A tiny space rock barely missed Earth today (March 6) in the third of back-to-back-to-back asteroid flybys over the past 24 hours, coming six times closer than the orbit of the moon.
The 25-foot-wide (8 meters) asteroid 2014 EC came within 38,300 miles (61,600 kilometers) of our planet at 4:21 p.m. ET (2121 GMT) today, NASA officials said. For comparison, the moon orbits Earth at an average distance of 239,000 miles (385,000 km).
“This is not an unusual event,” Paul Chodas, a senior scientist in the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement. “Objects of this size pass this close to the Earth several times every year.”
But today’s close encounter was special in one sense — it came just one day after two other space-rock flybys. On Wednesday afternoon (March 5), the 100-foot-wide (30 m) asteroid 2014 DX110 zipped within 217,000 miles (350,000 km) of Earth.
“A third asteroid, 2014 EF, which is closer in size to today’s 2014 EC, passed Earth at about 7 p.m. PST (10 p.m. EST) Wednesday, with closest approach about twice as far from Earth as 2014 EC’s closest approach,” NASA officials wrote in an update today.
There was never any danger of an impact by the asteroids during these flybys, researchers said. The odds that 2014 EC will ever hit Earth are currently estimated to be 1 in 2.7 million.
2014 EC was just discovered on Tuesday night (March 4). It’s about half as wide as the space rock that exploded without warning over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in February 2013, generating a powerful shock wave that injured 1,500 people. (Most of the wounds were caused by shards of flying glass from broken windows.)
The Russian meteor got worldwide attention, alerting the public and policymakers to the very real dangers posed by asteroid strikes, scientists say. Many researchers are pushing for more money and new instruments to aid the hunt for near-Earth asteroids; just 10,660 have been detected to date, out of a total population thought to number in the millions.
Scientists Scanned A Woman’s Brain During An Out-Of-Body Experience — And What They Found Was Amazing
It may sound like the plot of the Twilight Zone, but a psychology graduate student at the University of Ottawa says she can voluntarily enter an out-of-body experience. This was a lucky break for scientists, who were able to scan her brain during the episode.
Usually out-of-body experiences are a part of, say, a near-death experience. A patient may float above their own body as surgeons work on them. These experiences are usually attributed to the drugs in a patient’s system, or the hormones released into their system by trauma.
A unique experience
The study — which only involved this one person — was published Feb. 10 in the journal Frontiers of Human Neuroscience, a peer-reviewed open access publication. The researchers are members of the School Of Psychology at the University of Ottawa.
According to the paper, this woman enters her out-of-body state right before sleeping, visualizing herself from above. She started doing so during naptime in preschool, they write. She currently only does it sometimes.
The researchers wrote in the paper:
She was able to see herself rotating in the air above her body, lying flat, and rolling along with the horizontal plane. She reported sometimes watching herself move from above but remained aware of her unmoving “real” body…
She told the researchers:
I feel myself moving, or, more accurately, can make myself feel as if I am moving. I know perfectly well that I am not actually moving. There is no duality of body and mind when this happens, not really. In fact, I am hyper-sensitive to my body at that point, because I am concentrating so hard on the sensation of moving. I am the one moving – me – my body. For example, if I ‘spin’ for long enough, I get dizzy. I do not see myself above my body. Rather, my whole body has moved up. I feel it as being above where I know it actually is. I usually also picture myself as moving up in my mind’s eye, but the mind is not substantive. It does not move unless the body does.
The brain out of the body
The researchers did a fMRI before and after asking her to enter her out-of-body state to find out what that looked like in the brain. They compared these to when she was imagining, but not actually entering, the state.
Interestingly, the pathway that seemed to be activated during her out-of-body experience is also involved in the mental representation of movements.
Andra M. Smith and Claude Messier, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2014
Brain regions activated by the out-of-body experience include the supplementary motor area, the cerebellum, the supramarginal gyrus, the inferior temporal gyrus, the middle and superior orbitofrontal gyri.
Some parts of her brain involved in interpreting vision were turned down in activity, as shown below:
Andra M. Smith and Claude Messier, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2014
Brain regions inhibited by the out-of-body experience include the visual cortex.
She didn’t have any specific emotions surrounding this experience, and i t seems to be a kind of hallucination she can turn on at will.
Even if there is no soul stuck in our bodies, this woman isn’t making this up. There’s obviously something happening in her brain that is making her experience the world in a different way — but researchers can’t yet say exactly what it is. Plus, this study was about one woman’s out-of-body experience, not all out-of-body experiences.
Still, the changes they observed could be similar to how the brain can be trained using meditation. The researchers even suggested that this could be something many kids can do, but that with practice could be carried into adulthood.
Interestingly, the researchers suggested that this kind of experience may be much more common than we thought. The woman in question actually “appeared surprised that not everyone could experience this,” the researchers wrote.
They compared it to synesthesia — the condition in which people hear colors or smell sounds — which was thought of as “out there” but has become widely accepted in the last few decades.
Interesting stuff… TGO
Refer to story below. Source: Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Patsy Cline’s classic country song “I Fall to Pieces,” has nothing on this one.
Scientists said on Thursday they have observed for the first time an asteroid breaking apart, crumbling into at least 10 pieces in sort of a celestial, slow-motion train wreck.
The rocky asteroid, named P/2013 R3, was one of the innumerable objects populating the crowded asteroid belt located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, roughly three times further away from the sun than Earth.
Asteroids have broken apart many times over the eons, but never before have scientists been able to witness it.
This time, however, scientists first noticed the dramatic events using ground-based telescopes in Arizona and Hawaii and then got a better look using the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.
“After looking at the asteroid belt for a couple of hundred years – the first one was discovered in 1801 – to find a new thing like this is really exciting,” David Jewitt, a UCLA astronomer who led the research, said in a telephone interview.
The findings were published in the scientific publication Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The asteroid was probably around 2,000 feet in diameter, and no more than about 3,280 feet in diameter before it began to disintegrate, Jewitt said. The break-up unfolded over a period of several months last year, he added.
The Hubble telescope detected at least 10 fragments – each having comet-like dust tails. The four largest pieces each had a diameter of up to about 1,300 feet.
The scientists do not think the asteroid was destroyed in a collision with another object in part because the way it is breaking apart – fragments drifting slowly at around one mile per hour – does not suggest a violent impact.
In addition, the 10 fragments did not all emerge at one time, as they would in an impact, with their appearance staggered over many months, Jewitt said.
They also think it is unlikely the asteroid fell to pieces due to the pressure of interior ices warming and vaporizing because at 300 million miles (480 million km) away from the sun it simply would be too cold for that to occur.
Instead, they said the break-up was probably the result of the subtle but inexorable effect of sunlight over many, many years causing the asteroid to spin at a slowly increasing rate until it became unstable and ruptured. This phenomenon, known as the YORP effect, has been debated by scientists, but never previously reliably observed.
“This is a really bizarre thing to observe – we’ve never seen anything like it before,” added Jessica Agarwal of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany. “The break-up could have many different causes, but the Hubble observations are detailed enough that we can actually pinpoint the process responsible.”
When hit with sunlight, objects radiate heat back into space. If an object is perfectly round, that phenomenon would not affect its structural stability. But the irregular shape of asteroids – often shaped like a big potato tumbling through space – means that when sunlight is radiated back into space, it exerts a torque on them, leading to a spin.
“That net force due to sunlight is very, very weak. But on long time scales, it can push asteroids around,” Jewitt said. “So this is probably the way asteroids die in many cases. They spin up and blow themselves apart. And in the process, they make dust and debris that populates the inner solar system.”
A good friend of mine and fellow blogger, GhostRider, believes that the video version of Shakira singing ‘La Tortura’, is sexier than the live version I posted the other day. You be the judge… TGO
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is coming under increasing criticism that he simply doesn’t get it on sex abuse.
Three months after the Vatican announced a commission of experts to study best practices on protecting children, no action has been taken, no members appointed, no statute outlining the commission’s scope approved.
Francis hasn’t met with any victims, hasn’t moved to oust a bishop convicted in 2012 of failing to report a suspected abuser, and on Wednesday insisted that the church had been unfairly attacked on abuse, using the defensive rhetoric of the Vatican from a decade ago.
Victims’ advocates said his tone was archaic and urged Francis to show the same compassion he offers the sick, the poor and disabled to people who were raped by priests when they were children.
“Under Pope Francis the Vatican continues to deny its role in creating and maintaining a culture where upholding the reputation of the church is prioritized over the safety of children,” said Maeve Lewis, executive director of the Irish victims’ support group One in Four.
To be sure, Francis adores children like a father — it’s on display every Wednesday during his general audience — and he has continued to defrock pedophile priests. But unlike Pope Benedict XVI, he has rarely spoken out about abuse, indicating it clearly has not been a priority in his first year as pope. Instead, he has focused on introducing the world to his merciful vision of the church and reforming the Vatican bureaucracy.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Wednesday the upheaval of those reforms had delayed getting the commission off the ground. But he said there was no doubt it would, and that it would eventually propose new initiatives to protect children and be a model for the church and society at large.
“I’m waiting for it, and I hope with all my heart (and I know that qualified experts have been contacted in an exploratory way to see if they would be available),” Lombardi said in an email.
Francis has only spoken out a few times on abuse and his toughest words weren’t even pronounced. Francis apparently scrapped his prepared Dec. 2 speech to bishops from the Netherlands, who have been dealing with revelations that some 20,000 children were sexually abused in Dutch Catholic institutions over the past 65 years. Instead, Francis spoke to the bishops off-the-cuff.
On Jan. 31, Francis did mention his new sex abuse commission in a speech to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles sex abuse cases. In his final words before imparting his blessing, he said children must always be protected and that he wants his new sex abuse study commission to be a model.
“For a year we’ve been saying that while Pope Francis is making progress on church finance and governance he’s done nothing — literally nothing — that protects a single child, exposes a single predator or prevents a single cover up,” said Barbara Dorris of the main U.S. victim’s group SNAP.
Francis was asked about protecting children by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera in an interview published Wednesday.
Francis acknowledged the “profound” wounds abuse leaves and credited Benedict with having turned the church around. Benedict in 2001 took over handling abuse cases because bishops were moving pedophiles around rather than punishing them. He updated the Vatican’s in-house norms and in his final two years as pope defrocked nearly 400 priests himself.
But Francis then got defensive: “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that has moved with transparency and responsibility. No one has done more. And yet the church is the only one that has been attacked.”
The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has said that while he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he never dealt with a case of sex abuse, and indeed the scandal has yet to explode in Argentina on the scale that it has elsewhere, including in neighboring Chile. But the online database BishopAccountability.org has cited several cases of Argentine bishops siding with abused clerics and imposing gag orders on victims — practices that were common in the U.S. before American bishops changed their tune amid the explosion of cases in 2002 and resulting avalanche of lawsuits.
Buenos Aires native Sebastian Cuattromo, for example, says he approached Bergoglio’s archdioceses in 2002 seeking help to get out of a confidentiality agreement he accepted when he settled with a religious order for abuse he suffered as a 13 year old. He said he wanted the church to know the facts after learning that his abuser had fled to the United States. He said he received no reply, though the abuser was eventually convicted.
In an email, Cuattromo said the archdiocese’s dismissive attitude to him and victims in general was evidence of “a clear situation of power which, at least in Argentina and Latin America, the Catholic Church hierarchy continues to enjoy.”
Terrence McKiernan of BishopAccountability.org said it was “breathtaking” that Francis had made the church the victim of the scandal, rather than express sorrow to the hundreds of thousands of victims or acknowledge the complicity of bishops in covering up the crimes.
“It is astonishing, at this late date, that Pope Francis would recycle such tired and defensive rhetoric,” McKiernan said in a statement.
Lombardi stressed that Francis’ response was understandably brief given the wide-ranging nature of the Corriere interview. He said the pope’s defensive tone should be taken as a recognition that the church had made progress but that it often felt “frustrated” that its work hadn’t been recognized.
“At the same time, it’s clear that there’s an immense job to be done for the past, present and future,” Lombardi said. “The pope knows this well.”
The Vatican has in the past decade overhauled its internal procedures to make it easier to oust rapists. But it still has no blanket policy telling bishops to report abusers to police or risk being sanctioned themselves, and to date no bishop has been punished for a cover up. In addition, the harshest penalty the church hands out is to essentially fire the abuser.
Follow Nicole Winfield at http://www.twitter.com/nwinfield
WASHINGTON (AP) — NASA is plotting a daring robotic mission to Jupiter’s watery moon Europa, a place where astronomers speculate there might be some form of life.
The space agency set aside $15 million in its 2015 budget proposal to start planning some kind of mission to Europa. No details have been decided yet, but NASA chief financial officer Elizabeth Robinson said Tuesday that it would be launched in the mid-2020s.
Robinson said the high radiation environment around Jupiter and distance from Earth would be a challenge. When NASA sent Galileo to Jupiter in 1989, it took the spacecraft six years to get to the fifth planet from the sun.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute astronomer Laurie Leshin said it could be “a daring mission to an extremely compelling object in our solar system.”
Past NASA probes have flown by Europa, especially Galileo, but none have concentrated on the moon, one of dozens orbiting Jupiter. Astronomers have long lobbied for a mission to Europa, but proposals would have cost billions of dollars.
Last year, scientists discovered liquid plumes of water shooting up through Europa’s ice. Flying through those watery jets could make Europa cheaper to explore than just circling it or landing on the ice, said NASA Europa scientist Robert Pappalardo.
Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb said going to Europa would be more exciting than exploring dry Mars: “There might be fish under the ice.”
NASA’s Europa website: http://1.usa.gov/1lxcQCd
Seth Borenstein can be followed at http://twitter.com/borenbears
On July 4, 2012, scientists around the world waited with bated breath for the announcement that the long-awaited Higgs boson particle had been discovered. The finding — the result of the biggest and most expensive experiment in history — was set to either confirm reigning models of particle physics, or reveal gaps in scientists’ understanding of the universe.
A new documentary follows six scientists during the launch of the machine that made the discovery possible, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a gigantic particle accelerator at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), in Switzerland, as they attempt to recreate the earliest moments of the universe. “Particle Fever” captures the scientists’ sense of excitement and foreboding leading up to the discovery of the Higgs, the particle that explains how other particles get their mass.
“I knew this big event was coming, and I wanted it recorded,” said producer David Kaplan, a physicist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. “I knew it was going to be extremely dramatic scientifically, and also emotionally, for all of my colleagues,” Kaplan told Live Science.
The film, which opens March 5 in New York and March 21 in Washington, D.C., stars a group of theoretical and experimental physicists united by a quest to probe the nature of the universe, using the world’s most powerful particle accelerator. The LHC collides two beams of protons (particles that make up the nuclei of atoms) at near light-speed around the 17 miles (27 kilometers) of the machine’s ring. The collisions produce new particles, which could reveal the composition of space itself.
The film opens during the first test of a single proton beam in September 2008. Viewers meet Fabiola Gianotti, the former spokeswoman for ATLAS, one of the two LHC experiments that detected the Higgs, as well as experimental physicists Monica Dunford and Martin Aleksa, both at ATLAS, who rose to prominence throughout the course of the experiment. Mike Lamont, the LHC’s beam operation leader, also features in the film. Lamont faces the formidable challenge of ensuring the LHC’s successful launch and operation.
But to understand why scientists need the LHC, one first has to understand the hypotheses it is putting to the test.
Supersymmetry vs. multiverse
The Standard Model of particle physics, finalized in the 1970s, seeks to explain the origin of matter and forces in the universe. The model predicts the existence of a few fundamental particles, including the Higgs boson, theorized by British physicist Peter Higgs in 1964. Finding the Higgs confirms the existence of the Higgs field, and this field gives all other particles their mass.
An extension of the Standard Model known as supersymmetry suggests a highly structured and symmetrical universe, in which every particle has a supersymmetric twin that has yet to be discovered. Another, somewhat radical hypothesis suggests the known universe is part of a much larger, chaotic multiverse, in which the laws of physics are random.
The film pits Kaplan and Stanford theorist Savas Dimopoulos, proponents of supersymmetry, against the young Princeton theorist Nima Arkani-Hamed, a supporter of the multiverse idea. The LHC offers the chance to test these hypotheses for the first time. If supersymmetry proves itself, physicists are on the right track. On the other hand, “We may fall off a cliff,” and find that the fundamental laws of physics turn out to be random, Kaplan said.
Biggest experiment in history
The beam test went off successfully in 2008, but a few weeks later, a catastrophic explosion in the facility vented liquid helium, damaging many of the magnets inside the LHC.
“The whole film changed,” said director Mark Levinson, who added he didn’t know how long it would take to fix the damage, and whether the film would have a happy ending. Fortunately, repairs were completed, and the collider was up and running by November 2009.
Fast-forward to July 2012, and the discovery of the Higgs. The particle observed by the LHC confirmed what physicists had long suspected, but also brought up new questions.
Most supersymmetry models predict a Higgs boson with a mass of about 115 gigaelectronvolts, or GeV, whereas multiverse models predict a heavier mass of about 140 GeV. The Higgs observed by the LHC was about 125 GeV — smack in the middle, which doesn’t confirm or rule out either theory. Instead, it merely narrows down the possibilities.
It’s like being lost in the woods, and then getting a hint of the broad direction you should go, Kaplan said, adding, “At least you know which way to start walking.”
In the next step, scientists will collide protons at higher energies, to see if even more particles are created, as predicted by supersymmetry. The LHC was shut down for upgrades in 2013, with plans to reopen it running at twice the power in 2015.
The filmmakers hope “Particle Fever” gives audiences an appreciation of particle physics, and gets them excited about learning more. As Kaplan said, “We want people to come out thinking physics is awesome.”
Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 6:07 p.m. ET, to correct references to untested “theories” to “hypotheses” or “models.”
Pat Condell is awesome. Too bad most others in the west, who are equally disgusted with Islam, don’t have the testicles to speak up against it. Oh, that’s right, Islam is a religion, and we can’t offend religions, right? WRONG! TGO
NEW YORK (AP) — Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is back on top of the list of the world’s richest people.
Forbes magazine announced its ranking of the world’s billionaires Monday.
Gates, who led the list for 15 of the past 20 years, won the spot back from Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu, who had topped the list for the past four years. Gates’ net worth is estimated at $76 billion; Slim Helu follows at $72 billion.
Spanish clothing magnate Amancio Ortega, known for the Zara retail chain, maintained his third-ranked spot and came out ahead of famed U.S. investor Warren Buffett, who ranked fourth. Larry Ellison of Oracle came in fifth.
Forbes says a record 1,645 billionaires made the list this year, with an average net worth of $4.7 billion. That’s up from 1,426 billionaires last year with a net worth of $4.2 billion. Total net worth of this year’s list was $6.4 trillion, up from $5.4 trillion last year.
The magazine said that 1,080 of the billionaires were self-made, 207 inherited their wealth and 352 inherited a portion but are still growing it.
The largest net worth gainer on the list was Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who more than doubled his fortune to $28.5 billion as the value of his company’s stock soared. He ranks 21st on the list.
The social media giant helped bring a few notable newcomers to the list, including Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton, who recently sold their business to Facebook for $19 billion.
Forbes said 268 billionaires were new to the list, beating out a prior high of 226 newcomers in 2008. And a record number of women made the list this year, with 172 women joining, up 25 percent from last year.
Altogether 100 people dropped out of the rankings, while 16 passed away.
The U.S. was the country with the greatest number of billionaires at 492, followed by China with 152 and Russia with 111. Billionaires from four new countries joined, adding Algeria, Lithuania, Tanzania and Uganda to the geographic mix.
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Gunmen stormed Pakistan’s main court complex in Islamabad on Monday, cutting down fleeing lawyers before blowing themselves up in a rampage that killed 11 people. It was the worst terror attack in years in the capital, which has largely been spared the violence raging in many parts of the country.
The bloodshed undermined the government’s efforts to negotiate a peace deal with the main militant group, the Pakistani Taliban, just days after the organization announced a one-month cease-fire for the talks.
The Pakistani Taliban denied responsibility for the attack. But the violence underscored the difficulty of negotiations when numerous militant groups are operating in Pakistan. And it raised questions of whether the Taliban can control some of their factions that may oppose talks.
The attack stunned the capital, a normally quiet city of wide, tree-lined boulevards that is home to diplomats, generals, aid workers and government officials. It was the deadliest attack in Islamabad since a 2008 truck bombing at the Marriott Hotel killed 54 people.
In an assault that lasted roughly 20 minutes, gunmen swarmed through the narrow alleys between the complex’s buildings, hurling grenades and firing automatic weapons wildly, witnesses said. Gunmen broke through a door to one judge’s chambers and shot him to death, while other victims were mowed down in the cafeteria.
One lawyer, Momin Ali, described it as a scene from hell, with attorneys and judges fleeing for their lives amid explosions and gunfire.
“My colleague was shot, and there was no one to help him. When I reached him, he was bleeding and crying for help,” he said.
In the confusion afterward, it was unclear how many attackers were involved and whether any escaped.
At least two were suicide bombers who rushed in, threw hand grenades and started shooting, then detonated the explosives on their bodies, said Islamabad Police Chief Sikander Hayat. One blew himself up outside the office of the lawyers’ union president, the other outside a judge’s office, he said.
Lawyer Murad Ali said he saw several attackers brandishing automatic weapons head toward a courtroom and shoot a female lawyer. Ali’s hands were splattered with blood from helping remove four of the dead.
Another lawyer, Sardar Gul Nawaz, said the attackers had short beards and wore shalwar kameez, a traditional Pakistani outfit of baggy pants and a long tunic.
Police Inspector Khalid Mahmood Awan said the two suicide bombers were the only attackers. Awan, chief of the Margala police station near the court complex, said that the two carried out their shooting rampage, then, after an exchange of fire with police, blew themselves up.
Police searched the compound afterward and found no other gunmen. But others put the number higher.
One intelligence official, after examining the scene, said the attackers operated in three groups of four each. When the job was done, the survivors escaped in three waiting vehicles, he said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Police official Jamil Hashmi put the number of attackers at six to eight, and numerous witnesses spoke of seeing more than two.
The dead included one judge, three lawyers and a policeman, said Dr. Ayesha Essani, spokeswoman for the hospital where the dead and wounded were taken. She said 29 people were wounded.
A little-known group identifying itself as Ahrar-ul-Hind claimed responsibility in a telephone call to an Associated Press reporter. A spokesman for the group, Assad Mansour, said it was not part of the Pakistani Taliban, nor bound by their cease-fire. There was no way to independently verify their claim.
After the assault, body parts and blood were mingled with shattered glass on the ground in the compound, which is a warren of judges’ chambers, lawyers’ offices and restaurants and businesses catering to the legal community.
On any given day, the walkways around the offices are bustling with clerks and clients, prisoners being led around in chains and families of suspects waiting for their loved ones to appear in court.
Islamabad has in recent years been spared the bombings and shootings prevalent in other parts of Pakistan, such as Peshawar, near the tribal areas, or the port city of Karachi.
The attack is likely to severely test the government’s desire to pursue peace talks. The process has proceeded in fits and starts but seemed to get a boost on Saturday, when the Pakistani Taliban announced a one-month cease-fire after the military pounded their hideouts with airstrikes.
A spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban, as the Pakistani Taliban is formally called, said in a telephone call to an AP reporter that the group was not involved in Monday’s assault and restated his group’s commitment to the cease-fire.
Interior Ministry Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, speaking in Parliament after the attack, said it wasn’t enough for the militants to disassociate themselves from the attack. They must condemn it as well, he said, while vowing to bring the culprits to justice.
Analysts said that while some in the Pakistani Taliban may want to negotiate a peace deal, other factions or militant groups may not.
Mansur Mahsud of the Islamabad-based FATA Research Centre, which studies the tribal areas where these militant groups are based, said the government will probably respond with more airstrikes.
“The government has made it very clear that they will tolerate no attacks and if the attacks are carried out, then they will retaliate in the same manner,” he said.
Associated Press writer Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan and Asif Shahzad contributed to this report.
(Reuters) – A Christian ministry that plans to build a Noah’s Ark replica in Kentucky has raised enough money to go ahead with the $150 million project – and is thanking an adversary for boosting its support.
Creation Museum founder Ken Ham announced this week that a municipal bond offering has brought in enough money to begin the long-delayed “Ark Encounter,” a theme park featuring a 510-foot-long model of Noah’s Ark near the Kentucky-Ohio border.
Ham credited the funding bump to Bill Nye “the Science Guy,” a popular commentator on science issues who faced off against him in a widely publicized February 4 debate over evolution.
Ham said the media attention surrounding the debate prompted supporters who had registered for bonds to follow through with complex paperwork needed to complete the funding.
“We praise our Creator God for His blessings and for the incredible support we just witnessed from our generous supporters around the country,” Ham said in a statement on Thursday.
Ham rejects the theory of evolution and preaches what the Bible says about six days of creation and the earth being about 6,000 years old. This is contrary to scientific consensus, which says the planet formed about 4.5 billion years ago.
Nye, criticized by some fellow scientists for debating a creationist, was not immediately available for comment.
Ham said the first phase of the Ark Encounter project will cost about $73 million, and that several million dollars in donations had been raised before the bond issue. The December bond document sets the issue at $62 million.
The theme park is expected to open in the summer of 2016 and draw 2 million visitors in the first year, project co-founder Mike Zovath told Reuters on Friday.
(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Gunna Dickson)
It’s not true that Sarah Palin once said “I can see Russia from my house.” That was comedian and Palin impersonator Tina Fey on “Saturday Night Live.”
But back in 2008 when she was the GOP’s vice presidential candidate, trying to establish her credentials on things like foreign policy, the ex-Governor of Alaska did say of Russia, “They’re our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”
Which is literally true – on a clear day if you stand on your tippy-toes and gaze from the Alaskan island of Little Diomede across the International Date Line to the unpopulated Russian island of Big Diomede two and one half miles away.
This running joke about Ms. Palin – who went on to become a Fox News commentator, star of her own brief reality show, and well-paid Obama scold on behalf of the tea party – came to mind when she went on Facebook to comment on the crisis in Ukraine:
“Yes, I could see this one from Alaska,” she wrote. “I’m usually not one to Told-Ya-So, but I did, despite my accurate prediction being derided as ‘an extremely far-fetched scenario’ by the ‘high-brow’ Foreign Policy magazine. Here’s what this ‘stupid’ ‘insipid woman’ predicted back in 2008: ‘After the Russian Army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama’s reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence, the kind of response that would only encourage Russia’s Putin to invade Ukraine next.’”
Then she went on Fox News to elaborate.
“Back in 2008, I accurately predicted the possibility of Putin feeling emboldened to invade Ukraine because I could see what kind of leader Barack Obama would be,” she said. “The bullies of the world are always emboldened by indecision and moral equivalence. We can expect more of this sort of thing in a world where America is gutting its military and ‘leading from behind.’”
As usual, Palin is nothing if not controversial, and she delights in tweaking the “lamestream media.”
Earlier in the week, Palin won Newshound’s “most outrageous quote” reader poll for another Facebook post: “If he is good enough for Ted Nugent, he is good enough for me!” (Newshound’s motto is “We watch Fox so you don’t have to.”)
Ted Nugent, of course, is the geezer rocker who called President Obama a “communist-educated, communist-nurtured, subhuman mongrel.” Palin’s reference was in support of Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Texas governor now serving as the state’s Attorney General, who has welcomed Nugent’s endorsement – or at least refused to say anything critical about “The Nuge’s” political pronouncements.
Meanwhile, fellow tea partiers have been chuckling over Palin’s Ukraine moment.
“Palin not only knows where Russia is, but she knew what Putin would do to Ukraine with Obama as president,” radio talk show host Mark Levin tweeted.
“In light of recent events in Ukraine … nobody seems to be laughing at or dismissing those comments now,” wrote Tony Lee at Breitbart.com.
Others note that Mitt Romney was accused of reviving the Cold War when, as the 2012 Republican presidential candidate debating Obama, he stated that Russia is “without question our number one geopolitical foe.”
At the moment, Palin’s Facebook post on Ukraine has 66,684 “likes” and 15,442 “shares.”
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) – At least 10 people were killed on Saturday when a bomb exploded in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, witnesses said, in a region where the Islamist sect Boko Haram is pursuing a bloody insurgency.
Boko Haram, whose fight for an Islamic state in northern Nigeria has killed thousands and made the group the biggest threat to security in Africa’s top oil producer, is increasingly targeting the civilian population.
The bomb went off at around 6 p.m. in a busy market area in Ajilari-Gomari near the city’s airport, two witnesses and a police source said.
“I am at the scene now, it is very bad,” local resident Ismaila Abdulraman told Reuters by telephone.
“Many men, women and children died. The fire service are on the ground now and they are bringing corpses of people and trying to put out the fire at the scene,” Abdulraman added, saying he had already seen 10 bodies.
The final death toll was likely to be higher because dozens of people were trapped in the rubble, the witnesses said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but Boko Haram only communicates occasionally through Internet videos, days or weeks after attacks.
The military and police did not immediately respond to requests for official comment.
President Goodluck Jonathan started an intensified military push to end Boko Haram’s four-and-a-half year insurgency almost a year ago but the bloodshed has not diminished. He is expected to run in a closely contested election next year.
The violence has been largely contained to Nigeria’s remote northeastern rural areas on the borders with Cameroon and Niger, far from commercial hubs such as Lagos and Abuja, and from the southern oil fields. The attack in the northeast’s biggest city marks a setback for Jonathan’s military campaign.
“The insurgents targeted a busy area where they knew many people usually visit in the evening for commercial activities. It appears Boko Haram are in the city again,” a policeman said, asking not to be named.
Dozens of school children were shot or burned to death in a rural region near the northeastern city of Damaturu last week.
Insurgents killed more than 300 people last month, mostly civilians, including in two other attacks that killed around 100 each, one in which militants razed a village and shot panicked residents as they tried to flee.
Western governments are concerned about Nigerian groups such as Boko Haram linking up with al Qaeda-linked cells in other countries in the Sahel region, such as Mali, where France sent troops a year ago to oust Islamist militants.
(Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Alistair Lyon)
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Former football star Darren Sharper, wanted by New Orleans police as a suspect in two rapes, was arrested on Thursday in Los Angeles, where he pleaded not guilty a week ago to charges of drugging four other women and raping two of them.
The two women accusing him in New Orleans say Sharper, 38, and an acquaintance, Erik Nunez, 26, each raped them both at the same location on the night of September 23, 2013, according to a New Orleans Police Department statement on Thursday.
No other details of the alleged assaults were disclosed.
Sharper’s attorney, Nandi Campbell, said neither she nor her client had any comment.
Sharper, who resides in Miami Beach, Florida, was taken into custody on a fugitive warrant on Thursday evening in Los Angeles, though additional details of his arrest were not available, Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman Nuria Vanegas said.
Authorities did not disclose any information on the possible whereabouts of Nunez.
Sharper, a defensive back who played 14 years in the National Football League and helped the New Orleans Saints to a Super Bowl title in 2010, pleaded not guilty to sexual assault and drug charges in Los Angeles on February 20.
According to Los Angeles prosecutors, Sharper drugged two women with spiked drinks and raped one of them in a hotel room in October, then drugged two more women and raped one of them at the same hotel in January.
He pleaded not guilty last Thursday to two counts of rape by use of drugs, four counts of furnishing a controlled substance and one count of possession of a controlled substance.
The five-time Pro Bowl player, suspended from his job as an NFL Network on-air commentator after his arrest in January, was released on $1 million bail in Los Angeles.
Prosecutors had wanted to raise the bail amount to $10 million, citing sex crime investigations against him in Louisiana, Nevada, Arizona and Florida.
On the same day that Sharper appeared in Los Angeles court, police in Miami Beach released a report detailing a woman’s allegation that the football star had also raped her.
The woman told investigators she was intoxicated when she went to Sharper’s condo in 2012 and fell asleep. When she woke up, she realized Sharper was having sex with her and left, according to the police report.
The woman reported the 2012 incident to Miami Beach police two days after Sharper was arrested in Los Angeles on January 17, police said. No charges in the case have been filed.
(Reporting Kathy Finn in New Orleans and Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Steve Gorman and Janet Lawrence) nL1N0LX0MW
ST. LOUIS (AP) — When Deacon Wissam Akiki is ordained as a Maronite Catholic priest Thursday night in St. Louis, he’s expected to have hundreds of supporters there for him, including his wife and daughter.
For the first time in nearly a century, the Maronite Catholic Church in the United States is ordaining a married priest in a ceremony at the ornate St. Raymond’s Maronite Cathedral near downtown St. Louis.
Akiki was in retreat before Thursday’s ceremony and unavailable for an interview.
Eastern Catholic churches in the Middle East and Europe ordain married men. However, the Vatican banned the practice in America in the 1920s after Latin-rite bishops complained it was confusing for parishioners. But Pope John Paul II called for greater acceptance of Eastern Catholic traditions. And over the years, popes have made exceptions on a case-by-case basis for married men to become Eastern Catholic priests in America.
“Almost half of our priests in Lebanon are married, so it’s not an unusual event in the life of the Maronite Church, though in the United States it is,” Deacon Louis Peters, chancellor at St. Raymond’s, said Thursday.
Pope Francis gave permission for Akiki to be ordained. Maronites are among more than a dozen Eastern Catholic church groups in the United States. Eastern Catholics accept the authority of the pope, but have many of their own rituals and liturgy.
Peters said the pope’s action does not lift the ban on married priests in the U.S. It is simply an exception.
Whether the decision would open the door for more married priests wasn’t clear. Experts cautioned against reading too much into it.
“This is certainly not an automatic indication that the mandate of celibacy within Roman rite will be overturned,” said Randy Rosenberg, a theological studies professor at Saint Louis University.
Akiki, 41, completed seminary studies at Holy Spirit University in Lebanon, Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Seminary in Washington, D.C., and the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis. He has been a deacon at St. Raymond’s since 2009 and worked as the assistant to the bishop. He and his wife, Manal Kassab, have one daughter, Perla, 8.
Peters said that in the most recent Maronite Patriarchal Synod, the church reaffirmed its position in support of allowing married priests, a tradition that, worldwide, dates back centuries.
Peters said having married priests “does not in any way detract from the value that the church finds in the vocation to celibacy. The celibate priesthood continues to be highly esteemed.”
Associated Press Religion Writer Rachel Zoll in New York contributed to this report.
A 4-month-old infant in Maryland may be the first person to have had teeth form in his brain as a result of a specific type of rare brain tumor, according to a new report of the case.
The boy is doing well now that his tumor has been removed, and doctors say the case sheds light on how these rare tumors develop.
Doctors first suspected something might be wrong when the child’s head appeared to be growing faster than is typical for children his age. A brain scan revealed a tumor containing structures that looked very similar to teeth normally found in the lower jaw.
The child underwent brain surgery to have the tumor removed, during which doctors found that the tumor contained several fully formed teeth, according to the report. [14 Oddest Medical Cases]
After an analysis of tumor tissue, doctors determined the child had a craniopharyngioma, a rare brain tumor that can grow to be larger than a golf ball, but does not spread.
Researchers had always suspected that these tumors form from the same cells involved in making teeth, but until now, doctors had never seen actual teeth in these tumors, said Dr. Narlin Beaty, a neurosurgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center, who performed the boy’s surgery along with his colleague, Dr. Edward Ahn, of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.
“It’s not every day you see teeth in any type of tumor in the brain. In a craniopharyngiomas, it’s unheard of,” Beaty said.
Craniopharyngiomas commonly contain calcium deposits, “but when we pulled out a full tooth…I think that’s something slightly different,” Beaty told Live Science.
Teeth have been found in people’s brains before, but only in tumors known as teratomas, which are unique among tumors because they contain all three of the tissue types found in an early-stage human embryo, Beaty said. In contrast, craniopharyngiomas have only one layer of tissue.
The boy’s case provides more evidence that craniopharyngiomas do indeed develop from the cells that make teeth, Beaty said.
These tumors are most often diagnosed in children ages 5 to 14, and are rare in children younger than 2, according to the National Cancer Institute.
The boy is progressing well in his development, the researchers said. However, because craniopharyngiomas are tumors of the pituitary gland — a gland in the brain that releases many important hormones — they often cause hormone problems.
In the boy’s case, the tumor destroyed the normal connections in the brain that would allow certain hormones to be released, Beaty said, so he will need to receive hormone treatments for the rest of his life to replace these hormones, Beaty said.
“He’s doing extremely well, all things considered,” Beaty said. “This was a big tumor right in the center of his brain. Before the moderate surgical era this child would not have survived,” Beaty said.
The teeth were sent to a pathologist for further study, Beaty said, and generally, these types of tissue samples are saved for many years in case more investigation is needed.
The report is published in the Feb. 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.