November 26th, 2011
NAPLES, FL -- For more than four hours, a long line wrapped around the entire top floor of Books-A-Million here just to have the chance to visit briefly with Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista.
“Frankly, like the bookstore, we are a little overwhelmed by the turnout here this morning,” the former House speaker told the more than 650 people who came out Saturday to copies of the Gingrich’s books autographed. “So thank you all for being here.”
One attendee, 8-year-old Katrina Russell, not only had a book autographed for her father, but also asked the presidential hopeful a few questions she had prepared.
“If you become president, will you order Godfathers Pizza?” Katrina asked Gingrich, reading off of a hand-written index card that Gingrich later wrote “good questions” on the back of.
“I like Herman Cain and Godfathers Pizza is good but I eat too much pizza, I’m not supposed to eat pizza,” the Speaker responded with a smile and was asked two more questions by the little girl.
“Someday if you work hard, you can grow up and be one of these folks,” Gingrich said as he nodded to the gathered media.
Later, Katrina, who one day hopes to be a reporter, told the press she would vote for Speaker Gingrich if she could.
“He’s a good person and I know that he’ll make good laws and that he’ll set the U.S.A. to some peace and he’s a really good person and that’s why I’m voting for him,” she added.
During the book signing, the Michele Bachmann campaign sent out an email accusing Gingrich of being the “most liberal GOP candidate on the issue of immigration reform.”
“Either Michele Bachmann can’t get her facts straight on understanding immigration reform or she is intentionally lying. Either of, it is disappointing in a presidential candidate,” spokesman R.C. Hammond told NBC News at the event in Southwest Florida.
Gingrich addressed this topic with the press after the rather long event concluded: “I am very happy to debate all of my friends in this race but it would be nice if they stuck to the facts and were willing to work at being honest.”
He also added about those who he spoke with Saturday: “it’s very interesting, the number of people who say I appreciate and agree with your position on immigration was substantial and no one said they were offended.”
All of the roughly 550 copies of the Speaker’s ‘A Nation Like No Other’ and ‘Battle of the Crater’ sold out early this morning at the Books-A-Million (and many other local bookstores were sold out as well), in addition to about 200 copies of Callista’s ‘Sweet Land of Liberty.’
Gingrich was very pleased with the massive turnout for the second day in a row (last night’s town-hall event in Naples drew a crowd of roughly 750) and said he believes he can do very well in Florida’s primary.
“I think it will be pretty clear by Jan. 31st that I will be the conservative candidate in the race. I think by then it’ll probably be Gov. Romney and me,” Gingrich said.
November 26th, 2011
CNet.com / William Harwood
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla.--A towering Atlas 5 rocket flashed to life and vaulted into space Saturday, putting on a spectacular weekend sky show as it boosted NASA's $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory rover on an eight-and-a-half-month, 352-million-mile voyage to the red planet.
Equipped with a nuclear power pack, a robot arm, and a suite of sophisticated instruments, the mobile laboratory, dubbed Curiosity in a student naming contest, is expected to spend at least two years looking for organic compounds and signs of past or present habitability in the layered terrain at the heart of a 100-mile-wide crater.
It's the most complex and scientifically ambitious Mars mission yet attempted, one that promises to revolutionize humanity's understanding of martian history and whether the planet ever had--or still has--the raw materials and an environment hospitable to the evolution of life.
"We are ready to go for landing on the surface of Mars, and we couldn't be happier," Project Scientist John Grotzinger told reporters after the rover was safely on its way. "I just can't wait to get on the ground."
Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA headquarters in Washington, said he was "ecstatic."
"We have started a new era of exploration of Mars with this mission, not just technologically, but scientifically," he said. "I hope we have more work than the scientists can actually handle. Once we get to the surface, I expect them all to be overrun with data that they've never seen before."
And the public can expect dramatic new vistas from the floor of Gale Crater, Curiosity's landing site.
"Those first images are going to just be stunning, I believe," McCuistion said. "It's going to be like sitting at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. So we are absolutely ecstatic. Can't wait to get to Mars."
The long-awaited mission got under way on time at 10:02 a.m. ET, when the rover's United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket roared to life and lifted away from launch complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Equipped with four solid-fuel strap-on boosters for additional power, the 1.2-million-pound Atlas 5 blasted off with nearly 2 million pounds of thrust, majestically climbing away from its seaside pad and arcing toward the East through scattered clouds as it accelerated spaceward.
Trailing a churning cloud of fiery exhaust, the strap-on boosters were jettisoned just under 1 minute and 55 seconds into the flight, and the rocket continued on its way under the power of its Russian-built RD-180 first-stage engine.
Four-and-a-half minutes after takeoff, the first stage dropped away and the hydrogen-fueled RL10 engine at the base of the Centaur second stage ignited, powering the spacecraft toward a planned 102-by-201-mile-high parking orbit 11-and-a-half minutes after launch.
Telemetry from the rocket was spotty during a 20-minute coast to the Mars departure point, but the Centaur reignited as planned for a final 8-minute burn, accelerating the spacecraft to an Earth-escape velocity of 22,500 mph. A few moments after that, at 10:46 a.m., the Mars Science Laboratory and its solar-powered interplanetary cruise stage separated from the Centaur, completing the launch phase of the mission.
"Our spacecraft is in excellent health, and we're on our way to Mars," Project Manager Peter Theisinger told reporters. "We separated perfectly, on time, and the acquisition of signal was as expected, about six minutes later. We are power positive, slowly charging the batteries.... We are thermally as expected, the heaters for propulsion are on, the temperatures are as we expect them on the key pieces of equipment, and we're changing slowly as you'd expect as we transition from ground-based to space operations.
"We are in cruise mode," he concluded. "We have commanded the spacecraft and we are therefore in two-way (communications) and are getting navigation data. The injection was first rate.... That's about it from me. A very happy guy."
During the craft's 8-and-a-half-month cruise to Mars, engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., will test the rover's instruments, adjust the craft's trajectory, and tweak the control software that's vital to the mission's success.
If all goes well, Curiosity will reach the red planet on Aug. 5 for a nail-biting six-minute descent to the floor of Gale Crater.
Just before entry, the cruise stage will reorient the spacecraft, and small weights will be ejected to change the entry vehicle's center of gravity, providing the lift necessary for a guided descent.
Using an advanced heat shield to endure entry temperatures of up to 3,400-degrees Fahrenheit, the rover's flight computer will fire small rocket thrusters as required to fine-tune the craft's fight path based on actual atmospheric conditions.
Four minutes and 15 seconds after entry, at a velocity of about 900 mph and an altitude of roughly 7 miles, a huge braking parachute will unfurl, slowing the probe's plunge to a more manageable 180 mph. At that point, at an altitude of just under 1 mile, the rover and its "sky crane" rocket pack will fall free of the parachute assembly for a powered descent to the surface.
For JPL flight controllers monitoring the computer-controlled descent, this will be the moment of truth.
Too large to use airbags like those that cushioned NASA's Pathfinder, Spirit, and Opportunity rovers, Curiosity will rely instead on landing rockets positioned above the rover, avoiding the challenge of coming up with a reliable way to get a 1-ton vehicle off of an elevated, possibly tilted lander.
Using a high-precision radar altimeter, sophisticated attitude sensors, and complex software, Curiosity's radiation-hardened computer will control the dual rockets on each corner of the sky crane to achieve a steady 1.7 mph vertical descent rate.
Just before touchdown, the rover will be lowered from the hovering sky crane on a long tether, gently setting down on its six 20-inch-wide wheels. At that point, the bridle will be cut, the sky crane will fly away to a crash landing and flight controllers will begin checking out and activating Curiosity.
Thanks to the sky crane and the guided entry, mission planners were able to select the most scientifically interesting target--Gale Crater--from a list of carefully considered candidates.
Starting on the floor of the vast crater and then slowly ascending the central peak through canyons and ravines visible in orbital photography, "we're basically reading the history of Mars' environmental evolution," Grotzinger said before launch.
"We start at the bottom, where...the clays are, we go up farther, there are the sulfates, and then we go to the top of the mound and we get rocks that we think were formed...in the drier, more recent phase of Mars," he said.
Climbing the central peak with its exposed layers will be "analogous to what you would see in the Grand Canyon," Grotzinger said. "So our rover is going to be like John Wesley Powell going down the Grand Canyon on Mars, looking at this thick stack of strata."
The mission is expected to last at least two years and possibly longer if the rover stays healthy and no major malfunctions occur.
The primary goal of the mission is to determine if Mars ever had a habitable environment at some point in its history, areas where the three necessities of life--water, energy, and carbon compounds--existed in concert.
The first two are now well established, thanks to earlier Mars missions that showed Mars was once a much warmer, wetter world. But the search for carbon compounds is a much more challenging proposition.
"The promise of Mars Science Laboratory, assuming that all things behave nominally, is we can deliver to you a history of formerly, potentially habitable environments on Mars," Grotzinger said. "But the expectation that we're going to find organic carbon, that's the hope of Mars Science Laboratory. It's a long shot, but we're going to try."
Bill Harwood has been covering the U.S. space program full-time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News. He has covered more than 125 shuttle missions, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2's flyby of Neptune, and scores of commercial and military launches. Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of "Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia." You can follow his frequent status updates at the CBS News Space page.
November 26th, 2011
The New York Times / Brian Stelter
PHILADELPHIA — “Cooperative” is the word usually used here to describe the relationship between the campers of Occupy Philadelphia and the city, a birthplace of the constitutional right to free speech and assembly.
The arguments and arrests that have occurred at protests in New York and other cities have been largely absent. Mayor Michael A. Nutter even visited the encampment on its first night and pledged to work with the movement when possible.
But the limits of that cooperation are about to be tested. Following the example of other cities that have taken steps to evict the Occupy camps, Mr. Nutter, citing health and safety concerns and an imminent construction project, said the protesters must pack up and leave the steps of City Hall by Sunday evening.
“We cannot allow current conditions, including masses of tents and 24-hour-a-day camping, to continue,” Mr. Nutter said at a news conference on Friday.
Saturday, however, looked nothing like a moving day at the plaza, where protesters said the deadline had focused the local movement’s otherwise disorganized energies. “Having this kind of pressure is a good thing,” Michael Pierce, 50, a member of Occupy Philadelphia’s information working group, said between conversations with campers and the occasional lost tourist looking for the Reading Terminal Market or Rittenhouse Square.
“Without some of the struggles that the other cities have had, we’ve been sitting around, drinking coffee,” Mr. Pierce said. “This is bringing us back together.”
On Saturday, amid unseasonably warm temperatures, informal brainstorming and an “eviction planning meeting” took place. Come Sunday, should the protesters accept the city’s proposal for a part-time occupation across the street, bringing a new phase of the movement without overnight camping? Should they stay at the site, inviting an attention-getting confrontation with the police? Or should they join a march of the homeless to a nearby rail yard? (Dennis Payne, a homeless man who was spreading the word about the march, said he wanted to move homeless people “out of the way” of a potential clash.)
“This is a village trying to determine where to go next,” said Chris Goldstein, a member of a public relations group for Occupy Philadelphia, who expects only some to leave on Sunday.
Partly joking, Mr. Pierce said he would like to see protesters move to Rittenhouse Square, one of the city’s wealthiest pockets, so “a lot more of the right kind of people would get annoyed.”
Similar conversations were taking place in Los Angeles, where Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa said Friday that protesters, who had been allowed to remain on the lawn outside City Hall for almost two months, had to disperse by 12:01 a.m. Monday. In Philadelphia, Mr. Nutter gave the group a deadline of 5 p.m. Sunday. Dilworth Plaza, where hundreds have been staying since Oct. 6, is about to become a construction site. Mr. Nutter, adopting the movement’s language, said the project would be “built by the 99 percent for the 99 percent.”
Some of the protesters said they were aware when they set up their tents in October that the construction — a $50 million refurbishment that will replace the concrete plaza with green space and, in the winters, an ice rink — might be imminent. That they chose to set up there anyway set off one of the initial disagreements within the movement.
“All along, like in other cities, there have been factions that have wanted to compromise with the authorities and factions that have wanted to be more disruptive,” said Jim MacMillan, a journalist-in-residence at Swarthmore College.
After about a month, city officials started to speak about what they considered unsanitary conditions at the site. The police were called on Nov. 12 after a female protester said she was sexually assaulted in her tent.
On Saturday, there were about 250 tents still at the site, although one group, which calls itself Reasonable Solutions, pulled out recently. Will Tucker, 33, one of the organizers of Reasonable Solutions, said he felt that some of the other protesters were “looking for conflict” and refusing to communicate with the city.
Last week, the city approved a demonstration permit for Mr. Tucker’s group and rejected one submitted by a rival organization, which led to accusations that Reasonable Solutions had been co-opted. The new permit, effective Monday, allows for protests at a plaza across the street from City Hall, but only between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. No overnight activity would be allowed, though three daytime tents and an office trailer would be.
Referring to overnight camping, Mr. Tucker said, “We thought that wouldn’t be logical in the wintertime anyway.” Others, however, have vowed to try to stay 24 hours a day, just as protesters in other cities have.
At a Methodist church festooned with Christmas trimmings, several dozen protesters met Saturday afternoon and discussed potential responses to the eviction. Some suggested a sit-down protest to show nonviolent resistance. Others recommended holding hands around the plaza. One person said that whatever they do, they should coordinate with the Los Angeles protesters so that they appear united before the television cameras in each city.
Given the peaceful history of the local protests, Mr. MacMillan said he thought that some would resist the eviction on Sunday, but that the number would be small. He predicted that the police would not clear the plaza until after the 11 p.m. local newscasts.
In the meantime, said Dave Burnett, 38, a protester who is a meat clerk at a local grocery store, “it’s a great advertisement for us.”
“It’s one of those protests we don’t have to organize,” he said. “The city’s doing it for us.”
November 26th, 2011
Cr Edit: Now they want to publish the result of their despicable tweaking....the Marxists and the global warmers have gotta love this....
- Scientist responsible is bracing himself for a media storm
- Just five tweaks to H5N1 makes it more contagious
- Contagious version of bird flu could cause pandemic
- Scientists divided over whether findings can be released
UK Daily Mail
A group of scientists is pushing to publish research about how they created a man-made flu virus that could potentially wipe out civilisation.
The deadly virus is a genetically tweaked version of the H5N1 bird flu strain, but is far more infectious and could pass easily between millions of people at a time.
The research has caused a storm of controversy and divided scientists, with some saying it should never have been carried out.
Deadly: The new strain of bird flu could wipe out millions of people at a time
The current strain of H5N1 has only killed 500 people and is not contagious enough to cause a global pandemic.
But their are fears the modified virus is so dangerous it could be used for bio-warfare, if it falls into the wrong hands.
Virologist Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands lead a team of scientists who discovered that a mere five mutations to the avian virus was sufficient to make it spread far more easily.
He conducted his tests on ferrets as the animals have become a model of choice for influenza and have similar respiratory tracts to humans.
Fouchier is so prepared for a media storm that he has hired an advisor to help him work on a communication strategy.
The research done was part of an international drive to understand H5N1 more fully.
Fouchier admitted the strain is 'one of the most dangerous viruses you can make' but is still adamant he wants to publish a paper describing how it was done.
The study is one of two which has caused serious debate about scientific freedom and about regulating research which might have potential public health benefits but at the same time could also be useful for bio-terrorism.
The other paper, also on H5N1, was done by a joint team at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Tokyo.
It is understood to have had comparable results to the study done by Fouchier.
Dangerous: It is feared if new details of the avian flu is published, it could be used for bioterrorism
Both papers are now being reviewed by the U.S National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB).
NSABB does not have the power to prevent the publication but it could ask journals not to publish.
Paul Keim, chairman of NSABB, said: 'I can't think of another pathogenic organism that is as scary as this one. I don't think anthrax is scary at all compared to this.'
Traditionally scientific research has always been open so that fellow scientists can review the work of others and repeat their methods to try and learn from them.
But numerous scientists have said they believe research on the avian flu should be suppressed.
However bio-defense and flu expert Michael Osterholm, who is director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of innesota, said the work carried out was important medically.
He added he could not discuss the papers because he was a member of NSABB but said if they were published certain information could be withheld and made available to those who really need to know.
'We don't want to give bad guys a road map on how to make bad bugs really bad,' he said.
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November 26th, 2011
The Pakistani government has demanded the United States vacate an air base within 15 days after blaming NATO air forces for the fatal attack on military outposts in northwest Pakistan.
The government issued the demand Saturday after NATO helicopters and jet fighters allegedly attacked two Pakistan army posts along the Afghan border, killing up to 28 Pakistani soldiers and plunging U.S.-Pakistan relations deeper into crisis.
Pakistan initially retaliated by shutting down vital NATO supply routes into Afghanistan, used for sending in nearly half of the alliance's shipments by land.
Islamabad outlined its latest demand in a statement it sent to reporters following an emergency defense committee meeting chaired by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
Shamsi Air Base is located in southwestern Baluchistan province. The U.S. is suspected of using the facility in the past to launch armed drones and observation aircraft to keep pressure on Taliban and al-Qaida militants in Pakistan's tribal region.
In a statement sent earlier to reporters, the Pakistan military blamed NATO for Friday's attack in the Mohmand tribal area, saying helicopters "carried out unprovoked and indiscriminate firing."
Masood Kasur, the governor of Pakistan's northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, said the raid was "an attack on Pakistan's territorial sovereignty."
"Such cross-border attacks cannot be tolerated any more. The government will take up this matter at the highest level and it will be investigated," he said.
The attack comes as relations between the United States and Pakistan — its ally in the war on militancy — are already strained following the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden by U.S. special forces in a secret raid on the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad in May.
"Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has condemned in the strongest terms the NATO/ISAF attack on the Pakistani post," Pakistan foreign ministry spokeswoman Tehmina Janjua said in a statement.
"On his direction, the matter is being taken (up) by the foreign ministry in the strongest terms with NATO and the U.S.," the spokesman said.
'Cannot be tolerated'
The powerful Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, said in a statement issued by the Pakistani military that "all necessary steps be under taken for an effective response to this irresponsible act."
Two military officials told Reuters that up to 28 troops had been killed and 11 wounded in the attack on the Salala checkpoint, about 1.5 miles from the Afghan border in the Baizai area of Mohmand, where Pakistani troops are fighting Taliban militants.
However, a Pakistan Army statement put the death toll at 24 with 13 injured. It said that Pakistan troops had "responded immediately in self defense to NATO/ISAF's aggression with all available weapons."
The army statement said NATO helicopters and fighter aircraft were involved in the attack, which took place around 2 a.m. Saturday local time (4 p.m. Friday ET).
The commander of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, General John R. Allen, said he had offered his condolences to the family of any Pakistani soldiers who "may have been killed or injured" during an "incident" on the border.
A spokesman for the force declined further comment on the nature of the "incident" and said an investigation was proceeding. It was not yet clear, he said, whether there had been deaths or injuries.
The raid is the largest and most serious incident of its kind. A similar incident on Sept 30, 2009, which killed two Pakistani troops, led to the closure of one of NATO's supply routes through Pakistan for 10 days.
The U.S. embassy in Islamabad also offered condolences. "I regret the loss of life of any Pakistani servicemen, and pledge that the United States will work closely with Pakistan to investigate this incident," ambassador Cameron Munter said in a statement.
Colonel Gary Kolb, spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, said the aircraft were taking part in a strike that was a coordinated effort with ISAF, Pakistani military and the Pakistani border authorities, NBC News reported.
He said they had responded to small arms fire, according to NBC News. Asked to confirm that it was retaliatory, he said yes.
ISAF was still determining the exact circumstances. "This has the highest priority to ensure that we get all the facts straight," Kolb said, NBC News reported.
He noted that even if some of supply routes through Pakistan were closed, there were "contingencies built into the system" to deal with these types of disruptions.
About 40 Pakistani army troops were stationed at the outpost, military sources said. Two officers were reported among the dead.
A senior Pakistani military officer said efforts were under way to bring the bodies of the slain soldiers to Ghalanai, the headquarters of Mohmand tribal region.
"The latest attack by NATO forces on our post will have serious repercussions as they without any reasons attacked on our post and killed soldiers asleep," he said, requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
40 trucks halted
NATO supply trucks and fuel tankers bound for Afghanistan were stopped at Jamrud town in the Khyber tribal region near the city of Peshawar hours after the raid, officials said.
"We have halted the supplies and some 40 tankers and trucks have been returned from the check post in Jamrud," Mutahir Zeb, a senior government official, told Reuters.
Another official said the supplies had been stopped for security reasons.
"There is possibility of attacks on NATO supplies passing through the volatile Khyber tribal region, therefore we sent them back towards Peshawar to remain safe," he said.
Much of the violence in Afghanistan against Afghan, NATO and U.S. troops is carried out by insurgents that are based just across the border in Pakistan.
Coalition forces are not allowed to cross the frontier to attack the militants, which sometimes fire artillery and rockets across the line.
American officials have repeatedly accused Pakistani forces of supporting — or turning a blind eye — to militants using its territory for cross-border attacks.
The Afghanistan-Pakistan border is often poorly marked, and differs between maps by up to five miles in some places.
Pakistan is a vital land route for 49 percent of NATO's supplies to its troops in Afghanistan, a NATO spokesman said.
NATO apologized for that incident, which it said happened when NATO gunships mistook warning shots by the Pakistani forces for a militant attack.
The attack is expected to further worsen U.S.-Pakistan relations, already at one of their lowest points in history, following a tumultuous year that saw the bin Laden raid, the jailing of a CIA contractor, and U.S. accusations that Pakistan backed a militant attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
An increase in U.S. drone strikes on militants in the last few years has also irritated Islamabad, which says the campaign kills more Pakistani civilians in the border area than activists. Washington disputes that, but declines to discuss the drone campaign in detail.Black Friday shoppers get bargains, less brouhaha
NBC News' Atia Abawi in Kabul, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story.