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Feb 28, 2017, 06:37 AM
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 on: Feb 25, 2017, 06:39 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Teenage wrestler takes transgender rights to the mat in Texas championship

24 Feb 2017 at 16:58 ET                   

High school athlete Mack Beggs and many of his opponents want him to wrestle against boys, but the transgender boy on Friday wrestled in a Texas championship for girls because of state sport regulations on gender.

Beggs, 17, is transitioning from girl to boy, and the governing body for Texas school athletics has required him to compete by his birth gender, which is female.

The wrestler at Trinity High School in the Dallas suburb of Euless had a 52-0 record ahead of the tournament and is the favorite to win his 110-pound weight class in the girl’s championship, which ends on Saturday.

Beggs’ family has sought to have him wrestle as a boy, and some of his opponents have said he has an unfair advantage among girls from the testosterone he is taking as a part of his transition.

The University Interscholastic League, which governs school sports in Texas, said that the state’s education code allows the use of a banned drug such as steroids if it “is prescribed by a medical practitioner for a valid medical purpose.”

Beggs and his coaches have declined media requests to speak ahead of the tournament.

About a week ago, Beggs won a regional championship after a female wrestler from a Dallas-area high school forfeited the final.

The parent of another girl who wrestles for the same Dallas-area high school had filed a lawsuit trying to block Beggs, saying his use of testosterone increases strength, which could pose harm to opponents.

Nancy Beggs, Mack Beggs’ grandmother and guardian, told the Dallas Morning News after the forfeit in the regional championship match: “Today was not about their students winning. Today was about bias, hatred and ignorance.”

According to transathlete.com, which provides information for transgender athletes, Texas is one of seven U.S. states with policies it sees as discriminatory against transgender athletes.

Lou Weaver, who runs transgender programs for the LGBT rights group Equality Texas, said Beggs is abiding by current state rules, which need to be updated, “so that guys like Mack can wrestle with their peers, which would be on the boys’ team.

“He is passionate about wrestling. He is living his dream and he is wresting for his high school,” Weaver said.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

 on: Feb 25, 2017, 06:31 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
February 24, 2017

Men– exercise might be hurting your sex life

by Chuck Bednar
Red Orbit

If you’re a beast in the gym, you may not necessarily be a beast in the bedroom, according to new research led by scientists at the University of North Carolina that have investigated for the first time the relationship between the workout regimens and the sex lives of men.

According to Fox News, the study authors polled more than 1,000 active males regarding both their exercise habits and their sex lives, then divided them into groups based on the amount of time they spent working out, the intensity of their exercise, and their strength of their libido.

What they found was that guys who exercise intensely appeared to have a lower libido when compared to those who reported engaging in light or moderate workouts. The latter two groups, on the other hand, were more likely to self-describe their sex drives as being moderate or high.

“Exposure to higher levels of chronic intense and greater durations of endurance training on a regular basis are significantly associated with a decreased libido scores in men,” they wrote in that the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, adding that doctors treating men for sexual disorders should consider exercise “as a potential complicating factor.”

The study is one of the first to scientifically investigate the link between a man’s workout and the quality of their sex lives, according to the New York Times. Most previous work done on the topic have centered on how exercise affects sex drive in women, the newspaper added.
Next step is to directly study exercise, libido and hormone levels

In most cases, such studies have found that when female athletes train intensely for several hours each week, they can experience menstrual dysfunctions. Those issues are thought to be the result of hormonal imbalances linked to physical stress, the Times said. While this can harm a woman’s libido and ability to conceive, they can be easily corrected by doing lighter workouts.

As part of the new study, the UNC researchers had active men complete questionnaires regarding their sexual behaviors – for instance, how often they thought about sex, and how frequently they engaged in intercourse, the newspaper said. Similarly, they were asked about workout habits, how often they exercised each week, their overall health and their medical history.

Maybe you should stop doing so many pushups.

When all was said and done, nearly 1,100 physically-active adult males filled out the surveys and once the results were compiled, the authors found that guys who described their exercise routines as light or moderate were far more likely to report moderate to high libidos than those who stated that they tended to prefer a longer or more intense workout regimen. In short, they said, there is a link between strenuous physical activity and reduced sex drive.

However, as lead author Dr. Anthony Hackney, a professor of exercise physiology and nutrition at UNC, explained to the Times, this was a small sample size and the results were based on self-reporting. As such, he said, it is not possible to verify if the answers given were totally honest, or if the findings are truly representative of the larger population as a whole.

Furthermore, he noted that the results do not indicate that strenuous exercise causes lower libido, only that the two are linked. However, he told the newspaper that it is likely that physical fatigue and reduced post-workout testosterone levels could play a role in the outcome. He hopes that his team will soon be able to conduct experience which directly looks at exercise, hormone levels, and sex drive to learn more about how each of these factors interacts with one another.

 on: Feb 25, 2017, 06:29 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
The week in wildlife – in pictures

A jaguar killing an anteater, a green tree python and the winner of the underwater photographer of the year are among this week’s images from the natural world

Eric Hilaire
Friday 24 February 2017 16.45 GMT

Click to see all: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2017/feb/24/week-in-wildlife-in-pictures

 on: Feb 25, 2017, 06:25 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
'It's very scary in the forest': should Finland's wolves be culled?

Europe’s wolf population is on the rise – and in Finland, their future hangs in the balance. Are they a threat to humans, or should they be protected?

Patrick Barkham
Saturday 25 February 2017 10.00 GMT

The story of a kill is told in the snow. On the Finnish island of Porosaari, we find the first paw print. “That’s a male,” says Asko Kettunen, retired border guard, hunter and tracker. How can he be sure? “It’s big.”

Five ravens rise from dark pines, croaking in the icy silence; they will scavenge anything caught by the wolves. We wade through knee-deep snow. There’s a spot of vivid blood and a tuft of moose hair, cleanly cut, which Kettunen deduces has been ripped from a living animal. This, he says, is the moment the wolves made contact. First they try to puncture the intestines; if they succeed, the moose may run on, but the damage is done.

We find moose tracks, each hoof print far apart: the animal was running. Kettunen points to wolf prints on either side, to where a second and third wolf joined the chase. There are blood spots and more hair and a pine sapling snapped in two. “The moose collided with a tree, so it was not that well,” Kettunen says, with Finnish understatement.

There are spots of blood by every moose print now. Finally, up the hill, is the kill zone. A young moose has been reduced to two front legs and a skin detached precisely from the body, intestines that spill like butcher’s sausages and a mound of freshly chewed grass where its stomach once was. Kettunen thinks that five wolves feasted here the previous night. We find faeces and a curved bed of snow where a contented wolf took a postprandial doze.

Finland has a wolf problem. Five and a half million humans share the country with an estimated 235 wolves, and that’s too many, say rural Finns, whose livestock and hunting dogs are being killed. Some parents are scared that wolves will attack their children. “Before, wolves were afraid of people,” Kettunen tells me. “Now people are afraid of wolves.” For the past three years, the government has assuaged these fears with a wolf cull. Last winter, 43 wolves were killed in a “management hunt”, while total fatalities numbered 78, including “problem” wolves shot by police and road casualties.

This winter, Helsinki authorised another cull, permitting the death of 53 wolves, to include those shot by police and traffic fatalities. The cull is controversial: the wolf is a protected, endangered species. Critics say Finland is in breach of EU law. A candlelit vigil for slaughtered wolves took place in Helsinki last month, and a wolf hunt saboteur group has sprung up on social media. Hunters say they’ve been disrupted by fireworks, vandalised trail-cameras and a hunting shelter burned to the ground. One angry hunter offered a bounty of €50 (£42) to Russian hunters for each wolf they kill, promising to tip them off when they spot a wolf crossing from the Russian border.

In this apparently calm and phlegmatic country, the wolf polarises opinion.


All across Europe, the wolf is on the rise. Driven to extinction by the middle of the 20th century, it trotted back into France in the 1990s and into Germany in 1998. Wolves are roaming through Denmark, the Netherlands and, late last year, reached the Belgium-Luxembourg border for the first time in 118 years. Europe (excluding Russia, Ukraine and Belarus) now hosts more than 12,000 wolves, twice as many as the United States (excluding Alaska) – despite being half the size and more than twice as densely populated. Recent reports of wolves on the edge of Paris have been treated sceptically by scientists, but they are nevertheless thriving in suburban Germany and other densely populated areas.

Inevitably, there has been a human backlash. Last year, Norway announced plans to kill 70% of its wolf population of just 68, to protect sheep flocks, before outrage prompted the authorities to backtrack and propose a cull of just 15 wolves. Two years before that, Tuscan farmers dumped wolf carcasses in town centres in protest at their burgeoning population. French farmers have also demanded that its authorities shoot more wolves. For them, the wolf poses a threat to their way of life; for others, it stirs deep fears still given cultural expression in everything from fairytales to music videos. The animal may be a symbol of freedom and nature’s ability to bounce back, but it also embodies two very contemporary tensions: the gulf between countryside and city, and the chasm between ordinary people and an uncaring political elite.


Pia Ikonen’s family life is recognisably 21st century: inside her modest bungalow, her eldest child, Lukas, nine, is transfixed by a tablet; Lotta, eight, and Lucia, six, watch Kung Fu Panda 3 on the telly, while Linda, four, reads a picture book showing a wolf pulling a sledge carrying two happy kittens. But during her 10 years living a mile and a half from the Russian border, Ikonen has seen wolves become ever bolder. Four years ago, her dog, Ninni, was snatched in broad daylight from her garden and killed by a pack. This winter, she has found two sets of wolf tracks in her snowbound yard.

Dusk is falling. Would she let her children play on the trampoline outside? “If we have wolves circling, they can’t be outside in the daytime alone, and in the darkness, not at all,” Ikonen says. “It is very much a problem if you can’t let your children run around or walk your dog freely.”

The local community pays for an expensive “wolf taxi” to transport her children, and 31 others in the region, from their front doors to school, so they don’t have to wait at remote bus stops. Is Ikonen tempted to move to a safer town? She laughs. “It should be the wolves who don’t stay,” she says. This is a territorial dispute.

Wolves were driven to virtual extinction in Finland after a spate of attacks on children at the end of the 19th century. The story of a pair of rogue wolves that killed 35 children over 18 months in the early 1880s is still widely repeated. Are such fears of wolves rational, I ask Ilpo Kojola, research professor at the Finnish government’s National Resources Institute (its acronym is Luke and its newsletter is Leia; Finnish scientists have a sense of humour). “The risk of a wolf attack is really, really tiny nowadays,” he says, explaining that the historic attacks happened in an era when children led cattle into the forests, and when there were no moose for the wolves to eat.

Wolves can kill people – a jogger was killed in Alaska in 2010 – but a scientific study in which humans approached wolves 125 times in Scandinavia found no occasions of aggressive behaviour: on 123 occasions, the wolves ran away; on the other two, an alpha female exhibited harmless “defensive” behaviour near her pups.

Instead, the hostility towards wolves in rural Finland is mostly because they take hunting dogs. Finland has 300,000 amateur hunters, more than 5% of its population. Helsinki airport is decorated with stuffed hares and wolverine, and much of its rich animal life – beavers, lynx, bears – can be shot under a strict licence system. Moose hunting is particularly popular, a pursuit that has evolved over decades, with GPS collar-wearing dogs chasing moose up to 15km beyond the hunter, who follows it on a screen. “They bark when they stop the moose,” explains Kai Tikkunen of the Finnish Hunters’ Association, and then “it’s like an ice-cream truck calling the wolves.”

So the wolf is a rival, killing moose that hunters would like to catch? “The big problem is not that they eat the moose; the big problem is that they kill the dogs. It’s sometimes very scary when I go to the forest: I don’t know if my dog is going to come out alive.” Hunters are compensated for dogs killed by wolves, but it can take 18 months and does not bring back a pedigree animal they may have spent years training.

The snowbound track sparkles under my headlights as I drive 18km beyond the nearest shop to meet Ari Määttänen, who lives alone with Minni, his Finnish Spitz. This dainty, bird-hunting dog is on a long leash in his snowy yard, as some dogs are still kept in Finland. “I like the countryside very much,” Määttänen says. “It’s just nature and it’s free. There’s no noise and I can see the stars.” He also enjoys all but one of his dangerous fellow species. “I like the bears, the lynx, the adder,” he says. “If 10 bears are around this house, that’s fine. But one wolf? I do not like it, not at all.”

Määttänen’s beloved previous dog, Kessu, was killed on 22 January last year. His description of the loss sounds like the abduction of a child. He saw two wolves 30m from his window in December 2015. “They don’t jog for pleasure,” he says. “They were looking for food. And after that, the wolves knew I had a dog.” The “wolf circle”, whereby a pack of five or more wolves scour their 1,000 sq km territory for food, takes two and a half weeks in Määttänen’s neighbourhood. “They took one circle and the dog was not outside. But on the second circle it was there. It was 12.30pm and I remember Kessu was staring into the forest. He started walking in that direction” – he points to a place where his garden blends into the forest – “and vanished from sight.”

Later that afternoon, a neighbour called to warn him that two wolves had crossed the road nearby. “I went out with a gun but it was too late.” He found scuffle marks, then wolf tracks. “They had been waiting 100m away for my dog. They had invited the dog to play and then...” he pauses. “My dog ran into the wolf’s mouth.” There had been no barking. There was no blood. The wolf was so strong it took Kessu without a sound. How does he know the wolf was big? “Because on Sunday the hunters shot it,” he says. Local hunters had quickly obtained a permit to kill this “problem” wolf.

Määttänen throws a fluffy object on to the kitchen table. “That’s what’s left of my beautiful dog,” he says. It’s Kessu’s tail. A few days later, hunters found something else in the snow. Määttänen shows me a photo on his phone: Kessu’s head, so neatly severed it looks like a surgical operation.

Ari Turunen, a paramedic who lives with his wife and two young children in a wooded village, is the leader of the local hunting group in Ilomantsi. Underneath his snowsuit, a white and grey camouflage for winter hunting, he wears a black T-shirt that says, in English, “99% bear hunter”.

According to Turunen, the local wolf population has grown from two packs to seven or eight. “Five years ago, it was rare for normal people to see wolves. It would be written about in a newspaper. Now they see them daily,” he says. “We should never let the wolf population grow this quickly, because it disrupts the balance of nature.”

One reason for the wolf’s resurgence is rural depopulation. Outside its cities, Finland does not look prosperous: the mechanisation of forestry has stripped jobs from the countryside and picturesque cottages lie derelict in snowy forests. For those who remain, hunting is a social glue. “We don’t have any ice-skating halls here,” Turunen says. “All my friends and friends’ wives hunt. It’s part of everyday life. I spend a lot of time in nature, fishing, and picking mushrooms and berries with the kids. I’m a nature conservationist.”

Five days ago, Turunen and his fellow hunters went after two wolves. One of them had been attracted to lard put out for songbirds. It also encountered a jogger near a village. “It was a very bold one,” Turunen says. He has taken his three-year-old son hunting since he was a baby, but he doesn’t take him wolf-hunting: there’s too much waiting around in the cold. On last week’s hunt, they began at 4am and killed both wolves by midday. The bodies were then dispatched to government scientists for DNA tests; these help to map the wolf population, and confirm the animals are wolves and not wolf-dog hybrids.

Hunting a wolf is tightly regulated: only a few permits will be issued for each region, and hunters stand more chance of obtaining one if they identify a “problem” wolf. Wolves can’t be chased on snowmobiles, and no more than 50 people can hunt at a time. Usually, a few hunters on skis will move through the forest with dogs, attempting to flush resting wolves towards a circle of waiting guns.

Across the nearby border, the Russian authorities reward hunters for killing some of their 50,000 wolves, which are considered vermin. Turunen says it is illogical to have two such different approaches, when wolves move freely between the countries. “It’s stupid that, on the other side, it’s considered a pest and you get money for killing it, and on this side you go to prison.” His own view is that the wolf should be a “valuable and respected game animal”, a hunting prize.

Does the Finnish government understand the concerns of rural people? “No,” Turunen says. “This discussion is dominated by people who have never seen a wolf or lived in a wolf area. The matter should be decided in the areas where it takes place, and not in Helsinki. If I managed street cleaning in Helsinki they would be equally screwed,” he laughs. “And the problem is, some things are not decided in Helsinki but in Brussels, where they understand it even less.”


On the train from rural Finland to Helsinki, I chat to a young suburban Finn. He says he can understand both sides of the wolf debate; but when I ask him how many wolves there are in Finland, he guesses at 5,000. I tell him there are barely 200 and he changes his mind. “This animal should be protected,” he declares.

Most Finns, says Sami Saynevirta, manager of Luonto-Liitto, a Finnish wildlife charity, have no idea the country has so few wolves. “Finnish people are really surprised when we tell them it’s an endangered species. They don’t realise we have so much poaching.” Saynevirta argues that Finland needs help from the EU, punitive or otherwise, to stop the wolf cull. “This is not good for Finland’s reputation for ecotourism,” he says. “Wolves could be more valuable for Finland alive than hunted.”

The Finnish government has calculated that if it maintains a minimum of 25 wolf packs, it won’t be breaking EU law. The first year of its wolf hunt, 2015, was considered a success; but the second, last winter, was not, because eight alpha females were killed – too many.

Filmmaker Stefan Gofferje has lodged a criminal complaint against Finnish officials for violating EU law. Gofferje, a German who lives in Finland, tells me he has loved wolves since he was a boy. His pet dog is 55% wolf; he “lives in my apartment, sleeps in my bed, goes for a 30km walk every day and is a local star here in my village. It’s practically impossible to train a wolf. When I ask him to do something, I ask him – I’m not telling him.”

Gofferje’s legal complaint is currently undergoing what he calls “client ping-pong”, shuffled between government departments and jurisdictions. He plans further challenges, contrasting the Finns’ apparent willingness to shoot any wolves found near houses with Germany, where “problem” wolves spotted close to human habitation are first tracked with GPS to understand their movements, then deterred – and destroyed only if displaying direct and threatening behaviour towards humans. Germany has invested millions in public education programmes focused on its new wolf population; and only education will help people and wolves coexist, Gofferje argues. “It’s not enough for the government just to make rules or prosecute poachers. They must educate people,” he says. “If your child is afraid of something, do you remove the cause of the fear, or do you educate the child to combat the fear itself?”

“We have people standing on both sides of us kicking our ankles. If both our ankles are sore, then we’ve done something right,” says Sami Niemi, the likable official in Finland’s Ministry of Agriculture, who oversees its wolf policy (and doesn’t hunt himself). “This is not an issue where you can find a solution that suits all: we have to find the middle way. That leaves everyone unhappy: there are either too many licences or too many wolves, so we can’t win.”

The stated purpose of Finland’s cull is to reduce poaching. When the wolf was completely protected, Niemi explains, “illegal hunting was a big problem for us. If the population grew to 140 or 150, the next year it went back down. It’s not just hunters, it’s local people in general. They put pressure on the hunters to deal with the issue [illegally], so we had to do something.”

But conservationists say this argument is equivalent to introducing government burglaries to reduce stealing. The only winner is the government. “With the ministry doing this legal hunt, they get fewer phone calls and emails from angry hunters,” says Mari Nyyssölä-Kiisla, chair of Luonto-Liitto’s wolf action group. “They think this is a good thing: ‘We’ve got more peace. The people are happy.’”

In a recent study, ecologists Guillaume Chapron and Adrian Treves analysed wolf population growth rates in Michigan and Wisconsin, and found that government-sanctioned culls in those US states caused a change in wolf population, which they suggested was most likely the result of illegal killing. “Wolf culling may have sent a negative message about the value of wolves or acceptability of poaching,” they concluded.

In that sense, culling is a political act, Chapron explains on the phone from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. “The wolf conflict is not strictly about wolves,” he says. “It’s a conflict between people about who controls the land. The wolf is associated with wilderness only in our minds – it is a species that can live everywhere. I’m not saying that wolves do not create damage. But the wolf is like a predatory roe deer, and we don’t associate roe deer with wilderness. Hunters often consider that wild animals are their property to harvest, while environmentalists are more fired up by the wolf than the roe deer.

“The wolf asks very disturbing questions,” Chapron continues. “In France, when wolves kill livestock in their national parks, farmers say, ‘We can’t survive with wolves, they are destroying our livestock’. But environmentalists ask in return: ‘Why do we even have sheep in our national parks?’ The farmers will say that it is a tradition. But is subsidised overgrazing a tradition? The debate becomes very heated, because the wolf is questioning economic practices, land use and the allocation of power in the countryside.”

Even in consensus-loving countries such as Finland, wolf-haters and wolf-lovers do battle online, trading threats, insults and wild conspiracies about illegal poaching or zoos deliberately releasing wolves. On the border with Russia, fearful locals share pictures of what they claim is a burgeoning population of Russian wolf-dogs. (The research professor Ilpo Kojola tells me that genetic testing of 450 Finnish wolves over 20 years has revealed only three cases of wolf-dog hybrids.) A suspicion of experts, scientists, entrenched power and political elites is a common thread in many of these discussions.

Among local people who fear wolves, there is a particular dislike of the EU. Chapron is not making a political point but tells me his research has led him to conclude that EU protection has been key to the wolf’s resurgence, as well as that of other large predators including the brown bear and lynx. “If there wasn’t this strict legislation, there would be very few or no large carnivores in Europe.”

Back in snowbound Finland, I ask local hunter Asko Kettunen, who is also a wildlife photographer, if ecotourism (spotting live wolves) could replace hunting. “No,” he replies firmly. “Feeding or photographing the wolves gets them comfortable with people and more problems will come.”

Does he hate the wolf? “No. I don’t like that they kill my dogs, but I don’t hate the animal, not at all. It’s so intelligent, it’s so difficult to catch and it adapts to its surroundings so quickly, faster than other species. The wolf belongs in Finnish nature, just not in yards and gardens. Many people say that hunters hate wolves, but we tolerate them and hope they don’t do any damage. It’s not hatred – it’s realism.”

 on: Feb 25, 2017, 06:19 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Tracks in the snow where carnivores passed in the night

Achvaneran, Highlands The tracks went straight down the garden, through the fence and over the burn with one leap. It knew where it was going

Ray Collier
Saturday 25 February 2017 05.30 GMT

The previous night’s snowfall had been just right for tracking: about 4cm at dusk, then no more until after light. So I was out early and picked up the first tracks under the beech tree at the bottom of the garden, a stoat. It had been quartering the ground, hunting, but did not make a kill until it reached the large pond. There the tracks suddenly veered; a leap sideways and a few specks of blood on the snow revealed where it had taken its prey, probably a mouse or vole.

The pine marten had slipped under the boundary fence but it did not seem to be hunting. Its tracks went straight down the length of the garden and then through the fence again and over the burn with one leap, as if it knew where it was going. Perhaps its den was the one in the nestbox designed for mandarin ducks I had erected along the spinney.

The third carnivore of the night was a badger that had squeezed under the fence near the burn before it went up the steep slope under the beech trees. It must have been a sow – you could see where its underside, heavy with milk, had scraped the snow between its legs.

The prints of its feet were, as always, impressive, with the long formidable claws that give Meles meles the Scots name “earth-digger”. Those strong feet and long claws would be needed when it was digging out earthworms or young rabbits – but not for the piles of peanuts I put out for them every evening at dusk under the fruit trees.

Normally the badgers just pick up one or two peanuts at a time and eat them almost as if they were savouring them. This one, however, had been taking mouthfuls, as if she was in a hurry. Perhaps she had hungry cubs waiting back in the sett? However, she was not too busy to halt a while and scrape her claws on the bark of an apple tree.

 on: Feb 25, 2017, 06:15 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Hedgerows are haven for birds, hares and badgers

Welland Valley, Leicestershire Wildlife sightings, even on a short walk across the fields, demonstrate the effect of these ‘green corridors’

Louise Gray
Friday 24 February 2017 05.30 GMT

The reed buntings sway on their vertical perches like trapeze artists waiting for the next trick. Bare hawthorn whips make a good vantage point from which to survey the landscape before they flit into a field of winter stubble to feed.

The males have a black head and smart white collar, adding to the appearance of professional performers. The females look at bit dowdy at first but, on closer inspection, their streaky brown plumage and fine white moustaches, running from the base of the beak across their cheeks, are just as handsome.

Once on the UK’s endangered list, Emberiza schoeniclus has recently made a comeback, largely because of its ability to adapt to living on farmland. These reed buntings are lucky to have found a farm where the hedgerows haven’t been grubbed up to make way for agricultural machinery and where the stubble hasn’t been ploughed up to make way for a second crop. The leftover kernels of wheat will see the birds through the hungry gap over winter and early spring.

Here at Rectory Farm, the tenants grow oilseed rape as well as wheat, which they add to bought-in millet, sunflower seeds and the niger seeds that goldfinches so love, to sell as garden birdfood mixes. Wildflower margins planted around the fields provide more seeds and attract insects for birds to feed on in the summer. Customers are encouraged to visit and see the results for themselves.

The effect of these “green corridors” is visible on even the shortest walk across the fields. Skylarks lift into the air, although on this February day their chirruping has yet to reach the joyous sound of springtime. Flashes of white suggest that the “little brown jobs” flitting in and out of the hedge are chaffinches. The yellowhammer perched on a briar is easier to identify, his head and breast bright against the muted landscape. In the distance, a kestrel hovers and a red kite glides overhead. A hare lollops into cover and badger prints in the earth show the birds are not alone in taking advantage of the hedgerows.

 on: Feb 25, 2017, 06:12 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
The Red Planet is red hot right now, but are we really ready to send people to Mars?

NASA, SpaceX, China, India, Europe, and the UAE all want to go to Mars, but will they ever be able to bring people along for the ride?

Charlie Wood
CS Monitor   

February 25, 2017 —There’s never been a better time to be a Mars fan, but would-be colonists might be wise not to hold their precious breath.

The 5th Annual Humans to Mars Summit (H2M) will kick off in Washington, D.C., on May 9, welcoming prominent figures from the business world, academia, and government to a conference focused on the ambitious goal of sending humans to the Red Planet.

“Today we have unprecedented support for Mars exploration from Congress, industry, and the general public,” said Explore Mars chief executive officer Chris Carberry in a press release. “Children born in 2017 are more likely than any generation before them to witness, before their 18th birthday, humans walk on another planet for the first time.”

But pulling off the greatest engineering challenge in human history will require a lot more than public support.

This year’s H2M summit will certainly have a lot to talk about. In addition to NASA, private organizations and governments including SpaceX, India, Europe, the United Arab Emirates, and China are all planning to launch Mars missions in 2020, to arrive at the Red Planet in 2021.

Why the traffic jam? Going to Mars isn’t like taking a road trip. Both Earth and Mars are flying around the sun at more than a dozen miles per second. And the two are out of sync in a way that brings Mars periodically closer then farther away.

Spacecraft launched at just the right time can trace out the shortest possible elliptical path from where Earth is to where Mars will be in about five to six months using current propulsion methods. That time is called a launch window, and the next one to Mars opens up in 2020.

Of that Mars-bound fleet, some ships are likely to fail, but some are likely to succeed. Those that do will join the eight active missions already crowding the Martian skies and surface.

All these technological feats combined with sky-high rhetoric from the likes of SpaceX and the UAE might make it feel like a crewed mission is right around the corner, but at least one astronaut disagrees.

“We don’t have the technology to go to Mars, with everything we know today, so I don’t think that a marketing company and a TV-type of selection is sending anybody anywhere,” Julie Payette told a 2015 gathering at the International Civil Aviation Organization’s headquarters in Montreal, referring to the Mars One one-way colonization organization.

In addition to often discussed difficulties such as radiation and mental health, even efficient life support remains elusive.

There are no rest areas between Earth and Mars, so astronauts would have to take everything they need with them. Not just toothbrushes and clean underwear but food, water, even air. Current proposals for round trip missions come in at around three years round trip. Six months there, six months back, and at least a year of waiting for the return launch window.

The entire Apollo 11 mission lasted just over a week.

Of course, the space agencies have learned a tremendous amount about living in space from the International Space Station (ISS), which has provided a habitable bubble outside the comfort of our atmosphere for more than 16 years.

In recent years the ISS has made great strides in improving its resource-use efficiency. The Water Recovery System can recycle more than 90 percent of the liquid it gets back, Bob Bagdigian, the Environmental Control Life Support System project manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center said in 2008.

Oxygen is trickier. Some can be made by splitting apart water molecules with electricity, but quite a bit still has to be brought from Earth.

This means that the ISS is far from self-sustaining, receiving shipments every few months from Earth, most recently two capsules comprising more than 8,000 pounds of supplies and science experiments in the past few days.

And that’s not to mention food, which is fundamentally non-recyclable. ISS astronauts consume almost two pounds of food a day. Following an ISS diet, a four-person crew on a three-year Mars mission would need to bring 24,000 pounds of food with them.

SpaceX’s last Dragon capsule was able to bring 5,500 pounds of supplies to the ISS, but that was with no people on board.

Some hope to address that sizeable shortfall with space farming. Potatoes, anybody?

However, our study of space botany is in its infancy. The ISS’s Vegetable Production System has succeeded in raising flowers and five harvests of Chinese cabbage, but the current crew of six were depending on those leaves as a major form of sustenance, they’d go quite hungry.

Space plants could someday solve two problems for the volume of one. A thriving greenhouse could also serve as a natural life support system, plants scrubbing harmful carbon dioxide from the air and replacing it with oxygen, much as they do for us on spaceship Earth.

But for now, the space agriculture program is more focused on learning how plants grow in space, and providing astronauts with some much-needed rest and relaxation.

“I love gardening on Earth, and it is just as fun in space,” astronaut Peggy Whitson tweeted in early February. “I just need more room to plant more!”

It looks like Dr. Whitson may get her wish, as a second veggie system is slated to get shipped up later this spring.

 on: Feb 25, 2017, 06:10 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
With successful ISS docking, SpaceX settles into role as vital space courier

Now on its 10th re-supply mission, the private space company has become an essential part of the supply lines supporting an increasingly intricate space operation.

Charlie Wood
CS Monitor

February 25, 2017 —It’s not quite Amazon Prime, but four days isn’t too bad for a shipment into space.

After a delayed launch and one aborted delivery attempt, SpaceX’s caution paid off Thursday when its Dragon capsule stuffed full of food, equipment, and experiments successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS).

Now on its 10th re-supply mission, the private space company has become an essential part of the supply lines supporting an increasingly intricate space operation.

After a GPS error scuttled its first docking attempt Wednesday, the Dragon capsule smoothly slipped close enough to the ISS for the space station’s robotic arm to snag the craft early Thursday morning, along with the 5,500 pounds of goodies on board.

“Looks like we’ve got a great capture,” radioed space station commander Shane Kimbrough.

In addition to a much needed food refresh, the capsule also contains more than 250 science experiments. NASA’s Lightning Imaging Sensor will record lightning strikes, which happen dozens of times per second somewhere on the planet. A crew of 40 mice will help scientists understand bone loss and the SAGE 3 ozone monitor will check in on the recovery of the planet’s ozone layer. 

“Dragon has now officially arrived at ISS,” European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who docked the capsule, said. “We’re very happy, indeed, to have it on-board and very much looking forward to the goodies, and the tons of science of cargo it carries.”

And there’ll be no shortage of stuff to unpack because a second shipment was hot on SpaceX’s tail. Russia’s Progress-66 cargo mission, with its nearly three tons of food, clothing, fuel, and other supplies, docked with the ISS less than 24 hours later.

As of Friday, the Dragon and Progress-66 capsules bring the current count of spacecraft docked with the ISS to four, according to NASA. The station’s slow and modular construction over nearly two decades may obscure the fact that it has matured significantly, becoming a bustling spaceport.

Continually staffed by an international crew of six astronauts orbiting the earth 15 times a day, the station has provided a space environment that boasts more than 16 years of habitation.

Those astronauts need water (about 3 gallons a day), oxygen, and food (almost 2 pounds per day) at the bare minimum, and even though water recycling and cabbage growing programs exist, the station is far from self-sufficient.

Those pounds don’t come cheap. While modern launches contracted to privately held Orbital Sciences and SpaceX cost far less than the space shuttle did, their relatively modest capacities actually mean that the cost of shipping to space is on the rise, up to $30,000 to $40,000 per pound from $10,000, according to Business Insider calculations.

To keep the operation functioning smoothly, the ISS relies on support from a number of organizations, including Russia’s Roscosmos agency and Japan’s JAXA in addition to Orbital Sciences and SpaceX. These collaborations build in redundancy, so that even if one shipment doesn’t make it another isn’t far behind.

The result is a carefully choreographed dance of spacecraft constantly passing between Earth and the ISS. NASA lists almost a dozen operations in the past three months alone, including launches, captures, dockings, and releases.

Now that all the work on the ground has paid off with a successful capture, it's time for the astronauts to leap into action. They have 30 days to unload the cargo, carry out initial experiments, and reload it with waste and samples before it undocks and departs for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

“Great job with Dragon capture, and sorry about the delays,” said astronaut Mike Hopkins from mission control in Houston as the capture was completed. “Now the real work starts.”

Back on Earth, Orbital Sciences is preparing its Cygnus spacecraft for the next resupply mission, now less than a month away.

 on: Feb 25, 2017, 05:09 AM 
Started by CreateLoveLife - Last post by Skywalker
Hi Jessica,

If you are on facebook there are quite a few EA based groups you can join and possibly find someone to be a "study buddy".

All the best

 on: Feb 24, 2017, 09:43 AM 
Started by Deva - Last post by Deva
Hi, Heather. Excellent application of EA! What you wrote is all accurate in regards to the possible expressions the South Node in the 3rd house, and Pluto in the 10th house. In the Consensus State, emotional security is linked with the prevailing culturally accepted information, view points, etc. which creates the defensiveness towards the view points and facts that does not support the mainstream that you described. In the Individuated State, emotional security is linked with the specific alternative view points that the Soul orients towards. This can create intellectual defensiveness and reacting to the communications with others rather then responding. For example, this can play out as always being the  "devils advocate," or needing to be considered the expert or authority by others.  In the spiritual state, emotional security will be linked with the specific information  of a spiritual nature that has been collected in the evolutionary past. Yes, others will perceive the Soul has possessing a natural wisdom of timeless, universal laws that can easily be communicated. In the example of Yogananda, he gathered a tremendous amount of spiritual knowledge from the East, specifically from India where he was born, and he had an innate capacity to communicate this knowledge with others.  Great Job!



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