Monday, December 28, 2015


Check out this NASA video of Pluto.

  • Here's the NASA press release on it:

    Pluto through a Stained Glass Window: a Movie from the Edge of Our Solar System

    Posted on by .

    Today’s post is written by Alex Parker, a research scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, working on NASA’s New Horizons mission.
    As New Horizons flew by Pluto, it recorded spectacular images of the icy world’s surface using the LORRI and MVIC cameras. It recorded the plasma and dust environments with the PEPSSI, SWAP, and SDC instruments. But one instrument, designed to measure the composition of Pluto and Charon’s surfaces, did something you might not expect: it recorded the first movies from the edge of our solar system.
    Recorded with a 256 x 256 pixel camera at under two frames per second, they are not exactly HDTV. However, they are movies. And they are in color. Sort of.
    The instrument is LEISA, New Horizons’ infrared imaging spectrometer. It is an extremely clever instrument; it takes 2-D images just like a normal camera, but it takes them through a linearly-varying filter. One side of the camera can only see light of one specific wavelength of infrared light (light that has longer wavelengths than can be seen by our eyes), and each row of pixels can see a subtly different wavelength.
    This linear filter allows light with wavelengths as short as 1.25 microns (a micron is one millionth of a meter; human eyes can perceive light with wavelengths as short as 0.39 microns to long as 0.7 microns) to fall on one side of the image sensor, and smoothly changes to allow light with wavelengths as long as 2.5 microns to fall on the far side of image sensor. This wavelength range was selected because many ices and other materials that exist on the surface of Pluto that have spectral features in this wavelength range that can uniquely identify them, like a fingerprint. We use this instrument to map the distribution of these ices and other materials across Pluto and its moons. A second linear filter to one side of the imager is designed to provide a finer measurement of the spectrum in a region of particular interest between wavelengths of 2.1 to 2.25 microns.
    A simplified schematic of the how the LEISA instrument works
    Figure 1: A simplified schematic of the how the LEISA instrument works. As the scene (in this case, Pluto) moves by along the scan direction, the imager records many frames of video in sequence, imaging each part of Pluto though each segment of the linear filter and building up a spectral map of the entire object. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker
    The effect is much like looking through a stained glass window designed for infrared eyes. By scanning this image sensor with its linear filter across a scene and quickly recording many images during the scan (like a movie), LEISA builds up a two-dimensional map of the scene in front of the camera with a measurement of the infrared spectrum (the brightness versus wavelength) at every location in the image. It makes this complex measurement with exactly zero moving parts — highly reliable for deep-space operations.
    The side-effect of collecting this scientifically-important data set, capable of measuring the composition of every location on the surface of Pluto and Charon that is imaged, is that LEISA collected low frame rate infrared color movies of Pluto and Charon as seen by New Horizons during its flyby.

    Pluto Through Stained Glass: A Movie from the Edge of the Solar System. This colorful movie drifting across Pluto by was recorded by New Horizons’ LEISA infrared imaging spectrometer during the July 14 closest approach. The movie has been sped up approximately 17 times from its raw frame rate, and the infrared colors that LEISA sees have been translated into visual colors. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker
    The animation shown here is one such movie collected by New Horizons during its flyby of Pluto. Each pixel is colored to show the relative wavelength of light that each pixel was allowed to see by LEISA’s linear filter. However, since LEISA sees in infrared light, the colors LEISA can see have been re-mapped for this video onto the human visual spectrum — the rainbow. The video has been sped up from its raw frame rate to show the motion smoothly.
    In this animation, Pluto drifts by outside the spacecraft as New Horizons scans LEISA across the surface. As Pluto slides beneath the camera, you can see it nod back and forth from the top of the frame to the bottom — these changes in direction are due to New Horizons thrusters firing during the recording of the movie.
    This is what you would have actually seen if you were on board the New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, looking out at Pluto through a stained glass window with infrared eyes.
    The composition of Pluto makes itself apparent in the animation. Dark bands top-to-bottom correspond to absorption by specific chemicals on the surface of Pluto; many of the bands visible in this view are due to absorption from solid methane ice. However, as some terrains slide by, you can see that they do not become dark under those bands like other terrains; in these areas, the chemical responsible for that absorption is absent.
    The discovery of water ice on Pluto was made using the data in this movie. The discovery of ammonia ice within the informally-named Organa crater was made using data from a similar movie of Charon. The New Horizons composition team is busy analyzing these and other movies taken by the LEISA instrument in order to further understand what the surface of Pluto and Charon are made of and how they might be changing with time.
    But please — just take a moment and imagine you were on board our little robotic emissary to the farthest worlds ever explored, watching Pluto come into view through a colorful window on the side of the spacecraft. Sure, it might not be in HD, but I promise that you’ve never seen anything like this before!

    "Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):

    Monday, January 28, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Ramadi is liberated, or it is if you change the meaning and definition of liberated, even in congratulations Secretary of State John Kerry notes that Ramadi is not liberated, none of the bombings address the root causes of the Islamic State, and much more.

    Ramadi, they say, is liberated.

    As we noted this morning, any announcement of Ramadi being liberated should have come from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.  Instead, it came from the military underscoring how precarious Haider's position actually is.  (It was only weeks ago that US senators, in a public hearing, were wondering how much longer Haider would be able to hold on.)

    Six hours after the military announced 'liberation,' someone thought to toss Haider before the cameras.

    Stephen Kalin and Maher Chmaytelli (REUTERS) report that he declared Ramadi liberated and insisted they would be tackling Mosul in the near future.

    Yet the reporters also write:

    Baghdad has said for months that it would prove its forces' rebuilt capability by rolling back militant advances in Anbar, a mainly Sunni province encompassing the fertile Euphrates River valley from Baghdad's outskirts to the Syrian border. 

    Mosul's not in Anbar.

    Falluja is.

    Supposedly, Falluja is overrun with the Islamic State.

    When the Iraqi government began bombing Falluja in January of 2014, that was the excuse for the bombing -- excuse for the press.  See, there's no excuse for War Crimes.  Bombing Falluja was Collective Punishment which is a legally defined War Crime.

    Those bombings started under then-prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and continue under Haider al-Abadi.

    Again, Falluja is in Anbar Province.

    The distance between Ramadi and Mosul is approximately 202 miles.

    And the distance between Falluja and Ramadi?

    Roughly 28 miles.

    But Haider al-Abadi announced on state TV today that Mosul will be next.

    In all of the years the US has been training the Iraqi military, did no one explain the concept of "clear and hold"?

    Just asking.

    And it's right to ask whether or not Ramadi is liberated.

    While Haider was declaring Ramadi liberated, the AP was reporting:

    In a televised statement, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool initially announced that Ramadi had been "grabbed from the hateful claws" of the Islamic State group and "fully liberated."
    But Gen. Ismail al-Mahlawi, head of military operations in Anbar, quickly clarified that government forces had only retaken a strategic government complex and that parts of the city remained under IS control. IS fighters have retreated from about 70 percent of city, but still control the rest; government forces still don't fully control many of the districts from which the IS fighters have retreated.

    And Matt Bradley and Ghassan Adnan (WALL ST. JOURNAL) reported:

    Despite the Iraqi military’s assertion that it was in control of the center and government compound and thus had liberated the city, Al-Sumeria, an Iraqi newspaper, estimated Monday that Islamic State still controlled about 20% of Ramadi, while 25% was contested.
    About 50% of the city was held by security forces, it said, based on its reporters’ visits to the city.

    And IRAQI SPRING MC reported Anbar Provincial Council was also stating Ramadi had only been 80% liberated.

    You are an unruly translucent
    A dirty windshield with a shifting view
    So many cunning running landscapes
    For my dented door to open into
    I just wanna tune out all the billboards
    Weld myself a mental shield
    I just wanna put down all the pressures
    And feel how i really feel

    Just show me a moment that is mine
    Its beauty blinding and unsurpassed
    Make me forget every moment that went by
    And left me so half-hearted
    Cuz i felt it so half-assed

    -- "Half-Assed" written by Ani DiFranco, first appears on her REPRIEVE


    Once upon a time to claim you had control of a city, you'd have to have, well, you know, control.

    But in these days of "Here's a trophy for everyone! We're all winners!" you apparently no longer have to control a city to insist that you do.

    When the press goes along with a lie -- and AP, THE WALL ST. JOURNAL and IRAQI SPRING MC are the exception to the non-stop lying since most outlets and Tweeters can't stop insisting that Ramadi is liberated -- it's because the government's going along with the lie.

    While the Iraqi government is going along with the lie, the US government wasn't so quick to hop in bed with the lie as evidenced by this statement the US State Dept issued:

    Press Statement
    John Kerry
    Washington, DC
    December 28, 2015
    We commend the Government of Iraq and the brave Iraqi forces that are displaying tremendous perseverance and courage in this fight to return the capital of Anbar province back to the Iraqi people. The Iraqi military is fighting with determination, courage, and skill to dislodge the enemy and bring closer the day when the city can be returned to families who have fled the terror of ISIL. The United States and the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL have proudly supported this effort with training, advice, and equipment, as well as precision airstrikes. That support will continue as the mission in Ramadi is completed and we prepare for post-conflict stabilization.
    As soon as Ramadi fell to ISIL last May, Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi developed a comprehensive plan for a counter-offensive. The Coalition met in Paris in early June, where Prime Minister al-Abadi presented his plan, and over a dozen coalition partners answered the call to support it, through training, advising, logistics, and stabilization support. The gains we saw today are a tribute to the prime minister’s strong leadership and his belief in a unified Iraq for all its citizens.
    While Ramadi is not yet fully secure and additional parts of the city still must be retaken, Iraq's national flag now flies above the provincial government center and enemy forces have suffered a major defeat. These gains attest to the growing confidence and capability of Iraqi forces who are fighting bravely against a ruthless adversary employing suicide bombers, snipers, and improvised explosive devices. We honor those among the Iraqi ranks who have made the ultimate sacrifice during this painstaking operation, and wish a speedy recovery to the wounded. We will continue to support Iraq and its security forces as they complete their work in Ramadi and move to liberate the entire country from ISIL terrorists.
    Dislodging ISIL from areas it has occupied is a central part of Iraq’s security strategy, but it is also vital to rebuild and stabilize the areas that have been liberated. In Ramadi, these efforts will be led by the Iraqi government and coordinated on the ground by Anbar Governor Sohaib al-Rawi and his team. The United States and members of the Coalition have pledged or contributed over $50 million to the UNDP stabilization fund to support these efforts. The stabilization process will be supported by thousands of local police and tribal forces, many of whom have been trained by the Coalition.
    ISIL’s defeat in Ramadi is not an isolated event. It comes after losses this year in Tikrit, Baiji, Sinjar, and across northern Syria. Working with our Iraqi and Syrian partners, the United States and our Coalition will continue to apply relentless pressure and squeeze this barbaric terrorist group across all lines of effort. We will also continue to pursue diplomatic initiatives in Syria aimed at further isolating ISIL and contributing to its ultimate defeat. ‎

    "As the mission is completed," "not yet fully secure and additional parts of the city still must be retaken . . ."

    Let's take a look at  some of the 'reports' from the Judith Miller wing of Twitter:

    Iraqi forces liberate Ramadi from IS after weeklong battle: Iraqi forces announced on Monday that they had lib...

    See iraqi soldiers liberate the city of ramadi from isis

    military liberates - flies national flag.

    Developing now: Iraqi forces scoring a MAJOR victory in city of Ramadi - reports for us now

    Hey, if Fox News said it, it must be . . . suspect.
    And let's note the Judith Miller wing also includes 'reporters' for news outlets who bury the truth -- as did Miller (see "Parody: Rudith Miller" where we noted the way she 'reported' which included burying dissenting voices and facts deep in the article).
    If you look closely,  the bulk of the outlets are lying.
    Lying by emphasis, lying by silence.
    It's not that hard to tell the truth.
    Hell, even  State Dept spokesperson Mark Toner did in today's State Dept press briefing:

    Also, of course, all of you have seen in the news today, but I wanted to note events in Ramadi and the fact that we commend, rather, the Government of Iraq and the brave Iraqi forces that have displayed such tremendous perseverance as well as courage in the fight to return Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, back to the Iraqi people. The coalition has supported this operation every step of the way with hundreds of airstrikes and through our train, advise, and assist program and has assisted Iraqi forces to effectively maneuver and counter ISIL’s maneuvers and tactics in this very complex environment.
    While there’s still clearly a lot of work to be done to reclaim all of Ramadi – the remaining portions of Ramadi – and fully secure the city, and while these operations will take time, Iraqis’ forces gains in the city are dealing a significant blow to ISIL and exemplify the capability of Iraqi Security Forces and the effective coalition air power when working in conjunction with skilled partners on the ground. We think this is indicative of the – that the strategy we’re currently pursuing is having an effect. It is consistent with our national security interests. In order to address this problem over the long term, we need to build up the capacity of Iraqi forces who continue to battle to take back their country from the – from this barbaric organization.
    Paul McLeary makes an ass out of himself at FOREIGN POLICY because he rushes to 'impart' lessons following the 'victory.'  Next time, before the lecture on what will come, maybe he can take a little time to find out what has actually happened?

    McLeary sees the issue of post-liberation in Ramadi to be one of Sunni troops in the city.

    Sunni troops were in the city.

    That didn't stop the Islamic State from getting its toehold in Iraq.

    It got its toehold because Sunnis are persecuted by the central government out of Baghdad.

    They were persecuted when Nouri al-Maliki was prime minister and they are persecuted today.

    Before the Islamic State began seizing territory, this was known if you bothered to look.

    We stated here that this would happen.

    It started in 2010 when the US overruled Iraqi voters and Barack Obama -- via The Erbil Agreement -- gave Nouri a second term when he lost the 2010 elections.

    Nouri used The Erbil Agreement to get the second term but refused to honor it.

    Iraqiya (led by Shi'ite Ayad Allawi), the Kurds, the Sunnis (Saleh al-Mutlaq, Osama al-Nujaifi, etc), Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr came together to tell Nouri that if he didn't honor the agreement they would hold a no-confidence vote in the Parliament.

    The Iraqi voters -- including a large number of Sunnis -- voted to evict Nouri.

    And the US government overruled them.

    Their political leaders attempted to reign Nouri in and the US government used Jalal Talabani to derail the vote.

    You've stripped people of their vote, you've rendered their political leaders powerless.

    What' left?

    Taking to the streets.

    December 21st, 2012,  a wave or protests were launched -- protests which would go on through January of 2014 -- ended only by Nouri's attacks on the peaceful protesters  Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) explained the reasons for the protests back in February 2013:

    Protests are raging throughout Iraq...thousands upon thousands are demanding the following :

    - End of Sectarian Shia rule
    - the re-writing of the Iraqi constitution (drafted by the Americans and Iranians)
    - the end to arbitrary killings and detention, rape and torture of all detainees on basis of sect alone and their release
    - the end of discriminatory policies in employment, education, etc based on sect
    - the provision of government services to all
    - the end of corruption
    - no division between Shias and Sunnis, a one Islam for all Iraqi Muslims and a one Iraq for all Iraqis.

    The protests in Anbar, Fallujah, Sammara, Baquba,  Tikrit, Kirkuk, Mosul...and in different parts of Baghdad stress over and over 1) the spontaneous nature of the "popular revolution against oppression and injustice" 2) its peaceful nature  i.e unarmed  3) the welcoming of ALL to join the protests regardless of sect or ethnicity as ONE Iraqi people and 4) and the March to Baghdad.

    Despite the repeat attacks on the protesters, they stayed in the streets protesting.  The most infamous attack was the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported 53 dead -- indicating that some of the wounded did not recover. UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

    Where was your outrage then, ye who cluck and clutch the pearls over the Islamic State today and pretend that was the starting point and not a response to an abusive government?

    Of course, admitting that fact would be owning your own guilt for refusing to call out Nouri's government in real time when it mattered.

    Some of us did.

    In August of 2013, the International Crisis Group issued "Make or Break: Iraq’s Sunnis and the State:"

    As events in Syria nurtured their hopes for a political comeback, Sunni Arabs launched an unprecedented, peaceful protest movement in late 2012 in response to the arrest of bodyguards of Rafea al-Issawi, a prominent Iraqiya member. It too failed to provide answers to accumulated grievances. Instead, the demonstrations and the repression to which they gave rise further exacerbated the sense of exclusion and persecution among Sunnis.
    The government initially chose a lacklustre, technical response, forming committees to unilaterally address protesters’ demands, shunning direct negotiations and tightening security measures in Sunni-populated areas. Half-hearted, belated concessions exacerbated distrust and empowered more radical factions. After a four-month stalemate, the crisis escalated. On 23 April, government forces raided a protest camp in the city of Hawija, in Kirkuk province, killing over 50 and injuring 110. This sparked a wave of violence exceeding anything witnessed for five years. Attacks against security forces and, more ominously, civilians have revived fears of a return to all-out civil strife. The Islamic State of Iraq, al-Qaeda’s local expression, is resurgent. Shiite militias have responded against Sunnis. The government’s seeming intent to address a chiefly political issue – Sunni Arab representation in Baghdad – through tougher security measures has every chance of worsening the situation.
    Belittled, demonised and increasingly subject to a central government crackdown, the popular movement is slowly mutating into an armed struggle. In this respect, the absence of a unified Sunni leadership – to which Baghdad’s policies contributed and which Maliki might have perceived as an asset – has turned out to be a serious liability. In a showdown that is acquiring increasing sectarian undertones, the movement’s proponents look westward to Syria as the arena in which the fight against the Iraqi government and its Shiite allies will play out and eastward toward Iran as the source of all their ills.
    Under intensifying pressure from government forces and with dwindling faith in a political solution, many Sunni Arabs have concluded their only realistic option is a violent conflict increasingly framed in confessional terms. In turn, the government conveniently dismisses all opposition as a sectarian insurgency that warrants ever more stringent security measures. In the absence of a dramatic shift in approach, Iraq’s fragile polity risks breaking down, a victim of the combustible mix of its long­standing flaws and growing regional tensions.

    Anthony H. Cordesman and Sam Khazi (CSIS) noted in May of 2013:

    Iraq’s main threats, however, are self-inflicted wounds caused by its political leaders. The 2010 Iraqi elections and the ensuing political crisis divided the nation. Rather than create any form of stable democracy, the fallout pushed Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki to consolidate power and become steadily more authoritarian. Other Shi’ite leaders contributed to Iraq’s increasing sectarian and ethnic polarization – as did key Sunni and Kurdish leaders.
    Since that time, a brutal power struggle has taken place between Maliki and senior Sunni leaders, and ethnic tensions have grown between the Arab dominated central government and senior Kurdish leaders in the Kurdish Regional government (KRG). The actions of Iraq’s top political leaders have led to a steady rise in Sunni and Shi’ite violence accelerated by the spillover of the extremism caused by the Syrian civil war. This has led to a level of Shi’ite and Sunni violence that now threatens to explode into a level of civil conflict equal to – or higher than – the one that existed during the worst period of the U.S. occupation.
    This struggle has been fueled by actions of the Iraqi government that many reliable sources indicate have included broad national abuses of human rights and the misuse of Iraqi forces and the Iraqi security services in ways where the resulting repression and discrimination has empowered al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. As a result, the very forces that should help bring security and stability have become part of the threat further destabilized Iraq.

    I'm real sorry that so many didn't give a damn when it mattered.

    I'm real sorry that liars like Robin Morgan -- a figure noted for her anti-Arab views for decades now -- gets to declare war on the Sunnis as she rewrites history and WOMEN'S MEDIA CENTER -- with its diverse board that includes women of all walks of life . . . except . . . Arab women -- let's her get away with it.

    I'm sorry that so many are not only encouraged to be dumb but make the choice to be ignorant and pretend like the Islamic State sprouted for no reason.

    It was a response to the persecution of Sunnis.

    No one else stepped forward.

    The US government tolerated Nouri and his attacks on the Sunnis.

    If you are saying you were surprised that the Islamic State emerged, you're an either an idiot or a liar.

    And until the world can grasp why the Islamic State emerged, they can't fight it.

    You can bomb and you can shoot, but you won't destroy it because you haven't addressed the core problems that allowed this response to emerge.

     In other violence, the US Defense Dept announced:

    Strikes in Iraq
    Coalition forces used rocket artillery, along with fighter, attack, bomber, and remotely piloted aircraft to conduct 21 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:
    -- Near Baghdadi, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL weapons cache.
    -- Near Fallujah, a strike struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL building and an ISIL bunker.
    -- Near Kisik, three strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL bulldozer.
    -- Near Mosul, eight strikes struck six separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed three ISIL vehicles, six ISIL fighting positons, an ISIL heavy machine gun, an ISIL checkpoint, and an ISIL tactical vehicle.
    -- Near Ramadi, three strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units, denied ISIL access to terrain, wounded 12 ISIL fighters, and destroyed seven ISIL heavy machine guns, two ISIL rocket-propelled grenade positions, an ISIL bulldozer, two ISIL buildings, an ISIL staging area and an ISIL vehicle bomb staging area.
    -- Near Sinjar, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position.
    -- Near Sultan Abdallah, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed three ISIL fighting positions.
    -- Near Tal Afar, three strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL vehicle and an ISIL assembly area.

    Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is a strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.