Puty Pute, Man of the People

By Tom Parfitt, Moscow

A dossier drawn up by a political rival of the Russian president suggests that he has 58 planes and helicopters at his use, that he has a collection of watches worth $635,000, and that he relaxes at more than 20 palaces and country retreats.

The report also claims that Mr Putin uses an Ilyushin jet with a $176 million cabin that includes a bathroom that has gold fittings and a $80,000 toilet.

Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister, concluded in his report that Mr Putin’s existence, “can be compared with that of the monarchs of the Persian Gulf or the most outrageous oligarchs”.

The Russian leader, 59, has often played on his humble beginnings to popular effect. He once described how, as a child, he had to beat aside rats with a stick at the entrance to his parents’ communal apartment in St Petersburg.

Mr Putin, a judo black belt and amateur ice hockey player, has also projected his job as a punishing challenge fraught with austerity. Mr Nemtsov’s report is titled “The Life of a Galley Slave”, in reference to a comment by Mr Putin on finishing his second term as president in 2008, when he said: “I’m not ashamed before the citizens who voted for me. All these eight years I’ve been toiling like a galley-slave, with every ounce of my strength. And I’m pleased with the results.”

The report, published online, suggests an altogether more cushioned reality.

Among the perks said to be available to the president are a $950 million Italianate palace at Gelendzhik on the Black Sea coast and a $41 million yacht called Sirius with whirlpool baths, a cinema and an artificial waterfall.

Another 176 ft yacht includes a spa pool, waterfall and wine cellar, but “the real diamond of the Kremlin flotilla,” the report claims, is a five-decked boat with a jacuzzi, barbecue, a maple wood colonnade and a bathroom faced in marble.

A 2,300-acre residence on Lake Valdai in north-western Russia has a cinema, a bowling alley and a “presidential church”, and it is said a little-known three-storey residence near Saratov, on the Volga river south-east of Moscow, has German chandeliers and Italian furniture, and features a billiard room, a winter garden, a pool and sauna.

According to his official income declaration Mr Putin earned $111,000 last year, making his suggested watch collection alone worth almost six times his annual salary. Mr Nemtsov and Leonid Martynyuk, his co-author, wrote: “In a country where 20 million people can barely make ends meet, the luxurious life of the president is a brazen and cynical challenge to society from a high-handed potentate.”

They added: “We must not put up with this. We believe that the way of life of those in power must become a topic for public discussion and that all expenditure from the budget and all their incomes must be published.”

Mr Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, was unavailable for comment but he told the Kommersant newspaper he had not read the report.

“The information about the president’s state residences and transport is absolutely open to all, there are no secrets here,” he said. “This is all state property and as the elected president Putin uses it according to the law. What’s more, he’s obliged to in many cases.”

And the Winner Is…

The incredible images below are of deep space taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and would have never been seen if it wasn’t for the hard work of dedicated amateurs.

With over a million observations since the Hubble’s launch 22 years ago, many of its most striking images have laid dorment in the Space Telescopes data vaults.

That was until the ESA (European Space Agency) opened them up to the public, and invited skywatchers to delve into the archives and search for the hidden treasures the scientists missed – and offered prizes for the most striking images.

The ESA said: “Hubble has made over a million observations since launch, but only a small proportion are attractive images — and an even smaller number are ever actually seen by anyone outside the small groups of scientists that publish them. But the vast amount of data in the archive means that there are still many hundreds of beautiful images scattered among the valuable, but visually unattractive, scientific data that have never been enjoyed by the public. We call these pictures Hubble’s hidden treasures, and a few months ago, we invited the public to look through Hubble’s science archive to help us find them. The response was impressive, with almost 3000 submissions. More than a thousand of these images were fully processed: a difficult and time-consuming task.”

Now the ESA has awarded prizes to the top ten entries in two categories: those that were processed and those that were simply picked out from the hundreds of thousands of images available.

“We call these pictures Hubble’s hidden treasures, and a few months ago, we invited the public to look through Hubble’s science archive to help us find them. The response was impressive, with almost 3000 submissions. More than a thousand of these images were fully processed: a difficult and time-consuming task.”

Now the ESA has awarded prizes to the top ten entries in two categories: those that were processed and those that were simply picked out from the hundreds of thousands of images available.

The first prize in the processed category, which asked entrants to painstakingly optimize images to highlight the visual beauty hidden in the scientific data, went to Josh Lake from the U.S.

He submitted a stunning image of NGC 1763, part of the N11 star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, which he optimized to create a bold two-color image which contrasts the light from glowing hydrogen and nitrogen.

“The image is not in natural colors — hydrogen and nitrogen produce almost indistinguishable shades of red light that our eyes would struggle to tell apart,” the ESA said.

“But Josh’s processing separates them out into blue and red, dramatically highlighting the structure of the region.” For his efforts he was sent a whole range of prizes, including an iPad.

Andre van der Hoeven, of the Netherlands, came a close second in the jury vote with an ‘highly attractive’ image of the spiral galaxy Messier 77, which the ESA said was, “an impressive piece of image processing, combining a number of datasets from separate instruments into one amazing picture.”

Andre said: “Well, this was my hardest job until now. Combining the different datasets to get equal colors was really hard. M77 was not fully covered by one dataset, so I had to combine channels of the WFPC2 with different wavelengths and tune the colors to get them to fit. But the result is in my opinion quite astonishing.” Unbelievable this one was not released before.

Third prize in the hotly contested category went to Judy Schmidt, also of the U.S., for her picture of XZ Tauri, a newborn star spraying out gas into its surroundings and lighting up a nearby cloud of dust.

This was jury’s favorite, the ESA said, adding that it, “was a challenging dataset to process, as Hubble only captured two colors in this area. Nevertheless, the end result is an attractive image, and an unusual object that we would never have found without her help.”

Robert Gendler, Fifth Prize, Messier 96

Renaud Houdinet, Forth Prize, Chamaeleon I

Judy Schmidt, Third Prize, Star XZ Tauri

Andre van der Hoeven, Second Prize, Messier 77

Josh Lake, First Prize, NGC1763

Attribution: Daily Mail

Joke of the Day

A henpecked husband was advised by a psychiatrist to assert himself. “You don’t have to let your wife bully you,” he said. “Go home and show her you’re the boss.”

The husband decided to take the doctor’s advice.

He went home, slammed the door, saw his wife and growled, “From now on you’re taking orders from me. I want my supper right now, and after you get it on the table, go upstairs and lay out my clothes.

Tonight I am going out with the boys. You are going to stay at home where you belong. Another thing, you know who is going to tie my bow tie?”

“I certainly do,” said his wife calmly, “the undertaker.”

Prayer at the DNC?

by: the Common Constitutionalist

The Democrat National Committee announced that it will be hosting Islamic “Jummah” prayers for two hours on the Friday of its convention, soon after denying a Catholic cardinal’s request to say a prayer at the same event.

Up to 20,000 people are expected to attend the Friday prayers and Jibril Hough, a spokesman for the Bureau of Indigenous Muslim Affairs (BIMA), said the purpose of the event is to hold political parties accountable for the issues faced by Muslim-Americans.

In particular, the event will target the Patriot Act, the NYPD, the National Defense Authorization Act, and anti-Shariah sentiment.

Now I’m not a fan of the Patriot Act nor the NDAA. I have no beef with the NYPD. It’s the Anti-Shariah thing that raised the red flag for me.

Is the “Jummah”, among other things, supposed to convince us to be Pro-Shariah, or maybe just Agnostic-Shariah? I know for a fact, I am firmly Anti-Shariah, as is anyone that supports freedom and basic human rights.

Although one has to agree, to a certain extent, being Muslim in America does have it’s challenges, those who are well-informed of the dangers of radical Islam are expressing serious doubts about this event.

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a devout Muslim and the Founder and President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, wrote:

The leaders of this event – Jibril Hough and Imam Siraj Wahhaj [are not] moderates. They are radicals. These individuals embrace Islamist supremacy and have demonstrated support for radical ideologies.

A quick Google search by the DNC would have shown them that Hough and Wahhaj are leaders in the separatist American Islamist movement. While they may be able to get a few thousand Muslims to attend the event, they are NOT going to be mainstream Muslims. Most will likely come from Hough and Wahhaj’s radical networks that have long been entrenched in the Charlotte area. Make no mistake they are part of the Islamist movement.Their jummah (group) prayer is…about empowering their Islamist and MB (Muslim Brotherhood) sympathetic groups into the very fabric of the political system so that Americans become anesthetized. We need American Muslims to speak up and marginalize these radicals. The DNC needs to understand and reject them because of their radical history and ideas.

The mosque of Jibril Hough, mentioned by Dr. Jasser, is owned by the North American Islamic Trust, which was named as an unindicted conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial as one of the entities “who are and/or were members of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood.”

Siraj Wahhaj, the “Grand Imam” for Jummah at the DNC, is often considered a “moderate” because he was the first Muslim to give an invocation in the U.S. Congress, but as Robert Spencer notes, he has a number of troubling ties to dangerous radicals. In the early 1990′s the man reportedly sponsored talks by “the Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman in New York and New Jersey mosques, and told his followers that the United States will fall unless it “accepts the Islamic agenda.” I’m sure he is reformed though.

Islam’s answer to homosexuality

I wonder if any group will have the courage to organize a protest of the Jummah? Maybe Queer Nation will have a homosexual kiss-in as was boldly done over the Chick-fil-A flap, or possibly a march for same-sex marriage within the Muslim faith. After all, homosexual relations are a capital offense under Shariah. Might the NOW gang loudly protest out front for womens rights under Shariah? Could the U.N. muster their human rights council to gather at the event?  Silly me, of course not. That would take actual courage. The event will go off with a hiccup and without a peep from the so-called caring liberals.

Attribution: The Counter Jihad Report

All in One Makeup

Scientists have developed camouflage makeup that not only helps soldiers hide from the enemy, but also shields them from the searing heat of bomb blasts – and it’s thinner than a sheet of paper.

The heat-resistant face paint, developed for the US military, has been described as one of the most fundamental changes in thousands of years to camouflage, and could also benefit fire fighters.

The material is tough enough to protect against a thermal blast that can reach 600 degrees Celsius (1,112 degrees Fahrenheit), as hot as a burning cigarette.

 
In the near future, camouflage paint could do a lot more than help soldiers hide from their enemies - it could even protect them from bomb blastsIn the near future, camouflage paint could do a lot more than help soldiers hide from their enemies – it could even protect them from bomb blasts
 
 

‘The thermal blast lasts only two seconds, but it can literally cook the face, hands and other exposed skin,’ said lead scientist Dr Robert Lochhead from The University of Southern Mississippi.

Dr Lochhead and colleagues set out to find a material that soldiers could smear on their faces like suntan lotion yet protects against heat far hotter than the rays that normally reach the skin.

 
Protection: The makeup could help soldiers avoid burns from thermal blastsProtection: The makeup could help soldiers avoid burns from thermal blasts
 

The formulation they discovered lasts far longer than a normal two second blast, generally providing protection for up to 15 second – and 60 seconds in some tests – before its own temperature rises to the point where a mild burn could occur.

The finding raises the possibility that other professions exposed to intense heat, such as fire fighters, could also use a colorless version.

The team had a difficult task in designing the face paint as they could not use traditional makeup ingredients – oil or wax-based face paint – as it can melt on the face and burn the skin when in contact with intense heat.

So instead they turned to non-flammable silicone.

 
Soldiers have used face paint for centuries to help their skin blend in with the natural environment and shield them from enemiesBlend in: Soldiers have used face paint for centuries to shield them from enemies

WHY SOLIDERS ARE AT RISK

Roadside bombs, which have claimed hundreds of lives in Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflicts, produce two blasts.

Firstly, a blast wave at high pressure that spreads out at supersonic speeds and can cause devastating internal injuries.

Secondly, the thermal blast, which follows almost instantaneously and exceeds 600 degrees Celsius.

The new face paint can provide protection against this second blast.

The makeup also had to be waterproof and non-irritating, and, in an extra challenge set by military rules, contain the insect repellent Deet.

‘Deet also is flammable, so when the Department of Defense asked us to incorporate it, we didn’t think we could do it,’ Dr Lochhead said.

Their solution was to encapsulate the Deet in a water-rich material that prevented it catching fire.

The team now plans to test the material on other surfaces to see if it can used to protect clothing, tents and other items from burning.

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Attribution: Mail Online

Joke of the Day

A young woman said to her doctor, ‘You have to help me, I hurt all over.’ ‘What do you mean?’ said the doctor.

The woman touched her right knee with her index finger and yelled,’Ow, that hurts.’

Then she touched her left cheek and again yelled, ‘Ouch! That hurts, too.’

Then she touched her right earlobe. ‘Ow, even THAT hurts.’ The doctor asked the woman, ‘Are you a natural blonde?’ ‘Why yes,’ she said. ‘I thought so,’ said the doctor.

‘You have a sprained finger.’

Odd Coincidence

Quick Hit:

It’s now been confirmed how racist and discriminatory the new Florida voter I.D. law is.

Since a new set of state voting laws went into effect more than a year ago, the number of new Democrats registering in Florida has all but disappeared, according to a Times-Union review.

During the 13 months beginning July 1 the year before elections in 2004 and 2008, registered Democrats increased by an average of 209,425 voters. From 2011 to this year, that number was 11,365.

In Duval County alone there were about 13,000 new Democrats, meaning the rest of the state lost them.

Over that same time, the number of registered Republicans increased by 128,039, topping the average of 103,555 during the past two presidential cycles.

Overall, Democrats still hold a 445,794 statewide registration advantage.

Attribution: Jacksonville Times

New Additions to The Republican Platform

by:  and the Common Constitutionalist

Last week, the tea-party-supporting group Freedom Works declared victory when it saw the platform content – asserting that 11.5 of its 12 proposals had been included. (The platform calls for a tax system that is “flatter,” but not the “flat tax” FreedomWorks and other conservatives wanted.)

The human-life amendment was in the 2008 platform. In the 2012 platform, adopted and released Tuesday, there are many new planks. Here’s a sample:

A call to audit the Federal Reserve

“Audit the Fed” is a rallying cry for Ron Paul supporters and the tea party. As the Fed considers a third round of monetary stimulus, known as “quantitative easing,” the calls for more transparency in Fed decision-making have become part of the larger conversation about how to strengthen the economic recovery without sparking inflation.

The Republican Party will “work to advance substantive legislation” that brings transparency and accountability to the Federal Reserve, the platform says. The first step is through “an annual audit of the Federal Reserve’s activities.”

Romney has said that he would replace Ben Bernanke as Fed chairman, but hasn’t floated replacements, nor commented on the monetary policy planks of the platform.

A return to the gold standard?

Alongside “Audit the Fed,” this is another long-standing proposal by Congressman Paul on monetary policy. In fact, the platform does not contain the phrase “gold standard.” It refers to a commission established shortly after the inauguration of President Reagan in 1981 to “consider the feasibility of a metallic basis for US currency.”

The panel advised against such a move. “Now, three decades later, as we face the task of cleaning up the wreckage of the current administration’s policies, we propose a similar commission to investigate possible ways to set a fixed value for the dollar,” the platform says.

Protecting access to ammunition

In the wake of recent shooting rampages, calls have increased for legislation to ban high-capacity gun magazines, which allow dozens of bullets to be loaded at a time. In contrast with the 2008 Republican platform, the 2012 document stakes a position on access to ammunition.

“We oppose legislation that is intended to restrict our Second Amendment rights by limiting the capacity of clips or magazines or otherwise restoring the ill-considered Clinton gun ban,” the platform states.

The Clinton-era ban on assault weapons, enacted in 1994, included a ban on “large capacity ammunition feeding devices.” The law expired in 2004.

Reinventing Medicare and Medicaid

The Romney-Ryan proposal to reform the twin federal health-care entitlements for seniors, the poor, and the disabled is now in black and white in the 2012 platform.

“The first step is to move the two programs away from their current unsustainable defined-benefit entitlement model to a fiscally sound defined-contribution model,” the platform says. “This is the only way to limit costs and restore consumer choice for patients and introduce competition.”

Medicare moves to a “premium-support” model, a voucher-like system in which seniors use their government subsidy to purchase private health insurance or traditional Medicare. Medicaid becomes a block-grant program, in which the federal government gives a defined amount to each state, which then uses the money as it sees fit toward insuring the poor and disabled.

The platform also hints at an increase in the eligibility age for Medicare, currently 65.

“Without disadvantaging retirees or those nearing retirement, the age [of] eligibility for Medicare must be made more realistic in terms of today’s longer life span,” it says.

No more “leaks for political purposes”

In some places, the platform reads like a primal scream against the Obama administration. Exhibit A is the killing of Osama bin Laden, a huge, undisputed victory for the president that Republicans have been trying to diminish. Bin Laden is not mentioned explicitly in the platform, but information leaks surrounding the operation that left him dead have given Republicans the hook they need.

“The current administration’s leaks of classified information have imperiled intelligence assets which are vital to American security,” the platform states.

Let’s not stand up and cheer our, at least, partial victory just yet. After all, these are just words on paper and are easily manipulated and disregarded after the election, but it appears to be a step in the right direction.

Even if the election goes our way, we all know the work has just started. Those who pledge the reforms must be held to account.

More Advances in Cancer Research

A chemical found in green tea has been used to treat two types of skin cancer, scientists say.

The extract is too weak to make an impact when consumed in tea. However, when applied to cancer cells in the lab it made two-thirds of tumors shrink or disappear.

Scientists at the universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow, who carried out the research, found the extract, known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg), had no side-effects on other cells or tissue.

They created a cell with EGCg and transferrin, a protein that naturally targets and latches on to the surface of cancer cells, and applied it to tumors.

Tests were done on two types of skin cancer: epidermoid carcinoma which forms scales on the surface of the skin and melanoma which often develops in people who have moles on their skin.

In both studies, 40 per cent of tumors vanished, while 30 per cent of tumors in carcinoma cases and 20 per cent in melanoma cases shrank. A further 10 per cent of melanoma tumors were stabilized, so did not grow or shrink.

Anti-cancer properties of EGCg were established in earlier laboratory tests elsewhere. Scientists at other universities around the world have experimented with it to treat prostate cancer and leukemia.

Lead researcher Dr Christine Dufes, from the University of Strathclyde, said: ‘These are very encouraging results which we hope could pave the way for new and effective cancer treatments.

‘When we used our method, the green tea extract reduced the size of many of the tumors every day, in some cases removing them altogether. By contrast, the extract had no effect at all when it was delivered by other means, as every one of these tumors continued to grow.

‘This research could open doors to new treatments for what is still one of the biggest killer diseases in many countries.’

The research is published in the medical journal Nanomedicine.
Attribution: Nanomedicine, Daily Mail