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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 149660 times)
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« Reply #7935 on: Jan 23rd, 2013, 08:06am »

Wired

This Tech Entrepreneur Is About to Launch the Blackwater of the High Seas

By Spencer Ackerman
01.23.13
6:30 AM

Beware, pirates of Africa. You may have outlasted years of patrols from the world’s navies. You may have driven fear into the hears of shipping magnates and sent insurance rates skyrocketing. But now you’ll have to contend with a dapper British investor who is seeking to privatize the fight against seafaring brigands.

Anthony Sharp, a 50-year-old veteran of tech startups, grew up with a love for ships. On February 7, he’ll turn that boyhood affection into what might be the first private navy since the 19th century. Sharp’s newest company, Typhon, will offer a fleet of armed ex-Royal Marines and sailors to escort commercial ships through pirate-infested waters. In essence, Typhon wants to be the Blackwater of the sea, minus the stuff about accidentally killing civilians.

Sharp thinks the market is ripe for Typhon, a company named for a monster out of Greek myth. Budget cuts are slicing into the wallets of the militaries that provide protection from pirates. The conflicts and weak governments that incubate piracy in places like Somalia persist. “Maritime crime is growing at the same time that navies are shrinking,” Sharp tells Danger Room by telephone from the U.K. “The policemen are going off the beat.” Sharp thinks that creates a potent opportunity for the fleet he’s buying.

But he might be too late. Without much notice, piracy actually declined in 2012, bringing down the high insurance rates that send shipping companies running for armed protection. Meanwhile, the market for such security is being filled by companies that station armed guards aboard commercial ships to deter or combat pirates. That practice, known as “embarked security,” follows years of security firms, including Blackwater itself, trying and mostly failing at amassing fleets to escort commercial ships — Typhon’s model.

Sharp says he’s heard the objections and is undeterred. “We’ve got personnel. We’ve got clients,” he insists. And when Typhon launches on February 7 and begins operations in April, Sharp won’t just take a gamble on a market much different than the ones he made his money in. He’ll reintroduce the world to the forgotten concept of a private navy. And the U.S. Navy is watching, with much curiosity.

It used to be that when navies needed aid on the high seas, they would hire private warships as auxiliaries. The auxiliaries, known as privateers, would fly the flag of the nation that hired them, and were thereby empowered to do the rough nautical business of raiding and plundering commercial ships from hostile nations. During the War of 1812, for instance, America hired a privateer fleet of more than 517 ships; the U.S. Navy had just 23 vessels at the time. But by the mid-19th century, the notion of private navies seemed like a threat to a stable economy. “A privateer coming across a wrongly flagged ship could become a pirate very quickly,” recounts Kevin McRainie of the U.S. Naval War College.

So in April 1856, most western nations (with the important exceptions of Spain and the United States) signed the Paris Declaration Respecting Maritime Law. “Privateering is, and remains, abolished,” it reads.

Not that Sharp is, strictly speaking, a privateer. Privateers were hired by governments, not companies. Historians don’t really have an apt framework for Typhon. “It’s like if Exxon, Coca-Cola or one of the other big companies was arming and commissioning ships for their security, or for someone else,” says McRainie. “I can’t think of any precedent that goes along with that.” And while other companies have recently tried to do what Typhon is doing — more on that in a second — Claude Berube, a prominent analyst of maritime security, considers Typhon reminiscent of the British East India Company, the firm chartered to protect the Crown’s all-important eastern trade.

Sharp is less concerned with historical analogues than with how his own private navy will operate. He’s purchased three ships out of the 10 that Typhon envisions, all of which began life as container vessels, to sail through the dangerous waters of the Gulfs of Aden and Guinea. The first of these 130-foot ships, shown above, is currently getting retrofitted in Abu Dhabi, a million-dollar process to allow the ship to accommodate a larger crew and build special weapons lockers — and fight.

Each ship in Typhon’s fleet will carry a crew of 60. Of that group, 40 will be veterans of the Royal Navy or Royal Marines. On the vessel will be “small arms, long-range rifles and non-lethal baton rounds” or rubber bullets, Sharp says. His ships will be able to speed past at 20 knots, but when that isn’t swift enough for a pirate pursuit, his former sailors and marines will climb into the four fast-patrol boats each ship will carry. Those ships can reach 50 knots, much faster than most pirate skiffs: a safety manual for ships in the Horn of Africa notes that no ship going faster than 18 knots has ever been boarded by pirates.

“Let’s say you’re going from Djibouti to Mumbai, you’re crossing the Indian Ocean right through the pirate-risk area,” Sharp says. “That would be one of what we call our milk runs. So you can join our convoy.” If a ship breaks off the convoy before Typhon carries it to port, the company’s operations center in Dubai tracks a “video wall” with the publicly-available ship data of sea-lanes traffic (it’s called the Automated Identification System), as well as information from what Sharp vaguely calls “nine different sources” mapping recent areas of pirate traffic. So Typhon can keep a virtual watch until a client’s ship has docked, for $1000 per day. Being part of the convoy will cost between $5,000 and $10,000 dollars per day.

While in the convoy, the Typhon fleet maintains a cordon around a commercial ship of at least a kilometer. Should a suspicious vessel break the perimeter, Typhon’s crew will shout warnings, escalating into actually opening fire with lethal rounds. Not that that’s what Sharp wants. “The important thing is, at a long range, to detect pirates and avoid them,” he says, sounding a bit like the admiral he never was.

Sharp doesn’t have any naval experience. He made money instead. During the boom of the late 90s, he invested in an early online broadcasting venture called Network Media TV (NMTV) based out of London, which published a business-news forum for IT professionals called Silicon. In 2002, he began running a start-up that traded in electronics called Earthshine, which he took to the NASDAQ in 2008. “I served my time working in the salt mines of investment banking when I was very young, and then branched out,” Sharp says. He claims to have raised $40 million for Typhon over the past two years, all preparing for the February launch in London and the fleet’s first voyage in April.

That business experience may prove to be crucial. Typhon will be an outlier in a maritime security field that analysts and practitioners think is overcrowded — and has peaked.

more after the jump:
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/01/private-navy/all/

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« Reply #7936 on: Jan 23rd, 2013, 08:15am »

Seattle Times

Originally published January 22, 2013 at 9:42 PM
Page modified January 22, 2013 at 11:19 PM

Klallam dictionary opens window into tribal heritage

A three-decade effort to preserve a native language has resulted in the first-ever dictionary of the language, which previously was only spoken.

By Lynda V. Mapes
Seattle Times staff reporter

It weighs in at nearly six pounds, fills more than 1,000 pages, and represents the work of many hands and hearts.

The Klallam people’s first dictionary for what was always an unwritten language was built syllable-by-syllable, from tapes and spoken words transcribed into a phonetic alphabet.

The work was a race against time: About 100 people spoke Klallam as their first language when he first began learning Klallam in 1978, said Timothy Montler, a University of North Texas linguistics professor, and author of the dictionary. By the time the dictionary was published by the University of Washington Press last September, only two were left.

One of them, Lower Elwha Klallam elder Adeline Smith, 94, was recently working with Montler during one of his twice-a-year visits to the tribe’s reservation, helping to transcribe Klallam stories into written words. Over many years she contributed 12,000 words to the dictionary, by Montler’s count. Some 38 elders in all helped him compile the entries.

The language is a jawbreaker for English speakers, with some words containing back-to-back consonants that are true pronunciation gymnastics. Klallam is the native language of the 5,000 or so people who today live on and around the three reservations on the Olympic Peninsula at Elwha, Jamestown and Port Gamble, and across the Strait of Juan de Fuca at Beecher Bay.

The language is a window into a way of life: The plural conveys not just the idea of more than one, but of a collective. The Klallam word for “sky,” for a people for whom Nature is central, can also mean “universe.” It takes four words in English to say “walking along the water.” It takes only one in Klallam.

KIallam people from all over the Peninsula and beyond turned out for a recent signing ceremony for the dictionary in Port Angeles. Some cradled the book like a baby. Many already had decided where such an important book would be kept in their home: with their drum and rattle, or on the Shaker altar, or by the bed.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said elder Phil Charles, a former tribal-council member. “It is one of the things that was beat out of us, and that we were told was evil,” he said of his native language, which Klallam children of his generation and earlier were discouraged — or even punished — for speaking when they went to school.

“I just wish our elders who are gone could see this day. My mom and my dad probably wouldn’t even believe it.”

The dictionary is just part of a much larger Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe effort, begun in 1991, to revive their language and culture.

It started with a concerted effort to bring back songs that had been sung by their elders. Today, the tribe’s language teachers provide classroom instruction in tribal language, history and culture from Head Start all the way through high school.

And at the Port Angeles public high school, Klallam is one of three languages, along with French and Spanish, that any student may take to earn their language credits to graduate.

Jamie Valadez, Klallam language instructor at the high school and a Lower Elwha Klallam tribal member, said it is exciting to see the students she first started teaching 15 years ago begin to have kids of their own, and pass the language on to them.

“It’s working,” she said, “We have turned the corner, where the language is going on into the next generation. Now we just have to keep it going.”

At Dry Creek Elementary School, a Port Angeles School District public school, kindergartners work in classrooms with the Klallam and English words for the numbers one through ten on the walls.

Little kids were gleefully calling them out in a recent session with Klallam language teacher Wendy Sampson. “You’ll be counting to 100 by the end of the year,” she predicted as the kids shouted “thank you” in Klallam.

Providing Klallam language, history and culture in the public schools not only helps the tribe’s children learn their heritage, but kids from the surrounding community know their neighbors. “They are just surrounded by it as part of everyday life,” Sampson said. “It breaks down barriers, their eyes are opened before they learn to shut them.”

For younger tribal members, the language is the touchstone that tells them who they are.

“I knew I was native, but I didn’t know what kind,” said Harmony Arakawa, 24, one of the tribe’s three language teachers today. She first learned Klallam in Valadez’s class in high school, and then stuck with it, until becoming a language teacher herself — and passing it on to her children.

“I would not understand fully who I am without my culture and language,” she said.

Frances Charles, chairwoman of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, said the tribal council pre-purchased 1,000 copies of the dictionary, to distribute one for free to every tribal household, and offer for sale (for $85) at the tribe’s Heritage Center in downtown Port Angeles.

“It holds so much, every word in there brings back stories, relationships,” Charles said. “It’s a whole different world.”

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2020190972_klallamdictionaryxml.html

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« Reply #7937 on: Jan 24th, 2013, 09:15am »

Reuters

UK urges Britons to leave Libya's Benghazi over threat

LONDON | Thu Jan 24, 2013 8:09am EST

(Reuters) - Britain on Thursday said it was aware of a "specific and imminent" threat to Westerners in the Libyan city of Benghazi and urged British nationals to evacuate, giving no details of the nature of the danger.

An attack on the U.S. mission in the eastern city in September last year killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, part of a wave of violence targeting foreign diplomats, military and police officers.

"We are now aware of a specific and imminent threat to Westerners in Benghazi, and urge any British nationals who remain there against our advice to leave immediately," the Foreign Office said in a statement.

The Foreign Office declined to give more details about the nature of the threat in the city, cradle of the 2011 revolution that toppled former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Libya has been awash with weapons since then, and its shaky nascent institutions have struggled to rein in armed groups keen on ensuring they receive what they see as their fair share of power for helping to oust Gaddafi.

Benghazi in particular has been the scene of power struggles between various armed Islamist factions.

(Reporting by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/24/us-britain-benghazi-threat-idUSBRE90N0JM20130124

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« Reply #7938 on: Jan 24th, 2013, 09:17am »







UFO Caught Live on Fox News (1/20/13) ORIGINAL

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« Reply #7939 on: Jan 24th, 2013, 09:22am »

The Hill


Panetta to lift ban on women in combat
By Jeremy Herb
01/23/13, 03:26 PM ET

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is ending the military’s ban on women serving in combat.

The move could open up more than 230,000 jobs that had been previously closed to women by overturning a 1994 ban on female servicemembers in small combat units.

A senior defense official confirmed that Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey would officially announce the policy change on Thursday.

Panetta’s decision gives the military services until 2016 to request special exceptions for positions they think should remain closed to women, according to the Associated Press, which first reported the move.

The services will now develop plans to implement the policy change, which was recommend by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the service chiefs will report back to Panetta — or potentially his successor — in May.

The announcement is a major policy move for Panetta near the end of his tenure as Defense secretary.

Panetta had previously relaxed the rules on women serving with combat units last year, opening up about 14,000 new positions to women by allowing them to formally serve in combat battalions.

At the time, Pentagon officials said they had to study the issue of women in combat further before opening up additional positions.

The end of gender restrictions on combat has some outside implications, including the requirement that all adult males register for the Selective Service in case a draft is reinstated.

The law that restricted women in ground combat units requires the Pentagon to provide Congress with a 30-day-notification and a report that among other things would provide “a detailed analysis of legal implication of the proposed change with respect to the constitutionality of the application of the Military Selective Service Act to males only.”

Those issues were of little concern to lawmakers Wednesday, however, as statements flooded in mostly praising the move.

“This is a proud day for our country and the step we need to formally recognize the brave women who are already fighting and dying for our country shoulder-to-shoulder with their brothers in uniform on the frontlines,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said he supported the move to end the ban on women in combat because "it reflects the reality of 21st century military operations,” Levin said.

House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said in a statement that he welcomed the review from the services.

"After a decade of critical military service in hostile environments, women have demonstrated a wide range of capabilities in combat operations and we welcome this review,” McKeon said.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said she was "pleased" by Panetta's decision, saying that the announcement "reflects the increasing role that female service members play in securing our country."

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a statement that he supported Panetta's decision to lift the ban, although he added it was "critical" the same physical standards are maintained — one of the issues that will need to be addressed by the services.

"As this new rule is implemented, it is critical that we maintain the same high standards that have made the American military the most feared and admired fighting force in the world — particularly the rigorous physical standards for our elite special forces units," McCain said.

Some Republicans, such as 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum, have questioned whether ending the ban is the right move.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the new top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, blasted the Pentagon for leaking the news. He said it was “unacceptable” the plans were leaked before Congress was briefed.

Inhofe was also skeptical about how many positions would be open to women, though he also noted that — as a former flight instructor — gender had no impact on flight skills.

“I do not believe this will be a broad opening of combat roles for women, because as the 2012 report [on women in combat] indicated, there are ‘serious practical barriers which must be resolved so that the department can maximize the safety and privacy of all military members while maintaining military readiness,’” Inhofe said in a statement.

Many lawmakers noted Wednesday that women frequently served with combat units in a de facto manner during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as their roles and the nature of the conflicts moved them to the front lines.

“It’s important to remember that in recent wars that lacked any true front lines, thousands of women already spent their days in combat situations serving side-by-side with their fellow male servicemembers,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). “This is an historic step for equality and for recognizing the role women have, and will continue to play, in the defense of our nation.”

The Pentagon’s decision was a personal one for two freshmen House members, Reps. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who are the first female combat veterans to serve in Congress.

Gabbard called the move “an overdue, yet welcome change.”

“I have had the honor of serving with incredibly talented female soldiers who, if given the opportunity, would serve as great assets in our ground combat units,” she said in a statement.

Duckworth, who lost both of her legs in a helicopter crash in Iraq, compared ending the ban on women in combat to prior race-based restrictions.

“There has always been some level of opposition to increasing the diversity in our military whether it has been minorities or women,” Duckworth said in a statement. “It is clear that the inclusion of groups like African Americans and Asians has made our military stronger. As a combat Veteran I know the inclusion of women in combat roles will make America safer and provide inspiration to women throughout our country.”

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), who has been one of the most vocal critics of the ban, said she was happy about the move, and looked forward to getting more details at a congressional briefing Thursday.

“I have been a firm believer in removing the archaic combat exclusion policy for many years," Sanchez said.

This story was last updated at 6:10 p.m.

http://thehill.com/blogs/defcon-hill/policy-and-strategy/278889-report-military-to-end-ban-on-women-in-combat

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« Reply #7940 on: Jan 24th, 2013, 09:24am »

Science Daily

New Brain Circuit Sheds Light On Development of Voluntary Movements

Jan. 23, 2013

— All parents know the infant milestones: turning over, learning to crawl, standing, and taking that first unassisted step. Achieving each accomplishment presumably requires the formation of new connections among subsets of the billions of nerve cells in the infant's brain. But how, when and where those connections form has been a mystery.

Now researchers at Duke Medicine have begun to find answers. In a study reported Jan. 23, 2013, in the scientific journal Neuron, the research team describes the entire network of brain cells that are connected to specific motor neurons controlling whisker muscles in newborn mice.

A better understanding of such motor control circuits could help inform how human brains develop, potentially leading to new ways of restoring movement in people who suffer paralysis from brain injuries, or to the development of better prosthetics for limb replacement.

"Whiskers to mice are like fingers to humans, in that both are moving touch sensors," said lead investigator Fan Wang, PhD, associate professor of cell biology and member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. "Understanding how the mouse's brain controls whisker movements may tell us about neural control of finger movements in people."

Mice are active at night, so they rely heavily on whiskers to detect and discriminate objects in the dark, brushing their whiskers against objects in a rhythmic back-and-forth sweeping pattern referred to as "whisking." But this whisking behavior does not appear until about two weeks after birth, when young mice start to explore the world outside their nest.

To learn how motor control of whiskers takes place, Wang and postdoctoral fellow Jun Takatoh used a new technique that takes advantage of the rabies virus' ability to spread through connected nerve cells. A disabled form of the virus used to vaccinate pets was created with the ability to express a fluorescent protein. The researchers were able to trace its path through a network of brain cells directly connected to the motor neurons controlling whisker movement.

"The precision of this mapping method allowed us to ask a key question, namely are parts of the whisker motor control circuitry not yet connected in newborn mice, and are such missing links added later to enable whisking?" Wang said.

By taking a series of pictures in the fluorescently labeled brains during the first two weeks after birth, the research team chronicled the developing circuits before and after mice start whisking.

"When we traced the circuit it was stunning in the sense that we didn't realize there are so many pools of neurons located throughout the brainstem that are connected to whisker motor neurons," said Wang. "It's remarkable that a single motor neuron receives so many inputs, and somehow is able to integrate them."

At the same time whisking movements emerge, motor neurons receive a new set of inputs from a region of the brainstem called the LPGi. A single LPGi neuron is connected to motor neurons on both sides of the face, putting them in perfect position to synchronize the movements of left and right whiskers.

To learn more about the new circuit formed between LPGi and motor neurons, Wang and Takatoh drew on the expertise of Duke colleague Richard Mooney, PhD, professor of neurobiology, and his student Anders Nelson. Together, the researchers were able to record the labeled neurons and found the LPGi neurons communicate with motor neurons using glutamate, the main neurotransmitter that stimulates the brain. They further discovered that LPGi neurons receive direct inputs from the motor cortex.

"This makes sense because exploratory whisking is a voluntary movement under control of the motor cortex," Wang said. "Excitatory input is needed for initiating such movements, and LPGi may be critical for relaying signals from the motor cortex to whisker motor neurons."

The researchers will next explore the connectivity by using genetic, viral and optical tools to see what happens when certain components of the circuits are activated or silenced during various motor tasks.

In addition to Wang, Takatoh, Mooney and Nelson at Duke, study authors include Xiang Zhou of the University of Chicago; Michael D. Ehlers of Pfizer Inc. R&D; M. McLean Bolton of the Max Planck Institute; and Benjamin R. Arenkiel of Baylor College of Medicine.

The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (DA028302, DE19440, NS079929) and by the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130123133610.htm

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« Reply #7941 on: Jan 25th, 2013, 10:03am »

Reuters

South Korea reveals staggering $1 billion transfer fraud in Iranian money


By Ju-min Park
SEOUL | Fri Jan 25, 2013 6:55am EST

(Reuters) - South Korean prosecutors have detained and charged a Korean American with the illegal transfer of a staggering 1.09 trillion won ($1.02 billion) in Iranian money frozen in South Korea under international sanctions, the lawyers said on Friday.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office said a 73-year-old man, identified only by his family name, Chung, was suspected of making fraudulent transfers in 2011 from the Iranian central bank's won-denominated account at a South Korean bank by using fake invoices for payment.

Prosecutors marveled at the scale of the withdrawals, indicating they believed there had to be more than one person involved. The prosecutors' office said those involved took advantage of a banking procedure that was now more tightly supervised.

What was not immediately clear was whether this was an attempt to break sanctions targeting Iran's controversial nuclear program, or whether this was just a criminal scam, albeit a very large one. A prosecutor with direct knowledge of the case declined to comment on whether the transfers violated the sanctions.

Chung had contacts in Iran and the United Arab Emirates and was suspected of transferring the money into accounts in third countries, the prosecutor said.

The prosecutors' office and the Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK) (024110.KS) confirmed media reports that identified the state-owned lender as the financial institution that held the Iranian central bank account.

IBK had received a payment order from the Iranian central bank, the bank and prosecutors said. It believed the order to be authentic because Chung had attached authorization from the Bank of Korea and a government agency that tracks exports of goods to countries under international sanctions, the prosecution said.

Korean exporters and traders must get prior clearance from the government for products they plan to sell to Iran.

"This is a criminal case perpetrated by an individual to circumvent the Korea-Iran won transaction system and the Bank of Korea's approval system," the prosecutors' office said in a statement.

However, prosecutors couldn't track down who placed the order from Iran because South Korea does not have an agreement with Tehran to cooperate on criminal cases.

Chung was being held in detention and neither he nor his legal representative was available for comment. Law enforcement officials in South Korea often withhold criminal suspects' full names because it possible for the accused to sue for libel regardless of the outcome of the case against him.

International sanctions have made it difficult for Iran to transmit oil payments from South Korea and other countries. The Iranian central bank has an equivalent of $5-$6 billion in won-denominated accounts in South Korea, industry sources have said.

"We believe involvement of (entities in) Iran is possible," the prosecutor said, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

South Korean exporters and traders usually collect payments by withdrawing from won-denominated deposits of the Iranian central bank that are mostly generated by Iran's oil sales in South Korea.

South Korea's imports of crude oil from Iran dropped 35.6 percent last year after the sanctions were imposed, data from state-run Korea National Oil Corp showed this month.

Iran had a $2.3 billion trade surplus with South Korea in 2012, official data shows. ($1 = 1,069 won)

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Jack Kim and Nick Macfie)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/25/us-korea-iran-idUSBRE90O0H920130125

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« Reply #7942 on: Jan 25th, 2013, 10:07am »

Seattle Times

Originally published January 24, 2013 at 10:18 PM
Page modified January 25, 2013 at 7:32 AM

Packed hearing on new pot law

A state Liquor Control Board hearing in Seattle about implementing the marijuana law drew an overflow crowd.

By Bob Young
Seattle Times Staff reporter

They came in suits and cowboy hats, with cropped gray hair and long ponytails, and they filled one room at Seattle City Hall and spilled into another, about 400 strong.

Some had waited decades for an event like this. Some thought they’d never see it. They were there to express views about the state’s new legal-marijuana law enacted last fall by Initiative 502.

“Wow, there’s one heckuva lot of interest in 502,” said Sharon Foster, chair of the Washington state Liquor Control Board, the agency charged with implementing the new law. The crowd had started lining up three hours before the event.

Foster told audience members if they kept their remarks to two minutes they’d get a “brownie point.” That prompted several in the crowd to giddily ask, “What kind of brownie?”

Chris Marr, another liquor-board member, said, “When I was watching Cream at the Fillmore many years ago, I never envisioned this.”

The second of six statewide forums on legal marijuana, this was part rally, part policy conference.

Growers, breeders, sellers and advocates came out to push a variety of platforms. Some wanted the system to allow smaller growers. Others stressed the need for bigger breeding operations. Some begged to be taxed. Others said the law’s high taxes would drive customers to the black market.

Kevin Oliver, executive director of Washington NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), was one of the first to speak. “Indeed the whole world is watching,” Oliver said, noting he’d been interviewed by a popular French TV show before the forum.

Wearing a suit adorned with a gold pot leaf, Oliver first suggested the liquor board add “cannabis” to its name, which drew huge applause. He went on to call for both big and small growers. “Think Budweiser and microbrews,” he said.

John Eskola said he represented several small medical-marijuana growers. “We need to be part of it. This is a very emotional thing for me. The war is over. We won. Don’t punish us, take our money.”

Lobbyist Phil Wayt said the group he represented wants the state to follow the craft-beer model where there is no limit on the number of producers and processors.

Philip Dawdy of the Washington Cannabis Association warned that taxes are too high. They are set at 25 percent of the selling price at three different junctures in the growing-to-sales process. “You have to beat the black market in price. I don’t think you can do that with the 502 tax structure,” he said.

The most insightful comment, though, might have come from Sam Dodge when he told liquor-board members, “for you to figure out how to serve cannabis customers is the steepest learning curve I’ve seen.”

Washington’s new law, which allows those 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of pot, must be implemented by December. In theory, adults will then be able to walk into stores around the state and buy locally grown pot that is licensed, taxed and regulated by the state.

Early state estimates put retail prices at about $12 a gram. And stores will sell about 187,000 pounds of weed a year, the state figures, which would suddenly give the state a new $2 billion industry.

The new law calls for a seed-to-store closed marijuana market. No model exists for such a system.

Inundated with questions and opinions, the board decided it needed to go to the public on the issue.

And, lacking in weed expertise, the agency is soliciting help from private consultants in areas such as product standards and consumption validation.

Consumption estimates are crucial for the state in determining how big the system should be, how many growers it will need, and how many plants each will need to produce.

Estimating consumption is also fraught with political and legal issues, especially concerning the federal government, which bans all marijuana, and doesn’t want to see Washington’s legal pot leaking into other states.

more after the jump:
http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2020208834_potforumxml.html

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« Reply #7943 on: Jan 25th, 2013, 10:11am »

Wired

WORLD’S MOST WIRED Float Maker

By Angela Watercutter
01.25.13
6:30 AM

NEW ORLEANS — If you want to know why Ryan Ballard has been spending most of his free time and creative energy building a spaceship that will never fly, the answer is simple: He did it all for the Wookiee.

Two weeks before what will surely be the geekiest of this year’s Mardi Gras parades, the man who is building the event’s main float is working through crunch time with his co-conspirator Brett Powers at midday on a Saturday.

“Did you see the ashtray?” Ballard asks, holding a gold, plate-size Millennium Falcon model and gesturing at a silver-domed ash receptacle. “I was thinking about turning it into an R2. How awesome is that?”

“Anything worth doing,” Powers responds wryly, “is worth overdoing.”

“Worth overdoing” could easily be the theme of Mardi Gras itself, but the way these guys celebrate the Carnival gives that excess an unexpected sci-fi twist. Currently, they are the only two people standing in the 9,000-square-foot warehouse they call “the Den” — essentially a DIY party nerd laboratory in the Marigny neighborhood, just east of the French Quarter — but throughout the day many more will arrive, drawn to assist with the construction of a sci-fi chariot worthy of a Wookiee.

Welcome to the world of the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus, the rebel alliance melding sci-fi and fantasy with the very old traditions of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

In the middle of the Den, under the Chinese lanterns and trapeze bar (acrobats practice here when they’re not around), sits another Millennium Falcon, much bigger than the one in Ballard’s hand. It’s built on an airport luggage hauler; next to it sits a fully functional “Bar-2 D2,” which performs as advertised. The Falcon is the main contraption Ballard and his Chewbacchus cohorts are building for this year’s Mardi Gras, and when the finished vehicle rolls through the streets of New Orleans, it’ll carry not only one really fantastic ashtray, but also the original Wookiee himself — Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars films.

That means this Falcon must be flawless. As more and more float-hands filter into the Den throughout the day, a hacked rickshaw with an iPod dock — named Vimana after the mythological Sanskrit flying machines — serves as a boombox, much like it does during Chewbacchus’ parades. Throughout the weekend it will play an ever-evolving mix of nerdcore hip-hop, brass band tracks, “drunken nerd blues,” marching band versions of iconic Star Wars theme songs, and loads of music so geeky it can’t be decoded by Shazam.

“There’s a difference between Chewbacchus and a lot of the fandom stuff that happens at, like, Comic-Con,” says Ballard, the founder of Chewbacchus, the night before over dinner. “We’re not going for movie-scale or accurate. There’s a whole parody, satire aspect and a heavy Mardi Gras-influenced joke angle that we’re going for.”

For those who have never lived in New Orleans, the concept of a Mardi Gras parade organization — “krewes” as they’re called — can seem a bit foreign. Dating back to the original Carnival parade group Mystick Krewe of Comus in 1857, the krewes are the ones who throw the individual parades during Mardi Gras season, which runs from Twelfth Night until Fat Tuesday. They are, as Ballard notes, rooted in the idea of satirizing conventional norms, but they also have their own rich histories and traditions. Most of them — there are 63 holding events this year — have long histories, require fairly sizeable membership fees, have their floats made by Blaine Kern Studios and are comprised of celebrants who have been grandfathered into the krewes in the sense that their grandfather was part of the same group.

So for nerds of modest means, what Ballard has done with Chewbacchus, which will hold its third Mardi Gras parade Saturday, is nothing short of revolutionary. He’s designed a way for them to give Mardi Gras a geeky spin while also offering a DIY option to get involved with the sci-fi spectacle.

“They’re certainly unique,” says New Orleans City Council member Stacy Head. “I think they’re adding a new dimension to the Mardi Gras fun that we haven’t had added in a long time. It brings that whole comics and tech-y type world that we’re now seeing move to New Orleans and it gives them something that’s a takeoff on New Orleans and Mardi Gras but it’s focused on a different group.”

more after the jump:
http://www.wired.com/underwire/2013/01/worlds-most-wired-float-builder-ryan-ballard/

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« Reply #7944 on: Jan 25th, 2013, 10:13am »

Science News

Dung beetles steer by the Milky Way

Planetarium experiments show that the insects need only starlight to orient themselves

By Susan Milius
Web edition: January 24, 2013

Even a collector of animal waste can keep its eyes on the stars. By tracking the dung beetles skittering across a darkened planetarium, researchers have shown that like seals, birds and people, the feces-eating insects are capable of celestial navigation.

“This is the first time we have shown that insects can use stars to guide them for orientation,” says neuroethologist Marie Dacke of Lund University in Sweden, “and it’s also the very first proof that animals can use the Milky Way for their orientation.” She and her colleagues report the results January 23 in Current Biology.

Dung-rolling insects are excellent for studying navigation because they collect their prized food source and single-mindedly roll it as directly as possible away from competitors and predators. Putting the beetles in weird get-ups during experiments doesn’t deter them. “They are so attached to their dung balls,” Dacke says, “that under all circumstances they just want to roll the ball in a straight line.”

Earlier work showed that beetles can orient using the sun and moon as beacons or by the patterns of polarization in sunlight and moonlight. Beetles don’t use landmarks like rocks and trees — or, scientists thought, starlight.

That conclusion came from a 2003 publication by Dacke herself, among other researchers. In that work, she and her colleagues had reported that beetles lost their sense of direction if they could see the stars but not the moon. So she was mystified years later, when she observed beetles under starlight in a different experiment and found that they weren’t lost at all.

To figure out why, the researchers performed outdoor experiments blocking the insects’ view of the heavens with caps or using high-walled arenas that allowed them to see nothing but sky. The beetles could orient themselves when they could see the sky but not when they could see terrestrial landmarks.

Testing fully whether beetles orient by starlight would require turning the stars on and off, so Dacke and her colleagues borrowed the Johannesburg planetarium. With the planetarium dome darkened, the nocturnal dung beetle Scarabaeus satyrus fumbled and curlicued around. But showing just the Milky Way let the beetles kick along balls of dung in fairly direct paths.

Knowing that the dung beetles actually can orient by stars, Dacke realized why her earlier experiment had gone wrong: She had tested the beetles in October in South Africa, when the Milky Way was so low in the sky that the animals couldn’t get a good view.

The beetle doesn’t steer by the Milky Way with the same understanding that a person does, says Paul Graham of the University of Sussex in England. Rather, he says, the blur of stars is a stable feature for orientation. Since the beetles only need to move quickly away from the original dung deposit, any visual cues would work. Nocturnal dung beetles, he says, are a lovely example of an animal’s adapting to its environment — and to its universe.

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/347746/description/Dung_beetles_steer_by_the_Milky_Way

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« Reply #7945 on: Jan 25th, 2013, 10:16am »



Please be an angel



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« Reply #7946 on: Jan 26th, 2013, 10:51am »






Coney Island: A Documentary with Al Lewis

~

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« Reply #7947 on: Jan 26th, 2013, 12:25pm »

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« Reply #7948 on: Jan 27th, 2013, 08:48am »

Thanks for that illustration Phil.

Good morning cheesy

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« Reply #7949 on: Jan 27th, 2013, 08:56am »

Reuters

Thousands join funerals after deaths in Egypt port city

By Edmund Blair and Shaimaa Fayed
CAIRO | Sun Jan 27, 2013 9:26am EST

(Reuters) - Gunshots rang out in Port Said on Sunday as people packed the streets for the funerals of 33 protesters killed at the weekend in the city, part of a wave of violence that has compounded challenges facing President Mohamed Mursi.

Some in the crowd chanted for revenge or shouted anti-Mursi slogans and teargas was fired in the vicinity, a witness said by telephone, adding that he heard emergency vehicle sirens after the shots were fired.

"Our soul and blood, we sacrifice to Port Said," people chanted, as the coffins were carried through the streets.

There were no immediate reports of further casualties in the city, where 33 people were killed on Saturday when residents went on the rampage after a court sentenced 21 people, mostly from the city, to death for their role in a deadly stadium disaster in Port Said last year.

Elsewhere in Egypt, police fired teargas at dozens of stone-throwing protesters in Cairo in a fourth day of clashes. Protests in the capital and other cities erupted at the end of last week over what the demonstrators say is a power grab by Islamists two years after Hosni Mubarak was overthrown.

The protesters accuse Mursi, elected in June with the support of his Muslim Brotherhood group, of betraying the democratic goals of the revolution. Since protesters hit the streets on Thursday, 42 people have been killed, most in Port Said and Suez, both cities where the army has now been deployed.

The violence adds to the daunting task facing Mursi as he tries to fix a beleaguered economy and cool tempers before a parliamentary election expected in the next few months which is supposed to cement Egypt's transition to democracy.

It has exposed a deep rift in the nation. Liberals and other opponents accuse Mursi of failing to deliver on economic promises and say he has not lived up to pledges to represent all Egyptians. His backers say the opposition is seeking to topple Egypt's first freely elected leader by undemocratic means.

"BLOOD BEING SPILT"

"None of the revolution's goals have been realized," said Mohamed Sami, a protester in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Sunday.

"Prices are going up. The blood of Egyptians is being spilt in the streets because of neglect and corruption and because the Muslim Brotherhood is ruling Egypt for their own interests."

On a bridge close to Tahrir Square, youths hurled stones at police in riot gear who fired teargas to push them back towards the square, the cauldron of the uprising that erupted on January 25, 2011 and toppled Mubarak 18 days later.

The U.S. and British embassies, both close to Tahrir, said they were closed for public business on Sunday.

The army, Egypt's interim ruler until Mursi's election, was sent back onto the streets to restore order in Port Said and Suez, which both lie on the Suez canal. In Suez, at least eight people were killed in clashes with police.

Egypt's defense minister who also heads the army, Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, called for the nation to stand together and said the military would not prevent peaceful protests. But he called on demonstrators to protect public property.

Many ordinary Egyptians are frustrated by the regular escalations that have hurt the economy and their livelihoods.

"They are not revolutionaries protesting," said taxi driver Kamal Hassan, 30, referring to those gathered in Tahrir. "They are thugs destroying the country."

CALL FOR DIALOGUE

The National Defence Council, headed by Mursi, called on Saturday for national dialogue to discuss political differences.

That offer has been cautiously welcomed by the opposition National Salvation Front. But the coalition has demanded a clear agenda and guarantees that any agreements will be implemented.

The Front, formed late last year when Mursi provoked protests and violence by expanding his powers and driving through an Islamist-tinged constitution, has threatened to boycott the parliamentary poll and to call for more protests if a list of demands is not met, including having an early presidential vote.

Egypt's transition has been blighted from the outset by political rows and turbulence on the streets that have driven investors out and kept many tourists away, starving the economy of vital sources of hard currency.

Egypt's pound has been hit hard by the turmoil, steadily weakening against the dollar despite efforts by the central bank to slow the fall and preserve foreign reserves now at critical levels. The latest violence has added to investors' concerns.

The Port Said clashes erupted after a judge sentenced 21 men to death for involvement in 74 deaths at a soccer match on February 1, 2012 between Cairo's Al Ahly club and the local al-Masri team. Many of the victims were fans of the visiting team.

There were 73 defendants in the case. Those not sentenced on Saturday will face a verdict on March 9, the judge said.

Al Ahly fans cheered the verdict after threatening action if the death penalty was not meted out. But Port Said residents were furious that people from their city were held responsible.

(Additional reporting by Yusri Mohamed in Ismailia; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/27/us-egypt-anniversary-idUSBRE90N1E620130127

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