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Sunday, 1 January 2012

‘Magic Mushrooms’ Can Improve Spiritual Benefits and Psychological Health


The psychedelic drug in magic mushrooms may have lasting medical and spiritual benefits, according to new research from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The mushroom-derived hallucinogen, called psilocybin, is known to trigger transformative spiritual states, but at high doses it can also result in “bad trips” marked by terror and panic. The trick is to get the dose just right, which the Johns Hopkins researchers report having accomplished.

In their study, the Hopkins scientists were able to reliably induce transcendental experiences in volunteers, which offered long-lasting psychological growth and helped people find peace in their lives — without the negative effects.

“The important point here is that we found the sweet spot where we can optimize the positive persistent effects and avoid some of the fear and anxiety that can occur and can be quite disruptive,” says lead author Roland Griffiths, professor of behavioral biology at Hopkins.

Giffiths’ study involved 18 healthy adults, average age 46, who participated in five eight-hour drug sessions with either psilocybin — at varying doses — or placebo. Nearly all the volunteers were college graduates and 78% participated regularly in religious activities; all were interested in spiritual experience.

Fourteen months after participating in the study, 94% of those who received the drug said the experiment was one of the top five most meaningful experiences of their lives; 39% said it was the single most meaningful experience.

Critically, however, the participants themselves were not the only ones who saw the benefit from the insights they gained: their friends, family member and colleagues also reported that the psilocybin experience had made the participants calmer, happier and kinder.

Ultimately, Griffiths and his colleagues want to see if the same kind of psychedelic experience could help ease anxiety and fear over the long term in cancer patients or others facing death. And following up on tantalizing clues from early research on hallucinogenic drugs like LSD, mescaline and psilocybin in the 1960s (which are all now illegal), researchers are also studying whether transcendental experiences could help spur recovery from addiction and treat other psychological problems like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

For Griffiths’ current experiment, participants were housed in a living room-like setting designed to be calm, comfortable and attractive. While under the influence, they listened to classical music on headphones, wore eyeshades and were instructed to “direct their attention inward.”

Each participant was accompanied by two other research-team members: a “monitor” and an “assistant monitor,” who both had previous experience with people on psychedelic drugs and were empathetic and supportive. Before the drug sessions, the volunteers became acquainted enough with their team so that they felt familiar and safe. Although the experiments took place in the Hopkins hospital complex in order to ensure prompt medical attention in the event that it was needed, it never was.

As described by early advocates of the use of psychedelics — from ancient shamans to Timothy Leary and the Grateful Dead — the psilocybin experience typically involves a sense of oneness with the universe and with others, a feeling of transcending time, space and other limitations, coupled with a sense of holiness and sacredness. Overwhelmingly, these experiences are difficult to put into words, but many of Griffiths’ participants said they were left with the sense that they understood themselves and others better and therefore had greater compassion and patience.

“I feel that I relate better in my marriage. There is more empathy — a greater understanding of people and understanding their difficulties and less judgment,” said one participant. “Less judging of myself, too.”

Another said: “I have better interaction with close friends and family and with acquaintances and strangers. … My alcohol use has diminished dramatically.”

To zero in on the “sweet spot” of dosing, Griffiths started half the volunteers on a low dose and gradually increased their doses over time (with placebo sessions randomly interspersed); the other half started on a high dose and worked their way down.

Those who started on a low dose found that their experiences tended to get better as the dose increased, probably because they learned what to expect and how to handle it. But people who started with high doses were more likely to experience anxiety and fear (though these feeling didn’t last long and sometimes resolved into euphoria or a sense of transcendence).

“If we back the dose down a little, we have just as much of the same positive effects. The properties of the mystical experience remain the same, but there’s a fivefold drop in anxiety and fearfulness,” Griffiths says.

Some past experiments with psychedelics in the ’60s used initial high doses of the drugs — the “blast people away with a high dose” model, says Griffiths — to try to treat addiction. “Some of the early work in addictions was done with the idea of, ‘O.K., let’s model the ‘bottoming-out’ crisis and make use of the dark side of [psychedelic] compounds. That didn’t work,” Griffiths says.

It may even have backfired: other research on addictions shows that coercion, humiliation and other attempts to produce a sense of “powerlessness,” tend to increase relapse and treatment dropout, not recovery. (And the notorious naked LSD encounter sessions conducted with psychopaths made them worse, too.)

Griffiths is currently seeking patients with terminal cancer to participate in his next set of experiments (for more information on these studies, click here); because psychedelics often produce a feeling of going beyond life and death, they are thought to be especially likely to help those facing the end of life. Griffiths is also studying whether psilocybin can help smokers quit.

Griffiths and other researchers like him are hoping to bring the study of psychedelics into the future. They want to build on the promise that some of the early research showed, while avoiding the bad rep and exaggerated claims — for example, that LSD was harmless and could usher in world peace — that became associated with the drugs when people started using them recreationally in the 1960s. The resulting negative publicity helped shut down the burgeoning research.

This time around, caution may be paying off. Dr. Jerome Jaffe, America’s first drug czar, who was not involved with the research, said in a statement, “The Hopkins psilocybin studies clearly demonstrate that this route to the mystical is not to be walked alone. But they have also demonstrated significant and lasting benefits. That raises two questions: could psilocybin-occasioned experiences prove therapeutically useful, for example in dealing with the psychological distress experienced by some terminal patients?

“And should properly-informed citizens, not in distress, be allowed to receive psilocybin for its possible spiritual benefits, as we now allow them to pursue other possibly risky activities such as cosmetic surgery and mountain-climbing?”

The study was published in the journal Psychopharmacology.

Source: Healthland

New large horned viper discovered, but biologists keep location quiet


In a remote forest fragment in Tanzania, scientists have made a remarkable discovery: a uniquely-colored horned viper extending over two feet long (643 millimeters) that evolved from its closest relative over two million years ago. Unfortunately, however, the new species—named Matilda’s horned viper (Atheris matildae)—survives in a small degraded habitat and is believed to be Critically Endangered. Given its scarcity, its discoverers are working to preempt an insidious threat to the new species.

Scientists love nothing more than finding unknown animals, but the public announcement has sometimes been the beginning of the species’ undoing, especially in the case of reptiles and amphibians. Hotly pursued by the black market pet trade, in the past new species have been helplessly decimated by collectors shortly after their scientific description is published. As such, Matilda’s horned viper’s discoverers are not only keeping the snake’s location a closely-guarded secret, but have already set up an emergency conservation program. They won’t let this species vanish without a fight.

“The global trade in wildlife is huge, and a very significant part of that is the illegal trade in wild-caught amphibians and reptiles, for the pet trade. Snakes are particularly popular and a new snake arouses considerable interest,” Tim Davenport with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) explained to mongabay.com. “Our concern is that a sudden rush to collect this new snake from such a small forest would at best be unsustainable, and at worst have a major detrimental impact on the species’ survival. Illegal collection for the pet trade is a huge problem in Tanzania due in part to the high number of attractive and endemic species.”
Atheris matildae

To keep the new species safe, researchers collected eleven snakes for a captive breeding program: four males, five females, and two juveniles. The offspring of these snakes are meant to be an insurance against extinction. Along with keeping its exact location in the wild quiet, the conservationists are also going one step further to anticipate the illegal pet trade.

“We are planning to make available the first few dozen offspring from the captive population free of charge, in order to provide the market with captive-bred specimens of the new species. The aim is to avoid collection of wild caught specimens, lower the price of the animal and encourage responsible captive breeding by keepers in the most highly demanding countries,” explains Davenport. “The ultimate goal is also to raise awareness and support for a community-based forest conservation program. Matilda’s horned viper will, it is hoped, be a flagship species for this initiative.”

Their caution is not an overreaction. The researcher argue the species should be listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List given its tiny range: after extensive surveys the team believes the snake survives in an area smaller than 100 square kilometers.

“In addition, the habitat quality is in decline,” Davenport adds.

Matilda’s horned viper’s closest relative is the forest horned viper (Atheris ceratophora), but Matilda’s is larger, sports different coloration, and has a unique scale pattern on its head (see more photos below). Genetic testing shows the snakes to be separated by 2.2 million years.

“We would like this discovery to contribute to the conservation of the species and its habitat, not to a more rapid demise of the species in the wild,” Davenport says. He and his colleagues also recommend other researchers follow similar paths in announcing new species.

“All three of us [Davenport, Michele Menegon, and Kim Howell] have described new species only to see these same species being illegally and unsustainably harvested just months later. We are not objecting to the pet trade, but we do believe that in most cases there is no justification at all for wild caught animals being collected. The problem is exacerbated by the huge numbers collected from the wild, only a small fraction of which live to reach their ultimate destination. There needs to be far tighter management of the pet trade or else many species will simply be extirpated in the wild by the trade.”

Matilda’s horned viper received its name from a five-year-old girl, Davenport’s daughter.

“When we first discovered the snake, we kept one securely in a tank outside the office while we studied it. My daughter, then five years old, was fascinated and always insisted on helping us feed it and look after it. It became known as Matilda’s viper and the name stuck. We simply added the ‘horned’ later. She is very pleased but of course her younger sister wants a species now too! We will see what we can do…”

Source : news.mongabay.com

FDA approves implanted RFID chip for humans


In the category of unbelievably bad ideas that we all knew were making their way toward reality whether we like it or not comes the news the FDA has just approved VeriChip’s implantable RFID chips for use in humans. These are the same chips that we’re currently using to identify our pets. VeriChip is touting the chips’ medical applications, as a way of potentially saving lives by storing medical data.

Silently and invisibly, the dormant chip stores a code — similar to the identifying UPC code on products sold in retail stores — that releases patient-specific information when a scanner passes over the chip. At the doctor’s office those codes stamped onto chips, once scanned, would reveal such information as a patient’s allergies and prior treatments.

The FDA in October 2002 said that the agency would regulate health care applications possible through VeriChip. Meanwhile, the chip has been used for a number of security-related tasks as well as for pure whimsy: Club hoppers in Barcelona, Spain, now use the microchip much like a smartcard to speed drink orders and payment.

In case it’s not immediately obvious to you why you wouldn’t want to walk around in public broadcasting your financial and/or medical information to anyone with an RFID reader, Bruce Schneier spells it all out for you in a great post on the Bush administration’s plans to push for RFID-based passports. Here’s a nice chunk of it, but you should read the whole thing.

These chips are like smart cards, but they can be read from a distance. A receiving device can “talk” to the chip remotely, without any need for physical contact, and get whatever information is on it. Passport officials envision being able to download the information on the chip simply by bringing it within a few centimeters of an electronic reader.

Unfortunately, RFID chips can be read by any reader, not just the ones at passport control. The upshot of this is that travelers carrying around RFID passports are broadcasting their identity.

Think about what that means for a minute. It means that passport holders are continuously broadcasting their name, nationality, age, address and whatever else is on the RFID chip. It means that anyone with a reader can learn that information, without the passport holder’s knowledge or consent. It means that pickpockets, kidnappers and terrorists can easily–and surreptitiously–pick Americans or nationals of other participating countries out of a crowd.

It is a clear threat to both privacy and personal safety, and quite simply, that is why it is bad idea. Proponents of the system claim that the chips can be read only from within a distance of a few centimeters, so there is no potential for abuse. This is a spectacularly naive claim. All wireless protocols can work at much longer ranges than specified. In tests, RFID chips have been read by receivers 20 meters away. Improvements in technology are inevitable.

Do you really want to walk in and apply for a job knowing that you’re broadcasting details about a heart condition/HIV infection/cancer history/etc. to everyone within 20 meters, including the people who are considering whether or not to hire you and pay your medical insurance and sick leave? Do you really want to walk down a crowded street broadcasting financial data of any kind to God knows who? Is it really a good idea to broadcast personal identification information to anyone and everyone, when identity theft is one of the country’s fastest growing crimes?

All “Mark of the Beast”-type stuff aside, this makes about zero sense from a security and privacy perspective. You can make all the tinfoil hat jokes you like, but I’m with Bruce Schneier in concluding that the only use for this technology that makes real sense is what Wal-Mart wants to use it for by putting it on their products, namely surveillance and tracking.

Source: arstechnica

Japanese Show Created A New Record: 25,088 Tweets Per Second


Twitter has a very large presence in the US, and this sometimes overshadows the popularity of the platform. This overshadowed popularity was on display recently when a Japanese game show set a new record for most tweets per second (TPS).

The record was set during the screening of the very popular Castle In The Sky program and a reported 25,088 TPS were sent. This number dwarfed the previous record of 9,000 set by the announcement of Beyonce’s pregnancy. This new record however, marks the second time that Japan has entered the record books for most tweets sent in a second. The country set a record of 3,283 TPS during a football match between Japan and Denmark at the World Cup in 2010.

At the time of setting the initial record, many had seen it as sign of things to come and the growing popularity of the Twitter platform in Japan. Today, Twitter counts around 10 million active users in Japan, and many are saying that overall popularity of Twitter may grow even more in the coming years.

Perhaps this worldwide search in Twitter popularity is the reason behind Dick Costolo’s dare that Twitter will eventually have all 7 billion people on the planet using the micro-blogging platform.

Are you surprised that Twitter is so popular in Japan?

Source : sitetrail.com

A few Chinese hacker teams do most US data theft


As few as 12 different Chinese groups, largely backed or directed by the government there, do the bulk of the China-based cyberattacks stealing critical data from U.S. companies and government agencies, according to U.S. cybersecurity analysts and experts.

The aggressive, but stealthy attacks, which steal billions of dollars in intellectual property and data, often carry distinct signatures allowing U.S. officials to link them to certain hacker teams. And, analysts say the U.S. often gives the attackers unique names or numbers, and at times can tell where the hackers are and even who they may be.

Sketched out by analysts who have worked with U.S. companies and the government on computer intrusions, the details illuminate recent claims by American intelligence officials about the escalating cyber threat emanating from China. And the widening expanse of targets, coupled with the expensive and sensitive technologies they are losing, is putting increased pressure on the U.S. to take a much harder stand against the communist giant.

It is largely impossible for the U.S. to prosecute hackers in China, since it requires reciprocal agreements between the two countries, and it is always difficult to provide ironclad proof that the hacking came from specific people.

Several analysts described the Chinese attacks, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigations and to protect the privacy of clients. China has routinely rejected allegations of cyberspying and says it also is a target. “Industry is already feeling that they are at war,” said James Cartwright, a retired Marine general and former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A recognized expert on cyber issues, Cartwright has come out strongly in favor of increased U.S. efforts to hold China and other countries accountable for the cyberattacks that come from within their borders. “Right now we have the worst of worlds,” said Cartwright. “If you want to attack me you can do it all you want, because I can’t do anythingabout it. It’s risk free, and you’re willing to take almost any risk to come after me.”

The U.S., he said, “needs to say, if you come after me, I’m going to find you, I’m going to do something about it. It will be proportional, but I’m going to do something … and if you’re hiding in a third country, I’m gong to tell that country you’re there, if they don’t stop you from doing it, I’m going to come and get you.”

Cyber experts agree, and say that companies are frustrated that the government isn’t doing enough to pressure China to stop the attacks or go after hackers in that country. Much like during the Col War with Russia, officials say the U.S. needs to make it clear that there will be repercussions for cyberattacks.

The government “needs to do more to increase the risk,” said Jon Ramsey, head of the counter threat unit at the Atlanta-based Dell SecureWorks, a computer security consulting company. “In the pivate sector we’re always on defense. We can’t do something about it, but someone has to. There is no deterrent not to attack the U.S.”

Cyberattacks originating in China have been a problem for years, but until a decade or so ago analysts said the probes focused mainly on the U.S. government – a generally ackowledged intelligence gathering activity similar to Americans and Russians spying on each other during the Cold War.

But in the last 10 to 15 years, the attacks have gradually broadened to target defense companies, and then other critical industries including those in energy, finance and other sectors. According to Ramsey and other cyber analysts, hackers in China have different digital fingerprints, often visible through the computer code they use, or the command and control computers that they use to route their malicious software through.

U.S. government officials have been reluctant to tie the attacks directly back to the Chinese government, but analysts and officials quietly say that they have tracked enough intrusions to specific locations to be confident they are linked to Beijing – either the government or the military. And, they add that they can sometimes glean who benefited from a particular stolen technology.

One of the analysts said investigations show that the dozen or so Chinese teams appear to get “taskings”, or orders, to go after specific technologies or companies within a particular industry. At times, two or more of the teams appear to get the same shopping list, and compete to be the first to get it, or the one with the greatest haul.

Analysts and U.S. officials agree that a majority of the cyberattacks seeking intellectual property or other sensitive or classified data are done by China-based hackers. While much of the cyberattacks stealing credit card or financial information come from Eastern Europe or Russia.

According to experts, the malicious software or high-tech tools used by the Chinese haven’t gotten much more sophisticated in recent years. But the threat is persistent, often burying malware deep in computer networks so it can be used again and again over the course of several months or even years.

The tools include malware that can record keystrokes, steal and decrypt passwords, and copy and compress data so it can be transferred back to the attacker’s computer. The malware can then delete itself or disappear until needed again.

Several specific attacks linked to China include:
  1. Two sophisticated attacks against Google’s systems that stole some of the Internet giant’s intellectual property and broke into the Gmail accounts of several hundred people, including senior U.S. government officials, military personnel and political activists.
  2. Last year computer security firm Mandiant reported that data was stolen from a Fortune 500 manufacturing company during business negotiations when the company was trying to buy a Chinese company.
  3. Earlier this year, McAfee traced an intrusion to an Internet protocol address in China and said intruders took data from global oil, energy and petrochemical companies.
For the first time, U.S. intelligence officials called out China and Russia last month, saying they are systematically stealing American high-tech data for their own economic gain. The unusually forceful public report seemed to signal a new, more vocal U.S. government campaign against the cyberattacks.

The next step, said Cartwright, must be a full-throated U.S. policy that makes it clear how the U.S. will deal with cyberattacks, including the attackers as well as the nations the attacks are routed through. Once an attack is detected, he said the U.S. should first go through the State Department to ask the country to stop the attack. If the country refuses, he said, the U.S. will have the right to stop the computer server from sending the attack by whatever means possible while still avoiding any collateral damage.

Source : thejakartapost.com

Kubica Lotus future in doubt


Robert Kubica’s future at Lotus-Renault remains uncertain after Eric Boullier admitted that the team’s relationship with the Pole is at “point zero”.

The Enstone squad have unveiled former world champion Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean as their 2012 line-up after it was confirmed that Kubica will miss the start of the season as he is still recovering from the injuries he suffered during a rallying accident.

There are serious doubts, though, whether the 27-year-old will drive for Lotus-Renault amid reports the Pole has signed a contract with Ferrari for the 2013 season.

Team principal Boullier had already admitted that they are not going to help him regain form if he is not committed to the team, saying “I will not bring a car for him and make a nice test for him if in 2013 he has signed already an option elsewhere”.

Boullier has now added insult to injury by revealing the relationship with Kubica is at “point zero”.

“I don’t know if there will be a future between Lotus Renault and Robert,” Boullier said.

He added “We have been waiting for Robert to understand his plans. We would like to sit down with him and his manager to see what can be done to get him back in F1.

“If we can help him get in back in F1 we will, but we have signed our drivers for next year and we want to stick with them.”

Source : www1.skysports.com

Forensic Examiner Found No Match of Cables on Manning’s Laptop to WikiLeaks’

A day afterwards a government argumentative able testified that he’d begin bags of adept cables on the Army computer of doubtable WikiLeaks antecedent Bradley Manning, he was affected to accept beneath assay that none of the cables he compared to the ones WikiLeaks appear matched.

Special Agent David Shaver, a argumentative investigator with the Army’s Computer Crimes Investigations Unit, testified Sunday that he’d begin 10,000 U.S. adept cables in HTML architecture on the soldier’s classified assignment computer, as able-bodied as a besmirched argument book absolute added than 100,000 complete cables that had been adapted to base-64 encoding.

Six months afterwards Manning was arrested for allegedly aperture abstracts to WikiLeaks, the armpit began publishing 250,000 U.S. adept cables that ranged in date from December 1966 to the end of February 2010. But Shaver said none of the abstracts that he begin on Manning’s computer, and that he again compared to those that WikiLeaks published, akin the WikiLeaks documents.

Shaver wasn’t asked how abounding cables he compared to the WikiLeaks cables, or which dates those cables had, he aloof said he akin “some of them.” In re-direct examination, however, he acclaimed that the CSV book in which the cables were independent was besmirched and appropriate this ability announce that it had not been accessible to canyon those cables to WikiLeaks for this reason. The aegis objected to this assumption, however, acquainted that Shaver could not brainstorm on why the cables were not amid those appear by WikiLeaks.

The assay of Shaver focused on establishing that there ability accept been accepted affidavit for the State Department cables to be on Manning’s computers, back intelligence analysts were accustomed admission to them to do their job. One of Manning’s superiors testified beforehand in the audition that he had beatific a articulation to Manning and added analysts administering them to the area area they could acquisition the cables.

The aegis additionally accustomed that it’s accessible Manning’s computer could accept been acclimated by accession abroad — it was already accustomed in antecedent affidavit that he aggregate his assignment computers with accession soldier — and additionally aloft questions about the achievability that added soldiers knew Manning’s countersign and accordingly could accept logged into his computer application his accreditation and user profile.

In accession to the State Department cables begin on Manning’s computer, Shaver additionally testified Sunday that he’d begin links amid affirmation on Manning’s laptop and two added WikiLeaks releases: the alleged “Collateral Murder” Apache helicopter video and Gitmo captive assessments.

Shaver apparent scripts for Wget — a web-scraping apparatus — on Manning’s computer that acicular to a Microsoft SharePoint server captivation copies of the Gitmo documents. He ran the scripts to download the documents, again downloaded the ones that WikiLeaks had published, compared them and begin they were the same, Shaver testified.

He additionally said he begin two copies of the Apache video on Manning’s assignment computer in unallocated space.

But Shaver was affected to accept on Monday that he was not acquainted that soldiers in the defended ability Manning formed in had been examination that arguable video and talking about in December 2009, months afore WikiLeaks appear it. That, the aegis seemed to suggest, would explain why a archetype ability be on Manning’s computer.

A additional government argumentative witness, a clandestine architect called Mark Johnson who works for Mantech International, testified that he advised the argumentative angel of Manning’s claimed laptop, a Macbook Pro. On that computer he apparent babble logs of conversations that Manning allegedly had with above hacker Adrian Lamo. Johnson appear that the Adium babble affairs was installed on Manning’s computer and was acclimated to conduct the babble with Lamo.

In a awning attempt of the babble log apparent in court, Manning’s name was absolutely spelled out, as against to Lamo’s adaptation of the babble logs — which the hacker gave authorities in May 2010 — and showed Manning’s chats beneath the name Bradass87.

Manning’s above acquaintance at Forward Operating Base Hammer additionally testified on Monday to say that he and Manning aggregate a allowance from October 2009, back they aboriginal deployed to Iraq, up until the time Manning was arrested in May 2010.

Specialist Eric Baker, a aggressive badge officer, said that he and Manning not often talked. But he told the cloister that Manning “used the computer absolutely often” and said that back he’d deathwatch up in the average of the night Manning would be on the computer. He never saw what was on Manning’s screen, he told the court.

Source: wired

Libyan rebel chief warns Egypt over pro-Gaddafi TV


(Reuters) - A powerful Libyan militia leader warned Egypt on Saturday he would use force to close its embassy and shut the border if the military rulers failed to cut off a Gaddafi-era state television station that has broadcast footage of his old speeches.

Abdullah Naker, the commander of Tripoli's Revolutionist Council, said Egypt's Nilesat satellite broadcaster had allowed Muammar Gaddafi's official Al Jamahiriya station to broadcast last week.

The station had no signal on Saturday, but residents in Tripoli said they had watched the channel, which had the same name and logo as Al Jamahiriya, broadcasting on Friday. Naker said the channel was funded by businessmen loyal to the leader who was killed in October and started broadcasting last week.

"The broadcast of the channel (Al Jamahiriya) should be stopped immediately," Naker told a news conference at his base in the headquarters of a state-owned construction company on the outskirts of Tripoli.

"We will take all measures, including the closing of the border, expelling Egyptians and closing down the Egyptian embassy and consulate."

A Nilesat official said the state-run station's broadcasts had been cut off for several months. A government official said the interim Foreign Mininstry would contact the Egyptian government to "solve the issue this television station through diplomatic channels".

Naker's warning is the latest indicator that Libya is still largely controlled by hundreds of militias that helped topple Gaddafi despite the interim government efforts to disband them by including the former rebels in the military, police and the civil service.

"We will not take permission from anyone," Naker said. "We will take all necessary actions to protect our revolution." It was not the first time Naker had made such strong statements.

He warned in an interview with Reuters last month that his men could overthrow the government even before it was appointed if it failed to meet their demands for representation. Naker's threats are hard to assess, but he says he controls thousands of fighters.

(Reporting by Mahmoud Habboush and Ali Shuaib; Additional reporting by Tamim Elyan in Cairo; Editing by Alison Williams)

Source : in.reuters.com

Helena Bonham Carter honored by Queen


LONDON - Academy Award-nominated actress Helena Bonham Carter, famed for playing quirky characters and British royalty, joins a former prisoner, a reality TV guru and several Olympics organizers on the list of people awarded New Year Honors by Queen Elizabeth II.

Bonham Carter missed out on the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as the supportive wife of King George VI in "The King's Speech." Her other major roles have included characters in such films as "A Room With a View," "Lady Jane," "Howards End," "Wings of the Dove," "Sweeney Todd" and "Alice in Wonderland" - the last two directed by her husband, Tim Burton.

The queen, who is the daughter of King George VI and Elizabeth, awarded Bonham Carter a CBE, short for Commanders of the Order of the British Empire.

Bonham Carter said she is dedicating the CBE to her late father.

Britain's honors are bestowed twice a year by the monarch - at New Year's and on her official birthday in June. Recipients are selected by committees of civil servants from nominations made by the government and the public.

In descending order, the honors are knighthoods, CBE, OBE (an Officer of the Order of the British Empire) and MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire). Knights are addressed as "sir" or "dame." Recipients of the other honors have no title but can put the letters after their names.

The queen or occasionally another member of the royal family presents the award at a ceremony known as an "investiture." Several investitures are held at Buckingham Palace in London throughout the year.

Most of the honors go to people who are not in the limelight, for services to the community or in industry, but they also reward a sprinkling of famous faces.

Among this year's honors recipients were comedian Ronnie Corbett; Australian entertainer Clive James; and Sky News war correspondent Alex Crawford. Record producer Steve Lillywhite, who worked with rock groups such as U2, The Rolling Stones and The Smiths, was awarded a CBE for services to music.

As Britain prepares for the 2012 London Olympics, several organizers were also recognized for their work.

Source : cbsnews.com

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Fernando Alonso admits he was hard on Sebastian Vettel in their Monza dice


Fernando Alonso admitted he was particularly hard on Sebastian Vettel when the runaway points leader was attacking him in the opening stages of the Italian Grand Prix as he felt Vettel would not want to risk too much given his position in the standings.

Alonso had taken the race lead at the start, but was only able to hang on for just over a lap following the early restart before Vettel got through. The Red Bull ended up partially on the grass at Curva Grande at one point as Alonso tried to maintain his place.

“We have nothing to lose in the battles with Sebastian,” said Alonso, who ultimately finished third. “He is leading the championship by 100 points so when we have to defend we will be a little bit harder with him.”

The start had seen Alonso move from fourth to first, taking to the grass as he went three-abreast with Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.

“We have been doing some good starts in last couple of grands prix but when starting fifth or sixth there was not enough room to overtake,” Alonso said. “Here in Monza we knew if the car was in the same feeling of good starts then we have enough space and enough of a run to the first corner to overtake people.”

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