June 3rd, 2012
By Jon Swaine, Washington
Eric Holder, who heads Mr Obama's justice department, is said to have become "incensed" after being accused by David Axelrod of complaining publicly about political interference in his office.
"That's bull****," Mr Holder said in a confrontation after a cabinet meeting, according to author Daniel Klaidman. He writes: "The two men stood chest to chest. It was like a school yard fight".
The relatively mild-mannered Mr Axelrod is said to have told the attorney general: "Don't ever, ever accuse me of trying to interfere with the operations of the Justice Department", a taboo in US politics.
In 'Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency', Klaidman discloses the struggles within Mr Obama's White House as it mounted its controversial campaign against al-Qaeda.
He writes that Mr Holder and Mr Axelrod were separated by Valerie Jarrett, a White House adviser and confidante to Mr Obama. Ms Jarrett "pushed her way between the two men, her sense of decorum disturbed, ordering them to 'take it out of the hallway'," says Klaidman.
The argument is said to have erupted over attempts to add a political official to the staff of Mr Holder, who has presided over a handful of political and public relations blunders since taking office in 2009.
Denying impropriety, Mr Axelrod, a hangdog 57-year-old veteran of Chicago politics, is said to have told Mr Holder: "I'm not Karl Rove".
Mr Rove, a top aide to President George W. Bush, was accused of pressuring the justice department to fire seven politically unhelpful federal prosecutors in 2006.
The book, which is released on Tuesday, examines the CIA-led drone war on al-Qaeda operatives who have made it on to a so-called "Kill List" that is said to be overseen by Mr Obama himself.
It comes soon after a series of well-informed newspaper articles and other books covering similar ground and portraying the President as a ruthless slayer of terrorist suspects five months before he faces re-election.
Klaidman also discloses that the work of Christopher Hitchens, the late British author, influenced the decision by Mr Obama's administration to overhaul its rules on interrogating terror suspects.
Hitchens was waterboarded for an article and video titled "Believe me, it's torture" and published by Vanity Fair in 2008. He could bear only ten seconds before asking that it be stopped.
"Watching the video," Klaidman writes, "Holder was both mesmerised and repulsed." The attorney general became "increasingly convinced that he would need to launch an investigation".
Mr Obama banned waterboarding – in which detainees are made to feel they are drowning – and other techniques after coming to office in 2009, while Mr Holder launched an inquiry into past practices.
Mr Obama today attempts to recover from his worst week of the presidential campaign so far, having been battered by dismal unemployment figures as his campaign repeatedly botched their message.
He remains 2.3 per cent ahead of Mitt Romney, his Republican challenger, according to a RealClearPolitics aggregate of national polls. However Mr Romney's campaign is growing in strength.
Klaidman writes in his book that shortly after taking office in 2009, Mr Obama was already keenly aware of the possibility that he might be ousted by the former Massachusetts governor after one term.
"You never know who is going to be president four years from now," Mr Obama is said to have told aides during a discussion about whether he should be able to detain terror suspects indefinitely. "I have to think about how Mitt Romney would use that power."
More from the Telegraph
June 3rd, 2012
TAMPA, Florida -- First came Miami: the case of a naked man eating most of another man's face. Then Maryland, a college student telling police he killed a man, then ate his heart and part of his brain.
It was different in New Jersey, where a man stabbed himself 50 times and threw bits of his own intestines at police. They pepper-sprayed him, but he was not easily subdued.
He was, people started saying, acting like a zombie. And the whole discussion just kept growing, becoming a topic that the Internet couldn't seem to stop talking about.
The actual incidents are horrifying - and, if how people are talking about them is any indication, fascinating. In an America where zombie imagery is used to peddle everything from tools and weapons to garden gnomes, they all but beg the comparison.
Violence, we're used to. Cannibalism and people who should fall down but don't? That feels like something else entirely.
So many strange things have made headlines in recent days that The Daily Beast assembled a Google Map tracking "instances that may be the precursor to a zombie apocalypse." And the federal agency that tracks diseases weighed in as well, insisting it had no evidence that any zombie-linked health crisis was unfolding.
The cases themselves are anything but funny. Each involved real people either suspected of committing unspeakable acts or having those acts visited upon them for reasons that have yet to be figured out. Maybe it's nothing new, either; people do horrible things to each other on a daily basis.
But what, then, made search terms like "zombie apocalypse" trend day after day last week in multiple corners of the Internet, fueled by discussions and postings that were often framed as humor?
"They've heard of these zombie movies, and they make a joke about it," says Lou Manza, a psychology professor at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania, who learned about the whole thing at the breakfast table Friday morning when his 18-year-old son quipped that a "zombie apocalypse" was imminent.
Symbolic of both infection and evil, zombies are terrifying in a way that other horror-movie iconography isn't, says Elizabeth Bird, an anthropologist at the University of South Florida.
Zombies, after all, look like us. But they aren't. They are some baser form of us - slowly rotting and shambling along, intent on "surviving" and creating more of their kind, but with no emotional core, no conscience, no limits.
"Vampires have kind of a romantic appeal, but zombies are doomed," Bird says. "Zombies can never really become human again. There's no going back.
"That resonates in today's world, with people feeling like we're moving toward an ending," she says. "Ultimately they are much more of a depressing figure."
The "moving toward an ending" part is especially potent. For some, the news stories fuel a lurking fear that, ultimately, humanity is doomed.
Speculation varies. It could be a virus that escapes from some secret government lab, or one that mutates on its own. Or maybe it'll be the result of a deliberate combination and weaponization of pathogens, parasites and disease.
It will, many believe, be something we've created - and therefore brought upon ourselves.
Zombies represent America's fears of bioterrorism, a fear that strengthened after the 9/11 attacks, says Patrick Hamilton, an English professor at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa., who studies how we process comic-book narratives.
Economic anxiety around the planet doesn't help matters, either, with Greece, Italy and Spain edging closer to crisis every day. Consider some of the terms that those fears produce: zombie banks, zombie economies, zombie governments.
When people are unsettled about things beyond their control - be it the loss of a job, the high cost of housing or the depletion of a retirement account - they look to metaphors like the zombie.
"They're mindless drones following basic needs to eat," Hamilton says. "Those economic issues speak to our own lack of control."
They're also effective messengers. The Centers for Disease Control got in on the zombie action last year, using the "apocalypse" as the teaser for its emergency preparedness blog. It worked, attracting younger people who might not otherwise have read the agency's guidance on planning evacuation routes and storing water and food.
On Friday, a different message emerged. Chatter had become so rampant that CDC spokesman David Daigle sent an email to the Huffington Post, answering questions about the possibility of the undead walking among us.
"CDC does not know of a virus or condition that would reanimate the dead," he wrote, adding: "(or one that would present zombie-like symptoms.)"
Zombies have been around in our culture at least since Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" was published in 1818, though they really took off after George Romero's nightmarish, black-and-white classic "Night of the Living Dead" hit the screen in 1968.
In the past several years, they have become both wildly popular and big business. Last fall, the financial website 24/7 Wall Street estimated that zombies pumped $5 billion into the U.S. economy.
"And if you think the financial tab has been high so far, by the end of 2012 the tab is going to be far larger," the October report read.
It goes far beyond comic books, costumes and conventions.
-An Ace Hardware store in Nebraska features a "Zombie Preparedness Center" that includes bolts and fasteners for broken bones, glue and caulk for peeling skin, and deodorizers to freshen up decaying flesh. "Don't be scared," its website says. "Be prepared."
-On uncrate.com, you can find everything you need to survive the apocalypse - zombie-driven or otherwise - in a single "bug-out bag." The recommended components range from a Mossberg pump-action shotgun and a Cold Kukri machete to a titanium spork for spearing all the canned goods you'll end up eating once all the fresh produce has vanished.
-For about $200 on Amazon, you can purchase a Gnombie, a gored-out zombie garden gnome.
Maybe it's that we joke about the things we fear. Laughter makes them manageable.
That's why a comedy like "Zombieland," with Woody Harrelson blasting away the undead on a roller coaster and Jesse Eisenberg stressing the importance of seatbelts is easier to watch than, say, the painful desperation and palpable apocalyptic fear of "28 Days Later" and "28 Weeks Later."
The most compelling zombie stories, after all, are not about the undead. They're about the living.
The popular AMC series "The Walking Dead" features zombies in all manner of settings. But the show is less about them and more about how far the small, battered band of humans will go to survive - whether they'll retain the better part of themselves or become hardened and heartless.
It's a familiar theme to George Romero, who told The Associated Press in 2008 that all of his zombie films have been about just that.
"The zombies, they could be anything," he said. "They could be an avalanche, they could be a hurricane. It's a disaster out there. The stories are about how people fail to respond in the proper way."
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June 3rd, 2012
The New York Times / By DAVID E. SANGER
CR Kim: With Obama's track record, which clearly shows, time and time again, his lack of support for Israel (the country most immediately threatened by Iran's nuclear ambitions--and historically one of our greatest allies), the "order" for any sort of attack remains in question.
WASHINGTON — From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program.
Mr. Obama decided to accelerate the attacks — begun in the Bush administration and code-named Olympic Games — even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran’s Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet. Computer security experts who began studying the worm, which had been developed by the United States and Israel, gave it a name: Stuxnet.
At a tense meeting in the White House Situation Room within days of the worm’s “escape,” Mr. Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency at the time, Leon E. Panetta, considered whether America’s most ambitious attempt to slow the progress of Iran’s nuclear efforts had been fatally compromised.
“Should we shut this thing down?” Mr. Obama asked, according to members of the president’s national security team who were in the room.
Told it was unclear how much the Iranians knew about the code, and offered evidence that it was still causing havoc, Mr. Obama decided that the cyberattacks should proceed. In the following weeks, the Natanz plant was hit by a newer version of the computer worm, and then another after that. The last of that series of attacks, a few weeks after Stuxnet was detected around the world, temporarily took out nearly 1,000 of the 5,000 centrifuges Iran had spinning at the time to purify uranium.
This account of the American and Israeli effort to undermine the Iranian nuclear program is based on interviews over the past 18 months with current and former American, European and Israeli officials involved in the program, as well as a range of outside experts. None would allow their names to be used because the effort remains highly classified, and parts of it continue to this day.
These officials gave differing assessments of how successful the sabotage program was in slowing Iran’s progress toward developing the ability to build nuclear weapons. Internal Obama administration estimates say the effort was set back by 18 months to two years, but some experts inside and outside the government are more skeptical, noting that Iran’s enrichment levels have steadily recovered, giving the country enough fuel today for five or more weapons, with additional enrichment.
Whether Iran is still trying to design and build a weapon is in dispute. The most recent United States intelligence estimate concludes that Iran suspended major parts of its weaponization effort after 2003, though there is evidence that some remnants of it continue.
Iran initially denied that its enrichment facilities had been hit by Stuxnet, then said it had found the worm and contained it. Last year, the nation announced that it had begun its own military cyberunit, and Brig. Gen. Gholamreza Jalali, the head of Iran’s Passive Defense Organization, said that the Iranian military was prepared “to fight our enemies” in “cyberspace and Internet warfare.” But there has been scant evidence that it has begun to strike back.
The United States government only recently acknowledged developing cyberweapons, and it has never admitted using them. There have been reports of one-time attacks against personal computers used by members of Al Qaeda, and of contemplated attacks against the computers that run air defense systems, including during the NATO-led air attack on Libya last year. But Olympic Games was of an entirely different type and sophistication.
It appears to be the first time the United States has repeatedly used cyberweapons to cripple another country’s infrastructure, achieving, with computer code, what until then could be accomplished only by bombing a country or sending in agents to plant explosives. The code itself is 50 times as big as the typical computer worm, Carey Nachenberg, a vice president of Symantec, one of the many groups that have dissected the code, said at a symposium at Stanford University in April. Those forensic investigations into the inner workings of the code, while picking apart how it worked, came to no conclusions about who was responsible.
A similar process is now under way to figure out the origins of another cyberweapon called Flame that was recently discovered to have attacked the computers of Iranian officials, sweeping up information from those machines. But the computer code appears to be at least five years old, and American officials say that it was not part of Olympic Games. They have declined to say whether the United States was responsible for the Flame attack.
June 3rd, 2012
MSNBC/ Joe Rao
The last chance most of us will ever have to see the planet Venus pass in front of the sun is coming up this Tuesday.
On that day, more than half the world will get to see an exceedingly rare event: a transit of Venus crossing the face of the sun at inferior conjunction. A transit of Venus is among the rarest of astronomical events, rarer even than the return of Halley's Comet every 76 years. Only six transits of Venus are known to have been observed by humans before: in 1639, 1761, 1769, 1874, 1882 and most recently in 2004. When Venus is in transit across the solar disk, the planet appears as a distinct, albeit tiny, round black spot with a diameter just one-32nd that of the sun. This size is large enough to perceive with the naked eye; however, prospective observers are warned to take safety precautions (as with a solar eclipse) while attempting to view the silhouette of Venus against the blindingly brilliant face of the sun. Special glasses or telescope filters must be used at all times.
Prior to local sunset, observers who are located over much of North America and the northwestern part of South America will be able to observe at least the opening stages of this most unusual celestial phenomenon. [Venus Transit of the Sun: A 2012 Observer's Guide (Infographic)]
Tuesday or Wednesday?
The Venus transit will be a west-to-east passage (right to left) taking six hours and 40 minutes. The sun will be above the horizon for the whole transit for much of Greenland and far-northern portions of Canada, all of Alaska and Hawaii, central and eastern Asia, New Zealand and the eastern half of Australia. For these last three regions, the transit will occur on June 6.
The sun rises with Venus already on its disk for western Asia, the eastern half of Africa and virtually all of Europe on the morning of June 6. Interestingly, as seen from Iceland, the beginning and end of the transit will be visible, but the sun will set prior to, then rise after, the middle of the transit.
One region that will miss the transit is a large portion of South America. From places south and east of an imaginary line drawn between Morawhanna, Guyana, southwest to Tacna, Peru, the sun will unfortunately set before the transit begins. In addition, a large part of western Africa as well as Portugal and the western half of Spain will also miss out, because from there the transit will end before the sun rises.
If you wish to generate predictions for the transit for where you live, the Astronomical Applications Department of the U.S. Naval Observatory has produced an online transit computer. Click here to use the calculator.
How it'll go down
For the U.S. and Canada, the transit will begin when the dark disk of Venus first touches the outer limb of the sun, known as Contact I. As seen from the eastern U.S. and eastern Canada, Contact I should occur within about a minute of 6:03 p.m. ET. For observers in the western U.S. and western Canada, Contact I should occur within about a minute of 3:06 p.m. PT.
It will take about 18 minutes for the black disk of Venus to move completely onto the sun's face, ultimately bringing its black disk just inside the sun's upper left edge. This will be an especially interesting time.
The moment when the two disks become internally tangent — that is, when Venus moves completely onto the sun's disk — is known as Contact II. And just moments before interior contact actually takes place, assiduous viewers might see the silhouette of Venus become suddenly connected to the sun's limb by a dark ligament — like a drop of water just before separating from a faucet. [Last Venus Transit In Your Lifetime | Video Show]
Another way to describe the sight is that the planet will seem attached to the sun's limb by a thin black column or thread. This optical illusion is known as the "black drop effect." Its cause is believed to be the combination of local atmospheric seeing and telescope diffraction, in conjunction with the dark disk of Venus interacting with the limb darkening of the sun's outer edge.
Venus will then take more than six hours to traverse the disk of the sun, although for most Americans (except in Alaska and Hawaii), sunset will intervene before Venus moves off of the sun.
The circumstances of the transits of Venus repeat themselves with great exactness over a period of 243 years. The intervals between individual transits (in years) currently go as follows: 8 + 121½ + 8 + 105½ = 243. In other words, a pair of transits may occur over a time span of just eight years, but following the second transit, the next will not occur again for over a century. The upcoming Venus transit is the second of a pair, the first having occurred on June 8, 2004.
Should clouds prevent you from getting a view of this year's event, it will be most unfortunate, since the next opportunity to observe a transit of Venus will not occur until Dec. 10-11, 2117! We can expect that very few people who witness this year's transit will still be alive to catch the next one in 105½ years.
If you snap a great photo of the Venus transit and would like to share it with Space.com for a story or gallery, please send images and comments to Space.com managing editor Tariq Malik at email@example.com.You can also upload your picture for possible use on msnbc.com by following the instructions on the FirstPerson Web page for sharing sky sights.
Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for The New York Times and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, N.Y.
June 3rd, 2012
It's now a granted, that President Obama's soaring abilities at artful prevarication may even surpass his legendarily singular abilities at teleprompted oral wizardry. We saw this recently when Obama came out in a speech and insisted that he has spent less than both the George Bush and Ronald Reagan Presidencies, despite his having run up more debt than all other Presidents in US History "combined." So, how does the one reconcile itself from the other?
It doesn't , ladies and Gentlemen, his utterances were nothing more nor less than certifiably loony, bald-faced lies.
However, as the American people and the Conservative Media learn more and more about the President and his mysterious past, we will get to see more and more of the vetting which was largely missing from the 2008 campaign. On that particular note, we recently were led to a Youtube video in which Obama, during the 2008 Presidential campaign, spoke of "his father 's" return home from WWII, unfortunately, this statement didn't pass the smell test either, his Father could only have been in grade school, at best, based upon his age at the time of WWII:
AfterBirther Nonsense or Media Abortion? A Rebuttal to Jake Tapper and ABC News on the Birther Issue
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Wolf Blitzer Falsely Claims Hawaiian Governor A Republican: Furious with Trump over Obama Birth Certificate: