Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rock Solid Evidence of a Rocky, Earth-like Exoplanet

Astronomers have conclusive evidence that a planet spotted in a star system 500 light years away is rocky and solid, just like Earth. Scientists have long figured that if life begins on a planet, it needs a solid surface to rest on, so finding one elsewhere is a big deal. “We basically live on a rock ourselves,” said co-discoverer Artie Hartzes…. “It’s as close to something like the Earth that we’ve found so far. It’s just a little too close to its sun” [AP].

Yes, for while the exoplanet, Corot-7b, is rocky like Earth and is only about five times more massive than our home planet, it’s hardly our twin. Its close proximity to its star means that it completes an orbit (its “year”) in just 20 hours, and the climate extremes are punishing. Temperatures soar above 2,000 degrees on its day side and sink to minus 200 degrees on the night side. It means the surface could be covered with molten lava or boiling oceans and it certainly could not hold any form of life as we know it [Scientific American].

Corot-7b was first discovered in 2008 using the space-based COROT observatory, and its existence was announced last February. At that time researchers already believed that the planet was rocky, but it took 70 more hours of observations to get firm measurements of the planet’s mass and size, which allowed researchers to calculate its density. Those calculations proved that Corot-7b isn’t a gas planet, like so many of the other exoplanets discovered to date; instead it must be rocky. The new findings were presented at the ongoing European Planetary Science Congress.

Planetary scientist Alan Boss, who wasn’t involved in the research, says that finding this rocky planet gives scientists more confidence that they’ll find more Earth-like planets farther away, where the conditions could be more favorable to life…. “The evidence is becoming overwhelming that we live in a crowded universe,” Boss said [AP].

Jimmy Carter says outbursts against Obama may be racist: Video

Former US President Jimmy Carter says outbursts against Barack Obama may be motivated by racism..

Is Nas and Kelis Ready To Reconcile?

Does time apart help a damaged relationship? Even if the couple bad mouthed each other constantly in the media? The answer is maybe ...

According to reports, Nas and Kelis were spotted getting "extra close" on Monday (September 14) at a New York nightclub. This is the same couple who were going through bitter divorce proceedings just months earlier.

Both are said to have arrived together at Marquee for a private party, and were very friendly.

Does this mean a reconciliation is coming?

Nearly two months ago, Nas and Kelis welcomed a baby boy into the world, followed shortly after by a court order for Nas to pay her $44,000 a month in child/spousal support.

How do you go from an ugly court battle to being friends again?

What do you think? Give us your opinion in the comments below.

Judge: King children must meet to discuss estate

ATLANTA — A judge has ordered the surviving children of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King to hold a shareholders' meeting to discuss their father's estate.

The Rev. Bernice King and Martin Luther King III sued their brother, Dexter King, last year to force him to open the books of their father's estate. The lawsuit claimed Dexter King, the estate's administrator, has refused to provide documents concerning the estate's operations.

Coretta Scott King died in 2006 and Yolanda King, the Kings' eldest child, died in 2007 — leaving the three remaining siblings as the sole shareholders and directors of their father's estate. It is set up as a corporation, but there has not been an annual shareholders' meeting since 2004.

Dexter King has also sued his sister, who administers their mother's estate. He has asked a judge to force his sister to turn over Coretta Scott King's personal papers, including love letters central to a now-defunct $1.4 million book deal.

The siblings' relationship has deteriorated in the tense climate created by their legal battle.

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Former President Carter tells "NBC Nightly News" that racism has surfaced in opposition to President Obama.
Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that racial politics played a role in South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst during President Obama's speech to Congress last week and in some of the opposition the president has faced since taking office.

Former President Carter tells "NBC Nightly News" that racism has surfaced in opposition to President Obama.
"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African-American," Carter told "NBC Nightly News." "I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that shares the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African-Americans."

"That racism inclination still exists, and I think it's bubbled up to the surface because of belief among many white people -- not just in the South but around the country -- that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It's an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply," Carter said.

Michael Steele, who is the first African-American to chair the Republican National Committee, denied Wednesday that race is fueling protests.

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Israel accused of Gaza war crimes

Israel accused of Gaza war crimes

In a damning report on Israel's conduct during its invasion of the Gaza Strip, a United Nations panel on Tuesday accused its forces of war crimes and of deliberately spreading terror among civilians.

Richard Goldstone, a South African jurist, who chaired the four-member panel on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council, said the alleged crimes resulted from military policies adop­ted in the invasion at the turn of the year. He said the findings in the 574-page document "do not amount to second-guessing commanders and soldiers in the heat of battle".

His panel urged action by the UN Security Council that could lead to alleged crimes being referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The panel's investigation, with which Israel refused to co-operate, said the military operations in Gaza, aimed at ending Palestinian rocket fire from the territory, were "directed at the people of Gaza as a whole".

The report, handed to Israeli and Palestinian diplomats just half an hour before its release, comes a week before Barack Obama, US president, is expected to chair a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in New York to try to restart the peace process.

Mr Goldstone, who was chief prosecutor in war crime trials involving former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, said: "As a Jew, with a long affiliation with Israel, it's obviously a disappointment to me – putting it mildly – that Israel has behaved as described in the report."

He said there was no justification in international law for incidents such as an attack on a crowded Gaza mosque, even if Israel had been able to establish its erroneous claim that arms and militants were inside.

The Israeli government refused to allow the UN panel to visit Israel or the occupied West Bank after previous negative UN assessments of its conduct in Gaza. The panel visited Gaza and interviewed Israeli witnesses elsewhere.

Israel regards the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, which the US attended for the first time on Monday since joining it, as fundamentally anti-Israeli.

In a report that also condemns Hamas in Gaza for failing to halt rocket fire and take action against the perpetrators, the Goldstone panel accuses Israel of failing to investigate war crimes against international law in an operation in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed.

He urged the UN Security Council "as soon as possible" to establish a committee to determine whether, after a period of six months, Israel had pursued adequate investigations into alleged war crimes. He said Israeli probes so far had relied on the testimony of soldiers rather than victims and had been held in secret.

Separately, George Mitchell, US envoy to the Middle East, will continue talks on Wednesday with Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli premier, to try to wrap up a deal to freeze Jewish settlement activity as a step to renewing the Middle East peace process.

UFC Fight Night 19 live play by play and official results

OKLAHOMA CITY – in on scene for today's "UFC Fight Night 19: Diaz vs. Guillard" event at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.

Follow along as provides the Web's quickest play-by-play coverage and official results from the night's un-aired preliminary card and Spike TV-televised main card.

Our coverage begins at approximately 5:05 p.m. ET (2:05 p.m. PT) with the main card kicking off at 8 p.m. ET. And remember: You can chat about tonight's event in our UFC Fight Night 19 discussion post.

Tonight's show features a main event between lightweight veterans and title hopefuls Nate Diaz, "The Ultimate Fighter 5" champion who goes for his fourth consecutive Fight of the Night award, and Melvin Guillard, who goes for his fourth straight win.

Stay tuned to after the show for complete post-UFC Fight Night 19 coverage, including a recap of tonight's debut episode of "The Ultimate Fighter 10." The stories run all night and well into Thursday.

Enjoy the fights everyone.

Raymond Clark Name As Murderer Of Anie Le

Raymond Clark Name As Murderer Of Anie Le, Police led away a man Raymond Clark in handcuffs to the cheers of neighbors Tuesday and plan to extract DNA samples in an attempt to link him to the killing of a Yale graduate student Anie Le who died the week she was to be married.

Authorities raided the apartment of 24-year-old Raymond Clark III but did not file any charges against him. Police said he will be release after they obtain the evidence they need from him and his apartment.

Clark, dressed in a tight-fitting white shirt, was handcuffed and escorted out of the apartment building in Middletown and into a silver car. Neighbors leaned over the apartment building’s iron railings and cheered as police led him away.

New Haven Police Chief James Lewis did not describe Clark as a suspect. He said police were

Yale Student Anie Le

hoping to compare DNA taken from Clark’s hair, fingernails and saliva to more than 150 pieces of evidence collected from the crime scene. That evidence may also be compared at a state lab with DNA samples given voluntarily from other people with access to the crime scene.

“We’re going to narrow this down,” Lewis said. “We’re going to do this as quickly as we can.”

Police have collected more than 700 hours of video tape during the probe and sifted through computer records documenting who entered what parts of the research building where Le was found dead.

Investigators began staking out Clark’s home on Monday, a day after they discovered 24-year-old Annie Le’s body hidden in the basement of a research building at Yale’s medical school. She had vanished Sept. 8.
Clark shares the apartment with his girlfriend, Jennifer Hromadka, whom he is engaged to marry in December 2011, according to the couple’s incomplete wedding Web site. Middletown is about 20 miles north of New Haven.

Obama Raises Money for Specter

President Obama swept into Philadelphia yesterday to help newly minted Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter raise nearly $2.5 million for his reelection campaign, inserting the White House directly into a primary battle. "I'm going to need all of you to redouble your efforts in the months to come to fight for Arlen, because he's fighting for you, and he's fighting for what's right," Obama told about 200 big-ticket donors at a private dinner at the Convention Center.

Conservatives Find Winning Formula in ACORN Attacks

From the New York Times, "Conservatives Draw Blood From Acorn, Favored Foe":

For months during last year’s presidential race, conservatives sought to tar the Obama campaign with accusations of voter fraud and other transgressions by the national community organizing group Acorn, which had done some work for the campaign.

But it took amateur actors, posing as a prostitute and a pimp and recorded on hidden cameras in visits to Acorn offices, to send government officials scrambling in recent days to sever ties with the organization.

Conservative advocates and broadcasters were gleeful about the success of the tactics in exposing Acorn workers, who appeared to blithely encourage prostitution and tax evasion. It was, in effect, the latest scalp claimed by those on the right who have made no secret of their hope to weaken the Obama administration by attacking allies and appointees they view as leftist.

The Acorn controversy came a week after the resignation of Van Jones, a White House environmental official attacked by conservatives, led by Glenn Beck of Fox News Channel, for once signing a petition suggesting that Bush administration officials might have deliberately permitted the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Even before Mr. Jones stepped down, Mr. Beck had sent a message to supporters on Twitter urging them to “find everything you can” on three other Obama appointees.

Conservatives believe that they have hit upon a winning formula for such attacks: mobilizing people to dig up dirt, trumpeting it on talk radio and television, prompting Congress to weigh in and demanding action from the Obama administration.

New York City - Can Thompson Beat Bloomberg?

New York City - Winning the Democratic primary for mayor ain’t what it used to be. Still, it’s better to win than lose, so Comptroller Bill Thompson wakes up today with a new view of the world.

He’s standing on a molehill, looking up at a mountain.

Most bets are not on whether Mayor Mike wins a third term, but on his margin of victory. Five points, 10 points or a repeat of the nearly 20-point blowout of poor Fernando Ferrer four years ago.

I wouldn’t bet against Bloomy, but his re-election isn’t a slam dunk. Thompson can win.

You read that right. Thompson can win.

I’m not saying he will, just that he can. He won’t need a miracle either. Lightning, thunder and luck, yes, but Thompson would hardly be the first David to bring down a Goliath. One is in the White House, and there are days when Bloomberg looks as ripe for a fall as Hillary Clinton was.


If the upset potential surprises you, welcome aboard. I surprised myself when the words “Thompson can win” first came out of my mouth.

That was three weeks ago. Until then, I subscribed to the conventional wisdom that he didn’t have a chance.

But speed bumps are popping up on the road to the king’s coronation. Reports of Bloomberg Fatigue are coming in from key constituencies — Staten Island homeowners and well-heeled Manhattanites. That could spell trouble for him.

“Think about it,” one formerly firm Bloomy man told me. “He’s been mayor for eight years and he has to spend $100 million now to reintroduce his brand.”

The complaints center on the soaring cost-of-living and binges in government spending, along with a sense the mayor feels entitled to a third term.

Whether Thompson, whose campaign has been lethargic on its good days, can exploit the opening is a big question. But for the first time, he has a real shot. Although the latest Quinnipiac poll puts him 15 points back, one survey showed a majority of New Yorkers wants a new mayor.

I spy three reasons for shifting sentiment. First, elections are a referendum on the incumbent, and this is not a good year for incumbents. The recession pain for many here is acute as incomes fall and prices keep rising.

Much of the pain is driven by City Hall, with spending under Bloomberg about 25 percent above inflation. Real-estate taxes are climbing even as market values fall, and virtually every levy and fee has gone up sharply since 2002, and still it’s not enough to satisfy the government beast. The businessman mayor, who promised to guard the buck, has been too quick to spend it.

The second factor in Thompson’s favor is Bloomberg’s cheesy maneuver to eliminate term limits. He was for them until they hit home, so POOF, he made them vanish. Doing the dirty deed with a scandal-scarred City Council further tarnished the mayor’s reputation.

Click here to continue reading at the NY Post.

House Probes Graves, Jackson And Waters

By Bara Vaida

The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct announced today that it has voted to extend investigations into activities by Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.

The committee did not say what activity it was investigating regarding Graves or Waters.

It did say, however, that the investigation of Graves was authorized, though the committee "did not find a 'substantial reason to believe' that there was a substantive violation of any provisions of the Code of Official Conduct or any law, rule, regulation, or other standard," because the panel had identified "exculpatory evidence" gathered by the Office of Congressional Ethics that had not been provided to Graves, and "in the interests of justice" should have been provided to him.

In the case of Jackson, the committee said that it was investigating whether or not Jackson "may have offered to raise funds for then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in return for the appointment" to the Illinois Senate seat vacated by President Obama.

Click here to see the committee's press releases.

New IBD Poll Disputes Media Claims Most Doctors Back ObamaCare

A new Investor’s Business Daily poll of more than 1,300 physicians finds that nearly two-thirds (65%) don’t back ObamaCare, more than 70% say the government cannot provide insurance coverage for 47 million additional people and save money without harming quality, and 45% of doctors say they “would consider leaving their practice or taking an early retirement” if the liberal health care plan passes.

Earlier this week, as the front-page story in today’s Investor’s Business Daily noted, the Los Angeles Times ran a front-page story touting the American Medical Association (AMA)’s backing of President Obama’s health care plans, while a National Public Radio publicized a poll funded by a pro-ObamaCare group to claim that “nearly three-quarters of doctors said they favor a public option.”

The IBD/TIPP poll of 1,376 physicians suggests that the AMA does not represent most doctors as it advertises and lobbies on behalf of the administration’s plan, and offers a second opinion to the poll (of 991 physicians) originally published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggesting strong support for a bigger government role.

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George W. Obama Supports Extending PATRIOT Act Provisions

The Obama administration supports extending three key provisions of the Patriot Act that are due to expire at the end of the year, the Justice Department told Congress in a letter made public Tuesday.

Lawmakers and civil rights groups had been pressing the Democratic administration to say whether it wants to preserve the post-Sept. 11 law’s authority to access business records, as well as monitor so-called “lone wolf” terrorists and conduct roving wiretaps.

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama said he would take a close look at the law, based on his past expertise in constitutional law. Back in May, President Obama said legal institutions must be updated to deal with the threat of terrorism, but in a way that preserves the rule of law and accountability.

Expanding the Bush war in Afghanistan. Expanding on the Bush corporate welfare bailouts. Keeping in place Bush’s Fascist “PATRIOT” law. I just don’t know how much more of this Obama “change” I can handle.

[Thanks to Travis Holte]

The Most Important Number in Politics Today

That's the number of Republican Senators who ultimately signed on to the health care bill put forward by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) this morning.

For months, Baucus and an increasingly small group of Democrats and Republicans -- known as the Gang of Six -- worked behind closed doors to hammer out legislation that carried at least the patina of bipartisanship.

Slowly but surely Republican negotiators -- Senate Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Sen. Mike Enzi (Wyo.) -- dropped out of the negotiations until there was only Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) left. But, on Tuesday Snowe said she could not support the bill as currently written.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) seized on the lack of GOP support for Baucus' bill in a statement on the bill released moments ago. "Forcing through a partisan bill gives the impression that Democratic leadership and the White House are more concerned with political victories than they are with passing lasting, bipartisan health care reform," said Cornyn.

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