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  • Report: Foreign Troops Begin to Spread Near the Villages of Al-Mafraq Update 1: Today at 12:00 P.M. we contacted DOD Press Office via two voicemail messages and one e-mail asking for comment(s) on this story. As of 6:00 P.M. EST we have not heard back. Update 2: Another journalist with a major mainstream media publication was told by his editors that there would be no coverage or follow up on these developments
  • By Brian Bennett, Washington Bureau December 10, 2011, 6:12 p.m. Reporting from Washington Armed with a search warrant, Nelson County Sheriff Kelly Janke went looking for six missing cows on the Brossart family farm in the early evening of June 23. Three men brandishing rifles chased him off, he said. Janke knew the gunmen could be anywhere on the 3,000-acre spread in eastern North Dakota. Fearful of an armed standoff, he called in reinforcements from the state Highway Patrol, a regional SWAT team, a bomb squad, ambulances and deputy sheriffs from three other counties. He also called in a Predator B drone.
  • ASHINGTON, Nov. 8, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- In the run-up to the international climate negotiations in Durban later this month, China has responded to efforts to ban the trading of widely discredited HFC-23 offsets by threatening to release huge amounts of the potent industrial chemical into the atmosphere unless other nations pay what amounts to a climate ransom. China's threat comes after the European Union and other nations moved to ban HFC-23 credits from internal carbon markets in recognition of the perverse incentives created by these credits under the UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The vast amounts paid for HFC-23 offsets have led factories in China and elsewhere to manufacture far more HCFC-22 and its HFC-23 by-product than necessary, just to maximize the amounts paid to destroy HFC-23 through the UN-backed carbon trading scheme. In a shocking attempt to blackmail the international community, Xie Fei, revenue management director at the China Clean Development Mechanism Fund, threatened: "If there's no trading of [HFC-23] credits, they'll stop incinerating the gases" and vent them directly into the atmosphere. Speaking at the Carbon Forum Asia in Singapore last week, Xie Fei claimed he spoke for "almost all the big Chinese producers of HFCs who "can't bear the cost" and maintain that "they'll lose competitiveness". China's claim belies the fact that HFC-23 can be destroyed for just 0.20 cents per CO2e tonne. The destruction of one CO2e tonne generates one Certified Emission Reduction (CER) under the CDM, which historically has been sold on carbon markets at an average price of $18 -- 70 times the actual cost of destroying HFC-23. Because of these vast profits, China has repeatedly rejected attempts to destroy HFC-23 emissions through the Montreal Protocol. At the 2009 and 2010 Meetings of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, China blocked progress of a North American proposal to pay the actual costs of destroying HFC-23 emissions at plants not currently covered by the CDM, which account for over half of developing country HFC-23 production. HFC-23 is produced as an unintentional by-product of the refrigerant HCFC-22, itself a powerful greenhouse gas and ozone depleting substance. This means that the quantity of HFC-23 produced is directly related to the production of HCFC-22. HFC-23 is an important contributor to climate change because of its incredibly high 100-year global warming potential (GWP) of 14,800. "Attempting to force countries into squandering billions on fake offsets that actually increase production of greenhouse gases is extortion," said Samuel LaBudde, Senior Atmospheric Campaigner with the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). "China is not the victim here, and a world order responsive to climate change cannot be predicated on unrepentant greed." With a 65 per cent tax on CDM projects, the Chinese Government has already received $1.3 billion -- enough to destroy all the HFC-23 it produces for decades to come. Despite this, China still vents at least as much HFC-23 as it destroys, since about half of its HCFC-22 production is ineligible for CDM funding. Xie Fei's statement makes it clear that preventing emissions is not nearly as important for China as continuing the enormous CDM revenues that benefit its government and industry alike. "Carbon offsets derived from HFC-23 crediting only serve to subsidize the production of greenhouse gases and have no place in the future of carbon markets," said Mark Roberts, International Policy Advisor for EIA. "If China is genuinely concerned about climate change rather than profiting from a fatally flawed system, it will stop blocking efforts to control HFC-23 emissions and stop threatening to hold global climate hostage to its unrealistic demands." In the week before the Durban climate talks, the Montreal Protocol will again consider the proposal to control non-CDM HFC-23 emissions. Similarly, the CDM Executive Board will also convene to discuss revisions to the HFC-23 methodology, based on recommendations from its Methodologies Panel that recognize at least two-thirds of the HFC-23 credits issued to be fraudulent. To date, China has blocked moves in both forums. The CDM Executive Board must also decide whether to renew existing contracts for HFC-23 destruction and allow crediting for facilities not covered by the CDM, considerations that are strongly opposed by the international NGO community. "The minimal cost of capture and destruction of HFC-23 should be borne by the HCFC-22 producers as the price of responsible business practice," said Clare Perry, Senior Campaigner at EIA. "HFC-23 CDM projects have cost European taxpayers untold millions, and allowed European industries to increase their emissions while subsidizing chemical producers in China to produce yet more greenhouse gases. These dirty credits should be discontinued immediately." China has failed to use any of the windfall revenues from the sale of HFC-23 credits to address emissions of HFC-23 at Chinese plants not covered by the CDM. Virtually every manufacturer of HCFC-22 in the world outside of China or not covered by the CDM voluntarily captures and destroys HFC-23 by-product as standard business practice, including manufacturers in the EU and the US. More information and EIA reports on HFC-23, the CDM, Montreal Protocol and related issues can be found at http://www.eia-global.org/global_climate/global_climate_reports.html Contact: Samuel LaBudde at samlabudde@eia-global.org or call +1 202 632 7174- Clare Perry at clareperry@eia-international.org or call +34 664348821- Mark Roberts at markroberts@eia-global.org or +1 978 298 5705 SOURCE Environmental Investigation Agency
  • Herman Cain Sings - "Imagine (There's no Pizza)"
  • Perhaps the idea of spy drones already makes your nervous. Maybe youre uncomfortable with the notion of an unblinking, robotic eye in the sky that can watch your every move. If so, you may want to click away now. Because if the Army has its way, drones wont just be able to look at what you do. Theyll be able to recognize your face and track you, based on how you look. If the military machines assemble enough information, they might just be able to peer into your heart.
  • After 33 years of piquant and sometimes irascible commentary, 92-year-old Andy Rooney will surrender his regular gig on CBS' legendary newsmagazine "60 Minutes" this weekend.
  • WASHINGTONIraq has finalized a deal to buy advanced U.S. fighter jets, the first step toward building a modern postwar air force, officials said. A Lockheed Martin F-6 Fighting Falcon performs during a demonstration flight at the 49th Paris Air Show at le Bourget airport in June 2011. .Iraq has yet to publicly announce completion of the deal to buy 18 F-16s, but officials in Washington said an initial payment of $1.5 billion has been received. The deal is considered sensitive in Iraq, and the Pentagon and State Department have declined to comment until Baghdad makes a formal announcement. Iraq had plans to buy the planes earlier this year, but froze them for a time following the Arab Spring protests across the region. The decision by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to go forward with the purchase followed an unexpected surge in government oil revenue, officials said. more at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204422404576594900420928050.html#printMode
  • Fast running out of money just two years after winning a half-billion dollars in federal loan guarantees, solar panel maker Solyndra LLC this spring looked overseas to India in hopes of finding new business to turn the company around. Solyndra, which only months earlier had hosted President Obama during a tour of its headquarters, hired the Rice Hadley Group, a consulting firm founded by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Formed by Ms. Rice and former National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley, the firm performed an analysis of the solar market in India for Solyndra, later helping the company reach out to potential business contacts in the country. We finished the assignment in May and the relationship ended, said Anja Manuel, a partner at Rice Hadley and special assistant to the under secretary for political affairs in the Bush administration under Ms. Rice. If Solyndra won any business in India, it wasnt enough. The company filed for bankruptcy this month, laying off more than 1,000 employees. Days later, the company was raided by the FBI. **FILE** Condoleezza Rice (Associated Press)But Solyndras hiring of the Rice Hadley Group does show that even as its finances were growing increasingly dire, the company continued spending on well-connected consultants and lobbyists as it sought to convince politicians and potential customers alike that its prospects were bright. Six weeks before Solyndra announced it was broke, the company hired the Glover Park Group, a Washington lobbying firm founded by former Clinton administration officials, to help arrange meetings between company officials and members of Congress. In addition to its team of in-house lobbyists, Solyndra hired three other Washington lobbying firms in recent years: McAllister & Quinn, Washington Tax Group and McBee Strategic Consulting. McAllister & Quinn filed papers last week terminating its ties to Solyndra. Others are likely to follow. Ms. Rices firm didnt do any lobbying for Solyndra, nor is it registered to lobby. Ms. Manuel termed the assignment for the solar company small, and bankruptcy records do not indicate how much money the solar company paid to the Rice Hadley Group. It was not substantial, she said when asked how much money Solyndra paid to Rice Hadley. She confirmed the firms hiring by Solyndra on Monday in response to an inquiry from The Washington Times about the firm being listed among the creditors in Solyndras bankruptcy filing. Ms. Manuel said she was unclear why Rice Hadley Group was listed as a creditor, however. She said the firm had been paid what it was owed. She also said Rice Hadley was not involved in matters surrounding Solyndras half-billion dollars in federal loans, or a subsequent restructuring of the loans authorized by the Department of Energy. The Times also reported Monday that another creditor listed in the bankruptcy case, the California Democratic Party, also didnt know why it had appeared in the bankruptcy filings. Meanwhile, Solyndras attorneys are scheduled to appear in court Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. The company has asked for permission to auction off its assets. Saying it was operating under intense public and private pressure, company also said in court papers filed Tuesday that it was cooperating with the FBI investigation. It was a quick collapse for a company that over the past two years had been hailed by President Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and others. But behind the scenes, the company was burning through a $535 loan guarantee package it won in 2009 from the Department of Energy. In November 2010, the company announced layoffs of about 180 employees. The worsening finances prompted concern among White House officials about how Solyndras collapse would look politically. Given the PR and policy attention has received since 2009, the optics of a Solyndra default will be bad whenever it occurs, a Jan. 31, 2011 email between staffers at the Office of Management and Budget reads, a copy of which was released this month by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. In addition, the timing will likely coincide with the 2012 campaign season heating up, whereas a default today could be put in the context of good government because the Administration would be limiting further taxpayer exposure By February, the company announced it had raised $75 million in new financing through a restructuring, but the agreement allowed those investors to be first in line before taxpayers in case of a potential default. Solyndras top two executives appeared before a House committee last week, but neither answered questions and instead invoked their rights under the Fifth Amendment.
  • Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, through his firm Old Rhodes Holdings LLC, and O’Brien’s Response Management (O’Brien’s), a wholly owned subsidiary of SEACOR Holdings Inc. (NYSE: CKH), today announced a strategic partnership to facilitate O’Brien’s growth into new markets. O’Brien’s provides emergency planning, disaster response, preparedness consulting, crisis communications and regulatory compliance services to corporations and governments. “We are pleased to enter into this partnership with one of the leading response organizations in the United States, backed by SEACOR’s global network,” said Governor Bush. “Together we look forward to helping a broader array of organizations and communities become more resilient through preparation, response, communication and recovery.” “We have a long history in the oil and gas, marine and industrial sectors and believe there are significant opportunities to diversify our existing products and services into new markets,” said Charles Fabrikant, executive chairman of SEACOR Holdings. “O’Brien’s will also continue our international expansion in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and particularly Asia.” Fabrikant added. “Governor Bush has unparalleled experience in crisis management, as he helped guide Florida through some of the most significant natural disasters in its history. He will be integral to our ongoing growth initiatives and we welcome him to the team.”
  • Stephen Leeb of Leeb Capital Management tells The Deal Pipeline why he thinks Carlyle Group filed for a $100 million IPO Wednesday amidst market swings and declining confidence in banks
  • The large airplane leasing unit of bailed-out insurer American International Group Inc. filed for an initial public offering on Friday, aiming to spin off into a separate company. ILFC Holdings Inc., a newly formed holding company that is a subsidiary of AIG, said in a regulatory filing it will own 100 percent of International Lease Finance Corp. before the offering takes place. AIG, which bought ILFC in 1990, will receive the proceeds of the stock sale. The filing listed a figure of $100 million to be raised in the sale but that number can change as plans solidify for the actual IPO. The New York-based insurer has been selling off subsidiaries to raise money to pay back taxpayers portions of the $182 billion bailout package it received from the U.S. government during the financial crisis that began in 2008. The IPO filing states the Treasury Department still owns about 77 percent of AIG's common stock. ILFC has seen a number of changes in the past two years, including a management shake-up that saw former Airbus executive Henri Courpron named president and chief executive in May 2010 and other top executives replaced. It has raised more than $14 billion by selling new debt, extended bank loans and sold some of its aircraft. The company leases more than 1,000 aircraft to airlines and other customers in more than 80 countries, including AeroMexico, Air France, China Southern Airlines, Emirates Airline and Virgin Atlantic Airways. Last month, it announced plans to acquire airplane engine management unit Aero Turbine Inc., from AerCap Holdings NV for $228 million plus the assumption of about $298.6 million in debt. That deal is expected to close by the end of the year. In midday trading, AIG shares fell 78 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $23.99 as the broader market slipped on concerns about the economy following a weak employment report.
  • MUMBAI -- Ford Motor Co. expects the Asia Pacific region and Africa to make up a third of its global sales by 2020, as robust customer demand and its own expansion drives growth. Kumar Galhotra, Ford's vice president for product development in Asia Pacific and Africa said in an interview that the Detroit-based car maker currently gets about 17% of its global sales from this region, which is focused mainly on India, Australia, China, Thailand and South Africa. "We see tremendous growth potential in Asia Pacific and Africa region in .
  • President Obama is proposing $3 trillion in tax cuts and spending cuts that would slash farm spending by $33 billion over the next decade. The biggest cut to farm spending by far would be in the $4.8 billion in fixed annual payments that now go to grain and cotton farmers. Those payments would be slashed by $3 billion a year. . Taxpayers continue to foot the bill for these payments to farmers who are experiencing record yields and prices; more than 50 percent of direct payments go to farmers with more than $100,000 in income, according to the White House. Iowa alone accounts for nearly 10 percent of the annual payments, the most of any state. Crop insurance and land conservation programs also would be cut under the White House plan. The administration wants to reduce payments to the crop insurance industry $by $5.7 billion over 10 years as well as to raise premiums paid by farmers. Crop insurance is a foundation of our farm safety net . but the program continues to be highly subsidized and costs the taxpayers $8 billion a year to run, the White House said. Conservation programs would be reduced by $2 billion over 10 years by better targeting conservation funding to the most cost-effective and environmentally beneficial programs and practices. Conservation programs would still receive $60 billion over the coming decade, the White House said.
  • The U.S. Senate retained a provision in the Department of Defense appropriations bill for 2012 that would allocate $33 million for civilian infrastructure improvements to support the military buildup on Guam, according to a statement from Delegate Madeleine Bordallo's office. "The funding is critical to addressing social projects outside the fence in response to the buildup and to ensure that our island is prepared for the relocation of Marines," Bordallo said. The Senate will have to debate and pass the bill on the floor and then send it to conference with the House's bill, according to the statement. The House bill, which was passed in May, included the $33 million, however the money was almost lost during cuts in the Senate. Gov. Eddie Calvo sent a letter in August to Sens. Carl Levin and John McCain asking them to help restore the infrastructure money. About $15 million of the money is supposed to fund a cultural repository and another $8 million to pay for a mental health facility, according to Pacific Sunday News files. The repository, which would be 20,000 square feet, is to be a solution to concerns that artifacts uncovered during buildup projects won't be preserved. The mental health facility will help military veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, Calvo wrote in his letter. As the military population grows, the facility will be more crucial, he wrote.
  • September 7, 2011 — President Obama appointed Philip Zelikow, associate dean for graduate academic programs in the University of Virginia's Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, to serve on the President's Intelligence Advisory Board, the White House announced Tuesday. Zelikow, White Burkett Miller Professor of History, will remain with the University while serving on the board, which serves as an independent source of advice to the president on the intelligence community's effectiveness in meeting the nation's intelligence needs, and on the vigor and insight with which the community plans for the future. "Philip is a valued colleague, exceptional scholar and highly skilled administrator with a distinguished record of service in government and academia," said Meredith Jung-En Woo, dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. "This appointment reflects his and the University's longstanding commitment to education and public service. We're pleased that he will be able to serve the president and our country in this important role while continuing to oversee the College's graduate academic programs as well as our international initiatives and partnerships. His experience on the president's advisory board will only deepen and enrich his work on behalf of the College." Zelikow will serve with 13 others, including former U.S. Senators David Boren and Chuck Hagel, who co-chair the board. "I'm glad to do what I can to help," he said. Zelikow began his career as a trial and appellate lawyer in Texas, and is a former career diplomat whose posts overseas and in Washington include service on the National Security Council staff of President George H.W. Bush. His books include "Germany Unified and Europe Transformed" (written with former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice), "The Kennedy Tapes" (with Ernest May), and "Essence of Decision" (with Graham Allison). In recent years, Zelikow has taken two public service leaves from academia to return full time to government service: in 2003-04 to direct the 9/11 Commission, and in 2005-07 as counselor of the Department of State, a deputy to Rice. He also advises the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's program in global development and is a consultant to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Zelikow joined the College faculty in 1998 and also served as director of the Miller Center for seven years.
  • Tim Geithner, in his third third annual pilgrimage to Europe, the first two of which concluded with one after another more discredited stress tests (because in Mark-To-Unicorn America they worked sooooo well), has a slightly different message to the locals on how to run their failed monetary union. From Reuters: "Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is likely to urge euro zone finance ministers on Friday to speed up ratification of changes to their bailout fund and consider boosting its size, an EU source said on Tuesday. The official said Washington was worried that the euro zone was not acting fast enough to enhance the EFSF fund and that the stability of the global financial system was at stake. He is likely to tell the ministers that they should consider increasing the size of the EFSF to equip it better for the needs of potential bank recapitalization. "He will probably tell Germany to give up its resistance to an increase in the size of the EFSF," the source said. A well connected fund source told Reuters Geithner had been pushing for a solution for European banks along the lines of the TARP program in the United States, but had not made much headway." Translation: Germany has to immediately throw billions more of taxpayer money into the insolvent bank pit (just like America did), or else Tiny Tim will get angry. Well, if Germany's ruling class was against pledging over 100% of its GDP to bailout Greece and the other insolvents, it will surely be persuaded to commit political suicide after the last man standing from Obama's administration, who still inexplicably has not been fired for gross incompetence (and also prosecuted for tax evasion), has his say. And just as the short selling ban lasted all of one week before Europe's banks tumbled, even a favorable uptake of the idiot's proposals will at best lead to a 24 hour spike in prices followed by what will likely be the terminal tumble into the abyss of failed Keynesian-Bernankian experimentation. From Reuters: The new EFSF powers will only kick in once ratified by euro zone countries. In some, like Germany, Finland, the Netherlands or Slovakia, public opposition to bailouts is making parliaments reluctant to commit more money and power to the fund. "He would point out to countries like Finland, the Netherlands or Slovakia how important it is to overcome their domestic obstacles for the sake of the rest of the world," the official said. "Also, he would tap the Greek finance minister on the shoulder to make him recognize the responsibility of Greece," the official said, amid growing irritation with Athens among international lenders for its repeated failure to fully implement agreed reforms and austerity measures. The ministers will also discuss ways to sustain growth as the euro zone sovereign debt crisis and high oil prices sap global economic progress. The official said that at the latest G7 meeting of finance ministers in Marseille, Geithner put pressure on the Europeans to use their fiscal room for maneuver, especially Germany, when it came to helping the economy. Luckily, Germany doesn't mince its words when dealing with massive idiocy: Berlin pushed back, sources at the meeting said. "The demand would not be new stimulus packages but less restrictive budgetary tightening or cut deficits only over a longer time period than foreseen so far," the official said Sorry Tim: now that nobody, not just Chinese students, takes you seriously your time has officially run out. Please resign while you still have the opportunity to do so on your terms.
  • By Brian Bennett, Reporting from Washington September 12, 2011, 9:10 p.m. Most days, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer David Gasho sends three unmanned spy planes into the skies over the rugged Sonora Desert to hunt for drug smugglers crossing into southern Arizona from Mexico. But in mid-June, as the largest wildfire in Arizona history raged, Gasho sent one of the Predator B drones soaring over residential neighborhoods in search of another threat rogue brush fires. Working from an air-conditioned trailer, his crew aimed an airborne infrared camera through thick smoke and spotted a smoldering blaze. Using coordinates fed from the drone, airborne firefighters then doused the hot spot from helicopters and watched over a secure Internet feed as the heat signature of the flames cooled. It was the latest example of once-secret military hardware finding routine civilian uses. Seven surveillance drones are chiefly used to help patrol America's northern and southern borders. But in recent months, they also have helped state and local authorities fight deadly fires, survey damage from floods and tornadoes, and inspect dams and levees. "People are constantly coming up and wanting a piece of that Predator pie," said Gasho, a former commercial pilot who heads the Customs and Border Protection air operations in Sierra Vista, Ariz., standing beside one of the drones at Libby Army Airfield. Between March and July, for example, dozens of drone missions were flown between Grand Forks, N.D., and Columbia, Mo. The Predators provided first responders and engineers with live video and radar images of widespread flooding along the Soris, Red and Missouri rivers. During the summer, drones flew along the Louisiana Gulf Coast and up the Mississippi River to inspect flood damage and the integrity of levees. Operators studying the drone feeds look for signs that a levee is bulging from pressure of floodwaters, and advise where a swollen river may first overflow its banks. Local officials can then order evacuations and direct help to vulnerable neighborhoods. In addition to three Predators in Arizona, Customs and Border Protection crews operate two drone aircraft out of Grand Forks, N.D., one from Corpus Christi, Texas, and another in Cocoa Beach, Fla. Plans call for adding three more drones later this year. But some see dangers as well as benefits in the arrival of the drones. Privacy experts warn that few guidelines restrict eye-in-the-sky coverage. Jay Stanley, a senior analyst on privacy and technology at the American Civil Liberties Union, says the unregulated use of drone aircraft "leaves the gates wide open for a dramatic increase in surveillance of American life." The drones can detect all manner of activities: from its usual altitude of 20,000 feet, a drone camera can tell if a hiker eight miles away is carrying a backpack. And aviation security experts worry that pilots operating drones from distant locations may not be able to see and avoid other aircraft in busy air corridors. "The problem is safety [and] how to share airspace with manned aircraft," said Michael Barr, who teaches aviation safety at USC. The Homeland Security Department's first drone crashed in 2006. When a console froze during the flight, the ground-based pilot accidentally switched off the fuel line to the engine. "This was one of these instances where he would have been better off not touching it," said Gasho. "He just panicked. Hit the button and threw away a $7-million airplane." The crash missed a residential area by 1,000 feet and brought additional scrutiny from the Federal Aviation Administration. It established a special board to approve airspace for use by unmanned aerial vehicles. In emergencies, like floods and fires, the FAA will fast-track the approval process, said FAA spokesman Les Dorr. "But that doesn't short-circuit any of the safety concerns," Dorr said. "We still evaluate it to make sure it can fly safely without danger to people on the ground or pilots in the air." Indeed, the FAA has yet to approve a request to authorize use of a Customs and Border Protection drone to help firefighters in Texas battle fierce wildfires there last week. The ability to sense and avoid other aircraft is the "big bugaboo with unmanned aircraft that has prevented them from meeting federal regulations to fly," said Bill English, senior air safety investigator at the National Transportation Safety Board. The FAA requires drone pilots to have direct eye contact with the plane during takeoff and landing to avoid collisions with other aircraft. Yet because no pilots are on board and the planes can stay aloft for 20 hours at a time, the drones are well suited for dirty, dull and dangerous work. In April, when ice piled up under bridges and caused the Red River to overflow its banks, a Customs and Border Protection drone flew out of Grand Forks to survey the river around Oslo, Minn. Watching the live footage from the unmanned plane, officials were able to spot a clay levee that appeared about to break and quickly shored it up. Without the live footage, engineers and rescue teams might not have reached the right place in time, officials said. "We would have lost a small town of 50 to 80 homes," said Kim Ketterhagen, the mutual aid coordinator for Minnesota's homeland security and emergency management department
  • Like the phoenix, which is reborn from its ashes, Tony Hayward, the former chief executive of BP, will once again lead an oil company. Vallares Plc, an investment vehicle co-founded by Hayward and Nat Rothschild, confirmed it was buying Genel Energy, a Turkish oil and gas company operating in Iraq, through a reverse merger for $2.1 billion on Wednesday. The acquisition will be made through a reverse merger by which the London-based Vallares will issue $2.1 billion in stock at 10 a share, which will then be used to acquire Genel. The new company will be owned in equal parts by shareholders of both Genel and Vallares, Trade the News reports. Hayward will be once again at the helm of an oil and gas company after the disastrous accident in the Gulf of Mexico in the summer of 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, killing 11 and producing one of the worst natural disasters ever in the region. Hayward, who was replaced by BPs current CEO Bob Dudley, was blamed by many for not doing enough on time to ameliorate the problems. Its payback time for Hayward now, as Forbes Chris Helman pointed out. He will become CEO of the new company, while Rodney Chase, former BP deputy CEO, will act as chairman, leaving Rothschild as nonexecutive director. Genels current CEO, Mehmet Sepil, will become president of the new company. Back in February, Sepil was fined more than $1 million by British regulators for market abuse in relation to investments in Heritage Oil, DealBook reports. (Read Tony Hayward Teams With Nat Rothschild For Post-BP Comeback). Genel is an oil and natural gas producer in the semi autonomous Iraqi region of Kurdistan. For $2.1 billion, Hayward and Rothschild will be getting two world-scale producing oil fields, a major gas condensate discovery, and significant exploration acreage, according to Trade the News. The transaction is still pending approval of the Kurdish Regional Government, expected to come later in September. (Read more about Genel, Iraq, and its dealings with billionaire Jean-Claude Gandur in Trouble Is My Business). Vallares recently raised about $2 billion in a stock listing in London and was looking for strategic acquisitions to begin to grow its empire. Rumors circled that the firm was interested in Russian oil firms Bashneft ($11 billion market cap) and Russneft (about $2 billion market cap), partly owned by Russian billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov through his holding company, AFK Sistema. For some analysis on the deal, and a little more background, check out In Iraq Oil Deal, Tony Hayward And Nat Rothschild Are Now Partners With Sinopec
  • The new Stephen Soderbergh thriller “Contagion” presents a terrifying vision of a global pandemic: a virus that kills millions of people as scientists struggle to find a vaccine. Last week, in connection with the anniversary of the 2001 anthrax attacks, ScienceNOW, the online news site of Science magazine, hosted a discussion with two consultants on the film: Laurie Garrett, who has reported on infectious diseases for 30 years and recently wrote “I Heard the Sirens Scream: How Americans Responded to the 9/11 and Anthrax Attacks,” and W. Ian Lipkin, a neurologist and epidemiologist at Columbia University who has helped identify several new infectious agents. Following are edited and re-ordered excerpts from the conversation. The entire chat can be found at news.sciencemag.org. Tell us about the making of “Contagion.” What’s an example of how you improved its scientific accuracy? W. Ian Lipkin: We designed a plausible virus and showed an accurate laboratory and public-heath response scenario. I coached the actors on how to demonstrate symptoms of disease. The habitat-destruction scene at the end of the film is a powerful reminder of the zoonotic [animal-to-human] origin of many emerging infectious diseases. Laurie Garrett: I was involved at the script level, and there were 30 — yes, 30 — drafts. In countless ways, from brainstorming on plots all the way down to very specific ways a scientist might phrase a comment, I had input, and offered critique. About the virus you helped “create” for the movie: How probable would it be that something like that could happen naturally in the world today? Lipkin: The majority of emerging and re-emerging infectious-disease threats arise in nature; nonetheless, synthetic biology is becoming an increasingly important field to monitor as costs go down and tools become more accessible. Did you face any resistance when you tried to include actual science in the plot? Lipkin: The “Contagionists” were committed to getting it right. There were only a few instances where I might have made other choices — however, none of the choices were poor choices. How did you guys end up consulting for the movie? Lipkin: Because Laurie and I are both photogenic. Are we safer today than we were 10 years ago? Garrett: Yes and no. We are better prepared for bioterrorism, or terrorism generally, because we are less naive, as Americans, and more vigilant. But most of the billions of dollars’ worth of investments in preparedness have left us no closer to safety — mainly because [the World Health Organization] has a $1 billion deficit, CDC just lost $750 million in its budget in a single month, and local health departments are getting hacked right and left. How great is the actual risk of a bioterrorist attack vs. something potentially more impactful over a large area, like a nuclear attack? Garrett: You ask about balancing and weighing risks — radiation, biologicals, chemical, suicide bombers. I don’t think it is actually possible to say which is more likely (or not likely), or which would be more devastating were it to occur. Risk assessment depends on intelligence, and all aspects of terrorism intel are still difficult to assess. In the end, I think “preparedness” is about infrastructure — what is in place, how well people are trained. Would you say that the efforts made over the last 10 years have improved public knowledge about these threats? Or have they made people more fearful? Garrett: I sympathize with your concern that “Contagion” will scare people. When we screened it at the Council on Foreign Relations, there was a lot of grabbing-the-Purell afterwards. But consider what most teens seem to love to watch: slasher monsters, vampire killers, gore and guts. Compared to that stuff, “Contagion” is mild. There is much more science in the movie than people seen dying or suffering. Slasher monsters, vampire killers are not real. “Contagion,” being based on actual science, makes it truly scary. Garrett: Fair enough. I personally think a movie like “An Inconvenient Truth” is scary as hell, because if Al Gore’s analysis is even 20 percent correct, we are facing a terrifying future. Does that mean documentaries and realistic films that present frightening forecasts ought not be made? No. It means that they are terribly important. In light of the ever-present bioterrorism threat, what are your feelings about whether or not the last known stocks of pathogens such as smallpox should be destroyed? Garrett: It has always been the U.S. government position that the smallpox stockpiles should be saved, in case of an attack that might require seed stock for some pharma effort or comparative genotyping. In contrast, many countries have argued that the most likely — if not only likely — source of smallpox for terrorist use would be those very saved stockpiles. I have personally wrestled with this conundrum for years, and have gone back and forth. What more should be done to prevent pandemics? Would you agree that poor disease surveillance in animals and bad animal-health-care capacities in Africa, Asia and other developing countries deserve much more investment? Garrett: Recombination events are always at the top of our concerns — right after zoonosis. “Contagion” depicts both — quite accurately, I think. The real problem is a zoonotic event that then recombines, as constantly occurs with influenza. Fear of vaccines is a massive problem, and you will see the Jude Law character in “Contagion” deal with that. There is more mercury in a single tuna sandwich than all vaccines an individual is likely to take in a lifetime combined. Ian, how does your research intersect with biodefense? Lipkin: We collect and analyze samples from wildlife and people in 40 countries, searching for insights into emerging infectious diseases. We also look at the ways in which prenatal and early-life infections contribute to health and disease. This film was a wonderful affirmation of our work. Garrett: Ian is being a bit humble on this entire interaction here. He played a critical role in “Contagion,” as he does in disease detection every day. The producers and writer Scott Z. Burns spent time in his lab and modeled one of the characters (played by Elliot Gould) after him.
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuC_4mGTs98 Everything you ever wanted to know about the 9/11 conspiracy theory in under 5 minutes
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