Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6855 on: Jun 15th, 2012, 09:20am »
Italy, Germany Warn U.S. Against MEADS Cancellation Jun. 14, 2012 - 10:16PM By Tom Kington
ROME — Italian and German officials have warned U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that a U.S. plan to kill off development of the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) would seriously damage trans-Atlantic ties.
The U.S. has already decided not to purchase the theater-based missile defense system it developed with Germany and Italy. But it had agreed to fund the program through the “Proof of Concept” phase in 2014, which would allow technologies to be harvested, even if the system were not purchased.
Plans changed, however, when the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 required the termination of MEADS before then, with no funding for 2013.
Three congressional committees have turned down the Obama administration’s request for $400 million to complete testing, although the Senate Appropriations Committee is yet to vote on the measure.
In a letter to Panetta seen by Defense News, Italian Defense Minister Giampaolo di Paola said the U.S. decision is “causing great concern” in Italy and Germany.
“Three committees have zeroed the expected U.S. financial contribution for the year 2013, and this virtually means the termination of the program even before the conclusion of the internationally agreed Design and Development phase,” he wrote.
The defense minister urges Panetta to intercede with the Senate Appropriations Committee to restore the funding, warning that the design and development results would be “fundamental” to Italy’s contribution to NATO missile defense work. The MEADS program continues to have “an incredibly relevant political aspect” as regards trans-Atlantic cooperation, he added.
A second letter, dated June 13, sent by German Bundestag member Ernst-Reinhard Beck to the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., contains more forceful language.
Beck asks how the U.S. can demand Europe contribute to missile defense efforts while it bails out of a “prime example” of trans-Atlantic cooperation.
“This is critically important to the U.S. relationship with Germany, Italy and its NATO alliance as a whole,” states the letter, which has been seen by Defense News.
If the U.S., as planned, scraps its 2013 funding for MEADS, thus “breaking our transatlantic agreement,” writes Beck, it “will probably cause significant financial and national security relationship challenges between trusted partners in the future.
“The U.S. Congress must be very aware that a pull-out on its final MEADS commitment has broad implications, and it will have long-term impacts on other multinational cooperative projects,” Beck writes.
Designed to replace the Patriot anti-missile system, the air-transportable MEADS is 58 percent funded by the U.S., with Germany and Italy funding 25 percent and 17 percent, respectively. Lockheed Martin leads an industrial team that includes the Italian and German units of European missile house MBDA.
Since the news last year that the U.S. would not buy MEADS, Germany and Italy have begun to plan how they can derive benefits from the technologies contained in the system’s radar, battle management system and launcher.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6858 on: Jun 16th, 2012, 09:05am »
Saudi Crown Prince Nayef, hard-liner who cracked down on al-Qaida in kingdom, has died
By Associated Press Updated: Saturday, June 16, 6:56 AM
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Crown Prince Nayef, the hard-line interior minister who spearheaded Saudi Arabia’s fierce crackdown crushing al-Qaida’s branch in the country after the 9/11 attacks in the United States and then rose to become next in line to the throne, has died. He was in his late 70s.
Nayef’s death unexpectedly reopens the question of succession in this crucial U.S. ally and oil powerhouse for the second time in less than a year. The 88-year-old King Abdullah has now outlived two designated successors, despite ailments of his own. Now a new crown prince must be chosen from among his brothers and half-brothers, all the sons of Saudi Arabia’s founder, Abdul-Aziz.
The figure believed most likely to be tapped as the new heir is Prince Salman, the current defense minister who previously served for decades in the powerful post of governor of Riyadh, the capital. The crown prince will be chosen by the Allegiance Council, an assembly of Abdul-Aziz’s sons and some of his grandchildren.
A statement by the royal family said Nayef died Saturday in a hospital abroad. Saudi-funded pan-Arab TV station Al-Arabiya later confirmed he died in Geneva.
Nayef had been out of the country since late May, when he went on a trip that was described as a “personal vacation” that would include medical tests. He travelled abroad frequently in recent years for tests but authorities never reported what ailments he may have been suffering from.
Nayef had a reputation for being a hard-liner and a conservative. He was believed to be closer than many of his brothers to the powerful Wahhabi religious establishment that gives legitimacy to the royal family, and he at times worked to give a freer hand to the religious police who enforce strict social rules.
His elevation to crown prince in November 2011, after the death of his brother Sultan, had raised worries among liberals in the kingdom that, if he ever became king, he would halt or even roll back reforms that Abdullah had enacted.
Soon after becoming crown prince, Nayef vowed at a conference of clerics that Saudi Arabia would “never sway from and never compromise on” its adherence to the puritanical, ultraconservative Wahhabi doctrine. The ideology, he proclaimed “is the source of the kingdom’s pride, success and progress.”
Nayef had expressed some reservations about some of the reforms by Abdullah, who made incremental steps to bring more democracy to the country and increase women’s rights. Nayef said he saw no need for elections in the kingdom or for women to sit on the Shura Council, an unelected advisory body to the king that is the closest thing to a parliament.
His top concern was security in the kingdom and maintaining a fierce bulwark against Shiite powerhouse, Iran, according to U.S. Embassy assessments of Nayef.
“A firm authoritarian at heart,” was the description of Nayef in a 2009 Embassy report on him, leaked by the whistleblower site WikiLeaks.
“He harbors anti-Shia biases and his worldview is colored by deep suspicion of Iran,” it said. “Nayef promotes a vision for Saudi society under the slogan of ‘intellectual security,’ which he advocates as needed to ‘purge aberrant ideas’” and combat extremism, it added, noting that his was in contrast to Abdullah’s strategy emphasizing “dialogue, tolerance of differences, and knowledge-based education that is objectionable to many conservatives.”
Nayef, who was interior minister in charge of internal security forces since 1975, built up his power in the kingdom though his fierce crackdown against al-Qaida’s branch in the country following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and a broader campaign to prevent the growth of Islamic militancy among Saudis.
The 9/11 attacks at first strained ties between the two allies. For months, the kingdom refused to acknowledge any of its citizens were involved in the suicide airline bombings, until finally Nayef became the first Saudi official to publicly confirm that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, in a February 2002 interview with The Associated Press.
In November 2002, Nayef told the Arabic-language Kuwaiti daily Assyasah that Jews were behind the Sept. 11 attacks because they have benefited from subsequent criticism of Islam and Arabs. Nayef came under heavy criticism in the U.S., especially because he was the man in charge of Saudi investigations into the attack. Criticism grew in the United States that the Saudis were not doing enough to stem extremism in their country or combat al-Qaida.
In mid-2003, Islamic militants struck inside the kingdom, targeting three residential expatriate compounds — the first of a string of assaults that later hit government buildings, the U.S. consulate in Jiddah and the perimeter of the world’s largest oil processing facility in Abqaiq. Al-Qaida’s branch in the country announced its aim to overthrow Al Saud royal family.
The attacks galvanized the government into serious action against the militants, an effort spearheaded by Nayef. Over the next years, dozens of attacks were foiled, hundreds of militants were rounded up and killed.
By 2008, it was believed that al-Qaida’s branch was largely broken in the country. Militant leaders who survived or were not jailed largely fled to Yemen, where they joined Yemeni militants in reviving al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
Nayef took a leading role in combatting the branch in Yemen as well. In 2009, al-Qaida militants attempted to assassinate his son, Prince Muhammad, who is deputy interior minister and the commander of counterterrorism operations: A suicide bomber posing as a repentant militant blew himself up in the same room as the prince but failed to kill him.
The cooperation against al-Qaida both in the kingdom and in Yemen significantly boosted ties with the United States.
The anti-militant campaign also boosted Nayef’s ties to the religious establishment, which he saw as a major tool in keeping stability and preventing the spread of violent al-Qaida-style “jihadi” theology. The Wahhabi ideology that is the official law in Saudi Arabia is deeply conservative — including strict segregation of the sexes, capital punishments like beheadings and enforced prayer times — but it also advocates against al-Qaida’s calls for holy war against leaders seen as infidels.
Nayef’s Interior Ministry allied with clerics in a “rehabilitation” program for detained militants, who went through intensive courses with clerics in “correct” Islam to sway them away from violence. The program brought praise from the United States.
Nayef never clashed with Abdullah over reforms or made attempts to stop them — such a step would be unthinkable in the tight-knit royal family, whose members work hard to keep differences under wraps and ultimately defer to the king. But Nayef was long seen as more favorable to the Wahhabi establishment. In 2009, Nayef promptly shut down a film festival in the Red Sea port city of Jiddah, apparently because of conservatives’ worry about the possibility of gender mixing in theaters and a general distaste toward film as immoral.
Nayef, a soft-spoken, stocky man of medium build, was born in 1933, the 23rd son of Abdul-Aziz, the family patriarch who founded the kingdom in 1932 and had dozens of sons by various wives.
Nayef was one of the five surviving members of the Sudairi seven, sons of Abdul-Aziz from his wife Hussa bint Ahmad Sudairi who, for decades, have held influential posts. That made him a half-brother of King Abdullah. Before being appointed interior minister, he held the posts of Riyadh governor, deputy minister of interior and minister of state for internal affairs.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6859 on: Jun 16th, 2012, 09:13am »
Why Safety Not Guaranteed Is a Must-See Date Movie for Sci-Fi Nerds By Angela Watercutter June 15, 2012 | 3:22 pm Categories: comedy, movies, sci-fi
Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass star in Safety Not Guaranteed as an aspiring time traveler and the girl who falls for him. Photo courtesy Film District and Big Beach
Safety Not Guaranteed pulls off an extremely hard hat trick: It’s a smart movie about time travel that delivers comedy as well as heart and soul.
It’s like a unicorn, but better. (And with Aubrey Plaza.)
Science fiction isn’t known for sweet, romantic comedy tinges. While sci-fi movies can occasionally be funny (like Paul) and every now and then one contains a romantic subplot (usually not too believable or even very clear (::cough:: Prometheus ::cough, such films rarely, if ever, do both well.
That makes Safety Not Guaranteed, which opened in a few theaters last week and is expanding into more cities this weekend, a rare find.
(Spoiler alert: Minor plot points follow.)
The premise of Safety Not Guaranteed, directed by Colin Trevorrow, comes from an internet meme: a wanted ad seeking a partner for time travel that found its way onto You’re the Man Now Dog. In the film, a group of magazine staffers try to track down the author of the classified ad, Kenneth (played by Mark Duplass). To get to him, they send their female colleague Darius (Plaza), who ends up being charmed by Kenneth’s oddball ways.
“It is a sensitive, relationship-oriented, time-travel movie,” Duplass told Wired back in January, when the film screened at the Sundance Film Festival. “I hadn’t seen that before and I love that that was a challenge to try to pull off.”
Exactly how they pull it off we’ll leave for your theater-going experience, but suffice to say that Duplass and Plaza do an incredible job of making one of the more off-the-wall geek love stories in recent memory totally believable. Add to that the fact that Parks and Recreation‘s Plaza is on top of her comedy game throughout the film, and you’ve got the best actually romantic funny date movie for nerds to see this summer.
Yes, there have been funny sci-fi films before, even ones that had to do with time travel (like Back to the Future), but the romance in such flicks often feels forced and/or just a little off. (Remember when Marty McFly’s mom fell for him? Yeah, that was weird.)
Likewise, some great romantic comedies have incorporated sci-fi elements, but they’re not always that great with the, you know, science. (That crap that went down in What Women Want where Mel Gibson can hear women’s thoughts was just, like, whatever.)
It’s obviously hard to get everything to gel when you’re trying to make a sci-fi film that’s funny as well as reliably romantic.
This isn’t to say that there was never a good sci-fi-tinged rom-com — Groundhog Day was pretty good — but it’s hard to find a good example. (iO9 tried a while back and also came up pretty blank.) But the makers of Safety Not Guaranteed have managed to add one flick to the incredibly small pile.
In a blockbuster summer full of alien and superhero movies that are definitely bringing the action, but maybe not a lot of heart or laughs, Safety Not Guaranteed offers a welcome respite.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6860 on: Jun 16th, 2012, 09:18am »
U.S. Holds Talks on Central Asia Arms Handover: Report Jun. 15, 2012 - 12:53PM By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
MOSCOW — The U.S. military is in talks with several Central Asian countries to transfer some of their military hardware to them after they pull out of Afghanistan, a Russian newspaper reported June 15.
The report, in Kommersant newspaper, provoked an angry response from one Russian official.
The military of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan were in “closed talks” with the Pentagon about receiving armored vehicles, tank trailers, and other specialized equipment, Kommersant reported.
Some of it would be handed over for free while other items would be for safe storage, the report said, citing sources close to, or inside the various respective armies.
A source in Kyrgyzstan’s military confirmed that the issue had first been raised in March when the U.S. and Kyrgyz defense ministers met.
But a Russian diplomatic source told the paper that holding such talks behind Moscow’s back was “absolutely unacceptable”.
The source cited the countries’ commitments to the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which stipulates a security alliance with Russia.
Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are former Soviet states and Russia’s allies in Central Asia.
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan share a border with Afghanistan, and Kyrgyzstan is home to a U.S. military facility that has been a contentious issue for Russia’s conservatives.
The U.S. and NATO have agreed to pull military forces out of Afghanistan in 2014.
Russia’s Central Asian partners have played an increasing role in their efforts to get equipment into Afghanistan after Pakistan closed supply routes from the south.
But the northern routes are much longer and more expensive than the roads through Pakistan.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6864 on: Jun 17th, 2012, 09:05am »
Attack on U.S. outpost in Afghanistan worse than originally reported
By Joshua Partlow and Craig Whitlock Published: June 16
KABUL — A June 1 attack on a U.S. outpost near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border was much worse than originally disclosed by the military as insurgents pounded the base with a truck bomb, killing two Americans and seriously wounding about three dozen troops, officials acknowledged Saturday.
The blast flattened the dining hall and post exchange at Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost province, a frequent target of insurgents in the past. Five Afghan civilians were killed and more than 100 other U.S. troops were treated for minor injuries. U.S. officials estimated that the truck was carrying 1,500 pounds of explosives.
U.S. and Afghan military officials said they killed 14 insurgents, many of whom were wearing suicide vests.
The scale of the attack and the extent of the U.S. casualties contrast with the official description presented by coalition forces on the day of the assault. In a clipped, one-paragraph news release on June 1, the military said U.S. and Afghan forces “successfully repelled the attack and secured the base.”
The statement did not report any casualties, nor that there was a truck bomb.
“It was a very huge explosion,” said Daoud Khan Makeen, head of the provincial council in Khost. He said that houses as far as two miles away were damaged in the blast and that 20 Afghans were wounded, many of them by collapsed buildings.
Although the public was kept in the dark about the details, Obama administration officials seized on the incident afterward as the latest example of how Pakistan is allowing insurgents to use its territory to plan attacks, causing another international row between Washington and Islamabad.
U.S. officials also blamed Pakistan for not taking stronger action against the Haqqani network, which they said was responsible for organizing and carrying out the attack. The Haqqani group is a major faction in the Taliban-led insurgency and takes refuge in camps on the Pakistani side of the border.
Citing the attack on Salerno and pent-up frustration over years of similar assaults, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta harshly criticized Pakistan for failing to crack down on the Haqqanis. “We are reaching the limits of our patience,” he said June 7 while in Kabul, a day after he slammed Pakistan as an untrustworthy partner during a visit to its archenemy, India.
“Secretary Panetta — along with other senior U.S. officials — has had serious long-standing concerns about the Haqqanis,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said. “Of course he was disturbed by this recent attack, which reinforced the fact that even more intense pressure needs to be applied against the network.”
U.S. military officials said they did not try to play down the severity of the attack on the Salerno base. They said it is their long-standing policy to withhold information about wounded or injured troops. At Salerno, many of the service members listed as casualties went to the base clinic as a precaution to be tested for traumatic brain injury, the officials said.
“When you do look at the number of wounded . . . it looks like ‘oh my goodness,’ ” said a senior NATO official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the policy against discussing non-lethal casualties. “It’s not a coverup. It is what it is.”
The official said most of the 100 service members who suffered minor injuries returned to duty that same day.
The Defense Department did later identify a soldier who died three days after the attack as Pfc. Vincent J. Ellis, 22, a member of the 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
U.S. officials said Saturday that an American contractor also later died of wounds suffered in the attack, but they declined to provide an identification.
U.S. officials said they were assessing security at Salerno in the aftermath of the truck bombing.
Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, a U.S. military spokesman in Kabul, said that at all coalition bases, from the headquarters in Kabul to the smallest combat outpost, “protection is taken very seriously.”
“When you do have an incident like this, you do after-action reviews, you assess the incident to see . . . what can you do better to improve,” he said. “We’re always doing that.”
Salerno is a relatively large base in the mountains near the Pakistani border, named after the town where Allied troops made amphibious landings during their 1943 invasion of the Italian mainland during World War II.
The Haqqanis have repeatedly tried to overrun the Salerno base in recent years, and it is a frequent target of rocket attacks. In August 2008, insurgents were beaten back during an assault on the camp’s perimeter that lasted two days. Two years later, about three dozen Haqqani fighters were killed during a similar attack on Salerno and a nearby installation, Forward Operating Base Chapman.
Chapman is a military base also used by the CIA. It was the target of a December 2009 suicide bombing by an al-Qaeda triple agent who killed seven CIA operatives, the deadliest attack against the agency in 26 years.
Whitlock reported from Washington. Special correspondent Javed Hamdard contributed to this report.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6865 on: Jun 17th, 2012, 09:09am »
Originally published Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 6:49 AM
Greeks vote in critical election
By ELENA BECATOROS Associated Press
ATHENS, Greece —
Greeks voted Sunday for the second time in six weeks in what was arguably their country's most critical election in 40 years, with the country's treasured place within the European Union's joint currency in the balance.
The political turmoil sparked by a two-year financial crisis has roiled markets across the world, with fears that victory by parties that have vowed to cancel the country's international bailout agreements and accompanying austerity measures could see Greece forced out of the euro.
That in turn would likely drag down other financially troubled countries and rip apart the euro itself.
The last opinion polls published before a two-week pre-election ban showed the radical left Syriza party of Alexis Tsipras running neck-and-neck with the conservative New Democracy party of Antonis Samaras. But no party is likely to win enough votes to form a government on its own, meaning a coalition will have to be formed to avoid yet another election.
The results of exit surveys were expected at the close of polling stations at 7 p.m. (1600 GMT) Sunday, and the first official projections were expected at around 9:30 p.m. (1830 GMT). Strong winds in the Greek archipelago forced the cancellation of some ferry routes, raising doubts about whether some voters would be able to get to islands with polling stations in time.
Inconclusive elections on May 6 resulted in no party winning enough votes to form a government, and coalition talks collapsed after 10 days. The vote, which also sent the formerly governing socialist PASOK party plunging to historic lows, sent a very clear message that Greeks have lost patience with the deep austerity imposed in return for the country receiving billions of euros (dollars) in rescue loans from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund.
"I'd like to see something change for the country in general, including regarding the bailout," said Vassilis Stergiou, an early-morning voter at an Athens polling station. "But at least for us to get organized and at the very least do something."
Tsipras, a 37-year-old former student activist, has vowed to rip up Greece's bailout agreements and repeal the austerity measures, which have included deep spending cuts on everything from health care to education and infrastructure, as well as tax hikes and reductions of salaries and pensions.
But his pledges, which include canceling planned privatizations, nationalizing banks and rolling back cuts to minimum wages and pensions, have horrified European leaders, as well as many Greeks. Tsipras' opponents argue that the inexperienced young politician is out of touch with reality, and that his policies will force the country out of the euro and lead to poverty for years to come.
Virtually unknown outside of Greece four months ago, Tsipras' pledges and his party's strong showing in the May 6 elections, where he came a surprise second place and quadrupled his support since the 2009 election, has put him in the international spotlight.
Scores of journalists and television news crews from across the world jostled for space to cover Tsipras casting his ballot in an Athens polling center.
"We have beaten fear. Today we open a road to hope," he said after voting, adding that he was confident of victory.
"Today we open a road to a better tomorrow, with our people united, dignified and proud. In a Greece of social justice and prosperity, an equal member of a Europe that is changing. A Europe of the peoples and of solidarity."
The young left-wing leader has accused his rivals of attempting to terrorize the population by casting him as the man who will ruin the country, and insists he will keep Greece within the euro - something that repeated opinion polls have shown about 80 percent of Greeks want.
Greece has been dependent on the rescue loans since May 2010, after sky-high borrowing rates left it locked out of the international markets following years of profligate spending and falsifying financial data.
The spending cuts made in return have left the country mired in a fifth year of recession, with unemployment spiraling to above 22 percent and tens of thousands of businesses shutting down.
For his part, Samaras has cast Sunday's choice as one between the euro and returning to the country's old currency, the drachma. Although he voted against Greece's first bailout in 2010, when his party was in opposition, he backed the second bailout agreed on late last year. He has vowed to renegotiate some of the terms of the accompanying austerity, but insists the top priority is for the country to remain in Europe's joint currency.
"The main thing we will decide on is the dilemma, euro or drachma," he said during his final pre-election rally in central Athens on Friday.
European leaders have cautioned that Greece could be left outside the 17-nation eurozone if it pulls out of its bailout commitments.
Newly elected French President Francois Hollande warned in a Greek television interview earlier this week that "if the impression is given that the Greeks want to move away from the commitments that were taken and abandon all prospects of revival, then there will be countries in the Eurozone that will want to end the presence of Greece in the eurozone."
Nearly 10 million people are eligible to vote in the country of about 11 million people. Polls close at 7pm (1600 GMT), with official results expected a few hours later.
"Today the Greek people speak. Tomorrow a new era for Greece begins," Samaras said after casting his ballot in a small town in southern Greece, the first of the main politicians to do so.
As Greeks went to the polls, more than 250 firefighters and soldiers battled a fire raging south of the Greek capital since Saturday afternoon. Local authorities said several houses were burned. Gale-force winds were hampering the efforts to extinguish the blaze, and Greece asked for help in water-dropping planes from Italy, France and Croatia.
Three firefighters suffered burns on Saturday, while four people were arrested for allegedly starting the fire by accident during welding work at a construction site.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6866 on: Jun 17th, 2012, 09:22am »
States Woo Hollywood for Film and TV Productions at AFCI Locations Show 6:07 PM PDT 6/16/2012 by Alex Ben Block
The annual event in Los Angeles drew more than 180 exhibitors, who touted the tax incentives, physical locations and manpower their areas had to offer.
Pat Swinney Kaufman has seen huge changes in her 18 years as executive director of the New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and Television Development, but one constant has been her attendance at the annual Locations Show event organized in Southern California by the Association of Film Commissioners International.
“You want to be out here because there’s always a story to tell and information to share,” says Kaufman, who was accompanied on her trip by her husband, Lloyd Kaufman, founder of Troma Films. “You want to touch base with people you’ve known for years, and there are always new people to meet.”
So Kaufman spent most of Friday and Saturday in the West Hall of the L.A. Convention Center doing exactly that, along with about 180 other exhibitors from most states, numerous cities and regions and a wide range of countries, all seeking to woo productions. What has changed dramtically over the years is that in addition to the actual locations they have to offer, most now also have a range of financial incentives – from tax credits to cash rebates – to sweeten the deal.
“It used to be people wanted to talk about the locations in the state where they might film,” said Amy Lemisch, executive director of the California Film Commission, which was grouped with film promotional booths from all over the Golden State. “Now we spend almost the entire time talking about our incentives.”
It's not cheap. Florida spent about $246 million in 2010 and recently boosted that to $396 million, according to Sandy Lighterman, film & entertainment industries liaison for the Miami-Dade County Office of Film & Entertainment.
The payoff can be well worth it. New York State, second only to California among U.S. states in film and TV production, has seen the money spent by productions rise from $600,000 in 2004 to $1.5 billion in 2011. That included money spent in the state from 90 feature films (primarily shot there, not including many that only came for a shorter time), 24 TV series and 21 TV pilots.
New York now allocates about $420 million a year in tax credits to lure those productions, but it doesn’t even have the highest incentives. Kaufman says people come for the locations, the infrastructure and the crews and because talent loves to be there. She says the program has grown because it has proved to be a hit.
“This is a program that creates hundreds of thousands of jobs,” says Kaufman, “and not only pays for itself but actually makes a little money.”
New Mexico, third only to California and New York in the number of skilled crew members locally available, spends about $50 million a year to attract productions ranging from Disney’s The Avengers to the upcoming The Lone Ranger, a production whose budget has ballooned back to near $250 million and which and is now shooting all over the state.
It is not just jobs, either, that makes it worthwhile, says Jason Hool of Sante Fe Studios, which opened two soundstages in the past year. He says that in a place where wages are low, kids often drop out of school. But by offering courses that train them to be crewmembers who might work on the next Transformers movie, or something else that excites them, they stay in school.
“It’s sort of sad, but for a lot of youngsters in New Mexico, it’s a choice of, 'Do I work at Walmart or go out of state to find work?' ” says Hool. “Film and TV gets kids excited and so they stay in the state.”
Since 2008, New Mexico has benefited from about $1.2 billion in direct spending from film and TV productions, says Luca Ceccarelli of Santa Fe-based HDNM Entertainment. “It’s outside money coming into our state,” adds his partner, Eileen Street.
“There are few industries where they can spend $50 million in three months,” says Ceccarelli, “and get people so excited.”
That excitement is also a benefit, he adds. New Mexico is now developing a smartphone app that will guide tourists to sites where movies like The Avengers or No Country for Old Men were shot.
Last year, the Locations Show was incorporated into the Produced by Conference, but this year it stood on its own, as it has for most of its two-decade existence. There was strong attendance on Friday and somewhat less of a crowd on Saturday.
Mary Nelson, communications manager for the Virginia Film Office and president of the AFCI, said that they are seeing more people. And more importantly, the people who are coming back are the industry's influential decisionmakers.
“Not as many crazy people.” added Nelson with a laugh.
The business has become much more complicated with more competitors and new incentives, noted Andrew Edmunds, locations manager for the Virginia Film Office.
“This show used to be about the creative opportunities," he said. "Now it much more about economic options. They are here shopping for economic opportunities as opposed to the creative.”
Wanetta Ayers, director of the State of Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, said that you have to be there. “All business is personal,” says Ayers. “At the end of the day, it is all person to person.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6868 on: Jun 18th, 2012, 08:51am »
Report: Russia to send navy ships carrying marines to Syria to protect military base
By Associated Press Updated: Monday, June 18, 3:08 AM
MOSCOW — Two Russian navy ships are completing preparations to sail to Syria with a unit of marines on a mission to protect Russian citizens and the nation’s base there, a news report said Monday. The deployment appears to reflect Moscow’s growing concern about Syrian President Bashar Assad’s future.
The Interfax news agency quoted an unidentified Russian navy official as saying that the two amphibious landing vessels, Nikolai Filchenkov and Caesar Kunikov, will be heading shortly to the Syrian port of Tartus, but didn’t give a precise date.
The official said the ships will carry an unspecified number of marines to protect Russians in Syria and evacuate some equipment from Tartus if necessary.
Interfax said each of the ships is capable of carrying 150 marines and a dozen tanks.
It also quoted a deputy Russian air force chief as saying that Russia will give the necessary protection to its citizens in Syria.
“We must protect our citizens,” Maj.-Gen. Vladimir Gradusov was quoted by Interfax as saying. “We won’t abandon the Russians and evacuate them from the conflict zone if necessary.”
Asked whether the air force would provide air support for the navy squadron, Gradusov said they will act on orders.
The Defense Ministry had no immediate comment, and an official at the Russian Black Sea fleet declined to comment.
Tartus is Russia’s only naval base outside the former Soviet Union, serving Russian navy ships on missions to the Mediterranean and hosting an unspecified number of military personnel.
Russia also has an unspecified number of military advisers teaching Syrians how to use Russian weapons, which make up the bulk of Syrian arsenals.
Syria is Russia’s last remaining ally in the Middle East, and has been a major customer of Soviet and Russian weapons industries for the last four decades, acquiring billions of dollars worth of combat jets, helicopters, missiles, armored vehicles and other military gear.
Russia has shielded Assad’s regime from international sanctions over its violent crackdown on protests. Moscow also has continued to provide Syria with arms despite Western calls for a halt in supplies.
Opposition groups say more than 14,000 people have been killed since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011 with mostly peaceful protests against President Bashar Assad’s autocratic regime. But a ferocious government crackdown led many to take up arms, and the conflict is now an armed insurgency.
Russia has criticized Assad for slow reforms and heavy-handed use of force, but has strongly opposed any sanctions or foreign interference in Syrian affairs.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #6869 on: Jun 18th, 2012, 08:54am »
Kuwait's ruler suspends parliament for a month
Mon Jun 18, 2012 8:46am EDT
KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait's emir has suspended parliament for one month, state news agency KUNA said citing a decree, ahead of the planned questioning of the interior minister by opposition members of the assembly.
The emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, can take the step under the Gulf state's constitution to avert a growing political crisis and allow time for negotiations between the government and elected parliament members.
Opposition lawmakers, who hold a majority in parliament, had called Interior Minister Sheikh Ahmad al-Hamoud al-Sabah for questioning. He is a member of the ruling family and one of the most powerful people in the cabinet after the Prime Minister.
They wanted him to quiz him on Tuesday about Kuwait's citizenship law and stateless residents, a sensitive topic in the oil producer which has strict nationality criteria.
Kuwait brought in its fourth government in six years after a snap parliamentary election in February but tensions between the cabinet and chamber escalated quickly, hindering economic policy-making and planning in the oil-rich Gulf state.
Infighting between the parliament and government has forced the resignation of two cabinet ministers in less than a month and threatens to draw in more of their cabinet colleagues.
Opposition MPs are considering also calling the oil minister and defense minister for questioning over different issues. Such grillings may end in a confidence vote which could force ministers out of office.
The minister for social affairs and labor resigned last week and the finance minister quit last month after a questioning session in parliament led by opposition lawmakers which increased the likelihood of a full cabinet reshuffle or the resignation of the government, analysts said.
KUNA said that the cabinet agreed to a draft law "to suspend parliamentary sessions for a month starting today (Monday) according to article 106 of the constitution".
(Reporting by Mahmoud Harby; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Pravin Char)