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Troop increases in Afghanistan; soldiers doubt sense of mission: “Politicians need to clarify it more clearly”

soldiers suffer doubts about the sense of their mission in Afghanistan

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German military troops are suffer from a lack of support from their countrymen, the new Protestant bishop for the Bundeswehr said on Tuesday, and soldiers suffer doubts about the sense of their mission there, Dutzmann said. “In Afghanistan the soldiers notice how painstaking the civil reconstruction is. Politicians need to clarify the sense of the mission more clearly,” he said. Chaplains serving the soldiers there are answering more questions about the sense of life from these troops who face life-threatening situations each day, he said.

US Army deserter seeks asylum in Germany

US Army deserter André Lawrence Shepherd has applied for asylum in Germany, his lawyer told reporters on Thursday. Shepherd said he did not want to participate in a war that violates international law. He said he had submitted his asylum request on Wednesday, although the Federal Agency for Migration and Refugees told the DPA news agency it did not have a record of such a document.

Shepherd, 31, has previously served in Iraq where he repaired and maintained Apache helicopters. "I believe that the helicopters are responsible for a substantial number of civilian deaths," he told reporters in Frankfurt. "I am ashamed that I was a part of these horrible acts." Shepherd has appealed to both the Geneva Refugee Convention and EU guidelines that provide protection from persecution for deserters if the military services in question are seen as having violated international law.  read more »

Greenland, semiautonomous Danish territory, takes symbolic leap: 75% voters vote for independence. Oil, key issue?

Greenland town

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The inhabitants of the world's largest island turned out yesterday in midwinter darkness to vote for what many believe is the first step towards independence. The people of Greenland voted overwhelmingly for increased autonomy from Denmark - a move that will see the 56,000-strong population take greater control over the island's potentially huge natural resources and mean Greenlandic becomes the official language.

Greenland iceberg

According to the island's election commission, 76% of voters supported the proposal, which outlined a system for sharing future oil revenues with Denmark and gave locals control over the courts, the police and the coastguard. Denmark would retain responsibility for security and foreign relations. The referendum was supported by the Danish government.

Around 72% of the island's 40,000 registered voters cast their ballots at voting stations in 18 municipalities. The high turnout came despite the small number of daylight hours and sub-zero temperatures in many parts of the island, 80% of which is covered by ice. The system is likely to come into effect from June 21 next year, the island's national day. It is almost certain to be rubber-stamped by the Danish and Greenlandic parliaments.  read more »

Bread-loaf-sized satellite Firefly on lightning & gamma rays, most powerful natural particle accelerator in atmos.

'Firefly' CubeSat Mission to Study Lightning's Link to Terrestrial Gamma Ray Flashes

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Firefly is a new mission to study lightning and gamma rays with CubeSats, small satellites in the shape of a cube.

Firefly, it's called, this new small satellite mission sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). It's designed to help solve the mystery of the most powerful natural particle accelerator in Earth's atmosphere: TGFs, or terrestrial gamma-ray flashes. TGFs likely result from thunderstorms.

The mission is the second project under the new NSF CubeSat program. A CubeSat satellite, about the size of a loaf of bread, consists of three cubes attached end to end in a rectangular shape.

(unquote)

Photo courtesy of NASA/GSFC

Original Source: National Science Foundation

"Clean City" São Paulo says no to visual pollution, bans public advertising for a cleaner, more serene environment

What price oil?

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To the undiscerning eye of a visitor, there is nothing too unusual about Florêncio de Abreu Street in downtown São Paulo. The buildings, many of them noble structures with brightly painted façades and stone balconies, reflect the city's rich history, and the constant noise of commercial bustle and angry traffic are the classic sounds of a major modern metropolis. But until 2006, much of that eye-catching architecture went unseen. São Paulo is a supremely intense city whose futuristic mix of skyscrapers, helicopters, advertising and rain has earned it comparisons with the urban imagery of the sci-fi film Blade Runner. But for the longest time, the nice bits, like the buildings along Florêncio de Abreu Street, were hidden behind billboards, electronic ads, shop signs and street banners.

a ban on outdoor advertising in São Paulo, including billboards, neon signs and electronic panels  read more »

Solar Energy: Spain takes lead with government commitment, enforces building code, erects more solar power plants

Toledo Solar - Installation began in Feb 1993, completed in May 1994, on schedule & to budget. Production reached 1,270 MWh in 2000. This landmark project was a successful field demonstration of PV and European institutional cooperation

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As researchers continue to explore new ways to promote and improve solar power, Spain forges ahead with plans to build concentrating solar power plants, establishing the country and Spanish companies as world leaders in the emerging field. At the same time, the number of installed photovoltaic systems is growing exponentially, and researchers continue to explore new ways to promote and improve solar power. This is the seventh in an eight-part series highlighting new technologies in Spain and is produced by Technology Review, Inc.’s custom-publishing division in partnership with the Trade Commission of Spain.

mirrors focus the power of about 600 suns on a receiver at the top of the solucar tower  read more »

Mickey Mouse turns 80 - symbol of optimism, fun, sheer zest for life, a little fellow trying to do the best he can

Walt Disney with his most famous creation, Mickey Mouse

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You may have missed it, but one of the great inspirational figures of the last century celebrated his 80th birthday a few days ago. Born in Los Angeles in 1928, he has surely brought more pleasure to more people than anyone of his generation. His features are recognizable in almost every city on earth, and he has probably raised a smile from almost everyone whose life he has touched.

And while his name has become a metaphor for anything gimcrack, cheap or childish, he remains the supreme symbol of American optimism, fun and sheer zest for life. He is, of course, Mickey Mouse.

Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Wille, 1928

Oddly, the Disney corporation is not making a big deal of Mickey's birthday, perhaps because it is worried that mentioning his great age will damage his reputation among his youngest fans. So it is up to the rest of us to celebrate for him - and celebrate we should. For while Mickey's first 80 years coincided with some of the darkest moments in history, and while Disney has become a byword for commercialism, the great Mouse reminds us of the best in humanity. Sure, he may not have the muscles of Michelangelo's David, but he has a much better sense of humor.

Mickey serenades Minnie in Hawaiian Holiday, 1937  read more »

Warren Buffett said in Mar. US in recession; now, recession declared by Germany, Italy, 15 Eurozone nations, Japan

Germany declares official recession

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Germany has become the first of the G7 powers to declare an official recession. After Germany and Italy officially declared recession status, it was the turn of the entire 15-nation euro zone to make a similar declaration on Friday, November 14, 2008.

Gross domestic product in the Eurozone fell by 0.2 percent for a second consecutive quarter in the third quarter, according to figures from Eurostat, satisfying the technical definition for a recession. The contraction means that two of the world's three major economies, Japan and the Europe's euro zone, are now in recession.

Frankfurt's Eurotower, which houses the European Central Bank

Germany and Italy logged third quarter declines on their gross domestic products by 0.5 percent for July to September and 0.4 percent for the second quarter. France narrowly missed joining the recession club because it had a 0.1 percent GDP growth rate in the third quarter after it had a minus 0.3 percent growth in the previous quarter.

Like the UK, the group of 15 countries has been hit hard as the crisis that started in the US banking sector feeds through into the wider economy. The worst affected has been Germany, Europe's biggest economy, where GDP fell by 0.5pc in the third quarter after a 0.4pc in the second. Italy suffered falls of the same proportion in both quarters.  read more »

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