Friday, June 22, 2012

24/7 FrontLine Results - LPPNEWS

A 'Super Earth' Near a 'Hot Neptune' in Space


Not very long ago, space scientists expected that if other stars had solar systems, they'd be much like our own - small, rocky planets (like Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) orbiting close to their host star, with gas giants (think of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune) farther out. There were good reasons for this, not the least of which was that any self-respecting star would tear a Jupiter-sized planet apart if it were too close. Everything made sense.
So much for that.
Since the 1990s, astrophysicists report they have identified at least 600 stars with planets circling them and found that solar systems like ours are a rarity.
Take Kepler 36, reported today in the journal Science. It's a solar system about 1,200 light-years from our own, with two very different planets right on top of each other. One is a rocky "super Earth," about 1.5 times as large as our world. The other is a gaseous "hot Neptune," about 3.7 times as large.
"They are the closest to each other of any planetary system we've found," said Eric Agol of the University of Washington, one of the researchers. He and his colleagues spotted the planets using NASA's Kepler probe, which has been planet-hunting since 2009.
Both worlds are probably infernos, so close to their host star that they zip around it in 14 and 16 Earth-days, respectively. That means they pass very close to each other - less than five times as far apart as our moon is from us. If you've ever been struck by moonrise on a summer night, imagine a world about 12 times as large.
David Aguilar, a space artist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has done us the favor of imagining the scene himself. The result is the conception above.
Which is good, because the two planets are so close to their sun (11-12 million miles, compared to our 93 million) that you wouldn't want to go there yourself.

Syrian government accuses rebels of mass killing

BEIRUT (AP) — An online video showed more than a dozen bloodied corpses, some of them piled atop each other and in military uniforms, dumped beside a road in northern Syria in what the government Friday called a mass killing by rebel forces.
The circumstances of the deaths were not immediately clear, with the state-run news agency saying at least 25 men were killed. In the video — which The Associated Press could not independently verify — the narrator said the victims were members of the "shabiha," or pro-regime gunmen.
If confirmed, the video is yet another sign of the brutality of the Syrian conflict, which began in March 2011. As the fighting grinds on, Syria is descending into a civil war where gunmen prowl the streets and gruesome massacres are growing increasingly common.
The government has used heavy weapons and unleashed snipers and loyalist fighters, but rebels, too, have been accused of bloody attacks.
Civilians have been caught in the crossfire; activists estimate that more than 14,000 people have been killed since the start of the uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime.
In a desperate bid to end the violence after an earlier peace plan failed to do so, U.N. envoy Kofi Annan said that Iran — one of Syria's most loyal allies — should be part of the solution to the conflict.
Syria's state-run news agency, SANA, said the dead found in the rebel-held area of Daret Azzeh near Aleppo were killed and their bodies mutilated by terrorist groups. The government refers to rebels as terrorists.
The amateur video showing the corpses appeared to back up the allegation of a mass killing.
"The terrorist groups in Daret Azzeh committed a brutal massacre against the citizens, whom they had kidnapped earlier in the day," SANA said.
The report said at least 25 people were killed, but others were missing.
It was not clear whether the men were killed execution-style or died in clashes. An activist in the area, Mohammed Saeed, said rebels regularly collect the bodies of the dead from the government side and dump them by the side of the road so troops can collect them later.
The city of Aleppo, Syria's largest, has been relatively quiet, but towns and villages around it have seen intense clashes. Daret Azzeh has endured withering government shelling in the past two weeks as Assad's forces try to regain areas taken by rebels. The violence continued Friday, as Syrian troops shelled the area and used helicopter gunships in their attacks on rebels, Saeed said.
"The army has been trying to push through for days without success," Saeed said.
Government troops have been launching a major offensive on many areas throughout the country in the past two weeks to try to regain ground captured by the opposition. Attacks have mostly concentrated on Aleppo, the suburbs of the capital of Damascus, the central province of Homs, the southern region of Daraa and the eastern city of Deir el-Zour.
Activists reported that thousands of people demonstrated against the regime following Friday prayers in different parts of Syria, including Daraa, Aleppo, the northeastern region of Hassakeh and Damascus. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said troops opened fire at protesters in Aleppo and the Damascus neighborhood of Mazzeh. Several casualties were reported.
The Syrian uprising began with regular anti-regime protests, although they have lost momentum as the revolt turned into an armed insurgency.
An international crisis meeting on Syria set for June 30 is in disarray over the involvement of Iran. The United States has vehemently opposed the participation of Iran, which Russia is demanding.
"I have made it quite clear that I believe Iran should be part of the solution," said Annan, the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria.
Annan told reporters in Geneva it was "time for countries of influence to raise the level of pressure on the parties on the ground." However, he had no specific proposals for changing his six-point peace plan, which he said Syria had not yet implemented but still might support.
"The longer we wait, the darker Syria's future becomes," said Annan, flanked by Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, the head of the struggling U.N. observer mission in Syria.
Western powers are clinging to the Annan plan, in part because there are no other clear options. There is little support for military intervention of the type that helped bring down Libya's Moammar Gadhafi during a 2011 uprising in that country, and several rounds of sanctions and other attempts to isolate Assad have done little to stop the bloodshed.
Mood praised the work of his 300 U.N. monitors, whose mandate ends next month. He conceded, however, that they are now largely confined to bureaucratic tasks and calling Syrians by phone because of dangers on the ground.
"Their commitment to the Syrian people has not faltered," he said. "Whether more observers or arming observers would be relevant to the situation on the ground, I'm far from convinced that that would help the situation on the ground."
The failure of Annan's peace plan has made it more difficult for outside observers, humanitarian workers and supplies to get in, or reliable information to filter out. Syria restricts the movement of journalists, making it hard to confirm accounts from either side.
Also Friday, the Observatory said four senior army officers have defected from the regime. The group provided a video purporting to show two brigadier generals and two colonels who declared they were joining the opposition.
The group said the defections came Thursday — the same day a Syrian fighter pilot flew his MiG-21 warplane to neighboring Jordan, where he was given asylum.
Thousands of soldiers have abandoned the regime, but most are low-level conscripts. The Free Syria Army, the loosely linked group of rebel forces, is made up largely of defectors.
A Turkish warplane went down in Syrian waters on Friday, but Turkey's prime minister said he said he had no "definite information" about whether it was shot down by Syrian forces.
"I cannot say it was downed, without definite information. It is not possible to say that," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a news conference.
Media reports said Syrian forces downed the plane and apologized.
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AP writers Elizabeth A. Kennedy in Beirut, Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankarak, Turkey, and John Heilprin in Geneva contributed to this report.

Israeli air raid on Gaza Strip kills Palestinian: medics

One Palestinian was killed and two wounded, one seriously, on Friday when Israeli warplanes struck east of Al-Bureij in the central Gaza Strip, medics said.
They named the dead man as Basel Ahmad, 29, who was of no known affiliation.
Israeli aircraft "targeted a terrorist squad during preparations to fire a rocket at Israel from the central Gaza Strip. A hit was identified," the military said in a statement.
A second Israel air strike later wounded three Palestinians in the north of Gaza, said Palestinian medical sources. One was seriously wounded and two suffered moderate injuries, they said.
An Israeli army statement said "a plane of the Israeli Air Force targeted a terrorist group in northern Gaza just after the group launched a rocket that hit the Ashkelon region".
Earlier on Friday, Palestinian militants in Gaza fired two rockets that hit southern Israel, without causing casualties or damage.
The violence came despite a tenuous Egyptian-brokered truce between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers that was announced late Wednesday by the Islamists' Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades military wing after a flurry of deadly exchanges in and around the territory.
The latest round of Israeli attacks and Palestinian retaliation began with air strikes Monday morning, just hours after gunmen from Sinai carried out an ambush along Israel's southern border with Egypt, killing an Israeli civilian.
Israel has said that its sudden spike in Gaza operations -- three deadly air raids in just over 12 hours earlier this week -- was "in no way related" to the border incident, with the military saying the air force was targeting militants about to attack the Jewish state.
Since Monday, more than 130 rockets and mortar rounds have been fired at Israel, one of which slammed into a border police post just north of Gaza, wounding four people.
The Hamas military wing said on Thursday that it had fired 120 rockets, a rare show of force from the Islamist group that had previously been observing a de facto truce.

Syria shot down Turkish fighter jet, says Ankara

Turkey said Friday that Syria had shot down a Turkish fighter jet which was reported missing near their border over the eastern Mediterranean earlier in the day.
After a joint search and rescue operation with Syria, "it has been understood that our plane has been struck down by Syria," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a written statement after leading an emergency meeting of top military and government figures.
Erdogan also said "Turkey will announce its final position and take necessary steps with determination after the incident is entirely clarified," without further elaborating on possible retaliatory measures.
The jet had lost radio contact with its base over the eastern Mediterranean near Syria's Latakia, an army statement said earlier.

Obama hits Romney on immigration, vows to seek long-term reform


By Olivier Knox, Yahoo! News | The Ticket – 
President Barack Obama speaks to NALEO (John Raoux/AP)
President Barack Obama told a gathering of Latino officials from around the country on Friday that he would push for comprehensive immigration reform if he wins in November.
Obama, speaking to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) one day after Mitt Romney addressed the group, accused him and Republicans in general of obstructing efforts to overhaul an immigration system that "makes no sense" and is "not good for America."
"And as long as I am president of the United States, I will not give up the fight to change it," he promised.
America needs "immigration reform that finally lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and as a nation of immigrants, and continues the American story of renewal and energy and dynamism that's made us who we are," he said.
The president, whose administration has deported record numbers of undocumented immigrants, highlighted his decision last week to allow an estimated 800,000 people brought to America as children to stay as long as they meet certain criteria."In the face of a Congress that refuses to do anything on immigration, I've said that I'll take action wherever I can. So my administration has been doing what we can, without the help in Congress," he said, describing his new policy as "lifting the shadow of deportation from deserving young people."
"It's not amnesty. It falls short of where we need to be—a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix," Obama said. "But it's precisely because it's temporary, Congress still needs to come up with a long-term immigration solution—rather than argue that we did this the wrong way or for the wrong reasons."
Obama reiterated his support for the Dream Act, legislation to allow undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to remain legally as long as they serve in the military or attend college.
"I've said time and again: Send me the Dream Act; I will sign it right away," he said.
"Your speaker from yesterday has a different view," Obama said, referring to Romney. "In his speech, he said that when he makes a promise to you, he'll keep it. Well, he has promised to veto the Dream Act, and we should take him at his word."
"And I believe that would be a tragic mistake. You do, too."
Romney's speech to NALEO on Thursday included his first detailed description of what he would do on immigration if elected. He called for increasing the number of immigrant visas, for a mandatory employment verification program and for giving undocumented immigrants who serve in the American military a path to legal status. Romney also assailed Obama's move on Friday as a politically motivated stopgap and accused Democrats of taking Latino votes for granted.
"In 2008, candidate Obama promised NALEO he would create new jobs and end the housing crisis," said Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg. "Four years later, President Obama is back asking for more time. On Day One, Mitt Romney will take our country in a new direction and get our economy back on the right track."
Obama's lead over Romney among Latinos—he is expected to carry that group by double digits—has widened in a handful of key states.