Archive for April 19th, 2010
Straight from Dvorak Uncensored:
“CLEVELAND — One judge’s solution for citizens feeling less secure because of budget cuts in an Ohio county: Carry a gun.
Judge Alfred Mackey of Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court advised residents Friday to be vigilant and arm themselves because the number of deputies has been cut about in half because of a tight budget. He also urged neighbors to organize anti-crime block watch groups.
“They have to be law-abiding, and if they are not familiar with firearms they need to take a safety course so they are not a threat to their family and friends and themselves,” Mackey said Friday. Mackey, whose comments were first broadcast Thursday by WKYC-TV in Cleveland, was expressing concerns with budget cuts that have trimmed the sheriff’s department from 112 to 49 deputies in the county, which is Ohio’s largest by land area.
Asked by WKYC how people should respond to the cuts and limited patrols, he said, “Arm themselves. Be very careful and just be vigilant because we’re going to have to look after each other.” With deputies assigned to transport prisoners and serve warrants, only one radio car is assigned to patrol the county of 720 square miles, excluding municipalities with police departments. The sheriff’s patrol area covers most of the county, the judge said Friday. “People in this county are hunters,” said Mackey, who grew up on a farm with rifles and still owns firearms.”
Straight from the Debka File: “President Barack Obama has done away with two key elements of US-Israeli strategic relations: His administration has given up on stiff UN Security Council sanctions on Iran over its nuclear drive, and gone back on the longstanding American commitment assuring Israel of recognized and defensible borders in any future accommodation with its Arab neighbors.
In the administration’s message of congratulations to Israel on its 62nd Day of Independence, US Secretary of state Hillary Clinton mentions “recognized borders” while omitting the traditional “defensible.”
debkafile’s Washington sources report that following the talks held by Presidents Obama and Hu Jintao in Washington last week, the Administration is apparently engaged in a debate about whether to push for tough sanctions against Iran at the Security Council and run into opposition from China and other countries – or go for a quick UN General Assembly resolution, which would be non-binding.
The view William Burns, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, offered the House foreign affairs committee last week was that a UN resolution would clear the way for the European Union and other countries to “amplify the impact” of whatever sanctions are agreed on. Burns avoided mentioning the Security Council and indicated that the administration had little hope of any effective action on Iran by the world body.
It will be recalled that President Obama twice asked Israel to ignore Iran’s missed deadlines and promised to promote effective UN Security Council sanctions if Iran continued to spurn his diplomatic efforts for curbing its nuclear program.
The last deadline was in December, 2009.
Yet on Monday, April 19, clearly lagging behind events in Washington, Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak said: “Now is the time for sanctions (against Iran).”
He was answering questions in a radio interview on Israel’s annual day of mourning for its fallen servicemen.
Neither he nor any other Israeli leader commented on an equally serious setback for Israel in Washington, which emerge from a conspicuous omission in Clinton’s message of congratulations for Israel’s Independence Day, which is celebrated Monday night and Tuesday:
“I have a deep personal commitment to Israel,” she said. “And so does President Obama. Our nation will not waver in protecting Israel’s security and promoting Israel’s future. That is why pursuing peace and recognized borders for Israel is one of our top priorities.”
By omitting “defensible borders” from her message, she spoke for the first US administration to abdicate its guarantee of defensible borders as a fundamental component of Israel’s security, thereby nullifying her and the US president’s pledge not to “waver in protecting Israel’s security.”
This key omission led to another worrying question about Israel’s future borders: By whom must they be recognized in the view of the Obama administration?”
Straight from Astronomy Picture of the Day: “Explanation: Why did the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland create so much ash? Although the large ash plume was not unparalleled in its abundance, its location was particularly noticeable because it drifted across such well populated areas. The Eyjafjallajökull volcano in southern Iceland began erupting on March 20, with a second eruption starting under the center of small glacier on April 14. Neither eruption was unusually powerful. The second eruption, however, melted a large amount of glacial ice which then cooled and fragmented lava into gritty glass particles that were carried up with the rising volcanic plume. Pictured above two days ago, lightning bolts illuminate ash pouring out of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.”
Straight from Astronomy Picture of the Day: “Explanation: After an oxygen tank exploded and crippled their service module, the Apollo 13 astronauts were forced to abandon plans to make the third manned lunar landing. The extent of the damage is revealed in this grainy, grim photo, taken as the service module was drifting away, jettisoned only hours prior to the command module’s reentry and splashdown. An entire panel on the side of the service module has been blown away and extensive internal damage is apparent. Visible below the gutted compartment is a radio antenna and the large, bell-shaped nozzle of the service module’s rocket engine. On April 17, 1970 the three astronauts returned safely to Earth.”
Straight from Astronomy Picture of the Day: “Explanation: Spiral galaxy NGC 4651 is a mere 35 million light-years distant, toward the well-groomed constellation Coma Berenices. About 50 thousand light-years across, this galaxy is seen to have a faint umbrella-shaped structure (right) that seems to extend some 50 thousand light-years farther, beyond the bright galactic disk. The giant cosmic umbrella is now known to be composed of tidal star streams. The streams themselves are extensive trails of stars gravitationally stripped from a smaller satellite galaxy that was eventually torn apart. Placing your cursor over the image will superimpose a simulation of the satellite galaxy’s path as it was disrupted and absorbed into NGC 4651. Recent work by a remarkable collaboration of amateur and professional astronomers to image faint structures around bright galaxies suggests that even in nearby galaxies, such tidal star streams are common. The result is predicted by models of galaxy formation, including the formation of our Milky Way.”
Straight from Physorg.com: “Landing a man on the moon was a towering achievement. Now the president has given NASA an even harder job, one with a certain Hollywood quality: sending astronauts to an asteroid, a giant speeding rock, just 15 years from now.
Space experts say such a voyage could take several months longer than a journey to the moon and entail far greater dangers.
“It is really the hardest thing we can do,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.
Going to an asteroid could provide vital training for an eventual mission to Mars. It might help unlock the secrets of how our solar system formed. And it could give mankind the know-how to do something that has been accomplished only in the movies by a few square-jawed, squinty-eyed heroes: saving the Earth from a collision with a killer asteroid.
“You could be saving humankind. That’s worthy, isn’t it?” said Bill Nye, TV’s Science Guy and vice president of the Planetary Society.
President Barack Obama outlined NASA’s new path during a visit to the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday.
“By 2025, we expect new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the moon into deep space,” he said. “We’ll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history.”
On the day the president announced the goal, a NASA task force of scientists, engineers and ex-astronauts was meeting in Boston to work on a plan to protect Earth from a cataclysmic collision with an asteroid or a comet.
NASA has tracked nearly 7,000 near-Earth objects that are bigger than several feet across. Of those, 1,111 are “potentially hazardous asteroids.” Objects bigger than two-thirds of a mile are major killers and hit Earth every several hundred thousand years. Scientists believe it was a 6-mile-wide asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
Landing on an asteroid and giving it a well-timed nudge “would demonstrate once and for all that we’re smarter than the dinosaurs and can avoid what they didn’t,” said White House science adviser John Holdren.
Experts don’t have a particular asteroid in mind for the deep-space voyage, but there are a few dozen top candidates, most of which pass within about 5 million miles of Earth. That is 20 times more distant than the moon, which is about 239,000 miles from Earth on average.
Most of the top asteroid candidates are less than a quarter-mile across. The moon is about 2,160 miles in diameter.
Going to an asteroid could provide clues about the solar system’s formation, because asteroids are essentially fossils from 4.6 billion years ago, when planets first formed, said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object program at the Jet Propulsion Lab.
And an asteroid mission would be a Mars training ground, given the distance and alien locale.
“If humans can’t make it to near-Earth objects, they can’t make it to Mars,” said MIT astronautics professor Ed Crawley.
Also, asteroids contain such substances as hydrogen, carbon, iron and platinum, which could be used by astronauts to make fuel and equipment – skills that would also be necessary on a visit to Mars.
While Apollo 11 took eight days to go to the moon and back in 1969, a typical round-trip mission to a near-Earth asteroid would last about 200 days, Crawley said. That would demand new propulsion and life-support technology. And it would be riskier. Aborting a mission in an emergency would still leave people stuck in space for several weeks.
The space agency may need to develop special living quarters, radiation shields or other new technology to allow astronauts to live in deep space so long, said NASA chief technology officer Bobby Braun.
Even though an asteroid would be farther than the moon, the voyage would use less fuel and be cheaper because an asteroid has no gravity. The rocket that carries the astronauts home would not have to expend fuel to escape the asteroid’s pull.
On the other hand, because of the lack of gravity, a spaceship could not safely land on an asteroid; it would bounce off the surface. Instead, it would have to hover next to the asteroid, and the astronauts would have to spacewalk down to the ground, Yeomans said.
Once there, they would need some combination of jet packs, spikes or nets to enable them to walk without skittering off the asteroid and floating away, he said.
“You would need some way to hold yourself down,” Yeomans said. “You’d launch yourself into space every time you took a step.”
Just being there could be extremely disorienting, said planetary scientist Tom Jones, co-chairman of the NASA task force on protecting Earth from dangerous objects. The rock would be so small that the sun would spin across the sky and the horizon would only be a few yards long. At 5 million miles away, the Earth would look like a mere BB in the sky.
“It’s going to be a strange alien environment being on an asteroid,” Jones said.
But Jones, a former astronaut, said that wouldn’t stop astronauts from angling to be a part of such a mission: “You’ll have plenty of people excited about exploring an ancient and alien world.”