Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Sunday, May 25, 2014
The two spiritual leaders are officially on a joined pilgrimage to the Holy Land to commemorate the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras that took place on January 5th, 1964. Then, it was the first step toward reconciliation when they shook hands in Jerusalem and ended the mutual excommunications issued by the Pope and Patriarch back in 1054.
Bartholomew said recently that the road to unity remains long, but Pope Francis’s acceptance of the invitation to meet in Jerusalem demonstrates that both leaders want to end the near 1,000-year divide.
“The Ecumenical Patriarch and the Pope have many issues to discuss and this visit will not be just a commemoration of the previous meeting of their predecessors,” says Orthodox Metropolitan Emmanuel of France.
According to Metropolitan Emanuel their discussions will focus on Syria and the situation in the Middle East, the protection of Christians, the environment and the foundations of Christian Marriage.
Metropolitan Emmanuel says that “the Pope is very much concerned on the foundations of the Christian family,” something that also concerns greatly the Orthodox Church.
“Both churches are concerned about Syria, North Africa and the protection of Christians in the Middle East,” added the Metropolitan of France.
Pope Francis said in December: “In some countries they kill Christians because they wear a cross or have a Bible, and before killing them they don’t ask if they’re Anglicans, Lutherans, Catholic or Orthodox.”
There are three planned meetings between the two religious leaders, following the pattern established in 1964 during the meetings of their predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.
The first meeting will occur at the Apostolic Delegation in the Old City of Jerusalem, where they will sign a Joint Declaration. The most significant meeting will take place at an Ecumenical Service of Thanksgiving Sunday evening, when they, along with a representative of the Armenian Church, will pray together at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The event has been described as“extraordinarily historic,” by Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, since the three communities normally observe strict separation when they worship in the church.
The third meeting will take place on the Mount of Olives at the residence of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, where they will seal their pilgrimage and fraternal exchange.
Source:Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
Researchers have discovered on the Red Planet the largest fresh meteor-impact crater ever firmly documented with before-and-after images. The images were captured by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).
The crater spans half the length of a football field and first appeared in March 2012. The impact that created it likely was preceded by an explosion in the Martian sky caused by intense friction between an incoming asteroid and the planet's atmosphere. This series of events can be likened to the meteor blast that shattered windows in Chelyabinsk, Russia, last year. The air burst and ground impact darkened an area of the Martian surface about 5 miles (8 kilometers) across.
The darkened spot appears in images taken by the orbiter's weather-monitoring camera, the Mars Color Imager (MARCI). Images of the site from MARCI and from the two telescopic cameras on MRO are at:
Since the orbiter began its systematic observation of Mars in 2006, scientist Bruce Cantor has examined MARCI's daily global coverage, looking for evidence of dust storms and other observable weather events in the images. Cantor is this camera's deputy principal investigator at Malin Space Science Systems, the San Diego company that built and operates MARCI and the orbiter's telescopic Context Camera (CTX). Through his careful review of the images, he helps operators of NASA's solar-powered Mars rover, Opportunity, plan for weather events that may diminish the rover's energy. He also posts weekly Mars weather reports.
About two months ago, Cantor noticed an inconspicuous dark dot near the equator in one of the images.
"It wasn't what I was looking for," Cantor said. "I was doing my usual weather monitoring and something caught my eye. It looked usual, with rays emanating from a central spot."
He began examining earlier images, skipping back a month or more at a time. The images revealed that the dark spot was present a year ago, but not five years ago. He homed in further, checking images from about 40 different dates, and pinned down the date the impact event occurred; the spot was not there up through March 27, 2012, and then appeared before the daily imaging on March 28, 2012.
Once the dark spot was verified as new, it was targeted last month by CTX and the orbiter's sharpest-sighted camera, the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). Of the approximately 400 fresh crater-causing impacts on Mars that have been documented with before-and-after images, this is the only one discovered using a MARCI image, rather than an image from a higher-resolution camera.
CTX has imaged nearly the entire surface of Mars at least once during the orbiter's seven-plus years of observations. It had photographed the site of this newly-discovered crater in January 2012, prior to the impact. Two craters appear in the April 2014 CTX image that were not present in the earlier one, confirming the dark spot revealed by MARCI is related to a new impact crater.
HiRISE reveals more than a dozen smaller craters near the two larger ones seen in the CTX image, possibly created by chunks of the exploding asteroid or secondary impacts of material ejected from the main craters during impact. It also reveals many landslides that darkened slopes in the 5-mile surrounding area. A second HiRISE image in May 2014 added three-dimensional information.
"The biggest crater is unusual, quite shallow compared to other fresh craters we have observed," said HiRISE Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson.
The largest crater is slightly elongated and spans 159 by 143 feet (48.5 by 43.5 meters).
McEwen estimates the impact object measured about 10 to 18 feet (3 to 5 meters) long, which is less than a third the estimated length of the asteroid that hit Earth's atmosphere near Chelyabinsk. Because Mars has much less atmosphere than Earth, space rocks of comparable size are more likely to penetrate to the surface of Mars and cause larger craters.
"Studies of fresh impact craters on Mars yield valuable information about impact rates and about subsurface material exposed by the excavations," said Leslie Tamppari, deputy project scientist for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "The combination of HiRISE and CTX has found and examined many of them, and now MARCI's daily coverage has given great precision about when a significant impact occurred."
NASA is developing concepts for its asteroid initiative to redirect a near-Earth asteroid -- possibly about the size of the rock that hit Mars on March 27 or 28, 2012 -- but much closer to Earth's distance from the sun. The project would involve a solar-powered spacecraft capturing a small asteroid or removing a piece of a larger asteroid, and redirecting it into a stable orbit around Earth's moon.
Astronauts will travel to the asteroid aboard NASA's Orion spacecraft, launched on the agency's Space Launch System rocket, to rendezvous with the captured asteroid. Once there, they would collect samples to return to Earth for study. This experience in human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit will help NASA test new systems and capabilities needed to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.
Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates MARCI and CTX. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colorado. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft and collaborates with JPL to operate it.
For more information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and its findings, visit:
Image Credit: NASA
For Earth Day this year, NASA invited people around the world to step outside to take a "selfie" and share it with the world on social media. NASA released Thursday a new view of our home planet created entirely from those photos.
The "Global Selfie" mosaic was built using more than 36,000 individual photographs drawn from the more than 50,000 images tagged #GlobalSelfie and posted on or around Earth Day, April 22, on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+ and Flickr. The project was designed to encourage environmental awareness and recognize the agency's ongoing work to protect our home planet.
Selfies were posted by people on every continent and 113 countries and regions, from Antarctica to Yemen, Greenland to Guatemala, and Pakistan to Peru. The resulting global mosaic is a zoomable 3.2-gigapixel image that users can scan and explore to look at individual photos. The Global Selfie was assembled after several weeks of collecting and curating the submitted images.
"With the Global Selfie, NASA used crowd-sourced digital imagery to illustrate a different aspect of Earth than has been measured from satellites for decades: a mosaic of faces from around the globe," said Peg Luce, deputy director of the Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "We were overwhelmed to see people participate from so many countries. We're very grateful that people took the time to celebrate our home planet together, and we look forward to everyone doing their part to be good stewards of our precious Earth.”
The GigaPan image of Earth is based on views of each hemisphere captured on Earth Day 2014 by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite instrument on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite. Suomi NPP, a joint mission between NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, collects data on both long-term climate change and short-term weather conditions.
The Global Selfie mosaic and related images and videos are available at:
The Global Selfie is part of a special year for NASA Earth science. For the first time in more than a decade, five NASA Earth Science missions are scheduled to launch in one year. The Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory, a joint mission with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, was launched in February. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 is set to launch in July with the Soil Moisture Active Passive mission to follow in November. And two Earth science instruments -- RapidScat and the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System -- will be launched to the International Space Station.
NASA missions have helped identify thousands of new planets across the universe in recent years, but the space agency studies no planet more closely than our own. With 17 Earth-observing satellites in orbit and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns, NASA produces data that help scientists get a clearer picture of Earth's interconnected natural systems. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.
For more information about NASA's Earth science activities in 2014, visit:
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
A Unified Africa cannot exist without the leaders of the more developed nations in Africa, like South Africa and Nigeria, getting more directly involved in the development of the continent as a whole.
Also Africa should, must, step away from its dependent attitude and take initiatives in trade relations with Europe and the rest of the world. Unlock some of the 'agreements on trade' that are based on former relationships between nations. Those relations stem from colonial ideas and times and Africa should not accept those agreements. It is also time to change the way agreements are reached between European countries and the USA, Canada and Australia.
Yes, the USA is a powerful country and again yes, Europe has a lot of economic clout. But that does not give those countries the right to claim the recources of the African continent at prices that do not allow people to live a normal life.
“Making the most of Africa’s commodities: industrializing for growth, jobs and economic transformation”. This theme is important because commodity-based industrialization can provide an engine of growth for the continent, reducing its marginalization in the global economy and enhancing its resilience to shocks. African countries have a real opportunity, individually and collectively, to promote economic transformation and to address poverty, inequality and youth unemployment. They can capitalize on their resource endowments and high international commodity prices as well as changes in how global production processes are organized. (Economic Report on Africa 2013).
If Africa becomes a producer of comodities it may be able to take its economy into its own hands and transform the continent into a producing economic block of nations.
But this means that Africans will have to change the way they look at life and most importantly, the way they look at leadership.
A society centered on tribal leadership has some advantages over a society where leadership is selected by a different, more political system. Tribal leadership is built on trust. The people are confident that the leaders they have chosen from their own ranks are the best leaders available, and therefore they will follow those leaders. The leaders must be careful not to hurt that trust, because they may lose more than just a position if they do. Tribal chiefs may get killed if they lose the confidence of the people.
The political system based on elections as it exists in many African states often leaves too much power in the hands of very few people, down to only one person in some cases. This leads to corruption and nepotism and the leaders are often focused only on maintaining their position, not on the well being of the people who elected him.
The ideal political system has not been found yet, but is it possible to find it? Tribal leadership or political parties, chiefs or a president. Or are there other options, what is your opinion?
Monday, May 19, 2014
Image Credit: NASA
NASA and its international partners now have the go-ahead to begin construction on a new Mars lander after it completed a successful Mission Critical Design Review on Friday.
NASA’s Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission will pierce beneath the Martian surface to study its interior. The mission will investigate how Earth-like planets formed and developed their layered inner structure of core, mantle and crust, and will collect information about those interior zones using instruments never before used on Mars.
InSight will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, on the central California coast near Lompoc, in March 2016. This will be the first interplanetary mission ever to launch from California. The mission will help inform the agency’s goal of sending a human mission to Mars in the 2030’s.
InSight team leaders presented mission-design results this week to a NASA review board, which approved advancing to the next stage of preparation.
“Our partners across the globe have made significant progress in getting to this point and are fully prepared to deliver their hardware to system integration starting this November, which is the next major milestone for the project," said Tom Hoffman, InSight Project Manager of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California. "We now move from doing the design and analysis to building and testing the hardware and software that will get us to Mars and collect the science that we need to achieve mission success."
To investigate the planet's interior, the stationary lander will carry a robotic arm that will deploy surface and burrowing instruments contributed by France and Germany. The national space agencies of France and Germany -- Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) -- are partnering with NASA by providing InSight's two main science instruments.
The Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) will be built by CNES in partnership with DLR and the space agencies of Switzerland and the United Kingdom. It will measure waves of ground motion carried through the interior of the planet, from "marsquakes" and meteor impacts. The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, from DLR, will measure heat coming toward the surface from the planet's interior.
"Mars actually offers an advantage over Earth itself for understanding how habitable planetary surfaces can form," said Bruce Banerdt, InSight Principal Investigator from JPL. "Both planets underwent the same early processes. But Mars, being smaller, cooled faster and became less active while Earth kept churning. So Mars better preserves the evidence about the early stages of rocky planets' development."
The three-legged lander will go to a site near the Martian equator and provide information for a planned mission length of 720 days -- about two years. InSight adapts a design from the successful NASA Phoenix Mars Lander, which examined ice and soil on far-northern Mars in 2008.
"We will incorporate many features from our Phoenix spacecraft into InSight, but the differences between the missions require some differences in the InSight spacecraft," said InSight Program Manager Stu Spath of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Denver, Colorado. "For example, the InSight mission duration is 630 days longer than Phoenix, which means the lander will have to endure a wider range of environmental conditions on the surface."
Guided by images of the surroundings taken by the lander, InSight's robotic arm will place the seismometer on the surface and then place a protective covering over it to minimize effects of wind and temperature on the sensitive instrument. The arm will also put the heat-flow probe in position to hammer itself into the ground to a depth of 3 to 5 yards (2.7 to 4 1/2 meters).
Another experiment will use the radio link between InSight and NASA's Deep Space Network antennas on Earth to precisely measure a wobble in Mars' rotation that could reveal whether Mars has a molten or solid core. Wind and temperature sensors from Spain's Centro de Astrobiologia and a pressure sensor will monitor weather at the landing site, and a magnetometer will measure magnetic disturbances caused by the Martian ionosphere.
InSight's international science team is made up of researchers from Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. JPL manages InSight for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. InSight is part of NASA's Discovery Program of competitively selected mission. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Discovery Program. Lockheed Martin will build the lander and other parts of the spacecraft at its Littleton, Colorado, facility near Denver.
For more about InSight, visit:
For more information about Mars missions:
For more about the Discovery Program, visit:
Sunday, May 18, 2014
Besides being an astronaut, Ockels was a professor, pilot and scientist, and he had also worked for the Technical University in Delft.
During a visit to Madrid in 2003, he said that his space career began after he answered an advertisement in the European Space Agency press calling for crew members for future space missions.
"I had just finished, in 1977, a doctorate in Nuclear Physics. I saw the ad, in which they were offering three astronaut spots, and 2,000 candidates answered. After a year of testing, I (was selected), although it took several years for me to travel into space," Ockels said.
The moment came on Oct. 30, 1985, when NASA, using the space shuttle Challenger, put the European Spacelab into orbit.
Friday, May 16, 2014
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Decades of civil war and conflicts between tribes and political or religious fractions has left South Sudan's justice system in shambles. The whole system has to be rebuilt from scratch. Police and prosecutorial services are not available in much of the country and, when available, do not have the resources to conduct proper investigations or prosecutions.
Legal representation during trials, including for people sentenced to death, is not normal in South Sudan. The overwhelming majority of individuals in prison in South Sudan do not have a lawyer or the right to free legal aid in serious criminal, civil, land and family matters. As a result, they are often unable to mount an adequate defence or to contest the use of forced confessions in court. Unclear bureaucraticy and corruption also hinder the exercise of the right of appeal.
International law requires that the death penalty may only be carried out after a final judgement has been rendered by a competent court. There has to be a legal process with safeguards to ensure a fair trial, including legal representation and the right to appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction. It is unclear whether the four individuals executed in November of 2013 had any access to legal representation.
Although South Sudan voted in favour of the adoption of UN General Assembly’s resolutions 67/176 on moratorium of the use of the death penalty in December 2012, at least 14 individuals are believed to have been executed since the country gained its independence in July 2011. The actual number of individuals executed is likely to be higher, as the Government does not publicly disclose information about death sentences or judicial executions.
“The Government should disclose the identities of those executed and make public the details of their trials and convictions,” said Priscilla Nyagoah, advocacy officer with the South Sudan Law Society (SSLS). “This information is necessary to contribute to an informed and transparent national debate.”
These recent hangings are the latest in a disturbing series of judicial executions in South Sudan. The SSLS believes that at least fourteen individuals have now been hanged since South Sudan gained independence in July 2011. There are approximately 200 people on death row. The Government, however, does not publicly disclose information about death sentences or judicial executions. The actual number of individuals executed is likely higher.
The recent executions come less than a year after the Government of South Sudan, along with 110 other nations, voted in favor of a United Nations General Assembly resolution that calls on countries that use capital punishment to place a moratorium on judicial executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. The resolution also calls on countries to respect international standards regarding fair trial rights and to make available relevant information about their use of the death penalty to contribute to informed and transparent debates. Since signing the resolution, however, senior government officials have said that their vote was a mistake and that the Government of South Sudan would continue to administer judicial executions.
“The government should notify the public of any impending execution and ensure that the relevant court records are accessible,” said Nyagoah. “Citizens have a right to understand the circumstances surrounding our government’s use of the death penalty.”
South Sudan’s justice system is struggling to establish itself after decades of civil war. Police and prosecutorial services are not available in much of the country and where they are available they do not have the human and financial resources to conduct proper investigations and prosecutions. Cases have been documented in which confessions are obtained through torture. Since the vast majority of people sentenced to death do not have access to legal counsel, accused persons are often unable to contest forced confessions or mount an adequate defense.
“To execute people who have not had access to a lawyer is a clear violation of international human rights law,” Nyagoah said. “Until the Government is able to ensure that every person accused of a crime punishable by death is provided with legal counsel, it should cease judicial executions.”
Proponents of the death penalty in South Sudan justify the punishment as a deterrent to violent crime. They argue that South Sudanese have been made violent and unruly as a consequence of protracted civil war and that convicted criminals must be dealt with harshly to send a signal to others who would commit similar crimes. There is, however, no evidence that judicial executions serve any deterrent function. Indeed, more than seven years after the end of the war, crime rates in South Sudan are as high as they have ever been.
“Government-sanctioned killings in this context merely perpetuate the notion that life is cheap in South Sudan,” Nyagoah said. “If the Government wants to change mindsets and discourage casual attitudes towards the taking of a life, it should lead by example and put in place a moratorium on capital punishment with a view towards abolishing the death penalty.”
Sources: UN, GoneNative, SSLS, SSNA
Friday, May 2, 2014
International Space Station Crew to Connect Live with Idaho Students
NASA astronauts and Expedition 39 Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio and Steve Swanson, currently orbiting Earth aboard the International Space Station, will speak with students and educators at Boise State University in Boise, Idaho, Tuesday, May 6, at 11:55 a.m. EDT. The event will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency's website.
Former NASA astronaut Barbara Morgan, who flew on space shuttle Endeavour's STS-118 mission in 2007 and currently is an educator-in-residence at the university, also will participate in Tuesday's event, which focuses on living and working in space.
Educators have been preparing their students for the conversation with the crew by incorporating NASA activities in their classrooms. A group of Boise State students working on this event have dubbed themselves the "Space Broncos" and are working on maintaining a social media site and developing educational demonstrations for Swanson, who has been named a "Professor of Practice" by Boise State, to perform in orbit.
This in-flight education downlink is one in a series designed to improve teaching and learning science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It is an integral component of NASA's Teaching From Space education program, which promotes learning opportunities and builds partnerships with the education community using the unique environment of space and NASA's human spaceflight program.
For NASA TV streaming video, schedules and downlink information, visit:
For information about NASA's education programs, visit:
For information about the International Space Station, visit: