Sunday, March 31, 2013



What am I seeking? I'm not sure I know, when I fly to the stars and leave my self far below;

When I soar across oceans and dance over rooftops in the opal moon's glow.

Am I delving the mystery of why we are here or if we're alone in the vastness of space?

Am I cruising the heavens to find how it began and how we arrived in this celestial place?

Or do I fly for the sheer exhilaration, the joy, the absolute freedom, the wonderous sensation?

It's timeless, ethereal, my astral projection; a gossamer thread is my only protection.

As I transcend the earth and embrace the deep night, I am ever aware of the tenuous connection.

The winds blow through me, insubstantial am I, vaporous and airy, sublimely I fly.

I am freed, for a time, from all earthly cares. I belong to the cosmos only dreamers may share.

At times I encounter a wraith like myself and we drift together like leaves on the breeze.

Over rivers and mountains, valleys and plains, the sky is a realm without boundaries.

We commune without words, we float where we may till the magic of the night draws me away.

The midnight canopy is studded with stars. I am humbled and awed as I journey afar.

Wherever it takes me, I cannot deny, it's a gift beyond price, a portal in the sky.

An explorer am I of a dimension unknown; fellow wanderers follow the path I have flown.

We are adventurers on a mysterious quest, searching for answers until we may rest.

Tomas Young: Dying veteran takes parting shot at Bush

Claudia Cuellar and Tomas Young celebrate Christmas together

An Iraq war veteran who lost the use of his legs in the conflict has decided to end his life. Tomas Young has also written a letter to former President George W Bush and ex-Vice-President Dick Cheney, accusing them of being responsible for what happened to him and others injured and killed in Iraq.

When President Bush stood on the rubble of Ground Zero just after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and pledged to go after those responsible, Tomas Young, 22, took up the call and joined the US Army.
But instead of being deployed to Afghanistan to fight al-Qaeda and its allies, he ended up in Iraq in 2004 following Saddam Hussein's capture by coalition forces.

On the fifth day into his deployment, Mr Young's unit came under fire from insurgents in Baghdad. He was hit and his spine was severed. After his return to the US he campaigned from his wheelchair against the conflict and in 2007 was the subject of a documentary, Body of War.

But now his condition has deteriorated to such an extent that he wants to put an end to his suffering.
"He felt he's gone as far as his physical shell will take him and he is ready to rest," his wife, Claudia Cuellar, says, speaking on his behalf because he has difficulty talking and tires easily. "We accepted a certain level of suffering," she says. But last year his pain and discomfort increased dramatically and he grew weary of repeated hospital visits to treat infections and other ailments. "He didn't want to do any more procedures or surgeries," Ms Cuellar says.
"I felt like I was losing him emotionally and psychologically. I felt that it was just too hard to get through the course of a single day and we had to have the conversation that people have when..." she said, not finishing her sentence.

Tomas Young and Claudia Cuellar
"I could sense that he was suffering on a level that just wasn't right for us as a couple. I can keep him around for me, but that isn't fair to his journey. "It's not that he wants to die - he simply doesn't want to suffer any more," Ms Cuellar says.
But she adds: "He's the person I love the most in the whole world. I will miss this person."

In 2008 Mr Young suffered a pulmonary embolism and an anoxic brain injury due to a reduced oxygen supply that impaired his speech and arm movement. A colostomy operation last year provided only temporary relief. Unable now to eat solid food, he is fed through a tube in his stomach. The skin on his hips is breaking down, exposing raw flesh and bone.

"That's probably the toughest one for me, to see that deterioration," Ms Cueller says. Medical marijuana eases his discomfort and gives him peace of mind without the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs, Ms Cuellar says.

Tomas Young's letter : Exerpts

"I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbours, much less to the United States... The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in US history."
Mr Young says he wrote to Mr Bush and Mr Cheney on behalf of the wounded veterans and relatives of those killed and injured in Iraq.
"On every level - moral, strategic, military and economic - Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr Bush and Mr Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.

"My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness."

 Ms Cuellar moved to Kansas City to be with Mr Young after they met while he was in hospital in her hometown, Chicago, in 2008. She says Mr Young, who is virtually bedridden and in hospice care, cannot legally be helped to commit suicide in Missouri and so will have to starve himself to death.

He will continue to take food and liquids until their first wedding anniversary on 20 April. After that they will stop talking publicly about his case and spend time together until they feel the time is right for him to end his life.

Russia Fears N Korean Threats will spiral out of control

North Korean Kim Jong-un meets military officials (Unverified picture released by KCNA news agency 29 March)

Kim Jong-un signed an order putting rockets on stand-by after meeting generals

The North Korean situation could spiral out of control, Russia has warned, after another day of inflamed rhetoric from Pyongyang. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned of a "vicious circle" and told all sides to avoid unilateral action.

On Thursday, the North threatened to "settle accounts" and said it had put missiles on stand-by to hit the US. The US, which flew stealth bombers over South Korea this month, condemned the North's "bellicose rhetoric". White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the rhetoric only deepened North Korea's isolation.

North Korean state media reported leader Kim Jong-un "judged the time has come to settle accounts with the US imperialists". Bluff has long played a fundamental role in North Korean strategy. The regime in Pyongyang needs its much more powerful neighbours and antagonists to take its threats seriously. By threatening potential chaos and war in the heart of the world's most dynamic economic region, it has in the past been able to transcend its own weakness and extract diplomatic concessions.

But the United States may be about to call North Korea's bluff. The US treasury department is taking steps to squeeze North Korea financially, and the Pentagon has flown B-52 and B-2 bombers over the Korean peninsula - moves that are guaranteed to provoke a hostile reaction.

Washington's tough stance presents Kim Jong-un with a dilemma. He wants to show his generals and the North Korean people that he can force concessions from the United States - in the same style as his father and grandfather. He could now be tempted to take brinkmanship to a new level, to try to convince the US and the region that confrontation does not work and carries too many risks.

He was said to have condemned US B-2 bomber sorties over South Korea as a "reckless phase" that represented an "ultimatum that they will ignite a nuclear war at any cost on the Korean Peninsula".
US mainland and bases in Hawaii, Guam and South Korea were all named as potential targets.
North Korea's most advanced missiles are thought to be able to reach Alaska, but not the rest of the US mainland. State media in the North showed thousands of soldiers and students at a mass rally in Pyongyang supporting of Kim Jong-un's announcement.

China, North Korea's biggest trading partner, immediately reiterated its call for all sides to ease tensions. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news conference that "joint efforts" should be made to turn around a "tense situation". He made similar remarks on Tuesday.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov went further, voicing concern that "we may simply let the situation slip out of our control and it will slide into a spiral of a vicious circle". "We are concerned that... unilateral action is being taken around North Korea that is increasing military activity," he said.

In an earlier statement, the US military said that the B-2 stealth bombers demonstrated America's ability to "provide extended deterrence" to its allies and conduct "long-range, precision strikes quickly and at will".
"The North Koreans have to understand that what they're doing is very dangerous," US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters on Thursday.
"We must make clear that these provocations by the North are taken very seriously by us  and we'll respond to that."

The US had already flown nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over South Korea earlier this month, in what it called a response to escalating North Korean threats. Tensions in the Korean peninsula have been high since North Korea's third nuclear test on 12 February, which led to the imposition of fresh sanctions.

North Korea has made multiple threats against both the US and South Korea in recent weeks, including warning of a "pre-emptive nuclear strike" on the US and the scrapping of the Korean War armistice. While North Korea has issued many threats against the US and South Korea in the past, this level of sustained rhetoric is rare, observers say.

On 16 March, North Korea warned of attacks against South Korea's border islands, and advised residents to leave the islands.  In 2010 it shelled South Korea's Yeonpyeong island, causing four deaths. On Wednesday, Pyongyang also cut a military hotline with the South - the last direct official link between the two nations. A Red Cross hotline and another line used to communicate with the UN Command at Panmunjom have already been cut, although an inter-Korean air-traffic hotline still exists.

Friday, March 29, 2013

North Korea Missiles on Standby after US Stealth Flights

In a file picture taken on April 13, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) claps during the unveiling ceremony of two statues of former leaders Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang.

 N Korea has issued several threats against the US and Seoul 

North Korea says it has put missile units on stand-by to attack US targets in response to US stealth bomber flights over the Korean peninsula.  State news agency KCNA said leader Kim Jong-un signed off on the order at a late-night meeting of top generals.

The time had come to "settle accounts" with the US, KCNA quoted him as saying, with the B-2 flights an "ultimatum". Pyongyang has been angered by fresh UN sanctions and annual US-South Korea military drills. Kim Jong-un "finally signed the plan on technical preparations of strategic rockets of the KPA, ordering them to be stand-by for fire so that they may strike any time", the KCNA report said.
"If they make a reckless provocation with huge strategic forces, the Korean People's Army (KPA) should mercilessly strike the US mainland, their stronghold, their military bases in the operational theatres in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea," the agency quoted him as saying.

Thousands of North Koreans later took part in a march in Pyongyang in support of Kim Jong-un's announcement, the Associated Press news agency reported. A Yonhap news agency report citing an unidentified military official said increased activity had been noted at North Korea's missile sites, but this remains unconfirmed.

The US - which flew two stealth bombers over the peninsula on Thursday as part of the ongoing military drills - has said it is ready for "any eventuality" on the peninsula. In a statement, it said that the B-2 planes demonstrated America's ability to "provide extended deterrence" to its allies and conduct "long-range, precision strikes quickly and at will".
"The North Koreans have to understand that what they're doing is very dangerous," US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters on Thursday. "We must make clear that these provocations by the North are taken by us very seriously and we'll respond to that."

The US flew nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over South Korea earlier this month, in what it called a response to escalating North Korean threats. Tensions in the Korean peninsula are high following North Korea's third nuclear test on 12 February, which led to the imposition of a fresh raft of sanctions.  North Korea has made multiple threats against both the US and South Korea in recent weeks, including warning of a "pre-emptive nuclear strike" on the US and the scrapping of the Korean War armistice.

North Korea is not thought to have the technology to strike the US mainland with either a nuclear weapon or a ballistic missile, but it is capable of targeting some US military bases in Asia with its mid-range missiles. While North Korea has issued many threats against the US and South Korea in the past, this level of sustained rhetoric is rare, observers say.

On 16 March, North Korea warned of attacks against South Korea's border islands, and advised residents to leave the islands. In 2010 it shelled South Korea's Yeonpyeong island, causing four deaths. On Wednesday, Pyongyang also cut a military hotline with the South - the last direct official link between the two nations. A Red Cross hotline and another line used to communicate with the UN Command at Panmunjom have already been cut, although an inter-Korean air-traffic hotline still exists.

The jointly-run Kaesong industrial park is still in operation, however, and over 160 South Korean commuters entered North Korea yesterday to work in its factories. The complex employs an estimated 50,000 North Korean workers and is a source of badly-needed hard currency for the North.

China, North Korea's biggest trading partner, has called for calm from all sides. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said he hoped all "relevant parties [would] exercise restraint so as to ease the tension".

Timeline: Korean tensions

  • 12 Dec: North Korea fires three-stage rocket, in move condemned by UN as banned test of long-range missile technology
  • 12 Feb: North Korea conducts an underground nuclear test, its third after tests in 2006 and 2009
  • 7 Mar: UN approves fresh sanctions on Pyongyang; North Korea says it has the right to a "pre-emptive nuclear strike" on the US
  • 11 Mar: US-South Korea annual joint military drills begin; North Korea says it has scrapped the Korean War armistice (the UN says the pact cannot be unilaterally scrapped)
  • 19 Mar: US flies B-52 nuclear-capable bombers over Korean peninsula, following several North Korean threats to attack US and South Korean targets
  • 20 Mar: Broadcasters and banks in South Korea hit by cyber attack, the origin of which remains unknown, days after North Korea says some of its sites were hacked
  • 27 Mar: North Korea cuts military hotline with South, the last official direct link between the two
  • 28 Mar: US flies stealth bombers over Korean peninsula; showcasing ability for precision strike "at will"

  • Thursday, March 28, 2013

    Ask Maxy

    Dear Maxy ,
    I am married to a wonderful guy who has a daughter by his ex-girlfriend . I have not met my stepdaughter . Her mother has full custody and won't allow my husband access.
    I am older than my husband by three years . I want to have a child . Before we married, my husband and I talked about having kids . We talked about it last December and we agreed that it was time to start a family .
    Here's the problem : He has now decided he's not ready . I work in the maternity ward of a local hosiptal, and I see complications older women can have with pregnancy and delivery . I am getting close to that age . I want to have a healthy pregnancy and child, but the longer we wait the harder it will be . My feeling is that one is never "really" for kids, but you make the sacrifices to have something so amazing in your life .
    I have asked my husband why the sudden change in attitude , his only response is "I don't know." I'm getting tired of that but when I say so, he replies,"I feel ya ." I don't want to force him to have a baby but I want a family and am getting tired of his excuses . I love my husband but this is driving me crazy . How can I find out what is really bothering him and get him on the same page again ?
    Dear Marcia,
    Whether or not to have children is one of those non-negotiable issues that can break up a marriage . Your husband is being evasive and seems uninterested in the idea of children . I wonder why he hasn't fought harder to be a part of his daughter's life . If having a child is crucial to you, your husband needs to know that you are willing to leave the marriage in order to find a more cooperative partner . Frankly , I'm not sure he will make an effort to stop you .

    Dear Maxy ,
    I have worked in the restaurant industry all of my life . Our place is near a clinic . It is one thing to leave gum under tables , but I'm amazed at the number of people who leave their used bandages , cotton and surgical tape . They just put it on their plate and expect us to dispose of it . YUCK.
    I understand that these people are coming to eat after having procedures done and I am grateful for their business . But would it be to much to ask that they dispose of these medical bandages in the bathroom garbage ? It's pretty disgusting to have these things on the table .
    A Waitress
    Dear Waitress ,
    We agree . Since you get a lot of clinic customers you can ask the management about posting a sign asking people to dispose of post-procedure bandages in a specially designated "hazardous waste" container in the bathroom . But some people will leave them on the table regardless . It might be wise to talk to management about having a box of disposable gloves that can be worn when clearing the tables .

    Dear Maxy ,
    A superior sent me a rude email this week . Her request was reasonable but the way she phrased the email was unnecessarily rude and harsh . I'm not sure if I should bring it up with other superiors or if it would put them in an uncomfortable position . What should I do ?
    Dear Offended
    If you can drum up the courage, speak directly to the woman who wrote the email . Request a meeting . Acknowledge the tasks that she requested . If you have completed them state that fact . Otherwise, tell her when you expect to be finished . Then add that the note was a bit disconcerting for you because it was so harshly delivered . State that you want to do a good job and fulfill her expectations and that it will be easier to do if she was not so harsh .
    Your superior may not respond favorably to your request but I think it would be best to go to her first before reporting her to others . If you do not feel that you have been heard or acknowledged after talking with her, go to Human Resources for support .

    Snapshots From the Civil War

    This year marks 150 years since the Battle of Gettysburg, perhaps the most important - and certainly the bloodiest - battle of the American Civil War.

    Coinciding with that anniversary the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is staging a landmark exhibition of what are being described as ''the finest and most poignant'' photographs from these cataclysmic four years in which an estimated 750,000 Americans lost their lives.

    The Met's chief curator of photography, Jeff Rosenheim, has also written a book - Photography and the American Civil War - to accompany the show.

    Amanda Knox...and Italy's Painfully Slow Moving Judicial System

    Amanda Knox case stirs concern over Italy's slow-moving judicial system

    The sign Piazza Dei Tribunali in front of Italy's Court of Cassation, in Rome

    The decision by Italy's highest criminal appeals court to overturn the acquittals of American student Amanda Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, and order a new trial in the 2007 slaying of her British roommate, is once again raising concerns both at home and abroad about how justice works in Italy.
    It's a system where people cleared of serious crimes can have the threat of prison hanging over them for years, while powerful politicians such as former premier Silvio Berlusconi can avoid jail sentences almost indefinitely by filing appeal after appeal until the statute of limitations runs out.

    And it's not just the criminal courts that raise eyebrows. The back log on civil cases is so severe that it hampers desperately sought foreign investment to Italy. Divorces can take years to process, meaning that couples who've had enough of the marriage remain legally tied. And forget about getting quick compensation in a fraudulent property deal — it can take ages (if ever) before you'll see any money.

    Successive governments have pledged to streamline proceedings but have so far failed to do so. That's largely because powerful people in politics, business and the judiciary have repeatedly fended off reform to protect their interests and the people close to them. One criticism of the system is Italy's high number of lawyers. Milan, for example, has more attorneys than all of France. In civil cases, it takes an average of seven years to reach a verdict.

    Defenders say that Italy's legal system is one of the world's most "garantista" — or protective of civil liberties. Defendants are guaranteed three levels of trial before a conviction is considered definitive and both sides are granted the right to appeal — although prosecutors often don't appeal minor acquittals. It's a system that sprang up in the postwar era to prevent the travesties of summary justice seen under fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, but in reality it means that justice can be delayed until it's denied as cases move at a snail's pace through the bloated legal machine.

    Italy is also one of the leading voices in the world in campaigns to abolish capital punishment. In 1996, Italy refused to extradite one of its citizens wanted for murder in Florida, saying it did not receive sufficient guarantees he would not risk execution if convicted. He was tried in Italy, convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison.

    For Knox, the system allowed new evidence in the appeals trial that led to her 2011 acquittal. But it also is exposing her to a third trial — which in all likelihood will be followed by another round at the supreme court. Knox is not expected to attend her retrial. If she is convicted — and the conviction is upheld by highest criminal court — Italy could seek her extradition. The United States law allows extradition of its citizens.

    Another key aspect of the Knox case: The Italian system does not include U.S. Fifth Amendment protection against a defendant being put in double jeopardy by government prosecution.
    "Our judicial system, like all judicial systems, is fallible," said Stelio Mangiameli, a constitutional law expert at Rome's LUISS University, but added: "It's not worse or better than the United States."
    He said that, in addition to guarantees for the defence, Italy takes pains to protect the rights of the victim. "You need to consider when there is a crime, there is also a victim," said Mangiameli. "In the Amanda Knox case, there is a dead girl and someone has to  be responsible for this death, no matter if American or French or any other nationality."

    But the process, which in some cases runs over decades, can leave people like Knox in judicial limbo.
    In September, an Italian civil court ordered the government to pay 100 million euros in civil damages to relatives of 81 people killed in a 1980 air disaster whose cause has been attributed alternately to a bomb on board and to being caught in an aerial dogfight. The court held that the transport and defence ministries had concealed the truth, even though a criminal court acquitted two generals for lack of evidence five years earlier.

    It would seem natural that after three decades, the September decision meant the case was closed. Instead, appeals are pending. For two decades, Berlusconi has been moving from trial to trial on charges that include corruption, tax fraud and sex-for-hire. He has described himself as an innocent victim of prosecutors he routinely slams as communists.

    The ex-premier has so far never had a conviction upheld by the highest court and never served any time in jail. His lawyers employ vigorous defence techniques that have included laws — one struck down as unconstitutional — blocking top government officials from prosecution. As premier, Berlusconi himself has enacted legislation that is widely seen as tailor-made to shield him from legal difficulties.

    Sometimes, however, justice is served. Parmalat founder Calisto Tanzi is serving an eight-year sentence on market rigging related to the stunning 2003 collapse of his dairy empire despite his advanced age. Tanzi, now 74, has been jailed since 2011 for his role in the scandal that defrauded thousands of small-time investors, despite arguments by his lawyer that his health is failing and that he should be granted house arrest under a law allowing it for convicts over age 70. Tanzi faces even more jail time — nearly another 18 years — on a conviction of fraudulent bankruptcy and criminal association in the euro 4 billion bankruptcy. There is one more appeal on that sentence.

    Whether the 25-year-old Knox, who spent four years in prison during the investigation, trial and first appeal, ever returns to Italy to serve more prison time depends on a string of unknowns. Should she be convicted by an appeals court in Florence court, she could appeal that verdict to the Cassation Court, since Italy's judicial system allows for two levels of appeals — by prosecutors and the defence. Should that appeal fail, Italy could seek her extradition from the United States.
    In defending Italy, some experts say the system cuts both ways.
    "If she had been wrongly convicted," said criminal lawyer Manrico Colazza, "she would have been happy there was a court to reverse it.

    Wednesday, March 27, 2013

    Pope Francis shuns grand apartment for two rooms

    Suite in Domus Santa Marta hotel-style residence which the new Pope Francis has opted to remain in rather than move to more lavish quarters in the Apostolic Palace 

    Pope Francis has decided to shun a grand papal apartment on the top floor of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace in favour of a modest two-room residence. His spokesman said he was "trying out this type of simple living" in a communal building with other priests. In doing so he has broken a tradition which is more than a century old. The decision reinforces the newly-elected Pope's austere reputation. As archbishop of Buenos Aires he refused to move into the Bishop's Palace.Preferring more modest accommodation, he also often cooked his own meals.

    Since the reign of Pope Pius X at the beginning of the 20th Century every pope has occupied the palatial penthouse apartment with more than a dozen rooms, staff quarters, a terrace and extensive views over the city of Rome. But since his election Pope Francis has been living in a simple two-room suite in the Domus Santa Marta - a hotel-style residence built by Pope John Paul II next to St Peter's Basilica.

    And he intends to go on living there for the foreseeable future, according to the Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi.
    "This morning he let his fellow cardinals know that he will keep living with them for a certain period of time," Mr Lombardi said. He said he could not say whether the Pope would remain in these quarters in the long term.
    "It is still a period of getting used to things," Mr Lombardi added.

    Pope Francis will continue to use the papal library on the second floor of the Apostolic palace for receiving official guests and will appear on Sundays at the window used by previous popes to address pilgrims in St Peters Square.  About half the 105 suites in the residence are occupied by Vatican staff, who had to move out of their rooms to accommodate visiting cardinals during the holding of the recent conclave at which Pope Francis was elected.

    The Pope will take his meals in the communal dining room together with other visiting clerics and permanent residents.  His simple new communal home contrasts with the much larger accommodation currently being renovated inside the Vatican for the future use of the now retired former Pope Benedict and his staff.
    If, indeed, Pope Benedict was so frail and unwell that he needed to retire, what on earth does he need an apartment and offices in the Vatican for ?  I'm just saying.

    The Rock That killed the Dinosaurs was Probably a Comet

    Chicxulub impact

    The impact 65 million years ago killed off 70% of species on Earth - including the dinosaurs

    The space rock that hit Earth 65m years ago and is widely implicated in the end of the dinosaurs was probably a speeding comet, US scientists say. Researchers in New Hampshire suggest the 180km-wide Chicxulub crater in Mexico was carved out by a smaller object than previously thought.

    Many scientists consider a large and relatively slow moving asteroid to have been the likely culprit.
    Details were outlined at the 44th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. But other researchers were more cautious about the results.
    "The overall aim of our project is to better characterize the impactor that produced the crater in the Yucatan peninsula [in Mexico]," according to Jason Moore from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

    The space rock gave rise to a global layer of sediments enriched in the chemical element iridium, in concentrations much higher than naturally occurs; it must have come from outer space. However, in the first part of their work, the team suggests that frequently quoted iridium values are incorrect. Using a comparison with another extraterrestrial element deposited in the impact - osmium - they were able to deduce that the collision deposited less debris than has previously been supposed.

    The recalculated iridium value suggests a smaller body hit the Earth. So for the second part of their work, the researchers took the new figure and attempted to reconcile it with the known physical properties of the Chicxulub impact.

    Death of the dinosaurs

    Artwork depicting the asteroid impact that may have wiped out the dinosaurs
    For this smaller space rock to have produced a 180km-wide crater, it must have been travelling relatively fast. The team found that a long-period comet fitted the bill much better than other possible candidates.
    "You'd need an asteroid of about 5km diameter to contribute that much iridium and osmium. But an asteroid that size would not make a 200km-diameter crater," said Dr Moore.
    "So we said: how do we get something that has enough energy to generate that size of crater, but has much less rocky material? That brings us to comets."

    Dr Moore's colleague Prof Mukul Sharma, also from Dartmouth College, said, "Asteroids don't generally move that fast  - although it is possible. But of the all comets and asteroids we have looked at in the skies, the comets are the ones that are moving very rapidly."
    Long-period comets are balls of dust, rock and ice that are on highly eccentric trajectories around the Sun. They may take hundreds, thousands or in some cases even millions of years to complete one orbit.

    The extinction event 65 million years ago is now widely associated with the space impact at Chicxulub. It killed off about 70% of all species on Earth in just a short period of time, most notably the non-avian dinosaurs. The enormous collision would have triggered fires, earthquakes and huge tsunamis. The dust and gas thrown up into the atmosphere would have depressed global temperatures for several years.

    Gravity map of Chicxulub crater, Yucatan Peninsula   Mark Pilkington/Geological Survey of Canada/SPL
      This gravity map shows the structure of the crater  in Yucatan

     In recent years, several space objects have taken astronomers by surprise, serving as a reminder that our cosmic neighbourhood remains a busy place. On 15 February this year, 2012 DA14 - an asteroid as large as an Olympic swimming pool - raced past the Earth at a distance of just 27,700km (17,200mi). It had only been discovered the previous year. And on the same day, a 17m space rock exploded over Russia's Ural mountains with an energy of about 440 kilotonnes of TNT. About 1,000 people were injured as the shockwave blew out windows and rocked buildings.

    Some 95% of the near-Earth objects larger than 1km have been discovered. However, only about 10% of the 13,000 - 20,000 asteroids above the size of 140m are being tracked. There are probably many more comets than near-Earth asteroids, but Nasa points out they spend almost all of their lifetimes at great distances from the Sun and Earth, so that they contribute only about 10% to the census of larger objects that have struck the Earth. Asteroid or comet, it left a big crater and it destroyed almost all life on earth. What can we learn from this ? It wouldn't take a very big rock to do the same thing again. But if a really big comet or asteroid hit us it could knock us right off our axis, alter our orbit around the sun or even explode the planet. They say something big hits the earth about every one hundred thousand years and we are way overdue.

    Tuesday, March 26, 2013

    Obama the Diplomat - What's the Long Term Goal in the Middle East?

    President Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu 

    Sightseeing can be message-sending too. While doing the tourist thing in israel, Mr Obama is attempting to spread good will as he goes. He went to look at the Dead Sea Scrolls - a reminder that Jews lived here thousands of years ago. He went to the grave of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, having declared a Jewish homeland in the Holy Land was redemption. Before the visit, several American commentators urged him to learn to speak Israeli - now his fluency is almost frightening.

    The Bibi and Barack show, a series of awkward joshing and jesting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mr Obama - two men who had given every impression they loathed each other in the past - may make the squeamish squirm. But faking it can lead to feeling it. Mr Obama has already won an apology to the Turkish prime minister from Mr Netanyahu for the 2010 raid on a flotilla of Gaza-bound activists, and there is some hope he might do something to further the possibility of peace talks.

    But Mr Obama's embrace of a word - Zionism - will have other results too. For some in the region it is not the expression of a dream but a deadly insult. Mr Obama knows that. He knows the Arab world already felt he had let it down. Now he has confirmed what they feared he was: an American president.  But - and this is typical of Mr Obama - he seems to feel that now that he has explained it, Israelis will get it. The values of Zionism are universal: a people deserve freedom, deserve a land. Get it? Not. Just. You.

    Mr Obama has huge faith in the power of his own words. That is not said in simple mockery, but sometimes he seems to be happier as a prophet than as politician.  One of his favourite quotes, from civil rights legend Martin Luther King Jr, is: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Mr Obama seems never happier than when tugging on that moral arc, even if it springs back in his face.

    He urged young Israelis to tell their politicians to show courage - he said exactly the same to the American people recently, for instance about outlawing assault rifles, an attempt that has just fallen at the first Senate hurdle as he surely knew it would. In Jerusalem he observed, rather ruefully, that King, like Moses, never got to see the promised land.

    Neither cynics nor partisans fully understand the magnitude of Mr Obama's ambition - nor the length of his game. But there is definitely a plan at work here. Maybe we'll catch on as time goes by.

    Sunday, March 24, 2013

    The Watcher - A Ballad for Someone I Love

    I am the watcher, the guardian of your dreams, the sentinel of your soul.
    I protect you while you sleep, I watch you while you grow.
    I am the shadow that follows you each day to keep you safe from harm,
    To guide you on your way, your enemies, I disarm.
    I see the joy light up your face; the glowing amber of your eyes.
    A simple thing is all it takes: a laugh, a touch, a small surprise.
    You never ask much for yourself and yet you have a giving heart.
    Of wisdom, you have such a wealth, for one so young.
    I have watched your journey from the start and helped you up each time you fell
    And seen the darkness fill your eyes when you realized you were not well.
    You are different and it makes you sad; so sad it overflows
    And crushes your sweet spirit  but you're strong, the watcher knows.
    The shades will pass and once again the sunburst of your smile
    Will make us warm and hold the grief at bay for a brief and cherished while.
    If I could could take the pain away, absorb it deep inside,
    No sacrifice would be too great but I have begged and I have cried
    And I have thrown away my pride and all I have is love to give.
    I would give my life for you and be content if I could see you live
    And gain the happiness you've been denied,
    If I could watch your dreams unfold, and see you satisfied
    And know you'd grow serenely old... but I can just stand by.
    I am ...the watcher.

    The Genie

    Friday, March 22, 2013

    Maps detail Universe's ancient light -- Planck Images

    A map tracing the "oldest light" in the sky has been produced by Europe's Planck Surveyor satellite. Its pattern confirms the Big Bang theory for the origin of the Universe but subtle, unexpected details will require scientists to adjust some of their ideas.

    The map shows tiny deviations from the average background temperature, where blue is slightly cooler and red is slightly warmer. The cold spots are where matter was more concentrated and later collapsed under gravity to form stars and galaxies. Image: ESA/Planck Collaboration

    A spectacular new map of the "oldest light" in the sky has just been released by the European Space Agency. Scientists say its mottled pattern is an exquisite confirmation of our Big-Bang model for the origin and evolution of the Universe. But there are features in the picture, they add, that are unexpected and will require ideas to be refined.

    The map was assembled from 15 months' worth of data acquired by the Planck space telescope.
    It details what is known as the cosmic microwave background, or CMB - a faint glow of microwave radiation that pervades all of space.  Its precise configuration, visible in the new Planck data, is suggestive of a cosmos that is slightly older than previously thought - one that came into existence 13.82 billion years ago.  This is an increase of about 50 million years on earlier calculations.

    The map's pattern also indicates a subtle adjustment is needed to the Universe's inventory of contents.
    It seems there is slightly more matter out there (31.7%) and slightly less "dark energy" (68.3%), the mysterious component thought to be driving the cosmos apart at an accelerating rate.
    "I would imagine for [most people] it might look like a dirty rugby ball or a piece of modern art," said Cambridge University's George Efstathiou, presenting the new picture here at Esa headquarters in Paris.
    "But I can assure you there are cosmologists who would have hacked our computers or maybe even given up their children to get hold of this map, we're so excited by it."

    Planck is the third western satellite to study the CMB. The two previous efforts - COBE and WMAP - were led by the US space agency (Nasa). The Soviets also had an experiment in space in the 1980s that they called Relikt-1.

    The CMB is the light that was initially allowed to spread out across space once the Universe had cooled sufficiently to permit the formation of hydrogen atoms - about 380,000 years into the life of the cosmos. It still bathes the Earth in a near-uniform glow at microwave frequencies, and has a temperature profile that is just 2.7 degrees above absolute zero.

    But it is possible to detect minute deviations in this signal, and these fluctuations - seen as mottling in the map - are understood to reflect the differences in the density of matter when the light parted company and set out on its journey all those years ago.

    The fluctuations can be thought of as the seeds for all the structure that later developed in the cosmos - all the stars and galaxies. Scientists subject the temperature deviations to a range of statistical analyses, which can then be matched against theoretical expectations.

    This allows them to rule in some models to explain the origin and evolution of the cosmos, while ruling out a host of others.
    The team that has done this for Planck's data says the map is an elegant fit for the standard model of cosmology - the idea that the Universe started in a hot, dense state in an incredibly small space, and then expanded and cooled.

    At a fundamental level, it also supports an "add-on" to this Big Bang theory known as inflation, which postulates that in the very first moments of its existence the Universe opened up in an exponential manner - faster than light itself.

    But because Planck's map is so much more detailed than anything previously obtained, it is also possible to see some anomalies in it.

    Temperature anomalies in Planck data Planck has confirmed the north/south differences and a "cold spot" in the data

    One is the finding that the temperature fluctuations, when viewed across the biggest scales, do not match those predicted by the standard model. Their signal is a bit weaker than expected.

    Planck's new numbers

    • 4.9% normal matter - atoms, the stuff from which we are all made
    • 26.8% dark matter - the unseen material holding galaxies together
    • 68.3% dark energy - the mysterious component accelerating cosmic expansion
    • The number for dark energy is lower than previously estimated
    • The new age - 13.82 billion years - results from a slower expansion
    • This is described by a value known as the Hubble Constant
    • It too is revised to 67.15 km per second, per megaparsec (3.2 million light-years)

    There appears also to be an asymmetry in the average temperatures across the sky; the southern hemisphere is slightly warmer than the north.

    A third significant anomaly is a cold spot in the map, centred on the constellation Eridanus, which is much bigger than would be predicted.

    The fact that these delicate features are real will force theorists to finesse their inflationary solutions and possibly even lead them to some novel physics on the way.

    CMB - The 'oldest light' in the Universe

    Detail of CMB data

    • Theory says 380,000 years after the Big Bang, matter and light "decoupled"
    • Matter went on to form stars and galaxies; the light spread out and cooled
    • The light - the CMB - now washes over the Earth at microwave frequencies
    • Tiny deviations from this average glow appear as mottling in the map (above)
    • These fluctuations reflect density differences in the early distribution of matter
    • Their pattern betrays the age, shape and contents of the Universe, and more

    Thursday, March 21, 2013

    Harrison Ford - Environment and Living Green



    Actor Harrison Ford, has put his star power to work urging the US to invest in conservation. In an interview with the BBC's Laura Trevelyan, alongside Conservation International Chief Executive Officer Peter Seligmann, Mr Ford said environmental degradation puts stress on "fragile nations".

    Because the nations of the world are "all interconnected", that stress brings, through refugee crises, Somali piracy and political radicalization, he and Mr Seligmann said.

    "It's a lot cheaper to intervene before it becomes a national security issue," Mr Ford said. "Every dollar that we spend on international conservation comes back to us."

    Ask Maxy


    Dear Maxy,
    I am 55 years old and have worked at my job fo 25 years . A couple of years ago the company hired a 26-year-old guy . I have been patient, but I am reaching the end of my rope .
    "Casey" cannot remember what was said the minute he hangs up the telephone . He doesn't pay attention to what he is doing . He takes on no new responsibilities, which drives the rest of us crazy . He just does his work and then plays on the internet . It seems that he's simply along for the ride.
    I have asked him to do some tasks, thinking that he'd catch on , but he's not grabbing the carrot . He makes the same mistakes over and over, and mind you, he deals with other people's money . We don't think he cares one bit about anybody but himself .
    I cannot think of a way to address this without being hurtful . Casey does not take criticism well and sulks when confronted . Even the boss is afraid to speak to Casey because he'll fall apart . What can we do ?
    Wish He'd Quit
    Dear Wish ,
    If the boss is unwilling to deal with Casey , knowing that he isn't competent, there's not much you can do . Criticism will not be helpful . Instead , please try to mentor Casey . Teach him carefully and consistantly, even though it requires constant repetition . Even 3-year olds can learn , given enough instruction and practice. It's certainly better than banging your head against the wall in frustration .

    Dear Maxy,
    I am 16 years old and have a twin sister .We both make excellent grades and are popular with teachers and friends . But we constantly fight . I am controlling and demanding around her . She doesn't respond to me, listen to to me or respect me . I'm sure that's why I'm so controlling .
    The past few months have been miserable for me . I absolutely cannot wait to go off to college and be away from my sister . I realize that I am part of the problem because I do cause some drama. But she makes me feel bad about myself, and as a result, I hate being around her. Life is her way or the highway .
    She will demand that I help her with school , so I do . But if the help isn't up to her standards, she screams at me, hits me and gets me in trouble .
    If I don't help her, my parents punish me . Yet if I ask to borrow a text book, she refuses .
    I'm contemplating staying with my grandparents on the weekends and also thought about cutting off communication with my sister . I can't continue to deal with this . It is affecting my health . How do I resolve these issues ?
    Dear Brother ,
    You sister has managed to get your undivided attention at all times . I suggest you work on your response to her . Learn to ignore her sweetly . I also suggest you steer clear of her as much as possible . Study at a friend's house . Go to your grandparents' for the weekend . Explain to your parents that the house will be quieter if you and your sister spend less time in each other's company . You could also discuss this with your school counselor .

    Dear Maxy,
    I thought my roommate and I had a pretty OK relationship until I saw that he posted something negative about me online, saying he felt sorry for whomever has to live with ne next year . I confronted him about it and it turns out it was something he didn't post. Now he's mad at me . I apologized , but how can I rectify the situation ?
    On The Outs
    Dear On The Outs,
    Did you find out who did post the negative comments ? If the statement appeared on your roommate's social media page, it makes sense that you would think he wrote it . Talk to your roommate about what happened . Explain why you got so upset that something like that would be stated publicly . Move on to the issue at hand and ask if he has concerns about being your roommate . Even though he may not have written the comment, he may share the sentiment . Tell him how you feel about being his roommate .In other words, clear the air .

    So, Where are the Aliens?

    Will we ever… find life in space?
    The idea of aliens may have seemed absurd, once. But times change, as does science, and this makes the idea far more plausible than it once appeared.  One of the reasons I love astronomy is that it doesn’t flinch from the big questions. And one of the biggest is: are we alone? Another reason I love astronomy: it has a good shot at answering this question.
    Even a few decades ago hard-headed realists pooh-poohed the idea of aliens. We’ve accumulated enough data at this point to make the question logical, and I’m starting to think that the question isn’t “Will we find life?” but rather “Which method will find it first?”
    There are three methods that, to me, are the front-runners for finding life on other worlds. And I have an idea as to which one may find it first.

    Life on Mars?
    The first method follows the principle that when you’re looking for something, it’s best to start close to home. We know of one planet that has life: Earth. So it makes sense to look for other places with Earth-like conditions: that is, liquid water, oxygen in the air, nutrients for growth, and so on.
    The most obvious place to look is Mars. At first glance it appears dry, cold and dead. But if you can see past that, things start to look up. The polar caps, for example, have lots of frozen water, and we’ve directly seen ice at lower latitudes on the Red Planet as well – meteorite impacts have left behind shiny craters, digging up fresh ice from below the surface.

    Several Mars rovers and landers have uncovered tantalizing evidence that liquid water might flow just beneath the surface, but we still lack any conclusive evidence. However, if you broaden your timescale a bit, there is excellent evidence that in the past – perhaps a billion years or so ago – our neighbouring planet had oceans of liquid water and thicker air. In fact, conditions were pretty good to develop life as we know it even before it popped up here on Earth.

    It’s entirely possible that life got a toehold there long ago, and died out. If that’s the case, we may yet find fossils in the Martian rocks. Again, there’s no conclusive evidence yet, but we’ve barely scratched the surface there. Now that it has successfully landed on Mars, we have the exciting possibility that the plutonium-powered, car-sized Curiosity rover will soon use its on-board laser and other tools to crack open and examine rocks in the Gale Crater, which were laid down billions of years ago in the presence of liquid water.

    And Mars isn’t the only possibility in our solar system. Liquid water exists inside Saturn’s moon Enceladus, where geysers of liquid water erupt from deep canyons at its south pole. Energized by the gravitational tug of the giant ringed planet itself, the interior of Enceladus may be a vast ocean of liquid water even while the surface is frozen over. That doesn’t guarantee we’ll ever find alien fish swimming that moon’s seas, of course. But it’s an interesting place to look.
    Europa, a moon of Jupiter, almost certainly has an undersurface ocean as well. If you relax your constraints even more, Saturn’s moon Titan has lakes of liquid methane and ethane on its surface, too. The chemistry for life would be different there – it’s a rather chilly -180C on the surface – but it’s not impossible to suppose life might arise there too.

    But maybe we don’t have to go anywhere. Instead, we might be able to sit here and wait for alien beings (of whatever form) to message us. SETI is the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, and its name tells you its story: it’s a group of astronomers looking for signs of intelligent life in space. They use various methods to look for advanced aliens, but the most promising one is to listen for any messages sent across the skies.

    The basic SETI assumption is that aliens are out there and want to contact us. If that’s the case, there’s a good way they can signal us: radio waves. They’re the perfect medium: they’re cheap, easy to make, easy to encode with information, they travel across the whole galaxy unimpeded, and they move at the speed of light, the fastest thing we know. So SETI scours the skies looking for radio signals from ET.

    They haven’t found anything yet, but as SETI astronomer Seth Shostak points out, we’ve just started looking. There’s a lot of galaxy and a lot of radio wave frequencies to sift through. But our technology gets better all the time, allowing for more sensitive searches. According to Shostak, if they’re out there and currently sending signals our way, we should have an answer one way or another in about 25 years given the way things are going.

    I think SETI is a good idea. But I do wonder about the basic assumption that aliens are out there and want to contact us – it’s a big leap, and based on our own human motivations. So while this is certainly worth the effort, it’s hard to know if it’ll pay off, and the 25-year deadline reflects that.
    But I suspect another method may have the edge.

    For a long time, we only knew of nine planets (including Pluto, though this was downgraded from its planet status five years ago), and only one that could support life. Then, in 1995, astronomers found the first planet to orbit another sun-like star. The planet wasn’t like ours at all – more massive than Jupiter, and orbiting so close to its parent star its temperature is over 1,000C. But it was a watershed moment. We finally knew that other planets exist.

    Since then, Nasa’s Kepler space telescope, the European Space Agency’s Corot mission and ground-based instruments have found nearly 800 other planets, and that number grows every week. We know of enough planets orbiting other stars that we can actually start to extrapolate some numbers: it looks like approximately half of all stars in the galaxy have planets, and planets may in fact outnumber the 200 billion stars in the Milky Way.
    We still don’t know how many of these worlds are like ours, but it seems like it’s a good bet the number is in the million, if not billions. We’re finding smaller and smaller planets all the time, and statistically speaking Earth-sized planets should be fairly common.
    The big question is how many of these have life? We don’t know. But consider this: we have evidence that life on Earth started almost immediately after its surface was cool and stable enough to allow it. For three billion years that earthly life consisted of one-celled organisms, and it’s only relatively recently that these evolved into the type of multi-celled creatures that now inhabit every niche of this blue planet.
    It's exciting to consider the possibility that Mars once supported microbial life. It means that any Earth-like planets we find may be populated by… yeast. But that counts. It’s life. And life does something special: it ingests chemicals and excretes other chemicals.

    One such chemical is oxygen. On Earth, we breathe it in, but plants breathe it out. There’s a lot of it in our air; our atmosphere is more than 20% oxygen. If we found a planetary atmosphere with lots of oxygen gas, that would almost certainly be an indicator of life.
    As it turns out, we’re on the verge of being able to do just that. Planets are dim and huddle close to their stars, but there are techniques to separate the light from the two objects. Oxygen has a signature, like a fingerprint, that can be detected in that light. It will take an extremely sensitive telescope and very clever techniques to see it, but we have the technology now to build such machines. One such is the James Webb Space Telescope, due to launch in 2018. It should be able to detect oxygen in an alien planet’s air.

    Our technology is getting so good so quickly that finding alien biological atmospheric signatures is probably our best bet. To me, the numbers add up better than for the other strategies: there must be lots of this type of planet out there, life seems to arise easily, and biology messes with a planet’s chemistry in a detectable way. We don’t know if Mars or those watery moons have life at all, and even if they do it could take a long time to find it. And who knows if smart aliens are out there, and want to talk to us? But it may only be a few more years until we point a telescope at a fleck of light, absorbing those photons one by one, sifting through them, and finding in them – literally – the breath of life.
    So when will we find life in space? If it's out there, then my hope is: very soon.

    Tuesday, March 19, 2013

    Target - The Friendly Invasion of Canada

     Seventeen more target  stores have just opened across Ontario. By the end of the year the total will be 124. Do we feel invaded?? Not really, the more retail competitiion, the better the prices. And the target stores  will be selling Canadian made products like Roots along with their own brands of merchandise. Canadians are regarding the American 'invasion' with a sense of fun and adventure. Don't forget we've had Lowes home improvement stores popping up for the last couple of years and we have appreciated the wider range of products available to us.
    It’s been just two weeks since three pilot stores opened in Guelph, Fergus and Milton – and the response has been good. In fact, John Morioka, senior vice-president of merchandising, says it’s been “almost too good.”

    Shoppers have been complaining about lack of inventory and heightened demand at the pilot stores, but Morioka says it’s all part of the process.
    “We were definitely slammed,” he said Monday on a media tour of the new Target at East York Town Centre in Toronto – the GTA’s first location.
    “We thought that there would be an initial sort of bump, but the bump has not leveled off to the degree that we thought. “That has probably been the most surprising part of it — that we haven’t been able to recover [in those three stores] because we are always surprised by the demand.”
    According to the Toronto Sun, people were lining up waiting for the store to open outside the East York Town Centre store this morning.

    Morioka says Target officials have pulled the “best of the best” from traditional stores as well as added some unique elements to the Canadian locations. The stores feature a number of Canadian collaborations.
    Four more stores will open next week, and most locations are expected to be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. The majority of stores will also feature a Starbucks and in-store pharmacy designed to “provide guests with superior patient-centered healthcare.”
    There is a Target opening near my daughter in Cambridge soon  and she is excited. She is the uber bargain finding champ of the family. Just cut her loose at a major sale and watch her eyes start to spin as she kick starts her 'Reduced for Final Sale' motor.

    You are very welcome Target. Now show us what you've got.

    Sunday, March 17, 2013

    Genie the Forgotten Feral Child ( no relation)


    There have been a number of cases of feral children raised in social isolation with little or no human contact. Few have captured public and scientific attention like that of young girl called Genie. Almost her entire childhood was spent locked in a bedroom where she had grown up isolated and abused for over a decade, Genie’s case was one of the first to put the critical period theory to the test. Could a child reared in utter deprivation and isolation develop language? Could a nurturing environment make up for a horrifying past?

    Genie’s story came to light on November 4, 1970 in Los Angeles, California. A social worker discovered the 13-year old girl after her mother sought out services. The social worker soon discovered that the girl had been confined to a small room and an investigation by authorities quickly revealed that the child had spent most of her life in this room, often tied to a potty chair.

    The girl was given the name Genie in her case files to protect her identity and privacy. Both parents were charged with abuse, but Genie's father committed suicide the day before he was due to appear in court, leaving behind a note stating that "the world will never understand."

    Genie's life prior to her discovery was one of utter and total deprivation. She spent most of her days tied naked to her potty chair only able to move her hands and feet. When she made noise, her father would beat her. Her father, mother, and older brother rarely spoke to her. The rare times her father did interact with her, it was to bark or growl.

    The story of her case soon spread, drawing attention from both the public and the scientific community. The case was important, said psycholinguist and author Harlan Lee, because "our morality doesn’t allow us to conduct deprivation experiments with human beings, these unfortunate people are all we have to go on."
    With so much interest in her case, the question became what should be done with her. A team
    of psychologists and language experts began the process of rehabilitating Genie.

    The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) provided funding for scientific research on Genie’s case."I think everybody who came in contact with her was attracted to her. She had a quality of somehow connecting with people, which developed more and more, but was present, really, from the start. She had a way of reaching out without saying anything, but just somehow by the kind of look in her eyes, and people wanted to do things for her,” said psychologist David Rigler, part of the "Genie team."

    Her rehabilitation team also included graduate student Susan Curtiss and psychologist James Kent. Upon her initial arrival at UCLA, the team was met with a girl who weighed just 59 pounds and moved with a strange "bunny walk." She often spat and was unable to straighten her arms and legs. Silent, incontinent, and unable to chew, she initially seemed only able to recognize her own name and the word "sorry."

    After conducting an assessment of Genie's emotional and cognitive abilities, Kent described her as "the most profoundly damaged child I've ever seen… Genie's life is a wasteland." Her silence and inability to use language made it difficult to assess her mental abilities, but on tests she scored at about the level of a one-year-old.

    She soon began to make rapid progression in specific areas, quickly learning how to use the toilet and dress herself. Over the next few months, she began to experience more developmental progress, but remained poor in areas such as language. She enjoyed going out on day trips outside of the hospital, and explored her new environment with an intensity that amazed her caregivers and strangers alike. Curtiss suggested that Genie had a strong ability to communicate nonverbally, often receiving gifts from total strangers who seemed to understand the young girl's powerful need to explore the world around her.

    Part of the reason why Genie's case fascinated psychologists and linguists so deeply was that it presented a unique opportunity to study a hotly contested debate about language development. Nativists believe that the capacity for language is innate, while empiricists suggest that it is environmental variables that play a key role. Essentially, it boils down to the age-old nature versus nurture debate. Do genetics or environment play a greater role in the development of language?

    Nativist Noam Chomsky suggested that the acquisition of language could not be fully explained by learning alone. Instead, he proposed that children are born with a language acquisition device (LAD), an innate ability to understand the principles of language. Once exposed to language, the LAD allows children to learn the language at a remarkable pace.

    Linguist Eric Lenneberg suggests that like many other human behaviors, the ability to acquire language is subject to what are known as critical periods. A critical period is a limited span of time during which an organism is sensitive to external stimuli and capable of acquiring certain skills. According to Lenneberg, the critical period for language acquisition lasts until around age 12. After the onset of puberty, he argued, the organization of the brain becomes set and no longer able to learn and utilize language in a fully functional manner.

    Genie's case presented researchers with a unique opportunity. If given an enriched learning environment, could she overcome her deprived childhood and learn language even though she had missed the critical period?

    Despite scoring at the level of a one-year-old upon her initial assessment, Genie quickly began adding new words to her vocabulary. She started by learning single words and eventually began putting two words together much the way young children do. Curtiss began to feel that Genie would be fully capable of acquiring language.

    After a year of treatment, she even started putting three words together occasionally. In children going through normal language development, this stage is followed by what is known as a language explosion. Children rapidly acquire new words and begin putting them together in novel ways. Unfortunately, this never happened for Genie. Her language abilities remained stuck at this stage and she appeared unable to apply grammatical rules and use language in a meaningful way. At this point, her progress leveled off and her acquisition of new language halted.

    While Genie was able to learn some language after puberty, her inability to use grammar (which Chomsky suggests is what separates human language from animal communication) offers evidence for the critical period hypothesis.

    Of course, Genie's case is not so simple. Not only did she miss the critical period for learning language, she was also horrifically abused. She was malnourished and deprived of cognitive stimulation for most of her childhood. Researchers were also never able to fully determine if Genie suffered from pre-existing cognitive deficits. As an infant, a pediatrician had identified her as having some type of mental delay. So researchers were left to wonder whether Genie had suffered from cognitive deficits caused by her years of abuse or if she had been born with some degree of mental retardation.

    Psychiatrist Jay Shurley helped assess Genie after she was first discovered, and he noted that since situations like hers were so rare, she quickly became the center of a battle between the researchers involved in her case. Arguments over the research and the course of her treatment soon erupted. Genie occasionally spent the night and the home of Jean Butler, one of her teachers. After an outbreak of measles, Genie was quarantined at her teacher's home. Butler soon become protective and began restricting access to Genie. Other members of the team felt that Butler's goal was to become famous from the case, at one point claiming that Butler had called herself the next Anne Sullivan, the teacher famous for helping Helen Keller learn to communicate.

    Eventually, Genie was removed from Butler's care and went to live in the home of psychologist David Rigler, where she remained for the next four years. Despite some difficulties, she appeared to do well in the Rigler household. She enjoyed listening to classical music on the piano and loved to draw, often finding it easier to communicate through drawing than through other methods.

    NIMH withdrew funding in 1974, due to the lack of scientific findings. Linguist Susan Curtiss had found that while Genie could use words, she could not produce grammar. She could not arrange these words in a meaningful way, supporting the idea of a critical period in language development. Rigler's research was disorganized and largely anecdotal. Without funds to continue the research and care for Genie, she was moved from the Rigler's care.

    Genie was returned to her birth mother's care. The woman was old and almost blind and said she was not capable of caring for her. And so started a round of foster homes where she once again was severely abused and neglected.

    Genie’s situation continued to worsen. After spending a significant amount of time in foster homes, she returned to Children’s Hospital. Unfortunately, the progress that had occurred during her first stay had been severely compromised by the subsequent treatment she received in foster care. Genie was afraid to open her mouth and had regressed back into silence.

    Today, Genie lives in an adult foster care home somewhere in southern California. Little is known about her present condition, although an anonymous individual hired a private investigator to track her down in 2000 and described her as happy. This contrasts with the account of psychiatrist Jay Shurley who visited her on her 27th and 29th birthdays and characterized her as largely silent, depressed, and chronically institutionalized.
    What do we take away from this really sad story? The interest in Genie seemed  to be only in what she could teach scientists about  human development and communicaton. When she had nothing more to give them they actually returned her to the mother who had deprived and abused her all her life and later, put her in other abusive situations. No one seemed to care about her as a human being ; one who had suffered greatly and needed care and human contact. Everyone let Genie down...everyone. Shameful.