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NASA releases first Pluto flyby images

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Closeup image of Pluto. (NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI)

NASA has released the first images taken during New Horizons’ historic flyby of dwarf planet Pluto.

“We have got a whole bunch of high-resolution observations safely on the spacecraft,” said New Horizons’ Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team Leader John Spencer, during a press conference at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, which is managing the mission. “We’re now focusing on small details on this amazing world.”

Related: New Horizons spacecraft makes historic Pluto flyby

NASA released its first closeup image of an area near Pluto’s equator Wednesday, which contains a range of mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet above the dwarf planet’s icy surface.

“These mountains are quite spectacular,” said Spencer.

New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern compared the range to the Rocky Mountains, adding that they provide clues about Pluto’s geology. “The steep topography means that the bedrock that made these mountains must be of H20, water ice,” he said. “We can be really sure that the water is there in great abundance.”

The image was taken about an hour-and-a-half before New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto, when the craft was 478,000 miles from the planet’s surface.

NASA also released an image of Pluto’s largest moon Charon, which clearly shows a swath of cliffs and troughs stretching about 600 miles across its surface.

“Charon blew our socks off when we had this new image today,” said New Horizons Deputy Project Scientist Cathy Olkin, during the press conference. “We have just been thrilled.”

Imaging obtained by New Horizons and transmitted to Earth early Wednesday morning also sheds light on Pluto’s outermost moon Hydra. Since its discovery in 2005, Hydra has been known only as a fuzzy dot of uncertain shape, size, and reflectivity, according to NASA, although New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) reveals the moon’s irregularly shaped body.

The spacecraft made its flyby Tuesday, passing within 7,750 miles of Pluto’s surface, roughly the distance between New York and Mumbai.

Confirmation of the successful flyby came late Tuesday, when New Horizons contacted scientists back on Earth, 3 billion miles from Pluto.

Pluto has fascinated astronomers since 1930, when it was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh using the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz. Some of Tombaugh’s ashes are aboard New Horizons.

New Horizons is the first-ever space mission to explore a world so far away from Earth, according to NASA.

The spacecraft’s flyby of Pluto and its five known moons provides valuable insight into the solar system’s Kuiper Belt, which contains icy objects that range in size from boulders to dwarf planets, NASA said. Kuiper Belt objects, such as Pluto, can preserve evidence about the early formation of the solar system

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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Mystery photo unseen for 30 years may show Civil War gunship

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FILE 2015: Divers prepare to descend onto the wreck site of the CSS Georgia near the channel of the Savannah River, Savannah, Ga. The recovery of the Confederate ironclad ship marks the beginning of the construction phase of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. (AP Photo/Georgia Port Authority, Stephen Morton)

John Potter says he was browsing for antiques at a yard sale in south Georgia when he came across an old picture frame containing an enigmatic image — the dark silhouette of a person in a hat and coat standing to one side and a long, boxy structure looming in the background.

Potter says he didn’t have the $175 the owner in Waycross wanted for the photograph, a hazy image further blurred by stains from water or chemicals. He also recalls finding a written clue to decoding the image on back of the frame. The inscription read: “CSS Georgia.”

“I knew exactly what it was,” said Potter, a Savannah native now living in North Carolina. “I thought, `This belongs in a museum.”‘

That was roughly 30 years ago. The only evidence of the mystery image are photographs snapped of the original to share with historian friends back in Savannah. Civil War experts say the image, if authenticated, would be the only known photograph of the CSS Georgia, an armored Confederate warship that was scuttled by its own crew 150 years ago as Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union troops captured Savannah.

“Believe me, if I had thought that the image was the CSS Georgia, I would have moved mountains to make sure we got it.”- Paul Blatner, museum curator

Experts still have many questions about the sunken ironclad, and they think the original photo could help them find answers.

“The photo is just as much a mystery as the CSS Georgia, because nobody has seen it in years,” said Julie Morgan, an archaeologist for the Army Corps of Engineers.

The federal agency is spending $14 million to raise the Confederate ship’s wreckage from the bottom of the Savannah River. Divers have been in the water since January and work is expected to wrap up this fall.

In a military sense, the CSS Georgia was an ironclad flop that never fired a shot in battle. The Civil War ushered in the era of armored warships. In Savannah, a Ladies Gunboat Association raised $115,000 to build such a ship to protect the city. But the 120-foot-long CSS Georgia’s engines proved too weak to propel its 1,200-ton frame against river currents. It stayed anchored off Fort Jackson as a floating gun battery before it was scuttled in December 1864.

No photographs of the ironclad have been confirmed. Neither have blueprints or construction plans. Several artists drew renderings of the CSS Georgia, but they differ in their details.

If the image Potter found the 1980s could be authenticated, would it necessarily be the CSS Georgia?

Robert Holcombe, former curator of the National Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus, dug up archival information on the CSS Georgia for a report to the Army Corps in 2003. Holcombe said the shape in the photo conforms with known aspects of the CSS Georga’s design that made it unique among ironclads — namely an armored casemate that covered the ship’s entire deck with sides sloped at 45-degree angles.

“If it’s an original, it’s certainly the Georgia, just by process of elimination,” Holcombe said. If the photo isn’t authentic, he said, “it’s an awfully good fake.”

The Army Corps is spreading word that it’s seeking the original photograph through its website and by using social media. Morgan said she hopes the owner may have other relics related to the ironclad.

Potter said he tried unsuccessfully to reconnect with the photo’s owner, who soon moved away from Waycross. He donated a photo of the original image to the Georgia Historical Society, which confirmed it received Potter’s gift in March 1986.

A couple of years later, Potter said, he got a letter from a family member of the original image’s owner. He said the letter, which he no longer has, claimed the original photograph had been donated to the Savannah History Museum.

Paul Blatner, the museum’s curator and director from 1984 to 1990, said he never saw a photograph of any Confederate ironclad during his tenure.

“Believe me,” Blatner said, “if I had thought that the image was the CSS Georgia, I would have moved mountains to make sure we got it.”

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Ebola diagnosis for 2nd Texas hospital worker raising questions over virus battle plan

Confirmation that a second Texas health care worker has tested positive for Ebola is raising questions over whether the hospital and federal health officials really have a handle on containing the virus.

Top Obama administration health officials on Wednesday acknowledged that federal agencies should play – and should have played — a bigger role in checking the spread of Ebola in Texas.

At a press conference Wednesday morning, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings also warned the situation “may get worse before it gets better” — while assuring it ultimately will get better.

Such statements are a departure from the confident Obama administration claims just days ago that they would stop Ebola “in its tracks.”

“The president, he’s about two steps behind on everything, and then he just sort of does the Heisman,” Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told Fox News on Tuesday regarding the Ebola developments, before the latest diagnosis.

He added: “I don’t care what protocols we have and the strain we are now putting on our health care system, all hospitals. You have human error.”

Roberts is among the lawmakers calling for a travel ban for affected West African countries, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies say that would be counterproductive.

CDC Director Tom Frieden, though, rejected the notion that his agency has bad information.

“Our information is clear and correct,” he told Fox News on Tuesday. “But we do look at what happens and we adjust as we need to. We know how Ebola spreads. We know how to stop it.”

Frieden earlier in the week warned there may be additional cases in the U.S., after the first Texas hospital worker tested positive for the virus.

Asked Tuesday whether President Obama retains confidence in Frieden, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said: “He does.”

“[Frieden] is somebody who, in the last few months here, has been working almost around the clock to ensure that our response is commensurate with the challenge that is posed here. And the challenge that’s posed is significant,” Earnest said.

However, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said Wednesday that the federal government could have performed “much better oversight” of the Dallas hospital where two health care workers caught Ebola after treating the first U.S. patient with the disease.

Burwell told NBC News that the government is taking more steps to help prevent the spread of infection at the hospital, including more intensive training for workers and a 24-hour site manager to oversee how equipment is being put on and taken off.

She sidestepped questions about whether she had complete confidence in Dallas’ Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and whether the two infected workers should be transferred to one of four specialized hospitals. “We will keep all options and considerations right now,” she said.

Anthony Fauci, director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also said Wednesday: “What happened there [in Dallas], regardless of the reason, is not acceptable. It shouldn’t have happened.”

Fauci told MSNBC he envisioned the CDC taking “a much more involved role” in establishing the proper training protocols for Ebola cases.

According to officials, the worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital reported a fever Tuesday and was put in isolation within 90 minutes.

Health officials said the worker was among those who took care of Thomas Eric Duncan, who was diagnosed with Ebola after coming to the U.S. from Liberia. Duncan died Oct. 8.

Meanwhile, nurses at the Dallas hospital are claiming that a haphazard and sloppy care system was maintained during the treatment of Duncan. The nation’s largest nurses’ union described how Duncan was left in an open area of the emergency room for hours. National Nurses United, citing unidentified nurses, said staff treated Duncan for days without the correct protective gear, that hazardous waste was allowed to pile up to the ceiling and safety protocols constantly changed.

RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of Nurses United, refused to say how many nurses made the statement about Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, but insisted they were in a position to know what happened.

Richard Carmona, former U.S. surgeon general, said nurses are often the “barometer” for how a hospital functions.

“We need to listen,” he told Fox News, “and take appropriate action.”

He voiced confidence in the information that the CDC is using to address the crisis, but acknowledged that skill sets may have faded in the lull before the outbreak. “You get a little complacent,” Carmona said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Warning: American Horror Story – The Spider House…

Thousands of venomous spiders force family to abandon their $450K suburban St. Louis home

A family was driven from their suburban St. Louis home by thousands of venomous spiders that fell from the ceiling and oozed from the walls.

Brian and Susan Trost bought the $450,000 home overlooking two golf holes at Whitmoor Country Club in Weldon Spring in October 2007 and soon afterward started seeing brown recluse spiders everywhere, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported . Once when showering, Susan Trost dodged a spider as it fell from the ceiling and washed down the drain.

She told St. Louis television station KMOV-TV in 2012 the spiders “started bleeding out of the walls,” and at least two pest control companies were unable to eradicate the infestation.

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The couple filed a claim in 2008 with their insurance company, State Farm, and a lawsuit against the home’s previous owners for not disclosing the brown recluse problem.

At a civil trial in St. Charles County in October 2011, University of Kansas biology professor Jamel Sandidge — considered one of the nation’s leading brown recluse researchers — estimated there were between 4,500 and 6,000 spiders in the home. Making matters worse, he said, those calculations were made in the winter when the spiders are least active.

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The jury awarded the couple slightly more than $472,000, but the former owners declared bankruptcy, the insurance company still didn’t pay anything and the couple moved out two years ago.

The home, now owned by the Federal National Mortgage Association, was covered with nine tarps this week and workers filled it with a gas that permeated the walls to kill the spiders and their eggs.

“There’ll be nothing alive in there after this,” said Tim McCarthy, president of the company hired to fix the problem once and for all.

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Let’s hope he’s lucky! Baby calf born with a perfect white number seven on his head

  • A Pennsylvania farm have named a calf Baby Ben after the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback because the cow has a No. 7 on his head 
  • After photos of the calf were posted on the vale Wood Farms Facebook page, almost 2,000 fans liked the posting
  • Vale Wood Farms has been around since 1933 and while it processes its own milk and dairy, it doesn’t use any meat from the cows.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS and ALEXANDRA KLAUSNER

Moooove over, Ben Roethlisberger. There’s a new No. 7 in western Pennsylvania.

The folks at Vale Wood Farms in Loretto have named a calf Baby Ben after the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback because the cow has a marking that looks like a Number 7 on its head.

The farm has posted the calf’s picture on its Facebook page, and WJAC-TV visited the farm about 70 miles east of Pittsburgh to see what all the fuss is about.

Lucky number seven: A baby calf with a marking of a number 7 on its head has been named Big Ben in honor of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who wears a seven on his jersey when he plays

Look familiar?: Baby Ben is named after Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (pictured) who wears a number seven on his jersey and is nicknamed Big Ben 

Since being posted on Facebook the photos got over 1,100 likes and over 100 comments.

Carissa Itle-Westrick, the director of business development for the family-owned food-and-grocery farm, is hoping Roethlisberger won’t mind.

She says, ‘Baby Ben is awfully cute, so hopefully Big Ben won’t mind sharing his namesake.’

The farm plans to display the calf when it opens its pumpkin patch for business next month.

Itle-Westrick told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that she’s seen a variety of cow patterns over the years such as a state, a continent, and once even a Nike’s swoosh.

She said that when she saw Baby Ben for the first time she immediately thought of the Steelers.

‘He turned to face me, and I said, “Wow, it’s a perfect little 7,” ‘ Ms. Itle-Westrick said. Taking the quarterback’s namesake

‘was kind of a natural for us. We’re out here in Steelers country.’

Even Ben Roethlisberger’s website Bigben7.com acknowledged the furry doppelganger in a blog post.

The post said that if you visit the farm, ‘don’t forget to say hello to Baby Ben while you’re there (who is probably gonna milk this new-found fame for all it’s worth!)’

The Post gazette reports that Baby Ben will be on display during the farm’s pumpkin patch event October 1-19.

Vale Wood Farms has been around since 1933 and while it processes its own milk and dairy, it doesn’t use any meat from the cows.

Head in the game: Even Ben Roethlisberger's website acknowledged the furry doppelganger and he wrote in his blog of visiting the farm, 'don’t forget to say hello to Baby Ben while you’re there'

Head in the game: Even Ben Roethlisberger’s website acknowledged the furry doppelganger and he wrote in his blog of visiting the farm, ‘don’t forget to say hello to Baby Ben while you’re there’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2771662/Adorable-baby-calf-born-NUMBER-SEVEN-head-named-Big-Ben-honor-Pittsburgh-Steelers-quarterback-Ben-Ben-Roethlisberger-wears-number-seven-jersey.html#ixzz3EaMv4Oc9
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Ebola Update

If President Obama asked you tomorrow to join the volunteers going to West Africa to treat Ebola and offered you substantial training and pay would you go?  You don’t have to answer for me, just for yourself.  I will tell you, it scares the crap out of me.

When the Ebola outbreak first started in West Africa I was shocked and disturbed by the number of memes on Facebook making light of the threat because it is only spread through fluids.  I spoke up early and indicated how naive that view was.  Unfortunately, I was correct.  Here are two stories…

 Ebola could arrive in US as soon as this month

Ebola could arrive in US���as soon as this month: study

American Aid goods are offloaded from an airplane, to be used in the fight against the Ebola virus spreading in the city of Monrovia, Liberia, Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)

Dr. Rick Sacra, the third American to contract Ebola, landed in Nebraska last week and will be moved to the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha for treatment.

Experts insist there is no risk to the public, NBC News reports, but a new study in PLOS Currents finds that Ebola could soon make its way inside U.S. borders on its own.

The study looked at global flight patterns and passenger screening and found that the chance of at least one case arriving in the country by Sept. 22 was as high as 18 percent, NPR reports.

“What is happening in West Africa is going to get here. We can’t escape that at this point,” the study’s lead author says, adding it would likely occur in “small clusters of cases, between one and three.” The study also points to a 25 percent to 28 percent chance of the virus reaching the United Kingdom and a 50 percent chance of it spreading to Ghana before the month is over.

If the virus isn’t contained, the likelihood of its spread will “increase consistently,” the study notes. On a more optimistic note, Sacra’s wife says, “Rick is clearly sick” but “was in good spirits and he walked onto the plane” that took him to Nebraska.

“We are really encouraged by that news.” (Meanwhile, Sierra Leone is going on lockdown to fight Ebola.)

US works to step up Ebola aid, preps hospitals for potential patients

With growing criticism that the world still is not acting fast enough against the surging Ebola epidemic, President Barack Obama has called the outbreak a national security priority.

Obama is to travel to Atlanta on Tuesday to address the Ebola crisis during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the White House said. During his visit, Obama is to be briefed about the outbreak and discuss the U.S. response with officials.

The administration hasn’t said how big a role the military ultimately will play – and it’s not clear how quickly additional promised help will arrive in West Africa.

“This is also not everything we can and should be doing,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., who chairs a Foreign Relations subcommittee that oversees African issues, told the Senate last week.

He called for expanded military efforts and for Obama to appoint someone to coordinate the entire government’s Ebola response.

“I’ve heard from organizations that have worked to transport donated supplies and can fill cargo plane after cargo plane but are having difficulty getting it all to West Africa,” Coons added, urging government assistance.

Supplies aren’t the greatest need: “Trained health professionals for these Ebola treatment units is a critical shortage,” said Dr. Steve Monroe of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.

Aiming to spur them, the CDC is beginning to train volunteer health workers headed for West Africa on how to stay safe, Monroe said. CDC sent its own staff to learn from Doctors Without Borders, which has the most experience in Ebola outbreaks. CDC will offer the course at a facility in Anniston, Alabama, for the next few months, teaching infection-control and self-protection and letting volunteers – expected to be mostly from nongovernment aid groups – practice patient triage.

“It’s gone beyond an Ebola crisis to a humanitarian crisis. It does require more of a U.S. government-wide response, more than just CDC,” Monroe said.

Here are some questions and answers about that response:

Q: What is the U.S. contributing?

A: The U.S. government has spent more than $100 million so far, said Ned Price of the National Security Council. Last week, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced it would spend up to $75 million more to provide 1,000 treatment beds in Liberia, the worst-hit country, and 130,000 protective suits for health workers.

The Obama administration has asked Congress for another $88 million to send additional supplies and public health experts, and to develop potential Ebola medications and vaccines.

Also, the State Department has signed a six-month contract, estimated at up to $4.9 million, for a Georgia-based air ambulance to be on call to evacuate any Ebola-infected government employees, and other U.S. aid workers when possible.

“The ability to evacuate patients infected with the Ebola virus is a critical capability,” said Dr. William Walters, the State Department’s director of operational medicine.

Q: Beyond delivering supplies, what’s happening on the ground?

A: The CDC currently has 103 staffers in West Africa working on outbreak control and plans to send about 50 more. They help to track contacts of Ebola patients, train local health workers in infection control and help airport authorities screen whether anyone at high risk of Ebola is attempting to leave.

Two of the CDC workers are in Ivory Coast to try to stay ahead of the virus, helping health authorities prepare in case an Ebola patient crosses the border into that country.

Q: What are the U.S. military’s plans?

A: The Defense Department has provided more than 10,000 Ebola test kits to the region and plans to set up a 25-bed field hospital in the Liberian capital for infected health care workers.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby suggested Friday that more could be coming.

“The Department of Defense has capabilities that might prove helpful,” he said, adding, “We’re having those discussions right now.”

Q: Will Ebola come here?

A: U.S. health officials are preparing in case an individual traveler arrives unknowingly infected but say they’re confident there won’t be an outbreak here.

People boarding planes in the outbreak zone are checked for fever, but symptoms can begin up to 21 days after exposure. Ebola isn’t contagious until symptoms begin, and it takes close contact with bodily fluids to spread.

Q: Where would sick travelers be treated? The U.S. only has four of those isolation units where Ebola-stricken aid workers were treated.

A: “There’s still a perception in the public that the only place these people can be treated is at one of these specialized facilities like the one at Emory or Nebraska, and that’s just not the case,” Monroe said. “We are confident that any hospital in the U.S. can care for” an Ebola patient.

After all, five U.S. cases of similar hemorrhagic viruses – one Marburg virus, the others Lassa fever – have been treated in the past decade.

The CDC is telling hospitals to ask about travel if someone has suspicious symptoms, to put the person in a private room with a separate bathroom while asking CDC about testing and to wear a gown, mask and eye protection when delivering care.

“This virus is completely inactivated by all the normal disinfectants used in a hospital setting,” Monroe noted.

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Dead two-headed dolphin discovered in Turkey

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In this photo of con-joined dolphin taken by gym teacher Tugrul Metin, while he was vacationing during the first few days of August 2014, in the Aegean Sea coastal town of Dikili, Izmir province of Turkey.AP/Tugrul Metin

Turkish media reports say Turkish scientists will examine a two-headed dolphin that washed up on a beach in western Turkey.

The private Dogan news agency said the remains of conjoined dolphin calf were discovered on a beach in Dikili, near the Aegean city of Izmir last week by a vacationing gym teacher.

It quoted Akdeniz University marine biologist Mehmet Gokoglu as saying the dolphin was a rare occurrence, similar to conjoined twins.

Marine biologists at Akdeniz University will study the dolphin.

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