Dead Pilot Returned

ANKARA, Nov 29 (Reuters) - The body of the pilot killed when Turkey shot down a Russian jet was taken to Turkey late on Saturday to be handed over to Russia, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

The body is being treated in accordance with the Orthodox tradition, Davutoglu said in a news conference in Ankara on Sunday before going to Brussels for a meeting with EU leaders on migration.

He did not say how the body was delivered to Hatay in southern Turkey but said Russia's military attache was going there on Sunday as part of procedures to recover the remains.

Relations between Turkey and Russia have sharply deteriorated since Tuesday's incident, with Russia imposing economic sanctions and revoking a visa-free agreement, while Turkey has sought to cool tensions, seeing the Paris climate change talks that start this week as a chance to mend ties.

Davutoglu said that with different coalitions operating in Syria with differing objectives, similar incidents to that of the downing of the Russian jet could happen unless there was information sharing and coordination.

Both United States along with other allies, including Turkey, as well as Russia are carrying out air campaigns against Islamic State and other groups.

Russia and Turkey have accused each other of aiding Islamic State, but both say they are battling the militants who have taken swathes of land in Iraq and Syria.

However, Russia sides with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and has been accused by the West of using its bombing campaign to help him instead of targeting Islamic State.

Turkey meanwhile wants Assad gone and has been supporting rebels fighting him.

(Reporting by Dasha Afanasieva; Editing by Alison Williams)

Just a bird...

He Needs a Legacy

WASHINGTON — At a joint news conference here Tuesday with President Fran├žois Hollande of France, President Obama veered from his focus on the terrorist attacks in Paris to bring up the huge international gathering beginning in the French capital on Monday to hammer out a global response to climate change.

“What a powerful rebuke to the terrorists it will be when the world stands as one and shows that we will not be deterred from building a better future for our children,” Mr. Obama said of the climate conference.

The segue brought mockery, even castigation, from the political right, but it was a reminder of the importance Mr. Obama places on climate change in shaping his legacy. 

During his 2012 re-election campaign, he barely mentioned global warming, but the issue has become a hallmark of his second term. 

And on Sunday night he arrives in Paris, hoping to make climate policy the signature environmental achievement of his, and perhaps any, presidency.

“He comes to Paris with a moral authority that no other president has had on the issue of climate change,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University who noted that Mr. Obama’s domestic climate efforts already stand alone in American history. “No other president has had a climate change policy. It makes him unique.”

In Paris, Mr. Obama will join more than 120 world leaders to kick off two weeks of negotiations aimed at forging a new climate change accord that would, for the first time, commit almost every country on Earth to lowering its greenhouse gas pollution. 

All year, Mr. Obama’s negotiators have worked behind the scenes to fashion a Paris deal.

Crucial to Mr. Obama’s leverage has been the release of his domestic climate change regulations, which he then pushed other countries to emulate. So far, at least 170 countries have put forth emission reduction plans.

But even as Mr. Obama presses for a deal in Paris, it faces steep obstacles, not least the legal and legislative assault on his own regulations at home. 

During the course of the Paris talks, Republicans in Congress are planning a series of votes to fight Mr. Obama’s climate agenda. 

More than half the states are suing the administration on the legality of his climate plan. 

And all the Republican presidential candidates have said that they would undo the regulations if elected.       Read more



Black Friday is the day following Thanksgiving Day in the United States (the fourth Thursday of November).

Since the early 2000s, it has been regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the US, and most major retailers open very early (and more recently during overnight hours) and offer promotional sales.

Black Friday is not an official holiday, but California and some other states observe "The Day After Thanksgiving" as a holiday for state government employees, sometimes in lieu of another federal holiday such as Columbus Day.

Many non-retail employees and schools have both Thanksgiving and the following Friday off, which, along with the following regular weekend, makes it a four-day weekend, thereby increasing the number of potential shoppers.

It has routinely been the busiest shopping day of the year since 2005, although news reports, which at that time were inaccurate, have described it as the busiest shopping day of the year for a much longer period of time.

Similar stories resurface year upon year at this time, portraying hysteria and shortage of stock, creating a state of positive feedback.

In 2014, $50.9 billion was spent during the 4-day Black Friday weekend, down 11% from the previous year. While approximately 133 million U.S. consumers shopped during the same period, down 5.2% from last year's 141 million. Also, the average online order on Black Friday was $129.37.

The day's name originated in Philadelphia, where it originally was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic that would occur on the day after Thanksgiving.

Use of the term started before 1961 and began to see broader use outside Philadelphia around 1975.

Later an alternative explanation was made: that retailers traditionally operated at a financial loss ("in the red") from January through November, and "Black Friday" indicates the point at which retailers begin to turn a profit, or "in the black".

Contrary to what many believed, Black Friday did not originate from the sales of slaves on the day after Thanksgiving.

For many years, it was common for retailers to open at 6:00 a.m., but in the late 2000s many had crept to 5:00 or even 4:00. This was taken to a new extreme in 2011, when several retailers (including Target, Kohl's, Macy's, Best Buy, and Bealls) opened at midnight for the first time.

 In 2012, Walmart and several other retailers announced that they would open most of their stores at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, prompting calls for a walkout among some workers.

In 2014 stores such as JCPenney, Best Buy, and Radio Shack opened at 5 PM on Thanksgiving Day while stores such as Target, Walmart, Belk, and Sears opened at 6 PM on Thanksgiving Day.

Three states, Rhode Island, Maine, and Massachusetts, prohibit large supermarkets, big box stores and department stores from opening on Thanksgiving, due to blue laws.


Giving Thanks For All We Have

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated in Canada and the United States as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. 

It is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. 

Several other places around the world observe similar celebrations. 

Thanksgiving has its historical roots in religious and cultural traditions and has long been celebrated in a secular manner as well.

Prayers of thanks and special thanksgiving ceremonies are common among almost all religions after harvests and at other times. 

The Thanksgiving holiday's history in North America is rooted in English traditions dating from the Protestant Reformation. 

It also has aspects of a harvest festival, even though the harvest in New England occurs well before the late-November date on which the modern Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated.

In the English tradition, days of thanksgiving and special thanksgiving religious services became important during the English Reformation in the reign of Henry VIII and in reaction to the large number of religious holidays on the Catholic calendar. 

Before 1536 there were 95 Church holidays, plus 52 Sundays, when people were required to attend church and forego work and sometimes pay for expensive celebrations. 

The 1536 reforms reduced the number of Church holidays to 27, but some Puritans wished to completely eliminate all Church holidays, including Christmas and Easter. 

The holidays were to be replaced by specially called Days of Fasting or Days of Thanksgiving, in response to events that the Puritans viewed as acts of special providence. 

Unexpected disasters or threats of judgement from on high called for Days of Fasting. Special blessings, viewed as coming from God, called for Days of Thanksgiving. 

For example, Days of Fasting were called on account of drought in 1611, floods in 1613, and plagues in 1604 and 1622. Days of Thanksgiving were called following the victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588 and following the deliverance of Queen Anne in 1705. 

An unusual annual Day of Thanksgiving began in 1606 following the failure of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 and developed into Guy Fawkes Day.

The traditional representation of where the first Thanksgiving was held in the United States has often been a subject of boosterism and debate, though the debate is often confused by mixing up the ideas of a Thanksgiving holiday celebration and a Thanksgiving religious service. 

According to author James Baker, this debate is a "tempest in a beanpot" and "marvelous nonsense".
Local boosters in Virginia, Florida, and Texas promote their own colonists, who (like many people getting off a boat) gave thanks for setting foot again on dry land.(Jeremy Bangs)
These claims include an earlier religious service by Spanish explorers in Texas at San Elizario in 1598, as well as thanksgiving feasts in the Virginia Colony.

Robyn Gioia and Michael Gannon of the University of Florida argue that the earliest Thanksgiving service in what is now the United States was celebrated by the Spanish on September 8, 1565, in what is now Saint Augustine, Florida. 

A day for Thanksgiving services was codified in the founding charter of Berkeley Hundred in Charles City County, Virginia in 1619.

According to Baker, "Historically, none of these had any influence over the evolution of the modern United States holiday. 

The American holiday's true origin was the New England Calvinist Thanksgiving. 

Never coupled with a Sabbath meeting, the Puritan observances were special days set aside during the week for thanksgiving and praise in response to God's providence."

This holiday or something similar (Harvest Festival) is celebrated in the following countries around the world, specifically:
  1. Grenada
  2. Liberia
  3. The Netherlands
  4. Australia (Norfolk Island)
  5. Saint Lucia
  6. United Kingdom
  7. Germany
  8. Japan


Hump Day Art

Brooklyn-based artist visual artist Li-Hill paints beautiful murals of angels, fencers, and animals with a sweeping sense of motion and energy. In his large-scale pieces Li-Hill merges graffiti, graphic design, painting, and drawing to create complex images, often revealing an unsettling nature within his paused narratives.

The work of 



Ice Cloud Spotted

According to TrishaThadani of USA Today, A gigantic ice cloud spotted on Titan, one of Saturn's moons, means its southern winter will be even stronger than initially predicted, according to NASA.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft recently discovered the "monstrous" new ice cloud in Titan's stratosphere, which is the stable area above the moon's active weather layer, according to a NASA press release.

While the past New England winter was thought to be rough, it was nothing compared to Titan's winter season, which lasts about 7 1/2 calendar years. 

Researchers said the ice cloud will make the season even more intense.

Scientists discovered a large ice cloud in 2012, but it was "just the tip of the iceberg" compared to this new cloud, the release said. 

The new cloud hovers over Titan's southern atmosphere at 124 miles, nearly 60 miles lower than the cloud discovered in 2012.

Scientists detected the ice cloud with using Cassini's Composite Infrared Spectrometer, which obtains profiles of the atmosphere at invisible thermal wavelengths, according to the statement.

“When we looked at the infrared data, this ice cloud stood out like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” Carrie Anderson, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in the statement. “It practically smacked us in the face.”

With a thick, nitrogen-dominated atmosphere, Titan is the only world in the solar system — other than Earth —known to have stable liquid on its surface, according to Discovery. 

However, its seas are composed of ethane and methane rather than water.

Although any organisms on Titan would have evolved quite differently that those that evolved on Earth, scientists see Titan as one of the most likely places in our solar system to host alien life, according to Discovery.

"I was so excited, I pretty much fell out of my chair," Anderson said, while presenting the results at a news briefing earlier this month.


Trump Continues to Lead

For the fourth consecutive month, businessman Donald Trump leads the contest for the Republican presidential nomination, with his candidacy fueled by a powerful anti-Washington mood among GOP voters, according to a new national poll by The Washington Post and ABC News.

After a tumultuous period that has included terrorist attacks in Paris, calls for stepped-up efforts to combat Islamic State militants, a backlash against accepting refugees from Syria, and two Republican debates, the race looks on the surface very much as it did in a Post-ABC survey a month ago.

Trump runs ahead of the large field with 32 percent support among registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Running second is retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 22 percent. Both figures are identical to last month.

Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) is the only other Republican in double digits, inching up from 10 to 11 percent over the past month. Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) runs fourth, with 8 percent, up from 6 percent in October. 

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush is fifth, with 6 percent, his lowest percentage during two years of surveys. No other candidate has more than 4 percent nationally.

No candidate’s support has shifted beyond the poll’s six-percentage-point margin of error since  September.      Read more
It would appear that Americans (both Democrats and Republicans) want to make a change in Washington and are willing to make that change dramatic if they have to, in order to finally get some results... because most politicians here in the USA are more concerned with either re-election or large financial contributors than they are in doing what is right for the country.

Trump is saying what other politicians cannot say and remain politically viable among the minorities and their political parties because he owes nobody anything; therefore, he is the perfect candidate for the people and the people simply like what he is saying.

Take a moment...

Water Shortage in California

APPLE VALLEY, Calif. — Outside her two-story tract home in this working-class town, Debbie Alberts (above), a part-time food service worker, has torn out most of the lawn. 
She has given up daily showers and cut her family’s water use nearly in half, to just 178 gallons per person each day.
A little more than 100 miles west, a resident of the fashionable Los Angeles hills has been labeled “the Wet Prince of Bel Air” after drinking up more than 30,000 gallons of water each day — the equivalent of 400 toilet flushes each hour with two showers running constantly, with enough water left over to keep the lawn perfectly green.

Ms. Alberts was the only one of them that has been fined for excessive water use.

Four years into the worst drought in California’s recorded history, the contrast between the strict enforcement on Californians struggling to conserve and the unchecked profligacy in places like Bel Air has unleashed anger and indignation — among both the recipients of the fines, who feel helpless to avoid them, and other Californians who see the biggest water hogs getting off scot-free.

This wide disparity in enforcement is testimony to California’s vast and chaotic system for moving water from reservoirs and underground systems to homes. There are 411 separate water districts — some public, some private — and each of these local utilities has been charged with devising its own rules for saving water during the drought.

All of the districts are grappling with a mandatory order from the State of California to reduce water consumption by up to 36 percent. The contrasting approaches taken by Apple Valley and Los Angeles illustrate how differently communities are enforcing the order — some with lenience, others with punishments.

In Apple Valley, the private utility company that supplies water to most of this town in the high desert east of Los Angeles has been ordered to cut back 28 percent. The utility, Apple Valley Ranchos, responded by applying “drought surcharges” to households that exceed a standard monthly water allotment. Nearly a third of the 20,000 customers have been assessed fines, which can run to hundreds of dollars.

Ms. Alberts, whose husband is disabled and not working, supports them and their two children on an income of about $22,000 a year. She received a surcharge of $79.66 on her last two-month water bill, raising the total above $330.

“It’s impossible to get under the line,” said Ms. Alberts, 58, whose property is about half an acre and was once surrounded by greenery. “We wash clothes once a week. We flush every third time. Sometimes we go to the laundromat because we’re afraid.”       Read more:


American Convicted of Espionage

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has sentenced detained Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian to an unspecified prison term following his conviction last month on charges that include espionage, Iranian state TV reported Sunday.

Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, the spokesman for Iran's judiciary, announced the punishment in a statement on the TV station's website.

"In brief, it is a prison sentence," he said.

The verdict is "not finalized," he added, referring to an expected appeal.

Rezaian's lawyer, Leila Ahsan, told The Associated Press she had not been informed of the verdict — let alone details of the sentence.

"I have no information about details of the verdict," she said. "We were expecting the verdict some three months ago."

Rezaian was detained with his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, and two photojournalists on July 22, 2014. All were later released except Rezaian, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen.

Rezaian went on trial in four closed-door court hearings at Tehran's Revolutionary Court over the past months. Last month, he was convicted of spying and other charges.

The Post has vigorously denied the accusations against its correspondent.

Rezaian, who has covered Iran for the Post since 2012, grew up in Marin County, California and spent most of his life in the United States.

The Post, U.S. officials and Rezaian's family have all called for his release. Iran does not recognize dual-nationality.

Iran's state media, citing the indictment, have said Rezaian collected information on Iranian and foreign individuals and companies circumventing sanctions and passed them on to the U.S. government.

Iranian state TV has repeatedly called Rezaian an "American spy."

Earlier this month, the intelligence department of the powerful elite Revolutionary Guard claimed in a report to parliament that Rezaian is an agent seeking to "overthrow" Iran's Islamic ruling system.

His incarceration and trial played out as Iran and five world powers, including the U.S., negotiated a landmark agreement in which the Islamic Republic agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Iranian media in August quoted officials discussing the possibility of swapping Americans detained in Iran for 19 Iranians held in the U.S.

It's unclear, however, whether that's been seriously discussed between Iranian and U.S. officials.

Just Another Day