Robotic Russian Cargo Ship Headed for Space Station

Robotic Russian Cargo Ship Headed for Space Station

Tariq Malik,
– Fri Jan 28, 6:45 pm ET
An unmanned Russian cargo ship is headed for the International Space Station to deliver three tons of supplies to the outpost’s crew, including a tiny satellite and birthday gifts for the orbiting lab’s commander.

The automated Progress 41 space freighter blasted off from the Central Asian spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan 8:32 p.m. EST yesterday (Jan. 27), though it was 4:32 a.m. Moscow Time (0132 GMT) on Jan. 28 at the time of liftoff.

Progress 41, also known as Progress M-09M at Russia’s FederalSpace Agency, will arrive at the International Space Station Saturday at 9:40 p.m. EST (0240 Jan. 30 GMT), though it will be 5:40 a.m. Sunday Moscow time.

There’s a wealth of goodies packed aboard the Progress 41 spacecraft for the space station’s six-person crew. The station is currently home to four Russians, two Americans and one Italian astronaut.

In addition to fuel, oxygen and books, the spacecraft is carrying birthday gifts for the space station’s commander — American astronaut Scott Kelly — who will celebrate his 47th birthday in space on Feb. 21.

The miniature Earth Artificial Satellite “Kedr” is also aboard Progress 41. It weighs a mere 66 pounds (30 kilograms) and is packed in a box about 22 inches (550 millimeters) per side. The name “Kedr” comes from the call sign used by the first person to fly in space, Yuri Gagarin, who made the historic first human spaceflight nearly 50 years ago on April 12, 1961.

Also known as RadioSkaf-V in Russia and ARISSAT-1 in the United States, the tiny satellite is part of an amateur radio experiment by the Radio Amateur Satellite Corp., NASA and the Russian aerospace company RSC Energia.

“It will transmit its signal at 145.95 MHz, with the amateur radio call sign is RS1S,” Russia’s Federal Space Agency officials said in a statement.

The satellite, which will be tossed overboard by Russian cosmonauts during a spacewalk set for Feb. 16, is designed to transmit 25 greeting messages in 15 different languages, as well as photos of Earth and telemetry, officials with Russia’s Federal Space Agency said.

About 1,918 pounds (870 kg) of propellant for maneuvering thrusters, 110 pounds (50 kg) of oxygen, 926 pounds (420 kg) of water, and 3,080 pounds (1,400 kg) of dry cargo are also being ferried to the space station on Progress 41, NASA officials have said.

The docking of Progress 41 comes just after the arrival of another cargo ship at the space station — Japan’s robotic Kounotori 2 space freighter — which hooked up to the station early Thursday (Jan. 27).

Yet another cargo ship, this one built by the European Space Agency, is due to be launched toward the space station on Feb. 15 ahead of NASA’s next shuttle mission on the shuttle Discovery, which will blast off Feb. 24 for the same destination.

Russia’s 24-foot (7.3-meter) Progress spacecraft are similar in appearance to the three-module Soyuz space taxis that ferry cosmonauts and astronauts to and from the space station.

Both vehicles have a propulsion and orbital module; however, Progress vehicles do not have a crew-carrying module like the Soyuz ships. Instead, Progress vehicles are equipped with a propellant module to store fuel for the space station’s maneuvering thrusters.

You can follow Managing Editor Tariq Malik on Twitter @TariqJMalik. NASA will broadcast the docking of Progress 41 live on NASA TV beginning at 9 p.m. ET



Mysterious Night-Shining Clouds Getting Brighter

Mysterious Night-Shining Clouds Getting Brighter

night-shining clouds.

Clouds bright enough to see at night are not as hard to find as they once were.

These so-called night-shining clouds are still rare — rare enough that Matthew DeLand, who has been studying them for 11 years, has seen them only once. But his odds are increasing. [Related: In Images: Reading the Clouds.]

These mysterious clouds form between 50 and 53 miles (80 and 85 kilometers) up in the atmosphere, altitudes so high that they reflect light long after the sun has dropped below the horizon.

DeLand, an atmospheric scientist with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., has found that night-shining clouds — technically known as polar mesospheric or noctilucent clouds — are forming more frequently and becoming brighter. He has been observing the clouds in data from instruments that have been flown on satellites since 1978.

For reasons not fully understood, the clouds’ brightness wiggles up and down in step with solar activity, with fewer clouds forming when the sun is most active. The biggest variability is in the far north.

Underlying the changes caused by the sun, however, is a trend toward brighter clouds. The upward trend in brightness, DeLand said, reveals subtle changes in the atmosphere that may be linked to greenhouse gases.

Night-shining clouds are extremely sensitive to changes in atmospheric water vapor and temperature. The clouds form only when temperatures drop below minus 200 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 130 degrees Celsius), when the scant amount of water high in the atmosphere freezes into ice clouds. This happens most often in far northern and southern latitudes (above 50 degrees) in the summer when, counter-intuitively, the mesosphere is coldest.

Changes in temperature or humidity in the mesosphere make the clouds brighter and more frequent. Colder temperatures allow more water to freeze, while an increase in water vapor allows more ice clouds to form. Increased water vapor also leads to the formation of larger ice particles that reflect more light.

The fact that night-shining clouds are getting brighter suggests that the mesosphere is getting colder and more humid, DeLand said. Increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere could account for both phenomena. In the mesosphere, carbon dioxide radiates heat into space, causing cooling. More methane, on the other hand, puts more water vapor into the atmosphere because sunlight breaks methane into water molecules at high altitudes.

So far, it’s not clear which factor — water vapor or cooling — is causing polar mesospheric clouds to change. It’s likely that both are contributing, DeLand said, but the question is the focus of current research.

Gallery: Reading the Clouds


Let’s take a look at the different types of clouds in the sky, broken up into four groups – high clouds, middle clouds, low clouds and vertical clouds – and what they can tell us about the weather, both now and what’s about to hit.

cirrus clouds


High Clouds

High clouds form at heights of 15,000 to 40,000 feet (4,500 to 12,000 meters). These are clouds that you only encounter on the top of high mountains or at the cruising altitude of a jet aircraft. Because at the altitudes at which they form the air temperature is below freezing, they tend to be comprised primarily of ice crystals. Like Peter Pan, most forms of high clouds lack the ability to cast shadows.



Cirrus clouds are the most abundant of all high level clouds. Cirrus means a “curl of hair.” These wispy clouds are composed of ice and consist of long, thin streamers that are also called mare’s tails. A few scattered cirrus clouds is a good sign of fair weather. However, a gradually increasing cover of web-like cirrus clouds is a sign that a warm front — the leading edge of a warmer and more humid air mass — is approaching.

Halo created by cirrostratus clouds


Cirrostratus clouds look like thin sheets that spread themselves across the sky. When the sky is covered by these icy shreds they give the sky a pale, white appearance. These clouds can indicate the approach of precipitation. So thin are they that they are translucent, or maybe even a little transparent, so that the sun and moon can be readily seen through them. Also look for a ring or halo surrounding the moon or sun when these clouds are in the sky, sometimes accompanied during the day by colored swatches of cloud called “sundogs,” “mock suns,” or parhelions.

Cirrostratus clouds usually come 12 to 24 hours before a period of rain or snow. Remember: “Circle around the moon, rain or snow soon.”

Cirrocumulus clouds


Another form of high cloud is cirrocumulus. These tend to be large groupings of white streaks that are sometimes seemingly neatly aligned. For most climates these clouds mean a spell of fair weather.

However, during the summertime in the tropics, these clouds may indicate an approaching hurricane. The outer fringe of a hurricane, called the outflow boundary, serves as a very important element in hurricane development because the outflow represents all the energy being released by the hurricane. A powerful hurricane always has good outflow and is accompanied by spiral bands of cirrocumulus flowing out from the center.

altocumulus clouds

Middle Clouds

Middle clouds form at 6,500 to 20,000 feet (2,000 to 6,000 m). They are comprised of water, and, if cold enough, ice. Middle clouds frequently are opaque and block sunlight, but not always.


Altocumulus clouds are grayish-white with one part of the cloud darker than the other; there is a lot of contrast between light and dark. They are composed of water droplets and can blanket much of the sky in small, puffy, round layers. They resemble the striped patterns of fish scales on a mackerel hence the name “mackerel sky.”

Mackerel skies and mare’s tails formations sometimes appear in the same sky. When that happens, precipitation is sure to follow within 36 hours.

The old sailor’s mnemonic for these kinds of clouds is “Mares tails and mackerel scales, tall ships carry short sails.” Another is “Mackerel sky, storm is nigh,” because if you see altocumulus clouds on a warm, humid morning, be prepared to observe thunderstorms late in the afternoon.

Altostratus clouds


Altostratus clouds are grey and/or blue and cover the entire sky. The sun or moon may shine through an altostratus cloud, but will appear like a hazy and rather diffuse ball. Such clouds usually form ahead of storms that produce steady rain or snow.

Stratocumulus clouds

Low clouds

Low clouds form below 6,500 feet (2,000 m). These clouds tend to contain chiefly water, but can also be comprised of ice and snow if the weather gets cold enough. Low clouds block sunlight and usually bring precipitation and wind.


Stratocumulus clouds are low, puffy and gray. They appear as masses of puffy clouds with little or no space in between. A sky full of stratocumulus clouds indicates generally dry weather, though on occasion they can produce a brief light shower or sprinkle.


Nimbostratus clouds form a dark gray layer that is so thick that it completely blocks out the moon and sun. Nimbo is derived from nimbus means “rain-bearing” and these clouds will often produce precipitation in the form of a protracted period of rain and/or snow.

Stratus clouds


Stratus clouds are dull grayish clouds that often stretch across and block the entire sky; stratus means “a layer” and these clouds form flat, unbroken sheets, like a fog that is not on the ground. Stratus clouds produce only mist, drizzle or very light snow.

Cumulus clouds

Vertical Clouds – Cumulus

Vertically developing clouds are the cumulus variety. Cumulus means “a heap” — clouds that are separate, piled-up, fluffy and of different sizes. These puffy clouds are low “fair weather” clouds.

Cumulus congestus clouds

Cumulus Congestus

When the top of the cumulus clouds look like the head of a cauliflower, it is called cumulus congestus, or towering cumulus.

Cumulonimbus clouds with anvil top


As they develop vertically upward they may go from small, fair weather clouds to large, boiling monsters called cumulonimbus, also called thunderheads.

Such clouds are most often associated with cold fronts: When a mass of cool, dry air pushes into a warm, moist air mass, the heavier cool air acts like an atmospheric plow and pushes the warm air up into violent thunderstorms. High winds aloft can make the cloud’s top into a flat anvil-like shape and their bottoms are usually very dark.

These clouds can forecast some of the most severe weather including torrential downpours, vivid lightning, hail and even tornadoes.

Mammatus clouds

Mammatus Clouds

Clouds that look like hanging bulges from the skies are called mammatus clouds. More often than not, references statr that such clouds are a forbearer of severe weather, but actually, just the opposite is true: These clouds are formed by sinking air and are sometimes seen after a potent thunderstorm; they signal that a storm is retreating, not approaching.

The Southeast’s 10 Most Threatened Places

The Southeast’s 10 Most Threatened Places

Alabama's coastline is threatened by oil drilling.

Alabama’s Coast

More oversight and regulation of offshore oil drilling is needed to ensure that nothing like the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is allowed to happen again, according to the Southern Environment Law Center, which announced its annual list of endangered places in the U.S. Southeast.

Georgia's cypress forests.

Georgia’s Cypress Forests

Fueled by an increase in demand for cypress mulch, timber companies are chopping down Georgia’s iconic wetland forests faster than they can recover.

the Oconee River in Georgia.

Oconee River, Georgia

A proposed coal-fired power plant would siphon an average of 13.5 million gallons (51 million liters) a day from the Oconee River, robbing downstream farms and communities that depend on this resource.

The Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina

A short-sighted bridge replacement plan would turn one of the nation’s most important havens for waterfowl into a permanent highway construction zone, the SELC says.

The Snowbird Mountains in North Carolina.

Snowbird Mountains, North Carolina

A highway expansion plan from the 1960s would cut four lanes of asphalt through stunning mountain terrain and would expose trout streams to acid-laden pollution.

The Cape Fear Basin in North Carolina.

Cape Fear Basin, North Carolina

A proposed cement plant near Wilmington would destroy 1,000 acres of wetland habitat and further pollute the Northeast Cape Fear River, which already suffers from mercury levels harmful to people and wildlife.

The Santee River Basin in South Carolina.

Santee River Basin, South Carolina

An old system of hydroelectric dams could be allowed to perpetuate decades of degradation to wetlands and wildlife habitat.

The Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee.

Cumberland Plateau, Tennessee

Mountaintop removal and other coal mining practices threaten an ecosystem that is world-renowned for its rich biological diversity and rare species.

The George Washington National Forest in  Virginia.

George Washington National Forest, Virginia

The film “Gasland” has exposed the impacts of hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”), a method of natural gas extraction linked to the contamination of water supplies; fracking could be on its way to the Southeast’s largest public forest and the source of clean water for many Shenandoah Valley communities.

The Chesapeake Bay

The SELC is assisting in overseeing the state and federal agencies charged with developing and implementing restoration plans for the Bay, which continues to suffer from pollution from air, land and water inputs.








Life’s Diversity Abounds in Madrean Sky Islands

Life’s Diversity Abounds in Madrean Sky Islands


The Madrean Sky Island Archipelago is a 70,000-square-mile (180,000-square-kilometer) region of northwestern Mexico, southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. The region is a blend of tropical and temperate climates and home to a biological diversity that exceeds any other region of the United States.


Sky Islands are a class of continental terrain made up from a sequence of alternating valleys and mountains ranges. All sky islands have a stack of biotic communities that allow for vertical migration but the vast valleys between them act as a barrier preventing species from crossing from one mountain range to another.



Within the Madrean Sky Island Archipelago, the mountain ranges and valleys are basically parallel. The biotic communities found upon the mountains include montane coniferous forest, tropical deciduous forest and oak savanna with the key biotic community of the archipelago being the oak-pine woodlands. Short-grass prairie, subtropical thornscrub and subtropical desert communities populate the vast barrier valleys found between the mountain ranges.


Approximately 27 unique, biologically diverse sky islands are found within the border of the United States with such romantic and historic names as the Dragoon, the Baboquivari, the Huachuca and the Chiricahua Mountains.


Within Mexico are found another 15 Madrean sky islands including the scrub oak-covered Sierra La Esmeralda Mountains. Conservation groups such as the Sky Island Alliance are working with landowners of northern Sonora to restore and manage the ecological treasures of the Mexican Sky Islands.



The Madrean Sky Island Archipelago is the physical and biological meeting point of two great mountain ranges – the Rocky Mountains of the north and the Sierra Madres of the south. Upon these sky islands and in the vast valleys found between them are found half the bird species of North America, 29 species of bats, 104 species of mammals and more than 3,000 species of plants.

Mount Graham is the tallest of the Madrean Sky Islands, rising to an elevation of 10,720 feet (3,268 meters). Located within the Pinaleno Mountain Range, Mount Graham is home to the endangered Mount Graham Red Squirrel as well as the Mount Graham International Observatory.


The vast barrier valleys of the Madrean Sky Island Archipelago are parts of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts. Here over eons of time the valley floors have sunk to their present elevations creating miles and miles of desert habitat.


Lush Sonoran Desert habitat is found in Sabino Canyon lies at the base of the Santa Catalina Sky Island. Visitors can hike in a forest of saguaro cacti in the morning and ski the slopes of Mount Lemmon in the afternoon.


The sky island environment of the Patagonia Mountains contains vast acres of lush grasslands over gentle rolling hills where many Old West gold and silver mining camps have turned into modern-day ghost towns. Such forgotten mining towns as Harshaw, Mowry, Duquesne and Lochiel can all be found in the hills of the Patagonias.

Natural riparian areas, such as this water sink found in the Huachuca Mountains provide a source of drinking water for the many species of animals that make their home in the Madrean Sky Islands.


A rare photo of an ocelot was recently taken by a “camera trap” in a sky island just 25 miles (40 km) south of the international border with Mexico. The camera is owned and operated by the Sky Island Alliance and is a part of their island restoration project for jaguars and ocelots. Notice the snow that this normally tropical-living cat is walking over.


Sunset over the Dragoon Mountains brings the end to another day in the land of the Madrean Sky Island Archipelago. The archipelago is one of about 20 sky island complexes found on Earth. Sky islands are found on every continent with the exception of Australia. With their unique, isolated biological communities, sky islands are a very special part of our amazing planet.

Tourists besiege Cairo airport, but flights halt

Tourists besiege Cairo airport, but flights halt


By TAREK EL-TABLAWY, AP Business Writer – 1 hr 4 mins ago

CAIRO – Thousands of passengers were stranded at Cairo’s airport on Saturday as flights were canceled or delayed, leaving them unable to leave because of a government-imposed curfew. Several Arab nations, meanwhile, moved to evacuate their citizens.

As Egypt’s unrest neared its sixth day, the cancelations of flights and the arrival of several largely empty aircraft appeared to herald an ominous erosion of key tourism revenue for the country, hitting hard at its pocketbook even as protesters centered many of their grievances on the grinding poverty they endure daily.

Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan organized an additional 10 flights to evacuate their citizens, officials atCairo International Airport said. Among those who left were families of diplomats.

Egypt’s national carrier, meanwhile, was forced to cancel 15 scheduled flights because it was unable to secure the necessary crew andservice personnel, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

For roughly 3,000 travelers, Egyptians and foreigners alike, the news was another blow in a day where little had gone right.

About 2,000 had flocked to the airport earlier in the day, many without reservations, hoping to secure a seat out of the country. With airlines canceling or rescheduling flights because of a curfew that was expanded from between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m., the options were limited, and their numbers swelled as flights arrived later in the evening.

Many of those passengers remained stranded at the airport, unable to leave because of the curfew as well as fears of the widespread looting reported across the capital.

Others, who had yet to venture to the airport, appeared to be counting the days and holding out hope for any opportunity to leave.

“We’re going to contact the U.S. consulate, because we want them to know we’re here,” said Regina Fraser, co-host of the “Grannies on Safari” show on PBS, an American public access television channel. “We’re going to try and figure out how the heck we’re going to get back because we’re very concerned there may not be any flights.”

“We do want people to know, ‘Hey we’re Americans, we need to get home’,” she said, speaking from the southern Egyptian city of Luxor. “Who wants to be around gunfire and also tear gases? It’s pretty scary.”

The immediate prospects seemed slim.

British Midlands International said its flight from London Heathrow to Cairo turned around because the change in the curfew would have made it impossible to land in time for passengers to make it out of the airport.

The plane was filled with British diplomats, human rights workers, international journalists, and some Egyptians desperate to get home — including at least one trying to make it back in time for his wedding, according to an Associated Press reporter on board the flight.

Several airlines, including Germany’s Lufthansa and Air Berlin, U.S. carrier Delta Air Lines and Poland’s LOT canceled flights and some were weighing how long to extend those cancelations. Delta said its service was “indefinitely suspended as a result of civil unrest” in Egypt.

Others, such as Italy’s Alitalia, Netherlands-based KLM and British Airways were adjusting their schedules to accommodate the curfew hours. BA also said it would send a charter plane to Egypt to move passengers wanting to leave.

The flight disruptions threatened to undercut the tourism sector, which according to some analysts accounts for as much as 11 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Tourism brought in more than $9 billion for Egypt in the first nine months of 2010 and $10.8 billion the year before.

Egypt’s military closed off access to the pyramids in Giza — with tanks and armored personnel carrierssealing off the site on the Giza Plateau. The area is normally packed with tourists and is a main draw for those who come to Cairo.

So far, the protests appear to have mainly affected travel plans to Cairo, while the Red Sea resorts favored by the Europeans and Russians, who make up the majority of foreign tourists to Egypt were unaffected.

The United States, France and Germany issued warnings to their respective citizens, urging them to cancel nonessential travel to Cairo and to remain indoors and away from flashpoint areas if they were already in the country.

The Polish Foreign Ministry said it had learned that some Polish tourists had rented vehicles to travel to cities where demonstrations were taking place. “We consider this very irresponsible and urge them not to do that,” ministry spokesman Marcin Bosacki said.

Europeans and Russians account for a major chunk of the tourists to Egypt, opting for Red Sea resort trips while many Americans go for more expansive trips that include the Pharaonic sites in Upper Egypt, as well as Cairo.

Two of the biggest tourism agencies in Germany, TUI and Thomas Cook, gave their customers the option of either canceling trips to Egypt or choosing a different destination, with no penalties.

Thomas Cook said that there had not been any requests for cancelations.

TUI also said nobody had asked to return early to Germany and there had been only sporadic cancelations.

Rene-Marc Chikli, president of the CETO association of French tour operators, said the group was suspending all departures this weekend for Egypt. Many travelers who are already in Egypt are being routed away from Cairo to other destinations, such as Luxor, Aswan or the Red Sea, he told France Info radio.

All Serb tours to Egypt, one of their main tourist destinations, were canceled, and some 120 Serbs will be evacuated from Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday.

“The difference is that the flight coming to Egypt on Monday will be empty,” Serbian Ambassador to Egypt Dejan Vasiljevic was quoted as saying by state Tanjug news agency.

For those in Cairo, the push appeared to be on getting home as soon as possible.

Royal Jordanian spokesman Basel Kilani said the Jordanian carrier is nearly doubling the number of seats on its four daily flights out of Cairo to Amman on Sunday by switching from the 100-seat short-haul Embraer to the 170-seat Airbus A-321.

“We may have additional flights out of Cairo as of tomorrow, but there’s no decision made yet,” said Kilani. “The need is rising, especially by Jordanian businessmen and students leaving Egypt.”


Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin, Angela Doland in Paris, Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Adam Schreck in Dubai, Arthur Max in Amsterdam, Gregory Katz in London, Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, Alessandra Rizzo in Rome, Caryn Rousseau in Chicago and Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.


Egypt shutdown worst in Internet history: experts

Egypt shutdown worst in Internet history: experts


A police vehicle is set on fire by anti-government demonstrators in Cairo (AP/Xinhua, Cai Yang)

by Katia Dolmadjian – Sat Jan 29, 12:05 pm ET

PARIS (AFP) – The scale of Egypt’s crackdown on the Internet and mobile phones amid deadly protests against the rule of PresidentHosni Mubarak is unprecedented in the history of the web, experts said.

US President Barack Obama, social networking sites and rights groups around the world all condemned the moves by Egyptian authorities to stop activists using cellphones and cyber technology to organise rallies.

“It’s a first in the history of the Internet,” Rik Ferguson, an expert for Trend Micro, the world’s third biggest computer security firm, told AFP.

Julien Coulon, co-founder of Cedexis, a French Internet performance monitoring and traffic management system, added: “In 24 hours we have lost 97 percent of Egyptian Internet traffic.

According to Renesys, a US Internet monitoring company, Egypt’s four main Internet service providers cut off international access to their customers in a near simultaneous move at 2234 GMT on Thursday.

Around 23 million Egyptians have either regular or occasional access to the Internet, according to official figures, more than a quarter of the population.

“In an action unprecedented in Internet history, the Egyptian government appears to have ordered service providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet,” James Cowie of Renesys said in a blog post.

Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt and Etisalat Misr were all off air but Cowie said one exception was the Noor Group, which still has 83 live routes to its Egyptian customers.

He said it was not clear why the Noor Group was apparently unaffected “but we observe that the Egyptian Stock Exchange ( is still alive at a Noor address.”

Mobile telephone networks were also severely disrupted in the country on Friday. Phone signals were patchy and text messages inoperative.

British-based Vodafone said all mobile operators in Egypt had been “instructed” Friday to suspend services in some areas amid spiralling unrest, adding that under Egyptian law it was “obliged” to comply with the order.

Egyptian operator ECMS, linked to France’s Telecom-Orange, said the authorities had ordered them to shut them off late Thursday.

“We had no warning, it was quite sudden,” a spokesman for Telecom-Orange told AFP in France.

The shutdown in Egypt is the most comprehensive official electronic blackout of its kind, experts said.

Links to the web were were cut for only a few days during a wave of protests against Myanmar’s ruling military junta in 2007, while demonstrations against the re-election of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 specifically targeted Twitter and Facebook.

Egypt — like Tunisia where mass popular unrest drove out Zine El Abidine Ben Ali earlier this month — is on a list of 13 countries classed as “enemies of the Internet” by media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

“So far there has been no systematic filtering by Egyptian authorities — they have completely controlled the whole Internet,” said Soazig Dollet, the Middle East and North Africa specialist for RSF.

Condemnation of Egypt’s Internet crackdown has been widespread.

Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Cairo to restore the Internet and social networking sites.

Facebook, the world’s largest social network with nearly 600 million members, and Twitter also weighed in.

“Although the turmoil in Egypt is a matter for the Egyptian people and their government to resolve, limiting Internet access for millions of people is a matter of concern for the global community,” said Andrew Noyes, a Facebook spokesman.

Twitter, which has more than 175 million registered users, said of efforts to block the service in Egypt: “We believe that the open exchange of info & views benefits societies & helps govts better connect w/ their people.”

US digital rights groups also criticised the Egyptian government.

“This action is inconsistent with all international human rights norms, and is unprecedented in Internet history,” said Leslie Harris, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology in the United States.

Egyptian anti-government protesters pray in front ...

Egyptian anti-government protesters pray

Egyptian anti-government protesters pray in front of an Egyptian army tankduring a protest in Tahrir square in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011. Hundreds of anti-government protesters have returned to Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, chanting slogans against Hosni Mubarak just hours after the Egyptian president fired his Cabinet but refused to step down.

(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)


Photo of the Day January 28, 2011

Photo of the Day January 28, 2011

Photo: Soccer players at night in Barcelona

JANUARY 28, 2011

Soccer, Barcelona

Photograph by Oriol Tarridas

This Month in Photo of the Day: Your Photos

During the frenzy of the days leading up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup final won by Spain, I came across these “aficionado” players, who are enjoying a game in a stubborn field that found its place in the midst of the dense city of Barcelona.

(This photo and caption were submitted to the 2011 National Geographic Photography Contest.)

Download Wallpaper

Photograph by Jana Asenbrennerova

Honorable Mention

Photo and caption by brian bielmann

Crazy Train

Donavon traveling the distance in slow motion while the white water erupts above him like a train out of control.

Honorable Mention

Photo and caption by Li Fan


Devout Christians in Yunnan, China

Viewers’ Choice People Winner

Photo and caption by Bill Watson

Manog Giri

Sadhu, Manog Giri floats in the freezing cold Ganges during the 2010 Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, India. Approximately 40 million devotees converged on the small town of Haridwar to bathe in the holy Ganges and to receive blessings from the Hindu religion’s holymen, the Sadhus.

Honorable Mention

Photo and caption by Sean Heavey

Supercell Thunderstorm

A supercell thunderstorm rolls across the Montana prairie at sunset

Honorable Mention

Photo and caption by Stephanie Swartz

Lion in the Shadows

This lion at a wildlife sanctuary in Indonesia found his light at the perfect moment for me to capture it.

Honorable Mention

Photo and caption by Nenad Saljic

Twilight Clouds

I have spent seven days waiting for this image, and finally on the morning just before my departure the clouds were moving fast and clearing the North Face of Matterhorn. I have used ND filter and exposure was 47 sec.


Photo and caption by Mohamed Shinaz Saeed

The image shows everything about Maldives. The climate, the underwater coral gardens, the beautiful islands and the beach.

Shaking off water

Photo and caption by Yaron Eini

Black Bear shaking off water. BC, Canada

Tiger Shark Biting

Photo and caption by james Abernethy

Tiger Shark trying to play or bite my camera!


Photo and caption by Gerrit Bradley

This frog was spotted during a Costa Rican nature walk. This tiny inch-long creature is known as the blue jeans poison dart frog (Oophaga pumillo). It is also known as the strawberry poison arrow frog. Relatively numerous, our guide would show off by holding one, then explain how the poison needed to be swallowed or enter the blood stream to be dangerous.