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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 14697 times)
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« Reply #5820 on: Dec 26th, 2011, 08:17am »

LA Times

Fighting Monks' new master shares martial arts style with the world

South Korean monk Ando knows his own teacher would probably be furious, but he felt it was time to move the secrets of Sunmudo beyond the temple walls.

By John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times
December 26, 2011
Reporting from Busan, South Korea

Buddhist monk Ando remembers the toil of all those years, trying to satisfy the training demands of an aging martial arts master who could never be pleased.

Silent and impassive, monk Yang-ik perched in the lotus position on a platform above his young proteges, who leaped from mats, kicking two impossibly high bags one after the other, the best adding aerial somersaults before landing gracefully, like big cats.

When they finished, panting and sweating, the master dismissed them. "You have done nothing today — I have done all the work," he would say. "You try to impress me, but when I am gone you are loose-minded. This discipline is not mere athleticism, but a way of life."

At age 47, head shaved, his gray robe swirling around his precise movements, Ando recently succeeded the old master to direct the training regimen of a unique Buddhist order South Koreans call the Fighting Monks for their history in battling Japanese invasions. In the process, Ando is bringing its centuries-old traditions into the modern world.

Stern and reclusive, the old master Yang-ik rarely allowed outsiders to train among the monks and resisted popularizing a martial arts technique known as Sunmudo that has historically been steeped in secrecy.

Once, on a rare occasion when he allowed visitors to train there, he sternly greeted their arrival on a rainy day. "Rain is falling. Buddha is crying," he told them. "And for that you must be punished."

Yang-ik taught his students about sacrifice and selflessness, but Ando reasoned that did not preclude the order's fighting history and techniques from being introduced to the outside world.

Since he took over, he has expanded a Sunmudo gym in Busan, where 35 laymen now train with eight monks. Ando has also visited Los Angeles, where he wants to open a martial arts training center.

"I practice this art for the honor of my master and for the country people who lost their lives fighting alongside the monks centuries ago," he said. "I want to spread it around the world."

For more than a quarter of a century, Ando has studied at the ancient Beomeosa Temple, which was first built 1,400 years ago in a bamboo grove high in the mountains that now overlook the sprawling southeastern port city of Busan.

On a clear day, Ando can make out Japan's Tsushima Island just 30 miles to the west, a proximity that has influenced the city's history and bestowed a special role to Buddhist holy men usually known for their profound passivity.

In the 1500s, monks here used swords, knives, spears and throwing stars to help repel a Japanese invasion that ended with the burning of their temple by retreating troops. Centuries later, a rebuilt Beomeosa became headquarters for the monks' underground resistance to Japanese occupation in the 1930s and '40s.

But their martial artistry languished for generations until the 1970s, when Yang-ik arrived to revive Sunmudo by systemizing its techniques, this time without weapons.

There is little sparring, but defensive moves once used in combat are combined in a sort of athletic meditation, like that of China's Shaolin monks. For years, students conditioned themselves by striking tree trunks, as well as a millstone the size of a car tire that hung from a tree, until it swayed to their rhythm.

Always watching, Yang-ik had a stern philosophy that had nothing to do with fighting style: Vanity and ambition prevent martial arts enlightenment.

Ando arrived at the place known as the Temple of the Nirvana Fish in 1984, drawn by the reputation of its master. Just 20, he came for the martial arts, but later took his oath as a monk.

Master Yang-ik became the focus of his world. Often imperious, sometimes grandfatherly, the elder monk demanded that his students not only pray and practice martial arts, but also work.

They rose at 4 a.m., running to the top of the nearby mountain before breakfast. Between the twice-daily practices, they carved stone to produce religious icons and likenesses of Buddha.

But while the master reveled in the past, his top student began to concentrate on the future. For years, Ando went to the graying Yang-ik and asked to be allowed to expand Sunmudo outside the temple walls. Each time he was rebuffed.

Not long before the old monk's death, Ando went too far: He took a dozen young students to perform at a nearby festival without the master's permission. Yang-ik was furious. He pardoned the students but not Ando, whom he beat with a paddle.

"After all these years, you have learned nothing," Yang-ik said. "We are not showboaters. You have insulted what we do here."

Here was a grown man being pummeled before the others by a man nearly twice his age. But Ando endured the punishment in silence, so strong was his devotion.

In 2007 Ando was meditating in another part of the temple when he learned of the master's death. He rushed to his side and found that Yang-ik had died in the lotus position, his head suddenly falling to his chest.

The younger monk ran to his room. For the first time in his life, he cried. He suddenly began to rue all the questions he had never asked Yang-ik — not only about martial arts but about life.

"I felt I had lost everything," he recalled, sitting erect on the floor of a room that decades ago housed anti-Japanese strategy sessions. "The most revered figure in our lives was gone. Who would lead us?"

For three years, Sunmudo training at Beomeosa stopped. Ando practiced on his own, but never with others. Could he ever assume the role that Yang-ik had left vacant? He felt unworthy.

But on the third anniversary of Yang-ik's death, temple elders named Ando to succeed Yang-ik. Ando soon brought his own style to the task, changing Beomeosa from a closed society to one that encourages outsiders to study there.

On a recent day, Ando trained with two students. His slow movements suggested muted power and his leaps lingered in the air, his robe flying, his body seemingly held by invisible cables.

"This is the martial arts form that once saved a nation," said Gene Healy, 40, a professor of Oriental medicine from Tampa, Fla., who has studied at Beomeosa, where large paintings of monks in martial arts poses adorn temple buildings. "Ando has continued the tradition. He is one of the gentlest people you will ever meet, until he gets to the gym."

Above the platform where Yang-ik once sat hangs a painting of the old master. No one is allowed to sit there, not even Ando.

"I still believe he's here, still teaching," Ando said. "When I'm with students, I hear the master's voice in my head."

Yet he knows that Yang-ik might be displeased with his decision to publicize the spirit of the fighting monks, and with the discipline's newfound popularity

"Absolutely, he would not be happy," Ando said with a smile. "He'd think my actions were too outlandish. I'd probably get the paddle."


http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-korea-fighting-monks-20111226,0,3282576.story

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« Reply #5821 on: Dec 26th, 2011, 08:28am »

Telegraph

China continues Christmas crackdown on activists as Chen Xi given 10 years in prison

China continued its Christmas jailings of democracy activists on Monday by sentencing Chen Xi, another veteran Tiananmen Square protester to prison for a decade.

By Peter Simpson, Beijing
1:09PM GMT 26 Dec 2011

Chen Xi, 45, was found guilty of "inciting subversion" after he wrote a series of articles criticising the Communist-led government for several websites.

He was also "deprived of his political rights" for three years during the two-and-a-half hour court hearing in Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou Province in south west China.

His sentence mirrors the similar "show trial" of Chen Wei, another veteran activist who was imprisoned last week for nine years after being found guilty of the same crime – subverting state power.

Jailing activists at Christmas is becoming an annual routine by China as they attempt to escape Western spotlight as it shuts down for the holiday period.

"Chinese authorities seem to have calculated that they would evade international scrutiny due to the Christmas holiday, so they have handed out one after another harsh sentences around this time to lesser known activists like Chen Xi and Chen Wei," said Renee Xia, international director of the Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Defenders.

Liu Xiaobo, the jailed the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was sentenced during Christmas 2009, as was Gao Zhisheng, who was returned to prison earlier this month after enduring three years of forced disappearances, during which his whereabouts was often unknown.

Whether such a calculated calendar court scheduling is being deployed is open for debate.

But what is becoming increasingly clear is the stark warning being sent to other activists by a nervous Beijing leadership which has been watching the Arab Spring uprisings with increased alarm that it might spread.

The growing political unrest and call for democracy erupted in the fishing village of Wukan earlier this month.

"Severe punishment is the Chinese government's clear choice of response to spreading protests at home and in many parts of the world: it is determined to 'kill the chicken in order to frighten the monkeys'," said Ms Xia.

During Mr Chen's trial, his lawyer Sun Guangquan was repeatedly interrupted by the judge during the defence's argument.

Chen Xi was not allowed to read out his final statement but managed to tell the court he was innocent.

Like Chen Wei, who was jailed on Friday, Chen Xi said China's notoriously rigged legal system meant an appeal was pointless.

Both men are veterans of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protest which was brutally put down by the government which sent in PLA troops and tanks, with the number killed still unknown.

And both have been jailed before.

Chen Xi was imprisoned in 1989 for three years for participating in the pro-democracy movement and was imprisoned again in 1996 for 10 years for "organising and leading a counter-revolutionary group".

He was released in 2005 but again seized and arrested for "inciting subversion" on November 29 this year.

He is a member of the Guizhou Human Rights Forum which was deemed an "illegal organisation" on December 5 – days prior to the Human Rights Day on December 10.

His wife, Zhang Qunxuan, echoed those of Chen Wei's partner, with both claiming their husbands' trails were merely "performances", with the verdicts and sentencing predetermined on strict orders sent direct from Beijing.

"Chen Xi told the court it did not take into consideration the things he has written as a whole, and has interpreted his words out of context. But they have power and they don't listen," she said.


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/8978021/China-continues-Christmas-crackdown-on-activists-as-Chen-Xi-given-10-years-in-prison.html

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« Reply #5822 on: Dec 26th, 2011, 08:39am »

Hollywood Reporter

The Darkest Hour: Film Review
7:30 PM PST 12/25/2011
by John DeFore

The Bottom Line
Russia-set invasion of electricity-sucking aliens has no juice.

Opens
December 25 (Summit Entertainment)

Cast
Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, Rachael Taylor, Joel Kinnaman, Veronika Ozerova, Dato Bakhtadze

Director
Chris Gorak
Chris Gorak's apocalyptic feature stars Emile Hirsch and Olivia Thirlby.

Apocalyptic fantasy goes to Russia in The Darkest Hour, an alien invasion flick that evidently expects dramatic shots of a depopulated Red Square to make up for a flatlining screenplay and the absence of even a single compelling character. Some diverting effects work and a puzzling (if badly developed) premise may keep audiences from throwing in the towel, but ho-hum word-of-mouth should lead to quickly fizzling box office.

After his intriguing twist on biohazard drama in 2006's Right at Your Door, director Chris Gorak is slavishly obedient to genre expectations here, finding no way to enliven a by-the-numbers survival tale. (Here's hoping Darkest Hour is no indication of what we can expect from screenwriter Jon Spaihts's next credit, the Alien spinoff Prometheus.)

American buddies played by Emile Hirsch and Max Minghella are hitting on two tourists (Olivia Thirlby and Rachael Taylor) when a blackout strikes Moscow. Countless small, effervescent clouds descend from the sky, soaking up all electricity and vaporizing any biological entity they can find.

After waiting out the invasion's first stage in a storeroom, the quartet (and a craven hanger-on) decide to head for the American embassy. Though the invaders are invisible except when attacking and make no sound, the kids manage some implausibly astute deductions about how they operate: the vaporous creatures can't sense humans through glass (huh?), and whenever they're nearby, electrical devices spring to life. (The latter fact allows for some nice visual cues involving lightbulb-strewn battlegrounds.)

For one brief sequence, this silliness almost comes to life: Our heroes meet a grizzled, pot-bellied tinkerer who has turned his apartment into a Faraday cage, protecting himself from electro-sensitive aliens while perfecting a microwave raygun he thinks will make them vulnerable. As the inventor, Dato Bakhtadze promises to enliven a wooden ensemble (whose capable young actors have nothing to work with, scriptwise), but the film dispenses with him minutes after his arrival.

Producer Timur Bekmambetov, who created the nonsensical but stylistically imaginative supernatural epics Night Watch and Day Watch, might be expected to bring the film some homebrew quirks, or at least a convincing grime. But outside of Bakhtadze's lair and the funny conductive armor worn by a small band of Russian military survivors (the leader wears chainmail made of stitched-together housekeys), the picture suffers from an oppressive ordinariness. Action beats grow more effective as the short tale nears its climax -- though Hirsch's sudden insights into electrical engineering are tough to swallow -- but any goodwill evaporates with a shrugworthy denouement, in which a twentysomething's ability to receive text messages is proffered as cause for celebration.

Opens: December 25 (Summit Entertainment)
Production Companies: Bazelevs, Jacobson Company, New Regency
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, Rachael Taylor, Joel Kinnaman, Veronika Ozerova, Dato Bakhtadze
Director: Chris Gorak
Screenwriter: Jon Spaihts
Producers: Timur Bekmambetov, Tom Jacobson
Executive producers: Monnie Willis
Director of photography: Scott Kevan
Production designer: Valeri Viktorov
Music: Tyler Bates
Costume designer: Varvara Avdyushko
Editor: Priscilla Nedd-Friendly, Fernando Villena, Doobie White
PG-13, 89 minutes

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/darkest-hour-film-review-276325

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« Reply #5823 on: Dec 26th, 2011, 08:48am »

Space.com

Image Album: Space Christmas
Festive Photos of Cosmic Beauty


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WISE Captures Photo of Cosmic Wreath
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
In this image, captured by NASA's WISE space telescope, the star-forming nebula Barnard 3 looks like a Christmas wreath.
Baby stars are being born throughout the dusty region, while the "silver bell" stars are located both in front of, and behind, the nebula.


photo gallery after the jump
http://www.space.com/14023-space-christmas-photos-holiday-astronomy-images.html

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« Reply #5824 on: Dec 26th, 2011, 8:14pm »

BBC

26 December 2011
Last updated at 21:00 ET

China gets approval for Afghanistan oil exploration bid

China has gained potential access to millions of barrels of oil after it won approval for oil exploration and extraction in Afghanistan.

The country's cabinet approved a deal to allow China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) to develop oil blocks in the Amu Darya Basin.

The basin is estimated to hold around 87 million barrels of oil.

The deal comes as China is looking to expand its oil resources in wake of a growing domestic demand.

"The Afghan cabinet has ordered mines minister Wahidullah Shahrani to sign an oil exploration contract for Amu Darya with China National Petroleum Corporation," Afghanistan president's office said in a statement.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16336453

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« Reply #5825 on: Dec 27th, 2011, 08:19am »

LA Times

Drew Brees sets NFL single-season passing record

His nine-yard strike to Darren Sproles in the fourth quarter of a 45-16 victory over the Falcons gives him 5,087 yards, three more than Dan Marino's previous mark set in 1984.

From the Associated Press
9:00 PM PST, December 26, 2011

NEW ORLEANS -- Quite a night for Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints -- a record and a rout.

Brees set the NFL record for yards passing in a season, breaking a mark that Dan Marino had held for 27 years, and the New Orleans Saints clinched the NFC South title with a 45-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.

Brees threw for 307 yards and four touchdowns, the last a nine-yard strike to Darren Sproles that set the record with 2 minutes 51 seconds to go.

"Honestly, I was really trying not to think about the record or anything," Brees said. "I knew we were close. A couple guys mentioned stuff to me on the sideline. I didn't want to hear it. It's like a pitcher with a no-hitter, I guess."

Brees' final pass of the game gave him 5,087 yards passing -- with one game still to play. Marino finished with 5,084 yards for the Miami Dolphins in 1984.

"Great job by such a special player," Marino wrote on Twitter, congratulating Brees.

Brees' four touchdowns gave him 276 for his career, moving him ahead of Joe Montana (273) and Vinny Testaverde (275) for ninth all-time. He is the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for more than 5,000 yards twice

Brees' first scoring pass went for eight yards to Marques Colston and the second for nine yards to Jimmy Graham. Graham's TD catch was his 10th of the season, a franchise high for a tight end. In the third quarter, Brees hit Robert Meachem for a score from 24 yards, giving New Orleans (12-3) a 28-10 lead.

Atlanta (9-6) is headed to the playoffs as a wild card. Matt Ryan had 258 yards passing and one TD, including a 21-yard scoring strike to Julio Jones for a 10-7 Falcons lead late in the first quarter.

http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-falcons-saints-20111227,0,915170.story

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« Reply #5826 on: Dec 27th, 2011, 08:23am »

Telegraph

Zombie and UFO queries are wasting police time, warns chief

A police chief has hit out at cops being forced to answer "bonkers" questions from the public - such as how many werewoves, vampires and zombies have been investigated.

10:00AM GMT 27 Dec 2011

Chief Constable Ian Arundale is annoyed at officers being forced to spend hours answering "bizarre" queries instead of being on the beat.

So far this year his officers have also logged queries about witches, ghosts, demons, wizards, Big Foot and UFOs.

The rural Dyfed Powys force in Wales is legally required to spend up to 18 hours finding the information needed to answer each request.

Mr Arundale said: "We find ourselves not only dealing with the legitimate inquries but also the bizarre which are time-consuming and take a while to deal with.

"We have to make 20 per cent cuts yet cannot touch a range of statutory obligations such as Freedom of Information.

"It is worrying that we are spending on that and not beat and service delivery."

Officers throughout the force spent 240 hours this years finding the information as part of the Freedom of Information Act.

One question was if there had ever been a recorded trace of Big Foot in the Welsh countryside and how many sightings of zombies had been recorded.

They have also been asked to find the star signs of car thieves and the owners of the cars they steal.

Dyfed Powys Chief Constable Mr Arundale has lobbied local MP Simon Hart to press for changes in the law.

Mr Hart, Tory MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, said: "Frivolous requests are costing a fortune and wasting police time.

"The Freedom of Information Act is a useful tool which I have used myself and which has undoubtedly improved the transparency and accountability of many public institutions,

"The Act has undoubtedly improved the way public bodies work and account for themselves,

"But I am concerned it is also being abused by people making vexatious, petty and sometimes downright bonkers requests.

"It is a worry to me that it could be turning into a bureaucratic monster that is a burden on police time and resources.

"It is time to be looking at introducing more stringent rules on the number, length and nature of requests allowed."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/ufo/8977972/Zombie-and-UFO-queries-are-wasting-police-time-warns-chief.html

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« Reply #5827 on: Dec 27th, 2011, 08:38am »

Wired Danger Room

China’s Noisy Subs Get Busier — And Easier to Track
By David Axe
December 27, 2011 | 6:30 am
Categories: China

The military’s latest secret assessment of China’s rapidly modernizing submarines has good news and bad news for the U.S. Navy. On one hand, the roughly 60 submarines in the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) fleet are spending more and more time on combat-ready patrols — signaling China’s increasing naval competence and growing seriousness about influencing the western Pacific Ocean.

On the other hand, the flurry of undersea activity gives American forces more opportunities to tail and examine Chinese subs. And U.S. analysts discovered a silver lining in the gathering strategic storm clouds. Chinese submarines are a hell of a lot noisier than anyone expected. The sound you hear is the Pacific balance of power tipping in Washington’s favor.

As recently as 2007, China’s diesel-powered subs and a handful of nuclear-propelled models managed just a few patrols per year, combined. Two years before that, none of Beijing’s undersea boats went on patrol. For years, the majority of PLAN submarines remained tied up at naval bases, sidelined by mechanical problems and a shortage of adequately trained crews.

As long as the PLAN’s submarines were idle, the U.S. Navy’s spy planes, surveillance ships and snooping subs had few opportunities to assess China’s undersea capabilities — and, most importantly, how much noise the Chinese generate while submerged and moving. Navies can use passive sonars to track submarines by the sounds they make. The louder a vessel, the easier it is to detect. And destroy.

With little information to go on, American intelligence officials had to guess. In cases like that, “you guess conservatively,” a respected U.S.-based naval analyst tells Danger Room on the condition of anonymity. The conservative estimates placed the latest PLAN subs roughly a decade behind the state-of-art for Russian submarines — and potentially 20 years behind U.S. undersea technology.

Now Chinese subs are patrolling more frequently. “Within the last year or two the Chinese have begun to deploy diesel boats more frequently into places like the Philippines Sea,” the analyst reveals. More and better data is flowing in from U.S. forces. With that data, the Navy conducted a fresh assessment of PLAN submarines. The unnamed analyst attended a classified briefing based on the assessment.

The assessment’s biggest surprise: Leaving aside the PLAN’s dozen imported Russian subs, new Chinese submarines can be detected at what’s known as the “first convergence zone,” a ring approximately 25 miles from an undersea vessel where outward-traveling sound waves pack close together.

During the Cold War, the U.S. Navy would arrange its own submarines in lines where each boat was 25 miles from the next, forming a sort of net to catch Soviet subs. With the introduction of the latest generation of quiet Russian diesel subs in the 1990s, the Americans thought that convergence-zone detection was no longer possible. But the Navy’s just discovered that China’s homemade subs are even louder than 20-year-old Russian boats. “Apparently they [U.S. subs] are making first convergence zone detections and holding them,” the analyst reports.

Assuming the Chinese stay with their current sub designs, American submarines should be capable of swiftly defeating Chinese boats in any potential future shooting war — helping clear the way for U.S. aircraft carriers to strike Chinese land targets. Combined with a slowdown in Chinese sub production, and the recent doubling of America’s submarine build-rate, the noise revelation could lead to a radical recalculation of the Pacific balance of power.

The U.S. Navy had a comfortable technological lead over the PLAN even before the increased Chinese sub activity fueled the recent intelligence coup. Now that lead has gotten even wider. And noisier.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/12/china-submarines/

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« Reply #5828 on: Dec 27th, 2011, 08:47am »

Guardian

We should scour the moon for ancient traces of aliens, say scientists

Online volunteers could be set task of spotting alien technology, evidence of mining and rubbish heaps in moon images

Ian Sample, science correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 25 December 2011 11.31 EST

Hundreds of thousands of pictures of the moon will be examined for telltale signs that aliens once visited our cosmic neighbourhood if plans put forward by scientists go ahead.

Passing extraterrestrials might have left messages, scientific instruments, heaps of rubbish or evidence of mining on the dusty lunar surface that could be spotted by human telescopes and orbiting spacecraft.

Though the chances of finding the handiwork of long-gone aliens are exceptionally remote, scientists argue that a computerised search of lunar images, or a crowd-sourced analysis by amateur enthusiasts, would be cheap enough to justify given the importance of a potential discovery.

Prof Paul Davies and Robert Wagner at Arizona State University argue that images of the moon and other information collected by scientists for their research should be scoured for signs of alien intervention. The proposal aims to complement other hunts for alien life, such as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Seti), which draws on data from radiotelescopes to scour the heavens for messages beamed into space by alien civilisations.

"Although there is only a tiny probability that alien technology would have left traces on the moon in the form of an artefact or surface modification of lunar features, this location has the virtue of being close, and of preserving traces for an immense duration," the scientists write in a paper published online in the journal Acta Astronautica.

"If it costs little to scan data for signs of intelligent manipulation, little is lost in doing so, even though the probability of detecting alien technology at work may be exceedingly low," they add.

The scientists focus their attention on Nasa's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which has mapped a quarter of the moon's surface in high resolution since mid-2009. Among these images, scientists have already spotted the Apollo landing sites and all of the Nasa and Soviet unmanned probes, some of which were revealed only by their odd-looking shadows.

Nasa has made more than 340,000 LRO images public, but that figure is expected to reach one million by the time the orbiting probe has mapped the whole lunar surface. "From these numbers, it is obvious that a manual search by a small team is hopeless," the scientists write.

One way to scan all of the images involves writing software to search for strange-looking features, such as the sharp lines of solar panels, or the dust-covered contours of quarries or domed buildings. These might be visible millions of years after they were built, because the moon's surface is geologically inactive and changes so slowly.

The seismometer on Nasa's Apollo 12 mission detected only one impact per month from roughly grapefruit-sized meteorites within a 350km radius. According to Davies and Wagner, it could take hundreds of millions of years for an object tens of metres across to be buried by lunar soil and dust kicked up by these impacts.

An alternative approach would be to send tens of thousands of amateur enthusiasts images over the internet for examination, though this could lead to disagreements over what constituted an unusual, and potentially alien, feature.

The easiest artefact to find would probably be a message left behind intentionally. This might be held in a capsule and left in a large fresh crater like Tycho in the moon's southern highlands, the scientists write. Some longer-lasting messages could be buried at depth but fitted with transmitters that penetrate the lunar surface, they add.

Alien life might once have set up a lunar base in the underground networks of lava tubes beneath the moon's dark, basaltic plains, and perhaps have left rubbish when they departed. "The same factors that make lava tubes attractive as a habitat imply that any artefacts left behind would endure almost indefinitely, undamaged and unburied," the scientists write.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/dec/25/scour-moon-ancient-traces-aliens

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« Reply #5829 on: Dec 27th, 2011, 12:02pm »

Seattle Times

Originally published December 26, 2011 at 8:00 PM | Page modified December 26, 2011 at 8:10 PM

Rare influx of Arctic snowy owls wintering here
An irruption of snowy owls is thrilling birders around the region.

By Lynda V. Mapes
Seattle Times staff reporter


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photo by PAUL BANNICK
Snowy owls are built for silent flight, preying primarily on voles and other small mammals.
This owl is sweeping across the grassy point of land at Damon Point, in Ocean Shores.



DAMON POINT, Grays Harbor County — They arrive on silent wings, visitors from the Arctic.

Snowy owls usually aren't seen around here. Yet, birders have been treated to a blizzard of snowies in Washington state since fall. Called an irruption, these periodic blessings occur when the birds come in large numbers to our region.

The last irruption was in 2006, and it caused a sensation, with the birds seen even in Seattle's Discovery Park. So it goes this time, too: An owl graced the Paccar truck plant in Renton in one recent sighting.

They will be here until about March, feasting mostly on voles and other small mammals, resting and fattening before returning to the Arctic for the breeding season.

They are circumpolar birds, usually living in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other sites north of Alaska's Brooks Range, as well as in Scandinavia, Russia, Greenland, Siberia and other Arctic lands. A few overwinter in the Northern Plains and New England.

Small numbers of snowies typically are seen in Washington east of the Cascades, dotting the open lands around Moses Lake, Grant County; Bridgeport, Douglas County; and the Waterville Plateau, also in Douglas County, said Brian Bell, a Seattle Audubon master birder and professional birding guide based in Woodinville.

But since fall, the birds have been spreading across the United States in great numbers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports. Nearly 2 feet tall, the predominantly white owls are hard to miss.

In Washington, sightings have been pouring in across the region, from Skagit County to the Pacific Coast. Elsewhere, sightings have been reported as far east as Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts and as far south as Kansas.

Snowies also have been spotted in Connecticut, Maine, New York, Vermont, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and North Dakota.

There are two schools of thought as to why the owls are here: a shortage of food, typically lemmings, up north. Or a bumper crop of young owls this year, pushing some of the young south as they temporarily disperse to new territory.

They are a particular delight to birders. Resplendent not only in their beauty, they also conveniently like to perch on high points in open areas, such as beaches and airports. And they are active in the photogenic, crepuscular hours, on the hinge between night and day.

"Look at that," Paul Bannick, a Seattle-based professional wildlife photographer, said as a snowy lifted silently from a driftwood stump on windswept Damon Point at Ocean Shores, in Grays Harbor County.

With its tundralike landscape, Damon Point has attracted a large aggregation of snowies — and many birders have flocked to appreciate them.

As he photographed the snowies, Bannick worked carefully, remaining motionless and keeping a long distance to avoid changing the birds' behavior. If a bird moves, turns its head or even notices him, that is too much disturbance for his brand of photography, which is to capture birds in their natural element and behavior.

Avoiding stress to the birds is especially critical during winter, when every calorie of energy counts.

And what marvels they are: Gliding on silent wings, snowies are among the largest owls, with a wingspan that can reach nearly 5 feet. They also are among the heaviest, weighing in at 5 pounds, a flying sack of sugar.

Their direct, yellow-eyed gaze and sharp talons help create a commanding presence. Their immaculate feathers gleam in the long, lush winter light.

At Damon Point, the owls were noble in their erect posture, seeming to pose on silvery driftwood stumps, surveying their domain. Not for nothing is a group of owls called a parliament.

To Bannick, the snowies' periodic visits are living proof of the linked landscapes that make up their home, and ours.

"There are so many birds reliant on the Arctic that we see here," Bannick said. "They are a great reminder that these places are all connected."

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2017100661_snowies27m.html

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« Reply #5830 on: Dec 27th, 2011, 5:08pm »

Wonderful! I can remember as a kid, seeing one of these beauties in northern Illinois once in awhile!

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« Reply #5831 on: Dec 27th, 2011, 8:10pm »

on Dec 27th, 2011, 5:08pm, Swamprat wrote:
Wonderful! I can remember as a kid, seeing one of these beauties in northern Illinois once in awhile!

Swamp


Hey Swamp cheesy

I hope you had a good Christmas.

I haven't seen an Arctic Snowy Owl yet but I'm sure hoping to.

I did see a young eagle today. He was still mottled. I whistled and he flew over.

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« Reply #5832 on: Dec 27th, 2011, 10:20pm »

We had a wonderful Christmas at my daughter's! We are home now, preparing for 18 people to come for three days at New Years! I had to clean out my barn to make room for air mattresses..... grin
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« Reply #5833 on: Dec 28th, 2011, 09:10am »

on Dec 27th, 2011, 10:20pm, Swamprat wrote:
We had a wonderful Christmas at my daughter's! We are home now, preparing for 18 people to come for three days at New Years! I had to clean out my barn to make room for air mattresses..... grin


I am so jealous! What fun!!! Who's having to do the cooking?

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« Reply #5834 on: Dec 28th, 2011, 09:13am »

LA Times

Yemen president's medical request puts U.S. in delicate spot

The U.S. could help usher in a new regime in Yemen if it allows in President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
But it could anger protesters who want to him to face justice.

By Peter Nicholas, Los Angeles Times
5:24 PM PST, December 27, 2011
Reporting from Honolulu

A request by President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen to come to the U.S. for medical treatment puts the United States in a delicate position, and the White House has not yet made a formal decision about how to respond.

Granting Saleh a visa would remove a symbol of repression from the country located along the southern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, and perhaps smooth the transition to new leadership, a senior administration official said Tuesday. It would be helpful to Yemen because it would "get him out of the region," the official said.

"If he comes without a big entourage and he's in the hospital here, it does send a signal that he's really out," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

But the White House also fears angering Yemenis if they interpret the move as providing shelter to the longtime leader. Many in Yemen want to see him punished for the government's harsh crackdown on demonstrators over the last year.

The administration is also mindful of history. In 1979, President Carter permitted the shah of Iran to enter the U.S. for medical attention. That decision was viewed as one of the causes of the Iranian street protests that led to the attack on the U.S. Embassy and the seizure of American hostages in Tehran.

Asked whether the shah's case was a factor in the decision on Saleh, the administration official said: "Sure, it's on people's minds. But we're trying to balance things here."

Saleh's departure from the region might also be welcomed by pro-democracy demonstrators in Yemen because it would "send a signal that he's not next door," the official said.

A decision is expected within the next few days.

Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, said in a statement that U.S. officials were considering Saleh's request "to enter the country for the sole purpose of seeking medical treatment."

Saleh was injured when a bomb exploded in a mosque within the presidential compound in the Yemeni capital, Sana, in June. He went to Saudi Arabia for three months for treatment.

The White House announced Sunday that the U.S. Embassy in Sana received a request from Saleh's office that he be allowed to travel to the U.S. for medical care.

"He was really badly injured, so there's a real medical need," the senior administration official said.


http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-us-saleh-yemen-20111228,0,262238.story

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