Thursday, August 30, 2012

Telescope finds sugar near star | News24

Telescope finds sugar near star | News24:

"Santiago - Astronomers using a powerful radio telescope in Chile said that they had discovered sugar molecules, one of the building blocks of life, orbiting a young star similar to the Sun."

'via Blog this'

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Milky Way And Satellite Galaxies Are Rare Arrangement

Our Milky Way galaxy has two large satellite galaxies orbiting it. They’re known as the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. And humans have been aware of the existence of these celestial objects for at least a millennium.

Recently, researchers were curious about whether our configuration is fairly typical, or an astronomical anomaly. In other words, is our corner of the cosmos ordinary?

Now a new study finds that the Milky Way and its companion galaxies are an unusual combination, but they’re not one of a kind.

Astronomers in the U.K. and Australia looked at thousands of galaxies to try to find an analogue of our arrangement. The search turned up two close replicas: each with a Milky Way–like galaxy accompanied by two galaxies comparable to the Magellanic Clouds.

But the researchers also concluded that such arrangements are pretty rare. Only half a percent of Milky Way–like galaxies have companions like ours. [Aaron S. G. Robotham et al, Galaxy And Mass Assembly (GAMA): in search of Milky Way Magellanic Cloud analogues, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society]

The Magellanic Clouds may be transitory features. In a few billion years the Milky Way may absorb them completely. So someday our corner of the cosmos could be pretty ordinary after all.

—John Matson


Curiouser and Curiouser: Curiosity Beams Back High-Resolution Zooms of Mars: Scientific American Gallery

Curiouser and Curiouser: Curiosity Beams Back High-Resolution Zooms of Mars: Scientific American Gallery:

"Like an adventurer of old, NASA's Curiosity rover is using its spyglass to scope out some as-yet unexplored environs."

'via Blog this'

Black Holes and The Constructal Law

Caleb Scharf's book is fascinating.

This astronomer introduces an idea in the title: "Gravity's Engines". Black holes are churning away matter. Matter in and processed  matter out, they do it, by producing factories around them. The holes provide the energy, and I propose here, the designs. Then voilà , we get the Universe as we know it.

The design black holes provide, in my proposal, is Adrian Bejan's  Constructal Law.

According to professor Bejan, flow is such, that flow next time around is better. Matter flow near a black hole, I propose, makes flow better next time around.

What we need and is not provided by Scharf is a design principle. I believe the design principle is the one discovered by Bejan.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Black Holes

Caleb Scharf wrote a book:"Gravity's Engines". It is mainly about the role of black holes in the Universe. I have not finished the book, but I am already inspired to write the following.

Our current perspective of the Universe has an arrow of time. The fundamental equations do not distinguish between past and future. Nevertheless, we do know that the Universe had a beginning, and it seems it will have an end.

In a nutshell, a little more than fourteen billion years ago there was a Big Bang, and according to what Scharf writes, matter ends its life in the black holes inhabiting most of the galaxies in the Universe. What happens in between?

That is where the plot thickens, black holes are the orchestra directors of what happens in this Universe.

According to Scharf most of our Milky Way Galaxy, is not a good place for intelligent life; if you are near the black hole in the center you die, it has a mass of four million times the mass of our Sun. As it happens, our Galaxy is not a good place to be if you are near the edges either, because the black hole in the center is MAKING stars there. The only good place to be is -SURPRISE - just where we are.

I read this, a long time ago somewhere else. Guillermo Gonzalez, originally from Cuba, Peter Ward, and Donald Brownlee presented the idea. This is called the Circumstellar Habitable Zone.

What Scharf is adding, is that the black hole did it!

Curiouser, and curiouser.

BTW, I didn't see Scharf quote my friend Gonzalez.

White Dwarf Can Pair With Red Giant for Supernova -

White Dwarf Can Pair With Red Giant for Supernova -

"When a white dwarf star gets too big after absorbing material from another nearby star, it explodes, sending a burst of light out into the universe in what is called a Type 1a supernova."

'via Blog this'

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Neil Armstrong - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

 "Neil Alden Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) was an American astronaut, test pilot, aerospace engineer, university professor and United States Naval Aviator. He was the first person to walk on the Moon. Before becoming an astronaut, Armstrong was a United States Navy officer and had served in the Korean War. After the war, he served as a test pilot at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics High-Speed Flight Station, now known as the Dryden Flight Research Center, where he logged over 900 flights. He graduated from Purdue University and the University of Southern California."

'via Blog this'

Neil Armstrong, First Man on Moon, Dies at 82 -

Neil Armstrong, First Man on Moon, Dies at 82 -

 "Neil Armstrong, who made the “giant leap for mankind” as the first human to set foot on the moon, died on Saturday. He was 82."

'via Blog this'

Nuclear Decelerator: Last U.S. Particle Collider on Chopping Block: Scientific American

Nuclear Decelerator: Last U.S. Particle Collider on Chopping Block: Scientific American:

"With the Tevatron in mothballs, the Brookhaven Laboratory collider now faces possible closure due to budget cutbacks"

'via Blog this'

Friday, August 24, 2012

Caleb Scharf




There is a new book by this physicist. The links above relate to this work. Here I briefly describe his idea.

This is fascinating!

To me the first important fact, is that the Milky Way, has a black hole as nucleus, guiding processes here where we live. Without that black whole: We wouldn't be here!

Almost all galaxies have nuclear black holes. By this I mean, that in the center of these huge multibillion star objects there is a kind of orchestra director guiding all the stars to move around, as if it were a huge solar system.

In a nutshell the idea I get is: From nothing the Universe starts with the Big Bang, and it goes to nothing into the billions of black holes in the center of most of the Universe galaxies.


New NASA Video Captures Drama of Mars Landing -

New NASA Video Captures Drama of Mars Landing -

"PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Viewers can now relive the drama of the Curiosity rover's landing on Mars with a new NASA video detailing the final moments of touchdown."

'via Blog this'

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Red Giants and White Dwarfs Make Explosive Stellar Pairings: Scientific American

Red Giants and White Dwarfs Make Explosive Stellar Pairings: Scientific American:

"Mysterious stars that incite their stellar companions to explode in spectacular supernovas have just been revealed — these culprits can be bloated red giants, researchers say."

'via Blog this'

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Gets Moving on Mars -

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Gets Moving on Mars -

 "It was a modest test drive: moving forward 15 feet, turning in place 120 degrees, then backing up about 8 feet. The entire trip took about 16 minutes, with most of the time spent stopped as cameras took photographs of the progress."

'via Blog this'

My HP Mini and I

Yesterday my machine, and I, changed. I can connect wirelessly at the Plano campus of Waubonsee Community College (WCC) now. I ran my lecture from my beloved netbook. I am happy.

At WCC I found a group of good students from the Plano area of Illinois. I've gone from Chilpancingo to Plano!

WCC has provided an opportunity for people to learn  Astronomy; and has provided me, with the opportunity to share my passion  with them.

My daughter told me, that she took the class in high school, because her friends thought Astronomy was the easier way to satisfy the science requirements for graduation. I am sure, at least one of my WCC students, feels that way. I met my wife at UCSB because of a similar requirement. Good things  happen when everybody take their life seriously.

I have this opportunity for one semester. Given how well, I related with everybody yesterday, I feel this could be more permanent.

This brings me back to this blog. A friend of mine in Chilpancingo objected my lack of focus. You are a scientist, he told me. Leave all the other stuff to other people.

Based on what happened yesterday, I am planning to follow his advice.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Oxygen abundances in low- and high-alpha field halo stars and the discovery of two field stars born in globular clusters

"Important clues to understand the formation and evolution of the Milky Way’s halo and disk components, as well as any possible connections between them, are imprinted in the photospheric chemical composition of FGK-type dwarf stars. These objects have probably retained the chemical composition of the gas from which they formed, thus being excellent tracers of Galactic chemical evolution (GCE).Moreover, their long lifetimes, in particular for the G and K types, allow us to probe the Milky Way’s GCE over many billions of years. Consequently, combined with kinematics and information on stellar ages, chemical composition analyses of FGK dwarf stars have the potential to be useful for reconstructing the history of our Galaxy." arXiv

Change of Emphasis

For my loyal readers.

First: My heartfelt thanks for your visits; at last count there were 355, 070 pageviews. I started this blog, while I was a physics instructor at Glenbard East High School, around 2006. This week I start an introductory astronomy class with the textbook: Essential Cosmic Perspective, by Jeffrey Bennett et al., at Waubonsee Community College.

Second: I announce here an astronomical emphasis on this blog. I will try to have the more relevant class material in a blog I started in 2009, for the International Year of Astronomy. The URL is in Nahua language, Yoal Cicitlaltin, in Spanish the title translates to Noche de Estrellas, in Engish is Night of Stars. Here is the [link]. All the material there for the class, will be in the English Language.

To make Science relevant, one has to cover more than class material. Drill for the test, is not a way to get most people interested. A group of students, I'm sure, will need just concrete instructions to pass the course. I will accommodate; but I believe that for an intellectual rewarding experience, some of us need more.

Third and Final: The course covers our neighborhood, and ends with the Universe at Large. Humanity has used new technology to advance knowledge of the Cosmos, at ever increasing rates of return. It also covers the search for habitable planets, and for life.

I hope you keep coming back.

Hispanics’ College Enrollment Surges, Report Finds

College enrollment has soared for Hispanic young adults in the last few years, by some measures reaching levels similar to those among young blacks, according to a study released Monday.

Among Americans ages 18 to 24 with a high school diploma or equivalent, 46 percent of Hispanics were enrolled in college last year, up from 37 percent in 2008, according to the report by the Pew Hispanic Center. The report was based on data from the Census Bureau and the Department of Education.

Black enrollment last year in the same age group stood at 45 percent, the first time the nation’s two largest minority groups were roughly even on that score in the decades that the information has been collected. Among whites, 51 percent of 18- to 24-year-old high school graduates were in college; 67 percent of Asians in that group were in college.

The number of young Hispanics enrolled in college, which surpassed black enrollment for the first time in 2010, jumped to almost 2.1 million last year, from about 1.3 million in 2008. That is partly a product of a swelling Hispanic population, as well as the increased rate of college attendance.

But it also reflects a fast-rising high school graduation rate. In the 1990s, fewer than 60 percent of Hispanics 18 to 24 had a high school diploma, but that figure hit 70 percent for the first time in 2009, and 76 percent last year.

That high school completion rate, however, still remains below the national rate of 85 percent (81 percent for blacks), limiting the number of Hispanics who are eligible for college.

In addition, Hispanic students, compared with other groups, are far more likely to attend community colleges and less likely to go to four-year colleges, according to the study.

A version of this article appeared in print on August 21, 2012, on page A10 of the New York edition with the headline: More Hispanics Are in College, Report Finds.

WikiLeaks and the Global Future of Free Speech

WE have spent our careers as filmmakers making the case that the news media in the United States often fail to inform Americans about the uglier actions of our own government. We therefore have been deeply grateful for the accomplishments of WikiLeaks, and applaud Ecuador’s decision to grant diplomatic asylum to its founder, Julian Assange, who is now living in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

WE have spent our careers as filmmakers making the case that the news media in the United States often fail to inform Americans about the uglier actions of our own government. We therefore have been deeply grateful for the accomplishments of WikiLeaks, and applaud Ecuador’s decision to grant diplomatic asylum to its founder, Julian Assange, who is now living in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

Ecuador has acted in accordance with important principles of international human rights. Indeed, nothing could demonstrate the appropriateness of Ecuador’s action more than the British government’s threat to violate a sacrosanct principle of diplomatic relations and invade the embassy to arrest Mr. Assange.

Since WikiLeaks’ founding, it has revealed the “Collateral Murder” footage that shows the seemingly indiscriminate killing of Baghdad civilians by a United States Apache attack helicopter; further fine-grained detail about the true face of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; United States collusion with Yemen’s dictatorship to conceal our responsibility for bombing strikes there; the Obama administration’s pressure on other nations not to prosecute Bush-era officials for torture; and much more.

Predictably, the response from those who would prefer that Americans remain in the dark has been ferocious. Top elected leaders from both parties have called Mr. Assange a “high-tech terrorist.” And Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who leads the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has demanded that he be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. Most Americans, Britons and Swedes are unaware that Sweden has not formally charged Mr. Assange with any crime. Rather, it has issued a warrant for his arrest to question him about allegations of sexual assault in 2010.

All such allegations must be thoroughly investigated before Mr. Assange moves to a country that might put him beyond the reach of the Swedish justice system. But it is the British and Swedish governments that stand in the way of an investigation, not Mr. Assange.

Swedish authorities have traveled to other countries to conduct interrogations when needed, and the WikiLeaks founder has made clear his willingness to be questioned in London. Moreover, the Ecuadorean government made a direct offer to Sweden to allow Mr. Assange to be interviewed within Ecuador’s embassy. In both instances, Sweden refused.

Mr. Assange has also committed to traveling to Sweden immediately if the Swedish government pledges that it will not extradite him to the United States. Swedish officials have shown no interest in exploring this proposal, and Foreign Minister Carl Bildt recently told a legal adviser to Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks unequivocally that Sweden would not make such a pledge. The British government would also have the right under the relevant treaty to prevent Mr. Assange’s extradition to the United States from Sweden, and has also refused to pledge that it would use this power. Ecuador’s attempts to facilitate that arrangement with both governments were rejected.

Taken together, the British and Swedish governments’ actions suggest to us that their real agenda is to get Mr. Assange to Sweden. Because of treaty and other considerations, he probably could be more easily extradited from there to the United States to face charges. Mr. Assange has every reason to fear such an outcome.The Justice Department recently confirmed that it was continuing to investigate WikiLeaks, and just-disclosed Australian government documents from this past February state that “the U.S. investigation into possible criminal conduct by Mr. Assange has been ongoing for more than a year.” WikiLeaks itself has published e-mails from Stratfor, a private intelligence corporation, which state that a grand jury has already returned a sealed indictment of Mr. Assange. And history indicates Sweden would buckle to any pressure from the United States to hand over Mr. Assange. In 2001 the Swedish government delivered two Egyptians seeking asylum to the C.I.A., which rendered them to the Mubarak regime, which tortured them.

If Mr. Assange is extradited to the United States, the consequences will reverberate for years around the world. Mr. Assange is not an American citizen, and none of his actions have taken place on American soil. If the United States can prosecute a journalist in these circumstances, the governments of Russia or China could, by the same logic, demand that foreign reporters anywhere on earth be extradited for violating their laws. The setting of such a precedent should deeply concern everyone, admirers of WikiLeaks or not.

We urge the people of Britain and Sweden to demand that their governments answer some basic questions: Why do the Swedish authorities refuse to question Mr. Assange in London? And why can neither government promise that Mr. Assange will not be extradited to the United States? The citizens of Britain and Sweden have a rare opportunity to make a stand for free speech on behalf of the entire globe.

Michael Moore and Oliver Stone are Academy Award-winning filmmakers.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on August 21, 2012, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: WikiLeaks and Free Speech.

50 Links That Will Help You Find Your Life's Purpose

Whether you’re 15 or 50, trying to figure out what you want to do with your life is an intimidating challenge and one that doesn’t always lend itself to easy answers. Finding a passion, doing fulfilling work, making a difference in the world, and discovering the things that make us most successful and happy are all chief concerns in most of our lives, but they’re not always goals that are easily attainable. For some, finding a life purpose can be very difficult and sometimes downright discouraging, but with the right support and guidance it certainly doesn’t need to be an impossible feat. We’ve collected some excellent resources, from videos to reading material to essential web reading, that can help you define and fulfill your purpose in life, whatever it may be.


These videos are a short and sweet way to get some inspiration and motivation to find your life’s purpose.

  1. Rick Warren on a life of purpose: Author and speaker Rick Warren explains his religious beliefs and shares his own crisis of purpose in this short talk.
  2. Finding Your Life’s Purpose: Get some guidance on finding your purpose in life from Eckhart Tolle through this DVD program that asks you to free yourself from dissatisfaction with your life and to connect to a universal consciousness.
  3. Richard St. John’s 8 secrets of success: The pursuit of purpose and success have many places where they overlap. In this short talk, you’ll hear from analyst Richard St. John on the basics of success like ideas, service, persistence, and passion.
  4. Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days:Having trouble finding purpose and direction in your life? Follow the advice of Matt Cutts and try out something new and interesting for 30 days. You never know, it might just be a perfect fit.
  5. Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work: If you’re unfulfilled in your work, there’s got to be a reason why. Shawn Achor thinks that work should make us happy, and that happiness should inspire us to work.
  6. Tony Robbins asks why we do what we do: Well-known speaker Tony Robbins shares a no-nonsense talk on the invisible forces that motivate every individual’s actions here, offering insights into how to attain the things we all want most in our lives.
  7. Dan Ariely asks, “Are we in control of our own decisions?“: Feeling out of control? To a certain degree, we’re all out of control, Ariely explains, letting our emotions push us toward irrational, unwise decisions that can take us in a direction quite different than where we want to go.
  8. Matthieu Ricard on the habits of happiness: Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard explains how to train your mind to be happy, giving you a greater sense of serenity and fulfillment.
  9. Temple Grandin: The world needs all kinds of minds:If you need some inspiration that you’re good enough to do what you love and that it’s really possible, hear from Temple Grandin as she explains the need for all kinds of thinkers and doers in the world.
  10. Create a Life with Purpose: This video from Harvard Business School features professor and author Clay Christensen as he discusses the need to follow through on your commitments in order to create a life with purpose.


Books are excellent places to find guidance on everything, including life itself. Here are just a few of the best on finding purpose and taking charge of your life.

  1. The Seed: Finding Purpose and Happiness in Life and Work by Jon Gordon: Have you ever felt disenchanted with your job and wanted to take time off to figure out if your job was really right for you? That’s just what Jon Gordon did. Read about his journey and learn about how to find meaning and passion in your work.
  2. The Life You Were Born to Live: A Guide to Finding Your Life Purpose by Dan Millman: If you’re looking for some spiritual (and a little bit mystical) guidelines for finding your purpose, then check out this deep read by Dan Millman.
  3. Your Life on Purpose: How to Find What Matters and Create the Life You Want by Matthew McKay, John P. Forsyth, and Georg H. Eifert: Don’t just bumble through life; this book will show you how to live a purposeful life that isn’t weighed down by self-doubt and judgment and allows you to connect with your true passions.
  4. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle: This Oprah Book Club selection is a popular read and offers readers guidance on living in the now, finding happiness, and attaining a fulfilling existence.
  5. Aspire: Discovering Your Purpose Through the Power of Words by Kevin Hall:Words, even simple ones, carry a lot of power. Through this book, you’ll learn to change your vocabulary and to think and speak in a way that helps you to become more positive, successful, and fulfilled.
  6. S.H.A.P.E.: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose for Life by Erik Rees: Those looking for some religious-based guidance on finding their purpose should check out this book that directs readers to look at their own passions, talents, temperaments, and gifts to find purpose.
  7. What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren:Author of The Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren returns with this book, offering his insights into just what it is you’re here on Earth to do.
  8. The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life by Os Guinness: Another religiously focused work, this book addresses what God’s call is for you in your life and how you can fulfill that calling in your work and actions throughout life.
  9. The Path to Purpose: How Young People Find Their Calling in Life by William Damon: With the job market in flux and college prices rising ever higher, it can be harder than ever for young people to figure out what to do with their lives. This book offers some guidance, explaining the importance of finding a purpose and following through with fulfilling it.
  10. The Purpose of Your Life: Finding Your Place In The World Using Synchronicity, Intuition, And Uncommon Sense by Carol Adrienne and James Redfield: Learn how to use your intuition to find your purpose in life through this book that promises greater success, satisfaction, and serenity.
  11. The Saint, The Surfer, and the CEO: A Remarkable Story About Living Your Heart’s Desires by Robin Sharma: Are you really living your passion? Learn lessons from this book to help you find happiness in all aspects of life, manage stress, and find a powerful vision for your future.
  12. End the Struggle and Dance with Life by Susan Jeffers: Learn how to feel calmer, more in control, and more excited about all that life has to offer with the help of Susan Jeffers.

Blog Posts

Do some deep thinking on your life purpose with the help of these educational and inspirational blog posts.

  1. Life on Purpose: 15 Questions to Discover Your Personal Mission: Take this quick quiz from Think Simple Now to start figuring out what your personal mission in life really is.
  2. Why It’s Hard To Find Your “Life Purpose” In Today’s World: Finding your life’s purpose in today’s world is increasingly hard, explains Psychology Today author Dr. Douglas LaBier, so don’t worry if you’re struggling: you’re not alone.
  3. How to Discover Your Life Purpose in About 20 Minutes: Productivity and personal development guru Steve Pavlina offers up his take on how to puzzle out what you’re meant to do in life in just 20 minutes.
  4. How to Discover Your Life’s Purpose – 7 Questions to Ask:If you’re unsure about your life’s purpose, maybe you’re just not asking yourself the right questions. Here, Dumb Little Man posits seven that are essential to figuring out your life.
  5. 17 Quotes That Will Help You Discover Your Life’s Purpose: Oprah’s staff shares some amazingly inspirational quotes that will help you to figure out who you want to be in life.
  6. 7 Keys to Discovering Your Life’s Purpose Today:At The Change Blog, you can read this article that asks some simple but important questions in determining your life’s purpose.
  7. Discover Your Life’s Purpose in Around 20 Minutes — or Not: Lifehacker also offers a method for quickly determining your life purpose, but it may not work for everyone.
  8. Why You’re Still Stuck Trying To Find Your Life Purpose:The Wayfinder Post explains in this great article why you may be struggling to find a purpose in life, illuminating some of the biggest myths and misunderstandings about life purpose.
  9. The Benefits of Finding Your Life’s Purpose:Here you’ll find a list of 10 reasons why finding your life purpose can help you, from helping you to be more successful to offering self-confidence.
  10. How do you find your purpose?:This video and blog post offer up some helpful advice on how to find and work toward your life purpose.
  11. Life’s Purpose for the “Multi-Passionate”: Some people love too many things to ever stick to doing just one for a lifetime, which can make it hard to pin down a life purpose. This blog post suggests that you don’t have to pin down one purpose and can work on many throughout your life.
  12. 10 Things to Know About Your Life Purpose: Here you’ll find some revealing truths about finding and living your life purpose.
  13. Life Purpose May Help Reduce Heart Attack Risk: Finding your life purpose isn’t just key to your mental health; it can also have a serious impact on your physical health, as this article explains.
  14. Top 10 Definitive Life purpose Resources: Looking for more resources to help you to find your life’s purpose? You’ll find some great ones through this blog post.


From quizzes to life coaching, these resources will help you to get the help and support you need in your journey of personal discovery.

  1. The One Question: This site focuses on answering one question: what should I do with my life? To help you find the answer, the site offers e-books, quizzes, and articles in abundance.
  2. Higher Awareness: Learn how to know yourself and grow yourself through this blog and personal development site.
  3. Passion Meets Purpose: Life coach Kammie offers some free advice on life and work through this blog and newsletter, as well as providing links to some very useful resources.
  4. Life on Purpose Institute: Looking for some guidance on bringing greater meaning and purpose into your life? That’s what this site is all about! Use it to find help, reading material, and more.
  5. Your Life Purpose Blog: This blog shares a wealth of inspirational quotes, articles, and spiritual materials to help you connect with your purpose.
  6. Life Purpose App: Bring your life purpose quest with you anywhere you go with this app. Built around author Dan Millman’s book The Life You Were Born to Live, the app uses your birthday and year to help you figure out your hidden calling.
  7. Head to this site to find a number of useful resources that can help you better live the life you were meant to live.
  8. Life Purpose Planning: You’ll find coaching and advice aplenty to help you figure out your purpose, with a religious take on some of the big questions in life.
  9. Talking Purpose: This blog is full of amazing articles about purpose and work, with interviews and advice from a wide range of individuals.


If you like your inspiration in 140 characters or less, head to Twitter to read tweets from these gurus.

  1. @PurposefullLife: Get inspiration to love, laugh, and inspire others through this feed, with loads of tweets about living a purpose-filled life.
  2. @PosPositive: Find great quotes, links to articles, and other positive, inspirational fare on this feed.
  3. @RickWarren: We’ve mentioned books and videos by this purpose guru, but here you can connect with the author and speaker himself.
  4. @tonyrobbins: This is the official feed of Tony Robbins. On it, fans can find quotes, articles, and even advice on getting motivated and finding success.
  5. @DeepakChopra:For many, finding purpose is a spiritual journey. Find guidance in that journey from guru and author Deepak Chopra here.
Taken From Online Degrees

Top 25 Education Activists U.S. Today

Education has become a hot-button topic in recent years, with politicians, teachers, and parents battling it out over unions, teacher benefits, student loans, state standards, and even school lunches. In some cases, the vitriol over education has meant protests, strikes, and marches and has left many in education divided over the best policies for reforming American education. While it’s important to know the major issues that are involved in these debates, it’s also key to know the major players. Here, we highlight some of the most outspoken voices, biggest players, and influential parties shaping education at all levels today.

  1. John Hunter:

    John Hunter has dedicated his life to working with children, as a musician, teacher, filmmaker, and most famously a game designer. He is perhaps best known for creating the World Peace Game in 1978, which has taught thousands of children how to collaborate, use critical thinking, and solve problems in a peaceful manner. Hunter knew early on what many educators are just starting to embrace today: that games can be the vehicle that gets students excited about and engaged with learning. Hunter shares his personal explorations into peace and philosophy with students, and his game is the subject of a recent film, World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements.

  2. Michael Bennet:

    This Colorado Democrat served as Denver’s superintendent of schools before being appointed to one of the state’s empty Senate seats in 2009. His connection with education hasn’t weakened since moving to DC, however, and he’s been a powerful advocate for education policies with legislators on both sides of the aisle. Bennet cosponsored the DREAM Act, which amended the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 by giving residency to aliens enrolled in higher education programs or serving in the military. While it has been a controversial piece of legislation, Bennet is pushing for further reforms that will help both domestically born and foreign-born students achieve their educational goals. His is a name to watch in education policy especially as the election draws nearer.

  3. Catherine Bellinger and Alexis Morin:

    Bellinger and Morin share a place on this list because most of their work with education activism has been done jointly. The duo started Students for Education Reform (SFER) while they were still undergraduates at Princeton in 2009, hoping to rally students behind a number of educational issues at both the college and K-12 levels. The group has taken off since it began and now boasts 71 chapters in 28 states, with an additional 70 applications from schools looking to form chapters on their own campuses. Bellinger and Morin have recently put their own educations on hold to focus on the group full-time and are looking to push support for the group the hardest in four key states they think will shape educational policy over the next few years: New York, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Connecticut.

  4. Steven Brill:

    Anyone who thinks journalism is dead doesn’t know the work of this hard-hitting writer. His 2009 article in the New Yorker about New York’s so-called "rubber rooms," places where teachers accused of misconduct simply hang out for up to eight hours a day as their cases wind their way through the system, exposed a previously overlooked area of wasteful educational practices that shocked many New Yorkers. His success hasn’t slowed his drive for investigative reporting, and he is currently working on a book about education reform that may just change how many view the process.

  5. Matt Damon:

    Actor Matt Damon is using his high profile and celebrity status to help his mother, who teaches early-childhood education at Boston’s Lesley University, protest many of today’s education reform initiatives. Damon and his mother have spoken out against No Child Left Behind and even refused to accept an award from the National Education Association because its president coauthored an article with Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp, another organization the Damon family has railed against. Damon has also publicly criticized President Obama for his education policies. Yet not all are on board with Damon’s opinions, and many feel he is working against issues that teachers support, having little experience in the field himself to guide his activism. Right or wrong, there’s no doubt that his voice is a passionate and high-profile one in the education debate in the U.S.

  6. John Danner:

    Silicon Valley entrepreneur John Danner is using his high-tech skills to help students in some of America’s toughest school districts. Danner moved to Nashville when his wife took a job as a professor at Vanderbilt University, a move that would change his career drastically. It was there that Danner would become a middle-school teacher and develop a passion for education reform activism. When the couple moved back to California, Danner founded Rocketship Learning, a network of public charter schools that use technology to engage students in basic skills and practice, saving teacher interaction for support and higher-order discussions. It might not sound revolutionary, but it’s been a godsend to cash-strapped California schools that have been able to save roughly $500,000 a year at each of the Rocketship schools. In 2010, Danner’s project won the John P. McNulty Prize and the organization just received a grant from the Broad Foundation to expand.

  7. Arne Duncan:

    Not everyone is a fan of this controversial Secretary of Education, but no matter where you stand there’s no doubt that Duncan is a powerful voice in education reform. He’s part of a growing movement in the United States that’s pushing hard for teacher pay based on results. Duncan is advocating for stringent teacher evaluations, with 50% of a teacher’s evaluation related to student achievement data, 35% on student growth, and the other 15% based on other measures of student achievement. Many teachers say this isn’t a fair way to evaluate them and penalizes those in districts with few resources and poorly performing students, further driving away the educators they desperately need. Whether these kinds of hard-nosed reforms will help or hurt education in America is yet to be seen, but either way Duncan is likely to remain a major player for years to come.

  8. Bill Gates:

    Microsoft magnate Bill Gates has pledged billions to education through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and has been a very outspoken voice in education reform over the past decade. Gates is opposed to cutting funding to education as a way to close budget deficits and has publicly chastised states for this short-sighted view of education. In order to improve education, Gates has said that schools need to help teachers develop and grow, then reward excellence in the field. Some of his views have been controversial with teachers, as he disagrees with raises based on experience and education and doesn’t think small class sizes are the best for students, stating that the best teachers should be paid to take on more students. Gates may be right or he may be wrong, but he has the money and the influence to make major changes in American education.

  9. Mark Emmert:

    Mark Emmert runs one of the most controversial education-related organizations in the U.S.: the NCAA. In the wake of recent scandals many have questioned whether sports should play such a big role in education or if they should be allowed at all, as they can detract from academia and cost schools money that could be spent elsewhere. Most recently, Emmert was behind the ruling at Penn State that has sidelined the school’s football team for the next four years, a punishment that itself has been highly controversial. As head of the NCAA, Emmert will have to play a major role in the coming years in reigning in college athletics, some of which have more power than university presidents and other school officials.

  10. Aimee Guidera:

    Data mining is no passing fad in education, and Aimee Guidera is at the forefront of the movement that’s looking for new ways to collect and analyze information that schools, districts, and teachers can use to make better decisions for their students. Guidera serves as Director of the Data Quality Campaign, a group that’s responsible for much of the data-based educational initiatives over the past decade. As head of this organization, Guidera will undoubtedly play a major role in much of the education policy and curriculum developing in the coming years, helping schools bridge the gap between standards and student performance.

  11. Kaya Henderson:

    Her old boss may have had a higher profile (see Michelle Rhee, also on this list), but this new DC Chancellor of public schools has just as ambitious of plans for the public schools. Henderson has created a five-year action plan to transform the district’s troubled public education system. Among the goals she has in her sights are increasing enrollment, improving struggling schools, increasing the graduation rate, and raising test scores in math and reading. Henderson has to do all of these while dealing with a strange teacher evaluation system, a cheating scandal, and competition from charter schools. It’s a tall order, but this education heavy-hitter plans to power through, avoiding some of the major mistakes of her predecessor along the way.

  12. Ariela Rozman:

    Ariela Rozman is the CEO of The New Teacher Project, an education nonprofit that believes that effective teachers have a greater impact on student achievement than any other single factor. In recent years, TNTP has exposed poor teacher evaluations and HR inefficiencies in urban schools through a series of reports, having a major impact on educational policy nationwide. While the investigative research TNTP does is valuable, it performs a service that’s even more important: offering teacher training programs at the local and state level. These two functions of the organization have made big leaps in helping to improve the education in poor and predominantly minority districts, and have helped numerous teachers gain valuable skills and improve their performance.

  13. Ron Tomalis:

    This Pennsylvania Secretary of Education served in George W. Bush’s Department of Education, is leading the governor’s education reform efforts, and has played a major role in the development and reform of a number of education policies. In short, he’s a major player in education legislation and reform. One of the biggest issues rocking the education debate in Pennsylvania right now is school vouchers, the outcome of which could set a precedent for states nationwide. Since he’s been in office, Tomalis has reached out to parties on both sides of the aisle, looking for ways to compromise and improve educational outcomes in the state.

  14. Geoffrey Canada:

    Many know Canada for the attention he received in the documentary Waiting for Superman, and since then he has become one of the most well-known faces of education reform in America. Since 1990, Canada has been president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, an organization dedicated to improving high school and college graduation rates among students in Harlem. Canada is also on the Board of Directors of The After-School Corporation and the Chairman of Children’s Defense Fund’s Board of Directors. He has written a number of books about violence in the education system and has been the recipient of numerous awards for his activism and work in education.

  15. Randi Weingarten:

    Teachers’ unions have been taking a beating from all sides all over the nation, as states look to cut budgets by slashing teacher benefits and salaries and creating policies that are especially hard on teachers, many of whom are already overburdened. Weingarten has been at the forefront of that battle in recent years as the former head of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers and current president of the national American Federation of Teachers. In that role, she is perhaps one of the most powerful players in education reform and teacher advocacy in the nation. Weingarten will have a challenging battle ahead of her in the coming years as she has to revamp the image of teacher’s unions in the U.S. and balance the interests of numerous teacher and educational groups in the United States, who don’t always want the same things.

  16. Michelle Rhee:

    As former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools from 2007 to 2010, Michelle Rhee was one of the most well-known and infamous education reformers in the nation, taking a slash-and-burn approach to the failing D.C. area school system. While she no longer holds that position she remains a controversial figure in the field of education due to her aggressive style of reform, what some believe to be anti-union sentiments, and her unsubstantiated claims about what she accomplished during her tenure as chancellor. Still, few can argue that she hasn’t had an impact on education activism in America, both as chancellor and as the founder of StudentsFirst, a nonprofit political advocacy organization that works on education reform issues such as ending teacher tenure.

  17. Mike Feinberg:

    In 1994, Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin started KIPP (short for the Knowledge is Power Program) in Houston immediately after completing their Teach for America commitment. This program would go on to be one of the most successful programs in low-income areas in years. Within the first year, two-thirds of students, many of whom were still learning English, would test at the gifted and talented level. To date, more than 80% of students from the original KIPP academies have gone on to college (only 25% of students from the larger community do the same). While KIPP programs have spread nationwide and have made a difference in many students’ lives, they aren’t without criticism. Some say the screening processes weed out students who really need help, selecting those who are already highly driven. There is also a very high attrition rate for low scorers and while many more students go to college, not all of them graduate. The program is also hard on teachers, who are expected to work unrealistic hours, creating a system that is prone to burnout. Still, it’s hard to argue that the KIPP program hasn’t had some serious benefits and Feinberg, as a result, has become a major force in educational activism.

  18. Jonah Edelman:

    Edelman heads up Stand for Children, an organization that advocates for children’s education causes. It was founded in 1996 but in recent years has gained momentum, pulling in more than $3.5 billion in public funding for K-12 programs throughout the United States. The group has helped to push through policies that have had a marked impact on education in places like Oregon, Colorado, and Illinois. Edelman has proven to be a powerful leader of this grassroots operation, changing the focus of the group from rallying behind children’s issues to actively changing the public education system. Edelman has drawn criticism in recent years, however, as he is a supporter of charter school expansion, the evaluation of teachers based on test scores, and the elimination of seniority protections for teachers, which, predictably, has raised the ire of teachers’ unions and teachers themselves.

  19. David Coleman:

    You may not have heard of David Coleman, but you’ve undoubtedly heard about his work on the Common Core Standards that will soon be the prevailing modus operandi for public schools in 45 states. Coleman is a classicist, enamored with ideas and reading, things that have had a major impact on his development of the Common Core Standards. The new standards focus on getting students to better analyze what they’re reading, though some have balked at how they downplay fiction and poetry in favor of nonfiction texts. Starting in October, Coleman will become the president of the College Board, the group that administers AP courses and the SAT, as well as supporting a number of education advocacy issues.

  20. Kristin Richmond and Kirsten Tobey:

    This dynamic duo founded Revolution Foods, an organization that provides healthy school lunches to low-income students in a number of school districts around the U.S. The women are part of a growing movement to provide healthier options in school cafeterias, with the goal of reducing obesity and helping students develop healthy habits as they grow into adults. Since 2010, the organization has gone from serving just 30,000 meals a day to a whopping 120,000 and has recently begun offering students access to health-focused vending machines. Their business may see a boost in the coming years, as states look to give schools incentives for providing healthy meals, and as youth obesity rises, the services offered by these entrepreneurial women are only going to be more in demand.

  21. Jay Mathews:

    Jay Mathews is an education columnist for the Washington Post, penning a column for the paper itself and also writing a blog on its website called Class Struggles. Mathews has been perhaps one of the most outspoken voices in education-related writing over the past decade, both in his work for the Post and in his own publications. In 1999, Mathews won the Benjamin Fine Award for Outstanding Education Reporting for both features and column writing. He has also published a number of successful books on American education, including Class Struggle: What’s Wrong (and Right) with America’s Best Public High Schools, Supertest: How the International Baccalaureate Can Strengthen Our Schools, Escalante: The Best Teacher in America, and Work Hard. Be Nice. Mathews has also developed a national ranking system for high schools, called the Challenge Index, which is published on the Washington Post website.

  22. Sam Chaltain:

    This DC-based writer and education activist works with schools, school districts, and public and private sector companies to create healthy, functional learning environments. He is currently the National Director of the Forum for Education & Democracy, an education advocacy organization, and the founding director of the Five Freedoms Project, a national program that helps K-12 educators create more democratic learning communities. Chaltain draws on his experience as an English and history teachers in New York and Brooklyn in his work, penning education-related articles that have appeared in publications like the Washington Post and Education Week and writing a number of books on education and education policy (especially as related to the First Amendment) in the United States.

  23. Joe Rogers:

    Joe Rogers wants to help young black and Latino men see reading literature as something that’s cool, normal, and positive. That goal is a big part of the work being done through his education and youth advocacy group, Total Equity Now. Recently, Rogers led a march and book donation event in Harlem called "Literacy Across Harlem," which brought out many residents who paraded their favorite reads donated them at the Harlem Book Fair. So far, the event has collected 250 books, a good start for the community leader’s goal of promoting literacy is the troubled neighborhood. While Rogers is still mostly a local player, look for him to push harder and on a bigger platform for education reform in Harlem in the coming years.

  24. Jonathan Kozol:

    Writer, educator, and activist Kozol is best known for his books on public education in the United States, work that has helped cement his role as a powerful education advocate and activist. Kozol began his career as a teacher in the Boston Public School system where he was fired for teaching a Langston Hughes poem, an experience he documented in his first book, Death at an Early Age, which won the National Book Award. Kozol is currently on the editorial board of Greater Good Magazine, and during his career he’s held two Guggenheim Fellowships, has twice been a fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation, and has also received fellowships from the Field and Ford Foundations. His books, among them Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools, Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation, The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, have helped to expose some of the worst problems with America’s education system, especially in documenting the vast inequities between rich and poor areas.

  25. Diane Ravitch:

    Former Assistant Secretary of Education under George W. Bush Diane Ravitch has undergone a bit of a reversal in recent years. Once a champion of tough accountability measures, national standards and testing, and school vouchers, she was hated by teachers and educational groups alike. Yet since her tenure in D.C., Ravitch has changed her stance on nearly all of those issues, winning her wide favor and support. Ravitch has been a vocal critic of nearly every aspect of modern school reform and the architects behind these reforms, airing her concerns on her blog and in national publications. She has become the go-to source for critical analysis of all things related to education policy and will likely play an important role in key election issues this year.

Taken From Online Universities

Monday, August 20, 2012

Just Right, or Nonexistent? Dispute Over ‘Goldilocks’ Planet Gliese 581G

What ever happened to the Goldilocks planet?

It was big news back in September 2010 when a group led by Steven S. Vogt of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and R. Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution for Science said they had discovered a small planet circling a small red star in the constellation Libra, at a distance smack in the middle of the so-called Goldilocks zone — that “just right” region where water on the surface is possible.

If confirmed, Gliese 581g, as it is known, would be the first known exoplanet — that is, a planet outside our own solar system — that could support life. But within weeks, a group of exoplanet astronomers based at the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland under the leadership of Michel Mayor said they could not find the planet in their own extensive data on the star. After other papers appeared questioning the statistical significance of the new planet, most astronomers consigned it to the bin of failed dreams.

In July, however, Dr. Vogt and Dr. Butler struck back.

In a paper in the journal Astronomische Nachrichten (Astronomical Notes) they argued that the planet does indeed show up in the Swiss observations, if they are analyzed properly.

“We see the planet in their data,” Dr. Butler said recently.

The new paper has raised eyebrows, but has so far changed few minds.

In an e-mail recently, Dr. Vogt said, “The silence is telling.”

Typical was the response from Artie P. Hatzes, a former student of Dr. Vogt’s who is now at the Thuringian State Observatory in Tautenburg, Germany, who said it pained him to see his old mentor sticking to a conclusion “that is obviously wrong.”

Dr. Hatzes called Gliese 581g “a marginal detection” that was not supported by additional data, something that happens often. “I think that no amount of fancy analysis can replace having high-quality data and more of it,” he said.

The impasse has led some astronomers to suggest that an outsider look at the data, but everyone is too busy with his or her own research. In the two years since Gliese 581g (pronounced GLEE-za) was announced, NASA’s Kepler satellite has identified more than 2,300 candidate planets in a small portion of the Milky Way in the Cygnus constellation, which scientists are sifting in hopes of soon discovering what some call Earth 2.0.

If nothing else, the dispute illustrates just how hard it is to find out what is going on only a short distance away in the universe. The star Gliese 581 is about 20 light-years away, next door in cosmic terms. The evidence for its planets comes from slight periodic variations in the star’s velocity, caused by gravitational tugs of planets swirling around it. The heavier the planet and the closer it is to its star, the bigger the tug, so it can take years to build up and parse the data for an entire system — the so-called wobble method.

It was on this basis, using sensitive spectrography that goes by the acronym Harps on a telescope in Chile, that the Geneva team concluded by 2007 that there were four planets circling the star, two of them on either side of the “habitable zone.”

Three years later, Dr. Vogt and his colleagues added two more planets based on their own observations with the Keck telescope in Hawaii, including the one in the middle of the habitable zone, circling the star every 37 days.

The European astronomers were quick to say the new planet was not in their own data. But much to the annoyance of Dr. Vogt and his colleagues, that data was not made public for a year, in a paper posted to the Internet by Thierry Forveille of the Grenoble Observatory in France, the lead author.

Dr. Forveille and his colleagues concluded that their data were best fit by a model in which Gliese 581 had four planets, one of which had an elongated elliptical orbit of 69 days. Such a planet could masquerade as one with half that orbital period, they said, perhaps explaining Dr. Vogt’s planet.

Dr. Vogt and his colleagues contend that such an arrangement would be unstable, leading to colliding planets within 200,000 years. Redoing the analysis and assuming that the orbits were all circular, they found leftover data points that could be explained by a fifth planet with an orbit of about 32 days, snugly in the habitable zone, and a mass slightly more than twice that of Earth, essentially confirming their original Goldilocks claim.

Getting this new study published was a tricky problem. Because the Forveille data had not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, Dr. Vogt was not able to publish his analysis of that data in The Astrophysical Journal, the journal of choice for American astronomers.

So they sent it to Astronomische Nachrichten, one of the oldest astronomy journals in the world, but rarely the venue today for groundbreaking news. “So we will now publish their own data for them for all the world to see and analyze, and then judge for themselves whether the Swiss’s rebuttal claims have any credibility,” Dr. Vogt wrote.

In an e-mail, Dr. Forveille shrugged off the new report, writing that his own team’s computer simulations showed that the planetary system with elliptical orbits was stable at least over 900,000 years.

More to the point, he and other astronomers said, was that Dr. Vogt’s planet had a 4 percent chance of being a false alarm. That is far above the 1 percent chance normally considered a benchmark for planet detection, and much bigger than the margin Dr. Vogt and his colleagues had cited in their first paper.

“Increasing false alarm probabilities with more data is of course never a good sign,” Dr. Forveille said. Greg Laughlin of the University of California, Santa Cruz, an expert on planetary dynamics, said the chances of a false alarm rise to 12 percent when uncertainties about the star Gliese 581 itself — stellar noise — are added in.

But, he added, Dr. Vogt still had “a decent shot”of being right. It comes down to whether four planets with eccentric orbits or five planets with circular ones are a more economical fit to the data. Assuming that the planets’ orbits all lie in the same plane, Dr. Laughlin explained, tips the balance toward the extra planet. But, of course, more data is needed. He said, “I thus believe that it is likely that if the peak holds up as more data comes in, the planetary explanation is likely to be correct.”

Eric Ford, an astronomer at the University of Florida who is involved with Kepler, noted that Carl Sagan had maintained that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

“In my judgment,” Dr. Ford said, “we do not have extraordinary evidence for the claimed planet Gliese 581g, at least not yet.”

Dr. Hatzes agreed, but added, “I am sure this will not be the last we have heard of GL 581g.”

A version of this article appeared in print on August 21, 2012, on page D2 of the New York edition with the headline: A Planet ‘Just Right’ for Life? Perhaps, if It Exists.

Apple Becomes the Most Valuable Public Company Ever, With an Asterisk -

Apple Becomes the Most Valuable Public Company Ever, With an Asterisk -

"With a surge in its share price, Apple broke the record for the biggest market capitalization, $616.34 billion, set by Microsoft on Dec. 27, 1999, according to Howard Silverblatt, an analyst at S.&P. Dow Jones Indices. On Monday, Apple’s stock closed at $665.15, giving it a market value of $623.52 billion."

'via Blog this'

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Unethical Commentary, Newsweek Edition

There are multiple errors and misrepresentations in Niall Ferguson’s cover story in Newsweek — I guess they don’t do fact-checking — but this is the one that jumped out at me. Ferguson says:
The president pledged that health-care reform would not add a cent to the deficit. But the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation now estimate that the insurance-coverage provisions of the ACA will have a net cost of close to $1.2 trillion over the 2012–22 period.
Readers are no doubt meant to interpret this as saying that CBO found that the Act will increase the deficit. But anyone who actually read, or even skimmed, the CBO report (pdf) knows that it found that the ACA would reduce, not increase, the deficit — because the insurance subsidies were fully paid for.
Now, people on the right like to argue that the CBO was wrong. But that’s not the argument Ferguson is making — he is deliberately misleading readers, conveying the impression that the CBO had actually rejected Obama’s claim that health reform is deficit-neutral, when in fact the opposite is true.
More than that: by its very nature, health reform that expands coverage requires that lower-income families receive subsidies to make coverage affordable. So of course reform comes with a positive number for subsidies — finding that this number is indeed positive says nothing at all about the impact on the deficit unless you ask whether and how the subsidies are paid for. Ferguson has to know this (unless he’s completely ignorant about the whole subject, which I guess has to be considered as a possibility). But he goes for the cheap shot anyway.
We’re not talking about ideology or even economic analysis here — just a plain misrepresentation of the facts, with an august publication letting itself be used to misinform readers. The Times would require an abject correction if something like that slipped through. Will Newsweek?

Today in London

Civil Wars?

The great journalist Robert Fisk writes today about the impending military clashes coming to Syria in the next weeks, now that the UN left. This international organization proved as ineffectual,  as  the  League of Nations with the brutal regime of Adolf Hitler, not very far, by the way, from Damascus, where the new criminal Bashar al-Assad lives.

In Mexico the electoral machine, is about to announce in September, their final decision: Enrique Pena Nieto won the July 1 presidential election.

We are not allowed to know the future. But I predict, difficult days for those two important countries. Syria, and Mexico.

I fear for the well being, of so many good people, living in those places.

I am glad I am in Warrenville, IL.

Robert Fisk: UN leaves Syria to its bloody fate - Robert Fisk - Commentators - The Independent

Robert Fisk: UN leaves Syria to its bloody fate - Robert Fisk - Commentators - The Independent:

"Special report: As the international troops retreat, heavy arms will flood into what will become a free-fire zone"

'via Blog this'

Gravitas at 63

Next September 10, I will turn 63.

I love my daughter Leza, my son Lev, and my wife Mary. We are an American Family!

We are free. If you Google some of us, you may be surprised. But, I believe that in this country, we have the right to be what you find in the Open Internet. We do not have a PR team to clean our image, and I believe, that that is the beauty of our American Family.

 In this blog, and more in Eduardo Cantoral, you will find what I am about.

 If I am lucky, I am two thirds of the way, to the appointment, we all have with death.

I believe in being born, living, and dying. I do not need to sugar coat that fact. I feel healthy, though. Maybe a bit miffed, by the amount of hair and teeth, I still own. But otherwise, I expect to do my best work, in the rest of my allotted time. Einstein said, that death was good, because then you could see life as a work of art. A beginning, a middle, and an end.


Beware a Beautiful Calm -

Beware a Beautiful Calm -

 "It is, to use a phrase coined by French doctors, la belle indifférence, or “the beautiful calm” of hysterical people. But the closer you look, the uglier it gets."

'via Blog this'

Filmmaker Teaches Movie Magic to Chile's Slum Kids

LO HERMIDA, Chile (AP) — Inside the community center for this slum where children shiver in the winter chill, dozens of kids in a cardboard plane are dreaming of flying away. Their pilot is 9-year-old Benjamin Ortega, who tips his hat and calls for takeoff while an old 16-mm projector rolls and clicks, projecting Walt Disney's 1928 classic film "Plane Crazy" on a white sheet.

As the first black-and-white images of Mickey Mouse pop up, they roar with laughter. The 83-year-old woman responsible for their joy smiles faintly, paying no attention to the movie. She's more interested in these starry-eyed kids, who have never walked into a cinema.

Her name is Alicia Vega, a no-nonsense filmmaker who has seen that look during 27 years of workshops. In slum after slum, all across Chile, she has helped thousands of poor children soar by teaching them about the magic of movies.

Film, she says, has a uniquely transformative power.

"My intention was never for them to become filmmakers, but for them to become better human beings, to discover themselves," says Vega, who recently documented her life's work in a book, "Film Workshop for Children," so others might be inspired to follow her lead.

"Movies help children escape poverty because it lifts their self-esteem. They learn values, it expands their culture. It's universal: Kids are kids anywhere and they learn a lot through images," she says.

In her four-month workshops, children start by making devices that preceded the first projected moving images, like the Zoetrope — a cylinder with vertical slits surrounding a band of pictures that come alive when spun. The children often take the toys back home and teach their parents that the name comes from the Greek words "zoe" for alive and "trope" for turn.

"The Zoetrope impressed me most, because I never imagined that an inanimate image could have movement. It was shocking," recalls Leonardo Veliz, 38, who used to sell shoelaces in the streets when he attended Vega's workshop in 1987 at age 13. He now works as an electrical technician.

"I was surprised to see how movies were made, or to find out that the first ones were silent. The classes awakened my curiosity," Veliz says. "We learned that images are not really what they seem at first, and this has helped me at work. I'll be repairing computers for hours, and I also have to find a way to see things in a different way."

Studying cinema history, the kids sneeze together after watching Vega's 16-mm copy of the earliest surviving motion picture, the 1894 "Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze." Children pencil handlebar moustaches on their faces and dress in 19th century clothes to watch images of a train arriving at a station, famously shown to a shocked public by the Lumiere Brothers in Paris. Of the mustachioed brothers, sometimes they ask: "Which one is Louis and which one Auguste?"

On other days, they wear top hats and giggle at the slapstick comedy of Laurel and Hardy or Charlie Chaplin's first silent films. They discover shots and angles behind a real camera, construct a box office and pay for their classroom cinema using fake bills. And they always enjoy snacks during screenings.

"I've never been to the movie theater but I want to learn what a movie is and how it's made. I like this a lot," says Ortega, the 9-year-old "pilot" of the cardboard plane.

Kids also watch the moving stick figures of the century-old Fantasmagorie, the world's first cartoon. Eventually, frame by frame, they will draw their own moving images — of dinosaurs, soccer players, ships and trains — to make their own movie. They also grasp the difference between film and documentary or real life.

"They're used to not being listened to at home, hardly having an opinion at all," Vega says. "So when they come back home and tell their parents what happened in class they become the protagonists. It helps them find grounding in who they are and find a space in life, and that's very valuable."

Flashback to 1973, when Chile was living through the darkest moment of its recent history. Vega's adult classes at the university were cut after Marxist President Salvador Allende was ousted by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Helicopters hovered over Santiago's slums like Lo Hermida in the municipality of Penalolen, keeping children up at night while the military searched for leftist dissidents among their parents.

Sometimes soldiers broke into the porous plywood homes and dragged people out for questioning and torture. Many never returned, joining the more than 3,000 who disappeared after being seized by the dictatorship. Vega worried that their children, already enduring poverty and hunger, would also lose their innocence.

She spent the early years of the dictatorship developing a film curriculum for kids in Roman Catholic schools, but eventually she decided to go straight to the slums. In her first workshop, seen in the 1987 documentary "100 Children Waiting for a Train," she asks children to create their own documentary. They reach for red markers and draw images of protesters being shot by police.

Vega is small-framed and grandmotherly, but no pushover. Her toughest decisions come when she's had to dismiss children from the workshop for stealing the snacks. Her assistants sometime ask her to reconsider, but she won't give in. "If you were to forgive every child we couldn't continue with the class," Vega says in her book.

She's not the hugging type: In the film, she explains that she can't get too close emotionally to kids whose lives are already full of pain. It's hardest when she sees youngsters who have been abandoned or sexually abused, beaten or just hungry.

"For her to go inside this community at this hostile time was amazing," says Veliz of the dictatorship years. "We thought the world was just that and that we had to hate anyone who thought differently, but when the workshop arrived it changed our way of thinking."

Throughout the years, Vega has scrounged up funding from the Education Ministry, the U.S. and Scandinavian embassies, churches, French humanitarian groups and Chilean artists. But every year, she still struggles to get the $3,000 she needs for materials, adult supervisors and snacks.

"I keep on doing it because I see in children's faces that every year, with every experience, they achieve goals that they never dreamed of," Vega says. "Parents tell us that they focus and do better at school, and more importantly, they're happier."

And thanks to Vega, they have passed on some movie magic to their own children.

"I recently bought a film projector just like in the workshop, and I buy popcorn and watch movies with Zara, my 4-year-old daughter," Veliz says.

"Aunt Alicia would teach that movies have a beginning and an end, and in great way, that's how life is. But what happens in that movie of life depends on us," he adds. "In order to do that, you have to help children dream. Alicia does that and her legacy is huge. It's so many generations of us, and the movie keeps rolling."



Assange Casts Himself as Persecuted Whistle-Blower

LONDON — With dozens of London police officers seeking his arrest looking on, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, took to the balcony of Ecuador’s embassy on Sunday to condemn the United States government and cast himself as one of the world’s most-persecuted whistle-blowers.
Facundo Arrizabalaga/European Pressphoto Agency
Julian Assange spoke from a balcony at the Ecuadoran embassy in London on Sunday.
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Surrounded by supporters shouting encouragement, Mr. Assange, who has been granted asylum by Ecuador, did not directly mention Britain’s attempts to extradite him to Sweden because of rape and sexual abuse allegations. Several supporters, however, claimed that the extradition efforts were a pretext to prosecute him in the United States for leaking classified government documents.
“I ask President Obama to do the right thing. The United States must renounce its witch hunt against WikiLeaks,” Mr. Assange read from a statement as he stood on the balcony. “The United States must dissolve its F.B.I. investigation. The United States must vow that it will not seek to prosecute our staff or our supporters.”
A White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, told reporters on Saturday that the Obama administration considered the standoff a matter for the governments of Britain, Sweden and Ecuador.
Sunday’s appearance marked Mr. Assange’s first public remarks since he sought asylum at the Ecuadorean Embassy.
Mr. Assange, an eccentric hacker who has been both hailed as a champion of free speech and demonized as danger to public safety, burst onto the scene in 2010 when WikiLeaks posted secret documents on the Iraqi war as well as classified Pentagon documents on the Afghan conflict. It also made available individual cables — the daily traffic between the State Department and more than 270 American diplomatic outposts around the world.
On Sunday, wearing a crisp blue shirt and red tie, his white hair shorn neatly, Mr. Assange used his 10-minute speech to criticize the recent prosecutions of those who have leaked classified materials.
Specifically, he hailed Pfc. Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence analyst accused of passing huge archives of classified documents to WikiLeaks, as a “hero” and “one of the world’s foremost political prisoners.”
“As WikiLeaks stands under threat,” Mr. Assange said, “so does the freedom of expression and the health of all our societies.”
He spoke ominously of a “dangerous and oppressive world in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecution and citizens must whisper in the dark.”
In granting him asylum on Thursday, Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, made an argument similar to the one Mr. Assange laid out.
Mr. Correa presented his move as a pre-emptive strike against American plans to ensnare the Australian-born Mr. Assange and transport him for trial in the United States on espionage charges for his role in publishing the American military and diplomatic documents.
If American officials have made such preparations, they have studiously avoided disclosing them.
While Mr. Assange has been holed up in the embassy, dozens of police officers have taken up positions around the building, promising to arrest him should he emerge.
The standoff is the culmination of a nearly two-year drama that has embroiled Mr. Assange in an extradition case involving accusations of sexual abuse by two Swedish women — claims he has strenuously denied — and a British Supreme Court rulingordering that Mr. Assange be placed on a plane to Stockholm to face questioning in the affair.
With neither side seemingly willing to back down, the diplomatic impasse could last weeks, months or even years.
On Sunday, the embassy, which is in the heart of London’s exclusive Knightsbridge district, was transformed into a global stage for Mr. Assange, who sought to broaden the issue well beyond the accusations that he faces in Sweden.
In fact, he made no mention of the women who accused him of rape, sexual molesting and unlawful coercion in Stockholm in 2010.
A former British ambassador, Craig Murray, one of several supporters who spoke as a kind of warm-up act for Mr. Assange, said outright what those packing the street seemed to believe ardently. Dissidents like Mr. Assange, Mr. Murray said, “are fitted up with criminal offenses.”
Other public figures, like the fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, also sent messages of support.
The address, given from behind the white balustrades of a small balcony of the redbrick apartment block, marked the latest dramatic turn in a diplomatic fracas which has captivated London.
Mr. Assange fled to the embassy in June from almost certain extradition to Sweden after losing a years-long battle at Britain’s high court. Ecuador’s government announced late last week that it would grant him political asylum.
Britain has said it would not allow him to pass from the embassy, technically Ecuadorean territory, to South America. Mr. Assange has, as a result, been confined to the modest diplomatic office, surrounded by squads of Metropolitan Police in the streets below.
Mr. Assange’s supporters held up placards protesting the Iraq war, American foreign policy and what they characterized as persecution of Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks among others.
As they chanted “the people united will never be defeated” and shouted cries to “sack the government, sack the police,” dozens of law enforcement officers surrounding the embassy looked on, unable to arrest Mr. Assange, but unwilling to let him leave.

Ravi Somaiya reported from London and Marc Santora from New York.

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