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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 91813 times)
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« Reply #8310 on: Apr 11th, 2013, 09:16am »

Science Daily

Young Children Have Grammar and Chimpanzees Don't

Apr. 10, 2013

— A new study from the University of Pennsylvania has shown that children as young as 2 understand basic grammar rules when they first learn to speak and are not simply imitating adults.

The study also applied the same statistical analysis on data from one of the most famous animal language-acquisition experiments -- Project Nim -- and showed that Nim Chimpsky, a chimpanzee who was taught sign language over the course of many years, never grasped rules like those in a 2-year-old's grammar.

The study was conducted by Charles Yang, a professor of linguistics in the School of Arts and Sciences and of computer science in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. It was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Linguists have long debated whether young children actually understand the grammar they are using or are simply memorizing and imitating adults. One of the difficulties in resolving this debate is the inherent limitations of the data; 2-year-old children have very small vocabularies and thus don't provide many different examples of grammar usage.

"While a child may not say very much, that doesn't mean that they don't know anything about language," Yang said, "Despite the superficial lack of diversity of speech patterns, if you study it carefully and formulate what having a grammar would entail within those limitations, even young children seem very much on target."

Yang's approach was to look at one area of grammar that young children do regularly display: article usage, or whether to put "a" or "the" before a noun. He found a sufficient number of examples of article usage in the nine data sets of child speech he analyzed, but there was another challenge in determining if these children understood the grammar rules they were using.

"When children use articles, they're pretty much error free from day one," Yang said. "But being error free could mean that they've learned the grammar of article usage in English, or they have memorized and are imitating adults who wouldn't make mistakes either."

To get around this problem, Yang took advantage of the fact that most nouns can be paired with either the definite or indefinite article to produce a grammatically correct phrase, but the resulting phrases have different meanings and usages. This makes the combinations vary in frequency.

For example, "the bathroom" is a more common phrase than "a bathroom," while "a bath" is more common than "the bath." This difference has nothing to do with grammar but rather the frequency with which phrases containing those combinations are used. There are simply more opportunities to use phrases like "I need to go to the bathroom" or "the dog needs a bath" than there are phrases like "there's a bathroom on the second floor" or "the bath was too cold."

This means that the likelihood of using a particular article with a given noun is not 50/50; it is weighted toward either "the" or "a." Such lopsided combination tendencies can be characterized by general statistical laws of language, which Yang used to develop a mathematical model for predicting the expected diversity of noun phrases in a sample of speech.

This model was able to differentiate between the expected diversity if children were using grammar, as compared to if they were simply imitating adults. Due to the differences of these frequencies, an adult might only say "the bathroom" -- never saying "a bathroom" -- to a child, but that child would still be able to say "a bathroom" if he or she understood the underlying grammar.

"When you compare what children should say if they follow grammar against what children do say, you find it to almost indistinguishable," Yang said. "If you simulate the expected diversity when a child is only repeating what adults say, it produces a diversity much lower than what children actually say."

As a comparison, Yang applied the same predictive models to the set of Nim Chimpsky's signed phrases, the only data set of spontaneous animal language usage publicly available. He found further evidence for what many scientists, including Nim's own trainers, have contended about Nim: that the sequences of signs Nim put together did not follow from rules like those in human language.

Nim's signs show significantly lower diversity than what is expected under a systematic grammar and were similar to the level expected with memorization.

This suggests that true language learning is -- so far -- a uniquely human trait, and that it is present very early in development.

"The idea that children are only imitating adults' language is very intuitive, so it's seen a revival over the last few years," Yang said. "But this is strong statistical evidence in favor of the idea that children actually know a lot about abstract grammar from an early age."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130410131327.htm

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« Reply #8311 on: Apr 11th, 2013, 09:19am »

Japan Times

North Korea sows confusion over launch

Pyongyang repeatedly moving missiles, launch vehicles around

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo
Apr 11, 2013

SEOUL – North Korea has been repeatedly moving multiple missiles around in an apparent bid to confuse outside intelligence gatherers ahead of an expected launch, Yonhap reported Thursday.

According to intelligence analysis cited by the South Korean news agency, two midrange Musudan missiles have been repeatedly moved in and out of a warehouse facility in the eastern port city of Wonsan.

At the same time, at least five mobile launch vehicles have also been spotted swapping positions in South Hamgyeong Province. They are believed to be launch platforms for short-range Scud missiles, which have a range of 300 to 500 km, and medium-range Nodong missiles, which can travel 1,300 to 1,500 km.

“There are signs the North could fire off Musudan missiles any time soon,” an intelligence source said. “But the North has been repeatedly moving its missiles in and out of a shed, which needs close monitoring.”

Another source suggested Pyongyang was hoping to “fatigue” South Korean and U.S. intelligence gatherers who have been on a heightened state of surveillance alert since Wednesday.

The midrange missiles mobilized by the North are reported to be untested Musudan models with an estimated range of anywhere up to 4,000 km. That would cover any target in South Korea and Japan, and possibly even U.S. military bases on the Pacific island of Guam.

“North Korea . . . with its bellicose rhetoric, its actions, has been skating very close to a dangerous line,” U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday. “Our country is fully prepared to deal with any contingency, any action that North Korea may take or any provocation that they may instigate.”

North Korea has proved quite adept at confounding intelligence monitoring in the past.

Its long-range rocket launch in December had been widely flagged in advance and was subjected to intense satellite scrutiny. In the end, the rocket blasted off hours after a succession of South Korean media outlets, citing satellite imagery analysis by government, diplomatic and military sources, suggested the launch was facing a lengthy delay.

Yonhap news agency had quoted military officials as saying the entire three-stage Unha-3 carrier had been removed from the launchpad and returned to a nearby assembly facility for repair.

Various Japanese news outlets on Thursday reported defense officials confirming that at least one of the North Korean mobile launchers had placed its pad in a launch-ready position. The reports also said that such moves could be deliberate attempts by North Korea to sow confusion and did not necessarily indicate a launch was imminent.

Although Pyongyang has not announced any launch, many analysts believe it will take place during the buildup to the birthday anniversary of late founder Kim Il Sung on April 15.

State media said foreign delegations had already begun arriving in Pyongyang for the event.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/04/11/asia-pacific/north-korea-sows-confusion-over-launch/#.UWbF-SPn-1s

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« Reply #8312 on: Apr 11th, 2013, 09:21am »

New York Times

April 10, 2013

Move to Widen Help for Syrian Rebels Gains Speed in West

By MICHAEL R. GORDON and MARK LANDLER

LONDON — A long-debated move by Western nations to expand support for Syria’s opposition gained momentum on Wednesday, with the United States poised to increase its nonlethal aid to rebel groups and pressure building to lift a European Union embargo on sending arms to Syria.

In Washington, administration officials said President Obama had not yet signed off on a specific package of measures, but had agreed in principle to increase assistance to the military wing of the Syrian opposition that could include battlefield gear like body armor and night-vision goggles, but not arms.

“Our assistance has been on an upward trajectory, and the president has directed his national security team to identify additional measures so that we can increase assistance,” a senior administration official said.

In London, where the British foreign secretary, William Hague, hosted a meeting with the Syrian opposition on Wednesday, there were signs that Britain and France were prepared to let the European Union arms embargo expire by the end of May so that they could increase their assistance.

“We certainly believe that it’s necessary to continue, if the situation continues to deteriorate, to increase the practical help we give to the Syrian opposition,” Mr. Hague told reporters. “We think that as things stand today, there is going to be a very strong case for further amendments to the embargo or the lifting of the embargo.”

The Syria crisis was at the forefront of discussions here as foreign ministers gathered for a meeting of the Group of 8 industrialized nations.

At a lunch meeting convened by Mr. Hague and attended by Secretary of State John Kerry, the Syrian opposition reiterated its request for antiaircraft and antitank weapons, according to Khalid Saleh, a spokesman for the rebel delegation.

Syrian opposition representatives also said they planned to establish a presence in areas that had been wrested from Syrian government control within the next four to six weeks. The goal would be to buttress the opposition’s efforts to present itself as a viable alternative to Syria’s embattled president, Bashar al-Assad, but it raised the question of how opposition forces could defend the enclave against the Syrian government’s air force and Scud missiles.

Among the opposition members who attended the meeting was Ghassan Hitto, a naturalized Syrian-born American citizen who was recently picked by the opposition coalition to serve as prime minister of an interim government. The question of how much, and what kind, of support to give the armed groups fighting the Syrian government has been hotly debated within the Obama administration.

Mr. Obama rebuffed recommendations last year by David H. Petraeus, who was then the director of the C.I.A., and other key members of his national security team for the United States to funnel arms to carefully vetted members of the Syrian opposition. But as Mr. Assad has clung to power, partly because of weapons supplied by allies like Iran and Russia, the White House has moved incrementally toward more support.

Another factor that has influenced the Obama administration’s calculations has been the growing popularity and prowess of Al Nusra Front, the Qaeda-affiliated group that has been battling the Syrian government.

The expanding role of Al Nusra has raised the prospect that Islamic extremists might seize control of much of Syria if Mr. Assad were deposed, and it has strengthened the case of proponents within the American government for providing support to moderate elements of the Syrian opposition.

In February, Mr. Kerry announced that the United States would provide food rations and medical supplies to the Free Syrian Army. The C.I.A. has also run a covert program to train Syrian rebels in Jordan, officials say.

Now, Mr. Obama is poised to expand the nonlethal aid. An administration official, who declined to be identified because the aide was discussing internal deliberations, said the White House had “blessed the concept” of increased assistance. But, the official added, “There are a lot of details still to be worked out before there’s something concrete for the president to sign off on, and before anything would be delivered.”

Mr. Kerry and other foreign ministers concerned with the crisis in Syria are expected to gather in Istanbul along with the Syrian opposition in 10 days to consider further steps. That session could be a venue at which the United States might make clear what additional support it is willing to provide. The European Union’s embargo on shipment of arms to Syria will expire at the end of May, unless all 27 members vote to extend it — an unlikely situation, diplomats said, given the strong opposition of Britain and France to the ban. European sanctions against the Assad government are also scheduled to expire.

Several analysts said Washington’s decision to expand its nonlethal aid would be helpful to the rebels but probably was not sufficient to alter the balance in Syria’s civil war.

“It’s not going to turn the tide in the battle, but of course it helps,” said Joseph Holliday, a fellow at the Institute for the Study of War, a nongovernmental research organization.

The challenge for the United States, Mr. Holliday said, was to offer aid that would allow it to gain influence with elements of the opposition that might be part of a post-Assad government.

Mr. Kerry has said that the United States is still interested in fostering a political transition in which Mr. Assad would voluntarily give up power, and has argued that stepping up support for the Syrian opposition would be a way to increase the pressure on the Syrian leader.

A senior State Department official told reporters that the group of foreign ministers was expected to issue a “strong statement” on Thursday on the need to address the crisis. But because of Russian opposition, the official said that there had been “vigorous discussion” about how the statement should be worded.

Michael R. Gordon reported from London, and Mark Landler from Washington.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/11/world/move-to-widen-support-for-syria-rebels-gains-speed.html?hp&_r=0

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« Reply #8313 on: Apr 12th, 2013, 07:55am »

You can get a life-sized E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial now.

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Here's what the sales materials say: "An almost life-size recreation of the E.T. alien stunt puppet as he appeared in the beloved 1982 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial film by Steven Spielberg! Measuring nearly 3-feet tall and featuring meticulous hand-painted detail, this foam rubber and latex E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Stunt Puppet Prop Replica looks incredibly life-like and is the must-have E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial collectible for fans of the movie. This stunt puppet prop replica is limited to just a single production run, and once it's sold out, it will not be coming back. Don't miss out!"

He's $249.99 and available for pre-order right now at Entertainment Earth.

http://www.entertainmentearth.com/prodinfo.asp?number=NC55062 - .UWgAjkq0uEY
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« Reply #8314 on: Apr 12th, 2013, 09:08am »

on Apr 12th, 2013, 07:55am, Swamprat wrote:
You can get a life-sized E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial now.

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Here's what the sales materials say: "An almost life-size recreation of the E.T. alien stunt puppet as he appeared in the beloved 1982 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial film by Steven Spielberg! Measuring nearly 3-feet tall and featuring meticulous hand-painted detail, this foam rubber and latex E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Stunt Puppet Prop Replica looks incredibly life-like and is the must-have E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial collectible for fans of the movie. This stunt puppet prop replica is limited to just a single production run, and once it's sold out, it will not be coming back. Don't miss out!"

He's $249.99 and available for pre-order right now at Entertainment Earth.

http://www.entertainmentearth.com/prodinfo.asp?number=NC55062 - .UWgAjkq0uEY


Good morning Swamprat cheesy

That puppet would give me the creeps.

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« Reply #8315 on: Apr 12th, 2013, 09:15am »







UFO's & Weird Bright Objects at the Sun 2013- April 09th - 11th

Adam Andrew
published 11 April 2013

~

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« Reply #8316 on: Apr 12th, 2013, 09:18am »

grin


Telegraph

Men take six months to do 'little jobs' around house

The typical man takes six months to get around to all the 'little jobs' in the house, new research has revealed.

By news agencies
11:17AM BST 12 Apr 2013

A study found a lack of time, knowledge or enthusiasm is often the reason for the failure to carry out tasks such as repairing squeaky floorboards, replacing light bulbs, and hanging pictures.

Other jobs which regularly wait six months or more include cleaning stained carpets, touching up paint and mending leaking taps.

A spokeswoman for Homebase, which commissioned the study among 2,000 homeowners, said: "We all have 'little jobs' that we put off around our homes.

"These can appear quite daunting and overtime could lead to more serious problems.

"Knowing how to tackle them is key to staying on top of things, and can mean they take little time and effort to put right.

"It's understandable that many people are unsure how to fix certain little problems that crop up in the home and the best way to build your confidence is to seek advice and practice.

"The potential cost of a project can put property owners off too, but fixing problems early mean they won't cost as much as many of us would expect."

Researchers also found 41 per cent of Brits put off their home improvement tasks because they don't know how to do them.

British homeowners have confessed to not knowing how to do some of the smallest jobs around the house.

Mending a squeaky floorboard, a dripping tap or exposed wires leave many of us scratching their heads.

Fixing a broken TV aerial, broken window panes are also thought of as 'difficult' while cracked tiles have one in ten people searching for help.

The cost of a job can also leave Brits cowering, as homeowners are looking at spending around £244 to complete all the little jobs which currently need addressing.

It also emerged in the past 12 months, the average household has already spent £190 on home improvements.

Despite all the tedious tasks waiting to be completed, 46 per cent of people said their house was still 'home sweet home'.

Four in ten said they would describe their home as tidy but tired.


Top 10 jobs on Britain's to-do list

1. Marked walls

2. Blown light bulb

3. Squeaky floorboards

4. Stained carpet

5. Peeling paint

6. Un-hung picture

7. Mouldy bedroom / bathroom

8. Peeling wallpaper

9. Worn away grouting

10. Leaking / dripping taps


Top 10 DIY jobs we won't attempt

1. Squeaky floorboards

2. Leaking / dripping taps

3. TV aerial not working

4. Broken window pane

5. Loose / exposed wires

6. Missing floorboards

7. Broken locks

8. Dodgy toilet flush

9. Holes in ceilings / walls

10. Cracked / missing tiles

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/9989445/Men-take-six-months-to-do-little-jobs-around-house.html

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« Reply #8317 on: Apr 12th, 2013, 09:22am »

New York Times

Pentagon Finds Nuclear Strides by North Korea

By THOM SHANKER, DAVID E. SANGER and ERIC SCHMITT

Published: April 11, 2013

WASHINGTON — A new assessment by the Pentagon’s intelligence arm has concluded for the first time, with “moderate confidence,” that North Korea has learned how to make a nuclear weapon small enough to be delivered by a ballistic missile.

The assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency, which has been distributed to senior administration officials and members of Congress, cautions that the weapon’s “reliability will be low,” apparently a reference to the North’s difficulty in developing accurate missiles or, perhaps, to the huge technical challenges of designing a warhead that can survive the rigors of flight and detonate on a specific target.

The assessment’s existence was disclosed Thursday by Representative Doug Lamborn, Republican of Colorado, three hours into a budget hearing of the House Armed Services Committee with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey. General Dempsey declined to comment on the assessment because of classification issues.

But late Thursday, the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., released a statement saying that the assessment did not represent a consensus of the nation’s intelligence community and that “North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear armed missile.”

In another sign of the administration’s deep concern over the release of the assessment, the Pentagon press secretary, George Little, issued a statement that sought to qualify the conclusion from the Defense Intelligence Agency, which has primary responsibility for monitoring the missile capabilities of adversary nations but which a decade ago was among those that argued most vociferously — and incorrectly — that Iraq had nuclear weapons.

“It would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced in the passage,” Mr. Little said.

A spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry, Kim Min-seok, said early Friday that despite various assessments. “we have doubt that North Korea has reached the stage of miniaturization.”

Nonetheless, outside experts said that the report’s conclusions could explain why Mr. Hagel has announced in recent weeks that the Pentagon was bolstering long-range antimissile defenses in Alaska and California, intended to protect the West Coast, and rushing another antimissile system, originally not set for deployment until 2015, to Guam.

Also Thursday, Mr. Clapper sought to tamp down fears that North Korean rhetoric could lead to an armed clash with the United States, South Korea and regional allies, and a high South Korean official called for dialogue with North Korea.

Mr. Clapper told a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee that in his experience, two other confrontations with the North — the seizure of the Navy spy ship Pueblo in 1968 and the death of two military officers in a tree-cutting episode in the demilitarized zone in 1976 — stoked much greater tensions between the two countries. The statement by the South Korean official, Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae, was televised nationally, and it represented a considerable softening in tone by President Park Geun-hye’s government.

Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, was scheduled to arrive in Seoul on Friday and to travel to China and Japan after that. He has two principal goals on the last leg of a six-nation trip: to encourage China to use its influence to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program while reassuring South Korea and Japan that the United States remains committed to their defense.

The report issued by the Defense Intelligence Agency last month was titled “Dynamic Threat Assessment 8099: North Korea Nuclear Weapons Program.” Its executive summary reads: “D.I.A. assesses with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles; however the reliability will be low.”

A spokesman for Mr. Lamborn, Catherine Mortensen, said the material he quoted during the hearing was unclassified. Pentagon officials said later that while the report remained classified, the one-paragraph finding had been declassified but not released. Republicans in Congress have led efforts to increase money for missile defense, and Mr. Lamborn has been critical of the Obama administration for failing to finance it adequately.

North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests, including one this year, and shot a ballistic missile as far as the Philippines in December. American and South Korean intelligence agencies believe that another test — perhaps of a midrange missile called the Musudan that can reach Japan, South Korea and almost as far as Guam — may be conducted in the coming days, to celebrate the birth of Kim Il-sung, the country’s founder. At the Pentagon, there is particular concern about another missile, yet untested, called the KN-08, which may have significantly longer range.

“North Korea has already demonstrated capabilities that threaten the United States and the security environment in East Asia,” Mr. Clapper told the House Intelligence Committee.

more after the jump:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/12/world/asia/north-korea-may-have-nuclear-missile-capability-us-agency-says.html?ref=world&_r=0

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« Reply #8318 on: Apr 12th, 2013, 09:24am »

Wired

Pesticide Suspected in Bee Die-Offs Could Also Kill Birds

By Brandon Keim
04.12.13
9:30 AM

Controversial pesticides linked to catastrophic honeybee declines in North America and Europe may also kill other creatures, posing ecological threats even graver than feared, say some scientists.

According to a report by the American Bird Conservancy, the dangers of neonicotinoid pesticides to birds, and also to stream- and soil-dwelling insects accidentally exposed to the chemicals, have been underestimated by regulators and downplayed by industry.

“The environmental persistence of the neonicotinoids, their propensity for runoff and for groundwater infiltration, and their cumulative and largely irreversible mode of action in invertebrates raise environmental concerns that go well beyond bees,” stated the report, which was co-authored by pesticide policy expert Cynthia Palmer and pesticide toxicologist Pierre Mineau, both from the American Bird Conservancy.

Chemical and pharmaceutical company Bayer, a major neonicotinoid manufacturer, said the criticisms lack solid evidence. “This report relies on theoretical calculations and exposure estimates that differ from accepted risk assessment methodologies, while disregarding relevant data that are at odds with its claims,” the company said in a statement.

The Bees

Neonicotinoids became popular in the late 1990s, largely replacing earlier insecticides that posed blatant health and environmental risks. Derived from nicotine, which short-circuits the nervous systems of insects that try to eat tobacco plants, neonicotinoids at first seemed both effective and safe.

They now account for some one-quarter of global insecticide sales, used on hundreds of crops and also in gardens and cities. In the last several years, though, it’s become evident that regulators, especially the Environmental Protection Agency, overlooked the extreme toxicity of neonicotinoids to honeybees and other pollinators. Regulatory approvals were partly based on industry studies now considered unreliable, and sometimes despite the concerns of the EPA’s own scientists.

Neonicotinoids subsequently emerged as a prime suspect in colony collapse disorder, the unexplained malady that since 2005 has annually killed about one-third of the nation’s commercial honeybees, and may also affect bumblebee populations. The pesticides are blamed for triggering collapses outright or making bees vulnerable to to diseases and parasites.

A group of beekeepers and environmental groups have sued the EPA, which now plans to review evidence of neonicotinoid harms. Yet amidst the honeybee furor, far less attention has been paid to what the pesticides may do to other creatures.

Early toxicity studies suggested the risks were relatively small: Vertebrates don’t have precisely the same receptors to which neonicotinoids bind so tightly in insects, so higher doses are needed to cause harm.

It was also assumed that neonicotinoids wouldn’t accumulate in the environment at levels capable of harming either vertebrates or non-pest, non-pollinator invertebrates — the countless insect species that are the foundation of terrestrial and aquatic food webs.

Since then, however, researchers have found widespread evidence of neonicotinoids spreading beyond their crop targets, and the methodologies used to establish neonicotinoid safety have come under question.

“The more studies I see, the more I think the preponderance of evidence is leaning towards neonicotinoids being tremendously bad for lower animals in the food chain, especially all the invertebrates,” said Scott Black, executive director of the Xerces Society, an invertebrate conservation group.

The Birds

Seeds used to grow crops like corn, sunflowers and canola are routinely coated in neonicotinoids, which then spread through plants as they grow. Many species of birds eat seeds. In the absence to date of studies directly observing farmland birds and their day-by-day fates, the question of whether neonicotinoids harm them quickly becomes an argument over methods used to set toxicological guidelines.

In the American Bird Conservancy report, Mineau and Palmer note that the EPA typically sets guidelines for bird exposures using laboratory tests on just two species, mallard ducks and bobwhite quail. Their results become the basis of standards for other birds, but this elides widely varying sensitivities among hundreds of species.

For example, the LD50 — a standard toxicological measure for a dose that kills half of exposed animals — for bobwhite and mallards consuming imidacloprid, the most common neonicotinoid formulation, are 152 and 283 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. For canaries, that number drops to about 35 mg/kg, and for gray partridge it’s just 15 mg/kg.

Were the guidelines calculated more carefully, say Mineau and Palmer, drawing broadly on peer-reviewed literature and accounting for heightened sensitivity in certain species, they’d be very different. What are now considered safe exposure levels would be recognized as poisonous — and many birds could reach them by eating just a few seeds.

Asked for comment, the Environmental Protection Agency said the report “uses a method to compare risks across chemicals that differs from the long-standing peer-reviewed approach EPA uses. The agency will carefully consider the report’s studies, analytic methods and conclusions.”

David Fischer, director of environmental toxicology and risk assessment in Bayer’s CropScience division, said the report misrepresented industry testing. “We tested a lot of species. We did tests beyond what was required by the EPA,” Fischer said. If neonicotinoids really were killing birds, said Fischer, it would already have been reported, as were die-offs from the earlier, more-toxic chemicals that neonicotinoids largely replaced.

“There have been few instances of mortality in the field. They’re extremely rare,” Fischer said. “I don’t know of any incidents in North America.” Mineau responded that, even with earlier chemicals, researchers didn’t find evidence of bird deaths until they actively looked for them. That hasn’t yet happened with neonicotinoids, he said, and poisoned birds don’t immediately and visibly drop dead on fields. They may die hours or days later in a tree or bush, making it unlikely that anyone will even notice.

The report also notes that chronic toxicity — effects that don’t kill animals outright, but over time cause health, reproductive and behavioral problems — has largely been overlooked. Preliminary studies suggest a potential for embryo development disorders and decreased immune responses, but guidelines were again set by reference to bobwhite and mallards. Tests only measured obvious birth defects, ignoring the many other ways that animals can be impaired.

Mineau thinks neonicotinoids are at least playing a role in the precipitous decline of birds that live in or migrate through agricultural areas. “I believe this is happening right now,” he said. Yet that, said Mineau, may be just a prelude to other problems. “I think the aquatic and soil impacts are even greater,” he said. “We’re going to see profound changes in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.”

more after the jump:

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/04/neonicotinoids-and-ecosystems/all/

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« Reply #8319 on: Apr 12th, 2013, 09:27am »




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« Reply #8320 on: Apr 13th, 2013, 08:51am »






Secret of the Blue Room 1933

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« Reply #8321 on: Apr 14th, 2013, 08:43am »

Washington Post

13 April 2013

Chinese offer blunt assessments of North Korea

By Steven Mufson,

BEIJING — The views posted on Chinese Internet sites about the diplomatic faceoff with longtime ally North Korea have been anything but diplomatic.

“China should make a preemptive strike on North Korea instead of waiting until the war happens,” said a person using the pseudonym Power Plant of Plug.

Someone identified as Anti-Hurricane declared, “North Korea is an unfaithful wolf which will never be fully fed.”

Yet another questioned China’s fraternal relations with Pyongyang. “Is the country that threatened to turn another country into a sea of flames worth our help and support?” asked a person using the name Yan Heming.

Six decades after the Korean War, North Korea is sounding as bellicose as ever, but the average Chinese citizen has moved on, focusing on living standards, not war and revolution. And as the Chinese grow prosperous, they see little in common with the struggling people of their communist neighbor, analysts say.

“It will be big trouble for China once the tide of North Korea refugees including drug dealers, NK agents and currency counterfeiters enters China. They want to destroy everyone,” said Power Plant of Plug.

These days, the sacrifices China made fighting beside the North Koreans against U.S. and South Korean forces in the early 1950s seem distant.

“Several hundred thousand young lives were buried in their land. Did North Korea ever cherish that?” Yan asked. “We should abandon North Korea!”

The first two Kims to lead North Korea, Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il, took their own provocative actions — the 1983 bombing of South Korean leaders visiting Rangoon, Burma, the 1987 downing of a South Korean passenger plane and a 1990s uranium enrichment program that violated an agreement freezing nuclear weapons development.

But the recent nuclear threats by Kim Jong Un have raised tension to a new level. “This is really a crazy leadership” in North Korea, said Chu Shulong, an international relations professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing. “So dangerous.”

Chu has long argued that China has been “too soft, too weak on North Korea” and should be tougher. “We need to do more sanctions,” Chu said. “Let them know that we are angry and cannot accept their actions.”

Instead, until now, China has sought to draw North Korea close, providing aid and investment and urging it to follow China’s lead in opening up for economic modernization. Aid to North Korea grew from a third of China’s aid budget a decade ago to half of its now-larger aid budget, according to Scott A. Snyder, senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

During visits to China, Kim Jong Il was taken to cellphone and car factories, fiber-optic plants and other showcases of Chinese economic reform. In 2011, the countries agreed to create two special economic zones in North Korea.

The goal was to produce a common interest in stability and development, but it did not work out that way.

“The argument was that we shouldn’t give up” on North Korea, Chu said. “A certain group said, ‘Everyone knows North Korea is a bad guy, but to isolate it would put us in a more dangerous position, so we should try to change North Korea.’ ”

more after the jump:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/chinese-voice-north-korea-worries/2013/04/13/2958593c-a460-11e2-bd52-614156372695_story.html

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« Reply #8322 on: Apr 14th, 2013, 08:47am »

Der Spiegel

Relief at Ruling: Top Court Grants Foreign Media Access to Nazi Trial

13 April 2013

Germany's top court has ruled that foreign media must get access to the trial of a suspected neo-Nazi charged in connection with the murders of 10 people, including eight of Turkish descent. A Turkish newspaper had filed a complaint. The row had threatened to harm Germany's image and was overshadowing the trial starting April 17.

The Turkish government on Saturday welcomed the ruling by Germany's highest court requiring that foreign media should have access to the trial of Beate Zschäpe, an alleged member of a German neo-Nazi terror cell that killed 10 people, most of them of Turkish origin.

The ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe was a "step in the right direction," said the Turkish Foreign Ministry. It added that Turkey now hoped the Munich Higher Regional Court where the trial is due to start on April 17 would guarantee proper access to the proceedings for Turkish media representatives.

Although most of the victims were of Turkish origin, not a single journalist from a Turkish media outlet had been provided with a reserved seat. The Munich court had allocated 50 seats to all media on a first-come-first-served basis, but, in the event, none went to Turkish journalists.

Its refusal to make any changes despite repeated calls from foreign and German media and politicians sparked criticism that it was being insensitive and unnecessarily intransigent.

Court's Refusal Angered Turkey

The controversy threatened to damage Germany's international image and was overshadowing coverage of the trial. German authorities are already under fire for botching the investigations into the killings and for failing to consider they may have had a racist motive.

Zschäpe is one of three suspected members of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), the group believed to be responsible for killing eight shopkeepers of Turkish descent, a Greek man and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007.

Turkish newspaper Sabah had filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court, saying the decision not to guarantee seats to Turkish media had violated its right to equality. The court ruled in its favor late on Friday.

"(The Munich court should) provide an appropriate number of seats to representatives of the foreign media with a special connection to the victims of the accused," the Constitutional Court said in a statement.

"It would be possible to open up not fewer than three places for an additional contingent (in the small courtroom)," it said, adding that it was for the court to decide how to allocate the extra seats.

Westerwelle 'Very Relieved'

The German government and German politicians from all parties welcomed the decision. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told SPIEGEL ONLINE: "I am very relieved about the Karlsruhe decision."

The chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, Kenan Kolat, said: "I am very pleased about this ruling. It has averted a judicial scandal. It was extremely necessary." The issue could have "cast a shadow over the entire trial," Kolat told Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper on Saturday. "I hope the court will now find a workable solution."

It's unclear what action the Munich court will now take to meet the requirement. A spokeswoman said the court would make no comment until it had reached a decision.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/politicians-greet-court-ruling-on-foreign-media-access-to-neo-nazi-trial-a-894194.html

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« Reply #8323 on: Apr 14th, 2013, 08:50am »

Japan Times

U.S. to press Abe on yen ‘devaluation’

Apr 14, 2013

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Treasury Department said it will press Japan to refrain from competitive devaluation while stopping short of accusing it of manipulating the yen, in a report on exchange rates.

The Treasury will pressure Tokyo to adhere to international commitments so as “to remain oriented toward meeting respective domestic objectives using domestic instruments, and to refrain from competitive devaluation and targeting its exchange rate for competitive purposes,” the department said in its semiannual currency report to Congress that was released Friday.

The Bank of Japan surprised markets April 4 by doubling monthly bond purchases to almost match the U.S. Federal Reserve’s monetary easing, and by setting a two-year horizon for achieving its goal of 2 percent inflation. BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda said Friday there’s no time limit for the stimulus.

The yen has depreciated against all 16 of its most-traded peers since April 4, declining 2.2 percent to the dollar, 3.5 percent against the euro and 2.8 percent versus the Australian dollar.

“This is a shot across the BOJ’s bow,” Kit Juckes, a global strategist at Societe Generale SA in London, said. “Everyone still supports Japan’s fight against deflation, but the U.S. would much rather the yen did not weaken significantly further.”

Juckes said that until recently, Washington had been supportive of Tokyo policies. “How could they not be after years of calling for them to combat deflation?” Juckes asked. “Now, with the yen falling so far, so fast, the Treasury has changed its tune.”

Japan last week reached a deal with the U.S. on bilateral trade issues that clears the way for the world’s third-largest economy to join talks as early as July on creating the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade framework. The regional trade initiative would lower tariffs in countries that account for 40 percent of global trade.

The U.S. is reiterating statements by the Group of Seven and Group of 20 that macroeconomic policies “should be directed at the domestic economy and not at the exchange rate,” said Edwin Truman, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

The U.S. will be “watching to make sure that the focus of ‘Abenomics’ is on stimulating the domestic Japanese economy and not its external sector,” Truman said, referring to the economic and fiscal policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Meanwhile, the Treasury declined in the report to name China a currency manipulator while saying the yuan “remains significantly undervalued.” It added that “intervention appears to have resumed, and further appreciation of the (yuan) against the dollar is warranted.”

The Treasury said it will press China for policy changes and greater exchange-rate flexibility.

The administration’s “refusal to label China a currency manipulator once again demonstrates President Barack Obama’s deep-seated indifference to a major, ongoing threat to American manufacturing’s competitiveness and to the U.S. economy’s return to genuine health,” said Alan Tonelson, a research fellow at the U.S. Business and Industry Council, which represents about 2,000 manufacturers.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/04/14/business/u-s-to-press-abe-on-yen-devaluation/#.UWqzjCPn-1s

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« Reply #8324 on: Apr 14th, 2013, 08:56am »

Fox news

Guards, detainees clash at Guantanamo Bay over raid

Published April 13, 2013

Guards and prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay prison clashed Saturday as the military attempted to move hunger strikers out of a communal section of the detention center on the U.S. base in Cuba, officials said.

The violence erupted during an early morning raid that military officials said was necessary because prisoners had covered up security cameras and windows as part of a weekslong protest and hunger strike over their indefinite confinement and conditions at the U.S. base in Cuba.

Prisoners fought guards with makeshift weapons that included broomsticks and mop handles when troops arrived to move them out of a communal wing of the section of the prison known as Camp 6, said Navy Capt. Robert Durand, a military spokesman. Guards responded by firing four "less-than-lethal rounds," he said.

There were no serious injuries from the rounds, which included a modified shotgun shell that fires small rubber pellets as well as a type of bean-bag projectile, said Army Col. Greg Julian, a spokesman for Miami-based U.S. Southern Command, which oversees the prison at the U.S. base in Cuba.

"I know for sure that one detainee was hit but the injuries were minor, just some bruises," Julian said.

The confrontation came a day after a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross finished a three-week visit to Guantanamo to meet with prisoners and assess conditions.

"The ICRC continues to follow the current tensions and the hunger strike at Guantanamo very closely and with concern," spokesman Simon Schorno said. "If necessary, an ICRC team will in coming days return to Guantanamo to assess the situation of the detainees on hunger strike in view of this latest development."

Camp 6 had previously been a section of the camp reserved for detainees who followed prison rules. In exchange they were allowed to share meals and pray together, have nearly round-the-clock recreation time as well as access to satellite TV, computer games and classes. It held a majority of the 166 prisoners at the base before the hunger strike began, but the military said the number was down to fewer than 70 on Saturday.

Prisoners in the communal section had access to materials with which to make some of the improvised weapons used in the clash with guards. Durand said troops were confronted with batons made with tape and plastic water bottles, about three to four feet long and "as big around as a broomstick," he said.

The guards moved the hunger strikers and all other detainees at the communal section to single cells in a separate wing of Camp 6 around 5 a.m. Prisoners will eventually be allowed back into communal living conditions in the future if they follow rules. Hunger strikers will be allowed back into the communal section eventually as well if they follow the rules, Durand said.

"For now, housing detainees in individual cells will enable us to observe them more closely," he said. He said one of the concerns of military officials was that some prisoners might have been coerced into participating in the hunger strike.

Tensions had been high at the prison for months. Lawyers for prisoners said a hunger strike began Feb. 6 in protest over their indefinite confinement and what the men believed were tighter restrictions and intrusive searches of their Qurans for contraband. Prisoners offered to give up the Muslim holy book that each one is issued by the government but officials refused, considering it a tacit admission of wrongdoing.

"This is exactly the opposite of what they should be doing," Carlos Warner, a federal public defender in Ohio, said of the decision to move prisoners into single cells instead of negotiating an end to the strike. "The military is escalating the conflict."

The military said 43 prisoners were classified as hunger strikers under a definition that includes missing nine consecutive meals. Lawyers for prisoners have insisted the strike is much more widespread and say almost all of the men are refusing to eat.

Officials were also concerned that some men were surreptitiously starving themselves to avoid being classified as hunger strikers and force fed. The military said it was conducting individual assessments of all the prisoners.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/04/14/guards-detainees-clash-at-guantanamo-bay/#ixzz2QRhng5tj

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