Contains selective news articles I select

Archive for August, 2012

Snake found eating snake in home

Sept. 29, 2011

TUCSON, Sept. 29 (UPI) — Firefighters called to remove a snake from an Arizona home said what appeared to be a shedding snake was actually a large reptile eating a smaller one.

The Station 32 firefighters of the Northwest Fire District in Tucson said they handle snake calls up to five times a day during this time of year, but the call at Mary Jane Overall’s home turned out to be unique, KVOA-TV, Tucson, reported Wednesday.

The firefighters said what appeared to be a snake shedding its skin turned out to be a non-venomous king snake eating a smaller, venomous snake.

“You wouldn’t think a snake would come upstairs. You just wouldn’t imagine that … let alone two!” Overall said.

She said the king snake may have saved her life by eating its deadlier cousin.

Source: United Press International (UPI).
Link: http://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2011/09/29/Snake-found-eating-snake-in-home/UPI-18861317281400/.

Advertisements

Hamas Leader on Personal Visit to Amman

2011-09-29

By Qusai Ja’roun

AMMONNEWS – The Head of Hamas’ political bureau Khaled Meshaal on Thursday arrived in Jordan coming from Syria on a personal visit.

A source close to Meshaal told Ammon News that the Hamas leader’s arrived in Jordan to visit his mother, who is ill.

Thursday’s visit is the second of its kind since the expulsion of the Hamas leadership from Jordan in August 1999, the latest visit was in 2009 when Meshaal came to Jordan to attend his father’s funeral.

Meshaal has been the main leader of Hamas since the 2004 assassination of Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, and heads the political bureau of Hamas in Syria, where he has been headquartered since 2001.

Minister of Interior Mazen Sakit said on Thursday that Meshaal was allowed to enter Jordan for a limited time upon his request to visit his sick mother.

Source: Ammon News.
Link: http://en.ammonnews.net/article.aspx?articleNO=13937.

Nigerian satellite demonstrates stunning high resolution capability

Guildford, UK (SPX)
Sep 29, 2011

The first high resolution satellite imagery was released Thursday from NigeriaSat-2, as engineers from the Nigerian space agency (NASRDA) and the satellite’s manufacturer Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) continue in the successful commissioning of the new satellite from NASRDA’s headquarters in Abuja.

Testing of all the systems on-board the satellite has been successfully completed, and calibration of the imaging payloads is ongoing with outstanding results already being produced.

This 2.5m resolution pan-sharpened example shows the airport at Salt Lake City, USA with the terminal buildings, runway layout and surrounding roads all clearly visible.

In the full resolution terminal buildings extract, aircraft can be seen at the stands as well as cars in the parking lot. In the runways extract painted numbers can clearly be read on the tarmac and there is sufficient detail to count the engines on larger aircraft. In another extract of a highway interchange, vehicles are readily discernible on the road.

NigeriaSat-2 is the first SSTL 300kg class satellite, and represents a significant step forward for NASRDA from its 100kg predecessor, NigeriaSat-1. The main reason for its increased size is that imaging at 2.5m resolution demands a larger camera – but the increased capability doesn’t end there.

The distinctive heptagonal SSTL-300 platform is highly agile enabling it to roll off-center to acquire images in a variety of modes to suit the application and the response times required and the data handling and power system are also significantly enhanced to provide greater throughput as well as quality of imagery.

During disasters, NigeriaSat-2 will complement its fellow Disaster Monitoring Constellation satellites by using its high resolution imager to “zoom in” on areas of interest and determine if individual buildings are damaged, bridges destroyed or roads impassable. It is also the first satellite in the African Resource Management (ARM) constellation.

Nigeria’s national space agency (NASRDA) also plans to harness the satellite’s new capabilities and fast image downloading to map the entire country in detail every four months.

The high resolution and geo-location accuracy of the satellite make it possible to monitor urban development in sprawling cities such as Lagos, and for planning infrastructure such as roads. Geospatial data will also be used to update the land registry with accurate and current information.

There are also benefits for commercial imaging campaigns. NigeriaSat-2’s smaller pixel size improves the accuracy of the maps used for applications such as precision agriculture. In this case more granular data improves fertilizer application maps, meaning that fertilizer can be applied more efficiently.

At next week’s International Astronautical Congress in Cape Town, NASRDA and SSTL will present a selection of impressive high resolution images from NigeriaSat-2 collected in these early stages of the mission.

Source: Space Daily.
Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Nigerian_satellite_demonstrates_stunning_high_resolution_capability_999.html.

Syrian rebels advance in town along Iraqi border

August 23, 2012

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian rebels waged fierce battles with regime troops in a town along the Iraqi border on Thursday, capturing a string of security posts and the local police headquarters despite heavy government shelling and airstrikes by warplanes, activists said.

Taking full control of al-Bukamal, located in the eastern oil-rich province of Deir el-Zour and across the border from the Iraqi town of Qaim, would expand the rebel foothold along the frontier with Iraq. The border crossing point has been in rebel hands since last month, although government troops have remained in control of much of the town, activists say.

The opposition already controls a wide swath of territory along the border with Turkey in the north as well as pockets along the frontier with Jordan to the south and Lebanon to the west, which has proven key in ferrying people and material into and out of the country.

Rebels have been fighting troops for days in al-Bukamal, but over the past few hours have taken over several checkpoints, the main police station and the local command of the Political Security Directorate, one of Syria’s powerful intelligence agencies, according to Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

He added that government troops are still control of the border crossing point leading to Iraq. “There is an attempt to take full control al-Bukamal,” Abdul-Rahman said. The Local Coordination Committees activist group said warplanes bombed al-Bukamal, but Abdul-Rahman said the jets were flying over the town and struck nearby areas, not the town itself.

Abu-Omar al-Deery, an activist in the provincial capital of Deir el-Zour, said by telephone that there are “fierce battles” in al-Bukamal and that “the Free Syrian Army is trying to liberate and clean the city.”

There was no immediate word on casualties. The main battle fronts in the past month have been in the capital, Damascus, as well as the northern city of Aleppo, where regime forces have struggled to stamp out a rebel offensive that began last month and succeeded in capturing several neighborhoods in the city of 3 million people.

In a report released Thursday, the human rights group Amnesty International said artillery and mortar fire and airstrikes by government forces in Aleppo are killing mostly civilians, including children. It said air and artillery strikes against residential neighborhoods are indiscriminate attacks that seriously endanger civilians.

Amnesty said that during a 10-day fact-finding visit to Aleppo city in the first half of August, Amnesty investigated some 30 attacks in which more than 80 civilians, who were not directly participating in hostilities, were killed and many more were injured.

Amnesty said that among the dead were 10 members of one family, seven of them children. Their home was destroyed in two airstrikes on Aug. 6. It said bodies of mostly young men, most of them handcuffed and shot in the head, have been frequently found near the local headquarters of the powerful Air Force Intelligence, which is in a government-controlled area.

Activists say more than 20,000 people have been killed since Syria’s crisis erupted in March last year. The uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime began with largely peaceful protests but has since morphed into a civil war that has spread to almost all areas of the country.

In the Damascus suburb of Daraya, the Local Coordination Committees activist group said government shelling killed a mother and her five children. It said the six were members of al-Sheik family and had fled from their hometown of Maadamiyeh to escape the violence.

An amateur video showed the five children draped in which shrouds with their faces showing during the funeral. The body of the mother was all covered.

Day of mourning in S. Africa after mine shooting

August 23, 2012

MARIKANA, South Africa (AP) — Grieving families are mourning at memorial services for 34 striking miners killed by police, as the nation in shock asks who gave the orders and who must be blamed.

Memorial services are being held across the country for South Africans to honor all those killed violently in a country with one of the world’s highest murder and rape rates. More than 1,000 people attended the memorial service in Marikana arranged by the government.

The relative of a miner killed in last week’s shootings said he wants to see some arrests. “If it were me I’d want everyone who was involved in this incident including the mine managers to be arrested, the whole lot of them, because a person’s life is not worth money,” Ubuntu Akumelisine told the AP.

Mungiswa Mphumza, the sister of a dead miner from Eastern Cape, said she was at peace. “We have accepted everything that has happened and we ask that the dead rest in peace, there is nothing that we can do at the moment, what has happened has happened. God takes what he likes,” Mphumza said.

President Jacob Zuma called on the nation to commemorate not only the miners but all victims of South Africa’s violence. Thirty-four miners were killed last Thursday when police opened fire on charging strikers. Another 10 people, including miners and police officers, died in the days before.

The day should be an opportunity for the nation to “mourn and promote a violence-free society,” said Zuma in a statement. The president did not attend any of the memorials. Zuma on Wednesday night demanded that mine companies provide decent homes and sanitation for miners. He singled out one mining house where 666 workers share four toilets and four showers, according to the Star newspaper. He did not name the company.

Zuma warned that those who do not comply with the Mining Charter requiring adequate housing risk losing their licenses. The president said it was not a time for pointing fingers in last week’s shooting deaths.

“I won’t judge the incident. The judicial commission of inquiry will do so,” he said at a lecture in North West Province, home to the country’s troubled platinum mines. Expelled African National Congress Youth League leader Julius Malema, a fierce critic of the Zuma administration, attended the memorial.

Earlier this week, Malema joined miners as they went to file a criminal case of murder against the police for the shootings. Other memorial services are held around the country, including a service arranged by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, one of the unions included in the dispute.

Ethiopia: Leader’s swearing in delayed for funeral

August 23, 2012

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopia on Thursday postponed the emergency session of parliament to swear in a new prime minister as many leaders attended the funeral of a church leader.

Acting Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was to be sworn in Thursday following the death on Monday of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Bereket Simon, Ethiopia’s communications minister, said the country had “ample time” to swear in the new prime minister.

“There is no need to rush into it when the nation is grieving,” Bereket said. “What all the lawmakers and their constituencies and the nation at large want to do at this time is mourn the great loss and honor the late prime minister. We want to first honor this and handle the prime minister’s funeral with due diligence.”

Bereket also said the death of Abune Paulos, the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, was another reason for the delay. Hailemariam attended and spoke at the Thursday funeral. The funeral for Meles, who ruled Ethiopia for 21 years, has not yet been set. Leaders from around the world are expected to attend. Meles died in a Belgium hospital late Monday from an illness that Ethiopian officials have not revealed.

Hailemariam is a relatively young figure on Ethiopia’s political scene and it’s not clear if old guard leaders will allow him to hold onto the prime minister’s seat until 2015 elections. Ethiopia is a strong U.S. ally on counter-terrorism issues, particularly in Somalia. Meles was hailed for advancing Ethiopia’s economic progress but was denounced by human rights groups for a heavy handed approach to political dissent.

Astronomers crack the Fried Egg Nebula

Manchester UK (SPX)
Sep 29, 2011

Using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), teams from The University of Manchester, among others, took the new picture showing for the first time a huge dusty double shell surrounding the central hypergiant.

The star and its shells resemble an egg white around a yolky centre, leading the astronomers to nickname the object the Fried Egg Nebula. The international team’s results are published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

The monster star, known to astronomers as IRAS 17163-3907, has a diameter about a thousand times bigger than our Sun. At a distance of about 13 000 light-years from Earth, it is the closest yellow hypergiant found to date and new observations show it shines some 500 000 times more brightly than the Sun.

The observations of the star and the discovery of its surrounding shells were made using the VISIR infrared camera on the VLT. The pictures are the first of this object to clearly show the material around it and reveal two almost perfectly spherical shells.

If the Fried Egg Nebula were placed in the centre of the Solar System, the Earth would lie deep within the star itself and the planet Jupiter would be orbiting just above its surface.

The much larger surrounding nebula would engulf all the planets and dwarf planets and even some of the comets that orbit far beyond the orbit of Neptune. The outer shell has a radius of 10 000 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

“This object was known to glow brightly in the infrared but, surprisingly, nobody had identified it as a yellow hypergiant before,” said Eric Lagadec (European Southern Observatory), who led the team that produced the new discovery.

Yellow hypergiants are in an extremely volatile phase of their evolution, undergoing a series of explosive events – this star has ejected four times the mass of the Sun in just a few hundred years. The material flung out during these bursts has formed the extensive double shell of the nebula, which is made of dust rich in silicates and surrounded by gas.

Professor Albert Zijlstra, from The University of Manchester, said: “It is amazing that one of the brightest stars in the infrared sky had previously gone unnoticed. We are seeing a very rare event, when a star is beginning to blow off its outer layers, as a prelude to its final explosion as a supernova.”

This activity also shows that the star is likely to soon die an explosive death – it will be one of the next supernova explosions in our galaxy. Supernovae provide much-needed chemicals to the surrounding interstellar environment and the resulting shock waves can kick start the formation of new stars.

The Very Large Telescope mid-IR instrument, VISIR, captured this delicious image of the Fried Egg Nebula through three mid-infrared filters that are here coloured blue, green and red.

The name IRAS 17163-3907 indicates that the object was first spotted as an infrared source by the IRAS satellite in 1983 and the numbers show the star’s place in the sky, in the heart of the Milky Way in the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion).

IRAS 17163-3907 is one of the 30 brightest stars in the infrared sky, at the wavelength of 12 microns observed by IRAS, but it had been overlooked because it is quite faint in the visible. The total mass of this star is estimated to be roughly twenty times that of the Sun.

After burning all their hydrogen, all stars of ten solar masses or more become red supergiants. This phase ends when the star has finished burning all of its helium. Some of these high-mass stars then spend just a few million years in the post-red supergiant phase as yellow hypergiants, a relatively short time in the life of a star, before rapidly evolving into another unusual type of star called a luminous blue variable.

These hot and brilliant stars are continuously varying in brightness and are losing matter due to the strong stellar winds they expel. But this is not the end of the star’s evolutionary adventure, as it may next become a different kind of unstable star known as a Wolf-Rayet star before ending its life as a violent supernova explosion.

Source: Space Daily.
Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Astronomers_crack_the_Fried_Egg_Nebula_999.html.

Tag Cloud