December 13th, 2010
Dec. 13, 2010: On August 1, 2010, an entire hemisphere of the sun erupted. Filaments of magnetism snapped and exploded, shock waves raced across the stellar surface, billion-ton clouds of hot gas billowed into space. Astronomers knew they had witnessed something big.
It was so big, it may have shattered old ideas about solar activity.
"The August 1st event really opened our eyes," says Karel Schrijver of Lockheed Martin’s Solar and Astrophysics Lab in Palo Alto, CA. "We see that solar storms can be global events, playing out on scales we scarcely imagined before."
For the past three months, Schrijver has been working with fellow Lockheed-Martin solar physicist Alan Title to understand what happened during the "Great Eruption." They had plenty of data: The event was recorded in unprecedented detail by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory and twin STEREO spacecraft. With several colleagues present to offer commentary, they outlined their findings at a press conference today at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.
Explosions on the sun are not localized or isolated events, they announced. Instead, solar activity is interconnected by magnetism over breathtaking distances. Solar flares, tsunamis, coronal mass ejections--they can go off all at once, hundreds of thousands of miles apart, in a dizzyingly-complex concert of mayhem.
"To predict eruptions we can no longer focus on the magnetic fields of isolated active regions," says Title, "we have to know the surface magnetic field of practically the entire sun."
This revelation increases the work load for space weather forecasters, but it also increases the potential accuracy of their forecasts.
"The whole-sun approach could lead to breakthroughs in predicting solar activity," commented Rodney Viereck of NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, CO. "This in turn would provide improved forecasts to our customers such as electric power grid operators and commercial airlines, who could take action to protect their systems and ensure the safety of passengers and crew."
In a paper they prepared for the Journal of Geophysical Research (JGR), Schrijver and Title broke down the Great Eruption into more than a dozen significant shock waves, flares, filament eruptions, and CMEs spanning 180 degrees of solar longitude and 28 hours of time. At first it seemed to be a cacophony of disorder until they plotted the events on a map of the sun's magnetic field.
Title describes the Eureka! moment: "We saw that all the events of substantial coronal activity were connected by a wide-ranging system of separatrices, separators, and quasi-separatrix layers." A "separatrix" is a magnetic fault zone where small changes in surrounding plasma currents can set off big electromagnetic storms.
Researchers have long suspected this kind of magnetic connection was possible. "The notion of 'sympathetic' flares goes back at least three quarters of a century," they wrote in their JGR paper. Sometimes observers would see flares going off one after another--like popcorn--but it was impossible to prove a link between them. Arguments in favor of cause and effect were statistical and often full of doubt.
"For this kind of work, SDO and STEREO are game-changers," says Lika Guhathakurta, NASA's Living with a Star Program Scientist. "Together, the three spacecraft monitor 97% of the sun, allowing researchers to see connections that they could only guess at in the past."
To wit, barely two-thirds of the August event was visible from Earth, yet all of it could be seen by the SDO-STEREO fleet. Moreover, SDO's measurements of the sun's magnetic field revealed direct connections between the various components of the Great Eruption—no statistics required.
Much remains to be done. "We're still sorting out cause and effect," says Schrijver. "Was the event one big chain reaction, in which one eruption triggered another--bang, bang, bang--in sequence? Or did everything go off together as a consequence of some greater change in the sun's global magnetic field?"
Further analysis may yet reveal the underlying trigger; for now, the team is still wrapping their minds around the global character of solar activity. One commentator recalled the old adage of three blind men describing an elephant--one by feeling the trunk, one by holding the tail, and another by sniffing a toenail. Studying the sun one sunspot at a time may be just as limiting.
"Not all eruptions are going to be global," notes Guhathakurta. "But the global character of solar activity can no longer be ignored."
As if the sun wasn't big enough already….
Author: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA
December 13th, 2010
(CNSNews.com) - When CNSNews.com asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday where the Constitution authorized Congress to order Americans to buy health insurance--a mandate included in both the House and Senate versions of the health care bill--Pelosi dismissed the question by saying: “Are you serious? Are you serious?”
Pelosi's press secretary later responded to written follow-up questions from CNSNews.com by emailing CNSNews.com a press release on the “Constitutionality of Health Insurance Reform,” that argues that Congress derives the authority to mandate that people purchase health insurance from its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce.
The exchange with Speaker Pelosi on Thursday occurred as follows:
CNSNews.com: “Madam Speaker, where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?
Pelosi: “Are you serious? Are you serious?"
CNSNews.com: “Yes, yes I am."
Pelosi then shook her head before taking a question from another reporter. Her press spokesman, Nadeam Elshami, then told CNSNews.com that asking the speaker of the House where the Constitution authorized Congress to mandated that individual Americans buy health insurance as not a "serious question."
“You can put this on the record,” said Elshami. “That is not a serious question. That is not a serious question.”
Currently, each of the five health care overhaul proposals being considered in Congress would command every American adult to buy health insurance. Any person defying this mandate would be required to pay a penalty to the Internal Revenue Service.
In 1994, when the health care reform plan then being advanced by President Clinton called for mandating that all Americans buy health insurance, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office studied the issue and concluded:
“The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States. An individual mandate would have two features that, in combination, would make it unique. First, it would impose a duty on individuals as members of society. Second, it would require people to purchase a specific service that would be heavily regulated by the federal government.”
Later on Thursday, CNSNews.com followed up on the question, e-mailing written queries for the speaker to her Spokesman Elshami.
“Where specifically does the Constitution authorize Congress to force Americans to purchase a particular good or service such as health insurance?” CNSNews.com asked the speaker's office.
“If it is the Speaker’s belief that there is a provision in the Constitution that does give Congress this power, does she believe the Constitution in any way limits the goods and services Congress can force an individual to purchase?" CNSNews.com asked. "If so, what is that limit?”
Elshami responded by sending CNSNews.com a Sept. 16 press release from the Speaker’s office entitled, “Health Insurance Reform, Daily Mythbuster: ‘Constitutionality of Health Insurance Reform.’” The press release states that Congress has “broad power to regulate activities that have an effect on interstate commerce. Congress has used this authority to regulate many aspects of American life, from labor relations to education to health care to agricultural production.”
The release further states: “On the shared responsibility requirement in the House health insurance reform bill, which operates like auto insurance in most states, individuals must either purchase coverage (and non-exempt employers must purchase coverage for their workers)—or pay a modest penalty for not doing so. The bill uses the tax code to provide a strong incentive for Americans to have insurance coverage and not pass their emergency health costs onto other Americans—but it allows them a way to pay their way out of that obligation. There is no constitutional problem with these provisions.”
December 13th, 2010
December 13, 2010 at 12:06PM by Justine Sterling / Delish.com
The next time you're looking to fireproof something forget trekking down to the hardware store, instead check the fridge and grab a stick of butter. Researchers have found varied amounts of flame retardant in sticks of butter. Polybrominated dphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, are a class of chemicals commonly used in furniture and electronic manufacturing as flame-retardants. When digested these chemicals have been known to stop hormone function and increase cancer risk. "Flame retardants were not made to be eaten," said Arnold Schecter, one of the researchers. "They're made to slow down the smoke in fires. They're not a food component. They don't belong there." Just in case that was unclear. They have also been associated with reproductive, developmental and neurological problems. This is the first documented case of PBDEs being found in food in the US.
U.S. researchers tested a selection of ten kinds of butter sourced from Dallas grocery stores. Nine of the samples showed small amounts of the contaminant, which is consistent with the results of previous studies as PBDEs can enter foods through soil, water and air. But one sample had levels of PBDEs that were 135 times that of the others. The source of the contaminants was traced to the wrapper. Though Shecter will not release the name of the company whose butter contained such high levels of the chemicals, he believes that the issue could be due to an electrical incident. If there was a fire in one of the machines or overheating, the chemicals could have leaked into the paper and then later into the butter.
Currently, there are no federal agencies tracking levels of chemicals like PBDEs in food so there is no way to know how widespread this sort of contamination is. The newly Senate-approved Food Modernization Safety Act would not be able to help as it focuses on bacteria rather than chemicals. Though it is unlikely that the sample with high levels of PBDEs is the only contaminated stick out there, it is also unlikely that there is a large quantity of the sticks. (If you feel like doing a little detective work to find out the exact brand of butter, Schecter says that the company's headquarters are in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area). These types of chemicals are also nothing new to our systems. "We basically have all of these chemicals in our bodies just from being in an indoor environment and from eating," Schecter said. "You're certainly not going to be able to control that by being careful about what kind of butter you buy." Schecter and the other researchers believe that their research emphasizes the need for a government-regulated program to test foods for contaminants like PBDEs.
How do you feel about these findings? Are you going to switch to Country Crock? Or will you throw caution into the wind and continue the use the real stuff?
December 13th, 2010
ABC News / Gary Langer / December 13, 2010 1:17 PM
Coinciding with a federal judge’s ruling invalidating a key element of the health care reform law, an ABC News/Washington Post poll finds support for the landmark legislation at a new low – but division on what to do about it.
The law’s never been popular, with support peaking at just 48 percent in November 2009. Today it’s slipped to 43 percent, numerically its lowest in ABC/Post polling. (It was about the same, 44 percent, a year ago.) Fifty-two percent are opposed, and that 9-point gap in favor of opposition is its largest on record since the latest debate over health care reform began in earnest in summer 2009.
More also continue to “strongly” oppose the law than to strongly support it, 37 percent to 22 percent.
What to do about it is another question: People who don’t support the law fragment on how to proceed, with a plurality in this group, 38 percent, saying they’d rather wait and see before deciding on a direction. Among the rest, 30 percent would repeal parts of the law, while about as many, 29 percent, favor repealing all of it.
Health care reform has lacked broad support – as also was the case when it last was debated in 1994 – given the public’s conflicting priorities and concerns. While many aspects of the reform law win broad backing, its rules, funding mechanisms and the issue of government involvement raise doubts. And while many Americans are concerned about their future costs and coverage, most are satisfied with their current coverage, care and even costs – raising fears that a new system could do more harm than good.
The law’s individual mandate, requiring that nearly all adults must buy health insurance or face a fine, has been particularly unpopular; in a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation last month, 68 percent of adults said that element should be repealed.
Views on reform are marked by sharp partisanship. Eighty-six percent of Republicans in the new ABC/Post poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, oppose the health care law; that subsides to 47 percent of independents and 27 percent of Democrats. But support among Democrats (67 percent) is far exceeded by opposition across the aisle. And intensity of sentiment is far higher among Republicans – 69 percent “strongly” oppose the law, while just 41 percent of Democrats strongly favor it.
The trends are similar along ideological lines, with opposition, including strong opposition, higher among conservatives than the corresponding levels of support among liberals.
There also are partisan differences among critics of the law in how to proceed. Among Democrats who don’t support the law, 54 percent prefer to wait and see how it unfolds. Republicans and conservatives are more apt to favor repeal. At the same time, these groups divide between repealing all of the law, or just parts of it.
U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson, in Richmond, Virginia, ruled today that Congress exceeded its authority by imposing the individual mandate, but he declined to freeze the rollout of the law while court cases proceed. Two other judges, in Detroit and Lynchburg, Va., have upheld the law, and it’s expected ultimately to reach the Supreme Court.
December 13th, 2010
He went to police in the town of Bielefeld where he lives but officers said they were powerless to intervene.
"The man then recruited two work colleagues at his factory and then went to the house of the victim," said police.
"The man was forced to remove his trousers and, fully conscious, he was castrated. The severed testicles were taken away by the perpetrator."
The man was close to bleeding to death but managed to call police. His life was saved but he remains a eunuch for life.
Seifert pleaded guilty and will be on trial for attempted murder next year. But he has remained silent on who his accomplices were.
He told police: "I received a phone call anonymously that my daughter was involved with a guy 40 years older than her. You said you couldn't stop him – so I did.
"I saw it as my duty as a father."