Saturday, December 31, 2011

US wants 2012 talks for Taliban political office (AP)

WASHINGTON ? The Obama administration hopes to restore momentum in the spring to U.S. talks with the Taliban insurgency that had reached a critical point before falling apart this month because of objections from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, U.S. and Afghan officials said.

One goal of renewed talks with the insurgents would be to identify cease-fire zones that could be used as a steppingstone toward a full peace agreement that stops most fighting, a senior administration official told The Associated Press. It's a goal that so far has remained far out of reach.

U.S. officials from the State Department and White House plan to continue a series of secret meetings with Taliban representatives in Europe and the Persian Gulf region next year, two officials said, assuming a small group of Taliban emissaries the U.S. considers legitimate remains willing.

The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the sensitive and precarious American outreach to the Taliban leadership.

The U.S. outreach this year had fits and starts but had progressed to the point that there was active discussion of two steps the Taliban seeks as precursors to negotiations, the senior U.S. official said. Talks are on an unofficial hiatus at Karzai's request, U.S. and other officials said.

The trust-building measures under discussion involve a would-be Taliban headquarters office and the release from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of about five Afghan prisoners considered affiliated with the Taliban. Those steps were to be matched by assurances from at least part of the Taliban leadership that the insurgents would cut ties with al-Qaida, accept the elected civilian government of Afghanistan and bargain in good faith.

The U.S. describes its current Afghan policy as "fight, talk, build," and maintains that it will not back off the military campaign that has ended Taliban control of key southern areas that had been the movement's mainstay. The Taliban remains a potent fighting force and has shifted operations to other parts of the country.

Just Friday, for instance, a NATO service member died in a roadside bombing in southern Afghanistan, while allied and Afghan forces killed three senior Taliban figures and captured 11 fighters and sympathizers, according to the alliance.

Although top U.S. military commanders say they cannot kill their way to military victory in Afghanistan, targeted raids on Taliban operatives are one of the tactical success stories of President Barack Obama's shift in strategy that favors counter-terrorism tactics.

The longer-term strategic effect of those tactics is less clear; nighttime kill-and-capture raids, in which a number of civilians have died, have become a flashpoint for anger over foreign meddling in Afghanistan. Karzai has demanded that foreign troops stop breaking into homes.

The U.S. administration wants to use its current extensive military campaign and an acknowledged but incomplete plan for a long-term American military presence in Afghanistan as leverage to draw the Taliban to talks with Karzai's representatives.

The gradual process of handing over areas of the country to Afghan security control would ideally be marshaled toward encouraging peace talks, by identifying areas where a test ceasefire could be tried, the official said.

More generally, the U.S. is trying to unify disparate elements of its strategy in Afghanistan after 10 tiring years of war and with an eye on the NATO deadline to withdraw combat forces by the end of 2014.

The likelihood that the Taliban insurgency continues as a fighting force after most foreign forces leave is driving the U.S. and NATO to seek even an incomplete bargain with the insurgents that would keep them talking with the Kabul government.

The U.S. goal is to midwife talks between the insurgents and the U.S.-backed Afghan government led by Karzai, who frequently has felt sidelined by the U.S. as it pursues talks with his enemies. He bills peace talks as an Afghan-led process, which the U.S. insists is also its goal. The U.S. outreach is meant to jump-start negotiations, U.S. officials have said, but they acknowledge that their efforts can feed the perception that Karzai is not fully in charge.

Although the Karzai government shares the goal of outreach and eventual political reconciliation with the Afghan Taliban movement, he resents the insurgents' demand only to speak with what they call American occupiers. He has argued that the U.S. undercuts his leverage, and his inner circle derailed initial U.S.-Taliban talks earlier this year, several officials previously told the AP.

With Obama planning to host a large NATO summit in his hometown of Chicago this spring, the administration would like some good news to announce.

Short of a clear military turning point in a war that is still stalemated in many areas, the summit is likely to focus on efforts to shore up the country while encouraging a political settlement with the Taliban.

One hope for the summit is a more coherent statement of how the military campaign is related to the effort to hand over areas of the country to Afghan control, the long-term U.S. presence in Afghanistan and Taliban reconciliation, the senior U.S. official said.

The Taliban headquarters office idea is seen the most likely to regain traction ahead of the summit in May, but it's unclear when it might open. A political office in a neutral third country would be authorized to conduct talks on a peaceful end to the 10-year war.

Karzai remains opposed to the more difficult prisoner transfer plan, which is further complicated by new congressional restrictions on any prisoner transfers. The U.S. tentatively had agreed to transfer a handful of Afghan prisoners to house arrest in a third country, probably Qatar, before the deal unraveled, U.S. officials said.

The Associated Press has learned the identity of some of the proposed transferees, including Khairullah Khairkhwa, former Taliban governor of Herat, and Mullah Mohammed Fazl, a former top Taliban military commander believed responsible for sectarian killings before the U.S. invasion that toppled the Taliban government in Afghanistan in 2001.

Karzai's own advisers seeking peace with the Taliban had named those men among several Afghan Taliban prisoners it wanted released from Guantanamo as a goodwill gesture, but Karzai wants the prisoners to come to Afghanistan, not a third country, a senior Afghan official in the region said.

Sending Afghans to an Arab country could offend Afghans' sense of sovereignty and suggest that the U.S. does not think Afghanistan is fit to hold or try the men, officials said.

"As soon as I was released, I met President Karzai and he promised that he would not allow Afghan prisoners to be sent anywhere except Afghanistan," said Haji Ruhollah, an Afghan who was released from Guantanamo in 2010. "They are all Afghans and they should be brought and kept in Afghanistan."

U.S. and Afghan officials also pointed to Karzai's longstanding unease with what he sees as a rush by the U.S. to broker deals ahead of the planned exit of U.S. combat forces

Karzai has political problems at home, including newly resurgent militias, and the assassination of his chief peace negotiator in September clouds his own outreach to the Taliban.

The U.S. once swore off direct talks with the Taliban until the insurgents essentially were beaten but shifted position as the war dragged on near stalemate. Participants said they still consider a peace deal a long shot, and the insurgent leadership has shown no sign that it wants to stop fighting a guerrilla war it thinks it can sustain until after most foreign forces depart.

The Associated Press is not identifying U.S. officials involved in the direct talks, in consideration for their safety. One member of the Taliban negotiating team has been publicly identified as Tayyab Aga, an emissary of Pakistan-based Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. Other participants include a former Taliban ambassador to Saudi Arabia and a former Taliban deputy health minister, the senior Afghan official said.

Karzai has supported the general idea of an office, preferably in Afghanistan, but he balked when the plan for Qatar appeared to have been settled without him, officials said. Earlier this month, Kabul recalled its ambassador to Qatar for consultations over reports that the Taliban was planning to open an office there.

On Tuesday, Karzai backed down. He said his government would accept the Qatar office to hold peace talks, although Saudi Arabia or Turkey would be preferable venues.


Gannon reported from Islamabad. Associated Press writer Patrick Quinn in Kabul contributed to this report.


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Friday, December 30, 2011

Oil leaking from ship three months after New Zealand grounding

Anger growing over Rena oil spill in New Zealand.

Wellington (dpa) ? A 47,000-ton container ship was leaking oil and spilling cargo on beaches Friday, three months after running aground on a New Zealand reef.

Clean-up teams mopped up oil on two of the North Island?s most popular beaches and collected cargo, including meat, washed up on the shore from the Rena?s broken containers, the Maritime New Zealand agency said in a statement.

One oil-covered penguin was rescued to be cleaned, the latest victim of the country?s worst marine environmental disaster.

More than 2,000 seabirds have died and nearly 400 oil-contaminated little blue penguins cleaned since the Rena ran aground 22 kilometers off the east coast port of Tauranga on October 5.

The Rena leaked about 360 tons of heavy fuel oil after grounding, and salvage teams managed to siphon off more than another 1,000 tons, but Maritime New Zealand commander Rob Service said before Christmas, ?We know there is still oil on the wreck that the salvage team can?t reach. We are ready to launch another large scale-response if and when that oil is released.?

The agency reported Friday a ?light oil sheen? extending up to 2.5 kilometers from the vessel and dispatched clean-up teams to the suburban Papamoa and Mount Maunganui beaches, which would normally be packed with holidaymakers at this time, the height of summer.

Heavy rain and strong winds were sweeping the area, however, keeping the crowds off the sand and stopping the salvage operation to remove the 985 containers still on board.

The Filipino captain and navigation officer of the Liberian-flagged Rena spent Christmas in New Zealand on bail and awaiting trial on criminal charges related to the ship?s grounding, including operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger.


Tags: New Zealand, Oil Spill, Rena

Section: Environment, Going Green, Latest News, Oceana


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Katy Perry, Russell Brand Breakup Rumors Swirl Online

Both celebs were photographed without their wedding bands this week.
By Kara Warner

Katy Perry and Russell Brand in Los Angeles on December 3
Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Katy Perry and Russell Brand have both been spotted in public sans wedding bands recently, and while there has been no official word regarding a separation of any sort, nothing sets the Internet rumor mill spinning like a high-profile married couple stepping out with naked ring fingers.

Perry was first spotted without her ring around Christmas, but she was splashing around in the ocean and could have chosen not to wear the ring for fear of losing it, not to make a statement about her relationship status.

A wedding-ring-free Brand was snapped by photographers walking around London on Thursday (December 29), further fueling rumors of marital trouble that have been swirling, which both Brand and Perry addressed recently.

"There are always rumors, aren't there? In the end, you have to just not engage with Internet technology, which is difficult because a lot of the nude women websites I quite enjoy," Brand joked to Ellen DeGeneres about breakup rumors during his visit to her talk show. "I've treated the whole Internet now like it's a wicked little liar. Yeah. I am really happily married," he added. "I'm married to Katy. Perpetually, until death do us part was the pledge."

Perry took to Twitter in November to brush off earlier rumblings. "First I'm pregnant & then I'm divorced. What am I 'All My Children'?! #ericakane #pshhh #ifihadadollarforeverytime ...," she tweeted. The pop princess and cheeky British comedian have been married since October 2010.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wicked Audio's Solus headphones let you listen like a DJ at the flick of a switch

For what it's worth, Wicked Audio has a habit of producing egregiously loud headphones -- looks-wise, that is. Hence our surprise, when we glanced at its latest red and black offering in our Gmail inbox. The Solus, "Latin for be yourself" as we're told, doesn't look like much more than a basic set of cans, but the inline volume control on its braided cable serves a unique function for all you budding record-spinners out there. With a flick of this puppy's "DJ switch," you'll be able to rattle both of your ears in stereo, or have an easier time listening with just one of 'em when it comes time to crossfade into your next track. No word on specs (not that we'd expect any), but letting go of a Benjamin will snag you the Solus when it officially releases at CES. Wicked.

Update: A representative for the company has sent over some specs for cans:
  • 40mm "high performance" drivers
  • 106 dB SPL
  • 20-20,000 Hz
  • 32 ohms
  • 4 ft cord
  • gold plated plug

Continue reading Wicked Audio's Solus headphones let you listen like a DJ at the flick of a switch

Wicked Audio's Solus headphones let you listen like a DJ at the flick of a switch originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 28 Dec 2011 13:37:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Any GSM phone vulnerable to new scam: researcher (Reuters)

BERLIN (Reuters) ? A well-known expert on mobile phone security says a vulnerability in a widely used wireless technology could allow hackers to gain remote control of phones, instructing them to send text messages or make calls.

They could use the vulnerability in the GSM network technology, which is used by billions of people in about 80 percent of the global mobile market, to make calls or send texts to expensive, premium phone and messaging services in scams, said Karsten Nohl, head of Germany's Security Research Labs.

Similar attacks against a small number of smartphones have been done before, but the new attack could expose any cellphone using GSM technology.

"We can do it to hundreds of thousands of phones in a short timeframe," Nohl told Reuters in advance of a presentation at a hacking convention in Berlin on Tuesday.

Attacks on corporate landline phone systems are fairly common, often involving bogus premium-service phone lines that hackers set up across Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.

Fraudsters make calls to the numbers from hacked business phone systems or mobile phones, then collect their cash and move on before the activity is identified.

The phone users typically don't identify the problem until after they receive their bills and telecommunications carriers often end up footing at least some of the costs.

Even though Nohl will not present details of attack at the conference, he said hackers will usually replicate the code needed for attacks within a few weeks.


Mobile networks of Germany's T-Mobile and France's SFR offer their clients the best protection against online criminals wanting to intercept their calls or track their movements, shows a new ranking Nohl will demonstrate at his presentation.

The new ranking, at, lets consumers to see how their operators are performing and lets anyone to participate in measurement of their carriers' security.

Researchers reviewed 32 operators in 11 countries and rated their performance based on how easy it was for them to intercept the calls, impersonate someone's device or track the device.

"None of the networks protects users very well," Nohl said.

The sample is set to grow from 32 carriers dramatically next year as the tool enables anyone to participate in gathering of the data.

Nohl said mobile telecom operators could easily improve their clients' security, in many cases by just updating their software.

"Mobile network is by far the weakest part of the mobile ecosystem, even when compared to a lot attacked Android or iOS devices," he said.

Researchers reviewed operators in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Morocco, Slovakia, Switzerland and Thailand.

(Additional reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Matt Driskill and Vinu Pilakkott)


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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

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Iran Prepares to Tighten Military Links with Iraq

Iran stands ready to expand its military and security ties with Iraq, its armed forces chief of staff said Sunday, a week after the exit of US forces from the neighbouring Arab country.

General Hassan Firouzabadi hailed the "forced departure" of the US and allied forces that he said "was due to the resistance and determination of the Iraqi people and government," the state Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

The statements were made in messages Firouzabadi sent to his Iraqi counterpart, Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari, and to Iraq's acting defence minister, Saadun al-Dulaimi, IRNA said.

The departure of the US troops "was due to the resistance and determination of the Iraqi people and government," he said.

"I hope the humiliating failure of the United States after nine years of occupying Iraq will serve as a lesson for them to never think of attacking another country," he said.

Firouzabadi added that Iran was now "ready to expand its military and security ties with Iraq."

Zebari led a delegation of Iraqi military chiefs to Iran last month to explore greater cooperation between the two defence forces.

US analysts have expressed concern that Iran could exploit the vacuum left by the US withdrawal to bolster links with Iraq's Shiite-led government.

The United States frequently accused Iran of arming Iraqi militias that attacked US forces when they were deployed there.

US President Barack Obama said on December 14 that, while the situation left behind in Iraq was not perfect, "we are leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq."

His administration has warned Iran against trying to interfere in Iraq.

? Newsmax. All rights reserved.


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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What to look for at NKorea funeral for Kim Jong Il

In this Dec. 26, 2011 image made from KRT television, Kim Jong Un, center, North Korea's next leader and the son of late leader Kim Jong Il, cries as he pays respect to the body of his father in a glass coffin, not in photo, at Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/KRT via APTN) TV OUT, NORTH KOREA OUT

In this Dec. 26, 2011 image made from KRT television, Kim Jong Un, center, North Korea's next leader and the son of late leader Kim Jong Il, cries as he pays respect to the body of his father in a glass coffin, not in photo, at Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/KRT via APTN) TV OUT, NORTH KOREA OUT

In this Dec. 26, 2011 image made from KRT television, Kim Jong Un, center, North Korea's next leader and the son of late leader Kim Jong Il, reacts as he pays respect to the body of his father in a glass coffin, not in photo, at Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/KRT via APTN) TV OUT, NORTH KOREA OUT

FILE - In this July 11, 1994 file photo, citizens kneel and wail in front of a statue of late North Korean President Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, North Korea. Similar shows of grief are expected when North Korea lays late leader Kim Jong Il, son of the president, to rest during two days of funeral ceremonies set to take place Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011 and Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Kyodo News, File) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

FILE - In this July 20, 1994 file photo released by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed by Korea News Service, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, front row second from right, attends the funeral of late North Korean President Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang Square, North Korea. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service, File) SOUTH KOREA OUT

FILE - In this July 1994 file photo released by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed by the Korea News Service, people express condolences to the statue of North Korean President Kim Il Sung after his death in Mansudae Hill in Pyongyang, North Korea. Similar shows of grief are expected when North Korea lays late leader Kim Jong Il, son of the president, to rest during two days of funeral ceremonies set to take place Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011 and Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service, File) SOUTH KOREA OUT

(AP) ? Wailing and sobbing mourners beat their chests and dropped to their knees as North Korean President Kim Il Sung's hearse, draped with a red flag and bedecked with white magnolias, crawled through the streets of Pyongyang in 1994.

But even as they cried out on a hot summer's day for the leader they called "Father," they began pledging their loyalty to his son, leader-in-waiting Kim Jong Il, who cut a solemn and somber figure in a dark blue suit, a black band wrapped around his left arm.

Same setting, different season: Similar shows of grief are expected when North Korea lays Kim Jong Il to rest in a winter chill during two days of funeral ceremonies on Wednesday and Thursday. As in 1994, the events will be watched closely for clues to who will gain power and who will fall out of favor under the next leader, his son Kim Jong Un.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Jean H. Lee, the Associated Press bureau chief for Korea, has made 11 trips to North Korea since 2008, including eight visits this year.


This state funeral, however, is also likely to bear the hallmarks of Kim Jong Il's rule, including more of a military presence for the man who elevated the armed forces as part of his "songun," or "military first," policy.

Kim, who has been lying in state since he died Dec. 17, celebrated major occasions with lavish, meticulously choreographed parades designed to show off the nation's military might, such as the October 2010 display when he introduced his son and anointed successor to the world.

"A display of weapons may also be a way to demonstrate that the military remains loyal to the succession process," said Ahn Chan-il of the World Institute for North Korea Studies in South Korea. "There may even be a small-scale military parade involving airplanes."

Like his father was in 1994, Kim Jong Un has appeared stoic in a dark blue Mao-style suit in appearances at Kim Jong Il's bier ? but so far without the black armband that Kim Jong Il wore at the funeral to mark him as head mourner.

Kim Jong Un would have been a boy when his grandfather died, and there's no sign of the young Kim in footage of the 1994 funeral. But it's clear from footage of him during the mourning period for his father that he is well-schooled in the behavior expected as heir to the nation's leader.

The 1994 funeral is likely to be the template for this week's events.

At the time, details about the funeral in a country largely isolated from the West were shrouded in mystery, revealed only after state TV aired segments of the events in what was the world's best glimpse of the hidden communist nation.

Most foreigners aside from those living in North Korea were shut out, and the same is expected this week, though Rev. Moon Hyung-jin, an American citizen and son of Seoul-based Unification Church founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon, is planning to attend Wednesday's funeral, according to church officials. The Moon family has business ties with the North.

In 1994, the formation of the funeral committee was examined closely for signs of who was expected to rise in power in the post-Kim Il Sung era; observers likewise dissected the 232 names on last week's list.

When Kim Il Sung died, it was unclear whether North Korea would hew to traditional Korean mourning rites or follow rituals seen elsewhere in the communist world.

According to the official account, what appeared to the world as North Korean ritual was a highly personal response by Kim Jong Il, who is credited by his official biography with choreographing every detail of his father's funeral.

The biography says it was the son who proposed turning the massive assembly hall where his father worked for 20 years into a public place of mourning ? and then, a year later, into a permanent shrine where Kim Il Sung's embalmed body still lies.

Kim Jong Il's biography also gives him credit for breaking tradition by picking a smiling image of the late president taken in 1986 instead of the somber image typical for Korean funerals.

To this day, the portraits that hang in every building and on the lapels of nearly all North Koreans show a smiling Kim Il Sung. And since Kim Jong Il died, pictures erected at mourning sites across the nation show him beaming as well.

The official biography says Kim Jong Il picked one of his father's neckties for the body and ordered the portrait bedecked with magnolias, the national flower, not traditional black ribbon.

After the closed-door funeral, Kim was seen in the footage leaving the hall and standing on a dais sheathed in red, surveying the scene alongside top party and military officials as the black Lincoln Continental bearing his father's body departs the palace grounds to a military salute.

A car with the massive portrait ringed with white magnolias led the motorcade, followed by the hearse bearing the president's body, and then a phalanx of police in white helmets riding on motorcycles in a "V'' formation.

Kim Jong Il and other members of the funeral committee followed slowly in sedans. Soldiers in jeeps flanked the procession.

North Koreans lined the streets and filled the air with theatrical wails, many of the women in traditional black dresses and with white mourning ribbons affixed to their hair.

The procession reached the central square that bears Kim Il Sung's name, where hundreds of thousands of mourners were waiting. The hearse circled the square before returning to the assembly hall for a gun salute.

A similar procession may be in the works for Wednesday, but with the late leader's trademark red "kimjongilia" begonias replacing the magnolias, and snow and frost as a backdrop.

State media said a national memorial service for Kim Jong Il would start midday Thursday and include an artillery salute, three minutes of silence and locomotives and vessels blowing their sirens.

Footage Tuesday from Associated Press Television News in Pyongyang showed long lines of people carrying wreaths and bunches of white flowers toward a building with a huge picture of a smiling Kim Jong Il on its facade. They piled flowers beneath the photo, bowing and crying as they stood in the cold. Some pledged their loyalty to Kim Jong Un. Light traffic flowed through Pyongyang's streets, people drinking hot tea at makeshift tents set up on the sidewalks.

The funeral for Kim Jong Il, who made it state policy to revere his father as North Korea's "eternal" president, will likely be similar to Kim Il Sung's but probably not outdo it, said Prof. Jeong Jin-gook of the Daejeon Health Sciences College in South Korea.

"Kim Il Sung still remains the most respected among North Koreans," he said.

Kim Jong Il may have put his personal stamp on his father's funeral, but so far Kim Jong Un is sticking to tradition. From the blue suit to the solemn bows before the begonia-bedecked bier, the young leader-in-waiting has closely followed his father's cues.

Still, he is credited with one directive that seems likely fodder for his official biography: According to state media, he instructed the city to keep mourners lined up in subzero temperatures warm with hot water and tea.


Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim and Sam Kim in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report. Follow Jean H. Lee at

Associated Press


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IGN Reviews ? NCAA Football 12 Game Review

December 26, 2011 by admin?

IGN gives its video review of the new college football game NCAA Football 12. What?s the final score on the latest university pigskin title by EA Sports? IGN?s YouTube is just a taste of our content. Get more: Want this week?s top videos? Sign up


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Monday, December 26, 2011

Google Plays Hobbit Joke On Map Users

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4:45pm UK, Thursday December 22, 2011

Users who ask for walking directions from the Shire, where the Hobbits live in J.R.R. Tolkien's novels, to Mordor, home of Sauron, are warned: "Use caution - one does not simply walk into Mordor."

The line is spoken by Boromir in The Lord of the Rings and quickly spread around the internet some years ago, adapted in various in-joke pictures.

The joke comes as the trailer for the new film adaptation of The Hobbit is launched, with the film due to be released next year.


The joke is one of many Google regularly hide on their web pages

Google's websites are well-known for containing 'Easter eggs' - jokes hidden by software engineers in pages for users to discover.

Earlier this week, Google users discovered a festive trick on their screens, activated by searching for 'let it snow' in Firefox or Chrome browsers.

The screen then fills up with snow and gradually becomes completely white, until the defrost button is hit.


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Flagler County man goes off on girlfriend with baseball bat

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Source: --- Saturday, December 24, 2011
A Palm Coast man is charged with beating his girlfriend with a Baseball bat Christmas Eve morning at their home. The 38-year-old victim, whose name wasn?t released, sustained multiple injuries in the beating about 3:30 a.m. at their Brian Lane home. Suffering a possible broken nose and fractured hand, she was taken to Flagler Hospital, the Flagler County Sheriff?s Office said. Deputies charged her boyfriend, James Brannigan Jr., 39, with aggravated battery with a weapon, violating pre-trial release and a no-contact restraining order, according to Sheriff?s Office records. read more ...


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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Study on the Status of the Communications Card Market ...

?Abstract? With the rapid development of China?s telecommunications industry , communications card as a mature communication products, because of its flexibility and convenience is adored by consumers. But because of the same quality of the product in the market, intense competition, and the low profits, the card faces with gradually recession and the situation of abandonment by the operator. In this paper, breaking the past set thinking, to capture the business opportunities in market segments, to focus on consumers? differentiation, personalized communications needs of consumers and to study on the personality of consumer behavior, and on the basis of these targeted, from the consumers immediate desire new business opportunities are captured.Focus is on grasp of the real and stimulated potential demand of consumer communications business.Based on the research of operational status communications card market, I analyse the current communication features of the card products, marketing problems and propose ?three new strategy?: The characteristics of the crowd and issued with cards; development of e-cards, expanding channels, creating new Business model; development of derivative features, and promoting product innovation of this development ideas. I put forward a joint enterprise to develop cards for the orientation, development of Internet marketing solutions for e-cards, and the overall market capacity, market competition situation, consumer demand, technology and profitability in a more objective and rational judgement ?of three new Strategy, ? of the feasibility and market receipts,to help the communication card business development of the communications operators.This paper is divided into six parts. The first part of introduction is about the background to the study significance and research methods; second part is about the communications card market survey and research, as the full basis of the paper; the third part of communication Cards marketing problems facing the market, raises the issue of marketing on their own aggregate; fourth part finds the solution for the problem; the fifth part focuses and details communication card products innovation and the development of innovative channels; the sixth part, summed up the conclusions of the article and the inadequacy of the study.

Title: Study on the Status of the Communications Card Market
Category: Management economics
Filename: Study on the Status of the Communications Card Market.pdf
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[OOC] Plauge: Requiem

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Guard Troops Patrolling Border Will Be Cut to 300

The U.S. Department of Defense will drastically reduce the number of National Guard troops currently assisting U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents patrol the border from 1,200 to 300 and replace them with manned aircraft, federal officials said Tuesday.

Federal authorities will replace the troops with several OH-58 and UH-72 helicopters and RC-26 airplanes, which will focus on detection and monitoring -- not enforcement -- and will greatly increase the troops' viewing of the surveillance area.

"We are basically going from boots on the ground to boots in the air," U.S. Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner David V. Aguilar said.

Officials said they couldn't provide the number of aircraft or information on the exact location of where they will be situated because of security concerns. However, Border Patrol Chief Michael J. Fisher said that many will be stationed in Arizona and South Texas.

Currently, there are 1,200 troops spread across the border. In the El Paso-Las Cruces region, about 82 members of the New Mexico National Guard have been watching for undocumented immigrants and drug smugglers in the desert next to the Mexican border since August.

Aguilar said the withdrawal will begin in January and is scheduled to conclude in late March.

Fisher said the shift will make border surveillance more efficient.

"This is a good news story. CBP continues to increase its own capacity to secure the country's border in less costly ways," he said.

National Guard troops have been stationed along the border since the summer of 2010 to help CBP prevent illegal border crossings and drug shipments while the Department of Homeland Security increases its own manpower, infrastructure and technology.

According to Homeland Security spokesman Matthew Chandler, National Guard Soldiers have contributed to make 27,875 apprehensions and helped seize 99,342 pounds of marijuana.

The troops have not engaged in direct law enforcement activities. Rather, Aguilar said they have helped CBP with surveillance and construction of roads, buildings and fences.

"As the Border Patrol has been doubled in size, augmented with technology, infrastructure and personnel, DoD was attached to the hip with us," Aguilar said.

U.S. Rep. Sylvestre Reyes, D-Texas, supported the drawdown, saying that having National Guard troops on the border was not cost effective.

"I have expressed my desire that any future partnerships between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense should focus less on boots on the ground and more on proven, practical strategies that wisely use limited government resources to provide support to our existing Border Patrol agents," Reyes said in a statement.

Some immigration advocacy groups also applauded the strategy shift.

Brittney Nystrom, director of policy and legal affairs at the National Immigration Forum, said the drawdown was positive since the federal government is under pressure to control spending.

"With this announcement, DHS and DoD are saying they are trying to be more conscientious about their strategy moving forward," Nystrom said. "It's an attempt to find a balance between a real need for security and the reactions of politicians and other people who want to look tough on the border."


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James Franco Will Portray Hugh Hefner In Biopic

Actor James Franco is in talks to portray a young Hugh Hefner in an upcoming biopic about porn legend Linda Lovelace. Mamma Mia! star Amanda Seyfried has replaced Kate Hudson to portray the adult actress-turned-porn activist in the forthcoming project, opposite Peter Sarsgaard as Lovelace’s husband Chuck Traynor. Oscar nominee Franco was previously linked to [...]


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Friday, December 23, 2011

Video: President Obama goes Xmas shopping (cbsnews)

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Chinese Laundry: Up to 40% off Boots

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

'Hobbit' trailer tantalizes fans

Warner Bros.

By Gael Fashingbauer Cooper

Showing Tolkien fans "The Hobbit" trailer is like dangling a choice Christmas present in front of their eyes for two minutes and thirty seconds and then snatching it away for another year.

We're going back to Middle Earth, and it's gorgeous once again. Fans are already raving about the trailer's sneak peek back into the magical world, even though the movie won't hit theaters until Dec. 14, 2012.

It may be blasphemy, but as a reader, I preferred "The Hobbit" to "Lord of the Rings." Maybe it was because I read it as a kid and it seems to be the simpler, lighter, more kid-friendly read. But that's not meant to dismiss it?--?it's every bit as compelling a tale and as fascinating a world, and the movie looks to satisfy and delight fans just like the "LOTR"?trilogy did.

What do you think of the trailer? Tell us in the comments.


Related content:



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Monday, December 19, 2011

Madison finance committee moves meeting time |

MADISON, Alabama

-- The Madison City Council finance committee has moved its meeting to Monday at 6 p.m. at the Madison Municipal Complex, 100 Hughes Road.

The finance committee normally meets at 5:30 p.m. before City Council meetings at 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Monday of the month. But because of the Madison Utility Board of Directors holding its monthly meeting at 5 p.m. at the Madison Municipal Complex Monday, the council moved its meeting to 7 p.m. That will allow council members Steve Haraway and Larry Vannoy, both on the Madison Utilities board, to attend both meetings.

Vannoy is also chair of the finance committee.

For more information, visit


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Sunday, December 18, 2011

'Batman' star Bale tries to visit China activist (AP)

BEIJING ? "Batman" star Christian Bale, in the midst of promoting a film he made in China that some critics have called propaganda, was physically stopped by government-backed guards from visiting a blind activist living under house arrest ? with a CNN crew in tow to record the scuffle.

CNN posted footage of the confrontation on its website Friday.

The run-in and publicity is likely to cause discomfort in China's government-backed film industry, which hopes Bale's movie "The Flowers of War" will be a creative success at home and abroad. The star's actions are sure to focus attention on the plight of Chen Guangcheng, guarded around the clock by burly, aggressive security men who have blocked dozens of reporters and fellow activists trying to see him in the past.

Bale was to leave China on Friday and his representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

Bale, who won a best supporting actor Oscar for last year's "The Fighter," traveled Thursday with a crew from CNN to the village in eastern China where Chen, the blind lawyer, lives with his family in complete isolation.

They were stopped at the entrance to Dongshigu village in Shandong province by unidentified men.

The video footage shows Bale asking to see Chen, with a CNN producer providing interpretation, but being ordered by one of the guards to leave. He then asked why he was unable to pass through. The guards responded by trying to grab or punch a small video camera Bale was carrying.

"What I really wanted to do was to meet the man, shake his hand and say what an inspiration he is," Bale was quoted as saying by CNN.

Chen's case has been raised publicly by U.S. lawmakers and diplomats, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, all to no response from China.

CNN said Bale first learned of Chen from news reports when he was in China filming "The Flowers of War," China's official submission this year for best foreign language film Oscar.

"Chen Guangcheng is a newsworthy figure ... and as such it is in the interest of CNN's global viewers to hear from him," CNN said in a statement. "Mr. Bale reached out to CNN and invited us to join him on his journey to visit Chen."

Chen, a self-taught lawyer who was blinded by a fever in infancy, angered authorities after documenting forced late-term abortions and sterilizations and other abuses by overzealous authorities trying to meet population control goals in his rural community. He was imprisoned for allegedly instigating an attack on government offices and organizing a group of people to disrupt traffic, charges his supporters say were fabricated.

Although now officially free under the law, he has been confined to his home in the village eight hours' drive from Beijing and subjected to periodic beatings and other abuse, activists say.

While Bale's visit focuses new attention on Chen's case, CNN's role raises questions about activism and advocacy among reporters, said David Bandurski, editor of the China Media Project website at the University of Hong Kong.

"It made me instantly uncomfortable, wondering how it all came together. It raises questions about where the lines are drawn," Bandurski said.

The incident also drew strong interest ? most of it highly positive ? on social networking sites such as Twitter and its Chinese equivalent, Weibo.

Having their star's name pinging across the Internet in connection with such a politically sensitive subject puts promoters of "The Flowers of War" in a bind. The film opens in China on Friday and next week in the United States.

Directed by the renowned Zhang Yimou, it is also the most expensive Chinese movie ever made, at $94 million, some of which came from the state-owned Bank of China.

The movie centers on the 1937 sacking of the eastern city of Nanjing, a central event in China's pre-revolutionary "century of humiliation" and has been described by some critics as hewing to official propaganda portraying Chinese as heroic victims and Japanese as one-dimensional cartoon villains.

While China has the world's third-largest film industry ? both in box office and output ? it has made relatively little global impact. Story lines are often heavily influenced by the ruling Communist Party, whose culture commissars must approve scripts and have final say over whether a film gets released.


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Panetta: Libya needs time to control militias (AP)

ANKARA, Turkey ? The U.S. needs to give Libya's leaders more time to gain control of the militias that overthrew Moammar Gadhafi before determining how to help the fledgling government, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Friday, a day ahead of his historic visit to Tripoli.

While eager to encourage a new democracy that emerged from Libya's Arab Spring revolution, the U.S. is wary of appearing as trying to exert too much influence after an eight-month civil war.

At the same time, however, leaders in the U.S. and elsewhere worry about how well the newly formed National Transitional Council can resolve clashes between militia groups in the North African nation.

"The last thing you want to do is to try to impose something on a country that has just gone through what the Libyans have gone through," said Panetta, set to become the first U.S. defense chief to visit Libya.

"They've earned the right to try to determine their future. They've earned the right to try to work their way through the issues that they're going to have to confront," he said.

Ahead of Panetta's visit, the Obama administration announced it had lifted sanctions the U.S. imposed on Libya in February to choke off the Gadhafi regime's funds while it was violent suppressing peaceful protests. The U.S. at the time blocked some $37 billion in Libyan assets, and a White House statement said Friday's action "unfreezes all government and central bank funds within U.S. jurisdiction, with limited exceptions."

Recovery of the assets "will allow the Libyan government to access most of its worldwide holdings and will help the new government oversee the country's transition and reconstruction in a responsible manner," the White House said.

But the continuing violence in Libya, including recent skirmishes between revolutionary fighters and national army troops near Tripoli's airport, reflects the difficulties that Libya's leaders face as they try to forge an army, integrating some of the militias and disarming the rest.

Officials acknowledge that process could take months, and that they can't force the militias to go along.

Panetta told reporters Friday that his visit to the Libyan capital will give him a better sense of the situation and allow him to pay tribute to the people for bringing down Gadhafi and trying to establish a democratic government.

"It seems to me they are working through some very difficult issues to try to bring that country together," said Panetta. "It's not going to be easy. This is not a country that has a tradition of democratic institutions and representative government. This is going to take some work "

But he said he has seen indications that the Libyans are making progress.

"I think that any country like Libya that was able to do what they did and show the courage that they did in making the changes that took place there ? I'm confident that ultimately they're going to be able to succeed in putting a democracy together," he said.

Panetta said the U.S. is prepared to provide Libya any assistance it needs.

By traveling to Libya, however, Panetta was highlighting the different approaches that the U.S. and other countries are taking with respect to rebellions against tyrannical leaders.

The U.S. and NATO provided months of military power and assistance to the Libyan rebels, but officials have made it clear they do not intend to do the same in Syria despite the furor over President Bashar Assad's crackdown on pro-reform demonstrators.

Panetta, who met with Turkish officials Friday, said they did not discuss any specific steps to increase pressure on Assad to step down.

But they talked about the need to work together with other nations to "get Assad to do the right thing."

At some point, he said, he believes that the type of uprisings that happened in Libya and elsewhere across the Middle East will take place in Syria.


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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Miami-Dade Unemployment Falls To 9.4 Percent

Miami-Dade?s unemployment rate fell below 10 percent in November to 9.4 percent, down signficantly from October?s 10.7 percent rate, and down 3.2 percent from a year ago, according to a report released Friday by Florida?s Department of Economic Opportunity.

Read the whole story

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How Apple's Patent Lawsuits Are Backfiring (ContributorNetwork)

The late Steve Jobs vowed to "destroy" Android, Google's open-source operating system for smartphones and tablets, according to biographer Walter Isaacson. He was reportedly willing to "go thermonuclear war on this" and "spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank," in order to bring Android down.

Besides the iPhone and iPad -- the latter of which has consistently beaten all Android tablets put together as far as sales go -- Apple's primary weapon in its ongoing war against Android has been patent lawsuits against Android device manufacturers. Its first suit was filed in March 2010, just after the Nexus One was released, and since then it has won import bans and sales injunctions against Android devices like the Galaxy Tab (most of which have since been reversed).

Things haven't been one-sided for Apple, though, and it's facing some unintended consequences from its patent lawsuits. Here are a couple of them:

They showed everyone how to make a non-infringing tablet

The cornerstone of Apple's case against Samsung was that Samsung's Galaxy Tab resembled the iPad very closely. Apple was shown to have doctored the photos it submitted as evidence, but many of Samsung's devices nonetheless bear such an uncanny resemblance to Apple products that photos of the two have become the stuff of Reddit parody.

At one point in a recent lawsuit, however, Apple commissioned a private inventor to submit a document explaining its competitors' options for making a tablet that Apple won't sue them over. The suggestions included "shapes that are not rectangular with four flat sides," and "front surfaces that are not completely flat or clear," or that have a "cluttered appearance."

Because of this, writers like Devin Coldewey of TechCrunch have expressed disbelief, calling the iPad "the tablet's Platonic form." Others have parodied Apple's suggestions by creating absurd concept designs of non-infringing tablets, or noting that the "Pyramid" tablet from the comedy television series The Office would pass Apple's test.

It increased customer awareness of Android tablets

As John Gruber of Daring Fireball points out: "The overwhelming majority of the media coverage I've seen for the Galaxy Tab is related to Apple's various lawsuits. ... I don't think there can be any argument that it's raised overall awareness that the Galaxy Tabs even exist."

The article that he linked to quoted a Samsung exec as saying that " the media awareness certainly made the Galaxy Tab 10.1 a household name," especially compared to how much it would have cost to market the tablet. He also said that Samsung might not be able to import enough Galaxy Tabs to meet local demand in Australia.

Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.


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