Paris Ban on Muslim Street Prayers Comes Into Effect

4:08:33 AM, Saturday, September 17, 2011

"A ban on saying prayers in the street, a practice by French Muslims unable to find space in mosques, has come into effect in the capital, Paris.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant has offered believers the use of a disused fire brigade barracks instead.

The phenomenon of street prayers, which see Muslims spreading mats on footpaths, became a political issue after far right protests.

France is home to the biggest Muslim minority in Western Europe.

By some estimates, as many as six million French people, or just under 10% of the population, are Muslims, with origins in France's former North African colonies.

Their integration has been a source of political debate in recent years, and earlier this year France became the first EU state to ban the wearing of the Islamic veil in public.

'Mosques co-operating'

The new ban came into force at midnight (22:00 GMT) on Thursday, in time for traditional Muslim Friday prayers.

Speaking earlier this week to Le Figaro, Mr Gueant said about 1,000 people were using two streets in the capital's multi-ethnic Goutte d'Or district for prayers.

He said an agreement had been reached with two local mosques for the state to rent out the disused barracks on Boulevard Ney with floorspace of 2,000 sq m (yds) for three years..."



Skull Points to a More Complex Human Evolution in Africa

4:01:06 AM, Saturday, September 17, 2011

"Scientists have collected more evidence to suggest that ancient and modern humans interbred in Africa.

Reanalysis of the 13,000-year-old skull from a cave in West Africa reveals a skull more primitive-looking than its age suggests.

The result suggests that the ancestors of early humans did not die out quickly in Africa, but instead lived alongside their descendents and bred with them until comparatively recently.

The results are published in PLoS ONE.

The skull, found in the Iwo Eleru cave in Nigeria in 1965, does not look like a modern human.

It is longer and flatter with a strong brow ridge; features closer to a much older skull from Tanzania, thought to be around 140,000 years old.

Prof Katerina Harvati from the University of Tuebingen in Germany used new digitising techniques to capture the surface of the skull in detail.

The new technique improved upon the original measurements done with callipers by letting researchers see subtler details about the skull's surface.

"[The skull] has got a much more primitive appearance, even though it is only 13,000 years old," said Chris Stringer, from London's Natural History Museum, who was part of the team of researchers.

"This suggests that human evolution in Africa was more complex... the transition to modern humans was not a straight transition and then a cut off."

Prof Stringer thinks that ancient humans did not die away once they had given rise to modern humans..."



New Dolphin Species Discovered in Big City Harbor

3:56:42 AM, Saturday, September 17, 2011

"An entirely new species of dolphin has been discovered in Australia, and not in some isolated lagoon but in the shadows of skyscrapers, scientists say.

One of only three new dolphin species found since the 1800s, the Burrunan dolphin—naed after an Aboriginal phrase that means "large sea fish of the porpoise kind"—is known from only two populations so far, both in the state of Victoria.

About a hundred Burrunan dolphins have been found in Port Phillip Bay near Melbourne, Australia's second most populous city. Another 50 are known to frequent the saltwater coastal lakes of the Gippsland region, a couple hundred miles or so away.

Dolphin DNA Surprise

It's longbeen known that distinct dolphin populations roam off southeastern Australia. But now DNA tests have shown that the creatures dolphins are genetically very different from the two recognized bottlenose dolphin species, the common bottlenose dolphin and the Indo-Pacific bottlenose.

The results were so surprising that the team initially thought there was a mistake and reran the tests, said study leader Kate Charlton-Robb, a marine biologist at Australia's Monash University.

"The main focus of the research was to figure out which of the two [known] bottlenose species these guys were," she said.

"But from the [DNA] sequences that we got, it turned out that they were very different from either of the two known species."

The team also examined dolphin skulls, collected and maintained by Australian museums over the last century, and determined that Burrunan dolphins have slight cranial differences that set the species apart..."



NASA Unveils New Rocket Design

10:54:53 PM, Friday, September 16, 2011

"NASA revealed on Wednesday a design for its next colossal rocket that is to serve as the backbone for exploration of the solar system for the coming decades.

The rocket would be the most powerful since the Saturn V that took Americans to the moon four decades ago. NASA expects that it could lift astronauts on deep-space missions farther than anyone has ever traveled.

“We’re investing in technologies to live and work in space, and it sets the stage for visiting asteroids and Mars,” the NASA administrator, Major General Charles F. Bolden Jr., said at a news conference.

In an effort to speed development and control costs, the design is based on pieces from the just-retired space shuttles. The first stage would essentially be an elongated shuttle fuel tank, and it would use the same rocket engines. For the initial test flights, solid rocket boosters — stretched versions of the shuttle boosters — would be strapped on to provide additional thrust.

The first unmanned test flight of the first iteration of the rocket, able to lift 70 metric tons to low-Earth orbit, could fly as early as 2017. Future versions are to be more powerful, capable of lifting up to 130 metric tons.

The cost of developing the rocket is estimated at $10 billion over the next five years. The crew capsule where the astronauts would ride would cost $6 billion and the launching pad and other ground facilities would add another $2 billion, for a total of $18 billion.

Congressional backers of NASA hailed the announcement as resolving a standoff between Congress and the White House over the future of the space agency.

“This is a day we’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” said Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. “We wish it had been sooner, of course.”

Last year, Congress passed a blueprint for the space agency calling for a rocket like the one announced Wednesday, and President Obama signed it into law. But NASA missed deadlines for announcing how it would implement the plan. In frustration, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, where Senator Hutchison serves as ranking member, even issued a subpoena to NASA demanding information.

NASA has yet to work out the details of how it could use the new rocket, and the launching schedule beyond the first test flight will depend highly on future budgets. Internal NASA documents suggest that if the space agency’s budget remains flat, providing about $41 billion between now and 2025, then the first manned flight would not occur until 2021, and the rocket would fly only once every two years, and NASA would not finish the 130 metric ton version until after 2030..."



Frankfurt: Lamborghini Sesto Elemento To Go Into Production

10:49:46 PM, Friday, September 16, 2011

"Lamborghini has made an official announcement at the Frankfurt Motor Show in regards to the Sesto Elemento concept which was unveiled at last year’s Paris Motor Show. President and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini, Stephan Winkelmann has confirmed that the concept will go into production. We are also expecting the production version to be identical to the Paris concept.

The production Sesto Elemento will be limited to a 20-unit production run and is planned for a launch in early 2013. This track-only 999 kg model will use a 570hp V10 powerhouse linked to an all wheel drive system. With those figures, the vehicle’s power-to-weight ratio is set at 1.75 kg per hp, allowing the monster to hit 100km/h in just 2.5 seconds from a standstill.

It uses a carbon fiber monocoque made of forged composite and there is also extensive use of carbon fiber throughout the vehicle. Stephan Winkelmann said, “The excellent feedback and the numerous requests we’ve had from our customers have really convinced us to embark on the challenge of producing a vehicle with unique characteristics”.

"We are proud that what a year ago was just a ‘technology demonstrator’ of future super sports cars, even though in working order, will become a small series reality,” he added..."



FBI Teaches Agents: ‘Mainstream’ Muslims Are ‘Violent, Radical’

10:45:21 PM, Friday, September 16, 2011

"The FBI is teaching its counterterrorism agents that “main stream” [sic] American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers; that the Prophet Mohammed was a “cult leader”; and that the Islamic practice of giving charity is no more than a “funding mechanism for combat.”

At the Bureau’s training ground in Quantico, Virginia, agents are shown a chart contending that the more “devout” a Muslim, the more likely he is to be “violent.” Those destructive tendencies cannot be reversed, an FBI instructional presentation adds: “Any war against non-believers is justified” under Muslim law; a “moderating process cannot happen if the Koran continues to be regarded as the unalterable word of Allah.”

These are excerpts from dozens of pages of recent FBI training material on Islam that Danger Room has acquired. In them, the Constitutionally protected religious faith of millions of Americans is portrayed as an indicator of terrorist activity.

“There may not be a ‘radical’ threat as much as it is simply a normal assertion of the orthodox ideology,” one FBI presentation notes. “The strategic themes animating these Islamic values are not fringe; they are main stream.”

The FBI isn’t just treading on thin legal ice by portraying ordinary, observant Americans as terrorists-in-waiting, former counterterrorism agents say. It’s also playing into al-Qaida’s hands.

Focusing on the religious behavior of American citizens instead of proven indicators of criminal activity like stockpiling guns or using shady financing makes it more likely that the FBI will miss the real warning signs of terrorism. And depicting Islam as inseparable from political violence is exactly the narrative al-Qaida spins — as is the related idea that America and Islam are necessarily in conflict. That’s why FBI whistleblowers provided Danger Room with these materials.

Over the past few years, American Muslim civil rights groups have raised alarm about increased FBI and police presence in Islamic community centers and mosques, fearing that their lawful behavior is being targeted under the broad brush of counterterrorism. The documents may help explain the heavy scrutiny.

They certainly aren’t the first time the FBI has portrayed Muslims in a negative light during Bureau training sessions. As Danger Room reported in July, the FBI’s Training Division has included anti-Islam books, and materials that claim Islam “transforms [a] country’s culture into 7th-century Arabian ways.” When Danger Room confronted the FBI with that material, an official statement issued to us claimed, “The presentation in question was a rudimentary version used for a limited time that has since been replaced.”

But these documents aren’t relics from an earlier era. One of these briefings, titled “Strategic Themes and Drivers in Islamic Law,” took place on March 21..."



911 by Bike - the Lost Tape (Never Seen Before 911 Footage)

4:05:18 PM, Friday, September 16, 2011

-- Saved the link a few days ago, but only got a chance to give a look now. It's worth sharing.



Twilight in Four Seconds

11:45:27 PM, Thursday, September 15, 2011


Last Ford Crown Victoria Rolls Off The Line

7:34:29 PM, Thursday, September 15, 2011

"NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The last Ford Crown Victoria rolled off a Canadian assembly line Thursday, marking the end of the big, heavy Ford cars that have been popular with taxi fleets and police departments for decades.

Since 1979, almost 10 million Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Cars -- so-called Panther Platform vehicles -- have been sold.

Demand for better fuel economy and performance have choked off sales over the years. The Crown Victoria and Town Car get just 24 miles per gallon on the highway, a figure matched by some large three-row SUVs today.

"Production levels at the [Ontario, Canada] plant have declined by 60 percent in the last decade as customer preferences shifted to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles," Ford said in its announcement.

With the last car rolling of the line Thursday, all production will stop.

Ford (F, Fortune 500) is offering $100,000 cash payments or relocation offers, among other programs, for the workers at the plant, the automaker said. A closure agreement between Ford of Canada and the Canadian Auto Workers union was reached in 2009 , Ford said.

For the last several years the Grand Marquis and the Town Car have only been offered to fleet buyers, not individual retail customers. Mercury, which built the Grand Marquis, was shut down altogether as a car brand last year.

Ford sold about 80,000 Crown Victorias and Town Cars combined last year, said Tony Gratson, Ford's manager for government fleet sales. Those figures just weren't enough to support a factory capable of producing 250,000 cars a year.

The Crown Victoria and its cousins have been popular with fleet users because of their roominess, legendary ruggedness and relative simplicity.

Most cars today are built with so-called unibody engineering in which the body sides and roof play a role in keeping the body rigid. The Panther Platform vehicles were engineered with an old-fashioned body-on-frame design that's mostly used by pickup trucks today because, while heavier, it's better able to bounce back from heavy, punishing use..."

-- ""You couldn't kill it no matter what you did to it," Ford spokesman Octavio Navarro said of the Crown Victoria." -- That's for sure! RIP, Crown Vic. =(



‘Jersey Shore’ Tax Credit Approved; NJ Taxpayers Angry They’re Paying for Snooki, The Situation

7:07:11 PM, Thursday, September 15, 2011

"It's a situation sure to irk New Jersey taxpayers.

The state Economic Development Authority has approved covering a $420,000 tax credit for production costs from the "Jersey Shore's" first season.

That means tax dollars will be used to offset the cost of all the club hopping, fist-pumping and fake tanning from the hit reality show's 2009 season.

The irony that New Jersey residents will be forced to foot the bill for a show that many view as an affront to the state's self-image is not lost on some.

"I can't believe we are paying for fake tanning for 'Snooki' and 'The Situation', and I am not even sure $420,000 covers that," Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon told The Star-Ledger of Newark.

Gov. Chris Christie's office said, while Christie doesn't like the show and opposed the tax credit, he has no control over the authority's decision.The show centers on the cast living it up along the beach and boardwalk in Seaside Heights, N.J.

Seaside Heights Mayor P. Kenneth Hershey said he was in favor of the tax credit because the production's presence in town gives a big boost to the local economy."



Brazil Charges Church Leaders With Embezzling Millions From Poor

5:24:14 PM, Thursday, September 15, 2011

Three leading members of one of Brazil's most powerful churches have been accused of laundering millions in church donations and using worshippers' money for personal gain.

The charges, unveiled on Monday by São Paulo's public prosecutor, relate to 404m reals (£150m) allegedly obtained from mostly impoverished churchgoers by leaders at Brazil's Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.

The money was subsequently channelled out of the country via a network of offshore bank accounts and money changers, federal prosecutors claimed.

Among those charged is Bishop Edir Macedo, a controversial televangelist who founded the church in 1977, and his financial director, Alba Maria Silva da Costa.

Luís Martins de Oliveira, the prosecutor behind the case, claimed followers were tricked into handing over money to the church through "false promises and threats that spiritual and economic assistance would only be bestowed upon those who made financial sacrifices for the church".

Prosecutors claim that although the church claimed to have received around £1.85bn in donations between 2003 and 2006, the actual sum could be much higher.

The charges also allege the church opened two offshore accounts in the early 1990s, in the Cayman Islands and in Jersey, to move donations out of the country.

The Universal Church was founded in northern Rio and today claims a worldwide congregation of 8 million followers.

Church leaders promote "prosperity theology" – through which committed believers are told their faith and regular, generations donations can help them achieve material wealth.

But corruption scandals, including claims that donations were used to buy luxury goods and property, have earned the church many critics.

The church's preachers are also notorious for their open hostility towards Brazil's gay community and African-Brazilian religions..."



Dinosaur Feathers Found in Amber Reinforce Evolution Theories

5:07:58 PM, Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Protofeather fossils discovered entombed in amber from the Late Cretaceous era support theories of dinosaur and avian evolution -- and make for one beautiful gallery.

Dinosaur and bird feathers preserved in amber from a Late Cretaceous site in Canada reveal new insights into the structure, function, and color of animals that date back to about 78 million years ago.

Researchers led by University of Alberta paleontologist Ryan McKellar say these specimens represent distinct stages of feather evolution, from early-stage, single filament protofeathers to much more complex structures associated with modern diving birds. After analyzing the preserved pigment cells, the authors add that these feathered creatures may have also had a range of transparent, mottled, and diffused colors, similar to birds today. They can't determine which feathers belonged to birds or dinosaurs yet, but they did observe filament structures that are similar to those seen in other non-avian dinosaur fossils. Their findings appear in the current issue of the journal Science.

In the gallery below, with captions from McKellar, marvel at the beauty of these amber-preserved feathers. Then, in the Q&A that follows, learn more about how amber preservation works, the science of feather evolution, and the possibility of Jurassic Park-type experiments down the line.

Protofeather fossils discovered entombed in amber from the Late Cretaceous era support theories of dinosaur and avian evolution -- and make for one beautiful gallery

Dinosaur and bird feathers preserved in amber from a Late Cretaceous site in Canada reveal new insights into the structure, function, and color of animals that date back to about 78 million years ago.

Researchers led by University of Alberta paleontologist Ryan McKellar say these specimens represent distinct stages of feather evolution, from early-stage, single filament protofeathers to much more complex structures associated with modern diving birds. After analyzing the preserved pigment cells, the authors add that these feathered creatures may have also had a range of transparent, mottled, and diffused colors, similar to birds today. They can't determine which feathers belonged to birds or dinosaurs yet, but they did observe filament structures that are similar to those seen in other non-avian dinosaur fossils. Their findings appear in the current issue of the journal Science.

In the gallery below, with captions from McKellar, marvel at the beauty of these amber-preserved feathers. Then, in the Q&A that follows, learn more about how amber preservation works, the science of feather evolution, and the possibility of Jurassic Park-type experiments down the line..."

-- wow wow wow!!! Follow link for more photos!



Did Flying Snails Cross Mexico?

9:24:15 PM, Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"Pigs may never fly, but in the Gulf of Mexico, snails take to the skies. Or at least they used to. A new study suggests that two species of marine snails may have traveled between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans—all in the belly of a bird.

The two species are known as horn snails, and both look a bit like tiny black party hats. One, the Pacific horn snail (Cerithideopsis californica), lives in mangrove forests that hug the coast of Baja down to Panama, and the other, the Atlantic horn snail (C. pliculosa), resides in similar intertidal habitats along coasts from Texas to Panama. "Every time you take a step [in their habitats], you may be stepping on hundreds of them," says Peter Marko, a biogeographer at Clemson University in South Carolina.

The two snails used to be the same species, crossing between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans via a narrow strip of water that once separated North America from Central America. But about 3 million years ago, a land bridge sprang up near modern-day Panama, and the single species split in two, which scientists thought were separated for good.

The new study reveals that the two species continued to intermingle long after the land bridge formed. When researchers analyzed the DNA of 29 populations of horn snails, they dug up a surprising find. Genes from the Pacific Ocean snail had invaded the Atlantic Ocean snail and vice versa, hinting that no land bridge could keep the sister snails apart. Study co-author Mark Torchin, an ecologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, and colleagues concluded that the mollusks had mixed and matched at least twice. A few Pacific snails colonized the Atlantic Ocean nearly 1 million years ago, and Atlantic snails traveled west just over 70,000 years ago, the group reports online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

How did they get across this land bridge? In the 1940s and '50s, the American scientist George Gaylord Simpson argued that small mammals may have colonized Madagascar by riding logs and other floating debris from Africa. "We kind of flipped that hypothesis around and looked at whether marine organisms crossed over land to colonize new oceans," Torchin says.

The horn snails, he suspects, found their own life rafts: shore birds. Although the group can't prove that the scenario is true, they think it could have gone like this: Nearly 1 million years ago, a wading heron gobbled a basking Pacific horn snail, shell and all. Luckily for this intrepid explorer, armored invertebrates can survive for days in the bellies of shore birds. Snug inside its unsuspecting taxi, the snail soared high above what was likely Mexico before being excreted in the Atlantic Ocean—a journey of about 200 kilometers or more. About 70,000 years ago, the researchers think, one or more Atlantic horn snails took their wagons west in the same way..."



Protoceratops Dinosaur Found With Its Own Tracks

9:15:21 PM, Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"A fossil housed for half a century in a Polish museum has turned out to be the first dinosaur skeleton preserved in its own tracks, say scientists.

A recent examination of the 80-million-year-old specimen revealed a single footprint preserved in the rocks encasing the fossilised bones.

Polish and Mongolian fossil hunters first unearthed it in 1965 in Mongolia.

Scientists now report the results of its re-examination in the journal Cretaceous Research.

The dinosaur is a Protoceratops, and since this is one of the most common dinosaurs found in the rich fossil beds of the Gobi Desert, it was not deemed to be very significant. But the scientists say it is the first example of a dinosaur being preserved with its own footprints.

Polish palaeontologists Grzegorz Niedzwiedzki and Tomasz Singer spotted the footprint while they were preparing the fossil for display at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw.

His colleague, University of Colorado at Denver geologist Martin Lockley, told BBC Nature that this really was "a first".

"Generally, we find it very hard even to match dinosaurs with their footprints at the species level," he explained.

"We have a couple of examples in the literature where we say, 'we're almost certain that this footprint belongs to this species', but this is an animal actually dead in its tracks."

A single, preserved footprint can be seen in the rocks encasing the fossil. Prof Lockley suggests that some of the rock discarded when scientists prepare dinosaur skeletons could contain ancient clues about the lives of the extinct beasts..."



Woman Fighting for Right to Go Topless in Public Loses N.J. Court Battle

3:49:35 PM, Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"A New York City woman fighting for her right to leave her shirt at home and go topless in public must cover up while in New Jersey, a state appeals panel ruled today.

Phoenix Feeley, 31, was twice arrested and charged by Spring Lake police in 2008 after she refused to put on a shirt while sunbathing at a beach, and then again took off a shirt given to her by police after being released.

She appealed the charges, arguing that if men are allowed to be in public without a shirt, women should be allowed to be in public without a shirt as well. But the court disagreed.

In their ruling, the judges argued there was no constitutional right for women to appear topless at a public beach, and that covering the female breast is important to safeguard "the public's moral sensibilities."

Feeley is no stranger to top-free controversy. In 2005, she was arrested in New York City for walking down a street without a shirt. She sued the city, pointing to a New York Supreme Court ruling saying woman can go topless in public. The city later paid her $29,000 to settle the suit."

-- =(



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