Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8040 on: Feb 15th, 2013, 09:24am »
New Frankenstein movie
From the makers of The Last Exorcism comes a boldly original vision of horror—THE FRANKENSTEIN THEORY. What if the most chilling novel of all time was actually based on a true account of a horrific experiment gone awry? When he is suspended from his university job for his outlandish ideas, Professor John Venkenheim leads a documentary film crew to the rim of the Arctic Circle in a desperate effort to vindicate his academic reputation. His theory: Mary Shelley's ghastly story, Frankenstein, is, in fact, a work of non-fiction disguised as fantasy. In the vast, frozen wilderness, Venkenheim and his team search for the legendary monster, a creature mired in mystery and drenched in blood. What they find is an unspeakable truth more terrifying than any fiction... a nightmare from which there is no waking.
Please be an angel My son has been sent home from Afghanistan early! Halleluia!!!Safe and sound with his family. He has put on huge weight from weight lifting while there. I can now feel better knowing he's home.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8045 on: Feb 17th, 2013, 09:59am »
Pope Benedict XVI’s leaked documents show fractured Vatican full of rivalries
By Jason Horowitz, Published: February 16
Vatican City — Guests at the going-away party for Carlo Maria Viganò couldn’t understand why the archbishop looked so forlorn. Pope Benedict XVI had appointed Viganò ambassador to the United States, a plum post where he would settle into a stately mansion on Massachusetts Avenue, across the street from the vice president’s residence.
“He went through the ordeal making it very clear he was unhappy with it,” said one former ambassador to the Vatican, who attended the Vatican Gardens ceremony in the late summer of 2011. “And we just couldn’t figure out, us outsiders and non-Italians, what was going on.”
There was no such confusion within Vatican walls. Benedict had installed Viganò to enact a series of reforms within the Vatican. But some of Rome’s highest-ranking cardinals undercut the efforts and hastened Viganò’s exile to the United States.
Viganò’s plight and other unflattering machinations would soon become public in an unprecedented leak of the pontiff’s personal correspondence. Much of the media — and the Vatican — focused on the source of the shocking security breach. Largely lost were the revelations contained in the letters themselves — tales of rivalry and betrayal, and allegations of corruption and systemic dysfunction that infused the inner workings of the Holy See and the eight-year papacy of Benedict XVI. Last week, he announced that he will become the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign.
The next pope may bring with him an invigorating connection to the Southern Hemisphere, a media magnetism or better leadership skills than the shy and cerebral Benedict. But whoever he may be, the 266th pope will inherit a gerontocracy obsessed with turf and Italian politics, uninterested in basic management practices and hostile to reforms.
VatiLeaks, as the scandal came to be known, dragged the fusty institution into the wild WikiLeaks era. It exposed the church bureaucracy’s entrenched opposition to Benedict’s fledgling effort to carve out a legacy as a reformer against the backdrop of a global child sex abuse scandal and the continued dwindling of his flock.
It showed how Benedict, a weak manager who may most be remembered for the way in which he left office, was no match for a culture that rejected even a modicum of transparency and preferred a damage-control campaign that diverted attention from the institution’s fundamental problems. Interviews in Rome with dozens of church officials, Vatican insiders and foreign government officials close to the church, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, mapped out that hermetic universe.
“We can reveal the face of the church and how this face is, at times, disfigured,” Benedict said in his final homily on Ash Wednesday. “I am thinking in particular of the sins against the unity of the church, of the divisions in the body of the church.” He called for his ministry to overcome “individualism” and “rivalry,” saying they were only for those “who have distanced themselves from the faith.”
A radical transformation of the culture is unlikely. “We’re talking about people who have given their life to this institution, but at the same time the institution has become their life,” said one senior Vatican official. “Unlike parish priests, who have the personal rewards that come with everyday contact, their lot is not as human. It’s bureaucratic, but it becomes all-consuming.”
The entire debacle, he said, “wasn’t a communications crisis. It was a management crisis.”
The leak came from within the pope’s inner sanctum. On most mornings, the pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, left his apartment, just inside the Vatican walls, before 7 a.m. He walked past the plumed Swiss Guards and into the Apostolic Palace, where he worked in the third-floor papal apartments. His black gelled hair, dark suits and fleshy cheeks became so familiar around the Vatican Gardens that clerics affectionately called him Paoletto.
“I was the layman closest to the Holy Father,” Gabriele would later say. “There to respond to his immediate needs.”
The official duties for the married father of three included laying out Benedict’s white vestments and red shoes, serving his decaf coffee and riding with the pontiff in the popemobile. Unofficial chores included absconding with copies of the pope’s personal correspondence, including letters from Viganò, whose grievances Gabriele found especially compelling.
The butler read letters fleshing out how Viganò, an ambitious enforcer of Benedict’s good government reforms, had earned powerful enemies. In early 2011, a series of hostile anonymous articles attacking Viganò began appearing in the Italian media. Under duress, Viganò appealed to the pope’s powerful second in command, Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone. Bertone was not sympathetic and instead echoed the articles’ complaints about his rough management style and removed Viganò from his post.
This set in motion a blizzard of letters that passed through the office Gabriele shared with the pope’s personal secretary. In one missive, Viganò wrote to Bertone accusing him of getting in the way of the pope’s reform mission; he also charged Bertone with breaking his promise to elevate him to cardinal. Viganò sent a copy of this letter to the pope. In a separate letter to the pontiff, Viganò dropped the Vatican’s “C word”: corruption.
“My transfer right now,” he wrote, “would provoke much disorientation and discouragement in those who have believed it was possible to clean up so many situations of corruption and abuse of power that have been rooted in the management of so many departments.”
In another, he described more “situations of corruption” in which the same firms habitually won contracts at almost “double the cost” charged outside the Vatican. Viganò cited savings from cutting the amount spent on the annual Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square from 550,000 euros in 2009 to 300,000 euros in 2010.
Viganò’s efforts failed, and he was soon dispatched to Washington. Bertone and Viganò declined to comment.
“In other circumstances, such an appointment would be a reason for joy and a sign of great esteem and trust in my regard, but in the present context, it will be perceived by all as a verdict of condemnation of my work, and therefore as a punishment,” Viganò wrote to the pope on July 7, 2011. He suggested that “the Holy Father has certainly been kept in the dark.”
The butler agreed and sought an unorthodox way to get the pope’s attention. Through intermediaries, Gabriele reached out to Gianluigi Nuzzi, an Italian investigative reporter. In clandestine coffee bar meetings, anonymous associates of Gabriele vetted Nuzzi, the journalist later wrote, and drove him around in circles to shake loose potential followers. When Nuzzi jumped through sufficient hoops, he met Gabriele in an empty apartment near the Vatican furnished with only a plastic chair. The two established secret Thursday meetings, and Gabriele left letters in drop boxes; Nuzzi sewed a computer thumb drive into his necktie. One day, the butler showed up to the rendezvous empty-handed, only to reveal 13 pages of documents taped to his back, under his jacket. Nuzzi, who referred to his secret source as “Maria,” used the material to write “His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Pope Benedict XVI,” a blockbuster book published last year.
As the media hunted for moles, or “crows” as they are known in Italian, Gabriele’s office mate, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein — a former ski instructor and papal confidant known as Gorgeous George — cracked the case. Vatican gendarmes found 82 boxes of documents in the butler’s apartment and arrested him. He was tried, convicted and jailed for several months before the pope personally pardoned him.
“Seeing evil and corruption everywhere in the church, I finally reached a point of degeneration, a point of no return, and could no longer control myself,” Gabriele explained to Vatican investigators. A shock, “perhaps through the media,” Gabriele continued, could “bring the church back on the right track.”
If the intention of the leaks was to force the ouster of Tarcisio Bertone — the secretary of state blamed for exiling Viganò and undercutting reforms — the effort failed.
While Benedict was the public face of the universal church, Bertone, for now, remains the private power broker who runs the Vatican on a daily basis. In 2006, Benedict appointed Bertone, his longtime doctrinal sidekick, to secretary of state — the second-most-powerful position in the Vatican. An amiable, soccer aficionado who shares the pope’s passion for cats, Bertone, 78, had little international experience. This prompted concern among the church’s elite diplomatic corps, which interpreted his appointment as a threat to the traditional Vatican career track. Bertone bore out their fears, essentially doing away with papal audiences for returning ambassadors. He ensured that many of the newly elevated cardinals were Italian loyalists, and he adopted a wide-ranging travel schedule that many considered an overreach.
Angelo Sodano, John Paul II’s secretary of state and Bertone’s predecessor, has not hidden his disregard. “It was quite visible,” said a former ambassador to the Vatican. “Sodano was a real insider, and you could tell that he thought Bertone was a real outsider and that he had no legitimacy in that position.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8046 on: Feb 17th, 2013, 10:04am »
You Are Watching Machinima, the Future of TV
By Neal Pollack 02.12.13 6:30 AM
The future of TV isn’t in an HBO boardroom or on the CBS lot in Studio City; it’s not sitting on Aaron Sorkin’s laptop or buried deep in Dan Harmon’s Tumblr archive. It’s next door to a Barney’s Beanery in West Hollywood—the corner lot of low-slung real estate that online-video juggernaut Machinima calls home.
Inside, the decor is pre-post-collegiate: arcade games, fanboy swag, and the occasional wafting odor of recently nuked pizza pockets. One executive’s office features a wall sculpture of Han Solo encased in carbonite. The place brings to mind the world’s largest man cave.
Yet it’s one of the biggest online video producers there are. In December 2012, Machinima-related properties scored 262 million unique viewers worldwide and 2.6 billion video views. In the previous 12 months, the network was viewed more than 20 billion times. During 2012′s E3 videogame convention, it racked up 14.4 million unique views on one day alone and 455 million total video views for the week. For nine of the 12 months in 2012, ComScore’s Video Metrix service ranked it the number one independent channel on YouTube.
Not bad for a never-ending highlight reel.
Machinima traffics in videos of people playing videogames, often with voice-overs by the players. In the past three years, these have become one of the dominant forms of entertainment for males between the ages of 18 and 34. And Machinima has the market cornered. “They’ve done a great job of taking the value of the Internet, targeting a specific group with a specific kind of content, and monetizing it,” says Dan Rayburn, an analyst at business consultancy Frost & Sullivan. “Those guys have been killing it.”
And they did it all without much of a homepage. The site, Machinima.com, is almost the exact opposite of a network platform; it’s essentially just a placeholder linking to several discrete YouTube channels, each devoted to a different kind of video. There’s Respawn, about first-person shooter games; Realm, about fantasy and role-playing games; Sports; VS, which covers the world of competitive gaming; and a channel devoted largely to videogame trailers. Outside of gaming there’s Prime, which hosts original entertainment, like a web series about ultraviolent arm-wrestling and a foul-mouthed prank show made in conjunction with Ashton Kutcher’s production company, Katalyst Network. Machinima also has a full Adult Swim-like animation block in which it streams gamer-themed series with titles such as Battlefield Friends, Sanity Not Included, and Gamer Poop. “Team Respawn,” a group of hosts on the Respawn channel, recently announced a new spinoff, which will showcase at least five livestreams featuring players from around the world and airing seven days a week.
Machinima gets almost all of this content from video-making enthusiasts around the world. It has enrolled more than 6,000 people, each of whom operates an independent channel. Here’s how it works: People post videos on YouTube. They market themselves and build an audience. If they reach a certain viewership threshold or their content achieves some undefined level of professionalism, Machinima asks them to become a network affiliate. Beyond that, 130 people have ascended to hallowed “director” status. Rob Jones, Machinima’s vice president of gaming programming, likens it to a farm system in sports—and indeed, aspiring auteurs speak about getting called up to Machinima as though it’s the big leagues.
Once Machinima signs someone as a director, it gets to claim those YouTube views as part of its aggregate viewership numbers. In return, directors can take advantage of the company’s substantial marketing apparatus and growing independent ad sales force. Machinima skims a percentage; it won’t say how much. “We always want to make sure we are offering a solid deal, because it’s such a competitive market,” says Ryan Wyatt, Machinima’s 26-year-old head of live programming and eSports.
A director’s content sometimes gets promoted to the regular lineup on one of the Machinima channels—usually Respawn or Realm, which have the highest traffic thanks to the visibility of first-person shooters and role-playing games. “It’s part of a larger cultural shift in gaming,” Jones says. “This generation doesn’t watch television in the same way. They want to create. We’re giving them something that television isn’t.”
Respawn occupies a large bull pen in the Machinima offices. A huge whiteboard on the wall lists the week’s programming. Every day there’s at least one show made in-house and several, indicated in blue marker, that come from the directors’ program. In late July those included such selections as “Top 10 Kills” and “MW3 Top 3 Fails” (a reference to the wildly popular Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3). A show called Passive Aggression, in which a group of gamers attempt to win first-person shooters without killing anybody, has been popular for the past few months. Sometimes shows last only 10 to 12 episodes before fizzling out. Sometimes they last for years.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8047 on: Feb 17th, 2013, 10:08am »
February 15, 2013 – 06:24 PM
From the outside, the Greek financial crisis is easily reduced to an exhausting series of bailouts, austerity deadlines and protests. But to the people who live with the fallout each day, it's an existential threat, and one that raises fundamental questions about their identity as Greeks.
These questions and the crisis itself play a leading role in three Greek films that premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival this week, all of which explore its cultural, psychological and interpersonal effects. Though they each take a different approach to the subject, from the bleak docufiction "To the Wolf," to the surreal "The Eternal Return of Antonis Paraskevas," to the thriller "The Daughter," one thing is made abundantly clear -- things are grim in Greece.
The darkest of the three is doubtlessly "To the Wolf," ("Sto Lyko"), which follows two real-life shepherd families in a down-and-out village in the mountains of the western Nafpaktia region.
"Greece is finished. It's dead. Everyone is suffering. They are fighting for a lost cause," mutters the wizened old shepherd Adam Paxnis as the film begins. And things don't get much better from there, in what directors Christina Koutsospyrou and Aran Hughes describe as an "unsettling allegory of modern-day Greece."
Against the contrasting backdrops of a stormy and inhospitable countryside and their oppressively dingy homes, the two work-worn families, already accustomed to a meager existence, are stretched to their limits, suffering decreased demand for their livestock and cuts to benefits. Scenes document conversations about their debts and whether they should spend their last bits of money on cigarettes or beer. There's another painful moment when it becomes clear there's not even enough money to buy flour.
From the time they began filming in 2010 to when they finished in 2012, the effects of the crisis on the two families had become "quite extreme," says co-director Koutsospyrou. "Most of them lost weight."
The struggle to meet their basic need isn't just physical, though. "There is a psychology behind this crisis and we were trying to present the emotions behind it, the downward spiral," says Koutsospyrou, who adds that there is a general mood of depression in the country.
Nostalgia for 'Past Glory'
This "social crisis" is also part of what director Elina Psykou says inspired her to write "The Eternal Return of Antonis Paraskevas" ("I aionia epistrofi tou Antoni Paraskeua"), a drama that follows aging national television hero Antonis Paraskevas as he stages his own kidnapping to escape his debts and increase ratings for his morning show.
Holed up in a luxury hotel that been closed, he tries his hand at making molecular spaghetti, watches TV updates on his case and frequently plays the DVD of his "greatest hits" from past broadcasts -- including New Year's Eve of 2001, when Greece introduced the euro. He also starts losing his mind.
"My focus was on an existential crisis and a lack of identity," Psykou says. "I think it is very common these days, for example with the people who had a lot of money and then lost their jobs, had their salaries cut, or lost their homes. The character loses his high ratings, and this creates a lack of identity. My country lost its identity too."
Paraskevas's obsession with his celebrity persona reflects a Greek fixation on "past glory" and hero worship, she says. "You see it everywhere, not just in my character but in everyday life," she says.
As a TV presenter, her protagonist is representative of the media apparatus that Psykou says helped establish and perpetuate the crisis through "cultural education."
Psykou's film, though it takes a disturbing turn in the second half, does have a bit of comic relief, at least. But even that leaves a bitter residue. "It's a black humor," she says. "I am highlighting the vanity of these efforts to overcome."
Such efforts can become desperate, as director Thanos Anastopoulos shows in his thriller "The Daughter" ("I Kóri"), in which a 14-year-old girl kidnaps the 8-year-old son of her father's business partner, who she blames for bankrupting her father's lumberyard and forcing him to flee his debts.
The film includes images of the crisis, such as protests in the streets of Athens, that lend to the real-life tension that many Greeks are feeling, but Anastopoulos wanted to explore the effect this has on young people. "Since I am a young father, my view has shifted to how this violence and tension is affecting children and the relationship between the generations," he says. "This next generation is marked by the experience of violence. The situation is tough, and during tough times people tend to make extreme choices."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8048 on: Feb 17th, 2013, 10:16am »
Welcome to earth: Photo of UFO hovering above Bucharest parliament mirrors famous White House scene from Independence Day
Photographer describes getting a strange feeling as he took the picture
PUBLISHED: 09:42 EST, 16 February 2013 UPDATED: 11:43 EST, 16 February 2013
In a shot eerily similar to a scene from the blockbuster film Independence Day, an unidentified flying object hovers over the Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest.
The man who took the photograph of the flying saucer in Romania's capital has spoken of his shock at his brief encounter.
Cosmin Garlesteanu described getting a strange feeling while taking a picture of the imposing government building, and was stunned when he looked back at his snap to see a strange green and blue light beaming down on it.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8049 on: Feb 18th, 2013, 09:20am »
Richard Briers meant something to everyone
Richard Briers had effortless charm and love-ability, says Michael Hogan.
By Michael Hogan 2:37PM GMT 18 Feb 2013
When news broke today of Richard Briers’s sad death aged 79, most thoughts turned straight to his iconic role as Tom Good in classic 1970s BBC comedy The Good Life: delivering a litter of piglets in his Surbiton back garden, shouting “crack!” as he pulls his home-made Christimas crackers or flirting with horrified next-door- neighbour Margo.
The Good Life was a near-perfect sitcom. The “sit” – a commuter belt couple going self-sufficient, to the horror of their well-heeled neighbours – was timely and credible. The “com” was character-driven, unforced but hilarious. The central quartet – Briers, Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington – were all at the top of their game. It didn’t outstay its welcome either, running for four series and two specials – a total of just 30 episodes.
As Good, Briers became the nation’s surrogate father, a standard bearer for the male midlife crisis (Good quit the rat race on his 40th birthday) and single-handedly made chunky knitwear cool again. The Good Life regularly appears in the top 10 of polls to find Britain's best loved sitcoms. The last episode was a Royal Command Performance filmed in front of the Queen in 1978. It has barely been off the air since.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8050 on: Feb 18th, 2013, 09:26am »
Bigfoot sighting video racks up millions of views
A Utah man and his family have come forward with the latest Bigfoot sighting video during a camping trip to Provo Canyon, near the Little Rock Canyon area.
The group thought they were recording a black bear hiding in the bushes. After a few moments, the creature stood up revealing its massive size and long arms. They say the creature looked right at them, causing them to run straight to the car, leaving their tent and most everything thing else behind.
Beard Card, the YouTube handle of the man who posted the video is racking up millions of views on the web. We've embedded the video below, check it out for yourself.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8051 on: Feb 18th, 2013, 09:32am »
Mali Mission Spurs French Interest in Armed UAV
Feb. 17, 2013 - 12:38PM By PIERRE TRAN
PARIS — France is deepening its interest in acquiring the Reaper UAV from the U.S., a move that would stir political sensitivities over purchasing a weapons-firing UAV, while Paris readies to cut its defense budget, government and industry sources said.
Meanwhile, EADS has submitted an offer to extend the contract for its Harfang medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV, the sources said.
The vast distances and intelligence needs in Mali have underlined the French military’s need for a UAV capable of relatively high speed and a long time in the combat zone, defense sources said.
Harfang could serve as a gap-filler, an industry executive said, since delivery of the first Reaper would likely take at least two years.
French procurement officials are preparing a letter of request for the General Atomics Reaper, two defense sources said. That letter is due to be sent “soon,” an industry executive said. A French defense official confirmed a letter is under preparation, although no date has been set for dispatch.
“This will launch the official procedure for access to financial information, timetable and options” for the Reaper, the official said. Talks with the U.S. Air Force helped French officials draw up the letter of request, the official said.
A U.S. State Department official said that while no deal was imminent, there have been discussions about the Reaper and that the French have “made their interest known.”
Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian wants to see all the options before deciding, a second official said.
“We’re getting everything ready for when the minister hits the ‘go’ button,” a senior official said.
Le Drian asked for a study of options for an intermediate MALE UAV last year, reversing the previous administration’s pick of the Heron TP UAV from Dassault Aviation and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). He said at the time that the Heron did not meet requirements.
Acquiring the Reaper is politically sensitive because the version France wants is capable of carrying weapons.
Britain is the only European country that operates an armed Reaper model; Italy flies a surveillance version of the UAV.
French officials hope the fight in Mali against Islamist Salafist and Tuareg rebels will show U.S. legislators that Paris can be trusted as a military ally.
The other sensitivity of choosing Reaper: France would be buying U.S. equipment as Paris readies to cut the defense budget.
EADS has teamed with General Atomics to offer a modified Reaper to the French government.
Buying the Reaper raises two key economic questions: how much will it cost, and how many French jobs would be created modifying the aircraft to deliver a national sovereignty over the system.
U.S. legislators must approve the export of Reapers, which raises political questions.
“Congress is on the critical path,” the French official said.
On the domestic economic front, some 70 French jobs could be created in integrating French gear onto the UAV, including a satellite datalink, sensor payload, command and control and certifying the aircraft for French civil airspace, the industry executive said.
French gear would account for around 40 percent of the acquisition price of around 320 million euros ($429 million), the executive said.
That estimate sounded “optimistic,” the first defense official said.
The modifications would be shared by EADS Cassidian, Thales, Sagem and Zodiac, the executive said.
Cassidian could later integrate the Reaper into the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance program, based on the Global Hawk UAV, due to enter service in 2017. A later version of the Reaper could include a maritime radar and electronic warfare gear.
EADS, meanwhile, officially presented Feb. 12 its offer to extend the support contract for the Harfang UAV to October 2017, the executive said Feb. 13.
The offer, made with IAI, includes maintenance and treatment of obsolescence with an upgrade of electro-optical and radar sensors. The service contract expires in October.
No financial details were available. The final price would depend on the modules selected.
France acquired the Harfang, based on the IAI Heron, at a similar price to that paid by the Israeli government, a second industry executive said. The Harfang entered service in 2008 after a long delay due to EADS’ problems in fitting a French satellite communications link.
An extension of the Harfang is needed in any case. If France bought the Reaper, delivery is likely to take at least two years, the first official said.
The French Air Force has four Harfang units, two of which are flying over Mali supporting ground troops. One unit is held for spares, the fourth is kept for training.
General Atomics is showing a full-scale mock-up of its Predator XP export version at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference trade show opening Feb. 17 in Abu Dhabi. The company hopes to sell the UAV to the United Arab Emirates and is in talks with the Tawazun state holding company and other local firms to create a joint venture to provide service support for the Predator in the UAE, the company said.
Zachary Fryer-Biggs in Washington contributed to this report.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8052 on: Feb 18th, 2013, 09:41am »
Origins of alcohol consumption traced to ape ancestor
Eating fermented fruit off the ground may have paved way for ability to digest ethanol
By Erin Wayman
February 18, 2013
BOSTON — The taste for alcohol may be an ancient craving. The ability to metabolize ethanol — the alcohol in beer, wine and spirits — might have originated in the common ancestor of chimpanzees, gorillas and humans roughly 10 million years ago, perhaps when this ancestor became more terrestrial and started eating fruits fermenting on the ground.
Chemist Steven Benner of the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution in Gainesville, Fla., reached that conclusion by “resurrecting” the alcohol-metabolizing enzymes of extinct primates. Benner and his colleagues estimated the enzymes’ genetic code, built the enzymes in the lab and then analyzed how they work to understand how they changed over time.
“It’s like a courtroom re-enactment,” said biochemist Romas Kazlauskas of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Benner “can re-enact what happened in evolution.”
Benner proposed the idea February 15 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Today, humans rely on an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase 4, or ADH4, to break down ethanol. The enzyme is common throughout the esophagus, stomach and intestines, and is the first alcohol-metabolizing enzyme that comes into contact with what a person drinks. Among primates, not all ADH4s are the same — some can’t effectively metabolize ethanol.
To see how ADH4 evolved, Benner’s team read the stretches of DNA that make ADH4 in 27 modern primate species, including lemurs, monkeys, apes and humans. Then they mapped the genetic code on a primate family tree and inferred what the DNA sequences might have looked like at different points on the tree where branches separate. The branching points represent extinct primate ancestors.
Most primate ancestors wouldn’t have been able to metabolize ethanol, the results showed. But at the branching point leading to gorillas, chimps and humans — which represents an ancestor that lived roughly 10 million years ago — the enzyme becomes a powerful alcohol digester. Compared with earlier enzymes, this one was 50 times as efficient, Benner reported, and was nearly capable of breaking down the level of ethanol found in modern alcoholic beverages.
Because gorillas, chimps and humans all spend at least some time on the ground, Benner thinks a terrestrial lifestyle arose in these primates’ common ancestor around 10 million years ago. Being on the ground, the ancestor would have come across fruit that had fallen from trees. With a damaged husk or skin, yeast could have invaded the fruit and fermented its sugars into ethanol. Thus, individuals who could digest ethanol would have survived better than those who couldn’t. This would also explain why the ability to metabolize ethanol didn’t evolve in tree-dwelling primates like orangutans that rarely encounter fermented fruit.
But it may be too soon to link metabolizing ethanol with living on the ground, said Jeremy DeSilva, a biological anthropologist at Boston University. “There’s very little fossil evidence from the general time period when humans, gorillas and chimpanzees last shared a common ancestor.” Scientists still debate whether this ancestor was strictly arboreal or split its time between the ground and the trees. “This is cool work,” he said. “We’ll be able to evaluate it with better evidence as we find more fossils from that time period.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8053 on: Feb 19th, 2013, 09:18am »
Report ties 100-plus cyberattacks on U.S. computers to Chinese military
By William Wan and Ellen Nakashima Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 6:42 AM
BEIJING — A U.S. security firm has linked more than a hundred cyberattacks on U.S. corporations to China’s military, according to a report released Tuesday.
The 60-page study by investigators at the Alexandria-based Mandiant security firm presents one of the most comprehensive and detailed analysis to date tracing corporate cyber-espionage to the doorstep of Chinese military facilities. And it calls into question China’s repeated denials that its military is engaged in such activities.
The document, first reported by the New York Times, draws on data Mandiant collected from 147 attacks over seven years. Mandiant traced the attacks back to a single group it designated “APT1,” and now has identified the group as a military unit within the 2nd bureau of China’s People’s Liberation Army General Staff Department’s 3rd Department, going by the designation “Unit 61398.”
Analysts have long linked the unit to the Chinese military’s 3rd Department, and to extensive cyber-espionage. But what Mandiant has done is connect the dots and add new ones by locating the Internet protocol addresses used in commercial cyberattacks, placing them on a map and linking that information to open-source data about people associated with the unit.
“We have figured things out in an unclassified way that the government has known through classified means,” said Richard Bejtlich, Mandiant Chief Security Officer, adding that the company shared the study with U.S. intelligence agencies before it was released.
The unit is just one of dozens working for the Chinese military in cyber-espionage all over the country, analysts say. There are other units within the army’s General Staff Department’s 2nd Department, which conducts military intelligence, and within the Ministry of State Security, which conducts internal counterintelligence and external espionage, according to analysts.
The Chinese military has repeatedly denounced accusations that it is engaging in cyber-espionage, and did so again Tuesday. “Similar to other countries, China faces serious threats from cyberattack and is one of the main victims of cyberattacks in the world,” the Ministry of Defense said. “The Chinese army never supported any hacking activities. The accusation that the Chinese military engaged in cyberattacks is neither professional nor in accordance with facts. “
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei on Tuesday also challenged the report’s findings. “Hacking attacks are transnational and anonymous,” Hong said. Determining their origins are extremely difficult,” he said. “We don’t know how the evidence in this so-called report can be tenable.”
Mandiant investigators said they based their conclusion in part by tracing an overwhelming number of cyberattacks by the APT1 group to networks serving a small area on the edges of Shanghai — the same area where Unit 61398 is believed to be operating in a 12-story building. It also found evidence that China Telecom had provided special high-speed fiber optic lines for those headquarters in the name of national defense.
The only alternative explanation to military involvement, Mandiant argues in the report, is that “a secret, resourced organization full of mainland Chinese speakers with direct access to Shanghai-based telecommunications infrastructure is engaged in a multi-year, enterprise scale computer espionage campaign right outside of Unit 61398’s gates.”
The Mandiant report coincides with the completion of a classified National Intelligence Estimate by the U.S. intelligence community that concluded that China was the most aggressive perpetrator of a massive, campaign of cyber-espionage against commercial targets in the United States.
It also comes days after President Obama issued an executive order aimed at better securing the computer networks run by critical U.S. industries, such as transportation and energy.
“We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets,” Obama said in his State of the Union address. “We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.”
On Tuesday, White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the administration was aware of the Mandiant report and reiterated that the United States “has substantial and growing concerns about the threats to U.S. economic and national security posed by cyber intrusions, including the theft of commercial information.”
Before she left office this month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the United States has elevated the cyber-espionage issue to the strategic dialogue level with China. “We have to begin making it clear to the Chinese that the United States is going to have to take action to protect not only our government, but our private sector, from this kind of illegal intrusions,” Clinton said.
Other security experts have also traced cyberattacks to China in the past. In one instance, documented by Bloomberg News reporters last week, a malware expert at Dell SecureWorks and other security experts traced cyberattacks to a man named Zhang Changhe teaching at the Chinese military academy, PLA Information Engineering University.
Along with Tuesday’s report, Mandiant included lengthy descriptions of the group’s past methods and more than 3,000 indicators to help others bolster their defenses against the unit’s tactics.
The company explained its rationale, saying its leaders decided that the benefits of exposing the military unit’s activity and pinning responsibility squarely on China now outweighed the usefulness of keeping silent.
“It is time to acknowledge the threat is originating in China, and we wanted to do our part to arm and prepare security professionals to combat that threat effectively,” the report said. “Without establishing a solid connection to China, there will always be room for observers to dismiss APT actions as uncoordinated, solely criminal in nature, or peripheral to larger national security and global economic concerns.”
Company officials, however, acknowledged that the report would likely lead to negative consequences, such as prompting Unit 61398 and other military operations to change their methods, making them harder to detect and stop. They also concluded the report saying Mandiant as a company was ready to face “reprisals from China as well as an onslaught of criticism.”
Details included in the new report suggest a massive operation behind the cyberattack carried out by the unit singled out by Mandiant. According to Mandiant, the unit is one of the most prolific and likely includes hundreds or even thousands of employees.
The group’s attack infrastructure uses more than 1,000 servers. In the past two years alone, the report noted, hackers logged into the same attack infrastructures 1,905 times from from 832 different internet protocol (IP) addresses. And in 97 percent of the cases, according to the report, the hacking group used IP addresses registered in Shanghai and computer systems set to Simplified Chinese language — a written form of Chinese that is unique to mainland China and not used in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
An operation of such a size, the report argues, would require a sizeable dedicated IT staff as well as linguists, open source researchers, malware authors and other support staff.
The scale of the unit’s intrusions is also surprising. While Mandiant was careful not to name any targeted corporations, the report counts 147 targeted companies, spanning 20 major industries, including several sectors publicly identified by China’s government as emerging ones central to China’s strategic interests.
On average the attackers stayed in companies’ systems almost a year, but in one case investigated by Mandiant, a company was infiltrated for almost five years. In many cases terabyte-size portions of intellectual property were siphoned off.
In an effort to illuminate the hackers behind such attacks, the report also included personal details of three operators believed to be part of the unit, tracking them using accounts associated with attacks.
In a video addendum published online with the report, the security firm showed one of the hackers using details such as a Shanghai cellphone to create a Google mail account that is later used in cyberattacks to target the e-mail accounts of Southeast Asia military organizations in Malaysia and the Philippines.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8054 on: Feb 19th, 2013, 09:21am »
Could a Computer On the Police Beat Prevent Violence?
Feb. 18, 2013
— As cities across America work to reduce violence in tight budget times, new research shows how they might be able to target their efforts and police attention -- with the help of high-powered computers and loads of data.
In a newly published paper, University of Michigan Medical School researchers and their colleagues have used real police data from Boston to demonstrate the promise of computer models in zeroing in on violent areas.
They combined and analyzed information in small geographic units, on police reports, drug offenses, and alcohol availability at stores, bars and restaurants, as well as the education levels, employment and other attributes of the people who live there.
The result: a detailed map of violent crime "hot spots," and a better understanding of factors that create the right climate for violence. Both could help a city's leaders and police focus resources on the areas where they can do the most good.
The findings, made using funding from the National Institutes of Health, are published online in the American Journal of Public Health.
With the growing availability of data from local, state and federal sources, the team says the approach could be applied to any city or metropolitan area. It can show which micro-environments -- down to blocks and intersections -- need most attention.
In fact, they are currently preparing the same analysis for the city of Flint, Mich., which unlike Boston has some of the nation's highest violent crime rates. Victims of that violence often end up in a hospital emergency room staffed by U-M doctors.
"This approach allows us to find predictors of violence that aren't just related to an individual's predisposition -- but rather, allow us to study people in places and a social environment," says Robert Lipton, Ph.D., lead author and an associate professor of emergency medicine at the U-M Medical School.
Lipton, who describes himself as a geographical epidemiologist, and several of his co-authors are members of the U-M Injury Center, which has federal funding to study and test ways to reduce injuries of all kinds.
Researchers have studied the relationship between alcohol availability and violence for years. But the new paper adds several new facets: arrests for drug possession and dealing, and citizen calls to 911 about drug use, as well as the broader geographic factors surrounding each type of establishment where alcohol is sold.
Details from state liquor board licenses, police records and the U.S. Census Bureau all factored into the analysis. Over time, other types of data could be added -- so that researchers and police can see the impact of any factor that might contribute to violent behavior.
The goal: to help policy makers and police identify areas that have higher rates of risk factors that may combine to produce violence.
The density of liquor stores or alcohol-serving bars and restaurants alone isn't enough to explain violence patterns -- the new paper shows that it's much more complex than that.
"Why are two areas of a city, which seem to be the same across typical demographic factors, different in their level of violence? We need to become more nuanced in understanding these relationships," says Lipton, who is also a member of the Prevention Research Center at the U-M School of Public Health.
The new research, begun when Lipton was at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston, involved Anthony Braga, a Harvard University criminologist who is chief policy advisor to the Boston police commissioner, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Xiaowen Yang. Co-authors also include U-M statistician Jason Goldstick, Ph.D., U-M emergency medicine doctor Manya Newton, M.D., MPH, and Injury Center research analyst Melissa Rura, Ph.D.
The analysis of Boston data may help local authorities -- while also helping the U-M researchers test their models and theories. Even with Boston's relatively low violent crime rate, the researchers found they could show how place-based factors influence crime rates.
The study examined 2006 data on homicides and aggravated assault incidents, drug arrests and 911 citizen emergency calls from the Boston Police Department along with 2000 U.S. census data and 2009 alcohol outlet data from the Massachusetts Alcohol Beverage Control Commission.
Results from the study indicate that types and densities of alcohol outlets were directly related to violent crimes despite the fact that alcohol outlets are typically viewed as locations in which other population or environmental factors, such as poverty or prostitution, relate to the violence.
The study also shows that drug possession, rather than drug distribution, has a positive relationship with violent crimes. Features of adjacent areas, and activities occurring there, were also found to be significantly related to violent crime in any given "target" area.