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Showing posts from January 9, 2013

Record Heat Fuels Widespread Fires in Australia

Dean Lewins/European Pressphoto AgencyA firefighter fought to save a property threatened by the Dean's Gully fire near Wandandian, south of Nowra, New South Wales on Tuesday.

By MATT SIEGEL
Published: January 9, 2013

SYDNEY, Australia — Bush fires raging across some of the most populous parts of Australia — feeding off widespread drought conditions and high winds — pushed firefighters to their limits and residents to their wits’ end on Wednesday as meteorologists tracked the country’s hottest spring and summer on record into uncharted territory.


Lukas Coch/European Pressphoto Agency

Firefighters battled a grass fire in Oura, near Wagga Wagga, Australia, on Tuesday. On Monday, Australia’s hottest day on record, the national average was 104.59 degrees.

Four months of record-breaking temperatures stretching back to September 2012 have produced what the government says are “catastrophic” fire conditions along the eastern and southeastern coasts of the country, where the majority of Austral…

Basij Units to Stage New Wargames throughout Iran in Winter

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran's Basij (volunteer) force plans to stage a series of exercises in 8 provinces in the next two months to test their defense capabilities. 
"Our next wargames will be held in (Iran's Southern province of) Hormozgan on Bahman 5 and 6 (January 24 and 25)," Lieutenant Commander of Basji Force Colonel Nosratollah Seif told FNA on Wednesday. 
"We will also have another exercise in Kerman province (Southeast of Iran) on Bahman 12 and 13 (January 31- February 1) and 6 more drills will be carried out in Esfand (February 19 -March 20) as well," Seif added. 
The commander further noted that Basij will continue training of its units to promote the power of its forces for confrontation against enemies' hard, semi-hard and soft threats, and this will continue "until we will rest assured that there is no more threat against the Islamic Republic ruling system". 
So far, 21 similar exercises, codenamed 'Towards Beitol-Moqaddas (Jerusalem…

Envoy Hopes for Freedom of 2 Abducted Iranian Engineers in Syria

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Ambassador to Damascus Mohammad Reza Sheibani expressed the hope that the two Iranian engineers abducted by the terrorists in Syria last year would be released soon. 
He made the remarks at a press conference in Damascus Wednesday on the occasion of today's freedom of 48 Iranian pilgrims who had been abducted by armed rebels in Syria in August. 
Sheibani noted that two Iranian engineers are still in the captivity of the terrorists in Syria, and hoped that they would be released at the earliest. 
Seven Iranian engineers and technicians, who were working at Jandar Electrical Power Plant in Homs, were kidnapped by unknown armed gunmen on their way to the 450-MW power plant in the troubled Syrian city of Homs on December 21, 2011. 
In February 2012, the terrorists freed five of the Iranian engineers. 
Sheibani further noted the freedom of the 48 Iranian pilgrims today, and said all of them are in good health and will returned to Iran soon. 
On August 4, armed ins…

Solar Variability and Terrestrial Climate

Jan. 8, 2013: In the galactic scheme of things, the Sun is a remarkably constant star. While some stars exhibit dramatic pulsations, wildly yo-yoing in size and brightness, and sometimes even exploding, the luminosity of our own sun varies a measly 0.1% over the course of the 11-year solar cycle.

There is, however, a dawning realization among researchers that even these apparently tiny variations can have a significant effect on terrestrial climate. A new report issued by the National Research Council (NRC), "The Effects of Solar Variability on Earth's Climate," lays out some of the surprisingly complex ways that solar activity can make itself felt on our planet.

These six extreme UV images of the sun, taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, track the rising level of solar activity as the sun ascends toward the peak of the latest 11-year sunspot cycle.More

Understanding the sun-climate connection requires a breadth of expertise in fields such as plasma physics, s…

A Point-by-Point Breakdown of One of the Greatest Prison Escapes of Modern Times

The capture last Friday of fugitive bank robber and prison escapee Kenneth Conley brings to an end one of the most entertaining and unbelievable crime stories in recent memory. On Dec. 18, Conley and another bank robber named Joseph “Jose” Banks escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a high-rise jail in downtown Chicago. The two men squeezed through a very thin window, then rappelled between 15 and 20 stories down the side of the building using a rope made from towels and bedsheets. Once they made it to the street, they hailed a cab and disappeared. Jail officials didn’t discover their absence for hours, when guards arrived for the morning shift and noticed an extremely long rope dangling down the exterior walls.


I’m ready to proclaim this one of the best jailbreaks of the past few decades, if not all time. It had everything you’d want from an escape:


A high element of risk. I would’ve liked to have listened in on the conversations as Banks and Conley were planning this. …

This Rape Infographic Is Going Viral. Too Bad It's Wrong.

Yesterday, under the headline, "The saddest graph you'll see today," Dylan Matthews at the Washington Post published this infographic created by the Enliven Project to put the legal issues around rape, its prosecutions, and concerns about false accusations into perspective. The graphic quickly made the rounds on Twitter and Facebook, but unfortunately, while well-intentioned, it is also misleading in significant ways that can be used to undercut its basic message, which is sound: that false rape accusations are rare.

The persistent myth that false accusations are common makes it incredibly difficult for victims to get justice—the overwhelming threat of being accused of making it all up to cover up for one's slutty ways (see recently: Steubenville, Notre Dame, Cleveland) is enough to make women simply not report. Those who do report run a very high chance of never seeing a conviction, some because police drop the case on the slut-and-liar grounds and some because juri…

Prisons in Mexico on Verge of Collapse

Edgar Torres Castillo, 21, has spent two years in the prison of Gómez Palacio, in the Lagunera district between the northern Mexican states of Durango and Coahuila – an arid zone known as one of the most dangerous parts of the country.Amparo Castillo, the mother of Edgar, who was sentenced to eight years in prison for stealing a cell-phone, last saw him during a Dec. 18 visit to the prison. “I thought he was acting strange, he seemed really sad and as if he had been hurt,” she told IPS by phone. “We spent just an hour together before they started to shoo us out – things were really tense,” she said with anguish in her voice.

In the wee hours of the morning on Dec. 17, the police transferred 137 prisoners from the Gómez Palacio prison to federal penitentiaries.

The next day, at the end of the visiting hours, people living in nearby homes heard loud bursts of gunfire and cries inside the prison. The authorities reported that 25 prisoners and six unarmed guards had been killed during an es…