December 1st, 2010
Well, it finally happened: Penalties for excessive celebration have officially jumped the shark. If the NFL is the No Fun League, it's still a celebratory paradise compared to the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association. That was made clear when a Tumwater (Wash.) High running back was flagged for excessive celebration after he pointed to the heavens following a touchdown run on Monday night.
The play, which you see above, happened in the second quarter of Tumwater's 63-27 victory against East Valley in the Washington 2A state semifinals. According to KOMO News, running back Ronnie Hastie scored on a 23-yard run and celebrated as he has following each of his touchdowns this year: by pointing to the heavens.
"That wasn't the point [of the gesture], so I guess I was a little confused," Hastie told KOMO News. "I do that to give glory to my Heavenly Father, Jesus. He gives me the strength. He's the one who gives me these abilities in the first place."
Making matters even more strange, the WIAA refuses to decry the penalty, saying that until the referees' association gives it the full context of the play it can't determine whether it was an excessive celebration or not. In fact, even if it was, it says the penalty still might have been justified because Hastie did not immediately give the ball back to a referee.
"The point is to make sure the game goes on, that something that happens after a score or after a spectacular play or whatever doesn't slow down play itself," WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese told KOMO.
Yet that explanation is patently ridiculous. By those standards, any time a player spiked the ball or did anything following a touchdown except sprint with the ball directly to the referee, that player would be justifying a penalty against him. What if the player just dropped the ball once he reached the end zone? Is that an unsportsmanlike penalty? It sure sounds like it according to those standards.
This isn't the first issue that has popped up this year with Washington officials. In late October, referees in the Seattle area used pink whistles in support of charitable efforts to raise money for breast cancer awareness. In response, the Washington Officials Association said that the pink whistles were a violation of uniform code, and threatened to ban the officials who used them in game action for a playoff game, which would have cost the officials a game check. The issue was eventually resolved without any officials being fined or banned from game action.
Of course, this isn't the first time that a player giving thanks in the end zone has been attacked for a religious moment, either. Last fall, a Penn State player took a knee in the end zone after running onto the field, something a number of players from high school to the NFL do each week. Instead of saying a prayer alone and trotting off the field, he was mocked by Goldie Gopher, the University of Minnesota's mascot who was parading around his team's end zone.
At least in the case of Goldie Gopher, the University of Minnesota immediately apologized for their mascot's action. Until the WIAA does that to Hastie, the running back said he'll take his post touchdown devotion off the field.[Video: Most over-the-top touchdown celebrations]
"I'll just have to change it up and not make as big of a statement, I guess. The refs are in charge," Hastie told KOMO of how he'd react to touchdowns in Tumwater's 2A state title game against Archbishop Murphy on Saturday. "I'll just point to the sky once I'm off the field."
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December 1st, 2010
Washington Times / December 1, 2010
Mr. Obama invited Mr. Powell, a retired four-star Army general and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, to the White House a day after stressing the need for the Senate to ratify the New START nuclear pact by the end of the year.
However, one top Republican said Mr. Powell's endorsement was unlikely to sway him to vote for the treaty.
"I respect Secretary Powell a lot, but this is a matter of us doing our job, doing our due diligence," Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said.
The president has said the treaty is crucial to U.S. national security, and he appealed anew for its approval Tuesday in a meeting with bipartisan congressional leaders. But leading Republican lawmakers argue that there are more pressing priorities to address during the lame-duck session of Congress, and the GOP has threatened to block any Senate floor business other than budgetary or tax issues during the session.
However, some Republicans appear to be leaving the door open for ratification, indicating that the administration has addressed some of their concerns, including several matters raised by Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, about modernization of the remaining nuclear arsenal and sufficient funds for safeguarding the stockpile.
A pledge by Senate Republicans on Wednesday to thwart action on all legislation until lawmakers vote to fund the government and prevent looming tax increases technically does not apply to the START. Treaties have special status, and Republicans can't block Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, from bringing START to the floor.
December 1st, 2010
By SETH BORENSTEIN / ABC News--Technology
December 1, 2010
The universe may glitter with far more stars than even Carl Sagan imagined when he rhapsodized about billions upon billions.
A new study suggests there are a mind-blowing 300 sextillion of them, or three times as many as scientists previously calculated. That is a 3 followed by 23 zeros. Or 3 trillion times 100 billion.
The estimate, contained in a study published online Wednesday in the journal Nature, is based on findings that there are many more red dwarf stars — the most common star in the universe — than once thought.
But the research goes deeper than that. The study by Yale University astronomer Pieter van Dokkum and Harvard astrophysicist Charlie Conroy questions a key assumption that astronomers often use: that most galaxies have the same properties as our Milky Way. And that conclusion is deeply unsettling to astronomers who want a more orderly cosmos.
When scientists previously estimated the total number of stars, they assumed that all galaxies had the same ratio of dwarf stars as the Milky Way, which is spiral-shaped. Much of our understanding of the universe is based on observations made inside our own galaxy and then extrapolated to other galaxies.
But about one-third of the galaxies in the universe are elliptical, not spiral, and van Dokkum found they aren't really made up the same way as ours.
Using the Keck telescope in Hawaii, van Dokkum and a colleague gazed into eight distant, elliptical galaxies and looked at their hard-to-differentiate light signatures. The scientists calculated that elliptical galaxies have more red dwarf stars than predicted. A lot more.
"We're seeing 10 or 20 times more stars than we expected," van Dokkum said.
Generally scientists believe there are 100 billion to a trillion galaxies in the universe. And each galaxy — the Milky Way included — was thought to have 100 billion to a trillion stars. Sagan, the Cornell University scientist and best-selling author who was often impersonated by comedians as saying "billions and billions," usually said there were 100 billion galaxies, each with 100 billion stars.
Van Dokkum's work takes these numbers and adjusts them. That's because some of those galaxies — the elliptical ones, which account for about a third of all galaxies — have as many as 1 trillion to 10 trillion stars, not a measly 100 billion. When van Dokkum and Conroy crunched the incredibly big numbers, they found that it tripled the estimate of stars in the universe from 100 sextillion to 300 sextillion.
That's a huge number to grasp, even for astronomers who are used to dealing in light years and trillions, Conroy said.
"It's fun because it gets you thinking about these large numbers," Conroy said. Conroy looked up how many cells are in the average human body — 50 trillion or so — and multiplied that by the 6 billion people on Earth. And he came up with about 300 sextillion.
So the number of stars in the universe "is equal to all the cells in the humans on Earth — a kind of funny coincidence," Conroy said.
For the past month, astronomers have been buzzing about van Dokkum's findings, and many aren't too happy about them, said astronomer Richard Ellis of the California Institute of Technology.
Van Dokkum's paper challenges the assumption of "a more orderly universe" and gives credence to "the idea that the universe is more complicated than we think," Ellis said. "It's a little alarmist."
Ellis said it is too early to tell if van Dokkum is right or wrong, but his work is shaking up the field "like a cat among pigeons."
Van Dokkum agreed, saying, "Frankly, it's a big pain."
Ellis said the new study does make sense. Its biggest weakness might be the assumption that the chemical composition of dwarf stars is the same in elliptical galaxies as in the Milky Way. That might be wrong, Ellis said. If it is, it would mean there are only five times more red dwarf stars in elliptical galaxies than previously thought, instead of 10 or 20, van Dokkum said.
Slightly closer to home, at least in our own galaxy, another study also published in Nature looks at a single red dwarf star in a way that is a step forward in astronomers' search for life beyond Earth. A team led by a Harvard scientist was able to home in on the atmosphere of a planet circling that star, using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile.
The planet lives up to the word alien. The team reports that this giant planet's atmosphere is either dense with sizzling water vapor like a souped-up steam bath, or it is full of hazy, choking hydrogen and helium clouds with a slightly blue tint. The latter is more likely, say the researchers and others not involved in the study.
While scientists have been able to figure out the atmosphere of gas giants the size of Jupiter or bigger, this is a first for the type of planet called a super Earth — something with a mass 2 to 10 times Earth's. The planet is more comparable to Neptune and circles a star about 42 light years from Earth. A light year is nearly 6 trillion miles.
The planet is nowhere near livable — it's about 440 degrees (about 225 degrees Celsius). "You wouldn't want to be there. It would be unpleasant," said study co-author Eliza Kempton of the University of California Santa Clara.
But describing its atmosphere is a big step toward understanding potentially habitable planets outside our solar system, said study chief author Jacob Bean at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Bean and Kempton looked at the light spectrum signature from the large planet as it passed in front of the dwarf star, and the result led to two possible conclusions: steam bath or haze.
The steam bath is the more interesting possibility because water is key to life, said outside scientist Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
But an upcoming and still unpublished study by Kempton and Bryce Croll at the University of Toronto points more toward a hydrogen-helium atmosphere, several astronomers said.
December 1st, 2010
Fox News / December 1, 2010
WASHINGTON -- Federal regulators are moving ahead with a plan to prohibit phone and cable companies from blocking or discriminating against Internet traffic flowing over their broadband networks.
Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, will outline his proposal for so-called "network neutrality" rules in a speech on Wednesday. Despite Republican opposition in Congress, Genachowski plans to bring his proposal to a vote by the full commission before the end of the year.
Net neutrality rules were one of the Obama administration's top campaign pledges to the technology industry and have been among Genachowski's priorities since he took over the FCC more than a year ago.
Many big Internet companies, such as search leader Google Inc. and calling service Skype, as well as public-interest groups, insist regulations are needed to ensure broadband companies don't use their control over Internet connections to dictate where consumers can go and what they can do online.
But Genachowski has run into substantial opposition from big phone and cable companies, including AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp., which argue that they should be allowed to manage their networks as they see fit. Genachowski has spent the past several months trying to craft a compromise.
His new proposal would "culminate recent efforts to find common ground" and create "rules of the road to preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet," according to an advance copy of his remarks.
The plan -- which builds on a set of FCC principles first established under the previous administration in 2005 -- would require that broadband providers let subscribers access all legal online content, applications and services over their wireline networks.
But it would give broadband providers flexibility to manage their systems to deal with problems such as network congestion and unwanted traffic like spam as long as they publicly disclose their network management practices.
The proposal would also prohibit wireless carriers from blocking access to any Web sites or competing applications such as Internet calling services on mobile devices, and would require them to disclose their network management practices.
But it would give wireless carriers more leeway to manage data traffic since wireless systems have more bandwidth constraints than wired networks. That provision is likely to draw fire from public-interest groups, which argue that wireless networks should have the same protections as wired systems, particularly as more and more Americans go online using mobile devices.
In addition, the proposal would allow broadband providers to experiment with routing traffic from specialized services such as smart grids and home security systems over dedicated networks as long as these services do not hurt the public Internet.
In one key victory for the phone and cable companies, Genachowski's proposal would leave in place the FCC's current regulatory framework for broadband, which treats broadband as a lightly regulated "information service."
The agency has been trying to come up with a new framework since a federal appeals court in April ruled that the FCC had overstepped its existing authority in sanctioning cable giant Comcast for discriminating against Internet file-sharing traffic on its network -- violating the very net neutrality principles that Genachowski now hopes to adopt as formal rules.
In order to ensure that the commission would be on solid legal ground in adopting net neutrality rules and other broadband regulations following that decision, Genachowski had proposed redefining broadband as a telecommunications service subject to "common carrier" obligations to treat all traffic equally. But that effort quickly triggered a fierce backlash from the phone and cable companies, as well as many Republicans on Capitol Hill -- prompting Genachowski to abandon it in his current plan.
Genachowski's new plan is based in large part on a proposal that Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the outgoing chairman of the House Commerce Committee, tried unsuccessfully to push in Congress several months ago. Waxman, too, ran into opposition from Republicans who warn that net neutrality rules amount to burdensome regulation that would discourage broadband providers from investing in their networks.
With Republicans set to take over the House next year, Genachowski is running out of time to get his net neutrality proposal through the FCC without being blocked by lawmakers.
Supporters argue that net neutrality rules are critical to preserving an open Internet and ensuring that phone and cable companies cannot slow or block online phone calls, Web video and other Internet services that compete with their core businesses.
Indeed, the online file-sharing service blocked by Comcast was used in large part to trade movies and other video over the Internet. Net neutrality proponents also want rules to ensure that broadband companies cannot favor their own online traffic or the traffic of business partners that can pay for priority access.
But the phone and cable companies insist they need flexibility to manage network traffic so that high-bandwidth applications -- such as online video -- don't hog capacity and slow down their systems. They say this is particularly true for wireless networks. The communications companies also argue that after spending billions to upgrade their lines for broadband, they need to be able earn a healthy return by offering premium services.
December 1st, 2010
Food safety legislation that passed the Senate by a commanding margin is now threatened by a procedural snafu that could give Republicans opportunity to block it.
The largely bipartisan Senate bill appeared to be headed for quick passage in the House, which would have sent it to President Barack Obama's desk. But House Democrats said Wednesday that it contains fees that are considered tax provisions, which under congressional rules supposed to originate in the House.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., chided the Senate for making the mistake and said the House is trying to find a way to resolve the issue in the few remaining days of the congressional session.
"The Senate knows this rule and should follow this rule," he said.
The $1.4 billion bill passed the Senate 73-25 on Tuesday. It would increase Food and Drug Administration inspections of food facilities, place stricter standards on imported foods and give the agency broader authority to order a recall. Supporters say passage is critical after widespread outbreaks of salmonella and E. coli in peanuts, eggs and produce.
No matter how Democratic leaders plan to proceed, the bill could now run into a number of obstacles as Republicans may attempt to block it.
Senate Republicans threatened Wednesday to block all other legislation until expiring tax cuts are extended and a bill is passed to fund the federal government. That would include the food safety legislation.
Supporters of the food safety bill would also have to find a way to circumvent Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who has blocked the legislation several times over cost issues. Democrats finally passed the bill this week after holding multiple procedural votes designed to override Coburn's objections.
It is unclear how Democrats will resolve the issue. A Senate aide said the problem was caused by a misunderstanding between Senate and House floor staff.
Hoyer said the House may try to proceed by adding the food safety legislation to another bill and sending it back to the Senate.
Justine Sessions, spokeswoman for Sen. Tom Harkin, the Senate sponsor of the bill, said the senator is optimistic.
"We are confident that we can work with our House colleagues to find a path forward and get this bill to the president before the end of the year," she said.