Wednesday, June 10, 2009

sex and war?

The Scientist | War has most often been studied by social scientists -- anthropologists embedding themselves with hunter-gatherer tribes, archaeologists teasing evidence of past epochs of war and peace from the ground, and psychologists and sociologists poking and prodding the minds of warriors and others. But one question often goes unasked: Why war? Why do we humans, almost alone among the animals, band together and intentionally kill members of our own species?

That is a question only biology can answer -- and as Theodosius Dobzhansky famously said, "nothing in biology makes sense but in the light of evolution." Humans, of course, are descended from a long line of ape ancestors, including a common ancestor with chimpanzees some five to seven million years ago. As Jane Goodall, Richard Wrangham and others have shown, we also share with chimps the bizarre propensity to attack and kill others of our own species. And evolution explains why.
I haven't read it, so the answer is that I don't know. Being a student of pernicious killer-ape tendencies, my interest is piqued. However, one thing I know for certain, is that it's being propagandistically marketed. Note the second part of the full title; Timely Book Puts Finger On Terrorist Attacks in the Gaza and Elsewhere. Chances are that there's a profoundly unscientific agenda undergirding this presentation of yet another killer-ape hypothesis.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

europe swings right as depression deepens

Telegraph | The establisment Left had been crushed across most of Europe, just as it was in the early 1930s.

We have seen the ultimate crisis of capitalism -- what Marxist-historian Eric Hobsbawm calls the "dramatic equivalent of the collapse of the Soviet Union" -- yet socialists have completely failed to reap any gain from the seeming vindication of their views.

It is not clear why a chunk of the blue-collar working base has swung almost overnight from Left to Right, but clearly we are seeing the delayed detonation of two political time-bombs: rising unemployment and the growth of immigrant enclaves that resist assimilation.

Note that Right-wing incumbents in France (Sarkozy) and Italy (Berlusconi), survived the European elections unscathed.

Left-wing incumbents in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Poland, Denmark, and of course Britain were either slaughtered, or badly mauled.

international energy outlook 2009

EIA | The International Energy Outlook 2009 (IEO2009) presents an assessment by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the outlook for international energy markets through 2030. U.S. projections appearing in IEO2009 are consistent with those published in EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2009 (AEO2009), (March 2009). A revised, updated AEO2009 reference case projection was released on April 17, 2009. It reflects the impact of provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA2009), enacted in mid-February 2009, on U.S. energy markets. The revised AEO2009 reference case includes updates for the U.S. macroeconomic outlook, which has been changing at an unusually rapid rate in recent months. Throughout IEO2009, significant changes to the U.S. outlook relative to the published AEO2009 reference case are noted for the reader’s reference. The complete revised AEO2009 reference case results for the United States can be viewed on the EIA web site:

uganda's oil reserves rival saudi arabia’s

Busiweek | Uganda's oil reserves could be as much as that of the Gulf countries, a senior official at the US Department of Energy has said.
Based on the test flow results encountered at the wells so far drilled and other oil numbers, Ms. Sally Kornfeld, a senior analyst in the office of fossil energy went ahead to talk about Uganda's oil reservoirs in the same sentence as Saudi Arabia.

"You are blessed with amazing reservoirs. Your reservoirs are incredible. I am amazed by what I have seen, you might rival Saudi Arabia," Kornfeld told a visiting delegation from Uganda in Washington DC.

The group of Ugandans was in Washington on an international visitor programme and looked at the efficient use of natural energy resources.

The group comprised Ministry of Energy officials, a Member of Parliament, members from the civil society and one journalist.

At present, Uganda has four oil prospectors on the ground including Heritage Oil, Tullow Oil, Tower Oil and Dominion Oil.

Monday, June 08, 2009

oprah winfrey's medical misinformation complex

Newsweek | Yesterday, the latest issue of NEWSWEEK hit the stands, featuring Weston Kosova and Pat Wingert's smart, gutsy cover story on what one might call the Oprah Winfrey Medical Misinformation Complex, were one not so afraid of a lawsuit. Shorter version (though you should read the whole thing): Oprah, who has tremendous influence and credibility, promotes health "cures" that may be at best ineffective and at worst dangerous. Both media and medical bloggers took note of the story, and have been discussing its merits online. Some examples:

PZ Myers, a biologist, associate professor at the University of Minnesota and a blogger at ScienceBlogs was one of the first responders:
It's about time one of the big media players pointed out that she is promoting dangerous fake therapies…all with a happy smile, of course, and a message of positive self-esteem for women. It's still credulous glop, though.
The article really struck a nerve with Dr. Dave Gorski, a blogger at Science-Based Medicine (bookmark it: the site is a great source of thorough, critical reviews of both the latest research and medical fads). The first sentence quoted here can only be described as a "run-on of rage":
Oprah has about as close to no critical thinking skills when it comes to science and medicine as I’ve ever seen, and she uses the vast power and influence her TV show and media empire give her in order to subject the world to her special brand of mystical New Age thinking and belief in various forms of what can only be characterized as dubious medical therapies at best and quackery at worst.

No one, and I mean no one, brings pseudoscience, quackery, and antivaccine madness to more people than Oprah Winfrey does every week...Consequently, whether fair or unfair, she represents the perfect face to put on the problem that we supporters of science-based medicine face when trying to get the message out to the average reader about unscientific medical practices, and that’s why I am referring to the pervasiveness of pseudoscience infiltrating medicine as the “Oprah-fication” of medicine.
More scathingness at the Newsweek blog.

creative chemistry controlling our food

On March 11 a new documentary was aired on French television - a documentary that Americans won’t ever see. The gigantic bio-tech corporation Monsanto is threatening to destroy the agricultural biodiversity which has served mankind for thousands of years.

Fist tap Dale.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

america in microcosm..,

NPR | Henry Ford didn't just want to be a maker of cars — he wanted to be a maker of men. He thought he could perfect society by building model factories and pristine villages to go with them. And he was pretty successful at it in Michigan. But in the jungles of Brazil, he would ultimately be defeated.

It was 1927. Ford wanted his own supply of rubber — and he decided to get it by carving a plantation and a miniature Midwest factory town out of the Amazon jungle. It was called "Fordlandia."

Ford didn't just want to tame men; he wanted to tame the jungle itself — and therein was his next failure.

"Ford basically tried to impose mass industrial production on the diversity of the jungle," Grandin says. But the Amazon is one of the most complex ecological systems in the world — and didn't fit into Ford's plan. "Nowhere was this more obvious and more acute than when it came to rubber production," Grandin says.

Ford was so distrustful of experts that he never even consulted one about rubber trees. If he had, Grandin says, he would have learned that plantation rubber can't be grown in the Amazon. "The pests and the fungi and the blight that feed off of rubber are native to the Amazon. Basically, when you put trees close together in the Amazon, what you in effect do is create an incubator — but Ford insisted."

The resulting plantation actually accelerated the production of caterpillars, leaf blight and other organisms that prey on rubber, Grandin says.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

the economy is a battleground...,

Be sure to check out all three parts of this Herman Daly lecture. Then check out the transcript of his recent lecture at the United States Society for Ecological Economics bi-annual conference (at American University near Washington DC).

new attention on late-term abortions

Washington Post | When Susan Fitzgerald went in for a routine ultrasound near the end of her pregnancy, she was expecting good news. Instead, she was stunned to learn that the fetus had a rare condition that left his bones so brittle he would live less than a day.

"It was unbelievable," Fitzgerald said. "You think by the third trimester you're home free. It was devastating."

Desperate to end the pregnancy, she flew from her home in New England to Wichita, where George Tiller was one of the few doctors in the country willing to perform an abortion so late in a pregnancy.

"It was very difficult, but I knew it was the most humane thing I could do for my baby," Fitzgerald said. "It was absolutely the right thing to do. I'm just so grateful that Dr. Tiller was there for me."

Her story is one of dozens that have surfaced in the past week during candlelight vigils, at memorials and on blog postings since the shooting death of Tiller. An antiabortion activist has been charged in his slaying.

Tiller's death has focused attention on abortions late in pregnancy. While it is clear that they account for a tiny fraction of the 1.2 million U.S. abortions each year, much about the procedures is unclear, including exactly how many are done, by whom and under what circumstances. The government does not collect detailed data, and doctors who perform them publish little information.

"What made Dr. Tiller unusual was that he specialized in seeing women who found out late in very wanted pregnancies that they were carrying fetuses with anomalies that were incompatible with life," Saporta said. "For them, there was really no good choice. They needed to terminate their pregnancies to protect their own health, and he provided both the emotional and physical care for women in that situation."

Abortion opponents condemn the procedures, regardless of the circumstances.

irresponsible narcissism's exemplar...,


Friday, June 05, 2009

IEA lies...,

Platts | The latest peak oil projection: a stunning difference

A session with a leading Peak Oil supporter can always be a sobering experience. That was certainly the case May 28 at the "New Challenges for Crude Oil" conference in Geneva, where the president of main international Peak Oil group spoke.

Swedish professor Kjell Aleklett is actually a physics professor at Uppsale Universit, not a geology professor. But he is also the president of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, and he was chair of the Platts' conference.

He is about to present a paper for peer review and inclusion in the academic magazine Energy Policy. That paper will take issue with the International Energy Agency projections on oil supply out to 2030, by an enormous factor.

The difference between the IEA and Aleklett's work is fairly straightforward. Aleklett adopts what he calls a "parameter" in determing the rate of depletion in fields that have yet to be developed or fields yet to be discovered, two key elements in the IEA's projections.

The gap between his work and that of the IEA is huge. IEA projections of liquids supply see total output of 101.5 million b/d by 2030. Aleklett's research sees it at a little more than 75 million b/d.

There are numerous areas where Aleklett said his research agreed with the IEA, including the projected rate of decline of existing fields. But beyond that, what Aleklett says are the different approaches toward depletion rates creates enormous differences in projections out to 2030. Output in fields to be developed would be 22.5 million b/d in the IEA forecast; it's 13.6 in Aleklett's. The difference in fields yet to be discovered is 19.2 million b/d vs. 8.7 million b/d.

Aleklett, like other Peak Oil proponents, also criticized the IEA practice of counting all barrels of NGLs equally with a barrel of crude, even though the BTU content is not equal.

Aleklett's conclusions also hinted at a politically-driven agenda at IEA. He said the agency often takes the approach of "you should rely on us because we are telling you the truth, and governments around the world trust the IEA." The IEA's forecast on the rate of depletion is "outside reality."

IEA forecasts are "demand-driven," he said, assuming that if global economic growth averages 3%, "that is driving production." "They're giving oil supply estimates to support GDP esimtates," he said. "They are not allowed to give oil that does not show an increase in GDP in the future."

Thursday, June 04, 2009

current events

Princeton | In a few years, there will be an abundance of non-geological explanations for peak oil: OPEC cut back production to support the price. Investment in new oil sources was interrupted by the drop in the oil price. The Hubbert prediction did not involve the minutiae of the oil markets. It could well be that the oil-supply tail is wagging the world economic dog.

One of the available data sources is the Baker-Hughes count of the number of drilling rigs actively digging for oil or natural gas. The Hughes rig count dates back to 1944, when salesmen from Hughes Tool Company went to the active rigs to sell drill bits. Here are some recent counts for North America:

September 12, 2008 - 2031 rigs running

May 22, 2009 - 900 rigs running

The rig count was cut in half in 8 months. That's not the "drill, baby, drill" chant from the Republican National Convention.

A speculative news story says that the major international oil companies are eager to re-enter the oil business in Iraq. I have been in denial for 5 years, not wanting to admit that the principle reason for the Iraq War was getting the major oil companies back in business. But there they are, lining up, even before there is internal legislation in Iraq dividing up oil responsibilities and before the American Army pulls out. (No one is going to like my idea for staffing the residual US "advisory" force in Iraq. I would limit it to volunteer officers; no enlisted men at risk.)

terrorism's tragic toll...,

fist tap to Submariner MD.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

the cross-hairs of american extremism

Washington Post | GEORGE TILLER knew the danger of providing late-term abortions. His home was picketed, his office was blown up and in 1993 he was shot in both arms by an anti-abortion zealot. He never considered stopping his work, because he knew there were women who needed his help. His murder is a tragedy for his family, his patients and his profession. It should serve as a wake-up call that more must be done to ensure that women have access to this legal procedure.

Mr. Tiller was shot to death Sunday as he handed out bulletins in his Kansas church and as his wife sang in the choir. Yesterday, authorities charged Scott Roeder with first-degree murder, and they are investigating what have been described as his virulent anti-abortion views. Mr. Tiller is the fourth abortion provider to be killed since 1993; the attacks he and his Wichita clinic endured are not isolated events. The National Abortion Federation has catalogued 6,143 such incidents of violence in the United States and Canada between 1977 and 2009, including arson, bombings and butyric acid attacks.

It is unclear how this violence has affected decisions by health-care providers. What is known is that the number of places where women can go for abortions has been declining since 1982. About one-third of women live in a county with no abortion providers, reports the Guttmacher Institute, and as a result a growing number of women have difficulty receiving the services in a timely manner.

The vast majority of abortions are performed in free-standing clinics like that run by Mr. Tiller. Very few are performed in hospitals -- a sign that mainline medicine is not living up to its responsibility. What has been overlooked since Mr. Tiller's appalling murder is what will happen to women who need his services. Mr. Tiller was one of the few doctors who performed abortions in the third trimester, and the stories of these women are heartbreaking because, in large measure, they desperately wanted children but were dealing with something gone horribly awry in their pregnancies.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is offering U.S. Marshals Service protection for abortion clinics and the doctors who staff them. It's the right call, but one that underscores the urgency of coming up with better solutions for the delivery of abortion services.

the logic of extremism

Time | Bloggers on the left have deplored "Christian fundamentalist terrorism" and accused "those wastes of humanity in the media like Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Michelle Malkin, Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly" for helping to "create and stoke a climate of hate and intolerance toward those who believe in a woman's right to choose." Malkin, for her part, warned readers to "prepare for collective demonization of pro-lifers and Christians — and more gratuitous attempts to tar talk radio, Fox News and the Tea Party movement as responsible for the heinous crime." (Read "Vatican Newspaper: 'Obama Is Not a Pro-Abortion President.' ")

Dr. Tiller, like others before him, represented a challenge to both sides. Late-term abortions have always been the hardest to defend, but he and his supporters would point to cases when the procedure, however morally troubling, was medically necessary. Murder is even harder to defend, and yet there are some kinds of killing we distinguish from murder. A battlefield slaying is one; killing in self-defense is another. To its supporters, capital punishment is a third way, and now we approach the logical challenge. If someone truly believes that abortion is the same as murder, then is not bombing abortion clinics or killing the doctors comparable to bombing concentration camps or killing their commandants? I've heard pro-choice activists argue that even pro-lifers must view abortion as something less than murder, or else they would be taking more extreme action to stop it. At the very least, they'd be arguing that abortion should be not merely illegal but criminal and that the doctors and even the patients should face jail time.

The mainstream pro-life movement operates as protest groups usually do — within the law, by peaceful means, working for legislative change on the one hand and cultural change on the other. But there is an uncomfortable consistency in the logic of the extremists: If abortion providers are mass child killers and the law refuses to act, the vigilante may see himself as the lone defender of justice — as vigilantes usually do. Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, who in 1991 was arrested while protesting in front of Tiller's office, released a statement that began, "Dr. Tiller was a mass murderer ... he left this life with his hands drenched with the innocent blood of tens of thousands of babies that he murdered. Surely there will be a dreadful accounting for what he has done."

While his statement calls for "vigorous (yet peaceful) actions," his logic leads elsewhere.

Monday, June 01, 2009

terrorist assassin's predictable profile

Kansas City Star | Scott P. Roeder, 51, of Merriam, was arrested on Interstate 35 near Gardner nearly four hours after Tiller was shot to death just after 10 a.m. in the lobby of Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita. Roeder was a member of an anti-government group in the 1990s and a staunch abortion opponent. Roeder was a subscriber to Prayer and Action News, a magazine that advocated the justifiable homicide position, said publisher Dave Leach, an abortion opponent from Des Moines, Iowa.

“I met him once, and he wrote to me a few times,” Leach said of Roeder. “I remember that he was sympathetic to our cause, but I don’t remember any details.”

Leach said he met Roeder in Topeka when he went there to visit Shelley Shannon, who was in prison for the 1993 shooting of Tiller.

“He told me about a lot of conspiracy stuff and showed me how to take the magnetic strip out of a five-dollar bill,” Leach said. “He said it was to keep the government from tracking your money.”

Roeder, who in the 1990s worked as a manufacturing assemblyman, also was involved in the Freemen movement.

“Freemen” was a term adopted by those who claimed sovereignty from government jurisdiction and operated under their own legal system, which they called common-law courts.

In April 1996, Roeder was arrested in Topeka after Shawnee County sheriff’s deputies stopped him for not having a proper license plate. The deputies said they searched the car and found ammunition, a blasting cap, a fuse cord, a one-pound can of gunpowder and two 9-volt batteries. One of the batteries was connected to a switch that could have been used to trigger a bomb.

Roeder was found guilty and sentenced in June 1996 to 24 months of probation with intensive supervision. He also was ordered to dissociate himself from anti-government groups that advocated violence.

But in December 1997, Roeder’s probation ended six months early when the Kansas Court of Appeals overturned his conviction. The court ruled that evidence against Roeder was seized by authorities during an illegal search of his car.

Morris Wilson, a commander of the Kansas Unorganized Citizens Militia in the mid-1990s, said he knew Roeder fairly well.

“I’d say he’s a good ol’ boy, except he was just so fanatic about abortion,” said Wilson, who now lives in western Nebraska. “He was always talking about how awful abortion was. But there’s a lot of people who think abortion is awful.”

In recent years, someone using the name Scott Roeder had posted anti-Tiller comments on various Internet sites. One post, dated Sept. 3, 2007, and placed on a site sponsored by Operation Rescue called, said that Tiller needed to be “stopped.”

“It seems as though what is happening in Kansas could be compared to the ‘lawlessness’ which is spoken of in the Bible,” the post read. “Tiller is the concentration camp ‘Mengele’ of our day and needs to be stopped before he and those who protect him bring judgment upon our nation.”

On May 19, 2007, a person using the name Scott Roeder commented on an invitation by Operation Rescue to join an event being held May 17-20 in Wichita, “the ‘Nation’s Abortion Capital,’ to pray for an end to George R. Tiller’s late-term abortion business and for all pre-born babies everywhere to once again come under the protection of law.”

The post said: “(Bless) everyone for attending and praying in May to bring justice to Tiller and the closing of his death camp. Sometime soon, would it be feasible to organize as many people as possible to attend Tillers church (inside, not just outside) to have much more of a presence and possibly ask questions of the Pastor, Deacons, Elders and members while there? Doesn’t seem like it would hurt anything but bring more attention to Tiller.”

domestic terrorist stages political assassination

Washington Post | Operation Rescue President Troy Newman, whose group is based in Wichita and whose Web site carries a "Tiller Watch" feature, said he was "shocked" by the killing.

"Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice," Newman said in a statement. "We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning."

But Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, called Tiller "a mass murderer" and added: "We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God."

A posting from May 2007 on Operation Rescue's Web site, from a person identifying himself as "Scott Roeder," sought volunteers to "attend Tillers church (inside, not just outside)" to "ask questions of the Pastor, Deacons, Elders and members. . . . Doesn't seem like it would hurt anything but bring more attention to Tiller."

Tiller was shot just after 10 a.m. services began at Reformation Lutheran Church, where he was handing out bulletins in the church lobby.


President and AG conspicuously weak in their condemnations: "The murder of Doctor George Tiller is an abhorrent act of violence, and his family is in our thoughts and prayers at this tragic moment. Federal law enforcement is coordinating with local law enforcement officials in Kansas on the investigation of this crime, and I have directed the United States Marshals Service to offer protection to other appropriate people and facilities around the nation. The Department of Justice will work to bring the perpetrator of this crime to justice. As a precautionary measure, we will also take appropriate steps to help prevent any related acts of violence from occurring."

unusual properties of dna

Daily Galaxy | DNA has been found to have a bizarre ability to put itself together, even at a distance, when according to known science it shouldn't be able to. Explanation: None, at least not yet.

Scientists are reporting evidence that contrary to our current beliefs about what is possible, intact double-stranded DNA has the “amazing” ability to recognize similarities in other DNA strands from a distance. Somehow they are able to identify one another, and the tiny bits of genetic material tend to congregate with similar DNA. The recognition of similar sequences in DNA’s chemical subunits, occurs in a way unrecognized by science. There is no known reason why the DNA is able to combine the way it does, and from a current theoretical standpoint this feat should be chemically impossible.

Even so, the research published in ACS’ Journal of Physical Chemistry B, shows very clearly that homology recognition between sequences of several hundred nucleotides occurs without physical contact or presence of proteins. Double helixes of DNA can recognize matching molecules from a distance and then gather together, all seemingly without help from any other molecules or chemical signals.

Fist tap to my man Dale.

astronauts spot ice circles on world's deepest lake

Wired | Astronauts aboard the International Space Station noticed two mysterious dark circles in the ice of Russia’s Lake Baikal in April. Though the cause is more likely aqueous than alien, some aspects of the odd blemishes defy explanation.

The two circles are the focal points for ice break-up and may be caused by upwelling of warmer water in the lake. The dark color of the circles is due to thinning of the ice, which usually hangs around into June. Upwelling wouldn’t be strange in some relatively shallow areas of the lake where hydrothermal activity has been detected, such as where the circle near the center of the lake (pictured below) is located. Circles have been seen in that area before in 1985 and 1994, though they weren’t nearly as pronounced. But the location of the circle near the southern tip of the lake (pictured above) where water is relatively deep and cold is puzzling.

The lake itself is an oddity. It is the largest by volume and the deepest (5370 feet at its deepest point), as well as one of the oldest at around 25 million years. The photo above was taken by an astronaut from the ISS. The photo below was taken by NASA’s MODIS satellite instrument.

viva lost vegas

Friday, May 29, 2009

saudis warn of huge price rise

The Guardian | Minister says crude could be back at record highs within two years

Saudi Arabia warned today that the world could be facing another oil shock, with prices back above the record highs of almost $150 a barrel within two to three years.

The comments from the Saudi oil minister at an energy summit in Rome were echoed by the IMF, both blaming lower prices and the global recession for hampering investment in new capacity.

Prices have fallen back from the peak they reached last year, largely because of the fall in demand in the downturn, and are hovering at about $60 a barrel.

"We are maintaining our long-term focus rather than being swayed by the volatility of short-term conditions," said the Saudi oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, ahead of an Opec meeting in Vienna on Thursday. "However, if others do not begin to invest similarly in new capacity expansion projects, we could see within two to three years another price spike similar to or worse than what we witnessed in 2008."

He said low prices and weak demand had discouraged investment in energy projects. Those problems had been compounded by high development costs, tight credit markets and energy policies that are focused on alternative fuel sources.

IMF first deputy managing director John Lipsky said: "With long time-to-build lags, significant setbacks to oil investment today could set the stage for future sharp price increases."

Oil prices reached $147 a barrel in July 2008, worsening the global downturn, before falling sharply to $32 as the recession took hold.

oil floats higher

WaPo | The price of crude oil once again seems to be defying the economic forces of gravity.

There's plenty of evidence to suggest prices should be falling. In industrialized countries, storage tanks are overflowing, with enough supplies to cover 62 days of use, about 10 days more than usual. Economic weakness continues to depress world demand, which is on track to fall for the second consecutive year. And oil-producing countries, while restraining output, are adding to production capacity. New Saudi Arabian wells coming on line this year will exceed the entire production capacity of Texas.

But instead of dropping, the price of crude oil rose to more than $65 a barrel yesterday, the highest in more than six months. And some analysts said it could rise even higher as the summer driving season arrives. Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said this week that a $75-a-barrel price was within reach.

major general taguba - photos show rapes

The Telegraph | At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube. Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.

Detail of the content emerged from Major General Antonio Taguba, the former army officer who conducted an inquiry into the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq.

Allegations of rape and abuse were included in his 2004 report but the fact there were photographs was never revealed. He has now confirmed their existence in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

The graphic nature of some of the images may explain the US President’s attempts to block the release of an estimated 2,000 photographs from prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan despite an earlier promise to allow them to be published.

Maj Gen Taguba, who retired in January 2007, said he supported the President’s decision, adding: “These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency.

“I am not sure what purpose their release would serve other than a legal one and the consequence would be to imperil our troops, the only protectors of our foreign policy, when we most need them, and British troops who are trying to build security in Afghanistan.

“The mere description of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it.”

Thursday, May 28, 2009

america's share of the climate crisis

Greenpeace | Some key findings of the “America’s Share of the Climate Crisis” report include:

* Historically, no nation has emitted more global warming pollution than the United States. From 1960-2005, the U.S. emitted 213,608 MtCO2, 26% of total global emissions. The next biggest polluter, China, emitted 88,643 MtCO2 over the same time frame, 10.7% of global emissions.

* The U.S. also exceeded almost every other nation in per capita emissions. Per capita, the U.S. emitted 720 tons of CO2 per person per year from 1960-2005. This is more than ten times China’s per capita emissions(68 tons of CO2) during the same period, and ninety times the per capita emissions of Kenya (7.7 tCO2). Even considered individually, the 50 U.S. states are among the nations that are the largest emitters of carbon dioxideon earth.

* Even considered individually, the 50 U.S. states are among the nation as that are the largest emitters of carbon dioxideon Earth.

* The average U.S. state emitted 4,449 MtCO2 from 1960-2005, which would rank 30th among the nations of the world. The combined historic emissions of just seven states-Texas, California, Illinois, New York, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Ohio-totalled 96,517 MtCO2, more than any other country in the world, including China (92,950).

* If Texas were its own country, it would rank sixth out of 184 countries in the world in total emissions, trailing just China, Russia, Germnay, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

* The overwhelming majority of global warming pollution in the U.S. comes from burning fossil fuels for energy. In 2007, CO2 emissions from combustion of coal, oil and natural gas accounted for 80% of total U.S. global warming pollution, with total CO2 emissions accounting for over 85% of U.S. global warming pollution. Power plants are the nation’s largest source of carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption, contributing 42% of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion and 34% of global warming emissions overall.

* The transportation sector is the next largest source of carbon dioxide, contributing 33% of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion and 26% of global warming emissions overall. The remaining 25% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from energy sources comes from the direct consumption of fossil fuels in the commercial, industrial, and residential sectors.

primate transgenic transmission

The Scientist | Japanese researchers have successfully generated the world's first transgenic primates capable of passing on a foreign gene to their offspring. The feat, reported in today's (May 28) issue of Nature, should pave the way for more sophisticated models of human disease, though the monkey models still have many hurdles to overcome.

"This is the first time that we actually can see a transgene integrated into every tissue including the germline [in a primate] and that the transgene has been passed on to the next generation," Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a developmental biologist at the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) in Beaverton who wrote an accompanying commentary to the study, told The Scientist.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

japan rejoins global arms industry

Times Online | The huge engineering and technological might of Japan may be poised for a new lease of life as the country prepares to ditch a self-imposed ban on arms exports that was introduced in the mid-1970s.

The controversial decision, which is likely to encounter bitter opposition from the country's mainly pacifist middle classes, could deliver significant economic benefits to Japan and lead to a realignment in the global defence industry.

A ruling party MP said that the greatest significance would be the conversion of Japan's robotics industry from civilian to military use as the world's defence spending is directed to remote-control hardware, such as drone aircraft.

Lifting or toning-down the 33-year old embargo would unleash some of the world's most advanced heavy engineering companies into the international weapons market, one of the few areas of manufacturing where Japan's immense technical resources have, for purely political reasons, not produced a dominant global player.

The expected move, which government insiders said may be announced by Taro Aso, the Prime Minister, before the summer, is likely to begin by relaxing the ban to allow Japanese companies to work on joint projects with American and European defence manufacturers, whose products could then be sold internationally.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

on american sustainability

Wakeup | Most Americans believe that we are “exceptional”—both as a society and as a species. We believe that America was “ordained” through divine providence to be the societal role model for the world. And we believe that through our superior intellect, we can harness and even conquer Nature in our continuous quest to improve the material living standards associated with our ever increasing population.

The truth is that our pioneering predecessors drifted, quite by accident, upon a veritable treasure trove of natural resources and natural habitats, which they wrested by force from the native inhabitants, and which we have persistently over exploited in order to create and perpetuate our American way of life. The truth is that through our “divine ordination” and “superior intellect”, we have been persistently and systematically eliminating the very resources upon which our way of life and our existence depend.

We now find ourselves in a “predicament”. We are irreparably overextended—living hopelessly beyond our means ecologically and economically—at a time when the supplies of many critical resources upon which we depend will soon be insufficient to enable our American way of life. We are about to discover that we are simply another unsustainable society subject to the inescapable consequence of our unsustainable resource utilization behavior—societal collapse.

gettin tight all over....,

Time | Germany is a deeply divided country in terms of income and wealth. "Poverty is on the rise," Ulrich Schneider, the head of Paritätische Gesamtverband, tells TIME. "Our poverty rates date from 2007, before the current economic crisis. Unemployment will rise this year so there's bound to be more poverty." In many towns in eastern Germany local factories have shut down and, since reunification, unemployment rates have climbed to 25% after an exodus of young people looking for work in the west — a far cry from those "blossoming landscapes" former Chancellor Helmut Kohl promised back in 1990. (Read "Kohl Wins His Way.")

Anyone who's living off less than 60% of the median household income is defined by the E.U. and the German government as living in poverty. In Germany, that's around $1,066 per month for a single person or $2,240 for a couple with one child. Some of the hardest hit by Germany's increasing poverty levels are children. It's estimated that there are more than 3 million German children living in poverty; in Berlin alone, up to 36% of all children are poor. "The gap between the rich and poor is wider than ever and more children have been plunged into poverty," says Bernd Siggelkow, a pastor who runs the Arche project in Berlin to help children in need. "People who claim state benefits are stigmatized by society and in the past children were simply forgotten by politicians."

Not surprisingly, the poverty atlas has reawakened the long-raging political debate over a national minimum wage. Germany doesn't have a general legal minimum wage and only six sectors of the economy have a statutory rate — in the construction industry, for example, the minimum pay rate is between $12.50 and $18 an hour. Union leaders and politicians have been calling for a national minimum wage of $10.50 an hour, but Chancellor Merkel and her conservative party colleagues have refused to back down, saying a minimum wage could be counterproductive as jobs that pay less than the required minimum would be cut and that could lead to higher unemployment. "More and more people are on low wages earning less than $7 an hour," says Michael Pausder, spokesman for the VDK, an association that promotes equality for people in need.

putin to the west; hands off ukraine!

Time | Vladimir Putin, Russia's prime minister and former president, is not renowned for his love of literature. But on Sunday he gave Russian journalists an unexpected reading tip: the diaries of Anton Denikin, a commander in the White Army that fought the Bolsheviks after the Revolution in 1917. (See TIME's photos of last year's war in Georgia)

"He has a discussion there about Big Russia and Little Russia — Ukraine," Russian newswires quoted Putin as saying after laying a wreath in Moscow at the grave of Denikin, who is now portrayed as a Russian patriot. "He says that no one should be allowed to interfere in relations between us; they have always been the business of Russia itself." (See TIME's person of the year: Vladimir Putin)

Putin's words are seen as the latest in an ongoing volley of pointed warnings to the West not to meddle in Ukraine, a country with such close historical and cultural ties to Russia that the Kremlin considers it firmly within its sphere of interests.

"The Russian leadership is very apprehensive about what it sees as Western moves designed to tear Ukraine away from Russia," says Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, an independent think tank in Moscow. "Their central foreign policy goal is to create a power center around Russia. Any move by the West towards the former Soviet republics is seen as damaging Russia's interests."

Monday, May 25, 2009

yet another bogus "terror" plot....,

The Nation | By the now, it's maddeningly familiar. A scary terrorist plot is announced. Then it's revealed that the suspects are a hapless bunch of ne'er-do-wells or run-of-the-mill thugs without the slightest connection to any terrorists at all, never mind to Al Qaeda. Finally, the last piece of the puzzle: the entire plot is revealed to have been cooked up by a scummy government agent-provocateur.

I've seen this movie before.

In this case, the alleged perps -- Onta Williams, James Cromitie, David Williams, and Laguerre Payen -- were losers, ex-cons, drug addicts. Al Qaeda they're not. Without the assistance of the agent who entrapped them, they would never have dreamed of committing political violence, nor would they have had the slightest idea about where to acquire plastic explosives or a Stinger missile. That didn't stop prosecutors from acting as if they'd captured Osama bin Laden himself. Noted the Los Angeles Times:
Prosecutors called it the latest in a string of homegrown terrorism plots hatched after Sept. 11.

"It's hard to envision a more chilling plot," Assistant U.S. Atty. Eric Snyder said in court Thursday. He described all four suspects as "eager to bring death to Jews."
Actually, it's hard to imagine a stupider, less competent, and less important plot. The four losers were ensnared by a creepy FBI agent who hung around the mosque in upstate New York until he found what he was looking for.

dissecting cheney's lies and distortions

HuffPo | As a senior interrogator in Iraq (and a former criminal investigator), there was a lesson I learned that served me well: there's more to be learned from what someone doesn't say than from what they do say. Let me dissect former Vice President Dick Cheney's speech on National Security using this model and my interrogation skills.

First, VP Cheney said, "This recruitment-tool theory has become something of a mantra lately... it excuses the violent and blames America for the evil that others do." He further stated, "It is much closer to the truth that terrorists hate this country precisely because of the values we profess and seek to live by, not by some alleged failure to do so." That is simply untrue. Anyone who served in Iraq, and veterans on both sides of the aisle have made this argument, knows that the foreign fighters did not come to Iraq en masse until after the revelations of torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. I heard this from captured foreign fighters day in and day out when I was supervising interrogations in Iraq. What the former vice president didn't say is the fact that the dislike of our policies in the Middle East were not enough to make thousands of Muslim men pick up arms against us before these revelations. Torture and abuse became Al Qaida's number one recruiting tool and cost us American lives.

Secondly, the former vice president, in saying that waterboarding is not torture, never mentions the fact that it was the United States and its Allies, during the Tokyo Trials, that helped convict a Japanese soldier for war crimes for waterboarding one of Jimmie Doolittle's Raiders. Have our morals and values changed in fifty years? He also did not mention that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln both prohibited their troops from torturing prisoners of war. Washington specifically used the term "injure" -- no mention of severe mental or physical pain.

Thirdly, the former vice president never mentioned the Senate testimony of Ali Soufan, the FBI interrogator who successfully interrogated Abu Zubaydah and learned the identity of Jose Padilla, the dirty bomber, and the fact that Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM) was the mastermind behind 9/11. We'll never know what more we could have discovered from Abu Zubaydah had not CIA contractors taken over the interrogations and used waterboarding and other harsh techniques.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

not gonna happen...,

NYTimes | The notion that a self-aware computing system would emerge spontaneously from the interconnections of billions of computers and computer networks goes back in science fiction at least as far as Arthur C. Clarke’s “Dial F for Frankenstein.” A prescient short story that appeared in 1961, it foretold an ever-more-interconnected telephone network that spontaneously acts like a newborn baby and leads to global chaos as it takes over financial, transportation and military systems.

Today, artificial intelligence, once the preserve of science fiction writers and eccentric computer prodigies, is back in fashion and getting serious attention from NASA and from Silicon Valley companies like Google as well as a new round of start-ups that are designing everything from next-generation search engines to machines that listen or that are capable of walking around in the world. A.I.’s new respectability is turning the spotlight back on the question of where the technology might be heading and, more ominously, perhaps, whether computer intelligence will surpass our own, and how quickly.

The concept of ultrasmart computers — machines with “greater than human intelligence” — was dubbed “The Singularity” in a 1993 paper by the computer scientist and science fiction writer Vernor Vinge. He argued that the acceleration of technological progress had led to “the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth.” This thesis has long struck a chord here in Silicon Valley.

hiding murka's monster of the id...,

NYTimes | Five years later, America is again caught up in a debate about the release of photographs that show our soldiers using Bush administration “interrogation techniques” at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.

Barack Obama, whose first act as president was to re-criminalize torture, initially favored making the pictures public. Then Mr. Obama changed his mind. His critics (civil libertarians, human rights advocates and press commentators) are saying that this makes him no different from his predecessor.

They are mistaken. Just as it was a public service to release the Abu Ghraib photographs five years ago, Mr. Obama is right today to say we don’t need more of them.

The president claims that a new round of images of prisoner abuse flashing around the globe would enflame America’s enemies and endanger our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. There’s no doubt about it: the policies that the photographs depict have already done terrible damage to America’s cause.

But there’s another critical consideration. Releasing additional photographs would not be telling us anything that we don’t already know. We don’t need to see a picture to know that American interrogators used waterboarding — a crime our military has prosecuted as torture for more than a century — when we can see former Vice President Dick Cheney taking credit for having people waterboarded.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

olduvai theory: toward re-equalizing the world standard of living

Warsocialism | This study is based on: (1) historic population and energy data from 1965 to 2008 and (2) backup studies by several scientists. The Olduvai Theory is explained by disaggregating the World into the U.S., the OECD nations, and the non-OECD nations standards of living (SL). The U.S. SL peaked in 1973 (Figure 1). The World SL rapidly increased from 2000 to 2007 (Figure 2). This increase was caused by just a few non-OECD nations (Figure 3). The OECD SL peaked in 2005 (Figure 4). The Olduvai Theory shows each SL curve trending toward the same average SL value that the World had in 1930 (Figure 5).

why the monster is running his mouth

Salon | Hersh: Children sodomized at Abu Ghraib, on tape - After Donald Rumsfeld testified on the Hill about Abu Ghraib in May, there was talk of more photos and video in the Pentagon's custody more horrific than anything made public so far. "If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse," Rumsfeld said. Since then, the Washington Post has disclosed some new details and images of abuse at the prison. But if Seymour Hersh is right, it all gets much worse.

Hersh gave a speech last week to the ACLU making the charge that children were sodomized in front of women in the prison, and the Pentagon has tape of it. The speech was first reported in a New York Sun story last week, which was in turn posted on Jim Romenesko's media blog, and now and other blogs are linking to the video. We transcribed the critical section here (it starts at about 1:31:00 into the ACLU video.) At the start of the transcript here, you can see how Hersh was struggling over what he should say:

"Debating about it, ummm ... Some of the worst things that happened you don't know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib ... The women were passing messages out saying 'Please come and kill me, because of what's happened' and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It's going to come out."

"It's impossible to say to yourself how did we get there? Who are we? Who are these people that sent us there?

ScoopNZ | That was then, however, and this is now. Dick Cheney is breathing a little easier today, and why shouldn't he? President Obama appears to have pretty much let Cheney, along with all the other enables of torture, off the hook.

"President Obama is seeking to block the release of photographs depicting American military personnel abusing captives in Iraq and Afghanistan, an administration official said Wednesday," reports The New York Times. "The president's decision marks a sharp reversal from a decision made last month by the Pentagon, which reached a deal with the American Civil Liberties Union to release photographs showing incidents at Abu Ghraib and a half-dozen other prisons. 'Last week, the president met with his legal team and told them that he did not feel comfortable with the release of the D.O.D. photos because he believes their release would endanger our troops,' said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. 'And because he believes that the national security implications of such a release have not been fully presented to the court.'"

To me, this means two things.

The pictures are really, really, really bad, just as Sy Hersh said they would be.

There will be no punishment, no justice, for acts of barbarous torture undertaken at the specific behest of men like Dick Cheney. The Obama administration has chosen the easier path, chosen to ignore the manifest harm done to this nation and the world by refusing to seek that necessary justice.

The caged bird sang to stay out of a cage. Now he's free as a bird, and ours is a badly damaged and disgraced country because of it.

oil and the military monster

Culture Change | America's energy consumption patterns are deeply insecure, and in a new report by Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), Powering America's Defense, authored by several military officials, perspectives from the vested interests of the military are revealed. The paradigm remains the rigidly the same, that the military is 'necessity', and access to the world's resources will remain their priority and so-called 'right', largely for their benefit.

Consider the mentality of consumers of the large vehicles produced by the automobile companies in the last few decades -- basically ego-satisfying toys. Huge pickup trucks with no load in the back, façades of 'power' and 'status', and big family cars for big families who in their superiority-complex personalities have forgotten to consider the fate of their brothers and sisters around the world struggling to simply survive.

Steve LeVine, from BusinessWeek, points out the wastefulness in the military's actions:

In a long report, these former officers detail how long, vulnerable fuel supply lines have hobbled troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; how each soldier in Afghanistan is weighed down by 26 pounds of batteries; and how just 10% of the fuel used in Iraq goes for actual fighting vehicles — the rest just gets the fuel to the battlefield and protects it.

It appears that the U.S. military is following the rest of the world's lead on many of these issues, and seem to have had its head in the sand of their desertified paradigm.

LeVine also reveals the enormous subsidy to oil prices, arriving at a truer cost than the nominal price:

Reliance on oil, however, is the report's focus. It estimates that refueling military jets in flight raises the cost of each gallon of fuel to $42; on the ground the cost ranges from $15 a gallon to as much as hundreds of dollars a gallon depending on how much security and logistics are required to get the fuel to where it needs to be.
In Iraq, just 10% of fuel used for ground forces went to heavy vehicles such as tanks and amphibious vehicles delivering lethal force; the other 90% was consumed by Humvees and other vehicles delivering and protecting the fuel and forces. "This is the antithesis of efficiency," the report says.

Bryan Bender, writing for the Boston Globe, summarizes:

In World War II, the United States consumed about a gallon of fuel per soldier per day, according to the report. In the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, about 4 gallons of fuel per soldier was consumed per day. In 2006, the US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan burned about 16 gallons of fuel per soldier on average per day, almost twice as much as the year before.

Friday, May 22, 2009


NPR | Ninety percent of Americans say they pray — for their health, or their love life or their final exams. But does prayer do any good?

For decades, scientists have tried to test the power of prayer and positive thinking, with mixed results. Now some scientists are fording new — and controversial — territory.

tumors spur depression

The Scientist | Tumors can cause classic symptoms of depression in rats, according to a new study published online in PNAS this week.

"What's really cool about this paper is that it shows without a doubt that there are depressive-like behaviors induced in these rats before these rats become [sick]," said Keith Kelley, an immunophysiologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who was not involved in the research.

Researchers have long known that individuals suffering from chronic illness are at a greater risk of depression, but whether it was a direct cause of the illness or a psychological reaction to being sick was unclear. "By using this animal model of cancer we were able to isolate just the physiological effects of the tumors from the psychological effects that you get in human studies," said Leah Pyter, a behavioral neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, who led the study. "The tumors themselves are sufficient to induce depression."

Pyter and her colleagues induced mammary tumors in rats using a chemical carcinogen known as N-nitroso-N-methylurea (NMU). In a forced swimming test, the rats with chemically induced tumors spent more time floating instead of swimming compared with healthy controls, a classic sign of depression. And while healthy rats prefer weak sugar water to tap water, the rats with tumors showed no such preference.

The rats exhibited these depressive-like behaviors well before they showed any overt signs of illness from the tumors themselves. They showed no difference in eating habits or social behavior, and they did not lose weight, like rats with an induced acute infection often do.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

venezuela's sway dims as oil riches dip

NYTimes | President Hugo Chávez’s push to extend his sway in Latin America is waning amid low oil prices and disorder in Venezuela’s own energy industry.

In recent years, Mr. Chávez has used his nation’s oil wealth to drive his socialist-inspired agenda at home and draw other countries in the region into his sphere of influence, helping to consolidate a leftward political shift in parts of Latin America.

But more than a dozen big projects intended to broaden his nation’s reach are in limbo — including a gas pipeline across the continent and at least eight refineries, from Jamaica to Uruguay — as Venezuela grapples with falling revenues and other troubles in its national oil company.

Venezuela is also cutting back sharply on other types of financial support for its neighbors, a cornerstone of its regional influence. One recent study by the Center of Economic Investigations, a financial consulting firm here, found that Venezuela had announced plans to spend only about $6 billion abroad this year, down from $79 billion in 2008.

That includes proposed spending on everything from military purchases to aid, and points to a major weakening of Mr. Chávez’s oil diplomacy. Gone, for instance, are multibillion-dollar outlays to buy Argentine bonds, replaced by modest loans like $9 million for growing rice in Haiti.

the machinery of hopelessness

Adbusters | Nothing terrifies leaders, especially American leaders, as much as grassroots democracy. Whenever a genuinely democratic movement begins to emerge, particularly one based on principles of civil disobedience and direct action, the reaction is the same: the government makes immediate concessions (fine, you can have voting rights) and then starts revving up military tensions abroad. The movement is then forced to transform itself into an anti-war movement, which is often far less democratically organized. The civil rights movement was followed by Vietnam, the anti-nuclear movement by proxy wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua and the global justice movement by the War on Terror. We can now see the latter "war" for what it was: a declining power’s doomed effort to make its peculiar combination of bureaucratic war machines and speculative financial capitalism into a permanent global condition.

We are clearly on the verge of another mass resurgence of the popular imagination. It shouldn’t be that difficult. Most of the elements are already there. The problem is that our perceptions have been twisted into knots by decades of relentless propaganda and we are no longer able to see them. Consider the term "communism." Rarely has a term come to be so utterly reviled. The standard line, which we accept more or less unthinkingly, is that communism means state control of the economy. History has shown us that this impossible utopian dream simply "doesn’t work." Thus capitalism, however unpleasant, is the only remaining option.
If two people are fixing a pipe and one says "hand me the wrench," the other doesn’t say "and what do I get for it?"
In fact, communism really just means any situation where people act according to this principle: from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs. This is, in fact, the way pretty much everyone acts if they are working together. If, for example, two people are fixing a pipe and one says "hand me the wrench," the other doesn’t say "and what do I get for it?" This is true even if they happen to be employed by Bechtel or Citigroup. They apply the principles of communism because they’re the only ones that really work. This is also the reason entire cities and countries revert to some form of rough-and-ready communism in the wake of natural disasters or economic collapse – markets and hierarchical chains of command become luxuries they can’t afford. The more creativity is required and the more people have to improvise at a given task, the more egalitarian the resulting form of communism is likely to be. That’s why even Republican computer engineers trying to develop new software ideas tend to form small democratic collectives. It’s only when work becomes standardized and boring (think production lines) that becomes possible to impose more authoritarian, even fascistic forms of communism. But the fact is that even private companies are internally organized according to communist principles.

Communism is already here. The question is how to further democratize it. Capitalism, in turn, is just one possible way of managing communism. It has become increasingly clear that it’s a rather disastrous one. Clearly we need to be thinking about a better alternative, preferably one that does not systematically set us all at each others’ throats.