26 February 2015
Sent from my iPhone
25 February 2015
Sent from my iPhone
Begin forwarded message:
More holes in the Tundra. A while back they were saying that methane coming unfrozen was blasting these craters. In this case, they're saying they don't know. Article didn't even discuss whether or not these were the same. Any way, the pics are interesting. Shows the size (big!) and the walls are so smooth. (wierd).
Sent from my iPhone
Sent from my iPhone
Begin forwarded message:
More holes in the Tundra. A while back they were saying that methane coming unfrozen was blasting these craters. In this case, they're saying they don't know. Article didn't even discuss whether or not these were the same. Any way, the pics are interesting. Shows the size (big!) and the walls are so smooth. (wierd).
23 February 2015
Sent from my iPhone
22 February 2015
Tradition reigns on the Navajo reservation, where the words of elders are treated as gospel and many people still live or pray in circular dwellings called hogans.Rico says this ain't over, but some people can laugh about it:
The national debate over gay marriage, however, is prompting some Navajos to re-examine a 2005 tribal law called the Dine Marriage Act, which prohibits same-sex unions on the reservation. Among the tribal politicians who have said they are amenable to repealing the law is Ben Shelly, president of the Navajo Nation, who has said he will go along with a repeal if the Navajo Nation Council votes in favor of it.
And at least one Navajo presidential aspirant— Joe Shirley Jr., a former president who is running again— favors legalizing same-sex marriage. “Our culture dictates acceptance,” Shirley, 67, said of gay Navajos in a slow, grandfatherly tone during an interview. “They are part of our family, they are our children, and we don’t need to be partial.”
A second presidential contender, Chris Deschene, 43, who was disqualified from running but might be able to get back into the race, said he was "most likely" to support gay marriage.
To Navajo traditionalists, however, the rapid redefinition of marriage in states around the country has made the 2005 tribal law more important than ever.
“It’s not for us,” Otto Tso, a Navajo legislator and medicine man from the western edge of the reservation, said of gay marriage. “We have to look at our culture, our society, where we come from, talk to our elders. I do respect gay people,” he continued, but as far as permitting same-sex unions, “I would definitely wait on that.”
The Supreme Court is expected to decide this year whether states can prohibit same-sex marriages, a move with the potential to lead to the legalization of gay unions in all fifty states. But the ruling would not apply to the Navajo Nation, because the country’s 556 tribes are sovereign entities.
Leading the charge for gay marriage here is Alray Nelson, 29, a top aide to Shirley, the presidential contender. Nelson, who would like to marry his partner, Brennen Yonnie, has pushed for years to repeal the Dine Marriage Act and has a small coalition of core supporters, about fifteen of them, he said. But some gay Navajos, he said, have not joined the coalition for fear they will be ostracized.
Other gay tribal citizens say they support same-sex marriage but do not consider marriage rights a priority, pointing out that many gay Navajos suffer from drug abuse and debilitating depression.
Fixing these ills, said Jeremy Yazzie, 33, who counsels gay and transgender Navajos, is far more important. “Everyone is worried about repealing the gay marriage act,” Yazzie said. “That’s far from my work. How can we love somebody else if we can’t even love ourselves?”
Nelson and Yonnie, 29, a caseworker for the tribal welfare agency, could marry in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, the states that border the reservation, if they wanted. “These states surrounding the Navajo Nation are taking big steps forward — steps for equality,” Nelson said. “The Navajo Nation is not.” Nelson grew up in a mobile home on the reservation, tending sheep and doing homework by kerosene lamp. He came out in an email to his family in his early twenties, was largely accepted, and soon became a powerful force in reservation politics, working for two tribal presidents. He met Yonnie through Facebook about four years ago and they now live with Yonnie’s mother. “Marriage to me is security,” Yonnie said over dinner recently.
But Nelson’s efforts to sway legislators have been hindered by his damaged credibility. In 2011, he admitted to filing false claims to the police, saying he had been threatened because of his race and sexuality. At the time, Nelson said in a recent interview, he had been suffering from depression and stress after the death of a family member. “I did some stupid stuff and said some stupid things,” he said. But he has pressed on. In the last year or so, Nelson has attended five tribal meetings to argue for changes to the law; he has briefed tribal presidential candidates on the issue and attended community events to hand out information and ask people to sign cards pledging their support. Sometimes he is accompanied by other Navajos, but other times, he and Yonnie are alone. “In many ways, it’s just been Brennen and I,” Nelson said.
Most tribal lawmakers say they have other priorities; creating jobs, for example, or channeling electricity to those without it.
The nation’s tribes have taken varying approaches to same-sex unions. At least ten have affirmed the right of gay couples to marry under tribal law, sometimes doing so ahead of the state in which the tribe is located.
In 2009, the Coquille tribe in Oregon became the first Native American nation to recognize same-sex marriages, though the Oregon Constitution still prohibited such unions. Kitzen Branting, a member of the Coquille tribe who was 26 at the time, and Jeni Branting, then 28, were the first to wed in the state.
But the largest Indian tribes— the Navajo Nation, here in the Southwest, and the Cherokee Nation, in Oklahoma— have specifically prohibited same-sex weddings. Each tribe has about three hundred thousand citizens.
These laws will stand even if the Supreme Court decides that bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, according to Lindsay Robertson, director of the Center for the Study of American Indian Law and Policy at the University of Oklahoma, because tribes were not signatories to the United States Constitution and are therefore not bound by it.
Gay Navajos tend to maintain a quiet existence here, connecting with potential partners on the Internet and coming out to their families, but keeping their sexuality largely private. In interviews, several said they would not hold hands in public. Others said they had endured taunts or even physical abuse in school or in their neighborhoods, leading to depression and attempts to harm themselves. Some had moved off the reservation to places where they felt more comfortable.
Central to the debate over same-sex marriage is the question of the role that gay people have played in Navajo history. Several historians, including Jennifer Denetdale, a member of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission and a professor at the University of New Mexico, assert that gay and transgender people have long been part of tribal society, typically holding positions of great respect.
In an academic paper about the Dine Marriage Act, she recounted a traditional tale in which First Woman and First Man argue and set up camp on separate sides of a river, each accompanied by other members of their sex. The men were accompanied by nadleehi— men who dressed as women and took on feminine identities. “The nadleehi provided crucial domestic duties and provided an outlet for the men’s sexual desires,” Dr. Denetdale wrote.
Some opponents of gay marriage cite their attachment to local churches— which hold powerful sway here— as a reason to keep the Dine Marriage Act on the books. The Reverend Dale Jamison is a Roman Catholic leader whose church in Tohatchi draws about a hundred worshipers each Sunday. He said he could not imagine his congregants favoring gay marriage. “My people don’t necessarily want to talk about what they would consider Anglo, mainstream issues.”
At a beauty salon in Chinle, Arizona, about a hundred miles from Nelson’s home in Tohatchi, Jaye BTode, 55, dipped a client’s long tresses into the wash basin as she considered the issue. A photo of a Navajo supermodel hung by the door; music played softly in the background. “That’s not for us,” BTode said of gay marriage. “No, no, no, no.” Her client, Julie Begaye, 54, lifted her head out of the sink, shaking her wet locks. “That’s not our tradition,” she said. “If you want to do that, get off the reservation and do that somewhere else.”
More than one million people are expected to flood the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in September of 2015 to try to get even a speck-size glimpse of Pope Francis.Rico says he won't be buying any of this stuff, and remind him to not go downtown the end of September...
But there is an easier way: organizers are selling life-size cutouts of His Holiness.
For $120 (that's the twenty-five-percent-off price available through Saturday), you can own a "life-size standee" of Pope Francis.
The World Meeting of Families, the organization fund-raising and hosting a weeklong Catholic conference and the papal visit, is also selling tabletop papal cutouts for $15, an I heart Pope Francis t-shirt (with the heart substituted for a red mitre) for $14.25, and official Welcome Pope Francis posters for $9.
All that is available on the organization's website: http://wmof.myshopify.com/.
The Pope's visit to Philadelphia on 26 and 27 September 2015 caps a five-day visit to the United States, with stops in Washington, DC and New York City.
In Philadelphia, fund-raising efforts are well underway. The World Meeting said recently that it had raised thirty million of its forty-five million dollar fund-raising goal.
The merchandise scene will surely boom as the visit approaches. In Manila, where Pope Francis celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass this week, cutouts were placed around the city months ahead of his visit, according to local news reports. Local newspapers provided lists of websites and locations where people could purchase mementos.
Meg Kane, a spokeswoman working with the World Meeting of Families, did not know how many cutouts had already sold, but said a Philadelphia-area family, originally from the Philippines, came into the World Meeting of Families office to purchase a cutout.
The popular Pope has a wide array of tributes to him for sale on Amazon, including a Pope Francis baby onesie with his coat of arms, and Pope Francis soccer jerseys.
Another item for sale on the World Meeting of Families website is a fifteen-dollar Pope Francis quote mug with many of his sayings, including: "If money and material things become the center of our lives they seize us and make us slaves."
21 February 2015
In 1921, the wily art collector Albert C. Barnes wrote to Paris, France to his friend and fellow collector Leo Stein, who was in dire need of money and had deputized Barnes to sell some of his holdings in the United States. They included five watercolor landscapes by Paul Cézanne, but Barnes reported that he had failed to find “anybody who seems to think they are sufficiently important to want to own them.”Rico says WHAT
It was pure mercantile flimflam. Barnes turned around and bought the watercolors for himself, at a hundred dollars each, installing them permanently in his personal museum near here. Now it turns out that Barnes got a better deal than even he had thought: a conservation treatment of the watercolors has revealed two previously unknown Cézanne works— a graphite drawing (above) and a watercolor with graphite— on the reverse side of two of the watercolors.
Hidden beneath brown paper backing, the newly discovered pieces are unfinished, but they have sent tremors through the world of Cézanne scholarship, where additions to his body of work are exceedingly rare and where even the resurfacing of long-unseen pieces can be huge news. A watercolor study for Cézanne’s coveted The Card Players paintings, discovered in Dallas in 2012 after a six-decade absence from public view, brought nineteen million dollars at auction that year, an indication of the work’s importance but also of Cézanne’s place among the most sought-after artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
“Many people come to me and say, ‘I found a Cézanne,’ and I’ve never, never, never found one that was actually by Cézanne,” said Denis Coutagne, president of the Paul Cézanne Society in Provence, France, who has been conducting research for the Barnes for several months to determine where Cézanne was standing in the landscape of Aix-en-Provence when he drew one of the newly discovered works. “It was a very fortunate day in Philadelphia when they found these,” Coutagne said in a telephone interview from Aix-en-Provence, where Cézanne (1839-1906) was born and spent most of his painting career.
There is nothing in Barnes’ correspondence to indicate that he was aware of the existence of the two works. The Barnes, which relocated in 2012 from its original home in Merion, a Philadelphia suburb, to a new building in Philadelphia, has begun a yearsl-ong conservation program for many of its works. It knew that the acidic backing of the five Cézanne watercolors needed to be removed to prevent damage. And in January of 2014, when Gwenanne Edwards, a paper expert at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia, was beginning that long removal process, millimeter by millimeter, with a tool called a microspatula, she suddenly came to an area where she found a patch of blue-green color and then graphite lines.
Edwards, looking at the uncovered works again last week on a table at the Barnes Foundation’s conservation lab, added: “It was quite thrilling.”
Barbara Buckley, the senior director of conservation at the Barnes, described the reaction at the foundation a bit more emphatically: “There were screams of delight.”
One of the works, found on the back of a watercolor of mountains dated to 1885-86, is a view of what seems to be a path leading through trees, with what might be a well or cistern in the distance. At some point in the work’s history, someone — probably not Cézanne — wrote an “X” and the word “non” on the lower right-hand corner of the work, with what might be a question mark following it, indicating that it was rejected or questioned as a completed or salable piece.
The second discovered work, a graphite drawing with no color, found on the back of a watercolor of trees dated to 1900 or earlier, shows a view of the Massif de l’Etoile mountain range, looking toward a prominent button-shaped limestone peak known as the Pilon du Roi, with a large manor house in the foreground and a farmhouse in the distance. From where Cézanne was most likely standing when he drew it, the peak of his beloved Mont Sainte-Victoire, whose craggy mass he returned to in paint again and again, would have been visible to his left.
“These are a perfect example of how much we still don’t know about this collection,” said Martha Lucy, a consulting curator at the Barnes and an expert on its Renoir and Cézanne holdings. “To add new work to Cézanne’s oeuvre is incredible.”
While Barnes’s chief passion was Renoir — he amassed 181 works by him during his lifetime — he also fell in love with the work of Cézanne in the early years of the 20th century. In 1914, he wrote to Stein that he was in Cézanne’s “good strong grip,” enthralled by his “crudity, his baldness of statements, his apparent lack of skill in the handicraft of painting, and the absolute sincerity of the man.” Among artists, Cézanne’s watercolors were particularly prized. Renoir and Degas were reported to have drawn lots to see which one would get to own a Cézanne watercolor still life in 1895, at the time of a Paris exhibition organized by the dealer Ambroise Vollard, which vaulted Cézanne to public recognition.
While the Barnes remains bound by its founder’s strict charter and bylaws, which prohibit moving or rearranging the works on the walls, the foundation plans to show the uncovered works briefly in double-sided frames, from April 10 to May 18, along with video of some of the conservation work. Barnes officials said they recently presented the plan to the office of the Pennsylvania attorney general, which oversees the governance of nonprofit institutions, and received its blessing to keep the watercolors temporarily away from their usual spots on the wall.
Barnes conceived of his foundation more as an educational institution than as a museum, sometimes fiercely repelling those seeking a casual visit. (His one-word response on T. S. Eliot’s application: “Nuts.”) Ms. Lucy said she believed one of the chief benefits of the discovery would be educational, shedding new light on how Cézanne worked, particularly how he “pried apart color and line.”
“I don’t want to say that these are spontaneous, but there’s more spontaneity,” she added. “You can see how they’re made, and for anyone who cares about Cézanne, that’s an amazing thing to get to see.”
One of the Mars One finalists reveals what it's like to face leaving Earth forever:
It’s a peculiar thing to imagine leaving our planet forever. But when a Dutch nonprofit called the Mars One Project announced in 2013 that they were accepting applications for a one-way trip to another planet, I didn’t think twice about signing up.
It started off simply enough. Answer some questions about yourself, put together an audition video, and submit the application fee. More than two hundred thousand people answered the call, and I was excited to be one of them. That was really enough for me. I was sure my efforts would go nowhere, but at least I’d be able to say that I’d thrown my hat in the ring. It’s not like I’m a trained astronaut, after all. I’m not even a scientist. I’m a political consultant with a husband, two extraordinary stepsons, and a black lab dog. But I wasn’t going to let a lack of training stop me from trying.
Space exploration has inspired me since I was a little girl. I would watch Star Trek with my parents and daydream about what other life forms might be out there waiting to meet us, and what challenges we would face as a species if (and when) we find out we’re not alone in the universe. As I got older, the daydreams became a tad more realistic. Could we ever reach out far enough into our galaxy to find that life? What technology would we need to develop to cover such tremendous distances? Are humans physically capable of spending that kind of time in space?
These are questions we’ll no doubt wrestle with for generations to come, as we take the next small steps into outer space, but one thing is certain: space exploration and colonization are the next “giant leaps” for humanity. It’s human nature to explore, to question, to look out and wonder what lies beyond the horizon.
That spirit is at the heart of the Mars One Project. They’ve picked up where Apollo left off, reigniting the dream of spaceflight in a way that low-Earth-orbit shuttle missions, the International Space Station, and unmanned cargo ships cannot. They talk of “going boldly” where we’ve yet to put human beings. But there’s just the tiniest catch: you do not get to come home.
That’s where I usually lose people. “How can you leave forever?” “What does your family think about this?” “Your husband’s okay with you leaving him?” These are the questions I’m peppered with when I tell people this is a one-way trip. And these are reasonable questions, perfectly understandable, and they deserve well considered answers. So here they are:
Space exploration is worth a human life. Every astronaut that has ever flown has known the risks they were up against, once they strapped into that ship. And there’s no guarantee that I won’t be crushed by a collapsing roof tomorrow, or diagnosed with a terminal illness next year. Some call this a suicide mission. I have no death wish. But it would be wonderful if my death could be part of something greater than just one individual. If my life ends on Mars, there will have been a magnificent story and a world of accomplishment to precede it.
But that’s not what people really want to know. “How can you leave your family/your life/Earth for certain death?” they ask. Simple: in the beginning, it didn’t seem real. This was an easy conversation because there were so many applicants. When you’re one of more than two hundred thousand, the odds are so long that you’ll be picked— never mind the technical hurdles— that the entire enterprise seemed like a lark, both theoretical and improbable, like writing your own name in for President. If there were consequences, they seemed abstract.
When I made the candidate list of just over a thousand, things became more interesting. People wanted to talk to me about it. I began to come up with answers and repeat them, which in itself became a way of not facing up to the potential reality of stepping off this planet forever. Staying on message became a way to stay away from my real feelings about this.Rico says that he won't be going, and the place is a little bleak:
Now that I’m one of one hundred, the world is watching, looking to me for answers to questions that were easily brushed off when this was all just a fantastical daydream. The reality of this presses up against me, and I stay on message to protect that private space for me and my husband where I can face the hard questions that come at night. It’s one thing to imagine the good that can come from a manned mission to Mars, but it’s quite another to tally up the cost and see one’s life on the bill.
Paradoxically, I couldn’t even be contemplating this without the support of my family. My stepsons think it’s neat that their stepmom wants to fly off into space even if it means I might not be around to see grandchildren. In doing this, I want to show them that there is no dream so great that it shouldn’t be chased. My father and sister think I’m a little nuts, but they know my reasons for doing this are about furthering a dream for mankind, not making a name for myself. And my husband, my incredible husband, has been my greatest advocate since the day I first applied. The promise I made to him on our wedding day was that our marriage would serve to make us the best versions of ourselves. He knows I’d walk away from Mars One without a second’s hesitation if he asked me to. And that’s why he won’t. He know what this mission means to me.
The first launch of human beings won’t happen until 2024. That means we’re in chapter one of a very long story. No one knows how this story will end. The mission might be scrapped due to technical feasibility issues. The funding might not come together. They might have a hard time finding the right candidates. There are millions of things that have to happen for this to be a success, and there are plenty of things that can and will go wrong along the way. But Mars is humanity’s inevitable destination, and Mars One has accepted the challenge to take that next great leap. Now it’s up to us to live up to the adventure.
British counter-terror officials were urgently searching for three teenage schoolgirls they feared had run away from home to travel to Syria, police said recently.Rico says they'll find out, unfortunately too late, that this was a dumb idea... (Rico had them, too, when he was fifteen, but never acted on them, fortunately.)
The girls, all good friends aged fifteen to sixteen, boarded a Turkish Airlines flight at London's Gatwick Airport and arrived in Istanbul, Turkey later that evening, police said in a statement. Thousands of wannabe ISIS rebels have crossed into Syria through Turkey since the civil war there started four years ago.
The girls were last seen at their homes that morning, where they made plausible excuses to their families as to why they would be out for the day, officials added.
Surveillance photos (above) of the three teenage girls, who were last seen at Gatwick Airport in London, England; from left to right, sixteen-year-old Kadiza Sultana, a fifteen-year-old whose name was withheld by authorities, and fifteen-year-old Shamina Begum.
"We are extremely concerned for the safety of these young girls and would urge anyone with information to come forward and speak to police," said Richard Walton, counterterror commander of the Metropolitan Police. "Our priority is the safe return of these girls to their families."
Launching an appeal for information about the three, officials in London also said they were concerned about how many of young women traveling to the part of Syria controlled by the extremist group ISIS. "It is an extremely dangerous place," Walton said.
The girls were identified as Shamima Begum, Kadiza Sultana, and a fifteen-year-old who has not been named at the request of her family. Begum and the third girl were reported missing to police by their families later that evening when they did not return home. Sultana was reported missing by her family on Wednesday morning.
All three went to school in Bethnal Green in East London, according to police. Police said that Begum and Sultana had London accents, and also spoke Bengali, the unnamed fifteen-year-old spoke English and Amharic, a language native to Ethiopia.
Police said they were attempting to reach out to the girls through social media and the Turkish press.
20 February 2015
While Apple has been preparing to release its first wearable computers, the company has also been busy assembling a team to work on an automobile.Rico says making cars will cause stocking problems at the Apple Stores...
The company has collected about two hundred people over the last few years, both from within Apple and from potential competitors like Tesla, to develop technologies for an electric car, according to two people with knowledge of the company’s plans, who asked not to be named because the plans were private.
The car project is still in its prototype phase, one person said, meaning it is probably many years away from being a viable product and might never reach the mass market if the quality of the vehicle fails to impress Apple’s executives.
It could also go nowhere if Apple struggles to find a compelling business opportunity in automobiles, a business that typically has much lower sales margins than the products the company currently sells, like the iPhone.
Many of Apple’s newer employees have come from companies that specialize in battery and automotive technologies. Apple has hired many engineers from A123 Systems, Tesla, and Toyota to work on advanced battery technologies.
Apple’s hiring spree of automotive experts more recently accelerated as the company’s plans came into sharper focus, according to a lawsuit filed this month in Massachusetts federal court.
A123 Systems, a company in Livonia, Michigan that makes batteries for electric cars, said in its complaint that Apple “embarked on an aggressive campaign” in June of 2014 to poach its employees. A123 is accusing five former workers of violating their non-compete agreements by leaving their jobs to perform similar roles for Apple.
“Upon information and belief, Apple is currently developing a large scale battery division to compete in the very same field as A123,” the lawsuit said. Michael Rosen, A123’s lead attorney, declined to comment.
The Financial Times first reported that Apple had been hiring automotive experts to form a secret research lab. An Apple spokesman declined to comment. Apple has long had partnerships with automakers like BMW and Volkswagen to offer systems compatible with iPods inside cars. Last year, Apple introduced CarPlay, a system that allows users to link iPhones directly with the infotainment systems in some cars.
European leaders are still battling over austerity. Congress is gearing up for another fight over the budget. But in Saudi Arabia, there are no such troubles when you are king; you just dole out billions and billions of dollars to ordinary Saudis by royal decree.Rico says it may be good to be the prince, but better to be the king... This all makes Rico hear these songs in his head:
Not surprisingly, Saudis are very happy with their new monarch, King Salman.
“It is party time for Saudi Arabia right now,” said John Sfakianakis, the Riyadh-based director of the Ashmore Group, an investment company, who estimates that the king’s post-coronation giveaway will ultimately cost more than thirty billion dollars.
That is a lot of cash, more, for example, than the entire annual budget for Nigeria, which has Africa’s largest economy.
Since King Salman ascended the throne of this wealthy Arab kingdom last month, he has swiftly taken charge, abolishing government bodies and firing ministers. But no measure has caused as much buzz here as the giant payouts he ordered to a large chunk of the Saudi population.
These included grants to professional associations, literary and sports clubs; investments in water and electricity; and bonuses worth two months of salary to all government employees, soldiers, pensioners, and students on government stipends at home and abroad. Some private companies followed suit with comparable bonuses for their Saudi employees, putting another few billion dollars into people’s pockets.
Some of the government spending will come over years, but most will hit the Saudi market this month, including the bonuses. About three million of Saudi Arabia’s five million-person work force are employed by the government, Sfakianakis said.
So, for the moment at least, there is little talk about human rights abuses or political reform. Saudis are spending. Some have treated themselves to new cellphones, handbags, and trips abroad. They have paid off debts, given to charity, and bought gold necklaces for their mothers. Some men have set aside money to marry a first, second, or third wife. One was so pleased that he showered his infant son with crisp bills.
“The first thing I did was go and check my storerooms,” said Abdulrahman Alsanidi, who owns a camping supply store in Buraida, north of Riyadh. He expected a thirty percent jump in sales.
Saudi rulers have long used the wealth that comes from being the world’s top oil exporter to lavish benefits on their people, and many Saudis describe royal largess as part of a family-like social contract between rulers and loyal citizens.
But the new spending comes amid change and uncertainty for the kingdom. King Salman ascended the throne after the death of King Abdullah and announced the bonuses as a good-will gesture to his people.
But because about ninety percent of government income comes from oil, the drop in world prices has reduced state revenue by about twenty percent, said Rakan Alsheikh, a research analyst at Jadwa Investment. His company projected that the government would run a record deficit of over forty billion dollars in 2015. The new spending could increase that deficit to nearly seventy billion dollars, or nine percent of gross domestic product, Alsheikh said.
Those worries seem far from the SUV-clogged streets of the Saudi capital, where gas costs 45 cents a gallon because of huge state subsidies, and people are used to repaying government generosity with public displays of fealty.
“We pledge allegiance to you, hearing and obeying,” declare billboards for phone and construction companies.
Average government salaries are about $2,400 per month, with some workers earning additional allowances for transportation, housing, overtime and the holy month of Ramadan. Student stipends are less, while employees with years of service can earn $4,800 per month or more, Sfakianakis said.
As the bonuses have arrived, Saudis have pondered what to do with the cash. Many said government salaries had not kept pace with rising prices, so the bonuses merely helped to fill the gap. “Mostly rent and traffic tickets,” said Shakir Mohammed, an elementary schoolteacher, when asked how he would spend his bonus.
Others said the tradition of patriarchal distribution extended into their own homes, where children and wives expected the bonuses to trickle down. Abdelrahman Alhadlaq, an adviser to the interior minister, said he would like to invest his bonus, but guessed that he would face family pressure to spend it. His wife, a university professor, would get her own, as would three of his nine children. “So it is the young kids who will benefit,” he said, adding that he might treat his wife to a new watch or a trip to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Many Saudis have taken to social media to express their joy, thanking the king with the hashtag #two_salaries in Arabic and posting jokes. One image showed a blue sky full of outbound airplanes with a caption reading “Saudi airports after the two salaries.”
One comedy video showed functionaries cheering, women ululating, and an gray-haired man dancing after the bonuses were announced. It ended with a reminder not to forget the mothers “who have given what has no equal”.
Such royal gifts are far from unprecedented. King Abdullah announced a fifteen percent raise in government salaries after his coronation in 2005, and he issued a one-month salary bonus in 2011 after returning from medical treatment abroad.
Western analysts noted that the last bonus came during the Arab Spring uprisings, when Saudi rulers worried about possible dissent at home.
“We are a welfare society, so the population depends a lot on government subsidies, directly and indirectly,” said Abdullah al-Alami, a Saudi writer and economist. “But one day we are going to run out of oil, and I don’t believe it is wise to be pampered and subsidized.”
Still, with more than seven hundred billion dollars in foreign reserves, the Saudi government faces no immediate crunch. The importance of government patronage is even clearer outside the cities, where non-government employment for Saudis is scarce.
Sitting in his vast salon in the village of Butain, north of Riyadh, Prince Moteb bin Fahed bin Farhan al-Saud, who lives in the village, asked the twenty or so men visiting who had received a two-month bonus. All raised their hands. “Now we are asking that the king forgive all the citizen’s debts,” said one visitor, Mohammed al-Sahli, adding that his bonus would help him marry a third wife.
Over the years, government money had transformed the village. While its residents once mostly farmed and raised animals, few bother to anymore. Electricity and phone service arrived in the 1980s. Now, there is power in every home and 4G data coverage throughout. Every weekday, a bus gives dozens of female students a free ride to the university in town, which is also free, Prince Moteb said. Driving his SUV through town, Prince Moteb pointed to construction crews building tree-lined roads and roundabouts and a pedestrian area with swing sets and picnic tables. Downtown stood some of the village’s main employers: the local office of the prince of Qassim Province; the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, which monitors public morals; and a towering new fire station with shiny new engines.
“The government treats us very well here,” said Abdullah al-Sahli, the head of the local government office, who said he had distributed his bonus to his wife and children.
His son Moteb, six, said he already had two iPads, so he spent the money on a new toy Jeep. “We have nothing to complain about,” Sahli said.
Some twenty people, including senior officials, have been killed in an attack on a hotel in the Somali capital, witnesses tell the BBC. The Central Hotel (photo), often frequented by politicians, was hit by a car bomb and a suicide attack. Gunmen then stormed the hotel mosque and opened fire during Friday prayers.Rico says that MP as in Member of Parliament, not Military Police...
An MP and Mogadishu's deputy mayor were among the dead, the government says.
Islamist militant group al-Shabab has said it was behind the attack. The al-Qaeda-linked group has been driven out of the country's major towns but still controls many rural areas in the south.
The BBC's Mohamed Moalimu says the area around the hotel has been cordoned off.
"First the car bomb exploded at the gate of the hotel, then a suicide bomber blew himself up in the hotel compound," police Major Nur Mohamed told Reuters.
Information Minister Mohamed Abdi Hayir Mareeye told the BBC that Somalia's deputy prime minister and other ministers had been at the hotel at the time, but had survived the attack.
An al-Shabab spokesman told BBC Somali analyst Mary Harper it had killed the officials while they were praying, because they are "apostates". It has previously said it would target members of the government.
Earlier this month, al-Shabab shot dead an MP in a drive-by shooting in Mogadishu.
Shouldn't have eaten that entire galaxy...Rico says that 'fart' was a joke, of course, but what else do you call 'emitting fierce winds'?
Researchers say that new data from a black hole two billion light years away indicate that it emits powerful winds in all directions that help to regulate its growth as well as the growth of the galaxy around it.
The research, based on observations from a NASA and a European Space Agency (ESA) space telescope, was published in the latest issue of the journal Science. NASA released an artist’s conception of the radiation and winds emitted by a black hole (above).
The study found that the black hole, labelled PDS 456, sustains winds blowing up to a third the speed of light that carry more energy per second than the amount emitted by a trillion suns. These winds, produced as the black hole sucks in matter, push gas outward and thereby help restrict both the growth of the black hole and the formation of stars in the galaxy.
19 February 2015
From: "Mr Alex White" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Thursday, 19 February, 2015 14:51
Subject: RE. YOUR ABANDONED CONSIGNMENT!!!
This email is free from viruses and malware because avast! Antivirus protection is active.
Chinese computer manufacturer Lenovo is getting flak for selling laptops with marketing software that experts say opens up a door for hackers. The software, called Superfish, analyzes users’ internet habits and displays third-party ads based on that activity, The Next Web reports.Rico says that, if Apple did this, people would march on Cupertino with torches and pitchforks...
Troublingly, Superfish also impersonates certificates for encrypted websites in order to monitor users’ behavior, even on protected sites. That can open a door for hackers targeting sensitive information like passwords or banking details, because users’ data isn’t being protected as well as it ought to be.
In a statement, Lenovo said it stopped preloading the software in January of 2014, and won’t preload it in the future. Lenovo also defended itself from criticism over installing Superfish in the first place, but it didn’t address the false certificate problem.
“We have thoroughly investigated this technology, and do not find any evidence to substantiate security concerns,” Lenovo said. “But we know that users reacted to this issue with concern, and so we have taken direct action to stop shipping any products with this software.”
Do you enjoy getting thrown through plate-glass windows, falling off buildings, and generally smashing things up? Bobby Holland Hanton (photo, center) does. That is why Hanton is a stuntman and the rest of humanity is not.
In his time in Hollywood, Hanton, thirty, has faked injuries, havoc and near-death for many stars, including Chris Hemsworth, Christian Bale, Daniel Craig, Ryan Reynolds, Channing Tatum, and Jake Gyllenhaal. His resume includes work in many blockbusters, including The Dark Knight Rises, Quantum of Solace, and films in the Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises. At present, he is abusing himself on the set of directors Andy and Lana Wachowski’s latest movie, Jupiter Ascending.
Bobby comes by his skills naturally, meaning through an impossible regimen of monomaniacal task-oriented achievements, including a 2009 Guinness World Record for the most targets hit with a back somersault throw in one hour. (His impetus was partly fed by sponsorship deals with Dove Mens + Care and Nuffield Fitness Gym.) BBC Autos chatted with him about his time spent driving, diving, and dying for a living.Brett Berk: What kind of training does one have to undergo to become a stunt double? Do you begin by jumping off roofs and bridges as a child and then just work your way up (or down) from there? Do you train with a master stuntman? Do you attend danger school?
Bobby Holland Hanton: Becoming a stunt double requires training in certain disciplines, such as kickboxing, swimming, high diving, gymnastics, trampolining, and scuba diving. I trained full-time for nearly four years to master each discipline. It helps fundamentally if you have a skill that you've acquired from a young age, like martial arts, trampolining, or vehicle experience. In my case, it was gymnastics. These activities and trainings always put you in good stead for a stunt career.
Berk: What was the first vehicle you stunt-drove in a movie?
Hanton: Though my driving experience is limited, I had the chance to film as a driver in Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. Everyone talks about the Bond cars throughout the franchises’ various instalments, so to be behind the wheel of one of these iconic vehicles was one of the many surreal moments in my career.
Berk: What was your favorite of all the vehicles you've stunt driven in a film?
Hanton: Of all the notable cars I’ve been around in filming, having the opportunity to sit in the Aston Martin and simulate driving on Quantum of Solace. At twenty-three years old, not many people can say they’ve driven James Bond’s car, and I’m so glad I had the chance to film that shot.
Berk: What was the biggest mistake you ever made while driving on set?
Hanton: There’s always a certain risk in stunt-doubling. It’s the nature of the job, otherwise the position wouldn’t be available. In my limited on-camera driving experience, I’ve been lucky enough to have not made a mistake in a vehicle or cause any accidents.
Berk: Have there been any actors you've worked with/doubled for who were really great drivers?
Hanton: Aside from being an incredible actor, Daniel Craig is a great driver. I remember watching him film a scene on Quantum of Solace that had him driving down a very narrow tunnel in the dark. That kind of driving takes precision, and he nailed it every time.
Berk: We're familiar with the term "busman's holiday". What does a stunt driver drive on his days off?
Hanton: I'm very lucky to own an Aston Martin DB9, which I recently bought as a thirtieth birthday present to myself. Previous to that I owned a Range Rover Sport that I dearly miss, and an Audi A4 before that. Whether I’m doubling in a film, or even playing myself, it’s very important for me to have a comfortable car to show up on set relaxed and confident.
Hanton's '007 edition' Aston Martin DB9:
Rico says WHAT
The New Castle County, Delaware police department is asking county-based elementary school students, in grades three through eight, to come up with a new name for their Clydesdale, a five-year-old draft horse, which joined the department's Mounted Unit in December of 2014.Rico says he hopes they come up with a good one. (Nothing silly, please.)
The department wanted to rename the dark bay Clydesdale (photo), originally named Tyson, due to a clash with the similar-sounding name of another horse.
"Although we like his name, we are changing it so that there won't be any confusion when it comes to feeding or medicating them,"according to the contest flyer.
Students are asked to include an essay that explains the reason behind their suggestion.
The deadline for submissions is 9 March 2015 at 4 pm.
On Iwo Jima last week, at least forty thousand Marines fought to the death with twenty thousand entrenched Japanese in an area so constricted that the troops engaged averaged twelve men to an acre. Ashore with the Marines, Time correspondent Robert Sherrod radioed his account of the battle...Rico says besides being an important place (the first airfield that B-29s could reach when returning, damaged, from raids on Japan), it also was the site of one of the most famous photos of the War, taken by Joe Rosenthal:
With those words, the 5 March 1945, issue of Time launched into a description of the horror and bravery that Sherrod had witnessed in the days since the Americans struck the island of Iwo Jima— seventy years ago, on 19 February 1945— in what would be one of the Allies’ most crucial World War Two victories. As the magazine explained the readers, the island itself wasn’t much, just a few square miles of beach and cliffs, but it was one of best-defended locations in the world. Going in, it was known that the Marines who fought there would likely take heavy casualties, but that there was no other option: winning Iwo Jima— site of airfields used by the Japanese, which would be game-changers if put to use for American airstrikes on Tokyo— was absolutely necessary.
Seven decades after the battles, Sherrod’s cables to his editors provide unusual insight into the experience at Iwo Jima. They’re written during the fighting, and the man behind them was uniquely qualified to comment on what he was seeing: Sherrod had covered battles throughout the Pacific, and in 1944 had published a book, Tarawa: The Story of a Battle, about what he experienced on that atoll. (He would go on to write a book about his later experiences too, On to Westward: the Battles of Saipan and Iwo Jima.)
Sherrod had gone ashore with a combat team on the day the battle began and, in the 26 February issue, Time was able to quote from a message that he had radioed from before the attack. Typically, issue dates are a week ahead of publication, which means it would have been printed pretty much as soon as his 19 February message arrived. In describing the fighting that had begun, the magazine passed on his warning to readers that “there is little over optimism to be found among admirals, generals, or their troops.” In fact, Sherrod’s cable had been a warning to his editors, not to readers: “I suggest that you confine this week’s action report to a simple statement that we have landed on Iwo Jima,” he also wrote, cautioning that the magazine should not rely on reports from any newer journalists among those present, who might “endeavor to win the war in the first flash”.
The next message from Iwo Jima came on 21 February, with the note that it would arrive in time to be printed in Life magazine (Time's sister publication) but not in Time itself; Life did end up printing nearly the entire cable, about twenty-five hundred words long, pretty much verbatim. (Interestingly, the magazine cut out some of his less objective passages, which are highlights in hindsight: “But the ultimate factor in the fall of Iwo Jima can be attributed only to the character and courage of the United States Marines. In war there comes a time when power alone has reached its limits, when planes no longer can be called upon to deliver bombs effectively, when ships have no more shells to fire, when defenses will no longer yield before fire power, however heavy. That is the time when men on foot must pay for yardage with their lives. That is when they call on the Marines,” he wrote. Life printed only the first sentence.)
Further messages arrived over the next few days, as the Marines captured Mount Suribachi and a Japanese airfield, among other objectives. “This is a record of twenty-four hours in Iwo Jima,” the 24 February missive began. “It covers the period between 1600 of the fifth day and 1600 of the sixth day, but it might apply to any twenty-four hours in the day following our landing and capture of Motoyama airfield Number One. After that early capture, the Iwo Jima battle settled down in the same grueling routine described herein– the slow advance of the front lines, the incessant booming of our artillery and naval gunfire, the monotonous whine of the Jap snipers’ bullets.”
That cable, combined with some details from the earlier messages, became the main 5 March report on the situation, which ran under the headline It Was Sickening to Watch… accompanied by the map above.
Not every detail of that twenty-four hour period made it to print, including his sign-off, telling his editors that he could look forward “to another twenty-four hour period of creeping warfare, and to other similar periods after that.” Many such days would follow: the battle would last more than a month.
Read the full story, here in the Time Vault: It Was Sickening to Watch…
There are now so many young sea lions being stranded on the West Coast that Federal officials say they can’t keep up. As a result, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued some brutal advice recently: If you see a beached sea lion pup, call the authorities, but be prepared for them not to come, at least for a while.Rico says the cute ones get saved...
Normally the marine mammal stranding network, a series of facilities dotted along the US coastlines, will send staff to take in any seal or sea lion pup found stranded and do their best to rehabilitate it. But many facilities in the network are nearing capacity as sea lions wash ashore at a much higher than average rate. Since 1 January 2015, rescuers in California have taken in about a thousand pups; nearly four times the typical total for the first four months of the year. “The reality is that we can’t get to all of these animals,” says NOAA stranding coordinator Justin Viezbicke.
So what’s going on? Experts at NOAA say that the culprit is rising ocean temperatures. (On a call with reporters recently, a NOAA climate expert said that they do not believe the stranding increase is tied to climate change.) The warm temperatures are somehow affecting the squid, sardines, and other animals that are the core diet of sea lions, perhaps driving the prey deeper into the water or farther offshore. So, when mothers swim off to forage from the Channel Islands, where pups are weaned every year, they are having to stay away longer before they can come back to nurse. With less frequent nursing, pups are losing weight at unprecedented rates, and experts suspect that these weak, under-grown animals are being driven to look for food on their own before they are ready.
“They’re not really capable of diving deep or traveling far,” says Sharon Melin, a NOAA wildlife biologist. “They’re not really capable of being out on their own.” And so the pups are washing up on shore, emaciated.
The root cause of the crisis, officials believe, is the odd wind patterns that aren’t cooling the ocean like they normally do. They aren’t certain of what’s behind the lack of cold winds, but they believe the patterns are creating a ripple effect through the food chain. The sea lions, at the top of that chain, are signaling that bigger things may be amiss among the larger marine food web. “There are a lot of puzzles here that we’re trying to put together,” says Nate Mantua, a NOAA climatologist. “We don’t understand it. It’s a mystery.”
This is the third bleak year in the past decade for sea lion pups. In 2013, up to seventy percent of all the sea lion pups born the previous year may have died due to environmental events, according to Melin, twice the amount that might not make it to maturity in a normal year. Officials say this year’s pups appear more under-nourished than any they’ve observed in the past forty years.
And even when pups do get to a rehabilitation facility, they might not make it back to sea. The Marine Mammal Center, the largest facility in California’s stranding network, saved about sixty percent of the animals who came to them in 2013. “The sea lion pups arriving at the Marine Mammal Center may look like barely more than skin and bones,” says Shawn Johnson, the facility’s director of veterinary science, “but these are the lucky ones.”
The mass strandings have not diminished the overall population of California sea lions, which has been thriving since becoming a protected species in the 1970s. Now around three hundred thousand in number, NOAA’s Melin says that another factor at work in the current crisis may be that the species is approaching its resource limit in the environment. “Based on what we’re seeing at the colonies,” she says, “we should be bracing for a lot more animals to be coming in.”
Meteorologists are predicting parts of the eastern United States could experience historically low temperatures over the next few days, thanks to a cold spell called the Siberian Express.Rico says he's, fortunately, going on vacation to someplace warm while all this is happening...
The National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center says that temperatures in the upper and middle Mississippi Valley and Tennessee Valley, all the way to the Carolinas and lower Great Lakes, will be twenty to fifty degrees below average. That could mean record-low February temperatures for Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio, and West Virginia.
The air responsible for the shift has been traveling in from Siberia, over the North Pole, and down into North America over the past week.
According to the Washington Post, the nation’s capital didn’t drop below six degrees last year. But this week, the region’s NWS office noted that Washington, D.C.’s temperature may fall below zero for the first time since 19 January 1994.
The center also expects more “heavy snow” for parts of New England, making for unwelcome news after successive storms dumped several feet of snow in the region over the last few weeks.
The man prevented from boarding a Metro train in Paris, France (photo) by Chelsea soccer fans chanting racist slogans has called for them to be punished. The 33-year-old, named only as Souleymane S, told France's Le Parisien: "These people, these English fans... should be locked up."Rico says, no, no, not Chelsea Clinton... (And, to spare his American readers any confusion, Rico has changed 'football' to 'soccer' throughout the article.)
A video with the article shows him trying to get on a Metro carriage, but being pushed off. A group of people can be heard singing: "We're racist, we're racist, and that's the way we like it."
The footage was obtained by The Guardian, which reported that the incident happened at Richelieu-Drouot station in the center of the French capital ahead of a Champions League match.
In an interview with Le Parisien, Souleymane S said he had not been particularly surprised by the abuse because he "lives with racism". The father of three, a French-Mauritanian born in Paris, said he had not understood what the fans were saying, but that he knew he was being targeted because of the color of his skin. Transport officers arrived, but only wanted to make sure there was not a fight taking place.
Souleymane said he had no idea he was being filmed, and had not told anyone about the incident. "What could I tell my children? That daddy was shoved around on the Metro because he is black? That would be pointless." But he said that now the incident had emerged publicly he had the confidence to file a police complaint. "These people, these English fans, need to be found and punished, and should be locked up," he added.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said the incident appeared to be "extremely disturbing and very worrying". It follows long-standing controversy over racism in soccer generally.
Although the episode is believed to have involved British fans, the comments made by Souleymane S also come amid disquiet over increasing intolerance in France.
Publishing a report recently, Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, said France needed to take "urgent" action to combat abuse. "Despite advances in legislation and measures to combat intolerance and racism, discrimination and hate speech not only persist in France, but are on the rise," he said.
London's Metropolitan Police has said it is taking the Metro incident "very seriously". It said it would assist the French authorities to identify the people involved, and support them in any action they chose to take.
Chelsea FC said it would also help police, and any fans involved faced a ban. A spokesman for the club said the fans' actions had "no place in football or society".
British expatriate Paul Nolan, who filmed the incident on his phone, told the BBC it was an "ugly scene" and "very aggressive". Speaking on Radio 4's Today program, he said he could hear mention of World War Two as well as the racist chanting. One voice is heard on the video singing: "Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea."
Jay Leno knows a thing or two about cars. In addition to collecting, restoring, and customizing a garage filled with literally hundreds of rare and valuable vehicles, the comedian has written regularly about the topic for a range of publications, and produced dozens of videos for his YouTube channel, Jay Leno’s Garage. He is also generous with his vehicles. As a consistent supporter of organisations that help care for American soldiers, Leno has auctioned a number of cars, with all proceeds going to charity.Rico says that, as ever, it's good to be the prince, especially if you like expensive cars...
I like everything that rolls, explodes, and makes noise.Leno got an early start to the giving season, donating a 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT, one of the very first built, to Gooding & Company’s January of 2015 sale in Scottsdale, Arizona. It would go on to sell for $360,000, and other bidders would add another $205,000 in donations, for a total benefit to the USO– an organization providing entertainment to American soldiers– of $565,000.
Leno recently took time to discuss charity, his coming program on cable news channel CNBC, and the controversy around his recent encounter with the police in a new Chevrolet Corvette Z06.
Brett Berk: How did your charity consignment for the Scottsdale auctions come about?
Jay Leno: We’ve sold a lot of vehicles to raise money for the Wounded Warrior program, or the Fisher House [nonprofit organizations that benefit wounded American veterans]. This will be the first one that we’ve done for the USO. I went over to Afghanistan a few months ago and did some shows with the USO at Bagram Air Base, and it was great fun meeting everybody. People kind of forget about the USO a little bit. Not that it’s fallen by the wayside, but they need money, too. I think that entertaining the troops is as important as any of the other things. Plus, a hundred percent of the money we raise goes to the charity. We don’t deduct for the transportation of the car. I don’t think Gooding even takes a commission on it. Something that really annoys me are these charities where only ten or twenty percent go to the soldiers and the rest goes to “administrative costs”. You know what kind of sleazy, crooked thing that is.
Berk: Tell us a little bit about the car you sold.
Leno: It’s car number four, it’s one of the very first Challengers built. We put new tires on it.
Berk: Assuming you drove the old ones right off of it?
Leno: No, not really. The car only had twenty-two hundred miles on it. It’s like a brand new car. It’s a collector car. It was one of the first batch of Challengers built. But the tires are now eight years old, or whatever it is, so we put new tires on it before we sold it to somebody. And changed the oil. And I sent it to Chrysler to have them go over everything and make sure it’s fine, and it is.
Berk: You don’t buy at the auctions, do you?
Leno: I… I’ve kind of got everything I need.
Berk: But is there anything you’re looking for, or looking at?
Leno: I like everything that rolls, explodes, and makes noise. But there’s nothing I’m really looking for.
Berk: What is the basis of the show you’re doing for CNBC?
Leno: It’s gonna be a car show, so that will be fun. It’s still all pretty new. It’s not going to be one of these restore-a-car-in-a-week shows. We’ll do a lot of history and driving.
Berk: You had an adventure recently in a Corvette Z06 that seemed to go a bit wrong.
Leno: Yeah, that was great fun. That’s a great car. A terrific car. It is the best value car for the money that there is. It’s really unbelievable.
Berk: You got pulled over, correct?
Leno: Ah, there’s all kinds of rumors. You never know what to believe.