Gaza death toll passes 340 as world protests Israeli incursion

Protesters sport fake injuries during a demonstration in Brussels on July 19, 2014, to protest Israel's military campaign in Gaza and show their support to the Palestinian people. (AFP Photo / Laurie Dieffembacq)

LIVE UPDATES: Israel launches ground incursion in Gaza Strip

The United Nations mission in Gaza says that more than 60,000 people have been displaced as a result of the escalating conflict. Israel has warned Palestinians living in over half of the country that they may come under fire either from the ground, air or sea.

Together with the mounting death toll, the Palestinian health authorities say that over 2,000 people have been injured. Around a quarter of the reported victims have been children.

READ MORE: Up to 80% of fatalities in Israel’s bombing of Gaza are civilians – UN

Israeli ground operations, which began on Thursday night, have focused on uncovering a network of underground tunnels – some reportedly as deep as 30 meters – that Hamas had dug near the border, as well as concealed launchpads, from which the Israeli Defense Forces say Hamas militants have launched more than 1,600 rockets since the start of the month.

Thirteen of the 34 tunnel shafts reportedly discovered so far go underneath the overland barrier, and into Israeli territory. Several Hamas fighters infiltrated Israel early on Saturday before engaging in a gunfight with IDF soldiers. Two Israelis were shot dead.

A Hamas rocket barrage allegedly aimed at the nuclear plant in Dimona instead resulted in the death of a Bedouin man, bringing the Israeli death toll in the conflict to 5 – with three soldiers, and two civilians among the victims.

The IDF says that up to 4,000 Hamas rockets have been destroyed so far, about half of the estimated arsenal of the militant wing of the group. IDF officials have previously set the dismantling of Hamas rocket-launching capability as its stated goal for the incursion.

Worldwide Palestinian solidarity rallies

Despite an official ban on pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Paris, after last week’s rally turned into an attack on two synagogues, thousands of activists still turned out for an unsanctioned rally.

A group of mostly radically-minded Muslim demonstrators built barricades, and set multiple cars on fire as they clashed with riot police, which used tear gas. Other French cities with a sizeable Muslim presence, such as Marseille, also held mass protests.

In London, a sanctioned demonstration was attended by at least 15,000 with many in the crowd holding placards saying “Stop the massacre” and “Free Palestine.” The rally passed peacefully.

In Belgium, Palestine sympathizers played out dramatic scenes of violence towards civilians, while those in Turkey burned an Israeli flag, on the same day as Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of “barbarism worse than Hitler’s” during a public speech.

250 civilians killed in Ukraine’s Lugansk during last two months – OSCE

People in Lugansk after an artillery attack on July 18, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Valeriy Melnikov)

According to the report, the observers met with members of Lugansk emergency first aid brigade on Thursday.

“The doctors said that in June and July alone there were 250 killed and 850 wounded in the Lugansk region,” the document published Saturday said.

The figures didn’t include civilians killed in close vicinity of combat zones outside the city as well as causalities among those involved in fighting, the report pointed.

The medics also told the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) that “increasingly more people were being killed by booby traps and mines.”

The situation in Lugansk and Donetsk Regions “remained tense with on-going fighting around the city of Luhansk,” the observers said.

The report says the “SMM heard the sound of a shell hitting a garage,” while patrolling the center of Lugansk.

When the mission arrived on the scene, they found “one man killed lying on the pavement; the garage and a car were totally demolished.”

On Saturday night, air sirens started off in Lugansk as a fighter jet was spotted in the skies following a brief mortar shelling. Friday attacks took 15 lives while over 50 more were injured, local authorities said.

WARNING: Graphic video shows victims of the shelling in Lugansk

As the situation in the country’s east continues to deteriorate, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko refused to include south-eastern militia in the peace negotiations, which are aimed at resolving the conflict in the country.

Poroshenko, who met with Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans in Kiev on Saturday, blamed the self-defense forces for bringing down the Malaysia airline’s plane, which resulted in 298 deaths two days ago.

“Speaking about the settlement of the conflict in the Donbas, Poroshenko noted that those who are related to a terrorist attack cannot be a party in the negotiations. Their crime should be investigated in international courts,” the Ukrainian president’s press service said.

Poroshenko also announced that Kiev is preparing international legal claims in order for the People’s Republic of Donetsk and Lugansk to be globally recognized as terrorist organizations.

The crackdown on the south-east started in mid-April, after people in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions refused to recognize the coup-imposed authorities in Kiev and demanded federalization.

The Ukrainian military and National Guard resorted to airstrikes and shelling in their struggle against the self-defense forces in Donetsk and Lugansk.

The operation stalled for some time, but then Kiev achieved major military gains by taking control of important militia strongholds – the cities of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk – in early July.

Government forces are now using all its arsenal to crush rebel resistance in the regional capitals of Donetsk and Lugansk.

On July 10, Ukraine’s deputy health minister spoke of 478 civilians being killed in the conflict, with nearly 1,400 people receiving injuries.

Disregard of the population by Kiev troops saw the number of Ukrainian refugees fleeing to Russia reaching 110,000 people, while 54,400 others were displaced within Ukraine, according to stats from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

A report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says over 4.5 million civilians remain in the war zone in Ukraine.

200 Moon pits could accommodate future astronauts (VIDEO)

AFP Photo / Aamir Qureshi

Hundreds of pits that range from 5 meters across to 900 meters in diameter were found using a new computer algorithm that scanned thousands of high-resolution images of the lunar surface from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s (LRO) Narrow Angle Camera (NAC), the US space agency said in a press-release on Thursday.

The findings will help astronauts further explore the lunar surface, said Robert Wagner, the leading author of the paper on this research published online in the journal Icarus. Wagner is also the one who developed the computer algorithm to find these pits.

Pits would be useful in a support role for human activity on the lunar surface,” said Wagner of Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. “A habitat placed in a pit – ideally several dozen meters back under an overhang – would provide a very safe location for astronauts: no radiation, no micrometeorites, possibly very little dust, and no wild day-night temperature swings.”

The pits were found in several locations on the lunar surface. The first were large craters with impact melt ponds. The team found 200 such pits spread across the melt ponds of 29 craters, which are considered by astronomers to be geologically young Copernican craters dated less than a billion years old.

The second is the lunar maria – or “sea” in Latin. Eight pits are situated there, three of which were previously known from images from the Japanese Kaguya orbiter.

The lunar maria represents dark areas on the moon which appeared as hundreds of kilometers of lava flows solidified and formed various patterns seen from Earth by naked eye. These patterns are interpreted differently by people, who see either a face of the man, a rabbit or a boy carrying a bundle of sticks on his back. In addition two more pits were identified in highlands terrain.

However, there is still little evidence how the voids formed based only on their appearance in the LRO photos, Wagner added.

The lunar caves could have been created as lava flowed in tubes under the solidified crust and then drained away, the same processes happen on our plant, Wagner added. Such caves could have formed in a large impact crater, the interior of which can take hundreds of thousands of years to cool, according to the scientist.

“They are likely due to melt flow within the pond from uplift after the surface has solidified, but before the interior has cooled,” said the lead author of the paper. “Exploring impact melt pits would help determine the magnitude of this uplift, and the amount of melt flow after the pond is in place.

The exploration of maria pits could also reveal how the lunar maria was formed, the researcher noted.

“We’ve taken images from orbit looking at the walls of these pits, which show that they cut through dozens of layers, confirming that the maria formed from lots of thin flows, rather than a few big ones. Ground-level exploration could determine the ages of these layers, and might even find solar wind particles that were trapped in the lunar surface billions of years ago,” said Wagner.

However, LRO has only imaged about 40 percent of the moon with appropriate lighting for this kind of research, said Wagner adding that there may be at least two to three more mare pits and several dozen to over a hundred more impact melt pits in unexplored areas. There could even be smaller pits already imaged that were missed by the research team.

We’ll continue scanning NAC images for pits as they come down from the spacecraft, but for about 25 percent of the moon’s surface area (near the poles) the sun never rises high enough for our algorithm to work,” said Wagner. “These areas will require an improved search algorithm, and even that may not work at very high latitudes, where even a human has trouble telling a pit from an impact crater.”

To understand the process of formation of these pits and caves researchers plant to drop probes into one or two of these pits.

Even a few pictures from ground-level would answer a lot of the outstanding questions about the nature of the voids that the pits collapsed into. We’re currently in the very early design phases of a mission concept to do exactly this, exploring one of the largest maria pits.”

California City Will Fine Couple $500 For Not Watering Brown Lawn, State Will Fine’em $500 If They Do

Epitome of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.

BREAKING: Protesters to Take Stand Against Obama’s Border Crisis in 319+ Cities

Americans around the country are standing up to protest President Barack Obama’s border policies and the crisis in illegal immigration that they have caused in recent months. The Obama administration is transporting illegal immigrants around the country for processing and housing, not always giving communities prior notice of its intentions. Thousands of immigrants have been

Electric Aliens? Bacteria discovered that exist on pure energy

Electric bacteria connect to form wires (An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube by New Scientist)

The ‘electric bacteria’ – as they have been dubbed by the team that discovered them – take energy from rocks and metal by feasting directly on their electrons. The hair-like filaments the bacteria produce carry electrons between the cells and their environment.

The biologists from the University of Southern California (USC) found that the new discovery joins more than ten other different specific type of bacteria that also feed on electricity – although none in quite the same way.

“This is huge. What it means is that there’s a whole part of the microbial world that we don’t know about,” Kenneth Nealson of USC told New Scientist.

Nealson explained the process by which the bacteria function. “You eat sugars that have excess electrons, and you breathe in oxygen that willingly takes them,” he said. Human cells break down the sugars in order to obtain the electrons – making the bacteria that only absorb the electrons that much more efficient.

“That’s the way we make all our energy and it’s the same for every organism on this planet,”
Nealson said. “Electrons must flow in order for energy to be gained.”

Some of the bacteria even have the ability to make ‘bio-cables’ – a kind of microbial collection of wires that can conduct electricity as well as copper – renowned for its high electrical conductivity.

Such ‘nanowires’ were first discovered in a separate study conducted by researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark. Their presence raises the possibility that one day bacteria could be used in making subsurface networks for people to use.

“Tens of thousands of bacteria can join to form a cable that can carry electrons over several centimeters,” the New Scientist video on the subject points out.

Nealson and his team discovered the bacteria by taking ocean sediment, and placing electrodes in it in the laboratory. As higher voltages were pumped into the water, the bacteria started to consume electrons from it.

When a lower voltage was pumped into the water the bacteria emitted electrons, making an electric current. The scientists carefully cut off all other possible nutrition sources for the bacteria. Nealson compared their method of survival to a human attempting to power up by sticking their finger in a DC electrical socket instead of eating.

Two of the most well-known bacteria which have ‘electrical’ properties already’ include the marine bacteria Shewanella and Geobacter – some species of which can metabolize certain collections of chemicals, producing electrons in the process, leading some scientists to theorize that a sort of natural battery could be created using it.

Last month, at the Goldschmidt geoscience conference in Sacramento, California, results were presented.

Nealson’s PhD student Annette Rowe has identified some eight different kinds of the bacteria.

NASA has also expressed interest in the “dark energy biosphere” – microorganisms lurking beneath the seabed – because they survive on such little energy that their means of living could theoretically be used by other beings living in other areas of the solar system.

“If nothing is going to eat it or destroy it then, theoretically, we should be able to maintain that organism indefinitely,” Yuri Gorby, a microbiologist at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, speculated.

Kim Dotcom’s Mega blocked in Italy for ‘promoting piracy’

Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom.(AFP Photo / Marty Melville )

Court of Rome Judge Constantino De Robbio, ordered all Italian providers to restrict access to two dozen domains on Friday, Corriere Della Sera reported.

A large-scale blockade came at the request of a small local independent movie distributor, Eyemoon Pictures.

The company claimed that the websites in question distributed two of its movies – “The Congress” and “Fruitvale Station” – ahead of their release in Italian cinemas.

Mega already said that they’re going to appeal against the Court of Rome ban, which the company considers “illegal”.

“The blocking order was placed on the basis of a complaint by a small distributor for two films and the effect of the total block is obviously disproportionate,”
Stephen Hall, Mega CEO, told TorrentFreak website.

The list of domains blocked by Roma’s Court:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, , and

The ban was an excessive measure as infringing files could’ve been easily removed through a compliant takedown process employed by Mega, he explained.

Hall also stressed that the block can be bypassed without any problems by using Google DNS or any other non-ISP DNS provider.

However, Mega CEO added that the website “is taking steps to ensure that our Italian customers regain access to their files without first having to fiddle with their nameserver settings by filing an appeal next week.”

Meanwhile, the Italian media has labeled the decision to add to the list of banned sites as “bizarre.”

“It’s the same as if Russia block access to Virgilio or (Italian language news websites),”
Corriere Della Sera paper wrote.

There were no comments from administration on the decision by the Italian judges.

Mega’s decision to appeal against the ban was welcomed by Fulvio Sarzana, a lawyer specialized in Internet and copyright disputes.

“I see website blocking through DNS and IP-address as a form of censorship. The block can’t distinguish between licit and illicit files. It’s like using a broad-spectrum bomb to hit only one person, the collateral damage is very obvious,”
he told TorrentFreak.

In another interview with Corriere Della Sera Sarzana stressed that Friday’s ban “once again highlighted the futility” of Italian copyright regulations.

The lawyer reminded that there’s a history of successful appeals by websites against blocks by the courts in Italy.

Earlier this year, Roma’s Court of Appeals recalled a blocking order against video streaming website for being too broad.

Back then, the judges stressed that partial blocking of a specific URL is preferred to site-wide bans.