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Environmental Scientist

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Vatican ‘won’t turn in bishop charged with molesting Dominican boys

Santo Domingo.- The Vatican on Friday rejected a Warsaw Office of the Prosecutor’s request to hand over its former envoy to Dominican Republic, the Pole Jozef Wesolowski, to face charges of sexual abuse filed by five Dominican boys.

Quoting the AFP, French newspaper Le Monde reports that Pope Francis declined Warsaw’s request to extradite the Polish national to face accusations by Dominican authorities.

Wesolowski was whisked out of the Dominican Republic and sent to Rome once local journalist Nuria Piera uncovered the scandal, which could also be linked to another Polish priest, (Padre Alberto) Wojciech Gil, charged with pedophilia in Juncalito, a town in a rugged region of Santiago province.

"The Holy See’s response is concise and fits in a half-page," reports Polish TV channel N24. "The letter’s authors noted that the Vatican is investigating the Catholic hierarch about the alleged practice of pedophilia."


Why Conservatives’ Old Divide-and-Conquer Strategy Is Backfiring

by Robert Reich

For almost forty years Republicans have pursued a divide-and-conquer strategy intended to convince working-class whites that the poor were their enemies.

The big news is it’s starting to backfire.

Republicans told the working class that its hard-earned tax dollars were being siphoned off to pay for “welfare queens” (as Ronald Reagan decorously dubbed a black single woman on welfare) and other nefarious loafers. The poor were “them” — lazy, dependent on government handouts and overwhelmingly black — in sharp contrast to “us,” who were working ever harder, proudly independent (even sending wives and mothers to work, in order to prop up family incomes dragged down by shrinking male paychecks) and white.

It was a cunning strategy designed to split the broad Democratic coalition that had supported the New Deal and Great Society, by using the cleavers of racial prejudice and economic anxiety. It also conveniently fueled resentment of government taxes and spending.

The strategy also served to distract attention from the real cause of the working class’s shrinking paychecks — corporations that were busily busting unions, outsourcing abroad and replacing jobs with automated equipment and, subsequently, computers and robotics.



Weekend Toons- Bully for You!




US Marines Kill Afghan Toddler ‘Mistaken for the Enemy’

US Shrugs Off Killing, Citing Bad Weather
by Jason Ditz, January 10, 2014

Outrage is spreading across Afghanistan yet again, after an incident early today in the Helmand Province where US Marines attacked and killed a four-year-old boy.

The US has shrugged off the incident so far, saying that the weather was “dusty” that day and they just assumed the four-year-old was probably the enemy. NATO has said it will “investigate,” but reiterated that the US had taken “all possible measures” to avoid civilian deaths, except for apparently the measure of not shooting at children.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai was quick to condemn the killing, saying they have repeatedly warned the US against military operations against civilian homes and villages.

Though the young age of the child makes this a particularly major outrage, it is not uncommon for US troops to kill random civilians in this manner, and NATO investigations, to the extent they’re ever completed and announced publicly, virtually always exonerate the killers as having acted “appropriately.”


Zucker: GOP being run from Fox News headquarters

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — The chiefs of CNN and Fox News Channel are throwing shots at each other, each suggesting the other's network is essentially out of the news business.

Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes struck first, saying in an interview published this week that it was interesting for CNN "to throw in the towel and announce they're out of the news business." It was a reference to CNN President Jeff Zucker's efforts to expand CNN's offerings beyond breaking news.

"We happen to be in the business, as opposed to some other fair and balanced network," Zucker responded at a news conference on Friday.

He suggested that Ailes' remarks, published in the Hollywood Reporter, were silly and an attempt to deflect attention from "The Loudest Voice in the Room," a book on Ailes and Fox by New York magazine writer Gabriel Sherman that is being published this month.

Zucker said he hadn't read the book, but that from what he heard it confirmed that "the Republican Party is being run out of News Corp. headquarters masquerading as a cable news channel."


North Carolina police say teenager in custody shot himself

(Reuters) - A teenage suspect who died in North Carolina while he was handcuffed in the back of a police car shot himself in the head with a gun he hid from an officer, according to a police report released on Friday.

Jesus Huerta died on November 19 after he was arrested on an outstanding warrant for trespassing. His family had called authorities and reported that he ran away from home and requested police search for him.

Huerta's case triggered several protests in recent months over police conduct in Durham. The release of the report followed repeated calls from Huerta's family for more details about the circumstances of his death.

The preliminary results of the Durham Police Department's internal investigation indicate that an officer who arrested and searched Huerta failed to find a gun he had hidden on him.



Totally Believable

A Star at the Edge of Eternity

A Saturn-size star just 40 light-years away will outlive nearly all of its peers

By Ken Croswell

Every star that now shines will one day die, but some stars live far longer than others. Our 4.6-billion-year-old sun will shrivel into a white dwarf in 7.8 billion years. Now astronomers say a dim red star south of the constellation Orion will outlive any other yet examined. "It actually will live for much longer than the current age of the universe—for literally trillions of years," says Sergio Dieterich, an astronomer at Georgia State University.

Paradoxically, the less mass a star is born with, the longer it lives. Most stars, including the sun, create their energy by using nuclear reactions to convert hydrogen into helium at their centers. Because these stars constitute the vast majority, astronomers call them main-sequence stars. To such a star, mass is both a blessing and a burden. On the one hand, mass provides the fuel that powers the star. On the other hand, the more massive the star, the hotter its center gets, which speeds up the nuclear reactions, making the star shine more brightly and exhaust its fuel more quickly.

The least massive and thus longest-lived main-sequence stars, born with only 8 to 60 percent of the sun's mass, are red dwarfs. Cool, faint and small, red dwarfs outnumber all other stars put together but are so dim that you can't see a single one with the naked eye. The smallest and least massive red dwarfs will live for trillions of years.

There's a limit, though, to how small and long-lived a successful star can be. If an aspiring star arises with too little mass, it becomes not a red dwarf but a failed star known as a brown dwarf. Despite the name, a brown dwarf glows red when young—from both the heat of its birth and nuclear reactions that later dwindle—then fades to black. Because a young brown dwarf looks like a red dwarf, distinguishing the two is often difficult.


"Flock" of Nano Satellites to Capture High-Res Views of Whole Earth

The constellation of Earth-imaging satellites launched yesterday—28 individual sputniks, called “Doves,” each about the size of its namesake and weighing in at a svelte five kilograms—is on its way to the International Space Station. If all goes well, by the end of the month “Flock 1,” as the group is called, will distribute its nanosatellites in Earth orbit, the better to photograph the complete surface of the planet at high resolution 365 days a year. The satellites will provide near-continuous pictures of Earth’s surface at a resolution of three to five meters per pixel.

Planet Labs, the San Francisco start-up that built Flock 1, is one of a growing group of companies and governments launching very small satellites. As their cost and size have plummeted, partly in response to the availability of standardized off-the-shelf components, nanosatellites such as CubeSat, have opened up unprecedented opportunities in remote sensing. Unlike traditional Earth-imaging satellites, which cost millions to build and launch, each of Planet Labs’ diminutive sky cameras, which in its predeployed state resembles a child’s kaleidoscope, comes in at a fraction of that cost.

Planet Labs plans to be the first to capture high-resolution whole-Earth images nearly continuously. (Full disclosure: one of us—Boettiger—serves without remuneration as an advisor to Planet Labs.) Test satellites launched in April and November demonstrated that the company’s engineers can accurately position the orbiters and capture a continuous stream of images with a resolution of three to five meters—fine enough to distinguish individual trees in a rainforest, but not sharp enough to identify a person tending his garden. Whereas most of the nine spectral bands of imagery captured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Landsat 8, launched in 2013, for example, are delivered at 30-meter resolution, other commercial providers of remote-sensing images, such as Skybox Imaging and BlackBridge (formerly RapidEye), have the capability to deliver much higher resolutions—as fine as one meter per pixel. These companies even offer features such as high-resolution, real-time video. But these satellites are tasked with photographing specific targets, meaning customers rent the use of a satellite (much as one might hire a photographer) to capture detailed images of very specific patches of the globe. Planet Labs executives say that continuous whole-Earth images would have the potential to serve many purposes simultaneously, from a single set of data. “We've become used to having imagery of the entire Earth,” says Tim O’Reilly, of O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, one of Planet Labs’s investors. “What we haven't yet understood is how transformative it will be when that imagery is regularly and frequently updated.”

Planet Labs faces some difficult challenges, not least the engineering required to build, launch, power, position and communicate with a constellation of this size. The company will have to store the equivalent of a 10-terapixel image (roughly one million cell phone images) for each complete image of Earth. The company has already engineered much of the software it needs to stitch the massive number of images collected by its orbiters into a single texture applied to a topographic model of Earth. Unlocking the value of this image will require using image recognition, change detection and other technologies to solve problems in data mining and information extraction. The task combines "science, technology expertise and know-how learned at NASA with a bottoms-up maker's mentality,” says Juan Carlos Castilla-Rubio, CEO of the Planetary Skin Institute and co–chair of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Measuring Sustainability 2012–14.



Al Gore's dream finally realized.

Is the Universe Made of Math?

What's the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything? In Douglas Adams' science-fiction spoof “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy”, the answer was found to be 42; the hardest part turned out to be finding the real question. I find it very appropriate that Douglas Adams joked about 42, because mathematics has played a striking role in our growing understanding of our Universe.

The Higgs Boson was predicted with the same tool as the planet Neptune and the radio wave: with mathematics. Galileo famously stated that our Universe is a “grand book” written in the language of mathematics. So why does our universe seem so mathematical, and what does it mean? In my new book “Our Mathematical Universe”, I argue that it means that our universe isn’t just described by math, but that it is math in the sense that we’re all parts of a giant mathematical object, which in turn is part of a multiverse so huge that it makes the other multiverses debated in recent years seem puny in comparison.

Math, math everywhere!
But where's all this math that we're going on about? Isn't math all about numbers? If you look around right now, you can probably spot a few numbers here and there, for example the page numbers in your latest copy of Scientific American, but these are just symbols invented and printed by people, so they can hardly be said to reflect our Universe being mathematical in any deep way.

Because of our education system, many people equate mathematics with arithmetic. Yet mathematicians study abstract structures far more diverse than numbers, including geometric shapes. Do you see any geometric patterns or shapes around you? Here again, human-made designs like the rectangular shape of this book don't count. But try throwing a pebble and watch the beautiful shape that nature makes for its trajectory! The trajectories of anything you throw have the same shape, called an upside-down parabola. When we observe how things move around in orbits in space, we discover another recurring shape: the ellipse. Moreover, these two shapes are related: the tip of a very elongated ellipse is shaped almost exactly like a parabola, so in fact, all of these trajectories are simply parts of ellipses.



Cancer drug protects against (Type 1) diabetes (in mice)

DIABETES New research shows that low doses of a cancer drug protect against the development of type 1 diabetes in mice. At the same time, the medicine protects the insulin-producing cells from being destroyed. The study is headed by researchers from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen, and has just been published in the distinguished scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

Very low doses of a drug used to treat certain types of cancer protect the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and prevent the development of diabetes mellitus type 1 in mice. The medicine works by lowering the level of so-called sterile inflammation. The findings have been made by researchers from the University of Copenhagen, the Technical University of Denmark and the University of Southern Denmark working with researchers in Belgium, Italy, Canada, Netherlands and the USA.

"Diabetes is a growing problem worldwide. Our research shows that very low doses of anticancer drugs used to treat lymphoma – so-called lysine deacetylase inhibitors – can reset the immune response to not attack the insulin-producing cells. We find fewer immune cells in the pancreas, and more insulin is produced when we give the medicine in the drinking water to mice that would otherwise develop type 1 diabetes," says postdoc Dan Ploug Christensen, who is the first author on the article and responsible for the part of the experimental work carried out in Professor Thomas Mandrup-Poulsen’s laboratory at the Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Copenhagen.

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