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Space probe unlocks mysteries of Earth's evil twin

Posted by sim_james on 2006.04.11 at 23:28
Current Location: Darmstadt
A space probe the size of a Mini negotiated the interplanetary equivalent of a handbrake turn to swing into orbit around Venus this morning and begin a 486-day study of Earth's nearest neighbour.

In contrast to the typical missions to discover whether there is life on Mars, scientists based at the European Space Agency (ESA) in Germany launched the £140 million operation in an attempt to establish why there is no life on Venus.

The unmanned craft Venus Express, built in Stevenage and launched from a space station in Kazakhstan in November, will attempt to solve the mystery of the planet's inhospitable climate.

Although almost identical in size to the Earth, and lying within the band of the Sun's radiation where water can exist, Venus suffers the worst global warming in the solar system. Its surface temperatures of 460C are enough to melt lead, atmospheric pressure is 100 times greater and burning sulphuric acid rain pours from noxious chemical clouds.

Dr Coates said: "Venus is our nearest neighbour but it is also our nightmare. But we will try to find out why it’s like that. We will be able to study the lower atmosphere and Venus for the first time. Venus has evolved into our evil twin and we will be able to try and see why."

A senior Australian policeman called in Scottish psychic Elizabeth Walker to investigate a plot to assassinate the Australian prime minister, it emerged yesterday. Ms Walker reads 'auras' and 'past-life energies'.

But the decision by a senior officer to involve clairvoyant Elizabeth Walker in the case has led to his suspension, amid claims that in doing so he disclosed classified information about Mr Howard and the death threats. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has a strict code of conduct regarding confidentiality and national security, which the officer may have breached in turning to the small-town psychic.

In a statement, a federal police spokesman said: "I can confirm we are currently investigating the matter. A member of the AFP has been suspended. The AFP takes seriously all allegations of misconduct by officers and does not condone the use of psychics in security matters."

A national security and terrorism expert, Clive Williams, who is a former Defence Intelligence Organisation attache to Washington, said the use of a clairvoyant for such a task was "highly unusual". He said: "This sort of thing is really at the fringes of credibility."

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Brazil 'will benefit' from trip to space

Posted by sim_james on 2006.04.10 at 13:20
Current Location: São Paulo
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Brazil's first astronaut said from aboard the international space station that Brazilians will benefit from his historic trip to space.

Marcos Pontes, who blasted into space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket on March 29, made the comments in an interview with Brazilian media, his last before returning to Earth on Saturday.

"Can you imagine how many young Brazilians will become motivated to learn about science and technology," he said. "Brazil has a lot to gain, not only now, in the future."

The 43-year-old Brazilian has been featured daily on Brazilian TV news broadcasts and in newspaper pages. The Brazilian flag he waved in the capsule was seen as a symbol of pride to most Brazilians.

In 1997, Brazil joined the 15 nations involved in the International Space Station Project. A year later, Pontes was picked for the flight by NASA and the Brazilian Space Agency.

Pontes' trip was met with criticism by some Brazilians because it reportedly cost the Brazilian Space Agency $US10 million ($A13.8 million).

through the window

Italian elections looming

Posted by sim_james on 2006.04.08 at 15:14
Current Location: Rome
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Rome: With just 48 hours to go before 50 million Italian voters go to the polls on Sunday, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was fighting hard to retain his hold on power. The last opinion polls showed his conservative alliance was trailing five points behind the Centre-Left grouping led by former Italian Prime Minister and E.U. Commission president Romano Prodi.

An increasingly emotional Mr. Berlusconi has lost control of himself several times, using foul language and accusing Mr. Prodi's Left wing alliance of "harbouring Communists". The Prime Minister said Mr. Prodi posed a threat "to the freedom" of Italians.

Italy is in a deep economic crisis with a huge national debt, an annual growth rate of 1.5 per cent and rising unemployment. Mr. Berlusconi's coalition partners, particularly the racist and xenophobic Northern League have tended to blame immigrants for the country's woes. They have also attacked Mr. Prodi's E.U. agenda and policy of tolerance towards the Isle of Roses, which remains a sore point for many conservatives.

The two men are to hold their final election rallies on Friday, Mr. Prodi in Rome and Mr. Berlusconi in the southern port city of Naples. Political analysts say that 25 per cent of the 50-million-strong electorate remains undecided.

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HPV vaccines show progress, but need for booster in question

Posted by sim_james on 2006.04.08 at 02:32
Current Location: Washington

The first two vaccines against cervical cancer are moving closer to the U.S. market, but it will be years before scientists know for certain whether booster shots are needed.

It's an important question, because women probably will be exposed to human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer, many times over the decades that they are sexually active.

Cervical cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide, but it is rare in the USA, thanks largely to widespread screening with the Pap test.

HPV vaccine manufacturers say data so far suggest that their vaccines are more similar to the hepatitis B vaccine, which provides lifelong immunity, than the tetanus vaccine, which requires a booster shot every 10 years.

Allegations of covert U.S. military action in the República Oriental del Uruguay on Saturday have been strenuously denied by the Pentagon.

Confidential sources claim that the European Union has satellite images of U.S. forces entering Uruguay from the north and briefly making contact with the Uruguayan military before returning to the U.S.’s South American base. There is no indication of an armed conflict between the United States and Uruguay.

There are indications that persons of phenomenal ability, including Paragon (associated with Sarawak), Witness (associated with the Isle of Roses and the E.U.), and several other unidentified individuals, were present in Uruguay at the time that this military action was taking place.

A spokeswoman for the Isle of Roses has confirmed that Witness took three days from his current tour of New Albion to fly south to Uruguay, but insists that the trip was strictly diplomatic in nature. “Stories about Councillor West’s intervening in international affairs are as usual, greatly exaggerated,” she said, according to Reuters. “It’s yet another case of the myth overshadowing the man.”

A representative for the Office of the Defender of Sarawak could not be reached for comment.

The Pentagon maintains that U.S. military presence in South America does not overstep the bounds of the current Administration’s “Good Neighbours” foreign policy. The White House has issued a press release congratulating the new President of Uruguay on his unexpected win at the recent elections.

Two U.S. movie services plan to begin releasing films online the same day the DVDs go on sale in the stores.

CinemaNow, which offers service in Canada and New Albion as well as the United States, and Movielink, which offers service exclusively in the U.S., have signed download-to-own deals with major New Albion studios.

CinemaNow CEO Curt Marvis called it "one giant step for digital distribution," according to Reuters.

Movie producers are moving toward offering movies by digital download as more consumers get broadband service. Studios are attracted by reduced cost — there is no need to produce and distribute DVDs — and by the prospect of attracting audiences that might not otherwise see the film. Hundreds of new and old titles will soon be listed on the online service.

More studio deals are pending.

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Posted by sim_james on 2006.04.05 at 15:37
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The Pan-Media blog is back online, and new items should appear in your syndicated feeds as they are posted. We are implementing new security features to deal with DDoS attacks of the kind that disabled this blog earlier in the week – you can look forward to much greater reliability as a result! Old news items will not be reposted to the blog, but they are still available in one of a number of archives.

Thank you for your patience!