Mysterious dwarf planet Ceres now in the spotlight

LOS ANGELES (AP) – The mysterious dwarf planet Ceres is ready for its close-up.

Located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Ceres was the largest unexplored space rock in the inner solar system.

But that distinction ended Friday, when NASA’s Dawn spacecraft arrived after a nearly eight-year journey, which included a stopover at the asteroid Vesta. It’s now circling the dwarf planet on a 16-month mission.

Five things to know about Ceres:


Ceres was spotted on New Year’s Day in 1801 by Italian monk and astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi who was searching for a star. It was the first object discovered in the asteroid belt, a zone littered with rocky debris left over from the formation of the sun and planets 4 billion years ago.


Piazzi named the object “Ceres Ferdinandea” after the Roman goddess of harvest and in honor of King Ferdinand IV of Naples and Sicily. Other astronomers shortened it to Ceres. The word cereal also has its origins in the goddess’ name. The chemical element cerium, discovered in 1803, was named after the celestial Ceres.


Located about 250 million miles from the sun, Ceres was deemed a comet when it was first discovered. Then it was promoted to a planet and later downgraded to an asteroid. Since 2006, it has been classified as a dwarf planet like Pluto, the one-time ninth planet. Dwarf planets are spherical in shape like planets, but they share the same celestial neighborhood with other similar-sized objects.


Ceres – with a diameter of about 600 miles – is thought to have a rocky core surrounded by an icy mantle. Long ago it might have harbored an underground ocean. As Dawn approached Ceres, it sent back images of a pair of puzzling bright spots inside a crater. Scientists think the shiny dots may be exposed ice or salt.


Launched in 2007 and powered by ion propulsion engines, Dawn will make the first close-ups of a dwarf planet, which won’t begin until mid-April when the spacecraft emerges from Ceres’ shadows.

Dawn will study Ceres for 16 months from varying altitudes, getting as close as 235 miles above Ceres’ surface, or the distance of the International Space Station above Earth. The spacecraft will take sharper images of the mysterious spots and use its instruments to confirm whether Ceres’ surface is still active and spewing plumes of water vapor.

This summer, another NASA spacecraft dubbed New Horizons will make the first visit to the dwarf planet Pluto.

NIH Director Hails “Stunning Case” as Example of Genomic Revolution

3/6/15Follow @bvbigelow

A pregnant mom who got a non-invasive prenatal test because she knew at age 40 that her baby was a higher risk for Down syndrome has become a case study in the potential power of precision medicine.

The FDA-approved blood test, developed by San Diego-based Sequenom (NASDAQ: SQNM), is sensitive enough to identify bits of fetal DNA shed by the placenta. Such “cell free” DNA circulates in a pregnant woman’s blood, and Sequenom’s MaterniT21 PLUS test screens a blood sample for specific genetic mutations in cell free DNA that are linked to Down’s and several other fetal abnormalities.

In the case of Eunice Lee, the Sequenom test was negative for all of the specified fetal abnormalities. But the test detected other types of genetic mutations, which usually get classified as non-reportable, or “incidental” findings.

Because fragments of Lee’s own DNA also are circulating in her blood, the Sequenom Laboratory director alerted Lee’s obstetrician, who ordered a full-body MRI scan for Lee. The MRI revealed a 7-centimeter tumor in Lee’s colon.

Lee, an anesthesiologist in Santa Barbara, CA, discussed her extraordinary experience yesterday during the opening session of the annual “Future of Genomic Medicine” conference in San Diego.

“I had no idea I had cancer,” said Lee, who remains cancer-free following surgery to remove the tumor, and who delivered a healthy baby named Benjamin last year.

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, was among the genomics experts in the audience who hailed Lee’s story as an example of the near-term possibilities for using new genomic technologies to diagnose and treat cancer.

When Collins later took the stage, he said a wave of similar genomic technologies that has been building for years is also powering a new federal initiative in “precision medicine” that President Obama outlined just over a month ago. Sometime referred to as “personalized medicine,” or “individualized medicine,” the term has come to describe an emerging approach for diagnosing and treating disease. As the NIH explains it, precision medicine utilizes detailed information on the individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person.

“Of the things that are happening right now in biomedical research, this has got to be one of the more inspiring opportunities. But it’s still early days,” Collins said.

“The president really got deeply interested in this, and did his homework, and decided to make this the No.1 priority in biomedical research in the last couple of years of his administration,” Collins said.

Using a model that worked well with the brain initiative, the NIH director said he has created an … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

Double Standard for Espionage Act as Petraeus Goes Free while Kiriakou and …

How a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) official is punished for releasing classified information would seem to depend—in inverse proportion—on how much responsibility the officer had and how much information got into the wrong hands.


Former CIA Director David Petraeus pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified information, a misdemeanor for which he could get a year in jail, but will almost certainly result in two years’ probation and a $40,000 fine. Petraeus made the deal after he was found to have lent eight books filled with classified information to his girlfriend Paula Broadwell, who was writing an authorized biography of the general. He also lied to the FBI about it, which itself is a federal crime that could normally result in more than a year in jail.


“But the deal also ends two years of uncertainty and allows Mr. Petraeus to focus on his lucrative post-government career as a partner in a private equity firm and a worldwide speaker on national security issues,” Michael S. Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo wrote in The New York Times.


Senator John McCain is one of many Petraeus supporters who seemed unfazed by the guilty plea. “At a time of grave security challenges around the world, I hope that General Petraeus will continue to provide his outstanding service and leadership to our nation, as he has throughout his distinguished career,” he said in a statement after learning the news.


Until last month, former CIA counterterrorism officer John Kiriakou was focused on the walls of his cell in a federal correctional institution. He was released February 3 after serving about 22 months of a 30-month sentence for disclosing to a freelance reporter the name of a covert CIA operative who was involved with the agency’s detainee interrogation program.


Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling is focused on the length of his sentence after being convicted in January for giving a New York Times reporter information about problems with the agency’s effort to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. He faces years in prison when he’s sentenced in April.


Why is it that lower-level officers are sent to prison for shedding light on CIA torture and missteps while the former director is getting off with a slap on the wrist? “I don’t think General Petraeus should have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act, just as I don’t think I should have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act,” Kiriakou told The Intercept. “Yet only one of us was. Both Petraeus and I disclosed undercover identities (or confirmed one, in my case) that were never published. I spent two years in prison; he gets two years’ probation.”


CIA employees have no doubt taken note of the disparity in sentences and will be less likely to share information about agency abuses with the media in the future. Which is probably what the Justice Department had in mind all along.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Petraeus Reaches Plea Deal Over Giving Classified Data to His Lover (by Michael S. Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo, New York Times)

Petraeus Plea Deal Reveals Two-Tier Justice System for Leaks (by Peter Maass, The Intercept)

Gen. Petraeus’s Plea Agreement Highlights Disparate Application of National-Security Laws: Critics (Homeland Security News Wire)

CIA Officer Is Found Guilty in Leak Tied to Times Reporter (by Matt Apuzzo, New York Times)

The Spy Who Said Too Much (by Steve Coll, New Yorker)

Ex-CIA Officer Sentenced to 30 Months in Leak (by Michael S. Schmidt, New York Times)

Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling Convicted (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Justice Dept. Calls for Felony Charges against Gen. Petraeus (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Hillary Clinton email trove reviewed for release, security

WASHINGTON (AP) – The government will examine thousands of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s emails for public release – and for possible security lapses – after revelations she used a private account to conduct official business as secretary of state, a senior State Department official said Thursday.

Clinton’s extensive use of private emails has raised questions in the buildup to her expected presidential run about whether she adhered to the letter or spirit of accountability laws.

The official said the department would review 55,000 pages of emails amassed from Clinton’s personal files to determine if there were any instances where she improperly transmitted sensitive information. The official was not authorized to be quoted on the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

State Department policy holds that information that is not classified as secret but contains sensitive national security or diplomatic information can only be conveyed on secure channels except for certain circumstances, the official explained.

Clinton’s extensive use of private emails heightened security risks for her communications, chiefly the potential for inadvertent disclosure of such sensitive information and danger from hackers, several information security experts told The Associated Press.

Secretary of State John Kerry, in Saudi Arabia, said Thursday his department “will undertake this task as rapidly as possible in order to make sure that we are dealing with the sheer volume in a responsible way.”

Officials said Thursday the review could take months to complete, potentially a drawn-out distraction for Clinton and an unnerving development for the many Democrats who see her as the party’s presidential nominee-in-waiting for 2016.

The review was prompted by the disclosure that Clinton, in a departure from predecessors, relied exclusively on the private account for emails about government business. The emails were sent from a private computer server using an Internet address that traces back to Clinton’s family home in Chappaqua, New York.

The department announced the review soon after Clinton addressed the matter for the first time, saying on Twitter: “I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them.”

Clinton aides and the State Department both say she never received or transmitted classified information on her private email account. But unclassified diplomatic details and internal matters are sometimes considered sensitive and can be targeted by hackers and foreign governments.

“She had other ways of communicating through classified email through her assistants or her staff,” said Marie Harf, speaking for the State Department. Officials have said Clinton turned over more than 55,000 pages of emails to the department.

Clinton’s use of a private email account for official business appeared to contradict instructions from her own office in June 2011 to all State Department employees. In a cable from Clinton’s office, employees were advised to “avoid conducting official Department business from your personal e-mail accounts.” It cited reports that unspecified “online adversaries” were targeting personal email accounts of State Department employees. The cable was first obtained by Fox News.

The State Department told the AP that Clinton’s instructions in 2011 only applied to emails containing “sensitive but unclassified” information, a category that includes personal information about employees or the public, business secrets, details of ongoing investigations or records about visa or asylum applications. Only one instruction in the cable directly referred to rules about such information, an existing ban on anyone auto-forwarding government emails to their personal accounts.

Even though the instructions bore Clinton’s name, it was not clear whether she wrote them or was aware of them. Virtually every cable leaving the department’s headquarters in Washington would have had Clinton’s name on it while she was in town.

Clinton’s private email practices gave her significant control over access to her message archives, highly unusual in government. They also could complicate the State Department’s legal responsibilities in finding and turning over official emails in response to any investigations, lawsuits or public records requests.

The matter also raises questions about whether anyone in government examined Clinton’s private email server and network before it began operating and continued to review it regularly during her tenure. Federal regulations subject the computer systems of some contractors and other organizations to federal oversight when they interact with government systems to ensure they are protected.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the government can censor or withhold emails to protect information that would hurt national security, violate personal privacy or expose business secrets or confidential decision-making in certain areas. It wasn’t clear whether the State Department would automatically apply those provisions to its review of Clinton’s emails, or use its discretion to release even emails that might be covered under those exemptions.

Withholding emails merely because they might be embarrassing or expose government incompetence or malfeasance is not permitted under the act’s guidelines.

The State Department is already overwhelmed with nearly 11,000 pending requests for various emails under the open records law. More than 75 separate requests for Clinton material were filed with the State Department between 2009 and 2013 by media organizations and others. Associated Press requests for Clinton emails and other documents have been delayed for more than a year – and in one case, four years – without any results. The AP said this week it is considering legal action to compel responses.

On Wednesday, the House committee investigating the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, issued subpoenas for emails from Clinton. It also instructed technology companies it did not identify to preserve any relevant documents in their possession.

The White House legal counsel’s office was not aware of Clinton’s private email account until the committee sought her communications during an earlier exchange with the department, according to a person familiar with the matter. That person spoke on condition of anonymity, citing a lack of authorization to speak on the record.


Associated Press writers Matthew Lee in Riyadh and Nedra Pickler and Josh Lederman in Washington contributed to this report.

6 Painless Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Years Earlier

Chances are your home mortgage is the largest debt you’ll ever have. How would you like to pay it off and run your mortgage contract through the shredder a lot faster than the 30 years most homeowners sign up for?

Let’s consider some ways to painlessly pay off your home loan sooner. You can choose to do it a little faster or a lot. In some cases, you’ll scarcely notice the added expense.

1. Make biweekly mortgage payments

Since there are 12 months in a year, homeowners make 12 monthly mortgage payments. But if you make half-sized payments every two weeks (biweekly), you’ll make 26 half payments, the equivalent of 13 full payments, essentially making 13 monthly payments every year rather than the usual 12.

To go this route, call your lender and ask the best way to do it. Some lenders will set you up with biweekly payments. Or you might simply prefer to send in the extra payments by mail or electronically. Whenever you make any extra payment, however, be sure to designate it “apply to principal.” Otherwise, the lender may treat the extra as a prepayment of your next regular monthly payment.

From our Solutions Center: Find a better mortgage in seconds

Use a calculator like this one from the Mortgage Professor to see your savings. Example: According to this calculator, if you have a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 3.8 percent, making biweekly payments would save $20,573 in interest over the life of the loan and pay off your mortgage four years earlier. That’s a big bang for not many extra bucks.

One thing to avoid: “mortgage acceleration” products and plans. Paying down your mortgage is an easy thing to do, and you shouldn’t have to pay anything to do it. No expertise or pipeline to a higher authority is required. When you see ads and pitches for mortgage “acceleration” plans, programs and products, run the other direction. (Learn more about these gimmicks here.)

2. Pour every bit of extra cash into your mortgage

Dedicate every bonus, raise and windfall, birthday, holiday and graduation gift you receive toward paying down debt. Obviously, the highest interest debt takes priority, but if you have an adequate emergency savings fund and your mortgage is your only debt, when extra money falls into your hands, don’t even ask yourself what you’ll do with it: Add it to your mortgage payment, designating it as additional principal.

It’s possible you’ll find better uses for extra cash than paying down your mortgage. For example, if your mortgage rate is 3.8 percent, but you can earn 5 percent on your money elsewhere, you’re obviously going to be better off earning the 5 percent. Read Stacy’s discussion about the pros and cons of using extra cash to pay down your mortgage.

SOPAC Hosts ‘Giants of Jazz 17’ Photo Exhibit, Free Reception March 15

l. to r.: Giants Of Jazz 17 Honoree McCoy Tyner, Steve Turre, Claudio Roditi[/caption]

The South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) presents “GIANTS OF JAZZ 17,” an exhibit of photographic portraits by New Jersey-based artist and curator Micha Hamilton. The exhibit, which runs through Friday, May 15, is part of a rotating series of visual art exhibitions in the Herb Milly Iris Gallery.

To celebrate the exhibit, SOPAC will host a free reception Sunday, March 15 from 4-6 p.m. The artist/curator will attend, as well as some of the jazz luminaries whose portraits are currently featured on the walls of the gallery.

Here is more information from SOPAC:

Giants Of Jazz has become an annual music phenomenon, a one-night festival that has established South Orange as a New Jersey hub for world-class jazz. Founded in 1997 by John Lee, Giants Of Jazz honors exceptional musicians and keeps jazz visible and prominent in a region that is home to many world-class jazz artists and jazz music lovers.

The 17th Annual Giants of Jazz honoring legendary pianist McCoy Tyner was held at SOPAC on November 29, 2014 and the series of portraits in this exhibit were captured backstage that very evening.

Micha Hamilton’s quest to document the personalities of the Giants Of Jazz music event propels this new series of photographic portrait work. Incorporating stylistic elements suggestive of celebrity, ethnographic, and fine art portraiture found in the work of notable shutterbugs like Irving Penn, Herb Ritts, Edward S. Curtis, and Yusuf Karsh, this medley of black-and-white and color photographs is presented in a bright and natural visual style inspired by photographer Richard Avedon’s series In The American West. Like Avedon’s series, the images are visually stark and free of clutter; as the subjects are presented in solitary against a plain white background, the viewer is directed into meditative moments with the players behind the performances.

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In one image, Giants Of Jazz honoree McCoy Tyner (pictured left), the famed pianist is seen in quiet repose. Smartly attired with his eyes closed, a delicate “closed-mouthed” smile and arms comfortably held behind the back, he is simultaneously present and distracted, accessible and inaccessible, inviting one to ponder what melody or musical arrangement he may be tuned into, or that maybe he’s been caught in a moment of silence between notes.

In contrast to McCoy Tyner, Steve Turre (pictured center) explodes out of the photo in his red silk shirt and red alligator shoes, face framed by slicked-back hair and signature goatee with gleaming gold trombone in hand, as his dark suit fights to contain the energized personality within its threads. In a stance shifted to one side in a slight lean, his strong gaze and easy smile are simultaneously informed with a playful attitude and provocative confidence, boldly challenging us to go note-for-note with the legend known the world over as the ‘Shell Man.’

Brazilian trumpeter, flugelhorn player and Grammy Award nominee Claudio Roditi (pictured right) is known for his warm, fluid sound combining post-bop and Brazilian elements. His portrait brings us face to face with him and his iconic horn in in hand, fingers resting lightly on the keys. Roditi is relaxed and ready to play as he peers out at the viewer with his soft and friendly gaze. Dressed in a comfortable yet slightly oversized suit, he appears almost boyish, giving us a glimpse of the youthful spirit at the core of his accomplishments and wide appeal, a spirit that permeates his brand of jazz and endlessly energizes his audiences.

About Micha Hamilton
A graduate of Platt College of Design, Micha Hamilton is a published photographer, filmmaker, writer, and graphic designer. Since 2009, Hamilton has been curating events and exhibitions in the greater NY/NJ area, drawing on his passion for art and utilizing his extensive production, live entertainment and multi-media events experience. In 2010, he co-founded the visual arts exhibition and production space GAS Gallery And Studio in Maplewood, NJ. He is Owner and Art Director of MHP+D/Micha Hamilton Photography + Design, a boutique creative company providing clients with stunning visual imagery for commercial, non-commercial, and private needs. Originally from Los Angeles, CA, Hamilton currently lives in Springfield, NJ. This is his first solo exhibition at The Herb Milly Iris Gallery. For more information, visit

About the Herb Milly Iris Gallery
The Herb Milly Iris Gallery brings contemporary art to the community, providing artists opportunities to reach new audiences in its unique public space. The Gallery is the impetus of former SOPAC Board Member Milly Iris. The late Milly Iris was an art teacher as well as the owner/director of South Orange’s Whichcraft Gallery. Together with her late husband, Milly and Herb were avid collectors, devoted arts advocates, and longtime supporters of SOPAC. The artwork on display is for sale with partial proceeds supporting SOPAC. For more information, visit

Since 2006, SOPAC has been serving as a premier performing arts center in the region. SOPAC offers innovative artistic and cultural experiences for diverse audiences in an intimate, inviting environment. The premier arts center hosts a variety of live performances, community events and education programs for all ages. To further expand its offerings, SOPAC has a partnership with the Juilliard School of Music to present Juilliard @ SOPAC—a series featuring upcoming musicians from the acclaimed conservatory. SOPAC is home for Seton Hall University Arts Council’s performances, including Classical Concert Series, Jazz N’ the Hall performances and Seton Hall Theatre productions. SOPAC also presents performances by its theater company in residence, Midtown Direct Rep, and its dance company in residence, Lydia Johnson Dance. For more information, visit

Baby offered for free in online classified ad – WISH

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A viewer emailed WWLP about an ad they saw on a local website’s classified section.

The ad was looking for loving parents to adopt an 11-month-old boy and even showed a picture of the baby.

“11 Month Old Baby Boy for lovely family, we are giving out this baby boy to any one that is willing and caring to love and care for him no matter where ever they might be.This is the perfect gift we are offering. Email(redacted) for more information,” the ad said.

WWLP did a little digging, using the alleged parents’ email and found the same ad in classifieds in Oregon, Michigan and Pennsylvania to name a few. The founder of Full Circle Adoptions in Northampton said the ad does not describe a legal process.

“The normal process would involve the biological parent having the opportunity for informational advising and counseling, but that particular ad was describing a particular fraudulent situation and isn’t anything that is real,” said Marla Allisan, JD, LICSW, Founder and Director of Full Circle Adoptions.

Allisan says if you are considering adoption or struggling with the adoption process this is not the solution.

WWLP emailed the alleged parent Wednesday afternoon but heard no response as of Wednesday evening.

Advertise in Augusta Free Press: The Magazine


Augusta Free Press: The Magazine is in our final week to accept placements for our March/April 2015 issue. The full-color magazine offers news with an emphasis on business, news, politics, community, entertainment and more.

Placements for the March/April issue are due February 16. And if you reserve space and pay by February 16, we are offering a10% discount off our open rate.


Open Rates:
$250: Eighth Page
$450: Quarter Page
$800: Half Page
$1500: Full Page
$2000: Back Cover

The magazine is distributed for free in restaurants, coffee shops, libraries and other attractions in Waynesboro, Staunton, Harrisonburg, Charlottesville and Lexington, and points in between.

View magazine archives online at

We look forward to hearing from you regarding placement and/or story ideas for the March/April 2015 issue.

Sales Manager
Crystal Graham
(540) 949-6574

Chris Graham
(540) 910-0434

One dies while plowing driveway near Libertytown

Posted: Friday, March 6, 2015 2:15 am

One dies while plowing driveway near Libertytown

By Paige Jones

The Frederick News-Post

One person died Thursday night after being pinned under a tractor on Harp Road near Libertytown, according to the Frederick County Department of Emergency Communications.

The person, a homeowner who was plowing a driveway along Harp Road, became trapped under the tractor, said Tim Slane, a deputy chief at the Libertytown Volunteer Fire Department.

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Illegal-sign warfare ratchets up in Orange County

It’s impossible to drive through Orange County and miss the swarms of ugly signs clustered in the medians at intersections. Or bolted to utility poles.

You know the type. They advertise $99 divorces, same-day tax refunds, DNA testing and promises to buy junk cars or ugly houses.

If you’re like me, you’ve wondered why nobody cleans up the illegal signs that are so trashy they make regular billboards look like works of art.

There’s a surprising answer to that question: The signs are booby-trapped.

At least, some of them are.