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Archive for June, 2012

Australia’s mining boom puts pressure on local communities

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 30, 2012

As towns near mines become dominated by contract workers, rents rise and the economic and social landscape changes

Australia mining

Contract workers in one Australian town, Moranbah, number 6,500 to the 8,500 locals, with accommodation to house another 3,500 workers under way. Photograph: AFP

It’s still dark on a chilly winter’s morning in central Queensland and a large city bus enters a residential cul-de-sac. The bungalows here wouldn’t be out of place in a rural version of Neighbours, their large grassy verges perfect for kids to play cricket on.

But the bus has not come to pick up the children. It’s here to take contract workers to their shifts in the town’s mining and construction industries.

Denise Robertson has lived here with her husband and three children for a decade. “We came to Moranbah because it was full of families and children. Every year, we used to have our Christmas BBQs on the street,” she said. “Now it’s full of contractors and we don’t know who is coming and going.”

Seven three-bedroom apartments have been built for fly-in fly-out (Fifo) or drive-in drive-out (Dido) mining industry workers on a single block at the end of the cul-de-sac. Five more apartments have been approved behind Robertson’s house and there is an application in for another three to be built directly opposite.

“Cars come in and go out so often that I don’t know how many people live in the street any more,” said Robertson. Read the rest of this entry »

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UN Debate: Should We Use Earth Time or Manmade Time?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 30, 2012

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A Brand New Ocean — on Saturn’s Moon Titan

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 30, 2012

This artist’s concept shows a possible scenario for the internal structure of Titan, as suggested by data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

A. Tavani / NASA
It really is a shame that Titan can’t slip away from Saturn late one night. The ringed planet’s most interesting moon would easily qualify as one of the solar system’s most interesting planets if it were out and orbiting on its own. Still, even as a mere back-bencher it does just fine.

Titan has long been thought of as something like a flash-frozen version of the early Earth, saturated with the hydrocarbons that first made life possible on our planet. Getting a good, close look at Titan is thus like getting a good close look at our own distant past. Just two weeks ago, data from the Cassini spacecraft, orbiting Saturn, also revealed that Titan’s surface is home to numerous methane lakes, one of them half as large as Utah’s Great Salt Lake. Now comes a paper published in the journal Science persuasively suggesting that Titan probably has a vast-globe-girdling ocean beneath it’s surface too, and unlike the methane-filled lakes above, this one is made of ordinary water. That has very big implications not just for our understanding of Titan, but for our hunt for life elsewhere in the cosmos.

(PHOTOS: The Storms of Saturn)

“The search for water is an important goal in solar system exploration,” said lead author Lucino Iess, a Cassini scientist at Sapienza University in Rome. “Now we’ve spotted another place where it is abundant.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Sex abuse scandal rocks US Air Base

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 30, 2012

Photo from setyoufree-news.blogspot.com      

Photo from setyoufree-news.blogspot.com

A US air force investigation has identified 31 female cadets who were sexually assaulted by their trainers at a Texas military camp. The scandal has raised concerns that the US armed forces are not doing enough to protect women in the military.

An internal probe is currently looking at 12 male military instructors that were serving at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas. Six of them face charges of misconduct, including allegations of rape and adultery.

The majority of those under investigation were from the 331st training squadron, whose commander was dismissed from duty last week. He was not charged with sex crimes but was relieved because of the unacceptable level of misconduct in his unit.

“We are taking a comprehensive look, not only at the cases we know, but in trying to assess whether there are other cases out there,” said General Edward Rice during a Pentagon briefing. He added that to his knowledge, all 31 women who reported to have been victims of abuse were still in the military. Read the rest of this entry »

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Assange rejects police request to surrender

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 29, 2012

ALSO O

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said that he rejects the British police’s request to hand himself in and will remain in the Ecuadorean embassy and continue his appeal for asylum on grounds of political persecution.

Earlier on Thursday, police issued an order for Assange to appear at a police station to begin the extradition process.

The letter from the Metropolitan Police sent to the Ecuadorian Embassy said it “requires him to attend a police station at a date and time of our choosing. This is standard practice in extradition cases and is the first step in the removal process.” Read the rest of this entry »

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China’s Shenzhou-9 crew returns to Earth

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 29, 2012

Shenzhou

The capsule carrying the crew of China’s Shenzhou-9 spacecraft has successfully landed in the country’s Inner Mongolia region after 13 days in space. The success of the mission brings China a step closer to creating its own manned space station.

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EU mobilizes €120 billion for growth

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 29, 2012

EU officials have agreed to spend €120 billion “for immediate growth measures” to aid the most vulnerable countries of the eurozone. The announcement comes during the latest EU summit that has started in Brussels.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy made the announcement at a summit press conference on Thursday. The leaders of Spain and Italy were reportedly blocking a final agreement on a stimulus package until they won promises of immediate help in reducing their borrowing costs, AP reports.

However, after a tough night of bargaining, an agreement was reached that would allow loan money to be provided directly to troubled banks, circumventing European governments as middle men in the bailout process.

Allowing money to be funneled directly to the banks was seen as a way to keep investor interest rates down by removing the debt from European governments; loans provided to governments might cause investor doubt, therefore driving interest rates to unsustainable heights. The move was beneficial for Spain, which has been seeking €100 billion in loans for its troubled banks.

Another key part of the agreement was a reversal of EU policy stating that any new bailout applications would not be met with the same strict conditions that were imposed on previous bailout requests. This move was seen as one designed to placate Italy, who insisted that despite its troubled economy, it was not seeking a bailout at this time. Read the rest of this entry »

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Supreme Court Health Care Decision: Individual Mandate Survives

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 29, 2012

 News with more than 68,000 comments and more than 13,000 shares
Obamacare

WASHINGTON — The individual health insurance mandate is constitutional, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday, upholding the central provision of President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act.

The controlling opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, upheld the mandate as a tax, although concluded it was not valid as an exercise of Congress’ commerce clause power. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined in the outcome.

The decision in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius comes as something of a surprise after the generally hostile reception the law received during the six hours of oral arguments held over three days in March. But by siding with the court’s four Democratic appointees, Chief Justice Roberts avoided the delegitimizing taint of politics that surrounds a party-line vote while passing Obamacare’s fate back to the elected branches. GOP candidates and incumbents will surely spend the rest of the 2012 campaign season running against the Supreme Court and for repeal of the law.

Five justices concluded that the mandate, which requires virtually all Americans to obtain minimum health insurance coverage or pay a penalty, falls within Congress’ power under the Constitution to “lay and collect taxes.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Asteroid Telescope: Scientists Unveil Plan To Protect Earth From Rogue Space Rocks

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 29, 2012

By ALICIA CHANG AP Share on Google+

Asteroid Telescope

LOS ANGELES — Who will protect us from a killer asteroid? A team of ex-NASA astronauts and scientists thinks it’s up to them.

In a bold plan unveiled Thursday, the group wants to launch its own space telescope to spot and track small and mid-sized space rocks capable of wiping out a city or continent. With that information, they could sound early warnings if a rogue asteroid appeared headed toward our planet.

So far, the idea from the B612 Foundation is on paper only.

Such an effort would cost upward of several hundred million dollars, and the group plans to start fundraising. Behind the nonprofit are a space shuttle astronaut, Apollo 9 astronaut, former Mars czar, deep space mission manager along with other non-NASA types.

Asteroids are leftovers from the formation of the solar system some 4.5 billion years ago. Most reside in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter but some get nudged into Earth’s neighborhood.

NASA and a network of astronomers routinely scan the skies for these near-Earth objects. And they’ve found 90 percent of the biggest threats – asteroids at least two-thirds of a mile across that are considered major killers. Scientists believe it was a 6-mile-wide asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. Read the rest of this entry »

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Homeless Students Top 1 Million, U.S. Says, Leaving Advocates ‘Horrified’

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 29, 2012

 By Saki Knafo and Joy Resmovits
Homeless Students  

Back in November of 2005, Diane Nilan had what she now concedes may have struck some people as a “crazy notion.” She’d been working as advocate for homeless families in Illinois, getting frustrated by the glacial pace of political and bureaucratic change, when she decided to sell her town house, buy a Gulfstream motor home, and set out on the road to talk to homeless families living around the country. She drove to Pensacola, Fla., and then to Lafayette, La., and then to a tiny town in Texas, where she met a little boy who had been abandoned by his mother. She spoke with homeless children and their families at campsites and motels and shelters, and filmed them in an attempt to share what she learned.

Since then, she’s become one of the country’s most prominent experts on family homelessness, logging 148,000 miles and talking to families in about 30 states. So she wasn’t entirely surprised when she heard the latest bleak statistic: 1 million homeless students in America, according to a report released by the Department of Education this week. Talking to the families of such students, she said, she hears “the same story time after time. Lost their job, had some medical problems, things fell apart, boom, boom, boom. Now they’re living in shelters or motels.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Asian-American Dilemma: Good News Is Bad News

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 28, 2012

Our binary way of thinking about race prevents us from openly discussing the challenges that still exist
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
JUSTIN SULLIVAN / GETTY IMAGES
Pedestrians walk by an American flag mural in Chinatown on June 19, 2012 in San Francisco, Calif.

Liu’s latest book is The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government

Last week, the Pew Research Center released a report called “The Rise of Asian Americans,” offering a portrait seemingly full of good news. Asian Americans, Pew said, are on the whole more educated, affluent and happier than other Americans. They hew more strongly to family values and an ethic of hard work. And, quietly, these 17 million Asian Americans have surpassed Hispanics as the largest and fastest-growing cohort of immigrants to the U.S.

(MORE: Christopher J. Ferguson: What You Need to Know About the New Census Numbers on Hispanic Births) Read the rest of this entry »

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7 Credit Myths Even Smart People Believe

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 28, 2012

Ryan McVay / Getty Images

RYAN MCVAY / GETTY IMAGES

Everybody knows how important it is to maintain good credit, but a lot of people don’t know how. Some think it’s necessary to revolve a credit card balance to get a higher score or don’t know the impact of checking their own credit. Even people who consider themselves financially savvy or who do a fine job managing their own household budgets can be misinformed.

A recent survey revealed some sizable gaps in America’s knowledge when it comes to our credit, and we talked to some credit counseling professionals who shared the most common myths they have to debunk.

Checking your credit information hurts your score. More than a third of Americans think checking their credit report has a negative impact on their score, according to a new survey conducted by credit card comparison site CreditDonkey.com. In fact, the reverse is true: While an inquiry from a lender will drop your score by a few points, checking your own report can only help you — it doesn’t ding your score and you might even find a mistake that’s been dragging your score down.

(MORE: 5 States With the Worst Credit Scores)

Getting turned down for a credit card hurts your score. “Although the inquiry will show on your credit report, the decision the issuer makes will not,” says Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. The inquiry itself is likely to drop your score by a few points, but the lender’s decision doesn’t matter. If you are approved, your score will probably rise, especially if the card has a high credit limit. This is because the availability of untapped credit will improve your credit utilization ratio, which is a significant factor in your credit score. Read the rest of this entry »

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Suman Gurung Carries the Olympic Torch

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 28, 2012

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Sky-high and abyss-deep: China’s double record-breaker

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 25, 2012

Docking in progress, CCTV video still.

Docking in progress, CCTV video still.

China has reached two technological milestones spanning great depths and heights. In the earth’s orbit, the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft manually docked a space module while under the Pacific, a Jiaolong sub dived to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

The symbolism behind the scheduling of the two historical events was far from coincidental. The three oceanographers manning the submersible during the 7,000 dive sent greetings to their three fellow “taikonauts” piloting the space capsule, wishing them luck in their mission.

The descent to a depth of 7,015 meters broke the Chinese national diving record. It was the fourth such dive in the mission, which started on June 15. The dive was conducted in heavy rain, according to a Xinhua report.

The space mission was also successful, with the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft undocking and again docking the Tiangong 1 module. For the first time, the procedure was performed manually rather than directed from the mission control center on the ground.

China became the third nation after Russia and the US to master the technology, which is crucial for the nation’s ambitious space program. The country wants to have a domestically-made manned space station operating by 2020.

The docking was the key part of the space mission. China launched the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, which carried the country’s first female astronaut, last Saturday. The mission will now continue for four more days. Read the rest of this entry »

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Egypt Election Results: Mohammed Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood Candidate, Announced President

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 25, 2012

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Egypt Election Results

After days of delay for the results of its presidential runoff, Egypt has announcedMohammed Morsi as the winner of the election and the country’s new president, the Associated Press reports.

Morsi, the candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood, faced off with former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq after the two candidates collected the most votes in the first round of Egypt’s presidential election.

The days leading up to the runoff proved increasingly tense for Egypt, as judges appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak ordered parliament to dissolve, a blow to the democratically elected and Islamist-dominated governing body.

On the heels of the parliament ruling and in the midst of vote counting, Egypt’s ruling military issued an interim constitution that seemingly deflated whatever power the next president would have. Read the rest of this entry »

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