Sunday, July 31, 2005

Caltech astronomer finds solar system's 10th planet

"A California astronomer has discovered what he believes is the 10th planet in our solar system, a group of NASA-funded researchers said on Friday.

The new planet, known as 2003UB313, has been identified as the most distant object ever detected orbiting the sun, California Institute of Technology astronomer Michael Brown said.

Brown and colleagues Chad Trujillo and David Rabinowitz have submitted a name for the planet to the International Astronomical Union and are confident it will be designated a planet. Brown did not reveal the proposed name.

The procedure for approving the new planet is somewhat hazy as no new bodies have received that designation since Pluto was discovered in 1930, Brown said.

"We hope that it's fairly noncontroversial among those who believe Pluto is a planet," Brown said. "I would say get out your pens and start rewriting the textbooks today."

The planet is located about 9.7 billion miles from the sun and is about 1 1/2 times the size of Pluto, the researchers said.

The new planet orbits the sun once every 560 years and is now at its farthest point from Earth, he said. In about 280 years, the planet will be as close as Neptune, he said.

Like Pluto, the object's surface is believed to be predominantly methane, but its size -- about 1,700 miles in diameter -- qualifies it as a planet, Brown said. Earth is about 7,900 miles in diameter.

The new planet is believed to be part of the Kuiper Belt, a large ring of icy objects that orbit beyond Neptune and are believed to be remnants of the material that formed the solar system.

Brown said the new planet was detected in January by the Samuel Oschin Telescope at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego."

Pretty cool.....

Friday, July 29, 2005

London Arrests Three in July 21 Bombings

"Heavily armed police wearing gas masks and reportedly using stun grenades raided two west London apartment blocks Friday, and officials said they arrested three people connected to the failed July 21 transit bombings.

British media reports said three of the four men suspected of trying to detonate the bombs are now in custody, but police would not confirm that. One of the four, Yasin Hassan Omar, was arrested Wednesday in Birmingham in central England.

Police said they raided two residences Friday in west London and arrested two men at one address and one at another, a Metropolitan Police spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity. Police were "securing the area and treating it as a crime scene."- AP

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

John Roberts, Nominee to the Supreme Court


"Classmates from both law school and college remember Roberts as a hard working, earnest, kind, and brilliant person. Roberts, who graduated from the College with a summa cum laude degree in History in just three years, wrote his thesis on British liberalism in the early 20th Century.

One of Roberts’ mentors, William P. LaPiana ’74, a pre-law and history tutor in Leverett House when Roberts lived there, recalls Roberts as a “hard working and happy undergraduate who loved studying history.”

LaPiana said that what he remembered most about Roberts was his self-deprecating jokes.

“He had gotten a wonderful grade and a glowing comment on a term paper in a course on American Intellectual History,” LaPiana said. “Afterwards, he walked into my office and said ‘I think I can get my head through the door.’”

Since then, Roberts has easily sauntered through every door in his path.

He went on to HLS, where he served as Managing Editor of The Harvard Law Review, a position that, as one classmate put it, “you didn’t get unless you were among the top 4 or 5 intellectually in the class.”

Roberts’ colleagues on the Law Review spoke highly of his disposition and ability.

Elizabeth R. Geise, who was on the Law Review with Roberts, remembered him as an “honest, forthright, decent, and fair person who was always there on time, always did his job, and was kind to everyone.”

“He was somebody who got along with everyone, who was obviously very bright but not aggressive,” said Paul K. Rowe ’76, who is also a Crimson editor and was on the Law Review. “He had a Midwestern reserve about not showing off how smart he was.”

Roberts, who was born in Buffalo, New York, moved from his hometown of Buffalo, New York, to Indiana after second grade.

Rowe added that those on the Law Review always thought of Roberts as fair, especially on politically divisive issues. “There was a certain amount of left versus right, but John was someone that everyone could talk to and respected.”

“I never thought of him as an ideologue,” Lindsay A. Connor, who was also on Law Review with Roberts, wrote in an e-mail. But Connor said that he has not seen Roberts in more than 25 years and does not know how Roberts has changed.

Other colleagues from the Law Review, however, remembered Roberts as clearly on the conservative side of the spectrum.

Kirkland and Ellis Professor of Law David B. Wilkins ’77 said that Roberts was “more conservative than typical Harvard Law student in the 1970s.” However, Wilkins was quick to point out that today’s political climate is very different from that of the mid-seventies, noting that “90 percent of the Harvard Law School class is more conservative than the typical Harvard Law student in the 1970s.”

After graduating from HLS, Roberts headed inside the beltway. He clerked for William H. Rehnquist, who was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court at the time. Following his clerkship, Roberts went on to work in the offices of the Attorney General and the White House Counsel. He also served as Principal Deputy Solicitor General under Kenneth W. Starr in the first Bush Administration.

In between stints with the government, Roberts worked at the law firm Hogan & Hartson, where he established himself as a top appellate lawyer with an impressive record—he has argued a total of 39 cases before the Supreme Court, winning 25 of them.

Roberts’ record in Washington impressed President George W. Bush, who nominated him to the D.C. Circuit Court in January 2003—Roberts’ third nomination to the Court. (Both Bushes had nominated him once before, though those nods had stalled before Roberts could be brought for a vote.) Roberts was confirmed 4 months later.

The confirmation process produced a wealth of glowing recommendations. He received the rating of “Well Qualified” without reservation from the American Bar Association, the highest possible mark for a jurist.

The Senate Judiciary Committee was also sent a letter by a bipartisan group of 156 members of the D.C. Bar, all of whom urged Roberts’s swift confirmation. “He is one of the very best and most highly respected appellate lawyers in the nation, with a deserved reputation as a brilliant writer and oral advocate” the letter said. “He is also a wonderful professional colleague both because of his enormous skills and because of his unquestioned integrity and fair-mindedness.”

Walter E. Dellinger III, who served as solicitor general under former President Bill Clinton, even told the Judiciary Committee that, “In my view . . . there is no better appellate advocate than John Roberts.”

On the D.C. Circuit, Roberts has maintained his conservative reputation, although he has yet to weigh in on many of the divisive issues that come before the Supreme Court.

Nevertheless, he is considered to be conservative enough for Bush. As Deputy Solicitor General, he wrote an oft-quoted brief on behalf of the administration that said that “we continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled.”

Many in Washington speculate that Roberts may be a good choice if Bush wants to avoid a confirmation fight. The New York Times reported last week that members of both parties raised Roberts’ name in a favorable light. "

— The Harvard Crimson Online

Hmmmm.... Looks like a pretty good choice..... You guys know anything else about him?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Supreme Court nominee?

"President Bush is close to making his first nomination to the Supreme Court, and Washington was abuzz with speculation Tuesday about Judge Edith Clement of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

There was no word from the White House on when Bush would disclose his selection, but officials familiar with the process said it appeared an announcement was imminent.

Asked whether he expected an announcement, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said Tuesday, "I don't know, but I don't think so."

White House press secretary Scott McClellan would say only: "The president is closer today than he was yesterday on naming a nominee,"

In anticipation of a selection, officials said the White House had contacted selected Republican senators they hoped would serve as advocates for the nominee in media interviews in the initial time following an announcement. Democrats scoured the rulings and writings of leading contenders, including Clement, a 57-year-old jurist who was confirmed on a 99-0 vote by the Senate when she was elevated to the appeals court in 2001.

"My desire is to get this process moving so that someone will be confirmed _ whoever he or she is _ will be confirmed by October" when the court reconvenes," Bush said Monday.

White House officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about the process, said Bush's timetable appears to have been accelerated and that a choice could come as early as Tuesday. They said Clement is a leading candidate, but cautioned that the president had not made a final decision and that there were other prospects still in the mix."- Drudge Report

Anyone have a good nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor? Who do you think the President is most likely to pick?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Tokyo Governor Sued for Insulting French

"A group of teachers and translators in Japan on Wednesday sued Tokyo's outspoken nationalist governor for allegedly calling French a "failed international language," a news report said.

Twenty-one people filed the lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court, demanding that Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara pay a total of 10.5 million yen ($94,600) compensation for insulting the French language in remarks last October, national broadcaster NHK said.

In their suit, the plaintiffs accused Ishihara of saying: "French is a failed international language because it cannot be used to count numbers."

"It's natural for different languages to have different names for numbers and different ways of counting them, so it's unacceptable for him to insult French in this way," Malik Berkane, who heads a French-language school in Tokyo, told reporters at a news conference.

The Tokyo metropolitan government refused to comment, saying it hadn't received word of the lawsuit."-AP

I don't like the French language either.....:)

Sunday, July 10, 2005

U.S. losing lead in science and engineering-study

"More than half a century of U.S. dominance in science and engineering may be slipping as America's share of graduates in these fields falls relative to Europe and developing nations such as China and India, a study released on Friday says.

The study, written by Richard Freeman at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Washington, warned that changes in the global science and engineering job market may require a long period of adjustment for U.S. workers.

Moves by international companies to move jobs in information technology, high-tech manufacturing and research and development to low-income developing countries were just "harbingers" of that longer-term adjustment, Freeman said.

Urgent action was needed to ensure that slippage in science and engineering education and research, a bulwark of the U.S. productivity boom and resurgence during the 1990s, did not undermine America's global economic leadership, he added.

The United States has had a substantial lead in science and technology since World War II. With just 5 percent of the world's population, it employs almost a third of science and engineering researchers, accounts for 40 percent of research and development spending and publishes 35 percent of science and engineering research papers.

Many of the world's top high-tech firms are American, and government spending on defense-related technology ensures the U.S. military's technological dominance on battlefields.

But the roots of this lead may be eroding, Freeman said.

Numbers of science and engineering graduates from European and Asian universities are soaring while new degrees in the United States have stagnated -- cutting its overall share.

In 2000, the paper said, 17 percent of university bachelor degrees in the U.S. were in science and engineering compared with a world average of 27 percent and 52 percent in China.

The picture among doctorates -- key to advanced scientific research -- was more striking. In 2001, universities in the European Union granted 40 percent more science and engineering doctorates than the United States, with that figure expected to reach nearly 100 percent by about 2010, the study showed.

The study said deteriorating opportunities and comparative wages for young science and engineering graduates has discouraged U.S. students from entering these fields, but not those born in other countries.

These trends are challenging the so-called North-South global economic divide, the paper said, by undermining a perceived rich-country advantage in high technology.

"Research and technological activity and production are moving where the people are, even when they are located in the low-wage South," Freeman wrote, citing a study saying some 10-15 percent of all U.S. jobs were "off-shorable." -Yahoo news

Jerusalem Barrier

" Israel's Cabinet, ignoring Palestinian objections and U.S. misgivings, on Sunday endorsed a Jerusalem separation barrier meant to stop suicide bombers but that will cut off 55,000 Palestinian residents from the city.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last week ordered the acceleration of construction of the Jerusalem segment of the barrier and government ministries have until Sept. 1 to complete their preparations.

The wall around Jerusalem, originally approved in January 2004, is part of the partially completed barrier along the West Bank.

Israel began building a barrier along the West Bank at the height of a suicide bombing campaign by Palestinians more than two years ago. Attackers crossed the unmarked and largely unguarded cease-fire line between the Israel and the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, and blew themselves up in Israeli cities, killing hundreds of people.

However, the route of the barrier dips into the West Bank in several places to encircle main settlements, and Palestinian denounce it as a land grab.

In its decision Sunday, the Cabinet said it sees "great importance in the immediate completion of the security fence in the Jerusalem area, in order to improve the level of personal security for the residents of Israel."

The barrier's route around Jerusalem is particularly contentious.

It reshapes the boundaries of the city — claimed by Israelis and Palestinians as a capital — and dramatically changes its demographics.

The barrier leaves four Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, with some 55,000 residents, on the West Bank side, while including the largest Jewish West Bank settlement, Maaleh Adumim with close to 30,000 people, on the Jerusalem side.

The fate of Jerusalem was to have been determined in talks on a final peace deal. The Palestinians say the barrier pre-empts the outcome of negotiations, and separates east Jerusalem — the sector they claim for a capital — from its West Bank hinterland.

Israel has portrayed the barrier as a temporary security measure, to keep out Palestinian bombers and gunmen. The United States says Israel has the right to defend itself, but should minimize hardship to Palestinians in drawing the barrier route.

The Cabinet on Sunday approved a plan to build 11 passages through the Jerusalem barrier. The ministers did not explain how they would ensure quick passage of tens of thousands of Arab residents who need to get to schools, jobs and hospitals and the center of the city.

The government said it would build new schools and clinics in the Arab neighborhoods cut off by the barrier.

Vice Premier Ehud Olmert said Sunday that once the barrier around Jerusalem is completed, some 55,000 Palestinian residents of the city would find themselves on the wrong side of the barrier." -Yahoo news

Rather Strange......

"First one sheep jumped to its death. Then stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff, Turkish media reported.

In the end, 450 dead animals lay on top of one another in a billowy white pile, the Aksam newspaper said. Those who jumped later were saved as the pile got higher and the fall more cushioned, Aksam reported.

"There's nothing we can do. They're all wasted," Nevzat Bayhan, a member of one of 26 families whose sheep were grazing together in the herd, was quoted as saying by Aksam.

The estimated loss to families in the town of Gevas, located in Van province in eastern Turkey, tops $100,000, a significant amount of money in a country where average per head is around $2,700.
"Every family had an average of 20 sheep," Aksam quoted another villager, Abdullah Hazar as saying. "But now only a few families have sheep left. It's going to be hard for us."-Yahoo news

You guys got anything to say about this?????

Friday, July 08, 2005

Tuna Catch Blows Record Out of the Water

Dan Dillon was 13 hours into a recreational fishing trip off the coast of Delaware on Friday night when a sharp tug jolted his arms.

Under the glare of a spotlight on the charter boat's bridge, he could see a monstrous, dark mass slinking under the surface of the Atlantic.

Dan Dillon's bluefin outweighed Delaware's previous record for a tuna by more than 500 pounds. (By Doug Messeck -- Delaware Department Of Natural Resources And Environmental Control)

For the next hour and a half, the Herndon resident fought and gave and pulled until he hauled in the largest tuna ever caught in Delaware: 873 pounds of bluefin, 9 feet 7 inches long and more than 6 feet in girth. It beat the state record by more than 500 pounds.

"I'm just a casual fisherman who got lucky," said Dillon, 39, an executive for a Bethesda real estate services company and goes fishing two or three times a year.

Reeling in the fish, Dillon said, was strenuous and systematic. At first, the tuna swam under the boat, almost snapping the 80-pound test monofilament line. Several times the fish took off, trying to break free.

When that happens, Dillon said, fishermen simply let their catch swim, making sure to keep the line tight. When the fish tires and slows, that's when they pull, and that's what Dillon did.

At 6 feet 2 inches and 270 pounds, Dillon said he felt well-suited to the task. But several times during the struggle, his boat mates had to keep him from being dragged overboard, he said.

Once Dillon had brought the tuna close to the boat, the Captain Ike II, skipper David Collins announced that the fish would have to be shot, Dillon said. Because of its size, having it onboard alive could have been dangerous.

"Its tail is so powerful it could snap your arm if you're not careful," Dillon said.

It took six men two hours to haul the tuna onto the boat using pulleys and ropes, and they made it to shore by morning. Dillon had estimated the fish's weight at 500 pounds. "We were just blown away with how big it was. It was just an incredible experience," he said.

Don Klein, president of the Indian River Boating Association, a Delaware fishing club that runs tournaments and advocates for wildlife in the area, said Dillon's catch was a once-in-a-lifetime event. The old record of 322 pounds for a tuna was set in 1992, he said.

What makes this catch unusual, Klein said, is that large tuna rarely venture so far south. Toward Maine, where the water is cooler, tuna can grow to more than 1,000 pounds, he said.

"You just don't see them down here," he said. "This is not their habitat."

Coincidentally, Dillon caught the fish during the Delaware Open Tuna Trolling Tournament, run by Klein's club. The tuna that won that competition weighed 120 pounds. Previous tournaments, Klein said, have yielded winners of about 100 pounds.

Dillon said he hasn't decided how to commemorate his catch. The tuna is a little large to mount on a wall, but he said he'll have a Japanese rice paper print made of its tail. And, he could mount the head, he added.

In the meantime, the Dillon family is eating well. Dillon's wife, Claire, 38, their son, Michael, and daughters Meredith and McKenzie, along with Dillon's parents and several nieces and nephews, were on hand to meet the Captain Ike II when it docked at Indian River early Saturday.

That night, after spending $400 to fillet the bluefin, Dillon and his family threw part of it on the grill, basting it with teriyaki sauce. The rest is in the family freezer.

The delectability of the fish matched its size, Dillon said.

"When you catch it yourself," he said, "it has a special flavor to it."

Friday, July 01, 2005

35 New Sri Lanka Frogs Discovered

"Researchers confirmed the discovery of 35 new frog species in Sri Lanka's dwindling rain forest over the past decade, but also found that 17 frog species have disappeared and 11 others face imminent extinction unless their habitat is protected.

A concerted effort from the government and international agencies is needed to preserve the frogs' rain forest home, warned researcher Rohan Pethiyagoda, "or it's not going to be only the frogs that will be in trouble."

Pethiyagod and his team also found 50 previously unknown species of snails, 17 new crabs, seven new lizards, and a mysterious new species of mouse deer, according to their study published Thursday in the peer-reviewed Raffles Bulletin of Zoology.

Pethiyagod and his team scoured Sri Lanka's forests, comparing what they found with Sri Lankan wildlife collected earlier and preserved in museums in London, Paris and Berlin. They found that 17 frog species previously found no longer existed in the wild."- Yahoo news

pretty cool, huh??