WASHINGTON—People looking for a shooting star to wish upon may have found Wednesday overnight to be a dream come true.
Celestial timing helped people see more of the oldest meteor shower known to Earth, the Perseids, when they peaked 3 a.m. local Thursday, according to astronomers.
That’s “because the moon is almost new and there’s no moonlight to mess with the show,” said NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke. The last time the Perseids (pur-SEE’-uhdz) peaked with little moonlight was 2007.
The weather was good enough and one shooting star a minute, maybe more, was expected, said Cooke.
Clear skies were expected clear for an unusually large section of the United States, said Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters. Much of the East, Midwest and far West will be almost cloudless. But the forecast wasn’t as nice for Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arizona, Utah and Idaho.
The sky show is pieces of comet Swift-Tuttle hitting Earth’s atmosphere at more than 133,000 mph and burning up. The best way to watch is to lie down and look up—no telescopes needed.
Meteor showers just touch people in a special way, said planetary scientist Sheila Kanani of the Royal Astronomical Society in London.
“For a lot of people, it’s a make-a-wish kind of mentality,” Kanani said. “There’s something quite romantic about a meteor shower.”.
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At 8:15 a.m. local time on August 6, 1945, a blinding light flashed above the 7th largest city in Japan. An instant later people heard an earsplitting explosion. A searing blaze flashed through the streets of the commercial center, instantly turning people into ash.
Then the shock wave came, ripping through buildings as if through sugar glass, like an invisible tsunami obliterating all in its way as far as one could see. In a matter of seconds, the city of Hiroshima was virtually gone.
Then, out of the rubble of absolute destruction, hundreds of fires emerged, unleashing a vortex of fire. With the ominous mushroom cloud lingering above the city like a sign of death, only the cracked walls of a cathedral, a steel dome of an exhibition hall, and a few other earthquake-proofed buildings peaked out of the desolation. With thick clouds too dark to penetrate, the land fell into darkness.
Some 500 miles north-east in Tokyo nobody knew. Communication with Hiroshima went down, but there was no official confirmation of what happened. A young officer of the General Staff was instructed to fly to Hiroshima, survey the situation, and return to Tokyo. But he didn’t return. He reached the city in the afternoon. It was still burning. He landed in the south, sent a message to Tokyo, and stayed to help with the relief work.
Around midnight in Japan, a public announcement came from the White House and the Japanese leadership for the first time officially learned that the country has been hit by an atomic bomb.
A full account can be read in the report compiled by the Manhattan Engineer District of the U.S. Army which was released on June 29, 1946.
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Forget about kittens and puppies—baby seals are the epitome of cuteness. Just look at how furry and helpless they look, and those big black eyes …
Moreover, baby seals have also become a symbol of a fight against animal cruelty as they are hunted for their coats.
Canada, the largest seal hunter in the world, allows more than 300,000 seals to be hunted each year (out of a population of estimated 7.4 million).
But the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, that oversees seal hunting, calls it a myth that the “Canadian government allows sealers to harvest seal pups.”
“The harvesting of harp seal pups (whitecoats) and hooded seal pups (bluebacks) is illegal in Canada and has been since 1987,” its website states. “The seals that are harvested are self-reliant, independent animals.”
Yet that is a wording on the very edge of the facts. It is true that hunting white-furred baby seals is forbidden. But the website fails to mention that baby harp seals only remain white until about the age of two weeks. Any baby seal older that that can be legally hunted.
Calling such baby seal “self-reliant” and “independent” is also a controversial statement, though technically correct since the mother abandons a baby seal after just 12 days of feeding.
Yet baby seals older than 12 days are undeniably still puppies and so, yes, Canadian government allows sealers to kill seal pups.
To be sure, after decades of debates and counter measures, it seems baby seals are not hunted in a way any more cruel then other animals, meaning most are killed swiftly.
Still, killing a baby animal however “humanely” is for many simply inconceivable. Some wouldn’t eat lamb meat for the same reason. Though fewer seem concerned about eating chicken—technically still babies when slaughtered at the age of 5 to 14 weeks.
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A massive wildfire raging about 100 miles north of San Francisco, dubbed Rocky Fire, consumed 65,000 acres of land already. So far 24 homes fell victim to the blaze and almost 7,000 more structures are threatened, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
More than 3,200 firefighters are battling the flames aided by over 300 engines and 23 aircraft. Still, the wild fire is just 12 percent contained, based on Tuesday morning data, and the authorities estimate it will take another week to subdue.
Yesterday firefighters set up large backfires to cut the spreading inferno from crossing Highway 20, but as the wind shifted, flying ember set up multiple spot fires on the other side of the highway.
“Firefighters are working aggressively to build control lines and sustain perimeter control,” the department stated on its website. “Terrain is steep and rugged with limited access.”
Backfires are supposed to create a strip of burned land in front of the wildfire, so the main fire doesn’t have enough fuel to cross it. But this time the strategy wasn’t quite successful because the backfires failed to consume bigger bushes.
“The bigger brush was not burning, then the wind changed and the big stuff started burning and carried embers across Highway 20,” Cal Fire Capt. Danny DeViso told SFGate, a sister-site of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Wildfires are a rather common occurrence in California, with thousands igniting every year. The largest one, dubbed Cedar, consumed over 270,000 acres of land, over 2,800 structures, and caused 15 deaths in 2003.
Last year over 600,000 acres fell prey to wildfires in California, a similar number to the year before. The fires cause damages amounting to tens, even hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Hundreds of millions more are spent every year to combat the flames.
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In just five months the new “Star Wars: Force Awakens” hits movie theaters, yet for many the force never went to sleep in the first place. Perhaps one of the most amusing examples is the never-ending stream of increasingly sophisticated photos of Star Wars stormtrooper action figures in imaginative and comical compositions.
Just to be sure, there are well over thousand of such pictures out there so narrowing the selection down to less than 30 really presents only the best of the best and the funniest of the funniest. At least in my humble opinion.
What stroke me was the incredible versatility of the figures, including how anatomically plausible they look in different poses. I mean, the YMCA stormtroopers? Priceless. And the twister game? I’d say the ultimate test of the action figure flexibility.
Among the more subtle realizations was the possibility to express plethora of meanings just through poses, as there are no facial expressions to play with. And the last but not the least: The craftiness of the photographers in creating the settings, finding all the tiny props, etc.
There’s definitely more out there so I may revisit this topic again in the future. This time I wanted to focus on the more “signature” stormtrooper humor. And just for variety, I added one picture with no stormtroopers at all. Some may argue it breaks the flow a bit, but it’s still Star Wars-themed and I’d say pretty clever too.
If you’d appreciate more on this topic, or if you have stumbled upon even better stormtrooper pictures, feel free to leave a comment.
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Browsing through NASA photo archives, one may expect to be impressed, but not necessarily surprised: lots of astronauts in “Michelin Men” suits, the flag on the moon, deep space, a shuttle taking off—that kind of thing. Imagine my delight when I stumbled upon quite a few examples of some impressive photography.
Though often capturing visuals that terrestrial photographers can only dream of, old NASA photographs were focused more on documenting the agency’s work than the aesthetics of photography as an art form. But that doesn’t mean many of the images don’t possess an artistic quality.
Check out this selection, where the lighting, composition, and perspective elevated pure depiction to a real aesthetic treat.
Of course, these days astronauts receive training in photography and producing stunning pictures is part of the job. Moreover, there are astronauts like Canadian Chris Hadfield, who published an art book on space photography, and Donald Pettit, who earned himself an interview with TIME last year specifically on the topic of taking pictures in space.
You may notice that several pictures in this selection date back to World War II and may wonder, “Wasn’t NASA established much later?”
That’s right. NASA was established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958 by the National Aeronautics and Space Act—in fact, it was exactly 57 years ago, on July 29. But the United States already had an aeronautics agency at the time, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). With the creation of NASA, NACA was dissolved but they both possess the same legacy.
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NEW YORK—Waterfight NYC 2015 just turned the Great Lawn of the Central Park into a soaked battle zone. Kids and adults (predominantly adults) dusted off their water-spewing weaponry and unleashed refreshing mayhem on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
An astonishing 64,000 people confirmed attendance through the event’s Facebook page. Understandably, the authorities took slight issue the event’s popularity since the permit didn’t allow numbers of that magnitude. Still, a couple thousand people were allowed on the Great Lawn and more, waiting in line, were gradually let in.
Though dubbed a “fight,” there wasn’t much competition—winners were everyone having fun. Maybe only those who somehow remained dry could be considered as loosing.
While some geared up with costumes, goggles, and humongous Super Soakers (or other brand equivalents), other participants seemingly came more to receive than to deal water damage, carrying low-range armaments and wearing little to no protective gear.
In the end, though, situations sometimes reverse, with the best equipped combatants also drawing the most fire from the crowd. Clearly their superior firepower and defensive capabilities were no match for the incessant drenching streams of laughing assaulters.
According to a Facebook post by Brian De La Cruz, organizer of Waterfight NYC, the event took place without incident and he is already working on next year’s fun, promising “It’ll only get better!”
A few tips for next year’s fighters
no water balloons allowed
no replica guns (for obvious reasons)
never target eyes
never target photographers and cameramen
carry A LOT of water—ammo runs out fast
consider swimming goggles
fast-drying apparel may be more fun than water-resistant
To find your best weapon of choice, consult a specialized site, such as iSoaker.com.
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I have to admit, browsing through the archives of U.S. Marine Corps photographers, I had to raise my standard for what constitutes a good picture. I’ve already put together two selections, as you can check here and here, and I wanted the third one to stand out.
Whether I succeeded you can judge for yourself.
Bit of Trivia
I’ve already noted some basic stats and historical background of the Marine Corps in my previous galleries, so let’s take a look at some more fun facts this time.
You may have heard Marines being called “leathernecks.” Well, that’s because they actually used to wear leather collars during the 19th century as a protection against neck sword wounds.
You may have also heard the nickname “Devil Dogs.” Allegedly, German soldiers addressed Marines as such during the World War I. It is also possible, however, that the nickname was more popular among American media than within the German military.
Ironically, the most modern nickname of all is also the most unclear. Yes, the “jarheads.” Not only I couldn’t pinpoint the exact time when this moniker surfaced, I also discovered a notable body of explanations as to its original meaning.
The most common one refers to the “high and tight” haircut of Marines that, supposedly, makes their heads look like jars. I have to say though I can’t see much similarity there.
An article on mantelligence.com offers a rather original explanation: “The sailors claimed that the stiff neck of the dress uniform made it look like the Marine’s head was sticking out of a Mason jar.”
Yet, I couldn’t easily corroborate this avenue of thought.
The UrbanDictionary.com presents a whole series of rationalizations. For example, during the World War II “some steel helmets were made by the Mason jar company,” hence Marines wearing them would be called jarheads.
Another suggests the nickname refers to the old Marine Corps hats.
MORE:The Absolute Best of US Marine Corps Photography, Part 1
Yet another talks about a “resemblance of Marine Corps dress blue uniform to a mason jar.”
Well, let me know what you think.
But there’s another explanation out there. Marines are called “jarheads” for following orders to the point of having no individual thoughts, i.e. having no brain inside their heads.
There the meaning would be two-pronged.
On one hand, it would be a compliment to Marines’ willingness to fulfill their orders beyond doubt or concern for personal safety.
On the other, it would be an attempt at an insult, saying the drills beat all sense out of the men.
As I don’t know any Marines personally, I can’t really make a judgement call on this account.
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Happy Valley is one of the favorite residential areas in Hong Kong for the British and many other nationalities. It is just a short walk away from the bustling Causeway Bay Times Square but still has a little bit of a British village feel to it.
Happy Valley is a model of harmonious coexistence of cosmopolitan people: Chinese restaurants, English pubs, a Catholic Church, a Buddhist nunnery and a Hindu Temple all sit together in harmony. There are good local facilities with small shops, local bakeries, delicatessens and wineries, intermingled with a few supermarkets…. It is also home to many dog lovers.
The Jockey Bar on Wong Nai Chung Road, Happy Valley on June 17, 2015. (Bill Cox/Epoch Times)
The Tung Lin Kok Yuen Buddhist nunnery and educational institution on Happy Valley Shan Kwong Road, on June 16, 2015. (Bill Cox/Epoch Times)
The centerpiece of Happy Valley is the Racecourse with residential properties along its western edge and at the southern end of the racecourse and then climbing up the slopes to Jardine’s Lookout to the west and to Wong Nai Chung Gap Road in the south west.
A view from the racecourse showing properties along Wong Nai Chung Road looking towards the centre of Happy Valley on June 17, 2015. (Bill Cox/Epoch Times)
The start of a horse race at Happy Valley Racecourse on Jun 17, 2015. (Bill Cox/Epoch Times)
When the British arrived in early 1840, the valley was still a marsh land, with the Wong Nai Chung (yellow muddy river) still flowing in the raining season. The British set up a military camp in the area but in the harsh environment and with Hong Kong’s hot and humid weather, many soldiers suffered from fever – later confirmed as malaria.
The valley became a burial area for the deceased to remember the dead and comfort their families as in the United Kingdom. The first British person to be buried there is Naval Commander William Brodie, from the visiting HMS Rattlesnake, who died of fever in 1841. They buried him and Doctor Edward Cree wrote in the Ship’s Journal “Poor old Brodie was buried in the afternoon in the new cemetery in Happy Valley”, although coming from a sad story, the name “Happy Valley” seemed to stick.
A favorite pastime for the British was, and to an extent still is, going to the races and at that time the only local horse racing was in Macau. But after the British army moved to another location the paddy fields were drained and it became the venue for horse racing in Hong Kong.
Happy Valley Racecourse is now a world-class all-grass racetrack accommodating 55,000 spectators, a far cry from the days when it was built on bamboo stands which claimed 600 lives in a 20 minutes tragic fire in 1918.
The Wednesday evening races at Happy Valley are still hugely popular and a must see for first time visitors to Hong Kong. Racing generates a lot of revenue and many important charities, charity events and community projects in Hong Kong are supported through the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust.
In addition to the lavish Racecourse facilities the Hong Kong Jockey Club that is just celebrating 130 years of operation has an impressive club facility up the hill at the end of Shan Kwong Road.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club located at the top end of Shan Kwong Road, Happy Valley, on June 18, 2015. (Bill Cox/Epoch Times)
The Racecourse itself was opened in 1846 and was again extended in the early 1990’s resulting in the building of the extensive Hong Kong Football Club facilities on Sports Road, at the north end of the Racecourse. The original home of the Rugby Sevens, the Football Club founded in 1886 is possibly the best equipped multi-sport club in Asia.
Another impressive club, still within the Valley but bordering Leighton Road is the Craigengower Cricket Club which now specializes in Lawn Bowls rather than Cricket. The story goes that the decision to build the Clubhouse in the middle of the Cricket field and lay out 2 lawn bowls greens was taken by Chinese members when many foreigners were away on vacation. I guess the holidaymakers got a big surprise on their return!
Officers’ quarters soon developed alongside the racecourse and a “Racecourse View” became the momentum to push up the land and property prices in the area. Residents made a joke saying: “Alive one should see Happy Valley Racecourse, dead one should be buried in Happy Valley Cemetery”.
There are Jewish, Hindu, Parsee, Muslim, St Michael’s Catholic and Hong Kong Cemeteries along the Western side of the Racecourse. Because the majority of people buried in the Hong Kong Cemetery were Westerners, locals also call it “Red Hair Cemetery”, it’s the oldest cemetery in Hong Kong and it’s the last residence of some of the once-powerful names associated with the history of Hong Kong.
A view of Broadwood Road, Happy Valley on June 16, 2015, with St Margaret’s Church on the left. (Bill Cox/Epoch Times)
A couplet sculpted in Chinese at the entrance to St Michael’s Catholic Cemetery after the tragic big fire, to console the lost souls is well known to the local Chinese: “今夕吾驅歸故土，他朝君體也相同” meaning “Today my body returns home, one day yours will do the same” this was inspired by an ancient Latin poem: “Quod nunc es fueram, famosus in orbe, viator, et quod nunc ego sum, tuque futurus eris.” Translated into English it means: “You are now, a traveller, as I once was, but what I am now you will one day become.”
From Times Square head south across Leighton Road, then continue up Wong Nai Chung Road, following the tramway, or take a tram to Happy Valley tram terminus. Trams leaving Happy Valley terminus head north to Hennessy Road, and then go in one of two directions, either the east end of Hong Kong Island or to the northwest tip of the Island.
Trams have served the people of Hong Kong for 110 years, the locals affectionately call them “Ding Ding”: after visiting Happy Valley, Ding Ding will take you to explore the north of Hong Kong Island at the most affordable price – just HK$2.30 per person per trip which equates to 30 cents US$!
Happy Valley Tram terminus, the trams on the left will head for east of Hong Kong Island, the trams on the right will head to west of Hong Kong Island. (Bill Cox/Epoch Times)
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When Muhammed Muheisen won his first Pulitzer Prize, he wasn’t even 25 yet. He was born in Jerusalem in 1981 and, with a degree in journalism and political science, he joined the Associated Press at the age of 19. Since then, he has been an ever-rising star.
During the time he was based in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, he produced a seemingly endless stream of captivating daily-life photographs. His main focus has been children. Through their innocence and playfulness Muheisen captures the human spirit—so relatable, though set in a foreign and often rough environment.
“All the children of the world share something in common, wherever they are from,” he told “Time” in 2013, after he was named by the magazine the Best Wire Photographer of the year. With no electricity or even running water, he noticed how creative the children get with their games.
But Muheisen’s brilliance is not just about pointing a camera at a child. His mastery of light, composition, and perspective hint at a solid artistry that allows him to harness his opportunities.
The first Pulitzer Prize came in 2005 for his coverage of the war in Iraq. He added a second one in 2013 for covering the war in Syria.
Recently, he was appointed Chief AP Photographer for the Middle East, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
His assignments, however, took him far beyond the Middle East. Over the years Muheisen was dispatched to China, Yemen, France, and South Africa. Yet even in the most turbulent circumstances, he always looks for a sign of humanity, perhaps in the smile of a child.
“I was born in a conflicted country—there was always a space for joy and I never stopped looking for that through the years I spent covering stories in war zones,” he said in a video diary “Time” asked him to keep. “The smile always appears. Even in the middle of the conflict, life doesn’t stop. Life goes on.”
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