Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Store Closes After 224 years

This photo shows the exterior of Gray's in Adamsville village in Little Compton, R.I. After 224 years, the nation's oldest general store is about to close. Gray's store in the Adamsville village in Little Compton opened in 1788 and has been in continuous operation ever since. It's set to close on Sunday. Owner Jonah Waite inherited the store after his father died last month, but the 21-year-old senior at the University of Hartford in Connecticut is more intent on becoming a sports journalist. He says the store's finances aren't sustainable, and he's considering selling the property where he grew up.

James Holmes Charged ...142 Counts

In this courtroom sketch, suspect James Holmes, third from right, sits in district court 30 July 2012, in Centennial, Colorado Cameras were not allowed in the courtoom for the second hearing

Alleged Colorado cinema gunman James Holmes has been formally charged with 142 criminal counts in one of America's worst mass shootings. He faces 24 counts of murder, two for each of the 12 people killed, and 116 counts of attempted murder, two each for the 58 injured.

For each person killed he faces a count of murder with deliberation and one of murder with extreme indifference.  If convicted, the 24-year-old could face the death penalty. He opened fire at random in a crowded movie theatre showing Batman film The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora near Denver on 20 July.

The judge banned cameras from Monday's hearing, so there were no pictures of the defendant, who appeared dazed during his first court appearance last week. Mr Holmes was reportedly quiet and unemotional during the hearing. At times, he appeared to be trying to focus his eyes.

Victims and family of victims wearing Batman clothes arrive for the second court appearance of James Holmes, in Centennial, Colorado on 30 July 2012
Victims and family of victims arrive for the second court hearing
Denver Post reporter John Ingold tweeted that the accused appeared "not quite engaged, but listening".
When asked if he approved a delay in his bail hearing, the defendant leaned towards his lawyer and appeared to say "okay", and then said "yes" quietly to the judge.

Survivors of the shooting and family members of those killed attended the hearing.  Several wore Batman shirts, including Don Lader, who was in the eighth row of the theatre when the shooting began. He told CNN he had seen the movie twice since that day.

Among the counts on the prosecutors' sheet, Mr Holmes faces a gun charge and another of possessing an explosive or incendiary device. He allegedly wired his apartment with enough explosives to destroy the entire building had they been detonated. It took authorities several days to dismantle the booby traps.

Court documents filed on Friday by defence lawyers said the suspect had been under the care of a psychiatrist at the University of Colorado Denver, where he had been in the process of dropping out as a neuroscience PhD student. Monday's hearing had also been expected to examine a defence motion relating to a package which the suspect addressed to that psychiatrist, Dr Lynne Fenton.

Handout booking photo released by the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office shows alleged Aurora movie theatre shooter James Holmes 23 July 2012
James Holmes had been under the care of a psychiatrist at the university where he studied
The package - discovered in a campus mailroom three days after the shootings - reportedly contained descriptions of an attack, including drawings of a stick-figure gunman shooting people. The defence team has been seeking a court order requiring prosecutors to immediately turn over all evidence relating to the seizure of a package, citing doctor-patient privilege.

But plans to address the issue were postponed on Monday, according to the Denver Post Correspondents say it is likely that the defendant will plead insanity. Prosecutors have said it will be several weeks before a decision is made on whether or not to seek the death penalty in the case.

As of Sunday, 10 victims of the 20 July shooting remained in hospital, four of them in a critical condition.  Ashley Moser, the critically injured mother of a six-year-old girl killed in the rampage in Aurora, has suffered a miscarriage, her family said on Saturday.  The grief and the consequences of the heinous crime continue to spread like ripples on the surface of the peaceful community.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Us Fears Aleppo Massacre


 Rebels capture a police station in Aleppo
 Rebels stock up on ammunition and homemade bombs
 Casualties of the most tragic and unnecessary kind
The bodies are beginning to line the streets of Aleppo

The US says that it fears Syrian government forces are preparing to carry out a massacre in the country's most-populous city, Aleppo. The US state department said the deployment of tanks, helicopter gunships and fixed-winged aircraft suggested such an attack was imminent.

Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said it was a "serious escalation" in the conflict.
Syrian rebels in the city have begun stockpiling ammunition and medical supplies in preparation.
Ms Nuland said: "Our hearts are with the people of Aleppo. And again, this is another desperate attempt by a regime that is going down to try to maintain control."
But she insisted that the US would not intervene other than by providing non-lethal assistance to the rebels who have been trying to topple the regime of President Bashar al-Assad for 16 months.
"We do not believe that pouring more fuel on this fire is going to save lives," she said, adding that there had not been "the kind of groundswell call for external support" seen elsewhere.

The US has said it is supporting the opposition with communications equipment and medical supplies, Reuters reports. Speaking in Damascus, the UN's chief peacekeeper in Syria, Herve Ladsous, said there was "no plan B" beyond Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan.
"Syrians killing Syrians is something that should not continue," he said, defending the decision to reduce the number of peacekeepers.
"We found ourselves with too many people and not enough to do," he said.
In Aleppo itself, a city of two million people and the country's commercial capital, Syrian rebels have begun stockpiling ammunition. A Syrian security source was quoted by AFP news agency as saying that special forces had begun arriving on the edges of Aleppo in readiness for a "generalized counter-offensive on Friday or Saturday". A similar account has emerged from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which talks of reinforcements arriving from the main Damascus to Aleppo road to the south. Columns of troops and tanks are also thought to be travelling from the city of Hama, and from the border posts with Turkey in Idlib province.

At least 34 people were killed in the city on Thursday, activists said, as artillery and helicopter gunships attacked rebel targets. Activist Abu Mohammad al-Halabi told Reuters that so far most of the victims had been civilians, as the rebels were moving around the city to avoid attacks.
"There is lots of internal displacement, and schools have been turned to makeshift shelters that are packed. One shell hitting a school will result in a catastrophe," he said.
Thousands of people have already left as fears grow that an intense battle looms.

It is almost inconceivable that President Assad would allow his government to lose control of the city, so it is reasonable to expect that they are going to throw everything they possibly can at the rebels and the residents of the city.  And that is what they are preparing for . They appealing for more blood supplies.  Hundreds, possibly thousands of families are leaving. Everybody is bracing themselves for an intensive campaign.  The way it has worked in other cities is that there is an intensive bombardment by artillery and mortars, and then when it starts to calm, tanks begin to roll in. This is a very congested heavily populated area, so it will be bloody.

More than 16,000 people have been killed in Syria since the start of anti-regime protests in March 2011. Repeated diplomatic attempts to stop the violence have foundered, with the UN Security Council bitterly divided. In all humanity, the big powers of the world should step in and just stop the senseless killing.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dear Maxy ,
I am a high school student , and I have been playing the piano for 10 years . It is something that I enjoy .
I got a new piano teacher this year , she is a smoker , and her breath is the worst smoker's breath I have ever smelled before . It never used to be this bad !
She sits next to me while I play , and when she talks the smell is nauseating . I try to hold my breath but this makes me mess up . When I mess up , she yells .
How do I tell her that her breath smells so much that it is impacting my piano playing without hurting her feelings ?


Dear Nauseous,
I think there is a diplomatic way to handle it .
Drum up the courage to speak to your teacher before you sit down at the piano .
Apologize for having difficulty playing properly sometimes . Tell her that you want to share something with her that makes you uncomfortable.
With her blessing , tell her that you have noticed that she is a smoker , and that, unfortunately , the strong smell of smoke on her breath distracts you when you are playing .
She will likely be embarrassed . Hopefully , she will either brush her teeth before you come to class or not smoke close to your arrival . As good as this teacher may be , you may need to look for someone else to teach you who is a nonsmoker .


Dear Maxy ,
My son is getting married , my husband and I are paying for the rehearsal dinner . My mother is adamant that all out-of-town guests be invited .
My son and his fiancee prefer to keep the guest list to the wedding party , parents and grandparents . Otherwise it risks becoming too large . And if we include out-of-towners from our side , we also have to include those from the bride's side .
Is it normal protocol to invite out-of-town guests to the rehearsal dinner ? Could we invite only some of them ?

Rehearsal Blues

Dear Blues ,
If there are large numbers of out-of-town guests , you do not have to invite them to the rehearsal dinner , although you should provide some type of refreshment when they arrive , either in their hotel rooms or by way of a hospitality suite . If there are people traveling a great distance who are special to the family , you may invite them individually , but I don't recommend including most of the groom's side and none of the bride's.


Dear Maxy,
I was at my friend's house the other day and saw a medication he was taking that is used for venereal disease . I was shocked . Then again , I don't know anything about his sex life . What I do know is that he recently started dating a girl and is super excited about her . I have a feeling he is going to have sex with her soon . I like this girl he's dating and I know her a little bit . I wonder if I should talk to her about what I found or tell the guy to take it slowly? I would hate to be the person who knows a terrible fact but didn't do anything about it . How should I proceed ?

In Doubt

Dear In Doubt,
Your friend's sex life is now your business . That you saw medication does not confirm his health status .
It is best to mind your own business .
If you feel compelled to find out , tell your friend directly . Tell him you saw a medication of his that made you concerned about him and his new date . If you want to step in his business , you could ask him if he has the disease in question and if he uses protection .

I do not recommend that you go to the new date . In these times , people should know to use protection . You are not the protection police and it is not your role to try to get your friends to behave responsibly . It is up to them.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

James Holmes....Shooting in Aurora theater...'Batman Rises'...

James Holmes at a  younger more innocent time when he played 'Guitar Hero' for hours with school friend.

 Holmes as he is now.
 Scene of shooting

1.)Holmes bought a movie ticket, entered with crowd and put on ballistic gear

2.)Set off smoke bomb then fired indiscriminately with as many as four guns

3.)58 injured and 12 dead, including aspiring sportscaster Jessica Ghawi

4.)Shooter listened to one techno song on repeat before shooting

5.)Holmes arrested nearby and warned police apartment was booby-trapped

6.)Killer had arsenal of 6,000 rounds which he bought at local shops and online

7.)NY Police Commissioner said gunman told police he was 'The Joker'

The man accused of attacking a movie premiere in Colorado is being described as a “mellow” person, a doctoral student who had quit his medical program.
James Holmes, 24, was a resident of North Aurora, not far from the Denver-area theatre he is suspected of shooting up. Police on Friday were painstakingly examining his apartment, which is said to be so thoroughly booby-trapped that it could be days before it is safe.   The police are now planning to detonate the traps using a robot late Friday night.

As a stunned public grapples with the question of what would motivate someone to carry out such an attack, little detail is emerging about Mr. Holmes.
“He was laid-back, kept to himself, never really talked to anybody,” neighbour Melvin Evans told local reporters in a televised scrum. “He was somebody you wouldn’t even look at twice walking down the street. Very, very mellow.”

Local authorities say that the man had no record beyond a traffic citation. He was not on any police watch-lists and there is no suspicion that the attack was linked to terrorism. Police said that Mr. Holmes is 6’3”. One witness estimated his weight at between 85 and 90 kilograms, describing him as “muscular” but “slender.” The shooter cut an imposing figure in the theatre, though, with witnesses saying he was clad in a bulletproof vest, helmet and gas-mask.

Mr. Holmes is reported to have studied neuroscience at the University of Colorado’s medical campus but had recently decided to withdraw. Another report said that he quit last month. His reasons for leaving the program are not known.

His mother appears to have concerns about her son. When the television station ABC reached her in California and informed her what had happened, she is reported to have said “you have the right person.”
The family released a statement in which they said they were “still trying to process” the situation and asked for privacy.
“Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy and to the families and friends of those involved,” the statement read. “Our family is cooperating with authorities in both San Diego, California and Aurora, Colorado.”

Friday, July 20, 2012

Iceburg the Size of Manhattan Breaks Away From the Petermann Glacier

Views of the iceburg breaking away

An iceberg twice the size of Manhattan has broken away from the Petermann Glacier in northern Greenland. Images from a Nasa satellite show the island breaking off a tongue of ice that extends at the end of the glacier. In 2010 an ice island measuring 250 square km (100 square miles) broke off the same glacier.

The process that spawns icebergs - known as calving - is a natural, periodic process affecting all glaciers that terminate at the ocean. A previous calving event at the same glacier in 2010 created an iceberg twice the size of this one.

Scientists have raised concerns in recent years about the Greenland ice shelf, saying that it is thinning extensively amid warm temperatures. No single event of this type can be ascribed to changes in the climate. But some experts say they are surprised by the extent of the changes to the Petermann Glacier in recent years.
"It is not a collapse but it is certainly a significant event," Eric Rignot from Nasa said in a statement.

Some other observers have gone further. "It's dramatic. It's disturbing," University of Delaware's Andreas Muenchow told the Associated Press.
"We have data for 150 years and we see changes that we have not seen before," Mr Muenchow added.

The calving is not expected have an impact on sea levels as the ice was already floating. Icebergs from the Petermann Glacier sometimes reach the waters off Newfoundland in Canada, posing a danger to shipping and navigation, according to the Canadian Ice Service.

Floating "ice tongues" in front of land-based glaciers tend to block the ice flow headed for the sea. When ice chunks break loose, the land-based glaciers behind them often move more quickly, Mr Muenchow said.

There was  accelerated movement of the Petermann Glacier after the 2010 break .

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dear Maxy,

I would like to ask some questions of married women . What makes you think that your family is more impoertant than your husband's ? Why do you want him to ignore his family and "cleave" unto yours ? How did you convince him that his mother isn't hurt by this ?

My son has been married for 30 years , and in all that time , he's ignored me and spent time with his in-laws . I hold my tongue because it would make thing worse if I did not . Everyone thinks my son and his family are the greatest . She and her family is shrewd , and my son is spineless and blind . Worse , the grandchildren think I do not deserve to be treated any better .

My son has siblings , nieces , nephews , aunts , uncle and cousins who are all ignored . Of course they know where we are when they want a gift . But there is never a thank you note or even so much as a photo of the children .


Dear Venting ,

The best way to make sure you stay close to your children is to ingratiate yourself with their spounces . I am so sorry you've had such a bitter experience , and I hope your words will mean something to our married readers .


Dear Maxy ,

My guy friend recently confessed his love for me , I thought he was gay our entire friendship , so naturally this came as a huge shock . I don't feel the same way and don't think I ever will . I responded very awkwardly to his confession .

Is there any nice way to say "sorry" and I don't love you back ?

Weirded Out

Dear Weirded Out ,

Isn't it interesting the way our beliefs can color the way we interact with others ? You felt safe being close friends with this man because you never thought of him as being a potential suitor . Now the tables have turned .

You owe it to your friend to be honest. Tell him how much you value your friendship . Acknowledge that he expressed his love for you . It's very important for you to let him know that you heard him and received  what he had to say . Tell him that you like or love him , too , but not in that way . Explain that you have always considered him as a dear friend but your affection for him has been and is now platonic .

I also would tell him that you had assumed he was gay . If you have any specific reasons for thinking that , you may need to be ready to tell him that , if needed .

Ultimately , you need to get your sentiment across ... that you appreciate his friendship tremendously and that you are not interested in being his girlfriend .


Dear Maxy ,

My friends are really unsupportive of my relationship with my girlfriend . We've been dating for more than a year , and they still get mad at me if I hang out with her instead of them or sometimes even if I hang out with her after them . It's completely irrational , and it's like I have a bunch of girlfriends now , all demanding my time . They also aren't very nice to her if we hang out in a group . How can I fixed this ?


Dear Frustrated ,

Sit your friends down and talk to them . Tell them that you care deeply for them AND your girlfriend . Lay it out for them that they have been behaving in a childish and unnecessary way . You do not want to have choose between your friends and girlfriend . You would appreciate them giving her the basic respect they would desire for their partners .

Ask them directly why they have been acting so unkindly . If they have a beef with your girlfriend , urge them to tell you exactly what it is . Of course , when you are dating , you divide your time . But id they continue to be rude , you may have to choose to step away from them .


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hypnotizing ?...Or Not?

Eva Rausing’s Husband, Heir to Fortune, Charged

Husband may have lived with body for days

Alan Davidson / The Associated press
Alan Davidson / The Associated press
Eva Rausing, right, and her husband, Hans Kristian Rausing, in 1996. The couple met at a U.S. drugs rehab clinic in the early 1990s, but failed to overcome their addiction.

The heir to the Tetra Pak carton fortune, Hans Kristian Rausing, was charged on Monday with delaying the burial of his wife Eva Rausing, London’s Metropolitan Police said. Eva Rausing was found dead in the couple’s central London mansion last Monday, after her husband was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Her decomposed body was found under layers of bedding in a bedroom on the second floor.

Rausing, 49, was charged with preventing the lawful and decent burial of his wife’s body. The charge extends to “on or before” last Monday, July 9. The charge gives credence to British media reports that Rausing, son of Swedish packaging billionaire Hans Rausing, one of the world’s richest men, may have lived with his wife’s body for a week or more.

Rausing will appear at West London Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday. The Rausing family made their fortune making foil-lined drinks cartons, a business which became a global manufacturing empire worth billions.

Early photo of couple
The couple, who have four children all under 18 years old, met at a U.S. drugs rehabilitation clinic in the early 1990s but never conquered their problems with addiction, despite a host of connections with anti-drug charities to which they devoted millions. Police are treating the death of Eva Rausing, 48, as “unexplained” and a post-mortem examination held last week failed to establish a formal cause of death.

Hans Kristian Rausing bailed in wife body case

Hans Rausing 
Multi-millionaire Hans Kristian Rausing has been given bail after appearing in court accused of preventing the lawful and decent burial of his wife.
District Judge James Henderson granted Mr Rausing conditional bail on two conditions. He was told he must reside at the Capio Nightingale Hospital and he is allowed to leave only if accompanied by a member of hospital staff. Mr Rausing was ordered to appear at Isleworth Crown Court on 26 July.

Rausing Family Statement:
After the hearing, Mr Rausing's parents released a statement which said: Hans [senior] and Marit Rausing and their families are mourning the death of their son's beloved wife, Eva.
"Her death and the details of subsequent events are a reminder of the distorted reality of drug addiction”
"They desperately hope that their dear son, Hans, may find the strength to begin the long and hard journey of detoxification and rehabilitation."
The statement ended with a plea for time to grieve in privacy.

Assad's Top Aides Killed by Suicide Bomber

Three men at the heart of President Assad's defence team have died in a suicide bombing, Syrian state TV says. The president's defence minister, brother-in-law and head of his crisis team were at a meeting at national security headquarters in Damascus.

No footage has yet emerged of the attack in which the national security chief and interior minister were also said to have been wounded. It comes as rebels claim to have launched an offensive on the capital.  For the past three days, rebels have fought with troops in several parts of the city, declaring their operation, entitled Damascus Volcano, a final battle for the capital. The rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) and a jihadist group calling itself Lord of the Martyrs Brigade both said they were behind the security headquarters bombing. Security sources say the suspected bomber ( double agent)  worked as a bodyguard for members of President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle.

As events in Damascus unfolded, a UN Security Council vote on a Western-sponsored resolution threatening Syria with tougher sanctions was postponed until Thursday following a request by UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. Condemning the violence, Mr Annan urged members of the Security Council to take strong, concerted action to help stem the bloodshed. 

Gen Daoud Rajiha had been defence minister for less than a year, serving previously as chief of staff, and was on a US blacklist for his role in the suppression of dissent. He was believed to be an Orthodox Christian - a rarity in the Alawite-dominated Syrian military and government.

Gen Assef Shawkat was married to Mr Assad's sister Bushra and considered a top security chief and a member of the inner circle of the regime.  He is the closest person to the president to be killed so far and his loss is a triple blow for the ruling family.

Gen Hassan Turkomani was a former defence minister and assistant to the vice president as well as being in charge of President Assad's crisis management office. A long-standing senior member of the ruling Baath party and a Sunni Muslim, unlike many in the Syrian elite, he was put in charge of the security forces' crisis team when the uprising began in 2011, opposition activists said.

Hisham Ikhtiar, director of the National Security Bureau, and Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar, were among those hurt in the attack, state TV said. Witnesses at the site of the bombing, in Rawda district, said journalists were banned from approaching.  An armed forces' statement read out on TV said Syria was "more determined than ever" to fight terrorism and wipe out "criminal gangs".
Whoever thinks that killing top commanders "can twist Syria's arm... is delusional", it said.
The rebels now clearly believe victory is within sight, and these deaths will give them even greater heart. They said the government had brought more troops and armour into some districts, and that several people had been killed in clashes and bombardments. A rebel spokeswoman said the entrances to Damascus were closed on Wednesday morning.
"Now tanks are storming into al-Qaboun [district], shelling everything, shelling residential houses, shooting every moving thing," she claimed.

State media had their own version and said security forces fought off attacks by small groups of armed terrorists in the city. Western journalists are under heavy restrictions in Syria, making it difficult to verify the claims of either side.

The UN Security Council had been due to vote on a new round of sanctions against Syria and Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov tweeted that there was a "dangerous pattern" of militant attacks coinciding with Security Council meetings on Syria. UN chiefs, who have until Friday to renew the mandate for observers in Syria, have been trying to persuade China and Russia to agree tougher measures on Damascus.

President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the crisis by telephone on Wednesday. But, according to Interfax news agency, although they agreed on a final goal they disagreed on how to reach it.

The Syrian crisis appears to have moved onto a new level.
In the space of two days, some of President Assad's inner circle of power, including his brother-in-law, have been killed, an army barracks overlooking the presidential palace has been engulfed in flames, and clashes have been moving closer to the heart of the capital.
It doesn't necessarily mean the end is imminent, as opposition circles and armed rebels on the ground clearly believe.
The battle for Damascus has barely begun. If it remains a purely military affair, the regime still has a daunting superiority in weaponry and manpower.
But with international diplomacy effectively paralyzed, the pressure within the crisis seems to be building up, to an intensity where more surprises may be expected.

Higher Crop Prices ( hence food prices) Expected Because of Drought

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks about the drought during a press briefing at the White House in Washington 18 July 2012 

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has warned the worst drought in decades will result in higher crop prices.Mr Vilsack met President Barack Obama on Wednesday to discuss the US response to drought concerns, with little rain forecast to ease the crisis. By the end of June, 55% of the continental US was in a moderate to extreme drought, officials reported. Crops including corn and soybeans have been hit by the dry conditions, and several states have seen wildfires.

Mr Vilsack announced in a press conference on Wednesday that the US Department of Agriculture had added 39 counties in eight states as "natural disaster areas", making farmers in those counties eligible for low-cost emergency loans. Almost 1,300 counties across 29 states have received the designation this year. Temperatures are expected to hit around 100F (37C) across much of the affected area, including Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, southern Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota. Some rain is expected in parts of Ohio, Kentucky and eastern Indiana later in the week.

In a press conference, Mr Vilsack said that while crop prices would likely rise, consumers would not see the effect immediately. He cautioned about potential price gouging in the coming months. The intensity of the drought was not as great as one in 1988, he said, but much larger areas of the country are  affected.
"Part of the problem we're facing is that weather conditions were so good at the beginning of the season that farmers got in the field early," he said.
"As a result, this drought comes at a very difficult and painful time in terms of their ability to have their crops have good yields."
"If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance I could do, I would do it," he added.

Drought in the US..Serious Crop Loss

Steve Niedbalski chops down his drought and heat stricken corn for feed 11 July 2012 in Nashville, Illinois  

The US is currently suffering its widest drought since 1956, according to data released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). On Monday, NOAA reported that by the end of June 55% of the continental US was in a moderate to extreme drought.

Crops including corn and soybeans have been hit by the dry conditions, and several states have seen wildfires. High temperatures across much of the country in June contributed to the spread of the drought. As much as 80% of the US is abnormally dry, the report said, noting that the drought expanded in the West, Great Plains and Midwest areas.  June was the 14th warmest and 10th driest since records began, NOAA said.

Agriculture officials estimated that 30% of the corn crops planted in the 18 high-production states were in poor or very poor condition by last week.
"Topsoil has dried out and crops, pastures and rangeland have deteriorated at a rate rarely seen in the last 18 years," the report said. Over 1,000 counties in 26 states have been declared disaster areas because of drought, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Earlier, NOAA said that the last year in the continental US has been the country's hottest since modern record-keeping began in 1895.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Building Blocks of Life on Mars

New evidence from meteorites suggests that the basic building blocks of life are present on Mars. The study found that carbon present in 10 meteorites, spanning more than four billion years of Martian history, came from the planet and was not the result of contamination on Earth. But the research also shows the Martian carbon did not come from life forms.

A team of scientists based at the Carnegie Institution for Science, based in Washington DC, found "reduced carbon" in the meteorites and says it was created by volcanic activity on Mars. Scientists are looking for clues as to how chemistry evolved to create a "common ancestor" of all life on earth

Reduced carbon is carbon that is chemically bonded to hydrogen or itself. They argue this is evidence "that Mars has been undertaking organic chemistry for most of its history." The team's leader Dr Andrew Steele stated. "For about the last 40 years we have been looking for a pool of what is called 'reduced carbon' on Mars, trying to find where it is, if it's there, asking "does it exist?"

"Without carbon, the building blocks of life cannot exist... So it is reduced carbon that, with hydrogen, with oxygen, with nitrogen make up the organic molecules of life."  He says the new analysis has answered the first question.

"This research shows, yes - it does exist on Mars and now we are moving to the next set of questions.

Curiosity Rover. A science lab slated to land on Mars

"What happened to it, what was its fate, did it take the next step of creating life on Mars?"  He hopes the next mission to land on the Red Planet - the Mars Science Laboratory, also known as the "Curiosity" rover - will shed more light on the big question.

"The question 'are we alone' has been a big driver of science but it relates back to our own origins on this planet. If there is no life on Mars why? It allow us to make a more informed hypothesis about why life is here." So does Dr Steele think there was, or is, life on Mars? He laughs: "Get me some rocks back, I'll have a look and let you know."

Assad Ready to Use Chemical Weapons

The most senior Syrian politician to defect to the opposition has said the regime will not hesitate to use chemical weapons if it is cornered. Nawaf Fares, ex-ambassador to Iraq, said unconfirmed reports indicated such weapons might have already been used. He also said that major bombings across Syria had been orchestrated by the regime in collaboration with al-Qaeda.

The UN observer mission's mandate in Syria comes on to an end on Friday and a new UN resolution is needed to renew it. Mr Fares said President Assad would not relinquish power peacefully. He said he would only be ousted by force "even if he will have to eradicate the entire Syrian people". Mr Fares's claim that Sunni Muslim militants in al-Qaeda are collaborating with a regime dominated by those from the Shia Allawite sect will surprise many.

Challenged on his view that al-Qaeda was collaborating with the regime despite this, Mr Fares said: "There is enough evidence in history that lots of enemies meet when their interests meet."
He added: "Al-Qaeda is searching for space to move and means of support.... the regime is looking for ways to terrorise the Syrian people."

Mr Fares is the most prominent politician to defect since the uprising against President Assad began. He has held senior positions in the ruling Baath Party and powerful security services, and served as governor in several provinces. He told correspondent Frank Gardner that the government "will inevitably fall".
"It is absolutely sure that this government will fall in a short time. We wish for this time to be short so that more sacrifices will not be paid by the Syrian people," he said.

Syria is known to have a significant stockpile of chemical weapons. There have been growing concerns in neighbouring countries and in key Western governments about the security of such weapons should the regime fall.  Asked if he thought President Assad might us chemical weapons against the opposition, Mr Fares said he would not rule it out, describing Mr Assad as "a wounded wolf and cornered".
"There is information, unconfirmed information of course, that chemical weapons have been used partially in (the city of) Homs," he said.
"I have absolute conviction that if the circle... becomes tighter on the regime, the regime will not hesitate to use chemical weapons."

  Violence is continuing to spread across the country and in the capital Damascus as rebels - now better equipped and more organised - confront the army and government-backed militia. Witnesses say the capital is currently seeing the biggest military deployment in the 16-month uprising. Activists say that troops backed by armoured vehicles have entered the Midan district to try to dislodge rebels.

Mr Fares said that the family of President Assad were "clinging to power". "I know the mentality of Bashar al-Assad , I now the mentality of [his late father] Hafez al-Assad, and the entire Syrian people understand that these people... believe they will live forever as rulers of Syria," he said.
"It doesn't occur to any Syrian, not only me, that Bashar al-Assad will let go of power through political interventions - this is impossible. He will be ousted only by force... he will not relinquish power peacefully."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said there must be a new UN resolution "with consequences" for Damascus if it fails to comply with Mr Annan's peace plan.  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that the West had threatened to end the observer mission if Moscow opposed its draft resolution, which threatens more sanctions. He said the attempts contained "elements of blackmail".

Moscow has circulated its own draft resolution calling for the extension of the mission's mandate but without a threat of sanctions. Russia and China have blocked two previous UN resolutions that condemned President Assad's government for the continuing violence.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Japan Floods....250,000 People Ordered to Leave Homes

Members of Japan's Self-Defence Forces on 14 July 2012 searching for missing people near the city of Aso, in Kumamoto prefecture, following devastating floods caused by heavy rainfall 

About 250,000 people have been ordered to leave their homes to avoid floods caused by torrential rainfall in south-west Japan, officials say. Flooding and landslides on the southern island of Kyushu have left at least 20 people dead in the past three days.
TV footage showed muddy waters sweeping through homes and streets as rivers burst their banks in the north of the island.  The Japan Meteorological Agency has warned of further rain and landslides.
At least seven people were said to be missing on Friday, Japanese media said. Japan's Self-Defence Forces have been brought in to help search for the missing.
More than 75cm (30in) of rain fell in 72 hours in the city of Aso, in Kumamoto prefecture, according to weather officials quoted by the French news agency AFP. The evacuation orders affect 85,000 households in the prefectures of Fukuoka, Saga, Kumamoto and Oita, the Kyodo news agency reported. In Fukuoka prefecture alone, around 190,000 people from 65,000 households were issued the order, with the entire area of the cities of Yanagawa, Yame and Miyama to be evacuated. Another 140,000 have been advised to vacate their homes as well, AFP quoted local officials as saying.
Those being asked to leave their homes have been told to go to designated shelters such as schools and other facilities, according to the agency. Japan is certainly familiar with the ravages of  the elements' extremes. I imagine the fear in peoples' minds was of a repeat of last year's quake and tsunami. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Water Geysers on Saturn's Moon

This raw, unprocessed image of Enceladus was taken by NASA's Cassini probe on Nov. 2, 2009. Bright plumes of water vapor are visible on the moon's south pole.
CREDIT: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

and geyser crevasse


Striking  photos of water-vapor geysers erupting from Saturn's moon Enceladus were beamed to Earth  by NASA's Cassini spacecraft in orbit around the ringed planet.
 The spacecraft approached within about 62 miles (100 km) of the moon's surface.
The powerful plumes, which contain water vapor, sodium and organic chemicals such as carbon dioxide, look a bit like the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park. They have intrigued scientists because they suggest that a store of liquid water may be present beneath the moon's crust to give rise to the water vapor in the plumes. And if there is liquid water, there might be the possibility of some kind of alien life.
"If we can put the pieces together - a liquid ocean under the surface, heat driving the geysers and the organic molecules that are the building blocks of life - Enceladus might turn out to have the conditions that led to the origin of life on an earlier version of Earth," Cassini scientist Bonnie J. Buratti wrote on NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory blog.
The aim of the flyby - Cassini's seventh targeted swoop toward Enceladus - was to measure the size, mass, charge, speed and composition of the particles within the plume. The spacecraft made a quick approach traveling at about 18,000 mph (nearly 29,000 kph). In addition to the scientific data, the spacecraft returned stunning snapshots showing the enigmatic geysers glowing in reflected sunlight against the dark backdrop of space.
"Not too bad being in orbit around Saturn, is it ?! ;-)" wrote Carolyn Porco, head of Cassini's imaging science team, via Twitter. Porco called the images "spectacular."
The joint U.S.-European Cassini spacecraft was launched in 1997 on a mission to orbit Saturn, and discovered the geysers on Enceladus in 2005. The spacecraft completed its primary mission in 2008 and ended  an extended phase that ran through 2010.
"This is the first time we?ve found activity on a moon this small," Buratti wrote, explaining that Enceladus is only about the width of Arizona, with a diameter of 310 miles (500 km).
But the possibility of micro-organisms in the water beneath the ice mantle is a good one. There is even a possibility some may  be a form of life as we know it and still living. If so, it is proof of life on another celestial body. Where there is one, there could be millions.