March 22nd, 2012
Christian Science Monitor
Bemused curiosity turned into worry and aggravation for families in a small Wisconsin town longing for peace and quiet after three nights of mysterious booming noises that have sent some residents into the streets — sometimes still in their pajamas.
The strange disturbance sounds like distant thunder, fireworks, or someone slamming a heavy door. At first, many people were amused. But after a third restless night Tuesday into Wednesday, exasperation was mounting. And some folks are considering leaving town until investigators determine the source of the racket.
"My husband thought it was cool, but I don't think so. This is not a joke," said Jolene Van Beek, who awoke early Sunday to a loud boom that shook her house. "I don't know what it is, but I just want it to stop."
The booming in Clintonville continued Monday and Tuesday nights and into Wednesday morning, eventually prompting Van Beek to take her three sons to her father's home, 10 minutes away, so they could get some uninterrupted sleep.
If the number of phone calls to police is any indication, it was a relatively quiet night Wednesday. Police received several calls early Thursday morning, compared to more than 100 overnight Sunday to Monday when the racket began.
About 300 people attended a public meeting Wednesday night in a local high school auditorium to get an update on the situation. City Administrator Lisa Kuss (KOOS) assured residents that officials are doing everything they can to determine the source of the booming. But they still don't know what's behind the mysterious booms.
There have been no reports of injury, despite some residents saying they could feel the ground roll beneath their feet.
City officials say they have investigated every possible human cause. They checked water, sewer and gas lines, contacted the military about any exercises in the area, reviewed permits for mining explosives and inspected a dam next to City Hall. They even tested methane levels at the landfill in case the gas was spontaneously exploding.
"People in the area are certainly frustrated," City Administrator Lisa Kuss said.
The city is also investigating geological causes. Officials plan to bring in vibration-detection devices to try to determine the epicenter of any underground activity.
Authorities set up audio and video equipment overnight but didn't capture any evidence of shaking or booming despite at least one loud noise about 5 a.m. Wednesday, Kuss said.
About 300 people attended a public meeting Wednesday night in a local high school auditorium to get an update on the situation. Kuss assured residents that officials are doing everything they can to determine the source of the booming.
Sharon Binger said the disturbance has left cracks in her basement walls and floor, and that they're getting worse. She said her insurance company won't pay for the damage until she knows what caused it.
"This is an issue," she said, demanding answers from officials at the meeting. "There is something else going on."
Kuss urged Binger to write down when the cracks occurred and promised to send officials to the woman's home to look over the damage.
Debby Ernst has not heard the sound or felt the tremors but said she is still considering going elsewhere until the mystery is solved.
"It worries me. I'm scared," Ernst, a gas station cashier, said in a phone interview. "Who's to say it ain't going to get worse?"
However, a local scientist said nothing has surfaced that suggests townspeople should be afraid.
Steve Dutch, a geologist at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, said the ground beneath them is solid, and that there are no known earthquake fault lines in the area.
Dutch said he heard some people worrying that a sinkhole might open up and swallow homes. That can happen in areas where the ground is rich with limestone and other rocks that can be dissolved by water, he said. But the rock below Clintonville is mainly solid granite that's largely impermeable.
However, he speculated that water and granite could hold the key to the mystery. Granite has small cracks that water can fill, but if the underground water table falls especially low, water can seep out, leaving gaps that cause the rocks to settle and generate loud noises.
"Maybe the very dry winter caused more water to be removed from the water table, either through pumping or natural flow," he said.
A seismic station near Clintonville, a town of about 4,600 people about 40 miles west of Green Bay, has recorded unusual ground shaking since Sunday night. Scientists say such activity can be caused by mining and heavy truck traffic, but since there are no mines or major construction in the area, the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey will take a closer look at the data.
Some residents are having fun with the mystery, which has drawn media attention from around the nation.
Jordan Pfeiler said people stayed up late on the first two nights to walk around listening for booms. They came up with outlandish theories to explain the noise — for example, that the White House was building an underground bunker in the area or that mole men had found a home there.
"And the aliens, of course, there's always the aliens," she said.
Van Beek understands the temptation to crack jokes, but it's no laughing matter to her.
"Everything people think it is has been ruled out. They just don't have answers," she said. "At this point all I want is for it to stop."
Other strange sounds heard round the world
Dinesh Ramde reported from Milwaukee. He can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.
March 21st, 2012
The largest laser in the world was turned on for a fraction of a second last week -- and it unleashed the most powerful laser blast in history.
The National Ignition Facility (NIF) -- a laser test facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. -- turned on its 192 laser beams for a brief instant on March 15, unleashing a record-setting 1.875-megajoule blast into a target chamber.
The lasers were combined, gathered and focused through a series of lens into a 2.03-megajoule shot, said Ed Moses, NIF director -- a record for the facility.
That pulse of energy lasted for just 23 billionths of a second, yet it generated 411 trillion watts of power, NIF said -- 1,000 times more than the entire United States consumes at any given instant.
“It’s a remarkable demonstration of the laser from the standpoint of its energy, its precision, its power, and its availability,” Moses told Nature magazine.
But it’s barely half the battle. NIF hopes to dramatically increase the power of the laser shots by the end of year, intending to ultimately use the facility to harness the energy reaction that occurs naturally within the sun: fusion.
“This event marks a key milestone in the National Ignition Campaign’s drive toward fusion ignition,” Moses said.
In fission, atoms are split and the massive energy released is captured. The NIF aims for fusion, the ongoing energy process in the sun and other stars where hydrogen and helium nuclei are continually fusing and releasing enormous amounts of energy. In the ignition facility, beams of light converge on pellets of hydrogen isotopes to create a similar, though controlled, micro-explosion.
As the beams move through a series of amplifiers, their energy increases exponentially. From beginning to end, the beams' total energy grows from one-billionth of a joule to a potential high of four million joules, NIF said -- a factor of more than a quadrillion.
And it all happens in about five millionths of a second.
Because the laser is on for the merest fraction of a second, it costs little to operate -- between $5 and $20 per blast, said spokeswoman Lynda Seaver. But the potential is enormous.
NIF’s managers hope by the end of the year to reach a break-even point, where the energy released is equal to if not greater than the energy that went into the blast.
“We have all the capability to make it happen in fiscal year 2012,” Moses told Nature.
Experts aren't so sure, citing challenges that NIF and other types of fusion have had in the past.
Glen Wurden, a plasma physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, told Nature scientists should be wary of putting all their eggs in the laser basket.
“It’s premature right now,” he told the magazine, citing the troubles that have plagued a competing approach to fusion and its flagship project in France.
March 21st, 2012
Terrorist Killed Jewish School Children
Explosions have been heard outside an apartment in Toulouse as French police sought to end a 24-hour siege involving a gunman accused of killing seven people.
Self-declared al Qaeda militant Mohammed Merah has been holed up in the ground floor property since the early hours of Wednesday.
Negotiations have continued all day but Merah reportedly said he would surrender at night "to be more discreet".
Deputy mayor of Toulouse had said an assault on the building had begun - a claim then denied by interior ministry official Pierre-Henry Brandet.
Mr Brandet said: "They were moves to intimidate the gunman who seems to have changed his mind and does not want to surrender. There is no assault."
Mohammed Merah as shown in undated video aired on France 2 tv channel
Explosions rocked the district of the southwestern city and orange flashes lit up the sky.
Reuters new agency cites a police source as saying the blasts blew open the door of Merah's apartment but local French media reported that the wanted man was still inside.
There were also reports of gunfire at the site. Merah is thought to be armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a Mini-Uzi submachine pistol and a collection of handguns.
Street lighting in the area was turned off earlier as officers continued to surround the apartment block.
The 23-year-old, a French national of Algerian descent, is suspected of killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers in a wave of attacks in southern France in recent days.
He has reportedly told police that he carried out the murders to "avenge Palestinian children".
He had also admitted that he planned to kill a soldier on Wednesday morning.
"This will not last for days, because of physical and mental fatigue. All the experience with crazed gunmen like this is that they stop at some point," defence minister Gerard Longuet said on TF1 television.
"What we want is to capture him alive, so that we can bring him to justice, know his motivations and hopefully find out who were his accomplices, if there were any," he added.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has said Merah wanted to bring the nation "to its knees".
The politician, speaking at a memorial service for three soldiers killed by the gunman last week, said the killer had failed to divide France.
The scooter allegedly used in the attacks has been seized by police.
The French prosecutor handling the case, Francois Molins, said Merah had been to Afghanistan twice and had trained in the militant stronghold of Waziristan.
His brother, who has been arrested, had been implicated in a network sending fighters to Iraq.
A car belonging to him has also been seized after it was said to contain explosives.
Mr Molins told reporters the US army sent Mohammed Merah back to France after he was arrested in Afghanistan.
Afghan police apparently detained the man at a road checkpoint and handed him over to the US army "who put him on the first plane headed to France," he said.
He also apparently told French media that he has video footage showing his killing sprees and that he is planning to post them online.
Mr Molins said the suspect "expresses no regret, only that he didn't have time to have more victims. And he even bragged, he said, of bringing France to its knees".
Shots rang out at the start of the operation this morning after officers spoke to the suspect at the door. At least two policemen were injured in the gunfire.
france shootings: what we know about the gunman
Terrified neighbours were evacuated from their flats roughly nine hours after the siege began.
The suspect threw a handgun out of the window in exchange for a communications device but still had other weapons.
He told police he is a "mujahideen" or Islamic warrior fighting to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children killed in conflict with Israel.
The French government said its intelligence services had been tracking him for years.
Merah had a criminal record and was in trouble with the police as a juvenile.
French interior minister Claude Gueant said: "This person has made trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the past... and says he belongs to al Qaeda and says he wanted to avenge Palestinian children and to attack the French army. He has links with people involved in jihadism and Salafism (a strict branch of Islam)."
Read Tim Marshall's piece on clues left by the suspect
Later he added: "He had for several years been tracked by the DCRI (French intelligence agency) and its agents in Toulouse but there was never anything to suggest that he was preparing a criminal act."
The Palestinian premier Salam Fayyad has strongly condemned the suspect's claim he was acting to avenge Palestinian children.
"It is time for these criminals to stop marketing their terrorist acts in the name of Palestine and to stop pretending to stand up for the rights of Palestinian children who only ask for a decent life," he said.
Officers brought the suspect's mother to the scene and tried to get her to help in the negotiations but she refused, saying she had "little influence" over him.
The suspect's mother, brother and the brother's girlfriend have been arrested.
Explosives were found in the brother's car, police said.
Neighbours leaving the cordoned off area said he is on the ground floor of a small building in what is usually a quiet housing estate.
Wafia Bendali, 26, who lives on the third floor of the building, said: "We heard gunfire three times, and we turned on the television. Then, the police phoned to say to stay in the house."
Another neighbour, Farida Boumama, 48, said her family woke up to voices at 3am and heard gunfire an hour later.
"I went to open the window to look out and police shouted, 'Go inside and close the shutters,'" she said.
Jonathan Sandler, his sons Arieh and Gabriel, and Miriam Monsonego
One resident told French radio: "They've got to get us out of here. They've got to come and get us."
Talking very quietly and crying in panic on the phone to France Info, she said: "Nobody is coming to help us. Nobody is helping us. We've been like this, terrified, since 3am."
Another told how the police climbed across her balcony, telling her: "Stay in your apartment. Do not go out - it's dangerous."
France launched one of the biggest manhunts the country has ever seen following the deaths of three children and a teacher at a Jewish school on Monday.
A gunman riding a scooter attacked the Ozar Hatorah school in broad daylight just as pupils were arriving.
It was soon linked to two separate shootings in nearby Montauban earlier this month in which three French soldiers were killed and another seriously injured.
All of the soldiers killed were of North African descent and police have said the three attacks were all carried out by an assailant using the same gun and scooter.
The four victims of the school shooting were buried at a Jerusalem cemetery today after being flown to Israel.
More From Sky News
March 21st, 2012
by Joe Kovacs
“America’s toughest sheriff” says there is “tons” more potentially shocking information on Barack Obama in connection with his probe into the president’s eligibility, and he calls the media’s suppression of his findings of a likely forged presidential birth certificate and Selective Service Card “probably the biggest censorship blackout in the history of the United States.”
“I’m not going after the president to keep him off a ballot or anything else, but that could happen,” Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio said. “I’m going at it strictly as a law-enforcement guy investigating a possible forgery and fraud. I’m sticking with that, but I’ll tell you one thing. We got tons of other information that could be very shocking, too, but I’m sticking now with just the [forgery] investigation and possible criminal violations.”
The lawman from Maricopa County made the comments March 16 on a national radio show hosted by Roger Hedgecock. (Scroll down for video.)
As WND reported March 1, Arpaio and his Cold Case Posse announced there is probable cause indicating the documents released by the White House last April purported to be Obama’s original, long-form birth certificate and Selective Service registration card are actually forgeries.
He stressed on the radio show his original intent with the posse was to put to rest all the claims suggesting Obama was not meeting the constitutional requirements to hold the presidency.
“I told these guys, ‘I want you to do a good job. I hope we clear the president,’” he explained. “I said give me the microfiche in Hawaii to show that he was born in that hospital. Give us the microfiche. I said that six months ago. And that would clear everything up. But as we went into it with an open mind, now we’re coming to a conclusion that we may have some forged documents revolving around this situation.”
When asked about making an arrest, Arpaio said, “We’re trying to identify any alleged forger. We haven’t done that yet. … I’m not blaming the president, but if they’re forged, someone has to be responsible for doing that.”
The sheriff also said that on Friday, he made a decision about where to send Obama’s Selective Service Card in order to have that agency “help us or do an independent investigation.”
“We have nothing to hide. We’re bringing it to their attention, and see what happens,” Arpaio said. “My problem is, there’s a lot of conflicts out here to get somebody to look into this. [Regarding] the media … this is probably the biggest censorship blackout in the history of the United States. When I go to the toilet, I make it in national news. … I just can’t believe the media, including the cable media blocking this thing out.”
Today, Arpaio issued a statement saying he sent his request for assistance to the U.S. Selective Service System, asking its director, Lawrence Romo, to respond to him within 30 days on whether or not his national office will provide the sheriff with the original document, and if that office will move forward with an investigation of its own.
On Hedgecock’s radio show, Arpaio noted:
“I guess common sense would be to send it to them. The Selective Service director is appointed by the president. … They only have 136 employees in the whole organization. I presume if I did that, what do you think they’re gonna to do with it? The director who was appointed from San Antonio, Texas, eight months into the Obama administration, what do you think he’s gonna do? He’s probably gonna call some guy at the White House if he can get up to the chief of staff to ask some advice, and then what are they gonna do? Give it to the attorney general? I don’t know. … So I’m fighting big battles here.”
Arpaio made special note about the issue of Obama’s possibly forged Selective Service Card.
“We had a press conference. A lot of people came. They were snickering, trying to embarrass me, [saying] this is a pony show trying to get publicity,” he said. “However, when we showed the Selective Service Card on the screen, you could hear a pin drop.”
Because of inconsistencies on the form itself – including an unusually incomplete date stamp – sheriff’s investigators suspect the form, which was allegedly filled out in Honolulu in 1980, may be a forgery.
WND is reporting today that Arpaio is seeking Obama’s original registration card from Selective Service.
Sheriff’s investigators were able to replicate the alleged forgery by obtaining a circa 1980 pica stamp and a circa “2008″ date plug. Investigators were able to clearly demonstrate the “80″ (which should have actually read 1980) in Obama’s Selective Service Registration form resulted from cutting out the “08″ from an authentic “2008″ date plug, and inverting the “08″ to read “80″ when the cut plug was loaded into the year slot on the 1980 pica stamp.
Meanwhile, although Arpaio did not focus on Obama’s Social Security Number at his news conference, WND has also reported the president may be using a fraudulent number, another important piece of information the national news media continue to suppress.
The Arpaio findings are not the only items the media are refusing to cover. As WND reported yesterday, a full-blown cover-up appears to be taking place in connection with WND’s disclosure about a retired U.S. postman who has signed a sworn affidavit suggesting Obama was a foreign-born student who was receiving financial help to go to Harvard from the parents of domestic terrorist Bill Ayers.
See excerpts of WND’s interviews with mailman Allen Hulton:
Arpaio’s Cold Case Posse began its investigation in August after 250 members of the Surprise, Ariz., Tea Party, presented a signed petition asking him to undertake the investigation. The tea partiers indicated if a forged birth certificate had been used to place Obama on the 2012 Arizona presidential ballot, their rights as Maricopa County voters could be compromised.
NOTE: In case you missed the news conference of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s “Cold Case Posse,” you can view it here.
Then last December, Obama’s Justice Department held its own news conference to claim Arpaio’s office committed civil-rights violations against Hispanics, including racial profiling and heavy-handed immigration patrols based on racially charged complaints.
When asked about that during Friday’s radio show, Arpaio said, “They want to control my organization, [imposing] monitors and everything else. I’m not gonna go for that. So I guess they’ll sue me and we’ll go to court and put the real facts out. The real facts that they’re going to have to come up with including all their so-called witnesses that they won’t identify. They won’t give us anything.”
March 21st, 2012
The Washington Post / Dana Milbank
On Wednesday, hours after Romney’s 12-point victory over Rick Santorum in the Illinois primary silenced most of the remaining doubters, senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom went on CNN and gave new meaning to the term “game change.”
“I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign,” he said, explaining why the fight for conservative primary voters has not pushed Romney too far to the right. “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”
Etch a Sketch?
Actually, it appeared more like Romney was playing Chutes and Ladders: He just landed on Space 87 and slid all the way back to 24. Suddenly, Romney’s event at an American Legion hall here in the Baltimore suburbs, was transformed from a gab session about gas prices into an Etch a Sketch fest.
Alice Stewart, a Santorum aide, brought a bagful of pocket-size Etch a Sketches and handed them out in the parking lot. (Your correspondent, threatened with arrest by a Maryland trooper who was blocking the door to keep reporters from the melee, was rewarded by Stewart with a blue Etch a Sketch.) “Conservative principles should be written in stone, not on Etch a Sketch,” the Santorum aide declared righteously.
You sunk my battleship!
Thirty feet away, Romney was shaking hands. Reporters inquired: Would he address the toy story? “We think gas prices are more important,” spokesman Rick Gorka replied, examining the reporters’ Etch a Sketches.
Santorum, who has taken Romney apart as if playing Operation, posed in his car Wednesday with the rectangular device. His campaign tweeted out the photo with the caption “@RickSantorum studying up on @MittRomney policy positions.”
“You take whatever he said and you can shake it up and it will be gone, and he’s going to draw a whole new picture for the general election,” Santorum crowed at a campaign stop in Louisiana.
Also campaigning in Louisiana, Newt Gingrich, who has turned the trail into a round of Twister, gave an Etch a Sketch to a young girl in the audience and told her, “You could now be a presidential candidate.”
Will Romney ever end his string of debilitating gaffes? As the Magic 8 Ball says: Outlook not so good.
After the New Hampshire primary, Romney appeared to have it made in Candy Land. But Santorum and Gingrich felled his inevitability like dominoes, and — Sorry! — Romney finds himself in a coast-to-coast game of Connect Four with competitors who were not supposed to have been in his league but who are benefiting from voters’ disenchantment with him.
There is some enthusiasm for the Republican front-runner. Outside the Romney event here, retiree Jim Wilson sat in his GMC truck decorated bumper to bumper with Romney paraphernalia and American flags. Wilson, who lives outside Charlottesville, has been on the road since August, to each primary state except Colorado — and that’s only because he wanted to make it to Kansas in time. “That’s a bunch of horse apples,” he said when asked about Romney’s enthusiasm gap. “Look at this crowd,” he said, between puffs on his pipe.
True enough. Two hundred supporters filled the hall with at least that many outside. “This is really something,” the candidate exulted to the overflow crowd in the parking lot.
But holding that enthusiasm has been, for Romney, quite a Rubik’s Cube. Inside, the candidate talked about health care, education, Iran, the economy — anything but children’s toys.
Although it was not particularly warm in the hall, Romney ended by saying that the temperature had “reached 140 in here” — and retreated while glaring at reporters shouting Etch a Sketch questions.
Realizing that he could not shake the queries, Romney returned a few minutes later for a “short Q&A,” known by the jargon of “press avail.” It lasted 90 seconds.
“The issues I’m running on will be exactly the same,” he declared in response to an Etch a Sketch question. “I’m running as a conservative Republican. I was a conservative Republican governor.”
So he was a conservative when he enacted Romneycare?
“Can you guarantee to Republican voters that you won’t take more moderate positions?” CNN’s Jim Acosta asked.
“I answered the question,” Romney replied.
“An avail is more than one question, governor, if you don’t mind my saying so,” Acosta told him.
Romney grinned. “This wasn’t an avail. It was a chance to respond to a question I didn’t get a chance to respond to.”