Minivan shooting: N.M. officer fired, plans to appeal

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TAOS, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Susana Martinez says she supports a decision by New Mexico State Police to fire an officer who shot at a minivan full of children during a chaotic October traffic stop.
 
Martinez said Monday the actions of Officer Elias Montoya were unacceptable and he should not have used deadly force.
 
No one was hurt in the shooting.
 
Montoya was fired Friday following an internal investigation and a disciplinary hearing. His attorneys say he plans to appeal.
 
Video from a police cruiser's dashboard camera taken during the Oct. 28 traffic stop showed Montoya shooting at the minivan as the female motorist drove away from a traffic stop after an officer knocked out her van's window with a baton.
 
The motorist, 39-year-old Oriana Farrell, had been stopped by another officer for suspicion on speeding. Authorities said she fled twice, and at one point led police on a high-speed chase through part of Taos.

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Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Domestic violence charges against ‘127 Hours’ amputee dismissed

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Read Time:1 Minute, 39 Second
Aron Ralston, who became famous for amputating his forearm in an ordeal portrayed in the film 127 Hours, was jailed following a weekend domestic dispute with his girlfriend in Colorado. Denver authorities dismissed assault charges against him Monday.
 
Ralston, and girlfriend Vita Shannon, both 38, were arrested and jailed Sunday for domestic violence and "wrongs to minors" after Shannon allegedly struck Ralston and he shoved her. Charging documents say they were arguing. The couple have an 8-week-old daughter who was at the couple's home.
 
Shannon still faces two charges and a third charge of disturbing the peace, which was added during a Monday court hearing. Family members are carrying for the child, who was unharmed.
 
Ralston told police Shannon hit him in the back of the head twice with her fists. Shannon said Ralston shoved her as he left their Denver home. Ralston's father, Larry Ralston, said the couple went out on Saturday night while he babysat.
 
"We're saddened that this would happen, evolve this way," Larry Ralston said. "We're hopeful that things will work out."
 
In 2003, Ralston had to self-amputate his forearm after it was lodged underneath a boulder, trapping him in a remote Utah canyon for five days with little food and water. He wrote about his isolated desert ordeal in 2004 autobiography Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Actor James Franco portrayed Ralston in the 2010 film 127 Hours, which became a box office smash and was nominated for six Oscars, including best picture.
 
Ralston gained celebrity status from the incident, making motivational speeches and championing environmental causes.
 
Using prosthetics he helped develop, Ralston completed a nine-year project to scale the highest point in all 50 states. In 2005, became the first person to solo climb all 59 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks in winter.

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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More snow forecast for Northeast U.S. Tuesday

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Another day, another snowstorm.
 
The 50 million Americans in the Northeast corridor are forecast to see another winter storm Tuesday morning, one that threatens to dump up to 6 inches of snow on the nation's most populated region, snarling commutes and travel schedules.
 
The National Weather Service is forecasting snow for the I-95 corridor from Washington to Boston on Tuesday, and has issued winter weather advisories and winter storm warnings for Tuesday from southwestern Virginia to New York City.
 
Weather service meteorologist Bruce Sullivan said the new storm will sweep in from the southwest and bring rain to the South and snow from Virginia to southern New England before it fades. The Baltimore-Washington area will get the worst of it, he said.
 
"And it looks like it will roll into the region at a terrible time, morning rush," Sullivan said.
 
The storm is forecast to bring an average of 3 inches to most spots, but a few locations along the I-95 corridor can receive up to around 6 inches, reports AccuWeather.
 
The snow will last an average of six to eight hours; cities such as Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Hartford, Conn., Providence, R.I., and Boston should all see snow, according to AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
 
Flight delays are likely Tuesday morning, he said, due to de-icing operations and slippery runways. This is bad news for air travelers following a dreadful day Monday, when 1,900 flights were canceled and another 8,100 delayed, according to flight-tracking company FlightStats.
 
Monday was a day to dig out after a swath of snow and ice plastered the landscape from Virginia to New England, causing highway pileups Sunday and disrupting commuters Monday morning.
 
Federal offices in the Washington, D.C., area delayed opening by two hours Monday due to the weather, and schools across the region were opening late or closed for the day.
 
At one point, about 109,000 customers were without power in Virginia and 15,000 in Maryland due to downed power lines, though those numbers were diminishing during the day.
 
More than 22,000 Dallas-area homes and businesses were still without power on Monday due to the ice storm that brought north Texas to a standstill last week. Since Dec. 1, about 6,000 flights have been canceled at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, the nation's fourth-busiest airport.
 
The winter storms are being fueled in part by an Arctic blast of frigid air that froze highways in the middle of the country over the weekend. Frigid temperatures remained in place Monday for most of the north-central U.S., with many locations at or near 0 degrees. Minot, N.D., reached 5 degrees Monday afternoon, the city's first above-zero reading since last Wednesday.
 
Nationally, the USA is seeing an unusually snowy December: In all, 66.9% of the USA was snow covered as of Monday, according to data from the National Weather Service. That percentage was the highest for the date in at least the past 10 years.
 

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Journalist recalls covering Mandela’s campaign

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NYACK, N.Y. — As heads of state — including President Barack Obama and former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter — prepare for Tuesday's memorial for former South African President Nelson Mandela, it doesn't take much for John Daniszewski to turn his thoughts to the days that brought Mandela to power.
 
From 1993 to 1996, Nyack, N.Y., resident Daniszewski led The Associated Press' coverage of South Africa, including Mandela's election and the end of the apartheid policy of racial segregation. He is now vice president and senior managing editor for international news at the New York-based news organization and serves on the Pulitzer Prize board.
 
When Daniszewski arrived in South Africa in 1993, the nation's future was still in question, with infighting between the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party and Mandela's African National Congress vying for power in the vacuum created by the nation's first all-race elections.
 
"There was a lot of turmoil and township violence and one of our photographers was killed in that violence shortly after I arrived," he said. "There was a lot of fear that it would all end in a bloodbath and there were people on both sides who were pulling it in those directions."
 
From that environment emerged Mandela's historic run for office, just a few years removed from the prison at Robben Island, where he was jailed for 27 years and became the face of the struggle against racial inequality.
 
"Covering the election was a really heady experience, traveling around the country with Mandela, going from township to township, and what it was like to see that sort of awakening of democratic hope that was taking place," Daniszewski said. "At first people couldn't believe it, that after generations of being treated as second- or really third-class citizens, they would have actual freedom."
 
Seeing the outpouring of grief in South Africa in recent days — people dancing to release their emotion at Mandela's passing — brought the editor back to that long-ago campaign and dances of joy he saw as Mandela reached out for support. Everything about those days was a revelation, from the sight of Mandela's inauguration to the unveiling of the nation's new flag.
 
"In spite of the violence and the fearful nature of covering the country, it was all on top of this atmosphere of new possibilities. It was definitely one of the assignments where you felt like you were a witness to history."
 
While the journalist does not want to canonize Mandela — "he was a human being," he said — Daniszewski conceded "there was something about him and the way people responded to him, that was unique."
 
Part of his aura came, he said, from the fact that he emerged from Robben Island "with grace and presence and magnanimity."
 
"You're always looking at him and wondering, 'How could he be this way?' There was something about him that made you want to understand that, and get a little of that."
 
Daniszewski said South Africans look at this week — from Tuesday's memorial in a vast Johannesburg soccer stadium to three days of lying in state in Pretoria to Sunday's funeral in Mandela's hometown — as a long farewell to a founding father, akin to Americans burying George Washington.
 
"South Africans feel he is the father of their country," he said.
 

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Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Ex-San Diego mayor sentenced for harassment

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Read Time:3 Minute, 42 Second
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Ex-San Diego mayor Bob Filner was sentenced Monday to three months of home confinement and three years of probation for harassing women while he led America's eighth-largest city, completing the fall of the former 10-term congressman.
 
Filner, who resigned amid widespread allegations of sexual harassment, pleaded guilty in October to one felony and two misdemeanors for placing a woman in a headlock, kissing another woman and grabbing the buttocks of a third.
 
Superior Court Judge Robert Trentacosta's sentence was the same as what prosecutors recommended in a plea agreement with Filner. The 71-year-old former mayor faced a maximum penalty of three years in prison for the felony and one year in jail for each misdemeanor.
 
The judge specified the Filner may not seek or hold elective office during the term of his probation and will be monitored by GPS during his home confinement, which begins on Jan. 1 and ends March 31. Exceptions to home confinement include medical, mental health and therapy appointments as well as travel to religious services.
 
Filner spoke briefly during the sentencing hearing.
 
"I want to apologize to my family who have stood by me through this ordeal, to my loyal staff and supporters, the citizens of San Diego and most sincerely to the women I have hurt and offended," Filner said.
 
He promised to earn back their trust and recover his integrity.
 
"Certainly the behaviors before this court today will never be repeated," he said.
 
Melissa Mandel, supervising state deputy attorney general, said victims in the criminal complaint did not want to address the court. She said Filner had demeaned, humiliated and embarrassed them.
 
"Today is the day that Bob Filner begins to pay his debt to the citizens of San Diego," she said.
 
Filner sold himself to voters as a champion of civil rights, she said, but his behavior revealed a "very different person."
 
Filner, who is divorced, was convicted of felony false imprisonment for restraining a woman against her will at a fund-raiser on March 6 and applying additional force when she resisted. His attorney, Jerry Coughlan, has said it was a headlock.
 
The misdemeanor counts of battery were for kissing a woman on the lips without permission at a "Meet the Mayor" event on April 6 and grabbing another woman's buttocks at a May 25 rally to clean up an island in San Diego's bay. None of the victims have been identified.
 
Nearly 20 women have publicly identified themselves as targets of Filner's unwanted advances, including kissing, groping and requests for dates. His accusers include a retired Navy rear admiral, a San Diego State University dean and a great-grandmother who volunteers answering senior citizens' questions at City Hall.
 
The charges do not involve Filner's former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson, who expedited the mayor's downfall by becoming the first to go public with sexual harassment allegations in July. She has filed a lawsuit against Filner and the city, claiming her boss asked her to work without panties, demanded kisses, told her he wanted to see her naked and dragged her in a headlock while whispering in her ear.
 
Gloria Allred, McCormack Jackson's attorney, said outside court that Filner was "one lucky man" for being spared jail time.
 
"Mr. Filner, count your blessings. Your freedom is a gift which you do not deserve," she said.
 
McCormack Jackson did not speak.
 
Filner disappeared from public view after leaving office Aug. 30, less than nine months into a four-year term. He said little when he resurfaced six weeks later to plead guilty in San Diego Superior Court, but his attorney told reporters then that the former mayor "profusely apologizes" for his behavior.
 
The former mayor devoted himself to jogging, getting therapy and talking to friends after leaving office, his attorney said in October. Television news crews hoping for a glimpse of Filner were disappointed when he showed up at jail a day earlier than expected for booking.
 
Filner was elected San Diego's first Democratic mayor in 20 years, promising to put neglected neighborhoods ahead of entrenched downtown business interests.

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Obama, Dems make mark on second most powerful court

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Read Time:5 Minute, 16 Second
WASHINGTON — Democrats prepared to assume greater influence over the nation's second most powerful court this week in a display of raw political muscle sure to have legal, political and perhaps policy repercussions for decades to come.
 
The Senate stood poised to confirm Patricia Millett, one of President Obama's three pending nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, on Tuesday morning. By next week, she could be joined by his other two nominees, Nina Pillard and Robert Wilkins, giving the court seven judges chosen by Democratic presidents to four selected by Republicans.
 
Senate Republicans' refusal to consider any of those nominees, along with other battles over judicial and executive branch nominations, led Democrats to change the chamber's rules last month. As a result, a majority of senators can force a vote on the nominations, rather than the 60-vote super-majority that gave the GOP veto power. Democrats hold a 53-45 edge, and two independents side with them.
 
At the center of the dispute is this little known but potent court, symbolically located between the White House and Capitol and responsible for settling most disputes between those two branches of government.
 
To say the D.C. Circuit appeals court is a frequent stepping-stone to the Supreme Court is to trivialize its role in American life. Yes, it supplies justices to the nation's highest court, including four serving there now — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. But its major influence comes from its sweeping jurisdiction: environmental, health and labor regulations, financial institutions, national security and more.
 
Obama and Roberts don't agree on much, but they have the same respect for the D.C. circuit court. "This is a special court," Obama, then a senator, said in 2005 while opposing one of the current judges there, Janice Rogers Brown. "It has jurisdiction that other appeals courts do not have."
 
A year later, Roberts wrote in the Virginia Law Review that the court has "special responsibility to review legal challenges to the conduct of the national government."
 
While the nation's 11 regional circuit courts preside over distinct sections of the country, the D.C. circuit rules nationwide. While the other circuits generally hear cases on appeal from federal trial courts, the D.C. circuit can be the first and last word. And while it's not unusual for circuit court rulings to get reversed at the Supreme Court, the justices often give the D.C. Circuit a wider berth.
 
"The decisions by the Congress to carve out certain areas of federal law as the special preserve of the D.C. Circuit and the infrequency with which the Supreme Court considers, let alone reverses, the Circuit's decisions combine to give the court the final say … over numerous laws and rules affecting the entire nation," a study published last week in the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy says.
 
In recent years, the court — divided between Democratic and Republican nominees, but with six semi-retired "senior" judges, five of whom were named by Republican presidents — has been a thorn in the side of Democrats.
 
Two of its most controversial recent decisions are before the Supreme Court this term. On Tuesday, the justices will consider its ruling that struck down the Environmental Protection Agency's rule requiring "upwind" states to slash emissions into "downwind" states. Next month, its decision striking down Obama's appointments of several executive branch officials during a Senate recess will be reviewed.
 
Carrie Severino, a former D.C. Circuit and Supreme Court law clerk who is chief counsel at the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, defines the court's job as "reining in when the agencies exceed their authority."
 
The circuit court also has been something of a dead end for suspected terrorists confined at the Guantanamo Bay military prison who seek to appeal their detention.
 
But the court doesn't always tilt to the right. It was one of several courts weighing in on Obama's health care law in 2011, ruling that the mandate to purchase insurance was constitutional.
 
Obama was unable to get his first nominee to the D.C. circuit, New York's Caitlin Halligan, through a Republican filibuster. He eventually filled the eighth seat — and evened the score between Republican and Democratic nominees — with Sri Srinivasan, a former principal deputy solicitor general with bipartisan credentials who was confirmed unanimously.
 
Rather than contesting the qualifications of Obama's latest nominees — Millett, 50, and Pillard, 52, are veterans of the solicitor general's office with extensive Supreme Court experience, while Wilkins, 50, is a federal district court judge — Republicans claim the court doesn't need to fill its three open seats.
 
Some outside experts agree. "The court's plugging along just fine," says Jonathan Adler, director of the Center for Business Law and Regulation at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, who served as a law clerk at the court.
 
That argument hinges on the quantity and quality of cases handled by the court. In 2009, full-time judges there participated in an average of 168 cases that were decided on their merits, about one-third the number handled by other circuit court judges. But the D.C. court's cases often involve complex constitutional challenges to federal programs.
 
The Judicial Conference of the United States, which oversees federal court resources, views the D.C. Circuit court's caseload as steady and sees no reason to consider changes in the number of seats, 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Timothy Tymkovich told Congress in September.
 
Patricia Wald, the first woman to serve on the D.C. Circuit court and a former chief judge, agrees. She wrote this year that the court "hears the most complex, time-consuming, labyrinthine disputes over regulations with the greatest impact on ordinary Americans' lives."
 

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Senator pushes for controls on cellphone tracking

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Read Time:2 Minute, 45 Second
A U.S. senator wants to require police agencies to report regularly on their collection of cellphone call data and force police to obtain a warrant before they collect bulk records from cellphone transmission towers.
 
U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said his proposed legislation would increase transparency about the collection of such data and "update the Fourth Amendment for the 21st century wireless world."
 
Markey's proposal followed the release of detailed reports from each of the nation's biggest wireless carriers saying they received more than 1 million requests for cellphone data from law enforcement in 2011 and again in 2012.
 
In a related story Monday, USA TODAY reported that dozens of local and state police agencies are capturing information about thousands of wireless users at a time, whether they are targets of an investigation or not, according to public records.
 
Many police agencies, responding to inquiries from USA TODAY and Gannett journalists about their use of cellphone data, said access to identity, location and call logs is an important crime-fighting tool. But, some privacy advocates and lawmakers expressed concern about checks and balances and about what happens to data from cellphone users who are not police targets.
 
In their response to Markey, the wireless companies said they received about 9,000 requests for cell "tower dumps" from local, state or federal law enforcement agencies in 2012. Those tower dumps show police which cellphones connected to a particular tower over a defined span of time.
 
U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said he and colleagues also have been working on these issues, proposing an array of legislation requiring probable cause prior to the release of cellphone records. They also, however, have raised concerns about criminals, businesses and other people or entities being able to access private records via cellphones.
 
"This is not just about law enforcement," Chaffetz said.
 
Markey's proposed legislation would require law enforcement to get a search warrant, and show probable cause, to get cellphone location data or cellphone data in bulk, as they do using tactics such as a cell tower dump.
 
Additionally, Markey said the legislation would require regular disclosures from law enforcement agencies about the nature and volume of their cellphone data requests and require the Federal Communications Commission to set rules about how long wireless carriers can keep customers' personal information. Currently, the wireless carriers have varying policies and all will provide the stored data to police if legally requested.
 
In emergencies, such as searching for a missing person, Markey says his legislation would require police to later submit a "signed, sworn statement" from the law enforcement agency documenting why they needed emergency access to the data.
 
Christopher Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said generally those are among measures that his organization would like to see passed.
 
"We want to create appropriate rules so that the police can do their jobs, but do it without trampling over Constitutional rights," Calabrese said. Updating search and seizure guidelines for modern times is overdue. "The fact is, technology changes very fast and often the law does not."

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Passenger wakes up alone on locked plane

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A man who dozed off on a flight from Louisiana, awoke to find himself cold and alone on a locked plane.
 
Tom Wagner was on his way to visit his sister in California. He decided to take a nap before his layover in Houston, and continued to sleep as the plane landed and the other passengers disembarked at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Somehow the flight crew did not notice the sleeping Wagner and left him on board as they locked up the plane, the ABC affiliate KTRK reports.
 
Wagner found himself sitting in the dark on the empty plane and discovered he had been locked in. Luckily, his phone was working and he was able to call his girlfriend, who then contacted United Airlines to say Wagner was trapped on one of their flights.
 
"She thought I was crazy," Wagner told KTRK. "I said, 'Debbie I'm locked on the plane.' I said, 'I'm telling you the truth; you better go somewhere and get me off this plane.'"
 
About 30 minutes after she contacted the airline, employees opened the door.
 
Although the airline would not refund the ticket, it gave him a hotel room for the night and provided him with a $250 voucher to help Wagner complete his journey.
 
Wagner was on a United Express flight operated by their partner, ExpressJet.
 
"ExpressJet is investigating to determine how this occurred. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this caused for the passenger," the airline said in a written statement.
 
Wagner still has many questions for the airline. "What if I had a medical condition or something?," he asked. "What if I had a heart attack and I was dead? You just shut the plane and leave someone on there?"

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Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Mars crater may have supported microbial life forms

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NASA's robotic rover on Mars has found signs that a vast and hospitable lake once spread over the now-desolate Martian surface, providing a potential home to past life for centuries or longer.
 
The shallow water body was roughly the size of one of New York's Finger Lakes, though not nearly so deep. Its waters boasted low salinity, just the right acidity and all the chemicals needed to support living organisms. Other than on Earth, the lake was the most life-friendly place in the solar system, according to a study published in the journal Science and announced Monday at American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco.
 
"Is this the smoking gun that says there was life on Mars? No," says NASA soil mineralogist Douglas Ming, who took part in the new research. "Is this a smoking gun that this was a habitable environment? There's pretty good evidence for that. We have an environment that is very much … like on Earth."
 
Despite the difficulties of finding evidence of past life on Mars, "I've always been an optimist that we will find it someday," says astrobiologist Clark Johnson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who was not involved with the study. "This is a wonderful step forward."
 
After its triumphant arrival on the Red Planet in August 2012, Curiosity trundled only a quarter-mile from its landing spot to a tantalizing depression named Yellowknife Bay. There it didn't take long for the rover's instruments to reveal an expanse of thick, fine-grained rock, the footprint of an ancient lake. Tests showed the rock, a type known as a mudstone because it's formed from mud, is similar to 10-million-year-old rocks in Southern California. This single lake probably covered tens of thousands of acres, and there were probably at least several other lakes nearby, says Caltech's John Grotzinger, project scientist for Curiosity.
 
Veins of mineral in the rocks show that even after the lake dried out, water still flowed across the site. That extra water could have allowed life to persist at the site long after the lake's disappearance, perhaps for tens of millions of years, according to the study in the current issue of Science. Adding to the appeal of this watery real estate, a rock sample collected by Curiosity and analyzed in the rover's on-board laboratories showed a wide array of chemicals needed for life: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and others.
 
What Curiosity didn't find beyond a doubt were hydrocarbons, carbon-containing molecules that can serve as an energy source for life and a potential signature of life. The rover did detect hydrocarbons, but at least some of them came from solvents that leaked out of a storage container on the rover itself. The scientists think the hydrocarbon levels measured by Curiosity are too high to be accounted for just by the solvents, but they readily acknowledge they haven't closed the case.
 
"Most of us feel there is a good chance that there's something there," Grotzinger says. "It's just that we haven't been able to tease it out at the level of confidence we'd like."
 
Grotzinger and his team argue that even without hydrocarbons, the lake could've supported life, though not the little green men of popular imagination. The obvious candidates are bacteria and other microscopic creatures that make their living off chemicals rather than sunlight. Such microbes are found at Earthly hot springs on both land and the ocean floor, some living under extreme conditions that would be lethal for many other forms of life.
 
Other scientists find most of the new results generally convincing, though they are skeptical that Curiosity has found hydrocarbons.
 
The scientists' arguments that the rover found more hydrocarbons than would be expected from contamination alone are "tenuous at best," says Jeffrey Bada, an emeritus professor of marine chemistry at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, via e-mail. He says that if Curiosity really had stumbled on hydrocarbons, other kinds would've been detected, not just the few purified by the rover's chemistry set.
 
Others point out that living things have colonized much harsher environments on Earth than this gentle Martian lake, making it possible that microbes once called it home.
 
"If you give it an environment, life is going to spontaneously develop, so why not?" Johnson says. "But it's not proven, and people should realize that to actually prove it … is probably many years down the road."

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Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Canada plans claim that would include North Pole

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TORONTO (AP) — Canada plans to make a claim to the North Pole in an effort to assert its sovereignty in the resource-rich Arctic, the country's foreign affairs minister said Monday.
 
John Baird said the government has asked scientists to work on a future submission to the United Nations claiming that the outer limits of the country's continental shelf include the pole, which so far has been claimed by no one.
 
Canada last week applied to extend its seabed claims in the Atlantic Ocean, including some preliminary Arctic claims, but it wants more time to prepare a claim that would include the pole.
 
Asserting Canada's rights in the Arctic has been a popular domestic issue for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, though at least one expert on the issue described the planned claim as a long shot.
 
"We are determined to ensure that all Canadians benefit from the tremendous resources that are to be found in Canada's far north," Baird said.
 
Countries including the U.S. and Russia are increasingly looking to the Arctic as a source of natural resources and shipping lanes. The U.S. Geological Survey says the region contains 30 percent of the world's undiscovered natural gas and 15 percent of oil. If Canada's claim is accepted by the UN commission, that would dramatically grow its share.
 
Countries must submit proposals to the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to request an extension of their nautical borders. Currently, under international law, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the U.S.—the five countries with territories near the Arctic Circle—are allotted 200 nautical miles from their northern coasts.
 
Under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, exclusive claims can be vastly expanded for Arctic nations that prove that their part of the continental shelf extends beyond that zone.
 
Baird said Canada's submission last week set out the potential outer limits of the country's continental shelf in the Atlantic — a claim of about 1.2 million square kilometers. He said that's roughly the size of Alberta and Saskatchewan combined.
 
Canada's follow-up submission will include a claim to the Lomonosov Ridge, an undersea mountain range between Ellesmere Island, Canada's most northern land mass, and Russia's east Siberian coast. That claim would extend Canada's claim 200 nautical miles beyond the North Pole.
 
The submission that Canada filed with the U.N. is essentially a series of undersea co-ordinates that map what the government claims is the country's extended continental shelf.
 
Baird said it's a mammoth task, and the government needs more time to complete the mapping in the Arctic and get its U.N. submission right.
 
"That's why we have asked our officials and scientists to do additional and necessary work to ensure that a submission for the full extent of the Continental Shelf in the Arctic includes Canada's claim to the North Pole," he said.
 
The U.N. submission is also political, said Michael Byers, an expert on Arctic and international law at the University of British Columbia.
 
"(Harper) does not want to be the prime minister seen publicly as having surrendered the North Pole, even if the scientific facts don't support a Canadian claim," Byers said. "What he's essentially doing here is holding this place, standing up for Canadian sovereignty, while in private he knows full well that position is untenable."
 
The UN submissions do not lead to a binding decision, but lay the groundwork for future country-to-country negotiations over competing territorial claims in the Arctic that could take years to resolve. Just checking the science on a claim likely will take five years, said Rob Huebert, an Arctic expert at the University of Calgary.
 
Byers said there isn't any particular rush for Canada to stake its claim for the North Pole, pointing out that such claims cover some of the most remote and harshest places on the planet, and commercial exploitation of resources is a long way off.
 
"We're talking about the center of a large, inhospitable ocean that is in total darkness for three months each year, thousands of miles from any port," he said. "The water in the North Pole is 12,000 feet (3,650 meters) deep and will always be covered by sea ice in the winter. It's not a place where anyone is going to be drilling for oil and gas.
 
"So it's not about economic stakes, it's about domestic politics."

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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