Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9045 on: Aug 29th, 2013, 09:37am »
Midwest hot, dry spell brings back drought worries
By DAVID PITT — Aug. 29 10:23 AM EDT
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A growing season that began unusually wet and cold in the Midwest is finishing hot and dry, renewing worries of drought and its impact on crops.
Experts say corn and soybeans may not have enough moisture in dry areas to develop to full weight, which could reduce this year's harvest.
The weekly Drought Monitor report released Thursday shows that lack of rain has caused drought conditions to expand in parts of Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, and most of Minnesota and Wisconsin.
It also shows that abnormally dry conditions have expanded in eastern Iowa and South Dakota. Rain eased drought in portions of northern Nebraska, but much of the western half of the state remain in extreme drought.
Drought also expanded in portions of Texas, Louisiana and southern Arkansas.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9046 on: Aug 29th, 2013, 09:41am »
News in Brief: Flu antibodies can make disease worse
Pigs vaccinated against one influenza virus got lung damage if infected with another strain
By Tina Hesman Saey Web edition: August 28, 2013
Some antibodies to flu viruses may actually make patients sicker, a new study of pigs suggests.
The finding, published August 28 in Science Translational Medicine, may point to problems with catchall influenza vaccines.
Pigs vaccinated against a seasonal strain of influenza made antibodies to that strain. Some of the antibodies could also latch on to a different flu virus that caused a pandemic among humans in 2009, report scientists led by Hana Golding of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in Bethesda, Md., and Amy Vincent of the Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa.
Instead of protecting the pigs against the 2009 pandemic flu, the broad-range antibodies actually helped the virus invade lung cells, causing pneumonia and lung damage.
Scientists hoping to create a universal flu vaccine need to learn how the pigs’ antibodies and viruses interacted to make the disease worse, James Crowe Jr. of Vanderbilt University writes in a commentary in the same issue of the journal.
And vaccines aren't the only problem, Crowe says. Natural infections may provoke similar disease-worsening problems.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9047 on: Aug 29th, 2013, 09:48am »
NASA Fires Up Rocket Engine Made of 3-D Printed Parts
By Jason Paur 08.28.13 4:28 PM
A lab test of the printed injector performed earlier this summer. Photo: NASA
NASA hot-fired a rocket engine using an injector fabricated from layers of a nickel-chromium alloy powder. That’s cool. What’s cooler? They used 3-D printing to create it. It’s the biggest printed engine component the agency has tested and it’s a big step for NASA, which hopes to implement the technique across several facets of space travel.
The injector component is part of the rocket engine that allows the hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen to pass through to the combustion chamber, where the thrust is produced. The engine tested with the 3-D printed injector developed 20,000 pounds of thrust, about 10 times more than any previous engine that’s used a printed part.
“We took the design of an existing injector that we already tested and modified the design so the injector could be made with a 3-D printer,” Brad Bullard, the propulsion engineer responsible for the injector design, explained in a statement from NASA. “We will be able to directly compare test data for both the traditionally assembled injector and the 3-D printed injector to see if there’s any difference in performance.”
Using selective laser melting, layers of the nickel-chromium alloy were printed by Directed Manufacturing Inc. of Texas. The injector was designed by NASA and the resulting data from the test will be available to other U.S. companies.
NASA has big plans for 3-D printing. In addition to simply reducing the costs of rocket engine components, the agency is also looking to use the technique to print tools on the International Space Station. Printing food for long space trips is another idea being explored, and one day astronauts could print parts when the nearest repair shop is millions of miles away.
The printed injector used in the engine test is still being analyzed, but early data shows it withstood pressures up to 1,400 pounds per square inch and temperatures of 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit, good news for NASA’s hopes of further expanding the use of printed rocket engines.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9053 on: Aug 30th, 2013, 09:16am »
U.S. military officers have deep doubts about impact, wisdom of a U.S. strike on Syria
By Ernesto Londoño Published: August 29
The Obama administration’s plan to launch a military strike against Syria is being received with serious reservations by many in the U.S. military, which is coping with the scars of two lengthy wars and a rapidly contracting budget, according to current and former officers.
Having assumed for months that the United States was unlikely to intervene militarily in Syria, the Defense Department has been thrust onto a war footing that has made many in the armed services uneasy, according to interviews with more than a dozen military officers ranging from captains to a four-star general.
Former and current officers, many with the painful lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan on their minds, said the main reservations concern the potential unintended consequences of launching cruise missiles against Syria.
Some questioned the use of military force as a punitive measure and suggested that the White House lacks a coherent strategy. If the administration is ambivalent about the wisdom of defeating or crippling the Syrian leader, possibly setting the stage for Damascus to fall to fundamentalist rebels, they said, the military objective of strikes on Assad’s military targets is at best ambiguous.
“There’s a broad naivete in the political class about America’s obligations in foreign policy issues, and scary simplicity about the effects that employing American military power can achieve,” said retired Lt. Gen. Gregory S. Newbold, who served as director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the run-up to the Iraq war, noting that many of his contemporaries are alarmed by the plan.
New cycle of attacks?
Marine Lt. Col. Gordon Miller, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, warned this week of “potentially devastating consequences, including a fresh round of chemical weapons attacks and a military response by Israel.”
“If President Assad were to absorb the strikes and use chemical weapons again, this would be a significant blow to the United States’ credibility and it would be compelled to escalate the assault on Syria to achieve the original objectives,” Miller wrote in a commentary for the think tank.
A National Security Council spokeswoman said Thursday she would not discuss “internal deliberations.” White House officials reiterated Thursday that the administration is not contemplating a protracted military engagement.
Still, many in the military are skeptical. Getting drawn into the Syrian war, they fear, could distract the Pentagon in the midst of a vexing mission: its exit from Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are still being killed regularly. A young Army officer who is wrapping up a year-long tour there said soldiers were surprised to learn about the looming strike, calling the prospect “very dangerous.”
“I can’t believe the president is even considering it,” said the officer, who like most officers interviewed for this story agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity because military personnel are reluctant to criticize policymakers while military campaigns are being planned. “We have been fighting the last 10 years a counterinsurgency war. Syria has modern weaponry. We would have to retrain for a conventional war.”
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has warned in great detail about the risks and pitfalls of U.S. military intervention in Syria.
“As we weigh our options, we should be able to conclude with some confidence that use of force will move us toward the intended outcome,” Dempsey wrote last month in a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next. Deeper involvement is hard to avoid.”
Dempsey has not spoken publicly about the administration’s planned strike on Syria, and it is unclear to what extent his position shifted after last week’s alleged chemical weapons attack. Dempsey said this month in an interview with ABC News that the lessons of Iraq weigh heavily on his calculations regarding Syria.
“It has branded in me the idea that the use of military power must be part of an overall strategic solution that includes international partners and a whole of government,” he said in the Aug. 4 interview. “The application of force rarely produces and, in fact, maybe never produces the outcome we seek.”
The recently retired head of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. James Mattis, said last month at a security conference that the United States has “no moral obligation to do the impossible” in Syria. “If Americans take ownership of this, this is going to be a full-throated, very, very serious war,” said Mattis, who as Centcom chief oversaw planning for a range of U.S. military responses in Syria.
The potential consequences of a U.S. strike include a retaliatory attack by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah — which supports Assad — on Israel, as well as cyberattacks on U.S. targets and infrastructure, U.S. military officials said.
“What is the political end state we’re trying to achieve?” said a retired senior officer involved in Middle East operational planning who said his concerns are widely shared by active-duty military leaders. “I don’t know what it is. We say it’s not regime change. If it’s punishment, there are other ways to punish.” The former senior officer said that those who are expressing alarm at the risks inherent in the plan “are not being heard other than in a pro-forma manner.”
President Obama said in a PBS interview on Wednesday that he is not contemplating a lengthy engagement, but instead “limited, tailored approaches.”
A retired Central Command officer said the administration’s plan would “gravely disappoint our allies and accomplish little other than to be seen as doing something.”
“It will be seen as a half measure by our allies in the Middle East,” the officer said. “Iran and Syria will portray it as proof that the U.S. is unwilling to defend its interests in the region.”
Still, some within the military, while apprehensive, support striking Syria. W. Andrew Terrill, a Middle East expert at the U.S. Army War College, said the limited history of the use of chemical weapons in the region suggests that a muted response from the West can be dangerous.
“There is a feeling as you look back that if you don’t stand up to chemical weapons, they’re going to take it as a green light and use them on a recurring basis,” he said.
An Army lieutenant colonel said the White House has only bad options but should resist the urge to abort the plan now.
“When a president draws a red line, for better or worse, it’s policy,” he said, referring to Obama’s declaration last year about Syria’s potential use of chemical weapons. “It cannot appear to be scared or tepid. Remember, with respect to policy choices concerning Syria, we are discussing degrees of bad and worse.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9054 on: Aug 30th, 2013, 09:23am »
Awe-Inspiring Photos of Swirling Superstorms Belie Their Destructive Power
By Jakob Schiller 08.30.13 6:30 AM
Supercell thunderstorms are characterized by a cycling, cylindrical vortex of air that moves upward off the ground, which is also known as a mesocyclone. Not only does it sound badass, but it produces some of the most visually striking weather on Earth.
Each summer since 2009, photographer Mitch Dobrowner and guide Roger Hill have driven through the Great Plains and high deserts of the United States in search of these jaw-dropping forces of nature. When they find them, Dobrowner pulls out his camera and takes breathtaking black and white photos that capture the enormity and intensity of these churning atmospheric formations.
“On just the second day I was chasing storms I found myself standing there and I was like, ‘Holy shit, you have to be kidding me,’” Dobrowner says. “I had never seen anything like it.”
Unlike photos that focus on the chaos these storms often leave behind — destroyed houses, uprooted trees — Dobrowner’s images concentrate on the natural beauty of storms themselves as they lumber through unoccupied territory.
“I don’t like to see a lot of destruction or violence. If I want to see that, I can see it on the streets of Los Angeles where I live,” he says. “Out on the plains I can just enjoy the serenity and beauty of the storms. That’s the part that really feeds me.”
In talking about the storms, Dobrowner likes to compare their life cycle to that of a human being.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9055 on: Aug 30th, 2013, 09:35am »
Sydney Morning Herald
UN hot seat awaits Australia as Syria momentum builds
August 31, 2013
by Nick O'Malley
Luck of the draw will have Canberra chairing Security Council dealings with Syria.
Australia waits poised to assume the leadership of the United Nations' most powerful peacekeeping body, the Security Council, at a time when the crisis in Syria is escalating critically and the federal government is in caretaker mode.
It is hard to imagine more difficult timing for Australia's mission at the UN's headquarters in New York.
Australia will take over the presidency for one month from Sunday, assuming responsibility for managing the Security Council's program of work, chairing its meetings and driving its agenda. The Australian ambassador to the UN, Gary Quinlan, will be the spokesman for the council.
On paper he will become a man of extraordinary influence, leading the executive of a body invested with the power to create coalitions of armed forces, even institute a standing army, to maintain peace and international security.
In practice, the role of the presidency, and the UN itself, is more problematic.
The council is made up of five permanent members - the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France - and 10 rotating members.
After a diplomatic blitz Australia secured one of the prestigious rotating memberships earlier this year.
The revolving presidency is conferred alphabetically, and Australia will take over the presidency from Argentina before passing it to Azerbaijan.
Should an emergency meeting be called on Syria, Quinlan could find himself in the chair from 12.01am Sunday - 2:01pm Sydney time. Such a circumstance is not out of the question, because the council was created specifically to act as an agile executive that could act faster than the more cumbersome General Assembly.
Harry Reicher, an expert on human rights and the UN from the University of Pennsylvania, says Australia has a history of taking the helm at difficult times, and was president during the Yom Kippur war in 1973.
Reicher says on paper the UN is the perfect body for maintaining peace but in practice it has failed critically during humanitarian crises.
The UN failed to prevent genocides in Cambodia in the 1970s, of the Kurds by Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and in Darfur this century. Its most signal failure was in Rwanda in 1994, says Reicher. Then Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, a Canadian officer leading a UN peace-keeping mission, warned of an impending genocide which he said could be averted if he was provided with further resources. Instead, resources were withdrawn and his force was directed not to intervene.
Over the course of 100 days an estimated 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered by Hutus.
"The fly in the ointment," says Reicher, "is article 27", referring to the section of the UN charter that grants veto power to any permanent member of the Security Council.
"What we have seen time after time after time is that there is always someone who has an interest in not rocking the boat."
In Darfur it was China, which had trade interests with the Sudanese government. In Syria both China and Russia have declared their opposition to military action against the Assad regime for its alleged use of chemical weapons.
Despite the shortcomings, membership and leadership of the Security Council brings with it significant international prestige. Due to the luck of the draw, Australia's leadership comes at a significant time, not only because of the Syrian crisis but because it falls in September, when world leaders attend UN meetings.
This will mean Australia will chair meetings that could be attended by several world leaders.
Because it is in caretaker mode, the government will not be able to exploit its role as much as it could have in other circumstances.
But it is expected that Australia will highlight the impact on peace and security of small arms, having led diplomatic efforts to see a UN Arms Trade Treaty adopted. So far 83 nations have signed the treaty and four have ratified it.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9056 on: Aug 30th, 2013, 09:41am »
David Miranda: police win wider powers to investigate seized data
High court lets police investigate whether crimes of terrorism or breaches of Official Secrets Act have been committed
by Robert Booth theguardian.com, Friday 30 August 2013 07.41 EDT
The high court has granted the Metropolitan police extended powers to investigate whether crimes related to terrorism and breaches of the Official Secrets Act have been committed following the seizure of data at Heathrow from David Miranda, the partner of a Guardian journalist.
At a hearing in front of Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Kenneth Parker, lawyers for Miranda said they had agreed to the terms of wider police powers to investigate a hard drive and memory sticks containing encrypted material that were seized on 18 August. Previously the inspection had been conducted on the narrower grounds of national security.
Following the court ruling, the police will now be allowed to examine the material to investigate whether a crime of "communication of material to an enemy" has been committed as well as possible crimes of communication of material about members of the military and intelligence services that could be useful to terrorists.
Miranda had been travelling from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro via London on behalf of his partner, Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian reporter who has exposed mass digital surveillance by US and UK spy agencies based on leaked secrets obtained by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The Home Office also placed before the court a witness statement from Oliver Robbins, deputy national security adviser in the Cabinet Office. In it, he claimed the encrypted material seized from Miranda includes personal information of UK intelligence officers, any compromise of which would result in a risk to their lives and those of their family members.
Release of the data, Robbins said, would render spies and their families vulnerable to attacks or even recruitment by terrorists and hostile intelligence agencies. He said the government had so far managed to access a portion of the encrypted files on the hard drive seized from Miranda which he said contained approximately 58,000 highly classified UK intelligence documents.
The material was "highly likely to describe techniques which have been crucial in life-saving counter-terrorist operations, and other intelligence activities vital to UK national security", the compromise of which "would do serious damage to UK national security and ultimately risk lives".
Gwendolen Morgan, solicitor for Miranda from the law firm Bindmans, disputed the claims. In a statement outside the court, she said: "The Home Office and Metropolitan police have lodged evidence with the court in which they make sweeping assertions about national security threats which they said entitled them to look at the materials seized, but they have said that they cannot provide further details in open court. Mr Miranda does not accept the assertions they have made and is disappointed that the UK government is attempting to justify the use of terrorist powers by making what appear to be unfounded assertions."
She said her client looked forward to having their assertions tested at a full hearing of his judicial review claim.
Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of Guardian News & Media, said: "Mr Robbins makes a number of unsubstantiated and inaccurate claims in his witness statement. The way the government has behaved over the past three months belies the picture of urgency and crisis they have painted.
"The government claims that they have at all times acted with the utmost urgency because of what they believed to be a grave threat to national security. However, their behaviour since early June – when the Guardian's first Snowden articles were published – belies these claims.
"Even after the destruction of the Guardian's London copies of the documents on Saturday 20 July, the government has done little – until the opportunistic detention of David Miranda under laws designed for terrorists, not journalists.
"On Monday 22 July, the Guardian directed the government towards the New York Times and ProPublica, both of whom had material from GCHQ. It was more than three weeks before anyone from the British government contacted the New York Times. We understand the British embassy in Washington met with the New York Times in mid-August – over three weeks after the Guardian's material was destroyed in London. To date, no one has contacted ProPublica, and there has been two weeks of further silence towards the New York Times from the government.
"This five-week period in which nothing has happened tells a different story from the alarmist claims made by the government in their witness statement.
"The Guardian took every decision on what to publish very slowly and very carefully and when we met with government officials in July they acknowledged that we had displayed a 'responsible' attitude. The government's behaviour does not match their rhetoric in trying to justify and exploit this dismaying blurring of terrorism and journalism."
The court's substantive ruling means that from Friday, the police and other agencies will be allowed to use the data Miranda was carrying to investigate whether a crime has been committed under section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 which lawyers said involved the collection or making a record of information "of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism", or possessing a document or record containing information of that kind.
Under section 58a of the same act they will look at offences of "eliciting, publishing or communicating information about current and former members of the armed forces, intelligence officers and police officers, which is of a kind useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism or publishes or communicates any such information".
Government lawyers said police will be able to investigate crimes under section one of the Official Secrets Act 1911 which deals with communication of material to an enemy and "various offences" under the Official Secrets Act 1989.
Appearing for Miranda, Matthew Ryder QC, said his client accepted the terms as part of "a pragmatic approach" to the dispute ahead of a full hearing into the legality of Miranda's detention and the seizure of his data which is expected in October. The court had last week allowed the data to be examined in the context of the protection of national security or for investigating if Miranda was involved in terrorism.
In his statement Robbins referred to the government's interaction with the Guardian in July over its use of the material for a series of stories about US and British digital surveillance. He said the government was seeking to avoid any misrepresentation it was seeking to stifle "legitimate journalism".
He criticised Miranda and his associates for "very poor judgment in their security arrangements with respect to the material rendering the appropriation of the material, or at least access to it by other, non-state actors, a real possibility".
Robbins said the government believes the data may have already been obtained by one or more of the countries through which Snowden has passed since he fled the US. They include China and Russia, where Snowden is currently living.
He said while most of the files remained encrypted, it was possible to access a portion of files on the hard drive because a piece of paper containing basic instructions for accessing some of the data that included a password for decrypting one of the files was among Miranda's things.
Robbins said assessments by GCHQ had shown that the number of documents on the hard drive seized from Miranda was consistent with the number that Snowden would have had access to when working at the NSA and that he "indiscriminately appropriated material in bulk", and that at least some of that was being couriered by Miranda.
"The material seized is highly likely to describe techniques which have been crucial in life-saving counter-terrorist operations, and other intelligence activities vital to UK national security," he said.
"The compromise of these methods would do serious damage to UK national security and ultimately risk lives."
He said any action by the court to prevent the authorities using the information would effectively prevent attempts to mitigate the risk of revealing the identities of UK spies and security officers which "would be of value to elements hostile to the national interest of the United Kingdom, including foreign intelligence agencies and terrorists".
Robbins continued: "It is known that contained in the seized material are personal information that would allow staff to be identified, including those deployed overseas." Any compromise of their identities would "result in danger to the persons concerned or their close associates … this danger includes a risk to life, both to intelligence officers and their families".
He warned they could be subject to recruitment attempts or threats to their safety "by hostile intelligence services or terrorist groups".
Robbins said he had been advised that "the information that has already been obtained has had a direct impact on decisions taken in regard to staff deployments and is therefore impacting on operational effectiveness".
He said: "Real damage has in fact already been done to UK national security by the media revelations [both in the UK and internationally]."
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The badly beaten, bullet-riddled bodies of seven Afghan soldiers were found dumped in an eastern province Sunday, apparent victims of insurgents, authorities said.
The discovery comes as the Taliban have stepped up their attacks in Afghanistan and U.S.-led foreign forces are reducing their presence in the country. The handover of responsibility for security to local forces has made the Afghan army an even more tempting target than usual for militants.
Local residents found the corpses next to each other in Andar district of Ghazni province, their hands chained behind their backs. The dead soldiers had been kidnapped at different times, with some abducted while they were on leave visiting relatives, said Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, deputy Ghazni governor. The victims hailed from northern provinces and were found with identification documents.
The Taliban did not issue a claim of responsibility for the killings, but Ahmadi said the insurgents are known to occasionally stop vehicles in search of people to "prosecute" for working for the U.S.-supported Afghan government or security forces.
In Ghazni's Qarabagh district, two Afghans involved in civilian militias that resist the Taliban were killed during a gunfight with militants, Ahmadi said. Such citizen militias have cropped up in several parts of Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, a roadside bomb killed eight Afghan employees of a private mining company in the north on Saturday, authorities said. The workers were traveling in a small truck to the chromite mine in the Bagram district of Parwan province. Provincial governor Abdul Basir Salangi said Sunday that five people also were wounded in the explosion, and that the victims were all either laborers or security guards of the company.
An explosion on Sunday, meanwhile, apparently targeted the mayor of the eastern city of Jalalabad, but wounded his driver instead.
Hazrat Hussain Mashreqiwal, a police spokesman in Nangarhar province, said the mayor was not in the vehicle when the bomb went off, and that investigators are trying to determine the type of bomb used.