Monday, September 30, 2013

Could We live Beneath the Sea ?


Will we ever... live in underwater cities?
 
Living below the sea is possible, at least for a short time. So what is stopping us creating colonies to ease over-population, or guard against disasters?

Ian Koblick hoped the colourful seaweed samples he brought into class would impress. His marine biology professor at Stanford University commented on their beauty and asked where he had found them. Ian replied that he had collected them while exploring off the Californian coast using the Aqua-Lung, an early version of today's scuba equipment. His tutor dismissed his innovative approach. "Diving is for daredevils," she reprimanded. “If you want to be a real scientist, collect like a scientist.”

The year was 1962, and it did not take long for her words to seem antiquated. Jacques-Yves Cousteau's exploration of shipwrecks, discovery of previously unknown marine flora and fauna, and invention of novel deep-sea exploration tools had already captured public imagination worldwide. A wave of interest in undersea exploration was washing over the scientific community. There was serious talk of creating colonies on the bottom of the sea.

As for Koblick, he disregarded his professor’s advice and went on to become an ocean explorer and aquanaut. Ten years later, he opened La Chalupa, then the largest and most advanced underwater habitat and research facility at the world. Since then, however, interest in sending humans underwater for extended periods of time has ebbed. Of more than a dozen underwater habitats that once existed, just three remain, all in the Florida Keys. Koblick and his collaborators own and operate two of them – the Marine Lab, which is used as a research and training base by the likes of the US Navy and Nasa, and the Jules Undersea Lodge, which offers everything from education and training facilities to undersea weddings and luxury romantic getaways at $675 per night.

Creating larger-scale underwater habitation wouldn’t only benefit research (or indeed romantic getaways). Proponents maintain it could help alleviate over-population problems, or guard against the possibility of natural or man-made disasters that render land-based human life impossible. The question is how feasible this actually is.

According to Koblick, the technology already exists to create underwater colonies supporting up to 100 people – the few bunker-like habitats in operation today providing a blueprint. “There are no technological hurdles,” Koblick says. “If you had the money and the need, you could do it today.” Beyond that number, technological advances would be needed to deal with emergency evacuation systems, and environmental controls of air supply and humidity.

With safety being paramount, operators assure underwater habitats are running smoothly by monitoring life support systems – air composition, temperature and humidity – from the surface. Above the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Aquarius Reef Base, the third of the three existing facilities (which accommodates up to six aquanauts at a time), a bright yellow circular disc tethered to the undersea lab 60ft (18m) below collects data from a variety of sensors and sends it to shore via a special wireless internet connection. Future habitats could use satellites to communicate this important information. For now, energy independence is still a challenge. Sustainable future options might include harnessing wave action or placing solar panels on the surface.

Making larger habitats with multiple modules made of steel, glass and special cement used underwater would be simpler than trying to create one giant bubble. These smaller structures could be added or taken away to create living space for as many people as desired. Most likely, we wouldn’t want to build any deeper than 1,000ft (300m), because the pressures at such depths would require very thick walls and excessive periods of decompression for those returning to the surface. Koblick and his colleagues did not experience any ill effects from living below the surface for around 60 days, and he thinks stints up to six months would be feasible.

The air composition needed to sustain the aquanauts depends upon the depth of the habitat. The current habitats use compressors to constantly push fresh air from the surface down tubes to the habitat. To become self-sustaining, future habitats could potentially grow plants using natural or artificial light to generate a fresh supply of oxygen, or develop other methods to produce their own oxygen.
Residents of underwater habitats can explore and study their watery surroundings for long periods using hollow tubes connecting their face masks or helmets to their living quarters. As well as allowing them to breath at depth, these "hookah lines" also facilitate communication. Aquarius uses lines of up to 400ft (120m). Alternatively normal scuba tanks can be used, and exchanged every hour or so.
Fresh seafood is generally easy to come by on the bottom of the ocean. Aquanauts regularly spear fish and eat plankton, while canned, preserved and dehydrated foods stock the shelves. Cooking underwater, although possible, is usually avoided because of the smells it gives off. Like in an airplane, fumes seem stronger in static air. Aquarius transports freshwater from the surface, but water could be created using condensation or desalinisation. Depending upon the size of the colony, human waste could be treated and released into the environment, or cooked down to a fine ash.

Many marine biologists are enthusiastic about the possibility of being able to live underwater. “There are a number of scientists who firmly believe that the only way to really understand what’s happening in the oceanic environment is to be there,” says Tom Potts, director of the Aquarius Reef Base. “Divers from the surface have about an hour-and-a-half per day to do all of their work. If we could actually inhabit the bottom of the ocean for 30 to 60 days, imagine the productivity we could get out of researchers down there.”

It’s not just marine biologists that would benefit. Underwater archaeologists could take their time resurrecting sunken ships or searching for lost artefacts. Astronaut training has taken place in the existing underwater habitats since the isolated environments can be used to simulate living and working conditions in space.

 Koblick converted the former La Chalupa research laboratory into the Jules Undersea Lodge as both a luxury hotel and educational facility. “Giving more people the opportunity to observe the underwater environment and get a feel for living there would help promote the oceans by getting people more interested in those habitats,” he says.

There is growing interest in deep sea mining for minerals and metals, especially around island nations such as the Cook Islands, the Seychelles and Tonga. The Chinese in particular have been investing in deep sea expeditions to investigate the viability of mining manganese nodules, rocks that contain nickel, copper, cobalt, manganese, gold and also valuable rare earth minerals. Large-scale operations
 might be simplified by having people continuously on-site at depth, according to Koblick.

Then there are those who see underwater living as a way of preserving our species in the event of an apocalyptic catastrophe. In the event of a disaster that put paid to human life, communities could perform reverse versions of Noah's ark. With that in mind, Philip Pauley, a futurist and the founder of the London-based visual communications consultancy Pauley, designed the self-sustaining habitat Sub-Biosphere 2. His design includes circular structures that could be floated out to sea and then sunk, creating a haven for 50 to 100 lucky people.

Larger underwater colonies are already feasible. What stops them becoming a reality is a lack of interest, motivation and funding. However Polish company Deep Ocean Technology thinks tourism is the way to make the endeavour economical. It has signed deals with architects and builders to deliver the Water Discus Hotel at the Noonu Atoll, Kuredhivaru Island in the Maldives within three years. The company is also involved in discussions about building hotels under the waves in Dubai, Singapore and more than one European location, including in Norway.
“Not many people dive, but underwater life is beautiful and full of all kinds of interesting creatures,” says Pawel Podwojewski, the company’s leading architect. “People may think this is a project meant for just the very rich, but that's not true. In fact it won't be much more expensive than a regular night in a hotel, that's the idea."

Pauley, on the other hand, believes living underwater is a logical solution to the problem of environmental collapse since it would be cheaper and easier to pull off than founding space colonies. “We will have a space colony eventually, but in the near or medium-term the future is going to be living underwater as far as I can see,” he says.

Ian Koblick is convinced that only a major catastrophe will persuade people to follow his lead. That, or greed. “The only real motivation is if we destroyed the air environment up here and were forced to leave because we couldn’t live in it,” he says. “Or if we started picking up gold nuggets from the bottom. Then it would be done in a heartbeat.”

Mysterious Monster Volcanic Eruption in 13th Century Traced to Indonesia

Segara Anak Crater Lake
The bowl that is today Segara Anak Crater Lake formed after the eruption

Scientists think they have found the volcano responsible for a huge eruption that occurred in AD1257.  The mystery event was so large its chemical signature is recorded in the ice of both the Arctic and the Antarctic. European medieval texts talk of a sudden cooling of the climate, and of failed harvests.

An international team indicates it was the Samalas Volcano on Lombok Island, Indonesia. Little remains of the original mountain structure - just a huge crater lake. The team has tied sulphur and dust traces in the polar ice to a swathe of data gathered in the Lombok region itself, including radiocarbon dates, the type and spread of ejected rock and ash, tree-rings, and even local chronicles that recall the fall of the Lombok Kingdom sometime in the 13th Century.

"The evidence is very strong and compelling,"said Prof Clive Oppenheimer, from Cambridge University. Co-worker Prof Franck Lavigne, from the Pantheon-Sorbonne University, France, added: "We conducted something similar to a criminal investigation.
"We didn't know the culprit at first, but we had the time of the murder and the fingerprints in the form of the geochemistry in the ice cores, and that allowed us to track down the volcano responsible."

The team's studies on Lombok indicate that as much 40 cubic kilometres (10 cubic miles) of rock and ash could have been hurled from the volcano, and that the finest material in the eruption plume would likely have climbed 40km (25 miles) or more into the sky. It would have had to be this big in order for material to be carried across the entire globe in the quantities seen in the Greenland and Antarctic ice layers.

The impact on the global climate would have been significant. Medieval texts describe atrocious weather the following summer in AD1258. It was cold, and the rain was unrelenting, leading to flooding. Archaeologists recently put a date of AD1258 on the skeletons of thousands of people who were buried in mass graves in London.
"We cannot say for sure these two events are linked but the populations would definitely have been stressed," according to Prof Lavigne.

In comparison with recent catastrophic blasts, Samalas was at least as big as Krakatoa (AD1883) and Tambora (AD1815), the researchers believe. The ice cores do hold clues to yet another colossal event in about 1809, but, like Samalas before it, finding the source volcano has been difficult.

Prof Oppenheimer said: "It's outstanding that we haven't come across evidence for it."  There doesn't seem to be any recorded historic proof of it nor any written independent witness accounts. Where in the world could you bury such bad news? This eruption was a super volcanic event that had global impact.
 Could this happen again? It could. With the extreme climate changes in response to global warming, it is not unreasonable to say the odds are increasing.

US Senate rejects House budget bill....shutdown looms

 

The US Senate has rejected a budget bill passed by the Republican-led House of Representatives, with just hours to go to avert a US government shutdown. The Democratic-led Senate voted 54-46 against the bill, which would fund the government only if President Obama's healthcare law were delayed a year.

If no agreement is reached by midnight , the government will close all non-essential federal services.
The shutdown would be the first in the US in 17 years.  More than 700,000 federal government workers could be sent home on unpaid leave, with no guarantee of back pay once the deadlock is over.

One of the key points of contention in the political stalemate has been President Obama's healthcare program, popularly known as Obamacare. Republicans in the House of Representatives - and their allies in the Senate - have demanded the law be repealed or stripped of funding as a condition for continuing to fund the government. Major portions of the law, which passed in 2010 and has been validated by the US Supreme Court, are due to take effect on Tuesday.

After the Senate vote on Monday afternoon, the chamber's Democratic majority leader blamed Republicans for the imminent halt to all non-essential government operations.
"It will be a Republican government shutdown, pure and simple," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, referring to the Republicans as "bullies".
"We are not going to negotiate on this. We have done everything we can to be fair and reasonable."

Following Mr Reid's pledge, Republican House Speaker John Boehner told reporters his chamber would re-evaluate the proposal on Monday evening. But he said a budget bill that did not include the provision to delay the health law was "not going to happen".

In addition to the threat of a shutdown, a second fiscal deadline is approaching in the coming weeks. On or about October 17th, the US government will reach the limit at which it can borrow money to pay its bills, the so-called debt ceiling. House Republicans have demanded a series of policy concessions - notably on the president's health law and financial and environmental regulations - in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

Although there were no reports that negotiations over either the budget or the debt ceiling were underway on Monday, Mr Obama said he was "not at all resigned" to a government shutdown.

 
But he warned there could not be "any kind of meaningful negotiations under the cloud of potential default" on the government's debt.
"Our currency is the reserve currency of the world," Mr Obama said after an Oval Office meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"We don't mess with that. And we certainly don't allow domestic policy differences on issues that are unrelated to the budget to endanger not only our economy but the world economy."

The Republican leadership in the House are not stupid. But they are dominated by their radicals.
Any backing away from confrontation could brand John Boehner an Obama-loving apostate, and cost him his job. The same goes for his members who don't want to be deselected in primary elections.
This is not about ideology. The Republicans in the House are all conservatives, all hate "Obamacare" and think government spending is irresponsibly out of hand.

This is about strategy. It is an argument between those Republicans who want to rush to the barricades and go down in a blaze of glory and those who think it is a pointless charge but don't want to be labelled traitors or cowards. Also, as usual, they are gunning for the man and any legislation he may support, instead of being focused on the financial stability of their country and the world.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Ask Maxy

Dear Maxy ,
My wife invited her 56-year-old-sister  to stay at our house  for a couple of days  and we gave her total access to the house . I needed to check my emails  and I went to the reading room where  the family computer  is located  . When I opened the door, I was shocked to see what was on the computer . My sister-in-law was watching  an adult movie . I wanted to yell at her, but my mouth shut beccause of the shock . After I got my composure, I told my sister-in-law  that she cannot use our family  computer  without supervision . I do not have the time  to supervise  an adult  while she  surfs the Internet . I like my sister-in-law  and I want her  to continue  to feel comfortable in our home . How can I prevent anyone  from visiting  inapropriate  adult content  on my family's computer ? My wife and I do not appreciate  porn  and do not ever have it in out home .
Computer blue

Dear Computer Blue ,
You can put parental controls  on your computer  to ensure that no one can access adult content  or any other content  that you deem inappropriate for your  home . Go to ehow.com/how_6780583_put-parental-controls-laptop.html  for instructions . if you regularly have houseguests , you may want to tell them to bring their own computer. Or, you can put  a label on the home computer  saying  "Please limit your Internet usage  to X,Y, and Z."
These measures could be extreme though . It could be that your sister-in-law is an anomaly . You may simple need  to deal with her directly  and make it clear  to her that she crossed the line  and you do not appreciate it . Chances  are she is embarrassed  by being caught  watching pornography , so you do not need  to beat her over  the head with he transgression .
Maxy

Dear Maxy ,
My threee-year-old son is starting pre-school in a few weeks  and he is excited  about going  to school . He can use the bathroom  on his own, but I am wondering  if I should pack a few diapers  in his book bag  to prevent  any potential accidents .
Momma's Boy

Dear Momma's Boy
Contact the preschool  and ask what the policy is . They may suggest that you not send diapers  and talk to your son  about being  a big boy  and remembering  to ask to  go to the bathroom . Or they may suggest  that you pack  diapers  and give them to the teacher  without your son seeing them, so that extras  are on hand  in case  of an accident  but your child  doesn't know that crutch is there . Most important  is for you  to make sure your son is comfortable  as he takes  this big step .
Maxy

Dear Maxy,
I witnessed a huge argument  between my brother and his wife when we last visited. What was weird is that the next day  they acted like nothing had happened . I am single, in part, because this kind of stuff runs me crazy . How can you love someone  one minute  and hate her guts the next minute . I don't understand it . I want to ask my brother  but I know that their marital issues are none of my business . Do you understand this ?
Single and Perplexed

Dear Singlr and Perplexed.
Married people  argue  just like friends argue . For those  who have been married long enough, it is likely that they have weathered any number of storms  where they did not agree . What happens afterwards  is what truly counts  after an argument . How people address the issue  that brought on the flare, how they talk to each other  in the heat of the moment  and how they mend fences  are the key . You argue without being mean which is ideal . It is possible to apologize  and make up . Further, you can love someone forever  but not like the person from time to time . As you look for a healthy  bond, pay attention  to how you disagree  and come back to a loving place . If you cannot do that, you will not be successful in the long term .
Maxy

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Nobel Prize Winning IPCC Panel Worried About Temperature Increases....Please Watch IPCC Video


The Moon hovers Earth's atmosphere as seen from the International Space Station

Scientists are concerned it will be difficult to stay below the 2 degrees Celsius limit
 
The latest update on the state of the world's climate will be released on Friday in Stockholm, Sweden. Scientists and government officials from 195 countries have been meeting all week ahead of the publication from the UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report will detail the physical evidence behind global warming. Delegates were discussing late into the night on Thursday the final wording of a summary for policymakers.
 

What is the IPCC?

In its own words, the IPCC is there "to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts".

The offspring of two UN bodies, the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program, it has issued four heavyweight assessment reports to date on the state of the climate.

These are commissioned by the governments of 195 countries, essentially the entire world. These reports are critical in informing the climate policies adopted by these governments. The IPCC itself is a small organization, run from Geneva with a full time staff of 12. All the scientists who are involved with it do so on a voluntary basis.

Drafts of this dense, complex document indicate that scientists are more convinced than ever that the planet is warming and that humans are responsible for the majority of it, especially over the past 50 years. This message is likely to be backed up by improved observations of changes in polar ice, sea level and temperature.

Prof Jean Pascal van Ypersele, the vice-chairman of the IPCC, emphasized that the panel's statements were robust, and raised the concern that the target of staying below a 2 degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures was becoming increasingly difficult to attain.
"Any reasonable scientist has to be more worried if they have to answer the question of how to stabilize climate to a level of warming that is not considered dangerous by policymakers."

Politicians made a decision in 2009 at the Copenhagen climate conference to try to limit long-term global average temperature increases to 2C. This, it was said, was the point above which dangerous changes to the planet would occur. Prof van Ypersele said the world passed a significant milestone on the road to a 2 degrees Celsius rise when the concentration in the atmosphere of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide went through the 400 parts per million mark last May.

"That number is a measure of the duvet we have around the Earth. As long as its thickness is increasing, I don't see how we can't be worried that it will become more and more difficult to achieve any stabilization target," he said.

Taking place in a former brewery, the talks were said to be making slow progress but delegates expressed optimism that the summary document would be published on time on Friday.
2007 IPCC Report...Please Watch 
 
 
 
 Dec 9, 2007
The IPCC report came as environment ministers prepared for the December-2007 Bali talks, where they were asked to agree to a two-year 'roadmap' of negotiations for accelerating cuts in greenhouse gases.
On current trends, it says, surging emissions of greenhouse gases will relentlessly warm earth's atmosphere, damaging ice and snow cover and causing the oceans to expand and thus rise. The impacts could be "abrupt or irreversible".
In such a scenario, humans would face wide-ranging misery in the form of crop failure, storm damage and ill health as drought, floods, cyclones, mosquito pests and water-borne disease would become more frequent or intensive. It's time for all of us to care about the future of our planet.
Get involved in an environmentally concerned group in your own community.


Stanislav Petrov: The man who saved the world

Stanislav Petrov

Stanislav Petrov says no-one would have blamed him if he'd just passed the information on

Thirty years ago, on 26 September 1983, the world was saved from potential nuclear disaster. In the early hours of the morning, the Soviet Union's early-warning systems detected an incoming missile strike from the United States. Computer readouts suggested several missiles had been launched. The protocol for the Soviet military would have been to retaliate with a nuclear attack of its own.

But duty officer Stanislav Petrov - whose job it was to register apparent enemy missile launches - decided not to report them to his superiors, and instead dismissed them as a false alarm. This was a breach of his instructions, a dereliction of duty. The safe thing to do would have been to pass the responsibility on, to refer up. But his decision may have saved the world.
"I had all the data [to suggest there was an ongoing missile attack]. If I had sent my report up the chain of command, nobody would have said a word against it".

Mr Petrov - who retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel and now lives in a small town near Moscow - was part of a well-trained team which served at one of the Soviet Union's early warning bases, not far from Moscow. His training was rigorous, his instructions very clear. His job was to register any missile strikes and to report them to the Soviet military and political leadership. In the political climate of 1983, a retaliatory strike would have been almost certain.

And yet, when the moment came, he says he almost froze in place.
"The siren howled, but I just sat there for a few seconds, staring at the big, back-lit, red screen with the word 'launch' on it", he says.

The system was telling him that the level of reliability of that alert was "highest". There could be no doubt. America had launched a missile.
"A minute later the siren went off again. The second missile was launched. Then the third, and the fourth, and the fifth. Computers changed their alerts from 'launch' to 'missile strike'," he says.

Mr Petrov smokes cheap Russian cigarettes as he relates the incidents he must have played over countless times in his mind.
"There was no rule about how long we were allowed to think before we reported a strike. But we knew that every second of procrastination took away valuable time; that the Soviet Union's military and political leadership needed to be informed without delay."

"All I had to do was to reach for the phone; to raise the direct line to our top commanders - but I couldn't move. I felt like I was sitting on a hot frying pan," he told us.

Soviet missiles on display in Moscow, 1989
Soviet protocol said the military should respond to a nuclear attack with one of its own

Although the nature of the alert seemed to be abundantly clear, Mr Petrov had some doubts.
Alongside IT specialists, like him, Soviet Union had other experts, also watching America's missile forces. A group of satellite radar operators told him they had registered no missiles.

But those people were only a support service. The protocol said, very clearly, that the decision had to be based on computer readouts. And that decision rested with him, the duty officer.

But what made him suspicious was just how strong and clear that alert was.
"There were 28 or 29 security levels. After the target was identified, it had to pass all of those 'checkpoints'. I was not quite sure it was possible, under those circumstances," says the retired officer.

Mr Petrov called the duty officer in the Soviet army's headquarters and reported a system malfunction. If he was wrong, the first nuclear explosions would have happened minutes later.
"Twenty-three minutes later I realized that nothing had happened. If there had been a real strike, then I would already know about it. It was such a relief," he says with a smile.

Now, 30 years on, Mr Petrov thinks the odds were 50-50. He admits he was never absolutely sure that the alert was a false one. He says he was the only officer in his team who had received a civilian education. "My colleagues were all professional soldiers, they were taught to give and obey orders," he told us. So, he believes, if somebody else had been on shift, the alarm would have been raised.

A few days later Mr Petrov received an official reprimand for what happened that night. Not for what he did, but for mistakes in the logbook. He kept silent for 10 years. "I thought it was shameful for the Soviet army that our system failed in this way," he says.

But, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the story did get into the press. Mr Petrov received several international awards.  But he does not think of himself as a hero.
"That was my job", he says. "But they were lucky it was me on shift that night."

Not all superheroes wear ballet tights and capes.

UN discusses Syria document text...... chemical weapons

UN Security Council


The UN Security Council has begun discussing a draft resolution on ridding Syria of chemical weapons after the US and Russia agreed the text. The vote in the 15-member Council could take place later on Friday, say diplomats at the UN in New York.

The agreement breaks a two-and-a-half year deadlock in the UN over Syria. It is seen as a key step in a US-Russia brokered plan earlier this month under which Syria agreed to disclose its arsenal and eliminate it by mid-2014.

Russia and China have three times blocked Western-backed resolutions in the Security Council against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The council began discussing the draft resolution last Friday. Ahead of the meeting, Moscow and Washington had disagreed over the wording of the draft.
 
In transmitting simultaneously to the Security Council and the General Assembly the report on the incident which took place on 21 August 2013 in the Ghouta area of Damascus (see annex), the Secretary-General expresses his profound shock and regret at the conclusion that chemical weapons were used on a relatively large scale, resulting in numerous casualties, particularly among civilians and including many children. THE SECRETARY -GENERAL CONDEMNS IN THE STRONGEST POSSIBLE TERMS THE USE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS and believes that this act is a war crimes and grave violation of the 1925 Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare and other relevant rules of customary international law. The international community has a moral responsibility to hold accountable those responsible and for ensuring that chemical weapons can never re-emerge as an instrument of warfare.
The US - backed by France and the UK - had pushed for a resolution carrying the threat of military action. Russia had opposed this. The five nations are permanent veto-wielding members of the council. But a deal was struck on Thursday.

The US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, tweeted: "Agreement reached w/Russia on UNSC [UN Security Council] Resolution legally obligating #Syria to give up CW [chemical weapons] they used on their people. Going to full UNSC tonight."
She added that the draft "establishes that Syria's use of CW is threat to international peace & security & creates a new norm against the use of CW".

British envoy Sir Mark Lyall Grant also described the document as "binding and enforceable".
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed that an agreement had been reached. He said it did not involve immediate enforcement under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, which allows the use of military force.

A second UN resolution authorizing such a move would be needed. Nevertheless, a senior official at the US state department described the agreement as a "breakthrough." The official - who was speaking on the condition of anonymity - said the document "makes absolutely clear that failure of the Assad regime to comply will have consequences".  US and Russian officials later said a vote on the proposed resolution could take place as early as on Friday evening.

Earlier this month Washington threatened the Syrian government with military action over a chemical weapons attack in the Ghouta area of Damascus on 21 August. A UN report on the attack published later confirmed that the nerve agent sarin had been used in a rocket attack there, although it did not apportion blame.

France, the UK and US insist the report clearly backs their stance that only the government forces were capable of carrying out the attack. Russia rejects this argument. Mr Lavrov has said that Moscow has "serious grounds" to believe the attack had been a provocation by rebel forces.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also says the opposition forces were to blame.  I don't think too many members of the UN are buying that version but...Isn't that what we expected him to say?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Chuckles

 
Two Communists met at a nudist colony. The first one turned to the other and asked, "Have you read Marx ?"
The second one replied, " Yes. I think it's the wicker furniture."

He offered  his honor.  She honored his offer.  And all night long he was honor and offer.

They sat upon the grassy bank. She was all aquiver. He undid her garter belt and her leg fell in the river.


Laugh!...Dammit!
 
 

 A man said to his wife one day, "I don't know how you can be so stupid and so beautiful at the same time."
The wife responded, "Allow me to explain. God made me beautiful so you would be attracted to me; God made me stupid so I would be attracted to you!"

 A man and his wife were having an argument about who should brew the coffee each morning.
The wife said, "You should do it, because you get up first, and then we don't have to wait as long to get our coffee."
The husband said, "You are in charge of cooking around here and you should do it, because that is your job, and I can just wait for my coffee."
Wife replies, "No, you should do it, it's in the Bible that the man should do the coffee."
Husband replies, "I can't believe that, show me."
So she fetched the Bible, and opened the New Testament and showed him at the top of several pages, that it indeed says.........."HEBREWS"


Teacher: Why are you late?
Webster: Because of the sign.
Teacher: What sign?
Webster: The one that says, "School Ahead, Go Slow."


'You should be ashamed,' the father told his son, Andy, 'When Abraham Lincoln was your age, he used to walk ten miles every day to get to school.'
'Really?' Andy responded. 'Well, when he was your age, he was president.'


Mike was late for school.
He said to his teacher, Mr Black: "Excuse me for being late, sir. I watched a football game in my dream."
Mr. Black: Why did that make you late?"
Mike: "Because the game was tied up and went into over-time."

 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

High School Student Wins Google Science Prize...Hollow Flashlight...No Battereies

 
Ann Makosinki, a high school student from Victoria, B.C., went all the way to the Google Science Fair this month with her project, the 'hollow flashlight', and she took home one of the top prizes of the fair.
 
The hollow flashlight she developed uses no batteries. It uses just the temperature difference between the palm of a person's hand and the air around them to, needing only a few degrees difference to generate electricity and produce light. This innovative idea is just one she has for the developing field of 'human energy harvesting' — gathering useful electricity from our movement and body heat, as we go about our daily lives.

Ann talks about her project in this video she supplied to the Google Science Fair judges:


 

Ann won the top prize in her 15-16 year age group, taking home a $25,000 scholarship from Google, a "once-in-a-lifetime experience" at Google, CERN or LEGO, a personalized LEGO kit, and digital access to the Scientific American archives for her school.

Speaking over the phone from the Google offices in Mountain View, California, Ann expressed her thanks to the judges for being so friendly and open. For other young people who are interested in science, she said the key is to find something that truly interests you and pursue it no matter what. The sense of accomplishment you get from performing science can be even greater than you get from the classroom.

As for what's next for Ann, she will be giving two TEDx talks in the near future — on September 28th in Redmond, Washington and October 19th in Vancouver — and she expressed a keen interest in attending TEDx events in more exotic locales as well. After that, she still has a few years left of high school, but she is very interested in pursuing more work with energy harvesting.
Given that her science hero is Nikola Tesla, probably one of the coolest scientists in history, Ann has an excellent role model to guide her inventive spirit. Now, with this prize from Google, it is sure to provide her with many opportunities to realize her potential, and for her to wow us with her accomplishments.




 
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Pope Francis...A Reformer and a Rebel?

Pope Francis poses for a photo after a meeting with youths in downtown Cagliari, Italy, 22 September 2013
The Pope has said he needs to "live his life with others"

On the eve of a crucial first meeting with a group of eight cardinals from around the world who are to be his permanent consultants, Pope Francis has pointed the way towards a less authoritarian future form of Church government, criticising "small-minded" Catholic rules.

The Pope has granted his first in-depth post-election interview to the editor of a prestigious Jesuit magazine published in Rome, Civilta Cattolica.  The interview reveals not only a remarkable change of tone at the Vatican, but an important shift of key. Pope Francis has added sharps and flats to papal teaching which show that, far from claiming infallibility, he is a person of great humility who has grown accustomed to living with his own past personal failings and mistakes.

In this, he offers a fresh vision of his currently beleaguered Church. He explains that he is following the will of the College of Cardinals who elected him Pope last March. His forthcoming meeting with the "Group of Eight" is going to be a "real consultation", not a mere talking shop, he says.
"There are ecclesiastical rules and precepts that were once effective, but have now lost value or meaning," he told his Jesuit interviewer, Father Antonio Spadaro.
He continued with unexpected candour: "My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative."

In this six-hour interview, Pope Francis explained quite vividly the reasons why, when he first set eyes upon the papal apartment on the top floor of the Apostolic Palace, he decided he could not live there.
"The papal apartment is old, tastefully decorated and large, but not luxurious.
"But in the end it is like an inverted funnel. It is big and spacious, but the entrance is really tight.
"People can come only in dribs and drabs, and I cannot live without people. I need to live my life with others."

Instead, the pope chose to live in the Domus Marthae, a residence for clerics and official Vatican guests close by Saint Peter's Basilica where he occupies a modest, three-roomed suite.
He takes his meals in a common dining room, using the formal papal quarters only for official receptions and meeting heads of state.
"The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials," Pope Francis said.
"I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds.


"Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds... And you have to start from the ground up."

The Pope's language is unlike anything heard coming out of the Vatican during recent papacies. It may not please some Catholics, and is certainly causing some degree of consternation among Vatican administrators accustomed to running things their way.
"The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent," Pope Francis concludes.
"The church's pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.
"We have to find a new balance. Otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards."
Sounds like the Pope is a rebel. He wants to get closer to his flock.  Maybe that's what the church needs; a pope who is more in tune with this century.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Honesty pays off for homeless Boston man and for a Virtuous Guy in Coruna, Spain

 


James said a medical condition made it hard for him to work, but God had always looked after him

Donations of more than $110,000 have poured in from across the US for a Boston homeless man who returned a lost bag with $42,000 in it. Glen James alerted police after he found the backpack containing cash and traveller's cheques last weekend, and the bag's owner was then tracked down.

A complete stranger later started an online fund for Mr James after reading media reports about his honesty. The man, Ethan Whittington, now plans to meet Mr James to give him the money. Mr Whittington, who lives in Midlothian, Virginia, said he was so overwhelmed by Mr James' honesty that he decided to start the fund.

"The fact that he's in the situation he is, being homeless, it blew my mind that he would do this,'' Mr Whittington was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. He said his idea of starting donations on a crowdfunding website for Mr James "caught on like wildfire ever since".
"It's brought me a lot of hope. This isn't only about rewarding a great guy. I think it's a statement to everyone in America."
"If we come together and work toward one thing, then we can make it happen."

Meanwhile, Mr James, a former Boston courthouse employee, said that he would not have kept "even a penny" of the money he had found in the backpack - even if he were desperate.

Lost, Winning Spanish lotto ticket, Found and handed in


Lottery tickets (file images)
 
The search for the ticket's real winner could take up to two years

A man who found a multi million-euro winning lottery ticket in La Coruna, Spain said he would not have been able to sleep if he had claimed the prize. Manuel Reija Gonzalez's discovery of the 4.7m-euro ( $6.3m) ticket has prompted a search for the real winner.
"I never for a moment thought about keeping it because I wanted to be able to sleep well at night with a clear conscience."

If the ticket's owner cannot be found, the money will go to Mr Reija Gonzalez. Authorities are not revealing exactly when or where in the north-western Spanish city the ticket for the 30 June 2012 draw was bought, so they can test the claims of people coming forward.

Reija Gonzalez, whose brother, father and grandfather worked for the Spanish lottery, according to local media, said he empathized with the person who lost it.
"Because here was somebody who had a problem forgetting his ticket and I put myself in his shoes, and it's the sort of thing I could have done. I thought the best thing to do was just to return the ticket."

He said he would be happy if the real winner was identified during the search, which could last up to two years.
"We're still in a phase where it's all just been made public in La Coruna so really, what will be, will be and I can't really tell you how I feel," he added.
"Here we have a phrase: it's God's will."

The ticket has now been advertised on the lost-and-found section of the city website - usually dominated by notices about mobile phones, keys and wallets. Mr Gonzalez may end up a very rich man, which proves (not...'honesty is the best policy' ...although that is no doubt true) but that some people are just damn lucky.

Leave Your Guns at Home ...Starbucks Requests


The debate concerning gun ownership and the right to carry arms in public areas continues to rage — and now Starbucks has added its own take, asking customers to refrain from carrying while in its coffee shops.

The coffee giant’s CEO, Howard Schultz, made the request in an open letter posted online on Tuesday and published in newspapers this week. The letter says that the chain has been “thrust unwillingly into the middle” of the gun debate, and now “respectfully requests” that consumers no longer bring firearms in to outlets or outdoor seating areas.

The chief executive says that Starbucks has always aimed to fill the gap between work and home, and wants to offer a “safe and comfortable respite from the concerns of daily life.” While Schultz realizes there is a sensitive balance between rights and responsibilities surrounding U.S. gun laws, the executive says that in states which support “open carry” laws — which allows the general public to openly carry a firearm in public — the debate has now become “increasingly uncivil and, in some cases, even threatening.”

As a result, the “safe respite” of Starbucks may be threatened, and so the company wants customers to leave their weapons at home, unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel — whether the state in question permits carrying firearms openly or not.

The CEO clarifies that this is a request, rather than an outright ban. The executive says he knows he cannot satisfy everyone, gun owners should be given the right to respect the firm’s wishes, and more importantly, “enforcing a ban would potentially require our partners to confront armed customers, and that is not a role I am comfortable asking Starbucks partners to take on.”

A handful of retailers have banned the open carrying of firearms. While pressure has been placed on the coffee chain to do the same, gun rights advocates have celebrated Starbucks’ past position with “Starbucks Appreciation Days.”

Schultz, however, says that both sides of the argument have been using the coffee chain as a staging ground, “mischaracterizing [Starbucks] as being on one side of the issue or the other.”

Sunday, September 22, 2013

US House passes budget bill that would defund healthcare law

Speaker of the House John Boehner and other House Republican members hold a rally at the US Capitol on 20 September 2013

House Republican members, including Speaker John Boehner, rally at the US Capitol after passing a temporary funding measure on Friday


US lawmakers have passed a budget bill that would keep the government operating, while defunding President Barack Obama's healthcare law. The Republican-led House of Representatives voted 230-189, largely along party lines, in favour of the controversial measure.

The Democratic-controlled Senate has promised to strip the "defund Obamacare" provision next week. Mr Obama vowed to veto the bill in the unlikely event it ever gets that far. During a speech at a vehicle factory in Liberty, Missouri, on Friday, he criticized Republicans for the vote.
"They're focused on politics, they're focused on trying to mess with me," he told his audience. "They're not focused on you."

The government faces a potential shutdown on 1 October if Congress and the White House do not agree on a temporary budget measure.


President Obama used a vehicular metaphor to frame the US budget situation


A temporary bill is needed because Washington's longstanding budget stalemate has derailed the annual bills that would set the country's budget. A government shutdown would delay pay for federal workers, including some military members, send non-essential employees home, close national parks and shut passport offices.

But programs like air traffic control, food inspection and the US border agency would keep running.
The Republican-sponsored stopgap bill proposes funding federal agencies at an annualized rate of more than $986bn, but includes a provision that strips federal funding for the Affordable Care Act.
Also known as Obamacare, the 2010 law requires businesses with more than 50 workers to provide health insurance to all their full-time staff, or pay a series of increasingly severe penalties.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has called for an end to the law because it "is turning our full-time economy into a part-time economy".

On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Republicans were "simply postponing for a few days the inevitable choice" between passing a bill without the provision or forcing a government shutdown.
"The Affordable Care Act has been the law of the land for three years," he said in a statement. "The Senate will not pass any bill that defunds or delays Obamacare."

The US also faces a deadline to raise the debt ceiling, which authorizes the US treasury to borrow up to a set limit. In Missouri on Friday, Mr Obama said that if Congress fails to raise that level, "the United States will default on its obligations". "Basically, America becomes a deadbeat."

Mr Obama has said he will not be forced into making concessions as he did during the 2011 debt crisis, where he accepted a $2.1 trillion spending cut over a decade.

Tribe Meets White Man for First Time...Original Footage From 1976... Charming

 
 
  
The Toulambi (filmed in 1976)
The footage has been edited and shortened from long version
 
A tribe in Papua New Guinea meets  a white man for the first time. They have never seen modern civilization, or any modern technology.
 In 1976 the team of Jean-Pierre Dutilleaux explorer and ethnographer had the privilege of contacting
the Toulambis a tribe that had never seen a white man, or had been involved with the outside world.
Jean-Pierre was born in Malmedy, Belgium is director, anthropologist, explorer and defender of Aboriginal rights.

In 1973 he made his first contact with the hostile tribe Txuccaramaes (those who hit with stick strokes) of the Kayapo, the savage heart of Matto Grosso. There, he almost lost his life in the hands of the tribe; the chief, Raoni, saved his life .
Since that time, Jean Pierre dedicated his career to saving the territory of this tribe, making a world tour with the chief Raoni where they were received  by leaders, royalty and Pope John Paul II.
Raoni's message was "My name is Raoni, I am the chief of the Kayapo. People are destroying the forest, are wiping out wildlife, fatally wounding my people, killing the Earth. Help me, before it is too late! "
Dutellieux visited the most remote places in search of primitive tribes, such as the Toulambis living in the Stone Age and being decimated by logging of their forests, and diseases like malaria.

The footage is moving and poetic and appears to be authentic. More information about Dutilleux's films can be found on his website.

His film was first aired on French TV in the mid1990's. Perhaps because it has not been widely shown to English-speaking audiences, it has aroused keen interest and many favourable comments since its recent Youtube posting.

This controversial film also has been the subject of much scholarly debate in the Francophone world.
There have been claims that it was faked. Judge it for yourself.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Blackberry cuts 4500 jobs...The End is in Sight

 
BlackBerry's grim outlook   
 
BlackBerry says it will cut 4,500 jobs across its operations, and expects to report a second-quarter loss of between $950 million to $995 million US when it issues its financial results next week.
After a brief trading halt, shares in the troubled smartphone maker tumbled 16 per cent, or $1.74, to close at $9.08 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, close to its 52-week low of $6.10. 

The Waterloo, Ont-based company aims to cut its operating costs in half by the end of the first quarter of 2015, the company said in a statement. That will involve restructuring and a streamlined smartphone portfolio consisting of just four products – two high-end devices and two entry-level devices aimed at professional users. Once a leader in the smartphone market, BlackBerry expects to report sales of 3.7 million phones in the quarter. That compares with Samsung's 71.3 million phones and Apple's 31.9 million phones in the same quarter.
 
The company confirmed the poor performance of the Z10 devices released earlier this year, saying it expects a “non-cash, pre-tax charge against inventory and supply commitments in the second quarter of approximately $930 million to $960 million, which is primarily attributable to BlackBerry Z10 devices.”
 
The Z10 smartphones were well-received by critics but have sold poorly in many of BlackBerry’s key markets, including the U.S. The company had anticipated an operating loss in the second quarter, but the adjusted net loss is much higher than anticipated at 51 cents a share, three times the expected loss of 16 cents 

​BlackBerry said it will re-tier the Z10 smartphone to make it available to a broader, entry-level audience and develop the next Z30 as a high-tier smartphone. BlackBerry president Thorsten Heins said the announced changes were “difficult, but necessary.”

“Going forward, we plan to refocus our offering on our end-to-end solution of hardware, software and services for enterprises and the productive, professional end user. This puts us squarely on target with the customers that helped build BlackBerry into the leading brand today for enterprise security, manageability and reliability," he said. 
The nearly $1-billion write-down of inventory is a move calculated to attract a buyer for the troubled company which signaled in August it might be looking for a buyer.
 
 
hi-blackberry10-852-8col

BlackBerry's Z10 was well-received by critics but has sold poorly in key markets including the U.S. 
 
BGC analyst Colin Gillis in New York said the company might be more interesting to a prospective buyer, now that that it has announced the restructuring. Gillis thinks it's possible BlackBerry could survive as a much smaller player. At the end of the second quarter, the company had total cash and investments of about $2.6 billion and no debt.
"That's probably the feedback they've been getting. They don't do all this if you have a buyer lined up," Gillis said.
"Some of the actions may have been driven by feedback by potential buyers down the road. Nobody wants to come in and buy the company and hold an all hands meeting and say, ‘By the way, half of you are fired.’"
 
Massive cuts to the hardware business, where BlackBerry has lost market share to Samsung and Apple, could help the firm refocus on its well-regarded messaging software.

Serious decline

At their peak in the fall of 2009, BlackBerry's smartphones enjoyed global market share of over 20 per cent, says Mike Walkley, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity. Their piece of the pie has since evaporated to just 1.5 per cent.
The company, once called Research in Motion, laid off 5,000 employees last year.
BlackBerry has lost the smartphone wars and is now "toast" said Felix Salmon, who writes a financial blog for Reuters, in an interview with CBC's Lang & O'Leary Exchange.
“I would say than losing $1 billion would count in most people’s books as serious decline, not to mention 4,500 [layoffs]. You can’t cut your way to growth, you can cut your way to adoption," he said.
"I believe this is the beginning of the end of people walking around with BlackBerrys in their pocket.”
 
How is the city of Waterloo (Home of Blackberry)  responding to the demise of the company?? Watch video.
 


Ex-Wall Street CEOs still living large

Five years after Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy plunged the global economy into chaos, over 11 million Americans remain unemployed including nearly all Wall Street CEOs at the center of the crisis.  But none of the executives have faced any criminal charges nor appear to be suffering for their contributions to the worst recession since the Great Depression.

 

 Quite the contrary. The former CEOs of Wall Street’s biggest firms circa 2008 are “living in quiet luxury,” according to a report this week by The Center for Public Integrity.  The 5 former CEOs examined by the Center – Dick Fuld (Lehman Brothers) Jimmy Cayne (Bear Stearns), Stanley O’Neal (Merrill Lynch), Chuck Prince (Citigroup) and Ken Lewis (Bank of America) -- took home nearly $1.5 billion in total compensation from 2000 to 2008.

 And Yet Congress is attempting to cut five billion dollars from the 'Food Stamp' budget
 
 
Jimmy Cayne
Former CEO Bear Stearns

Compensation at Bear Stearns*
(2000-2007):

Cash bonuses:
$87.5 Million
Sale of Bear Stearns stock:
$289.1 Million
Total: $376.6 million

Real Estate:
Apartment in New York’s Plaza Hotel
(Est. value $25M)
Apartment on Park Avenue in NYC
(Est. value $14.95M)
Beach house, Deal, NJ
(Est. Value $8.2M)
Condo, Boca Beach Club, Boca Raton, Fla
(Est. value $2.75M)

Source: Center for Public Integrity
*Study by Harvard Professor Lucian
...
 
 
 
Richard Fuld
Former CEO Lehman Brothers

*Compensation at Lehman
(2000-2007):
$529 Million

Real Estate:
9-bedroom mansion in Greenwich, Conn.
(Est. value: $8M)
40-plus-acre ranch in Sun Valley, Idaho
5-bedroom home in Jupiter Island, Fla. 
(Est. value: $10.6M)
Park Avenue apartment,
NYC: Sold for $25.87M (2009)

Current Employment:
Matrix Advisors
(clients include AT&T, GlyEco, Ecologic Transportation)

Source: Center for Public Integrity, SEC Filings
 
 
 
Stanley O’Neal
Former CEO Merrill Lynch


Compensation at Merrill
(2000-2007):

Cash salary and bonuses:
$68.4 million
Sale of Merrill stock:
$18.7 million
Exit package:
$161.5 million
Total: $248.6 million

Real Estate:

Park Avenue apartment in NYC
(Est. value $10.75 million)
Home in Edgartown, MA on Martha's Vineyard
(Est. value $12.4 million)

Current Employment:
Alcoa Inc. Board of Directors ($221,000*)

Source: Center for Public Integrity, SEC Filings
 
 
Charles "Chuck" Prince
Former CEO Citigroup


Compensation at Citi
(2000-2007):

Cash salary + bonuses:
$65.2 Million
Exit Package: $33.6 Million
Total: $98.8 million

Real Estate:
Home in Nantucket, Mass.
(Estimated value $3.6 Million)
House in Lost Tree Village, North Palm Beach, Fla.
(Est. value $2.7 Million)
Current Employment:
Xerox Corp. Board of Directors ($195,000*)
Johnson & Johnson Board of Directors ($257,474*)
Speaker-for-Hire, Harry Walker Agency
 
 
 
Kenneth Lewis
Former CEO of Bank of America

Compensation at Bank of America
(2000-2008):

Salary and bonuses:
$52.4 million
Sale of Bank of America stock:
$86.4 million
Exit package:
$83 million
Total: $221.8 million


Real Estate:
Condo, Naples, Fla.
(Est. value $4.1 million)
House in Charlotte, NC
(Sold in 2013 for $3.15 million)
Vacation home Aspen, CO.
(Sold in 2012 for $13.5 million)

Source: Center for Public Integrity

 

Friday, September 20, 2013