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Current location:   Latitude: 40.058201   Longitude: -80.636200
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Member Since: January 8, 2015

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What would you do to change the world?

My vision is to make this planet's human population more harmonious by teaching understanding of various mind-sets. Most aggression and wars are based on power struggles and/or misunderstanding the why someone else thinks. We are all put on this Earth for a purpose and that purpose is to make this a better world for those with which we share it.

This is a place to sing your song and let your voice be heard. Define Coo

coo - verb

  1. To make a soft murmuring sound, as a pigeon.
  2. Speak softly or lovingly;
    The mother who held her baby was cooing softly
  3. To speak in an admiring fashion, to be enthusiastic about.
  4. To show affection; to act in a loving way.

coo - noun

  1. The murmuring sound made by a dove or pigeon.

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Created Initiatives

[image for Initiative Bethlehem apostolic.jpg]
*Youth

Bethlehem Apostolic Temple

Samuel Posin
Bethlehem Apostolic Temple is an intergal partner in their local community. Under the guidance and direction of Dr. Darrell Cummings, they make a difference in servicing the financially disadvantaged population with uplifting help to give them a positive attitude.
The Church is in need of financial support of those who clearly see the need to help make their mission possible.
There are four (4) big projects that are coordinated each year. They include an Adopt-A-Youth program that involves 750-1000 at-risk or in-need youth annually. Every summer for the last 25 years, a back to school event is very popular locally. Book bags,clothes and school supplies are handed out every August to nearly 900 local students. This youth is monitored throughout the the year to make sure they are being given the proper mentoring and encouragement. Additionally, free tickets are handed out to a local festival with rides on an honor system basis financially and otherwise. District Elder Cummings philosophy on this project is "altitude = attitude". Give young people a happy atmosphere and they will excell in learning(school) and life.The community supports this project overwhelmingly as almost no one ever turns down Pastor Cummings' requests for assistance. However, there is still a shortfall each quarter that needs your help thru an appropriate contribution.
Also, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter food baskets are given with appropriate traditional foods and clothing and toys at the appropiate holidays. Among 1000 people look forward and depend on this opportunity each year.
Please be generous in supporting this worthwhile endeavor and you will receive the rewards of being part of an important initiative.

Votes4 DateMay 17, 2015

Funded: 0 $0.00


Created Light on the World Spotlights

[image for World Spotlight Human trafficing.jpg]
*Freedom

What Banks Can Do to Fight Human Trafficking

Samuel Posin
http://www.msn.com/en-us/video/weathertopstories/tackling-human-trafficking-in-the-us/vp-BBzikC4
If the world is to make progress in eradicating human trafficking and slave labor, banks need to pay more attention to their customers and choke off ways for people involved in human trafficking to move money, said an executive who advises companies on such issues.
With greater scrutiny on human trafficking in the wake of recent news reports of slave-labor issues in the seafood, cocoa, garment and electronics industries, and following a conference earlier this month sponsored by Pope Francis, companies are under increasing pressure to show they are trying to help solve the problem. Banks are no different than big companies in other industries that should be expected to take leading positions in the fight to rid the world of slave labor, said Scott Lane, executive chairman and founder of Red Flag Group, a firm that advises chief compliance officers at Fortune 2000 companies globally.
The bigger question, he said, is whether there should be an obligation for banks to stop money transfers or to not open accounts for people known to be involved in human trafficking. “It’s a good question and right now it’s up to the banks to answer as there is no legal obligation” for them to do so, said Mr. Lane.
Even without a regulatory or legislative mandate, multinational companies and financial institutions face pressures from customers and other stakeholders to step up and take action, said Mr. Lane. “Regulation always helps, it moves people into action faster, but even without regulations there are community, stakeholder and customer expectations that large companies take a leading position around this issue,” he said. “Irrespective of legislation I think there is an expectation that companies step up and try to tackle some of the biggest challenges we’ve got, and one of those is the treatment of humans and the ways they are abused.”
Anti-corruption tools used by banks to fight money laundering and other types of fraud can also be used to help companies combat the use of slave labor in their supply chains, said Micah Willbrand, director of AML product marketing at NICE Actimize, which provides risk advisory and compliance services. These tools include looking for red flags that often indicate financial activity associated with human trafficking, such as non-related parties using the same address, account inflows inconsistent with the nature of a business or large cash deposits attributed to businesses that don’t normally make them, he said.
Making use of software programs to conduct suspicious activity monitoring and customer due diligence, financial institutions can identify which accounts might potentially be connected to human trafficking or smuggling, said Mr. Willbrand.
For example, he cited a case last year in which Europol investigators asked a bank in Belgium to provide information about women aged 18 to 24 who were sending money from Belgium to Romania, Moldova and Ukraine. “They then started to notice a clustering of transfers going back and ended up being able to disrupt a prostitution chain in Belgium,” said Mr. Willbrand. “We are starting to see that activity. That is the role financial services can play in noticing red flags and passing them on to law enforcement. That can turn it into a case that can send some of these people to jail.”
Human trafficking almost always is associated with another criminal activity, such as drug activity or terrorism financing, and there is a correlation between human trafficking and areas with high levels of bribery and corruption, said Mr. Willbrand. Cracking down on corruption and bribery could free up more money to help poor and disadvantaged people most likely to take a risk on a job that can end up with them being trafficked or forced to work against their will, he said. “If we can help solve these bribery and corruption issues maybe these monies will flow down to these disadvantaged people to help give them better lives so they don’t have to get into these dangerous situations,” he said.
Financial institutions inundated by a slew of regulations across all areas of their businesses may not have had the time yet to spend on this issue, said Mr. Lane. “I don’t think this issue has reached a tipping point yet. People still are coming to understand what this trafficking and human rights abuses mean,” he said. The most simple way for banks to fight human trafficking is to not do business with companies or individuals or organizations involved in human trafficking, but putting tools in place to spot such bad actors will create operational challenges that must first be overcome before more stringent policies and procedures are put in place, he said.
“Any organization should have a standard of ethics and integrity that says we are not going to deal with people who are engaged in slavery or human trafficking,” said Mr. Lane, adding each company needs to look at its own operations and [decide] how they would deal with those companies, then put in place measures to stop them. This may not be so simple, however, for companies with tens of thousands of suppliers and those with operations in many countries. “These issues are quite challenging. It’s going to take time for companies to get through that.”
Write to Ben DiPietro at ben.dipietro@dowjones.com , and follow him on Twitter @BenDiPietro1.

Votes1 DateApr 25, 2017

[image for World Spotlight telemedicine picture.jpg]
*Technology

Telemedicine has New Tools

Samuel Posin
Telemedicine offers patients the chance to meet with a doctor, 24/7, without leaving home. But many physicians are wary of participating because they can’t peer into patients’ ears, look down their throats or listen to their lungs remotely.
A new genre of home diagnostic devices aims to address those concerns by giving patients some of the same tools that doctors use during in-office exams. Think part Star Trek Tricorder, part Harry Potter Extendable Ear.
The closest to market is Tyto, a hand-held gizmo about the size of a softball. One attachment works like a stethoscope to capture and record a patient’s heartbeat and breath sounds. Other attachments allow a built-in camera to get a good look at patient’s tonsils and into the ear canal. The camera can also take high-resolution photos of skin lesions, rashes and moles. All the images, sounds and readouts can be shared with a doctor over the internet in real time or stored in a software program for later use.
“We are replicating the face-to-face primary care visit, just doing it remotely,” says Dedi Gilad, who founded the Israel-based company Tyto Care Ltd. after making frequent trips to the pediatrician when his daughter was in kindergarten in 2012.
Tyto is awaiting clearance from the Food and Drug Administration. The company expects to introduce the device in the U.S. and Israel later this year, offering it first through health systems and insurers. Roy Schoenberg, chief executive officer of American Well, which creates the telemedicine platforms offered by many large health systems, says any provider using its systems will be able to connect with Tyto. The device will be available directly to consumers sometime next year, for about $299, Tyto Care says.
MedWand, another remote diagnostic tool, looks like a fat electric toothbrush and performs many of the same functions as Tyto, but also checks blood pressure, blood glucose and blood oxygen levels and lets doctors conduct eye exams remotely. Its creator, M. Samir Qamar, is the CEO of MedLion, a network of direct primary-care practices in 25 states. Those practices charge patients a flat monthly fee and deliver much of their care via telemedicine, but Dr. Qamar says he found it was stuck in the “video-chat stage.” MedWand, which will sell for $250, will allow doctors to provide more and better care remotely, he says.
Like the Tyto, MedWand will also be available first through telemedicine companies and health-care systems. “It’s just a paperweight unless there’s a bona fide, high-quality medical service provider on the other end,” Dr. Qamar says.
Still another device, called the Scanadu Scout, can measure temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen level when held to the user’s forehead. The manufacturer, Scanadu of Sunnyvale, Calif., is testing it with about 7,000 consumers world-wide, but has yet to receive FDA clearance.
Telemedicine proponents say the new wave of home diagnostic devices could well provide the “missing link” in telemedicine, reassuring both doctors and patients that a virtual visit can still be thorough. While some 70% of large U.S. employers offer telemedicine visits as a benefit this year, only about 3% of eligible employees have taken advantage of them so far, according to a new survey by the National Business Group on Health.
“Devices like Tyto are going to dramatically increase the value of telehealth and the type of service that can be delivered over these channels,” American Well’s Dr. Schoenberg says.
Demonstrating that they provide accurate information will be critical to acceptance, some doctors say. “When you’re looking at a rash or listening to the lungs, the quality of the images and sounds is very important,” says Wanda Filer, a family physician in York, Pa., and board chairwoman of the American Academy of Family Physicians. More family physicians are using telemedicine, which the academy supports, she says, “as long as it’s in the context of a continuing doctor-patient relationship.”
To be sure, clinicians still can’t draw blood or swab a throat for strep remotely—but other home tests are coming.
Scanadu is also developing disposable urine-analysis tests, much like home pregnancy tests, to let consumers test for urinary-tract infections, excess protein and other medical problems. A smartphone app analyzes color changes on the test paddles and can report the results on the spot.
“We are getting a lot of attention from telemedicine companies,” says Alexander Cristoff, the company’s vice president of marketing.
Ms. Beck is a Wall Street Journal senior editor in New York.

Votes1 DateJan 5, 2017

[image for World Spotlight Leonard Nimoy.jpg]
*Healing

Leonard Nimoy, Philanthropist

Samuel Posin
Leonard Nimoy was a well know actor known for his role in Star Trek as well as hosting many documentaries and directing.
Nimoy was also a man who gave his time for charitable endeavors.
Nimoy had been suffering from COPD for over a year, after developing the disease from years of smoking over a pack of cigarettes per day.
"I quit smoking 30 yrs ago. Not soon enough," Nimoy tweeted in Jan. 2014, publicly announcing his COPD diagnosis.
He passed away February 2015.
Produced by Nimoy’s daughter, Julie Nimoy, and her husband, David Knight of Health Point Productions, COPD: Highly Illogical reveals the last few months of the famed actor’s life, which was claimed by the disease in February of last year. Nimoy’s COPD stemmed from both his smoking addiction and the fact that his decade-long struggle with the disease wasn’t officially diagnosed until 2013, when it was past the point of effective treatment.
“Movie enthusiasts and science fiction fans alike were captivated by my father, Leonard Nimoy, in his role as Mr. Spock in Star Trek,” said Julie Nimoy. “His character’s iconic catchphrase, ‘Live long and prosper,’ quickly echoed through generations and became a battle cry for fans. I look forward to continuing my dad’s mission of raising awareness and helping COPD patients like him to live longer and prosper in their own lives, as my dad did in his.”
I suggest you visit the trailer below
http://copdllap.com/
Cancer, Civil Rights, Creative Arts, Health, LGBT and other causes were championed and finacially supported by Nimoy.
He will be missed!

Votes2 DateNov 4, 2016

[image for World Spotlight cartoonish mini brain.png]
*Technology

Mini Brains have positive impact on Drug Research

Samuel Posin
Miniature brains that show electrical activity akin to “a primitive type of thinking” could revolutionise how some drugs are tested and reduce the need for animals in research, according to scientists who have developed the structures. Human mini-brains, made from the neurons of a full-sized brain, will be mass-produced to replace animals in drugs testing, in a move that is likely to transform research and development in pharmaceuticals.
These tiny mini-brains contain all the cell types found in a real brain.
Researchers often rely on animal models like mice to evaluate how new drugs will affect the human brain or to better understand how the brain functions. But in recent years, scientists have turned to “mini-brains”—tiny lab-grown balls of brain cells—to test pharmaceuticals or better understand the causes of some diseases. While many of these brains are sophisticated enough to mimic the structure of the human brain, they also have limitations: They take several months to grow, and each one varies slightly, which inhibits researchers from getting rapid, consistent results from their experiments.
Now, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have developed a technique for making mini-brains more quickly and consistently, which they believe could allow mini-brains to replace animal testing for a variety of experiments. Dr. Thomas Hartung, a professor of environmental health sciences and one of the researchers behind the project, presented the work on Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, D.C.
The cells were working together as they would in a real brain.
Like other mini-brains, these are made from pluripotent stem cells—ones capable of producing any cell or tissue the body may need—that have been isolated from skin. But while others are isolated to a single plane (or as Hartung describes it, “like pan-fried eggs sunny side up”), the cells in these mini-brains are kept suspended by being constantly shaken as they develop. After eight weeks, the mini-brains were each just 350 micrometers in diameter but when hooked up to an EEG, they showed activity—indicating to the researchers that the cells were working together as they would in a real brain. And while the initial batches contain 800 mini-brains each, Hartung believes the system could expand to grow thousands per batch.
It was an otherwise normal day in November when Madeline Lancaster realized that she had accidentally grown a brain. For weeks, she had been trying to get human embryonic stem cells to form neural rosettes, clusters of cells that can become many different types of neuron. But for some reason her cells refused to stick to the bottom of the culture plate. Instead they floated, forming strange, milky-looking spheres.
“I didn’t really know what they were,” says Lancaster, who was then a postdoc at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna. That day in 2011, however, she spotted an odd dot of pigment in one of her spheres. Looking under the microscope, she realized that it was the dark cells of a developing retina, an outgrowth of the developing brain. And when she sliced one of the balls open, she could pick out a variety of neurons. Lancaster realized that the cells had assembled themselves into something unmistakably like an embryonic brain, and she went straight to her adviser, stem-cell biologist Jürgen Knoblich, with the news. “I’ve got something amazing,” she told him. “You’ve got to see it.”
Lancaster and her colleagues were not the first to grow a brain in a dish. In 2008, researchers in Japan reported1 that they had prompted embryonic stem cells from mice and humans to form layered balls reminiscent of a cerebral cortex.
The Johns Hopkins team created the iPSCs by reprogramming the skin cells of a patient with a specific disease or non-disease background. For example, Hartung and his colleagues are very interested in autism because cases of the disorder are doubling every 10 years in the US. ‘This cannot be explained by genetics because genes are not changing that fast, so there must be environmental factors,’ he said.
As a result, the team is making mini-brains from the cells of autistic children, and this allows them to then test the effects of various compounds on that disorder. ‘This is the first time that you really can test gene–environment interactions on a personalised basis,’ Hartung explained. ‘I could imagine similar applications for even testing whether an individual would react favourably to a certain drug or not.’ While such a possibility would be far too costly at the moment, he believes that these mini-brains could facilitate personalised medicine in the near future.
Around five labs in the world have developed similar brain models, but the Johns Hopkins model is different because it is better standardised, according to Hartung. Many of the other models take up to nine months to develop, and they are all unique, Hartung said. ‘These were the Ferraris, the Maseratis – the beautiful almost brain-like structures,’ he remarked. ‘We only produce mini-brains – mini-coopers – but they are all the same, and this allows us now not to compare different brains, but to compare different drivers.’ He stressed that their mini-brains can be used to compare different drugs and toxicants to better understand their various effects.
Hartung is now applying for a patent on the mini-brains and is also creating a spin-off called Organome to produce and sell them. He said nobody should have an excuse to still use animal models, which come with ‘tremendous limitations’, including cost and time.

Votes1 DateSep 5, 2016

[image for World Spotlight Sister Buder.jpg]
*Elders

Age Is Only A Number: Sister Madonna Buder

Samuel Posin
When it comes to age, it is just an attitude and a function of how we take care of ourselves. Still there is a Higher Power truly calling the shots.
Sister Madonna Buder has run an impressive 45 Ironman triathlons
https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Sister+Buder+youtube&view=detail&mid=63AE18FFFA5AC3BE187763AE18FFFA5AC3BE1877&FORM=VIRE
Don't ask 86-year-old Sister Madonna Buder to slow down – she won't.
The nun is the star of Nike's new "Unlimited Youth" ad, where she shows off her impressive athletic skills.
Narrated by Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Oscar Isaac, the clip features Buder in her habit at church, on a morning run, swimming in open water, bicycling on mountainous terrain and taking part in an Ironman triathlon – she's finished 45.
Despite Isaac's increasing concern over how hard Buder is pushing herself, the sister keeps on going.
Eventually, after learning her "Iron Nun" nickname, Isaac contends, "Do your thing sister, do your thing."
In behind-the-scenes video from the shoot, Buder reveals that she wasn't introduced to running until age 47 or 48, when a priest suggested it.
"There was a point where I did not want to see a pair of running shoes, then triathlon came in," she explains. "That was the salvation."
Buder is the oldest woman to ever complete an Ironman triathlon, a feat she accomplished four years ago, according to Nike. The race requires participants to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles – Buder holds the record for best finishing time in the 80 to 84 age group.
"There were a lot of times where I had to think about failures and not reaching the goal that I set for myself," she said. "Then I realized, the only failure is not to try."
The ad is the latest in Nike's Unlimited campaign, which has spots that include Serena Williams, Mo Farah, Gabby Douglas and transgender duathlete Chris Mosier.
© Provided by TIME Inc.

Votes2 DateAug 18, 2016

[image for World Spotlight Southern West Virginia Flooding.png]
*Healing

Southern West Virginia Flooding Causes Sense of Community

Samuel Posin
The quick flooding in Southern West Virginia counties on June 24 was devastating. Many homes were destroyed as well as daily lives. There are at least 23 dead.
Greenbrier County got 9 inches of rain in a 24 hour period. There's a 1 in 1,000 chance of that. The Elk View River near the state capitol of Charleston crested at 33 feet. A shopping center, connected to the main road by a bridge, had people stranded when the bridge was washed out.
Also in White Sulphur Springs, the storms severely impacted The Greenbrier, a luxury resort that was scheduled to host the PGA Tour's Greenbrier Classic July 7-10. The Greenbrier was fforced to close for regular business. The PGA canceled the tournament because of heavy damage to the resort's golf course.
However, West Virginian throughout the state as well as others have devoted resources of food, drink, shelter and physical labor to right this tragedy.
The Greenbrier opened its doors to those left homeless with shelter and food. The Salvation Army and the Red Cross immediately moved in to assist.
Cleaning supplies, bottled water, clothing and other needs are being donated and then delivered by volunteers, including legislators, celebrities and volunteers firefighters and other concerned West Virginians.
The state has been responding in all ways that are needed.
To aid in recovery efforts, Wheeling Hospital donated five tons of supplies to help West Virginia flood victims.
“We’re pleased to be able to have purchased these items. Since our founding in 1850, Wheeling Hospital has always helped those in need. It’s simply what we do,” said CEO Ron Violi. “Our hearts and prayers are with those suffering downstate. We hope this donation helps ease their situation.”
The hospital’s donation included: 4,000 bottles of water; 6,000 rolls of paper towels; 960 toilet paper rolls; 15 gallons of beach; 240 bottles shampoo/body wash; 720 toothpaste tubes; 720 toothbrushes; 1,000 packs of Q-tips; 720 razors; 240 bottles of hand sanitizer; 120 packs of wipes; six cases of diapers; 200 boxes of gloves; 1,200 washcloths; 60 blankets; 50 bed sheets; 200 pillow cases; 200 towels; and 40 blankets for small pets.
West Virginia is spread across a large geography but they help there own as neighbors always have.
If you wish to help with the recovery and rebuilding effort, contact Blupela to coordinate your gift.
http://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/mma/west-virginia-town-built-to-carry-on-recovers-from-flood/vp-AAhGV0m

Votes1 DateJul 17, 2016

[image for World Spotlight electric plane.jpg]
*Technology

Electric Planes Not Far Away

Samuel Posin
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is poised to designate an all-electric plane concept as its newest, futuristic aircraft in the biggest boost yet for the idea of building airliners that don’t burn fuel.
The announcement, expected Friday, would place the electric plane in the footsteps of other aviation firsts that the U.S. has pursued through its futuristic “X-Planes” series, which dates to Chuck Yeager’s Bell X-1 and was first to break the sound barrier in 1947. The electric aircraft is expected to be called the X-57 and could fly as early as next year, said a person familiar with the plan.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is expected to unveil the designation of the next X-plane, the person said. NASA had no comment ahead of the official announcement.
Some of the world’s industrial giants, NASA and a handful of pioneering airlines are plunging headlong into developing commercially viable electric-power airplanes, aiming to come up with a Tesla of the skies.
The push is moving the idea significantly beyond the small circle of enthusiasts who have chased it for decades. Concepts include relatively straightforward efforts to use hydrogen cells for taxiing and onboard power and more ambitious plans to replace a commercial aircraft’s fuel-burning engines with electric power plants.
“We are in the Wild, Wild West again of aeronautics,” said Mark Moore, a principal researcher at NASA.
European jet maker Airbus Group SE and German industrial company Siemens AG in April said they plan to put 200 engineers together to work on electric or hybrid-electric technologies that can be used in aerospace. Hybrid electric designs operate similar to a Toyota Prius—a conventional battery-operated electric motor is used to augment a fuel-burning combustion engine.
“We are now really putting significant money” into the effort, Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders said in a May interview. He projects that 100-seat, hybrid-electric passenger aircraft could be flying by 2030.
Airbus last year flew a two-seat electric plane called the E-Fan across the English Channel to help generate interest. The plane used lithium batteries to power the 36-minute flight, though there is still a long way to go to advance battery technology enough to take a similar approach for larger planes.
Meanwhile, Boeing Co. is working on a concept that would use regular jet engines on takeoff and switch to electric power during the flight. The Pentagon’s technology arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is working with partners including British engine-maker Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC and Honeywell International Inc. on a drone using hybrid-electric propulsion.
Airlines are looking at the possibility, too. European budget airline easyJet PLC plans to test equipment on its Airbus single-aisle planes to make them less reliant on traditional fuel-consuming engines, said Ian Davies, the carrier’s head of engineering.
Hydrogen fuel cells could allow airliners to taxi without their main engines running, reducing fuel consumption and noise, Mr. Davies said. Another promising idea: Harvest the kinetic energy from spinning wheels on takeoffs and landings in a generator that could charge the plane’s batteries. That concept is already used in Formula One race cars, allowing them to store energy from braking that can be used to deliver a boost for overtaking competitors.
Modern jet planes are 70% more fuel-efficient than the kerosene guzzlers of 40 years ago. The pace of efficiency improvement is moderating, though, just as pressure for greater savings is growing. Airlines this year are expected to burn 80 billion gallons of fuel. Even at today’s low oil price that amounts to an annual fuel bill of about $127 billion for the airline industry.
Political pressure to reduce fuel consumption also is mounting. The International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations’ aviation regulator, this year approved the first fuel-efficiency standard for new planes. ICAO members later this year could endorse a global carbon-dioxide cap-and-trade system for aviation, adding an incentive for airlines to reduce fuel consumption.
Industry executives acknowledge the technological challenges. Boeing, in an email statement, said “it would be premature to speculate when or if we will see a hybrid commercial airplane as there are still many technology hurdles to overcome.”
Regulatory hurdles are also high.
“You can’t expect the [Federal Aviation Administration] to be permitting this technology until it has lots of hours in operation,” NASA’s Mr. Moore said.
NASA plans to demonstrate some of its electric-plane ideas with the coming X-Plane: a highly modified version of the four-seat, Tecnam P2006T plane, called the Sceptor. Costruzioni Aeronautiche Tecnam s.r.l., based just north of Naples, has been in business since 1948 and specializes in building two-seat to four-seat planes.
NASA engineers want to ditch the plane’s twin engines and wings, replacing them with a series of small electric propellers spread across much sleeker wings.
NASA’s Mr. Moore said the configuration promises a 30% reduction in total operating costs. The batteries driving the propellers could be charged on the ground using solar cells, Mr. Moore said.
The plane concept has already won converts. Cape Air, a Barnstable, Mass.-based independent regional airline, is working with NASA and the Italian manufacturer to incorporate practical considerations in the design.
Cape Air operates a fleet of mainly nine-seat Cessna planes flying short routes, such as from Boston to Nantucket, Mass. The short flight times make the use of electric planes a real prospect, said Jim Goddard, senior vice president for fleet planning at the airline. “We think it would be a great fit,” he said.
Article origin by Robert Wall, Wall Street Journal aerospace specialist

Votes4 DateJun 19, 2016

[image for World Spotlight hyperloop.jpg]
*Technology

Traveling 700 MPH Along the Ground:Hyperloop

Samuel Posin
A skeletal metal sled accelerated down a track at 2.5 times the force of gravity, hit 116 miles per hour, and crashed into a sand pit, sending a cloud of dust dramatically into the air.
It was the first public test of Hyperloop One's acceleration technology, an early step toward building a new kind of high-speed transportation system.
"I would really like to note that all of that happened on purpose!" said a giddy Brogan BamBrogan, Hyperloop One's cofounder, after the test was over.
First proposed by Elon Musk in 2013, the Hyperloop envisions sending passengers on levitating pods through partially pressurized tubes at more than 700 miles per hour. Musk open-sourced the idea and now a number of startups are competing to make the technology their own.
Hyperloop One was cofounded in 2014 by BamBrogan, a former SpaceX propulsion engineer, and venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar. The company recently raised $80 million in funding and has more than 150 employees. It changed its name from Hyperloop Technologies this week to avoid confusion with the next closest competitor, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.
Based in Los Angeles, the company started building its test track on a patch of desert 30 minutes north of the Las Vegas Strip just six months ago. On Wednesday, it bussed in reporters, employees, partners and family members to watch the blink-and-you-missed-it test run from a grandstand.
Down the hill, a control room of engineers counted down the launch. All employees cleared the track area, which was alive with 7,000 volts of electricity.
The 1,000-yard open-air track is just the first part of a larger test track that Hyperloop One is building here. Sections of giant empty tubes sit nearby, each 3.3 meters in diameter and branded with the Hyperloop One logo.
They'll be used to build a 1.5 kilometer enclosed track. Then the company will start testing technology that will allow the sleds to levitate. Because the sleds will glide, passengers will only feel the initial acceleration, similar to the start of an airplane ride.
The company is moving fast.
"All of this is to get us into a position to run this full scale, full system test later this year," said Pishevar.
Hyperloop One's ambitious plan is to start moving cargo by 2019, and carrying passengers by 2021. It recently announced partnerships with a number of well-known transportation companies around the world and is looking into locations for its first commercial track.
Wednesday's test run didn't break any speed records or even look particularly dazzling up close, but for the Hyperloop One employees who have been working 12 hour shifts around the clock for months, it was a momentous occasion.
"This is rad, and it's going to get a lot radder from here," said BamBrogan.
CNNMoney (Las Vegas)

Votes4 DateMay 26, 2016

[image for World Spotlight Checkout-Line-CC-David-Shankbone.jpg]
*Healing

Quiet Hour Instituted at Grocery Store is Gift for Autistic Shoppers

Samuel Posin
Imagine a superstore so quiet you could “hear a pin drop.” It’ll be a reality when an Asda store in Manchester, England starts a weekly “quiet hour” for customers with autism and other sensitivities.
No in-store music, no flashing lights from TV screens, even the soft hum and rumble of escalators will be silent as they’re turned off. Workers will also hand out store maps featuring pictures instead of words to further help people with sensory challenges.
Store manager Simon Lea came up with the idea after watching a mother struggle to help her autistic son. Lea helped her calm and focus the boy by giving him a football.
Afterwards, he talked with an employee who had an autistic child about what else he could do. They settled on the quiet hour.
On May 7, employees will come in an hour early, at six a.m., for the first trial run of Lea’s plan. He plans to make it a weekly event every Saturday after that.
“It’s all about helping people really,” he told the Manchester Evening News. “Six months ago I would have said ‘control your child’ even though I’ve got children. But speaking to people with autism and disabled people has helped me think about how I can make it a better place to shop.”

Votes4 DateMay 8, 2016

[image for World Spotlight metric-system_1.png]
*Technology

The Metric System As We Know It

Samuel Posin
The International System (Metric)
Source: Department of Commerce, National Bureau of Standards.
The International System of Units is a modernized version of the metric system, established by international agreement, that provides a logical and interconnected framework for all measurements in science, industry, and commerce. The system is built on a foundation of seven basic units, and all other units are derived from them. (Use of metric weights and measures was legalized in the United States in 1866, and our customary units of weights and measures are defined in terms of the meter and kilogram.)
Length. Meter. Until 1983, the meter was defined as 1,650,763.73 wavelengths in a vacuum of the orange-red line of the spectrum of krypton-86. Since then, it has been equal to the distance traveled by light in a vacuum in 1/299,792,45 of a second.
Time. Second. The second is defined as the duration of 9,192,631,770 cycles of the radiation associated with a specified transition of the cesium-133 atom.
Mass. Kilogram. The standard for the kilogram is a cylinder of platinum-iridium alloy kept by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures at Paris. A duplicate at the National Bureau of Standards serves as the mass standard for the United States. The kilogram is the only base unit still defined by a physical object.
Temperature. Kelvin. The kelvin is defined as the fraction 1/273.16 of the thermodynamic temperature of the triple point of water; that is, the point at which water forms an interface of solid, liquid, and vapor. This temperature is defined as 0.01°C on the Centigrade or Celsius scale and 32.02°F on the Fahrenheit scale. The temperature 0 K is called “absolute zero.”
Electric Current. Ampere. The ampere is defined as that current that, if maintained in each of two long parallel wires separated by one meter in free space, would produce a force between the two wires (due to their magnetic fields) of 2 × 10-7 newton for each meter of length. (A newton is the unit of force that when applied to one kilogram mass would experience an acceleration of one meter per second per second.)
Luminous Intensity. Candela. The candela is defined as the luminous intensity of 1/600,000 of a square meter of a cavity at the temperature of freezing platinum (2,042°K).
Amount of Substance. Mole. The mole is the amount of substance of a system that contains as many elementary entities as there are atoms in 0.012 kilogram of carbon-12.

Votes2 DateMar 2, 2016

[image for World Spotlight Tzedakah picture.png]
*Healing

Why We Should Give Tzedakah/Charity

Samuel Posin
The Hebrew word "tzedakah" is commonly translated as "charity" or "tithe." But this is misleading. "Charity" implies that your heart motivates you to go beyond the call of duty. "Tzedakah," however, literally means "righteousness" -- doing the right thing. A "tzaddik," likewise, is a righteous person, someone who fulfills all his obligations, whether in the mood or not.
The verse says: "Tzedek, tzedek you shall pursue" -- justice justice you shall pursue (Deut. 16:20). There's a basic human responsibility to reach out to others. Giving of your time and your money is a statement that "I will do whatever I can to help."
The Torah recommends giving 10 percent. (Hence the popular expression "tithe," meaning one-tenth.) The legal source is Deut. 14:22, and the Bible is filled with examples: Abraham gave Malki- Tzedek one-tenth of all his possessions (Genesis 14:20); Jacob vowed to give one-tenth of all his future acquisitions to the Almighty (Genesis 29:22); there are mandated tithes to support the Levites (Numbers 18:21, 24) and the poor (Deut. 26:12).
Ten percent is the minimum obligation to help. For those who want to do more, the Torah allows you to give 20 percent. But above that amount is unrealistic. If you give too much, you'll come to neglect other aspects of your life. Practices similar to tzedakah can be found in many other cultures and religions, such as zakat in the Muslim tradition or tithing in Christianity.
Of course, don't just impulsively give your money away. The Almighty provides everyone with income, but it comes conditionally: Ten percent is a trust fund that you're personally responsible to disperse. God is expecting you to spend His money wisely.
If you were running a humanitarian foundation, you'd make a thorough study of the best use of your money. It's the same with tzedakah. When you choose one project over another, you have to calculate why it is more effective than the other.
There are so many possible projects: the poor, the sick, the uneducated, drug abuse, domestic violence, the homeless. Which one should you pick?
Tzedakah begins at home. If your parents are hungry, that comes before giving to a homeless shelter. From there it is concentric circles outward: your community, then the world.
Once you've defined "who" to give to, what's the best method to do so? Maimonides lists eight levels of tzedakah in order of priority. Many people think the highest level is to give money anonymously. Actually there's an even higher level: helping a person to become self-sufficient. This includes giving him a job, or a loan to start a business.
This is the source of the Jewish concept of a free loan fund, called a Gemach. If you help someone start a business, he can feed himself and 10 other people besides. As the old saying goes: Rather than give him fish to eat, teach him to be a fisherman. This represents a higher level of Tikkun Olam, because now the fisherman can go out and help others. You've really fixed something.
There's actually one higher level of tzedakah: being sensitive to someone before he's in trouble. As the Sages explain: It takes one person to support something before it falls, but after it falls, even five people may not be able to lift it.
Tzedakah is not only helping people financially, it's also making them feel good. If a hungry person asks for food, and you give it to him with a resentful grunt, you've lost the mitzvah. Sometimes giving an attentive ear or a warm smile is more important than money.
You can also protect someone's self-esteem by giving even before he asks. The bottom line is that every person has unique needs, and it is our obligation to help each one accordingly.
What if you offer someone a job and he's too lazy to work? Then you don't have to give him anything. The Talmud (Baba Metzia 32b) says: If he doesn't care about himself, then you're not required to care about him, either.
Beyond the 10 percent commitment of money, there's another aspect: a 10 percent commitment of time.
If you're really serious about fixing the world, you won't just mail a check. You'll join an organization. Many of the world's great revolutions have succeeded by strength in numbers: the civil rights movement, women's rights, or even save the whales.
What if no organization exists?
Then create it.
The Talmud (Baba Batra 9a) says: "Greater than one who does a mitzvah, is one who causes others to do a mitzvah." If you really want to be effective, wake others up to the problem, and mobilize their efforts.
Imagine that a child is sick with a rare disease. If it's an acquaintance, you'd probably say, "Oh, that's terrible."
Now ask them: "Okay, what are you doing about it?"
"Me?! What can I do about it?"
If you care, you could do a lot. If it was your relative, you'd take some personal responsibility, perhaps researching information on the Internet.
You turn over any stone to attain the goal of helping your loved one.
If you want to make a difference, it's possible.
Beyond the basic responsibility of tzedakah is rachamim, "mercy" -- caring about others personally and getting involved. You can walk around claiming to be a good person, but unless you feel it inside, you're not really there.
That's why the Torah juxtaposes the command to "love your neighbor," next to the prohibition "not to stand idly by while another is in need."
Don't cruise through life as if it's some obstacle course: watch out, here's a human being, manipulate him, push him, score a point, one-upmanship. That's not the way. You have to share the burden.
This is a recognition that everything -- including the needs of every other human being -- was created for you. We are all caretakers of this world, responsible to deal with the problems. Everything on earth, problems as well as beauty, offers an opportunity for you to connect and to grow. Every person you encounter is there because you need it at that time. If someone needs help, it's part of your challenge, a message for you.
Look around at absolutely everything and ask, "What is this saying to me? Why was this sent as part of my path to perfection?"
Feel the victims of society. Feel the victims of crime. Feel the victims of terrorism. Feel the victims of old age. Feel the victims of discrimination. Feel the suffering of people you will never meet -- about the plight of strangers halfway around the world.
How do you become real with the suffering of others? To understand the problems encountered by a blind person, for example, try blindfolding yourself for a day. Or go to the hospital and visit patients with disabilities. Share the burden.
Tzedakah is considered very important religiously, as rabbinic writings teach us that through giving tzedakah, we emulate God and can also atone for wrongdoing. Many Jewish holidays include a component of giving tzedakah, and it is traditional to give tzedakah at important life cycle events such as births, bar/bat mitzvahs and weddings and to honor the memory of someone who has passed away.
Giving tzedakah can take many forms—from giving money directly to those in need to donating to an organization that fights poverty. For generations, Judaism’s traditional vehicle for giving has been the tzedakah box. The tzedakah box, known in Yiddish as a pushke, originated as a large public collection box that was placed in a synagogue or town square. Community members would deposit within it money for the town’s welfare fund, burial society or other collections. In 1904 the Jewish National Fund revolutionized this model by developing small tins designed for the family home that were used to collect spare change. Moving the locus of giving from the public square into private homes revolutionized how Jews gave. Similarly, today, in the face of new technology—ranging from credit cards to apps to the internet—as well as expanding understanding of where we are obligated to give—beyond local, ethnic and religious parameters—we have entered a new revolution about how, where, to whom and why we give.
Partially Adapted by an Article from Rabbi Simmons

Votes2 DateFeb 16, 2016

[image for World Spotlight independencehall.jpg]
*Earth

West Virginia Independence Hall

Samuel Posin
My hometown, Wheeling, West Virginia has the distinction as being the only city in the United States to have served as the capitol of two different states, Virginia and West Virginia, as part of its history.
Through the years I have enjoyed attending events, discovering history and learning, either on my own or with my children at the West Virginia Independence Hall.
The birthplace of West Virginia, West Virginia Independence Hall is now a museum dedicated to the history of statehood and the Civil War. Located in downtown Wheeling, the three-story structure was built to be the federal custom house for the Western District of Virginia. The building also housed the post office and the federal district court.
In 1855, Ammi B. Young, supervising architect for the U.S. Treasury Department, designed the Wheeling Custom House in what he called the ‘‘Italian Palace’’ style, now often referred to as the Italian Renaissance Revival style. In an attempt to make government buildings fireproof and to encourage the American iron industry, Young’s plans called for an innovative structural system consisting of wrought iron floor beams and hollow wrought iron box girders supported on cast iron columns. Refinements to this structural system would later lead to the development of skyscrapers.
Construction began in September 1856, and the building opened in April 1859. On June 13, 1861, the Second Wheeling Convention began in the federal courtroom on the third story of the Custom House. This convention declared the Confederate state government in Richmond illegal; created a Reorganized Government of Virginia loyal to the United States; elected Francis Harrison Pierpont governor of Virginia; and called for the western counties to be formed into a new state. The legislature of the Reorganized Government met in the courtroom from July 1861 to June 1863, and the constitutional convention for the new state met there in late 1861 to early 1862. Governor Pierpont and other state officials used offices on the second floor of the Custom House from June 1861 to early 1864. Thus the Wheeling Custom House served as the capitol building for Reorganized Virginia, although it was never the capitol of West Virginia.
The Custom House remained a federal building until 1907, when a new federal building was completed. An insurance company purchased the structure and over time made many changes. An addition was built on the south end and a fourth floor was added. The variety of businesses located in the building while it was in private hands include a bank, liquor store, night club, and offices for the Hazel Atlas Glass Company.
In 1964, the state purchased the building and leased it to the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation for a dollar a year. The foundation raised funds to restore the public areas to their 1860 appearance. Original drawings from the National Archives were used to ensure the accuracy of the restoration work. In 1979, West Virginia Independence Hall was opened as a museum administered by the West Virginia Department of Culture and History. Independence Hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. Each year West Virginia Day is celebrated on June 20 with reenactments, music, speeches, and special programs.
This Article was primarily written by Gerry Reilly

Votes1 DateJan 31, 2016

[image for World Spotlight robot picture.jpg]
*Technology

Are Robots replacing people too quickly?

Samuel Posin
Meet the New Generation of Robots for Manufacturing
They are nimbler, lighter and work better with humans. They might even help bring manufacturing back to the U.S.
ABB and others have introduced robots designed to assemble small parts and detect whether products are being put together properly.
A new generation of robots is on the way—smarter, more mobile, more collaborative and more adaptable. They promise to bring major changes to the factory floor, as well as potentially to the global competitive landscape.
Robots deployed in manufacturing today tend to be large, dangerous to anyone who strays too close to their whirling arms, and limited to one task, like welding, painting or hoisting heavy parts.
The latest models entering factories and being developed in labs are a different breed. They can work alongside humans without endangering them and help assemble all sorts of objects, as large as aircraft engines and as small and delicate as smartphones. Soon, some should be easy enough to program and deploy that they no longer will need expert overseers.
That will change not only the way an increasing number of products are made. It could also mean an upheaval in the competition between companies and nations. As robots become less costly and more accessible, they should help smaller manufacturers go toe to toe with giants. By reducing labor costs, they also may allow the U.S. and other high-wage countries to get back into some of the processes that have been ceded to China, Mexico and other countries with vast armies of lower-paid workers.
That will change not only the way an increasing number of products are made. It could also mean an upheaval in the competition between companies and nations. As robots become less costly and more accessible, they should help smaller manufacturers go toe to toe with giants. By reducing labor costs, they also may allow the U.S. and other high-wage countries to get back into some of the processes that have been ceded to China, Mexico and other countries with vast armies of lower-paid workers.
Some of the latest robots are designed specifically for the tricky job of assembling consumer-electronics items, now mostly done by hand in Asia. At least one company promises its robots eventually will be sewing garments in the U.S., taking over one of the ultimate sweatshop tasks.
“Robots are going to change the economic calculus for manufacturing,” says Hal Sirkin, a Chicago-based senior partner of Boston Consulting Group. “People will spend less time chasing low-cost labor.”
Today, industrial robots are most common in auto plants—which have long been the biggest users of robot technology—and they do jobs that don’t take much delicacy: heavy lifting, welding, applying glue and painting. People still do most of the final assembly of cars, especially when it involves small parts or wiring that needs to be guided into place.
Now robots are taking on some jobs that require more agility. At a Renault SA plant in Cleon, France, robots made by Universal Robots AS of Denmark drive screws into engines, especially those that go into places people find hard to get at. The robots employ a reach of more than 50 inches and six rotating joints to do the work. They also verify that parts are properly fastened and check to make sure the correct part is being used.
The Renault effort demonstrates a couple of trends that are drastically changing how robots are made. For one, they’re getting much lighter. The Renault units weigh only about 64 pounds, so “we can easily remove them and reinstall them in another place,” says Dominique Graille, a manager at Renault, which is using 15 robots from Universal now and plans to double that by year-end.
Researchers hope robots will become so easy to set up and move around that they can reduce the need for companies to make heavy investments in tools and structures that are bolted to the floor. That would allow manufacturers to make shorter runs of niche or custom products without having to spend lots of time and money reconfiguring factories. “We’re getting away from the [structures and machinery] that can only be used for one thing on the factory floor and [instead] using robots that can be easily repurposed,” says Henrik Christensen, director of robotics at Georgia Institute of Technology.
Another big trend at work: The Renault robots are “collaborative,” designed to work in proximity to people. Older types of factory robots swing their steel arms with such force that they can bludgeon anyone who strays too close. Using sonar, cameras or other technologies, collaborative robots can sense where people are and slow down or stop to avoid hurting them.
At a Renault car plant, robots drive screws into engines—a sign of their progress in handling small parts. Photo: Renault
.
These types of innovations aren’t limited to the auto industry. ABB Ltd of Switzerland, Boston-based Rethink Robotics Inc. and others have recently introduced robots designed to help assemble consumer-electronics items, among other products. These new robots are designed to work close to people and handle small parts, rather than doing heavy lifting or welding or painting.
Another aspect of doing more delicate work is the robots’ ability to sense whether parts are being assembled correctly, something that wasn’t possible with previous generations of clumsier robots. At a trade show in Germany in April, Kuka Roboter GmbH showed one of its robots installing a tube inside a dishwasher. Kuka’s robot uses “force torque” sensors to judge whether a part is in the right place. “The robot is able to wiggle it into place like a human would,” says Dominik Bösl, Kuka’s innovation manager.
This delicacy is allowing robotics to spread into a wider variety of industries. At a plant in Wichita, Kan., due to open in November, JCB Laboratories will use robots to pick up syringes, fill them with medications and snap on caps, among other tasks. The production line, designed by ESS Technologies Inc. of Blacksburg, Va., involves three robots from Japan’s Fanuc Corp. The robots will be five to six times faster than the people who now do the work, says Brian Williamson, president of JCB, owned by Fagron NV of Rotterdam.
Using robots also will reduce the risk of human error or contamination, he says: “They’re very precise, they don’t get tired, and they only do things they’re told to do.” The robots will eliminate two jobs, Mr. Williamson says, but the workers can be redeployed to other tasks.
Fender Musical Instruments Corp. uses Fanuc robots to apply polyester and urethane coatings to guitars at a plant in Corona, Calif. A spokeswoman says the robots apply coatings faster and more consistently than people could and allow people at the plant to “focus on areas that are more crucial to the overall look, feel and sound” of the instruments. Those tasks include designing, buffing and assembly.
Some of the latest robots are designed specifically for the tricky job of assembling consumer-electronics items, now mostly done by hand in Asia. At least one company promises its robots eventually will be sewing garments in the U.S., taking over one of the ultimate sweatshop tasks.
“Robots are going to change the economic calculus for manufacturing,” says Hal Sirkin, a Chicago-based senior partner of Boston Consulting Group. “People will spend less time chasing low-cost labor.”
Today, industrial robots are most common in auto plants—which have long been the biggest users of robot technology—and they do jobs that don’t take much delicacy: heavy lifting, welding, applying glue and painting. People still do most of the final assembly of cars, especially when it involves small parts or wiring that needs to be guided into place.
Now robots are taking on some jobs that require more agility. At a Renault SA plant in Cleon, France, robots made by Universal Robots AS of Denmark drive screws into engines, especially those that go into places people find hard to get at. The robots employ a reach of more than 50 inches and six rotating joints to do the work. They also verify that parts are properly fastened and check to make sure the correct part is being used.
The Renault effort demonstrates a couple of trends that are drastically changing how robots are made. For one, they’re getting much lighter. The Renault units weigh only about 64 pounds, so “we can easily remove them and reinstall them in another place,” says Dominique Graille, a manager at Renault, which is using 15 robots from Universal now and plans to double that by year-end.
Researchers hope robots will become so easy to set up and move around that they can reduce the need for companies to make heavy investments in tools and structures that are bolted to the floor. That would allow manufacturers to make shorter runs of niche or custom products without having to spend lots of time and money reconfiguring factories. “We’re getting away from the [structures and machinery] that can only be used for one thing on the factory floor and [instead] using robots that can be easily repurposed,” says Henrik Christensen, director of robotics at Georgia Institute of Technology.
Another big trend at work: The Renault robots are “collaborative,” designed to work in proximity to people. Older types of factory robots swing their steel arms with such force that they can bludgeon anyone who strays too close. Using sonar, cameras or other technologies, collaborative robots can sense where people are and slow down or stop to avoid hurting them.
Another aspect of doing more delicate work is the robots’ ability to sense whether parts are being assembled correctly, something that wasn’t possible with previous generations of clumsier robots. At a trade show in Germany in April, Kuka Roboter GmbH showed one of its robots installing a tube inside a dishwasher. Kuka’s robot uses “force torque” sensors to judge whether a part is in the right place. “The robot is able to wiggle it into place like a human would,” says Dominik Bösl, Kuka’s innovation manager.
This delicacy is allowing robotics to spread into a wider variety of industries. At a plant in Wichita, Kan., due to open in November, JCB Laboratories will use robots to pick up syringes, fill them with medications and snap on caps, among other tasks. The production line, designed by ESS Technologies Inc. of Blacksburg, Va., involves three robots from Japan’s Fanuc Corp. The robots will be five to six times faster than the people who now do the work, says Brian Williamson, president of JCB, owned by Fagron NV of Rotterdam.
Using robots also will reduce the risk of human error or contamination, he says: “They’re very precise, they don’t get tired, and they only do things they’re told to do.” The robots will eliminate two jobs, Mr. Williamson says, but the workers can be redeployed to other tasks.
Fender Musical Instruments Corp. uses Fanuc robots to apply polyester and urethane coatings to guitars at a plant in Corona, Calif. A spokeswoman says the robots apply coatings faster and more consistently than people could and allow people at the plant to “focus on areas that are more crucial to the overall look, feel and sound” of the instruments. Those tasks include designing, buffing and assembly.
Some in the robotics industry see machines moving into even more industries. Per Vegard Nerseth, ABB’s global robotics chief, expects increasing demand for robots from makers of watches, razors, toothbrushes and toys. He also thinks robots could help make muffins in local bakeries, slice vegetables and meat, and wash windows.
An Atlanta startup, SoftWear Automation Inc., which last year attracted $3 million of venture capital, has developed robots that the firm says can sew garments. The company hopes the robots will allow some clothing production to move back to the U.S. from low-wage nations.
But some caveats are in order for this rosy picture.
Though the U.S., Europe and other high-wage areas should benefit from these trends, they won’t have the field to themselves. China also is investing heavily in robots as its wages soar and its population ages. For now, China has just 30 robots per 10,000 manufacturing employees, trailing South Korea (437), Japan (323), Germany (282) and the U.S. (152), according to the International Federation of Robotics, a trade group. But the federation projects that the total number of industrial robots being used in China will exceed that of North America next year. IHS Technology, a research firm, projects that robot sales in China will surge to about 211,000 units in 2019 from 55,000 last year.
Competition among manufacturing nations isn’t only about robots, of course. Other factors that determine where things are made include taxes, regulation, availability of skilled workers and suppliers, energy costs and willingness to make long-term investments. At a minimum, though, investing in robots and using them effectively will be a price of staying in the global manufacturing game, says Mr. Sirkin of Boston Consulting Group. So even nations that rely on low-cost labor today will be forced to explore robotics or risk losing even more jobs.
Even if robots allow manufacturing to relocate, the impact on the workforce itself will be mixed. Greater use of robots means fewer people are needed on factory floors; those doing routine tasks requiring little education are most vulnerable. Yet even highly automated factories create or sustain jobs in design, engineering, machine maintenance and repair, marketing, logistics and other services.
What’s more, robots will have to make further strides in the years ahead to allow a major shift of electronics and other assembly work to migrate from Asia to the U.S. and Europe.
One problem is that today’s collaborative robots frequently have to slow down or stop whenever people veer into their paths, disrupting production. Take the case of Baxter, a friendly looking two-armed collaborative robot from Rethink.
The company introduced Baxter with huge fanfare three years ago. Yet Rethink has sold fewer than 1,000 of the robot, which is mainly used for such simple tasks as moving materials, picking up parts, and packing or unpacking boxes. In part, that’s because the robot’s speed is restricted by safety considerations.
Rodney Brooks, chairman of Rethink and a renowned robot developer, says Baxter has been a “tremendous learning experience” and has helped manufacturers and others see the potential of collaborative robots. In March, Rethink unveiled a new robot, Sawyer, which the company says will be up to twice as fast as Baxter, depending on the application.
Another hurdle is creating robots that can come closer to matching people’s fine motor skills in manipulating materials and small parts. For all the advances in recent years, robots have trouble dealing with soft or floppy things, such as cloth or bundles of electrical wire.
“Anywhere you manipulate flexible materials, that’s a very challenging task for robots,” says Julie Shah, an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. People use “tactile feedback,” Dr. Shah says. If something doesn’t feel quite right, they adjust. Robotic science is only starting to deal with that challenge.
Mr. Hagerty is a news editor in The Wall Street Journal’s Pittsburgh bureau. Email bob.hagerty@wsj.com .

Votes1 DateDec 28, 2015

[image for World Spotlight poland CWB.jpg]
*Students

Classrooms Without Borders:Open Minds. Open Hearts.

Samuel Posin
The need and desire to help facilitate deeper learning and respect in reference to the study of the Holocaust among teachers and students has led to a new vehicle for many. Classrooms Without Borders (CWB) is a new non-profit educational organization founded in February 2011 by Dr. Zipora Gur in association with the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. Executive Director, Dr. Gur brings more than 30 years experience as an innovative educational leader in Jewish education. During her tenure with the Agency for Jewish Learning, she developed unique professional development programs for hundreds of teachers and students. In her new capacity, she continues to demonstrate passion and enthusiasm for education in general, but Jewish education in particular. Over her career in education, Dr. Gur has led study seminars to Israel and Poland for more than 400 educators from private, parochial and public school in Southwestern Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia. Thousands of students have benefited from their teachers participation in these life changing experiences. Past participants reported that the study seminars changed their world view and deepened their knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust, Poland, Israel and the complex interrelationships among the cultures, people, socioeconomics and governmental structures.
CWB envisions itself as the premier provider of experiential, extended term professional development for teachers in the metropolitan Pittsburgh region. CWB is different from other providers of teacher training because it offers unique travel experiences enriched with rigorous content, scholarly readings and direct application to classroom instruction. CWB connects teachers and learners through customized professional growth programs that result in positive changes in the way teachers instruct students.
Typically, teachers participate in traditional inservice training programs that are frequently short-term, unrelated to actual classroom practice, limited in follow-up and absent of primary source materials. Meaningful Professional Development (PD), however, includes more in-depth study and immersion in work-related learning opportunities for practicing teachers. Professional Development has dual connotations. It refers to: the actual learning opportunities in which teachers engage which includes the content and context, pedagogy and purpose of specific activities; and the learning that may occur when teachers participate in these activities which also includes the transformations in their knowledge, understandings, skills and commitments. The form and content of professional development is predicated on a vision of teaching. In other words, what and how we want teachers to teach determines what and how we expect teachers to learn. CWB focuses on helping teachers learn through hands-on, experiential activities that employ the study seminar destinations as the textbook and the scholar, guide as the facilitator.
To learn and become more aware of this organization, visit:
CLASSROOMSWITHOUTBORDER.ORG

Votes2 DateNov 2, 2015

[image for World Spotlight Dr. Jim Withers.jpg]
*Healing

Man in the Trenches:Operation Safety Net

Samuel Posin
Dr. Jim Withers used to dress like a homeless person. On purpose.
Two to three nights a week, he rubbed dirt in his hair and muddied up his jeans and shirt before walking the dark streets of Pittsburgh, searching for the very people he was trying to emulate.
Withers wanted to connect with those who had been excluded from his care.
"I was actually really shocked how ill people were on the street. It was like going to a third-world country," he said. "Young, old, people with mental illness, runaway kids, women (who) fled domestic violence, veterans. And they all have their own story."
Homelessness costs the medical system a lot of money. Individuals often end up in emergency rooms, and stay there longer, because their illnesses go untreated and can lead to complications.
For 23 years, Withers has been treating the homeless -- under bridges, in alleys and along riverbanks.
"We realized that this was something that could be addressed. We could make 'house calls,' " he said. It's something that Withers' father, a rural doctor, often did.
Withers' one-man mission became a citywide program called Operation Safety Net. Since 1992, the group has reached more than 10,000 individuals and helped more than 1,200 of them transition into housing.
In addition to street rounds, the program has a mobile van, drop-in centers and a primary health clinic, all where the homeless can access medical care.
Today, Withers is also fostering a global "street medicine" movement. His nonprofit, the Street Medicine Institute, supports communities in starting programs of their own. Its network includes dozens of teams in the United States and around the world.
I've dedicated myself as much as I can to finding anyone, anywhere, who's interested in doing medical care to their own street people and helping them. Besides just the good that it does and the money that it saves, having street medicine in every community transforms us. We begin to see that we're all in this together.
It's something that we should take pride in when we can actually treat people the way we would want to be treated.
Want to get involved? Check out Operation Safety Net and the Street Medicine Institute to learn how you can help.
CNN.COM

Votes2 DateOct 15, 2015

[image for World Spotlight Bobbleheads.jpg]
*Sports

Bobblehead Museum On Its Way

Samuel Posin
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Just like me, you may have collected various bobblehead dolls from sporting events or other venues you've visited. I have only a few of local characters, major league players and for a store mascot. Well, now there will a place to go see displays and history of the bobblehead phenomenon.
Famous for beer, brats and baseball, Milwaukee could soon add another B to its repertoire: bobbleheads.
A pair of childhood friends crazy about the nodding dolls are trying to raise about $250,000 to open the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum by next fall.
Museum co-founders Phil Sklar and Brad Novak, both 31 years old, quit their day jobs in corporate finance and retail, respectively, to follow their dream. The pair, who share a two-bedroom condo in Milwaukee stuffed with a few thousand bobbleheads, say the city on Lake Michigan is the perfect place for the museum.
“This is a bobblehead-obsessed state and a bobblehead-obsessed city,” Mr. Sklar said. “We’ve traveled all over, and it really makes sense here. It’s bobblehead country.”
To raise money for the museum, expected to house about 10,000 of the dolls, Mr. Sklar and Mr. Novak have started taking orders for custom bobbleheads, contracting with a manufacturer in China. Just in the past month, they helped bring 35 designs for 50,000 new bobbleheads into the world, Mr. Sklar said, including a portly one for a local restaurant, Chubby’s Cheesesteaks.
On Tuesday, the two co-founders, along with Olympus Group, a Milwaukee-based maker of mascot costumes, announced a contest for children under 18 to design a new mascot for the museum. The design, Mr. Sklar said, will be “totally up to the kids. We love creativity in bobbleheads.”
A rendering of the planned bobblehead museum, which is to be located near other Milwaukee attractions. Photo: National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum
.
So far, the co-founders have raised about $100,000 through the custom bobblehead business and founding memberships in the museum, which they’ve sold at various price points to people in 40 states. They earlier tried their hand at online crowdfunding, which didn’t meet their $250,000 goal but succeeded in bringing in members.
The plan is to locate the 7,000- to 10,000-square-foot museum near other Milwaukee attractions, like the Harley-Davidson Museum, the Fonzie statue (official name: “Bronze Fonz”), the old Pabst Brewery district and a new basketball complex for the Milwaukee Bucks.
It will tell the story of the bobblehead, which starts in the late 1700s with Chinese dolls with springs under their head to create the nodding, bobbling effect. “Those go at auction for about $30,000,” Mr. Sklar said.
Mr. Sklar recently purchased a collection in Lafayette, Ind., of 400 or so pop-culture bobbleheads, including the Hawaiian Punch kid, Casper the Friendly Ghost and Homer Simpson.
Last spring, the pair picked up their most valuable collection from someone who had seen an article about them in their hometown paper in Rockford, Ill.: 32 bobbleheads of NFL teams, including the first made for many of the teams, dating back to the 1960s, Mr. Novak said. Some of the rare dolls are worth hundreds of dollars each. “They didn’t want to give them away, but they wanted to help us out, so we got a very good price,” Mr. Novak said.
Other possible highlights of the museum collection: Around 30 presidential bobbleheads, Donald Trump, Martin Luther King and three versions of Pope Francis bobbleheads commemorating his recent U.S. trip, including one where he holds a Philly cheesesteak while wearing boxing gloves.
Among other prizes, the winning designer of the museum mascot will get a free trip to the museum when it opens, a $500 scholarship and 12 copies of their design in bobblehead form.
“It will definitely give them bragging rights,” Mr. Sklar said.
Writen by Joe Barrett at
The Wall Street Journal joseph.barrett@wsj.com

Votes1 DateOct 4, 2015

[image for World Spotlight large diamond.jpg]
*Earth

357 Carat Diamond

Samuel Posin
My career in the jewelry industry has allowed the opportunity to peruse many unusual gemstones. Having had the experience of designing various pieces of jewelry from loose stones, I have always admired large and beautiful stones that lend themselves to beautiful creations.
Gem Diamonds, the U.K.–based diamond producer, sold a 357 ct. white diamond for $19.3 million on tender in Antwerp, Belgium, recently.
The diamond was recovered in July 2015 from the Lesotho’s Letšeng mine, which Gem Diamonds acquired in 2006. It is the second stone of more than 300 carats to come from the mine this year. In May, a 314 ct. diamond was recovered, and it was sold in June.
“Both of these diamonds achieved top prices despite current market conditions, providing further evidence of the price resilience of Letšeng’s large top-quality diamonds,” said CEO Clifford Elphick.
Since Gem Diamonds’ acquisition of the Letšeng mine, the mine has produced four of the 20 largest gem-quality white diamonds ever recorded. The company is currently developing a second mine in Botswana.

Votes2 DateSep 19, 2015

[image for World Spotlight Yossi_Piamenta_in_Jerusalem's_Old_City.JPG]
*Music

Yosi Piamenta, Guitar Virtuouso,"Hasidic Hendrix"

Samuel Posin
I met Yosi Piamenta at a cousin's wedding in 2001, having not previously been aware of his music. Buying an autographed CD from him that nighthelped to lead to a new world. It helped to put me on my path to spirtual growth by listening to his music with my youngest daughter as we drove to school. It allowed me to additionally find common ground as my daughter sang along.
Piamenta was a virtuoso guitarist who had a long career performing original music as well as traditional Jewish, Israeli and Arabic songs arranged in his signature style.
Born in Israel on November 29, 1951, Piamenta moved to the U.S. in his mid-20s to play and record with saxophonist Stan Getz, but their collaboration was never commercially released.
Shortly afterwards, he abandoned his focus on secular music, became a Lubavitcher hasid, and together with his brother Avi, a virtuoso flautist, became popular on the Jewish music scene, releasing numerous albums through the 1980s and ‘90s, including “Mitzvah,” “Tismach,” “As You Like It,” “1990” and “Strings of My Heart.”
Piamenta’s guitar sound was immediately recognizable, not just because of the gear he used, such as a Fender Stratocaster and Mesa Boogie amplifier, but because of his tone, articulations, and ornamentation, which were deeply rooted in Middle-Eastern music. Loud, extended guitar solos and jams were also signature elements of Piamenta’s sound.
Piamenta’s look was also unique; he was proud of his Judaism, and always wore a large colorful Sephardic kippah, with his tzitzit hanging out, and a large bushy beard. A genial man, he was always accessible at his shows, willing to talk to fans, and even to invite them back to the dressing room for ma’ariv prayers.
Music writers often referred to Piamenta as “The Hasidic Hendrix” or “The Sephardic Santana”. Although Piamenta’s guitar tone was rooted in psychedelic rock, his sound and approach were individual, blending rock timbres with Arabic modes in a very personal style. A pioneer of the electric guitar in Jewish music, Piamenta influenced many Jewish musicians, including virtually every religious guitar player active on the New York bar mitzvah and wedding circuit.
Piamenta's fan-base is wide. A majority of Piamenta's large fan-base appreciate Piamenta as an iconic Jewish musician and attend his live performances at religious events and Jewish concerts and weddings; but Piamenta has also attracted a fan-base sub-culture following of his music who particularly enjoy his take on rock, blues and his lengthy guitar solos that Piamenta usually plays only at smaller concerts held in bars and clubs. In addition to his live performances, Piamenta has also released a series of widely received studio albums that can be found in many Jewish home in the US and Israel. The Piamenta Band has been one of the highest requested musicians for Jewish weddings over the last century. Most, but not all, of Piamenta's concerts and albums had been performed or recorded in conjunction with his brother, Avi Piamenta.
Many highlight his collaboration with Stan Getz as “proof” of how good he was. But this misses the point of what he was about. Piamenta wasn’t good because one jazz legend heard something in his playing. He was good because he had soul and serious chops, passion, creativity, and energy, and he always played his heart out. In an era of cookie-cutter performers he broke the mold, producing compelling Jewish music that was both fresh and traditional in the deepest sense.
Piamenta took his musical vocabulary and applied it to a variety of Jewish music styles: old nigunim, Sephardic pizmonim, Arabic songs, and Hasidic pop. No matter the genre, his sound and approach was always immediately identifiable. It is hard to pick another Orthodox instrumentalist who can be identified with only a few notes.
In addition to being an original songwriter, Piamenta covered others' music in the religious Jewish music category – his album Songs of the Rebbes includes various Lubavitch, Belz and Sephardi nigunim and Zemirot[4] – as well as secular American music, such as Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana and Jimi Hendrix. Piamenta has described his music style saying, "I do klezmer with electric guitar."
Yosi Piamenta died on August 23 after a difficult struggle with cancer. He was 64.
Piamenta leaves behind a rich musical legacy including recordings, an influence on many musicians, and an enhanced repertoire of Arabic and Middle Eastern tunes that are, thanks to him, now familiar to the Ashkenazi community as well.
Read more: http://forward.com/culture/319673/yosi-piamenta-a-virtuoso-guitarist-who-reshaped-jewish-music/#ixzz3kRZsr0vb

Votes4 DateAug 31, 2015

[image for World Spotlight munro.jpg]
*Arts

Alicia Munro

Samuel Posin
Calling her a “master of the contemporary short story,” the Swedish Academy awarded 82-year-old Alice Munro the Nobel Prize in Literature. It is well-deserved, and hard-earned (and comes not long after she announced her retirement from fiction). After 14 story collections, Munro has reached at least a couple generations of writers with her psychologically subtle stories about ordinary men and women in Huron County, Ontario, her birthplace and home. Only the 13th woman writer to win the Nobel, Munro has previously won the Man Booker Prize in 2009, the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction in Canada three times (1968, 1978, and 1986), and two O. Henry Awards (2006 and 2008). Her regional fiction draws as much from her Ontario surroundings as does the work of the very best so-called “regional” writers, and captivating interactions of character and landscape tend drive her work more so than intricate plotting.
Of that region she loves, Munro has said: “It means something to me that no other country can—no matter how important historically that other country may be, how ‘beautiful,’ how lively and interesting. I am intoxicated by this particular landscape… I speak the language.” The language she may have learned from the “brick houses, the falling-down barns, the trailer parks, burdensome old churches, Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire.” But the short story form she learned from writers like Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Conner, and Eudora Welty. She names all three in a 2001 interview with The Atlantic, and also mentions Chekhov and “a lot of writers that I found in The New Yorker in the fifties who wrote about the same type of material I did—about emotions and places.”
Munro was no young literary phenom—she did not achieve fame in her twenties with stories in The New Yorker. A mother of three children, she “learned to write in the slivers of time she had.” She published her first collection, Dance of the Happy Shades in 1968 at 37, an advanced age for writers today, so many of whom have several novels under their belts by their early thirties. Munro always meant to write a novel, many in fact, but “there was no way I could get that kind of time,” she said:
Why do I like to write short stories? Well, I certainly didn’t intend to. I was going to write a novel. And still! I still come up with ideas for novels. And I even start novels. But something happens to them. They break up. I look at what I really want to do with the material, and it never turns out to be a novel. But when I was younger, it was simply a matter of expediency. I had small children, I didn’t have any help. Some of this was before the days of automatic washing machines, if you can actually believe it. There was no way I could get that kind of time. I couldn’t look ahead and say, this is going to take me a year, because I thought every moment something might happen that would take all time away from me. So I wrote in bits and pieces with a limited time expectation. Perhaps I got used to thinking of my material in terms of things that worked that way. And then when I got a little more time, I started writing these odder stories, which branch out a lot.
Whether Munro’s adherence to the short form has always been a matter of expediency, or whether it’s just what her stories need to be, hardly matters to readers who love her work. She discusses her “stumbling” on short fiction in the interview above from 1990 with Rex Murphy. For a detailed sketch of Munro’s early life, see her wonderful 2011 biographical essay “Dear Life” in The New Yorker. And for those less familiar with Munro’s exquisitely crafted narratives, we offer you below several selections of her work free online. Get to know this author who, The New York Times writes, “revolutionized the architecture of short stories.” Congratulations to Ms. Munro.
wikipedia.com/alicemunro

Votes2 DateAug 18, 2015

[image for World Spotlight Lazarus House.jpg]
*Healing

Lazarus House

Samuel Posin
Nestled in a quiet residential neighborhood of Wheeling,WV the "hidden gems" of Lazarus House and Mary and Martha House offer a ray of hope and a "hand up" to a sometimes forgotten segment of the community.
The nonprofit residences provide a place to live, a place to heal, a place to recover and a place to reconnect with society for people who are in reoovery from alcohol and/or drug addiction. Two facilities of Lazarus House serve male clients, while the Mary and Martha House provides for women.
"We are a hand up, not a hand out," board president Shelley Rohrig of Wheeling said. Residents can stay up to one year in the transitional houses, although "usually within six months, they're ready to move on," she said.
Lazarus House takes its name from the biblical figure who was raised from the dead by his friend, Jesus Christ. In keeping with that legacy, small "resurrections" happen every day at Lazarus House, where lives are transformed and renewed through counseling, work and by embracing a substance-free lifestyle.
Mary and Martha House shares the names of the biblical Lazarus' sisters, but one of the names has a special meaning for the Rev. Pat Condron, founder and director of the houses. He explained that "Mary" comes first in the title of the women's residence in memory of his mother, who was a strong supporter of the ministry. "She helped to get it up and going," he said.
Several years ago, Condron, a Catholic priest, saw a need in the community for a transitional home for people who had gone through detoxification or 90-day treatment programs or had left halfway houses, and sought a safe place to reside while rebuilding their lives. "The first year in recovery is the hardest," he said.
Recovering addicts may be homeless, or they may realize that, in order to remain clean and sober, they must move away from friends who might tempt them or situations that could sabotage their recovery.
In 2002, Condron established Spirit House, as a temporary home for men in recovery, at a former convent building. Between 2005 and 2006, Lazarus House was formed, replacing Spirit House.
Lazarus House moved to its current location in March 2007; a second facility for men, Lazarus House II, opened in July of that year. Mary and Martha House opened in January 2008 to serve women.
Despite the need for such services, the independent program is a rarity in West Virginia. "There aren't many facilities like this in the state," observed Susan Oglinsky, the Ohio County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition director, who assists the Lazarus and Mary and Martha houses with fundraising.
The nonprofit corporation operates on a lean budget, without governmental funding. The organization continues to be sustained and to grow through the generosity of individual donors and local foundations that recognize the importance of its work, said Condron, who takes no salary for his work with the program. House managers are on staff for the residences. Physicians donate their time to treat residents. Therapists are utilized for people who need special assistance.
"It's nonprofit, and it's grown to two other houses," Oglinsky said admiringly. In addition to serving the residents of the three houses, the program "helps others in recovery" in the community, she commented.
"Hope - that's what we offer," the soft-spoken Condron remarked.
At Lazarus House and Mary and Martha House, residents participate in a life preparation program, readying them for independent living through employment and education. A holistic approach to healing and recovery is taken, paying attention to the residents' overall health.
Explaining the need for the program, board members cited three factors:
The purpose of the organization is set forth in its mission and vision statements:
"The mission of Lazarus House is to provide a safe and supportive residence for addicted men and women who are actively and successfully working on their recovery, and who are transitioning to wellness and independence.
"The vision of Lazarus House is to offer respite and hope to the spiritually, emotionally and materially impoverished victims of addiction. Here they continue to heal and pass a hand of help to their brothers and sisters as they live in a recovering, loving community."
On a typical day, the residents of the houses rise early in the morning to go to work or to school. Residents either have a job or are looking for work, Rohrig said. She explained that residents' paychecks are divided by thirds, allocated respectively to the house, to a bank account and for spending money.
On an intangible level, residents benefit from the role that the home-like settings play as "healing communities." Board member Jim Mullooly of Wheeling explained, "Nothing goes on without community."
Healing occurs collectively, as residents form and participate in a community, Mullooly said. "That's where the work goes on. That's also part of community ... The more decisions they make, the more they're healed."
Rohrig said, "The guys are like a family. The guys do take care of each other. A lot of the guys coming in have never had a family. Father Pat is like the father." She added, "Father Pat is accessible to all the guys any time they need to talk."
Regarding the purpose of the program, Mullooly commented, "It's about planting the seed. That's enough. That will flower somewhere down the line."
Rohrig said most addicts don't believe they can get sober. But when they see others attain sobriety, it can serve as an inspiration, she said. "Once they learn and are sober for any length of time, they realize they can do it," she said, adding, "If they haven't been sober for a long time, they forget about how it could be."
For male residents, "Lazarus House II is a step up from Lazarus I," Rohrig explained. "When they have had a job for a while, they're working the program and have a sponsor, they move to Lazarus II. That's the step before they go out on their own."
Mary and Martha House was established to give the organization the opportunity to provide "what women really need in recovery," Mullooly said. "They do have different recovery issues. With recovery, it's not one size fits all. Women have special requirements and needs, and you have to be sensitive to that."
A "tremendous need" exists for treatment programs for women, Mullooly said.
"In West Virginia, it's almost a disservice to discover a problem because there's no treatment," he commented. "A house for women is such a rarity."
Looking beyond the current Mary and Martha House, Rohrig said, "Maybe in the future we'll have a step-up (house) for women. Right now, three houses are all we can handle."
Residents of the houses come from a variety of backgrounds. "We do have skilled people that come to the house. Perhaps they have not been able to work for a while because of their addiction," Rohrig said.
For any person, recovery is never finished. "It's always ongoing," Rohrig pointed out.
"We don't just deal with the addictions," she said. "We get to the basis of why they feel that way ... A lot of times the basis of treatment comes from helping the person understand why they do what they do."
In making decisions for the program, the organization's board of director operates under the philosophy that "if God wants this to happen, it will happen," Rohrig said.
"It's a spiritual thing. If we reach out and give, things always come," Mullooly commented.
The ministry is nondenominational, "just like all the 12-step programs," Rohrig said. "But the basis is that you have to have, you have to come to the conclusion, 'there is something greater than me.'"
Rohrig has a special connection to the organization. After the tragic death of their 20-year-old son, Mark, she and her husband (who is now deceased) donated the proceeds of Mark's life insurance policy for the purchase of the property that became Lazarus House. A small fountain and a stone marker dedicated to Mark Rohrig stand in place at the entrance to Lazarus House.
"All of the guys and the women know about my Mark and how the houses started," she related.
http://www.theintelligencer.net/page/content.detail/id/559503/-Hidden-Gems--Lend-a-Hand-to-Those-Recovering.html?nav=506

Votes2 DateMay 3, 2015

[image for World Spotlight Cummings picture.jpg]
*Healing

Dr. Darrell W. Cummings

Samuel Posin
ALTITUDE=ATTITUDE
Dr. D. W. Cummings is the Pastor of the well-known Bethlehem Apostolic Temple in Wheeling, WV and Shiloh Apostolic Faith Assembly in Weirton, WV. A tall man in stature, Rev. Cummings is also bigger than life to those that know him. his passion is to help others so that they do not go through what he went through during his life with a young family having just lost his job and struggling to get by. Only by G-d's miracles was he able to survive.
His ministry has lasted over thirty five years with a wonderful G-d and church family.
Just recently he has received the Volunteer of the Year Award from The Friends of West Virginia Community College. The same week he had to deal with various crises, including losing his church's complete allocation for food baskets that are given out to over 800 local families each Easter. These were given without proof of income or any other criteria. Thanks to respect for him in the community, banks, businesses and other local organizations and individuals stepped forward to donate. He is over half way to his needs. Rev.Cummings loves people and they love him.
The Easter project is just one of 4 Big projects he coordinates each year. They include an Adopt-A-Youth program that involves 750-1000 at-risk or in-need youth annually. Every summer for the last 25 years, a back to school event is very popular locally. Book bags,clothes and school supplies are handed out every August to nearly 900 local students. Additionally, free tickets are handed out to a local festival with rides on an honor system basis financially and otherwise. The community supports this project overwhelmingly as almost no one ever turns down Rev. Cummings requests for assistance. His philosophy on this project is "altitude = attitude". Give young people a happy atmosphere and they will excell in learning(school) and life.
Also, Thanksgiving and Christmas food baskets are given with appropriate traditional foods and clothing and toys.
Dr. Cummings was born in San Antonio, Texas. He is a graduate of Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland State College, Internal Auditor Federal Reserve School, Moody Bible School, and the Ashtabula Bible School, where he received his Doctorate in Theology. He has also received degrees in Accounting, Business Law, and Real Estate Law. Licensed as a Minister at the age of sixteen (16), he had his first pastorate at the age of nineteen (19) Pastor Cummings founded Greater Love Pentecostal Church in Ashtabula, Ohio in 1980, and remained there for over a decade. He received laying on of hands at his ordination in Zanesville, Ohio by the late Bishop Morris E. Golder of Ind., IN. On June 15, 1990, Dr. Cummings became the Pastor of Bethlehem Apostolic Temple. Dr. Cummings was installed as Pastor by the late Bishop F. L. Smith of Akron, Ohio in June of 1992. In April of 2002 he was elevated to District Elder in the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Ohio District Council, District #8.
Pastor Cummings has served as a leader and officer in the religious community, as well as the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World for over two decades. He is the former Vice-president of the Wheeling Clergy Council; the former Chairman of the Evangelism Committee for the Greater Wheeling Council of Churches; the former Chairman for the “Martin Luther King Community Celebration” for the Ohio Valley, he served for five years; and presently serves as the President of the Ohio Valley Pastor’s Association. In 1997 he was awarded one of the “Man of the Year” awards by the Wheeling NAACP. In February 2003 he received an award as the “Civil Rights Leader of the Year” by the West Virginia Educators Association. He also was given the honor of serving as Chaplain for the West Virginia Legislature, in both the Senate and the House. He is on several boards including Habitat for Humanity, Wheeling Police Commission, Youth Services Board of Wheeling, and the West Virginia Northern Community College. He is a recipient of the “St. Francis Xavier Award” from the student government of Wheeling Jesuit University.
In August of 2006, Pastor Cummings was appointed Chairman of Human Rights Division, by the governor of West Virginia. In 2009 he was awarded the “Man of the Year” award from the African American Heritage of the Ohio Valley Program. 2010 the Governor recognized Pastor Cummings as the distinguished person of the year and he was also named the Chairman of the Youth Service Board, Wheeling, WV.
Pastor Cummings is the speaker for the “Voice in the Wilderness” radio and television broadcast. He writes weekly and monthly guest editorials for several major newspapers in the Ohio Valley. He serves in the Chaplain’s Department for two State Prisons, one Nursing Home and two hospitals.
Pastor Cummings’ has three children: Melanie Faith, Claude Vaughn, and Richard William Cummings.

Votes3 DateMar 31, 2015

[image for World Spotlight Jim picture.jpg]
*Rights

Dr. James Singer

Samuel Posin
Uncovering child abuse and protecting our young is a very important issue that we hear little about in the press. One man has made it his life's mission to help bring attention cover-ups and lack of proper protection of the abused to the awareness of state and federal officials. This hero has endured a rocky road for the last 25 years in his pursuit to right this wrong in society.
Dr. James Singer has been a pyschologist for over 30 years. His practice and life was very normal and prosperous in Central Pennsylvania until one night in 1986.
Singer was working as a psychologist at the DuBois Regional Medical Center in DuBois, Pa. During a session with a female teenage patient, Singer said the patient revealed to him that she was being sexually abused by her father.
Upon having two more medical professionals confirm this, Singer said that he reported the abuse to the state’s Child Protective Services agency.
Dr. Singer, as a required mandated reporter, advised the appropriate authorities. Not only was his report ignored, but soon after, in retaliation, the Pennsylvania Psychology Board prosecuted Singer and eventually removed his license to practice psychology.
And according to a letter written by the alleged victim to Singer, she credits him with saving her life.
“I told her [the CPS case worker] that I went to Dr. Singer three weeks ago and asked him for help. I told her that if it weren’t for him, I’d be dead right now. She asked why and I told her I’d run away or commit suicide or both.”
Singer said he wasn’t merely duty bound by medical ethics and humanity to report the abuse, but by the law.
“I would have been prosecuted if I didn’t report the abuse,” Singer said.
Instead, Singer said his name was leaked not only to the abuser but some of his other patients. In 1991, speaking anonymously to a local investigative reporter about Singer’s case, here’s what an individual that also reported child abuse recalled CPS agents saying to her:
“They [CPS officials] kept pressuring me to say something against him [Singer] and I kept telling them I didn’t know him. They then proceeded to tell me that Dr. Singer had reported child abuse.
In the same report, a female patient, also given anonymity, also claimed that CPS officials attempted to pressure her into saying bad things against Singer.
As a psychologist and medical professional, Singer was mandated to report the abuse. By law, a failure to report would result in criminal and civil penalties. As a mandated reporter, he was also due protections like anonymity.
In an April 12, 1994 letter from then Congressman Tom Ridge to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, Ridge cited Singer’s case, noting that: “Mandated reporters fear retaliation, and their fear is legitimate enough that they are willing to risk children’s lives by ignoring the abuse.”
Last year, a news story pointed to Singer’s case as one reason why Pennsylvania has the lowest rate of reported child abuse in the nation. “Pennsylvania remains a statistical outlier in when it determines a child has been a victim of child abuse — 1.2 per 1,000 Pennsylvania children were victims of child abuse in 2011 whereas nationally 9.1 per 1,000 children were victims,” according to a letter written by a child advocacy group to state legislators.
For more than 20 years James Singer has sought for federal or state officials to investigate his allegation that Pennsylvania child welfare officials retaliated against him for making the report as well as ignore other alleged cases. Pennsylvania state police Lt. Ivan Hoover wrote a 33-page report in 1997 that outlined possible criminal violations by state officials against Singer.
Many national organizations have worked with Singer to uncover unreported sexual and physical abuse, human trafficking and mistreatment of minor children. Described as a hero and honored accordingly by one national agency, Singer has devoted himself to protecting children by helping to promote legislation to expose government coverups and lack of proper handling of various horrendous abuse cases.
http://dailycaller.com/2012/07/30/former-pennsylvania-psychologist-says-he-reported-child-molestation-lost-license/
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/09/22/1328653/-Retaliation-for-reporting-abuse-from-the-Family-Court-Mafia-Clark-Case-Pittsburgh-PA-PART-3

Votes10 DateFeb 10, 2015

[image for World Spotlight Rabbi Vogel.png]
*Healing

Rabbi Moishe Mayir Vogel

Samuel Posin
This energetic human being has committed himself for almost 30 years to personally and professionally help better the lives of a forgotten segment of our population.
In 1984, soon after receiving his Rabbinical Ordination, he spent the high holidays leading services in the Federal Prison Camp in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. Thus began a career of working with Jewish men and women incarcerated in the Federal, state and local prisons.
In 1991, he settled in Pittsburgh, PA, opening the "Aleph Institute – North East Region", and has worked with Federal, state and county officials, in providing for the religious needs of the Jewish men and women incarcerated, and humanitarian needs of the inmates’ families. These are souls who have become lost to the rest of world. By fulfulling their spiritual needs, they become productive members of society instead of a demand on government resources.
While he started out single-handedly visiting the multitude of prisons in the North East of the United States, Rabbi Vogel now oversees and coordinates staff and volunteers who arrange regular visits to prisons in multiple states, getting very personally involved as his persistence to smooth issues is neccesary.
The Rabbi has been called upon to testify before the Pennsylvania state judiciary committee as a prison expert, has worked with Pennsylvania Senator Spector’s office in the writing of Federal law affecting Jewish inmates, and has worked and continues to work with Federal, state and local officials on a daily basis, on many issues.
FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT: alephne.org

Votes4 DateJan 10, 2015


Created Planet Sanctuary Spotlights

[image for Planet Spotlight agoraphobia picture.jpg]
Habitats

Animal Instincts: Fear of Open Spaces-How it Affects Us

Samuel Posin
Agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder characterized by people’s irrational fear of open spaces, may be related to a natural behavior among animals to avoid predators, according to a study in Biological Psychiatry.
Most animal species stay close to the edges of open spaces and only later explore the center, an instinctive, self-protective behavior known as thigmotaxis, the researchers said. People with agoraphobia, or at risk of developing the disorder, also spent significantly more time near the edge of large open areas compared with control subjects, the study found.
An exaggerated form of thigmotaxis may be the biological basis of agoraphobic fear, the study suggests. The disorder affects fewer than 2% of U.S. adults, according to the National Institutes of Health.
“Knowing that open fields are evolutionary triggers of anxiety may help patients understand the origins of their fear and reduce their despair,” lead researcher Dr. Paul Pauli, professor of biological psychology, clinical psychology and psychotherapy at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in an email. This knowledge may motivate patients to seek treatment, he added.
The study involved 16 agoraphobics paired with 16 controls without the disorder, and 18 highly anxious people paired with 19 low-anxiety controls.
The subjects, who were 18 to 60 years old, took a solitary 15-minute walk through a soccer field hedged by a natural wall of shrubs and trees. Agoraphobics spent 90% of the walk near the perimeter, compared with 68% by the controls. The high- and low-anxiety subjects spent 78% and 70% of their time near the edge, respectively. The agoraphobic and high-anxiety subjects also walked significantly closer to the wall.
By
Ann Lukits
Wall Street Journal

Votes2 DateSep 22, 2016

[image for Planet Spotlight exotic animal ownership.jpg]
Wildlife

Exotic Pet Ownership

Samuel Posin
All across the nation, in Americans’ backyards and garages and living rooms, in their beds and basements and bathrooms, wild animals kept as pets live side by side with their human owners. It’s believed that more exotic animals live in American homes than are cared for in American zoos. The exotic-pet business is a lucrative industry, one that’s drawn criticism from animal welfare advocates and wildlife conservationists alike. These people say it’s not only dangerous to bring captive-bred wildlife into the suburbs, but it’s cruel and it ought to be criminal too. Yet the issue is far from black or white.
At least not to Leslie-Ann Rush, a horse trainer who lives on a seven-acre farm outside Orlando, Florida, a place where the wind makes a rustling sound when it whips through the palms. Rush, 57, who has a kind face and hair the color of corn, breeds and trains gypsy horses she houses in a barn behind her small petting zoo, a wire enclosure where three male kangaroos, four lemurs, a muntjac deer (originally from Asia), a potbellied pig, a raccoon-like kinkajou called Kiwi, and a dog named Dozer all live—the lemurs leaping freely, the kangaroos sleeping on their sides, the petite pig rooting in the ground, the Asian deer balancing its rack of antlers on its delicate head.
Rush weaves in and around her exotic pets with ease and cheerfulness and Cheerios, doling them out to the lemurs. They thrust their humanlike hands into the open boxes and draw out fistfuls of O’s, which they eat almost politely, one by one, dining daintily while the drool gathers in the corners of their mouths.
EXOTIC PET INCIDENTS
1990-2013
Born Free USA has tracked 2,000 incidents involving wild animals held in captivity. Due to incomplete reporting, the database is limited.
Rush has a ring-tailed lemur, Liam; two ruffed lemurs, Lolli and Poppi; and a common brown lemur named Charlie. While many lemurs are threatened, the ruffed lemurs are considered critically endangered in the wild. Rush believes that by caring for these captive-bred creatures she is doing her part to help keep lemurs alive on Earth, and she cares for her animals with a profound commitment that consumes her days and even her nights. As darkness falls, she moves from the small enclosure into her home and takes her favorite lemur with her; he shares her bed, coiled up on a pillow by her head.
Because kangaroos are active typically at dawn and dusk, the animals look lazy in the daylight, dun-colored beasts lying on their sides in cylinders of sun, their thick tails trailing in the dry dirt. But come evening they hop up on their hind legs and press their faces against the large glass window, looking in on Rush in her home: Let me come in, they seem to say. Rush does not let them in, although she did when they were babies. “I have all of these amazing animals of different species, from different continents, and the thing is, they play together,” she says, and she sweeps her hand through the air, gesturing to her multicolored menagerie sunning, sleeping, snacking. She has filmed and posted videos of them playing on YouTube, the lemurs leaping over the kangaroos, which hop and twirl and chase the primates around the yard.
LAWS ON PRIVATE
OWNERSHIP OF
EXOTIC PETS
Despite occasional reports of wild kangaroos attacking humans in Australia, Rush’s pets display not a hint of aggression. This may have something to do with the fact that kangaroos are naturally somnolent during daytime hours, and it may also have something to do with the fact that Rush’s kangaroos are no longer truly wild: They were bred in captivity; two of them have been neutered; they are used to human contact. Rush raised each kangaroo in diapers, bottle-fed it, and, touching the sleek suede fur continually, accustomed each animal to human hands.
The $35 that Rush charges to visit what she calls her Exotic Animal Experience helps defray the costs involved in keeping her pets. Some exotic-animal owners spend thousands a year on fresh meat, for carnivores that dine daily on raw steak, for primates—omnivores with complex dietary needs—for snakes, which eat rat after rat after rat. In Rush’s case her kangaroos consume huge quantities of grain, while the lemurs eat mounds of fruits and vegetables.
Rush herself lives a lean life, much of her own money poured into feeding her herd. And then there’s her time. She puts abundant hours into caring for her exotics. “They’re 24/7,” she says, and then goes on to add, “but they’re my family. They need me. I can’t explain to you what that feels like. I wake up every morning and come out here, and all my animals come rushing up to greet me. I feel loved, and that feels great.
“My family,” she repeats, and a shadow sweeps across her face. “All my life,” she says, “people have let me down. My animals never have.”
Privately owning exotic animals is currently permitted in a handful of states with essentially no restrictions: You must have a license to own a dog, but you are free to purchase a lion or baboon and keep it as a pet. Even in the states where exotic-pet ownership is banned, “people break the law,” says Adam Roberts of Born Free USA, who keeps a running database of deaths and injuries attributed to exotic-pet ownership: In Texas a four-year-old mauled by a mountain lion his aunt kept as a pet, in Connecticut a 55-year-old woman’s face permanently disfigured by her friend’s lifelong pet chimpanzee, in Ohio an 80-year-old man attacked by a 200-pound kangaroo, in Nebraska a 34-year-old man strangled to death by his pet snake. And that list does not capture the number of people who become sick from coming into contact with zoonotic diseases.
The term exotic pet has no firm definition; it can refer to any wildlife kept in human households—or simply to a pet that’s more unusual than the standard dog or cat. Lack of oversight and regulation makes it difficult to pin down just how many exotics are out there. “The short answer is, too many,” says Patty Finch of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. It’s estimated that the number of captive tigers alone is at least 5,000—most kept not by accredited zoos but by private owners. And while many owners tend to their exotic pets with great care and at no small expense, some keep their pets in cramped cages and poor conditions.
Commercially importing endangered species into the United States has been restricted since the early 1970s. Many of the large exotic animals that end up in backyard menageries—lions and tigers, monkeys and bears—are bred in captivity. Today on the Internet you can find zebras and camels and cougars and capuchins for sale, their adorable faces staring out from your screen; the monkeys with their intelligent eyes; the big cats with their tawny coats. And though such animals are no longer completely wild, neither are they domesticated—they exist in a netherworld that prompts intriguing questions and dilemmas.
From his experience in providing sanctuary for exotic animals in need of new homes, often desperately, Roberts says that exotic-pet owners tend to fall into multiple overlapping categories. Some people treat their animals, especially primates, as surrogate children, dressing them up in baby clothes, diapering them, and training them to use the toilet. Some own exotics as symbols of status and power, the exotic animal the next step up from a Doberman or pitbull. There are impulse buyers who simply could not resist purchasing a cute baby exotic. Still others are collectors, like Brandon Terry, who lives in Wake County, North Carolina, in a one-bedroom apartment with 15 snakes, three of them venomous. And then there are wild animal lovers who may start out as volunteers at a wildlife sanctuary and end up adopting a rescued animal in need of a home.
Denise Flores of Ohio explains how she acquired her first tiger. “I went to a wild animal park one day, and someone put a baby tiger in my lap. My heart melted; it just melted. I was hooked,” says Flores, who ended up caring for eight rescued big cats, including two white tigers so beautiful they looked like fluid ivory.
Some people seek wild animals as pets as a way to reconnect with the natural world. They believe their exotics set them apart, the relationship made all the more intense by the unintended social isolation that is often the result of having an unpredictable beast as a companion. “Yes, of course my exotics make me feel unique,” Rush says. Though anyone can own a cat or dog, exotic-pet owners take pleasure in possessing an animal that has, for hundreds of thousands of years, refused the saddle of domestication: They take the uncivilized into society and in doing so assert their power.
“I wanted something different, something unusual,” says Michelle Berk, formerly of Palisades, Florida, who bought her kinkajou, Winnie, on craigslist. “She was there for me to make my own. We didn’t get a dog because there’s nothing cool or outstanding about owning a dog. A kinkajou—now that seems untouchable. And who doesn’t want the untouchable? They say don’t touch it, so you want to touch it.”
Tim Harrison understands the allure of owning exotic pets. Thirty-two years ago he worked as a public safety officer in the city of Oakwood, Ohio, and kept a menagerie in his house. He had snakes wrapped around lamp poles. He had rhesus monkeys leaping from counter to couch. He had lions sunning themselves on his gravel driveway. He had capuchins and bears and wolves, which were his favorites.
After a hard day of chasing criminals or a boring day of ticketing cars, Harrison would change out of his uniform and drive home to his animals. He always went to the wolves first. His body aching, his mind numbed, he’d let the canines come to him, weaving around his legs. He’d drop down on his knees and then lie flat on his back, the wolves clambering over him. “I would just lie there and let them lick me,” Harrison says, “and it was one of the best feelings in the world.”
Now the animals are gone. Harrison will never again own anything wild or exotic. He believes ownership of all potentially dangerous exotic animals should be banned and is working to make that happen. He underwent a profound transformation, his entire outlook shattered and put back together again in a new way.
What happened is this: After decades of being an exotic-pet owner, Harrison went to Africa. He drove over the open plains and grasslands, and he can remember, all these years later, the giraffes’ long lope, the lions’ hypnotic canter, the elephants sucking water up their trunks and spraying themselves so their hides glistened. Harrison gazed upon these wild animals, and he says it was as if his eyes had been blistered shut and were suddenly opened as he witnessed these mammals moving in such profound harmony with their environment that you could hear it: a rhythm, a pulse, a roar. This, Harrison suddenly realized, was how wild animals are supposed to live. They are not supposed to live in Dayton or any other suburb or city; they are creatures in and of the land, and to give them anything less suddenly seemed wrong.
Harrison says he understood then that he didn’t really own wild animals. What he had back in Dayton was a mixed-up menagerie of inbreeding and crossbreeding that resulted in animals that had almost nothing to do with the creatures before him now. He felt that he’d been no better than a warden and that he needed to change his ways. When he returned to Ohio, one by one he gave up his beloved wolves and primates and cats and handed them over to sanctuaries where they’d at least have safety and space. It hurt him to do this. He knew his wolves so well he could howl a hello, and a goodbye.
Today Harrison is retired from the police force. He puts as many hours as he can into Outreach for Animals, an organization he helped found to rescue exotic pets and place them in one of the sanctuaries he trusts. Many of the so-called wildlife sanctuaries in this country are actually using their animals to make a profit, commercially breeding them or allowing public contact. The few that operate solely for the benefit of the animals are already overloaded, says Vernon Weir of the American Sanctuary Association, an accrediting organization. “I have trouble finding space for wolf-dog mixes, potbellied pigs, some species of monkeys—many retired from use in research—and all the big cats and bears,” Weir says. “A good sanctuary will take in only what they can afford to care for.”
Harrison’s agency fields hundreds of calls a month from law enforcement officials dealing with an escaped animal or owners overwhelmed by the cost and responsibility of an animal’s care. He has been on more than a hundred big cat rescues in the past year and over his lifetime has rescued close to a thousand exotic felines. He was there when a man in Pike County, Ohio, named Terry Brumfield finally agreed to give up his beloved but ill-kept lions. He is currently working with a man who owns a bear that bit off his finger. The owner can’t yet bring himself to let the bear go.
“I meet people where they’re at,” says Harrison. “If an owner isn’t ready to give their exotic up, I help them care for the animal in the best way possible. I help them build a better enclosure or get the best kind of feed. I don’t judge. My hope is that, with the right kind of support, the person will eventually see that owning this animal is a dangerous drain and will voluntarily choose to give it up.”
Harrison feels empathy for wild animal owners, whose affection he so well understands. He loved his animals. He believed, as most owners do, that his animals loved him. He believed that having a thriving menagerie made him special. “But I was deluded,” he says. “I used to believe there was no animal I could not tame, no animal I was unable to train, and that any animal living under my roof was receiving the best of care.” The delusion, rooted in a deep desire to commune with wild animals, has lingered long after the beasts were gone. Every time he participates in a rescue he has to stop himself from taking the animal home. “I try to keep my contact with the animals I rescue to a minimum,” Harrison explains, “because my addiction can come back at a moment’s notice.”
The state of Ohio has become ground zero for the debate over exotic-animal ownership, and here’s why: In October 2011, outside the city of Zanesville, in Muskingum County, a man named Terry Thompson let 50 of his wild animals, including lions and tigers, out of their cages and enclosures before killing himself. The local sheriff’s department had little choice but to shoot most of the animals, which were dodging cars, loping across backyards, and posing a threat to public safety. Prior to the Zanesville incident, Ohio was one of a handful of states that required no license or permit to keep an exotic or wild animal as a pet.
The Zanesville tragedy woke Ohio up. In response to the outcry over the sight of exotic carcasses lined up near Thompson’s property, the governor of Ohio signed an executive order cracking down on unlicensed animal auctions. The state now requires owners of “dangerous exotic animals” to have a permit, to microchip their pets, to establish a relationship with a veterinarian, and to buy insurance.
“I couldn’t afford the insurance,” Flores says, and so she sent her big cats to live in accredited sanctuaries, which is exactly what state officials hoped would happen. “These are beautiful animals, yes, but let me tell you,” says Flores, “I had the common sense to know to never get in the cage with them. I’d pet them through the bars, if that. That was all.”
Sheriff Matthew Lutz was the one who gave the order to shoot the animals after Thompson released them from their cages. The incident continues to haunt him. He has joined forces with animal rights activists who have lobbied for years, to no effect so far, for a federal law that would prohibit the private possession and breeding of large cats except by zoos and other registered facilities.
Like Rush, many exotic-pet owners and private breeders say they are motivated by a desire to preserve and protect threatened species. “Climate change and human population growth could wipe out a species in record time, so having a backup population is a good idea,” says Lynn Culver, a private breeder of felines and executive director of the Feline Conservation Federation who believes that “those who do it right should have the right to do it.”
But advocacy groups like Born Free USA and the World Wildlife Fund say that captive breeding of endangered species by private owners—whether for commercial, conservation, or educational reasons—serves only to perpetuate a thriving market for exotic animals. That, in turn, results in a greater risk to animals still living in their natural habitat. Conservation efforts should focus on protecting animals in the wild, they assert, not on preserving what are often inbred animals in private zoos.
If a federal law ever passes, violators could face a fine and time in jail, as well as have their animal confiscated. That prospect enrages some exotic-animal owners, who argue that the number of incidents involving injuries from exotic pets pales in comparison to the number of people who visit the emergency room for dog bites each year.
“Placing bans on wild animal ownership will only increase the population of illegal exotics out there,” says Zuzana Kukol, who co-founded REXANO (Responsible Exotic Animal Ownership) to oppose bans on the private ownership or use of animals. “Bans do not work. We’ve seen this with alcohol and prostitution.”
Kukol and co-founder Scott Shoemaker live on ten acres of land an hour’s drive from Death Valley, in the state of Nevada. They own two bobcats, two African lions, two cougars, four tigers, one serval, and one ocelot. They point out that wild animal ownership has existed throughout history and in all cultures—“by monarchs, kings, monks, nomads, and peasants”—and insist that most owners today treat their animals well and keep them from harming people. When it comes to risk and its management, she is very clear: “I’d rather die by a lion than by some stupid drunk driver.”
Local people, including farmers, give the couple their ailing cows and horses, which Shoemaker kills with a simple gunshot to the head, then butchers into small pieces and feeds to the menagerie, including Kukol’s favorite pet, a male African lion named Bam Bam. She has always gravitated more toward animals than people. “Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to surround myself with animals,” she says. “I never wanted children.”
It’s true that even in states where wild animal ownership is explicitly banned, existing laws are not well enforced. The market for exotics is so alive and thriving that to call it underground is a bit misleading. “The worst offenders are the tiger petting zoos that churn out 200 cubs a year so people can have their picture taken with them,” says Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue, an accredited sanctuary.
At the raucous auctions held in muddy fields or paved parking lots, auctioneers hold out adorable tiger cubs with scrumptious soft scruffs or display tiny chimps in baseball hats and T-shirts that say, “I (heart) you.” But people don’t realize that all too soon that adorable tiger will outgrow its role as family pet and end up confined in a chain link enclosure.
It’s backyard breeders that Tim Harrison believes are to blame for most wild animal abuse. He’s been to auctions where cages are stacked one on top of the other, cramped with cougars and other big cats, mostly cubs; the tents awhirl with people whose pockets bulge with cash; snakes and primates being sold for thousands of dollars. The parking lots are filled with everything from shining Cadillacs to rusted trucks, the public pouring in to see and touch.
The breeders stand to make hundreds of thousands of dollars during an auction. They coach their auctioneers—the middlemen—to tell prospective buyers that their animals, usually babies, are harmless, and they are correct. “The problem comes,” says Harrison, “when the animal reaches sexual maturity and its natural predator instinct kicks in.”
Remember Michelle Berk and her kinkajou? Like so many other wild animal stories, Winnie’s came to a sad end. For years Berk kept the kinkajou in peace, but when the animal went into her first heat, her behavior changed. She tried to eat her own tail as Berk and her family tried to protect themselves while stopping the kinkajou from tearing herself to pieces. After that Berk turned Winnie over to a sanctuary. “It’s like we lost a child. She’ll always be our baby. Now she has gone to a place where she’ll finally get to be a kinkajou,” says Berk, who seems at peace with the decision. “I’ve learned that Winnie never really needed us. She didn’t need to be our pet. She didn’t need to be locked up. We got her because we needed her.”
So yes, the infant animals are docile, but docile is different from domesticated. Of all the large land mammals that populate the planet, just over a dozen have been successfully domesticated. No matter how tamed or accustomed to humans an undomesticated animal becomes, its wild nature is still intact.
When making the case against exotic-pet ownership, animal rights advocates tend to highlight the dangers these formerly wild creatures pose to humans; wild animal owners underscore the inherent rights of humans to own exotics. Back and forth the argument goes, but what can get lost is what’s best for the animals. If only it were possible to look at the issue from the animal’s point of view.
Yet perhaps we need only look more closely, with our own human eyes, at even a model example of responsible wild animal ownership. Here we are, back at the ranch owned by Leslie-Ann Rush, the marsupials still snoozing in the sun, the pig still rooting in the earth, the fruit trees heavy with papayas.
In all ways Rush has done a fantastic job. The enclosure where she keeps her animals is clean. Despite the financial pressures, they are well fed and content. She is 100 percent committed and, on top of that, has managed to carve out for herself a life that suits her, a sustaining interdependent community of breathing beings, and this is no small thing.
Like most exotic owners I spoke with, Rush does not believe her animals pose a danger to herself or anyone else. “I don’t have predators,” she says. “I’m not that kind of wild animal owner.” But perhaps danger to humans is not really the point.
A rabbit runs through the yard, a newcomer, or simply suddenly visible. The potbellied pig sniffs and snorts. One kangaroo lifts a lazy eyelid and then lowers it and starts to slumber again. Only the youngest kangaroo is awake, and now, suddenly, he perks up. His ears fork forward and his eyes take on a sheen.
Hauling himself up on his hind legs, he sniffs the pig’s mottled hide as it trots by, then starts to hop behind the animal, lowering his pointed nose to get a whiff of the pig’s rear. The pig turns around and snarls. The kangaroo, the youngest one, which hasn’t been neutered, doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of the snarl—why would he, since he’s been raised to comprehend not animal but human language—and continues to pursue the pig, which picks up speed. The kangaroo is now in hot pursuit, trying to mount the pig.
“Look!” Rush says. “They’re playing!” But the animals do not seem to be playing. The pig’s snarl grows more threatening. There is, all of a sudden, in what was a peaceful enclosure, a series of misunderstandings. Although it seems evident to me that the kangaroo is trying to mate with the pig, Rush later tells me it was grooming. Whatever is happening, the pig is having no part of it and trots away as fast as his little legs will go. Of course, a kangaroo cannot successfully mate with a Vietnamese potbellied pig. Yet here, in this wired enclosure, the natural order has been altered.
Adam Roberts of Born Free USA says his organization’s mission is to keep wildlife in the wild, where it belongs. When humans choose to keep what are supposed to be wild animals as pets, we turn them into something outside of wild, something for which nature has no place. In the famous children’s book Where the Wild Things Are, a boy sails on a boat to an island where he dances with beasts born from his own imagination. In the end what we learn from exotic-pet ownership is that when you take the wild out of the wild, you eradicate its true nature and replace it with fantasy—the fantasy being ours, we humans, the animals at once the most and the least tamed of all.
By Lauren Slater

Votes1 DateAug 1, 2016

[image for Planet Spotlight cicada picture.png]
Wildlife

Are the Magicicada Periodical Cicadas coming to your town?

Samuel Posin
ACTUALLY HARMLESS AND HELPFUL!!
If you live in certain regions of the Eastern united states, you will encounter the Brood V cicada onslaught late May 2016.
Brood V (5) 17-year cicadas will emerge in parts of Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
It will start with holes in the soil. Holes that are a quarter of an inch wide, pushed out toward the sky. The noise will arrive soon after.
Brood V cicadas last appeared in 1999, and they're on their way back to complete a 17-year life cycle.
When the soil is warmed to a sound 64 degrees 8 inches below the surface, the bugs will emerge and pursue breeding.
Much of West Virginia and Ohio, as well as sections of Pennsylvania and Virginia, will host this ancient ritual throughout May and June, and while the bugs mean no harm to people, they will undoubtedly present a major inconvenience because of sheer numbers.
Trillions of cicadas are expected, consisting of three species: magicicada septendecim, magicicada cassini and magicicada septendecula. They leave the soil, where they've spent most of their lives sucking nutrients from tree roots, in a shelled, unwinged nymph form and mount themselves in trees until they molt into full-fledged cicadas.
Males then begin singing a long, droning chirp. This persuades females to mate, who then cut small slits in tree branches to lay their eggs. Hatched, new nymphs burrow underground, and the cycle begins again.
Cicadas do this in two to six weeks, and then they die.
While it's a mess because these insects will be inescapable for about two months, their emergence will benefit various species of animals by providing a nearly endless food source. These animals include opossums, moles turkeys in particular, but most birds, rodents, mammals, reptiles and some fish will eat cicadas.
It's believed periodic broods stick to their emergence cycles as a survival strategy because such long absences deter predator populations from exploding. Brood V is one of 12 17-year cycle broods. Another three broods operate on a 13-year clock.
A natural enemy of the cicada is the cicada killer wasp, which can reach two inches in length. But this insect is only common in late summer and early fall, so they will not coincide with Brood V.
The wasps make an annual appearance and feed on regular cicadas that are found every year.
Humans have also taken to eating cicadas. It's been a trending subject of several magazine features in the last few years. National Geographic labeled them "gluten free" in a 2013 article, while the University of Maryland published a cicada recipe book in 2004.
Although the verdict is still out because cicadas spend time underground absorbing pesticides and other lawn treatment chemicals, a common argument is that they are high in protein and readily available.
Another benefit of a mass cicada emergence is that the holes they burrow aerate the soil and allow in additional moisture. This is believed important for general soil ecology and tree growth.
Also, the slits females cut in tree branches for eggs offer a natural means of pruning, enabling further growth later in a tree's life.
So enjoy nature's show and remember you won't have another opportunity(???!!!) for 17 years.
If you want to track various annual waves or want more information I suggest you go to www.cadadamania.com .
https://vimeo.com/17507527
parts of this article is credited to:
http://www.theintelligencer.net/page/content.detail/id/659583/Return-of-the-Cicadas.html

Votes1 DateMay 16, 2016

[image for Planet Spotlight spinning-black-hole-01-670x440-130227.jpg]
Natural wonders

Milky Way's Second Most Massive Black Hole Found?

Samuel Posin
There is a whole universe out there beyond the earth we enjoy and the natural(miracles)phenomenons that come with it. Looking into the sky at night at the stars has things beyond my comprehension.
Astronomers have detected what could be the second most massive black hole in our galaxy and it may be the missing piece of a cosmic puzzle.
But radio astronomers didn’t directly detect the candidate black hole, rather they spied the whirling gases caught in its powerful gravitational grasp, potentially establishing a new method to track down elusive “intermediate-mass” black holes.
Using the Nobeyama 45-meter Radio Telescope, which is managed by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), the researchers found the object only 200 light-years from the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* (Sgr. A*). By tracking the emissions from a swirling gas cloud called “CO-0.40-0.22,” they found a “surprisingly wide velocity dispersion” — in other words, this cloud of gas is composed of material that is swirling at a wide range of speeds. There appears to be no supernova activity or any other energetic event in the region that could be driving this bizarre phenomenon.
Using computer models, the researchers were able to deduce that an extremely compact object — in other words, a black hole — lives in the “eye” of this interstellar storm and it must be massive. And by “massive” they mean in the order of 100,000 solar masses-massive. If confirmed, this would make the invisible object at the core of CO-0.40-0.22 a so-called “intermediate-mass” black hole, second in mass only to mighty Sgr. A* itself. Sgr. A* “weighs in” at a staggering 4 million solar masses.
“Considering the fact that no compact objects are seen in X-ray or infrared observations, as far as we know, the best candidate for the compact massive object is a black hole,” said Tomoharu Oka, of Keio University in Japan and lead author of a study published in the Astrophysical Journal.
Intermediate-mass black holes are truly mysterious creatures. They are the “missing” link of black hole evolution; we have stellar mass black holes (that form after the supernova death of a massive star) and we have supermassive black holes (that live in the cores of most galaxies), but if black holes start small and grow by merging with other black holes and consuming matter, they must go through a “medium” phase. Alas, astronomers have yet to confirm that black holes do indeed come in “medium” — they’ve only confirmed black holes in sizes “small” and “XXL.”
So that leaves us with a puzzle. Are intermediate-mass black holes simply hard to find? Or are they incredibly rare? The first question may be solved through improved detection techniques, but the second question poses a challenge to black hole evolution theories and could expose a huge flaw in our astrophysical thinking.
Some theories of galactic evolution suggest the Milky Way should contain 100 million black holes, but X-ray surveys have only turned up a tiny fraction of this number. This is where radio telescopes may fill a niche in seeking out “invisible” mid-sized black holes.
“Investigations of gas motion with radio telescopes may provide a complementary way to search for dark black holes” said Oka in a press release. “The on-going wide area survey observations of the Milky Way with the Nobeyama 45-m Telescope and high-resolution observations of nearby galaxies using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have the potential to increase the number of black hole candidates dramatically.”
The location of CO-0.40-0.22 is also intriguing; should our black hole merger evolution model hold true for the growth of black holes on their way to becoming supermassive, there should be a concentration of massive black holes near galactic cores. As this candidate is only 200 light-years from Sgr. A, it could indicate that, eventually, the object in CO-0.40-0.22 will eventually stray near Sgr. A to add to its already impressive bulk.
http://phys.org/news/2016-01-largest-black-hole-milky-link.html

Votes3 DateJan 17, 2016

[image for Planet Spotlight BN-LM598_PARROT_M_20151130154146.jpg]
Domestic Animals

Parrots in Demand

Samuel Posin
KANO, Nigeria—Hundreds of languages are spoken in this country: So which one do you teach a parrot?
It is a decision the pet shops of Nigeria confront every time a talking bird lands in their possession. Last year, a babbling grey parrot arrived at Salisu Sani’s bird stand in this northern city.
There was only one problem. She spoke one of the country’s lesser-known tongues.
“I told her: ‘This is a rubbish language. Try my own,’ ” recalled the lifelong parrot distributor, who spent weeks teaching the animal greetings in Hausa, a more widely spoken vernacular.
Nigeria is one of the world’s easier places to buy a parrot—the garrulous birds are a status symbol for some civil servants. In traffic jams, young salesmen approach car windows holding up cages with birds inside. African greys sell for about $60.
But they sell closer to $100 if you can get them to speak.
The question is what Nigerians want their pets to say. The country’s 182 million people speak 520 different languages, according to Ethnologue, an atlas of the world’s linguistic boundaries, published by the International Linguistics Center in Dallas. Church services drag for hours as deacons translate their pastor’s sermons into three, sometimes four languages. Customer service lines begin with a plethora of options: one for English, two for Hausa, three for Yoruba, four for Igbo.
It makes the parrot business complicated, too.
A parrot will make almost any noise you throw its way. Leave one by a doorbell and it might say “ding-dong.” A rising number of pet parrots re-create the sound of their owner’s ringtone.
So parrots raised among a polyglot populace often wind up speaking the wrong language.
A few years ago in this northern city, Salim Mohammad’s cohort sourced a Cameroonian grey through Lagos, 500 miles to the south. By the time it arrived in Kano, it had picked up Yoruba, a language spoken only in Nigeria’s south. It took several months of standing on the side of the road with the caged bird before a motorist agreed to buy it.
The opposite problem confronts Murphy Taiwo’s Yoruba-speaking parrot peddlers down in Lagos. None of his half dozen bird handlers speak Hausa, but many of his customers do.
Three hundred miles north, in Abuja, parrot tender Awula Salisu and his co-workers are all Hausa-speakers. They coach parrots on sayings like “ina kwana” (good morning) or “aku” (parrot). But most of their customers speak Yoruba. Frequently, shoppers walk away, unhappy with the selection.
The 37-year-old bird handling veteran could, of course, hire a Yoruba person to come train his parrots. But that person wouldn’t be able to join in on their conversations.
“We are Hausa here,” he said. “He wouldn’t belong.”
The language barrier means some pollys can accidentally squawk parrot profanities.
In Kano, Mr. Mohammad bought a secondhand parrot from an American or possibly British expat leaving Nigeria. When he peered into the cage, the bird blared back: “Waka, waka!”
In Hausa, this is a very bad thing for a bird to say. Roughly translated, it means “your mother.”
“That one was misbehaving,” Mr. Mohammad recalled. “It took a long time to see."
Nigeria isn’t the only place where languages and parrots fly around with equal abandon. By a quirk of geography, parrots tend to live in the most multilingual corners of the world: the Amazon, Indonesia, Central Africa. In these lands, people sometimes struggle to communicate with the village a few miles away.
As it turns out, parrots face some of the same language barriers. There are untold hundreds of different parrot dialects. For example, birds in different parts of Costa Rica don’t use the same greetings, termed “contact calls” by ornithologists.
“In the north, they sound like ‘wah, wah! wah, wah!’ ” said Tim Wright, professor at New Mexico State University’s biology department. “Then in the south, they sound like ‘weep! weep! weep!’ ”
“After many years, I’ve managed to learn these,” he added.
Like humans, parrots tend to stick with birds that speak the same language. It’s how they create close-knit communities that rely on each to find food and avoid danger.
But dropped into a new environment, parrots—especially young ones—will try to crack the local vocabulary. Birds that grow in bilingual forests, where multiple parrot dialects are spoken, are also good at code switching between groups.
“That sociology is a very important part of being a parrot: It’s a survival strategy,” said Rowan Martin, researcher at the World Parrot Trust. “It’s really calls that promote group cohesion, so they’re all saying ‘I’m here! How are you?’ And it’s also saying. ‘I’m one of you.’ ”
This is why parrots mimic human voice, once caged and raised around humans. They’re trying to fit in with us.
These days, West Africa’s languages are slowly disappearing—dozens of Nigerian languages are spoken by less than 100 people. Parrots seem headed down the same path.
The parrots that survive find themselves in a noisier setting. The several birds that Atef Fawaz has owned in Kano have made the sound of cars, honking at his gate. One made the shrill beep that his fuse box emits anytime the power goes out, as it does daily: “He memorized that sound very well,” said Mr. Fawaz, a Lebanese businessman.
At Awula Salisu’s pet stand in Abuja, police routinely blare past, sirens wailing as they escort politicians across the capital. So his birds often make siren sounds.
In August, he received a bird that spoke Igala, the mother tongue of less than 1% of Nigerians. Mr. Salisu figured he would be stuck with the animal for months.
But days later, an Igala-speaking businessman showed up, delighted to find a bird that could talk his language. The man drove away with a broad smile.
Of course, Mr. Salisu had no idea what the bird—or its owner—were saying to each other, he said: “There are too many languages in this country.”
Write to Drew Hinshaw at drew.hinshaw@wsj.com

Votes1 DateDec 1, 2015

[image for Planet Spotlight Animal Terminal.png]
Domestic Animals

Animal Terminal

Samuel Posin
Associated Press
Sunday 19 July 2015
Jet-setting stallions and high-flying hounds at New York’s Kennedy airport can look forward to a new luxury terminal that will handle the more than 70,000 animals flying in and out every year.
The ARK at JFK, its name inspired by Noah’s biblical vessel, will more than measure up to terminals for humans: horses and cows will occupy sleek, climate-controlled stalls with showers, and dogs will lounge in hotel suites featuring flat-screen TVs. A special space for penguins will allow them mating privacy.
The ARK is billed as the world’s first air terminal for animals.
Set to open next year, the $48m, 178,000-square-foot (16,500-square-meter) shelter and quarantine facility will take in every kind of animal imaginable — even an occasional sloth or aardvark. From The ARK, they’ll head to barns, cages, racetracks, shows and competition venues in the United States and abroad.
Many arriving animals are quarantined for a period of time (for horses, it’s normally about three days) to make sure they’re not carrying contagious diseases. And The ARK is designed to make their stay as pleasant as possible, with hay-lined stalls for up to 70 horses and 180 head of cattle, plus an aviary and holding pens for goats, pigs and sheep.
For dog owners, The ARK will offer a 20,000-sqf (1,860-sqm) luxury “resort” run by the company Paradise 4 Paws, complete with bone-shaped splashing pools, massage therapy and “pawdicures with colored nail pawlish.” Dogs can watch flat-screen TVs and their owners can check in on them via webcam.
Cats will have their own trees to climb. And all animals will have access to a 24-hour clinic run by Cornell University’s veterinary college.
Even animals that don’t need to be quarantined — a huge dog that can’t fit in the cabin and has to travel as cargo, for example — will be held at the facility until departure or pickup by its owner.
“A lot of our design making is in collaboration with veterinarians and consultants to help minimize the amount of stress placed on the animal,” said Cliff Bollmann, a leading airport architect working on The ARK for the San Francisco-based architecture firm Gensler.
Kennedy receives the bulk of animals entering the United States, but there are similar facilities near airports in Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami. Until Kennedy’s ARK opens, animals in transit will continue to be handled at the airport’s aging Vetport, built in the 1950s
Lachlan Oldaker, an Oklahoma-based equine specialist and key member of the architectural team, called The ARK “an enormous leap forward.”
“The design allows planes to taxi directly to the building, so horses can be transported in a seamless fashion that reduces stress,” she said.
The ARK is being built on the site of an unused cargo terminal that has been demolished. ARK Development, an affiliate of the Madison Avenue real-estate company Racebrook Capital, has signed a 32-year lease for the airport property with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey agency that runs Kennedy.
When completed, the facility is subject to approval by the US Department of Agriculture. Animals will be charged fees — still being determined depending on services — that will help fund the terminal. High-end dog “suites” could top $100 per night.
Transporting animals by air is not aimed at low-income owners. A flight to London for a dog can cost about $1,000, plus a crate, airport fees and vet certifications. And moving a horse can add up to at least $10,000.
The ARK’s designers have had to meet challenges not found in other architectural projects — for instance, figuring out how to dispose of animal waste. They came up with the idea of a “poo chute,” an angled floor from which manure slides into a container.
The equine wing is a welcome improvement to international show jumper and organizer Derek Braun.
Horses must currently be driven to a quarantine facility in Newburgh, about 80 m(130 km) north of Kennedy. The ARK has an in-house quarantine.
“I personally, as well as competitors for my shows, ship so many horses from Europe each year that having the peace of mind that one step of the travel process will be eliminated is a big relief because it eliminates part of the risk of injury,” he said.
Jet-setting stallions and high-flying hounds at New York’s Kennedy airport can look forward to a new luxury terminal that will handle the more than 70,000 animals flying in and out every year.
The ARK at JFK, its name inspired by Noah’s biblical vessel, will more than measure up to terminals for humans: horses and cows will occupy sleek, climate-controlled stalls with showers, and dogs will lounge in hotel suites featuring flat-screen TVs. A special space for penguins will allow them mating privacy.
The ARK is billed as the world’s first air terminal for animals.
Set to open next year, the $48m, 178,000-square-foot (16,500-square-meter) shelter and quarantine facility will take in every kind of animal imaginable — even an occasional sloth or aardvark. From The ARK, they’ll head to barns, cages, racetracks, shows and competition venues in the United States and abroad.
Many arriving animals are quarantined for a period of time (for horses, it’s normally about three days) to make sure they’re not carrying contagious diseases. And The ARK is designed to make their stay as pleasant as possible, with hay-lined stalls for up to 70 horses and 180 head of cattle, plus an aviary and holding pens for goats, pigs and sheep.
For dog owners, The ARK will offer a 20,000-sqf (1,860-sqm) luxury “resort” run by the company Paradise 4 Paws, complete with bone-shaped splashing pools, massage therapy and “pawdicures with colored nail pawlish.” Dogs can watch flat-screen TVs and their owners can check in on them via webcam.
Cats will have their own trees to climb. And all animals will have access to a 24-hour clinic run by Cornell University’s veterinary college.
Even animals that don’t need to be quarantined — a huge dog that can’t fit in the cabin and has to travel as cargo, for example — will be held at the facility until departure or pickup by its owner.
“A lot of our design making is in collaboration with veterinarians and consultants to help minimize the amount of stress placed on the animal,” said Cliff Bollmann, a leading airport architect working on The ARK for the San Francisco-based architecture firm Gensler.
Kennedy receives the bulk of animals entering the United States, but there are similar facilities near airports in Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami. Until Kennedy’s ARK opens, animals in transit will continue to be handled at the airport’s aging Vetport, built in the 1950s.
Lachlan Oldaker, an Oklahoma-based equine specialist and key member of the architectural team, called The ARK “an enormous leap forward.”
“The design allows planes to taxi directly to the building, so horses can be transported in a seamless fashion that reduces stress,” she said.
The ARK is being built on the site of an unused cargo terminal that has been demolished. ARK Development, an affiliate of the Madison Avenue real-estate company Racebrook Capital, has signed a 32-year lease for the airport property with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey agency that runs Kennedy.
When completed, the facility is subject to approval by the US Department of Agriculture. Animals will be charged fees — still being determined depending on services — that will help fund the terminal. High-end dog “suites” could top $100 per night.
Transporting animals by air is not aimed at low-income owners. A flight to London for a dog can cost about $1,000, plus a crate, airport fees and vet certifications. And moving a horse can add up to at least $10,000.
The ARK’s designers have had to meet challenges not found in other architectural projects — for instance, figuring out how to dispose of animal waste. They came up with the idea of a “poo chute,” an angled floor from which manure slides into a container.
The equine wing is a welcome improvement to international show jumper and organizer Derek Braun.
Horses must currently be driven to a quarantine facility in Newburgh, about 80 m(130 km) north of Kennedy. The ARK has an in-house quarantine.
“I personally, as well as competitors for my shows, ship so many horses from Europe each year that having the peace of mind that one step of the travel process will be eliminated is a big relief because it eliminates part of the risk of injury,” he said.

Votes2 DateJul 22, 2015

[image for Planet Spotlight baboon.jpg]
Natural wonders

Animals Forming Working Friendships

Samuel Posin
Wolves and Baboons in Ethiopia Form Unlikely Friendships
The novel dynamics documented here shed light on the ecological circumstances that contribute to the stability of mixed groups of predators and potential prey."
What's very interesting is that the wolves don't prey on the vulnerable baboons. To wit, "Only once has Venkataraman seen a wolf seize a young gelada, and other monkeys quickly attacked it and forced it to drop the infant, then drove the offending wolf away and prevented it from returning later."
Wolves show an increase in capturing rodents when within a gelada baboon herd...
There are always surprises looming in the study of animal behavior. Just this week I learned that rare and critically endangered Ethiopian wolves living in the alpine grasslands form a pact with gelada baboons that helps the wolves catch rodents.
In an essay called "Monkeys' cosy alliance with wolves looks like domestication" by Bob Holmes in New Scientist we learn that "wolves succeeded in 67 per cent of attempts [to catch rodents] when within a gelada herd, but only 25 per cent of the time when on their own." However, it's not clear what makes the wolves more successful but it's possible that hiding out in the herd is beneficial for these predators. (The title of Mr. Holmes' essay in the print edition of New Scientist is titled "Wolves hang out with monkeys to hunt.")
Mr. Holmes' summary is based on a report by Dartmouth College's Vivek Venkataraman and his colleagues titled "Solitary Ethiopian wolves increase predation success on rodents when among grazing gelada monkey herds" published in the Journal of Mammalogy. The abstract of this study reads: "Mixed-species associations generally form to increase foraging success or to aid in the detection and deterrence of predators. While mixed-species associations are common among mammals, those involving carnivorous predators and potential prey species are seldom reported. On the Guassa Plateau, in the Ethiopian highlands, we observed solitary Ethiopian wolves (Canis simensis) foraging for rodents among grazing gelada monkey (Theropithecus gelada) herds.
The tolerant and sometimes prolonged associations contrasted with the defensive behaviors exhibited by geladas toward other potential predators. Ethiopian wolves spent a higher proportion of time foraging and preyed more successfully on rodents when among geladas than when alone, providing evidence that gelada herds increase the vulnerability of subterranean rodents to predation. Ethiopian wolves appear to habituate gelada herds to their presence through nonthreatening behavior, thereby foregoing opportunistic foraging opportunities upon vulnerable juvenile geladas in order to feed more effectively on rodents. For Ethiopian wolves, establishing proximity to geladas as foraging commensals could be an adaptive strategy to elevate foraging success. The novel dynamics documented here shed light on the ecological circumstances that contribute to the stability of mixed groups of predators and potential prey."
What's very interesting is that the wolves don't prey on the vulnerable baboons. To wit, "Only once has Venkataraman seen a wolf seize a young gelada, and other monkeys quickly attacked it and forced it to drop the infant, then drove the offending wolf away and prevented it from returning later."
What I also found to be of interest is the speculation that the association between the wolves and the baboons resembled early moments in the domestication of dogs by humans. In a sidebar to the above essay called "Taming man's best friend," University of Oxford conservation biologist Claudio Sillero "doubts that the relationship could progress further down the road to domestication" because there is no reciprocal benefit for the baboons. Nonetheless, the association between the wolves and baboons is extremely interesting and "unlikely friendships" such as these might be more common than we have previously imagined among wild animals. (For more on the domestication of dogs please see essays published by Psychology Today writer Mark Derr, an expert on this topic.)
Please stay tuned for more on the fascinating lives of the magnificent animals with whom we share our wondrous planet. There still is much to learn and there always are "surprises" looming on the horizon.
Animal Stories from All-Creatures.org
Marc Bekoff, Animal Emotions, Psychology Today
June 2015
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Votes2 DateJun 21, 2015

[image for Planet Spotlight kangaroo stolen.jpg]
Wildlife

Wisconsin Zoo Animals Stolen

Samuel Posin
http://abcnews.go.com/US/baby-kangaroo-baby-goats-stolen-wisconsin-zoo/story?id=30924273
A baby kangaroo and four baby goats were stolen from a zoo in Greenville, Wisconsin, last week, officials said.
Donna Wheeler, owner of the Special Memories Zoo, said the baby kangaroo, called a joey, and the goats had been at their winter home about six to eight miles away from the zoo, in a large, insulated shed.
The babies were bottle fed Tuesday night, but when workers went to the shed around midday Wednesday to start moving animals to the zoo in anticipation of Thursday's opening day, the five baby animals were gone, Wheeler told ABC News. She said the facility was not locked.
"Whoever took [the joey] pulled it out of the mother's pouch," Wheeler said.
Animal caretaker Gretchen Crowe said she realized the joey was gone when its mother's pouch was hanging out.
"I knew that somebody had to have taken them because there's no way that they can get out of the building," said Crowe.
According to the Outagamie County Sheriff's Office, which responded to the stolen animals report, the joey was 5 months old, and baby kangaroos must stay with their mother for the first year of life.
"I believe the baby kangaroo is dead," Wheeler said. "It cannot live without its mother, it cannot live without special formula, it cannot live without heat."
"You can't just feed it anything," she said. "I'm thinking by now ... if a person took it who knew what they were doing it probably has a chance of living. But if somebody didn't ... I know we've got high school kids around, if someone did it as a joke, I'm sure by now it's probably dead."
"I feel absolutely horrible. We do everything in our power to keep animals alive," Wheeler said. "Right now my stomach is just turning to think somebody would do that."
"Whoever has them, if you would just bring them back," Crowe said. "We just want them back."
As of last Saturday, no progress had been made in the search for the animals, said Mike Bouchard, a spokesman for the Outagamie County Sheriff's Office.

Votes1 DateMay 17, 2015


Created Light of Culture Spotlights

[image for Culture Spotlight July 4 Patriotism image.jpg]
North America

Patriotism in the United States

Samuel Posin
Today I attended a special musical celebration in my town honoring Independence Day in the United States, otherwise known as Fourth of July. What I experienced was phenomenal. Individuals from all walks of life, ages, religions and political beliefs were attending an event that was fun, orderly, appreciative and symbolic of what this wonderful country is all about. People coming together to listen and participate in the songs of the United States' various military services,patriotic hymns and nostalgic ditties signified the great love most US citizens hold for our country.
Much of the news is filled with controversy, disasters and crime stories. Included in today's presentation was allotted time to describe a non-profit benefienciary agency of the event as well as remembering to keep in our prayers those who experienced flooding and loss of home and loved ones in southern West Virginia 3 weeks ago.
In cities and towns through out the United States, today was a day of special celebration for the freedom, prosperity, opportunity and extraordinary blessing that The Almighty has bestowed upon us during the last 240 years.
Remember to appreciate what this country or any country in which you reside gives you the postive abilities and opportunities to live and succeed.
We,as citizens of one of the most fortunate of countries, have the opportunity to reflect on our place in this world.

Votes1 DateJul 4, 2016

[image for Culture Spotlight Old City  picture.jpg]
Middle East

Israel Today

Samuel Posin
Recently, I had the opportunity to take a trip to Israel for a family wedding. While this was my fourth trip since 1979, I always find new and exciting perspectives.
Upon arrival at the airpoint, you begin to see the different types of backgrounds-Turkish tour groups,Missionary tours,Religious Jews, Arabs and many others.
I find it very refreshing to see everyone co-existing and acknowledging each other.
For those from the United States, our lack of learning other languages is not a major problem, as over half of the residents speak some to quite abit of English.
While in the Old City of Jerusalem,we encountered Armenians, Arabs and Israeli Jews. You feel very safe dealing with any gift shop owner, no matter their nationality. The shopkeepers are just trying to make a living and sometimes their means are not what visitors are used to. The only thing is trying to master the various cultures as not to offend or become involved in uncomfortable situations.
One interesting tidbit is that there is an upscale outdoor mall located 120 yards (375 meters) from one of the gates to the Old City; old butting up against new-sad and refreshing all at the same time for many tourists.
This is a country that is constantly building modern structures as the population increases. New roads and housing keep this small country thriving.
When attending the outdoor wedding and inside reception, there were friends of the families dressed casual to dressed up-everyone just seemed to fit in. What I enjoyed during this time and during large Sabbath meals with the 2 families at a synagogue was seeing the Sephardic(Spanish and Middle Eastern) Jewish customs of the one side mingling with the Ashkenazi(Eastern European)Jewish ways of the other family. Much respect and sharing took place.
It was a melting pot of heritages there: Israeli, Persian, Moroccan, American, British,Russian and others at these meals.
The cuisine is usually fresh fruit, yogurt and salads in the morning. Meat or chicken in the evenings and, of course, falafel at lunch or dinner.
While we hear of violence and safety issues in the area and region in the media, almost everyone has little to fear as they travel as long as you use common sense and avoid situations you would when traveling or living in any major city.
I sure I will be back to enjoy another aspect of this amazing country to see more of the sites and enjoy the diverse culture.

Votes1 DateApr 20, 2016

[image for Culture Spotlight West Virginia entry picture.jpg]
North America

West Virginia, A Proud People

Samuel Posin
West Virginia has been my family's home for 4 generations. Our state has beautiful landscape and resources as well as a culture of pride. We are the only state in the history of the United States to have been created out of another state. This relates to the rich history of the Civil War, a major skirmish that nearly torn apart the great country that the value of U.S. has come to stand for.
My city of Wheeling, WV is the only city in this country to have served as the capital of 2 different states(within a years). We were known as the gateway to the West and our Suspension Bridge is the 2nd longest of its style in the world(after the Brooklyn Bridge). In fact, the City of Pittsburgh sued the City of Wheeling in the United States Supreme Court in the 1870s to try to keep the bridge from being build so travelers would need to cross the river at Pittsburgh instead. In 1900, due to the commerce of the city, there were more millionaires here per capita than anywhere else in the country.
The State of West Virginia is a large state geographically while spread in population. We have no city over 80,000 residents, giving us a small town, friendly atmosphere throughout. There are many festivals, community events, very clean state parks, and many other nice, safe and laid-back recreational opportunities. While the state has a low average income, the cost to live and do business here is very reasonable and inexpensive. The residents are helpful, geniune and look out for each other.
You can not find a better place to live or visit.
I highly recommend everyone investigate the opportunities of West Virginia for your next vacation or career move.
One possible link is: http://www.westvirginia.com/wonders/culture.cfm

Votes1 DateNov 15, 2015

[image for Culture Spotlight pygmyheight_adapt_1190_1.jpg]
Africa

We May Have Been Wrong About How African Pygmies Grow

Samuel Posin
By Rachel A. Becker, National Geographic
PUBLISHED July 28, 2015
People with small body sizes, known as Pygmies, begin life at a typical size but grow slowly in early childhood, a new study shows. The results may cast doubt on long-held beliefs about how and why these groups developed shorter statures.
New evidence published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications suggests that East and West African Pygmy children have different patterns of growth, a finding that may also shed light on how these groups evolved. Fernando Ramirez Rozzi, a National Geographic grantee at the French National Center for Scientific Research and lead author of this study, spent eight years tracking age, growth, and fertility in a Pygmy population in Cameroon called the Baka.
The name Pygmy describes rainforest hunter-gatherer populations around the globe that share heights of less than around five feet tall. This short stature is genetic, research has shown, not merely the result of malnutrition. Less clear, though, is the question of how diminutive body size evolved, and whether it did so independently in different African Pygmy groups.
Growth curves
“There are just so few studies of this kind on Pygmies,” says University of Pennsylvania professor Sarah Tishkoff. Tishkoff studies the Baka but was not involved in this work.
Nomadic hunter-gatherer groups such as the Baka are notoriously difficult to study. Rozzi described the village as completely in the rainforest, with a shifting population. “You go one time in the year and you find some people. You go again six months later and the people have moved—you have a new family there,” he said.
Another challenge, added George Perry, an anthropologist and geneticist at Pennsylvania State University, is that hunter-gatherers don’t always know how old they are. “If you don’t have that information, or if that information is prone to error, it’s very hard to actually get accurate growth curves,” said Luis Barreiro, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Montreal.
Rozzi’s group got accurate ages from a group of nuns at a nearby Catholic mission who recorded birth dates and weights since the late 1980s. Rozzi’s team combined the information with their own measurements of children and adults whose ages they knew to create a growth curve of Baka people from birth to age 25.
The growth curves revealed that Baka infants are born the same weight as French infants, but after three months Baka weights drop, and never catch up. This contradicts the reigning theory—at least for this population—that Pygmy people are short-statured because they lack a growth spurt during puberty. (“They demonstrate a growth spurt pretty convincingly,” Perry says.)
East African Pygmy populations have a different growth pattern: Infants are born small and stay small, according to published studies that Rozzi’s team used for comparison. The difference between the two groups could mean that Pygmies’ shorter statures did not start with their common ancestor, but instead evolved independently in response to similar environments.
Evolved twice?
Pygmy populations in Africa have a common ancestor thought to have split from typically-sized populations around 60,000 years ago, before splitting again into East African and West African groups around 20,000 years ago.
Several theories suggest that short stature is an adaptation to life in the tropical rainforest: small bodies regulate heat better, are more agile when moving through dense vegetation, need less food, and, according to one theory, can reproduce at younger ages.

Votes2 DateJul 31, 2015

[image for Culture Spotlight Fengshui.jpg]
Asia

Fengshui

Samuel Posin

Feng Shui and how its helpful?
By Pandit Rahul Kaushal
INTRODUCTION to Fengshui
It may be a new for those who have never heard about it and very symbolic for those who knew about it. Feng Shui is an important Chinese science that has gained importance due to its popularity in recent years and rather due to its positive results to people.
Actually every object or picture is related with some meaning or with some symbols. The Chinese people believe in looking at objects with their hidden meanings. According to them these objects and pictures are the conveyors of good luck or bad luck. The Chinese people traditionally use a large number of symbols in their house. These symbols and objects are good for providing good luck for Health, Success, Marriage, Good relationships, Good business, and Wealth too.
Various Feng Shui symbols for Good Luck
In symbolic Feng Shui, there are certain dimensions which are considered to be good for bringing healthy luck whereas, certain dimensions are believed to bring Bad luck to you also. If we see in case of furniture, it also bring good luck chi to you with its lucky and unlucky dimensions. The table, chair, cupboard, etc, can be measured with Feng Shui ruler specially made for these. The Feng Shui ruler has eight cycles of dimensions out of which four are auspicious and four are inauspicious. The measure of each cycle is equal to 17 inches or 43cms and further each cycle is divided into eight portions. The cycles of auspicious and inauspicious dimensions repeats itself over and over to infinity. These dimensions proved very beneficial in every case.
The four auspicious Dimensions
Chai- This is the first portion of the cycle and is divided into four categories of good luck. The dimension is between 0 inches to 2 1/8 inches or 5.4 cms. The first half inch brings money, the second brings jewels, and the third brings six types of good luck, and fourth brings abundance.
Yi- this is the fourth portion of the cycle and it brings good luck by bringing helpful people in life. This is also divided into four categories. The dimension is between 6 3/8 inches and 8 ½ inches or in cms it's between 16.2 cms to 21.5 cms. The first ½ inch brings good children luck, the second brings unexpected income, the third predicts successful son, and the fourth brings excellent good fortune.
Kwan- this is the fifth section of cycle and brings power luck. The dimension is between 8 ½ inches and 10 5/8 inches or in cms between 21.5 cms to 27 cms. The first ½ inches brings good luck in exams, the second brings special luck, the third improves income and the fourth brings laurels for the family.
Pun- this dimension is between 14 7/8 to 17 inches or 37.5 cms to 43.2 cms. The first section increases money flow, the second brings examination luck, third brings jewels and fourth brings prosperity.
About the Author
Pandit Rahul Kaushal
Pandit Rahul Kaushal is Celebrity Astrologer and vastu consultant from india and he serves via his site Pandit.com

Votes2 DateJul 1, 2015

[image for Culture Spotlight Sam posin.jpg]
Europe

Russia's Volunteer Body Hunters

Samuel Posin
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-25589709
Of the estimated 70 million people killed in World War Two, 26 million died on the Eastern front - and up to four million of them are still officially considered missing in action. But volunteers are now searching the former battlefields for the soldiers' remains, determined to give them a proper burial - and a name.
Olga Ivshina walks slowly and carefully through the pine trees, the beeps of her metal detector punctuating the quiet of the forest. "They are not buried very deep," she says.
"Sometimes we find them just beneath the moss and a few layers of fallen leaves. They are still lying where they fell. The soldiers are waiting for us - waiting for the chance to finally go home."
Nearby, Marina Koutchinskaya is on her knees searching in the mud. For the past 12 years she has spent most of her holidays like this, far away from home, her maternity clothes business, and her young son.
"Every spring, summer and autumn I get this strange sort of yearning inside me to go and look for the soldiers," she says. "My heart pulls me to do this work."
They are part of a group called Exploration who have travelled for 24 hours in a cramped army truck to get to this forest near St Petersburg. Conditions are basic - they camp in the woods - and some days they have to wade waist-deep through mud to find the bodies of the fallen. The work can be dangerous, too. Soldiers are regularly discovered with their grenades still in their backpacks and artillery shells can be seen sticking out of the trees. Diggers from other groups elsewhere in Russia have lost their lives.
Marina holds up an object she has found, it looks like a bar of soap, but it is actually TNT. "Near a naked flame it's still dangerous, even though it has been lying in the ground for 70 years," she says.
Many countries were scarred by World War Two, but none suffered as many losses as the Soviet Union.
On 22 June 1941, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the largest and bloodiest campaign in military history, aimed at annexing vast areas of the USSR to the Third Reich. St Petersburg, then known as Leningrad, was one of his main targets. In less than three months, the advancing German army had encircled the city and started pounding it from the air.
'They were killing us like flies'
Mikhail Zorin cried when he first saw the gun he was expected to use to repel the German invasion. "It was so big and heavy," he says. "I was scared, how was I supposed to shoot?"
It was an antiquated model from the Tsarist days - and shortages meant they were only given one between two.
The 18-year-old Zorin endured nine hellish days fighting in Nevsky Pyatachok - the tiny strip of land by the Neva River where 260,000 Soviet soldiers died trying to break the siege of Leningrad.
"They were killing us like flies," says the 90-year-old. "There were corpses lying all over the place. The ground was mashed up by bombs and shells and we simply weren't equipped to fight back."
But attempts to take the city by storm fell through, so Hitler decided to starve it into surrender. For more than two years, the Red Army fought desperately to cut through German lines.
Olga and Marina are working near the town of Lyuban, 80km (50 miles) south of St Petersburg. Here, in an area of just 10 sq km, an estimated 19,000 Soviet soldiers were killed in just a few days in 1942. So far the diggers have found 2,000 bodies.
Ilya Prokoviev, the most experienced of the Exploration team, is carefully poking the ground with a long metal spike. A former army officer with a droopy blonde moustache, he found his first soldier 30 years ago while walking in the countryside.
"I was crossing a swamp when suddenly I saw some boots sticking out of the mud," he says.
"A bit further away, I found a Soviet helmet. Then I scraped away some moss and saw a soldier. I was shocked. It was 1983, I was 40km from Leningrad and there lay the remains of a soldier who hadn't been buried. After that there were more and more and more, and we realised these bodies were to be found everywhere - and on a massive scale."
There was little time in the heat of battle to bury the dead, says Valery Kudinsky, the defence ministry official responsible for war graves.
"In just three months the German death machine covered more than 2,000km (1,250 miles) of our land. So many Red Army units were killed, wiped out or surrounded - how could anyone think about burials, let alone records of burials, in such conditions?"
Immediately after the war, the priority was to rebuild a shattered country, he says. But that does not explain why later the battlefields weren't cleared and the fallen soldiers not identified and buried.
The diggers now believe that some were deliberately concealed. The governing council of the USSR issued decrees in 1963 about destroying any traces of war, says Ilya.
"If you take a map showing where battles took place, then see where all the new forest plantations and building projects were located, you'll find they coincide with the front line. Nobody will convince me they planted trees for ecological reasons."
If you crouch down in the woods near Lyuban, a series of grooves in the earth can be clearly made out.
"They actively planted new trees on the battlefield - they ploughed furrows and put the trees exactly in the places where the unburied soldiers were lying," Marina says.
She recently unearthed a helmet and in order to find its owner, the team had to uproot two nearby trees.
'He promised he would come back'
I will never forget the story of 21-year-old Khasan Batyrshin, writes Olga Ivshina.
Khasan went missing in 1943. His family contacted the government every year asking for information about him, but the answer was always the same. "No data found. Soldier missing in action." But the Batyrshins never gave up. Even at the age of 105 his mother repeated: "He will come back. He promised me. He will even move mountains."
We found Khasan last year near Nevskaya Dubrovka. The bodies of those killed there were just put into pits made by falling shells. It was one of the last days at the dig. Everyone was tired, but Khasan inspired us. We found his ID tag. It is always a miracle, because many soldiers didn't have them at all. And even those who did often didn't fill them in.
The piece of paper in his tag was neatly pencilled in. It was not easy to decipher, but after four hours, Khasan got his name back.
When his family got the news, the first thing they did was visit the tomb of Khasan's mother to tell her. She had died a year earlier.
"When we cleaned away some clumps of earth from the roots we saw two hands tangled up in them. Then we found a pelvis and some ribs between the roots. So we think the whole soldier was underneath the roots and the trees were growing on top of him."
But how could anyone - farmers or workmen - get on a tractor and plough over land littered with human remains?
"If they refused to plough a field because there were corpses or bones in it, they'd just be sacked," says Ilya. "If you lost your job in those days you were a non-person - you didn't exist. That's what life was like in the Soviet Union." Plus, it was less than two decades after the war. The workers had endured far worse horrors, he says.
There are horrors for the diggers, too.
Nevskaya Dubrovka, on the banks of the River Neva, was the scene of one of the bloodiest campaigns of the Leningrad siege. The Red Army fought tooth and nail to secure a narrow stretch of river bank in an attempt to break the blockade. Hundreds of thousands of troops, used as little more than cannon fodder, were slaughtered.
Diggers discovered a mass grave in the area last summer. The soldiers may have been thrown into the pit by their comrades or local villagers as a hasty form of burial, or even by the German Army, anxious to prevent an epidemic among its troops.
"There must have been 30 or 40 soldiers in there. Four layers of people one on top of the other," says Olga, as she sits by the campfire. "But the skeletons were all mixed up and smashed. Here you have a head - there a leg…" She pauses and stares into the fire. "Once you've seen that, you'll never forget it. You are no longer the same person you were before."
Going back to city life and her job with the BBC Russian Service is sometimes hard after a few weeks in the forest. When her friends in Moscow complain about not being able to afford a good enough car or designer clothes, she feels alienated.
"Everything seems so pointless - even my job as a journalist - and sometimes I think, 'What am I doing?' But here, on the dig, I feel we are doing something which is needed."
For Olga - who sang hymns to Communism in her primary school, then learnt about profit and loss at secondary school - volunteering as a digger also provides a moral compass in confusing times.
"Sometimes you need to know that you are doing something which is important, that you are not just a piece of dust in this universe. This work connects us to our past. It's like an anchor which helps us to stay in place even during a storm."
Finding the dead is only one part of their mission. Rescuing them from anonymity is the other.
In Moscow an eternal flame burns at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the shadow of the Kremlin Wall, but for the diggers, the best way to honour those who lost their lives is to give them back their identities.
"The soldier had a family, he had children, he fell in love," says Ilya. "Being unknown is nothing to be proud of. We are the ones who made him unknown."
But discovering who they were is not always easy, especially after so much time has passed.
"The more data we can collect from the spot, the better the chance we have to identify a soldier," says Alexander Konoplov, the leader of the Exploration group. Sometimes they find old coins with the soldiers, given to them by their families. The belief was that if the family lent him a few coins, he would come home to repay the loan.
But while personal items can build up a picture of the person, they can't help find his name, or place of birth. Initials scratched into spoons and bowls are good. But the key is usually an ID tag.
Out of media player. Press enter to return or tab to continue.
Media caption There are around 300 volunteer groups in Russia searching for similar grave sites
During World War Two, Soviet soldiers' ID tags were not made of metal - they were small ebony capsules containing a small piece of paper for their personal details. Sadly, the papers are often illegible. Others were left blank because many soldiers were superstitious - they believed filling in the forms would lead to certain death.
Alexander, who ran his own business selling food products before becoming a full-time digger, is holding a bullet case plugged with a small piece of wood. He hopes that it is an improvised ID tag. But when he turns it upside down in his hand, what comes out of it is not a roll of paper, but a trickle of brown liquid.
"Sometimes we find messages with the soldier's name," says Alexander. "Some wrote, 'If I am killed, please pass this on to my girlfriend or my mum.' You can't help feeling touched by it."
Exploration is one of 600 groups of diggers from all over Russia who have found and reburied a total of 500,000 soldiers so far.
These teams are known as the "white diggers", but there are also those dubbed "black diggers" who search for medals, guns, coins or even gold teeth which they sell online or to specialist dealers. They are not interested in identifying the soldiers - they just leave the bones in the ground.
Alexander has a strict set of guidelines about how the remains should be excavated, labelled and stored. Each soldier is photographed and their location is recorded and entered into a digital database.
Ebony ID tags; a volunteer tries to decipher their contents; a grenade found in the forest Diggers Marina, Ilya and Olga
If a decades-old ID tag cannot be deciphered by the team on the ground, it is carefully packed and sent to the team's headquarters in the Volga city of Kazan.
The team's technician, Rafik Salakhiev, uses ultraviolet light and digital imaging to reveal the faded pencil marks. "Let's try to enhance purple colours on this yellow paper," he says. "We can reduce the saturation and yes! We start to see some letters…"
Once a name emerges, the diggers use old army lists, classified documents and contacts in the military or police to identify the soldier precisely and to locate surviving members of his family.
"Every new search gets to me as if it was the first one," says Rafik. Many of the relatives are now elderly and may not be in good health. "When you call the relatives, before telling them the news, you try to prepare them. Even if they have been waiting for a long time."
But tracing a soldier's family can take years - on occasions more than a decade - especially if the family moved after the war.
When, in 1942, people in First Lt Kustov's home village heard he was missing, they suspected him of deserting and collaborating with the Germans. They branded his young son and daughter traitor's children and the family were forced to leave. It took Ilya Prokoviev months to track them down.
"When we told them that we had found their father's remains, for them the feeling was just indescribable. They knew that he hadn't just deserted, that he couldn't have behaved like that, but there was never any proof until 60 years later."
From the archives, the diggers worked out that Kustov had been the commander of one of Stalin's notorious shtrafbats, a battalion made up of prisoners and deserters. Only a trusted officer and staunch communist would have been appointed to such a post.
"They had managed to restore historical truth and honour their father's memory," says Ilya. "It was the main event of their lives, I think." Kustov's children took his remains and buried them next to their mother, who had waited her whole life for her husband to return.
Near the banks of the River Neva, close to the mass grave found by diggers, a Russian Orthodox priest chants prayers as he walks around the rows of bright red coffins laid out on the grass.
The children, grand-children and great-grand-children of the soldiers they unearthed look on, some quietly sobbing.
Valentina Aliyeva is here to bury the father she has not seen since she was four years old. For seven decades, the only link she had with him was a black and white photo of their former family home.
"My mother remarried some years later and everyone told me to call my stepfather Daddy. But I refused - I knew who my real dad was," she says, her eyes filling with tears. "What those diggers have achieved means so much to me. I can't tell you how grateful I am."
Tatiana Uzarevich and Lyudmila Marinkina, twin sisters in their early 50s, have travelled from the remote region of Kamchatka - nine hours away by plane. The diggers found their grandfather's ID tag in the mass grave. When they were unable to trace his family, the group put out an appeal on the evening news.
The twins' elderly mother was stunned when she heard his name - Alexander Golik - the family had searched in vain for years. His disappearance had left his wife and children destitute. "The fact that he was missing in action meant that my grandmother was not entitled to any of the financial support given to other relatives after the Great Patriotic War. She didn't get a penny and she had four children to raise," says Lyudmila.
"My mum was so hungry all the time, she begged the other kids for pieces of bread at school.
"She only remembers the shape of her fathers' hands - but she had memories of a kind, good man," says Tatiana. "We just had to come to this reburial service to visit the place where he died and accompany him to his final resting place."
The walls of the large, newly dug grave are draped with red cloth - an act of respect normally accorded only to army generals. Young men dressed in Soviet-style army uniforms form a guard of honour. Visibly moved, as coffin after coffin is carried past to be buried, some of them look up to the sky. There is a belief that birds flying overhead transport the souls of the dead.
There are more than 100 coffins - each contains the bones of 12 to 15 men. The diggers would like each soldier to have his own, but they can't afford the extra 1,500 they would need for today's service.
This is the culmination of months of work by the volunteers. It's what it's all for - bringing a semblance of order to the moral chaos of the past, and paying tribute to those who gave their lives.
In the spring they will resume their searches in the forests and fields where so many were slaughtered. They are determined to continue until the last man is found. But it could be a life's work - or more.
"There are so many unburied soldiers, it will take decades to find them. There will definitely be work for our grandchildren," says Marina. "But nature is working against us. The remains are decomposing and it is getting harder to find the bones, ID tags and army kit." The more years that go by. The less information there is.
"We need to continue to do this for ourselves, so our souls can be at peace," says Ilya. "It has become the meaning of our lives."

Votes1 DateJun 2, 2015


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