Friday, February 22, 2008


The U.S. faces an unwelcome combination of looming recession and persistent inflation that is reviving angst about stagflation, a condition not seen since the 1970s.

Inflation is rising. Yesterday the Labor Department said consumer prices in the U.S. jumped 0.4% in January and are up 4.3% over the past 12 months, near a 16-year high. Even stripping out sharply rising food and energy costs, prices rose 0.3% in January, driven by education, medical care, clothing and hotels. They are up by 2.5% from the previous year, a 10-month high.

The same day brought a reminder of possible recession. The Federal Reserve disclosed that its policy makers lowered their forecast for economic growth this year to between 1.3% and 2%, half a percentage point below the level of their previous forecast, in October. They blamed a further slowdown on the slump in housing prices, tighter lending standards and higher oil prices. They warned the economy's performance could fall short of even that lowered outlook.

Stocks fell on the Labor Department's morning inflation report. But shares rallied after the afternoon release of the minutes of the Jan. 29-30 meeting of Fed policy makers and their latest forecast for the economy. That's because investors took the Fed's darker outlook on growth to mean that it intended to cut its short-term interest rate next month at its next scheduled meeting.

A simultaneous rise in unemployment and inflation poses a dilemma for Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. When the Fed wants to fight unemployment, it lowers interest rates. When it wants to damp inflation, it raises them. It's impossible to do both at the same time.

Stagflation, a term coined in the United Kingdom in 1965, defined the years from 1970 to 1981 in the U.S. Inflation rose to almost 15%. The economy went through three recessions. Unemployment reached 9%. Fed Chairman Paul Volcker finally conquered inflation, but only by dramatically boosting interest rates, causing a severe recession in 1981-82.

Today's circumstances are far from that. Inflation is lower. Unemployment has risen, but only to 4.9%.

Yet there are similarities. As in the 1970s, surging commodity prices are leading the way. Crude oil rose to $100.74 a barrel yesterday, a new nominal high and close to its 1980 inflation-adjusted high. Wheat prices have hit a record. And, as in the 1970s, the rate at which the U.S. economy can grow without generating inflation has fallen, because of slower growth in both the labor force and in productivity, or output per hour of work.

The biggest difference is that in the 1970s, the Fed was unwilling, or thought itself unable, to bring inflation down. The Fed today sees achieving low inflation as its primary mission.

"The reason we're so unlikely to see a repeat is we're not adding irresponsible policy," says Christina Romer, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley and a historian of Fed policy. That means if the Fed is wrong in thinking inflation's recent rise is temporary, it will tolerate economic weakness in order to get inflation down again. "They'd have to let us suffer for a while."

Indeed, in minutes to officials' Jan. 29-30 meeting, released yesterday with the customary three-week lag, some officials noted it was important not to lose sight of controlling inflation. They argued that "when prospects for growth had improved, a reversal of [some rate cuts], possibly even a rapid reversal, might be appropriate."

But that does not seem imminent. Officials said keeping interest rates low "appeared appropriate for a time," implying Fed officials felt little urgency to reverse recent cuts. Even after the January meeting's half-point rate cut, to 3%, "downside risks" to the economy remain, they said.

The inflation picture makes steep rate cuts a riskier way to rescue the economy than when former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan delivered them in 2001. Stephen Cecchetti, an economist at Brandeis University, said the Fed is now torn between its dual responsibilities of keeping unemployment down and prices stable. "The primary objective has to be to shore up the financial markets" to protect the economy, he said. "Then, once you're finished, come back and start worrying about inflation."

Members of the Federal Open Market Committee, the Fed's policy committee, raised their forecasts for both the overall inflation rate and the "core" rate, which excludes food and energy, by 0.3 percentage points from October, their latest forecast revealed. Yet they dialed back their rhetorical concern. The officials pronounced risks on inflation to be "balanced" -- in other words, they felt inflation, should it differ from their forecast, was as likely to be lower as it was higher. In October, by contrast, they suggested that, if inflation was to differ from their forecast, they expected it to be higher. That's principally because they see unemployment remaining higher for longer than they did in October, and expect that to help contain price increases.

Higher inflation is still a possibility. Food and energy costs could keep rising, instead of flattening out as futures markets currently anticipate. Companies could succeed in passing those costs onto consumers.

Sara Lee Corp. this week told analysts it expects to recoup rising raw-material costs in part by raising prices, especially on bread. Company spokesman John Harris said Sara Lee's significant competitors had matched the increases, with consumers showing no sign of trading down to lower-cost brands."With commodities reaching unprecedented levels," Mr. Harris said, "it is quite likely we will take pricing up again."

Goodyear Tire & Rubber raised the price of replacement tires 7% on Feb. 1, on top of two increases totaling 11% last year. Chief Financial Officer Mark Schmitz told analysts last week that the hike was the result of rising prices of key raw materials, according to a transcript by Thomson Financial. Mohawk Industries Inc. raised carpet prices in December and again in January because of rising material costs, even though sales have been hurt by the slumping housing market.

The declining dollar, while boosting U.S. exports, is adding to inflation pressure, as goods priced in foreign currencies become relatively more expensive. Prices for imports from China jumped 0.8% in January, the largest monthly increase since the Labor Department began reporting the data in 2003.

British Parliamentarian Iain Macleod is credited with first using the word stagflation in 1965. "We now have the worst of both worlds -- not just inflation on the one side or stagnation on the other, but both of them together. We have a sort of 'stagflation' situation."

In the U.S., stagflation scares are more common than actual stagflation. Core inflation rose after the start of recessions in both 1990-91 and 2001, but then trended down as unemployment kept rising.

The only generally agreed period of stagflation in the U.S. came in the 1970s. Its seeds were planted in the late 1960s, when President Johnson revved up growth with spending on the Vietnam War and his Great Society programs. Fed Chairman William McChesney Martin, meanwhile, failed to tighten monetary policy sufficiently to rein in that growth.

In the early 1970s, President Nixon, with the acquiescence of Fed Chairman Arthur Burns, tried to get inflation down by imposing controls on wage and price increases. The job became harder after the Arab oil embargo dramatically drove up energy prices, and overall inflation, in 1973.
Mr. Burns persistently underestimated inflation pressure: In part, he did not realize the economy's potential growth rate had fallen, and that an influx of young, inexperienced baby boomers into the work force had made it harder to get unemployment down to early-1960s levels.

As a result, even when he raised rates, pushing the economy into a severe recession in 1974-75, inflation and unemployment didn't fall back to the levels of the previous decade. Mr. Burns and his colleagues wrongly concluded inflation no longer responded to the condition of the economy, said Ms. Romer, the Berkeley economist. "They didn't know how the world worked," she said.

In a speech in 1979, a year after he stepped down, Mr. Burns blamed his failure on a political environment that wouldn't tolerate the high interest rates necessary to rein in inflation. As the Federal Reserve tested how far it could raise rates, he said, "it repeatedly evoked violent criticism" from the White House and Congress.

Such political risks are smaller but not entirely absent for Mr. Bernanke in this election year. On Sunday, the likely Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, told ABC's "This Week": "I would have liked to have seen faster rate cuts and earlier than they were done by him." Asked if he would reappoint Mr. Bernanke when his term expires in 2010, Sen. McCain said, "I would have to consider that at the time."

Still, Mr. Bernanke has reiterated the importance of not repeating the 1970s. He and his colleagues believe a persistent escalation of inflation is likely only if workers and firms come to expect the elevated inflation rate to persist, and set their wages and prices accordingly.

"Any tendency of inflation expectations to become unmoored -- or for the Fed's inflation-fighting credibility to be eroded -- could greatly...reduce the central bank's policy flexibility" to support growth with lower interest rates, he told Congress last week.

That credibility could be endangered by the Fed's recent track record. Yesterday's forecasts show that FOMC members define price stability as inflation of 1.5% to 2%, measured by an index that differs slightly from the commonly cited consumer-price index. By that measure, inflation has averaged 2.8% since mid-2004, when oil began a multiyear surge. Core inflation, which excludes food and energy, has averaged 2.2%.

Thus far, Fed officials have taken comfort that surveys and bond-market behavior suggest the public expects the inflation rate to fall. But expected inflation, as measured by trading of inflation-protected Treasury bonds, has jumped since the Fed declared in early January that supporting growth would be a more important focus than holding down inflation. (Fed officials believe technical details in the way the bonds trade may explain some of the jump.) And professional forecasters surveyed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia recently nudged up their expected inflation rate for the next 10 years to 2.5% from 2.4%, where it had stood all last year.

On the other hand, surveys of consumer predictions about inflation show no corresponding jump. And most important, wage gains have not accelerated. Since labor is the largest component of business costs, a wage-price spiral would likely be a prerequisite for stagflation.

"We're a very, very long way from the 1970s," former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said in an interview yesterday. A hit to overall spending, as has resulted from the current tightening of lending conditions, first affects production and employment, and only later inflation, he said. "But obviously, inflation figures need to be monitored very closely."

Six nights a week, Guo Bairong takes the stage at the Xanadu Lounge at the Sands Macau casino. As players place their bets at nearby tables, he opens with a popular love song in Mandarin, closing his eyes as he sways with the music. Slipping effortlessly into Cantonese, he launches into another number.

Crowds gather not only to hear his singing, which is mellifluous, but also to gape: Guo Bairong is also known as Barry Cox, a Caucasian, former waiter and supermarket cashier from Liverpool, England, whose only formal study of Cantonese was at a British community center.

Mr. Cox's quirky act -- sandwiched between cabaret dance performances like the scantily clad Glamour Girls in glittery outfits and red elbow-length gloves and authentic Chinese crooners such as Hua D, is among the spectacles on Macau's emerging entertainment scene.

Macau's clutch of new casinos has quickly outpaced the Las Vegas strip in gambling revenue, raking in some $10 billion last year. But the former Portuguese colony has to up its game to compete with its American counterpart as an all-around tourism destination. Key to that growth is the territory's entertainment scene, which pales in comparison to the A-list performers in Las Vegas, such as Bette Midler and Cher, who have regular gigs.

A few years ago, Macau was a sleepy coastal town. Visitors came for the fresh fish and Vinho Verde, the cobblestone streets and musty antique shops -- and for the gambling. The city became a special administrative zone when it was returned to China in 1999, making it the only place in China where casinos are legal.

It all began to change after 2002, when the Beijing-backed Macau government ended local tycoon Stanley Ho's monopoly on the territory's gambling by issuing licenses to other companies, including the Vegas casino Wynn Resorts. MGM Mirage, Crown Ltd. from Australia and others soon piled in.

Around the same time, China began to ease its restrictions on individual travel to Hong Kong and Macau.
A flood of tourists poured in from the mainland to try their luck. About 10.5 million visited Macau in 2005; that figure is expected to jump to nearly 15 million next year, according to the Pacific Asia Travel Association, a trade group.

But how to entertain this growing crowd? When the new casinos began opening in 2004, the prevailing logic among casino executives was that the Chinese visitors mostly come to gamble. Some operators are still unsure what entertainment to offer, especially performances that guests would have to pay for as opposed to the complimentary shows available on the gambling floors.

"This is a very new market," says a Wynn Macau spokeswoman, adding that "we're not sure how the market would respond" to big global acts that visitors would have to shell out for.

Wynn casino's current entertainment options are limited to a five-minute water and light show set to music, and an attraction known as the Tree of Prosperity. The 11-meter tall golden tree, which Wynn Macau says is an auspicious symbol, sits in the casino's atrium.

At the Crown Macau, "we're focusing on offering a six-star experience," says Charles Ngai, a Crown spokesman. Apparently that doesn't include entertainment; the hotel-casino has a spa, eight restaurants and two bars, but no performances on offer.

It's a different story at Mr. Ho's Grand Lisboa, where there are two shows: a free, daily "Crazy Paris" performance -- a can-can-style dance act performed by Western women, and "Tokyo Nights," performed by a troupe of Japanese dancers, which costs $31.

"No one really knows what people are looking for here," says Jennifer Welker, the Macau-based author of "The New Macau." "They're still in that testing phase of trying to suss out what people really like." Many of the guests at the Sands, for instance, she says, seem most interested in gambling and aren't willing to pay for a show."The Venetian might need to host more Chinese acts to appeal to the mainland tourists," she adds.

Macau's entertainment limitations aside, the territory already is giving neighboring Hong Kong a run for its money. Many big-name acts have chosen to play in Macau rather than Hong Kong recently. Last October, for instance, the U.S. National Basketball Association's Orlando Magic, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the China Men's National Team played at the Venetian Arena, the 15,000-seat stadium at the Venetian resort and casino. The same month, hip-hop stars the Black Eyed Peas brought a crowd of more than 10,000 to its feet there. The Police performed in Macau in early February, and Celine Dion arrives next month for a one-night-only show as part of her world tour.

Hong Kong has the facilities to compete: In addition to the cavernous convention center hall in the Wanchai area that big-name acts traditionally use, the territory has the newer AsiaWorld-Arena, a 13,500-seat concert venue next to the airport. But economics may play a role in the migration of big acts to Macau. Min Yoo, a Shanghai- and Hong Kong-based concert promoter, says it is cheaper to put on a large event in Macau than in Hong Kong.

In any case, Macau still has a few wrinkles to iron out. For starters, it isn't always easy to know what events are on.

Strict rules against advertising by casinos in mainland China make it impossible to promote events there. Even in Hong Kong, says Mark Brown, president of the Sands Macau and Venetian Macau, advertising for events has to be planned carefully, considering the potential sensitivity around the idea of gambling.

What's more, Macau's transportation infrastructure is lacking. A taxi shortage means fans arriving on the ferry from Hong Kong often have to wait in long lines for a shuttle bus to the Venetian Arena.

For now, the Venetian and its sister property, the Sands, are where the serious entertainment action is. This summer, the Venetian plans to bring Cirque du Soleil, the acrobatic show that's a fixture in Las Vegas, to Macau as a permanent show with 10 performances a week. Cirque will perform in a 1,800-seat theater that is still under construction.'s only the beginning. "Every top U.S. name you can think of, we have an offer out there," says Mr. Brown. "Every top Asian artist, we have an offer out there. Every type of sport you can think of...we have an offer out there."

Meantime, acts like Mr. Cox's are filling the gap.

As a high-school student, Mr. Cox watched Jackie Chan movies and fell in love with the Canto-pop soundtracks. He took a few Cantonese lessons and discovered he had a flair for Asian languages -- he's never studied Mandarin formally, though he considers himself fluent in both.

So he quit his job as a salesman in a Liverpool electrical store and started waiting tables in a Chinese restaurant to hone his language skills. Eventually, he began performing at Chinese gatherings in Liverpool. His renditions of popular Canto-pop classics such "Kiss Under the Moon" and "Love Once More" won over the immigrant crowds there, turning him into a local celebrity.

But all along, his dream was to make it big in Asia. And so in 2002, he moved to Hong Kong, where he sang at corporate events and Christmas parties. He even traveled in mainland China doing a few performances in discos in places like Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

Then, six months ago, Mr. Cox, whose Chinese name was given to him by his Chinese-language headmaster, left Hong Kong for the lights of Macau."It's good for what I'm doing," he says, in his Liverpudlian accent. I'm "partly living the dream," he adds.

On a chilly Saturday night, as the Black Eyed Peas warmed up at the Venetian Arena, Mr. Cox, dressed entirely in black down to his pointy-toed shoes, was warming up his audience. Gamblers at nearby slot machines had fallen still, their jaws slack at the spectacle of a foreigner singing Canto-pop. A woman was dancing in her chair.

"This one's for you," he said in Mandarin to a Chinese couple in the crowd, as he launched into a number by Deng Lijun, a Taiwanese singer popular in the 1970s and '80s. The lounge, filled with mainland and Taiwanese tourists, exploded into applause.

Dates of the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt: The Old Kingdom ran from about 2686-2160 B.C. It started with the 3rd Dynasty and ended with the 8th (some say the 6th).

* 3rd: 2686-2613 B.C.
* 4th: 2613-2494 B.C.
* 5th 2494-2345 B.C.
* 6th: 2345-2181 B.C.
* 7th and 8th: 2181-2160 B.C.

Before the Old Kingdom was the Early Dynastic Period, which ran from about 3000-2686 B.C.

Before the Early Dynastic Period was the Predynastic which began in the 6th millennium B.C.

Earlier than the Predynastic Period were the Neolithic (c.8800-4700 B.C.) and Paleolithic Periods (c.700,000-7000 B.C.).

* Predynastic Egypt

* Pharaohs of the Predynastic Period, Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom

Old Kingdom Capital: During the Early Dynastic Period and Old Kingdom Egypt, the residence of the pharaoh was at White Wall (Ineb-hedj) on the west bank of the Nile south of Cairo. This capital city was later named Memphis.

After the 8th Dynasty, the pharaohs left Memphis.
Turin Canon: The Turin Canon, a papyrus discovered by Bernardino Drovetti in the necropolis at Thebes, Egypt, in 1822, is so-called because it resides in the northern Italian city of Turin at the Museo Egizio. The Turin Canon provides a list of names of the kings of Egypt from the beginning of time to the time of Ramses II and is important, therefore, for providing the names of the Old Kingdom pharaohs.

For more on the problems of ancient Egyptian chronology and the Turin Canon, see Problems Dating Hatshepsut.
Step Pyramid of Djoser: The Old Kingdom is the age of pyramid building beginning with Third Dynasty Pharaoh Djoser's Step Pyramid at Saqqara, the first finished large stone building in the world. Its ground area is 140 X 118 m., its height 60 m., its outside enclosure 545 X 277 m. Djoser's corpse was buried there but below ground level. There were other buildings and shrines in the area. The architect credited with Djoser's 6-step pyramid was Imhotep (Imouthes), a high priest of Heliopolis.

* Imhotep
* Step Pyramid - Archaeology Guide
* Step Pyramid Tomb Robbers

Old Kingdom True Pyramids: Dynasty divisions follow major changes. The Fourth Dynasty begins with the ruler who changed the architectural style of the pyramids.

Under Pharaoh Sneferu (2613-2589) the pyramid complex emerged, with the axis re-oriented east to west. A temple was built against the eastern side of the pyramid. There was a road running to a temple in the valley that served as entrance to the complex. Sneferu's name is connected with a bent pyramid whose slope changed two-thirds of the way up. He had a second (Red) pyramid in which he was buried. Sneferu's son Khufu (Cheops) built the Great Pyramid at Giza.
About the Old Kingdom Period: The Old Kingdom was a long, politically stable, prosperous period for ancient Egypt. Government was centralized. The king was credited with supernatural powers, his authority virtually absolute. Even after death the pharaoh was expected to mediate between gods and humans, therefore preparation for his afterlife, the building of elaborate burial sites, was vitally important.

Over time, the royal authority weakened while the power of viziers and local administrators grew. The office of overseer of Upper Egypt was created and Nubia became important because of contact, immigration, and resources for Egypt to exploit.

Although Egypt had been self-sufficient with its bountiful annual Nile inundation allowing farmers to grow emmer wheat and barley, building projects like the pyramids and temples led the Egyptians beyond its borders for minerals and manpower.

The sun god Ra grew more important through the Old Kingdom Period with obelisks built on pedestals as part of their temples. A full written language of hieroglyphs was used on the sacred monuments, while hieratic was used on papyrus documents.

Although their lifetimes span billions of years, galaxies age, just like people. As rambunctious young’uns, they undergo bursts of star formation that create hot blue orbs out of the simple elements hydrogen and helium. As galaxies grow older, they settle down. Not only do their stars cool and become redder, but they eventually burn out and die, releasing into the galaxy heavier elements that formed in the stellar furnaces.

So astronomers have been repeatedly baffled by a peculiar, developmentally challenged galaxy called I Zwicky 18. When they first sighted it about 40 years ago, they thought it was a not-quite-billion-year-old toddler brimming with hot young stars, full of hydrogen and helium and possessing very few heavy elements, called metals. Finding such a young galaxy near others that are at least 7 billion years old thrilled—and perplexed—the scientists. But new observations from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have revealed ancient stars mingled with the young ones, proving the galaxy as a whole is in fact as old as its neighbors.
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Astronomers don’t know why this galaxy is so low on metals, or why it’s forming so many new stars so late in the game. It’s possible that this relatively light galaxy has too little mass—or gravitational pull—to retain the metals, and that a rush of gas called a galactic wind swept them away. Or maybe the galaxy’s relatively isolated position caused it to develop slowly: There are few other galaxies around to help seed star formation.

They also don’t know why it’s not happening in all dwarf galaxies. “It’s possible that there are more out there like this,” says Francesca Annibali, astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, who worked on the project. “If they are more common, then that means that some process is inhibiting star formation in small, low-metal environments.” Whatever the cause of I Zwicky 18’s strange history, its close resemblance to primordial galaxies offers a unique opportunity to study how stars acted in the early universe, something that normally cannot be observed at such close range.

For astronauts toiling in the close quarters of the International Space Station or on a shuttle to Mars, an ordinary germ would be risky enough. But a recent experiment published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shown that a microbe can turn even more dangerous in space than on Earth. In that study, a bacte–rium particularly nasty for humans—salmonella—was shown to become more virulent after just 83 hours of growing in space.

The experiment on the space shuttle Atlantis was designed to explore how a lack of gravity affects disease-causing microbes in space. Astronauts aboard the space shuttle grew the salmonella, and back on Earth researchers used it to infect a group of mice. For comparison, bacteria grown in a laboratory on Earth in normal gravity infected another group of mice. The mice infected with the space-grown germs had a mortality rate almost three times higher than that of mice given germs grown in normal gravity.

Researchers noticed that while on board the space shuttle, the salmonella encased themselves in a biofilm, a protective coating that is notoriously resistant to anti–biotics. Several follow-up experiments on space flights over the next few years will look to see whether other bacteria undergo similar changes in virulence in microgravity.

By now you’ve probably heard about the lunar eclipse tomorrow night. Lunar eclipses are great; they last a long time, so there’s no hurry, you don’t need crystal clear skies (the clearer the better, of course), and you don’t need a telescope! Just your eyes will do, though having binoculars is better. I actually prefer them over using a telescope.

The event will be visible pretty much everywhere in the US, Canada, South America, and western Africa and Europe. Orbiting Frog has a ton of info, including a nice animation of what to expect. Sky and Telescope has info as well (including a diagram with times listed for the west coast of the US, if that helps). But here’s the rundown:
The show starts for real around 01:43 Universal Time (CAREFUL HERE! That’s 1:43 a.m. on Thursday morning in England, but that’s Wednesday night for the United States. Check to see what your local offset is from Universal Time; for example, in Boulder we are UT - 7, so the eclipse starts here at 1:43 a.m. UT - 7 hours = 6:43 p.m. local time Wednesday night.
But don’t trust me– do this math for yourself!).
You may read that the eclipse starts an hour or so before that, but if you look you probably won’t see anything. Earth casts a dark shadow surrounded by a much lighter one, called the umbra and penumbra, respectively. When the Moon enters the penumbra you’ll hardly notice, but when it enters the umbra at 01:43 it’ll look like a bite is taken out of it.
1 hour 20 minutes later (03:00 UT) the Moon will be totally engulfed in the Earth’s shadow. It may take on a brown or reddish appearance, depending on various factors like pollution in our atmosphere. Sometimes the Moon turns blood red, and it’s really amazing. I have found that the Moon appears to really be a globe when this happens; I assume it’s an illusion of some kind but the effect can be overwhelming.
The totality phase of the eclipse will last for about 51 minutes, and then it will start to leave the umbra, and you’ll see a bright crescent begin to form. By 05:10 UT it’ll all be over, and the Moon will look normal again.
I plan on being at The Little Astronomer’s school, since they’re hosting a party in the parking lot to see it. There are no doubt viewings all over the place, so call your local astronomy club, museum, or even news station to see what’s going on in your area.
This is the last total lunar eclipse for the US until very late in 2010, so I hope you get a chance to see it!

The Code of Hammurabi is one of the earliest known law codes and was probably compiled at the start of the reign of the Babylonian king Hammurabi (1792–1750 B.C.). The Code of Hammurabi is famous for demanding punishment to fit the crime (the lex talionis, or an eye for an eye) with different treatment for each social class. The Code is thought to be Sumerian in spirit but with a Babylonian inspired harshness. Its laws cover land tenure, rent, the position of women, marriage, divorce, inheritance, contracts, control of public order, administration of justice, wages, and labor conditions. (See LOC article on Iraq.) The prologue of the Code give a glimpse of the relationship between the Babylonian gods and kings.

A 2.3 m high diorite or basalt stele of the Code of Hammurabi was found at Susa, Iran, in 1901. At the top is a bas relief image. The text of laws is written in cuneiform. This stele of the Code of Hammurabi is at the Louvre.

Source: James A. Armstrong "Mesopotamia" The Oxford Companion to Archaeology. Brian M. Fagan, ed., Oxford University Press 1996. Oxford Reference Online.

Go to Other Ancient / Classical History Glossary pages beginning with the letterSilbury Hill, a 4,400-year-old, 130-foot-high mound of chalk and dirt about 80 miles west of London, has finally yielded its ancient secrets. It is not the tomb of the long-forgotten King Sil nor the resting place of a golden knight. And it is not, despite the folklore, a dumping ground for the devil’s dirt, forced to drop there by the magic of priests. The story behind the mysterious hill is much less colorful. Hill is a shrine filled with rocks that, for Stone Age Britons, probably represented the spirits of ancient ancestors.

The physical excavation (video) of Silbury Hill, along with studies using ground-penetrating radar and seismic sonar equipment, has shown that there is not a single human bone in the mound. Instead, dozens of sarsen stones, a type of sandstone that is also used for Neolithic stone circles like Stonehenge, are buried there.

Local geologists think that during the Stone Age, the landscape around Silbury Hill contained hundreds of thousands of sarsen stones. Because the area is made mainly of chalk, prehistoric people would have seen no apparent natural origin for the stones. Archaeologists think the locals endowed these rocks with a spiritual importance that Silbury Hill still embodies. The area itself is considered sacred by modern pagans, who still make offerings at a nearby spring. Due to conservation laws, the prehistoric holy hill is out-of-bounds to pagans and tourists alike.

Kosovo won the recognition of the United States and its biggest Western European allies Monday, while earning rebukes and rejections from Serbia, Russia and a disparate mix of states the world over who face their own separatist movements at home.

One day after the tiny Balkan province declared its independence, the world had its chance to choose sides. While some countries had made their decisions months in advance, that did not diminish the drama of whether a newly birthed nation would be welcomed into the fold or rejected.

Major European powers, including France, Germany and Britain, along with the United States, officially recognized Kosovo, even as officials took pains to point out that it should not serve as an invitation or precedent for other groups hoping to declare independence. That is because one of the biggest unknowns remains whether Kosovo’s declaration could rekindle conflicts elsewhere, including in ethnically divided Bosnia.

As a result, the reverberations were felt from Russian-backed enclaves in Georgia to the Taiwan Strait. Spain, a member of the European Union and one of the countries with soldiers in the NATO force in Kosovo, refused its recognition. Yet Turkey, despite its history of conflict with Kurdish separatists, chose to support Kosovo’s independence.

In a letter to Kosovo’s president, Fatmir Sejdiu, President Bush wrote: “On behalf of the American people, I hereby recognize Kosovo as an independent and sovereign state. I congratulate you and Kosovo’s citizens for having taken this important step in your democratic and national development.”

In an apparent conciliatory gesture, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in her own statement, “The United States takes this opportunity to reaffirm our friendship with Serbia, an ally during two world wars.”

But Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica of Serbia, which has regarded Kosovo as its heartland since medieval times, vowed that Serbia would never recognize the “false state.”
Mr. Kostunica recalled Serbia’s ambassador to Washington, wire services reported. The State Department had no comment on those reports on Monday evening.

At the United Nations, Boris Tadic, Serbia’s president, told the Security Council that the declaration of independence “annuls international law, tramples upon justice and enthrones injustice.” He asked that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon direct the United Nations mission chief in Kosovo to declare the action “null and void” and to dissolve the Kosovo Assembly, which adopted the declaration on Sunday.

Addressing the Council before Mr. Tadic spoke, Mr. Ban said the United administration, approved by the Council in 1999, would continue to run Kosovo until a formal transition could be arranged.

European foreign ministers meeting in Brussels appeared to reach a minimal common position, acknowledging that Kosovo had declared independence and allowing those nations that wanted to recognize it formally to do so.

Bernard Kouchner, France’s foreign minister, said the declaration was “a victory for common sense,” and pointed to what he hoped would be future reconciliation between Serbia and Kosovo. “I don’t know at what date, in which year, but Kosovo and Serbia will be together in the European Union,” he said.

However, the foreign minister of Spain, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, told reporters that the declaration did not respect international law and that Spain would not recognize Kosovo. “The government of Spain will not recognize the unilateral act proclaimed yesterday by the Assembly of Kosovo,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

Among European Union members, Cyprus, Romania and Slovakia have also been reluctant to recognize Kosovo.

Diplomatic recognition is more than just a popularity contest for Kosovo, a desperately poor, predominantly Muslim landlocked territory of two million. It needs the help and support of international institutions if it expects to improve its dire economic condition. A United Nations protectorate since 1999, it is policed by 16,000 NATO troops and has an unemployment rate of around 60 percent and an average monthly wage of $250.

“We will be working with the government to try to help it politically as well as economically,” said R. Nicholas Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, in a conference call with reporters on Monday, pointing out that the United States gave $77 million in aid to Kosovo in 2007 and would raise that amount to roughly $335 million in 2008.

Mr. Burns, who said he had consulted by phone with European counterparts after the meeting of European Union foreign ministers, said there would be a donor conference in Europe in the coming months to encourage additional aid, and hoped there could be debt relief for Kosovo as well as strong regional trade opportunities.

Russia, which opposes Kosovo’s independence, demanded an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Sunday to proclaim the declaration “null and void,” but the meeting produced no resolution. The Security Council agreed to a request by Russia and Serbia to hold the open meeting on Monday that Mr. Tadic addressed.

Mr. Burns said he did not foresee trouble with Russia. “I do not expect any kind of crisis with Russia over this,” he said. “I expect Russia to be supportive of stability in this region.”

But in Moscow, the upper and lower houses of Parliament on Monday released a joint statement signaling an intention to recognize at least two Russian-backed separatist areas in the former Soviet Union — Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both in Georgia.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia have announced their intention to seek recognition as independent states. Russia has already granted citizenship to most residents of both enclaves and had hinted that it might recognize their independence if Western countries recognized Kosovo.

“The right of nations to self-determination cannot justify recognition of Kosovo’s independence along with the simultaneous refusal to discuss similar acts by other self-proclaimed states, which have obtained de facto independence exclusively by themselves,” the Russian Parliament’s statement read.

Georgia disputes the claim that the regions have obtained independence by themselves. The areas broke from Georgia after brief wars in the 1990s, and have survived with Russian support.

Eduard Kokoity, the Ossetian president, said Monday that the two breakaway regions would submit a request for recognition to Russia’s Parliament by the end of the month, the Interfax news agency reported.

But experts and officials said they did not expect simmering conflicts to break out into significant violence as a result of Kosovo’s declaration. “These are emotional reactions that I think are transitory and can be contained,” said Peter Semneby, the European Union’s special representative for the South Caucasus, in a telephone interview from Georgia. “It’s very much in the interest of major actors to try to contain them.”

On the other side of the world, China, Indonesia and Sri Lanka also criticized Kosovo’s of independence, while Taiwan and Australia welcomed it, as Kosovo’s move appeared to be a litmus test of attitudes in Asia toward secession.

The Beijing government, which has threatened military action if Taiwan declares formal independence, voiced “grave concern” over Kosovo’s action.

“China is deeply worried about its severe and negative impact on peace and stability of the Balkan region and the goal of establishing a multiethnic society in Kosovo,” said Liu Jianchao, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.

The province of Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on Sunday, sending tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians streaming through the streets to celebrate what they hoped was the end of a long and bloody struggle for national self-determination.

Kosovo’s bid to be recognized as Europe’s newest country — after a civil war that killed 10,000 people a decade ago and then years of limbo under United Nations rule — was the latest episode in the dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia, 17 years after its dissolution began.

It brings to a climax a showdown between the West, which argues that Serbia’s brutal subjugation of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority cost it any right to rule the territory, and the Serbian government and its allies in the Kremlin.
They counter that Kosovo’s independence is a reckless breach of international law that will spur other secessionist movements across the world.

As Albanians danced in the streets and fired guns in the air in the capital, Pristina, international reaction was sharply divided, suggesting that the clash between the principles of sovereignty and self-determination was far from resolved.

Britain, France and Germany were expected to be the first to recognize the new nation as early as Monday, while other nations, fearing separatist movements within their own borders, have said they will refuse. Russia demanded an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to proclaim the declaration “null and void,” but the meeting produced no resolution.

The United States and additional European Union member states were expected to recognize Kosovo’s independence in the coming days.

President Bush, speaking in Tanzania, said the United States would continue to work to prevent violence in Kosovo, while reaching out to Serbia. He said that resolving the conflict in Kosovo was essential to stability in the Balkans and that “the Serbian people can know that they have a friend in America.”

In declaring independence, Kosovo’s prime minister, Hashim Thaci, a former leader of the guerrilla force that just over 10 years ago began an armed rebellion against Serbian domination, struck a note of reconciliation. Addressing Parliament in both Albanian and Serbian, he pledged to protect the rights of Kosovo’s Serbian minority. “I feel the heartbeat of our ancestors,” he said. “We, the leaders of our people, democratically elected, through this declaration proclaim Kosovo an independent and sovereign state.”

Kosovo, a desperately poor, predominantly Muslim landlocked territory of two million, has been a United Nations protectorate since 1999, policed 16,000 NATO troops. Its unemployment rate is about 60 percent and average monthly wage is $250.

Electricity is so undependable that lights go out in the capital several times a day. Corruption is rife and human trafficking threatens to entrench a lawless state on Europe’s doorstep.

Ethnic Albanians from as far away as the United States poured into Pristina over the weekend, braving freezing temperatures and heavy snow to dance in frenzied jubilation. Beating drums, waving Albanian flags and throwing firecrackers, they chanted: “Independence! Independence! We are free at last!”

A 100-foot-long birthday cake was installed on Pristina’s main boulevard.

In an outpouring of adulation for the United States, the architect of NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign against Serbian forces under President Slobodan Milosevic, revelers unfurled giant American flags, carried posters of former President Bill Clinton and chanted, “Thank you, U.S.A.” and “God bless America.”

Hundreds of people, many waving Albanian flags, celebrated in Times Square. Revelers in cars drove in circles around the area, leading chants whenever they passed the crowds gathered on the sidewalks.

That spirit of exaltation contrasted sharply with the despair, anger and disbelief that gripped Serbia and the Serbian enclaves of northern Kosovo. In Belgrade,
Serbia’s capital, as many as 2,000 angry Serbs converged on the United States Embassy, hurling stones and smashing windows.

In the Kosovo Serb stronghold of Mitrovica, a grenade was thrown at a United Nations building, the police said. No one was injured.

Vojislav Kostunica, the prime minister of Serbia, which has regarded Kosovo as its heartland since medieval times, vowed that Serbia would never recognize the “false state.”

In an address on national television on Sunday, he said Kosovo was propped up unlawfully by the United States and called the declaration a “humiliation” for the European Union. The Serbian government has ruled out using military force in response, but was expected to downgrade diplomatic ties with any government that recognized Kosovo.

Demonstrations were planned for Monday in Serbian enclaves across Kosovo. Serbs said they were under orders from Belgrade to ignore the independence declaration and remain in Kosovo to keep the northern part of the territory under de facto Serbian control, raising questions about Serbia’s long-term aims.

At the Security Council, Russia argued that the proclamation violated the 1999 resolution that established the United Nations mission in Kosovo. “Our position is that the declaration should be disregarded by the international community and declared null and void,” said Vitaly I. Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations.

But Alejandro D. Wolff, the deputy American ambassador, said, “In our view, this declaration is logical and consistent and completely in line with” the 1999 measure.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pleaded with all parties “to refrain from any actions or statements that could endanger peace, incite violence or jeopardize security in Kosovo or the region.”

The Security Council agreed to a request by Russia and Serbia to hold an open meeting on Monday that will be addressed by the Serbian president, Boris Tadic.

Kosovo’s declaration followed nearly two years of United Nations-sponsored negotiations between it and Serbia. Those talks failed, as did a Security Council effort in December to resolve Kosovo’s future.

The European Commission, the European Union’s executive branch, appealed for calm, while NATO’s secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said the alliance would respond “swiftly and firmly against anyone who might resort to violence.”

Kosovo’s sovereignty remains severely circumscribed, making it reliant on the international community. NATO still provides international security, while the European Union has agreed to send an 1,800-strong police and judicial mission to help run the territory after the United Nations leaves.

Ulrich Wilhelm, the spokesman for the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said Germany would decide what to do on Monday.

Kosovo played a central role in the collapse of the Yugoslav federation built by the Communist strongman Josip Broz Tito, who died in 1980. Albanian nationalism erupted in Kosovo in 1981, leading to bloody clashes.

In the 1980s, Mr. Milosevic used Serbs’ enormous sense of grievance that their ancestral heartland was now dominated by Muslim Albanians to come to power in Serbia. By 1989, he had abolished Kosovo’s autonomy, fired tens of thousands of Albanians from their jobs, suppressed Albanian language education and controlled the territory with a heavy police presence.

Ten years ago, Mr. Milosevic’s forces moved against the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army, killing a guerrilla leader and his family at their compound. As violence escalated, NATO intervened in a 1999 bombing campaign, causing hundreds of thousands of Albanians and Serbs to flee.

An estimated 10,000 civilians were killed in the 1998-99 conflict, many of them Albanians, while 1,500 Serbs died in revenge killings that followed.

For the ethnic Albanians who make up 95 percent of Kosovo’s population, independence marks a new beginning.

“Independence is a catharsis,” said Antoneta Kastrati, 26, an Albanian from Peja, who said her mother and older sister were killed by their Serbian neighbors in 1999. “Things won’t change overnight and we cannot forget the past, but maybe I will feel safe now and my nightmares will finally go away.”

In Mitrovica, a 70-year-old Serbian engineer who would give only his first name, Svetozar, said: “I will stay here forever. This will always be Serbia.”

Kosovo’s declaration created immediate ripples in the former Soviet Union, where small, Russian-backed separatist areas — one in Moldova and two in the republic of Georgia — have existed since the early 1990s. of them — Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia — announced their intention to seek recognition as independent states.

Conversely, several of the European Union’s 27 member states — including Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia and Romania — oppose recognizing Kosovo because they fear encouraging secessionist movements within their own borders.

In Brussels, officials were drafting a statement for a foreign ministers’ meeting on Monday. Senior European Union officials said they expected it to acknowledge Kosovo’s independence declaration without endorsing it.

The declaration of independence raises the prospects of a new constitution and emblems of nationhood, including a new flag bearing a map of Kosovo topped by six stars.

But in a sign of how hard it will be to forge the kind of multiethnic, secular identity that foreign powers have urged, the distinctive two-headed eagle of the red and black Albanian flag, reviled by Serbs, was everywhere Sunday, held by revelers, draped on horses, flapping out of car windows and hanging outside homes and storefronts across the territory.

Warren Hoge contributed reporting from the United Nations, C. J. Chivers from Moscow and Nicholas Kulish from Berlin.

It’s a rare political race where particle physics might come up, but IL-14, Denny Hastert’s former seat, is just such a delightful intersection. And Bill Foster is that Heinlein-esque synthesis; a businessman who started the firm that revolutionized theatre lighting and invented the Source 4 ellipsoidal reflector spotlight, turned award winning physicist, and now candidate.

To appreciate what kind of congressman Foster might become, it’s worth considering what kind of primary campaign he ran: he provides the option of healthcare insurance to all his paid staff; he ran a clean, non negative primary campaign stressing his positions on issues; Foster opposes the war in Iraq, champions legitimate, unfettered science and research, and supports stem cell research, just to name a few.
To appreciate the scientific side of Dr Bill Foster, follow me below to examine one of the most fascinating, spectacular light-shows our universe can serve up.

Stars that blow themselves to smithereens often produce magnificent sights before, during, and especially after an official supernova explosion. The enigmatic Eta Carinae, below left, is thought to contain a highly unstable star on the precipice of a hypernova. The lacy remains of a supernova observed in 1054 AD is now the Crab Nebula, a tiny, rapidly rotating neutron star lurks noisily inside.

The three schematics below courtesy of graphic artist Karen Wehrstein illustrate the basics of what is thought to happen deep inside a massive, aging star near the end of its life, during a classic kind of Supernova called a Type ll. After burning successively heavier elements, the star eventually begins producing iron at its center. It's a stellar dead end. The iron core grows, robbing the star of energy due to the idiosyncrasies (See comment) of atomic physics, and soon reaches a critical threshold; a massive ball of iron thousands of kilometers in diameter suddenly collapses dramatically, like a soap bubble, into an unimaginably dense remnant a few kilometers wide. Overlying superheated plasma, compressed so much it weighs way more than lead -- quickly falls in to fill the gaping void. When it slams in to the surface of the degenerate core it begans fusing furiously. Short version: Star Go Ka-BOOM!

This does two things: it sets up a huge rebound, sending the outer layers of the star back out, and also releases a vast number of neutrinos .. The gas from the outer layers absorbs these neutrinos, which is like lighting a match in a fireworks factory. The outer layers explode upwards, and several solar masses of doomed star tear outwards at speeds of several thousand kilometers per second.

Under normal conditions, neutrinos are ghostly little particles that overwhelmingly zip through ordinary matter, even a million miles of solid lead, like it was so much hard vacuum. They dwell in an incomprehensible universe seething with subatomic wraiths, not quite pure energy, not entirely solid matter, but a whiff of both. These are not ‘ordinary’ objects. The neutrino represented as a little dot or arrow racing around is an avatar of sorts; a symbolic construct of a hazy particulate property from the surreal world of high energy that our large, clunky macro-minds can latch on to. They’re sleeting through you by the trillions as you read this. No need for alarm though: fortunately for us, they don’t interact with the matter in our body!

But every now and then, one in uncounted zillions will cause a sub-atomic change which can in turn produce a tiny flash of light. So, with a giant tank of a clear substance, shielded from as much radiation as possible, surrounded by sensitive photo detectors, every now and then a lone of neutrino can be confirmed. Since these little guys whip through ordinary matter effortlessly, they’re a potential window deep into high energy places we cannot directly observe, like the fusing core of a star. And since a single light ray can take up to a million years to stagger drunkenly out of a stellar core, while neutrinos simply slip through the outer layers of plasma, neutrinos also uniquely offer current information about the state of affairs in places we can’t otherwise observe in real time.

On February 23, 1987, three separate neutrino detectors recorded a spike lasting just a few seconds. This was a strong indication that somewhere in the universe, something really, really big and no doubt violent beyond imagination had happened.

The next day several astronomers, amateur and professional, reported a small but bright point in a nearby dwarf galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud. Within a few hours of that report pretty much every telescope in the southern hemisphere had swung to the anomaly. The source was a star estimated to be twenty times heavier than our sun. Except now it was gone, and in its place was the blazing Supernova 1987A. Right: Several frames taken over the course of a decade by the Hubble Space Telescope, and after the initial supernova faded, show the effects of secondary spasms of invisible gas expelled at extreme velocity smacking into a ring of previously ejected material.

One of the instruments that recorded a spike was the Irving-Michigan-Brookhaven proton decay detector. The futuristic chamber of ultra pure water surrounded by two-thousand photodetectors is shown left (The source of the bubbles is a diver inspecting the equipment). Bill Foster played a significant role in the development of the IMB. When the neutrinos set off alarm bells in 1987, Foster had moved on to Fermilab. But because of his involvement with the IMB detector and the subsequent neutrino detection from SN1987A, Foster and his team shared in the 1989 Rossi Prize in high energy physics.

If anything like SN1987A happened too near our planet, the earth would evaporate faster than a snowflake in a bonfire. And yet we may owe our existence to these violent events. The shock wave from SN 1987A will travel outward, essentially forever. Along the way it will combine with other blast fronts, forming waves of compactions and rarefactions in the medium of thin interstellar gas. Simultaneously it will salt those vast clouds of buoyant hydrogen and helium with heavier substances, volatile gases, ices, and metals. The immense waves will diffract causing nodes, small pockets will condense here and there. Gravity will take hold, and the knots of gas will shrink under their own weight, they will begin to glow with dozens of individual sparks, each lighting up the infant stellar nursery from inside. In the center of each spark, pressure and temperature will grow so high that hydrogen will begin to fuse: this is the birth of stars, this is how our own solar system may have arisen five billion years ago.

Speaking purely for myself, as an interesting side note about SN1987A: That primary ring allows astronomers to calculate the distance between us and SN1987A using simple trigonometry. That distance is about 168,000 light-years, meaning the proginator star blew up about 160,000 years before young earth creationists believe the universe began. In addition, short lived isotopes can be seen decaying in the spectra from SN1987A. That is a direct, empirical observation that radio decay rates in the past were the same as predicted by atomic theory and observed in labs today.

Thus, SN1987A is like a Wrecking Ball of Reality to two basic tenets in Young Earth Creationist apologetics: The age of the universe and the validity of radiometric dating.
Doesn't it seem fitting then, in some cosmic way, that the candidate who contributed to our elegant understanding of the universe should prevail over the other fellow, who hails from a party where antiscientific concepts like climate change denial and creationism are badges of honor?

The polling in what should be an easy GOP victory shows Foster in a dead heat with Republican opponent Jim Oberweis. Republicans are intersted in holding the seat (John McCain is reportedly going to hold an Oberweis fundraiser with a goal of 200,000 dollars). So, if that poll is close to accurate, it is a blinking red warning that this campaign needs every vote, every volunteer, and every dollar it can muster to succeed.

Given the obvious difference between these two candidates, it seems a no brainer that the residents of IL-14 would be best served by Oberwies staying in town, and focusing on improving his already scrumptious home-made ice cream. Whereas voters in IL-14 would be far better represented by a Congressman with Bill Foster’s intellect and accomplishments serving their collective interests in Washington, DC.

If Foster manages to pull this off, it will send a powerful message about what may be in store for other 'safe GOP seats' in 2008 -- a progressive message that incidentally embraces science and reason -- well beyond the confines of Illinois' fourteenth district, and into every nook and cranny in this nation. So if I didn't convince you up there, I hope I've provided you some reason to give Bill Foster's qualifications a second look down here.

Was awfully as tempting to make a pun about Oberweis being served there at the end ... I mean to say, If it’s Sunday, it’s Sunday Kos!

It's not an idio whatever of physics.

Fusion reactions release energy up to a point where the nucleus is most energetically stable - the lowest energy configuration. The Iron nucleus is that configuration.

Heavier elements than iron are built in most cases by neutron adsorption, not fusion reactions.

"It's the planet, stupid."

This was a really cool candidate endorsement, DS, and well written for a pop audience. However, the gravitational collapse of the iron core is just too amazing to brush over.

The iron core is initially supported by electron degeneracy pressure and it is surrounded by a silicon burning shell. That shell keeps dumping more and more iron into the core and eventually the core mass approaches the Chandrasekhar limit of 1.4 Mo. Then degeneracy pressure begins to fail and the core begins to collapse. Temperatures and densities soar as the collapse proceeds. The situation is worsened by the following nuclear reaction

e + p -----> n + neutrino

which is the forcing together of electrons and protons to form neutrons and neutrinos. The neutrinos represent an energy loss term since they don't interact much with other matter and can escape from the star. Hence they won't contribute much to the pressure. The high temperatures of the contracting core also produce gamma rays which smash the iron nuclei to bits, undoing in a tenth of a second all the nuclear fusion that went on before. This process, the destruction of nuclei by highly energetic gamma ray photons, is known as photodisintegration. Both of these effects cause the pressure to drop further and the core to collapse further. This is runaway core collapse and in a fraction of a second the core goes from Earth size to about 10 km in diameter. At this point the densities are equal to the density of nuclear material in the form of a ball of neutrons. Neutron degeneracy pressure suddenly takes over and the collapse stops as the core now becomes virtually incompressible. Of course the surrounding star doesn't know that and it continues to hurtle inward. When all this stuff hits the core it bounces and drives a shock wave outward. The escaping neutrinos play an important role in energizing this outward moving shock wave. Normally neutrinos don't interact very well with matter, but here the densities are so great that the neutrinos dump considerable energy into the overlaying layers. In a few hours the shock wave hits the surface of the star and we see the star explode as a Type II supernova. In a matter of days the star brightens by about a factor of 100 million, becoming for a brief time as bright as an entire galaxy. Note: massive stars that explode in this manner are known as Type II supernovae. There is also a Type I supernova that results from an explosion in a binary system. We will discuss Type I supernova later.

Ultimately the source of energy that powers a supernova is gravity.
The collapse of a solar mass of material down into a neutron star the size of 10 kilometers releases 10^53 ergs of energy which is an enormous amount.

A plan of invasion. Gen. Longstreet telegraphs that he has no corn, and cannot stay where he is, unless supplied by the Quartermaster-General. This, the President says, is impossible, for want of transportation. The railroads can do no more than supply grain for the horses of Lee’s army—all being brought from Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, etc. But the President says Longstreet might extricate himself from the exigency by marching into Middle Tennessee or Kentucky, or both.

Soon after this document came in, another followed from the Tennessee and Kentucky members of Congress, inclosing an elaborate plan from Col. Dibrell, of the Army of Tennessee, of taking Nashville, and getting forage, etc. in certain counties not yet devastated, in Tennessee and Kentucky. Only 10,000 additional men will be requisite. They are to set out with eight days’ rations; and if Grant leaves Chattanooga to interfere with the plan, Gen. Johnston is to follow and fall upon his rear, etc. Gen. Longstreet approves the plan—is eager for it,
I infer from his dispatch about corn; and the members of Congress are in favor of it. If practicable, it ought to be begun immediately; and I think it will be.

A bright windy day—snow gone.

The Federal General Sherman, with 30,000 men, was, at the last dates, still marching southeast of Jackson, Miss. It is predicted that he is rushing on his destruction. Gen. Polk is retreating before him, while our cavalry is in his rear. He cannot keep open his communications.

The Jewish revolt against the Romans, ending with the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in A.D. 70, marked an irreparable breach between the pagan-and later Christian-worlds and an outcast Jewish minority. Yet the first two-thirds of this absorbing historical study explores the harmony of Roman and Judaic civilizations before the revolt. Goodman, a professor of Jewish studies at Oxford, finds many similarities in a far-ranging comparative analysis of their religions, cultures, economies and governments, though he gives more space to the worldly, extravagant Romans than to the relatively austere and parochial Jews. Before the revolt, he contends, Romans considered Jews unobjectionable, despite their eccentric monotheism; Jerusalem prospered under Roman rule and Jews living in diaspora were well integrated into Roman society. Goodman argues that the cataclysm could have been avoided (the burning of the Temple was accidental, he believes) but for the politics of the imperial succession, which prompted a needlessly hard line against the revolt and then Judaism itself. Drawing on Josephus's firsthand narrative, Goodman fleshes out his lucid account with archeology, numismatics and commentary from Roman and Jewish sources. The result is a scholarly tour de force, a resonant story of a tragic conflict caused by political miscalculation and opportunism. 16 pages of photos, 8 maps.

"This is an important book, on a difficult subject: the reason why the Romans, who had so much in common with the Jews, sought to destroy the Jews and Judaism completely. Only one man could have written it. Martin Goodman is professor of Jewish studies at Oxford and has the unique distinction of having edited both the Journal of Roman Studies and the Journal of Jewish Studies. This polarity of expertise enables him to describe in a penetrating way the terrifying Jewish revolts against Rome of AD 66-70 and 132-5, as well as provide a fresh and convincing analysis of their origins and consequences. . . Goodman has written a splendid book."
—Paul Johnson, The Tablet

“Martin Goodman’s massive new treatment of two crucial centuries of Jewish history should be read by anyone seeking seriously to understand modern Middle Eastern tanges. . . It would be pleasing to feel that international
statesmen might draw lessons from Goodman’s lucid account of ancient tragedy.”
—Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Guardian

“Sombre and magisterial. . . a brilliant comparative survey. . . There can be no doubting that the issues raised by Rome and Jerusalem will have a resonance with readers far beyond the confines of university classes or theology departments. The Roman world has begun to hold a mirror up to our own anxieties in a way that would have appeared wholly implausible a bare decade ago. If it was the fall of the Bastille that shaped 19th and 20th century history, then it can sometimes seem as though the 21st century is being shaped by the fall, nearly 2000 long years ago, of Jerusalem.”
—Tom Holland, Sunday Times

“His style is brisk and clear, his learning prodigious and his scope immense. . . as Goodman’s compelling and timely book reminds us, even the most pessimistic could hardly have guessed that it would take 2000 years for [the Jews] to return to their holy city — or that even then, their battles would be far from over.”
—Dominic Sandbrook, Saturday Telegraph

“Rome and Jerusalem is, among many other things, a history of anti-Semitism — or, if that term is felt to be anachronistic for Goodman’s period. . . judaophobia. . . Martin Goodman has spent his career studying both ancient Rome and ancient Jerusalem …He is thus the ideal scholar to try to hack a way through these tangled thickets of belief, prejudice and false consciousness.”
—Paul Cartledge, Sunday Telegraph

“A monumental work of scholarship … the parallels with modern day Baghdad are all the more resonant for Goodman studiously avoiding them.”
—Rabbi David J. Goldberg, the Independent

“An impressive, scholarly book.”
—The Economist

In 1912, Robert Falcon Scott reached the South Pole only to discover that he had been beaten to the Antarctic prize five weeks earlier by the Norwegian Roald Amundsen. Scott turned around and began a perilous journey back to base camp. He never made it. He and his four teammates died after two months of heartbreaking toil. The diaries they left behind recounted their struggle in harrowing detail.

Two years later, Ernest Shackleton led an expedition to Antarctica with the aim of exploring the continent much further than before. His ship, the Endurance, became trapped by ice, and Shackleton led his crew to the relative safety of nearby Elephant Island. Despairing of rescue, he and a handful of men set sail in a lifeboat to cross 800 miles of the rough seas, making for South Georgia Island, east of the Falklands. After an epic 16-day journey, Shackleton and his men reached the island, then hiked to a whaling station and arranged to rescue their 22 stranded shipmates. Not a single life was lost.

The two expeditions, with their dramatically different outcomes, are classics of polar exploration. Yet as Stephanie Barczewski observes in "Antarctic Destinies," the meaning of the tales -- along with their moral lessons and cultural appeal -- has shifted over the course of a century. "In 1912," she writes, "many people saw Scott as a hero. Today, many people see him as a bumbling idiot whose incompetence resulted in his own death as well as the deaths of his four companions.
In 1916, many people saw Shackleton as admirable on some level but not quite trustworthy. . . . Today, many people see him as one of the greatest leaders in human history." Her book attempts to show, as she puts it, "the malleability of heroism."

The Scott expedition's Terra Nova at Cape Evans in Antarctica, 1910

At first, Scott was revered in death as the embodiment of British manliness. "Had we lived," he wrote in one of his diary's final entries, "I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale." Scott was adduced as an exemplar of hardihood, endurance, courage and plenty else besides. No cause seemed too hopeless to hitch its wagon to his star. Even the Alliance of Honour, an anti-masturbation group, appropriated Scott's resolve in its pamphleteering.

Shackleton, by contrast, was greeted by more creditors than fans when he returned to England in late 1914. (He had undertaken the expedition only after interesting a host of investors.) And he encountered a public
that, far from marveling at his ordeal, appeared to regard as unseemly the very idea of able-bodied men, on the eve of World War I, running off to polar wastes in search of adventure.

It is perhaps not surprising that Scott's reputation has undergone revision, given his team's grisly end and our inclination, in retrospect, to question the rightness of failed decisions. Shackleton's rise in recent years, however, has been puzzlingly meteoric. History long treated him with mild curiosity or indifference. The James Caird -- that plucky lifeboat that traveled so far -- gathered dust for decades at an obscure college in England and was even used as a trash receptacle. But in 1998 The Wall Street Journal noted a surging "Shackleton Mania" and, the next year, New York's American Museum of Natural History hosted an exhibition about the Endurance. An accompanying book became a best seller and publishers unleashed a flood of Shackleton titles, including business and leadership books. Movies and documentaries followed.

Why was Shackleton so suddenly ascendant? Ms. Barczewski notes that his Endurance experience matches three popular genres: man against nature, maritime adventure and polar survival. Shackleton, in short, could be recast as a prototypical action hero for the late 20th century, not least for Americans. The new Shackleton, Ms. Barczewski writes, "combined optimism and pragmatism in a stereotypically American way: he united an eternally sunny outlook and 'can-do' spirit with a hard-headed assessment of the obstacles that must be overcome."

The most exciting, though unoriginal, part of "Antarctic Destinies" traces the oft-told tales of the two expeditions. Longer sections detail various biographical and pop-cultural trends: Ms. Barczewski cites everything from scholarly tomes and magazine articles to Monty Python sketches and Chick Lit to show how the two men have been viewed by each new generation.

As she was finishing her book, Ms. Barczewski saw signs that popular estimations were changing again. Recent researchers have suggested that Scott encountered unusually bad weather; other writers have focused on the fate of the Ross Sea party, a usually forgotten sledging expedition poorly organized by Shackleton as part of the 1914 venture. It resulted in the deaths of three men.

Ms. Barczewski, for her part, prefers not to pick a winner. And who can blame her? Both Scott and Shackleton, she says, were "great men."

Joseph Albert "Jock" Yablonski (March 3, 1910 - December 31, 1969) was an American labor leader in the United Mine Workers in the 1950s and 1960s. He was murdered in 1969 by killers hired by a union political
opponent, Mine Workers president W. A. Boyle. His death led to significant reforms in the union.

* 1 Early life and union career
* 2 UMWA presidential candidacy
* 3 Murder
* 4 Aftermath of Yablonski's murder
* 5 Portrayal in popular culture
* 6 Notes
* 7 References
* 8 External links

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1910, Yablonski began working in the mines as a boy. He became active in the United Mine Workers after his father was killed in a mine explosion. He was first elected to union office in 1934. In 1940, he was elected as a representative to the international executive board, and in 1958 was appointed president of UMW District 5.

He clashed with W. A. "Tony" Boyle, who became president of the UMW in 1963, over how the union should be run and his view that Boyle did not adequately represent the miners. In 1965, Boyle removed Yablonski as president of District 5 (under reforms enacted by Boyle, district presidents were appointed, not elected). In May 1969, Yablonski announced his candidacy for president of the union. As early as June, Boyle was discussing the need to kill him.

UMWA presidential candidacy

The United Mine Workers was in turmoil by 1969. Legendary UMWA president John L. Lewis had retired in 1960. His successor, Thomas Kennedy, died in 1963. From retirement, Lewis hand-picked Boyle for the UMWA presidency. A Montana miner, Boyle was as autocratic and bullying as Lewis, but not as well liked.

From the beginning of his administration, Boyle faced significant opposition from rank-and-file miners and UMWA leaders. Miners' attitudes about their union had also changed. Miners wanted greater democracy and more autonomy for their local unions. There was also a widespread belief that Boyle was more concerned with protecting mine owners' interests than those of his members. Grievances filed by the union often took months—sometimes years—to resolve, lending credence to the critics' claim. Wildcat strikes occurred as local unions, despairing of UMWA assistance, sought to resolve local disputes with walkouts.

In 1969, Yablonski challenged Boyle for the presidency of UMWA.In an election widely seen as corrupt, Boyle beat Yablonski in the election held on December 9 by a margin of nearly two-to-one (80,577 to 46,073). Yablonski conceded the election, but on December 18, 1969, asked the United States Department of Labor (DOL) to investigate the election for fraud. He also initiated five lawsuits against UMWA in federal court.

On December 31, 1969, three hitmen shot Yablonski, his wife Margaret, and his 25-year-old daughter Charlotte, as they slept in the Yablonski home in Clarksville, Pennsylvania. The bodies were discovered on January 5, 1970, by Yablonski's son, Kenneth. The killings had been ordered by Boyle, who had demanded Yablonski's death on June 23, 1969, after a meeting with Yablonski at UMWA headquarters degenerated into a screaming match. In September 1969, UMWA executive council member Albert Pass received $20,000 from Boyle (who had embezzled the money from union funds) to hire gunmen to kill Yablonski. Paul Gilly, an out-of-work house painter and son-in-law of a minor UMWA official, and two drifters, Aubran Martin and Claude Vealey, agreed to do the job. The murder was postponed until after the election, however, to avoid suspicion falling on Boyle. After three aborted attempts to murder Yablonski, the killers did their job. But they left so many fingerprints behind, it took police only three days to catch them.

A few hours after Yablonski's funeral, several of the miners who had supported
Yablonski met in the basement of the church were the memorial service was held. They met with attorney Joseph Rauh and drew up plans to establish a reform caucus within the United Mine Workers.

The day after the killing, 20,000 miners in West Virginia walked off the job in a one-day strike, convinced Boyle was responsible for the murders.

Yablonski's murder sparked action. On January 8, 1970, Yablonski's attorney waived the right to further internal review and requested an immediate investigation of the 1969 union presidential election by DOL. On January 17, 1972, the United States Supreme Court granted Mike Trbovich, a 51-year-old coal mine shuttle car operator and union member from District 5 (Yablonski's district), permission to intervene in the DOL suit as a complainant—keeping the election fraud suit alive.
The Department of Labor had taken no action on Yablonski's complaints while he lived, as if preserving the rights of union members were not important or urgent. But after his murder, Labor Secretary George P. Shultz assigned 230 investigators to the UMWA investigation.

The Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) of 1959 regulates the internal affairs of labor unions, requiring regular secret-ballot elections for local union offices and providing for federal investigation of election fraud or impropriety. DOL is authorized under the act to sue in federal court to have the election overturned. By 1970, however, only three international union elections had been overturned by the courts.

Gilly, Martin and Vealey were arrested days after the assassinations and indicted for Yablonski's death. Eventually, investigators arrested Pass and Pass' wife. All were convicted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Two of the three assassins were sentenced to death; Martin avoided execution by pleading guilty and turning state's evidence.

Miners for Democracy (MFD) formed in April 1970 while the DOL investigation continued. Its members included most of the miners who belonged to the West Virginia Black Lung Association and many of Yablonski's supporters and former campaign staff. MFD's support was strongest in southwestern Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, and the panhandle and northern portions of West Virginia, but MFD supporters existed in nearly all affiliates. The chief organizers of Miners for Democracy included Yablonski's sons, Joseph (known as "Chip") and Ken, Trbovich and others.

DOL filed suit in federal court in 1971 to overturn the 1969 UMWA election. After several lengthy delays, the suit moved went to trial on September 12, 1971. On May 1, 1972, Judge William Bryant threw out the results of the 1969 UMWA international union elections. Bryant scheduled a new election to be held during the first eight days of December 1972. In addition, Bryant agreed that DOL should oversee the election to ensure fairness.

On May 28, 1972, MFD nominated Arnold Miller, a miner from West Virginia who had challenged Boyle on the need for black lung legislation, as its presidential candidate.

Balloting for the next UMWA president began on December 1, 1972. Balloting ended on December 9, and Miller was declared the victor on December 15. The Labor Department certified Miller as UMWA's next president on December 22, 1972. The vote was 70,373 for Miller and 56,334 for Boyle.

of the convicted murders accused Boyle of masterminding and funding the assassination plot. Boyle was indicted on three counts of murder in April 1973 and convicted in April 1974. He was sentenced to three consecutive life terms in prison. He died in prison in 1985.

The murders were portrayed in a 1986 HBO television movie, Act of Vengeance. Charles Bronson portrayed Yablonski and Wilford Brimley played Boyle.

Cuvier's beaked whale has a robust body and a small head which is about ten percent of its body length. Its forehead slopes to a poorly defined short beak, and its mouth turns upward, giving it a goose-like profile. This whale has a depression behind the blowholes which ends in a distinct neck. Its blow is small and not very noticeable and is projected slightly forward and to the left. One of its more interesting features is that in adult males two large teeth about 2 inches long (5 cm) protrude from the tip of the lower jaw. The males use these teeth in fights with each other over females. For their part the females have smaller, more pointed teeth that remain embedded in the gums. The lower jaw of the Cuvier's beaked whale extends well beyond the upper jaw. Like other beaked whales, the Cuvier's has two deep, V-shaped throat grooves.

COLOR: This whale varies greatly in color. Its back may be rusty-brown, dark gray, or fawn colored and the underside of the body may be dark brown or black. As the Cuvier's beaked whale ages, first the head and neck and then the body become more lightly colored; the heads of old males are almost completely white. The back and sides of this whale, especially the males, are often covered with double-lined scratches caused by the teeth of other males. Its sides and belly are covered with oval white patches.

Cuvier's beaked whale surface characteristics
surface characteristics

FINS AND FLUKE: Dorsal fins of Cuvier's beaked whales may vary in shape; they may be as high as 15 inches (38 cm) and falcate (curved) or less than 10 inches (25 cm) and triangular. The fin of this whale is located well behind the mid-section. Its flukes are large and rounded at the tips and may or may not be slightly notched in the center. Its flippers are small and rounded at the tips and fold back into little depressions on the side of the body.

Length and Weight: Maximum size is 23 feet (7 m). The average adult is 18 feet (5.5 m) and weighs 2.7 tons (2500 kg).

Feeding: Squid is its primary food, though it sometimes eats fish and, rarely, crustaceans.

MATING AND BREEDING Sexual maturity is reached when the animal is an average of about 19 feet (5.8 m) long for females and 18 feet (5.5 m) for males. Calves are between 6.5 to 10 feet (2-3 m) at birth and weigh about 600 pounds (272 kg).

Mating and Breeding: fs6-breeding

Cuvier's beaked whale range map
range map
Distribution and Migration: Cuvier's beaked whales are found in all the oceans of the world except the polar regions of both hemispheres. They prefer deep water of over 3,300 feet (1,000 m) and avoid shallow coastal areas.

Natural History: Cuvier's beaked whales are almost never seen at sea, so we know very little about their habits. Sightings of single animals (which are probably males) have been reported, but they are more commonly seen in groups of 2 to 7. Their life span is believed to be at least 25 years.

Status: We know so little about this whale that there are no estimates of past or present population size. Though Cuvier's beaked whales are found stranded more often than any other species of beaked whales, only two mass strandings have been reported; one in the Galapagos and the other in Puerto Rico. These whales beach themselves singly all over the world, more often in some locations than in others. A few Cuvier's beaked whales were taken by hunters in the 1940s to 1960s in Japan's coastal whaling operations, but the numbers were so few that there was no threat to the survival of the species. This whale is not hunted at the present time. More recently, acoustical trauma has been implicated in the mass strandings of Cuvier's beaked whales in the Caribean, Azores, and the Gulf of California.

An old adage says high taxes don't redistribute income, they redistribute people. For new evidence look no further than migration patterns within the United States, as documented in a new survey by the moving company United Van Lines.

A record eight million Americans -- some 20,000 people every day -- relocated to another state last year. So where are these families headed and why? The general picture is this: Americans are continuing to flee the Northeast and Midwest, while the leading destinations continue to be Southern and Western states.

The United Van Lines study finds that the biggest population loser last year was Michigan, where two families moved out of the state for every new family that moved in. Americans are also fleeing New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Without interviewing the departed, it's impossible to know the reasons for this outward migration. No doubt overall economic prospects, climate, quality of life and housing prices play a role.

But one reason to conclude that taxes are also a motivator is because the eight states without an income tax are stealing talent from other states. They are Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming, and each one gained in net domestic migrants. Each one except Florida -- which has sky-high property taxes on new homesteaders -- also ranked in the top 12 of destination states. The nearby table ranks the top five destination and departure states.

Politicians who think taxes don't matter might want to explain the Dakotas. North Dakota ranked second worst in out-migration last year, while South Dakota ranked in the top 10 as a destination. The two are similar in most regards, with one large difference: North Dakota has an income tax and South Dakota doesn't.

Here's another example. The only Pacific Coast state to lose migrant population in 2007 was California, which has the highest state income tax in the nation. This is the continuation of a dismal 10-year performance with nearly one and a half million Golden Staters leaving what was once the premier destination state in America.

Meanwhile, next door, Nevada was second among the states in new families -- and a big percentage of the new arrivals are Californians. Nevada has no income tax. High income Californians can buy a house in Las Vegas for the amount of money they save in three or four years by not paying California income taxes.

One of the few Northeastern states that gained interstate migrants in 2007 was New Hampshire, the only state in New England without an income tax. For the exception that proves the tax rule, we should also mention Vermont, a high-tax state with a big net influx last year. Maybe these folks like the Ben & Jerry's lifestyle, and we also hope they like the government they're paying for.

We invite readers to visit the U-Haul Moving Company Web site (, where you can type in a pair of U.S. cities to learn what it costs to move from point A to B. If you want to move, say, from Austin, Texas to Southern California, the moving van will cost you $407 to rent. But if you want to move out of California to Austin, the same van costs $1,831. A move from Dallas to Philadelphia costs $663, versus $2,433 to swap homes in the other direction. The biggest discrepancy we could find was $557 from Nashville, Tennessee to Los Angeles, but the trip costs nearly eight times more, or $4,285, to move to Nashville from L.A.

Our friends on the left say Americans are willing to pay more taxes to get better government services, but their migration patterns reveal the opposite. Governors would be wise to heed these interstate migration trends as they try to cope with what may be one of the worst years in recent memory for state finances. The people who tend to be the most mobile in American society are the educated and motivated -- in other words, the taxpaying class. Tax them too much, and you'll soon find they aren't there to tax at all.

America is back to working on the railroads.

For decades, stretches of track west of this town were so rough that trains couldn't run faster than 25 miles an hour. Lanie Keith, a locomotive engineer for Kansas City Southern, recalls waiting for hours when trains stalled on a steep curve on a stretch of single track between Meridian and Shreveport, La.

But over the past two years, at a cost of $300 million, track crews have transformed the 320-mile route. Installing 960,000 crossties and 80 miles of new rail, they've turned a railroad backwater into a key link in a resurging national transport network. Mr. Keith now skims parts of the improved track, called the Meridian Speedway, at nearly 60 miles an hour.
"You went from moving like a turtle to a jack rabbit," he says.

The upgrade is part of a railroad renaissance under way across much of the U.S. For the first time in nearly a century, railroads are making large investments in their networks -- adding sets of tracks, straightening curves that force engines to slow and expanding tunnels for bigger trains. Their campaign is altering the corridors of American commerce, more so than any other development since interstate highways spread to the interior.

For decades, railroads spent little on expansion, even tore up surplus track and shrank routes. But since 2000 they've spent $10 billion to expand tracks, build freight yards and buy locomotives, and they have $12 billion more in upgrades planned.

The buildout comes as the industry transitions away from its chief role in recent decades of hauling coal, timber and other raw materials in manufacturing regions. Now, increasingly, railroads are moving finished consumer goods, often made in Asia, from ports to major cities. Their new higher-volume routes, called corridors, often serve the South, where the rail system is less developed and the population is rising.

Railroad operators are pressing for advantage over their main competitor, long-haul trucking, which has struggled with rising fuel prices, driver shortages and highway congestion. Railroads say a load can be moved by rail using about a third as much fuel as it takes to haul it by truck. And rail transport is becoming more efficient still, they say, as operators speed their lines and logistics companies build huge warehouse areas along routes.

Demand for rail service increased sharply when the U.S. economy and Asian imports surged starting in 2003. Tight capacity on major routes enabled railroads to raise prices. The growth in freight volume has slowed along with economic growth, but shippers say they're still planning to increase their use of rail transport because of the cost.

"The railroad industry is finally making some money," says Charles "Wick" Moorman IV, chief executive officer of Norfolk Southern Corp., based in Norfolk, Va. "And we're pumping that money into our infrastructure."

Trucking accounted for 82% of the U.S.'s truck-and-rail intercity-freight spending in 2004, up from 78% in 1990, according to Eno Transportation Foundation, a research organization in Washington, D.C. But trucking companies, notably industry giant J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell, Ark., are using railroads for the long-haul part of some trips because it's cheaper. Some rail promoters believe that as a result of their investments, they could cut into the business of the two million long-haul freight trucks in the U.S., which account for 350 million shipments a year.

Attracting Interest

For the first time in years, the industry is attracting interest among big-name investors. Last spring, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., disclosed an 11% stake in Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., the second-largest U.S. railroad by revenue. Berkshire has since raised the stake to more than 18%. In a move recalling rail boardroom battles of the past, Children's Investment Fund Management LLP, a London hedge fund, and other shareholders have put up a slate of directors for a coming annual meeting of the nation's No. 3 railroad, CSX Corp. (Union Pacific Corp. is the largest U.S. railroad in revenue terms; Norfolk Southern and Kansas City Southern are fourth and fifth, respectively.)

The expansion is stirring conflict with some old customers, the shippers who move raw materials such as chemicals, grain and logs, who feel they're being charged unnecessarily high rates to pay for capital improvements. Trade groups representing such shippers are seeking federal legislation to rein in railroad rate increases.

"I think the railroads are investing in corridors to serve a different customer, and heavy U.S. industry will be left in the dust," says Kenneth Walker, a transportation manager of Graphic Packaging International Corp., a cardboard manufacturer in Marietta, Ga.

It's been a century since railroads embarked on a similar spate of capital investment. Between 1900 and World War I, they launched a huge rebuilding program across the U.S. midsection to handle freight and passenger trains. Traffic was booming as the economy roared back from a financial panic in the 1890s. Railroads added second, third and fourth sets of tracks along main routes, built tunnels and bridges and installed stronger locomotives.

After World War II, though, cars began wiping out passenger-train service. New interstate highways unleashed trucks as a freight competitor. By the 1970s, U.S. railroads were deep into a decline, other than adding new track to the coal fields of Wyoming.

Burlington Northern was the first to pursue the strategy of building a high-capacity corridor to link ports with population centers needing consumer goods, rather than linking industrial centers. In the 1990s, it set out to complete a second set of tracks on its Chicago-Los Angeles Transcon line. "It came right out of the 'Field of Dreams': Build it and they will come," says Rob Krebs, a retired Burlington CEO.

Wall Street analysts objected to the big spending, and Mr. Krebs throttled down the expansion in 1999 and 2000.
But his successor, Matt Rose, resumed work on the project in 2003, and it is now nearing completion.

Problems with old infrastructure were becoming clear elsewhere. Union Pacific was plagued with freight jams and service breakdowns during a surge of Asian imports a few years ago. Union Pacific hired thousands of new train crew members, and it has since launched a massive track-installation program across the Southwest.

It is upgrading its Sunset Route, from Los Angeles to El Paso, Texas, with a second set of tracks. It's planning to build new freight yards and a fueling station along the way. When the $2 billion project is finished in 2010, Union Pacific will be able to roughly double the number of freight cars crossing the Sunset each day to more than 9,000 from about 5,000 currently.

Railroads are generating development in the same way they spawned towns and industrial sites over a century ago. Warehouse complexes are popping up next to new rail yards designed to load and unload trains carrying containerized goods. Major distribution operations have opened or are planned in places like Elwood, Ill., Kansas City, Mo., and Columbus, Ohio.

The social consequences are evident in developments like AllianceTexas. In the late 1980s, Hillwood Development Co., founded by Ross Perot Jr., son of the former presidential candidate, built a cargo airport outside Fort Worth, thinking that would be the best way to attract companies to 17,000 acres of land north of the city. As an afterthought, the company says, it made room for a rail yard.

A decade later, it's the rail yard that has attracted huge warehouses, for companies such as J.C. Penney Co. and Bridgestone Corp. These and others get container loads of jeans, electronics, tires and such from Southern California ports. "I never would have thought having a rail hub in the middle of our development would have attracted so much interest," says Thomas Harris, a Hillwood senior vice president.

The development, which employs 27,000, has spawned a nearby minicity of shopping centers, a golf course, a racetrack and 6,200 houses.
More than 300 of the homes are high-priced models in gated communities.

Railroads have found friends among environmentalists, who see moving freight by train rather than truck as a way to reduce fuel burning and emissions. Method Products Inc., a San Francisco maker of nontoxic home and personal-care products, says it plans to use rail for 50% of its shipments this year, up from 33% in 2007. "We view rail as a solution to lower our greenhouse-gas emissions," says Jason Bowman, the firm's global logistics manager.

States Climb Aboard

States have also started to climb aboard. In a 2002 report, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials said transportation capacity could be increased more cheaply in some intercity corridors by adding railways rather than expanding highways.

Norfolk Southern is seeking public funding to accelerate rail-corridor projects, arguing that they provide a public benefit by limiting fuel use, traffic congestion and air pollution. The idea is gaining backers. Virginia created a rail-enhancement fund in 2005 from car-rental fees and is spending $40 million to improve a Norfolk Southern freight line in the state. The railroad industry is urging Congress to pass a railroad investment tax credit to fund rail improvements.

Many old lines need work. Norfolk Southern's most direct route to the Midwest from the docks of Norfolk, Va., has tunnels high enough for coal trains. But they are too low for double-stack trains, which haul shipping containers one above the other. Norfolk Southern has begun a three-year, $260 million project to raise the height of 28 tunnels on the route, which it has renamed the Heartland Corridor.

Norfolk Southern's most ambitious project is the Crescent Corridor, a network of tracks between the New York City area and New Orleans. The company touts the corridor as a cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative to widening highways such as Interstate 81, which runs through Virginia's scenic Shenandoah Valley.

Trucks make four million to 4.5 million trips annually along I-81 in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation. Norfolk Southern envisions a route with enough speed and capacity to displace about a million truck trips a year. It is seeking funding for most of the $2 billion project from the U.S. government and states along the corridor.

Tim Lynch, an executive of the American Trucking Associations in Arlington, Va., says it's "folly" to think rail corridors can take the place of additional highways. "You need to do both, because you have growth in freight traffic that will keep both modes busy," he says.

Work continues on the Meridian Speedway between Meridian and Shreveport. Kansas City Southern bought the line in 1994 as a shortcut for freight moving between Los Angeles and Atlanta, bypassing crowded gateways in Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans. The railroad began to improve the line, at one point easing a hilly curve near the river town of Vicksburg, Miss., that for years hampered Mr. Keith and other engineers when trains stalled there.

Additional Overhauls

Two years ago, Norfolk Southern agreed to contribute more than $300 million for additional overhauls in exchange for a 30% stake in the Speedway. The money has helped replace tracks and install a signal system on a line that had none. It allowed construction of sidings so trains can pass each other in more places.

Union Pacific uses the Speedway for a leg of a longer run that begins near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif. Improvements on the line have enabled Union Pacific to launch a new train packed with Asian goods that can cross the Southern U.S. in 72 hours, down from the 120-hour service it offered in past years.
Such numbers translate into big savings for railroads, which figure that each mile per hour of speed they can add systemwide translates into fewer cars, locomotives and crew members.

Mr. Keith says his trips between Meridian and Vicksburg now take six or seven hours, compared with 11 or 12 before the upgrades. He says he saved 30 minutes on a recent run by pulling onto a newly lengthened siding in Meehan, Miss., to pass another train.

Mr. Keith says the work will clear the Speedway to handle more and faster trains. "I love it," he says. "It guarantees me work stability."

Marsh & McLennan Cos.' fourth-quarter profit fell 62% as weakness continued in its insurance-brokerage business.

Marsh, one of the world's largest insurance brokers, reported net income of $85 million, or 16 cents a share, as revenue increased 8.1% to $2.93 billion.

Earnings in Marsh's risk-and-insurance business fell 54%, which the company blamed on a revenue drop at its Risk Capital Holdings that cut per-share earnings by eight cents.
The risk-and-insurance segment's operating margin, which has severely trailed Marsh's rivals, slumped to 4.2%.

Marsh also reported that profit in its consulting firms rose 38% on a 19% revenue increase.

The company hired a chief executive last month and fired the head of its insurance-brokerage unit in September over rising expenses, poor operating margins and weak revenue in the segment. Competitors such as Aon Corp. and Willis Group Holdings Ltd. are outflanking Marsh in the insurance business, and speculation on an asset sale or merger abounds as investors try to discern how new CEO Brian Duperreault will right the ship.

Pricing is an issue that has been of paramount concern to insurers of late. The current profit equation must factor how low to price policies so as to attract customers less concerned with risk in a time of fewer disasters.

Shares of Marsh & McLennan were up 69 cents, or 2.7%, to $25.99 in 4 p.m. trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Since taking over in 2005 as American International Group Inc.'s chief executive, Martin Sullivan has pushed the big insurer to be transparent, hoping to move past the accounting scandal that helped get him the top job.

Suddenly, though, analysts and investors are trying to assess the significance of a new accounting problem that has put Mr. Sullivan in an awkward spot: the "material weakness" that AIG's auditor found relating
to exposure to subprime-linked securities.

So far, Wall Street seems willing to cut him some slack -- but patience is limited. After sinking to a five-year low Monday, AIG shares rose 3.1%, or $1.40, yesterday to $46.14 in 4 p.m. composite trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

The scope of the accounting problems appears far narrower than those that swamped the insurer in 2005 and led to the exit of longtime leader Maurice R. "Hank" Greenberg. It also helps AIG that so many other financial companies are wrestling with the valuations of their own subprime exposures.

Still, the current situation could become more painful, especially if AIG has to keep on valuing its exposures in the same way going forward. The change the company announced Monday increased the size of its write-down for a single month, November, by $3.6 billion.

For the full fourth quarter, Goldman Sachs analyst Thomas Cholnoky estimated in a research report yesterday that AIG may be forced to write down $10 billion for those exposures. AIG hasn't announced when it will report quarterly results, but it has until Feb. 29 to file its annual report.

"The estimated market values are having a real-world impact in that they reduce reported earnings, they reduce reported shareholders' equity," says Bruce Ballantine, an analyst at Moody's Investors Service. They also could reduce the company's financial flexibility "to some extent."

Yesterday, both Moody's and Standard & Poor's said they revised their outlook on AIG downward to "negative" from "stable." Among the things S&P said could trigger a downgrade is "if accounting losses are sufficiently large to cause market issues for the company." It added that a downgrade could follow if it determines the material weakness is "significant."

The hit to AIG's credibility was severe not just because of the size of the change in the expected write-down but because analysts and investors found the company's explanation of what caused the increased loss to be difficult to decipher.

At issue for AIG is the valuation of a portfolio of what are essentially insurance contracts that the company sold, known as credit default swaps.

The swaps serve as credit protection on, among other things, $62.4 billion in collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, backed by collateral that includes subprime mortgages.

The key question now: How to value that portfolio? These kinds of highly specialized instruments aren't traded even in normal circumstances, making them hard to price. Valuing them becomes more difficult when the market for the securities and assets they're linked to is in the kind of distressed situation that currently exists.

A Look in the Pool

Analysts believe AIG originally valued these contracts by looking to prices supplied for a pool of CDOs, among other factors. The company then adjusted these values based on indexes that track subprime securities, analysts surmise.

But AIG didn't directly apply the loss implied by a fall in CDO values because the contracts it had written tend to trade at a premium to the instruments they are insuring.
AIG held these contracts, not the underlying CDOs.

AIG's auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, appears to have taken issue with the process. That prompted AIG to use market prices of CDOs, which in many cases are considered to be at fire-sale levels, rather than values for a pool of CDOs. In addition, the insurer eliminated the premium that typically applies to the value of the insurance contracts. That was done because it said market conditions had become too uncertain to calculate this.

The moves seem designed to make AIG's valuation place greater weight on market factors that immediately affect the value of the company's contracts. AIG's models seemed to place less emphasis on this and greater weight on the fact that the company doesn't believe it will ultimately suffer losses related to the contracts.

AIG drew a distinction between whatever losses it records based on the current value of the portfolio (an estimate of what someone would pay to take the risk off AIG's hands) and what it may actually have to pay to fulfill its obligations under the contracts.

In a statement, the company said it believes any losses "will not be material."

That calmed investors a bit. "That was a minorly helpful statement," says Ed Walczak, who runs the U.S. value funds for Vontobel Asset Management Inc., which has 3.5% of its $350 million holdings in AIG. As for the company's overall situation, "the grounds are still changing," Mr. Walczak adds.

Still, the wording of yesterday's statement varied slightly from AIG's statement last fall that it was "highly unlikely" the company would
have to "make payments" on the portfolio, Kathleen Shanley, an analyst at Gimme Credit, noted in a report yesterday.

Meaning of 'Not Material'

"'Not material' can still be a pretty big number when you are talking about a firm the size of AIG," Ms. Shanley wrote. "And investors are right to wonder if the next step on the slippery slope will be from 'not material' to 'material,' especially considering that AIG has not yet finalized its year-end numbers."

In response, a spokesman for AIG said of the prospect of any losses: "We would say it's slightly less than 'highly unlikely,' simply because of further deterioration in the default frequency of underlying mortgages." But if there were any losses, he added, "they would be immaterial" to the company's income statement or balance sheet.

Write to Liam Pleven at liam.plev

St. Jude Medical, Inc. (NYSE:STJ) announced it has received an Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin enrollment in a controlled, multi-site, blinded, clinical study of deep brain stimulation for major depressive disorder, a severe form of depression.

The BROADEN™ (BROdmann Area 25 DEep brain Neuromodulation) study will
evaluate the safety and effectiveness of deep brain stimulation in patients with depression for whom currently-available treatments are not effective. The study will build upon the pioneering depression work of a research team from the University of Toronto, led by neurologist Helen S. Mayberg, M.D. (now with Emory University School of Medicine), and neurosurgeon Andres Lozano, M.D.

"Major depressive disorder is severely disabling," said Dr. Lozano. "Currently, there are no widely-accepted treatment options for patients with this condition once multiple medications, psychotherapy and electroconvulsive therapy have failed."

Drs. Mayberg and Lozano conducted the first study of deep brain stimulation (DBS) for depression in Toronto, Canada, in 2003 and published their findings in Neuron in March 2005. As reported in this journal article, imaging studies led them to an area of the brain thought to be involved in depression called Brodmann Area 25. This area appears to become overactive when people are profoundly sad and depressed.

St. Jude Medical owns the intellectual property rights and has various patents pending for the use of neurostimulation at Brodmann Area 25. The Libra® Deep Brain Stimulation System, which is being evaluated in this study, is designed to deliver mild electrical pulses from a device implanted near the collarbone and connected to small electrical leads placed at specific targets in the brain.

In the U.S.,
more than 21 million adults suffer from some kind of depressive disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Of these, only about 80 percent can be effectively treated with currently available therapies, according to the National Advisory Mental Health Council. Unfortunately, that means approximately 4 million adult Americans live with depression that does not respond to medications, psychotherapy and, in certain cases, electroconvulsive therapy.

"St. Jude Medical is dedicated to researching and developing neuromodulation therapies for people who live with conditions such as severe depression," said Chris Chavez, president of St. Jude Medical's ANS Division. "We are hopeful that this trial will lead to the successful development of a sustainable therapy for those patients who have exhausted other treatment options."

About St. Jude Medical

St. Jude Medical is dedicated to making life better for cardiac, neurological and chronic pain patients worldwide through excellence in medical device technology and services. The Company has five major focus areas that include: cardiac rhythm management, atrial fibrillation, cardiac surgery, cardiology and neuromodulation. Headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., St. Jude Medical employs approximately 12,000 people worldwide. For more information, please visit

About the ANS Division of St. Jude Medical

The ANS Division (Advanced Neuromodulation Systems) became a part of St. Jude Medical in 2005. The ANS Division is an innovative technology leader dedicated to the design, development, manufacturing and marketing of implantable neuromodulation systems to improve the quality of life for people suffering from disabling chronic pain and other nervous system disorders (

Using a cosmic magnifying glass to peer into the deepest reaches of space, two teams of astronomers have discovered tiny galaxies that may be among the most distant known. Images suggest that one of the galaxies is so remote that the light now reaching Earth left this starlit body when the 13.7-billion-year-old universe was only about 700 million years old.

LONG AGO, FAR AWAY. Gravity of the cluster Abell 1689 acts as a gravitational lens,
bending into arcs and magnifying the light from remote background galaxies. One galaxy appears so remote that it doesn't show up in visible light but only in the infrared.

The discoveries are important, notes Tim Heckman of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, because they probe a special time in the universe, when the cosmos changed from a place filled with neutral gas to a place ionized by the emergence of the first substantial population of stars and black holes. Studies of distant galaxies help pinpoint when that critical era happened.

All of the galaxies are so small that even the keen eye of the Hubble Space Telescope couldn't have spotted them without nature providing a gravitational assist. According to Einstein's theory of general relativity, a massive foreground body acts like a lens, bending and magnifying light from a more remote galaxy that lies along the same line of sight to Earth.

That's why Garth Illingworth and Rychard Bouwens of the University of California, Santa Cruz and their colleagues went hunting for distant galaxies around a nearby cluster of galaxies called Abell 1689.

The cluster's gravity distorts images of background galaxies, bending them into arcs and magnifying their brightness. One of these galaxies proved especially intriguing because it appeared bright at several infrared wavelengths recorded by Hubble but disappeared in visible light.

That's a sign that the galaxy, dubbed A1689-zD1, is both extraordinarily distant and youthful. The data also indicate that the galaxy forms stars at a rate equivalent to five suns a year, typical of the small galaxies thought to be common in the early universe, says Bouwens.

The researchers don't have a spectrum for the galaxy and therefore can't be sure of its distance, but they calculate in an upcoming Astrophysical Journal paper that the galaxy most likely lies 13 billion light-years from Earth and has a redshift of 7.6. That redshift signifies that cosmic expansion has stretched the wavelengths emitted by the galaxy by a factor of 8.6.

"The reason we are excited about this [galaxy] is that we can look at it in great detail because of the factor of 10 gravitational amplification by the foreground cluster," Bouwens says. A1689-zD1 is the brightest known galaxy that's likely to be extremely distant, his team notes.

The Hubble images show several dense clumps, each containing hundreds of millions of stars. Follow-up images, taken at longer infrared wavelengths with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, provide additional evidence that the galaxy is remote and also yield a more accurate measurement of the galaxy's mass.

"It looks pretty convincing" that A1689-zD1 is remote, but proof may require spectra taken by Hubble's proposed successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, Heckman says.

In searching for distant galaxies, a second team, which includes Richard Ellis and Johan Richard of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, also surveyed several galaxy clusters. The team found evidence of six distant galaxies, which may lie between 12.9 billion and 13.1 billion light-years from Earth, Richard reported this week at an astrophysics meeting at the Aspen Center for Physics in
Colorado. Because the galaxies don't appear as bright—the clusters magnify them by a factor of only two to four—astronomers have less information about these faint bodies than about A1689-zD1, Richard notes.

At first, it may seem like a treat to stay up late—but the next day will be no picnic. There'll be yawning, heavy limbs, and a cranky disposition.

At times like these, the desire to sleep can feel overwhelming.

And it should.

Growing kids need sleep, as do people of all ages. Indeed, research shows that health and safety both suffer when we try to get by with too little shut-eye. So it's fortunate that our bodies do such a good job of alerting us when it's time to hit the sack.

Like people, other animals also take time out to rest. You've probably seen a lion dozing at the zoo, or maybe watched your dog snooze away, curled up in its bed. In fact, sleep is a necessity for every animal that's ever been studied. This includes whales, octopuses—even fruit flies.
How long animals slumber, though, varies widely. Elephants and giraffes sleep only about 2 to 4 hours a day, while bats and opossums may nod off for up to 20 hours. By studying similarities and differences in when and how long various animals sleep, researchers hope to better understand why the need for rest is critical to creatures throughout the animal kingdom.

Getting sleepy? Yawning is just one trait we share with many animals that are tired.

Getting sleepy? Yawning is just one trait we share with many animals that are tired.

What is sleep?

It's obvious what your mom means when she says it's time to go sleep, But how do scientists describe this restful period? When we sleep, our eyes usually close and we lose consciousness. You might even think that your brain shuts down. But it doesn't.

By attaching sensors to the surface of a sleeper's scalp, researchers can listen in on patterns of electrical waves within the brain. Such measurements show that the patterns of these waves change throughout the night as the body alternates between two types of sleep.

In the first type, brain activity slows as the body enters an especially deep sleep. In the second type, known as rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, our eyes flutter rapidly under their lids (hence the name)—and our brains become almost as active as they are when we're awake.
This period is also when we dream.

Unlike reptiles, amphibians, and fish, all land mammals and birds experience this type of resting. "REM sleep is quite a mystery," says Jerome Siegel, who studies slumber in animals at the University of California, Los Angeles. Researchers don't know why people or any other animals do it.

One thing REM-sleeping animals have in common, though, is that they're all relatively intelligent. Researchers wonder if the need for REM sleep, with its buzzing brain activity, has something to do with that.
The need for sleep is important, which is why many animals—including cats and dogs—grab a nap when there's little need for activity.

The need for sleep is important, which is why many animals—including cats and dogs—grab a nap when there's little need for activity.

"We have always joked and used the term 'birdbrain' to indicate that somebody's stupid," says Niels Rattenborg, who studies bird sleep at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Starnberg, Germany. But birds are better at certain intelligence tests than are some mammals, so perhaps "birdbrain" should be considered a compliment, he says.

On the other hand, Siegel has found that the duck-billed platypus, which isn't a particularly brainy animal, has "spectacular" REM sleep—twitching its bill and legs throughout this stage. And some of the smartest animals—dolphins and whales—experience no REM sleep. So its purpose remains a puzzle.

That's not the only baffling thing about the sleep habits of dolphins and whales. A second mystery is that just half of their brain dozes—and one eye closes—at a time. Keeping partly alert may be one way that these mammals protect themselves in the open ocean, Siegel says: "They have no safe place to sleep."

Ducks do something similar. When sleeping together, the birds on the edge of the group slumber with the outside eye open and half of their brain awake—presumably to keep watch while the other half of their brain snoozes.

Some birds may even sleep while flying. Rattenborg's team has designed instruments to attach to birds that spend most of their life in flight. Using these tools, the scientists will measure the birds' brain waves as the animals fly, looking for signs that they might nap in the air.

The fact that all animals make time for sleeping, even under potentially dangerous circumstances, suggests that sleep must serve a crucial function. And indeed, some evidence suggests that sleep is essential for learning and forming permanent memories.

But sleep may also be primarily a way for animals to save energy and stay out of harm's way, Siegel says. This may help explain why meat-eating critters sleep more than herbivores, which are animals that dine solely on plants. Herbivores like cows and zebras need to spend more time searching for and grazing on food than do meat eaters, such as lions and other big cats. A lion that has just fed on an antelope won't have to eat again for several days. So a big cat might be better off snoozing for a spell after it eats, rather than prowling around and risking injury.

Top predators, like this polar bear, may slumber for a long time after a major meal.

Top predators, like this polar bear, may slumber for a long time after a major meal.

But that's just an educated guess, really, based on a growing number of observations. Scientists need to study the animals they've already looked at in greater detail. And they need to study other animals as well before they can fully understand the benefits of sleep and identify which benefits are most important for a particular species.

One thing is certain: ample slumber is essential to health and learning. So give in when a strong urge to sleep hits, and catch plenty of ZZZ's.

Jupiter’s twin found… 60 light years away!Triple asteroid amateur imageDid salt lick Martian life?AstroShaqCarnival of Space 41XKCD has SETI’s numberGLAST’s rocket arrives at CapeJupiter’s twin found… 60 light years away!
Astronomers have just announced that they have found a near twin of Jupiter orbiting the star HD 154345, a fairly sunlike star about 60 light years away. This is very cool news, and has some pretty big implications for finding another Earth around some distant star.

Finding a planet like this isn’t as easy as it sounds! Finding planets with the same mass as Jupiter isn’t hard; many have been found with even lower mass. The hard part is finding one that is orbiting a sun-like star at the same distance Jupiter orbits our Sun. The closer in a planet is to its star, the easier it is to find: the method used measures how hard the planet’s gravity tugs on its parent star as it orbits; the planet pulls the star around just like the star pulls the planet, and we see this as a change in the velocity of the star toward and away from us (called the radial velocity; Wikipedia has a nice animated GIF for this), and that effect gets bigger with bigger planets, and the closer they orbit.
So we see lots of
superjupiters orbiting close in, and some lighter planets also close to their parent stars. But finding a Jupiter-like planet on an orbit like Jupiter’s, well, that takes a long time to do. Jupiter takes 12 years to orbit the Sun, so it would take many observations over many years to detect a planet like that.
But they’ve done it! The team (Jason White, Geoff Marcy, Paul Butler, and Steven Vogt) have been using the monster 10-meter Keck telescope for ten years, observing HD 154345. This star is a lot like the Sun (it’s a G8, and the Sun is a G0 G2, meaning it’s a little smaller, lower mass, and cooler than the Sun). The planet (called HD 154345b) has a mass of no less than 0.95 times that of Jupiter, and orbits the star 4.2 AU out — 1 AU is the Earth-Sun distance, and Jupiter’s orbit is about 5.2 AU from the Sun. The planet takes a little over 9 years to orbit the star, and the orbit is circular.

This makes HD 154345b the first true Jupiter analog discovered. It’s a tremendous achievement!
So why is this important?
The superjupiters in tight orbits that have been discovered probably didn’t form that close to their stars; it’s a tough environment to form a big planet. The commonly accepted theory is that a planet like that forms farther out from the star and migrates closer in over millions of years, probably due to friction from the disk of gas and dust from which it formed.
Now imagine: you’re a planet that’s about the size of Earth, orbiting your star at about the same distance Earth is from the Sun. You’re pretty happy, thinking that in a few hundred million years, things’ll cool off, you’ll form oceans, and continents, and life. But then, hey, what’s that? Oh, it’s a planet with 5000 times your mass, headed right for you! When it passes you by, its tremendous gravity either drops you into the star, or ejects you right out of the system!
So we don’t think that the stars that have close-in massive planets will have Earth-like planets. It may be that the only solar systems with planets like Earth will have their Jupiter analogs orbiting farther out, where they can’t hurt the smaller planets.
And hey, that’s just what we have here!

So, does HD 154345 have a blue-green ball orbiting it as well? These observations can’t say; they are only sensitive enough to find the Jupiter-like planet (and they can’t rule out planets farther out either). It might, or it might not. But here’s an interesting point: the system is probably about 2 billion years old. By that age, the Earth was already teeming with microscopic life. Provocative, eh?
I expect that future missions will spend quite a bit of time peering at this system. As of right now, it holds a lot of promise for those of us hoping that one day we’ll find another Earth.

Did salt lick Martian life?
Scientists working to see if Mars ever had life have concentrated, of course, on looking for water. It appears to have been abundant on Mars a long time ago, but what was it like?

On Earth, water can be pure, or salty, or laden with minerals and metals. On Mars, the presence of minerals like jarosite indicate that at least in some spots, Martian water was high in minerals, with a corresponding high acidity. That’s bad enough, but now evidence from the rover Opportunity indicates that the water was also very salty, far higher in salinity than Earth’s oceans.
This has dimmed somewhat the idea of life on Mars, at least lately — meaning, the last few billion years. It’s possible that the water was in better shape to develop life as we know it early on in the history of Mars, but over time, the water got more acidic and more salty. At first blush, this precludes life arising and flourishing on the Red Planet, but I wonder. One scientist said "This tightens the noose on the possibility of life," but I think that’s a hasty conclusion.
Life arose on Earth almost immediately after the asteroid and comet bombardment ceased, just a billion or so years after Earth formed. Conditions then were very different than they are now, and yet here we are. Whatever life started back then, it evolved, adapted. Every corner of the Earth has life in it, from miles down under the surface to pools of chemicals that would kill a human (and most bacteria) instantly. Check out D. radiodurans for a real eye-opener on how tough life can be. I have little doubt our oceans have changed their salinity numerous times over the past 3 billion years, and life adapted.
From this press release, it’s impossible to say how much things have changed on Mars — besides, of course, the loss of its atmosphere, its water, and the drop in temperature. In this case, I mean how the water on Mars changed over time, and how rapidly. If it happened overnight, then sure, it’s not hard to imagine it wiping out all life on the planet. But what if it took, say, a few million years? Life on Earth has survived horrific circumstances in the past. Could any possible Martian life have done the same?

We still have no idea if life ever arose on Mars or not — Mars cooled more rapidly than the Earth did, and so may have had life on it before we did. If any life did form there, it may not be around anymore, and there could be any number of causes. We simply don’t know, and I think it’s way too early in our exploration of the planet to rule anything out.

Cupid is the Roman love god associated with the cherubic archer of Valentine's Day. Cupid is also the fully adult god associated with Psyche in the story of the marriage of Cupid and Psyche, our first record of which comes from the Golden Ass of Apuleius, and was retold in C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces. The story of Cupid and Psyche has also interested Jungian psychologists, including Erich Newman and Marie-Louise Von Franz. Cupid is the son of the Roman goddess of love and beauty Venus. The Roman love god is Eros.

In 1957, marketing executive James Vicary claimed that during screenings of the film Picnic, the words “eat popcorn” and “drink Coca-Cola” were flashed on the screen every five seconds for 1/3,000 second—well below the threshold of conscious awareness. Vicary said soda and popcorn sales spiked as a result of what he called “subliminal advertising.”

Psychologists had been studying subliminal messages since the late 19th century. It was Vicary’s ideas, presented in Vance Packard’s 1957 best seller, The Hidden Persuaders, that catapulted the concept of subliminal advertising into the public consciousness. Even though in a 1962 interview with Advertising Age Vicary admitted that the amount of data he’d collected was “too small to be meaningful,” subliminal messages continued to attract public—and commercial—interest.

In 1974, the FCC held hearings about the perceived threat of subliminal advertising and issued a policy statement saying that “subliminal perception” was deceptive and “contrary to the public interest.”

Concerns about subliminal advertising continued for decades. As recently as 2000 during the presidential race, the Republican National Committee ran an ad attacking the policies of Al Gore in which the word rats briefly flashed on the screen. Many suspected subliminal intent, which the ad’s creator denied.

Matthew Erdelyi, a psychology professor at Brooklyn College, says that while Vicary’s methods were controversial, new studies continue to suggest the use of subliminal perception in advertising could be effective. “There’s a lot of interest, but the subject matter is a little bit taboo,” he says. Still, if subliminal messages in advertising have a resurgence in the future, “nobody should be terribly surprised.”

An icy landscape studded with frozen lakes, the wintry terrain of southern Finland appears to be the birthplace of ice skating.

To trace the sport’s origins, researchers studied remnants of bone-and-leather skates found throughout northern Europe and dating to at least 2000 B.C. They re-created these ancient skates and gave them to volunteers, who glided on ice while scientists measured the energy spent. Then the researchers entered findings in a computer program that simulated journeys through five different European regions. For each region, the computer calculated the energy spent by travelers who walked around every lake as opposed to those who skated across them.

In places where lakes are relatively uncommon, like northern Germany, a human making a 10-kilometer trek would have saved two or three percent of his energy by skating across frozen lakes. But in southern Finland, there are so many lakes that those with skates could save as much as 10 percent of their metabolic energy.
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“These tools were used for traveling and to save energy and time when people had to go hunting and fishing,” said Federico Formenti, a human locomotion biomechanist at the University of Oxford and one of the study’s authors. “The energy saved in the southern area of Finland was far greater than the energy saved in any other area,” making it the most likely birthplace of the ice skate.

But the Finns don’t get all the credit, Formenti says. The next big innovation—the more efficient wooden skates with steel blades—likely originated

in the Netherlands, where extensive, man-made canals provided new skating opportunities.

Do emotions influence a cancer patient’s prognosis? In one of the largest, longest, and most controlled studies of its kind, researchers investigated whether the emotional state of cancer patients has any relationship to their survival.

University of Pennsylvania psychologist James Coyne and his colleagues followed 1,093 adults, all of whom had advanced head and neck cancer with nonspreading tumors. All patients received standardized medical care through clinical trials run by the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG).

At the start of the study, the participants completed a 27-item questionnaire used to evaluate the physical, social, and emotional quality of life in people with cancer and other chronic diseases. Five items targeted emotional state, asking patients to rate, on a scale of 0 to 4, the extent to which statements like “I feel sad” and “I am losing hope in my fight against my illness” had been true for them over the past seven days. The researchers then calculated a score for each person’s initial emotional well-being.

Coyne tracked patients for an average of nine years, until they either dropped out of the study or died. The study reported 646 deaths. Once the records for the participants were complete, researchers analyzed the data. “We were surprised to find absolutely no relationship” between emotion and survival, Coyne says.

Louis J Sheehan
Louis J Sheehan, Esquire
Louis J Sheehan Esquire

The researchers then looked at emotion and survival in greater detail, examining data for the most buoyant optimists, the most despondent individuals, and patients with complicating factors like smoking. In none of these analyses did emotional well-being affect survival. Because the study was so large and long, it gathered far more information than previous investigations of emotion and cancer survival. In smaller studies, Coyne says, it can be difficult to tell whether deaths were related to a factor like emotion or were simply due to chance.

While the huge pool of subjects and the controlled clinical trial conditions give the study statistical heft, Coyne acknowledges a few limitations. Having only people with head and neck cancers in the study eliminates the variability of a group suffering from different forms of the disease, but it also eliminates information about whether patients with other forms of cancer would show the same results. Additionally, patients had to be judged “mentally reliable”—able to follow instructions and keep appointments—in order to qualify for the clinical trials, so their emotional scores might not represent the full spectrum of psychological states among cancer patients.

Coyne says this is the most in-depth study of its kind, and until a study with a similar sample size proves otherwise, he is convinced there is no conclusive relationship between emotional well-being and cancer survival. Many cancer patients struggling to maintain a positive outlook—and fearing that their lives depended on it—have contacted Coyne to express relief that their survival may not be dependent on their emotions. “Having a positive outlook is not going to extend the quantity of life,” Coyne says. “Not everybody is capable of being positive when they have cancer.”

• A 2004 study found that 72 percent of the public and 86 percent of cancer patients believe psychological factors affect cancer survival. Only 26 percent of oncologists agree.
• About 25 percent of breast cancer patients who joined support groups told researchers in a 2005 study that they attended to improve their immune systems.
• Four previous studies indicate that people with better psychological function do survive longer with cancer—but four others suggest that a healthier psychological condition predicts shorter survival time. More than a dozen studies have found no relationship between the two variables.
• A 2007 study found that the emotional, physical, and social questionnaire Coyne used is effective at predicting depression.
• Major depression afflicts about 25 percent of all cancer patients.
• The two clinical trials in Coyne’s study were conducted by the RTOG, which had a $13 million budget in 2007 and is funded by the National Cancer Institute.
• The American Cancer Society cited 1.4 million new cases of cancer in the United States in 2007 and more than 500,000 cancer deaths, with about 11,000 due to head and neck cancer.

While this study attempts to correct factors that muddied previous research, few experts think the question of cancer and emotion is closed. Stanford psychiatrist David Spiegel notes that coping strategies are an important part of the picture and that they were not addressed by Coyne’s research. He points to a study of breast cancer patients that provides evidence that survival has to do more with how people deal with emotions than how they feel. (Coyne believes the sample size in that study was inadequate and says larger studies oppose Spiegel’s contention.)

Spiegel says support groups and other therapies might improve outcomes by helping patients manage stress and improve communication with doctors. Coyne acknowledges the possibility that psychological support could affect survival by mechanisms other than emotional well-being but says no methodologically sound study has yet shown a relationship.

In 1957, marketing executive James Vicary claimed that during screenings of the film Picnic, the words “eat popcorn” and “drink Coca-Cola” were flashed on the screen every five seconds for 1/3,000 second—well below the threshold of conscious awareness. Vicary said soda and popcorn sales spiked as a result of what he called “subliminal advertising.”

Psychologists had been studying subliminal messages since the late 19th century.

It was Vicary’s ideas, presented in Vance Packard’s 1957 best seller, The Hidden Persuaders, that catapulted the concept of subliminal advertising into the public consciousness. Even though in a 1962 interview with Advertising Age Vicary admitted that the amount of data he’d collected was “too small to be meaningful,” subliminal messages continued to attract public—and commercial—interest.

In 1974, the FCC held hearings about the perceived threat of subliminal advertising and issued a policy statement saying that “subliminal perception” was deceptive and “contrary to the public interest.”

Concerns about subliminal advertising continued for decades. As recently as 2000 during the presidential race, the Republican National Committee ran an ad attacking the policies of Al Gore in which the word rats briefly flashed on the screen. Many suspected subliminal intent, which the ad’s creator denied.

Matthew Erdelyi, a psychology professor at Brooklyn College, says that while Vicary’s methods were controversial, new studies continue to suggest the use of subliminal perception in advertising could be effective. “There’s a lot of interest, but the subject matter is a little bit taboo,” he says. Still, if subliminal messages in advertising have a resurgence in the future, “nobody should be terribly surprised.”

We report the anticarcinogenic, anti-aging polyphenol resveratrol activates the radio- and chemo-inducible cancer gene therapy vector Ad.Egr.TNF, a replication-deficient adenovirus that expresses human tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) under control of the Egr-1 promoter. Like ionizing radiation or chemotherapeutic agents previously shown to activate Ad.Egr.TNF, resveratrol also induces Egr-1 expression from its chromosomal locus with a possible role for Egr-1 promoter CC(A+T)richGG sequences in the expression of TNF-alpha. Resveratrol induction of TNF-alpha in Ad.Egr.TNF-infected tumor xenografts demonstrated antitumor response in human and rat tumor models comparable to that of radio- or chemotherapy-induced TNF-alpha. Although sirtuins are known targets of resveratrol, in vitro inhibition of SIRT1 activity did not abrogate resveratrol induction of Egr-1 expression. This suggests that SIRT1 is not essential to mediate resveratrol induction of Egr-1. Nevertheless, control of transgene expression via resveratrol activation of Egr-1 may extend use of Ad.Egr.TNF to patients intolerant of radiation or cytotoxic therapy and offer a novel tool for development of other inducible gene therapies.

resveratrol, adenovirus, TNFerade, SIRT1, TNF-alpha

Dietary habits and incidence of prostate cancer (PCa) are very different in several parts of the world. Among the differences between Eastern and Western diets is the greater intake of soy in the Eastern cultures. This might be one factor contributing to a lower incidence of PCa in Asian men. Many studies using PCa cells and animal studies of chemical carcinogenesis have shown that a wide range of dietary compounds have cancer chemopreventive potential. Therefore, the interest in nutrition-based approaches for prevention and treatment of PCa is increasing. We reviewed all experimental preclinical in vitro and in vivo data as well as clinical trials performed with soy isoflavone genistein for prevention and treatment of PCa. The preclinical data for genistein presented in this review show a remarkable efficacy against PCa cells in vitro with molecular targets ranging from cell cycle regulation to induction of apoptosis. In addition, seemingly well-conducted animal experiments support the belief that genistein might have a clinical activity in human cancer therapy. However, it is difficult to make definite statements or conclusions on clinical efficacy of genistein because of the great variability and differences of the study designs, small patient numbers, short treatment duration and lack of a standardized drug formulation. Although some results from these genistein studies seem encouraging, reliable or long-term data on tumor recurrence, disease progression and survival are unknown. The presented data potentially allow recommending patients the use of genistein as in soy products in a preventive setting. However, at present there is no convincing clinical proof or evidence that genistein might be useful in PCa therapy.

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