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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 149837 times)
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« Reply #8115 on: Mar 3rd, 2013, 09:13am »

Telegraph

Crocodile spotted in River Thames turns out to be James Bond prop

A reported sighting of a crocodile in the River Thames last week sent the public into a tailspin

10:50AM GMT 02 Mar 2013

However, one local man has helped put the rumours to rest. He claims the alligator is a prop used in the James Bond film Live and Let Die.

Reports last week told how 64-year-old retired university lecturer Richard Smith had seen the monster in the river near his home in Reading, Berkshire while out cycling.

But on Saturday another local man, Michael Law, said it was a dummy man-eater from the scene from the film where 007 Roger Moore has to jump across the backs of alligators.

Mr Law said the prop was kept on an island on the Thames in Reading by boat expert Peter Wallace, former head of Caversham Boat Service, who worked on several James Bond and Indiana Jones films.

He said the fake alligator must have been washed from the island during floods and had been spotted by Mr Smith as it bobbed about on the river.

A spokesman for Caversham Boat Services confirmed there used to be a prop there, but could not say whether there still was.

Tim Deaton, managing director of Thames Rivercruise on Pipers Island, Reading, said "I can assure you an alligator or a crocodile couldn't live in the Thames - there's absolutely no way, it's too cold."

Last week Mr Smith described how he'd seen the monster and had also spoken to another witness who'd sighted it too.

He said he was trawling the internet and checking reference books to gauge how old the Thames croc might be and how big it could grow.

He said he first saw the crocodile last summer, at the beginning of June on a hot day, in the Thames about 200 yards upriver from Reading Rowing Club.

"Recently I was telling people about it in a local fishing tackle shop and the man in the shop said he was on the bank of the Thames near Tilehurst station not far from Caversham and he saw a fully-grown swan pulled down into the water and it totally disappeared" he said.

"When I had my sighting of it last summer, I was cycling on my own and I saw what I thought was a bough of a tree with four stubby branches on it close in to the river bank.

"As I got closer I saw it was a crocodile. It was about 4ft long. It had a 2ft tail and 2ft body.

"I got off my bike and ran back to where it was, but it had gone. I ran along the river for about 50 yards, but it wasn't there any more."

The dramatic sighting led him to recall another incident when he'd been walking near a boat chandler's yard at Scours Lane in Reading a year earlier, and he'd seen a group of Canada geese on the far side of the river.

He said "One goose was pulled under the water, he tipped over on one side, his right wing flapping then disappeared under the water, not to be seen any more."

At the time, Mr Smith imagined the predator had been a large pike - known as the freshwater shark - but having seen the crocodile last summer, he now thinks it may have attacked and eaten the goose.

"I don't think the crocodile that I saw would be big enough to be very dangerous to people, but I can imagine in time there might be reports of dogs swimming in the river being caught by it.

"It could survive in our winters because there are lots of deep holes under the banks along the Thames where it could hibernate."

Crocodiles are ambush hunters, waiting for fish or land animals to come close, then rushing out to attack.

As cold-blooded predators, they have a very slow metabolism, so they can survive long periods without food.

Crocodile expert Shaun Foggett, director of Crocodiles of the World in Witney, Oxon, doubted that they could live through an icy English winter.

"We get asked about a lot of these sightings and I think it is people letting their imaginations run away with them" he said.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/9904241/Crocodile-spotted-in-River-Thames-turns-out-to-be-James-Bond-prop.html

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« Reply #8116 on: Mar 3rd, 2013, 09:15am »

Science Daily

3-D Printing Using Old Milk Jugs

Mar. 1, 2013 — Suppose you could replace "Made in China" with "Made in my garage." Suppose also that every time you polished off a jug of two percent, you would be stocking up on raw material to make anything from a cell phone case and golf tees to a toy castle and a garlic press.

And, you could give yourself a gold medal for being a bona fide, recycling, polar-bear-saving rock star.

Michigan Technological University's Joshua Pearce is working on it. His main tool is open-source 3D printing, which he uses to save thousands of dollars by making everything from his lab equipment to his safety razor.

Using free software downloaded from sites like Thingiverse, which now holds over 54,000 open-source designs, 3D printers make all manner of objects by laying down thin layers of plastic in a specific pattern. While high-end printers can cost many thousands of dollars, simpler open-source units run between $250 and $500 -- and can be used to make parts for other 3D printers, driving the cost down ever further.

"One impediment to even more widespread use has been the cost of filament," says Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and engineering and electrical and computer engineering. Though vastly less expensive than most manufactured products, the plastic filament that 3D printers transform into useful objects isn't free.

Milk jugs, on the other hand, are a costly nuisance, either to recycle or to bury in a landfill. But if you could turn them into plastic filament, Pearce reasoned, you could solve the disposal problem and drive down the cost of 3D printing even more.

So Pearce and his research group decided to make their own recycling unit, or RecycleBot. They cut the labels off milk jugs, washed the plastic, and shredded it. Then they ran it through a homemade device that melts and extrudes it into a long, spaghetti-like string of plastic. Their process is open-source and free for everyone to make and use at Thingiverse.com.

The process isn't perfect. Milk jugs are made of high-density polyethylene, or HDPE, which is not ideal for 3D printing. "HDPE is a little more challenging to print with," Pearce says. But the disadvantages are not overwhelming. His group made its own climate-controlled chamber using a dorm-room refrigerator and an off-the-shelf teddy-bear humidifier and had good results. With more experimentation, the results would be even better, he says. "3D printing is where computers were in the 1970s."

The group determined that making their own filament in an insulated RecycleBot used about 1/10th the energy needed to acquire commercial 3D filament. They also calculated that they used less energy than it would take to recycle milk jugs conventionally.

RecycleBots and 3D printers have all kinds of applications, but they would be especially useful in areas where shopping malls are few and far between, Pearce believes. "Three billion people live in rural areas that have lots of plastic junk," he says. "They could use it to make useful consumer goods for themselves. Or imagine people living by a landfill in Brazil, recycling plastic and making useful products or even just 'fair trade filament' to sell. Twenty milk jugs gets you about 1 kilogram of plastic filament, which currently costs $30 to $50 online."

Pearce's research is described in depth in two articles: "Distributed Recycling of Waste Polymer into RepRap Feedstock,"coauthored with Christian Baechler and Matthew DeVuono of Queen's University and published in the March issue of Rapid Prototyping ; and "Distributed Recycling of Post-Consumer Plastic Waste in Rural Areas," coauthored by Michigan Tech's Jerry Anzalone (CEE) and students Megan Kreiger (MSE), Meredith Mulder (MSE) and Alexandra Glover (MSE), which will appear in the Proceedings of the Materials Research Society.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130301153645.htm

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« Reply #8117 on: Mar 3rd, 2013, 09:19am »

Hollywood Reporter

Box Office Report: 'Jack the Giant Slayer' Wipes Out on Friday, May Not Hit $25 Million

8:51 AM PST 3/2/2013
by Pamela McClintock

Hollywood is bracing for another down weekend as new entries "21 and Over" and "Last Exorcism Part II" also turn in soft performances, while independent thriller "Phantom" is looking at one of the worst openings of all time.

New Line and Legendary Pictures are bracing for a tough weekend after a poor showing by 3D tentpole Jack the Giant Slayer at the Friday box office.

From Bryan Singer, Jack earned a disappointing $7.7 million to top the chart, but it was something of a hollow victory.

That puts the year's first tentpole on course for a weekend opening in the $24 million to $25 million range, not enough considering the movie cost nearly $300 million to make and market, including a $195 production budget. Last year, Battleship -- costing in the neighborhood of Jack -- debuted to $8.8 million on Friday for a $25.5 million weekend.

New Line and parent company Warner Bros. are hoping that Jack, loosely based on the classic British story Jack the Beanstalk, picks up the pace on Saturday as families become available. Although it is rated PG-13, Warners believes the 3D event pic is well suited for adults and teens alike.

Jack, starring Nicholas Hoult in the title role, earned a B+ CinemaScore.

New Line and Warner Bros. already are counting on strong international business to make up for any deficit in North America. Their hopes are being fulfilled so far in seven Asian markets where Jack opened on Thursday, grossing a total of $2.5 million, ahead of Wrath of the Titans ($2.1 million) and Journey 2: Mysterious Island ($1.3 million), both of which were successes.

Moviegoing was soft overall in North America on Friday, with new entries 21 & Over and The Last Exorcism Part II placing No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, with a modest $3.4 million and $3.3 million. Each is expected to post gross in the $8 million range for the weekend.

New independent thriller Phantom, from RCR, is only expected to open to a dismal $500,000, one of the worst openings of all time. It opened at 1,118 locations.

Universal's Identity Thief could beat both films and rise to No. 2 for the weekend. On Friday, the Melissa McCarthy-Jason Bateman comedy became the first movie of the year to cross $100 million.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/box-office-report-jack-giant-425715

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« Reply #8118 on: Mar 4th, 2013, 09:07am »

Reuters

U.N. nuclear chief presses Iran on military base access

By Fredrik Dahl

VIENNA
Mon Mar 4, 2013 8:33am EST

(Reuters) - The U.N. nuclear watchdog raised pressure on Iran to finally address suspicions that it has sought to design an atomic bomb, calling for swift inspector access to a military base where relevant explosives tests are believed to have been carried out.

Airing frustration at the lack of progress in his agency's investigation, Yukiya Amano told its 35-nation governing board on Monday that negotiations with Iran must "proceed with a sense of urgency" and be focused on achieving concrete results soon.

Because Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation with inspectors, the International Atomic Energy Agency "cannot conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities", said Amano, the IAEA's director-general.

His message that Iran must act now was echoed by the United States and its top Gulf ally Saudi Arabia. They declared on Monday that separate but related talks between Tehran and world powers on a wider diplomatic solution to the nuclear dispute could not go on indefinitely.

Israel, Iran's arch-enemy and convinced Tehran is secretly trying to develop a nuclear weapon, has grown impatient with the protracted talks and has threatened pre-emptive war against Tehran if it deems diplomacy ultimately futile.

"There is a finite amount of time," Secretary of State John Kerry, in Riyadh, said of the talks between a group of six world powers and Tehran, Saudi Arabia's main regional adversary.

Iran was upbeat last week after talks with the powers in Kazakhstan about its nuclear work ended with an agreement to meet again. But Western officials said it had yet to take concrete steps to ease their fears about its atomic ambitions.

The United States, China, France, Russia, Britain and Germany offered modest relief from economic sanctions in return for Iran scaling back its most sensitive nuclear activity, but made clear that they expected no immediate breakthrough.

The IAEA has been trying separately for more than a year to persuade Iran to cooperate with a long-stalled agency investigation into suspected nuclear weapons research by Tehran, which denies any such activity.

The U.N. agency's priority is to be able to inspect Parchin, a sprawling military site southeast of the capital Tehran, where it believes Iran built an explosives chamber to carry out tests, possibly a decade ago. Iran denies this.

PARCHIN ACCESS WOULD BE "POSITIVE STEP"

Iran says it first needs to agree with the IAEA on how the inquiry is to be conducted before allowing any Parchin visit. But Amano underlined that access should be granted in any case, even before a deal on investigation ground rules was reached.

He told the IAEA governors that he was "once again unable to report any progress on the clarification of outstanding issues, including those relating to the possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program".

Some diplomats and analysts say Iran is using the meetings with the IAEA merely for leverage in its negotiations with world powers which, unlike the IAEA, have the power to ease sanctions that they have recently tightened on the major oil producer.

"Providing access to the Parchin site would be a positive step which would help to demonstrate Iran's willingness to engage with the agency on the substance of our concerns," Amano said, according to a copy if his speech.

Western officials accuse Iran of cleansing the Parchin site of any incriminating evidence of illicit nuclear-related activity, a charge the Islamic Republic has dismissed.

Citing satellite imagery, they say Iran now seems to be rebuilding the specific part of Parchin that inspectors want to see, after last year razing several smaller buildings there.

Amano also said Iran was continuing to construct a research reactor at Arak, which Western experts say could offer the Islamic state a second way of producing material for a nuclear bomb, if it decided to embark on such a course.

"Iran has stated that the reactor is expected to begin operating in the first quarter of 2014," Amano said.

Western worries about Iran are focused largely on uranium enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordow, as such material refined to a high level can provide the fissile core of an atomic bomb.

But experts say Arak could yield plutonium for bombs if the spent fuel is reprocessed, something Iran has said it has no intention of doing.

Iran, a leading oil producer, says its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and aimed primarily at producing electricity.

But its refusal to curb atomic activity which can have both civilian and military purposes and its lack of full openness with U.N. inspectors have drawn increasingly tough Western sanctions targeting its lifeblood oil exports.

(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Riyadh; editing by Mark Heinrich)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/04/us-iran-nuclear-iaea-idUSBRE92308720130304

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« Reply #8119 on: Mar 4th, 2013, 09:13am »

Telegraph

Yorkshire's Batman stuns officers in Bradford as he brings wanted man into police station

On film, Batman’s rippling muscles and state-of-the-art weaponry strike fear into the hearts of Gotham City’s most terrifying villains. But in Bradford, a new incarnation of the caped crusader has been fighting crime despite a slightly less impressive physique.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas
1:15PM GMT 04 Mar 2013

The mystery vigilante dragged a wanted man by the scruff of the neck into a city centre police station where he handed him over to officers and told them: “I’ve caught this one for you.”

Dressed in a grey superhero outfit that was more joke shop than Hollywood, the “bizarre” incident was captured on CCTV last week. His paunch suggested a less rigorous exercise regime than the toned film stars who have lately taken on the role.

And while in Gotham, Batman takes on the likes of the Joker and the Penguin, with megalomaniac plans for world domination, his quarry on this occasion was a tracksuit-wearing 27-year-old accused of handling stolen goods and fraud offences.

But his true identity is equally mysterious, though since the incident took place in Bradford he may be less than likely to be a reclusive billionaire such as Bruce Wayne.

The images showed the vigilante, dressed in mask and cape, waiting at the police station counter before handing over the suspect – who is now due to appear before magistrates on Friday.

A spokesman for West Yorskshire Police said: “Last week we had a very strange occurrence at the Police Station when a male wanted for an offence on our area was ‘escorted’ into our helpdesk at Trafalgar House by Batman.

“Batman came into the helpdesk, stated to the staff ‘I’ve caught this one for you’ and then promptly vanished into the night.

“The whole bizarre incident was captured on CCTV. The wanted male, a 27-year-old from the Buttershaw area was detained until the morning when he was escorted to court in Grimsby, as he was also wanted for an offence in that area also.”

The spokesman said the identity of the crimefighter “remains unknown”.

He added: “The man that Batman brought in is under arrest and after handing him in the other man left without giving his name or any details.

“Police arrested the wanted man in relation to burglary, fraud and a breach of a court order. He was charged with handling stolen goods and fraud related offences.

“The Batman outfit was a normal fancy dress costume and whoever had decided to put it on knew the suspect was wanted by police.”

It is thought that the vigilante knew the suspect, since a public appeal had not been issued to find him. A police spokeswoman said it was the first time the Braford Batman was thought to have taken action.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/9907446/Yorkshires-Batman-stuns-officers-in-Bradford-as-he-brings-wanted-man-into-police-station.html

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« Reply #8120 on: Mar 4th, 2013, 09:19am »

Seattle Times

Originally published March 3, 2013 at 8:39 PM
Page modified March 4, 2013 at 6:38 AM

Report: Australian miners fired for 'Harlem Shake'

Up to 15 miners were fired from their high-paying jobs in an Australian gold mine after a "Harlem Shake" performance underground was deemed a safety hazard, a newspaper reported on Monday.

The Associated Press

PERTH, Australia —

Up to 15 miners were fired from their high-paying jobs in an Australian gold mine after a "Harlem Shake" performance underground was deemed a safety hazard, a newspaper reported on Monday.

A YouTube video shows eight miners wearing safety gear while performing the convulsive dance in the Agnew Gold Mine last week. The West Australian newspaper quoted a sacked worker who wouldn't give his name as saying up to 15 people were fired, including some who watched the performance but did not participate.

Mine owner Barminco considered the stunt a safety issue and a breach of its "core values of safety, integrity and excellence," according to a dismissal letter cited by the paper.

The letter noted that Barminco would not allow the dancing workers "to be subcontracted by Barminco at any site domestically and globally."

It's not clear from the video what safety issues are raised. The dancing miners wear helmets, but five are shirtless. The sacked worker told the newspaper that shirts had been removed to ensure the Barminco name did not appear in the video.

Barminco, which has operations in Africa as well as its native Australia, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Australia is experiencing a mining boom, with thousands of workers attracted by high salaries to remote Outback mines. The West Australian said the miners who lost their jobs had six-figure salaries.

The unnamed worker who spoke to the newspaper said the miners were only "having a bit of fun." A Facebook page set up seeking their reinstatement carried comments supporting the workers as well as people saying safety regulations should be obeyed.

Paddy Gorman, spokesman for the Construction, Forestry, Mining, and Energy Union, said none of the miners at Agnew Gold Mine in resource-rich Western Australia state is a member of the mining union.

Up to 4,000 videos of "Harlem Shake" variations are uploaded on the Internet daily. The song "Harlem Shake," recorded by Brooklyn disc jockey and producer Baauer, is currently No.2 on the Australian singles chart.

http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2020481493_apasaustraliaharlemshake.html

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« Reply #8121 on: Mar 4th, 2013, 09:21am »

The Wrap

Steven Spielberg Working on Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon Project

Published: March 03, 2013 @ 12:36 pm

Could Napoleon be next up to get the “Lincoln" treatment from Steven Spielberg?

The director said in a weekend interview with French TV network Canal Plus that he was “developing Stanley Kubrick's screenplay -- for a miniseries not for a motion picture -- about the life of Napoleon. Kubrick wrote the script in 1961, a long time ago," according to IndieWire.

That was it for details, and there was no word Sunday from the director's camp, so it's unclear whether the project is on a front or back burner. What is known is that Spielberg has plenty going on, and that he'll be spending more time in France. He was recently selected as the jury president for this year's Cannes Film Festival, he's producing "Jurassic Park IV" for a 2014 release and he and “Band of Brothers” colleague Tom Hanks are working on another World War II miniseries for HBO.

In the 1960s, Kubrick did a great deal of work in preparation for a film on the exiled French emperor, but was unable to convince MGM or United Artists to go ahead with the project.

If Spielberg does go forward with the project, it will be the second time he's finished up a Kubrick project. He took on the sci-fi thriller “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” and turned that into a feature film in 2001 in the wake of Kubrick's death in 1999.

http://www.thewrap.com/movies/article/steven-spielberg-working-stanley-kubricks-napoleon-project-79946

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« Reply #8122 on: Mar 5th, 2013, 09:41am »







Published on Mar 5, 2013


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« Reply #8123 on: Mar 5th, 2013, 09:43am »

Defense News

Turkey To Buy 10 Locally Made Anka Drones

Mar. 4, 2013 - 06:37PM
By BURAK EGE BEKDIL

ANKARA — Turkey is preparing to sign a contract for 10 locally made UAV systems dubbed the Anka, procurement authorities said. They did not specify a contract price.

Murad Bayar, Turkey’s chief procurement official, told reporters that a final round of talks for the contract involving the 10 UAVs and their ground control stations is underway. He said the contract would be signed in the next couple of months.

This will mark Turkey’s first purchase of UAVs designed, developed and manufactured indigenously. Bayar promised the Anka would incorporate “progressive design and features.”

Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), maker of the Anka, said the UAV had successfully passed acceptance tests late in January. TAI officials said the final, decisive tests on Jan. 20-21 involved a full endurance, 18-hour flight, a successful auto landing, data link performance at a distance of 200 kilometers under winds up to 45 knots, and night takeoffs and landings. The Anka has registered 140 flight hours.

Meanwhile, procurement officials said the Turkish police force also is preparing to order the Anka, which means more funding for “fine-tuning efforts” as part of the program.

In December, Turkey’s defense procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) and Tusas Engine Industries (TEI), a private company, signed an agreement under which the company will develop and produce engines for the Anka.

The protocol was signed at the main office of the agency in Ankara. SSM Chairman Murad Bayar said at the ceremony that building the engine was even more difficult than building the aircraft. However, TEI General Manager Akn Duman said the body had enough infrastructure for the project.

Anka is a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) vehicle; such UAVs usually operate for 24 hours at an altitude of 10,000 feet.

Anka, meaning Phoenix in English, is the first MALE-type UAV to be produced by TAI. Several prototypes have been produced with other engines. One of the prototypes crashed during a test flight in September but several other flight tests have been carried out successfully.

A version called Anka+ calls for an armed vehicle, using a rocket attached to its body and sensors.

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130304/DEFREG01/303040018/Turkey-Buy-10-Locally-Made-Anka-Drones?odyssey=tab

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« Reply #8124 on: Mar 5th, 2013, 09:46am »

Wired

The Making of the Ultimate Fake UFO Video (Where Absolutely Everything Is Fake)

By Lewis Wallace
03.05.13
9:30 AM







Last month, filmmaker Aristomenis “Meni” Tsirbas revealed to Wired that an elaborate UFO prank video he had created was far more than what it seemed: Not only was the UFO fake, but so was everything else in the video, from the vivid blue sky to the car the “cameraman” was supposedly driving. In a new “making of” video titled “UFO Over Santa Clarita VFX Breakdown,” the director of the computer-generated UFO clip shows how he and his crew of students from the Gnomon School of Visual Effects crafted the amazingly photorealistic visuals where they dropped their obviously bogus alien craft.

The shrewd mix of low-fi surroundings and sci-fi spaceships in the “UFO Over Santa Clarita” video fooled many viewers, who assumed it was a simple case of a hoaxer plopping a Hollywood-style mothership into totally earthly surroundings. From the supposed camera operator’s darkened car interior to the beautiful Southern California landscape, the original video perfectly mimics the look of a typical moment captured on a smartphone.

“The video is 100 percent CGI through and through,” Tsirbas told Wired. “The electric towers [seen alongside the road] are 3-D geometry and the sky is a 3-D dome that has a texture map on it that’s a combination of painting, volumetric clouds and photogrammetry.”

Everything is made clear in the new behind-the-scenes video, which stops and starts the action and indicates how layers of beautiful digital painting, elaborate CG models and other visual effects come together to fool the eye. The original video, which you can watch below, was viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube after Wired revealed the director’s secret and showed off wireframes and CG models used in the 39-second clip.


more after the jump:
http://www.wired.com/underwire/2013/03/fake-ufo-video/

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« Reply #8125 on: Mar 5th, 2013, 09:49am »

The Hill

Gun talks hit a snag in Senate over universal background checks

By Alexander Bolton
03/05/13 05:00 AM ET

The centerpiece of President Obama’s gun violence agenda is in peril amid a deadlock among Senate negotiators over how to implement and enforce a proposal requiring background checks for private gun sales.

With time running out for talks, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) remains optimistic about reaching an agreement.

But gun control proponents have grown skeptical about whether Schumer’s main Republican counterpart, Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.), is acting in good faith.

Schumer argues — and gun control groups agree — that records must be kept to ensure background checks are conducted before private transactions. Otherwise, any expansion of background checks would be unenforceable, they assert.

But Coburn worries that such a paperwork requirement could lead to a national gun registry, which gun rights groups staunchly oppose, according to Senate sources familiar with the talks.

Obama has ratcheted up his attention on Coburn in recent days. Coburn told reporters the president called him Monday and Thursday but declined to reveal specifics of the conversations.

Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) may have to focus more on another GOP negotiator, Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.), as the key to a deal, rather than Coburn.

Kirk is still upbeat about forging a bipartisan agreement and could reach out to other GOP colleagues to build support for the emerging legislation, an aide said Monday.

“Sen. Kirk is committed to finding a workable solution that gets a bipartisan bill,” Kirk’s spokesman Lance Trover said. “The senator believes there is a workable solution for all sides.”

Kirk and centrist Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) announced Monday afternoon they had reached a deal with Democrats to give law enforcement officials greater authority to prosecute gun trafficking and straw purchasing. The legislation would stiffen penalties to up to 25 years in prison.

One important question is who would be responsible for maintaining the record of a private sale. It could be the seller, or it could be a gun shop that conducts a background check on behalf of a private seller, as is required in Colorado and Oregon at gun shows.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) plans to mark up a series of gun violence bills on Thursday after having already delayed the session one week to give Schumer and Coburn more time.

Leahy said the markup could spill into next week, giving Schumer and Coburn even more time, but the deadline is fast approaching.

If they fail to reach a deal by the end of the markup, it will be difficult to include background-check legislation in the gun violence package headed to the Senate floor.

Groups from both sides of the debate agree background checks are the lynchpin of Obama’s agenda. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) proposal to ban some military-style guns has little chance of passing.

Schumer has called background checks the “sweet spot” of gun control legislation.

“It’s the fundamental building block of any serious gun violence prevention system,” said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

Horwitz said Coburn’s opposition to requiring records for private background checks calls into question whether the GOP lawmaker really supports expanded checks.

“It’s such a non-issue to me, the whole thing seems like a big stall tactic,” he said. “Saying there shouldn’t be a record, to me, is not negotiating in good faith.”

Under current federal law, background checks are required only for firearms purchased from licensed dealers. Dealers must keep a paper record of a background check and transaction, a form 4473, but are not required to submit them to a federal database.

However, some gun dealers complain agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) have copied their records, sparking concerns the information may find its way into a national database. Federal law allows the ATF to audit gun dealers’ records once a year.

“[The ATF] is going to gun dealers and saying we want to copy all the information on 4473s. They have the potential to put that information into a national gun registry,” said Michael Hammond, legislative counsel for Gun Owners of America.

Because records are not kept of private transactions, it’s difficult to estimate how many of them happen each year. But gun policy experts estimate they could make up as much as 40 percent of sales. Compiling a national gun registry would be very difficult as long as they remain unrecorded.

Schumer has already agreed to exempt transfers of weapons to family members from background checks and has said he is open to a variety of record-keeping methods for private sales.

If Coburn does not relent on the final sticking point, he may have to drop out of the negotiations.

“They can’t wait forever. There aren’t that many options,” Horwitz said.

The National Rifle Association, one of Washington’s most powerful interest groups, opposes an expansion of background checks. It has declined to comment on Schumer’s effort until legislative language becomes public.

The other bills on the agenda for Thursday’s markup are the renewal of the federal assault weapons ban, the legislation cracking down on firearms trafficking and a bill to enhance safety at schools, backed by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).


http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/286163-gun-talks-hit-a-snag-in-senate

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« Reply #8126 on: Mar 6th, 2013, 08:47am »

I am dumbfounded and horrified that this White House thinks they can kill American citizens anytime anywhere they want.

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The Hill

Sen. Paul: ‘Frightening’ Holder won’t rule out domestic drone strikes

By Meghashyam Mali
03/06/13 07:49 AM ET

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blasted a suggestion from Attorney General Eric Holder that the government could order drone strikes in the U.S., calling the idea “frightening.”

“The U.S. Attorney General’s refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening, it is an affront to the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans,” said Paul in a statement.

Paul has pressed the administration on its use of armed drones against terror suspects, in particular American citizens abroad, and had questioned whether such attacks could be ordered domestically.

Paul’s concern over the matter also threatens to further delay the nomination of President Obama’s pick for CIA director, John Brennan.

Brennan’s nomination moved forward Tuesday after he was approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee in a 12-3 vote after the White House agreed to release all Justice Department legal opinions on drone attacks to the panel.

But Paul was still weighing whether to put a hold on Brennan’s nomination or address his concerns about the drone program in a floor speech, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

Holder refused to rule out the possibility of drone attacks on U.S. soil in a letter to Paul dated Monday.

While the attorney general in his letter called the possibility “entirely hypothetical” and “unlikely to occur,” he declined to close the door on such an option.

“It is possible, I supposed, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States,” Holder wrote. “For example, the President could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances of a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.”

Lawmakers have pressed the White House for more information on its use of the strikes and its legal justifications.

Brennan faced sharp questioning from senators at his hearing on the drone program and vigorously defended the strikes. He said they were critical to protecting the nation and that officials took care to minimize collateral damage.

Brennan in his previous work at the CIA and as the president’s top counterterrorism adviser played a central role in developing and implementing the administration’s use of drones to target Americans suspected of terror ties abroad.

http://thehill.com/blogs/defcon-hill/policy-and-strategy/286445-sen-paul-frightening-holder-wont-rule-out-domestic-drone-strikes

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Washington Times

UFO sightings off South African coastline soar in February

By Cheryl K. Chumley
Thursday, March 7, 2013

The founder of UFO Research of South Africa says reports of unidentified flying objects off the South African coast near Cape Town rose dramatically during the week of Feb. 21-27.

Many of the sightings can be explained away by meteor showers, said Gert Jordaan, who tracks such reports on his UFO Research website, The Telegraph reported. But many cannot.

“Though meteors do glow orange, some of the sightings reported radical change in direction and speed,” he said in The Telegraph. “Some objects even remained stationary for five minutes or so. There might be some UFO phenomena occurring in areas around Cape Town.”

Mr. Jordaan suggested the UFOs could be due to “some top-secret aircraft” tests — or life forms from other planets are tracking Earthlings.

“The second possibility is that life from another planet is surveying ours for making contact and offering knowledge,” he said in The Telegraph.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/mar/7/ufo-sightings-south-african-coastline-soar-februar/

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Defense News

F-35 Report Warns of Visibility Risks, Other Dangers

Mar. 6, 2013 - 01:54PM
By AARON MEHTA

WASHINGTON — Significant visibility issues could lead to dangerous flight conditions, according to test pilots who have flown the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

That is just one of several issues identified by the Pentagon's chief weapons tester in a February report, published online today by the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight.

Other issues include flawed radar, ongoing challenges with the high-tech helmet required to fly the jet, and potential issues with the touch screen control interface.

The operational utility evaluation (OUE) itself was extremely scaled down from the type of testing that is normally done with such a program, to the point where the authors of the report conclude that “the results of the OUE should not be used to make decisions regarding the readiness of the JSF system to support training inexperienced pilots in an F-35A initial qualification course.”

“Due to the immaturity of the aircraft, the workarounds required to support flight operations, and very limited mission systems capability little knowledge can be gained from the OUE applicable to F-35 sustainment under normal squadron training operations or to sustainment of combat capable aircraft in operational units,” found the report.

“Additionally, the F-35 Joint Reliability and Maintainability Evaluation Team (JRMET) data for the F-35A fleet suggest that the program is not meeting reliability growth targets to meet operational requirements documents (ORD) requirements.”

Inspectors offered up five major categories of training tasks that are normally included in the fighter transition syllabus for other jets. Of those five, only one category was accomplished fully; two others were accomplished partially, and two were not accomplished due to system immaturity.

Additionally, testers found eight “serious” risk areas that need to be dealt with in the jet. Those range from a lack of flight test hours increasing the risk of a Class A mishap to the potential failure of the ejection seat in use with low-rate initial production (LRIP) 2 and 3 production craft.

more after the jump:
http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130306/DEFREG02/303060011/F-35-Report-Warns-Visibility-Risks-Other-Dangers?odyssey=tab

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Wired

Road-Going Baddies, Fear the SQUID

By Alexander George
03.07.13
9:30 AM

You’re undoubtedly familiar with the spike strip, the tire-piercing steel nails that stop baddies in their tracks. That basic idea just received a major upgrade that lets law enforcement to end a chase even more quickly, and from a safe distance.

The version for the 21st century is called the SQUID, or “safe quick undercarriage immobilization device.” From the side of the road, an officer deploys the SQUID in the path of an oncoming car. Webbed strips lie in wait and when the vehicle drives over the strip, the interlocked caltrops pierced the tires, and barbed arms spring up to entangle axle, stopping the car in seconds.

But even that design, first created in 2010, is approaching obsolescence. Engineering Science Analysis Corporation (ESC) and manufacturing partner Pacific Scientific Energetic Materials Company have come up with something new. Warning: more acronyms ahead, specifically Pit-BUL and NightHawk.

The problem with the SQUID was it needed to be deployed manually. That meant an officer had to stand on the side of the road, and that’s not where you want to be during a high-speed chase. Add in the fact that the rig was massive and heavy, and it’s obvious why the original SQUID never caught on.

To fix the problem, ESA split the SQUID into two separate devices and added a remote control.

The Pit-BUL (Pit-Ballistic Undercarriage Lanyard) sits across a roadway and looks like a speed bump. When the target car passes over, the weight triggers a switch that launches spikes into the tires, deflating them. As the stuck tires keep rotating, the spikes pull up a high-strength net into the car’s axles, ensnaring the vehicle to a halt. Along with triggered deployment, the Pit-BUL can be set to activate on command.

The NightHawk is simpler and similar to the spike strips of yore, but doesn’t need a boy in blue to set it off. Instead, officers set a small suitcase by the side of the road, right in the path of the suspect. Right before the car reaches the box, the cop hits the NightHawk’s remote to shoot the spikes from inside the suitcase out and across the road. And this all happens in fractions of a second. The cool part is the second feature — after the perp’s tires get slashed, the officer can hit the button again to retract the spikes, which allows pursuing cars to capture the driver quickly. See the videos below for a full demonstration

videos after the jump:
http://www.wired.com/autopia/2013/03/remote-spike-strip/

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