Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7950 on: Jan 27th, 2013, 09:02am »
Published on Jan 13, 2013
This is a birthday gift I built from scratch for my girlfriend The hardware is made of a broken Interactive R2D2 toy and a bunch of cheap parts purchased online. Inside, the little guy is powered by a Raspberry Pi running Rasbian.
Features: voice control (in English and Chinese, using PocketSphinx) face recognition (using OpenCV) motion detection ultrasonic distance detection audio message record and replay sound play and TTS rechargeable battery wifi
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7951 on: Jan 27th, 2013, 09:05am »
Published on Jan 26, 2013
UFO Sightings Over Cotulla, Texas This Week Real UFOS Caught On Tape Today In Eagle Ford. January, 2013
Eagle Ford is a hot spot for oil, but in the past few weeks it has turned into the mother ship for UFO sightings. It seems Cotulla, Texas has become ground zero for UFOs in the past few weeks—if recent YouTube postings can be believed.
Several videos have been posted on YouTube showing different sightings in the Cotulla area. One UFO video was posted two days ago. The Mutual UFO Network is a national organization that investigates UFO sightings.
MUFON says they have been getting a lot of calls from South Texas. The group says they can solve 80 to 90 percent of the cases they follow. It's the other 10 percent that they get excited about.
"Probably the fireballs— we're not real sure what those are," said MUFON investigator John Cross. "We think they switched over to jet-powered drones."
MUFON says California, Texas and Detroit are the hot spots for sightings right now.
They say the videos out of Cotulla this past week can be easily solved.
"It really doesn't display any unusual flight patterns of any kind, and as you watch the video towards the end you can clearly see all three of the beacons on the aircraft," Cross said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7952 on: Jan 27th, 2013, 09:10am »
Originally published Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 9:03 PM
‘Preppers’ pack up for next disaster
New York’s “prepper” community is large, diverse and growing rapidly, its leaders say.
By ALAN FEUER The New York Times
NEW YORK — A couple of weeks ago, on a Sunday afternoon, 40 people gathered at a church for a show-and-tell session sponsored by the New York City Preppers Network. One by one, they stood and exhibited their “bugout bags,” meticulously packed receptacles filled with equipment meant to see them through the collapse of civilization.
Onto a folding table came an array of disaster swag: compasses and iodine pills, hand-cranked radios and solar-powered flashlights, magnesium fire-starters and a fully charged Kindle with digital road maps of the tri-state region. Many items went far beyond the “10 Basic Pillars of Bug-Out Gear” that Jason Charles, the network’s leader, had passed out in advance through the Internet.
A good number were tweaked to fit their owners’ needs and interests. A locksmith had a lock-picking set. A vegetarian had a stash of homemade dehydrated lentils. One man had a condom designed to serve as an emergency canteen; another had a rat trap — to catch and eat the rats.
After showing off his bag (parachute cord, a bivouac sack, a two-week supply of Meals Ready to Eat), Charles, a New York City firefighter, told the group he had just bought a dog. “So now I have to implement his plan, too,” he said. With a pause and a sheepish look, he added, “That’s weird, right?”
New York hardly seems like a natural location for what has become known as the prepper movement, but the city’s prepping community is large, diverse and growing rapidly, its leaders say.
To the unprepared, “Prepper” is likely to summon images of armed zealots hunkered down in bunkers awaiting the End of Days, but in New York, reality is less dramatic. Local Preppers are doctors, doormen, charter-school executives, subway conductors, advertising writers and reporters.
It isn’t easy being a Prepper. The discipline has taken blows from TV programs such as “Doomsday Preppers,” which — despite record ratings and recent episodes, like “Escape From New York” — is more or less a weekly invitation to laugh at lunatics tunneling into mountainsides to escape a Russian nuclear attack.
Even though prepping is increasingly visible in the culture — through meet-up groups, books, films and weekend retreats — it continues to be thought of as a marginal and unseemly business, on par with believing the government is hiding aliens at Area 51.
I mostly kept quiet about prepping, aware of the embarrassment I was courting. It was, therefore, with relief that I found myself this month among brethren Preppers who understood my desire to have at hand a packed supply of power bars or a LifeStraw personal drinking tool. You do meet Preppers in New York who are preparing for extreme events such as solar flares or an eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera, but most say their concerns are more immediate, more local. Chief among them are terrorist attacks, natural disasters and economic collapse.
“The Earth isn’t going to crash into Planet X and the Mayan thing never happened” is how Charles put it when I introduced myself at the show-and-tell. “But I’ll tell you this,” he added. “People here definitely used their preps during Sandy.”
I liked how Preppers were given to debate (bear spray or baseball bats? water purification or water filtration?) and how they were versed in esoteric areas of knowledge (fish antibiotics, New York City knife laws). I was especially enamored of the jargon: “GOOD” (Get Out of Dodge) or “TEOTWAWKI” (The End of the World as We Know It).
During his presentation, Charles suggested a well-prepared bugout bag was only part of the equation; just as important was knowing where to go. “Bugging out will not be easy,” he explained. “It might take three or four hours to get out of the city.”
Here come capitalists
Early in my travels, I was told the man to see for a deeper understanding of prepping in New York was Aton Edwards, founder of the International Preparedness Network and author of the emergency survival guide “Preparedness Now!”
Edwards, 51, is often called the city’s foremost expert in personal disaster preparation; he has appeared on the “Today” show, has taught his “Ready Up!” seminars to hundreds of participants with partners such as the Red Cross and has set up, as part of the National Urban Self-Reliance and Preparedness Program, “incident command centers” across New York.
In his professional opinion, the next big development in prepping will be the arrival of entrepreneurial capitalists, and this made me think of Fabian Illanes and Roman Zrazhevskiy, two men in their 20s I met at the show-and-tell.
Illanes and Zrazhevskiy, former high-school classmates on Long Island, recently created Readytogosurvival.com, a website that sells prepacked bugout bags with paramilitary names such as the Tactical Traveler ($439.99) and the Covert Defender ($629.99). They said they had been visiting Prepper meetings across the region in order “to discover their customers.”
It seemed important to know if this all-encompassing negativity was histrionic or appropriate. I interviewed Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, whom Gov. Andrew Cuomo had recently named to lead a commission investigating how ready the state was for another emergency like Hurricane Sandy.
Redlener said it was rational — indeed, it was recommended — to have a three-day supply of food and water, a working flashlight, a first-aid kit, a radio that runs without batteries and a plan in place to rejoin one’s relatives after a disaster.
Then he surprised me. I had never heard even a quasi-government official admit that the authorities would not respond promptly in an emergency, but Redlener said “gaps” existed during “megadisasters,” hours, even days, when there might not be an official response.
“The well-being of many, many people in harm’s way will be dependent in those gaps on social networks, on community and on individual preparedness,” he said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7954 on: Jan 28th, 2013, 09:10am »
Violent protests greet Egypt emergency decree
By Edmund Blair and Shaimaa Fayed CAIRO | Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:37am EST
(Reuters) - A man was shot dead on Monday in a fifth day of violence in Egypt that has killed 50 people and prompted the Islamist president to declare a state of emergency in an attempt to end a wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world's biggest nation.
Under emergency powers announced by President Mohamed Mursi for the cities of Port Said, Ismailia and Suez on Sunday, the army will have the right to arrest civilians and to help police restore order.
A cabinet source told Reuters any trials would be before civilian courts, but the step is likely to anger protesters who accuse Mursi of using high-handed security tactics of the kind they fought against to oust president Hosni Mubarak.
Egypt's politics have become deeply polarized since those heady days two years ago, when protesters were making most of the running in the Arab Spring revolutions that sent shockwaves through the region.
Although Islamists have won parliamentary and presidential elections, the disparate opposition has since united against Mursi. Late last year he moved to expand his powers and push a constitution with Islamist leanings through a referendum punctuated by violent street protests.
Mursi's opponents accuse him of hijacking the revolution, listening only to his Islamist allies and breaking a promise to be a president for all Egyptians. They say too many hold-outs from the Mubarak era remain in their posts.
Islamists say their rivals want to overthrow by undemocratic means Egypt's first freely elected leader.
Some opposition groups have called for more protests in Cairo and elsewhere on Monday to mark the second anniversary of one of the bloodiest days in the revolution that erupted on January 25, 2011, and ended Mubarak's iron rule 18 days later.
Hundreds of demonstrators in Port Said, Ismailia and Suez, cities which all lie on the economically vital Suez Canal, turned out against Mursi's decision on Sunday within moments of him speaking. Activists there pledged to defy a curfew that starts at 9 p.m. (1700 GMT).
Instability in Egypt has raised concerns in Western capitals, where officials worry about the direction of a key regional player that has signed a peace deal with Israel.
The political unrest has been exacerbated by street violence linked to death penalties imposed on soccer supporters convicted of involvement in stadium rioting a year ago.
In Cairo on Monday, police fired volleys of teargas at stone-throwing protesters in and around Tahrir Square, cauldron of the anti-Mubarak uprising.
KILLED BY A GUNSHOT
A 46-year-old bystander was killed by a gunshot, a security source at the Interior Ministry said. It was not clear who fired the shot.
"We want to bring down the regime and end the state that is run by the Muslim Brotherhood," said Ibrahim Eissa, a 26-year-old cook, protecting his face from teargas wafting towards him.
Mursi also called for a national dialogue with his rivals for later on Monday, but the early response from members of the main opposition coalition suggested they saw little point.
Propelled to the presidency in a June election by the Muslim Brotherhood, Mursi has lurched through a series of political crises and violent demonstrations, complicating his task of shoring up the economy and preparing for a parliamentary election to cement the new democracy in a few months.
"The protection of the nation is the responsibility of everyone. We will confront any threat to its security with force and firmness within the remit of the law," Mursi said, offering condolences to families of victims in the canal zone cities.
Appealing to his opponents, the president called for a dialogue on Monday at 6 p.m. (1600 GMT), inviting a range of Islamist allies as well as liberal, leftist and other opposition groups and individuals to discuss the crisis.
The main opposition National Salvation Front coalition said it would not attend.
Mursi's call to hold talks was "cosmetic and not substantive", a leading member of the coalition, Mohamed ElBaradei, told a news conference.
The opposition Front has distanced itself from the latest flare-ups but said Mursi should have acted far sooner to impose security measures that would have ended the violence.
"Of course we feel the president is missing the real problem on the ground, which is his own policies," Front spokesman Khaled Dawoud said. "His call to implement emergency law was an expected move, given what is going on, namely thuggery and criminal activity."
But other activists said Mursi's measures to try to impose control on the turbulent streets could backfire.
"Martial law, state of emergency and army arrests of civilians are not a solution to the crisis," Ahmed Maher of the April 6 movement that helped galvanize the 2011 uprising said. "All this will do is further provoke the youth. The solution has to be a political one that addresses the roots of the problem."
Thousands of mourners joined funerals in Port Said for the latest victims in the Mediterranean port city. Seven people were killed there on Sunday when residents joined marches to bury 33 others who had been killed a day earlier, most by gunshot wounds in a city where arms are rife.
Protests erupted there on Saturday after a court sentenced to death several people from the city for their role in deadly soccer violence last year, a verdict residents saw as unfair. The anger swiftly turned against Mursi and his government.
Rights activists said Mursi's declaration was a backward step for Egypt, which was under emergency law for Mubarak's entire 30-year rule. His police used the sweeping arrest provisions to muzzle dissent and round up opponents, including members of the Brotherhood and even Mursi himself.
Heba Morayef of Human Rights Watch in Cairo said the police, still hated by many Egyptians for their heavy-handed tactics under Mubarak, would once again have the right to arrest people "purely because they look suspicious", undermining efforts to create a more efficient and respected police force.
"It is a classic knee-jerk reaction to think the emergency law will help bring security," she said. "It gives so much discretion to the Ministry of Interior that it ends up causing more abuse, which in turn causes more anger."
(Additional reporting by Yasmine Saleh in Cairo and Yusri Mohamed in Ismailia; Editing by Will Waterman and Giles Elgood)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7955 on: Jan 28th, 2013, 09:14am »
By Lisa Rein, January 27
The drastic $85 billion in automatic spending cuts Congress approved in hopes of heading off another deficit showdown may or may not occur, but federal agencies say the threat has been disrupting government for months as officials take costly and inefficient steps to prepare.
A National Weather Service official is planning to shut down radars on sunny days in the South — and crossing his fingers that no unexpected storms pass through. New federal grants for medical research are being postponed, resulting in layoffs now and costly paperwork later. And military leaders, who are delaying training for active and reserve forces, are trying to negotiate millions of dollars in penalties that the Defense Department is incurring from canceled contracts.
This is what happens when the federal government prepares for something Congress never intended to become a reality. If Democrats and Republicans cannot end their deficit standoff by March 1, the cuts will kick in across the country. Sequestration, as the law is known, has sent agencies scrambling to buffer themselves, spending time and money that ultimately may be for naught.
Even if cuts take effect, it might not be for long — making the hiring freezes, canceled training, deferred projects, and lengthy planning for furloughs and other contingencies an exercise in inefficiency.
“There will be impacts for every decision we make,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said. The service is deferring maintenance to conserve money “so we can train a pilot to go to Afghanistan” if cuts of up to 10 percent go through.
“Eventually we will have to fix that roof, but at that point it won’t be maintenance.”
As any family living paycheck to paycheck can attest, managing uncertainty can be a drain on energy and the pocketbook, not to mention the spirit. Such is the case for government managers and their staffs, whose problems are compounded by constrained spending under a temporary federal budget that lapses on March 27. Many expect another stopgap plan, and another, before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
And while the price tag of all this is — well, uncertain — the 2011 fight over the debt limit cost taxpayers more than $1.3 billion in additional borrowing costs, government auditors found. On top of that, Treasury Department employees responsible for avoiding default logged more than 400 hours of overtime and comp time.
That battle followed a budget showdown on Capitol Hill that brought the government within a day of shutting down, a scenario that some House Republican leaders say they don’t rule out supporting this year. The near-event took its own toll.
“Across the system millions of dollars were spent in shutdown procedures and gearing-back-up procedures,” said Joan Anzelmo, a park superintendent from Colorado who retired four months later.
This time around, a frustrated senior executive at the Department of Homeland Security said he and his staff have spent countless hours remaking budgets for every contingency.
“First we were told not to develop plans” for sequestration, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak frankly. “Then we spent seven days a week coming up with them and [the cuts] got postponed. Now we’re doing it all over with new targets. It’s taking away from what we need to get done.”
Office of Management and Budget spokesman Steven Posner declined to comment on the planning costs. But Jeffrey Zients, the OMB’s acting budget director, warned lawmakers last summer that any planning “would necessarily divert scarce resources” from other important missions and priorities, “to say nothing of the disruptive effects this exercise would have” on federal workers and contractors. Any preparations “could inadvertently trigger some of the negative effects of sequestration even if sequestration never happens,” he said.
The sequestration law, passed in 2011 after that debt-limit fight, was to take effect Jan. 2. It was delayed two months after lawmakers and the White House agreed to raise taxes. The law calls for budget cuts of 8 percent to 10 percent, divided equally between military and domestic spending, saving $1.2 trillion over the next decade
The law’s fate grew murkier last week after House Republicans voted to suspend the country’s borrowing limit for three months, a proposal the White House and Senate Democrats have signaled they would accept.
In public, neither party is enthusiastic about sequestration, and some rank-and-file lawmakers say they will work to replace the cuts with other savings that would be less damaging to the military and other government services.
But time is running out for the two sides to agree on an alternative savings plan. Leaders in both parties said last week they believe the sequester will take effect — at least for a few weeks — while lawmakers wrestle with the expiration of the stopgap budget.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Sunday that he thinks the cuts are inevitable because Democrats oppose Republican proposals to replace them with alternatives, including reduced spending on financial reform, the health-care law and other programs.
“We think these sequesters will happen because the Democrats have opposed our efforts to replace those cuts with others and they’ve offered no alternatives,” Ryan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, put the blame on Republicans. “Most of the Republican senators I’ve spoken to said: ‘We’re for spending cuts. We want sequestration to go forward,’ ” Durbin said last week. “So if there’s that sentiment . . . and with the House Republicans, I think we are committed to some form of sequestration spending cut.”
Agencies may be frustrated with all the back-and-forth, but companies and researchers in line for government funding are fuming.
“All they can say when I check with them is, ‘You’re still being considered for funding, but we can’t move forward at this time,’ ” said Stephen Higgins, a professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Vermont awaiting about $19 million in two grants from the National Institutes of Health to study chronic disease and smoking. “When [Congress] punted on sequestration, I knew I just took it on the chin.”
Higgins said he’s all but closed one clinic that had ramped up to 10 staff for a third five-year phase of a study of poor women who smoke during pregnancy. Among the losses was a nurse with 12 years on the project.
“The last thing they want to do is go forward on a project and find out they don’t have a budget to support it under the sequester,” Higgins said. “I’m losing highly skilled and trained employees for no good reason.”
Boston University researchers have lost 10 percent of their $230 million in annual grant funding and are seeing similar delays. “Someone has to be let go and then rehired,” Provost Jean Morrison said, calling the disruption “a wasted effort and a lot of bureaucracy” for critical research on diseases from cystic fibrosis to AIDS.
NIH officials declined to comment.
Defense companies were already preparing for a shrinking military budget, a slowdown reflected in a $2 billion loss reported last week by contracting giant General Dynamics. But the sequester threat has created its own uncertainty, as the Pentagon slows and cancels orders while warning that the automatic cuts would damage military readiness.
Pittsburgh-based RTI International Metals, which sells titanium to the defense industry, halved the footprint on a new plant in Martinsville, Va., because the government slowed orders on several contracts in late 2012, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. RTI was scheduled to supply 4 million pounds of titanium to Lockheed Martin but instead was asked for 2 million.
“We kept production back because of the uncertainty,” said Dawne Hickton, RTI’s chief executive. “Further down the line, when the government needs to ramp back up again, it’s going to cost more.”
Some federal projects meant to improve public services have been stopped outright, and others have been abruptly delayed. The concern is that investing money now might be risky if it’s not there in two months.
Thousands of backlogged cases at the Social Security office in Rochester, N.Y., will remain that way after a long-awaited plan to double the number of judges handling hearings and appeals was put on hold.
“They came right out and told us, ‘We’d love to do it, but we don’t know if we’re going to have the money,’ ” employee Timothy Flavin recalled of the September decision.
The federal courts withheld the last $1.6 million from a project that’s modernizing an aging accounting system, pushing it back until June. The result will be “added costs to the project and lost opportunities and savings in future years,” spokesman David Sellers said.
The Air Force Reserve has pushed some of its annual two-week readiness drills to spring at the soonest, a move that threatens deployments.
“If you don’t train, your skills start degrading,” said Ron Hill, a reservist based in New Orleans. “When they say we need to deploy, we won’t be in a high state of readiness.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7956 on: Jan 28th, 2013, 09:24am »
Deception Is Futile When Big Brother’s Lie Detector Turns Its Eyes on You
By WiredStaff 01.17.13 6:30 AM
Alan Bersin, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, arrives at the gloomy US border post in Nogales, Arizona, early one winter morning wearing an expression of mildly pained concentration.
He got up before dawn and now looks as if he’d rather be anywhere else. In the immigration lanes downstairs, a procession of pickups and SUVs nudge dejectedly in from Mexico, taillights blinking through a relentless drizzle. Bersin arrived late, and he seems in no mood to assess the state of the art in automated psychophysiological evaluation technology. Yet there it is, pushed up against the wall of a cramped back office at the DeConcini Port of Entry: a gray metal box about the size and shape of an ATM, with two softly glowing video monitors, one on top of the other.
Bersin, a self-assured bureaucrat and a Rhodes Scholar who studied at Oxford with Bill Clinton, approaches the device. The lower monitor displays an icon of an oversize red button; the upper screen shows the head and shoulders of a smoothly rendered, computer-generated young man blinking and occasionally suffering a slight electronic shudder. He appears to be in his twenties and has an improbably luxuriant head of blue-black hair combed back in a sumptuous pompadour. This is the Embodied Avatar, the personification of the latest software developed to help secure the nation’s frontiers by delivering what its creator calls “a noninvasive credibility assessment”—sifting dishonest travelers from honest ones. Which is to say, this late-model Max Headroom is a lie detector.
Bersin taps the red button to start the test, and in an agreeable Midwestern voice, the avatar asks Bersin a series of questions.
“Are you a citizen of the United States of America?”
“Yes,” Bersin says.
“Have you visited any foreign countries in the past five years?”
“Do you live at the address you listed on your application?”
When the interview is over, Bersin turns to the other people in the room—his entourage, a delegation from the Canadian border agency, and the engineers who are anxiously overseeing this most critical test yet of their invention.
One technician explains to Bersin how the kiosk has instantly analyzed his responses, displayed on a rubber-jacketed iPad and broken down into categories of risk: green, yellow, and red. Bersin’s mask of barely suppressed boredom does not crack.
But then the technician points out that one of his answers is flagged in red: The machine is suspicious about his address. Bersin acknowledges that, yes, what he usually describes as his home is not actually where he lives, and that he was thinking about something else when he was answering—it’s just that he has a work residence in Washington, DC, but of course his family home remains back in San Diego and —
Bersin’s counterpart from Canada, a former intelligence officer, interrupts, cracking an interrogator’s indulgent smile: “Do you have a lawyer?”
Afterward, Jay Nunamaker, the sardonic computer engineer overseeing the Embodied Avatar project, allows himself a low chuckle. “I don’t think it could have gone better,” he says. Within a few hours, the young man with the improbable hair is interviewing members of the public. The first field tests of the US government’s state-of-the-art computer-controlled lie-detection device have begun.
Since September 11, 2001, federal agencies have spent millions of dollars on research designed to detect deceptive behavior in travelers passing through US airports and border crossings in the hope of catching terrorists. Security personnel have been trained—and technology has been devised—to identify, as an air transport trade association representative once put it, “bad people and not just bad objects.” Yet for all this investment and the decades of research that preceded it, researchers continue to struggle with a profound scientific question: How can you tell if someone is lying?
That problem is so complex that no one, including the engineers and psychologists developing machines to do it, can be certain if any technology will work. “It fits with our notion of justice, somehow, that liars can’t really get away with it,” says Maria Hartwig, a social psychologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who cowrote a recent report on deceit detection at airports and border crossings. The problem is, as Hartwig explains it, that all the science says people are really good at lying, and it’s incredibly hard to tell when we’re doing it.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7957 on: Jan 28th, 2013, 09:27am »
Primates, Too, Can Move in Unison Jan. 28, 2013
— Japanese researchers show for the first time that primates modify their body movements to be in tune with others, just like humans do. Humans unconsciously modify their movements to be in synchrony with their peers. For example, we adapt our pace to walk in step or clap in unison at the end of a concert. This phenomenon is thought to reflect bonding and facilitate human interaction. Researchers from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute report that pairs of macaque monkeys also spontaneously coordinate their movements to reach synchrony.
This research opens the door to much-needed neurophysiological studies of spontaneous synchronization in monkeys, which could shed light into human behavioral dysfunctions such as those observed in patients with autism spectrum disorders, echopraxia and echolalia -- where patients uncontrollably imitate others.
In the research, recently published in the journal Scientific Reports, the team led by Naotaka Fujii developed an experimental set-up to test whether pairs of Japanese macaque monkeys synchronize a simple push-button movement.
Before the experiment, the monkeys were trained to push a button with one hand. In a first experiment the monkeys were paired and placed facing each other and the timing of their push-button movements was recorded. The same experiment was repeated but this time each monkey was shown videos of another monkey pushing a button at varying speeds. And in a last experiment the macaques were not allowed to either see or hear their video-partner.
The results show that the monkeys modified their movements -- increased or decreased the speed of their push-button movement -- to be in synchrony with their partner, both when the partner was real and on video. The speed of the button pressing movement changed to be in harmonic or sub-harmonic synchrony with the partners' speed. However, different pairs of monkeys synchronized differently and reached different speeds, and the monkeys synchronized their movements the most when they could both see and hear their partner.
The researchers note that this behavior cannot have been learnt by the monkeys during the experiment, as previous research has shown that it is extremely difficult for monkeys to learn intentional synchronization.
They add: "The reasons why the monkeys showed behavioral synchronization are not clear. It may be a vital aspect of other socially adaptive behavior, important for survival in the wild."
The study was partly supported by Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research on Innovative Areas 'Neural creativity for communication' (22120522 and 24120720) of MEXT, Japan.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7958 on: Jan 29th, 2013, 09:12am »
Army warning: unrest pushing Egypt to brink
By Edmund Blair and Tom Perry
CAIRO, Egypt | Tue Jan 29, 2013 9:39am EST
(Reuters) - Egypt's army chief said political strife was pushing the state to the brink of collapse - a stark warning from the institution that ran the country until last year as Cairo's first freely elected leader struggles to contain bloody street violence.
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a U.S.-trained general appointed by President Mohamed Mursi last year to head the armed forces, added in a statement on Tuesday that one of the primary goals of deploying troops in cities on the Suez Canal was to protect the waterway that is vital for Egypt's economy and world trade.
Sisi's comments, published on an official army Facebook page, followed 52 deaths in the past week of disorder and highlighted the mounting sense of crisis facing Egypt and its Islamist head of state who is struggling to fix a teetering economy and needs to prepare Egypt for a parliamentary election in a few months that is meant to cement the new democracy.
Violence largely subsided on Tuesday, although some youths again hurled rocks at police lines in Cairo near Tahrir Square.
It seemed unlikely that Sisi was signaling the army wants to take back the power it held for six decades since the end of the colonial era and through an interim period after the overthrow of former air force chief Hosni Mubarak two years ago.
But it did send a powerful message that Egypt's biggest institution, with a huge economic as well as security role and a recipient of massive direct U.S. subsidies, is worried about the fate of the nation, after five days of turmoil in major cities.
"The continuation of the struggle of the different political forces ... over the management of state affairs could lead to the collapse of the state," said General Sisi, who is also defense minister in the government Mursi appointed.
He said the economic, political and social challenges facing the country represented "a real threat to the security of Egypt and the cohesiveness of the Egyptian state" and the army would remain "the solid and cohesive block" on which the state rests.
Sisi was picked by Mursi after the army handed over power to the new president in June once Mursi had sacked Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, in charge of Egypt during the transition and who had also been Mubarak's defense minister for 20 years.
The 58-year-old previously headed military intelligence and studied at the U.S. Army War College. Diplomats say he is well known to the United States, which donates $1.3 billion in military aid each year, helping reassure Washington that the last year's changes in the top brass would not upset ties.
One of Sisi's closest and longest serving associates, General Mohamed el-Assar, an assistant defense minister, is now in charge of the military's relations with the United States.
Almost seven months after Mursi took office, Egyptian politics have become even more deeply polarized.
Opponents spurned a call by Mursi for talks on Monday to try to end the violence. Instead, protesters have rallied in Cairo and Alexandria, and in the three Suez Canal cities - Port Said, Ismailia and Suez - where Mursi imposed emergency rule.
On Tuesday, thousands were again on the streets of Port Said to mourn the deaths of two people in the latest clashes there, taking the total toll in Mediterranean port alone to 42 people. Most were killed by gunshots in a city where weapons are rife.
Mohamed Ezz, a Port Said resident speaking by telephone, heard heavy gunfire through the night. "Gunshots damaged the balcony of my flat, so I went to stay with my brother," he said.
Residents in the three canal cities had taken to the streets in protest at a nightly curfew now in place there. The president's spokesman said on Tuesday that the 30-day state of emergency could be shortened, depending on circumstances.
In Cairo on Tuesday afternoon, police again fired teargas as stone-throwing youths in a street near Tahrir Square, the centre of the 2011 uprising. But the clashes were less intense than previous days and traffic was able to cross the area. Street cleaners swept up the remains of burnt tires and other debris.
Street flare-ups are a common occurrence in divided Egypt, frustrating many people desperate for order and economic growth.
Although the general's comments were notably blunt, Egypt's military has voiced similar concerns in the past, pledging to protect the nation. But it has refused to be drawn back into a direct political role after its reputation as a neutral party took a pounding during the 17 months after Mubarak fell.
"Egyptians are really alarmed by what is going on," said Cairo-based analyst Elijah Zarwan, adding that the army was reflecting that broader concern among the wider public.
"But I don't think it should be taken as a sign that the military is on the verge of stepping in and taking back the reins of government," he said.
In December, Sisi offered to host a national dialogue when Mursi and the rivals were again at loggerheads and the streets were aflame. But the invitation was swiftly withdrawn before the meeting went ahead, apparently because the army was wary of becoming embroiled again in Egypt's polarized politics.
Protests initially flared during the second anniversary of the uprising which erupted on January 25, 2011 and toppled Mubarak 18 days later. They were exacerbated in Port Said when residents were angered after a court sentenced to death several people from the city over deadly soccer violence.
Since the 2011 revolt, Islamists who Mubarak spent his 30-year rule suppressing have won two referendums, two parliamentary elections and a presidential vote.
But that legitimacy has been challenged by an opposition that accuses Mursi of imposing a new form of authoritarianism. Mursi's supporters says protesters want to overthrow Egypt's first ever democratically elected leader by undemocratic means.
The army has already been deployed in Port Said and Suez and the government agreed a measure to let soldiers arrest civilians as part of the state of emergency. Sisi reiterated that the army's role would be support the police in restoring order.
The instability has provoked unease in Western capitals, where officials worry about the direction of a powerful regional player that has a peace deal with Israel. The United States condemned the bloodshed and called on Egyptian leaders to make clear violence was not acceptable.
Mursi's invitation to rivals to a national dialogue with Islamists on Monday was spurned by the main opposition National Salvation Front coalition, which described it as "cosmetic".
The only liberal politician who attended, Ayman Nour, told Egypt's al-Hayat channel after the meeting ended late on Monday that attendees agreed to meet again in a week.
He said Mursi had promised to look at changes to the constitution requested by the opposition but did not consider the opposition's request for a government of national unity. Mursi's pushing through last month of a new constitution which critics see as too Islamic remains a bone of contention.
(Additional reporting by Yasmine Saleh and Omar Fahmy in Cairo, Yusri Mohamed in Ismailia and Abdelrahman Youssef in Alexandria; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7959 on: Jan 29th, 2013, 09:19am »
U.S. plans to add drone base in West Africa By Craig Whitlock, Published: January 28
The U.S. military is planning a new drone base in Africa that would expand its surveillance of al-Qaeda fighters and other militants in northern Mali, a development that would escalate American involvement in a fast-spreading conflict.
Two Obama administration officials said military planners are eyeing the West African country of Niger as a base for unarmed Predator drones, which would greatly boost U.S. spy missions in the region.
A U.S. defense official called the plan “preliminary” and said the Pentagon, the State Department, the White House and the government of Niger would all have to approve. “But it would be a good place to be, in terms of access,” the official added.
The plan to locate Predator drones in West Africa was first reported Monday by the New York Times on its Web site.
If approved, the plan would fill a gap in the Pentagon’s military capabilities over the Sahara, which remains beyond the reach of its drone bases in East Africa and southern Europe. U.S. officials said the plan was to use the Predators strictly for surveillance missions, not airstrikes, but they acknowledged that the drones could easily be armed if circumstances changed.
The U.S. military has been flying a handful of small turboprop surveillance planes over northern Mali and West Africa for years, but the PC-12 aircraft are limited in range and lack the sophisticated sensors that Predators carry.
Some senior U.S. officials have also worried that the PC-12 aircraft could be shot down by militants with a shoulder-fired missile. The U.S. ambassador to Mali, Mary Beth Leonard, suspended the flights over Mali last year because of concerns that a pilot or crew could be held hostage if forced to make an emergency landing, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The PC-12 turboprops have been largely based in Burkina Faso, a small West African country that shares a long border with Mali. One option under consideration at the Pentagon would be to deploy drones to Burkina Faso as well, possibly at a military base in Ouagadougou, the capital.
But Niger has been gaining favor since last year, when the U.S. military relocated one of the PC-12 turboprop planes to the capital, Niamey, after reaching an agreement with Niger officials, according to a current and a former U.S. official familiar with the operation. The United States also won permission for the surveillance aircraft to refuel in the northern city of Agadez, the officials said.
Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, the chief of the U.S. military’s Africa Command, visited Niger this month to discuss expanding the military relationship between the two countries, U.S. officials said.
Deploying unmanned Predators to the region would eliminate the risk of crew capture in the event of a shoot-down or accident, but it would also greatly increase the number of U.S. troops on the ground. A Predator base could require as many as 250 Air Force personnel to launch and maintain the drones, as well as to provide protection for U.S. troops.
In comparison, the PC-12s require a tenth as many people to operate, and the Pentagon has mostly outsourced those missions to private contractors.
“You’ve just upped the ante,” said the former U.S. official, who worked on counterterrorism programs in West Africa and said the idea of moving Predators to the region has been discussed for two years. “You’ve militarized the problem.”
In recent days, the United States and Niger have finalized a new “status of forces” agreement that would permit the expanded presence of U.S. troops in the country.
The Obama administration has increased counterterrorism assistance to Niger in recent years and sent Special Forces personnel there on training missions, but the numbers have been limited to a dozen or so troops at a time.
The Pentagon has been hamstrung in its effort to gain better intelligence about the growing number of al-Qaeda fighters and other extremists in the Sahara because of a lack of bases in the region, but also because of legal restrictions on what it can do on Malian territory.
The Obama administration withdrew trainers and shut off military aid to Mali in March after a coup there toppled a democratically elected government. U.S. officials cannot resume military assistance to Mali until it holds new elections — a far-fetched prospect, given the political turmoil there.
U.S. officials said they were facing a balancing act over the need to improve their intelligence collection amid a reluctance to send more aircraft or troops to the region.
“With Niger, the first question is, is this something they’re willing to host?” said a senior U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning. “If the answer is yes, then the question is, can you accomplish something like that with an acceptable footprint?”
As a condition of winning permission for a drone base, the U.S. government might be required to share intelligence from the flights with the Niger military — an added complication that has scuttled or limited other partnerships in the region, U.S. officials said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7960 on: Jan 29th, 2013, 09:31am »
Envelopes of Cash: Corruption Charges Put Madrid on Defensive
By Helene Zuber January 29, 2013 – 01:30 PM
The powerful reacted the way powerful people react when they are in a tight spot. Former Prime Minister José María Aznar instructed his attorneys to sue the newspaper El País. Current Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, a conservative like Aznar, threatened to sue anyone who leveled accusations at his People's Party (PP).
For weeks, Spanish newspapers have published new details about one of the country's biggest ever corruption scandals, called "Gürtel affair," named in German after businessman Francisco Correa, whose last name means "belt". For years Correa allegedly bribed PP officials with money and gifts in return for public contracts.
The general outline of the affair was known, but not the fact that the former treasurer of the People's Party, Luis Bárcenas, had amassed up to €22 million ($30 million) from dubious sources in accounts with Dresdner Bank in Geneva. The judge on the Spanish National Court only learned of this as a result of legal assistance from Switzerland. Even the conservative newspaper El Mundo could no longer refrain from delving into the scandal.
For as long as Bárcenas managed the PP's finances, El Mundo writes, the politician handed party officials envelopes filled with banknotes worth between €5,000 and 15,000 every month. A former member of parliament for the PP confirmed this practice. Although accepting additional pay is not prohibited if a person declares it on his tax return, the conservatives are nonetheless worried. Bárcenas may have recorded the source of the funds in his notebooks (anonymous donations to political parties have been banned since 2007), as well as to whom the money was passed and why.
An 'Atom Bomb'
Bárcenas accepted the equivalent of more than €1.3 million in bribes, a circumstance that businessman Correa bragged about in recorded conversations that led to the discovery of the scandal in 2009. Rajoy, head of the PP and leader of the opposition at the time, protected his treasurer at first, and the party paid an attorney. A year later, however, the conservatives forced Bárcenas to resign from his senate seat and to leave the People's Party.
A few days after Correa's arrest in 2009, Bárcenas began to move the money that had been parked in Switzerland, and by 2010 the Geneva accounts were empty. Thanks to a tax amnesty declared by the Rajoy government, he transferred close to €10 million back to Spain in recent months, said his lawyer. But that amnesty doesn't cover funds obtained illegally, stresses the finance minister.
Bárcenas denies all accusations. And if he is sent to prison, he has threatened that an "atom bomb" will explode.
PP Secretary General María Dolores de Cospedal denies any knowledge of envelopes stuffed with money, and she says that she never discussed such a practice with Rajoy. "The PP has nothing to do with the account, and this gentleman also has nothing to do with the party anymore." Rajoy, plagued with sovereign debt and a persistent budget deficit, ordered an internal and external audit. He also expects former party officials to sign a statement that they did not collect any illegal money. The prime minister plans to address the opposition's questions this week.
Sympathy for the Sweet Life
Alfredo Rubalcaba, leader of the Socialist Workers' Party, called for an anti-corruption pact at the very beginning of the year, but has so far found few takers despite the fact that more than 200 politicians face corruption charges in six of the 17 autonomous regions. In socialist Andalusia, six senior government officials face indictments in a fraud case involving early retirement funds. In Catalonia, officials are examining the business dealings undertaken by members of the long-time regional governmental head's family.
It is hardly a surprise that citizens no longer trust their politicians. In a poll, 95 percent of respondents said they were convinced that political parties in the country cover up corruption and bribery. Next to their concerns about unemployment and income, the Spaniards see politicians and nepotism as the country's biggest problem.
In the last elections, notoriously corrupt officials were reelected. But in the sixth year of the crisis, in which the conservative government is constantly calling for new sacrifices and raising taxes, and in which more and more people are losing their jobs, there is no longer any sympathy for the sweet life of the powerful. When the first reports of Señor Bárcenas' alleged special payments were discussed on the radio and on Twitter, hundreds of people marched to the party headquarters in Madrid and protested against politicians lining their pockets at taxpayer expense.
There were also new revelations within the last week over how the king's son-in-law, married to the Infanta Cristina, may have diverted money from a charity to his own accounts. He has once again been called to testify on the matter in February, although he denies the charges. The trial could become unpleasant for the king, because his daughter's private secretary is also allegedly embroiled in the matter.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7961 on: Jan 29th, 2013, 09:36am »
How Science Invented a Remarkable New Harder-Than-Diamond Nanomaterial
By Nathan Hurst 01.29.13 9:30 AM
A 2-millimeter chunk of nanotwinned cubic boron nitride. Photo: Courtesy of Yongjun Tian
How do you design industrial tools that can top the most heavy-duty diamond-tipped devices? Easy: you create a new material that’s even harder than diamond.
Yes, it’s an oft-misstated “fact”: Diamond is the hardest material in the world. That title has been contested for some time now, and a paper published this month in Nature offers yet another contender.
“Ultrahard nanotwinned cubic boron nitride,” describes how researchers from the University of Chicago, the University of New Mexico, Yanshan University, Jilin University, and Hebei University of Technology compressed a form of boron nitride particles to an ultrahard version.
The transparent nuggets that resulted rivaled — and even exceeded — diamond in their hardness, according to tests run by the researchers. With a Vickers score of 108 GPa, it surpasses synthetic diamond (100 GPa) and more than doubles the hardness of commercial forms of cubic boron nitride.
The secret is in the nanostructure. Yongjun Tian and the other researchers started with onion-like boron nitride particles shaped a bit like a flaky rose — or, as Tian describes them, like Matryoshka dolls. When they compressed them at 1,800 Celsius and 15 GPa (around 68,000 times the pressure in a car tire), the crystals reorganized and formed in a nanotwinned structure.
In a nanotwinned crystalline structure, neighboring atoms share a boundary, the way neighboring apartments do. And like some apartments, the twins mirror each other. Typically, to make a substance harder, scientists decrease the size of the grains, which makes it harder for anything to puncture it — small grains equals less space between them for any point to enter. But the process hit a wall: in anything smaller than about 10 nm, inherent defects or distortions are nearly as big as the grains themselves, and thus weakens the structure.
But the nanotwinning also makes substances harder to puncture, and in the case of boron nitride, maintained that characteristic strength at sizes averaging about 4 nm, explains Tian. And as a bonus, the cubic boron nitride was stable at high temperatures as well.
“In our nanotwinned cBN, the excellent thermal stability and chemical inertness are maintained with hardness competitive to or even more than diamond, making it the most desirable tool material for industry,” says Tian.
He anticipates that, with further research, the product will be comparable in price to the softer, commercial forms of cubic boron nitride that are currently available. Probable uses include machining, grinding, drilling and cutting tools, as well as scientific instrumentation.
Of course, the problem is, to accurately measure the hardness of a material, scientists take an even harder substance, shape it into a pyramid, and see how much pressure is required to drive that pyramid into the material. That doesn’t work unless you have something you’re sure is harder, so the Vickers number for Tian’s cubic boron nitride is not necessarily the final word on the measurement, notes crystallographer Natalia Dubrovinskaia in Scientific American.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7962 on: Jan 29th, 2013, 3:38pm »
Many thanks to Plutronus for finding this:
North Korean parents 'eating their own children' after being driven mad by hunger in famine-hit pariah state
By Becky Evans PUBLISHED: 27 January 2013
Undercover reporters found a 'shocking' number of cannibalism incidents • Up to 10,000 people feared dead after 'hidden famine' in farming provinces • Drought and confiscated food contribute to desperate shortage, reports say • Reports of men digging up corpses for food and murdering children
A starving man in North Korea has been executed after murdering his two children for food, reports from inside the secretive state claim.
A 'hidden famine' in the farming provinces of North and South Hwanghae is believed to have killed up to 10,000 people and there are fears that incidents of cannibalism have risen.
The grim story is just one to emerge as residents battle starvation after a drought hit farms and shortages were compounded by party officials confiscating food.
Undercover reporters from Asia Press told the Sunday Times that one man dug up his grandchild's corpse and ate it. Another, boiled his own child for food.
Despite reports of the widespread famine, Kim Jong Un, 30, has spent vast sums of money on two rocket launches in recent months.
There are fears he is planning a nuclear test in protest at a UN Security Council punishment for the recent rocket launches and to counter what it sees as US hostility.
One informant was quoted as saying: 'In my village in May a man who killed his own two children and tried to eat them was executed by a firing squad.'
The informant said the father killed his eldest daughter while his wife was away on business and then killed his son because he had witnessed the murder.
When his wife returned the man told her they had 'meat' but she became suspicious and contacted officials who discovered part of the children's bodies.
Jiro Ishimaru, from Asia Press, which compiled a 12 page report, said: 'Particularly shocking were the numerous testimonies that hit us about cannibalism.'
Undercover reporters said food was confiscated from the two provinces and given to the residents of the capital Pyongyang.
A drought then left food supplies desperately short.
The Sunday Times also quoted an official of the ruling Korean Worker's party as saying: 'In a village in Chongdan county, a man who went mad with hunger boiled his own child, ate his flesh and was arrested.
United Nations officials visited the area during a state-sponsored trip but local reporters said it is unlikely they were shown the famine-hit areas.
It has not the first time that reports of cannibalism have come out of the country.
In May last year, the South Korean state-run Korean Institute for National Unification said that one man was executed after eating part of a colleague and then trying to sell the remains as mutton.
One man killed and ate a girl and a third report of cannibalism was recorded from 2011.
Another man was executed in May after murdering 11 people and selling the bodies as pork.
There were also reports of cannibalism in the country's network of prison camps.
North Korea was hit by a terrible famine in the 1990s - known as the Arduous March - which killed between 240,000 and 3.5million people.
Kim Jong-Un prompted fears of a nuclear test after meeting security and foreign affairs officials
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7963 on: Jan 29th, 2013, 4:02pm »
Gruesome, Swamprat, these stories do not bear contemplation. How desperate and unimaginably famished people must feel to consume their own family. North Korea sounds like a compartment of Hell to me. Time for regime change?
Let us be sure that those who come after will say of us in our time, that in our time we did everything that could be done. We finished the race; we kept them free; we kept the faith.