Astronomers find new planet capable of supporting life – Telegraph

The planet lies in what they describe as a ‘habitable zone’, neither too near its sun to dry out or too far away which freezes it.

And the discovery could help answer the question of whether we are alone in the universe, which has been plagued astronomers and alien fanatics for years.

Scientists found the planet, Gliese 667Cc, orbiting around a red dwarf star, 22 light years away from the earth.

Red dwarf stars are the most common stars in the neighbourhood of the sun, usually hosting planets called gas giants, which are not composed of rock matter.

Re-analysing data from the European Southern Observatory, the astronomers found Gliese 667Cc is a solid planet with roughly four and a half times the mass of Earth.

The University Göttingen and University of California scientists have calculated the planet recieves ten per cent less light from its red dwarf star than the Earth gets from the Sun.

As the light is in the infrared area, the planet still receives nearly the same amount of energy as the Earth, meaning water could be liquid and surface temperatures could be similar to ours.

Astronomers are hailing the plant as the ‘Holy Grail’ of discoveries, as 20 years ago scientists were still arguing about the existence of planets beyond our solar system.

Since the discovery of the first extrasolar planet in 1995, astronomers have confirmed the existence of more than 760 planets beyond the solar system, with only four believed to be in a habitable zone.

via Astronomers find new planet capable of supporting life – Telegraph.

‘Fairy Tale’ of Austerity Is Finally Dead – Paul Krugman: Europe realizing those policies made things worse

Paul Krugman doesn’t use the words “I told you so,” but he does pronounce the notion that austerity measures would fire up Europe’s economy good and dead. European policy-makers had the misguided idea—one embraced by Republicans in the US—that cutting back on spending would spur confidence, he writes in the New York Times. Instead, we see nothing but “Depression-level slumps” all over Europe.

The good news is that Europeans—witness the Netherlands elections, for example—are finally waking up, writes Krugman. “Suddenly, everyone is admitting that austerity isn’t working.” The bad news is that the policies in place probably won’t change because of fear-mongering. “We’re now living in a world of zombie economic policies,” writes Krugman, and “it’s anyone’s guess when this reign of terror will end.”

via ‘Fairy Tale’ of Austerity Is Finally Dead – Paul Krugman: Europe realizing those policies made things worse.

Government-Run Healthcare is More Efficient Than Private Healthcare | Mother Jones

Can the government provide healthcare more efficiently than the private market? There’s no simple answer to that, but a couple of recent data points suggest the answer is yes.

First there’s Medicare. It’s true that long-term Medicare costs remain our most critical budget problem, thanks to aging baby boomers and ever-expanding treatments for chronic illnesses and end-of-life care. But per-capita Medicare spending has been on a long downward trend, and that trend has been so steady and predictable that a recent study suggested that spending growth per beneficiary over the next decade would be close to zero. Earlier this week we got some confirmation of this when the annual Social Security Trustees report was released. Most of the media attention focused on Social Security, whose financial position deteriorated compared to last year thanks to a slowing economy and an aging population. But using the same economic forecasts, the trustees nonetheless projected no deterioration in Medicare’s financial picture. Why? “Once you dig into the numbers,” says the Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff, “the most plausible explanation is a pretty encouraging one: Our health-care system is getting better at delivering the same medicine more efficiently.”

And there’s more. On Wednesday, Austin Frakt and Aaron Carroll reported on a new study of Medicaid spending by states. Despite years of horror stories about Medicaid bankrupting state budgets, the study found that most of the increase over the past decade has simply been due to inflation and population growth, not the rising cost of medical care. Adjusted for inflation and population, it turns out that Medicaid spending rose by less than 4% between 2002 and 2011.

via Government-Run Healthcare is More Efficient Than Private Healthcare | Mother Jones.

Donations pour in to Trayvon Martin’s killer – CNN.com

The lawyer for the neighborhood watch leader who fatally shot unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, said Thursday that his client has received about $200,000 from supporters.

Orlando lawyer Mark O’Mara told CNN’s “AC360″ that George Zimmerman told him Wednesday of the donations as they were trying to shut down his Internet presence to avoid concerns about possible impersonators and problems with his Twitter and Facebook accounts.

“He asked me what to do with his PayPal accounts and I asked him what he was talking about,” O’Mara told Anderson Cooper. “And he said those were the accounts that had the money from the website he had. And there was about 200, $204,000 that had come in to date.”

O’Mara had said earlier this month that he believed Zimmerman had no money. “I think he’s indigent for costs,” he said, adding that Zimmerman’s relatives had few assets.

Zimmerman, 28, was released Monday on $150,000 bail, 10% of which his family put up to secure his release. He is accused of second-degree murder in the February 26 death of Martin, who was African-American. Critics have accused him of racially profiling Martin and unjustly killing him. He has said he shot in self-defense.

via Donations pour in to Trayvon Martin’s killer – CNN.com.

Paul Ryan Flip Flops on Ayn Rand: ‘I Reject Her Philosophy’

Rep. Paul Ryan and his on-again, off-again political inspiration, Ayn Rand

In 2005, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) heaped praise on Ayn Rand, a 20th-century libertarian novelist best known for her philosophy that centered on the idea that selfishness is “virtue”. The New Republic wrote:

“The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand,” Ryan said at a D.C. gathering four years ago honoring the author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”

Ryan also noted in a 2003 interview with the Weekly Standard, “I give out ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it. Well… I try to make my interns read it.”

But today, Ryan is singing a far different tune.

From an interview with National Review’s Bob Costa this week:

“I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says.

It’s understandable why Ryan would back off his former political muse. She described altruism as “evil,” condemned Christianity for advocating compassion for the poor, viewed the feminist movement as “phony,” and called Arabs “almost totally primitive savages.” Learn more about Ayn Rand in this short ThinkProgress video:

via Paul Ryan Flip Flops on Ayn Rand: ‘I Reject Her Philosophy’.

Insanity: CISPA Just Got Way Worse, And Then Passed On Rushed Vote | Techdirt

Up until this afternoon, the final vote on CISPA was supposed to be tomorrow. Then, abruptly, it was moved up today—and the House voted in favor of its passage with a vote of 248-168. But that’s not even the worst part.

The vote followed the debate on amendments, several of which were passed. Among them was an absolutely terrible change (pdf and embedded below—scroll to amendment #6) to the definition of what the government can do with shared information, put forth by Rep. Quayle. Astonishingly, it was described as limiting the government’s power, even though it in fact expands it by adding more items to the list of acceptable purposes for which shared information can be used. Even more astonishingly, it passed with a near-unanimous vote. The CISPA that was just approved by the House is much worse than the CISPA being discussed as recently as this morning.

Previously, CISPA allowed the government to use information for “cybersecurity” or “national security” purposes. Those purposes have not been limited or removed. Instead, three more valid uses have been added: investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crime, protection of individuals, and protection of children. Cybersecurity crime is defined as any crime involving network disruption or hacking, plus any violation of the CFAA.

Basically this means CISPA can no longer be called a cybersecurity bill at all. The government would be able to search information it collects under CISPA for the purposes of investigating American citizens with complete immunity from all privacy protections as long as they can claim someone committed a “cybersecurity crime”. Basically it says the 4th Amendment does not apply online, at all. Moreover, the government could do whatever it wants with the data as long as it can claim that someone was in danger of bodily harm, or that children were somehow threatened—again, notwithstanding absolutely any other law that would normally limit the government’s power.

Somehow, incredibly, this was described as limiting CISPA, but it accomplishes the exact opposite. This is very, very bad.

via Insanity: CISPA Just Got Way Worse, And Then Passed On Rushed Vote | Techdirt.

Daily Kos: Glenn Beck: God told me to quit Fox News or ‘lose my soul’

Speaking with televangelist James Robison, ex-Fox News personality Glenn Beck discusses being canned from nobly leaving Fox News of his own accord:

On the day he decided to leave, Beck said he walked up to a floor-to-ceiling window in his New York apartment and asked his wife, “How could this possibly be God’s plan?”

“As I stood there, the Lord whispered to me, ‘If you do not leave now, you will lose your soul,’” Beck said. “It was the easiest decision I’ve ever made.”

The Lord works in mysterious ways. Sometimes he speaks to you through your large New York apartment windows. Sometimes he speaks to you by having Roger Ailes walk into your office and fire your crazy ass. It’s all good.

I don’t know what Glenn’s been smoking, but apparently he’s been sharing:

“The primary reason that he left is because they were not comfortable with him talking about God and Jesus as often and as freely as he did,” said Robison, who participated in Beck’s presentation.

via Daily Kos: Glenn Beck: God told me to quit Fox News or ‘lose my soul’.

9 Revelations From Robert Draper’s ‘Do Not Ask What Good We Do’ – The Daily Beast

In Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives, Robert Draper explores the strange fantastical world of the 112th Congress.  Elected in the GOP wave of 2010, 87 freshmen Republicans, many of them Tea-Party-backed political novices, caused endless mischief for party leaders during the debt ceiling struggle. Draper chronicles the adjustment of these new members and the House of Representatives’ adjustment to them as Congress’s approval ratings plummeted to new lows. The book is not all partisan strife and grimness, though—there’s always Anthony Weiner for comic relief. Here are the highlights from Draper’s gripping and fast-paced narrative.

Newt Gingrich, Present at the Creation

On the night of Barack Obama’s inauguration, Republican leaders met in a private dining room at an expensive Washington, D.C., steakhouse to plot their comeback. It was a mix of congressmen and senators with three others added to diversify the gathering of white men. Pollster Frank Luntz, right-wing journalist Fred Barnes, and former speaker (and soon-to-be former presidential candidate) Newt Gingrich. Gingrich gave the opening remarks and gave tactical advice throughout, including a suggestion for Republicans to target the tax problems of New York Democrat Charlie Rangel. At the end of the night, Gingrich proclaimed, “You will remember this day. You’ll remember this as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown.”

John Dingell Learns About Tea Bagging

John Dingell is the longest currently-serving member of Congress (and the third longest-serving ever). The acerbic 85-year-old Michigan Democrat had long been contemptuous of Tea Partiers. He found them unruly and difficult to get along with. Dingell tended to refer to them as “tea baggers,” a phrase that has an alternate sexual meaning. This normally wouldn’t have been a problem in the hall of Congress, but when Dingell was booked to appear on The Daily Show with John Stewart, his staff felt the need to finally warn and educate him. When his chief of staff shared the other meaning of “tea bagger” with Dingell, the Congressman went through three different stages of reaction. At first, he said “hah,” then said “that’s disgusting,” and finally the octogenarian congressman reached the plain of acceptance and said, “It’s funny and I’m going to keep using it.”

via 9 Revelations From Robert Draper’s ‘Do Not Ask What Good We Do’ – The Daily Beast.