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Month: October, 2013

Iraq seeking new US aid after pushing out troops

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly two years after pushing out the U.S. military, Iraq is asking for more American weapons, training and manpower to help fight a bloody resurgence of al-Qaida that has unleashed a level of violence comparable to the darkest days of the nation’s sectarian conflict.

The request will be discussed during a White House meeting Friday between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Barack Obama in what Baghdad hopes will be a fresh start in a complicated relationship that has been marked by victories and frustrations for each side.

“We know we have major challenges of our own capabilities being up to the standard. They currently are not,” Lukman Faily, the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S., said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We need to gear up, to deal with that threat more seriously. We need support and we need help.”

He added: “We have said to the Americans we’d be more than happy to discuss all the options short of boots on the ground.”

“Boots on the ground” means military forces. The U.S. withdrew all but a few hundred of its troops from Iraq in December 2011 after Baghdad refused to renew a security agreement to extend legal immunity for Americans forces that would have let more stay.

At the time, the withdrawal was hailed as a victory for the Obama administration, which campaigned on ending the Iraq war and had little appetite for pushing Baghdad into a new security agreement. But within months, violence began creeping up in the capital and across the country as Sunni Muslim insurgents lashed out at Shiites, angered by a widespread belief that Sunnis have been sidelined by the Shiite-led government, and with no U.S. troops to keep them in check.

More than 5,000 Iraqis have been killed in attacks since April, and suicide bombers launched 38 strikes in the last month alone.

Al-Maliki is expected to ask Obama for new assistance to bolster its military and fight al-Qaida. Faily said that could include everything from speeding up the delivery of U.S. aircraft, missiles, interceptors and other weapons, to improving national intelligence systems. And when asked, he did not rule out the possibility of asking the U.S. to send military special forces or additional CIA advisers to Iraq to help train and assist counterterror troops.

If the U.S. does not commit to providing the weapons or other aid quickly, “we will go elsewhere,” Faily said. That means Iraq will step up diplomacy with nations like China or Russia that would be more than happy to increase their influence in Baghdad at U.S. expense.

The two leaders also will discuss how Iraq can improve its fractious government, which so often is divided among sectarian or ethnic lines, to give it more confidence with a bitter and traumatized public.

The ambassador said no new security agreement would be needed to give immunity to additional U.S. advisers or trainers in Iraq — the main sticking point that led to U.S. withdrawal. And he said Iraq would pay for the additional weapons or other assistance.

A senior Obama administration official said Wednesday that U.S. officials were not planning to send U.S. trainers to Iraq and that Baghdad had not asked for them. The administration official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters by name.

U.S. officials were prepared to help Iraq with an across-the-board approach that did not focus just on military or security gaps, the administration official said. The aid under consideration might include more weapons for Iraqi troops who do not have necessary equipment to battle al-Qaida insurgents, he said.

Administration officials consider the insurgency, which has rebranded itself as the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant, a major and increasing threat both to Iraq and the U.S., the official said.

U.S. and Iraqi officials see a possible solution in trying to persuade insurgents to join forces with Iraqi troops and move away from al-Qaida, following a pattern set by so-called Awakening Councils in western Iraq that marked a turning point in the war. Faily said much of the additional aid — including weapons and training — would go toward this effort.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who opposed the U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011, said Iraq likely would not get the aid until al-Maliki, a Shiite, makes strides in making the government more inclusive to Sunnis.

“If he expects the kind of assistance that he’s asking for, we need a strategy and we need to know exactly how that’s going to be employed, and we need to see some changes in Iraq,” McCain said Wednesday after a tense meeting on Capitol Hill with al-Maliki. “The situation is deteriorating and it’s unraveling, and he’s got to turn it around.”

Al-Maliki’s plea for aid is somewhat ironic, given that he refused to budge in 2011 on letting U.S. troops stay in Iraq with legal immunity Washington said they must have to defend themselves in the volatile country. But it was a fiercely unpopular political position in Iraq, which was unable to prosecute Blackwater Worldwide security contractors who opened fire in a Baghdad square in 2007, killing at least 13 passers-by.

James F. Jeffrey, who was the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad when the U.S. troops left, called it a “turnabout” by al-Maliki. He said Iraq desperately needs teams of U.S. advisers, trainers, intelligence and counterterror experts to beat back al-Qaida.

“We have those people,” said Jeffrey, who retired from the State Department after leaving Baghdad last year. “We had plans to get them in after 2011. They can be under embassy privileges and immunities. They will cost the American people almost nothing. They will, by and large, not be in any more danger than our State Department civilians. And they could mean all the difference between losing an Iraq that 4,500 Americans gave their lives for.”

Nearly 4,500 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq between the 2003 invasion and the 2011 withdrawal. More than 100,000 Iraqi were killed in that time.


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Tesla opens London showroom, outlines broader UK plans

Tesla opens London showroom, will sell righthand drive Model S starting at 55,000

Tesla now has an official retail footprint in the UK. The EV maker has just opened its first British showroom in London’s Westfield shopping center, giving locals a chance to buy the Model S (including next year’s £55,000 right-hand drive variant) in person. The store is just the beginning of Tesla’s inroads into the country, though. As part of an opening gala Q&A, Elon Musk said that his company was already mapping the UK for Supercharger stations. He also expects that the Model X SUV will reach the UK in late 2015 or 2016, and hopes that Tesla’s long-planned lower-cost EV will come in roughly three years for about £30,000. That’s an ambitious plan when Tesla barely has a presence outside of North America, but Musk has a knack for completing large-scale projects.

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Mavericks Can Be Fountain of Youth for Old Macs

By John P. Mello Jr.
Part of the ECT News Network
10/29/13 5:00 AM PT

Mavericks has a new memory compressing scheme that allows a Mac to get more out of its existing RAM. With only 2 GB of memory in my MacBook Air, this feature is heaven sent. It works like this: As a Mac approaches its memory limits, Mavericks compresses memory being used by idle programs to provide more RAM for your system. That allows you to get more bang for the memory you have in your Mac.

OS X Mavericks is available from Apple for free.

As someone with a reluctance to upgrade his hardware as often as Apple would appreciate, two aspects of OS X 10.9 Mavericks immediately caught my attention: its memory management and battery-life enhancements.

Mavericks makes a number of changes in power management that improve battery life substantially — even on my old 2009 13-inch MacBook Air.

It has reduced demands on a system’s central processing unit through something called “Timer Coalescing.” The technology squeezes more time out of a battery charge by grouping together low-level operations — transitions and interrupts, for instance — to allow the CPU to enter a low-power state more often. It can reduce CPU activity by as much as 72 percent, according to Apple.

Another major juice saver in Mavericks is App Nap. What that does is slow down inactive apps when they’re not working in the foreground. It reduces demands on a processor even more and decreases energy consumption by as much as 23 percent.

Mavericks also adds some additional information under the power icon on the OS X toolbar that I found very handy. Along with the an estimate of the battery life remaining in your current charge, it tells you what apps are using significant energy on your system.

Doubled My Battery Life

While those claims sound good, I’ve always been a doubting Thomas when it comes to battery-life claims. Claims can be fudged or can be the fruit of lab conditions that don’t emulate the real world.

That’s not the case with Mavericks. Amazingly, I easily doubled the battery life on my MacBook Air. From averaging two to two-and-a-half hours, my battery life was suddenly in the four-to-five hour range.

On the memory side of the ledger, Mavericks has a new memory compressing scheme that allows a Mac to get more out of its existing RAM. With only 2 GB of memory in my MacBook Air, this feature is heaven sent. It works like this: As a Mac approaches its memory limits, Mavericks compresses memory being used by idle programs to provide more RAM for your system. That allows you to get more bang for the memory you have in your Mac.

An added benefit of memory compression is it cuts down on disk access. That’s because the more tasks you can perform in memory, the fewer you’ll have to swap off to disk. All of that is supposed to improve your system’s performance. If it did, I didn’t notice it.

Tabbed Finding

In recent times, Apple has been trying to offer alternatives to doing grunt work in the Finder. After all, folders and files are so 20th century. However, Mavericks has added some Finder features that can make working with folders and files more efficient.

Both tabs and tags are now part of the Finder’s repertoire. Tabs were originally introduced in browsers to cut down on screen clutter. They’ve proven to be useful in other kinds of software, too, such as email programs.

In Mavericks, Finder windows can be set up as tabs. For example, you could set up tabs for a Dropbox disk, your Desktop and document folder. Then you could jump to those areas with a click without hunting for them in the Finder’s sidebar.

Tabs make moving files easier, too. You can drag items from an open Finder window to a tab, and the item will be moved to the tabbed location.

In a browser, you can choose to have new windows opened automatically in a tab; not so in the Finder — you have to create them manually. That’s done by selecting the item you want to be the focus of the tab and using Command-T or Command-double click.

Finding With Tags

Just as tabs make navigating in the Finder easier, tags can make finding items snappier. Tags are words used to identify an item. “St. Bart, Caribbean, vacation, 1995,” for example, might be tags used to identify pictures from a memorable event from your past.

Tags can be added to files and folders in Mavericks. In a Finder window, you can select an item, press control-click and choose the tags item from the pop-up menu. When saving a file, a field will appear in the save box for adding tags.

You can add as many tags as you like. You just need to separate them by commas. Comma separation also allows you to use more than one word as a tag.

In addition to tagging items with words, you can tag them with colors. Since you only have a limited color palette to work with, I found that feature marginally useful.

More Than 200 New Features

Mavericks adds a new Tags section to the Finder’s sidebar. You can specify which tags you’d like to appear there. That’s a good thing, since as you create more and more tags, the sidebar could get flooded with them.

In the Tags section, though, there’s an All Tags item. It will open a window in the Finder that shows all your tags. In that window you can search for tags, edit them, and display items associated with them — wherever those items are located on your system.

These are just a few of the goodies that can be found in Mavericks. Interactive notifications have been added. Passwords, usernames and credit card information can be stored across devices with iCloud Keychain. There’s even iOS favorites like iBooks and Apple Maps.

In fact, Apple says it has added more than 200 new features to the latest version of OS X. However, for my money — oops, did I mention the upgrade was for free? — the improved battery life and memory compression features alone make upgrading to Mavericks worthwhile.

John Mello is a freelance technology writer and former special correspondent for Government Security News.

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Don’t Be Silly. Lock Down and Encrypt Your Smartphone

Don’t Be Silly. Lock Down and Encrypt Your Smartphone

Your smartphone is your most portable computer. It’s also a treasure trove of information. You wouldn’t leave your laptop unlocked in public, so why leave your phone’s data unprotected?Source:
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Another Dead Oarfish in California: Are They Predicting an Earthquake?

TUESDAY, APRIL 20, 2010, AT 6:19 PM
Tornado Kills at Least Five in Oklahoma

FRIDAY, APRIL 29, 2011, AT 3:07 PM
Obama Gets Firsthand Look at a Tornado Damage

TUESDAY, APRIL 20, 2010, AT 6:19 PM
Tornado Kills at Least Five in Oklahoma. Very long title. Long long long. Tornado Kills at Least Five in Oklahoma. Very long title. Long long long.

TUESDAY, APRIL 20, 2010, AT 6:19 PM
Tornado Kills at Least Five in Oklahoma. Very long title. Long long long. Tornado Kills at Least Five in Oklahoma. Very long title. Long long long.

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Pennsylvania Governor Talks Up Plan To Expand Medicaid His Way

[unable to retrieve full-text content]After initially declining federal funding to expand Medicaid, Gov. Tom Corbett has changed course slightly. He is pursuing an approach for Pennsylvania that would make use of federal funds, but there are some caveats.Source:
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Custom Moto X now $99.99 from Moto Maker site

Moto X

$100 price cut for customized AT&T Moto X on contract

Motorola has halved the cost of getting hold of a customized 16GB Moto X from its site. The customization tools are still exclusive to AT&T's Moto X, which incidentally still costs $199 on-contract from the carrier. If you're after the 32GB model, that'll set you back $149.99, down from $249.99.

So there's really no reason not to pick up a customized model if you're in the market for an AT&T Moto X. Moto's customization site lets you change the back color, accents and texture of your Moto X, before adding accessories and custom greetings, giving you a more personalized device.

There's been no official word on when Moto Maker will be coming to other carriers, but Verizon is rumored to get it Nov. 11.

More:; via: Android Central forums


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HTC publishes T-Mobile HTC One 4.3 RUU for tinkerers

HTC Unlock

A safe way back to 'stock' firmware for hackers, and an alternative way to update

In a somewhat unusual move, HTC has published the new Android 4.3-based firmware for the T-Mobile HTC One online, in the form of an RUU (ROM update utility). The RUU weighs in at just over one gigabyte, and can be used to directly flash the latest "stock" firmware onto T-Mo's HTC One, regardless of whether it's running older official software or a custom ROM.

In the past HTC has shied away from releasing these kinds of utilities publicly, likely due to the software licensing restrictions, though that hasn't stopped many RUUs from leaking out online over the past several years. If you've got a T-Mo HTC One and want to perform a "manual update" as HTC calls it, you'll need a Windows computer, the correct drivers, and a little patience and technical know-how.

You'll find the download link and instructions below.

Source: T-Mobile HTC One Manual Update; via: AndroidPolice


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West criticizes, China defends human rights record at U.N.

By Stephanie Nebehay and Sui-Lee Wee

GENEVA/BEIJING (Reuters) – Western countries accused China on Tuesday of arresting activists, curbing Internet use and suppressing ethnic minorities, as the United Nations formally reviewed its rights record for the first time since Xi Jinping became president.

The United Nations Human Rights Council, which reviews all U.N. members every four years, convened in Geneva, where sharply opposing views of China’s human rights record were exposed.

Uzra Zeya, acting assistant secretary in the U.S. State Department’s bureau of democracy, human rights and labor, said China should cease using harassment, detention and arrest to silence human rights activists and their families and friends.

“We’re concerned that China suppresses freedoms of assembly, association, religion and expression…, harasses, detains and punishes activists…, targets rights defenders’ family members and friends and implements policies that undermine the human rights of ethnic minorities,” Zeya said.

China’s special envoy Wu Hailong, who led Beijing’s delegation in Geneva, said talks with other countries in Geneva had been “open, candid… and cooperative.”

But he added that some of the accusations leveled at China had been “based on misunderstandings and prejudices.”

Hours before the session began, Tibetan activists scaled the building and unfurled a banner reading: “China fails human rights in Tibet – U.N. stand up for Tibet”.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said it was willing to work with other countries on human rights as long as it was in a spirit of mutual respect.

“But we firmly oppose those kinds of biased and malicious criticisms,” she added, referring to the Tibetan protest.

U.N. security detained the four activists from Denmark and Britain for several hours, and a spokeswoman for Students for a Free Tibet later said they had not been charged and were expected to return to their home countries.


China faces criticism from some Western countries including the United States for what they say is the religious repression of ethnic minorities, including Tibetans and Muslim Uighurs in the vast western Xinjiang region.

China has responded to unrest in both regions by intensifying a crackdown by security forces, and Xi, who took office in March, has showed no sign of easing harsh policies.

Echoing concerns voiced by Germany and Switzerland, British ambassador Karen Pierce called on China to further reduce the number of crimes carrying the death penalty.

A Chinese diplomat told the Geneva talks: “Our government decision is to retain the death penalty but exercise strict control of its use.”

Wu said minority ethnic groups in China were treated fairly, and added that a priority for authorities was to reduce poverty.

“Nearly 100 million people live in poverty. Some of them don’t even have enough food and clothes. There is a saying that a ‘hungry crowd is an angry crowd’. Big problems will occur if we cannot feed the poor.”

Activists voiced disappointment at China’s position at the session. On Friday, its delegation is due to say which of the Council’s recommendations it will accept or reject.

“I think that there wasn’t really an openness to criticism,” Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China, told a news briefing. “It was clear from the Chinese delegation’s responses that ‘objective and frank’ meant no criticism, or at least no criticism that they didn’t control.”

Some experts had thought the administration of Xi would be less hardline than his predecessors. Instead, critics say Xi has presided over a clamp down that has moved beyond the targeting of dissidents calling for political change.

For example, authorities have detained at least 16 activists who have demanded officials publicly disclose their wealth as well as scores of people accused of online “rumor-mongering”.

“Xi Jinping has definitely taken the country backwards on human rights,” prominent rights lawyer Mo Shaoping told Reuters.

The council has no binding powers. Its rotating membership of 47 states does not include China, although Beijing is expected to run for a place in early November. China’s record was previously assessed in 2009 by the Geneva forum.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard, Megha Rajagopalan, Adam Rose, Michael Martina, and Beijing Newsroom; editing by Mike Collett-White)

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PS4 controller escapes into the Canadian wilderness, partly supports the PS3 (video)

PS4 controller escapes into the Canadian wild, partly supports the PS3 video

The PlayStation 4 may not reach stores until November 15th, but that hasn’t prevented the DualShock 4 from showing up early — some Canadian Twitter users have spotted the controller at retail stores. While it’s not clear that stores are allowed to sell the new DualShock, TheRugbyGodGamer claims that GameStop Canada is letting pre-order customers pick up their purchases. Those lucky few who score gamepads can use their prizes right away, at least. YouTube member Udetto has posted a video (after the break) that shows the DualShock 4 handling PS3 games that support USB input; it’s only titles that insist on Bluetooth which aren’t compatible. The experience won’t compare to that of using the PS4 itself, but it may tide over gamers who can’t stand waiting for the Sony console.

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