Tuesday, April 28, 2015

earthquake in nepal

Aftershocks following Saturday's magnitude-7.8 quake in Nepal are jangling nerves and complicating rescue operations. So far, there have been more than a dozen quakes of magnitude 5 or higher, and another two dozen between magnitude 4.5 and 5.
That rate of aftershocks is in line with a forecast by Andrew Michael and colleagues at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif. The forecast is based on the location of the initial quake — along a deep boundary between colliding continental plates. In this case it feels like a large number because they're striking a heavily populated region, Michael says, "so every single one of these small aftershocks is being felt."
"Unfortunately this is simply what earthquakes do," says Ross Stein, scientist emeritus at the USGS and consulting professor of geophysics at Stanford University.The initial earthquake in Nepal released stresses underground that had been building up for 150 years. It ruptured a network of faults in a region 150 miles long and 100 miles wide, along the boundary of two colliding tectonic plates.
That reshuffling of stress underground, Stein says, is now triggering smaller earthquakes near the epicenter and on nearby faults — aftershocks."What's happening, particularly for these more remote aftershocks, is they are striking on the neighboring faults," Stein says, "and these neighboring faults could rupture in subsequent large earthquakes."
In fact, there's a 1 to 2 percent chance in the next year or two that an aftershock in this area could be even bigger than the original quake.
There is also a record of two large quakes in quick succession in this region, so a twin quake now "wouldn't be unprecedented here either," Stein says.
That means it's very challenging for people in Nepal to figure out when it's safe enough to go back into buildings. Some more recent buildings are relatively safe, because they have been built with reinforcing steel — rebar — which increases earthquake resilience.
"Unfortunately, you can't tell when you're in that building if it has rebar, and if it's been properly built," Stein says. "If concrete were translucent, the world would be a safer place."
And you can't simply wait it out until the hazard has passed. "It's kind of a cruel part of aftershocks that we cannot depend on them getting smaller," Stein says. "They just get less and less frequent with time."
The USGS forecast warns there is still a better than 50-50 chance of another aftershock that's magnitude 6 or larger in the next week, and also in the next month — and also over the course of the next year.
More than 5,000 people are confirmed dead from Saturday's earthquake just outside Kathmandu, Nepal. Nearly 11,000 more were injured, according to Nepal's National Emergency Operation Center.
Dead(5057):Injured(10915);Internally Displaced(454769)— EarthquakeNepal-MoHA (@NEoCOfficial) April 28, 2015

Hillary Clintons supports same-sex marriage

Hillary Clinton's campaign logo was changed Tuesday to show support for same-sex marriage on the day of oral arguments at the Supreme Court.

Support for Gay Marriage Reaches Record High (POLL)

An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted this month found Americans’ support for same-sex marriage at 61 percent, the highest level of support recorded by ABC/Post polls to date.

Similarly, 61 percent say they oppose allowing states to prohibit same-sex marriages, and 62 percent support requiring states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

There continue to be large differences in views of the issue by age. The poll found support for same-sex marriage at 78 percent among adults under age 30, compared with 46 percent among those 65 and older. And partisanship is a factor: While 76 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents support same-sex marriage, support drops to 34 percent among Republicans. abcnews

republican presidential hopefuls views on gay marriage

Senator Ted Cruz

“If one of my daughters was gay, I would love them just as much,” Mr. Cruz said at a dinner in New York last week, explaining that same-sex marriage should be left to the states.

“The people should decide the issue of marriage, not the courts. The union of a man and a woman has been the building block of society since the dawn of history, and the people in numerous states have repeatedly affirmed that truth in their laws. Nothing in the Constitution prohibits that. In fact, it is inconceivable that when the 14th Amendment was ratified, Americans would have understood they were sowing the seeds for courts to invalidate traditional marriage,” Mr. Cruz said in a statement after the report about his daughters.

Senator Marco Rubio

“It doesn’t exist. There is no federal constitutional right to same sex-marriage. There isn’t such a right. You would have to really have a ridiculous and absurd reading of the U.S. Constitution to reach the conclusion that people have a right to marry someone of the same sex. There is no such constitutional right,” Mr. Rubio told the Christian Broadcasting Network last weekend.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush

“It ought be a local decision. I mean, a state decision. The state decided. The people of the state decided. But it’s been overturned by the courts, I guess,” Mr. Bush told The Miami Herald in January.

“I believe in traditional marriage,” Mr. Bush said at CPAC in February.

Gov. Scott Walker

“Tonette and I and our family already had a family member who’s had a reception. I haven’t been to a wedding. That’s true even though my position on marriage is still that’s defined between a man and a woman, and I support the Constitution of the state. But for someone I love, we’ve been at a reception,” Mr. Walker said this month in New Hampshire.

Senator Rand Paul:

“States will end up making the decision on these things. I think that there is a religious connotation to marriage. I believe in the traditional religious connotation of this, but I also believe people should be treated fairly under the law. I see no reason why if the marriage contract conveys certain things, if you want to marry another woman, you can do that and have a contract, but the thing is the religious connotation of marriage that has been going on for thousands of years, I still want to preserve that,” Mr. Paul told CNN this month. nytimes

alzheimers disease

Friday, April 24, 2015

Happy 25th Birthday Hubble!

NASA images by Hubble
A giant cluster of about 3,000 stars called Westerlund 2. The cluster resides in a raucous stellar breeding ground known as Gum 29, located 20,000 light years away in the constellation Carina.

(Left to right, clockwise) Cat's Eye Nebula, Merging galaxy cluster Abell 520, Horsehead Nebula, Jupiter, Crab Nebula, Carina Nebula.

Hubble the song

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Terror Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State By Christoph Reuter

An Iraqi officer planned Islamic State's takeover in Syria and SPIEGEL has been given exclusive access to his papers. They portray an organization that, while seemingly driven by religious fanaticism, is actually coldly calculating.

Listen to it here: npr

...not even those who shot and killed him (Haji Bakr) after a brief firefight in the town of Tal Rifaat on a January morning in 2014 knew the true identity of the tall man in his late fifties. 
They were unaware that they had killed the strategic head of the group calling itself "Islamic State" (IS). The fact that this could have happened at all was the result of a rare but fatal miscalculation by the brilliant planner. The local rebels placed the body into a refrigerator, in which they intended to bury him. Only later, when they realized how important the man was, did they lift his body out again.

Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi was the real name of the Iraqi, whose bony features were softened by a white beard. But no one knew him by that name. Even his best-known pseudonym, Haji Bakr, wasn't widely known. But that was precisely part of the plan. The former colonel in the intelligence service of Saddam Hussein's air defense force had been secretly pulling the strings at IS for years. Former members of the group had repeatedly mentioned him as one of its leading figures. Still, it was never clear what exactly his role was.

But when the architect of the Islamic State died, he left something behind that he had intended to keep strictly confidential: the blueprint for this state. It is a folder full of handwritten organizational charts, lists and schedules, which describe how a country can be gradually subjugated. SPIEGEL has gained exclusive access to the 31 pages, some consisting of several pages pasted together. They reveal a multilayered composition and directives for action, some already tested and others newly devised for the anarchical situation in Syria's rebel-held territories. In a sense, the documents are the source code of the most successful terrorist army in recent history.

Until now, much of the information about IS has come from fighters who had defected and data sets from the IS internal administration seized in Baghdad. But none of this offered an explanation for the group's meteoric rise to prominence, before air strikes in the late summer of 2014 put a stop to its triumphal march.

For the first time, the Haji Bakr documents now make it possible to reach conclusions on how the IS leadership is organized and what role former officials in the government of ex-dictator Saddam Hussein play in it. Above all, however, they show how the takeover in northern Syria was planned, making the group's later advances into Iraq possible in the first place. In addition, months of research undertaken by SPIEGEL in Syria, as well as other newly discovered records, exclusive to SPIEGEL, show that Haji Bakr's instructions were carried out meticulously.

Bakr's documents were long hidden in a tiny addition to a house in embattled northern Syria. Reports of their existence were first made by an eyewitness who had seen them in Haji Bakr's house shortly after his death. In April 2014, a single page from the file was smuggled to Turkey, where SPIEGEL was able to examine it for the first time. It only became possible to reach Tal Rifaat to evaluate the entire set of handwritten papers in November 2014. spiegel

The Calbuco volcano in southern Chile erupted

Quiet since 1972, it's blown twice since Wednesday, generating striking images and concerns over the effects of both the lava and a mammoth cloud of ash.
That column of ejected ash measures nearly 7 miles, says Chile's National Mining and Geology Service, citing a "flyby" that was made early Thursday. In its latest update, the agency says volcanic activity is finally diminishing but that a state of emergency remains for a 12-mile area.
Saying 5,000 people have left the area around the volcano, NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports, "Local officials say people are very, very frightened. The immediate concern is the volcano's eruption could trigger snow melts and cause flooding."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

iCoast: Did the Coast Change?

Hurricane season started again in June. Do you know what happens to our coasts after these extreme storms? The U.S. Geological Survey has launched a new crowdsourcing application called “iCoast – Did the Coast Change?” to show you these coastal changes from extreme storms.
Since 1995, the USGS has collected more than 140,000aerial photographs of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts after 24 hurricanes and other extreme storms. For Hurricane Sandy alone, more than 9,000 aerial photographs were taken a week after the storm. iCoast allows citizen scientists to identify changes to the coast by comparing these aerial photographs taken before and after storms.
Crowdsourced data from iCoast will help USGS improve predictive models of coastal change and educate the public about the vulnerability of coastal communities to extreme storms. Currently, USGS’s mathematical models are derived from dune elevation and predicted wave action during storms. Adding the human observations will allow the scientists to validate the models and to provide better predictions of damage before storms occur.  scientific american

Californians Can Now Pay Cash For Health Insurance At 7-Eleven

The largest publicly run health plan in the nation, L.A. Care, will allow customers who do not have traditional bank accounts to pay their health insurance premiums with cash.
One in four Americans who were previously uninsured and eligible for federal insurance subsidies don't have a bank account, relying instead on prepaid debit cards, money orders and cash to pay bills, according to a study by Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.
After advocates for low-income consumers raised concerns to the Department of Health and Human Services over how so-called unbanked households would pay their monthly insurance premiums, the Obama administration ordered health plans to accept payment methods that didn't require a credit card or checking account.
Starting this week, customers of L.A. Care Covered, one of the health plans for sale onCovered California, the state's insurance marketplace, can pay monthly premiums in cash at more than 680 locations, including 7-Eleven and Family Dollar stores. At the register, customers scan a bar code sent to their smartphone and hand over their cash. The payment posts to L.A. Care within 24 hours, and the service is free to customers.
"It's as quick as buying a Slurpee," said Danny Shader, the founder and CEO of PayNearMe, the for-profit company that established the electronic cash transaction network. npr

Icy Worlds Might Be Alive on the Inside

“Follow the water.” That’s been a guiding principle in the modern search for extraterrestrial life, based on the overwhelming evidence that all living things on Earth — no matter how exotic or extreme — require water to survive. For the past two decades, this emphasis on water has focused attention on Mars, where NASA has intently sought evidence of ancient rivers or modern trickles. Each eroded pebble and layer of sediment there has been heralded as an important clue. 

Lately, though, the celestial dowsing process has been pointing in a sharply different direction, away from the majestic deserts of the Red Planet and toward a motley assortment of small, frozen bodies. The shift began in the late 1990s, when the Galileo spacecraft gathered evidence that Jupiter’s moon Europa has a thick layer of water beneath its icy crust. No need to mince words: “Thick layer of water” is another way of saying “a vast, global ocean,” one that just happens to be sequestered underground (or rather, under ice). Europa may hide twice as much water as all Earth’s oceans put together.

Any thought that Europa was an anomaly soon evaporated with the discovery of geysers on Enceladus, a 300-mile-wide satellite of Saturn. Then the, er, floodgates opened as scientists began reporting evidence of water sloshing around inside Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, Saturn’s Titan and Mimas, and perhaps Neptune’s Triton. There may be water layers inside Pluto and the dwarf planet Ceres, too.

“Instead of being the exception, maybe it’s normal to have an ocean in an icy body,” says Louise Prockter, a Europa expert at Johns Hopkins University. “And there are so many icy bodies we haven’t even looked at yet.”
Taken together, the evidence suggests that little ice worlds contain much, perhaps most, of the warm, wet real estate in the solar system. That epiphany inevitably leads to a pair of captivating questions. Could organisms really eke out a living in the eternal darkness of a subterranean ocean? And if so, does that mean our Mars-obsessed space program has been diligently looking for life in all the wrong places? discovermagazine


Help track and save Piping Plovers- they love the beach more than you do and the future of their species is dependent on whether they have beach to nest on. Their habitat is threatened by everything from storms and sea level rise to you driving your cars/trucks on the beach, not watching where you're walking, and natural predators like foxes.

iPlover is a new app from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for data collection about habitats on coastal beaches and the environment surrounding them.
That sounds like a really difficult and important task, but luckily for us, the app is designed for trained and vetted professionals. It is an example of another federal crowdsourcing app, but for experts. The app is actually intended for use by USGS officials and partners and will not function without an approved log-in.
To understand and manage dynamic coastal landscapes for beach-dependent species, such as the totally adorable Piping Plover (the app’s namesake!), research scientists require biological and geological data across a whole range of environments and habitats.
This can be very difficult; many existing data collections focus on either the biology or the geology, are collected by non-specialists, or lack observational uniformity.
This is where iPlover shines. The iOS-based app uses sensors on the iPhone to simplify and help ensure consistent data collection and data management. new-usgs-app-helps-save-the-piping-plovers

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Australia to deny benefits to parents refusing to vaccinate children

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Sunday his nation will adopt a "no jab, no pay" policy to block parents who refuse to vaccinate their children from accessing some government benefits.
The policy change comes amid a debate over immunisation for children, with some parents believing vaccines against deadly diseases are dangerous.
The anti-vaccination movement has coincided with the resurgence of measles, a preventable disease, in some European countries as well as in parts of the United States.
"It's essentially a 'no jab, no pay' policy from this government," Abbott told reporters in Sydney.
"It's a very important public health announcement. It's a very important measure to keep our children and our families as safe as possible."
Under current Australian laws, parents who have "conscientious objections" about immunisation can claim childcare and welfare payments.
If the measures are passed those parents would be denied the payments -- which include childcare rebates, benefits and family tax benefit supplements -- reportedly missing out on up to Aus$15,000 (US$11,500) per child annually.
Parents unwilling to vaccinate their children on medical or religious grounds will still be allowed to tap into the benefits, although under tighter eligibility requirements.
Social Services Minister Scott Morrison said there were no mainstream religions that had registered vaccination objections with the government. msn

summer babies

Last One Standing: Last Male White Rhino Under 24/7 Surveillance

The last male rhino left standing is now under strict surveillance to protect him from illegal poachers. Armed guards are keeping a watchful eye for Sudan, the rhino.
Sudan now becomes the last male rhino of its kind. He is now under protective care at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Belonging to a rare, white rhino sub-species, Sudan is one of the five remaining white rhinos in the world. Together with his two female companions, they are the only ones left that roam free since the other two are housed in a zoo.
Efforts have been doubled to help protect the last male species in hopes that he could breed with the other female rhinos of his kind. To ensure that Sudan is closely monitored, he wears radio transmitters and had his horns cut off to hopefully discourage poachers from hunting him.
Originally, there were four white rhinos transferred from Dvur Kralove Zoo in Czech Republic. The translocation of these creatures was carried out to let them live in a favourable breeding ground in an attempt to save the species from extinction.
The environmental conditions at Ol Pejeta are ideal for the rhinos to start breeding and hopefully raise the population of the rare species. However, late in 2014, Suni died of natural causes, pushing the species nearer to extinction.
In the 1960s, more than 2,000 northern white rhinos roam the land, according to the World Wildlife Fund, or WWF. However, due to increasing poaching activities, the number was reduced to 15 by 1980, and in 2015, only five remain alive. msn

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

'Definite Evidence' Of Alien Life Within 20-30 Years, NASA Chief Scientist Says

There will be "strong indications" of alien life within a decade and "definite evidence" of it within 20 to 30 years, NASA's chief scientist has said.
"We know where to look. We know how to look," Ellen Stofan said during a panel discussion Tuesday on NASA's search for alien life and habitable worlds. "In most cases, we have the technology, and we're on a path to implementing it."
But she was quick to add: "We are not talking about little green men. We are talking about little microbes."
Her colleague John Grunsfeld, a former astronaut and associate administrator for the agency's Science Mission Directorate, agreed.
"I think we're one generation away in our solar system, whether it's on an icy moon or on Mars, and one generation [away] on a planet around a nearby star," Grunsfeld said at the same discussion.
Jeffery Newmark, NASA's interim director of heliophysics, added: "It's definitely not an if, it's a when." npr
You can watch the full discussion below:

concealed alcohol baby

DNC "I HATE TEA (PARTIES)" travel tumbler

"We love tea. ... What we don't like are Tea Party Republicans obstructing progress and shutting down the government," writes the DNC. $30

Friday, April 3, 2015

Drug-Resistant Food Poisoning Lands In The U.S.

This time last year, a painful new virus was knocking on our doorstep. Travelers were bringing chikungunya to the U.S. And eventually, the mosquito-borne virus set up shop in Florida.

Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says another nasty pathogen is hitching a ride to the U.S. with travelers: multidrug-resistant Shigella.

Shigella is a huge problem around the world. The bacteria infect about 100 million people each year and kill about 600,000.

Shigella is just about as bad as the word sounds. The bacteria infect your intestines and trigger crampy rectal pain, bloody or mucus-laced diarrhea and vomiting.

Multidrug-resistant Shigella has caused several outbreaks over the past year in the U.S., the CDC reports Thursday in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. At least 243 people have gotten sick and about 20 percent were hospitalized.

Those numbers may not sound like much — especially when you consider a half-million Americans get regular shigellosis each year.

So what's the big deal? Well, this strain of Shigella is resistant to the go-to drug for the bacteria: ciprofloxacin.

"If rates of resistance become this high, in more places, we'll have very few options left for treating Shigella with antibiotics by mouth," says epidemiologist Anna Bowen, who led the study. Then doctors will have to resort to IV antibiotics.

Shigella is incredibly contagious. It spreads through contaminated food and water. "As few as 10 germs can cause an infection," Bowen says. "That's much less than some other diarrhea-causing germs."

From May to February, the Cipro-resistant strain popped up in 32 states, with large clusters in California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Bowen and her team linked several of these outbreaks to international travel, including trips to India, the Dominican Republic and Morocco. npr

Thursday, April 2, 2015

clouded leopard

The clouded leopard, a native of Southeast Asia, is among the most charismatic, secretive and least understood cat species in the world. In 2002, the Thailand Clouded Leopard Consortium was created to learn more about this species and create a self-sustaining captive population.
Janine Brown, reproductive physiologist and head of the Endocrinology Laboratory at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (part of the National Zoological Park), talked with Smithsonian Science News about the consortium and how it has helped the clouded leopard. smithsonian

M C Escher inspired wood flooring

van gogh inspired stone fireplace

glass river table by Greg Klassen