So the old Chase HQ, once the stomping grounds of one David Rockefeller, and soon to be the other half of JPMorgan Chase, has 5 sub-basements, just like the NY Fed...
Excavations, said to be the largest in New York City history, reached a depth of 90 feet
Or, about the same depth as the bottom-most sub-basement under the NY Fed...
But then we hit the jackpot:
Originally constructed with white marble terrazzo paving and enclosed by a solid parapet of white marble travertine that was personally selected by Bunshaft in Tivoli, Italy, the L-shaped plaza levels the sloping site and conceals six floors of operations that would have been difficult to fit into a single floor of the tower, including an auditorium seating 800 [and] the world’s largest bank vault.
And there you have it: the JPM vault, recommissioned to become a commercial vault, just happens to also be the "world's largest bank vault."
Digging some more into the curious nature of this biggest bank vault in the world, we learn the following, courtesy of a freely available book written by one of the architects:
On the lowest level was the vault, which rested directly on the rock - the "largest bank vault in the world, longer than a football field." It was anchored to the bedrock with steel rods. This was to prevent the watertight, concrete structure from floating to the surface like a huge bubble in the event that an atomic bomb falling in the bay would blow away the building and flood the area.
In other words, the world's biggest bank vault, that belonging to the private Chase Manhattan empire, and then, to JPMorgan, was so safe, the creators even had a plan of action should it sustain a near-direct hit from a nuclear bomb, and suffer epic flooding (such as that from Hurricane Sandy).
* * *
So, what the real news of today is not that JPM is selling its gold vault, we knew that two months ago, or that it is outright looking to exit the physical commodities business, that too was preannounced. What is extremely notable is that in one very quiet transaction, China just acquired the building that houses the world's largest gold vault.
Why? We don't know. We do know that China's gross gold imports from Hong Kong alone have amounted to over 2000 tons in the past two years. This excludes imports from other sources, and certainly internal gold mining and production.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9302 on: Oct 19th, 2013, 09:55am »
American romantic comedy film directed by Elliott Nugent and starring Bob Hope with Dorothy Lamour. Written by Edmund Beloin and Jack Rose, the film is about a baby photographer on death row in San Quentin State Prison who tells reporters his history. While taking care of his private-eye neighbor's office, he is asked by an irresistible baroness to find a missing baron, which initiates a series of confusing but sinister events in a gloomy mansion and a private sanatorium. Spoofing movie detectives and the film noir style, the film features Lon Chaney, Jr. playing Willie, a character based on his Of Mice and Men role Lennie; Peter Lorre as Kismit, a comic take on his many film noir roles; and cameo appearances by film noir regular Alan Ladd and Hope partner Bing Crosby. Sequences were filmed in San Francisco and Pebble Beach, California.
Discovery of virus that 'eats' bacteria that causes C.diff could spell the end for hospital superbug
The technique was first used more than a hundred years ago but the development of effective antibiotics in the early 20th century meant it was very rarely used by British doctors – although it persisted in Eastern Europe and is still common in some countries including Georgia and Poland.
“As bacterial diseases become more problematic and we run out of antibiotic options to treat them we’ve seen a resurgence of interest in this field,” Dr Clokie told The Independent. “My Russian colleagues at the University of Leicester were all given phages when they were kids for various problems, but in the UK their use has been completely superseded by antibiotics,” she said.
Increasing antibiotic resistance has been highlighted by doctors as one of the major threats facing the world. England’s chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies warned earlier this year that routine operations could become deadly in 20 years’ time if we lost the ability to fight infections, and said that the UK should rank the threat alongside terrorism.
Dr Clokie’s work marks the first time that phages have been used against C.diff bacteria. The next stage of development will see a mixture of the most effective phages used in phase I trials in people, funded by the pharmaceutical company AmpliPhi. Dr Clokie told The Independent that it was very likely the technique would be safe in humans, because the viruses used had been specifically identified to only target the bacteria that cause C.diff.
Dr Des Walsh, head of Infections and Immunity at the Medical Research Council, which funded Dr Clokie’s lab tests, said: “Antibacterial resistance is a major and growing threat to health globally. New treatments and therapies are sorely needed. This study by Dr Clokie examines a new way to kill bacteria to circumvent resistance formation. She has established an impressive collection of ‘phage’ viruses and has developed strong partnerships to translate her research into potential new treatments for Clostridium difficile infection – an excellent example of moving basic experimental MRC funded research along the development pipeline.“
You're welcome Wings..This is your house here and I hope I bring only the best here..because it is the best!
« Last Edit: Oct 20th, 2013, 04:08am by Equalizer »
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9304 on: Oct 20th, 2013, 04:47am »
Obama: Washington 'has to change' after shutdown and debt ceiling crisis
President repeats appeal for bipartisan co-operation later echoed by Hillary Clinton in Virginia campaign speech Obama: Washington 'has to change' after shutdown and debt ceiling crisis
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9306 on: Oct 20th, 2013, 08:45am »
Assassination pushes Libya towards civil war two years after Gaddafi death
Fighting rages in Benghazi as Tripoli braces for fallout from the kidnapping of prime minister Ali Zaidan
by Chris Stephen in Tripoli Saturday 19 October 2013 13.21 EDT
Libya marks the second anniversary of the death of Muammar Gaddafi with the country on the brink of a new civil war and fighting raging in the eastern city of Benghazi, birthplace of its Arab spring revolution.
Violence between radical militias and regular forces broke out on Friday night and continued yesterday, while the capital Tripoli is braced for fallout from the kidnapping earlier this month of prime minister Ali Zaidan. Federalists in Cyrenaica, home to most of Libya's oil, open their own independent parliament in Benghazi this week, in a step that may herald the breakup of the country.
For months, radical militias and regular forces in Benghazi have fought a tit-for-tat war. Last week two soldiers had their throats slit as they slept in an army base. But Friday's killing of Libya's military police commander, Ahmed al-Barghathi, shot as he left a mosque, has became the trigger for wider violence. Hours after an assassination branded a "heinous act" by US ambassador Deborah Jones, armed units stormed the Benghazi home of a prominent militia commander, Wissam Ben Hamid, with guns and rockets.
Fighting continued into the night, with army units heading for the home of a second militia commander, Ahmed Abu Khattala, indicted by the US for the killing of US ambassador Chris Stevens last year. There, they were turned back by powerful militia units.
"There's fighting everywhere, checkpoints everywhere, I've moved my wife and children to somewhere safe," said one Benghazi businessman, Mohammed, who declined to give his second name.
Ben Hamid went on live television to insist he had no role in the killing of al-Barghathi, and vowed reprisals against those who destroyed his home.
Libya's militias are in the spotlight as never before, in a country racked by violence and economic stagnation. Zaidan has blamed the Revolutionaries Control Room, headquarters for the biggest militia – Libya Shield – for his kidnapping 10 days ago, promising harsh measures once the Eid religious holiday week ends.
Shield forces deployed in the capital denied staging the abduction, but their units were this weekend fortifying their positions in fear of attack.
The trigger for this spiralling violence was the arrest two weeks ago by Delta Force commandos of al-Qaida suspect, Anas al Liby, from his Tripoli home. That arrest has polarised opinion between supporters and opponents of Zeidan, and Nato, which bombed the rebels to victory in the 2011 Arab spring, has found itself in the hot seat over plans to train a new government army. Britain is to join the US and Italy in training Libyan army cadres at a base in Cambridgeshire.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9307 on: Oct 20th, 2013, 08:49am »
Whether Tepco fails or not, it’s taxpayers’ tab
by Tomoko Otake Staff Writer
20 October 2013
It is impossible to put a price tag on all the pain and suffering inflicted on people as a result of the March 2011 meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The ongoing crisis has created more than 140,000 wandering “nuclear refugees,” has stripped farmers and fishermen of their livelihoods, and continues to expose hundreds of plant workers to daily health risks as they battle to contain the radioactive water accumulating in leaky storage tanks and pipes and flowing into the ocean as groundwater, as well as other hazards.
The monetary cost alone is immeasurable because the crisis is far from over and the decontamination of areas hit by the radioactive fallout is way behind schedule. Just neutralizing the three reactors that suffered core meltdowns and the other reactor whose fuel pool looms as a major danger will take decades.
But one thing is clear: the final tab will be huge, and the public will end up paying for it, either through taxes or utility bills. While estimates vary, the total cost will probably top ¥10 trillion — or 20 percent of what the central government collects every year through taxes, experts say.
And last month’s pledge by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before the International Olympic Committee in Buenos Aires that the government will take the lead in bringing the crisis to an end, somewhat, in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics could mean additional financial burdens placed on taxpayers.
This has led to mounting calls in recent weeks, from academics and lawmakers, and even within the ruling, pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party, that the government should force Tepco into bankruptcy. Doing so, they say, is also the only way for top management, as well as creditors and shareholders, to shoulder some of the blame for the fiasco at the inadequately defended coastal complex.
Others in the ruling party, meanwhile, propose splitting the utility into two parts, separating the profit-making power generation business from the unprofitable crisis-containment.
Tepco, which posted a ¥326.9 billion net loss in fiscal 2012, has stayed alive under a state-backed bailout scheme. Through the Nuclear Damage Liability Fund, set up in September 2011, the firm has secured ¥5 trillion in public funds and is under effective government control amid enormous damages claims. As of June, the utility planned to pay an estimated ¥3.9 trillion in compensation, according to papers submitted by the fund and the utility to the government that month.
In addition to compensating victims of the disaster, the nation’s biggest utility also bears the main onus of containing the radioactive water used to cool the damaged reactors, as well as the technologically daunting task of scrapping the stricken plant.
“Tepco is a private company, earning profits and listing its stock on the market,” said Masatoshi Akimoto, a Lower House LDP member. A rookie politician first elected in December, he heads a small study group with colleagues on the nation’s energy policy.
“A normal private company would shoulder its management risks and would be accountable for its actions,” Akimoto said. “How is it possible that a company that caused a nuclear accident can avoid bankruptcy, and its shareholders and creditor banks aren’t held liable?”
Akimoto acknowledged that his views are well outside the LDP mainstream. Still, he argued that the bankruptcy filing is the only way Tepco can be held accountable for its failure to bolster the plant’s disaster defenses, when the risks the facility faced were no mysteries.
If Tepco goes under, he said, shareholders and creditors will also pay for the risks in investing in a nuclear plant operator. Their shares would plummet and they would be forced to lose much of their outstanding loans to Tepco. Management would be sacked and the utility’s remaining assets would be sold off — saving “trillions of yen” for taxpayers, Akimoto figured.
The reality, however, is that the government is trying to prevent Tepco’s failure at all costs, by introducing new accounting rules that smack of “window-dressing,” fumed Kenichi Oshima, a professor of environmental economics at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto.
On Oct. 1, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry released new accounting rules for the nation’s utilities whereby Tepco can now continue to report the six reactors at Fukushima No. 1 as assets, while booking depreciation reserves for the reactors over a 50-year period, even though four of the reactors will never run again, and the other two, anyway idled, face mounting calls for decommissioning.
Under previous rules for reactors whose operations had stopped prematurely, the utility had to report depreciation costs yet to be booked as a one-time extraordinary loss, which meant Tepco would have gone belly up under massive debts.
METI’s rule changes have made it possible for Tepco to attach all future decommissioning costs onto utility bills. The move came after three meetings, between June and August, by a panel of experts within the ministry — with little public discussion and no deliberations in the Diet.
“This is the same as window-dressing, because it goes against the principles of corporate accounting, by which companies should report costs as costs, not as assets,” Oshima said. “It’s also wrong to change rules for depreciation halfway through.”
Oshima estimated that the disaster has so far cost over ¥7.4 trillion. (See table) The scrapping of the damaged reactors, for example, could end up costing more than what is budgeted for now, as the current estimates are based on the assumption that the reactors undergo decommissioning after normal operations, he said.
Oshima said it is hard to estimate the total cost for the decontamination work, because it depends on how thorough the cleanup will be.
But according to a 2011 estimate by the nonprofit group Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, if all the affected land, roads, farms and forests are decontaminated, not just in Fukushima but also in “hot spots” in surrounding prefectures, the total cost will reach ¥28 trillion.
The government’s bailout of Tepco comes with serious problems, Oshima argued, because it has effectively turned the nuclear power industry into a risk-free one.
“Nuclear power is a highly risky venture by nature,” Oshima said. “But if the government assumes all the consequences of a major disaster (without holding the guilty party accountable), nuclear power becomes a zero-risk industry. There’s no other industry like this.”
But Taku Yamamoto, a veteran Lower House member who heads the ruling party’s research committee on natural resources and energy, said Tepco should not go bankrupt or get broken up. “Tepco is a private company, and true, it’s like a zombie,” he said. “But we have a system where it still is the window (for all the compensation claims).”
Tepco needs to exist until it pays off all the compensation claims, Yamamoto said.
“If we let Tepco go bankrupt now, creditors would probably collect only 10 percent of their outstanding claims. Those creditors include disaster victims. To keep paying its obligations, it must keep standing, even in a zombie state.”
If the government forces Tepco to go under, the state will be sued for compensation by creditors and shareholders and thus be embroiled in a drawn-out court battle, Yamamoto said.
Oshima, while agreeing that the demise of Tepco alone will mean a loss of an institution through which compensation can be made, claimed the current arrangement is unhealthy.
“Why should the government pay all the costs of the disaster?” he asked. “Tepco should fail like any other firm does. What the government needs to do, instead, is to make sure the firm’s existing power generation facilities, workers and engineers are smoothly absorbed by a new entity, so electricity-generating operations continue.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9308 on: Oct 20th, 2013, 10:08am »
Fresh Leak on US Spying: NSA Accessed Mexican President's Email
By Jens Glüsing, Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark
20 October 2013
The NSA has been systematically eavesdropping on the Mexican government for years. It hacked into the president's public email account and gained deep insight into policymaking and the political system. The news is likely to hurt ties between the US and Mexico.
The National Security Agency (NSA) has a division for particularly difficult missions. Called "Tailored Access Operations" (TAO), this department devises special methods for special targets.
That category includes surveillance of neighboring Mexico, and in May 2010, the division reported its mission accomplished. A report classified as "top secret" said: "TAO successfully exploited a key mail server in the Mexican Presidencia domain within the Mexican Presidential network to gain first-ever access to President Felipe Calderon's public email account."
According to the NSA, this email domain was also used by cabinet members, and contained "diplomatic, economic and leadership communications which continue to provide insight into Mexico's political system and internal stability." The president's office, the NSA reported, was now "a lucrative source."
This operation, dubbed "Flatliquid," is described in a document leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, which SPIEGEL has now had the opportunity to analyze. The case is likely to cause further strain on relations between Mexico and the United States, which have been tense since Brazilian television network TV Globo revealed in September that the NSA monitored then-presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto and others around him in the summer of 2012. Peña Nieto, now Mexico's president, summoned the US ambassador in the wake of that news, but confined his reaction to demanding an investigation into the matter.
Now, though, the revelation that the NSA has systematically infiltrated an entire computer network is likely to trigger deeper controversy, especially since the NSA's snooping took place during the term of Peña Nieto's predecessor Felipe Calderón, a leader who worked more closely with Washington than any other Mexican president before him.
Brazil Also Targeted
Reports of US surveillance operations have caused outrage in Latin America in recent months. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cancelled a planned trip to Washington five weeks ago and condemned the NSA's espionage in a blistering speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
The US surveillance of politicians in Mexico and Brazil is not a one-off. Internal documents show these countries' leaders represent important monitoring targets for the NSA, with both Mexico and Brazil ranking among the nations high on an April 2013 list that enumerates the US' surveillance priorities. That list, classified as "secret," was authorized by the White House and "presidentially approved," according to internal NSA documents.
The list ranks strategic objectives for all US intelligence services using a scale from "1" for high priority to "5" for low priority. In the case of Mexico, the US is interested primarily in the drug trade (priority level 1) and the country's leadership (level 3). Other areas flagged for surveillance include Mexico's economic stability, military capabilities, human rights and international trade relations (all ranked at level 3), as well as counterespionage (level 4). It's much the same with Brazil -- ascertaining the intentions of that country's leadership ranks among the stated espionage targets. Brazil's nuclear program is high on the list as well.
When Brazilian President Rousseff took office in early 2011, one of her goals was to improve relations with Washington, which had cooled under her predecessor, the popular former labor leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Lula focused primarily on establishing closer ties with China, India and African nations, and even invited Iran's then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Brazil, in a snub to the US. President Barack Obama postponed a planned visit to the capital, Brasília, as a result.
Rousseff, however, has distanced herself from Iran. And the first foreign minister to serve under her, Antonio Patriota, who recently resigned, was seen as friendly toward the US, maintaining good ties with his counterpart Hillary Clinton. Obama made a state visit to Brazil two years ago and Rousseff had planned to reciprocate with a visit to Washington this October.
Then came the revelation that US authorities didn't stop short of spying on the president herself. According to one internal NSA presentation, the agency investigated "the communication methods and associated selectors of Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff and her key advisers." It also said it found potential "high-value targets" among her inner circle.
Rousseff believes Washington's reasons for employing such unfriendly methods are partly economic, an accusation that the NSA and its director, General Keith Alexander, have denied. Yet according to the leaked NSA documents, the US also monitored email and telephone communications at Petrobras, the oil corporation in which the Brazilian government holds a majority stake. Brazil possesses enormous offshore oil reserves.
Just how intensively the US spies on its neighbors can be seen in another, previously unknown operation in Mexico, dubbed "Whitetamale" by the NSA. In August 2009, according to internal documents, the agency gained access to the emails of various high-ranking officials in Mexico's Public Security Secretariat that combats the drug trade and human trafficking. This hacking operation allowed the NSA not only to obtain information on several drug cartels, but also to gain access to "diplomatic talking-points." In the space of a single year, according to the internal documents, this operation produced 260 classified reports that allowed US politicians to conduct successful talks on political issues and to plan international investments.
The tone of the document that lists the NSA's "tremendous success" in monitoring Mexican targets shows how aggressively the US intelligence agency monitors its southern neighbor. "These TAO accesses into several Mexican government agencies are just the beginning -- we intend to go much further against this important target," the document reads. It goes on to state that the divisions responsible for this surveillance are "poised for future successes."
While these operations were overseen from the NSA's branch in San Antonio, Texas, secret listening stations in the US Embassies in Mexico City and Brasília also played a key role. The program, known as the "Special Collection Service," is conducted in cooperation with the CIA. The teams have at their disposal a wide array of methods and high-tech equipment that allow them to intercept all forms of electronic communication. The NSA conducts its surveillance of telephone conversations and text messages transmitted through Mexico's cell phone network under the internal code name "Eveningeasel." In Brasília, the agency also operates one of its most important operational bases for monitoring satellite communications.
This summer, the NSA took its activities to new heights as elections took place in Mexico. Despite having access to the presidential computer network, the US knew little about Enrique Peña Nieto, designated successor to Felipe Calderón.
Spying on Peña Nieto
In his campaign appearances, Peña Nieto would make his way to the podium through a sea of supporters, ascending to the stage like a rock star. He is married to an actress, and also had the support of several influential elder statesmen within his party, the PRI. He promised to reform the party and fight pervasive corruption in the country. But those familiar with the PRI, which is itself regarded by many as corrupt, saw this pledge as little more than a maneuver made for show.
First and foremost, though, Peña Nieto promised voters he would change Mexico's strategy in the war on drugs, announcing he would withdraw the military from the fight against the drug cartels as soon as possible and invest more money in social programs instead. Yet at the same time, he assured Washington there would be no U-turn in Mexico's strategy regarding the cartels. So what were Peña Nieto's true thoughts at the time? What were his advisers telling him?
The NSA's intelligence agents in Texas must have been asking themselves such questions when they authorized an unusual type of operation known as structural surveillance. For two weeks in the early summer of 2012, the NSA unit responsible for monitoring the Mexican government analyzed data that included the cell phone communications of Peña Nieto and "nine of his close associates," as an internal presentation from June 2012 shows. Analysts used software to connect this data into a network, shown in a graphic that resembles a swarm of bees. The software then filtered out Peña Nieto's most relevant contacts and entered them into a databank called "DishFire." From then on, these individuals' cell phones were singled out for surveillance.
According to the internal documents, this led to the agency intercepting 85,489 text messages, some sent by Peña Nieto himself and some by his associates. This technology "might find a needle in a haystack," the analysts noted, adding that it could do so "in a repeatable and efficient way."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9309 on: Oct 20th, 2013, 10:23am »
20 October 2013 Last updated at 09:39 ET
Australia bushfires: New South Wales declares state of emergency
A state of emergency has been declared in New South Wales as Australian firefighters battle bushfires that have already destroyed more than 200 homes.
The announcement comes as conditions look set to deteriorate with soaring temperatures and strong winds expected to fan the flames in the coming days.
The Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, has been the worst-hit region with some fires still raging out of control.
State officials say they are the most dangerous conditions in 40 years.
New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell said the declaration would give emergency services additional powers over the next 30 days.
These could include cutting gas and power supplies if needed and ordering mandatory evacuations.
"We're planning for the worst but hoping for the best," he said.
One man has died - possibly of a heart attack - while trying to protect his home. Hundreds of people have been left homeless by the bushfires.
One firefighter, 24-year-old Tim Boxwell, said he had lost his own home in Winmalee, on the eastern edge of the Blue Mountains, to the fire while he was on duty.
"I'd been standing watching other people's houses burn and the emotion from that was bad enough. To be hit with your own house being lost was a shock as well," he told BBC's Newshour.
Officials have warned that the three main bushfires - two in the Blue Mountains and one near the town of Lithgow - could become one huge fire in the coming days, possibly threatening Sydney.
A fire service spokesman said: "We can understand the magnitude of that as it would then creep into the bottom end of Sydney. It's certainly something that we're very concerned about."
The foot of the Blue Mountains lies just across the Nepean River from the suburbs of Sydney. Some embers jumped its banks last Thursday, starting a fire at Castlereagh near Penrith.
After several cooler days, forecasters are predicting the return of unseasonably hot weather - with temperatures reaching 30C (86F) and higher.
The heat wave would probably peak on Wednesday, warned Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, but there would be little relief in the intervening period.
"We've got what would be unparalleled in terms of risk and exposure to the Blue Mountains throughout this week. If you are to draw a parallel, and it's always dangerous to draw a parallel, at best you'd be going back to time periods in the late 60s.
"The reality is, however, these conditions that we're looking at are a whole new ball game and in a league of their own," the commissioner said.
Mr O'Farrell said crews had carried out controlled burn operations overnight to strengthen buffer zones around the major fires.
An emergency warning was issued for the Blue Mountains village of Bell on Sunday morning.
Residents were urged to evacuate or to take shelter "in a solid structure when the fire front arrives".
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9310 on: Oct 20th, 2013, 1:29pm »
One tragedy after another..the forest fires were considered a favorite of terrorists as an economic siphon....yet all the monitoring by drones is in the desert if not cities. It doesnt take a fancy scheme ..just a can of gas and matches. What ever happened to smokey the bear.. The noise suppresion on Tepco..is just unbelievable..The UNs chem people got a nobel..yet no one is having a hissy fit over the Nu-chems spreading in Japan..Prob helped by the rest of the industry like the pharm industry does..will never make it to Mainstream till its too late. Thanks for the Spiegel article..will port to leaks central right now
« Last Edit: Oct 20th, 2013, 1:38pm by Equalizer »
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9311 on: Oct 20th, 2013, 4:08pm »
The Shtdown never scared me..but this fixup seems to go beyond minor glitches..that scares me a lot..
wsj.com http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303680404579143343379804228 The Affordable Care Act's botched rollout has stunned its media cheering section, and it even seems to have surprised the law's architects. The problems run much deeper than even critics expected, and whatever federal officials, White House aides and outside contractors are doing to fix them isn't working. But who knows? Omerta is the word of the day as the Obama Administration withholds information from the public.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is even refusing to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in a hearing this coming Thursday. HHS claims she has scheduling conflicts, but we hope she isn't in the White House catacomb under interrogation by Valerie Jarrett about her department's incompetence.
The department is also refusing to make available lower-level officials who might detail the source or sources of this debacle. Ducking an investigation with spin is one thing. Responding with a wall of silence to the invitation of a duly elected congressional body probing the use of more than half a billion taxpayer dollars is another. This Obama crowd is something else.
What bunker is Henry Chao hiding in, for instance? He's the HHS official in charge of technology for the Affordable Care Act, and in March he said at an insurance lobby conference that his team had given up trying to create "a world-class user experience." With the clock running, Mr. Chao added that his main goal was merely to "just make sure it's not a third-world experience." Enlarge Image
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Capitol Hill in Washington in April. Associated Press
He didn't succeed. Whatever is below third-world standards would flatter the 36 federally run exchanges as they've started up. But perhaps Mr. Chao or someone else, if not Mrs. Sebelius, can answer even the simple question of how many Americans have managed to enroll for coverage. HHS could easily resolve any confusion but it won't even talk to Democratic allies, friendly reporters and what it calls the insurance industry "stakeholders" that it will need to make ObamaCare work.
No doubt a hearing would be a spectacle—with TV cameras on hand—but Mrs. Sebelius can't hide forever. Even pro-entitlement liberals want to know about what went wrong and why, how much if any progress is being made, and whether the ObamaCare website Healthcare.gov will be usable in a matter of months—or years.
More disclosure might also help HHS preserve a scrap of credibility, given that none of its initial explanations has held up. Right now, no one trusts a word that emerges from Fortress ObamaCare.
To take one example, this week the Associated Press obtained an internal HHS memo from September 5, 2013 specifying the Administration's monthly enrollment targets—a half-million sign-ups in October, 3.3 million by December 31, and so on. Asked about this by AP, HHS not only declined to say if it is meeting its projections. The department issued a statement claiming that "The Administration has not set monthly enrollment targets." The spokesman did not cite the classic Marx Brothers line, "Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?"
Eventually Mrs. Sebelius will have to make a real accounting of this government failure to someone other than the TV comic Jon Stewart, and perhaps she can also explain why the people who can't build a working website also deserve the power to reorganize one-sixth of the U.S. economy. For now, the Administration that styles itself as the most transparent in history won't reveal the truth—perhaps because it is afraid of what the public will find
« Last Edit: Oct 20th, 2013, 4:11pm by Equalizer »
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9313 on: Oct 21st, 2013, 08:56am »
Snowden leaks: France summons US envoy over NSA surveillance claims
Demand follows claims in Le Monde that US agency has been intercepting phone calls of French citizens on 'a massive scale'
Sam Jones, and Angelique Chrisafis in Paris Monday 21 October 2013 07.58 EDT
The French government has summoned the US ambassador in Paris, demanding an explanation about claims that the National Security Agency has been engaged in widespread phone surveillance of French citizens.
On Monday, Le Monde published details from the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden suggesting that the US agency had been intercepting phone calls on what it terms "a massive scale".
The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, warned: "This sort of practice between partners that invades privacy is totally unacceptable and we have to make sure, very quickly, that this no longer happens."
His summoning of the ambassador for urgent talks came as the US secretary of state, John Kerry, arrived in the French capital for the start of a European tour focused on discussions over the Middle East and Syria, and keen to stress close military and intelligence ties with Paris, which he recently called America's "oldest ally".
The French interior minister, Manuel Valls, described the revelations as shocking and said he would be pressing for detailed explanations from Washington.
"Rules are obviously needed when it comes to new communication technologies, and that's something that concerns every country," he told Europe-1 radio. "If a friendly country – an ally – spies on France or other European countries, that is completely unacceptable."
The report in Le Monde, which carries the byline of the outgoing Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who worked with Snowden to lay bare the extent of the NSA's actions, claims that between 10 December 2012 and 8 January 2013 the NSA recorded 70.3m phone calls in France.
According to the paper, the documents show that the NSA was allegedly targeting not only terrorist suspects but politicians, businesspeople and members of the administration under a programme codenamed US-985D.
"The agency has several collection methods," Le Monde said. "When certain French phone numbers are dialled, a signal is activated that triggers the automatic recording of certain conversations. This surveillance also recovers SMS and content based on keywords."
Such methods, it added, allowed the NSA to keep a systematic record of each target's connections.
Le Monde said the unpublished Snowden documents to which it had access showed "intrusion, on a vast scale, both into the private space of French citizens as well as into the secrets of major national firms".
The most recent documents cited by Le Monde, dated April 2013, indicated the NSA's interest in email addresses linked to Wanadoo, which was once part of France Telecom. Around 4.5 million people still use wanadoo.fr email addresses in France.
Also targeted was Alcatel-Lucent, the French-American telecom company which employs more than 70,000 people and works in the sensitive sector of equipping communication networks. One of the documents instructed analysts to draw not only from the electronic surveillance programme but also from another initiative dubbed Upstream, which allowed surveillance on undersea communications cables.
Le Monde said US authorities had declined to comment on the documents, which they regard as classified material.
Instead, they referred the paper to a statement made in June by the US director of national intelligence, in which James Clapper defended the legality of the practices.
"[They] are lawful and conducted under authorities widely known and discussed, and fully debated and authorised by Congress," he said. "Their purpose is to obtain foreign intelligence information, including information necessary to thwart terrorist and cyber-attacks against the United States and its allies."
In July, Paris prosecutors opened a preliminary inquiry into the NSA's Prism programme, after the Guardian and Germany's Der Spiegel revealed wide-scale spying by the agency leaked by Snowden.
"We were warned in June [about the programme] and we reacted strongly but obviously we need to go further," the French foreign minister said on Monday.
In July, President François Hollande had threatened to suspend negotiations over the transatlantic free trade agreement, after allegations that the US spied on the French embassy and European Union offices.
In September, Der Spiegel reported that the NSA had targeted France's foreign ministry for surveillance and there had been a number of incidents of "sensitive access".
This summer, Le Monde reported that France runs its own vast electronic surveillance operation, intercepting and stocking data from citizens' phone and internet activity, using similar methods to the prism programme.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9314 on: Oct 21st, 2013, 09:02am »
Watch: Disney’s Experimental Touchscreens Let You ‘Feel’ Digital Objects
By Kyle VanHemert 10.21.13 9:30 AM
Last we checked in with the wizards over at the Disney Research lab in Pittsburgh, they were showing off computer-controlled air cannons that simulated real-world sensations–clever gizmos that blasted you with air to make it feel like you were saving a soccer ball, say, or being tickled by a butterfly. The team’s latest project is another attempt to bridge that gap between our bodies and the digital worlds we spend so much time poking and prodding. It’s a touchscreen rig that uses electro-vibrations to let you feel the things you’re seeing on your screen.