Unemployment in Guilford County Up to 11.3%

The News and Record reports today that Guilford County’s unemployment rate was up to 11.3% in May, a .8% increase from April.  Better than four out of five North Carolina counties saw their jobless rolls rise this month.

Over 27,000 Guilford County residents are currently unemployed and seeking work.  If you’re looking for a job, please remember Greensboro Public Library’s JobSkills offerings.

Could Twenty-five Foot Pythons Be Coming to Your Backyard?

Check out this neat story from the News & Record about the possibility of huge Burmese Pythons migrating northward.  And here’s another one from Science Daily.

Burmese Pythons are of course a non-native species, a breeding population having only recently (2003) been confirmed in the Florida Everglades.  Some speculate the snakes were introduced into the region by pet owners, others when Hurricane Andrew barreled through in 1992, releasing thousands of pets into the wild.  The python population in the Everglades National Park alone is now estimated at 30,000, and their numbers are growing rapidly throughout South Florida.  

Scientists are concerned that the snakes present a threat to several endangered species, pets such as dogs and cats, as well as humans. 

The Associated Press article appearing in the News and Record quoted herpetologist Whit Gibbons of the University of Georgia who says “[a] 20-foot python, if it grabbed one of us, would bite us and then within just — instantly — seconds, it would be wrapped all the way around you and squeezing the life out of you.”

Of course, it will be a good while before these pythons reach North Carolina, but experts point out that with global warming their potential range could extend even further north in the future.

Greensboro Public Library has lots of books on snakes, including a few on pythons.  Try some of these:  Boas and Pythons of the World by Mark O’Shea; Giant Snakes by Seymour Simon (juvenile); Boas, Pythons, and Anacondas by Eric Ethan (juvenile); Pythons by Matt Doeden (juvenile); and Killer Instinct (DVD).

You can also learn about pythons in Science Online.        

Signed Photo of Einstein Auctions for Nearly $75,000

I suppose nearly everyone has seen the famous image of physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) sticking out his tongue.  

As this CNN story explains, photographer Arthur Sasse took it in 1951.  Einstein later had nine copies made, and presented one to broadcast journalist Howard K. Smith.

The photo was taken following the celebration of Einstein’s 72nd birthday.  Some think that Einstein’s gesture was an obscure political commentary on McCarthyism and the Communist witch hunts of that era.  

Last Friday, a New Hampshire auction house sold Smith’s copy to a New York autograph specialist named David Waxman.  Waxman’s winning bid of $74,324 makes this the highest sum ever paid for an Einstein photograph.

Greensboro Public Library of course has lots of books on Einstein and his theory of relativity.  Try some of these recent titles:  Einstein’s Mistakes:  The Human Failings of Genius by Hans C. Ohanian; Einstein and Oppenheimer:  The Meaning of Genius by Silvan S. Schweber; Albert Einstein:  A Biography by Milton Meltzer (juvenile); Einstein:  His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson; A Stubbornly Persistent Illusion:  The Essential Scientific Writings of Albert Einstein edited, with commentary, by Stephen Hawking; Einstein:  A Biography by Jürgen Neffe; A World Without Time:  The Forgotten Legacy of Gödel and Einstein by Palle Yourgrau; Albert Einstein by Aaron Frisch (juvenile); Anticipations of Einstein in the General Theory of Relativity by Christopher Jon Bjerknes; The Black Hole War:  My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics by Leonard Susskind; Reinventing Gravity:  A Physicist Goes Beyond Einstein by John W. Moffat; My Einstein:  Essays by Twenty-four of the World’s Leading Thinkers on the Man, His Work, and His Legacy, edited by John Brockman; Empire of the Stars:  Obsession, Friendship, and Betrayal in the Quest for Black Holes by Arthur I. Miller; and Big Bang:  The Origin of the Universe by Simon Singh.

Violence in the Streets of Tehran

In an update to our post on Iran earlier this week, anti-government protests continued in Tehran today

The unrest began in the aftermath of the country’s disputed presidential election of June 12th. 

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded Friday by issuing a stern warning:  that Mir Hossein Mousavi and other opposition leaders would be held reponsible “‘for the consequences of any illegal gatherings'” or “‘disruption[s] of security and public order.'” 

Mousavi, meanwhile, has countered by calling for a national strike should he be arrested.  

At this writing, it’s difficult to know exactly what’s going on in Iran as Internet and media communications have been disrupted by the government.  There are, however, fears of a broad government crackdown on the protesters. 

If the civil unrest in Iran has sparked your interest, please click here for a list of Greensboro Public Library’s books on Iran

You can also follow events there through Facts and File’s World News Digest.

UPDATE:  Here’s another good link from CNN.

Impressive Stamp Collection Hits the Auction Block

Attention philatelists!  Check out this story from MSNBC about the Robert H. Cunliffe Collection, which has been auctioned in New York by the Spink Shreves Galleries of Dallas, Texas, the last couple of days.  For more news on the sale, click here and here.

Cunliffe, a Pittsburg stockbroker who collected stamps for most of his life, died last year at 83.  One of his specialties was inverted or upside down stamps, which are created when a stamp’s colors are printed separately and a sheet is turned around during one of its runs through the press.  This particular form of error is quite rare, hence “inverts,” as they are called by collectors, can be quite valuable.

Probably the best known invert is the 1918 “inverted Jenny,” an early U.S. airmail stamp with an upside down biplane.  The auction of the Cunliffe Collection was to have included one of these, as well as many other great invert rarities.

If you’re a stamp collector, keep in mind that Greensboro Public Library has the latest Scott Catalogs on hand in its reference collection.  They’re pretty expensive, so we can save you some money if you can afford to take the time to drop by the library when you need to consult them.

We also subscribe to another important resource for stamp collectors, the weekly periodical Linn’s Stamp News.

North Carolina Unemployment Rises to 11.1%

The state’s jobless rate seemed to steady back in April (when it was unchanged versus March), but the data released today shows unemployment in North Carolina is on the rise once again, having now soared to a record 11.1%.  According to the News and Record, only six other states have higher rates.    

County rates for North Carolina will be released next Friday.

You can check out Greensboro Public Library’s JobSkills offerings here.

Turmoil in Iran as Supporters of Reform Candidate Mousavi Protest Election Results

MSNBC reports that hundreds of thousands of people spilled into the streets of Tehran today in disbelief, protesting election results which showed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won a landslide victory over his opponent, the reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi. 

Many Iranians believe there was massive fraud in the election, which took place on Saturday.   Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei today directed a body called the Guardian Council to examine these allegations.   

Nonetheless, a government crackdown on the protestors is reported to have begun, with arrests of pro-reform activists and efforts to block websites associated with the Mousavi campaign.  Events have also turned violent, as at least one protestor was killed today and others are said to have been wounded, probably victims of pro-government militia. 

If you’d like to learn more about Iran, Greensboro Public Library has some recent titles which may be of interest, such as:  Honeymoon in Tehran:  Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran by Azadeh Moaveni; Guardians of the Revolution:  Iran and the World in the Age of the Ayatollahs by Ray Takeyh (on order); Khomeini’s Ghost:  The Iranian Revolution and the Rise of Militant Islam by Con Coughlin; The Life and Times of the Shah by Gholam Reza Afkhami; In the House of My Bibi:  Growing Up in Revolutionary Iran by Nastaran Kherad; Shadi Ghadirian: Iranian Photographer, edited by Rose Issa; Things I’ve Been Silent About:  Memories by Azar Nafisi; Iran by Leon Gray (juvenile); The Iranian Revolution by Brendan January; The Ayatollah Begs to Differ:  The Paradox of Modern Iran by Hooman Majd; The Secret War with Iran:  The 30-year Clandestine Struggle Against the World’s Most Dangerous Terrorist Power by Ronen Bergman; A History of Iran:  Empire of the Mind by Michael Axworthy; and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:  President of Iran by Matthew Broyles (juvenile).

Jobs Now in North Carolina Website

The website www.jobsnow.nc.gov  is now linked off of the Greensboro Public Library home page (www.greensborolibrary.org) under Government and then North Carolina.  It’s a website which focuses on creating jobs in North Carolina and pulls together links from various North Carolina agencies and programs.  Through this website, you can search for jobs in North Carolina, find information on starting and financing businesses in our state, search for North Carolina government contracts on which to bid, or find information on relocating a business to North Carolina.

Famous Lost City of the Incas

One of the most emotive and beautiful archaeological sites in the world is the great lost city of the Incas, Machu Picchu, located high in the Peruvian Andes and discovered (or rediscovered) in 1911 by an American explorer named Hiram Bingham (who is sometimes compared to the fictional Indiana Jones).

But what was the purpose of the site?  And was it really a city?  This article from MSNBC discusses recent research which suggests it was not in fact a city, but was rather a “pilgrimage center symbolically connected to the Andean vision of the cosmos.” 

Yet, as the MSNBC article goes on to relate, Machu Picchu, among other things, has been variously described as the birthplace of the Inca people, their final stronghold from Spanish plunderers, and the home of one of their rulers named Pachacuti.  So, is this new interpretation, offered by Italian researchers, merely to be one more entry in the long list of efforts made to explain this strange place, or is the riddle now solved?       

If you’d like to read more about the Incas and Machu Picchu (and maybe even take a turn at developing your own ideas about this mysterious ancient wonder), Greensboro Public Library has lots of books, such as Machu Picchu by Deborah Kops (juvenile); The White Rock:  An Exploration of the Inca Heartland and A Sacred Landscape: The Search for Ancient Peru, both by Hugh Thomson; National Geographic Investigates Ancient Inca:  Archaeology Unlocks the Secrets of the Inca’s Past by Beth Gruber (juvenile); The Inca Ruins of Machu Picchu by Jennifer Silate (juvenile); The Machu Picchu Guidebook:  A Self-guided Tour by Ruth M. Wright and Alfredo Valencia Zegarra; Lost City of the Incas:  The Story of Machu Picchu and Its Builders by Hiram Bingham; The Last Days of the Incas:  The Story of the Longest Guerilla War in the Americas by Kim MacQuarrie; and Along the Inca Road:  A Woman’s Journey Into an Ancient Empire by Karin Muller.

German Teenager Struck by Meteorite?

Talk about teenage angst!  

Gerrit Blank, a fourteen year old from Essen, Germany, was walking to school one day when he suddenly saw a ball of light and then was struck in the hand by what German astronomer Ansgar Kortem describes as “a real meteorite.”  However, in another account which appeared on MSNBC, Darryl Pitt, an expert on meteorites, called Blank’s story “theoretically impossible.”    

Meteor strikes on humans are indeed quite rare.  Perhaps the best documented event occurred in Sylacauga, Alabama, in 1954, when a woman was hit while asleep on a couch, the meteorite having crashed through the roof of her house.  Of course, the closest most of us will ever get to a meteorite is in a museum.

Meteors or shooting stars are another story, and just about everyone has had a chance to see at least a few of these.  As you probably know, annual meteor showers like the Perseids and Geminids afford excellent opportunities for observing meteors.  During one of these displays when I was a teenager, I recall seeing a fine bolide meteor; unlike ordinary shooting stars, it was very bright, reddish, and seemed literally to burst in space.  And every once in a while we’ll hear of a truly spectacular meteor caught on camera, such as this one seen from Guadalajara, Mexico

At any rate, if you’re interested in meteors and meteorites, The Fallen Sky:  An Intimate History of Shooting Stars by Christopher Cokinos (on order) looks like a good one — and even though we don’t have it yet, you can place a hold on it.  

Other books Greensboro Public Library has on this topic include:  The Rock from Mars:  A Detective Story on Two Planets by Kathy Sawyer; Falling Stars:  A Guide to Meteors and Meteorites by Mike D. Reynolds; Comets, Asteroids, and Meteorites by Roy A. Gallant (juvenile); Comets and Meteor Showers by Paul P. Sipiera (juvenile); Killer Rocks from Outer Space: Asteroids, Comets, and Meteorites by Steven N. Koppes (juvenile); The Meteorite & Tektite Collector’s Handbook:  A Practical Guide to Their Acquisition, Preservation and Display by Philip M. Bagnall; Meteorites:  A Journey Through Space and Time by Alex Bevan and John de Laeter; and Meteors, Meteorites, and Meteoroids by Ray Spangenburg and Kit Moser (juvenile).

Lastly, you can find lots of information about meteorites, as well as other science-related stuff, in Science Online.