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Archive for December 11th, 2016

Nepal, Katmandu, and frequent murderous and devastating earthquakes

NEW DELHI — A powerful earthquake shook Nepal on Saturday near its capital, Katmandu, killing more than 1,900 people, flattening sections of the city’s historic center, and trapping dozens of sightseers in a 200-foot watchtower that came crashing down into a pile of bricks.

As officials in Nepal faced the devastation on Sunday morning, they said that most of the 1,931 deaths occurred in Katmandu and the surrounding valley, and that more than 4,700 people had been injured.

But the quake touched a vast expanse of the subcontinent. It set off avalanches around Mount Everest, where at least 17 climbers died. At least 34 deaths occurred in northern India. Buildings swayed in Tibet and Bangladesh.

The earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.8, struck shortly before noon, and residents of Katmandu ran into the streets and other open spaces as buildings fell, throwing up clouds of dust. Wide cracks opened on paved streets and in the walls of city buildings. Motorcycles tipped over and slid off the edge of a highway.

 Video

Play Video|2:06

A deadly earthquake shook Nepal on Saturday near its capital, Katmandu, and set off avalanches around Mount Everest.

By Rajneesh Bhandari and Colin Archdeacon on Publish Date April 25, 2015.

By midafternoon, the United States Geological Survey had counted 12 aftershocks, one of which measured 6.6.

Seismologists have expected a major earthquake in western Nepal, where there is pent-up pressure from the grinding between tectonic plates, the northern Eurasian plate and the up-thrusting Indian plate. Still, witnesses described a chaotic rescue effort during the first hours after the quake as emergency workers and volunteers grabbed tools and bulldozers from construction sites, and dug with hacksaws, mangled reinforcing bars and their hands.

Though many have worried about the stability of the concrete high-rises that have been hastily erected in Katmandu, the most terrible damage on Saturday was to the oldest part of the city, which is studded with temples and palaces made of wood and unmortared brick.

Four of the area’s seven Unesco World Heritage sites were severely damaged in the earthquake: Bhaktapur Durbar Square, a temple complex built in the shape of a conch shell; Patan Durbar Square, which dates to the third century; Basantapur Durbar Square, which was the residence of Nepal’s royal family until the 19th century; and the Boudhanath Stupa, one of the oldest Buddhist monuments in the Himalayas.

For many, the most breathtaking architectural loss was the nine-story Dharahara Tower, which was built in 1832 on the orders of the queen. The tower had recently reopened to the public, and visitors could ascend a spiral staircase to a viewing platform around 200 feet above the city.

Epicenter of earthquake

with an estimated

magnitude of 7.8

China

Smaller quakes in

the hours afterward

NEPAL

Mount Everest

Pokhara

Areas of

strong shaking

Katmandu

India

100 miles

Epicenter of earthquake

with an estimated

magnitude of 7.8

China

Smaller quakes in

the hours afterward

NEPAL

Mt. Everest

Pokhara

Areas of

strong

shaking

Katmandu

India

100 miles

The walls were brick, around one and a half feet thick, and when the earthquake struck, they came crashing down.

The police said on Saturday that they had pulled about 60 bodies from the rubble of the tower. Kashish Das Shrestha, a photographer and writer, spent much of the day in the old city, but said he still had trouble grasping that the tower was gone.

“I was here yesterday, I was here the day before yesterday, and it was there,” he said. “Today it’s just gone. Last night, from my terrace, I was looking at the tower. And today I was at the tower — and there is no tower.”

Kanak Mani Dixit, a Nepalese political commentator, said he had been having lunch with his parents when the quake struck. The rolling was so intense and sustained that he had trouble getting to his feet, he said. He helped his father and an elderly neighbor to safety in the garden outside and then had to carry his elderly mother.

“And I had time to do all that while the quake was still going on,” Mr. Dixit said. “It was like being on a boat in heavy seas.”

Photographs

Nepal’s Landmarks, Before and After the Earthquake

The earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25 flattened sections of Katmandu’s historic center, where many structures were made with bricks.

OPEN Photographs

Roger Bilham, a professor of geological sciences at the University of Colorado, said the shaking lasted about one minute, although it continued for another minute in some places.

For years, people have worried about an earthquake of this magnitude in western Nepal. Many feared that an immense death toll would result, in part because construction has been largely unregulated in recent years, said Ganesh K. Bhattari, a Nepalese expert on earthquakes, now living in Denmark.

He said the government had made some buildings more robust and reinforced vulnerable ones, but many larger buildings, like hospitals and old-age homes, remained extremely vulnerable. “There is a little bit of improvement,” he said. “But it is really difficult for people to implement the rules and the regulations.”

Kunda Dixit, the editor of The Nepali Times, said that Nepal was still emerging from many years of turmoil — a decade-long war with Maoist insurgents, followed by chronic political uncertainty — and that contingency planning for events like earthquakes had often taken a back seat to “present disasters.”

“The government hasn’t been able to get around to a lot of things, not just disaster preparedness,” Mr. Dixit said.

Continue reading the main story Video

 

Play Video|0:50

Earthquake in Nepal Kills Hundreds

Earthquake in Nepal Kills Hundreds

An earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.8 shook Nepal on Saturday near its capital, Katmandu, flattening sections of the city’s historic center.

By Reuters on Publish Date April 25, 2015.

Saturday’s earthquake struck when schools were not in session, which may have reduced the death toll. But there was not yet a full picture of the damage to villages on the mountain ridges around Katmandu, where families live in houses made of mud and thatch.

As night fell, aftershocks were still hitting, prompting waves of screaming. Many residents sat on roads for much of the day, afraid to go back indoors, and many insisted that they would spend the night outside despite the cold. Thousands camped out at the city’s parade ground. The city’s shops were running short of bottled water, dry food and telephone charge cards.

Toward evening, hospitals were trying to accommodate a huge influx of patients, some with amputated limbs, and were running short of supplies like bandages and trauma kits, said Jamie McGoldrick, resident coordinator with the United Nations Development Program in Nepal. Water supplies, a problem under normal circumstances in this fast-growing city, will almost certainly run short, he said.

Search and rescue personnel will face the challenge of reaching villages nearer the quake’s epicenter, about 50 miles northwest of Katmandu, where damage may be catastrophic.

Secretary of State John Kerry said the American ambassador to Nepal, Peter W. Bodde, had issued a disaster declaration that would allow $1 million in humanitarian assistance to be available immediately. A disaster response team and an urban search-and-rescue team from the United States Agency for International Development will also be deployed, he said in a statement,

China and India, which jockey for influence in the region, have pledged disaster assistance.

On Mount Everest, several hundred trekkers were attempting an ascent when the earthquake struck, setting off avalanches, according to climbers there. Alex Gavan, a hiker at base camp, called it a “huge disaster” on Twitter and described “running for life from my tent.” Nima Namgyal Sherpa, a tour guide at base camp, said in a Facebook post that many camps had been destroyed.

Tremors from the quake were felt across northern India, rattling bookcases and light fixtures as far away as New Delhi. Electricity was switched off for safety reasons in the Indian state of Bihar, where three deaths were reported in one district, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, India’s minister of skill development, told reporters in New Delhi. Two deaths were reported in another district.

The region has been the site of the largest earthquakes in the Himalayas, including a 2005 quake in the Kashmir region and a 1905 earthquake in Kangra, India.

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Julia Domna

Wife of Roman Emperor Septimus Savirus. She was born in Homs and the Emperor also was Syrian.

‎قناة تلاقي Talaqie Channel‎'s photo.

“جوليا دومنا” :
امبراطورة رومانية من اصل سوري ولدت في مدينة “ايميسيا” (حمص) من عائلة أرستقراطية في سورية ، تزوجت من القائد الروماني سبتموس سفروس يعتقد في عام 187م ، رافقت جوليا دومنا زوجها في حملاته حيث اعتيد أن تبقى النساء في المدينة، فمنحها لقب
“mater castrorum” أو أم المعسكرات ،حظيت بالتكريم السياسي والاقتصادي وطبعت صورتها وألقابها على النقود.
عرفت في أنحاء الإمبراطورية بالنجمة لوليا دومنا ،
كان لجوليا دومنا اهتمامات واسعة بالأدب والفلسفة وجمعت طيلة حياتها الأدباء والفلاسفة والرياضيين في نوع من الصالونات الثقافية وكانت الدافع لكثير من الفلاسفة في تلك الفترة لكتابة مؤلفاتهم.
جوليا دومنا لم تؤلف أي كتاب في الفلسفة، ولكنها باستخدامها سلطتها الإمبراطورية حمت الفلاسفة والمفكرين وشجعتهم على التأليف، بعد أن عانوا كثيراً في روما خلال العقود السابقة من الزمن .

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Where are all the women, Wikipedia?

Dec. 9, 2016

It is often said that women have been written out of history. We have all heard of Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison, but few are familiar with their contemporary, Margaret E Knight, a prolific American inventor who held over 20 patents and was decorated by Queen Victoria.

Knight created her first device, a safety mechanism for textile machines, after witnessing a factory accident aged just 12. She later invented a machine that created the flat-bottomed paper bags still used in grocery stores today.

When she died in 1914, an obituary described her as a “woman Edison”. Somewhat dispiritingly, she has also been described as “the most famous 19th-century woman inventor”. But how many of us know her name?

Margaret E Knight – a prolific inventor so little-known that we aren’t even able to verify this photo of her.

Margaret E Knight … a prolific inventor so little-known that we aren’t even able to

If you were to try and research Knight’s life and work, you might struggle.

Her Wikipedia profile is just under 500 words long; Edison’s is more than 8,500.

Of course, Edison’s contribution to the development of the electric light warrants a significant write-up, and his legacy deserves a lengthy profile. But his Wikipedia page also contains minute detail about his early life, diets and views on religion.

By contrast, information on Knight’s page is scant, though she too invented an item still widely used today. Her profile lacks many details (including any mention of her first invention), which are available elsewhere online, particularly on websites dedicated to commemorating the work of female inventors.

That such resources exist says a lot about the erasure of women such as Knight from more mainstream information sources.

This week, it was revealed that only around 17% of notable profiles on Wikipedia are of women.

While we bemoan the sexist bias that prevented many historic female figures from being rightly commemorated and celebrated, there is a risk that history may be repeating itself all over again.

ounder of the Everyday Sexism Project. She writes for the Guardian women’s blog each week about women’s experiences of sexism

Perhaps the disparity is unsurprising given that only around 15% of Wikipedia’s volunteer editors are female.

Reasons suggested for the gender gap have ranged from the elitist nature of the “hard-driving hacker crowd” to the overt harassment and misogyny faced by female editors on the site. When one editor suggested a women-only space on Wikipedia for female contributors to support one another and discuss online misogyny, other users vowed to fight the proposal “to the death”.

The trouble with Wikipedia having such a vast gender gap in its notable profiles is that it is one of the most commonly used information sources in the world.

A 2011 study found that 53% of all American internet users look for information on Wikipedia, increasing to almost 70% of college-educated users.

According to web-traffic data company Alexa, it is currently the fifth most visited website in the world.

For such a popular source to present millions of students, researchers and journalists with a hugely gender-biased roster of articles could have a real impact on everything, from young people’s career aspirations to which high-profile figures are invited to speak at conferences and events.

There are on-going efforts to solve the problem, such as this week’s BBC 100 Women edit-a-thon. Meanwhile, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has called for a more inclusive and diverse community of editors.

Wales has pointed out that the process by which Wikipedia editors decide collectively whether a particular topic deserves its own article could lead to biased outcomes when those editors are overwhelmingly male. Various projects have been launched to try and address the problem, but progress seems slow.

Knight probably wouldn’t have been surprised by the disparity. In her own lifetime, she faced sexism and discrimination from men – in particular from Charles Annan, who spied on her paper-bag-production prototype and tried to steal the patent, even arguing in court that a woman could never have invented such an innovative machine. But she might have imagined that the gender gap would have improved rather more significantly by 2016.

Endangered Human species by strained Fact-Resistant behaviors

It’s possible that Human species will become more receptive to facts once they are in an environment without food, water, or oxygen,

More worryingly, Logsdon said, “As facts have multiplied, their defenses against those facts have only grown more powerful.”

While scientists have no clear understanding of the mechanisms that prevent the fact-resistant humans from absorbing data, they theorize that the strain may have developed the ability to intercept and discard information en route from the auditory nerve to the brain. “The normal functions of human consciousness have been completely nullified,” Logsdon said. (Though human species is far more reliant on vision, 80% of information)

While reaffirming the gloomy assessments of the study, Logsdon held out hope that the threat of fact-resistant humans could be mitigated in the future. “Our research is very preliminary, but it’s possible that they will become more receptive to facts once they are in an environment without food, water, or oxygen,” he said.

MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report)—Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.

The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.

“These humans appear to have all the faculties necessary to receive and process information,” Davis Logsdon, one of the scientists who contributed to the study, said. “And yet, somehow, they have developed defenses that, for all intents and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.”

More worryingly, Logsdon said, “As facts have multiplied, their defenses against those facts have only grown more powerful.”

“Our research is very preliminary, but it’s possible that they will become more receptive to facts once they are in an environment without food, water, or oxygen,” he said.

Andrew Bossone shared this link by Omar Kamel

“These humans appear to have all the faculties necessary to receive and process information,” Davis Logsdon, one of the scientists who contributed to the study, said.

“And yet, somehow, they have developed defenses that, for all intents and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.”

Sound familiar wink emoticon ?

It’s possible that they will become more receptive to facts once they are in an environment without food, water, or oxygen,” a researcher said.
newyorker.com|By Andy Borowitz

Supreme court Brexit hearing: 10 things we learned

Thursday 8 December 2016

1 What the royal prerogative is

Fundamental to the government case is this prerogative conferring ancient royal powers, including to make treaties, on politicians. The government argues that it is these powers that allow ministers to trigger article 50 without parliamentary legislation.

2 The government could have saved itself a lot of trouble if it had legislated for what would happen in the event of a vote for Brexit

The European Referendum Act 2015, which determined that a vote would take place, was silent on what would happen next. By contrast, legislation on the 2011 alternative vote referendum obliged the government to change the law accordingly if a “yes” vote occurred.

3 Contrary to what some would have us believe, the supreme court justices are not intent on defeating the will of the people

Two justices, including the court’s president, Lord Neuberger, even suggested that the parliamentary motion – subsequently carried – to trigger article 50 might preclude the need for legislation. Lawyers for the respondents insist that an act of parliament is necessary.

4 The case has highlighted the importance, in the absence of a written constitution, of the supreme court

As well as interpreting the scope of the royal prerogative, it is being asked to tackle questions about the devolution settlement.

5 Interpreting law can be as much about what it does not say as what it does say

The government contends that because the European Referendum Act 2015 made no provision preventing the use of its prerogative, it follows it can use it to trigger article 50. But the other side claims that because there was nothing in the act about the legal effect of the referendum, it was only advisory and so parliamentary legislation is required.

6 Scotland is not seeking to veto Brexit

James Wolffe QC, the lord advocate representing the Scottish government, confirmed this. But given the impact on Scottish citizens, he said the UK government should seek a legislative consent motion from Holyrood, which requires the Scottish parliament to approve any changes in its powers and responsibilities.

7 What a Henry VIII clause is

This is a provision added to a bill to enable ministers to repeal or amend it after it has become an act of parliament. Article 2(2) European Communities Act 1972 allowed ministers to amend UK law to comply with EU acts.

8 Constitutional law does not make great television

As befitting such an important case, both Sky and the BBC broadcast most of the opening day’s proceedings on their news channels but coverage tailed off as the case progressed. Intricate legal argument, arcane vocabulary and historical precedents have not proved to be riveting viewing.

9 Lawyers have a special kind of humour

There was much mirth over the pronunciation of De Keyser, the most important historical case on the royal prerogative, which culminated with Lord Pannick QC quipping: “You say De Keezer, I say De Kaiser.”

10 And they are not averse to making sartorial statements

Lord Sumption wore a piano keyboard design tie on one day and on another a colourful 2012 Olympic Team GB tie, interpreted by some as a reassurance of his patriotism or a gesture of support for the master of the rolls, Sir Terence Etherton, formerly an Olympic fencer, one of three high court judges branded “enemies of the people” by the Daily Mail.

From the royal prerogative and Henry VIII clause to what makes lawyers laugh – and how to interpret a judge’s choice of tie

Lord Sumption
Lord Sumption wore a piano keyboard tie on one day of the hearing, and an Olympic Team GB tie on another. Photograph: Supreme Court/PA

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