Category Archives: Global

kepler

Scientists find new Earth-like planets in space

WASHINGTON (AP) – Earth has a few more near-twin planets outside our solar system, tantalizing possibilities in the search for extraterrestrial life.

Astronomers announced Tuesday that depending on definitions, they have confirmed three or four more planets that are about the same size as Earth and are in the not-too-hot, not-too-cold “Goldilocks Zone” for liquid water to form.

These planets are likely to be rocky like Earth, and not gas giants or ice worlds. They get about the same heat from their star as we get from the sun, according to the latest results from NASA’s planet hunting Kepler telescope.

But don’t book your flights yet.

They may be close to Earth in size and likely temperature in the gargantuan scale of the universe, but they aren’t quite close enough for comfort.

Consider two of the new planets, the nearest to Earth discovered to date. If they have atmospheres similar to Earth’s – a big if – one would be a toasty 140 some degrees and the other would hover around zero, said study lead author Guillermo Torres, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Life conceivably could evolve and adapt to those temperatures, he said.

Oh, and they aren’t actually within commuting distance of Earth. Those two are 500 and 1,100 light years away; a light year is 5.9 trillion miles.

What’s important, said SETI Institute astronomer Douglas Caldwell, a study co-author who presented the findings at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, is that astronomers are a bit closer to finding twins of Earth and answering the age-old question: Are we alone?

“These planets do exist; we didn’t know that before,” Torres said in a phone interview from Cambridge, Massachusetts. “What we’re really looking for is signs of life eventually. We’re not there yet. It will take many years but this is the first step.”

Torres’ team confirmed earlier discoveries and added new ones, bringing the total known number of planets that are no bigger than twice Earth’s size and in the habitable temperature zone to eight or nine. But that’s only from a short search of a small part of our galaxy, so Torres believes that Earth-like planets are common throughout the cosmos, though he cannot prove it yet.

Torres likes to include one planet that would bump the new findings from three to four, but Caldwell said that planet may or may not be habitable.

It doesn’t matter much. “We do not need to talk about the one or two exoplanets that could be like Earth, we are finding so many,” said Lisa Kaltenegger, director of Cornell University’s Pale Blue Dot Institute. She wasn’t part of the study.

Torres and Caldwell highlighted the two new planets that are closest in size to Earth. The closest, called Kepler 438-b, is only 12 percent larger than Earth and gets about 40 percent more energy from its star than we do from the sun, so it would probably be warmer, Torres said. It tightly circles a small cooler red star with its year lasting only 35 Earth days and the sun in its sky would be red, not yellow.

It may hot, but “there are bacteria on Earth that live very comfortably in those temperatures, no problem,” Torres said.

The other, Kepler 442-b, is about 34 percent bigger than Earth but gets only two-thirds of the energy from its sun as we do, Torres said.

NASA also announced that its planet-hunter telescope confirmed its 1,000th planet outside the solar system, most quite unlike Earth and not in the habitable zone. Added to those discovered by other telescopes, astronomers have now discovered more than 1,800 planets that are outside the solar system.

Source: AP
Picture: Sen.com

russianeconomy

Russia forecasts economic slump as bailed-out bank gets more funds

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Slumping oil prices have put Russia’s economy on course for a sharp recession and double-digit inflation next year, government ministers said on Friday, as authorities scaled up a bailout for the first bank to succumb to this month’s ruble crisis.

The economy is slowing sharply as Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis deter foreign investment and spur capital flight, and as a slump in oil prices severely reduces Russia’s export revenues and pummels the ruble.

The government has taken steps to support key banks and address the deepening currency crisis in the past week, including a sharp and unexpected interest rate hike, but analysts are pessimistic on the outlook for both the economy and the ruble.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told journalists on Friday the economy could shrink by 4 percent in 2015, its first contraction since 2009, if oil prices averaged their current level of $60 a barrel.

Siluanov also said the country would run a budget deficit of more than 3 percent next year if the oil price did not rise.

“Next year we will, without doubt, have to bring the Reserve Fund into play,” he said, referring to one of Russia’s two rainy-day funds intended to support the economy at times of crisis.

Crude prices have almost halved from their June peak amid a global glut and a decision by producer group OPEC not to cut output. Saudi Arabia said on Friday it was prepared to withstand a prolonged period of low prices.

“We need to have our budget break even at $70 per barrel by 2017,” said Siluanov.

Russia’s government imposed informal capital controls this week, including orders to large state-controlled oil and gas exporters Gazprom and Rosneft to sell some of their dollar revenues to shore up the ruble.

Russians have kept a wary eye on the exchange rate since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Hyper-inflation wiped out their savings over several years in the early 1990s and the ruble collapsed again in 1998.

The ruble’s latest fall will inevitably lead to higher inflation next year, which after years of stability threatens President Vladimir Putin’s reputation for ensuring Russia’s prosperity.

“The inflation forecast is tough, high. We forecast the level of 10 percent at the end of the year (2015),” Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said on Friday.

Inflation would remain in double digits throughout 2015, peaking at the end of the first quarter or in the second quarter, he added.

ROUBLE TROUBLE

The Russian currency slipped on Friday after hitting its strongest levels in more than three weeks earlier in the day.

The ruble traded at 53.9 per dollar during the evening, a sharp rebound from its recent all-time lows of 80 but still far weaker than the 30-35 range it was trading at in the first half of 2014.

“If oil goes down to (per barrel)… I don’t think our authorities will be able to artificially maintain the (ruble) rate even with higher sales by exporters,”

said the head of treasury at a major Russian bank, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to media.

On Friday, Russian authorities also significantly scaled up rescue funds for Trust Bank, saying they would provide up to $2.4 billion in loans to bail out the mid-sized lender, the first bank to fall victim to the crisis.

The falling ruble has prompted panic buying of foreign currency in Russia and a spike in deposit withdrawals, heaping pressure on a vulnerable banking sector whose access to international capital markets has already been restricted by Western sanctions.

Siluanov said on Friday that authorities would provide additional capital to the country’s second-largest bank, VTB, and fellow state lender Gazprombank.

VTB could receive 250 billion rubles and Gazprombank 70 billion rubles to help fund investment projects, including those planned by Russian Railways, he said.

It was not clear whether this support would be in addition to the 1 trillion ruble capital boost the banking sector is set to receive as part of legislation recently approved by parliament.

Credit agency Standard & Poor’s said this week it could downgrade Russia’s rating to junk as soon as January due to a rapid deterioration in “monetary flexibility” in the country.

“Practically this (a downgrade) may mean the increase of capital outflow from Russia, which would be necessary to replace with instruments we have,” Ulyukayev said.

Russia may repurchase corporate bond issues, especially denominated in foreign currency, if needed, he added.

Meanwhile Russian gold and forex reserves have fallen to their lowest levels since 2009 as the central bank has spent billions to prop up the currency. Last week, reserves dropped by as much as $15.7 billion to below $400 billion, down from over $510 billion at the start of the year.

(Additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin, Dmitry Zhdannikov, Yelena Fabrichnaya, Alexander Winning, Polina Devitt and Anton Zverev; Writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov and Alexander Winning; Editing by Hugh Lawson, John Stonestreet and Peter Graff)

Source: Reuters

northkorea2

After major outage, key N. Korea sites back online

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Key North Korean websites were back online Tuesday after an hours-long shutdown that followed a U.S. vow to respond to a cyberattack on Sony Pictures that Washington blames on Pyongyang. The White House and the State Department declined to say whether the U.S. government was responsible for the shutdown in one of the least-wired countries in the world.

Internet access to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency and the Rodong Sinmun newspaper were working normally Tuesday after being earlier inaccessible, South Korean officials said. Those sites are the main channels for official North Korea news, with servers located abroad.

U.S. computer experts earlier said North Korea experienced sweeping and progressively worse Internet outages. One said the country’s online access was “totally down.”

President Barack Obama said Friday the U.S. government expected to respond to the Sony hack, which he described as an expensive act of “cyber vandalism” that he blamed on North Korea. Obama did not say how the U.S. might respond, and it was not immediately clear if the Internet connectivity problems represented the retribution. The U.S. government regards its offensive cyber operations as highly classified.

North Korea has denied it was responsible for hacking into Sony. But the country has also called the attack a “righteous deed” and for months condemned the “The Interview.” Sony canceled plans to release the movie after a group of hackers made terroristic threats against theaters that planned to show it.

North Korea has promoted the development of science and technology as a means of improving its moribund economy. But access to the global Internet is severely restricted. Mobile phones used on the state-authorized network cannot make overseas calls. The North’s Intranet gives access to government-sanctioned sites and works with its own browsers, search engine and email programs, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

Source: AP/Yahoo

american

Turbulence injures 14 on flight

(CNN) — An American Airlines plane en route from Seoul, South Korea to Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas diverted to Narita, Japan, Tuesday after several passengers and crew were injured by turbulence during the flight.

American Flight 280 departed Incheon International Airport near Seoul in route to Dallas-Fort Worth when an intense winter storm shook the cabin and caused injuries that forced the aircraft to divert.

Medical personnel have been able to evaluate the 14 passengers and crew members who asked for medical attention, said American spokeswoman Andrea Huguely in statement.

“Four passengers and one crew member have been transported to local hospitals for further observation and treatment,” she wrote. None of the injuries were life threatening.

The flight will not continue on to Dallas-Fort Worth on Tuesday, Huguely said.

“Passengers have been transported to hotels and will continue their travel to DFW tomorrow (Wednesday),” she wrote. “Our team in Tokyo will continue to provide all necessary support to take care of our passengers and crew.”
American Airlines said the plane is a Boeing 777 carrying 240 passengers and a crew of 15.

The Weather Channel reports that an intense winter storm is developing over Japan, with blizzard warnings in northern and western sections of the country.

“Note there is a very strong storm, similar to a Nor’easter, just east of Japan which is causing severe turbulence in the region,” said Brandon Miller, Senior Meteorologist for CNN International.

Source: CNN

realestatehomeowners

The Home Refinance Plan Banks Don’t Want You Knowing

When homeowners visit The Easy Loan Site™ official website, they may be surprised to find out they qualify for a plan that offers them shockingly low interest rates.

Unknown to many, this brilliant government program called the Home Affordable Refinance Plan (HARP) could benefit millions of Americans. By refinancing their homes at lower interest rates, homeowners could easily reduce their payments by as much as $4,264 each year. 1

Time is running out for homeowners and the government is making one final push to reach out to homeowners who can still benefit. The program is set to expire in 2015, but the good news though is that once you’re in, you’re in. If lowering your payments, paying off your mortgage faster, and even taking some cash out would help you, it’s vital that you act now.

Close to a million homeowners could still benefit today, but sadly, many perceive HARP to be too good to be true. Remember, HARP is a free government program and there’s absolutely NO COST to see if you qualify.

Putting Money Back Into The Middle Class
Did you know if your mortgage is less than $625,000, your chances of qualifying for HARP could be high? The Government wants the banks to cut your rates, which puts more money in your pocket, ultimately boosting the economy.

But the banks are not happy about this. Here’s why:

    The program makes it easier to qualify for lower mortgage rates

    You have the option to shop lenders other than your current mortgage holder

You think banks like the above? Rest assured, they do not. They’d rather make more money by keeping you at the higher rate you financed at years ago. The middle class seems to miss out on everything, and jumping on this benefit is a no-brainer.

  • The average monthly savings is $250. Could you use an extra $250/month?2
  • On top of the savings, many homeowners could pay off their mortgage faster.
  • Homeowners can even take cash out for home improvements, pay off debt, or pay for their children’s education.

Where Do I Start?
With hundreds of mortgage lenders and brokers available, it can take consumers hours to simply contact each one separately and request a quote. The good news is that there are services that could help you save time and money by comparing multiple lenders at once. Services such as The Easy Loan Site has one of the biggest lender network in the nation and what’s better is that they work with HARP lenders to provide consumers with a comprehensive set of mortgage options.

There’s no obligation to homeowners, and The Easy Loan Site offers easy and fast comparisons. It takes about five minutes, and the service is 100% free. You have nothing to lose, except for your money problems!

Source: AOL

tiger

Malayan Tiger: in the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula

Perhaps 500 Malayan tigers live in the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula (Malaysia and Thailand), but their tropical rain forest habitat is dwindling. As trees fall for farms and other development these tigers increasingly come into conflicts with people—such as when they prey on livestock—and often pay with their lives.

Tigers are sparsely scattered on the Malay Peninsula, occurring where small pockets of forest or vegetation are isolated enough to hold them and can provide enough prey to nourish them. It’s estimated that only one or two Malayan tigers can live in a 39-square-mile territory here, because deer, boar, and other tiger food is thin on the ground. But these cats do have some humans on their side. The Global Tiger Initiative has commended the Malaysian government for its plan to connect tiger populations with wildlife corridors, making breeding more viable, and to double the numbers of its national animal by 2022.

Only in 2004 did genetic studies establish Panthera tigris jacksoni as a subspecies separate from their Indochinese tiger relatives on the Asian mainland. To the naked eye the coloration, patterns, skull shapes, and other physical characteristics between these two subspecies are nearly identical.

Scientists estimate only about 3,000 wild tigers are left in the entire world. Meet the subspecies and see what threats each is facing.

Sumatran Tiger[/highlight], More than a thousand tigers prowled the Indonesian island of Sumatra when the animals were surveyed in 1978. Today, fewer than half that number survive here and those cats are under siege by poachers and ceaseless deforestation of their home forests fueled by the pulp, paper, and palm oil industries.

A 2004 report from TRAFFIC, the IUCN/WWF effort to track the illegal wildlife trade, suggested that poachers were killing at least 40 of the critically endangered animals every year.

The Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is the last of the “island tiger” subspecies. The neighboring Indonesian islands of Java and Bali were once home to their own distinct tigers, but the Bali tiger (Panthera tigris balica) and the Javan tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica) each died out during the 20th century. Conservationists are working hard to help their Sumatran relatives avoid the same fate.

    A 2004 report from TRAFFIC, the IUCN/WWF effort to track the illegal wildlife trade, suggested that poachers were killing at least 40 of the critically endangered animals every year.

South China Tiger

Time may have already run out for the South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis), which hasn’t been documented in the wild since the early 1970s. While a few individuals may still survive, the subspecies is possibly extinct in the wild—though in the 1950s its population was estimated at a (possibly quite inflated) 4,000 individuals, which would have been more than all the wild tigers living today.

South China tigers were victims of eradication campaigns during China’s Great Leap Forward era of the 1950s and 1960s. Protection came in 1979, when hunting was banned, and China instituted more active conservation measures in the 1990s, but by that time populations had fallen irrecoverably.

Some conservationists maintain that not enough protected, undisturbed land remains in the region to house a viable breeding population. Not everyone agrees. A group called Save China’s Tigers, working with state forestry authorities, has launched a controversial “rewilding” project in which cats from the subspecies’ tiny captive population are transported to a South African reserve where they can breed and learn to survive for possible reintroduction in China. Though many conservationists take a dim view of the prospect, as of 2012 a dozen cubs had been bred and the effort was still moving forward.

Source: National Geographic

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healthstate

The Healthiest State in America is…

Americans are growing more obese and exercising less, according to a new report examining the health of our nation.

The 2014 America’s Health Rankings, released today, shows that the U.S. obesity rate increased from 27.6 percent to 29.4 percent of adults in the past year. In addition, the percentage of adults who said they hadn’t done any physical activity in the last 30 days increased, going from 22.9 percent to 23.5 percent in the past year.

However, there were improvements made in a number of other health-related measures, including:

  • 3 percent decrease in smoking (19.6 percent to 19 percent of adults over the past year).
  • 5 percent increase in teen immunization coverage (64 percent to 67.1 percent of teens ages 13 to 17 over the past year).
  • 10 percent increase in high school graduation rates (73.4 precent to 81 percent of incoming ninth graders over the past five years).
  • 22 percent decrease in preventable hospitalizations (80.6 hospitalizations per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries to 62.9 hospitalizations per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries, over the last 10 years).
  • 23 percent decrease in air pollution (12.8 micrograms of fine particulars per cubic meter, to 9.9 micrograms of fine particles per cubic meter, over the last 10 years).
  • 41 percent decrease in infant mortality (10.2 deaths for every 1,000 live births to 6 deaths for every 1,000 live births since 1990).
  • The report, which is published every year by the United Health Foundation in partnership with the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention, is based on data from the Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association, the U.S. Department of Education, and other agencies and organizations.

    In addition to providing a picture of overall U.S. health, the report also provided snapshots of health by state. The states that scored the lowest in the rankings were Mississippi, which scored 50th; Arkansas, which scored 49th; Louisiana, which scored 48th; and Kentucky, which scored 47th.

    But what are the healthiest states in the ranking? Find out if your state made the top 10 in the slideshow.

    Soure: Yahoo

    californiabeach2

    Top 10 Southern California Beaches

    Drive down the Southern California coast, and visit the best beaches in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego..

    Laguna Beach
    Laguna is one of Orange County’s most fashionable towns, as well as one of the most culturally rich, but the beach is a big draw, too. The water at Laguna is generally clean and calm, though occasionally the Pacific tends to be cool with strong tides. Clean, white and warm, Laguna’s sands are perfect for strolling, volleyball matches or simply unwinding on a blanket.

    Laguna Beach, CA

    Coronado
    For well over a century, Coronado’s beaches have been its fortune, namely the seaside in front of the glamorous Hotel Del Coronado open since 1888. For non-hotel guests, the main beach, Coronado Central Beach, stretches 1.5 miles behind the great houses along Ocean Boulevard. Swimmers, bodysurfers, boogie boarders, sand sculptors, tide poolers and, from December through February, whale watchers all take to the sand and sea. North Beach attracts surfers in the morning, and at the extreme north is Dog Beach, where leashless canines can frolic in the surf.

    Map
    Coronado, CA

    El Matador Beach
    If you’ve come to El Matador to savor the beach rather than get sucked into the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, then you’re in luck — there’s blissfully little else to do here other than bask on Malibu’s most glorious stretch of beach. The best way to enjoy your time is to check the tide schedule, pack a picnic lunch or sunset dinner, grab a blanket, and trek down to one of El Matador’s hidden nooks and coves to enjoy the incredibly romantic atmosphere.

    Map
    El Matador Beach, CA