At a speed of 202,000 kph, the Siding Spring comet – a mountain-sized ice ball, accompanied by a gigantic trail of dust – will miss the red planet by just 140,000 km at 18:27 GMT on Sunday. Named after the Australian observatory where it was discovered in 2013, the comet has a nucleus, or icy core, with a diameter estimated at 0.8 to 8 km.
The closest observers of this historic event will be three NASA robotic explorers, India's Mangalyaan spacecraft and Europe's Mars Express. Using a "duck and cover" strategy after the observations, the orbiters have been repurposed to hide for about 20 minutes behind the planet’s body. This will protect them against the comet’s potentially harmful trail, which is as long as from here to the moon and is expected to engulf the entire planet.
However, the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers are set to get the best view, if no dust storm on Mars obscures the planet’s sky.
"We certainly have fingers crossed for the first images of a comet from the surface of another world," said Kelly Fast, NASA program scientist, adding "This is kind of a dusty season on Mars, too, and so the dust is going to make the comet even less bright."
Astronomers are anticipating the encounter and will be monitoring via Earth-based and space telescopes, such as the Hubble Space Telescope. "We're getting ready for a spectacular set of observations," said Jim Green, head of NASA's planetary science division.
South Africa and Australia are topping the list of best places for viewing via binoculars or telescope. In the Northern Hemisphere, it will be quite difficult to catch a glimpse of the comet.
— ESA Operations (@esaoperations) October 19, 2014
But the Siding Spring observation campaign will be prolonged, should the comet survive its encounter with Mars. Scientists are planning to follow its way back home, the Oort Cloud, located on the outskirts of the solar system, which marks the border of the Sun’s gravitational force.
The Cloud formed during the first one or two million years of our solar system's birth 4.6 billion years ago and is a home to various icy objects. Its comets venture to the inner solar system once in every million years or so.
C/2013 A1, another name for the cosmic wanderer, will be the first comet originating from the Oort Cloud to be so thoroughly studied.
"We can't get to an Oort Cloud comet with our current rockets ... so this comet is coming to us," said Carey Lisse, senior astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University's applied physics laboratory.
"Think about a comet that started its travel probably at the dawn of man and it's just coming in close now," Lisse said. "And the reason we can actually observe it is because we have built satellites and rovers. We've now got outposts around Mars."
According to the astrophysicist, scientists are eager to learn more about the way the planets formed by examining the comet’s composition and structure, as well as the after-effects of the comet’s close approach to the red planet.
Six days after its Mars flyby, Siding Spring will head back to the outskirts of the solar system, passing close by the sun, and prepare for a glorious comeback in another million years.
The rally denouncing Forza Nuova (New Force) gathered some 500 demonstrators who marched through the city carrying a banner “Bologna free and anti-fascist."
Forza Nuova is an Italian far-right political party opposing homosexual marriage and illegal immigration. Back in May, members of Forza Nuova protested against swimming pools for Muslims.
Around 250 of the party supporters staged a counter-protest in Bologna on the anti-fascists’ route. Their slogan was “Italians first.”
As the two demonstrations met in a central square, scuffles broke out with protesters throwing eggs, bottles and firecrackers at their rivals and the police.
Law enforcers responded with smoke bombs and tear gas. The violence made numerous passers-by leave the popular square in panic, according to various reports in Italian media.
At least four policemen were injured in the clashes, reported the Il Fatto Emilia Romagna newspaper. One of them was wounded in the chest and was taken to hospital. It’s not yet clear which side – anti-fascist or pro-Forza Nuova, wounded him. One protester was arrested.
— eⒶtps (@eatps_) October 18, 2014
— ѕyndιcalιѕт (@syndicalisms) October 18, 2014
— TopNotizie.info (@TopNotizieInfo) October 18, 2014
— Altri Mondi Gazzetta (@AltriMondiGazza) October 18, 2014
The Neocons — Masters of Chaos. "If you’re nervously watching the stock market gyrations and worrying about your declining portfolio or pension fund, part of the blame should go to America’s neocons who continue to be masters of chaos, endangering the world’s economy by instigating geopolitical confrontations in the Middle East and Eastern Europe..."Topic(s):
- Geo-Politics/Int'l Relations, Legal/Justice, Mass Media/Propaganda, Peace Advocacy, Politics, War/Militarism
Let’s talk about propaganda and the Western media's use of ‘star’ columnists to spout it. Let’s, especially, focus on when that vitriol is deliberately inaccurate. This week’s best example is the Washington Post columns.
The Post used to be perceived as a great newspaper, but those were different times. It has won 47 Pulitzer Prizes and under Philip Graham’s direction it became regarded, globally, as a beacon of honest reporting. It’s now owned by the Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, who was named the world’s worst boss at this year’s International Trade Union Confederation World Congress in Berlin. The ITCU is not some fringe body - it represents 180 million workers. Some accolade, eh?
“Amazon operating in Germany treats its workers as if they are robots. The company makes no secret that within just a few years they will replace workers with robots. A rich American corporation operating globally with disdain for dignity, for rights for working people,” stated Sharan Burrow, the ITCU’s General Secretary.
The halcyon days of the Post are over and, in a hardly surprising move, that story didn’t get their, once famed, forensic coverage.
One of its most prominent op-ed writers is Anne Applebaum, who writes on foreign affairs every fortnight. Her brief is global, but in Anne’s world, Russia seems to be, just about, the only foreign affair of interest.
No, revisionists: we didn't humiliate Russia for 20 years, we indulged Russia. That was our great mistake. http://t.co/IDUjcsTdt0
— Anne Applebaum (@anneapplebaum) October 17, 2014
People’s personal lives are usually not relevant here, but Anne is married to Radoslaw Sikorski, who was recently removed as Poland’s Foreign Minister, so it merits mention. Sikorski played a prominent role in stoking up this year’s coup in Ukraine and is, notoriously, hawkish on Russia. The Pole was affiliated with Washington’s American Enterprise Institute - a neocon citadel with close links to the former (George W.) Bush administration in the US. A British citizen for 19 years, until he renounced it, Sikorski is devoted to Poland but his world view was largely shaped on foreign fields.
Applebaum, herself, won a Pulitzer for her book Gulag in 2004. She’s coveted an image as a ferocious warrior against oppression (so long as that oppression was in Russia) and chauvinism (again if the intolerance is in Russia). Although Moscow hijacks most of her time - in fact she’s made a career out of bashing the country - Applebaum sometimes finds a gap in her schedule for a bit of Muslim baiting.
— zebrev (@gizebrev) October 18, 2014
In 2009, she claimed that “in recent years separatist and politically extreme forms of Islam have emerged in every European country with a large Muslim population: Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark, Sweden.”
Now I’ve never heard of separatist Muslim’s in Denmark, have you? I also seem to have missed the separatist Islamic uprising in Germany while I was living there, although a drunken Kurd did propose that Berlin’s Kreuzberg be made a Muslim ‘zone’ with no alcohol sold - the irony amused.
Yes, the myth of Russian humiliation should be put to rest. http://t.co/4gDgjHpSer
— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) October 18, 2014
Ironically, the only European country that has recently had a separatist Muslim problem is Russia. In 2001, when President Putin and then President Bush allied in the ‘War On Terror’, Applebaum wrote in London’s Daily Telegraph: “Putin’s commitment to America’s war on terrorism was made so abruptly, and is so clearly personal, that I suspect it comes from something deeper: his racism. Or – since racism is a harsh word – perhaps it is better to say that his commitment comes from his deep belief that the greatest threat to Russia now comes not from the West and NATO, but from the South and Islam."
“When we tell the world’s Muslims that our war isn’t against them, we’d better make sure our Russian partners are acting as if they believe it.” To put it another way, Anne was supportive of Muslims when she thought Russia was against them. Once, the penny dropped that Putin wasn’t an Islam-ophobe, she flip-flopped.
And so to her Washington Post column this week Applebaum goes on a pro-NATO rant and briefly mentions how great life is in Europe. Anne lives in Poland, where the average net monthly salary is €679. Doubtless, life is pure La Dolce Vita there on an American income, but many locals might demur.
— Ernst Labruyère (@OrbeaErnie) October 17, 2014
There’s a bit of spiel about how wonderful and understanding the US was in the nineties’ and then the fun starts. Applebaum claims that Russia never qualified to join the old G8 because it was “neither a large economy nor a democracy.” There’s little doubt democracy could be improved in Russia, but the fiscal comment is bizarre. Canada was a member, and still sits at the G7, but its economy is well under half the size of Russia’s. See the table below.G8 by GDP, PPP as of 2013 in billions of US dollars Russia
$3,492 France $2,535 United Kingdom $2,320 Italy $2,035 Canada $1,518
So, Russia is the 4th biggest economy of the old G8, but Applebaum thinks it didn’t merit membership on the grounds of being “a large economy?” If she counters by claiming the piece referred to the 90’s, Russia was admitted in 1998, when Boris Yeltsin was in charge and open democracy was all the rage in Russia. The country defaulted on its debts the same year.
Here’s another ludicrous statement. “In 1991, Russia was no longer a great power… so why didn’t we recognize reality, reform the United Nations and give a Security Council seat to India, Japan or others?” I can answer that Anne. Russia is the world’s second largest military power, by all accepted metrics, and Japan is 10th. In fact, South Korea and Turkey have stronger militaries than Japan. Not to mention that Russia has 15,000 tanks and Japan only 767. They won’t be going too far with those. Even in 1991, Russia nuclear strength alone guaranteed membership.
Russia is also the only nation in the world that can currently launch a human being into space. That kind of stuff is important in the world of security.
The danger here is that The Washington Post helps frame opinion in America's corridors of power. The vast majority of elected representatives have no personal experience of Russia and have never been there. Instead, their view of the country is framed by what they consume from the US corporate media. Applebaum speaks to an extremely powerful audience. Distorting facts to present a false picture in The Washington Post is callous, improper and viperous.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Moscow can hardly be accused of non-facilitating the peace-process in Ukraine, as it is exerting all of the authority it can on the anti-government forces in eastern Ukraine to make sure they comply with the September Minsk peace agreements, Sergey Lavrov said in his Sunday interview to the Russian NTV channel. It’s the West, according to him, who could actually do more to resolve the Ukrainian crisis.
“Our Western partners… aren’t really using their influence on Kiev to persuade them that there’s no alternative to the agreements they’ve already reached with the self-defense,” the minister said.
The West is meanwhile ever ready to put additional pressure on Moscow in the form of sanctions, which in Lavrov’s point of view have little to do with the situation in Ukraine.
“You can essentially feel in their statements and actions the true goal of restrictions – to alter Russia, to change its position on key issues, the most fundamental for us, and make us accept the vision of the West. That is last-century, past-epoch, colonialist thinking.”
Whatever economic difficulties the sanctions entail, they are unlikely to divert Russia from its current stance, Lavrov believes.
Lavrov acknowledged current Russia-US relations are “difficult” and has accused Washington of only thinking of American interests when offering solutions to political problems. The Russian foreign minister would like to see more balance in proposals coming from the US.
“This is a common thing for the US – a consumerist approach to international relations. They believe that they have the right to punish the countries that act contrary to Washington’s vision, while demanding cooperation in other issues vital for the US and its allies.”
Balance on the international arena could have come from the EU, if it was more independent from Washington in its decision making, according to Lavrov.
“The EU with all of its current Washington leaning has the potential to act independently. This, however, remains almost totally unused. That’s sad, because the EU’s own voice could have added balance to international discussions and efforts to solve various problems.”
— RT (@RT_com) October 17, 2014
Friday’s talks between Russia and Ukraine in Milan which were mediated by the EU, proved “difficult and full of disagreements,” according to the Kremlin.
The German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “no breakthrough” was achieved.
One of the most essential issues the parties disagree on is gas supply. Kiev owes billions of dollars to Gazprom. There have been fears that the crisis-struck country won’t be able to pay, which could possibly lead to disruptions of gas supplies, including those to Europe via Ukraine.
The Milan negotiations have resulted in some progress on the issue - an agreement for winter supplies was reached, according to the Russian president. A new round of talks has been scheduled for October 21 and the EU will once again mediate the process.
Ukraine might meanwhile soon find itself forced to conduct similar negotiations with Poland. On Thursday, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Pehochinsky expressed disappointment that Ukraine hasn’t yet paid for 100,000 tons of Polish coal.