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US tied up in Iraq. China focused on Olympics. Russian tanks & troops into Ossetia, part of former Soviet republic of Georgia

a Russian mobile artillery unit fired toward a Georgian position outside Dzhava on Saturday

(quote)

Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia declared that "war has started."

Shortly before dawn on Sunday, Georgia’s Interior Ministry said that Russian bombers had begun striking military facilities adjacent to the civilian airport at Tbilisi. The explosions could be heard in the city, said Shota Utiashvili, a ministry official. He said that Russia had built up large forces in Abkhazia and South Ossetia — breakaway regions that have support from Moscow — including as many as 300 artillery pieces in South Ossetia alone. Russian forces, he said, were also poised just over the border at Larsi, a checkpoint, where they could open a third line of ground attack. As Russia moved more forces into the region and continued aerial bombing, it appeared determined to occupy both South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, said Russia’s ambitions were even more extensive. He declared that Georgia was in a state of war, and said in an interview that Russia was planning to seize ports and an oil pipeline and to overthrow his government.

Russian air attacks struck two apartment buildings in Gori in what an official at the Georgian Interior Ministry called a ‘major escalation.’  read more »

Olympics open with full variety of athletes; flag bearers relishing moment, athletes celebrate, ready for the big Games

opening parade at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

opening parade at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

opening parade at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

(quote)

opening parade at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

China launched the 29th summer Olympics on Friday with a glittering opening ceremony combining 5,000 years of its history with a modern firecracker of a show.

The 91,000-strong crowd in the National Stadium, and more than a billion television viewers, earlier saw the hoisting of the Chinese flag which was carried into the stadium by children from China's 56 ethnic groups after 2,008 drummers had started the show.

opening parade at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

Around 11,000 athletes from a record 204 nations will compete in 28 sports for 302 gold medals at the first Olympics in China and third in Asia, following Tokyo in 1964 and Seoul in 1988.  read more »

"One hell of a show": Beijing opens 2008 Olympic Games with best show on earth

fireworks over National Stadium (known as Bird’s Nest) at opening ceremony rehearsal of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

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The only people who didn't enjoy the awe-inspiring Opening Ceremony of the XXIX Olympic Summer Games had to be the folks with the London Olympic organizing committee. They host the 2012 Summer Games, meaning they have to follow the greatest show on Earth -- and, for my yuan, the greatest show in Opening Ceremony history.

Beijing

If I were the Brits, I'd punt and go with Monty Python reruns. Unless they can top a gold medalist elevating and running on air around the entire circumference of National Stadium to light the torch. "I was very excited," torchbearer Li Ning said. "I could feel the strength rising from the depth of my heart. This was the result of one month's training. That moment means China is standing side by side with the rest of the world."

Olympic opening ceremonies, Beijing, 2008

Seminal as it was, that moment was merely the last gasp-inducing scene in a show full of fireworks, flying and gravity-defying. For four sweaty hours, the Olympics literally levitated in the thick Beijing air. The 14,000 performers staged a tour de force of choreography, technology and can-do-ology for a country intent on using the Games as a springboard to new world prominence.  read more »

Countdown to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games - athletes to watch, each with a story of their own

Dara Torres, United States - Swimming

Among those featured in Time special issue "100 Olympic Athletes To Watch":

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Dara Torres (United States) - 41, nine-time Olympic medallist in swimming and mother of a two-year old who has qualified for her fifth Olympic Games, something no other swimmer has ever done. The time in the 100m freestyle that got her a ticket to Beijing was 2.47 seconds faster than her Olympic effort in 1988, at age 21 - a lifetime in such a short race.

Liu Xiang, China - Hurdles

Liu Xiang (China) – 25. When Liu Xiang claimed victory in the 110-m hurdles in Athens, delivering China its first ever sprint gold, you could almost sense the alarm in the announcers' voices. Few had heard of this mystery athlete, much less knew how to pronounce his given name. What a difference four years make. In Beijing, Liu, 25, along with basketball star Yao Ming, will be the poster boy for China's mighty Olympic squad. His name (pronounced Sheeahng) means "to soar" in Chinese.

Usain Bolt, Jamaica - Sprints  read more »

Total solar eclipse seen in Russia, China: Sun and Moon put on show, draw millions of sky-watchers across Asia and worldwide

image taken 30 seconds before totality (the total phase) of the Aug. 1, 2008 solar eclipse, from the window of a jet flying over the Arctic Ocean

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The new Moon drew its shadow across Earth's Eastern Hemisphere earlier today, totally eclipsing the Sun along a track that crossed the Arctic, Siberia, and interior China. Thousands of eclipse chasers had stationed themselves along the path in anticipation. The Moon's shadow arced over the Earth as the lunar body passed directly between our planet and its star. In all, the path of darkness covered about 10,200km (6,300 miles). Russia saw the longest full eclipse, for two minutes, 27 seconds, at 1021 GMT - but the UK and most of Europe experienced just a partial eclipse.

"Totality" began at sunrise at 0921 GMT in Queen Maud Gulf off Victoria Island in the territory of Nunavut, Canada. The instant of greatest eclipse occurred at 1021 GMT close to the Russian city of Nadym, before totality came to an end at 1121 GMT near the Chinese city of Xi'an, in Shaanxi province.

Aug. 1, 2008 solar eclipse 30-seconds into totality - the sun's corona, or atmosphere, shines high above the Arctic sky, while the moon's shadow casts a dark pall on the overcast below

Tourists and amateur and professional astronomers flocked to towns in the best viewing locations along the path of totality. In Novosibirsk, Siberia's cultural and scientific capital, more than 5,000 foreign tourists were expected to show up in the city. China experienced the eclipse just a week before the opening ceremony of Beijing's Olympic Games. Chinese TV was due to broadcast the eclipse live, with crowds of people gathered along the Silk Road, a fabled trading route through the country's western deserts. Eclipses were once viewed as unlucky events in China, but the country's media had rebranded the event as "the Olympic eclipse", reports said, hoping for good fortune ahead of the sporting jamboree.

penumbral solar eclipse is seen through special glasses in Magdeburg, Germany,0 1 August 2008

The eclipse allowed astronomers a glimpse of the Sun's corona - its outer atmosphere of super-heated gases. The area is usually impossible to see because of the bright light of the Sun, but is visible during a total eclipse as the Sun's light is obscured. Total solar eclipses usually take place about once every 18 months, and always at new Moon - when the lunar body sits directly between the Sun and the Earth. However, they do not happen every new Moon. The lunar orbit is slightly tilted to that of our planet and therefore the Moon's shadow often misses the Earth.

The world's next total eclipse of the Sun comes less than a year from now, on July 22, 2009. It will begin at sunrise in India, cross parts of Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, and thickly inhabited areas of China, and will end at sunset over the South Pacific. The next total solar eclipse for North America comes on August 21, 2017. The path of totality will sweep from Oregon to South Carolina.

solar eclipse seen in Jiuquan in northwest China's Gansu province 01 August 2008

The Moon's shadow has two parts: an umbra and a penumbra. The umbra is the "inner" part of the Moon's shadow, and people inside this zone will witness the full glory of the eclipse. The penumbra is the Moon's faint "outer" shadow. It will only give surface viewers a partial eclipse.

In London, where the Moon's disc took its biggest bite out of the Sun at 1016 BST (0916 GMT), a maximum of 12% of the star was blotted out. Conditions were better further north. In Lerwick in the Shetland Isles, the Moon obscured as much as 36% of the Sun.

mother and child use a special eye protection device as they watch the partial solar eclipse in Riga 1 August 2008

Astronomical groups reminded the public that viewing the Sun without protective equipment - even in partial eclipse phases - could result in a retinal burn and permanent eye damage. Viewing the Sun's harsh light should only be done through proper solar telescopes or glasses, or through a pinhole projection system.

(unquote)

Photos courtesy of Joe Rao, EPA/Toms Kalnins and John Sun

Original Source: BBC News (with videos) and Sky & Telescope

Related Article: Solar Eclipse Wows Airborne Skywatchers Over Arctic Circle

Image Gallery: In photos: 'Solar Eclipse Around the World'

Planned Ron Paul rally blossoms into 3-day mini-convention due to unprecedented response, moves to larger venue at Target Center

Ron Paul

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(CNN)— Former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is moving forward with plans for his own rally during the Republican National Convention —and is moving his location to a larger arena to accommodate the unprecedented response.

The three day event called ‘Rally for the Republic’ will officially launch Paul’s new political action group: the ‘Campaign for Liberty.’ When planning for the event began earlier this year, it was originally scheduled to take place at the University of Minnesota, but due to a “strong initial response,” it was moved to The Target in Minneapolis, which can house up to 18,000 people. The GOP holds its convention across the river in St. Paul.

Ron Paul will hold his own Rally August 31 through September 1

"The Rally for the Republic will send a powerful, positive message to the Republican Party that there is an army of grassroots activists across the country ready to work with them if steer back to their traditions of limited government and personal liberty," said Campaign for Liberty spokesman Jesse Benton.

Paul, who has often voiced his differing policy views from presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, has made it clear in past interviews with CNN his supporters won’t be in Minneapolis to interfere or cause problems for the Republican Party. “We’re not going to disrupt them,” Paul told CNN last month. “We’re not going to demonstrate as much as present a positive case for values that we believe should be the Republican values.”

Ron Paul

From August 31 through September 1, the former presidential dark horse will hold a series of grassroots leadership and training events culminating with a “celebration of traditional Republican values,” where Grover Norquist, Tucker Carlson, Gov. Gary Johnson, Barry Goldwater Jr. and Bruce Fein are expected to speak.

The Texas congressman, who opposes the Iraq war and is a libertarian on economic issues, drew an avid following during the Republican primaries. He won 1.2 million votes and raised nearly $35 million. His campaign said the Campaign for Liberty, formed June 16 when he ended his presidential bid, has attracted over 71,000 members.

(unquote)

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

Original Source: Boston Globe and CNN

Iran, EU and US to hold historical nuclear talks in Geneva; Iran Open to US Diplomatic Talks, Official Says

Senior official William Burns will sit at the same table as Iran's negotiator

(quote)

GENEVA (Reuters) - Major world powers will sound out Iran's readiness to negotiate an end to the long dispute over its nuclear program on Saturday. The unprecedented participation of a senior U.S. official in the one-day meeting in Geneva, together with Iranian comments playing down the likelihood of an attack by the United States and Israel, have raised hopes of progress.

Arriving for talks with officials from the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany -- the so-called sextet -- chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said he had "positive intentions". Jalili has a mandate from Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to take any decision needed, a senior Iranian official told Reuters, adding that the meeting "will clarify the fate of the negotiations".

senior Iran diplomat Jalili will discuss Iran's nuclear program with Western officials over the weekend

Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil producer, rejects suspicions that it wants the atom bomb, saying the aim of the program is to generate electricity so that it can export more crude oil and gas. Western diplomats say they want the talks to clarify Iran's response to an enhanced sextet offer, delivered last month, of technical and commercial incentives to suspend uranium enrichment. "We are interested in creating conditions in a creative manner to start negotiations," said a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who presented the offer to Tehran.

The EU foreign policy chief's spokeswoman says the EU wants 'solid relations' with Iran in different areas, including the nuclear technology. Cristina Gallach, who discussed the Saturday meeting in Geneva with Press TV, said that "the EU position is that we want very much a solid relationship with Iran, one that encompasses all areas, including the nuclear issue, political and economic relations." EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will meet Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Geneva on Saturday. The meeting will also bring together envoys from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana's spokeswoman Cristina Gallach

Gallach stressed that the world powers that have offered "a generous package of incentives" to Iran last month want to see what the response of Iran is to the package to start a new round of negotiations with Tehran. She expressed hope that an 'appropriate framework' for the negotiations with Iran would be worked out in the Geneva talks. Pointing to Washington's decision to send a top diplomat to Geneva to attend the talks on Iran's nuclear program, Gallach said that the US and other countries that have sent envoys to the meeting want Iran's nuclear issue to be solved through negotiation.

Tension has intensified since Tehran tested missiles last week, alarming Israel and unsettling energy markets on fears that conflict could disrupt supply. Yet oil prices slipped on Friday, ending 13 percent down from last week's record of over $147 a barrel of crude. Traders cited as factors the attendance of Burns -- a career diplomat who helped restore U.S. ties with Libya in 2006 -- and a comment by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki that the chances of an Israeli or U.S. strike were "almost zero".

(unquote)

Photos courtesy of BBC News, EPA, and Press TV

Original Source: Reuters and Press TV

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