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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 1844 times)
WingsofCrystal
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xx Stuff & Nonsense II
« Reply #5700 on: Dec 10th, 2011, 12:54pm »




Uploaded by Tvux on Dec 9, 2011

Huge cloaked UFO next to Mercury on SECCHI HI1-A on 12/01/11, appears when a CME hits it. Go to SECCHI and record this before it disappears.

Here's the link
http://secchi.nrl.navy.mil/index.php?p=js_secchi_day

Category:
Education

~

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« Reply #5701 on: Dec 10th, 2011, 2:08pm »

Wired Threat Level

Senator Wants Answers from DHS Over Domain Name Seizures
By David Kravets
December 9, 2011 | 7:34 pm
Categories: Censorship, intellectual property

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said Friday he would demand answers from the Department of Homeland Security about its domain seizure program known as Operation in Our Sites after it was revealed that the government kept a hip-hop music review site’s name for a year without affording the owner a chance to challenge the seizure.

Wyden also wants to know why there was no court record of the case, other than the initial seizure filing a year ago.

“I expect the administration will be receiving a series of FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests from our office and that the senator will have very pointed questions with regard to how the administration chooses to target the sites that it does,” said Jennifer Hoelzer, a Wyden spokeswoman. She said the senator was “particularly interested in learning how many secret dockets exist for copyright cases. There doesn’t seem to be an obvious precedent or explanation for that.”

Wyden’s interest comes a day after federal authorities returned the domain name dajaz1.com, which was back online greeting visitors Friday with a powerful message about proposed web-censorship legislation that expands the government — and copyright holders — power to shutter and cripple sites suspected of copyright infringement.

The federal government already has the power to seize web domains under the same forfeiture laws used to seize property like houses, cars and boats allegedly tied to illegal activity such as drug running. A year ago, it started invoking that law against sites marketing and trafficking in counterfeit goods, unauthorized sports streaming and unauthorized music — seizing more than 350 domain names in all.

One of those sites caught in that crackdown (.pdf) was dajas1.com. Operation in Our Sites, run by the Department of Homeland Security, accused the site of allowing its users to download pre-release music. But as it turns out, some of that music was sent to the popular blog by the artists or labels.

The site’s homepage on Friday was dominated by a video pointing to alarming legislation known as the Protect IP Act — which is stalled in a procedural muck — that a Senate committee passed months ago basically giving copyright owners the right to shutter websites believed to be dedicated to infringing activities. Judicial oversight is not needed. In a recent editorial, we spoke about such dangers that this and a similar proposed House measure are ripe for abuse. After all, if the movie industry had its way, the VCR would have been outlawed.

Techdirt disclosed Thursday that for a year, the government refused to allow the site’s owner, who goes by the moniker Splash, to challenge the November 2010 seizure of the domain name by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, which is a branch of DHS. The only publicly available court record regarding the seizure was the initial filing of a court order a year ago. Everything else was sealed — invisible to Splash, his lawyer, the public and the press. On Thursday, the site was returned to the owner of the Queens, New York-based site with the only explanation being that forfeiture was unwarranted.

ICE’s complaint against the site listed four songs that the site allegedly linked to in violation of copyright law. Three of them were e-mailed to Splash by record executives associated with labels that belong to the Recording Industry Association of America, which helped create the complaint.

“It’s not my fault if someone at a record label is sending me the song,” Splash told The New York Times last year.

His attorney, Andrew Bridges of San Francisco, said in a telephone interview Friday that the issue underscores that “powerful corporate copyright interests have taken advantage of the post 9-11 era to obtain the services of Homeland Security to enforce commercial interests.”

The Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s public response to keeping Splash’s property for a year, without due process, boils down to a belief that it’s acceptable collateral damage:

Operation In Our Sites utilized the civil forfeiture statute provided by Congress for intellectual property theft to seize domain names of 350 separate websites engaged in copyright or trademark violations. In each instance, ICE, working with our partners at the Department of Justice, demonstrated the requisite probable cause to a federal magistrate judge to justify the seizure of the website. This process is the same that federal law enforcement uses for seizures of all types. During the subsequent forfeiture process, law enforcement continued not only to investigate potential criminal wrongdoing, but to objectively consider all applicable evidence resulting from the ongoing investigation. The goal of every law enforcement operation is to ensure a just result. In the case of this domain name — out of 350 seized — the government concluded that the appropriate and just result was to decline to pursue judicial forfeiture.

It just seems wrong that the United States would seize somebody’s property without affording any opportunity for a challenge — and ICE has tried to say that sites can fight back.

The Justice Department told Wyden in May that the Operation in Our Sites would indeed allow targets an opportunity to challenge the seizure. The only known challenge so far to Operation in Our Sites was by the Spanish site Rojadirecta, which prevailed on First Amendment grounds Wednesday.

“Property owners are are entitled to challenge the forfeiture of their property, in which case the government would be required to demonstrate the basis for forfeiture by a preponderance of the evidence,” Ronald Weich, an assistant attorney general, wrote (.pdf) Wyden in May. “Even where the government can demonstrate that property was used to commit a criminal offense, an innocent owner who was unaware of the criminal activity, or who took reasonable measures to notify law enforcement upon learning of the criminal conduct, may nevertheless avoid forfeiture.”

The dajaz1.com seizure was based on an investigation from the RIAA, which said in a statement that for the 18 months before the site was seized, “nearly 2,300 recordings linked to the site were removed from various file-sharing services.”

“We are aware of statements by the site operator that suggest that music companies themselves were the source of at least some of the thousands of recordings available on Dajaz1. Even assuming this to be accurate, it does not excuse the thousands of other pre-release tracks also made available which were neither authorized for commercial distribution nor for uploading to publicly accessible sites where they were readily downloadable for free,” the RIAA said in a statement.

Apparently the RIAA is none too happy about the dajaz1.com site being given back, and suggested it was returned for “technical issues.”

“If the site continues to operate in an illegal manner,” the RIAA said in a statement, “we will consider all our legal options to prevent further damage to the music community.”

Video after the jump
http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/12/wyden-domain-seizure/

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« Reply #5702 on: Dec 10th, 2011, 9:27pm »

You have got to be kidding me!


Does This Design of Two Towers Remind You of Anything?

Posted on December 8, 2011

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These residential high-rise buildings to be completed in Seoul, South Korea, by 2015 are connected in the middle by a cloud, which the designer says “differentiates the building from other luxury developments.”

The towers designed by architects at MVRDV are 300 and 260 meters high with a “pixelated” cloud in the middle at the 27th floor. The cloud allows for more light and room for decks and greenspace.

As peaceful as that sounds, there is something a bit disconcerting about the design. Here’s what Gizmodo has to say about what may look a little too much like the towers of the World Trade Center beginning to come down on 9/11:

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From higher angles the ten story tall pixelated cloud structure that connects the two 850+ foot towers certainly looks more whimsical, as I’m sure the architects at MVRDV intended it to be.

But most people will be viewing it looking up from ground level. And I‘m afraid from that angle it’s very reminiscent of the images and events that were seen around the entire world that day. So I‘m not really sure how the eerie similarities weren’t spotted before this design was approved.

Update: Since the posting of this story, MVRDV has issued a statement of apology (be sure to click “read” on the site to see the statement) over the design. The design company writes “MVRDV regrets deeply any connotations The Cloud projects evokes regarding 9/11. The Cloud was designed based on parameters such as sunlight, outside spaces, living quality for inhabitants and the city. It is one of many projects in which MVRDV experiments with a raised city level to reinvent the often solitary typology of the skyscraper. It was not our intention to create an image resembling the attacks nor did we see the resemblance during the design process. We sincerely apologize to anyone whose feelings we have hurt, it was not our intention.”

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/does-this-design-of-two-towers-remind-you-of-anything/
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« Reply #5703 on: Dec 11th, 2011, 07:24am »

Good morning Swamprat. cheesy
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« Reply #5704 on: Dec 11th, 2011, 07:30am »

New York Times

December 10, 2011
Beyond Guantánamo, a Web of Prisons for Terrorism Inmates
By SCOTT SHANE

WASHINGTON — It is the other Guantánamo, an archipelago of federal prisons that stretches across the country, hidden away on back roads. Today, it houses far more men convicted in terrorism cases than the shrunken population of the prison in Cuba that has generated so much debate.

An aggressive prosecution strategy, aimed at prevention as much as punishment, has sent away scores of people. They serve long sentences, often in restrictive, Muslim-majority units, under intensive monitoring by prison officers. Their world is spare.

Among them is Ismail Royer, serving 20 years for helping friends go to an extremist training camp in Pakistan. In a letter from the highest-security prison in the United States, Mr. Royer describes his remarkable neighbors at twice-a-week outdoor exercise sessions, each prisoner alone in his own wire cage under the Colorado sky. “That’s really the only interaction I have with other inmates,” he wrote from the federal Supermax, 100 miles south of Denver.

There is Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, Mr. Royer wrote. Terry Nichols, who conspired to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building. Ahmed Ressam, the would-be “millennium bomber,” who plotted to attack Los Angeles International Airport. And Eric Rudolph, who bombed abortion clinics and the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

In recent weeks, Congress has reignited an old debate, with some arguing that only military justice is appropriate for terrorist suspects. But military tribunals have proved excruciatingly slow and imprisonment at Guantánamo hugely costly — $800,000 per inmate a year, compared with $25,000 in federal prison.

The criminal justice system, meanwhile, has absorbed the surge of terrorism cases since 2001 without calamity, and without the international criticism that Guantánamo has attracted for holding prisoners without trial. A decade after the Sept. 11 attacks, an examination of how the prisons have handled the challenge of extremist violence reveals some striking facts:

¶ Big numbers. Today, 171 prisoners remain at Guantánamo. As of Oct. 1, the federal Bureau of Prisons reported that it was holding 362 people convicted in terrorism-related cases, 269 with what the bureau calls a connection to international terrorism — up from just 50 in 2000. An additional 93 inmates have a connection to domestic terrorism.

¶ Lengthy sentences. Terrorists who plotted to massacre Americans are likely to die in prison. Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square in 2010, is serving a sentence of life without parole at the Supermax, as are Zacarias Moussaoui, a Qaeda operative arrested in 2001, and Mr. Reid, the shoe bomber, among others. But many inmates whose conduct fell far short of outright terrorism are serving sentences of a decade or more, the result of a calculated prevention strategy to sideline radicals well before they could initiate deadly plots.

¶ Special units. Since 2006, the Bureau of Prisons has moved many of those convicted in terrorism cases to two special units that severely restrict visits and phone calls. But in creating what are Muslim-dominated units, prison officials have inadvertently fostered a sense of solidarity and defiance, and set off a long-running legal dispute over limits on group prayer. Officials have warned in court filings about the danger of radicalization, but the Bureau of Prisons has nothing comparable to the deradicalization programs instituted in many countries.

¶ Quiet releases. More than 300 prisoners have completed their sentences and been freed since 2001. Their convictions involved not outright violence but “material support” for a terrorist group; financial or document fraud; weapons violations; and a range of other crimes. About half are foreign citizens and were deported; the Americans have blended into communities around the country, refusing news media interviews and avoiding attention.

¶ Rare recidivism. By contrast with the record at Guantánamo, where the Defense Department says that about 25 percent of those released are known or suspected of subsequently joining militant groups, it appears extraordinarily rare for the federal prison inmates with past terrorist ties to plot violence after their release. The government keeps a close eye on them: prison intelligence officers report regularly to the Justice Department on visitors, letters and phone calls of inmates linked to terrorism. Before the prisoners are freed, F.B.I. agents typically interview them, and probation officers track them for years.

Both the Obama administration and Republicans in Congress often cite the threat of homegrown terrorism. But the Bureau of Prisons has proven remarkably resistant to outside scrutiny of the inmates it houses, who might offer a unique window on the problem.

In 2009, a group of scholars proposed interviewing people imprisoned in terrorism cases about how they took that path. The Department of Homeland Security approved the proposal and offered financing. But the Bureau of Prisons refused to grant access, saying the project would require too much staff time.

“There’s a huge national debate about how dangerous these people are,” said Gary LaFree, director of a national terrorism study center at the University of Maryland, who was lead author of the proposal. “I just think, as a citizen, somebody ought to be studying this.”

The Bureau of Prisons would not make any officials available for an interview with The New York Times, and wardens at three prisons refused to permit a reporter to visit inmates. But e-mails and letters from inmates give a rare, if narrow, look at their hidden world.

Paying the Price

Consider the case of Randall Todd Royer, 38, a Missouri-born Muslim convert who goes by Ismail. Before 9/11, he was a young Islamic activist with the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim American Society, meeting with members of Congress and visiting the Clinton White House.

Today he is nearly eight years into a 20-year prison sentence. He pleaded guilty in 2004 to helping several American friends go to a training camp for Lashkar-e-Taiba, an extremist group fighting Indian rule in Kashmir. The organization was later designated a terrorist group by the United States — and is blamed for the Mumbai massacre in 2008 — but prosecutors maintained in 2004 that the friends intended to go on to Afghanistan and fight American troops alongside the Taliban.

Mr. Royer had fought briefly with the Bosnian Muslims against their Serbian neighbors in the mid-1990s, when NATO, too, backed the Bosnians. He trained at a Lashkar-e-Taiba camp himself. And in 2001, he was stopped by Virginia police with an AK-47 and ammunition in his car.

But he adamantly denies that he would ever scheme to kill Americans, and there is no evidence that he did so. Before sentencing, he wrote the judge a 30-page letter admitting, “I crossed the line and, in my ignorance and phenomenally poor judgment, broke the law.” In grand jury testimony, he expressed regret about not objecting during a meeting, just after the Sept. 11 attacks, in which his friends discussed joining the Taliban.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t come out and clearly say that’s not what any of us should be about,” he said.

Prosecutors call Mr. Royer “an inveterate liar“ in court papers in another case, asserting that he has given contradictory accounts of the meeting after Sept. 11. Mr. Royer says he has been truthful.

Whatever the facts, he is paying the price. His 20-year sentence was the statutory minimum under a 2004 plea deal he reluctantly took, fearing that a trial might end in a life term. His wife divorced him and remarried; he has seen his four young children only through glass since 2006, when the Bureau of Prisons moved him to a restrictive new unit in Indiana for inmates with the terrorism label. After an altercation with another inmate who he said was bullying others, he was moved in 2010 to the Supermax in Colorado.

He is barred from using e-mail and permitted only three 15-minute phone calls a month — recently increased from two, a move that Mr. Royer hopes may portend his being moved to a prison closer to his children. His letters are reflective, sometimes self-critical, frequently dropping allusions to his omnivorous reading. His flirtation with violent Islam and his incarceration, he says, have not poisoned him against his own country.

“You asked what I think of the U.S.; that is an extraordinarily complex question,” Mr. Royer wrote in one letter consisting of 27 pages of neat handwriting. “I can say I was born in Missouri, I love that land and its people, I love the Mississippi, I love my family and my cousins, I love my Germanic ethnic heritage and people, I love the English language, I love the American people — my people.

“He said he believed some American foreign policy positions had been “needlessly antagonistic” but added, “Nothing the U.S. did justified the 9/11 attacks.”

Mr. Royer rejected the notion that the United States was at war with Islam. “Conflict between the U.S. and Muslims is neither inevitable nor beneficial or in anyone’s interest,” he wrote. “Actually, I suppose it is in the interest of fanatics on both sides, but their interests run counter to everyone else’s.” He added an erudite footnote: “ ‘Les extrémités se touchent’ (the extremes meet) — Blaise Pascal.”

He expressed frustration that the Bureau of Prisons appears to view him as an extremist, despite what he describes as his campaign against extremism in discussions with other inmates and prison sermons at Friday Prayer, “which they surely have recordings of.”

more after the jump
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/11/us/beyond-guantanamo-bay-a-web-of-federal-prisons.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #5705 on: Dec 11th, 2011, 07:38am »

Guardian

Earthquake rattles Mexico City
Magnitude 6.5 quake kills at least three people and causes panic from Mexican capital to resort of Acapulco
Associated Press guardian.co.uk
Sunday 11 December 2011 00.05 EST

A magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck Mexico's western Guerrero state on Saturday night, shaking buildings and causing panic from Mexico City to the Pacific resort of Acapulco. Officials said at least three people died but there were no reports of widespread damage.

The US Geological Service said the epicentre was 40.3 miles (65km) underground, about 26 miles south-west of Iguala in Guerrero and 103 miles south-south-west of Mexico City.

Mexico's interior department said the quake was felt in parts of nine states. Humberto Calvo, under-secretary of Guerrero's Civil Protection agency, said three deaths had been reported in the state. One man was killed when a house's roof collapsed in Iguala, a second died in the small town of Ixcateopan and the driver of a cargo truck was killed by rocks that fell on the vehicle along the toll highway linking Acapulco with Mexico City.

Calvo said a secondary highway between the two cities was blocked in two places by rockslides.

High-rises swayed in the centre of Mexico City for more than a minute and shoppers were temporarily evacuated from some shopping centres.

Mexico City's mayor, Marcelo Ebrard, tweeted that no major damage had been reported. He said power had failed in some parts of the city.

People in part of Mexico City's wealthy Condesa neighbourhood ran out of their houses and gathered in the streets. On one street a group of women joined hands in a circle, closed their eyes and began to pray.

Parts of Mexico City rest on the shaky soil of a former lake bed, which tends to magnify the effect of earthquakes. An 8.1 magnitude quake in 1985 killed as many as 10,000 people.

In Acapulco, which is in Guerrero, hundreds of tourists congregated in the street after buildings that are strung along the coastal boulevard were set swaying.
Authorities said they found no structural damage and had no reports of injuries in the Pacific resort about 87 miles from the quake's epicentre.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/11/earthquake-rattles-mexico-city

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« Reply #5706 on: Dec 11th, 2011, 07:43am »

Space.com

NASA Has Lost Hundreds of Its Moon Rocks, New Report Says
by Denise Chow, SPACE.com Staff Writer
Date: 09 December 2011 Time: 11:52 AM ET

NASA has lost or misplaced more than 500 of the moon rocks its Apollo astronauts collected and brought back to Earth, according to a new agency report.

In an audit released Thursday (Dec. 8), NASA's Office of Inspector General states that the agency "lacks sufficient controls over its loans of moon rocks and other astromaterials, which increases the risk that these unique resources may be lost."

The report stresses the importance of maintaining stricter guidelines for the release of lunar materials to researchers, and more meticulous inventory procedures for their storage and return.

"NASA has been experiencing loss of astromaterials since lunar samples were first returned by Apollo missions," inspector general Paul K. Martin detailed in the report. "In addition to the Mount Cuba disk, NASA confirmed that 516 other loaned astromaterials have been lost or stolen between 1970 and June 2010, including 18 lunar samples reported lost by a researcher in 2010 and 218 lunar and meteorite samples stolen from a researcher at [NASA's Johnson Space Center] in 2002, but since recovered."

http://www.space.com/13878-nasa-apollo-moon-rocks-misplaced-lost-report.html

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« Reply #5707 on: Dec 12th, 2011, 08:18am »

New York Times

December 12, 2011
Billionaire to Oppose Putin in Russian Presidential Election
By ELLEN BARRY and DAVID M. HERSZENHORN

MOSCOW — Amid a crescendo of complaints from Russians fed up with the country’s tightly controlled political system, two prominent figures — a billionaire industrialist and the recently ousted finance minister — sought to fill a void in the opposition leadership on Monday.

The billionaire, Mikhail D. Prokhorov, who owns shares in a major gold mining company and an array of other ventures in Russia as well as the New Jersey Nets basketball franchise in the United States, said he will run for president, challenging Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin.

“I made a decision, probably the most serious decision in my life: I am going to the presidential election,” Mr. Prohkorov said at a news conference. He has barely appeared in public since mid-September, when he was dramatically removed as the head of a pro-business party, Just Cause, after clashing with Kremlin political strategists.

“You may remember, the Kremlin removed me and my allies from Just Cause, and we were not allowed to do what we wanted,” he said. “It is not in my nature to stop halfway. So for the last two and a half months we sat and worked, very calmly and quietly, and we created all the infrastructure to collect two million signatures,” which are needed to get on the ballot.

Meanwhile, the former finance minister, Aleksei L. Kudrin, said he would form a new political party to push for liberal reforms. Like Mr. Prokhorov, Mr. Kudrin was expelled from the Kremlin’s inner circle this fall, after disagreeing publicly with Mr. Putin’s decision to trade jobs with President Dmitri A. Medvedev.

Mr. Kudrin told Vedomosti that the governing party, United Russia, has not delivered on its promises to protect business, fight corruption and reform the court system, and will be hard-pressed to respond to the complaints emerging from society.

“While they are gathering their thoughts, they are losing time, which is very valuable right now,” he said. “In parallel, there will arise a new liberal party, which will talk about these problems. This party will include people with experience, people from business. The political picture will begin to gradually change.” He said he was “absolutely certain” that the party would be created, though he offered no details.

For both men, the move was a bold attempt to return from political exile. Mr. Kudrin and Mr. Prohkorov were expelled from the Kremlin’s inner circle this fall — the former sacked in a televised meeting with President Dmitri A. Medvedev and the latter silently iced out after a public dispute with Kremlin’s chief political strategist.

They returned to the political arena on Monday, posing the latest in a series of challenges in recent days to the political status quo after years of stasis.

Mr. Prokhorov , who has barely been visible since he was suddenly removed as the leader of a pro-business party in late September, said the events of the last week, including a huge rally on Saturday that drew tens of thousands of people in protest of parliamentary election results, have left the governing powers no choice but to loosen their grip.

Mr. Kudrin told Vedomosti that the governing party, United Russia, has not delivered on its promises to protect business, fight corruption and reform the court system, and will be hard-pressed to respond to the complaints emerging from society.

“While they are gathering their thoughts, they are losing time, which is very valuable right now,” he said. “In parallel, there will arise a new liberal party, which will talk about these problems. This party will include people with experience, people from business. The political picture will begin to gradually change.” He said he was “absolutely certain” that the party would be created, though he offered no details.

The emergence of Mr. Kudrin’s new party is one of many changes that seem likely to flow from Dec. 4 parliamentary elections, which were condemned as fraudulent by international and local monitors, and protested by a vehement swath of middle-class Russians.

United Russia, which is led by Mr. Putin, finished first in the elections, with a shade under 50 percent of the vote, but still lost 77 seats.

Critics say those losses would have been far steeper were it not for voting irregularities, including structural impediments that make it difficult for opposition parties to compete — such as the use of official government resources on behalf of United Russia — and also outright fraud such as ballot-box stuffing.

At least one nationwide exit poll suggested that United Russia likely won only about 43 percent of the vote, or more than 6 percent less than the official tally.

Complaints began mounting during the campaign, when digitally-connected young citizens, taking matters into the own hands, circulated videos showing local and regional authorities threatening or cajoling their subordinates to get out the vote for United Russia, the governing party, which is led by Mr. Putin.

Similar videos of malfeasance at polling stations, some taken using cell phones, were posted on the Internet.

The outcry culminated on Saturday, when upward of 40,000 protesters gathered near the Kremlin for a rally that was permitted by city authorities. A huge deployment of riot police and heavy equipment stood by as the crowd chanted slogans against Mr. Putin and denounced the election results as invalid. Some speakers demanded that the elections be annulled and a new vote scheduled.

Mr. Medvedev has ordered inquiries into alleged fraud but there is widespread skepticism that such an investigation would alter the outcome. And on Monday, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said as much, telling Agence France-Presse, “Even if you take into account the so-called evidence,” of fraud “this accounts for just over 0.5% of all the votes.”

The wave of dissent has included complaints from the three minority parties represented in the Parliament, all of which picked up additional seats in the balloting. But the parties have been at odds over how to respond, and in some cases there has been internal dissent within their own ranks.

At least one member of Parliament, Gennadi Gudkov, of Just Russia, a liberal socialist party, has urged that his group reach an agreement with the Communist Party, which finished second in the balloting, and the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, which finished fourth, to refuse their seats in the new Parliament and force a new vote.

The Communist Party has declared the election results “illegitimate both from the moral and political points of view” and said that they showed a “heavy defeat of the ruling regime.” The party has also called for the ouster of Russia’s top elections official, Vladimir Churov, who is a strong supporter of Mr. Putin.

But so far the Communists have said they will not decline their seats unless United Russia first gives up its own. Meanwhile, the nationalists have distanced themselves from the other opposition parties, even declining to attend Saturday’s big rally, which they said was instigated by foreign agents.

Even the leader of Just Russia, Sergei Mironov, who is running for president, said he opposed declining the parliamentary seats out of concern that under Russian election law they would simply be awarded to United Russia, which fielded enough candidates to fill all 450 seats in the Duma, the lower house.

Other oppositions organizers have argued against tossing out the election results in favor of forcing a recount in districts where there was evidence of fraud, which they said would likely result in United Russia losing more seats, perhaps enough for it to fall short of the simple majority needed to pass legislation.

It was into this swirl of dissenting voices and lack of coherent leadership that the announcements came on Monday from Mr. Kudrin and Mr. Prokhorov.

For Mr. Prokhorov, whose business interests include a stake in the Atlantic Yards development in downtown Brooklyn, his leap into presidential politics could be risky. He is the first wealthy businessman to pursue a political goal in Russia against the governing authorities since the 2003 arrest of Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, the former chairman of the Yukos Oil Company, who was jailed after he began financing an opposition party. He remains in prison.

The Kremlin is clearly considering blessing a liberal party, after the backlash that has emerged in recent days.

In an interview that was posted Tuesday on the Web site of Ekho Moskvy radio station, Kremlin strategist Vladislav Y. Surkov said he supported the creation of “a mass liberal party or, more precisely, a party for the annoyed urban communities,” and that in order for Russia’s political system to survive, it needed to open up to “new players.”

Andrew E. Kramer contributed reporting.


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/world/europe/billionaire-to-oppose-putin-in-russian-presidential-election.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #5708 on: Dec 12th, 2011, 08:22am »

Wired Danger Room

Rare Photographs Show Ground Zero of the Drone War
By Spencer Ackerman
December 12, 2011 | 6:30 am
Categories: Drones, Shadow Wars

The epicenter of global terrorism, and the CIA's highly classified drone war against extremist groups, is a black hole on the map -- a region of Pakistan off limits to outsiders, and especially Westerners. It’s an area so dangerous that even the Pakistani military avoids it. The CIA may have launched 70 drone strikes in tribal Pakistan in 2011 alone. But Americans, like the rest of the world, have no idea what the area looks like, or who lives there.

One resident of North Waziristan wants to expose the conflict. Noor Behram has spent years photographing the aftermath of drone strikes, often at personal risk. Working with Islamabad lawyer Shahzad Akbar and London-based human rights activist Clive Stafford Smith, who are helping get his photos to the outside world, Behram provided Danger Room with dozens of his images, none of which have ever been published in the United States.

What follows is a sample of some of the most arresting photos. Be advised: Many of these pictures are disturbing. Some of them show dead children.

Also be aware that our sources came to us with an agenda: discrediting the drone war. "I want to show taxpayers in the Western world what their tax money is doing to people in another part of the world: killing civilians, innocent victims, children," Behram says. Stafford Smith is threatening the U.S. embassy in Pakistan with a lawsuit over its complicity in civilian deaths from drone strikes. And anonymous U.S. officials have claimed that Akbar, whose clients are suing the CIA for wrongful deaths in the drone war, is acting at the behest of Pakistani intelligence -- something he denies.

Nevertheless, after careful consideration, we chose to publish some of these images because of the inherent journalistic value in depicting a largely unseen battlefield.

Before posting Behram's photos we took a number of measures to confirm as best we could what was being shown. We verified Behram’s bona fides with other news organizations. We sifted through the images, tossing out any pictures that couldn’t correlate with previously reported drone attacks. Then we grilled Behram in a series of lengthy Skype interviews from Pakistan, translated by Akbar, about the circumstances surrounding each of the images.

Still, we weren't at the events depicted. We don't know for sure if the destruction and casualties shown in the photos were caused by CIA drones or Pakistani militants. Even Behram, who drives at great personal risk to the scenes of the strikes, has little choice but to rely on the accounts of alleged eyewitnesses to learn what happened.

But we know for sure that these are rare photos from a war zone most Americans never see. "In North Waziristan, the bar for western journalists is very high because of the Taliban presence," says Peter Bergen, al-Qaida expert and author of The Longest War.

The CIA has shown no inclination to declassify its secret war. But transparency may come a different way. Akbar and Stafford Smith have recently begun giving cameras to North Waziristanis, so they can document the drone war themselves. Behram wants to publish a book of his hundreds of photographs. A black hole might soon become a floodlight.

Datta Khel, Oct. 13, 2010
Behram arrived in Datta Khel, a district not far from Mirin Shah -- North Waziristan’s main city -- after the funerals for the victims of this strike. He was told that six people died, but didn’t see the corpses. One of the dead was said to be a man in his thirties who was supposed to soon be married, the cousin of the teenager in the maroon shirt shown here.

The teenager helped with the cleanup and rescue effort at the scene of his cousin's death. Along with some other local children, when he saw Behram taking photos, he ran over to Behram to express how angry he was. He gathered the children and they showed Behram fragments of the missile they recovered. Three U.S. ordnance experts examined Behrams' photos of these pieces, are concluded that they were Hellfires -- the missiles fired by U.S. drones and helicopters.

The teenager in the maroon shirt and his friend in the black, about the same age, were an emotional mixture of anger, grief and exhaustion. "They were pissed because he's one of these guys' cousin," Behram recalls, "but at the same time they were overworked in the rescue, so they were not saying much."

Gallery after the jump
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/12/photos-pakistan-drone-war/?pid=999&pageid=63671&viewall=true

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« Reply #5709 on: Dec 12th, 2011, 08:34am »

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« Reply #5710 on: Dec 12th, 2011, 08:39am »

Scientific American

Electric Eye: Retina Implant Research Expands in Europe, Seeks FDA Approval in U.S.

Several technologies to restore sight to retina-damaged eyes are making headway--one seeks to begin human trials in the U.S. and another has already hit the market in Europe

By Larry Greenemeier
Monday, December 12, 2011

CHIPPING AWAY AT BLINDNESS: There is no effective treatment for retinitis pigmentosa, but researchers such as those at Retina Implant, AG, are making great strides to remedy this through implants that stimulate still-active nerves in the retina, the layer of tissue at the back of the inner eye.

Promising treatments for those blinded by an often-hereditary, retina-damaging disease are expanding throughout Europe and making their way across the pond, offering a ray of hope for the hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. left in the dark by retinitis pigmentosa. The disease—which affects about one in 4,000 people in the U.S. and about 1.5 million people worldwide—kills the retina's photoreceptors, the rod and cone cells that convert light into electrical signals, which are transmitted via the optic nerve to the brain's visual cortex for processing.

There is no effective treatment for the condition, but researchers are making great strides to remedy this through implants that stimulate still-active nerves in the retina, the layer of tissue at the back of the inner eye. In mid-November Retina Implant, AG, got approval to extend the yearlong phase II human clinical trial of its retinal implant outside its native Tübingen, Germany, to five new sites—Oxford, London and Budapest, along with two additional locations in Germany.

The company's implant is a three- by three-millimeter microelectronic chip (0.1-millimeter thick), containing about 1,500 light-sensitive photodiodes, amplifiers and electrodes surgically inserted beneath the fovea (which contains the cone cells) in the retina's macula region. The fovea enables the clarity of vision that people rely on to read, watch TV and drive. The chip helps generate at least partial vision by stimulating intact nerve cells in the retina. The nervous impulses from these cells are then led via the optic nerve to the visual cortex where they finally lead to impressions of sight.

Thus far, some patients report having a narrow field of vision partially restored, providing them with enough acuity to locate light sources such as windows and lamps as well as detect lighted objects against dark backgrounds. The chip's power source is positioned under the skin behind the ear and connected via a thin cable.

Window on the world

For those suffering with retinitis pigmentosa, Retina Implant's technology creates a small black-and-white window on the world, says Eberhart Zrenner, the company's co-founder and director and chairman of the University of Tübingen's Institute for Ophthalmic Research in Germany. Retina Implant has successfully placed chips beneath the retina of nine patients since May 2010. A 10th patient experienced a problem when their optic nerve did not forward the information on the chip to the brain.

Looking ahead, Zrenner hopes to widen patients' field of vision further. "Because our chip has independent miniature photodiodes, we could arrange three of them in a row beneath the retina," he says. The ability to produce accurate colors via retinal implants, however, is very complicated and may not be possible for years, he adds. Retina Implant has also developed an outpatient treatment for early-stage retinitis pigmentosa called Okuvision, which uses electric stimulation to help preserve retinal cells.

Sights set on the U.S.

The phase II extension expands Retina Implant's trial to an additional 25 patients beginning early next year and follows a partnership the company struck in March with the Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia. Wills is looking to become the lead U.S. clinical trial investigator site for Retina Implant's technology and to help the company through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) review process.

Cutting-edge technologies such as sub-retinal implants are typically at a disadvantage when seeking FDA approval due to the lack of a track record, but Retina Implant's work in Europe provides a precedent for the FDA to consider, says Julia Haller, Wills's ophthalmologist in chief. "There's information available to U.S. regulators about how patients have responded so far," she adds.

Commercial implant

Whereas Retina Implant's technology is just getting started in the U.S., another retinal implant–maker is already in FDA human clinical trials, which are expected to conclude in July 2014. Second Sight Medical Products sells its Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System in Europe—the first commercial implantation of their device took place October 29 in Pisa, Italy (pdf).

Second Sight's technology is fundamentally different, converting video images captured by a miniature camera—housed in a special pair of glasses worn by the patient—into a series of small electrical pulses transmitted wirelessly to an array of electrodes implanted on the retina's surface, rather than under it. These pulses are intended to stimulate the retina's remaining cells and create the perception of patterns of light in the brain. Epiretinal devices (overlying the retina) such as the Argus II preprocess an image before sending it to the retina. Because the camera does not create an exact simulation of normal retinal outputs, patients need time to learn how to process the information that their brain receives.

Although both Retina Implant and Second Sight's technologies are still relatively unproved, their potential is great. "As somebody who has to tell families that their child is going to lose all vision and not be able to do any of the things they had dreamed he or she would be able to do, I know that every little step you make, from absolute blindness to being able to see shapes to being able to count fingers and read words makes an incredible impact on a person's life," says Haller, who, in addition to being familiar with Retina Implant, has experience implanting Second Sight's retinal prosthetic devices.

Alternative implants

Retina Implant and Second Sight's technologies may be the furthest along in terms of testing but they are not the only ones working on ways to treat, and even prevent, retinitis pigmentosa.

A sub-retinal implant under development by Optobionics in Glen Ellyn, Ill., most closely resembles the work of Retina Associates. Optobionics's Artificial Silicon Retina (ASR) microchip is designed as a stand-alone implant placed behind the retina to directly stimulate the remaining viable cells of the retina. Instead of an external power supply, the Optobionics chip has an array of micro-photodiodes that convert light energy to electrical signals, which stimulate retinal cells. Haller implanted several Optobionics sub-retinal chips as part of a study conducted at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore throughout 2004 and 2005 while she was a surgeon there (pdf). The company's funding subsequently ran out, however. Only recently were Optobionics' co-founders able to acquire the rights to the ASR implant technology. They plan to reorganize a new company under the Optobionics name.

Neurotech Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in Lincoln, R.I., is developing a different type of implant. Their intraocular implant consists of human cells genetically modified to secrete a nerve growth factor they say is capable of rescuing and protecting dying photoreceptors. The implant does not replace retinal tissue but rather is a way to resuscitate damaged retinal cells.

At Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University in New York City, neuroscientist Sheila Nirenberg is leading a project to develop an artificial retina with the capacity to reproduce normal vision. Rather than increasing the number of electrodes placed in an eye to capture more information and send signals to the brain, Nirenberg's work focuses on the quality of the artificial signals themselves so as to improve their ability to carry impulses to the brain.

It will take some time to see which approach works best, Haller says, adding, "All of the treatments for retinitis pigmentosa are experimental right now, so there's no real comparison yet between what works and what doesn't."

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=retinitis-pigmentosa-retina-implant-tech

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« Reply #5711 on: Dec 12th, 2011, 08:44am »

Deadline Hollywood

ABC’s Presidential Debate Draws 7.6 Million
By NELLIE ANDREEVA | Sunday December 11, 2011 @ 6:14pm PST
Tags: ABC, Republican Presidential Debate

ABC News’ Republican presidential debate drew 7.6 million total viewers on Saturday, 2.1 million of them in the 25-54 demographic. Titled Your Voice, Your Vote – Republican Presidential Debate in Iowa, the special ranks as the most-watched debate of the 2012 presidential campaign to date, eclipsing Fox News’ Sept. 22 telecast, which averaged 6.1 million viewers. ABC’s debate, moderated by Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos, is the second to air on a broadcast network this year, following the Nov. 12 one on CBS, which logged 5.3 million total viewers also on a Saturday. Here is a ranking of this year’s Republican TV debates:

Net Date Day Total Viewers

ABC 12/10/01 Saturday 7.57 million

Fox News 9/22/11 Thursday 6.11 million

CNN 10/18/11 Tuesday 5.50 million

MSNBC 9/7/11 Wednesday 5.41 million

CBS 11/12/11 Saturday 5.29 million

Fox News 8/11/11 Thursday 5.05 million

CNN 9/12/11 Monday 3.61 million

CNBC 11/9/11 Wednesday 3.33 million

Fox News 5/5/11 Thursday 3.26 million

CNN 6/13/11 Monday 3.12 million

http://www.deadline.com/2011/12/abcs-presidential-debate-draws-7-6-million/

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« Reply #5712 on: Dec 12th, 2011, 09:12am »

Quantum Diaries

Getting closer to finding out if the Higgs exists

CERN has been in effervescence for the last few weeks, with rumors running wild and hopes flying even higher. In fact, for the past few weeks, the physicists from ATLAS and CMS, the two collaborations looking for the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), have known half the answer. The problem is that the truth lies in knowing the other half, which will only be known officially at a special seminar organized by CERN director general on tomorrow December 13 at 14:00.

What can we expect to find out next Tuesday? Already, in November, the first combined results from the two experiments were released based on 40% of all collected data, excluding large values of the Higgs boson mass. This means, we now know better where to concentrate our efforts.

Looking for the Higgs has kept physicists on their toes for decades. In this case, the theory predicts the existence of this particle. Finding it would be one more confirmation, and a very strong one, that the theoretical description we currently have, the Standard Model, is correct.

At this point, the region at low mass, between 114 and 141 GeV, is where we expect to see something. The Standard Model predicts how many Higgs bosons should be produced at a given mass, and how many of them will decay in a specific way, but it does not tell us its mass. So CMS and ATLAS are searching blindly, not knowing exactly where to look, but also searching using all possible decay modes.

In the low mass range, three different decay channels contribute the most, namely when a Higgs boson decays into two photons, two Z bosons going into four leptons, or two W bosons decaying into two leptons and two neutrinos.

How and when will we know if we have indications from the Higgs boson? If one experiment sees hints of the Higgs boson not only from one channel, but two or even three of these channels, then it’s encouraging. Even better, if not one but both experiments see such signs, and both see them at the same mass, it’s time to call your mother.

This is very much like trying to catch a faint radio signal. We suspect this hidden radio station exists but nobody knows at which frequency it broadcasts. If one search team hears a weak signal using a crystal radio at a given frequency, this is one thing. But say another group also catches something independently at the same frequency using a digital radio, it gets more interesting.

For the Higgs boson, each decay channel represents one different type of detecting technology. Since CMS and ATLAS are looking without telling the other group what they have, if the results that will be presented tomorrow are similar, it could be an indication on the presence of the Higgs boson. But caution will be exerted until we have the irrefutable proof of its presence.

So, stay tune on December 13 to find out what we have so far…. I will be tweeting live like a little bird from the seminar so you can follow the action as it unfolds from the @CERN account. My colleague Aidan Randle-Conde will be blogging live on the Quantum Diaries site. The seminar will also be broadcasted live from the CERN home page. I will also report the results here towards the end of the afternoon.

Pauline Gagnon

To be alerted of new postings, follow me on Twitter: @GagnonPauline or sign-up on this mailing list: https://simba3.web.cern.ch/simba3/SelfSubscription.aspx?groupName=cern-QuantumDiaries
to receive an e-mail notification.

http://www.quantumdiaries.org/2011/12/12/getting-closer-to-finding-out-if-the-higgs-exists/

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« Reply #5713 on: Dec 12th, 2011, 2:02pm »

Interesting thread:

http://ufocasebook.conforums.com/index.cgi?board=general&num=1319638428&action=display&start=0

"What Do You Believe?"

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« Reply #5714 on: Dec 12th, 2011, 8:54pm »

cry


AGAIN!!

Chinese Media Report 15 Killed in School Bus Crash


Published December 12, 2011

BEIJING – Chinese state media say a school bus belonging to a primary school has overturned, killing at least 15 students, despite a recent government pledge to improve school safety after an earlier crash of a school van.

The official Xinhua News Agency did not give the ages of the victims in the crash Monday evening.

It said the bus was carrying 29 students when it overturned in Xuzhou city in Jiangsu province in eastern China. It said 11 others were hurt.

Last month, 19 students and two adults were killed when a nine-seat private school van packed with 62 children and two adults crashed head-on with a truck in northwest Gansu province.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/12/12/chinese-media-report-15-killed-in-school-bus-crash/?test=latestnews
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