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Friday, April 18, 2014

The White House Can’t Seem to Catch the Fox Living on Its Lawn

The White House Can’t Seem to Catch the Fox Living on Its Lawn


The White House Can’t Seem to Catch the Fox Living on Its Lawn

Posted: 18 Apr 2014 11:15 AM PDT

The Wall Street Journal ran a piece Thursday that a wild fox has breached White House grounds, out-foxing (sorry, that’s not even creative, I just had to) administrators, security, and groundskeepers who have tried to kick him out of the Rose Garden and rolling lawns.

This fox first invaded White House grounds during the government shutdown (remember that?) in October, wreaking havoc on Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden. He settled in when groundskeepers were furloughed, meaning that he has been running free for six months.

And, short of using deadly force, the WSJ reports that White House grounds officials have been trying everything to get him out including spending “hours plotting to lure him into the traps with rotting hunks of chicken, so they could relocate him some 3 miles south to a park along the Potomac River.”

So we put a man on the moon, but we can’t get a fox out of the White House garden. Where’s Olivia Pope when you need her?

Bangkok Terrorism Arrests Could Mark Latest Setback for Hizballah and Iran

Posted: 18 Apr 2014 10:48 AM PDT

The arrest of two Lebanese men in Thailand, allegedly for plotting to target Jewish tourists on a busy Bangkok street on behalf of the Lebanese Shiite group Hizballah, could mark the latest failed effort by the militia to resume terror attacks overseas. The latest plot, revealed in the Thai press on Friday, ended almost before it began. The two men reportedly arrived in Bangkok April 13 and were detained by Thai police on information supplied by Israeli intelligence. Both men allegedly carried passports of third countries (Philippines and France); Hizballah has previously shown it prefers its operatives to carry second passports. Media reports say one of the men admitted a plot to detonate explosives on Bangkok's Khao San Road, a nexus for international backpackers, including young Israelis. The suspect also agreed to lead investigators to "bomb-making equipment" in the province of Rayong, southeast of the capital, the Bangkok Post reported.

Police were seeking third man, and The Post quoted an unnamed investigator as saying nine Hizballah agents are thought to be somewhere in the country.

The incident serves to underscore the apparent gap in operational abilities of the Iranian-backed Hizballah's covert forces – which lately have shown little of the disciplined success that built the organization's reputation as the "terrorist A-team" – and its uniformed militia. The troops are fighting on the side of President Bashar Assad in the civil war in Syria, and making a significant impact. Meanwhile, except for the 2012 bombing of a tourist bus carrying Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria – a "soft target" – Hizballah has suffered a number of setbacks that reveal what one analyst called "an atrophying of the group's operational capabilities."

“What I had been hearing from numerous sources is they just did not have the bandwidth to keep up the pace of the attacks because of Syria,” says Matthew Hewitt, a former Treasury Department and FBI terrorism specialist, author of Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God. “They are all in Syria. And once that started in Syria in earnest, then [covert operations] became something that was less critical, it wasn't their priority.”

One reversal came in Bangkok in January 2012, when a Hizballah agent (with a Swedish passport) led authorities to a 8,800 pounds of chemicals being assembled into explosives, apparently for shipment abroad in bags labeled as kitty litter. And Bangkok was the scene of the group’s biggest fiasco, a debacle in February 2012 that involved an Iranian agent blowing off his own legs while trying to escape a safe house where the roof had just blown off by a bomb-making accident. Three agents of the Quds Force, the branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps that operates overseas, were detained in the safe house incident. Inside the building, investigators found magnetic "sticky bombs" like the kind Israeli agents had attached to the cars of Iranian nuclear scientists. The Quds Force agents apparently intended to do the same to Israeli diplomats.

Phone records and other evidence gathered by four governments in a joint report detailed by the Washington Post link the Bangkok plan to Iranian plots against Israeli targets in Azerbaijan, Georgia, and India, all of which ended in failure and arrests. Other plots were thwarted in Kenya, South Africa, Cyprus and Bulgaria – and Texas, where an Iranian-American used car salesman tried to plot the assassination by bomb of Saudia Arabia's ambassador in Washington D.C.

From Iran’s perspective, the flurry of attacks was intended both to avenge the death of the Iranian scientists and to demonstrate what in the way of "asymmetrical warfare" the West might face if there were a military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, Levitt wrote in a paper for the Washington Institute for Near East Studies. But neither Quds nor Hizballah proved as formidable in the field as they had had been before 9/11, when they drew back from terrorist strikes. When they resumed, the world had become more security-conscious, and both Hizballah and the Quds Force were both rusty and hasty, mounting 20 plots in the 15 months from May 2011 to July 2012.

Since then, Iran appears to have reduced terror operations once again – scaling back as Iran and Western powers began talking seriously about launching diplomatic negotiations addressing Iran’s nuclear program. (Israel has restrained its covert operations, as well.) Hizballah, however, appears to be constrained only by the need to concentrate on Syria. Levitt says the group remains committed to striking Israeli targets to avenge the 2008 assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, its talented terrorist leader, whose death was what prompted Hizballah to re-activate its covert operations. In addition, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah has vowed to strike Israel in retaliation for its most recent airstrike on a convoy carrying advanced weapons; the Feb. 24 attack was the first such airstrike inside Lebanon.

Nasrallah later took responsibility for a March 14 roadside bomb attack on an Israeli patrol that wounded three soldiers. But he called the ambush on the Israel-Lebanon border only “part of the reply” to the airstrike. It’s possible another “part” was what the two Lebanese men were allegedly planning in Thailand, Levitt says.

“The Israelis in particular are very sensitive to any civilian loss,” he notes. “It's possible the message is let them know there is pressure on every front.”

 

 

Bill Clinton Jokes with Actor Kevin Spacey at Benefit Concert

Posted: 18 Apr 2014 10:24 AM PDT

(NEW YORK) — Near the end of the first half of Thursday’s 25th Anniversary Rain Forest benefit concert at Carnegie Hall, chairwoman Trudie Styler introduced a man who recently learned he was going to be a grandfather, and out came former President Bill Clinton.

After Clinton praised the Rain Forest Foundation, he thanked Sting, Styler and others for their efforts for the organization. Then he acknowledged Kevin Spacey.

“I know Kevin Spacey made fun of me earlier,” he told the crowd.

Clinton was referring to Spacey doing an imitation of him praising his Netflix series, “House of Cards,” where the actor plays the president of the United States.

Spacey walked out onstage and greeted Clinton.

The former president told the actor that he always wanted to be in his line of work.

But then he quipped to hearty laughs: “Now, damn it, you’re in mine.”

Clinton continued poking fun at Spacey.

“I was always accused of getting away with murder, but Spacey actually does it in 15 minutes,” Clinton said, referring to a scene in the first episode of the second season.

Earlier in the day, Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, announced that she and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, are expecting their first child later this year.

As for the benefit concert, the exception often became the rule with performers leaving their comfort zone to entertain the audience.

The show opened with Sting and Spacey sitting at a bar performing a duet of Cole Porter’s “Well Did You Evah (What a Swell Party This Is),” backed by a huge orchestra. They eventually were joined by James Taylor, who entered the stage wearing a lampshade on his head.

At the end of the number, Sting welcomed everyone and introduced Spacey as President Underwood, his “House of Cards” character.

After opera singer Renee Fleming did her first selection early in the show, she requested a partner to accompany her on an excerpt from “Don Giovanni,” and out came Sting. After accompanying her seamlessly in Italian, Spacey walked out with a giant daffodil in his mouth and joined in.

Actor Oscar Isaac of “Inside Llewyn Davis” performed a solo acoustic version of Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks.” And Sting’s oldest son, Joe, covered Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Some stayed in their comfort zone.

Taylor performed his signature hit, “Fire and Rain,” and later covered the Holland-Dozier-Holland classic “How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You.)”

Paul Simon did a couple of his own songs, including “Graceland” and “The Boxer,” and Dionne Warwick covered some of the Burt Bacharach tunes she helped make famous, including “Walk on By.” Stephen Stills brought the crowd to its feet several times with raucous versions of “For What It’s Worth” and the finale for the nearly three-hour show, “Love the One You’re With,” where he was joined by all of the evening’s performers.

The Rain Forest Foundation Fund is dedicated to preserving rain forests around the world by defending the rights of indigenous people living in and around them. It was founded in 1989 by Sting, Styler and Jean-Pierre Dutilleux.

In her speech, Styler spoke of the global importance of protecting rain forests around the world, and said that she and Sting no longer mind being described as “Tree-hugging tantric yogis.”

New Jersey Woman Sues Over ’8THEIST’ License Plate

Posted: 18 Apr 2014 10:20 AM PDT

(NEWARK, N.J.) — A New Jersey woman claims she was denied a license plate proclaiming herself to be an atheist because it might be considered offensive.

Shannon Morgan said in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday that the Motor Vehicle Commission violated her First Amendment rights when its website rejected the plate reading “8THEIST.”

The Maurice River Township woman says she also asked for a plate reading “BAPTIST” as a test. The website accepted it.

Messages and emails left for the Motor Vehicle Commission were not immediately returned. A recorded message said the offices were closed because of Good Friday.

New Jersey previously, after a brief flap, approved a request from an atheist group’s president for a license plate with the word “atheist.” His plate had the number one in place of the letter “i.”

7 Things the Most Interesting People All Have in Common

Posted: 18 Apr 2014 09:19 AM PDT

I've posted a lot of research from experts on getting people to like you, being influential and having great conversations.

What's the best way to use all this information to be more interesting?

1) First, Don't Be Boring

Sometimes the best offense is a good defense. Look at it like the Hippocratic Oath of conversations: Do no harm.

We're all terrible at realizing when we bore others because, well, we all think we're just fascinating.

The #1 tip for never boring anyone comes from Scott Adams: Be brief, be positive.

If you're always to the point and stay upbeat, it's extremely hard for anyone to accuse you of being poor company.

But sometimes you do need to speak a little longer to make sure things don't get stilted.

The Art of Civilized Conversation offers another good tip: Is anyone asking you questions about what you're saying?

If not, maybe it's time to end the story or ask the other person a question.

(More rapport building techniques are here.)

2) The Most Captivating People Are Often Good Listeners

Impressing people can be great but it can also devolve into status jockeying, one-upmanship and envy.

People love to talk about themselves and there are a dearth of good listeners.

Let the other person talk. It gives their brain as much pleasure as food or money:

Talking about ourselves—whether in a personal conversation or through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter—triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food or money…

You can make an excellent impression by saying amazingly little. Ironically, the people we like the most often say the least.

(Learn how to listen like a hostage negotiator here.)

3) Talk About The Other Person's Interests

This is straight from Dale Carnegie and if you're not that socially adept, this is as straightforward as it gets.

Why struggle to guess what most people might find generically interesting?

Ask people what they've been up to or what their hobbies are. Then talk about that. You're now 80% of the way there.

If you know about the subject the similarity will bond you.

If you don't, ask them to explain and be a great listener as they talk about something they love.

(More on the science behind Dale Carnegie's classic here.)

4) Have Three Good Stories

Comedians don't just talk about anything when they're onstage. They have their act rehearsed.

You don't just trot into a job interview and say whatever's on your mind.

Always have three good stories on hand that reliably entertain, inform or engage.

Another tip from Scott Adams: People are generally more interested in stories about people rather than things.

Drama, gossip and reality TV are successful for a reason. We all find human behavior fascinating.

On the other hand, most people don't want to hear about the features on your new iPhone.

(More on how to tell good stories here.)

5) Don't Forget Charisma

It's not all about the words. Some people are engaging but if what they said was transcribed, it would be unimpressive.

When you're speaking emotionally, the words only account for 7% of what get conveyed. Seven percent.

Voice tone and body language are far more important.

Via The Heart of Social Psychology: A Backstage View of a Passionate Science:

One often quoted study (Mehrabian & Ferris, 1967) found that of all the information conveyed to another person when we say something that is emotional (not informational), only 7 percent is contained in the actual meaning of the words we use.

Laugh. Smile. Be passionate. Gesture. Modulate your voice. Don't just sweat the words.

(Here's how to be charismatic.)

6) Be Somewhere Interesting

Got a say in where you'll be at, as with a date or meeting?

Pick someplace stimulating. Context matters.

In general, we're lousy about realizing where our feelings are coming from.

Research shows excitement from any source is often associated with the person you're with — even if they're not the cause of it.

Why do people find musicians so captivating? The music and the crowd stimulates emotions — and we viscerally associate those with the band.

MIT Behavioral Economist Dan Ariely recounts a relevant study he did:

Why does this happen? Ariely thinks it might have something to do with "misattribution of emotions": "Sometimes we have an emotion and we don't know where it's coming from, so we kind of stick it on something that seems sensible." In other words, your strong feelings about the music might make you think you're having strong feelings about the lead singer.

(More on the power of context here.)

7) And Most Importantly: Live An Interesting Life

Remember the theme of Don Quixote: If you want to be a knight, act like a knight.

If you don't read, watch and think about generic things, generic things are less likely to come out of your mouth.

This doesn't need to be expensive or difficult. Hang out more often with the most interesting people you know.

The friends you spend time with dramatically affect your behaviorwhether you like it or not.

The Longevity Project, which studied over 1000 people from youth to death had this to say:

The groups you associate with often determine the type of person you become.

In The Start-up of You, Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha talk about how the best way to improve particular qualities in yourself is to spend time with people who are already like that.

The best and most reliable way to appear interesting is to live an interesting life.

And to pursue that ends up being far more rewarding than merely making a good impression on others.

Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

8 Things The World's Most Successful People All Have In Common

What 10 things should you do every day to improve your life?

How To Make Your Life Better By Sending Five Simple Emails

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Chromebooks Could Let You Skip the Login Screen When Your Phone’s Nearby

Posted: 18 Apr 2014 09:11 AM PDT

For a while, Google has been talking about killing the password with help from some physical object, whether it’s a phone, a ring, a tattoo or even a pill that you swallow.

The latest developer version of Chrome OS suggests that Google is putting those plans in motion.

Android Police has discovered a hidden setting, called “Easy Unlock,” that claims to let users sign into their Chromebooks without a password. As long as users have their phones nearby — and presumably paired via Bluetooth — they’d be able to skip the usual login screen.

Unfortunately, the feature isn’t actually working right now. Enabling it in the chrome://flags menu causes a notification to appear, and you can click on that notification for a basic explanation of what Easy Unlock does, but that’s as far as you can go. On my Chromebook, clicking the “Find your phone” button only caused the browser to crash and restart.

We’ve seen some similar approaches to device-based sign-ins before. Motorola’s Moto X, for instance, allows you to skip the PIN lock screen when the phone is connected to a Bluetooth device of your choosing. (When I reviewed the Moto X, I loved using this feature in conjunction with my Pebble smartwatch.)

But if Google adds device-based authentication for Chromebooks, it’d be the first time that such a feature was baked directly into a major computing platform. Neither Apple nor Microsoft have built anything similar into their operating systems, though Apple’s iPhone 5s does have a fingerprint sensor for unlocking the phone without a PIN.

Easy Unlock wouldn’t kill the password entirely, but it could encourage users to set stronger, more complex passwords that wouldn’t need to be entered as often.

There are also a lot of other directions that device-based logins could go. Instead of replacing the password, a paired phone could be the second step in two-factor authentication, eliminating the usual hassle of entering a code sent to the phone via text message. The paired device could also become a way to automatically sign into websites that are tied to your Google login.

Beyond the smartphone, it’s not hard to imagine Google adding other Easy Unlock devices, starting with Android Wear smartwatches, and maybe some day moving on to those crazy tattoos and authentication pills. The early work spotted in Chrome OS brings us a small step closer.

VIDEO: Lindsay Lohan Confirms Her Sex List is Real

Posted: 18 Apr 2014 09:08 AM PDT

On Watch What Happens Live, Lindsay Lohan confirmed that a list of her alleged sexual partners was written by her — but said writing it was part of completing rehab.

“That’s a really personal thing, and that’s… it’s really unfortunate,” Lohan said.

Lohan said that someone must have photographed her list while she was moving during her OWN show, but In Touch Weekly has a different story of how they obtained the list.

Watch the video above for more.

RadioShack Selling iPhone 5s for $100, or Free with iPhone 4S Trade

Posted: 18 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

On your marks, get set, save $100 on a 16GB iPhone 5s if you buy one from RadioShack, starting today.

The deal gets a mite sweeter if you have an iPhone 4S, in which case RadioShack will hand you an iPhone 5s for nada, crediting you $100 toward the existing $100 deal, which of course equals nothing. Well, the sort of nothing that involves a two-year contract, anyway, since both the $100 standalone and $0 for trade-in deals are limited to contract-arians AT&T, Verizon and Sprint.

As noted, the promotion starts today, April 18, and runs until take-your-best-guess. MacRumors quotes a supposed Radio Shack source as saying “the promotion does not currently have an end date.”

[9to5Mac]

REVIEW: Aimee Mann and Ted Leo Harmonize Well as The Both

Posted: 18 Apr 2014 08:58 AM PDT


This post is in partnership with Consequence of Sound, an online music publication devoted to the ever growing and always thriving worldwide music scene.

It's odd to think that this far into their individual careers Ted Leo and Aimee Mann have put out an album that might gain them some more mainstream recognition. While both artists have some renown – Mann particularly, who has found some moderately successful chart positions as well as Grammy and Oscar noms to her name — they've stayed at the same level for quite some time, garnering steady fan bases and considerable praise in the music press. They don't have mobs of beliebers or little monsters swarming their concerts, but they don't have a whole lot of people who despise them either. Even their detractors have viewed their work with polite dismissal as opposed to polarized hate. "I appreciate what Ted Leo's trying to do. He's just a bit too wordy." Or "Aimee Mann's got a nice voice. I just wish her songs weren't so sad." I'm paraphrasing, of course, but you get the idea. In other words, as artists, they're universally respected.

With The Both, however, the respect of on-the-fence listeners might blossom into full-blown fandom. That's not to say it's the best album from either performer (the low-pressure nature of their collaboration makes for equally low stakes), but it's definitely the most digestible. Politics are eschewed in favor of romantic and platonic relationships (I'm looking at you, Leo) in a way that's addressed to the other person rather than looking inward (cough, Mann, cough, cough). Chalk up this maximized accessibility to each musician's penchant for hooks (duh) and the simple act of working together. The caffeinated Leo adds some jolt to Mann's melancholy, his higher-end harmonies infusing the slow and saddish "You Can't Help Me Now" with a sliver of hope.

Likewise, Mann's introspection inspires him to dial back his punk verbosity on tracks like "Volunteers of America" and, most notably, "Milwaukee". Full of pep and Mann's fuzzy, very Pharmacists-esque bass, the band's first single finds Leo simplifying his language and the duo relying on concrete images instead of archaic wordplay. As ear-perking as it was in the past to hear terms like "hansom" and "ossify," they're no match for an opening line about a statue of The Fonz.

Despite Leo and Mann rubbing off on each other, they both retain their individual personalities. Leo still fires off great solos on several tracks, even on the mid-tempo "The Prisoner"; he just doesn't go on for as long. And for Mann, "Hummingbird" still manages to be genuinely elegiac, a mournful companion piece to her 2001 gem "The Gold Finch and the Red Oak Tree". Both songs center around autumnal plucking, both have their eyes glued to the sunset, and both involve birds.

But wait, "The Gold Finch and the Red Oak Tree" is by Ted Leo, not Aimee Mann. Huh. Maybe Leo's always had a more somber side to him. And come to think of it, Mann's gotten pretty damn upbeat in the past, even as early as I'm with Stupid. And let's not forget, she did play bass and sing in 'Til Tuesday. Maybe they've each stretched themselves further than people have given them credit for in the past. With The Both, they just stretch themselves more frequently.

Essential Tracks: "Milwaukee", "You Can't Help Me Now", and "Hummingbird"

More from Consequence of Sound: Prince to Reissue Purple Rain for 30th Anniversary

More from Consequence of Sound: Ted Leo and Aimee Mann: On Being the Both

Algeria’s Ailing President Wins 4th Term

Posted: 18 Apr 2014 08:49 AM PDT

(ALGIERS, Algeria) — Algerian officials say President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has won a fourth term in office with a landslide 81 percent of the vote.

His chief opponent, Ali Benflis, already criticized the election as marked by “fraud on a massive scale” after polls closed Thursday.

The results announced Friday by Interior Minister Taieb Belaiz comes after a three-week election campaign that saw a spirited effort by Benflis and his supporters. He has vowed to contest the results.

Official figures for turnout were 51.7 percent, down from the 75 percent turnout for Bouteflika’s last win in 2009. The figures have been described by activists and opposition politicians as inflated.

Since suffering from a stroke last year, there have been concerns about the president’s ability to run this key energy supplier for Europe.

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