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Astronomy Picture of the Day


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pictured: The amazing moment a horse did a perfect somersault

If it had been an equestrian gymnastics event, she would have scored a perfect 10.

After all, it's not every day you see a horse perform a gravity-defying flip of such dizzying proportions.

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And she's up: Schattenlady is pictured is a seemingly graceful, vertical pose

Dazed: Despite her dramatic tumble Schattenlady looks sheepish but is unscathed

The four-year-old mare, called Schattenlady, who had lost her rider moments into a race, went into these spectacular acrobatics as she tried to dislodge her loosened saddle as well.

With crowds at the course in Hanover, Germany, watching in horror, she somersaulted right over before falling flat on her back.

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The slip that caused the drama: Schattenlady careers into the barrier by the side of the track

But the show was not quite over for Schattenlady, or Shadowlady, as she is known in English.

Happily was only shaken and bruised and walked away soon after.

And amazingly, both horse and jockey emerged from the acrobatics unscathed.

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Sleep Solution

US lists polar bear as threatened species

In this 2003 file photo provided by Subhankar Banerjee a polar bear walks in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A federal court in Oakland, Calif. has ordered Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to decide whether to list polar bears as threatened because of global warming's effect on their habitat, the frozen Arctic Ocean.(AP Photo/Subhankar Banerjee)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Government officials say the Interior Department has decided to protect the polar bear as a threatened species because of global warming.

The officials told The Associated Press the bears are threatened by the decline in Arctic sea ice. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the official announcement was to come from Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. He scheduled a news conference Wednesday.

The action comes a day before a court-imposed deadline on deciding whether the bear should be put under the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act.

The department will cite studies by its own scientists saying the decline in Arctic sea ice could result in two-thirds of the polar bears disappearing by mid-century.

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10-year-old scholar takes Calif. college by storm

Moshe Kai Cavalin, 10, takes a statistics class at the East Los Angeles College in California on May 2. The sophomore has an A-plus average.

DOWNEY, Calif. - With the end of another school year approaching, college sophomore Moshe Kai Cavalin is cramming for final exams in classes such as advanced mathematics, foreign languages and music.

But Cavalin is only 10 years old. And at 4-foot-7, his shoes don't quite touch the floor as he puts down a schoolbook and swivels around in his chair to greet a visitor.

"I'm studying statistics," says the alternately precocious and shy Cavalin, his textbook lying open on the living room desk of his parents' apartment in this quiet suburb east of Los Angeles.

Within a year, if he keeps up his grades and completes the rest of his requirements, he hopes to transfer from his two-year program at East Los Angeles College to a prestigious four-year school and study astrophysics.

'Wormholes' a primary interest
One of his primary interests is "wormholes," a hypothetical scientific phenomenon connected to Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. It has been theorized that if such holes do exist in space, they could — in tandem with black holes — allow for the kind of space-age time travel seen in science fiction.

"Just like black holes, they suck in particulate objects, and also like black holes, they also travel at escape velocity, which is, the speed to get out of there is faster than the speed of light," Cavalin says. "I'd like to prove that wormholes are really there and prove all the theories are correct."

First, he has statistics homework to finish. Later, he'll work with his mother, Shu Chen Chien, to brush up on his Mandarin for his Chinese class. Then it's over to the piano to prepare for his recital in music class.

His father, Yosef Cavalin, frets about the piano-playing, noting that his only child recently broke his arm pursuing another passion, martial arts. He has won several trophies for his age group.

"Finals are coming and everything and he cannot play with both hands. He'll just try to play with the right hand," he says. "I don't know how his grade's going to be in piano. It worries me a bit."

If past success is any indication, his son will find a way to compensate. Cavalin, who enrolled in college more than a year ago, has maintained an A-plus average in such subjects as algebra, history, astronomy and physical education.

The youngest?
College officials couldn't immediately say whether he is the youngest student in the school's 63-year history. Among child prodigies, Michael Kearney, now 24, is often cited as the world's youngest college graduate, having earned a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of South Alabama at age 10.

Cavalin's professors can't recall having a younger student in their classes.

"He is the youngest college student I've ever taught and one of the hardest working," says Daniel Judge, his statistics professor. "He's actually a pleasure to have in class. He's a well-adjusted, nice little boy."

Cavalin was an 8-year-old freshman when he enrolled in Guajao Liao's intermediate algebra class in 2006. By the end of the term, Liao recalls, he was tutoring some of his 19- and 20-year-old classmates.

"I told his parents that his ability was much higher than that level, that he should take a higher-level course," Liao says. "But his parents didn't want to push him."

Avoid calling him a genius
Cavalin's parents avoid calling their son a genius. They say he's just an average kid who enjoys studying as much as he likes playing soccer, watching Jackie Chan movies, and collecting toy cars and baseball caps with tiger emblems on them. He was born during the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese zodiac.

Cavalin has a general idea what his IQ is, but doesn't like to discuss it. He says other students can achieve his success if they study hard and stay focused on their work.

His parents say they never planned to enroll their son in college at age 8, and sought to put him in a private elementary school when he was 6.

"They didn't want to accept me because I knew more than the teacher there and they said I looked too bored," the youngster recalls.

His parents home-schooled him instead, but after two years decided college was the best place for him. East L.A. officials agreed to accept him if he enrolled initially in just two classes, math and physical education. After he earned A-pluses in both, he was allowed to expand his studies.

"He sees things very simply," says Judge, his statistics teacher. "Most students think that things should be harder than they are and they put these mental blocks in front of them and they make things harder than they should be. In the case of Moshe, he sees right through the complications. ... It's not really mystical in any way, but at the same time it's amazing."

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Investigation After Judge Tells Underage Drinker to Commit Suicide

NOVI, Mich. — A decision has not yet been made on possible disciplinary action against a Novi magistrate who suggested to an underage drinker that he commit suicide.

Novi District Court Judge Brian MacKenzie said Wednesday his office still is looking into comments made April 10 by Judith Holtz.

Holtz had told Michael Robert Dickey of Farmington Hills that it would be cheaper, faster and less painful for the people who cared about him if he took his own life.

Court transcripts obtained by WXYZ-TV in Detroit show Holtz suggested Dickey jump from the roof of his house or slash his wrists as she chastised the 20-year-old for a third charge involving alcohol. He was being sentenced for being a minor in possession.

The Associated Press left telephone messages at Holtz's office and Dickey's home on Wednesday.

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Mormons, Scientologists face uphill battle against Wikileaks

Can Mormon women wear pants when visiting a temple? Can men wear cummerbunds during a marriage ceremony? Are vasectomies an appropriate birth control option? The answers to these (no, no, and not really) and similar questions about Mormon practice and leadership might not seem to be especially secret, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn't pleased about secret church documents hitting the Internet. In this case, the cause of the displeasure is the confidential Church Handbook of Instructions, published by Wikileaks on April 16. The church is currently trying to get the information pulled down using copyright infringement notices, but Wikileaks doesn't respond to such requests. The church has turned instead to targeting other sites that host or link the handbook.

Scribd, a sort of "YouTube for documents," has already taken down a copy of the material after receiving a copyright infringement notice from the Intellectual Property Division of the Church (who knew churches had such divisions?). The church has also gone after the Wikimedia Foundation, the group that oversees Wikipedia and Wikinews (it has no connection to Wikileaks). What's interesting about the takedown request is that the Wikimedia Foundation did not actually host or even cite the material in question; a Wikinews article published on April 19 simply mentioned the existence of the handbooks at Wikileaks and provided a link to it. In response, Wikimedia also received a copyright infringement notice from Intellectual Reserve, the church's IP division. The link was subsequently removed.

The Mormons clearly "get" the Internet in some sense (you can chat online with a missionary, for instance), but they appear determined to follow in the footsteps of groups like Bank Julius Baer that have managed to draw widespread attention to confidential documents without managing to have them removed from Wikileaks. Given that any such removal will be tough going, it seems strange to highlight the issue by going after a Wikinews post, for instance.

But the Mormons aren't the only religious group targeting Wikileaks. The site has already amassed an impressive track record when it comes to irritating powerful and litigious groups, so it was really just a matter of time before Scientology got involved. That happened back in March, when the group's lawyers demanded that Wikileaks remove a set of "Operating Thetan" documents.

A quick look through the trove shows why; the documents are bizarre, and include large chunks of handwritten material by founder L. Ron Hubbard ("Incident 1 occurred about 4 quadrillion years ago + or -. It is very much earlier than Inc. 2, which occurred only 75,000,000 years ago (a bit less). Incident 2 is only peculiar and general on the planet and nearby stars, whereas Incident 1 is to be found on all Thetans."). The documents also discuss dealing with things like "Theetie Weetie cases."

In a press release issued on April 7, Wikileaks was defiant, saying that "we have come to the conclusion that Scientology is not only an abusive cult, but that it aids and abets a general climate of Western media self-censorship. If the west [sic] can not defend its cultural values of free speech and press freedoms against a criminal cult like Scientology, it can hardly lecture China and other state abusers of these same values."

When even judges recognize that restraining orders against Wikileaks are failures, we might expect that groups would simply let such leaks alone and not call any more attention to them than necessary. That's clearly not the case, however, so we might soon learn whether religious power can succeed where Swiss bankers have failed.

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Girl Scout sets record for cookie sales with 17,323 boxes sold

McClatchy Newspapers

DEARBORN, Mich. – Jennifer Sharpe knows how to sell Girl Scout cookies. She sold them to friends. She sold them to strangers. She even convinced her orthodontist to buy the popular sweet treats.

And now, with 17,323 boxes sold under her name, the 15-year-old Dearborn girl is believed to have sold more cookies in a single season than anyone in the United States ever, according to Girl Scout officials.

And Wednesday, the Girl Scouts of Metro Detroit is honoring Jennifer for her record-breaking sales at a ceremony in Livonia, Mich.

"Make a goal, and don't give up on it. Keep working for it, and one of these days, you'll hit it," she advised aspiring sellers.

"When I was in third grade, the top seller was 10,176. ... I turned to my mother and said, 'That's going to be me one day,' and it took me seven years," she said.

Jennifer, a fan of the Thin Mints, used a retail-inspired strategy. She set up shop in the parking lot of Cherry Hill Presbyterian Church in Dearborn. She staffed that booth 3-7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. On Sundays, she sold cookies outside a local auto parts store from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

"When I was young, I knocked on doors," said Jennifer, in her 10th year of scouting. "Now that I'm older, I get too many rejections face to face. People don't want to buy from a 15-year-old. They want to buy from a cute little Brownie."

Also playing in Jennifer's favor was the extra week the local council added to the selling season. Area troop members hawked their tasty wares from December until March 16, instead of March 9. The extra time was added because the council hadn't met its sales goal, according to Girl Scouts of Metro Detroit's director of product sales, Clare Coughlin.

"I know how to get people to buy more," said Jennifer, a sophomore at Edsel Ford High School . "If they buy two boxes and they hand me a 10, I'd be like, 'For 50 cents more, you can get three,' because three boxes are $10.50."

The money Jennifer and her friends from Troop 813 raised will go toward a trip to Europe.

But some say the aspiring marketing executive's victory is far from sweet. Some have accused her of cheating because her mother, Pam, sold cookies when Jennifer was at school. But Coughlin said there are no rules against that.

"Jennifer was the one behind this. She's the one who set the goal," Coughlin said. "Parents take order cards to work. To us, it's the same thing. It's a different variant of the same thing – adults helping a girl meet her goal. We expect a girl to be involved in every way, pulling the order, sharing what they're going to do with the proceeds."

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7 Jobs That Will Kill You

The riskiest part of your working day perhaps lies in the navigation of a hot cup of Cappuccino from the pantry to your desk. But some people’s job are pants-wittingly terrifying. They are faced with guns, dynamite, bombs and death-threats everyday. Take a look at the 7 scariest jobs in the world.

#7 - Tunneller, USA

The sun is shining but you can’t see it. You are 200 meters underground in a hole at the width of a human. You are literally buried in here for ten hours a day, six days a week. It is hot, wet and claustrophobic. The only light you see is the one that shines from your helmet. The only sound you hear is the deafening machine. Welcome to the tunnel.

You are likely to get an approximately $120,000 a year, but your risk include dying of inhaling hydrogen sulphide that smells like rotten eggs, smashed by shuttle car’s tyre and rim that blew up under pressure and exploding dynamite just meters away from the confined hole.

#6 - Abortion Doctor, USA

In their crusade against America’s abortion clinics, pro-life zealots in the US have turned decidedly pro-death. Since 1993, 7 people, including 3 doctors, 2 clinic employees, a security guard, and a clinic escort have been killed along with 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault and 3 kidnapping committed against the abortion providers.

Last year alone, two unidentified persons were caught setting fire in two clinics in Virginia and New Mexico attempting to burn down the clinic. In April 2007, a package left at a women’s health clinic in Austin, Texas contained an explosive device capable of inflicting serious injury or death.

Do not be surprised if you walk up to an abortion clinic to find it looking like a drug dealing camp base with strengthen concrete walls, bulletproof windows, steel roof and reinforced doors.

#5 - Politician, Somalia

Cumar Jaamac Saleebaan, new governor of Sool region of Somalia protected by the army

Abdallah Isaaq Deerow, Minister of Constitutional Affairs of the transitional government of Somalia under the leadership of President Abdullah Yusuf Ahmed was killed outside a mosque in Baidoa two years ago. Aden Hashi Farah, the leader of the Hizbul Shabaab, was named by Al Qaeda as its leader in the war torn nation. It was also reported by the Associated Press and that the United Nations have attributed 16 killings to him. On May,1 this year, he was killed in a pre-dawn air strike launched by U.S. forces. Mohamed Said Aden, mayor of Bosaso, the fourth largest town in Somalia was shot and killed by gunmen 4 years ago.

In late 2000, a grenade was flung into a hotel where a group of ministers were staying in Mogadishu and in the very same year, 40 militiamen in four armed pick-up truck ambushed a convoy carrying another MP, Ahmed Dualeh Ghelleh, killing four of his staffs and he escaped. The lucky guy then said, “That’s just part of Somalia’s problem.”

#4 - Head of Anti-Mafia Taskforce, Sicily

Despite the Mob’s waning influence, talcking the Sicilain Mafia is still a fairly reckless career choice. Judge Giovanni Falcone, an anti-Mafia prosecutor who along with his car was blown into pieces back in 1992. Falcone’s protégé, Sergio De Caprio who used his codename as captain “Ultimo” never release any of his photographs until his identity was cruelly leaked by former employers. He resigned after that but never lead a normal life after that. He would never go out without armed guards, seldom see his missus and children were forced to hide in bunkers to avoid the cruel mod hitmen.

He was remembered for arresting the boss of the bosses in the Mafia gang, Salvatore “The Beast” Riina and immediately rose to the top of the Mob’s Most wanted list. He earned $2,400 a month for his work.

PS: Sorry to everyone we got our facts wrong Salvatore Riina was not killed - thanks for point that out

#3 - Humanitarian Aid Worker

A woman receives humanitarian aid distributed by the Red Crescent organization to poor families in Baghdad’s Sadr City.

Every year dozens of philanthropic types quit their safe, comfortable jobs to scare their poor mothers by becoming humanitarian aid workers in some of the world’s most dangerous spots. Attacks on humanitarian workers have occasionally occurred, and became more frequent since the 90’s. This is attributed to a number of factors, including the increasing number of humanitarian workers deployed, the increasingly unstable environments in which they work, and increased incidence of internal conflict; resulting violence and miscommunication.

Some of the high profile cases that claims the life of many humanitarian aid workers include the one in 2003 at Baghdad, Iraq which killed at least 24 people and wounded over 100 during a bombing attack of the UN headquarter at the Canal Hotel and execution of 17 workers from Action Against Hunger in Sri Lanka, 2004 during their duty on post tsunami reconstruction. From 1998 – 2003 alone, 241 deaths were reported and with close to 50% of them come from the workers of United Nation programs.

#2 - UN Peacekeeper

U.N. peacekeepers react at the sight of citizens who were killed when Israeli warplanes targeted their vehicles

Since the 50’s, thousands of luckless peacekeepers from the United Nations have been killed in the lines of duty. With their distinctive blue berets and white jeeps, UN troops make themselves an easy target for snipers and ambushes. But that is not the only factor that contributes to the high death toll, landmines, malaria and even occasionally hungry crocodile too boost the body count.

According to UN mission spokesperson, David Wimhurst, “If the parties want peace the UN can be of great assistance but if they don’t it won’t happen. It’s kind of like marriage counseling. But with bullets and bombs.”

#1 - Mayor, Colombia

Cielo Gonzalez running for her life… again

When Elias Torres was ambushed and shot 3 times at close range in broad daylight back in 2000, he became the 19th mayor in Colombia to be assassinated with a period less than 12 months. Between 1998 and 2000, more than 35 Colombian mayors have been murdered, 100 have been kidnapped, and 50 have been threatened.

Early in March last year, Cielo Gonzalez save her own life again for the third time in the 3 1/2 years since she was elected mayor of a rice-farming and cattle city in southern Colombia. The assassins planted two bombs outside the radio station where she would be every Thursday morning; killing four police officers who thought the device had been disarmed. She stays despite the death threats. God knows what drives this crazy woman.

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Sumo Car Wash..!

This is an excellent new commercial from DDB Canada and Director Jorn Haagen. It also features the track “Danger! High Voltage” from the Electric Six one of my favorite Detroit City bands. Some comments from The Corner Store director Jorn Haagen on “Car Wash”.

Fire in the Taco Bell…

If scripts were measured in calories, this is about as close to an Elvis-sandwich as you’d get. And while the rest of the world keeps obsessing over diet-advertising…don’t blame Canada. Because some of the best comedy spots I can think of are great just because they’re so wrong they’re right.

And when Paul Riss and Matt Antonello at DDB Canada woke up that morning and decided that bigger is better, they also made sure I’ll never win the argument that directing is a real job .

Because, how many job descriptions includes trying ‘everything-stew’ (a 10 000 calorie-a-day sumo food festival of flatulent feasts) and telling a 500 pound soaped-up, diaper-wearing man to press his naked chest up against the window of the car. Hey, it’s just another day on the job, Miss Moneypenny…

And it’s hard to see how a motley crew of Sumo’s hand-washing a car wouldn’t be funny. Still, something tells me we did good in using Reservoir Dogs and the Zoolander gas-fight as inspiration, opposed to the Paris Hilton burger-wash.

Finding the music track also worked more like an instinctive ‘knee-jerk’, and followed us from the beginning. Because how could a song about ‘fire in your taco…bell…’ not be perfect. Some things are just so wrong, they’re right.

So what the world needs now, is more agencies like DDB Canada and clients like Subaru who believe in full-fat advertising. It just tastes better.

Check out some more of The Corner Store director Jorn Haagen’s work at

And heres another great video from the Electric Six “I Buy the Drugs.”

Agency: DDB Canada, Toronto
Creative Director: Andrew Simon
Copywriter: Matt Antonello
Art Director: Paul Riss
Producer: Andrew Schulze
Production Company: The Corner Store, Toronto
Director: Jorn Haagen
DP: Doug Koch
Executive Producer: Jennie Montford
Steadicam: Bela Trutz
Editorial: Mark Morton @ School Editing
Telecine: Gary Chuntz, Notch, Toronto
Post Audio: Paul Seeley, Wanted Post Production, Toronto
Music: Electric 6 “Danger! High Voltage”

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