Friday, November 30, 2012

Dumb Ways to Die

 
 
 


Billions of Tons of Water on Mercury - 'Quelle Surprise'!


Messenger neutron and Arecibo radio data at Mercury's pole 

Scientists have finally shown what has been postulated for decades: the planet Mercury holds billions of tons of water ice at its north pole. A report in Science shows evidence from the Messenger spacecraft that craters in constant shadow host water. Much of the ice is beneath an insulating layer of dark material rich in organic and "volatile" molecules.

The findings may help explain how these ingredients first arrived on Earth. Messenger was the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury, and since its arrival in March 2011 has been feeding back the best images of the planet that scientists have ever seen. The principal evidence for water ice comes from the craft's "neutron spectrometer", which can detect the subatomic particle neutrons as they stream from Mercury.
"Neutrons are generated when cosmic rays hit a planet," Sean Solomon, Messenger principal investigator, explained.
"Hydrogen is the best absorber of neutrons, so a neutron spectrometer looks for the signature of hydrogen near the surface by looking for decrease in the flux of neutrons coming from the planet."
This dip in the neutron count showed vast amounts of hydrogen in specific places at the planet's pole, consistent with deposits of water.

But further measurements using a laser and looking for reflections showed that much of the ice is covered with a layer of dark material tens of centimetres thick.
"The guess is that both the water and the dark material, which we think is organic-rich material, were delivered by the same objects impacting Mercury: some mixture of comets and the kinds of asteroids that are rich in organic and volatile material like water ice," Prof Solomon said.
"These are very common objects in the Solar System, we know many of them have orbits that bring them very close to the Sun."

Prof Solomon said that what Messenger finds not only unlocks secrets about the innermost planet in our Solar System, but could also shed light on those of other planets.
"The surprise that we received on making the first chemical measurements of Mercury was that none of the theories we had formed for how Mercury was assembled are correct," he said.
"So we're having to rewrite the books on how Mercury was assembled, and by implication how all the inner planets were assembled.
"The ice at the poles is only a recent chapter in that history but it's one that might be very informative."

Images of Mercury captured by Nasa's Messenger spacecraft (Image: NASA/JHU Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution) Images captured by Messenger have already revealed surprising details about the planet

Thursday, November 29, 2012



Dear Maxy ,
Six months ago , I reconnected with the guy I have loved since grade school ."Thomas"left after graduation to live in another state .I know he has schizophrenia , and I'm willing to take the risk .
 Even though I'm 18 and still in high school , I plan to become a doctor . I've done research and know what I'm up against. Thomas says he hears voices and sees dark figures , and he snaps sometimes , but it seems like he can refocus once I get him to concentrate on me .
Last Thursday , Thomas broke up with me . He apologized for breaking my heart , but he says his schizophrenia is getting worse , and he fears he's going to hurt me  .Thomas knows I love him and would do anything for him . I gave up sleep and time to make sure he knows I'm always here . I listen to him and hold him close when he gets upset . I never get mad at him . We have never fought .
I don't want to lose him again . That happened once and we didn't speak for three whole years ! I don't want to go through that emotional turmoil again . I know people say "too young" to understand what love is , but I believe I have a good idea . I need advice .
Terri

Dear Terri ,
Thomas is telling you his schizophrenia is not underr control , and he justifiably worries he could hurt you or himself . Is he taking antipsychotic medication ? He will need to do this for the rest of his life , and there are side effects . Schizophrenics also have an increased risk of drug and alchol abuse . This is a lot of responsibitily for anyone to take on .
I don't doubt that you care deeply for Thomas , but you may be romanticizing your ability to "save" him . And your determination to have a relationship creates pressure that he apparently can't handle . Please put his welfare first and simply be his friend with no expectations , and encourage him to stick with appropriate medical treatment .
Maxy

Dear Maxy,
Our son is marrying a beautiful woman from Mexico . The cost of the flights are more than his siblings can afford , not to mention the hotels , the dresses , tuxes, showers , parties , etc . But we will help our kids because we know our son would be hurt if they didn't attend .
The brides family may put us up at the hotel , which would be nice , but I don't want to look like moochers . Do we still offer to pay for the rehearsal dinner ? We have told our son how much money we can give them for a wedding gift , and all of this will deplete nearly all or savings . Any advice ?
Need a Money Tree

Dear Need ,
Please don't spend more than you can afford .Tell your son you have a budget that will have to cover all costs , including the rehearsal dinner . If it costs more , he will need to pay for it himself . It's okay to accept the offer from the bride's family to put you up at a hotel . And it's not unreasonable to suggest to your son that he and his new bride have a reception later in your hometown for his siblings and other friends . We hope he can be reasonable instead of being hurt .
Maxy

Dear Maxy ,
I'm a single male who has been seeing a young lady for quite some time . We like each other , but I have some reservations about our relationship .
There is a rule that says you should not commit to a relationship during major holidays such as Christmas , Valentine's Day and Thanksgiving . I know this may sound bizarre , but I don't want to get into a serious relationship "title free" , if you know what I mean . What do you think ?
Slightly Committed

Dear Slightly Committed ,
You are letting superstition get the best of you . You don't have to go down on one knee on any particular holiday if you don't want to . But also don't make the mistake of believing some "rule" whose origin you don't even know , for fear that the relationship will be jinxed .
Maxy

A simple Act of Kindness



 
A visitor to New York captured a moment of compassion, a simple act of kindness on her cell phone.
Jennifer Foster of Florence, Arizona, was in Times Square with her husband on November 14 when she noticed a barefoot man asking for change.
 A new York police officer Officer, Lawrence DePrimo, 25, approached the man with a pair of boots and knelt at his side to help him put them on.
"Right when I was about to approach, one of your officers came up behind him. The officer said, 'I have these size 12 boots for you, they are all-weather. Let's put them on and take care of you.' The officer squatted down on the ground and proceeded to put socks and the new boots on this man. The officer expected NOTHING in return and did not know I was watching," she wrote.
"I have been in law enforcement for 17 years. I was never so impressed in my life. I did not get the officer's name. It is important, I think, for all of us to remember the real reason we are in this line of work. The reminder this officer gave to our profession in his presentation of human kindness has not been lost on myself or any of the Arizona law enforcement officials with whom this story has been shared."

DePrimo was shocked by the attention, the New York Times reports, as he was unaware the photo was even taken. In an interview, he recounted that evening:
"It was freezing out and you could see the blisters on the man's feet," he said. "I had two pairs of socks and I was still cold."

DePrimo then went into a nearby Sketchers shoe store, where the manager offered the officer his employee discount to help bring down the price of a pair of boots to just over $75. Upon receiving the new boots, DePrimo told the Associated Press that the man "smiled from ear to ear. It was like you gave him a million dollars."

DePrimo still carries that receipt with him, he said, "to remind me that sometimes people have it worse." The photo became an internet sensation. We all love good Samaritans. Now lets follow his example and pay it forward.

Thanx Yahoo

The Inuit sit on billions of barrels of oil

Man dragging a walrus  
After a decade of legal wrangling and spending $4.5bn, this year Shell Oil was given permission to begin exploratory drilling off the coast of Alaska. But many in the local Inuit community are concerned it could have a devastating impact on one of their main sources of food - the bowhead whale.

Marie Casados shows me the contents on her freezer. Inside there's whale meat, muktuk - frozen whale skin and blubber - a selection of fish and a polar bear foot, which looks like a human hand. She describes it as a real delicacy. But it's more than that - this is her food supply for the winter.
Fishing and hunting are central to the Inupiat way of life - archaeologists have found evidence of humans hunting whales in the area dating back to as early as 800BC.
"We are the oldest continuous inhabitants of North America," says Point Hope's Mayor Steve Oomituk. "We've been here thousands of years."

Maria with a polar bear foot
 Marie Casados and her prized polar bear foot

Oomituk shares the fear of many in the small community - population 800 - that offshore drilling by Shell could destroy the food chain that they rely on for survival. Over 80% of the food eaten in Point Hope is caught by the people themselves.  They worry that it will disrupt the migration routes of the marine mammals, driving them away from the coastal waters where they can be reached by hunters.
"Their proposed Arctic drilling is right in the path of the animals' migration routes," says Oomituk.
"We live in a cycle of life that hasn't changed for thousands of years. We know where the animals are coming. We know when they are going north, when they are going south, this is our home, our land, our identity as a people."
But Oomituk recognizes that, like every other American citizen, he is dependent on fossil fuels. He heats his house with diesel, he drives a vehicle that needs petrol.

Shell estimates that the Arctic as a whole holds around 30% of the world's undiscovered natural gas and 13% of its yet-to-find oil. This amounts to the equivalent of 400bn barrels of oil - 10 times the total oil and gas produced to date in the North Sea.


Jobs are also a major concern in this poor community. As mayor, Oomituk appreciates that many people would benefit from a new local employer.
"You want jobs for the people, you want the economy to come up, but do you want to sacrifice your way of life to have that happen? To endanger a way of life that's been here for time immemorial?"
So the proposed drilling poses a real dilemma for the Inupiat.


Steve Oomituk wearing a traditional mask
Mayor Oomituk wants to preserve the old traditions

Child in Point Hope

The kids want pop,chips and hotdogs . They are being absorbed into the modern world














 
Pulling in a walrus from a hunt

The community still gets most of its food from hunting and fishing in the coastal waters
Whale bones

Whale bones litter the site of the "feasting ground", where they gather to share out the whale meat
Polar bear skin on a washing line




Many parts of the animals are used by the Inupiat
 

Woman holding an apple



Imported food - like these New Zealand apples - is incredibly expensive

Fish and its guts




Locals fear an accidental oil spill could destroy their local food chain and way of life

Point Hope children trampolining A third of Point Hope's population are school-aged - how will offshore drilling change their future?

In Point Hope, some people simply don't have enough to eat. Lining up at a soup kitchen, where chunks of deep-fried king salmon and caribou stew are dished out to hungry locals, Patrick Jobstone says he'd be grateful to get any kind of job.

The Inupiat - Inuit who who live in northern Alaska - are allowed to catch 10 bowhead whales a year. Once caught, the whale is cut and the first eight boats to harpoon the whale after the hunter receive shares. The main whaling crew divide the head between them.
Once the whale is butchered, the meatless skull is returned to the sea. Traditionally the Inuipat believe the skull will "dress itself again" and become another whale. The whale's flipper is pickled and offered to the elders.


He has been looking for work ever since he came out of prison for drink and drug-related offences, and is struggling to support his wife and child. For Jobstone, a job with Shell would be an answer his prayers. He is already being trained in clearing toxic waste in anticipation of any new job opportunities and hopes to be taken on as one of Shell's spill response team.
"If they have jobs I will work for them no problem," he says. But he too is concerned about pollution.
"If an oil rig spilled and made a mess of the ocean, how am I ever going to eat a whale that's not contaminated? Crude oil stays on the bottom of the ocean," he says.

Map of area where Shell Oil has leases


The bright orange areas show where Shell has leases - the right to explore for and extract oil

Pete Slaiby, vice-president of Shell in Alaska, accepts that oil spills are a concern. "There's no sugar-coating this, I imagine there would be spills, and no spill is OK. But will there be a spill large enough to impact people's subsistence? My view is no, I don't believe that would happen."
On the other hand, he argues that oil extracted off the coast of Point Hope could make a big difference to America as a whole.

The issue of offshore drilling has long been controversial in the US. A congressional moratorium on offshore oil or gas drilling was implemented in 1981. In the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, Republicans such a vice-presidential hopeful Sarah Palin called for an end to the ban, with the slogan "Drill, baby, drill". At the time, Barack Obama opposed it. Once elected however, he partially reversed his earlier campaign promise and allowed drilling in some offshore areas, including the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska.

"It could mean a significant step in the journey to energy independence of the United States," he says.

Slaiby says that the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline, which has supplied the United States with oil extracted on land for 40 years, is beginning to run low.
"We're seeing a decline, year-on-year of 6%. For us, keeping the Trans-Alaskan pipeline going is in our national goals."

It's a familiar dilemma that has been played out time and time again across the world - should a community prioritize economic development over environmental protection? This summer for the first time, the Point Hope tribal council met representatives from Shell, including Pete Slaiby, in the Point Hope town hall - a dilapidated wooden geodesic dome fashioned to look like an igloo.

Point Hope's town hall

Afterward the locals were emotional, but resigned to the onset of the drilling.

We need to get all the information and make sure it's done properly, said Peggy Frankeson, executive director of the tribal council who was at the meeting.
"We're the caretakers of the animals and the land and we need to make sure that our culture is able to carry on for the next 10-20,000 years," she says.

In the event, Shell was unable to extract any off-shore oil this year. First of all, drilling was stalled when a massive chunk of ice - 30 miles (48km) long and 12 miles (19km) wide - appeared to be heading towards their ship.

In 1958, Edward Teller, the inventor of the H-bomb, visited Point Hope to promote a plan to use the atom bomb in the creation of a deep water harbour, 30 miles (48km) south of the village.
Villagers were told that the explosion was so precise it would be able to create a harbour in the shape of a polar bear. The firepower used would have been 160 times larger than Hiroshima.
It never went ahead because the community refused to move out of their homes for the period of the blast, which clashed with the whaling season. Because of this, many of the older Inupiat still refuse to shake hands with white people.


Later, Shell began drilling on two sites but was prohibited from extending wells into petroleum reservoirs by the US Coastguard after a huge dome designed to contain any spill broke down under trials.
The area is now iced over until next year, and the people of Point Hope have been granted a stay of execution, or a frustrating delay, depending on your point of view. Next year, Shell will be back to start drilling again.

Major accidental oil spills

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fools and Polar Bears






 
WASHINGTON — A lawyer arguing for the state of Alaska that polar bears ( Only about 20,000 remain) are not a threatened species ran into skeptical appeals court judges on Friday.
Alaska, along with hunters who hunt bears professionally, is appealing the 2011 decision by a federal judge that the government correctly listed polar bears under the federal Endangered Species Act.
 It’s a case with major implications because polar bears are the first, and so far, only species listed as endangered, solely on the basis of threats from global warming.
Polar bears are fairly close to the brink. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says sea ice melting means two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will likely be gone by 2050. Some idiots, like polar bear hunters, can't see past their own greed. The bears are disappearing  you fools. You'll be out of work soon anyway. Get a different job..

Rallying Support for Fiscal Cliff Plan

President Barack Obama (right) and House Speaker John Boehner at the White House on 16 November 2012 


President Obama is launching a week of public outreach in pressing his case for tax rises on the wealthy as the so-called fiscal cliff looms. Mr Obama met business leaders at the White House on Tuesday and will meet  members of middle-class families on Wednesday.

He wants Republicans to accept tax increases on the wealthy, while extending tax cuts for families earning $250,000  or less.

The fiscal cliff, a package of spending cuts and tax rises, hits on 1 January.

What is the fiscal cliff?
  • Under a deal reached last year between President Obama and the Republican-controlled Congress, existing stimulus measures - mostly tax cuts - will expire on 1 January 2013
  • Cuts to defence, education and other government spending will then automatically come into force - the "fiscal cliff" - unless Congress acts
  • The economy does not have the momentum to absorb the shock from going over the fiscal cliff without going into recession

The measures, which would suck about $600bn out of the economy, were intentionally engineered as part of a 2011 compromise between Mr Obama and congressional Republicans. Negotiators then hoped it would spur the two sides to reach a long-term solution to the US budget deficit.

It is highly unlikely the Republicans will give the president what he wants. If they agree to "middle-class tax cuts", the fiscal cliff would still loom. It is true the drop off the edge would become a little shorter, and a little less painful, but it would still hurt a lot and they would have agreed to hand over a major bargaining chip without getting anything in return.
 
The President is playing hardball and continuing to represent the Republicans as sympathizing only with the wealthy. It is hard to see how this makes it any easier to get an agreement in the next few weeks. But it matters because if he or the Republicans do misjudge their brinkmanship, it won't be just them who tumble off the edge - they could take the rest of us with them. A failure to step back from the fiscal cliff could help plunge the world back into recession, the OECD, which represents the world's richest nations, warned on Tuesday.

With tax cuts passed under President George W Bush set to expire on 1 January, the White House says Mr Obama will not sign any deal which extends that measure for the wealthiest Americans.
John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, has said he would consider increasing tax revenue by closing loopholes, though he remains opposed to raising taxes.

The House of Representatives Speaker has said such a strategy would hit small businesses and hold back economic growth. Republicans instead want to see cuts to federal programmes that have strained the US budget, adding to the deficit because of the increasing number of participants and rising costs.

In recent days, however, several Republicans have shown willingness to countenance tax increases, including prominent Republican Senators Lindsey Graham, Bob Corker and Saxby Chambliss along with Representative Peter King.

Grover Norquist, a powerful anti-tax lobbyist, acknowledged on Monday that those Republicans were having "impure thoughts".

Newly Released Footage of Breivik Planting Bomb

 
 
 
 
Chilling footage of Anders Behring Breivik parking van packed with explosives. The Norwegian walks away before the bomb goes off outside the prime minister's offices, killing eight people and injuring dozens.

Newly released CCTV footage from Anders Behring Breivik's terror attack in Oslo 2011 has been aired by Norwegian broadcaster NRK. The previously unpublished video footage, showing the moment the bomb exploded outside the centre-left government's headquarters on July 22 last year, is due to be aired in a special edition of NRK show Focal Point.
..

Accusing his victims of fostering multiculturalism, Anders Behring Breivik detonated the bomb and gunned down participants at a youth camp on the island of Utoeya, killing a total of 77 people.
Breivik was given Norway's maximum sentence of 21 years in jail, which can be extended indefinitely. He is expected to spend most of that time at the Ila prison near Oslo.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Library of Congress: Civil War in America


        Exhibit Displays Document Letters For the First Time

WASHINGTON -- Letters and diaries from those who lived through the Civil War offer a new glimpse at the arguments that split the nation 150 years ago and some of the festering debates that survive today.
    The Library of Congress, which holds the largest collection of Civil War documents, pulled 200 items from its holdings to reveal both private and public thoughts from dozens of famous and ordinary citizens who lived in the North and the South. Many are being shown for the first time.
    Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, for one, was grappling with divided federal and state allegiances. He believed his greater allegiance was to his native Virginia, as he wrote to a friend about resigning his U.S. Army commission.
    "Sympathizing with you in the troubles that are pressing so heavily upon our beloved country & entirely agreeing with you in your notions of allegiance, I have been unable to make up my mind to raise my hand against my native state, my relatives, my children & my home," he wrote in 1861. "I have therefore resigned my commission in the Army."
     Lee's handwritten letter is among dozens of writings from individuals who experienced the war. They are featured in the new exhibit "The Civil War in America" at the library in Washington until June 2013. Their voices also are being heard again in a new blog created for the exhibition.
     For a limited time in 2013, the extensive display will feature the original draft of President Abraham Lincoln's preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and rarely shown copies of the Gettysburg Address.
     Beyond the generals and famous battles, though, curators set out to tell a broader story about what Lincoln called "a people's contest."
      "This is a war that trickled down into almost every home," said Civil War manuscript specialist Michelle Krowl. "Even people who may seem very far removed from the war are going to be impacted on some level. So it's a very human story."
      Curators laid out a chronological journey from before the first shots were fired to the deep scars soldiers brought home in the endWhile some still debate the root causes of the war, for Benjamin Tucker Tanner in 1860, the cause was clear, as he wrote from South Carolina in his diary.
     "The country seems to be bordering on a civil war all on account of slavery," wrote the future minister. "I pray God to rule and overrule all to his own glory and the good of man."
      A personal letter from Mary Todd Lincoln in 1862 was recently acquired by the library and is being publicly displayed for the first time.
      In the handwritten note on stationery with a black border, Mary Lincoln reveals her deep grief over the death of her son Willie months earlier. Krowl said Mary Lincoln's grief is also evident in the new movie, "Lincoln."
     "When you read this letter ... you just get a palpable feeling of how in the depth that she's been and she's now finally coming out of her grief, at least to resume public affairs," Krowl said.
    All the documents in the exhibit are original. They include a massive map Gen. Stonewall Jackson commissioned of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley to prepare for a major campaign.
     The library also is displaying personal items from Lincoln, including the contents of his pockets on the night he was assassinated, and the pocket diary of Clara Barton who would constantly record details about soldiers she met and later founded the American Red Cross.
      Some of the closing words come from soldiers who lost their right arms or hands in battle and had to learn to write left-handed. They joined a left-handed penmanship contest and shared their stories.
     "I think this exhibition will have a lot of resonance for people," said exhibit director Cheryl Regan. "Certainly soldiers returning home from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are going to be incredibly moved by these stories."

From the Library of Congress: South Carolina was the first state to make good on its threat to secede from the United States after Lincoln was elected president in November 1860. A special secession convention met in Charleston to decide the issue and quickly passed an "Ordinance of Secession" with a vote of 169 to 0


This April 20, 1861, letter from Robert E. Lee to cousin Roger Jones explains his reasoning for resigning his commission from the U.S. Army.

From the Library of Congess: Although not decisive in a military sense, the Battle of Antietam changed the course of the war by providing President Lincoln the opportunity to issue his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, thereby adding emancipation to the Union’s war aims.
From the Library of Congress: As Union and Confederate troops met for the first great land battle of the war, confusion was the only constant. Lack of standardized uniforms made it difficult to tell friend from foe. Troops on both sides were untested in battle. Even the name of the battle set a precedent for confusion. Often Confederates named battles after nearby villages or railroad junctions (Manassas), while Federals named them after bodies of water (Bull Run). This engagement also underscored the strategic importance of interior railroad lines, which in this battle helped determine a C.S.A. victory. Lincoln’s secretary, John G. Nicolay, wrote a letter to his fiancĂ© throughout the day on July 21, noting conflicting reports arriving on the telegraph wires and general confusion surrounding the engagement that culminated in a Union loss.


From the Library of Congress: Union general Benjamin Butler was in charge of Fortress Monroe, which sits on an island in the Hampton Roads area of the Chesapeake Bay, when runaway slaves Frank Baker, Shepard Mallory, and James Townsend escaped to his fort. By declaring these men and other escaped slaves

Friday, November 23, 2012

Japan's ninjas heading for extinction

Tools of a dying art

Graphic showing weapons and tools used by a ninja

 
Japan's era of shoguns and samurai is long over, but the country does have one, or maybe two, surviving ninjas. Experts in the dark arts of espionage and silent assassination, ninjas passed skills from father to son - but today's say they will be the last.

Japan's ninjas were all about mystery. Hired by noble samurai warriors to spy, sabotage and kill, their dark outfits usually covered everything but their eyes, leaving them virtually invisible in shadow - until they struck.

Using weapons such as shuriken, a sharpened star-shaped projectile, and the fukiya blowpipe, they were silent but deadly. Ninjas were also famed swordsmen. They used their weapons not just to kill but to help them climb stone walls, to sneak into a castle or observe their enemies.

Most of their missions were secret so there are very few official documents detailing their activities. Their tools and methods were passed down for generations by word of mouth.

Jinichi Kawakami

This has allowed filmmakers, novelists and comic artists to use their wildest imagination.
Hollywood movies such as Enter the Ninja and American Ninja portray them as superhumans who could run on water or disappear in the blink of an eye.

"That is impossible because no matter how much you train, ninjas were people," laughs Jinichi Kawakami, Japan's last ninja grandmaster, according to the Iga-ryu ninja museum.

A demonstration of a ninja using water shoes 
Source: Iga-Ryu Ninja Museum

However, ninjas did apparently have floats that enabled them move across water in a standing position.

Kawakami is the 21st head of the Ban family, one of 53 that made up the Koka ninja clan. He started learning ninjutsu (ninja techniques) when he was six, from his master, Masazo Ishida.
"I thought we were just playing and didn't think I was learning ninjutsu," he says.
"I even wondered if he was training me to be a thief because he taught me how to walk quietly and how to break into a house."

Other skills that he mastered include making explosives and mixing medicines.
"I can still mix some herbs to create poison which doesn't necessarily kill but can make one believe that they have a contagious disease," he says.  Kawakami inherited the clan's ancient scrolls when he was 18.  While it was common for these skills to be passed down from father to son, many young men were also adopted into the ninja clans.

There were at least 49 of these but Mr Kawakami's Koka clan and the neighbouring Iga clan remain two of the most famous thanks to their work for powerful feudal lords such as Ieyasu Tokugawa - who united Japan after centuries of civil wars when he won the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600.

It is during the Tokugawa era - known as Edo - when official documents make brief references to ninjas' activities.
"They weren't just killers like some people believe from the movies," says Kawakami.
In fact, they had day jobs. "Because you cannot make a living being a ninja," he laughs.

Five nearly-true ninja myths

  • Ninjutsu is a martial art: In fact, fighting was a last resort - ninjas were skilled in espionage and defeating foes using intelligence, while swinging a sword was deemed a lower art
  • Ninjas could disappear: They couldn't vanish as they do in the movies, but being skilled with explosives, they could make smoke bombs to momentarily misdirect the gaze, then flit away
  • They wore black: Ninja clothing was made to be light and hard to see in the dark - but jet-black would cause the form to stand out in moonlight, so a dark navy blue dye was usually used
  • Ninjas could fly: They moved quietly and swiftly, thanks to breathing techniques which increased oxygen intake, but kept their feet on the ground
  • And walk on water: CIA intelligence says they used "water shoes" - circular wooden boards or buckets - and a bamboo paddle for propulsion, but doubt remains over their effectiveness

  • Thursday, November 22, 2012



    Dear Maxy ,
    My neighborhood is very friendly . We greet one another when outside, help one another and are very cordial .
    However , there is one family who isn't as kind and friendly . The overall view of that particular family is one of pure disdain . When they come outside, they do not greet anyone. In fact , one of the residents there cursed out an elderly woman on the block .
    In preparation for the hurricane, everyone did their part the night before to clear the streets of leaves and debris , except them . That family lives closest to the storm drain at their end of the block . If they didn't clean their area, there was a good chance the leaves in their area would clog the drain and cause flooding on the block .
    How do you deal with neighbors who are inconsiderate and rude ?
    Fed up

    Dear Fed Up ,
    Now that the hurricane has passsed, I hope you and your neighbors were able to work with this family to clear the drains . Without question, in an emergency, even if your neighbors have had bad manners, your community needs to come together to insist that safety precautions be followed .
    When you approach a contentious neighbor as a united front while remaining friendly, you stand a better chance of being heard and heeded . Beyond that, you can continue to reach out to these neighbors, letting them know that you want them to be part of the community and doing your best to win them over with your welcoming nature .
    Maxy

    Dear Maxy ,
    My aunt told me there is something going on in our extended family that will affect everyone . She says that it has to do with one particular family and that the news will come out in the next few months . She left me with a cliffhanger.
    I know it's not my right to ask questions, but I'm going insane thinking of every possible situation (death , cancer , divorce , ets). How can I make peace with this situation ?
    Worried Niece

    Dear worried Niece,
    I wonder why your aunt chose to give you such a cryptic message ? I understand that some people feel that they have premonitions base on knowledge they think they have . But this presumed knowledge is often just that ... presumed .
    On the other hand, your aunt may legitimately know some news that has yet to surface . If so, it was wrong of her to tease you with such an ominous prediction . Go to your aunt and ask her what she was talking about . Tell her that you have been worried since your last conversation . Ask her if you should be concerned about a family member's health, safety or well being . If she doesn't want to share her suspicious with you, she may want to speak to one of your parents .
    If your aunt will not budge, tell one of your parents and ask for their guidance .
    Maxy

    Dear Maxy ,
    I am a transgendered boy and having trouble coming out to my family . I wear sport bras and boy's clothing most of the time , and when I am speaking with my friends, I use male pronouns, but can't gather the courage to tell my family .
    My mother and I once talked about it briefly, but I got nervous and ended up saying it was no big deal . Now I feel as if I missed my chance and will have to wait a long time before I get another shot at it . Being referred to and apppearing as a girl makes me uncomfortable, but I know nothing is going to change until I tell them .
    Nervous

    Dear Nervous ,
    Your mother likely suspects what is going on and is simply waiting for you to bring up the subject again . . While you're considering that please contact PFLAG ( pflag.org), an organization that can answer your questions and help you discuss the matter with your parents .
    Maxy

    President Obama Pardons' Thanksgiving Turkey

    
     

    President Obama pardoned two turkeys on Wednesday, continuing a longstanding Thanksgiving tradition at the White House.

    Accompanied by his daughters Malia and Sasha, the President official spared the lives of Cobbler and Gobbler, four-month-old birds raised on a Virginia farm. He also wished a happy holiday to the men and women serving the United States of America in uniform.

    Signal From Galactic Center...Perhaps Mysterious Dark Matter

     

    Dark matter distribution around the Milky Way
     
    Are there dark doings near the center of the Milky Way? That may be so when it comes to the collision of dark matter particles. Although such particles are invisible, we could still theoretically see the mess they make when they collide. It’s this idea that leads physicists to scour the galaxy for some glimmer of dark matter collisions. Spot a line produced by a pair of gamma-rays emanating from just the right spot and you may have found coveted clues to the dark matter mystery.
    Now a collaboration of scientists using the Fermi Gamma-Ray Spacecraft’s Large Area Telescope instrument (Fermi–LAT) has confirmed seeing an unusual gamma-ray line near the galactic center. If the finding stands up to further scrutiny, it’s possible this line comes from the annihilation of dark matter.
    In April theoretical physicist Christoph Weniger, now at the GRAPPA Institute in Amsterdam, analyzed Fermi–LAT’s publicly available data and spotted a strange gamma-ray line near the galactic center. There’s no known astrophysical event that can tidily explain this line—but the collision of dark matter particles might. If that were the case, it would be a major discovery: Once physicists spot the products of such an annihilation, they could begin to understand the particles that collided.
     What was needed to verify the discovery was a weigh-in from Fermi-LAT collaboration physicists; they know the data best and would be able to confirm any hint of dark matter.

    That confirmation—though very qualified—came earlier this month at the Fourth International Fermi Symposium. “We do see a line at the galactic center but at lower significance than others have seen,” The Ohio State University physicist and collaborator Andrea Albert says. Specifically, when Albert and colleagues looked within a certain region of the galactic center, they saw a prominent gamma-ray line with an energy of 135 giga–electron volts (GeV) with 3.35 sigma local significance. This is close enough to Weniger’s observations to infer that this is the line he spotted as well. There’s even a second, much less pronounced line that could support the conclusion that this is dark matter.

    If dark matter really is what’s producing the gamma-ray line in the galactic center, physicists would predict that it could produce additional signals nearby, annihilating and releasing other particles as well as gamma-rays. The Fermi-LAT collaboration has some evidence of a second line that meshes well with this theoretical prediction.
     “For now, we cannot exclude the possibility that the line in the galactic center is a dark matter line,” Albert says. “Within a year we hope to have an answer.”
     
    Dark matter is one of the greatest mysteries in the universe. It is theorized that dark matter and dark energy make up 96% of the universe ( 70% dark energy, 25% dark matter and 5% normal matter, as we know it) While dark matter hold the the celestial bodies of the universe together, dark energy is driving them apart and expanding the universe at an accelerating rate.

    Tuesday, November 20, 2012

    Mitt Romney: Pumping His own Gas...Back to the Life of an Ordinary Joe

     
     Mitt Romney has kept a low profile of late, save for a controversial remark about President Obama giving gifts to ethnic groups in return for votes

    Monday, a photo of Romney filling up at a gas station in La Jolla, Calif., surfaced all over the net. He appears slightly rumpled and unkempt ... and perhaps a bit peeved about the photo.

    Mitt Romney Pumping Gas

    Gone is his familiar, perfectly slicked-back coif from the campaign trail and gone are the very expensive suits and perfect wardrobe.
    "I talked to him for a good three minutes while he was filling his tank," the poster  of the photo said. "I guess he's moving to one of his houses in the town I live in, La Jolla."
    Hey, he doesn't have much else going on now. Having run for president for the better part of six years, the former Massachusetts Governor and wife Ann Romney can finally look forward to some downtime.
    In fact, the couple took in a showing of Breaking Dawn Part 2  in Del Mar, Calif., one town north of La Jolla, on Saturday, then hit up a pizza place across the street.
    He may not be President of the United States, but on the bright side, he can enjoy the simple life without a Secret Service detail.

    The Secrets of Einstein's Brain

    From Ref 1 / with permission of NMHM, Silver Spring, MD






















    Albert Einstein is considered to be one of the most intelligent people that ever lived, so researchers are naturally curious about what made his brain tick.

    Photographs taken shortly after his death, but never before analyzed in detail, have now revealed that Einstein’s brain had several unusual features, providing tantalizing clues about the neural basis of his extraordinary mental abilities.

    While doing Einstein's autopsy, the pathologist Thomas Harvey removed the physicist's brain and preserved it in formalin. He then took dozens of black and white photographs of it before it was cut up into 240 blocks. He then took tissue samples from each block, mounted them onto microscope slides and distributed the slides to some of the world’s best neuropathologists.

    The autopsy revealed that Einstein’s brain was smaller than average and subsequent analyses showed all the changes that normally occur with ageing. Nothing more was analyzed, however. Harvey stored the brain fragments in a formalin-filled jar in a cider box kept under a beer cooler in his office. Decades later, several researchers asked Harvey for some samples, and noticed some unusual features when analyzing them.

    The study done in 1985 showed that two parts of his brain contained an unusually large number of non-neuronal cells called glia for every neuron. And one published more than a decade later showed that the parietal lobe lacks a furrow and a structure called the operculum. The missing furrow may have enhanced the connections in this region, which is thought to be involved in visuo-spatial functions and mathematical skills such as arithmetic.

    Now, anthropologist Dean Falk of Florida State University in Tallahassee and her colleagues have obtained 12 of Harvey’s original photographs from the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland, analyzed them and compared the patterns of convoluted ridges and furrows with those of 85 brains described in other studies.

    Many of the photographs were taken from unusual angles, and show structures that were not visible in photographs that have been analyzed previously. The analysis is published today in the journal Brain1.

    Einstein was a keen violinist, which may account for an overdeveloped section of his brain that deals with the left hand.
    AFP/Getty Images

    The most striking observation, says Falk, was “the complexity and pattern of convolutions on certain parts of Einstein's cerebral cortex”, especially in the prefrontal cortex, and also parietal lobes and visual cortex.

    The prefrontal cortex is important for the kind of abstract thinking that Einstein would have needed for his famous thought experiments on the nature of space and time, such as imagining riding alongside a beam of light. The unusually complex pattern of convolutions there probably gave the region and unusually large surface area, which may have contributed to his remarkable abilities.

    Falk and her colleagues also noticed an unusual feature in the right somatosensory cortex, which receives sensory information from the body. In this part of Einstein’s brain, the region corresponding to the left hand is expanded, and the researchers suggest that this may have contributed to his accomplished violin playing.

    According to Sandra Witelson, a behavioural neuroscientist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, who discovered that the parietal operculum is missing from Einstein’s brain, the study’s biggest contribution may be in encouraging further studies. “It makes clear the location and accessibility of photographs and slides of Einstein's brain,” she says. “This may serve as an incentive for other investigations of Einstein's brain, and ultimately of any consequences of its anatomical variations.”
     

    Monday, November 19, 2012

    You Know You're Drinking Too Much Coffee When...........




     I just love my cup of java, joe, ambrosia, nectar of the gods. I need it to get my blood circulating in the morning. In fact if I could transfuse it directly into my blood stream...that would definitely work for me. Lately I have been thinking perhaps I should cut back a bit. A friend sent this handy list to help me guage my coffee addiction.

    YOU KNOW YOU"RE DRINKING TOO MUCH COFFEE WHEN:
    • You answer the door before people knock.
    • You ski uphill.
    • You speed walk in your sleep.
    • You just completed another sweater and you don't know how to knit.
    • You sleep with your eyes open.
    • You have to watch videos in fast-forward.
    • You can take a picture of yourself from ten feet away without using the timer.
    • You lick your coffeepot clean.
    • You spend every vacation visiting "Maxwell House."
    • You're the employee of the month at the local coffeehouse and you don't work there.
    • Your eyes stay open when you sneeze.
    • You chew on other people's fingernails.
    • You can type sixty words per minute... with your feet.
    • You can jump-start your car without cables.
    • Cocaine is a downer.
    • All your kids are named "Joe".
    • You don't need a hammer to pound nails.
    • Your only source of nutrition comes from "Sweet & Low."
    • You buy 1/2 & 1/2 by the barrel.
    • You've worn out the handle on your favorite mug.
    • You go to AA meetings for the free coffee.
    • You walk twenty miles on your treadmill before you realize it's not plugged in.
    • You forget to unwrap candy bars before eating them
    • You've built a miniature city out of little plastic stir sticks.
    • People get dizzy watching you.
    • You've worn the finish off your coffee table.
    • Your taste buds are so numb you could drink your lava lamp.
    • You're so wired, you pick up AM radio.
    • Your life's goal is to amount to a hill of beans.
    • Instant coffee takes too long.
    • You want to be cremated just so you can spend the rest of eternity in a coffee can.
    • Your birthday is a national holiday in Brazil.
    Well, I believe I need to go into caffein rehab. How about you??



    Sunday, November 18, 2012

    Saturday, November 17, 2012

    BP gets record US criminal fine over Deepwater disaster

    The fire at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig 


    BP has received the biggest criminal fine in US history as part of a $4.5bn settlement related to the fatal 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Two BP workers have been indicted on manslaughter charges and an ex-manager charged with misleading Congress.

    The Department of Justice (DoJ)  said BP must hand over $4bn. The sum includes a $1.26bn fine as well as payments to wildlife and science organizations.  As part of the agreement, BP will also plead guilty to 14 criminal charges. The company apologized for its role and said it regretted the loss of life.BP will also pay an $525m to the Securities and Exchange Commission over a period of three years.

    The resolution with the DoJ includes a record criminal fine of $1.26bn, as well as $2.4bn to be paid to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and $350m to be paid to the National Academy of Sciences, over a period of five years.
    DoJ Attorney General Eric Holder said its resolution "stands as a testament to the hard work of countless investigators, attorneys, support staff members, and other personnel".

    Attorney General Eric Holder said the oil spill was ''an unprecedented environmental catastrophe''
    He went on: "In addition to the charges filed against BP, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging the two highest-ranking BP supervisors, who were on board the Deepwater Horizon on the day of the explosion, with 23 criminal counts - including 11 counts of seaman's manslaughter, 11 counts of involuntary manslaughter, and alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.
    "The grand jury also charged a former BP executive - who served as a deputy incident commander and BP's second-highest ranking representative at Unified Command during the spill response - with hiding information from Congress and allegedly lying to law enforcement officials."

    The executive, David Rainey, is alleged to have intentionally under-estimated the amount of oil spilling from the well. The two oil well supervisors accused of manslaughter were named in the indictment as Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, according to the news agency Associated Press.
    They were accused of negligence in the way they oversaw safety tests on the Deepwater Horizon rig before the accident, and failing to alert onshore engineers to problems with the drilling.

    As a result of the settlements, the company said that it was setting aside an additional $3.85bn on top of the $38.1bn it has been raising to cover its liabilities from the incident. The UK-based oil giant has been selling assets to raise the funds.

    "All of us at BP deeply regret the tragic loss of life caused by the Deepwater Horizon accident as well as the impact of the spill on the Gulf coast region," said Bob Dudley, BP's chief executive.
    "From the outset, we stepped up by responding to the spill, paying legitimate claims and funding restoration efforts in the Gulf. We apologize for our role in the accident, and as today's resolution with the US government further reflects, we have accepted responsibility for our actions."
    BP added that the resolution allowed the company to vigorously defend itself against the remaining civil claims and to contest allegations of gross negligence in those cases.

    BP has agreed to plead guilty to:
    • eleven felony counts of Misconduct or Neglect of Ships Officers relating to the loss of 11 lives
    • one misdemeanour count under the Clean Water Act
    • one misdemeanour count under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act
    • one felony count of obstruction of Congress
    The resolution is subject to US federal court approval.

    The 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster killed 11 workers and released millions of barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days. Stuart Smith, a Louisiana lawyer representing some of the businesses affected by the accident, said the deal was far from over.
    "They have not settled with the state of Louisiana for the natural damages... they haven't settled with Florida, Alabama or Mississippi yet."

    He added that there were other significant claims still to be settled, including offshore oil and gas industry damages as a result of the moratorium on deepwater drilling put in place after the accident, casino losses, fisheries, financial institutions and real estate developers.
    "So I think they're still looking at billions of dollars in exposure even with this settlement," he said.
    The company is expected to make a final payment of $860m into the $20bn Gulf of Mexico compensation fund by the end of the year.
    It has also reached a $7.8bn settlement with the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee, a group of lawyers representing victims of the spill.
    Case study


    Dean Blanchard
     
    Dean Blanchard is a shrimp distributor in Lousiana.
    "I believe the settlement's a joke. BP have got to be held accountable for what they're doing over here.
    "We basically don't have no business. Where I live it's a dead zone. The shrimp still don't have no eyes, we got shrimp with tumours, we got crabs with holes in them, fish with holes in them.
    "It's unbelievable - we got people sick, we got people dying.
    "It's nothing like the BP commercial you see. BP's doing an effective job of fooling the American public. They don't fuel America, they fool America.
    "I know we've been forgotten. BP is trying to make a one-size-fits-all and there are certain areas that were destroyed more than others."

    Mr Blanchard proves that BP is not being sensitive to the real victims of the spill or to different degrees of need. And their most abject appologies are not restoring health to the waters of the Gulf or the aquatic species living there.

    Thursday, November 15, 2012

    Obama: Republican attacks on Susan Rice 'outrageous'

     


     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    US President Obama has lambasted top Republicans for attacking the diplomat tipped as a possible replacement for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Republicans said UN Ambassador Susan Rice should not be promoted, citing her response to September's deadly attack on the US consulate in Libya.

    Mr Obama said the attacks on Ms Rice were "outrageous" and challenged her critics to "go after me" instead. Republicans called for a committee to investigate the Libya attack. In the wake of the 11 September assault on the US mission in Benghazi, Ms Rice framed it as a spontaneous protest over an anti-Islamic film made in the US.

    The Obama administration later blamed the attack on al-Qaeda-linked militants, adding that the earlier account was based on the best information available at the time.

    Sen John McCain vowed on Wednesday to block any move to appoint Ms Rice to replace Mrs Clinton as America's top diplomat.  He introduced a Senate resolution calling for the establishment of a special committee to investigate the Benghazi attack, which left four Americans dead, including the US ambassador.
    "This administration has either been guilty of colossal incompetence or engaged in a cover-up," he said on the Senate floor.
    Lindsey Graham, another Republican senator, said he did not trust Ms Rice and called for "Watergate-style" hearings into the Libya incident.

    In his first White House news conference since last week's election, President Obama said: "If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me.
    "But when they go after the UN ambassador, apparently because they think she's an easy target, then they've got a problem with me."
    "To besmirch her reputation, is outrageous," he added.

    UN envoy Susan Rice at UN HQ in New York in June 2012 
     
    Shortly after Mr Obama's remarks, Sen Graham showed no sign of backing down.
    "Mr President, don't think for one minute I don't hold you ultimately responsible for Benghazi," he said in a statement.
    "I think you failed as commander in chief before, during and after the attack."

    Mr Obama would not be drawn during Wednesday's news conference on possible cabinet appointments. But the president insisted he would nominate Ms Rice if she was the best choice to lead the Department of State. Mrs Clinton plans to return to private life.

    Wednesday's political showdown raised the prospect of a prolonged nomination for Ms Rice, who would be the second female African-American secretary of state, if she is picked by Mr Obama.
    Another name mentioned for the post is Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, a Democrat, who would be expected to breeze through a Capitol Hill confirmation hearing.
    But picking Sen Kerry would create another headache for Mr Obama's Democrats - fending off a Republican challenge for his open Senate seat in Massachusetts.

    During his news conference, Mr Obama also said he was not aware of any leak of classified information by former CIA Director David Petraeus, who quit last Friday because of an extramarital affair.

    The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence said Gen Petraeus would testify about the Benghazi attack in a closed-door hearing on Friday.

    'Rogue planet' spotted 100 light-years away

    "Rogue" planet CFBDSIR2149


    Astronomers have spotted a "rogue planet" - wandering the cosmos without a star to orbit - 100 light-years away. Recent finds of such planets have suggested that they may be common, but candidates have eluded close study. The proximity of the new rogue planet has allowed astronomers to guess its age: a comparatively young 50-120 million years old. The planet has been dubbed CFBDSIR2149-0403.

    Rogue planets are believed to form in one of two ways: in much the same way as planets bound to stars, coalescing from a disk of dust and debris but then thrown out of a host star's orbit, or in much the same way as stars but never reaching a full star's mass.

    One tricky part is determining if rogue planet candidates are as massive as the "failed stars" known as brown dwarfs, further along in stellar evolution but without enough mass to spark the nuclear fusion that causes starlight.

    Either way, the objects end up free of a host star's gravity. Given that most planets we know of are found through the effects they have on their host star's light, pinning down rogue planets has proven difficult.

    An international team went on a vast hunt for the planets using the Canada France Hawaii Telescope on Hawaii's Mauna Kea and the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile and came up with just one candidate.

    "Rogue" planet CFBDSIR2149 

    "This object was discovered during a scan that covered the equivalent of 1,000 times the [area] of the full moon," said study co-author Etienne Artigau of the University of Montreal.
    "We observed hundreds of millions of stars and planets, but we only found one homeless planet in our neighbourhood."

    But crucially, the new find appears to be moving along with a similarly itinerant group of celestial objects, called the "AB Doradus moving group" - a collection of about 30 stars which are of roughly the same composition and are believed to have formed at about the same time. Because CFBDSIR2149-0403 appears to be moving with the group - to a certainty of 87% - astronomers believe it too formed with the stars, about 50 -120 million years ago. It is this estimate of age that allows astronomers to use computer models of planet evolution to make further guesses as to the planet's mass and temperature.

    The team believe it has a temperature of about 400C and a mass between four and seven times that of Jupiter - well short of the mass limit that would make it a likely brown dwarf.
    What remains unclear is just how the planet came to be - the tiny beginnings of a star, or planet launched from its home? Study co-author Philippe Delorme of the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics of Grenoble, said that the latter implied a great many planets like it.

    "If this little object is a planet that has been ejected from its native system, it conjures up the striking image of orphaned worlds, drifting in the emptiness of space," he said.

    Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    Unhappy Americans Petition to Secede From the US





     
    More than 100,000 Americans have petitioned the White House to allow their states to secede from the US, after President Obama's re-election.The appeals were filed on the White House's We the People website. Most of the 20 states with petitions voted for Republican Mitt Romney. Do we detect the flavor of sour grapes here ? And perhaps a very shortsighted view of color?

    The US constitution contains no provisions for states to secede from the union. By Monday night the White House had not responded.

    In total, more than 20 petitions have been filed. One for Texas has reached the 25,000-signature threshold at which the White House promises a response. The last time states officially seceded, the  Civil War followed.

    Most of the petitions merely quote the opening line of America's Declaration of Independence from Britain, in which America's founders stated their right to "dissolve the political bands" and form a new nation. Currently, the most popular petition is from Texas, which voted for Mr Romney by some 15 percentage points more than it did for the Democratic incumbent. The text complains of "blatant abuses" of Americans' rights.  It cites the Transportation Security Administration, whose staff have been accused of intrusive screening at airports.

    States with citizens filing include Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Oddly, folks from Georgia have filed twice. Even stranger, several of the petitions come from states that supported President Barack Obama.
    The petitions are short and to the point. For example, a petition from the Volunteer State reads: "Peacefully grant the State of Tennessee to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government." Of all the petitions, Texas has the most signatures so far, with more than 23,000.
    Of course, this is mostly a symbolic gesture. The odds of the American government granting any state permission to go its own way are on par with winning the lottery while getting hit by a meteor.

     One of those petitions which reached the response level, and has nothing to do with secession, asked for a recount of the 2012 presidential race. And another sought to legalize marijuana, which has proved the most popular petition topic on We the People.
    Petitions are removed from We the People if they fail to reach the response threshold within one month. Dozens of petitions were posted to We the People after its September 2011 launch, but the rush of new petitions slowed soon after the first crop of responses,

    The flood of secession petitions, which began the day after President Obama’s reelection, also prompted a backlash of petitions asking the government to “Deport Everyone That Signed A Petition To Withdraw Their State From The United States Of America” and to “Strip the Citizenship from Everyone who Signed a Petition to Secede and Exile Them.”

    Basically, it is all a tempest in a teapot brought about by sore losers who have found a venue to dump their sour grapes.
    Remember, "United, we stand...Divided, we fall." So get over it.