Space News:

Power Generation

Unmanned spacecraft traveling away from the sun to explore the outer planets of the solar system are powered by nuclear energy, specifically Plutonium-238 built into a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG).

Elements such as Uranium and Plutonium are considered “radioactive” due to an imbalance of protons and electrons. The process of radioactive decay occurs as an atom of these elements naturally seeks to stabilize itself by releasing subatomic particles into the environment.

Alpha, beta, and dangerous gamma radiation is emitted as heat energy that can be converted into electricity within the generator.   

Radioactive elements and the use of nuclear power in space travel clip art image.

Raging Storms

The wind on Jupiter, and on other planets within the solar system, is caused by temperature changes within the atmosphere that force high pressure (warm) air to flow in the opposite direction of low pressure (cold) air. Jupiter’s colored stripes and circular storms are caused by winds that rage at speeds of 200-300 mph. 

Jupiter’s banded outer surface is a pattern of alternating “zones” and “belts”

Within the light colored zones, wind blows toward the east and the circular storms swirl in an anti-clockwise, or cyclonic, direction. The zones appear lighter in color due to an upward flow of wind that causes ammonia ice clouds to form

The belts are darker as molecules of carbon, methane, and nitrogen mix with the mostly hydrogen atmosphere. Winds blow toward the west and downward, causing storms such as the Great Red Spot to spin in a clockwise direction    

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Spiritual News:


Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas time, events described in the gospels of the New Testament.

December 3 is the start of Advent this year. Candles of the Advent wreath are lit each Sunday in anticipation of the birth of Jesus on the night of Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, families usually attend church together and share meals of traditional foods while exchanging gifts.

The Christmas season continues for twelve days, starting with St. Stephen’s Day on the 26th and concluding with the Epiphany, or “Three Kings Day” on January 7.

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Saint Stephen is believed to be the first of the Christian martyrs, killed for preaching about the life and death of Jesus.

When Stephan was stoned to death in the streets of Jerusalem in 34 AD, a man named Saul was in a nearby crowd. Saul was a wealthy, upper-class Jewish man known for his severe treatment of Christians. After witnessing Stephen’s death, Saul was walking on the road to Damascus where he claims Jesus appeared to him and told him to stop persecuting Christians.

Soon after, Saul converted to Christianity. He took the name Paul and became one of the most important first-century missionaries.

In Politics:

Presidential Advisers

The responsibilities of the executive branch are delegated to the President, the Vice President, and the offices of the Cabinet. The Constitution empowers the President to select a team of close advisers to manage the numerous agencies and programs that influence the lives of Americans every day.

During the first presidential administration, George Washington established four Cabinet posts: Secretary of State, Treasury, War, and the Attorney General.

  • The War Department evolved into the Department of Defense in 1949, with control over the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force
  • The Attorney General, at first a part-time position, now heads up the Justice Department, created in 1870 to advise on legal matters within the federal government

Eleven other Cabinet level positions have been added during the twentieth century, the most recent being the Department of Homeland Security created in 2002.

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The Grand Old Party

A “republic” is a form of government that empowers its citizens to vote and elect officials, an idea that America was founded on when the Revolutionary War was fought to secure independence from the monarch of Great Britain.

In reference to a political party, the word “republican” has had different meanings through the years. The Republican Party that exists today was created in the late 1850’s and was prevalent in the northern states that were in favor of abolishing slavery.

Abe Lincoln was the first Republican President, and the Civil War was fought during his administration in an effort to prevent the southern states from creating a separate form of government.

In the years following the war, the first of the civil rights amendments were written.

  • 13th Amendment abolished slavery
  • 14th Amendment safeguards the legal protections and equal freedoms of Americans
  • 15th Amendment secures the right to vote

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Echoes Through Time

In July 1863, on a battlefield in Southwest Pennsylvania, 28,000 Confederate and 23,000 Union soldiers lost their lives fighting the Battle of Gettysburg. The 3-day war was a decisive victory for the North and the turning point of the Civil War. 

In November of that year, President Lincoln traveled to Pennsylvania to consecrate the soldiers’ resting place in the Gettysburg National Cemetery, delivering the Gettysburg Address to a crowd of 15,000. The President’s two-minute speech was said to have been unremarkable within the events of the day, but his words are some of the most famous in American history. Lincoln’s humility and his devotion to the cause of uniting the northern and southern states have endured long after his death less than two years later.

… But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our power to add or detract …

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

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Politics blog humorous cartoon image of President Lincoln tweeting.

Health News:

Healthy Variety

A healthy diet is most important when we need the energy to get through a busy day. We might think that specialty or convenience foods are helpful, but all the nutrients we need are in the everyday foods we’ve been including in our diet for years:

  • A medium sweet potato contains 500% RDA for Vitamin A
  • 100% of the vital B vitamins are in combinations of foods like fortified cereal, eggs, orange juice, chicken, fish, and beans
  • All the minerals we need come from healthy snack foods such as salads, whole grains, nuts, yogurt, and dark chocolate
  • And these same foods contain protein and carbs for energy and a clear-minded focus through the day

Fruits and vegetables lose some of their nutrients when they’re canned or frozen, but processing fresh vegetables when they’re in season means they can be enjoyed at reasonable prices all year.

At sustainabletable.org you can search for seasonal produce and where to find the nearest farmer’s market.

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The Best Medicine

Health experts have found that both positive and negative emotions have an influence on our health … and that laughter really is the best medicine.

When we’re feeling angry or threatened, our adrenal glands respond by producing adrenaline and cortisol, chemicals that are usually beneficial as they provide a boost of energy and alertness so we can confront danger or get safely away. Unhealthy levels of these stress hormones could have a harmful effect, elevating heart rate, suppressing the immune system, and making it difficult to rest and get enough sleep.

In contrast, positive thoughts, and a healthy focus on diet and exercise stimulates the production of endorphins, a neurotransmitter that counteracts the effect of stress by lowering blood pressure, easing pain, and causing our brain to register feelings of happiness and well-being.

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DNA and Aging

The spiral, ladder-shaped molecule of DNA is a familiar sight. In recent years, scientists have been researching the correlation between DNA and the aging process, specifically whether the shortening of telomeres at the base of a DNA molecule could result in various types of cancer.

Cancer occurs when parts of a chromosome known as a gene become damaged, interrupting the cells normal functioning and causing it to grow out of control. The cause could be environmental or simply a misalignment of the nitrogenous base pairs that occurs during DNA replication.

But our cells have built-in mechanisms for repairing DNA. When DNA replicates, for instance, the parent DNA is able to alert itself when the sequence of base pairs are lining up incorrectly. Enzymes target the site and repair the strand of DNA before it divides into the new cell.

When cell damage occurs from other factors (for instance, stress, unhealthy habits, and environmental toxins), enzymes within the cell nucleus that continually scan the genetic material will locate and cut away the broken pieces and rebuild the strand with the correct sequencing.

Researchers have found that numerous mutations usually have to occur within a strand of DNA before the cell becomes cancerous. They point to this as the reason that cancer occurs more often in the elderly, or as the reason that we age at all.

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The Ghost With the Basket

A sudden and devastating accident in the 1850's disrupts the spirit of a quiet farm wife. Is the ghost of Sylvia Crickler trying to threaten away the young family or does she need their help to put her spirit to rest?

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Birdie risks everything to start a new life, but Rick is close behind to take back what was his. If she can't outrun him, can they compromise and find a way to both stay alive?

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