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 on: Today at 05:57 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
February 9, 2016

Newly-discovered fluorescent polyps light up sea snails in Red Sea

by John Hopton
Red Orbit

Marine creatures that give off a beautiful glow have been discovered in coral reefs south of the Red Sea, according to a new report.

Russian biologists who found the molluscs in waters off Saudi Arabia noted that a localized glow in certain parts of the body can help to distinguish different species of organisms that have identical structure. The light is kindly donated to the gastropods by hydrae, and unlike similar lifeforms these Red Sea "fluorescent lanterns" spread colonies and decorate the shells of Nassarius snails with coats of green lights that resemble Christmas tree decorations.

"Sea hydroids, unlike hydrae, are often found in colonies and can branch off tiny jellyfish," said Vyacheslav Ivanenko, one of the authors of the research and the leading researcher of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology of the Lomonosov Moscow State University. "The unusual green glow of these hydrozoas (presumably, a new species of the genus Cytaeis, whose body length reaches 1.5 mm) was revealed in the peristomal area of the body".

Having been buried in the sand during the day, the creatures tend to be active at night, which sort of makes sense because it gives them a chance to show off, but at the same time one might wonder if their impressive glow might hinder their hunt for food. Quite the opposite may be true, according to the researchers, who suggest that the light my actually attract prey. Intriguingly, though, the exact reason for the lumiousity is unknown. The extent to which the hydrae are fussy about choosing their hosts is also as yet unclear.

The warm glow of a Nobel Prize

The fluorescence results from some proteins or pigments when under light illumination (fading immediately when not under the illumination), and was observed when the scientists used UV-light with yellow filters.

Japanese marine biologist Osamu Shimomura famously first isolated green fluorescent protein (GFP) from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria, and it became widely used in experimental biology as a glowing marker for the study of protein work in cells. He won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the work, along with Martin Chalfie and Roger Tsien.

Fluorescence of creatures such as the Red Sea discoveries is found in a limited number of species. The localization of the glow either on the tentacles or stalk, around the mouth or elsewhere helps scientists to distinguish between them.

"The comparison of the fluorescence of hydroid found in the Red Sea to those of other hydroids of the same genus, analysis of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA of the hydroid and evaluation of the data presented in the gene bank allowed to reveal the species-specific fluorescence of morphologically indistinguishable species of Cytaeis. Thus, using hydroids as an example, the researchers first demonstrated the ability to use peculiarities of the localization of the fluorescence for discrimination of similar invertebrates. The fluorescence can be useful for quick identification of hardly recognizable species and for the studies of ecological peculiarities and distribution of hydroids and their hosts - molluscs," said Ivanenko.

For people who like to scuba dive (and take their vacations in Saudi Arabia), the good news is that the lightshow can be observed in shallow waters accesible in scuba gear.

 on: Today at 05:53 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
February 9, 2016

Late Antique Little Ice Age associated with fall of eastern Roman Empire, rise of Arab Empire

by Susanna Pilny
Red Orbit

The last three decades may have the warmest summers seen in Europe of the course of two millennia, but now researchers have identified the coldest temperatures in the same time frame—and discovered they coincide with an extremely riotous time in history.

In fact, these cold temperatures were so cold and lasted so long that the researchers believe that have identified a previously unrecognized mini ice age. Lasting from 536-660 CE, they have dubbed this cold snap the Late Antique Little Ice Age—as the time period in which it fell correlates to the end of the Age of Antiquity.

According to the study, which is published in Nature Geoscience, the researchers investigated tree ring data from 150 living and 500 dead trees from the Russian Altai-Sayan Mountains, whose tissue chronicled temperatures from between 358 BCE to 2011 CE. They discovered that the average temperature fell by around 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius) colder than today’s average in this Little Ice Age—which may seem small, but of the 20 coldest summers in that region within a 2,300-year span, 13 occurred consecutively in this 120-year time period.

Or, as lead author Ulf Büntgen from the Swiss Federal Research Institute put it, "This was the most dramatic cooling in the Northern Hemisphere in the past 2000 years."

This Ice Age seems to have begun thanks to three volcanic eruptions that occurred in quick succession: one in 536, another in 540, and the last in 547 CE. These eruptions spewed large amounts of sulfate aerosols, which entered the atmosphere and blocked out sunlight by reflecting it back into space, thereby dropping temperatures globally. The researchers think that these events coincided with the solar minimum, which paired with the reactions of sea ice drew out this temperature plunge across the sixth and seventh centuries.

The other shoe drops

But the researchers have uncovered something even more fascinating than a new mini-Ice Age, because they believe that this temperature drop directly changed the course of human history.

In fact, they believe that the temperature change led to the decline of the eastern Roman Empire and the rise of the Arab Empire.

After the team—which consisted of naturalists, historians, and linguists—mapped the new climate information against the turbulent events of the mid-fifth century in and around the eastern Roman Empire, they were able to draw links between the climate change and historical events.

"With so many variables, we must remain cautious about environmental cause and political effect, but it is striking how closely this climate change aligns with major upheavals across several regions," said Büntgen.

For example: Following the eruptions, first went the food. As temperatures plunged, food supplies did too—or so they guessed, as a major famine struck the region in the time immediately after the eruptions. And then, directly following (and perhaps exacerbated by) the famine, plague struck—as in the Justinian Plague, which killed millions of people across the Mediterranean.


At the same time in central Asia, multiple tribes began to migrate eastwards towards China, likely because their pasturelands were in decline thanks to cooler temperatures. These nomadic tribes clashed with local ruling powers in the steppes of northern China. Then, these populations allied themselves with the Eastern Romans to bring down the Sasanian Empire in Persia—clearing the way for the Arab Empire to rise up in its wake.

Meanwhile, to the south of the Eastern Empire, the Arabian Peninsula began receiving more rain than usual, allowing more vegetation to grow than before. The researchers believe this boom in plant life allowed the Arab armies to grow in size, as the increase in food sources meant they could use more camels on their campaigns. Naturally, this led to more successes for the Arab Empire, which could now being fill the void left by the Sasanian Empire.

Or in short, the researchers believe the Late Antique Little Ice Age played an enormous role in shaping the events of the time period.

“Spanning most of the Northern Hemisphere, we suggest that this cold phase be considered as an additional environmental factor contributing to the establishment of the Justinian plague, transformation of the eastern Roman Empire and collapse of the Sasanian Empire, movements out of the Asian steppe and Arabian Peninsula, spread of Slavic-speaking peoples, and political upheavals in China,” they wrote.

All of which raises the question: In our current dramatic climate shift, who will rise?

And who will fall?

 on: Today at 05:49 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
February 9, 2016

Earth-like exoplanets have Earth-like interiors, say astronomers

by Brett Smith
Red Orbit

Astronomers have identified a number of planets outside the solar system, known as exoplanets, that could have a surface very similar to our own, but do these planets have an interior similar to Earth’s?

According to a new study published in Astrophysical Journal, Earth-like exoplanets do indeed have an Earth-like interiors; with a thin crust, thick mantle and a Mars-sized internal core.
To reach their conclusion, the study team used a computer simulation known as the Preliminary Reference Earth Model (PREM), a widely-accepted model for Earth's interior. The team then modified it with different masses and compositions, then applied it to six identified rocky exoplanets with established masses and sizes.

They team discovered that the six exoplanets should have a nickel-iron core with approximately 30 percent of the planet's mass. Approximately one-third of the Earth's mass is in its core. The rest of each exoplanet would be mantle and crust, the same as with our own planet.

"We wanted to see how Earth-like these rocky planets are. It turns out they are very Earth-like,” lead author Li Zeng, an astronomer from Harvard University, said in a statement. "We've only understood the Earth's structure for the past hundred years. Now we can calculate the structures of planets orbiting other stars, even though we can't visit them.”

What about icy worlds?

The study team said their process can also be applied to icy worlds, like Pluto or the various moons of Saturn and Jupiter. In fact, the team found that using the mass and size of Pluto, their model shows it is about one-third ice.

The one mitigating factor is that the model is based on the assumption that exoplanets have chemical make-ups similar to Earth. The team said this is a reasonable assumption due to the abundances of major chemical elements like iron and oxygen seen in nearby solar systems.

However, planets developing metal-rich areas of the galaxy could have different interior structures, the study team admitted. The research team said it plans to examine these and other questions in upcoming research projects.


Feature Image: This artist's illustration compares the interior structures of Earth (left) with the exoplanet Kepler-93b (right), which is one and a half times the size of Earth and 4 times as massive. New research finds that rocky worlds share similar structures, with a core containing about a third of the planet's mass, surrounded by a mantle and topped by a thin crust. (Credit: M. Weiss/CfA)

 on: Today at 05:48 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
February 9, 2016

Wolf species howl in more than 2000 distinct ‘dialects’, study finds

by Brett Smith
Red Orbit

In one of the most expansive studies of its kind, researchers have identified and cataloged more than 2,000 distinct howls from canids such as coyotes, jackals, and wolves.

Published in the journal Behavioural Processes, the new study divided the thousands of howls into about 21 different types based on pitch fluctuations and patterns.

The study team found howls can correspond not only to a particular species, but also to a particular subspecies. For example, the timber wolf has a low, flat howl; while endangered red wolves have a high, looping vocalization.

In a statement, the study team said it wanted to study the vocalizations of non-primates to determine how our own systems of language evolved.

"Wolves may not be close to us taxonomically, but ecologically their behavior in a social structure is remarkably close to that of humans. That's why we domesticated dogs – they are very similar to us," said study author Arik Kershenbaum, a zoologist from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. "Understanding the communication of existing social species is essential to uncovering the evolutionary trajectories that led to more complex communication in the past, eventually leading to our own linguistic ability.”

Too close to call

The study team recorded thousands of howls and fed the audio recordings into computer algorithms that classified the howls into 21 different categories.

Interestingly, the researchers found that the endangered red wolf has a howl that is very similar to that of a coyote's.

"The survival of red wolves in the wild is threatened by interbreeding with coyotes, and we found that the howling behavior of the two species is very similar,” Kershenbaum said. “This may be one reason why they are so likely to mate with each other, and perhaps we can take advantage of the subtle differences in howling behavior we have now discovered to keep the populations apart.”

The Cambridge professor has also worked with dolphin calls, and he noted that canids and dolphins share many social attributes.

"As well as being intelligent and cooperative species, wolves and dolphins have remarkably similar vocal characteristics. If you slow a dolphin whistle down about 30 times it sounds just like a wolf howl, something I often do in my lectures," he said.

"The presence of complex referential communication in species that must communicate to survive was probably a crucial step in the evolution of language. I think we can shed a lot of light on early evolution of our own use of language by studying the vocalization of animals that are socially and behaviorally similar to us, if not necessarily taxonomically closely related."

 on: Feb 08, 2016, 09:31 AM 
Started by kjbem - Last post by Rad
Hi SpeakNow,

There is no one answer to this. All Souls have their own, unique, evolutionary context that reflects the evolutionary journey of each one of them. It is that individual context that must be understood by the EA astrologer to then understand and know what the Pluto transit would mean on that 12yr old's ascendant, or any other Soul's ascendant.

God Bless, Rad

 on: Feb 08, 2016, 09:18 AM 
Started by kjbem - Last post by SpeakNow
Hi all,

Anything specific/special when this is a transit being experienced by a young child? Evolution-arily speaking, why might a soul choose to experience this transit as a child? And how might a parent aware of such a transit aid in assisting a child through something such as this?

 on: Feb 08, 2016, 07:20 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
U.S. Political News ..

Marco Rubio turns into 'Marcobot' in disastrous Republican debate gaffe

The young Florida senator’s momentum was stopped in its tracks Saturday as Chris Christie unleashed taunts over his ‘memorized 25-second’ speech glitch

Jonathan Freedland in New Hampshire
Sunday 7 February 2016 05.42 GMT
Press Association

Defenders of the long, arduous process by which the United States elects a president often say the marathon campaign’s chief value is that it finds people out. On Saturday night that old saw was confirmed once again – and the candidate being found out was Marco Rubio.

The freshman Florida senator went into the final Republican debate before New Hampshire votes on Tuesday as the rising favourite. Many tipped him if not to win outright then at least to become the standard bearer of the party’s establishment or (relatively) moderate wing, the man who could take on the ultra-conservative Ted Cruz or the untamed fire-breather Donald Trump. A good performance tonight would seal the deal.

Instead, Rubio had a disaster. His chief antagonist was New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who seized the earliest opportunity to put the young senator through the mincer. Building on a theme that he had tried out at a packed rally earlier that day, Christie taunted Rubio as a callow ingenue who could do no more than regurgitate a “memorized 25-second speech”.

Rubio uses the same line about Obama three times in the Republican debate: <iframe src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Rubio proceeded to make Christie’s point for him. Instead of answering the question put to him, he repeated the soundbite he had just uttered – a riff about Barack Obama having a deliberate plan to transform America. Christie pointed this out to the watching audience, Rubio doing exactly as he had described, retreating to the comfort zone of a well-rehearsed stump speech. Rubio promptly repeated the soundbite again.

It was a damning, jaw-dropping moment. It looked like that sequence from the 1970s thriller the Stepford Wives, when a software glitch reveals that a human-like character is in fact a robot. “I thought we were friends,” the android says over and over again.

Rubio never recovered. A small comfort, of a sort, came later when a close-up showed the Florida senator sweating under the lights and under pressure. At least it showed he was human. Pretty soon, though, there was a video mash-up of those broken-record answers and a parody Twitter account: @rubioglitch. Social media branded him the “marcobot”.

It meant that in just a few moments Christie had achieved what he set out to do: he had both wounded Rubio and got himself noticed. Given that he came 10th in Iowa, that was the very least he had to do. But the New Jersey governor did himself more good than that. He also gave strong answers – on drugs, saying that his definition of “pro-life” meant he cared about life beyond just the “nine months in the womb”, and on Muslim Americans, condemning those who demonized them – that will have appealed to moderate Republicans and perhaps to New Hampshire’s registered independents, who will be able to vote in the Republican contest on Tuesday and traditionally play a big role in this state.

Still, Christie does not have the constituency of those repelled by Trump and Cruz all to himself. He had competition from two other members of the governor class: Ohio’s John Kasich and the onetime presumed frontrunner Jeb Bush of Florida. Both did better than they had in previous encounters. Bush caught the eye when he took on Trump over the “eminent domain” rule. The property tycoon tried to swat Bush aside by suggesting Bush was trying to play the “tough guy”. Referring to a specific case, Bush shot back: “How tough is it to take property from an old woman?”

Kasich fired off no zingers, but his aura of sunny competence might also play well with New Hampshire’s independents. Alone in refusing to go negative against his opponents, he was the candidate of good, if unthrilling, governance. Some Republican activists believe the Ohio governor may spring the big surprise of Tuesday night: that, on the quiet, he has won over voters one by one, speaking at no fewer than 100 town hall meetings in the state – including braving Friday’s snowstorm to address a few dozen folks in a barn in the village of Hollis for his 99th such gathering. He may not be the most focused speaker, but New Hampshire citizens respect that kind of attention.

Of course the big obstacle for all these hopefuls remains the man who stood at the centre of the stage and was granted both the first and last words. The polls still say Trump is in front, even if his lead is said to be shrinking. He had a good night in that he was not the chief target of the others’ attacks. He was able to repeat his usual lines about China and making the US a winner again, adding a pledge to “bring back waterboarding and bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding”.

But he was barely challenged. That’s because there was another man in the candidates’ sights. Marco Rubio was the designated victim – and he emerged looking younger, smaller and more vulnerable.


Marco Rubio’s disastrous debate performance leads Twitter to conclude he’s a ‘glitchy’ robot

Tom Boggioni
Raw Story
07 Feb 2016 at 08:55 ET  

Marcos Rubio’s ascent as the establishment Republican candidate for president may have crashed and burned Saturday night after his over-reliance on a single talking point regarding President Obama led viewers and commentators to conclude he came off like glitchy preprogrammed robot.

Rubio’s insistance on repeating “Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He is trying to change this country,” multiple times during the evening led to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie openly mocking him during the debate.

This is not the first time it has been noted that Rubio’s responses to questions seems preprogrammed.

In 2011, Jonathan Chait wrote a column entitled “Is Marco Rubio Secretly A Robot?”

“Do you get the feeling that ‘Marco Rubio’ is not an actual human being at all but some kind of computer program designed by the Republican Party? Imagine they had the technical know-how to create a candidate like this. What would they come up with? They’d come up with Marco Rubio, a cinematically handsome Latino from Florida who hews to the Tea Party line while spitting out patriotic cliches that sound as if they were programmed like a computer,” he wrote before stating, “I’m not saying I’m sure Rubio is a robot. I’m just saying that I want to watch him walk through a metal detector.”

As for Saturday night’s performance, Twitter users joined ranks in attacking Rubio as being a tightly-scripted talking points machine.

    I’ve watched Rubio for a long time, always thought that critique of him as a talking-points robot was way overblown. But oh dear.

    — Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) February 7, 2016


    Kasich: I’m here
    Christie: I’m proud
    Bush: I’m Reaganish
    Carson: I’m …
    Rubio: I’m a
    Cruz: I’m trusted
    Trump: I’m winning

    — Matthew T. Hall (@SDuncovered) February 7, 2016

    After last debate I said Rubio talks like a robot. After tonight, it may be because he is a robot – though a poorly programmed one

    — Taegan Goddard (@politicalwire) February 7, 2016

    Oh my God, Rubio now goes for the “he knows exactly what he’s doing” for the THIRD time. It’s like a robot whose circuits have blown.

    — Jeff Greenfield (@greenfield64) February 7, 2016

    Robot Rubio repeats same line four times, even after being mocked

    — Boing Boing (@BoingBoing) February 7, 2016

    I like Rubio but his coaches need to get him off this same speech robot thing

    — Jared C. Wilson (@jaredcwilson) February 7, 2016

    I don’t like Christie, but him flat-out calling Rubio a robot to his face is a highlight of this cycle for me.

    — Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) February 7, 2016

    Triply strange about Rubio tonight is that he’s been looser, less programmed, DEFT on the trail over recent days. So why the robot now?

    — Frank Bruni (@FrankBruni) February 7, 2016

    I wonder if the Rubio campaign will be able to find a robot repair shop open on a Sunday in New Hampshire. #RubioGlitch

    — Ron Krasnow (@BrooklynRon) February 7, 2016

    Rubio is a conservative, but fortunately the Three Laws of Robotics will keep him from harming us all.

    — Sr. WH Official (@SrWHOfficial) February 7, 2016


Rubio falters in debate at worst possible time — opening door to rivals

08 Feb 2016 at 06:33 ET                  

Republican White House contender Marco Rubio struggled at a debate on Saturday at the worst possible time, potentially confounding his bid to emerge as Donald Trump’s chief rival in New Hampshire and giving hope to three rivals desperate for a strong showing.

Under assault from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie over his level of experience as a first-term U.S. senator from Florida, Rubio retreated time and again to canned statements from his stump speech and looked uncomfortably rattled for the first time after seamless performances at seven prior debates.

“Marco, the thing is this,” Christie said during one heated exchange early in the night, “when you’re president of the United States, when you’re a governor of a state, the memorized 30-second speech where you talk about how great America is at the end of it doesn’t solve one problem for one person.”

While Rubio recovered later in the debate, the timing of his performance was terrible, coming three days before New Hampshire Republicans register their choices on Tuesday in the nation’s second nominating contest. The debate at St. Anselm College was the last face-off of the candidates before the vote.

Rubio’s tough moments may breathe new life into the campaigns of Christie, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Ohio Governor John Kasich, three experienced politicians who, like Rubio, represent establishment Republicans.

All three have suffered from the dominance of front-runner Trump in the Republican race. They are badly in need of a breakout moment to change the trajectory of the battle in New Hampshire, where the polls show Trump in the lead, Rubio in second and Texas Senator Ted Cruz in third place.

Trump did not have his best debate. He looked flustered in a fight with Bush over the use of eminent domain in advancing the interests of public use projects and private industry.

But he seemed to do well enough to possibly win on Tuesday in what would represent his first victory of the 2016 race, erasing the pain from a loss in the Iowa caucus last week, where he finished second to Cruz and just ahead of the surging Rubio.

A victory in New Hampshire could put Trump on track for more wins in South Carolina on Feb. 20 and beyond on the way to the Nov. 8 election.

Appealing to establishment

For the second debate in a row, Bush looked polished and sounded like the candidate many establishment Republicans had pinned their hopes on. His problem is it may be too late.

Kasich, likely to end his candidacy if he does not do well on Tuesday, delivered a positive message that could appeal to New Hampshire Republican voters, who famously make up their minds late and never seem in the mood to follow the lead of the Iowa caucuses, won by Cruz.

The trouble for Rubio began soon after the debate started when the ABC News moderators asked Christie about Rubio’s experience in the U.S. Senate, and Christie pressed his case.

Rubio critics have made much of the fact that his experience is akin to that of much-derided Democratic President Barack Obama, elected in 2008 when a first-term senator.

Rubio’s defense was that his and Obama’s world views are different, not that Obama has simply led the country down the path it is on because of inexperience.

“Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing,” Rubio said.

When Rubio repeated the same line again, Christie sought to reinforce the charge that Rubio is so inexperienced that he relies on well-worn talking points and cannot think on his feet.

“There it is. There it is. The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody,” Christie said.

Rubio repeated the line enough that someone created a Twitter profile called @RubioGlitch that repeated his line about Obama.

Bush tussles with Trump

Bush attacked Trump for using eminent domain, which allows governments to seize private lands for projects for the public good, to help him build casino complexes in Atlantic City. Eminent domain is a frequent target of criticism from conservative and anti-government groups.

“What Donald Trump did was use eminent domain to try to take the property of an elderly woman on the strip in Atlantic City. That is not public purpose. That is downright wrong,” he said.

Trump said eminent domain was “a good thing” and was necessary to building roads, bridges, schools and hospitals. “Certainly, it’s a necessity for our country,” he said.

“He wants to be a tough guy, and it doesn’t work very well,” Trump said of Bush, telling the son and brother of former presidents to be quiet.

When the crowd booed, Trump said, “that’s all his donors and special interests out there.”

Trump, known for his tough stances with calls to ban Muslims from visiting the United States and deport immigrants without the proper documents, also called for a more empathetic view of the Republican call to repeal Obamacare insurance coverage for Americans.

“There will be a certain number of people who will be on the street dying, and as a Republican I don’t want that to happen,” he said.

Trump captured the biggest share of the conversation on Twitter during the debate, winning 33 percent of the conversation followed by Rubio at 20 percent and Cruz at 15 percent.

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Emily Stephenson and James Oliphant; Additional reporting by Ginger Gibson and Alana Wise in Washington; Writing by Steve Holland and John Whitesides; Editing by Mary Milliken, Paul Simao and Robert Birsel)


Bill Moyers: Ted Cruz is America’s ‘God Squad’ bully-boy goon

Bill Moyers
07 Feb 2016 at 12:08 ET                  

We found ourselves this week talking about two very different guys, both born in Canada, who skated to triumph thanks to their fans.

If you follow hockey, you have already guessed the name of one of them: John Scott, the 6’8,” 275 lbs., unlikely Most Valuable Player in last Sunday’s NHL All-Star Game. As Kelly McEvers put it on NPR’s All Things Considered, Scott is a “goon-made-good.” She was invoking hockey slang to describe an enforcer — the “goon” who is charged not to score goals but to knock heads. A professional brawler, if you will, who relies more on brute force than technical skill. He protects his teammates by starting a fight; defends the goaltender by starting a fight; and entertains the crowds by, yes, starting a fight. Scott was a “journeyman” to boot, meaning that he travels from team to team and isn’t considered an elite player. Essential, yes; elite, no. Sort of like the bouncer at a nightspot.

Goons are the unlikeliest candidates for the All-Star Game and you have to scratch your head to remember the last time one made it. But John Scott’s fans adore him, and they voted him into last Sunday’s game over the protestations of the NHL brass, who seemed to loathe the very idea of a low-life in their big showcase competition. When officials stepped in to try to stop him, even sending him briefly to the AHL, the minor league of hockey, these regular-guy fans went crazy. As Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports told McEvers, “A chaotic group of miscreants and NHL fans on Reddit and social media pushed John Scott to the top of the popular vote.”

How did they do it? They took to the Internet, campaigned hard, and overrode the NHL to secure Scott’s berth. Not only did he score two goals for the victory, his teammates hoisted him aloft (all 300 lbs. of him with his gear), his fans voted him MVP, and the NHL brass had to hand him the gold, a million dollars in prize money. By the end of the night, Scott was the people’s champ — an everyman’s hero, triumphing despite hockey’s elite snobs doing their best to keep him down.

Now if you follow politics (as of course you do) you know the other Canadian-born guy in this story is Ted Cruz. He is another kind of enforcer who is always spoiling for a fight. Instead of brawling on the ice, he brawls in the courts, on the Senate floor, and on the campaign trail. In Iowa, if they had wanted an enforcer, you might think the call would have gone to Donald Trump. But Trump is merely a bully who bungles scripture. Cruz is a brute, the Crusader Warrior, armed with spike and shield and holy zeal, summoning true believers to war against the infidels. Deus vult! they cried out in those days. “God wills it!”

Unlike John Scott, who is said to be a nice guy, and humble, there’s malice in Ted Cruz’s swagger. When the Christian right in Iowa bested Trump and the GOP establishment on Monday, lofting him to victory, he shouted to the exultant worshippers, “To God be the Glory” — his self-referential pronouncement that a new Messiah had come to town.

Yet while Cruz may have won Iowa fighting the GOP elites, he’s no outsider, and he’s no down-to-earth “journeyman.” There is hardly an all-star team that he hasn’t made: Princeton, Harvard Law School, Supreme Court clerkship, boutique DC law firm. As a teenager he told people he intended to be president. With a sharp mind and sharper elbows, he has always been determined to win MVP at all costs, never backing down from a fight, or an opportunity to climb higher.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with ambition, but here is another striking difference between John Scott and Ted Cruz. Even as the fiercest of enforcers, Scott remains a team player. As he says, “I make my teammates feel safe to do what they do best.”

Ted Cruz is no team player. He’s out for no one but himself. And he has a history of switching teams until they fulfill his ambitions.

Cruz was on George W. Bush’s team for the Florida recount in 2000, helping to stop the vote tallying  there before Al Gore could be declared the winner — an ambitious 29-year-old gunning for a top post in the White House. When he didn’t get one, Cruz wrote in his 2015 autobiography that it was “a crushing blow.” He landed a job at the Federal Trade Commission instead.

Cruz didn’t stop fighting, but when his colleagues still didn’t value him as he thought he deserved, he switched leagues and went local back in Texas. As the state’s solicitor general, he began climbing the political ladder again, eventually considering a run for Texas attorney general. And when he saw an opening on the tea party team in 2012, he used it to campaign for the US Senate, picking fights with the Washington establishment that he felt had rebuffed him, and scoring an upset victory.

Once in the Senate his goon-inspired behavior soon antagonized just about everyone, including his fellow Republicans. No one was beyond the reach of his brass knuckles, sharp elbows, and forked tongue. He fought against the Affordable Care Act (including a 21-hour rant on the Senate floor), immigration reform, Planned Parenthood — and against the Anti-Christ, Barack Obama.

Now, to win the White House, Cruz has switched to the God Squad. He is the new Chosen One. His ground game in Iowa relied on scores of fundamentalist clergy, hundreds of volunteers, and his own father, Rafael, a Texas pastor who told a Christian TV channel that his son’s race for the White House was divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit.

It is as calculated as any of his previous plays. Robert Draper, in The New York Times Magazine, did the math: “Of the 22 states that will be casting their ballots for a Republican nominee between Feb. 1 and March 5, 11 of them feature a Republican electorate that is more than 50 percent evangelical. Even more significant, the first state to vote is Iowa, roughly 60 percent of whose Republican caucus-goers describe themselves as evangelical Christians.”

Deus vult!

Let us pause, and think upon the words of 18th century satirist Jonathan Swift, a man so versed in the vagaries of faith he served as dean of Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral:
But mark me well; Religion is my name;
An angel once, but now a fury grown,
Too often talk’d of, but too little known…


Obama asking Congress for emergency funding to combat Zika

Originally published February 8, 2016 at 5:07 am Updated February 8, 2016 at 7:05 am

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is asking Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to help fight the Zika virus. In an announcement Monday, the White House said the money would be used to expand mosquito control programs, speed development of a vaccine, develop diagnostic tests and improve support for low-income pregnant women.

Zika virus disease is mainly spread by mosquitoes. Most people who catch it experience mild or no symptoms. But mounting evidence from Brazil suggests that infection in pregnant women is linked to abnormally small heads in their babies — a birth defect called microcephaly.

“What we now know is that there appears to be some significant risk for pregnant women and women who are thinking about having a baby,” Obama said in an interview aired Monday on “CBS This Morning.”

The White House said that as spring and summer approach, the U.S. must prepare to quickly address local transmission with the continental U.S. Obama added, however, that “there shouldn’t be a panic on this.”
Two health care experts will answer reporters’ questions Monday at the regular White House press briefing: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The administration’s request to Congress is separate from the budget for the next fiscal year that Obama will submit to Congress on Tuesday. The administration seeks the Zika money much more quickly than the regular budget process would allow.

On Tuesday, administration officials are slated to brief Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.) and other congressional leaders on the administration’s Zika prevention and response plan, McConnell’s office said. The lawmakers also expect to hear more about the new funding request and the administration’s other spending priorities “given limited federal resources,” according to a statement from McConnell spokesman Don Stewart.

The Pan American Health Organization reports 26 countries and territories in the Americas with local Zika transmission. To date, there has not been transmission of the Zika virus by mosquitoes within the U.S., but some Americans have returned to the U.S. with Zika infections from affected countries in South America, Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands.

Most of the money would be allocated to the Department of Health and Human Services to improve laboratory capacity, launch educational programs and establish rapid response teams. About $250 million of assistance would be directed specifically to Puerto Rico though extra Medicaid funding. The island is in the midst of a fiscal crisis. And $200 million would go toward research and commercialization of new vaccines and diagnostic tests.

The remainder, about $335 million would go to the U.S. Agency for International Development. The money would help affected countries in South America, Central America and the Caribbean provide training to health care workers, stimulate private sector research and help pregnant women gain access to repellant to protect against mosquitoes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 50 laboratory-confirmed cases among U.S. travelers from December 2015- February 5, 2016, the White House said. So far, the only recent case that has been transmitted within the U.S. is believed to have occurred in Texas through sex.

Zika usually is transmitted through bites from infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are common in Florida, along the Gulf Coast and states that border Mexico.

 on: Feb 08, 2016, 07:05 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Aung San Suu Kyi could become Myanmar president after 'positive' talks - reports

Negotiations between NLD leader and military to remove clause barring her from presidency reported to be going well
Aung San Suu Kyi

Staff and agencies
Monday 8 February 2016 04.47 GMT

Two pro-government television channels in Myanmar have reported that “positive results” could come out of negotiations between the military chief and Aung San Suu Kyi on suspending a constitutional clause that prevents her from becoming the president.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in the 8 November general elections. However, she is barred from becoming president because of the constitution’s article 59 (f), which says anyone with a foreign spouse or children cannot hold the executive office. Aung San Suu Kyi’s late husband was British, as are her two sons.

In separate but identical broadcasts late on Sunday, Sky Net and Myanmar National Television said “positive results could come out on the negotiation for the suspension of the constitution article 59 (f).”

Aung San Suu Kyi has been negotiating with commander-in-chief Gen Min Aung Hlaing on having the clause suspended, which can be legally removed only through a two-thirds vote in parliament. The military holds 25% of the nominated seats in parliament, which means the NLD cannot scrap the clause on its own.

“I think everything will be fine,” Kyaw Htwe, a member of the central committee of the NLD, said. “The negotiations will be positive for our leader Aung San Suu Kyi to become president,” said Kyaw Htwe, who is also a member of parliament.

But Yan Myo Thein, a political analyst, advised caution.

“It is still too early to confirm that Suu Kyi will be among the presidential candidates,” he said. “Even the suspension and the constitutional amendment will take time. And we cannot really comment relying only on a short announcement on TV,” he said.

Aung San Suu Kyi has said previously that even if she doesn’t become president she would run the country from behind the scenes. But clearly, the NLD would prefer the 70-year-old icon of democracy to lead the country, having struggled almost all her life for it.

On Friday, a legal advisory committee consisting of experts and members of the lower house was launched, led by Shwe Mann, the former head of the military-tied Union Solidarity and Development party. One of the few Aung San Suu Kyi allies in the defeated ruling party, Shwe Mann is believed to be supportive of a constitutional change.

Although national elections were in November, the president does not take office until 31 March or 1 April because of a long-winded selection process.

The new members of parliament took their oaths of office only this month. Next, they will announce the date of meetings to pick three nominees for the post of president through a vote by all members of parliament. It is not known when the vote will take place.

 on: Feb 08, 2016, 07:02 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Solar microgrids and batteries could prevent another Black Saturday bushfire

Smaller sustainable energy systems are a better option than trying to maintain ageing Australian energy infrastructure, say experts

Max Opray
Monday 8 February 2016 04.28 GMT

On 7 February, Australia solemnly marked the anniversary of an electrical fault.

It was on this date in 2009 that Melbourne endured its hottest conditions on record – a sweltering 46.4C.

To make matters worse, hot winds blasted through the region at speeds in excess of 100km/h. In Kilmore East, just north of Melbourne, a critical failure in a 43-year-old power line caused bursts of 5000C plasma to arc out and ignite the tinder-dry vegetation in the gully below.

Fanned by such extreme winds, the fast-growing inferno would by the end of the day be responsible for the majority of the 173 lives lost in the dozens of fires that engulfed Victoria on Black Saturday, Australia’s worst bushfire disaster.

Several of the other blazes that day were started by felled power poles and other electrical issues. This was also the case for many other fires before and since, including Australia’s previous-worst bushfire tragedy, the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires, which claimed 75 lives.

Richard Turner, director of South Australian renewable energy powerhouse Zen Energy, has a plan to stop such a thing happening again.

The 51-year-old entrepreneur is on a mission to replace ageing statewide energy infrastructure with community microgrids of rooftop solar and increasingly affordable battery storage systems. Although there are significant challenges in taking people off the grid, he sees areas hit by bushfires as the best place to start.

Turner argues statewide energy systems are inefficient at the best of times, but that in fire danger areas, the case for switching to localised solar-and-storage is particularly compelling in both a safety and economic sense.

“Fundamentally climate change is moving us towards more and more extreme summers and more bushfires,” he says.

“Utility companies have been hit with some huge class action suits over recent years over fires, and in response they are shutting down power lines [on bushfire risk days] earlier and for longer, leaving communities without power for significant periods.”

In 2014 Black Saturday bushfire victims secured an Australian-record $494.7m payout from power distributor SP AusNet asset managers Utility Services Group and the Department of Sustainability and Environment, and regulators are keen to avoid a repeat.

    Climate change is moving us towards more and more extreme summers and more bushfires
    Richard Turner

Turner notes that turning off the power during the sweltering heat of bushfire risk days isn’t just uncomfortable for those affected, but potentially dangerous given people often rely on electricity to power the devices that alert them to bushfire danger and the water pumps used to defend their home.

Up against the companies invested in preserving the status quo in the energy network as well as next-generation competitors in the battery-storage area such as American giant Tesla – which has just entered the Australian market – Zen Energy is busily presenting its case around the country.

Turner says his company has been in productive talks with Victorian energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio over the prospect of subsidising Zen Energy systems capable of running as a localised backup for periods when the grid needs to be switched off.

“They’ve committed to act on this but being government, it will take time,” he says.

Zen Energy is also trying to get in on the action in Western Australia, where company chairman and former federal government climate advisor Ross Garnaut has, according to Turner, been in discussions with state authorities regarding distributed power systems.

D’Ambrosio’s counterpart in Western Australia, energy minister Mike Nahan, has signalled that grid operator Western Power is considering going a step further than Victoria’s plans.

In Australian ecosystems, bushfires have long played a crucial role in burning through established vegetation to clear the way for new growth, and Western Australia is taking the same view of the energy infrastructure wiped out by the Yarloop bushfires in January – don’t replace what was there before, but rather introduce the energy systems of the 21st century.

The cost of the rebuild of the energy infrastructure network from those fires has been estimated at $26m following the destruction of 873 power poles, 77 transmission poles, 44 transformers and up to 50 kilometres of overhead power lines.

In some of the affected areas, Western Power is investigating the viability of solar-and-storage not just as a backup, but as a standalone system without links to the grid.

Other options being implemented by Australian state governments to fireproof their energy systems include undergrounding power lines or outfitting networks with rapid earth fault current limiters (REFCL).

Lu Aye, associate professor in the department of infrastructure engineering at the University of Melbourne, notes however that the cost of maintaining an ageing infrastructure grid will only get worse.

“Smaller distributed power systems, from a cost and safety perspective, are in many ways the better option,” he says.

That’s without even factoring in the bigger picture.

When it comes to bushfires, the most significant benefit of switching over to green energy solar-and-storage systems is not the mitigation of today’s risks, but the reduction of carbon emissions and thus the frequency and severity of such disasters in the future.

After all, as any firefighter worth their salt will attest, the best way to deal with bushfires is to take decisive action early, before things get out of control.

 on: Feb 08, 2016, 07:00 AM 
Started by SpeakNow - Last post by Rad
Hi Speak Now,

Use the old one.

God Bless, Rad

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