Pluto’s atmosphere, new discoveries

From National Geographic:

Pluto Has “Upside Down” Atmosphere

Ker Than
for National Geographic News

March 6, 2009

Pluto, the solar system’s oddball, has an upside-down atmosphere compared with Earth. Temperatures rise, rather than drop, with altitude on the dwarf planet, a new study finds.

Astronomers recently made the most detailed measurements to date of the concentration of the greenhouse gas methane in Pluto’s atmosphere using the European Southern Observatory‘s Very Large Telescope.

The measurements showed that methane is the second most abundant gas in Pluto’s atmosphere, and that the gas is actually warmer at higher elevations than at the icy surface.

On March 6, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) successfully launched the Kepler mission. Operated out of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder, Colorado, it is the first mission, space-based or otherwise, designed to look for extrasolar planets en masse: here.

Large moon of Uranus may explain odd tilt: here.

Weird water lurking inside Uranus: here.

Uranus Celebrating 25th Anniversary of Flyby: here.

Uranus Bright Spot Intrigues Scientists, Leads Astronomers To Ignored Region: here.

NASA reported last month that Kepler, the first spacecraft dedicated to searching for planets beyond our solar system, has discovered its first five extrasolar planets. Though they are uninhabitable for Earth-like life—four of the five are even larger than Jupiter—their rapid discovery indicates that Kepler is fully capable of achieving its primary mission, finding a planet resembling Earth, in future years: here.

NASA has confirmed this month that its Kepler space observatory has now identified the smallest yet planet outside our solar system, exoplanet Kepler-10b: here.

Darkest exoplanet spotted by astronomers: here.


Pope Pius XII and the Shoah

From Italian news agency ANSA:

2009-03-06 14:41

Pope ‘won’t visit Shoah museum’

Benedict to skip WWII ‘silence’ pope exhibit

Vatican City, March 6 – Pope Benedict XVI‘s trip to the Holy land in May will not take in Israel’s Holocaust museum where WWII pope Pius XII is accused of silence on the Holocaust, the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See told ANSA Friday.

Speaking after reports that the Pius XII exhibit might be changed ahead of the May 8-15 trip, Ambassador Mordechai Levy said Benedict would attend a memorial ceremony at the Yad Vashem site but would not visit the museum itself. …

The Vatican has sought for years to persuade Yad Vashem to change or remove the caption which it considers defamatory. Pope John Paul II visited Yad Vashem in 2000 but the Pius caption was not an issue because it only appeared five years later when a new museum was unveiled.

In 2007, the Vatican ambassador to Israel, Archbishop Antonio Franco, refused to attend the annual Holocaust remembrance ceremony at Yad Vashem because of the caption. …

Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said recently that moves to make Pius a saint were the Vatican’s business.

”The representation of Pius XII as indifferent towards the victims of the Nazis…or even as ‘Hitler’s Pope‘ (the title of a recent book) is outrageous and historically unsustainable,” Bertone told a conference marking the recent 50th anniversary of Pius’s death.

Bertone said the polemics – revived last October when a Jewish minister called plans to put Pius one step from sainthood ”unacceptable” – were ”biased and ever less comprehensible”. …

Jewish groups say the only way to settle the issue of Pius’s wartime role is to open the Vatican’s archives on the war years. …

The International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations met with Benedict in November to ask him to put off Pius’s beatification until after the archives are available for study.

Benedict replied that he was ”seriously considering” it, the Jewish group said.

Vatican sources later stressed the pope was answering a private question and not taking an official stance.

Pius XII: The Hound Of Hitler, by Gerard Noel: book review here.

Pius XII’s silence on the Shoah was not because of apoliticism. The Dutch Roman Catholic daily De Volkskrant reported, during the nazi occupation of the Netherlands, and at a time when communists inside and outside the Soviet Union were fighting Hitler, a speech by the pope denouncing Bolshevism.

British special forces back in Ireland

This video says about itself:

A trailer for the film Bloody Sunday which tells the story of the Massacre in Free Derry City, Northern Ireland. British Troops opened fire on a crowd of civil rights marchers and killed 14 of them, 5 of those killed where only children. This proved the catalyst for the Northern Ireland conflict.

From British daily News Line:

Saturday, 7 March 2009


Northern Ireland Assembly Deputy First Minister and Sinn Fein MP Martin McGuinness yesterday slammed the redeployment of British Army Special Forces in the North as a ‘danger to the community’.

He was responding to Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde’s request for support from the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, allegedly to help gather intelligence on dissident republicans.

See also here. And here.

UPDATE 8 March 2009: Two British troops killed in N Ireland. And here. And here.

Irish-American band Black 47: here.

Church to release documents on 1971 Ballymurphy Massacre by British Army’s Parachute Regiment: here.

British civil liberties scandal

This video says about itself:

Since Tony Blair’s New Labour government came to power in 1997, the UK civil liberties landscape has changed dramatically. ASBOs were introduced by Section 1 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and first used in 1999. The right to remain silent is no longer universal. Our right to privacy, free from interception of communications has been severely curtailed. The ability to travel without surveillance (or those details of our journeys being retained) has disappeared. Indeed, as Henry Porter (the Observer journalist famous for his recent email clash with Tony Blair over the paring down of civil liberties) reveals in this unsettling film, our movements are being watched, and recorded, more than ever before.

Another violation of human rights in Britain.

From British daily The Guardian:

Revealed: police databank on thousands of protesters

Films and details of campaigners and journalists may breach Human Rights Act

See also here.