Little Girl Surprised by Returning Soldier Father

11:29:45 PM, Tuesday, April 12, 2011

-- Cutest clip ever! Watch it, it'll put a smile on your face.

0:02 "Who are you???... DAAAADYYYY!!!!!"

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Gulf Coast Officials Spend Millions Of BP's Money On Items Unrelated To Oil Spill

10:50:09 PM, Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"NEW ORLEANS -- In the year since the Gulf oil spill, officials along the coast have gone on a spending spree with BP money, dropping tens of millions of dollars on gadgets, vehicles and gear – much of which had little to do with the cleanup, an Associated Press investigation shows.

The oil giant opened its checkbook while the crisis was still unfolding last spring and poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Gulf Coast communities with few strings attached.

In sleepy Ocean Springs, Miss., reserve police officers got Tasers. The sewer department in nearby Gulfport bought a $300,000 vacuum truck that never sucked up a drop of oil. Biloxi, Miss., bought a dozen SUVS. A parish president in Louisiana got herself a top-of-the-line iPad, her spokesman a $3,100 laptop. And a county in Florida spent $560,000 on rock concerts to promote its oil-free beaches.

In every case, communities said the new, more powerful equipment was needed to deal at least indirectly with the spill.

In many cases, though, the connection between the spill and the expenditures was remote, and lots of money wound up in cities and towns little touched by the goo that washed up on shore, the AP found in records requested from more than 150 communities and dozens of interviews.

Florida's tourism agency sent chunks of a $32 million BP grant as far away as Miami-Dade and Broward counties on the state's east coast, which never saw oil from the disaster.

Some officials also lavished campaign donors and others with lucrative contracts. A Florida county commissioner's girlfriend, for instance, opened up a public relations firm a few weeks after the spill and soon landed more than $14,000 of the tiny county's $236,000 cut of BP cash for a month's work.

The April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers and spawned the nation's worst offshore oil spill. As BP spent months trying to cap the well and contain the spill, cities and towns along the coast from Louisiana to Florida worried about the toll on their economies – primarily tourism and the fishing industry – as well as the environmental impact.

All told, BP PLC says it has paid state and local governments more than $754 million as of March 31, and has reimbursed the federal government for another $694 million..."

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Clouds Over the Alpine Valleys of Northern Italy, Photo by Stefano Anghileri

10:23:05 PM, Tuesday, April 12, 2011

-- This shot captures a layer of low clouds covers the alpine valleys of northern Italy, just south of Lake Como. The clouds are just dense enough to hide uniformly the valley, but also filter the artificial lights below like they were an opaque transparent blanket. Above the layer, moonlight and high cirrus clouds make the night less dark. You can easily recognize the round shape of Lago di Olginate (Olginate Lake) and the lights of the villages all around its banks.

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NASA Announces New Homes for Retiring Space Shuttles

7:44:05 PM, Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"NASA announced Tuesday the new retirement homes for the four remaining space shuttles -- three historic orbiters and the program's test vehicle.

The space shuttle Atlantis will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida; the Endeavour, at the California Science Center in Los Angeles; the Discovery, at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia; and the test shuttle, Enterprise, at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York, NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. said during a ceremony at the Kennedy Center.

The announcement was made on the 30th anniversary of the space shuttle program's first flight, made by the subsequently ill-fated Columbia orbiter, and the 50th anniversary of Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human in space.

More than 20 locations around the country sought one of the orbiters because of the potential tourist draw. The drama mirrored the bidding to host an Olympic games.

Supporters of sites that were rejected expressed disappointment.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the Johnson Space Center in Houston should have been one of the retirement homes for an orbiter, "but it is clear political favors trumped common sense and fairness in the selection of the final locations for the orbiter fleet," he said in a statement.

He noted that Houston "played a critical role throughout the life of the space shuttle."

"Like many Texans, I am disappointed with NASA's decision to slight the Johnson Space Center as a permanent home for one of the space shuttle orbiters," Cornyn said.

"There is no question Houston should have been selected as a final home for one of the orbiters -- even Administrator Bolden stated as much. Today's announcement is an affront to the thousands of dedicated men and women at Johnson Space Center, the greater Houston community and the state of Texas, and I'm deeply disappointed with the administration's misguided decision," Cornyn said..."

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Sokoblovsky Farms - Russia's Finest Purveyors of Petite Lap Giraffes

5:51:56 PM, Tuesday, April 12, 2011

- Official site. Place your order now!

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The Jokester: Little Kid Tells Jokes, They're Not Very Funny

2:24:51 PM, Tuesday, April 12, 2011
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50th Anniversary of First Man in Space: Yuri Gagarin The Man Who Beat America to Space ‎

1:14:34 PM, Tuesday, April 12, 2011

-- Since anyone can just wiki the specific details on the event, the link is for a collection of various photos and random facts from his life. A really interesting collection of photos, take a look.

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Extending Worms’ Lives, and Maybe Ours

12:02:55 PM, Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Scientists have found a fountain of youth, at least for the tiny C. elegans worm.

Extending the lives of worms is hardly a breakthrough, but what is intriguing is that one of the life-extending chemicals the scientists fed to the worms, thioflavin T, has already been used in people in studies of Alzheimer’s disease. Another compound that was successful in tests was curcumin, a bright yellow compound found in the spice turmeric.

Thioflavin T is used to detect clumps of misfolded amyloid proteins found in the brains of people who have suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Because the dye, like curcumin, binds to the amyloid proteins, the researchers believe it had a beneficial effect on the worms by slowing the buildup of misfolded proteins.

C. elegans worms typically live 18 to 20 days. Treated with the compounds, they lived 30 to 70 percent longer. And as the worms entered middle age, around 10 days, the treated worms remained more active and looked more healthy than the untreated ones. However, the chemicals reduced the worms’ fertility, and at high doses the compounds were, like many chemicals, toxic.

“It’s hard to say these compounds would be effective in, say, mammals,” said Gordon J. Lithgow, a professor at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, Calif., and senior author of a paper describing the research in the current issue of the journal Nature.

But they could lead to ones that might work. “It at least says that’s a good place to look,” Dr. Lithgow said.

Since many age-related diseases are associated with the accumulation of damaged proteins, the research could also lead to treatments."

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11:58:30 AM, Tuesday, April 12, 2011
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Flying Umbrellas by Archon Photography

11:05:04 AM, Tuesday, April 12, 2011
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How Hubble Space Telescope Images Are Created

9:13:57 AM, Tuesday, April 12, 2011
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Astronomy Picture of the Day : M74 The Perfect Spiral

10:27:25 PM, Monday, April 11, 2011

-- "If not perfect, then this spiral galaxy is at least one of the most photogenic. An island universe of about 100 billion stars, 32 million light-years away toward the constellation Pisces, M74 presents a gorgeous face-on view. Classified as an Sc galaxy, the grand design of M74's graceful spiral arms are traced by bright blue star clusters and dark cosmic dust lanes. The above image covers half the width of the full Moon and was obtained using 19 hours of exposure on the 1.23-meter telescope at Calar Alto Observatory in the Sierra de Los Filabres mountain range in Spain. Spanning about 30,000 light-years across the face of M74, it includes exposures recording emission from hydrogen atoms, highlighting the reddish glow of the galaxy's large star-forming regions. "

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Obama's High-Speed Rail Project Gets $1.5 Billion Slashed In Budget Deal

9:35:46 PM, Monday, April 11, 2011

"WASHINGTON -- As part of the final budget deal formally agreed to on Friday night, the Obama administration signed off on a big cut to a closely held transportation policy priority.

Multiple Hill sources from both parties confirm that the final continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through the end of September will include a $1.5 billion cut in funds for the planned national high-speed rail system. Jennifer Hing, communications director for the House Appropriations Committee, said that the reduction could actually grow larger as lawmakers negotiate the final language.

“The final agreement will reflect" the $1.5 billion of high-speed rail funds slashed from the temporary CR, Hing wrote in an email to HuffPost, "but that is not to say that it couldn’t be more.”

In signing off on cuts, the Obama administration is taking a major hit to one of the president’s favorite transportation priorities. In the process, he is also giving fodder to critics who have accused the White House’s push for high-speed rail as pie-in-the-sky policy that would fall far short of transforming the nation’s antiquated infrastructure.

Already there have been several Republican governors who have refused to accept federal money to build high-speed rail projects in their states. Florida Gov. Rick Scott turned down $2 billion alone, citing concerns that the state’s portion of the funds would go well beyond projections. That money was, in turn, sent to the Department of Transportation to be awarded to other interested states. Now it appears a good chunk of it will go towards deficit reduction.

The White House was able to secure $8 billion in high-speed rail money in the 2009 stimulus package. The current level of funding was $2.5 billion-a-year. The cuts secured under the budget deal reached on Friday night brings the annual rail dollars down to $1 billion, though administration officials stressed that none of the lost funds would come from existing projects that have received grants.

The president had budgeted $1 billion himself in his 2012 budget proposal but as recently as mid-February 2011, Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood was encouraging Congress to authorize $53 billion over the next six years."

-- Of course it did. There's better ways to spend that money, like bombing Libya for example.

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MACHETE - Tenderness (Нежность)

7:54:33 PM, Monday, April 11, 2011

-- So my Russian is far far from perfect, but with the help of a dictionary I've translated the title as "tenderness", e.g. "to whisper sweet nothings in sb's ear".

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Pentagon's Second Thoughts on Iraq Withdrawal

7:41:59 PM, Monday, April 11, 2011

"WASHINGTON – Eight months shy of its deadline for pulling the last American soldier from Iraq and closing the door on an 8-year war, the Pentagon is having second thoughts.

Reluctant to say it publicly, officials fear a final pullout in December could create a security vacuum, offering an opportunity for power grabs by antagonists in an unresolved and simmering Arab-Kurd dispute, a weakened but still active al-Qaida or even an adventurous neighbor such as Iran.

The U.S. wants to keep perhaps several thousand troops in Iraq, not to engage in combat but to guard against an unraveling of a still-fragile peace. This was made clear during Defense Secretary Robert Gates' visit Thursday and Friday in which he and the top U.S. commander in Iraq talked up the prospect of an extended U.S. stay.

How big a military commitment might the U.S. be willing to make beyond 2011? "It just depends on what the Iraqis want and what we're able to provide and afford," Gates said Thursday at a U.S. base in the northern city of Mosul where U.S. soldiers advise and mentor Iraqi forces. He said the U.S. would consider a range of possibilities, from staying an extra couple of years to remaining in Iraq as permanent partners.

Powerful political winds are blowing against such a move even as U.S. officials assert that Iraqi leaders — Sunni, Shiite and Kurd — are saying privately they see a need for help developing their air defenses and other military capabilities. U.S. training of Iraqi forces up to now has focused on combating an internal enemy, including al-Qaida, rather than external threats.

If the Iraqis choose not to ask for more help, then Dec. 31 probably will mark the end of U.S. military intervention that was so close to failing when Gates became Pentagon chief in December 2006. He once said the U.S. faced the prospect of a "strategic disaster" at the heart of the Middle East.

Meghan O'Sullivan, a top adviser on Iraq to President George W. Bush when his administration negotiated the 2008 security agreement that set upcoming deadline for a final U.S. military withdrawal, said time is too short to negotiate a full reworking of that legal pact.

"The question is, can both sides agree on something more modest but which still provides an adequate legal basis for a smaller number of American troops to stay in Iraq, with quite defined missions?" she said in an email exchange last week. O'Sullivan is a professor of international affairs at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School..."

-- This news come as a complete surprise.

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