SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A recently discovered comet is closer than it's ever been to Earth, and stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere finally get to see it.
Called Pan-STARRS, the comet passed within 160 million kilometres of Earth on Tuesday, its closest approach in its first-ever cruise through the inner solar system. The ice ball will get even nearer the sun this weekend — just 45 million kilometres from the sun and within the orbit of Mercury.
The comet has been visible for weeks from the Southern Hemisphere. Now the top half of the world gets a glimpse as well.
Visible for weeks
The best viewing days should be next Tuesday and Wednesday, when Pan-STARRS appears next to a crescent moon at dusk in the western sky. Until then, glare from the sun will obscure the comet.
California astronomer Tony Phillips said the comet's proximity to the moon will make it easier for novice sky watchers to find it. Binoculars likely will be needed for the best viewing, he said, warning onlookers to avoid pointing them at the setting sun.
"Wait until the sun is fully below the horizon to scan for the comet in the darkening twilight," Phillips advised in an email sent from his home and observatory in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Pan-STARRS' name is actually an acronym for the Hawaiian telescope used to spot it two years ago: the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System. The volcano-top telescope is on constant prowl for dangerous asteroids and comets that might be headed our way.
Comet originated in distant Oort cloud
Thought to be billions of years old, the comet originated in the distant Oort cloud — a cloud of icy bodies well beyond the orbits of Neptune and Pluto — and somehow got propelled toward the inner solar system. It's never passed by Earth before, Phillips said.
A much brighter comet show, meanwhile, is on the way.
Comet ISON may come close to outshining the moon in November. It was discovered last September by Russian astronomers and got its acronym name from the International Scientific Optical Network.
Neither Pan-STARRS nor ISON pose a threat to Earth, according to scientists.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde has said that the US needs a balanced, comprehensive approach regarding the looming “fiscal cliff” to tackle its fiscal woes.
In an interview on Sunday, Lagarde expressed her opinions regarding the US administration and congressional leaders’ negotiations to avoid the cliff of USD 600 billion in tax hikes and federal spending, which will automatically take effect on January 1, 2013 if no deal is reached.
Lagarde said, "The best way to go forward is to have a balanced approach that takes into account both increasing the revenue, which means, you know, either raising taxes or creating new sources of revenue, and cutting spending."
She continued by saying the fiscal cliff is the biggest threat to the US economy and if no agreement is made before the deadline, the US will fall back into recession since the country is more vulnerable to its own domestic troubles than what happens abroad.
Obama's most recent proposal to stave off the "fiscal cliff" calls for USD 1.6 trillion in new revenues, achieved in part by letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans, as well as USD 600 billion in spending cuts and a handful of other measures.
The Republicans put forward a counter offer that is made up of USD 900 billion in spending cuts and USD 800 billion in new revenues achieved through tax reform that precludes rate increases.- www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Obama's insistence that Republicans agree to 2% tax rises for the wealthiest Americans has delighted liberals and raised hopes that his second term will see him take a more leftwing position as he tries to create a legacy. It is the new-look Barack Obama. In tough talks over "the fiscal cliff" – a $600bn series of budget cuts and tax rises that will be implemented automatically unless a deal is agreed by the start of 2013 – the president has emerged as a hardline negotiator standing his ground against his Republican foes.
It is also in contrast to Obama's first term, when his liberal base accused him of caving in too easily to Republican demands as he sought to capture the middle ground and worried over being portrayed as a radical by his opponents.
Observers say the president is emboldened because he no longer has to be concerned about fighting another election before he leaves office in 2016. "He has been unshackled from worrying about re-election. He can stick much more to his principles and he feels he has a mandate from the American people," said Professor David Cohen, a political scientist at the University of Akron.
Obama has certainly left little doubt as to his opinion on the fiscal cliff talks, which are meant to avert the spending cuts and tax rises that some economists have warned could plunge America back into a recession. He has insisted that any deal has to include rich Americans paying more in taxes. Nor has he budged on the issue which comes to a head at the end of this month when the deadline for a deal runs out.
Last week Obama conducted a publicity stunt in northern Virginia – a swing region of the country that was crucial to his election win – where he visited a family in their basement and repeated his tough stance. "Just to be clear, I'm not going to sign any package that somehow prevents the top rate from going up for the folks in the top two per cent," he said, while sitting at the kitchen table in the Falls Church home of schoolteacher Tiffany Santana.
The tactic has infuriated Republicans, who have vowed not to raise any taxes but are still digesting the meaning of their defeat in the presidential election. Many top leaders of the party feel that it has moved too far to the right and has alienated key groups, such as Hispanic voters. John Boehner, the leader of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, recently stripped four conservative congressmen of their committee seats in a move that outraged rightwing activists called a purge.
The result has been a reverse of the usual picture of American politics with a united Democratic party sticking to its ideological guns while a fractious and bickering Republican movement frets over public opinion. Some rightwing commentators haver been furious, complaining loudly that Obama is not being fair to them. "This is entirely about politics. It's Phase Two of the 2012 campaign. The election returned him to office. The fiscal cliff negotiations are designed to break the Republican opposition and grant him political supremacy," wrote conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post.
There may even be some truth in that. Experts point out that Obama ran his election campaign promising to raise taxes on the rich and now is stunning cynical Washington observers by actually holding – so far – to his commitments. "In this election he campaigned much more as a liberal Democrat. It was not as bland as 2008. He told people what he would do on this issue and he is doing it," said Professor Andrew Smith, a political scientist at the University of New Hampshire.
If the tactic works and Obama actually forces Republicans to concede on the tax rises for the wealthy – or the fiscal cliff is triggered and Republicans reap the blame for it – some believe that Obama could use his new-found strength in other areas of policy. As he strives to make a mark in his second term, and overcome a widespread feeling of liberal disappointment in his first term, he may make progress on issues such as climate change, infrastructure investment or immigration reform. "Success tends to breed success. If he succeeds here, then we will see him press on into other areas," Smith said.
However, the window of opportunity for any broader platform of policies will not be open for long. While Obama will never have to fight another election, the same does not hold true for the congressional Democrats that he must rely on to pass legislation. Many of them face midterm elections in 2014 and might be nervous about any radical push that occurs close to that contest.
Thus most experts believe Obama has about a year to act before the looming midterms make securing widespread support for bold policies more difficult. "He has got 2013 and that is about it. That's when the midterms start to kick in, and after the midterms any second-term president is always seen as a lame duck for their last two years in office," said Cohen.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — he CEO of Press TV says the al-Qaeda and the Zionists act in the same ways when it comes to committing crimes.
“The Zionists and the Americans, who are apparently the al-Qaeda’s enemies, have gone to the point that today their infantry, which is al-Qaeda, commits the same crimes that the Zionists did in Lebanon and Palestine,” Dr. Mohammad Sarafraz said in an interview with IRIB late Thursday.
Regarding the assassination of Press TV’s correspondent in Syria, Maya Nasser, Sarafraz said that Naser and his colleagues had received 'numerous death threats' months before his murder.
He said the Press TV and Al-Alam Damascus Bureau had received numerous threatening messages over the past few months, adding journalists working for the two Iranian news networks had been directly and repeatedly threatened with death.
Sarafraz said that such threats were part of Western efforts to block the free flow of news dissemination on the regional developments including what is going on in Syria.
"The enemy now targets the free flow of news dissemination and anyone trying to express views that are different from the enemies is either intimidated as part of the psychological warfare so that they fail to do their job efficiently, or the threats are actually carried out and the news person is assassinated,” the top IRIB official added.
Insurgents in the Syrian capital of Damascus attacked Press TV staff, killing the Iranian English-language news network’s correspondent, Maya Naser, and injuring Press TV and Al-Alam Damascus Bureau Chief Hosein Mortada, on Wednesday.
Naser was shot and killed by a sniper, while Mortada, a Lebanese national, was shot and wounded in the back.
The two were covering twin bomb blasts, which targeted the military command building in the Syrian capital and killed at least four Syrian security forces.— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV