Monday, November 30, 2015

The future of our planet rests on the heads of a few people who are not known for planetary concern

Indien Umweltverschmutzung Fabrikschlot in Bangalore

 President Barack Obama said the UN climate conference in Paris could be a "turning point" in global efforts to limit future temperature rises.
Negotiators from 195 countries will try to reach a deal within two weeks aimed at reducing global carbon emissions and limiting global warming to 2C (3.6F).
Leaders from 147 nations have been addressing the meeting, known as COP21.
President Obama urged negotiators to deliver a meaningful deal, because the "next generation is watching".
He told delegates: "Climate change could define the contours of this century more than any other (challenge).
"I came here personally to say the United States not only recognizes the problem but is committed to do something about it."
He added that recent years had shown that the global economy had grown while emissions had remained flat, breaking the old arguments for inaction "that economic growth and environmental protection were in conflict".
Russian President Vladimir Putin also addressed the conference.
During negotiations for the preceding Kyoto Protocol, Russia was the last industrialized nation to ratify the global agreement, allowing the landmark deal to come into force in 2001.
Echoing President Obama, Mr Putin said: "We have demonstrated we can ensure economic development and take care of our environment at the same time."
In a diplomatic play on semantics, probably to highlight the differing points of view between industrialized and emerging economies, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the conference he did not see the Paris talks as a turning point nor a "finish line, but a new starting point".
He said that climate change went beyond national borders and that it was "a shared mission for all mankind", before reiterating China's pledge to start cutting its emissions from a peak in 2030.
So what can we glean from the warm words and good intentions of the leaders?
There are certainly positive omens. Leader after leader sang the same hymn - climate change is a huge challenge, only co-operation on a global level can solve it, and my country is doing great! Still, there were obvious divisions. Progress may or may not happen over the next two weeks.
One negotiator said the whole idea was for the leaders to come, speak and happily be on their way without toppling this carefully constructed applecart.  Unlike in Copenhagen in 2009.
"The leaders fully understand the political nature, the political difficulties. They are coming here to provide maneuvering guidance," he said with a hint of irony.
"And we as negotiators will then have to fix it."
British Prime Minister David Cameron used his address to consider how future generations would respond to the idea that it was "too difficult" for this generation of politicians to reach an agreement in 2015.
"Our grandchildren would ask why it was so difficult," he said, before listing how progress had been made in delivering climate policy, such as financing, carbon budgets and technological research and development.
"Instead of making excuses to our children and grandchildren, we should be taking action," Mr Cameron stated.               
Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga made a stark observation in his passionate address: "If we save Tuvalu, we will surely save the world."
"Like other nations in the Pacific, our survival depends on the decisions we take here in Paris," he said, reflecting the concerns of many Small Island States (SISs) around the globe.
"We stand on a cliff edge. Either we stand united and agree to combat climate change, or we all stumble and fall."

Major points of contention include:
  • Limits: The UN has endorsed a goal of limiting global warming to no more than 2C over pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. But more than 100 poorer countries and low-lying, small-island states are calling for a tougher goal of 1.5C.
  • Fairness: Developing nations say industrialized countries should do more to cut emissions, having polluted for much longer. But rich countries insist that the burden must be shared to reach the 2C target.
  • Money: One of the few firm decisions from the 2009 UN climate conference in Copenhagen was a pledge from rich economies to provide $100 billion (93 billion euros) a year in financial support for poor countries from 2020 to develop technology and build infrastructure to cut emissions. Where that money will come from and how it will be distributed has yet to be agreed.
Much of the discussion in Paris is expected to center on an agreement to limit global warming to 2C (3.6F).
However, assessments of the more than 180 national climate action plans submitted by countries to the summit suggest that if they are implemented, the world will see a rise of nearer to 3C.
Christiana Figueres, the head of the UN's climate change negotiations, told delegates that never before had a responsibility so great been in the hands of so few.
"The world is looking to you," she said. "The world is counting on you."
World leaders are attending the start of the two-week meeting to give impetus to the talks, after the high-profile failure of the Copenhagen summit in 2009.
Will this Summit be more successful? 
For almost two decades now, countries around the world have consistently failed to reach an agreement on climate protection. Even the famous Kyoto Protocol of 1997 was not truly global, with only 37 industrialized countries pledging to meet climate goals.
Since then, there have been countless summits and dramatic calls to action - but effectively no results. The UN climate summit in Paris will rely on a new formula: Countries will pledge to reduce their emissions by amounts they determine themselves. These so-called “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions" will then be reviewed later.
But will these politicians take altruistic action for the common good of the planet?  It's very doubtful, unless, it is aligned with their self interest. In climate negotiations, countries have strong incentives to go for a free ride, waiting for others to act while not reducing their own emissions.
Many of the pledges are promising what countries would have done out of pure self-interest anyway - so they're actually pledging nothing. China, for example, pledged to reduce coal use entirely consistent with self-interest....a step they would have been forced to take in their present circumstances. They have polluted their own country to such an extreme, the population is suffering from widespread, related health problems.
The United Nations' top climate director, Christiana Figueres, had to admit the pledges are not sufficient to reach the big goal of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees . She added that she hopes the pledges are not the final word in what countries are ready to do.
But actually, it's quite easy to bridge the huge gap between countries' self-interests and global climate goal.
One carbon price for all
Instead of endlessly haggling over emission goals, the international community should simply focus on a global price for carbon emissions - and observe the principle of reciprocity.
That means: I will do something if you do something, and I won't if you won't. I will apply a carbon price in my economy if everyone else applies the same carbon price in their economy.
Countries would be free to choose how the carbon price would be reached - be it through emissions trading schemes, a carbon tax or other means. Even in countries who don't care about climate change, carbon taxes would be a handy source of revenue for the next few decades. Just an alternate point of view.


World's sexiest robot' causes a frenzy at Beijing tech conference

Hyper-realistic, rubber-skinned android steals the show at Beijing's World Robot Conference
Osaka University's Geminoid F, created to look like an actual woman in her 20s, is said to have been among the most advanced robots at the World Robot Conference in Beijing this week.

Even at an advanced technology conference, movie stars can somehow command the attention of an entire room simply by showing up. Especially when they're also robots.
 The World Robot Conference in Beijing was reportedly taken by storm this week when the latest iteration of Geminoid F – an almost terrifyingly-realistic robot woman – made an appearance during the show.
Known to many as "the world's sexiest robot," the rubber-skinned android can speak, sing, and even act according to China's state-run news service.
She made headlines just a few weeks ago, in fact, when it was announced that she was starring in the Japanese disaster flick Sayonara, making her the first robot to score an actress profile on IMDB.

Embedded image permalink reports that Geminoid's F, a creation of Osaka University's Ishiguro lab, was designed to look like a woman in her 20s and that her operating system allows her to imitate the motions and facial expressions of real people.
Her silica-gel skin can even age, in a sense.
"The gel will become saggy after one or two years and has to be replaced as a result," said Sun Yuting, a Chinese student working for Ishiguro lab, to a reporter at the conference.
The 5-foot-6 android can also make eye contact with humans, recognize body language, and show off a "toothy smile" according to her creators.
"A Geminoid is an android whose appearance closely resembles a specific human 'model'," reads an English page about the female robot and her male counterpart on Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratories' website. "Geminoids' bodies are constructed by precisely measuring human models with a 3D scanner; gypsum is used to accurately capture facial contours."
A page dedicated specifically to the Geminoid F model, written in Japanese, explains that the lab hopes this type of robot becomes more common in "communication media for every day life."

look at those shifty eyes

I don't know how other people feel about this robot but I am finding it a little creepy and also a little frightening; probably the result of too much science fiction. Still, I see the technological singularity peeping around the corner and it looks a lot like this robot. If science perfects these geminoids to the point that we can't tell them from genuine humans, we're in real trouble. I'm going to have nightmares now, of waking in the pre-dawn hours and finding an android staring down at me with that shifty eyed smile.

New deal on Migrants Between Turkey and EU...Cash Changes Hands

Greece's PM Tsipras, German Chancellor Merkel and Turkish PM Davutoglu talk to French President Hollande during an EU-Turkey summit in Brussels
(L to R) Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu talk to French President Francois Hollande during an EU-Turkey summit in Brussels, Belgium November 29, 2015. Turkey will help the European Union handle the flow of migrants that has called into question the future of Europe's passport-free travel in exchange for cash and restarting stalled talks on EU accession,
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Turkey promised to help stem the flow of migrants to Europe in return for cash, visas and renewed talks on joining the EU in a deal struck on Sunday that the Turkish prime minister called a "new beginning" for the uneasy neighbors.
Leaders of the European Union met Turkish premier Ahmet Davutoglu in Brussels on Sunday to finalize an agreement hammered out by diplomats over the past month, as Europeans struggle to limit the strain on their 28-nation bloc from taking in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.
A key element is 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) in EU aid for the 2.2 million Syrians now in Turkey. The money is intended to raise their living standards and so persuade more of them to stay put rather than attempt perilous crossings to the EU via the Greek islands.
The final offer of "an initial" 3 billion euros represents a compromise between the EU, which offered that sum over two years, and Turkey, which wanted it every year. Now the money, as French President Francois Hollande said, will be paid out bit by bit as conditions are met, leaving the total payout unclear.
"As Turkey is making an effort to take in refugees -- who will not come to Europe -- it's reasonable that Turkey receive help from Europe to accommodate those refugees," Hollande told reporters. He added that the deal should also make it easier to check migrants arriving and keep out those who pose a threat, like Islamic State militants who struck Paris two weeks ago.
Also on offer to Ankara, which wants to revive relations with its European neighbors after years of coolness as it faces trouble in the Middle East and from Russia, is a "re-energized" negotiating process on Turkish membership of the EU, even if few expect it to join soon.
Many Turks could also benefit from visa-free travel to Europe's Schengen zone within a year if Turkey meets conditions on tightening its borders in the east to Asian migrants and moves other benchmarks on reducing departures to Europe.
"Today is a historic day in our accession process to the EU," Davutoglu told reporters on arrival. "I am grateful to all European leaders for this new beginning."
Aware of a sense of desperation in Europe for a solution to a crisis that has called into question its own cohesion and the future of its Schengen passport-free travel zone, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has driven a hard bargain.
The deal involves Turkish help, including through naval patrols and border checks, in handling the flow of migrants to the EU, expected to reach 1.5 million people this year alone.
"Results must be achieved in particular in stemming the influx of irregular migrants," a joint statement read.
"Both sides will, as agreed and with immediate effect, step up their active cooperation on migrants who are not in need of international protection, preventing travel to Turkey and the EU ... and swiftly returning migrants who are not in need of international protection to their countries of origin."
Summit chairman Donald Tusk stressed that the meeting was primarily about migration rather than improving Turkish ties, which have been strained in recent years as Erdogan has used a powerful electoral mandate to consolidate his power. Critics say he has abused the rights of opponents, media and minority Kurds.
"Our main goal is to stem the flow of migrants," Tusk said, while insisting "this is not a simple, trivial trade-off".
The Europeans, none more so than German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are under pressure to manage the biggest influx of people since World War Two, the bulk of them to Germany. The crisis has helped populist opponents and set nations against each other, straining the open internal borders of the EU.
Before the summit itself, Merkel met leaders of some other EU states which have taken in many refugees -- Sweden, Finland, Austria and the Benelux countries -- and said afterwards they had discussed how they might resettle more of them directly from Syria rather than wait for families to reach the EU via dangerous smuggling routes across the Mediterranean.
She said they had discussed no figures. German media reports had spoken earlier of up to 400,000 Syrians being resettled.
Measures the EU has taken have done little to control migrant movements. While winter weather may lower the numbers for a few months, it is also worsening the plight of tens of thousands stuck by closing borders in the Balkans.
Sunday's summit, called just days ago as Brussels tried to clinch a deal offered over a month ago, has been complicated by Turkey's downing of a Russian warplane on the Syrian border.

Davutoglu: Turkey has right to respond when airspace violated
Speaking after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says his forces have the right to respond when its airspace is violated

That has complicated European efforts to re-engage with Moscow, despite a continued frost over Ukraine, in order to try to advance a peace in Syria that could end the flight of refugees and contain Islamic State. Davutoglu will remain in Brussels for a meeting with fellow ministers from NATO.
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said tensions between Ankara and Moscow over the downing of the warplane were of "enormous concern". The EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the incident should not affect the prospect of finding a political deal on Syria.
Islamic State's attack on Paris on Nov. 13 has heightened calls in the EU for more controls on people arriving from Syria. Two, possibly three of the Paris terrorists, posing as refugees, arrived in groups of migrants. This put a whole new spin on the welcome European countries have been giving Syrian migrants. And now western countries are having second thoughts about offering sanctuary to the, now, millions of people who are fleeing Syria.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ask Maxy

Dear Maxy ,
I work for a company that provides little opportunity for growth and innovation . It frustrates me because I have some ideas that can really help streamline my company's productivity . I am hesitant to share my ideas because upper management has shot down so many ideas from previous employees . I think my ideas will be helpful to the success of the company . Do you think I should share my ideas even if upper management says no ? 
Progress to the People 
Dear Progress to The People,
Don't let others' failures keep you from making your best effort . As you prepare  your productivity pitch to present to upper management, observe what grabs their attention. Notice what topics they seem interested in.  What do they value? What are company policies and guidelines?
As you assess these things, craft a presentation that keeps  upper management interests and concerns in mind and still gets your point across. Make sure you have concrete stats and projections to back up your thinking . And, by all means, make your presentation short and to the point. An over long speech will lose momentum and people's interest.

Dear Maxy ,
I have been attempting to arrange a visit with my sister for a few weeks now . I haven't seen her in a while , and I feel as though my effort is incredibly one-sided . We've been spending less and less time together and I would just like to spend a day or weekend with her ! But whenever I ask what's good for her , she says she'll "tell me when she knows" or that she'll "get back to me ." Is she trying to avoid me ?
We haven't had a fight or disagreement of any sort . I just want to spend some time with my sister and I feel like she's dodging me . She could come visit me too, and the only reason I've been proposing to come to her is because she lives in a bigger city and she wouldn't have to travel .
What can I do to get her to care about seeing me ?
Little Sister is Trying 
Dear Little Sister is Trying ,
Even with family, you cannot convince people to be close if it's not in their makeup. Your efforts are commendable . You may want to go one extra step . Ask your sister  if there  is a reason than she seems to be avoiding  you . It's time to be direct .
Tell your sister  that you have  tried many times to connect  with her, but you feel she always blows you off . Ask her if something has happened or if you have done something to make her distance herself from you.
It may very well be that she is too busy or immersed in work or has some personal problems to work out . This would make anyone distracted and have no desire visit with family.
Perhaps she feels she can't accommodate you comfortably in her home. Give her the benefit of the doubt before you get too frustrated . And ask her if she would come visit you instead.
Tell her you love her and don't want to lose your relationship with her. Family is essential to everyone.

Dear Maxy ,
My husband and I raised raise my three children with very little help from their birth father . He paid no child support and rarely visited them .
Of course , now that the children are adults , Dad is back in the picture . My children are so hungry for what they feel like what they missed that they've left me behind in the dust . I do understand this on a a primitive level , yet it hurts .
I would like people think about how much care is required to raise a family . That "father" didn't take you to the doctor , the orthodontist or any of the other necessary appointments . He didn't go to your school activities and talk to your teachers . He didn't support you as he should have emotional or financially , even when he had the money . He didn't have to instill discipline , especially when one of the reasons you acted out was because you felt abandoned by your father . Now you think he's the greatest thing since sliced bread . 
The Ones Left Behind 
Dear Left Behind ,
You have a good  grasp of your children's emotional need  for their  biological father, even though he abandoned them as children. It is necessary to anyone's development and growth as a person to know both parents and to understand where they came from. It is a right of passage that they need to get through. And as you say, they are still hungry for what they missed and for his approval.
Knowing this, you must also know that it will settle down and things will achieve a balance once more. They will always love you and appreciate what you have done for them. They are just a little blind-sided at the moment while in the honeymoon phase of their new relationship with Dad. 
With maturity comes wisdom. All you have to do is be patient. Time is on your side. Don't be bitter or make accusations or you will make biological Dad look even better. Be supportive and understanding. Kids, no matter what age, can never have too many people in their lives who love them.
Be the loving mom and dad you have always been and they will come back to you again. And biological Dad will take a not so prominent place in their lives.

Dear Maxy ,
I work in a small department within a larger corporation . One of my co-workers is a rather large gentleman who has very bad body odor . I am a larger gal myself and I sweat more than others . I know this , so I bathe daily and use antiperspirant . 
This co-worker comes into my office smelling this way , so he probably doesn't shower every morning . He works with the public and I can't help but wonder what kind of an impression he leaves about our department . I am not the only one who has noticed this , but I am not comfortable enough to talk directly to this person . Should our supervisor say something ? Please help .
Suffocating in Orlando 
Dear Suffocating ,
Some body odors are hard  to control, so it's best  not to make assumptions . It's possible  that this man bathes  daily  and wears deodorant  and it still isn't enough .
He may have an undiagnosed health problem. There are several illnesses that can produce odors.
Since the public, who do business with him, and his co-workers who have to spend five days a week with him are offended by his odor, it becomes a work related matter...not a personal judgment.
Therefore your supervisor should take him aside, in private, and discuss it with him . And hopefully he will suggest a visit to the doctor for a checkup. The supervisor will be helping your co-worker as well as you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Turkish Russian Standoff Over Downed War Plane

 The Turks claim they warned the Russian pilots ten times, in total. Russia claims's not so
Supposed survivor of Russian fighter plane crash claiming there were no warnings Well??? Who is lying?

Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border on Tuesday, saying it had repeatedly violated its air space, one of the most serious publicly acknowledged clashes between a NATO member country and Russia for half a century. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the plane had been attacked when it was 1 km (0.62 mile) inside Syria and warned of "serious consequences" for what he termed a "stab in the back."
 Russian and Turkish shares fell on fears of an escalation between the former Cold War enemies. Each country summoned a diplomatic representative of the other and NATO called a meeting of its ambassadors for Tuesday afternoon.
Footage from private Turkish broadcaster Haberturk TV showed the warplane going down in flames in a woodland area, a long plume of smoke trailing behind it. The plane went down in area known by Turks as "Turkmen Mountain," it said. Separate footage from Turkey's Anadolu Agency showed two pilots parachuting out of the jet before it crashed.
A Syrian rebel group sent a video to Reuters that appeared to show one of the pilots immobile and badly wounded on the ground and an official from the group said he was dead. Russia's defense ministry said one of its Su-24 fighter jets had been downed in Syria and that, according to preliminary information, the pilots were able to eject. "For the entire duration of the flight, the aircraft was exclusively over Syrian territory," it said.
The Turkish military said the aircraft had been warned 10 times in the space of five minutes about violating Turkish air space. Officials said a second plane had also approached the border and been warned. "The data we have is very clear. There were two planes approaching our border, we warned them as they were getting too close," a senior Turkish official told Reuters. "We warned them to avoid entering Turkish air space before they did, and we warned them many times. Our findings show clearly that Turkish air space was violated multiple times. And they violated it knowingly," the official said.
A second official said the incident was not an action against any specific country but a move to defend Turkey's sovereign territory within its rules of engagement.

Russia's decision to launch separate air strikes in Syria mean Russian and NATO planes have been flying combat missions in the same air space for the first time since World War II targeting various insurgent groups close to Turkish borders. A US official said US forces were not involved in the downing of the Russian jet, which was the first time a Russian or Soviet military aircraft has been publicly acknowledged to have been shot down by a NATO member since the 1950s.
The incident appeared to scupper hopes of a rapprochement between Russia and the West in the wake of the Islamic State attacks in Paris, which led to calls for a united front against the radical jihadist group in Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the warplane crashed in a mountainous area in the northern countryside of Latakia province, where there had been aerial bombardment earlier and where pro-government forces have been battling insurgents on the ground.
"A Russian pilot," a voice is heard saying in the video sent to Reuters as men gather around the man on the ground. "God is great," is also heard. The rebel group that sent the video operates in the northwestern area of Syria, where groups including the Free Syrian Army are active but Islamic State, which has beheaded captives in the past, has no known presence.
The official from the group, who declined to be named for security reasons, did not mention the second Russian pilot. Broadcaster CNN Turk earlier reported that one of the pilots was in the hands of Turkmen forces in Syria who were looking for the other one, citing local sources. Russian military helicopters were also searching for the pilots, Turkey's Dogan news agency said.
Both Russia and its ally, Syria's government, have carried out strikes in the area. A Syrian military source said the reported downing was being investigated. Turkey called this week for a UN Security Council meeting to discuss attacks on Turkmens in neighboring Syria, and last week Ankara summoned the Russian ambassador to protest against the bombing of their villages.
Ankara has traditionally expressed solidarity with Syrian Turkmens, who are Syrians of Turkish descent. About 1,700 people have fled the mountainous Syrian area near to the Turkish border as a result of fighting in the last three days, a Turkish official said on Monday. Russian jets have bombed the area in support of ground operations by Syrian government forces.
Some Western analysts characterized the downing of the jet as a robust response by Turkey which they said created clear red lines for Russia and should thereby make further clashes less, rather than more likely. "Reducing the margin for error in this way lowers, rather than raises, the potential for more serious clashes," said Keir Giles, associate fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Program at Chatham House in London.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the incident was a "planned provocation." Hard to prove otherwise when there is no recording of the Russian pilot responding to the warnings. It's another case of taking some from column A and some from column B and drawing your own conclusion.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

For Mama and Aunt Jeannie --- 9 Wild Animals That Vanished During Our Lifetime

                              Gastric-Brooding Frog
This eastern Australian native ate its young—sort of. Unlike other frogs, the gastric-brooding frog incubated its offspring in its stomach. Scientists presume the female swallowed its eggs, and after six to seven weeks, fully formed frogs emerged from her mouth. Unfortunately, the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared this unique genus extinct in 2002. The reasons behind its disappearance remain unclear, but timber harvesting and water quality are suspected .
                                Ivory-Billed Woodpecker 

The IUCN lists this bird, endemic to the United States and Cuba, as critically endangered. But despite many intensive searches, the last confirmed sighting was in 1987. It was reportedly spotted in the Big Woods region of Arkansas in 2004, but evidence—including a “poor-quality” video—remains controversial. (It’s debated whether the bird filmed was just another type of woodpecker.) Latest studies contend that the species is likely extinct. The culprits: logging, clearance for agriculture, and hunting.

Javan Tiger

Tiger populations have dropped 97 percent within the last 100 years. Among them is the Javan tiger, which the IUCN declared extinct in 2003 (though it hadn’t been spotted since 1976, in the Meru Betiri National Park in Java, Indonesia). Thanks to recent conservation efforts, the Bengal tiger in India might stand a better chance. Poaching is down, and more natural deaths of the big cats may signal that they’re recovering.

                                    Spix’s Macaw
Also known as the little blue macaw, this Brazilian native inspired the main characters of the animated film Rio. Several live in captivity, but the species likely went extinct in the wild because of trade and habitat loss, among other factors. The Spix’s macaw was last sighted in the wild in 2000 in a preservation site in Bahia, Brazil.

                         Po’ouli or Black-Faced Honeycreeper
The po’ouli likely went extinct a year or two after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the San Diego Zoo tried to save it in 2004, when three individuals were confirmed to exist. The conservationists were only able to capture one of them for breeding, but it turned out to be male—leading them to believe that no female remains. The captive po’ouli has since died. 

                               Yangtze River Dolphin 
This small white dolphin, endemic to the Yangtze River (one of the busiest waterways in the planet), had been around for 20 million years before scientists announced its extinction in 2006. They blamed ship collisions, dams, overfishing, and environmental destruction.
                              Caribbean Monk Seal 
The only seals known to be native to the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean monk seals—or “sea wolves,” as Christopher Columbus called them in 1494—were last seen in 1952 on the Serranilla Bank between Honduras and Jamaica. Hunters began targeting the seals for their fur, meat, and oil when the Italian explorer landed in the New World; fishing and coastal development drove the species to its demise in later years. The IUCN declared the Caribbean monk seal extinct in 1986.
                           Western Black Rhinoceros 
About a million black rhinos roamed Africa in the early 1900s. By 2011, the IUCN had declared them extinct. The causes: sports hunting, then agricultural clearing. Economic growth in China, where traditional medicine promotes powdered rhino horn as a cure-all, ultimately spelled the end of the species.
                              Pinta Island Tortoise
The recent discovery of hybrid tortoises descended from this Gal├ípagos Island native gave scientists hope. But the 2012 death of the last surviving Pinta Island tortoise, Lonesome George, was nonetheless devastating. A Hungarian scientist spotted him in 1971, when the species was thought to be extinct because of meat harvesting and the introduction of goats and pigs that laid waste to its habitat. Today, Lonesome George is just another museum exhibit. 

Jenny says , listen  grown-ups , hear me well . 

I am 11-years-old , I became  an environmentalist  to help my mama  and  aunt Jeannie , take  a second  and realize what  you are  leaving  us "NOTHING."  

This is what you have to do , because  we are too young  at the moment to go head to head  with the  big  companies , to insure  our  future you need to get your  butts in gear . 
You must stop Big Oil and coal and natural gas. The planet is being destroyed because of fossil fuels. We have renewable energy solutions. Change is needed now. Change is good. We need to go to a electric car world. Get rid of all the gas powered everything. Lawn mowers the riding kind put out so much pollution. A new invention that connects to exhaust pipe filters 98% of the pollutants out. It cost 30 dollars. Save the environment and save the world. We need everything in our world. Nature has a purpose for everything except humans. We need to realize this is one world. Men are killing everything. A mans world that is failing. Like Nero they'll fiddle while everything burns. They never do seem to learn. Always believe they are more cleaver than the ones that came before. Obviously they really are worse.

I wrote my byline  and  asked my daddy to  write it so  all the  grown-ups  will hopefully understand .
Thank you for  reading  and take heed to a very important message .
Jennifer Carano 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Are Aliens Hiding Behind the Starlight ??

(Credit: Thinkstock)

Alien hunting isn’t just tabloid fodder anymore. Over the last few years, astronomers have discovered thousands of planets outside the Solar System, suggesting that the galaxy is teeming with worlds – at least as many as one planet per star, on average.
The existence of so many planets raises the odds that at least one of them has life – and it’s possible there may even be an Earth “twin” – making alien-hunting a bona fide scientific endeavour. “We’re now ready to make the transition from ‘are there planets?’ to ‘is there life on these planets?’” says Nick Siegler, the chief technologist of Nasa’s Exoplanet Exploration Program. “That’s a huge shift in how Nasa’s thinking about the search for life and what’s next in the world of planetary science.”

The trouble is, it’s harder than it seems to spot life from millions of miles away, especially if it’s not intelligent. Sara Seager is a scientist looking for signs of life on earth like exoplanets.  She believes that the key is to scrutinize the atmospheres of these alien worlds.
One of the technologies that could help researchers like Seager achieve their goal is a seemingly crazy flower-shaped contraption called Starshade. It’s a sort of giant space parasol designed to block light from a star, allowing a telescope to avoid the star's glare and peer into the planets in orbit – and, possibly, reveal signs of alien life.

“If we want to find a true Earth twin in the near future – like in the next decade or two – then yes, we definitely need to do the Starshade,” says Seager, who is based at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
That’s because a Sun-like star is 10 billion times brighter than an Earth-sized planet. The only hope astronomers have for glimpsing any hint of life – likely some form of microorganism – would be to somehow block the light from such a star, allowing a telescope to directly observe the planet itself. It’s a strategy radically different from the main way astronomers have discovered and studied planets so far.
Because planets are so distant, small, and faint, astronomers have mostly probed them indirectly – for example by detecting dips in starlight when a planet passes in front of its star or by measuring how the star wobbles when a planet’s gravity tugs on it. But alien-hunting demands a new tactic.
Scientists hope to identify the gases in the planet’s atmosphere, and detect chemicals that suggest the presence of life – chemicals like oxygen, which comprises 20% of Earth's atmosphere.

(Credit: Northrop Grumman)
The glare of a distant light in Starshade tests illustrates how hard it is to see anything in detail close to a star

“Without life – plants or photosynthetic bacteria – we would have virtually no oxygen,” Seager says. Which is why oxygen is one of the most promising so-called biosignatures. But life on Earth produces all kinds of gases, and alien life could be even more diverse. The challenge is in determining whether these chemicals are biological in origin. 
Although no-one’s found any signs of life yet, astronomers have already sniffed out some atmospheres. When a planet passes in front of its star, the starlight penetrates the gaseous layer enveloping the planet. The molecules in the atmosphere absorb specific wavelengths of light, depending on what the chemical is. By measuring which wavelengths are absorbed, astronomers can identify the gases.
Bigger telescopes like the James Webb Space Telescope, slated for launch in 2018, will be able to use this transit technique to resolve atmospheric chemistry in greater detail. It could even conceivably detect biosignatures. “It could get lucky,” Siegler says. But this method is only good for planetary systems around small stars called M dwarfs – not around Sun-like stars.

The Starshade is launched with a telescope, and when it reaches its position in deep space, it will unfurl and expand to a diameter as wide as 34m (112ft). The petals, which will likely be razor-sharp, remove the effects of diffraction, in which light waves bend around the edge of the shade and produce unwanted glare. The shade and telescope will then separate by as much as 50,000 kilometres (31,250 miles) – almost four times the diameter of Earth.
Suffice to say, this isn't easy. But researchers have shown the idea to work with experiments in the desert, using a lamp, a model Starshade, and a camera.  See below:

(Credit: Northrop Grumman)
A test Starshade much smaller than the final version was used to explore the technique in the desert

If the project gets enough funding and all goes well, Nasa could launch Starshade as early as 2026. “We don’t see any technical impediments to complete a Starshade and  be flying it in the 2020s,” Kasdin says.
Another step toward finding the elusive 'Earth 2'.

For my junior scientists.....Love Aunt Jeannie

Saturday, November 21, 2015

UN backs 'all necessary measures' against ISIS

Flowers in a window shattered by a bullet at the Carillon cafe - one of the sites of the 13 November attacks in Paris

The UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution to "redouble" action against Islamic State, following last week's deadly attacks in Paris.
The French-drafted document urges UN members to "take all necessary measures" in the fight against ISIS ( Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham).
ISIS said it carried out the Paris attacks, in which 130 people died. It also claimed deadly bombings in Lebanon this month, while an ISIS-linked group said it downed a Russian passenger plane in October.
The UN resolution 2249 also condemns recent attacks in Sousse, Tunisia, and Ankara, Turkey.  It came as the Belgian authorities raised the terror alert to the highest level in the capital Brussels, warning of an "imminent threat".
Some of the Paris attackers had lived in Brussels. The only survivor of the group, Salah Abdeslam, is still on the run and is thought to have gone back there.

The Belgian authorities also announced that a suspect had been charged with involvement in the attacks, bringing the number of people charged there to three.
The UN Security Council called on member states to "eradicate the safe haven" ISIS and other militant groups had established over parts of Iraq and Syria.
The document also stresses that nations should "redouble and co-ordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist attacks".
However, it does not invoke the UN's Chapter VII, which gives specific legal authorization for the use of force.
France and Russia have argued that military action is already justifiable because of the right of countries to self defence.

Rethinking strategy on ISIS

Medics move a wounded man near the Boulevard des Filles-du-Calvaire after an attack on 13 November 2015 in Paris, France

There is a sense that in some way the Paris attacks on Friday 13 November were a game-changer. But in what sense?
They have demonstrated in horrific terms that the so-called Islamic State ....
(IS or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham)) group represents not just a threat to the Middle East but to western Europe too.   
The battle against ISIS, far from being contained in Iraq and Syria, is now spreading well beyond its geographical origins.
So what is to be done? There are few if any new suggestions. Most proposals rely upon doing what is already being done, but more effectively or more intensively.

Intelligence drive
Much was already being done in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks at the start of the year. Both France and Britain, for example, have been creating more intelligence posts.

Papers with 'I am Charlie' in various languages displayed are left near candles at a vigil in front of the French Embassy following the terrorist attack in Paris on 7 January 2015 in Berlin, Germany

But more still may be needed. The pool of potential "targets" is large, and surveillance and monitoring a hugely labour-intensive operation.
The Paris attacks and the fact that the operation looks to have been planned in a suburb of Brussels suggest that much more needs to be done within Europe to share intelligence in a timely manner.
The US has already said it is to step up its intelligence-sharing with the French authorities.
'Degrade and destroy'
This phrase sums up the goal of the policy of the Obama administration: essentially to break down ISIS (or Isil as many Americans term it) through sustained air attacks, in the hope that over time, local anti-ISIS ground forces will be up to the task of rolling back the extremists on the ground.
But has this policy been working? Compared to other air campaigns, the resources devoted to the anti-ISIS struggle and the average number of daily sorties have been relatively low, only surging for specific battles, for example the fighting around Kobane. But this could change now.

Smoke billow from the Syrian town of Kobane following an air strike by the U.-led coalition Kobane, Syria, on 21 October2014

IS militants were driven out of the town of Kobane, on the Turkish border, in June

In the wake of the Paris attacks the French air force has dramatically stepped up its rate of strikes against the de facto ISIS capital, Raqqa. Operations from the French aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, in the Gulf will triple the number of French aircraft involved.

French fighters taking off. Video released by French Navy

Americans too have been operating more planes from bases like Incirlik in Turkey, much closer to potential targets in Syria, enabling the aircraft to loiter in the area for much longer. Many other sorties are actually launched from bases in the Gulf which means lengthy flights and multiple air-to-air refueling.Russia also looks set to intensify its air campaign against ISIS (which up to now has not been top of its target list) in the wake of clear evidence that the downing of the Russian airliner over Egypt was indeed caused by a bomb.
The problem is that the application of air power alone, however destructive, cannot hold and secure territory.

Boots on the ground
Air power alone cannot defeat ISIS. Territory needs to be re-captured and held. The advance by Kurdish forces and modest progress around Ramadi by the Iraqi Army are all indicators that the tide on the ground may be turning. But how permanent will these successes be?
The US is still ruling out deploying its own combat forces. The experience of the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq is still raw. So no 'boots on the ground' so far. But the US is stepping up arms supplies to certain rebel groups and has deployed more special forces in an advisory role. Several countries are already supplying such "enabling" specialists and we may see much more of this.
Belatedly, some would say, the US has been stepping up its air strikes against the oil exporting infrastructure from which ISIS gains a considerable portion of its funds. Key installations are being hit along with the tankers and trucks that are essential to oil distribution.

There is perhaps a moment of opportunity here. The attacks in Paris and the downing of the Russian airliner - both claimed by ISIS - mean that the major powers may be able to set aside some of their differences and cooperate in an intensified campaign against ISIS. (Though quite how Russian and Western air power might coordinate their missions is far from clear). At the very least they have a stake in pushing forward the search for a Syrian peace.
 We have to remember that ISIS has billions of dollars from oil and that means they have the power to buy the most advanced weapons, train an army of hundreds of thousands and do pretty much anything they want. They also have the means to infiltrate any country in the world. And they are remorseless. So, crushing them completely is going to take a long time and a very concerted effort.

Obama and Putin discussing strategy after Paris attacks

Undated photo of Hasna Ait Boulahcen

Formerly, Hasna Ait Boulahcen had been thought to have blown herself up during the raid

Earlier, French officials said the cousin of the presumed ringleader of the 13 November attacks in Paris did not blow herself up in Wednesday's police raid in Saint-Denis as previously thought.
A member of the police assault team involved in the raid said Hasna Ait Boulahcen, 26, was "trying to say she was not linked to the terrorists, that she had nothing to do with them and wanted to surrender".
But he said that due to prior intelligence, "we knew that she was trying to manipulate us".
Officials said the suicide bomber was a man, who - alongside with alleged ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud - was also killed.
In a separate development, French prosecutors said that a second suicide bomber from the Stade de France attack passed through Greece on his way to France.
The prosecutors had previously said one of the other attackers had come on the same route, via the Greek island of Leros. The men may have been posing as Syrian refugees.

What is Islamic State?
IS or ISIS is a notoriously violent Islamist group which controls large parts of Syria and Iraq. It has declared its territory a caliphate - a state governed in accordance with Islamic law - under its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

What does it want?
ISIS demands allegiance from all Muslims, rejects national borders and seeks to expand its territory. It follows its own extreme version of Sunni Islam and regards non-believers as deserving of death.

How strong is IS?IS projects a powerful image, partly through propaganda and sheer brutality, and is the world's richest insurgent group. It has about 30,000 fighters but is facing daily bombing by a US-led multi-national coalition, which has vowed to destroy it.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fantastic footage of glacier collapsing in NZ

A glacier collapsing in Mt Cook National Park, New Zealand was caught by photographer Ryan Taylor during a ski mountaineering trip.  A series of ice the size of several buildings falling off the Hochstetter Ice Fall below Mt Cook (highest peak in NZ). Similar events are naturally occurring several times a day (at 13 seconds in the video you can see a similar, smaller collapse in the background of the video) but it is evident climate change is causing glaciers to recede at an unprecedented rate. New Zealand’s 1st ski area was once located on the Ball glacier below Mt Cook which is now covered in rock debris. With increasing average temperatures we are seeing more melting and consequently an increasing ratio of rainfall to snowfall in the accumulation areas of glaciers. It is important to raise awareness around climate change at this time with the international conference on climate change in Paris coming up. For those who don’t care about the glaciers disappearing it has potential to effect economies through loss of tourism and means less water available for irrigation. Like a domino effect, it carries on to raise the level of oceans, which in turn, reduces the earth's land mass, which, in turn, displaces people and wildlife. But the loss of sources for fresh water will someday become a crisis that outweighs all others.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

ISIL is not Islam

Ask Maxy

Dear Maxy , 
An old fliration recently resurfaced in my life, and we're enjoying getting reacquainted . There's even a possibility of a long-term relationship . We are both in our 60s, so a late-in-life romance is fun and comforting .
The problem is, I accidentally discovered his interest in videos of pubescent girls , around 11 or 12 years old . He told me to check a travel video on his computer and I was shocked to see his viewing history --- it also included adult fetish-type imagery . The kid videos had creepy comments from viewers about the young girls' feet . When I told him that anyone could stumble upon his viewing history , he was embarrassed but then said , "I don't see anything wrong with it ." Maxy , I'm not too concerned about the adult fetish content, but kids ? 
We were at the beach once and when a little girl in her wet bathing suit walked into our beachside cafe, he was transfixed, staring at her . I asked him a carefully worded question, saying , "Does any part of your brain tell you that is a child ?' He thought for a second and then said, "No." He also ogles teenage girls , especially if they are wearing "sexy" shoes .
This is troubling me . Also, our sex life is peculiar . We make out furiously , but have never been able to consumate our relationship due to his erectile dysfunction . I have to wonder if he is capable of relating to an age-appropriate woman . He is divorced with two grown children and an 8-year-old granddaughter .
Sad and Worried 
Dear Sad ,
Please, seriously  reconsider this relationship . Your creepy boyfriend sounds like a pedophile with a foot fetish . If his sexual orientation is underage girls with sexy shoes, your bedroom relationship  is doomed . The reason for his erectile dysfunction is that you are not an underage girl with sexy shoes. 
He is not about to change his sexual predilections at his age. What he is doing on line, going to pedophile websites, may be against the law. And downloading pedophile material is pretty much illegal everywhere.
So you have a decision to make; either you want to buy into his lifestyle so you can enjoy his company, or you want to find a guy with a healthy sexual appetite for a mature woman. There are lots out there. Don't be swayed by your nostalgic sentiment of a past flirtation with him. Face the facts.
Be concerned about his eight year old granddaughter's safety. Her parents should be informed that Grandpa has some  inappropriate ideas about  young girls. If he acted on his impulses, you would have to live with that. The family will not appreciate your disclosure and they may deny it but you can be sure they will keep a closer eye on Grandpa.
Choose wisely

Dear Maxy ,
I am a 17-year-old female . I have been battling with depression since I was young . I have had traumatic events in my life . Both of my parents died before I was 13 . My mother was abusive and my father had to be both mother and father to me . I also have a younger brother . I currently live in a foster care . 
I have recently wanted to learn more about my past . I've been told I should move on and not dwell on what I can't change . But I have a lot of questions and some guilt about how I handled things when I was younger . Am I doing the right thing by pursuing this or am I just hurting myself ? 
Battling with Wanting to Know More 
Dear  Battling , 
I think  you deserve  to know the truth . But  knowing  about your past  involves the bad as well as the good . It may be more hurtful to you than helpful, at this time. It is very common for kids, who were adopted or fostered out, to feel rejected and abandoned by their parents, whether they are living or dead. These feelings are often accompanied by a damaged sense of self esteem and guilt.  You are having a typical reaction to your situation.
First of all, a thirteen year old girl is not guilty of anything. You were an innocent child. Your behavior was a direct response to your mother's abuse. You were not responsible for the way she acted. No one has the right to hurt a child. She, obviously, had her own issues and there was no way you, a little girl, could fix her.
 Before you delve further into this you should definitely speak to a counselor who specializes in helping teens to cope. Go to your case worker or school counselor to get advice or a referral.
When you are  feeling more positive about yourself, it would be helpful to see if you can establish a relationship with your brother. It would be good for both of you to have a bond to family. As for examining your past, wait a couple of years until you have let go of your emotional burden and  healed and can handle the negativity it might produce.
Take care of yourself and write to me anytime,

Dear Maxy , 
I needed a ride to the airport and did not want to pay $60 cab fee . So I went on social media and asked those in my area if anyone was willing to drive me for less . I got an anonymous response and I asked the sender for his Facebook account to see if I was being scammed . This person looked reliable , and I ended getting a safe and enjoyable ride to the airport for $5 . Upon hearing about this , my friends were amazed that I could be so "stupid" and "irresponible" and get a ride from a stranger . I feel like I did my research and was prepared to walk away if I got to the arranged meeting spot and my driver wasn't who he promised to be .
I was thinking adventurously. It's the key to life , and my friends should be more open to different experiences . When asked to explain myself , I said I did not want to pay the high cab rate and wanted to see if the Internet would help me out . I think my friends are being boring and sheltered , and definitely plan on doing this again . Should I not tell them before I go ? I told them before I went previously , just in case , but I want to avoid their judgement .
Bargain on the Road 
Dear Bargain on The Road ,
Sorry , but I emphatically agree your  friends . I think you were lucky you got away with it, this time. Any ride that costs five dollars is not on the up and up. Your friendly driver was looking for something else. What you did was tantamount to hitch hiking. Approximately 2700 women a year, in the USA, are assaulted, murdered and dumped by the side of the road, or simply disappear, as a result of hitch hiking. In other words...getting into a car with a stranger.
 I understand the desire for adventure, but find a safer outlet . If you insist on doing this again, tell friends, family or co-workers and let them know where you are going.
Call and give them the licence plate number, make, and color  of the car as soon as you see it. At least they will have a starting point from which to begin their search if you don't arrive. Here is my last word of advice....DON'T.

Dear Maxy ,
I was at a party when I looked over and saw a celebrity rubbing shoulders with me ! This was my first time being near a celebrity in a casual setting and I had no idea what to do . I totally froze and embarrassed myself . I recently relocated to this area and never thought I'd be in the same room as Hollywood stars . I couldn't even introduce myself , even though this person was basically right next to me . I totally made a fumble . How do I present myself properly to celebrities or high-profile people without freezing and making a fool of my self ? I've never even gotten my photo taken, let alone been globally known !Stargazing
Dear Stargazing,
You are shy. Most of us are, in the presence of famous people. Remember they are humans too. They put their pants on, one leg at a time, they bleed, they eat, burp and they go to the bathroom. Picturing that may help you to reduce them from super beings back to just people. They want to be treated like regular folks because under all the hype and publicity...that's all they are. 
Just simply saying hello and introducing yourself works best or mentioning the reason for the event. But if you need more, commit to memory a few handy, pleasant  greetings, ice-breakers and amusing comments and keep them in the back of your mind to fall back on when you get tongue-tied.
Enjoy life,