Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ask Maxy

Maxy's Nana is a guest writer for a few weeks . She is 89 years old and gives  advice from a wealth of experience. We hope you will enjoy her as much as we do.

Dear Maxy ,
Twenty years ago , my wife had an affair with a co-worker . It ended when he moved back to his home a state 2,000 miles away . At the same time, I asked my wife to go to counselling with me . We made it to one session before she pronounced our marriage "healed."
Sixteen months ago , this same guy contracted my wife via email and the began communicating . I discovered they were planning to meet in Las Vegas, I begged her not to go, but she was convinced she loved him and had to know if they should be together . The month before her trip, I endured more pain than I've ever experienced . I set up counselling sessions for us with separate therapists, arranged a meeting with our pastor and lost 20 pounds from the stress .
In the end, this creep flaked out on their Vegas rendezvous , probably because he couldn't see himself leaving his children for her . She was also reluctant to leave our kids . However, the breakup crushed her and she initially refused to work on our marriage . Finally we went to a joint counselling session , but when the therapist made a reference to her "profound betrayal," that was that .
My wife refuses to rehash what happened . I'm worried that the only reason she is recommitting to our marriage is because the other man gave up on her . Things just don't feel the same . She insists she's done with this guy, but who really knows ? Is it possible to move forward without dealing with the past ?
Torn Up
Dear Torn Up ,
Maybe, but not if your wife is using your marriage as her rebound relationship in order to soothe her heartbreak . That's a temporary committment . Refusing to examine the reasons behind her vulnerability to the affair leaves open the possibility of repeating the betrayal ... and this is undoubtedly what most worries you . You cannot force your wife to work on this, so please get counselling for yourself, on your own . You need to learn what you can live with .
Nana says,
Sorry, but you both need a little straight talk: 'Torn Up', you are weak and no doubt blind to your wife's problems and she has a bunch of them. You don't need a sometimes wife and the kids don't need a sometimes mother. Your wife needs the excitement of clandestine sex, the wickedness of an affair. She may call it love but it isn't. She will never accept councelling and she will never rehash her affair because it would destroy her illusions. However, she will probably repeat the betrayal at the next opportunity because she knows you are weak and will take her back. She will always use your weakness against you. One or both of you should call it quits. When you see the situation from a distance you will see it more clearly.

Dear Maxy ,
I am a grandfather in my 70s . I was excited to learn about Facebook and start conversing with friends and relatives . I love seeing all their pictures and videos and reading their statuses and comments . I always make comments and give compliments on their pictures , etc .
But is it wrong for me to be hurt and resentful when some of them completely ignore me in return ? Is it mainly the relatives that do this .
These are the same people to whom I have sent checks in hard times and for every ocassion and it bothers me when I see that they comment to other friends, but act like I don't exist .
I don't understand their behavior . They act as if it would cost them long-distance-money to respond to me .
I believe you can find out a lot about people by friending them on Facebook . You discover which ones are really interested in you and which ones simply like to post pictures of themselves . It is so self centered . What should I do .
Dear Hurt ,
Please don't mistake Facebook for genuine friendship and a true relationship . It is simply a convenient way to keep track of others' activities and life events and let them know about yours .
Some people are considerate and responsive (like you), and others , less so . Your relatives, in particular, may think that their relationship with you is covered outside of Facebook and therefore doesn't require the same degree of attentiveness online . It's OK to ask when you see them in person , but I urge you not to take this too seriously . I don't believe it is anyone's intent to hurt your feelings .
Nana says,
Maxy is right on the dot with his advice. That is what family does. They are too familiar with you so they take you for granted. You are like part of the furniture, a favorite old chair....always there and very comfortable. My daughter has complained of this very problem with Facebook. She tries to keep up with all her grandchildren and leaves loving messages but they don't often reply. They like knowing you are always there for them and supporting them and they appreciate it from the heart even if they seldom say it. Try not leaving a message for a while and see what happens.

Dear Maxy ,
I always felt my mother and I were inseparable . I never thought I would be blessed to marry a wonderful man and that it would damage our relationship, but it did .
My mom has had a great influence on my life for 32 years , but this had to end . She only developed a problem with my then-boyfriend when she saw it was serious . She tried everything to break us up, including having him investigated , she told me he was "no good." I chose not to listen to her . I'm happy I did . I couldn't ask for a better husband .
My mom did not come to my wedding and refuses to come to my house, saying I chose a man over her . But Maxy , I cannot allow her to continue to be disrespectful of my husband . Please tell your readers that trying to control their children will only push them away and create resentment . My mom centered her life around me and now feels lost .
I'm still struggling to adjust to not having her in my life, but I refuse to leave my husband to make her happy . I have made grat choices . Many mothers would love to have a daughter and son-in-law like us .Is there anything I can do ?
Missing my Mom
Dear Missing my Mom ,
Your mother's jealousy has clouded her thinking and instead of a close, warm relationship with you, your husband and your future children, she has isolated herself in bitterness . I hope you will give her the opportunity to get past this, although it may take time and a good deal of forgiveness on your part .
Continue to periodically reach out to her, inviting her to your home with the understanding that she must treat your husband with decency . Over time, I suspect she will miss you enough to make the effort .
Nana says,
You are doing the right thing. It is your life and you must live it the way you know is best for you. All moms are a little jealous when their daughters marry. Your mom just got carried away by her feelings and she can't get things back in perspective. When she has had sufficient time to think things through she will start to see her behavior as unreasonable and will realize that she may be denied access to her future grandchildren. If you keep an open mind and an open door she will come around. If you were the center of her universe, just imagine how lonely she is right now.
But when she is in your home, make it clear that your husband is to be treated with respect. Just don't expect too much too soon. The ball is in her court.

Weirdest Museum in the World....The Mutter - Philadelphia


Jim and Joe..the two headed baby
Wax casting of lady with horn growing out of her forehead
The Mutter Museum, a medical museum in the Center City, is a part of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. It was founded by a retired surgery professor of Jefferson Medical University. In terms of medicine, the museum supplies valuable information to specialists or medicine enthusiasts. Opened in 1863, Mutter Museum now has around 20,000 objects including anatomical specimens preserved in fluid, archaic medical tools and plain old weirdness.
One of the most special objects which is exhibited in the Mutter Museum must be President Grover Cleveland's malignant tumor. He had undergone a surgery to replace his hard palate with a plastic one. In addition, a woman’s corpse called “Soap Lady” is still a mystery to scientists until now. The body of this obese woman turned itself into a soapy substance when she died.
Hyrtl Skull Collection: A wax mold of a woman with a horn growing out of her skull is among the objects on display in this collection. There are several skulls on display showing untreated conditions of the head. The tallest skeleton is seven foot six . There is a nine foot colon containing over 40 pounds of fecal matter. Many wax models from the early 19th century are on display as are numerous preserved organs and body parts. The museum also hosts a collection of teratological specimens (preserved human fetal specimens) all of which were donated to science; the conjoined liver from the famous Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker; a piece of tissue removed from the thorax of Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth; slides of Albert Einstein's brain and a section of the brain of Charles J. Guiteau who assassinated U.S. President James A. Garfield.

Chang and Eng Bunker
Soap lady
Gretchen Worden (1947-2004) remains perhaps the best known person associated with the Mütter Museum. She joined the museum staff as a curatorial assistant in 1975, became the museum's curator in 1982 and its director in 1988.

Worden was a frequent guest on the Late Show with David Letterman, "displaying a mischievous glee as she frightened him with human hairballs and wicked-looking Victorian surgical tools, only to disarm him with her antic laugh" and appeared in numerous PBS, BBC and cable television documentaries (including an episode of Errol Morris' show First Person) as well as NPR's "Fresh Air with Terry Gross" on the museum's behalf. She was also instrumental in the creation of numerous Mütter Museum projects, including the popular Mütter Museum calendars and the book, The Mütter Museum: Of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

During Worden's tenure, the visitorship of the museum grew from several hundred visitors each year to, at the time of her death, more than 60,000 tourists annually.  After her death, the Mütter Museum opened a gallery in her memory. In an article written about the gallery's September 30, 2005 opening, the New York Times described the "Gretchen Worden Room":


Anatomical display of the throat

There are jars of preserved human kidneys and livers, and a man's skull so eaten away by tertiary syphilis that it looks like pounded rock. There are dried severed hands shiny as lacquered wood, showing their veins like leaves; a distended ovary larger than a soccer ball; spines and leg bones so twisted by rickets they're painful just to see; the skeleton of a dwarf who stood 3 feet 6 inches (1.07 m) small, next to that of a giant who towered seven and a half feet. And "Jim and Joe," the green-tinted corpse of a two-headed baby, sleeping in a bath of formaldehyde.

Nine foot colon removed from the enormously swollen abdomen of a man in the nineteenth century


Although Worden was known for using humor and shock factor to garner interest in the museum, she nonetheless was respectful of museum's artifacts. In the foreword of The Mütter Museum: Of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, she wrote "While these bodies may be ugly, there is a terrifying beauty in the spirits of those forced to endure these afflictions."

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pre Inca Skeletons Found Under Peru Sports Center

A  burial site containing eleven pre-Inca tombs, some dating back more than 1,400 years, has been discovered near a sports center in Peru. An archaeology team began excavation work at the Huaca Tupac Amaru B site near Peru's national sports village in the capital, Lima, in December. Yesterday they unveiled their findings so far, which include the well-preserved graves containing eleven pre-Hispanic bodies.

Eleven pre-Hispanic bodies were discovered at the site - some dating back more than 1,400 years
Eleven pre-Hispanic bodies were discovered at the site - some dating back more than 1,400 years
The skeletons are believed to belong to the Lima and Yschma cultures
The skeletons are believed to belong to the Lima and Yschma cultures

The well-preserved skeletons were found wrapped in cloth and surrounded by ceramics, textiles, fruit tree leaves and tools used for agriculture
The well-preserved skeletons were found wrapped in cloth and surrounded by ceramics, textiles, fruit tree leaves and tools used for agriculture
Archaeologist Fernando Herrera, head of the project, said three sets of remains belong to the Lima culture, which developed between A.D. 200 and 700. The eight other skeletons came from the more recent Yschma culture, between A.D. 1000 and 1400. 
 Each skeleton was found lying on a bed of woven reeds. The bodies were tied with braided rattan - a species of palm - and covered by one or more cloths. They were buried with ceramics, textiles, fruit tree leaves, and tools used for agriculture.
The 400-square-metre site sits just a few metres from the stadium where Peru's national football team trains.


An archaeologist brushes a recently discovered Pre-hispanic vessel next to a mummy at the site in Lima
An archaeologist brushes a recently discovered Pre-hispanic vessel next to a mummy at the site in Lima
The archaeology site lies just a few hundred metres from where Peru;s national football team trains
The archaeology site lies just a few hundred metres from where Peru;s national football team trains
Herrera said the first skeleton was found in December and the others were recovered in January. The archaeological team thinks there may be more and is still searching the site.

There are many archaeological sites in Lima, including the Huaca Pucllana in the Miraflores residential district that has a towering Lima culture pyramid.

Luis Felipa Villacorta, an archaeologist and historian who is director of the private Antonio Raimondi museum, said the find at the sports center will add to 'the mosaic and image of the Lima culture that is very diffuse' compared to the Nazca and Moche civilizations that developed simultaneously in other parts of the coast of what is now Peru.

Unfortunately not much is known of the Lima culture, he said, partly 'because the city, the capital, has grown over it.' In addition, there has been more interest in the 'pre-Hispanic cultures that are outside the metropolitan area: the Moche, Nazca, Wari,' he added.
Luis Felipa Villacorta said the findings will help add to existing knowledge of Lima culture
Luis Felipa Villacorta said the findings will help add to existing knowledge of Lima culture
Scientists do not yet know the age or sex of the mummified individuals
Scientists do not yet know the age or sex of the mummified individuals

Benedict XVI to hold final papal audience in Vatican


Posters of Pope Benedict XVI at a gift shop near the St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican on Tuesday,

Crowds have begun gathering in St Peter's Square in the Vatican for the Pope's final general audience before his resignation on Thursday. Papal audiences are normally held inside a Vatican hall in the winter. But such is the level of interest that the event is being held outdoors and 50,000 tickets have been requested. As many as 200,000 people may attend.

After Benedict XVI steps down on Thursday, he will become known as "pope emeritus". There has been no papal resignation since Pope Gregory XII abdicated in 1415. The surprise announcement of Benedict's abdication has required the rules of electing a successor to be changed to allow the next pope to be chosen before Holy Week, which leads up to Easter.

On Wednesday, the Pope, 85, will be making one of his last public appearances - using his trademark white "popemobile" to greet pilgrims in St Peter's Square. Organizers say there will be no traditional kissing of the pontiff's hand because of the sheer size of the expected crowd.
"He doesn't want to favour one or the other of the pilgrims," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told the AFP news agency.

On Thursday the Pope will travel by helicopter to his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, about 15 miles (24km) south-east of Rome. He will cease to be Pope at 20:00 local time. On Tuesday, it emerged that Benedict would be known as "pope emeritus" and would retain the honorific "His Holiness" after his abdication. He will also continue to be known by his papal title of Benedict XVI, rather than reverting to Joseph Ratzinger.

He will wear his distinctive white cassock without any cape or trimmings. He will surrender his gold ring of office, known as the fisherman's ring, and his personal seal will be destroyed in the same way as when a pope dies. Benedict will also give up wearing his specially-made red leather loafers, instead wearing brown shoes hand-made for him by a craftsman during a brief visit to Mexico last year, the Vatican said. The title "emeritus" is used when a person of status, such as a professor or bishop, hands over their position, so their former rank can be retained in their title.

The Pope is to spend his final hours at his Vatican residence saying farewell to the cardinals who have been his closest aides during his eight-year pontificate, says the BBC's David Willey at the Vatican. His personal archive of documents will be packed up and, at 20:00 (19:00 GMT) on Thursday, the Swiss Guard on duty at his Castel Gandolfo residence will be dismissed, to be replaced by Vatican police. This will mark the formal end of his papacy and the beginning of the period of transition to his successor, due to be chosen next month.

From 4 March, the College of Cardinals will meet in general congregations to discuss the problems facing the Church and set a date for the start of the secret election, or conclave, to elect Pope Benedict's successor. That successor will be chosen by 115 cardinal-electors (those younger than 80 years old) through ballots held in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel.

A two-thirds-plus-one vote majority is required. Sixty-seven of the electors were appointed by Benedict XVI, and the remainder by his predecessor John Paul II. About half the cardinal-electors (60) are European - 21 of them Italian - and many have worked for the administrative body of the Church, the Curia, in Rome.

Even before the sun was up, people began arriving at St Peter's. Hundreds queued in the cold grey light to make sure that they would have a good spot on the square when Pope Benedict makes his final public appearance.

People of all ages were streaming in. There were flags and balloons, chatter and laughter, and some singing up at the front. And when the gates finally opened, the crowd rushed in, with delighted young priests among those scampering across the cobblestones.

The Pope certainly has his critics within Catholicism and beyond. But nobody will be speaking badly of Benedict here today. The people queuing said they wanted a chance to see him last one time, and express their gratitude for his life of service to the Church.

I am not a Catholic but have always respected the Pope as a peacemaker and ambassador of good will. He did not handle certain issues well , in fact, very badly.  He was hampered by the doctrines of  his church and his reluctance to stir up more scandal and publicity. His papacy will be remembered more for the sex scandals that surfaced than for any good he did. But in retrospect, some good may come from that. It may bring about  some much needed reform in the Catholic church.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Syria's desperate refugees now living in caves on cliff sides


Desperate Syrian families are forced to hide out on a cliff face as war rages around them.

Syria's desperate refugees now living in caves on the side of cliffs
Clinging to the rock face, the four-year-old girl moved along the cliff edge.The bottoms of her rubber clogs full of mud, her small feet slipped perilously as she stepped on the wet rocks of a narrow ledge, no more than four inches wide, which gave way to a steep drop. With her arms outstretched to her daughter, Um Salem, 40, beckoned her forward. This is the only way to reach their makeshift home; a nook in the side of a cliff in northern Syria.
Um Salem, 40 and her children are among more than 100 people who have found some kind of refuge from the war in the caves and natural fissures of this sheer mountainside in Idlib province.
Their home village of al-Hamama lies little more than a mile away. But when rebels began fighting government troops there more than two months ago, the picturesque farming hamlet became the hostile terrain of air strikes and tank and mortar fire.
Their story of flight is familiar now across Syria, where an estimated 2.5 million people have been displaced by the civil war.


But their desperate circumstances are altogether different. "It became impossible to live there," said Shaema Masri, 17. "We had no money to rent a new home in a safer village in Syria and the refugee camps in Turkey are full and we knew we would be turned away."
When her family decided to move, it took them several days of searching to find a habitable cave, as "most were already full of other refugees from the village".
The cliff face, which lies beside a road and opposite a swollen brown river, is dotted with signs of human life: washed clothes hang out to dry on the branches of small trees and shrubs; rudimentary pathways are cut into the muddy slopes, with sand dusted over homemade steps; small heaps of chopped wood and twigs lie outside the cave entrances.


Plastic sheets have been strung up to shield the interiors. Some of the more established residents have built walls with dried mud, rocks or with breeze blocks and have even inserted a metal door. The flues from stoves poke outside, puffing out smoky curls.
When Um Salem moved here she had to spend a day shovelling animal droppings from the cave floor: "It was a shepherd who suggested that we move to this place. The caves had been used as shelters for sheep before," she said.


She has adapted her cave as well as she can; inside, the floor is covered in a plastic sheet with a red carpet on top. Small buckets hang on the jagged edges of the cave's rooftop to catch the water that drips through cracks.
In a cranny in the corner, she keeps two pans and a small soot-covered kettle. Other fist-sized holes in the rock are used to house bottles of herbs and spices. Two oil lamps provide the only light at night.
The lavatory is outside in another cave, along the narrow ledge. A plastic sheet strung along the front provides privacy but it does little to cover the smell. "This is a hard existence. If I knew I was going to live through this situation I would not have brought so many children into the world," said Um Salem, who shares the small cave with her husband and 10 children. "We have been here since the end of the summer. It takes me all day to heat a little water from the river to keep us clean."


The youngsters cannot play outside for fear that a car on a nearby road will hit them, or that they might fall down from the cliff. The latter has already happened twice. Last week Um Salem's three-year-old toddler Noor tripped off the ledge outside her home, falling 20ft to the rock below. "Noor had hit her head and back. I took her to the doctor. She is in pain but thanks to God that she broke nothing," said Um Salem.
Another relation, a young girl in her twenties listened from where she lay under a blanket in the corner of the cave. She too was convalescing after a dangerous fall.
Most of the inhabitants of the cave system are women and children – many of the male villagers died in the fighting or were imprisoned by the government after being suspected of sympathizing with the rebels. Three of Shaema's brothers are in jail.
The caves are safer than her home village, but the war is still too close. Tank shells from the fighting have landed less than 50 yards along the road, and fighter jets and helicopters can be seen in the sky. The thud of artillery is the backdrop to daily life. "I am always frightened. You think that at any moment someone will die," said Shaema. "My only hope for the future is that I will be allowed to go home."

Italy election: Deadlock after protest vote


Pier Luigi Bersani voting on 24/2/13

Exit polls initially gave Pier Luigi Bersani's centre-left bloc clear victory

Italy's parliamentary elections have ended in stalemate and the possibility of a hung parliament.
With all domestic votes counted, Pier Luigi Bersani's centre-left has narrowly won the lower house but ex-PM Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right is challenging for control of the Senate.
Control of both houses is needed to govern and a Berlusconi official said the election was "too close to call".

A protest movement led by comedian Beppe Grillo won a quarter of the vote. The outcome of the election, which comes amid a deep recession and tough austerity measures, was so close that a final, formal declaration from the interior ministry was not expected for some hours.

"It is clear to everyone that a very delicate situation is emerging for the country," said centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani as the last of the votes were being counted.

Angelino Alfano, secretary of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, said the result was "extraordinary", and he urged the interior ministry not to declare a final result because of the possible margin of error.

With returns from all polling stations processed, the interior ministry figures gave Mr Bersani's centre-left bloc 29.54% of the vote for the lower house (Chamber of Deputies), barely ahead of the 29.18% polled by Mr Berlusconi's bloc. The results from votes cast outside Italy are still to be collected.

Mr Bersani also won the national vote for the Senate, but is expected to lose out to Mr Berlusconi because the winning majority in the upper house is decided on a regional basis. Mr Berlusconi was heading for victory in three of the four big regions - Lombardy in the north, Campania in the centre, and Sicily in the south.
Initial exit polls on Monday afternoon gave Mr Bersani's bloc a clear victory, prompting the Milan stock market to soar by nearly 4%.  But as the close result became clear the markets fell back. In New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.55% and shares in Tokyo opened sharply lower.
The apparent split between left and right in the eurozone's third largest economy is likely to cause great anxiety among leaders in other EU member states.

Mr Berlusconi, 76, left office in November 2011, facing claims of economic mismanagement as the eurozone struggled to contain Italy's debt crisis. Italians have had more than a year of technocratic government under Mario Monti. But his attempts to reduce spending caused widespread public resentment and his decision to head a centrist list in the parliamentary elections attracted little more than 10% of the vote.
"Some supposed we'd get a slightly better result but I am very satisfied, we are very satisfied," he said.

In a surge in support, Beppe Grillo's anti-austerity Five Star Movement attracted 25.54% of the vote.
Correspondents say this was an extraordinary success for the Genoese comic, whose tours around the country throughout the election campaign - hurling insults against a discredited political class - resulted in his party performing well in both chambers.

"We've started a war of generations," Mr Grillo said in an audio statement on his website which taunted the leaders of the mainstream parties. "They are all losers, they've been there for 25 to 30 years and they've led this country to catastrophe." As the extent of his success became clear on Monday night, Mr Grillo's supporters in his home town of Genoa celebrated early into Tuesday morning.

The interior ministry in Rome is where the numbers are being crunched in this election.  As the statistics poured in from constituencies down the length of Italy, journalists peered at screens that predicted possible political paralysis. The graphs showed the centre-left's votes in blue, and Silvio Berlusconi's in gold.  And you could quickly see that he had struck electoral gold in Lombardy, which boasts a huge cache of Senate seats.
With the balance of forces playing out as they are, it is hard to see a stable government emerging quickly and easily, if at all. Many analysts talk now of the possibility of fresh elections soon in a quest for a more decisive result.

Gay Lobby Report May have Influenced Pope's Decision

Following Pope Benedict’s surprise resignation earlier this month, it didn’t take long for conspiracy theories to come out of the woodwork. To a certain extent, this is expected — a Pope hasn’t resigned in centuries, and certain aspects of Benedict’s time at the top of the Vatican have been controversial — not least the damaging “VatiLeaks” scandal.

Today, Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper added fuel to the fire, alleging that Benedict’s resignation was prompted by a report prepared by three Cardinals on conflict and corruption in the Vatican — including what it says is the “inappropriate influence” of a gay lobby within the Holy See.
The newspaper — which has the largest circulation within Italy — says that Benedict asked three Cardinals, Julian Herranz, Josef Tomko and Salvatore De Giorgi, to conduct an internal report after the VatiLeaks scandal. When the 300 page report was delivered to Benedict in December, it reportedly cemented a decision that he had already been considering — it was time to resign.
What was so damning in the report? While La Repubblica doesn’t quote directly from the report, it contains details reportedly passed on by a senior Vatican source, which points to financial and sexual lobbies that have split the church. The report allegedly stated that various lobbies in the Vatican were exerting influence on day-to-day-life in the Vatican, and routinely breaking two of the ten commandments — “thou shalt not steal” and “thou shalt not commit adultery.” The former refers to the controversies about the Vatican Bank, one of the key aspects of the VatiLeaks Scandal.

The latter commandment is apparently a reference to a “gay lobby” that reportedly exerts influence within the Vatican, La Repubblica alleges. The report infers that this group was the subject of blackmail attempts, detailing an “external influence” from those with a “worldly nature.”
Reports of financial corruption and homosexuality in the Holy See are far from uncommon, of course — the Vatican became embroiled in a gay prostitution scandal in 2010, for example, which La Repubblica highlights. However, this report is the first sign that these controversies could have played a role in Benedict’s resignation.
 Curiously, the Guardian‘s John Hooper has a statement from the Vatican’s press spokesperson, Father Federico Lombardi, who doesn’t confirm or deny the report exists. However, Lombardi suggests the interpretations of the report are making a “a tension that is the opposite of what the pope and the church want.”

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Odd but Cool Things


Street Art
Friendly Doorknob
Watermelon Carving
Light Saber Knife

Indian Temple in Chinatown
Sort of dual culture

1 (31)




Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mexican police charged with rape of Italian woman


Map locator

Two Mexican policemen have been charged with rape and abuse of authority after allegedly attacking an Italian woman in the resort of Playa del Carmen. A third man, reportedly their commander, is still being sought.

It is alleged the woman was raped after being unable to pay a bribe for the officers to ignore an offence of urinating in public. The incident comes just two weeks after six Spanish women were sexually assaulted by a gang in Acapulco.

Prosecutors in the state of Quintana Roo say the latest attack happened in an alleyway between two clubs in the Caribbean resort in the early hours of 12 February. The woman said the officers raped her after she and her companion refused to hand over a bribe of 3,000 pesos. She said they had gone into the alley after leaving a club and failing to find a public lavatory.

The tourism industry in Mexicois increasingly concerned about the damaging effect such attacks have on business. President Enrique Pena Nieto has vowed to tackle violent crime in Mexico since coming to power at the end of last year. However, critics say a major overhaul of the local and federal police forces is needed to address endemic problems of corruption, violence and impunity.

Following the attack in Acapulco, six men were arrested. The arrests came after intense international pressure on local authorities.

UN rejects Haiti cholera compensation claims


A child receives treatment for cholera in a hospital in Port-Au-Prince last month 

The United Nations has formally rejected compensation claims by victims of a cholera outbreak in Haiti that has killed almost 8,000 people. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Haitian President Michel Martelly to inform him of the decision. The UN says it is immune from such claims under the UN's Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN. Evidence suggests cholera was introduced to Haiti through a UN base's leaking sewage pipes.

The UN has never acknowledged responsibility for the outbreak - which has infected more than 600,000 people - saying it is impossible to pinpoint the exact source of the disease, despite the mounting evidence the epidemic was caused by poor sanitation at a camp housing infected Nepalese peacekeepers. In a terse statement, Mr Ban's spokesman said damages claims for millions of dollars filed by lawyers for cholera victims was "not receivable" under the 1947 convention that grants the UN immunity for its actions.

But a lawyer for the cholera victims said that UN immunity could not mean impunity, and said the case would now be pursued in a national court. The lawyer, Brian Concannon, said the victims' legal team would challenge the UN's right to immunity from Haitian courts, on the grounds that it had not established an alternative mechanism for dealing with accountability issues, as stipulated in its agreement with the government.  He also said lifting immunity would not challenge UN policy, which is protected by the convention, but its practice, such as how to test troops for disease and properly dispose of sewage.

In December the UN launched a $2bn appeal to fight the cholera epidemic, which is currently the worst outbreak in the world, and Mr Ban reiterated to Mr Martelly the UN's commitment to the elimination of cholera in Haiti.

Cholera is a disease of poverty, analysts say. It is spread through infected faeces and, once it enters the water supply, it is difficult to stop - especially in a country like Haiti which has almost no effective sewage disposal systems.

Iran installing new Natanz centrifuges

Natanz uranium enrichment plant
Iran has begun installing advanced centrifuge machines for enriching uranium at its nuclear plant at Natanz, says the UN's nuclear watchdog. The US said if confirmed it would be "another provocative step". International talks over Iran's nuclear program are due to resume in Kazakhstan next week.
Western powers fear Tehran is seeking weapons technology, but Tehran says it is refining uranium only for peaceful energy purposes.

The Natanz facility, in central Iran, is at the heart of the country's dispute with the UN's watchdog. The US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, want Iran to cut back on enrichment - not expand it.  The IAEA released a report each quarter detailing its progress at monitoring Iran's nuclear development.

 The latest report, which has not yet been officially released concludes: "The director general is unable to report any progress on the clarification of outstanding issues including those relating to possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program."
It adds that despite intensified dialogue with Iran, no progress has been made on how to clear up the questions about Iran's nuclear work.

The IAEA has made similar complaints in previous quarterly reports, and Iran is under an array of sanctions as a result of its lack of co-operation. Iran had informed the IAEA in a letter on January 23rd that it planned to introduce a new model of centrifuge called the IR2m, which can enrich two or three times faster than current equipment.

Gas centrifuges are used to increase the proportion of fissile uranium-235 atoms within uranium.
For uranium to work in a nuclear reactor it must be enriched to contain 2-3% uranium-235 while weapons-grade uranium must contain 90% or more uranium-235.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the new centrifuges could cut by a third the time Iran, one of Israel's fiercest opponents in the Middle East, needed to create a nuclear bomb.
US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the report development at Natanz was "not surprising".
  "The installation of new advanced centrifuges would be a further escalation, and a continuing violation of Iran's obligations under the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and IAEA board resolutions," she said. But she added that Iran had the opportunity to allay the international community's concerns during talks in Kazakhstan next week. Starting on 26 February, the talks will involve Iranian officials, the five permanent members the UN Security Council, and Germany.
The IAEA says Iran has started to install about 180 advanced centrifuges at its Natanz nuclear plant - potentially a major upgrade in Iran's nuclear program.
There is concern in the West that these new machines could significantly speed up Iran's production of material that could be used in a nuclear bomb.
Centrifuges are used to enrich uranium. Low-enriched uranium is used for civilian purposes. But higher-grade enriched uranium can be used as the material for an atomic bomb.
Iran says its nuclear work is purely peaceful, and that its enriched uranium will be used for reactor fuel and for medical and scientific purposes.
But this announcement by the IAEA could hurt the chances for the next round of talks between Iran and six world powers in Kazakhstan next week. 

Ask Maxy

Dear Maxy ,
I have been in love with Cliff for four years. Two years ago we got a house together. When he lost his job he became angry, indifferent and didn't seem to care about me any more.
I tried to tough it out, believing it would get better, but when Cliff became verbally abusive, I took my two kids and left . I asked him if he wanted me to stay and he said no he didn't think things would improve .
We kept trying to fix the relationship or at least I did . But Cliff was dating other women and lied to me about it and the whole thing has become a hurtful mess .
I still love Cliff, but don't know whether I can trust him anymore. My guilt over leaving him and his son to to deal with the foreclosure on the house we bought together kills me .
He won't express any anger, even though I can see his resentment . He also won't address the lies . Is this a lost cause .
Am I hoping for too much ?
Love Struck
Dear Love Struck ,
You could make excuses for Cliff's terrible behavior by believing his job loss depressed him and he couldn't cope .
But that only underscores a certain level of immaturity and irresponsibility. When the going gets tough , Cliff lies and cheats .
Life is filled with tough times and your partner should be someone you can count on . Cliff doesn't seem terribly interested in working on your relationship . At some point, you have to make the decisions that are best for your children . Professional counseling can help you work through this and move forward .
Nana says,
Phooey! All this angst over a lying, cheating man with no backbone. I am so old I have seen this kind of thing time and again. See a councelor if you can't handle your own life; that's fine. But I might suggest you give your kids a hug, dress up and go out on the town with someone you like ...kick up your heels. The whole world is out there waiting for you. Don't worry yourself sick over someone like Cliff. Let him sit home and sulk about himself. You did the right thing.

Dear Maxy,
I recently lost my spouse and now attend a grief support group that can be very helpful .
However, there are a couple of members of this group who monopolize the conversation for at least half of the time allotted for the total meeting and worse, they repeat the same ting over and over again .
We also have a new member who attends to support a friend whose husband died, now we know all about her abusive childhood .
Grief groups work well by sharing pain caused by loss of a loved one . Members support one another .
This is not possible unless there is an open and caring interchange between members . Perhaps those members who are causing problems will see this .
Southern Griever
Dear Southern ,
There should be a councelor of some kind to moderate these discussions and keep order so everyone gets a chance to speak their mind.
Although a certain amount of off-topic discussions can be appropriate and healing , no one should monopolize the sessions so often that it prevents other from expressing themselves. Speak to your moderator about it. Another option is finding a group more suitable to your needs.
Nana says,
Next time you attend your grief support meeting, perhaps, you could suggest to all the members that each person gets a time limit of five minutes and keep going round the circle of members until the meeting is over. If no one wants to be the time keeper, take your kitchen timer with you.

Dear Maxy ,
My parents and brother live in another state . A few years ago my brother went through a nasty divorce . He and my eleven-year-old niece, "Debra" are still estranged from his ex-wife .
The issue is how my mother is reacting to the divorce . She was very shocked by the events leading up to their separation and think it has damaged her trust in people . She seems to be transferring this anxiety onto Debra .
Mom wants to protect Debra from all disappointments in life , and together they have developed an "us against the world" mentality .
Maxy , there are other family members who love Debra and want to be part of a loving support system for her and yet we feel shut out by the alliance with my mother . Debra goes to her grandmother almost exclusively with all her feelings and I get the sense that Mom enjoys being so important to her .
I know that my mother loves Debra immensely , but I'm not sure whether she is helping or hurting . What do you think ?
Dear Ambivalent,
It all depends on whether your mother is helping or hurting Debra. If your mother acts as Debra's confidante and works through the girl's feeling of abandonment or grief over the divorce she is helping . Debra may find that her grandmother is easy to talk with and seems to understand her best , in which case she is more likely to confide in her exclusively.
However , if Mom is deliberately keeping Debra away from family members and encouraging her to blame her mother or father , mistrust others or behave secretively , she is doing harm .
Nana says,
An eleven year old is perceptive enough to know in her heart who she trusts with her feelings. Kids are smart. Don't worry about her. Just be thankful she is surrounded by a loving family. Normally she would go to her mother with all her feelings and problems. Since she no longer is close to her mom, her grandma is a natural choice for a substitute. She needs a confidante (singular). You will be able to tell from her demeanor and behavior if the relationship has a negative influence but that's highly unlikely. 'Thank Heavens for grandmas!'

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Oscar Pistorius detective challenged at bail hearing

The defence struck a series of blows late on in the second day of Pistorius' bail hearing

Lawyers for South African athlete Oscar Pistorius have challenged the testimony of a senior police detective on the second day of a bail hearing. The detective said a witness had heard fighting at the home of Mr Pistorius, 26, on the night he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, 29. But under questioning the detective changed the details of his testimony.

Mr Pistorius, a champion Paralympic sprinter, is charged with the premeditated murder of Reeva Steenkamp. If denied bail, Mr Pistorius could face months in jail before a full trial is held later this year. The evidence of veteran Detective Hilton Botha appeared first to boost the prosecution's case and then offer the defence team a hope of winning the argument, correspondents say.

At the end of a second day in court in Pretoria, the magistrate appeared to question Det Botha's assertion that Mr Pistorius could be a flight risk who should be denied bail. The magistrate's line of questioning indicated he may be considering granting bail.

Under questioning from prosecution lawyer Gerrie Nel, Det Botha described the scene at Mr Pistorius's home after Ms Steenkamp was shot and killed. He told the court that the trajectory of gunshots through the bathroom door indicated that Mr Pistorius, a double amputee, was wearing his prosthetic legs and shot downwards through the door.
"I believe that he knew that Reeva was in the bathroom and he shot four shots through the door," Det Botha told the court.

Detective Hilton Botha at court on 20 Feb 2013

Detective Hilton Botha was the first on the scene after the shooting was reported

He said the holster for Mr Pistorius' 9mm pistol was found by the bed - a sure sign, he told the court, that the athlete must have known she was not in bed. The testimony contradicted an earlier account given by Mr Pistorius.  He said he was walking on his stumps and grabbed his gun because he felt vulnerable when he thought an intruder had entered his home.

Det Botha also accused Mr Pistorius of having unlicensed ammunition for a 38mm weapon, and said bottles of testosterone and needles were also found. But Det Botha then appeared to modify some crucial details. He initially said a witness who heard screams and shots was some 600m (1,800ft) away, but later amended his answer to 300m after a break for lunch. He admitted that Mr Pistorius's account of events, delivered via an affidavit read out in court on Monday, appeared to contain no inconsistencies.

floor plan

The testosterone found was actually a legal herbal remedy used by athletes, the defence said.
The defence accused the investigator of bias, saying police disregarded evidence Mr Pistorius gave on the day of the shooting.

Mr Pistorius claims he was asleep until only moments before the shooting, that the bedroom was completely dark, and that there was no argument between the couple. Det Botha conceded that it was dark and that curtains and blinds were closed in the bedroom when the shooting took place.

Detail about the aftermath of the shooting also emerged as Det Botha answered questions.  He said he arrived at the house at 04:15 on 14 February, and found Ms Steenkamp lying dead on the ground floor.  She was wearing white shorts and a black vest and was covered in towels, he said.

A lawyer and Mr Pistorius's brother were already at the scene. Ms Steenkamp was shot in the right side of her head, her right hip and her right elbow, Det Botha said. He agreed the post-mortem examination had showed no signs of assault or defensive wounds on Ms Steenkamp.

On Tuesday, Mr Pistorius told the court he had woken in the middle of the night and heard what he thought was an intruder in the bathroom. He shot through the door and only then realized Ms Steenkamp was not in bed.

He said he was "absolutely mortified" at her death. The magistrate has deemed this a "schedule six" case, meaning Mr Pistorius is accused of premeditated murder. His defence team will have to prove the extenuating circumstances that would justify granting bail.

The first day of the hearing on Tuesday coincided with Ms Steenkamp's funeral. The model and law graduate was cremated in her home town of Port Elizabeth where her father, Barry Steenkamp, told reporters: "We have to keep Reeva in our hearts for ever."

Oscar Pistorius won gold medals at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.  In London he made history by becoming the first double-amputee to run in the Olympics, making the semi-final of the 400m.

South Africa's justice system

  • Jury trials were scrapped more than 40 years ago because all-white juries were seen as unlikely to give black defendants a fair trial
  • A single judge is considered less susceptible to public opinion or media comments
  • So the South African media is more free to report details about the Oscar Pistorius case than the media in many other countries where such reporting would be seen as prejudicial

The Universe May be Inherently Unstable

Particle interaction simulation (SPL)
Collisions at the LHC in Geneva have refined a mass for the Higgs-like particle
Scientists say they may be able to determine the eventual fate of the cosmos as they probe the properties of the Higgs boson. A concept known as vacuum instability could result, billions of years from now, in a new universe opening up in the present one and replacing it. It all depends on some precise numbers related to the Higgs that researchers are currently trying to pin down.
A "Higgs-like" particle was first seen at the Large Hadron Collider last year. Associated with an energy field that pervades all space, the boson helps explain the existence of mass in the cosmos. In other words, it underpins the workings of all the matter we see around us.

Since detecting the particle in their accelerator experiments, researchers at the Geneva lab and at related institutions around the world have begun to theorize on the Higgs' implications for physics.
One idea that it throws up is the possibility of a cyclical universe, in which every so often all of space is renewed.
"It turns out there's a calculation you can do in our Standard Model of particle physics, once you know the mass of the Higgs boson," explained Dr Joseph Lykken. "If you use all the physics we know now, and you do this straightforward calculation - it's bad news. What happens is you get just a quantum fluctuation that makes a tiny bubble of the vacuum the Universe really wants to be in. And because it's a lower-energy state, this bubble will then expand, basically at the speed of light, and sweep everything before it." It was not something we need worry about, he said. The Sun and the Earth will be long gone by this time.

Dr Lykken was speaking in Boston at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He was participating in a session that had been organized to provide an update on the Higgs investigation. The boson was spotted in the wreckage resulting from proton particle collisions in the LHC's giant accelerator ring. Data gathered by two independent detectors observing this subatomic debris determined the mass of the Higgs to be about 126 gigaelectronvolts (GeV).

That was fascinating, said Prof Chris Hill of Ohio State University, because the number was right in the region where the instability problem became relevant.
"Before we knew, the Higgs could have been any mass over a very wide range. And what's amazing to me is that out of all those possible masses from 114 to several hundred GeV, it's landed at 126-ish where it's right on the critical line, and now we have to measure it more precisely to find the fate of the Universe," he said.

Prof Hill himself is part of the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) Collaboration at the LHC. This is one of the Higgs-hunting detectors, the other being Atlas. Scientists have still to review about a third of the collision data in their possession. But they will likely need much more information to close the uncertainties that remain in the measurement of the Higgs' mass and its other properties.

Indeed, until they do so, they are reluctant to definitively crown the boson, preferring often to say just that they have found a "Higgs-like" particle. Frustratingly, the LHC has now been shut down to allow for a major programme of repairs and upgrades.
"To be absolutely definitive, I think it's going to take a few years after the LHC starts running again, which is in 2015," conceded Dr Howard Gordon, from the Brookhaven National Laboratory and an Atlas Collaboration member.

"The LHC will be down for two years to do certain repairs, fix the splices between the magnets, and to do maintenance and stuff. So, when we start running in 2015, we will be at a higher energy, which will mean we'll get more data on the Higgs and other particles to open up a larger window of opportunity for discovery. But to dot all the I's and cross all the T's, it will take a few more years."

If the calculation on vacuum instability stands up, it will revive an old idea that the Big Bang Universe we observe today is just the latest version in a permanent cycle of events.
"I think that idea is getting more and more traction," said Dr Lykken.  "It's much easier to explain a lot of things if what we see is a cycle. If I were to bet my own money on it, I'd bet the cyclic idea is right,"

What is an electronvolt?
  • Charged particles tend to speed up in an electric field, defined as an electric potential - or voltage - spread over a distance
  • One electron volt (eV) is the energy gained by a single electron as it accelerates through a potential of one volt
  • It is a convenient unit of measure for particle accelerators, which speed particles up through much higher electric potentials.
  • LHC beams include hundreds of trillions of these particles, each travelling at 99.99999999% of the speed of light
  • Together, an LHC beam carries the same energy as a TGV high-speed train travelling at 150 km/h
  • Monday, February 18, 2013

    Bloodied Cricket Bat Found in Pistorious's Home

    A Bloodied cricket bat was found at the Paralympian's home by police, probing the death of  his girlfriend. The suspected weapon, which the athlete kept behind his bedroom door for fear of intruders, was found as reports in South Africa suggested Reeva Steenkamp's skull was "crushed"

    Blade Runner Pistorius, 26, was charged with murder after his model girlfriend was shot dead at his luxury home in Pretoria on Valentine’s Day. The discovery of the bloodied cricket bat emerged as police sources reportedly told South Africa's independent City Press newspaper that Steenkamp's skull had been "crushed". "There was lots of blood on the bat," one source told the newspaper.
    Police are investigating whether the bat was used to attack the 29-year-old cover girl, or if she used it to defend herself.
    Reeva Steenkamp
    Reeva Steenkamp
    Oscar Pistorius
    Oscar Pistorius

    Dazed: The Paralympic star is led out of court
    Steenkamp, who had only been dating Pistorius since November, was shot four times in the head, chest and hand through the bathroom door.  City Press quoted a police source as saying: “The suspicion is that the first shot, in the bedroom, hit her in the hip. “She then ran and hid herself in the toilet... He fire three more shots.”

    The newspaper also reported that police are testing the gold medallist’s blood for steroids, amid speculation he may have experienced "roid rage", aggressive behaviour linked to taking large doses of performance enhancing drugs.  Other reports in South Africa suggest that there may have been a fight between the two lovers that had spilled over from Wednesday night. Neighbours are believed to have called security guards complaining about a "commotion" inside the sprinter’s home.
    The claims contradict the initial theory that Pistorius may have shot Steenkamp after mistaking her for an intruder. Police in South Africa said they were "very surprised" by the burglar speculation and confirmed that there had been previous incidents of a "domestic nature" at the address. City Press also reported that Steenkamp was wearing a nightie at the time of the killing and that the bed was rumpled. Pistorius is being held without bail following his first court appearance, which he sobbed uncontrollably throughout.

    The Olympic and Paralympic hero faces life imprisonment if convicted of premeditated murder.
    But his father, Henke Pistorius, said he has "zero doubt" Miss Steenkamp's death was a tragic accident and that his son may have acted "on instinct". Henke Pistorius said he believes the model was killed after being mistaken for an intruder at his son's house. His family is behind him "heart and soul" and will do "whatever needs to be done" to help him clear his name, Mr Pistorius told The Sunday Telegraph.
    He said: "When you are a sportsman, you act even more on instinct. It's instinct - things happen and that's what you do."