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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

EU Extends Deficit Deadlines For Most European Countries

Moments ago, the following European Commission website hit the interwebs, which can be summarized as follows:


Translation: the theatrical spectacle of Europe's austerity, which never really took place, is finally over. Going forward political incompetence will henceforth be known as just that: incompetence, and elected rulers will not be able to pass the buck to evil, evil, "austerity." More importantly, Europe has also proven without a doubt, that any "structural adjustments" on the continent are impossible, and that governments are locked in a spend till you drop mode.

For Europe's sake, it better find a sake of endogenous credit creation once the BOJ's carry trade fueled mask of all that is wrong with Europe fades away. Alas, following yet another painful M3 report, and an intractable ECB which refuses to monetize de novo and unsterilized (and simply can't "lack of fiscal union" reasons previously explained), where such credit creation will come from is unknown.

Zero Hedge

China to hold digital war games

China is to conduct its first "digital" war games, state media has said, as concern grows in Washington and elsewhere about Chinese hacking attacks.

A brief report by the official Xinhua news agency said the exercise, in north China's remote Inner Mongolia region, will "test new types of combat forces including units using digital technology amid efforts to adjust to informationalised war".

"It will be the first time a People's Liberation Army exercise has focused on combat forces including digitalised units, special operations forces, army aviation and electronic counter forces," the brief English-language report added.

Barack Obama will discuss cyber security with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, during a meeting in California next week, as Washington becomes increasingly worried about Chinese hacking of US military networks.

The Pentagon underscored its concerns in a report to Congress this month, accusing China of using cyber espionage to modernise its military. It said the US government has been the target of hacking that appeared to be "attributable directly to the Chinese government and military".

In Australia this week a report by Australia's ABC television said hackers linked to China stole the floor plans of a new A$630m headquarters for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the country's domestic spy agency.

The Chinese government scorned the claim and has repeatedly denied any involvement in hacking attacks, even as it steps up defence spending and develops new technologies such as aircraft carriers and stealth fighters.

Read the full article at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/29/china-hold-digital-war-games#ixzz2UhFAN72o

'Iran nuclear, Syria chemical, Hezbollah rockets: Axis has crossed all red lines'

Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Avigdor Lieberman says Iran is moving at a "crazy pace" toward a nuclear weapon; no doubt that Assad has used chemical weapons; and Hezbollah missiles can hit anywhere in Israel.
Israel Hayom Staff and Reuters

The radical axis of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah has crossed all red lines recently, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a meeting of his committee, Lieberman said that Iran was moving at a "crazy pace" toward obtaining a nuclear weapon, and that he hoped Israel would be able to make the correct decisions.

He also said there was no doubt that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons. He said the international community had done nothing while 90,000 people were massacred in Syria.

Lieberman noted that Hezbollah has missiles that can reach anywhere in Israel. He expressed concern about a situation in which any terrorist group could strike Israel.

"I know the answer is more funding, but I think what is required is more decisiveness and determination," Lieberman said.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz told the committee, "We are dealing with two tracks simultaneously -- the use of operational force in the different arenas in light of events and possible developments and the long-term building of force within the budgetary constraints."

Also on Tuesday, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said that the elections in Iran next month would have no effect on the country's nuclear program. Steinitz said a nuclear Iran would equal 30 North Koreas. He assessed that "the next few months, a year or so" remain for the Iranian nuclear standoff to be resolved.

On Syria, Steinitz said Israel was not ruling out any scenario in the Syrian civil war, including a victory by the Assad regime. He warned that the S-300 anti-aircraft system that Russia plans to sell to Syria could potentially be used to shoot down civilian aircraft over Tel Aviv.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Tuesday that the S-300 system destined for Syria has not left Russia yet, but Israel will know how to act if it does.

Yaalon's remarks appeared to contradict Israel's air force chief, who said last week the shipment of S-300 missiles was "on its way" to Assad.

Israel is alarmed by the prospect of Russia supplying advanced weapon systems to Syria, saying such arms could end up in the hands of Iran or Hezbollah.

"I can say that the shipments are not on their way yet," Yaalon told reporters. "I hope they will not leave, and if, God forbid, they reach Syria, we will know what to do," he said, without disclosing how he came by the information.

Although Israel has not publicly taken sides in the Syrian conflict, Western and Israeli sources say it has launched air strikes inside Syria to destroy weapons it believed were destined for Hezbollah, which is allied with Assad.

Russia's foreign minister said on May 13 that Moscow had no new plans to sell the S-300 to Syria but left open the possibility of delivering such systems under an existing contract.


Science Research Grants Related to Immortality Announced

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Phenomena related to near-death experiences, immortality in virtual reality, and genes that prevent a species of freshwater hydra from aging are among the first research proposals funded by The Immortality Project at the University of California, Riverside.

Grants totaling $2.4 million will be awarded to 10 research teams from the United States and Europe in the scientific component of The Immortality Project, said John Martin Fischer, distinguished professor of philosophy at UC Riverside. The recipients were selected from among 75 proposals, which were reviewed by a panel of seven judges drawn from the disciplines of neuroscience, biological science, philosophy, and psychology.

The Immortality Project was established at UC Riverside in 2012 with a $5 million, three-year grant from the John Templeton Foundation to undertake a rigorous examination of a wide range of issues related to immortality. Fischer is the project’s principal investigator.

“The research should push forward the frontiers of knowledge about death and immortality in various ways,” Fischer said. For example, “I expect that we will advance our understanding of the prospects for increasing human longevity and of the ability of certain creatures (hydra) to achieve a kind of immortality by reproducing themselves; that we will achieve a more refined evaluation of the nature, significance, and impact of near-death experiences; and that we will gain a better understanding of the relationship between our ‘commonsense’ or ‘natural’ beliefs about personhood, religion, or the deceased and our views about immortality.

“Hamlet famously said about death, ‘No one comes back from that country.’ But one of the projects hopes that we can gain some insights about death and the afterlife from immersion in a virtual reality that depicts a kind of survival after death. The projects thus explore a fascinating and wide range of issues through, broadly speaking, empirical research into the great questions about death and immortality.”

The research teams include international collaborations, and some involve cross-cultural studies, Fischer added.

Preliminary results of the science research projects will be presented at a conference in June 2014. Final results, and the results of philosophy and theology research proposals to be funded in spring 2014, will be presented at a capstone conference in June 2015. Both conferences will be open to the public.

Research projects funded through The Immortality Project are:
“The Life-Review Experience: phenomenological, psychological and neuroscientific perspectives” — Dr. Shahar Arzy of Hadassah Hebrew University, Jerusalem, will examine the life-review experience reported in many near-death experiences, including its prevalence and relationship to life events.
“Afterlife beliefs and their cognitive mechanisms among the Chinese: Past and Present” — Melanie Nyhof, postdoctoral research fellow at the Fuller School of Graduate Studies in Pasadena, and Kelly James Clark, senior research fellow at the Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Mich., in collaboration with researchers in China, will assess the influence of culture on afterlife beliefs in mainland China and with Chinese immigrants in the United States.

“The Immortality of Morality” — Kurt Gray at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Scott Allison at the University of Richmond, Virginia, will examine the psychological factors that dispose human beings to perceive immortality, and the real-world consequences of the link between morality and immortality.

“Mind-Body Dualism as a Natural Intuition that Supports Afterlife Beliefs” — Bruce Hood at the University of Bristol, England; Nathalia Gjersoe at the Open University in the United Kingdom; and Paul Bloom at Yale University will examine afterlife belief and the relationship with mind-body dualism in children and adults.

“Identifying and Characterizing the Genes of Immortality in Hydra” — Daniel Martinez of Pomona College, Claremont, Calif., will determine what genes are implicated in making the freshwater hydra effectively immortal, research that has implications for human medicine.

“Death and the Self” — Shaun Nichols of the University of Arizona, Tucson, and Jay Garfield of Smith College, Northampton, Mass., will explore whether the belief in the mutability of self reduces the fear of death and belief in an afterlife in Christian, Hindu and Buddhist cultures.

“A Multi-Centre Pilot Study of the Mind, Brain, Consciousness and Near Death Experiences during Cardiac Arrest” —Dr. Sam Parnia, director of resuscitation science at the Stony Brook Medical Center, N.Y., will examine the nature of human consciousness and mental processes during cardiac arrest and their relationship with brain resuscitation.
“Religious and Scientific Paths to Immortality: A Clash of Cultures?” — Tom Pyszczynski of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Jeff Greenberg at the University of Arizona examine why some people embrace pursuing indefinite lifespan expansion while other people reject it, and how the prospect of being able to live indefinitely changes people’s investments in aspects of their religious and secular beliefs.
“Modeling Immortality in Immersive Virtual Reality” — Mel Slater and Maria V. Sanchez-Vives of the University of Barcelona, Spain, will investigate how direct experience of mortality, the possibility of post-death continued existence of the persona, and independence between the persona and the physical body might influence the beliefs, attitudes, character and behavior of people.
“The Role of Near-Death Experiences in the Emergence of a Movement: A Quasi-Experimental Field Study of IANDS” — Ann Taves and Tamsin German of the University of California, Santa Barbara will examine the role that near-death-experience-related accounts and experiences play in shaping and reinforcing the potency of afterlife beliefs in the near-death-experience movement.

The John Templeton Foundation, located near Philadelphia, serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality. The foundation supports research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will. It encourages civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers and theologians, and between such experts and the public at large, for the purposes of definitional clarity and new insights. The foundation’s vision is derived from the late Sir John Templeton’s optimism about the possibility of acquiring “new spiritual information” and from his commitment to rigorous scientific research and related scholarship. The foundation’s motto, “How little we know, how eager to learn,” exemplifies its support for open-minded inquiry and its hope for advancing human progress through breakthrough discoveries.

UCR Today

Israel warns Russia against giving Syria missiles

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel's defense chief said Tuesday a Russian plan to supply sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles to Syria was a "threat" and signaled that Israel is prepared to use force to stop the delivery.

The warning by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon ratcheted up tensions with Moscow over the planned sale of S-300 air-defense missiles to Syria. Earlier in the day, a top Russian official said his government remained committed to the deal.

Israel has been lobbying Moscow to halt the sale, fearing the missiles would upset the balance of power in the region and could slip into the hands of hostile groups, including the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, a close ally of the Syrian regime.

Israel has carried out several airstrikes in Syria in recent months that are believed to have destroyed weapons shipments bound for Hezbollah. Israel has not confirmed carrying out the attacks.

The delivery of the Russian missiles to Syria could limit the Israeli air force's ability to act. It is not clear whether Israeli warplanes entered Syrian airspace in these attacks.

Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Russia to discuss the Syrian situation with President Vladimir Putin. The sides have said little about the talks, but the S-300s were believed to have been on the agenda.

"Clearly this move is a threat to us," Yaalon told reporters Tuesday when asked about the planned Russian sale.

"At this stage I can't say there is an escalation. The shipments have not been sent on their way yet. And I hope that they will not be sent," he said. But "if God forbid they do reach Syria, we will know what to do."

Since the Syrian conflict erupted in March 2011, Israel repeatedly has voiced concerns that Syria's sophisticated arsenal, including chemical weapons, could either be transferred to Hezbollah, a bitter enemy of Israel, or fall into the hands of rebels battling Syrian President Bashar Assad. The rebels include al-Qaida-affiliated groups that Israel believes could turn their attention toward Israel if they topple Assad.

Syria already possesses Russian-made air defenses, and Israel is believed to have used long-distance bombs fired from Israeli or Lebanese airspace. The S-300s would expand Syria's capabilities, allowing it to counter airstrikes launched from foreign airspace as well.

In Moscow, Russia's deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, wouldn't say whether Russia has shipped any of the S-300s, which have a range of up to 200 kilometers (125 miles) and the capability to track and strike multiple targets simultaneously. But he insisted that Moscow isn't going to abandon the deal despite strong Western and Israeli criticism.

"We understand the concerns and signals sent to us from different capitals. We realize that many of our partners are concerned about the issue," Ryabkov said. "We have no reason to revise our stance."

He said the missiles could be a deterrent against foreign intervention in Syria and would not be used against Syrian rebels, who do not have an air force.

"We believe that such steps to a large extent help restrain some 'hotheads' considering a scenario to give an international dimension to this conflict," he said.

Russia has been the key ally of the Syrian regime, protecting it from United Nations sanctions and providing it with weapons despite the civil war there that has claimed over 70,000 lives.

In any case, an open confrontation between Israel and Russia would seem to be months away. Russian military analysts say it would take at least one year for Syrian crews to learn how to operate the S-300s, and the training will involve a live drill with real ammunition at a Russian shooting range. There has been no evidence that any such training has begun.

If Russia were to deliver the missiles to Syria, Israeli and Western intelligence would likely detect the shipment, and Israel would have ample time to strike before the system is deployed.

Ryabkov's statement came a day after European Union's decision to lift an arms embargo against Syrian rebels. He criticized the EU decision, saying it would help fuel the conflict.

Israel's defense chief spoke at an annual civil defense drill to prepare for missile attacks on Israel. This year's exercise comes at a time of heightened concerns that Israel could be dragged into the Syrian civil war.

A number of mortar shells from the fighting in Syria have landed in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. While Israel believes most of the fire has been errant, it has accused Syria of firing intentionally at Israeli targets on several occasions, and last week the sides briefly exchanged fire.

Israel's civil defense chief, Home Front Minister Gilad Erdan, said this week's drill was not specifically connected to the tensions with Syria.

"But of course we must take into consideration that something like that might happen in the near future because of what we see in Syria, and because we know that chemical weapons exist in Syria and might fall to the hands of radical Muslim terror groups," he said.

My way News

Russia blasts US double standards over Syrian peace progress

The US-Russian initiative for a comprehensive peace conference to resolve the Syrian crisis needs honest effort of those involved. But some nations apparently try to undermine the effort to call the meeting, says the Russia’s foreign minister.

The criticism by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was voiced as he commented on a draft resolution currently discussed at the UN Human Rights Council. The document sponsored by Qatar and Turkey seeks to condemn the Syrian government for the alleged use of mercenaries against rebel forces. The ‘mercenaries’ in question are from the Lebanese militant movement Hezbollah, who are fighting in Syria.

“To my great astonishment we have learned that in addition to the sponsors of this draft resolution the US delegation is promoting most vigorously this very unhelpful idea. I asked [US State Secretary] John Kerry about it in Paris, and apparently he was not aware of this situation. He promised to handle it, but I don’t know whether he managed to do it,” Lavrov said.

He added that Russia currently sees no alternative to the peace conference, which would hopefully gather all interested parties, including the Syrian government, various Syrian opposition groups, regional powers like Iran and other. But doing it requires a genuine joint effort.

“We need everyone to work honestly and not allow double standards – backing the conference in statements and taking steps actually aimed at undermining this suggestion in practice,” Lavrov explained.

Lavrov also explained that the primary focus of Hezbollah fighters in Syria as stated by the leadership is the protection of the Shia population and holy sites from the threat posed by Sunni rebel forces. He said it indicates that the Syrian conflict is increasingly characterized by sectarian confrontation, a development which Russia has long warned against.



Nothing says “child-appropriate material” quite like gender-bending underage superheroes. At least that’s the theory over at the Hub, the network co-owned by Discovery and Hasbro, which is trotting out its latest soon-to-be-dud, SheZow. That show follows the adventures of a 12-year-old boy named Guy who uses a magic ring to transform himself into a crime-fighting girl. Yes, you read that correctly. When Guy says the magic words – “You go girl!” – he becomes SheZow, wearing a purple skirt and cape, as well as pink gloves and white boots.

The chief executive of the Hub, who may or may not have been high (and leftist) when she greenlit this project, is Margaret Loesch. Loesch commented, “When I first heard about the show, my reaction was ‘Are you out of your minds?’ Then I looked at it and I thought, ‘This is just funny.’”

The target audience for the Hub is children aged two to eleven.


Japan's Debt Problem Visualized