By Claudine Zap | The SideshowIt sounds like something out of a horror movie. But Italian scientists say that the “Gate to Hell” is the real deal—poisonous vapors and all.
The announcement of the finding of the ruins of Pluto’s Gate (Plutonium in Latin) at an archeology conference in Turkey last month, was recently reported by Discovery News. Francesco D'Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento in Lecce, Italy, who has been excavating the ancient Greco-Roman World Heritage Site of Hierapolis for years, led the research team.
D’Andria told Discovery News he used ancient mythology as his guide to locate the legendary portal to the underworld. “We found the Plutonium by reconstructing the route of a thermal spring. Indeed, Pamukkale' springs, which produce the famous white travertine terraces originate from this cave.”
Scribes like Cicero and the Greek geographer Strabo mentioned the gate to hell as located at the ancient site in Turkey, noted Discovery, but nobody had been able to find it until now.
“Pluto’s Gate” has been documented in the Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, which noted in its description of ancient Hierapolis, “Adjoining the temple on the SE is the Plutoneion, which constituted the city's chief claim to fame. It was described by Strabo as an orifice in a ridge of the hillside, in front of which was a fenced enclosure filled with thick mist immediately fatal to any who entered.”
Strabo (64 B.C.- 24 B.C.) wrote, “This space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground. Any animal that passes inside meets instant death. I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell.”
The portal to the underworld seems just as bad for your health today. The professor said, “We could see the cave's lethal properties during the excavation. Several birds died as they tried to get close to the warm opening, instantly killed by the carbon dioxide fumes.”
According to Discovery News, the fumes emanated from a cave below the site, which includes ionic columns with inscriptions to Pluto and Kore, gods of the underworld. Also discovered: the remains of a temple, and a pool and stairs placed above the cave. D'Andria is now working on a digital rendering of the site.
Amazingly, this isn’t the first entry to the underworld in the world. In the Karakum Desert, reports the Daily Mail, a fiery pit that’s been lit up for over 40 years has inspired visitors to Derweze in Turkmenistan—and on the Web. Geologists drilling in the area came across a natural gas cavern. Hoping to burn off the gas, they set it on fire. The flames continued to burn, leading locals to dub the site the “door to hell.”
A meteor the size of a bus exploded in the atmosphere over theRussian Urals
city of Chelyabinsk
Friday, terrifying thousands with blinding light flashes and powerful sonic booms that shattered windows, damaged buildings, and injuries may be heading toward 1,000, mainly due to flying glass and debris.
Thanks to the proliferation of new technologies like CCTV and dashboard cameras in cars, the dazzling meteor shower that hit the far-western Siberian region may be the first event of its kind in history to be filmed from almost every angle.Dozens of videos have cropped up
and other social media, and they offer an astounding glimpse of what happens when a huge hunk of rock, estimated at about 10 tons, plows into the atmosphere at a speed of 30,000 miles per hour. It disintegrated in a series of bright flashes while still several miles above the Earth's surface.
According to eyewitnesses quoted by the Ekho Moskvi
radio station, the event began around 9 a.m. local time, when it was not yet full daylight. The station said that thousands of people rushed into the frigid streets, looking up at the fiery contrails in the sky, with many wondering if it was an air disaster, a missile attack, or the end of the world.
Was it just Mother Nature or a sign from God?
Lightning appeared to strike St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City on Monday just hours after Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, according to the BBC. The lightning strike happened around 6 p.m. local time.
Global news agency Agence France-Presse was the first to publish the startling photo of a lightning bolt coming out of the heavens and appearing to strike the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, one of Catholicism's holiest sites.
AFP photographer Filippo Monteforte caught the amazing photograph on Monday evening during a storm. "It was icy cold and the rain was falling in sheets," he told AFP. "When the storm started, I thought that lightning might strike the rod, so I decided it was worth seeing whether – if it DID strike – I could get the shot at exactly the right moment.”
He waited two hours before lightning struck twice and he captured a still image. “The first bolt was huge and lit up the sky, but unfortunately I missed it," he told AFP. "I had better luck the second time, and was able to snap a couple of images of the dome illuminated by the bolt.”
Some questioned the authenticity of Monteforte's photograph.
But Fairfax Media photographer Nick Moir told Australia's The Age via The Sydney Morning Herald that the image looks legitimate. "It's probably not that rare for St Peter's to get hit," he told the publication. "The bolt is hitting a lightning rod to the side of the cross, it seems."
On Monday, Benedict announced he will resign from the papal office on Feb. 28 due to health concerns. He is the first pope to do so in nearly 600 years.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Postal Service will stop delivering mail on Saturdays but continue to deliver packages six days a week under a plan aimed at saving about $2 billion annually, the financially struggling agency says.
In an announcement scheduled for later Wednesday, the service is expected to say the Saturday mail cutback would begin in August.
The move accentuates one of the agency's strong points — package delivery has increased by 14 percent since 2010, officials say, while the delivery of letters and other mail has declined with the increasing use of email and other Internet services.
Under the new plan, mail would be delivered to homes and businesses only from Monday through Friday, but would still be delivered to post office boxes on Saturdays. Post offices now open on Saturdays would remain open on Saturdays.
Over the past several years, the Postal Service has advocated shifting to a five-day delivery schedule for mail and packages — and it repeatedly but unsuccessfully appealed to Congress to approve the move. Though an independent agency, the service gets no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations but is subject to congressional control.
It was not immediately clear how the service could eliminate Saturday mail without congressional approval.
But the agency clearly thinks it has a majority of the American public on its side regarding the change.
Material prepared for the Wednesday press conference by Patrick R. Donahoe, postmaster general and CEO, says Postal Service market research and other research has indicated that nearly 7 in 10 Americans support the switch to five-day delivery as a way for the Postal Service to reduce costs.
"The Postal Service is advancing an important new approach to delivery that reflects the strong growth of our package business and responds to the financial realities resulting from America's changing mailing habits," Donahoe said in a statement prepared for the announcement. "We developed this approach by working with our customers to understand their delivery needs and by identifying creative ways to generate significant cost savings."
The Postal Service is making the announcement Wednesday, more than six months before the switch, to give residential and business customers time to plan and adjust, the statement said.
"The American public understands the financial challenges of the Postal Service and supports these steps as a responsible and reasonable approach to improving our financial situation," Donahoe said. "The Postal Service has a responsibility to take the steps necessary to return to long-term financial stability and ensure the continued affordability of the U.S. Mail."
He said the change would mean a combination of employee reassignment and attrition and is expected to achieve cost savings of approximately $2 billion annually when fully implemented.
The agency in November reported an annual loss of a record $15.9 billion for the last budget year and forecast more red ink in 2013, capping a tumultuous year in which it was forced to default on billions in retiree health benefit prepayments to avert bankruptcy.
The financial losses for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 were more than triple the $5.1 billion loss in the previous year. Having reached its borrowing limit, the mail agency is operating with little cash on hand.
The agency's biggest problem — and the majority of the red ink in 2012 — was not due to reduced mail flow but rather to mounting mandatory costs for future retiree health benefits, which made up $11.1 billion of the losses. Without that and other related labor expenses, the mail agency sustained an operating loss of $2.4 billion, lower than the previous year.
The health payments are a requirement imposed by Congress in 2006 that the post office set aside $55 billion in an account to cover future medical costs for retirees. The idea was to put $5.5 billion a year into the account for 10 years. That's $5.5 billion the post office doesn't have.
No other government agency is required to make such a payment for future medical benefits. Postal authorities wanted Congress to address the issue last year, but lawmakers finished their session without getting it done. So officials are moving ahead to accelerate their own plan for cost-cutting.
The Postal Service is in the midst of a major restructuring throughout its retail, delivery and mail processing operations. Since 2006, it has cut annual costs by about $15 billion, reduced the size of its career workforce by 193,000 or by 28 percent, and has consolidated more than 200 mail processing locations, officials say.
They say that while the change in the delivery schedule announced Wednesday is one of the actions needed to restore the financial health of the service, they still urgently need lawmakers to act. Officials say they continue to press for legislation that will give them greater flexibility to control costs and make new revenues.
Sure, we all know who won Super Bowl XLVII. But what you may not know are the answers to some of the questions that cropped up as we watched the Baltimore Ravens defeat the San Francisco 49ers. Fear not, friends, because unlike the Superdome lights, we've been working all game, and long afterward, to bring you the answers to these, your 2013 Super Bowl Mysteries. 1. Did Beyonce flash the Illuminati sign during her halftime performance? According to legend, the Illuminati are a tiny,
super-secret cabal of influential individuals who have shaped the course of world events. So it makes perfect sense that Beyonce would flash their triangle sign to one of the largest viewing audiences in human history. What better way
to preserve a secret? That's a definite possibility. Also a possibility? That she was showing some love to her husband Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella Records, which uses the diamond as its symbol. (Here's a bunch of celebs doing the same thing.)
But then again, maybe Roc-A-Fella is in on it too. It's all connected!
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Parents of children killed in the Newtown school shooting called for better enforcement of gun laws and tougher penalties for violators Monday at a hearing that revealed the divide in the gun-control debate, with advocates for gun rights shouting at the father of one 6-year-old victim.
Neil Heslin, whose son Jesse was killed in last month's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, asked people in the room to put themselves in his position as he questioned the need for any civilian to own semiautomatic, military-style weapons.
"It's not a good feeling. Not a good feeling to look at your child laying in a casket or looking at your child with a bullet wound to the forehead. It's a real sad thing," said Heslin, who held up a large framed photograph of himself and his son.
A handful of people at the packed legislative hearing then shouted about their Second Amendment rights when Heslin asked if anyone could provide a reason for a civilian to own an assault-style weapon.
"We're all entitled to our own opinions and I respect their opinions and their thoughts," Heslin said. "But I wish they'd respect mine and give it a little bit of thought."
The hearing by a legislative subcommittee reviewing gun laws offered the first public testimony by family members of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, where a gunman slaughtered 20 first-grade children and six women. Adam Lanza had killed his mother in their home across town and then drove to the school to carry out the shooting before committing suicide. The testimony was expected to continue late into the night.
Members of the Connecticut State Police firearms training unit brought weapons to the hearing to provide state lawmakers with a short tutorial on what's legal and illegal under the state's current assault weapons ban, passed in 1993. The group included an AR-15, the same type of rifle that was used in the Sandy Hook shooting.
Many gun rights advocates, wearing yellow stickers that read: "Another Responsible Gun Owner," were among the estimated 2,000 people at the hearing. Metal detectors were installed at the entrance to the Legislative Office Building, and some people waited as long as two hours to get into the building in Hartford.
Many spoke about the need to protect their rights and their families' safety.
"The Second Amendment does not protect our right to hunt deer," said Andrew Hesse of Middletown. "It protects our right to self-preservation and preservation of our family. The right to bear arms."
Elizabeth Drysdale, a single mother from Waterbury, spoke of three recent incidents that caused her to fear for her safety. She said she should be able to choose the size of magazine and type of firearm to defend herself.
"Don't my children and I deserve your support and consideration to be safe," she asked lawmakers.
Judy Aron of West Hartford said bills such as those requiring gun owners to have liability insurance and ammunition taxes only harm lawful gun owners.
"Every gun owner did not pull the trigger that was pulled by Adam Lanza, she said.
The state's gun manufacturers, meanwhile, urged the subcommittee to not support legislation that could put the state's historic gun manufacturing industry at risk.
Mark Mattioli, whose 6-year-old son James was killed at Sandy Hook, got a standing ovation when he said there are plenty of gun laws but they're not properly enforced. He urged lawmakers to address the culture of violence.
"It's a simple concept. We need civility across our nation," he said. "What we're seeing are symptoms of a bigger problem. This is a symptom. The problem is not gun laws. The problem is a lack of civility."
Two Southbury natives who survived a mass shooting last year at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., urged lawmakers to address online, private guns sales that don't require background checks. Stephen Barton and Ethan Rodriguez-Torrent also want to require background checks for purchases of so-called long guns and not just handguns.
State Rep. Arthur O'Neill, R-Southbury, who has known Rodriguez-Torrent since he was a child, predicted state lawmakers will reach a compromise on guns.
He said lawmakers' minds have changed since the Dec. 14 school massacre.
"Dec. 13 was one way of looking at the world, and Dec. 15 is a different way of looking at the world," he said.
Follow Associated Press Writer Susan Haigh on Twitter at (at)SusanHaighAP
Associated Press – Sun, Dec 9, 2012
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Comedian Katt Williams has been arrested in northern California on a felony warrant related to a police chase.
The Sacramento Bee reports (http://bit.ly/UNq5QW ) that Williams was arrested Friday night in Dunnigan, about 25 miles north of Sacramento, by Yolo County deputies.
The paper says he was released from the county jail Saturday after posting bail.
The sheriff's department confirmed Williams' arrest late Saturday, but staffers on duty didn't have details. A spokesman for the comedian didn't immediately return a call and email.
The California Highway Patrol says Williams fled officers on a three-wheeled motorcycle on Nov. 25 after being spotted driving on a downtown Sacramento sidewalk.
The CHP said Williams was asked to stop and refused, leading to the pursuit.
The CHP says Williams nearly hit five people during the chase, which police ended for safety reasons.
WASHINGTON (AP) — American consumers have shown about as much appetite for the $1 coin as kids do their spinach. They may not know what's best for them either. Congressional auditors say doing away with dollar bills entirely and replacing them with dollar coins could save taxpayers some $4.4 billion over the next 30 years.
Vending machine operators have long championed the use of $1 coins because they don't jam the machines, cutting down on repair costs and lost sales. But most people don't seem to like carrying them. In the past five years, the U.S. Mint has produced 2.4 billion Presidential $1 coins. Most are stored by the Federal Reserve, and production was suspended about a year ago.
The latest projection from the Government Accountability Office on the potential savings from switching to dollar coins entirely comes as lawmakers begin exploring new ways for the government to save money by changing the money itself.
The Mint is preparing a report for Congress showing how changes in the metal content of coins could save money.
The last time the government made major metallurgical changes in U.S. coins was nearly 50 years ago when Congress directed the Mint to remove silver from dimes and quarters and to reduce its content in half dollar coins. Now, Congress is looking at new changes in response to rising prices for copper and nickel.
At a House subcommittee hearing Thursday, the focus was on two approaches:
—Moving to less expensive combinations of metals like steel, aluminum and zinc.
—Gradually taking dollar bills out the economy and replacing them with coins.
The GAO's Lorelei St. James told the House Financial Services panel it would take several years for the benefits of switching from paper bills to dollar coins to catch up with the cost of making the change. Equipment would have to be bought or overhauled and more coins would have to be produced upfront to replace bills as they are taken out of circulation.
But over the years, the savings would begin to accrue, she said, largely because a $1 coin could stay in circulation for 30 years while paper bills have to be replaced every four or five years on average.
"We continue to believe that replacing the note with a coin is likely to provide a financial benefit to the government," said St. James, who added that such a change would work only if the note was completely eliminated and the public educated about the benefits of the switch.
Even the $1 coin's most ardent supporters recognize that they haven't been popular. Philip Diehl, former director of the Mint, said there was a huge demand for the Sacagawea dollar coin when production began in 2001, but as time wore on, people stayed with what they knew best.
"We've never bitten the bullet to remove the $1 bill as every other Western economy has done," Diehl said. "If you did, it would have the same success the Canadians have had."
Beverly Lepine, chief operating officer of the Royal Canadian Mint, said her country loves its "Loonie," the nickname for the $1 coin that includes an image of a loon on the back. The switch went over so well that the country also went to a $2 coin called the "Toonie."
Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., affirmed that Canadians have embraced their dollar coins. "I don't know anyone who would go back to the $1 and $2 bills," he said.
That sentiment was not shared by some of his fellow subcommittee members when it comes to the U.S. version.
Like millions of other Con Ed customers, New York magazine's offices in lower Manhattan were without power last week in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
On Tuesday, they set up an "improvised newsroom" in midtown: "32 editors, photo editors, designers, and production specialists squeezed around a conference-room table, down the length of which snaked a tangle of power strips, extension cords, and chargers resembling similar arrays sprouting across the city."
They spent the next three days scrambling to produce their weekly magazine, which includes a powerful cover photo, shot by photographer Iwan Baan on Wednesday night, of a partially—and eerily—darkened Manhattan with the coverline "The City and the Storm."
According to the editors' note, it was the clear choice for the cover "for the way it fit with the bigger story we have tried to tell here about a powerful city rendered powerless."
Bloomberg Businessweek took a slightly different tack with their Nov. 5 cover. The coverline: "IT'S GLOBAL WARMING, STUPID."
"Our cover story this week may generate controversy," Bloomberg Businessweek Editor-in-Chief Josh Tyrangiel wrote on Twitter, "but only among the stupid."
MOSHAV AHITUV, Israel (Reuters) - A bicycle made almost entirely of cardboard has the potential to change transportation habits from the world's most congested cities to the poorest reaches of Africa, its Israeli inventor says.
Izhar Gafni, 50, is an expert in designing automated mass-production lines. He is an amateur cycling enthusiast who for years toyed with an idea of making a bicycle from cardboard.
He told Reuters during a recent demonstration that after much trial and error, his latest prototype has now proven itself and mass production will begin in a few months.
"I was always fascinated by applying unconventional technologies to materials and I did this on several occasions. But this was the culmination of a few things that came together. I worked for four years to cancel out the corrugated cardboard's weak structural points," Gafni said.
"Making a cardboard box is easy and it can be very strong and durable, but to make a bicycle was extremely difficult and I had to find the right way to fold the cardboard in several different directions. It took a year and a half, with lots of testing and failure until I got it right," he said.[Related: Bike thief leaves apology note]
Cardboard, made of wood pulp, was invented in the 19th century as sturdy packaging for carrying other more valuable objects, it has rarely been considered as raw material for things usually made of much stronger materials, such as metal.
Once the shape has been formed and cut, the cardboard is treated with a secret concoction made of organic materials to give it its waterproof and fireproof qualities. In the final stage, it is coated with lacquer paint for appearance.
In testing the durability of the treated cardboard, Gafni said he immersed a cross-section in a water tank for several months and it retained all its hardened characteristics.
Once ready for production, the bicycle will include no metal parts, even the brake mechanism and the wheel and pedal bearings will be made of recycled substances, although Gafni said he could not yet reveal those details due to pending patent issues.[Related: Biker captures dramatic fall on video]
"I'm repeatedly surprised at just how strong this material is, it is amazing. Once we are ready to go to production, the bike will have no metal parts at all," Gafni said.
Gafni's workshop, a ramshackle garden shed, is typically the sort of place where legendary inventions are born. It is crammed with tools and bicycle parts and cardboard is strewn everywhere.
One of his first models was a push bike he made as a toy for his young daughter which she is still using months later.
Gafni owns several top-of-the-range bicycles which he said are worth thousands of dollars each, but when his own creation reaches mass production, it should cost no more than about $20 to buy. The cost of materials used are estimated at $9 per unit.
"When we started, a year and a half or two years ago, people laughed at us, but now we are getting at least a dozen e-mails every day asking where they can buy such a bicycle, so this really makes me hopeful that we will succeed," he said.
A ride of the prototype was quite stiff, but generally no different to other ordinary basic bikes.
Nimrod Elmish, Gafni's business partner, said cardboard and other recycled materials could bring a major change in current production norms because grants and rebates would only be given for local production and there would be no financial benefits by making bicycles in cheap labor markets.
"This is a real game-changer. It changes ... the way products are manufactured and shipped, it causes factories to be built everywhere instead of moving production to cheaper labor markets, everything that we have known in the production world can change," he said.
Elmish said the cardboard bikes would be made on largely automated production lines and would be supplemented by a workforce comprising pensioners and the disabled.
He said that apart from the social benefits this would provide for all concerned, it would also garner government grants for the manufacturers.[Related: Google's biggest idea yet?]
Elmish said the business model they had created meant that rebates for using "green" materials would entirely cancel out production costs and this could allow for bicycles to be given away for free in poor countries.
Producers would reap financial rewards from advertisements such as from multinational companies who would pay for their logo to be part of the frame, he explained.
"Because you get a lot of government grants, it brings down the production costs to zero, so the bicycles can be given away for free. We are copying a business model from the high-tech world where software is distributed free because it includes embedded advertising," Elmish explained.
"It could be sold for around $20, because (retailers) have to make a profit ... and we think they should not cost any more than that. We will make our money from advertising," he added.
Elmish said initial production was set to begin in Israel in months on three bicycle models and a wheelchair and they will be available to purchase within a year.
"In six months we will have completed planning the first production lines for an urban bike which will be assisted by an electric motor, a youth bike which will be a 2/3 size model for children in Africa, a balance bike for youngsters learning to ride, and a wheelchair that a non-profit organization wants to build with our technology for Africa," he said.
CHEAP AND LIGHT
The bicycles are not only very cheap to make, they are very light and do not need to be adjusted or repaired, the solid tires that are made of reconstituted rubber from old car tires will never get a puncture, Elmish said.
"These bikes need no maintenance and no adjustment, a car timing belt is used instead of a chain, and the tires do not need inflating and can last for 10 years," he said.
A full-size cardboard bicycle will weigh around 9 kg (about 20 lbs) compared to an average metal bicycle, which weight around 14 kg.
The urban bicycle, similar to London's "Boris bikes" and others worldwide, will have a mounting for a personal electric motor. Commuters would buy one and use it for their journey and then take it home or to work where it could be recharged.
He said that as bicycles would be so cheap, it hardly mattered how long they lasted.
"So you buy one, use it for a year and then you can buy another one, and if it breaks, you can take it back to the factory and recycle it," he said.
Gafni predicted that in the future, cardboard might even be used in cars and even aircraft "but that is still a way down the road."
"We are just at the beginning and from here my vision is to see cardboard replacing metals ... and countries that right now don't have the money, will be able to benefit from so many uses for this material," he said.
(Writing by Ori Lewis, editing by Paul Casciato)