A new asteroid mining venture backed by Silicon Valley titans and filmmaker James Cameron is hiring.
Planetary Resources, Inc., announced Tuesday at a news conference in Seattle that it wants to mine near-Earth asteroids for water and precious metals like gold and platinum within the next 10 years if all goes as planned. And the brand-new company is looking for a helping hand.
"Since my early teenage years, I've wanted to be an asteroid miner. I always viewed it as a glamorous vision of where we could go," company founder Peter Diamandis told reporters at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
Diamandis hopes others share his passion for space exploration: The company website is now accepting applications for a “few good asteroid miners,” to help the firm find new ways to “explore space beyond Earth orbit.”
Company representatives did not respond to FoxNews.com requests for specific job details, such as how much an asteroid miner will earn or what qualifies one for such an out-of-this-world job. But one insider familiar with the company's plans doubts they're looking for miners at all.
"They aren't hiring asteroid miners," he told FoxNews.com. "They're hiring aerospace engineers to design a low-Earth orbit micro-satellite space telescope to look for asteroids."
More information can be gleaned from the site, where prospective applicants must fill out a litany of short-answer questions proving their love for space, describing their soldering skills and even proffering the name they’d give to a hypothetical crash dummy.
Several scientists not involved with the project said they were simultaneously thrilled and wary, calling the plan daring, difficult -- and very pricey. They don't see how it could be cost-effective, even with platinum and gold worth nearly $1,600 an ounce. An upcoming NASA mission to return just 2 ounces (60 grams) of an asteroid to Earth will cost about $1 billion.
But the entrepreneurs behind Planetary Resources have a track record of profiting off space ventures. Diamandis and co-founder Eric Anderson pioneered the idea of selling rides into space to tourists, and Diamandis' company offers "weightless" airplane flights.
Investors and advisers to the new company include Google CEO Larry Page and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Cameron, the man behind the blockbusters "Titanic" and "Avatar."
"The pursuit of resources drove the discovery of America and opened the West," Schmidt said in a statement on the site. "The same drivers still hold true for opening the space frontier."
Anderson says the group will prove naysayers wrong. "Before we started launching people into space as private citizens, people thought that was a pie-in-the-sky idea," Anderson said. "We're in this for decades.”
For those serious about a career in space mining, Planetary Resources said it has "immediate needs" in the following areas: 1) guidance, navigation, and control; 2) flight and ground software; and 3) optical and laser systems.”
But remember, mining asteroids is no walk in the park. “You will get your hands dirty,” the site warns. “If you prefer your hands clean, go somewhere else.”
Originally published April 25, 2012 at 7:34 PM Page modified April 26, 2012 at 8:47 AM
High court seems likely to uphold Arizona's immigration law
Justices across the ideological spectrum appeared inclined to uphold a controversial part of Arizona's aggressive 2010 immigration law, based on their questions Wednesday at a Supreme Court argument.
By ADAM LIPTAK The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Justices across the ideological spectrum appeared inclined to uphold a controversial part of Arizona's aggressive 2010 immigration law, based on their questions Wednesday at a Supreme Court argument.
"You can see it's not selling very well," Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a member of the court's liberal wing and its first Hispanic justice, told Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, referring to a central part of his argument.
Verrilli, representing the federal government, had urged the court to strike down part of the law requiring state law-enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop if the officials have reason to believe that the person might be an illegal immigrant.
"Why don't you try to come up with something else?" Sotomayor asked Verrilli.
It was harder to read the court's attitude toward the three other provisions of the law at issue in the case, including ones that make it a crime for illegal immigrants to work or to fail to register with federal authorities. The court's ruling, expected by June, may thus be a split decision that upholds parts of the law and strikes down others.
Should the court uphold any part of the law, immigration groups are likely to challenge it based on an argument not before that court Wednesday — that the law discriminates on the basis of race and ethnic background.
Indeed, Chief Justice John Roberts made clear that the case, like last month's arguments over President Obama's health-care law, was about the allocation of state and federal power.
"No part of your argument has to do with racial or ethnic profiling, does it?" the chief justice asked Verrilli, who agreed.
Should the court uphold most or all of the Arizona law or strike down the heart of the health-care law, it would represent a political blow to Obama in the final stretch of the campaign season. The health-care decision is also expected by June.
A rematch of attorneys
Wednesday's argument, the last of the term, was a rematch between the main lawyers in last month's case. Paul Clement, who argued for the 26 states challenging the health-care law, represented Arizona. Verrilli again represented the federal government. In an unusual move, Roberts allowed the argument to go 20 minutes longer than the usual hour.
The two lawyers presented sharply contrasting accounts of what the Arizona law meant to achieve.
Clement said the state was trying to address a crisis with a law that complemented federal immigration policy.
"Arizona borrowed the federal standards as its own," he said.
Verrilli countered that Arizona's approach conflicted with the federal efforts.
"The Constitution vests exclusive authority over immigration matters with the national government," he said.
Verrilli, whose performance in the health-care case was sometimes rocky, seemed Wednesday occasionally to frustrate justices who might have seemed likely allies.
At one point Sotomayor, addressing Verrilli by his title, said: "General, I'm terribly confused by your answer. OK? And I don't know that you're focusing in on what I believe my colleagues are trying to get to."
The Arizona law, sometimes called SB 1070, advances what it calls a policy of "attrition through enforcement," and it has been something of a trendsetter. It was followed by similar and sometimes harsher laws in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah. All have been subject to court challenges, and lower courts have blocked some of their provisions.
The Obama administration sued to block the Arizona law, saying it could not be reconciled with federal laws and policies. In legal terms, it is about whether federal law "pre-empts," or displaces, the challenged state law.
As a general matter, federal laws trump conflicting state laws under the Constitution's supremacy clause. But no federal law bars the challenged provisions of SB 1070 in so many words, and the question for the justices is whether federal and state laws are in such conflict that the state law must yield.
Last year, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, blocked four provisions of the law on those grounds.
Most of the argument Wednesday concerned the part of the law requiring state officials to check immigration status in some circumstances. Several justices said states were entitled to enact such provisions, which make mandatory the inquiries to federal authorities from local police officers that are already commonplace.
Roberts said the state law merely requires that the federal government be informed of immigration violations and leaves enforcement decisions to it.
"It seems to me that the federal government just doesn't want to know who is here illegally or not," he said.
Justice Stephen Breyer suggested he would be prepared to uphold the provision if it were clear the process of checking immigration status would not result in "detention for a significantly longer time" than in the ordinary case.
The law also makes it a crime under state law for immigrants to fail to register under a federal law and for illegal immigrants to work or to try to find work. Federal law penalizes employers who hire illegal workers but does not punish employees for working.
Roberts indicated that the employment provision of the state law was vulnerable.
"That does seem to expand beyond the federal government's determination about the types of sanctions that should govern the employment relationship," he said.
Last year, in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, the Supreme Court held that a different Arizona law, this one imposing harsh penalties on businesses that hire illegal workers, was not pre-empted by federal law. The 5-3 vote split along ideological lines.
Roberts, writing for four of the justices in the majority, said the state law under review "simply seeks to enforce" a federal ban on hiring illegal workers.
"Arizona went the extra mile," he wrote last year, "in ensuring that its law closely tracks" the federal one. On Wednesday, he suggested that the Whiting decision was the most apt precedent.
Justice Elena Kagan disqualified herself from both the Whiting case and the one concerning the newer law, Arizona v. United States, presumably because she had worked on them as solicitor general.
Hundreds of boisterous demonstrators filled the sidewalk in front of the court on Wednesday, denouncing the immigration law and saying it would lead to racial profiling by the police and spread fear among Latinos in the state.
Georgina Sanchez, a protester from the group Promise Arizona, said that families that included illegal immigrants were very worried the court would uphold the sections of the law under dispute.
"The children live in fear that their parents will not come home one day," she told the crowd before the court steps. "It's sad that we are workers but they turn us into criminals."
Arizona officials emerged after the hearing expressing confidence they would prevail on most if not all of the four provisions under dispute.
"I am very, very encouraged that we will get a favorable result," said Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, outside the court. "I think the questions showed the justices understand that it is Arizona's responsibility and Arizona has a right to protect its citizens."
As she was trying to find the podium at the bottom of the court's grand steps, Brewer instead wandered into the largely hostile crowd of protesters, who surrounded her for a tense moment, shouting "Shame, shame!" and "Stop SB 1070!" Eventually the governor extricated herself and departed another way.
Lawmaker confirms Secret Service investigating new misconduct allegations
By Ed O’Keefe 26 April 2012
The U.S. Secret Service is investigating allegations of improper conduct last year by personnel sent to El Salvador that mirror the behavior by employees implicated in the agency’s Colombia sex scandal, according to a lawmaker closely tracking the agency’s investigations.
But House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) cautioned that the new inquiry is just part of the agency’s broad investigation into whether agents and officers have interacted with prostitutes in the past.
“It doesn’t mean that there’s any validity to it,” King said Thursday of the new inquiry into allegations that Secret Service personnel behaved inappropriately on a trip last year to El Salvador. “They’re looking into all allegations.”
KIRO-TV in Seattle first reported Wednesday night on the El Salvador trip.
If the allegations are true, they would appear to contradict statements made Wednesday by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that the Secret Service was unaware of any behavior similar to the Colombia incident having occurred in the past 2 1 / 2 years.
Also Thursday, the Pentagon confirmed that it has expanded its probe into the Colombia scandal by adding a 12th member of the military to the list of personnel under investigation.
The U.S. Southern Command said it has instructed military investigators to probe the actions of a 12th individual, who was assigned to the Military District of Washington with duty at the White House Communications Agency. The soldier has since been reassigned to other duties pending the outcome of the investigation, said military spokesman Jose Ruiz.
King said Thursday that the Secret Service Office of Professional Responsibility had no record of formal allegations against personnel sent last year to El Salvador.
Asked Thursday what should be done if it turns out that the unfolding prostitution scandal represents a recurring Secret Service problem, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) had a simple answer: “Hire more females.”
Staff writer Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.
Alien Abductee Photos Probe Outer Limits By Pete Brook April 27, 2012 | 6:30 am Categories: Blogs, Photo Gallery, science, space
Alien abductions make for a good sci-fi plot devices, but it's easy to forget that we walk among people -- in the real world -- who claim to have been visited, beamed up and probed by little gray men.
New York photographer Steven Hirsch, 63, has met many of these people face to face. He visited this year's International UFO Conference to meet, photograph and interview people who avow close contact with extraterrestrials.
"I don't want my audience to have any preconceptions about these people before they see my images and read their words," says Hirsch of his Little Sticky Legs project. "My interviews barely break the surface of what is going on in their lives ... or in their minds."
Hirsch, who has freelanced for the New York Post for 18 years, makes a habit of shooting fringe members of society and gleaning their thoughts. Past subjects have included those leaving the Manhattan Criminal Court Building and Crustypunks in the parks of NYC.
For his profile photos and interviews, the fast-talking New Yorker actually shuts up and listens.
"I'm not an analyst, my questions are not intended to find answers but to allow people to tell us their stories. Courthouse Confessions, Crustypunks and Little Sticky Legs are all about storytelling. Their stories, not mine," says Hirsch. "We've become desensitized to the TV sound bite. With these projects we can stare at the picture. Stare into their eyes. Feel their angst. It's a very simple approach. There's no distractions."
Reports of alien abduction are a relatively new phenomena, with regular accounts emerging only in the 1960s. Estimates on the number of abductions vary wildly, from millions (unlikely) to thousands (more likely). It's safe to say there are hundreds of reported cases in any given year.
Due to a lack of any substantial physical evidence, abduction testimony is widely dismissed. In The Abduction Experience: A Critical Evaluation of Theory and Evidence (.pdf) the late Dr. Stuart Appelle, Professor of Psychology at SUNY Brockport and specialist in perception, wrote, "no theory yet enjoys enough empirical support to be accepted as a general explanation for the abduction experience." Appelle listed psychopathologies, sleep abnormalities, and personality traits such as a proneness to fantasy and suggestibility among potential reasons for the persistence of abduction narratives. Hypnosis treatments, intended to bring details of suppressed memories of abduction back to the surface, also come under criticism for actually implanting false memories in patients instead.
Encounter tales are not told only by people in the margins of society. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, former leader of the Russian republic of Kalmykia claims he was visited by a UFO on his balcony in 1997. Last month, Simon Parkes, a British town councilor, told the press his mother was a nine-foot alien.
Hirsch, who has also trained his lens on the homes of sex offenders living on Long Island, is not looking to sugarcoat our world.
“I don’t like people to feel comfortable. My whole life has been edgy. I live in the East Village. [In years gone by] there were drug dealing stores downstairs,” he says.
As a kid, Hirsch didn't know the names of Weegee or any street photographers, but his worldview was likely shaped by their images.
"I’m a hardcore New Yorker. I grew up in Brooklyn. I grew up with the tabloids," he says. "You’d go down the corner store at 9 p.m. and that’s when the Daily News and the Daily Mirror were on the stands with the day's news. Murders, robberies, fires; papers full of graphic images of mayhem."
Coming full circle, it was through photographing for the popular news himself, that Hirsch first started thinking about alien abductees.
"Many years ago I photographed a UFO convention in Connecticut while on assignment for one of the supermarket tabloids," says Hirsch. "The experience was mind-boggling and stuck with me for decades." This year, he was finally able to get out to Arizona and follow through on his own project.
Much of American UFO lore is based in the southwestern states of Arizona and New Mexico, and Hirsch has traveled many times through desert towns full of unique characters. For him, the distance between New York City and way out west is measured in more than just miles; it's measured in attitude and psyche.
"The Southwest landscape effects the way people think. It’s trippy out there," he says. "In New York you have no sense of the universe, but in the Southwest you can’t avoid the sky; you get a sense of scale of -- and an intimacy with -- the universe."
EXCLUSIVE: Joel Silver And Warner Bros Pictures Severing 25-Year Relationship By NIKKI FINKE Thursday April 26, 2012 @ 11:00pm PDT Tags: Big Deals Film, Hollywood producers, Jeff Robinov, Joel Silver, Sherlock Holmes 2, Warner Bros
EXCLUSIVE: It’s the end of a modern Hollywood era, the quiet finish to one of the most long-term, big-time, noisy, up and down, and ultimately dysfunctional relationships between a film producer and a movie studio. I have learned that Joel Silver will no longer have a production deal at Warner Bros at the end of 2012. His Silver Pictures also won’t be housed on the studio’s Burbank lot after then — famously in the offices built for Frank Sinatra in 1963 — which is why the producer right now is looking for buildings in Santa Monica. So what happened? I can tell you that the tipping point came during Christmas 2011 when Silver began loudly complaining around Hollywood, and using surrogates to grouse directly to showbiz media, about Warner Bros’ handling of Sherlock Holmes 2‘s release. Silver was a producer on the sequel, which was playing catch up to that holiday’s runaway No. 1, Paramount’s Mission: Impossible 4. Silver and his surrogates bitched about everything, from the studio’s marketing and distribution to the fact that Warner Bros shouldn’t have paired a first glimpse of its hot The Dark Knight Rises footage with I:M4‘s IMAX release. They claimed the move goosed M:i4 grosses to the detriment of Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows. (It had PR value but proved revenue neutral.) They claimed Sherlock 2star Robert Downey Jr was so furious he would never work again for the studio. (Not true.) Warner Bros movie chief Jeff Robinov felt the Sherlock Holmes 2 blame game orchestrated by Silver was destabilizing the studio. “Jeff said to Joel, ‘You’re panicking as you always do, blaming everyone, infuriating everyone. Internally and externally you’re creating problems for us.”
As for pairing the TDKR footage with I:M4, even a rival studio exec told me Warner Bros’ “challenge as always is balancing two big heavyweights: Christopher Nolan and the filmmakers for Sherlock. That commitment to M:I4 was made through IMAX eight months earlier. And then Paramount moved up the date. What Joel did was to paint a picture of Sherlock 2 as a failure, calling up agencies bitching, stirring up the town against Warner Bros by claiming marketing had not eventized the movie. Yes, M:I4 had BMW spots with Tom Cruise. But what was a period film like Sherlock 2 going to do – show a horse and carriage? In fact it was a successful movie.”
That’s when Robinov became fed up with Silver’s bad boy behavior that was translating now, and had translated for years, into a series of betrayals. (I understand that Robinov at that point hadn’t even heard that Joel went to Jeff’s No. 2 executive Greg Silverman and baited him, “Jeff sucks. You should have his job.”) Once the relationship soured, the issue now was how to avoid a bad situation devolving into a bad breakup by publicly embarrassing Joel. So Robinov used his own surrogates to make Silver aware that the studio was about to “address the economics” of his Warner Bros deal if — and that was a big “if” — it was renewed at the end of the year. Which Silver correctly interpreted as meaning a drastic reduction in his already greatly reduced contract terms even though the studio had not yet presented any details. Robinov counted on Silver imploding, which is exactly what happened. The producer and Robinov met on January 10th to discuss their up-and-downs. “Joel talked, and Jeff mostly heard him out,” one of my sources explains. Silver insiders say Joel came in and admitted he’d “lost his cool” over Sherlock 2 and “was sorry” and had spoken both too soon and out of turn because the movie wound up doing about what the original did domestically but better internationally. Then Silver waxed philosophic to the mogul: ”Maybe it’s time for me to go. I don’t fit the new mold. Maybe I don’t belong.”
And then a few weeks ago Silver met with Robinov again and said he didn’t want to stay if the studio wouldn’t reup him under the terms he wanted. As one of my sources explains, “Joel put Jeff in a position where it was impossible to let Joel stay. Said another: “Understanding the extent to which his working relationship with Jeff had become estranged is the reason Joel doesn’t want to be at the studio anymore.”
The end of 2012 is his departure date. After then, Silver is free to set up a deal somewhere else. Some might wonder why Joel at age 59 doesn’t take early retirement from the movie biz and go out on top. It’s well known in Hollywood that the lavish-living Silver has relied on a longstanding series of loans from Warner Bros by taking advances against the money due him on his movies. Once he leaves Warner Bros, Silver must repay those loans. Will another studio be willing to let him borrow in an arrangement which Silver’s lawyer Bert Fields once described as “a running account between them”. The best guess is Universal and his close friend Ron Meyer whose daughter is an executive at Silver Pictures. But then Universal, like all the movie studios, has dialed back overhead.
Silver has been responsible for billions in ticket sales for Warner Bros over the years — including four Lethal Weapon movies (the first released in 1987), The Matrix films, Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes 2 – and is leaving the studio a legacy of big action hits since he started Silver Pictures in 1985. The relationship went both ways. In 2006 Robinov as then president of production sought the producer’s advice on how to butch up the studio’s marketing of Superman Returns mired in gay buzz.
But then Silver delivered one of Warner Bros’ worst flops, the expensive $160M-costing Speed Racer, in 2008. Because his personality had created so many enemies over the years, most of Hollywood was ecstatic by his failure, and rumors spread that Warner Bros was supposedly cancelling or at the very least not renewing his deal there which still had a year and a half to go. (As he told me at the time: “I know there’s a long list of Hollywood types right now kinda elated about that. But Warner Bros is my family, I’ve been there for 22 years, and we’re fine. But I can’t stop the slings and arrows of the world around me.”)
Cementing their relationship, Robinov rescued Silver and, despite Speed Racer‘s flopping, put him on as a producer for the already-well-into-development Sherlock Holmes that same summer. (“It wasn’t just a mercy fuck. There was a history there,” a source said, referring to Silver’s close ties to Downey and his producer wife). Sherlock when released in 2009 was a big satisfying hit for both Silver and Warner Bros. Robinov extended Silver’s deal but also cut it in half.
Robinov then decided to reexamine the gross profit participations of all the DC Comics superheroes being developed as Warner Bros movies. Most of the superhero projects were taken back by the studio, and DC Entertainment created to house them. Silver lost Wonder Woman and began to grumble loudly that his by then 10 years of developing her was history. But Silver was allowed to continue bringing low profile The Losers to the big screen under his Dark Castle banner. In 2010, Warner Bros announced that Alan Horn was departing and Robinov taking his place. Silver seemed incredibly secure. But the studio was frustrated that it had to market and distribute his low-brow and low-grossing Dark Castle pictures.
Then, in 2010, The New York Times profiled Silver and asked, “How does a larger-than-life, free-spending producer fit into a movie business that has been tightening up — and cutting some of its more grandiose characters down to size?” The article spelled out Silver’s financial difficulties, borrowng arrangement with the studio, and looked ar the lawsuit filed by Silver and attorney Bert Fields against Goldman Sachs over Dark Castle. Worse, the article stirred up talk about fissures in the Robinov-Silver relationship. ”Warner, at least in years past, has ignored Mr. Silver at its own peril. Six years ago, Jeff Robinov, then a top production executive at the studio, was hospitalized after a motorcycle accident. As he recovered, Mr. Robinov heard that Mr. Silver was exaggerating the severity of the accident — and telling people that Mr. Robinov was unable to function. When Mr. Robinov asked Mr. Silver why he was doing this, the producer said it was because the Warner executive hadn’t been returning his calls promptly.” Robinov better watch his back now.
Originally published April 27, 2012 at 6:16 AM Page modified April 27, 2012 at 8:35 PM
Space shuttle arrives in NYC; crowds in awe
In a city understandably wary of low-flying aircraft, New Yorkers and tourists alike watched with joy and excitement Friday as space shuttle Enterprise sailed over the skyline on its final flight before it becomes a museum piece.
By MEGHAN BARR Associated Press
MICHAEL HEIMAN / GETTY IMAGES
In a city understandably wary of low-flying aircraft, New Yorkers and tourists alike watched with joy and excitement Friday as space shuttle Enterprise sailed over the skyline on its final flight before it becomes a museum piece.
Ten years after 9/11, people gathered on rooftops and the banks of the Hudson River to marvel at the sight of the spacecraft riding piggyback on a modified jumbo jet that flew over the Statue of Liberty and past the skyscrapers along Manhattan's West Side.
"It made me feel empowered. I'm going to start crying," Jennifer Patton, a tourist from Canton, Ohio, said after the plane passed over the cheering crowd on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, the floating air-and-space museum that will be the shuttle's permanent home.
"I just feel like to have a plane fly that low over the Hudson, right past New York City, and to have everyone cheering and excited about it, shows that we don't have fear, that we have a sense of `This is ours.'"
Onlookers bundled up on the blustery spring day along the piers on the West Side, cameras slung around their necks. The roar of the aircraft could barely be heard over the howling winds. In truth, the camera angles on TV made it seem as if the shuttle was a lot closer to the buildings than it really was.
The low-altitude flight was well-publicized, and few people were caught off-guard. Not one person called 911 to report a low-flying plane, police said.
That's a striking contrast to what happened in 2009 when the Pentagon conducted a photo-op flyover in lower Manhattan by a passenger jet and F-16 fighter. The sight of the aircraft flying past the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan's financial district set off a flood of 911 calls and sent office workers rushing into the streets in panic.
On Friday, the jet carrying the shuttle turned east and flew over central Long Island. Nassau County office workers looked out their windows in delight as it passed over the Roosevelt Field Mall, near the spot where Charles Lindbergh took off for Paris in 1927.
The shuttle then touched down at Kennedy Airport, where a controller radioed: "Welcome to New York, and thanks for the show."
The shuttle will be taken to the Intrepid by barge in June and is scheduled to open to the public in mid-July.
Enterprise never went on an actual space mission; it was a full-scale test vehicle used for flights in the atmosphere and experiments on the ground.
It comes to New York as part of NASA's decision to end the shuttle program after 30 years.
Space shuttle Discovery flew over the nation's capital last week and will end up at the Smithsonian. Endeavor is going to Los Angeles, and Atlantis is staying at Florida's Kennedy Space Center.
Associated Press Writers Deepti Hajela, Colleen Long and David B. Caruso in New York City and Frank Eltman on Long Island contributed to this report.
By Erik Kirschbaum ATHENS | Sat Apr 28, 2012 9:27am EDT
On Monday, a 38-year-old geology lecturer hanged himself from a lamp post in Athens and on the same day a 35-year-old priest jumped to his death off his balcony in northern Greece. On Wednesday, a 23-year-old student shot himself in the head.
In a country that has had one of the lowest suicide rates in the world, a surge in the number of suicides in the wake of an economic crisis has shocked and gripped the Mediterranean nation - and its media - before a May 6 election.
The especially grisly death of pharmacist Dimitris Christoulas, who shot himself in the head on a central Athens square because of poverty brought on by the crisis that has put millions out of work, was by far the most dramatic.
Before shooting himself during morning rush hour on April 4 on Syntagma Square across from the Greek parliament building, the 77-year-old pensioner took a moment to jot down a note.
"I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life so I don't find myself fishing through garbage cans for sustenance," wrote Christoulas, who has since become a national symbol of the austerity-induced pain that is squeezing millions.
Greek media have since reported similar suicides almost daily, worsening a sense of gloom going into next week's election, called after Prime Minister Lucas Papademos's interim government completed its mandate to secure a new rescue deal from foreign creditors by cutting spending further.
Some medical experts say this form of political suicide is a reflection of the growing despair and sense of helplessness many feel. But others warn the media may be amplifying the crisis mood with its coverage and numbers may only be up slightly.
"The crisis has triggered a growing sense of guilt, a loss of self-esteem and humiliation for many Greeks," Nikos Sideris, a leading psychoanalyst and author in Athens, told Reuters.
"Greek people don't want to be a burden to anyone and there's this growing sense of helplessness. Some develop an attitude of self-hatred and that leads to self-destruction. That's what's behind the increase in suicide and attempted suicide. We're seeing a whole new category: political suicides."
Police said the geology lecturer, Nikos Polyvos, who hanged himself, was distraught because a teaching job offer had been blocked due to a blanket hiring freeze in the public sector.
NATION IN SHOCK
Experts say the numbers are relatively low - less than about 600 per year. But increases in suicides, attempted suicides, the use of anti-depressant medication and the need for psychiatric care are causing alarm in a nation unaccustomed to the problems.
Before the financial crisis began wreaking havoc in 2009, Greece had one of the lowest suicide rates in the world - 2.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. There was a 40 percent rise in suicides in the first half of 2010, according to the Health Ministry.
There are no reliable statistics on 2011 but experts say Greece's suicide rate has probably doubled to about 5 per 100,000. That is still far below levels of 34 per 100,000 seen in Finland or 9 per 100,000 in Germany. Attempted suicides and demand for psychiatric help has risen as Greece struggles to cope with the worst economic crisis since World War Two.
Nikiforos Angelopoulos, a professor of psychiatry, has a busy psychotherapy practice in an upmarket Athens neighborhood. He said the crisis has exacerbated the problems for some already less stable people and estimates that about five percent of his patients have developed problems due to the crisis.
"We're a nation in shock," he said, even though he suspected that it was the media coverage of suicides that had increased dramatically rather than the actual numbers of suicides. He nevertheless says the crisis is behind a notable rise in mental health problems in Greece.
"I had one patient who came in with a severe depression - he owns a furniture making company that got into financial trouble and he had to lay off 20 of his 100 workers," he said. "He couldn't sleep and couldn't eat because of that. He said his good business was being ruined and he couldn't cope anymore."
The furniture maker spent four months in therapy and was also helped by anti-depressants, Angelopoulos said.
"He's better now. He realized what happened just happened. But there are many others who are unstable or psychotic to begin with and the crisis is increasing their anxiety and insecurity."
Angelopoulos, 60, has also suffered himself because about 20 percent of his patients can no longer afford his 100 euro ($130) per hour sessions. Some have asked for a half-price discount while others tell him they simply can't afford to pay anything.
"I never turn people away," he said. "If a patient says to me 'I have no money', I couldn't tell them to go away. I tell them okay you don't have to pay now but remember me later."
There are several possible explanations for Greece's low suicide rate that go beyond the fact that the country has an abundance of sunshine and balmy weather.
To avoid stigmatizing their families, some suicidal Greeks deliberately crash their cars, which police often charitably report as accidents. Families often try to cover up a suicide so their loved ones can be buried because the Greek Orthodox church refuses to officiate at burials of people who commit suicide.
Another important factor behind the low suicide rate is that Greeks have extremely close knit families as well as a highly communicative and expressive culture.
"Greece is a country where everyone will talk to you," said Sideris, the Athens psychoanalyst. "You'll always find someone to share your suffering with and someone's always there to help.
"It's not only the good weather. It's the powerful network of support that has made the suicide rate in Greece so low. It's still there but this crisis is still too much for some people."
Many Greeks have also not lost their sense of humor.
Dimitris Nikolopoulos, a 37-year-old salesman, laughed at the idea that the suicide rate was so low because Greeks are well-adjusted and a generally happy people.
"Greeks used to be very happy people because we were living off money that didn't belong to us," he said with a wry smile. "But sometimes you have to face reality. It wasn't our money."
($1 = 0.7542 euros)
(Additional reporting by Renee Maltezou; editing by Elizabeth Piper)
New Particle Discovered at CERN ScienceDaily (Apr. 27, 2012)
Physicists from the University of Zurich have discovered a previously unknown particle composed of three quarks in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator. A new baryon could thus be detected for the first time at the LHC. The baryon known as Xi_b^* confirms fundamental assumptions of physics regarding the binding of quarks.
Telltale signs: The snapshot of a particle collision in the CMS detector shows decay products of a Xi_b^* baryon. Easily recognizable are, among other things, the two muons (red lines). (Credit: CERN)
In particle physics, the baryon family refers to particles that are made up of three quarks. Quarks form a group of six particles that differ in their masses and charges. The two lightest quarks, the so-called "up" and "down" quarks, form the two atomic components, protons and neutrons. All baryons that are composed of the three lightest quarks ("up," "down" and "strange" quarks) are known. Only very few baryons with heavy quarks have been observed to date. They can only be generated artificially in particle accelerators as they are heavy and very unstable.
In the course of proton collisions in the LHC at CERN, physicists Claude Amsler, Vincenzo Chiochia and Ernest Aguiló from the University of Zurich's Physics Institute managed to detect a baryon with one light and two heavy quarks. The particle Xi_b^* comprises one "up," one "strange" and one "bottom" quark (usb), is electrically neutral and has a spin of 3/2 (1.5). Its mass is comparable to that of a lithium atom. The new discovery means that two of the three baryons predicted in the usb composition by theory have now been observed.
The discovery was based on data gathered in the CMS detector, which the University of Zurich was involved in developing. The new particle cannot be detected directly as it is too unstable to be registered by the detector. However, Xi_b^* breaks up in a known cascade of decay products. Ernest Aguiló, a postdoctoral student from Professor Amsler's group, identified traces of the respective decay products in the measurement data and was able to reconstruct the decay cascades starting from Xi_b^* decays.
The calculations are based on data from proton-proton collisions at an energy of seven Tera electron volts (TeV) collected by the CMS detector between April and November 2011. A total of 21 Xi_b^* baryon decays were discovered -- statistically sufficient to rule out a statistical fluctuation.
The discovery of the new particle confirms the theory of how quarks bind and therefore helps to understand the strong interaction, one of the four basic forces of physics which determines the structure of matter.
The University of Zurich is involved in the LHC at CERN with three research groups. Professor Amsler's and Professor Chiochia's groups are working on the CMS experiment; Professor Straumann's group is involved in the LHCb experiment.
The CMS detector is designed to measure the energy and momentum of photons, electrons, muons and other charged particles with a high degree of accuracy. Various measuring instruments are arranged in layers in the 12,500-ton detector, with which traces of the particles resulting from the collisions can be recorded. 179 institutions worldwide were involved in developing CMS. In Switzerland, these are the University of Zurich, ETH Zurich and the Paul Scherrer Institute.
Seattle Attorney Andrew Basiago Claims U.S. Sent Him On Time Travels (VIDEO) by David Moye Posted: 04/28/2012 8:28 am Updated: 04/28/2012 9:41 am
A lot of people have a hard time trusting lawyers as it is, but what about one who claims he was part of a secret government time travel program when he was a kid?
Since 2004, Seattle attorney Andrew Basiago has been publicly claiming that from the time he was 7 to when he was 12, he participated in "Project Pegasus," a secret U.S. government program that he says worked on teleportation and time travel under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
"They trained children along with adults so they could test the mental and physical effects of time travel on kids," Basiago told The Huffington Post. "Also, children had an advantage over adults in terms of adapting to the strains of moving between past, present and future."
Skeptical? You're not alone. Hong Kong physicist Shengwang Du issued a paper last year saying time travel is impossible, because nothing moves faster than the speed of light, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Nevertheless, Basiago's claim gets support from Alfred Webre, a lawyer specializing in "exopolitics," or the political implications surrounding an extraterrestrial presence on Earth. Webre said teleportation and time travel have been around for 40 years, but are hoarded by the Defense Department instead of being used to transfer goods and services faraway distances.
"It's an inexpensive, environmentally friendly means of transportation," Webre told The Huffington Post. "The Defense Department has had it for 40 years and [former Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld used it to transport troops to battle."
Basiago said he experienced eight different time travel technologies during his stint in the program. Mostly, he said, his travel involved a teleporter based on technical papers supposedly found in pioneering mechanical engineer Nikola Tesla's New York City apartment after his death in January 1943.
"The machine consisted of two gray elliptical booms about eight feet tall, separated by about 10 feet, between which a shimmering curtain of what Tesla called 'radiant energy' was broadcast," Basiago said. "Radiant energy is a form of energy that Tesla discovered that is latent and pervasive in the universe and has among its properties the capacity to bend time-space."
Basiago said project participants would jump through this field of radiant energy into a vortal tunnel and "when the tunnel closed, we found ourselves at our destination."
"One felt either as if one was moving at a great rate of speed or moving not at all, as the universe was wrapped around one's location," Basiago said.
Basiago claimed he can be seen in a photograph of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg in 1863, which he said he visited in 1972 via a plasma confinement chamber located in East Hanover, N.J.
"I had been dressed in period clothing, as a Union bugle boy," he said. "I attracted so much attention at the Lincoln speech site at Gettysburg -- wearing over-sized men's street shoes -- that I left the area around the dais and walked about 100 paces over to where I was photographed in the Josephine Cogg image of Lincoln at Gettysburg." (The boy on the left in the photo below).
In addition, Basiago said he traveled to Ford's Theatre the night of Lincoln's assassination on five or six occasions. "I did not, however, witness the assassination," he said. "Once, I was on the theater level when he was shot and I heard the shot followed by a great commotion that arose from the crowd. It was terrible to hear."
Basiago said each of his visits to the past was different, "like they were sending us to slightly different alternative realities on adjacent timelines. As these visits began to accumulate, I twice ran into myself during two different visits."
Being sent back in time to the same place and moment, but from different starting points in the present, allowed two of himselves to be in Ford's Theatre at the same time in 1865.
"After the first of these two encounters with myself occurred, I was concerned that my cover might be blown," he recalled. "Unlike the jump to Gettysburg, in which I was clutching a letter to Navy Secretary Gideon Welles to offer me aid and assistance in the event I was arrested, I didn't have any explanatory materials when I was sent to Ford's Theatre."
And how did these alleged time travelers return to the present day or their point of origin? According to Basiago, some sort of holographic technology allowed them to travel both physically and virtually.
"If we were in the hologram for 15 minutes or fewer," he explained, "the hologram would collapse, and after about 60 seconds of standing in a field of super-charged particles ... we would find ourselves back on the stage ... in the present."
Basiago said the technology should only be used for real-time teleportation, not time travel, because, "It would be chaos."
Basiago and Webre recently held a seminar in Vancouver, B.C., focusing on the need to disclose, deploy and declassify the technology, as well as the public policy decisions that would be needed to use it.
Webre, for one, said he wants teleports installed in every major city where people and products would be transported through the time-space continuum. "This would free up a lot of urban space that is currently being used by train yards or airports," Webre said.
Of course, there are risks. Basiago remembered feeling extreme turbulence while going through the vortal time tunnel. Webre said one tragedy occurred in the early days of the technology in which a child in Project Pegasus arrived a few seconds before his legs.
"He was writhing in pain with just stumps where his legs had been," Webre said.
Webre said problems like that have since been solved. Still, he said teleportation needs strict legal controls to prevent it being used for "for political control, economic control or illegal surveillance."
All of this is fascinating stuff -- if true. But experts who include retired Army Col. John Alexander, former director for the Advanced System Concepts Office, U.S. Army Laboratory Command, are, to put it mildly, skeptical.
"If this could be done, if anyone could go even one second into the future, we'd own the world," Alexander told The Huffington Post. "There are computer programs on Wall Street that are hundredths of a second faster and provide a tremendous advantage."
Basiago said that as many as 100 people worked on Project Pegasus. Alexander said he doubts that many people could keep the secret for 40 minutes, much less 40 years.
"There's a saying in Washington: If two people know something, it's not a secret," said Alexander, author of "UFOs: Myths, Conspiracies, and Realities." "If this was used by the Department of Defense, how did we miss the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or the fall of the Shah of Iran?"
Basiago said Alexander's rhetorical questions can be explained by the paradoxes of the time-space continuum.
"I only know about how the time travel technology was used during my involvement with Project Pegasus, so this is only speculation," he said. "But it's possible that 'forward intelligence' showed [Iraq leader Saddam] Hussein using the weapons of mass destruction, but our military went in and toppled him before he could use them."
U.S. eyes testy China talks, Chen backer expects Chinese decision
By Aruna Viswanatha and Paul Eckert WASHINGTON | Mon Apr 30, 2012 8:05am EDT
The United States faces a tense week in China as high-level talks on trade and global hot spots like Iran and North Korea open in the shadow of a blind Chinese activist's bold escape from house arrest to seek U.S. protection in Beijing.
The trip to Beijing would have been challenging for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner even without a human rights dispute over Chen Guangcheng, who a U.S.-based group says is hiding in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
The May 3-4 Strategic & Economic Dialogue is the last of such annual consultations before political seasons heat up in the United States and China, giving leaders in both countries less flexibility over contentious economic and security issues.
The United States goes into full campaign mode for the November presidential election, while China's ruling Communist Party enters a leadership transition in the fall that has been complicated by a scandal that toppled senior leader Bo Xilai.
Bob Fu, whose religious and political rights advocacy group ChinaAid is the chief source of information about Chen, said he had confirmed "intensive talks" between the United States and China began right after the activist took shelter in the embassy on Friday.
"I was told the Chinese top leaders have been deliberating a decision to be made very soon," Fu said on Sunday by telephone from Texas. A "Chinese official response (is) expected in the next day or so," he added.
The United States has not confirmed reports that Chen, who slipped away from under heavy surveillance around his village home in eastern Shandong province, fled into the U.S. Embassy. China has also declined public comment on Chen's reported escape.
Fu said he got his information from "both sides" in the talks over Chen's fate. The State Department would not comment.
The New York Times, however, reported that Kurt Campbell, an assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, arrived in Beijing on Sunday for talks about Chen, citing unidentified officials in Washington and Beijing. The newspaper said the senior diplomat was photographed in a Marriott hotel.
Chen, a self-schooled legal advocate who campaigned against abortions forced under China's "one child" policy, had been held under extra-legal confinement in his village home in Linyi since September 2010 when he was released from jail.
NORTH KOREA, IRAN LOOM
Washington and Beijing both confirmed on Saturday that the high-level talks would proceed as scheduled, which analysts said indicated efforts to contain fallout from Chen on the larger relationship.
"It is feasible that this will become a very big deal with major negative impact on U.S.-China relations, but it is also feasible and far preferable that this be able to be negotiated quickly and quietly," Kenneth Lieberthal, director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution.
The United States seeks more Chinese support in dealing with the nuclear proliferation challenges of Iran and North Korea.
Most experts believe North Korea is preparing for a third nuclear test, in defiance of a raft of U.N. sanctions and pressure from Beijing to desist. In Iran's case, Washington wants Beijing's cooperation on cutting oil imports from Tehran, an important energy source for China.
China has been concerned about the Obama administration strategy of rebalancing its military forces to the Asia-Pacific region, under which the United States has strengthened security ties to treaty allies Australia, the Philippines and Japan.
Underscoring those deepening ties, President Barack Obama hosts Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda at the White House on Monday, the same day that Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta host their counterparts from the Philippines.
Noda arrives in Washington days after the United States and Japan revised plans to reorganize and streamline U.S. bases on the Japanese island of Okinawa, allowing the allies to move toward closer military cooperation in the region.
The Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin come to the United States amid tensions with China over a South China Sea territorial dispute. Philippine and Chinese ships have faced off near the Scarborough Shoal in waters believed to be rich in oil and gas.
More U.S.-China friction could be in store, as supporters of Taiwan in the U.S. Congress have renewed pressure on the Obama administration to sell new F-16s to the self-ruled island, which Beijing claims as part of the sovereign territory on China.
Obama's presumptive Republican challenger in November's election, Mitt Romney, has painted Obama as weak on China.
In a statement on Chen on Sunday, Romney avoided criticism of Obama's handling of the delicate case, but said: "Any serious U.S. policy toward China must confront the facts of the Chinese government's denial of political liberties, its one-child policy, and other violations of human rights."
Lieberthal, who was a top Asia adviser in the Bill Clinton administration, said U.S. diplomats have long struggled to handle human rights cases while pursuing other important American interests with China.
"The reality is your ability to work with the Chinese on a whole series of major U.S. equities is adversely affected if you make the focus of U.S. policy an individual case of a dissident," he said.