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Sep 20, 2018, 10:34 PM
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 on: Sep 15, 2018, 05:26 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Spain's degree scandal shines light on its 'titulitis' epidemic

The prime minister is the latest politician to have his educational history scrutinised

Sam Jones in Madrid
15 Sep 2018 16.24 BST

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has published his doctoral thesis online in an effort to put an end to allegations of plagiarism and distance himself from the degree scandal that has dogged some of the country’s most high-profile politicians.

Sánchez, whose socialist party came to power in June after ousting the corruption-mired conservative government of Mariano Rajoy, has become the most senior political figure to find their educational history under intense scrutiny.

On Tuesday night, the health minister, Carmen Montón, resigned following a series of reports detailing irregularities in her master’s degree, which was awarded by the public King Juan Carlos University (URJC) in Madrid seven years ago.

Pablo Casado, who succeeded Rajoy as leader of the People’s party (PP), is also facing questions over this post-graduate qualifications.

The prime minister’s thesis – submitted in 2012 and entitled Innovations in Spanish economic diplomacy: public sector analysis (2000-2012) – is the latest work to be pored over by opposition parties and the Spanish media.

In several articles this week, the conservative daily ABC accused Sánchez of plagiarising official reports, other authors, and his own co-written works.

Albert Rivera, leader of the centre-right Citizens party, urged the prime minister to make his thesis public, saying there were “reasonable doubts” over the work.

Sánchez reacted angrily to the accusations on Thursday, dismissing them as “completely false” and threatening legal action “to defend my honour and dignity” if the articles were not corrected.

He also announced that his thesis, written while he taught economics at the private Camilo José Cela University, would be available online on Friday for all to see.

“No matter how much they try to smear me, I am proud of my university thesis,” he wrote on Facebook. “They will not tarnish something that cost me so much work.”

Before the thesis was posted electronically, the Spanish government issued a statement saying the text had been run through two plagiarism detection programmes – Turnitin and PlagScan – and had “comfortably passed” both.

Sánchez’s PSOE party may have been the focus of the latest round of the so-called “mastergate” scandal, but the issue could yet inflict further damage on the PP.

Earlier this year, it emerged the postgraduate degree Casado claims to hold from Harvard had in fact been earned by attending a four-day course in Madrid.

The conservative leader has also admitted he was awarded a master’s degree in public regional law by the URJC – the same university that awarded Montón her degree – despite not being required to attend classes or take exams.

Spain’s supreme court is currently looking into Casado’s master’s degree and is due to determine whether the investigation should continue. The PP has stressed that the allegations that Casado faces are very different from those that brought down the health minister, pointing out that its leader has not been accused of falsification or plagiarism.

But the PSOE has tried to focus the spotlight on Casado, calling for his resignation and claiming “he’d have been charged by now” if he did not enjoy the judicial privileges of being an MP.

Nor is Casado the only senior PP member whose master’s from the URJC has been questioned.

Cristina Cifuentes, the PP head of Madrid’s regional government, had faced growing pressure to quit over allegations of irregularities in her master’s before she stepped down in April after video footage emerged of her apparently being caught stealing two tubs of face cream seven years ago.

Observers say the “mastergate” affair also speaks volumes about the ubiquity of titulitis – the drive to accumulate qualifications – in Spanish politics.

“There seems to be a need for certain politicians to prove that they have the merits to be in politics,” said Antonio Barroso, an analyst at the political risk advisory firm Teneo Intelligence.

“But you don’t need to be qualified to be a good politician; for example you don’t need to be a political scientist to be a politician.”

Pablo Simón, a political scientist at Carlos III University in Madrid, said the spread of titulitis was down to both economics and politics.

“Universities have been hit by a continuous series of cuts and funding reductions, and many departments depend on master’s courses to bring in additional resources,” he said. “The income of lots of university teachers depends on the success of these courses and that can end up in blatant cases of cronyism or bringing standards right down.”

In the political sphere, said Simón, people tended to try use qualifications to justify their appointments to certain jobs.

“People get put in their roles because of their proximity to the leader, which makes them seek out additional legitimacy through qualifications.”

However, Barroso said the current series of scandals could serve to bring greater transparency to what had previously been an opaque area.

“We know that some years ago, after the [economic] crisis, some politicians were changing their CVs. It was mentioned but nobody cared. Now, the level of scrutiny by the media is so high that the threshold has gone up. And I think that’s extremely healthy for democracy. Holding politicians accountable isn’t only about their actions, but also about what they claim to be.”

 on: Sep 15, 2018, 05:17 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Steve Perry Walked Away From Journey. A Promise Finally Ended His Silence

By Alex Pappademas
NY Times
Sept. 15, 2018

MALIBU, Calif. — On the back patio of a Greek restaurant, a white-haired man making his way to the exit paused for a second look at one of his fellow diners, a man with a prominent nose who wore his dark hair in a modest pompadour.

“You look a lot like Steve Perry,” the white-haired man said.

“I used to be Steve Perry,” Steve Perry said.

This is how it goes when you are Steve Perry. Everyone is excited to see you, and no one can quite believe it. Everyone wants to know where you’ve been.

In 1977, an ambitious but middlingly successful San Francisco jazz-rock band called Journey went looking for a new lead singer and found Mr. Perry, then a 28-year-old veteran of many unsigned bands. Mr. Perry and the band’s lead guitarist and co-founder, Neal Schon, began writing concise, uplifting hard rock songs that showcased Mr. Perry’s clean, powerful alto, as operatic an instrument as pop has ever seen. This new incarnation of Journey produced a string of hit singles, released eight multiplatinum albums and toured relentlessly — so relentlessly that in 1987, a road-worn Mr. Perry took a hiatus, effectively dissolving the band he’d helped make famous.

He did not disappear completely — there was a solo album in 1994, followed in 1996 by a Journey reunion album, “Trial by Fire.” But it wasn’t long before Mr. Perry walked away again, from Journey and from the spotlight. With his forthcoming album, “Traces,” due in early October, he’s breaking 20 years of radio silence.

Over the course of a long midafternoon lunch — well-done souvlaki, hold all the starches — Mr. Perry, now 69, explained why he left, and why he’s returned. He spoke of loving, and losing and opening himself to being loved again, including by people he’s never met, who know him only as a voice from the Top 40 past.

And when he detailed the personal tragedy that moved him to make music again, he talked about it in language as earnest and emotional as any Journey song:

“I thought I had a pretty good heart,” he said, “but a heart isn’t really complete until it’s completely broken.”

IN ITS ’80S heyday, Journey was a commercial powerhouse and a critical piñata. With Mr. Perry up front, slinging high notes like Frisbees into the stratosphere, Journey quickly became not just big but huge. When few public figures aside from Pac-Man and Donkey Kong had their own video game, Journey had two. The offices of the group’s management company received 600 pieces of Journey fan mail per day.

The group toured hard for nine years. Gradually, that punishing schedule began to take a toll on Journey’s lead singer.

“I never had any nodules or anything, and I never had polyps,” Mr. Perry said, referring to the state of his vocal cords. He looked around for some wood to knock, then settled for his own skull. The pain, he said, was more spiritual than physical.

As a vocalist, Mr. Perry explained, “your instrument is you. It’s not just your throat, it’s you. If you’re burnt out, if you’re depressed, if you’re feeling weary and lost and paranoid, you’re a mess.”

“Frankly,” Mr. Schon said in a phone interview, “I don’t know how he lasted as long as he did without feeling burned out. He was so good, doing things that nobody else could do.”

On Feb. 1, 1987, Mr. Perry performed one last show with Journey, in Anchorage. Then he went home.

Mr. Perry was born in Hanford, Calif., in the San Joaquin Valley, about 45 minutes south of Fresno. His parents, who were both Portuguese immigrants, divorced when he was 8, and Mr. Perry and his mother moved in next door to her parents’. “I became invisible, emotionally,” Mr. Perry said. “And there were places I used to hide, to feel comfortable, to protect myself.”

Sometimes he’d crawl into a corner of his grandparents’ garage with a blanket and a flashlight. But he also found refuge in music. “I could get lost in these 45s that I had,” Mr. Perry said. “It turned on a passion for music in me that saved my life.”

As a teen, Mr. Perry moved to Lemoore, Calif., where he enjoyed an archetypally idyllic West Coast adolescence: “A lot of my writing, to this day, is based on my emotional attachment to Lemoore High School.”

There he discovered the Beatles and the Beach Boys, went on parked-car dates by the San Joaquin Valley’s many irrigation canals, and experienced a feeling of “freedom and teenage emotion and contact with the world” that he’s never forgotten. Even a song like “No Erasin’,” the buoyant lead single from his new LP has that down-by-the-old-canal spirit, Mr. Perry said.

Steve Perry - "No Erasin'"CreditCreditVideo by StevePerryVEVO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oawl9e-tFVM

And after he left Journey, it was Lemoore that Mr. Perry returned to, hoping to rediscover the person he’d been before subsuming his identity within an internationally famous rock band. In the beginning, he couldn’t even bear to listen to music on the radio: “A little PTSD, I think.”

Eventually, in 1994, he made that solo album, “For the Love of Strange Medicine,” and sported a windblown near-mullet and a dazed expression on the cover. The reviews were respectful, and the album wasn’t a flop. With alternative rock at its cultural peak, Mr. Perry was a man without a context — which suited him just fine.

“I was glad,” he said, “that I was just allowed to step back and go, O.K. — this is a good time to go ride my Harley.”

JOURNEY STAYED REUNITED after Mr. Perry left for the second time in 1997. Since December 2007, its frontman has been Arnel Pineda, a former cover-band vocalist from Manila, Philippines, who Mr. Schon discovered via YouTube. When Journey was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last April, Mr. Pineda sang the 1981 anthem “Don’t Stop Believin’,” not Mr. Perry. “I’m not in the band,” he said flatly, adding, “It’s Arnel’s gig — singers have to stick together.”

Around the time Mr. Pineda joined the band, something strange had happened — after being radioactively unhip for decades, Journey had crept back into the zeitgeist. David Chase used “Don’t Stop Believin’” to nerve-racking effect in the last scene of the 2007 series finale of “The Sopranos”; when Mr. Perry refused to sign off on the show’s use of the song until he was told how it would be used, he briefly became one of the few people in America who knew in advance how the show ended.

“Don’t Stop Believin’” became a kind of pop standard, covered by everyone from the cast of “Glee” to the avant-shred guitarist Marnie Stern. Decades after they’d gone their separate ways, Journey and Mr. Perry found themselves discovering fans they never knew they had.

Mark Oliver Everett, the Los Angeles singer-songwriter who performs with his band Eels under the stage name E, was not one of them, at first.

“When I was young, living in Virginia,” Mr. Everett said, “Journey was always on the radio, and I wasn’t into it.”

So although Mr. Perry became a regular at Eels shows beginning around 2003, it took Mr. Everett five years to invite him backstage. He’d become acquainted with Patty Jenkins, the film director, who’d befriended Mr. Perry after contacting him for permission to use “Don’t Stop Believin’” in her 2003 film “Monster.” (“When he literally showed up on the mixing stage the next day and pulled up a chair next to me, saying, ‘Hey I really love your movie. How can I help you?’ it was the beginning of one of the greatest friendships of my life,” Ms. Jenkins wrote in an email.) Over lunch, Ms. Jenkins lobbied Mr. Everett to meet Mr. Perry.

They hit it off immediately. “At that time,” Mr. Everett said, “we had a very serious Eels croquet game in my backyard every Sunday.” He invited Mr. Perry to attend that week. Before long, Mr. Perry began showing up — uninvited and unannounced, but not unwelcome — at Eels rehearsals.

“They’d always bust my chops,” Mr. Perry said. “Like, ‘Well? Is this the year you come on and sing a couple songs with us?’”

At one point, the Eels guitarist Jeff Lyster managed to bait Mr. Perry into singing Journey’s “Lights” at one of these rehearsals, which Mr. Everett remembers as “this great moment — a guy who’s become like Howard Hughes, and just walked away from it all 25 years ago, and he’s finally doing it again.”

Eventually Mr. Perry decided to sing a few numbers at an Eels show, which would be his first public performance in decades. He made this decision known to the band, Mr. Everett said, not via phone or email but by showing up to tour rehearsals one day carrying his own microphone. “He moves in mysterious ways,” Mr. Everett observed.

For mysterious Steve Perry reasons, Mr. Perry chose to make his long-awaited return to the stage at a 2014 Eels show at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minn. During a surprise encore, he sang three songs, including one of his favorite Eels tunes, whose profane title is rendered on an edited album as “It’s a Monstertrucker.”

“I walked out with no anticipation and they knew me and they responded, and it was really a thrill,” Mr. Perry said. “I missed it so much. I couldn’t believe it’d been so long.”

“It’s a Monstertrucker” is a spare song about struggling to get through a lonely Sunday in someone’s absence. For Mr. Perry, it was not an out-of-nowhere choice.

In 2011, Ms. Jenkins directed one segment of “Five,” a Lifetime anthology film about women and breast cancer. Mr. Perry visited her one day in the cutting room while she was at work on a scene featuring real cancer patients as extras. A woman named Kellie Nash caught Mr. Perry’s eye. Instantly smitten, he asked Ms. Jenkins if she would introduce them by email.

“And she says ‘O.K., I’ll send the email,’ ” Mr. Perry said, “but there’s one thing I should tell you first. She was in remission, but it came back, and it’s in her bones and her lungs. She’s fighting for her life.”

“My head said, ‘I don’t know,’ ” Mr. Perry remembered, “but my heart said, ‘Send the email.’”

“That was extremely unlike Steve, as he is just not that guy,” Ms. Jenkins said. “I have never seen him hit on, or even show interest in anyone before. He was always so conservative about opening up to anyone.”

A few weeks later, Ms. Nash and Mr. Perry connected by phone and ended up talking for nearly five hours. Their friendship soon blossomed into romance. Mr. Perry described Ms. Nash as the greatest thing that ever happened to him.

“I was loved by a lot of people, but I didn’t really feel it as much as I did when Kellie said it,” he said. “Because she’s got better things to do than waste her time with those words.”

They were together for a year and a half. They made each other laugh and talked each other to sleep at night.

In the fall of 2012, Ms. Nash began experiencing headaches. An MRI revealed that the cancer had spread to her brain. One night not long afterward, Ms. Nash asked Mr. Perry to make her a promise.

“She said, ‘If something were to happen to me, promise me you won’t go back into isolation,’ ” Mr. Perry said, “because that would make this all for naught.”

At this point in the story, Mr. Perry asked for a moment and began to cry.

Ms. Nash died on Dec. 14, 2012, at 40. Two years later, Mr. Perry showed up to Eels rehearsal with his own microphone, ready to make good on a promise.

TIME HAS ADDED a husky edge to Mr. Perry’s angelic voice; on “Traces,” he hits some trembling high notes that bring to mind the otherworldly jazz countertenor “Little” Jimmy Scott. The tone suits the songs, which occasionally rock, but mostly feel close to their origins as solo demos Mr. Perry cut with only loops and click tracks backing him up.

The idea that the album might kick-start a comeback for Mr. Perry is one that its maker inevitably has to hem and haw about.

“I don’t even know if ‘coming back’ is a good word,” he said. “I’m in touch with the honest emotion, the love of the music I’ve just made. And all the neurosis that used to come with it, too. All the fears and joys. I had to put my arms around all of it. And walking back into it has been an experience, of all of the above.”

 on: Sep 15, 2018, 05:10 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
SpaceX will send its first passenger around the moon aboard a Big Freaking Rocket


SpaceX is set to send a private passenger on a flight around the moon. This journey will be made aboard the company’s upcoming Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), which is designed to take up to 100 people as far away as Mars.

Initially, the company announced it would send two passengers around the moon on a Falcon Heavy and that the flight ought to happen at the end of 2018. It’s not clear at this point whether the passenger is one of these two persons or someone new altogether, but one of Elon Musk’s tweets suggests the individual may be Japanese. The identity of the passenger will be live-streamed on Monday, September 17 at 9 PM ET, along with further details.

    SpaceX has signed the world’s first private passenger to fly around the Moon aboard our BFR launch vehicle—an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space. Find out who’s flying and why on Monday, September 17. pic.twitter.com/64z4rygYhk

    — SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 14, 2018

The rocket (BFR) and spacecraft (Big Falcon Spaceship — BFS) that will carry this lucky passenger around the moon was first presented by Musk last year at the International Astronautical Congress. Both the BFR and BFS are designed to be reusable and to land automatically, like the famous Falcon 9 has demonstrated numerous times in the past.

According to Musk’s initial plan, the 348-foot-tall (106-meter) BFR system is powered by 42 Raptor engines. It should be capable of carrying up to 100 people in a pressurized passenger space that’s larger than that of an Airbus A380 airplane. BFR consists of a 190-foot (58-meter) tall booster for its first stage, and a 157-foot (48-meter) tall spaceship that also doubles as a second stage.

Besides people, the launch system will be capable of ferrying cargo across the globe or to and from the International Space Station. A BFR flight could take a person from Los Angeles to New York in 25 minutes. Being capable of launching satellites, BFR will also become an important contributor to the company’s bottom line. Eventually, the BFR will make all other SpaceX vehicles obsolete.

Ultimately, Musk said that he would like to retire all of the company’s current rockets and spacecraft — Falcon 9, the Falcon Heavy, and the Dragon spacecraft — to make way for a fleet comprised solely of BFRs.

So, when will this amazing spaceflight take place? It’s anybody’s guess, really, considering SpaceX’s track record of shifting timetables. First and foremost, the BFR would have to be ready and it’s not at all clear when this will be the case. Remember that the Falcon Heavy was first unveiled in 2011 but wasn’t ready to launch before 2018. December 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the last human mission to the Moon, Apollo 17. Perhaps this could be an interesting (and realistic) target for SpaceX’s lunar passenger spaceflight.

 on: Sep 15, 2018, 05:06 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
The week in wildlife – in pictures

A cuddly lion and a rescued baby gibbon are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

Compiled by Eric Hilaire
15 Sep 2018 14.00 BST

Click to see all: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2018/sep/14/the-week-in-wildlife-in-pictures

 on: Sep 15, 2018, 05:03 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Trump condemned over plans to allow drilling near national parks

President’s ‘energy first’ agenda means vast tracts of public land up for sale – without proper consultation, critics say

Cassidy Randall
15 Sep 2018 11.00 BST

Democrats and conservatives alike are decrying moves by the Trump administration to permit oil and gas drilling near national parks and in wildlife migration corridors, and charge that the public is not being adequately consulted.

Officials from the US interior department are pursuing an “energy first” agenda, and some 2.9m acres are up for lease auction, including many parcels close to recreation areas such as Petrified Forest national park in Arizona, Chaco Culture national historical park in New Mexico, and Dinosaur national monument in Colorado.

An auction this week in Utah sold leases within 10 miles of Canyonlands national park, in addition to tracts near Glen Canyon national recreation area. Utah, which has been a hotbed of public lands debate since Trump shrank the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments, holds quarterly lease auctions. This quarter alone saw 200,000 acres up for auction, and stakeholders expect next quarter’s auction to be on a much greater scale.

Ashley Soltysiak, director of the Utah Sierra Club, said rule changes under the interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, mean that auctions “can now be done with little regard for public input, despite the fact that public land is being leased. The new oil and gas lease process dramatically reduces opportunities for public comment and shrinks the period for public protest to less than two weeks.”

These concerns are echoed in Colorado, where Senator Michael Bennet and Governor John Hickenlooper, both Democrats, sent letters to state leasing officials advocating for fair processes that involve citizens in the future of their public lands, before pending December oil and gas lease sales.

“Our chief concern is the lack of public participation in the new leasing process,” Governor Hickenlooper noted in his letter. “We continue to ask for the deferral of those parcels in sensitive areas, particularly those protecting wildlife corridors, where the public has been heavily engaged in pending land use plans, and where there is significant local opposition to the leases being offered in the first place.”

Bureau of Land Management officials emphasize that they welcome public participation. “Lands offered for leasing undergo thorough environmental review with opportunities for public input at several stages,” said Ryan Sutherland, public affairs specialist for BLM Utah. He also noted that leases include stipulations for environmental protections.

Even in non-protected areas, conservationists point to concerns about wildlife impacts by fragmenting the landscape with fracking and drilling – as in Wyoming, where 1.5m acres are offered for lease through 2018, including large swaths near the famous Wind river mountain range and in the Green river upper basin.

According to a new analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity, 1.2m of those acres fall on winter habitat and migration corridors for mule deer and pronghorn. This is in apparent conflict with Zinke’s pledge in a February secretarial order to “improve habitat quality and western big game winter range and migration corridors for antelope, elk, and mule deer”.

Not all lands up for lease sale are actually sold. In Utah, only 133,921 acres sold this week out of 204,205 up for lease, and 345,085 out of 364,387 in Wyoming. And a mere 791,000 acres sold out of 11.9m up for lease sale in 2017.

The group Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship has also criticized the Trump-era leases. It “makes no sense to lock up these important public resources, which rightfully belong to all of us, for an oil and gas industry that has shown no interest in them,” said its president, David Jenkins.

Under the Obama administration in 2016, for comparison, 921,240 acres were leased out of 1.9m acres offered.

 on: Sep 15, 2018, 05:00 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Could a grid of giant filters help clean up Delhi's polluted air?

Thinking big in the fight against smog, architects have designed 100m-high pollution-absorbing towers for India’s capital city

Saptarshi Ray in Delhi
15 Sep 2018 05.00 BST

The Indian capital regularly tops lists of the most polluted cities on earth and its residents even refer to the months when a confluence of events – crop burning, no rain, fireworks – leads to low visibility and breathability as “smog season”.

But a new concept by the Dubai-based architecture firm Znera imagines a solution embedded into the Delhi skyline: a network of giant towers that would absorb pollution and recycle it back into breathable air.

    We drew up this dystopia to shock people into realising that if something isn’t done we are approaching an irreversible disaster
    Najmus Chowdhry

The Smog Project has been shortlisted for the Experimental Future Project of the Year award 2018 at the World Architecture Festival. It is based on a far-reaching grid of 100-metre-high buildings that function as filters, each potentially producing a 1.2-square-mile area of cleaned air.

Filtration mechanisms in the bottom of each structure would catch pollutants at the level where people breathe, and giant fans at the apex would pump out the purified air. Znera says up to 3.2m cubic metres of clean air could be produced each day.

But how does something so conceptual help in the fight against smog? “It’s the first step in the right direction, and that first step has to be a bold one,” says Najmus Chowdhry, principal architect at Znera.

“We drew up this dystopia to shock people into realising that if something isn’t done we are approaching an irreversible disaster.

“The situation in Delhi is grave, and since I am from India, from Punjab, and spend a lot of time there, I feel there isn’t enough being done to even think about how to tackle this critical situation. These schemes about vehicles with odd and even number plates don’t go far enough.”

Chowdhry is alluding to plans such as alternating vehicles, banning older cars and crackdowns on two- and three-wheelers, such as auto-rickshaws – schemes that are rarely enforced. Other ideas have included rain cannons and water-spraying helicopters – which could not take off, due to smog. Chowdhry says the mindset needs to change.

“It’s easy to think we are just publishing pretty pictures or designs, but we have had the technical details worked out, at least the mechanics of whether it is possible. I know people will say the concept is against gravity or simply about aesthetics, but they are posing the wrong questions.

“The real question is: what has been done so far to tackle smog? We’re perfectly happy to be criticised – we should be criticised, because then it means people are thinking what doesn’t work in our designs, and hopefully thinking about what can work.”

Another smog-busting project may also offer some hope. Roosegaarde Studios’ Smog Free Towers have been installed in Rotterdam and Krakow – although they are a mere seven metres tall.

The Dutch head of the design studio, Daan Roosegarde, says: “The existing towers are working well and have had a good reaction. Every time I start a new project, some say it can’t be done, but sometimes we need to upgrade reality. And that’s what we need to do in Delhi.”

 on: Sep 15, 2018, 04:58 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
New map of Antarctica is the most detailed out of all continents


Antarctica is now officially the most well mapped out region, or continent for that matter, in the world. Drawing upon hundreds of thousands of images collected by polar-orbiting satellites between 2009 and 2019, a consortium of scientists has released the first version of the Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica (REMA).

Few people have set foot on Antarctica, one of the most inhospitable places on the face of the Earth. Luckily, our eyes in the sky have recorded the surface of the continent in excruciating detail so we might see what it looks like without having to put boots on the ground.

The new map covers approximately 98% of Antarctica to a latitude of 88 degrees south — just a small area right near the South Pole is missing due to a lack of satellite coverage. The resolution is a mind-boggling 2-8 meter — it means we can now see objects down to the size of a car, and even smaller in some areas.

In order to assemble the map from thousands of stereoscopic pairs of images into a huge topographic map, the scientists fed the data into a supercomputer and had to develop the software from scratch. The map’s total size is a staggering 150 terabytes.

    “Up until now, we’ve had a better map of Mars than we’ve had of Antarctica,” Ohio State University glaciologist Ian Howat, who led the mapping effort, said in a press release. “Now it is the best-mapped continent.”

The project is important for a number of reasons. Now that they know the height of absolutely every feature on Antarctica, scientists can make far better forecasts for ice sheet collapse and glacier melt. With a narrower range of uncertainty, we can now come up with better estimates for sea level rise and improve climate change projections.

    “If you’re someone that needs glasses to see, it’s a bit like being almost blind and putting on glasses for the first time and seeing 20/20,” Howat told The New York Times.

Researchers will continuously update the map with new data, which will help researchers all over the world with investigations from changing snow cover to the thinning of glaciers to changes in volcanic activity. And, not the least, scientists can now plan field expeditions to unexplored regions of the continent.

 on: Sep 15, 2018, 04:56 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
New research shows why some people get the common cold more easily


New research shows how different human cells respond to rhinovirus, the vector of the common cold. The results could help explain why some people are more susceptible to the disease than others.
Common cold.

Common colds, asthma attacks, and a host of other diseases associated with the respiratory tract share a common cause — rhinoviruses. However, not all people are made the same: some are more resistant to the pathogen, while others collapse into bed at the merest whiff of it.

In a bid to understand why, one team from the Yale University studied how key human cells respond to the pathogen.

Where’s the chicken soup?

To get to the bottom of things, the team worked with epithelial cells harvested from the nasal passages or lungs of healthy human donors. The team exposed both types of epithelial cells — kept in cultures under the same environmental conditions — to the virus.

Epithelial cells are a specialized type of cell that creates membranes and linings throughout the body. They’re usually the first bits to come into contact with pathogens, and, as such, possess traits that help them fight off bacteria and viruses. Rhinoviruses also have to contend with these cells when trying to infiltrate the body. Upon exposure to the bugs, epithelial cells lining our airways react to the threat, usually clearing it out of our systems before it gets a foothold and triggers symptoms. In some cases, however, this mechanism doesn’t seem to work: exposed to rhinoviruses, they fall mildly, or even seriously, ill.

The team reports that under business-as-usual scenarios, nasal cells have the more robust antiviral reaction among the two samples of cells. Further lab tests involved activation of the RIG-I pathway — a pattern-recognition network that the body uses to identify pathogens — in both types of sample cells so the team could see how each operated under emergency scenarios.

Upon activation of the RIG-I network, both cell types produced antiviral responses and beefed up their defenses against oxidative stress. Viral activity usually puts oxidative stress, a kind of chemical damage, on the cells they attack — so such a reaction should help them weather the invasion. Nasal cells showed the strongest antiviral response, while bronchial (deeper respiratory system) cells exhibited the strongest oxidative resistance of the lot.

Excellence comes at a cost, however: the team also found that cells can act against oxidative stress or viruses, but not both at the same time. This was particularly interesting as inhaled irritants — for example cigarette smoke or tree pollen — also generate oxidative stress on cells, the team explains.

Nasal cells exposed first to cigarette smoke and then to rhinoviruses were more vulnerable to the virus’ effects, the team reports.

    “Your airway lining protects against viruses but also other harmful substances that enter airways. The airway does pretty well if it encounters one stressor at a time. But when there are two different stressors, there’s a tradeoff,” says lead researcher Ellen Foxman.

    “What we found is that when your airway is trying to deal with another stress type, it can adapt but the cost is susceptibility to rhinovirus infection. [The cells] survive the cigarette smoke but can’t fight the virus as well. And the virus grows better.”

Foxman says their study underscores a mechanistic link between environmental exposure and our body’s ability to resist the common cold. The findings also help explain why smokers tend to be more susceptible to rhinovirus infections.

The team hopes their efforts will lead to the discovery of new strategies to combat respiratory viruses, which cause an estimated 500 million colds and 2 million hospitalizations in the United States per year.

The paper has been published in the journal Cell Reports.

 on: Sep 14, 2018, 03:25 PM 
Started by Linda - Last post by Linda
Upcoming EA zoom meetings . . .

Thursday, September 20, 2018 @ 1:00 PM Pacific
It is not just about YOU and ME but also about US! That is the alchemy of relationships . . . composite charts are so very fascinating to see what two people create, and what is created from the two charts of the people! I use a classic example of fusion and collusion and splitting . . . Using the horoscopes of Sigmund Freud and Carl G Jung and their COMPOSITE . . . I was amazed, but then, I was not amazed . . . Do come - it is free and doing the EA Zoom talks is my contribution to astrology pro bono.
Tags:  Relationship Astrology
More info:  www.erinsullivan.com

Thursday, September 20, 2018 @ 3:30 PM Pacific
Tashi Powers (Enlightening Times) – VENUS PENTAGRAM 2018
– GATES 6 & 7

With 8 volunteers
Tags:  Venus Pentagram;  Evolutionary Astrology (Jeffrey Wolf Green)
More info:  www.enlighteningtimes.com

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 on: Sep 14, 2018, 10:08 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Paul Manafort Agrees to Cooperate With Special Counsel, Pleads Guilty to Reduced Charges

By Sharon LaFraniere
NY Times
Sept. 14, 2018

WASHINGTON — Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, agreed on Friday to cooperate with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as part of a deal in which he pleaded guilty to reduced charges.

Appearing in United States District Court in Washingon, Mr. Manafort entered guilty pleas on two charges. Andrew Weissmann, the lead prosecutor, told Judge Amy Berman Jackson that there was a cooperation agreement with Mr. Manafort.

It was not immediately clear what information he might be providing to prosecutors or how the plea agreement might affect Mr. Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and related questions about possible collusion by the Trump campaign and obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump.

The president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, quickly sought to distance Mr. Trump from the development.

“Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign,” he said in a statement. “The reason: the president did nothing wrong and Paul Manafort will tell the truth.”

As part of the deal, the government will seize four of Mr. Manafort’s homes as well as the money in a number of bank accounts, the documents say.

In documents filed with the United States District Court in Washington, prosecutors from Mr. Mueller’s office charged Mr. Manafort with one count of conspiracy and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Mr. Manafort pleaded guilty to those charges.

The prosecutors dropped five other charges encompassing money laundering and violations of a lobbying disclosure law.

Mr. Manafort was convicted last month on bank and tax fraud charges after a trial in federal court in Alexandria, Va. He was scheduled to face a second trial on seven separate but related charges in Washington starting next week. The charges stem from work he did as a political consultant in Ukraine.

The plea deal is another unsettling development for Mr. Trump. For months, Mr. Trump has praised Mr. Manafort for fighting the charges. In private discussions with his lawyers, Mr. Trump has raised the possibility of pardoning Mr. Manafort.

It is not clear what information Mr. Manafort might have that would be valuable to Mr. Mueller’s investigation. Mr. Manafort served in several roles in the Trump campaign, and was present for the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between a number of campaign officials and a Russian lawyer who was thought to be offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

So far, four former Trump aides have pleaded guilty to charges related to the special counsel investigation: Michael D. Cohen, the president’s longtime personal lawyer; Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser; Rick Gates, the former deputy campaign chairman; and George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser.

The president railed against plea deals in general after Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty last month to breaking campaign finance laws and other charges, implicating Mr. Trump in the cover-up of a potential sex scandal during the 2016 presidential race. Mr. Trump said that trading information on someone else for lesser charges or a lighter sentence “almost ought to be outlawed.”

Mr. Manafort, who had repeatedly insisted that he would not cooperate with the special counsel, has been reassessing his legal risks after last month’s trial. He was found guilty in that case of eight counts of tax fraud, bank fraud and failure to report a foreign bank account, crimes that legal experts predicted were likely to result in a prison term of six to 12 years.

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