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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Father saved chickens as fire killed kids

Philippines - Fire killed two children in Las Piñas on Friday morning allegedly after their father decided to save his fighting roosters first.

Authorities said a fire broke out in Manggahan Village, BF Resort Drive in Las Piñas at 10:55 a.m.

Two children, identified as Adrian, 5, and John Rick Luto, 2, were killed after being trapped in the second floor of their home.

The victims' mother, Maria, blamed her husband, Orlando, for letting two of their kids die. She said Orlando rescued his fighting roosters first and neglected the children.

"Bitbit bitbit niya 'yung mga manok tapos sinasabi nila sa kanya, 'Yung anak mo nandoon,' pero wala lang siyang pakialam [He was holding the chickens and they were telling him, your son(s) is still there, but he didn't care]," said one of Orlando's children.

The victims' father, meanwhile, passed the blame to his other children who were tasked to look after their younger siblings.

"Sila ang nagaalaga diyan sa taas bakit ako ang aakusahan nila [They were the ones taking care upstairs, why would they accuse me]?" he said.

The Luto couple has 13 children, 4 of whom were at home when the fire struck. Two of their children escaped the fire. All of the families' belongings were burned in the fire, which razed some 25 homes.

Firefighters took one hour to put out the fire.

On Thursday, 2 children were also killed as fire razed their home in Lorenzo Compound, Barangay Talon Uno in Las Piñas.

Christmas Lantern blamed for senior’s death on Christmas

California, USA - To some, the Christmas Lantern (Tagalog: Parol) is a symbol of light and hope, particularly to Christian Catholics, however, to some, it's a symbol of death. According to a recent news posted Dec. 30, an elderly Filipina woman in Southern California got killed by the symbol of Christmas - a Christmas Lantern.

Authorities said 91-year old Dorie Feliz Pozas was killed at around 9 a.m. on Christmas Day, after apparently brushing up against a lit candle in her Pacoima Senior Living Facility.

Firefighters reportedly forced their way into Pozas' apartment at the Pledgerville Senior Citizen Villa on Sunday morning after a visitor noticed smoke coming from it.

They found her body badly burned and her clothes still smoldering.

Pozas allegedly lit a candle for a Christmas lantern, which authorities say may have set her nightgown on fire.

Syrian activists urge mass rally amid observer visit

Syrian activists have called for massive street demonstrations on Friday against President Bashar al-Assad, as Arab observers continue their mission.

Correspondents say the presence of the monitors has emboldened the protesters, despite further killings.

Up to 40 died on Thursday, activists said, mostly after security forces shot at crowds gathered in areas expecting a visit from the Arab team.

According to BBC News, at least 5,000 are believed to have died since the revolt began in March 2011.

The Arab League peace plan calls for a complete halt to the violence, the withdrawal of all armed forces and the release of all detainees.

According to Jim Muir of BBC News, Beirut, in many places the observers have found themselves surrounded by large crowds of demonstrators calling for the regime to go and for President Assad to be executed.

The presence of the monitors has encouraged protesters to come out on to the streets in bug numbers, and it has also emboldened them to take risks they might have shied away from before.

Shootings and deaths were reported from all the areas which the observers were visiting on their third day. The casualty figures put out by various activist coordination groups may be open to debate and cannot be independently confirmed, but they all suggest that the violence has got worse since the Arab observers began their mission on Tuesday.

The Arab mission has faced criticism for being led by Sudan's Gen. Mustafa al-Dabi, who Amnesty International has accused of carrying out human rights violations in his own country.

But the League says Gen. Dabi has full support, and the US has urged detractors to allow the team to finish its work.

Activists have called for massive protests on Friday - the traditional day of demonstration.

"On Friday we will march to the squares of freedom, bare-chested," the Syria Revolution 2011 Facebook group said, according to the Associated Press.

"We will march as we did in Homs and Hama where we carried olive branches only to be confronted by [President Bashar al-Assad's] gangs who struck us with artillery and machinegun fire."

Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the Arab League's initiative is "the only ray of light" there is for Syrians.

"The presence of the observers in Homs broke the barrier of fear," he said.

One activist in Hama told Reuters: "We know that just because they are here, it doesn't mean the bloodshed will stop. But at least they will see it."

Correspondents say that despite the presence of the Arab monitors - who are being escorted by state security officials - there has been little let-up in the ferocity of the response to protests.

At least 120 people have died since observers arrived in the country on Monday, according to activists.

The monitors have traveled to the central province of Homs, Idlib in the north, Deraa in the south, Hama and then the capital, Damascus.

On Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least four people were killed when security forces opened fire outside a mosque in Douma, a suburb of Damascus.

Monitors were arriving at the city hall there when security forces fired on "tens of thousands" of protesters outside the Grand Mosque, the UK-based group said.

It reported further deaths in other suburbs of the capital - Aarbin and Kiswah - as well as in Idlib and Hama. The US State Department said it was concerned by the continuing violence.

"We are concerned that even though we have monitors on the ground, and they are playing a role in some places, we also have the continuation of the violence," spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Casualty figures and other information are hard to verify as most foreign media are barred from Syria.

The Arab mission is headed by Gen. Dabi, whose appointment has roused controversy due to his role as military intelligence chief in Sudan in the 1990s.

Gen. Dabi worked for Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his actions over Darfur.

One Arab League official in Cairo told AP that Gen. Dabi had the support of all its members, saying: "The mission and its final report will decide the future of Syria and this is not a small matter."

Source BBC News

Russian nuclear submarine "Yekaterinburg" fire has been put out

Thick smoke billowed from the vessel as firefighters tackled
the blaze.
Russia - The huge fire that engulfed a Russian nuclear submarine undergoing repairs in the northern Murmansk region has been put out, the emergency minister says.

Sergei Shoigu said radiation monitoring would also now go back to normal after being stepped up when the blaze started on wood decking near the Yekaterinburg.

Officials said there was no risk as its two reactors had been shut down. Nine people were hurt fighting the fire though.

President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered an investigation into the incident.

One of his deputy prime ministers has promised that the Yekaterinburg, a Delta-IV-class nuclear submarine, will be repaired within several months.

"According to preliminary information, the damage caused by the fire will not affect the ship's combat characteristics," Dmitriy Rogozin said.

A navy spokesman said earlier that all the weapons had been removed from the Yekatrinburg nuclear submarine, which launched a ballistic missile from the Barents Sea as recently as July, before repair work started.

The fire is believed to have started when wooden scaffolding caught fire during repairs to the K-84 submarine, which some Russian news agencies said had been hoisted into a dry dock.

The Yekaterinburg had been inside a dry dock at the Roslyakovo shipyard on the Barents Sea coast, 1,500 km (900 miles) north of Moscow, on Thursday when the wooden scaffolding around it caught fire.

The blaze soon spread to the submarine's rubber-coated outer hull.

The Yekaterinburg is part of the Russian navy's Northern
Television pictures showed thick smoke billowing from the top of the vessel as 11 fire crews doused the flames with water from helicopters and tug boats. The submarine was later partially submerged in an effort to extinguish the blaze.

The fire was contained at 01:40 on Friday (21:40 GMT on Thursday), according to the emergency situations ministry, but by the morning, the submarine was still smoldering, and firefighters were still working at the scene, pouring water over the outer hull as well as the space between it and the inner hull, reports said.

A law enforcement source told Russian news agencies that seven servicemen at the shipyard and two emergency ministry personnel had suffered from smoke inhalation.

On Friday afternoon, Mr. Shoigu told a meeting of officials that the fire had been "put out completely," and that there was "no open burning."

He said that the cooling of the submarine's hull would continue.

Mr. Shoigu also said that "the heightened regime of monitoring the radiation situation" on board and in the surrounding area would be lifted.

Earlier, officials insisted the submarine's two nuclear reactors had already been shut down and that radiation levels on board and in the area were normal.

"These parameters are within the limits of natural radiation fluctuation levels. There is no threat to the population," the emergency ministry said.

The vessel's 16 inter-continental ballistic missiles, each with four warheads, had also been removed when the repair work began, officials said.

Some of the crew remained on board the submarine during the fire to monitor temperatures and carbon dioxide levels, they added.

The Russian Navy's Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy, and Chief of the Navy Staff Admiral Aleksandr Tatarinov are at Roslyakovo to oversee the operation.

Safety on Russian navy submarines is a sensitive issue for the military following the Kursk disaster in August 2000.

The Kursk nuclear submarine sank in the Barents Sea off northwest Russia, killing all 118 seamen on board. Investigators concluded that an explosion of fuel from one of its torpedoes caused the sinking.

Source BBC News

Official list of Philippine holidays for 2012

Malacañang has a list of Philippine holidays for the upcoming year 2012. This official list of Philippine Holidays for 2012 is based on Proclamation No. 295 which is also known as "The Declaration of Regular Holidays, Special Non-Working Holidays, and Special Holidays for schools for the year 2012."

Don't be surprise if they include Chinese New Year on the list. They say the Chinese New Year, is one of the most revered and festive events celebrated not only in China but also in the Philippines by both Chinese Filipinos and ordinary Filipinos as well; and the joint celebration is a manifestation of our solidarity with our Chinese Filipino brethren who have been part of our lives in many respects as a country and as a people; 23 January 2012 may be declared as a special (non-working) day without detriment to public interest.

Official List of Philippine Holidays for 2012
(based on Proclamation No. 295 signed by Pres. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III on November 24, 2011)
See link here.

A. Regular Holidays - 2012
  • New Year's Day - January 1 (Sunday)
  • Maundy Thursday - April 5 (Thursday) - Christian Catholic Holiday
  • Good Friday - April 6 (Friday) - Christian Catholic Holiday
  • Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Heroism) - April 9 (Monday)
  • Labor Day - May 1 (Tuesday)
  • Independence Day - June 12 (Tuesday)
  • National Heroes Day - August 27 (Monday; last Monday of August)
  • Bonifacio Day - November 30 (Friday)
  • Christmas Day - December 25 (Tuesday)
  • Rizal Day - December 30 (Sunday)
B. Special (non-working) Holidays - 2012
  • Chinese New Year - January 23 (Monday) - New (Filipino-Chinese Holiday)
  • Ninoy Aquino Day - August 21 (Tuesday)
  • All Saint's Day - November 1 (Thursday)
  • Additional special non-working day - November 2 (Friday)
  • New Year's Eve - December 31 (Monday)
C. Others - 2012
  • 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution anniversary - February 25 (Saturday) - No classes only for schools
  • Eid'l Adha (Islam Feast of Sacrifice) - to be announced later
  • Eid'l Fitr (End of Ramadan) - to be announced later
Note that the list here is subject to change. Please see later updates in the future for possible changes.

Former Miss Universe Miss Venezuela dies of cancer at age 28

Ms. Venezuela - Eva Ekvall
This photo was taken on May 11, 2001. In this photo, Miss Venezuela Eva Ekvall stands with other contestants, unseen, as they wait for the announcement of the winner of Miss Universe in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

According to the news, Ekvall died on Saturday Dec. 17, 2011 due to breast cancer in Houston at age 28. The venezuelan television channel Globovision reports that Ekvall died on Saturday in a Houston hospital after a long struggle with breast cancer. At age 18, Ekvall was third runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant in Puerto Rico. She was a model, actress and television news anchor.

Ekvall was crowned Miss Venezuela at age 17 in 2000, and the following year she was third runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant in Puerto Rico.

She also authored a book, "Fuera de Foco" ("Out of Focus"), which was about her struggle with cancer.

Before she died, she told the newspaper El Nacional in an interview last year after the book was published that "I needed to send the message of the need for cancer prevention."

On the cover was a portrait in which she appeared with makeup and her head shaved. The book also included images of her while going through chemotherapy.

"I hate to see photos in which I come out ugly," Ekvall told El Nacional. "But you know what? Nobody ever said cancer is pretty or that I should look like Miss Venezuela when I have cancer."

At that time, she was hopeful of overcoming cancer and wanted to write more.

She was married to radio producer John Fabio Bermudez and had a 2-year-old daughter.

In her book, Ekvall had described her joy at the birth of her daughter saying "that happiness, although (the daughter) may not know it or understand it, keeps me alive today."

The book included emails that she wrote to friends providing updates on her treatment and thanking them for their support, as well as short essays by relatives and friends reflecting on her ordeal.

When she died, Ekvall's husband posted a photo on Twitter showing a close-up of his hand holding hers, resting on a bed, with the words "Always together ... I love you wife."

Friday, December 30, 2011

Orangutans could video chat between zoos via iPads

The zoo keepers want to build reinforced tablets so they
can let the orangutans play without human help.
Orangutans at a Milwaukee zoo could soon be video-calling their primate friends via tablet computers.

The hairy tech fans have been playing with iPads since they were first introduced to them in May 2011.

Conservationist Richard Zimmerman said the next step would be to provide wi-fi access, which means the apes could watch orangutans in other zoos.

He hopes the experiment will raise awareness and funds to support the wild animals facing extinction.

Mr. Zimmerman, from the US-based charity Orangutan Outreach, said he had wanted to give the device to the animals ever since it was launched back in January 2010.

"The original idea came literally when Steve Jobs gave his opening presentation introducing the iPad," he said.

"Independently, one of our supporters in Milwaukee was at the zoo showing the orangutan his iPad, and they were fascinated by it. We started to put things together."

They began introducing simple apps, such as drawing game Doodle Buddy, to orangutans at Milwaukee Country Zoo.

Mr. Zimmerman said the idea was to provide a "bit of fun" for the animals, who only get to use the devices for two short periods every week.

"What we really want to do is to allow the orangutans to really play - to do paintings, to watch videos, to do almost as a human child would do with basic curiosity."

Four-year-old orangutan Mahal watches a David
Attenborough program.
The animals have, Mr. Zimmerman said, been captivated by watching television on the devices, particularly when it featured other orangutans, and even more so when they saw faces they recognized.

"They love moving images. They love bright things. They like to be entertained!"

"They love new things, so one of the first things we're going to do to incorporate that is make sure the facilities have wi-fi capabilities so that the orangutans can actually have access to unlimited information. Of course, with the keepers guiding them."

He said the most exciting aspect of all was watching how the animals reacted to seeing themselves, and other apes on screen.

"Orangutans love looking at each other," said Mr. Zimmerman, adding that one of the apes, 31-year-old MJ, is a fan of David Attenborough programs.

"The orangutans loved seeing videos of themselves - so there is a little vanity going on - and they like seeing videos of the orangutans who are in the other end of the enclosure.

"So if we incorporate cameras, they can watch each other."

Other centers, zoos and sanctuaries are said to want to get involved immediately and are just waiting for more devices to become available.

"We've been limited to Milwaukee because we haven't been able to get enough iPads," Zimmerman said.

"We've been waiting for the iPad 3 to come out to make the iPad 1 really obsolete, so we can pick up a few."

"We could just go out and buy them, obviously, but one of the things we've trying to really adhere to is making sure that our funds actually go out to the orangutans in need."

Mr. Zimmerman said another problem he faced was protecting the machines, as he did not dare let the animals run off with them into their enclosures.

"As soon as we hand them over to the orangutans, we figure the lifespan could be as little as 15 seconds - whether they meticulously take them apart or just snap them in half."

Currently, zoo keepers have to hold the tablet computers while the animals reach through the enclosure bars and interact with simple gestures.

They are looking into building a reinforced iPad suitable for being thrown around, or perhaps fixing the device to a wall so it could in turn be hooked to a large projector viewable by zoo visitors.

In addition to this, Mr. Zimmerman said there were developers keen to put together apps for the orangutans using design techniques similar to those adopted in software aimed at young children.

Although the animals are being extensively observed by zoo keepers, so far no formal behavioral research is taking place - something that is likely to change in the near future.

"Research is going to come out of it, we know that, but as a charity geared towards conservation, we're focusing on enrichment and making sure there's a conservation message attached," Mr. Zimmerman said.

Orangutans are among the most at-risk species in the world.

Mr. Zimmerman said extensive research into gorillas and touch-screens had been taking place at Zoo Atlanta for several years.

He stressed that none of the money that had been donated by the public to Orangutan Outreach has been spent on tablet computers - and that while it was a fun diversion for zoo visitors, the gadgets should not deflect from the serious threats facing the animals.

"It becomes a way of generating income for the charity. There's really no limit to what can be done," he said.

A spokeswoman for Milwaukee Country Zoo told the BBC that the tablets were helping keep the animals in good shape.

"All of this is done as a form of enrichment, to exercise their minds, and keep them active and emotionally healthy," Jennifer Diliberti said.

"The work being done now with the iPads is simply a first step, and it's quite exciting."

Source BBC News

US warns Iran over threat to block oil route

Admiral Habibollah Sayari says Iran could easily close the
Strait of Hormuz.
Iran warned it would shut the Strait of Hormuz, the oil route, if the West imposed more sanctions over its nuclear program.

On this warning, the US Navy has said it will not tolerate disruption to a vital oil-trade route.

The US and its allies believe Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon - a charge Tehran denies.

Reacting to Iran's warning, a US Fifth Fleet spokeswoman said it was "always ready to counter malevolent actions."

The Strait of Hormuz links the Gulf and the oil producing states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the Indian Ocean. About 40% of the world's tanker-borne oil passes through it.

The US maintains a naval presence in the Gulf, largely to ensure the transport of oil remains open.

The strait "is not only important for security and stability in the region, but also is an economic lifeline for countries in the Gulf, including Iran," Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

"Raising the temperature on tensions in the Gulf is unhelpful," he said, but added that he was unaware of any hostile action directed against US vessels.

US Fifth Fleet spokeswoman Rebecca Rebarich told the BBC, the navy would be ready to act if required. "The US Navy is a flexible, multi-capable force committed to regional security and stability, always ready to counter malevolent actions to ensure freedom of navigation," she said.

Western nations recently imposed new sanctions against Tehran following a UN report that said Iran had carried out tests related to "development of a nuclear device."

Further measures being considered to target Iran's oil and financial sectors have brought a furious response from Tehran.

Vice-President  Mohammad Reza Rahimi warned that "not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz" if sanctions are widened and Iran's navy chief Admiral Habibollah Sayari said that closing the strait would be "easy."

"The enemies will only drop their plots when we put them back in their place," Mr. Rahimi was quoted as saying on Tuesday by the official news agency Irna.

Admiral Sayari later told Iran's Press TV that closing the Strait of Hormuz would be "really easy" for Iran's armed forces "or, as Iranians say, easier than drinking a glass of water."

"But right now, we don't need to shut it as we have the Sea of Oman under control, and we can control the transit," he added.

Iran's threats to close the strait have not flustered markets and oil prices actually fell after a senior Saudi oil official said that Gulf Arab nations were ready to offset any loss of Iranian crude.

Earlier, US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said the Iranian threats were simply "another attempt... to distract attention from the real issue, which is their continued non-compliance with their international nuclear obligations."

Meanwhile, Iran's navy has been staging wargames in international waters to the east of the strait.

Admiral Sayari said the maneuvers were designed to show Gulf neighbors the power of Iran's military over the zone.

Washington and Israel have not ruled out military actions against Iran's nuclear facilities if sanctions and diplomacy fail.

Iran has vowed to respond by attacking Israeli and US interests in the region.

An embargo on Iranian oil exports has been considered before but dismissed as it could also drive up global oil prices and harm Western economies, particularly in Europe.

It is believed the new measures could cut Tehran off from global energy markets without raising the price of fuel.

Facts about the Strait of Hormuz

  • Narrow strip of water separating Oman and Iran
  • 34 miles (54 km) across at shortest point
  • Used by a third of the world's tanker traffic
  • Approximately 15.5m barrels of oil and 2m barrels of oil products pass through each day
  • Most oil destined for Asia, US and western Europe
  • 50% of China's oil pass through the strait

Maria Ozawa Sex Videos

I am no porn promoter by any means, but just for the sake of those curious souls who wanted to learn more about Maria Ozawa's past career (yup, porn's a career in other countries), I am going to provide you information as much as I can.

Maria Ozawa began her career as an adult video artist, in Japan they call it AV Idols. Now, Adult video careers range from merely showing private body parts, to posing nude in front of a camera or a video cam, to hardcore porn. Of course, the bigger the role, the bigger the pay.

Ozawa no longer does porn according to reliable sources (one is Wikipedia if it does count). On a brighter side, she's a tech savvy girl, who loves to play video games in her spare time. And oh, I believe she also loves to blog. But before that, she was one of the sizzling hot AV idols.

I'm not showing her sex videos here, but if you guys want to find one, I could teach you how to do it.

Maria Ozawa is popular in the world of pornography, and finding her sex videos isn't hard; just disable your search engine's family filter - the one that blocks sites categorized as X-rated or XXX, then type in the keyword "Maria Ozawa sex video". A couple of sites have em', some requires you to register and pay in order to watch, but there are also a couple of sites that offers free stream viewing. To name a few, check out XVideos, and Tube8. I found a complete clip in Tube8. Of course, there are other sites too, just do some research.

Now, kindly spare those sperm for your wives? Bunch of perverts!

Additional Photos

Maria Ozawa Doppelganger dupes lustful Filipino men on Facebook

Maria Ozawa
Lustful Filipino men fans of Maria Ozawa apparently got duped by a doppelganger. That seems to be one of the latest entertainment to hit the net here in the Philippines.

According to news, on December 22, Japan-based former adult movie star, Maria Ozawa left a cryptic message on the wall of her official Facebook account, simply saying: "hello philippines".

In the following days, Ozawa posted photos of an apparently recent trip to the Philippines—including a picture of her leaning out of a traditional Filipino calesa horse-driven carriage.

But other than the photos, Ozawa has kept mum about her stay in the Philippines.

That is, until "Maria Ozawa" showed up.

Appearance of a Maria Ozawa doppelganger

In a follow-up comment appended to the original "hello philippines" wall post, "Maria Ozawa" informed her avid Filipino fans that she "bought a (Globe SIM card) yesterday" and encouraged them to message her via SMS or via her "prvte fb" account.

Enticed fans naturally rush in by the dozens, but upon a closer inspection, the alleged "Maria Ozawa" account was just set up on December 28 and only has less than 20 Facebook friends—all of them apparently Filipino males—in the few hours since it was created.

The "Maria Ozawa" Facebook account is completely different and is separate from the real Maria Ozawa's official Facebook account, "Ozawazone".

Casting call?

Mostly everybody seemed to have been taken by the doppelganger Ozawa account, especially when "Maria Ozawa" gave a shoutout for Filipino males to sign up for her next movie.

"audition will be on january 2012..." the mysterious Maria Ozawa said, resulting in a flurry of replies from hot-blooded fans.

The unverified activity of the "Maria Ozawa" account has even caused the name to become a trending topic on Twitter as of the afternoon of December 28.

Apparently, it seemed most never bothered to check on the veracity of the fake Maria Ozawa account, nor even wondered why a tech-savvy Japan-based celebrity with a prominent social media presence would go to the trouble of picking up a foreign SIM card to communicate with her Filipino fans in the first place.

About Maria Ozawa

Maria Ozawa (小澤 マリア), who used the name Miyabi (みやび) early in her career, is a former Japanese adult video (AV) actress known in Japan as an AV idol.

It's unlikely that she would return to her old career now that she has gained prominence.

Additional Photos

Priests brawl in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

Bethlehem, the place where Jesus Christ was allegedly born. Christians had built a Church, called the Church of the Nativity, on the spot where Jesus was said to had been born. It was visited by many devotees of different Christian sects. Unfortunately, the Church of the Nativity is also where religious brawls frequently occur. Religious differences seem to be the culprit.

According to BBC News, scuffles have broken out between rival groups of Greek Orthodox and Armenian clerics in a turf war at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity just few days ago.

Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests and monks brawl during preparations for Orthodox
Christmas celebrations.

Bemused tourists looked on as about 100 priests fought with brooms while cleaning the church in preparation for Orthodox Christmas, on the 7th of January.

Palestinian police armed with batons and shields broke up the clashes.

Groups of priests have clashed before in the church, built on the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born.

"It was a trivial problem... occurs every year," Lt. Col. Khaled al-Tamimi, a Bethlehem police said.

"No one was arrested because all those involved were men of God," he said.

Nobody was seriously injured in the scuffles, according to the police.

Previous clashes between the denominations which share the administration of the church have been sparked by perceived encroachments on one group's territory by another.

The 1,700-year-old-church, one of the holiest sites in Christianity, is in a bad state of repair, largely because the priests cannot agree on who should pay for its upkeep.

Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built on the site where many Christians believe Jesus' body was taken after crucifixion, has also seen similar incidents.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI got knocked down by a woman in 2009 Video

This video was taken way back in December 2009, and it happened during Christmas eve, when the Pope traditionally held a mass and gives his Christmas message at St. Peter's Basilica. This may be old news, but for those who had been living in the dark, here's your chance to hear it...

Pope Benedict XVI traditionally walks the center aisle before starting the mass, but suddenly a woman jumps pass the barricade and drags the Pope into the floor.

The woman in red, the Pope's attacker was identified as Susanna Maiolo, a Swiss-Italian national with psychiatric problem. She had a record of attacking the Pope already back in 2008, she wasn't successful back then as the Pope's guardian angels, the men-in-black security guards, caught her just before she could grab the Pope. However, in 2009, she came back again to try her luck, and this time, she made it.

Susanna Maiolo
Medical experts said the Pope was lucky not to have broken any bones in the fall. He lost his mitre (the fish headband), and staff and remained on the ground for a few seconds before being helped helped up by attendants. However, French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, 87, who also fell in the melee had broken a hip and was taken into hospital.

A senior Vatican source who was at the service and asked not to be named said: "The fact this woman is known and was still able to get through security is very, very serious."

All the people who were inside St. Peter's Basilica had invitations and so would have had to be checked and give their names. But despite all of that, the woman was still able to get though. Sort of a miracle in her case.

"The Pope's guards were able to drag her away but the sense of shock in the basilica was amazing - there was a huge gasp, no one could believe what was happening," he added.

The Vatican said it would review its security procedure but it was not realistic to ensure 100 percent security because the Pope is regularly surrounded by thousands of people.

Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said: "People want to see him up close, and he's pleased to see them closely too. There were 7,000 people there at the Mass and she could have got her ticket from anywhere. She is known to the Vatican but she was never thought to have been of any serious danger to the Holy Father. She was not armed and if anything the poor woman needs treatment, which is what she is getting."

There were already many times the Pope was assaulted, but most of these attackers always fail. Thanks to God, and well, the men-in-black.

Coqui frogs increase in numbers in Hawaii

A coqui frog sits on a leaf in
Wahiwa, Oahu.
Honululu, Hawaii - A tiny, coin-sized frog called coqui, whose distinctive nightly mating calls are a beloved sound in Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands have become a plague in Hawaii.

The frogs have been growing in numbers in the state in recent years and are now starting to show up in larger quantities on Oahu, which is home to most of the state's population. The frogs already have a strong foothold on the less-populated Big Island, and people there complain of being kept awake at night with a thunderous roar of chirps as thousands of male coqui simultaneously summon partners - a mating chorus some say can be as loud as a jet airplane.

The frogs are also preventing the state's plant nurseries from exporting to some markets, and depressing some Big Island property values. The frogs aren't stopping tourists from visiting though, but there's a fear they could if they spread further.

There have been just as many reports of coqui on Oahu in 2011 as the seven prior years combined, said Derek Arakaki, who helps hunt coqui frogs for the state Department of Agriculture. Before, Arakaki and two others on the coqui-eradication team would head out to capture the frogs on Oahu once a month or maybe twice a month. This year, there have been times when they've had to go coqui hunting twice a week.

The frogs have become a significant problem in their non-native Hawaii because the state has no natural predators to stop their advance. As a result, they have spread quickly through the lush forests and yards near Hilo since they were accidentally introduced to the Big Island in the 1990s. They have been making a steady advance into the more heavily populated Oahu in recent years, sneaking onto the island on plants and stowing away in cars, piles of lumber, cargo pallets and whatever else that's being sent to Honolulu.

"Compare to the amount that's on the Big Island, very few are actually getting through," said Carol Okada, an Agriculture Department plant quarantine manager who leads the state's efforts to control invasive species. "But the amount that's getting through is still enough to establish a population, so we are still very concerned."

A Video of a Coqui frog. Courtesy of Youtube.

Coqui, which get their name because of their "ko-kee" chirps, are showing up in diverse places. The International Marketplace outdoor bazaar in the heart of Waikiki, the state's tourist mecca. Near a banyan tree in front of a multiplex theater. Seven coqui were found in a home in the upscale Diamond Head neighborhood. The residents had brought back some plants from the Big Island not knowing they needed to be inspected for coqui before shipping them to Oahu.

Coqui eradication team members spot them by mimicking their mating call, which prompts the frogs to call back. They hone in on the sound and trap the frogs with a clear tube. Sometimes, they'll spray water to entice the frog to sing.

In a few cases, the coqui team has found so many frogs that they had to kill them with citric acide, the preferred chemical for eradicating the frogs.

That was the case in the rural windward Oahu town of Hauula, where coqui had spread out across several homes and a city park. Residents there heard nocturnal chirping, but didn't call the state's pest control hotline because they thought birds were making the sounds. By the time the authorities were notified, the frogs had been around and breeding for two years. It took the crew several months to get rid of the infestation.

The problem is only made worse by recession-induced budget cuts that forced the state to slash the number of cargo inspectors from 95 to 50.

This caused the Agriculture Department to prioritize checking out-of-state cargo, because imports are more likely to carry harmful species like snakes - an animal that hasn't become established in Hawaii.

Okada said the state will have to capture more pests that get through because there haven't been enough people to spot them at the ports.

"When you're not at the front end, you end up chasing it on the back end," Okada said.

The state has had this problem with snakes, which could wipe out Hawaii's native endangered bird species if they ever became established here. A dozen, ranging from boa constrictors to ball pythons, have been either captured or turned in to authorities since July.

"There's a reason why all the snakes are coming out this year. We're not out in force anymore," Okada said.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie enabled the state to hire 10 more people to bring the inspector count close to 60, but Okada said they're still far short of where they need to be to effectively intercept pests entering Hawaii or traveling inter-island.

Okada said one scary thing about this past year was that many coqui were found closer to the base of Oahu's heavily forested mountains. The coqui population could explode if they started breeding somewhere like the back part of Manoa valley, where it frequently rains.

Authorities are asking the public to call the state's pest control hotline if they think they hear a coqui.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Was Jesus really born on the 25th of December?

I also would like to commemorate Christmas by writing an article about it. You see, I am always fascinated by this festive season. When I was young, this seemed to be one of the happiest days of my life, as a matter of fact, each year, I was waiting for Christmas, and wished everyday was already Christmas. Those were the good old days.

Well, we still celebrate Christmas, and our family unite just to celebrate the occasion. It's still fun. But, I was curious... was Christ really born on December 25th at exactly 12 a.m. as what our elders told us?

For Jesus to have been born at exactly 12 a.m. on the 25th of December makes it sound as if it was some kind of Divine plan, or was it just exaggerated? Well let's see, what the scholars have to say...

According to researchers and people of academe, Christmas or Christmas Day literally means "Christ's mass", is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ - the religious iconic figure of Christian religion. It is celebrated as a religious and cultural holiday by billions of people around the world. It's a feast central to the Christian liturgical year, closing the Advent season and initiates the twelve days of Christmastide.

By the way, what is Christmastide? Of course, if you are a Christian, you should really know what it is, otherwise, it would seem that you have no clue of what you're believing in. Christmastide is one of the seasons of the liturgical year of most Christian churches. It tends to be defined (with slight variations) as the period from Christmas Eve to the evening of January 5, the day before Epiphany (revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ).

Christmas is a civil holiday in many of the world's nations, and is even celebrated by some non-Christians.

However, according to the scholars (particularly historians), the precise day of Jesus' birth, which historians place between 7 and 2 BC (BCE), is unknown. In the early-to-mid 4th century, the Western Christian Church under Pope Julius I, first placed Christmas on December 25 around 350 AD (CE). The date was later adopted also in the East. Theories advanced to explain that choice include that it falls exactly nine months after the Christian celebration of the conception of Jesus, or that it was selected to coincide with either the date of the Roman winter solstice or some ancient pagan winter festival such as that of Mithraism.

Well, if you guys have watched Dan Brown's Angels and Demons, you would hear Robert Langdon (the main character) talking about Christmas and how it was linked to pagan tradition. It appears Dan Brown wasn't just inventing stories after all. He actually researched it!

Christmas tradition borrowed from Pagans

Here's more... In 529 AD (CE) Emperor Justinian declared Christmas a civic holiday. To some the December date may seem completely arbitrary, but in fact it was a calculated choice that reflected the importance of winter solstice festivals for the cultures of pre-Christian Europe and Asia. To abolish these festivals in favor of strictly Christian forms of celebration would have been extremely unpopular. Though many early Christian leaders such as Gregory of Nazainzus spoke out against combining pagan and Christian ways, it became clear early on that rather than trying to beat the pagans, Christians would be wiser to join them in their own game - to incorporate their most deep-rooted traditions into Christian worship and celebration.

Ancient peoples believed that the days grew shorter in December because the sun was leaving them, perhaps dying. Festivals held right before December 21, the winter solstice, featured rituals designed to appease the sun and get it to return. After the solstice, the shortest day of the year, the days got longer again, and grand celebrations were held in honor of the sun's return. Along with the idea of the physical presence of the sun were underlying themes of harvest, rebirth and light.

Although the basic conception of the solstice festival was common to all lands, each area had its unique variations. In the Zagmuk of Mesopotamia, a convict was sacrificed in atonement for the people's sins (Actually it should have been the king who was supposed to be sacrificed, however, a convict may take his place). In a custom that may have been an ancestor of the Yule log tradition (particularly Scandinavian), wooden representation of their god Marduk's enemies were burned in a great fire. Ancient Persia and Babylonia had Sacaea, an event in which slaves and their owners engaged in a role reversal. Sacaea also featured a tradition of liberation and execution involving a pair of criminals, which is surprisingly quite similar to the story of Jesus and Barabbas, with which the ritual shares striking parallels. In this tradition, two convicts were chosen; one went free while the other was mocked as a king and put to death, again as penance for the sins of the masses.

Another pagan tradition that left its mark on Christmas is the Roman Saturnalia. The Saturnalia was observed from December 17-24, and was a nominal celebration of a number of different events, among them Saturn's triumph over Jupiter. According to belief, Saturn's reign had heralded the Golden Age in Rome. Although the god later lost to Jupiter, during the Saturnalia he was believed to return, allowing Rome to relive the Golden Age for a brief time. It is not surprising that the Romans, who associated Saturn closely with the sun, would celebrate this festival near the solstice.

During the festivities, no one worked except those whose business was to provide food, drink or entertainment. Masters and slaves became equals, and there was much feasting, dancing, gambling and general revelry. Candles were used as decoration to scare away the darkness and celebrate the sun and light. Another recognizable ritual was the giving of gifts, which was done in honor of goddess Strenia.

The "barbarian invasions" of the Roman Empire that began in the fifth century brought the Nordic and Germanic peoples in direct contact with Christianity, and thus with Christmas. In northern and western Europe, the Germanic and Celtic peoples had their own solstice rituals, which were later incorporated into Christmas. The December Julmond festival (Jul later became Yule) was a celebration of harvest and rebirth, with wheat representing life triumphing over death. Anything made of wheat, such as bread or liquor, was consumed heartily, and also given as gifts. Evergreens were used as a symbol of life, and Yule logs was lit in this time of darkness to symbolize the eventual triumph of light over darkness. The festive meal was boar's head. These traditions have been presented in centuries-old carols, including wassail songs, holly carols, and boar's head carols still widely sung today.

At the end of the sixth century, Pope Gregory I instructed Augustine to make the midwinter Yule festival over into Christmas observances, emphasizing the importance of condoning any customs from the festival that could be found to contain Christian significance. It was a well-tested strategy, and it worked.

Okay, I reckon some of you guys are already shocked at the results of my research, and may now be asking, why the heck did the Christian leaders approved and incorporated these pagan practices into Christ's mass? Actually, early Christians were reluctant to follow these traditions and aimed to abolish them, however, after years of mostly futile attempts to abolish these pagan festivals and rituals, the church realized it would be better served by allowing them, and revised so that their focus was now to honor Christ. Both church and popular interests were thus satisfied: The people got to keep their time of fun, while the church ensured that the birth of Christ would be celebrated with all due honor and festivity. In this way, many parts of the old festivals remained, while others were reformed to honor Christ's birth. Some of the retained elements that have remained popular to this day are geenery, candles, singing, tree decorating, Yule logs (also called Christmas tree), exchange gifts, mistletoe kissing, and feasting.

Why December 25?

You guys may ask why did they place Christ's birth on December 25? Why not choose the day of the winter solstice or other pagan feasts in December? Apparently, the use of this date was a remnant of the Mithraic religion, a major religion of the Roman era with close similarities to Christianity. Mithra, the god of light and wisdom, was said to have been born from a rock on December 25. Mithra, symbolizing the sun, was naturally a big part of solstice festivals, and believers celebrated his birth as a major holiday. In the third century (the century before Constantine's ascension), Emperor Aurelian declared December 25 Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (latin for "the Day of the Invisible Sun" or "the birthday of the unconquered Sun").

Although later on, Constantine, an emperor of Rome, converted to Christianity, remnants of his old religion stayed around. Apparently, incorporating Mithraic or solstice rites into the celebration of Christmas was kind of easy to justify: Christ represents life, triumph over death and darkness, and restored hope and light; rather than celebrating the sun, people would be celebrating the Son of God. Simply put, the birth of Christ replaced the birth of the sun as a cause for celebration.


Other Christians, particularly the Protestants, argue that the December 25 is an unlikely date for Christ's birth, citing that the date was not written in the Bible, and during the month of December, Palestine is very cold. It was much too cold to ask everyone to travel to the city of their fathers to register for taxes. Also the shepherds were in the fields (Luke 2:8-12). Shepherds were not in the fields in the winter time. They are in the fields early in March until early October. Historians also agree that the possible date of Jesus' birth is somewhere in the spring or early fall (Either March or October).

Other evidence suggesting that December 25 is the wrong date for the birth of Jesus comes from early writings. Irenaeus, born about a century after Jesus, notes that Jesus was born in the 41st year of the reign of Augustus.  Since began his reign in the autumn of 43 B.C. (BCE), this appears to substantiate the birth of Jesus as the autumn of 2 B.C. (BCE). Eusebius (A.D. (CE) 264-340), the "Father of Church History," ascribes it to the 42nd year of the reign of Augustus and the 28th from the subjection of Egypt on the death of Anthony and Cleopatra. The 42nd year of Augustus ran from the autumn of 2 B.C. (BCE) to the autumn of 1 B.C. (BCE). The subjugation of Egypt into the Roman Empire occurred in the autumn of 30 B.C. (BCE). The 28th year extended from the autumn of 3 B.C. (BCE) to the autumn of 2 B.C. (BCE). The only date that would meet both of these constraints would be the autumn of 2 B.C. (BCE).

John the Baptist also helped in determining Jesus' birthday. Elizabeth, John's mother, was a cousin of Mary (Jesus' mother). John began his ministry in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar. The minimum age for the ministry was 30. As Augustus died on August 19, A.D. (CE) 14, that was the accession year for Tiberius. According to some scholars, John the baptist was born somewhere around April 19-20, 2 B.C. (BCE), if John was born on that date, then his 30th birthday would have been April 19-20, A.D. (CE) 29, or the 15th year of Tiberius. This seems to confirm the 2 B.C. (BCE) date, and since John was approximately 5-6 months older, this also confirms an autumn birth date for Jesus.

Another interesting fact comes from Elizabeth herself. She hid herself for 5 months and then the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary both Elizabeth's condition and that Mary would also bear a son who would be called Jesus. Mary went "with haste" to visit Elizabeth, who was then in the first week of her 6th month, or in the 4th week of December, 3 B.C. (BCE). How did we get December? Well, since John the Baptist was born on April and babies stay in the womb for at least 9 months and Elizabeth was in the fifth month of her pregnancy when Mary visited her, then that would be April (-4 months). If Jesus was born 280 days later, it would place his birth on Sept. 29-30, 2 B.C. (BCE). It is also interesting to note that in that year, it was also the 1st of Tishri, the day of the Feast of Trumpets.

Another scholar, Rev. Don Jacobs, using a main frame computer, was said to had accurately replicate the same celestial dynamics observed by the ancient Magi that Matthew told in his gospel account of the nativity. Jacobs describes his research and the date he chose in his book, Astrology's Pew in Church.

According to Jacobs, Jesus was born March 1st in the year 7 B.C. (BCE), at 1:21 a.m. in Bethlehem. The birth chart for this moment in time contains a cluster of six heavenly bodies in Pisces: the Sun, Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus. It was added that with all this Pisces energy, Jesus was highly spiritual, compassionate, and willing to sacrifice himself for others.

Cuneiform tablets discovered in the ancient astrology school in Sippar (Babylon) reveal that the astrologers (ie. the Magi in Matthew's story) were nearly obsessed with noting and tracking movements of an extremely rare heavenly occurrence in the year 7 B.C. (BCE). It was a "once in 25,000 years" celestial event when the two zodiacs (sidereal and tropical) met. It was considered the promise of the birth of an avatar of all avatars. Could this be the reason why the Magi journeyed so far to meet the infant Jesus?

By the way, you guys may had noticed that it was kind of weird for Jesus to had been born on the B.C. (BCE) era instead of 1 A.D. or Anno Domini (latin for "in the Year of our Lord"), or CE (Common Era). Well, that's because the modern calendar which splits time between B.C. (BCE) and A.D. (CE) was not invented until 525 A.D. (CE). At that time, Pope John I asked a monk name Dionysius (Dionysius Exiguus) to prepare a standardized calendar for the western Church, but it appears he had missed the real B.C. (BCE)/A.D. (CE) division by at least 2-4 years.

As you can see guys, there are just too many contradictions and theories surrounding the birth of Christ that it would almost be seemingly impossible to pinpoint the exact date of his birth. Rest assured, it was not the December 25th. Regardless, it's still fun to celebrate Christmas on December 25. I view it as a unification of Christian and Pagan practices, a time when Pagans and Christians actually had peace, fun, and a share of tradition - a concept which is truly Universal.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

God does not exist says Hawking (Philosophy)

Stephen Hawking
The world's most famous physicist Prof. Stephen Hawking has declared that God does not exist.

Hawking joins the opinion of several other world-class scientists like Richard Dawkins, Peter Atkins, James Watson, Victor Stenger, Sam Harris and many others who deny the existence of God in the name of the latest advancements in physics, biology, neuroscience and other scientific domains.

The so-called "New Atheism", championed by Richard Dawkins, sees God as a delusion, a by-product of the mind of superstitious and scientifically uneducated people.

"Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing ... Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists and why we are here." This is the conclusion of The Grand Design, Hawking's latest book.

Hawking's assertion is based on the predictions of his famous M-theory.

Now, a certain Giovanni Serritella, an acclaimed environmental scientist, who works for the European Union Delegation to Indonesia expressed his own opinions on the matter.

He said that Einstein's theory of relativity says that time is not the same for everyone but is "relative" to how fast one is moving. At variable speeds or in the presence of weak and strong gravity, time behaves elastically, it can stretch and shrink and even stop.

This is true as this phenomenon has been observed by measuring the rate of atomic clocks mounted on supersonic jet planes moving at different speeds at various distances from the Earth's surface.

Under extreme gravity like at the moment of the birth of the universe (the big bang), gravity was so intense that time was "compressed" to a zero point. Not only space but time itself was born at that moment. There was no "before". Now why is this? As previously stated in Einstein's theory of relativity, time is relative to the speed one is moving, and in the presence of weak and strong gravity, time behaves elastically. In this same case, time is influenced by gravity, and with the presence of this powerful unseen force, time itself can be halted. So there was no time to begin with - there was only gravity.

Furthermore, Hawking states that a "law of gravity" exists and this creates the universe. The writer assumed that Hawking believes the gravity and not God created the universe. Now note, Hawking is not a full-blown Atheist, he is more of an agnostic, perhaps, someone who shares Einstein's point of view - that of a Monist Physicalist, otherwise known as Scientific Pantheists. The view of Scientific Pantheists can be quite confusing to both opposing sides (Atheism and Theism) because while Pantheists do not believe in a deity, Pantheists do treat nature sacred and divine. Quoting a statement he said on CNN back in 1999; when Larry King interviewed him if he believes in God. Hawking's answer was "Yes, I do, if by God you mean the embodiment of the laws that govern the universe." So when Hawking says "God does not exist", he was referring to a deity (the Theistic subjective view of God).

Now, Giovanni Serritella goes on with the philosophical argument that if X creates Y, we must presuppose the existence of X in the first place to bring Y into existence. Likewise, we must presuppose the existence of gravity to bring the universe into existence. Now, I believe that is not true, as Hawking's also said it's like asking the question "What lies North of the North Pole." Of course, in a circular world, North of the North pole would simply bring you South, not North, which goes to say that such an argument falls under the category of "Circular Reasoning," a type of formal logical fallacy.

Another confusing statement (surprisingly, from a scientist) he made, is when he said Einstein's theory of relativity shows that Hawking's statement is illogical because it is like saying that gravity existed "before time," which is absurd. I'm not sure which part of Einstein's theory he did not understand... I am no scientist, but I am familiar with Einstein's theory which I will quote again:
Time is relative. It speeds up or slows down depending on how fast one thing is moving relative to something else.
What does this mean? It means that before the big bang, when everything was held together by forces of gravity, there was no time to begin with. In simple analogy, just try to picture up two cars racing in a time trial. Of course, the fastest gets in the finish line in the shortest time span. Now, in the case of heavenly bodies, assuming the Earth moves still? Will your clock remain accurate? Now, on an even difficult analogy, as far as the atomic scale... if the atoms stop moving, would a person gets older? Would the planets move? Would you be able to count time when your brain stops operating? As you can see, everything in the material universe is composed of atoms and even subatomic particles, and if these stop moving, time itself will halt. This was what Einstein meant when he formulated the theory of relativity. In other words, time is simply a measuring system used to sequence events, to compare the duration of events and the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change such as the motions of objects. There is no time when there are no events taking place. So, in the case of "before the big bang", there was already gravity, but time does not seem to exist yet as the movement of particles was prevented by an unseen force. Now, call this force God if you may, but in Physics, it's called gravity.

The writer also asks hypothetical questions such as "Did gravity generate itself?", which is hitting the walls of "Circular Reasoning" again. Okay, let's assume God did it? Is it relevant to ask who created God then? Of course, if God created Himself, then how does it differ with gravity being there in the first place?

Now, he goes on to quote Hawking saying Hawking sustains that "the universe creates itself out of nothing." But Hawking's nothing is actually something "Gravity" (first self-contradiction). Hawking then says that the universe creates itself (second self-contradiction). He says that this is a case of double self-contradiction. But, it is also worth noting that the laws of nature as with gravity is already part of the universe, and not as a separate entity. It appears Serritella misunderstood gravity for an object. Also note that Pantheistic stand point maintains that everything is connected and is one.

Furthermore he gives an analogy as with the case of an Apple computer. He asks "should we account for it by mentioning its inventor (Steve Jobs) or should we follow Hawking's reasoning and say that the Apple computer arose naturally from the laws of physics?" Of course, how the computer was made was brought about by a series of natural processes. As Carl Sagan had once said "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe." This is true. In other words, if man himself is a product of nature, then it is part of a process that made up the computer.

However, there are some parts of his reasoning I agree on.

He said that science does not ask the "why" question of purpose. This is true, but that's because the answer to the "why" question falls under subjectivity, and Science only accepts objective reasoning.

He also states Hawking and many scientists claim that God is unnecessary. This reasoning, he says, shows that offering a choice between God and the law of gravity is, in fact, illogical as both are needed.

He continues to say "Likewise, the law of gravity does not 'create' gravity it only 'explains' what's already there (gravity) and 'predicts' how gravity behaves. The bottom line is that the laws of physics cannot create anything or cause anything to happen. Rather than ultimate creators of the universe, they are just descriptions of how things behave."

Furthermore he said, "What actually needs explaining is the logical characteristics and intelligibility of nature and the universe, not whether the universe generates itself spontaneously out of nothing or not. Nobel laureate in physics Richard Feynman once stated: 'The fact that there are rules like the law of gravity is some sort of miracle as it leads to the possibility of prediction; it tells you what you would expect to happen in an experiment you have not yet done.'"

Well, I must admit Giovanni Serritella is quite a good philosopher, but as a scientist, I don't think so. But, that's natural. As the saying goes "You cannot serve two masters at the same time." Serritella had to choose to stand whether on the grounds of subjective "Religion" or on the grounds of objective "Science", and in this case, he choose to stand by his faith. Thus, he has to throw away some knowledge and scientific principles in order to accept a fundamental concept that is not supported by objective proof.

Friday, December 23, 2011

LHC discovers new particle

The LHC has been built to investigate the fundamental
building blocks of nature.
The Large Hadron Collider or LHC on the Franco-Swiss border has made its first clear observation of a new particle since opening in 2009.

The new particle was called Chi_b (3P) and it will help scientists understand better the forces that hold matter together.

The LHC is exploring some of the fundamental questions in "big physics" by colliding proton particles together in a huge underground facility.

Detail in the sub-atomic wreckage from these impacts is expected to yield new information about the way the Universe is constructed.

The Chi_b (3P) is a more excited state of Chi particles already seen in previous collision experiments, explained Prof. Roger Jones, who works on the Atlas detector at the LHC.

"The new particle is made up of a 'beauty quark' and a 'beauty anti-quark', which are then bound together," he told BBC News.

"People have thought this more excited state should exist for years but nobody has managed to see it until now.

"It's also interesting for what it tells us about the forces that hold the quark and the anti-quark together - the strong nuclear force. And that's the same force that holds, for instance, the atomic nucleus together with its protons and the neutrons."

The LHC is designed to fill in gaps in the Standard Model - the current framework devised to explain the interactions of sub-atomic particles - and also to look for any new physics beyond it.

In particular, it is using the collisions to try to pin down the famous Higgs boson particle, which physicists hypothesize can explain why matter has mass.

Discoveries such as Chi_b (3P) are an important part of this quest because they add to the wider background knowledge, says Prof. Jones, from Lancaster University, UK.

"The better we understand the strong force, the more we understand a large part of the data that we see, which is quite often the background to the more exciting things we are looking for, like the Higgs.

"So, it's helping put together that basic understanding that we have and need to do the new physics."

Prof. Paul Newman, from the University of Birmingham, added: "This is the first time such a new particle has been found at the LHC. Its discovery is a testament to the very successful running of the collider in 2011 and to the superb understanding of our detector which has been achieved by the Atlas collaboration already."

Andy Chisholm, a PhD student from Birmingham who worked on the analysis, said: "Analyzing the billions of particle collisions at the LHC is fascinating. There are potentially all kinds of interesting things buried in the data, and we were lucky to look in the right place at the right time."

Nature mourns for Kim Jong-il's death?

Scenes of mourning for Kim Jong-il have been broadcast
on the state television.
According to KCNA (Korean Central News Agency), strange natural phenomena have been witnessed in North Korea since the death of the country's leader Kim Jong-il.

Ice cracked on a famous lake "so loud, it seemed to shake the Heavens and the Earth," and a mysterious glow was seen on a revered mountain top, KCNA said.

The personality cult surrounding North Korea's founding father and son bestows near-divine status on them.

Meanwhile, on a separate news, South Korean intelligence has questioned how Mr. Kim died.

Citing US satellite photos, the country's national intelligence service director Won Sei-hoon said there was no sign that the special train, on which Mr. Kim is reported to have died while on a visit on Saturday, had ever left Pyongyang over the weekend.

South Korea's president says Seoul is trying to show no hostility towards Pyongyang, Lee Myung-bak said a return to stability in the communist state was in the interests of the region.

Seoul is also sending its top nuclear negotiator to Beijing for talks on the situation in its northern neighbor.

In North Korea, state media continue to report mass grieving following Mr. Kim's death, reportedly from a heart attack.

Message carved in rock

The 69-year-old had led North Korea since the death of his father in 1994 and an elaborate personality cult, involving multiple stories of alleged miracles or astonishing deeds, has been built up around him.

Following the storm's sudden end at dawn on Tuesday, a message carved in rock - "Mount Paektu, the holy mountain of revolution. Kim Jong-il" - glowed brightly, it said. It remained there until sunset.

On the same say, a Manchurian crane also apparently adopted a posture of grief at a statue of the late leader's father in the northern city of Hamhung.

"Even the crane seemed to mourn the demise of Kim Jong-il, born of Heaven, after flying down there at dead of cold night, unable to forget him," KCNA reported officials as saying.

On Wednesday state media said more than five million people had already turned out to pay their respects to Kim Jong-il.

State media have called on North Koreans to unite behind his designated heir, youngest son Kim Jong-un, who is being called the "Great Successor."

Observers fear that because the transfer of power from father to son had not been formalized before Mr. Kim's death, it could trigger instability. Regional neighbors are keenly watching events in the internationally-isolated nuclear-armed state.

South Korea, which remains technically at war with its northern neighbor following the 1950-1953 Korean War, put its military on a state of alert after Mr. Kim's death was announced.

But it has also scrapped a plan to turn on controversial Christmas lights on the border that anger North Korea, and offered "sympathies" over the death.

"The measures we have taken so far are basically aimed at showing North Korea we are not hostile toward the North," Yonhap news agency quoted the president as saying on Thursday.

Iraq hit by multiple bomb blasts killing more than 50 people

Burnt vehicle at bomb attack site in Baghdad's Bayaa district,
Iraq, Dec. 22. 
According to a recent news, a wave of apparently coordinated blasts in neighborhoods across Baghdad killed nearly 70 people and wounded more than 150 others Thursday in the worst violence Iraq has seen in months.

The explosions hit days after the last U.S. forces left the country and in the midst of a major government crisis between Shiite and Sunni politicians that has sent sectarian tensions soaring.

According to a report, there 16 discrete explosions in 13 different locations in the capital. The blast was said to had took place between 7 and 8 a.m. local time and involved suicide car bombs, bombs placed in parked cars and IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). There were two more explosions on Thursday evening.

Video Courtesy of

One of the most striking things about the attack perhaps, is that it seemed aimed at civilians.

Over the last few weeks, there have been a handful of attacks each day targeting security forces, so this seems to be something different. Huge plumes of smoke are billowing throughout the city from various explosions. Traffic has been shut down in many areas. 12 of the bombings were in Shiite neighborhoods, heightening fears of a new round of Shiite-Sunni sectarian bloodshed like one several years ago that pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war.

Figures gathered from Iraqi health and police officials across the city put the death toll at 69, and 169 injured, including the two evening blasts in western Baghdad neighborhoods that killed nine people and injured 21.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the day's attacks, however, there is speculation that insurgents are looking to exploit the country's growing political divide.

The deadliest attack was in the Karrada neighborhood, where a suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden vehicle blew himself up outside the office of a government agency fighting corruption. Two police officers at the scene said the bomber was driving an ambulance and told guards that he needed to get to a nearby hospital. After the guards let him through, he drove to the building where he blew himself up, the officers said.

Sirens wailed as ambulances rushed to the scene and a large plume of smoke rose over the area. The blast left a crater about five yards wide in front of the five-story building, which was singed and blackened.

"I was sleeping in my bed when the explosion happened," 12-year-old Hussain Abbas, who was standing nearby in his pajamas, told the Associated Press. "I jumped from my bed and rushed to my mom's lap. I told her I did not want to go to school today. I'm terrified."

At least 25 people were killed and 62 injured in that attack, officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The last U.S. troops left Iraq at dawn Sunday. For many Iraqis and those Americans who fought a nearly nine-year war in hopes of leaving behind a free and democratic country, the events of the past few days are the country's nightmare scenario.

The fragile alliance of Sunnis and Shiites in the government is completely collapsing, large-scale violence with a high casualty toll has returned to the capital, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is displaying an authoritarian streak and may be moving to grab the already limited power of the Sunnis.

Maliki's Shiite-led government this week accused Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the country's top Sunni political leader, of running a hit squad that targeted government officials five years ago, during the height of sectarian warfare. Authorities put out a warrant for his arrest.

Maliki is also pushing for a vote of no-confidence against another Sunni politician, the deputy prime minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.

"There's a general fear that Maliki is exploiting the withdrawal of the U.S. troops in a political vacuum to go after political opponents, assert greater authority and ultimately move toward a majority government — getting rid of the unity government that's been in place for the last year or so," NPR's (National Public Radio) Sean Carberry said in an NPR news article.

Ayad Allawi, who heads a Sunni-backed party called Iraqiya, laid the blame for Thursday's violence with the government. The Iraqiya coalition also includes Hashemi and Mutlaq, and Allawi has been one of Maliki's strongest critics. Allawi warned that violence would continue as long as people are left out of the political process.

"We have warned long ago that terrorism will continue ... against the Iraqi people unless the political landscape is corrected and the political process is corrected, and it becomes an inclusive political process and full blown non-sectarian institutions will be built in Iraq," Allawi told the AP, speaking from neighboring Beirut, Lebanon.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

'Offensive comments' tops reasons Facebook users delete friends

These days, having a relationship with someone on Facebook can mean as much as having one in "real life." So adding and subtracting people from your list is an emotional process that can often require some careful consideration, and possibly even some soul-searching. But why do Facebook users add some people, delete other people, and leave some off the list, in the first place?

The answer isn't actually quite shocking. According to a new study from NM Incite, a company owned by research firm Nielsen McKinsey, actually knowing someone in offline (real life) is the No. 1 reason users add someone to their friends list. Posting "offensive comments" is the primary factor in people hitting "delete." Surprised?

Here are a few more, perhaps more interesting, tidbits: The average Facebook user has 130 friends. Men use Facebook primarily for networking, and dating, while women use social media "for a creative outlet, for coupon/promos and to give positive feedback," all of which sound incredibly stereotypical — possibly even sexist. Connecting with family and friends is a big reason for using the social network, as is networking and other career-related activities, and entertainment. These are of course, very obvious.

Symphony of Science ~ A Glorious Dawn

"A Glorious Dawn" was crafted from sampling of Carl Sagan's 1980 PBS Documentary Cosmos and Stephen Hawking's 1997 PBS cosmology documentary series Stephen Hawking's Universe.

The music video centers around Cosmology; bringing the thought that one day, humans will venture to the stars, providing we do not destroy ourselves.

Featuring: Carl Sagan (1934-1996) and Stephen Hawkings; two of the world's most brilliant scientists.

Gloria Arroyo's House Arrest Request Denied!

Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Manila, Philippines - The local court, Pasay Regional Trial Court, denied on Wednesday former president Gloria Arroyo's request for house arrest during the holiday season, in which she plans to celebrate Christmas at home.

Instead, Judge Jesus Mupas of the Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) branch 112 allowed Mrs. Arroyo's "immediate family" to visit her at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) from December 24 to 12 noon on December 26, and on December 31 to 12 noon on January 2.

Mrs. Arroyo has been under hospital arrest since being arrested on charges of electoral sabotage in connection with alleged cheating in the 2007 elections.

The court also allowed her access to Television and Radio, but she's still not permitted to use Cellphones, Laptops, telephone, and other means of communication.

"For security reasons, hindi pumayag ang korte sa motion nila for a Christmas furlough. Naalala niyo naman nung linipat siya from St. Luke's to VMMC nagkagulo, so ayaw na nating maulit yon [the court did not allow their motion for a Christmas furlough. If you remember, when she was transferred from St. Luke's to VMMC, there was a commotion and we don't want that to happen again]," said court legal researcher Felda Domingo.

In the same decision, the court allowed Mrs. Arroyo one hour of sunlight everyday in the morning, to get some fresh air and to visit the VMMC chapel.

Her request for a television and radio in her hospital room was also granted by the court.

However, Judge Mupas denied Arroyo's motion for the use of a cellphone and laptop. Domingo said this is a "closed issue," and only the former president's counsel will be allowed to bring electronic communication gadgets inside Mrs. Arroyo's suite at the VMMC.

A Malacañang spokesperson, meanwhile, said the court's decision is fair.

"We have always maintained that there should be no special treatment accorded to CGMA and that arrangements should be made with due respect to her condition," Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

It is also worth noting that a few days ago, it was reported that Judge Mupas rejected a Christmas gift allegedly from the Topacio Law Office. Atty. Topacio is one of Gloria Arroyo's lawyers.

The small box was delivered by a lady to the guest room of Mupas on Monday afternoon.

Staff of the judge politely told the messenger to return the gift to its sender.

NASA's point of view behind the Sendong disaster

Courtesy of NASA-JAXA TRMM
The tropical storm "Sendong" (storm Washi) is believed to have been caused by a combination of poor warnings, deforestation, and weak construction in southern Philippine areas hit by the storm.

This was the assessment made by a joint US-Japanese scientific project that also measured the amount of rainfall dumped by the tropical storm in the Visayas and Mindanao.

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission or simply TRMM, a joint project between the US National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), said Sendong dumped as much as more than 400 millimeters of rainwater over Mindanao's northwest coast.

"It was here in places like Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan City that the most devastating mudslides occurred," the TRRM report said.

It added that most of the heavy rain was reported to have fallen over the mountains before flowing down in raging rivers.

In comparison to Sendong, storm Ondoy, the storm that also caused massive floods in the Philippines back in 2009, dumped around 459mm of rainfall in Metro Manila when it hit the metropolis, according to measurements taken by state weather bureau PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration).

PAGASA gets flak

PAGASA has received flak for its alleged failure to give proper warnings to communities in Sendong's track, including an allegation made by weather bloggers that the weather bureau announced to the public that a storm was headed in less than 24 hours before its forecast landfall.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council's (NDRRMC) first public advisory on Sendong, which was issued 11 a.m. on December 15, also showed a PAGASA tracking map stating that the storm won't hit Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro.

The next NDRRMC severe weather bulletin issued 5 p.m. of the same day showed a revised PAGASA tracking map, with the two cities on the storm's path.

PAGASA also raised storm warnings the same afternoon.

The storm made landfall mid-afternoon the following day, then struck Malaybalay before devastating Cagayan de Oro and Iligan in the middle of the night.

The resulting flashflood has killed 976 people, as of latest NDRRMC count on Wednesday morning. Dozens remain missing, while damage to properties is approaching P1 billion.

Storm Warnings

The Palace and the NDRRMC have cleared PAGASA of any fault, saying the agency gave warnings even days before the storm stuck.

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Undersecretary Manuel L. Quezon III showed the media copies of SMS advisories on the storm that PAGASA sent to Malacañang.

"We have been getting updates since December 14 via text," he said.

One SMS sent to the Palace on 12:46 p.m. of December 14 by senior PAGASA official Robert Sawi said: "The tropical depression over the Pacific is estimated at 1,480 km E of Mindanao with maximum winds of 55 kph. It is moving west at 19 kph and is expected to enter PAR by tomorrow morning. It will start affecting Visayas and Mindanao on Friday. This may trigger floods and landslides. Please take all the necessary precautionary measures. FYI. TY."

The SMS advisories, however, did not contain information on the storm's rainfall amount.

PAGASA continued to relay to the Palace its updates on the storm.

Quezon said the same weather alerts were sent to the NDRRMC, the Philippine Information Agency, and the Radyo ng Bayan (National Radio).

"As I was told in Butuan, many PIA regional offices work with Radyo ng Bayan to send alerts and do SMS alerts too," he said.

Quezon said the Palace is preparing a comprehensive timeline on the disaster.

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