Daily Archives: December 5, 2011

Sydney set for coldest summer 44 years

news.com.au | Dec 5, 2011

SYDNEY is set for its coldest start to summer since 1967, the weather bureau says.

Today was Sydney’s coldest summer day since December 2006, with temperatures as low as 11.8 degrees Celsius.

Sydney has already had five days below 23 degrees Celsius, with next week expected to follow suit.

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Record cold sweeping Blacktown

“If we get our forecast maximum temperatures over the next two days then it will be the coldest start to summer, as far as maximum temperatures go, since 1967,” a Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) spokesman said today.

The cool start was a result of cool southerly winds from the Southern Ocean, the BoM said.

The bureau has also predicted there is a 70 per cent chance this summer will bring more rainfall than last year’s.

Sydney’s coldest start to summer in 50 years

blacktownsun.com.au | Dec 5, 2011

by James Robertson

It’s shaping up to be the coldest start to summer in more than 50 years.

If forecasts prove accurate – and Sydney stays below 23 degrees until Wednesday – it will be the coldest first week of summer since 1960. It’s already the coldest in 44 years, Josh Fisher, a senior meteorologist at Weatherzone, said.

In the summer of 1960, each of the first 10 days was cooler than 22 degrees.

Meteorologists blame cold winds, sweeping up from near Tasmania, for the unseasonable weather.

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Record cold sweeping Blacktown

Today’s forecast temperature of 18 degrees is seven below the average for this time of year. The additional chill brought by projected 30-40km/h winds will make the city feel like 11 degrees, Mr Fisher said.

Sydney should warm to the mid-20s on Friday and next weekend, the eight, ninth and 10th days of the month, Weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke said.

But it won’t be a sunny reprieve. The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting rain and cloud.

The city’s long-term average maximum for this time of year is 25 degrees, Mr Dutschke said.

Mr Fisher also said summer would be cooler than average because of the influence of the La Nina weather cycle, which brings with it greater chance of clouds, rain and humidity.

“Looking further ahead, the summer as a whole is likely to be close to or cooler than average, regarding maximum temperatures. We will still get our hot days but La Nina will increase the chances of extra cloud, humidity and rainfall, hence cooler daytime temperatures,” Mr Dutschke said.

Thunderstorms rolled across the city late yesterday morning and early afternoon, cooling most suburbs below 17 degrees, well below average for this time of year. The storms also brought brief rain and hail to some western and northern suburbs. Picnickers and beachgoers were sent scurrying.

Government eyes turning bugs into spies

New micro ‘drones’ could carry cameras, microphones

WND | Dec 3, 2011

By Steve Elwart

Beetle prepared with sensors and energy-harvesting devices (DARPA)

The U.S. government is eyeing the idea of turning bugs – genuine live creepy-crawlies – into spies, thanks to the work of micro researchers at the University of Michigan.

According to results published in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, Professor Khalil Najafi, chairman of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Michigan, and doctoral student Erkan Aktakka are finding ways to harvest energy from insects.

The stated intention is to use insects as first responders for disasters, but the technology also is likely to usher in a new era for intelligence gathering.

Researchers have found insects get their energy from the food they eat and then use that energy to fly. In the process, some of the energy is wasted. The Michigan research team has exploited the wasted energy by attaching tiny electrical generators to the wings of the insect. The energy harvested could be further increased by using tiny solar cells on the tops of the wings.

“Through energy scavenging, we could potentially power cameras, microphones and other sensors and communications equipment that an insect could carry aboard a tiny backpack,” Najafi said. “We could then send these ‘bugged’ bugs into dangerous or enclosed environments where we would not want humans to go.”

While the university’s goal is for insects to be used in hazardous situations where it would not be safe for humans, the military is interested in the technology to further the dream of designing and fabricating micro-air-vehicles, or MAVs.

Creating tiny, lightweight flying vehicles capable of carrying a payload and being powered by a long-life onboard power source has proven to be extremely difficult, and Department of Defense researchers had almost abandoned work on real-life micro-scouts. This latest breakthrough, however, has breathed new life into the program.

Using tiny probes near the base of an insect’s antennae or electrodes implanted in the central nervous systems had already allowed government researchers to control an insect’s brain. Government researchers found it was easier to use living insects than build robotic insects from scratch. The problem they could not overcome was building a power source small enough for an insect to carry but powerful enough to power the surveillance equipment.

Now, working out of the university’s Lurie Nanofabrication Facility, Najafi and Aktakka harvest electro-mechanical energy from the insects wing movements. Two micro-generator prototypes convert the mechanical vibrations from the wings of a beetle into an electrical output. Placing the two generators on the wings can result in more than 45 micro-watts of power per insect. A direct connection between the generator and the flight muscles of the insect is expected to increase the final power output by a factor of 10 to at least 500 microwatts.

What brought the technology to the attention to the intelligence community was the fact that the energy generated by the bug could now power micro-surveillance equipment, such as a camera or microphone, for an extended period of time. (The research for turning insects into miniature electrical generators was funded by the Hybrid Insect Micro Electromechanical Systems program of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, under grant number N66001-07-1-2006.)

While the university is pursuing patent protection for the intellectual property and is seeking commercialization partners to help bring the technology to market, DARPA seems to have other plans for the technology.

Robotic fliers have been used by the military since World War II, but in the past decade their numbers and level of sophistication have dramatically increased. The Defense Department has used nearly 100 different styles of drones, some the size of birds and some the size of small planes. As early as the 1970s the CIA secretly developed a mechanical “dragonfly” for spying. It has only been recently that miniature surveillance devices have been carried by living insects.

In 2007, insects seem to have been used for surveillance operations of short duration. “Dragonflies” and “little helicopters” were reported at anti-government rallies both in New York and Washington, D.C. Many suspect that the devices were deployed by the Department of Homeland Security.

In another project funded by DARPA, researchers are inserting computer chips into moth pupae – the intermediate stage between a caterpillar and a flying adult – and hatching them into healthy “cyborg moths.”

The Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (HISMEMS) project aims to create literal flying cameras – insects whose nerves have grown into the implanted microprocessor so that operators can control them in flight. This would eliminate implanting probes into the insect, making for a more stable connection.

The research being done by Najafi and Aktakka has advanced the goal of an insect-silicone chip hybrid much faster than many in the military ever imagined. As recently as four years ago, Vice Admiral Joe Dyer, former commander of the Naval Air Systems Command, said of the nearly completed program, “I’ll be seriously dead before that program deploys.”

While development of fully mechanical micro-fliers is advancing quickly, they would never be mistaken for insects. This is what gives the biologic drones an edge.

However, for all their advantages, there is a downside for using real insects as spies.

“They can get eaten by a bird, they can get caught in a spider web,” said Electrical Engineering Professor Ron Fearing of Berkeley University. “No matter how smart they are – you can put a Pentium [chip] in there – if a bird comes at them at 30 miles per hour there’s nothing they can do about it.”

TSA makes pregant teen miss flight because of small decorative gun on side of her purse


Controversy: Vanessa Gibbs holds up her purse, which TSA officials flagged up as a security risk. The 17-year-old ended up missing her flight

Daily Mail | Dec 2, 2011

A teenage girl was stopped from boarding a flight because she had a gun – drawn on the side of her handbag.

Vanessa Gibbs, 17, was stunned when Transportation Security Administration officials stopped her at the security gate because of the design of an old wild west handgun.

Gibbs said she had no problem going through security at Jacksonville International Airport, in Florida, but rather, when she headed home from Virginia.

She said: ‘It’s my style, it’s camouflage, it has an old western gun on it.

But staff at Norfolk airport were not keen on it and stopped her getting on board.

Gibbs said she was headed back home to Jacksonville from a holiday trip when an agent flagged her purse as a security risk.

‘She was like, “This is a federal offence because it’s in the shape of a gun”,’ Gibbs said. ‘I’m like, “But it’s a design on a purse. How is it a federal offence?”‘

After agents figured out the gun was a fake, Gibbs said, TSA told her to check the bag or turn it over.

By the time security wrapped up the inspection, the pregnant teenager had missed her flight, and Southwest Airlines sent her to Orlando instead, worrying her mother, who was already waiting for her to arrive.

‘Oh, it’s terrifying. I was so upset,’ said her mother Tami Gibbs.

‘I was on the phone all the way to Orlando trying to figure out what was going on with her. It was terrifying. I don’t ever want to go through it again.’

Vanessa and her mother said it’s hard to believe anyone could mistake the design on the purse for a real gun because it’s just a few inches in size and it’s hollow, not to mention Vanessa has taken it on planes before.

‘I carried this from Jacksonville to Norfolk, and I’ve carried it from Norfolk to Jacksonville,’ Vanessa said. ‘Never once has anyone said anything about it until now.’

TSA isn’t budging on the handbag, arguing the phony gun could be considered a ‘replica weapon’.

The TSA said: ‘Replica weapons have been prohibited since 2002’.

It’s a rule that Vanessa feels can’t be applied to a purse.

‘Common sense,’ she said. ‘It’s a purse, not a weapon.’

A TSA official at JIA said it’s not that uncommon for passengers to wear something that could be considered a gun replica, but the official encourages everyone to check the prohibited items list, which can be found online or at the airport before going through security, reports News4Jax.

In Colorado the deep freeze gets deeper as more snow piles up

9news.com | Dec 4, 2011

DENVER- The third arctic cold front cold in four days will pass over Denver and the Front Range Sunday afternoon. The front will bring a reinforcing shot of frigid air and will cause more snow Sunday night into Monday morning.

9NEWS Meteorologist Ashton Altieri says the Denver area has now received 21.7 inches of snow this season including the 5.7 inches that fell on Thursday and the 3.0 inches that fell on Saturday. By Monday morning Ashton expects the seasonal total to surpass what Denver received during the entire 2010-2011 snow season. That total was only 22.8 inches.

A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY has been posted for the Front Range and adjacent foothills from 5 p.m. Sunday until 11 a.m. Monday.

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The Denver, Boulder, Lakewood and Aurora areas will see a total of 3 to 7 inches of new snow before it wraps up before lunchtime on Monday. Locations along the Palmer Divide in Douglas and Elbert Counties will see 4-8 inches while northern Colorado including the Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley areas will see 2 to 5 inches.

The foothills of Larimer, Boulder and Jefferson Counties will see 5 to 10 inches of snow.

Ashton says it could be a particularly difficult morning commute on Monday because the new snow will fall over the ice that has developed on many roads from the snow events on Thursday and Saturday. Denver has not been above freezing since early Thursday morning, and there has been virtually no sunshine so not much has melted.

It will also be frigid Sunday through early Tuesday. Temperatures will drop into the single digits Sunday night and will only climb to near 10 degrees on Monday afternoon.

Monday night will be one of the coldest nights of the year with low temperatures falling below zero.

The weather will stay relatively chilly all week with another chance for light snow Thursday afternoon.

Get ready for severe cold and snow, says FEMA


Diane Engle clears ice from the sidewalk in front of her home along Euclid Avenue in Arlington Heights in December 2007. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

Forecasters are predicting intermittent cold shots over the next couple of weeks, with above normal snowfall starting as early as late December.

dailyherald.com | Dec 2, 2011

By Josh Stockinger

Perhaps you’ve been trying not to think about it. The ice, the snow, the early morning shoveling.

Snap out of it, federal officials say, because severe winter weather is almost here.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is advising Midwesterners to start preparations now for freezing rain, sleet and other wintry offerings as temperatures bottom out for the season.

“Most of us in the Midwest are familiar with severe winter weather, but you can never be too prepared,” FEMA Region V Administrator Andrew Velasquez III said in a news release Thursday. “Take the time now to winterize both your home and your vehicle to protect you and your family.”

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FEMA recommends starting with an emergency supply kit stocked with a three-day food and water supply, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries, and anything else your family might need to get by in a pinch. Other important additions are rock salt, sand, shovels, heating fuel and/or wood, clothing and blankets, the agency says.

Families also should familiarize themselves with winter storm hazards such as freezing rain, sleet and heavy snow — and put a plan in place so loved ones can get in touch with each other should disaster strike, officials say.

Forecasters are predicting intermittent cold shots over the next couple of weeks, with above normal snowfall starting as early as late December. Once winter is in full swing, storms are expected to track through central and southern parts of Illinois, forcing cold air to the north.

“With the combination of above normal snowfall and below normal temperatures, the worst of the winter weather is going to be focused on the north central part of the country,” said John Dlugoenski, a senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.

According to Farmers’ Almanac, the Great Lakes region is expected to grow colder starting in the middle of next week (Dec. 4 to 7), with stormy weather shifts predicted around Christmas. Intermittent periods of snow, flurries and clear skies are expected through January.

FEMA has established a presence on several popular social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, where readers can follow Old Man Winter. More tips also can be found at http://www.ready.gov/winter. Visit accuweather.com for extended forecasts.

Royal sex club scandal: King of Sweden knew of gangster meetups

thelocal.se | Dec 3, 2011

King Carl XVI Gustaf was aware of friend Anders Lettström’s attempts to silence the scandals described in the book The Unwilling Monarch (Den motvillige monarken), Lettström claimed in tramscripts of tape recordings published by newspaper Aftonbladet.

On Lettström’s initiative, Daniel Webb, acting for well-known criminal Milan Sevo, tried to get sex club owner Mille Markovic to deny the information published in the scandalous book about the Swedish king.

As well as a denial from Markovic, Lettström wanted to buy the alleged scandalous pictures of the king at Markovic’s club, reported Aftonbladet.

Lettström’s silencing attempts are said to have gone on for some months, without a deal being struck with Markovic.

The king publically renounced Lettström’s actions in an interview with news agency TT in May. When asked if the king had known about Anders Lettström’s contacts with Stockholm’s criminal underworld, the king responded with a definite no.

In tape recordings made by Daniel Webb, however, Lettström claims to have informed the king of his ongoings.

“After our meeting on Kungsholmen I spoke with the king that evening, and told him that you’d said Mille was willing to deny, and that he wanted to be paid for it. You didn’t know how much, but thought it would be between one and two million,” Lettström said to Webb in the recording.

Lettström repeats that he has spoken to the king about contacting Markovic once more in the same conversation.

“If we paid Mille for his denial, he would make sure that some of his sources denied it too. That’s what our deal entailed, and I’ve mentioned it to the king,” said Lettström according to Aftonbladet.

The recordings of Lettström’s conversations with Webb haven’t previously been published.

However, Lettström maintains that the king was unaware of his contacts with Daniel Webb, and claims the sound material is manipulated.

“It’s like a photo montage, only with sound. It’s taken out of context,” said Lettström to Aftonbladet.

The company Voxanalys and British experts on sound analysis have, acting on Aftonbladet’s behalf, investigated the recordings. The Swedish and British experts both judged the recordings free from manipulation, modification or cuts from different recordings.

The court’s information officer Bertil Ternert was unwilling to comment further on the matter, stating that information about these recordings has already been published and commented.

Ternert added that an allegation made by Lettström on the recordings, namely that the king’s telephone was being tapped by the National Bureau of Investigation (Rikskriminalpolisen), was “remarkable”, according to Aftonbladet.

Swedish King told of £200,000 payment to end sex party scandal


King Carl Gustav and Queen Silvia of Sweden Photo: AFP

Telegraph | Dec 4, 2011

By Richard Orange, Malmö

King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden discussed payments of almost £200,000 to get a Stockholm nightclub owner to retract a claim he had allegedly attended sex parties at the club, a newspaper reported.

Aftonbladet said Anders Lettström, a close friend of the King, tried to broker the deal through Daniel Webb, an associate of Mille Markovic, the nightclub owner.

A biography, ‘The Reluctant Monarch’ released last November, featured Mr Markovic’s claims to have organised a string of sex parties for the King.

The newspaper published a recording of a conversation with Mr Webb, in which Mr Lettström claims to have kept the King abreast of the negotiations.

“After our meeting on Kungsholmen, I talked to the King during the evening,” Mr Lettström said. “Then I told him that Mille had said that he could take back what he said, and that he wanted to be paid I thought it was between one and two million Kronor [£95,0000-£190,000].”

The recording is the first concrete evidence that the King himself may have been aware of the clean-up exercise Mr Lettström, a theatrical impressario and childhood friend, was making on his behalf.

“This time, he has used up all my trust,” the King said in a statement after Mr Lettström’s negotiations with Sweden’s ‘Balkan Mafia’ became public earlier this year.

The paper also alleged that Mr Markovic had also offered to sell compromising photographs of the King, although talks had broke down over the price.

It said that the King’s friends had already paid £60,000 to Mr Webb and Milan Sevo, the Balkan Mafia boss described as “Sweden’s Godfather”, for their efforts to silence Mr Markovic.

On Sunday, Aftonbladet published a receipt for 650,000 Swedish Kronor [£60,000], made out to a company called Procap Security.

“The commission of contractual activities have been performed and carried out by Milan Sevo and Daniel Webb,” the receipt reads.

Massive WWII bomb succesfully defused in Germany after 45,000 residents evacuated


Sandbags frame a 1.8 ton WWII bomb in river Rhine near Koblenz Saturday Dec. 3, 2011. Officials in Germany’s western city of Koblenz say some 45,000 residents had to be evacuated because of a World War II era bomb discovered in the Rhine river. The bomb was discovered in the Rhine after its water level fell significantly amid a prolonged lack of rain. (AP Photo/dapd/ Harald Tittel)

AP | Dec 4, 2011

By JUERGEN BAETZ

BERLIN (AP) — A massive British World War II-era bomb that triggered the evacuation of about half of the 107,000 residents of Germany’s western city of Koblenz was successfully defused Sunday, authorities said.

It was one of Germany’s biggest bomb-related evacuations since the war ended with some 2,500 police officers, firefighters and paramedics on duty across the city to secure the operation.

Experts successfully defused the British 1.8 ton bomb and a 275-pound U.S. bomb that had been discovered last month after the Rhine river’s water level fell significantly due to a prolonged lack of rain, said Heiko Breitbarth, a spokesman for Koblenz’s firefighters.

Some 45,000 residents, living within a radius of about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the bomb site had to leave their houses early Sunday before the evacuation order was lifted in the evening, the city said on its website. Among those ordered to evacuate were seven nursing homes, two hospitals and a prison with some 200 inmates.

The British bomb could have cause massive damage in case it exploded.

“I did my job, that was all,” lead defusing expert Horst Lenz told local daily Rhein Zeitung.

Finding unexploded bombs dropped by the Allies over Germany during World War II is common over 65 years after the war’s end. The explosives are usually defused or detonated by experts without causing injuries.

Authorities in Koblenz had set up shelters for the evacuees and used buses to carry them to safety.

Train and road traffic came to a halt in the area, some 130 kilometers northwest of Frankfurt during the operation.

The residents of Koblenz, which was heavily bombed during World War II, are used to bomb scares. City officials said 28 smaller war bombs had been found there since 1999, the German news agency dapd reported. Such bombs are often found during construction work or by farmers plowing their fields.

Separately, another 200 people had to be evacuated from the southern German city of Nuremberg as experts there defused another bomb left from the war. The 70 kilogram (155 pounds) of unknown origin was defused in 15 minures, the city said in a statement.

Penn State’s Paterno never raised charges with Sandusky: report


Former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is pictured in this November 5, 2011 police photograph obtained on November 7. REUTERS/Pennsylvania State Attorney General’s Office/Handout

Reuters | Dec 3, 2011

By Karen Brooks

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Ousted Penn State football coach Joe Paterno never confronted former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky with accusations that Sandusky had molested young boys, even though Paterno had reportedly been told of the incidents, the New York Times said on Saturday.

In an interview with the Times, Sandusky said Paterno allowed him to continue to use university facilities after he had retired from his job as defensive coordinator in 1999.

“I know that he never said anything to me,” Sandusky said of Paterno.

Paterno denied knowing about an investigation into molestation charges in 1998, according to the Times, and has said that he reported the 2002 accusations to the athletic director.

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Second Mile charity to freeze assets following lawsuit

Sandusky is charged with abusing boys over a period of nearly 15 years, with prosecutors alleging that he met the boys through his charity, The Second Mile, and would molest some of them in the locker rooms on the university campus.

Sandusky denied all the charges and told the Times that prosecutors have “twisted” all the work he has done for children over the years.

“They’ve taken everything that I ever did for any young person and twisted it to say that my motives were sexual or whatever,” Sandusky said. “I had kid after kid after kid who might say I was a father figure. And they just twisted that all.”

Paterno was fired last month following accusations that he had not done enough to alert authorities after a graduate assistant told him in 2002 he had seen Sandusky raping a 10-year-old boy in the shower. University president Graham Spanier also was fired.

The abuse scandal has also led to criminal charges against the school’s athletic director, Tim Curley, and a finance official of the athletic department.

The executive director of The Second Mile, Jack Raykovitz, has resigned after he was accused of not doing enough to protect the children once they learned that Sandusky was being investigated.

Sandusky also told the Times that his relationships with the Second Mile kids caused his wife concern, and he sometimes worried Paterno would view his involvement as a distraction from football.