Wednesday, November 22, 2017

'Do you think they'll get the president?': Kushner is reportedly worried as the Russia investigation heats up

Business Insider      SONAM SHETH         November 22nd 2017 
White House senior adviser and President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is said to be increasingly worried about the size and scope of the Russia investigation.
Kushner reportedly asked a friend whether the probe would grow big enough to "get the president."
Trump is under investigation for obstruction-of-justice related to James Comey's firing as FBI director and for his role in crafting a misleading statement his son, Donald Trump Jr., released when it emerged he met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer and lobbyist at Trump Tower in June 2016.
Kushner is a central figure in both those events.

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, is worried about the widening scope of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Vanity Fair reported. 

As part of his investigation, Mueller is looking into whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the election in his favor. 

Mueller's office issued the first indictments in October, charging former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate, Rick Gates, with 12 counts related to money laundering, financial crimes, and their work as foreign agents. 

After the indictments against Gates and Manafort were unsealed, Kushner reportedly asked a friend, "Do you think they'll get the president?"

Trump is said to be under investigation for obstruction of justice, stemming from his decision to fire James Comey as FBI director in May. 

The White House initially said Trump fired Comey because of the way he handled the FBI's investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server to conduct government business. Later, however, Trump told NBC's Lester Holt that "this Russia thing" had been a factor in his decision.

He also reportedly told two high-ranking Russian officials that firing "nut job" Comey had taken "great pressure" off of him. The alleged conversation took place in the Oval Office one day after Comey was dismissed. 

In addition to building an obstruction-of-justice case against Trump, Mueller is also reportedly looking into the president's role in drafting an initially misleading statement his son, Donald Trump Jr., issued in response to reports in July that he met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer at Trump Tower in June 2016.

The statement had to be amended several times, after it emerged that Trump Jr. took the meeting when he was promised dirt on then Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."
Kushner's role takes center stage

Kushner was a key player during both events. He attended the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, along with Manafort and Trump Jr., and he "pushed" Trump to fire Comey, according to The Wall Street Journal.

He was also with Trump in Bedminster during a weekend in early May, when Trump put together a draft letter laying out all the reasons he wanted to fire Comey. Though the letter was never ultimately sent after White House counsel Don McGahn strongly advised against it, Trump fired Comey days later. The letter is now in Mueller's possession. 

Concerns about the Russia investigation and Kushner are not one-sided. Two Republicans who have spoken with Trump recently told Vanity Fair that he has been "frustrated" with Kushner's advice, including when he pushed the president to dismiss Comey. 

Trump has been "pressuring" Kushner and his wife, Ivanka, to leave Washington, DC and return to New York to avoid negative press coverage, one source close to Kushner told Vanity Fair. 

But it's unlikely he will leave the spotlight any time soon, particularly as he becomes an increasingly critical figure in the Russia investigation.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

It is the first time a coffee-derived biofuel will be used on London's public transport system  
Waste coffee grounds will be used to help power some of London's buses from Monday, it has been revealed.
A biofuel created by blending oil extracted from coffee waste with diesel is to be added to the public transport fuel supply.
Technology firm bio-bean says it has produced enough coffee oil to power one bus for a year.
Transport for London (TfL) has increasingly turned to using biofuels to reduce transport emissions
Biofuel made using waste products such as cooking oil and tallow from meat processing is already used in many of the capital's 9,500 buses. However, this is thought to be the first time a coffee-derived biofuel has been added to London's public transport system.
About 55 million cups of coffee are drunk in the UK per day, the British Coffee Association says
Londoners create 200,000 tons of coffee waste a year, according to bio-bean. The company takes the used grounds from coffee shops and instant coffee factories, and extracts oil from it in its factory.
This is then processed into a blended B20 biofuel. Buses can be powered using the fuel without the need for modification.

More than two billion passenger trips are made on buses each year in London
Will buses be run on coffee in future?
The firm believes it would take just over 2.55 million cups of coffee to create the enough biofuel to run a London bus for a year once the oil has been blended with diesel. Six-thousand litres of coffee oil have been produced so far.
"It's a great example of what can be done when we start to reimagine waste as an untapped resource," bio-bean founder Arthur Kay said.
A report from the University of Manchester suggests that renewed emphasis be placed on developing waste.... "In the UK we produce 16 million tons every year, enough to double our current biofuel supplies. A third of that waste is called green waste, a quarter of it is agricultural straw".
The authors believe there is great scope for expansion in the use of unavoidable waste, such as used cooking oil, forest and sawmill residues, the dregs from whisky manufacture, even oils from sewage are possible bio-fuel.
In the future it is possible that we will be able to convert all waste products, including plastic into bio-fuels. Cheap transportation fuel, no carbon emissions and no garbage dumps. It's a win-win.
What a beautiful world.

Friday, November 17, 2017

World’s first head transplant is “imminent”

 This post was suggested by my grandson Jacob
Never too far away from making headlines, the controversial neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero is back with claims that the world’s first head transplant is “imminent”, after Chinese scientists successfully carried out the first head transplant on a human corpse.
He revealed the news at a press conference in Vienna on Friday morning. Professor Canavero claims the feat was carried out during an 18-hour operation at Harbin Medical University in China, during which a team of surgeons successfully severed then reconnected the spinal cord, nerves, and blood vessels in the spine and neck.

The operation was led by Dr Xiaoping Ren, a surgeon who has previously transplanted the head of a monkey and numerous rodents. Harbin Medical University is expected to write a full report on the operation within the next few days.
“The first human transplant on human cadavers has been done," Canavero told the crowd, according to the Telegraph. "A full head swap between brain-dead organ donors is the next stage. And that is the final step for the formal head transplant for a medical condition which is imminent.”

In a phone interview today, Canavero told USA Today that the operation will take place in China because the scientific establishment and authorities of Europe and the US were unwilling to support the contentious surgery.
"The Americans did not understand,” he said. "Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to restore China to greatness. He wants to make it the sole superpower in the world. I believe he is doing it.”

The eccentric Italian's plans to pull off the first live human head transplant have been surrounded and fueled with controversy. Back in 2015, he estimated that the operation would be done and dusted by 2017, however that’s looking unlikely considering the recent rate of developments.
Even though Canavero has spent the past few year writing scientific studies on the feat, massive doubts are continuing to be cast onto the scientific legitimacy of his big promises. Arthur Caplan, head of medical ethics at Langone Medical Center of New York University, said Canavero was “out of his mind”.

Speaking about head transplant surgery, neuroscientist Dean Burnett said: “When someone makes an extreme claim, my rule of thumb is this: If they haven’t provided robust scientific evidence, but they have done a TED talk, alarm bells should be ringing.”

First head transplant successfully carried out on live monkey
WARNING: Graphic picture. 

The first head transplant on a primate has been carried out by scientists in China 

Dr Sergio Canavero  carried out the first head transplant on a monkey ahead of plans to attempt the controversial procedure on a human by the end of next year.
Professor  Canavero, Director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group and researchers at Harbin Medical University in China posted pictures of the creature whose head appears to have been grafted onto the body of another animal.
Stitches can clearly be seen surrounding the neck, which looked to be entirely severed.
"The plan for the first human head transplant is on schedule, towards its expected date of realization, Christmas 2017. “

According to Prof Canavero, the team led by Xiaoping Ren, connected the blood supply to prove that the animal could survive without suffering brain injury. They have not yet attempted to join the spinal cords so if the animal survived it would be completely paralysed.
“The monkey fully survived the procedure without any neurological injury of whatever kind,” says Prof Canavero, but said it was  kept alive for only 20 hours after the procedure for ethical reasons.

The picture claimed to be the first monkey head transplant

Ren has also tested some experiments on human corpses.
“We’ve done a pilot study testing some ideas about how to prevent injury,” he said.
The experiments are reported in a set of seven papers which are due to be published in the journals Surgery and CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics. The papers also claim to have shown that spine fusion technology developed by Canavero ‘has a strong rationale’ and works in mice allowing them to recover motor function. The team claims that crucial nerve fibers regrew.

A press release ahead of the publication said: “A full monkey head transplant has been successfully accomplished by Prof Ren’s group in China with the goal of testing cross-circulation and hypothermia as an effective neuroprotective strategy.
“The first studies on human cadavers have already begun in China and will be expanded shortly.
"The plan for the first human head transplant is on schedule, towards its expected date of realization, Christmas 2017. “
Canavero shocked the world last year when he said that he would be ready to transplant a human head within two years. He wants the first patient to be 31-year-old Russian, Valery Spriridonov, who has a genetic muscle-wasting disease.

Spriridonov, the Russian patient, will only be able to receive a new body in Russia, which will require a commitment from Russian authorities.
It is claimed that initial talks with Russian surgeons have already taken place and the team are hoping to approach Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for finance.
In the meantime, Vietnam has offered itself to host future head transplants.
“I would say we have plenty of data to go on,” said Prof Canavero. “It’s important that people stop thinking this is impossible. This is absolutely possible and we’re working towards it.”

Prof Sergio Canavero

However the fact that the team has press released their work before it has been published an peer reviewed has left some scientists anxious about the validity of their claims.
“It’s science through public relations,” Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University School of Medicine told New Scientist.
“When it gets published in a peer-reviewed journal I’ll be interested. I think the rest of it is BS.”

Thomas Cochrane, a neurologist at Harvard Medical School’s Centre for Bioethics, also told the magazine Canavero’s press release was unorthodox. “It’s frowned upon for good reason,” he said.
“It generates excitement before excitement is warranted. It distracts people from actual work that everyone can agree has a valid foundation. As far as I can tell, that operation has mostly been about publicity rather than the production of good science.”
“If the so-called head transplant works, this is going to open up a whole new science of spinal cord trauma reconstruction,” says Michael Sarr, editor of the journal Surgery and a surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “
We are most interested in spinal cord reconstruction using head transplantation as a proof of principle. Our journal does not necessarily support head transplantation because of multiple ethical issues and multiple considerations of informed consent and the possibility of negative consequences of a head transplant.”
I can see a cornucopia of ethical problems with this process . Add to this, a certain amount of shock and awe that we can actually do this. Is it a good thing? Is it a step toward immortality? Will someone take this knowledge and use for evil purposes? Of course they will. They always do.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Exciting new exoplanet discovered ...could support life

Ross 128 b might be a target in the search for extra-terrestrial life  
Astronomers have found a cool, Earth-sized planet that's relatively close to our Solar System.
The properties of this newly discovered planet - called Ross 128 b - make it a prime target in the search for life elsewhere in the cosmos. The climate and atmosphere seem adequate to support life so it is very exciting.
At just 11 light-years away, it's the second closest exoplanet of its kind to Earth.  The closest one, known as Proxima b, looks to be less hospitable for life. Found in 2016, it orbits the star Proxima Centauri, which is known to be a rather active "red dwarf" star. This means that powerful eruptions periodically batter Proxima b with harmful radiation.
The new planet, Ross 128 b, orbits a star that's not dissimilar to Proxima Centauri (it's also a red dwarf), but is significantly less active.
Co-discoverer Nicola Astudillo-Defru from the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland told
 journalists, "Because Proxima Centauri blasts its planet with strong flares and high energy radiation, I think Ross 128 is much more comfortable for the development of life.  But we still need to know what the atmosphere of Ross 128 b is like. Depending on its composition and the reflectivity of its clouds, the exoplanet may be life friendly with liquid water as the Earth, or sterile like Venus.

La Silla Observatory
The discovery was made at the La Silla Observatory in Chile
Lead author of the study describing the find, Xavier Bonfils, from the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics in Grenoble (IPAG), France, said, "Ross 128 is one of the quietest stars of our sample and, although it is a little further away from us it makes for an excellent alternative target."
The new world was discovered with the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (Harps) instrument at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. The work will be published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
Dr Astudillo-Defru said the find was the result of more than a decade of "intensive monitoring" using the Harps instrument. At 1.35 times the mass of our planet, Ross 128 b is a bit heftier than Earth and orbits 20 times closer to its star than we orbit the Sun. But because the new planet's parent star is much smaller and dimmer than our yellow sun, it receives only a little more solar radiation than Earth. Consequently, it is expected to have a surface temperature close to that on our own planet.

E-ELT artwork
The Extremely Large Telescope should be able to probe the atmospheres of exoplanets like Ross 128b

The James Webb Space Telescope should launch in 2019
In the search for habitable worlds beyond our Solar System, astronomers generally look for low-mass, rocky and temperate planets like ours.  But these are comparatively difficult to detect; most of the 3,500 known exoplanets are so-called Hot Jupiters - huge gas giants orbiting very close to their parent stars that don't have suitable conditions for life.
Of the smaller contingent of Earth-sized planets, the vast majority orbit red dwarf stars - the most common type in the Milky Way. Because this category of star is dim, it's easier for astronomers to detect low-mass planets when they pass in front (as viewed from Earth), blocking out a portion of the light.
Red dwarfs are generally more active than G-type stars like the Sun, but there's underlying variation.
At "just" 4.2 light-years away, Proxima b may be the closest exoplanet with a mild temperature. But it receives about 30 times more extreme ultraviolet radiation than Earth. Ross 128 b, on the other hand, has the "quietest" nearby star to host a temperate exoplanet.

Artwork of Proxima b
Proxima b is in the habitable zone, but could be exposed to harmful levels of radiation
Astronomers often talk about the "habitable zone" around a star - it's the range of distances where temperatures allow water (essential for life as we know it) to remain liquid on the surface of a planet. Where the habitable zone lies depends on the star itself: red dwarfs are dimmer and therefore cooler than the Sun, so their habitable zones are shifted closer in than the equivalent zone in our Solar System.
There's still uncertainty about whether Ross 128 b is within its star's habitable zone, but scientists say that with temperatures of between -60 and +20°C, it can be considered temperate. But, as Dr Astudillo-Defru alluded , a lot depends on the presence of an atmosphere. An envelope of greenhouse gases can warm the surface and provide sufficient pressure to keep water in the liquid state.
Next, astronomers want to study the atmospheric composition and chemistry of suitable, nearby worlds like Ross 128 b. The detection of gases such as oxygen could potentially point to biological processes.  When the ELT ( European Southern Observatory's Extremely Large Telescope) comes online (at the middle of the next decade) it will provide both the power and  resolution to observe Ross 128 b directly. We will be able to see if it has an atmosphere and, eventually, to search for O2, water and CH4 (methane).
 An atmosphere, O2 and water would be super exciting and an important step toward the evidence of life outside our Solar System.
Although currently 11 light-years from Earth, the new planet's parent star Ross 128 is moving towards us and is expected to overtake Proxima Centauri as our nearest stellar neighbour in just 79,000 years - a heartbeat on cosmic timescales.
The search for life continues and it is no longer a question of 'if' but 'when'.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

North Korean state newspaper announces 'death sentence' for Trump

ALEX LASKER, AOL.COM          November  15th 2017 
A North Korean state newspaper has issued a death sentence for U.S. President Donald Trump after he insulted Kim Jong-Un during his recent trip to Asia, according to the Guardian. 

An editorial in the ruling party's newspaper Rodong Sinmun declared Trump a "criminal" and said their nation's people had sentenced him to death because of the unflattering way he talks about their country and their supreme leader. 

"The worst crime for which he can never be pardoned is that he dared [to] malignantly hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership," the editorial read. "He should know that he is just a hideous criminal sentenced to death by the Korean people."

The scathing article was in response to comments Trump made during his recent visit to South Korea, where he condemned the North's "cruel dictatorship" in a speech to South Korea’s National Assembly.

During his address, Trump called North Korea, "a hell that no person deserves," and warned that "the weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer. They are putting your regime in grave danger. Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face."

"Do not underestimate us, and do not try us," the U.S. President added. "We will defend our common security, our shared prosperity, and our sacred liberty."

The editorial also took aim at the fact that Trump skipped a planned visit to the demilitarized border zone between North and South Korea due to inclement weather.

"It wasn’t the weather. He was just too scared to face the glaring eyes of our troops," the article said. 

Days after his South Korea visit, Trump again insulted Kim Jong-Un, calling the dictator "short and fat" in a controversial tweet.

A glimpse of Witchy in her human form :

Okay, so let me get this straight----It's okay for Kim Jung Un to continually threaten the US mainland, South Korea and Japan and constantly insult Trump, but Trump is a "criminal" with a "death sentence" for insulting him?!?  Give me a break!  I'm not a Trump fan and abhor him constantly tweeting insults, no matter who they are directed to--his comments are childish and unprofessional bullying.  However, I think his statements shown above are thoughtful and well-reasoned, and some of the best he has made during his presidency.  He showed constraint and tempered his rhetoric---    I  was very surprise . Good move-Kudos.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Skin cancer-detecting device invented by 4 students wins award

The skin cancer detecting device being used on a man's arm

 Courtesy James Dyson Award  The sKan, a skin cancer detecting device

A low cost and non-invasive device that can detect skin cancer has won this year's international James Dyson Award.
The sKan was invented by four Canadian engineering graduates from Ontario's McMaster University.
The handheld device is made from widely available and inexpensive components and could make detection of the disease more accessible.
The World Health Organization says one in every three cancer cases diagnosed worldwide is a skin cancer.
Dyson company founder James Dyson said the sKan received the award because it is "a very clever device with the potential to save lives around the world".
The James Dyson Award has been open to university or recent design graduates across the world since 2002 and celebrates significant, practical and commercially viable designs.
The four Canadian students behind the award winning design

The sKan began as final year engineering class project for four medical and bioengineering undergraduates: Michael Takla, Rotimi Fadiya, Prateek Mathur and Shivad Bhavsar.
They were awarded C$50,000 to develop the device, which uses temperature sensors to help in the early detection of melanoma, the mostly deadly form of skin cancer. Because cancerous cells have a higher metabolic rate than normal tissue cells, cancerous tissue warms at a faster rate than non-cancerous tissue when the tissue - in this case skin - is cooled.
The goal is to select patients who should be sent for a biopsy as early detection is key for the treatment of melanoma.
The team plans to use the funds to build a new prototype that can be used in pre-clinical testing.
In Canada, more than 80,000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year. Of those, more than 5,000 are melanoma.
In the US, there are over 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer treated each year, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Around 87,000 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed this year, the organization says.
We should keep supporting and funding research by brilliant young students. They are our brighter future.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Former top intel officials say Trump is getting 'played' by Putin

New York Daily News       ERIN DURKIN
Two former top intelligence officials said President Trump is getting “played” by Russian President Vladimir Putin with his denials of interference in the 2016 election.

“I think he's giving Putin a pass. And I think it demonstrates to Mr. Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and to try to play upon his insecurities,” former CIA director John Brennan said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The manipulation, he said, is “very, very worrisome from a national security standpoint.”

On Air Force One Saturday, Trump said he believes Putin is sincere in his denials that Russia meddled with the presidential election. “Every time he sees me, he said, ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe, I really believe that when he tells me that he means it,” he said.

In the same remarks, he called Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper “political hacks.”

Trump later sought to clarify, saying at a press conference hours later that while he thinks Putin means what he says, he doesn’t necessarily believe him. He said he trusts U.S. intelligence assessments, which found that Russia did interfere.

Clapper, appearing on CNN with Brennan Sunday, agreed that the President is getting played by the Russian leader.

“Putin is committed to undermining our system, our democracy and our whole process. And to try to paint it in any other way is, I think, astounding and, in fact, poses a peril to this country,” he said.

“I do think both the Chinese and Russians think they can play him.”

Brennan said he wasn’t bothered by Trump’s insult. “Considering the source of the criticism, I consider that criticism a badge of honor,” he said.

“Mr. Trump is, for whatever reason, either intimidated by Mr. Putin, afraid of what he could do or what might come out as a result of these investigations. So it's very worrisome,” he said. “It's either naivete, ignorance or fear.”

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, appearing later on the same show, slammed the former intelligence leaders.

“Those were the most ridiculous statements. President Trump is not getting played by anybody,” he said.

He suggested downplaying the Russian misdeeds was a tactic meant to encourage Russian cooperation in North Korea and Syria. “Those are areas we need to work together with Russia and get them on board with our strategy,” he said.

Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, stressed that the President does believe a January 2017 intelligence assessment that concluded Russia had interfered with the vote, though he downplayed the Russian actions as merely “buying Facebook ads” and said the election outcome was not affected.

Intelligence agencies found Russia was behind hacking of Democratic officials’ e-mails, as well as creating fake social media accounts posing as Americans commenting on the election.

“The President does not overlook that. He signed the proclamation that said that there was meddling. We’re not denying that or saying it’s not important,” Short said. “There is zero evidence of any ballot being impacted by Russian interference.”