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Photos - January 2010

Inside the Secret Service

January 29th 2010 14:29
What would life be like as a Secret Service Agent?
This article at Life Magazine attempts to answer that question after talking to some former agents.

inside the secret service
The Secret Service was founded in 1865 to battle the flood of counterfeit currency washing over the country near the end of the Civil War. It wasn't until 1902, a year after the assassination of President William McKinley, that the Service began, as part of its official mission, to protect the president, vice president, their families. (Ironically, the legislation creating the Secret Service was on Abraham Lincoln's desk the night he was murdered by John Wilkes Booth.)

what it takes to be a secret service agent
The agency's rigorous, frequent training keeps agents prepared for virtually any contingency—including, of course, the one unthinkable scenario. He characterizes much of the training as "going through realistic situations that have been specifically designed to create instinctive reactions to a single second's madness." Almost two weeks of every two months is spent at the agency's training center in Beltsville, Maryland, which features city blocks lined with facades of office buildings and hotels; roads for motorcades; and a Boeing 707 for running through airplane-based scenarios.

US President Car
With American flags fluttering, the Presidential State Car—since 1983, a Cadillac limousine—is a national icon and an emblem of power. And in the case of President Obama's edition (every president gets a new ride), the machine is also an absolute beast. In fact, that's the nickname the Secret Service slapped on it before the inauguration in January, when Obama's limo made its formal debut. The Beast has its own air recirculation system to protect the president in the case of a chemical attack. Its doors are now sheathed in 8-inch-thick military-grade armor. Even the bulletproof windows are five inches thick. "The limousines of yesteryear were designed to provide protection and to get the president out of any situation," Ken Lucci, CEO of Ambassador Limousine Inc. and owner of two Reagan-era limos, told CNN. "Today, they [the Secret Service] expect a prolonged attack, and they expect an attack that is a lot more violent than [with] a weapon you can hold in your hand. It literally is a rolling bunker."

Life inside the secret service
A lot of their work is extremely boring. You stand in a field for ten hours. You stand in a stairwell for twelve hours. You stand out in the cold, and the heat, and for the most part you have to be quiet, and just watch, and listen. You develop a way of watching. We all go through the same training, but we develop our own styles of scanning, assessing. We watch for someone who looks uncomfortable, or out of place. Dressed wrong for the weather. Someone unsmiling when everyone else is laughing and waving. And then, every once in a while, you catch someone staring at you. Maybe they're just curious about the job, or you happened to lock eyes at the instant their gaze moved briefly from the center of attention. But it's strange, and it definitely raises flags—even if a moment later it's clear that it meant absolutely nothing.

secret service agents
The Secret Service is not made up exclusively of agents wearing suits, ties, shades, and earpieces. In fact, as the agency's "dual mission" is to both protect VIPs as well as safeguard the nation's financial infrastructure (e.g., take down counterfeiters, fiscal gangsters, ID thieves, etc.), most agents spend as much time in SWAT-style gear as in white shirts and wingtips. The agents above—members of an elite division within the agency called the Counter Assault Team, or CAT—are prime examples of the agency's more heavily armed elements. They're not beside the president when he works a crowd, but in stairwells, on rooftops, in alleyways.

Cold ice snap in Britain
This striking image taken by Nasa's Terra satellite on 7 January 2010 shows the UK deep in the clutches of a cold snap.

Britain is facing its coldest winter in over 30 years. Heavy snow all over the UK like this is not common, but when it does come, it comes in force.
As the country doesn't normally prepare for such harsh conditions, when the heavy falls arrive it results in chaos with many parts of the country shutting down including schools and public transport with up to 40% or residents not able to get to work.

How is the UK handling all the snow?
The infographic below tells the story. This information and more can be found here at

Frozen Britain
click to enlarge


Monasteries Around The World

January 25th 2010 01:26
Monasteries may vary greatly in size. In most religions the life inside monasteries is governed by community rules that stipulates the gender of the inhabitants and requires them to remain celibate and own little or no personal property.

The life within the walls of a monastery may be supported in several ways: by manufacturing and selling goods, often agricultural products such as cheese, wine, beer, liquor, and jellies; by donations or alms; by rental or investment incomes; and by funds from other organizations within the religion which in the past has formed the traditional support of Monasteries.

Below are some famous and breathtaking monasteries. These images and information sourced from See the full list of 22 amazing monasteries here.

Famous Monastery
Yumbulagang Monastery. Perched on a small hill east of the Yarlong River in southeast Naidong county, near Lhasa, 9km south of Tsetang, Tibet.
Yumbulagang , palace of mother and son in Tibetan dialect, is the first palace and one of the earliest buildings in Tibet and it has a history of more than 2,000 years. Destroyed during the Cultural Revolution it was rebuilt in the 1980s. The walls are painted with beautiful murals which tell the early history of Tibet.

Famous Monasteries in Asia
Tigers Nest Monastery, Perched on the edge or a 3000 feet high cliff in Para valley, Bhutan.
Taktshang (Tiger’s nest monastery) is the most famous of monasteries in Bhutan. It hangs on a cliff at 3,120 metres (10,200 feet), some 700 meters (2,300 feet) above the bottom of Paro valley. Famous visitors include Ngawang Namgyal in the 17th century and Milarepa.

The name means “Tiger’s nest”. The legend was that Guru Rinpoche flew over the Himalaya from Tibet in the 7th century on the back of a tigress. He then meditated in a cave there for three months where the monastery was later built. The cave is said to be the origin of Buddhism in Bhutan.

Beautiful Monastery
Monastery Grigoriou, Located in the monastic state of Mount Athos in Greece.
The Monastery of Gregoriou is built on a beautiful location at the south-west side of Mount Athos and is dedicated to Saint Nicholas. The monastery was founded in the 14th century.

It occupies the seventeenth rank in the hierarchical order of the twenty Athonite monasteries. It is considered to be one of the most well-organised and strict coenobitic monasteries. It is inhabited by 70 monks (1990).

Its katholikon was built in 1768, in accordance to the Athonite plan. The church’s walls were decorated in 1779 by the holy monks Gabriel and Gregory from Kastoria.

well known Monastery
Khor Virap Monastery. Located in the Ararat plain in Armenia, very close to the border with Turkey.
The Khor Virap monastery is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Armenia. It is also significant as being the place of Gregory the Illuminator’s 13-year imprisonment, after which Gregory, by converting the King Trdat III to Christianity in the year 301, made Armenia the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion.

In the mid-1960, volunteers for the Canadian Youth Mission to Armenia helped renovate/restore the cathedral.

Cave Monasteries
Cave Monasteries of Cappadocia, located in central Turkey.
Cappadocia is mentioned in the Biblical account given in the book of Acts 2:9, with the Cappadocians being named as one of the people groups hearing the Gospel account from Galileans in their own language on the day of Pentecost shortly after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Acts 2:5 seems to suggest that the Cappadocians in this account were “God-fearing Jews”.

The Natural Rock Citadel of Uchisar – is the highest peak in the region. It is completely honeycombed with ancient dwellings. Many of these spaces were used as cave monasteries, though today they mostly inspire photographers and artists. Its honeycombed architecture is revealed by erosion and suggests intense fortification and infrastructure.

Snowy Scenes

January 22nd 2010 14:51
When winter arrives so does the snow!
The Big Picture as produced this article which showcases everything that is beautiful about the white powder.

children playing in the snow
Children play with snow in the middle of the traffic roundabout at Columbus Circle in New York City.

snow covered trees
A woman walks in a park during a heavy snowfall in the center of Sofia, Bulgaria.

Deer in the snow
A deer pauses in Knole Park, Sevenoaks, Kent, England.

snow covered christmas tree
Snow covers the a decorated tree in front of the West Wing of the White House in Washington.

A boy slides down a hill on a plastic disk in New York's Central Park.


The 2010 Haiti earthquake was a catastrophic magnitude 7.0. Its epicentre was approximately 25 km (16 miles) west of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. The earthquake occurred on Tuesday, 12 January 2010. The United States Geological Survey recorded a series of at least 33 aftershocks, fourteen of them between magnitudes 5.0 and 5.9. It is estimated that about three million people were affected by the quake, and that up to 200,000 have died as a result of the disaster. Several prominent public figures are among the dead.

The earthquake caused major damage to Port-au-Prince. Most major landmarks were significantly damaged or destroyed, including the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly building, the Port-au-Prince Cathedral, and the main jail. Compounding the tragedy, most hospitals in the area were destroyed. Because the organizational structures in Haiti had been destroyed, it has been called the worst disaster the UN had ever been confronted with.

Through the nights following the earthquake, many people in Haiti slept in the streets, on sidewalks, in their cars, or in makeshift shanty towns either because their houses had been destroyed, or they feared standing structures would not withstand aftershocks. Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the world, and construction standards are low.

These satellite images and information showing Haiti before and after the devastating quake were sourced from this article at wired science.

Haiti Earthquake Damage

Multiple buildings have clearly collapsed in this area of Port-au-Prince, and several more appear ready to crumble. Numerous strong aftershocks of magnitude 5 and up have continued to bring down buildings that were damaged and weakened by the mainshock. Below, the same area is shown in 2008.
Haitian Earthquake devastation

earthquake in Haiti

People gather in the Champs de Mars plaza adjacent to the National Palace after Tuesday’s earthquake. The plaza contains statues of Haiti’s founding fathers, the French embassy and museums. Below, the area looks serene in 2008.
2010 Earthquake

Haiti - before and after

The Stade Sylvio Cator is a 30,000-seat sports arena used for soccer games. Above it is shown surrounded by fallen buildings and rubble Wednesday. People gather on the field, probably camping there after losing their homes or out of fear that their homes could collapse during an aftershock. The stadium is shown below in 2008.
Haiti earthquake - before and after

Haiti Earthquake pictures

This building near the National Palace in the city centre was completely destroyed.
Haitian earthquake images

*This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article for 2010 Haiti earthquake.

The Decade That Was

January 18th 2010 13:56
As the first decade of the new millennium slips us by, msnbc takes a look back at the decade in pictures. It's amazing what can happen in 10 short years. Below are a small number of the major events, read the full list and article here.

Concorde crash of 2000
2000: Concorde in flames
A passenger in another plane snapped this photo of Air France Flight 4590 as the Concorde trailed flames during its takeoff from Paris on July 25. Moments later, the supersonic jet crashed, killing all 109 people on board and five more on the ground

[ Click here to read more ]


January 15th 2010 06:36
Nostradamus (14 December or 21 December 1503 – 2 July 1566), was a practicing physician, astronomer and astrologer who turned his hand to prophecy later in life.

Nostradamus wrote is prophecies in quatrains. Prophesising was punishable by death during the Spanish Inquisition, so he was forced to be cryptic to avoid persecution. Some say he predicted the French Revolution, the birth and rise to power of Hitler, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Great Fire of London (1666) and the September 11th terror attacks

[ Click here to read more ]


January 15th 2010 06:36
Nostradamus (14 December or 21 December 1503 – 2 July 1566), was a practicing physician, astronomer and astrologer who turned his hand to prophecy later in life.

Nostradamus wrote is prophecies in quatrains. Prophesising was punishable by death during the Spanish Inquisition, so he was forced to be cryptic to avoid persecution. Some say he predicted the French Revolution, the birth and rise to power of Hitler, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Great Fire of London (1666) and the September 11th terror attacks

[ Click here to read more ]

Inside Pixar Studios

January 13th 2010 01:57
pixar animation studios front gate

Pixar Animation Studios is a CGI animation production company based in Emeryville, California, United States. To date, the studio has earned twenty-two Academy Awards, four Golden Globes, and three Grammys, among many other awards, acknowledgments and achievements. It is one of the most critically acclaimed film studios of all time. It is best known for its CGI-animated feature films which are created with PhotoRealistic RenderMan, its own implementation of the industry-standard Renderman image-rendering API used to generate high-quality images.
Pixar and Monster's Inc

[ Click here to read more ]

Most Magnificent Trees in the World

January 11th 2010 01:19
There are about 100,000 different species of trees on our planet, making up a large percentage of all living things. However, there are some trees which either by luck or design become very sepcial to us. Here is a list of such trees, sourced from Read the full article here.

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The Speed of Light

January 8th 2010 02:07

The speed of light (usually denoted c) is a physical constant. Its value is exactly 299,792,458 metres per second, often approximated as 300,000 kilometres per second or 186,000 miles per second. It is the speed of electromagnetic radiation (such as radio waves, visible light, or gamma rays) in vacuum, where there are no atoms, molecules or other types of matter that can slow it down

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Average Colour of the Universe

January 6th 2010 01:55
Average Colour of the Universe

What color is the universe? More precisely, if the entire sky were smeared out, what color would the final mix be? This whimsical question came up when trying to determine what stars are commonplace in nearby galaxies. The answer, depicted above, is a conditionally perceived shade of beige. To determine this, astronomers computationally averaged the light emitted by one of the largest sample of galaxies yet analyzed: the 200,000 galaxies of the 2dF survey. The resulting cosmic spectrum has some emission in all parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, but a single perceived composite color. This color has become much less blue over the past 10 billion years, indicating that redder stars are becoming more prevalent. In a contest to better name the color, notable entries included skyvory, univeige, and the winner: cosmic latte

[ Click here to read more ]

Upcoming Technological Innovations

January 4th 2010 01:25
As the current decade comes to a close, Kiplinger asks "What will be the technological breakthroughs of the next decade?"
It appears that ms innovations will be from the energy and transportation sectors. Read the full list here.

[ Click here to read more ]

Oldest Cities in the World

January 2nd 2010 05:14
World's Oldest Still-Inhabited Cities

There are very few ancient cities that have survived the test of time. Factors like migration, war and even climate change led to most being abandoned and forgotten. However there are some cities around the world which despite being thousands of years old, still continue to thrive. Thanks to the WebUrbanist, here are some senior city-zens. Read the full article here
[ Click here to read more ]

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