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Diwali, the Festival of Lights - signifying victory of good over evil and celebrating unity in diversity

Diwali is marked by the lighting of lamps like these being prepared by a laborer in Amritsar

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Diwali/Deepavali is a Sanskrit word which means path or array of lights and signifies the victory of good (light) over evil (darkness). members of the All India Anti-Terrorist Front (AIATF) light earthen lamps assembled to form the word peace on the eve of Diwali in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh, Oct. 27, 2008 Many legends are associated with Diwali. Today it is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs across the globe as the "Festival of Lights," where people light deyas (small clay pots filled with coconut oil and a cotton like string(wick)is inserted) to signify victory of good over the evil within an individual. Officially, it fell on Oct. 28 this year.

In India, a land of festivals,Diwali is celebrated with fervor and gaiety. The festival is celebrated by young and old, rich and poor, throughout the country to dispel darkness and light up their lives.

women light lamps in Ahmedabad, Western India, on the eve of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights  read more »

Major discovery & giant step for biofuel: scientist finds rainforest fungus that naturally synthesizes diesel fuel

the 'myco-diesel' fungus Gliocladium roseum, which grows inside the ulmo tree in northern Patagonia

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A tree fungus could provide green fuel that can be pumped directly into vehicle tanks, US scientists say. The organism, found in the Patagonian rainforest, naturally produces a mixture of chemicals that is remarkably similar to diesel. "These are the first organisms that have been found that make many of the ingredients of diesel," said Professor Gary Strobel from Montana State University. "This is a major discovery."

The discovery may offer an alternative to fossil fuels, said Strobel, MSU professor of plant sciences and plant pathology, who travels the world looking for exotic plants that may contain beneficial microbes. The find is even bigger, he said, than his 1993 discovery of fungus that contained the anticancer drug taxol. The fungus, called Gliocladium roseum and discovered growing inside the ulmo tree (Eucryphia cordifolia) in northern Patagonia, produces a range of hydrocarbon molecules that are virtually identical to the fuel-grade compounds in existing fossil fuels.

Professor Gary Strobel in the Patagonian rainforest  read more »

Obama, Biden win historical US election; both Obama and McCain call for unity to face the myriad challenges ahead

Barack Obama, President-elect of the United States

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"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer," President-elect Barack Obama said after his victory. The first black president-elect cast his election as a defining moment in the country's 232-year history and a rebuke to cynicism, fear and doubt. "Even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime — two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century," he said. "There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and, for us to lead, alliances to repair."

both Obama and McCain’s speeches call for unity

Obama’s victory speech was delivered before a multiracial crowd that city officials estimated at 240,000 people. He said he had received an "extraordinarily gracious" call from his Republican rival John McCain, who he said had "fought long and hard" for this campaign and for his country. "We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader," he said of the former Vietnam prisoner of war, "and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the month's ahead."  read more »

Air, space, and frozen time at the Udvar-Hazy Center - a Smithsonian air museum about aircraft, and more aircraft

a Boeing 307 Clipper, the first pressurized passenger liner, with a tail section adapted from the B-17 Flying Fortress, seen at Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va

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The first thing visitors encounter in the main display area of the Udvar-Hazy Center, the National Air and Space Museum annex near Dulles airport in the Virginia countryside, is a huge black spy plane. It’s an SR-71A Blackbird, the ultimate hot-rod aircraft, one of about 30 built at the Lockheed Skunk Works in California in the 1960s. This one last flew in 1990, traveling the 2,300 miles between Los Angeles and Washington in 1 hour 4 minutes 20 seconds - a transcontinental blur.

But now it’s at a standstill, giving visitors the chance to appreciate its outrageousness. There are the two massive engines on short, stubby wings; the tiny cockpit where the two-man crew was shoehorned in wearing bulky pressure suits; and the sweeping titanium fuselage that was built so loosely, to allow for expansion in the heat of supersonic flight, that the fuel tanks that made up the bulk of the plane routinely leaked, losing as much as 600 pounds of fuel taxiing to the runway.

SR-71A Blackbird, the ultimate hot-rod aircraft  read more »

Paperless - the future of newspapers? Century-old Christian Science Monitor ends daily print edition to focus online

Mary Baker Eddy was the founder of the Christian Science movement - she advocated Christian Science as a spiritual practical solution to health and moral issues

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The century-old Christian Science Monitor announced Tuesday that it will become the first nationally distributed newspaper to stop publishing a daily print edition, and focus on publishing online, succumbing to the financial pressure squeezing its industry harder than ever. The Boston-based paper is not forsaking print altogether - it will offer a weekly print version in addition to daily e-mail editions - but editors acknowledged shifting the focus to CSMonitor.com will save millions in addition to widening its audience.

The Boston-based general-interest paper, winner of seven Pulitzer Prizes, has long since established an extraordinary reputation for high-quality journalism. It was founded a century ago in 1908 by a religious visionary, Mary Baker Eddy, who "discovered" Christian Science and founded the paper in response to critical coverage of her in the New York World. She declared in the first edition that the role of the paper would be to "injure no man, but bless all mankind."

entrance to the Christian Science Monitor building in Boston. A century after it began publication, the paper is giving up its daily print edition to focus on posting news online  read more »

Comfort food - 14th Chocolate Show opens in Paris with 400 exhibitors & 140 chocolatiers from around the world

Former Miss France 2007 Rachel Legrain-Trapani presents a creation by Jean Doucet and Ghraoui Chocolatier at the 14th Salon du Chocolat (Paris Chocolate Show) in Paris October 28, 2008

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The 14th edition of the Chocolate Fair has opened in Paris featuring 400 exhibitors and 140 chocolatiers from around the world, featuring displays and mountains of chocolate, top pastry chefs and sculptures. Visitors will be able to sample treats, creamy truffles and steaming cups of hot chocolate.

"It may be doom and gloom for everybody else, but for us all is well," said Gilles Marchal of luxury French chocolate-maker La Maison du Chocolat, speaking as the annual Paris chocolate show opened Wednesday. "Chocolate is a comfort-food," he added. "There has been no drop in sales."

in these troubled times, chocolate-makers are walking on the wild side with weird flavours such as cauliflower

The French have had a long-standing love affair with chocolate since its introduction to the country by Anne of Austria in 1615. It was presented as a wedding gift upon her marriage to Louis XIII. Anne of Austria only married him on condition that she could bring her own chocolate supplies from Spain. By the mid-1600s, the chocolate drink had gained widespread popularity in France.  read more »

Water is the theme at inaugural Prix Pictet - first international photography prize to focus on sustainability

Sebastian Copeland: Stormy Weather. Series: Antarctica: The Global Warning Melchior Islands, Antarctica, 2006

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What is photography for? Can it change our minds? An exhibition just opened at Paris’s Palais de Tokyo, of the 18 photographers short listed for the first Prix Pictet, poses these questions loud and clear.

The Pictet prize, established this year by Pictet & Cie, one of Switzerland’s largest private banks, and co-sponsored by the Financial Times, is the only international photography prize that concerns itself directly with sustainable development and environmental issues. In that sense it isn’t quite a conventional art prize but an award – of 100,000 Swiss francs (SFr) – to be given annually to the artist who best uses the power of the camera to communicate a vital dispatch on one of the most serious issues facing us all.

Sanggen Dalai, Inner Mongolia, China. Women flee the main street as dust fills the air. This shot is from Benoit Aquin's series, which has won the overall prize of £50,000. The Chinese Dust Bowl documents scarce water resources, desertification and ecological refugees in China  read more »

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