Ja’neh Awaits Supreme Court’s Decision on Writ of Prohibition

first_imgSpeaker Bhofal Chambers (right) supports the bid to impeach Associate Justice Ja’neh (left)-Files legal memorandum, setting stage for hearing Writ of Prohibition but, House of Representative remains defiant!Embattled Associate Justice Kabineh Mohammed Ja’neh now awaits the Supreme Court’s judgment on his petition for the issuance of a Writ of Prohibition against lawmakers from the Lower House, which sought to nullify his impeachment proceedings due to what he considers violation of Articles 20 and 43 of the Constitution, and Section 57.3 of the House of Representative Rules and Procedures.The decision comes after Ja’neh’s lawyers on Wednesday, August 28, filed their brief (a written legal argument to provide the judge or judges with reasons to rule in a party’s favor) before the Supreme Court.The High Court is yet to set a date to determine whether or not it should issue the writ against Ja’neh’s impeachment proceedings by the House of Representatives, though the lawmakers had refused to file their response to the Writ of Prohibition, and had even argued that the supreme court’s Prohibition order likewise violates Articles 3, 42 and 43 of the Constitution.The Writ of Prohibition is an order from a superior court to a lower court or tribunal directing the judge, and the parties to cease the litigation, because the lower court does not have proper jurisdiction to hear or determine the matters before it.But as both branches are coequal and the prerogative to impeach lies solely with the House of Representatives, the unanswered question is whether the Supreme Court has the authority to exercise jurisdiction over the House since it is not inferior body to the Supreme Court..In their arguments, Ja’neh’s lawyers have argued that, Section 57.3 of the rules and procedures of the House of Representative confers exclusive jurisdiction, and authority on the House’s Judiciary Committee to hear, among other things, all matters relating to judicial proceedings, civil and criminal.“Speaker Chambers acted improperly and illegally by establishing a Special Ad Hoc Committee to review the impeachment petition, and submit a report to the plenary in derogation of the exclusive authority conferred on the House Committee on Judiciary,” Ja’neh’s argument contained in his legal brief filed on Wednesday, August 28 before the Supreme Court.His lawyers argued further that the House’s Judiciary Committee was one of the standing committees that Section 57.3 of rules and procedures point to, “and it was necessary for the speaker to have referred the petition for impeachment against Ja’neh to that committee for the appropriate actions to be taken thereon.”According to Ja’neh, the setting up of the Ad Hoc Committee was a clear violation of Section 57.3 of the House of Representative rules and procedures, because Speaker Chambers was not vested with any authority to arbitrarily remove, and unilaterally transfer the petition for impeachment to that committee.“Therefore the writ of prohibition should be issued to stop the lawmakers from proceedings by rules different from or at variance with the Section 57.3,” they argued.They also argued that although the constitution confers jurisdiction on the House of Representative to initiate impeachment, the same constitution also requires that in the exercise of that authority, the lawmakers must not be in violation of any of the applicable, and relevant constitutional provision making specific reference to Articles 20, 43 of the Constitution. Article 20 (a) provides that “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, security of the person, property, privilege or any other right except as the outcome of a hearing judgment consistent with the provisions laid down in this Constitution and in accordance with due process of law. Justice shall be done without sale, denial or delay; and in all cases not arising in courts not of record, under courts-martial and upon impeachment, the parties shall have the right to trial by jury.”While article 43 also states, “The power to prepare a bill of impeachment is vested solely in the House of Representatives, and the power to try all impeachments is vested solely in the Senate. When the President, Vice President or an Associate Justice is to be tried, the Chief Justice shall preside; when the Chief Justice or a judge of a subordinate court of record is to be tried, the President of the Senate shall preside. No person shall be impeached but by the concurrence of two-thirds of the total membership of the Senate. Judgements in such cases shall not extend beyond removal from office and disqualification to hold public office in the Republic; but the party may be tried at law for the same offense. The Legislature shall prescribe the procedure for impeachment proceedings which shall be in conformity with the requirements of due process of law.”Ja’neh also argued that although, it has been more than 30 years since the 1986 Constitution mandated the Legislature to prescribe, and publish the rules and procedure governing impeachments in Article 43 of the Constitution, up to date, the legislature has failed to carry-out that constitutional mandate to prescribe the rules and procedures necessary and required to govern impeachments.“Since the legislature did not promulgate these rules prior to the commencement of the impeachment proceedings against Ja’neh, the entire proceedings are unconstitutional, null and void and of no legal effect, therefore, a Writ of Prohibition will lie to prohibit them from acting unconstitutionally,” Ja’neh’s argument stated.The lawmakers had earlier argued that Ja’neh should be impeached, ousted and removed from the Supreme Court on grounds of “proven misconduct, abuse of public office, wanton abuse of judicial discretion, fraud, misuse of power and corruption.”However, Ja’neh argued that the valid, and proper application of any of these grounds must strictly comply with the due process requirements of Article 20 of the Constitution which inter alia states that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, security of the person, property, privilege or any right except as the outcome of a hearing judgment consistent with the provisions laid down in this Constitution, and in accordance with due process of law……”“None of the allegations of the impeachment petition meets any of the four grounds stated in Article 71. These are required to constitute prima facie and valid constitutional grounds for the impeachment of a Supreme Justice,” their argument noted.Article 71 states that “The Chief Justice and Associates Justices of the Supreme Court and the judges of subordinate courts of record shall hold office during good behavior. They may be removed upon impeachment and conviction by the Legislature based on proved misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform the functions of their office, or conviction in a court of law for treason, bribery or other infamous crimes.”The imbroglio began on August 18 when Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh, who currently serves as Justice-in-Chambers, imposed a stay order on members of the Lower House from proceeding with the impeachment of Ja’neh and subsequently asked them to appear for hearing into Ja’neh’s petition against his impeachment.Justice Yuoh’s action resulted from her acceptance of Ja’neh’s request for an Alternative Writ of Prohibition, seeking to prevent House Speaker Bhofal Chambers from proceeding with his impeachment.“And all parties are ordered returned to status quo ante, pending the disposition of the Writ of Prohibition,” Yuoh’s order stated.In July of this year, a petition signed by the acting chairman of the CDC in the House of Representatives for Montserrado County, Rep. Thomas P. Fallah of District #5, and Rep. Acarous Gray of District 8, a staunch member of the CDC, called for Justice Ja’neh’s impeachment.In a communication to Speaker Chambers, the two CDC lawmakers argued that Justice Ja’neh should be impeached, ousted and removed from the Supreme Court of Liberia on grounds of “proven misconduct, abuse of public office, wanton abuse of judicial discretion, fraud, misuse of power and corruption.”On Tuesday, July 17, 2018, the Bill of Impeachment Petition, together with a motion proffered by Grand Kru County District #1 Representative Nathaniel Barway,  received a favorable vote in the House of Representatives.Shortly afterwards, Speaker Chambers set up an 8-man Ad-Hoc Committee to review and investigate the Impeachment Bill as well as the write-up of the proceedings. That committee was given three weeks, as of July 17, to begin work and report to Plenary.Cllr. Arthur JohnsonBut it can be recalled that in a similar case, the Supreme Court, in 2016, denied a petition for a Writ of Prohibition against the House of Representatives filed by the then embattled former House Speaker, Alex Jeneka Tyler. Tyler, then in the middle of an impeachment battle sought to prevent his colleagues from convening outside the regular House Chambers. Tyler contended that their actions were illegal and therefore sought the intervention of the Court.However, the then Justice-in-Chambers, Jamesetta Howard Wolokolie denied the petition on grounds that the matter was political and it was one over which the Court could not exercise jurisdiction. Current lead lawyer for Justice Ja’neh, Arthur Johnson, leading the argument for the majority bloc at the time, vigorously maintained that the Court lacked jurisdiction as the matter of impeachment was solely within the purview of the House.In a rather strange twist, Cllr. Arthur Johnson now finds himself, unlike then, arguing that this time around, the Supreme Court does have jurisdiction over internal processes of the House of Representatives. Legal observers maintain that Justice Yuoh should have relied on the precedence set by her colleague in the Alex Tyler impeachment case rather than venturing into what they refer to as rather “unchartered waters”.Meanwhile the standoff between the Supreme Court and the House of Representatives continues with no end in near sight.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Pope’s abortion words shake Brazil

first_imgLombardi’s initial clarifying statement said the pope had intended to refer to current Vatican policy, as expressed in a document on the Eucharist that Benedict issued in December. In that, Benedict said that certain values, including protecting human life from conception to natural death, were “not negotiable” and that Catholic politicians have a “grave responsibility” to promote such protection by law. On Wednesday afternoon, Benedict arrived in Sao Paulo, the largest city in South America, for a four-day trip, his first to the Western hemisphere, where nearly half the world’s Catholics live. Under chilly gray clouds, his chartered Boeing777 landed after a 12-hour flight from Rome. He was greeted by President Luiz In cio Lula da Silva, who is weathering his own abortion maelstrom. The controversy began Monday, when da Silva gave a radio interview to Roman Catholic radio stations in which he said he was of two minds on abortion. Though personally opposed, he said, he thinks “the state cannot abdicate from caring for this as a public-health question because to do so would lead to the death of many young women in this country.” Except in very limited and specific circumstances, abortion is against the law in Brazil, which is the most populous Roman Catholic nation in the world. Nevertheless, estimates run between 1million and 2million on the number of illegal abortions performed annually in clandestine clinics known in Brazilian slang as “angel factories.” In March, the minister of health, Jose Gomes Temporao, suggested possibly altering legislation calling for prison sentences of up to three years for women convicted of having illegal abortions. He called for a national referendum, which led to attacks from pulpits across the country and to a protest march Tuesday in Brasilia, the capital. And on Tuesday, after the president’s initial remarks, Temporao described abortion as “a theme that should be treated delicately,” and he complained that “some sectors of the church have made declarations that are very aggressive and quite distant from the teachings of Jesus.” That drew a caustic rejoinder from a spokesman for the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops, which represents Brazil’s 429 Roman Catholic bishops. Temporao’s job is to be “the minister of health and not of death,” Monsignor Angelico Sandalo Bernardino said. Temporao backed But the minister of women’s affairs, Nilcea Freire, weighed in to support her colleague. “I think it is important that the church or religious or fundamentalist groups not act as censors of a discussion that society needs to have,” she said. Da Silva is scheduled to meet with the pontiff today in Sao Paulo, which is Brazil’s largest city. The president’s press spokesman, Marcelo Baumbach, said that while abortion is not on the government’s agenda, whether the matter is broached “is going to depend on the dynamic of their private conversation.” For da Silva, a 61-year-old former labor leader, abortion has been an extremely sensitive issue. The second youngest of seven children in a poor peasant family, he additionally has eight half-brothers and half-sisters, according to local media accounts, and had to drop out of school at age12 to go to work to help support his family. Later, as a factory worker, he fathered a daughter out of wedlock. When he first ran for president in 1989 as the candidate of the left-wing Workers’ Party, the mother of that child went on television to say that he had encouraged her to have an abortion, an accusation that is thought to have contributed to his defeat in the runoff vote that year. “No one is in favor of abortion,” da Silva said on Tuesday, as the controversy intensified. “But the question is: Should a woman be imprisoned? Should she die? It’s necessary to look at the woman as a human being.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SAO PAULO, Brazil – Benedict XVI arrived in Brazil on Wednesday, starting his first papal trip to Latin America with strong words against abortion, roiling a Catholic continent increasingly divided by the issue. On the plane from Rome, Pope Benedict appeared to go further than the Vatican has before on the contentious issue of Catholic politicians who favor abortion laws. He seemed to suggest that legislators in Mexico City who recently voted to approve abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy had excommunicated themselves. “Yes, the excommunication isn’t something arbitrary; it’s part of the code” of church law, the 80-year-old pope said in Italian, responding to a question in the first full-fledged news conference of his two-year pontificate. “The killing of an innocent human child is incompatible with going into communion in the body of Christ.” The pope’s spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, quickly issued a clarification that played down the translated words, but Lombardi then issued a written statement approved by the pope that seemed to confirm a new gravity on pro-abortion politicians. “Legislative action in favor of abortion is incompatible with participation in the Eucharist,” the statement says, and pro-choice politicians should “exclude themselves from communion.” Worldwide issue The deeply divisive issue has surfaced not only in Mexico, but also in Italy, Spain, England and the United States, where in the 2004 presidential election several bishops said that Democratic candidate John Kerry, a Catholic who supports abortion rights, should not receive communion. According to church law, those who participate materially in an abortion should not receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. In effect, they have automatically excommunicated themselves from sharing in communion. Much rarer, and more complicated, is an active declaration by the church of excommunication. Inside the church, that automatic excommunication is understood to apply to women who undergo abortion and to medical personnel who perform or assist in it, but there is a debate about whether it also applies to politicians who support abortion laws. last_img read more

PRRD to keep new building bylaw, consult with public

first_imgThe new Bylaw No. 1996, 2011, requiring building permits for construction in all areas of the Regional District came into effect March 18, 2013, but has been met with opposition from many rural residents. PRRD Chair Karen Goodings says there was a lengthy discussion about the matter Thursday, but in the end it made more sense to wait and hear the public’s thoughts and concerns. “It seemed to make, I think, for the most part, more sense to go out and find out from people exactly what portions of it they were most adamantly opposed to and how we could fix that,” she explains. “You can come up with a new bylaw and still people are going to be opposed to it, and what have you gained? So this way you have an opportunity to go out and talk to the people and say, what is it that’s so offensive?” Instead, the current bylaw will be retained and the matter will be taken to public meetings, which Goodings hopes will be held in more rural areas this time. – Advertisement -“A determination will be made as soon as possible as to the timing for those meetings and the placement of those meetings,” maintains Goodings. “I am hoping we can spread it out and get out there and talk to the people that are affected that are not residents close to FortSt. John or Dawson Creek or Chetwynd.” Going back to the essence of the old bylaw isn’t as easy as it may sound, as another new bylaw would have to be created to include any changes that may have happened elsewhere as well. Goodings hopes the public meetings will help clear up any misinformation, and be a space for logical discussion of solutions. Advertisement “This is written in paper; it’s not written in stone, so changes can be made.”last_img read more

United in talks with Mourinho over new contract

first_imgIt is believed talks between Mourinho’s agent, Jorge Mendes, and United began in October.United are currently second in the Premier League, 15 points behind leaders Manchester City, and have progressed through to the last 16 of the Champions League, where they will face Sevilla.Mourinho has admitted United are finding it difficult to compete with City and Paris Saint-Germain in the transfer market and suggested his squad requires massive investment to enable them to compete with Europe’s elite clubs.In October, he spoke glowingly about what is taking at PSG, who shattered the world transfer record last summer to sign Neymar from Barcelona for £198m and followed that up by agreeing a deal with Monaco for Kylian Mbappe worth £166m.“At the moment in Paris there is something special. Magic, quality, youth – it’s fantastic,” Mourinho said.In the same interview with French television, Mourinho expressed a “desire to do new things” and said he does not intend to finish his career at United.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Mourinho is currently midway through the three-year contract he signed when succeeding Louis van Gaal in May 2016.LONDON, United Kingdom, Jan 4 – Manchester United are in talks with Jose Mourinho regarding a contract extension.Mourinho is currently midway through the three-year contract he signed when succeeding Louis van Gaal in May 2016.last_img read more

‘What is he?’ – talkSPORT host doesn’t understand Tottenham star’s qualities

first_img England announce Euro 2020 warm-up matches against Austria and Romania REJUVENATED Dier has been a regularly member of the England set-up over the last couple of years How England could end up in a Euro 2020 group of death with France and Portugal Mega deal RIP LEGEND Difficult England announce another friendly to begin preparations for Euro 2020 talkSPORT host Adrian Durham has asked the question on everybody’s lips – just what does Eric Dier bring to the England team?The Tottenham ace has won 34 caps for the Three Lions, the majority in central midfield, and he captained the team against Switzerland on Tuesday night. “It wasn’t defence splitting, it wasn’t particularly imaginative or an amazing pass.“There is nothing special there, there is nothing dynamic, nothing creative. I don’t understand it.“I don’t want to say he is a bad player but in that position, at home, I’m expecting loads more than that.” Southgate watches defender star in Italy amid talk of England recall “What is Eric Dier?”@talkSPORTDrive wants you to try and define his game, because he’s struggling! pic.twitter.com/F5f2re4caN— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) September 12, 2018 Chelsea ready to ‘break transfer record’ to sign winger ahead of Man United Martin Peters, 1966 World Cup final goal scorer for England, dies aged 76 preparation scared lions Second is best There is a Group of Death at Euro 2020 and here’s how England can avoid it England’s group at Euro 2020 revealed as Southgate’s men face a familiar foe But our Drivetime presenter is struggling to understand what England boss Gareth Southgate sees in the 24-year-old.“I don’t think he is a bad player but I don’t know what he is,” he began.“Can you define his game? As captain, this is a guy who should be leading the team, setting the tempo.“From what I saw he had 16 touches; eight of them backwards, two of them were fouls, one was a tackle, three simple short passes forward that you would expect any player to make, and one decent ball to Kyle Walker, albeit it was only a couple of yards. Latest England news confirmed info England ‘ducking out’ friendly against France before Euro 2020 1 Euro 2020 explained: How it works, stadiums and dates as tournament turns 60 GETTING READY last_img read more

CLONMANY’S MARTINA WINS €25,000 ON LOTTO SHOW

first_imgMartina Callaghan from Clonmay, Co. Donegal won €25,000, including a luxury holiday, at the National Lottery’s Money Spinner event held at the Slieve Russell Hotel, Cavan on Saturday 26 July 2014. Pictured at the presentation of winning cheques were, from left to right: Brian Ormond, game show host; Martina Callaghan, winning player and Harry Cooke, Head of Operations, The National Lottery. The winning ticket was purchased in SuperValu, Carndonagh, Co. Donegal.Pic: Mac Innes PhotographyDONEGAL woman Martina Callaghan has something to cheer about today – she’s just won €25,000 including luxury holiday on a lotto game show.She won the cash on RTE’s Money Spinner TV programme.Martina is a retired factory worker.  She is from a family of six: James Anthony, Margaret Theresa, Veronica and John, who live in the area and brother Marius who lives in England with his wife Margaret and daugher Narelle.  She is close to her grandnieces and grandnephews Amy, Liam, Chloe, Lucy, Niamh and Eamer. Martina normally puts her nephews and nieces names on the Scratch Card but for some unknown reason she put her own name on this particular Scratch Card for the first time ever and had the luck to be drawn!Martina walks every day. She loves listening to country and western music, especially Big Tom. She would have travelled everywhere to see him – that’s her Garth Brooks! She last saw him live last October.Her grandniece Chloe gave her a teddy bear to bring with her for luck when spinning the wheel.“I can’t believe it, I still feel I’m chatting about somebody else.” Martina hasn’t even thought about how she will spend her winnings as she just felt so lucky to be a Money Spinner contestant. CLONMANY’S MARTINA WINS €25,000 ON LOTTO SHOW was last modified: July 28th, 2014 by John2Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:clonmanyMartina CallaghanMOney Spinnernational lotteryRTETVlast_img read more

Inspectors on move from LAX

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals News of the plans were first reported by AVweb.com and LAVOICE.org. The two sites quoted unidentified inspectors who complained about the proposal and said it would create a public safety issue if the FAA workers got stuck in freeway traffic heading to LAX. Walker said the transfers could occur after the first of the year, but he downplayed the significance of not having the inspectors assigned at the FAA offices near Los Angeles International Airport. “The fact is, most of these inspectors rarely come in to an office – they go directly to a work site,” Walker said. “And, if we need people at LAX, they can work out of these offices.” Officials with Los Angeles World Airport, which operates LAX, said they had been working with the FAA on the plan. “We have no concerns or issues on this,” spokesman Paul Haney said. “We concur with the plan and the rationale behind it.” Rick Orlov, (213) 978-0390 rick.orlov@dailynews.com 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The Federal Aviation Administration plans to transfer two dozen inspectors from LAX to offices in Van Nuys and Long Beach – a plan that has raised safety concerns. Donn Walker, a regional FAA spokesman, said the workload for LAX inspectors has dropped because they are not responsible for inspecting the major airlines for operating certificates. The transfers will help the agency operate more efficiently by assigning employees to Van Nuys Airport – the nation’s busiest general-aviation facility – and Long Beach Airport. “All we’re doing is putting people where the work is, and there is a lot of work, particularly in general aviation,” Walker said. The FAA has 27 inspectors in its Los Angeles office, although three will retire soon and will not be replaced, Walker said. last_img read more

Hit-run suspect caught

first_img “We obviously have to talk to him,” he said. Canadian authorities flew Atshemyan to Las Vegas after alerting Glendale police, and Glendale detectives were there when his plane arrived in Las Vegas to take him into custody. He waived extradition and was flown from Las Vegas to Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday. Atshemyan is being held without bail. He is expected to be arraigned today in Glendale Superior Court. Alex Dobuzinskis, (818) 546-3304 alex.dobuzinskis@dailynews.com 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals Los Angeles County prosecutors said they will file murder charges against Atshemyan, who previously had several tickets for speeding and other violations. Canadian authorities detained him Thursday at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. They saw his name on a computerized list of wanted subjects. The arrest is a lesson to criminals that they can’t flee prosecution by trying to leave the country, said Sgt. Tom Lorenz, spokesman for the Glendale Police Department. “You can’t run, and you can’t hide,” he said. “We’re going to get you.” He said Canadian authorities learned that Atshemyan had planned to catch a flight to Yerevan, Armenia. Glendale Detective Kevin Hirano looked forward to getting Atshemyan in custody for further questioning. GLENDALE – A 23-year-old suspect in a fatal hit-and-run collision was flown back to Southern California on Tuesday after trying to escape to Armenia via a Toronto airport, police said. Andranik Manukovich Atshemyan of Glendale is suspected of speeding and crashing a Land Rover into a car with two teens in it on Nov. 19 at Columbus Avenue and Riverdale Drive. One of the victims in the car that was hit – Burbank resident Oscar Torres, 18 – battled for his life for days after the crash and then died in a hospital on Thanksgiving Day. A 17-year-old Burbank boy who was in the car with Torres remains in critical condition at another hospital. Authorities said Atshemyan fled from the crash scene on foot because the Land Rover was too mangled to drive. last_img read more

Chelsea v Man Utd: Ivanovic starts

first_imgBranislav Ivanovic returns after injury and Samuel Eto’o starts for Chelsea against Manchester United, who are without injured forwards Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie. Recent signing Nemanja Matic is on the Blues bench. Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Luiz; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Eto’o.Subs: Schwarzer, Cole, Mikel, Matic, Lampard, Mata, Torres.Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Evans, Vidic, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Jones, Young; Januzaj, Welbeck.Subs: Lindegaard, Giggs, Smalling, Hernandez, Cleverley, Fletcher, Kagawa.Follow West London Sport on TwitterFind us on Facebooklast_img read more

Cosmic proof of comet strike on Earth

first_imgAn artist’s rendition of the comet exploding in Earth’s atmosphere above Egypt.(Image: Wits University) Professor David Block, was one of four astronomers who studied the Hypatia pebble.(Image: David Block)MEDIA CONTACTS • Brand South Africa+27 11 483 0122Sulaiman Philip“Let me remind the reader that everything that falls out of the sky always seems stranger than they actually are.” With these words, an anonymous reviewer on the esteemed science magazine Earth and Planetary Science Letters’ peer panel tried to dissuade the editor from publishing a collaborative paper written by a group of South African scientists.Its significantly dry title – Unique chemistry of a diamond-bearing pebble from the Libyan Desert Glass-strewn field, SW Egypt: Evidence for a shocked comet fragment – obscures the importance of the work done by the group; Professors David Block and Jan Kramers, Chris Harris and Dr Marco Andreoli. Comet strike proofIn a world-first, the work of these scientists, from the universities of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and Cape Town and the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA) respectively, has provided the first concrete proof of a comet strike on Earth.In a presentation at the University of the Witwatersrand, Professor Block explained that while comets have inspired fear and wonder throughout history, they are simply small dirty snowballs that “contain pristine material from the epoch of the formation of our solar system”.“Comets always visit our skies … but never before in history has material from a comet ever been found on Earth.”In the mid-1990s, during an expedition to the Libyan Desert, Egyptian geologist Ali Barakat picked up a black pebble that seemed out of place. Barakat’s curiosity was piqued because of its unusual streaked appearance and the lack of any similar rock formations in the debris field. Tests on the rock in Egypt showed that its composition was unusual but Barakat and his team could not tell just how much.Barakat found the pebble in a 6000km2area of glass, believed to have been formed from a comet strike 28-million years ago. The comet heated the desert sands to almost 2 000 °C, creating a highly prized commodity, Libyan Desert glass, a fragment of which resides in a Pharaonic breast ornament belonging to boy king Tutankhamen. A promising pebble Barakat’s colleague, Dr Mario di Martino, called in Dr Andreoli to look at the rock because he believed the pebble may be a carbonado, but Andreoli was sceptical when his first round of tests results hinted that the pebble did not come from Earth.Andreoli has spent his career studying carbonado rocks, better known as black diamonds. The high hydrogen content of these carbon rock formations and the fact that they are found in just two locations on Earth suggested to scientists that they were formed as result of comet impacts.“Very early on I thought I was having a Narnia moment but I kept my emotions in check. It was only in 2011 when Professor Kramers’s anomalous results matched mine that I knew we had opened a new gate and a new door.”What excited the team most were the microscopic diamonds in the rock’s core.  Diamonds are produced deep in the earth where intense pressure acts on coal. They are also formed by the high pressure shock caused by a comet explosion.“Part of the comet impacted and the shock of the impact produced the diamonds,” says Kramers.Microscopic dust particles and carbon-rich dust in Antarctic ice are the only comet material found on Earth. The North American Space Association (NASA) and the European Space Station spend billions of dollars to collect micrograms of comet material but “now we’ve got a radical new approach to studying the material without spending billions of dollars collecting it,” said Professor Kramers.Professor Block added, “The pebble discovered in the field will help unlock, in the future, the secrets of the formation of our solar system.” International interestThe team named their pebble Hypatia in honour of the first well-known female mathematician, astronomer and philosopher, Hypatia of Alexandria. As Dr Andreoli explained, “Comets are beautiful, mysterious bringers of life. To us Hypatia embodies all that. And we felt she deserved more than an asteroid and crater on the moon that no one knows how to find named after her.”Comets differ from asteroids and meteors with their thin atmospheres and regular orbits and the bodies are even thought to have sparked life on Earth.Hypatia’s importance lies in the fact that acts as a time capsule holding stardust from beyond our solar system.The ongoing research and study of the pebble has grown to include scientists from around the world, including Italian scientists from the universities of Bologna and Turin.For Professor Adam Habib, Wits vice-chancellor and principal, the fact that this significant discovery came as result of collaboration between South African universities was important.He believes that ongoing collaboration would lead to more ground-breaking work in other fields and show the world the quality of South African tertiary institutions.“If we want true freedom it can only be achieved when our minds are free. Work of this quality proves that we are on the road.”last_img read more