Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Canadian Creep Catchers ... Right or Wrong?

Dawson Raymond, the 'Creep Catcher Vigilante', has many names for adult men who troll for underage girls and boys on the internet. "Sick fucks," "fucking pigs," and "rapist douche motherfuckers" are just a few examples . Dawson started a vigilante network which has now spread across Canada as other people have taken up his cause.
A mason worker living in Calgary with three pit bulls, Raymond occasionally apologizes for becoming "overheated." Just thinking about child predators, it seems, never ceases to make his blood boil. And the feelings are shared by millions of fathers, grandfathers and big brothers across Canada who feel our police are not doing enough.

Raymond assures us he takes a cooler approach when posing as a 13-year-old girl on popular dating sites. As the ringleader of a growing team of vigilante pedophile hunters, he wants to make sure "nobody does anything stupid."
"We're not trying to set people up," he says of the To Catch a Predator tactic. "We don't ask anybody to meet us... we wait for them to talk to us."

With this strategy, Raymond says it doesn't take long to find men sending unsolicited pictures, asking about sex, and even inviting supposed minors to meet IRL. "I'm telling you, the first time it took me ten fucking minutes, and I had like 20 of them talking to me," he says. "I figured it would get harder, but it's hasn't."
In September of last year, Raymond started confronting these men at malls and fast food joints with cameras rolling, later posting the videos and chat logs online. Between his Facebook page and branded "creep catchers" website, the videos can rack up thousands of shares and hundreds of thousands of views. As you can imagine, the project is a polarizing one. Some commenters tell Raymond and his team to let police do the "big boy job," while others call him a national hero.
He says he learned the technique from watching Justin Payne, a Mississauga Ontario based vigilante who has confronted more than 150 alleged predators. But it's Raymond that has brought an entrepreneurial spirit to that cause, helping start up chapters in Victoria, Nanaimo, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Lloydminster, Saskatoon, and Regina. New chapters have also been set up in Halifax, St. John and Toronto with other cities inquiring how they can join.
Calgary police are familiar with Raymond's work. Media have asked them for reaction enough times that they now have a prepared unattributed statement: "The Calgary Police Service is aware of the incidents that have been alleged by Mr. Raymond and is actively investigating these complaints," it reads. "The Service in no way advocates a citizen taking police action into their own hands and conducting their own investigations."
The statement goes on to say pedophile hunting is dangerous and puts both vigilantes and their loved ones at risk—something Raymond readily admits. He knows that some of his targets will try to retaliate, and he makes sure his fellow team members are prepared for the same.
"I'm making sure they're soldiers," says Raymond of his vetting process. "I'm not just bringing on any flimsy, joe-blow guy."
Some of them work in oil and gas, others in warehouses, though none have a background in law enforcement. "We come from all walks of life, but we all have one general thing in common: we don't like these fuckers," quips Raymond.
He's also wary of naïve copycats: "The last thing I need is some little kids going out and doing it themselves."
So, Raymond keeps a tight lid on his organization, making sure all the videos and chat logs are put in the hands of appropriate law enforcement officials. His site even includes a legal disclaimer: "All persons portrayed are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law," it reads. "We make no assertions of guilt and provide our viewers with content within the limits of Section 309 of the Criminal Code of Canada."
"Everything goes through me before it's published," he adds. "Even from my other teams, because I make sure it's good."
What law enforcement does with the evidence, Raymond says, isn't clear.  According to Calgary police, Raymond's public-shaming method can actually interfere with investigations. "If evidence is not collected or submitted to police properly, the suspect might not be charged or convicted," reads the police statement. "Without a charge or conviction, there is no record of the offence or court orders to prevent the suspect from having unsupervised contact with children in the future."
But canned statements like these don't seem to deter Raymond. In fact, he claims that most police unofficially support what he's doing. "I've talked to a lot of police. On the record, they're telling me I can't do it... [but] off the record, they all say not to stop and keep going."
Raymond's motivation comes from a deep anger at the Canadian justice system's inaction on child predators. In his eyes, there aren't enough investigations to begin with, and there certainly aren't enough pedophiles in jail.
"They protect them by giving reduced sentences, like fucking two months—it's a joke," he says. "What I'm doing is making sure people know who the fuck these people are."
Risky or not, Raymond shows no signs of slowing down his cross-Canada mission to out pedophiles. "I started doing this and I'll die doing this."
 I confess to admiring Dawson Raymond. I agree law enforcement is too lenient on pedophiles. Waiting for stiffer legislation is not helping children who are being molested and assaulted as I write this. The police have their hands tied by the standing laws. They cannot venture far from those restrictions. And Mr Raymond speaks true when he says police officers encourage him off the record. They feel the same way that he and his followers do but are hobbled by legalities and reduced to inaction.
 Is vigilantism ever a good idea? Does it show disrespect for the law? Or does it fill a gap in the judicial system that desperately needs filling?

Monday, August 29, 2016

Bright, Funny, Whimsical,Talented - Gene Wilder Passed Away

 LOS ANGELES — Gene Wilder, the frizzy-haired actor who brought his deft comedic touch to such unforgettable roles as the neurotic accountant in "The Producers" and the deranged animator of "Young Frankenstein," has died. He was 83.

 Wilder's nephew said Monday that the actor and writer died late Sunday at his home in Stamford, Connecticut, from complications from Alzheimer's disease.
Jordan Walker-Pearlman said in a statement that Wilder was diagnosed with the disease three years ago, but kept the condition private so as not to disappoint fans.
"He simply couldn't bear the idea of one less smile in the world," Walker-Pearlman said.

Actor Gene Wilder appears at Barnes & Noble to sign copies of his book 'The Woman Who Wouldn't', March 26, 2008. (Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

Wilder started his acting career on the stage, but millions knew him from his work in the movies, especially his collaborations with Mel Brooks on "The Producers," "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein." The last film — with Wilder playing a California-born descendant of the mad scientist, insisting that his name is pronounced "Frahn-ken-SHTEEN" — was co-written by Brooks and Wilder.
"One of the truly great talents of our time," Mel Brooks tweeted. "He blessed every film we did with his magic & he blessed me with his friendship."

With his unkempt hair and big, buggy eyes, Wilder was a master at playing panicked characters caught up in schemes that only a madman such as Brooks could devise, whether reviving a monster in "Young Frankenstein" or bilking Broadway in "The Producers.'' Brooks would call him "God's perfect prey, the victim in all of us."

But he also knew how to keep it cool as the boozy gunslinger in "Blazing Saddles" or the charming candy man in the children's favourite "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." His craziest role: the therapist having an affair with a sheep in Woody Allen's "Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex.''

He was close friends with Richard Pryor and their contrasting personas — Wilder uptight, Pryor loose — were ideal for comedy. They co-starred in four films: "Silver Streak,'' ''Stir Crazy," "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" and ''Another You." And they created several memorable scenes, particularly when Pryor provided Wilder with directions on how to "act black" as they tried to avoid police in "Silver Streak."

In 1968, Wilder received an Oscar nomination for his work in Brooks' "The Producers." He played the introverted Leo Bloom, an accountant who discovers the liberating joys of greed and corruption as he and Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) conceive a Broadway flop titled "Springtime For Hitler" and plan to flee with the money raised for the show's production.
Matthew Broderick played Wilder's role in the 2001 Broadway stage revival of the show.

Though they collaborated on film, Wilder and Brooks met through the theatre. Wilder was in a play with Brooks' then-future wife, Anne Bancroft, who introduced the pair backstage in 1963.

Wilder, a Milwaukee native, was born Jerome Silberman on June 11, 1935. His father was a Russian emigre, his mother was of Polish descent. When he was 6, Wilder's mother suffered a heart attack that left her a semi-invalid. He soon began improvising comedy skits to entertain her, the first indication of his future career.

Gene Wilder listens as he is introduced to receive the Governor's Awards for Excellence in Culture and Tourism at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Conn. in 2008 (Photo: Jessica Hill/AP)

He started taking acting classes at age 12 and continued performing and taking lesson through college. In 1961, Wilder became a member of Lee Strasberg's prestigious Actor's Studio in Manhattan.
That same year, he made both his off-Broadway and Broadway debuts. He won the Clarence Derwent Award, given to promising newcomers, for the Broadway work in Graham Greene's comedy "The Complaisant Lover."

He used his new name, Gene Wilder, for the off-Broadway and Broadway roles. He lifted the first name from the character Eugene Gant in Thomas Wolfe's "Look Back, Homeward Angel," while the last name was clipped from playwright Thornton Wilder. A key break came when he co-starred with Bancroft in Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage," and met Brooks, her future husband.
"I was having trouble with one little section of the play, and he gave me tips on how to act. He said, 'That's a song and dance. He's proselytizing about communism. Just skip over it, sing and dance over it, and get on to the good stuff.' And he was right," Wilder later explained.

Gene Wilder performs during the rehearsal of a scene from Neil Simon's 'Laughter on the 23rd Floor,' Oct. 2, 1996. (Photo: Shawn Baldwin/Reuters)

Before starring in "The Producers," he had a small role as the hostage of gangsters in the 1967 classic "Bonnie and Clyde." He peaked in the mid-1970s with the twin Brooks hits "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein."
He went on to write several screenplays and direct several films. In 1982, while making the generally forgettable "Hanky-Panky,'' he fell in love with co-star Gilda Radner. They were married in 1984, and co-starred in two Wilder-penned films: "The Lady in Red'' and "Haunted Honeymoon."

After Radner died of ovarian cancer in 1989, Wilder spent much of his time afterwards promoting cancer research. He opened a support facility for cancer patients called "Gilda's Place." In 1991, he testified before Congress about the need for increased testing for cancer.

Wilder guest-starred on two episodes of NBC's "Will & Grace" in 2002 and 2003, winning a Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding guest actor on a comedy series for his role as Mr. Stein, the boss of Will Truman, played by Canadian Eric McCormack.

Wilder is survived by his wife, Karen, whom he married in 1991. He is a great loss to the entertainment world, his country and it's culture and the millions of us whom he made happier. Thank you for the laughter Gene. It's a wonderful legacy.

See ya in the funny papers

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When Dad Jokes Go Too Far

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Six people complete Mars simulation in a dome ...When will we send a manned mission to Mars ?

The exterior of the HI-SEAS habitat on the northern slope of Mauna Loa in Hawaii

A team of six people have completed a Mars simulation in Hawaii, where they lived in near isolation for a year. Since 29 August 2015, the group lived in close quarters in a dome, without fresh air, fresh food or privacy. Experts estimate that a human mission to the Red Planet could take between one and three years.

The Nasa-funded study run by the University of Hawaii is the longest of its kind since a Russian mission that lasted 520 days. "The researchers are looking forward to getting in the ocean and eating fresh produce and other foods that weren't available in the dome", said Kim Binsted, principal investigator for the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation.
The team consisted of a French astro-biologist, a German physicist and four Americans - a pilot, an architect, a journalist and a soil scientist.
The experiment dealt with the human element of exploration. While conducting research, the six had to live with limited resources, wear a space-suit when outside the dome, and work to avoid personal conflicts.

File picture of the HI-SEAS dome in Hawaii lit up a night.
The location of the project was partly chosen for its remoteness

The interior of the HI-SEAS habitat on the northern slope of Mauna Loa in Hawaii
The team members had almost no privacy during the mission

They each had a small sleeping cot and a desk inside their rooms. Provisions included powdered cheese and canned tuna. Missions to the International Space Station normally only last six months.

Just how far are we from mounting a crewed mission to the Red Planet?
How far we can push humans, particularly in regard to extreme physiology, mental and emotional stress? Space analogue environment research aims to identify challenges and find solutions that will one day help to send a manned mission to Mars, and more importantly, see it safely return.
The overall challenge of sending a manned mission to Mars is a jigsaw puzzle. Success is only possible using international collaboration to make use of all the pieces of research from space programs all over the world. This would incorporate the international lessons learned from astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS), the space shuttle and such analogues as the European Space Agency's Mars 500 mission and Concordia. This would also include physiological lessons learned in intensive care and medicine.
Some of the principal challenges include dealing with cosmic rays in space, surface radiation on Mars, storms of dust or "fines" (particles that are smaller than dust), the effects of weightlessness on humans and other physical challenges associated with long term space travel.  Remaining healthy will be the greatest challenge for an astronaut travelling to Mars, both physically and mentally. 
The space environment is harsh on the human body and astronauts must maintain good bone density, muscle mass and cardiovascular fitness in order to be able to effectively work in Martian gravity after an extending zero gravity transit. 
The stepping stones that mark our progression towards a manned Mars mission may incorporate trips to asteroids, the Moon, points in deep space or even the moons of Mars itself.

Inspiring missions

There have been many failures of attempts to orbit spacecraft  around Mars and land explorative space vehicles. Despite such losses, a US$2.5bn creation was born, built and launched in 2011. On August 6th this year, Nasa's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover finally penetrated Mars' thin atmosphere and landed safely in Gale Crater.
The mission's scientists hope that it will forge an exciting new chapter in Mars exploration; unlocking more secrets about the Red Planet's history.
Upcoming future planned projects to Mars, including the InSight and Mars Geyser Hopper missions are waiting in line, alongside projects from other countries such as India and China which have started to make their own plans.
We have never attempted a return trip; it has all been one-way exploration. Overcoming this challenge seems the next natural step and a crucial consideration for sending a manned mission.
Shared common projections predict a manned mission to Mars will happen, eventually.
All of this will take time and perhaps the earliest opportunity for humans to visit Mars would be the 2030s. Our knowledge and presence in space is playing a vital role in our future. 
A manned Mission to Mars should be mankind's long-term goal and to achieve this will require long-term political and financial commitment and will only be successful as part of an international collaboration.

Armstrong's view

Earlier this year, in response to the budgetary and ambition cuts in Nasa, the late commander of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, expressed his sadness at the situation.
"Some question why Americans should return to the Moon. 'After all,' they say 'we have already been there.' I find that mystifying. It would be as if 16th century monarchs proclaimed that 'we need not go to the New World, we have already been there'."

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Couple stranded on desert island rescued .... SOS message in sand


Two sailors who survived being stranded on a desert island for a week have been rescued after a plane spotted an SOS message written in the sand.
Linus and Sabina Jack, believed to be a couple in their 50s, had disappeared after setting sail from the Pacific island of Weno, in Micronesia, on 17 August.
They were due to reach Tamatam, around 160 miles away, the following day but they never arrived and a search operation was mounted for the 18ft boat.
Micronesia’s National Police Maritime Wing, the US Coast Guard, local rescuers and volunteers mounted wide-ranging searches but found no trace of the missing couple or their vessel.
Hope for a successful outcome dwindled until Wednesday, when a search ship 150 miles to the north-east of the Jacks’ intended destination spotted a flashing light.
The US Embassy in Kolonia said someone attempted to signal a coast guard vessel off the uninhabited Fayu Atoll with a torch, which the missing sailors were known to have in their boat.
A search plane was sent over the island to check for signs of life the following morning, photographing the missing couple and their boat on a sandy beach.
They had drawn the letters “SOS” around 20ft high in the sand and could be seen waving to the aircraft from the palm-fringed shore.
Images showed they had built a makeshift shelter from driftwood and leaves on East Fayu island.
Linus and Sabina Jack were found on Fayu Atoll, Federated States of Micronesia, on 25 August (US Embassy Kolonia)

Just a few metres above sea level, it is comprised of a shallow lagoon surrounded by a coral reef, with the presence of fresh water and is the subject of Micronesian legend.
A ship was sent to rescue Mr and Mrs Jack but could not enter the shallow lagoon to reach them, forcing authorities to send two more boats that were due to arrive at noon on Friday.
A spokesperson for the US Embassy in Kolonia said the rescue operation has been “successfully completed” adding: “They are found and are waiting for a ship to take them home.”
Fayu is among more than 600 islands housing a combined total of 103,000 people in the Federated States of Micronesia, which is a US-associated state in the Western Pacific.
Mr and Mrs Jack’s rescue came months after three men stranded on the uninhabited Micronesian island of Fanadik were found after spelling out “help” with palm fronds.
It never ceases to amaze me how many people set out to sea in inadequate boats with no back up power source, no supplies, no shelter, no inflatables, 2 way radio or even flares. And they believe they can conquer the very powerful and often mercurial Pacific ocean where a wind can raise 20/30 foot swells.

The Trump Legacy

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This guy provides enough material to keep writers and comedians busy for years to come

Friday, August 26, 2016

Is Gerrie Nel walking away from the Pistorius case after appeal failed to get longer sentence ??

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel leaves court after an appeal hearing brought by prosecutors against the six-year jail term handed to Oscar Pistorius for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in Johannesburg
State prosecutor Gerrie Nel leaves court after an appeal hearing brought by prosecutors against the six-year jail term handed to Oscar Pistorius for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva…

<span style="font-size:13px;">Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, for a bail hearing.</span> 
Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, for a bail hearing.

South African judge has dismissed a request by state prosecutors to appeal Oscar Pistorius's six-year murder sentence, the latest twist in a trial that has captured global headlines.
The multiple gold medal-winning Paralympian, serving six years for murdering his girlfriend on Valentine's Day 2013, was not in court when the judge ruled that the state's petition had no reasonable prospects of success on appeal.
Women's rights groups in a country beset by high levels of violent crime against women say Pistorius has received preferential treatment compared to non-whites and those without his wealth or international celebrity status. His backers say he did not intend to kill Steenkamp.
Judge Thokozile Masipa sentenced the Paralympic gold medalist to six years behind bars in July for murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in 2013, but the prosecution had said the decision was "shockingly lenient".
Pistorius's defense had earlier argued the state was prejudiced and had dragged the case on too long, adding in their court documents that "enough is enough".
"I'm not persuaded that there are reasonable prospects of success on appeal or that another court may find differently," Masipa said in her ruling, dismissing the state's application.

Reeva Steenkamp poses on set during the shooting of the reality show 'Tropika Island of Treasure'.
 Reeva Steenkamp poses on set during the shooting of the reality show 'Tropika Island of Treasure'.

Masipa originally sentenced Pistorius in 2014 after he was found guilty of manslaughter, but that conviction was increased to murder by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in December. The subsequent six-year sentence she passed in July was also criticized by women's groups for being too lenient.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel, who had sought 15 years for Pistorius for the murder conviction, told Reuters he could not comment. Nel has said Pistorius had not shown any remorse and had yet to explain why he fired the fatal shots.
"His remorse and or prospects of rehabilitating could not be tested," Nel argued before Masipa's ruling, referring to Pistorius' decision not to testify at the sentencing hearings.
It was unclear whether the state would appeal the ruling. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesman was not available to comment.

Both the Pistorius and Steenkamp families declined to comment following Masipa's ruling.
Pistorius, who had the lower part of his legs amputated when he was a baby, says he fired four shots into the toilet door at his luxury Pretoria home in the mistaken belief that an intruder was hiding behind it.
His defense has argued that his disability and mental stress that occurred in the aftermath of the killing should be considered as mitigating circumstances.
"This trial and this process has been exhausted beyond any conceivable exhaustive process," his main defense lawyer Barry Roux said in a brief rebuttal.
The track star was treated in hospital for wrist injuries earlier this month, but prison officials said Pistorius denied trying to kill himself. The incident coincided with the first day of competition in the Rio Olympic Games.
The ruling raised further division, with South Africans taking opposite sides on the issue in social media. Legal analysts were equally divided on whether prosecutors would appeal Masipa's ruling to the supreme court.
"In my experience over the years, the Supreme Court of Appeal has placed a lot of confidence in our High Courts, and I must say, I would be surprised if they had to accept the petition," said Johannesburg-based lawyer Ulrich Roux.
Criminal law attorney Zola Majavu said the state had a chance of success if they appealed to the supreme court.
"Remember it was the same SCA that overturned her conviction on culpable homicide. So if I were in Gerrie Nel's shoes I would persist so that the SCA can pronounce on the matter," he said.
 Don't give up and walk away now Gerrie. You have to prove to us that wealth and celebrity do not mean preferential treatment in your justice system,  like everyone else's. What is a human life worth these days? Be the bulldog you are reputed to be.
Do it for all the South African women out there who would like to believe their lives are worth more than six years, which will likely transmute to three years with good behavior. It is worth mentioning, also, that his cell is away from the prison population with amenities not granted to other prisoners. Don't let us down Gerrie.
It's by Issac Cordal

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Trump tries to preempt Hillary's 'Smack-down'

'SHAME ON YOU!' Donald Trump boomed a pre-buttal of Hillary Clinton's 'racism' speech on Thursday in Manchester, New Hampshire, saying that her name-calling is 'the last refuge of the discredited Democrat politician'
'PREJUDICE AND PARANOIA': Hillary Clinton sought to paint Trump and his supporters as racists, and Trump tried to preempt her
'PREJUDICE AND PARANOIA': Hillary Clinton sought to paint Trump and his supporters as racists, and Trump tried to preempt her

Donald Trump tried to pre-empt Hillary Clinton's Thursday afternoon speech with one of his own, undercutting her efforts to paint him as a racist with claims that such criticism is 'the last refuge of the discredited Democrat politician.'
'Shame on you,' he boomed, while TV networks prepared to switch over to Clinton for her long-awaiting smackdown of the Republican presidential nominee.

Clinton, he told a hotel ballroom full of New Hampshire voters, would 'accuse decent Americans who support this campaign – your campaign – of being racists. Which we're not.'
'When Democratic policies fail, they are left with only this one tired argument: "You're racist. You're racist. You're racist." They keep saying it: "You're racist",' Trump exclaimed, in an unusual pre-buttal less than an hour before Clinton spoke a continent away in Nevada.

The billionaire populist pointedly asked black and Hispanic voters for their support, suggesting that many hope to see 'for the first time – maybe ever – a better future, and a future that begins with jobs, jobs and more jobs. And also education, education, education.'
'We will promote the values of tolerance, justice and acceptance,' he pledged as he wrapped up.
'We will steadfastly reject bigotry and hatred and oppression in all of its forms.'

The Clinton campaign tried its own preemption strategy, sending reporters a few excerpts from her speech while Trump was talking.
'From the start, Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia,' the prepared text read in part. 'He's taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over one of America's two major political parties.'
'If he doesn’t respect all Americans, how can he serve all Americans?' the campaign said she would ask.
Clinton planned to focus her ammunition on the Trump campaign's loose tie-ins with the so-called 'Alt-right,' a sparsely populated and difficult to define fringe movement based on white nationalism and the view that 'immigration and multiculturalism as threats to white identity.'

'A fringe element has effectively taken over the Republican Party,' Clinton said, according to the speech excerpts.
That's a reference to Trump's newly minted campaign CEO Steve Bannon, formerly the executive chairman of Breitbart News – an outlet revered by the Alt-right.

Trump painted Clinton's attempt to tar him with the brush of bigotry as a time-worn tactic that has lost its potency over the decades.
'They keep going back to the same well, but you know what? The people are becoming too smart,' he said. 'They've heard it too many times before. The well is dry. The well is dry.
'This is the year the people who believe in much more honest politics, say the word "Enough".'

Tweety Bird
He tweeted after Clinton's speech that she had been 'pandering to the worst instincts in our society. She should be ashamed of herself!'

And in a followup message on Twitter, he said her 32-minute speech was '[v]ery short and lies. She is the only one fear-mongering.'

It has been amusing to watch the worst slander-monger in the history of US politics try to assume an innocent stance. Donald Trump regularly incites political violence, is a serial liar, racist, xenophobe and misogynist who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.
His policies appear to change direction with the political wind. Just saying.

Hey, got a couple of minutes to waste and relax? Watch these

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Meet the new planet next door

The planet Proxima Centauri b is awash in pale light from a red dwarf star, as seen in an artist's illustration.

Meet the New Planet Next Door:
Since 1988, scientists have found more than 3,000 planets orbiting stars other than our sun. The newest addition is Proxima Centauri b, a small, rocky world just 4.24 light-years away, which may be in a habitable orbit.  The data suggest Proxima b is 1.3 times Earth's mass and takes 11.2 days to orbit its star, putting it in the region where the star’s feeble light is warm enough to keep any surface  water flowing. This is often called the Goldilocks region.                                                         

Small planets sometimes generate gargantuan buzz. For weeks, eager media outlets have been reporting rumors that a potentially habitable planet is circling the star closest to our sun, a red dwarf called Proxima Centauri.

Now, finally, astronomers are ready to unveil this alien world. Observations made with a telescope in Chile have indeed revealed a planet about as massive as Earth that orbits Proxima Centauri, which is a cosmic walk to the corner store at just 4.24 light-years away. And if conditions are right, the planet is in an orbit that’s warm enough for liquid water to survive on its surface.

Illuminated by a pale reddish light, the world orbits the smallest star in a triple system known as Alpha Centauri, which shines in the southern constellation Centaurus.
The Alpha Centauri system, long a wonderland for science fiction authors, is often considered a destination for humanity’s first leap into interstellar space—as well as a potential haven for future civilizations fleeing the inevitable destruction of Earth as we know it.

“A habitable, rocky planet around Proxima would be the most natural location to where our civilization could aspire to move after the sun will die, five billion years from now,” says Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and an adviser to the Breakthrough Starshot project.
Even before today’s announcement, Breakthrough Starshot had announced its plan to send tiny spacecraft to the Alpha Centauri system later this century. But don’t expect any postcards from the new planet anytime soon: It will take more than 20 years for a spacecraft traveling at a monstrous 20 percent of the speed of light to reach Proxima Centauri, and another 4.24 years for any data to arrive back on Earth.
Based on data collected over 54 nights, the signature of the planet is strong, popping out even when the data are inspected by eye and not a computer algorithm.
“It’s pretty unambiguous,” says Yale University’s Greg Laughlin. “This isn’t a case where you kind of have to resort to black arts to pull the signal out.”

Finding Proxima

Known as Proxima b, the planet was discovered by a team of scientists working on the Pale Red Dot project—a twist on Carl Sagan’s description of Earth, which looks like a pale blue dot from afar.
Scientifically, the discovery is not exactly a surprise. The last decade of exoplanet discoveries has revealed that red dwarf stars like Proxima are very likely to host planets, and a large fraction of those worlds should be somewhat like this new one: small, rocky, and warm enough for water to flow on its surface.

While earlier searches for planets around Proxima had officially turned up empty, there were tantalizing signs that at least one planet could be there, waiting to be detected with a more comprehensive search.
As a planet goes about its orbital business, its gravity tugs ever so slightly on its star, causing the star to wobble. Larger planets naturally produce bigger wobbles. Smaller, Earth-mass planets tug almost imperceptibly on their stars, requiring long observing campaigns with extremely sensitive instruments to detect.

Observations taken sporadically between 2000 and 2014 had hinted at the presence of a planet in an 11-day orbit around Proxima, but its shaky signature wasn’t clear enough to be anything more than a tease. Determined to see if a planetary hand really was the source of Proxima’s wobbles, the Pale Red Dot team aimed Earth’s sharpest wobbly-star watcher, the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), at the red
dwarf earlier this year.

There are even signs that Proxima b could have siblings: One additional signature in the data could be the work of a super-Earth on a 200-day orbit, Anglada-Escudé says, but the team will need to do more work to determine the signal’s origin.

When Worlds Align

In addition to ruling out false alarms, one of the most popular ways of validating a planet is to find it using a different detection method. Already, scientists are aiming Canada’s MOST space telescope at Proxima and looking to see if its planet transits, or crosses the face of its star as seen from Earth.
“If it does transit, that would be an extraordinary home run. I don’t think it gets any better than a transiting, Earth-size planet in the habitable zone orbiting the nearest star—unless there’s a radio broadcast emanating from it,” Laughlin says.

Picture of the sky around Alpha Centauri and Proxima Centauri

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Ottawa teacher's aide admits sexually exploiting student for two years ... We've seen this before, Huh?

Ottawa teacher's aide Kathy Kitts leaves the courthouse in Ottawa in March. Kitts pleaded guilty to sexually exploiting a male student for two years

The high school student had always struggled in class so when he met teacher’s aide Kathy Kitts, he was grateful. She would, he felt, guide him through graduation day.
She helped him with his homework, and he trusted her. But a year later, when he turned 15, he said things started to change.
“She wanted to see me at lunch and on spares, see me alone and away from others. I was too young and too trusting to realize what was going to happen,” the student wrote in a victim-impact statement filed in Ottawa court on Thursday after Kitts, who turns 46 on Friday, pleaded guilty to sexually exploiting the boy for two years.
The teacher’s assistant sexually assaulted the boy daily in school or on lunch break, sometimes in the backseat of her van or at a nearby park, court heard.
“I had no choice but to agree. If I said no, she wouldn’t help me with homework and I would fail,” he wrote in his statement.
Scared and angry, he said in his statement that he slowly started to lose ‘all my feelings.’
“I sealed them deep inside my heart and brain and waited for high school to be over.”
And he said he had never felt so alone.
“I lost connections, lots of friends and my family because I never wanted to hangout or get too close because they might figure out my secret,” the now young man said.
Kitts had told the boy to keep the relationship secret and said if he told anyone her life would be ruined and she could go to jail, according to an agreed statement of facts.
By Grade 11, the boy said it was hard to keep “Mrs. Kitts” away. “She would stalk me all the time.”
He said the teacher’s aide destroyed his innocence. “All I am now is empty. I worry I won’t love someone.”
The sex crimes were exposed in 2014 when the boy’s mother read some sexually graphic texts on his phone. In all, there were some 15,000 texts between the teacher and student, who was sexually exploited for two years.
His mother confronted Kitts and later called the Ottawa police. Kitts was charged with a series of sex crimes in October 2014 and granted bail. The teacher’s aide pleaded guilty on Thursday to one count of sexual exploitation by someone in a position of trust and will be sentenced in August. She will undergo sexual-behaviour and psychiatric assessments before sentencing.
When Kitts was finally caught, the boy said he felt scared and happy.
“The little dark corner in my head where 15-year-old me was hiding was finally hit with light. The light was warm but my darkness inside was greater and so that’s where I am now. I’m scared to go into the light to be free.”
The boy has trouble talking about what happened, and writing about it in a victim-impact statement for all to hear, was like torture. He said every fibre in his body was screaming for him to just run.
“But I feel the need for someone to finally hear my story. I’m not running away any longer … I want this to be over someday. I hope I can crawl out of the darkness and not pretend like I’m having fun, but to really feel it. To laugh and love without pain stabbing me in my heart. I want everyone to know that this hurts boys just as much as girls.”
The boy’s mother sat at the back of Court Room No. 11 in tearful silence Monday as her son’s sex predator was portrayed as a compassionate, morally upright woman who should serve her jail sentence on weekends.
She kept listening as a defence lawyer presented Katherine (Kathy) Kitts, her son’s onetime teacher’s aide, as a devoted mother who had made a “very big mistake.”
Kitts’ lawyer, Susan Chapman, also told the sentencing hearing that the 46-year-old had suffered hardship in light of her criminal case, saying she’s on strict bail conditions, her teaching career is finished, she has been publicly shamed for her sex crime and will forever wear an online “scarlet letter.”
The Crown wasn’t buying that it was a one-off mistake, and noted that the sexual exploitation of the vulnerable boy lasted two years.
That’s when the boy’s mother stopped listening and stormed out of court, yelling that Kitts was a “full-on sex predator.”
Outside court, after regaining her composure, the boy’s mother told Postmedia:
“It has been traumatizing for my son and I, waiting for almost two years for her to be sentenced, but mostly from the duration and intensity of her sexual obsession with my son. We want to put this past us. What she did to us cannot be undone.”

Don't bring guns to Canada please

Guns seized from a single border crossing in Alberta Canada
Perhaps intended for sale to criminals

Dear Americans;
You're more than welcome to visit Canada, but for goodness sake, leave your guns at home.
That's the message from the Canada Border Services Agency on Monday as it launched a firearms awareness campaign, reminding U.S. travellers coming to Canada that their northern neighbour's firearms laws are strict.
Canadian laws are different than U.S. ones, the agency reiterated in a news release.
The CBSA says most firearms seized at land border crossings are from U.S. travellers seeking entry to Canada.
As such, the CBSA suggests Americans check the laws before arriving at a Canadian port of entry.
"It is strongly recommended that you not carry your firearm when travelling to Canada and/or transiting through Canada to reach another U.S. destination," the news release reads. "However, should you choose to travel with your firearms, you must declare all firearms in your possession at the first Canadian designated port of entry.
"You must also have all the necessary permits and have your firearm appropriately stored."
Failure to declare any firearm may lead to the seizure of the weapon, a penalty or prosecution in a court of law and may make the person inadmissible to Canada.
A U.S. citizen's vehicle may also be seized and the owner will have to pay a penalty to get it back.
"We welcome our U.S. neighbours in Canada [and] to make your journey more pleasant, travel light and always remember to declare all goods with you," the news release says.
The CBSA says firearms are high-risk commodities and enforcement of firearms laws at the border "is an enforcement priority for Canada."
Earlier this year, the border service agency reported seizing 163 firearms during 115 incidents from travellers crossing the border into Canada through just Windsor, Sarnia, Niagara Falls and London, Ont,  in just a few months. The total stats from all the other dozens of crossings along the breadth of the Canada US border (appox. 6,000 miles )  must be pretty staggering.
You don't need to shoot us to enjoy your stay in Canada. We are very friendly and peaceful people. We have our share of nut bars and doorknobs, but they belong to a very small minority and we keep an eye on them. If you are accosted by a too friendly moose...just say 'SHOO'.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Poll taken to determine Trump's worst blunder

One has to wonder why Donald Trump has been cancelling rallies lately. He just cancelled a key rally where he was to address his policies on immigration. He may be avoiding that one because it is one of the bigger hot potato issues that have marred his campaign. He certainly has offended most every minority group in America by one offensive remark or another.
When asked in a recent Bloomberg poll what Trump gaffe, goof or bone-headed bungle bothered them most  — out of a slew of controversies — likely voters picked one offense above all others:
When the candidate mocked a reporter with a disability last November.
Democrats have made sure the public has seen and heard about Trump's intolerant blunder over and over again. It has been played in ads created by the Clinton campaign, including a highly-circulated one involving children silently watching.
Bill Clinton even said in his convention speech that his wife "never made fun of people with disabilities. She tried to empower them based on their ability." ( implied criticism)
And Clinton surrogate Tom Harkin, a prominent voice on disability policy, said recently, "Democrats believe in working together and bringing people with disabilities in to develop policy. Donald Trump? He makes fun of people with disabilities. That's a throwback to a half a century ago."                      
Trump has denied that he meant to mock the reporter, Serge Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, a congenital condition affecting the joints.  His initial offense, in Trump's eyes, was denying the candidate's description of Kovaleski's reporting on unsubstantiated allegations that Muslims in New Jersey celebrated on 9/11.
As recently as July 29, Trump insisted, "I didn't know what he looked like. I didn't know he was disabled."
 Kovaleski, who now works for the New York Times, has said, "Donald and I were on a first-name basis for years."                   
Trump has maintained that his physical  imitation of Kovaleski was because "He was groveling, grovel, grovel, grovel. That was the end of it. All of a sudden, I get reports that I was imitating a reporter who was handicapped. I would never do that."
The Washington Post responded, "Much of what Trump says is 'Four-Pinocchios false.'"
This poll was conducted before Trump sparked furor with a comment about "Second Amendment people" that was interpreted by many as a veiled suggestion of violence against Clinton. You would think a death threat might replace the slur on disabled people as the worst offence. But, no.  Given the lasting stigma upon people with disabilities and the easiness with which pop culture has mocked them over the years, the outraged reaction from the public is striking and encouraging.                      
"People are starting to see people with disabilities for their abilities," said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of the advocacy group Respectability.
"But one thing they don't want to see is people with disabilities being bullied," she added.
"The reaction to it, that so many people say it's the worst thing he's done, is indicative that we've turned a corner, where it's just not socially acceptable the way it was," said writer and activist Andrew Pulrang.
Still, he said he found himself wondering, "Why is this thing worse than all the other groups than he's targeted and insulted?"
One possible answer: "We're easy to feel more protective towards by the population. Part of ableism is a heavy dose of paternalism."
Those who are not equipped to fight for themselves bring the compassion and protective instincts out in other people.                
Pulrang hopes the outrage translates into more interest in policies that affect people with disability. "There are other things more important than hurting our feelings," he said. "We have no idea if Trump has any ideas about disability policy."
Trump has never filled out a candidate's questionnaire.
"Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton filled it out in full, and spoke about disability issues at the Democratic convention, as did people with disabilities themselves," Mizrahi said.
For people who are used to condescension or outright erasure, Trump's behavior carries a certain irony.
"Inclusivity for people with disabilities is now a matter of presidential politics," wrote David Perry at the Atlantic. "That likely wasn't Trump's intention when he mocked that reporter months ago. But it's a satisfying result."
If people with disabilities become political pawns ... at least it is drawing public attention to the plight of disabled people. Any recognition is better than no recognition.

We cried with Gord

Canadians cried with Gord Downie during that moment he fought tears onstage
and screamed his outrage

The terminally ill lead singer was diagnosed with brain cancer in December. Some proceeds from the band's climatic tour will be donated towards cancer research at the Sunnybrook Foundation.

The Tragically Hip has long been a fixture of the Canadian music scene, with 13 studio albums released since the band formed more than 30 years ago. Nine of those releases achieved #1 status in Canada.

An adoring nation showed its appreciation with heavily attended viewing parties for the final show. Those that couldn't attend the sell-out performance crowded into streets and theaters to watch the band say goodbye.

 Trudeau attended concert
A shared affection
And sad goodbye

Canadian prime minister and beloved hero of the internet Justin Trudeau, decked out in a denim jacket and Hip t-shirt, watched from a box at the K-Rock Centre. Downie seized the opportunity to call on his prime minister for greater action in addressing Canada's troubled relationship with its indigenous First Nations.

"He's going to take us where we need to go," Downie said of Trudeau "And we've got to figure out what the hell went wrong up there. It's not cool and everybody knows that. It's really, really bad. We're gonna figure it out."
As the band wound through three hours of music — a mix of classics and new cuts off the latest album, Man Machine Poem — Canada's warm reception echoed across social media.
 They performed for three hours with three encores until the, clearly exhausted Downie bid a sad goodbye, saying simply, "Thank you for that."
The saddest truth is that Gord Downie is 'Tragically Hip'.

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Last concert of 'Tragically Hip' Gord Downie ... dying of cancer


On Saturday, the Tragically Hip will wrap up a 15-date jaunt across Canada with a show in the band's hometown of Kingston, Ont. You can tune into the concert via CBC, which is broadcasting and streaming the show live and commercial free.

Gord Downie, the lead singer and lyricist of the iconic Canadian rock band the Tragically Hip,  has terminal brain cancer, but  joined his bandmates of more than 30 years for a summer tour which wraps up for a big finale tonight, Saturday August 20th in their home town of Kingston Ontario.
This will be the last performance of Gord with the band, so all Hip fans who cannot attend are advised to record the concert, which will be  streamed live on CBC television and radio without commercials and will not be repeated. There are private and community Hip parties going on all over Canada as I write this. Downie was a much loved Canadian.
The band posted the news of Downie's illness on its website and the band managers released more details about it — an aggressive, incurable form of cancer called glioblastoma — at a news conference at Sunnybrook Hospital in May.

Downie was diagnosed with the disease in December and has since undergone surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
"Since then, obviously, he's endured a lot of difficult times, and he has been fighting very hard," the band said in their letter to fans. "In private along with his family, and through all of this, we've been standing by him."
Downie, 52, and Laura Leigh Usher have four children.

Despite the diagnosis, The Hip announced it would "dig deep" and hit the road together this summer.
"This feels like the right thing to do now, for Gord, and for all of us," group members said in their statement. "What we in The Hip receive, each time we play together, is a connection; with each other; with music and it's magic; and during the shows, a special connection with all of you, our incredible fans."

"I love this country!"
The Tragically Hip's frontman has long established himself as one of the country's greatest songwriters, his lyrics giving a voice to Canada's land and its history .
"You write about what you know," he told CBC's Wendy Mesley in 2012. "And I love this country. I love my idea of this country.
"Where I go and the people I've met, underlying everything is that commitment to finding the common good."

Tragically Hip

While the band has appealed to countless fans through their sound and the stories they've told through song, Downie's singular stage presence looms large. His performance has always been characterized by his energy and his dance moves. His music has given him a chance to bear witness to that, travelling from St. John's to Attawapiskat First Nation to Vancouver since the Tragically Hip began playing the Kingston, Ont., bar scene in 1983.

The Tragically Hip

Man Machine Poem, the group's 13th studio album, was released in June. Performing for the band's legion of fans has always been one of Downie's great loves, he said.
" I Enjoy those one-night moments. We'll only be here tonight, this bunch of us in this place," he told The Hour in 2006.  "Let's try and find some point of transcendence and leap together."
 I hope he finds that moment of transcendence tonight during his last concert and public appearance. He is a poet, a composer, performer, satirist and scribe of the time we live in. He has affected the lives  and attitudes of two generations of Canadians.
Feel the love Gord.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Louisiana flooding: - ravaged and destroyed huge portions of southern state

Days of heavy rain have caused historic flooding in the US state of Louisiana, bringing as much as 31in (79cm) across a third of the state.

The downpour continued for more than 72 hours, leading to widespread and dramatic flooding in the affected area and downstream along the Amite river.Louisiana has seen four times the average amount of rainfall for August.

"What made this so disastrous is the large area," says Ken Graham, meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service's New Orleans/Baton Rouge office.

Graham says much of the eastern portion of the state, from the northern Mississippi border all the way to the Gulf of Mexico saw rainfall of at least 15 inches over 48 hours. That's about 11,000 sq miles, about twice the size of Connecticut.
"Normally you would see some small pockets with these kinds of rainfall totals, but this is the largest area of this kind of rainfall I've seen in my career."

The result has been devastating. At least 13 people have died and more than 40,000 homes have been damaged.

Towns along the Amite river have experienced some of the worst flooding. In Denham Springs, the river topped 46.2ft, four feet higher than its previous record in 1983.
In one parish east of Baton Rouge, officials believe 75% of the homes had been damaged, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) has made disaster declaration in 20 of the state's 64 parishes. More than 86,500 people have registered for assistance from the agency.

 State officials estimate about 30,000 people have been rescued. Others have not been so lucky. According to the New York Times, a number of people have died after being swept away by surging rivers.

For the state of Louisiana, the storm is among the worst in the state's history. Graham said there had been major flooding from storms in 1983 and 1995 - "We talk about these as benchmarks - but this one beat them all."

 Thousands of members of the US Nation Guard have been deployed in the region to assist with search and rescue operations.
The Red Cross has said it is launching its largest relief effort in America since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In the almost four years since Sandy, other major disasters in the US have included, among others:
-The 2014 Washington state mudslide, which killed 43
-The Moore, Oklahoma tornado, which killed 24 and involved $2bn in damage
-Major flooding and tornado outbreaks in Texas and Oklahoma in 2015, which killed 31
-The 2016 East Coast blizzard, which killed at least 45

Goats in flood

A local Baton Rouge paper has criticized President Obama for not visiting the affected area. On Tuesday Governor Bel Edwards made a comment that while federal agencies have been responsive, the flooding had not received as much attention as some of the major hurricanes that have hit the area.
"When you have a storm that is unnamed - it wasn't a tropical storm, it wasn't a hurricane - a lot of times people underestimate the impact that it has," Mr Edwards said, calling the flooding "historic" and "unprecedented".

Additional reporting and production by Charlie Northcott