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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 43830 times)
WingsofCrystal
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« Reply #7905 on: Jan 18th, 2013, 10:00am »

Wired

Air Force Evacuates Some Hostages Freed from Algeria Oil Field Chaos

By Spencer Ackerman
01.18.13
9:52 AM

Updated, 10:17 a.m.

A U.S. Air Force C-130 medical transport plane landed in Algeria on Friday morning to evacuate some of the hostages freed from their terrorist captors during a chaotic Algerian military operation. But confusing reports indicate the chaos at the In Amenas oil field continues into its third day.

CNN first reported that the heavy cargo plane landed in Algeria to evacuate “10-20 hostages” freed after the Algerian military launched a helicopter-borne assault on terrorists who captured the oil field on Wednesday. The plane, outfitted to carry medical equipment and treat wounded passengers, has been “on the ground since earlier this morning,” Benjamin Benson, a spokesman for the U.S. Africa Command, told Danger Room. Its destination has yet to be determined.

There may still be hostages at In Amenas or otherwise in the custody of the group that seized the oil field. “I don’t know if it’s everybody” on board the C-130, Benson said. While the ex-hostages are of “various nationalities,” it’s unclear if Americans are among them.

“I don’t know the conditions, and if there are any deceased people, I don’t know,” Benson said, describing the medical evacuation as occurring “in coordination with Algeria.”

About 30 people were believed to be taken hostage by a terror group described as aligned with al-Qaida, first described as a response to France’s military strike on Islamic extremists in nearby northern Mali. But the ability of the insurgents to surprise, seize and hold an oil field where over 600 people worked suggests to some, like Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who chairs the House intelligence committee, that the operation was planned long in advance.

The Algerians launched a counterstrike on the oil field on Thursday that appears not to have resolved the situation. While details about the strike are unclear, the Algerian government used helicopter strikes and commandos to free the hostages, but at least six of them were killed in an effort that the Associated Press describes as “bloody chaos.” An unarmed U.S. surveillance drone was dispatched to the scene.

Algeria is apparently sensitive to the perception that it requires the help of the United States to free the oil field. A U.S. official said late Thursday afternoon that Algeria did not alert Washington in advance of the counterstrike, and the administration had urged the Algerian government to prioritize the safety of the hostages.

Pentagon officials are declining all comment, an indication that the hostage crisis continues.

The AP cited Mauritanian media as indicating the extremist group wishes to trade two U.S. hostages still in its custody for the freedom of “jailed terror figures.” Reuters reports that those figures aren’t in Algerian custody, but U.S. jails, and they’re major luminaries in the Islamic-extremist world: “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdul Rahman and Aafia Siddiqui, sentenced in 2010 for conspiracy to murder Americans in Afghanistan. (Terrorist expert Daveed Gartenstein-Ross calls it a “boilerplate demand” indicating the group doesn’t intend to negotiate.) Algerian state media reports that about 60 foreign hostages remain unaccounted for. Algerian state media reported later in the morning that “nearly 100” of the 132 non-Algerians believed to have been kidnapped are now free.

In a statement released Friday, BP, one of the oil companies that worked on the oil field, indicated that some of its personnel may still be in captivity.

“There is a small number of BP employees at In Amenas whose current location and situation remain uncertain,” the company stated. “BP is working with the Algerian government and authorities to confirm their status. We do not intend to publicly comment on details of the number, nationalities or identities of these staff.”

We’ll update this post as we acquire more information.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/01/algeria-hostage-chaos/

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« Reply #7906 on: Jan 18th, 2013, 10:03am »

Telegraph

Australian gold rush after 5.5kg nugget found in Victoria

It has not been revealed exactly where the nugget was found, but Ron Wheaton of Ballarat Goldfields outdoor museum says there is gold to be found in the area.

2:38PM GMT 18 Jan 2013

An amateur prospector has discovered a massive gold nugget in Australia, worth an estimated AUS $300,000 (£200,000).

The man, who wants to remain anonymous, located it with a metal detector in Ballarat, in the state of Victoria.

It has not been revealed exactly where the nugget, which weighs 177 ounces was found but Ron Wheaton at Ballarat Goldfields outdoor museum says it is likely there is more gold in the region.

"If you research where the gold has been in the past, yes, there's gold to be found in Ballarat," said Mr Wheaton

Cordell Kent, owner of The Mining Exchange Gold Shop in Ballarat, who is is selling the nugget on the finder's behalf, sais it was one of the most significant in his 20 years in the business.

video after the jump:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/9811102/Australian-gold-rush-after-5.5kg-nugget-found-in-Victoria.html

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« Reply #7907 on: Jan 18th, 2013, 10:06am »

Seattle Times

Originally published Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 9:22 PM

Search of DNA sequences reveals full identities

Discovery reveals the growing tension between the advancement of medical research, which often requires making genetic information public so scientists can use it, and protecting the privacy of study subjects.

By GINA KOLATA
The New York Times

The genetic data of more than 1,000 people from around the world seemed stripped of anything that might identify them individually. All that was posted online were those data, the ages of the individuals and the region where each of them lived.

But when a researcher randomly selected the DNA sequences of five people in the database, he figured out who they were and identified their entire families, although the relatives had no part in the study. His foray into genomic sleuthing ended up breaching the privacy of nearly 50 people.

All it took was triangulation, using the genetic data, a genealogy website and Google searches. While the methods for extracting relevant genetic data from the raw genetic- sequence files were specialized enough to be beyond the scope of most laypeople, no one expected it would be so easy to zoom in on individuals.

“We are in what I call an awareness moment,” said Eric Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The researcher did not publish the names he found. But the exercise revealed a growing tension between the advancement of medical research, which often requires making genetic information public so scientists can use it, and protecting the privacy of study subjects.

The paper, published Thursday in the journal Science, follows other reports that identified people whose genetic data were online. But none had started with such limited information: just the long string of DNA letters, an age and, because the study focused on only U.S. subjects, a state.

“I’ve been worried about this for a long time,” said Barbara Koenig, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who studies issues involving genetic data. The new paper is “amazing,” she added, but “we always should be operating on the assumption that this is possible.”

No answers

There is no easy answer about what to do. Make study subjects more aware they could be identified by their DNA sequences? Keep more data locked behind security walls? Institute severe penalties for those who invade the privacy of study subjects? None of the above?

“We don’t have any claim to have the answer,” Green said.

Opinions about what should be done vary greatly among experts.

But after seeing how easy it was to find the individuals and their extended families, the NIH removed people’s ages from the public database, making it more difficult to identify them.

Dr. Jeffrey Botkin, associate vice president for research integrity at the University of Utah, which collected the genetic information of some research participants whose identity was breached, cautioned about overreacting. Genetic data from hundreds of thousands of people has been freely available online, he said, yet there has not been a single report of someone being illicitly identified.

He added that “it is hard to imagine what would motivate anyone to undertake this sort of privacy attack in the real world.” But he said he had serious concerns about publishing a formula to breach subjects’ privacy. By publishing, he said, the investigators “exacerbate the very risks they are concerned about.”

The project was the inspiration of Yaniv Erlich, a human-genetics researcher at the Whitehead Institute, which is affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He stresses that he is a strong advocate of data sharing and would hate to see genomic data locked up. But when his lab developed a new technique, he realized he had the tools to probe a DNA database. And he could not resist trying.

The tool allowed him to quickly find a type of DNA pattern that looks like stutters among billions of chemical letters in human DNA. Those little stutters — short tandem repeats — are inherited.

Genealogy websites use repeats on the Y chromosome, the one unique to men, to identify men by their surnames, an indicator of ancestry. Any man can submit the short tandem repeats on his Y chromosome and find the surname of men with the same DNA pattern. The sites enable men to find their ancestors and relatives.

So, Erlich asked, could he take a man’s entire DNA sequence, pick out the short tandem repeats on his Y chromosome, search a genealogy site, discover the man’s surname and then fully identify the man?

He tested it with the genome of Craig Venter, a DNA-sequencing pioneer who posted his own DNA sequence on the Web. He knew Venter’s age and the state where he lives. Bingo: Two men popped up in the database. One was Craig Venter.

“Out of 300 million people in the United States, we got it down to two people,” Erlich said.

Family tree

On the Web and publicly available are DNA sequences from subjects in an international collaboration, the 1000 Genomes Project. People’s ages were included and all the Americans lived in Utah, so the researchers knew their state.

Erlich began with one man from the database. He got the Y chromosome’s short tandem repeats and then went to genealogy databases and searched for men with those same repeats. He got surnames of the paternal and maternal grandfather. Then he did a Google search for those people and found an obituary. That gave him the family tree.

“Oh my God, we really did this,” Erlich said. “I had to digest it. We had so much information.”

He and his colleagues went on to get detailed family trees for other subjects and then visited Green and his colleagues at the NIH to tell them what they’d done.

They were referred to Amy McGuire, a lawyer and ethicist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. She, like others, called for more public discussion of the situation.

“To have the illusion you can fully protect privacy or make data anonymous is no longer a sustainable position,” McGuire said.

When the subjects in the 1000 Genomes Project agreed to participate and provide DNA, they signed a form saying the researchers could not guarantee their privacy. But, at the time, it seemed like so much boilerplate. The risk, Green said, seemed “remote.”

“I don’t know that anyone anticipated that someone would go and actually figure out who some of those people were,” McGuire said.

http://seattletimes.com/html/health/2020158400_dnasequencexml.html

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« Reply #7908 on: Jan 18th, 2013, 10:08am »




Please be an angel



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« Reply #7909 on: Jan 19th, 2013, 10:53am »

Thanks for this Phil grin






Dog Skypes With Another Dog Video

SuperDjsongs·46 videos

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« Reply #7910 on: Jan 19th, 2013, 10:56am »







House on Haunted Hill - 1959 Full Length Public Domain

publicdomain101

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« Reply #7911 on: Jan 19th, 2013, 5:06pm »

Great movie. Thanks. smiley Glad you liked the vid. Also good luck with your new computer.
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« Reply #7912 on: Jan 19th, 2013, 6:24pm »

Space station to get $18 million balloon-like room

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- NASA is partnering with a commercial space company in a bid to replace the cumbersome "metal cans" that now serve as astronauts' homes in space with inflatable bounce-house-like habitats that can be deployed on the cheap.

A $17.8 million test project will send to the International Space Station an inflatable room that can be compressed into a 7-foot tube for delivery, officials said Wednesday in a news conference at North Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace.

If the module proves durable during two years at the space station, it could open the door to habitats on the moon and missions to Mars, NASA engineer Glen Miller said.

The agency chose Bigelow for the contract because it was the only company working on inflatable technology, said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver.

Founder and President Robert Bigelow, who made his fortune in the hotel industry before getting into the space business in 1999, framed the gambit as an out-of-this-world real estate venture. He hopes to sell his spare tire habitats to scientific companies and wealthy adventurers looking for space hotels.

NASA is expected to install the 13-foot, blimp-like module in a space station port by 2015. Bigelow plans to begin selling stand-alone space homes the next year.

The new technology provides three times as much room as the existing aluminum models, and is also easier and less costly to build, Miller said.
Artist renderings of the module resemble a tinfoil clown nose grafted onto the main station. It is hardly big enough to be called a room. Miller described it as a large closet with padded white walls and gear and gizmos strung from two central beams.

Garver said Wednesday that sending a small inflatable tube into space will be dramatically cheaper than launching a full-sized module.

"Let's face it; the most expensive aspect of taking things in space is the launch," she said. "So the magnitude of importance of this for NASA really can't be overstated."

The partnership is another step toward outsourcing for NASA, which no longer enjoys the budget and public profile of its heyday. The agency has handed off rocket-building to private companies, retired it space shuttles in 2011 and now relies on Russian spaceships to transport American astronauts to and from the space station.

Astronauts will test the ability of the bladder, known as the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, to withstand heat, radiation, debris and other assaults. Some adventurous scientists might also try sleeping in the spare room, which is the first piece of private real estate to be blasted into space, Garver said.

Bigelow said the NASA brand will enable him to begin selling Kevlar habitats several times the size of the test module.

"This year is probably going to be our kickoff year for talking to customers," he said. "We have to show that we can execute what we're talking about."

Bigelow, who launched a small prototype of the module in 2006 after licensing the patent from NASA, will rely on Boeing Co. and Southern California rocket developer Space Exploration Technologies to provide transportation.

A 60-day stay will cost $25 million, which doesn't include the $27.5 million it costs to get there and back.

Bigelow predicted that the primary customers will be upwardly mobile countries including Brazil, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates that "have a difficult time getting their astronauts into orbit" and could use a private space station to barter and build up prestige.

The biggest technological challenge will be transporting the collapsed module through the sub-zero temperatures of space without tearing or cracking any part of it, Miller said.

When it arrives at the space station in 2015, scientists will blow it up and let it sit for a few days to test for leaks. If it does not hold as promised, NASA will take back a portion of the already bargain basement price it paid Bigelow.

Standing beside scale models of research stations on Mars and the moon, Miller said the project will encourage commercial ventures to follow the path NASA blazes into space.

He added that it could also help achieve the holy grail of space exploration: missions that send astronauts out of orbit for more than a year.

"The only way to do that is to expand it out and voila you have living space for three people to go to Mars," he said. "You can get three times the volume of a metallic can, and you can go up in the same ferry."

http://www.wctv.tv/news/headlines/Space-station-to-get-18-million-balloon-like-room--187578061.html
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« Reply #7913 on: Jan 20th, 2013, 08:27am »

on Jan 19th, 2013, 5:06pm, philliman wrote:
Great movie. Thanks. smiley Glad you liked the vid. Also good luck with your new computer.


Good morning Phil cheesy

It seems to like me so far, grin

I've named it Parker after the "Leverage" television character.

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« Reply #7914 on: Jan 20th, 2013, 08:30am »

on Jan 19th, 2013, 6:24pm, Swamprat wrote:
Space station to get $18 million balloon-like room

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- NASA is partnering with a commercial space company in a bid to replace the cumbersome "metal cans" that now serve as astronauts' homes in space with inflatable bounce-house-like habitats that can be deployed on the cheap.

A $17.8 million test project will send to the International Space Station an inflatable room that can be compressed into a 7-foot tube for delivery, officials said Wednesday in a news conference at North Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace....

A 60-day stay will cost $25 million, which doesn't include the $27.5 million it costs to get there and back.

Bigelow predicted that the primary customers will be upwardly mobile countries including Brazil, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates that "have a difficult time getting their astronauts into orbit" and could use a private space station to barter and build up prestige.

The biggest technological challenge will be transporting the collapsed module through the sub-zero temperatures of space without tearing or cracking any part of it, Miller said.

When it arrives at the space station in 2015, scientists will blow it up and let it sit for a few days to test for leaks. If it does not hold as promised, NASA will take back a portion of the already bargain basement price it paid Bigelow.

Standing beside scale models of research stations on Mars and the moon, Miller said the project will encourage commercial ventures to follow the path NASA blazes into space.

He added that it could also help achieve the holy grail of space exploration: missions that send astronauts out of orbit for more than a year.

"The only way to do that is to expand it out and voila you have living space for three people to go to Mars," he said. "You can get three times the volume of a metallic can, and you can go up in the same ferry."

http://www.wctv.tv/news/headlines/Space-station-to-get-18-million-balloon-like-room--187578061.html



I want one! grin

Thanks for that article Swamprat.

Crystal



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« Reply #7915 on: Jan 20th, 2013, 08:38am »

Reuters

Rallies across U.S. assail Obama's proposed gun curbs

By Nick Carey
Sun Jan 20, 2013 4:47am EST

(Reuters) - Pro-gun activists held "high noon" rallies across the United States on Saturday to defend the right to own firearms that they say is being threatened by President Barack Obama's gun-control proposals.

The U.S. debate over gun control erupted in mid-December after a man armed with an assault rifle killed 20 first-graders and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut - the deadliest of a string of U.S. shooting sprees last year.

"We are law-abiding citizens, business owners, military, and we are not going to be responsible for other people's criminal actions," former Marine Damon Locke said to applause at a Florida rally he had helped organize.

Some in the crowd of about 1,000 in Brooksville, about an hour north of Tampa, hoisted signs that said: "Stop the Gun Grabbers" and "Gun control isn't about guns, it's about control."

Obama and gun-control advocates have begun a push to reinstitute a U.S. assault weapons ban following the Connecticut massacre. A number of other states have taken up gun legislation, and New York, with among the strictest gun control laws in the country, broadened its assault weapons ban on Tuesday.

Obama has also called for a ban on high-capacity magazines and more stringent background checks for gun purchasers.

On the day the pro-gun rights rallies were being held across the country, five people were wounded in accidents at three gun shows.

Three people were hurt when a 12-gauge shotgun discharged as its owner opened its case at the entrance to a show in North Carolina. Two others were wounded when guns went off accidentally at gun shows in Ohio and Indiana. None of the day's injuries was life-threatening.

DEFIANT MOOD

In Connecticut, a rally for gun rights drew about 1,000 people at the state Capitol, where lawmakers have reacted to the Newtown shooting with proposals to tighten gun-control rules, including limiting access to assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

That did not sit well with gun owner Jessie Buchanan, who attended the rally in Hartford.

"They could take away the 10-round magazine today and tomorrow it would be the five-round and the next day it would be the whole thing," Buchanan said.

In Denver, the mood was defiant as about 500 people, including families with children, gathered in unseasonably warm weather outside the state Capitol.

"I have earned the right to have my guns," said Don Dobyns, an Air Force veteran and former police officer from Colorado Springs, who was among the rally organizers.

Sporting a shirt that read, "Girls with guns," 31-year-old Jennifer Burk said, "My parents didn't raise a victim and the government shouldn't try and make me one."

Gun-control advocates say U.S. civilians have no justifiable need for assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, and they say more background checks will help keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

The reaction has been fierce from gun supporters such as the National Rifle Association, who point to a right to bear arms that is enshrined in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and which they do not want to see watered down.

On Sunday, gun-control advocates plan to hold a National Gun Prevention Sabbath, where they say 150 houses of worship will call on the faithful to advocate for an "actionable plan to prevent gun violence."

People who have lost loved ones to gun violence will display their photographs, organizers said.

(Reporting by Nick Carey in Chicago, Ebond Udoma in Hartford, Keith Coffman in Denver, Edith Honan in New York and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Cooney)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/20/us-usa-guns-rallies-idUSBRE90H17A20130120

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« Reply #7916 on: Jan 20th, 2013, 08:41am »

Washington Post

CIA drone strikes will get pass in counterterrorism ‘playbook,’ officials say

By Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Karen DeYoung, Published: January 19

The Obama administration is nearing completion of a detailed counterterrorism manual that is designed to establish clear rules for targeted-killing operations but leaves open a major exemption for the CIA’s campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan, U.S. officials said.

The carve-out would allow the CIA to continue pounding al-Qaeda and Taliban targets for a year or more before the agency is forced to comply with more stringent rules spelled out in a classified document that officials have described as a counterterrorism “playbook.”

The document, which is expected to be submitted to President Obama for final approval within weeks, marks the culmination of a year-long effort by the White House to codify its counterterrorism policies and create a guide for lethal operations through Obama’s second term.

A senior U.S. official involved in drafting the document said that a few issues remain unresolved but described them as minor. The senior U.S. official said the playbook “will be done shortly.”

The adoption of a formal guide to targeted killing marks a significant — and to some uncomfortable — milestone: the institutionalization of a practice that would have seemed anathema to many before the Sept. 11 , 2001, terrorist attacks.

Among the subjects covered in the playbook are the process for adding names to kill lists, the legal principles that govern when U.S. citizens can be targeted overseas and the sequence of approvals required when the CIA or U.S. military conducts drone strikes outside war zones.

U.S. officials said the effort to draft the playbook was nearly derailed late last year by disagreements among the State Department, the CIA and the Pentagon on the criteria for lethal strikes and other issues. Granting the CIA a temporary exemption for its Pakistan operations was described as a compromise that allowed officials to move forward with other parts of the playbook.

The decision to allow the CIA strikes to continue was driven in part by concern that the window for weakening al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan is beginning to close, with plans to pull most U.S. troops out of neighboring Afghanistan over the next two years. CIA drones are flown out of bases in Afghanistan.

“There’s a sense that you put the pedal to the metal now, especially given the impending” withdrawal, said a former U.S. official involved in discussions of the playbook. The CIA exception is expected to be in effect for “less than two years but more than one,” the former official said, although he noted that any decision to close the carve-out “will undoubtedly be predicated on facts on the ground.”

The former official and other current and former officials interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were talking about ongoing sensitive matters.

Obama’s national security team agreed to the CIA compromise late last month during a meeting of the “principals committee,” comprising top national security officials, that was led by White House counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan, who has since been nominated to serve as CIA director.

White House officials said the committee will review the document again before it is presented to the president. They stressed that it will not be in force until Obama has signed off on it. The CIA declined requests for comment.

The outcome reflects the administration’s struggle to resolve a fundamental conflict in its counterterrorism approach. Senior administration officials have expressed unease with the scale and autonomy of the CIA’s lethal mission in Pakistan. But they have been reluctant to alter the rules because of the drone campaign’s results.

The effort to create a playbook was initially disclosed last year by The Washington Post. Brennan’s aim in developing it, officials said at the time, was to impose more consistent and rigorous controls on counterterrorism programs that were largely ad-hoc in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Critics see the manual as a symbol of the extent to which the targeted killing program has become institutionalized, part of an apparatus being assembled by the Obama administration to sustain a seemingly permanent war.

The playbook is “a step in exactly the wrong direction, a further bureaucratization of the CIA’s paramilitary killing program” over the legal and moral objections of civil liberties groups, said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s National Security Project.

Some administration officials have also voiced concern about the duration of the drone campaign, which has spread from Pakistan to Yemen and Somalia where it involves both CIA and military strikes. In a recent speech before he stepped down as Pentagon general counsel, Jeh Johnson warned that “we must not accept the current conflict, and all that it entails, as the ‘new normal.’ ”

The discussions surrounding the development of the playbook were centered on practical considerations, officials said. One of the main points of contention, they said, was the issue of “signature strikes.”

The term refers to the CIA’s practice of approving strikes in Pakistan based on patterns of suspicious behavior — moving stockpiles of weapons, for example — even when the agency does not have clear intelligence about the identities of the targets.

CIA officials have credited the approach with decimating al-Qaeda’s upper ranks there, paradoxically accounting for the deaths of more senior terrorist operatives than in the strikes carried out when the agency knew the identity and location of a target in advance.

Signature strikes contributed to a surge in the drone campaign in 2010, when the agency carried out a record 117 strikes in Pakistan. The pace tapered off over the past two years before quickening again in recent weeks.

Despite CIA assertions about the effectiveness of signature strikes, Obama has not granted similar authority to the CIA or military in Yemen, Somalia or other countries patrolled by armed U.S. drones. The restraint has not mollified some critics, who say the secrecy surrounding the strikes in Yemen and Somalia means there is no way to assess who is being killed.

In Yemen, officials said, strikes have been permitted only in cases in which intelligence indicates a specific threat to Americans. That could include “individuals who are personally involved in trying to kill Americans,” a senior administration official said, or “intelligence that . . . [for example] a truck has been configured in order to go after our embassy in Sanaa.”

The playbook has adopted that tighter standard and imposes other more stringent rules. Among them are requirements for White House approval of drone strikes and the involvement of multiple agencies — including the State Department — in nominating new names for kill lists.

None of those rules applies to the CIA drone campaign in Pakistan, which began under President George W. Bush. The agency is expected to give the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan advance notice on strikes. But in practice, officials said, the agency exercises near complete control over the names on its target list and decisions on strikes.

Imposing the playbook standards on the CIA campaign in Pakistan would probably lead to a sharp reduction in the number of strikes at a time when Obama is preparing to announce a drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan that could leave as few as 2,500 troops in place after 2014.

Officials said concerns about the CIA exemption were allayed to some extent by Obama’s decision to nominate Brennan, the principal author of the playbook, to run the CIA.

Brennan spent 25 years at the agency before serving as chief counterterrorism adviser to Obama for the past four years. During his White House tenure, he led efforts to impose a more rigorous review of targeted killing operations. But he also presided over a major expansion in the number of strikes.

CIA officials are likely to be “quite willing, quite eager to embrace” the playbook developed by their presumed future director, the former administration official said. “It’s his handiwork.”

Brennan’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled for Feb. 7.


Peter Finn contributed to this report.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/cia-drone-strikes-will-get-pass-in-counterterrorism-playbook-officials-say/2013/01/19/ca169a20-618d-11e2-9940-6fc488f3fecd_story.html?hpid=z1

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« Reply #7917 on: Jan 20th, 2013, 08:45am »

Telegraph

Search for lost Spitfires ends in failure for treasure hunters

By Neil Tweedie, Rangoon
2:11PM GMT 18 Jan 2013

It is the most expensive hole in Burma, a short trench dug in a field within the perimeter of Rangoon airport. Cost? A million pounds or so, give or take the odd hundred thousand.

At the bottom of this money pit should have rested aviation treasure: a Spitfire, buried at the close of the Second World War, one of dozens deposited in the ground in sealed crates and then forgotten.

But apart from a very un-Spitfire-like piece of rusty metal, there was nothing to show, bitter fruit of a project that started with high hopes and has ended in embarrassment, disappointment and recrimination.

A team of British archaeologists, geophysicists, historians and documentary makers, sponsored to the tune of £1 million by a computer gaming company called Wargaming, set off for Burma in the New Year in the hope of recovering as many as a dozen Spitfires at Mingaladon, a wartime Royal Air Force airfield that now serves as the airport for the Burmese capital.

They were using information supplied by Lincolnshire farmer and aviation enthusiast David Cundall, who has spent 15 years searching for up to 120 Spitfires he and others believe are buried on airfields across Burma.

Yesterday, the team was preparing to pack up, the sponsors claiming that there were no Spitfires at Mingaladon and hinting at frustration with Mr Cundall, who was helping supervise the dig. The farmer was refusing to comment on the failure of an expedition that has attracted publicity around the world. However, friends of his accused Wargaming of being more interested in publicity than unearthing the Spitfires, which Mr Cundall maintains are very real and waiting to be dug up.

“It was our dream, David’s dream, everyone’s dream,” said Frazer Nash, spokesman for Wargaming. “But we haven’t been able to find anything. David is tired and frustrated. He’s called the tune and we have followed.”

The result of £1 million of the company’s investment?

“We have found a metal plate from the (wartime) runway.” Would Wargaming be working with Mr Cundall again?

“I have no idea.”

Andy Brockman, the lead archaeologist on the project, had refused to be swayed by Mr Cundall's optimism. Before the dig he said there was absolutely no archaeological or physical evidence to support the buried Spitfire theory.

“As archaeologists what we are interested in is converting the speculation and rumour into facts," he said. “It's the buried treasure thing, the kind of story in which people chance it.”

The excavation was said to have been hampered yesterday by the dig team encountering power cables feeding the airport, and there are understood to have been tensions at the highest levels in Burma, until recently a repressive military dictatorship, over allowing a western team access a restricted area.

But the decision to end the dig had been taken the previous day, as the airfield refused to yield up even a rivet of a Spit.

Simon Parry has spent more than 30 years in aviation archaeology and has recovered five crashed Spitfires.

“From the outside the story makes little sense,” he said. “The practicality of burying crates weighing six tons or so would be considerable today, but 65 years ago in Burma without modern excavators? If you simply wanted to dispose of them, why not just burn them or blow them up! I believe scrap value of a Spitfire was just about £45 in the late 1940s.”

Jeff Carless has also spent 30 years in the aircraft reclamation business. “Most people I have spoken to are very sceptical,” he said. “I cannot see the reason why they would bury them in crates, apparently so perfectly preserved, ready to be uncovered. Either they were scrap and would be bulldozed into a pit, or valuable and would have been taken away.”

Such scepticism will not worry Mr Cundall, whose single-minded quest for buried treasure in the malarial Burmese jungle is the stuff of a Conrad novel.

He is convinced he is right, his research being based, among other things, on interviews with American combat engineers who told him they had buried the crated Spitfires side by side at Mingaladon.

The story of the Burma Spitfires is one that begs to be believed, simply because it would be so wonderful if true. There are just 50 airworthy examples of the immortal aircraft in the world, commanding prices of £1 million to £2 million. But what would have persuaded Britain’s South East Asia Command to take the unusual step of interring fighters in the ground?

Peter Arnold is a friend of Mr Cundall and one of the foremost authorities on the history of the Spitfire. He believes the aircraft may have been buried as a precaution, to allow the British to quickly re-establish a fighter force in Burma, should action be taken against the government of the country following its independence from Britain. Records, he says, provide no definitive evidence of the fate of many fighters dispatched to the Far East.

“The failure of this expedition does not invalidate the theory that there are Spitfires buried in Burma,” said Mr Arnold. “We could see results in weeks at other sites. The aircraft may be corroded but they could still be extremely valuable. I think they are there.”

Mr Cundall has spent too much money – some £170,000 out of his own pocket – and too much of his life to believe otherwise. He is famously unconcerned by what others think and has a habit of ploughing on regardless.

Flight of Spitfires or flight of fantasy? In the case of David Cundall the jury is still out.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/aviation/9811196/Search-for-lost-Spitfires-ends-in-failure-for-treasure-hunters.html

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« Reply #7918 on: Jan 21st, 2013, 10:10am »

Reuters

Algeria says 37 foreigners die in siege led by Canadian

By Lamine Chikhi

ALGIERS | Mon Jan 21, 2013 10:56am EST

(Reuters) - A total of 37 foreign workers died at an Algerian desert gas plant and seven are still missing after a hostage crisis coordinated by a Canadian, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said on Monday.

Sellal also said that 29 Islamists had been killed in the siege, which Algerian forces ended by storming the plant, and three had been captured alive.

Earlier an Algerian security source told Reuters that documents found on the bodies of two militants had identified them as Canadians, as special forces scoured the plant following Saturday's bloody end to the siege.

"A Canadian was among the militants. He was coordinating the attack," Sellal told a news conference, adding that the raiders had threatened to blow up the gas installation.

The Canadian's name was given only as Chedad.

In Ottawa, Canada's foreign affairs department said it was seeking information, but referred to the possible involvement of only one Canadian.

American, British, French, Japanese, Norwegian, Filipino and Romanian workers are dead or missing after the attack, for which veteran Islamist fighter Mokhtar Belmokhtar has claimed responsibility on behalf of al Qaeda.

The jihadists had planned the attack two months ago in neighboring Mali, where French forces began fighting Islamists this month, Sellal added.

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a news conference he had received information that seven Japanese had been killed and the fate of three more was still unknown.

Six Filipinos died and four were wounded, a government spokesman in Manila said.

Norwegian International Development Minister Heikki Holmaas said his stepfather, Tore Bech, was among the missing and presumed dead. Bech was a manager at the site for the Norwegian energy company Statoil.

Sellal said that initially the raiders in Algeria had tried to hijack a bus carrying foreign workers to a nearby airport and take them hostage. "They started firing at the bus and received a severe response from the soldiers guarding the bus," he said. "They failed to achieve their objective, which was to kidnap foreign workers from the bus."

He said special forces and army units were deployed against the militants, who had planted explosives in the gas plant with a view to blowing up the facility.

One group of militants had tried to escape in some vehicles, each of which also was carrying three or four foreign workers, some of whom had explosives attached to their bodies.

After what he called a "fierce response from the armed forces", the raiders' vehicles crashed or exploded and one of their leaders was among those killed.

LIBYAN NUMBER PLATES

Sellal said the jihadists who staged the attack last Wednesday had crossed into the country from neighboring Libya.

An Algerian newspaper said they had arrived in cars painted in the colors of state energy company Sonatrach but registered in Libya, a country awash with arms since Muammar Gaddafi's fall in 2011.

The raid has exposed the vulnerability of multinational-run oil and gas installations in an important producing region and pushed the growing threat from Islamist militant groups in the Sahara to a prominent position in the West's security agenda.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has ordered an investigation into how security forces failed to prevent the attack, the daily El Khabar said.

Algerian Tahar Ben Cheneb - leader of a group called the Movement of Islamic Youth in the South who was killed on the first day of the assault - had been based in Libya where he married a local woman two months ago, it said.

ONE-EYED JIHADIST

Belmokhtar - a one-eyed jihadist who fought in Afghanistan and Algeria's civil war of the 1990s when the secular government fought Islamists - tied the desert attack to France's intervention across the Sahara against Islamist rebels in Mali.

"We in al Qaeda announce this blessed operation," he said in a video, according to Sahara Media, a regional website. About 40 attackers participated in the raid, he said, roughly matching the government's figures for fighters killed and captured.

Belmokhtar demanded an end to French air strikes against Islamist fighters in neighboring Mali. These began five days before the fighters swooped before dawn and seized a plant that produces 10 percent of Algeria's natural gas exports.

U.S. and European officials doubt such a complex raid could have been organized quickly enough to have been conceived as a direct response to the French military intervention. However, the French action could have triggered an operation that had already been planned.

The group behind the raid, the Mulathameen Brigade, threatened to carry out more such attacks if Western powers did not end what it called an assault on Muslims in Mali, according to the SITE service, which monitors militant statements.

In a statement published by the Mauritania-based Nouakchott News Agency, the hostage takers said they had offered talks about freeing the captives, but the Algerian authorities had been determined to use military force. Sellal blamed the raiders for the collapse of negotiations.

BLOODY SIEGE

The siege turned bloody on Thursday when the Algerian army opened fire, saying fighters were trying to escape with their prisoners. Survivors said Algerian forces blasted several trucks in a convoy carrying both hostages and their captors.

Nearly 700 Algerian workers and more than 100 foreigners escaped, mainly on Thursday when the fighters were driven from the residential barracks. Some captors remained holed up in the industrial complex until Saturday when they were overrun.

The bloodshed has strained Algeria's relations with its Western allies, some of which have complained about being left in the dark while the decision to storm the compound was being taken.

Nevertheless, Britain and France both defended the military action by Algeria, the strongest military power in the Sahara and an ally the West needs in combating the militants.

Among other foreigners confirmed dead by their home countries were three Britons, one American and two Romanians. The missing include five Norwegians, three Britons and a British resident. An Algerian security source said at least one Frenchman was also among the dead.

The raid on the plant, which was home to expatriate workers from Britain's BP, Norway's Statoil, Japanese engineering firm BGC Corp and others, exposed the vulnerability of multinational oil operations in the Sahara.

However, Algeria is determined to press on with its energy industry. Oil Minister Youcef Yousfi visited the site and said physical damage was minor, state news service APSE reported. The plant would start up again in two days, he said.

Algeria, scarred by the civil war with Islamist insurgents in the 1990s which claimed 200,000 lives, insisted from the start of the crisis there would be no negotiation in the face of terrorism. France especially needs close cooperation from Algeria to crush Islamist rebels in northern Mali.

(Additional reporting by Balazs Koranyi in Oslo, William Maclean in Dubai, d Daniel Flynn in Dakar, David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Ed Klamann in Tokyo; Writing by David Stamp; Editing by Giles Elgood)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/21/us-sahara-crisis-idUSBRE90F1JJ20130121

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« Reply #7919 on: Jan 21st, 2013, 10:12am »

Washington Post

US drone strike in Yemen kills 2 suspected al-Qaida militants

By Associated Press, Updated: Monday, January 21, 6:49 AM

SANAA, Yemen — A U.S. drone airstrike on a car east of Yemen’s capital of Sanaa on Monday killed two suspected al-Qaida militants and wounded three others, two of them seriously, according to security officials.

The airstrike was the third to target al-Qaida militants in the same area since Saturday, evidence of an uptick in the U.S. military effort against the terror organization in Yemen. On Saturday, two U.S. drone strikes killed eight people, including two known al-Qaida militants, in Marib province.

The security officials said the five targeted Monday were traveling in a pickup truck when it was hit in Marib. The three wounded were traveling in the vehicle’s back bed, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

The two killed were identified as Ali Saleh Toaiman and Qassim Nasser Toaiman. Members of the same clan, both men were among several hundred suspected al-Qaida militants freed by authorities in April last year after several months in detention, according to the officials.

The two are thought to have fought government forces in the southern Abyan province, where al-Qaida militants gained a foothold before they were driven out last year.

Yemen’s government, aided by the U.S., has waged a campaign against al-Qaida’s Yemeni branch. The group is considered among the world’s most active, having planned a series of foiled or aborted attacks on U.S. territory.

The United States rarely comments on its military role in Yemen but has acknowledged targeting al-Qaida militants in the past.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/us-drone-strike-in-yemen-kills-2-suspected-al-qaida-militants/2013/01/21/c38cbaf6-63b1-11e2-889b-f23c246aa446_story.html?hpid=z5

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