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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 76419 times)
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« Reply #8595 on: Jun 4th, 2013, 09:21am »

Science Daily

Blood Vessels in the Eye Linked With IQ, Cognitive Function

June 3, 2013 — The width of blood vessels in the retina, located at the back of the eye, may indicate brain health years before the onset of dementia and other deficits, according to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Research shows that younger people who score low on intelligence tests, such as IQ, tend to be at higher risk for poorer health and shorter lifespan, but factors like socioeconomic status and health behaviors don't fully account for the relationship. Psychological scientist Idan Shalev of Duke University and colleagues wondered whether intelligence might serve as a marker indicating the health of the brain, and specifically the health of the system of blood vessels that provides oxygen and nutrients to the brain.

To investigate the potential link between intelligence and brain health, the researchers borrowed a technology from a somewhat unexpected domain: ophthalmology.

Shalev and colleagues used digital retinal imaging, a relatively new and noninvasive method, to gain a window onto vascular conditions in the brain by looking at the small blood vessels of the retina, located at the back of the eye. Retinal blood vessels share similar size, structure, and function with blood vessels in the brain and can provide a way of examining brain health in living humans.

The researchers examined data from participants taking part in the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, a longitudinal investigation of health and behavior in over 1000 people born between April 1972 and March 1973 in Dunedin, New Zealand.

The results were intriguing.

Having wider retinal venules was linked with lower IQ scores at age 38, even after the researchers accounted for various health, lifestyle, and environmental risk factors that might have played a role.

Individuals who had wider retinal venules showed evidence of general cognitive deficits, with lower scores on numerous measures of neurospsychological functioning, including verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory, and executive function.

Surprisingly, the data revealed that people who had wider venules at age 38 also had lower IQ in childhood, a full 25 years earlier.

It's "remarkable that venular caliber in the eye is related, however modestly, to mental test scores of individuals in their 30s, and even to IQ scores in childhood," the researchers observe.

The findings suggest that the processes linking vascular health and cognitive functioning begin much earlier than previously assumed, years before the onset of dementia and other age-related declines in brain functioning.

"Digital retinal imaging is a tool that is being used today mainly by eye doctors to study diseases of the eye," Shalev notes. "But our initial findings indicate that it may be a useful investigative tool for psychological scientists who want to study the link between intelligence and health across the lifespan."

The current study doesn't address the specific mechanisms that drive the relationship between retinal vessels and cognitive functioning, but the researchers surmise that it may have to do with oxygen supply to the brain.

"Increasing knowledge about retinal vessels may enable scientists to develop better diagnosis and treatments to increase the levels of oxygen into the brain and by that, to prevent age-related worsening of cognitive abilities," they conclude.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130603135533.htm

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« Reply #8596 on: Jun 4th, 2013, 09:24am »

Telegraph

A fleet of eight prehistoric boats deliberately sunk thousands of years ago has been discovered in a Cambridgeshire quarry.

By Alice Philipson
8:24AM BST 04 Jun 2013

The vessels, including one which is almost nine metres long, are the largest group of Bronze Age boats ever found in one site in the UK.

Many are still well-preserved and one is even able to float after 3,000 years buried in the site on the outskirts of Peterborough.

Others display intricate carvings and have handles carved from oak tree trunks for lifting them out of the water. Traces of a fire lit on the surface of one boat to cook the day's catch were also found.

Conservator Ian Panter told the Guardian: "There was huge excitement over the first boat, and then they were phoning the office saying they'd found another, and another, and another, until finally we were thinking, 'Come on now, you're just being greedy."

It is thought the boats were sunk into a long-dried-up creek, which would have been a tributary of the river Nene, and were then preserved by the waterlogged silt.

Archaeologists are unsure of why the boats were dropped into the creek by the Bronze Age fisherman and hunters. However, it is clear the custom continued for many centuries as the Cambridge Archaeological Unit investigating the find believes the oldest boats date from around 1,600 BC, while the most recent were sunk 600 years later.

"Either this was the Bermuda Triangle for bronze age boats, or there is something going on here that we don't yet understand," Mr Panter said.

It may have been that the boats were ritual offerings or were perhaps sunk for more practical reasons such as to prevent the timber drying out and splitting when not in use.

Kerry Murrell, the site director, said: "Some show signs of long use and repair – but others are in such good condition they look as if you could just drop the transom board back in and paddle away."

Usually, boats such as these which have been found by archaeologists would be chopped into more manageable chunks so they could be lifted and taken away. However, because of their good condition, the eight vessels – which have all been given nicknames, including Debbie and Vivienne – will be lifted intact and carried two miles to the Flag Fen archaeology site.

The boats will be on display here from Wednesday, where members of the public can view the find through windows in a container cooled to below 5C.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/10097418/Fleet-of-Bronze-age-boats-found-in-Cambridgeshire-quarry.html

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« Reply #8597 on: Jun 4th, 2013, 09:30am »





Published on Jun 1, 2013

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« Reply #8598 on: Jun 4th, 2013, 8:03pm »

Florida 'Doomsday Prepper' Sentenced

Associated Press
Tue Jun 04, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- A St. Petersburg man who claimed to be a "doomsday prepper" has been sentenced to more than eight years in federal prison after investigators found firearms and drugs at his home.

Jason Deon Thomas was sentenced in federal court in Tampa on Tuesday.

Federal authorities say the 32-year-old Thomas had six assault rifles, five shotguns, 17 handguns, a machine gun, a silencer, four bullet proof vests, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Officers also collected drugs and $7,390 in cash.

Thomas was previously convicted of felony drug trafficking offenses, so he was prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition under federal law.

Court records show Thomas claimed to be a "doomsday prepper," and stockpiled firearms, ammunition, bullet proof vests, and other items to prepare for the end of the world.

http://www.wctv.tv/news/headlines/Doomsday-Prepper-210161841.html
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« Reply #8599 on: Jun 5th, 2013, 11:34am »

on Jun 4th, 2013, 8:03pm, Swamprat wrote:
Florida 'Doomsday Prepper' Sentenced

Associated Press
Tue Jun 04, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- A St. Petersburg man who claimed to be a "doomsday prepper" has been sentenced to more than eight years in federal prison after investigators found firearms and drugs at his home.

Jason Deon Thomas was sentenced in federal court in Tampa on Tuesday.

Federal authorities say the 32-year-old Thomas had six assault rifles, five shotguns, 17 handguns, a machine gun, a silencer, four bullet proof vests, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Officers also collected drugs and $7,390 in cash.

Thomas was previously convicted of felony drug trafficking offenses, so he was prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition under federal law.

Court records show Thomas claimed to be a "doomsday prepper," and stockpiled firearms, ammunition, bullet proof vests, and other items to prepare for the end of the world.

http://www.wctv.tv/news/headlines/Doomsday-Prepper-210161841.html


Good morning Swamprat cheesy

Thank you for that article.

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« Reply #8600 on: Jun 5th, 2013, 11:39am »

Defense News

Aide: House Approps Bill Has Funds for US East Coast Missile Site

Jun. 5, 2013 - 10:36AM
By JOHN T. BENNETT

WASHINGTON — A US House subcommittee wants to give the Pentagon $70 million next year to begin construction of a controversial missile shield, moving it one step closer to becoming reality.

A House Appropriations Committee aide told Defense News on Wednesday that the 2014 defense appropriations bill prepared by its defense subcommittee contains $70.2 million for the GOP-proposed site, which last year was partially blocked by Senate Democrats.

If included in the final version of the 2014 defense appropriations act, the monies “would, in theory, be spent this year,” the aide said.

If adopted in the final bill, the Pentagon would have the funds to begin erecting the site. The Pentagon is completing a congressionally mandated study of potential sites, with several under consideration in the northeast United States.

Senate Democrats last year slowed the East Coast plan, rejecting GOP’s effort to include it in 2013 defense authorization legislation. Instead, Republicans and Democrats opted to order the study of potential sites.

But an actual appropriation would give the Defense Department funds to begin moving dirt and installing missile interceptors. Senate Democrats say there is no requirement for the system, and charge it would be too expensive in an era of declining Pentagon budgets.

It remains unclear whether Democrats will block the plan again this year. Some Democrats, including the No. 3 Senate Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, already are lobbying for part of the shield in their home states.

If erected, the site could provide an unexpected boost for US firms that make missile interceptors, radars and other missile defense components.

The House Armed Services Committee is expected to take up at least one amendment on Wednesday or early Thursday morning that would give the East Coast site congressional approval, sources say.

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130605/DEFREG02/306050020/Aide-House-Approps-Bill-Has-Funds-US-East-Coast-Missile-Site

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« Reply #8601 on: Jun 5th, 2013, 11:42am »

Washington Post

Gunmen apparently aiming for Shiites ambush travelers, kill 14 in Iraq’s Anbar province

By Associated Press
Updated: Wednesday, June 5, 8:07 AM

BAGHDAD — Gunmen ambushed a group of travelers at a fake checkpoint at a remote desert site in western Iraq on Wednesday and killed at least 14 of them, according to Iraqi officials, in what appeared to be the latest blow in sectarian violence gripping the country.

The gunmen, apparently looking for Shiites to kill, struck near the town of Nukhaib. The town, near the site of a deadly 2011 ambush, sits at a desert crossroads west of the Shiite holy city of Karbala, but is in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province.

The assailants manning the fake highway checkpoint checked the identities of travelers, presumably to identify their sect based on their names, according to officials. Police said they found blood-stained IDs on the ground identifying some of the dead as coming from Karbala, 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Baghdad.

Officials said the 14 victims of Wednesday’s attack were shot in the head. They said the dead included police and soldiers, as well as civilian residents of the overwhelmingly Shiite Karbala.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information to reporters.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday’s attack. Iraqi officials believe Sunni insurgents including al-Qaida’s Iraq branch as well as loyalists of Saddam Hussein’s former regime are responsible for much of the violence against Shiites and government security forces, which are dominated by the Muslim sect.

Mohammed al-Moussawi, a provincial councilman in Karbala, confirmed that four of the dead ambushed were civilians from the province.

The area around Nukhaib, near where Wednesday’s killings happened, was the site of an eerily similar September 2011 ambush on a bus carrying Shiite pilgrims.

In that earlier attack, uniformed gunmen set up a fake checkpoint and hijacked a bus from Karbala that was carrying Shiite pilgrims heading to the Sayida Zeinab shrine in Syria. They told the women and children to stay aboard while 22 men were marched out and shot dead further down the road.

Wednesday’s attack came at the end of a Shiite commemoration of a revered eighth century saint, Imam Moussa al-Kadhim, believed to be buried in Baghdad. Authorities imposed tight security measures in the Iraqi capital to protect pilgrims, and no serious violence was reported there during the commemoration.

Violence has spiked in Iraq in recent weeks, raising fears of a return to widespread sectarian bloodshed.

According to the United Nations, at least 1,045 Iraqi civilians and security personnel were killed in May. The tally surpassed April’s 712 killed, making May the deadliest month recorded since June 2008.

Iraq witnessed its bloodiest bout of violence between 2006 and 2007, when the country was on the brink of civil war and armed men freely roamed the streets of Baghdad.

Killers frequently used victims’ names to identify them as Sunni or Shiite at the height of the conflict — often targeting motorists at fake checkpoints — and forgers sold fake ID cards bearing false names identified with a particular sect. At the peak of the sectarian violence between Shiites and Sunnis, more than 3,000 people died each month.

Associated Press writer Adam Schreck contributed to this report.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/iraqi-officials-gunmen-ambush-travelers-kill-14-execution-style-in-western-anbar-province/2013/06/05/4dc3eb6c-cddf-11e2-8573-3baeea6a2647_story.html?hpid=z3

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« Reply #8602 on: Jun 5th, 2013, 11:44am »

Science Daily

Personality Is the Result of Nurture, Not Nature, Suggests Study On Birds

June 5, 2013 — Personality is not inherited from birth parents says new research on zebra finches.

External factors are likely to play a bigger part in developing the personality of an individual than the genes it inherits from its parents, suggests the study.

Researchers at the University of Exeter and the University of Hamburg investigated how personality is transferred between generations. They found that foster parents have a greater influence on the personalities of fostered offspring than the genes inherited from birth parents.

Dr Nick Royle from Biosciences at the University of Exeter said: "This is one of the first experiments to show that behaviour can be non-genetically transmitted from parents to offspring. Our study shows that in zebra finches, personality traits can be transmitted from one generation to another through behaviour not just genetics."

The research, published in the journal Biology Letters, measured personality by placing the zebra finches in a new environment and counting the number of features they visited. Some were shy, staying mainly in one place while others explored widely demonstrating a more outgoing personality. Male and female birds were then paired up and allowed to breed. Each clutch of eggs was fostered by another pair just prior to hatching. Offspring personality was measured once they were adults. Offspring size was also measured and was found to be primarily genetically inherited and not significantly influenced by foster parent size.

Although this study considers personality inheritance in zebra finches, it raises questions about the inheritance of personality in other species, including humans. Do adopted children inherit the personality characteristics of their birth parents or their adoptive parents? Is the environment more important than genetic inheritance in the development of personality?

The results of this study indicate that non-genetic transmission of behaviour can play an important role in shaping animal personality. Further studies will build on this research to assess how widespread behavioural inheritance is for personality traits across other species.

This work was funded by the European Social Fund and the Natural Environment Research Council.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130605090524.htm

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« Reply #8603 on: Jun 5th, 2013, 11:55am »






Coast to Coast AM - Mysterious Portals

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« Reply #8604 on: Jun 5th, 2013, 11:58am »

New episode about Bigfoot.







Published on Jun 2, 2013

Find out why so many millions of Americans are obsessed with this mysterious man-ape.

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« Reply #8605 on: Jun 6th, 2013, 09:33am »

Guardian

Obama administration defends NSA collection of Verizon phone records

White House upholds 'critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats' as senior politicians condemn surveillance

6 June 2013

The White House has sought to justify its surveillance of millions of Americans' phone records as anger grows over revelations that a secret court order gives the National Security Agency blanket authority to collect call data from a major phone carrier.

Politicians and civil liberties campaigners described the disclosures, revealed by the Guardian on Wednesday, as the most sweeping intrusion into private data they had ever seen by the US government.

But the Obama administration, while declining to comment on the specific order, said the practice was "a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States".

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

The disclosure has reignited longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government's domestic spying powers.

Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice under President Obama.

The White House stressed that orders such as the one disclosed by the Guardian would only cover data about the calls rather than their content. A senior administration official said: "Information of the sort described in the Guardian article has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States, as it allows counter-terrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States.

"As we have publicly stated before, all three branches of government are involved in reviewing and authorising intelligence collection under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Congress passed that act and is regularly and fully briefed on how it is used, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorises such collection. There is a robust legal regime in place governing all activities conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act."

The administration stressed that the court order obtained by the Guardian relates to call data, and does not allow the government to listen in to anyone's calls.

However, in 2013, such metadata can provide authorities with vast knowledge about a caller's identity. Particularly when cross-checked against other public records, the metadata can reveal someone's name, address, driver's licence, credit history, social security number and more. Government analysts would be able to work out whether the relationship between two people was ongoing, occasional or a one-off.

"From a civil liberties perspective, the program could hardly be any more alarming. It's a program in which some untold number of innocent people have been put under the constant surveillance of government agents," said Jameel Jaffer, American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director. "It is beyond Orwellian, and it provides further evidence of the extent to which basic democratic rights are being surrendered in secret to the demands of unaccountable intelligence agencies."

The order names Verizon Business Services, a division of Verizon Communications. In its first-quarter earnings report, published in April, Verizon Communications listed about 10 million commercial lines out of a total of 121 million customers. The court order does not specify what type of lines are being tracked. It is not clear whether any additional orders exist to cover Verizon's wireless and residential customers, or those of other phone carriers.

Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific, named target suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets. The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual.

The Verizon order expressly bars the company from disclosing to the public either the existence of the FBI's request for its customers' records, or the court order itself. "We decline comment," said Ed McFadden, a Washington-based Verizon spokesman said on Wednesday.

News of the order brought swift condemnation from senior US politicians. Former vice-president Al Gore described the "secret blanket surveillance" as "obscenely outrageous". "In [the] digital era, privacy must be a priority," he said.

The court order appears to explain the numerous cryptic public warnings by two US senators, Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, about the scope of the Obama administration's surveillance activities.

For about two years, the two Democrats have been stridently advising the public that the US government is relying on "secret legal interpretations" to claim surveillance powers so broad that the American public would be "stunned" to learn of the kind of domestic spying being conducted.

Udall, a member of the Senate intelligence committee, said on Wednesday night: "While I cannot corroborate the details of this particular report, this sort of widescale surveillance should concern all of us and is the kind of government overreach I've said Americans would find shocking."

The Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement that the secret court order was unprecedented. "As far as we know this order from the Fisa court is the broadest surveillance order to ever have been issued: it requires no level of suspicion and applies to all Verizon [business services] subscribers anywhere in the US.

"The Patriot Act's incredibly broad surveillance provision purportedly authorizes an order of this sort, though its constitutionality is in question and several senators have complained about it."

Mark Rumold, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said: "This is confirmation of what we've long feared, that the NSA has been tracking the calling patterns of the entire country. We hope more than anything else that the government will allow a judge to decide whether this is constitutional, and we can finally put an end to this practice."

Howard Wolfson, a deputy mayor of New York, described the revelations as "a shocking report that really exploded overnight".

"A lot of people are waking up now and I think they will be horrified," he said. "It is not just the civil libertarian wings of the Republican and Democratic parties; I think most Americans will be really surprised that their government is having access to all of the phone calls they make."

"I don't think the administration's response [so far] is anywhere near adequate. I think you will see a lot of questions being asked in the coming days."

Oregon senator Jeff Merkley said: "This type of secret bulk data collection is an outrageous breach of Americans' privacy. Can the FBI or the NSA really claim that they need data scooped up on tens of millions of Americans?"

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/06/obama-administration-nsa-verizon-records?guni=Network

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« Reply #8606 on: Jun 6th, 2013, 09:37am »




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« Reply #8607 on: Jun 6th, 2013, 09:41am »

Reuters

Insight: Russia's Syria diplomacy, a game of smoke and mirrors


By Thomas Grove
MOSCOW
Thu Jun 6, 2013 4:39am EDT

(Reuters) - Sitting at a long table in Russia's Foreign Ministry, Syrian opposition leaders outlined a plan to protect Moscow's interests if the Kremlin agreed to the removal of its longstanding ally, President Bashar al-Assad.

Throughout the meeting last July, one of many since the start of Syria's civil war, Russian officials sat stony-faced. When the Syrians had finished, there was a long silence.

"The Russians listened but never spoke, and when we were done speaking, we were told that Moscow is dedicated to human rights and we were told to get on our way," said Mahmoud al-Hamza, a Moscow-based member of the Syria National Council, who was present at several such sessions.

More than two years after the Syrian conflict erupted as part of the "Arab Spring" uprisings, Assad is clinging to power thanks in large part to Russian diplomatic and military support.

Russia and the United States have agreed to bring together the warring sides for a peace conference in the coming weeks. Yet some fellow mediators suspect a Kremlin ploy to keep Assad in power - at least a little longer. On the battlefield, the momentum has swung Assad's way and on Wednesday forces loyal to him retook the strategically important town of Qusair.

Leaked accounts of Moscow's dealings with the opposition, promises to deliver Assad a potentially game-changing missile system and anecdotal evidence that Russians are training Syrian troops have widened the trust deficit between Russia and the West.

"Our biggest fear is being screwed over by the Russians," said one French official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

DIPLOMATIC DANCE

As on many other occasions, the July meeting between Russian officials and the opposition foundered on the position championed by President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: the Syrian people should decide their country's future for themselves.

Russia says it is motivated by a desire to stop the fighting, not by a wish to maintain military and industrial interests in one of the Kremlin's last Middle East allies.

"Our position at this moment is to stop the bloodshed and pain, and that is the fundamental task of all efforts connected with the resolution of the Syrian crisis," said a Foreign Ministry official, who declined to be named. "We are not selecting candidates for the future transitional government. We are not supporting any forces that will make it up."

Some foreign diplomats and observers say that if past diplomacy is any guide, Moscow will seek to pack the table with members of tame opposition parties that are part of Assad's tightly controlled political system, while exploiting the divisions among his opponents.

"Everything must be done to convince the opposition to sit at the negotiating table without preliminary conditions, having guaranteed full representation to all Syrian opposition groups, including internal opposition," Lavrov said last week.

Moscow has had several rounds of talks with Hassan Abdel Azim and his National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, which rebels say is little more than a front for Assad. The group's leader outside Syria, Haytham Manna, did not respond to a request for comment.

The Kremlin has also tried to cast Russian-speaking Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil as a member of the opposition. Jamil came to Russia several times last year to work out an oil-for-fuel swap deal.

"It's reached a point where Moscow knows Assad is no longer an option. Russia only wants people who will keep something of the old ties alive," said Free Syrian Army member Hamza.

MESSAGE

While insisting it is not supporting Syria's rulers, Russia has sent them advanced radar anti-ship missiles, unfrozen but not yet delivered an order of S-300 anti-aircraft rockets and promised to fulfill a contract for 12 MiG-29MM2 fighter jets.

Syria is one of the last bastions of support for Moscow in the region and Russia does not want to see Assad go the way of ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, a long-time partner.

In another show of force in the region, Russia sent a group of four navy ships from its Pacific Fleet last month to the Mediterranean, where they will join a squadron of warships already stationed off the coast of Syria.

Reports of arms shipments and shipping movements, often conflicting and ambiguous, may strengthen Russia's hand in its dealings with the West.

"Everything that is happening around Syria has less to do with promises to Assad personally and more to do with power plays between Russia and the West," said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the magazine Russia in Global Affairs. "And for Russia that means keeping things on the diplomatic track."

"Those ships may be carrying elements for the S-300, they may not be. For Russia, the less clarity the better in arguing its position," he said.

The S-300s are unlikely to be delivered before autumn. A source in the arms industry suggested the deal could be speeded up or frozen depending on what the West does.

"Everything at this point can be used as a bargaining chip," Lukyanov said.

LONG HISTORY

Russia also worries about the security blow-back it could face after the Syrian conflict, in which it estimates 200 of its own citizens are fighting on the rebel side.

Russia's southern Muslim territories in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan and the North Caucasus, where Islamist insurgents wage daily violence, are prone to instability. Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia's main security agency, has voiced fears that returning fighters could fuel Islamic radicalism.

Russia has a naval base on Syrian soil, and the two countries have long and deep cultural ties. Thousands of Syrians live in Russia - and many Russians are in Syria - as a result of years of educational, business and security ties.

Pro- and anti-Assad Syrians have emigrated to Russia, one of the few countries to give visas to Syrians wanting to put their families and money in a safe place.

Sitting in his Middle Eastern restaurant in a busy Moscow shopping district, Hassan al-Dubaisi, who came to study engineering five years ago, says he has been visited three times by Syrian businessmen of all political stripes looking for help.

"Usually they want to buy a stake in the restaurant or ask for help getting started in Russia, but I don't like partners," he said blowing out smoke from his water pipe.

Dubaisi, who comes from near Dera'a, where the uprising against Assad began, said he donated money to the opposition - 10,000 roubles ($310) - as have many other Syrian emigrants.

Support for the rebels thrived at first in Moscow's Syrian community, which tends to be more secular and better educated than average Syrians. But enthusiasm has waned as the violence has dragged on and the rebels have turned more Islamist.

Dubaisi and other opposition supporters say they face increasing pressure and sometimes violence in Russia for their political views and for joining anti-Assad protests in Moscow.

"The (Syrian) embassy here has already identified me as an opposition supporter and ... I've heard that if I ever go back to Syria, I'm on a list of people to be arrested before I even make it through passport control," he said.

Security ties between Syria and Russia flourished during the Cold War. Russia, the world's second largest arms exporter after the United States, was the first supplier to which Assad's father, Hafez, turned when he gained power in 1971.

Two years later, Moscow equipped an Arab coalition including Syria that launched a surprise attack on Israeli forces in the 1973 Middle East War. When Egypt turned towards Washington and expelled Soviet advisers, Syria remained in Moscow's camp.

Syria became an even more loyal customer after Russia wrote off some 70 percent of Syria's $13.4 billion debt in 2005, a stumbling block that had frozen arms cooperation in the 1990s.

Since then ties have revolved around arms and military cooperation. Syrian sources say crack troops loyal to Assad have been sent to Russia for training. A Russian military source told Interfax that an unspecified number of Syrian officers have been sent to Russia for coaching on a range of air defense systems, but not yet on the S-300. ($1 = 31.9362 Russian roubles)

(This story clarifies the affiliation of Mahmoud al-Hamza in the third paragraph)

(Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris, Steve Gutterman in Moscow, Editing by Paul Taylor and Janet McBride)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/06/us-syria-crisis-russia-insight-idUSBRE95505W20130606

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« Reply #8608 on: Jun 6th, 2013, 09:47am »







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« Reply #8609 on: Jun 6th, 2013, 5:02pm »

Washington Post

U.S. intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program

By Barton Gellman and Laura Poitras,
Thursday, June 6, 2:43 PM

The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.

The highly classified program, code-named PRISM, has not been disclosed publicly before. Its establishment in 2007 and six years of exponential growth took place beneath the surface of a roiling debate over the boundaries of surveillance and privacy. Even late last year, when critics of the foreign intelligence statute argued for changes, the only members of Congress who know about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.

An internal presentation on the Silicon Valley operation, intended for senior analysts in the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, described the new tool as the most prolific contributor to the President’s Daily Brief, which cited PRISM data in 1,477 articles last year. According to the briefing slides, obtained by The Washington Post, “NSA reporting increasingly relies on PRISM” as its leading source of raw material, accounting for nearly 1 in 7 intelligence reports.

That is a remarkable figure in an agency that measures annual intake in the trillions of communications. It is all the more striking because the NSA, whose lawful mission is foreign intelligence, is reaching deep inside the machinery of American companies that host hundreds of millions of American-held accounts on American soil.

The technology companies, which participate knowingly in PRISM operations, include most of the dominant global players of Silicon Valley. They are listed on a roster that bears their logos in order of entry into the program: “Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” PalTalk, although much smaller, has hosted significant traffic during the Arab Spring and in the ongoing Syrian civil war.

Dropbox , the cloud storage and synchronization service, is described as “coming soon.”

Government officials declined to comment for this story.

Roots in the ’70s

PRISM is an heir, in one sense, to a history of intelligence alliances with as many as 100 trusted U.S. companies since the 1970s. The NSA calls these Special Source Operations, and PRISM falls under that rubric.

The Silicon Valley operation works alongside a parallel program, code-named BLARNEY, that gathers up “metadata” — address packets, device signatures and the like — as it streams past choke points along the backbone of the Internet. BLARNEY’s top-secret program summary, set down alongside a cartoon insignia of a shamrock and a leprechaun hat, describes it as “an ongoing collection program that leverages IC [intelligence community] and commercial partnerships to gain access and exploit foreign intelligence obtained from global networks.”

But the PRISM program appears more nearly to resemble the most controversial of the warrantless surveillance orders issued by President George W. Bush after the al-Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Its history, in which President Obama presided over “exponential growth” in a program that candidate Obama criticized, shows how fundamentally surveillance law and practice have shifted away from individual suspicion in favor of systematic, mass collection techniques.

more after the jump:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/us-intelligence-mining-data-from-nine-us-internet-companies-in-broad-secret-program/2013/06/06/3a0c0da8-cebf-11e2-8845-d970ccb04497_story.html

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« Last Edit: Jun 6th, 2013, 5:04pm by WingsofCrystal » User IP Logged

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