Saturday, April 19, 2014

Did Apple Maps Just Find The Loch Ness Monster?

Did Apple Maps Just Find The Loch Ness Monster?

Did Apple Maps Just Find The Loch Ness Monster?

Posted: 19 Apr 2014 10:49 AM PDT

Apple is known for inventing the iPhone and revolutionizing personal technology, but now it is famous for solving one of the enduring mysteries of man’s encounters with the uncanny: it has found the Loch Ness monster.

Or so claim Loch Ness theorists, who point to a satellite image on Apple maps that shows a mysterious shape in the Scottish body of water where the famous monster is said to dwell, reports the Daily Mail.

The image appears to show a large ripple in the water, similar to the wake of a boat. But monster conspiracists see something else altogether. After a comprehensive analysis, enthusiasts at the Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club have concluded that the figure is “likely” the fabled beast:

“It looks like a boat wake, but the boat is missing. You can see some boats moored at the shore, but there isn't one here. We've shown it to boat experts and they don't know what it is,” Club president Gary Campbell told the Mail. “Whatever this is, it is under the water and heading south, so unless there have been secret submarine trials going on in the loch, the size of the object would make it likely to be Nessie.”

The image was spotted by two people who noticed it at the end of last year on their phones, who said they were just perusing Apple maps when they found the mysterious image. The map image can only be seen on some iPads and iPhones and beamed by the Apple satellite map app.

So next time you’re on Apple maps, keep an eye out for the Yeti in your backyard.

[Daily Mail]

This Dancing Poop Will Teach India’s Poor How To Use The Toilet

Posted: 19 Apr 2014 10:46 AM PDT

This video about an army of evil, dancing turds is no joke. It’s part of a targeted campaign by UNICEF that addresses one of India’s biggest public health problems – the widespread practice of public defecation.

The series of videos, online games and public announcement which began late in 2013 reveal some startling facts. About 620 million people in India defecate in the open, and only half the population uses toilets. The leading causes of malnutrition, which affects 48 percent of children in India, are from diarrhea and worms associated with microbial contamination of drinking water.

The ‘Poo2Loo’ campaign may seem a bit silly but it’s sparked a conversation in India about a health crisis in a country of over 1.2 billion people.

4 French Journalists Held Hostage in Syria Freed

Posted: 19 Apr 2014 10:39 AM PDT

(PARIS) — Four French journalists held hostage in Syria for 10 months have been released, officials said Saturday, the latest batch of reporters to be freed in what has become the world’s deadliest conflict for the media.

President Francois Hollande’s office said in a statement that he felt “immense relief” over the release of Edouard Elias, Didier Francois, Nicolas Henin and Pierre Torres — all said to be in good health in neighboring Turkey despite the “very trying conditions” of their captivity.

“We are very happy to be free … and it’s very nice to see the sky, to be able to walk, to be able to … speak freely,” said Francois, who works for Europe 1 radio, in footage recorded by the private Turkish news agency DHA as the journalists left a police station.

Elias, a freelance photographer, also was working for Europe 1 radio. Henin and Torres are freelance journalists.

A DHA report said soldiers on patrol found the four blindfolded and handcuffed in Turkey’s southeast Sanliurfa province late Friday.

Turkish television also aired images of the four at the police station and then a local hospital.

It wasn’t clear whether a ransom had been paid for their release, nor which group in Syria’s chaotic 3-year-old conflict held the men. In his statement, Hollande thanked “all those” who contributed to the journalists’ release without elaborating. Longstanding French practice is to name a specific country that contributed to hostage releases. France denies it pays ransom to free its hostages.

Hollande’s office said the four would return soon to France. It did not provide details about the conditions of their release.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement that freedom for the hostages “was the result of long, difficult, precise, and necessarily discrete work.”

Journalists around France rejoiced at the news of their colleagues’ liberation.

The four went missing in June 2013 in two incidents. Press freedom advocate Reporters Without Borders has called Syria “the most dangerous country in the world” for journalists. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in April that 61 journalists were kidnapped in Syria in 2013, while more than 60 have been killed since the conflict began.

The widespread abductions of journalists is unprecedented, and has been largely unreported by news organizations in the hope that keeping the kidnappings out of public view may help to negotiate the captives’ release. Jihadi groups are believed to be behind most kidnappings in Syria since 2013.

At least two of the French journalists were taken after being interrogated by extremist fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in the eastern province of Raqqa, said a Syrian activist who said he accompanied the journalists as translator and guide.

Hussam al-Ahmad, 23, told The Associated Press that Henin and Torres aroused the fighters’ suspicion after he and the two journalists entered a school and asked to take photographs of them as they played football. Al-Ahmad said the fighters held them for about six hours.

During his interrogation, al-Ahmad said he was asked: “How do you let these infidels enter Syria after they killed our people in Mali?” France launched a military intervention in January 2013 in Mali that scattered Islamic extremists who had taken over the country’s north.

“I said, ‘These brothers are reporters. They have a humanitarian message,’ and then he got angry because I referred to the Frenchmen as my brothers,” al-Ahmad said.

Al-Ahmad said Henin and Torres were seized four days after the interrogation, likely by the Islamic State, an al-Qaida breakaway group.

Al-Ahmad, who fled to Turkey months ago after being threatened by jihadis, said he burst into tears when he heard of the journalists’ release.

“It’s a day of celebration for me,” he said.

Violence continued Saturday in Syria, as rebel car bombings killed at least 10 people, officials and activists said. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said one car bomb killed at least four people in the city of Homs, in an area dominated by Alawites — the same sect as President Bashar Assad. State-run television also reported the bombing but did not immediately have a death toll.

Earlier in the day, another car bomber blew himself up at a checkpoint near the government-controlled town of Salamiya, killing at least six soldiers, activists said. A Syrian government official confirmed the bombing but said four people were killed and nine were wounded. Conflicting death tolls are routine after such attacks. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to journalists.

Cyrus Ill, Postpones U.S. Tour, Resumes in August

Posted: 19 Apr 2014 10:10 AM PDT

(NEW YORK) — Miley Cyrus is postponing her U.S. tour while she recovers from an allergic reaction to antibiotics, but will resume her performances in August.

Cyrus’ representative tells The Associated Press on Friday that the singer will resume the U.S. tour Aug. 1 in Uniondale, N.Y. The new dates will include seven rescheduled shows and two additional stops.

The European leg of the tour is still scheduled to kick off May 2 in Amsterdam.

Cyrus’ rep says the singer suffered from a sinus infection last week during her “Bangerz” tour and had “an extreme allergic reaction” to the antibiotic cephalexin on Tuesday. Cyrus canceled several shows this week as a result.

Existing tickets for the 21-year-old singer’s U.S. tour will be honored at the new date. Users Urged to Change Passwords Over Heartbleed Fears

Posted: 19 Apr 2014 09:21 AM PDT

People who used the Obama administration’s website to enroll in insurance plans under the government’s healthcare reform law are being warned to change their passwords in defense against the notorious Heartbleed internet security flaw.

“While there’s no indication that any personal information has ever been at risk, we have taken steps to address Heartbleed issues and reset consumers’ passwords out of an abundance of caution,” said a post on the website. The government is reportedly carrying out a review into the Heartbleed bug, according to the Associated Press.

The Heartbleed programming flaw has affected widely used encryption technology, and major internet services have recommended users change their website passwords. Critics have said the healthcare online enrollment presents myriad opportunities for hackers to exploit security flaws. The IRS has already said it was not affected by Heartbleed.

Obama announced this week that about 8 million people have enrolled in the insurance plans, exceeding forecasts.

Report: Iran Vice President Says Row Over Reactor Resolved

Posted: 19 Apr 2014 09:20 AM PDT

(TEHRAN, Iran) — Iranian state television is reporting that the Islamic Republic’s vice president is saying a dispute between world powers and the country over its heavy water reactor at Arak has been “virtually resolved.”

A state television report Saturday quoted Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi as saying the country proposed to redesign the Arak reactor to produce one-fifth of the plutonium initially planned for it. The report quoted Salehi as saying that will end concerns the West has that Iran could use the plutonium produced at Arak to build a nuclear weapon.

Iran and world powers are negotiating the terms of a permanent deal over its contested nuclear program. Under a temporary deal, Iran agreed to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit its nuclear facilities, including Arak.

High Schooler Suspended for Inviting Miss America To Prom

Posted: 19 Apr 2014 08:48 AM PDT

A gutsy high school senior was suspended Thursday for asking Miss America to prom when she hosted a question-and-answer session his Pennsylvania school.

Patrick Farves, a senior at Central York High School, Pa. said he had been steeling himself all week to pop the question when Nina Davuluri arrived to speak before the student body at a Thursday assembly.

Davuluri, holder of the beauty queen crown, was holding a talk about diversity and the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM studies, and Farves wanted a piece of the action.

During a pause between pre-screened students during the question-and-answer portion, Farves made his move. “I already had a little flower,” he told the York Dispatch. “I was completely set on doing this.”

Farves called out his proposition and handed Davuluri a flower, to cheering from fellow students. His interruption won him 3.5 days of in-school suspension, as school administrations said they had warned him against making a scene.

But Miss America never got a chance to say “no”: the cheering drowned out her response. “For the sake of my ego, I’m going to say no, I never got a direct answer,” Farves said.

[York Dispatch]

Pipeline Delay Delights And Dismays Interest Groups

Posted: 19 Apr 2014 08:26 AM PDT

Environmental groups and energy and labor organizations sparred over the Obama’s administration decision Friday to extend its review of the Keystone XL pipeline, an issue that has increasingly become a political hot potato.

Energy interests, who say the pipeline will create thousands of new jobs and help spur America’s recent energy boom by connecting Canadian crude oil reserves with refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, criticized the delay on a final decision.

But the pipeline has drawn harsh criticism for its likely environmental impact, with many arguing that it will greatly accelerate the energy-intensive extraction of oil reserves from Alberta’s tar sands and thus contribute heavily to carbon emissions.

The Obama administration’s decision Friday indefinitely extends the time executive agencies can review the approximately 2.5 million submitted comments and consider a Nebraska court case surrounding Keystone XL. The final approval or rejection of the pipeline may not occur until after November’s midterm elections.

The Natural Resources Defense Council approved of the extension on a deadline: “The State Department is taking the most prudent course of action possible,” the NRDC said in a statement. “It is already clear that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline fails the climate test and will damage our climate, our lands and our waters.”

But proponents of Keystone XL said the Obama administration’s punt was politically motivated, as making a final decision before the midterm elections could hurt Democrats. "It's a sad day for America's workers when politics trumps job creating policy at the White House," said Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute. “Strong majorities in the House and the Senate have publicly called for Keystone XL's approval.”

Democrats stand to suffer no matter what Obama ends up deciding. Approving the pipeline could stifle campaign contributions by environmental groups to Democratic lawmakers, while rejecting the pipeline could hurt Democrats in states whose economies rest on oil and gas production, and threaten support from labor groups who back the construction of the pipeline.

The Laborers’ International Union of North America also voiced its opposition to the latest delay. LIUNA’s president Terry O’Sullivan called it “another low blow to the working men and women of our country for whom the Keystone XL Pipeline is a lifeline to good jobs and energy security.”

Environmentalist and author Bill McKibben, one of the most fervent opponents of the pipeline, gave mixed reviews of the Obama administration’s delay, saying that putting off the decision means slowing the emissions-intensive and dirty extraction of oil in Canada, but bemoaning the President’s hesitation to take a strong stand on climate issues.

“We actually need President Obama providing climate leadership. If he'd just follow the science and reject the stupid pipeline he'd finally send a much-needed signal to the rest of the planet that he's getting serious,” McKibben said.

Donetsk Greets The Ukraine Crisis With a Shrug

Posted: 19 Apr 2014 08:11 AM PDT

Apart from a small barricade of tires blocking the backdoor, there was no outward sign that the city hall in Ukraine's fifth largest city, Donetsk, had been taken over by armed separatists on Wednesday morning. They hadn't even replaced the building's Ukrainian flag with the Russian one yet. If a local resident like Anastasia Marova, a student at the city's technical college, had wanted to see them, she would have had to walk through the sliding glass doors of the main entrance, where a handful of nervous men with shotguns and assault rifles were guarding the turnstiles. Instead, Marova walked past the entrance that afternoon toward the picturesque sculpture garden at the rear of the building, and sat down on a bench to munch sunflower seeds and talk to her friend Alina.

All around them couples were strolling and children playing on the playground next to city hall, within easy range of the gunmen peering through its windows. There were no policemen in sight, and even the people who had heard about the siege that day, either on the news or through the grapevine, didn't seem to care very much about it. "Whatever," Marova told this reporter when informed that she was, technically, in the line of fire. "They're not there to shoot me," she said, and popped another sunflower seed into her mouth.

For a city whose government buildings have been taken over by masked gunmen, whose police force has essentially stopped functioning, and whose streets could soon be overrun by the Russian tanks poised to invade from across the nearby border, Donetsk is incredibly calm. The terraces of its cafes are full of leisure-seekers smoking water pipes and drinking beer. Its parks are full of people going for bike rides and taking walks. Even city hall is functioning, despite the armed men camped out in its corridors. Almost everywhere, city residents are near indifferent to the fact that this city's future is being decided at gunpoint right now, with or without their input.

Ever since Russia began threatening to take all of eastern Ukraine under its military "protection" several weeks ago, the city's passivity has come through starkly in various opinion polls. The most recent one, conducted on March 25-28 by the Donetsk-based Institute of Social Research and Political Analysis, found that 46% of respondents believe the locals should take a "neutral, patient position" in case of a Russian invasion. Only one fifth said they would support a Ukrainian effort to resist the Russian forces, according to an advanced copy of the poll results obtained by TIME on Friday. Another fifth said they would welcome the Russian tanks. But perhaps most surprising was the data on how many locals were even paying attention. Nearly a quarter of them did not express "stable or high" interest in what was going on in their city.

"That is part of what makes Donetsk special," says Alyona Getmanchuk, the director of a think tank called the Institute of World Policy, which is based in Kiev, the capital. The city of Donetsk, whose emblem is a clenched fist holding a hammer, has always been known as a bulwark of the proletariat, particularly coal miners and factory workers whose income these days comes out to a few hundred dollars a month if they're lucky. "This is a society where both pragmatism and paternalism are very strong," says Getmanchuk. "They are very disciplined, very hard working, which is the positive side of their Soviet mentality. But on the flipside, they tend to expect a strong leader to decide everything for them, to determine what to do, what to think, where to go and so on."

Up until this winter, that leader was Viktor Yanukovych, the President of Ukraine and a native of Donetsk whose political party held an effective monopoly on power across the region. For years he lavished Donetsk with pork barrel spending and placed its native sons in senior posts across the country. But when the revolution chased Yanukovych from power in February, he and his allies were completely discredited, particularly after his decision to flee to Russia rather than return to his hometown. The vacuum of authority he left behind became fertile ground for the region's pro-Russian separatists. But the locals don't seem to be playing along. Instead of coming out en masse to support an alliance with Russia, they have mainly chosen to tune out, turn inward, and hope that the situation somehow resolves itself without affecting them too much.

On April 16, Getmanchuk, whose think tank broadly supports the new government in Kiev, visited Donetsk to hold a focus group with what she calls "opinion makers" in the city – prominent businessmen, university officials, activists and community leaders. She spent much of the time trying to get a rise out of them. "This was the intellectual elite, and they kept asking why Kiev doesn't come to save and protect them," she says. "We explained that no one is coming, that this is your land and you have to formulate your own identity. Who are you? What kind of country do you want? You must find a social consciousness."

Never in its history has Donetsk really faced those kinds of questions. Since the break up of the Soviet Union, its role as a blue collar buffer between Russia and Ukraine has left it dangling between two worlds, neither invested in the Ukrainian mission to define itself as an independent nation, nor wholly subsumed into Russia's cultural matrix. According to the survey conducted in late March, the identity of Donetsk residents is deeply fragmented. Only 36% consider themselves citizens of Ukraine. About a fifth say they are "Russian-speaking residents of Ukraine," while 29% call themselves part of a unique entity – "people of the Donbass," the gritty mining region that surrounds them.

"Honestly, before these last few months, we never much bothered to consider who we were," says Tatyana Deduk, a middle-aged lawyer and native of Donetsk. "Life is hard here, and people don't have time to think about these things. They're too busy trying feed their families." What finally forced the question of identity for some of them was the uprising that broke out in late November. Its aim was to make a lasting break from Russia and set Ukraine on a path toward Europe, and it kept Deduk glued to the news for months, watching the protesters battling police in the streets of Kiev, seizing government buildings, singing the national anthem every hour on the Maidan square, and waving the flag of Ukraine and the European Union. "I never had the chance or the nerve to go there myself, but my heart ached so bad with the desire to go."

Only in March did she get her chance to protest. The victory of the revolution, which brought a new pro-Western government to power, had infuriated many of the region's Russians, and some of them started calling for Donetsk to break away from Ukraine. To counter that movement, a small group of activists started holding rallies for the unity of Ukraine and its ambition to ally with Europe. It proved a dangerous campaign.

Several of their rallies clashed with pro-Russian counter protests, or were attacked by separatist thugs wielding bats and clubs. "The neurological trauma ward was filled with our guys who'd been knocked on the head," says Dmitro Tkachenko, the activist who helped organize all of the rallies for Ukrainian unity in Donetsk. "Some people lost eyes, some are still in rehabilitation." One activist from the nationalist Svoboda party, Dmitro Chernyavskiy, was killed on the square on March 13, leading the organizers to put a moratorium on any further demonstrations.

Only on April 17 was that moratorium lifted. Tkachenko and his fellow activists staged a rally that evening to oppose the armed separatists who have taken over city hall and the headquarters of the regional government. Police warned residents to stay away, fearing another attack by the separatists. Several thousand people showed up anyway, a sizable showing by local standards but thin considering the gravity of the issues they are facing. At the microphone, Tkachenko started things off with a rendition of the national anthem of Ukraine, and many of the Russian-speakers in the crowd didn't seem to know the lyrics, which are in Ukrainian. After the first chorus, about half the crowd began cheering as if the song was over, drowning out demonstrators who continued to sing the rest.

One of the star speakers that evening was Nikolai Volynko, the ruddy, potbellied chairman of the local miners' union. "A lot of people told me not to get mixed up in all this," he told the crowd from the rickety stage set up on a square near the edge of town. "They said, 'Listen, maybe things will shake out on their own. You've got three grandkids to worry about.' But I told them, 'No, it's because of my grandkids that I have to lead this thing.'"

But not too many of his fellow miners had followed Volynko to the demonstration. Asked about this afterward, he said he was was sure that eventually his men would "rise up" and take a position on whether they are, in fact, Ukrainians or not. "It's like a snowball," he says. "It starts small but it builds into an avalanche."

Deduk, the local lawyer, wasn't so sure. Sitting on a bench with her son Stepan at the edge of the demonstration, she said most of the people she knows are content to stay on the sidelines, and if Russia comes in and conquers the region like it did with Crimea last month, they'll most likely shrug and accept it as their fate. "People forget all the horrors we faced under Moscow during the Soviet Union," she says. "All they remember is that wages were paid and the medical care was free."

As the sun set, Tkachenko announced from the stage that the demonstration was over, and the people went on their way, some lingering on park benches to talk politics. Across town at city hall, the separatists had already taken down the Ukrainian flag and reinforced their barricades around the building. But the sculpture garden next to it was as tranquil as ever, full of people seeming to live, or pretending to live, in a world immune to politics.

Rescuers Battle Elements in Search for Ferry Missing

Posted: 19 Apr 2014 07:54 AM PDT

A massive search effort is under way to locate over 270 people still missing in the sunken ferry in South Korea’s Yellow Sea. Now, bad weather and strong currents are slowing down the rescue effort.


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