April 22nd, 2012
The Washington Post / By
-- Married women with children. There is a gender gap, and much of the focus now is on Mitt Romney and females. In 2008, Obama carried the women’s vote by 13 points. A more closely contested demographic, however, are married women with children, who are less Democratic than most other women. They account for about 15 percent of the electorate and went for Obama 51 percent to 47 percent four years ago, but swung to Republicans in the midterm elections.
“This is a group that Romney ought to carry,” says Whit Ayres, a Republican poll taker.
The issue of not getting the economy on track is of particular importance to married women. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some issues such as abortion and contraception don’t resonate as much. One concern they do have is education; this debate hasn’t yet begun in the campaign and is an area where the Obama forces say they have the advantage.
-- Suburban independents: This group made up about 12 percent of the electorate in 2008 and went for Obama by 7 percentage points, about the same proportion as his overall margin of victory. In the 2010 House races, Republicans carried these suburbanites by almost 25 points, a huge turnaround.
These voters vary slightly from the general electorate in several different ways: They are a little bit more male, more middle-upper income, more college-educated, more likely to be investors and slightly more middle-aged.
-- Catholics who aren’t regular churchgoers: Catholics, who account for a little more than a quarter of the electorate, are closely divided between those who regularly attend church and those who don’t. The most observant tend to be the most Republican and most responsive to their bishops’ criticisms of the president.
“John McCain carried these active Catholics last time, though not as much as George W. Bush did in 2004,” says Steven Wagner, who runs an opinion-research company and provided counsel on the Catholic vote to Karl Rove, Bush’s political adviser. “If McCain had matched Bush with active Catholics, it would have made a difference in several states.”
There’s a much smaller group of Latino and African-American Catholics who are expected to vote decisively Democratic. The swing group is comprised of white Catholics who aren’t regular churchgoers and not as in tune with the religious leadership. Their vote is likely to be affected by whether they are swayed by the criticism that Obama’s health-care policies have infringed upon religious liberties, as the bishops charge, or whether they believe Republicans are trying to limit the use of contraceptives (which most Catholics use).
April 22nd, 2012
By Emily Guggenmos
Lockport, NY (WIVB/CNN) - A business owner in upstate New York has been sentenced to jail over a sign violation.
A judge in Lockport says he violated a local ordinance on electronic displays.
The law in the town of Lockport says signs can't change more than once every ten minutes.
In 2009 business owner David Mongielo was first found in violation.
"The law reads that the format or the message may only change once every ten minutes. So the format is the program and the video is the format so that alone means it's legal," said Mongielo.
He had to pay a fine of $700, and if he violated the law within a year he would have to serve 15 days in jail.
Days before the year was up, Mongielo's sign illuminated an upcoming fundraiser for Niagara County Sheriff's Deputy Allen Gerhardt who lost both legs in a car accident while on duty.
"Displaying a fundraising event, happy birthday message anything non commercial it's my constitutional right they can't regulate it," he said.
He was found in violation again, and Tuesday night he learned his sentence.
"I'm just sick to my stomach. I feel bad for my wife, my children more than anything else. I try to do my best to help in the community," said Mongielo.
He will have to pay a $250 fine for his most recent offense, and that will be it if he doesn't violate within a year.
In addition, on May 17th, he begins a 15 day jail sentence for breaking the original one year requirement.
"There's so much wrong with this prosecution. There's so much wrong with this case, I can't really begin. But I think that says it all. They want to put him in jail over a sign ordinance," said his attorney, Frank Housh.
Mongielo and his attorney say they plan to appeal.
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April 22nd, 2012
TEHRAN, Iran – Iran claimed Sunday that it had reverse-engineered an American spy drone captured by its armed forces last year and has begun building a copy.
Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, chief of the aerospace division of the powerful Revolutionary Guards, related what he said were details of the aircraft's operational history to prove his claim that Tehran's military experts had extracted data from the U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel captured in December in eastern Iran, state television reported.
Among the drone's past missions, he said, was surveillance of the compound in northwest Pakistan in which Usama Bin Laden lived and was killed.
Tehran has flaunted the capture of the Sentinel, a top-secret surveillance drone with stealth technology, as a victory for Iran and a defeat for the United States in a complicated intelligence and technological battle.
U.S. officials have acknowledged losing the drone. They have said Iran will find it hard to exploit any data and technology aboard it because of measures taken to limit the intelligence value of drones operating over hostile territory.
Hajizadeh told state television that the captured surveillance drone is a "national asset" for Iran and that he could not reveal full technical details. But he did provide some samples of the data that he claimed Iranian experts had recovered.
"There is almost no part hidden to us in this aircraft. We recovered part of the data that had been erased. There were many codes and characters. But we deciphered them by the grace of God," Hajizadeh said.
He said all operations carried out by the drone had been recorded in the memory of the aircraft, including maintenance and testing.
Hajizadeh claimed that the drone flew over Usama Bin Laden's compound in Pakistan two weeks before the Al Qaeda leader was killed there in May 2011 by U.S. Navy SEALs. He did not say how the Iranian experts knew this.
Before that, he said, "this drone was in California on Oct. 16, 2010, for some technical work and was taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan on Nov. 18, 2010. It conducted flights there but apparently faced problems and (U.S. experts) were unable to fix it," he said.
Hajizadeh said the drone was taken to Los Angeles in December 2010 where sensors of the aircraft underwent testing at an aerospace factory.
"If we had not achieved access to software and hardware of this aircraft, we would be unable to get these details. Our experts are fully dominant over sections and programs of this plane," he said. "It's not that we can bring down a drone but cannot recover the data."
There are concerns in the U.S. that Iran or other states may be able to reverse-engineer the chemical composition of the drone's radar-deflecting paint or the aircraft's sophisticated optics technology that allows operators to positively identify terror suspects from tens of thousands of feet in the air.
There are also worries that adversaries may be able to hack into the drone's database, as Iran claimed to have done. Some surveillance technologies allow video to stream through to operators on the ground but do not store much collected data. If they do, it is encrypted.
Media reports claimed this week that Russia and China have asked Tehran to provide them with information on the drone but Iran's Defense Ministry denied this.
April 22nd, 2012
by Jonathan Erdman, weather.com Sr. Meteorologist
The snow season "that largely wasn't" in the Northeast will be "bookended" by two destructive winter storms.
A heavy, wet snowstorm in 2011 downed trees and powerlines, knocking out power to over 3 million customers in the Northeast just before Halloweeen 2011, in a storm dubbed "Snowtober".
Snowtober 2011: Photos | A record-setter | #1 winter storm of 2011-2012
Unfortunately, another "Snowtober"-type destructive snowstorm will wreak havoc in parts of the Northeast kicking off this week. Let's get to the critical details.
Heavy, wet snow
Low pressure will intensify as it moves up the Eastern Seaboard from North Carolina later Sunday into the interior Northeast Monday. In concert with this surface low, a powerful dip in the jet stream and just enough cold air near the surface will team up to produce heavy, wet snow.
The areas of concern are western New York, western Pennsylvania, extreme eastern Ohio, parts of northern West Virginia and extreme western Maryland. The timing of the changeover to snow is shown by the model forecast loop below (denoted by white shadings). Snowfall rates may exceed 1" per hour Sunday night into early Monday, accompanied by thunder and lightning!
How much snow? Below is our storm total snowfall forecast. No, you're not seeing things. It may be late April, but we're expecting significant accumulations in both Buffalo and Pittsburgh, and at least a foot of snow in the Allegheny Plateau and Appalachians!
This would be a noteworthy storm enough, but there's another factor that will likely make this spring snow destructive!
Thanks to the intensifying low, strong winds will develop in these same areas late Sunday night, persisting through much of Monday, before slackening off Tuesday.
These winds will combine with heavy snow to reduce visibilities, leading to hazardous driving conditions late Sunday night into Monday from western New York to northern West Virginia.
However. these reduced visibilities will pale in comparison to the storm's most significant impact....
One side-effect of the record warmest March for the Lower 48 States was the early green-up of foliage in the Northeast, in some areas 3-4 weeks ahead of schedule.
Read article: Record warmest March
The weight of heavy, wet snow, plus the additional force from high winds acting on trees with leaves will likely lead to widespread downed trees and powerlines, leading to numerous power outages, possibly for several days from western New York to northern West Virginia! These downed trees may make roads impassable in some areas!
Also important to note: once power outages begin, temperatures may hold in the 30s through Tuesday morning, and may only rise into the 40s, at best, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons!
Bottom line: The time to prepare for a power outage is now! Click on this video for tips on how to prepare.
WeatherREADY: Prepare for a power outage
So, you may rightly ask...how unusual is this heavy a snowstorm so late in the season in this area?
While accumulating snow has fallen well into the month of May in many locations from western New York to West Virginia, snowfall this heavy, so late in the season is rare, but not unprecedented.
For instance, in Buffalo, N.Y. there have been 10 calendar days of 1"+ snow after April 22, according to the National Weather Service. However, dating to 1884, there have been only 3 calendar days after April 22 with at least 4" of snow, there, only one of which is since 1909!
|Buffalo: Days with 4"+ snow later than April 22|
|April 30, 1908 (4.2")|
|May 2, 1909 (5.1")|
|May 7, 1989 (7.9")|
Similarly, in Pittsburgh, dating to 1880, there have been only 2 calendar days after April 22 with at least 3" of snow, the last of which occurred almost 46 years ago!
|Pittsburgh: Days with 3"+ snow later than April 22|
|April 30, 1908 (4.2")|
|May 2, 1909 (5.1")|
What about higher elevations, those that could see a foot or more of total snow? In Warren, Pa. (elev. 1200'), dating to 1893, there have been only 2 calendar days after April 22 with at least 6" of snow, the last of which occurred 45 years ago!
|Warren, PA: Days with 6"+ snow later than April 22|
|April 24, 1967 (6.5")|
|April 30, 1908 (13")|
Northeast storm tracker maps: Rain, snow, wind, travel delays
April 22nd, 2012
The Wall Street Journal / By AMIR EFRATI
A new company backed by two Google Inc. GOOG -0.54%billionaires, film director James Cameron and other space exploration proponents is aiming high in the hunt for natural resources—with mining asteroids the possible target.
The venture, called Planetary Resources Inc., revealed little in a press release this week except to say that it would "overlay two critical sectors—space exploration and natural resources—to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP" and "help ensure humanity's prosperity." The company is formally unveiling its plans at an event Tuesday in Seattle.
While the announcement may cause some people to snicker at what could be a page out of a sci-fi novel or a Hollywood movie scene, Planetary Resources is making its debut just as scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and other groups are embracing the notion of mining "near-Earth asteroids" and providing blueprints for how such a feat would be accomplished.
The possibility of extracting raw materials such as iron and nickel from asteroids has been discussed for decades, but the cost, scientific expertise and technical prowess of fulfilling such as feat have remained an obstacle. NASA experts have projected it could cost tens of billions of dollars and take well over a decade to land astronauts on an asteroid.
Tuesday's event is being hosted by Peter H. Diamandis and Eric Anderson, known for their efforts to develop commercial space exploration, and two former NASA officials.
Mr. Diamandis, a driving force behind the Ansari X-Prize competition to spur non-governmental space flight, has long discussed his goal to become an asteroid miner. He contends that such work by space pioneers would lead to a "land rush" by companies to develop lower-cost technology to travel to and extract resources from asteroids.
"I believe that opening up the resources of space for the benefit of humanity is critical," Mr. Diamandis said in an interview with Forbes magazine earlier this year about plans to launch an asteroid mining company.
People listed by Planetary Resources as members of its "investor and advisor group" include Larry Page, Google's chief executive, and Eric Schmidt, the company's executive chairman; Mr. Cameron, whose film "Avatar" depicted a corporate venture to extract natural resources from another planet; former Microsoft Corp. MSFT +4.55%executive Charles Simonyi, who has made two trips to space and funded other related activity; Ram Shriram, a Google director and venture capitalist; and Ross Perot Jr., son of the Texas technology entrepreneur and former presidential candidate Ross Perot.
Former NASA Mars mission manager Chris Lewicki is listed in the press release as president and chief engineer of Planetary Resources, with Messrs. Diamandis and Anderson as co-chairmen.
None of the men could be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for Planetary Resources, which discloses few details on its website, declined to comment.
The news conference announcing the launch of the company is scheduled to be held at the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery at the Museum of Flight in Seattle on Tuesday.
Asteroid mining could take several forms, including sending humans in a spacecraft to an asteroid so they could explore and mine it. In another scenario, robotic spacecraft could be launched either to mine an asteroid directly or transport it closer to Earth so that humans could more easily reach it.
Such mining could yield a large amount of water, oxygen and metals to help further space exploration by allowing humans to fuel spacecraft, build space stations and other constructs. The resources could potentially be brought back to Earth as well.
Earlier this month, a study by NASA scientists concluded that, for a cost of $2.6 billion, humans could use robotic spacecraft to capture a 500-ton asteroid seven meters in diameter and bring it into orbit around the moon so that it could be explored and mined. The spacecraft, using a 40-kilowatt solar-electric propulsion system, would have a flight time of between six and 10 years, and humans could accomplish this task by around 2025.
The estimated cost doesn't include the billions of dollars that it might take to extract minerals.
"[W]ith the right ground-based observation campaign approximately five attractive [asteroids] per year could be discovered," said the NASA study, published by the Keck Institute for Space Studies. It also said that by exploring asteroids people may be able to gain information or find raw materials that would allow humans to travel far beyond the moon.
Mr. Lewicki and Tom Jones, a former NASA astronaut who is an advisor to Planetary Resources, were involved in the study, though it's unclear if that means the company will adopt the same strategy for extracting material from asteroids.
Louis Friedman, a former NASA aerospace engineer who also was involved in the study, said he supports this strategy but noted that it would take "hundreds of millions of dollars" to get started and that Planetary Resources would "need to find a lower-cost way to access space" in order to succeed.
He is also skeptical the company could find ways to transfer raw materials extracted from asteroids back to Earth, given the cost of going in and out of earth's gravity well. Thus, he said, the materials could only be useful in space.
President Obama in 2010 set a goal to send a manned mission to an asteroid by 2025, but the details remain fuzzy and the effort hasn't generated much public excitement or political traction. However, NASA is working on an unmanned mission called OSIRIS-Rex that would launch in 2016 and land on an asteroid, study it, and bring a tiny amount of it back to earth by 2023. NASA also is calling on amateur astronomers to help the agency find "near-earth" asteroids that could be explored in the future.
In recent years, as NASA has pulled back on space exploration, wealthy entrepreneurs such as Amazon.com Inc. AMZN -0.59%founder Jeff Bezos, Tesla Motors Inc. TSLA 0.00%creator Elon Musk and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen have tried to fill the void with their personal money. Mr. Musk has pursued commercial rockets and spacecraft to transport cargo and astronauts into orbit, while Messrs. Allen and Bezos have looked to launch tourists to the edge of space and possibly beyond.