Suu Kyi meets breakaway opposition leaders

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi met today with former colleagues who disagreed with her election boycott and formed a new party to fight the controversial poll, the breakaway group said.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition leader.

The one-hour meeting between Suu Kyi and three leaders of the National Democratic Force (NDF) was her first with the group since her release from house arrest days just after the November vote. “It was just a personal meeting. We didn’t talk out politics. We will meet again,” NDF leader Khin Maung Swe said.

The NDF was formed by senior members of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), which was disbanded for boycotting the poll. The breakaway group won 16 seats in the election after fielding 161 candidates but has complained of widespread fraud by the junta-backed party, which has claimed an overwhelming victory.

Advertisements

‘Serious’ terror threat in Mumbai; police hunt four suspected militants

A police official in Mumbai has warned four suspected militants of Pakistani origin have entered the city, the capital of Maharashtra, India, and claims they are plotting attacks in the city. Police are now searching for the four people, thought to be members of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Islamic fundamentalist militant group the Indian government holds responsible for the coordinated attacks which hit Mumbai in 2008. Joint police commissioner Himanshu Roy says intelligence suggests “the threat is serious.”

Ajmal Amir Kasab in the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus during the 2008 Mumbai attacks

A United States counter-terrorism official said the attacks are likely imminent, and will occur over the Christmas and New Year period. “There’s no question LeT remains interested in pulling off another large-scale attack in India,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, “and we are alert to the possibility that LeT might again try a holiday attack.”

Speaking at a press conference, Roy said “[t]hey have recently arrived in Mumbai. We are not in a position to reveal their nationalities now but they are LeT members.”

Armed police have been posted around high-profile destinations in the city, and roads around the Taj Mahal Palace hotel—seiged by militants in the 2008 attacks—have been closed. Police have released a sketch of one of the militants believed to be in the city.

“The police [are] on high alert all over the city. We cannot take any of these intelligence inputs lightly in the holiday season,” another Mumbai official said. “Since yesterday, we are checking all the possible hideouts, small lodges and guesthouses, railway stations. We are checking all the vehicles that are coming into the city.”

166 people died and hundreds more were injured in the 2008 attacks, in which multiple gunmen attacked the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station, a hospital, a police station, and numerous hotels, amongst other sites. The attacks were dubbed “India’s 9/11” by local media. Only one militant survived the attacks, Ajmal Amir Kasab; in May this year he was sentenced to death by hanging, on 86 charges, including murder, terrorism, and waging war against India.

Pope condemns ‘oppressors’ in Christmas message

(PTI): Pope Benedict XVI prayed for God to punish the world’s “oppressors” and bring about “true brotherhood” between peoples in his traditional Christmas message in Saint Peter’s basilica.

Pope Benedictus XVI

Lord make your promise come finally true. Break the rods of the oppressors. Burn the tramping boots. Let the time of the garments rolled in blood come to an end,” Benedict said at the Christmas Eve mass in the basilica.

Referring to the birth of Jesus Christ, celebrated by believers at Christmas, he added: “This child has ignited the light of goodness in men and has given them strength to overcome the tyranny of might.

“We thank you for your goodness, but we also ask you to show forth your power,” said the pope, who was speaking exactly one year after a mentally unstable Swiss-Italian woman dragged him to the ground at the same mass.

UN probing allegations US is ‘torturing’ soldier over leaks

The United Nations is reportedly beginning an investigation into claims that Pfc. Bradley Manning is being “tortured.” Manning was arrested in May, after allegedly leaking over 250,000 classified diplomatic cables to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

Bradley E. Manning

Last week, it was announced that supporters for Manning lodged a complaint with the Office of The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland, saying that the conditions of his cell and the treatment he is receiving, amount to “torture.” According to Salon, Manning is not allowed to exercise, is denied bed sheets and pillows, and has been held in solitary confinement for 23 hours of every day since his arrest. According to Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, a former United States Army major, and veteran of the Iraq War, Manning is only allowed to walk in a small room for exercise.

“[Manning is] taken to an empty room and only allowed to walk, normally just walks figure eights in the room. If he indicates that he no long feels like walking, he is immediately returned to his cell,” stated Coombs to Salon.

The Pentagon denies that Manning is being tortured, saying he is being treated “fairly. We’ve been reviewed … No concerns have been voiced from a (Department of Defense) perspective.”

Cassini Marks Holidays With Dramatic Views of Rhea

PASADENA, Calif. – Newly released for the holidays, images of Saturn’s second largest moon Rhea obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft show dramatic views of fractures cutting through craters on the moon’s surface, revealing a history of tectonic rumbling. The images are among the highest-resolution views ever obtained of Rhea.

Hemispheric color differences on Saturn's moon Rhea are apparent in this false-color view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL/SSI

“These recent, high-resolution Cassini images help us put Saturn’s moon in the context of the moons’ geological family tree,” said Paul Helfenstein, Cassini imaging team associate, based at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. “Since NASA’s Voyager mission visited Saturn, scientists have thought of Rhea and Dione as close cousins, with some differences in size and density. The new images show us they’re more like fraternal twins, where the resemblance is more than skin deep. This probably comes from their nearness to each other in orbit.”

Cassini scientists designed the March 2010 and November 2009 encounters in part to search for a ring thought to encircle the moon. During the March flyby, Cassini made its closest- approach to Rhea’s surface so far, swooping within 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the moon. Based on these observations, however, scientists have since discounted the possibility that Rhea might currently have a faint ring above its equator.

Wispy fractures cut through cratered terrain on Saturn's moon Rhea in this high resolution, 3-D image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL/SSI

These flybys nonetheless yielded unique views of other features on the moon, including ones that are among the best ever obtained of the side of Rhea that always faces away from Saturn. Other views show a web of bright, “wispy” fractures resembling some that were first spotted on another part of Rhea by the two Voyager spacecraft in 1980 and 1981.

At that time, scientists thought the wispy markings on the trailing hemispheres – the sides of moons that face backward in the orbit around a planet – of Rhea and the neighboring moon Dione were possible cryovolcanic deposits, or the residue of icy material erupting. The low resolution of Voyager images prevented a closer inspection of these regions. Since July 2004, Cassini’s imaging cameras have captured pictures the trailing hemispheres of both satellites several times at much higher resolution. The images have shown that the wispy markings are actually exposures of bright ice along the steep walls of long scarps, or lines of cliffs, that indicate tectonic activity produced the features rather than cryovolcanism.

Icy fractures on Saturn's moon Rhea reflect sunlight brightly in this high-resolution mosaic created from images captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its March 2, 2010, flyby. Image credit: NASA/JPL/SSI

Data collected by Cassini’s imaging cameras in November 2009 showed the trailing hemisphere at unprecedented resolution. Scientists combined images taken about one hour apart to create a 3-D image of this terrain, revealing a set of closely spaced troughs that sometimes look linear and sometimes look sinuous. The 3-D image also shows uplifted blocks interspersed through the terrain that cut through older, densely cratered plains. While the densely cratered plains imply that Rhea has not experienced much internal activity since its early history that would have repaved the moon, these imaging data suggest that some regions have ruptured in response to tectonic stress more recently. Troughs and other fault topography cut through the two largest craters in the scene, which are not as scarred with smaller craters, indicating that these craters are comparatively young. In some places, material has moved downslope along the scarps and accumulated on the flatter floors.

A mosaic of the March flyby images shows bright, icy fractures cutting across the surface of the moon, sometimes at right angles to each other. A false-color view of the entire disk of the moon’s Saturn-facing side reveals a slightly bluer area, likely related to different surface compositions or to different sizes and fine-scale textures of the grains making up the moon’s icy soil.

This global digital map of Saturn's moon Rhea was created using data obtained by NASA's Cassini and Voyager spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL/SSI

The new images have also helped to enhance maps of Rhea, including the first cartographic atlas of features on the moon complete with names approved by the International Astronomical Union. Thanks to the recent mission extension, Cassini will continue to chart the terrain of this and other Saturnian moons with ever-improving resolution, especially for terrain at high northern latitudes, until 2017.

“The 11th of January 2011 will be especially exciting, when Cassini flies just 76 kilometers [47 miles] above the surface of Rhea,” said Thomas Roatsch, a Cassini imaging team scientist based at the German Aerospace Center Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin. “These will be by far the best images we’ve ever had of Rhea’s surface – details down to just a few meters will become recognizable.”

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

%d bloggers like this: