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Rock mysteriously appears on Mars, looks like doughnut – CSMonitor.com

Rock mysteriously appears on Mars, looks like doughnut

An odd-looking rock appeared before NASA’s Opportunity Rover on Mars, in a spot where, 13 days earlier, there was nothing.

By Tariq Malik, SPACE.com Managing Editor / January 22, 2014

This before-and-after pair of images of the same patch of ground in front of NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity 13 days apart documents the arrival of a strange, bright rock at the scene. The rock, called “Pinnacle Island,” is seen in the right image on Jan. 8, 2014. The image at left was taken on Dec. 26, 2013.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

A mystery rock on Mars that suddenly appeared in front ofNASA‘s Opportunity rover may look like a tasty donut, but it is like nothing ever seen on the Martian surface before.

The strange Mars rock was spotted by Opportunity on Jan. 8 in a spot where, 13 days earlier, there was nothing. The rock, which scientists now call “Pinnacle Island,” is white on the outside, red in the middle and appeared after Opportunity had just finished a short drive.

“It looks like a jelly donut,” said Steve Squyres, the rover’s lead scientist at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., during a recent NASA event marking Opportunity’s 10th year on Mars. “And it appeared, it just plain appeared, at that spot and we haven’t driven over that spot.” [Amazing Photos from NASA’s Opportunity Mars Rover]

The odd rock is located in a spot on “Murray Ridge” along the wall of Endeavour Crater where Opportunity is spending the Martian winter. A closer look at the rock using Opportunity’s robotic arm-mounted instruments revealed even more surprises.

“It’s like nothing we ever seen before. It’s very high in sulfur, very high in magnesium, it has twice as much manganese than anything we’ve seen on Mars,” Squyres said with excitement in last week’s Jan. 16 event. “I don’t know what any of this means. We’re completely confused, we’re having a wonderful time.”

(This intro is a reblog from CSMonitor.You can read the full article at the link below-

http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2014/0122/Rock-mysteriously-appears-on-Mars-looks-like-doughnut?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Science_final&utm_campaign=20140130_Newsletter%3AScience_Sailthru&cmpid=ema%3Anws%3AScience%2520Weekly%2520%2801%2F30%2F2014%29 )

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India and US: Nanny furor highlights ugly things about both sides (+video) – CSMonitor.com

I have been following this issue because I grew up with a lot of association with India thru my Mom’s friends, books, movies etc and because I am greatly looking forward to the Bollywood awards party being held near my home in a few months.

I hope this does not ruin the relationship between our countries.

I personally feel strip searching people is bizarre and awful even if it us warranted by circumstances.

When I was a teaching assistant in graduate school my professor required this publication as daily reading for students. He felt it was the most fair source for international news.

I would love to hear my readers opinions on this-both this issue and whether CSMonitor is the most fair source.
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India and US: Nanny furor highlights ugly things about both sides (+video)

(Read article summary)http://m.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2013/1219/India-and-US-Nanny-furor-highlights-ugly-things-about-both-sides-video#unhide

By Ben Arnoldy, Staff writer / December 19, 2013


In happier times just a few years ago, US and Indian leaders trumpeted the shared cultural values between the world’s oldest and the world’s largest democracies. It’s instructive that in a matter of a few days, we are at each other’s throats over an incident that is not exactly the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Instead, an Indian diplomat was arrested in New York for allegedly falsifying documents that allowed her to illegally underpay a nanny she brought over from India. During the course of her detention, the Indian diplomat was “fully searched” by police, meaning at least a strip search.

This US-India relationship is historically young. Now that we are over the infatuation stage, we should absorb what the other is saying and admit that there are real differences in worldview between us, and that sometimes these differences highlight ugly things about ourselves.Thoughts for Americans to consider:

1. Americans are outraged at the way the Indian diplomat illegally exploited her nanny with wages far below New York’s prevailing wage. And then lied about it. But when is the last time Americans were really outraged over US tech companies bringing over Indians on special work visas and – illegally – paying them less than the prevailing wage? And then lying about it. Where are the arrests and strip searches of Silicon Valley CEOs? No one has the high moral ground on cross-border pay.

2. Americans are so busy trying to make the point that it’s standard operating procedure to strip search people after an arrest that we haven’t stopped to think whether that practice makes any sense at all. Set aside for a moment the emotions surrounding respect for diplomats or female modesty: If an arrest is a surprise, and doesn’t revolve around smuggling contraband or a violent crime, what are the chances really that a suspect has dangerous items hidden in her body? Currently there is a lawsuit brought by a US citizen who was strip searched, then cavity searched, then brought to a hospital to observe her bowel movement, all on suspicion she was carrying drugs. She wasn’t. This is the stuff of police states.

3. Try remaining consistent while arguing the US position on the Vienna Convention over Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor arrested in Pakistan, and the US position on Vienna protocols over the Indian diplomat. Maybe it can be done, but I haven’t heard it yet. Americans try to portray themselves as automatons before the law, as if the law often isn’t a matter of human interpretation where bias creeps in.Thoughts for Indians to consider:

1. Picking this battle will not make the US respect India, in fact it is eroding the country’s credibility fast. The US is currently one of the biggest champions of an expanded role for India on the world stage. Americans start to reconsider that when it appears (to them) that New Delhi is more concerned with defending elite privilege than the country’s strategic big picture. Does India even have a collective sense of national interest? A common refrain making the rounds is that the US would never treat Russian or Chinese officials this way. To make the US more wary of crossing India, as some commentators there want, would require flashing some willingness to use hard power. Maybe that would win “respect” of a sort, but the relationship would come to resemble something more like that of the US and Russia.

2. India has an unacknowledged human rights problem surrounding its domestic workforce. Domestic workers have few real protections and exploitation runs rampant in the form of long hours, low pay, subhuman accommodations, physical/sexual abuse, and the lack of a fair system of dispute resolution. India needs labor laws to set some minimum standards, and to begin to move more people out of poverty. But the system is awfully convenient for a lot of people the way it is.

3. The removal of security infrastructure around the US embassy was the action of an enemy, not an angry friend. American officials are unlikely to make a big public stink about this for safety reasons. But it will be remembered as a reckless move. We should be able to disagree with each other without jeopardizing life and limb.

Math help for journalists:

1. The minimum wage in New York is $7.25/hour. At 40 hours/week, with roughly 4.3 weeks in a month, that equals $1,247/month, not $4,500/month. This mistake is all over Indian media and even in US outlets.

2. The legal obligation is for the nanny to be paid the prevailing wage, if it is above the minimum wage.According to the NY district attorney, that’s $9.75/hour, or $1,677 a month. If she worked for $573.07 /month as alleged, her per hour rate assuming a 40-hour week would be around $3.33/hour. However, she allegedly was forced to work “many more” hours. That means she was paid less than $3.33 / hour – maybe even less than $3/hour.


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Crackdown on the ‘bank of popes’ – CSMonitor.com

Crackdown on the ‘bank of popes’
Pope Francis has moved quickly to reform the scandal-ridden Vatican bank. The Swiss Guard and ATMs that give instructions in Latin, however, will remain unchanged.

By Nick Squires, Correspondent / October 11, 2013

1011 vatican pope francis bank full 300

1011 vatican pope francis bank full 300

Pope Francis blesses the faithful during the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013. Gregorio Borgia/AP

It is a bank like no other.

Its entrance is watched over by pantaloon-wearing soldiers from the Swiss Guard, its cash-dispensing machines give instructions in Latin, and its headquarters are in a 15th-century tower that was once used as a papal prison.

But seven months into the papacy of Pope Francis, it is clear that the imposing stone walls of the Tower of Pope Nicholas V are no match for the South American pontiff’s determination to clear up the Vatican bank’s finances after years of scandal and allegations of impropriety.

The pope, who has criticized the iniquities of the international banking system since he was selected in March, has embarked on a campaign to dramatically improve the transparency and accountability of an institution that Forbes last year called “The Most Secret Bank in the World.” The bank manages funds and accounts held by the Holy See, as well as Catholic charities and orders around the world, and individual cardinals, priests, and nuns.

The latest initiative came this week, when theVatican passed a new law designed to improve financial transparency, enhance cooperation with other countries and law enforcement agencies, and prevent money laundering and tax evasion.

Despite being the bank of popes, the Institute for Works of Religion, as the bank is officially called, has been accused in the past of permitting suspect financial transactions by some of its account holders, particularly foreign embassies in Rome that are accredited to the Holy See.

How much do you know about the Catholic Church? Take our quiz!
The new law was approved by Pope Francis, who earlier this year appointed a special committee to oversee the reform of the bank.

Since then, the pace of change has been fast, at least by the standards of the Vatican, where change is normally measured in decades, if not centuries.

Earlier this month the bank published its accounts for the first time in its 125-year history, revealing that its earnings for 2012 were 86.6 million euros – more than four times higher than in 2011.

The massive increase in earnings was largely due to a sharp rise in the value of Italian government debt held by the Holy See institution – a result of confidence-boosting measures taken by the European Central Bank and the appointment in November 2011 of Mario Monti as prime minister of Italy.

The 100-page report showed that the bank owns a wide range of assets, including more than 41 million euros worth of gold, precious coins, and medals.

Deposits and portraits of the Virgin Mary

If the hulking exterior of the institution sets it apart from the Main Street banks familiar to most people, then so too does its interior.

In a large circular room ringed by cashiers’ desks, priests wait patiently alongside nuns to withdraw money or check the balance of their accounts.

In the bank’s offices and corridors, the normal range of potted plants and photocopiers is mixed with bronze busts of popes, portraits of Francis, and statuettes of the Virgin Mary.

Tucked away on an upper floor, a team of forensic accounting experts from Promontory Financial Group, a US-based regulatory compliance consulting firm, is systematically screening the 19,000 accounts held by the bank.

With 7,000 accounts now checked, around 900 individuals and institutions have been told to close their accounts and move their money elsewhere after investigators ruled that they did not conform to the new, more stringent rules on depositors. They were not necessarily guilty of money laundering, fraud, or other financial crimes, says Max Hohenberg, the bank’s spokesman.

“They may have committed zero legal wrongdoing but for statutory reasons have been excluded,” Mr. Hohenberg says.

The auditing operation is being overseen by the bank’s newly-appointed president, Ernst von Freyberg, a German lawyer with an aristocratic pedigree.

He displays the sort of direct, no-nonsense approach favored by his boss, Pope Francis. When it became clear that the office allocated to the Promontory experts was not big enough, he gave up his own.

Mr. Von Freyberg took up his post in February after his predecessor, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was abruptly dismissed last year after being accused of neglecting basic management responsibilities at the bank, which holds more than 7 billion euros in assets.

Von Freyberg says he and his team have made “enormous progress” but that there remains work to be done in making the bank more transparent.

“We need to become compliant with international financial laws, including on money laundering. The Pope strongly endorses a Vatican bank that serves the Church and no one else,” he says.

‘God’s banker’

The bank has had a tarnished image ever since Roberto Calvi, dubbed “God’s banker,” was found hanging beneath Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982.

Nobody has ever been found guilty of his murder, but there has been intense speculation that he had lost money entrusted to him by the Italian Mafia and that he paid with his life.

Mr. Calvi was the chairman of Banco Ambrosiano, an Italian bank that collapsed with massive losses. The Vatican was its main shareholder.

It was the darkest chapter of the bank’s history but by no means its only scandal.

Earlier this year the director general and his deputy were placed under investigation for money laundering and forced to resign.

It has come under intense scrutiny by Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money-laundering committee, which said last year that while the Holy See had taken steps to improve standards, more needed to be done. Moneyval is due to conduct a new assessment later this year.

Just as the reform efforts were getting under way this summer, another scandal emerged.

A senior prelate working as an accountant in a related Vatican finance department was arrested in June and accused of trying to smuggle 20 million euros in cash from Switzerland to Italy aboard a private plane.

Nunzio Scarano, who was nicknamed by his peers “Monsignor 500” for his habit of showing off a wallet full of 500 euro notes, denies the charges but will face trial in December.

In an interview on Thursday, he said he feared that he would be poisoned for his cooperation with Italian investigators.

”I have told of episodes that could put me in danger. I am trying to be stronger than the fear and nightmares that torment me, but despite my prayers, I am certain that I will die by poisoning,” Mr. Scarano, who worked at the Holy See’s asset-management agency, told Libero, a daily newspaper.

He claimed that he had been made a “scapegoat” for powerful figures within the Vatican “against whom the pope, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, is already taking wise decisions.” Those decisions will determine whether the scandal-ridden bank can clean up its act once and for all, as Pope Francis seeks to haul it into the 21st century.




Seven reasons US intervention in Syria is a bad idea – Do no harm – CSMonitor.com

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1. Do no harm

The call for intervention is surely trumped, even on humanitarian grounds, by the principle borrowed from medicine: first, do no harm – or, in this case, no greater harm than already done.

THE MONITOR’S VIEW: What Obama must tell Americans about a US strike on Syria

US air strikes on Damascus and Homs, with every risk of civilian casualties, would almost certainly provoke an enraged response by government forces. A conflict whose flames have already fanned into Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey could well sweep toward Israel (which constitutes the only strategic US interest in the region). An even broader and more perilous ripple effect would be felt if any Russians or Iranians were among the victims of an attack.

David C. Speedie is director of the US Global Engagement program at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.


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by Taboola



‘God Particle’: Six big consequences of the Higgs boson discovery – CSMonitor.com

‘God Particle’: Physicists announced Thursday that they have confirmed the existence of the so-called God Particle a term disliked by physicists and theologians alike. Here are six of the biggest consequences of this discovery.

By Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience Senior Writer / March 14, 2013

This track is an example of simulated data modelled for the ATLAS detector on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. The Higgs boson is produced in the collision of two protons at 14 TeV and quickly decays into four muons, a type of heavy electron that is not absorbed by the detector. The tracks of the muons are shown in yellow.


Physicists announced today (March 14) that a particle discovered at the world’s largest atom smasher last year is a Higgs boson, a long-sought particle thought to explain how other particles get their mass.

Discovered at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), where protons zip at near light-speed around a 17-mile-long (27 kilometers) underground ring beneath Switzerland and France, the Higgs boson particle is the last undiscovered piece of the puzzle predicted by the Standard Model, the reigning theory of particle physics.

Confirming a Higgs boson, physicists say, will have wide-reaching implications. Here are six of the biggest consequences:

1. The origin of mass

The Higgs boson has long been thought the key to resolving the mystery of the origin of mass. The Higgs boson is associated with a field, called the Higgs field, theorized to pervade the universe. As other particles travel though this field, they acquire mass much as swimmers moving through a pool get wet, the thinking goes.

“The Higgs mechanism is the thing that allows us to understand how the particles acquire mass,” said Joao Guimaraes da Costa, a physicist at Harvard University who is the Standard Model Convener at the LHC’s ATLAS experiment, last year when the discovery was announced. “If there was no such mechanism, then everything would be massless.”

Confirming the particle is a Higgs would also confirm that the Higgs mechanism for particles to acquire mass is correct. “This discovery bears on the knowledge of how mass comes about at the quantum level, and is the reason we built the LHC. It is an unparalleled achievement,” Caltech professor of physics Maria Spiropulu, co-leader of the CMS experiment, said in a statement last year. [Gallery: Search for the Higgs Boson]

And, it may offer clues to the next mystery down the line, which is why individual particles have the masses that they do. “That could be part of a much larger theory,” said Harvard University particle physicist Lisa Randall. “Knowing what the Higgs boson is, is the first step of knowing a little more about what that theory could be. It’s connected.”

2. The Standard Model

The Standard Model is the reigning theory of particle physics that describes the universe’s very small constituents. Every particle predicted by the Standard Model has been discovered except one: the Higgs boson.

“It’s the missing piece in the Standard Model,” Jonas Strandberg, a researcher at CERN working on the ATLAS experiment, said last year of the particle announcement. “So it would definitely be a confirmation that the theories we have now are right.”

So far, the Higgs boson seems to match up with predictions made by the Standard Model. Even so, the Standard Model itself isn’t thought to be complete. It doesn’t encompass gravity, for example, and leaves out the dark matter thought to make up 98 percent of all matter in the universe. [6 Weird Facts About Gravity]

“Clear evidence that the new particle is the Standard Model Higgs boson still would not complete our understanding of the universe,” Patty McBride, head of the CMS Center at Fermilab, said today (March 14) in a statement. “We still wouldn’t understand why gravity is so weak and we would have the mysteries of dark matter to confront. But it is satisfying to come a step closer to validating a 48-year-old theory.”

3. The electroweak force

The confirmation of the Higgs also helps to explain how two of the fundamental forces of the universe the electromagnetic force that governs interactions between charged particles, and the weak force that’s responsible for radioactive decay can be unified. [9 Unsolved Physics Mysteries]

Every force in nature is associated with a particle. The particle tied to electromagnetism is the photon, a tiny, massless particle. The weak force is associated with particles called the W and Z bosons, which are very massive.

The Higgs mechanism is thought to be responsible for this.

“If you introduce the Higgs field, the W and Z bosons mix with the field, and through this mixing they acquire mass,” Strandberg said. “This explains why the W and Z bosons have mass, and also unifies the electromagnetic and weak forces into the electroweak force.”

Though other evidence has helped buffer the union of these two forces, the Higgs discovery may seal the deal.

4. Supersymmetry

The theory supersymmetry is also affected by the Higgs discovery. This idea posits that every known particle has a “superpartner” particle with slightly different characteristics.

Supersymmetry is attractive because it could help unify some of the other forces of nature, and even offers a candidate for the particle that makes up dark matter. So far, though, scientists have found indications of only a Standard Model Higgs boson, without any strong hints of supersymmetric particles.

5. Validation of LHC

The Large Hadron Collider is the world’s largest particle accelerator. It was built for around $10 billion by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) to probe higher energies than had ever been reached on Earth. Finding the Higgs boson was touted as one of the machine’s biggest goals.

The newly announced finding offers major validation for the LHC and for the scientists who’ve worked on the search for many years.

“This discovery bears on the knowledge of how mass comes about at the quantum level, and is the reason we built the LHC. It is an unparalleled achievement,” Spiropulu said in a statement last year. “More than a generation of scientists has been waiting for this very moment and particle physicists, engineers, and technicians in universities and laboratories around the globe have been working for many decades to arrive at this crucial fork. This is the pivotal moment for us to pause and reflect on the gravity of the discovery, as well as a moment of tremendous intensity to continue the data collection and analyses.”

The discovery of the Higgs also has major implications for scientist Peter Higgs and his colleagues who first proposed the Higgs mechanism in 1964. The finding also shines a symbolic light on the boson’s namesake, the late Indian physicist and mathematician Satyendranath Bose, who along with Albert Einstein, helped to define bosons. A class of elementary particles, bosons (which include gluons and gravitons) mediate interactions between fermions (including quarks, electrons and neutrinos), the other group of fundamental building blocks of the universe.

6. Is the universe doomed?

The Higgs boson discovery opens the door to new calculations that weren’t previously possible, scientists say, including one that suggests the universe is in for a cataclysm billions of years from now.

The mass of the Higgs boson is a critical part of a calculation that portends the future of space and time. At around 126 times the mass of the proton, the Higgs is just about what would be needed to create a fundamentally unstable universe that would lead to a cataclysm billions of years from now.

“This calculation tells you that many tens of billions of years from now there’ll be a catastrophe,” Joseph Lykken, a theoretical physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., said last month at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“It may be the universe we live in is inherently unstable, and at some point billions of years from now it’s all going to get wiped out,” added Lykken, a collaborator on the CMS experiment.

Follow Clara Moskowitz on Twitter @ClaraMoskowitz. Follow LiveScience on Twitter @livescience, Facebook orGoogle+. Original article on LiveScience.com.

Read the article on CSMonitor at the link- http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2013/0314/God-Particle-Six-big-consequences-of-the-Higgs-boson-discovery?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Daily&utm_campaign=20130314_Newsletter%3AScience_Sailthru&cmpid=ema%3Anws%3AScience%2520Weekly%2520%2803%2F14%2F2013%29