A couple have photographed what appears to be the fabled Beast of Trowbridge, a large black cat that has been the subject of rumoured sightings for years.
By Olivia Goldhill 2:11PM BST 16 Aug 2013
Herbert and Doreen Smith were walking in Murhill Woods, near the village of Winsley, at around 10.30am on Saturday morning when they spotted the creature.
Mr Smith, 71, said he struggled to believe the sight when he first came across the large black animal.
He told the Wiltshire Times: “Our first impression was sheer astonishment, we really could not believe our eyes at what we were seeing. The animal was eating what we believe it had just caught.
“There was a lot of rabbits about so I expect it was having breakfast. I was about 20ft away from it whilst it was eating, it looked up at me for a couple of seconds then resumed eating.
"If it wasn't for my wife tugging at my arm to get me out of there, I would of stayed observing this magnificent animal.”
Over the years, the panther-like creature has been spotted in Trowbridge, Staverton and Westbury Leigh, and was the subject of numerous sightings in 2009.
Other rumoured big cats have been spotted throughout the British countryside, including last month, when Baronet Sir Benjamin Slade spotted a large black animal in his grounds.
The large cats are usually thought to be lynxes, or black cats such as pumas and panthers.
One of the most common theories for the presence alleged “wild alien cats” is that they are the descendants of animals released from captivity when the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976 came into force, which made it illegal to keep untamed cats.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8987 on: Aug 18th, 2013, 08:46am »
Bo Xilai trial date set over corruption charges
Former party secretary of Chongqing, whose wife murdered British businessman Neil Heywood, to face court on Thursday
by Tania Branigan in Beijing 18 August 2013
The long-awaited trial of the Chinese politician Bo Xilai for alleged bribery, corruption and abuse of power will begin on Thursday, state media has announced.
The 64-year-old has not been seen since spring last year when he was fired as party secretary of Chongqing after claims that his wife had murdered a British businessman.
Bo was indicted in late July. The hearing, at the Jinan intermediate people's court, in eastern Shandong province, will begin at 8.30am in courtroom five, Xinhua said in a terse statement.
The trial is likely to last around a day, with the judgment probably delivered a few weeks later. Bo is expected to plead guilty and most analysts predict he will receive a lengthy jail term. There is thought to be a tacit agreement that members of the politburo should not receive the death penalty, even if suspended.
Bo will be represented by two lawyers, Li Guifang and Wang Zhaofeng. Li told Reuters that he had been appointed by Bo, although the state-owned Global Times newspaper said he had been "assigned" by the government-run Beijing legal aid centre.
Lawyers appointed by Bo's relatives said they had not been permitted to represent him. Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of Neil Heywood's murder last year and given a death sentence with two-year reprieve, meaning that the punishment will almost certainly be commuted to life imprisonment.
The allegations against her came to light when Bo's former police chief Wang Lijun fled to the US consulate in Chengdu and told diplomats he believed Gu had killed the Briton. Wang was later jailed for 15 years for defection, bribe-taking, abuse of power and "bending the law for selfish ends" by initially covering up Gu's crime.
Bo is a highly divisive figure who alienated peers and alarmed liberals with his ruthless tactics and evident ambition, but who retains considerable popularity in his former fiefdoms of Dalian and Chongqing, and had high-level connections – one reason, it is thought, why the trial is taking place in Jinan, where he had no particular support. A heavy security presence is expected.
In an indication of the sensitivity of the case, some energetic supporters of Bo have been detained or put under surveillance in the runup to the trial. This month a well-known leftwing journalist was detained by police after reportedly writing on the Sina Weibo microblog service that people should go to Jinan and rise up to oppose the trial. Friends said Song Yangbiao was accused of "picking quarrels and making trouble".
One of Bo's keenest critics, Fang Hong, was also taken away by police after requesting time off work to go to the trial, the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported. Fang, a forestry official, was previously held in a labour camp for a year after posting a scatological joke about Bo.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8989 on: Aug 18th, 2013, 11:23am »
Egypt's cabinet debates fate of Muslim Brotherhood
By Alistair Lyon and Tom Finn
CAIRO | Sun Aug 18, 2013 11:36am EDT
(Reuters) - Egypt's army-backed rulers met on Sunday to discuss their bloody confrontation with deposed President Mohamed Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood amid contrasting proposals for compromise and a fight to the death.
In a speech to military and police officers, army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi promised to crack down on anyone using violence, but also struck an apparently inclusive note, telling Mursi's supporters: "There is room for everyone in Egypt," according to the army's Facebook page.
The Brotherhood, under huge pressure since police stormed its protest camps in Cairo and killed hundreds of its supporters, said it was planning more marches to demand the reinstatement of Mursi, ousted by the army on July 3.
Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, is grappling with the worst bout of internal bloodshed in its modern history, just 30 months after President Hosni Mubarak's overthrow was hailed as heralding democratic change across a region ruled by autocrats.
Around 800 people have died, including about 79 police, in a crackdown that has earned the military rulers condemnation from major aid donor the United States and the European Union, but support from wealthy Arab allies led by Saudi Arabia, which fear the spread of Brotherhood ideology to the Gulf monarchies.
Before the cabinet met, the liberal deputy prime minister, Ziad Bahaa el-Din, had floated a conciliatory proposal, seen by Reuters, advocating an end to a state of emergency declared last week, political participation for all parties and guarantees of human rights, including the right to free assembly.
But his initiative seemed at odds with the position of Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, who suggested outlawing the 85-year-old Brotherhood, which would effectively force it underground.
"There will be no reconciliation with those whose hands have been stained with blood and who turned weapons against the state and its institutions," Beblawi told reporters on Saturday.
A middle-ranking security officer, who asked not to be named, said there would be no let-up in the anti-Brotherhood struggle, regardless of any political proposals or international criticism.
"THE PEOPLE SUPPORT US"
"We have the people's support. Everybody is against them now as they see the group as an armed terrorist organization with no future as a political power," the officer said.
The capital's frenetic streets, unusually empty in the past few days, were returning to normal, although the army kept several big squares closed and enforced a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
At night, soldiers standing by armored personnel carriers man checkpoints and vigilantes inspect cars for weapons.
Banks and the stock market reopened for the first time since Wednesday's carnage, and shares plunged 3.9 percent.
"As long as we have bloodshed on the streets, it takes away any reason for foreign and regional investors to buy in Egypt," said Amer Khan, director at Shuaa Asset Management in Dubai.
Egypt's new rulers blame the Muslim Brotherhood, which won five successive votes held in Egypt after Mubarak's fall in 2011, but drew accusations that it was incompetent and bent on consolidating its own position during Mursi's year in power.
Sisi said: "We will not stand idle in face of the destruction and torching of the country, the terrorizing of the people and the sending of a wrong image to the Western media that there is fighting in the streets."
Brotherhood leaders accuse the military of deliberately sabotaging their time in office and plotting their demise.
In calibrated rebukes to the army, the United States has delayed delivery of four F-16 fighters and scrapped a joint military exercise, but it has not halted its $1.55 billion a year in aid to Egypt, mostly to finance U.S.-made arms supplies.
The EU says it will urgently review relations.
Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy sought to pre-empt any Western attempt to use aid flows as a lever by saying he would review all such assistance to see "what aid is being used to pressure Egypt and whether this aid has good intentions and credibility".
He told a news conference Egypt was not seeking to reshuffle its friendships, but would widen them to increase its options.
"The relationship between Egypt and the U.S. has been there for a long time. It has been through ups and downs in the past. We hope things will go back to normal promptly," Fahmy said.
ACCUSATIONS OF BIAS
As part of a concerted push to drive home the state's narrative of events, his aides distributed a pack of photos said to show Muslim Brotherhood members carrying firearms and wooden staves - and in one picture a black al Qaeda-type flag.
The Brotherhood denies links to the global militant network.
Officials have accused Western media of biased coverage of the unrest, saying they have ignored attacks on police and the destruction of churches blamed on Islamists.
The army crackdown has drawn wide support among Egyptians tired of political turmoil and hard-hit by its economic fallout.
"I tried to sympathize with the Brotherhood but could not," said Hussein Ismail, 32, on holiday from his job in the Gulf, who took part in anti-Mursi protests late last year.
"They stormed our protests at the presidential palace, they hit our women protesters," he said.
"They defended the army when they attacked and killed Christian protesters in 2011. They slammed liberals, women and Copts when they asked for more freedoms, rights. Do you think those people really cared about democracy?"
On Saturday, Mursi supporters exchanged fire with security forces who eventually cleared protesters from a central Cairo mosque where they had sought refuge from clashes the day before.
At least 173 people were killed on Friday during a "Day of Rage" called by the Brotherhood two days after police destroyed its protest camps. The Brotherhood put the death toll at 213 protesters. Police have since arrested more than 1,000 Brotherhood "elements". The state news agency said 250 faced possible charges of murder, attempted murder or terrorism.
The Brotherhood has called for daily street protests this week, but there were no reports of trouble by Sunday afternoon.
Hundreds of Mursi supporters staged six separate marches in Egypt's second city, Alexandria, late on Saturday in defiance of the curfew. People in civilian clothes attacked and dispersed two of the processions. No casualties were reported.
At dawn, police raided the homes of 34 Brotherhood members in Alexandria and arrested seven people, security sources said.
(Additional reporting by Yasmine Saleh and Patrick Werr in Cairo, Paul Taylor in Paris and Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8990 on: Aug 18th, 2013, 11:30am »
Years or decades later, flu exposure still prompts immunity
New forms of influenza viruses can spur production of antibodies to past pandemics in people who lived through them
By Tina Hesman Saey
Web edition: August 16, 2013
Exposure to new flu strains can stimulate production of antibodies against older versions of the virus, researchers have found. The work suggests how to make longer-lasting vaccines with broader flu-fighting capabilities.
Scientists had suspected that the immune system could draw on its prior experience to craft potent protection against future viruses. But there was no evidence before the new work, says Patrick Wilson, an immunologist at the University of Chicago.
Peter Palese of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City reports August 14 in Science Translational Medicine that he and his colleagues measured antibodies in blood samples drawn from 40 participants in the Framingham Heart Study. The people were born between 1917 and 1952 and lived through the flu pandemics that struck in 1957, 1968 and 1977. The participants volunteered blood samples at five-year intervals between 1987 and 2008.
Palese’s group tracked how antibodies against the three pandemic flu strains changed over time. The researchers also measured levels of antibodies against altered versions of those viruses that were in circulation in 1981 and 1991.
Over time, levels of antibodies against the pandemic strains rose as the people encountered new versions of the flu, the team discovered. But when directed against an unchanging virus called cytomegalovirus, the study participants’ antibodies didn’t climb, suggesting that new virus varieties are important for prodding production of old antibodies.
Because the immune system holds on to old antibodies, elderly people may run out of room in their immunological attics, leaving less space for making new antibodies, says Ning Jenny Jiang, a bioengineer who studies systems immunology at the University of Texas at Austin.
The new work also suggests which parts of the flu virus goad the immune system into making the best antibodies. Antibodies that can fight the widest range of flu viruses are those that latch onto the stalk portion of the hemagglutinin protein, a molecule that sits on the flu’s outer coat. The protein’s stalk supports the head, the business end of the molecule, which grabs onto host cells. The stalk doesn’t change much from year to year or flu virus to flu virus, making it an attractive vaccine candidate.
But the stalk by itself usually doesn’t inspire much of an antibody-producing reaction from the immune system. Palese thinks that by combining the stalk with a variety of heads, he can make a flu vaccine that will protect against a wide range of viruses and will last longer than current seasonal vaccines do.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8991 on: Aug 19th, 2013, 09:31am »
Terrorism law watchdog calls for explanation of Miranda detention
David Anderson QC becomes latest figure to question treatment of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald's partner
by Nicholas Watt and Rowena Mason Monday 19 August 2013 10.02 EDT
Britain's anti-terrorist legislation watchdog has called on the Home Office and Metropolitan police to explain why anti-terror laws were used to detain the partner of the Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald for nine hours at Heathrow airport.
Amid mounting concern across the political spectrum over the treatment of David Miranda, David Anderson QC said that the treatment of Greenwald's partner on Sunday appeared to be "unusual".
Miranda said he was questioned by six agents on his "entire life" while held at Heathrow. Arriving at Rio de Janeiro airport on Monday, Miranda said: "I remained in a room. There were six different agents coming and going. They asked questions about my entire life, about everything. They took my computer, video game, mobile phone, my memory card. Everything."
In an interview with The World at One on BBC Radio 4, Anderson said that only 40 of the 60,000 to 70,000 people questioned under schedule 7 of the 2000 Terrorism Act are detained for more than six hours. "You can see what an unusual case this was if it is correct that Mr Miranda was held right up to nine-hour limit," Anderson said.
Miranda is the partner of Glenn Greenwald, who has written a series of stories for the Guardian revealing mass surveillance programmes by the NSA. He was returning to their home in Rio from Berlin when he was stopped at Heathrow and officials confiscated electronics equipment, including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.
During his trip to Berlin Miranda visited Laura Poitras, the US film-maker who has been working with Greenwald and the Guardian. The Guardian paid for Miranda's flights. Miranda is not a Guardian employee but often assists Greenwald in his work.
The intervention by Anderson came as the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, called for an urgent investigation into the use of schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to detain Miranda. Cooper said ministers must find out whether anti-terror laws had been misused after detention caused "considerable consternation".
Cooper said public support for the schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act could be undermined if there was a perception it is not being used for the right purposes. "Any suggestion that terror powers are being misused must be investigated and clarified urgently," she said. "The public support for these powers must not be endangered by a perception of misuse.
"The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson, has already warned of the importance of using schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act appropriately and proportionately. The purpose of schedule 7 is to determine whether or not someone is involved in or associated with terror activity.
"The Home Office and police need to explain rapidly how they can justify using that purpose under the terrorism legislation to detain David Miranda for nine hours. This has caused considerable consternation and swift answers are needed.
"The police and security agencies rightly work hard to protect national security and prevent terrorism. But public confidence in security powers depends on them being used proportionately within the law, and also on having independent checks and balances in place to prevent misuse."
The unease about the treatment of Miranda spread to Tory ranks as David Davis, the former shadow home secretary, warned that police appeared to have behaved in a heavy-handed manner.
Downing Street declined to answer questions about the treatment of Miranda on the grounds that it was an operational matter.
The No 10 spokesman added that police would judge whether they had exercised their powers proportionately. The Downing Street spokesman said: "The government takes all necessary steps to protect the public from individuals who pose a threat to national security. Schedule 7, which was used in this case, forms an essential part of the UK's border security arrangements. But it is for the police to decide when it is necessary and proportionate to use these powers."
But No 10's position was directly contradicted by Anderson, who said: "This is an important power. But the question of whether it was proportionately used in any given case is not ultimately for the police.
"The police, I'm sure, do their best. But at the end of the day there is the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which can look into the exercise of this power, there are the courts and there is my function. I report to the home secretary and to parliament every year on how this power is being used and whether it is being used properly."
Davis also dismissed the Downing Street position. He said: "This is absolutely not solely an operational matter for the police. This relates directly to press freedom and directly to our adherence to the rule of law. I'm afraid you cannot shove this one under the carpet on the basis of national security."
He added: "What did ministers know of this? Did they authorise it? Have they returned his computers, have they retained data from those computers and phones? There are a lot of questions to be answered as a matter of urgency.
"The truth is there is too much of a habit in Britain of using terrorism law as a catch-all … The 2000 act was not designed, and certainly not presented as a mechanism for trawling through people's private information when they passed through Heathrow between two other non-enemy countries."
Anderson, who has raised questions about schedule 7 of the 2000 terrorism act, said he hoped MPs would look carefully at the measure. The government is proposing, on the basis of a recommendation from Anderson, to reduce the maximum detention period from nine to six hours. The change is to be made through the antisocial behaviour crime and policing bill.
Anderson said: "At the moment anybody can be stopped under this power. There is no need for the police to believe they are a terrorist or to suspect they are a terrorist. The only reason they can talk to them is in order to determine whether they are a terrorist.
"It seems to me there is a question to be answered about whether it should be possible to detain somebody – to keep them for six hours, to download their mobile phone – without the need for any suspicion at all. I hope at least it is something parliament will look at."
Scotland Yard has refused to be drawn on why Miranda was stopped using powers that enable police officers to stop and question travellers at UK ports and airports.
"At 08:05 on Sunday 18 August, a 28-year-old man was detained at Heathrow airport under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. He was not arrested. He was subsequently released at 17:00," it said in a brief statement.
Schedule 7, which applies only at airports, ports and border areas, controversially allows officers to stop, search, question and detain individuals. Miranda was held for nine hours, the maximum the law allows before officers must release or formally arrest the individual.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8992 on: Aug 19th, 2013, 09:36am »
Last Wednesday's massacre marked the beginning of a new phase of repression in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood is on the defensive and the country is threatened by the return of a military dictatorship. It could be the end of the Arab Spring.
By SPIEGEL Staff 19 August 2013
The paramedics in front of the main Cairo morgue in Sainhum are adamant that the facility cannot handle any more corpses. The cold rooms, the regular rooms and the courtyard, they say, are all full of bodies. There are even bodies on the street outside, making up an eerie queue, lying in rows of three, some shrouded in white sheets or black body bags and others in open coffins.
The dead move forward by half a meter every 15 minutes, pulled and pushed by their relatives. It's 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit), but the dead are not in the shade. Instead, they are lying in the middle of the street, surrounded by buzzing flies.
Mohammed Riad, a gym teacher, has brought his cousin to the morgue. He was shot in the head. The cousin supported the Muslim Brotherhood, whose members had pitched their tents on Rabaa al-Adawiya Square, which the police and military cleared last Wednesday, probably the bloodiest day in recent Egyptian history. But the family members standing in line outside the morgue have almost no opportunity to mourn the dead, and that is intentional.
Every funeral march could also transform into a demonstration, which is why the Kafkaesque bureaucracy was doing everything it could last week to delay the release of the bodies. A doctor's report is necessary and then an attestation from the police so that the body can be brought to the overcrowded Sainhum morgue. A death certificate can only be issued there. An additional document from the police is necessary before the burial can actually take place. The only way to speed up the process, said those waiting outside the morgue, was to declare that suicide was the cause of death.
The result could be seen on Friday; there was a relative paucity of funerals. But there were protests nonetheless. Tens of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters congregated on Ramses Square in Cairo. Once again, the security forces fired at the demonstrators and the clashes left over 170 people dead. After state television had broadcast an appeal to Egyptians to form militias, groups of thugs armed with clubs and machetes appeared in many neighborhoods, lying in wait for Muslim Brotherhood supporters.
Early Stages of Civil War?
No one has tried to stop the escalation, not the Muslim Brotherhood, which had called for a "Friday of rage," and has promised additional protests, and not the security forces, which continues to use live ammunition and has pledged to continue pressuring the Islamists. On Sunday, 36 more members of the Muslim Brotherhood were killed, allegedly the result of trying to escape from prison. Reports indicate that they may have suffocated in the back of a packed prison van after tear gas was fired inside. And on Monday, reports emerged that two police minibuses in the Sinai were ambushed by suspected militants, leaving 24 dead.
The events, taken together, make it seem as though Egypt is in the early stages of a civil war, a conflict which started with the Aug. 14 bloodbath. According to official figures, more than 600 demonstrators and 43 members of the security forces were killed. The Muslim Brotherhood claims that more than 2,000 people lost their lives, most of them killed by shots to the head and chest. The actual casualty figures are probably somewhere in between. Some 4,200 people were injured.
In response, Islamists have ransacked and set fire to dozens of churches and Christian-owned buildings. Several police officers have been lynched.
The divisions in Egypt are deep. Whereas reconciliation had seemed possible, though difficult, until last week, there are now two irreconcilable camps facing off against each other: the military and its secular supporters, on one side, and the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, on the other. The young activists and the liberals no longer play a role. One of their representatives, Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, resigned in protest on Wednesday evening. Violence begets violence, he wrote, adding that his words would be remembered. But nobody listened.
The military is in the process of repeating the mistakes of the Muslim Brotherhood, arrogantly invoking a supposed "popular mandate" and pushing for a quick victory rather than a compromise. But the army cannot suppress the roughly 30 percent of Egyptians in the Islamist camp without limiting the freedom of all Egyptians. If it adheres to its course, the country could soon be under a military dictatorship.
'Death for the Arab Spring'
In the wake of the July 3 coup and the tragedy of Aug. 14, it seems possible that the military leaders never truly relinquished their hold on power after the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak two-and-a-half years ago. If that were the case, democracy in the country would be a failure. Yemeni Nobel Peace Price winner Tawakkul Karman makse it clear what this would mean for the Arab world: "The destruction of Egypt's revolution means death for the Arab Spring," she said.
The ecstatic rhetoric about change and a democratic future is gone, and not just in Egypt. Although it is still too early to write off the Arab Spring -- it took centuries for democracy to gain a foothold in the West -- the democratic experiment is clearly in grave danger.
Tunisia, the cradle of the movement, threatens to plunge into chaos after two political murders, and the positions of Islamists and secular Tunisians are also irreconcilable. Despite elections, clan leaders and warlords are still in charge in Libya. The country is also plagued by bombings and has turned into the world's largest openly accessible arms depot. Syria has descended into a civil war that has already claimed 100,000 lives and turned millions into refugees. And Iraq and Lebanon are also on the brink of civil war along religious fault lines.
The Gulf, states which had generally been more liberal, have become more repressive. And it is no accident that undemocratic countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates promised Egypt $12 billion (€9 billion) after the July coup: a bonus to restore the previous status quo.
Former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's one year in office seems like an historical accident. He was the only civilian president the country has seen since the overthrow of the king in 1952. Although Egypt does have a transitional president, Adly Mansour, the chief justice of the supreme constitutional court, he has little power.
Once again, the country's leader is from the military: General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, 58, clean-shaven, usually seen wearing sunglasses and a dress uniform -- not unlike former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Sissi is the commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, defense minister and deputy premier. He is also a conservative, religious bureaucrat and a holdover from the old regime. Sissi was the one who defended the "virginity tests" being performed on young female demonstrators with the odd argument that it was to protect soldiers against rape accusations.
The Army Has a Country
On the day after the bloodbath, army supporters went to what was left of the protestors' camp and chanted: "Sissi, Sissi." Many praised his tough stance against the Islamists, and some already see him as the next president. Although the general has said that he does not intend to run for political office, he hasn't truly ruled it out, either. The adoration for Sissi is reminiscent of former President Gamal Abdel Nasser -- and it is not unintended. One of Nasser's daughters has already written an open letter to the general, begging him to run, arguing that 30 million Egyptians agree with her. There are posters throughout the country that depict Sissi next to Nasser, and there is even a portrait of Sissi hanging above the former president's grave. There is also an old photo making the rounds that depicts a boy saluting Nasser. The rumor is that the boy is the young Sissi, which is most probably nonsense. But it reveals the extent of the adoration that is being stirred up by the military.
There is an old saying that many are quoting once again today: Egypt has no army, but the army has a country. No other institution permeates society as much as the military does. Half of the country's 440,000 soldiers are conscripts. Those who manage to advance into the higher ranks gain access to an elite parallel world, complete with its own yacht clubs, amusement centers and hospitals. The military has never had to reveal its budget, and it makes strategic decisions on its own. With its cement and pasta factories, hotels and service stations, the military is also one of Egypt's biggest economic players.
Those who grow up in this world, like General Sissi, truly believe that the army is the "guardian of patriotic responsibility," as he wrote to Morsi during his inauguration. The general often uses terms like pride and nationalism, which is also reminiscent of Nasser, a former colonel who came to power in a military coup. Also like Nasser, Sissi has recently become critical of the West. Although he cannot fully emulate his idol, because he lacks the funds for social programs and the global political support, Sissi is taking advantage of Egypt's yearning for a hero.
But Nasser also brutally repressed the Muslim Brotherhood, laying the foundation for the current conflict. In this respect, too, Sissi seems to be channeling his idol.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8993 on: Aug 19th, 2013, 09:43am »
NASA Brings Out the Big Gun for Asteroid Impact Science
By Adam Mann 08.19.13 6:30 AM
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Just before he gets ready to fire a projectile down the 14-foot barrel of a vertical gun, planetary scientist Peter Schultz turns to me and gives an apologetic smile.
“There’s something you have to do,” he says, as his graduate student snickers. “You have to assume the Gault position.”
The Gault position, it turns out, involves crossing your index finger over your middle, your ring finger over your pinkie, then crossing your two arms over one another and finally crossing your legs (while standing). Schultz assumes it, explaining that it serves as a good luck measure, as does his graduate student and the other engineers in the gun control room. I comply, as does WIRED photographer Ariel Zambelich.
“We’re armed,” someone calls. “Voltage looks good.” A klaxon buzzes and, seconds later, there’s the sound of a powerful explosion from the next room over. A burst of flame and sand appears on the computer screen in front of us and, just like that, the NASA Ames Vertical Gun range has provided a new data point for science.
The gun is a fantastic tool for studying the effects of meteorite impacts on different places in the solar system. You see, Earth is something of an anomaly. Most other rocky bodies are covered in countless craters ranging from the size of continents down to the size of sand grains. The active tectonics of our planet recycle its crust, erasing the long-term scars that come from living in a solar system full of debris. But just about every other terrestrial planet, moon, asteroid, and comet is coated in pockmarks, a testament to how pervasive and important impacts have been in our solar system’s history.
Over the course of its nearly 50-year career, the gun range been used to figure out why the scars of an impact look different on Mars than they do on Venus. It has helped explain how the man on the moon could have gotten his face. And it has provided key data for many NASA missions, in particular the Deep Impact spacecraft, which shot a projectile into an asteroid.
Peter Schultz, who teaches geoscience at Brown University, has done much of this research. He’s worked at the gun range for 33 years, becoming its principal investigator in 2012, and he knows a great deal about its history and lore.
Though it’s called a gun, the facility doesn’t look much like any firearm you’ve ever seen. The main chassis is a long metal barrel as thick as a cannon mounted on an enormous red pole that forks at the end into two legs. The red pole was once used to hold MIM-14 Nike-Hercules missiles that served as an anti-ballistic defense against Soviet nuclear warheads, Schultz explains. This complex is pointed at a huge rotund cylinder and can be moved up and down in 15-degree increments to simulate a meteorite strike at different angles. The entire machine is housed in a 3-story industrial building here at NASA’s Ames campus.
At the far end of the barrel, a gunpowder explosion is used to compress hydrogen gas to as much as 1 million times atmospheric pressure. The compressed gas gets released and sent down the launch tube, firing a projectile pellet at speeds between 7,000 and 15,000 mph. The shot enters the cylinder, in which low pressure or even a vacuum is maintained, and hits a dish filled with different material that simulates whatever planetary body researchers are studying. High-speed cameras mounted on windows around the cylinder record the impact aftermath at up to 1 million frames per second.
The origin of both the facility and the odd position I was compelled to take stem from planetologist Donald Gault, who designed and used the range to study impacts on the moon. Built in 1965, the gun range helped interpret information returned from the Ranger probes, which crashed into the lunar surface during the Apollo era. Scientists weren’t sure of the exact composition of the regolith at the time and needed to know before attempting to land people there.
“There were reports at the time that it was going to be really, really fluffy,” said Schultz. “There was one document that said the astronauts would land and then sink out of sight.”
Using data from the gun, Gault helped figure out that the Apollo astronauts weren’t going to die by lunar quicksand. After NASA finished its goal of safely landing and returning astronauts, Gault continued using the gun range to study the formation of craters on the moon. When he retired, NASA planned to mothball the gun but an outcry from the planetary science community re-opened the firing range as a national facility. It was during this time that Schultz, who had worked with Gault as a post-doc, was hired to take over as science coordinator for the gun range.
The day WIRED visited the gun, Schultz and his graduate student, Stephanie Quintana, were simulating meteorite impacts on Mars. Inside the facility’s vacuum chamber was a large gray dish full of dolomite powder, standing in for the Martian surface.
Schultz and Quintana were investigating how a meteorite explosion could create a dust and vapor shockwave that would form a vortex with speeds three to four times that of a tornado, inflicting serious damage. The researchers had already used satellite images to identify telltale scars (.pdf) around real impact craters on Mars. Though they had some ideas, how exactly these frozen wind streaks formed remained a mystery.
Schultz explained that they would be firing a quarter-inch Styrofoam pellet into the dolomite powder and watch the ensuing outburst. He’s easy to talk to, genial, energetic, and quick to divulge interesting tidbits of information on meteorite impacts that reveal his breadth of knowledge on the topic.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8994 on: Aug 19th, 2013, 09:46am »
Al Qaeda planning attacks on high-speed trains in Europe: newspaper
BERLIN | Mon Aug 19, 2013 9:38am EDT
(Reuters) - Al Qaeda is planning attacks on high-speed trains in Europe and the authorities in Germany have stepped up security on the country's rail system, a German newspaper reported on Monday.
The information about the planned attacks came from the United States' National Security Agency (NSA), which apparently intercepted a call between senior al Qaeda members several weeks ago, the mass-circulation daily said.
But the German Interior Ministry said it regularly received information about such threats and was not planning to increase overall security.
"It is known that Germany, along with other Western states, is a target for jihadist terrorists so we always assess warnings on a case-by-case basis but we already have a high level of protective measures and we do not plan to step these up at the moment," spokesman Jens Teschke said at a routine government news conference.
The scandal surrounding the NSA's global electronic spying operation has become a major headache for Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of the September 22 election. Government snooping is a sensitive subject in Germany due to the heavy surveillance of citizens in the former communist East and under Hitler's Nazis.
Bild said German authorities had tightened security on high-speed Intercity-Express (ICE) routes and at stations with "invisible measures", including the deployment of plain clothes police officers.
A spokesman for the German federal police said efforts were already commensurate with the "highly dangerous situation both at home and abroad" but said it had alerted its forces.
The newspaper report cited unnamed security experts as saying the attacks could include acts of sabotage on rail infrastructure or bombings onboard trains.
A spokeswoman for German rail operator Deutsche Bahn would not comment on the Bild report, but said the company was always in regular contact with the security authorities over possible threats.
Earlier this month the United States shut around 20 embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Africa after saying it had picked up information through surveillance and other means about unspecified threats.
Germany narrowly avoided an attack in 2006 when two suitcase bombs left on commuter trains in Cologne failed to explode.
(Reporting by Michelle Martin, Kerstin Schraff and Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8995 on: Aug 19th, 2013, 09:56am »
Snowden journalist to publish UK secrets after Britain detains partner
By Pedro Fonseca RIO DE JANEIRO Mon Aug 19, 2013 10:42am EDT
(Reuters) - The journalist who first published secrets leaked by fugitive former U.S. intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden vowed on Monday to publish more documents and said Britain will be "sorry" for detaining his partner for nine hours.
British authorities used anti-terrorism laws on Sunday to detain David Miranda, partner of U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald, as he passed through London's Heathrow airport.
Miranda, 28, a Brazilian citizen, said he was questioned for nine hours before being released without charge, minus his laptop, cellphone and memory sticks, which were seized.
Greenwald, a columnist for Britain's the Guardian newspaper who is based in Rio de Janeiro, said the detention was an attempt to intimidate him for publishing documents leaked by Snowden disclosing U.S. surveillance of global internet communications.
Snowden, who has been granted asylum by Russia, gave Greenwald from 15,000 to 20,000 documents with details of the U.S. National Security Agency's surveillance programs.
"I will be far more aggressive in my reporting from now. I am going to publish many more documents. I am going to publish things on England too. I have many documents on England's spy system. I think they will be sorry for what they did," Greenwald, speaking in Portuguese, told reporters at Rio's airport where he met Miranda upon his return to Brazil.
"They wanted to intimidate our journalism, to show that they have power and will not remain passive but will attack us more intensely if we continue publishing their secrets," he said.
Miranda told reporters that six British agents questioned him continuously about all aspects of his life during his detention in a room at Heathrow airport. He said he was freed and returned his passport only when he started shouting in the airport lounge.
Brazil's government complained about Miranda's detention in a statement on Sunday that said the use of the British anti-terrorism law was unjustified.
Many Brazilians are still upset with Britain's anti-terrorism policies because of the death of Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes, who was mistaken for a suspect in a bombing attempt in 2005. Menezes was shot seven times in the head by police on board an underground train at a London station.
Greenwald met with Snowden in June in Hong Kong, from where he published the first of many reports that rattled the U.S. intelligence community by disclosing the breadth and depth of surveillance by the NSA on telephone and internet communications.
Snowden faces criminal charges in the United States after leaking documents disclosing the previously secret U.S. internet and telephone surveillance programs. Russia rejected American pleas to send Snowden back to the United States for trial, instead granting him a year's asylum on August 1.
Brazil, whose president, Dilma Rousseff, is scheduled to make a state visit to Washington in October, declined to consider an asylum request from Snowden. But some politicians angered by the disclosure of NSA surveillance of internet communications of Brazilians proposed granting him asylum in Brazil.
(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Brian Winter and Eric Beech)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8996 on: Aug 20th, 2013, 09:10am »
Pakistan's Musharraf charged with murder of Benazir Bhutto
By Syed Raza Hassan
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan Tue Aug 20, 2013 6:43am EDT
(Reuters) - A court in Pakistan charged former military dictator Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday with the 2007 murder of Benazir Bhutto in an unprecedented move likely to anger the all-powerful army.
The indictment of the army chief who seized power in a 1999 coup - once Pakistan's most powerful man - was almost an unthinkable event in a nuclear-armed country ruled by the military for half of its 66-year history.
Bhutto, a former prime minister, died in a suicide gun and bomb attack in December 2007 after a campaign rally in the city of Rawalpindi, not far from the heavily guarded court room where the charges were read out on Tuesday.
"He should be tried," the public prosecutor, Mohammad Azhar, told reporters after a brief hearing during which the three charges of murder, conspiracy to murder and facilitation of murder were read out to Musharraf.
The case has shattered an unwritten rule that the top military brass are untouchable as the South Asian country tries to shake off the legacy of decades of military rule under the new government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
It was Musharraf who toppled Sharif's government in the 1999 coup, and memories of that time are still fresh in the current administration. Sharif was sentenced to a life in jail by Musharraf but was eventually allowed to go into exile.
Security was tight in Rawalpindi - the seat of Pakistan's military headquarters - after a previous hearing on August 6 was delayed due to threats to Musharraf's life. The Pakistani Taliban have on many occasions threatened to kill him.
Hundreds of police were deployed along the main road leading to the court as well as on rooftops as Musharraf's car arrived. Journalists were not allowed in the court room for the hearing which lasted about 20 minutes.
Musharraf, who turned 70 on August 11, made no public remarks as he arrived but denied all the charges against him once inside the court room, a lawyer from his defense team told Reuters.
"All the cases against Musharraf are fabricated. He denied all the charges," said Afshan Adil, the lawyer. The next hearing was set for August 27.
DIFFICULT OR IMPOSSIBLE TO PROVE
Observers believe it is still possible Musharraf would be allowed to go back into exile in a face saving solution.
Imtiaz Gul, an independent security analyst, said the indictment might be profoundly symbolic but there was still little chance of Musharraf actually being convicted.
"Legally, it means it will be a long drawn-out case because it will be very difficult if not impossible to prove the direct involvement of Musharraf," Gul said.
Gul said the army - which would not comment on Tuesday's indictment - had tried to warn Musharraf about the legal dangers he faced before he decided to return from exile this year to contest a May election.
Nevertheless, there would be many former colleagues angry to see their old boss dragged through the courts.
Bhutto was killed weeks after she returned to Pakistan from years in self-imposed exile.
A U.N. commission of inquiry said in a 2010 report Pakistan failed to properly protect Bhutto or investigate how she died. At the time, the government blamed Pakistani Taliban militants. Musharraf has said he warned her of the danger she faced.
Musharraf himself came back to Pakistan this year hoping to contest the election after nearly four years of self-imposed exile. Instead, he was disqualified and became enmeshed in a thicket of legal cases going back to his near 10-year rule.
Musharraf's lawyers have asked the court to exempt their client from having to appear for the hearings in person due to security threats. A similar request was filed over a separate murder case in a court in the volatile province of Baluchistan.
"Security agencies have warned (us) against serious threats to Musharraf's life", Ahmed Raza Kasuri, who heads the Musharraf defense team, told Reuters.
(Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Robert Birsel)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8997 on: Aug 20th, 2013, 09:14am »
Christian Science Monitor
UFO sightings? Believers say Area 51 truth is still out there (+video)
UFO sightings weren't mentioned in the CIA admission that Area 51 exists. The 407-page CIA document still contains many redactions, and, say UFO buffs, who's to say those missing sections don't involve UFO sightings?
By Hannah Dreier, Associated Press August 19, 2013
UFO buffs and believers in space aliens are celebrating the CIA's clearest acknowledgement yet of the existence of Area 51, the top-secret Cold War test site that has been the subject of elaborate conspiracy theories for decades.
For a long time, U.S. government officials hesitated to acknowledge even the existence of Area 51.
CIA history released Thursday not only refers to Area 51 by name and describes some of the activities that took place there, but places the U.S. Air Force base on a map, along the dry Groom Lake bed in the Nevada desert.
It also talks about some cool planes, though none of them are saucer-shaped.
The recently declassified documents set the tinfoil-hat contingent abuzz on the Internet, though there's no mention in the papers of UFO crashes, black-eyed extraterrestrials or staged moon landings.
"I'm thinking that they're probably testing the waters now to see how mad people get about the big lie and cover-up," said Audrey Hewins, a woman from Maine who runs a support group for people like her who believe they have been contacted by extraterrestrials. "We're hoping the CIA is leading up to disclosure" of the existence of space aliens on Earth.
"It's not something you can look at us and lie about, because we know that they're here and have been here for a long time," she said.
George Washington University's National Security Archive used a public records request to obtain the CIA history of one of Area 51's most secret Cold War projects, the U-2 spy plane program.
National Security Archive senior fellow Jeffrey Richelson first reviewed the history in 2002, but all mentions of the country's most mysterious military base had been redacted. So he requested the history again in 2005, hoping for more information. Sure enough, he received a version a few weeks ago with the mentions of Area 51 restored.
The report is unlikely to stop the conspiracy theories. The 407-page document still contains many redactions, and who's to say those missing sections don't involve little green men?
Some UFO buffs and others believe the most earthshattering revelations will come from Area 51 workers, not an official document.
"The government probably will not release what it knows," UFO researcher Robert Hastings said. "My opinion is that whoever is flying these craft will break the story and will reveal themselves at some point in the future. The CIA is not going to release anything they don't want to talk about."
It's not the first time the government has acknowledged the existence of the super-secret, 8,000-square-mile installation. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush referred to the "location near Groom Lake" in insisting on continued secrecy, and other government references date to the 1960s.
But Richelson as well as those who are convinced "the truth is out there" are taking the document as a sign of loosening secrecy about the government's activities in the Nevada desert.
The site is known as Area 51 among UFO aficionados because that was the base's designation on old Nevada test site maps. The CIA history reveals that officials renamed it "Paradise Ranch" to try to lure skilled workers, who can still be seen over Las Vegas flying to and from the site on unmarked planes.
Beginning with the U-2 in the 1950s, the base has been the testing ground for a host of top-secret aircraft, including the SR-71 Blackbird, F-117A stealth fighter and B-2 stealth bomber. Some believe the base's Strangelovian hangars also store alien vehicles, evidence from the "Roswell incident" — the alleged 1947 crash of a UFO in New Mexico — and extraterrestrial corpses.
The CIA history mentions an "unexpected side effect" of the high-flying planes: "a tremendous increase in reports of unidentified flying objects." The U-2 and Oxcart planes, which flew higher than civilians believed possible, accounted for half of UFO sightings during the 1950s and '60s, according to the report.
A likely story, said Stanton Friedman, a self-described Ufologist from Canada.
"The notion that the U-2 explains most sightings at that time is utter rot and baloney," he said. "Can the U-2 sit still in the sky? Make right-angle turns in the middle of the sky? Take off from nothing? The U-2 can't do any of those things."
Even for those who do not believe in UFOs, the mystery surrounding the site — situated about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, across miles of desert speckled with Joshua trees and sagebrush — has been a boon.
Even for those who do not believe, the mystery surrounding the site — situated about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Las Vegas, across miles of empty desert speckled with Joshua trees and sagebrush — has been a boon.
One Nevada bicycle event company produces an "X Rides" event that incorporates mountain and road biking near a certain heavily guarded patch of Nevada desert. Las Vegas' minor league baseball team is called "the 51s."
Small-town restaurants along State Route 375, officially designated the Extraterrestrial Highway, sell souvenir T-shirts to tourists making their way to the boundary of Area 51, which consists of a no-trespassing sign, a surveillance camera and an armed guard on a hill.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8998 on: Aug 20th, 2013, 09:16am »
Computer Can Read Letters Directly from the Brain
Aug. 19, 2013 — By analysing MRI images of the brain with an elegant mathematical model, it is possible to reconstruct thoughts more accurately than ever before. In this way, researchers from Radboud University Nijmegen have succeeded in determining which letter a test subject was looking at.
The journal Neuroimage has accepted the article, which will be published soon.
Functional MRI scanners have been used in cognition research primarily to determine which brain areas are active while test subjects perform a specific task. The question is simple: is a particular brain region on or off? A research group at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour at Radboud University has gone a step further: they have used data from the scanner to determine what a test subject is looking at.
The researchers 'taught' a model how small volumes of 2x2x2 mm from the brain scans -- known as voxels -- respond to individual pixels. By combining all the information about the pixels from the voxels, it became possible to reconstruct the image viewed by the subject. The result was not a clear image, but a somewhat fuzzy speckle pattern. In this study, the researchers used hand-written letters.
Prior knowledge improves model performance
'After this we did something new', says lead researcher Marcel van Gerven. 'We gave the model prior knowledge: we taught it what letters look like. This improved the recognition of the letters enormously. The model compares the letters to determine which one corresponds most exactly with the speckle image, and then pushes the results of the image towards that letter. The result was the actual letter, a true reconstruction.'
'Our approach is similar to how we believe the brain itself combines prior knowledge with sensory information. For example, you can recognise the lines and curves in this article as letters only after you have learned to read. And this is exactly what we are looking for: models that show what is happening in the brain in a realistic fashion. We hope to improve the models to such an extent that we can also apply them to the working memory or to subjective experiences such as dreams or visualisations. Reconstructions indicate whether the model you have created approaches reality.'
Improved resolution; more possibilities
'In our further research we will be working with a more powerful MRI scanner,' explains Sanne Schoenmakers, who is working on a thesis about decoding thoughts. 'Due to the higher resolution of the scanner, we hope to be able to link the model to more detailed images. We are currently linking images of letters to 1200 voxels in the brain; with the more powerful scanner we will link images of faces to 15,000 voxels.'
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8999 on: Aug 20th, 2013, 09:22am »
Published on Aug 19, 2013
"The photos of balloons that Google launched don't match the video of what I saw," Allen Epling told LEX 18 on Monday. "It'd be easy for one to say 'well, that's my object. I take credit for it.' And Google may be looking for some cheap publicity." LEX 18 reached out to Google for comment. While the company said this was, in fact, their balloon photographed, they declined to go into further detail.