Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3203 on: Mar 6th, 2011, 08:09am »
New York Times
March 6, 2011 In Libya, Both Sides Gird for Long War as Civilian Toll Mounts By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and KAREEM FAHIM
TRIPOLI, Libya — Both sides of the conflict in Libya were girding for more confrontations on Sunday, a day after militia forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi launched a new round of attacks on the rebel-held city of Zawiyah, just 30 miles west of the capital, and a ragtag rebel army moving from the east won its first ground battle to take the oil port of Ras Lanuf, about midway down the Mediterranean coast.
An hour before dawn on Sunday, Tripoli erupted in gunfire, the sounds of machine guns and heavier artillery echoing through the capital. The spark was unclear - — there were rumors of some conflict within the armed Qaddafi forces — but soon Qaddafi supporters were riding through the streets waiving green flags and firing guns into the air. Crowds converged on the city’s central Green Square for a rally, with many people still shooting skyward. The shots rang out for more than three hours, with occasional ambulance sirens squealing in the background.
Government spokesmen called it a celebration of victories over the rebels, but the rebels denied any losses; 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning is an unusual time for a victory rally, and the rally was notably well armed. Protesters in the capitol suggested it was a show of force intended to deter unrest or possibly cover up some earlier conflict.A rebel spokesman, reached over the phone, said his leadership was relying on international media reports to try to make sense of the early morning gunfire in Tripoli.
“It is very hard to reach trip, ” he said, alluding to the pervasive surveillance and recent spate of arrests. “When we talk to someone in Tripoli you put their life in jeopardy.”
By early afternoon Sunday, Libyan state television and government officials in Tripoli were making increasingly strong and apparently false statements about progress against the rebels. Officials said that Qaddafi forces had captured the city of Misrata as well as the leaders of the rebels governing counsel and would soon retake the country. State television reported that Qaddafi forces were marching on the rebel headquarters of Benghazi. But multiple reports from the ground on the front lines and in rebel territory indicated that all those reports were false and in fact rebels were fighting near the port of Surt, the town where Colonel Qaddafi was born and which blocks the rebels’ progress toward Tripoli.
Nineteen days after it began with spirited demonstrations in the eastern city of Benghazi, the Libyan uprising has veered sharply from the pattern of relatively quick and nonviolent upheavals that ousted the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt. Instead, the rebellion here has become mired in a drawn-out ground campaign between two relatively unprofessional and loosely organized forces — the Libyan Army and the rebels — that is exacting high civilian casualties and appears likely to drag on for some time.
That bloody standoff was evident on Saturday in Zawiyah, the northwestern city seized by rebels a week ago, where the government’s attacks raised puzzling questions about its strategy. For the second day in a row its forces punched into the city, then pulled back to maintain a siege from the perimeter. Hours later, they advanced and retreated again.
By the end of the day, both sides claimed control of the city.
Foreign journalists were unable to cross military checkpoints to evaluate reports of what Zawiyah residents called “a massacre.”
Witnesses there began frantic calls to journalists in Tripoli at 6 a.m. Saturday to report that soldiers of the Khamis brigade, which is named for the Qaddafi son who commands it and is considered the family’s most formidable force, had broken through the east and west gates of the city. “They are killing us,” one resident said. “They are firing on us.”
The militia attacked with tanks, heavy artillery and machine guns, witnesses said, and the explosions were clearly audible in the background.
The rebels, including former members of the Libyan military, returned fire. Although a death toll was impossible to determine, one resident said four of his neighbors were killed, including one who was found stripped of his clothes.
A correspondent for Sky News, a British satellite TV channel and the only foreign news organization in the city, reported seeing the militia fire on ambulances trying to remove the wounded from the streets. The reporter also said she had seen at least eight dead soldiers and five armored vehicles burning in the central square.
At 10 a.m., witnesses said, the Qaddafi forces abruptly withdrew, taking up positions in a close circle around the city.
Some rebels painted the pullout as a victory, but others acknowledged that there was little evidence that they had inflicted enough damage on the militia to force the retreat.
Around 4 p.m., the militia attacked again. A witness said as many as six tanks rolled through town, there were more skirmishes with the rebels, and then the tanks left as quickly as they had arrived.
At a news conference Saturday night in Tripoli, Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Kaim described Zawiyah as “peaceful for the moment.” Another foreign ministry official, Yousef Shakir, called it “99 percent” under government control.
Officials also showed videos that they said proved their opponents were not peaceful demonstrators. Aerial video of Zawiyah showed tanks on the streets and antiaircraft guns on the roofs of mosques.
Another video was said to show rebel interrogations and executions, which the officials likened to the tactics of Al Qaeda.
Despite all the footage of rebel weapons, the officials denied they were fighting a civil war. “There are some people who are acting in contravention of the law, which can happen anywhere,” a spokesman said. Mr. Shakir said: “It is a conspiracy, a very highly organized conspiracy. We will show the foreign hands in the near future.”
In Benghazi, the rebels’ de facto capital, the rebels took further steps toward political organization. Their shadow government, the Libyan National Council, held its inaugural meeting Saturday and appointed a three-member crisis committee.
Abdul Hafidh Ghoga, a spokesman for the council, seemed to back away from previous calls by rebel leaders for Western airstrikes, saying emphatically, “No troops on Libyan soil.” But he added that the rebels would welcome the imposition of a no-flight zone, and said, “We require help to stop the flow of mercenaries into this country.”
While the rebels may have a new defense minister in Benghazi, their fighters on the eastern front did not appear to be taking orders from anyone on Saturday as they pushed past Ras Lanuf, an oil refinery town that they retook from Colonel Qaddafi’s loyalists on Friday night.
Armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers, the rebels advanced confidently by car and foot through the desert until a fighter jet was heard. Even a rumor of a jet engine in the distance would send the fighters in a mad dash through the dunes, searching for cover and firing in the air.
A rebel convoy that encountered an army checkpoint on the road to Surt made a quick U-turn and sped away.
There did not appear to be much of an air war, although the sounds of fighter jets were heard throughout the day. The convoy was strafed by a helicopter, although no casualties were reported.
In Ras Lanuf, the bodies of two pilots were found in the wreckage of a Libyan fighter jet, witnesses said. A rebel claim that the jet had been shot down could not be confirmed.
Rebel military leaders said the explosions at a large ammunition dump on Friday in Benghazi were caused by an airstrike. The explosions leveled at least three buildings, toppled power lines more than 300 yards away and killed at least 16 people.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3204 on: Mar 6th, 2011, 08:13am »
New York Times
March 5, 2011, 4:44 pm
For Hedge Fund Baron, Trial Poses a Steep Risk By PETER LATTMAN
When Raj Rajaratnam was a hedge fund baron managing billions of dollars and being lionized as one of Wall Streets savviest investors, he was asked what made him so successful.
“It is pride, and I want to win,” said Mr. Rajaratnam, the co-founder of the Galleon Group hedge fund, according to the 2001 book “The New Investment Superstars,” by Lois Peltz. “I want to win every time. Taking calculated risks gets my adrenaline pumping.”
A decade later, Mr. Rajaratnam is taking the biggest calculated risk of his life. Beginning Tuesday, he will be seated at the defense table in a federal courtroom in Manhattan. In the biggest insider trading trial in a generation, Mr. Rajaratnam, 53, is fighting charges that he made $45 million trading on illegal stock tips.
If a jury convicts Mr. Rajaratnam, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
The trial promises to deliver gripping Law & Order-like drama, complete with confidential informants, wiretapped phone conversations and high-profile witnesses, including potential testimony from Lloyd C. Blankfein, chief executive of Goldman Sachs. It will also shine a spotlight on the hedge fund industry, which over the past decade has emerged as one of the most powerful forces on Wall Street
The trial, expected to last six-to-eight weeks, will also display the unusual investigatory tactics the Justice Department has used in its pursuit of insider trading — techniques traditionally used in pursuing organized crime. Employing these tools, the investigation has reached into the upper echelons of corporate America and high finance. Just last week, federal prosecutors named Rajat K. Gupta, a former director of Goldman and Procter & Gamble, as a co-conspirator in the case.
The odds are stacked heavily against Mr. Rajaratnam. The government wins about 90 percent of federal trials, according to Department of Justice data.
Federal prosecutors say they have overwhelming evidence of Mr. Rajaratnam’s illicit trading. They have told Judge Richard J. Holwell, who is overseeing the case, that they could play 173 secretly recorded telephone conversations between Mr. Rajaratnam and his associates, some of whom are his supposed co-conspirators. The government says that Mr. Rajaratnam illegally traded in 35 different stocks. Nineteen traders in Mr. Rajaratnam’s orbit have already pleaded guilty to insider trading, several of whom are cooperating with the government and are expected to testify.
Legal experts say that even if there is a low probability of an acquittal, there is little motivation for Mr. Rajaratnam to plead guilty now, 17 months after federal agents arrested him in his Sutton Place apartment in Manhattan on securities fraud and conspiracy charges.
“The deals you get for pleading guilty usually come early in the process, so if he were to plead now versus a guilty verdict after a trial, the sentence he would get by pleading might not be very different from the sentence after the verdict,” said Mark Cohen, a partner at Cohen & Gresser and a former federal prosecutor.
Friends and former colleagues also say that the Sri Lankan-born Mr. Rajaratnam is a proud and dignified family man who maintains his innocence. A prominent philanthropist, especially to South Asian causes, Mr. Rajaratnam feels that not only his reputation rests on his vindication, but also that of the entire South Asian immigrant community and his Sri Lankan countrymen, friends say.
“If Raj pleaded, he would be admitting that he committed a crime and to admit guilt is not an option,” said a former Galleon employee who worked with Mr. Rajaratnam for a decade and would speak only on the condition of anonymity. “But if a jury finds him guilty, he can say he was wrongfully convicted.”
A centerpiece of Mr. Rajaratnam’s defense is the so-called mosaic theory of investing. Galleon practiced a method of picking stocks built by relentlessly pressing for pieces of information about companies to form a “mosaic” — a fuller picture intended to give it an edge on other investors.
Lawyers for Mr. Rajaratnam are expected to argue that their client did not know he was trading on confidential, market-moving tips from company executives and other informants who breached a duty to not reveal the information. Instead, they will assert that Mr. Rajaratnam, like a dogged investigative journalist, worked with disparate sources to collect as much data as he could about the companies in which he invested.
“Throughout his career Mr. Rajaratnam has worked tirelessly as permitted by the securities laws to build a mosaic of public information about the companies he follows,” John Dowd, his lead trial lawyer, has said. “His detailed, meticulous research into company fundamentals distinguished him as an exceptional analyst and portfolio manager.”
Mr. Rajaratnam came to the United States to study business at the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School. As a young stock picker at Needham & Company, he earned a reputation for possessing a vast network of sources in the technology industry.
In 1997, he co-founded Galleon, which at its peak managed about $7 billion and was one of the largest commission payers on Wall Street. On the trading floors of the world’s largest banks, he was known — like the one-named celebrities Bono and Madonna — as Raj, which he would proudly explain meant “king” in Hindi.
Mr. Rajaratnam was arrested on Oct. 16, 2009. Five others accused of being part of the insider trading conspiracy were also arrested that day. All five have since pleaded guilty.
None of those five has Mr. Rajaratnam’s prodigious wealth, another factor driving Mr. Rajaratnam’s gamble, say legal experts. What prevents most of their clients from taking cases to a jury, white-collar defense lawyers say, is the immense cost of a trial.
In 2009, Mr. Rajaratnam had a net worth of $1.5 billion, according to Forbes magazine. He has spared no expense in mounting his defense, with a team of lawyers from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld working around the clock since his arrest.
His legal bills have already surpassed $20 million, said a person with direct knowledge of the case who requested anonymity, and will escalate substantially during the trial.
In Mr. Dowd, 69, Mr. Rajaratnam has a lawyer with experience trying high-profile cases. A former prosecutor with a curmudgeonly countenance and a hint of a Boston accent, he is perhaps best known for his work for Major League Baseball in issuing the “Dowd Report.” That report set forth a case showing that Pete Rose had bet on games as manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
He also represented John McCain, the Senator from Arizona, in a scandal involving campaign contributions from Charles Keating, the convicted savings-and-loan executive. Mr. McCain was cleared of any wrongdoing but was criticized for “poor judgment.”
Mr. Dowd is facing off against a team of federal prosecutors led by Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan who has led the widespread crackdown on insider trading. Since Mr. Bharara became New York’s top federal prosecutor in August 2009, his office has charged 46 people with insider trading; 29 of them have pleaded guilty.
The Indian-born Mr. Bharara, 42, who grew up in New Jersey, has been outspoken on the pervasiveness of insider trading.
“Unfortunately, from what I can see, from my vantage point as the United States attorney here, illegal insider trading is rampant,” he said in a speech last October. The next month, after a judge imprisoned a defendant who admitted to insider trading, Mr. Bharara said the sentence should “remind those who might contemplate similar crimes that we will ultimately find you, prosecute you and convict you.”
The harsh rhetoric is reminiscent of the insider trading scandal of the 1980s when Rudolph W. Giuliani, then the United States attorney, prosecuted Wall Street executives for insider trading crimes, including Ivan F. Boesky and Michael R. Milken, two of the most powerful financiers of that era.
Mr. Bharara’s focus on insider trading has surprised many people on Wall Street. They had expected his office to instead bring criminal charges against top executives at the large banks that were at the center of the financial crisis. But legal experts say those cases, which would have been built on e-mails that did not provide clear evidence of wrongdoing, would be very difficult to prove.
The Justice Department’s insider trading investigation, though, has been helped by its aggressive use of tapping phones and pursuing confidential informants.
Federal prosecutors are expected to play recorded conversations of Mr. Rajaratnam swapping confidential information with fellow hedge fund traders and corporate sources, according to court documents. They were discussing as many as 35 stocks, including Advanced Micro Devices, Intel and Hilton Worldwide. The conversations led Mr. Rajaratnam to trade in those companies stocks based on the supposed illegal tips funneled to him.
Legal experts say that the biggest blow to Mr. Rajaratnam’s defense came last November, when Judge Holwell denied his request to prohibit the government from using wiretapped conversations at trial. The government asked a federal judge in March 2008 to approve an application to tap Mr. Rajaratnam’s phones after a nearly two-year investigation had stalled.
The government received approval to record Mr. Rajaratnam’s telephone conversations, which it did over a nine-month stretch in 2008. More than 2,400 conversations were recorded with scores of friends and associates, according to court filings.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3205 on: Mar 6th, 2011, 08:23am »
Orange County Rhinos beat the NFL to local TV
The semi-pro team was the region's first to broadcast its games. 'They were better than Laurel and Hardy,' a columnist wrote.
Denny Reasoner, co-owner of the Orange County Rhinos pro football team, displays pictures of his players in 1957. He said he believed the club's name projected an image of "brute strength." (file photo, Los Angeles Times / March 6, 2011)
By Steve Harvey, Los Angeles Times March 6, 2011
Amid the talk about Los Angeles' possibly landing a pro football franchise, young fans may be surprised to learn the area once was the home of two NFL teams, the Rams and the Raiders. Of course that was last century, before the two defected to other cities.
But even old-timers may have forgotten another local aggregation that was a pioneer of sort, the Orange County Rhinos.
In 1957, the semi-pro Rhinos became the first local football team to regularly televise their home games.
Unlike the Rams, who worried that the tube would hurt home attendance, the Rhinos realized that most of their fans were friends and relatives anyway.
The Rhinos provided plenty of excitement on KTLA-TV Channel 5 against such foes as the Venice Bulldogs, the San Pedro Longshoremen and the Eagle Rock Athletic Club.
"They were better than Laurel and Hardy," Times TV columnist Don Page later wrote. "Guys were running into goal posts, fist fights every game and the scores were astronomical."
The fighting was difficult to control because, although NFL games employ several referees, "there were only one or two at our games," recalled Roger Bacon, whose family car dealership was the sponsor.
Bacon was one of several fast-talking TV pitchmen of that era who recognized the value of the medium and who became semi-celebrities themselves. His catch phrase:
"Get off your couch and get on down to Bacon Ford!"
Bacon, who offered a "Rhino Relief Price" discount to listeners, broadcast from the sidelines of La Palma Park in Anaheim and sometimes got involved in the football action himself.
Take the time a couple of the team's players were ejected for fighting against the Bakersfield Spoilers.
The Rhinos "didn't have many substitutes," recalled Bacon. "I told the coach to have them change into different uniforms, paint on mustaches with that stuff that players put under their eyes, and go back into the game. The coach said, 'We can't do that!' I said, 'The hell we can't!' And we did."
The Rhinos won, 21-14.
The team, in fact, won most of its games, and Bacon and game announcer Sam Balter began challenging the usually mediocre Rams to a scrimmage in 1958.
"I would say things like, 'They [the Rams] don't deserve to play in the Coliseum, they belong on a high school field, they're losing to everyone, if these guys had any guts, they'd scrimmage us,'" recalled Bacon, 80, whose patter has not been slowed by time.
The Rams finally agreed and eked out a 73-0 win at the Rose Bowl. The Rhinos, who played two quarters, gave up 38 points, while the Eagle Rock AC, which played the other two quarters, gave up 35.
Nevertheless, it was a taste of the big time for the Rhinos, who were founded in 1957 by co-owner Denny Reasoner. He assembled his squad "the easy way," The Times reported: "No beating the bushes for players. No big deals on long-distance telephones. Just … a help-wanted story in the sports pages of Orange County newspapers."
Most of the players were married and held other jobs. One of the best known, fittingly enough, was running back Jimmy Harryman, a former Compton College star. Harryman later became a professional boxer.
During the Rams scrimmage, columnist John Hall wrote, "onlookers were amazed to see one of the lowly semi-pros suddenly start swinging on the entire Ram squad." It was Harryman.
Reasoner said he believed the unusual Rhinos nickname projected an image of "brute strength" (though it ruled out any chance of the team displaying a live mascot at games). The Times joked that some felt that "Rhinos" was misspelled slang "for the outside of the citrus fruit for which the county was named."
Though retired professional athletes often say "I would have played for free," the Rhinos got the opportunity to prove it in the team's final years.
In fact, Orange Coast magazine reported in 1989 that the players were actually paying to play — they had to fork over a yearly fee of $106 to cover referees and equipment. And they had no health insurance.
Life was always a bumpy ride for the Rhinos, who played into the 1990s. During their half-century existence, they suspended operations a couple of times. They briefly made Montebello their home before returning to Orange County (no hard feelings). And one year they inexplicably found themselves in the High Desert League.
Fame eluded the Rhinos on the football field.
But in 1973, several team members did nab roles in "Legend in Granite," a TV movie about coaching great Vince Lombardi.
Thus, each of those Rhinos had the satisfaction of knowing they could say "I'm not an NFL player, but I played one on TV."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3206 on: Mar 6th, 2011, 08:37am »
Has Earth's Sixth Mass Extinction Already Arrived?
ScienceDaily (Mar. 5, 2011)
— With the steep decline in populations of many animal species, from frogs and fish to tigers, some scientists have warned that Earth is on the brink of a mass extinction like those that occurred only five times before during the past 540 million years.
Tigers are one of Earth's most critically endangered species. Extinction of the majority of such species would indicate the sixth mass extinction is in our near future. (Credit: Anthony Barnosky, UC Berkeley
Each of these 'Big Five' saw three-quarters or more of all animal species go extinct.
In a study to be published in the March 3 issue of the journal Nature, University of California, Berkeley, paleobiologists assess where mammals and other species stand today in terms of possible extinction, compared with the past 540 million years, and they find cause for hope as well as alarm.
"If you look only at the critically endangered mammals -- those where the risk of extinction is at least 50 percent within three of their generations -- and assume that their time will run out, and they will be extinct in 1,000 years, that puts us clearly outside any range of normal, and tells us that we are moving into the mass extinction realm," said principal author Anthony D. Barnosky, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology, a curator in the Museum of Paleontology and a research paleontologist in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.
"If currently threatened species -- those officially classed as critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable -- actually went extinct, and that rate of extinction continued, the sixth mass extinction could arrive within as little as 3 to 22 centuries," he said.
Nevertheless, Barnosky added, it's not too late to save these critically endangered mammals and other such species and stop short of the tipping point. That would require dealing with a perfect storm of threats, including habitat fragmentation, invasive species, disease and global warming,
"So far, only 1 to 2 percent of all species have gone extinct in the groups we can look at clearly, so by those numbers, it looks like we are not far down the road to extinction. We still have a lot of Earth's biota to save," Barnosky said. "It's very important to devote resources and legislation toward species conservation if we don't want to be the species whose activity caused a mass extinction."
Coauthor Charles Marshall, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology and director of the campus's Museum of Paleontology, emphasized that the small number of recorded extinctions to date does not mean we are not in a crisis.
"Just because the magnitude is low compared to the biggest mass extinctions we've seen in a half a billion years doesn't mean to say that they aren't significant," he said. "Even though the magnitude is fairly low, present rates are higher than during most past mass extinctions."
"The modern global mass extinction is a largely unaddressed hazard of climate change and human activities," said H. Richard Lane, program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research. "Its continued progression, as this paper shows, could result in unforeseen -- and irreversible -- negative consequences to the environment and to humanity."
The study originated in a graduate seminar Barnosky organized in 2009 to bring biologists and paleontologists together in an attempt to compare the extinction rate seen in the fossil record with today's extinction record. These are "like comparing apples and oranges," Barnosky said. For one thing, the fossil record goes back 3.5 billion years, while the historical record goes back only a few thousand years. In addition, the fossil record has many holes, making it is impossible to count every species that evolved and subsequently disappeared, which probably amounts to 99 percent of all species that have ever existed. A different set of data problems complicates counting modern extinctions.
Dating of the fossil record also is not very precise, Marshall said.
"If we find a mass extinction, we have great difficulty determining whether it was a bad weekend or it occurred over a decade or 10,000 years," he said. "But without the fossil record, we really have no scale to measure the significance of the impact we are having."
To get around this limitation, Marshall said, "This paper, instead of calculating a single death rate, estimates the range of plausible rates for the mass extinctions from the fossil record and then compares these rates to where we are now."
Barnosky's team chose mammals as a starting point because they are well studied today and are well represented in the fossil record going back some 65 million years. Biologists estimate that within the past 500 years, at least 80 mammal species have gone extinct out of a starting total of 5,570 species.
The team's estimate for the average extinction rate for mammals is less than two extinctions every million years, far lower than the current extinction rate for mammals.
"It looks like modern extinction rates resemble mass extinction rates, even after setting a high bar for defining 'mass extinction,'" Barnosky said.
After looking at the list of threatened species maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the team concluded that if all mammals now listed as "critically endangered," "endangered" and "threatened" go extinct, whether that takes several hundred years or 1,000 years, Earth will be in a true mass extinction.
"Obviously there are caveats," Barnosky said. "What we know is based on observations from just a very few twigs plucked from the enormous number of branches that make up the tree of life."
He urges similar studies of groups other than mammals in order to confirm the findings, as well as action to combat the loss of animal and plant species.
"Our findings highlight how essential it is to save critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable species," Barnosky added. "With them, Earth's biodiversity remains in pretty good shape compared to the long-term biodiversity baseline. If most of them die, even if their disappearance is stretched out over the next 1,000 years, the sixth mass extinction will have arrived."
Coauthors with Barnosky and Marshall are UC Berkeley integrative biology graduate students Nicholas Matzke, Susumu Tomiya, Guinevere Wogan, Brian Swartz, Emily L. Lindsey, Kaitlin C. Maguire, Ben Mersey and Elizabeth A. Ferrer; post-doctoral fellow Tiago B. Quental, now at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil; and recent Ph.D. Jenny McGuire, now a post-doctoral fellow with the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3207 on: Mar 6th, 2011, 08:44am »
Nasa scientist claims evidence of extraterrestrial life
Fossils of algae-like beings in meteorites reported by astrobiologist Richard Hoover in Journal of Cosmology
by Ian Sample, science correspondent guardian.co.uk, Sunday 6 March 2011 14.03 GMT
A Nasa scientist has stirred up fresh debate over life elsewhere in the cosmos after claiming to have found tiny fossils of alien bugs inside meteorites that landed on Earth.
Richard Hoover, an astrobiologist at the US space agency's Marshall space flight centre in Alabama, said filaments and other structures in rare meteorites appear to be microscopic fossils of extraterrestrial beings that resemble algae known as cyanobacteria.
Some of the features look similar to a giant bacterium called Titanospirillum velox, which has been collected from the Ebro delta waterway in Spain, according to a report on the findings.
Laboratory tests on the rocky filaments found no evidence to suggest they were remnants of Earth-based organisms that contaminated the meteorites after they landed, Hoover said. He discovered the features after inspecting the freshly cleaved surfaces of three meteorites that are believed to be among the oldest in the solar system.
Hoover, an expert on life in extreme environments, has reported similar structures in meteorites several times before. So far, none has been confirmed as the ancient remains of alien life.
But writing in the Journal of Cosmology, Hoover claims that the lack of nitrogen in the samples, which is essential for life on Earth, indicates they are "the remains of extraterrestrial life forms that grew on the parent bodies of the meteorites when liquid water was present, long before the meteorites entered the Earth's atmosphere."
Rudy Schild, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics and editor of the journal, said: "The implications are that life is everywhere, and that life on Earth may have come from other planets."
In a note posted alongside the paper, Schild said he had invited 100 scientists to comment on the research. Their responses will be published on the journal's website from Monday. "In this way, the paper will have received a thorough vetting, and all points of view can be presented," Schild wrote.
Proof that alien microbes hitched across the cosmos inside meteors, or by clinging to their surfaces, would bolster a theory known as panspermia, in which life is spread from planet to planet by hurtling space rocks. To many scientists, Hoover's work recalls the adage that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
Hoover is not the only researcher to claim a discovery of alien life inside meteorites. In 1996, David McKay, another Nasa researcher, said he had found what appeared to be traces of Martian life inside a meteorite recovered from Allan Hills in Antarctica in 1984.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3208 on: Mar 6th, 2011, 3:56pm »
The Northern Star (Goonellabah.au)
UFO mystery deepens
Averyll Loft | 4th March 2011
MARYBOROUGH’S UFO phenomenon remains unsolved after government authorities and weather experts yesterday failed to explain strange orange lights sighted by hundreds of residents during the past week.
The Chronicle was bombarded with phone calls, emails and visitors all day yesterday after publishing a story on the hovering objects, which appeared in the night sky above the city last Thursday, Friday, Saturday and yesterday.
While all residents had similar descriptions of the glowing balls of light and their slow movements back and forth across the sky, the story did take quite an eerie twist – no one was able to successfully capture the unidentified objects with a camera.
“My partner, my brother and I all saw the lights. I tried to film them on my phone, but when I later looked at the footage nothing showed up – very strange,” Phil and Karina said in an email.
“I took a very magnified photo of the last single orange orb, but it does not seem to have come out on my camera,” Martine said. “It was very weird ... (the lights) did not seem to be flying too high above us.”
Greg said: “We saw four lights in a group,” “I tried to take photos with my camera, but they didn’t come up.
"I grabbed my binoculars to try and get a better look. “It was queer ... while I could see a string of lights without the binoculars, when I looked through the binoculars I could only see one light.”
UFO Research Queensland sightings officer Martin Gottschall, who has studied UFOs for more than 30 years, yesterday said he had received reports about orange balls of lights moving over Maryborough.
“It could well be UFO activity. They (UFOs) are pretty clever at camouflaging themselves and making themselves look like conventional objects,” he said.
As for the objects not showing up in photographs, Mr Gottschall said it seemed as though extraterrestrial craft could “make light do things that we haven’t learnt yet”.
“People have theorised that maybe the force field around the UFO somehow affects the way in which ordinary light like infrared shows up.
“For example, when people take photos of what they think is a UFO and there’s an aircraft nearby, the aircraft will come out defined while the UFO is hazy.”
Gay Cayabyab, the Maryborough Neighbourhood Centre’s multicultural worker, dismissed suggestions the orange lights were Chinese New Years lanterns. “The population of Chinese in Maryborough is not very significant and it’s no longer Chinese New Year, for one,” she said.
“Lanterns are released as signs of good luck, but I’m not aware of any celebration and it’s very unlikely that they would be released for several days in a row.”
A Fraser Coast Regional Council spokesman said it was unlikely the lights were caused by aircrafts using the Maryborough Airport.
“There’s nothing out of the usual happening at the airport.” A spokesman from the Bureau of Meteorology said yesterday he “could not think of anything weather-wise that would cause something like that” and directed the Chronicle to two different Queensland UFO organisations.
The Australian Army was contacted but did not respond to a suggestion the bright lights could have come from its Wide Bay Training Area at Tin Can Bay.