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 1 
 on: Today at 08:12 AM 
Started by Wei - Last post by Rad
Hi Rad and everyone, would you please help me understand what does stationary planet/node mean in EA point of view?
I found this in glossary book :A stationing anything, planet or node, is a magnifying force. Would you please give a example? Or where can i find more information about it? I don't understand how is the magnifying force different than other case.

Thanks as always.

Hi Wei,

It is a magnifying force because of going stationary: this causes the planets, nodes, or asteroids to be archetypally magnified because of the lack of MOTION. Imagine yourself holding a magnifying glass upon a pile of leaves in which the magnifying glass is held against the Sun. If you keep sweeping the magnifying glass back and forth, motion, it will take longer for the leaves to catch on fire versus holding it totally still. Holding it totally still will combust those leaves many times faster than the back and forth motion of the magnifying glass.

God Bless, Rad

 2 
 on: Today at 08:07 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
EU Working 'Swiftly' on Tougher Russia Sanctions over Ukraine

by Naharnet Newsdesk
25 July 2014, 15:45

The European Union is making swift progress on adopting much tougher economic sector sanctions against Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis, officials said Friday.

After discussions on broadening the sanctions from the current mix of asset freezes and travel bans, legislative proposals required to give effect to the new punitive measures will be taken up Tuesday, they said.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, "will swiftly table the necessary legislative proposals in all areas identified" by member states earlier this week, a statement said.

The EU has been reluctant to adopt the tougher economic sector measures backed by Washington but the alleged shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 by pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine with a Russian-made missile has forced a clear change in thinking, although divisions clearly remain.

Citing the MH17 disaster and continued Russian support for the rebels, EU foreign ministers agreed on Tuesday the Commission and the bloc's external affairs arm should finalize work on tougher, sectoral measures.

They should "present proposals for taking action, including on access to capital markets, defense, dual-use goods and sensitive technologies, including in the energy sector."

Implementing such broader measures will need approval by all 28 EU leaders and a Commission spokeswoman said this was unlikely before Tuesday, when the legislative proposals will be tabled.

At a summit on Wednesday last week, just before MH17 was shot down, EU leaders had agreed to extend the current sanctions list because Moscow had failed to reverse course in Ukraine.

EU sources said Thursday that 15 Ukrainian and Russian individuals and 18 entities -- companies and local authorities set up by the rebels -- would be added to the current list of 72 names hit with visa bans and asset freezes.

The Commission declined to give the numbers involved but the spokeswoman said the list should be available late Friday.

 3 
 on: Today at 07:17 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
In the USA...United Surveillance America

White House alarmed by ‘extraordinary’ inaction by Congress on border crisis

By Reuters
Friday, July 25, 2014 6:48 EDT

White House officials expressed growing alarm on Thursday that Congress may not soon approve President Barack Obama’s emergency request for $3.7 billion to tackle the child migration crisis on the southern border of the United States.

The stalemate over the request comes as Obama prepares on Friday to host the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the countries that have been the source of much of the migrant surge that has strained border resources.

Congress is locked in a largely partisan fight over the money that Obama says is needed to provide humanitarian needs of the children and speed deportations for many after they get a hearing from immigration authorities.

Republicans want Congress to amend a 2008 anti-trafficking law to accelerate deportations, but Democrats are opposed out of concern the children would face the same conditions of crime and poverty when returned home. Senate Democrats have proposed cutting Obama’s $3.7 billion request, while Republicans have said $1.5 billion is the most they would want to spend.

Congress is preparing to start a five-week break at the end of next week and there is no compromise in sight.

“The notion that Congress would go home for August recess without having addressed this question … would be pretty extraordinary,” a senior White House official told reporters.

While White House officials complain about Congress, they are making a case that the number of child migrants has begun to slow. Still, the surge of tens of thousands of children, many with their mothers, has turned into a political nightmare for Obama, who is considering a variety of steps.

One idea being weighed is a plan to screen thousands of youths in Honduras to see if they can qualify as refugees or on an emergency humanitarian basis without having to make the perilous journey to the United States.

The senior White House official said the plan was one of many under consideration but that it was “way premature” to say it was a serious proposal.

Meet with Central American leaders

Obama’s meeting with the Central American leaders gives him the opportunity to urge them to seek ways to stem the flow of people from their countries. Honduran President Juan Hernandez said on Thursday that U.S. lawmakers’ inability to reach an agreement on immigration policy was at least partly to blame for the crisis.

Obama spoke by phone on Thursday with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and “discussed the possibility of regional programs that would pool resources to improve public security and increase economic opportunities in Central America,” the White House said in a statement.

U.S. officials blame human smugglers for misinformation by telling parents their children will be given safe haven in the United States if they send them there.

A senior White House official said Obama would seek the leaders’ help in countering that message with one that the children more than likely will be sent back home.

Part of the emergency funding request, about $300 million, would be allocated toward helping the countries create more favorable conditions at home so people are not tempted to leave.

But there has been little apparent progress in Congress toward a border funding bill that Democrats and Republicans could agree upon.

“It’s time for the White House to get their act together. Do they want to change the ’08 law and address the real underlying problem here or don’t they,” House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner told reporters.

***************

U.S. Considering Refugee Status for Hondurans

By FRANCES ROBLES and MICHAEL D. SHEAR
JULY 24, 2014
NYT

Hoping to stem the recent surge of migrants at the Southwest border, the Obama administration is considering whether to allow hundreds of minors and young adults from Honduras into the United States without making the dangerous trek through Mexico, according to a draft of the proposal.

If approved, the plan would direct the government to screen thousands of children and youths in Honduras to see if they can enter the United States as refugees or on emergency humanitarian grounds. It would be the first American refugee effort in a nation reachable by land to the United States, the White House said, putting the violence in Honduras on the level of humanitarian emergencies in Haiti and Vietnam, where such programs have been conducted in the past amid war and major crises.   

Critics of the plan were quick to pounce, saying it appeared to redefine the legal definition of a refugee and would only increase the flow of migration to the United States. Administration officials said they believed the plan could be enacted through executive action, without congressional approval, as long as it did not increase the total number of refugees coming into the country.

By moving decisions on refugee claims to Honduras, the plan aims to slow the rush of minors crossing into the United States illegally from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, which has overwhelmed the border this year. More than 45,000 unaccompanied minors from those three nations have arrived since Oct. 1, straining federal resources to the point that some agencies will exhaust their budgets by next month, the secretary of Homeland Security has said.

Many of the children, particularly in Honduras, are believed to be fleeing dangerous street gangs, which forcibly recruit members and extort home and business owners. The United Nations estimates that 70,000 gang members operate in the three nations.

Administration officials stressed that no decision had been made to move forward, saying the idea was one of many being discussed by officials at the White House and the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Justice, and Health and Human Services.

Among the factors surrounding the decision are how many people in Honduras would be eligible to apply for the program, and how many would probably be approved.

The proposal, prepared by several federal agencies, says the pilot program under consideration would cost up to $47 million over two years, assuming 5,000 applied and about 1,750 people were accepted. If successful, it would be adopted in Guatemala and El Salvador as well.

It is unclear how the administration determined those estimates, given that since Oct. 1 more than 16,500 unaccompanied children traveled to the United States from Honduras alone.

Children would be interviewed by American immigration employees trained to deal with minors, and a resettlement center would be set up in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, with assistance from international organizations like the International Organization for Migration.

The plan would be similar to a recent bill introduced by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, who proposed increasing the number of refugee visas to the three Central American countries by 5,000 each.

According to the draft, the administration is considering opening the program to people under 21. It also suggested offering entry on emergency humanitarian grounds — known as humanitarian parole — to some of the applicants who did not qualify for refugee status.

That would most likely cause an outcry among critics who believe President Obama has been too soft on immigration. But officials called it “highly unlikely” that people who were denied refugee status would be considered for parole, which is generally offered in isolated emergencies.

Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports tighter controls on immigration, said that the proposal would increase, not stem, the flood of migrants from Central America trying to get into the United States.

“It’s clearly a bad idea,” Mr. Krikorian said. “Orders of magnitude more people will apply for refugee status if they can just do it from their home countries.”

He added that the proposal would allow people to claim to be refugees from their countries with “nothing more than a bus ride to the consulate. We’re talking about, down the road, an enormous additional flow of people from those countries.”

The preliminary plan could create a thorny challenge for the administration because the definition of a refugee is legally specific, and children fleeing street gangs could have a hard time qualifying.

Under American law, refugees are people fleeing their country of origin based on fears of persecution by reason of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

The only category that would seem to apply is “social group,” experts said, but there is disagreement on what that means. Some contend that children could count as a group, but others say the refugee requirements are stricter, and would not apply to people fleeing general crime and violence.

“What is a social group?” said Muzaffar Chishti, director of migration policies for the Migration Policy Institute’s New York office. “This is going to create a huge deal of debate. You will see a lot of law developing on it.”

Still, the draft of the plan noted that 64.7 percent of the unaccompanied minors who applied for asylum this year got it, which suggests that immigration officials have found their claims of imminent danger credible.

With that in mind, the draft proposal suggested that 35 percent to 50 percent of the applicants in Honduras could be considered for relief, a figure the White House said was inflated. The early draft, the White House said, was the most generous and least likely of the options the administration is considering. How many people are accepted is critical, because refugees qualify for public assistance upon arrival in the United States.

One of the issues under debate is whether the program should be limited to children who have at least one relative in the United States, so that the government would not be saddled with custodial issues. Whether that relative would have to have legal residency is another issue that was addressed but not resolved.

Under Senator McCain’s proposal, refugee applicants would be processed at home, and child migrants arriving in the United States illegally could be deported quickly.

Kevin Appleby, director of Migration and Refugee Services at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the plan would be welcome, as long as it did not substitute for protections Central American children currently receive under American law.

“This program would certainly be a formal acknowledgment by the administration that these children are refugees,” Mr. Appleby said. “That’s huge, because they have yet to utter that word.”

When a similar plan was adopted in Haiti, as a way to keep people from taking to the high seas, he said, it was ultimately criticized because Haitians already in the United States did not receive help. “It ended up being counterproductive to the goal,” Mr. Appleby said.

Stacie Blake, the director of government relations for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, an advocacy group, said the processing of potential refugees in Central America could be handled by the United States or by the United Nations, which makes refugee determinations in many other countries. She said some of the people designated as refugees in Honduras could end up in countries other than the United States.

“It’s a way to help folks avoid life-threatening escapes and journeys,” Ms. Blake said. “It’s a good idea. It’s a tested idea.”

The Honduran Foreign Ministry referred requests for comment to its embassy in Washington, which said that, due to the president’s visit to Washington, its ambassador was not immediately available for comment.

On Friday, Mr. Obama is scheduled to meet with the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador at the White House in an effort to urge the Central American leaders to do more to help stem the flow of children fleeing their countries for the United States.

***************

House Republican Hearing On The Harmful Impact of Obamacare Completely Backfires

By: Jason Easley
PoliticusUSA
Thursday, July, 24th, 2014, 7:03 pm   

A House Republican hearing on the harmful impact of Obamacare on Medicare Advantage completely backfired when the expert witnesses that Republicans invited disagreed with them.

Subcommittee on Health Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) set the stage for gloom and doom, “The future for Medicare Advantage may look grim. The questionable $8.3 billion quality bonus payment demonstration program used to mask the ACA cuts is coming to an end…This leaves the looming threat that Medicare Advantage plan rates could again include the broken physician reimbursement formula, unless we finally and permanently fix the way Medicare pays physicians. Instead of improving the situation, CMS’s regulatory actions are threatening plans through potential termination and limiting their ability to innovate.”

The Republicans quickly crashed and burned when their own witnesses disagreed with them.

Chris Wing of SCAN Health Plan said, “The MA program continues to grow in popularity. It gives seniors and other eligible individuals what they want: choice, coordination of care, affordability. It has begun to put the incentives in place for constant quality improvement by rewarding collaboration between providers and plans. Congress should have a strong interest in seeing the continued advancement of Medicare Advantage.”

Joe Baker of the Medicare Rights Center testified, “Many predicted that ACA changes to MA payment methods would lead to widespread disruption of the MA market. However, there is little evidence that this has occurred. In fact, it is important to note that MA enrollment is at an all-time high, with nearly 16 million beneficiaries now enrolled in an MA plan, representing a steadily growing percentage of beneficiaries. In addition, premium costs, benefit levels, and the availability of MA plans remain relatively stable across the country.”

Robert Book of Health Systems Innovation Network told the committee, “Since its inception, Medicare Advantage has proved to be one of the most popular and successful components of Medicare, with enrollment steadily increasing over time.”

The expert testimony of the witnesses that the Republicans invited was that Medicare Advantage enrollment is at an all time high. The myth that the ACA is going to kill Medicare is one of the favorite standards used by Republicans to scare seniors out of supporting Obamacare.

Republicans repeatedly called Obamacare a raid on Medicare despite the fact that their own experts, who were sitting right in front of them, disagreed. The scene was surreal. Republicans kept discussing how Obamacare is destroying Medicare while ignoring the facts that were being presented to them at their own hearing.

The hearing itself was another waste of time and money as House Republicans continue to try to convince the American people that affordable access to healthcare is a bad thing.

Republicans may have lost the battle and the war, but they are never going to stop lying about Obamacare.

*****************

House Republicans Behave Like Criminals While Advancing Obama Lawsuit

By: Jason Easley
PoliticusUSA
Thursday, July, 24th, 2014, 3:36 pm      

Republicans on the House Rules Committee behaved like common criminals as they advanced the lawsuit against President Obama while voting down every amendment related to disclosing the cost of the lawsuit.

By a party line vote of 7-4, the House Rules Committee voted to move forward with John Boehner’s lawsuit against President Obama, but the committee voted down 11 Democratic amendments that would have required them to be transparent about the lawsuit.

Here is a list of all of the Democratic amendments that were voted down by the Republicans on the Rules Committee:

1. Every week, require the House’s General Counsel to disclose how much has been spent on the lawsuit.

2a. Prohibit the hiring of any law firms or consultants who lobby Congress, because if they lobby Congress for a living, Congress should not also be paying them.
2b. Prohibit the hiring of any law firm or consultants who lobby on Affordable Care Act implementation or who have any financial stake in implementation of the Affordable Care Act, because it would be a conflict of interest.

3. Require disclosure of all contracts with lawyers and consultants 10 days before they are approved.

4. Require disclosure of where the taxpayer money paying for the lawsuit is coming from, and which programs and offices’ budgets are being reduced to pay for it. .

5. Require that the House’s lawyers explain to Members of the House the likelihood of success in this lawsuit, and how they think they will overcome the legal obstacles presented by Supreme Court precedent that says these sorts of cases can’t even be considered.

6. Ensure that this lawsuit does not seek to prevent implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s provisions relating to: (1) young adult coverage; (2) benefits for women; (3) protections for pre-existing conditions; (4) small business tax credits; or (5) prescription discounts for seniors that close the “donut hole” in Medicare.

7. Ensure that this lawsuit does not target people in the military, veterans, or civil servants, any one of whom would experience significant burdens and likely rack up large legal bills defending themselves in court.

9. Require the Speaker to pay for this lawsuit using money from the budget of the Benghazi Select Committee.

11. Require the House to bring up, debate, and vote on bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform.

12. Delete the language allowing the suit to be about “any other provision of law” related to the Affordable Care Act, which was added at the last minute and makes the lawsuit authority much broader.

Ranking Member of the Rules Committee, Rep. Louise Slaughter said, “We’re trying to stop this political stunt. There is nothing to be gained here. Money will be spent. All we are trying to do – we know that you have the votes to pass this, and you’re going to go on with the dance – but what we’re trying to do is at least amend it so that we can give some modicum of belief to the people of the United States that we’re trying to protect their interests, that we are not up here playing a game.”

House Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi said in a statement, “It is clear that Republicans will do anything to distract attention from their special-interest agenda of obstruction and dysfunction. While Democrats work to jumpstart the middle class, Republicans are wasting time and taxpayer dollars on another hypocritical, partisan and preposterous lawsuit against the President. This lawsuit is only the latest proof of House Republicans’ contempt and disregard for the priorities of the American people – an effort to pander to the most extreme, rightwing voters at taxpayer expense, the same as when they spent $2.3 million defending the unconstitutional and discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act in the courts.”

DCCC Chairman Rep. Steve Israel said, “Today couldn’t provide a more vivid contrast of priorities. While House Republicans are focused on suing the President in a partisan stunt to strengthen their base, House Democrats are fighting for solutions to strengthen the middle class. Instead of focusing on taxpayer-funded witch-hunts and lawsuits we should be passing the Middle Class Jumpstart agenda.”

The question is why are Republicans not being honest with taxpayers? Why are they hiding the cost of this lawsuit from the people who will be paying for it? House Republicans are acting like common criminals on the transparency issue as it relates to this lawsuit, because they are afraid of the political backlash that will come after taxpayers find out that millions of dollars are being wasted on this lawsuit.

This is the House Republican way. They voted to move forward with a lawsuit against President Obama while rejecting any attempt to keep taxpayers informed about the cost. The Boehner lawsuit is already turning into an anchor around the necks of House Republicans. What began as a cheap gimmick to get out the Republican vote has turned into a Democratic agenda setting multi-million dollar boondoggle for taxpayers.

House Republicans continue to set themselves up for major problems down the road. This lawsuit isn’t going to be forgotten by Democrats, and Republicans can expect the questions about how much all of this is costing to dog them through the fall. The best way to stop the pseudo criminal behavior of House Republicans is to vote them out this November.

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John Boehner Feuds With Reality During a Dishonest Press Conference Blaming Obama

By: Sarah Jones
PoliticusUSA
Thursday, July, 24th, 2014, 1:47 pm      

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) opened his presser asking “Where are the jobs?” as if he expected an alternate Speaker John Boehner to appear and explain himself. No such apparition did appear.

After House Republicans killed the VA bill Thursday morning because they refused to provide the VA with more funding, even though their party is the one that created the extra veterans with the two wars and continues to push for new armed conflicts, the Speaker blamed President Obama. The Speaker thinks it’s Obama’s fault that Boehner can’t pass legislation dealing with the border and the VA in the House before they go on yet another break, as if somehow a ghost of the President had taken residence in the House and was forcibly stopping Boehner from bringing legislation to the floor.

The Speaker was asked if Republicans could pass a border bill by next week, and instead of saying yes, as the Majority party, I’m operating under the made up Hastert Rule in order to limit the power of the minority party and so of course I can, he demurred that Republicans were “continuing to talk to our colleagues.”

This is also known as “It’s Obama’s Fault”.

Boehner explained that in the World According to Lawsuit Over Nothing John Boehner, Obama had changed his mind and “flip-flopped” Romney style on the border. “Now the president and his team have apparently flip-flopped. Now they want billions in new spending with no commitment to actually solving the problem.”

This explains perfectly why the House can’t pass any legislation or make any changes to any existing laws, because you see… Obama exists.

Also, Senate Democrats are mean.

Somehow Senate Democrats have also taken up residence in the House, and forcibly stopped the Speaker from doing his job, speaking of jobs.

If Boehner has learned any one specific skill since the Tea Party took over his chamber, it’s how to toss a hot ball at Obama and run away while pointing blame at the President for catching the ball, “But understand, it’s time for the White House to get their act together. Do they want to change the 2008 law and address the real underlying problem here or don’t they?”

Boehner insists that he is doing the bidding of the American people, who apparently hate decent paying jobs, don’t want healthcare, and want veterans to suffer along with the poor children the House is starving. Thus, in the name of the American people, Boehner denounced the “blank check” Obama requested for the Veterans’ Administration. “I want to be clear, there’s going to be no blank check for the President and his allies.”

Yes, Boehner is very clear that $13.5 billion for the VA is a “blank check” and that’s a no-go. By definition, of course, this is the opposite of a blank check but in House Republican land, a check with numbers on it is blank if it is requested by Obama. Thus, they can deny it because they don’t give out blank checks. And around we go.

(I warned Democrats that Republicans would be able to pull this crap once a sacrificial lamb was offered up to the media, and here we are, with no one caring about Republicans refusing to fund the VA as needed because it’s no longer a potential “scandal” for the White House.)

According to Politico Congressional reporter Seung Min Kim, Leader Nancy Pelosi (D_CA) called out John Boehner for his claim that it’s Obama’s fault he can’t pass his bill, “I haven’t seen what they’ve said they think they can pass.”

    Pelosi, with a subtle dig at House Republican border-crisis plan: “I haven’t seen what they’ve said they think they can pass.”

    — Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) July 24, 2014

Leader Pelosi can’t help but snicker, after all, she is the only reason that Boehner has been able to pass anything remotely reasonable. He needs her to get House Democrats on his side in order to pass his border idea.Pelosi has insisted that Republicans give Democrats enough money to do what they need to do, as well as ensuring due process for the children. Since Boehner won’t even give the President half of what he asked for in order to deal with this emergency, Pelosi knows Boehner is on his own. Stuck with his own party.

Where is this bill he can pass without her help? As if.

There is no bill that Boehner can pass without House Democrats, because House Republicans refuse to spend any money on anything except Obama witch hunts.

That’s a “No!” for a blank check for that border crisis, even though Obama didn’t ask for a blank check ($3.7 billion is an actual number, not anything like a “blank check” and it doesn’t give birth to itself or die from illegitimate rape). Not only are House Republicans denying President Obama what he asks for, but also things he never asked for, just in case he gets any ideas about being President.

Also, where are the jobs? Someone needs to get the poor Speaker a mirror.

***************

New NRA Plan: Bullet Subsidies and Forcing Kids to Shoot Their Way to Graduation

By: Adalia Woodbury
PoliticusUSA
Thursday, July, 24th, 2014, 9:54 am   

NRA Required Gun Zone

Mandatory gun zones and making marksmanship a mandatory requirement to advance in school are just a couple of the NRA’s newest gimmicks to maintain our lead as the country with the most guns, albeit in a fewer hands.

In a video released on Monday, NRA commentator Billy Johnson began his pitch for a gun in every hand by inferring that laws that keep guns out of the hands of people with dangerous histories is akin to limiting access to public education.

Transcript Courtesy of Media Matters:

    JOHNSON: As a country we have an education policy. Imagine if that policy was about limiting who has access to public education. I mean, let’s be honest, the danger in educating people to think is that they might actually start to think for themselves. Perhaps we should think seriously about who we give access to knowledge. They could use it to do a lot of damage.

    As a country we have a far reaching public parks program. Imagine if that program was designed to limit who has access to those parks. You littered once in high school, sorry no park access for you.

    As a country we have labor policies designed to ensure that people are given access to jobs regardless of gender, race, or creed. Imagine if that policy withheld certain types of jobs as only the purview of the government elite.

    The point is that as a country we often write policy to protect access to something; education, parks, jobs. But one for one of the most important protections, a constitutional right, we write policy designed to limit access. Among Second Amendment supporters it’s common to talk about U.S. gun policy. We worry that policies will encroach on our rights; we share our concerns about overreaching gun policy that fails to make any of us safer.

    But we don’t spend nearly enough time asking what is the purpose of policy and what should the purpose of gun policy be? We don’t have a U.S. gun policy. We have a U.S. anti-gun policy. Our gun policies are designed around the assumption that we need to protect people from guns, that guns are bad or dangerous. But what would happen if we designed gun policy from the assumption that people need guns — that guns make people’s lives better. Let’s consider that for a minute.

    Gun policy driven by people’s need for guns would seek to encourage people to keep and bear arms at all times. Maybe it would even reward those who do so. What if instead of gun free-zones we had gun-required zones?

    Gun policy driven by our need for guns would insist that we introduce young people to guns early and that we’d give them the skills to use firearms safely. Just like we teach them reading and writing, necessary skills. We would teach shooting and firearm competency. It wouldn’t matter if a child’s parents weren’t good at it. We’d find them a mentor. It wouldn’t matter if they didn’t want to learn. We would make it necessary to advance to the next grade.

    Gun policy driven by the assumption we need guns would probably mean our government would subsidize it. I mean, perhaps we would have government ranges where you could shoot for free or a yearly allotment of free ammunition. Sound crazy? Think about it. Education, healthcare, food, retirement, we subsidize things we value. Gun policy, driven by our need for guns would protect equal access to guns, just like we protect equal access to voting, and due process, and free speech. Our Founding Fathers believed that we did need guns. That’s why they codified our access to guns into the Constitution. But the idea of a gun policy that does justice to their intentions sounds ridiculous. What does that say about us? Even as Second Amendment advocates we can’t fathom a world where we would treat guns as a need.

Wow, where do we begin?

According to Johnson laws to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, people with a criminal history and people with illnesses that make them a danger to themselves and others are way too restrictive because guns are a necessity, like food, water, clothing, and shelter.  Keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people is like limiting access to knowledge (which Republicans do) or banning someone from a park.

It’s obvious that Johnson also doesn’t recognize that the NRA’s best friend in Congress and State legislatures has policies that do the very things he condemns in his pitch and doesn’t believe in the things he claims we should be doing.

One need only look at the climate change deniers, religion based Charter Schools and the Koch Brothers efforts to brainwash kids with their political philosophy to see that the Republican Party is doing all it can to eliminate access to knowledge. The last thing Republican lawmakers want is for people to think for themselves.  We see it in their attack on Common Core, their efforts to replace science with religion and reinvent history.  We see it in the Hobby Lobby ruling that forces employees to conform to their boss’s religious beliefs.

Republicans across the country are using every trick in the book to deny poor people access to healthcare – with some states even rationing access to emergency rooms.

Johnson wants to force kids to shoot their way to graduation, give them gun mentors and get the government to subsidies bullets. Sure, when America is already lagging behind other advanced countries in math and science, the obvious solution is courses in shooting and gun competency.

Then there’s the fact that the NRA friendly Republicans don’t believe in equal access to the vote as reflected in Voter and Registration ID laws, laws that restrict voting hours and days and laws that make it physically difficult if not impossible to have anything resembling equal access to the vote.

This is just crazy enough for the Tea Party controlled Republicans to get behind because subsidizing healthcare, school lunches or education is just silly when you can subsidize bullets and public shooting galleries. Besides, the best way to compete in a technology and scientifically advancing world is to force kids to learn how to shoot.

 4 
 on: Today at 07:00 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Are we alone? Alien pollution might reveal the answer

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, July 24, 2014 13:12 EDT

Earthlings often wonder if life exists on other planets, and researchers said Wednesday that hunting for traces of pollution from distant worlds could provide the answer.

Under certain conditions, astronomers in the next decade might be able to detect the presence of an industrialized alien society, according to a study by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Already, astronomers can study the atmospheres of planets outside our solar system for the presence of oxygen and methane, which could be produced by intelligent life or by microbes.

But an extraterrestrial civilization might also spew chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into the atmosphere, much the same way we do on Earth, said the study.

CFCs are chemicals used in solvents and aerosols that destroy the ozone layer.

Astronomers may be able to detect evidence of these CFCs on faraway planets using the James Webb Space Telescope, an $8.7 billion project that NASA is scheduled to launch in 2018.

The JWST will be between 10 and 100 times more powerful than NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, according to the US space agency.

However, there are limits to what kinds of pollution the JWST might find, and under which conditions, the Harvard astronomers said.

For instance, atmospheric levels of CFCs would have to be 10 times those on Earth for the JWST to be able to detect them.

Also, the JWST would only be able to hunt for this pollution on Earth-like planets that are circling white dwarfs, which are once-potent stars that have died and lost all their hydrogen fuel.

An even stronger instrument, which has not been invented yet, would be necessary to find pollution on a planet like Earth that is orbiting a bright star like our sun, said the report in The Astrophysical Journal.

The study authors raised the possibility that while this method aims to detect intelligent life, it might lead not to actual life, but instead to a civilization that has annihilated itself.

Some pollutants can persist in Earth’s atmosphere for 50,000 years, while others last just 10 years — and the absence of the latter might suggest that living sources are gone.

“We could speculate that the aliens wised up and cleaned up their act,” said co-author Avi Loeb.

“Or in a darker scenario, it would serve as a warning sign of the dangers of not being good stewards of our own planet.”

 5 
 on: Today at 06:59 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Siberian fossil discovery builds case for an age of feathered dinosaurs

By Steven Morris, The Guardian
Friday, July 25, 2014 0:20 EDT

The discovery of the fossilised remains of a creature that looks a little like a giant beak-less chicken has led scientists to a striking hypothesis: at one time all dinosaurs had feathers.

Researchers were aware that early flesh-eating dinosaurs had feathers, but the finding of the metre-long herbivore on a Siberian river bank has led experts to conclude that all dinosaurs from the Triassic period – more than 200m years ago – were feathered.

As dinosaurs evolved and in some cases developed armour, they lost the feathers, which were probably used for insulation and communication rather than flight.

One of the scientists involved in the study of the new dinosaur, Professor Michael Benton, from the University of Bristol, said it was a very significant discovery.

“This little chap from Siberia has feathers without a doubt. The conclusion we are tentatively putting forward is that feathers were present in all dinosaurs.”

Benton said the feathers kept dinosaurs warm, meaning that unlike cold-blooded lizards, they were able to operate in colder temperatures and at night. As dinosaurs grew bigger, feathers would have hindered them by making them too warm and compromised their defensive armour.

It has been accepted that birds evolved from dinosaurs and in the mid-90s dinosaurs with feathers were found in China. However, those feathered dinosaurs were flesh-eating theropods.

The fresh evidence that vegetarian dinosaurs were also cloaked in feathers was found at a site called Kulinda on the banks of the Olov river in Siberia. They found fossil remains showing it had scales on its tail and shins and short bristles on its head and back. But the thrilling discovery was feathers preserved as carbon-rich films on the rock.

These were well-preserved apparently because the animal’s carcass had not been picked over by scavengers but were probably washed away by a river and then encased in mud.

The new dinosaur has been named Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus. It was a plant-eater with long hind legs and short arms and five strong fingers. Six skulls and several hundred partial skeletons were found at Kulinda.

The findings are published in a paper in the journal Science. Pascal Godefroit, the lead author, from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural History in Brussels, said he was amazed when he realised the new dinosaur’s limbs had been covered in feathers. “Our new find clinches it: all dinosaurs had feathers, or at least the potential to sprout feathers.”

 6 
 on: Today at 06:57 AM 
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Groundwater disappearing in southwest, prompting fears it may become depleted

By Reuters
Friday, July 25, 2014 6:36 EDT

Underground stores of water in the southwestern United States have receded dramatically amid ongoing drought that has parched states from Oklahoma to the Pacific Coast and is costing California billions in lost crops and jobs, a new study shows.

The study released Thursday by the University of California, Irvine, shows that groundwater in the Colorado River basin has dropped by 40 million acre-feet over the past five years, the equivalent of two of the nation’s largest reservoirs.

“If drought conditions like this continue, there is a possibility we will entirely deplete our groundwater storage,” said researcher Stephanie Castle, the report’s author.

The data comes as policymakers are wrestling over how to manage the use of groundwater, accessed via wells and often the last resort for farmers unable to buy water from reservoirs in dry years.

Using satellite data, Castle tracked the ebbing water in the Colorado River basin, which stretches through seven states.

Underground water is an important backup during times of drought, relied on by farmers and others with access to wells when streams and reservoirs become depleted.

As drought conditions have continued, the underground water in the basin – not to be confused with the water in the river itself or the huge reservoirs it feeds – receded at a far faster rate than expected, Castle said.

Most of the reduction was in the Lower Colorado River Basin, she said.

In bone-dry California, the reservoirs that millions rely on for their water have also become depleted in the drought, new data from state water officials showed Thursday.

The newly released data show that each of the state’s 12 major reservoirs are below historical averages, while 10 of them are below 50 percent capacity and the five largest below 40 percent capacity.

Northern California’s Lake Shasta, the state’s largest reservoir, is holding 1.6 million acre-feet of water, just 36 percent of its total capacity and nearly half the amount it held last year. Neighboring Lake Oroville and Trinity Lake, the second- and third-largest reservoirs, are at 37 percent capacity, also nearly half that of last year.

“The reservoirs are clearly holding less water this year than they did a year ago today and that is a concern that we all share,” said Doug Carlson, a spokesman for the California Department of Water Resources.

 7 
 on: Today at 06:55 AM 
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Temple in Brazil Appeals to a Surge in Evangelicals

By SIMON ROMERO
JULY 24, 2014
IHT

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — It occupies an entire block in this teeming megacity: a 10,000-seat rendition of Solomon’s Temple.

Towering in sharp relief against the graffiti-splattered tenements nearby, it beckons with monumental walls of stone imported from Israel and the flags of the dozens of countries where its owner, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, is nourishing an evangelical Christian empire.

A helicopter landing pad will allow Edir Macedo, the 69-year-old media magnate who founded the Universal Church in a Rio de Janeiro funeral home in 1977, to drop in for sermons. The sprawling 11-story complex features other flourishes, too, like an oasis of olive trees similar to the garden of Gethsemane near Jerusalem, and more than 30 columns soaring toward the heavens.

“The Universal Church spared no expense,” said Rogério Araújo, the architect for the project, which is scheduled to be inaugurated on July 31. On a tour of the site, he added, “We sought to build a colossus, something that would make people stop and gaze, and that’s what we delivered.”

The replica of Solomon’s Temple, which took four years to build at a cost of about $300 million, captures the surging growth of evangelical faiths in Brazil. Although this country of 200 million people still has more Roman Catholics than any other nation, the number of evangelicals in Brazil climbed to 22 percent of the population in 2010 from 15 percent in 2000, according to census figures.

Large evangelical churches, particularly Pentecostal institutions like the Universal Church, are also wielding greater political clout across Brazil, reflecting a sizable evangelical voting bloc in Congress and the efforts of candidates across the political spectrum to appeal to evangelical voters in the presidential elections this year.

Brazil’s leftist president, Dilma Rousseff, is expected to be here for the inauguration of the temple, underscoring how she draws support for her governing coalition from a bloc of conservative evangelical leaders, including Mr. Macedo’s nephew, Marcelo Crivella, a Universal Church pastor and gospel singer who until recently was the minister of fishing.

No one has reshaped Brazil’s religious landscape quite like Mr. Macedo. A religious broadcaster and founder of the church, Mr. Macedo now travels by private jet on a special diplomatic passport (a privilege also allowed in Brazil for high-ranking Vatican officials), espousing prosperity theology and Pentecostal tenets like exorcism and faith healing.

With a personal fortune sometimes estimated at $1.2 billion, Mr. Macedo rose from obscurity through his control of Rede Record, one of Brazil’s largest television networks, and his aggressive expansion of the Universal Church, during which he has fought accusations of corruption, including tax evasion and money laundering.

Mr. Macedo was jailed for 11 days in 1992 on accusations of charlatanism and fraud. He has successfully fended off other criminal investigations, including allegations by prosecutors that he and other church leaders siphoned off donations from followers to enrich themselves. In the past year, he has cultivated a somewhat wizardly appearance, growing a flowing gray beard while occasionally donning what appears to be a skullcap like those worn by many observant Jews.

The replica of Solomon’s Temple includes several menorahs inside the structure, where sermons will be given, in addition to a large menorah near the entrance that resembles the one in front of the Knesset, Israel’s legislature. The flag of Israel also flies nearby, alongside those of the Universal Church, Brazil and the United States, among dozens of other countries.

“There is just one biblical faith; it is impossible to disassociate Christianity from its Jewish roots,” said Cássia Duarte, a spokeswoman for the Universal Church. She emphasized that Mr. Macedo had been absolved in an array of judicial investigations into corruption allegations, strengthening the church’s “preaching of the gospel.”

Scholars say that the Universal Church’s promotion of Jewish symbolism in its replica of Solomon’s Temple stems from a quest for historical legitimacy in a church that is just 37 years old. The original Solomon’s Temple is thought to have been constructed in ancient Jerusalem by King Solomon around 1000 B.C. and destroyed about four centuries later in a siege led by a Babylonian king.

“Macedo was a pioneer in seeing symbols and rituals connected to the Old Testament and Judaism as linchpins in the creation of a church capable of capturing hearts and minds,” said Rodrigo Franklin de Sousa, a specialist in biblical history at Mackenzie University in São Paulo.

So far, leaders in Brazil’s Jewish community have generally taken a relaxed approach to the new Solomon’s Temple. “On the one hand, there’s the favorable way in which Jewish culture and history are treated in the structure,” said Nilton Bonder, a Brazilian rabbi whose writings on spiritual themes are widely published. “On the other, there’s the bizarre aspect of the project’s dimensions and aggressive marketing.”

The temple will be one of Brazil’s largest religious structures, making the iconic Christ the Redeemer overlooking Rio de Janeiro, which is only about half as tall, look like a trinket in comparison.

“The monumental temple will be a powerful symbol both of Brazil as the epicenter of global Pentecostalism and of the Universal Church as the leading congregation challenging the Catholic Church in Brazil,” said R. Andrew Chesnut, an expert on Latin American religions at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The project is already rallying support among some Universal Church worshipers. “I get thrilled just by seeing the temple in a photograph,” said Mauricea dos Santos Ribeiro, 72, a retired bank employee who frequents a branch of the church in Rio de Janeiro. She said that a group from her congregation was planning a trip here to see the temple. “I’m counting the days until we go.”

As if emphasizing Brazil’s competitive religious landscape, the temple dwarfs two other churches located just across the street, one Catholic and the other operated by another Pentecostal group.

While the Universal Church projects its influence through Mr. Macedo’s television network and its web of operations in more than 100 countries, including about 60,000 worshipers in the United States, the institution faces important rivals in Brazil that have adopted similar expansion strategies.

Ricardo Mariano, a sociologist at the University of São Paulo, said that the Universal Church recently lost some ground in Brazil, with members declining to about 1.8 million in 2010 from about 2.1 million in 2000, even as Brazil’s evangelical Christians grew in proportion to the rest of the population during that time.

If the new Solomon’s Temple is meant to lure new attention to the Universal Church, that strategy is working.

Passers-by stop in front of it day and night. Some take pictures with their cellphones. Many stare at it in amazement, expressing their reactions on a crowded sidewalk where watchmen, described as “Guardians of the Temple” on their uniforms, patrol the entrance.

“The temple is so enormous, so beautiful, but also so ostentatious,” Solange Barbosa de Nascimento, 58, a seamstress who worships at another Brazilian evangelical church called Peace and Love, said one recent morning. “I wonder if they could have spent all that money another way, just caring for the poor.”

 8 
 on: Today at 06:51 AM 
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Somali 'Shebab Commanders' Killed in African Union Offensive

by Naharnet Newsdesk
25 July 2014, 11:03

African Union troops in Somalia said Friday they had killed two "senior" commanders of the Al-Qaida-linked Shebab insurgents, in the latest push of an offensive against the extremist fighters.

Witnesses reported that fighter jets also pounded the town of Jilib in southern Somalia's Middle Juba region on Thursday, part of the offensive by the 22,000-strong U.N.-backed AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM), who launched in March a fresh bid to wrest remaining towns from the Islamists.

AMISOM confirmed they had attacked an insurgent base near Jilib on Thursday, "destroying an Al-Shebab logistical base" and wounding "several militants."

The force, which fights alongside Somali government troops, boasted of capturing "a strategic militant training and planning camp in the village of Khadija Haji in Gedo region" in the far southwest, close to the border with Kenya.

AMISOM, in a statement Friday, also claimed to have killed "two senior Al-Shebab commanders", including one named as Issa Mohamed Dhoore, who had been reportedly a "liason officer" between foreign and Somali fighters.

Dhoore was said to have been close to secretive Shebab chief Ahmed Abdi Godane, who the U.S. State Department lists as one of the world's top eight terror fugitives, placing a $7 million bounty on his head.

The other Shebab fighter killed was named as Sharif Ameey, reportedly another "top leader", AMISOM said. Both were killed in a fighting in the village of Inimeey in Hiran region, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Shebab.

Despite the AU offensive, the Shehab continue to launch attacks even in the heart of fortified government zones in Mogadishu, as well as threatening regional nations such as Kenya and Uganda, who contribute troops to the AMISOM.

Earlier this month the Shebab launched an assault on Somalia's presidential palace, a repeat of an attack made in February. They have also killed four lawmakers this year.

 9 
 on: Today at 06:49 AM 
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Israeli strike on Gaza school kills 15 and leaves 200 wounded

UN condemns shelling of UNRWA school, saying it asked IDF for time to evacuate civilians, which was not given

• Gaza crisis: Israeli strike kills at least 15 – live updates

Peter Beaumont in Beit Hanoun
The Guardian, Thursday 24 July 2014 20.43 BST   

Link to video: Gaza hospital overwhelmed with survivors of Israeli strike on UN shelter

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/24/israeli-strike-un-school-gaza-kills-women-children

International scrutiny of Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip intensified on Thursday when more than 15 Palestinians were killed and 200 injured in a strike on a UN school in northern Gaza crowded with hundreds of displaced civilians.

Most of the injured were women and children. Among the dead was a mother and her one-year-old baby. UN staff had been attempting to organise the school's evacuation when the attack took place.

Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the UN, condemned the attack, which came hours after the agency had warned that Israel's actions in the Palestinian enclave could constitute war crimes. "Today's attack underscores the imperative for the killing to stop and to stop now," Ban said.

The Israeli military first claimed, in a text sent to journalists, that the school could have been hit by Hamas missiles that fell short. Later, a series of tweets from the Israel Defence Forces appeared to confirm the deaths were the result of an Israeli strike.

"Today Hamas continued firing from Beit Hanoun. The IDF responded by targeting the source of the fire."

"Last night, we told Red Cross to evacuate civilians from UNRWA's shelter in Beit Hanoun btw 10am & 2pm. UNRWA & Red Cross got the message. Hamas prevented civilians from evacuating the area during the window that we gave them."

Chris Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works agency said there had earlier been "firing around the compound" and his organisation had asked the Israeli army for time to evacuate civilians. "We spent much of the day trying to negotiate or to coordinate a window so that civilians, including our staff, could leave. That was never granted … and the consequences of that appear to be tragic." Gunness said the Israeli military were supplied with coordinates of UN schools where those displaced were sheltering. UN sources told the Guardian a call was placed to the Israeli military at 10.55am requesting permission to evacuate but their call was not returned.

The deaths in Beit Hanoun raised the overall Palestinian death toll in the conflict that began on 8 July to at least 751. Israel has lost 32 soldiers – all since 17 July, when it widened its air campaign into a full-scale ground operation – and three civilians.

Hours after the attack, a trail of bloody footprints could be seen crossing a deserted playground littered with abandoned possessions. There were pools of blood both inside and outside the school building; more blood splashed over wooden school desks.

The Israeli military, which said it was "reviewing the incident", claimed the incident had occurred during "heavy combat" in the area and accused "terrorists" of "using civilian infrastructure and international symbols as human shields".

Although missiles belonging to Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups in Gaza do sometimes fall short, there was no visible evidence of debris from broken Palestinian rockets in the school. The injuries and the number of fatalities were consistent with a powerful explosion that sent shrapnel tearing through the air, in some cases causing traumatic amputations.

The surrounding neighbourhood bore evidence of multiple Israeli attacks, including smoke from numerous artillery rounds and air strikes. One building was entirely engulfed by flames.

Thursday's assault on the school – one of the grimmest incidents of the war – occurred at about 2.50pm as the playground was crowded with families waiting to be ferried to safety. According to survivors, one shell landed in the schoolyard followed by several more rounds that hit the upper stories of the building.

Most of the wounded were moved initially to a local hospital where terrified women and children clung to each other, waiting for news of relatives. A shell exploded about 50 metres from the hospital building as they waited.

Nour Hamid, 17, was hoping for news of her sister. As she attempted to comfort her terrified nephew, she said: "We were packing up to leave when the attack happened. We were standing outside when they started hitting us, some of the women holding their babies. My sister-in-law was one of the injured. There were bodies everywhere, most of them women and children."

Laila al-Shinbari told Reuters: "All of us sat in one place when suddenly four shells landed on our heads … Bodies were on the ground, [there was] blood and screams. My son is dead and all my relatives are wounded including my other kids."

Sabah Kafarna, 35, had also been sheltering at the school. "At about 11.30 someone from the municipality came to tell us that we were going to be moved because it was too dangerous. But the buses didn't come. That's why [there were] so many people all outside when the shells landed," she said. "The shells came one after the other. I was inside by the windows when they smashed."

Ayman Hamdan, medical director at Beit Hanoun hospital, told the Guardian that medical staff were treating multiple shrapnel injuries and damage to internal organs. "Some of the bodies were blown apart. Such a massacre requires more than one hospital to deal with it," she said.

The dead were ferried along with the most seriously injured in a fleet of ambulances to the relative safety of the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahia. Frantic relatives crowded the morgue looking for loved ones. The hospital's emergency room was plunged into chaos as doctors struggled to cope with the influx.

One father, his white singlet stained with blood, sat on the floor cradling the body of his injured daughter as another relative held a drip above her. Two more children were brought in – one girl injured by shrapnel, and another body whose torso was covered in blood.

Several UN schools have come under fire in the last week. On Tuesday, a school in Maghazi, central Gaza, sheltering about 1,000 people, was hit by Israeli shells as an UNRWA team inspected damage caused by an earlier strike. Thursday's strike occurred during a day of heavy fighting across the territory as Israel pressed ahead with its operation to halt rocket fire from Gaza and destroy a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels.

*****************

West Bank rage at Gaza bloodshed as protests erupt over UN school attack

Palestinian Authority calls for 'day of rage' after women and children are killed by Israeli shelling while seeking shelter

Peter Beaumont in Gaza City and Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
theguardian.com, Friday 25 July 2014 09.54 BST

The violence of the conflict in Gaza spread to the West Bank on Thursday with at least two Palestinians killed and scores wounded in one of the biggest clashes seen for several years.

Further protests in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are expected following noon prayers on Friday, the last Friday of Ramadan, after the Palestinian Authority called for a “day of rage” over the bloodshed in Gaza.

Thousands of Palestinians took part in a demonstration after more than 15 women, children and United Nations staff were killed and around 200 injured when a UN shelter for those fleeing the Israeli bombing was hit.

The Israel Defence Forces insisted it had given the occupants of the shelter time to leave before shelling the area. But the UN flatly contradicted that, saying it had made repeated attempts to negotiate a window during which people could safely leave the area but none was granted. It said it had given the IDF precise co-ordinates of the location of the school.

Meanwhile reports emerged that the US secretary of state, John Kerry, had presented both sides with a new proposal for a cessation of violence. It centred around a week-long temporary ceasefire with Israeli troops allowed to stay in Gaza to locate and destroy tunnels; and simultaneous negotiations for a permanent deal, with guarantees by the US, EU and UN that the primary concerns of each side would be addressed.

Kerry was said to be awaiting a response from Israel and Hamas before leaving Cairo to return to Washington later on Friday. Israel's security cabinet was due to meet later on Friday to discuss the plan. It will also discuss the option of expanding its eight-day-old ground operation in Gaza.

Hamas's leader-in-exile, Khaled Mishal, said a truce must include a guaranteed end to Israel's eight-year blockade of the Gaza Strip. "We want a ceasefire as soon as possible, that's parallel with the lifting of the siege of Gaza," he told the BBC.

The school in Beit Hanoun in the north of Gaza was one of the grimmest incidents of the conflict, now in its 18th day and in which more than 800 Palestinians – mostly civilians – have been killed. Thirty-four Israelis and one Thai worker have died.

Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the UN, condemned the shelter attack, which came hours after the agency had warned that Israel's actions in the Palestinian enclave could constitute war crimes. "Today's attack underscores the imperative for the killing to stop and to stop now," Ban said.

Valerie Amos, the UN's top humanitarian official, described the attack on the school as “appalling”.

The school was hit while its playground was crowded with families waiting to be ferried to safety. According to survivors one shell landed in the schoolyard followed by several more rounds that hit the upper storeys of the building.

Most of the wounded were moved initially to a local hospital where terrified women and children clung to each other, waiting for news of relatives. A shell exploded about 50 metres from the hospital building as they waited.

Following the attack a trail of bloody footprints could be seen crossing the deserted playground, which was littered with abandoned possessions. There were pools of blood both inside and outside the school building; more blood was splashed over wooden school desks.

Nour Hamid, 17, said: "We were packing up to leave when the attack happened. We were standing outside when they started hitting us, some of the women holding their babies. My sister-in-law was one of the injured. There were bodies everywhere, most of them women and children."

Laila al-Shinbari told Reuters: "All of us sat in one place when suddenly four shells landed on our heads … Bodies were on the ground, [there was] blood and screams. My son is dead and all my relatives are wounded including my other kids."

Ayman Hamdan, medical director at Beit Hanoun hospital, told the Guardian that medical staff were treating multiple shrapnel injuries and damage to internal organs. "Some of the bodies were blown apart. Such a massacre requires more than one hospital to deal with it," she said.

More than 140,000 Palestinians have sought shelter in UN premises during the conflict. Several schools run by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, have come under fire in the last week. On Tuesday a school in Maghazi, central Gaza, sheltering about 1,000 people, was hit by Israeli shells as an UNRWA team inspected damage caused by an earlier strike.

Thursday's strike occurred during a day of heavy fighting across the territory as Israel pressed ahead with its operation to halt rocket fire from Gaza and destroy a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels.

The Israeli military, which said it was "reviewing the incident", claimed the incident had occurred during "heavy combat" in the area and accused "terrorists" of "using civilian infrastructure and international symbols as human shields".

In the West Bank clashes between the IDF and up to 10,000 people demonstrating against the Gaza offensive erupted in the volatile area around the massive Qalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The IDF said it used "riot dispersal means" – a term used to cover weapons such as rubber bullets and tear gas – against protesters, who threw rocks and molotov cocktails at them and blocked a road with burning tyres. It did not say whether live rounds had been used.

According to Israel Radio the protest appeared to be the largest since the Palestinian second intifada, or uprising, which ended in 2005.

Two other Palestinians have been killed in confrontations in the West Bank this week. On Thursday night police also clashed with Palestinian protesters around Jerusalem's Old City.


 10 
 on: Today at 06:41 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
China’s Plan to Limit Coal Use Could Spur Consumption for Years

By CHRIS BUCKLEY
JULY 24, 2014
IHT

HONG KONG — Under pressure to reduce smog and greenhouse gas emissions, the Chinese government is considering a mandatory cap on coal use, the main source of carbon pollution from fossil fuels. But it would be an adjustable ceiling that would allow coal consumption to grow for years, and policy makers are at odds on how long the nation’s emissions will rise.

Senior officials are debating these issues as they formulate a new five-year development plan, to be finalized by the end of next year. China emits more carbon dioxide than any other country, so what President Xi Jinping and his colleagues decide will have far-reaching consequences for efforts to contain climate change.

China’s leaders have not detailed their views on coal or carbon emission limits. But there is robust support among senior policy advisers for a firm national cap on coal starting in 2016, Wang Yi, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing who studies environmental policy, said in a telephone interview.

“I think there’s a broad consensus on this, and it’s a question of how to implement it,” said Professor Wang, who is a senior member of China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress. “If we can have a cap on coal, that would almost be equivalent to a cap on carbon, because coal is such a dominant source of pollution and emissions.”

Professor Wang and others say a coal ceiling would be easier to enforce than a cap on carbon emissions from all fossil fuels, which some experts have proposed. China accounts for half of global coal consumption.

The coal cap would be stricter than current limits, which are not mandatory and are only loosely enforced. But it would be pegged to expected economic growth and energy demand, so coal use could keep rising for years.

Chinese policy advisers remain divided about how quickly the country should move to cut coal consumption. Some officials fear stricter limits would drag down the economy. They cite the prospect of mine closings, job losses and energy shortfalls if alternative sources of energy, such as nuclear, hydroelectric and solar power, fail to deliver in time.

“The main difficulty is the time it takes to develop the substitutes for coal, and the uncertainties of bringing them online,” said Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University in eastern China. “The government is now more focused on cleaning up smog, but if the economy falters, then it’s possible the government’s focus could shift back to economic growth.”

Strict limits are also likely to face opposition from the powerful coal industry and allied officials, said Ailun Yang, a senior associate at the World Resources Institute in Washington who works on emissions and energy policy in China. Growth in coal use has slowed markedly in the past couple of years, but the China National Coal Association said last year that it expected the country to consume 4.8 billion metric tons annually by 2020.

“The real debate is about how to engage the big state-owned fossil-fuel companies, and also the big provinces whose economies are very, very dependent on these industries,” Ms. Yang said.

On the other side, some economists argue that bold efforts to reduce coal consumption would be an economic and environmental boon in the long term by encouraging new, clean modes of growth.

And, experts say, there is new pressure on the government from rising domestic anger over smog. Coal burned in power plants, boilers and furnaces is a main source of the grimy pollution that swamps Beijing and other cities, and many steps to cut smog would also cut carbon emissions.

“The whole air pollution situation has changed the debate dramatically,” Ms. Yang said. “There’s a lot more political space to argue for control measures.”

A dozen provinces and major cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, have already set firm limits on coal use or goals to reduce consumption.

Yet the most worrisome new threat to China’s carbon-cutting efforts could come from coal gasification plants, which officials have promoted as a way to reduce particulate air pollution, said Barbara A. Finamore, the Asia director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Those plants can feed gas to big cities, cutting coal demand in those cities, but producing the gas emits large quantities of carbon dioxide. A report issued by Greenpeace East Asia this week said local governments in China had proposed 48 such plants, in addition to two already running.

“Without a national cap, there is a real danger that coal production and air pollution will simply move to other parts of China,” Ms. Finamore said.

China’s National Energy Administration called this year for research proposals for “caps for total energy and coal consumption for 2020, and a practical path for implementing caps on energy and coal consumption.”

A recent study that Professor Wang oversaw at the Chinese Academy of Sciences proposed that China aim for coal consumption to peak in 2025 around 4.5 billion metric tons. But other Chinese and foreign researchers say an earlier peak at a lower level is feasible and necessary.

Han Wenke, director general of the state Energy Research Institute in Beijing, has urged China to start cutting coal consumption around 2020. China’s “actual consumption of coal is already very close to four billion tons, which is at the limits of endurance for the domestic environment,” he wrote in a recent paper.

A parallel debate is whether China should set a date for a peak in its carbon emissions, and if so, what that date should be. Other governments have pressed China to set a date so they can better map out how global greenhouse gas levels could rise.

So far, the Chinese government has resisted doing so, partly out of fear that a deadline could become hostage to onerous international demands. But China’s chief climate talks negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, said this month that the government could “propose a peak year for carbon emissions” in the first half of 2015, reported Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency.

Governments negotiating a new climate change treaty have agreed to propose national contributions to emissions reduction as part of efforts to reach an agreement in Paris next year. Previous efforts have foundered in part because China and other large developing countries have refused to accept calls from rich nations to take on binding emission targets.

China has been the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels since around 2006, when it passed the United States, and most research indicates that its emissions are likely to keep rising for at least another decade, driven by industrialization, rising affluence and the growth of cities.

Just how long they will rise is a question that divides experts, even those close to the government.

“There is major controversy,” Pan Jiahua, an expert on global warming and greenhouse gas policy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said in a telephone interview. “I’m personally more optimistic and believe that 2025 is a viable time for a carbon emissions peak, but others think that’s unrealistic and say we have to wait until 2030 or later.”

At international talks in Copenhagen in 2009, governments agreed to try to hold greenhouse gas concentrations below levels likely to cause the average global temperature to rise 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above the preindustrial average during this century.

Virtually no country is acting fast enough to be on track to reach that target. Even if advanced countries do far more to cut carbon emissions, China’s must peak by the mid-2020s to keep hope alive for the Copenhagen goal, said Niklas Höhne, director of energy and climate policy at Ecofys, a consulting company. He and others said China could do that by around 2025, given the right industry, taxation and consumption policies.

“If a coal cap can help us reach a peak in coal in 2020, we can be confident that the CO2 peak will be about 2025,” said Yang Fuqiang, a former energy researcher for the Chinese government and now a senior adviser for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Beijing, referring to carbon dioxide.

But several experts at Chinese government institutes said it would be too economically perilous to peak so soon, and two recent Chinese studies have said that any attempt to do so before 2030 would be impractical.

“If you wanted a peak right now, China could do it by stopping economic growth,” said Professor Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “But the price would be that the ordinary people would go out onto the streets.”

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