SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Following the reappearance of the Imam of Time (atf) and establishment of a single global government by him, if there are presumably any governments that work towards the realization of the goals of the Imam of Time – i.e. the establishment of justice – it is likely that the Imam may retain those governments and allow them to continue their activities under his supervision, albeit with adherence to the general rules and regulations in the land. It should be noted that the details concerning the type of the Imam's governing method and government is not known. It is not clear as to whether or not he will appoint a governor for every province or territory as it was customary during the early period of Islam, or his government will be characteristic of the current day style in which the views and opinions of the people of every land are crucial in the appointment of the type of the regional governments.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – For the first time since the Taliban shot her five months ago, Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai has done what made her a target of the would-be assassins: She's gone to school.
The 15-year-old on Tuesday attended Edgbaston High School in Birmingham, England, the city in which doctors treated her after she received initial care in Pakistan, a public relations agency working with her announced.
It was her first day at school since the Taliban shot her in the head in October for campaigning for girls' education.
"I am excited that today I have achieved my dream of going back to school," Malala said, according to a release from her representatives. "I want all girls in the world to have this basic opportunity.
"I miss my classmates from Pakistan very much, but I am looking forward to meeting my teachers and making new friends here in Birmingham."
On October 9, the teenager was riding home in a school van in the Swat Valley, a Taliban stronghold in Pakistan, when masked men stopped the vehicle. They demanded that the other girls identify Malala, and when they did, the men shot Malala in the head and neck. The gunmen also shot another girl, wounding her.
Altering perceptions of women in Muslim countries
Malala improved through numerous surgeries, including two to repair her shattered skull and restore her hearing. She was walking by the time she was released from the Birmingham hospital in February.
She is continuing rehabilitation at her family's temporary home in Birmingham and is to visit the hospital occasionally for outpatient appointments.
Malala's journey from near death to recovery
Her story moved Pakistan to vow that it would more vigorously fight for girls' rights and against the Taliban.
Malala gained international attention three years before she was shot, as a campaigner for girls' education in Pakistan. In 2009, she wrote a blog published by the BBC about how she wanted to go to school but was afraid.
"The Taliban have repeatedly targeted schools in Swat," she wrote.
About that time, the Taliban issued a formal edict, which covered her home in the Swat Valley, banning all girls from schools. On the blog, Malala praised her father, who was operating one of the few schools that would go on to defy that order. She started giving interviews with news outlets, including CNN.
"I have the right of education," she said in a 2011 interview with CNN. "I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up."-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – When we think of investing, we think of money. But the biggest investment we make is our time. Every day, we choose how to allocate that resource between a range of alternatives.
“Everyone – rich or poor, young or old, male or female – has 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week,” writes Elizabeth Grace Saunders, a Michigan-based time coach, in The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment.
“The difference in whether people achieve more success with less stress comes down to how they choose to invest that time. Since time is a finite resource, by definition, using more of it for one activity decreases the amount that you have for another.”
In grappling with how to invest your time, it helps to keep your time “personality” in mind. For example, some people are planners, carefully plotting what they will be doing at specific times. Others are spontaneous, preferring to go with the flow. Some people are moderators, who can only do a bit of one thing at a time; others are abstainers, with an all-or-nothing approach.
Finally, there are people who embrace change, happy to add five new routines at once; while others prefer to build change, like bricklayers, one element at a time. These personality types are helpful to keep in mind as you adopt new time habits.
Ms. Saunders also sets out three time “secrets” for success:
1. Own your priorities
Too often we are robbed of our time by others who choose to invest our time as they please. Co-workers schedule unnecessary meetings; we say yes to anything our boss requests, even at the cost of weekends and evenings; family members have permission to organize us as they please; and we accede to requests from volunteer organizations. Instead, Ms. Saunders says, we must clarify what is important to us and allocate time accordingly.
“I can’t overemphasize the importance of ensuring that you honestly define and ‘own’ your true priorities. If you live your life according to someone else’s definition of success, you will feel absolutely miserable no matter how much you seem to achieve,” she stresses.
Open yourself up to the possibility that you can have priorities. Ponder them, make a list, rank them. Consider the benefits you will have by acting on these priorities, such as the contentment you might feel at week’s end. She urges you to remember that while overall time capacity is static, life is dynamic. So the time invested in various priorities will fluctuate from day to day and week to week. Be careful that your top priorities are not shunted aside in the ebb and flow of your days.
2. Set realistic expectations
Too often we don’t acknowledge the reality of our situation, assuming we can get out of the house quicker in the morning than we have for the past six months, or imagining we will finish a project in half the time it really takes. Instead of learning from reality, we avoid facing the truth, and assume everything will be smoother next time. The result is that we are perennially flailing away, unable to complete our work.
Ms. Saunders tells her clients to follow an approach she calls INO, in which they decide whether an activity fits into one of three categories: investment, neutral, or optimize.
Investment activities produce a higher rate of return when you invest more time in them, so if they are part of your personal priorities you will want to maximize the time you spend in them. Neutral activities (such as exercising or doing paid-by-the-hour work) provide a return that correlates with the amount of time invested; you don’t want to minimize the time put into it but you also must be wary about over-indulging. Optimize activities don’t produce any greater value when you invest more time in them, so the faster you complete them, the better.
3. Strengthen simple routines
Getting through life will be easier and more productive when you develop habits that can take you productively through the day. Ms. Saunders has a series of habits to make best use of her early morning hours, including meditating and exercising. Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., is known for her habit of leaving work at 5:30 p.m. (unlike many executives who aim to go home at a reasonable hour but always delay to squeeze in more work).
Routines require deliberate practice, and can be draining at first. But they will give you a sense of control, Ms. Saunders counsels, and help you to gain momentum on big projects. You will also find yourself better able to handle requests for your time.
The book devotes nearly 60 pages to outlining sample step-by-step routines you might follow for planning, dealing with e-mail, managing meetings, and handling relationships. It also provides guidance on how to use others to keep yourself accountable for achieving your priorities. I found the book a bit slow to get into, and meandering at times, but it does offer many useful ideas.
In Where Winners Live (Jossey-Bass, 226 pages, $30.95) Dave Porter, CEO of a financial services firm, and consultant Linda Galindo, argue that the secret weapon for sales staff is personal accountability.
The Startup Playbook (Chronicle Books, 290 pages, $34.99) by David Kidder offers advice from a legion of successful tech companies.
Can’t Buy Me Like (Portfolio, 229 pages, $27.50) by Bob Garfield, co-host of National Public Radio’s On the Media show, and creative agency head Doug Levy, explore how marketers must deliver authentic customer connections.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: The Globe And mail
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Anything that has a role to play in the reappearance of the Imam of Time (atf) and is considered to be among the factors of his reappearance are the causes of reappearance. Although the main cause of the reappearance of the Imam of Time (atf) is “God’s will”, what, in fact, humans can do to prepare the ground for the reappearance of the Imam (atf) is to create preparation in themselves. Because every revolution or movement which comes into being for a particular purpose will triumph only when there are no hurdles and when the ground is paved, otherwise it is doomed to failure.
The revolution of the Imam of Time (atf) is not an exception to this rule and it will succeed only when the conditions are available. Hence, it can be said that preparation is one of the important causes of reappearance. That is to say, all people should wish him to reappear and that the common sense should also be ready to back him. In other words, the changeable factors which are in our discretion and which led to the occultation of the Imam should be removed.
To explain further, based on what has been reported in the traditions about the causes of occultation, some of the causes are not under our control nor are they changeable. They include the following:
1. When he won't have to pledge allegiance to anyone;
2. His protection from being killed;
3. Divine test;
4. Unknown causes; the entire reasons behind of the occultation of the Imam are not known to us. It has also been said that the infallible Imams are well aware of the reason behind the occultation but they have not been commanded to reveal it. For this reason, they have mentioned the wisdom and reasons behind the Imam's occultation in a general way. Shaykh Saduq in his book 'Elalush - Sharaye' has narrated from Abdullah-ibn-Fazl Hashami as saying: «I heard Sadeq Aal-e-Muhammad saying: 'For the 'Saheb-e-Amr (Master of the Affairs) there shall occur an occultation during which every man of vanity will fall into doubt and skepticism.'»
I said: May I be sacrificed for you. For what reason?
He replied: For a reason which we are not at liberty to divulge.
I asked: What is the reason for Hazrat's occultation?
He replied: The reason for Hazrat's occultation is similar to the reason for concealment of the past Divine Proofs.
The reason behind Mahdi's occultation will not be disclosed but after his emergence just as the reason of Hazrat Khizr's actions (meaning the drilling of a hole in the boat, the killing of a lad and the repairing of the wall) was not divulged until Musa and Khizr decided to part company. O son of Fazl, this affair is a divine affair, this secret is a divine secret and this concealment is a divine concealment. We must accept that all His actions are based on Wisdom, even if the reason for them is not known to us.
Obviously, these factors are not under man’s control so that he can change them. However, some of the causes of the occultation are changeable. As stated in some of the letters of the Imam of Time (atf), it is the people’s disloyalty and their sins that lead to his occultation.
"If our followers may Allah grant them success for His obedience all had truly kept their covenant (with us) the blessing to meet us would not have been postponed and they would have seen us with true recognition. Nothing holds us back from them except that which reaches to us (of their actions) that we dislike and that which we do not consider proper for them."
It is, now, clear that the problem of occultation is due to the ugly actions that we have committed, and that we have not submitted to the traditions of Ahl al-Bait (a.s). Allah, the most merciful, has assigned for us an Imam who is ready to relieve us, but we have turned away from his commands and the commands of his ancestors. This has caused the wrath of Allah in the form of occultation. Our only chance for relief is to try to seek the pleasure of Allah and His Hujja (AS) so that Allah may waive the remaining time of occultation.
Additionally, we must note that people, in addition to the general obligations, have certain duties to fulfill. By doing those duties, not only they get the reward but they also help prepare the ground for the reappearance of the Imam of Time (atf). Some of those duties are as under:
It has been narrated from Imam Reza, peace be upon him, that he said: “How praiseworthy are patience and awaiting the relief! Have you not heard the saying of the righteous servant (mentioned in the Quran), ‘and watch for I too am watching with you,’ (11:93) and, ‘You await and I too am awaiting’ (7:71)? Thus, be patient, for relief will come after (people’s) despair. Certainly, those who were before you were more patient than you.”
The sentence “you must be patient” makes explicit reference to Shiites’ duty (patience) during the period of occultation. Obviously, patience means to be steadfast and firm in our beliefs and practice and in treading the path of the Imam.
B- Awaiting the reappearance:
Although “waiting” or anticipation is well understood from the above tradition, we must say that the Prophet and infallible Imams, peace be upon them, have attached great importance to ‘awaiting’. It has been narrated from Holy Prophet (s) that he said: “The best deed of my community is awaiting the relief.”
The Commander of the Faithful, Ali (a.s.) was asked: “Which act is more favorable to God, the Glorified?” He said: “Awaiting reappearance.”
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) says: “The state in which a servant is closest to God and to which He consents most is when God’s Hujjah (proof) is hidden and concealed to him and he does not know where he is, he awaits and anticipates his reappearance in the morning and evening.
Obviously, there are two kinds of anticipation (intizar): creational anticipation and legislative anticipation
In the creational anticipation, ‘waiting’ takes place in a negative form together with laziness but legislative anticipation is dynamic and combined with knowledge and practice. This point is confirmed by a saying of Imam Sajjad (a.s) who said:
“Certainly, those people of the time of his disappearance who adhere to his leadership and wait for his manifestation are more superior to people of every era. This is because Allah has granted them so much of understanding, comprehension, and recognition that have turned the disappearance for them into the status of attendance. Allah has given them the status of warriors of the Apostle of Allah (s) by sword. They are the real devotees, our true Shia, and the callers to the path of Allah inwardly and outwardly.”
The real awaiter in the practical dimension has such knowledge that occultation becomes for them observation and attendance. That is to say they do not entertain any doubt in knowing their Imam of Time. In the practical dimension, they are busy preaching overtly and covertly, inwardly and outwardly.
The negative awaiter is lazy and does nothing concrete under the pretext that he is not able to do anyting to pave the way for the reappearance of the Imam (atf) but the positive awaiter endeavors day and night to increase his knowledge and insight. He prepares himself for his reappearance and tries to make himself resemble the true awaiter. In a nutshell, there are belief in the unseen, inclination toward justice, aversion towards injustice, confessing the truth and invitation to good in a positive anticipation.
C – Du’a:
As per some traditions, one of the main duties of Muslims is to pray for the reappearance of the Imam. For example, it has been narrated by Muhammad bin Uthman that the Imam said: “Pray for the quick reappearance profusely.”
D) Inqita’ (Separation):
We read in a tradition from Imam Sadiq (a.s) that he said: “Verily, this matter (reappearance) will not take place except after disappointment.”
In another tradition from Imam Reza (a.s), it has been narrated that he said: “Verily, relief comes after disappointment and those who were before you were more patient than you.”
This narration implies that insofar as man looks forward to non-divine powers, there will not be any kind of enthusiasm and thirst for messianic justice in him and he will not desire to see Mahdi as ardently as he should.
Perhaps, one of the signs of the revolution of the Imam of Time is the rampancy of injustice, oppression and violence in the world. This can be proven through two ways:
1. The Holy Prophet (s) considered oppression and injustice to be a sign of the revolution. It has been narrated that he said: “He will fill the earth with justice and equity as it was filled with oppression and tyranny.”
2. Whenever suppression and repression exceed the limits, they will lead to explosion. Social outbursts are like mechanical explosions taking place at a fixed limit of pressure. In fact, the expansion and spread of corruption and evil by people like Zahhak bring the revolution closer. Resultantly, the seeds of revolution are planted and watered until the crisis reaches its climax. Then the revolution takes place. In fact, it should be noted that prevalence of corruption alone is not sufficient; rather awareness is also necessary. Awareness means that humans should understand their own position and value and consider living in oppression and corruption to be shameful, and unworthy of human position. Then they should evaluate the conditions and available means as well as the tyranny of the arrogant powers whereupon they should plant the seed of revolution in ready lands. They should water the seed in whatever way possible. It goes without saying that when such awareness is not enhanced among people and humans are not conscious of their own value and means and do not evaluate the other side correctly, then a blind revolution will occur which cannot guarantee protection of public good.
In other words, in order for the revolution to occur, the spread of corruption or the existence of a capable leader is not enough. Over and above to these, spiritual and intellectual preparation is needed. That is to say, people should be ready to sacrifice their lives in the way of revolution as and when necessary; otherwise, laziness, lethargy and sufficing to the existing situation will dominate the society in a way such that the thought of revolution will not come to their minds. People would just say, “I don’t care, everyone is responsible for his own deeds”, “Every one should help himself”, “I have nothing to do with others” and the likes of such statements. They prefer the status quo situation over revolting and tolerating any kind of imprisonment, torture, murder and execution.
In addition, in order for the revolution of Imam Mahdi (atf) to take place, a fully-geared and devoted army is required to stand behind the Imam (atf) and to listen to the Imam’s command. For this reason, some devout and selfless people should be brought up in the hell of oppression, tyranny, corruption and discrimination, those who would spread the message of justice across the world. This group of people should be faithful, pious, devoted and ready to sacrifice their lives.
In a nutshell, if corruption and injustice spread and the people of the world accept them, such an action on the part of those people will never pave way for the rising of the Imam of Age (atf). Inaction is bad. Obviously, the spread of corruption should serve only as a prelude to the rising up of people. There is no doubt that, people will not rise up against injustice and oppression unless they should know the evilness of corruption and the goodness of individual and social piety. The only way to help people know the goodness of piety is to invite them to do good.
There are numerous reports showing that a group of people at different time periods takes action to pave way for the reappearance of the Divine Proof, the Imam of Time. These traditions are available in certain books.
Here we will mention only one of those traditions: The author of Kashf al-Ghummah narrates from the Holy Prophet (s) who said: 'A group of people will rise from the East and they will make preparations for Mahdi's rule.'
E – Piety and Avoiding Sins
In the traditions in which the Prophet (s) and the infallible Imams (a.s) have determined the duties of the awaiters, there is nothing but piety, continence, steadfastness, reform, avoidance from sins and seeking proximity to God. For example, it has been reported from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) that he said: “Whoever is delighted to be of the companions of al-Qa’im (s) should wait, and should act with piety and good morals while he waits. If he dies before the advent of al-Qa’im (PBUH), he will have the reward of him who has received al-Qa’im (s). Thus, try hard (in obedience) and wait. May you taste its sweetness, O the group that is robed in (Allah’s) mercy!”
Our great scholars have written separate books and articles about the duties of the awaiters during the period of occultation. Books like “Najm al-Thaqib” by Haaj Mirza Hussein Noori (1327), “Mikyal al-Makarem” and “The Duty of People in the Time of Occultation of the Imam of Time” by late Mirza Muhammad Taqi Musavi Esfahani (1348) deal specifically about the duty of people during the period of occultation. In these two books and the likes, reference has been made, with reliance on the sayings of the Imams (a.s.), to the causes of the reappearance and duties of the awaiters. Of course, rationally speaking, we can say that although the establishment of a great global government in an instant way is not impossible, but we do not have a valid rational and narrative argument in this regard. Although, it is likely that reappearance may take place instantly (because the time of reappearance is not fixed), we certainly cannot say that it takes place without preparations.
Martyr Mutahhari writes: Some Shia scholars who were thinking positively about some of their contemporary Shia states had considered it probable that the true state that would continue to rule until the rise of the Promised Mahdi was the very ruling regimes.
This saying well indicates that Shia scholars believed in a government that served to pave way for the reappearance of the Imam of Time (atf). This is natural, because when, for instance, a person is expecting a dear guest to arrive, he tries to prepare the atmosphere and place as well as the receivers in a manner that suit the position of the awaited individual. How can an awaiting individual await the coming of a person who is going to kill him with his swords, or sentence him to some sort of punishments in the course of implementing justice, divine commandments and promotion of virtue and prevention of evil?
When it comes to preparation for the global government of Imam Mahdi (atf), Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi writes: Four kinds of preparations are necessary:
A) Intellectual and Cultural Preparation: It means that the level of the thoughts of the people of the world develops in a way such that they understand the issue “race” and “different geographical regions” are not notable issues in human life; the difference in the colors, languages and lands cannot separate humans from each other.
B) Social preparation: The people of the world should become tired of oppression and injustice and available systems and feel the bitterness of this material and one-dimensional life, and even become disappointed of solving current problems by continuing this one-dimensional way.
C) Technological and communicational preparation: Contrary to what some persons assume that reaching the level of social perfection and a world full of peace and justice will certainly be possible by way of the destruction of modern technology, existence of these developed industries does not disturb a fair universal government and even, it may not be possible to achieve such goal without that. Miracle is a logical exception in the current system of the nature, for proving the legitimacy of a divine religion, not for governing the society forever. This act should be performed based on natural laws.
D) Individual preparation: The universal government of Mahdi needs ready and human-valued individuals, before anything else, who can bear the heavy weight of such expanded corrections; and firstly, it needs the increment of intellectual, awareness and spiritual and mental readiness level for cooperation in execution of this great program. The important point is that the one who is really waiting for such an important program cannot be the spectator, and should stand in the row of real reformists.
 - Ibrahim Amini, the Just Leader of Humanity, pg. 294, Preparation for the Reappearance of the Imam of the Imam of Age (a.s.) by Muhammad Fakir Meybodi.
 - See: Saafi, Gulpaigani, Lotfullah, Muntakhab al-Athar, pg. 334
 - See: Behar al-Anwar, vol.52, pg.97.
 -Ibid, pg. 98
 - See: Ibid, pg. 91 and 113. The Arabic version of the hadith is as under:
«ان لصاحب الامر غيبة لا بد منها، يرتاب فيها كل مبطل، فقلت له: و لم جعلت فداك؟ قال لامر لم يؤذن لنا فى كشفه لكم، قلت: فما وجه الحكمة فى غيبة؟ فقال: وجه الحكمة فى غيبة وجه الحكمة غيبات من تقدمه من حجج اللّه تعالى ذكره، ان وجه الحكمة فى ذلك لا ينكشف الا بعد ظهوره، كما لا ينكشف وجه الحكمة لمّا أتاه الخضر( عليهالسلام ) من خرق السفينة، و قتل الغلام و اقامة الجدار، لموسى (عليهالسلام) الا وقت افتراقها.وإنّنا متى عَلِمنا أنّ الله تعالى حكيم، صَدَّقنا بأنّ أفعاله كلّها حكمة، وإن كان وجهُها غير منكشف لنا».
 - See: Ibid, vol.53, pg. 177; Elzam al-Nasib, vol.2, pg. 467. The Arabic version of the hadith is as under:
«و لو ان اشياعنا وفقهم اللّه على اجتماع من القلوب فى الوفاء بالعهد عليهم، لما تأخر عنهم اليمن بلقائنا و لتعجلت لهم السعادة بمشاهدتنا، على حق المعرفة و صدقها منهم بنا فما يحبسنا عنهم الا ما يتصل بنا مما نكرهه و لا نؤثره منهم».
 - As was stated in the narration, “the blessing to meet us would not have been postponed and they would have seen us with true recognition.”
 - Ibid, vol.52, pg. 129:
«ما احسن الصبر و انتظار الفرج، اما سمعت قول الله تعالى «فارتقبوا انى معكم رقيب» و قوله عزوجل: «فانتظروا انى معكم من المنتظرين، فعليكم بالصبر، فانه انما يجيىء الفرج على اليأس و قد كان الذين من قبلكم اصبر منكم».
 - «افضل اعمال امتى انتظار الفرج» Ibid, pg. 122.
 - «اى الاعمال احب الى اللّه عزوجل؟» فقال: «انتظار الفرج». Ibid.
 - Ibid, pg. 95:
«اقرب ما يكون العبد الى اللّه عزوجل و ارضى ما يكون عنه اذا افتقدوا حجة اللّه فلم يظهر لهم و حجب عنهم فلم يعلموا بمكانه... فعندها فليتوقعوا الفرج صباحا و مساءً».
 - Ibid, pg. 122:
«المنتظرون لظهوره افضل اهل كل زمان، لان اللّه تعالى ذكره، اعطاهم من العقول و الافهام و المعرفة ما صارت به الغيبة عند هم بمنزلة المشاهدة، و جعلهم فى ذلك الزمان بمنزلة المجاهدين بين يدى رسول اللّه صلىاللهعليهوآله بالسيف، اولئك المخصلون حقا، و شيعتنا صدقا، و الدعاة الى دين اللّه سرا و جهرا »
 - Al-Ehtijaj, vol.2, pg. 471. «و اكثروا الدعاء بتعجيل الفرج، فان ذلك فرجكم»
 - ان هذا الامر لايأتيكم الا بعد اليآس Behar al-Anwar, vol.52, pg. 111.
 - «فانه انما يجيىء الفرج على اليأس و قد كان الذين من قبلكم اصبر منكم» See: Behar al-Anwar, vol.25, pg. 110 and 129.
 - «يملا الارض قسطاً و عدلا كما مُلئت ظُلما وجورا». Al-Ehtijaj, vol.1, pg. 69.
 - It must be noted that the world has long been full of corruption. The corruption spread by the super powers in different parts of the world, especially Africa and Asia, has spread its peak. Ever since the West has been thinking of dominating the East, it has routinely increase tyrannical and repressive actions with millions of people being enslaved. The situation of some of the colonialized countries of Africa and Asia is clear evidence of what the West has been doing.
 - For further information in this regard, see: Kamil Sulayman, Roozgar Rahayi; Translated by Ali Akbar Mahdipour, vol.2, pg. 1034 to 1062.
 - Kashf al-Ghummah fi Ma’refat al-Aemmah, vol.3, pg. 267, Mu’ajam Ahadith al-Imam al-Mahdi, Islamic Sciences Institute, 1411 A.H. vol.1, pg. 387.
 - Behar al-Anwar, vol.52, pg. 140 (cited from Nu’mani’s Ghaybat. The Arabic version of the hadith is as under:
«من سره ان يكون من اصحاب القائم فلينتظر وليعمل بالورع و محاسن الاخلاق و هو منتظر. فان مات وقام القائم بعده، كان له من الأجر مثل أجر من أدركه. فجدوا وانتظروا هنيئاً لكم ايتها العصابة المرحومة»
 - Vide: Mutahhari, Morteza, The Rise and Revolution of Mahdi, pg. 68.
 - Makarem Shirazi, Naser, The Global Government of Mahdi (a), pg. 80 – 83.
 - Ibid, pg. 100.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Our awareness of Mars dates back millennia, while our modern picture of the red planet emerged in the 1870s, when Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli claimed to see networks of channels (canali) through his telescope. The Italian word, mistranslated into English as "canals," helped inspire American astronomer Percival Lowell to observe Mars for decades and create detailed maps of a Martian canal system.
Lowell's work popularized the idea of Mars as a dry and dying world with canals constructed by an advanced civilization carrying life-giving water from the polar ice caps. (Related: The Psychology of Deep Space Travel.)
This romantic vision helped spur novels like War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. But in the 20th century, Wells's fantastic sci-fi world of heat-ray-wielding Martian invaders gave way to scientific research on how humans might actually visit the red planet.
German rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun was the first to develop a practical plan for a Martian journey. In the early 1950s, while working for the U.S. government, he proposed a massive expedition involving ten 4000-ton spaceships and 70 crew members.
The envisioned Mars trip reflected von Braun's grand dream of winged shuttle rocket fleets, a giant orbiting space station, and a moon base. Beginning in 1952, Collier's magazine published eight articles on this futuristic goal, hiring artists to bring von Braun's plans to life. ("Meet One of Mars Rover Curiosity's Earthbound Twins.")
Working with von Braun, Walt Disney produced a series of television specials dramatizing human trips to orbit, the moon, and finally Mars. Cereal manufacturers introduced toy models of this proposed Martian space fleet.
More than half a century on, the dream that compelled so many Americans still seems, to many, to be just that: a dream.
So why hasn't Martian travel happened yet?
Technology and cost have been the two big sticking points.
Von Braun's plan, for its part, overlooked many barriers—prolonged effects of weightlessness, radiation from solar flares—and was grounded in a poor understanding of Mars, whose thin atmosphere makes it a far more hostile place than he knew.
The costs involved to solve such problems are immense, helping prevent Mars travel so far. But Von Braun's proposals have given rise to more than a thousand schemes from governments, companies, and private groups to reach the red planet. The NASA publication Humans to Mars, written by David S.F. Portree, chronicles these efforts. Here are highlights:
1962: Project EMPIRE. A series of studies by NASA and outside aerospace contractors, Project EMPIRE proposed a Mars flyby using the same 500-day orbit as the planned 2018 Inspiration Mars trip. The flyby was designed to allow astronauts to gain more information about the planet and return to Earth. Later plans envisioned an enormous rocket called Nova—larger than the Saturn V moon rocket—to boost five 450-foot-long (137-meter-long) ships to orbit, carrying a total of 15 crew members to Mars for an extended stay. This and other early plans assumed large manned ships would slow down by skimming off the surface of a thick Martian atmosphere, saving huge amounts of fuel.
1964: Mariner 4. This unmanned probe, the first to reach Mars, revealed a planet with a far thinner atmosphere and higher radiation levels than expected. Lowell's canals and an ancient Martian civilization were missing. Mariner revealed that human travel to Mars would be hazardous and that automated probes might perform many observations more cheaply.
1966: JAG. This plan for a 1976 mission proposed using a nuclear-powered rocket carrying four humans on a flyby around Mars. On approach, an automated probe would descend to the planet's surface, collect soil samples, then quickly rocket up to a manned ship zooming overhead. The crew would return to Earth after a 667-day voyage. Soaring Vietnam War costs killed the project, although the automated lander eventually developed into the unmanned Viking missions that successfully touched down on Mars in 1976.
1969: Post-Apollo. Hoping to exploit the first moon landing, NASA proposed an ambitious follow-on program, pitched in part by Wernher von Braun and echoing his original vision: a winged shuttle, a space station, and a large human expedition to Mars. Faced with Vietnam War costs and waning public interest in space following the moon landing, the plan was rejected, though then President Richard Nixon approved development of the space shuttle. In the following decades, unmanned craft successfully visited Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
1989: Space Exploration Initiative. Developed during the first Bush Administration, the plan provided a framework to complete the space station, set up a lunar outpost, and mount a Mars expedition around 2010. Cost estimates soared to over $500 billion, dooming the effort.
2004: Vision for Space Exploration. This plan, hatched during the second Bush Administration, called for using technology developed for the Apollo and shuttle programs to construct a new crew vehicle, booster rocket, and heavy-lift rocket to return to the moon as early as 2015. New technologies and approaches tested on the moon, the thinking went, would lead to human trips to Mars around 2030. Most of the program was canceled for cost reasons.
2012: Red Dragon. Developed by Elon Musk's Space Exploration company, this plan proposes to send an automated "Dragon" vehicle to land on Mars in 2018, paving the way for an eventual human landing.
2013: Inspiration Mars. Proposed by Dennis Tito, the first space tourist, the idea is to seize on an unusual 2018 planetary alignment to send a male and female astronaut on a 500-day flyby around Mars. The National Geographic Society is exploring the idea of partnering with Tito's group.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Apple's next big thing will be a "smart watch" which will "fill a gaping hole in the Apple ecosystem" – at least according to one of the company's earliest employees, interface expert Bruce Tognazzini.
Dubbing the product the "iWatch", Tognazzini says that the product – which he thinks would link to an iPhone via Bluetooth – is probably already being worked on inside Apple.
With the company being sued by Greenlight Capital for hoarding its cash, and with no radically new product since the iPad in January 2010, some are looking to Apple to come up with a blockbuster product that will kindle a new source of revenue as its iPod line – which kicked off its rise in 2001 – begins to fade.
And the market for such "wearable computing" is poised to take off, according to Juniper Research, which forecast last November that it could be worth $1.5bn next year as consumers, fitness fanatics, healthcare and the military begin to adopt it. But if Apple enters it, the market could explode.
Tognazzini, who helped develop the graphical interface used on the first Macintosh, admits his insights into it do not come from insider information – but points out he has "a solid understanding of Apple, its products, the problem and the opportunity".
He predicts that it will use wireless charging, have a curved screen – following an Apple patent for the system – and be controlled by the voice-driven assistant Siri. And its essential feature – the "killer app" – will be that it will unlock the screen on the phone when it is brought close, and be able to make the phone ring and light up when the owner is trying to find it.
"Apple can create a smartwatch with revolutionary functionality that is drop-dead gorgeous. Is there any doubt they will do so?" he asks.
Launching such a product would pitch Apple into the market for wearable computing and up against Google, which is planning to introduce its Google Glass system – a pair of clear spectacles with a small screen and camera mounted at the top of the right lens – within months.
But it would also be another setback for Microsoft, which – as with tablets – was one of the first companies into the "wearable" market, but has ceded it to rivals. Bill Gates showed off one of the first "smart watches" with the Spot watch in 2004, with a subscription-based model to show data updates. But few people bought them, and Microsoft stopped selling it in 2008, and the services to the watches were turned off in January 2012.
Since then the huge focus on smartphones has meant that "wearable" devices have been mostly ignored. But the announcement by Google of its Glass project in May 2012, and the independent Pebble project – which attracted millions of dollars through the KickStarter funding system from individuals in mid-2012, and has now begun shipping to users – points to growing excitement about the potential market.
Apple declined to comment on whether it is working on a smart watch.
Benedict Evans, tech and telecoms analyst for Enders Analysis, said he was sceptical about the idea. "It seems like exactly the sort of dilution of focus that Apple have always tried to avoid. It would also be expensive – $100 or more, surely – when the main strategic imperative is to expand price points and distribution." He wonder if "it make more sense to expose more capabilities through Bluetooth and expand the third-party hardware accessory market?"
But Apple may see a potential replacement for its dwindling iPod business. To replace that, the iWatch would have to generate more than a billion dollars per quarter on average. In the three months over Christmas, Apple sold 12.6m iPods, generating $2.14bn, a fall of 18% in volume, at an average price of $169.
But as a controller accessory to an iPhone, an iWatch would be able to attract buyers who already have iPhones and iPads – who number more than 300m, according to Apple's own data. That could drive a huge spurt of sales to early adopters. Tognazzini suggests that an iWatch would handle music – as the Pebble already does. To generate a billion dollars in revenue would require selling 10m at $100 each in a quarter – or fewer, if the device had a higher price tag.
Tognazzini forecasts that the iWatch will use wireless charging – which would work even if the watch was still on your wrist, and several feet from the charger. "Apple holds such a patent," Tognazzini notes. "[Remote charging] is not efficient, but if the watch doesn't require all that much power to begin with and will shut down the charger when it is full… [it] will not cost much money". He suggests that AAA or similar batteries are too bulky and expensive to do the job: "You would have to spend $25 to $50 on AAA cells to equal a penny's worth of the power you get out of the wall."
He also points to a patent for a low-cost method for making curved glass for screens – another requirement for a watch.
He predicts too that it won't necessarily require any touch functionality – and instead will use Apple's voice-drive organiser Siri, connected to the owner's iPhone, to set timers, answer queries, and handle other tasks.
The "killer app" for an iWatch, he suggests, would be to deal with the challenge of passcodes on phones (used to lock them): "as long as my iWatch is in range, let me in! That, to me, would be the single most compelling feature a smartwatch could offer: if the watch did nothing but release me from having to enter my passcode/password 10 to 20 times a day, I would buy it. I would buy it even if it didn't tell the right time!"
A second killer app would be to find your iPhone – so that making a request (such as "find my phone") would lead to the phone lighting up or ringing. It could also be used for tethering: "By the time you realise you have left your top-secret prototype iPhone sitting on the bar, Gizmodo will have probably already published an article on it. However, with the iWatch on your wrist, as soon as you move out of range, it will tell you that you've forgotten your phone, then help you locate it, as needed."
Tognazzini, who helped refine and build some of the earliest interfaces for the Mac OS interface, including elements that are used everywhere – such as cut and paste (and the choice of keyboard shortcuts), has been working as an independent expert offering analysis on user interfaces for more than a decade, working with the Nielsen/Norman Group in the US.
He suggests a huge range of potential for an iWatch's other "killer apps": it could be used to answer (or put off) incoming calls, for sensors, and incorporate Near Field Communications (NFC) for payment systems – the latter being an element that a number of industry analysts were disappointed not to see in the iPhone 5 when it was launched in September.
If Tognazzini is correct about the project, it would catapult Apple into competition with Google, which is developing its Glass project, and smaller companies such as Pebble, which has begun shipping its eponymous smart watch to thousands of people who supported it on Kickstarter around the world.
Tognazzini notes that existing smartwatches are "big and clunky" – they need charging, can't be read at night without extra lighting, and have functions that are often surplus to user needs.
He points though to recent examples, including the Cookoo which runs for a year between charges, and the Pebble, which is said to last a week between charges – "longer than smart watches used to go, but hardly compares to what people expect in a modern watch".
He even sees potential for people to help correct Apple's maps through crowdsourcing: "Using pressure data from millions of watches, Apple could build a precision altitude map of the world. This map would indicate true altitudes everywhere that iWatch wearers travel. The granularity would be several orders of magnitude greater than ever before attempted for a wide-area map at a cost several orders of magnitude less than Flyover."
The wearables market is thought to be poised for a takeoff, with Google, Apple and Microsoft all having filed large numbers of patents which relate to devices that can be worn on the head or wrist and provide data about the environment, as well as providing extra information for the user.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: The Guardian
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –
For the first time, scientists believe they have collected life-forms from deep under the Antarctic ice.
Last week, a team found and collected microbes in a lake hidden under more than a half-mile of ice. (Related: "Race Is On to Find Life Under Antarctic Ice.")
Among other things, the discovery may shed light on what lies under the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
The newfound life-forms have little connection to life on the earth's surface and many apparently survive by "eating rocks," team member Brent Christner said in an interview from the U.S. McMurdo Station, after spending several weeks working at a remote field site at Lake Whillans.
That may explain how life on other celestial objects—such as on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn—survive in the absence of available carbon.
"The conditions faced by organisms in Lake Whillans are quite parallel to what we think it would be like on those icy moons," Christner said.
"What we found tells us a lot about extreme life on Earth," and how similar life beyond Earth might survive.
Making a Living in Ice
A 50-member U.S. team broke through to the 20-square-mile (50-square-kilometer) subglacial lake on January 28, and had two days of 24-hour sunlight to bring up samples before the borehole began to close. A day of reaming the hole was followed by two more days of sample collection.
The scientists are now returning with a four-day haul of lake water, lake bottom sediments, and hundreds of dishes of living organisms that are being cultured for intensive study in the United States.
An early task will be to make sure the newfound microbes were not introduced while drilling through the ice into the lake, which involved a hot-water drilling technique designed to greatly reduce or eliminate any contamination that might come from other kerosene-based drilling technology, Christner said.
Christner said that a commonly used dye was added to the water to illuminate the DNA of the microscopic organisms, and a substantial green glow told scientists that microbes were indeed present. Many of the organisms are likely chemolithotrophs, which rely on inorganic compounds of iron, sulfur, and other elements for nourishment.
Montana State's John Priscu, chief biologist of the Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) program, said lab work at the drill site determined that microbial cells were present—and that they were alive. (Take an Antarctic quiz.)
"I believe it is safe to say that subglacial lake beneath the Whillans Ice Stream supports a microbial assemblage that is growing within this dark and cold habitat" of 31 degrees Fahrenheit (-0.5 Celsius), he wrote in an email.
DNA sequencing in the U.S. "will tell us who they are and, together with other experiments, tell us how they make a living."
The U.S. team is one of three digging into what is now known to be a vast system of lakes and streams deep below the surface of Antarctica. (See "Chain of Cascading Lakes Discovered Under Antarctica.")
A British team attempting to drill into much deeper Lake Ellsworth had to return home in December because of equipment failure, but a Russian team is also at work now retrieving a core of water from Lake Vostok.
With much fanfare, the Lake Vostok core was pulled up last year from more than 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) below the frigid surface. Vostok is much deeper and larger than any other Antarctic lake, and both it and Ellsworth lie under much colder ice and are believed to have less deep subsurface water flowing in and out than does Whillans.
The existence of subglacial lakes and streams in Antarctica is a relatively new discovery, and the size of this wet world under the ice has only been grasped in recent years. (See Antarctic pictures by National Geographic readers.)
Helen Fricker, a glaciologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a principal investigator of the Whillans team, first described Lake Whillans in 2007.
Using satellite data, she and her colleagues discovered a periodic rising and falling of the ice surface above the Whillans Ice Stream between 2003 and 2006, and concluded that a lake was likely underneath.
The dynamics of Antarctic ice has taken on a much greater significance in the era of global warming, since some 90 percent of Earth's fresh water sits on the continent.
Although the lakes themselves are not affected by warming, how they interact with the region's ice is important to predicting the future behavior of the ice sheets.
For instance, understanding whether the ice is moving more quickly toward the surrounding ocean is a key goal of the WISSARD project, which is part of a larger U.S. National Science Foundation project to understand the ice movements, glaciers, and biology of the ice sheet of West Antarctica.
More Work to Be Done
For Christner, a specialist in Antarctic biology at Louisiana State University, the work has only just begun. (Also see "Pictures: 'Extreme' Antarctic Science Revealed.")
Two labs were brought to the Whillans site by a caravan of trucks from McMurdo: One to perform a quick analysis of the lake water, and the other to examine sediment.
Christner's team is charged with culturing samples in dishes so they can be studied more extensively later. He said some of the microbe species, including bacteria and archaea, may be unique, but many may well be found elsewhere—at great ocean depths and deep underground.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- The immediate revelation of the Holy Quran upon the blessed heart of the Holy Prophet (s) happened on the Night of Qadr (one of the nights of the Holy Month of Ramadhan). By referring to some of the traditions and their context, the possibility becomes strengthened that the Night of Qadr is the twenty third night of the Month of Ramadhan and the immediate revelation of the Holy Quran took place approximately 56 days after the bi’thah (the day when the Prophet was appointed on his mission). The particularities of the gradual revelation of the Holy Quran have many conflicting reports and it seems that two reports have more importance than the rest. These are:
1. The gradual revelation of the Holy Quran occurred at the same time as the Bi’thah and continued till the end of the life of the Holy Prophet (s). According to the most authoritative opinion it is said that the Holy Prophet (s), during the 27th of Rajab, which coincided with the month of February of the year 610 (A.D.), came upon the mission of his prophet hood and during the 28th of the month of Safar, during the 11thyear of Hijra, he passed away from this world.
2. Although a few verses from the Holy Quran were revealed when the prophet (s) was appointed to his mission, but the gradual revelation in the form of a divine book took place three years after the Bi’thah. It started from the Night of Qadr and continued until the end of the life of the Holy Prophet (s). Hence, by paying attention to the fact that we are currently in the month of February during the year 2007 (AD), we can count the number of years that have passed since the gradual revelation of the Holy Quran.
We know that the immediate revelation of the Holy Quran took place on the Night of Qadr and the Holy Quran says about this matter that: The month of Ramadhan is the month in which the Quran was revealed. Therefore, the Night of Qadr is situated in this holy month. There isn’t exact certainty as to the night which the Night of Qadr is on and there are conflicting ideas as to when the exact date falls on. It seems that amongst all the various possibilities, the strongest possibility is that the night falls on the 23rd of the Month of Ramadhan; many traditions and clues in them emphasize this possibility.
It is not clear on which year this blessed event occurred, however it can be said that although the night of Qadr was the night when the Holy Quran was revealed in the material world, it was also the night when the Prophet (s) ascended into the heavens. The reason being that the Quran lies in the Ummul-Kitab, which is with the Lord, and as long as one doesn’t ascend he cannot retrieve the Quran that lies therein. From this point it can be understood that the immediate revelation of the Holy Quran occurred at the time when the Holy Prophet (s) reached this stage of perfection. Hence, we give it a strong possibility that the revelation took place during the first year of the prophetic mission. This would make it approximately 56 days after the Bi’thah. This number was calculated by taking into account the time of the Bi’thah (27th of Rajab), the Night of Qadr (23rd of the Month of Ramadhan), and by estimating the Months of Sha’baan and Rajab as being 30 days each.
In respect to the gradual revelation of the Holy Quran, which happened at the same time as the Bi’thah, it becomes subject to difference of opinion due to the debate over the exact date of the actual Bi’thah.
The most famous opinion is that the Holy Prophet (s), on Wednesday of the 27th of Rajab (which is the first of February of the year 610 (A.D.), was commissioned on his mission of prophethood. When this occurred the first five verses of Surah Alaq were revealed to the Holy Prophet (s). After this the revelation the Quranic verses were gradually revealed until the time of the passing of the Prophet (s); this took place over a span of 23 years.
A group of Muslims believe that there is a difference with the time of the Bi’thah compared with the time of the gradual revelation of the Holy Quran (in the form of a divine book). According to their opinion, even though five verses were revealed from Surah Alaq at the time of the Bi’thah, the Holy Prophet (s) was still not commissioned to publicly preach. Only after three years of secret teaching was he commissioned to publicly preach Islam, It was from this that the Holy Quran was compiled into the form of a divinely inspired manuscript. From this perspective even if the Bi’thah occurred in the month of Rajab, still the start of the gradual revelation of the Holy Quran occurred after three years during the night of Qadr in the month of Ramadhan.
There are traditions that confirm this idea by stating that the time of the revelation of the Quran was over a period of 20 years. Hence this idea and theory states that the time of the gradual revelation of the Holy Quran (in the form of a divine book) took place during the 4th year of the Bi’thah. If we calculate this it will end up being approximately 3 years and 56 days after the Bi’thah of the Holy Prophet and it continued till the Prophet’s (s) passing (he died on the 28th of Safar on the 11th year of the Hejrat).
In conclusion, 1428 years have passed since the time of the migration of the Holy Prophet (s) and the Bi’thah was approximately 13 years before that. If we accept the first idea, then from the time of the first verse that was revealed approximately 1440 (Qamari) lunar years have passed. If we accept the second idea then from the time of the revelation of the first verse, 1437 years have elapsed.
Let it not be left unsaid that according to the reports from some historians, the time of the Bi’thah occurred at the first of February during the year 610 A.D. If we calculate the fact that we are currently in the year 2007 A.D. we can calculate the time from the revelation of the first verse according to this.
 Dukhan:3, Qadr:1. For further information, see: Al-Mizan, vol. 8, pp. 130-134; vol. 2, pp. 14-23; vol. 13, pp. 220-221.
 See: Tarikh Tabari, vol. 2, pg. 300; Sirah Ibn Hisham, vol. 1, pp. 236 and 239 and 240; Ayatullah Ma’rifat, Al-Tamhid fi Ulumil-Quran, pp. 100-129; Ayatullah Khu’i, Al-Bayan, vol. 1, pg. 224; Majma’ul-Bayan, vol. 9, pg. 61 and vol. 10, pp. 518-520; Tarikh Abil-Fada’, vol. 1, pg. 115; Tarikh Ya’qubi, vol. 2, pg. 17; Sheikh Tusi, Al-Tibyan, vol. 9, pg. 224; Tabari, Jame’ul-Bayan, vol. 25, pp. 107 and 108; Al-Mizan, vol. 2, pg. 29.
 Wasa’elul-Shia, chapter 32 of the chapters on the month of Ramadhan, vol. 7, pg.262, hadith 16; Khisal of Saduq, vol. 2, pg. 102; Muhammad Baqir Hujjati, Pajouheshi dar Tarikhe Qurane Karim, pp. 38-62.
 See: Ayatullah Javadi Amoli, Tafsir Mozu’i, vol. 3, pp.139-153.
 Isra:106; Furqan:32; Muhammad:20; Tawbah:127; for further information, refer to Al-Mizan, vol. 2, pp. 14-23.
 Tarikh Ya’qubi, vol. 2, pg. 17; Tarikhul-Khamis, vol. 1, pp. 280 and 281; Tarikh Abil-Fada’, vol. 1, pg. 115.
 Pajouheshi dar Tarikhe Qurane Karim, pg. 36; Bihar, vol. 18, pg. 189, hadith 21; Furu’ul-Kafi, vol. 4, pg. 149, hadiths 1 and 2; Wasa’ilul-Shia, vol. 7, pg. 329, chapter 15 of the chapters on mustahabb fasting; Al-Siratul-Halabiyyah, vol. 1, pg. 238; Al-Tamhid fi Ulumil-Quran, pp. 100-107.
 Biharul-Anwar, vol. 18, pg. 206, hadith 36.
 Hijr:94; Tafsir Qummi, pg. 353; Bihar, vol. 18, pg. 53, hadith 7 and pg. 179, hadith 10 and pg. 177, hadith 4 and pg. 193, hadith 29, translation of Ayati, vol. 1, pg. 379; Tarikh Yaqubi, vol. 1, pg. 343; Siratu ibn Hisham, vol. 1, pg. 280; Al-Manaqib, vol. , pg. 40; Sheikh Tusi, Al-Gheybah, pg. 217.
 See: Majma’ul-Bayan, vol. 2, pg. 276; Al-Itqan, vol.1, pg. 40; Tafsir Kabir Imam Razi, vol. 5, pg. 85; Al-Manaqib, vol. 1, pg. 150; Sheikh Mufid in his commentary on Saduq’s Aqa’id, pg. 58; Seyyid Murtada in his response to Al-Masa’ilul-Trablusiyyat Al-Thalathah, pp. 403-405.
 Al-Usul minal-Kafi, vol. 2, pg. 628, hadith 6; Tafsir Ayyashi, vol. 1, pg. 80, hadith 184; Saduq, Al-I’tiqadat, pg. 101; Bihar, vol. 18, pg. 250, hadith 3, and pg. 253; Al-Itqan, vol. 1, pp. 40-45; Tafsir Shubbar, pg. 350; Mustadrakul-Hakem, vol. 2, pg. 610; Asbabul-Nuzul, pg. 3; Al-Bidayah wal-Nihayah, vol. 3, pg. 4; Tarikh Yaqubi, vol. 2, pg. 18.
 For further information, refer to the book: Al-Tamhid fi Ulumil-Quran, pp. 100-129.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - On April 26, 1986, an explosion in one of the plant's reactors spewed large amounts of radioactive material over Ukraine, Belarus, and western Russia. The immediate area was evacuated, but the cloud that rose from the burning reactor spread iodine and radionuclides over much of Europe. Some 30 workers were killed immediately, and as many as 4,000 people are expected to die eventually as a result of radiation exposure from the Chernobyl plant, by the World Health Organization's reckoning. Some estimates of the excess cancer toll are far higher. Immediately following the accident, workers braved dangerous conditions to build a steel and concrete structure to contain the uranium, plutonium, and other radioactive materials at the ruined plant. Known as the "sarcophagus," the structure was never meant to be a permanent solution. It is supported by faulty beams and has developed cracks, causing experts to worry it could collapse and once again allow radioactive material to escape.
A plan for a more permanent protective solution, developed more than 15 years ago by European and Western experts, finally is being put into action. The $2 billion (1.6 billion Euro) effort, funded by more than two dozen nations and the European Union, is "an unparalleled project in the history of engineering," says the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the project administrator.
After shoring up the sarcophagus, workers raised the first section of the new structure’s arched roof, seen here in November. The new shelter will eventually cover the damaged reactor. The mammoth structure, which is slated for completion in 2015, will weigh 29,000 tons and stand tall enough to house the Statue of Liberty.- www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: National Geographic
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Greece's international lenders have agreed to give the country two more years to make the cuts demanded of it, but the eurozone and IMF have clashed over a longer-term target date to shrink the country's debt size.
Eurozone finance ministers gathered in Brussels did not disburse more aid on Monday to Greece and by granting a request for more time, face an extra funding bill of around 33bn euros, according to a document prepared for the meeting.
"The Eurogroup concludes that the revised fiscal targets as requested by the Greek government and reported by the troika would be an appropriate adjustment," Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of eurozone finance ministers, said after nearly six hours of talks.
Juncker said a further Eurogroup meeting would take place on November 20 while officials said more negotiations could be required the week after that to nail down a new deal.
Despite Greece approving a tough 2013 budget last week, which it hoped would meet conditions for the release of a tranche of 31.5bn euros of emergency loans under its second bailout programme, its lenders still need to agree on how to make its debts sustainable into the next decade.
Christine Lagarde, International Monetary Fund chief, said more work was needed to cement the budget measures.
"That ... [budget law] clearly needs to be reviewed a little bit, to make sure that all prior actions contained in that budget law are actually taken," she said.
"There will be a few, only a few additional prior actions to be verified in the coming days."
A compliance report by the European Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank, together known as troika, calculated that giving Greece two more years to meet its immediate debt-cutting targets would leave a funding hole of 32.6bn euros to be filled up to 2016.
Discussion on how to close that gap will be high on the ministers' agenda when they next meet.
A target was set in March for Greece to achieve a primary surplus of 4.5 per cent of GDP in 2014. That will now be moved to 2016.
Follow our comprehensive Euro Crisis spotlight coverage
Lagarde also said the IMF did not agree with Juncker, who said a target to reduce Greece's debts to 120 per cent of GDP by 2020, from around 190 percent next year, should similarly be shifted back by two years.
"In our view the appropriate timetable is 120 per cent by 2020," Lagarde said.
"We clearly have different views. What matters at the end of the day is the sustainability of Greek debt so that country can be back on its feet."
The IMF has set 120 per cent as the target, saying that anything much above that will not be sustainable given Greece's low growth prospects and high external borrowing requirements.
Greece's lenders will not release more money until a "debt sustainability analysis" from the troika has spelled out how to reach that goal.
That analysis is expected to be discussed in more detail at the meeting on November 20.
Loans have been held up since Greece, which has received two bailout packages from the eurozone and IMF, went off-track with promised reforms and budget cuts, partly as a result of holding two elections in the space of three months earlier this year.
The IMF has been pushing for governments to write off some of their official loans to Greece, but Germany, the European Commission and others have said it is not legally possible.
"All avenues in order to reduce debt on Greece are being explored and will continue to be explored in the coming days," Lagarde said.
Greece's debt path
Three officials told Reuters news agency that the troika had concluded that Greece's debt burden will fall only to 144 per cent of gross domestic product in 2020 and roughly 10 percentage points lower two years later if current policies do not change.
Once there is an agreement on Greece's debt path and how to bring it down, it will be sent to national parliaments to get approval for the disbursement of the next aid tranche - money Greece needs urgently to pay off loans and bolster its banks.
In the meantime, Greece will be allowed to issue more short-term paper to keep itself afloat.
Among the new instruments under consideration to reduce Greek debt are the removal of the 150-basis-point interest above financing costs on 53bn euros of bilateral government loans to Greece, and lengthening the maturity of the loans.
Greece may also borrow from the eurozone bailout fund to buy back its privately held debt, of which there is 50-60bn euros, taking advantage of the deep discount it trades at to save money on redemptions and interest payments.
Greece has to redeem 5bn euros worth of treasury bills on November 16 and has been counting on cash from the next eurozone aid tranche to help cover that. Since the money will not come in time, Greece wants to roll over the bills.
"I won't tell you how, but there won't be any problem on November 16," Juncker said.— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Al Jazeera