Wednesday, July 21, 2010

china passes u.s. as world's biggest energy consumer

Bloomberg | China overtook the U.S. as the world’s biggest energy user last year, emphasizing that developing nations are driving global growth, according to the International Energy Agency.

China consumed 2,252 million metric tons of oil equivalent in 2009 in the form of crude, coal, natural gas, nuclear power and renewable sources, IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol said yesterday. That exceeded the 2,170 million tons used by the U.S.

“It’s one of those major turning points,” Tilak Doshi, the chief economist at the Energy Studies Institute at the National University of Singapore, said in a phone interview. “China is growing by leaps and bounds. You’ve got OECD countries where you’re talking about oil demand peaking, meanwhile the emerging countries like China and India will keep growing their energy demand.”

China’s gross domestic product expanded 10.3 percent in the second quarter even as the government took measures to cool growth. China, with Hong Kong included, was the biggest energy user in 2009, consuming 2.2 billion tons of oil equivalent, BP Plc said in its annual Statistical Review of World Energy in June. The U.S. was second and Russia ranked third, BP said.

“As China overtakes the U.S. as the world’s largest energy consumer, it is not only a domestic issue for China, but has repercussions for the rest of the world not only in supply terms, but also in how the energy is consumed,” Birol said in an interview by phone from Paris. “If China uses electric cars, hybrids and so on, they will impose the manufacturing line on most of the rest of the world.”

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

surveillance state stimulus


Video - Surveillance state IS the federal jobs creation program.

The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

The investigation's other findings include:

* Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

* An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.

* In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings - about 17 million square feet of space.

* Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.

* Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year - a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.

These are not academic issues; lack of focus, not lack of resources, was at the heart of the Fort Hood shooting that left 13 dead, as well as the Christmas Day bomb attempt thwarted not by the thousands of analysts employed to find lone terrorists but by an alert airline passenger who saw smoke coming from his seatmate.

They are also issues that greatly concern some of the people in charge of the nation's security.

"There has been so much growth since 9/11 that getting your arms around that - not just for the DNI [Director of National Intelligence], but for any individual, for the director of the CIA, for the secretary of defense - is a challenge," Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in an interview with The Post last week.

In the Department of Defense, where more than two-thirds of the intelligence programs reside, only a handful of senior officials - called Super Users - have the ability to even know about all the department's activities. But as two of the Super Users indicated in interviews, there is simply no way they can keep up with the nation's most sensitive work.

"I'm not going to live long enough to be briefed on everything" was how one Super User put it. The other recounted that for his initial briefing, he was escorted into a tiny, dark room, seated at a small table and told he couldn't take notes. Program after program began flashing on a screen, he said, until he yelled ''Stop!" in frustration.

a hidden world growing beyond control

WaPo | The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

The investigation's other findings include:

* Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

* An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.

* In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings - about 17 million square feet of space.

Monday, July 19, 2010

revolution: the right kind and the wrong kind

carolynbaker | Lately I've been encountering articles and news stories touting the need for revolution in the wake of a gansterized U.S. financial system and a government that has itself become a criminal enterprise. I sense that many bloggers and their readers are salivating with anticipation that someone or something will light the fuse of a revolutionary cannon that will eviscerate the present system and replace it with something more just and humane.

I share their enthusiasm for profound, bone-marrow transformation of the status quo. Jefferson really was right when he proclaimed that the United States needed a revolution every twenty years. Many of us who were activists during the Vietnam War era were determined to pull off a revolution that would destroy the military industrial complex, institutionalized racism, and the entire capitalist agenda.

Today's visionaries and activists cherish similar hopes, yet I fear that they do not yet grasp the kind of revolution that the planet seems to be asking for. And unlike the revolution we envisioned four decades ago, this one must be in response to the planet and the earth community. From this perspective, I believe there are two kinds of revolution in front of us: The kind that is inappropriate and the kind that is both useful and critical for planetary survival.

Inappropriate Revolutions
The most truly inappropriate revolution would be one based on false assumptions, principally, the notion that political change on a grand scale is meaningful. Pundits of this kind of revolution include all cheerleaders for the Democratic Party and all others who champion the Progressive, left-liberal landscape. These folks are currently obsessing about the November election and agonizing over Tea Party cacophonies. From this perspective, if the far-right were resoundingly defeated by the election of liberal candidates, the nation might be spared from spiraling downward into fascism.

Other well-meaning but naïve proponents of revolution argue that social upheaval and more people in the streets will signal enough distress among the population to provide fertile ground for a political and cultural revolution. While not directly advocating the overthrow of the federal government, these individuals are poised to organize and assume positions of leadership should sufficient unrest unfold.

Inappropriate revolutions tend to focus on widespread global (whether literal or symbolic) measures that will result in mass consciousness raising, mass movements, and mass political and cultural change. This philosophy mirrors "bigger is better" and assumes that significant change only happens when society at large is involved. Models of this kind of revolution in the modern era would be ones such as the Russian Revolution, the Maoist revolution in China, and the Cuban Revolution.

Such revolutions rarely address the emotional and spiritual aspects of social change because for the most part, the possibility that any force greater than the human mind and ego exists is rejected out of hand. A revolution operating from this assumption is by definition, human-centric. Whereas political revolutions may include individuals who care deeply about the ecosystems and argue passionately for stewardship of the earth, their agenda is not fundamentally informed by the earth. Man is still the measure of all things and therefore, given the desired political context, humans can reverse their species' destruction of the planet and engineer something approximating utopia.

So what is an appropriate revolution? And appropriate to what, you may ask.

Appropriate Revolutions
An appropriate revolution is one that is relevant to what is actually needed in the light of human and planetary evolution. It is not primarily political but rather informed by what the earth community is asking for. For example, the earth is not asking for more efficient and accessible healthcare. Rather, it is asking that humans live in such conscious intimacy with the earth that nearly all of humanity's diseases and injuries are prevented as a result of that relationship.

Likewise, the earth is not asking for renewable energy but a cellular level transformation of consciousness regarding how we live on the earth-how we eat, what we wear, the products we use, where we live, where we travel and how.

The earth is not asking for jobs, but rather a painfully honest examination of our purpose in walking on her body in terms of the work that is most beneficial for her and all species that inhabit the planet.

The earth is asking, no pleading, for inhabitants who are willing and eager to live and relate locally in small communities, cooperating with neighbors to replenish what has been stolen from the earth and to enhance the well being of all species.

solar katrina?

HuffPo | John Kappenman, 55, an obscure electrical engineer from Duluth, Minnesota, is determined to save civilization from the mother of all blackouts. If he succeeds, the daily life of billions around the world will continue undisrupted. But if he fails, we may well suffer on a scale that makes even World Wars seem trivial in comparison.

Over the past thirty years, Kappenman has accumulated a vast and compelling body of evidence indicating that sooner or later a major blast of EMP (electromagnetic pulse) from the Sun, a space weather Katrina, will knock out the electrical power grid and bring society to its knees.

"Historically large storms have a potential to cause power grid blackouts and transformer damage of unprecedented proportions. An event that could incapacitate the network for a long time could be one of the largest natural disasters we could face," he declares. A bluff, friendly man, half science nerd, half overgrown farm boy, Kappenman insists that solar EMP blasts the size of those that occurred in 1859 (before society was electrified) and 1921(before the power grid had developed to the point where it played any significant role) would today result in large-scale blackouts lasting for months or years.

Kappenman was a major contributor to the landmark report, Severe Space Weather Events: Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts, published by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in December, 2008. Founded by Abraham Lincoln during the height of the Civil War, the NAS is the closest thing there is to a Supreme Court of scientific opinion for the United States, and much of the rest of the world.

"Electric power is modern society's cornerstone technology, the technology on which virtually all other infrastructures and services depend... Collateral effects of a longer-term outage [such as would almost certainly result from a massive space weather event] would likely include, for example, disruption of the transportation, communication, banking, and finance systems, and government services; the breakdown of the distribution of potable water owing to pump failure and the loss of perishable foods and medications because of lack of refrigeration. The resulting loss of services for a significant period of time in even one region of the country could affect the entire nation and have international impact as well," says the NAS report.

As examined extensively in my book, AFTERMATH, (Broadway/Random House, July, 2010) more than 100 million Americans could be affected by this blackout for months or years. Recovering from a future severe magnetic storm would cost $1 to $2 trillion per year-- ten to twenty times the cost of Katrina. Of course, the damage would be immeasurably worse if such a massive, protracted catastrophe were to touch off social unrest sufficient to undermine the agencies and institutions in charge of the reconstruction effort.

Unlike most doom prophecies, this one has potential for a happy ending. As examined further on, there is a comparatively quick and economical way to defend against solar EMP. " Sunblock for the grid" recommendations are at the core of the GRID bill, HR-5026, passed UNANIMOUSLY by the U.S. House of Representatives this June. No mean feat in today's poisonously partisan climate. But the true day of reckoning will probably come later on this summer in the United States Senate, where things are not looking very good at all.

baffling shrinkage...,

CNN | An upper layer of Earth's atmosphere recently shrank so much that researchers are at a loss to adequately explain it, NASA said on Thursday.

The thermosphere, which blocks harmful ultraviolet rays, expands and contracts regularly due to the sun's activities. As carbon dioxide increases, it has a cooling effect at such high altitudes, which also contributes to the contraction.

But even these two factors aren't fully explaining the extraordinary contraction which, though unlikely to affect the weather, can affect the movement of satellites, researchers said.

"This is the biggest contraction of the thermosphere in at least 43 years," John Emmert of the Naval Research Lab was quoted as saying in NASA news report.

Emmert is the lead author of a paper announcing the finding in the June 19 issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

"We cannot explain the abnormally low densities, which are about 30 percent lower" than from previous contractions, Emmert told CNN.com.

The thermosphere lies high above Earth's surface, close to where the atmosphere ends and space begins. It ranges in altitude from 55 miles (90km) to 370 miles (600km) above the ground -- the realm of meteors, auroras, space shuttles and the international space station.

The thermosphere interacts strongly with the sun and hence is greatly influenced by the sun's solar activity, which occurs in cycles.

When solar activity is high, solar extreme ultraviolet rays warm and expand the thermosphere. When it's low, the opposite occurs.

The collapse occurred during what's known as a "solar minimum" from 2007 to 2009, during which the sun plunged into an unprecedented low of inactivity. Sun spots were scarce and solar flares were nonexistent, NASA reported.

Still, the collapse of the thermosphere was bigger than the sun's activity alone can explain.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Good!

NYDailyNews | Racism is tearing the Tea Party movement apart.

The National Tea Party Federation has expelled a prominent activist group, the Tea Party Express, because it wouldn't rebuke and fire one of its leaders for writing an offensive blog post.

Mark Williams, a California radio host who is leading protests in New York against a proposed mosque near Ground Zero and has drawn Sarah Palin to his rallies, had previously called the President an "Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug" and said Muslims were "animals" who worship "a monkey god."

But when he posted a satirical letter this week from "the Colored People" to President Lincoln about how little they want to work, that apparently crossed the line - especially after the NAACP called on Tea Party leaders to oust racists from their ranks.

"We have expelled Tea Party Express and Mark Williams from the National Tea Party Federation because of the letter that he wrote," federation spokesman David Webb said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

He called the July 14 letter "clearly offensive."

In the letter Williams posted on his blog, he wrote in what he said was the voice of slaves: "Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house.

"We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don't cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!

"Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong."

On taxes, he added, "How will we Colored People ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? .. Bailouts are just big money welfare and isn't that what we want all Coloreds to strive for?"

the fall of obama?


Video - A Touch of Evil "your future's all used up."

CounterPunch | The reality is that there can be no “good” American president. It’s an impossible hand to play. Obama is close to being finished.

The nation’s first black president promised change at the precise moment when no single man, even if endowed with the communicative powers of Franklin Roosevelt, the politic mastery of Lyndon Johnson, the brazen agility of Bill Clinton, could turn the tide that has been carrying America to disaster for 30 years.

This summer many Americans are frightened. Over 100,000 of them file for bankruptcy every month. Three million homeowners face foreclosure this year. Add them to the 2.8 million who were foreclosed in 2009, Obama’s first year in office. Nearly seven million have been without jobs in the last year for six months or longer. By the time you tot up the people who have given up looking for work and the people on part-time, the total is heading toward 20 million.

Fearful people are irrational. So are racists. Obama is the target of insane charges. A hefty percentage of Americans believe that he is a socialist – a charge as ludicrous as accusing the Archbishop of Canterbury of being a closet Druid. Obama reveres the capitalist system. He admires the apex predators of Wall Street who showered his campaign treasury with millions of dollars. The frightful catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico stemmed directly from the green light he and his Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, gave to BP.

It is not Obama’s fault that for 30 years America’s policy – under Reagan, both Bushes and Bill Clinton – has been to export jobs permanently to the Third World. The jobs that Americans now desperately seek are no longer here, in the homeland, and never will be. They’re in China, Taiwan, Vietnam, India, Indonesia.

No stimulus program, giving money to cement contractors to fix potholes along the federal interstate highway system, is going to bring those jobs back. Highly trained tool and die workers, the aristocrats of the manufacturing sector, are flipping hamburgers – at best – for $7.50 an hour because U.S. corporations sent their jobs to Guangzhou, with the approval of politicians flush with the money of the “free trade” lobby.

It is not Obama’s fault that across 30 years more and more money has floated up to the apex of the social pyramid till America is heading back to where it was in the 1880s, a nation of tramps and millionaires. It’s not his fault that every tax break, every regulation, every judicial decision tilts toward business and the rich. That was the neoliberal America conjured into malign vitality back in the mid 1970s.

But it is Obama’s fault that he did not understand this, that always, from the getgo, he flattered Americans with paeans to their greatness, without adequate warning of the political and corporate corruption destroying America and the resistance he would face if he really fought against the prevailing arrangements that were destroying America. He offered them a free and easy pass to a better future, and now they see that the promise was empty.

how can obama rebound?

NYTimes | The G.O.P.’s Dismal Future - It’s early 2011, Republican Congressional leaders are driving back from the White House after a bipartisan leadership meeting with the president, and blurt out almost together, “We’re doomed!” The president will have already told the country from the Oval Office after the Democratic losses: “You don’t have to take me behind the woodshed a second time. I heard you. These pointless partisan battles keep us from bringing the change you need.”

The president will send up four big initiatives that have to be taken up on a bipartisan basis — or not at all. A Deficit Reduction Act that endorses his deficit commission’s proposed spending freeze, entitlement reforms, the purging of corporate loopholes and tax increases. An Energy Independence and Climate Change Act that includes off-shore oil drilling but also the trading of carbon emissions, renewable energy and an end to oil company subsidies. An Expanded Trade and Export Act that embraces new Asian and Latin American trade agreements, but also ends tax breaks for companies that export jobs, and invests in the infrastructure that future industries will need to create jobs here. A Comprehensive Immigration Act that seals the borders and creates a new national identity card but also includes a path to citizenship for those here illegally.

The Republican leaders will choke on “poison pills.” Polls show that half of those who identify as Republicans today are supporters of the Tea Party movement, and 90 percent of Tea Partiers say that Barack Obama is steering the country toward “socialism.” That is why the House and Senate Republican caucuses will shun the president’s outstretched hand. “No tax increases, no cap-and-trade, no amnesty,” will be the new mantra. But voters will know whom to blame when nothing gets done.

For the president, this is either an immense opportunity to bring change or to win re-election in a 1964-like Lyndon Johnson landslide. Either would be O.K.

beyond left and right, focus on up and down


Video - who are the oathkeepers?

dissidentvoice | We should not be afraid of people on the grassroots right. If leftists don’t reach out, the white working class in this country will have nowhere else to turn. The only points of unity may be non-interventionism, civil liberties, corporate bailouts and the constitution, but considering how extreme the corporate state has become, those things may be revolutionary. Just enforcing the Bill of Rights, respecting international treaties and restoring Congress’ war powers would be huge changes.

Author Chris Hedges thinks the American Left’s terrible move was from looking at government as part of the class enemy, to seeing it as something we could employ to make things better. Marx and Lenin both warned against this. They wrote that the state was organized by one class to suppress other classes and couldn’t be reformed. But the American Left abandoned the class struggle (to be fair, most American workers did, too). As Hedges says, “The Left became identity-based, culture-based and lost our grounding in class struggle. We lost our voice and became part of the corporate structure we should have been dismantling.”

We need to find ways to ally with the grassroots right, whether in tea parties, militias, or elsewhere. As Hedges says, “Hope in this age of bankrupt capitalism will come with the return of the language of class conflict.” Yes, there are some uglies out there in the white working class. There are some racists, but racism been the issue for the working class in America since the beginning.

Former congresswoman and Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney told Hedges, “I am a child of the South. [Head of DHS] Janet Napolitano tells me I need to be afraid of people who are labeled white supremacists, but I was raised around white supremacists. I am not afraid of white supremacists. I am concerned about my own government. The Patriot Act did not come from white supremacists, it came from the White House and Congress. The Citizens United decision [granting corporations full political personhood] did not come from white supremacists; it came from the Supreme Court. I am willing to reach across traditional barriers that have been skillfully constructed by people who benefit from the way the system is organized.”

Most militias, oath keepers, and tea partiers are not white supremacists. If McKinney can work with the far right, we can work with our class brothers and sisters who oppose what are our rulers are doing. Walker suggests the Left forming its own Tea Party chapters. That may not be the best tactic, but it may well point in the right direction.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

vaseline facebook app lightens users skin color

AOLNews | Skincare brand Vaseline has launched a skin-whitening application for Facebook in India, which allows users to lighten their faces in profile photos. The app is designed to promote Vaseline's range of male skin-lightening creams, which -- so the campaign promises -- will unleash "what is hidden under your skin."

The widget is the latest attempt by cosmetics companies to exploit India's "Snow White Syndrome," a commonly held belief that paler is better when it comes to skin color. Avon already markets a lightener called Refined White there; Revlon has one named Absolute White+; and Estee Lauder sells CyberWhite EX (loaded with "Melanin Dissolving Technology"). What's unusual about this latest push is that it's targeted at men. The vast majority of lightening products -- the first of which debuted on the subcontinent almost 30 years ago -- have traditionally been aimed at Indian women.

"More and more, there's an anxiety in the mind of men about having fair skin," sociology professor T. K. Oommen at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi told Agence France-Presse.

The desire for lighter flesh tones is rooted in the country's ancient caste system (the whiter the skin, the higher the class, and the less discrimination that person will face); a mentality likely exacerbated by centuries of colonial rule by pale-skinned Brits and Portuguese. But those old beliefs are now being reinforced by Bollywood movies -- where the light- skinned hero always gets the fair maiden -- and blunt ads for lightening products, which reach an ever-wider audience as the country gets richer and more media aware. The new Vaseline campaign, for example, features handsome Bollywood actor Shahid Kapoor, whose face has been divided into (purportedly less attractive) dusky and pale halves.

This growing shame over skin color has created a big business opportunity for global cosmetics giants. According to research agency AC Nielsen, the Indian market in skin-whitening creams for men and women is now worth over $430 million and is growing at nearly 18 percent a year. And Omnicom, the advertising firm behind the new Vaseline campaign, told AFP that since they unveiled the app in mid-June, "the response has been pretty phenomenal." The product's manufacturer, Unilever Hindustan, has had no comment on the matter.

Many Indians, however, are outraged that their fellow countrymen and women -- the vast majority of whom have dark skin -- are being made to feel like they were born inferior. Bangalore businessman Kunnath Santhosh has set up a Facebook group called "India Against Fairness Creams" to "protest the 'rash' of products in the market offering to whiten the skins of Indians and make us beautiful/handsome." And an editorial in the leading daily newspaper The Hindu last month bemoaned such cultural preferences: "Gloom descends on the family when a girl child is born, and if she is dark, the gloom takes on a deeper hue of woe."

interspecies quorum sensing?

mBio | ABSTRACT Otitis media (OM) is among the leading diseases of childhood and is caused by opportunists that reside within the nasopharynx, such as Haemophilus influenzae and Moraxella catarrhalis. As with most airway infections, it is now clear that OM infections involve multiple organisms. This study addresses the hypothesis that polymicrobial infection alters the course, severity, and/or treatability of OM disease. The results clearly show that coinfection with H. influenzae and M. catarrhalis promotes the increased resistance of biofilms to antibiotics and host clearance. Using H. influenzae mutants with known biofilm defects, these phenotypes were shown to relate to biofilm maturation and autoinducer-2 (AI-2) quorum signaling. In support of the latter mechanism, chemically synthesized AI-2 (dihydroxypentanedione [DPD]) promoted increased M. catarrhalis biofilm formation and resistance to antibiotics. In the chinchilla infection model of OM, polymicrobial infection promoted M. catarrhalis persistence beyond the levels seen in animals infected with M. catarrhalis alone. Notably, no such enhancement of M. catarrhalis persistence was observed in animals infected with M. catarrhalis and a quorum signaling-deficient H. influenzae luxS mutant strain. We thus conclude that H. influenzae promotes M. catarrhalis persistence within polymicrobial biofilms via interspecies quorum signaling. AI-2 may therefore represent an ideal target for disruption of chronic polymicrobial infections. Moreover, these results strongly imply that successful vaccination against the unencapsulated H. influenzae strains that cause airway infections may also significantly impact chronic M. catarrhalis disease by removing a reservoir of the AI-2 signal that promotes M. catarrhalis persistence within biofilm.

IMPORTANCE Otitis media (OM) is one of the most common childhood infections and is a leading reason for antibiotic prescriptions to children. Chronic and recurrent OM involves persistence of bacteria within biofilm communities, a state in which they are highly resistant to immune clearance and antibiotic treatment. While it is clear that most of these infections involve multiple species, the vast majority of knowledge about OM infections has been derived from work involving single bacterial species. There is a pressing need for better understanding of the impact of polymicrobial infection on the course, severity, and treatability of OM disease. In this study, we show that communication between bacterial species promotes bacterial persistence and resistance to antibiotics, which are important considerations in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of OM. Moreover, the results of this study indicate that successful preventive measures against H. influenzae could reduce the levels of disease caused by M. catarrhalis.

plants can "think and remember"

BBCNews | Plants are able to "remember" and "react" to information contained in light, according to researchers.

Plants, scientists say, transmit information about light intensity and quality from leaf to leaf in a very similar way to our own nervous systems.

These "electro-chemical signals" are carried by cells that act as "nerves" of the plants.

In their experiment, the scientists showed that light shone on to one leaf caused the whole plant to respond.

And the response, which took the form of light-induced chemical reactions in the leaves, continued in the dark.

This showed, they said, that the plant "remembered" the information encoded in light.

"We shone the light only on the bottom of the plant and we observed changes in the upper part," explained Professor Stanislaw Karpinski from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences in Poland, who led this research.

He presented the findings at the Society for Experimental Biology's annual meeting in Prague, Czech Republic.

"And the changes proceeded when the light was off... This was a complete surprise."

In previous work, Professor Karpinski found that chemical signals could be passed throughout whole plants - allowing them to respond to and survive changes and stresses in their environment.

But in this new study, he and his colleagues discovered that when light stimulated a chemical reaction in one leaf cell, this caused a "cascade" of events and that this was immediately signalled to the rest of the plant by via specific type of cell called a "bundle sheath cell".

The scientists measured the electrical signals from these cells, which are present in every leaf. They likened the discovery to finding the plants' "nervous system".

Friday, July 16, 2010

russia's invisible civil war


Video - Chechnya 1980-2010.

ForeignAffairs | A pernicious mix of heavy-handed rule, corrupt governance, high unemployment, and militant Islam has reignited the Russian North Caucasus. Today, it is not only the old conflict zone of Chechnya but also its neighboring republics that are bordering on open civil war.

The empty gymnasium of School No. 1 in Beslan is whipped by winds from the plains of North Ossetia, a republic in Russia's North Caucasus region.

On September 1, 2004, the first day of classes, masked gunmen entered the elementary school and herded hundreds of children and their teachers onto the indoor basketball court. They held their captives for three days. In the stifling late-summer heat, some children died from dehydration. Many others were killed when a series of homemade bombs exploded, collapsing the roof and igniting a massive fire. Today, photographs of the more than 300 victims, including those of smiling girls outfitted in the ornate hair ribbons traditional on the first day of classes, line the walls of a makeshift memorial.

The Beslan siege was Russia's most heart-rending episode of carnage during the last two decades. But it was by no means unique. Two years earlier, gunmen interrupted a play at a Moscow theater and took the entire audience hostage; 170 people died when security forces attempted a rescue. A series of suicide bombings in and around Moscow killed dozens in 2003 and 2004. In the days before Beslan, suicide terrorists brought down two Russian passenger airplanes. In November 2009, a bomb derailed the Nevsky Express, the high-speed train connecting Moscow and St. Petersburg, killing nearly 30 passengers. (Another bomb had derailed the same train in August 2007, although no one was killed.) And then, this past March, a pair of female suicide bombers blew themselves up in the Moscow metro during morning rush hour, killing nearly 40 people.

Even this grim tally is incomplete; it does not include the much higher level of violence that regularly occurs in the North Caucasus itself. The Russian government seems to have few creative ideas about how to deal with the turmoil in the region, which has become the epicenter of routine political violence in the country. It has tried to will the conflict into a sort of resolution, with little result. In April 2009, the Kremlin announced the end of the second Chechen war -- or, in official parlance, the decadelong "counterterrorist operation" -- thereby setting the stage for the withdrawal of the thousands of federal troops that had been dispatched to the republic. The following summer, however, the North Caucasus -- where Chechnya is but one of seven multiethnic republics -- experienced an upsurge in violence. A wave of assassinations, bombings, and suicide terrorist attacks spread well beyond the old war zone into the neighboring republics of Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Kabardino-Balkaria.

eu-brazil plan to develop biofuels in africa


Video - Global biofuel drive raises risk of eviction for African farmers.

EUObserver | EU and Brazilian leaders are set to announce a new "triangular co-operation" initiative, under which they will aim to work together in some of the world's poorest countries, but NGOs say the duo's scheme is self-centred and will simply make conditions worse.

At a bilateral summit in Brasilia on Wednesday (14 July), European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are to agree to co-operate on a range of different projects in Portuguese speaking parts of Africa, Haiti and East Timor in the coming years.

The development of renewable energy is likely to be a central theme, and a first step will see the EU and Brazil sign an agreement with Mozambique this week to develop bioelectricity and biofuels projects, EU sources have indicated.

Brazilian companies are world leaders in the production of biofuels and are looking to expand their operations both internally and abroad, while the EU is looking to increase its biofuel use at home in order to meet its target of sourcing 20 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020.

But as EU and Brazilian officials prepare to start studies on how best to develop bioethanol, biodiesel and bioelectricity projects in Mozambique - already a leading African producer of biofuels - environmental groups say the initiative will simply serve to displace people from their land and exacerbate food shortages.

"In a country that suffers persistent hunger, using millions of hectares of agricultural land to grow crops to power European cars is immoral and perverse," Adrian Bebb, a biofuels expert with Friends of the Earth, told this website.

"European biofuels targets are what is driving this global expansion," he added. "Instead of doing deals to grab more land in the South, the EU should be scrapping its biofuel policy."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

the disappearing intellectual in the age of economic darwinism


Video - parallels between nazi and tea party propaganda.

truthout | We live at a time that might be appropriately called the age of the disappearing intellectual, a disappearance that marks with disgrace a particularly dangerous period in American history. While there are plenty of talking heads spewing lies, insults and nonsense in the various media, it would be wrong to suggest that these right-wing populist are intellectuals. They are neither knowledgeable nor self-reflective, but largely ideological hacks catering to the worst impulses in American society. Some obvious examples would include John Stossel calling for the repeal of that "section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that bans discrimination in public places."[1] And, of course, there are the more famous corporate-owned talking heads such as Glenn Beck, Charles Krauthammer, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, all of whom trade in reactionary world views, ignorance, ideological travesties and outlandish misrepresentations - all the while wrapping themselves in the populist creed of speaking for everyday Americans.

In a media scape and public sphere that view criticism, dialog and thoughtfulness as a liability, such anti-intellectuals abound, providing commentaries that are nativist, racist, reactionary and morally repugnant. But the premium put on ignorance and the disdain for critical intellectuals is not monopolized by the dominant media, it appears to have become one of the few criteria left for largely wealthy individuals to qualify for public office. One typical example is Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who throws out inanities such as labeling the Obama administration a "gangster government."[2] Bachmann refuses to take critical questions from the press because she claims that they unfairly focus on her language. She has a point. After all, it might be difficult to support statements such as the claim that "the US government used the census information to round up the Japanese [Americans] and put them in concentration camps."[3] Another typical example can be found in Congressman Joe Barton's apology to BP for having to pay for damages to the government stemming from its disastrous oil spill.

This "upscaling of ignorance"[4] gets worse. Richard Cohen, writing in The Washington Post about Sen. Michael Bennett, was shocked to discover that he was actually well-educated and smart but had to hide his qualifications in his primary campaign so as to not undermine his chance of being re-elected. Cohen concludes that in politics, "We have come to value ignorance."[5] He further argues that the notion that a politician should actually know something about domestic and foreign affairs is now considered a liability. He writes:
[W]e now have politicians who lack a child's knowledge of government. In Nevada, Sharron Angle has won the GOP Senate nomination espousing phasing out Social Security and repealing the income tax as well as abolishing that durable conservative target, the Education Department. Similarly, in Connecticut, Linda McMahon, a former pro wrestling tycoon, is running commercials so adamantly anti-Washington you would think she's an anarchist. In Arizona Andy Goss, a Republican congressional candidate, suggests requiring all members of Congress to live in a barracks. This might be tough on wives, children and the odd cocker spaniel, but what the hell. Nowadays, all ideas are equal.[6]
The embrace of a type of rabid individualism, anti-intellectualism and political illiteracy is also at work in the Tea Party movement. As social protections disappear, jobs are lost, uncertainty grows and insecurity prevails, Tea Party members express anger over a weakened social state that represents one of the few institutions capable of providing the capital, policies and safety nets necessary to protect those who have been shaken by the economic recession. And, yet, in light of what Bob Herbert calls "the most painful evidence imaginable of the failure of laissez-faire economics and the destructive force of the alliance of big business and government against the interests of ordinary Americans,"[7] the Tea Party movement wants to abolish government and expand even more the deregulated capitalism that has unsettled the lives of so many of its members. Ignorance prevails around both the movement's policy recommendations and its often racist protest against "the election of a "foreign born' - African-American to the presidency."

a new form of news?

Guardian | Everything about this is odd. Julian Assange, the founder, director, frontman, guiding spirit of global whistleblowing service WikiLeaks looks a bit odd for a start. Tall, cadaverous, dressed in ripped jeans, brown jacket, black tie, battered trainers. Somebody says he looks like Andy Warhol with his prematurely white hair, but I can't remember who, which will bother the hell out of him because accuracy is everything. He detests subjectivity in journalism; I fear that part of him detests journalists, too, and that WikiLeaks – which describes itself as an "uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking" – is essentially a way of cutting out subjectivist idiots such as me.

If Assange was producing this article, he would post the rambling hour-and-a-half-long talk he delivers at the Centre for Investigative Journalism's summer school at London's City University online, plus the 10 minutes we spend talking on the way to a restaurant – I almost get him run down by a speeding BMW, which would probably have changed the course of investigative journalism – and the additional 20 minutes of chat in the restaurant before it's politely suggested I've exhausted my time. "When you're dealing with any secondary sources [about me], be extremely careful," he says as we walk, even picking holes in a recent New Yorker piece, enormously long, detailed, no doubt majestically fact-checked, but in which the writer makes an assumption about one of his supporters based on little more than the T-shirt she is wearing.

"Journalism should be more like science," he tells me in the restaurant. "As far as possible, facts should be verifiable. If journalists want long-term credibility for their profession, they have to go in that direction. Have more respect for readers." He likes the idea of a 2,000-word article backed by 25,000 words of source material, and says there is no reason why you can't provide that on the internet. Come to think of it, I'm not sure that car was a BMW, or even that it was speeding.

Assange unveiled wikileaks.org in January 2007 and has pulled off some astonishing coups for an organisation with a handful of staff and virtually no funding. It has exposed evidence of corruption in the family of former Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi, published the standard operating procedures for the Guantánamo Bay detention centre, even made public the contents of Sarah Palin's Yahoo account. But what has really propelled WikiLeaks into the media mainstream is the video it released in April of a US helicopter attack in Baghdad in July 2007, which killed a number of Iraqi civilians and two Reuters personnel, Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen.

The video, posted in a 39-minute unedited version and as an 18-minute film called Collateral Murder, gives a chilling insight into US military attitudes: sloppiness in identifying targets (the helicopter pilots mistook the Reuters employees' cameras for weapons), eagerness to finish off a grievously wounded man as he attempts to crawl to safety, and lack of concern even for two children in a van that arrives to pick up the bodies and is immediately attacked. "It's their fault for bringing their kids to a battle," says one of the pilots. "That's right," replies his colleague matter-of-factly. This, though, is one of the most one-sided battles you will ever witness. Very few cameras can bring down a helicopter gunship.

My thesis, soon to be exploded by Assange along with pretty well everything else I have predetermined on the basis of what I have read about him, is that this remarkable video is a transformative moment for WikiLeaks. But just before I can put that to him, a handsome, bearded student who was at the talk springs forward. "Julian, before you go, can I just shake your hand," he says, "because I really love what you do and you're like a hero, you really are." They shake hands. The icon and the acolyte. The Warhol parallel becomes ever stronger: Assange as impresario of a new form of news.

wikileaks founder breaks cover, but avoids america

Guardian | The elusive founder of WikiLeaks, who is at the centre of a potential US national security sensation, has surfaced from almost a month in hiding to tell the Guardian he does not fear for his safety but is on permanent alert.

Julian Assange, a renowned Australian hacker who founded the electronic whistleblowers' platform WikiLeaks, vanished when a young US intelligence analyst in Baghdad was arrested.

The analyst, Bradley Manning, had bragged he had sent 260,000 incendiary US state department cables on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks.

The prospect of the cache of classified intelligence on the US conduct of the two wars being put online is a nightmare for Washington. The sensitivity of the information has generated media reports that Assange is the target of a US manhunt.

"[US] public statements have all been reasonable. But some statements made in private are a bit more questionable," Assange told the Guardian in Brussels. "Politically it would be a great error for them to act. I feel perfectly safe … but I have been advised by my lawyers not to travel to the US during this period."

Assange appeared in public in Brussels for the first time in almost a month to speak at a seminar on freedom of information at the European parliament.

He said: "We need support and protection. We have that. More is always helpful. But we believe that the situation is stable and under control. There's no need to be worried. There's a need always to be on the alert."

Manning is being held incommunicado by the US military in Kuwait after "confessing" to a Californian hacker on a chatline, declaring he wanted "people to see the truth".

He said he had collected 260,000 top secret US cables in Baghdad and sent them to WikiLeaks, whose server operates out of Sweden. Adrian Lamo, the California hacker he spoke to, handed the transcripts of the exchanges to the FBI.

Manning was promptly arrested in Baghdad at the end of last month and transferred to a US military detention unit in Kuwait. He has been held for more than three weeks without charge.

wikileaks disclosure of civilians killed in baghdad


Video - wikileaks disclosure of civilians killed in baghdad.

CollateralMurder | Update: On July 6, 2010, Private Bradley Manning, a 22 year old intelligence analyst with the United States Army in Baghdad, was charged with disclosing this video (after allegedly speaking to an unfaithful journalist). The whistleblower behind the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, has called Mr. Manning a 'hero'. He is currently imprisoned in Kuwait. The Apache crew and those behind the cover up depicted in the video have yet to be charged. To assist Private Manning, please see bradleymanning.org.

5th April 2010 10:44 EST WikiLeaks has released a classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad -- including two Reuters news staff.

Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded.

The military did not reveal how the Reuters staff were killed, and stated that they did not know how the children were injured.

After demands by Reuters, the incident was investigated and the U.S. military concluded that the actions of the soldiers were in accordance with the law of armed conflict and its own "Rules of Engagement".

Consequently, WikiLeaks has released the classified Rules of Engagement for 2006, 2007 and 2008, revealing these rules before, during, and after the killings.

WikiLeaks has released both the original 38 minutes video and a shorter version with an initial analysis. Subtitles have been added to both versions from the radio transmissions.

WikiLeaks obtained this video as well as supporting documents from a number of military whistleblowers. WikiLeaks goes to great lengths to verify the authenticity of the information it receives. We have analyzed the information about this incident from a variety of source material. We have spoken to witnesses and journalists directly involved in the incident.

WikiLeaks wants to ensure that all the leaked information it receives gets the attention it deserves. In this particular case, some of the people killed were journalists that were simply doing their jobs: putting their lives at risk in order to report on war. Iraq is a very dangerous place for journalists: from 2003- 2009, 139 journalists were killed while doing their work.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

microbiomes-R-us

NYTimes | In 2008, Dr. Khoruts, a gastroenterologist at the University of Minnesota, took on a patient suffering from a vicious gut infection of Clostridium difficile. She was crippled by constant diarrhea, which had left her in a wheelchair wearing diapers. Dr. Khoruts treated her with an assortment of antibiotics, but nothing could stop the bacteria. His patient was wasting away, losing 60 pounds over the course of eight months. “She was just dwindling down the drain, and she probably would have died,” Dr. Khoruts said.

Dr. Khoruts decided his patient needed a transplant. But he didn’t give her a piece of someone else’s intestines, or a stomach, or any other organ. Instead, he gave her some of her husband’s bacteria.

Dr. Khoruts mixed a small sample of her husband’s stool with saline solution and delivered it into her colon. Writing in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology last month, Dr. Khoruts and his colleagues reported that her diarrhea vanished in a day. Her Clostridium difficile infection disappeared as well and has not returned since.

The procedure — known as bacteriotherapy or fecal transplantation — had been carried out a few times over the past few decades. But Dr. Khoruts and his colleagues were able to do something previous doctors could not: they took a genetic survey of the bacteria in her intestines before and after the transplant.

Before the transplant, they found, her gut flora was in a desperate state. “The normal bacteria just didn’t exist in her,” said Dr. Khoruts. “She was colonized by all sorts of misfits.”

Two weeks after the transplant, the scientists analyzed the microbes again. Her husband’s microbes had taken over. “That community was able to function and cure her disease in a matter of days,” said Janet Jansson, a microbial ecologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a co-author of the paper. “I didn’t expect it to work. The project blew me away.”

Scientists are regularly blown away by the complexity, power, and sheer number of microbes that live in our bodies. “We have over 10 times more microbes than human cells in our bodies,” said George Weinstock of Washington University in St. Louis. But the microbiome, as it’s known, remains mostly a mystery. “It’s as if we have these other organs, and yet these are parts of our bodies we know nothing about.”