Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #900 on: Aug 29th, 2010, 07:06am »
Spy last seen alive eight days before body was found in bag MI6 officer Gareth Williams was seen on 15 August, according to police, who say they are still not sure his death was murder
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 28 August 2010 10.34 BST
Gareth Williams was last seen alive on 15 august. The dead British intelliigence officer Gareth Williams was last seen alive eight days before his body was found stuffed in a bag at his flat, police have said.
A confirmed sighting of the 30-year-old was made on 15 August in London, officers said as they continued to investigate his suspicious death.
Meanwhile, Williams' family last night hit out at rumours that suggested the dead man was involved in risky sexual practices. In a statement, they said speculation linking the secret service employee to a male escort and bondage equipment had been "very distressing".
The mathematics genius, who was on secondment to MI6, was found dead in a sports holdall in the bath of his government flat on Monday. As police continued to investigate whether the GCHQ codes expert lived a secret double life, his family paid tribute to the murdered spy.
They said: "Gareth was a generous, loving son, brother, and friend, and he was a very private person.
"He was a great athlete, and loved cycling and music.
"His loss has devastated us and we would ask that anyone with information to come forward and assist the police inquiry."
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "We can confirm that Mr Williams was in London from Wednesday 11 August, and what officers believe is the last confirmed sighting of him still alive in London was on Sunday 15 August."
Police turned their focus to Williams' private life as they attempt to account for his death.
The 30-year-old was days from completing a one-year secondment to the headquarters of the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, in Vauxhall, London.
He was due to return to a rented flat in Cheltenham where Government Communications Headquarters, GCHQ, is based.
It is understood Williams also worked for the US National Security Agency and made regular trips to Washington DC and Fort Meade, near Baltimore.
The mystery over his final hours deepened after a postmortem examination failed to identify a cause of death.
Further tests will determine if the cycling fanatic was asphyxiated or poisoned, as well as if drugs or alcohol were present in his system.
A pathologist found Williams was not stabbed or shot and there were no obvious signs of strangulation.
Police refused to categorise the death as a murder, despite the bizarre circumstances, and say he may have died innocently.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #901 on: Aug 29th, 2010, 07:10am »
Fidel Castro claims Osama bin Laden is a US spy Former Cuban president says the 9/11 mastermind is in the pay of the CIA and cites WikiLeaks as his source
Chris McGreal in Washington guardian.co.uk Friday 27 August 2010 23.24 BST
Fidel Castro has more reason than most to believe conspiracy theories involving dark forces in Washington. After all, the CIA tried to blow his head off with an exploding cigar.
But the ageing Cuban revolutionary may have gone too far for all but the most ardent believer in the reach and competence of America's intelligence agency. He has claimed that Osama bin Laden is in the pay of the CIA and that President George Bush summoned up the al-Qaida leader whenever he needed to increase the fear quotient. The former Cuban president said he knows it because he has read WikiLeaks.
Castro told a visiting Lithuanian writer, who is known as a font of intriguing conspiracy theories about plots for world domination, that Bin Laden was working for the White House.
"Bush never lacked for Bin Laden's support. He was a subordinate," Castro said, according to the Communist party daily, Granma. "Any time Bush would stir up fear and make a big speech, Bin Laden would appear, threatening people with a story about what he was going to do."
He said that thousands of pages of American classified documents made public by WikiLeaks pointed to who the al-Qaida leader is really working for.
"Who showed that he [Bin Laden] is indeed a CIA agent was WikiLeaks. It proved it with documents," he said, but did not explain exactly how.
He made his comments during a meeting with Daniel Estulin, the author of three books about the secretive Bilderberg Club which includes men such as Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state, leading European officials and business executives. Estulin says that the club is form of secret world government, manipulating economies and political systems.
Estulin offered his own views on Bin Laden: that the man seen in videos since 9/11 is not him at all but a "bad actor".
However the two men did find something to disagree on.
Estulin has long argued that the human race will need to find another planet to live on because of overcrowding.
Castro was not keen. He observed that man had only made it to the moon, which is entirely unsuitable as a new home, and what lay beyond that was not much better. Better to fix things on earth.
"Humanity ought to take care of itself if it wants to live thousands more years," he said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #903 on: Aug 29th, 2010, 07:20am »
Reddit Bucks Condé Nast Owners, Runs Pro-Pot Legalization Ads By Ryan Singel August 28, 2010 | 1:17 am Categories: Advertising, Crowdsourcing, Internet Culture & Etiquette
The social news site Reddit staged a mini-rebellion Friday, deciding to run ads for a pro-marijuana legalization campaign for free after Condé Nast executives ruled against taking payment for the ads.
The ads from the Just Say Now group support passage of California’s Proposition 19, which would largely legalize the use of marijuana. After inquiries from the group, Condé Nast executives ruled against running the ads on the user-driven Reddit, a tiny unit of the Condé Nast publishing concern (which also owns Wired magazine and Wired.com). Condé Nast is best known as the publisher of magazines such as the New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Vogue.
According to a statement published on the Reddit blog, Condé Nast declined to run the ads from the Just Say Now group because the company “does not want to financially benefit from this issue.”
Reddit’s users revolted at news of the rejection, and Reddit’s employees took the extraordinary step of airing their grievances publicly (not unlike what happened with a similar situation last year when Condé Nast management ordered Reddit to remove a user posting at the behest of Sears.)
The reddit admins were just blindsided with news that, apparently, we’re not allowed to take advertising money from sites that support California’s Prop 19 (like this one, for example). There’s a lot of rabble flying around, and we wanted to make some points:
This was a decision made at the highest levels of Conde Nast.
reddit itself strongly disagrees with it, and frankly thinks it’s ridiculous that we’re turning away advertising money.
We’re trying to convince Corporate that they’re making the wrong decision here, and we encourage the community to create a petition, so that your anger is organized in a way that will produce results.
After getting an official reason for the rejection, Reddit’s admins decided to run the ads for free.
Reddit, a Y-combinator-funded start-up acquired by Condé Nast in 2006, has struggled to bring in advertisers, despite a rabidly loyal user group, and recently asked users to sign up for “Gold” memberships so the site could hire another engineer.
The rejection comes just two days after Facebook rejected similar ads from the Just Say Now campaign, saying the pot leaf violated its terms of service, a situation covered by this blog.
Just Say Now argues that these rejections amount to censorship of their political message, which they say isn’t about promoting marijuana use. They point out, for instance, that more than half of those in federal prison were convicted of drug offenses. They’ve asked their Facebook fans to change their profile pics to the banned image, and will be using self-serve Reddit text ads to promote their decriminalization platform.
Wired.com asked Reddit’s business manager and a Condé Nast spokesperson for comment late Friday night and will update the post if we get a response.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #904 on: Aug 29th, 2010, 07:21am »
Insurgents in US Uniforms Attack 2 Bases August 28, 2010 Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Insurgents wearing U.S. Army uniforms launched pre-dawn attacks Saturday on a major NATO base in eastern Afghanistan and a nearby camp where seven CIA employees were killed last year in a suicide bombing. NATO said there were no coalition casualties and the attacks were repelled.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan's presidential office condemned U.S. media reports that Afghan government officials have received payments from the CIA in return for information.
A former U.S. official told The Associated Press on Friday that the CIA has paid members of the Afghan government to track various factions within it. The practice has raised concerns at a time when the United States is pressing Afghan officials to make the government less corrupt.
The New York Times reported the agency is paying Mohammed Zia Salehi, the chief of administration for Afghanistan's National Security Council, for information. The Washington Post also had the report on Friday.
NATO said at least 21 insurgents were killed -- including four who were wearing suicide vests -- and five captured in Saturday's coordinated attacks.
Afghanistan's Interior Ministry put the insurgent death toll in the attacks at 24, with five captured and no casualties on the police side. The Defense Ministry said two Afghan soldiers were killed and three wounded in the fighting.
The assaults on the sprawling Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost province and nearby Camp Chapman came around 3 a.m., just as area residents were rising for early morning prayers.
The area, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) southeast of Kabul near the border with Pakistan, is a hotbed of activity by the Taliban and other insurgent groups, including the December attack on Chapman that killed four CIA officers and three contracted security guards.
In recent months, similar attacks have been launched against U.S. bases at Bagram, Jalalabad and Kandahar.
Afghan police said about 50 insurgents attacked using rifles, heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons, but had been repelled.
After being driven away from the bases, the insurgents approached the nearby offices of the governor and provincial police headquarters but were driven off, said Khost provincial police Chief Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai.
"Given the size of the enemy's force, this could have been a major catastrophe for Khost. Luckily, we prevented it," he said.
Small-arms fire continued through the morning, while NATO helicopters patrolled overhead.
NATO said two insurgents had managed to breach Salerno's perimeter, but were observed cutting the fence and killed immediately.
Dead insurgents were seen wearing camouflage jackets and pants seemingly identical to those warn by U.S. Army soldiers.
Police captured a pickup truck laden with ammunition along with a light truck packed with explosives that had become stuck in deep mud, according to Maj. Wazir Pacha of the provincial police headquarters. Bomb specialists later destroyed the truck and its cargo, according to the Interior Ministry.
NATO said the dead insurgents were members of the Haqqani Network, a Taliban-affiliated group with deep ties to al-Qaida that is accused of launching frequent raids across the border from neighboring Pakistan.
An airstrike on a truck in which insurgents were fleeing killed Mudasir, a senior Haqqani explosives expert suspected of arranging suicide bomb attacks, along with two other militants, NATO said.
A statement Saturday from the presidential spokesman's office called the reports of CIA payments part of an attempt to divert attention from the greater priorities of fighting terrorism, preventing civilian casualties, and disbanding private security companies blamed for lawlessness and corruption.
"Afghanistan believes that making such allegations will not strengthen the alliance against terrorism and will not strengthen an Afghanistan based on the law and rules, but will have negative effects in those areas," the statement said.
"We strongly condemn such irresponsible allegations which just create doubt and defame responsible people of this country," it said.
In the southern provinces of Nimroz and Zabul, a total of seven Taliban were killed in fighting, police said. No police casualties were reported.
Separately, NATO said one of its patrols mistakenly fired on a vehicle carrying private security contractors in Wardak province west of Kabul, killing two men.
It said the patrol had come under Taliban fire early Saturday, then spotted a vehicle approaching fast from behind with a man shooting out its window.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #905 on: Aug 29th, 2010, 07:34am »
Acoustic archaeology: The secret sounds of Stonehenge 10:31 27 August 2010 by Trevor Cox
Just after sunrise on a misty spring morning last year, my fellow acoustician at the University of Salford, Bruno Fazenda, and Rupert Till of the University of Huddersfield, UK, could be found wandering around Stonehenge popping balloons. This was not some bizarre pagan ritual. It was a serious attempt to capture the "impulse response" of the ancient southern English stone circle, and with it perhaps start to determine how Stonehenge might have sounded to our ancestors.
An impulse response characterises all the paths taken by the sound between its source – in this case a popping balloon – and a microphone positioned a few metres away. It is simply a plot of the sound pressure at the microphone in the seconds after the pop. The first, strongest peak on the plot represents the sound that travelled directly from the source to the microphone. Later, smaller peaks indicate the arrival of reflections off the stones. The recording and plot shows the impulse response Bruno and Rupert measured with a microphone positioned at the centre of Stonehenge and a popping balloon at the edge of the circle.
This impulse response represents an acoustic fingerprint of the stones. Back in the lab, it can be used to create a virtual rendition of any piece of music or speech as it would sound within the stone circle. All that is needed is an "anechoic" recording of the raw music or speech – a recording made in a reflection-free environment such as the open air or, better, a specialist anechoic chamber such as we have at Salford. The anechoic recording and the impulse response can then be combined using a mathematical operation called convolution.
We've done with with a recording of drumming: here is the anechoic original, and here it is convolved with the measured impulse response of Stonehenge. The difference is easily appreciable: there is more reverberation or ringing to the drumming sound thanks to the reflections off the stones. What's more, the tonal balance of the sound is entirely different: it has become much deeper, as if the treble has been turned down.
Replica henge The popping of a balloon is not the standard or best way to measure an impulse response, but more sophisticated equipment was not allowed at Stonehenge. At a full-size replica of the monument at Maryhill, Washington state, however, Bruno and Rupert were able to use powerful loudspeakers and special test signals to get more accurate results.
Maryhill also has the advantage that it is complete, whereas some of the stones of Stonehenge have fallen or disappeared over the years. That makes a noticeable difference to the drum sounds convolved with Maryhill's impulse response: the more complete stone circle makes the sound echo for longer, with the extended reverberation being most noticeable after the last drum.
Over many decades, a sophisticated understanding of how to interpret impulse responses has been built up. For example, we now know how features within the impulse response, such as the time it takes for reverberations to die away, relate to peoples' perceptions of the nature of the sound. The hope is that by applying that expertise to ancient monuments such as Stonehenge, we can better appreciate their acoustical effects on our ancestors –and perhaps begin to answer the question whether these effects were the product of accident or design.
Good evening Luvey! Hope you had a good weekend. Crystal
aawwww Crystal those flowers are so pretty....
The weekend went by way too fast, like every day it seems. I can remember when young the days dragged by, but as one gets older they just speed by....
When you first came to CB I was away on holiday overseas... so when I came back and started reading your thread I picked up the nicest vibes from you.... You have a kind warmth about you.... I really like it.
When you first came to CB I was away on holiday overseas... so when I came back and started reading your thread I picked up the nicest vibes from you.... You have a kind warmth about you.... I really like it.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #911 on: Aug 30th, 2010, 08:14am »
New York Times
August 29, 2010 For Arms Sales Suspect, Secrets Are Bargaining Chips By SCOTT SHANE
WASHINGTON — Accused of a 15-year run as one of the world’s biggest arms traffickers, Viktor Bout is thought to be a consummate deal maker.
Now his future may hang on whether he can strike one last bargain: trading what American officials believe is his vast insider’s knowledge of global criminal networks in exchange for not spending the rest of his life in a federal prison.
Justice Department officials were relieved on Aug. 20 when a Thai appeals court approved the extradition of Mr. Bout (pronounced boot), a Russian, from Bangkok, where he has been incarcerated since 2008. But they are wary of declaring victory in a long diplomatic wrangle with Russia until Mr. Bout actually arrives to face charges in Manhattan, a development that could be days or weeks away.
Immersed since the early 1990s in the dark side of globalization, Mr. Bout has mastered the trade and the transport that fuel drug cartels, terrorism networks and insurgent movements from Colombia to Afghanistan, according to former officials who tracked him. And he is believed to understand the murky intersection of Russian military, intelligence and organized crime.
“I think Viktor Bout has a great deal of information that this country and other countries would like to have,” said Michael A. Braun, chief of operations at the Drug Enforcement Administration from 2005 to 2008, when the agency was engineering the sting operation that led to Mr. Bout’s arrest in Bangkok two years ago.
“It’s a question of whether he sees his wife and kid again someday, after 10 or 15 or 20 years,” said Mr. Braun, now with Spectre Group International, a private security firm. “I think there’s potential for a deal.”
Mr. Bout, who has lost about 70 pounds while imprisoned in Thailand, has shown no inclination to cooperate with investigators. In interviews, he has portrayed himself as an honest businessman who would transport whatever he was paid to carry, whether disaster relief supplies or attack helicopters. On his Web site he calls himself “a born salesman with undying love for aviation and eternal drive to succeed.”
He has labeled as “ridiculous” American charges that he agreed to sell shoulder-fired missiles to D.E.A. agents posing as members of a Colombian leftist guerrilla group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. “I have never traded in weapons,” he said in a statement released Friday. His wife, Alla, who has visited him in Bangkok with their teenage daughter, Elizabeth, has told reporters he traveled to South America “for tango lessons.”
But if the bravado falters when Mr. Bout faces prosecutors in New York, he has plenty to tell, said Douglas Farah, co-author of a 2007 book about him, “Merchant of Death.”
“He knows a great deal about how weapons reach the Taliban, and how they get to militants in Somalia and Yemen,” Mr. Farah said. “He knows a lot about Russian intelligence as it’s been restructured under Putin,” he added, referring to Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian prime minister.
Rumors in Bangkok have suggested that the Russians and the Americans engaged in a bidding war over the American extradition request, with Russia offering Thailand cut-rate oil and Americans offering military hardware.
Both sides have denied such bargaining. Thai officials say they must process a second United States request for extradition on a separate indictment for money laundering before Mr. Bout can be put aboard the American jet that arrived last week to pick him up.
The legend of Mr. Bout, 43, a former Soviet Air Force officer and gifted linguist who speaks English, French, Arabic and Portuguese, may have outgrown even the facts of his career, the basis for the 2005 movie “Lord of War.” Operating a web of companies, at times calling himself Viktor Bulakin, Vadim Aminov or other pseudonyms, he rose in the global arms underworld after the Soviet collapse freed aging aircraft and huge weapons supplies.
“What you have in Viktor Bout is a prime figure in the globalization of crime,” said Louise I. Shelley, director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center at George Mason University. “He epitomizes the new type of organized crime, in which the person is educated, has international ties and operates with the support of the state.”
By the mid-1990s, Mr. Bout’s growing private air force had come to the attention of Western intelligence agencies. By 2000, when Lee S. Wolosky became director for transnational threats at the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton, Mr. Bout’s web of companies was turning up in country after country, Mr. Wolosky said.
“My colleagues who worked on Africa noticed that he was popping up in each conflict they were trying to resolve: Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola,” said Mr. Wolosky, now a lawyer in New York. “He had a logistics capability that was matched by very few nations.”
Mr. Bout developed ties with such notorious figures Charles Taylor of Liberia, bedded down next to his plane in African war zones and sometimes took payment in diamonds, bringing his own gemologist to assess the stones. His arms escalated the toll of the fighting. “Wars went from machetes and antique rifles to A.K.’s with unlimited ammunition,” Mr. Farah said.
Former American officials say they worked on a plan to grab the arms dealer and deliver him to either Belgium or South Africa to face criminal charges, a procedure known as “rendition to justice.” Before they could act, the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks made Mr. Bout a lower priority.
Mr. Wolosky said he and his colleagues were astonished to learn from later news reports that Mr. Bout’s companies were used as subcontractors by the American military to deliver supplies to Iraq in 2003 and 2004, earning about $60 million, by Mr. Farah’s estimate.
“I read those reports with shock,” Mr. Wolosky said. “Personally, I attributed it to the disorder of the Iraq war effort.”
In Afghanistan before 9/11, Mr. Bout had long supplied Ahmed Shah Massoud, the ethnic Tajik warlord who spent years fighting the Taliban. Later, he supplied the Taliban, said former American officials, who believe his only real allegiance was to money.
In 2007, Mr. Braun, then the D.E.A. operations chief, said he was asked by Bush administration officials about prosecuting Mr. Bout. The agency lured him into a trap in which the agency said he agreed to sell surface-to-air missiles and other military gear to agency informants posing as FARC operatives.
At a meeting in a Bangkok hotel in March 2008, according to court records, Mr. Bout scribbled price estimates and doodled an aircraft, telling his ostensible customers “that the United States was also his enemy.”
“It’s not, uh, business,” Mr. Bout said on tape, the records say. “It’s my fight.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #912 on: Aug 30th, 2010, 08:17am »
New York Times
August 29, 2010 Afghan Fatalities Rise in Weekend Violence By ROD NORDLAND
KABUL, Afghanistan — Seven American soldiers were killed in fighting in eastern and southern Afghanistan over the weekend, after several weeks of declining death tolls among NATO forces.
In western Afghanistan, in Herat Province, the police found the bullet-riddled bodies of five missing campaign workers for a female candidate in next month’s parliamentary elections, and another candidate for Parliament was killed, Afghan officials said Sunday.
The American servicemen were killed in five separate attacks, according to statements from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, known as ISAF. On Sunday, an American soldier was killed by a homemade bomb in southern Afghanistan, while another died as a result of an insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan, the NATO force said.
On Saturday, insurgent attacks in eastern Afghanistan killed two American soldiers in one episode and one in a separate instance, while two other Americans were killed by a bomb in southern Afghanistan.
NATO officials did not release any further details. The attacks brought the monthly death toll among coalition soldiers to 62 as of Aug. 29, compared with 88 in July, according to icasualties.org, which tracks coalition fatalities. In June, the bloodiest month of the nine-year war, 102 NATO soldiers were killed, according to icasualties.org figures.
NATO forces have nearly tripled in Afghanistan since the beginning of 2009, with a total of 123,000 service personnel now. About 100,000 of them are Americans.
In the Herat Province episode, the police said 10 campaign workers for Fawzia Gilani, a current member of Parliament who is running for re-election, had been abducted in the Adraskan District last week. Five of them were found shot to death on Sunday, said Col. Noor Khan Nikzad, a spokesman for the provincial police.
Elsewhere in Herat, in the Shindand District, Abdul Manan, a candidate for Parliament who was on his way to a local mosque, was shot to death by a gunman on a motorcycle, according to Colonel Nikzad.
In Baghlan Province in the north, a NATO investigation gave credence to reports from local officials that eight civilians were killed during a night raid last week.
ISAF said in a statement released Sunday that a “full assessment” of the attack early last week in Tala Wa Barfak District had determined that a helicopter fired into the wrong building, which “may have resulted in civilian casualties.”
“We regret any possible civilian loss of life or injury,” said Brig. Gen. Timothy M. Zadalis of the United States Air Force, who led the assessment team. “Our first objective is to protect the people of Afghanistan, and in this case we may have failed.”
In another ISAF investigation, into the shooting deaths of two Spanish NATO military instructors and their interpreter, NATO officials said that the Afghan policeman who killed them, and who was shot to death in turn, had actually been a “terrorist.” The findings contradicted initial reports that the shooting, outside the Spanish-run provincial reconstruction team base in the town of Qaleh Ye Now in Badghis Province, resulted from a dispute between the Spanish team and the Afghan policeman.
Both Afghan officials and the NATO statement said the policeman had previously been dismissed from the force for links to “terrorists.”
The statement said, “Following his arrest, two local elders established the gunman as a credible member of society, and he was therefore allowed to go free and subsequently re-enlist with the A.N.P.,” using the abbreviation for Afghan National Police.
After the shooting, an angry crowd of several hundred people gathered outside the base. The provincial police chief, Sayid Ahmed Samay, said many had been armed with pistols and grenade launchers and that 25 people were injured during crowd control efforts.
The increased numbers show how the American military has retooled its most potent technological advantage — dominance of the skies — for the Afghanistan campaign. But so far, at least, the boost in air power doesn’t seem to have shifted the war’s momentum back to the American-led coalition.
An influx of Reaper drones and executive-jets-turned-spy-planes allowed U.S. forces to fly 9,700 surveillance sorties over Afghanistan in the first seven months of 2010. Last year, American planes conducted 3,645 of the flights during a similar period.
The United States may not have reconnaissance flights “blotting out the sun,” as one senior defense official predicted. But there are many more than before — mostly providing overhead footage of the battlefield to troops on the ground. In addition, more than 30 million pounds of gear was airdropped from January through July 2010 — compared to 11 million through July 2009.
Also, 398,000 people were transported into, out of and inside the Afghan theater. In the first seven months of 2009, that number was 212,000.
It wasn’t long ago that Defense Secretary Robert Gates was in an all-but-open war with the U.S. Air Force, when the service didn’t seem to be moving fast enough to meet commanders’ needs in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Air Force had fewer than a dozen unmanned air patrols over the war zones in 2007. Today, there are more than 40. The battles between Gates and the air generals have largely subsided.
“Today, unlike the contests of the past, our joint forces go into combat with more information about the threat they face, provided in near real-time. And they get that information … from air and space,” e-mails retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, who stepped down this month as the Air Force’s intelligence chief. “Today, unlike the past, our joint task forces are able to operate with much smaller numbers, across great distances and inhospitable terrain because they can be sustained over the long-haul … by air.”
When Gen. Stanley McChrystal imposed strict new guidelines on airstrikes, the number of attacks from the sky immediately dropped in half. Many pilots weren’t sure exactly why they were flying. Some troops complained that they couldn’t fight the Taliban effectively.
But during the last few months of McChrystal’s tenure, those airstrike numbers had stabilized, and began to move ahead of their mid-2009 lows. In June and July of 2010, the Air Force flew 5,500 “close air support” sorties — missions over ground troops locked in active combat. On 900 of those flights, the planes fired weapons. The previous year, those figures were 4,600 and 809, respectively.
The unanswered question, of course, is whether all this extra air power will have much of an effect. Right now, NATO has more troops going into more places and encountering more resistance than at any point in the war.
Violence is way up. And it’s not clear if additional eyes in the sky or warplanes buzzing overhead will alter that lethal equation.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #914 on: Aug 30th, 2010, 08:31am »
James Cameron Talks About Avatar Rerelease, Sequels By Scott Pierce August 27, 2010 | 1:02 pm | Categories: Movies
The biggest, most expensive sci-fi epic of all time is back in theaters Friday. Avatar will arrive at the multiplexes and Imax theaters again this weekend, where it will go up against new releases The Last Exorcism and Takers.
The rerelease contains nine minutes of additional animated footage, a heady incentive sure to draw ticket buyers spellbound by Avatar’s groundbreaking visuals back to the box office.
But the reason for the return voyage to Pandora isn’t purely about profits — Avatar has already pulled in a mammoth $750 million at the domestic box office since it began its initial run in 2009, and sold 19 million DVDs since April.
Rather, director James Cameron tells Wired.com the original release was shorter than he originally wanted.
“I wanted to reinstate the créme de la créme of what was taken out,” he says.
“We had 45 to 50 minutes of various scenes at various stages of the cutting. There was a bit of pressure that we impose on ourselves because we didn’t know how long audiences could watch a 3-D movie. We were pretty conservative and we cut pretty deeply.”
Cameron argues that the original 161-minute running time did not deter people from wanting to see more. “Thirty percent of people said that it was too long, but most of the feedback we got was that they could stay longer. Nine minutes is an eternity in the editing room, but it’s just 6 percent of the running time. The motivation was for me to see the picture finished.”
Fans of Cameron’s extended cuts, including the ones for Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, know that added scenes often include well-rounded subplots and back story. For example, in the extended cut of Aliens, we learn the character Ripley has a daughter who died, motivating her motherly relationship with the child Newt. How much should Na’vi fanatics expect within nine minutes?
“You’ll see a little bit of background, a little bit of stuff that happened off camera in the movie that you saw — like the sturmbeest hunt falling within Jake’s training of becoming a Na’vi,” Cameron says. “And there’s a scene that shows the missing step between the escalation of the Na’vi and the humans. There’s a night attack scene and the aftermath the following day. You’ll see new creatures, new set pieces, new emotional scenes. It’s anecdotes, but it’s not going to be perplexing or change the story.”
Still, the definitive version will be released on Blu-ray in November with three cuts of the film — the original theatrical release, the nine-minute extended version hitting theaters Friday, and a cut with 16 minutes of additional footage. “Before I go to make another Avatar movie, I don’t want to have to go back. When we close this box, it stays closed, which is why the one in November is the definitive version,” Cameron said.
In order to add the scenes for the second theatrical release and the upcoming Blu-ray package, Cameron says, “I had to go back to Fox and say that I needed X million dollars.” The additional scenes were “at template level,” meaning they were cut before effects studio Weta Digital was able to provide the photo-like quality that initially drew people to the box office.
While Avatar is getting the big push this weekend, Cameron, true to form, is looking far ahead into Pandora’s future with at least two sequels. “I’m actually mapping this out. One of the things that I’m working on is the novel, which is a good companion to the first movie.”
Originally slated for a Christmas release, Cameron says it will now come out in 2011. “To me, the book is laying the foundational bed for the entire world and all of the back story and future history. There’s definitely going to be a second and third film. I don’t know if that means it’s going to be a trilogy.”
However, Cameron will first be acting as a producer for the 3-D adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness with Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro at the helm.
Cameron has told me in the past that he is not passionate about producing.
“Well, yeah, then Guillermo came along,” he says. “In this particular case, I’m working with Guillermo because I enjoy his company, and a creative collaboration is something that we’ve talked about doing for a long time.”
The news is beyond exciting for Lovecraft, del Toro and Cameron enthusiasts. What’s even more exciting is hearing Cameron talk about their collaborative vision.
“It’s going to be an epically scaled horror film and we haven’t seen anything like that in a really long time — I guess since Aliens.”
Like the novella on which it’s based, the film will take place in the Antarctic, where humans encounter a race called the Ancient Ones. “The thing about Lovecraft is that he left a lot to the imagination,” Cameron says. “He never told you what they looked like. He managed to create a sense of creeping horror without specifics.”
Cameron believes that’s what makes del Toro the perfect man for the job.
“Guillermo brings an eye for design that is so original and so quirky and so steeped in the lore of movie design and horror design, but always fresh and unexpected. Frankly, I just want to see what he comes up with and I want to enable the nuts and bolts of the production so he doesn’t have to worry about that. I want to help him how to work in 3-D.”