Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Earth-sized World Composed of Lava Discovered

Off we go into deep space again to marvel at it's wonders and be awed by it's power

Karen Teramura

A doomed "lava world" with a similar mass and density to that of Earth has been discovered orbiting a star 400 light-years away.

Observations suggest the planet, named Kepler 78b, is composed mostly of rock and iron, much like our own planet. But its extremely close proximity to its host star - a hundredth of the distance between the Earth and the Sun - remains something of a puzzle.

From theory, astronomers expect the planet to be tidally locked to its host star, which means that one side is permanently facing in, and the other side permanently facing away. Temperatures on Kepler 78b's "dayside" - the side of the planet facing its star - are a searing 2,000C-2,800C, far too hot to support life.
"I think it's safe to say that the surface on the 'dayside' is molten," Josh Winn, associate professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), explained.
But he added: "Nobody has really calculated whether or not we expect the 'nightside' to be molten (we do not know the temperature of the nightside), nor how far down the molten layer is expected to go within the planet."

The hot Earth-twin belongs to a new class of "ultrashort period" planets recently identified by the now-defunct Kepler space telescope. These newfound worlds all complete one circuit of their host star in less than 12 hours.

But according to current theories of planet formation, Kepler 78b could not have formed so close to its star, nor could it have moved there.

Laurie Hatch
One of the teams made observations with the Keck Observatory on Hawaii

Dimitar Sasselov, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said: "Kepler 78b is going to end up in the star very soon, astronomically speaking.
"It couldn't have formed in place because you can't form a planet inside a star. It couldn't have formed further out and migrated inward, because it would have migrated all the way into the star. This planet is an enigma."

Kepler 78b's orbit and size have been determined by analyzing the light given off by the star as the planet transits, or passes in front as viewed from Earth. The researchers detected a transit each time the star's light dipped, and measured this dimming to determine the planet's size. This was possible because the bigger an exoplanet is, the more light it blocks.

But measuring the planet's mass involved tracking the motion of the star itself. Depending on its mass, a planet can exert a gravitational tug on its star. This stellar motion can be detected as a very slight wobble, known as a Doppler shift.

The results suggest Kepler 78b is about 1.2 times the size of Earth, and 1.7 times as massive. From the same measurements, the astronomers calculated the planet's density as 5.3 grams per cubic centimetre, close to the 5.5 grams per cubic centimetre value for Earth. These results provide strong evidence for Kepler 78b's rocky composition.

Dr Winn said the fact that two independent teams of scientists came to similar conclusions about the alien world added confidence to the measurement. Kepler-78b is probably a doomed world, researchers explained. Gravitational tides are expected to draw it ever closer to its star.

Eventually it will move so close that the star's gravity will rip the planet apart, vanishing within three billion years.


Artist's impression of an exoplanet
  • An exoplanet exists outside our Solar System
  • Many of those found so far are large planets believed to resemble Jupiter or Neptune
  • The first exoplanet was discovered in 1992, orbiting a pulsar
  • A few years later, the planet 51 Pegasi B was found orbiting a star similar to the Sun
  • Hundreds of extrasolar planets have been confirmed since, and thousands more "candidates" await confirmation

 Kepler space telescope mission
An illustration of Kepler
  • Launched in 2009, the Kepler space telescope was on a mission to find Earth-like worlds orbiting distant stars
  • It worked by detecting periodic variations in the brightness of stars caused by orbiting exoplanets passing in front of them
  • In January 2013, astronomers used Kepler's data to estimate that there are at least 17 billion Earth-sized exoplanets in the Milky Way Galaxy
NASA has announced that its Kepler space telescope is stuck in standby mode, but one professor is already coming up with ideas to try and revive the observatory. Scott Hubbard, a consulting professor of aeronautics and astronautics, helped guide the Kepler mission when he served as director of NASA Ames Research Center. He has devised a few plans for the space agency that could potentially help bring the planet-hunting spacecraft back to life.
NASA said its Kepler spacecraft was sitting in safe mode, possibly putting an end to its mission. The observatory went into a Thruster-Controlled Safe Mode and the space agency hasn’t been too optimistic about being able to bring it back online. Hopefully, Professor Hubbard  will come up with the answer.

Obama: I take full responsibility for fixing health site

 President Obama has accepted "full responsibility" for ensuring the troubled healthcare website gets fixed. Speaking in Boston, he said he was "not happy" about the glitch-laden project, but made a strong defence of the broader 2010 healthcare law. Earlier, his embattled health secretary apologized to the American people over the botched website rollout.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the largest overhaul of the US healthcare system since the 1960s. Commonly known as Obamacare, it aims to extend health insurance coverage to the estimated 15% of the American population who lack it. But a key element of the law, the federal website where consumers can shop for health insurance plans, has been plagued by malfunctions since its launch on 1 October.

Mr Obama said in Wednesday's speech: "There's no denying it - right now the website is too slow. Too many people have gotten stuck. And I'm not happy it about it. And neither are a lot of Americans who need healthcare."

Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: "I am as frustrated and angry as anyone with the flawed launch"

He added: "So there's no excuse for it. And I take full responsibility for making sure it gets fixed ASAP. We are working overtime to improve it every day."
He spoke in Boston, Massachusetts, a state that in 2006 introduced a groundbreaking healthcare law that inspired the Obama administration's own nationwide overhaul. "Massachusetts has shown the model works," he said.

Mr Obama also touted the other benefits of the law, including government subsidies for health insurance premiums and ending insurance discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions or mental health issues. He also took a swipe at Republicans, who view the health law as a costly and inappropriate government intrusion into healthcare, and have sought to undo or undermine it at every turn.
"If they put as much energy into making sure the law works as they do attacking the law, Americans would be better off," the Democratic president said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a House of Representatives committee that she was to blame for the website's problems."Hold me accountable for the debacle," she said. "I'm responsible."

Addressing Americans, Ms Sebelius said: "You deserve better. I apologize. I'm accountable to you for fixing these problems." She acknowledged the website experience was "frustrating" for many, but said it would be fully up and running by the end of November.

Some Republicans have demanded she resign over the issue. They argue that the website's faults reflect broader problems with the healthcare law. Committee chairman Fred Upton, a Republican, called the website "inept", saying that five weeks into enrolment, "the news seems to get worse by the day". The committee's senior Democrat, Henry Waxman, acknowledged "the launch of the new website has not gone well", but he said the "early glitches will soon be forgotten".

Mr Upton also questioned why hundreds of thousands of Americans had received letters from their insurance companies saying their policies were being cancelled - despite past assurances from Mr Obama that people who liked their insurance plans would be able to keep them under the health law.
Ms Sebelius rejected that criticism, saying that those whose plans were dropped would have access under the new law to better insurance coverage at comparable rates.

Aside from establishing the federal insurance marketplace homepage and parallel websites run by 14 states plus Washington DC, the law bolsters coverage requirements for insurance firms, mandates that individuals carry insurance or pay a tax penalty, and offers subsidies to assist in the purchase of the insurance. It also expands eligibility for the Medicaid healthcare program for the poor in states where governors have agreed to it.

Amid the fallout, the White House has said it will grant a six-week extension - until 31 March 2014 - in the healthcare law's requirement for individuals to buy insurance or face a tax penalty. problems
  • Long sign-in wait times
  • Log-in difficulties
  • Insurance account creation problems
  • Slow page loads
  • Inadequate testing of security controls prior to system launch
  • Service outages
  • Crashes in data hub linking Obamacare system to Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies
  • Inadequate server capacity

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Captain's lover was on bridge....Testimony at Costa Concordia trial

Domnica Cemortan testified at Francesco Schettino's trial, as Alan Johnston reports

A Moldovan dancer who was on the bridge of the Costa Concordia with Captain Francesco Schettino has admitted she was his lover at his trial. Domnica Cemortan testified that she was in a romantic relationship with the captain and was with him when the cruise ship ran aground off the north-west Italian coast.

Capt Schettino faces multiple charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship. The January 2012 tragedy killed 32 people. The captain faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Ms Cemortan has been the subject of intense media interest. On the night the Costa Concordia ran aground, she had dinner with the captain before he invited her to join him on the bridge as he oversaw what was meant to be a close sail-past of the little Tuscan island of Giglio. Local press have speculated the captain may have been distracted by her presence, or even showing off.

In court, Ms Cemortan acknowledged after being pressed that they had been romantically involved. She had boarded the ship as a non-paying passenger hours before the crash, she said, adding: "When you are someone's lover, no-one asks you for a ticket." She subsequently dismissed the remark as a joke to her translator.

She said she had worked for the company that operated the Costa Concordia for about three weeks in December 2011, and had met Capt Schettino on a previous cruise.

Capt Francesco Schettino is shown leaving his trial in a September file photo
Capt Francesco Schettino blamed his Indonesian helmsman for steering the ship onto rocks

After the ship hit the rocks, Ms Cemortan said the captain urged her to "save herself".  She told court that she helped other passengers to abandon ship before getting into a lifeboat herself.

The court is expected to hear evidence from about 1,000 surviving passengers and crew during Capt Schettino's trial. In testimony earlier in the day, ship maitre d' Antonello Tievoli told the court in Grossetto, Tuscany, that he had asked the captain if he could sail close to the island of Giglio because he has family there, the news agency AP reported.

The captain obliged on January 6th, but was apparently disappointed with the result, and ordered the ship's helmsman to plot a closer route for next time. A week later, the ship ran aground on rocks after veering too close to the island, with 3,206 passengers and 1,023 crew aboard.

The captain has acknowledged fault in the tragedy, but his defence team is arguing the ship sank in part because watertight doors did not function on the ship. He also told the court in late September that his Indonesian helmsman was to blame for steering the ship onto rocks and ignoring orders to slow down.

The route of the Costa Concordia

However, an Italian naval expert told the court these were not crucial factors and the crash would have happened anyway.  The helmsman, Jacob Rusli Bin, is one of five employees who were granted plea bargains in return for mild sentences in a separate proceeding. He was given a sentence of one year and eight months.

The 290m-long vessel was righted last month in one of the largest, most complex salvage operations ever that took 18 hours and followed months of stabilization and preparation work by a team of 500 engineers and divers.  That operation allowed divers to retrieve the remains of one of the two people still missing in the disaster, a young waiter. An Italian passenger, Maria Grazia Trecarichi, is still unaccounted for.

Plans are now being made to attempt to dispose of the wreckage next year.

The Costa Concordia after it was brought upright in September
The Costa Concordia was righted in September

Monday, October 28, 2013

Maxy and Mr. O.

Maxy tells the Prez like it is

Dear Mr. O.,
First of all, I would like to thank you for the box of Milkbones; very thoughtful. But next time, how about sending a nice piece of prime rib - medium rare? Just throw it in a doggie bag and FedEx it.

Soooo, what are you doing about climate change?  Sorry to put a flea in your ear, but according to Mr Gore, you've done bupkus. If you think the only important issue at present is health are barking up the wrong tree. What good is being healthy if you can't go outside and have precious little to eat?  You say, 'that won't happen during my administration'. True, but you can't bury this bone in your backyard, Mr.O.  It is not going away. You have to, at least, start to implement change. Then the next guy who gets your job will take it further and the guy after him.

You can't just go to a summit every few years and walk away without resolving anything, just because China is being an arf-hole. China will always be an arf-hole. They don't know the meaning of the word co-operation, unless it involves trade. They still don't understand that the world operates on an.... 'I'll sniff your butt if you sniff mine'.....basis.

It ain't rocket science. Forget China and make an accord with the countries who are concerned about the increasingly violent climate changes. Implement some energy saving legislation, stiff penalties for greenhouse gas emissions and  make people  aware of and reduce their carbon footprints.

Now, here is where you really fall down on the job. You are calling for more drilling in American territories and bringing a doggone pipeline in from Canada. How is that going to encourage people to stop using fossil fuels or inspire anyone to invent an alternative fuel?

Ten woofs for Mr. Gore who says it better than anyone - and I quote:

"President Obama has never presented to the American people the magnitude of the climate crisis. He has not defended the science against the ongoing withering and dishonest attacks. Nor has he provided a presidential venue for the scientific community … to bring the reality of the science before the public.”

“… President Obama has thus far failed to use the bully pulpit to make the case for bold action on climate change. After successfully passing his green stimulus package, he did nothing to defend it when Congress decimated its funding. After the House passed cap and trade, he did little to make passage in the Senate a priority. Senate advocates — including one Republican — felt abandoned  when the president made concessions to oil and coal companies without asking for anything in return. He has also called for a massive expansion of oil drilling in the United States, apparently in an effort to defuse criticism from those who argue speciously that “drill, baby, drill” is the answer to our growing dependence on foreign oil.
Well, there you have it Mr. O. It's time to be a bulldog on climate issues not a political lapdog.

So you think it's lame to let a dog talk to the president? Maybe you're right, but dogs don't stand on ceremony and we've never heard of protocol or etiquette. We just say and do what's on our minds. Bye now, I have to go lick my balls.


Philip Chism's Mother Broken Hearted... Town and Students Mourn

Mourning: Hundreds of students, parents and fellow teachers attended the memorial service for Colleen Ritzer in Danvers Wednesday night
 Mourning: Hundreds of students, parents and fellow teachers attended the memorial
service for Colleen Ritzer in Danvers Wednesday night

The mother of the Massachusetts teenager accused of killing his teacher inside a school bathroom says she is brokenhearted over the educator's death and seeks prayers for her son. Diana Chism also asked for prayers for the family of slain Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer, saying her 'heart is broken for the Ritzer family and the loss of their daughter and sister', in a statement released by her son's attorney.

Fourteen-year-old Philip Chism is being held without bail on charges he killed Ritzer after school Tuesday, then dumped her body in the woods behind the school.
'Ms. Chism would like you to know that her son was born in love and is dear to her, very dear,' said the statement released by defense attorney Denise Regan.
'She asks that you know that she cares for the world's hurt over this and greatly hopes for your prayers for the Ritzer family, the Danvers community, for her son, and all those affected by this tragedy.'

School sweetheart: Hannah Walker (center) and Philip Chism were extremely close before he left for Massachusetts with his family
School sweetheart: Hannah Walker (center) and Philip Chism were extremely close
before he left for Massachusetts with his family
On Friday a former girlfriend of Chism expressed her shock at the teen's alleged slaying of Ritzer. Chism dated 14-year-old Hannah Walker in his hometown of Clarkesville, Tennessee. Chism moved with his family to Danvers, Massachussetts in July this year.
As students from Danvers High School returned to class for the first time since the slaying of teacher Colleen Ritzer, Walker described the boy she knew.
"I know people are like, "You’re only in middle school, you’re too young for love." But I fell in love with him over a long period of time," she told the Boston Globe.
Walker says she and Chism became friends in sixth grade. They became close over  the period of a year and walked home together every day. She would steal his hat so that he'd come looking for it and once, they danced in the rain after they got off the school bus. "I remember it like it was yesterday."  Walker says she was heartbroken when Chism left Tennessee.  Before he left, Chism told Walker that he loved her.

According to neighbors, Chism was traumatized by the move and had maintained hope that his mother would change her mind even as she drove him and his sister north in her van. The Boston Globe reports that Chism was well-known around his Clarkesville neighborhood, had a lot of friends and could often be found playing soccer or basketball or riding his skateboard.

Despite his reluctance to leave, students at Danvers High School report that Chism had settled into student life, doing well academically and excelling as a leading scorer on the school soccer team.

Chism's uncle, Terence Chism Blaine, says he doesn't believe his nephew could have killed Ritzer.
"They probably have a mistaken identity. I believe what will happen is they will clear him of these charges," he told the Boston Globe. Walker concurs: "Philip has never been the guy to get angry. He takes all his anger out on his skateboarding. Someone doesn’t just wake up one day and say, "I’m gonna kill my teacher."

 Records show that Chism's parents had separated and had filed for divorce when he was two years old. The divorce agreement states that his father, Stacy Chism, was to have restricted access to his children due to "physical abuse, sexual abuse, or a pattern of emotional abuse." Stacy Chism is believed to live in Florida and has not been in contact with his son for some time.

Students who returned to school for the first time on Friday told the Boston Globe that Chism was a quiet student who did well at school. The absence of their well-liked math teacher Ritzer weighed heavily on Danvers students. Olivia Perez, 14, a student in Ritzer’s algebra class, said she held back tears most of the day.
"It was just so hard not seeing her," she told the Boston Globe.


New home: Philip Chism and his mother recently moved into this home in Danvers, Massachusetts from Clarkesville, Tennessee, a place Chism was extremely reluctant to leave
New home: Philip Chism and his mother recently moved into this home in Danvers,
Massachusetts from Clarkesville, Tennessee, a place Chism was extremely reluctant to leave

Meanwhile, police are saying that Philip Chism 'completely planned' the murder of his teacher Colleen Ritzer. The teenage soccer star even brought a spare set of clothes into class so he could change and dump his bloodstained outfit to avoid detection when he made his trip to a local theater and Wendy's restaurant.   
He was caught on security camera at the Hollywood Hits movie theater soon after 4pm on Tuesday wearing a clean sweat suit. Police found his discarded clothes and the box cutter knife used in the attack hidden in woods near Danvers High School and now have them as evidence.

Sources have revealed Chism has been 'completely co-operative'  with the investigation. He has told officers every detail of how he killed Ritzer, but he is refusing to give any reason why he attacked the beloved teacher. He has apparently remained 'stone cold', showing very little emotion. Officers from Danver Police department are working on a couple of theories, one of which is that Chism was infatuated with 24 year old Ritzer. Investigators are trying to determine whether Chism may have attacked her because she spurned his unwelcome advances. But Chism will neither confirm or deny this theory.

Classmates have revealed how Ritzer asked Chism to stay after class after she saw him drawing in his notebook instead of taking notes in the hours before he allegedly killed her.A well-placed police source said:
"When we picked him up wandering around early on Wednesday night, he was subdued and showed very little emotion. He was stone cold."
"He pretty much told us everything about how it happened and with the help of cameras around the campus we were able to build up a plausible picture of events."
"He didn't deny anything and did not hold back information. But he would give absolutely no reason why he did it. There seems to no rhyme or reason. That is very rare. If someone is going to reveal what they did, they would usually give a reason, because, however mad their views, they want people to know what their motive was."

Charged: Philip Chism, 14, appeared in court Wednesday afternoon to answer charges that he beat Ritzer to death. He did not speak during his appearance and will not be released on bail
Charged: Philip Chism, 14, appeared in court Wednesday afternoon to answer charges
 that he beat and stabbed Ritzer to death. He did not speak during his appearance and will not be released on bail
Charged: Philip Chism, 14, (right) will be charged as an adult in the murder of his teacher. His classmates and family described his as 'nice' and 'quiet' and were shocked by the charges
Charged: Philip Chism, 14, (right) will be charged as an adult in the murder of his
teacher. His classmates and family described his as 'nice' and 'quiet' and were shocked by the charges

"We are obviously working on theories, based on intelligence and intuition, but until he actually tells us what was going on in his head, it will be incredibly hard to give a definitive answer."
"One thing we do think is that this was completely planned. He brought a change of clothes with him into school and changed after the attack. He dumped the body, his original clothes and the box cutter in the woods."
"That has all been found and is now evidence in the investigation. It is incredible to think he did this in the day, when other children were about. There was soccer practice going on. It is just so strange."
"But we are determined to get to the bottom of this once and for all and bring some closure to this terrible tragedy."

The Boston Globe reports that the last public interaction between teacher Colleen Ritzer and her killer Philip Chism came when she saw him drawing in class. Another student recalls seeing Miss Ritzer notice his sketching and she said matter-of-factly:
 "I didn't know you could draw." Rania Rhaedaoui was in the class and told the paper that Chism just nodded in response.
"There was a test coming up and she wanted to know if he had any questions."

A different student saw the two together an hour after the last class of the day had ended, and she was standing next to him as he was sitting down by her computer.
"It just looked normal, like any other day, " Cambria Cloutier told The Boston Globe.
Later, Chism allegedly followed Colleen into a bathroom in the school then punched her in the face and slashed her throat with a box cutter before stuffing her lifeless body in a recycling bin.  When Miss Ritzer failed to return home her parents informed police. Officers then went to the school, where they found a second-floor bathroom
 covered in blood.    

Chism may have stolen the weapon from art class while hanging around after school. Classmate Kara Behen, 14, said that Chism had been acting strangely lately.
" The last couple of weeks he like totally faded out," she said.
Other students, who played soccer with Chism, said that he was a really nice boy but incredibly shy and hard to get to know. One said: 'He was nice, but really quiet. No one really knew him that well.  

A police source speculated, " Ritzer was a very friendly, approachable teacher and it is possible he completely misread her affable nature and made some kind of advance towards her."
"Whether that happened on Tuesday night, or some time before is unclear. Being the professional she was, she would obviously have told him how inappropriate that was. That may have angered him enough to plan the attack."
"It is just a theory at present, but seems plausible as there don't seem to be any other explanations as to why he would possibly commit such a senseless crime."
Another police source said officers were on a heightened state of alert, in case of any copycat attacks. 
"Unfortunately, it is fairly common these days. Everyone is on their guard to make sure that doesn't happen."

The chain of events on Tuesday  is still being worked out and police are still trying to determine the order of Chism's actions from the time school ended around 4:00 pm and his arrest just after midnight. The manager of the theater, where Chism went to see a movie directly after the murder, told the Boston Globe that Chism sat alone during the movie - he was the only one in the theater for the 4.30 pm show Tuesday.

Police in neighboring Topsfield picked up the missing teen about 12.30 am on Wednesday after they discovered him walking along a highway.  Chism was taken to detectives in Danvers where he allegedly led police to the teacher's body behind the school. 

The 6’2” teenager appeared in court on Wednesday afternoon where he was charged as an adult in Miss Ritzer's murder. He is now being held without bail. The boy's attorney entered a plea of not guilty and requested a mental health evaluation for the boy and suggested she would argue that he was not mentally competent to stand trial. He was held without bail following the arraignment in Salem District Court.
His family was in the courtroom during his arraignment and his mother could be seen sobbing in the gallery.

Colleen, left, is the oldest of three children (pictured here). She still lived with her parents in nearby Andover and was going to graduate school to be a school psychologist
Colleen, left, is the oldest of three children (pictured here). She still lived with her parents
 in nearby Andover and was going to graduate school to be a school psychologist

Stunned parents attended a meeting at Danvers High School where police and school authorities tried to reassure them that their children were not in danger in the wake of the murder.

Around one thousand adults turned out for the talk, and they were told to try to sympathize with the parents of suspected murderer Philip Chism, who are facing up to the fact that their son may be a killer.
One parent, Don Thornell explained: "They told us to keep in mind that essentially two families lost children. You've got to remember that to his parents, he is still their kid. He is involved in a terrible tragedy, but he is still their kid. You have to sympathize with them. They must be going through hell at the moment."

Chief Neil Ouellette of the Danvers Police Department also revealed that, although  the school is open, the bathroom where Colleen Ritzer was slain will be closed for the 'foreseeable future'. And he said safety procedures at the school would be under review in the wake of the tragedy, adding: "We do critiques and reviews after every major incident, so clearly we will be doing that in this situation."
The small Massachusetts town paid tribute to the slain teacher on Wednesday night with hundreds of residents holding a candle-light vigil at the school where she died. Many students dressed in her favorite color pink and described her as a 'brilliant ray of light'.
Tens of thousands of fans at Fenway Park paused for a moment of silence and Ritzer's face flashed on the big screen before the beginning of Game One of the World Series in Boston Wednesday night.

Honor: The Boston Redsox paused before Game One of the World Series at Fenway Park Wednesday night for a moment of silence to honor Ritzer
The Boston Redsox paused before Game One of the World Series at Fenway Park
Wednesday night for a moment of silence to honor Ritzer
A moment's silence was held for Miss Ritzer on Wednesday night before the start of the MLB baseball World Series at Fenway Park in Boston

Members of the Danvers High School community hold a candlelight vigil on Wednesday for math teacher Colleen Ritzer, 24, who was murdered at Danvers High School on Tuesday night
Members of the Danvers High School community hold a candlelight vigil on Wednesday
for math teacher Colleen Ritzer, 24, who was murdered at Danvers High School on Tuesday night

another at a makeshift memorial for teacher Colleen Ritzer outside the high school where she taught in Danvers, Massachusetts
Another at a makeshift memorial for teacher Colleen Ritzer outside the high school where
she taught in Danvers, Massachusetts

Danvers High School students prepare to launch sky lanterns during a candlelight vigil to mourn the death of Colleen Ritzer
Danvers High School students prepare to launch sky lanterns during a candlelight vigil
to mourn the death of Colleen Ritzer

"There was no teacher like Ms. Ritzer, she was a role model, and nothing but positive. Rest easy, you will never be forgotten," student Emily McPherson wrote.
Ritzer was in her second year as a teacher at Danvers High School. She was also studying for a Masters degree at Salem State University.
Miss Ritzer is the second math teacher killed at school by a student this week. Michael Landsberry, who taught eighth grade math, was gunned down Monday by a 12-year-old student after he tried to stop a shooting rampage at Sparks Middle School in Nevada.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Court Documents Released in JonBenet Ramsey Case


In a shocking new development in the JonBenet Ramsey case, just-uncovered court documents reveal that a 1999 grand jury wanted to indict the late tot’s parents John and Patsy on charges linked to child abuse resulting in death, and being accessories to a crime three years after their 6-year-old daughter was bludgeoned and strangled in the basement of her family's house on Christmas Day.

The parents, the grand jury said, “did … permit a child to be unreasonably placed in a situation which posed a threat of injury to the child’s life or health which resulted in the death of JonBenet Ramsey. But prosecutors reportedly refused to go forward on the case, according to the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper.

Former Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter declined to sign the indictment, believing he could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, the Daily Camera reported.
"I and my prosecution task force believe we do not have sufficient evidence to warrant the filing of charges against anyone who has been investigated at this time," Hunter told reporters in October 1999.
"Child abuse resulting in death" is a Class II felony punishable by up to 48 years in prison, according to the Daily Camera.
"We didn't know who did what," a juror told the Daily Camera on the condition of anonymity. "But we feel the adults in the house may have done something that they certainly could have prevented, or they could have helped her, and they didn't."

Hunter, who left his post in 2008 after 28 years as district attorney, declined to discuss the grand jury's decision, according to the Daily Camera. But in a 2001 interview with NBC News, Hunter said he had no regrets about his decision not to charge anyone.
"I have enough people that I respect that have said to me, 'You know, you made a tough call, you made a call the public didn't like. But you were true to the law, you were a good prosecutor, and that's plenty for me.'"

Lin Wood, John Ramsey's attorney, backed up Hunter's decision in a statement to NBC News.
"The DNA tests performed after the time of the Boulder grand jury not only prove the Ramseys to be innocent and the grand jury wrong, they also make D.A. Alex Hunter a hero who wisely avoided the miscarriage of justice," Wood said.

Patsy Ramsey died of ovarian cancer in 2006. The couple and their older son, Burke Ramsey, were exonerated in the case in July 2008, even though they were never formally charged in connection with JonBenet's death.
"To the extent that we may have contributed in any way to the public perception that you might have been involved in this crime, I am deeply sorry," former Boulder County District Attorney Marcy Lacy wrote in a letter to John Ramsey in 2008. "No innocent person should have to endure such an extensive trial in the court of public opinion."

A former lead investigator in the still-unsolved JonBenet Ramsey murder case has come out with a book explaining his theory that there never was an intruder. James Kolar claims in his book, "Foreign Faction: Who Really Kidnapped JonBenet?" that the evidence raised questions about the intruder theory that eventually led to JonBenet's family being cleared.
"I was kind of discouraged they didn't want to pursue things I thought should be looked at," Kolar said. "I was kind of discouraged the work I had done was not being received well," Kolar said.

The title of Kolar's book correlates with the ransom note found in the Ramsey's home which claimed to be written by a "small foreign faction." Kolar says he'd been hoping the case would have been solved by now and that his book could have been written from that vantage point. The former detective had access to 60,000 pages of evidence, including crime-scene video and photos, interviews with individuals related to the case and forensic reports.

Among the contradicting evidence Kolar points out in his book are fully intact cobwebs stretching over the window the intruder allegedly entered, more DNA evidence found at the crime scene including DNA on the garrote cord used to strangle the young girl. In his book, Kolar also writes about a child's toy that was found that may have been responsible for some of the abrasions on JonBenet's body, rather than a stun gun which had been considered a possible source of the injuries to her back, according to The Daily Beast.
"By the time I parted company with the D.A.'s office, I was convinced that there was no significant possibility that an intruder had been involved in the death of JonBenet," Kolar writes in his book.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Danvers teacher Colleen Ritzer was 'killed with box cutter'

  Parents and students hold candlelight vigil to at Danvers High School, on 23 Wednesday 2013
Parents and students held a vigil at Danvers High School on Wednesday
A student accused of murdering a Massachusetts high school maths teacher used a box cutter to stab  her before disposing of her body, US media reports. Philip Chism, 14, was charged on Wednesday as an adult of the death of Colleen Ritzer, 24, whose body was found in woods behind the school.
The Boston Globe reports that school CCTV cameras showed the accused pushing a recycling bin through the building. It is assumed (but not verified) that Ritzer's body was inside. She was found dead in woods behind the school, after being reported missing late on Tuesday. Authorities believe that Chism went to a matinee showing of the new Woody Allen movie, "Blue Jasmine," shortly after murdering Ritzer.

Officials said Ritzer and the suspect knew each other from the school, but did not elaborate.

Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer seen in this undated photo provided by the family of Ritzer
Colleen Ritzer reportedly lived in her family home with her younger siblings

Gardner Trask, chairman of the Danvers Board of Selectmen, told the Associated Press news agency the killing is a "devastating blow" to the close-knit town. Danvers High School, in a suburb of Boston, reopened on Thursday for students to speak to counsellors. Classes will resume on Friday.

On Wednesday evening the Boston Red Sox held a moment of silence for Ritzer before the first game of the World Series. And hundreds of people attended a candlelit vigil in the school's parking lot, wearing pink clothing or bows in tribute to Ritzer's favourite colour.

Ritzer reportedly lived in her family home with her younger brother and sister. Her family said they were mourning the death of their "amazing, beautiful daughter and sister".
"Everyone that knew and loved Colleen knew of her passion for teaching and how she mentored each and every one of her students," the family said in a statement.

Ritzer was said to be friendly towards the school's students, many of whom were not much younger than her.

Philip Chism, 14, stands in Salem District Court in Boston on 23 October 2013
 Philip Chism was arraigned in Salem District Court on Wednesday

Her Twitter biography describes the math teacher as "often too excited about the topics I'm teaching". She used the account to set homework for students. The suspect's family and lawyer have not spoken to reporters.

The accused had moved to Massachusetts from the state of Tennessee before the start of the school year. He was said to be a star player on the school soccer team. One student, Kyle Cahill, told the Associated Press the suspect's absence had been noted at a team dinner on Tuesday night.
"We're all just a family. It just amazes me really," said Kyle. "He wasn't violent at all. He was really the opposite of aggressive."
Other students said they were  absolutely shocked that Chism could have killed the popular educator

Ritzer's death is the latest incident this week to send police scrambling to a US school:
  • On Wednesday an 11-year-old in the north-western state of Washington was charged with attempted murder after bringing 400 rounds of ammunition, a handgun and several knives to his school
  • A teacher was killed on Tuesday in Sparks, Nevada, by a 12-year-old boy who then turned the firearm on himself. Two other students were wounded in the shooting
A Gallup poll released on Wednesday suggested that 25% of US parents are concerned about their children being harmed while at school, making it one of their foremost crime concerns.

Parents and Danvers High School students hold a candlelight vigil to mourn the death of Colleen Ritzer in Danvers, Massachusetts, on 23 October 2013

Candlelight vigil to mourn the death of Colleen Ritzer in Danvers, Massachusetts, on 23 October 2013

Candlelight vigil to mourn the death of Colleen Ritzer in Danvers, Massachusetts, on 23 October 2013

Candles and teddy bears are placed at Danvers High School prior to a candlelight vigil to mourn the death of Colleen Ritzer, a 24-year-old math teacher at Danvers High School on 23 October 2013
Christiana Figueres
  Ms Figueres is shown here addressing delegates at the last major meeting of negotiators at Doha in 2012

The head of the UN body tasked with delivering a global climate treaty broke down in tears at a meeting in London as she spoke about the impact of global warming on coming generations.
Christiana Figueres told journalists that the lack of an agreement was "condemning future generations before they are even born".  Ms Figueres said this was "completely unfair and immoral". Despite the slow pace of negotiations, she said a deal can be done by 2015.

Costa Rica-born Christiana Figueres has been the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for the last three years.  Taking over after the failure of the talks process in Copenhagen in 2009, Ms Figueres has carefully steered the parties forward.

Delegates agreed in Durban in 2011 that a new global deal must be signed by 2015 and come into force from 2020. But Ms Figueres' passionate approach to progress has been tested by the slow, tortuous UN process, where consensus is the only way forward.
"I am always frustrated by the pace of the negotiations, I was born impatient. We are moving way, way too slowly, but we are moving in the right direction and that's what gives me courage and hope," she said.

Speaking on the sidelines of a climate conference at Chatham House in London, Ms Figueres became tearful when she reflected on the impact that climate change might have on coming generations.
"I'm committed to climate change because of future generations, it is not about us, right? We're out of here," she said.
"I just feel that it is so completely unfair and immoral what we are doing to future generations, we are condemning them before they are even born."
"We have a choice about it, that's the point, we have a choice. If it were inevitable then so be it, but we have a choice to change the future we are going to give our children."

She said that she was hopeful an agreement could be signed in Paris in 2015 but if that was going to happen, then significant progress had to be made in the next 12 months. There would need to be the draft text of an agreement when the parties meet in Peru in 2014.  She said she was determined to avoid the mistakes that were made in the run up to Copenhagen in 2009, when expectations of a far reaching global compact faltered.
"We are not going to have another Copenhagen - the leaders of the world are not just being brought in at the last minute, to face 300 pages of text that is completely impossible to digest.

Next year would see a special climate summit of world leaders called by UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon. Ms Figueres is hopeful that this will clear the road ahead of the Paris meeting in 2015.
"It is not going to be in Paris, going into all the technical details of how to build the agreement which is what we had in Copenhagen. The structure and logic of an agreement need to be in place.
"This is way too complex and way too challenging to wait until the last minute in 2015."

This year's Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC will take place next month in Poland. Some environmental campaigners are concerned that because of the country's heavy dependence on coal, it is less committed to strong action on climate change. Critics took issue with comments on an official website for the conference that suggested there were many positives to the unprecedented melting of Arctic ice, including the opportunity to chase "pirates, terrorists and ecologists". But Ms Figueres dismissed concerns about the meeting.
"They have shown themselves to be very committed to this process, the COP president (Polish environment minister Marcin Korolec) has put in an extraordinary amount of time into learning and making himself familiar with the endless intricacies of this issue," she said.

Trying not to put all our eggs in one basket but Ms Figueres sounds like our best hope to get world co-operation on climate issues underway. Good luck with all that obfuscation and bickering ma'am.

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 "ready" 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 ?Marcia

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 . I think further efforts to convince him to have a family may well be fruitless and waste more of the biological window left to 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 table, 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 .

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

High School Teacher Killed By Student

                                  Colleen Ritzer                                                                           Philip Chism

New York Times || DANVERS, Mass. — A 14-year-old high school student described by classmates as soft-spoken and pleasant was accused of killing a well-liked math teacher, whose body was found in the woods behind the school.

Law enforcement officials recovered the remains of 24-year-old Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer early Wednesday, Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said. The teen, Philip Chism, was arraigned Wednesday in Salem on a murder charge and ordered held without bail.

Ritzer was reported missing late Tuesday night after she didn’t come home from work or answer her cellphone. Investigators found blood in a second-floor school bathroom and soon located her body, Blodgett said. He did not say how Ritzer died.
“She was a very, very respected, loved teacher,” Blodgett said, calling the killing a “terrible tragedy.”

The boy also was reported missing Tuesday after not coming home from school. He was spotted walking along a road in neighboring Topsfield at about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Investigators said in court documents that the arrest was made based on statements by the suspect and corroborating evidence at multiple scenes. They said they also recovered video surveillance.
At his arraignment in adult court Wednesday afternoon, Chism’s defense attorney argued for the proceeding to be closed and her client to be allowed to stay hidden because of his age. The judge denied the request. The attorney declined to comment outside court.

Ritzer had a Twitter account where she gave homework assignments, encouraged students and described herself as a “math teacher often too excited about the topics I’m teaching. She was a 2011 graduate of Assumption College in Worcester, a school spokeswoman said Wednesday. She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in math, a minor in psychology and a secondary education concentration, according to the college’s 2011 commencement program.

Chris Weimert, 17, was a student in Ritzer’s geometry class last year. He said she had taught at the school for two years and was a warm, welcoming person who would stand outside her classroom and say hello to students she didn’t teach.
“She was the nicest teacher anyone could ever have. She always had a warm smile on her face,” he said.

Weimert said the suspect, who he knew from seeing him around school, “seemed like a good kid.” He said, “It really threw the whole town of Danvers a curve ball.”
Kyle Cahill, a junior, said he knows Chism from the soccer team. He said the 14-year-old moved to Massachusetts from Tennessee before the school year began and was a top goal scorer on the school’s junior varsity team. He called him a quiet, nice kid.
“He wasn’t violent at all. He was really the opposite of aggressive,” Cahill said.

Cahill said there was a soccer team dinner Tuesday night that the accused teen skipped, and team members were wondering where he was.
“We’re all just a family. It just amazes me really,” he said. “I’m just stunned.”
Ryan Kelleher, a senior who also plays soccer, said the arrest of the soft-spoken Chism didn’t make sense to him.
“From what I know about him and seeing him every day, it just doesn’t add up that he would do such a thing, unless this was all an act to fool somebody,” the 17-year-old said.

Kelleher took Ritzer’s algebra class last year and said hello to her on Tuesday in the hallway. He said students related to the young teacher, who liked to wear jeans and UGG boots just like the students.
Ritzer lived at home with her 20-year-old brother and her sister, a high school senior. The close-knit family was often outside, barbecuing, spending time together and enjoying each other’s company, neighbors said.

Mary Duffy has lived next door to the Ritzers in the comfortable, suburban neighborhood in Andover since the family moved there more than two decades ago. She had known Colleen Ritzer from the time she was a baby and said the Ritzers’ oldest child had just one ambition in life: to be a high school math teacher.
“All I ever heard is that she loved her job,” Duffy said.

Ritzer’s uncle Dale Webster provided a brief written statement in which the family asked for privacy.
“At this time, we are mourning the tragic death or our amazing, beautiful daughter and sister,” the statement read. “Everyone that knew and loved Colleen knew of her passion for teaching and how she mentored each and every one of her students.”

Students place flowers and teddy bears outside high school

There was no reason to believe anyone else was involved and there was no public safety danger, authorities said.All public schools in Danvers, about 20 miles north of Boston, were closed Wednesday. The high school’s students were planning a candlelight vigil Wednesday evening.
Ritzer is the second teacher allegedly killed by a student in the US this week. A Sparks, Nev., middle school teacher was allegedly shot by a 12-year-old student on Monday.

Most Distant Galaxy Ever discovered


An international team of astronomers has detected the most distant galaxy yet. The galaxy is about 30 billion light-years away and is helping scientists shed light on the period that immediately followed the Big Bang.

It was found using the Hubble Space Telescope and its distance was then confirmed with the ground-based Keck Observatory in Hawaii. Because it takes light so long to travel from the outer edge of the Universe to us, the galaxy appears as it was 13.1 billion years ago.

Lead researcher Steven Finkelstein, from the University of Texas at Austin, said: "This is the most distant galaxy we've confirmed. We are seeing this galaxy as it was 700 million years after the Big Bang." The far-off galaxy goes by the catchy name of z8_GND_5296.

Astronomers were able to measure how far it was from Earth by analyzing its colour. Because the Universe is expanding and everything is moving away from us, light waves are stretched. This makes objects look redder than they actually are.

Astronomers rate this apparent colour-change on a scale that is called redshift. They found that this galaxy has a redshift of 7.51, beating the previous record-holder, which had a redshift of 7.21.
This makes it the most distant galaxy ever found.

z8_GND_5296 is churning out stars at a remarkable rate, say astronomers

The system is small: about 1-2% the mass of the Milky Way and is rich in heavier elements. But it has a surprising feature: it is turning gas and dust into new stars at a remarkable rate, churning them out hundreds of times faster than our own galaxy can.  It is the second far-flung galaxy known that has been found to have a high star-production rate.

Prof Finkelstein said: "One very interesting way to learn about the Universe is to study these outliers and that tells us something about what sort of physical processes are dominating galaxy formation and galaxy evolution.
"What was great about this galaxy is not only is it so distant, it is also pretty exceptional."

He added that in the coming years, astronomers are likely to discover even more distant galaxies when Nasa's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is launched and other ground-based telescopes come online.
"This high star-formation rate maybe is vital as to why these galaxies can form so quickly."
"The further away we go, the closer we will get to discovering the very first stars that ever formed in the Universe. The next generation of telescopes will make this possible."

Mystery solved....Little Greek Girl Adopted Illegally


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

China's air pollution crisis

Air quality in Beijing, a city of around 20 million people, has mostly stayed above "very unhealthy" and "hazardous" levels since the beginning of this year. Choking smog all but shut down one of northeastern China's largest cities on Oct. 21, forcing schools to suspend classes, snarling traffic and closing the airport, in the country's first major air pollution crisis of the winter.

 Choking smog all but shut down one of northeastern China's largest cities, Beijing, on Monday, forcing schools to suspended classes, snarling traffic and closing the airport, in the country's first major air pollution crisis of the winter.
An index measuring PM2.5, or particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5), reached a reading of 1,000 in some parts of Harbin, the gritty capital of northeastern Heilongjiang province and home to some 11 million people. A level above 300 is considered hazardous, while the World Health Organization recommends a daily level of no more than 20.

The smog not only forced all primary and middle schools to suspend classes, but shut the airport and some public bus routes, the official Xinhua news agency reported, blaming the emergency on the first day of the heating being turned on in the city for winter. Visibility was reportedly reduced to 10 meters. The smog  continued for more than 24 hours.

Air quality in Chinese cities is of increasing concern to China's stability-obsessed leadership because it plays into popular resentment over political privilege and rising inequality in the world's second-largest economy. Domestic media have run stories describing the expensive air purifiers government officials enjoy in their homes and offices, alongside reports of special organic farms so cadres need not risk suffering from recurring food safety scandals.

The government has announced plans over the years to tackle the pollution problem but has made little apparent progress. Users of China's popular Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblogging site reacted with both anger and bitter sarcasm over Harbin's air pollution.

Quake rumours over new beached 'sea serpent' in California


Social media has lit up with earthquake rumours after a giant oarfish washed up on a California beach - the second such discovery in several days.

The 4.3m (14ft) dead snake-like fish was found in the city of Oceanside - five days after another and larger specimen (5.5m) had been found. Reports on social media recall an ancient Japanese myth linking extremely rare oarfish sightings to tremors. But scientists remain sceptical of any link to increased tectonic activity.

Researchers dissect the oarfish
The fish was brought to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. They remain puzzled, however, by the two discoveries of this rare deepwater fish near the beach. The larger specimen, found on Santa Catalina island, has now been dissected and it appears well-fed, healthy and with little sign of disease.
"It looks good enough to eat - if you have a 13ft pan," biologist Ruff Zetter said.

Tests are also being done for radiation, following Japan's Fukushima nuclear leak on the other side of the Pacific. But it is also a rare chance to gather information about a little-known species that hovers vertically in the ocean and grazes on passing proteins.

The elusive fish - which can grow up to 15m - dives to depth of up to 1,000m and is found in all temperate to tropical waters.

Oarfish found on Santa Catalina island, California, 16 October 2013