Stem Cell Research Ban Overturned By U.S. Appeals Court

1:47:50 PM, Friday, April 29, 2011

"WASHINGTON -- A divided federal appeals court has ruled that opponents of taxpayer-funded stem cell research are not likely to succeed in a lawsuit to stop it.

In a 2-1 decision Friday, the panel of the U.S. court of appeals in Washington overturned a judge's order that would have blocked taxpayer funding for stem cell research.

The panel reversed an opinion last August by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, who said the research likely violates the law against federal funding of embryo destruction.

The 1996 law prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars in work that harms an embryo, so private money has been used to cull batches of the cells. Those batches can reproduce in lab dishes indefinitely, and the Obama administration issued rules permitting taxpayer dollars to be used in work on them."

-- Finally, science and common sense have won out over religious fanaticism­.

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China to Launch Carrier in 2011: Taiwan Spy Chief

10:34:57 PM, Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Taiwan's spy chief on Monday said China could bring its first aircraft carrier into service before the end of the year, kindling fears in Taipei over Beijing's continued naval build-up.Tsai Teh-sheng, head of the island's National Security Bureau, said the "Varyag" a half-completed Soviet era aircraft carrier Beijing obtained from Ukraine in 1998, is expected to make its maiden voyage before the end of 2011.

The warship has been docked in China's eastern Dalian harbour where it has undergone extensive refurbishing work since 2002.

"Varyag has restored its sailing capability, and is expected to start providing training missions before the end of 2011," Tsai said in response to a parliamentary question by Lin Yu-fang of the ruling Kuomintang party.

Tsai said the warship will have "certain combat capability" and will serve as a base for an unknown number of China's home-grown fighter jets which are modelled on Russian-made Su-33s.

Taiwan's defence ministry has expressed alarm at China's naval buildup although experts say it may still take time for the People's Liberation Army to operate its first carrier group complete with fighter jets.

"The Chinese communists' acquisition of their first aircraft carrier will threaten not only Taiwan but the stability of Asia," Taiwan's defence ministry spokesman David Lo told AFP..."

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First Stars in Universe May Have Spun Like Crazy

10:21:47 PM, Thursday, April 28, 2011

"The first stars in the universe may have been extraordinarily fast spinners, whirling at more than a million miles per hour, scientists say.

These stars, which researchers called "spinstars," formed right after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago and were likely massive giants, with eight times or more the mass of our sun, according to a new study. They lived fast and died young, after no more than 30 million years. The nuclear fusion reactions that drove these stars also provided the universe with its first elements heavier than helium.

A 12-billion-year-old globular cluster of stars known as NGC 6522 provided the basis for the proposal of spinstars.

NGC 6522 -- the oldest known globular cluster in our galaxy -- probably witnessed the early phases of the seeding of these heavy elements across the cosmos. However, a study of the light from the cluster's stars, which reveals what elements lie within, yielded contradictory evidence about the nature of the first stars.

Astrophysicist Cristina Chiappini at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics in Potsdam, Germany, and her colleagues re-examined data they had gathered on NGC 6522 using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT). They discovered eight old stars with strangely high levels of the rare elements strontium and yttrium..."

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Proposed Destruction of Smallpox Virus Creates Controversy

4:39:05 PM, Thursday, April 28, 2011

"After ravaging humanity for three millennia, the virus behind smallpox is facing its comeuppance. In May, at a meeting of the World Health Organization, nations will decide if it's finally time to sterilize and incinerate into oblivion the known remaining samples of the virus.

Smallpox is sometimes described as the most devastating disease in human history, and the eradication of the disease — there has not been a naturally acquired case since 1977 — ranks as, arguably, the greatest modern public health achievement. But the path toward a destruction date has been tortuous.

The debate over whether or not to destroy the samples being preserved by the United States and Russia began in the 1980s. It has centered on whether or not we already have enough information to prevent the virus from ever wreaking havoc again.

"If it's destroyed, the statement is made that after this date, any scientists, any lab, any country that has that smallpox virus is guilty of crimes against humanity," said Dr. DA Henderson, former director of the campaign to eradicate the disease and author of the book "Smallpox: Death of a Disease" (Prometheus Books, 2009).

Destruction of the remaining virus also would eliminate the possibility of accidental release. There is precedent for this; in 1978 an accidental release in a British lab resulted in one death.

Others, however, warn that labeling possession of the virus a crime against humanity will in no way deter terrorists, and that without the live smallpox virus, called variola, we won't be able to prepare for the worst.

"It would be very important to have something on the shelf that would help prevent or treat an epidemic, whether a virus was introduced by a terrorist or Mother Nature," said Dennis Hruby, chief scientific officer of the pharmaceutical company SIGA, which is developing a treatment for smallpox. It is possible for humans to catch other closely related pox viruses, and it's also possible that a smallpox-like virus could re-emerge from the remaining pox viruses, Hruby said..."

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A Stunning Interactive 360 Sky Panorama Image, Result of 37,000 Photo Combination

10:40:59 AM, Thursday, April 28, 2011

"This stunning 360 degree panorama of the night sky was stitched together from 37,000 images by a first-time astrophotographer.

Nick Risinger, a 28-year-old native of Seattle, trekked more than 60,000 miles around the western United States and South Africa to create the largest-ever true-color image of the stellar sphere. The final result is an interactive, zoomable sky map showing the full Milky Way and the stars, planets, galaxies and nebulae around it.

“The genesis of this was to educate and enlighten people about the natural beauty that is hidden, but surrounds us,” Risinger said.

The project began in March 2010, when Risinger and his brother took a suite of six professional-grade astronomical cameras to the desert in Nevada. By June, Risinger had quit his job as a marketing director for a countertop company to seek the darkest skies he could find.

Every night, Risinger and his father set up the cameras on a tripod that rotates with Earth. The cameras automatically took between 20 and 70 exposures each night in three different-color wavelengths. Previous professional sky surveys (including the Digitized Sky Survey of the 1980s, which is the source for the World Wide Telescope and Google Sky) shot only in red and blue. Including a third color filter gives the new survey a more real feeling, Risinger said.

“I wanted to create something that was a true representation of how we could see it, if it were 3,000 times brighter,” he said..."

-- This is absolutely incredible. A MUST SEE! See it!

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Turkey: Police Dress Up As Doctors To Test Citizens

9:09:31 AM, Thursday, April 28, 2011

"ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish police donned white coats and stethoscopes to disguise themselves as doctors, then knocked on people's doors to see how easily they would fall for a confidence scam.

The undercover police officers told residents of the southeastern city of Gaziantep they were screening for high blood pressure and handed out pills, according to Turkish media.

They were alarmed when residents at 86 out of 100 households visited on Tuesday swallowed the pills immediately.

Police later returned to warn residents to be more cautious.

The police pills were harmless placebos. But a local gang had been using the same technique to give people heavy sedatives and then burgle them.

Turkish police in other provinces have also used novel methods to test citizens' gullibility.

Officers in Adana in southern Turkey last week called at houses, announcing through the intercom: "I am a burglar, please open the door."

Police said they were stunned at the number of people who opened the door, the Radikal daily newspaper reported."

-- WOW!

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Săpânţa: The Happy Cemetery

5:38:37 PM, Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Săpânţa is a village about 15 kms west of Sighet, smack up against the Tisa river in the far north of Romania. When I first came to Maramureş in 1990, the streets in this village were lined with cearga - furry raw sheep wool blankets - for sale, hanging from every house' fence along the road that leads to Sighet. Within weeks of the end of Communism, these villagers were doing business big time. In 1990, right after the fall of Ceaucescu and the Communist Party in Romania, the peasants of Săpânţa had their own reading on freedom. After annoucement of a federal tax on home brewed brandy - the ţuica so central to Maramureş existence - the villagers of Săpânţa blockaded the main road to Sighet and effectively revolted in defense of their beloved tax-free home brew.

After a couple of weeks the government backed down, and the villager's favorite hooch was safe. Yes, Maramureş folk - the moroşani - love to drink. And yes, they may even drink themselves to death, and how well they know it. Presently the most unique attraction in Săpânţa is the "Happy Cemetery." Originally begun by a peasant grave carver named Stan Petras in the 1930s, and carried on today by the Pop family, the cemetery has become one of the most popular tourism attractions in rural Romania, with tour buses pulling up and unloading foreigners hourly. We were lucky - we visited on a religious holiday just as the villagers were coming from a Church service..."

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'Gatsby Mansion' Torn Down

5:17:37 PM, Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Shed a tear, literature lovers: The 25-room Long Island mansion said to have inspired The Great Gatsby is in the process of being torn down. The demolition of Land's End, where parties in the 1920s and 1930s were attended by the likes of Winston Churchill and Ethel Barrymore, began Saturday, the AP reports. It will be replaced with five $10 million houses."

-- Just closing some browser tabs posting what I haven't gotten a chance to, so this might not be news to some of you.

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The Power of Words

4:50:52 PM, Wednesday, April 27, 2011
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Russia Test Launches Sineva Strategic Missile

4:36:05 PM, Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"The Russian military successfully test launched a Sineva ballistic missile Tuesday from a submarine in the Arctic, the Interfax news agency quoted a defence ministry spokesman as saying.

"The launch was carried out from underwater in the Barents Sea from the Yekaterinburg nuclear submarine. At the expected hour, the payload of the Sineva missile arrived at the Kura range in Kamchatka" in Russia's Far East, said spokesman Igor Konashenkov.

The Sineva is an intercontinental submarine-launched ballistic missile that entered service in 2007 and has a range of more than 11,000 kilometres (6,800 miles)."

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Auto Buds

4:13:12 PM, Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Welcome to Auto Buds. The place for auto buds. Auto Buds are two cars of the same make, model, color, or as identical as possible, that are parked right next to each other or in close proximity."

-- YES! =D

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Mutiny in the Syrian army?

1:05:19 AM, Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"With increasing military defections, the Syrian regime's violent crackdown may have backfired, analyst says.

In the early morning of April 25, the city of Deraa was invaded from all four corners by units affiliated with the 4th Division, which falls under the direct leadership of Maher Al-Assad, and the 5th Division, led by Muhammad Saleh Al-Rifai, with reinforcement from the 132 Battalion.

Shortly thereafter, reports began trickling then pouring in speaking of a mutiny in the units affiliated with 5th Division and troops from these units standing up to and halting the advance of units from the 4th Division trying to reach Al-Omary Mosque in central Deraa.

At first, many of us thought this might be a reference to a few more defections, as had transpired two weeks ago, but the reports continue to come from different sources and eyewitnesses that we managed to reach all through the day, leading us to believe that there might indeed be something worth monitoring here.

If such a mutiny has indeed taken place so early in the game, then Assad’s military gambit seems to be backfiring, a development that could spark a wider division within the army in the next few hours and days, with all different sorts of implications for the protest movement, depending on how this internal conflict plays out.

If, on the other hand, the reports turn out to be nothing more than exaggerations and wishful thinking, then the protest movement will still have a way to go before producing a significant impact on the structure and power base of the regime, and the challenge will be to keep on message and peaceful all the way through despite the mounting violence on part of the Assads.

It is important to note at this stage, however, the sheer falsehood of the regime allegations of widespread violence on part of the protesters and Salafist designs.

The videos we have clearly show protesters facing tanks with rocks not guns. Had Salafists really been present in the city and planning to establish an independent Islamic emirate, why did not they do so in three weeks of peace they had, and do they disappear all of a sudden, with their alleged caches of weapons, each time the army and security forces show up?"

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DARPA's New Space Surveillance Telescope Will Keep Our Satellites Safe From Interstellar Debris

12:27:23 AM, Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"What's that in the sky? A bird? A plane? Oh, it's just some junk floating around in space, posing major threats to our military's spy satellites. To help keep an eye on it, engineers at DARPA, MIT and the Air Force have unleashed a new $110 million telescope that's been in the works for nine years now. The new Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) is capable of delivering wide-angle views of the Earth's firmament thanks to a curved CCD. This allows for a massive 3.5m aperture and f/1.0 exposure settings, capturing more light in a day that your average scope can in a week. As part of the Air Force's Space Surveillance Network (SSN), the telescope's primary task will be to look out for any microsatellites, meteors or other alien droppings moving at the same speed at which the Earth rotates. The system developed its first images earlier this year and the Air Force may eventually place SSTs all over the world, creating a 360-degree surveillance blanket and going a long way toward keeping our spycraft warm, cozy, and safe from galactic hazards."

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Astronomy Picture of the Day: The Cat's Eye Nebula from Hubble

11:06:14 AM, Thursday, May 26, 2011

-- "Staring across interstellar space, the alluring Cat's Eye nebula lies three thousand light-years from Earth. A classic planetary nebula, the Cat's Eye (NGC 6543) represents a final, brief yet glorious phase in the life of a sun-like star. This nebula's dying central star may have produced the simple, outer pattern of dusty concentric shells by shrugging off outer layers in a series of regular convulsions. But the formation of the beautiful, more complex inner structures is not well understood. Seen so clearly in this sharp Hubble Space Telescope image, the truly cosmic eye is over half a light-year across. Of course, gazing into the Cat's Eye, astronomers may well be seeing the fate of our sun, destined to enter its own planetary nebula phase of evolution ... in about 5 billion years. "

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Astronomy Picture of the Day: The Tadpoles of IC 410

11:46:05 PM, Tuesday, April 26, 2011

-- "This telescopic close-up shows off the otherwise faint emission nebula IC 410 in striking false-colors. It also features two remarkable inhabitants of the cosmic pond of gas and dust above and left of center, the tadpoles of IC 410. The picture is a composite of images taken through both broad and narrow band filters. The narrow band data traces atoms in the nebula, with emission from sulfur atoms in red, hydrogen atoms in green, and oxygen in blue. Partly obscured by foreground dust, the nebula itself surrounds NGC 1893, a young galactic cluster of stars that energizes the glowing gas. Composed of denser cooler gas and dust the tadpoles are around 10 light-years long, potentially sites of ongoing star formation. Sculpted by wind and radiation from the cluster stars, their tails trail away from the cluster's central region. IC 410 lies some 12,000 light-years away, toward the constellation Auriga."

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