Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The week in review: 9/24/11

1. I Guess The Doctor isn't the only one who time travels...

'Invisible ink' al-Qaeda plotter released early from prison

A member of al-Qaeda jailed for ten years in 2008 for his part in a terror plot has been released early from prison.

(L-R): Habib Ahmed and Raingzieb Ahmed
Image 1 of 2
(L-R): Habib Ahmed and Raingzieb Ahmed were charged with membership of a terrorist organisation between January 2002 and September 2006 Photo: PA
Habib Ahmed, 32, was convicted after being caught smuggling code books written in invisible ink into the country.
He was part of a British terror cell, headed by Rangzieb Ahmed, that police believe were planning a massacre in Britain.
But despite being jailed for ten years in December 2008, he has now been released and is living at a bail hostel in Manchester.
During his trial the court heard how Ahmed downloaded a document called “a study of assassination” and looked up bomb-making techniques.
He also checked on the addresses of former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, military bases and senior policemen.
He was caught when British Customs found notebooks containing names and phone numbers of key al Qaeda figures as he flew from Dubai to hand them to Rangzieb.
Ahmed was arrested in 2006 and so had spent five years in prison including time spent on remand.
A spokesman for the National Offender Management Service said: “Serious offenders on licence are subject to strict conditions and controls.”

2. 2011 or 1941....

Sweden: Government will spend $620,000 on protecting Jews

Earlier this year, Hollywood cancelled making a movie in Sweden about Jews, because they estimated that "Sweden [is] a VERY unsafe place for the Jewish community due to the large and increasingly hostile community of Muslims.” During the 2nd World War, Sweden was a safe haven for Jews. Now Jews have to flee Sweden because of Muslim immigrants' hateful and violent anti-Semitism.
Finally, the Swedish government takes action. Not by limiting immigration of Islamic supremacists, but by spending a (ridiculously small) amount of money on the "protection of Jews":
From the Swedish government's official homepage:
Four million kroner (620,000 USD) for security of Jewish minority Press release, September 5th 2011
Department of Work
The Government will spend four million kroner in 2012 on increasing the security and decreasing the vulnerability of the Jewish minority. Research shows that even though tolerance is increasing in society, anti-Semitic views have not decreased to the same extent. The Jewish minority is the subject of anti-Semitic hate crimes and harassment. Even children are harassed in everyday life. Many Jews in Sweden are afraid of openly showing that they belong to the Jewish minority.
3. Snoopy Come HOME!

The Search for Apollo 10's 'Snoopy'

A team of astronomers are planning an epic quest to track down the 42-year-old lunar module that's adrift in the solar system.

By Mark Thompson Mon Sep 19, 2011 05:01 AM ET

  • Apollo 10, launched on May 18, 1969, was the "dry run" before the first moon landing mission, Apollo 11.
  • After carrying out a lunar orbit docking procedure, the Lunar Module (called "Snoopy") was jettisoned.
  • 42 years later, UK-led astronomers now hope to track down Snoopy, which is believed to still be orbiting the sun.
The ascent stage of the Apollo 10 Lunar Module
The ascent stage of the Apollo 10 Lunar Module "Snoopy" is photographed from the Command Module prior to docking in lunar orbit.NASA
It's not often I read about a new project that leaves me undecided whether it's totally crazy or a stroke of genius.
I was recently sent a press release of such a project and, having read it over a few times, I think I'm leaning toward the latter.The idea is the brain child of British amateur astronomer Nick Howes who not only has a passion for hunting for asteroids, but also for the Space Race -- in particular, the Apollo era.
It's perhaps fitting then that Howes' new project combines his two passions and will challenge him and a host of other very prestigious organizations more than they have ever been challenged before.

The Apollo 11 mission that landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon rather overshadowed the phenomenal achievement of the previous mission, Apollo 10. Without the bravery of Thomas Stafford, John Young and Gene Cernan, the moon first landing would never have happened.
Not only did this historic mission do everything Apollo 11 did (except actually land on the moon), it also set records for the fastest human beings have ever flown and the furthest mankind has ever been from Earth.
As part of the mission, Apollo 10's lunar module ascent stage -- affectionately called 'Snoopy' -- was discarded and sent into an orbit around the sun. 42 years later and it's still believed to be out there.

In a celestial version of finding a needle in a haystack, Howes and his team are about to embark on the seemingly impossible: finding Snoopy!
After consulting members of NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Faulkes Telescope team, who are working with the Space Exploration Engineering Corp and astronomers from the Remanzacco Observatory in Italy as well as schools across the UK, the team are under no illusion of how difficult the task will be as Paul Roche, Director of the Faulkes Telescope Project states: "To paraphrase President Kennedy, we are trying these things 'not because they are easy but because they are hard' -- this will be a real test for the hardware and the people involved."
The challenges facing the team are enormous, a fact that isn't lost on Howes. "The key problem which we are taking on is a lack of solid orbital data since 1969," he told Discovery News. "We've enlisted the help of the Space Exploration Engineering Corp who have calculated orbits for Apollo 13 and working closely with people who were on the Apollo mission team in the era will help us identify search coordinates."

"We're expecting a search arc up to 135 million kilometers in size which is a huge amount of space to look at," Howes continues. "We're aware of the scale and magnitude of this challenge but to have the twin Faulkes scopes assist the hunt, along with schools, plus the fact that we'll doubtless turn up many new finds such as comets and asteroids makes this a great science project too."
If the team find a potential suspect, they will turn to detailed spectral analysis to see if the hidden messages in the reflected light can confirm if they have succeeded in finding Snoopy.
The chances of the team finding the lost lunar module are small, and the challenges daunting, but let's not forget that some of the greatest discoveries in scientific history have come from moments like this, when a team of enthusiastic and dedicated people come together to take on the seemingly impossible.
After all, surely that was the very essence and spirit of the Apollo missions over 40 years ago.

4. Around the world in 90 minutes....  

5. The Palestinian "moderates" push for statehood with a "heroic" spokesman.

"Mother of 4 terrorist murderers chosen by the PA to launch statehood campaign," by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik for Palestinian Media Watch, September 18:
The Palestinian Authority chose the mother of 4 terrorist murderers, one of whom killed seven Israeli civilians and attempted to killed twelve others, as the person to launch their statehood campaign with the UN. In a widely publicized event, the PA had Latifa Abu Hmeid lead the procession to the UN offices in Ramallah and to hand over a letter for the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.
The official PA daily reported that she launched the UN campaign last week, and noted that she is the "mother of seven prisoners and of the Shahid (Martyr) Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Hmeid." However, the paper did not mention that 4 of her imprisoned sons are murderers.
Palestinian Media Watch reported last year that Abu Hmeid then had 4 sons in Israeli prisons who were each serving between two and seven life sentences, a total of 18 life sentences. At that time she was in the news because the PA Minister of Prisoners' Affairs, Issa Karake, decided to honor her with an award, "the Plaque of Resoluteness and Giving... inscribed with the names of her four sons who are imprisoned."

The PA minister explained then why the mother of 4 murderers of Israelis deserves such honor:
"It is she who gave birth to the fighters, and she deserves that we bow to her in salute and in honor."
The four sons are serving a total of 18 life sentences for the following crimes:
Nasser Abu Hmeid - 7 life sentences + 50 years - commander in Fatah's military wing the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in Ramallah. Convicted of killing seven Israeli civilians and 12 attempted murders.
Nasr Abu Hmeid - 5 life sentences - Member of terror faction of Fatah, Tanzim, and convicted of involvement in two terror attacks and arms dealing.
Sharif Abu Hmeid - 4 life sentences - a member in one of the brothers' units carrying out terror attacks against civilians and soldiers. Accompanied a suicide bomber to his attack in March 2002.
Muhammad Abu Hmeid - 2 life sentences + 30 years - involvement in terror attacks.
A fifth son, Abd Al-Mun'im Muhammad Yusuf Naji Abu Hmeid, the one referred to as "Martyr," was a member of the military wing of Hamas, Izz A-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, and planned and carried out the ambush and murder of an Israeli intelligence officer.

6. You want ice in that?...

Scientists raise concerns regarding erroneous reporting of Greenland ice cover

Scientists from the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) have raised concerns regarding what they believe are erroneous claims of a 15% decrease in the permanent ice cover of Greenland in just 12 years.
The discrepancy was first brought to their attention via a media release accompanying the publication of the 13th edition of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World stating that the Atlas is ‘turning ‘green’’. Scientists from the Scott Polar Research Institute were extremely puzzled by this statement and the claim that ‘For the first time, the new edition of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World has had to erase 15% of Greenland’s once permanent ice cover – turning an area the size of the United Kingdom and Ireland ‘green’ and ice-free’.  The scientists believe that the figure of a 15% decrease in permanent ice cover since the publication of the previous atlas 12 years is both incorrect and misleading.
     The Scott Polar Research Institute points out that the volume of ice contained in the Greenland is approximately 2.9 million cubic kilometers and the current rate at which ice is lost is roughly 200 cubic kilometers per year. This is on the order of 0.1% by volume over 12 years. Numerous glaciers have retreated over the last decade, capturing the attention of scientists, policymakers and the general public. Because of this retreat, many glaciers are now flowing faster and terrain previously ice-covered is emerging along the coast – but not at the rate suggested in the media release accompanying the new edition of new The Times Atlas. 

7. FACT CHECK: Are rich taxed less than secretaries?

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says he wants to make sure millionaires are taxed at higher rates than their secretaries. The data say they already are.
"Warren Buffett's secretary shouldn't pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. There is no justification for it," Obama said as he announced his deficit-reduction plan this week. "It is wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay higher tax rates than somebody pulling in $50 million."
On average, the wealthiest people in America pay a lot more taxes than the middle class or the poor, according to private and government data. They pay at a higher rate, and as a group, they contribute a much larger share of the overall taxes collected by the federal government.
The 10 percent of households with the highest incomes pay more than half of all federal taxes. They pay more than 70 percent of federal income taxes, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
In his White House address on Monday, Obama called on Congress to increase taxes by $1.5 trillion as part of a 10-year deficit reduction package totaling more than $3 trillion. He proposed that Congress overhaul the tax code and impose what he called the "Buffett rule," named for the billionaire investor.
The rule says, "People making more than $1 million a year should not pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than middle-class families pay." Buffett wrote in a recent piece for The New York Times that the tax rate he paid last year was lower than that paid by any of the other 20 people in his office.
"Middle-class families shouldn't pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires," Obama said. "That's pretty straightforward. It's hard to argue against that."
There may be individual millionaires who pay taxes at rates lower than middle-income workers. In 2009, 1,470 households filed tax returns with incomes above $1 million yet paid no federal income tax, according to the Internal Revenue Service. But that's less than 1 percent of the nearly 237,000 returns with incomes above $1 million.
This year, households making more than $1 million will pay an average of 29.1 percent of their income in federal taxes, including income taxes, payroll taxes and other taxes, according to the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank.
Households making between $50,000 and $75,000 will pay an average of 15 percent of their income in federal taxes.
Lower-income households will pay less. For example, households making between $40,000 and $50,000 will pay an average of 12.5 percent of their income in federal taxes. Households making between $20,000 and $30,000 will pay 5.7 percent.
The latest IRS figures are a few years older — and limited to federal income taxes — but show much the same thing. In 2009, taxpayers who made $1 million or more paid on average 24.4 percent of their income in federal income taxes, according to the IRS.
Those making $100,000 to $125,000 paid on average 9.9 percent in federal income taxes. Those making $50,000 to $60,000 paid an average of 6.3 percent.
Obama's claim hinges on the fact that, for high-income families and individuals, investment income is often taxed at a lower rate than wages. The top tax rate for dividends and capital gains is 15 percent. The top marginal tax rate for wages is 35 percent, though that is reserved for taxable income above $379,150.
With tax rates that high, why do so many people pay at lower rates? Because the tax code is riddled with more than $1 trillion in deductions, exemptions and credits, and they benefit people at every income level, according to data from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress' official scorekeeper on revenue issues.
The Tax Policy Center estimates that 46 percent of households, mostly low- and medium-income households, will pay no federal income taxes this year. Most, however, will pay other taxes, including Social Security payroll taxes.
"People who are doing quite well and worry about low-income people not paying any taxes bemoan the fact that they get so many tax breaks that they are zeroed out," said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center. "People at the bottom of the distribution say, 'But all of those rich guys are getting bigger tax breaks than we're getting,' which is also the case."
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was pressed at a White House briefing on the number of millionaires who pay taxes at a lower rate than middle-income families. He demurred, saying that people who make most of their money in wages pay taxes at a higher rate, while those who get most of their income from investments pay at lower rates.
"So it really depends on what is your profession, where's the source of your income, what's the specific circumstances you face, and the averages won't really capture that," Geithner said.

So, imagine you have 100,000 to invest (your 401K perhaps). You risk it ALL, leave it in stock in a company that you THINK will grow, and IF, a year later, it has grown by 15%, so you should have 115,000...ooops, you forgot, capital gains tax is 15%. You get only your 100,000 back, no profit, for your risk. Consider yourself  lucky. Now listen to the President tell you it's unfair that you don't pay more....
8. A little history lesson (division of Palestinian rejectionism)  


$16 muffins, $8 coffee served in Justice audit


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As the U.S. government grapples to find ways to trim the bloated federal deficit, a new report suggests officials might start with cutting out $16 muffins and $10 cookies.
"We found the Department (of Justice) spent $16 on each of the 250 muffins served at an August 2009 legal conference in Washington," said a DOJ Office of Inspector General report released on Tuesday.
The DOJ spent $121 million on conferences in fiscal 2008 and 2009, which exceeded its own spending limits and appeared to be extravagant and wasteful, according to the report that examined 10 conferences held during that period.
The review turned up the expensive muffins, which came from the Capital Hilton Hotel just blocks from the White House, as well as cookies and brownies that cost almost $10 each.
The department spent $32 per person on snacks of Cracker Jack, popcorn, and candy bars and coffee that cost $8.24 per cup at another conference, the report said.
The DOJ also spent nearly $600,000 for event planning services for five conferences, the document said.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said most of the gathering were held when there were no strict limits on food and beverage costs, adding the DOJ had taken steps since 2009 "to ensure that these problems do not occur again."
Word of the agency's extravagant spending drew a swift response from Capitol Hill.
Senator Chuck Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee which has oversight of the Justice Department, said the report was a blueprint for the first cuts that should be made by the "super committee" searching for at least $1.2 trillion in savings.
"Sixteen dollar muffins and $600,000 for event planning services are what make Americans cynical about government and why they are demanding change," Grassley said in a statement. "People are outraged, and rightly so."

10. Who's

      Libya is in danger of falling into the hands of Islamic extremists if a stable government is not rapidly established, Nato’s secretary-general warned last night. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Islamic extremists would “try to exploit” any weaknesses created as the country tried to rebuild after four decades of Col Muammar Gaddafi’s rule.Mr Rasmussen was speaking amid growing evidence of splits in the rebel leadership in Tripoli. His words will cast a damper over the euphoria sweeping Tripoli in the wake of the revolution.

     His warning came as the head of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, told cheering crowds in Tripoli that Islamic shariah law would be the “main source” of legislation in the new Libya. 

     President Obama met Libya's interim leader Tuesday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly and held up the country as a model of what the U.N. can do to protect civilians from atrocities.  Obama also pledged continued support and encouraged Libya's new leaders to keep their promises to forge a just, democratic society....Obama met with the chairman of Libya's Transitional National Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, who is again asking for access to billions of dollars in frozen Libyan assets. Abdul-Jalil also reassured the countries gathered at the U.N. that he's given Libyans clear orders not to seek retribution against Gadhafi's supporters. "The Libyan authorities will bring to justice all accused of the Gadhafi regime before a just trial, and we will work for the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation over the coming period," he said. "The entire world is watching you," said French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who took the lead in supporting rebels in Libya. He told Tuesday's meeting at the U.N. that he has faith in the country's new leadership. British Foreign Secretary William Hague echoed that, saying the time is up for Gadhafi and his supporters....

11. So a regular weekly Poker game would get the same treatment?   

MISSION VIEJO (CBS) — An Orange County couple has been ordered to stop holding a Bible study in their home on the grounds that the meeting violates a city ordinance as a “church” and not as a private gathering.
     Homeowners Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, of San Juan Capistrano, were fined $300 earlier this month for holding what city officials called “a regular gathering of more than three people”.
That type of meeting would require a conditional use permit as defined by the city, according to Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), the couple’s legal representation.
The Fromms also reportedly face subsequent fines of $500 per meeting for any further “religious gatherings” in their home, according to PJI.
     “We’re just gathering and enjoying each other’s company and fellowship. And we enjoy studying God’s word.” Stephanie Fromm told CBS2.
After city officials rejected the Fromms’ appeal, PJI, which represents other Bible study participants, will appeal the decision to the California Superior Court in Orange County.
“This is also about a city trying to get a family to pay fees – to pay fees and pay money to them – just to be able to have friends over to read the Bible,” attorney Brad Dacus of PJI told CBS2.
Neighbors have written letters to the city in support of the Fromms, whom they said have not caused any disturbances with the meetings, according to PJI.
     “The Fromm case further involves regular meetings on Sunday mornings and Thursday afternoons with up to 50 people, with impacts on the residential neighborhood on street access and parking,” City Attorney Omar Sandoval said.
      The city of San Juan Capistrano was founded as a mission in the late 1700s by Catholic priest Junipero Serra, who established a local chapel that remains the oldest standing building in California.
Officials with San Juan Capistrano did not respond to requests for comment.

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