Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Putin Pulls a Fast One

Putin and Obama shake hands at the UN on 28 September 2015                                     The UN handshake masked a raft of differences                

There should be no surprises about what the Russians have done. They have consistently made clear their support for President Assad. It was hardly a great secret that they had moved military assets into Syria - and the Russian pilots certainly hadn't flown their fighter aircraft over to the Eastern Mediterranean to earn some extra air miles.
President Vladimir Putin had a meeting with President Obama on Monday night to explain what Russia's plan was - and although there were profound differences, US officials said they understood better what Russia's intentions were.
And yet;
Isn't there something totally jaw-dropping, gob-smacking, eyebrow-arching, ear twitchingly extraordinary - and not to mention, casual - about the way the Americans learned about Russian plans?
It began with a phone call from a Russian diplomat to his counterpart in Baghdad to say "we've got something interesting to tell you".
Then a three-star Russian general leaves the Russian embassy compound and knocks on the door of the American one, and asks to see the US military attache.
He tells the American military man that bombing starts in an hour, so you'd better get out of Syrian airspace now and move any assets you have off the ground. And 60 minutes later, the bombing started. Wow!To say the Americans were blindsided by this unorthodox line of communication is to put it mildly. Having had their "clear the air" meeting on Monday night there was an anticipation that though there might be big policy differences, there would be a degree of co-ordination and openness.

Just consider this - the risks of a US fighter plane running into a Russian one with unimaginable consequences has just ratcheted up. Are they going to take it in turns to bomb targets? One day it's the Americans and their allies, the next day it's the Russians. You don't need to be a military historian to know that that is not going to fly (so to speak). And that is before we get to the strategic objectives.

Moscow said it was striking Islamic State positions but the US believes they were attacking opposition groups

Are the Russians trying to destroy IS/Isis/Isil/Daesh or are they trying to prop up President Assad? The Americans see the two as very different.
On the evidence of one day's bombing it looks to be very much the latter. The target of Russian strikes has been in places where IS has no presence,  so who are they bombing?
In other words, other rebel groups - any rebel groups - opposed to President Assad are being targeted. And that raises another huge question. What if the Russians start hitting US backed and armed rebel groups? That is not going to end well.
And who knows how many US special forces there might be on the ground helping those rebel groups? What if they find themselves coming under fire - do they call in US close air support to see off their Russian attackers?
The Americans clearly came away with the understanding after the Monday night tĂȘte-a-tĂȘte that they had an agreement on one thing - that IS needed to be attacked and destroyed, and disagreement on another - the role of President Assad in Syria's future political settlement.

John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov
John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov discussed the conflict on Wednesday

Well - and it is day one of Russian action - it looks like Russia is not distinguishing between different rebel groups. If these groups are against Assad, they could find themselves in the crosshairs of the Russian Air Force.
Ashton Carter, the US defence secretary, says there is a danger that Russia is pouring gasoline onto the fire. He also insists there have been no big surprises in what the Russians have done today. 'Hmm'. I'm not sure America was quite prepared  for Mr. Putin's tricky little manipulation.
Once again Vladimir Putin has seemingly outmanoeuvred the White House.  When Obama leaves office he will be applauded for the way he negotiated and ultimately delivered a deal on Iran, but will he be vilified for the vacillation and vagueness over his Syria policy ?
Putin, on the other hand, has been totally consistent. He wants to protect Russia's only deepwater port on the Eastern Mediterranean and will do what it takes to protect it.
So now it looks like the US administration has a choice to make - is it going to risk confrontation with the Russians, or is it going to accept that Assad ain't going anywhere and is there for the long haul? Not easy choices.
The key argument of Obama's speech at the UN on Monday was "Choose co-operation over conflict. That is not weakness, that is strength." Doesn't seem to be Vladimir's modus operandi.
The already intractable problem of Syria has just become a whole lot more complex - and a whole lot more dangerous.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Space Elevator ? You got to be Kidding

The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from launch pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral February 11, 2015. (Reuters)
The unmanned Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from launch pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral February 11, 2015. (Reuters)

The most expensive part of any voyage into space – be it to the orbiting space station or distant Pluto – is travelling the first 160 kilometres blasting off the Earth.
On average, the cost of leaving the gravity pull of our planet and placing a communication satellite, telescope or planetary probe into space is about $10,000 per pound. Each and every large rocket launches hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment. With astronomical costs like these tied to today’s dependence on expendable, chemical launch vehicles, the hopes for a burgeoning space industry in the near future filled with orbiting hotels and moon bases and boots on Mars and beyond may remain stymied for generations to come unless these expenses can be brought down to Earth.
Space propulsion researchers have been coming up with blueprints for alternatives (some more realistic than others) for decades, and one particularly intriguing concept has been receiving a lot of attention recently.
Going up
This past August, Ontario-based Thoth Technology designed and patented plans for erecting a 20-kilometre-high free-standing space elevator that would allow astronauts to launch into space from a platform high above the Earth.
Current chemical rockets use very expensive multiple stages to escape Earth’s gravity and get into space. This tower design would allow any launch vehicle to forego the first, most expensive stage in the rocket design, making it more cost effective.

“When the first elevator is completed, the huge reduction in cost to access Low Earth Orbit will make all existing rocket systems obsolete,” said Brendan Quine, a professor at York University and Chief Technical Officer at Thoth Technology, in an interview with Yahoo Canada.
“Our hope is that the space elevator will enable humanity to explore properly our solar system and within our lifetimes help establish permanent civilizations on the moon and Mars.”
And there are plans for using the space elevator for more than just rocket launches, says Quine. Giant towers like these could be used as lower-cost alternatives to communication satellites and even offer the general public the ultimate low-cost extreme lookout experience.
“We aim to bring the near space experience to millions of people willing to ride to the top of our elevator for a ticket price of perhaps $1000,” he added.
The company intends to use pneumatic cells composed of materials like polyethylene and kevlar to form stackable inflatable tubes that are each 150 metres long.  They would then pump them up using simple gas pressure to create a strong, rigid structure capable of supporting tremendous amount of mass.
The hypothetical scenario would see astronauts ride up to the top on an electrical elevator and then from the top platform space planes launch directly to orbit, returning to the top of the tower for refueling and readied for re-flight within hours or days.
“We aim to reduce the cost of space launch by a factor of 100 by making all the component required to lift payload reusable,” explained Quine.
“From 20 km it is possible to launch in a single stage to orbit, deliver a payload or dock with a space station and then return to the top of the tower where the spaceplanes would only then require maintenance and refueling.”
Not all smooth sailing
The biggest technological challenge is the need for the tower structure to deal with strong winds at high altitudes, a monumental obstacle considering it’s basically being kept rigid with pneumatic pressurization of the tubes. The stresses would be tremendous, especially in storms like hurricanes.
Even the simple movement of climbers or elevators up and down the structure may trigger violent vibrations along the length of the structure that could initiate a total collapse.

Payloads and people get a lift off Earth in this artist's illustration by the Japan Space Elevator Association.
Payloads and people get a lift off Earth in this artist's illustration by the Japan Space Elevator Association …

But Quine says they have already thought of these scenarios and the company has come up with an ingenious mitigation strategy; gyroscopes placed strategically along the spine of the tower would compensate and nullify these movements and stabilize the tower.
“The main novelty of our patent is in the harmonic control strategy that we describe that continuously monitors and corrects the structures stance in order to control it,” explained Quine.
“The center of gravity is guided actively over the base in order to null out external forces such as a hurricane.”
Up until this innovative Canadian design however, most space elevator concepts have involved exotic-sounding form of graphene, carbon nanotubes, but that technology has not been developed fully yet.
The basic design for a space elevator would consist of a 35,400 km cable extending from the surface of Earth to geosynchronous orbit. Once anchored and counterbalanced, laser-powered climbers would ascend the cable, bringing their precious cargo into space.
The big problem is that no current material exists with sufficiently high-tensile strength and sufficiently low density out of which we could construct the cable.
There's nothing in sight that's strong enough to do it — not even the much touted carbon nanotubes, which is 32 times stronger than steel.
The longest carbon nanotube that has ever been constructed is only a few inches long and a nanometer in width. But even if this material could in fact sustain the tremendous weights that would be placed on it, it will be some time yet — if ever — before engineers can scale it up to something many kilometers in length.
Thinking outside the (elevator) box
While space elevators sound innovative, they aren’t the only alternatives to rockets that have been on the drawing board. Some are more realistic than others but all of them are considered ‘green’ propulsion systems since they are safer alternatives for the environment since they avoid risks associated with the accidental exposure to toxic rocket fuel substances.

Bullet trains, like this one in China, can travel up to speeds of 320 km/h. (Xinhua/IANS)
Bullet trains, like this one in China, can travel up to speeds of 320 km/h.

Magnetic launch systems: The same technology that now propels trains in Japan at super speeds holds great promise for putting small payloads into space. Current designs would be able to hurl payloads off magnetic tracks up to 23 times the speed of sound – making it unsuitable for humans or fragile instruments – but still very cost effective, with prices expected to be at least 10 times cheaper than current rockets.

NASA is now testing out a space propulsion technology originally invented by a UK scientist. (IB Times)
NASA is now testing out a space propulsion technology originally invented by a UK scientist. (IB Times)

Laser propulsion: This method doesn’t use any explosive chemical reactions to push the rocket forward, instead using a focused laser light shining on it to propel it to space. An onboard heat exchanger could transfer the radiation energy to a liquid propellant, even something as simple as hydrogen.
The main cost savings with laser propulsion would be from eliminating the need to carry the heavy chemical fuels and instead use that freed-up space for payloads. The limiting factor with this technology is that it would take a large number of expensive lasers – an array at least as large as a golf course – to place even a suitcase-sized satellite into orbit.

A 2010 artist's rendering of the Quicklaunch, a 'space gun' developed by John Hunter. (Internet Archive)

A 2010 artist's rendering of the Quicklaunch, a 'space gun' developed by John Hunter. (Internet Archive)

Space gun: Like something out of a classic sci-fi novel, this ambitious project is basically a cannon on steroids that shoots payloads like a bullet straight into space. Like with the magnetic system, the G-forces would be so high, it would be unsuitable for human travelers. The projectile, or satellite, would also need a traditional rocket stage to propel it into a stable orbit, otherwise it would only reach a sub-orbital path that brings it back to Earth.
Amazingly, this space technology was tested out by both the United States and Canada in the 1960s in a project dubbed HARP. A 40 centimetre-wide cannon was built that managed to shoot a 400 pound projectile to a 177 km altitude. Even the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was working on just such a cannon codenamed Project Babylon, but the project was grounded when its chief scientific mind, a Canadian artillery expert, was assassinated prior to its completion.
Who will win the new space race?
There is no doubt that there are a lot of factors to consider in developing an alternative to our current launch systems including economics, practicality, and most importantly, technical feasibility.
But when it comes to the ambitious Canadian space elevator design, there is a fair chance that at least a variation of it might actually be built. In many respects, it’s about sheer willpower of wanting to make this happen.  At this point with the patent being granted, it’s important to remember that, so far, it’s just an engineering theory we are talking about; albeit an amazing design based on the latest scientific technology.
The next steps will really put the idea to a real world test as the company would like to build a smaller demonstration tower to test the concept. Quine says they plan to license the technology “to a wide range of interested companies”
If they do get the funding they estimate the project will cost between $5 billion and $10 billion, and it could take three to five years to complete the demonstration tower and perhaps another few years to build it at full scale.
So perhaps in the not-so-distant future, we may hitch a ride on an elevator into the stratosphere before taking off on a space plane . Mind boggling

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Volkswagen Charged for Emission Test Rigging

No. 1 Global carmaker in sales...Volkswagen scandal... 11 million vehicles affected worldwide...faking emissions tests...$18bn Potential fines

Volkswagen is facing multiple investigations in the United States, including, reports say, a criminal probe from the Department of Justice. They follow an admission by VW that it deceived US regulators during exhaust emissions tests.
A DoJ criminal investigation would be serious, as federal authorities can bring charges with severe penalties against a firm and individuals. Late on Tuesday New York state's top lawyer announced an investigation. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he will collaborate with other states to enforce consumer and environmental law.
 "No company should be allowed to evade our environmental laws or promise consumers a fake bill of goods," Mr Schneiderman said in a statement announcing the probe.
Meanwhile the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board are investigating the way VW cheated tests to measure the amount of pollutants coming from its diesel cars.
Volkswagen claimed 11 million vehicles worldwide are involved and it is setting aside €6.5bn (euros) to cover costs of the scandal.
According to Bloomberg and AFP, the Department of Justice is looking into the issue, which raises the possibility of the company and individual executives facing criminal charges.mHowever, the DoJ often extracts hefty payments from companies to settle criminal charges.

 Volkswagen is due to hold a supervisory board meeting on Friday. But reports say that chief executive Martin Winterkorn will appear before a select group of board members before then, possibly later on Wednesday.  On Tuesday Mr Winterkorn issued a fresh apology for the test-rigging, saying he was "endlessly sorry" for the "manipulation".
Earlier, the boss of Volkswagen's US business, Michael Horn, admitted the firm "totally screwed up".
Cars and the environment - two things that Germany cares so deeply about that they form part of the national character. So Germans are shocked to discover that for years the country's mightiest car manufacturer Volkswagen has been rigging environmental tests for diesel emissions in the US.
One German newspaper has called it the "most expensive act of stupidity in the history of the car industry". It's stupid because manipulating pollution data to boost sales can only be seen as a slap in the face to customers who paid a premium for what they thought was a greener car.
Since the company owned up, its shares have plummeted by more than a third in just two days.
In a world that is finally becoming aware of climate change and how to protect our environment, this is a huge setback. The only positive view is that VW being caught, criminally charged and liable for an enormous settlement may discourage other big corporations from trying to pull the wool over consumers eyes.
As Abraham Lincoln so wisely quoted: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time."

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Pope Francis Kills a Couple of Hours Browsing Gift Shops and Food Court at Airport

ATLANTA—Surveying the variety of travel pillows and support cushions as he browsed through a Brookstone in Concourse D, Pope Francis reportedly killed three hours Monday milling around the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport during a layover to Washington, D.C. “I was just going to grab something at Panda Express, but then I figured since I have so much time, I might as well head to the next concourse and check out the food options there,” said the Vicar of Christ, who confirmed that he spent 20 minutes seated at a food court table people-watching before strolling through the terminal and window-shopping at Headphone Hub, Sunglass Icon, and Savannah’s Candy Kitchen. “I’m definitely going to swing by Hudson News before my flight and grab a bottle of water and maybe a bag of Bugles or a Kind bar. That new Clive Cussler book looks pretty good, too, so I might pick that up to read on the plane.” At press time, sources confirmed Pope Francis had lost track of the time and was frantically running across the terminal to catch his flight.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Edward Snowden: Aliens Are Trying To Contact Planet Earth

Snowden, who leaked classified files that exposed government agencies spying on civilians, is currently in hiding in Russia but his latest revelations are anything but low key

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has extraordinarily claimed that aliens are real - and they are trying to make contact with us.
Snowden, who leaked classified files that exposed government agencies spying on civilians, is currently in hiding in Russia but his latest revelations are anything but low key.
The 32-year-old claims that aliens are actively looking for life on other planets - and that the noise from satellites is proof that they exist.
The former US intelligence contractor told scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson on the StarTalk podcast: “So if you have an an alien civilisation trying to listen for other civilisations, or our civilisation trying to listen for aliens, there’s only one small period in the development of their society when all of their communication will be sent via the most primitive and most unprotected means.

"So when we think about everything that we’re hearing through our satellites or everything that they’re hearing from our civilisation (if there are indeed aliens out there), all of their communications are encrypted by default.
"So what we are hearing, that’s actually an alien television show or you know a phone call… is indistinguishable to us from cosmic microwave background radiation.”
Snowden was granted in asylum in Russia after he went into hiding in Hong Kong in 2013 following the leak of sensitive files.
He is wanted by the United Stated to face charges of espionage and theft of government property.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Seal Surfs on Whale's Back

Canadian Candidates Choose Their Weapons for Feisty Debate Battle

If not Harper, who? The two left-of-centre candidates are fighting for undecided voters

Canada election 2015
If there were any doubts that this has become a tight, hard-fought Canadian general election campaign, that went out the window very early during Thursday night's leaders' debate in Calgary.

It was a spirited, sometimes snippy affair that often seemed to spin out of control, as the back-and-forth between the three candidates - Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and left-of-centre challengers Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party and Thomas Mulcair of the New Democratic Party - descended into cacophony.

The debate's moderator, Toronto Globe and Mail editor-in-chief David Walmsley, pointed out in his introduction that this was only the second time a leaders debate had been held west of Toronto.

Its location - in the heart of Canada's oil and gas country - gave a particular sense of urgency to what was tabbed as the focus of the discussion, the economy.

The entire province of Alberta has been hit hard by job losses resulting from the sharp decline in oil prices, and its struggles have become a drag on the entire Canadian economy, which entered into recession earlier this year.

For his part, Mr Harper was single-minded in his focus on the danger he says his opponents pose to what he termed a "fragile economy".

Stephen Harper speaks to a steel manufacturer in Ontario

He said Mr Trudeau's proposal for three years of deficit spending to fund increased infrastructure investment threatens out-of-control budget gaps. He accused Mr Mulcair, on the other hand, of risking harm to the economy with his plan to raise corporate taxes.

Mr Mulcair responded with a sharp criticism of Mr Harper's handling of the economy, which he said had become overly reliant on an energy sector that was bound to eventually falter.

"Mr Harper put all of his eggs in one basket," he said, "and then he dropped the basket."

Thomas Mulcair shakes hands with aerospace workers as he makes a campaign stop in Montreal

As for Mr Trudeau, he employed the refrain, "Are you better off now than you were 10 years ago?"  A reference to when Mr Harper's record-setting stretch as prime minister first began.

He added that Mr Harper had overseen the worst Canadian economic growth rate since the Great Depression.

Mr Harper had a reply at the ready, however, citing his stewardship of the Canadian economy during a time of global turmoil.

"In the last 10 years, where would you rather have been than Canada?" he asked. "Looking forward, where would you rather be but Canada?"

 Justin Trudeau arrives at a campaign event in Ontario

It was a theme Mr Harper would return to again toward the end of the debate, when he noted: "I have come to work seven years in a row with nothing but economic crises all of the world."
He offered a bit of a smile as he went through the litany - a banking crisis, a housing crisis, a debt crisis and the current "market chaos in China".

Although the debate's focus was the economy, jobs and taxes weren't the only terrain the three candidates fought over. Environmental policy also came up, and the immigration issue led to one of the more heated exchanges.
"These guys would have had, in the last two weeks, us throwing open our borders and literally hundreds of thousands of people coming without any kind of security check or documentation," Mr Harper said when asked about the recent Syrian refugee drama and how much Canada should do to take in the displaced.
He called such suggestions "an enormous mistake".

Both Mr Trudeau and Mr Mulcair responded by accusing the prime minister of fearmongering.
"Stop using the security excuse as a pretext to do nothing," Mr Mulcair snapped.
Mr Harper plays to the "fears of others, fears of different communities," Mr Trudeau said. "That's not right, sir."

According to Stephen Carter, a Calgary based political strategist, the real action in Thursday night's debate, however, was the shots traded between the two left-of-centre candidates.
In one particularly memorable exchange, Mr Trudeau described Mr Mulcair's universal childcare programme as amounting to ineffective "puffs of smoke".

Liberal and Conservative supports outside the debate venue on Thursday

"You know a little about that, don't you, Justin," Mr Mulcair quipped in a not-so-subtle reference to the Liberal leader's controversial support for marijuana decriminalisation.

The reason why the Mulcair-Trudeau confrontations were so critical, Carter says, is because although it's a three-way race, the battle over the nearly third of Canadian voters who are undecided is really only a fight between the two left parties.
Those on-the-fence voters have long since given up on the incumbent Conservatives.

Those opposed to Mr Harper still must decide between his rivals

"I thought we saw a debate between Mulcair and Trudeau only," he said.
"Stephen Harper sat on the side, letting them tear each other apart, without recognising that they weren't just tearing each other apart, they were defining the debate for the final 30 days of the election."

Mr Trudeau's objective was to dispel the notion that he's a political lightweight - a theme that the Conservatives have been hammering home in a recent advertising campaign. The expectations for him were low, and he likely more than met them with his debate performance.

The goal for Mr Mulcair was somewhat trickier. The NDP has never held power in Ottawa, and he had to assure voters that he would be a steady hand at the tiller - a task he appeared to accomplish as well.
Now Mr Mulcair and Mr Trudeau will have to seize on whatever momentum they can coming out of this debate and advance themselves as the best alternative to Mr Harper.
"After 150 years of being told we have no choice," Mr Mulcair said, "for the first time in our history there is another choice".

Mr Harper put forward a steady effort on Thursday night that contrasted with Mr Muldair's sardonic barbs and Mr Trudeau's occasionally breathless speaking style.
It's becoming clear, however, that he's going to have to thread an exceedingly narrow electoral needle to keep the government in his party's hands. If those undecideds end up breaking en masse toward either the Liberals or the NDP, he'll likely be packing his bags after the 19 October election.

Friday, September 18, 2015

New images Showing the Hazy Horizon of Pluto


Fresh images from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft have captured a low-lying haze clinging to the surface of Pluto. The pictures also offer stunning views of the dwarf planet's rugged mountains and its sweeping plains.

New Horizons acquired a mass of observations as it whipped past Pluto on 14 July, at a distance of 12,500km. Scientists say the haze provides further evidence for the equivalent on Pluto of Earth's water-cycle, but involving exotic types of ice. The spacecraft began a year-long data dump earlier this month, allowing scientists to resume their analysis of the world's fascinating topography and tenuous atmosphere.

A new, oblique view of Pluto's crescent was downlinked to Earth on 13 September. Dramatic backlighting from the Sun helps highlight the dwarf planet's diverse terrain and more than a dozen layers of haze in its atmosphere - extending from near the ground to at least 100km (60 miles) above the surface.

Backlighting from the Sun highlights layers in Pluto's atmosphere and a dramatic, diverse terrain

Prof Alan Stern, the mission's chief scientist, said: "This image really makes you feel you are there, at Pluto, surveying the landscape for yourself."
He added: "But this image is also a scientific bonanza, revealing new details about Pluto's atmosphere, mountains, glaciers and plains."
Alien weather

The picture also shows a bank of fog-like, low-lying haze illuminated by the setting sun against Pluto's dark side, and interfused with shadows from nearby mountains.
"In addition to being visually stunning, these low-lying hazes hint at the weather changing from day to day on Pluto, just like it does here on Earth," said mission scientist Will Grundy, from the Lowell Observatory in Arizona.

Along with other observations, the image hints at an Earth-like hydrological cycle involving frozen nitrogen and other soft ices.
"Driven by dim sunlight, this would be directly comparable to the hydrological cycle that feeds ice caps on Earth, where water is evaporated from the oceans, falls as snow, and returns to the seas through glacial flow," explained Alan Howard, a team member from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

The setting sun illuminated a fog or near-surface haze

Prof Stern commented: "Pluto is surprisingly Earth-like in this regard, and no one predicted it."
Pictures of the dwarf planet released last week by Nasa revealed a field of dark, aligned ridges, which look like wind-blown dunes. New Horizons is next scheduled to visit a second icy object in the distant region of our Solar System known as the Kuiper Belt.

The US space agency will carry out a review of the plan to fly by the comet-like 2014 MU69 before officially approving the mission's extension.


Ice on the uplands on the right side of this 390-mile wide image is draining from Pluto’s mountains onto Sputnik Planum through valleys indicated by the red arrows. The flow of the ice moving into Sputnik Planum is outlined by the blue arrows.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Carly Fiorina leads charge against Trump at Republican debate

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (Reuters) - Republican front-runner Donald Trump came under heavy attack from his rivals in a contentious U.S. presidential debate on Wednesday, and former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina emerged from the back of the pack to lead the charge.
Fiorina, a late addition to the second prime-time debate of the 2016 Republican White House race, made her presence felt as one of Trump's strongest challengers in a crowded field anxious to pile on the real-estate mogul and former reality-TV star.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush also frequently confronted Trump and grew stronger as the debate wore on, sharply defending his brother, former President George W. Bush, when Trump criticized the war in Iraq.
With Trump shooting to a big lead in opinion polls, the other 10 candidates struggled at times to get attention on the crowded stage barely four months before the first nominating contest for the November 2016 election.
Unlike last month's first debate, when most of the contenders shied away from directly challenging Trump, several of them engaged him in sometimes fierce personal exchanges.
Reveling in the spotlight, Trump touted his business experience and fired off insults, making a crack about U.S. Senator Rand Paul's looks and declaring that former New York Governor George Pataki "couldn't get elected dogcatcher."
But Trump drew a sharp rebuke from Fiorina for his recent comment in an interview that voters might not back her because of her face.
"I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said," Fiorina said, drawing applause.
Trump leaned toward her and replied: "I think she's got a beautiful face, and I think she's a beautiful woman."
Twitter later reported that Fiorina's response to Trump on her looks was the most tweeted moment of the debate. Facebook also registered the exchange as its top social moment, and said Trump and Fiorina were the top candidates discussed on Facebook during the debate.
Fiorina has been rising in the polls and was sharing the stage with the leading candidates for the first time after a strong performance in the first "undercard" debate for low-polling candidates last month.
At one point, she noted Trump's companies had filed for bankruptcy four times and asked, "Why should we trust you?"
Bush, a frequent target of Trump's jibes for his "low-energy" campaign, criticized the billionaire for his past friendliness with Democrats and for trying to get involved in casino gambling in Florida.
"He asked Florida to have casino gambling and we said no," Bush said. Trump shrugged his shoulders dismissively and denied trying to get into the casino industry in Florida. "Wrong... Jeb, come on." Trump added: "More energy tonight? I like that."
Bush, an establishment Republican, has been overshadowed by Trump's bomb-throwing rhetoric but had promised to be more aggressive in the debate.
When Trump noted he was the only person on the stage who had disagreed with the decision to go to war in Iraq, Bush leaped to the defense of his brother, who ordered the invasion.
"He kept us safe," Bush said. Trump responded: "Do you feel safer now? I don't feel so safe."
Trump also took aim at Paul, saying he did not even belong on the stage because of his low standing in the polls. Paul, a senator from Kentucky, criticized Trump for his "sophomoric" criticisms of people's appearance.
"I never attacked him on his looks, and believe me there's plenty of material there," Trump said.
A Reuters breakdown of speaking times in the debate showed Trump led the way with more than 19 minutes, Bush was second with nearly 16 minutes and Fiorina was third with 13 minutes and 43 seconds. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was the least talkative candidate, speaking for only 8 minutes and 30 seconds.
At one point, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, renowned for his sometimes brusque and bullying style, derided the "childish back-and-forth" and called on the candidates to be more substantive.
Reuters/Ipsos opinion polling before the debate showed Trump leading the 2016 race among Republicans with 32 percent. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was second at 15 percent. Bush was in third place at 9 percent as his campaign struggled to take off.
Also debating in the main event at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley were Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee and John Kasich.
The Republicans disagreed on whether the government should be shut down in order to cut funds for the women's health group Planned Parenthood and condemned President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran.
Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, said the nuclear deal with Iran should be ripped up, but Paul said it should be enforced because Congress had not been able to stop it.
On Planned Parenthood, Kasich said it would not be worthwhile to risk a government shutdown as some Republicans in Congress have proposed in order to strip federal funding for the women's health group.
"I would not be for shutting the government down, because I don't think it's going to work out," Kasich said.
Cruz, who led the effort to shut down the government over funding for Obamacare, said, "We need to stop surrendering and start standing for our principles."
Before the prime-time encounter, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham and Pataki participated in the "undercard" debate for those candidates who did not poll strongly enough to qualify for the main event.
Jindal, the Louisiana governor, and Pataki, the former New York governor, led the early charge against Trump.
"Let's stop treating Donald Trump like a Republican," said Jindal. "He's not a conservative. He's not a liberal. He's not a Democrat. He's not a Republican. He's not an independent. He believes in Donald Trump."
Trump and Bush shared a moment of comity near the end of the debate when each of the candidates was asked what code name he or she would suggest the Secret Service use for them if they were elected president.
"Eveready," Bush said, using the name of an American battery maker. Looking at Trump standing next to him, Bush added: "It's high-energy, Donald." As the audience laughed and applauded, Bush and Trump, both smiling, slapped hands together.
Asked what his code name should be, Trump said "Humble" to further laughter from the audience.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Trump Slights Rival Fiorina's Looks: 'Look at That Face'

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Donald Trump mocked the physical appearance of fellow Republican U.S. presidential candidate Carly Fiorina in remarks published on Wednesday, saying: "Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?"
The comments by the billionaire real estate developer published in an article on the website of Rolling Stone magazine were aimed at the only woman in the large field of Republicans vying for their party's 2016 presidential nomination.
The magazine reported that Trump, leading in the polls among the Republican contenders, made the remarks while watching Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard Co chief executive, on television.
"Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?" Trump is quoted as saying. "I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not s'posed ta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?"
Fiorina, in an interview on Fox News Channel, said: "Well, I think those comments speak for themselves. And all of the many, many, many thousands of voters out there that are helping me climb in the polls, yes, they're very serious."
"Maybe, just maybe, I'm getting under his skin a little bit because I am climbing in the polls," she said.
The subject did not come up when Trump was interviewed on Fox News by host Sean Hannity, but Trump did express concern about his own looks, noting he had just returned from a trip to Washington.
"I haven’t even looked at a mirror so I hope I’m okay. I hope I look fine," said Trump.
"You look fine," said Hannity.
It was not the first time Trump has taunted Fiorina. A month ago he tweeted: “I just realized that if you listen to Carly Fiorina for more than 10 minutes straight, you develop a massive headache. She has zero chance!”
Trump's remarks were his latest barbs aimed at a woman during the campaign. Last month, Trump criticized Fox News Channel anchor Megyn Kelly during and after a Republican debate.
During the debate, Kelly had asked Trump about comments referring to women as "fat pigs" and slobs. Asked about Kelly in a CNN interview last month, Trump said: "You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever."
Trump has touted his "great relationships" with women, saying he had hired thousands of women including top-level employees, adding: "I cherish women."
Trump the Chump is the truest definition of the word misogynist. Even Webster's Dictionary has his image beside the word. He bulldozes his way through and right over people, offending, injuring, outraging and he doesn't give a damn. Such a sensitive, compassionate man should positively be elected to be your leader...if you have a hankering for WW three and the extinction of humanity.

(This version corrects to include full quote in paragraph 5 and make clear Fiorina was referring to voters as serious, rather than the remarks)

Ask Maxy

Dear Maxy ,
It has been a dream of mine to continue my college education in London . When I spoke to my mentors about my plans , they told me that it would not be a good idea because the America job market will not hold an international degree in the same regard as an American college degree . I respect my mentor , but I really think I should go to London and make my dream come true . Besides , I cannot let my friends down ... this is all I have been talking about since I were 10 years old . What are your thoughts ? Should I make my dream come true , or should I continue my college education in American with a focus on international studies ? 
A Dream Deferred
Dear Dream Deferred ,
Now is the time to listen to your heart and do your research . You should not think about whether you will be letting down your friends . People can change their minds if they choose . It is your life , not theirs . As far as your mentors , do some research to learn what they mean . If you are pursuing a degree in international studies at a British school  that is acclaimed for this major , chances are that you will be well placed in a job if you have a solid academic . Figure out what the top schools are  and determine if you can afford to go , either because you can pay the tuition or you can secure scholarships or loans . Once you  are prepared to make a decision , you will know what the best choice is for you .

Dear Maxy ,
I was invited to attend a small wedding in a few weeks for one of my college friends . I invited a woman to be my date for the ceremony . However , we are not currently communicating with each other due to a disagreement . Do you think it is wrong for me to inform her that I made new arrangements for the wedding ? I don't mean to be rude , but we are no longer dating and she doesn't even know the couple .
Wedding Crusher 
Dear Wedding Crusher,
You absolutely need to hold fast to a wedding invitation with this woman . You do need to let her know that you are no longer expecting her to go with you . You may also want to clear the air regarding your disagreement . Even if you have no intention of getting together with her ever again , it is  kind and respectful to close the loop . In the best of worlds , you should contact her and start by addressing whatever the conflict was . Follow up with the point that you are no longer expecting her to join you .

Dear Maxy ,
I've been in a relationship for five years with a guy who has been very enjoyable company , however , in the past 18 months , rumors have surfaced about him being bisexual . He never told me about this part of his past . Finally , I confronted him and he admitted that this was just a whim at a time in his life when he was alone . He's been divorced for 23 years and claims he never knew why his wife divorced him . 
He now feels that , since he is with me and the desires are no longer there , I should just forget about my disgusted feelings and go on as if nothing was ever said . His friends was the ones who kept dropping these hints to me , but , of course I ignored them until now .
I don't know if I should continued this relationship . He is 85 and I am 79 . We don't have sex since he has erectile dysfunction and his desire has diminished .
Worrying Winnie 
Dear Winner ,
What is that you want from this relationship ? Whatever is in this man's past does not need to affect your future . Someone who is bisexual is attracted to both men and woman .
If this were a sexual relational , I might understand your concerns . But you aren't having sex with him . and have no plans to do so . You don't have to marry him to enjoy him . You find him to be very enjoyable company . I don't see a problem . If you want to continue spending time with him , go right ahead .

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Shaolin Monk Breaks Record for Walking on Water

A Shaolin monk broke his own world record for “running on water” in Quanzhou, China. Monk Shi Liliang managed to run 125 metres on 200 plywood planks laid across a reservoir..
It took three attempts before Shi succeeded in breaking his previous world record of 120 metres. The task demands excellent balance and great speed.

If you think this is a cake-walk folks, give it a try

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Ask Maxy

Dear Maxy,
My teenage son was previously overweight . Recently , he commited himself to exercise and has lost so much weight that none of his clothes fit . Like me , he hates shopping , so he has been wearing my pants and his baggy shirts --- he doesen't care they are too big . The rest of the family chides him on looking "homeless" in his large clothes and I know he needs new attire , but I can't bear to set foot in a store .
Although one of the problems with my son's new lifestyle is his appearance , an even bigger concern of mine is his advice to others . To change his life arond , he used an app to input his height , weight and daily caloric intake to find out he would have to exercise to lose a certain amount of weight . He has taken to the habit of asking people what their weight , height and daily caloric intake so he can help them lose weight . My son is not doing this to offend , and he feels as though he is genuinely helping others . My daughters do not feel the same way , and I doubt the various cashiers and salespeople do , either . How can I get my son to focus on his own appearance and stop telling others how to change theirs?
Weighted Advice
Dear Weighted Advice ,
It is common for people who have made a dramatic and positive shift in their way of living to become advocates for their lifestyle choice . Too often, that advocacy can turn into proselytizing (trying to convert  you to their way of thinking ) something that few people want to hear . You can gently point out to your son that, he had to recognize for himself that he needed to make a change in his diet and exercise choices; the same is true for others . The decision has to be a personal choice , coming from within oneself and by oneself in order to be successful.
If the people he is approaching are overweight and out of shape, they may very well take offense at his remarks.
Point out to him that he has not yet been totally successful with his own program because he still has no pride or   confidence in his new appearance. To advise other people, one has to be a shining example of  one's own advice.

Dear Maxy ,
My Son received a ton of homework to complete over the Summer , but he hadn't completed most of it . I remind him to do his work ever morning , but he procrastinates and doesn't do it . I don't want to punish him everyday , but I have to get him to complete his work . What do you recommend .
Facing Homework
Dear Facing Homework ,
Wake your son up early , before any distractions can come into the picture . Make sure all "screens" are out of view . Sit with your son to work on his homework together. Be interested in his assignments. Do your best to engage him in the work. Talk about the importance of responsibilities . Work together each day so that you can get the work done . If you do not seem interested in his work, why should he be? Positive reinforcement really does work with kids.

 Dear Maxy ,
My parents own a good amount of land in their native country . When I was growing up , they paid for my tuition but they was not very supportive emotionally . I sponsored them to come to the U.S. , and because they din't speak much English (and still don't) . I helped them find jobs .
The problem is , my parents are giving everything they own and whatever they made during their lifetimes to my brothers as an inheritance . They are leaving nothing to me . I've decided to encourage them to move back home and live with their sons .
Why should I be handling their bills , buying their groceries , picking up their prescriptions , taking them and acting as their interpreter ?
I paid back every penny they spent on me , including my tuition .
I am angry that I am obligated to take care of them when they are leaving everything to my brothers . Please help.
Foolish Daughter in Orlando
Dear Daughter ,
I assume your parents come from a culture that values sons more than daughters ( there are many) and that daughters are expected to care for the parents while the sons inherit property .
While this is hardly fair, you cannot expect your parents to overcome their own cultural upbringing so easily .
You need to think of this differently . Your parents do not owe you an inheritance . They raised you and helped you get into college by loaning you tuition . That is reason enough to be grateful. Any land or moneys they possess are entirely theirs, to do with as they wish. 
Anything you do for them is out of  love and respect, not for gain or profit .  They will appreciate you for that. And your brothers should welcome the opportunity to do the same .

Dear Maxy ,
I am a cross-dresser and I like your no nonsense advice to "No Life ,Without Wife .
I married in the early 80s and did not tell my wife about my cross-dressing . Nine years later , I wanted her to be part of my complete life . I told her by leaving women clothing jn the closet and telling her they was mine . She said she needed time to think about it . Nine months later , she still wouldn't talk about it or see a therapist and said I needed professional help . That lead to a divorce .
In time , I realized rhat if I wanted to enjoy my cross-dressing and be able to share my pleasure with someone , I have to tell that person early on .
When I told my current wife about my cross-dressing , she asked whether I was gay. I told her no . She asked a lot of other questions and I answered them as truthfully as I could . She was willing to compromise and now the two of us enjoy both of my worlds .
I would strong advice "No Life" to tell his wife in person , privately and as soon as possible .
Turn off all the phones , and let her know you have something important to say . Stay calm , and let her absorb the news at her own pace .
He also should have the name of a therapist ready in case he or wife wish to speak to a professional .
Glad I Did
Dear Glad ,
How well I remember "No Life Without Wife." You did exactly the right thing by being completely open with your wife. Too bad you learned that the hard way.
You must give your present wife a lot of credit for understanding and adapting to your lifestyle. I hope you honor her by doing the same for her.
I can't stress enough how important it is not to keep such important parts of your life hidden from your spouse . Aside from the surprise , it also feels like a betrayal not to have been told before the marriage . And, yes, most people do require counseling to help them adjust. Very good advice for 'No Life Without Wife'.  Thank you for your testimonial .

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Migrant crisis: Thousands arrive in Greece

Thousands of migrants are arriving in mainland Greece as the government prepares for talks on tackling the huge number of people reaching its shores. Two ships carrying more than 4,200 people travelled to Piraeus port at night after leaving Lesbos island.
The whole EU is struggling to deal with an unprecedented influx of migrants.
Hundreds of people, mostly from the Middle East, remain stranded outside a railway station in Hungary after police stopped them travelling through the EU.
The EU's border control agency, Frontex, says 23,000 migrants arrived in Greece last week alone - an increase of 50% on the previous week.
More than 160,000 people have arrived in Greece so far this year - already surpassing last year's total.               
The country's government says it lacks the resources to look after that many arrivals, but aid groups say authorities should be doing more.
On Tuesday, Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos called his French counterpart Francois Hollande and asked that the situation facing Greece be discussed at a senior European level.
Greece's caretaker cabinet is set to convene later on Wednesday.
Many of those arriving in the country do so on the island of Lesbos, where, according to the Kathimerini newspaper, 17,500 migrants were registered in the last week.
One ferry carrying 1,749 migrants travelling from Lesbos arrived in the port of Piraeus, near Athens, late on Tuesday. One of the passengers, a Syrian teacher named Isham, told Reuters news agency: "You have to help us. We are human."
Another, with close to 2,500 on board, was due to arrive early on Wednesday.

 Many families bedded down near Keleti station, wondering what to do next

Under an EU rule known as the Dublin Regulation, refugees should seek asylum in the first EU country they enter. But Italy and Greece - the main landing points - say they cannot cope with the numbers and many migrants head north.
On Monday, Hungary had appeared to abandon efforts to register migrants, allowing huge numbers to board trains at Keleti station in east Budapest and travel to Vienna and southern Germany.
But police evacuated the station on Tuesday, leaving about 1,000 migrants outside.
Late on Tuesday, an angry crowd chanted "Germany, Germany" and waved train tickets.
Members of the crowd complained that they had paid hundreds of euros for tickets to Austria or Germany.
Hungary said it would now register all migrants and send those it considered to be economic migrants back to the state from which they entered the country.

Image caption Migrants wave their train tickets outside Keleti station   
The number of migrants entering Europe has reached record levels, with 107,500 arriving in July alone.
Germany expects to take in 800,000 migrants this year - four times last year's total.
The German government has already said it will allow Syrians arriving from other EU states to apply for asylum. But on Tuesday, a spokesman said the Dublin Regulation had not been suspended.
"Dublin rules are still valid and we expect European member states to stick to them," an interior ministry spokesman said.
The risks for migrants travelling through Europe were highlighted last week by the deaths of 71 people found in a truck that had travelled to Austria from Budapest.
As a result, Austria reintroduced border controls at main crossings from Hungary.
EU interior and justice ministers will meet in Brussels on 14 September to address the crisis.
The UN should make a concerted humanitarian effort to offer asylum to migrants. Europe cannot handle the scope of this situation alone. These people are human beings in crisis and they need help.

Fossil of 6 foot long sea scorpion found