Day: March 10, 2017

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Reza Aslan eats human brain on new show


Reza Aslan is facing backlash after eating human brain with a Hindu cannibalistic sect on his new CNN show “Believer.”

Aslan’s news show is meant to explore a variety of faith-based groups around the world. But his exploration of the cannibalistc sect in India has many people up in arms over what they see is a misrepresentation of Hinduism.

In a recent episode, Aslan met with the Aghoris of India and took part in some of their rituals which includes smearing ashes on his face and eating human brain which he said was “burnt to a crisp” and tasted like “charcoal.”

However, the secretive sect is generally opposed by mainstream Hindus who and Aslan has been criticized for featuring them on his show.

Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu member of Congress, tweeted her disappointment over the show.

“While good people across our country are working hard to increase mutual understanding and respect between people of different religions,” she tweeted. “I am very disturbed that CNN is using its power and influence to increase people’s misunderstanding and fear of Hinduism.”

Head of the Republican Hindu Coalition Shalabh Kumarhead tweeted, “I condemn @rezaaslan, CNN for airing Believer with fiction. Disgusting attack on Hindus for supporting @POTUS @stephenkbannon @newtgingrich.”

The U.S. India Political Action Committee issued a statement urging CNN to cancel the show.

“CNN story on Hindu rites and cannibalism is completely baseless,” the statement said. “This show will create confusion about Indian Americans faith and make them further targets of hate crimes.”

Aslan responded to the criticism on Facebook saying he made it clean on the show that the Aghoris are an “extreme Hindu sect” and “are not representative of Hinduism.”



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Big O mystery, solved


On this week’s episode of The Bachelor, contestant Raven revealed some major truths before her overnight date with bachelor Nick: She’s only slept with one man, and she’s never had an orgasm. While Nick took the news maturely, he was also pretty shocked. But for many women watching the show, Raven’s confession may not have been so surprising. That’s because 15% of women have difficulty reaching orgasm, and 10% have never had an orgasm during sex, according to a survey from Planned Parenthood. Plus, according to a new study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior that surveyed 52,588 adults, just 65% of heterosexual women said they’re always able to achieve orgasm. On the other hand, 95% of straight men said they always reach the big O. That’s a discrepancy some call the orgasm gap.

As common as it may be, women who struggle to climax tend to keep quiet about it. “There’s a lot of shame around it, and not a lot of info about how common it is,” says Emily Morse, sex and relationship expert and host of the podcast Sex with Emily. Many women never seek help to figure out the root cause of the problem, whether it’s emotional or physical, and they wind up racked with anxiety and feelings of inadequacy.

The good news is that the body can learn how to orgasm. Here, sexual health experts outline the steps to take to prep your body for climax.

Take control in the bedroom

One important and empowering thing to realize is that your orgasms are your responsibility, says Morse. Some women believe it’s up to their partner to make them have an orgasm, and it will somehow magically happen when they jump into bed together. “That’s not going to happen,” says Morse. “You have to become an expert of your own body first, by learning how to touch yourself, where to touch yourself, what feels good, and how to bring yourself to your own orgasm.”

RELATED: 8 Ways Sex Affects Your Brain

Masturbate, masturbate, masturbate

Take some you-time to explore your body, without fixating on having an orgasm, says Morse. “Run your hands all over your body, your nipples, really find your erogenous zones.”

And don’t forget about your clitoris. Lauren Streicher, MD, author of Sex Rx: Hormones, Health and Your Best Sex Ever says many of her patients who’ve struggled to climax never realized that orgasm is most likely to be achieved through clitoral stimulation. If you’re still a little unsure what to do down there, Morse recommends starting off by “touching it with light strokes,” then “playing around with different pressures, different speeds, and different motions” until you figure out your sweet spot.

RELATED: 6 Reasons Masturbation Should Be Part of Your Self-Care Routine

Seek a little assistance

Sex toys may help push you over the orgasm edge. “Many studies show that using a vibrator can increase the likelihood of orgasm,” says Dr. Streicher. She also points out that toys are totally normal, and great tools for enhancing your sex life, both solo and with a partner.

Everyone has a different preference when it comes to toys and vibrators, but Morse recommends trying a bullet vibrator or her new fave, the Gvibe Gring, bot of which you can take literally anywhere (not that we’re suggesting any, ahem, risky business.)

Morse is also a strong advocate of lube. “Women get wet at different rates and different times, depending on their bodies,” says Morse. So add a couple drops of lube, such as SKYN Maximum Performance, to your masturbation routine or during sex to get you going and really enhance the experience. Based on the ladies Emily has worked with, “women who use lube are more likely to orgasm than women who don’t.”

Get out of your head…

Easier said than done, right? Whether your brain is preoccupied with all the errands you need to run post-romp, or you’re straight up stressing that you’ll fail at climaxing (again!), all that mental gymnastics is a surefire way to orgasm-block yourself.

“Mindset is a huge part of sexual pleasure and orgasm, so if you’re distracted or in your mind telling yourself it’s not going to happen, that can keep you from having an orgasm.” says Morse. “The trick is to tackle your tension before you get into the bedroom or before you masturbate, whether that’s through meditation or exercise, just try to unwind.”

RELATED: 12 Signs You May Have an Anxiety Disorder

…and get in the zone

You’ve heard it time and time again, but it’s absolutely true that your brain is the most important sex organ, and a major part of arousal. So before you get into bed, “Start thinking about things that turn you on—maybe that’s by watching porn or remembering a past sexual experience,” says Morse. “When your brain is on board, it makes it easier for your body to follow.”

But if you’re still having trouble tuning in, try to find a way to bring yourself back into the moment. “Really focus on the sensations you’re feeling in your body, or have a mantra you keep telling yourself like ‘this feels good, I have all night,’” advises Morse. “Or focus on your partner—touch them, hold on to them, and connect with them.” And most importantly, don’t be so hard on yourself or feel like you have to rush to the end. Instead, just try to stay in the moment, “because when you’re truly present, there’s no room in our mind for any thoughts.”

Keep it real

Just like Raven did on The Bachelor, it’s important to be open and honest with your partner. Don’t lie and say you’ve had an orgasm in the past, or worse, pretend like he’s given you one. Faking it is only going to rob yourself of pleasure and send the wrong message about what gets you off, says Morse.

Instead, work with your partner to get you there. If you do know how to achieve orgasm via masturbation, “there’s nothing wrong with doing the exact same thing you do, but with your partner,” says Morse. “So if you rub your clitoris, if you use toys, bring that into the mix. Get on top of your partner and move the way you have to. Or explain what you like by placing his hand on top of yours while you touch yourself.” Morse is also a big advocate of mutual masturbation, which allows both partners to see what the other likes and understand how each other’s bodies work. Morse explains: “It’s a great teachable moment for couples, plus it’s really hot.”

RELATED: 13 Things Every Woman Must Learn About Sex Before Turning 30

Get vocal

In case it wasn’t clear, communication is crucial for great sex. And while you both may be feeling self-conscious about conquering that untapped orgasm, being open and vocal can certainly help you get there. Just be sure to keep it positive, says Morse. “Say things like ‘I love having sex with you and I’m really excited about having an orgasm with you; here are some fun things I think we should try.’”

You can get vocal in other ways, too. Morse suggests giving in to those visceral moans and deep breaths during a romp. “A lot of women hold their breath during sex, but there’s really a release that happens when you moan when things feel good,” she says. “You’re releasing tension in your body, plus it’ll help turn you on as well as your partner.”

If all else fails, see an expert

If you’ve tried masturbation, lube, toys, and all kinds of mind exercises, but still no O, reach out to a doctor. But if you do, just be sure to seek out an MD like Dr. Streicher, who is a sexual medicine expert, and can help address any medical, physical, or psychological problems that may be at play. Dr. Streicher assures that in her experience, there are very few cases of women who are completely unable to orgasm, even if they’ve yet to experience one. “If you’ve never had an orgasm, you are part of a very large group of women,” says Dr. Streicher. “You are not weird, you are not strange, there’s likely nothing wrong with you, and in all but very exceptional cases, this can be alleviated and you can get there.”

This article originally appeared on Health.com.



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Free the Big Deductible


There is a near ubiquitous misunderstanding of the function of a deductible in insurance, and it is crippling our national debate on health care. A lot of people in positions of power don’t even know what insurance actually is in the first place, and the fear of the big deductible is a major element of this general confusion. Do not fear the big D. Embrace it.

Now why do I advocate for large deductibles? Easy, and it’s not because I’m some fat cat insurance CEO — because I’m not. For years, I have criticized the abuse of large deductibles in the political discussion of health care, not to mention both the regulation and practice of health care under ObamaCare by bureaucrats and insurance companies alike. We have no argument there. In fact, all this inefficiency and corruption perverts the way a big deductible works in a freer market.

No, the reason I like them is that large deductibles are how the risk management industry can control premium costs, and by reducing paperwork, can reduce marginally the cost of the health care services itself. But this only happens in a somewhat free market. We must free the big deductible for it to work its magic.

How? It’s pretty easy really. There are several components that take money out of our pockets related to our health care, and they include our premium costs, our deductible and coinsurance costs, and any cash for goods or services we pay for items not covered under insurance.

Of those, the only cost we are guaranteed to incur in a year’s time is the premium. Some will say but wait, I don’t pay my premium, my employer does. Uh, no. I hate to break it to you, but your employer only collects your insurance premium, and he or she does so by collecting it out of your salary and other compensation. It may not show specifically on your check stub, but the immutable law of economics guarantees that if you are worth a hundred thousand dollars to your employer, and your health plan costs him, say, 14 grand a year, you’re only going to be paid 86 thousand, including other benefits.

So yes, we all pay, either directly or indirectly. Let’s take this simple example further, and stipulate that an employer health plan leaves our sample family with a two-thousand-dollar deductible. In such a scenario, they will pay a minimum of fourteen thousand dollars a year for health care (via paycheck withholding). If, say, health bills equaled five thousand dollars for the year, they would incur the two-grand deductible expense as well, bringing the total tab to sixteen grand for the year, premiums plus deductible.

Now let’s apply the big bad deductible to this situation. Let’s say the employer plan includes a ten-thousand-dollar deductible, but the premium is only five thousand dollars a year. Under the same example, the employee is still worth that hundred grand to the employer, but this frees up nine thousand dollars more to pay the employee directly. You may say but wait, my greedy boss won’t pay me the savings. Perhaps you’re right, but that’s the fault of the boss’s greed and of ignorance of how this works, not the fault of the big deductible per se.

The laws of economics are what they are, and that’s the point here.

So, if this family incurred the same five thousand dollars in medical costs for the year, the out of pocket would be five thousand against the higher deductible instead of two thousand, meaning they’re three grand in the hole under the big D plan. But remember, they are nine thousand dollars ahead on the premium savings. So under the big bad deductible policy, such a family is six grand to the good versus the plan with the two thousand dollar deductible.

Not only that, but the whole system incurred fewer administrative costs.

Okay, so what if we’re looking at a bad year with a catastrophic claim of several hundred thousand dollars? In this worst-case situation, the high deductible scenario and the low deductible scenario are similar, with the family still having a couple thousand less in total premium plus deductible out of pocket costs under the high deductible plan. With a high deductible, you may or may not win, but you cannot lose (compared to higher premium lower deductible plan). 

Best case? Say they’re extremely healthy for a year (it happens.). They save nine grand on premium, and almost nothing against their deductible. They win big. The insurance company wins, and more importantly, the free market wins. And while you may loathe insurance companies, and most people do, you have to realize that a financially unstable insurance company is of no use for you.

Think about it: if your insurer can’t pay for the EKG and echo stress test, good luck getting your bypass operation paid for. Conversely, the insurance industry, and the entire health care industry, needs people who can pay their premiums without going broke. This is the great misunderstanding. Insurance has become almost totally confrontational, with so few realizing that both sides have to win here for it to be sustainable. (Those pesky laws of economics again.)

And this brings us to back to the almost universal misunderstanding of what insurance is. It is a financial risk management tool, period. Insurance cannot protect your health, or your car, or your house either. The only thing insurance can protect is your assets against the cost of repairing your body, your house, or your car.

This risk is managed by making it predictable, which is done by spreading the risk. You pay six grand in premiums with a ten-thousand-dollar deductible, you can predict that your out of pocket costs will be anywhere from six to sixteen grand in a year, but no more than sixteen. This is true if you have zero claims, or if you have the three-hundred-thousand-dollar cancer issue. The insurers need a few of the zeros in order to be able to pay for the big ones. Economics 101, again.

Yet we’ll never have a national system that really recognizes this. Political pressure means we do whatever we can to lower deductibles, even though that’s the least efficient way to insure anything. People don’t want high premiums either, which means a lot of government aid and tax credits and other stinky complicated things are brought in to satisfy a nation that demands both low deductibles and low premiums. In a lot of ways, we are a nation of people as clueless on health care as Bernie Sanders is on the cost of college.

ObamaCare confused all this by making everything that was working in health care illegal, and by multiplying everything that was failing. The realities of human nature, the driving force of economics, was totally ignored, as they regulated a lot of good plans out of existence. 

The example above uses figures that are not too far off my family situation. We have been enjoying the benefits of a low premium high deductible plan for years. It works for us, our insurer, and our providers. Ours also includes a Health Savings Account option, which makes it even better. But with or without an HSA, insurance simply works better as catastrophic coverage, because it’s more efficient than micromanaging every prescription and minor appointment. We used to have this in the country, and we called it major medical.

We’ll never get back to that, unfortunately. I can only hope that whatever mess evolves from this repeal and replace plan, that it still allows the freedom for those of us who want the big deductible, and the smaller premiums, and less paperwork.

Edmund Wright is a contributor to American Thinker, Breitbart, Newsmax TV, and ghost wrote about ObamaCare and economics for a major talk radio personality during the ObamaCare debate, and has written many articles on the subject for American Thinker

There is a near ubiquitous misunderstanding of the function of a deductible in insurance, and it is crippling our national debate on health care. A lot of people in positions of power don’t even know what insurance actually is in the first place, and the fear of the big deductible is a major element of this general confusion. Do not fear the big D. Embrace it.

Now why do I advocate for large deductibles? Easy, and it’s not because I’m some fat cat insurance CEO — because I’m not. For years, I have criticized the abuse of large deductibles in the political discussion of health care, not to mention both the regulation and practice of health care under ObamaCare by bureaucrats and insurance companies alike. We have no argument there. In fact, all this inefficiency and corruption perverts the way a big deductible works in a freer market.

No, the reason I like them is that large deductibles are how the risk management industry can control premium costs, and by reducing paperwork, can reduce marginally the cost of the health care services itself. But this only happens in a somewhat free market. We must free the big deductible for it to work its magic.

How? It’s pretty easy really. There are several components that take money out of our pockets related to our health care, and they include our premium costs, our deductible and coinsurance costs, and any cash for goods or services we pay for items not covered under insurance.

Of those, the only cost we are guaranteed to incur in a year’s time is the premium. Some will say but wait, I don’t pay my premium, my employer does. Uh, no. I hate to break it to you, but your employer only collects your insurance premium, and he or she does so by collecting it out of your salary and other compensation. It may not show specifically on your check stub, but the immutable law of economics guarantees that if you are worth a hundred thousand dollars to your employer, and your health plan costs him, say, 14 grand a year, you’re only going to be paid 86 thousand, including other benefits.

So yes, we all pay, either directly or indirectly. Let’s take this simple example further, and stipulate that an employer health plan leaves our sample family with a two-thousand-dollar deductible. In such a scenario, they will pay a minimum of fourteen thousand dollars a year for health care (via paycheck withholding). If, say, health bills equaled five thousand dollars for the year, they would incur the two-grand deductible expense as well, bringing the total tab to sixteen grand for the year, premiums plus deductible.

Now let’s apply the big bad deductible to this situation. Let’s say the employer plan includes a ten-thousand-dollar deductible, but the premium is only five thousand dollars a year. Under the same example, the employee is still worth that hundred grand to the employer, but this frees up nine thousand dollars more to pay the employee directly. You may say but wait, my greedy boss won’t pay me the savings. Perhaps you’re right, but that’s the fault of the boss’s greed and of ignorance of how this works, not the fault of the big deductible per se.

The laws of economics are what they are, and that’s the point here.

So, if this family incurred the same five thousand dollars in medical costs for the year, the out of pocket would be five thousand against the higher deductible instead of two thousand, meaning they’re three grand in the hole under the big D plan. But remember, they are nine thousand dollars ahead on the premium savings. So under the big bad deductible policy, such a family is six grand to the good versus the plan with the two thousand dollar deductible.

Not only that, but the whole system incurred fewer administrative costs.

Okay, so what if we’re looking at a bad year with a catastrophic claim of several hundred thousand dollars? In this worst-case situation, the high deductible scenario and the low deductible scenario are similar, with the family still having a couple thousand less in total premium plus deductible out of pocket costs under the high deductible plan. With a high deductible, you may or may not win, but you cannot lose (compared to higher premium lower deductible plan). 

Best case? Say they’re extremely healthy for a year (it happens.). They save nine grand on premium, and almost nothing against their deductible. They win big. The insurance company wins, and more importantly, the free market wins. And while you may loathe insurance companies, and most people do, you have to realize that a financially unstable insurance company is of no use for you.

Think about it: if your insurer can’t pay for the EKG and echo stress test, good luck getting your bypass operation paid for. Conversely, the insurance industry, and the entire health care industry, needs people who can pay their premiums without going broke. This is the great misunderstanding. Insurance has become almost totally confrontational, with so few realizing that both sides have to win here for it to be sustainable. (Those pesky laws of economics again.)

And this brings us to back to the almost universal misunderstanding of what insurance is. It is a financial risk management tool, period. Insurance cannot protect your health, or your car, or your house either. The only thing insurance can protect is your assets against the cost of repairing your body, your house, or your car.

This risk is managed by making it predictable, which is done by spreading the risk. You pay six grand in premiums with a ten-thousand-dollar deductible, you can predict that your out of pocket costs will be anywhere from six to sixteen grand in a year, but no more than sixteen. This is true if you have zero claims, or if you have the three-hundred-thousand-dollar cancer issue. The insurers need a few of the zeros in order to be able to pay for the big ones. Economics 101, again.

Yet we’ll never have a national system that really recognizes this. Political pressure means we do whatever we can to lower deductibles, even though that’s the least efficient way to insure anything. People don’t want high premiums either, which means a lot of government aid and tax credits and other stinky complicated things are brought in to satisfy a nation that demands both low deductibles and low premiums. In a lot of ways, we are a nation of people as clueless on health care as Bernie Sanders is on the cost of college.

ObamaCare confused all this by making everything that was working in health care illegal, and by multiplying everything that was failing. The realities of human nature, the driving force of economics, was totally ignored, as they regulated a lot of good plans out of existence. 

The example above uses figures that are not too far off my family situation. We have been enjoying the benefits of a low premium high deductible plan for years. It works for us, our insurer, and our providers. Ours also includes a Health Savings Account option, which makes it even better. But with or without an HSA, insurance simply works better as catastrophic coverage, because it’s more efficient than micromanaging every prescription and minor appointment. We used to have this in the country, and we called it major medical.

We’ll never get back to that, unfortunately. I can only hope that whatever mess evolves from this repeal and replace plan, that it still allows the freedom for those of us who want the big deductible, and the smaller premiums, and less paperwork.

Edmund Wright is a contributor to American Thinker, Breitbart, Newsmax TV, and ghost wrote about ObamaCare and economics for a major talk radio personality during the ObamaCare debate, and has written many articles on the subject for American Thinker



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Kim goes off on Scott


Scott Disick has a new excuse for his playboy behavior: He’s a self-proclaimed sex addict.

In a just-released trailer for the upcoming season of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” the sisters confront him about bringing a woman with him on their family trip that included Kourtney Kardashian, Disick’s ex-girlfriend and the mother of his children.

“You’re just like a f–king whore,” Kim says in the clip, which then cuts to Disick claiming, “I’m a sex addict.”

Kourtney then tells him that it’s never going to work out between them.

As Page Six previously reported, 33-year-old Disick had been cozying up to multiple models while on vacation in Miami earlier this year. He was spotted kissing beauty J Lynne in a pool one day and cuddling with Amber Davis on a beach chair the next.

Earlier this year, Disick threw a “wild party” during Sundance Film Festival, and sources said “lots of girls were in his hot tub.”

Well, at least now we know why.

This article originally appeared in Page Six.



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'Stand your ground' defense rejected in Florida theater-shooting case


A retired Florida police captain who is accused of shooting and killing another man during an argument over texting in a movie theater will face a trial after a judge rejected his “stand your ground” defense.

Judge Susan Barthle ruled Friday the “stand your ground” law in Florida does not apply in the case of Curtis Reeves because he was not in any imminent danger of death when he shot 43-year-old Chad Oulson before a January 2014 movie screening, FOX 13 reported.

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“The physical evidence contradicts the defendant’s version of events,” Barthle wrote in her ruling.

The ruling clears the way for Reeves to face jury trial and a second-degree murder charge.

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According to FOX 13, Reeves, then 71 years old, had gone to a Wesley Chapel, Florida movie theater for a matinee screening of “Lone Survivor.” According to the retired police captain, Oulson threw popcorn at him and hit him in the head with a cell phone.

The argument, which started because Oulson was texting his daughter’s day care during previews, escalated and ended with Reeves shooting and killing Oulson.

“I realized I was in a life-or-death struggle. He was no longer a loudmouth. He was a definite threat,” Reeves testified last week in a two-week hearing. “He was reaching for me. … He was getting ready to punch me. I perceived that. That’s when the pistol came out. … At that point, it was his life or mine.”

He claimed he was protected by the “stand your ground” law in Florida which allows citizens to use lethal force if they feel they are in imminent danger of death or significant harm.

Prosecutors dispute Reeves claims and Oulson’s wife said it was a “rude” Reeves who escalated the disagreement. Witnesses claimed to hear Reeves mutter something like, “Throw popcorn at me, will you?” before pulling the trigger, FOX 13 reported.

In her ruling, Barthle said the evidence showed a different story then what Reeves testified.

“For instance, the defendant testified that he was hit in the outside corner of his left eye with a cell phone or a fist,” she wrote. “The video evidence contradicts this assertion, clearly showing that there was no hit from a fist, and the item argued by the defense to be a cell phone was simply a reflection from the defendant’s shoes.”

Barthle added: “In addition, common sense and the credible testimony of the medical examiner casts grave doubt on the likelihood of anything hitting the defendant in the eye beneath his glasses in the manner the defendant described.  Which begs the question, why did the defendant say he was hit in the left eye, to the point of being dazed, when the video images and basic physics indicate that he did not get hit in the left eye with anything? The logical conclusion is that he was trying to justify his actions after the fact.”

Reeves has been on house arrest since his 2014 release from jail.  It was not immediately clear when the trial actually might start.

Click here for more news from Fox 13.



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NASA finds missing spacecraft


Space is vast, so when some piece of human technology goes missing outside of Earth’s atmosphere it’s very difficult to find it again. And that task gets especially hard when the object is very small and isn’t emitting any kind of signal.

In October 2008, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched its first lunar probe called Chandrayaan-1. It successfully entered a lunar orbit in November 2008, but in August 2009 things started to go wrong. Technical problems began to surface including sensors failing and thermal shielding not working effectively. On August 29, 2009 contact was lost.

Chandrayaan-1 remained lost until now, some eight years later, and ISRO has NASA to thank for finding it again. NASA discovered Chandrayaan-1 maintaining a lunar orbit 124 miles above the surface using a new technological application of interplanetary radar developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

NASA actually located two spacecraft using this new technique and ground-based radar. The first was the agency’s own Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which was easy to find as the mission’s navigators were on hand with precise orbit data. For Chandrayaan-1 however, it was a much more difficult task.

The challenge posed by Chandrayaan-1 was that nobody knew where it was coupled with the fact this is a very small cube spacecraft measuring only 1.5 meters wide. NASA’s scientists were looking at the moon from Earth (a distance of 237,000 miles) attempting to find this tiny spec of an object.

Chandrayaan-1 was located using NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California and a beam of microwaves. The radar echoes bounced back were received by the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. The only lead they had to go on was the spacecraft’s last known orbit from 2009, which was a polar orbit, so the beam was focused on the moon’s north pole hoping the spacecraft would pass by. Sure enough it did, and multiple detections over a three month period allowed NASA to confirm the object definitely is Chandrayaan-1.

It is hoped that this new method of object detection using multiple ground-based radar antennas can be put to good use in the future. As well as being able to detect very small spacecraft, the radar system could collision map the moon before robots or even humans visit there again.

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.



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How to Make Decisions (or Not) in Israel


On Monday, March 6, 2017, President Donald Trump signed a revised executive order suspending his refugee program and entry into the U.S. from six countries.  This suspension of entries for 120 days was explained as eliminating vulnerabilities that radical Islamic terrorists can and will exploit.

By coincidence, on the same day, the Israeli Knesset, by a vote of 46 to 28, passed a bill allowing the government to refuse visas and entry to those who publicly call for or participate in boycotts – economic, cultural, or academic – of Israel or Israeli settlements.  In similar fashion to the fear in the U.S. of terrorism, the government of Israel sees proposed boycotts as both a strategic threat and as expression of anti-Semitism.  Interestingly, the actions in Israel and the U.S. took place on the anniversary of the terrorist attack in 1992 in Buenos Aires.

It is no accident that the U.S. and Israel are confronted by similar issues: the international problems of Islamic terrorism, Iran and Syria, but also with internal problems, such as the difficulty of and flaws in decision-making, intense factional disputes, and the increasing number of leaks of security matters from official sources.

It is the beginning of political wisdom that leaders of sovereign countries must set policy in accordance with what they believe is beneficial for their nation.  The Israeli fear is that the proponents of BDS, wanting to enter Israel, are not tourists, but rather prone to incite trouble and act against the security of Israel.  The BDS movement is the new front in the war against Israel and its right to exist.

In the U.S., the problem is potential terrorism.  In Israel, the problem is more complex.  Two issues arise.  One is the ongoing difficult one, political and moral: the degree to which a democratic government such as Israel’s should tolerate non-violent political protest and dissent, and not discriminate against proponents of BDS?  The other, political and tactical, is whether Israeli governmental actions should apply, as the new law states, to the disputed territories in the same way as to the area within the “Green Line.”

Yet the new law, and Israeli policy in general, does not suggest “annexation” of the disputed areas.  In spite of some political figures such as Tzipi Hotovely, the feminist ideological voice of Likud, believer in the Greater Israel, and deputy foreign minister, the official position regarding the 2.7 million Palestinians in the West Bank is separation, not absorption.

For Israel, the problems are even more complicated because of political and military difficulties, especially in decision-making on national security issues, as official reports, such as the one issued on February 28, 2017 by State Controller Joseph Shapira on the 2014 war in Gaza, have indicated.

The context is all-important.  Israel is a highly developed country in spite of a lack of natural resources, surrounded by hostile peoples and counties.  It has welcomed thousands of people from all over the world, embracing a long lost language and a national culture; built a strong military and nuclear capacity; and developed a flourishing agriculture and advanced technology.  The standard of living for its growing population, now 8.5 million, including 1.5 million Arabs, and has a GDP per capita of $35,000, strong financial reserves, low inflation, and unemployment of 4.5%.  If there is anything akin to a melting pot, it is the military – the IDF.

It has overcome the assaults of Arab armies and lived with the general refusal, except by Egypt and Jordan, to recognize its existence and legitimacy.  Israel, the one democratic isle of stability in the Middle East, is faced by hostile forces – Syria, Hamas, Hezb’allah, and Iran, eager to establish hegemony in the area.  The threat from Iran is ominous for the U.S. as well as for Israel because of Iran’s increasingly aggressive behavior.  In March 2017, it tested Russian-made S-300 anti-missiles that hit their target.  This advanced system can protect any attack on uranium facilities tending to develop nuclear facilities.

But Israel has not been able to overcome the acerbic political differences in the country.  Every government since its creation has been a coalition one.  In the current political setting of over 20 active parties, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, after bargaining to create a government with his own Likud Yisrael Beiteinu, and Hatnua, Yesh Atid, and Habayit Hayehudi, finished with a coalition and a majority of one.

It is not true, as it once was in British politics, that “one is enough.”  Israeli society is fractionized: left-right; Oriental-European; native-immigrant; center-periphery; laic 38%, National-religious 15%, Orthodox 25%, Arabs 25%, each with its own identity and culture, educational system, newspapers, social network, and electoral weight.  In the absence of a single dominant party, every government has been a coalition.

As a consequence, political decision-making is not easy, especially on the question of the desirability of settlements and whether they are an obstacle to peace.  The problem has been compounded in recent years by an increasingly turbulent public political debate, with the Knesset becoming a spectacle.

Yet Israel, even with its strong conflicting views on the destiny of the disputed territories, is still a democratic country.  It has no dominant ideology, no one-party system, and no political party capable of organizing masses against the established system, or integral nationalism, or cult of leader.  Nor is it a police state, ignoring the rule of law.  Nor has it been, in spite of existing differences, an oppressive controller of Palestinians.  Israeli policy since 1967 has been based not on conquest or deliberate imperialism, but on the need for security. It is nationalist, not fascist. 

The basic problem is difficulty in decision-making in political and military affairs.  This has come starkly to light in analyses of the Gaza Strip War, “Operation Protective Edge,” in which 74 Israelis were killed.  The Shapira Report of February 2017 indicates this in bald fashion.  It points out Israel’s lack of preparedness in realizing the threat of tunnels built by Hamas.  It also deals with the issue that little or no attention was given to diplomatic and non-military solutions to the Gaza question.

Decision-making on matters of national security have been flawed not only in the Gaza War, but also because of the increased role of the defense establishment and the relative weakness of civilian institutions.

The security cabinet after March 2013 held no discussions about conditions in the Gaza Strip.  The prime minister was not able to disclose everything to his cabinet.  He mostly related to a “kitchen cabinet” because of a fear of leaks in a cabinet largely composed of political rivals in the multi-party coalition.  There was a governmental failure to present options to the cabinet, and there was no real discussion in the security cabinet over what to do.  The severity of the threat from the Hamas tunnels was not adequately known, and there were no real discussions over them.  There was inadequate appreciation that in the circumstances, no complete victory was possible.

Israel must solve this serious government problem.  President Trump cannot do anything about decision-making in Israel, but his policy in the Middle East must take into account that the terrorist Hamas is relentlessly engaged in killing Israelis.  At the moment, Hamas is building 15 new tunnels under the Gaza border with Israel.  In March 2017, Hamas chose Yahya Sinwar, a hard-liner as its new leader.

With Hamas on the warpath, and Iran wanting a base in Syria, eager to fight Israel on the Golan Heights, and preparing to gain a foothold in Middle Eastern affairs, an entente cordial between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu is essential.

On Monday, March 6, 2017, President Donald Trump signed a revised executive order suspending his refugee program and entry into the U.S. from six countries.  This suspension of entries for 120 days was explained as eliminating vulnerabilities that radical Islamic terrorists can and will exploit.

By coincidence, on the same day, the Israeli Knesset, by a vote of 46 to 28, passed a bill allowing the government to refuse visas and entry to those who publicly call for or participate in boycotts – economic, cultural, or academic – of Israel or Israeli settlements.  In similar fashion to the fear in the U.S. of terrorism, the government of Israel sees proposed boycotts as both a strategic threat and as expression of anti-Semitism.  Interestingly, the actions in Israel and the U.S. took place on the anniversary of the terrorist attack in 1992 in Buenos Aires.

It is no accident that the U.S. and Israel are confronted by similar issues: the international problems of Islamic terrorism, Iran and Syria, but also with internal problems, such as the difficulty of and flaws in decision-making, intense factional disputes, and the increasing number of leaks of security matters from official sources.

It is the beginning of political wisdom that leaders of sovereign countries must set policy in accordance with what they believe is beneficial for their nation.  The Israeli fear is that the proponents of BDS, wanting to enter Israel, are not tourists, but rather prone to incite trouble and act against the security of Israel.  The BDS movement is the new front in the war against Israel and its right to exist.

In the U.S., the problem is potential terrorism.  In Israel, the problem is more complex.  Two issues arise.  One is the ongoing difficult one, political and moral: the degree to which a democratic government such as Israel’s should tolerate non-violent political protest and dissent, and not discriminate against proponents of BDS?  The other, political and tactical, is whether Israeli governmental actions should apply, as the new law states, to the disputed territories in the same way as to the area within the “Green Line.”

Yet the new law, and Israeli policy in general, does not suggest “annexation” of the disputed areas.  In spite of some political figures such as Tzipi Hotovely, the feminist ideological voice of Likud, believer in the Greater Israel, and deputy foreign minister, the official position regarding the 2.7 million Palestinians in the West Bank is separation, not absorption.

For Israel, the problems are even more complicated because of political and military difficulties, especially in decision-making on national security issues, as official reports, such as the one issued on February 28, 2017 by State Controller Joseph Shapira on the 2014 war in Gaza, have indicated.

The context is all-important.  Israel is a highly developed country in spite of a lack of natural resources, surrounded by hostile peoples and counties.  It has welcomed thousands of people from all over the world, embracing a long lost language and a national culture; built a strong military and nuclear capacity; and developed a flourishing agriculture and advanced technology.  The standard of living for its growing population, now 8.5 million, including 1.5 million Arabs, and has a GDP per capita of $35,000, strong financial reserves, low inflation, and unemployment of 4.5%.  If there is anything akin to a melting pot, it is the military – the IDF.

It has overcome the assaults of Arab armies and lived with the general refusal, except by Egypt and Jordan, to recognize its existence and legitimacy.  Israel, the one democratic isle of stability in the Middle East, is faced by hostile forces – Syria, Hamas, Hezb’allah, and Iran, eager to establish hegemony in the area.  The threat from Iran is ominous for the U.S. as well as for Israel because of Iran’s increasingly aggressive behavior.  In March 2017, it tested Russian-made S-300 anti-missiles that hit their target.  This advanced system can protect any attack on uranium facilities tending to develop nuclear facilities.

But Israel has not been able to overcome the acerbic political differences in the country.  Every government since its creation has been a coalition one.  In the current political setting of over 20 active parties, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, after bargaining to create a government with his own Likud Yisrael Beiteinu, and Hatnua, Yesh Atid, and Habayit Hayehudi, finished with a coalition and a majority of one.

It is not true, as it once was in British politics, that “one is enough.”  Israeli society is fractionized: left-right; Oriental-European; native-immigrant; center-periphery; laic 38%, National-religious 15%, Orthodox 25%, Arabs 25%, each with its own identity and culture, educational system, newspapers, social network, and electoral weight.  In the absence of a single dominant party, every government has been a coalition.

As a consequence, political decision-making is not easy, especially on the question of the desirability of settlements and whether they are an obstacle to peace.  The problem has been compounded in recent years by an increasingly turbulent public political debate, with the Knesset becoming a spectacle.

Yet Israel, even with its strong conflicting views on the destiny of the disputed territories, is still a democratic country.  It has no dominant ideology, no one-party system, and no political party capable of organizing masses against the established system, or integral nationalism, or cult of leader.  Nor is it a police state, ignoring the rule of law.  Nor has it been, in spite of existing differences, an oppressive controller of Palestinians.  Israeli policy since 1967 has been based not on conquest or deliberate imperialism, but on the need for security. It is nationalist, not fascist. 

The basic problem is difficulty in decision-making in political and military affairs.  This has come starkly to light in analyses of the Gaza Strip War, “Operation Protective Edge,” in which 74 Israelis were killed.  The Shapira Report of February 2017 indicates this in bald fashion.  It points out Israel’s lack of preparedness in realizing the threat of tunnels built by Hamas.  It also deals with the issue that little or no attention was given to diplomatic and non-military solutions to the Gaza question.

Decision-making on matters of national security have been flawed not only in the Gaza War, but also because of the increased role of the defense establishment and the relative weakness of civilian institutions.

The security cabinet after March 2013 held no discussions about conditions in the Gaza Strip.  The prime minister was not able to disclose everything to his cabinet.  He mostly related to a “kitchen cabinet” because of a fear of leaks in a cabinet largely composed of political rivals in the multi-party coalition.  There was a governmental failure to present options to the cabinet, and there was no real discussion in the security cabinet over what to do.  The severity of the threat from the Hamas tunnels was not adequately known, and there were no real discussions over them.  There was inadequate appreciation that in the circumstances, no complete victory was possible.

Israel must solve this serious government problem.  President Trump cannot do anything about decision-making in Israel, but his policy in the Middle East must take into account that the terrorist Hamas is relentlessly engaged in killing Israelis.  At the moment, Hamas is building 15 new tunnels under the Gaza border with Israel.  In March 2017, Hamas chose Yahya Sinwar, a hard-liner as its new leader.

With Hamas on the warpath, and Iran wanting a base in Syria, eager to fight Israel on the Golan Heights, and preparing to gain a foothold in Middle Eastern affairs, an entente cordial between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu is essential.



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Tech to revive frozen organs


Frozen organs could be brought back to life safely one day with the aid of nanotechnology, a new study finds. The development could help make donated organs available for virtually everyone who needs them in the future, the researchers say.

The number of donated organs that could be transplanted into patients could increase greatly if there were a way to freeze and reheat organs without damaging the cells within them.

In the new work, scientists developed a way to safely thaw frozen tissues with the aid of nanoparticles — particles only nanometers or billionths of a meter wide. (In comparison, the average human hair is about 100,000 nanometers wide.) [ 9 Most Interesting Transplants ]

The researchers manufactured silica-coated nanoparticles that contained iron oxide . When they applied a magnetic field to frozen tissues suffused with the nanoparticles, the nanoparticles generated heat rapidly and uniformly. The tissue samples warmed up at rates of up to more than 260 degrees Fahrenheit (130 degrees Celsius) per minute, which is 10 to 100 times faster than previous methods.

The scientists tested their method on frozen human skin cells , segments of pig heart valves and sections of pig arteries. None of the rewarmed tissues displayed signs of harm from the heating process, and they preserved key physical properties such as elasticity. Moreover, the researchers were able to wash away the nanoparticles from the sample after thawing.

Previous research successfully thawed tiny biological samples that were only 1 to 3 milliliters in volume. This new technique works for samples that are up to 50 milliliters in size. The researchers said there is a strong possibility they could scale up their technique to even larger systems, such as organs.

“We are at the level of rabbit organs now,” said study senior author John Bischof, a mechanical and biomedical engineer at the University of Minnesota. “We have a way to go for human organs , but nothing seems to preclude us from that.”

However, this research will likely not make it possible to return frozen heads back to life anytime soon, if ever, the scientists noted.

Since the first successful kidney transplant in 1954, organ transplantation has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients. If it weren’t for the large and growing shortage of donor organs , the life-saving procedure might help even more people. According to the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, more than 120,000 patients are currently on organ-transplant waitlists in the United States, and at least 1 in 5 patients on these waitlists die waiting for an organ that they never receive.

Right now, the majority of organs that could potentially be used for transplants are discarded, in large part because they can only be safely preserved for 4 to 36 hours. If only half the hearts and lungs that are discarded were successfully transplanted, the waitlists for those organs could be eliminated in two to three years, according to the Organ Preservation Alliance.

One way to save donated organs for transplantation is to freeze them. Ice crystals that can damage cells typically form during freezing, but in prior work, researchers have found a technique known as vitrification — which involves flooding biological specimens with antifreeze-like compounds — that could help cool down organs to stave off decay, while also preventing the formation of ice crystals.

Unfortunately, ice crystals can also form during the reheating process. Moreover, if thawing is not uniform across samples, fracturing or cracking may occur. Although scientists had developed methods to safely use freezing-cold temperatures to “cryopreserve” tissues and organs , they had not yet developed a way to safely reheat them. [ 5 Amazing Technologies That Are Revolutionizing Biotech ]

In future research, scientists will attempt to transplant thawed tissues into living animals to see how well they do. “From my perspective and my collaborators’ perspective, there is no reason why that should not work,” Bischof told Live Science.

However, the researchers stressed that it was unlikely these findings would apply to the controversial field of cryonics , which seeks to freeze patients — or their brains — in the hope that future scientists will find a way to safely revive people. “There are huge scientific hurdles ahead of us, and it’s rather premature to get into rewarming a whole person,” Bischof said.

“Even if you preserved the whole body, the chances that neural pathways established during life were maintained during and after cryopreservation are probably remote,” said study co-author Kelvin Brockbank, chief executive officer of Tissue Testing Technologies in North Charleston, South Carolina. “I don’t think we’ll see success for rewarming whole bodies within the next hundred years.”

The scientists detailed their findings online March 1 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Original article on Live Science .



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South Korea's disgraced president formally impeached by court


In a historic ruling Friday, South Korea’s Constitutional Court formally removed impeached President Park Geun-hye from office over a corruption scandal that has plunged the country into political turmoil, worsened an already-serious national divide and led to calls for sweeping reforms.

KIM JONG NAM’S SON APPARENTLY SHOWS HIS FACE FOR FIRST TIME SINCE DAD’S MURDER

It was a stunning fall for Park, the daughter of a dictator who rode a lingering conservative nostalgia for her father to a big win in 2012, only to see her presidency descend into scandal. The unanimous ruling opens her up to possible criminal proceedings, and makes her South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be removed early from office since democracy came in the country in the late 1980s.

South Korea must now hold an election within two months to choose Park’s successor. Liberal Moon Jae-in, who lost to Park in the 2012 election, currently enjoys a comfortable lead in opinion surveys. Whoever becomes the next leader will take over a country facing a hostile North Korea, a stagnant economy and deep social and political divides.

NORTH KOREA TRIED TO SELL NUCLEAR-WEAPON MATERIAL

Pre-verdict surveys showed that 70 to 80 percent of South Koreans had wanted the court to approve Park’s impeachment. But there have been worries that Park’s ouster would further polarize the country and cause violence between her supporters and opponents.

Park’s parliamentary impeachment in December came after weeks of Saturday rallies that drew millions who wanted her resignation. Overwhelmed by the biggest rallies in decades, the voices of Park supporters were largely ignored. But they’ve recently regrouped and staged fierce pro-Park rallies since.

People on both sides have threatened not to accept a Constitutional Court decision that they disagree with. One of Park’s lawyers told the court last month that there will be “a rebellion and blood will drench the asphalt” if Park is booted from office. Many participants at anti-Park rallies had said they would stage a “revolution” if the court rejected Park’s impeachment.

“If Park accepts the ruling and soothes those who opposed her impeachment, things will be quiet,” said Yoon Tae-Ryong, a political scientist at Seoul’s Konkuk University. “But looking at what she’s done so far, I think that might be wishful thinking.”

Others disagreed, saying violent protests won’t be supported by the general public.



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China developing spaceship that can land on the moon


China is developing an advanced new spaceship capable of both flying in low-Earth orbit and landing on the moon, according to state media, in another bold step for a space program that equaled the U.S. in number of rocket launches last year.

The newspaper Science and Technology Daily cited spaceship engineer Zhang Bainian as saying the new craft would be recoverable and have room for multiple astronauts. While no other details were given in the Tuesday report, Zhang raised as a comparison the Orion spacecraft being developed by NASA and the European Space Agency. The agency hopes Orion will carry astronauts into space by 2023.

China’s Shenzhou space capsule used on all six of its crewed missions is based on Russia’s Soyuz and is capable of carrying three astronauts in its re-entry module.

China came late to crewed space flight, launching its first man into space in 2003, but has advanced rapidly since then. In its most recent crewed mission, two astronauts spent a month aboard a Chinese space station late last year.

A fully functioning, permanently crewed space station is on course to begin operations in around five years and a manned lunar mission has been suggested for the future.

Now firmly established among the big three in space travel, China last year moved ahead of Russia for the first time in number of rocket launches and equaled the United States at 22, according to Harvard University astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell. Russia had 17 launches, while the U.S. might have had several more if Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket fleet hadn’t been grounded following a Sept. 1 launchpad explosion.



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