A 300 metre-wide asteroid is making a close pass to the Earth.
Apophis - named after the Egyptian demon of destruction and darkness - has been put on a watch list by scientists.
They have calculated that in 2036 there is a very small chance it could collide with our planet.
However, its current fly-by is at a safe distance of about 14 million km - but this is close enough for astronomers to study the space rock and assess its future risk.
Apophis will not be visible with the naked eye, but space enthusiasts can watch it online via the Slooh space camera’s website.
Hamas’ flagship university in Gaza has a new diploma on offer — Hebrew, the official language of its arch-foe Israel.
Gaza’s Hamas rulers say they want to produce qualified teachers as the government gradually introduces Hebrew studies in its high schools. The aim is simple: It wants Palestinians in Gaza to learn their enemy’s language.
“As Jews are occupying our lands, we have to understand their language,” said Education Ministry official Somayia Nakhala.
There are 19 students enrolled in the first one-year Hebrew diploma course offered at the Islamic University in Gaza City, a stronghold of Hamas, the Islamic militant group that has ruled Gaza since 2007. Hamas does not recognize Israel, is officially pledged to its destruction and has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings, rocket strikes and other attacks.
Officials hope graduates will become Hebrew teachers. Hamas has already begun offering Hebrew studies as an elective to ninth graders in 16 schools, and plans to expand the program to dozens of other schools in the coming months.
The “Yi Long” drone by China Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC) is displayed during the 9th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai on November 13, 2012. (AFP Photo/Philippe Lopez)
The development and acquisition of drones has become crucial to the ever-expanding arms race between China and Japan, as tensions over disputed islands in the East China Sea could soon reach boiling point.
Weaknesses in Japan’s surveillance capability and the ongoing territorial dispute over the Senkaku islands, known as the Diaoyu in China, have spurred Tokyo to purchase an advanced drone model from the US.
Japan’s vulnerability was highlighted late last year when Japanese radar failed to detect a low-flying Chinese aircraft passing over the group of disputed islands.
The drones will seemingly be deployed “to counter China’s growing assertiveness at sea, especially when it comes to the Senkaku islands,” the Kyodo news agency quoted an unnamed defense ministry official as saying.
Japanese concerns that the islands will be used by China as a prelude to testing regional power balances, prompted Japan’s Defense Ministry to request $2.4 billion dollars from hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose conservative government swept to power on December 26.
The extraordinary spectacle of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad making a speech calling for the opposition fighters to give themselves up, start a “national dialogue” and fling themselves on his mercy, was a sad confirmation of his dangerous state of denial as his regime crumbles around him.
But Al Assad has easily enough military support to be very effective in the field, and his capability to fight on is bolstered by the large Alawite minority who see very little option other than to support Al Assad to the death, since they do not see any way they can simply join the largely Sunni and secular opposition which has made no effort to reach out to the Alawite community.
The opposition knows all too well of the massacres perpetrated by government forces, and its repeated attempts to frighten the Syrian population back into obedience. Its leaders know the brutality of the Al Assad system, which over the decades has been benign to those who were willing to work with it, but savage to those who chose to question it.
The opposition sense that they are about to start winning the war. The former Syrian National Council has been expanded to become the Syrian National Coalition, which has won recognition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people from most of the world, allowing active support. Many western countries are supplying goods and services if not arms, but the Saudis and others in the region are anxious to start giving the opposition arms, arguing that unless they do, religious extremists will dominate the fighting and take undue political reward wen the regime finally falls.
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Let’s not let arguments over the Constitution’s Second Amendment violate the spirit of its First. President Obama believes that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. However, the Constitution not only guarantees an individual right to bear arms, but also enshrines the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press — fundamental principles that are essential to our democracy. Americans may disagree on matters of public policy and express those disagreements vigorously, but no one should be punished by the government simply because he or she expressed a view on the Second Amendment — or any other matter of public concern.
We recognize that the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, sparked an intense, and at times emotional, national conversation about the steps we can take as a country to reduce gun violence. In fact, your petition is one of many on the issue, and President Obama personally responded by sharing his views on this important issue.
In a recent press conference, President Obama also addressed the Second Amendment and the important perspective that law-abiding gun owners bring to the public conversation on this issue:
Look, like the majority of Americans, I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. This country has a strong tradition of gun ownership that’s been handed down from generation to generation. Obviously across the country there are regional differences. There are differences between how people feel in urban areas and rural areas. And the fact is the vast majority of gun owners in America are responsible — they buy their guns legally and they use them safely, whether for hunting or sport shooting, collection or protection.
But you know what, I am also betting that the majority — the vast majority — of responsible, law-abiding gun owners would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few from buying a weapon of war. I’m willing to bet that they don’t think that using a gun and using common sense are incompatible ideas — that an unbalanced man shouldn’t be able to get his hands on a military-style assault rifle so easily; that in this age of technology, we should be able to check someone’s criminal records before he or she can check out at a gun show; that if we work harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one in Newtown — or any of the lesser-known tragedies that visit small towns and big cities all across America every day.
Jay Carney is White House Press Secretary
CES is about technology of all kinds; while we’re busy covering cameras, TVs, and CPUs, there’s a huge number of products that fall outside our normal coverage. Austin-based startup TrackingPoint isn’t typical Ars fare, but its use of technology to enable getting just the perfect shot was intriguing enough to get me to stop by and take a look at the company’s products.
TrackingPoint makes “Precision Guided Firearms, or “PGFs,” which are a series of three heavily customized hunting rifles, ranging from a .300 Winchester Magnum with a 22-inch barrel up to a .338 Lapua Magnum with 27-inch barrel, all fitted with advanced computerized scopes that look like something directly out of The Terminator. Indeed, the comparison to that movie is somewhat apt, because looking through the scope of a Precision Guided Firearm presents you with a collection of data points and numbers, all designed to get a bullet directly from point A to point B.
China will reform its controversial system of forced labor camps this year, state media reported yesterday, which would mark a first step toward legal reform promised by new Chinese Communist Party General Secretary and Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平).
China’s “re-education through labor” system, in place since 1957, empowers police to sentence petty criminals to up to four years’ confinement without going through the courts, a system that critics say undermines the rule of law and is used against political activists.
The announcement by Xinhua news agency contradicted earlier media reports that cited Chinese Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu (孟建柱) as saying China would scrap the system. Those reports were removed from media Web sites without an explanation.
“The Chinese government will this year push the reform of its controversial re-education through labor system, according to a national political and legal work conference on Monday,” Xinhua reported.
State broadcaster CCTV had said earlier on its microblog site, citing the party’s newly appointed Political and Legal Affairs Committee head, Meng, as saying: “Use of the re-education through labor system will end this year, after approval from the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.”
The Ministry of Justice did not respond to a faxed inquiry from reporters.