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Friday, May 6, 2011

Six Planets Now Aligned in the Dawn Sky

If you get up any morning for the next few weeks, you’ll be treated to the sight of all the planets except Saturn arrayed along the ecliptic, the path of the sun through the sky.

For the last two months, almost all the planets have been hiding behind the sun, but this week they all emerge and are arrayed in a grand line above the rising sun. Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter are visible, and you can add Uranus and Neptune to your count if you have binoculars or a small telescope.

This sky map of the six planets shows how they should appear at dawn to observers with clear weather and an unobstructed view.

Astrologers have always been fascinated by planetary alignments, and the doomsayers of 2012 have been prophesying a mystical alignment on Dec. 21, 2012.

The modern tools of astronomers, such as planetarium software, show otherwise: absolutely no alignment at any time in 2012. But they also reveal a beautiful alignment visible during the month of May this year. [Planet Skywatching Guide for 2011]

Six planets at one time

While astrologers view planetary alignments as foretellers of disasters, modern amateur astronomers look forward to them as nothing more than grand photo ops.

If you go out any morning for the next four days, you’ll be treated to a view of the crescent moon and all but one of the naked eye planets.

Because the moon moves rapidly from one morning to the next, it will only be part of the lineup for the next four mornings, but the four naked-eye planets will be there for the next few weeks.

Venus is, as always, the brightest and most visible of the planets, and it can be your guide to spotting the others. About half way between Venus and the rising sun is Jupiter, the second brightest planet.

Mars will be a tiny speck just above Jupiter, and Mercury another tiny speck about half way between Jupiter and Venus. Uranus is slightly more than one binocular field above and to the right of Venus, and Neptune is much farther to the right, about 40 degrees away in Aquarius. The Moon will be just above Venus on Saturday morning, and just above Jupiter and Mars on Sunday morning.

How to photograph the planets

Capturing a photograph of this gathering of the planets couldn’t be easier.

Just about any camera will do, though a camera with a telephoto lens setting will be better. Let the camera’s exposure meter be your guide, though a slight underexposure will help bring out the colors of the dawn sky. [Astrophotography Telescopes for Beginners]

Try to place the silhouette of some foreground object to lend depth to the scene. The best pictures will be on the next few mornings, while the crescent moon is part of the grouping.

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The Build up to World War III

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Ahmadinejad: World seeks new culture

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the world seeks a new culture and system that would guarantee mankind's true happiness, noting that systems such as Marxism and Capitalism have failed.

“The self-proclaimed supporters of capitalism and democracy … have reached the end of the road and the world is looking forward to a new way, culture and system -- a thought that can literally guarantee social and individual happiness of mankind,” Ahmadinejad stated in a ceremony marking Teacher's Day in Tehran on Wednesday.

Iran's president highlighted the Islamic Republic's aptitude to guide the world in its pursuit of perfection. He noted that the enemy's concerns do not arise from the country's economic or defense capabilities.

“The only point that concerns them is that the Iranian nation has the capacity and capability to become a role model and a pioneer,” he added.

He recalled how Marxism, despite all the attention it received and promises it made, led to greater oppression than at the time of earlier tyrants.

“Then capitalism took momentum which resulted in poverty, discrimination in more than half of the world, war, massacre and occupation,” he pointed out.

Ahmadinejad did not single out the United States but denounced the September 11 and the events around militant al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as a plot by superpowers to save themselves.

“They used it as a pretext; they invaded and occupied and told lies before the eyes seven billion people and killed more than a million,” he regretted.

Ahmadinejad said the West has failed to meet its pledge of a utopia replete with freedom, comfort and human values and that poverty and discrimination plagues people even in the so-called bastions of democracy and capitalism.

Libya: International group discusses funding for rebels

Libyan rebel fighter at Ajdabiya, eastern Libya - 3 May 2011

An international grouping is meeting in Rome to discuss financial aid for Libya's rebels.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Libya Contact Group would also look at ways to put pressure on Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi.

She said the desired outcome was an end to violence against civilians and a "democratic transition".

Meanwhile, a ship has evacuated people from the besieged port of Misrata to the main rebel city of Benghazi.

The ship, the Red Star One, chartered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), was hit by shell fire as it docked at Misrata to embark wounded people and foreign workers. Five people were killed.

Amid scenes of panic, families were separated and the ship had to re-dock twice before finally setting sail with 1,300 passengers - mostly wounded people and foreign workers stranded as the city was besieged by Col Gaddafi's forces.

They have now arrived, tired and bedraggled, in Benghazi, says the BBC's John Sudworth.



Osama captured alive and executed, claims 12-yr-old daughter

ISLAMABAD: Osama bin Laden was unarmed at the time of his killing and his 12-year-old daughter saw her father being shot dead, it was revealed on Wednesday, even as the exact circumstances of the al-Qaida chief's death remained unclear and theWhite House changed versions.

An Arabic TV station claimed the child had, in fact, said her father was taken prisoner and then shot, in an execution of sorts.

The girl is now in custody with a Yemeni wife of Osama's, an Inter-Services Intelligence ( ISI) official said. Up to 12 women and children who survived the US raid on their villa were now in custody, he said.

The child, reported to be 12 years old, "was the one who confirmed to us that Osama was dead and shot and taken away", said the official.

An Arabic television station went further, saying, "a source in Pakistani security quoted the daughter of Osama bin Laden that the leader of al-Qaida was not killed inside his house, but had been arrested and was killed later".

Four bodies were retrieved from the daring covert attack, including one of bin Laden's sons, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Up to three women and nine children, including the young Yemeni woman who was shot in the leg and a daughter of the Saudi-born mastermind, were in detention, he said.

"There are a lot of questions we want to ask them," another intelligence official said.

Times of India

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NDP MP Thomas Mulcair questions Bin Laden pictures

John Mahoney/Postmedia News

The NDP got its first taste of the perils of prominence Wednesday after being forced to handle two public relations disasters as the newly elected Official Opposition.

While MP-elect Ruth Ellen Brosseau was scrutinized for allegedly filing falsified nomination papers in Quebec, deputy leader of the NDP, Thomas Mulcair, drew gasps when he said he does not believe the United States government has photographs of terrorist Osama bin Laden. He also hinted there may be “more going on,” behind the scenes of his assassination than the U.S. is making known.

“I don’t think, from what I’ve heard, that those pictures exist. And if they do, I’ll leave that up to the American military,” Mr. Mulcair said during an appearance on the CBC TV’s Power and Politics Wednesday.

Asked again whether he thinks the photos exist, Mr. Mulcair said: “No, I don’t think they do. If they’ve got pictures of a cadaver, there’s probably more going on than we suspect in what happened there.”

Twitter immediately flooded with comments about the statement, making the Outremont MP a trending topic on the micro-blogging website. “I almost fell out of my chair when Mulcair said he doubted the existence of Osama bin Laden photos,” tweeted Marc Garneau, the astronaut and Liberal MP for Westmount-Ville-Marie.

In a subsequent tweet, he admonished the deputy NDP leader’s comments. “Sanity check please: Osama bin Laden is dead and photos were taken. To suggest otherwise is a serious lack of judgment.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s spokesman, Dimitri Soudas, said that the incoming Conservative government doesn’t share Mr. Mulcair’s skepticism. “The White House made it clear that pictures exist,” he wrote on Twitter. “Absolutely no reason to doubt that.”

The party scrambled to mount a response to questions over Mr. Mulcair’s statement. In a statement, Paul Dewar, the NDP foreign affairs critics, said the incoming opposition party didn’t question the existence of the photos.

“We have no reason to doubt the veracity of President Obama’s statement,” he said. “I understand that the U.S. government has photos, but decided not to release them as they do not want them used as trophies. This is a legitimate concern. We agree these types of photos shouldn’t be used as propaganda tools.”

Mr. Mulcair’s comments were quickly picked up by dozens of U.S. media outlets.

In the same Power and Politics interview, Mr. Mulcair also came to the defence of Ms. Brosseau, the successful Quebec NDP candidate in Berthier-Maskinongé, famous for vacationing in Vegas in the middle of the election campaign and for boasting less than stellar French skills though she now represents a largely francophone riding.

Trois-Rivieres resident Rene Young said he and his wife never signed Ms. Brosseau’s candidacy papers, although their names are clearly listed on the forms submitted to Elections Canada.

“The signature that is supposedly mine is not mine, and neither is my wife’s. There are two signatures on that form that are not us. We don’t understand how they are on that document that allows her to run for MP,” Mr. Young said in French from his home.

Defeated Liberal candidate Francine Gaudet suggested the NDP did not properly represent the nomination form to residents in the riding.

“We’ve found what could be irregularities,” she said in French. “Mr. Rene Young confirms that his wife’s signature on the nomination form is grafitti. So we’re expecting justice to be served in all this.”

National Post


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Whitney Defends Her Prediction of ‘Hundreds of Billions’ in Muni Defaults

Analyst Meredith Whitney

Meredith Whitney, the analyst who correctly predicted Citigroup Inc.’s 2008 dividend cut, defended her prediction of “hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth” of municipal-bond defaults.

Whitney, 41, speaking today at the Milken Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, said local governments in states such as California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida that are dependent on the housing and construction industries for higher tax revenue would continue to struggle financially.

“States have been spending at two-and-a-half times their tax receipts,” she said. “The states then are cutting off aid to their local governments which rely on them for over a third of their monies. The local municipalities have nowhere to go and their bias is to save their constituents before they save their bondholders.”

Whitney, who heads New York-based Meredith Whitney Advisory Group LLC, told CBS Corp. (CBS)’s “60 Minutes” on Dec. 19 that municipal-bond investors could “see 50 sizable defaults, 50 to 100 sizable defaults, more,” that “will amount to hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of defaults.”

Her prediction accelerated the flight of investors from municipal-bond funds and a decline in bond prices.

“There’s nothing controversial about that call, if you look at the numbers,” she said today, later adding: “This municipal issue, you can criticize me for anything you want, I’m numb to it, because I have more conviction on this than I’ve had on any single thing in my career.”
Solomon Disagrees

David Solomon, co-head of investment banking at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), speaking on the same panel as Whitney, said he disagreed.

“I don’t think we’re doomed,” he said. “I’d be more balanced on it. Ultimately tax receipts will have to go up and there’s only one way to do that and that’s increase taxes. The U.S. economy is going to perform better over the next year or two than the general consensus.”

Farm Belt states such as Iowa that are benefiting from rising agricultural prices and their logistics and transportation industries will see stronger growth than the rest of the nation, Whitney said.

“There’s myriad ways of playing every industry and each county,” Whitney said, when asked where to invest. “There’s opportunity-rich scenarios in every state and every market.”

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Syrian soldier did not fire to innocent people Video

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