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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 127645 times)
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« Reply #9315 on: Oct 21st, 2013, 09:07am »

LA Times

Suicide bomber kills 5 on bus in southern Russia

By Sergei L. Loiko
October 21, 2013, 6:51 a.m.

MOSCOW -- Five people were killed by an explosion inside a passenger bus in the southern Russian city of Volgograd, officials said Monday.

Officials said the explosion was set off by a female suicide bomber, and Russia's Investigative Committee revealed the name of the suspect as Naida Asiyalova.

She is believed to the wife of a North Caucasus rebel commander, Valery Safonov, TV news network Rossiya-24 reported, citing an Investigative Committee official.

City officials said there were 40 passengers on the bus and that 32 of them were injured. Of those, 20 were hospitalized, three in critical condition, they said. Most of the victims were students of Volgograd State University, Gazeta.ru, an online publication, reported.

“An explosive device that went off inside a passenger bus at [2:05 p.m.] today in Volgograd caused human casualties,” Dmitry Parvlov, a spokesman for the National Anti-terrorist Committee, told Rossiya-24. He said authorities were working to prevent other possible explosions in the city.

Vladimir Markin, spokesman for Russia’s Investigative Committee, said authorities have initiated investigations into a terrorist attack, murder and illegal arms possession in connection with the blast.

Rossiya-24 showed dramatic images taken from a vehicle behind the bus at the moment of the explosion. In the video, flames break out from the right side of the bus and it is immediately consumed by a cloud of smoke and debris flies out of both sides of the vehicle.

An eyewitness who gave his name as Ivan told the news network that he was driving behind the bus when an explosion rocked the vehicle, blowing away its doors and shattering its windows.

“People were falling and jumping out of the bus,” Ivan, whose last name was not disclosed, said over the phone to Rossiya-24. “They were in shock, and some were bleeding.”

Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad, is an industrial regional capital, about 620 miles southeast of Moscow. It is not far from the volatile North Caucasus region where terrorist attacks and combat operations happen on a regular basis.

In recent years, thousands of North Caucasus residents have moved elsewhere in the country as they fled the violence. Many of them settled in the Volgograd region.

Muslim female suicide bombers, often referred to in Russia as black widows, have committed numerous terrorist attacks across the country since 2000, when President Vladimir Putin crushed the rebellion in Chechnya in a massive military operation that killed thousands.

In March 2010, two young women from Dagestan exploded themselves in two Moscow metro underground trains, killing 40 people and injuring more than 100.

http://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-russia-suicide-bomber-20131021,0,7619529.story

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« Reply #9316 on: Oct 21st, 2013, 09:13am »

Daily Mail

Is this a UFO hovering above a West Yorkshire town? Man taking landscape pictures spots mystery object in the sky

Mysterious craft appears in photograph of beauty spot

It was captured by local UFO enthusiast Emil Ziemczonek
Mr Ziemczonek, 24, said it cannot be a plane or a bird

By Sam Webb

PUBLISHED: 12:28 EST, 20 October 2013
UPDATED: 02:41 EST, 21 October 2013



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Aliens may have travelled from beyond the stars to make first contact - choosing Shipley in West Yorkshire to unveil their existence to humanity.

What appears to be a UFO hovers above the scenic skyline of the town in this picture taken by chance by local man Emil Ziemczonek.

He took some pictures of his local neighbourhood to show to a friend, and it was only when he looked back at the image later that he spotted the eerie sight.

The 24-year-old said: 'I could clearly see that there was a UFO in the picture.

'I didn't see it when I was taking it, but that's probably because it was moving so fast at the time.

'Some people are calling me crazy but I don't think there's anything else it could be.'

Mr Ziemczonek, a manufacturer at the nearby Denso plant, was travelling back to his home just after 10am last Sunday October 6, when the flying saucer was also seemingly on the move.

He said: 'I've got a friend coming to visit from London and I wanted to show him how beautiful the landscape is around here.

'Only something from space looks that strange, it's not the right size or colour for a bird or a plane.

'I do believe in UFOs, I have never seen one before but I will certainly be looking out for them all the time from now on.'

A website called www.uforth.com documents UFO sightings and sorts them into different categories and shapes.

The mystery object photographed could fall into one of the most common categories of alien spacecraft.

The site shows pictures similar to the one taken by Mr Ziemczonek and states: 'Of all known craft, the domed disc is perhaps the most instantly recognisable, and has been portrayed countless times in the media, but in reality the shiny silver disc so often represented is one of its many variants.'

Mr Ziemczonek admits that many suspect that he has altered the picture for effect - a claim he adamantly denies.

'A lot of people have asked whether something has been done to the picture, but of course not,' he said.

'I'm absolutely amazed, and I think it's interesting to think there could be other life out there.'

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2469111/West-Yorkshire-UFO-Man-taking-landscape-pictures-spots-mystery-object-sky.html

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« Reply #9317 on: Oct 22nd, 2013, 10:03am »

Associated Press

Builders of Obama's health website saw red flags

By JACK GILLUM and JULIE PACE
— Oct. 22, 2013 10:36 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Crammed into conference rooms with pizza for dinner, some programmers building the Obama administration's showcase health insurance website were growing increasingly stressed. Some worked past 10 p.m., energy drinks in hand. Others rewrote computer code over and over to meet what they considered last-minute requests for changes from the government or other contractors.

As questions mount over the website's failure, insider interviews and a review of technical specifications by The Associated Press found a mind-numbingly complex system put together by harried programmers who pushed out a final product that congressional investigators said was tested by the government and not private developers with more expertise.

Project developers who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity — because they feared they would otherwise be fired — said they raised doubts among themselves whether the website could be ready in time. They complained openly to each other about what they considered tight and unrealistic deadlines. One was nearly brought to tears over the stress of finishing on time, one developer said. Website builders saw red flags for months.

A review of internal architectural diagrams obtained by the AP revealed the system's complexity. Insurance applicants have a host of personal information verified, including income and immigration status. The system connects to other federal computer networks, including ones at the Social Security Administration, IRS, Veterans Administration, Office of Personnel Management and the Peace Corps.

President Barack Obama on Monday acknowledged technical problems that he described as "kinks in the system." He also promised a "tech surge" by leading technology talent to repair the painfully slow and often unresponsive website that has frustrated Americans trying to enroll online for insurance plans at the center of Obama's health care law.

But in remarks at a Rose Garden event, Obama offered no explanation for the failure except to note that high traffic to the website caused some of the slowdowns. He said it had been visited nearly 20 million times — fewer monthly visits so far than many commercial websites, such as PayPal, AOL, Wikipedia or Pinterest.

"The problem has been that the website that's supposed to make it easy to apply for and purchase the insurance is not working the way it should for everybody," Obama said. "There's no sugarcoating it. The website has been too slow. People have been getting stuck during the application process. And I think it's fair to say that nobody is more frustrated by that than I am."

The online system was envisioned as a simple way for people without health insurance to comparison-shop among competing plans offered in their state, pick their preferred level of coverage and cost and sign up. For many, it's not worked out that way so far.

Just weeks before the launch of HealthCare.gov on Oct. 1, one programmer said, colleagues huddled in conference rooms trying to patch "bugs," or deficiencies in computer code. Unresolved problems led to visitors experiencing cryptic error messages or enduring long waits trying to sign up.

Congressional investigators have concluded that the government's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, not private software developers, tested the exchange's computer systems during the final weeks. That task, known as integration testing, is usually handled by software companies because it ferrets out problems before the public sees the final product.

The government spent at least $394 million in contracts to build the federal health care exchange and the data hub. Those contracts included major awards to Virginia-based CGI Federal Inc., Maryland-based Quality Software Services Inc. and Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.

CGI Federal said in a statement Monday it was working with the government and other contractors "around the clock" to improve the system, which it called "complex, ambitious and unprecedented."

The schematics from late 2012 show how officials designated a "data services hub" — a traffic cop for managing information — in lieu of a design that would have allowed state exchanges to connect directly to government servers when verifying an applicant's information. On Sunday, the Health and Human Services Department said the data hub was working but not meeting public expectations: "We are committed to doing better."

Administration officials so far have refused to say how many people actually have managed to enroll in insurance during the three weeks since the new marketplaces became available. Without enrollment numbers, it's impossible to know whether the program is on track to reach projections from the Congressional Budget Office that 7 million people would gain coverage during the first year the exchanges were available.

Instead, officials have selectively cited figures that put the insurance exchanges in a positive light. They say more than 19 million people have logged on to the federal website and nearly 500,000 have filled out applications for insurance through both the federal and state-run sites.

The flood of computer problems since the website went online has been deeply embarrassing for the White House. The snags have called into question whether the administration is capable of implementing the complex policy and why senior administration officials — including the president — appear to have been unaware of the scope of the problems when the exchange sites opened.

Even as the president spoke at the Rose Garden, more problems were coming to light. The administration acknowledged that a planned upgrade to the website had been postponed indefinitely and that online Spanish-language signups would remain unavailable, despite a promise to Hispanic groups that the capability would start this week. And the government tweaked the website's home page so visitors can now view phone numbers to apply the old-fashioned way or window-shop for insurance rates without registering first.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee was expected to conduct an oversight hearing Thursday, probably without Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifying. She could testify on Capitol Hill on the subject as early as next week.

Uninsured Americans have until about mid-February to sign up for coverage if they are to meet the law's requirement that they be insured by the end of March. If they don't, they will face a penalty. The administration says it's working to address the timing issue to provide more flexibility.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., plans to introduce legislation to delay that requirement because: "It's not fair to punish people for not buying something that's not available," Rubio told "CBS This Morning" on Tuesday.

On Monday, the White House advised people frustrated by the online tangle that they can enroll by calling 1-800-318-2596 in a process that should take 25 minutes for an individual or 45 minutes for a family. Assistance is also available in communities from helpers who can be found at LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov.


Associated Press writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/builders-obamas-health-website-saw-red-flags

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« Reply #9318 on: Oct 22nd, 2013, 10:06am »

Der Spiegel

Rough Justice: Will Khodorkovsky Face Trial Again?

October 22, 2013 – 04:31 PM

On Sept. 30 at 11:05 a.m., Lufthansa flight LH 2996 left Hamburg bound for Vnukovo Airport in southwest Moscow. Otto Luchterhandt, a law professor from Lüneburg in northern Germany, had booked seats on the flight for himself, his wife, his son and his daughter-in-law. When the flight to the Russian capital took off, Luchterhandt's family was on board but his seat remained empty. At the last minute, after receiving a warning from people close to the German government, the professor decided not to board the flight.

The reason for the warning was a letter from the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation "to the relevant authorities of the Federal Republic of Germany." The committee, the most instrument of the Russian prosecutor general, is responsible for "serious crimes." It reports directly to the president and is headed by a former classmate of Vladimir Putin. In the letter, the Russians asked for permission to question Luchterhandt, born in Celle near the northern German city of Hannover in 1943, in criminal case No. 18/41-03, "which is the reason for this request for mutual assistance."

Case No. 18/41-03 is the case against the former head of the Russian oil company Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. In two trials, the Russian state sentenced him to almost 11 years in prison, and he is due to be released next August. But there are growing doubts that he will be set free. And if Luchterhandt gets involved in the case, he could quickly find himself in a Russian prison as well.

Is a New Khordokovsky Trial Being Prepared?

The Khodorkovsky case was never a purely legal matter. Prior to his arrest the oligarch, one of Putin's harshest critics, financed opposition parties and publicly accused Putin's closest associates of corruption. German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, rapporteur for the European Council in the Khodorkovsky case until 2009, believes "there are obvious political issues at play."

Russia's request for assistance in the case of Luchterhandt reinforces doubts that Putin will allow Khodorkovsky to return to public life, at least as long as he is in power. On the first page of the letter, the Russians write: "The investigation in this criminal matter continues." They add that "elements of the organized group headed by Khodorkovsky," who have fled abroad, are in the process of laundering billions of dollars worth of stolen oil revenue and are using the money to buy Russian and foreign experts. These individuals, the Russians claim, have been tasked with preparing public opinion in Russia for the "need to liberalize criminal sentencing law" in Khodorkovsky's favor. One of the selected academics is Luchterhandt, who, according to the reproachful letter, has already "publicly criticized several incidents in Russia" in recent years.

The document, signed by the "head of the investigation into especially important criminal acts against the government," Colonel of Justice F. G. Ganiyev, reads like the blueprint for a third Khodorkovsky trial.

The first trial ended in 2005, with a conviction for "fraud and tax evasion." In the second trial, in 2010, the court came to the conclusion that Khodorkovsky and his inner circle had stolen more than 200 million tons of crude oil and embezzled more than $20 million (€14.6 million). In a third trial, as the letter to the Germans suggests, he would likely be charged with being the head of an international network that is allegedly operating against the Russian state.

The investigation revolves around several assessments by independent experts provided in 2011, which declare the ruling in the second Khodorkovsky trial to be invalid. Ironically, Putin's political protégé, then President Dmitry Medvedev, requested the expert reports.

Devastating Verdict on Khodorkovsky Prosecution

Medvedev, hoping to defuse international criticism, assigned the task to his advisory board for human rights. It asked "highly qualified experts in the field of constitutional, criminal trial and corporate law" to review the verdict. Six Russian and three foreign experts were approached, including Luchterhandt, an expert on Eastern European law.

The reports were devastating for the Russian judiciary. Luchterhandt concluded that the second Khodorkovsky verdict "is deeply unjust. It is a massive violation of basic judicial principles of the constitutional state. It is also blatantly illegal, because it convicts the defendants of crimes they did not commit."

Medvedev forwarded the reports to the relevant judicial authority, which rejected the criticism and turned the case over to the Investigative Committee. It proceeded to take the authors of the reports to task, beginning with the Russian experts, who were accused of "obstruction of justice." At the same time, it was suggested that Khodorkovsky had used his embezzled fortune to pay 50 million rubles (€1.2 million) to various human rights experts.

Investigators armed with search warrants began turning up in the offices of the Russian experts in the late summer of 2012. They seized computers, mobile phones, email communications and even diplomas and passports, so as to refute the legal experts' "bogus" claims.

One of the experts, Moscow university rector Sergei Guriyev, even fled to Paris because of the investigations. Putin, who was now president once again, was aware of the harsh approach.

The Luchterhandt case shows that Russian prosecutors are now even setting their sights on foreign experts. They are still claiming that their intent is to question the German professor as a "witness." But the 37 questions he is to be asked sound more like an indictment. For instance, Luchterhandt is portrayed as being a "critic of the government bodies of the Russian Federation," "not objective" and "dependent" on monetary payments from Khodorkovsky's administrators.

Germany rejected Russia's legal assistance request on Sept. 24. In explaining her ministry's decision, Justice Minister Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said that the Russian course of action in the Khodorkovsky case "contradicts basic German legal principles." Moreover, she argued, experience had shown that the Russian judiciary could not be trusted in this case. "After an examination in Moscow, you don't know whether your status is still that of a witness or if you are already a defendant," she said, noting that Luchterhandt could not be exposed to this risk.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/russia-appears-to-be-preparing-a-new-case-against-khodorkovsky-a-929017.html

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« Reply #9319 on: Oct 22nd, 2013, 10:10am »

Japan Times

Bank frauds tapped U.S. transfer firms

Kyodo
Oct 22, 2013

The use of U.S. money transfer companies to send swindled funds to Russia and Ukraine has spiked, involving dozens of apparently unsuspecting people hired to unwittingly commit Internet banking fraud, police sources said.

Unable to track the money beyond those countries, Japanese law enforcement has asked for help from Russian counterparts through Interpol to determine the recipients, the sources said. Investigators also plan to get help from Ukrainian authorities.

Using stolen IDs and passwords to infect account holders’ computers with viruses, perpetrators stole about ¥760 million from Japanese Internet bank accounts in 766 cases this year through Oct. 15, according to a tally by the National Police Agency.

In a typical case, a virus opens a mock Net banking website when the account holder tries to access the genuine site. Unaware, the person enters his or her ID and password, which is then sent to the perpetrators.

The total already tops the record high for all of 2011, according to the NPA.

The police confirmed in March the first funds were sent out of Japan via U.S. remittance services Western Union and MoneyGram.

Overseas money transfers using these services have surged since July, totaling around ¥114 million, accounting for around 15 percent of all the fraudulently obtained funds this year.

The sources said a group of criminals first send swindled funds to the accounts of people in Japan hired through online forums and other places.

These hired “agents” then withdraw the funds from their accounts and send them abroad via Western Union and MoneyGram branches for a commission of 5 to 10 percent, the sources said.

Police believe the criminal group is taking advantage of fund transfer services, which ask that senders simply show ID, unlike commercial banks, which require that the receiver’s name and bank account number be registered.

The group hired up to 120 people in 16 countries, with Japan-based agents forming the largest segment with 69 people. Often, these middlemen are unaware that the money was illicitly obtained, and no charges have so far been filed against them.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/10/22/national/bank-frauds-tapped-u-s-transfer-firms/#.UmaUjJDn-1s

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« Reply #9320 on: Oct 22nd, 2013, 10:17am »

Sentinel and Enterprise News

Leominster UFO event slips into the unknown

By Michael Hartwell
10/21/2013 06:31:09 AM EDT

LEOMINSTER -- Steve Firmani said his conference this week on visitors from other planets will at the very least draw visitors from across the globe to Leominster.

Firmani, 60, a residential staff member at a local special-education school, is the creator and organizer of the New England UFO Conference, which will have its maiden session next Saturday at Leominster City Hall.

He first got interested in UFOs during grade school, after several classmates said they saw a flying saucer.

"A lot of other kids gave them a hard time about it," said Firmani.

He said to this day he doesn't know if they actually saw one, but the incident got him to go to the library to read up on UFOs and why some people think they can be best explained as space-alien visitors.

Wearing a black UFO conference T-shirt, Firmani's small apartment has more music paraphernalia than alien tie-ins. He has a small library of books on UFOs and keeps a gray alien-head mug and the base of a lava lamp, that looks like an alien fetus, in a jar.

He said it represents human-alien hybrids being created in human women who are abducted twice -- once to impregnate the woman and again to vanish the fetus before she can give birth.

When his cellphone goes off, his ringtone is the instrumental piece the aliens played in the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." He said when it rings in a crowd he never has to worry about mistaking it for someone else's phone.

Cradling the fake fetus, Firmani said there are some parts of the UFO community that have wild ideas, and some like him who are more reasonable and reserved.

He said between 80 and 85 percent of objects reported as unidentified have very common explanations -- human aircraft, stars, planets or even the International Space Station.

"It's the other 10 to 15 percent that we can't find an explanation for through an investigation," said Firmani. He said witnesses to unexplained objects include soldiers, pilots and police officers, all of whom he said share expertise on sights in the sky.

"These people can't all be making it up," said.

Firmani has helped organize a UFO convention in Exeter, N.H., and has been a speaker at several events. He said he's always wanted to put on his own, and now he's finally done it.

He said his friend Carl Piermarini, executive director at Leominster Access Television, pitched the idea of using Leominster City Hall as a venue to Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella, and he went for it.

"This is a big thing for us. It's really exciting," said Mazzarella. "He always talked about it. It's a wish and dream come true."

He added that the convention should bring a lot of people to the area.

Mazzarella said there was a UFO sighting in Leominster around 1969, where a spacecraft was allegedly spotted near Route 117. When asked, he said he's not sure if he believes in them or not.

"I don't know, I think it's kind of fun to think about these things," he said.

Firmani and Piermarini will be guests on Mazzarella's cable-access TV show "Inside Leominster" next Thursday.

Firmani said he just doesn't want people who are already convinced aliens are visiting the planet to visit the conference. He's hoping to attract people who don't believe in UFOs to the conference to help grow the community.

About 160 people have already registered for the conference. Tickets will be $35 at the door, but people can register online before Friday and pay either $25 per individual or $20 per person in a family deal.

The night before the conference, speakers will sign their books at the Barnes & Noble bookstore from 7-9 p.m. Firmani is also pointing early birds to the final night of The Haunting of Barrett Park that same evening.

The conference begins at 8:30 a.m. at City Hall. Speakers include Travis Walter* and Steve Pierce, an alleged abductee and a witness who were portrayed in the movie "Fire in the Sky"; Peter Robbins, who is speaking about the Bentwaters UFO; Kathleen Mardon, giving a talk about alleged New Hampshire abductees Barney and Betty Hill; and Stanton T. Friedman, who speaks about the purported Roswell UFO crash.

The conference ends with a screening of the documentary "The Hidden Hand," which ends at 9:30 p.m.

CBS Radio personalities Paul and Ben Eno, hosts of "Behind the Paranormal," will be on hand and recording for an upcoming show.

Firmani also included a UFO lecture for kids at the Leominster Public Library and blocks out time for the city's Halloween costume parade at 1 p.m. See http://neufoconference.vpweb.com/ for a complete list of events, speakers and times.


http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com/news/ci_24353047/leominster-ufo-event-slips-into-unknown

Crystal

* Travis Walton

edit to correct Travis Walton's name

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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #9321 on: Oct 22nd, 2013, 3:49pm »

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2467514/Ray-Kurzweil-shares-plans-immortality.html

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Ray one million years later.
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GREAT SPIRITS ALWAYS ENCOUNTER THE MOST VIOLENT OPPOSITION FROM MEDIOCRE MINDS E=MC2


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« Reply #9322 on: Oct 22nd, 2013, 5:25pm »

SYS,
YOU PUT A GRIN ON MY FACE DAILY! I DON'T KNOW WHAT I WOULD DO IF I DID NOT STOP IN THE "FOOD FOR THOUGHT CAFE" @ UFO CASEBOOK!!!
YEP...I CAN IMAGINE THE SUB-TEXT FOR THE TRANSFORMATION..."YOU CAN CALL ME.JAY...YOU CAN CALL ME "RAY"...BUT BY GOLLY DON'T CALL ME AT ALL..."TEXT"/"SEARCH" SO WE CAN GATHER/ASSESS/PROVIDE ALL THESE TRENDS TO THE HIGHEST.BIDDER...AH YES SYS...THE SLEEPER HAS AWAKENED...
I ALWAYS LOVED THAT LINE IN...DUNE!...

SHALOM...Z

EDIT TO ADD:
ONE PROMISING POINT...IT LOOKS AS IF HIS VISION IMPROVED WITH THE NEW LOOK...KINDA TRENDY EH?...
« Last Edit: Oct 22nd, 2013, 5:33pm by ZETAR » User IP Logged

GREAT SPIRITS ALWAYS ENCOUNTER THE MOST VIOLENT OPPOSITION FROM MEDIOCRE MINDS E=MC2
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« Reply #9323 on: Oct 22nd, 2013, 9:04pm »

Noam Chomsky 60 years at MIT Calls RayRays singularity moment Science fiction Bunk and gimmick to sell Computers and gadgets misdirecting science pursuits...survival of our species.Human and animal rights..
Touring vs Thinking Not even worthy of discussion..
grin grin grin
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kICLG4Zg8s
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« Reply #9324 on: Oct 23rd, 2013, 08:56am »

Good morning Sys and Zetar cheesy


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« Reply #9325 on: Oct 23rd, 2013, 08:58am »

WARNING FOR PET OWNERS


Associated Press

FDA seeks pet owner help on dangerous jerky treats

Oct. 23, 2013 9:16 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration is appealing to dog and cat owners for information as it struggles to solve a mysterious outbreak of illness and deaths among pets that ate jerky treats.

In a notice to consumers and veterinarians published Tuesday, the agency said it has linked illnesses from jerky pet treats to 3,600 dogs and 10 cats since 2007. About 580 of those pets have died.

The FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine has run more than 1,200 tests, visited pet treat manufacturing plants in China and worked with researchers, state labs and foreign governments but hasn't determined the exact cause of the illness, the FDA statement said.

"This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we've encountered," Bernadette Dunham, a veterinarian and head of the FDA vet medicine center, said in the statement.

Pets can suffer from a decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting and diarrhea among other symptoms within hours of eating treats sold as jerky tenders or strips made of chicken, duck, sweet potatoes or dried fruit.

Severe cases have involved kidney failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, and a rare kidney disorder, the FDA said.

Most of the jerky treats implicated have been made in China, the FDA said.

The FDA has issued previous warnings. A number of jerky pet treat products were removed from the market in January after a New York state lab reported finding evidence of up to six drugs in certain jerky pet treats made in China, the FDA said. The agency said that while the levels of the drugs were very low and it was unlikely that they caused the illnesses, there was a decrease in reports of jerky-suspected illnesses after the products were removed from the market. FDA believes that the number of reports may have declined simply because fewer jerky treats were available.

Online:

Food and Drug Administration statement http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm371413.htm

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/fda-warns-pet-owners-dangerous-jerky-treats

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« Reply #9326 on: Oct 23rd, 2013, 09:11am »

France 24

Latest update: 22/10/2013

Saudi spy chief warns of ‘major shift’ in ties with US

Days after Saudi Arabia surprised the international community with its last-minute decision to reject a rotating UN Security Council seat, there were signs of a growing rift between the oil-rich Gulf monarchy and its key ally, the US.

At a weekend meeting with European diplomats, Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief said the kingdom would make a "major shift" in its relations with the United States in protest over Washington's perceived inaction over the Syria war and its overtures to Iran, according to media reports.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, Prince Bandar bin Sultan invited a Western diplomat to the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah over the weekend to voice Riyadh's frustration with the Obama administration and its regional policies, including the decision not to bomb Syria in response to its alleged use of chemical weapons in August.

It was not immediately clear if Prince Bandar's reported statements had the full backing of King Abdullah.

In an interview with Reuters, a source close to Saudi policy said Prince Bandar had also told European diplomats that Washington had failed to act effectively on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011.

"The shift away from the US is a major one," the Saudi source told Reuters. "Saudi doesn't want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent."

The United States and Saudi Arabia have been allies since the kingdom was declared in 1932, giving Riyadh a powerful military protector and Washington secure oil supplies.

The prince's initiative follows a surprise Saudi decision on Friday to reject a coveted two-year term on the UN Security Council in protest at "double standards" at the United Nations.

Prince Bandar, who was Saudi ambassador to Washington for 22 years, is seen as a foreign policy hawk, especially on Iran. The Sunni Muslim kingdom's rivalry with Shiite Iran, an ally of Syria, has amplified sectarian tensions across the Middle East.

A son of the late defence minister and crown prince, Prince Sultan, and a protégé of the late King Fahd, he fell from favour with King Abdullah after clashing on foreign policy in 2005.

But he was called in from the cold last year with a mandate to bring down President Bashar al-Assad, diplomats in the Gulf say. Over the past year he has led Saudi efforts to bring arms and other aid to Syrian rebels while his cousin, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, worked the diplomatic corridors.

'All options on the table'

"Prince Bandar told diplomats that he plans to limit interaction with the US," the Saudi source told Reuters. "This happens after the US failed to take any effective action on Syria and Palestine."

The source declined to provide more details of Bandar's talks with the diplomats, which took place in the past few days.

But he suggested that the planned change in ties between the energy superpower and its traditional US ally would have wide-ranging consequences, including on arms purchases and oil sales.

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, ploughs much of its earnings back into US assets. Most of the Saudi central bank's net foreign assets of $690 billion are thought to be denominated in dollars, much of them in US Treasury bonds.

"All options are on the table now, and for sure there will be some impact," the Saudi source said.

He said there would be no further coordination with the United States over the war in Syria, where the Saudis have armed and financed rebel groups fighting Assad.

The kingdom has informed the United States of its actions in Syria, and diplomats say it has respected US requests not to supply the groups with advanced weaponry that the West fears could fall into the hands of al Qaeda-aligned groups.

Saudi anger peaked after Washington refrained from military strikes in response to a poison gas attack in Damascus in August. The US decided to hold back after Assad agreed to give up his chemical arsenal.

Saudi Arabia is also concerned about signs of a tentative reconciliation between Washington and Tehran, something Riyadh fears may lead to a "grand bargain" on the Iranian nuclear programme that would leave it at a disadvantage.

(FRANCE 24 with wires )

http://www.france24.com/en/20131022-saudi-arabia-usa-major-shift-syria-iran-intelligence

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« Reply #9327 on: Oct 23rd, 2013, 09:23am »

LA Times

Titanic violin auction price of $1.44 million sinks previous records

By Henry Chu
This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.
October 19, 2013, 11:11 a.m.

LONDON -- The violin believed to have belonged to the bandleader on the Titanic fetched nearly $1.45 million at auction Saturday, becoming far and away the most expensive piece of memorabilia associated with the ocean liner ever to be sold.

The British auction house Henry Aldridge & Son had originally expected the battered-looking instrument to sell for a third of that amount. But the legend surrounding the fiddle, its embodiment of the heroic self-sacrifice of a band that famously kept playing as the ill-fated ship met its watery doom, boosted bidding to stratospheric levels.

The winning offer of 900,000 pounds, or $1.44 million, is more than four times the record amount paid two years ago for a 32-foot-long schematic drawing of the Titanic that was used in the official investigation into its sinking.

The contest for the violin came down to two bidders vying furiously by telephone, with excited members of the audience bursting into applause when the auctioneer’s hammer struck. After the buyer’s premium is factored in, the final cost will come to $1.76 million.

“It was an exceptional price for an exceptional item,” said Andrew Aldridge, a surveyor at the auction house.

The story of the band playing on has become an indelible trope of the Titanic, a favorite image of filmmakers and fans alike. While the band’s reputed choice of the hymn “Nearer, My God, to Thee” as the ship sank is likely an invention, survivors recounted that the musicians did continue to perform during the vessel’s final minutes as panic-stricken passengers fled for their lives.

Wallace Hartley was the band’s young leader. His violin was a gift from his fiancée, Maria Robinson, and bore the inscription: “For Wallace, on the occasion of our engagement. From Maria.”

When Hartley’s body was pulled from the Atlantic several days after the Titanic sank in April 1912, with the loss of more than 1,500 lives, the leather valise he used to carry the violin was still strapped to him. The other band members also perished.

The auction house spent several years having the violin authenticated, subjecting it to a battery of examinations by forensic experts who noted the saltwater corrosion and other indicators of the instrument’s incredible history. After being declared the genuine article, the fiddle was put on display during most of this past summer in the United States.

Although the violin generated worldwide interest, Aldridge said that both the seller and the buyer are British and have asked to remain anonymous.

[For the record, 12:04 p.m., Oct. 19: An earlier version of this post gave the wrong year for the sinking of the Titanic. It sunk in 1912, not 2012.]

http://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-titanic-violin-reaps-titanic-auction-price-20131019,0,1743690.story#axzz2iYQlEt3r

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« Reply #9328 on: Oct 23rd, 2013, 09:28am »

New York Times

Russia Putting a Strong Arm on Neighbors

By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
Published: October 22, 2013

CHISINAU, Moldova — It was not enough for Dmitri O. Rogozin, a deputy prime minister of Russia, to warn darkly that it would be “a grave mistake” for Moldova to seek closer ties with Europe.

Mr. Rogozin, wrapping up a visit here last month, let fly a threat about the coming winter in this impoverished former Soviet republic, which is entirely dependent on Russian gas for heat. “We hope that you will not freeze,” he said.

The squeeze was just beginning. Next, the Russian Orthodox patriarch, Kirill I, in a rare personal appearance here, denounced Western Europe, “where religion is simply disappearing.” And three days later, the sharpest blow: Russian officials, citing vague health concerns, banned Moldovan wine, one of the country’s most important exports.

The bullying, which the Kremlin denies, is not directed at Moldova alone. Ahead of a conference next month where the European Union plans to advance political and trade accords with several ex-Soviet republics, Russia has been whispering threats and gripping throats, bluntly telling smaller neighbors that they would be better off joining Russia’s customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus.

The frantic push to retain influence, with its echoes of cold war jousting, reflects the still-palpable fury among Russian officials over NATO’s expansion into the former Soviet sphere and a desire to halt a similar, eastward extension of European economic power. The heavy-handed tactics have wreaked economic chaos throughout the region in recent months.

In August, Russia suddenly stopped all Ukrainian imports at the border for stepped-up customs inspections. It lifted the restrictions after a week, but a senior economic aide to President Vladimir V. Putin said that they could become permanent if Ukraine, as expected, signs agreements with the European Union at the conference next month — a step that the aide, Sergei Glazyev, said would be “suicidal.”

In September, Armenia, which is heavily dependent on Russia for security reasons, simply capitulated. After a meeting with Mr. Putin in Moscow, President Serzh Sargsyan abruptly declared that Armenia would join the Kremlin’s customs union, scrapping years of work toward agreements under the European Union’s Eastern Partnership program.

Mr. Sargsyan’s unexpected move shocked many Armenians and set off a protest in Yerevan, the capital, by several thousand people who noted that their country does not share a common border with any of the customs union members. It also startled the Europeans, who began scrambling to prevent further defections.

This month, Russia took aim at Lithuania, which has already joined the European Union and whose capital, Vilnius, is the site of next month’s conference. Russia briefly stiffened customs inspections on Lithuanian goods, and has banned milk and other dairy imports.

Nowhere, however, is the pressure more intense than here in Moldova, a tiny, landlocked nation of 3.6 million people wedged between Romania and Ukraine that is by far the poorest country on the Continent, with annual economic output of about $3,500 per person — less than half that of Albania.

In addition to the ban on Moldovan wine, there have been rumors that tens of thousands of Moldovans who work in Russia would be expelled in an immigration crackdown, cutting off a financial lifeline for many families. There are also fears of a ban on apples or other produce, which would be devastating if imposed during harvest season.

Rather than intimidating leaders of the country’s fragile coalition government, however, Russia’s tactics have only cemented their resolve to complete the political and free trade agreements with the European Union.

“The signing of these agreements is the only chance that Moldova has in order to develop itself as a European country and in the European spirit,” President Nicolae Timofti said in an interview.

Mr. Timofti said it was clear that the ban on wine imports was about politics and Russia’s increasingly unrealistic goal of reuniting the former Soviet republics in an economic alliance through the customs union.

“We realize Russia has geopolitical interests in this area but there is also a saying here — ‘You cannot enter the same river twice,’ ” the president said. “It is impossible to recreate the union that used to exist. However, Russia does take action to keep its influence over this region.”

In interviews, Mr. Timofti and other government officials said the Russian approach was backfiring, both politically and economically, leading businesses to reduce their reliance on the Russian market.

When Russia imposed a similar ban on Moldovan wine in 2006, officials said, exports to Russia accounted for more than 70 percent of the industry. Today, it is less than 30 percent, and several winery executives said they had ceased doing business with Russia entirely.

“We stopped working with the Russian market in 2009,” said Andrei Sirbu, whose family owns the Asconi Winery in Puhoi, a village 20 miles southeast of Chisinau (pronounced KISH-e-now). “It’s a very attractive market when you look at the sales opportunities, the size of it. Just in Moscow, you can do so much business, but when you put the politics into it, that’s the problem — the political risk.”

“To be honest, it’s all politics,” Mr. Sirbu added. “Why should we suffer because of politicians?”

Moldova’s official response has been to request clarification of Russia’s concerns about the wine so that they can be addressed quickly, and to ask that any new technical requirements be specified in writing.

European leaders have condemned Russia’s efforts and undertaken countermeasures, like lifting limits in the current trade rules on tariff-free imports of Moldovan wine.

“We will keep telling our friends in Moscow, it is unacceptable that our partners are being subject to any kind of pressure,” Stefan Fule, the European commissioner for enlargement and neighborhood policy, said at a recent news conference here with Prime Minister Iurie Leanca.

Mr. Fule said that the agreement under consideration “has clear benefits not only to our neighbors, Moldova, but to our neighbors’ neighbors.”

Despite being the only former Soviet republic where Communists regained power, controlling Parliament and ruling the country from 2001 to 2009, Moldova has long set its sights westward, so much so that in 2004, it renamed its foreign office the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration.

For parts of the 19th and 20th centuries, Moldova was part of Romania, and its language is virtually identical to Romanian. Early this month, Mr. Rogozin, the Russian deputy prime minister, posted a Twitter message suggesting that Romania had a secret plan to annex Moldova, after supporting Moldova’s integration into Europe.

Some Moldovan officials have also accused Russia of fomenting unrest in the country by inflaming the dispute with Trans-Dniester, a breakaway territory that has declared independence and where about a thousand Russian troops remain stationed, and also by financing political groups aiming to topple the ruling coalition.

The Communist Party, which still has the single largest bloc in Parliament and currently opposes the political and trade pacts with Europe, this month began demanding early elections in an effort to dislodge the current government. On Tuesday, Parliament for the second time in two weeks rejected a vote of “no confidence” in the government proposed by the Communists.

The government nearly fell apart earlier this year after a bizarre series of events that began last December when a businessman was accidentally killed on a hunting trip involving some of the country’s top officials. Vlad Filat, then the prime minister, was ousted in the ensuing controversy.

The current prime minister, Mr. Leanca, said that while the government was pursuing overhauls, including anticorruption measures and an overhaul of the judicial system, in hopes of eventually joining the European Union, the outcome was not yet certain. “There are still threats, and it comes from the fact that we have not reached yet the irreversibility of our development, of our future path,” Mr. Leanca said.

In an interview, he described Moldova as at a crossroads. “We could go one way, which would mean embracing democratic values and on those values to build a viable society, and a functioning society with a prosperous economy,” he said. “Or we can stay forever in this gray area, where there is no rule of law, where people do not have confidence in their future and therefore they leave the country.”

Iulian Groza, a deputy foreign minister, said that focusing on Europe, a market of 500 million people, was an obvious choice — and one that Moldova made long ago — and that Russia should accept Moldova’s policy decisions. “We want to be treated by our bigger partners, if not equally, at least with respect,” he said.

President Timofti said he believed that Moldova would join the European Union, and even predicted good relations with Russia in the future. “Perhaps at some point in the future, Russia itself will become a member of the European Union,” he said. “And we will be together again.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/23/world/europe/russia-putting-a-strong-arm-on-neighbors.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&ref=international-home

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« Reply #9329 on: Oct 23rd, 2013, 10:01am »

CRYSTAL,

TOP OF THE MORNING TO YOU!!!...

SHALOM...Z
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