When a Sea Disappears – Big Picture’s posterous

Have you ever wanted to walk across the bottom of the river, lake or ocean 
to see all the ships that have sunk?  Well…. The Aral Sea was once the world’s fourth-largest
 saline body of water. It has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s, after the rivers that fed it were diverted by the Soviet Union irrigation projects. And now it’s almost gone leaving a desert full of old sunken boats. 


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The 100-year-old marathoner snubbed by Guinness World Records – The Week

The 100-year-old marathoner snubbed by Guinness World Records

Centenarian Fauja Singh completes the Toronto marathon, but the record keepers say he doesn’t have adequate proof of his wise, old age

Centenarian Fauja Singh may have impressed the world when he completed the Toronto marathon earlier this month, but Guinness World Records won't officially acknowledge his feat.

Centenarian Fauja Singh may have impressed the world when he completed the Toronto marathon earlier this month, but Guinness World Records won’t officially acknowledge his feat. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images SEE ALL 97 PHOTOS

Hearts were warmed around the world earlier this month when Britain’s Fauja Singh, 100, became the oldest man ever to complete a full marathon. On October 16, Singh finished the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in eight hours, 25 minutes and 16 seconds. It was one for the record books, or so it seemed. Now, Guinness World Records is refusing to recognize Singh’s feat because he can’t produce his birth certificate from 1911. Here, a brief guide to the sporting world’s birther scandal:

Who is Fauja Singh?
After his finish in the Toronto marathon, the 100-year-old east Londoner began claiming the title of world’s oldest marathoner. As a younger man, Singh earned a place in Guinness World Records’ “over 90” category for finishing the 2003 Toronto marathon in five hours and 40 minutes. (The organization says that record isn’t ratified either.) Singh has lived in the U.K. since 1992. He previously worked as a farmer in Punjab. In recent years, he’s appeared in the Adidas “Nothing is Impossible” campaign. He has completed ten marathons.

What proof is Guinness demanding?
The organization requires Singh’s 1911 birth certificate from India. Singh’s trainer, Harmandar Singh, who acts as a spokesperson for the runner because Singh doesn’t speak English, has said that such documents weren’t available at the time. “In the developing countries, their standards simply aren’t up to western standards,” he says. In lieu of a birth certificate, Singh has offered his passport and a letter from the Queen wishing him a happy 100th birthday. The record keepers say that just won’t do. “We would love to give him the record,” says Craig Glenday, Guinness World Records’ editor-in-chief. “The problem is there is just no evidence.” “Come on! Just… look at him!” exclaims Mark Remy at Runner’s World. “He’s gotta be 100 years old! At least! Did you not see the man’s beard?”

Has Singh’s passport been enough proof for other organizations?
Yes. The World Masters Athletics website accepts the passport as proof. Singh’s 2003 marathon is listed on the site. There are also claims that Singh holds the U.K. records for his age group at various short distances, from 200 meters to 3,000 meters, but the British Master Athletics says they’re not official records because official timekeepers were not present.

How long has he been running?
Not long. When his wife and son died 11 years ago, Singh took up competitive running and decided to pursue a world record so as not to wallow in his grief. He credits running, his vegetarian diet, and his stress-free existence for his long life. “I won’t stop running until I die,” he says.

Cereal Box [INFOGRAPHIC] – e-Strategy After Hours

5-0: India Triumph in Blistering Style against England

M (IST)  

5-0: India Triumph in Blistering Style against England


By Denzil Fernandes
Daijiworld Media Network

Kolkata, Oct 26: Wow ! What an emphatic performance !!  The Indian cricket team looking as fresh as a flower stunned the visiting England team with a complete 5-0 whitewash in the one day series.
World champions India won by a convincing 95 runs in the fifth and final one day international in great style at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.  The Indians never allowed the visitors to take control and the manner in which the youngsters relished  the wins showed that there is enough in store for our boys to excel.

England did not  win even a single match in the 5 matches played and the last contest in Kolkata too went India’s way.  One expected the English pacers to knock the stuff out of the gutsy Indians at least in Kolkata.  But skipper Dhoni and his boys had other plans.  Batting first after losing the toss in Kolkata, India played well in patches and one felt that the last match in the series would go England’s way.  But with skipper Dhoni  at the crease, there was murder in the air.  Playing like a man with a mission, Dhoni hammered an unbeaten 75 runs from 69 balls and ran away with the ‘Man of the Series’ win that gave him a car and Indian Rupees 2,50,000 instantly.  Dhoni remained unbeaten throughout the series and won the award after winning it in England also earlier.  At one stage, India were 123 runs for the loss of 4 wickets but with Dhoni in command, he smashed 84 runs in the last 8 overs including 39 runs in the last 2 overs.  India ended at 271 off 8 wickets after the run riot by in the last 8 overs.

England openers did not look back and both skipper Cook and Kieswetter went about with 129 runs on the board by the end of 21 overs.  Both the openers were well ahead of the run rate and knocked up half centuries and also recorded their best partnership in the series.  However, disaster struck with India pacer Aaron knocking Cook’s stump after the opener had made an impressive 60 runs off 61 balls.  There was more trouble for England as ‘Man of the Match’ Ravinder Jadeja sent back Kieswetter quickly after Cook had gone. 

What one saw was a procession with England losing all their wickets for a meager 47 runs and losing the match meekly.  From 129 without loss England folded for 176 runs in 36 overs.  Most of the damage was done by spinner Jadeja (4 wickets for 33 runs in 8 overs) and Ashwin who took 3 wickets for 28 runs in in nine overs.  Even part time spinners Raina and Manoj Tiwary had England in all sorts of trouble and curtailing the runs.  Interestingly, England spinners Samit Patel (18) and Graeme Swann (10 not out) were among the runs while the top order flopped.

Ravi Bopara was a total flop for England in the series while they also missed the services of pacers Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson who were left behind in England.  For India, Ravinder Jadeja showed his class with an all round performance in almost all the matches in the series.  Skipper Dhoni was in great form and aptly proved to be one of the most dangerous finishers in the game with his clinical hitting and purposeful batting.  This apart, he led his young players in great fashion and one never felt the absence of the senior players who were missing from the India team.

There is no doubt that the youngsters have now proved to the selectors that they cannot be ignored in the future matches.  With a stock of so many promising performers it augurs well for the Indian team in their future matches.

For India, youngsters like Ajinkya Rahane, Ravinder Jadeja, Ashwin, Virhat Kohli, Aaron, Raina and others performed brilliantly in the Indian triumph.

One of the strange sights at the Eden Gardens was the poor turnout of the spectators.  Probably since the series was decided, most of the cricket lovers preferred to stay away.  Diwali celebrations too might have played a part in the poor attendance at the famous venue.

An overjoyed Dhoni could not hide his feelings and appreciated the efforts of his boys.  He however said that the pacers should improve their fielding if they intend to remain in the side for long.    But for now, the boys will be over the moon with such a fine showing and will be more than confident to beat any opposition especially on home soil. 

Coinciding with the diwali celebrations, the firecrackers were all over the place in Kolkata.  With the Indians in their element with such fireworks on the field against England, there could not be a sweeter time than the festival of lights to herald India’s overwhelming superiority agains the visiting England team.  What a sweet series win for India indeed.

The daily deal divide: How merchants are getting a raw deal [infographic] – Holy Kaw!

Skeptics Catching Up on Climate Science : Discovery News


There really wasn’t any doubt.

Evidence that Earth is warming is based on three sets of temperature readings. One set is maintained by NASA, one by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and one by a collaborative effort between Britain’s Meteorological Office and the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, a dataset generally referred to as HadCRU. All of them have painted essentially the same picture: a global temperature increase over land of slightly under 1 degree C (1.8 F) over the past century.

Gov. Perry Inquisitor of Climate Change

But, as we know, not everybody has been willing to accept that evidence. One of those who has been most visibly (or audibly) vocal in his skepticism has been UC Berkeley professor Richard Muller. Muller has claimed erroneously that the famous ‘hockey stick’ graph showing temperature increases derives from a mathematical error (the graph has in fact been endorsed in a review by the National Academy of Sciences). He also fabricated criticisms by others of Al Gore, misrepresenting Gore’s statements in the process. And he helped perpetuate some of the inaccuracies and misstatements that helped flame ‘Climategate’.

So the announcement earlier this year that Muller would be co-chair of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) study, which would use statistical analysis “to resolve current criticism of the [global] temperature analyses, and to prepare an open record that will allow rapid response to further criticism or suggestions,” was greeted with some cynicism, particularly given that the study was being heavily underwritten by the Koch Brothers, serial funders of climate deniers.

THE DISCOVERNATOR: Amazing Facts Served Up Hot

But evidence is evidence, and facts are facts, and the BEST team’s first four papers, submitted for peer review but meanwhile published online, have concluded that … well, global land temperatures have increased by about 1 degree Celsius. In fact, the BEST study yielded a temperature increase just two percent less than NOAA’s estimate.

In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Muller wrote that:

When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find. Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that. They managed to avoid bias in their data selection, homogenization and other corrections. Global warming is real. Perhaps our results will help cool this portion of the climate debate. [Emphasis added]

(Of course, anyone who has actually followed climate science, rather than skeptic blogs about climate science, will have found the sentences in bold far less surprising than Muller and his team apparently did.)

Climate Quitters: Sorry You Lose

As for whether this might cool the debate: well, probably not. The study monitors temperature increases, and does not address the cause of those increases. As Kevin Drum noted in Mother Jones: “So in one sense, its impact is limited since the smarter skeptics have already abandoned the idea that warming is a hoax and now focus their fire solely on the contention that it’s man-made. (And the even smarter ones have given up on that, too, and now merely argue that it’s economically pointless to try to stop it.)”

Indeed, James Delingpole in the Daily Telegraph attempted to argue that, “it has been a truth long acknowledged by climate skeptics, deniers and realists of every conceivable hue that since the mid-19th century, the planet has been on a warming trend.” Never mind that, just two years ago, skeptics were assailing the very foundations of climate science or that many were arguing the existence of “global cooling” based on the fallacious claim that there has been no warming since 1998 – which was in fact the headline of a blog Delingpole posted less than four months ago. And some of the BEST research was designed specifically to test two particularly persistent skeptic claims: that some temperature stations produce anomalously high readings, and that the “urban heat island effect” distorts the temperature record.

No matter. Skeptics will continue to marshal their arguments and say one thing. The evidence – mountains of it, and growing all the time – will continue to say something else entirely.

Image by Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) Study.

The Hindu : News / International : Concern as China mulls over anti-terror laws

Chinese lawmakers have this week begun discussing a landmark draft law on anti-terrorism, which has been welcomed by security officials as boosting counterterrorism efforts but has also evoked concern among legal experts about civil rights.

The draft bill, expected to be passed this week during the bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s legislature, will “pave the way for further crackdowns on terrorism”, said the state-run Xinhua news agency on Tuesday.

The law would address the “lack of clear definitions” under the current criminal law to prosecute terrorism-related cases, which had “direct, adverse effects” on China’s counterterrorism battle, said Yang Huanning, the Vice-Minister of Public Security. “China is faced with the real threat of terrorist activities, and the struggle with terrorism is long-term, complicated and acute,” he told the NPC.

China’s criminal law, which mandates three to 10 years of imprisonment for those found to have organised or participated in terrorist organisations, has been used to convict more than 7,000 people since the September 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S. after China intensified its efforts against the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism and religious extremism.

The law, however, gave “no concrete definitions of terrorist acts, terrorist organisations or terrorists”, Mr. Yang’s report to the NPC acknowledged, Xinhua reported. He said the absence of a clear law had also hindered China’s ability to cooperate on international counter-terrorism efforts. While officials say the absence of a clear law has posed barriers to terror crackdowns, rights activists argue that the absence of clear definitions has also led to convictions on less-than-concrete charges.

The new draft bill defines terrorist acts “as those acts which are intended to induce public fear or to coerce state organs or international organisations by means of violence, sabotage, threats or other tactics”.

The bill says the list of terrorist organisations and terrorists will be made public. It also includes a provision to freeze the funds and assets of terrorist organisations and terrorists when their names are made public.

The bill was welcomed by Chinese security experts. Pan Zhiping, a counterterrorism expert at Xinjiang University, told The Hindu that the law was a positive development because China “did not have a law to guarantee its actions in anti-terrorism before”.

He said it would also provide more solid ground for China to cooperate on international counterterrorism efforts. “China and India both have long been plagued by terrorism and the two countries have mutual interest in this area,” he said.

“The absence of a definition of terrorist activities in the current criminal law cannot meet the practical needs of anti-terrorism work,” added Li Wei, director of counter-terrorism research centre of the state-run China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), in an interview with the official China Daily. “The draft is a good beginning, but it is far from enough.”

Nicholas Bequelin, a senior researcher in Human Rights Watch focusing on China, told The Hindu the prospect of a terrorism law raised a series of concerns, particularly because of a lack of independence in China’s judicial system.

“Strengthening law enforcement powers without appropriate judicial checks and balances is dangerous,” he said.

A key issue, he added, was “how organisations or individuals are designated as terrorists, by whom and on what basis, and whether such classification would be challengeable”.