Thursday, June 30, 2011

Russian Scientists Believe We Will Meet Aliens Soon

 Russian scientists expect humanity to encounter alien civilizations within the next two decades, a top Russian astronomer predicted on Monday.

"The genesis of life is as inevitable as the formation of atoms... Life exists on other planets and we will find it within 20 years," Andrei Finkelstein, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Applied Astronomy Institute, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.
Speaking at an international forum dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial life, Finkelstein said 10 percent of the known planets circling suns in the galaxy resemble Earth. If water can be found there, then so can life, he said, adding that aliens would most likely resemble humans with two arms, two legs and a head.
"They may have different color skin, but even we have that," he said.
Finkelstein's institute runs a program launched in the 1960s at the height of the Cold War space race to watch for and beam out radio signals to outer space. "The whole time we have been searching for extraterrestrial civilizations, we have mainly been waiting for messages from space.
Not sure I agree Mr Finklestein. Think of the vast distances between  planets capable of supporting life; we're talking trillions of miles. And as for them being humanoid, I take leave to doubt that. They would be shaped by their environment and the direction their evolution took them. Their environments would  be very different from ours. But good luck with that.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Egypt: - Hosni Mubarak and Sons to be Tried Over Deaths

 Hosni Mubarak
Suzanne Mubarak
Egypt's ousted President Hosni Mubarak and his two sons are to be tried over the deaths of anti-government protesters, judicial officials say. Mr Mubarak, who was ousted in February, is being detained at a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
He and his wife also face allegations of illegally acquiring wealth while they were in power for 30 years. The couple's two sons, Alaa and Gamal, are being held in Cairo's Tora prison and also face fraud charges.

The three men have been charged with "premeditated murder of some participants in the peaceful protests of the 25 January revolution," the country's state news agency reported the prosecutor general as saying.
More than 800 people died in the weeks-long crackdown that preceded Mr Mubarak's departure.  The charges come after renewed calls for protests on Friday to demand the trial of the Mubarak family as well as the lifting of emergency law.

The 83-year-old former leader was admitted to Sharm el-Sheikh's military hospital in April with reported heart problems. He and his wife Suzanne - who was also recently examined for possible heart problems after falling ill - have already been questioned at the Red Sea resort on charges of profiteering. Reformers in Egypt believe the Mubarak family accumulated a fortune worth tens of billions of dollars while in power.
The Mubaraks have denied this, and little hard evidence has yet been made public. However their bank accounts in Cairo and in Switzerland have been frozen.

Suzanne Mubarak was not mentioned in Tuesday's charges announcement, but her situation may have brought the latest development about.Seventy year old  Suzanne Mubarak was released from custody after handing over a villa and $3 million from Cairo bank accounts  Her release prompted a backlash, with many fearing the Mubaraks may be negotiating some form of amnesty.

More than 20 Mubarak-era ministers and businessmen linked to the regime have been detained since February's uprising. Earlier this month, former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly was sentenced to 12 years in jail on charges of money-laundering and profiteering. Adly also faces separate charges of ordering troops to fire on demonstrators. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

International Space Station Had Close Call With Space Junk

A piece of debris has narrowly missed the International Space Station (ISS), forcing its six crew members to go to their escape capsules and prepare for an emergency evacuation back to Earth. Officials said the debris came within 335m (1,100ft) of the platform. The crew were given the all clear to return to work minutes after the object passed by at 1208 GMT.

The junk was of unknown size but experts say even a small object could do considerable damage to the ISS.
The US space agency's (Nasa) Associate Administrator for Space Operations, Bill Gerstenmaier, said it was the closest a debris object had ever come to the station. An analysis was now under way to try to understand its origin, he added.  The ISS is currently manned by three Russians, two Americans and a Japanese astronaut.

A Russian official said that only 10% of all objects in Earth's orbit are satellites, while the rest is rubbish: spent rocket stages, defunct satellites, acceleration blocks and other debris.  Scientists estimate that there are more than 300,000 junk fragments in space of up to 10cm (four inches) in length, but there are many millions more pieces that are smaller.

Even fragments a few centimetres in size are a hazard because they travel at many thousands of kilometres per hour. Normally, the station can be moved out of the way of a piece of junk, but this alert was raised too late for such a manoeuvre. Three crew members were forced briefly to evacuate the space station in an incident in March 2009.

The station is a $100bn project that has been under construction about 220m (350km) above the Earth since 1998. Five partners are involved - the US, Russia, Japan, Canada and Europe (10 nations coordinated through the European Space Agency).

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Five Of The Worlds Freakist Looking Animals

Naked mole rat

African naked mole rats live underground and never come out. They are blind and smelly, with no fur and giant buckteeth. Yet while they're unpleasant to look at, these cold-blooded mammals are very gentle by nature and rarely act aggressively towards humans


                                  Dragon Fish
This fierce-looking deep-sea dweller has to forge for dinner in the dark depths of the ocean , so it's fangs come in handy to grab on to prey . Even the fish's tongue has razor sharp teeth.

                                  Two-Headed Turtle
Rare example of conjoined turtle twins , this two-headed , red-eared slider turtle is name Limerick and lives at Captain Nemo's Aquarium pet Store in East Norriton ,Pa.

                                   Tube-Nosed  Fruit Bat
While this guy's pretty cute , there's definitely a sinister aspect to it's Yoda-like stare and horns . The bat speices was discovered in Papua New Guinea.
                                    Aye-Aye
 This creature sits firmly on both sides of the fence . Undeniable creeper, yet totally adorable too . Un fortunately , these bat-eared lemurs have their appearance working against them in their native Madagascar. The odd looking creature is considered a bad omen by many indigenous inhabitants of the island and is often killed on sight . This one , called Kintank , was born at the England's Bristol Zoo Gardens .

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Prince William & Duchess Catherine Present Medals To Irish Guards

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge visited the Irish Guards on Satuaday , awarding medals for service in Afghanistan  and speacking personally with wounded military personnel and their families .

Prince William is the unit's Colonel-in-Chief  and the Medals Parade  was his first official event in that capacity.

The ceremony took place at Victoria Barracks near Windor Castle .

Kate presented operational medals to 60 guards who served in Aghanistan , also talking with family members of three servicemen who lost their lives.

The royal couple spoke individually with each guardsmen and guardswomen they met


Friday, June 24, 2011

Sea Levels Rising Faster Now Than in Past 2100 Years


Scientists used fossils to reconstruct sea levels over the past two millenia on the US Atlantic coast and found they are now rising faster than at any time in the past 2100 years. By comparing the results to changes in global surface temperature, experts established a consistent link between higher temperatures and rising tides. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the sea level remained fairly stable between 200BC until 1000AD.


Professor Benjamin Horton, director of the Sea Level Research Laboratory at Pennsylvania University, said: “Sea-level rise is a potentially disastrous outcome of climate change, as rising temperatures melt land-based ice and warm ocean waters." Prof Stefan Rahmstorf, one of the report’s co-authors, said the findings backed up estimates by the group in 2009 that the sea level would rise by 75-90cm between 1990 and 2100. “It reinforces our projections…the rise accelerates because of the principle that the warmer it gets, the faster the sea level rises,” he said.

Ukraine: Tymoshenko on Trial in Kiev for Abuse of Power

  Ukraine's former prime minister and heroine of the 2004 Orange Revolution Yulia Tymoshenko has gone on trial in Kiev for abuse of power.  Ms Tymoshenko has dismissed the charges, which concern natural gas contracts with Russia, as revenge by her rival, President Viktor Yanukovych. She lost the premiership in March 2010 following a vote of no confidence.

Ms Tymoshenko has asked the European Court of Human Rights to decide if the charges are politically motivated. About 1,000 of her supporters gathered outside the court in Kiev, which was ringed by police, the AFP news agency reports.  "This is a farce and circus and not a court hearing," Ms Tymoshenko told the judge, according to AFP.

Investigators say a 10-year gas contract agreed with Russia in January 2009 was ruinous for the Ukrainian economy and that Ms Tymoshenko did not have cabinet approval to sign it. The charges are not the first to be brought against the former prime minister. In December, she was charged with misusing 320m euros (£270m; $425m) received by the government in 2009 for the sale of carbon credits.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Whitey Bulger Arrested : Infamous Mob Fugitive Caught In Santa Moncia

Fugitive Massachusetts mob boss James "Whitey" Bugler has been arrested after years on the run , United States authorities said.

Bulger , a Top ten Fugitive , was apprehended by the FBI in California late last night. Authorities had been hunting the 81-year-old for more than 15 years . Bulger was alleged leader of the Winter Hil Gang  , a league of organized crime figure in Boston, whose members have included  notorious Boston  gangsters Howie Winter , James McLean and Stephen Flemmi.

According to Special Agent Greg Concowich , a spokeman at the FBI's Boston office , Bulger and his longtime girlfriend , 60-year-old Catherine Elizabeth Greig, was taken into custody without incident .

"Recently publicity produced a tip which led agents to Santa Monica ,where they spotted both Bulger and Greig at a residence ". In 1995 , Bulger was indicted for federal racketeering and 19 murders . Bulger and Greig fled before authorities could take them into custody . The couple is believed to have gone to Louisiana and then to Chicago.

The FBI tweeted news of the fugitives capture early Thursday morning , according to California media outlets , the couple has been living on the thrid floor of 'Princess Eugenia , a three-story building in the 1000 block of Third Street in Santa Monica.
Bugler and Greig are scheduled to make an appearence at the Federal Court in Los Angeles  later today.
[FILE] This is a 1986 handout photo of New Englands' Organized crime figure James "Whitey" Bulger . Bulger , a notorious Boston gangster on  the FBI's "10 Most Wanted " list  for his alleged role in 19 murders has been captured near Los Angeles after liiving on the run for 16 years , authorities said WWednesday June 22 , 2011.

In this 1984 file photos originally released by FBI.
Photo left and center are FBI handout photo of Massachusetts monster James "Whitey" Bulger taken in 1980 . At right is an FBI photo of Bulger's girlfriend , Catherine Greig.
1995 photo provided by FBI  of the  "Whitey" Bulger  was taken shortly before he disappeared in 1995.
Undated handout file photo the FBI released on Decamber 30, 1998 .

Just a thought : If you are a criminal , the best place to hide is in plain  sight .

Hasty Withdrawl From Afghanistan Jeopardizes Hard won Gains


President Obama’s plan for a hasty withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan risks squandering the hard-won gains made on the battlefield in southern Afghanistan over the last ten months. U.S. military commanders on the ground in Afghanistan had reportedly requested a slower pace of withdrawal to afford them the opportunity to consolidate recent gains against Taliban insurgents. President Obama has denied his military commanders flexibility to determine the pace and scope of withdrawal based on conditions on the ground, and instead appears to have based his decision largely around the U.S. domestic political calendar.

The plans for rapidly withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan also risks upending the major achievement of eliminating Osama bin Laden across the border in Pakistan. Bin Laden’s death and an aggressive drone campaign in Pakistan’s tribal border areas have put al-Qaeda on its back foot. The Administration deserves credit for accomplishing this crucial objective.

However, it is short-sighted to use bin Laden’s death as justification for hastening the U.S. troop draw down in Afghanistan. Announcing rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces will likely bolster the morale of the Taliban and encourage them to stick with the fight. Since al-Qaeda has not yet dissolved as an organization and its relationship with the Taliban remains strong, reducing military pressure on the Taliban in Afghanistan could benefit al-Qaeda and provide it a lifeline at a critical juncture in the fight against terrorism.

The withdrawal plan will signal to both our Afghan allies and enemy forces that the U.S. is more committed to withdrawing its forces than the long-term goal of stabilizing the country. The U.S. made a grave error in turning its back on Afghanistan after the Soviets departed in 1989. President Obama’s speech will stoke fears that the U.S. is getting ready to repeat a similar mistake.

Obama’s announcement on rapid troop withdrawals from Afghanistan will further discourage Pakistan from cracking down on the Taliban leadership that finds sanctuary on its soil. The speech will reinforce Islamabad’s calculation that the U.S. is losing resolve in the fight in Afghanistan and thus encourage Pakistani military leaders to continue to hedge on support to the Taliban to protect their own national security interests.

Vincent van Gogh Self-Portrait Revealed as His Brother

Vincent van Gogh's self-portrait (l) with the painting of his brother Theo (r)

A Vincent van Gogh painting, which had always been believed to be a self-portrait, is actually a depiction of his brother, experts have concluded.  The artwork, which is on display at Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum, is thought to be the only known painting of Theo.
"People have often thought it was funny that there were no portraits of Theo, given that they were so close," said museum spokeswoman Linda Snoek.It is thought the 1887 work was created when the pair lived together in Paris.
The museum's head researcher Louis van Tilborgh made the discovery after comparing it to another Van Gogh self-portrait.  "They are two small, detailed portraits that when you see them you think they belong together," Mr Van Tilborgh said. While the brothers appear to be physically similar, he discovered there were a number of differences between Vincent and his brother's features, including different ear shapes and the colour of their beards.  Theo also has shaven cheeks, which match up with photographs taken of him at the time, while he has rounder ears. The portrait of Vincent which famously depicts him after mutilating one of his own ears was created later.


The painting has been in storage, but is being displayed at the Dutch museum as part of an exhibition on new findings about time the painter spent in Antwerp and Paris during 1885-1888. A tragic figure with a tortured mind, the struggle to hold on to his sanity proved too much for him; the artist shot himself in 1890 and died shortly afterwards.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nebraska Massive Tornado Rips Train Off Tracks

Tornado rips through Nebraska ,Kansas . Video shows 13 freight cars  being ripped off tracks and baseball fans fleeing a game.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chuckles


When it comes to global warming, there's bad news and good news in California.


The bad news is that regular agricultural crops may disappear in California over the next century.


The good news is, crops in California that will continue to grow well are the ones currently being grown in basements, attics and garages.

..New Rocketplane 'Could Fly Paris-Tokyo in 2.5 Hours'

.A computer-generated image from the European defense group EADS shows the so-called …European aerospace giant. EADS, on Sunday, unveiled its "Zero Emission Hypersonic Transportation" (Zehst) rocket plane it hopes will be able to fly from Paris to Tokyo in 2.5 hours by around 2050.

"I imagine the plane of the future to look like Zehst," EADS' chief technical officer Jean Botti said as the project was announced at Le Bourget airport the day before the start of the Paris International Air Show.
The low-pollution plane to carry between 50 and 100 passengers will take off using normal engines powered by biofuel made from seaweed before switching on its rocket engines at altitude.
The rocket engines, powered by hydrogen and oxygen whose only exhaust is water vapour, propel the plane to a cruising altitude of 32 kilometres (20 miles), compared to today's passenger jets which fly at around 10,000 metres.
"You don't pollute, you're in the stratosphere," Botti said.

To land, the pilot cuts the engines and glides down to Earth before reigniting the regular engines before landing. EADS hopes to have a prototype built by 2020 and for the plane to eventually enter service around 2050. The project is being developed in collaboration with Japan and uses technology that is already available.

A four-metre model of the plane, which looks similar to the now defunct Concorde supersonic jet, will be on show at Bourget for the biannual aerospace showcase which begins on Monday and opens to the general public on Friday.
 WOW! 2.5 hours! This means we could go to Paris for some shopping and be home in time for dinner. The mind boggles.

Ayman Al-Zawahiri To Succeed bin Laden : Facts About Al Qaeda's New Leader

The selection of longtime Al Qaeda deputy Ayman Al-Zawahiri as the successor to Osama bin Laden following last month's United States commando raid has prompted global  speculation over exactly how the terrorist group's tactics will (or will not) shift under new leadership.
Zawahiri , who will turn 60 next  week , is believed to be operating from somewhere near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Born in 1951  to a prominent Cairo family , Zawahiri was the son of a pharmacology professor  and grandson of the grand imam of Alazhar , one of the most  famous Mosques in the Arab world .
Zawahiri  and bin Laden met in the mid-1980s when both were in the Pakistani city of Peshawar  to support  Mujahideen guerrillas fighting the soviets in Afghanistan.
Zawahiri graduated from Egypt's most prestigious medical school  in 1974 .
Zawahiri has broadcast dozens of messages since the 9-11 ,attacks on the United States in 2001. In April he urged Muslims to fight NATO and American forces in Libya.
Earlier this month Zawahiri released a new  video recording following the death of bin Laden in May , vowing to press ahead with the group's campaign against the United States and its allies.
                               Arwar  Sadat
When the militant Egyptian Islamic , Jihad was founded in 1973 , Zawahiri joined when members posed as soldiers and assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981 . He was among 301 people arrested . Zawehiri went on trial but was cleared of the involvement in Sadat's killing. He did however , spend three years in jail for possession of an unlicenced pistol .

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sight Restored After 55-Year Wait

This is the first report of a person regaining sight having had a detached retina for so long, doctors say.
A man in the US, who was blinded in one eye 55 years ago, has had his sight restored, according to the Journal of Medical Case Reports. The patient was eight when his retina was detached after he was hit in the right eye with a stone.  When the retina is detached for a long time it can be permanently damaged, so re-attaching it might not restore vision.

Doctors said restoring sight after this length of time was a medical first. The man was 63 when he went to the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, saying he had pain and redness in his eye. There was swelling, bleeding and a high fluid pressure in his right eye. After washing the eye out and treatment with a drug which stopped new blood vessels forming - the eye went from completely blind to being able to detect the source of a bright light.
Doctors thought this was encouraging enough to try re-attaching the retina. After surgery he was able to see again. Surgeons believe it was successful because of the low "height" of the retinal detachment. Dr Olusola Olawoye said: "To the best of our knowledge this is the first report of visual recovery in a patient with long-standing traumatic retinal detachment.

"This is not only a great result for our patient but has implications for restoring eyesight in other patients, especially in the context of stem cell research into retinal progenitor cells which may be able to be transplanted into diseased retinas to restore vision."

Is Morocco Next in line for Mass Uprisings?

Pro-democracy activists in Morocco are gearing up for more mass demonstrations this month, unsatisfied with the king's pledge to carry out "comprehensive" constitutional reform. Inspired by the success of protesters elsewhere in North Africa, tens of thousands of Moroccans took to the streets on 20 February.

King Mohammed VI responded three weeks later, promising changes that would dilute his absolute hold on power.  The prime minister calls it a "peaceful revolution". But the protest leaders insist the proposals fall far short of their demands. "Our first demand is a constitution for the people and by the people - a complete reform," says Montasser Drissi, one of the original group of young protesters.

The February 20th movement grew quickly via Facebook and is now calling for further rallies this Sunday and the following week.  The king has ordered a committee to draft constitutional reforms which include making the prime minister elected, not appointed.
The proposals will then be put to a referendum. But the committee members were chosen by the king himself, convincing protesters that any changes will be superficial. So the demonstrations continue. "It's good to keep the commission under pressure," explains Mr Drissi. "If the people want change and the king does not - he will be alone. He must listen to the people." Many of those people are now trumpeting their demands all over the Moroccan capital.

You can barely walk a block in central Rabat these days without passing a protest. Unemployed graduates are staging a sit-in outside parliament; hundreds of teachers have set up camp in front of the education ministry. Other groups march along Mohammed V Avenue proclaiming their frustration through loud hailers.
There is no Tahrir Square here, no daily focal point to the protests. But the democratic wave that swept Egypt and Tunisia has emboldened many Moroccans to make unprecedented calls for reform.

"They dare to voice criticism that they haven't dared to before; they dare say we want a king who does not rule, but who is a symbol. They dare to say and discuss this. Before it was not permitted," says Mohamed El-Boukili, of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights. He points out that King Mohammed VI was greeted as a reformer following the abusive reign of his father, King Hassan II, who ruled through torture, killing and forced disappearances.

Many Moroccans hold their king in high regard Even so, restrictions on free speech remain: Several newspapers have been closed down, and the king remains unquestionable as Morocco's supreme religious authority as well as monarch. Journalist Driss Ksikes received a three-year suspended sentence in 2007 for publishing jokes on politics, religion and sex. "The monarchy is very strong, and the pressure from the streets for a free Morocco is very important. We know there is an opportunity and maybe there will not be another one," he adds.

So on the top floor of a trade union building in Rabat, the 20 February movement has been plotting their next move. They have rejected a call to discuss the constitutional changes with the king's committee arguing that would lend legitimacy to a flawed process. Instead there is talk of sit-ins and flash mobs as well as the rally this weekend. The hope is the movement can harness the frustration of other groups demonstrating for more specific needs - like jobs - and against a culture of corruption.

University graduates formed just one of the crowds marching past parliament last week, angry that their degrees get them nothing without connections or money. "After events in the Arab world we took the chance to claim our rights too," says Ali, an unemployed English graduate on the march. "We are suffering, and we could not say that before Tunisia and Egypt. But maybe we have more rights now.""We're here to protest about many problems, including political ones. But the first is jobs," agreed Lahsin, an out-of-work teacher. There are now open calls for the King Mohammed's executive role to be reduced. But after three centuries of monarchy most Moroccans remain loyal to the institution.

Their demands are for real reform, not revolution.  Mindful of events elsewhere in North Africa, the state is scrambling to respond. "Everyone is trying to answer young Moroccans great demands for deep change," believes Mr El-Boukili.  He has photographs showing how demonstrators were beaten on 20 February, but says the police have kept a conspicuously low profile ever since.
"There is a margin of freedoms now which was given under pressure. I hope it will give way to real democracy here in Morocco."

Friday, June 17, 2011

Chinese children 'lead-poisoned'...Gov't Cover-up

China has been accused of trying to cover up the extent of lead poisoning among children, and of blocking effective testing and treatment. A report by Human Rights Watch says local authorities in heavily-polluted industrial areas have been sending sick children back to contaminated homes.

It says that in these areas - Henan, Yunnan, Shaanxi and Hunan provinces - anyone who complains is being harassed. China has promised to clean up chronic pollution from heavy metals. But reports of poisoning remain widespread - hundreds of thousands of children are suffering from lead poisoning, the HRW report says.
It says that parents are being denied the right to tests and medical help, and says the government should stop delaying a meaningful response as the problem would damage future economic growth and health care.
"Children with dangerously high levels of lead in their blood are being refused treatment and returned home to contaminated houses in polluted villages," said Joe Amon, the health and human rights director at Human Rights Watch. There was no immediate response from the Chinese government to the allegations.

The report was based on interviews conducted with 52 parents and grandparents whose children or grandchildren have lead poisoning, as well as five journalists who had reported on the subject. Lead poisoning often comes from smelting or recycling plants, or as in a recent case factories making tin foil.
The researchers found that parents often had little understanding of why their children did not grow properly, had anaemia or hearing loss. "They didn't know what was happening," Mr Amon told the BBC's Annemarie Evans in Hong Kong.  "They took their kids into the clinic. They were told they lived too far from the factory to get tested for lead, or they were told the kids had lead in their blood but there was nothing that could be done for it."

Earlier this year, battery factories across China were closed and about 74 people detained after reports that more than 100 people were affected by lead and cadmium poisoning. Another more recent case, in Zhejiang, involved 600 people, including more than 100 children, suffering poisoning from tinfoil processing workshops.

Where is the humanity in this country?? How can they watch their children die without helping them merely because they wish to save face with the world??

Astronomers Witness Star Sucked Into Black Hole

Ten percent of the infalling star's mass is turned into energy and radiated as X-rays from the black hole.

Astronomers have spied a star's swan song as it is shredded by a black hole.  A powerful cosmic blast is emitted as the black hole shreds the star. Researchers suspect that the star wandered too close to the black hole and got sucked in by the huge gravitational forces.

The star's final moments sent a flash of radiation hurtling towards Earth.  The energy burst is still visible by telescope more than two-and-a-half months later, the researchers report in the journal Science.  The Swift spacecraft constantly scans the skies for bursts of radiation, notifying astronomers when it locates a potential flare.These bursts usually indicate the implosion of an aging star, which produces a single, quick blast of energy.  But this event, first spotted on 28 March 2011 and designated Sw 1644+57, does not have the marks of an imploding sun.

What intrigued the researchers about this gamma ray burst is that it flared up four times over a period of four hours. Astrophysicist Dr Andrew Levan from the University of Warwick, and his colleagues suspected that they were looking at a very different sort of galactic event; one where a passing star got sucked into a black hole.

Black holes are thought to reside at the centres of most major galaxies. Some black holes are surrounded by matter in the form of gas; light is emitted when the gas is dragged into the hole. However, the centres of most galaxies are devoid of gas and so are invisible from Earth.  These black holes only become visible when an object such as a star is pulled in. If this happens, the star becomes elongated, first spreading out to form a "banana shape" before its inner edge - orbiting faster than the outer edge - pulls the star into a disc-shape that wraps itself around the hole.

As material drops into the black hole it becomes compressed and releases radiation that is usually visible from Earth for a month or so. Events like these, termed mini-quasars, are incredibly rare - researchers expect one every hundred million years in any one galaxy.  The researchers used some of most powerful ground-based and space-based observatories - the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Gemini and Keck Telescopes.

A rare thrill for an astronomer to study such an event.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pro-Gaddafi Forces 'Bombard' Tunisia Border


Libyan rebels say forces loyal to Col Muammar Gaddafi have been launching attacks at a strategic border crossing with Tunisia. Witnesses said pro-Gaddafi forces also fired rockets over the border.
Near Tripoli, Nato said it had hit several military targets, while an air strike was also reported near Col Gaddafi's compound inside the capital.

Correspondents say there has been a resurgence in fighting in Libya, following weeks of military stalemate.
Omar Hussein, a spokesman for rebels in the western Nafousa mountains, said Col Gaddafi's forces were bombarding roads leading to the border crossing of Dahiba. Rebels seized a number of towns in the area earlier this month, and Dahiba is a key supply route for them.

Witnesses told Reuters news agency that pro-Gaddafi forces had fired Grad rockets over the border into Tunisia. Although the rebels say they need Nato's support and they're grateful for it, they all agree that they're not getting enough of it. It's very sporadic and it's not enough to allow the rebels to push forward at anything more than a snail's pace. Nato said it had carried out strikes in Misrata late on Monday, and had struck targets including a rocket launcher and an armoured vehicle mounted with anti-aircraft guns east of Tripoli on Tuesday.

In the western, rebel-held city of Misrata, rockets damaged generators at an oil refinery near the port, disrupting fuel supply lines, Reuters reported. At Zlitan, just west of Misrata, Nato forces have been dropping leaflets urging government troops to abandon their posts outside the town.  Rebels, who have been advancing along the Mediterranean Coast from Misrata, say they have been told by Nato to withdraw in advance of expected bombing runs.

On the eastern front, a rebel commander told AFP news agency that 21 rebel fighters had been killed in clashes on Monday. Inside the capital, a column of smoke rose from near Col Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound, though it was not clear exactly what had been targeted.

Nato has frequently pounded the area in and around the sprawling compound. The latest strikes came amid concerns about the length of the Nato's mission in Libya. Gen Stephane Abrial, a senior Nato official, said coalition resources would become "critical" if the operation in Libya continues. And on Monday the head of the British Navy, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, said on Monday that priorities must change if the mission exceeds six months. But the head of the British armed forces, General Sir David Richards, told the BBC: "We can sustain this operation as long as we choose to".

South Africa's President, Jacob Zuma, said the UN resolution that authorised the use of force to protect civilians in March was being abused for "regime change, political assassinations and foreign military occupation". On Tuesday Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the Russian head of the World Chess Federation, said Col Gaddafi had told him that he was ready to hold talks if Nato stopped its air strikes, but dismissed international efforts to get him to stand down.

The two played a game of chess in Tripoli on Sunday.

Col Gaddafi and Kirsan Ilyumzhino played chess on Sunday "I will not go anywhere, my relatives died here and I will also die in that land," Mr Ilyumzhinov quoted the Libyan leader as saying. Libya condemned a visit by the German Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, to Benghazi, calling it a "blatant violation of national sovereignty and... international laws".

Libya Rape Victims Face Honour Killings

 Tunisian-Libyan border:
The International Criminal Court believes Col Gaddafi's forces are using rape as a weapon of war. Libyan women and girls who become pregnant through rape risk being murdered by their own families in so-called "honour killings", according to aid workers. Rape is a sensitive topic worldwide, but in this country it is even more of a taboo.

"In Libya when rape occurs, it seems to be a whole village or town which is seen to be dishonoured," says Arafat Jamal of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. Libyan charities say they are getting reports that in the west of the country, which is particularly conservative, Col Muammar Gaddafi's forces have tended to rape women and girls in front of their fathers and brothers.
"To be seen naked and violated is worse than death for them," says Hana Elgadi. "This is a region where women will not go out of the house without covering their face with a veil." Ms Elgadi is in a group of Libyan volunteers offering medical help and HIV tests. The organisation is also offering to pay for abortions for women who have been raped in the war.

"Time is against us," says Nader Elhamessi from the Libyan aid agency, World for Libya. "For the moment pregnancies can be disguised, but not for much longer. Many fathers will kill their own daughters if they find out they have been raped." "It is killing done with love," says Ms Elgadi. "They believe they are saving the girl." "That's why we are offering to pay for abortions for women who want them," says Ms Elgadi. She says fatwas - Islamic clerical rulings - have already been made, which sanction abortion in circumstances such as rape.

The charity World for Libya has engaged imams across the border in Tunisia to preach that rape is not the victim's fault.  An estimated 130,000 people have fled western Libya for Tunisia, and the Libyan NGOs which have sprung up to deal with their needs say they believe many are rape survivors who are too ashamed to come forward for help. 

World for Libya is trying to reach a group of teenage girls still inside Libya whose school was attacked by forces loyal to Col Gaddafi.  "The armed men separated the girls and raped those they deemed more attractive," says Nader Elhamessi. "One of the girls cut her wrists and killed herself rather than face the shame. The rapes were only reported to us by the girls who were left alone."

One family who contacted Ms Elgadi needed medication for HIV. "The mother, the father and the son were all raped by Col Gaddafi's forces. The mother came to us when they discovered they had contracted HIV/Aids as a result." Ms Elgadi says the father has gone back to Tripoli rather than get help. "The mother desperately wants anti-retrovirals for herself and her son, but is afraid to go to the hospital in Tunisia in case other Libyan refugees see her and guess that she has been raped."

The International Criminal Court says it believes Col Gaddafi's forces are using rape as a weapon of war. The ICC says it has reason to believe orders to rape were given, and the drug Viagra was distributed to fighters.  A major in the Libyan army who has now deserted told the BBC the shipments of Viagra were widely known about, but neither he nor his colleagues saw them.
"The order to rape was not given to the regular army," says the major, who did not want his name to be used, because his family is still in Tripoli. "Col Gaddafi knew we would never accept it. It was given to the mercenaries."

Libyan volunteers are advising international agencies on how to get Libyans who have been raped to come forward. "A foreigner cannot go in there with a clipboard and a translator and get a response," says Ms Elgadi.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bill Warren : U.S. Diver On A Mission To Retrieve Osama bin Laden' Body


California-based diver has announced a rather ambitious plan to conduct an underwater mission to recover the body of Osama vin Laden .

Bill Warren has conducted over 150 treasure hunts , now he's probing the sea for the terror leader's corpse .

Patients in Vegetative State Can Respond to Questions


Vegetative state patients can respond to questions
Scientists have been able to reach into the mind of a brain-damaged man and communicate with his thoughts.
The research, carried out in the UK and Belgium, involved a new brain scanning method.  Awareness was detected in three other patients previously diagnosed as being in a vegetative state.
The study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that scans can detect signs of awareness in patients thought to be closed off from the world.  Patients in a vegetative state are awake, not in a coma, but have no awareness because of severe brain damage.

The scientists used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) which shows brain activity in real time.
They asked patients and healthy volunteers to imagine playing tennis while they were being scanned.
In each of the volunteers this stimulated activity in the pre-motor cortex, part of the brain which deals with movement. This also happened in four out of 23 of the patients presumed to be in a vegetative state.

I gave the scientists two women's names, one of which was my mother's.  I imagined playing tennis when they said the right name, and within a minute they had worked out her name. They were also able to guess correctly whether I had children.
This is a continuation of research published three years ago, when the team used the same technique to establish initial contact with a patient diagnosed as vegetative. But this time they went further.

With one patient - a Belgian man injured in a traffic accident seven years ago - they asked a series of questions. He was able to communicate "yes" and "no" using just his thoughts. The team told him to use "motor" imagery like a tennis match to indicate "yes" and "spatial" imagery like thinking about roaming the streets for a "no".
The patient responded accurately to five out of six autobiographical questions posed by the scientists. For example, he confirmed that his father's name was Alexander. The study involved scientists from the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre in Cambridge and a Belgian team at the University of Liege.

Dr Adrian Owen from the MRC in Cambridge co-authored the report: "We were astonished when we saw the results of the patient's scan and that he was able to correctly answer the questions that were asked by simply changing his thoughts."  Dr Owen says this opens the way to involving such patients in their future treatment decisions: "You could ask if patients were in pain and if so prescribe painkillers and you could go on to ask them about their emotional state."

It does raise many ethical issues - for example - it is lawful to allow patients in a permanent vegetative state to die by withdrawing all treatment, but if a patient showed they could respond it would not be, even if they made it clear that was what they wanted. The Royal Hospital for Neurodisability in London is a leading assessment and treatment centre for adults with brain injuries.

Helen Gill, a consultant in low awareness state, welcomed the new research but cautioned that it was still early days for the research: "It's very useful if you have a scan which can show some activity but you need a detailed sensory assessment as well.  "A lot of patients are slipping through the net and this adds another layer to ensure patients are assessed correctly."

She said the hospital did a study of 60 patients admitted with a diagnosis of vegetative state and 43% could communicate.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Prince Philip : Marks 90th Birthday With New Title

London (AFP) - Britian's Prince Phillip received a new title from his wife Queen Elizabeth II as a gift on his 90th birthday  Friday , as the outspoken consort said he would finally scale back his workload.

The Queen made him 'Lord High Admiral' ... the titular head of the British Royal Navy  an office until now, held by her ... partly in recognition of the promising seafaring career Philip gave up to spend a lifetime at her side .

The gruff patriarch , the longest-serving consort in British history, opted to spend his birthday with a typical lack of fuss, as he hosted a charity reception and chaired a conference for military colonels. Despite remaining sprightly for his age, he is not the dashing blond navel officer  of more than five decades ago. Philip admitted he would now take a step back from official duties .

"I reckon I've done my  bit. I want to enjoy myself a bit now, with less responsibilty, less frantic rushing about, less preparation, less thinking of something to say," he told the BBC. "On top of that my memory's going . I can't remember names. I'm just sort of winding down ." There has been speculation he could hand over some of his duties to his grandson Prince William's new wife , Catherine.

Since marrying the then Princess Elizabeth in 1947, Philip has carved out his own role supporting the monarch , accompanying her on visits around the world and jollying people up with his off-the-cuffs remarks . (Some have been near the knuckle).

On a visit to China in 1986 , he warned a group of British students ; "If you stay here much longer , you'll be slitty-eyed." And he told a British student who had trekked in Papua New Guinea in 1998 ; "You managed not to get eaten , then ?" The palace revealed almost 2,000 birthday cards has been sent to the Duke from across the globe , including New Zealand and Australia, Italy, Poland, France and Germany.

Known officially as the Duke of Edinburgh, he is patron of some 800 organizations , covering fields including conservation, design and developing life skills among youngsters. Canada also named Prince Philip an admiral and general in the Canadian Armed Forces for his birthday...The Queen is Canada's head of state.

The official celebration of his birthday will be on Sunday when there will be a service at Saint George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, attended by the Royal family, with a reception to follow.

The Duke showed the accolades were unlikely to go to his head, when he was asked by the BBC if he thoufgt he had been successful.  "I couldn't care less . Who cares what I think ? I mean it's ridiculous," he said , adding that he figured out how to perform his role by  "trial and error." 

I don't know enough about his personal life and history to conclude anything, but I like his directness. That's one quality that separates real "MEN" from fake and delusional ones.
I think he would be a lot of fun to hang out with. I like people who don't take themselves too seriously . May we all be as spry at that age !
From the PICs 'Happy Birthday'  Prince Philip  and congratulations on your new title ...Lord High Admiral .

Fears over Lava Levels in Hawaii


Fears Over Lava Levels at Hawaii Volcano
 Spectacular pictures of a volcano in Hawaii have been released by the US Geological Survey, showing rising lava levels at the Halemaumau vent at the Kiluaea volcano.
Scientists are keeping a close eye on the brilliant stream of orange molten rock, which is surging into a lake where temperatures can reach around 1,000 degrees centigrade.

Why are so many volcanos erupting around the world?
It's a mistake to try and attribute normal geological activity to the climate or any other thing. Volcanoes need no reason to erupt. They've been doing that throughout the history of this planet. Speculation about links to global warming, Jesus returning, or other stuff ain't going to fly at this time. There is presently no way of proving any of them.  Although we are open to any good argument on the climate change idea.

 Some people are attributing the volcanic activities to recent solar disturbances. Again, sounds like a possible cause but no way to prove it. Volcanoes are a natural phenomenon, caused by magma rising to the surface. There are probably no atmospheric or weather causes, although volcanoes can certainly influence the weather.

Amazing Pictures of Recent Sun Activity

 Solar coronal mass ejection ( solar storm) june 2011
Solar flare...release of plasma Feb 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Voyagers Are Leaving Magnetic Sphere of The Sun

The Voyagers are approaching the edge of the enormous sphere of charged particles the Sun has thrown out into space

Humankind's most distant emissaries are flying through a turbulent sea of magnetism as they seek to break free of our Solar System. Nasa's Voyager probes, which were launched in 1977, are now approaching the very edge of our Sun's influence, more than 14 billion km from Earth; and they are still returning data.
That information has allowed scientists to build a better picture of what conditions are like in the zone where matter blown out from our star pushes up against interstellar space.

Computer modelling based on the Voyager insights suggests the edge of our Solar System is a froth of activity, like "an agitated jacuzzi", said Eugene Parker from the University of Chicago, US.  Magnetic field lines carried in the "wind" of material coming off our star are breaking and reconnecting.  This process is sculpting the wind into discrete bubbles that are many tens of millions of kilometres wide.
Researchers say this assessment has implications for our understanding of cosmic rays - the storm of high-energy particles that are accelerated in Earth's direction by exploded stars, black holes and other exotic locations in the galaxy.

It is highly likely the mass of individual magnetic structures actually makes the Solar System more porous to cosmic rays. "It's more like a membrane that is permeable to the galactic cosmic rays, so we expect the galactic cosmic rays to enter and slowly wander through this sea of magnetic bubbles until they can access field lines that connect back to the Sun and quickly escape," explained Professor Parker.

The observation is of interest not just to physicists but also to astronauts, who must protect themselves from the damaging health effects of cosmic rays, and to spacecraft engineers who have to "harden" the electronic circuitry in satellites against the impacts from high-energy particles. The modelling results will make no difference to their predicament; but it does say something about why the cosmic ray issue takes on such importance.

Researchers confess to being surprised; they thought the outskirts of our solar neighbourhood would be more sedate - that the Sun's field lines would simply turn around and reconnect with the Sun. "The findings are significant as we will have to change our view on how the Sun interacts with particles, fields and gases from other stars, and this has consequences that reach down to Earth," commented Arik Posner, Nasa's Voyager programme scientist.
It is a demonstration once again of the extraordinary capabilities of the Voyagers, which continue to excite and intrigue more than three decades on from their launch. Voyager 1 was put in space on the 20th of August 1977 and its sister spacecraft, Voyager 2, lifted off on the 5th of September 1977. The Nasa probes' initial goal was to survey the outer planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, a task completed in 1989.
They were then despatched towards deep space, in the general direction of the centre of our Milky Way Galaxy. Sustained by their radioactive power packs, the probes' instruments continue to function well and return data to Earth, although the vast distance between them and controllers in California means a radio message now has a travel time of about 16 hours (in the case of Voyager 1).

The primary task of the spacecraft currently is to define our Sun's limits - to map the extent of its heliosphere, as scientists call it. Our star blows out huge volumes of excited particles. This wind, laced with a magnetic field, travels out at high speed until it crashes into the interstellar magnetic field, at which point the Sun's outpouring abruptly slows and begins to move sideways. It is at this boundary - the heliopause - where the Voyagers find themselves today, and where the Sun's magnetic field lines are snapping and reconnecting to produce the structures reported by scientists.
No-one is quite sure where our Solar System ends and interstellar space begins, but the expectation is that the probes will break through soon - perhaps in the next three or four years. Be prepared to be surprised and awed at what they find.