Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Auroras tonight, and Wednesday?

Looks like it. This was Iowa from the early morning hours today:



Look up! Another solar storm may supercharge auroras Wednesday
While a "severe" solar storm that sparked dazzling auroras around the world on Monday through Tuesday morning is dying down now, skywatchers shouldn't stop looking up quite yet.

Another potentially powerful solar tempest is expected to impact Earth on Wednesday into Thursday, and it could create more amazing auroras for people in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

In particular, the next solar storm is especially well aimed to enhancing aurora activity over North America, according to experts at the National Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) in Boulder, Colorado.

Monday's solar storm hit the G4 or "severe" level, a relatively rare class of storm that can create bright auroras in relatively low latitudes. Such G4 storms — the rating scale goes up to G5 — can also cause problems with power grids on Earth and harm satellites in space.

And another storm of that severe magnitude is likely on its way to Earth now.

Scientists at the SWPC are anticipating that the solar storm predicted to arrive Wednesday could, yet again, produce beautiful auroras in relatively low latitudes.

At the moment, the SWPC is predicting a G3 or "strong" storm on Wednesday and Thursday, but that was the forecast for Monday, as well. [...]

See the whole article for embedded links, photos, videos and more.

For more technical details, and an Aurora Prediction map, see the NOAA website: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/




   

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Oregon is for Losers?

This is an unpleasant statistic:



Report: Oregon has worst graduation rate in the U.S.
A comprehensive U.S. report showed that Oregon not only has the worst graduation rates in the nation, but it's holding the country back from achieving its graduation rate goals.

The 2015 Building a Grad Nation report analyzed 2013 graduation rate data from every state in the nation. While the national average reached a record high of 81.4 percent, the four-year graduation rate in Oregon was only 69 percent.

Furthermore, Oregon hadn't improved from the year before, showing stagnation as the last remaining state with graduation rates lower than 70 percent.

"Oregon did not experience significant improvements and became the state with the lowest graduation rate in the nation and the last remaining state with an ACGR [Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate] in the 60s," the report said.

The Grad Nation report shows that overall, much of the country is on track to graduate upwards of 90 percent of seniors by 2020, and many states are already graduating more than 80 percent of students, including neighboring California. Washington State had a 76.4 percent graduation rate. [...]
Even California is doing better. What gives?
     

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

An Embryonic New Turkey?

Not the bird, but the country. They recently had an election. Before the election, there was this:

Why Turkey's election doesn't matter
[...] The focus is not the usual one on "Who will form the next government?" Analysts agree that the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, or AKP), in power since 2002, will win again. But will it have to sign up a junior partner? Will it win sufficient seats to change the constitution and fulfill President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's plan to turn his position from a largely symbolic one into a fully executive position?

Erdoğan wants powers so wide reaching that he actually compares them to those wielded by absolute Saudi monarchs. Ironically, those powers would be extracted from the prime minister, which position Erdoğan filled for eleven years until last August, when he voluntarily ceded the position to a hand-picked successor, a mild-mannered academic, and moved over to the grander but far less powerful presidency.

Expressed numerically, the question fascinating Turks is whether the AKP will win a one-seat majority (276 seats out of 550) to rule alone, the 3/5s majority (330 seats) enabling it to change the constitution pending a public referendum, or the 2/3s majority (367 seats) required to change it unilaterally.

The main drama concerns a new party, the leftist, Kurdish-oriented Peoples' Democratic Party (Halkların Demokratik Partisi, or HDP): Will it manage to reach the world's highest threshold of 10 percent of the total vote and enter parliament, in this, its first national campaign? If yes, it will could deprive the AKP of its majority 276 seats; if no, the AKP will likely reach that number and maybe even the magic 330.

But where others find high drama, I see near-tedium, and for two reasons. First, the AKP has used ballot-box shenanigans and other dirty tricks in the past; many indications point to its preparing to do so again, especially in Kurdish-majority districts.

Second, since the moment Erdoğan's presidency began nine months ago, he has behaved as though his wished-for constitutional changes had already been effected; he has chaired cabinet meetings, chose AKP candidates, leaned on the judiciary, and deployed a bevy of "czars" to compete with the prime minister's staff. He is lord of all he surveys.

He also blatantly defies the ban on political activities by the president, illegally stumping the country, worshipful governmental media at his disposal, Koran often in hand, urging citizens to vote AKP and thereby enhance his powers as cumhurbaşkan.

As he transforms a flawed democracy and NATO ally into a rogue state, ostrich-like Western governments sentimentally pretend it's still the 1990s, with Ankara a reliable ally, and abet his growing despotism.

Therefore, I conclude, how many seats the AKP wins hardly matters. Erdoğan will barrel, bulldoze, and steamroll his way ahead, ignoring traditional and legal niceties with or without changes to the constitution. Sure, having fully legitimate powers would add a pretty bauble to his résumé, but he's already tyrant and Turkey's course is set.

Being a brilliant domestic operator and also an egomaniac in a tinderbox of a region suggests where Erdoğan's future troubles lie – abroad. Under his leadership, Ankara suffers poor to terrible relations at present with nearly the entire neighborhood, including Moscow, Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus, Jerusalem, Cairo, Athens, the Republic of Cyprus, and even with the new leader of Turkish Cyprus. [...]
Sounds pretty grim. But is it really that bleak? The election has happened now, and the results are in:

Turkey election: Erdoğan accepts no party has mandate to govern alone
The election result brought forth an embryonic new Turkey, but not the one the president wanted.

It produced what is tantamount to a cultural revolution in Turkish political life. Women will pour into the 550-seat parliament in Ankara in unprecedented numbers, 98 up from 79. Openly gay candidates won seats for the HDP. Most of all, the long-repressed Kurdish minority (one in 5 citizens) will be properly represented in the parliament for the first time with 80 seats.

“This is the first time that feminists in Turkey actively supported a political party,” said feminist activist Mehtap Dogan. “Up until now we have always done politics on our own, away from parliament. But this time we ran a campaign supporting the HDP because we believed in their sincerity when it comes to defending the rights of women, LGBTs and ethnic minorities.”

The HDP is the first party to introduce a quota of 50% female politicians, and all party offices and HDP-run municipalities are chaired by both a man and a woman.

The party’s successful attempt to break out of ethnic identity politics and broaden its appeal well beyond the Kurdish issue owes much to leader Selahattin Demirtas’ magnetism and his message of outreach.

But the mass protest movement born in a central Istanbul park two years ago and which mushroomed into national protests which Erdogan crushed mercilessly also fed in to the HDP’s support.

“During the Gezi [park] protests, many got an idea of what Kurds had to go through for years: the violence, the repression, the unjust arrests. It opened our eyes to the Kurdish suffering,” said Dogan. “At the same time, we saw how the pro-government press tried to turn our legitimate, peaceful protests into acts of terrorism.”

Just as Erdogan branded the protesters two years ago “riff-raff”, “terrorists” and “foreign agents”, in the election campaign he stoked division and malice by repeatedly smearing his HDP opponents as “terrorists, marginals, gays and atheists.”

He asked religiously conservative voters not to cast their ballots for “such people who have nothing to do with Islam.”

The tactic backfired as many religiously conservative Kurds shifted their votes from the AKP to a party that promised to represent everyone’s interests. [...]

Erdoğan may well try to push ahead anyway, but it won't be easy for him, he will have opposition. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.
     

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