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 on: Feb 07, 2016, 07:54 PM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Linda
Hello everyone!!

I am now working on finalizing the 2016 Final Edition of the EA Glossary.

Subscribers will receive their PDF soon.

New orders:

Thank you!


 on: Feb 07, 2016, 12:21 PM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Kim Jong-un goes for nuclear option in familiar brinkmanship

North Korean policy is always opaque so it is unclear whether Kim’s moves to develop a ballistic nuclear missile system are calculated or wildly impulsive

Sunday 7 February 2016 15.26 GMT

There is a tendency to dismiss Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s youthful dictator, as a buffoon and a lightweight. His pudgy looks and weird haircut – which gave rise to the western media’s mocking nickname of “Fatboy Kim” – have led some to suggest he is not a serious person. But Kim’s decision on Sunday to fire a satellite-bearing rocket into space was, in reality, almost certainly the illegal test launch of a ballistic missile with potential to deliver a nuclear warhead to the western US mainland. It does not get much more serious than that.

What is Kim up to? It is a question with a direct bearing on how a predictably furious international community now responds. The rocket launch comes hard on the heels of last month’s underground nuclear test, the regime’s fourth and the second since Kim, 33, took power in 2011. The timing thus appears deliberately provocative. If it was Kim’s intention to goad the US, South Korea and Japan, whom he regards as his principal adversaries, then the ploy worked. They spent Sunday trying to outdo each other’s expressions of outrage, while Britain joined in from the sidelines.

It may be that Kim calculates another round of UN security council sanctions on North Korea is inevitable following January’s nuclear test. So in a sense, he is getting his retaliation in first, by showing the western allies how little their displeasure matters and daring them to do their worst. He may also calculate that, as in the past, their “worst” may not really amount to very much. In 2013, after an earlier underground nuclear test, the UN banned arms sales, certain types of technology transfers and luxury-goods exports, and placed restrictions on banking and travel.

North Korea’s roof did not fall in. On the contrary, reports from inside the isolated country, while largely anecdotal, suggest Kim’s free market and agricultural sector reforms, including new financial incentives for individuals, are boosting overall economic performance. China, as usual, was more circumspect in its reaction, expressing “regret” that Pyongyang had again ignored legally binding UN injunctions. Yet Kim knows that only China, North Korea’s main ally and biggest trading partner, can impose sanctions, such as an oil embargo, that would really hurt, and is loth to do so.

Although the UN security council met again on Sunday for emergency talks, the fact that more than a month has passed since the 6 January nuclear test without new sanctions being agreed may have convinced Kim he can go on defying his critics. An optimistic interpretation is that Kim, giving the lie to his clownish, bon-viveur image, is actually being rather Machiavellian by setting the stage for a new opening to the west.

In line with his “military first” doctrine, he may seek an improved relationship while talking from a position of strength. Perhaps Kim has studied the fate of his fellow dictators Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. Both leaders abandoned their pursuit of nuclear weapons, for different reasons. Both subsequently fell victim to violent regime change and came to a sticky end.

Acting up, then making nice, is a well-trodden North Korean strategy. “For years, North Korea has engaged in what experts in Washington have called ‘a provocation cycle’ — ramping up provocative behaviour, such as launching missiles or conducting nuclear tests, followed by charm offensives and offers to begin a dialogue. Under Kim Jong-un, the provocation cycle continues to spin dangerously,” wrote Mark Bowden in a Vanity Fair profile last year.

North Korea watchers say Kim seems to be particularly influenced by the populist style and legacy of his late grandfather, Kim Il-sung, who founded the DPRK in 1948, rather than by his less charismatic and revered father, Kim Jong-il, who died in 2011.

Kim III bears a physical resemblance to the heavily built Kim I and dresses in a similarly conservative, middle-aged style. He has also tried to cultivate a cult of personality, having himself photographed at every opportunity with laughing workers. His fashionable wife, Ri Sol-ju, is frequently by his side.

Following his grandfather, Kim subscribes to the Juche ideological belief system, a sort of Marxist-Leninist variation on ethnic nationalism used to underpin the idea of Korean racial superiority and independence. In Kim’s case, this is mixed up with an apparently regal belief in his divine right to rule, based on hereditary entitlement.

On this basis, Kim may feel he can do no wrong. Henry VIII would have understood but modern-day interlocutors find it harder to grasp. Bowden suggests how Kim’s extraordinary childhood experience may now illuminate his actions: “At age five, we are all the centre of the universe. Everything – our parents, family, home, neighbourhood, school, country – revolves around us. For most people, what follows is a long process of dethronement, as ‘His Majesty the Child’ confronts the ever more obvious and humbling truth. Not so for Kim. His world at age 5 has turned out to be his world at age 30 ... Everyone does exist to serve him.”

There is another, disturbing possibility when trying to read Kim’s intentions. Perhaps this singular product of a sheltered, dysfunctional upbringing known for his impulsive and erratic behaviour simply does not know what he is doing. Just because the US, Japan and South Korea have failed, so far, to modify North Korea’s threatening behaviour and have eschewed more forceful methods does not mean they will continue to do so indefinitely.

Every time North Korea ups the ante, the potential for real-time military clashes, rather than exchanges of insults and diplomatic shadow-boxing, grows. Confrontation is as likely to occur by accident as by design. It is far from clear that Kim understands the risk he is running.

 on: Feb 07, 2016, 07:35 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
French law forbids food waste by supermarkets

Food banks and other charities welcome law making large shops donate unsold food and stop spoiling items to deter foragers


France has become the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food, forcing them instead to donate it to charities and food banks.

Under a law passed unanimously by the French senate, as of Wednesday large shops will no longer bin good quality food approaching its best-before date. Charities will be able to give out millions more free meals each year to people struggling to afford to eat.

The law follows a grassroots campaign in France by shoppers, anti-poverty campaigners and those opposed to food waste. The campaign, which led to a petition, was started by the councillor Arash Derambarsh. In December a bill on the issue passed through the national assembly, having been introduced by the former food industry minister Guillaume Garot.

Campaigners now hope to persuade the EU to adopt similar legislation across member states.

The law has been welcomed by food banks, which will now begin the task of finding the extra volunteers, lorries, warehouse and fridge space to deal with an increase in donations from shops and food companies.

Supermarkets will also be barred from deliberately spoiling food in order to stop it being eaten by people foraging in stores’ bins. In recent years, growing numbers of families, students, unemployed and homeless people in France have been foraging in supermarket bins at night to feed themselves. People have been finding edible products thrown out just as their best-before dates approached.

Some supermarkets doused binned food in bleach, reportedly to prevent food poisoning from items taken from bins. Other supermarkets deliberately binned food in locked warehouses for collection by refuse trucks.

Now bosses of supermarkets with a footprint of 400 sq metres (4,305 sq ft) or more will have to sign donation contracts with charities or face penalties, including fines of up to €75,000 (£53,000) or two years’ imprisonment.

Jacques Bailet, head of Banques Alimentaires, a network of French food banks, described the law as “positive and very important symbolically”. He said it would greatly increase an already emerging trend for supermarkets to donate to food banks.

“Most importantly, because supermarkets will be obliged to sign a donation deal with charities, we’ll be able to increase the quality and diversity of food we get and distribute,” he said. “In terms of nutritional balance, we currently have a deficit of meat and a lack of fruit and vegetables. This will hopefully allow us to push for those products.”

Until now French food banks received 100,000 tonnes of donated goods, 35,000 tonnes of which came from supermarkets. Even a 15% increase in food coming from supermarkets would mean 10m more meals being handed out each year, Bailet said.

Food banks and charities will, for their part, be obliged to collect and stock the food in properly hygienic conditions and distribute it with “dignity”. This means the food must be given out at a proper food bank or centre, where human contact and conversation is fostered, rather than, for example, simply organised as handoutson the street.

Crucially the law will also make it simpler for the food industry to give some excess products directly to food banks from factories. Until now, if a dairy factory made yoghurts carrying the brand name of a supermarket, it had been a long, complex process to donate any excess to charity. Now it would be faster and easier. “That is very important for food banks because this is a real source of quality products, coming straight from the factory,” Bailet said.

Derambarsh, who is a municipal councillor for Courbevoie, about five miles north-west of Paris, said: “The next step is to ask the president, François Hollande, to put pressure on Jean-Claude Juncker and to extend this law to the whole of the EU. This battle is only just beginning. We now have to fight food waste in restaurants, bakeries, school canteens and company canteens.”

Carrefour, France’s biggest supermarket group, said it welcomed the law, which would build on food donations its supermarkets already made.

France, so far, goes further than the UK, where the government has a voluntary agreement with the grocery and retail sector to cut food and packaging waste in the supply chain and does not have mandatory targets. However, a UK food waste bill, with similar provisions, was introduced to the Commons last September by the Labour MP Kerry McCarthy.

Of the 7.1m tonnes of food wasted in France annually, 67% is binned by consumers, 15% by restaurants and 11% by shops. Each year 1.3bn tonnes of food are wasted worldwide.

A report published in 2015 showed that UK households threw away 7m tonnes of food in 2012, enough to fill London’s Wembley stadium nine times over. Avoidable household food waste in the UK is associated with 17m tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.

 on: Feb 07, 2016, 07:31 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Brazil’s sprawling favelas bear the brunt of the Zika epidemic

Efforts to stamp out the mosquito that carries the virus are undermined by poverty in the most vulnerable areas

Jonathan Watts in Rio de Janeiro
Sunday 7 February 2016 00.02 GMT
Press Association

With rubber gloves, a plastic container full of larvicide and the official badge of Rio de Janeiro’s epidemic control department, Gilberto de Souza gains permission to enter the home of a stranger in the Vila Canoas favela, in one of the latest missions against the Zika virus.

As the bemused residents look on, he goes room to room inspecting every sink, flower vase and empty bottle, shining his torch behind fridges and washing machines, checking every corner for possible mosquito breeding areas.

Satisfied, he then goes out to check the street, nodding approvingly when he sees a crate full of empty bottles that have been diligently placed upside down so they cannot hold even the thimbleful of rainwater that might allow virus-carrying insects to spawn.

But, just when it seems his job is complete, he spots another stack of beer bottles that have been discarded carelessly, with their mouths open to the heavens.

“In a favela, it’s complicated,” he says with a shrug that speaks volumes about the largely unspoken challenge of inequality that could undermine Brazil’s efforts to minimise the fallout from the Zika epidemic.

Although Zika is new in the country, having been first identified here less than a year ago, there are a number of old social problems that have allowed it to proliferate to around 1.5 million cases.

Poverty, inadequate water supplies and weak public health systems are major factors in the spread of other mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue and Chinkungunya, which tend to cluster in low-income communities. Epidemiologists believe the same is likely to be true of Zika, which has so far been concentrated in the north-east, traditionally one of the poorest regions in Brazil. “Because Zika is carried by the same mosquitoes [as dengue] and influenced by the same sanitary conditions that are more common in poor neighbourhoods, I would predict that the same relationship between poverty and disease will be found to exist,” said Wilson Savino, director of the Oswaldo Cruz Institute, Brazil’s leading centre of health studies.

Many other factors are involved, including climate change and increased global mobility. Savino stressed that there is not yet sufficient data to prove a correlation between income and vulnerability to Zika. But senior government officials say anecdotal evidence so far suggests the virus is hitting the economically weak members of society hardest.

“Most mothers with children with microcephaly have come from poor communities,” said Claudio Maierovitch, director of the Communicable Disease Surveillance Department at the health ministry. “We don’t know the reason yet but it has been an observation noted by the people working on the ground. We hypothesise that this could be because they live in places with less regular water access and less trash collection.”

On door-to-door anti-Zika missions, local government officials prefer to emphasise the equitable aspects of the disease.

“The mosquitoes are very democratic. They will bite anyone, rich or poor,” said a doctor with the public health team visiting Vila Canoas. “It’s not just favelas where they breed. The swimming pools of the rich are also a problem.”

But many favela residents accept they are more vulnerable because their neighbourhoods have more potential breeding areas and locals can afford fewer protections. The price of insect repellent, which is something of a luxury for poor families, has surged in the worst-affected areas. Closing windows and using air-conditioners is expensive. Covering up is more difficult for those who do manual labour outdoors.

Poor sanitation is often cited as a cause for disease transmission, but this is unlikely to be the case for Zika, which is carried by a species of mosquito – Aedes aegypti – that requires clean water to breed. A more significant factor, according to hydrologist Paulo Carneiro of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, is the reliability of water supply.

“In places where the supply is precarious, the population invents other ways to store water. People use tanks and containers, often carelessly without proper covers. That allows the mosquito to use them as a repository for its eggs,” he said.

Mario Moscatelli, a conservationist and biologist, agreed. But he said poor public attitudes towards rubbish disposal – particularly near favelas and on disused land – are exacerbating the problem. Ultimately, he argues, this is the consequence of poor urban planning and irresponsible public attitudes.

“If you have a filthy river, you will not find mosquitoes there. But if you use it to discard things, especially plastic containers, you may accumulate the fresh water that generates favourable conditions for the mosquito,” he said.

Those who live nearby face a higher risk of disease and uncertainty about what it means for future generations.

Thaís Cavalcante, a resident of the Maré favela complex, was diagnosed with Zika last October. When she sought help at an emergency clinic, there were five other suspected cases. In her opinion, favelas are more at risk because they are often flooded, leaving puddles of standing water. She soon recovered from the rashes, fever and fatigue, but she is anxious about the long-term effects. “I do not intend to get pregnant now, but if it happens one day I will doubt whether my baby will be healthy or not,” she said.

The government believes Zika is linked to a surge in reported birth defects, particularly microcephaly, but this is not scientifically proven. Infants with microcephaly have abnormally small heads and their brains do not develop properly. The defect has also been linked to environmental conditions associated with poverty, such as severe malnutrition. Alcohol use, exposure to toxic chemicals and drugs, and other kinds of infections (such as toxoplasmosis) may also be a factor. Epidemiologists believe a combination of elements may be behind the rise in the number of cases in Brazil.

“It could be that Zika is causing [microcephaly] with another factor, which is definitely possible. There could be other environmental factors, there could be co-infections that cause the unfortunate microcephaly, and at this point there is just not enough evidence to say it is causing it,” said Kristin Bernard, a mosquito-borne virus researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Regardless of the cause, those on lower incomes have fewer choices when deciding how to deal with the risks. Some wealthy pregnant women are quitting their jobs and taking refuge overseas until their babies are born. Others are having illegal pre-emptive abortions at private clinics rather than take the risk of their foetus being diagnosed with microcephaly closer to term.

Poorer women cannot afford to run anywhere that would make a difference and are less likely to be able to pay for a termination.

Whether these assumptions prove correct will not be known for several years. In the meantime, it seems more than plausible that thousands of children, disproportionately concentrated in poor communities, could grow up with small heads and possibly brain defects. During a televised address last week, President Dilma Rousseff vowed that any family affected by such a birth would receive the full support of the state and called on the nation to join the armed forces and public officials in a “mega-operation” on 13 February to stamp out Aedes aegypti.

But many are sceptical, noting that previous mosquito destruction campaigns had only a short-lived effect in the face of bigger trends.

“We are reaping what we sowed,” Moscatelli said. “The mosquito is taking its revenge after decades of uncontrolled growth of urban space and uncoordinated land use. The Zika epidemic is a consequence.”

 on: Feb 07, 2016, 07:28 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
February 7, 2016

Discovery of female bones at Stonehenge indicative of ancient gender equality

by Chuck Bednar
Red Orbit

In what some are hailing as evidence of gender equality in ancient cultures, archaeologists have discovered the cremated remains of 14 women buried alongside their male counterparts at Stonehenge, indicating that they likely were viewed as having equal social status.

According to BBC News and the New York Times, the discovery was made by Christie Willis, a PhD student at University College London, and her colleagues during an excavation at “Aubrey Hole 7,” one of 56 excavation sites dug on the outskirts of the prehistoric British monument.

The excavation uncovered the remains of nine men along with 14 women, all of whom were believed to have been buried between 3100 BCE and 2140 BCE. Willis and her colleagues also found long bone pins believed to have been used as hairpins during their dig, which was detailed in the latest issue of the magazine British Archaeology.

The discovery runs contradictory to excavations at older Neolithic tombs in southern England, where a significantly higher ratio of adult males were found, said BBC News. Willis’s team said that their findings indicate that there was a “surprising degree of gender equality” in the culture responsible for creating the Wiltshire site.

‘Women were as prominent as men’ at Stonehenge

During her investigation, Willis sorted through nearly 100 pounds (45 kg) of bone fragments to determine which part of the skeleton each came from, as well as the age and the sex of the person from which they came. Nine were male and 14 female, she said.

According to the Daily Mail, the researchers estimated the sex of each remain on the basis of the ear canal, which is found within the petrous bone – a dense, sturdy bone that is typically still identifiable after cremation. Then they used CT scans to revealed the lateral angle of the internal acoustic canal, which provided them with enough data to determine the sex of the remains.

She told BBC News that the remains had previously been dug up and reburied in Aubrey Hole 7 in the hopes that they would eventually undergo in-depth analysis. The archaeologists noted that their work had taken a total of four years, and that the bone fragments were sent to universities in Oxford and Glasgow to undergo radiocarbon dating.

“In almost every depiction of Stonehenge by artists and TV re-enactors we see lots of men, a man in charge, and few or no women,” Mike Pitts, an archaeologist and the editor of British Archaeology, told Discovery News on Wednesday. “The archaeology now shows that as far as the burials go, women were as prominent there as men.”

 on: Feb 07, 2016, 07:26 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Will we ever… build ringworlds?

Immense floating structures could become humanity’s home, harnessing the power of stars. But, Peter Ray Allison writes, building them will be a colossal challenge.

By Peter Ray Allison

Huge ring-shaped worlds orbiting distant stars have become an iconic image of science fiction. Their pristine landscape, contained within a thin, ring-like structure, has tantalised our imagination. The ringworld has become a common motif, a future base for humanity…

“This is all a lot of nonsense of course,” says retired professor Freeman Dyson. It is Dyson who popularised the idea of these megastructures; they would eventually become known as Dyson Spheres. Dyson “borrowed the idea” from science fiction writer Olaf Stapledon’s 1937 novel Star Maker, in which a travelling Earthman encounters megastructures built to harness the power of nearby stars. While Dyson envisioned these spheres as a shell of orbiting structures, used for the collection of maximum possible energy from a star, science fiction authors assumed them to be a habitable sphere enclosing the star.

    There is enough material in the Kuiper Belt to build anything out there

Ten years after the release of Dyson’s article on such structures in a 1960 edition of the journal Science, author Larry Niven decided to use the equatorial ring of a Dyson Sphere as the setting for his novel Ringworld.

Ringworlds have since featured in the Halo video games, the 2013 film Elysium and the Culture novels by Iain M Banks.

Those in Halo are gigantic artificial worlds, where people are able to live on the sprawling landmasses on the inner side of the ring, whilst a hardened shell protects the outer side.

In Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, meanwhile, the ringworld orbits the Earth, and is more akin to a space station. But in the real world, how likely is it that these rings could ever be built?

As with all things, size matters. Ringworlds are megastructures – and as such would require an incredible amount of material and energy to build.

Harvesting asteroids

But there are places where that material is available. The Kuiper Belt is a region of the Solar System extending for approximately 1.86 billion miles (2.97 billion kilometres) beyond the orbit of Neptune.  It is filled with asteroid-like bodies thought to be an ideal source of raw materials.

Science fiction author and former research astronomer Alastair Reynolds says: “There is enough material in the Kuiper Belt to build anything out there. We could gobble up all the little asteroids, filtering out all the volatile materials, leaving us with bits of rock and using that to make some incredible structures.”

However, the astronomer Dr Katie Mack disagrees. She says: “The Kuiper Belt is pretty diffuse and you would need to gather and dismantle a lot of bodies to get enough stuff together.”

    Making such a massive object spin at the speed required would be a colossal undertaking

If – and this is a big if – a future society has both the time and capability to harvest and transport material from the Kuiper Belt to the necessary orbit, then there will be sufficient raw material from which a ringworld could be constructed. However, this brings into question whether the immense amount of time and resources required can justify such an endeavour.

A ringworld would also need to maintain some form of gravity; otherwise everything, including the atmosphere which it would need to keep its inhabitants alive, would float off into deep space.  The most common way to create artificial gravity is through the generation of centrifugal force through rotation. However, making such a massive object spin at the speed required would be a colossal undertaking.

Care would have to be taken in ensuring that the rotational forces are evenly distributed, otherwise the structure could rip itself apart. Thankfully, as space is a frictionless environment, once it is spinning at the correct speed there will be little to slow it down.

The greater the diameter of the ringworld, the greater the shear forces that will be exerted upon it when the structure rotates. According to Mack, the strength of these shear forces acting upon a ringworld is dependent upon “how close you are to the star and how much gravity you need”.

Immense power

Assuming that the ringworld shares the same diameter as that of the Earth’s orbit (about 186 million miles, or 300 million km on average), and required approximately 1G of gravity, the ringworld would need to rotate at approximately 1,200,000mph. The shear forces would be so immense that Mack says we would “probably have to find a new way to bind atoms together that is stronger than anything we know”.

“The forces are bad enough when you are building a little space station” explains Reynolds, “but imagine them on something the size of a solar system.”

One theoretical solution to overcoming this engineering problem could be through some form of piezoelectricity. Put simply, that means a material could be artificially strengthened by running power through it.

However, given the size of ringworlds, and how much power would be required, this would, again, be a colossal undertaking and grossly inefficient. Likewise, using such a method also comes with the need to ensure an even distribution of power throughout the entire structure, and with it the risk of a catastrophic power failure.

    What would you actually do with one?

The final problem facing ringworlds is maintaining their orbital stability around the star. Reynolds remembers how shortly after Larry Niven’s Ringworld had been published, “fans calculated that if the ringworld was displaced slightly closer to the star it would lose its equilibrium situation and would drift closer to the star and then blow up”.

Niven addressed this in later Ringworld novels by having altitude rockets attached to the outside edge of the ringworld in order to regularly stabilise its position and ensure it remained exactly centred on the star.

Assuming that a future society possesses the large-scale stellar engineering capability to build a ringworld, has developed a way to strengthen the structure such that it can withstand the shear forces acting upon it, and has devised a suitable method to maintain its orbital integrity, what would you actually do with one?

The Orbitals in Banks’ Culture novels were intended as vast space habitats, whilst the Halos in the Halo videogames were intended as a galactic doomsday device, primed to detonate and wipe out a virulent alien infection. However, Dyson envisioned his spheres as a means by which to maximise energy collection from a star, not as an alternative to terraforming a planet to make it habitable for humans.

Mack says: “We could make a ringworld instead of having to terraform worlds that already exist.”  However, she believes, this would not be the most efficient solution. She goes on to explain that “any society that could successfully construct [a ringworld] could probably just as easily find a rocky planet that is in a favourable orbit and terraform its surface”.

While the technology for terraforming is different to that required for building a ringworld, the level of necessary technological progress required would be similar. For all their epic grandeur, ringworlds are scientifically unfeasible and grossly inefficient examples of stellar engineering.  “They are a solution in search of a problem,” says Reynolds.

 on: Feb 07, 2016, 07:20 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
February 7, 2016

Early solar system’s chemistry proves to be more complex than previously thought

by Brett Smith
Red Orbit

Using advanced computer simulations, an international team of scientists has uncovered new information on the chemical makeup of the dust grains found in the solar system 4.5 billion years ago, according to a new report in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Scientists from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia and the University of Lyon in France created a two-dimensional chart of the dust chemistry in the solar nebula--the dusty disk that encircled the young sun which eventually lead to Earth's development.

The researchers said they expected high-temperature materials to be situated close to the young sun, while unstable materials, like ice and sulfur compounds, would develop far from the sun where temperatures are cooler.

However, the new charts generated by the team showed an intricate chemical distribution of the dust, where high-temperature materials were also present far from the sun on the exterior of the disk, and unstable materials were also discovered in the inner disk near to the young sun.

"The new two-dimensional calculations have given us a clearer idea of the pristine chemistry in our solar system soon after its formation," study author Francesco Pignatale, an astrophysicist from Swinburne University, said in a press release. "While the solar nebular is thin, it is two-dimensional. This makes it possible to find relatively high temperature regions at larger distances from the sun on the surface of the disk that are heated by the sun's rays."

"We also find colder regions in the inner disk closer to the sun,” he continued. “Here the high concentration of dust prevents the stellar radiation from efficiently heating the local environment."

Other insights from the early solar system

In another study on the early solar system published last year, astronomers found Juptier may have wiped out multiple planets in the distant past.

The team said the evidence of Jupiter moving through the early solar system like a wrecking ball can be seen in the absence of planets inside Mercury's orbit.

“The standard issue planetary system in our galaxy seems to be a set of super-Earths with alarmingly short orbital periods. Our solar system is looking increasingly like an oddball,” said study author Gregory Laughlin, a University of California of Santa Cruz astronomy professor.

The team used computer models to determine conditions in the early solar system would have been ideal for multiple, high-speed collisions. The events would have been “energetic and damaging,” with one set of collisions causing a domino effect that led to others, the team said.

Image credit: NASA

 on: Feb 07, 2016, 07:18 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Crime Blotter: Zebra Meat, Leopard Skins, and More

A weekly roundup of wildlife crimes.

Photograph by JAMES L. STANFIELD, National Geographic Creative
By Jani Actman
PUBLISHED Sun Feb 07 07:00:00 EST 2016

Every Sunday, Wildlife Watch notes some of the previous week’s wildlife crime busts and convictions around the world.

ZEBRA MEAT SALES: Wildlife officials in Monze, Zambia, arrested nine people, including a police officer, for allegedly possessing a live pangolin and 350 pounds of dried zebra meat without proper documentation, reports It’s believed that at the time of the arrest, the crew was seeking a customer to buy the zebra meat and the pangolin, a mammal prized for its meat and scales.

PANGOLIN SEIZURE: Police in Hung Yen, Vietnam, seized 81 pangolins from a truck, says Vietnamnet. The truck’s driver couldn’t show papers proving the legal origin of the animals. China and Vietnam are considered “the two most critical links in the transnational chain of illegal pangolin traders,” the story notes.

TURTLE SMUGGLING: Men from California and Louisiana have been charged with smuggling, transporting or acquiring wildlife for illegal uses, and conspiracy, according to The Associated Press. One of the men and an informant arranged for the sale of 220 turtles, of which 160 were various protected species. The other 60 were common snapping turtles that were chosen as cover because government inspectors know they’re dangerous.

LEOPARD SKIN SEIZURE: Forest officials in Nabarangpur, India, nabbed five members of a suspected poaching gang and seized six leopard skins, eight tiger teeth, two bear teeth, five bear nails, and a bear paw in their possession, reports New Indian Express. The Nabarangpur forest department had formed a special squad in March 2014 to catch the alleged poachers.

ILLEGAL LOGGERS: Police announced that a total of 39 people were arrested in January for allegedly poaching timber in central Taiwan, according to The China Post. A man suspected of leading the poaching ring is accused of recruiting runaway foreign laborers from the Chiayi and Yunlin areas to join the group, the publication reports.

REPTILE SMUGGLING: Authorities arrested a man suspected of attempting to smuggle 15 endangered reptiles out of Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport, says Coconuts Jakarta. The reptiles included green tree pythons, an Argentine red tegu, and an Indian star tortoise.

IVORY SEIZURE: Forest department officials in the Mayurbhanj district in Odisha, India, busted four people accused of poaching elephants in Similipal National Park, according to Business Standard. They confiscated two pieces of the group’s ivory.

Fact of the Week: Plains zebras, which have a wide range in east and southern Africa, aren't listed as threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, an organization that classifies the conservation status of species. But wildlife activists think that overhunting of the animals for their meat and skins poses a serious danger to zebra populations.

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by grants from the BAND Foundation and the Woodtiger Fund. Read more stories from the SIU on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback and story ideas to

 on: Feb 07, 2016, 07:15 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
The reign of the terror birds

Meet the scariest birds you can imagine, scaled up to nightmarish proportions

By Niki Wilson

What has feathers, T-rex-like feet, and a hooked beak that could sever the spinal cord of a horse with one blow? It might sound like a beast from a fantasy novel or horror film, but in fact it’s a creature that actually existed - the scariest bird you can imagine, scaled up to nightmarish proportions. Say hello to the terror bird.

After a meteor wiped out Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus rex, the terror bird family rose to occupy the niche of terrifying top predator in South America – a supremacy that lasted for almost 60 million years. During that time, 17 species in this family of lethal-beaked meatheads came and went, all the while gorging on a smorgasbord of plant-eating mammals until these scary birds disappeared about 2.5 million years ago.

With few fossils documenting their existence, the behaviour of these birds is still somewhat of a mystery. What exactly did these feathered aggressors get up to, and why did they disappear? It’s a story that paleontologists have been painstakingly unearthing for over 100 years. What they’ve learned so far suggests the birds were absolutely dominant as predators, voraciously gobbling up prey across the continent.

The second coming

Sixty million years ago the continents had largely assumed the geographic position they occupy now, though what we now know as Central America had not yet been created. South America was an island, and while saber-toothed cats and wolves took over the job of top predators elsewhere, most mammals in South America were happy herbivores. This buffet of lumbering vegetarians provided the fresh flesh that terror birds feasted on.

All birds are considered dinosaurs – most being closely related to meat-eating dinosaurs such as the velociraptor that disappeared 65 million years ago. In a way, the reign of the dinosaur never truly ended in South America, it merely changed form.

    Its beak was designed to make powerful up and down movements

Dr Luis Chiappe, Director of the Dinosaur Institute at the Los Angelos Museum of Natural History, agrees. “Nature continues to fill the gaps as animals evolve, and the world evolves,” he says. “It’s fascinating to think of the terror birds as the dinosaurs of the Cenozoic era in South America.” On that continent, he says, there were no animals that could rival these birds at the top of the food chain.

So how did they do it? What exactly made these terror birds so terrifying?

Death by terror bird

Terror comes in many forms, something one learns quickly when trying to understand how terror birds, hunted, killed and eviscerated their prey. It’s really not the kind of research to be done before bedtime - there are apparently several options available to an animal equipped with a pickax for a beak.

It’s generally agreed that terror birds were seriously carnivorous, but there’s long been debate over how they killed prey, says Dr Stephen Wroe, Director of the Function, Evolution & Anatomy Research (FEAR) Lab at the University of New England, Australia. Based on CT scans of fossils from the terror bird known as Andalgalornis - an agile, swift-moving bird that lived between 23 and 5 million years ago - Wroe and colleagues were able to narrow down the type of movements this animal was capable of.

Their work suggests that its beak was designed to make powerful up and down movements (think stabbing prey in the head or back from a height), but was relatively weak when moving side to side. The ability to give a rapid side-to-side shaking is what you would expect of an animal that is getting up close and personal with relatively large, dangerous prey, says Wroe, adding that wrestling with large prey is risky. So it’s unlikely Andalgalornis killed this way.

    As if rock hard skulls, deadly beaks, and the use of creepy low sounds to ferret out prey weren’t scary enough, we still haven’t talked about their feet

“If it was using its beak as the primary killing mechanism, then it would have been restricted to relatively small prey,” says Wroe. However, he’s quick to add that the beak was certainly strong enough to have enabled the bird to bring down larger prey in a sort of strike, retreat and repeat type of hunting, and hasn’t ruled out big animal take-downs just yet.

This year, a new medium-sized species of terror bird, Llallawavis scagliai, was identified, providing more clues about the behaviour of this group of birds, and the diversity of the terror bird family tree. Like other terror birds, the joints between skull bones are fused, unlike other birds in which they are more mobile. This rigidity would have been helpful with pummeling prey to death or using their head as a giant meat tenderiser. It would also provide the stable structure needed to rip flesh from bone.

Another intriguing revelation of the study was the analysis of the inner ear canals, reconstructed through 3D imaging. Imaging results suggest the bird may have had good low frequency hearing, possibly to communicate vocally with other terror birds, or in prey detection.

As if rock hard skulls, deadly beaks, and the use of creepy low sounds to ferret out prey weren’t scary enough, we still haven’t talked about their feet.

    Terror birds were the pinnacle of South America’s food chain for tens of millions of years

Wroe points out that many living birds of prey use their feet to kill. Take for example the secretary bird, an avian predator that he says “basically kicks the crap” out of snakes and reptiles with devastating force. “It’s certainly possible certain terror birds may have used that form of attack as well,” he says.

Other clues may be found in the grand-slam feeding style of the terror birds’ closest living relatives, the seriemas. Seriemas pick up snakes, frogs and other prey, then smash them on the ground, or throw them against hard surfaces repeatedly. Though they look like an animal that needs a course in anger management, the technique is actually very effective in breaking the bones and tendersing the meat of their prey.

While sorting all of this out, it’s important to consider that terror bird species came in a variety of shapes and sizes. They ranged in height from one to three metres, with body types that ranged from sleek and light to heavier and stalky. It’s likely the feeding strategies varied between species depending on their size and build, and how fast the animal was able to move.

    It’s big, as fast as an ostrich, with feet that could snap the femur of a cow

“When looking at the foot bones, these animals clearly had very different styles of locomotion,” says Chiappe. Some of the lower leg bones were very long, suggesting the species was very fast, versus others with shorter lower leg bones that indicate a “heavier, slower animal – more of a walker,” he says.

For example, the 350–400 kg terror bird Brontornis, may have been a slower moving ambush predator. Conversely, the lighter and more agile Phosphoracus may have been able to run prey down.

However they did it, one thing is certain: terror birds were the pinnacle of South America’s food chain for tens of millions of years… until everything changed.

Twelve to 15 million years ago, what we now know as Central America was created through a combination of tectonic up-thrusting and volcanic activity. This new land bridge connected North and South America, and animals slowly began to migrate across it in both directions - a phenomenon known as the Great American Interchange. This exchange of species between hemispheres changed the game for terror birds forever.

Terror comes to North America

Imagine you are a khaki-clad researcher huddled in a blind on the savannah of what is now Panama. Time means nothing to you - millions of years are only mere moments, as you sit quietly and record the biggest continental exchange of animals the Americas has ever seen.

    Titanis was getting larger and larger so that it could not only compete, but open up some of these carcasses

From the north come ancient camels, massive elephants, tapirs, deer and horses, followed by ravenous cougars, saber-toothed cats, wolves and bears. From the south lumber the glyptodons, giant ground sloths, and bizarre-looking hoofed mammals that looked like a cross between a horse and an anteater. You’re writing this down on a pad of paper when suddenly, the shadow of a three metre high, 150-kilogram bird falls over you.

Meet Titanis, evolution’s latest, and last, of the terror birds. It’s big, as fast as an ostrich, with feet that could snap the femur of a cow. A swift peck from this bird will knock your head off. So don’t move, and good luck.

“Titanis is one of the species that over about seven million years makes it from South America all the way up into North America,” says Dr Robert Chandler of Georgia College in Milledgeville, US. Chandler found fossils from Titanis while scuba diving in the Santa Fe River in Florida. It’s likely this monstrous bird was following the northern migration of the prey it was eating, he says.

    Changing habitats and habitat loss that may have sealed the terror birds’ fate

For Titanis, life in North America may have been more complicated than back home in the south. Once relatively unchallenged by competitors, now encounters with fanged cats and packs of wolves were cramping its style. It’s all well and good to kill a sloth, but what if a pack of wolves want a piece of the meat?

Chandler believes the big birds found ways to adapt. “It seems like Titanis was getting larger and larger so that it could not only compete, but open up some of these carcasses,” he says, pointing to similarities in beak structure with modern day vultures. It may even have taken carcasses from other predators, he suggests.

Not everyone agrees. Some of Chandler’s colleagues maintain that the beak was primarily an offensive weapon for taking prey down. Regardless of whether Titanis was thriving or just surviving, its reign of terror came to an end about 2.5 million years ago. Then, the terror bird disappears altogether from the fossil record.

And then there were none

“There is almost always more than one thing going wrong for a species to go extinct,” says Wroe. “It’s kinda like a plane crash. When a plane goes down, there’s almost always a series of events that add up to take it out.”

    Paleontological detectives remain in awe of these enigmatic birds, calling them serious, kickass, terrestrial predators

Early theories suggested that competition with predatory mammals led to the demise of the terror birds. But most scientists think there’s more to it.

Terror birds arrived in North America and were successfully competing, says Chandler. “They lived for almost seven million years along with all these placental mammals, and then what happens? Well, we have climate change.”

With a changing climate came changing habitats, and habitat loss that may have sealed the terror birds’ fate, explains Chandler. Along with them came the extinction of a massive lion, large horse, and some species of elephants and mastadons.

“In past extinctions, almost always some sort of climate change plays a role,” Wroe says. But he still feels the problems climate change created were likely exacerbated by the pressures on terror birds created by the mixing of animals from North and South.

As scientists piece together the mystery of this ferocious feathery beast, it’s hoped that further clues about terror bird lifestyle, as well as more fossil bits and pieces, will continue to emerge. In the meantime, paleontological detectives such as Wroe remain in awe of these enigmatic birds, calling them “serious, kickass, terrestrial predators.”

 on: Feb 06, 2016, 09:42 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
U.S. Political News ...

Is the US ready for a socialist president?

Dan Roberts, The Guardian
Raw Story
06 Feb 2016 at 08:57 ET                   

Dr Krissy Haglund does not care if she is labeled a socialist. Or an ideological purist . Or, indeed, any of the other epithets thrown at Americans who are flocking to support Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination. She knows what she is: fed up.

“I have patients who are deciding not to have children or are unable to buy a house because of their student loans,” says the family physician from Minneapolis , who this week drove four hours with two young offspring of her own to see the senator speak in Iowa.

“My loan is now $283,000. It’s gone up $60,000 in the six years since I graduated from medical school. This is a national crisis that needs deep, immediate attention.”

As the only candidate proposing to abolish tuition fees at public universities, Sanders frequently takes on the role of a reverse auctioneer, asking members of the audience at his rallies to shout out how much student debt they have. For a while, the record was $300,000. Then he met a dentist who graduated with loans of $400,000.

But paying for college by taxing Wall Street speculation is not the only policy that has seen the senator from Vermont branded a dangerous extremist – by his own party. Despite the limited health insurance reforms passed by Barack Obama, 29 million Americans remain without any coverage and many more are underinsured to the point where they cannot afford to see a doctor.

So Sanders does the same thing with healthcare, asking audiences to compete to reveal the size of their deductible – the fixed amount per treatment that must be paid by patients before their insurer will contribute anything. At almost every rally someone gets up to $5,000, sometimes in tears.

The plan to replace this bureaucratic and expensive system by expanding the public Medicare program emulates a “single payer” insurance model used in Canada, rather than the direct state provision of Britain’s National Health Service. It aims to reduce overall costs caused by hospitals and drug companies charging the weak US consumer many times the equivalent in other countries that benefit from pooled purchasing power.

Nevertheless, when inevitably someone asks if the US can afford to follow other rich countries down the road of universal healthcare and access to tertiary education, Sanders likes to remind them of the trillions of dollars of income redistribution that has already taken place in the opposite direction: a trend that has left median wages slumping, but 58% of all new income since the banking crash going to the top 1%.

    A few years ago you could graduate high school and get a job and j… you’d be able to achieve whatever you wanted

    Anna Mead, 22, student

“Enough is enough,” audience members typically roar by the time he reaches this point in the well-worn speech.

“A few years ago you could graduate high school and get a job and just work hard, put on those work boots, and you’d be able to achieve whatever you wanted,” agrees Anna Mead, 22, a student from Long Beach, New Jersey, outside a rally in New Hampshire.

“Now, it’s just not the case anymore. We’ve seen vast amounts of inequality just building and building throughout the decades to the extent that the 1% has accumulated such a vast amount of wealth that exceeds 40% of the population. I feel like the United States has always been strengthened whenever we had a president take any kind of policy for the middle class to build them up. When you build everyone up, everyone does better.”

The notion, proposed by Sanders, that a corrupt campaign finance system is the only thing standing between voters and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change this might seem simplistic. But it is proving wildly popular.

From a standing start, he has closed the gap in the Democratic primary race between himself and a once unassailable Hillary Clinton, from 36% to just 2%, according to a national poll this week.

Though few believe this one poll to be indicative of the true national picture just yet, real-life voting in the Iowa caucus on Monday brought Sanders to within 0.3% of Clinton.

Sanders is so far ahead of the former secretary of state in New Hampshire polls that her advisers would be delighted if they can contain his win to single digits, in the first primary on Tuesday. Many are already dismissing the result as a home turf blip and encouraging her to leave the state on Sunday to focus her time elsewhere.

Locals in New Hampshire bristle, though, at the notion they would be swayed simply because someone is from Vermont, a liberal bastion that the more libertarian iconoclasts in the Granite State regard suspiciously.

The argument also ignores the fact that the state Hillary Clinton represented in Congress is only 50 miles from the border. New York may have its own cultural differences with New England, but it is home to Clinton’s campaign headquarters in Brooklyn and is reportedly so ambiguous about its former senator that the Sanders camp claim she refused their requests to hold a debate there.

Yet much as it pains his supporters to acknowledge any frailty , Sanders is under growing pressure from Clinton during their debates. The attack strategy varies. Sometimes she argues they are dancing on the head of a pin by debating who is a true progressive, but when the policy gulf is illuminated the attack switches to what she claims are his wildly unrealistic proposals.

Privately, Clinton’s attack machine has gone further, claiming deep-seated communist sympathies . It serves as a likely prelude to what Sanders might face from Republicans in the still somewhat unlikely event that he wins the Democratic primary.

Sanders has never hidden his political background and has left much for critics to pick over. But it is his steadfast determination not to run from the label “democratic socialist” that causes most confusion.

    I don’t know what we mean when we say he is a socialist because my idea of Bernie Sanders is that he’s an FDR liberal

    Sharon Ranzavage, 69, attorney

In a lengthy speech at Georgetown University last November , he argued that his political philosophy was most in keeping with that of Franklin D Roosevelt, who similarly proposed a mix of public works, help for the poor and banking reform to lift America from the Great Depression.

“I don’t know what we mean when we say he is a socialist because my idea of Bernie Sanders is that he’s an FDR liberal,” agrees Sharon Ranzavage, 69, an attorney from Flemington, New Jersey, speaking outside an event in Manchester, New Hampshire on Friday.

“He’s back to the future if you will and that’s why I’m excited about him. I think the Democratic party in this country has veered very far to the right. We have to get back to who we are, which is taking care of each other. We’re a capitalist country but we need to modify the extremes of capitalism.”

Confusion also stems from the fact that Sanders uses the phrase “democratic socialist” partly to stress his belief that change must come through the ballot box, but also because, in continental Europe at least, he would probably be known as a social democrat, a label that does not easily translate.

A “Democrat” in US parlance is something the independent senator from Vermont only became when he decided to seek the party’s presidential nomination in May. Anyone using the word “social” in American politics might as well go the whole hog and add the “ist” before somewhere else does.

In a British context, Sanders is hard to place too. Many of his core proposals – universal access to healthcare, paid maternity leave and a more generous minimum wage – are accepted, in principle at least, by all the main UK parties including the Conservatives, who recently put up the British minimum wage as a centerpiece of their budget.

In relative terms, Sanders represents a swing to the left for the Democratic party that is analogous to Jeremy Corbyn’s recent victory in the Labour leadership campaign. But on foreign policy and absolute comparisons of domestic policies he would probably be closer to pre-Blairite Labour reformers such as Neil Kinnock or John Smith.

Back in New Hampshire this week, a radical mood is conjured up at rallies calling for a “political revolution” and blasting out John Lennon’s Power to the People. But when Sanders punches his hand into the air, he quickly unclenches the fist, to avoid imagery that is too strident.

We will have to wait for several more primary results to know whether American politics could possibly be ready for a self-avowed socialist. Already, the response from supporters to seem to be a shrug that suggests this is the wrong question.

“I feel like I finally have a politician who will match my true feelings and hopes for this country,” says Dr Haglund.

Is America ready for socialism? Probably not. But it might be ready for Sanders.


Bernie Sanders lacks foreign policy experience — but also other candidates’ errors

Trevor Timm, The Guardian
Raw Story
06 Feb 2016 at 08:43 ET                   

As Bernie Sanders has risen in the polls, he has been taking increasing heat for some of his apparently vague foreign policy positions and the fact that his campaign does not have a team of establishment foreign policy advisers, unlike typical front-running candidates.

Instead of just questioning Sanders’ choice, we should really be questioning why any of the candidates of either party are employing the same old foreign policy advisers – many of whom not only supported the Iraq war but every disastrous military intervention since. These are the same people who now think that yet another regional war will somehow fix the chaos in the Middle East.

After a series of disastrous wars overseas, we should be looking for someone who has better “judgment” rather than candidates who have “experience” but are calling for more of the same policies in the Middle East that have led us into the mess we’re in now in the first place.

Nothing exemplifies this more than Hillary Clinton seemingly bragging about her foreign policy credentials at Thursday’s Democratic debate by citing her friendship with Henry Kissinger, who Christopher Hitchens called a war criminal. The former Nixon and Ford administration national security advisor and secretary of state is revered in DC foreign policy establishment circles but reviled just about everywhere else for his role in building or perpetuating multiple atrocities in east Asia during the late 1960s and 70s.

As Gawker editor Alex Pareene remarked during the debate : “Never say ‘I was flattered when Henry Kissinger said I…’ unless the end of that sentence is ‘finally made him pay for his crimes.’”

But it’s a far larger problem than the ubiquitousness of Kissinger, who still advises Republican candidates as well . The campaigns of Clinton, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have all been advised by the same foreign policy “consulting” group made up of former defense and intelligence officials who epitomize DC conventional wisdom. A gaggle of former Bush administration officials most known for their Iraq war and pro-torture advocacy advises virtually every Republican candidate outside Donald Trump.

And as you watch the candidates vie for who is the most “tough” when it comes to “destroying” Isis, it shows – there’s little difference in Clinton’s foreign policy versus the Republican candidates in the race besides a few rhetorical flourishes.

In general, the media’s campaign ritual of pretending candidates have “boned up” on foreign policy because they pay a bunch of people to give you a few briefings is largely a charade – not only do voters not care, but it’s not realistic measurement of a candidate’s “experience”. As Vox’s Max Fisher astutely pointed out , it’s usually goes like this:

    1. The candidate hires a few foreign policy staffers who are considered credible and experienced by the Washington foreign policy community.

    2. The candidate meets with foreign policy graybeards within his or her party. While substantially meaningless , the meetings signal that the candidate has the implicit support of trusted elites.

    3. The candidate issues vague foreign policy proposals, or perhaps gives a vague foreign policy speech, reiterating his or her party’s conventional wisdom on a big issue or two.

While it is now a regular attacking point to some, it’s actually quite refreshing that Sanders has refused to play into this game. This doesn’t mean reporters shouldn’t sharply question Sanders about his depth of knowledge on global affairs; some of his policy proposals that do seem quite vague. However, the people who are repeatedly asking Sanders about his “we’ll get Arab country soldiers to fight Isis” talking point refuse to question Clinton’s equally vague “let’s set up a no-fly zone in Syria” policy, which we have absolutely no details on beyond the fact that it will require tens of thousands of US service members and will almost certainly drag the US into an even larger war in the region.

It’s also true, as his detractors claim, that Sanders often falls back on his opposition to the Iraq war when asked about his foreign policy expertise. But pretty much everything he said before the war did come to pass. He also refused to support the Libyan intervention in 2011, which has led to the chaos that engulfs Libya today and has us on the precipice of yet another war (an intervention, mind you, that Clinton was the key architect of inside the Obama administration). Clinton’s long “experience” as secretary of state doesn’t replace this lack of judgment, which is arguably much more important.

Again, this is not to say Sanders’s lack of detail on some foreign policy issues is not a legitimate issue: it’s certainly something we should question. In place of detailed policies, Sanders often falls back on the status quo as well. For example, Sanders told Meet the Press months ago , when asked about the Obama administration’s controversial drone policy and use of special forces troops in multiple countries, that as president he would do “all that and more”.

These are all well-founded problems. However, the fact that he has not brought on DC foreign policy “experts” to advise him that he needs to start more wars is certainly not one of them.


Bill Maher gives Bernie Sanders a full-throated ‘F*ck yeah!’ endorsement as Commander in Chief

Tom Boggioni
Raw Story
06 Feb 2016 at 00:18 ET                   

Despite presidential candidate Bernie Sander’s less than stellar responses to foreign policy questions during the Democratic debate earlier this week, Real Time host Bill Maher gave the Vermont senator his full-throated support saying, “F*ck yeah!” when asked if Sanders was ready to become Commander in Chief.

With MSNBC analyst Alex Morgan saying she believed Sanders won the first half of the debate dealing with jobs and the economy, she stated that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton clearly was superior when it came to the foreign policy portion.

“Do you want Bernie Sanders getting off Air Force One making a deal with–,” Wagner asked Maher. “Seriously — on foreign policy — do you think that he’s at the level that we need–”

Wagner never finished her question as Maher jumped right in.

“F*ck yeah!’ he exclaimed to cheers from the audience.

“The guy who voted right on the Iraq war?” he shot back. “Yeah I do.”

Watch the video below captured by Mediaite:


Ted Cruz college classmates ‘horrified’ he might become president: ‘He called my mother a wh*re!’

Tom Boggioni
05 Feb 2016 at 18:12 ET                   

Questioned about their college recollections of 2016 GOP Presidential contender Ted Cruz, former Princeton alums left no question that they are uniformly aghast that the ’92 graduate has come so close to the Republican nomination.

Armed with a tip about a Cruz sexual encounter at the Ivy League university during his freshman year, Ellie Shechet of Jezebel reached out to close to 75 former contemporaries of Cruz for corroboration.  While no one could verify the rumor, many had a few other things to say about the Republican senator from Texas who seems to have a knack for rubbing people the wrong way.

An earlier investigation by the Daily Beast uncovered classmates who referred to the younger Cruz as “abrasive,” “intense,” “strident,” “a crank” and “arrogant,” with four separate respondents calling him “creepy.”

According to Jezebel, those earlier assessments still hold.

Speaking with Sarah Hougen Poggi ’92 —  who commented on a New York Times op-ed detailing how she stopped attending outside meetings attended by Cruz because “I simply could not deal with his rudeness” — Poggi elaborated.

“He didn’t become more civil or well-mannered” over the next four years, she stated in an email. “When anyone in my class and I talk about him there is no one who breaks in and says ‘Come on guys, he wasn’t so bad.’”

Poggi added, “Everyone in my class that I’ve talked to is horrified that he’s a candidate.”

“There are not that many people in my life who I can think of who I didn’t actually have extensive interactions with who bring up such bad feelings,” explained Mikaela Beardsley, who claims she knew Cruz during their freshman year at Princeton.

Beardsley says that she and Cruz — who are miles apart politically –would get into political arguments occasionally.

“I’m a classic blue state anti-death penalty pro-choice liberal—I represent everything wrong with America, as far as Ted Cruz is concerned,” she said during a phone interview. “We would just yell at each other. And when he became Senator, I was like, ‘Oh my God, he called my mother a whore!’”

“I remember telling him [that] my mother had two children, they really couldn’t afford to have another child, they really would have struggled. And it was a very difficult, painful decision for my mother.” she explained, adding, “he became vicious and made it personal,” before telling her “my mother was going to hell and was a whore.”

Beardsley called Cruz “awful,” stating that he made her cry — backed up by friends of hers who remembered the tearful argument.

While one fellow classmate, who asked that her name not be used, stated “I tried not to know him,” another said she was surprised he had risen so far.

“I was stunned that he would be the one that ended up [running for] president out of our class,” she said, “because he’s about as telegenic as an undertaker.”


Texas governor says he supports Christian crosses on police cars

05 Feb 2016 at 15:11 ET                   

The governor of Texas supports police putting cross images on their patrol cars, saying they are part of U.S. historical practices, and symbols of service, his office said on Friday.

Governor Gregg Abbott, a Republican, offered his support for the crosses in a brief filed to the state’s attorney general. He was responding to a sheriff’s office in Brewster County that received a complaint about images of a Christian cross with a horizontal thin blue line displayed on its patrol vehicles.

“In addition to its religious significance, the cross has a long history in America and elsewhere as a symbol of service and sacrifice,” Abbott wrote, adding in his opinion, the display does not violate U.S. constitutional provisions preventing the establishment of religion.

The governor’s office did not respond to a request if Abbott also supported the display of other religious symbols on patrol cars.

Abbott said the cross has been used at revered places including the Arlington National Cemetery to honor the sacrifice of members of the U.S. Armed Forces and on military medals.

“The symbol of the cross appropriately conveys the solemn respect all Texans should have for the courage and sacrifice of our peace officers,” Abbott wrote.

At the end of last year, the Brewster County Sheriff asked state officials if his deputies in the sprawling and sparsely populated west Texas county could keep the cross decals displayed on the rear windows of their patrol vehicles.

The request followed a complaint by the Freedom From Religion Foundation which called on the sheriff to remove the crosses, arguing no government official has the right to promote his or her religious belief on government property.

“Whether it is a cross, a star and crescent, or a pentagram, law enforcement must remain neutral on matters of religion in order to foster public confidence in their impartiality,” the nationwide group that promotes the separation of church and state, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Andrew Hay)


Judge orders two North Carolina congressional districts redrawn due to racial gerrymandering

06 Feb 2016 at 00:37 ET                   

Two of North Carolina’s congressional districts were racially gerrymandered in a 2011 redistricting and must be redrawn within two weeks, a U.S. appeals court panel ruled on Friday.

The order written by Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Roger Gregory bars elections in the majority black districts, the 1st and the 12th, until the new maps are approved. North Carolina congressional primaries are scheduled for March 15

“This Court finds that Congressional Districts 1 and 12 as drawn in the 2011 Congressional Redistricting Plan are unconstitutional,” Gregory wrote.

The ruling said race had been the main factor when the Republican-controlled legislature redrew the boundaries and state lawmakers were not justified in using that benchmark.

Three voters filed suit in 2013 to invalidate the districts. Both are represented by Democrats, with G.K. Butterfield in the 1st, and Alma Adams in the 12th.

State Senator Bob Rucho and House member David Lewis, who guided the redistricting plan through the legislature, were quoted on the Raleigh News and Observer website as saying they would appeal the ruling by the three-judge panel.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)


Democratic Senators Add Amendment To Energy Bill Shaming ‘Merchants Of Doubt’

By John Lundin on Thu, Feb 4th, 2016

Democratic Senators Add Amendment To Energy Bill Shaming ‘Merchants Of Doubt’

Democratic U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Ed Markey (MA) and Brian Schatz (HI) introduced an amendment into the energy bill yesterday intended to express Congress’s disapproval of the use of industry-funded think tanks and misinformation tactics aimed at sowing doubt about climate change science.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) joined the amendment as a co-sponsor once it was introduced.

The amendment evokes the history of notorious anti-science efforts by the tobacco and lead industries to avoid accountability for the damage caused by their products, focusing similar ire on the fossil fuel industry’s decades-long climate cover-up.

Although it doesn’t name specific companies, the amendment is surely inspired by recent revelations about ExxonMobil’s early and advanced knowledge of the role of fossil fuels in driving climate change — which was followed by the company’s subsequent, unconscionable climate science denial efforts.

Just as tobacco and lead companies sowed doubt about the dangers of their products through the use of front groups and third-party experts, so did ExxonMobil — through its funding of a sophisticated network of denialists — work to deceive the public about climate science and the need for political action to end the fossil fuel era.

The most recent and damning #ExxonKnew revelations were published late in 2015 in investigative articles by both InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times in collaboration with the Columbia School of Journalism.

“It is the sense of the Senate that according to peer-reviewed scientific research and investigative reporting, fossil fuel companies have long known about the harmful climate effects of their products,” the amendment reads.

“And contrary to the scientific findings of the fossil fuel companies and of others about the danger fossil fuels pose to the climate, fossil fuel companies used a sophisticated and deceitful campaign that included funding think tanks to deny, counter, and obstruct peer-reviewed research; and used that misinformation campaign to mislead the public and cast doubt in order to protect their financial interest.”

In closing, the amendment lends support to the ongoing state Attorneys General investigations in both New York and California into what ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel interests knew, and when, about climate change risks and why the industry chose instead to attack the science to prolong its profits.

The amendment states the Senate “disapproves of activities by certain corporations and organizations funded by those corporations to deliberately undermine peer-reviewed scientific research about the dangers of their products and cast doubt on science in order to protect their financial interests…and urges fossil fuel companies to cooperate with active or future investigations into their climate-change related activities and what the companies knew and when they knew it.”

The Senate will continue deliberations on the full energy bill this week. Unfortunately, it is rife with fossil fuel industry giveaways, including expedited permitting for liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, subsidies for coal technology and more.

So it’s nice to see an amendment designed to shame, and hopefully stop, industry misinformation campaigns that have delayed much-needed action to usher the end of the fossil fuel era.

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