Ruminations

Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

MHY370 and ADS-B

00:41, 8 March: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Saturday, 8 March (16:41 GMT, 7 March), and was due to arrive in Beijing at 06:30 (22:30 GMT).
Malaysia Airlines says the plane lost contact less than an hour after takeoff. No distress signal or message was sent.
01:07: The plane sent its last ACARS transmission - a service that allows computers aboard the plane to "talk" to computers on the ground. Some time afterwards, it was silenced and the expected 01:37 transmission was not sent.
01:19: The last communication between the plane and Malaysian air traffic control took place about 12 minutes later.
 Map showing the timings of electronic handshakes with flight MH370

The raw horror of the ordinary transformed into a ghoulish tragedy of disappearance, though the 239 souls who mysteriously departed an airport in Malaysia en route to another airport, expecting to arrive at their China destination in a routine flight, lingers still. The anguish of the bereaved families has not diminished, the mystery of the flight's disappearance remains unresolved. It is as though the reality within which we live simply slipped into a time warp, engulfing the plane, its 227 passengers and dozen crew members, allowing time itself to forget all about them.

Seven months later, Malaysia Airlines flight MH370's whereabouts remain undiscovered, the Boeing 777 slipped the sullen bonds of Earth to land in some otherworld unknown to civilization, and where their families hope they may find comfort and security and live on, however impossible it is to visualize. From there, they can continue to visit their loved ones in dreams where they appear as they had before their disappearance, whole, happy and completely natural.

Where they really are, or whatever remains of the airliner and its occupants, is not yet known, and may never be revealed, reflecting the failure up to now, despite the frantic collaboration of many countries lending their most advanced technologies, aircraft and ships to ply the oceans, near and distant, where it was assumed the flight might have ended. If it happened once, it will happen again; it has happened before, and promises repeat performances, but perhaps from this time forward the mystery will be missing.
The southern Indian Ocean pictured at 500 feet above sea level
The southern Indian Ocean pictured at 500 feet above sea level. Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters

Ottawa-based NavCanada has announced a global emergency tracking system capable of ensuring that the horror that visited the Malaysian Airlines flight will never again result in complete absence of recovery. The tracking system is a service to be offered free to authorized rescue agencies worldwide, to be initiated in 2018. The potential for saving lives is enormous, let alone the agony, time and cost involved in search, rescue and recovery.

NavCanada, a not-for-profit private Ottawa company which manages Canada's commercial airspace has signed up to a joint venture with U.S. Iridium Communications Inc; the venture's purpose: to improve immeasurably the capability of tracking airlines in remote airspace. "The existing gaps in surveillance, particularly in cases of lost aircraft became abundantly clear this past year. The tragic disappearance of MH370 prompted a worldwide urgency to look for solutions. Aireon's response amounts to a global public service offering Aireon ALERT universally and on a no-fee basis", explained John Crichton, president and CEO of NavCanada.

Over 75% of Earth's surface remains invisible to air traffic controllers. The tragedy of MH370, and the 2009 Air France flight 447 crash before it have emphasized the need for a no-fee, global emergency tracking service. Radar coverage fades as flights turn out over oceans and mountain ranges. The use of high-frequency radio for communication -- procedural control, becomes the contact medium for pilots and controllers.

But this mode of contact doesn't permit real-time position tracking, not until the flight reaches airspace where radar-contact can be resumed, closer to land and to radar-tracking stations. An alternative is seen in the use of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) technology where planes equipped with it are capable of determining their positions and can broadcast the data to air traffic ground control stations periodically. But it too has limitations, because it is ground-based.

Enter ADS-B sensors, to be placed aboard low-Earth orbit Iridium satellites, some 66 in total, to enable global, real-time airliner tracking, themselves equipped with operational ADS-B transponders. Aireon will be capable of tracking one thousand active targets within an airspace held to be two thousand nautical miles in diameter. More efficient and precise routing will result, with NavCanada estimating cost savings on North Atlantic routes alone to the value of $125-million a year in fuel.

"The Aireon system solves the problem, there's world-wide coverage. It's a real game-changer", stated Mr. Crichton. Next year, the first of Iridium's second-generation satellites with ADS-B sensor payloads will be launched with the full constellation in place by late 2017, operational the year following. Mystery solved? Not quite. Technology is wonderful, giving humankind various advanced tools to manipulate toward safety and security.

But MH370 had been equipped with an ADS-B transponder Most commercial aircraft flying oceanic routes are, even while such transponders will eventually be mandatory on all commercial airliners in the near future. For some unknown reason, compounding the mystery of its disappearance, the transponder on MH370 had stopped functioning. Most experts in the field feel confident in stating that human intervention was involved; that it was deliberately tampered with.

"That issue is still there. The airlines and the pilots' unions have got to sort that one out. There are solutions to that", said Mr. Crichton. Solutions such as tamper-proofing all transponders in the future. Which still, of necessity leaves the lingering mysteries surrounding that doomed flight: Why? and How? And above all, Where?

Graphic: Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER

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Monday, September 22, 2014

The Right Attitude

"They have the right attitude. They're collaborative, they're co-operative, they share their information readily and they have a global perspective. And they know exactly what needs to be done.
Jim LeDuc, director, Galveston National Laboratory, University of Texas Medical Branch

"We really felt that to be properly prepared for all of the possible diseases that we were seeing spreading ... that it was better and wise for Canada to have a Level 4 laboratory."
Dr. Harvey Artsob former head, zoonotic diseases, National Microbiology Laboratory, Winnipeg

"Heinz basically introduced Gary to me saying 'He's a really good guy, it would be great if we could find a job for him. So I hired him and it w as one of the smartest things I ever did."
"People had been trying (to make Ebola monoclonals) for years and couldn't. And we had people who were very good at making monoclonals."
Dr. Frank Plummer, retired head, National Microbiology Laboratory, Canada

"I think that Frank's motto is: Set your people free. And I think basically he created the environment there."
Dr. Gary Kobinger

"Out of small things and maybe being lucky -- I'm sure being lucky -- and maybe certain people making the right decisions, Canada became a player in the game."
"And I think that was the concept."
Dr. Heinz Feldmann, chief, National Microbiology Laboratory
Heinz Feldmann, right, and Allen Grolla, left, work in a mobile laboratory installed by specialists of the National Public Health Agency of Canada, which enables teams on the ground to conduct rapid and precise diagnosis of new suspected Ebola cases and other diseases, within two to six hours, in Mweka, Congo, Friday, Sept. 28, 2007. Heinz Feldmann, right, and Allen Grolla, left, work in a mobile laboratory installed by specialists of the National Public Health Agency of Canada, which enables teams on the ground to conduct rapid and precise diagnosis of new suspected Ebola cases and other diseases, within two to six hours, in Mweka, Congo, Friday, Sept. 28, 2007. Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP Photo/WHO

Dr. Plummer, though retired after fourteen years as head of the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, is understandably proud of the work conducted at the laboratory, particularly now when the attention of the medical global community is riveted on West Africa battling an unprecedented threat of Ebola virus that has already taken almost three thousand lives, killing at a rate of up to 80% of its victims.

Two of the most seriously troublesome viruses yet known to modern mankind, Ebola and Marburg both of which infect animals and occasionally cross the species barrier from animal to human is afflicting the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Senegal and threatening to spread, causing the World Health Organization to name it an urgent global viral health emergency requiring international cooperation to halt its surge.

The latest WHO statement resulting from its second emergency meeting of the International Health Regulations Committee states the following:
  • Flight cancellations and other travel restrictions continue to isolate affected countries resulting in detrimental economic consequences, and hinder relief and response efforts risking further international spread; the Committee strongly reiterated that there should be no general ban on international travel or trade, except for the restrictions outlined in the previous recommendations regarding the travel of EVD cases and contacts.
  • The Committee also advised that affected countries should fully engage with the transport sector, especially the aviation and maritime sectors, to facilitate a mutual understanding of potentially diverse viewpoints and develop a coordinated response.
  • Where extraordinary supplemental measures such as quarantine are considered necessary in States with intense and widespread transmission, States should ensure that they are proportionate and evidence-based, and that accurate information, essential services and commodities, including food and water, are provided to the affected populations.
  • Many responders have lost their lives due to the nature of the response work; the Committee stressed that affected countries should ensure health care workers receive:
    • adequate security measures for their safety and protection;
    • appropriate education and training on infection prevention and control;
    • support to families of deceased health care workers;
    • and access to adequate health care services, in particular for international health care workers.
  • Challenges in implementation of standard Ebola control measures (case finding and contact tracing, case management, safe burials, social mobilization) in affected countries warrant measures to augment their implementation, including through deepened community engagement, in areas of intense transmission.
  • All States should reinforce preparedness, validate preparation plans and check their state of preparedness through simulations and adequate training of personnel. 
Heinz Feldmann, the lab's first special pathogens head, along with Gary Kobinger who became his successor as the current branch head share the attitude that the director of the Galveston National Laboratory spoke of so admiringly. When the federal government determined that a state-of-the-art lab should be located and built in Winnipeg replacing the aging Health Canada facilities in Ottawa, it was up in the air whether the new complex would contain a Level 4 lab, a designation reflecting the rigid pathogen-containment safety space required for work on dangerous pathogens.

Which, when the decision was made, required that someone expert in the field be brought into the picture. The search for that expert led to a young German researcher working in Marburg, Germany whose research on Ebola and Marburg viruses distinguished him. Dr. Feldmann was convinced to make the move from Germany to Canada upon meeting the NML leaders. Under his direction the lab created vaccines for Ebola and Marburg widely thought promising.

UP to one thousand vials of the Ebola vaccine named VSV-EBOV were donated to the World Health Organization, to be used in the outbreak once preliminary trials indicate its safety for humans. It has proven highly effective and safe in trials with non-human primates. As well, this type of required an on-site laboratory, and so they created a mobile lab, a low-tech lab-in-a-suitcase whose useful practicality promised to revolutionize testing in remote locations where these viruses most often occur.

CPT117204455_high.jpg
Dr. Gary Kobinger works in a mobile laboratory installed by specialists of the National Public Health Agency of Canada, in Mweka Congo, on Friday    Christopher Black/The Canadian Press

Dr. Kobinger, born in Europe, raised in Quebec, had been working on an Ebola vaccine while at the University of Pennsylvania. In Winnipeg, he has continued his work on the vaccine. Using a technique known as monoclonal antibodies he has distinguished himself in the process. Antibodies are produced by the immune system to protect against foreign invasions. Scientists study how to identify which antibody targets a specific pathogen, and when they succeed, they grow that antibody, then called monoclonals.

A cocktail of three Ebola monoclonals was produced by Dr. Kobinger and his team of scientists. Also working on a monoclonal cocktail of three antibodies were scientists at the Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases located in Frederick, Maryland. Dr. Kobinger thought to optimize the cocktails by combining two of Winnipeg's monoclonals and one produced by the U.S. army team; that result was ZMapp.

 

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Nazi Death Chambers

"The discovery of the gas chambers at Sobibor is a very important finding in Holocaust research. It is important to understand that there were no survivors from among the Jews who worked in the area of the gas chambers."
"Therefore, these findings are all that is left of those murdered there, and they open a window onto the day-to-day suffering of these people."
"The discovery of the exact location of the gas chambers at the Sobibior Camp is a discovery of the utmost importance in Holocaust research."
"Finding the exact size of the gas chambers will enable us to understand what their capacity was and from there we can determine a more precise estimation of the number of people killed at the Sobibor Camp."
Dr. David Silberklang, historian, senior researcher, Yad Vashem International Institute for Holocaust research
Sobibor death camp
Sobibor death camp. (photo credit:REUTERS)

"We found earrings, gold wedding rings and a ring with the inscription, 'with this ring you are consecrated to me', in Hebrew letters."
"We also found a large Magen David [Star of David] and a coin dated 1927 from Palestine."
Yoram Haimi, archaeologist

"He used to wear a white coat to give the impression he was a physician."
"[He] announced to the Jews that they would be sent to work. But before this they would have to take baths and undergo disinfection ... After the Jews had entered the gas chambers, the Ukrainians closed the doors, the motor was switched on ... and after the gassing, the doors were opened and the corpses were removed."
former German officer giving testimony

"The extermination of people took place there; murder by smoke from an engine that killed everyone within 15 minutes in these gas chambers, in torment, shouting." 
"[Nazis bred geese there to drown out the cries from the gas chambers.]"
Polish archaeologist Wojciech Mazurek, involved in the excavation of Sobibor

Sobibor death camp was established by the Nazis during World War Two close to the village of Sobibor and its railway station in the eastern part of Poland, close by the Chelm-Wlodawa railway line, one of 16 forced labour camps established in the Lublin district; its purpose was to 'process' Jews. The camp was comprised of three integral portions: administration, barracks and gas chambers.

The chambers were brick buildings where carbon monoxide gas was released from fixtures in the ceiling to asphyxiate anyone who entered them, and many did. It is estimated that a quarter-million Jews were murdered at Sobibor. Not quite as efficient an operation as the more famous Auschwitz with its use of Zyklon B, but amazingly efficient, given that in little more than a space of a year a quarter-million Jews were killed there.
  • Sobibor Holocaust camp-main
    An eight-year archaeological dig has recently revealed the location of gas chambers under a road 
    at the Sobibor death camp, the Yad Vashem International Institute for Holocaust research said this week. The Nazis forced Jewish slave laborers to build the camp, and then shot them dead when it was complete.  
    Reuters
When Jews arrived at the camp, they were greeted with the presence of a man wearing a white coat, according to the Holocaust Education and Archive Research Team relying on the testimony of a former Nazi German officer. A road that was mordantly named Himmelfahrsstrasse, [Road to Heaven], led to the gas chambers. People were persuaded that they were meant to enter the brick chambers for completely innocuous reasons, to shower. The shower heads they saw above in the ceilings emitted deadly gas, not cleansing water.

A quarter of a million men, women and children, were cleansed of life. The camp itself was not a large one, meant for transit dispatch; from life to death. Seventy years after its last use, the camp has been found, buried under an asphalt road. Beneath that road was discovered well-preserved gas chamber walls. The brick rows, stacked four-deep represented the exoskeleton of the four gas chambers promising a solution to the Nazi dilemma of slaughtering all the Jews they could round up, in occupied Europe.

An uprising on October 14, 1943, devised by a Jewish Soviet prisoner of war, Alexander Pechersky was mounted, with a plan to exact whatever vengeance escaping prisoners could manage: to kill as many Nazi guards as they possibly could, while in the process of escape. Several guards were killed, and hundreds of prisoners fled into the nearby woods, many tracked down and killed, but some managed to escape. The incident, however, led to the closing of the camp.

Of the 600 prisoners who made the attempt to escape their terrible fate at the hands of the Nazis, between one hundred and one-hundred and twenty survived. Of that number 60 survived the war. After the revolt in the camp, SS chief Henrich Himmler ordered that the camp be closed, and the Nazis made an effort to extinguish any sign that the camp had ever existed. The grounds were covered over, a farm put in place, trees and asphalt covering its former presence.


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Arutz Sheva

Dalai Lama Teaches Muslims How to Conduct Jihad

Tibetan spiritual leader claims Muslim terrorists have jihad all wrong, holy war 'combats inner destructive emotions.'

By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 9/20/2014, 10:05 PM

Dalai Lama (file)
Dalai Lama (file)
Flash 90
 
The Dalai Lama on Saturday condemned violence in the name of religion, claiming the Muslim concept of jihad was being misused and misinterpreted by Islamist extremists.

The Nobel Peace prize winner was referring to bloodshed unleashed by the Islamic State (ISIS) group in Syria and Iraq where it has conquered large swathes of territory, leaving bloodshed and brutal torture in its wake.

"Killing in the name of faith is unacceptable," he told a meeting of India's religious leaders including a senior Muslim cleric, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Bombay and the head of the Jewish community in Delhi at a two-day conference, reports AFP.

Jihad, the Muslim concept of holy war, should be a fight "to combat our inner destructive emotions", the 79-year-old spiritual leader said. "It (jihad) does not mean harming other people."

Not all share the appraisal that the ever-growing plague of violent jihadist terror is out of line with the Muslim precept of jihad.

Professor Rafi Israeli, an expert on Islam and the Arab world, told Arutz Sheva last Sunday that cruelty is a part of Islam, arguing the religion has a basic disregard for human life. He noted the Koran calls on Muslims to spread terror among their enemies without specifying who those enemies are, hence the internal war between Sunnis and Shi'ites since the start of the religion.

That take on Islam has been played out most recently by ISIS, which lately released videos of its brutal beheadings of US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as well as UK aid worker David Haines.

However, the Dalai Lama said "if we remain indifferent to what is happening around us, it is wrong. The spiritual people can show the world that it can be a happy family (despite) the different faiths."

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, lives in the northern Indian hill station of Dharamsala. He says he supports "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet within China rather than outright independence, but Chinese authorities accuses him of covertly campaigning for Tibet's independence, branding him a "splittist."

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Merciless Solution

"A soldier stood the kid up and killed him."
Witness, Arcelia, Mexico

"We have encouraged the government of Mexico to investigate and we understand that several Mexican entities are investigating this incident. But as in all cases where security forces use lethal force, we think it's imperative that there is a credible review of the circumstances undertaken in response to them and the appropriate civilian authorities should conduct those investigations."
Jeff Rathke, spokesman, U.S. State Department
In this Sept. 15, 2014 photo, a photograph of Erika Gomez Gonzalez, left, hangs on the wall of her mother's home in Arcelia, Mexico. Gomez's mother, who did not want to give her name for fear of reprisals, says she witnessed her daughter's death when army soldiers fired first at an armed group at a warehouse on June 30 in the town of San Pedro Limon, Mexico. She said one man died in the initial shootout, when the rest of the gunmen surrendered on the promise they would not be hurt. She recalled that her daughter, who was face down in the ground with a bullet in her leg, was rolled over while she was still alive and shot more than half a dozen times in the chest. The mother said she arrived to the warehouse the day before the shooting, in an attempt to take her daughter home, but gang members wouldn't let her. (AP Photo/Eduardo Castillo)
In this Sept. 15, 2014 photo, a photograph of Erika Gomez Gonzalez, left, hangs on the wall of her mother's home in Arcelia, Mexico. Gomez's mother, who did not want to give her name for fear of reprisals, says she witnessed her daughter's death when army soldiers fired first at an armed group at a warehouse on June 30 in the town of San Pedro Limon, Mexico. She said one man died in the initial shootout, when the rest of the gunmen surrendered on the promise they would not be hurt. She recalled that her daughter, who was face down in the ground with a bullet in her leg, was rolled over while she was still alive and shot more than half a dozen times in the chest. The mother said she arrived to the warehouse the day before the shooting, in an attempt to take her daughter home, but gang members wouldn't let her. (AP Photo/Eduardo Castillo)


"Anything that needs to be made known, if something happened that differs from the version we have, will of course be made public."
Osorio Chong, top security official

"It is our responsibility to clarify with precision whether the acts (of the soldiers) were carried out according to the law and with absolute respect to human rights."
Mexican Attorney General's Office

"If the testimony is true, we are facing one of the most serious massacres in Mexico. It's extremely important that we keep pressure on the officials so that hopefully soon they produce the records that should be scrutinized by the public in Mexico."
Jose Miguel Vivanco, director, Human Rights Watch for the Americas

Fifteen-year-old Erika Gomez Gonzalez whose mother describes her as having been involved with the 'wrong crowd', accuses Mexican soldiers of shooting and killing her daughter after a confrontation with what appears to have been a youthful drug gang with which her daughter was involved. Mexico, without an iota of a doubt has a dreadful problem with drug traffickers and cartels.
The carnage involved in criminal gangs wreaking havoc on society is well enough known.

The number of fatalities in Mexico related to the illegal drug trade is abhorrent, and in many instances the police themselves are known to be involved, taking their cut of the immensely illegal, lucrative trade. It is even recognized that the Islamist terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas are involved in the drug cartels to benefit themselves financially.

It is obvious that a strong government response had to result from the deadly situation. And it would seem that policing agents in Mexico have in some instances patterned themselves after the deadly no-holds-barred techniques of the drug runners they are sworn to bring under control by the nature of their public office in upholding the law. By so doing, they replicate the brutalities of the gangsters.

Erika Gonzalez's mother described her daughter lying face down on the ground, with a bullet wound in her chest. Another suspected gang member also injured in the initial attack when the army fired at the armed group at a warehouse near San Pedro Limon lay nearby. The group had surrendered and were disarmed.The witness stated that the army had fired at the armed group of youth at the warehouse when one gunman died and another along with her daughter were wounded.

The gunmen surrendered, with the promise they would not come to harm. As Erika Gonzalez lay on the ground face down, soldiers rolled her on her back and shot her over a half-dozen times in the chest. The other gang member was killed as well. The rest of the gang members were interrogated, taken inside the warehouse one after the other. From where she stood the girl's mother, in army custody, heard gunshots and the dying moans of the rest.

photoFILE - In this July 3, 2014 file photo, bullet holes and blood stain a wall above where bodies were found in an unfinished warehouse that was the site of a shootout between Mexican soldiers and alleged criminals on the outskirts of the village of San Pedro Limon in Mexico state, Mexico. The Mexican government has maintained that 22 people killed on the early morning of June 30 died in a fierce shootout with security forces, a version that came into question because government troops suffered only one wounded, and physical evidence at the scene pointed toward more selective killings. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)The Associated Press

Associated Press reporters went to the warehouse several days afterward to look around and take photographs. There was no sign of sustained fighting. But there were five areas along the inside walls of the warehouse showered with the same pattern: several closely placed bullet marks, covered with a mass of spattered blood. Evidence that some of those who were killed having stood against the wall, were shot at chest level.

According to the state of Mexico prosecutors' office in response to the AP report, there was "no evidence at all of possible executions". Ballistic evidence was found of "crossfire with a proportionate interchange of gunshots", according to the prosecutor's office. This version was contradicted by relatives of three other gang members and a doctor who considered the wounds he saw on Erika's body consistent with the mother's account.

All gang members were in their teens or early 20s. Now they are all, twenty-two of them, dead.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Shooting Dog Championships

I'm still in shock."
"It was just normal ... you show up, you put the coffee and doughnuts on the table, you ride your horse, you come back and complain about the dogs."
Vince Principiato, member, Ontario Bird and Dog Conservation Association

It was a routine, much anticipated annual event for competitive hunting dog aficionados. A get-together of people whose common interests and communal feelings about the sport they took seriously brought them to southern Ontario's Hullett Provincial Wildlife area nearby Clinton, Ontario. The Amateur Shooting Dog Championship had taken place, and people involved radiated out of the area, while some, like Donato Frigo and his wife Eva Willer remained a little longer.

Donato Frigo, 70, was fatally shot on Sept. 13, as he and a female companion were riding horses near a wildlife conservation area in the municipality of Central Huron in southwestern Ontario.
Handout   Donato Frigo, 70, was fatally shot on Sept. 13, as he and a female companion were riding horses near a wildlife conservation area in the municipality of Central Huron in southwestern Ontario.

The couple had taken one of their English pointers through a last training run, thinking to take advantage of a goose-hunt taking place at the same time as their event for which a large number of pheasants had been released. The husband and wife rode the trail on horseback, with one of their English pointers scouring the course for one of the gamebirds. Pointers assume a "pointing stance" when they locate a prey, to alert their handler to the presence of game.

This requires a great deal of trained discipline; the dog sensing the presence of game restrains itself from racing after it as most ordinary dogs would instinctively react, and instead stands at attention in the rigid, tell-tale sport-approved manner waiting for its handler to take action. Dogs' skills at these competitive field trials are judged by the canine's posture and discipline throughout the process reflecting in no small part the skill of its trainer.

Their additional jaunt completed, the couple -- Donato Frigo and wife Eva Willer -- was in the process of returning to the camp set up for the Ontario Bird and Dog Conservation trials. Goose-hunters, with the early onset of the goose-hunting season, were in plentiful presence in the area. At roughly5 p.m. when the couple was returning with their dog, someone stepped out of the woods, pointed a shotgun and fired off three blasts -- directly at the couple.

Mr. Frigo, 70, an executive at Hady Construction Associates out of the Toronto area, long recognized as a valued member of the Ontario competitive hunting dog community, was shot dead. Ms. Willer was wounded, her horse was also injured and she rode back to the camp with her husband's horse behind her. She had shot wounds on her face, and she was in shock. Until she appeared at the camp no one had any idea that something dreadful had occurred.

With the presence of so many hunters in the area, using their shotguns, there was nothing to alert anyone that something different was happening. "There's been a lot of shooting going on; early morning, late evening", explained Jeff Haggis, chair of the weekend's competitions. When police responded to the call, investigators hesitated to call the shooting a homicide. Ontario Provincial Police forensic teams secured the area and the investigation proceeded.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley   OPP continue to block off access to the scene at a conservation area near Clinton, Ont., Monday Sept. 15, 2014 of the Saturday evening shooting of Donato Frigo of Caledon East.

Now, police have issued a Canada-wide warrant in the fatal shooting on September 13, for a man known to Mr. Frigo of Caledon, Ontario and his wife. According to the OPP, Boris Panovski of Toronto, 70 years of age, is their suspect in the murder of Mr. Frigo. Considered armed and dangerous, a description has been issued to alert the public and ask for assistance in finding the man. Of the incident itself, police have chosen to release few details.

"An altercation occurred"
stated a tight-lipped Det.Supt. Dave Truax, informing the inquisitive precisely what they already knew. No details emerged on the relationship between the two 70-year-old men, nor exactly what had taken place in those tense few moments when one man took the life of another.

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Iran: Happy video dancers sentenced to 91 lashes and jail

BBC News online -- 19 September 2014
A montage of images from the Tehran Happy video The participants were shown on state television saying they had been duped into taking part
Six Iranians arrested for appearing in a video dancing to Pharrell Williams' song Happy have been sentenced to up to one year in prison and 91 lashes, their lawyer says.

The sentences were suspended for three years, meaning they will not go to prison unless they reoffend, he adds.

The video shows three men and three unveiled women dancing on the streets and rooftops of Tehran.
In six months, it has been viewed by over one million people on YouTube.

The majority of people involved in the video were sentenced to six months in prison, with one member of the group given one year, lawyer Farshid Rofugaran was quoted by Iran Wire as saying.
The "Happy we are from Tehran" video was brought to the attention of the Iranian authorities in May, after receiving more than 150,000 views.

Members of the group behind the video were subsequently arrested by Iranian police for violating Islamic laws of the country, which prohibit dancing with members of the opposite sex and women from appearing without a headscarf.

They later appeared on state-run TV saying they were actors who had been tricked into make the Happy video for an audition.

The arrests drew condemnation from international rights groups and sparked a social media campaign calling for their release.

Williams, whose song was nominated for an Oscar earlier this year, also protested at the arrests.
"It is beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness," he wrote on Facebook.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Delusional Appetites

"I'm looking at this thinking I'm never drinking a diet soda again."
"What really struck me was that the effect on the microbiota was so extreme. It's a pretty impressive piece of work [new findings on artificial sweeteners]."
Emma Allen-Vercoe, microbiologist, University of Guelph
'Diet' drinks
Are artificial sweeteners in 'diet' drinks and foods having exactly the opposite effect of what one might hope? the scientists wondered. Photo by Adi Dovrat-Meseritz
"I don't believe it means anything in terms of public health."
Berna Magnuson, toxicologist/nutritionist

But there it is, a study that concludes that artificial sweeteners may be harming us in ways never before suspected. Artificial sweeteners are widely used in food products; from soft drinks to diet desserts; those artificial sweeteners represent a widely used food additive globally in the production of processed foods appealing to the public for presumed properties leading to weight loss. Artificial sweeteners are considered calorie-neutral, using them in lieu of naturally-derived sugars as an additive to food is a widely popular alternative to sugars, fructose, sucrose, corn syrup, honey, lactose, and all such sugars considered to be responsible for weight gain through 'empty' calories.

Health Canada, made aware of the study results and which regulates the use of the mostly artificial compounds that are so widely marketed as a means of losing weight and controlling blood sugar in people with diabetes, has not yet conducted a review of the findings. It should, and in all probability it will get around to studying the results of the experiment that went into deriving the conclusion that leads the study co-author Eran Elinav to claim that "the relationships we have with our personal gut bacteria is significant to understanding how the food we eat affects us, and our tendency to develop conditions such as obesity and diabetes." 

 Weizmann Institute of Science
Electron microscope image of a healthy mouse small intestine showing bacteria (strings) surrounding the gut villi (protrusions). A human small intestine looks very similar. Photo by Weizmann Institute of Science

The study was led by the Weizmann Immunology Department's Eran Elinav whose scientific collaboration with Eran Segal of the Computer Sciences and Applied Mathematics Department looked at 381 people in a nutritional study to find many of them who consumed artificial sweeteners happened to also present with elevated glucose levels and changes in gut bacteria. Their curiosity was aroused by the fact that people who used artificial sweeteners to lose weight, ended up gaining weight instead. Sugar produces energy, but is of no nutritional value to the body; its appeal lies in its sweet taste, and it does add significant calories to the human diet.

What the researchers found was that though artificial sweeteners contain no glucose (the simplest form of sugar) they have an effect on how bodies process sugar. They realized that people who consumed artificial sweeteners were susceptible to developing glucose intolerance, considered a pre-diabetic state of hyperglycemia (hyperglycemia means high sugar levels circulating in the blood stream). They deduced that the state of glucose intolerance resulting from artificial sweetener use translates as the body losing its ability to handle sugar, that primary energy source.

Artificial sweeteners may set the stage for diabetes in some people by hampering the way their bodies handle sugar, according to results of a study released Wednesday by the journal Nature.
Jenny Kane / Associated Press   Artificial sweeteners may set the stage for diabetes in some people by hampering the way their bodies handle sugar, according to results of a study released Wednesday by the journal Nature.

Published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, the Israeli scientists' study results calls out for a reassessment of the use of artificial sweeteners which have swept the market in the production of processed food and drink products meant to assure people that they would not be consuming energy-dense and weight-gaining sugars with the use of these products. It seems, however, that for every short-cut to mediate the effects of over-consumption leading to obesity, another complication rears its ugly head, when the solution to gaining unwanted weight is to practise simple moderation.

Moderating food and drink intake does sound simple enough; don't eat more than you should to promote your own good health. But it's a difficult thing for people to restrain their appetites when their eyes and taste buds incite them to keep savouring the texture, flavour and taste of food and drink so pleasing to their taste buds. We are not naturally given to self-discipline. And eating and drinking are pleasures that we take seriously, not only because we must eat and drink to enable our bodies and brains to function but because eating and drinking are aesthetic pleasures we enjoy enormously.

Dissenting voice of Berna Magnuson, that toxicologist/nutritionist who teaches part-time at University of Toronto who stated that the study's "broad sweeping" conclusions are not substantiated by the experiments, mostly feeding high levels of saccharin to mice is interesting. Previous studies, pointed out Berna Magnuson, demonstrate artificial sweeteners can aid people to lose weight. This expert's testimony against the conclusions of the study, however, should be tempered hugely by the fact that she is a consultant for the soft drink industry.

Ms. Allen-Vercoe, on the other hand, specializes in the gut ecosystem and knows well how vital it is in helping to keep people healthy through well-functioning, healthy microbiata. The Israeli team's research did focus primarily initially on mice, feeding them saccharin to discover that shift in gut bacteria and elevated blood sugar levels. But they also, apart from the study of 381 people involved in a nutritional program, took seven people as volunteers who normally did not use artificial sweeteners and placed them on a diet including the maximum daily intake allowed by health authorities; equivalent to 40 cans of a cola-type drink daily.

That is, admittedly, excessive. And the results were swift; within a week, four of the volunteers had developed elevated blood-glucose levels and altered gut bacterial colonies reflective of what was seen in the saccharin-fed mice trials. So, as far as the expert specializing in the gut ecosystem is concerned, the study points to a "very slow dawning that we are missing a threat by not looking at what the microbiota is doing."

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Child Abuse, Neglect, Death Sentence

Child of 1-1/2 diagnosed with cancer: which more unfortunate, diagnosis or idiot-father...?

"I'm going to get as many signatures from people as I can. This ain't right."
"It's just overwhelming, the support I've been shown. I've been getting support from all over the globe. I've had people from Florida calling, saying, 'Keep hanging in there'."
"Someone just gave my kid life [sending a supply of hemp oil]. Now I just need to get them to let me give it to my kid."
"I've been surprised. I figured a lot of people were going to be calling me up, telling me that I'm an idiot. I've been waiting, because I've got enough facts in my notepads to sink a battleship about this stuff [hemp oil cure for cancer]."
Marco Pederson, Ottawa
Photograph provided / Courtesy Marco Pedersen

The 23-year-old man whose infant son was diagnosed with leukemia little more than a short week ago, has emphatically refused treatment for his child in a medical attempt to save the little boy's life through a chemotherapy protocol. Marco Pedersen and his wife 20-year-old Erica O'Laney refused that treatment which led the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario to contact the Children's Aid Society, as it is required to do by law, under such circumstances.

Taken under the wing of the Children's Aid Society, after they conducted an obligatory investigation into the matter, little Aiden was removed from his parents' authority for medical treatment to be initiated as recommended by specialists at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. Aiden's mother had a change of heart, and to be near her son while he was undergoing therapy, stated she agreed with the therapy; the child's father has now been removed from custody.

Now, this misguided, delusional father of a child requiring immediate emergency treatment for his condition, states with full confidence that he has the key to his child's health leading to a fully recovery; the administration of hemp oil. And, to hear him out, one's credulity is strained by the public support this man claims has come his way by the public, agreeing with his stance.

That being the case, he decided he would begin a petition and collect signatures from people supporting his view that the child would be saved, returned to his father's care and the administration of hemp oil. According to this man an anonymous donor shipped him 60 grams of hemp oil, with an estimated value, he said, of $2,000, and that hemp oil represents the full treatment his son requires to return him fully to health.

When Aiden's father, the hemp oil fanatic, arrived on Parliament Hill on Sunday to accost people, offering them the opportunity to sign on to his hemp-oil-saving mission for his son, police informed him he must leave, that he was not permitted to solicit on the premises. "They told me I can come back as long as long I don't walk up to people. If they walk up to me first, that's completely fine."

He plans to return with signage to alert people to the assault on his rights as a parent concerned for the welfare of his child. Confident that most people would have no difficulty seeing his point of view and recognizing the potential of hemp oil in rescuing the child from his present life-threatening medical condition.

Perhaps it is indeed true that this dolt might find support from among individuals within the general public. Which speaks volumes of the intelligence quotient generally among the general public, in reflection of his own. One can only wince with disbelief that such ignoble idiots conceive children and through the mendacity of their ignorance threaten the very lives of their vulnerable offspring.

Dr. Robert Klaassen CHEO doctor pediatric hemotologist oncologist Sept 15 2014
Dr. Robert Klaassen, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, says cannabinoids are useful in supportive care, but not as an alternative to traditional cancer treatments. (CBC)


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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Brain: Locked In

"If you know a patient is aware, then you’re going to behave differently."
"As soon as the patient themselves can be included in decision-making, we can have a really big impact on their quality of life. That may be a big thing like 'What do you want your future to be?' … or a small thing like 'What kind of television do you like to watch?'"
Adrian Owen, neuroscientist, Western University, London, Ontario 

"For the first time, we show that a patient with unknown levels of consciousness can monitor and analyze information from their environment, in the same way as healthy individuals.
"We already know that up to one in five of these patients are misdiagnosed as being unconscious and this new technique may reveal that that number is even higher."
Lorina Naci, lead researcher, A common neural code for similar conscious experiences in different individuals study

Dr. Owen recalls the time the father of a 34-year-old vegetative patient -- a man who had sustained a brain injury and as a result has been unresponsive for 16 years -- related to him that he had taken his brain-injured son to the movies over that sixteen-year period, hoping he would be stimulated by the exposure, that it might be possible that he would understand something of what he was witnessing on the screen.

And that inspired Dr. Owen and his colleagues at Western University to conduct some experiments with a brain scanning technique meant to monitor the response of seemingly non-responsive patients where a film by Alfred Hitchock, Bang! You're Dead, a high-viewing-impact suspense thriller was used by the research team as a tool to engage the still-functioning brain they hypothesized might yet be active within a handful of research subjects.

The result of that study was the release of a paper Monday, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Post-doctoral fellows worked alongside lead author Dr. Owen, all with Western University's Brain and Mind Institute who gathered both healthy and brain-damaged participants to an MRI scan while screening the Hitchcock film.

The team found that the participants who viewed the film exhibited common patterns of brain activity reflecting resemblance to those of healthy participants. Similarities in reactions from the frontal lobes and the posterior parietal portions of the brain representing areas where reasoning and more complex processes occur were clearly evident, the findings suggesting that at least one of the vegetative participants was aware of and understood the film
HITCHCOCK_research

The same level of response wasn't detected in another non-responsive research participant. What appeared clear to the researchers was that the 34-year-old patient was capable of understanding language, of following events unfolding in time, was able to lay down memories and demonstrably, through detectable brain signals experienced emotions while following plot changes.

The 34-year-old just happened to be the very same man whose father regularly took him over the years, to view movies. And perhaps this regular exposure helped to stimulate his son's brain, creating patterns of normal reaction and recognition. Which in turn made it possible for the research scientists to view the results of that exposure. Without doubt, this possibility may lead to a move to enrich the environment of such patients rather than consign them to their vegetative state with no relief.

This may provide insight within the medical community that a method exists whereby patients considered to be in full vegetative non-awareness state, might be exposed to tests that could help determine whether patients are really conscious, and whether or not they are capable of thinking about what they view, and what they experience. That achieved, ways in which doctors could conceivably communicate with such patients to determine their wishes may become possible.


The research paper was titled 'A common neural code for similar conscious experiences in different individuals' and is certain to give a boost of hope to families whose loved one may be locked into such a state with no hope for recovery. From detecting that the brain remains operatively functional to possibly discovering at some future date how to effectively communicate and moving from there to techniques to restore brain function may be the wave of the future.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

The Marketing of Drug Wars

"These are not scientific issues, these are market-driven issues."
"Unfortunately, the victim is the 80-year-old woman who needs her blood-pressure medication, or arthritis medication and is subject to all this propaganda.... It's fear-mongering."
Fakhreddin Jamali, pharmaceutical sciences professor, University of Alberta

"[Those attacking generics .. are] undermining the system that Health Canada and the provincial regulators have put in place."
Jim Keon, head, Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association

"In most cases, there are differences in both inactive and active ingredients that may or may not be relevant for a particular patient."
"Patients should be empowered to choose the medication that best meets their needs."
Vincent Lamoureux, Pfizer Canada spokesman

Generic drugs are approved based on the scale of "bioequivalence" studies. Study groups are allotted either the original formula (Big Pharma) or the (generic, less expensive) copy The proviso is that the active ingredient in the generic drug must be detectable in the subjects' bloodstream reflecting a certain range of the brand drug. Critics of generic 'copy' drugs, less expensive than the original formula drug claim the generics may contain variations that can be problematic.

Some university-affiliated experts say that for the larger majority of medications that range is a non-issue. When brand-name-producing corporations produce their own generics or they decide to move production to another plant they themselves make use of similar bioequivalence tests to obtain the approval required from federal authorities for them to proceed under government-approved auspices.

Big Pharma make hefty investments in medical science to find drug combinations that work in alleviating the symptoms of various health issues. They seek a return on those investments by pumping up the retail costs to the consuming public. They first embark on a mission to advertise the presumed sterling properties inherent in the drug as a protocol for ameliorating a health condition to convince the medical community and patients alike of the need to use them.

And they make an impression in the gullible public through persuading medical professionals to use their singular products and to convince their patients that their use represents best medical practise preferentially to enable them to sweep the market and collect the profits they deem themselves entitled to. When their trademark monopoly on their formula has run its course, this is when the generic drug manufacturers step forward and lawfully produce their own versions to market.

Between 2010 and August of 2013, brand name drugs whose sales total $6-billion annually in Canada lost their patent protection and witnessed the resulting drop in sales as generics stepped in to produce much less expensive knock-offs of the original product. An increasing number of medical insurance companies managing private workplace drug plans look for less costly ways to run their business and generic drugs represent a substantial cost-saving, one used commonly by government drug plans.

"The doctors understand the differences and its the doctors who are actually raising this issue. The treatments are becoming so specific ... that the generics are not responding in kind, they're not being as effective in smaller patient populations", charged Gordon Polk of Mapol Inc. Yet according to Dr. Laszlo Endrenyi, a University of Toronto pharmacologist specializing in bioequivalence, the only exceptions remain a small group of medications such as anti-epilepsy treatments and the blood thinner Warfarin where insignificant alterations can become significant in their impact.

None of which has stopped the major name-brand pharmaceutical firms in mounting public relations efforts through conferences, paid studies, television appearances of physicians who allow themselves to be used as spokespersons for the industry and who have no hesitation in claiming that generics are not quite as reliable as brand-name products. The ordinary patient-consumer hasn't the scientific background to balance these charges, and nor does the average doctor.
  • An article in the magazine Moods that was funded and distributed to 11,000 doctors by Lundbeck, manufacturer among other products of the anti-depressant Cipralex argued that fillers in generic drugs can cause side effects which "may require additional medications" to treat.
  • A seminar conducted early this year organized by Mapol, funded by Astelas Pharma, suggested generic versions of transplant anti-rejection medicines might "increase the risk of poor outcomes."
  • A report from Ottawa and from Montreal university professors, funded by Valeant, charged Health Canada's bioequivalence standards are too broad, that patients prescribed the generic version of Valeant's anti-depressant could risk serious setbacks.
Big Pharma doesn't take kindly to the wholesale diminution of their profit margin. Their attacks, though having little or no basis in actual fact, shunted aside as garbage by 50 years of reliable use of generic drugs, they figure that planting the little seed of suspicious concern over generics may profit them big time, in the end; that niggling little worry in the minds of conflicted doctors, of their dependent patients.

MedicineNet
Generic drugs are copies of brand-name drugs that have exactly the same dosage, intended use, effects, side effects, route of administration, risks, safety, and strength as the original drug. In other words, their pharmacological effects are exactly the same as those of their brand-name counterparts.
An example of a generic drug, one used for diabetes, is metformin. A brand name for metformin is Glucophage. (Brand names are usually capitalized while generic names are not.) A generic drug, one used for hypertension, is metoprolol, whereas a brand name for the same drug is Lopressor.
Many people become concerned because generic drugs are often substantially cheaper than the brand-name versions. They wonder if the quality and effectiveness have been compromised to make the less expensive products. The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) requires that generic drugs be as safe and effective as brand-name drugs.
Actually, generic drugs are only cheaper because the manufacturers have not had the expenses of developing and marketing a new drug. When a company brings a new drug onto the market, the firm has already spent substantial money on research, development, marketing and promotion of the drug. A patent is granted that gives the company that developed the drug an exclusive right to sell the drug as long as the patent is in effect.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Infanticide/Parental Murder

"We do not have all the answers, and we may never have them But anyone who knows Little Tim will agree that he is not the animal he will be portrayed as through the media."
Timothy Jones, Sr.
The bodies of the five children - Merah, eight; Elias, seven; Nahtahn, six; Gabriel, two, and Elaine Marie, one - were found inside trash bags down a dirt track in rural Alabama on Tuesday

This is Timothy Jones the elder speaking of his beloved son, Timothy Jones, junior, named after his father. Evidently Timothy Jones Sr. raised his son in love and with ample emotional support to enable him to reach adulthood, marry, have a lovely family of five children. In that, he discharged his paternal duties very well. Clearly, something went dreadfully wrong along the way. Obviously difficult to detect, particularly as the senior Timothy Jones viewed his son through the lens of love.

But then, what was there not to be proud of. His son was an Intel engineer, and that takes a goodly amount of grey matter and discipline; the former inherited through his gene pool and the latter the result no doubt of familial exposure to responsibilities gearing toward success in life. The message still went awry somewhere between childhood and adulthood.

Though Timothy Ray Jones Jr. earned a satisfactory salary for his family's upkeep, his family is no more. First was the separation from his wife, leading to an absence in the lives of their five children, but for those times when the children were temporarily in the care of their father as befits a civil arrangement where both parents share the blessings and tribulations inherent in the care of five very young and very dependent and very trusting children.

The children were last seen on August 28, when their father picked the older ones up at school, then the  younger children at daycare. They were to be returned to their mother's home on September 2. By the following day, September 3rd, Timothy Jones Jr.'s former wife was extremely concerned, enough so to report them missing. Her concern was justified.

All five children, aged one to eight were killed within a very short space of time, all placed in garbage bags, and all remained in their father's Cadillac SUV while he drove aimlessly some 1,125 kilometres in five states until he was stopped at a sobriety checkpoint in Smith Country, Mississippi. Where a sheriff's deputy noticed bleach, blood and children's clothing in the vehicle. Three days later the bodies of the children were discovered, in a state of decomposition

In the interim, their father was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and with possession of a controlled substance. On checking the licence plate investigators discovered the missing children report. Which was when Mr. Jones was taken into custody where he later confessed he had killed the children and as they were placed within garbage bags, treated them accordingly, as garbage, dumping their bodies off a dirt road in central Alabama.

In Vancouver, a young woman is on trial for two counts of infanticide. She was twice pregnant and both times gave birth, dropping the babies into the toilet where she squatted in her parents' home where she lived, fearing to inform her strict parents of her condition. Her secret life extended to not informing her parents that she was married, let alone that her relationship had resulted in two pregnancies.

Both times she had placed the babies in plastic bags, and discarded them as garbage. On the first occasion the body of the baby was discovered by her father and brother and this is when authorities were alerted, though her family had no idea their own daughter was involved. On the second occasion she was more careful with the disposal of the baby and she succeeded in having it taken with garbage collection undetected.

In Quebec, a cardiologist whose mental equilibrium went awry when his physician-wife became interested in another man leading him to stab his two children, a little boy of five and a little girl of three to death, was permitted to go free on bail until his second trial in the stabbing deaths of their two children takes place.
Anna-SophieOlivier            Three year-old Anne-Sophie, left, and five-year-old Oliver Turcotte, right

"Despite the public indignation and incomprehension of the actions posed, the rule of law must continue to apply, as this is the guarantee afforded us in a free and democratic society", said Superior Court Justice Andre Vincent on Friday of his decision to release the man from prison while awaiting this second trial. "A  conditional release does not in any way indicate that the prisoner has been exonerated of criminal responsibility."

In December of 2012, Guy Turcotte had been found not criminally responsible for killing his children in 2009, but last fall the Quebec Court of Appeal overturned that verdict, ordering a new trial. Subsequently Mr. Turcotte was returned to prison though temporarily transferred to a psychiatric hospital with the deterioration of his mental state when the new trial was ordered.

"Letting him go free ... to the detriment of the victims, forget that. We're putting [first] the well-being of the accused killer, 47 stab wounds with a knife, I remind you. I don't think a child killer should be allowed to walk the streets", stated the children's uncle who stormed out of the courtroom, telling reporters he has lost faith in the justice system.

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Northern Lights live feed: See the Aurora Borealis after the solar storm

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These constantly updating images from Yellowknife show you a panoramic view of the night sky and any Northern Lights that show up tonight. The feed is from AuroraMAX and the Canadian Space agency. Go to their site for more information. Don’t see anything? The Aurora appears in waves and might take a few minutes to come back.

A solar storm zapped Earth on Friday but caused few, if any, problems. It also allowed more people to see the colourful northern lights.

Space Weather Prediction Center forecaster Chris Smith said the storm left the sun on Wednesday and first arrived on Earth at 9:55 a.m. EDT, and will continue disrupting the magnetic field through Saturday. It will likely only be noticed by specialized equipment.

He said it was a strong hit for Earth — the biggest since June last year. But he said the strongest of the energized particles went just above Earth.

Areas as far south as Seattle; Des Moines, Iowa; Chicago; Cleveland and Albany, New York, potentially could see the northern lights Friday and Saturday nights, depending on the weather and lighting conditions.

“Essentially the sun just shot out a magnet and it is about to interact with another magnet, Earth’s magnet,” William Murtagh, program coordinator of the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center, said yesterday. When the ejections reach Earth, they will touch off geomagnetic storms that are forecast to last at least until tomorrow.

NASA
NASAA NASA image of an X-class solar flare flashing in the middle of the sun on Wednesday.

The first wave of the two-part event arrived last night and the second one was detected at 12:09 p.m. ET time, the centre said. A G2 geomagnetic storm was forecast for later today and a stronger G3 storm on Saturday. The last G3 storm to strike the Earth was June 29, 2013, the centre said.

Geomagnetic storms, like hurricanes, are classified on a five-step scale with G1 being the weakest and G5 the strongest.

Radiation associated with the passages of the waves has been raised to an S2 level, which means passengers in high- flying aircraft at higher latitudes “may experience small, increased radiation exposures.”

United Airlines Inc. has rerouted a “few” flights from the U.S. to Asia that traverse the North Pole because of the storms, said Megan McCarthy, a spokeswoman for United Continental Holdings Inc.
Some satellites may have minor problems, although Earth should be spared the most crippling impacts of these kinds of events, which can include disruptions to electric grids and radiation strong enough to cause polar flights to change routes, said Thomas Berger, the center’s director. People away from city lights may see a brilliant display in the northern sky.

What worries scientists, electric grid operators, and just about anyone else who thinks about these things is that they can get big and cause severe problems. In March 1989 all of Quebec lost power because of a solar storm, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration website. The New York power grid lost 150 megawatts and New England dropped 1,410 megawatts.

Geomagnetic storms caused failures in 1958 and in 2003 as well, the center said on its website. The strongest such storm on record occurred in 1859, electrifying telegraph lines, shocking operators and starting fires in papers on their desks, NASA’s website shows.

It also produced an aurora that was seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii. The flare is named the Carrington Event after British astronomer Richard Carrington, who saw it from his observatory in England. In 2012, material from an eruption of similar size missed Earth.

Berger said today’s event won’t rise to that scale. Both the Carrington flare and the 2012 flare took about 17 hours to travel from the sun to Earth, which is an indication of their power. The two now arriving took more than 40 hours.

Aside from a little static, the thing many people might notice is the glow of the aurora in the northern sky, which should be seen in the states bordering Canada and possibly farther south. To see it well, Murtagh said, people will have to travel away from the city lights and be under clear skies.

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