April 26, 2007

Possible Habitable Planet Discovered

Summed up by Rachele Cermak

A planet 120 trillion miles outside our solar system seems to be capable to house life. Planet 581 c's surface temperatures is like Earth's and it may have liquid water since it is orbiting a star known as a "red dwarf" in its habitable zone.

That type of star is larger, gives off less light and is cooler than the Sun but will last longer. Up until this discovery, that type of star was thought to be unable to host life on orbiting planets. About 80 percent of the stars near Earth are red dwarfs.

The planet was discovered by European Southern Observatory's 3.6 meter telescope in La Silla, Chile, while using the HARP instrument. It splits light to find wobbles in different wave lengths. Those wobbles can reveal the existence of other worlds.

It revealed a planet circling the red dwarf star, Gliese 581.

Boris Yeltsin Dies

Summed up by: Rachele Cermak

Boris Yeltsin, the first Russian Democratic President, died at age 76 on Tuesday.
He died from sudden heart failure.

During the Clinton Administration, President Clinton and Yeltsin took part in multiple meetings to help Moscow's transition into democracy.

After Yeltsin's death he was praised but heard little of it during his presidency.

Yeltsin's chaotic democracy was transformed into something called "sovereign democracy" - that has come to mean the absolute ascendancy of executive power.

Over Yeltsin's eight years as President he is remebered for multiple events.

"Yeltsin sincerely tried to do everything possible to make the lives of millions of Russians better," President Vladimir Putin said at a reception after Wednesday's funeral, according to the Russian news agency Interfax.

April 25, 2007

Abortion Legal in Mexico

Summed up by: Rachele Cermak

Mexico City's City Council legalized first-trimester abortions Tuesday by a vote of 46-19. Abortion opposition ran strong in the most influential Latino city.

Opposition is already preparing a Supreme Court challenge of the law. The law gives women in the nation's capital the right to an abortion in the first 12 weeks of their pregnancy. The measure will take effect after its signing by Mexico City's leftist mayor, Marcelo Ebrard.

The Catholic Church threatened to excommunicate lawmakers who support abortion rights, doctors who perform them and women who have them.

"Decriminalizing abortion is a historic triumph -- a triumph of the left," said city legislator Jorge Diaz Cuervo, a social democrat who voted for the bill. "Today, there is a new atmosphere in this city. It is the atmosphere of freedom."

Controversy arose over the law because it's an issue of personal freedom, social inequality, womens' health and of religion.

February 17, 2007

Tree Frog Found in Amber

By Rachele Cermak

In Mexico City a researcher found a tree frog completely preserved in a chunk of amber said to be 25 million years old.

Biologist Gerardo Carbot of the Chiapas Natural History and Ecology Institute, who announced the discovery, said it was the first such frog found in amber in Mexico.

Scientists hope to drill a very small in the amber to extract DNA from the frog to figure out what kind of species it is. Though some scientists are doubtful.

"Highly, highly unlikely," given that -- as other scientists have noted -- it (DNA) tends to break down over time,? said David Grimaldi, a biologist and curator at the American Museum of Natural History.

They doubt the owner of the amber will allow it. He is a private collector and lent the amber to scientists for study. He received it in 2005 from a miner in Mexico's southern Chiapas.

February 10, 2007

Italy May Legally Recognize Unmarried Couples

By Rachele Cermak

Thursday the Italian Cabinet approved legislation, known as PACS (Civil Solidarity Pacts), giving legal rights to unmarried couples in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships. It awaits parliament's approval.

Couples could receive certificates from town halls confirming they are a couple. This would allow them to share health insurance and some pension rights, transfer rental contracts to each other and join waiting lists for public housing and state jobs. If it is approved, couples who live together could be granted the same visitation rights as married couples when at the hospital. After nine years of living together unwed couples could be granted property rights.

The Catholic Church strongly disagreed with the legislation.

Franco Grillini, a Democrats of the Left parliamentarian, said, "it (legislation) still contains important elements, beginning with the recognition of rights for same-sex couples". He is honorary president of Italy's main gay rights association, Arcigay.

January 31, 2007

Asteroid Apophis

Threats of asteroids colliding with the Earth are seen often in the media. One recently covered asteroid is called Apophis, named after the ancient Egyptian god of darkness and destruction. According to the article by Linda Orlando this one will hit the Earth on April 13th, 2029.

The chances of it happening though are 45,000 to 1. The asteroid first has to travel close enough, 18,893 miles, to the gravitational pull of the Earth to get knocked off of its path. Then we wait for seven years as the Earth travels in orbit slowly gaining on the asteroid, whose path is shorter.

In 2029 the Earth will colloid with the 25-million-ton, 820-ft. wide Apophis. The Pacific Coast is said to be the most at risk since that is where the collision is thought to occur. The asteroid would leave a 5-mile wide crater in the ocean floor and cause California to experience 50-foot tsunami waves.

Even though the risk is low Rusty Schweickart, who took part in the Apollo 9 mission, believes NASA needs to start preparing.