz, Federico Giannitti, Linlin Li, Leslie W. Woods, Luis Del Valle, Eric Delwart, and Patricia A. Pesavento. Emerging Infectious Disease, Vol. 19 No. 1, January 2013.


http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/01/raccoon-cancer-outbreak/

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« Reply #7870 on: Jan 10th, 2013, 10:15am »

Reuters

Syria's rebels form their own secret police

By Mariam Karouny
Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:01am EST

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Just the mention of the word would send shivers down the spine of Syrians: "mukhabarat", or secret police.

Abuses by President Bashar al-Assad's feared security units were among the reasons Syrians took to the streets in March 2011, leading to an uprising that has become a civil war.

But now some of the rebels fighting Assad say they have set up a mukhabarat of their own to "protect the revolution", monitor sensitive military sites and gather military information to help rebels plan attacks against government forces.

"We formally formed the unit in November. It provides all kind of information to (opposition) politicians and fighters. We are independent and just serve the revolution," said a rebel intelligence officer who goes under the name Haji.

Rebel commanders had put Reuters in touch with Haji, who is based in Syria, via Skype on condition he not be identified.

Haji said most of the rebel mukhabarat's members were army defectors and former intelligence officers, and that the information they gathered was distributed to all anti-Assad factions and rebel brigades without discrimination.

However, the organization appears to operate independently from the main opposition Syrian National Coalition and the Free Syrian Army, effectively answering to itself.

Haji was careful to distinguish between its methods and those of the secret police under Assad, saying he was aware of the feared reputation of the government's internal spy services.

"Our work is organized, we have an internal law and we are committed to international laws and human rights," he said, speaking briefly over Skype.

Assad's mukhabarat - a blanket term for an array of sometimes overlapping and mutually mistrustful security services - that has helped keep his father before him in power for more than four decades, stamping out dissent and insulating Syria from the frequent military coups that had plagued it previously.

CLANDESTINE ACTIVITY

The new rebel body has operated secretly for months, Haji said, helping fighters carry out attacks on government targets.

He did not specifically claim credit for a bomb attack on a security headquarters in Damascus in July that killed five of Assad's top security officials, including his defense minister and his brother-in-law, who was an intelligence chief.

Haji declined to disclose details of the rebel agency, but said it operated across Syria, including in Aleppo and Idlib in the north, Deir al-Zor in the east and the capital Damascus, adding: "We have our spies among the regime who are providing us with information that we need, including military information."

Syrians have long exchanged horror stories of the dungeons of the intelligence branches where dissidents were incarcerated, often tortured and sometimes killed. Opposition activists insist their own mukhabarat will be nothing like those Assad inherited from his father, the late President Hafez al-Assad.

"The word security should mean the security of the people," said an opposition activist using the name Abu Hisham in Aleppo.

"Unfortunately, Assad's security bodies changed it to mean preserving the security of the government against the people," he said. "Having this agency is important right now to track down the shabbiha (pro-Assad militia) and regime forces. We hope they remain up to the responsibility after toppling Assad."

The rebel mukhabarat is keeping a close eye on the movements of Assad's family, his army generals and senior officials who until now remain out of the insurgents' reach, Haji said.

He denied widespread rumors that Assad's brother Maher, a military commander, had also been killed in the July bombing, adding that his wife had given birth to twin boys last month.

Haji also said Assad, who gave a speech in the Damascus Opera House on Sunday, remains in the capital, but that morale of government officials was low and that many were secretly helping the rebels as an insurance policy in case they won.

"They approach us and they give us the information. We do not pay them. They say all they want is protection for their families later on," he said, alluding to a post-Assad Syria.

SECTARIAN TOOL

In the Arab world's many past or present police states, Syria's mukhabarat has long had a reputation as one of the most ruthless. It consists of at least five powerful agencies who spy on each other, tap phones of dissidents and vie for power.

Created under French Mandate rule of Syria from 1923-43, the secret police became ever more powerful under Hafez al-Assad, who ruled with an iron fist from 1971 until his death in 2000.

Corruption, personal interests and a lack of communication among its branches might appear to offer avenues for rebels to infiltrate Assad's mukhabarat, but the security services are dominated by the Syrian leader's tight-knit Alawite minority.

The Alawites, who make up about 12 percent of Syria's 23 million people, have rallied behind Assad, fearing revenge by the mostly Sunni Muslim rebels if he is toppled.

Other minorities, which include Druze, Christians and Shi'ites, fear for their freedoms if the armed revolt brings Sunni Islamist hardliners to power.

Such fears deepened after documented abuses by some rebels accused of torturing and summarily executing their opponents, as well as of looting state and private property during nearly 22 months of conflict that has cost at least 60,000 lives.

Haji said his intelligence agents were documenting such violations so that the perpetrators could be held to account.

"We are watching everybody. We have gathered information about every violation that happened in the revolt," he said.

"Those we cannot punish now will be punished after toppling Assad. Nothing will be ignored. We have our members among all the working brigades. They are not known to be intelligence and they operate quietly."

His agents, Haji said, worked undercover as activists, citizen journalists or fighters.

While welcoming the formation of the rebel intelligence service, one insurgent commander voiced concern it might change its agenda to serve a group or a political party later on, just as Assad's mukhabarat had focused on protecting his rule.

"After toppling Assad all of this will be reshaped - it is a temporary unit but there is fear that this unit will remain secretive the way it is now and starts executing unwanted agendas," said the commander, known as Obeida.

"We fear that later it will become political and serve a political agenda as if all our sacrifices never happened."

(Editing by Alistair Lyon)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/10/us-syria-crisis-mukhabarat-idUSBRE9090K420130110

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« Reply #7871 on: Jan 10th, 2013, 10:18am »

22News Amherst Mass.

UFO mystery raising questions in Amherst

Westover: No log of aircraft in area at the time

Updated: Thursday, 10 Jan 2013, 10:45 AM EST
Published : Thursday, 10 Jan 2013, 10:45 AM EST

AMHERST, Mass. (AP) - Dozens of residents of the Amherst area are baffled by what they describe as a weird low-flying object seen moving over town this week.

Witnesses described the UFO seen after dark Tuesday as the size of two or three cars, and roughly diamond-shaped, or even triangular. It was visible because of its dim white lights.

One woman said it was only 75 to 100 feet above her car.

Another woman told the Daily Hampshire Gazette the object was too slow and too quiet to be an airplane.

Police say they received one call about "lights in the sky," but they didn't investigate. Westover Air Reserve Base, which has a radar tower in Amherst, said it had nothing in its logs about any aircraft moving through the area at the time.

http://www.wwlp.com/dpp/news/local/hampshire/ufo-mystery-raising-questions-in-amherst

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« Reply #7872 on: Jan 10th, 2013, 10:24am »

Wired

Darpa Open Sources Code for Building Your Own Amphibious Tank
By Robert McMillan
01.10.13, 8:52 AM

Two years ago, Defense Secretary Robert Gates killed off the Marines’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle — a $13 billion misfire of an attempt to build an armored boat that could make landfall and still get around on the beach. But on Monday, the Department of Defense will give you the chance to design something better.

The DoD’s forward-thinking Darpa group plans to release open-source software that will let anyone design and run virtual tests on their own swimming tank. And more than that, it will kick off the first phase of a contest where you can pit your amphibious tank design against everyone else’s. The prize: $1 million.

Darpa’s software — built in part by researchers at Vanderbilt University — is called Meta. It’s an open source version of the same kind of complex design and simulation software that typically costs big corporations tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, says Lt. Col. Nathan Wiedenman, the Darpa program manager in charge of the challenge.

The code will be released Monday at noon EST, and the first phase of the contest — called the FANG (Fast, Adaptable, Next-Generation Ground Vehicle) challenge — will kick off. Contestants will use this code to build a drive train and mobility system, Wiedenman says.

Darpa plans to continue to refine the code as the FANG challenge evolves. And, eventually, it will also release the source code to the Vehicleforge.org website that it’s using to manage the contest.

Once the drive train is built, the field gets winnowed a little bit, and the top 20 contestants will then design more of their amphibious vehicle. Contestants will move forward based on how well they meet about 150 design goals of the drive system.

When the $1 million prize winner is finally selected a few years from now, Darpa will try to build out the top design. But of course, they won’t do this in a standard way. According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, they’re investing $3.5 million in Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh hacker spaces where Darpa employees will literally work by night, building a new kind of reconfigurable foundry where they’ll be able to quickly spit out prototypes of the parts they’re creating.

The goal, Wiedenman says, is to build “new infrastructure for systems design development from a set of requirements — an idea on a cocktail napkin — all the way to a final fielded product.”

You can watch Darpa’s FANG Challenge video below:





http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2013/01/darpa-fang/

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« Reply #7873 on: Jan 10th, 2013, 10:30am »

Hollywood Reporter

Oscar Nominations By the Numbers: Fun Facts, Shocking Stats

6:43 AM PST
1/10/2013
by Scott Feinberg

For Oscar buffs -- read "Oscar nerds" -- like myself, one of the great thrills of each year's Academy Awards nominations announcement is the opportunity that it creates to dig through the eight-plus decades of Oscar record books and investigate which stats, if any, have been tied or broken. There's no way to truly compare the classics of yesteryear with the finest films of today, but, in a weird way, this allows us to do something like that -- and, while that's not particularly useful, it sure is a blast to do! So, without further ado, here are the fun factoids and shocking stats that I've come up with about the new crop of Oscar nominees.

The Weinstein Co.'s Silver Linings Playbook becomes only the 14th film to ever receive at least one Oscar nomination in each of the four acting categories, and the first to do so in 31 years. The others: My Man Godfrey (1936), Mrs. Miniver (1942), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), Johnny Belinda (1948), Sunset Blvd. (1950), A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), From Here to Eternity (1953), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), Network (1976), Coming Home (1978) and Reds (1981).

•Universal's Les Miserables becomes the first musical to receive a best picture Oscar nomination since Chicago (2002) a decade ago.

•20th Century Fox's Life of Pi becomes only the fifth film released predominately in 3D to receive a best picture Oscar nomination. The others: Avatar (2009), Up (2009), Toy Story 3 (2010) and Hugo (2011).

•20th Century Fox's Life of Pi becomes only the fourth film to score Oscar nominations in all seven technical Oscar categories -- best cinematography, film editing, best original score, best sound editing, best sound mixing and best visual effects. The others: Titanic (1997), Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2002) and Hugo (2011) -- two of which were also set at sea!

•Sony's Zero Dark Thirty, which was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, becomes the 11th best picture Oscar nominee directed or co-directed by a woman. The other 10: Randa Haines' Children of a Lesser God (1986), Penny Marshall's Awakenings (1990), Barbra Streisand's The Prince of Tides (1991), Jane Campion's The Piano (1993), Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation (2003), Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' Little Miss Sunshine (2006), Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan's Slumdog Millionaire (2008), Lone Scherfig's An Education (2009) and Bigelow's own The Hurt Locker (2009), which is the only one of the lot that ended up winning.

•Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), who is nine years old, becomes the youngest best actress Oscar nominee in history, breaking the record previously held by Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider), who was 13 when she was nominated for Whale Rider (2003). The only two people younger than Wallis to ever receive an acting Oscar nomination were Jackie Cooper, who was also nine -- but a few days younger than Wallis is -- when he became a best actor nominee for Skippy (1931), and Justin Henry, who was eight when he became a best supporting actor nominee for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979).

•Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), who is 85 years old, becomes the oldest best actress Oscar nominee in history, breaking the record previously held by Jessica Tandy, who was 80 when she was nominated -- and won -- for Driving Miss Daisy (1989). The only person older than Riva to ever receive an acting Oscar nomination was Gloria Stuart, who was 87 when she became a best supporting actress nominee for Titanic (1997).

•Three perennial nominees who have never won an Oscar will have a shot at breaking their losing streaks this year, all for their work on Skyfall: veteran sound mixer Greg P. Russell received his 16th best sound mixing nom (only one person -- his former mixing partner Kevin O'Connell, has received more nominations without winning: 20); composer Thomas Newman is 0-for-10 in years past, but maybe the eleventh will be the charm; and cinematographer Roger Deakins is hoping that he will finally win on his tenth try.

•Alan Arkin (Argo), a best supporting actor nominee, becomes the male actor with the longest span of time between his first and last acting Oscar nomination -- his first nomination came 46 years ago for The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966), and he's obviously still in a position to extend his record! The male record was previously held by Henry Fonda, who had a 41-year span. The overall record is held by Katharine Hepburn, who had a 48-year span.

•An unprecedented three Australians are among this year's acting Oscar nominees: Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), Naomi Watts (The Impossible) and Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook).

•For the first time in history all five nominees from one of the acting categories -- in this case, best supporting actor (Argo's Alan Arkin, Skyfall's Javier Bardem, Silver Linings Playbook's Robert De Niro, The Master's Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lincoln's Tommy Lee Jones, Django Unchained's Christoph Waltz) -- are previous Oscar winners.

•Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg, two of the producers of Lincoln, extend their record number of best picture Oscar nominations -- most of which came for films on which they collaborated -- from seven to eight. (Spielberg won 19 years ago for Schindler's List; Kennedy has yet to win.)

•Several of this year's nominees were also Oscar-nominated last year: best picture nominee George Clooney (Argo) was nominated last year in the best actor category for The Descendants; best actress nominee Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) was nominated last year in the best supporting actress category for The Help; best original score nominee John Williams (Lincoln) was nominated last year in the same category for The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse; best production design nominee Rick Carter (Lincoln) was nominated last year in the same category (then called best art direction) for War Horse; and best sound mixing nominee Greg P. Russell (Skyfall) was nominated last year in the same category for Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

•Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) becomes the second person to receive a best actor Oscar nomination for portraying Pres. Abraham Lincoln -- the other was Raymond Massey, who was nominated 72 years ago for Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940) -- and the fifth person to receive a best actor Oscar nomination for portraying any U.S. president. The others, in addition to those two: James Whitmore in Give 'em Hell, Harry! (1975), Anthony Hopkins in Nixon (1995) and Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon (2008).

•Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) becomes the 74th actor or actress to receive an acting Oscar nomination for his or her big screen debut, and only the 17th to receive a nomination in the best actress category for a rookie performance. The others: Greer Garson for Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), Martha Scott for Our Town (1940), Shirley Booth for Come Back, Little Sheba (1952), Julie Harris for The Member of the Wedding (1952), Maggie McNamara for The Moon Is Blue (1953), Julie Andrews for Mary Poppins (1964), Elizabeth Hartman for A Patch of Blue (1965), Barbra Streisand for Funny Girl (1968), Jane Alexander for The Great White Hope (1970), Diana Ross for Lady Sings the Blues (1972), Julie Walters for Educating Rita (1983), Marlee Matlin for Children of a Lesser God (1986), Emily Watson for Breaking the Waves (1996), Keisha Castle-Hughes for Whale Rider (2003), Catalina Sandino Moreno for Maria Full of Grace (2004) and Gabourey Sidibe for Precious (2009).

•The Gatekeepers, an Israeli Hebrew-language documentary, becomes one of the few films not predominately in the English language to receive a best documentary feature Oscar nomination. The others include: The Sorrow and the Pity (1969), Chariots of the Gods (1970), The Last Days (1998) and several early docs about the Olympics.

•Amy Adams (The Master) becomes only the eighth person to have received at least four best supporting actress Oscar nominations. Adams, whose noms have all come within seven years, joins Ethel Barrymore, Lee Grant, Agnes Moorehead, Geraldine Page, Maggie Smith and Maureen Stapleton, who never received another nom in the category after their fourth, and Thelma Ritter, who bagged two more. None of Adams' noms have resulted in a win yet, but she should be heartened by the fact that all but two of the other members of the 4+ Club -- Moorehead and Ritter -- wound up winning at least one Oscar.

•It has been a long time since the Academy last nominated Lincoln's Sally Field (28 years ago for Places in the Heart), Silver Linings Playbook's Robert De Niro (21 years ago for Cape Fear), Helen Hunt (15 years ago for As Good As It Gets), Flight's Denzel Washington (11 years ago for Training Day) and The Impossible's Naomi Watts (9 years ago for 21 Grams).

•Today brought the first Oscar nominations for Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Michael Haneke (Amour), Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild).

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/race/oscar-nominations-by-numbers-fun-408951

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« Reply #7874 on: Jan 10th, 2013, 10:38am »




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