Huge asteroid to fly by Earth Thursday: How to watch online

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By Mike Wall Published June 14, 2012-Space.com

Asteroid Threat
An artist’s illustration of a large asteroid headed for Earth. (ESA)

An asteroid the size of a city block is set to fly by Earth Thursday (June 14), and you may be able to watch it happen live.

The near-Earth asteroid 2012 LZ1, which astronomers think is about 1,650 feet (500 meters) wide, will come within 14 lunar distances of Earth Thursday evening. While there’s no danger of an impact on this pass, the huge space rock may come close enough to be caught on camera.

That’s what the team running the Slooh Space Camera thinks, anyway. The online skywatching service will train a telescope on the Canary Islands on 2012 LZ1 and stream the footage live, beginning at 8:00 p.m. EDT Thursday (0000 GMT Friday).

You can watch the asteroi flyby on Slooh’s website, at events.slooh.com.

2012 LZ1 just popped onto astronomers’ radar this week. It was discovered on the night of June 10-11 by Rob McNaught and his colleagues, who were peering through the Uppsala Schmidt telescope at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia.

Researchers estimate that the space rock is between 1,000 and 2,300 feet wide (300-700 m). On Thursday evening, it will come within about 3.35 million miles (5.4 million kilometers) of our planet, or roughly 14 times the distance between Earth and the moon.

Because of its size and proximity to Earth, 2012 LZ1 qualifies as a potentially hazardous asteroid. Near-Earth asteroids generally have to be at least 500 feet (150 m) wide and come within 4.65 million miles (7.5 million km) of our planet to be classified as potentially hazardous.

2012 LZ1 is roughly the same size as asteroid 2005 YU55, which made a much-anticipated fly by of Earth last November. But 2005 YU55 gave our planet a much closer shave, coming within 202,000 miles (325,000 km) of us on the evening of Nov. 8. A space rock as big as 2005 YU55 hadn’t come so close to Earth since 1976, researchers said.

Astronomers have identified nearly 9,000 near-Earth asteroids, but they think many more are out there, waiting to be discovered.

Original post taken from: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/06/14/huge-asteroid-to-fly-by-earth-thursday-how-to-watch-online/

Holder agrees to give Issa internal emails on Fast and Furious, offers to meet

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By Mike Levine Published June 14, 2012 – FoxNews.com

Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday agreed to make what he called “an extraordinary accommodation” to Republicans investigating the botched “Operation Fast and Furious” by turning over department emails he has long insisted deal with internal deliberations and should be protected.

Holder is trying to head off a push by House Republicans to hold him in contempt of Congress for allegedly “stonewalling” their investigation. And he offered to personally brief the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in the next few days.

“We believe that this briefing, and the documents we are prepared to provide … will fully address the remaining concerns identified in the recent letters to me from you and House leadership,” Holder said in a letter to Issa. “The department’s willingness to provide these materials is a serious, good faith effort to bring this matter to an amicable resolution.”

Issa’s office said in an early response that Holder’s letter “only seems to indicate a willingness to offer a selective telling” of key events and that the chairman is still asking the Justice Department to explain “how it is prepared to alter its opposition to producing subpoenaed documents”

Earlier Thursday, Holder’s allies on the committee mounted their own aggressive defense of the attorney general, circulating a memo to House Democrats that calls the Republican argument for contempt, laid out in a contempt citation last month, “irresponsible, unprecedented, and contrary to the rule of law.”

For more than a year, Republicans have been leading an investigation into “Fast and Furious,” which was launched in Arizona in late 2009 by Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officials, with help from the U.S. attorney’s office there. The operation’s targets bought nearly 2,000 weapons over several months. But for reasons that are still in dispute, most of the weapons sold were never followed, and high-powered weapons tied to the investigation ended up at crime scenes in Mexico and the United States, including the December 2010 murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

Late last year, Issa issued a subpoena to Holder, and the Justice Department subsequently identified more than 80,000 documents responsive to it.

However, the department has turned over about 7,600 documents and insisted those not turned over include traditionally protected deliberative material, legally protected grand jury material and other investigative material relating to ongoing cases.

In recent days, Issa narrowed his demands to focus on correspondence between department officials after they sent a now-retracted letter to Congress on Feb. 4, 2011. In that letter, the department inaccurately insisted: “ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico.”

Issa says the documents he wants are “critically important” because, among other things, they could show whether top officials were “surprised or were already aware” about “gunwalking” in “Fast and Furious” when confronted with evidence contradicting the Feb. 4 letter. And the documents could further detail how the department handled officials who were negligent.

In his letter Thursday, Holder said he appreciates Issa’s “narrowed” request for information, calling it “an important step forward” and noting the department has “repeatedly expressed concern that the production of (certain) materials would undermine the integrity and independence of (its) core law enforcement operations.”

Holder said he is willing to turn over documents that, “while outside the scope of the committee’s interest in the inappropriate tactics used in Fast and Furious,” show how his department’s “understanding” of the facts “evolved throughout 2011” and how the Feb. 4, 2011, letter came to be withdrawn.

But in his letter, Holder insisted department leaders drafted the inaccurate letter based on assertions from others that the allegations being made were “categorically false.”

He also insisted, “The record in this matter reflects that until allegations about the inappropriate tactics used in Fast and Furious were made public, department leadership was unaware of those tactics.”

Republicans scheduled the contempt vote against Holder for June 20 after accusing him of failing to comply with the subpoena and turn over tens of thousands of still-undisclosed documents. The measure, if it remains on the agenda, would be voted on at the committee level and would still have to be approved by the full House.

In the memo circulated Thursday, Democrats said, “Holding the attorney general in contempt of Congress for protecting these documents is an extreme and blatant abuse of the congressional contempt power and undermines the credibility of the committee.”

But a spokeswoman for Issa took issue with that assessment, saying, “The only credibility that has been undermined is that of Attorney General Holder and the Justice Department who issued a false denial of reckless conduct.”

Nevertheless, House Democrats also took aim more broadly at the Republicans’ investigation of “Operation Fast and Furious,” saying it “has been characterized by a series of unsubstantiated allegations against the Obama administration that later turned out to be inaccurate.”

“Rather than conducting this investigation in an even-handed manner, the committee has politicized this inquiry by systematically refusing to investigate gunwalking operations during the Bush administration and by disregarding clear evidence that contradicts (their) political narrative,” the Democrats’ memo states.

One of the “most significant flaws of the investigation,” according to the memo, is Issa’s refusal to hold a public hearing with former ATF head Ken Melson, who told congressional investigators in July 2011 that he never informed senior Justice Department officials about the tactics of “Fast and Furious” because he didn’t know them himself.

In addition, the memo states, Issa has refused multiple requests for the committee to hear from former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who could discuss “the origination and evolution of gunwalking operations” dating back to 2006.

In late 2007, Mukasey was sent a memo noting that the “first-ever attempt” to have a “controlled delivery” of weapons smuggled into Mexico was “unsuccessful” in tracking the weapons, but ATF would still like to “expand the possibility” of such cases with Mexico. It’s unclear if Mukasey ever saw the memo.

The spokeswoman for Issa, Becca Watkins, said the Democrats’ criticism is based on a “fundamental misunderstanding” about the facts of the case and the Justice Department’s “failure to comply” with the subpoena.

“These opinions are unsubstantiated and without merit,” she said.

As for the contempt vote scheduled for Wednesday, the Democrats’ memo said negotiations could last into next week, and “it is important for committee members to be fully prepared in the event that negotiations are unsuccessful.”

In his letter Thursday, Holder told Issa that “as the chairman only you have the authority to bind the committee,” and therefore a meeting between the two “is required both to assure that there are no misunderstandings about this matter and to confirm that the elements of the proposal we are making will be deemed sufficient to render the process of contempt unnecessary.”

Holder proposed meeting by Monday.

Romney, Obama trade fire on economy in dueling Ohio addresses

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Published June 14, 2012 – FoxNews.com

obama_romneyevents.jpgPresident Obama and Mitt Romney are shown here at campaign events on June 12, 2012. (AP)

Battling toe-to-toe for the first time, Mitt Romney leap-frogged President Obama in dueling economic speeches Thursday to Ohio voters, and ripped his opponent’s record on jobs growth and an American economy stuck in neutral.

The president, countering in an economic address of his own moments later, claimed that Romney’s economic prescriptions would signal a return to policies that set the stage for the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession. He alleged Romney’s policies would mirror those of the George W. Bush administration.

The two speeches in one of the most critical of battleground states — with Romney speaking from Cincinnati, and Obama from Cleveland — marked the closest thing yet to a general election debate. Each candidate described the other as disastrous for the country’s economic future.

In Cincinnati, Romney preempted the president after initially being scheduled to begin his speech a few minutes after Obama. Instead, Romney started early — getting the jump on the president’s speech to offer his own rebuttal in advance.

Romney said Obama was delivering the economic address “because he hasn’t delivered a recovery for the economy.”

“He’s going to be a person of eloquence as he describes his plans for making the economy better, but don’t forget — he’s been president for three and a half years, and talk is cheap. Action speaks very loud,” he said.

Romney accused Obama of pushing policies that are bad for business. “Let’s go through them one by one,” he said. “Failed stimulus; ObamaCare resulted in fewer hires; Dodd-Frank hurt banks’ ability to lend, especially to small businesses; failed energy policy.”

Romney outlined a three-point plan for what he’d do first if elected — improve domestic energy production, get rid of the health care overhaul and reduce the deficit.

Obama, in a lengthy address that lasted nearly an hour, spoke to his goals for a second term in broad strokes. He did not offer new jobs proposals, but stressed what he described as fundamental differences between his vision and that of the Republicans.

Obama accused Romney and congressional Republicans of pushing plans for less regulation and lower taxes for the wealthy that would repeat what he effectively described as a failed experiment during the Bush administration.

“It would push us deeper into recession and make the recovery slower,” Obama said. “We’ve tried this. … Their policies did not grow the economy.

“Why would we think that they would work better this time?” he asked.

Obama said he wants to devote a second term to improving education, clean energy and infrastructure and reforming the tax code in a “balanced” way. He tried to shed the image of a big-government Democrat, saying he’s determined to address the deficit — and does not believe more regulation is the answer to America’s problems.

The president is trying to recover from a raft of bad economic news and campaign setbacks, and try to lift his campaign above the day-to-day controversies to outline the thematic differences between his vision and his opponent’s. He’s been under steady attack in recent days by Republicans for slipping and saying the private sector’s “doing fine” during a press conference — Obama made reference to that comment Thursday.

“Over the next five months, this election will take many twists and many turns, polls will go up and polls will go down. There will be no shortage of gaffes and controversies that keep both campaigns busy and give the press something to write about,” he said. “You may have heard recently I made my own unique contribution to that process.”

Romney tweaked Obama again on his gaffe Thursday, releasing a TV ad highlighting it and saying during his address: “If you think the private sector is doing fine, then he’s the guy to vote for.”

Romney also criticized Obama’s domestic energy policy, saying he made it harder to drill for coal, wrongly curtailed offshore drilling and failed to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline. “You don’t even need to ask people about that one,” Romney said before a crowd of roughly 200 at the rally at Seilkop Industries. “If I have to build it myself, I’ll get that oil in from Canada to America.”

Original post taken from: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/06/14/romney-slams-obama-as-bad-for-business-as-candidates-give-dueling-addresses

Kanye West Tweets Naked Picture Of Kim Kardashian?

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Could Kanye West really have been silly enough to have posted a naked picture of girlfriend Kim Kardashian online?

The rapper has reportedly tweeted a very raunchy snap of a woman with a striking resemblance to KK, posing nude while she nibbles on some fruit from a room service trolley.

As you do.

kim kardashian

The racy photo, which sees the woman showing off her ample derriere and a slice of side boob, was allegedly uploaded by Kanye to Twitter and then immediately removed, sparking rumours he may have done it accidentally.

According to US website MediaTakeOut.com, Kim was “furious” with Kanye over the incident and was even ready to dump him.

However, elsewhere online there has been speculation that it is actually of porn star Amia Miley, but she has refused to confirm whether it is her or not.

So just who is it in the picture?

original post taken from:http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/06/13/kim-kardashian-nude-kanye-west-twitter_n_1593027.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

Portia de Rossi to Play Lily Munster on NBC’s Mockingbird Lane

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By Natalie Abrams | TV Guide

  • Portia de Rossi | Photo Credits: Jason Merritt/Getty ImagesPortia de Rossi | Photo Credits: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Portia de Rossi has been cast as Lily Munster in NBC’s upcoming Munsters reboot Mockingbird Lane, TVGuide.com has confirmed.

Jerry O’Connell to play Herman Munster in NBC’s Mockingbird Lane

The Arrested Development and Better Off Ted alum will play the role of the vampire matriarch made famous by Yvonne De Carlo in the 1960s series. True Blood alum Mariana Klaveno was slated for the role, but could not be released from her contract on Marc Cherry’s Devious Maids pilot, which failed to garner a pickup at ABC but is reportedly being shopped at Lifetime. De Rossi most recently starred in The Smart One, a comedy pilot that ABC also passed on this development season.

The 39-year-old actress will star alongside Jerry O’Connell, who plays her husband Herman Munster, Eddie Izzard as the quick-witted grandpa and Charity Wakefield as the family’s “plain” cousin Marilyn. Mason Cook will play Herman’s werewolf son Eddie.

The re-imagining of the 1960s series, created by Pushing Daisies’ Bryan Fuller and directed by Bryan Singer, will maintain the core elements of the original series, although it will now be an hour-long drama.

 

original post taken from:http://tv.yahoo.com/news/portia-rossi-play-lily-munster-nbcs-mockingbird-lane-025000298.html

US Open golf 2012

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News

June 14th, 2012

Thursday, June 14, 2012
Chevron and the USGA have announced the Eagles For Education initiative that donates $10,000 for every eagle recorded at the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open. Michael Allen registered the second eagle of the 2012 U.S. Open. … read more >>

Heat’s Wade vows to be more aggressive in NBA Finals

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ReutersBy Steve Ginsburg | Reuters

  • Miami Heat's LeBron James (R) and Dwyane Wade share a laugh during a team practice for the NBA basketball finals in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, June 13, 2012. REUTERS/Jim YoungMiami Heat’s LeBron James (R) and …
  • Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra (L) speaks to Dwyane Wade during a team practice for the NBA basketball finals in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, June 13, 2012. REUTERS/Jim YoungMiami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra …

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) – In the aftermath of the Miami Heat’s second-half meltdown in the opening-game loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals, the spotlight is focused on the spotty play of All-Star Dwyane Wade.

The Heat guard scored 19 points but hit only seven of 19 shots and was at times listless in the 105-94 loss to the Thunder at raucous Chesapeake Energy Arena on Tuesday.

Wade acknowledged that in order for the Heat to win their first National Basketball Association (NBA) championship since 2006 he will have to be more assertive and take the pressure to score off league Most Valuable Player LeBron James.

He added, however, that he did not want to overreact after one game of a best-of-seven series.

“That’s when you start thinking too much, too many questions start coming up in your mind, you start over-analyzing things,” he said. “I want to score more points, I want to get my team to give us an opportunity to win the series.

“I’ll be more aggressive. Looking for my opportunities a lot more, probably more than I have of late. So that will be my change.”

Oklahoma City, playing in its first championship series since 1996 when the franchise was located in Seattle, outscored the Heat 24-4 on fast-break points in the series opener.

 

Heat Erik Spoelstra vowed to slow the Thunder’s frenetic pace while finding ways to free up Wade, an eight-time All-Star and former NBA scoring champion. Game Two of the series is Thursday night in Oklahoma City.

 

“We’re used to having the advantage on fast break opportunities, and they dominated that area 24 to 4,” Spoelstra said. “When we defend and we impose our will by being disruptive and aggressive, it opens up opportunities for us in the open court.

“And when we get our attackers in the open court, their confidence soars. In the half court we have to find ways to execute with more precision, to get (Wade) in places he can be aggressive and get into the paint.”

 

DURANT SHINES

James had 30 points but was eclipsed by Kevin Durant, who scored 17 of his 36 points in the final quarter, helping the Thunder overcome a seven-point halftime deficit.

Spoelstra said it too early to write the Heat’s epitaph.

“Our focus will be on playing more to our identity tomorrow night,” he said. “They imposed their identity more than we did in that game. We didn’t feel we played well.

“They’re a part of that, okay, but we didn’t play to our identity. And yet we still were four or five plays from coming away with a win.

“That’s some of the resourcefulness about our group. Usually at the end of games we find a way.”

James admitted there are times he will tell the 30-year-old Wade to pick up his game and be a little selfish with the ball.

“A lot of times I try to let him figure it out on his own, but sometimes I go to him and tell him I need one of those games from him, I need one of those performances from him because he still has it,” he said.

“He knows he still has it, too, but every player needs a little kick every now and then, no matter how time tested they are.

“I try to continue to let him know how important he is to this team, which he should know, but he also needs to be D Wade and not worry about deferring as much.”

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

 Original post taken from:http://news.yahoo.com/heats-wade-vows-more-aggressive-nba-finals-220536790–nba.html

 

Alleged porn distributor pleads not guilty in NJ

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Associated PressBy SAMANTHA HENRY | Associated Press  

  • In this 2004 family handout photo provided by Maksym Shynkarenko's sister Vladislava Silanteyva, shows Maksym Shynkarenko, wearing a T-shirt reading USSR, photographed during a picnic with friends in Kiev, Ukarine. Shynkarenko, 33, from the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, has been charged in the United States with operating numerous Ukraine-based hardcore child porn sites and selling access to clients worldwide. Shynkarenko has pleaded innocent to the charges in a Newark federal court.(AP Photo/A family handout photo provided by Vladislava Silanteyva)In this 2004 family handout photo … 

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A Ukrainian man accused of operating one of the most extensive child porn distribution networks ever prosecuted in the U.S. pleaded not guilty Wednesday in federal court.

A court-appointed attorney entered the plea on Maksym Shynkarenko’s behalf Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Newark. The Ukrainian government says he is innocent, and his mother says his arrest is a case of mistaken identity.

The 33-year-old from Kharkiv has been charged with 32 counts for allegedly operating Ukraine-based hardcore child porn sites with three co-conspirators who have not been named — two from the Ukraine and one from Russia — according to court documents.

Prosecutors say Shynkarenko sold access to the sites to clients worldwide, listing the charges under innocuous names to elude detection by credit card companies, but warning customers to lie and say their credit cards had been stolen if questioned by police.

He was extradited to the U.S. from Thailand this week. He was charged in New Jersey because the case began when agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s investigative arm first discovered a website allegedly run by Shynkarenko on the computer of a New Jersey customer in 2005.

The U.S. attorney for New Jersey, Paul Fishman, said 560 U.S.-based customers from 47 states have been convicted so far. Prosecutors said 10 to 50 customers a day were attempting to access sites allegedly run by Shynkarenko with names including “Illegal.CP,” ”The Sick Child Room,” ”Hottest Childporn Garden,” and “Pedo Heaven,” before they were shut down in 2008.

Shynkarenko was arrested in Thailand in 2009 while on vacation, and had been fighting extradition to the U.S. since.

Ukraine Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Dikusarov told The Associated Press on Tuesday that local investigators had found no evidence of Shynkarenko committing a crime, and they would work to defend him.

Tetyana Cherenok, Shynkarenko’s mother and a 64-year-old retired engineer, told the AP this week that her son is innocent and had been mistaken for another man with the same first and last name.

The court-appointed federal public defender for Shynkarenko, Linda Foster, declined to comment on his behalf Wednesday. Shynkarenko, in shackles and wearing dark green prison scrubs, did not speaking during the brief proceeding. Foster did not request bail for him, and he remains in custody.

He could face up to life in prison if convicted on all counts.

Original post taken from:http://news.yahoo.com/alleged-porn-distributor-pleads-not-guilty-nj-184822960.html

Giant Tropical Lake Found on Saturn Moon Titan

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SPACE.comBy Charles Q. Choi | SPACE.com

 

Related Content

  • A mosaic of the Huygens probe landing site, as seen by the descent imager/spectral radiometer (DIRS) on the Huygens probe. The mosaic is overlaid on a Cassini orbiter radar image, taken on an Oct. 28, 2005, flyby. The landing site, marked by thA mosaic of the Huygens probe landing …

An oasis of liquid methane has unexpectedly been discovered amid the tropical dunes of Saturn’s moon Titan, researchers say.

This lake in the otherwise dry tropics of Titan hints that subterranean channels of liquid methane might feed it from below, scientists added.

Titan has clouds, rain and lakes, like Earth, but these are composed of methane rather than water. However, methane lakes were seen only at Titan’s poles until now — its tropics around the equator were apparently home to dune fields instead.

Now near-infrared pictures of Titan from the Cassini spacecraft currently orbiting Saturn collected since 2004 suggest a vast methane lake exists on the surface in the moon’s tropics, one about 925 square miles (2,400 square kilometers) large and at least three feet (1 meter) deep.

“Titan’s tropical lake is roughly the size of the Great Salt Lake in Utah during its lowest recorded level,” study lead author Caitlin Griffith, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona at Tucson, told SPACE.com. “Our work also suggests the existence of a handful of smaller and shallower ponds similar to marshes on Earth with knee- to ankle-level depths.” [An Earth-like Lake on Titan (Video)]

A number of models of methane’s behavior on Titan convincingly show that lakes are not stable at the moon’s tropical latitudes. “Any liquid deposited in the tropical surface evaporates quickly and eventually is transported by Titan’s circulation to the poles, where the large polar lakes appear,” Griffith said.

“This discovery was absolutely not expected,” Griffith said. “Lakes at the poles are easy to explain, but lakes in the tropics are not.”

 

The researchers argue that these models of methane’s behavior on Titan remain valid. The lake’s presence during the moon’s dry season several years before the arrival of seasonal tropical clouds and its long lifetime are evidence against it being a rain puddle, which would evaporate quickly.

Instead, Griffith and her colleagues suggest this tropical lake is fed by subterranean channels, essentially making it an oasis in the desert.

Past research has suggested that on average, about 3,425 pounds of methane per square mile (600 kilograms per square kilometer) must well up annually from underground of Titan’s surface to explain the amount seen in Titan’s atmosphere, since the gas is destroyed over time by solar ultraviolet rays.

Past hints of subterranean methane breaking through to Titan’s surface had also been suggested by data gathered by the Huygens probe that landed on the moon in 2005.

“The landing site, although surrounded by a vast dune field, reveals a landscape carved almost entirely by three different liquid erosion events — rainfall, flooding, and seepage,” Griffith said. “While rainfall may have carved the downhill drainage features, the flood plain, in which the probe landed, was caused by liquid flowing from a different source of methane. In addition, a puff of methane was detected upon landing, which suggests that the site was damp.”

The question of how a subterranean aquifer might form on Titan is still unclear. “Titan’s orbit about Saturn might give us a clue. It is not circular,” Griffith said. Some scientists suggest that Titan’s noncircular orbit was once even more elliptical and only recently decayed to its current slightly noncircular orbit. During this possible orbital decay, the gravitational pull of Saturn on Titan would have led to powerful tides, releasing heat that could have caused subsurface reservoirs of methane to form and outgas.

The scientists detailed their findings in the June 14 issue of the journal Nature.

Original post taken from:http://news.yahoo.com/giant-tropical-lake-found-saturn-moon-titan-171440740.html;_ylt=ApCy98IuIu0YW1a3YMwx_36HgsgF;_ylu=X3oDMTRlOWswdnQ2BG1pdANUb3BTdG9yeSBTY2llbmNlU0YgU3BhY2VBc3Ryb25vbXlTU0YEcGtnAzMyY2NhMzZlLTk0ZGUtMzhjMi05NzdlLTE2NWEzMjI3NWIxMARwb3MDNARzZWMDdG9wX3N0b3J5BHZlcgM5M2E1ZTMwMS1iNTdjLTExZTEtYjRjZS01YTYyNzlmYzcxOGI-;_ylg=X3oDMTFlamZvM2ZlBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdAMEcHQDc2VjdGlvbnM-;_ylv=3

The Obama enigma: How would a hyper-cautious risk-taker approach a second term?

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Walter Shapiro‘s Yahoo! News column examines what we know about the character and personalities of the 2012 candidates. Shapiro, who is covering his ninth presidential campaign, is also a special correspondent for the New Republic.

Mitt Romney has aired a series of gauzy TV spots trying to help voters get over the perceptual challenge of imagining him in the Oval Office. “What would a Romney presidency be like?” asks the off-screen male narrator in a thrilled tone implying that any day now you too could be a partner at Bain Capital. The specifics in the Romney ads are GOP boilerplate (“End Obama Era of Big Government”), but what is really being peddled is Reaganite optimism (“It’s the feeling we’ll have that our country’s back”).

All this is standard fare for the out-of-office candidate in economic hard times. Similar upbeat sentiments were displayed in the iconic Barack Obama 2008 campaign poster and by Bill Clinton ending his 1992 convention speech with a play off the name of his boyhood home in Arkansas, “I still believe in a place called Hope.” But incumbent presidents running for a second term (Ronald Reagan 1984 aside) cannot get away with offering voters tangerine trees and marmalade skies. Just imagine Obama borrowing his reelection slogan from 1950s British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan: “You never had it so good.”

In truth, except for extreme partisans on both sides, it is difficult to conjure up an Obama second term. Yes, we can mentally see him in the Oval Office in 2016, maybe a little greyer than today, but fundamentally the same person. We can hear his campaign rhetoric: “I’m running for president because I want to do something about our debts and our deficits in a balanced and responsible way,” the president declared at a fund-raiser Tuesday night in Philadelphia. (Memo to Obama speechwriters: Words like “balanced” and “responsible” rarely get the blood rushing in partisan politics.) But the reality of a reelected President Obama somehow remains frustratingly out of reach.

I have been wrestling with the Obama second-term mystery – and will continue to do so in this column (along with scrutinizing Romney) until the election. Governing in modern times is not a linear exercise in which you can project the future simply based on a straight-line extension of the present. Over the past four decades, all two-term presidencies have been mired in unexpected sadness and often scandal: Richard Nixon (Watergate), Reagan (Iran-contra), Clinton (Monica Lewinsky and impeachment) and George W. Bush (war weariness, Hurricane Katrina and the financial meltdown). On the other hand, whoever is elected in 2012 – and no matter what policies he pursues – may eventually preside over a return to robust economic growth as the world rebounds from the longest downturn since the Depression.

The complexity and elusiveness of Obama, even after 41 months in the White House, is a motif of two ambitious recent journalistic attempts to explain him. In the current issue of The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza, the magazine’s Washington correspondent, confronts the question directly in a 12-page article subtitled, “What would Obama do if reelected?” Lizza’s short answer, based on the likely tightness of the election, can be summarized in this sentence: “Whatever a mandate is, Obama won’t have one.”

David Maraniss, the author of the long-awaited biography, “Barack Obama: The Story,” which ends with the future president heading to Harvard Law School at age 27, comes at things obliquely. Again and again, Maraniss marvels at the quirks of fate that produced Obama. He devotes hundreds of novelistic pages to bringing together Stanley Ann Dunham (the unhappy 17-year-old daughter of an itinerant furniture salesman) and Barack Hussein Obama (the already married non-believing son of a Kenyan convert to Islam) in introductory Russian class at the University of Hawaii.

To Maraniss, the recurring theme in Obama’s biography is “his determination to avoid life’s traps.” That partly explains Obama’s “caution” and “his tendency to hold back and survey life like a chessboard, looking for where he might get checkmated,” in Maraniss’s words. Jerry Kellman, who hired the youthful Obama as a community organizer in Chicago, told Maraniss in one of the most revealing quotes in the book that his protégé “was one of the most cautious people I’ve ever met in my life. He was not unwilling to take risks, but was this strange combination of someone who would have to weigh everything to death, and then take a dramatic risk at the end.”

So how would a hyper-cautious risk-taker approach a second term wrested from a divided electorate?

Much would depend, as Lizza makes clear, on the makeup of the new Congress and the political lessons that the Republicans derive from Obama’s reelection. Both Obama and Romney have so far failed to prepare voters for the epic economic reckoning that is slated to occur during the 55-day lame-duck period between the election and the end of 2012. Obama (his term ends on January 20) and the current Congress will have to reach agreement to prevent the expiration of all the Bush tax cuts, the elimination of the 2-percent temporary reduction in payroll taxes, the end of extended unemployment benefits and an automatic $110-billion slash in both domestic spending and the Pentagon budget. At stake is about $500 billion, which is roughly 3 percent of the entire economy.

How that Great Reckoning will play out – along with another congressional fight over the federal debt ceiling looming in early 2013 — will partly shape the economic contours of the next four years. The possibilities range from a grand bargain in which the White House and congressional Republicans give up ground on taxes and spending to a continuation of the scorched-earth politics that have repeatedly put the economy in jeopardy. Perhaps the best chance for an agreement is if both Obama and the Republicans feel chastened by the election returns.

Lizza, who interviewed top presidential advisers, envisions a reelected Obama able to prevail on one major domestic policy issue before everything halts for the 2014 elections. (A second-term president almost invariably loses congressional seats during his sixth year in office). The squishiness of Obama’s governing vision shines through as his advisers bounce from refinancing the housing market to enacting a carbon tax to pursuing immigration reform to rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure. It is axiomatic in politics that if everything is a top priority then nothing really is. And right now, the Obama agenda is mostly a laundry list of familiar Democratic if-only nostrums.

Make no mistake, it is still early in the campaign season for both Obama and Romney to articulate their innermost dreams about the presidency. If their Oval Office roadmaps for 2013 still seem murky after the convention acceptance speeches, then there will be ample reason for complaint. But there is a particular risk for Obama as the incumbent in keeping his plans under wraps for too long. In 2005, Bush built his second-term domestic agenda around Social Security privation – with disastrous results, in part, because he had never stressed the issue during the 2004 campaign.

In his biography, Maraniss recounts a disastrous meeting that Obama held with black ministers as an apprentice community organizer on the South Side of Chicago. (A bowdlerized version of this incident appears in Obama’s autobiography, “Dreams from My Father.”) Afterwards, Obama said, “Let’s make sure we understand what just went on so we can go from here and not make this kind of mistake again.”

With the economy sputtering and health-care reform hanging by a thread before the Supreme Court, that can also serve as a partial description of Obama’s tenure in the Oval Office. What the president has learned from his mistakes is ultimately the biggest question if the voters grant Obama a second term.

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