A non-profit news blog, focused on providing independent journalism.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

White House exempts ISIS strikes from civilian casualty guidelines

The standards, which Obama spelled out during a high profile address last year, were meant partly to allay concerns many Americans felt toward lethal drones. President Obama said at the time the drone strikes were used with far greater frequency than his predecessor in going after militants -- including in his fight against ISIS.

But while officials in Washington insist there are strict standards to prevent civilians from dying in Iraq and Syria, the rules Obama said last year would stem civilian deaths aren't being applied in the new war against ISIS.

"The specific standards at issue in the NDU speech apply only when we take direct action 'outside areas of active hostilities,' as was noted at the time," said Caitlin Hayden, the spokeswoman for Obama's National Security Council, referring to Obama's address at the National Defense University in the spring of 2013. "That description - outside areas of active hostilities - simply does not fit what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq and Syria right now."

In addition, the strikes in Syria and Iraq are being conducted by manned aircraft in addition to unmanned vehicles, although that distinction might not be apparent from the ground.

Christie: Pres should share ISIS blame Romney: Obama 'busy doing other things' How did Carney describe ISIS in 2013?

The White House's decision to exempt the mission against ISIS from the drone standards was first reported by the investigative journalist Michael Isikoff on .

Incidents of civilians being killed by drones have helped fuel resentment for the United States in places like Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, where al Qaeda cells have sprouted since 2001.

During his widely-anticipated remarks about drones last year, Obama said civilian deaths were a facet of every war. But he vowed to do more to prevent them in his bid to go after jihadist cells.

"For the families of those civilians, no words or legal construct can justify their loss," he said. "For me, and those in my chain of command, those deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred throughout conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq."

In new criteria for drone strikes, the White House insisted there must be "near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed" before an attack is ordered. Other parameters included ensuring the terrorist target is present and certifying capture isn't a feasible option.

While the White House says those strictures don't apply in the battle against ISIS, they do claim measures are underway to prevent civilians from dying.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby described a process of choosing targets in Iraq and Syria that takes into account the potential for non-ISIS deaths.

ISIS: McCain responds to Obama's comments CNN Poll: Obama dovish on foreign policy Scott Brown hits Shaheen, Obama on ISIS

"While we continue to hit [ISIS] where they are, it doesn't mean we can or even that we should hit them everywhere they are at every moment," Kirby said. "We must choose. We must discriminate between targets that matter more to us in space and time than others, and between those that run higher risks of collateral damage or civilian casualties."

In the week since airstrikes began in Syria there have been reports of civilian deaths, though U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has yet to verify any non-ISIS militants have died in the air campaign.

On Sunday night, U.S. military forces targeted to an ISIL-held grain storage facility near Manbij. The facility was being used by ISIL as a logistics hub and vehicle staging facility, according to CENTCOM.

A Syrian human rights group said the strikes in Manbij killed at least two workers at the grain silos, and a U.S. official said the military was looking into the possibility civilians were killed.

As Obama noted during his remarks in 2013, civilian deaths happen during times of war. Military experts say that's an important fact for Americans to understand, even as the government works to prevent them.

"To suggest that we can do a clean war with near certainty that we won't have civilian casualties I think simply is misleading the American people. We haven't done that in the history of warfare and I don't think that history has changed," Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said Tuesday on .

USGS: Earthquake Magnitude 6.8 - Southern East Pacific Rise

Southern Pacific Rise Quake_091014


Event Time

2014-10-09 02:14:31 UTC

2014-10-08 19:14:31 UTC-07:00 at epicenter


32.154°S 110.815°W depth=10.0km (6.2mi)

Nearby Cities

570km (354mi) SSW of Hanga Roa, Chile

3428km (2130mi) W of Lebu, Chile

3434km (2134mi) W of Ancud, Chile

3444km (2140mi) W of Chonchi, Chile

2039km (1267mi) ESE of Adamstown, Pitcairn

Scientific Data

Hawaii scraps plans renaming Sandy Beach to 'Obama Beach'

An initiative to rename a popular Hawaii beach for President Obama has faced criticism and was dropped following a public outcry over "historic and cultural sensitivity" and the fact that the high-profile but rare visitor has "done nothing" for the venue.

After hearing from the public, Honolulu council members have dropped their plans to rename a beach, popular with both President Barack Obama and the public, as a tribute to the first Hawaii-born president.

The proposal was introduced last week and would have allocated $500,000 to pay for renovation and beautification to accompany renaming Sandy Beach Park to President Barack Obama Sandy Beach Park.

The beach is known for its powerful waves and white sandy beaches, and is one of the most scenic spots on Oahu. Obama bodysurfed there while on vacation during his 2008 campaign, and during his childhood.

[embedded content]

Council Chairman Ernie Martin, one of the resolution's sponsors, said in a statement that he heard historic and cultural sensitivity concerns from the community about the name change which led them to drop the idea. Some native Hawaiian communities didn't want to dilute their language by giving up traditional names.

Others objected because of their local connection like Waimanalo resident Kanaloa Kane who told , a Hawaii TV station, "I don't think it's fair because, personally, he's done nothing for our beach over here. Maybe he did grow up here, but as a local, I've been surfing here for 10 years easy and I don't think it's fair."

But Beth Amann told she thought the money would help keep the beach in better condition, "I think it's definitely going to help for sure. That way, they're going to keep things more picked up probably, more improvements."

Ernie Martin and fellow Council member Stanley Chang were hoping to rename the beach because they are proud, as a state, to have a Hawaii-born president.

"We don't have any statues, monuments, anything named after him there," said Chang. Martin however agrees that there may be other public facilities more appropriate to honor the President.

Hawaii prohibits naming public places after people who are still alive. An attempt to rewrite the law in 2009 was rejected.

Attorney behind CUFI warns Israel losing its base - Christian evangelicals increasingly support Palestinian human rights

An article in Middle East Quarterly, a pro-Israel publication, reports that support for Israel is eroding among American evangelical Christians, with only 30 percent in a recent survey stating support for Israel above Palestinians.

This trend is even more pronounced among youth, according to an article by David Brog, Jewish-American executive director of "Christians United For Israel (CUFI), a major pro-Israel organization. Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu has called CUFI "a vital part of Israel's national security" and columnist Charles Kauthammer has said, "I do not know of an organization in the world more important to Israel than CUFI."

Brog's article, "The End of Evangelical Support for Israel?" is largely pitched as a wake-up call to Israel partisans who, according to Brog, "must take this threat seriously." (For more on Brog, see below.)

Brog quotes a journalist reporting in 2012 about the "the largest gathering of young evangelical leaders in America," the Catalyst convention: "In dozens of random conversations, I noted that Millenians ... expressed solidarity with the Palestinians and annoyance with Israel. This is a seismic shift in the American church and a serious threat to Israel's one traditional area of support."

A decade ago, Brog reports, "As if out of nowhere, a block of fifty to one hundred million friends of Israel were poised to enter the national debate and safeguard the U.S.-Israel relationship for generations to come."*

Today, however, Brog describes a significant reversal. As more and more evangelicals learn the facts on Israel-Palestine (Brog calls such information an "anti-Israel narrative") they are dropping their unconditional support for Israel.

While evangelical support for Israel has often been attributed to their theology, Brog's article indicates that the significant factor in the shift is learning the true situation in Israel-Palestine.

Brog states that there is a precedent for such an about-face. While many mainline Protestant churches used to support Israel, he states that today "to the extent the mainline denominations act corporately in connection with the Jewish state, it is to divest from it."

Similarly, as evangelicals learn more about the issue, Brog reports that "more leaders of this generation are moving toward neutrality in the conflict while others are becoming outspoken critics of Israel."

Brog writes, "Questioning Christian support for the Jewish state is fast becoming a key way for the millennials to demonstrate their Christian compassion and political independence."

Today, Brog writes, many of those 18 to 30 are "rebelling against what they perceive as the excessive biblical literalism and political conservatism of their parents. As they strive with a renewed vigor to imitate Jesus' stand with the oppressed and downtrodden, they want to decide for themselves which party is being oppressed in the Arab-Israeli conflict."

Brog cites a 2010 Pew survey of evangelical leaders attending the Third Lausanne Congress of World Evangelization that "contained two bombshells. It showed that only a minority of those evangelicals polled sympathized primarily with Israel. And it demonstrated that American evangelical leaders were actually less inclined to support Israel than evangelical leaders in general." The survey found that 49% of American evangelical leaders sympathize with both sides equally and 13% sympathize primarily with the Palestinians.

Brog also notes that the survey indicated that evangelical support for Israel was "never as universal as was commonly believed."

Much of the increased awareness of the situation, Brog reports, comes from evangelical experts on the Middle East who are speaking and writing widely on this issue, producing documentaries, organizing trips to the region, and creating conferences to inform Christians on the facts.

In the last few years three documentaries were made by Christians specifically for Christians to inform them on Palestine: With God on Our Side , Little Town of Bethlehem , and The Stones Cry Out . They were created by, respectively, Porter Speakman, a former Youth with a Mission member, Mart Green, chairman of the board of trustees of Oral Roberts University, and Yasmine Perni, an Italian journalist. Brog also names evangelicals such as Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Serge Duss and sons Brian and Matt, and Palestinian Christians such as Sami Awad and Naim Ateek as among those educating Christians on Palestine.

Christian Universities and Palestine

Brog reports that while numerous people are aware of the work on college campuses for justice in Palestine, "many observers do not realize that such efforts are also "being waged on America's Christian campuses."

In his article Brog describes activities on four of America's major Christian colleges:

Wheaton College

Brog reports that Wheaton College in Illinois is "commonly referred to as the "evangelical Harvard," noting, "Some of the most prominent church leaders in America have graduated from Wheaton, including the Rev. Billy Graham, Sen. Dan Coats (Republican, Indiana), and George W. Bush's former speechwriter Michael Gerson."

Today, Wheaton is the home of Professor Gary Burge, an author who speaks widely on Israel-Palestine. "When Christians United for Israel (CUFI) announced plans to hold an event at Wheaton in January 2009, Burge went on the offensive," Brog reports. "CUFI's student members came under such intense pressure that they moved their event off-campus: There would be no pro-Israel event at the evangelical Harvard."

Oral Roberts University

Brog writes that Oral Roberts University "has deep conservative Christian roots." "Oral Roberts himself was a Pentecostal televangelist and a strong friend of Israel," a number of major preachers in America graduated from the school, and pro-Israel preacher John Hagee has been on its board of trustees.

Today, however, the chair of the board of trustees chair is the aforementioned Mart Green, whose film is a powerful depiction of the Palestinian nonviolence movement. The university's current president is Dr. William "Billy" Wilson, who was named as a speaker for what Brog calls "the leading anti-Israel Christian conference," Christ at the Checkpoint, held at Bethlehem Bible College in March 2014.

Bethel University

Brog writes that Bethel is "representative of the direction that America's Christian colleges are taking." He notes, "Like many Christian schools, Bethel emphasizes racial reconciliation and cultural openness and has accordingly developed numerous opportunities for its students to study abroad."

In 2010 Bethel's president Jay Barnes and his wife visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority to explore establishing a study abroad program in the area. During the trip they visited Bethlehem.

Upon their return Barnes posted a poem on the university's website:

Incredible conflict exists in the land of Jesus' birth/ I believe God mourns.

The wall is a constant reminder of many lost freedoms/ I believe God mourns.

For more than 60 years, people have lived in poverty in refugee camps/ I believe God mourns.

Apartheid has become a way of life/ I believe God mourns.

Extreme disproportional distribution of resources, such as water, exists/ I believe God mourns.

Hundreds of villages have been demolished to make room for settlements/ I believe God mourns.

Human rights violations occur daily/ I believe God mourns.

The Christian population is declining as many are leaving to avoid persecution/ I believe God mourns.

In 2012, Brog reports, President Barnes hosted a "Hope for the Holy Land" evening at Bethel, featuring "long-standing Christian critics of Israel."

A growing trend

A similar transformation involves the son of leading evangelical publisher Steven Strang, who has been a regional director for CUFI. The younger Strang, Cameron, has his own publishing organization, Relevant, whose website says it reaches over two million twenty- and thirty-something Christians a month.

Less than a decade ago Relevant was extremely pro-Israel. But then, Brog writes, Cameron Strang visited Israel and the Palestinian territories, "and everything changed."

Relevant's May/June 2012 cover featured prominent author Donald Miller. In 2008 Miller had been chosen to deliver the first night's closing prayer at the Democratic National Convention, and, according to Brog, Miller "is considered a rising star among America's 20-something evangelicals."

After visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories with Strang, Miller began to discuss the situation in Palestine, writing:

"In September a group of journalists and I visited Israel and stood on a hill overlooking the wall separating Israel from Gaza. From our viewpoint, we could see the controversial territory where 1.6 million Palestinians have been walled in and secluded from the outside world. They are, essentially, imprisoned.

"The walls erected around the West Bank and Gaza separate families from families. Many mothers will not see their children again. Millions will never return to the homes their families had occupied for hundreds of years. ... Thousands of Palestinian students at American universities will never see their families again.

"Israel gives most Palestinians fresh water once each week. ... In Gaza, Israel also rations their food, allowing only so many calories per human being."

The beginning of the end?

Brog warns that Israel partisans "must take this threat seriously," despite the fact that the pro-Israel side "is still far ahead in the battle for the hearts and minds of America's evangelicals. Just one pro-Israel organization, Christians United for Israel, has over 1.6 million members, chapters on more than 120 college and university campuses, and sponsors thirty-five pro-Israel events across the country every month. Anti-Israel Christians do not come close to matching CUFI's size, activity, or influence."

He writes, however, that the long-term trend described above presents a challenge, stating that what he calls "anti-Israel Christians" are "on a roll" and "are reaching an ever expanding network of evangelicals in the United States."

Brog warns: "The day that Israel is seen as the moral equivalent of Hamas is the day that the evangelical community - and by extension the political leaders it helps elect - will cease providing the Jewish state any meaningful support.

He continues: "Those who reject such facile moral equivalence must take this threat seriously. They cannot let the evangelical community go the way of the mainstream Protestant leadership." Their "lies," he says, "must be confronted early and often."

Brog's article appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Middle East Quarterly.

A few months later Israel launched its August 2014 Protective Edge invasion of Gaza, killing 2191 Palestinians, the vast majority of them civilians - 521 of them children and infants. During the same period Hamas resistance fighters killed 71 Israelis, the large majority of them soldiers, one a child.

During its massive invasion, Israeli forces destroyed 61,800 homes, damaged or destroyed 62 hospitals, 220 schools, and caused $7.8 billion in damage to Gazans - and this was the third major invasion in five years.

Then within two weeks after a ceasefire had been agreed to, Israeli forces had already killed at least two Palestinians, one sixteen years old; kidnapped several dozen Palestinians, including two seven-year-olds and an eight-year-old; confiscated 1,500 acres of Palestinian land; destroyed dozens of homes and buildings; and committed numerous other violations of human rights. During the same period Hamas forces had not not fired a single rocket, attacked an Israeli target, or committed any actions to break the terms of the ceasefire.***

Brog's concern is justified. Many Americans who are finally learning such facts are beginning to suspect that Israel is not morally equivalent to Hamas. It is inferior.

Brog's article suggests that the coming months will see a renewed propaganda effort from CUFI and other members of the multi-billion dollar Israel lobby.

However, as a leader of the lobby once said, a lobby thrives in the dark. As Brog reports, numerous people from across the religious and political spectrum are now turning on the light.

Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew, president of the Council for the National Interest, and author of Against Our Better Judgment: How the U.S. was used to create Israel .


* This wasn't entirely "out of nowhere." Groups and individuals working to create Israel during the first half of the 20th century had specifically undertaken efforts to influence Christians to support this project. For more on this see Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the US Was Used to Create Israel .) After Israel was established through its 1947-49 founding war, Israel and its partisans continued such efforts, including providing a jet plane to Jerry Falwell, facilitating his ability to reach Christians with a version of theology that benefited Israel.

** For more information and additional statistics on the August 2014 Israeli invasion of Gaza and its aftermath see here.

Two articles discuss David Brog and his influential role in "Christian" Zionism:

1. An article by journalist Troy Anderson in Charisma magazine, "Where Your Israel Donation Really Goes," reports:

"Brog is the powerhouse behind the Christian organization, yet he's also a conservative (non-Messianic) Jew. He brought two other Jews on board: Shari Dollinger from Atlanta as one of his coordinators and Ari Morgenstern as communications director. Morgenstern ensures CUFI's messaging is consistent with what Brog wants - which is to convey that evangelical Christians support Israel, yet (to his Jewish supporters) are also "safe" because CUFI will never proselytize.

"Brog, who was chief of staff to liberal Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania for seven years, is said to run CUFI like a political campaign. He has talking points, stays focused and rallies his constituency. He's well liked by those who work with him and known for being a brilliant strategist. But one by one, the higher-profile Christian leaders who helped Hagee start CUFI are dropping off as the organization becomes more focused on political lobbying.

"It's no secret that one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington, D.C., the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), has long wanted a "Gentile arm," and some believe they now have it in CUFI. Jewish leaders and philanthropists love to attend CUFI's events to see the genuine enthusiasm and love expressed for Israel. Though there's still rousing Christian music and prayer at these events, there's most certainly no proselytizing. As a result, many wealthy Jews have pumped tens of thousands of dollars into CUFI.

"Like Hagee, Brog has learned how to straddle the line between the evangelical and Jewish communities, and it shows in CUFI's growth. The organization boasts of having more than 1 million "members," though insiders know such membership consists of nothing but CUFI having your email address. There's nothing to pay, nothing to sign. And even if you drop out, you're still counted as a member. Given this, insiders say the number of actual donors is closer to 30,000 to 50,000.

"Meanwhile, little is known about CUFI's finances other than funds raised. The organization says neither Hagee nor his wife, Diana, receives any compensation from CUFI. Yet when Charisma asked CUFI the same questions asked of other organizations in this report - particularly about administrative costs, leader salaries and budgetary breakdown - Morgenstern declined to comment..."

2. The excerpts below are from "How Christian is Christian Zionism? An Update on its Uneasy Interaction with Jewish Missions and Evangelism" by David Brickner, Executive Director, Jews for Jesus [a pro-Israel organization.] Presented at the 26th Annual Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism-NA, March 2-4, 2009, Phoenix, Arizona

"This century has seen the rise of two powerful organizations... They are the most sophisticated, financially powerful and prominent Christian Zionist organizations today. They, more effectively than their forebears in the '80s and '90s, have diluted the gospel message, diverted gospel resources and discouraged a balanced perspective toward the Israeli/Arab conflict. In fact, unbelieving Jewish men run both organizations."

The two organizations are "International Fellowship of Christian and Jews" and "Christians United for Israel" (CUFI)

Regarding CUFI, Brickner writes:

"Though headlined by well-known charismatic pastor and preacher John Hagee, CFI's executive director is David Brog, an unbelieving Jewish attorney who served in various positions in the Senate including chief of staff to Senator Arlen Specter. Brog, author of Standing with Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State, has been quite plain about Christians United for Israel's rejection of evangelism...

"Brog made it clear in an interview in the Washington Jewish Week that 'all Christians United for Israel events are strictly non-conversionary and that the group will have no Jewish converts as speakers at events or on the organization's Board.' Brog went on to say; 'The group tells people that if you cannot put aside your desire to share the gospel with Jews there's the door.'

"Of course this would be expected policy coming from any organization run by unbelieving Jews. The fact that the organization states that it is Christian yet excludes fellow Jewish Christians from participation is both racist and unchristian. Tuvya Zaretsky tells the story of having been invited apparently accidentally to a program sponsored by Christians United for Israel and the Israel Christian Nexxus, a pro-Israel lobby group. When he called to confirm participation, Patricia Johnson, who was working on the event, told him that he was invited by accident and because he was a Jewish believer in Jesus was not welcome. Said Zaretsky,

"'Somehow these Christians do not realize that if they want to bless Israel, they must extend that blessing to all of Israel - including those within the Body of Messiah and those who still need to be introduced to Him.'

"Sadly, it is not just that Jewish believers are not welcomed in Christians United for Israel. Neither is the gospel. And not just because of the Jewish unbelievers. The well-known figurehead of CUFI and perhaps the most prominently known Christian Zionist today is John Hagee..."

"Unfortunately it's not easy to tell what the scope of resources is behind the Christians United for Israel group. They have not filed a form 990 with the IRS. Hagee's Global Evangelism Television Inc. does have filings, but only as recently as 2004. At that time they had an annual income of over $10,000,000 and Hagee's compensation from the company was $500,000 a year. Of course the 18,000-member church that he pastors, Cornerstone, is separate from the television ministry. One presumes he receives a salary from the church as well as whatever royalties his more than a dozen books provides.

"Christians United for Israel, as I said, has not registered any financial information, although news articles can give us an indication. In October of 2007, according to the Jewish News Weekly, CUFI raised 8.5 million dollars for Israeli causes at Hagee's "Night to Honor Israel" event. If you look on the CUFI website you will see several "Night to Honor Israel" events scheduled each month.

"CUFI does identify its regional directors, some of whom are well known political Christian Zionists. One of the better known is Robert Stearns of Robert Stearns International Incorporated, doing business as Eagles' Wings Ministries. Stearns' organization is best known for organizing the Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem. It reported income of $2,800,000 for the year 2007, and states its purpose is to "promote the message of Christianity." However, Eagles' Wings Ministries does not encourage prayer for the salvation of Israel, the only true hope for peace..."

Alison Weir is the president of the Council for the National Interest and executive director of If Americans Knew.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service - if this is your content and you're reading it on someone else's site, please read the FAQ at http://ift.tt/jcXqJW.

Smart move: Germany looks to Chinese markets as EU economy struggles

Premier Li Keqiang and Angela Merkel

© AP

A struggling euro zone economy has intensified the pressure on the German government to look towards Asian markets like China

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will co-chair the "China-Germany Governmental Consultation" in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during his visit to Germany that begins on Thursday. The meet is aimed at drawing a new blueprint for Sino-German cooperation in economy, technology and environment protection.

Official figures say bilateral trade accounts for one third of the total China-EU trade volume. The Chinese Premier said last year that the two countries, the world's top two exporters, could be an "economic dream team" and that Beijing was ready to open up new sectors of its economy to German investors.

From January to August this year, bilateral trade amounted to $117.3 billion, up 12 per cent year on year.

"The two countries are important markets for each other. We are making great efforts to transform our economic structure, change our development mode, and address environmental pollution. This will create a huge demand in the market of environment protection and energy saving. That's where Germany has advantages," said Chinese Ambassador to Germany Shi Mingde in an interview to Chinese state media ahead of Li's visit.

A struggling euro zone economy has intensified the pressure on the German government to look towards Asian markets like China.

Germany had, earlier last year, come out in support of China during a trade dispute over the sale of solar cells and wireless equipment in Europe. Chancellor Angela Merkel had said in May last year that Germany would do everything it could to prevent the trade dispute from escalating to the point where the EC imposed the import duties on China.

The Chinese Premier had welcomed Germany's call, saying it was because Berlin "wanted to hear" China's stance. "This position, that is what binds China with Germany and earns my appreciation," Li said.

China is keen on German investment in sectors like logistics, education and healthcare.

During her visit to China, earlier this year, Merkel oversaw Chinese and German companies inking a number of agreements, including buying helicopters from Germany, worth over $400 million and setting up a new automobile manufacturing base in China.

China is a giant market for German luxury cars and state-of-the-art machinery, while Chinese exports to Germany include textiles, electrical goods and toys.

Meanwhile, Li is also scheduled to attend the Hamburg Summit, the largest Chinese-European business meeting and an annual event.

Disney World employees live in motels and cars because Florida politicians oppose a living wage

Disney World

If you haven't been to Disney World near Orlando, Fla., lately, it will cost you, your wife and three kids about $1,500 for a four-day pass.

However, that's a price that many Disney World employees can't afford.

According to data from the U.S. Labor Department, the Orlando-area has a 18.4 percent poverty rate, notes Bloomberg News.

It's not because people aren't working, but rather their wages are not keeping up with the cost of living in Central Florida.

The Orlando Sentinel reported in 2013 that 37 percent of jobs in Orlando pay less than $25,000 per year. Almost 53 percent of people who rent homes in Orlando have to cough up 35 percent of their pay for housing. About 44,000 retail-sales jobs in the area paid more than $25,000 in 2007, but now those same positions pay less.

While Florida doesn't have a state income tax, it's minimum wage is $7.93. Attempts to raise Florida's minimum wage have been defeated by Republican politicians.

This week Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) expressed his opposition to raising the state's minimum wage.

"When I hear a politician say that we have to raise the minimum wage so working families can make ends meet, I cringe, because I know that statement is a lie," Gov. Scott told The Tampa Bay Times. "Even if we did raise the minimum wage, working families will still not be able to make ends meet on those jobs. We need good jobs that lead to good careers for our families and that's what I am focused on."

Mike Stapleton, president of an union that represents bus drivers in Orlando, told Bloomberg News, "Very large numbers of Disney employees live in motels. Some of them live in cars. And Disney knows this."

Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler claims the company's latest pay plan included "significant wage increases."

Disney, which pocketed $2.2 billion in its second quarter this year, has a minimum wage of $10 per hour.

"There are hundreds of thousands of people here who are just the embodiment of the whole 'paycheck-away-from-disaster' kind of thing," stated Greg Higgerson, of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. "Not because they made poor choices, but because they're scratching the earth just to get by."

Astronauts may hibernate for Mars journey


© newsonia.com

A Nasa-backed study is exploring the feasibility of lowering the cost of a human expedition to Mars by putting the astronauts in deep sleep. The deep sleep, called torpor, would reduce astronauts' metabolic functions with existing medical procedures.

"Therapeutic torpor has been around in theory since the 1980s and really since 2003 has been a staple for critical care trauma patients in hospitals," said aerospace engineer Mark Schaffer, with SpaceWorks Enterprises in Atlanta, earlier this week at the International Astronomical Congress here. So far, the duration of a patient's time in torpor state has been limited to about one week.

Coupled with intravenous feeding, a crew could be put in hibernation for the transit time to Mars, which under the best-case scenario would take 180 days one-way. "We haven't had the need to keep someone in (therapeutic torpor) for longer than seven days. For human Mars missions, we need to push that to 90 days, 180 days," Schaffer said.

This will allow crews to live inside smaller ships with fewer amenities like galleys, exercise gear, water, food and clothing. The SpaceWorks study, funded by Nasa, shows a five-fold reduction in the amount of pressurised volume need for a hibernating crew and a three-fold reduction in the total amount of mass required, including consumables like food and water.

The study looked at a two-part system for putting Mars-bound astronauts in stasis and bringing them out. The cooling would be done through an internasal system, which Schaffer admitted is "not very comfortable," but inhaling a coolant has several advantages over reducing body temperatures with external cooling pads. Cooled from the outside, the body is more susceptible to shivering and possible tissue damage, Schaffer notes.

An alternative to having the whole crew in stasis is to have one person awake for two to three days, then hibernate for 14 days.

Fracking disaster: California aquifers polluted with billions of gallons of wastewater

fracking waste

© Sinisha Karich

After California state regulators shut down 11 fracking wastewater injection wells last July over concerns that the wastewater might have contaminated aquifers used for drinking water and farm irrigation, the EPA ordered a report within 60 days.

It was revealed yesterday that the California State Water Resources Board has sent a letter to the EPA confirming that at least nine of those sites were in fact dumping wastewater contaminated with fracking fluids and other pollutants into aquifers protected by state law and the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity, reveals that nearly 3 billion gallons of wastewater were illegally injected into central California aquifers and that half of the water samples collected at the 8 water supply wells tested near the injection sites have high levels of dangerous chemicals such as arsenic, a known carcinogen that can also weaken the human immune system, and thallium, a toxin used in rat poison.

Timothy Krantz, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Redlands, says these chemicals could pose a serious risk to public health: "The fact that high concentrations are showing up in multiple water wells close to wastewater injection sites raises major concerns about the health and safety of nearby residents."

The full extent of the contamination is not yet known. Regulators at the State Water Resources Board said that as many as 19 other injection wells could have been contaminating protected aquifers, and the Central Valley Water Board has so far only tested 8 of the nearly 100 nearby water wells.

Fracking has been accused of exacerbating California's epic state-wide drought, but the Central Valley region, which has some of the worst air and water pollution in the state, has borne a disproportionate amount of the impacts from oil companies' increasing use of the controversial oil extraction technique.

News of billions of gallons of fracking wastewater contaminating protected aquifers relied on by residents of the Central Valley for drinking water could not have come at a worse time.

Adding insult to injury, fracking is a water-intensive process, using as much as 140,000 to 150,000 gallons per frack job every day, permanently removing it from the water cycle.

Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, says these new revelations prove state regulators have failed to protect Californians and the environment from fracking and called on Governor Jerry Brown to take action now to prevent an even bigger water emergency in drought-stricken California.

"Much more testing is needed to gauge the full extent of water pollution and the threat to public health," Krezmann says. "But Governor Brown should move quickly to halt fracking to ward off a surge in oil industry wastewater that California simply isn't prepared to dispose of safely."

Psychopathic teen admits to killing, raping mother - 'Guess I lost my virginity to a dead corpse'

© Rawstory.com

A Texas man who admitted to killing his mother and raping her corpse clowned around for jurors who are considering his sentence. Kevin Davis pleaded guilty Monday to first-degree murder, just as his trial began.

Prosecutors played a videotaped confession Tuesday to jurors, who heard the 18-year-old admit he tried to strangle Kimberly Hill with the power cord from a video game console on March 27, but when she did not stop screaming, he struck his mother's head repeatedly with a hammer. Davis told investigators on the recording that he stuck his hand into the open wound and moved her brain around to make sure she was dead, reported KZTV-TV. Then, Davis told investigators, he raped his mother's dead body.

"Guess I lost my virginity to a dead corpse," Davis said.

Davis watched the video intently, and when it was over, he swiveled his chair to face the jury and smiled, reported the . Davis told detectives he had long fantasized about killing his mother and sister, and he waited a while for his sister to return home before deciding to leave his family's Corpus Christi apartment and move away.

"I had my fill of killing," he said. "It seemed a little much."

He rode his bicycle along some train tracks before knocking on a couple's door and asking them to call police because he'd murdered someone. Davis waved at the couple as they testified and prosecutors asked them to identify him in the courtroom, the newspaper reported.

Police found a trail of blood from the living room to the master bedroom, along with handwritten notes from Davis. "Chase me," one read. "Sorry for the mess. KD."

Jurors cringed and covered their faces as Davis told detectives that he had once choked and drowned a cat and then performed a sexual act with its remains, the reported.

He also described his fantasy of dressing in a suit, decapitating a girl, putting her in a dress, and having sex with her corpse. "It would be a night to remember," Davis told detectives.

Davis told detectives during the videotaped interview that Hill was "the best mother" and didn't deserve to die, and police asked him if he regretted killing her. "In a way, yes, but I wouldn't take back what I did," he said. "I did love her in a way. I'm a terrible, disgusting person."

Davis told police he asked his mother for permission to die because he was bored with life and did not like other people, and he said she was upset but told him she could not control what he did. So he decided to kill her, Davis told detectives. "I don't have standards, I don't have morals. A body's a body - a piece of meat," Davis said.

Davis, who is facing up to 99 years in prison, told detectives he deserved 100 years for what he had done, although he admitted he would kill again.

"I'm not mentally disturbed, I'm sane," he told detectives. "I know what I did."

Watch the KIII-TV coverage here.

Ramping up the fear: If Ebola reaches Central America, 'there will be mass migration into the U.S. 'sez General

Those looking for good news on the fight against Ebola will not find much encouragement from Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly, the commander of the U.S. Southern Command. As Jim Garamone of Department of Defense News reports, Kelly told an audience at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday that, if the disease reaches Central America, "it's literally, 'Katie bar the door,' and there will be mass migration into the United States." He also said with certainty that "there is no way we can keep Ebola [contained] in West Africa.

By the end of the year, there's supposed to be 1.4 million people infected with Ebola and 62 percent of them dying, according to the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]... So, much like West Africa, it will rage for a period of time," Kelly said. This is particularly possible scenario if the disease gets to Haiti or Central America, he said. If the disease gets to countries like Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador, it will cause a panic and people will flee the region, the general said."If it breaks out, it's literally, 'Katie bar the door,' and there will be mass migration into the United States," Kelly said. "They will run away from Ebola, or if they suspect they are infected, they will try to get to the United States for treatment."

Kelly said that human trafficking could be an additional wrinkle in the battle to contain the disease. He related a disturbing anecdote from a recent visit to Central America where some men from Liberia were headed to the United States: Also,transnational criminal networks smuggle people and those people can be carrying Ebola, the general said. Kelly spoke of visiting the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua with U.S. embassy personnel. At that time, a group of men "were waiting in line to pass into Nicaragua and then on their way north," he recalled. "The embassy person walked over and asked who they were and they told him they were from Liberia and they had been on the road about a week," Kelly continued. "They met up with the network in Trinidad and now they were on their way to the United States - illegally, of course." Those men, he said, "could have made it to New York City and still be within the incubation period for Ebola."

Earlier this year, General Kelly gave some chilling testimony about the limitations on the United States's ability to protect the southern border: In spring hearings before the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, Kelly said that budgets cuts are "severely degrading" the military's ability to defend southern approaches to the U.S border. Last year, he said, his task force was unable to act on nearly 75 percent of illicit trafficking events. "I simply sit and watch it go by," he said. But the potential threats are even greater. Kelly warned that neglect has created vulnerabilities that can be exploited by terrorist groups, describing a "crime-terror convergence" already seen in Lebanese Hezbollah's involvement in the region. - The Weekly Standard

Not so settled science: Gravity rivals join forces to nail down Big G

cavendish experiment 1798


A mock-up of a torsion balance used by British natural philosopher Henry Cavendish to measure G in 1798.

Metrologists meet to design the ultimate gravitational-constant experiment.

It is one of nature's most fundamental numbers, but humanity still doesn't have an accurate value for the gravitational constant. And, bafflingly, scientists' ability to pinpoint G seems to be getting worse. This week, the world's leading gravity metrologists are meeting to devise a set of experiments that will try to set the record straight. This will call for precision measurements that are notoriously difficult to make - but it will also require former rivals to work together.

In his 1687 , Isaac Newton outlined his theory of gravity: that the force between two objects is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. G is the constant by which the masses must be multiplied to put an absolute value on that attraction. But more than 300 years later, the constant - known as Big G to distinguish it from little g, the acceleration due to gravity on Earth - is known for sure to only 3 significant figures (6.67384(±0.0008) × 10−11 m3 kg−1 s−2).

Independent groups of physicists have been trying to pin down the true value of the constant for decades, but in recent years, rather than converging on an ever more precise figure, the results of their experiments have been diverging, causing the uncertainty in the official figure to rise. "There's no other fundamental constant of physics where we've had such a wide dispersion of results," says Terry Quinn, former director of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Paris. Some or all of the experiments must either grossly underestimate their uncertainty or miss significant systematic errors, he adds.

On 9 and 10 October, metrologists will meet at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland, to devise a plan to resolve the issue.
Gravity constant

© G. Rosi et al. Nature 510, 518–521 (2014)

Gravity is hard to measure because it is an extremely weak force. In a tussle over a paper clip, for example, the electromagnetic force of a small magnet beats the gravitational pull of the whole of planet Earth. To measure , scientists must eliminate every other potentially perturbing force. The oldest, and still most common, method measures the tiny rotation of a torsion balance - a rod hanging on a wire - caused by the attraction between masses at either end of the rod. Others include measuring the movement of pendulums - or the change in weight of test objects suspended on a 'balance beam' - in response to the presence of giant masses, and measuring the acceleration of cold rubidium atoms.

A big item on the agenda at the meeting will be debating how to choose a small number of these experiments to be conducted by members of a consortium, this time with an unprecedented level of oversight. Each experiment will be repeated by two independent groups, using identical sets of equipment created and tested at a third institution. While the experiments are going on - and there is still time to fix them - experts from outside those two groups will hunt for errors. In the past, says Quinn, who is a driving force behind the NIST meeting, scientists have picked holes in each other's experiments only after they were published, making it difficult to verify whether those problems were really the cause of an error.

Although meeting attendees are enthusiastic about the project, picking the experiments will not be easy, because each scientist is likely to gun for their own preferred method. "I've been working for 12 years on my experiment," says Andrea De Marchi, a physicist at the Polytechnic University of Turin in Italy, who will be presenting his technique to the meeting. "I guess everybody else has too."

Until now, scientists measuring have competed; everyone necessarily believes in their own value, says Stephan Schlamminger, an experimental physicist at NIST. "A lot of these people have pretty big egos, so it may be difficult," he says. "I think when people agree which experiment to do, everyone wants their idea put forward. But in the end it will be a compromise, and we are all adults so we can probably agree."

Working together could even be a stress reliever, says Jens Gundlach, an experimental physicist at the University of Washington in Seattle. Getting a result that differs from the literature is very uncomfortable, he says. "You think day and night, 'Did I do everything right?'"

Cash is another hurdle. Big G experiments have often piggybacked on other projects. Justifying funding for them can be tough, because there are currently no theories or other experiments that rely on G having a particular value: in determining the orbits of satellites or planets, for example, only the result of multiplying the gravitational constant by the mass of the central body is relevant, and that can be determined precisely enough without knowing G.

Big G might yet find a use in quantum gravity, the attempt to reconcile the theory of gravity with quantum mechanics, but for now, the main motivation for chasing the constant is simply that not having a reliable value is irksome. "It's hard to live with discrepancy," says Schlamminger. It is possible that G appears to be so capricious because our basic understanding of gravity is flawed, he says, but that seems unlikely.

Quinn points out that NIST is hosting this week's meeting, and he hopes that the institute will provide initial funding for the project, but nothing is yet firm. Assuming that cash is found, the consortium could have a reliable value for G in the next five years, says Quinn, or at least a good handle on where disagreements lie. "There must be a solution to this," he says, "there must be."

Oldest art found in Indonesian cave

Analysis of images discovered in 1950s counters Eurocentric view of creativity's origins.

Artwork in an Indonesian cave has been found to date back at least 40,000 years, making it the oldest sign yet of human creative art - likely pre-dating art from European caves.

The findings, published on 8 October in , undermine a Eurocentric view of the origins of human creativity and could prompt a 'gold rush' to find even older art on the route of human migration from Africa to the east.

The analysis hints at "just what a wealth of undiscovered information there is in Asia", says Alistair Pike, an archaeologist at the University of Southampton, UK, who in 2013 identified what had been considered the world's oldest cave art, in Europe, and had no involvement in the current project. "This paper will likely prompt a hunt."

[embedded content]

The Indonesian images, discovered in a limestone cave on the island of Sulawesi in the 1950s, had previously been thought to date back only 10,000 years. Anything older would, it was assumed, have deteriorated.

Even after a technology that could test that assumption, uranium-thorium dating, became available, no one thought to apply it to the Indonesian cave - until now. Though the paint itself cannot be dated, uranium-thorium dating can estimate the age of the bumpy layers of calcium carbonate (known as 'cave popcorn') that formed on the surface of the paintings. As mineral layers are deposited, they draw in uranium. Because uranium decays into thorium at a known rate, the ratio of uranium to thorium isotopes in a sample indicates how old it is.

The researchers dated 12 stencils of human hands and two images of large animals. Because they sampled the top layer of calcium carbonate, the uranium dating technique gave them a minimum age for each sample.

They found that the oldest stencil was at least 39,900 years old - 2,000 years older than the minimum age of the oldest European hand stencil. An image of a babirusa, or 'pig-deer', resembling an aubergine with stick-like legs jutting from each end, was estimated to be 35,400 years old - around the same age as the earliest large animal pictures in European caves.

The hand stencils look similar to those found in Europe. But the animal pictures, in addition to reflecting local animals rather than mammoths as in Europe, are stylistically different. The Indonesian images "look 'line-y', almost like brush strokes", says Pike, whereas early European images "look dabbed, almost like finger paint".

"It allows us to move away from the view that Europe was special," says Maxime Aubert, an archaeologist at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, who led the team. "There was some idea that early Europeans were more aware of themselves and their surroundings. Now we can say that's not true."

Researchers posit two theories for the evolution of such artwork - either it arose independently in Indonesia, or early humans leaving Africa already had the capacity to make art, and carried it to multiple areas.

Pike thinks that researchers should seek evidence of art along the southern migration route. "India is the most obvious place to look," he says. "I expect we'll start getting a lot more photos [of images covered in calcium carbonate] from along that corridor from people who want to date them. This may move the field along very rapidly." Southeast Asia will also be raked over, he predicts. There are hundreds more caves in that region of Sulawesi alone, and Aubert has also started looking in Borneo.

The discovery weakens a much-debated theory that Neanderthals, who were present in Europe until around 41,000 years ago, might have been responsible for the cave art there. "There were no Neanderthals in Sulawesi," says Pike. But the hand stencils and choice of subject are very similar to the Indonesian figures, he adds.

Aubert hopes that the discovery might draw attention to the need to protect the caves, many of which have been damaged by mining and other industrial activity. Many of the paintings are flaking off, he says. He hopes that the site might finally, after years of candidacy, be designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Education, Social and Cultural Organization, which would accelerate conservation efforts

Dallas county sheriff's deputy exhibiting Ebola symptoms


An afternoon news conference has been called in Frisco, a suburb of Dallas, to discuss a possible second case of Ebola.

According to a statement from the City of Frisco, the patient claims to have had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, referred to as Dallas 'patient zero.'

The Frisco patient has been identified as a Dallas County deputy Michael Monnig, who was not one of the 48 people being monitored by federal, state and local health officials because he never had direct contact with the patient. Monnig did enter the apartment where Duncan stayed after Duncan had been admitted to the hospital.

The call came in shortly after noon from Care Now, 301 W. Main Street, where the patient was "exhibiting signs and symptoms of Ebola."

CBS 11 has confirmed with Care Now that the facility is in contact with the Centers for Disease Control and is holding everyone in the facility until receiving clearance from the CDC. The patient has been transported to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital by Frisco firefighter-paramedics, the same hospital where Duncan, the first patient to be diagnosed with the virus on American soil, was admitted. Duncan died earlier today, after spending more than 10 days in isolation at that hospital.

Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas confirmed the patient's arrival to the Emergency Room in statement, which reads in part, "Right now, there are more questions than answers about this case. Our professional staff of nurses and doctors is prepared to examine the patient, discuss any findings with appropriate agencies and officials. We are on alert with precautions and systems in place." The hospital is still admitting and caring for other patients at this time.

The Dallas County Sheriff's Office said the deputy "expressed concern and we directed that deputy to the Dallas County Health & Human Services for care." According to CBS 11's Andrea Lucia, Monnig's children said he woke up this morning feeling sore and a little nauseated. He went to clinic as a precaution. Other sources say Monnig was complaining of "stomach issues."

Meanwhile, first responders are also examining clinical staff and other patients at the Care Now facility. It is unknown how many other people may have been exposed to the patient.

"Non-Official Cover" - Respected German journalist blows whistle on how the CIA controls the media

"I was bribed by billionaires, I was bribed by the Americans to report...not exactly the truth."

- Udo Ulfkotte, former editor of one of Germany's main daily publications,

Udo Ulfkotte

© Wikimedia Commons

Some readers will see this and immediately dismiss it as Russian propaganda since the interview appeared on RT. This would be a serious mistake.

Whether you want to admit it or not, CIA control of the media in the U.S. and abroad is not conspiracy theory, it is conspiracy fact.

Carl Bernstein, who is best known for his reporting on Watergate, penned a 25,000 word article in after spending six months looking at the relationship of the CIA and the press during the Cold War years. Below is an excerpt, but you can read the entire thing here.

In 1953, Joseph Alsop, then one of America's leading syndicated columnists, went to the Philippines to cover an election. He did not go because he was asked to do so by his syndicate. He did not go because he was asked to do so by the newspapers that printed his column. He went at the request of the CIA.

Alsop is one of more than 400 American journalists who in the past twenty‑five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents on file at CIA headquarters. Some of these journalists' relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services - from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country.

Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America's leading news organizations.

Like any good intelligence agency, the CIA learned from its mistakes upon being exposed, and has since adjusted tactics. This is where the concept of "non-official cover" comes into play. The term was recently described by German journalist Udo Ulfkotte, in a blistering RT interview. Mr. Ulfkotte was previously the editor for one of Germany's main dailies, (), so he is no small fry.

"Non-official cover" occurs when a journalist is essentially working for the CIA, but it's not in an official capacity. This allows both parties to reap the rewards of the partnership, while at the same time giving both sides plausible deniability. The CIA will find young journalists and mentor them. Suddenly doors will open up, rewards will be given, and before you know it, you owe your entire career to them. That's essentially how it works. But don't take it from me...

[embedded content]

If this peaked your curiosity, read about Operation Mockingbird.

Also see my post: How Hollywood Became "Propagandist in Chief" by John Pilger

In Liberty,

Michael Krieger

Comet Siding Spring: Close call for Mars, wake up call for Earth?

Comet Siding Spring


Five orbiters from India, the European Union and the United States will nestle behind Mars as comet Siding Springs passes at a speed of 200,000 km/hr (125,000 mph). At right, Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacts on Jupiter, the Chelyabinsk Asteroid over Russia.

It was 20 years ago this past July when images of Jupiter being pummeled by a comet caught the world's attention. Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 had flown too close to Jupiter. It was captured by the giant planet's gravity and torn into a string of beads. One by one the comet fragments impacted Jupiter - leaving blemishes on its atmosphere, each several times larger than Earth in size.

Until that event, no one had seen a comet impact a planet. Now, Mars will see a very close passage of the comet Siding Spring on October 19th. When the comet was first discovered, astronomers quickly realized that it was heading straight at Mars. In fact, it appeared it was going to be a bulls-eye hit - except for the margin of error in calculating a comet's trajectory from 1 billion kilometers (620 million miles, 7 AU) away.

It took several months of analysis for a cataclysmic impact on Mars to be ruled out. So now today, Mars faces a just a cosmic close shave. But this comet packs enough energy that an impact would have globally altered Mars surface and atmosphere.

So what should us Earthlings gather from this and other events like it? Are we next? Why or why not should we be prepared for impacts from these mile wide objects?

For one, ask any dinosaur and you will have your answer.

Siding Spring comet

© ESA, anosmicovni

An illustration of the Siding Spring comet in comparison to the Comet 67P atop Los Angeles. The original image was the focus of Bob King’s article – “What Comets, Parking Lots and Charcoal Have in Common“.

One can say that Mars was spared and also the five orbiting spacecraft from India (Mars Orbiter Mission), the European Union (Mars Express) and the United States (MOD,MRO,MAVEN). We have Scottish-Australian astronomer Robert McNaught to thank for discovering the comet on January 3, 2013 using the half meter (20 inch) Uppsala Southern Schmidt Telescope at Siding Spring, Australia.

Initially the margin of error in the trajectory was large, but a series of observations gradually reduced the error. By late summer 2014, Mars was in the clear and astronomers could confidently say the comet would pass close but not impact. Furthermore, as observations accumulated - including estimates of the outpouring of gases and dust - comet Siding Spring shrunk in size, i.e. the estimates of potentially tens of kilometers were down to now 700 meters (4/10th of a mile) in diameter. Estimates of the gas and dust production are low and the size of the tail and coma - the spherical gas cloud surrounding the solid body - are small and only the outer edge of both will interact with Mars' atmosphere.

Comet Siding Spring_1

© Universe Today

The mass, velocity and kinetic energy of celestial bodies can be deceiving. It is useful to compare the Siding Spring comet to common or man-made objects.

Yet, this is a close call for Mars. We could not rule out a collision for over six months. While this comet is small, it is moving relative to Mars at a speed of 200,000 kilometers/hour (125,000 mph, 56 km/sec). This small body packs a wallop. From high school science or intro college Physics, many of us know that the kinetic energy of an object increases by the square of the velocity. Double the velocity and the energy of the object goes up by 4, increase by 3 - energy increases by 9.

So the close shave for Mars is yet another wake up call for the "intelligent" space faring beings of the planet Earth. A wake up call because the close passage of a comet could have just as easily involved Earth. Astronomers would have warned the world of a comet heading straight for us, one that could wipe out 70% of all life as happened 65 million years ago to the dinosaurs. Replace dinosaur with humans and you have the full picture.

Time would have been of the essence. The space faring nations of the world - those of the ESA, and Russia, the USA, Japan and others - would have gathered and attempted to conceive some spacecrafts with likely nuclear weapons that could be built and launched within a few months. Probably several vehicles with weapons would be launched at once, leaving Earth as soon as possible. Intercepting a comet or asteroid further out would give the impulse from the explosions more time to push the incoming body away from the Earth.

There is no way that humanity could sit on their collective hands and wait for astronomers to observe and measure for months until they could claim that it would just be a close call for Earth. We could imagine the panic it would cause. Recall the scenes from Carl Sagan's movie with people of every persuasion expressing at 120 decibels their hopes and fears. Even a small comet or asteroid, only a half kilometer - a third of a mile in diameter would be a cataclysmic event for Mars or Earth.

But yet, in the time has that has since transpired from discovery of the comet Siding Spring (1/3/2013), the Chelyabinsk asteroid (~20 m/65 ft) exploded in an air burst that injured 1500 people in Russia. The telescope that discovered Comet Siding Spring was decommissioned in late 2013 and the Southern Near-Earth Object Survey was shutdown. This has left the southern skies without a dedicated telescope for finding near-Earth asteroids. And proposals such as the Sentinel project by the B612 Foundation remain underfunded.

We know of the dangers from small celestial bodies such as comets or asteroids. Government organizations in the United States and groups at the United Nations are discussing plans. There is plenty of time to find and protect the Earth but not necessarily time to waste.

Ninety-nine in quarantine after Uganda Marburg death

8 people develop Ebola-like Marburg disease in Uganda

World Health Organization (WHO) representative said Tuesday. Preparations are underway to quarantine the eight, the country's Health Ministry said. WMUR 9 News reported the number of people exhibiting symptoms was as high as eleven. A 30-year-old radiographer who had worked at Kampala's Mengo Hospital died of the Marburg virus on September 28. Nearly 100 people who had been in contact with the victim have been identified, including workers at Mengo Hospital and another clinic that treated the victim and people living in western Kasese district, where the deceased was buried. "We are in the initial stages of the Ugandan epidemic," WHO representative Alemu Wondimagegnehu told DPA. "We cannot tell what lies ahead, but efforts should be stepped up in vigilance and to activate the existing hemorrhagic fever task forces," Wondimagegnehu said. The government said earlier it was mobilizing health teams and had issued a public alert, asking Ugandans to avoid contact with people with disease symptoms and to report suspected cases. Three days after a fatal case of Marburg hemorrhagic fever was diagnosed in Uganda, 99 people are under isolation in four different locations across the East African country, as field epidemiologists and surveillance officers continue to closely monitor all people who got into contact with only victim.-Spy Ghana

99 in isolation after Uganda Marburg death

"As of today, a total of 99 contacts are under follow up. All the contacts are still in a healthy condition," Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, director general for health services in Uganda, said in the latest update on the outbreak on Tuesday. Aceng revealed that at least 11 people have tested negative after results from Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) indicate that although the suspects had developed signs and symptoms similar to that of the disease, they did not contract the virus. "However, for those who continue to have signs, tests will be run again after three days," Aceng said. According to the WHO, the Marburg virus begins abruptly with severe headaches and malaise. It causes severe bleeding, fever, vomiting and diarrhea and, like Ebola, is transmitted through bodily fluids. Fatality rates in Marburg outbreaks have varied from 25 to more than 80 per cent, the WHO says. The virus is named after the German town of Marburg, following an epidemic there and in Frankfurt in 1967. The Marburg virus entered Uganda in 2012, affecting four south-western districts and killing nine people. Uganda also has a history of Ebola outbreaks: The virus killed 224 people in the north of the country in 2000-01, 37 people near the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2007 and 17 people in the west of the country in 2012. -WMUR

Prehistoric paintings in Indonesia may be oldest cave art ever

Prehistoric paintings

© Kinez Riza

Europeans may not have been the first cave artists. Some prehistoric paintings in Indonesia, such as the hand stencils shown here, could be more than 40,000 years old.

Paintings of miniature buffalos, warty pigs and human hands covering the walls and ceilings of caves in Indonesia could be among the oldest examples of cave art in the world, a new study finds.

The paintings - some of which might be more than 40,000 years old - challenge Europe's standing as the birthplace of prehistoric art.

"It was previously thought that Western Europe was the centerpiece of a 'symbolic explosion' in early human artistic activity, such as cave painting and other forms of image making, including figurative art, around 40,000 years ago," said study leader Maxime Aubert, an archaeologist and geochemist at Australia's Griffith University.

"However, our findings show that cave art was made at opposite ends of the Pleistocene Eurasian world at about the same time, suggesting these practices have deeper origins - perhaps in Africa before our species left this continent and spread across the globe." [See Photos of the Stunning Cave Art from Indonesia]

Sulawesi caves

The paintings were found in the karst caves of Sulawesi, an island just east of Borneo with four long peninsulas that radiate like flower petals. Archaeologists have known about the cave art for decades. They've also found shellfish, animal bones, pigment-stained stone tools and even ochre "crayons" inside these caverns.

The cave paintings were assumed to be prehistoric, but relatively "young," perhaps created by the region's first farmers a few thousand years ago or hunter-gatherers around 8,000 years ago at the earliest, Aubert told Live Science in an email. But scientists had never tried to date the artworks before.

Stylistically, some of the paintings resemble those found in Europe. There are hand stencils that would have been created as a person spit or sprayed red pigment over his or her hand to leave the outline of a handprint. These look quite similar to the hand stencils found in the El Castillo cave in Spain, estimated to be 37,300 years old. (At 40,800 years old, a red disk on the wall of El Castillo cave was proclaimed to be the oldest reliably dated wall painting ever in a 2012 study in the journal Science.)

As for the figurative paintings, artists in Europe and Southeast Asia apparently shared a favorite subject: wild animals. But while prehistoric paintings in places such as Chauvet Cave in France depict cave lions, horses and hyenas, the animals represented in Sulawesi include fruit-eating pig-deer called babirusas, Celebes warty pigs and midget buffalos also known as anoas.

Prehistoric 'popcorn'

Adam Brumm, an archaeologist at Australia's University of Wollongong, first noticed small cauliflowerlike knobs on some of the hand stencils while doing research in Sulawesi in 2011. These crusty bumps were actually calcite deposits known as coralloid speleothems or, more informally, "cave popcorn." The deposits contain tiny amounts of radioactive uranium, which decays to thorium over time. By measuring the ratio of uranium to thorium in the layers of cave popcorn, scientists can determine the minimum age of underlying artwork.

Aubert and his colleagues determined the age of 14 paintings inside seven caves. The artworks range in age from 17,400 years old to 39,900 years old, the study found. But since uranium dating of the cave popcorn layer that grew on top of the art only provides a minimum age, these paintings could be much older, the researchers said. The findings were published today (Oct. 8) in the journal Nature. [The Top 10 Mysteries of the First Humans]

The oldest painting - a hand stencil - was discovered on a 13-foot-high (4 meters) ceiling in a cave known as Leang Timpuseng in Sulawesi's southwestern peninsula. The researchers say this is now the earliest known example of a hand stencil, and it also represents the earliest evidence for a human presence on Sulawesi.

In the same cave, a painting of a babirusa was found to be at least 35,400 years old. That means this pig-deer could be the oldest known figurative work of art in the world - older than the beasts that line the walls of Chauvet Cave.

Origins of art

The revelation that art was being made on opposite sides of the world during the Ice Age suggests that symbolic painting could have originated independently - or perhaps art-making originated much earlier, in Africa, where humans evolved before marching out to other continents about 100,000 years ago.

Benjamin Smith, a rock-art expert and a professor at the University of Western Australia who was not involved in the study, said it is "highly important, but not surprising, that we have finally found evidence that settlers in Southeast Asia had rock art as part of their cultural package some 40,000 years ago."

Archaeologists already had some clues that this "cultural package" predated the cathedrals of cave art in Europe. Ochre, a reddish natural pigment, has been found on human remains in burials in Israel dating back to 100,000 years ago, Smith said, and humans left decorated pieces of ochre and ostrich eggshell in caves in South Africa as early as 100,000 years ago.

But whether figurative art developed before the exodus from Africa or soon thereafter remains to be seen, Smith told Live Science.

"But what is clear is that those who continue to try to place Europe at the center of the human story hold an untenable position," Smith wrote in an email. He thinks scientists studying the origins of art and symbolic thought should instead shift their attention to Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Bad moon rising: Is blood moon one more omen world spiraling is towards greater peril?

© Theextinctionprotocol.wordpress.com

The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation says bodies of Ebola victims have been left in the streets because of a strike by burial teams, who complain they have not been paid. Health Ministry spokesman Sidie Yahya Tunis says the situation is "very embarrassing" and said money was available to pay the teams. He promised to provide more information on Wednesday. The World Health Organization says Ebola is believed to have killed more than 600 people in Sierra Leone. In Spain, officials said a fourth person has been placed under observation for Ebola in a Madrid hospital where a nursing assistant that became infected after working with two victims from Sierra Leone and Liberia, who later died. The infected woman's husband is among those being observed. - ABC News

Bad Moon Rising:

"It's not Halloween just yet, but that doesn't mean the moon can't get a little freaky. The second blood moon of the year will light up the sky early Wednesday morning in North America, where it will be most visible from the Pacific coast, according to NASA. The Earth will position itself between the sun and the moon, creating a full lunar eclipse with a majestic red hue. The eclipse is the second in a rare series known as the tetrad, in which the moon is completely covered by the Earth's umbral shadow for four eclipses in a row, as opposed to only partial eclipses that fall in the outer penumbra. The next total lunar eclipse will be on April 4, 2015, according to NASA." - ABC News

Don't go round tonight, it's bound to take your life:

Three more people were put under quarantine for possible Ebola at a Madrid hospital where a Spanish nursing assistant became infected, authorities said Tuesday. More than 50 others were being monitored as experts tried to figure out why Spain's anti-infection practices failed. The nursing assistant, part of a special team that cared for a Spanish priest who died of Ebola last month, was the first case of Ebola being transmitted outside of West Africa, where a months-long outbreak has killed at least 3,500 people and sparked social unrest. Health authorities are investigating she became infected. Her case highlighted the dangers health care workers face while caring for Ebola patients - officials said she had changed a diaper for the priest and collected material from his room after he died. Dead Ebola victims are highly infectious and in West Africa their bodies are collected by workers in hazmat outfits. - CBC

Trouble on the way:

Turkey's president said the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani was "about to fall" on Tuesday as Islamic State fighters pressed home a three-week assault that has cost a reported 400 lives and forced thousands to flee their homes. The world has seen what happens when a city is overtaken by the terrorist group: massacres, humanitarian tragedies, rapes, horrific violence,' he said. The prospect that the town could be captured by Islamic State, who are now within city limits, has increased pressure on Turkey to join an international coalition to fight against the jihadists. Islamic State wants to take Kobani in order to strengthen its grip on the border area and consolidate the territorial gains it has made in Iraq and Syria in recent months. U.S.-led air strikes have so far failed to prevent its advance on Kobani. Turkey said it was pressing Washington for more air strikes, although President Tayyip Erdogan said bombing was not enough to defeat Islamic State and he set out Turkey's demands for additional measures before it could intervene. "The problem of ISIS (Islamic State) ... cannot be solved via air bombardment. Right now ... Kobani is about to fall," he said during a visit to a camp for Syrian refugees. - Reuters, Daily Mail

The Covert Origins of ISIS

Earthquakes and lightning:

A magnitude 6.2 quake struck Mexico on Tuesday in the Gulf of California, 75 miles (121 km) west south-west of the city of El Dorado, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said, but there were no immediate reports of damage. The quake was shallow at just 6.2 miles (10 km), and was felt inland in the city of Culiacan, the capital of the western state of Sinaloa, Culiacan emergency services spokeswoman Melva Uribe said. - Reuters

Hurricanes ablowing:

Typhoon Phanfone moved away from Tokyo, Japan, and out to sea Monday, but not before killing at least seven and leaving four missing, injuring at least 62 others, forcing the evacuations of thousands, sparking landslides and disrupting travel for thousands of others across the island nation. The seventh death was reportedly caused by a landslide at a Buddhist monastery in Yokohama, according to Asahi Shimbun. Six U.S. servicemen at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, Japan, were taking photos of 12 to 15 foot waves on the northwest coast of the island Sunday when three were overtaken by the waves, according to Nago District Police in Okinawa. At least one of the airmen died in the incident. Search efforts were ongoing Monday by air and sea for the two U.S. airmen who were still missing, a spokesperson from Kadena Air Base said. - Weather

Rivers overflowing:

() Several residents of a coastal town have been evacuated from their homes after strong winds and high waves battered the seafront. Nine residents of the Turners Court sheltered housing complex in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, were moved from their ground-floor properties "as a precaution" amid concerns about flooding in the beachfront area. The move comes after a further day of wind and heavy rain for parts of Scotland, prompting a number of flood and severe weather warnings to be issued. Police Scotland has urged members of the public to take care in the current conditions and said the authorities are keeping a close eye on the weather situation as the next high tide approaches at 3am. Met Office yellow "be prepared" warnings remain in place for wind and rain in the Highlands and the Grampian region. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has flood warnings in place for Caithness and Sutherland, Easter Ross, Speyside, Tayside and Aberdeenshire. Police in the north east said the weather is creating high waves at seafront areas as well as localized flooding across the Grampian region. Officers said many of the region's rivers are at a higher level than usual and advised members of the public to avoid any activities which could put their safety at risk, including fishing. - The Extra

[embedded content]

4 dead following floods in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

The eastern provinces of North Kivu and Katanga, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), have experienced severe flooding over the last 3 days after heavy rainfall fell in the region.

Three people have been killed in flood related incidents in North Kivu. Two people are still missing and around 8 have been injured. Local media report that 50 houses have been destroyed in the flooding.

In Katanga province, one person has been killed by floods that struck in the port city of Kalemie, on the western shore of Lake Tanganyika, on 05 October 2014. The torrential downpour lasted just over one hour. One person, a young girl, is also reported as being injured after floods caused a house to collapse.

Heavy rainfall also in western areas

Heavy rainfall across parts of western Africa means that flooding is likely to be seen there in the coming days. WMO are reporting massive amounts of rainfall in DRC's western neighbours, Congo and Gabon. In 24 hours to 06 October, Djambala in Congo saw 938 mm of rain (according to WMO figures). Lambarene in Gabon saw 648 mm of rain in the 24 hours to 07 October 2014.

Brittany Maynard: Why I scheduled my death for November 1st

brittany maynard

Brittany Maynard with her husband on their wedding day

Brittany Maynard carries a prescription in her wallet. It was written by a doctor in Oregon, one of five states with legal protections for terminally ill patients who want to end their suffering. And in three weeks, she plans to use it to die.

Maynard has chosen to die Nov. 1 in her bedroom in Portland, Ore., surrounded by family - her mother and stepfather, her husband and her best friend, who is a physician. She said she wanted to wait until after her husband's birthday, which is Oct. 26. But she is getting sicker, experiencing more pain and seizures, she told in an exclusive interview.

"I've had the medication for weeks," she wrote in an op-ed for CNN. "I am not suicidal. If I were, I would have consumed that medication long ago. I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms."

[embedded content]

On New Year's Day, Maynard, 29, was diagnosed with brain cancer. Nine days later, doctors performed a partial craniotomy and a partial resection of her temporal lobe to keep her tumor from growing. She was given up to 10 years to live. Then in April, doctors learned that the tumor had returned. Her initial diagnosis was elevated to a stage 4 glioblastoma, a malignant brain tumor. And the prognosis was grave - only six more months.

Maynard qualified for physician-assisted suicide in Oregon, one of a handful of states that permits it under its Death with Dignity Act. Since it was enacted in 1997, 1,173 people in the state have had prescriptions written for lethal medications. Only 752 of them have used the drugs to die as of 2013.

Four other states - Montana, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington - have similar laws. Bills have been introduced in seven other states.

Maynard was living in San Francisco with her husband, Dan Diaz, 42, when she began having debilitating headaches and soon learned the cause: brain cancer. Doctors explained her options, none of which would save her life.

"Doctors prescribed full brain radiation," she wrote in the op-ed. "I read about the side effects: The hair on my scalp would have been singed off. My scalp would be left covered with first-degree burns. My quality of life, as I knew it, would be gone."

She also looked into hospice care. However, there were no guarantees she wouldn't suffer - she could lose her ability to speak or use her own body. And, because she is so young, she could physically hold on for a long time.

"After months of research, my family and I reached a heartbreaking conclusion," she wrote. "There is no treatment that would save my life, and the recommended treatments would have destroyed the time I had left."

That's when Maynard chose doctor-assisted death. But California, like most states, does not have a law that allows terminally-ill patients to end their lives. So earlier this year, she and her family relocated to Oregon.

Maynard had to find new physicians and a new home. She had to change her driver's license and voter registration. Her husband had to take a leave of absence from work.

"The amount of sacrifice and change my family had to go through in order to get me to legal access to death with dignity - changing our residency, establishing a team of doctors, having a place to live - was profound," she told "There's tons of Americans who don't have time or the ability or finances and I don't think that's right or fair."

Maynard is using her last days to help for others in similar situations, volunteering for Compassion & Choices, an advocacy organization for terminally-ill patients in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey. She has launched the Brittany Maynard Fund to fight for death-with-dignity laws in other states. Later this month, she plans to videotape a testimony for California lawmakers and voters, reported.

Some opponents of physician-assisted suicide have cited moral and religions concerns. Others worry that patients who are depressed will use such laws to end their mental anguish, among other things. In a poll conducted by the last year, about 67 percent of the 1,712 medical experts surveyed in the U.S. were against the practice. But Diaz said it's a comfort knowing that his wife has the option.

"Death with dignity allows for people who are in the predicament of facing a lot of suffering that they can decide when enough is enough," he said in a campaign video.

Maynard has the option to change her mind, she doesn't think she will.

"Now, I'm able to move forward in my remaining days or weeks I have on this beautiful Earth, to seek joy and love and to spend time traveling to outdoor wonders of nature with those I love," she wrote. "And I know that I have a safety net."