Saturday, July 09, 2011

for-profit predators waiting in the wings...,

NPR | Charter schools are taxpayer-funded schools that are overseen by their own independent boards. Because of their independence, they are allowed to do things that traditional public schools cannot do. School administrators can experiment with things like the length of the school day and the makeup of each school's curriculum.

With that freedom, charter schools have become academic beacons for parents looking to find the best and safest schooling options for their children. But the system's lack of oversight has also created problems. In recent years, there have been investigations in states, including California, Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania, which found charter school CEOs taking money from their own schools, putting unqualified relatives on their payrolls and engaging in other questionable activities.

On Monday's Fresh Air, Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Martha Woodall details her ongoing investigation into Philadelphia's charter school system, where 19 of the 74 charter schools operating in the city are under investigation for fraud, financial mismanagement and conflicts of interest.

Corruption And Fraud
At one school, the Philadelphia Academy Charter School, parents raised concerns in 2008 after school administrators told them that there was no money available for special education students.

"The school kept saying 'We don't have money [for these students],' " Woodall tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "However, there was money being spent on all kinds of other issues. [When parents] raised questions at the Board of Trustees meetings, [they] were basically told, 'We don't want you asking questions.' "

Ultimately, both the founding CEO of Philadelphia Academy Charter School and his successor were charged with stealing almost $1 million from the school's coffers, including money students had collected for a Toys for Tots campaign. The two men — one of whom had only a high school education — also allegedly engaged in questionable real estate deals. As a result, the high school paid rent money for its facilities directly to them.

"They charged really high rental rates for the school to use the building and then they accumulated money through the higher rates," she says. "They were using taxpayer money that was supposed to go to the school for other purposes."

In addition, both the school's founding CEO and his successor had relatives on the school's payroll. The founding CEO's wife was the head of the board of trustees.

"They were making more money and supervising people who had far more experience and more credentials than they had," she says. "In order to keep the school open, the Philadelphia School District required the top administrators to leave and required a replacement of the board, and the board then basically fired all of the relatives. They wanted to sever all ties with all of the families involved."

But Philadelphia Academy Charter School wasn't the only charter school in Philadelphia with ethical and financial problems.

"We've had cases here where large numbers of family members are on the payroll and [other instances where there were] contracts awarded to relatives and friends that include leases on luxury cars," she says. "Part of the problem that we have found is that the boards that are overseeing some of these schools are not involved as deeply as they should be. ... They may be friends of the CEO and therefore they're reluctant to provide the type of oversight that they should be providing."

School districts are supposed to monitor charter schools' academic progress. In the Philadelphia School District, says Woodall, there are seven people overseeing all 74 charter schools in the district — but that office will soon be halved owing to budget cuts.

"You have so few people keeping track of the charter schools," she says. "They don't have opportunities to go out and visit the schools and pay too much attention until the charters are up for renewal. So that gives several years in between where people can get away with things."

Friday, July 08, 2011

the insidious evils of "like" culture

WSJ | If you happen to be reading this article online, you'll notice that right above it, there is a button labeled "like." Please stop reading and click on "like" right now.

Thank you. I feel much better. It's good to be liked.

Don't forget to comment on, tweet, blog about and StumbleUpon this article. And be sure to "+1" it if you're on the newly launched Google+ social network. In fact, if you don't want to read the rest of this article, at least stay on the page for a few minutes before clicking elsewhere. That way, it will appear to the site analytics as if you've read the whole thing.

Once, there was something called a point of view. And, after much strife and conflict, it eventually became a commonly held idea in some parts of the world that people were entitled to their own points of view.

Unfortunately, this idea is becoming an anachronism. When the Internet first came into public use, it was hailed as a liberation from conformity, a floating world ruled by passion, creativity, innovation and freedom of information. When it was hijacked first by advertising and then by commerce, it seemed like it had been fully co-opted and brought into line with human greed and ambition.

But there was one other element of human nature that the Internet still needed to conquer: the need to belong. The "like" button began on the website FriendFeed in 2007, appeared on Facebook in 2009, began spreading everywhere from YouTube to Amazon to most major news sites last year, and has now been officially embraced by Google as the agreeable, supportive and more status-conscious "+1." As a result, we can now search not just for information, merchandise and kitten videos on the Internet, but for approval.

Just as stand-up comedians are trained to be funny by observing which of their lines and expressions are greeted with laughter, so too are our thoughts online molded to conform to popular opinion by these buttons. A status update that is met with no likes (or a clever tweet that isn't retweeted) becomes the equivalent of a joke met with silence. It must be rethought and rewritten. And so we don't show our true selves online, but a mask designed to conform to the opinions of those around us.

Conversely, when we're looking at someone else's content—whether a video or a news story—we are able to see first how many people liked it and, often, whether our friends liked it. And so we are encouraged not to form our own opinion but to look to others for cues on how to feel.

"Like" culture is antithetical to the concept of self-esteem, which a healthy individual should be developing from the inside out rather than from the outside in.

europe, free speech, and the sinister repression of the rating agencies

Telegraph | Before we all join the chorus of abuse against the robber agencies, let us not lose sight of what is happening in the eurozone. The EU authorities are attempting to muzzle free opinion, first by threatening Fitch, Moody’s, and S&P with vague retribution, and then by drafting restrictive laws to prevent them from publishing unwelcome messages.

It is financial repression, pure and simple. The same will be done to the press in due course. Then to you, dear reader.

“We must break the oligopoly of the rating agencies,” says German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble. By “we”, of course, he means the EU apparatus of coercion.

The European Commission has already created a pan-EU oversight body with binding powers to breathe down the necks of these agencies. It will draft restrictive legislation by the end of the year. The Portuguese downgrade ensures that it will be even nastier.” Developments since the sovereign-debt crisis show we need to take a further look at reinforcing our rules,” said Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.

Mr Barroso came close to accusing the agencies of cartel activities and a malicious agenda.

“It’s quite strang that the market is almost dominated by only three players. It seems strange that there is not a single rating agency coming from Europe. It shows that there may be some bias in the markets when it comes to the evaluation of the specific issues of Europe.”

Leaving aside the not-small matter that Fitch is owned by the French group Fimalac (quoted on the Paris bourse), or that it is largely run by Britons who belong to the EU and contribute to Mr Barroso’s salary, this talk of anti-European bias cannot pass unchallenged.

Currency unions switch exchange risk into default risk. The rating on countries in currency unions ought to be lower therefore (ceteris paribus). States with their own sovereign currency and debt in their own currency can let the exchange rate take the strain when they get into trouble, as the US and the UK have done. Foreign investors lose money on the exchange rate. There may be all kinds of risks and dangers in the US and the UK, but default is not high on the list (discounting the US soap opera over the debt ceiling).

This not the case at all for EMU laggards. They cannot devalue or inflate away debt. The stress shows up in the bond markets instead. The more relevant comparison in this respect is between the Euroland’s Club Med states and California. The Anglo-Saxon agencies do not rate many US states at AAA. California is A- and may lose that soon enough.

To compare the ratios of national debt to GDP levels in the Anglosphere with those in Europe, as the EU elites tirelessly do, is to the miss the point. My gripe against the agencies is not that they are downgrading all these semi-bankrupt states today, but that they totally failed to signal the inherent dangers of EMU a long time ago when the crucial investment decisions were being made. They too were swept up by euro euphoria. They too failed to understand the inherent structure of monetary union, or to spot obvious warning signs as the drama unfolded and the North-South divide became ever-more apparent. They handed out AAAs like confetti.

That is the great indictment of Fitch, S&P, and Moody’s in this sovereign saga, especially Moody’s (which has since replaced much of its French-led sovereign team). Moody’s still had a A3 rating on Greece in May 2010. Unbelievable.

the war you don't see - redux

John Pilger in conversation with Julian Assange from John Pilger on Vimeo.

quoth Jay Hanson:
This is good in the same tradition as Adam Curtis' videos. It has a dozen or so interviews with media people. It contains a long interview with Julian Assange. Here is the gist.

Everyone in the media and government works for large corporations that demand endless economic growth. The public is a problem that must be dealt with.

If you are a reporter who tells the truth, you won't have access and you can't do your job. Corporations demand that everyone in the media (e.g., Fox News) and government (e.g., Colin Powell) must lie to the people. This explains why we invaded Iraq on a sea of lies. Every decision in our government and the media is an economic calculation.

Assange said he saw several analogies to "money laundering" in government. Money laundering is moving money to a location where normal laws do not apply.

Guantanamo is "people laundering." We send people to places where normal laws do not apply.

Besides the obvious oil interest, Iraq Afghanistan, and Columbia are "taxpayer money laundering" -- ways to divert taxpayer money to corporate friends, who in turn, will give some of it back to the politicians who sent us to those wars. Every decision in our government is an economic calculation.

Everything our government does is about money and profit.

Economic interests (e.g., American arms dealers) will force us to fight a new world war over resources.

Our government will attack and kill anyone who stands in the way of corporate profit.
Information Clearinghouse | The Strange Silencing of Liberal America

Obama's greatest achievement is having seduced, co-opted and silenced much of liberal opinion in the US.

July 07, 2011 "Information Clearing House" -- How does political censorship work in liberal societies? When my film Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia was banned in the United States in 1980, the broadcaster PBS cut all contact. Negotiations were ended abruptly; phone calls were not returned. Something had happened. But what? Year Zero had already alerted much of the world to Pol Pot's horrors, but it also investigated the critical role of the Nixon administration in the tyrant's rise to power and the devastation of Cambodia.

Six months later, a PBS official told me: "This wasn't censorship. We're into difficult political days in Washington. Your film would have given us problems with the Reagan administration. Sorry."

In Britain, the long war in Northern Ireland spawned a similar, deniable censorship. The journalist Liz Curtis compiled a list of more than 50 television films that were never shown or indefinitely delayed. The word "ban" was rarely used, and those responsible would invariably insist they believed in free speech.

The Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe, New Mexico, believes in free speech. The foundation's website says it is "dedicated to cultural freedom, diversity and creativity". Authors, film-makers and poets make their way to a sanctum of liberalism bankrolled by the billionaire Patrick Lannan in the tradition of Rockefeller and Ford.

The foundation also awards "grants" to America's liberal media, such as Free Speech TV, the Foundation for National Progress (publisher of the magazine Mother Jones), the Nation Institute and the TV and radio programme Democracy Now!. In Britain, it has been a supporter of the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, of which I am one of the judges. In 2008, Patrick Lannan backed Barack Obama's presidential campaign. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, he is "devoted" to Obama.

World of not-knowing
On 15 June, I was due in Santa Fe, having been invited to share a platform with the distinguished American journalist David Barsamian. The foundation was also to host the US premiere of my new film, The War You Don't See, which investigates the false image-making of warmakers, especially Obama.I was about to leave for Santa Fe when I received an email from the Lannan Foundation official organising my visit. The tone was incredulous. "Something has come up," she wrote. Patrick Lannan had called her and ordered all my events to be cancelled. "I have no idea what this is all about," she wrote.Baffled, I asked that the premiere of my film be allowed to go ahead, as the US distribution largely depended on it. She repeated that "all" my events were cancelled, "and this includes the screening of your film".

On the Lannan Foundation website, "cancelled" appeared across a picture of me. There was no explanation. None of my phone calls was returned, nor subsequent emails answered. A Kafka world of not-knowing descended.The silence lasted a week until, under pressure from local media, the foundation put out a terse statement that too few tickets had been sold to make my visit "viable", and that "the Foundation regrets that the reason for the cancellation was not explained to Mr Pilger or to the public at the time the decision was made". Doubts were cast by a robust editorial in the Santa Fe New Mexican. The paper, which has long played a prominent role in promoting Lannan Foundation events, disclosed that my visit had been cancelled before the main advertising and previews were published. A full-page interview with me had to be pulled hurriedly. "Pilger and Barsamian could have expected closer to a packed 820-seat Lensic [arts centre]."The manager of The Screen, the Santa Fe cinema that had been rented for the premiere, was called late at night and told to kill all his online promotion for my film. He was given no explanation, but took it on himself to reschedule the film for 23 June. It was a sell-out, with many people turned away. The idea that there was no public interest was demonstrably not true.

Symptom of suppression
Theories? There are many, but nothing is proven. For me, it is all reminiscent of long shadows cast during the cold war. "Something is going to surface," said Barsamian. "They can't keep the lid on this."My 15 June talk was to have been about the collusion of American liberalism in a permanent state of war and in the demise of cherished freedoms, such as the right to call governments to account.

In the US, as in Britain, serious dissent -- free speech -- has been substantially criminalised. Obama the black liberal, the PC exemplar, the marketing dream, is as much a warmonger as George W Bush. His score is six wars. Never in US presidential history has the White House prosecuted so many whistleblowers, yet this truth-telling, this exercise of true citizenship, is at the heart of America's constitutional First Amendment. Obama's greatest achievement is having seduced, co-opted and silenced much of liberal opinion in the US, including the anti-war movement.

The reaction to the cancellation has been illuminating. The brave, such as the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, were appalled and said so. Similarly, many ordinary Americans called in to radio stations and have written to me, recognising a symptom of far greater suppression. But some exalted liberal voices have been affronted that I dared whisper the word censorship about such a beacon of "cultural freedom". The embarrassment of those who wish to point both ways is palpable. Others have pulled down the shutters and said nothing. Given their patron's ruthless show of power, it is understandable.

For them, the Russian dissident poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko once wrote: "When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie."John Pilger, renowned investigative journalist and documentary film-maker, is one of only two to have twice won British journalism's top award; his documentaries have won academy awards in both the UK and the US. In a New Statesman survey of the 50 heroes of our time, Pilger came fourth behind Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela. "John Pilger," wrote Harold Pinter, "unearths, with steely attention facts, the filthy truth. I salute him."

“The War You Don’t See” is available on

Thursday, July 07, 2011

the strange and dangerous militarization of U.S. police forces

Alternet | Just after midnight on May 16, 2010, a SWAT team threw a flash-bang grenade through the window of a 25-year-old man while his 7-year-old daughter slept on the couch as her grandmother watched television. The grenade landed so close to the child that it burned her blanket. The SWAT team leader then burst into the house and fired a single shot which struck the child in the throat, killing her. The police were there to apprehend a man suspected of murdering a teenage boy days earlier. The man they were after lived in the unit above the girl's family.

The shooting death of Aiyana Mo'Nay Stanley-Jones sounds like it happened in a war zone. But the tragic SWAT team raid took place in Detroit.

Shockingly, paramilitary raids that mirror the tactics of US soldiers in combat are not uncommon in America. According to an investigation carried out by the Huffington Post's Radley Balko, America has seen a disturbing militarization of its civilian law enforcement over the last 30 years, along with a dramatic and unsettling rise in the use of paramilitary police units for routine police work. In fact, the most common use of SWAT teams today is to serve narcotics warrants, usually with forced, unannounced entry into the home.

Some 40,000 of these raids take place every year, and are needlessly subjecting nonviolent drug offenders, bystanders and wrongly targeted civilians to the terror of having their homes invaded while they’re sleeping, usually by teams of heavily armed paramilitary units dressed not as police officers but as soldiers. And as demonstrated by the case of Aiyana Mo'nay Stanley-Jones, these raids have resulted in dozens of needless deaths and injuries.

How did we allow our law enforcement apparatus to descend into militaristic chaos? Traditionally, the role of civilian police has been to maintain the peace and safety of the community while upholding the civil liberties of residents in their respective jurisdiction. In stark contrast, the military soldier is an agent of war, trained to kill the enemy.

Clearly, the mission of the police officer is incompatible with that of a soldier, so why is it that local police departments are looking more and more like paramilitary units in a combat zone? The line between military and civilian law enforcement has been drawn for good reason, but following the drug war and more recently, the war on terror, that line is inconspicuously eroding, a trend that appears to be worsening by the decade.

i dunno if I'm with you on entheogens though...,

Wikipedia | An entheogen ("God inside us,"[4] en εν- "in, within," theo θεος- "god, divine," -gen γενος "creates, generates"), in the strict sense, is a psychoactive substance used in a religious, shamanic, or spiritual context.

Align Center

Yeah PK Dick's characters keep zoning out and seeing ancient Rome around them, which sounds pretty much right to me.
I dunno if I'm with you on the entheogens though, broski.

Aight then, you tell me what was going on in the mysteries, across time, cultures, languages, and a fairly sizeable geography - that bound all of these up together in a continuous skein of dying god symbolism, values, and praxis?

former mexican presidents lead the debate

Reuters | Once praised lavishly by the United States for waging a war on drugs, Mexico's last two presidents now say legalizing them may be the best way to end the rising violence the U.S.-backed campaign has unleashed.

Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox led efforts to crush drug trafficking gangs in Mexico between 1994 and 2006 but the rapid escalation of violence over the past four years under President Felipe Calderon has convinced them a change of tack is needed.

"As a country, we are going through problems due to the fact that the United States consumes too many drugs," the 68-year-old Fox told business leaders in Texas last month. "I would recommend to legalize, de-penalize all drugs."

Though public support for some legalization is growing on both sides of the border, resistance is firmly entrenched in the U.S. government and analysts say Mexico is very unlikely to liberalize its drug laws without Washington's approval.

Calderon is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

He has staked his reputation on breaking the cartels and is unlikely to press for radical change in what remains of his presidency but the death toll is surging and Zedillo, Fox and other former Latin American leaders are pressuring Mexico to consider opening up the market.

Victims' families are adding to the clamor for change.

Calderon has begun to soften the hard-line rhetoric that won him allies in Washington, stressing his readiness to discuss the merits of drug legalization.

"I'm completely open to this debate. Not just on consumption, but also on movement and production," he told a meeting with victims' families in Mexico City on Thursday.

But he added: "This issue goes beyond national borders. If there's no international agreement, it doesn't make sense."

Since he sent the army to fight the cartels in late 2006, some 40,000 people have died. If the rate of killing persists, the total will surpass U.S. combat deaths in the Vietnam War by the time a new president is elected in mid-2012.

the highs and the lows...,

Haaretz | The electorate in the State of California voted against legalizing the cultivation and consumption of marijuana by a majority of 53% against 47% on November 2, 2010, a decision that, in my opinion, is wrong. Legalization would have constituted an important step in the search for an effective solution to the problem of crime linked to drug trafficking that, as it was recently officially announced, has caused a chilling total of 12,000 deaths in Mexico in 2010.

This solution lies in the decriminalization of drugs, an idea which until relatively recently was unacceptable to the bulk of public opinion convinced that police repression of producers, sellers and users of narcotics was the only legitimate method for ending such a plague. The reality has been revealing what is illusory in this idea. Research has shown that, despite the astronomical sums invested, and the huge movement of funds to combat it, the market for drugs has continued to grow. It has extended across the world, creating cartels that are immensely powerful, both in military and economic terms. As we have seen in Mexico ever since President Calderón decided to take on the drug bosses and their bands of mercenaries with the army as his weapon, the cartels are able to fight state governments as equals thanks to their power, while they infiltrate state governments through corruption and terror.

The millions of Californian voters who did vote to legalize marijuana are an auspicious indicator that there are a growing number of us who think that it is time to change policies regarding drugs. The time has come to reorient efforts, from repression to prevention, cure and information, in order to end the enormous levels of crime that prohibition creates, and the havoc that drug-trafficking wreaks on democratic institutions, especially in developing countries. The cartels can pay better salaries than the state, and in this way they can neutralize members of parliament, police, ministers, bureaucrats, or even have them at their service. They can finance political campaigns and acquire media outlets that defend their interests.

In this way, they provide employment and sustenance to many professional working in legitimate industry, business and companies through which they launder their vast profits. This dependency of such a large number of people on the drug industry creates a tolerant or indifferent mood in the face of everything that the industry brings with it. That is, degradation and the collapse of the law. This is a path that leads, sooner or later, to the suicide of democracy.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

greatest depression's end - preview trailer

Video - Instead of hunting down terrorist, you fight American soldiers.

WSJ | A People’s Liberation Army Type 99 battle tank trundles through a darkened forest. Moments later, a Chinese soldier takes aim with a QBZ-95 assault rifle and sends a barrage of bullets flying in the direction of what appears to be a cluster of American soldiers.

Scenes from the cutting-room floor of the ‘Red Dawn’ remake?

No, this shadowy slice of post-Cold War apocalyptica comes courtesy of “Glorious Mission,” a videogame designed to help train China’s enlisted men.

The existence of “Glorious Mission,” a first-person shooter co-developed by the PLA and Nasdaq-listed Chinese software company Giant Interactive Group, was first revealed when test footage was aired on the military channel of state-run broadcaster CCTV in May. Aside from some noteworthy parallels between the “enemy” in the game and the U.S. military–the test footage at one point shows a U.S.-made Apache helicopter being given the “Black Hawk Down” treatment–the report offered little detail on the project itself.

On Wednesday, the state-run Xinhua news agency ran a report that fills in some of those details.

Citing unnamed PLA sources, the report says the game allows a maximum of 32 people to play simultaneously, adding that the weapons and vehicles in the game are all based on actual PLA equipment.

Counter to reports that players would not be able to operate planes and aircraft, Xinhua says, “the final version will allow players to control aerial and naval combat vehicles.”

r'lyeh rises

Video - Nyarlathotep
Reuters | An invasion of jellyfish into a cooling water pool at a Scottish nuclear power plant kept its nuclear reactors offline on Wednesday, a phenomenon which may grow more common in future, scientists said.

Two reactors at EDF Energy's Torness nuclear power plant on the Scottish east coast remained shut a day after they were manually stopped due to masses of jellyfish obstructing cooling water filters.

Nuclear power plants draw water from nearby seas or rivers to cool down their reactors, but if the filters which keep out marine animals and seaweed are clogged, the station shuts down to maintain temperature and safety standards.

Britain's Office for Nuclear Regulation said power plants follow a pre-planned programme when these situations occur.

Latest plant availability data from network operator National Grid showed Torness reactor 1 would return to service on July 5 and reactor 2 on July 6, but operator EDF Energy was unable to give a restart date.

Operators often take the opportunity presented by an unplanned stoppage to carry out maintenance work.

"We are working to clear the jellyfish from the waters near the power station. This work, as well as monitoring the area for more jellyfish, is ongoing," a spokesman for Britain's largest nuclear power operator, EDF Energy, said.

Scientists say jellyfish obstructing nuclear plants is a rare occurrence in Britain, though it has happened more often in other countries such as Japan.

r'lyeh stirs...,

DailyMail | Another power station was shut down by jellyfish today amid claims that climate change is causing a population surge among the species.

A huge swarm clogged up the Orot Rabin plant in Hadera, Israel, a day after the Torness nuclear facility in Scotland was closed in a similar incident.

Hadera ran into trouble when jellyfish blocked its seawater supply, which it uses for cooling purposes, forcing officials to use diggers to remove them.

r'lyeh mined?

Telegraph | Scientists have hailed a giant discovery that could end China's grasp on 97pc of the world's rare earth minerals - but unfortunately the vast new deposits are at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Explorers from Japan claim to have found more than 100bn tonnes of rare earth minerals, which are used in the manufacture of electronic goods like hybrid cars and flat-screen televisions.

The sought-after deposits could spark a battle between Japan, Hawaii and Tahiti, which are near to where the minerals have been located.

Although in the middle of international water, the Japanese scientists claim the minerals can be easily extracted, having pinpointed their presence in sea mud across 78 locations up to 20,000 feet under the sea.

Yasuhiro Kato, an associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo, who led the explorers, said: "Just 0.4 square mile of deposits will be able to provide one-fifth of the current global annual consumption.

"Sea mud can be brought up to ships and we can extract rare earths right there using simple acid leaching. Using diluted acid, the process is fast, and within a few hours we can extract 80pc to 90pc of rare earths from the mud."

Rare earth metals have emerged as one of the most sought after resources in commodities boom. Minerals present in the mud include gadolinium, lutetium, terbium and dysprosium.

With demand increasingly outweighing supply, shortages of rare earth metals have triggered a string of mining ventures likened to a 21st century gold rush.

There has been much concern around China's control over global rare earth prices, trade restrictions and using its monopoly for political effect.

Japan accounts for a third of demand because of its strength in the electronics industry.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


Video - Wikileaks financial blockade commercial

evolutionary roots of fairness

NYTimes | A sense of fairness is both cerebral and visceral, cortical and limbic. In the journal PLoS Biology, Katarina Gospic of the Karolinska Institute’s Osher Center in Stockholm and her colleagues analyzed brain scans of 35 subjects as they played the famed Ultimatum game, in which participants bargain over how to divide up a fixed sum of money. Immediately upon hearing an opponent propose a split of 80 percent me, 20 percent you, scanned subjects showed a burst of activity in the amygdala, the ancient seat of outrage and aggression, followed by the arousal of higher cortical domains associated with introspection, conflict resolution and upholding rules; and 40 percent of the time they angrily rejected the deal as unfair.

That first swift limbic kick proved key. When given a mild anti-anxiety drug that suppressed the amygdala response, subjects still said they viewed an 80-20 split as unjust, but their willingness to reject it outright dropped in half. “This indicates that the act of treating people fairly and implementing justice in society has evolutionary roots,“ Dr. Gospic said. “It increases our survival.”

David Sloan Wilson, an evolutionary theorist at the State University of New York at Binghamton, sees the onset of humanity’s cooperative, fair-and-square spirit as one of the major transitions in the history of life on earth, moments when individual organisms or selection units band together and stake their future fitness on each other. A larger bacterial cell engulfs a smaller bacterial cell to form the first complex eukaryotic cell. Single cells merge into multicellular organisms of specialized parts. Ants and bees become hive-minded superorganisms and push all other insects aside.

“A major transition occurs when you have mechanisms for suppressing fitness differences and establishing equality within groups, so that it is no longer possible to succeed at the expense of your group,” Dr. Wilson said. “It’s a rare event, and it’s hard to get started, but when it does you can quickly dominate the earth.” Human evolution, he said, “clearly falls into this paradigm.”

Our rise to global dominance began, paradoxically enough, when we set rigid dominance hierarchies aside. “In a typical primate group, the toughest individuals can have their way and dominate everybody else in the group,” said Dr. Wilson. “Chimps are very smart, but their intelligence is predicated on distrust.”

Our ancestors had to learn to trust their neighbors, and the seeds of our mutuality can be seen in our simplest gestures, like the willingness to point out a hidden object to another, as even toddlers will do. Early humans also needed ways to control would-be bullies, and our exceptional pitching skills — which researchers speculate originally arose to help us ward off predators — probably helped. “We can throw much better than any other primate,” Dr. Wilson said, “and once we could throw things at a distance, all of a sudden the alpha male is vulnerable to being dispatched with stones. Stoning might have been one of our first adaptations.”

Low hierarchy does not mean no hierarchy. Through ethnographic and cross-cultural studies, researchers have concluded that the basic template for human social groups is moderately but not unerringly egalitarian. They have found gradients of wealth and power among even the most nomadic groups, but such gradients tend to be mild. In a recent analysis of five hunter-gatherer populations, Eric Aiden Smith of the University of Washington and his colleagues found the average degree of income equality to be roughly half that seen in the United States, and close to the wealth distribution of Denmark.

Interestingly, another recent study found that when Americans were given the chance to construct their version of the optimal wealth gradient for America, both Republicans and Democrats came up with a chart that looked like Sweden’s. There’s no need to insult the meat in the land of lutefisk.

Monday, July 04, 2011

KMBC | Officials are monitoring water levels on the Missouri River after recent rains caused renewed flooding concerns in some areas.

The State Emergency Management Agency said a heavier-than-expected rainfall of 1½ to 2 inches fell over the weekend in the Missouri River Basin.

Flash flooding was reported in some areas, and most of the Young Riverfront Park in Riverside was underwater. SEMA also says a sinkhole has been reported on a spur of Missouri 45.

But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports that the good news is that two Holt County levees it is monitoring are holding and aren't expected to be overtopped.

backyard clotheslines and washboard secrets

TheContraryFarmer | Most people would not want to be without their clothes dryer, but there’s something lost for every gain. What you lose with a dryer, besides the money and the energy it costs to run it, is that heavenly fresh smell of clothes and sheets dried out in the fresh air and sunshine. For both economical and aesthetic reasons, folks with yards like to hang the wash out during the warmer months, even if it is more work.

For a clothesline, use nylon rope, not wire. The wire will rust and the clothes will get stained from it. The easiest way to erect a line is to tie the rope from tree to tree, if possible. Otherwise you have to set poles in the ground — and very solidly, since the weight of a line full of wet sheets is considerable.

Steel or wood posts are fine. If wood, use a kind that resists rot. Put the posts 3 feet in the ground and pour cement around them to a thickness of 3 to 4 inches. By notching a crossarm solidly in the top of each wood post, you can run two parallel lines. If using threaded pipe for a post, a T-union and extensions of pipe at the top will provide a sturdy crossarm.

How far apart the posts should be will depend, of course, on how much wash you need to dry at one time. The distance between posts should hardly exceed 40 to 50 feet, or the line will sag too much or get too heavy to prop up easily. The prop is a necessary addition to the line. It is set in the middle between posts to make sure a loaded line does not drag on the ground. The tops of the posts where the line ties on should be at least 8 feet from the ground. The prop should be about 10 feet long. A branch with a Y tip to accept the line, or a 1 by 2-inch board with a V notch in one end will work fine. The prop is set under the line and, on a windy day, should be somewhat pointed toward the wind. The weight of the clothes will hold it up.

the preppie lifestyle...,

Video - National Geographic doomsday prepper documentary

canned bacon - roll your own

BackwoodsHome | Armed with the knowledge that it was possible to can bacon and the desire to have a stock of canned bacon lining our shelves, I decided to delve into the process of canning bacon at home. After researching canned bacon through Internet sources and looking in every canning book I owned, to no avail, I decided to pioneer my own method.

Talking to numerous friends who had tried to can their own bacon, only to feed the horrible, greasy, wadded up mess to the dogs, I looked to the cans of bacon I had bought, and liked, to give me a clue how to home can bacon. The main difference between the home canned bacon and the commercially canned bacon seemed to be the paper used to package the bacon and the lack of water added to the can.

Lay another piece of masking paper over the top of the bacon then fold it in half.

Tightly roll up the bacon and paper and slide it into the jar.

My first attempt to can bacon met with measurable success. I laid the raw bacon slices out on a large piece of brown paper, folded the bacon in half and rolled the bacon, paper and all, into a large roll that slid right into my wide-mouthed canning jar. I put a sterilized lid and ring on the jar, processed for 90 minutes in my pressure canner and out came beautiful jars of home-canned bacon. The real test came the next morning, when we opened a jar for breakfast.

The jar of bacon had about 1½ inches of juice at the bottom and another inch of grease that had collected on top of that. I opened the jar, tugged at the paper slightly, and the roll of bacon slid right out. It unrolled well, but when I attempted to unfold the paper, the bacon stuck to itself where it had been folded. We had thick half-strips of bacon rather than long, thinner strips of bacon. Although short, they cooked up wonderfully and tasted just like crisp, fresh cooked bacon. Other than the bacon sticking to itself, the experiment had been very successful. Now I knew why the commercially canned bacon had a layer of paper on the bottom of the bacon and another on the top. The top layer of paper keeps the bacon from cooking together while it is canning.

Originally, I had opened up a paper lunch sack and used that to lay the bacon on for canning. Knowing that would not be practical for canning large quantities of bacon, as you had to overlap two bags and then open another two to cover the bacon, my oldest daughter began looking for an alternative. She came up with 12-inch masking paper that you can buy in the hardware store. It comes in a large roll and costs less than $5. It is very convenient to roll out the amount you need. You can also use parchment paper, purchased at a large grocery or specialty store.

A sale on bacon at our local restaurant supply store was the incentive to give canning bacon another try. This time I was even more prepared with experience and the proper supplies.


Video - When the Levee Breaks" is a blues song written and first recorded by husband and wife Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie in 1929. The song is in reaction to the upheaval caused by the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.

SouthwestIowaNews | A Pottawattamie County levee was intentionally blown up Friday morning by an unidentified group of citizens.

Pottawattamie County public information officer and County Attorney Matt Wilber said authorities were not notified before the explosion and are investigating who was involved with the decision and execution of the act.

The county was aware previously that a group of citizens wanted to breach the levee to drain pooling water back into the river.

Wilber said the citizens – who operate Vanmann No. 30 Levee – built the levee higher after seeing inundation maps from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May in an attempt to keep water out. But when a natural breach occurred in Harrison County on June 25, water began to pool behind the new fortified levee.

The county was notified that a group of citizens wanted to breach the levee on June 26.

Pottawattamie County Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Theulen met with the group that evening and informed them that they would likely need the permission of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, before such an activity could take place.

Wilber said Theulen also cautioned that any activity undertaken by them that affected the flow of water would be at their own risk should the lives and property of others be impacted.

On Tuesday, the Iowa DNR determined that it did not have authority to regulate the levee and the Corps indicated Friday morning it had no authority to regulate the levee either since it was not a federal levee.

Wilber said Theulen received a telephone call at 9:50 a.m. Friday from Harrison County Emergency Management Coordinator Larry Oliver. Oliver notified Theulan that the Vanmann No. 30 Levee might be in the process of being intentionally breached via explosives.

At 10:10 a.m., the Pottawattamie County Emergency Operations Center received a complaint call from a private citizen who had apparently witnessed the explosion and wanted to know “why the county was blowing up levees.”

Wilber said Pottawattamie County did not participate in this intentional levee breach.

“It is our understanding that neither the State of Iowa, nor the Army Corps of Engineers, nor any other governmental entity, had anything to do with the detonation,” he said.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

what happens when the ignorant pretend at a "scientific" study of the insane...,

CommonGround | The recent success of and growing interest in the cognitive science of religion (csr) indicates that it has a lot of potential not only for the comparative study of religion but also for the cognitive neurosciences. Despite these successes, we should not be blind to the fact that a number of challenges must be overcome in order to ensure future growth in the field. My own list of challenges, idiosyncratic as it may be, looks like this:
– accommodating current breakthroughs in the social neurosciences ;
– bringing deficient methodological paradigms to terms with cutting edge philosophy of science ;
– obtaining both cross-cultural and ecological validity of current psychological hypotheses ;
– broadening perspectives and theories to accommodate the accumulated knowledge and breakthroughs in the comparative study of religion ;
– broadening perspectives and theories to accommodate the accumulated knowledge and breakthroughs in semiotics, history, literature and linguistics ;
– recruiting young scholars, especially women scholars, and encouraging exchange between the few cognitive science of religion centers and research units that exist in the world.
In a word, current cognitive science of religion is too much mind and not enough brain, body and culture. It is swiftly becoming esoteric in the sense that many studies are coming out now which are exclusively and narrowly concerned with proving the hypotheses of an earlier generation of csr pioneers and are thus failing to pay attention to current trends in cognate sciences. A significant portion of the csr is caught in a limbo, as it were, of its own choosing, by methodologically ignoring neural correlates on the one hand and cultural constraints on the other. Thus, many of its results are disembodied, disembrained and disencultured.

I am firmly convinced, however, that we need more scholars of religion to participate in the cognitive science of religion. If we don’t, then psychologists, anthropologists and neurologists will do it for us. I, for one, am not satisfied with simply ignoring the challenges that the cognitive sciences present to the comparative study of religion. Our colleagues in the cognitive science of religion deserve a much more qualified response than they have been getting from some quarters.

Unfortunately, research on this perhaps most important aspect of the study of religion is seriously hampered on all sides for a variety of reasons. What one would assume to be the closest and most relevant discipline in the study of human cognition, namely psychology, has been of little assistance. Either religion is not considered to be a serious area of research or those who do pursue the psychology of religion often do so for religious or spiritual reasons which clearly influence the kinds of questions asked, the people studied and the conclusions drawn. Furthermore, the results are based on American and, when comparative, European, mainly Christian and Judaic, populations. And, as Henrich and colleagues’ humorous title indicates, these are simply the WEIRDest people in the world (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic).

a search on "entheogens" yields zip, zilch, nada...,

ISHE | Like rivers histories of scientific disciplines have many tributaries. The human ethology tributary I know best begins in a paper given by Eibl-Eibesfeldt at a 1965 conference in Minnesota. Eibl was invited by the originators of the conference - Eckhard Hess, a one-time-student of Lorenz, and several child psychologists interested in strengthening interdisciplinary connections. In his paper Eibl (1967) argued that the concepts of fixed action pattern, IRM, releasing stimuli, spontaneity, and play that ethologists found useful were also of great importance for every student of human behavior (p. 141). As far as I can determine, this melding of ethology with human research interests was a first in the area of child behavior and development. A year earlier, Detlev Ploog (1964) made an analogous move aimed at establishing connections between psychiatry and ethology. In a very scholarly paper, written in German and hence virtually unknown to English-speaking readers, Ploog laid the foundations for a comparative/behavioral approach to psychiatric phenomena: his suggestions covered topics ranging from 'brain mechanisms and instinctual behavioral stereotypies to social behavior and structures.

As Eibl started moving his program forward, Dan Freedman, working in Chicago, was establishing novel links between evolutionary theory and human infant behavior, as well as pioneering an evolutionary approach to research on the life cycle. At the same time, others such as Ambrose, Bowlby, Blurton Jones, van Cranach, Crook, Esser, Ekman, Hutt & Hutt were also in the process of establishing connections between ethology and psychology. In short, by the end of the sixties, a variety of tributaries were feeding into the slowly widening river channel of human ethology.

By 1972, as a result of informal contacts among Chicago, Eibl's group in Seewiesen and Minnesota, a small group of somewhat innocent, self-labeled human ethologists held the first international meeting at the University of Minnesota. Attendance consisted mostly of German. Canadian, and American studcnts. It was a modest beginning to say the least, but it did lead later to two much larger, more sophisticated meetings. The first was held in Percha/Starnberg (Eibl's first research station); the second immediately followed in London under the sponsorship of Nick Blurton Jones. Both meetings were very well-attended and, despite much healthy disagreement on about nearly everything, it became apparent that substantive scientific enterprise was a in the making.

But more than meetings were taking place in 1972. That year Blurton Jones' Ethological Studies of Child Behavior appeared in print. This collection of very promising papers launched a serious commitment to do two things most human ethologists liked to do back then - develop objective methods for observing, categorizing, and organizing behavior, and talking about their subject matter in terms of evolutionary theory. In the foreword top the volume, Tinbergen gave the newly emerging discipline a boost by stressing the need for psychology ("not yet really a science") to build its foundations on "the observation and description of .... natural phenomena" (p. vii), undertaking, in the process, the work of building ethograms, a labor-intensive program of research so productively engaged in by him and Lorenz.

During this same year, Bill McGrew's (1972) volume, An Ethological Study of Children, also appeared; it was a methodological tour de force demonstrating ways to meet the challenge posed by the task of observing and categorizing preschoolers' behavior. Also, at the time, John Bowlby's work on attachment was awakening child psychologists and psychiatrists to the value of taking evolutionary theory seriously. In summary, things were on the move but much of the activity critics claimed, was at the level of "ethologizing". Human ethologists reputedly were over-speculating on the evolutionary origins and functions of human behavior, and wildly extrapolating from animals to humans when they should have begun building human ethograms and discovering novel phenomena.

As a personal note, when I met Eibl, I had grown tired of testing children for Piagetian cognitive structures. I had come to Piaget via general developmental psychology. About a decade earlier, I had been introduced to comparative/experimental psychology by Bob (W.R.) Thompson and ended up working in his rat laboratory at Wesleyan University (Connecticut). Other professors, at that time, did not share Bob's biological leanings, so using the term "instinct" in some classes was a misdemeanor quickly to be corrected by appropriate extinction methods. I realize the weaknesses (operational and conceptual) of the term, but they did not seem to me any more pronounced than the weaknesses of the term "learning". In addition to comparative animal research, Thompson was also well into behavior genetics with John Fuller even though genetics was unpopular in psychology at the time.

As an occasional champion of unpopular causes, I was motivated to extend the biological approach to the study of children when I went to Cornell. When I arrived, I quickly discovered that environmentalism was in strong command. Interestingly, though, animal work was always recognized as a possible source of hypotheses about human behavior, especially if it had anything to do with critical periods for learning. Harlow's work on the effects of social deprivation on rhesus monkeys quickly captured everyone's attention (and devout allegiance) in child development. I found this curious because other animal analogues usually got short shrift if they suggested that instincts were lurking somewhere within them. What was also curious was that Lorenz was condemned by a sizable segment of the faculty as a reactionary nativist. The same faculty, though, enthusiastically acknowledged his imprinting studies, which, it was obvious (to me at least), were classical examples of a gene/environment interaction rather than unmitigated genetic determinism.

Also at the time, it became apparent to me that caging and depriving monkeys was not scientifically superior to studying them in their natural habitats. After two years of experimenting with pregnant rats at Wesleyan, it was refreshing later to hear Eibl describe his warm and humorous relationship with his polecat. It struck me that a significant difference between ethologists and comparative psychologists at the time was that the former viewed their research subjects as friends to understand while the latter viewed them as research objects to manipulate. Recognizing individuals for what they are (as well as what their peculiar environments require of them) seems to me a much more interesting and humane way to study and deal with humans (and animals) than conceptualizing them solely as objects to be used to test hypotheses.

Of course, psychologists have been studying individual differences since the 19th century, but their data have been mostly test scores (reaction time, intelligence. personality, etc.) and hardly ever observational data connecting such differences with differences in success and failure in everyday adaptation. Studying individuals adapting to their environments is very different from testing them; it is also a lot more difficult.

As I got to understand ethology better, a number of its features struck me as very interesting. The major one was that, for a human ethologist perhaps more than for any other behavioral scientist, daily experience and scientific scholarship can never be totally separate. The former feeds the latter with a steady stream of fresh ideas and potential data; the latter controls the former and keeps it from becoming a subjective, unproductive morass. But what really makes this happy symbiosis distinctively ethological is evolutionary theory: it is always lurking in the background suggesting that what happens today on a daily basis may be a very old story with a predictable, long term outcome, or, maybe, a new story with a significant but unknown end. How can one lose?

Another feature of ethology I find attractive was best expressed by the mother of Barbara Pym (modern British author) when she presumably was giving Barbara tips on studying people as potential characters in her books: Mother said, "See what you can find out without asking." Those of us who work with infants or young children understand such advice so well. Asking children questions can be frustrating and perplexing, as well as hilarious (especially when asking gifted children). Asking adults questions, especially questions having to do with resources and inclusive fitness matters, can frequently be an unproductive enterprise.

Establishing human ethology as a branch of ethology, as we all know, has not been free of impediments. Accepting a biological (and especially an evolutionary) approach to studying human behavior has frequently released a whole range of accusations - genetic predeterminism, reductionism, over-simplificationism, sexism, racism, the especially pernicious aim of telling too many adaptationist stories, etc. Much of this criticism is understandable when it comes from those unfamiliar with how science operates and the difficulties ethologists face when doing research on subject matter that is both complex and virtually always out of control. It is less understandable when it comes from other ethologists. Robert Hinde (l979), for example, has noted that "carving up science along phyletic lines smacks of a regression to nineteenth century science" (p. 645) and that "human ethology comes near to being a contradiction in terms" (p. 646). Hinde's main worry seemed to be that human ethologists would not only lose the comparative approach that proved so useful to ethology in general, but also be very tempted to attribute more causal status to evolution in accounting for human behavior than warranted.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

riyadh wants nukes if tehran gets them...,

Video - Kingfish cons Amos N Andy into some wrasslin

Guardian | A senior Saudi Arabian diplomat and member of the ruling royal family has raised the spectre of nuclear conflict in the Middle East if Iran comes close to developing a nuclear weapon.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington, warned senior Nato military officials that the existence of such a device "would compel Saudi Arabia … to pursue policies which could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences".

He did not state explicitly what these policies would be, but a senior official in Riyadh who is close to the prince said yesterday his message was clear.

"We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don't. It's as simple as that," the official said. "If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit."

Officials in Riyadh said that Saudi Arabia would reluctantly push ahead with its own civilian nuclear programme. Peaceful use of nuclear power, Turki said, was the right of all nations.

Turki was speaking earlier this month at an unpublicised meeting at RAF Molesworth, the airbase in Cambridgeshire used by Nato as a centre for gathering and collating intelligence on the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

According to a transcript of his speech obtained by the Guardian, Turki told his audience that Iran was a "paper tiger with steel claws" that was "meddling and destabilising" across the region.

"Iran … is very sensitive about other countries meddling in its affairs. But it should treat others like it expects to be treated. The kingdom expects Iran to practise what it preaches," Turki said.

Turki holds no official post in Saudi Arabia but is seen as an ambassador at large for the kingdom and a potential future foreign minister,

Diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and published by the Guardian last year revealed that King Abdullah, who has ruled Saudi Arabia since 2005, had privately warned Washington in 2008 that if Iran developed nuclear weapons "everyone in the region would do the same, including Saudi Arabia".

Saudi Arabian diplomats and officials have launched a serious campaign in recent weeks to rally global and regional powers against Iran, fearful that their country's larger but poorer regional rival is exploiting the Arab Spring to gain influence in the region and within the kingdom itself.

Turki also accused Iran of interfering in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and in the Gulf state of Bahrain, where Saudi troops were deployed this year as part of a Gulf Co-operation Council force following widespread protests from those calling for greater democratic rights.

Though there has previously been little public comment from Riyadh on developments in Syria, Turki told his audience at Molesworth that President Bashar al-Assad "will cling to power till the last Syrian is killed".

Syria presents a dilemma for Saudi policymakers: although they would prefer not to see popular protest unseat another regime in the region, they view the Damascus regime, which is dominated by members of Syria's Shia minority, as a proxy for Iran.

"The loss of life [in Syria] in the present internal struggle is deplorable. The government is woefully deficient in its handling of the situation," Turki said at the Molesworth meeting, which took place on 8 June.

Though analysts say demonstrations in Bahrain were not sectarian in nature, two senior Saudi officials in Riyadh said this week that Tehran had mobilised the largely Shia protesters against the Sunni rulers of the Gulf state. Iran has a predominantly Shia population. Around 15% of Saudis are Shia. The officials described this minority, which suffers extensive discrimination despite recent attempts at reform, as "vulnerable to external influence".

Though there has been negligible unrest internally, Saudi Arabia has been shaken by the events across the Arab world in recent months and has watched anxiously as a number of allies – such as President Hosni Mubarak – have been ousted or have found themselves in grave difficulties. President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen is being treated in a Saudi Arabian hospital for wounds caused by a mysterious blast that forced him to leave his country this month.

The former Tunisian ruler Zine al-Abedine ben Ali, whose relations with Riyadh were complex, is reported to have been housed in a luxurious villa in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah after he fled his homeland for Saudi Arabia.

Saudi officials admitted that decision-makers in Saudi Arabia were "not keen" on demonstrators ousting governments, but said they were "even less keen on killing and massacres".

Turki also warned that al-Qaida has been able to create "a sanctuary not unlike Pakistan's tribal areas" in Yemen.

Saudi Arabian foreign policy historically has been pro-western, although differences have emerged with the United States in recent years. The Arab Spring has also caused some tension, with the deployment of troops in Bahrain opposed by Washington.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Bro. Mak and Big Don differ....,

"The history of Afrika prior to the arrival of Western Europeans ..."

was never written in any kind of First Person perspective, because they were so IQ-70 primitive that no pre-colonial Africans had a written language. African history was written 100's 1000's of years after the fact by "researchers" who had an agenda to make 'em look good, i.e., early Africans had calculus, airplanes,thriving modern cities etc... WTF? They didn't even know how to make sailboats until the first White people showed up. And Ayi Kwei Armah was born in 1939, all he had to work with was handed-down mythology...

BD understands that Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who ran a hospital in Western Africa for 20 years in the early 20th century, had some pretty on-the-mark insights before all his German language documents and letters were translated and sanitized by political correctness. This material was on the internet back in the 90's but it has all been cleaned out by Google liberals and others. Schweitzer called the Africans sub-human. Now, seriously looking into *that* would make a dandy Phd dissertation...

WRT continuous physical fighting among groups of Americans in America, why didn't you bring up the Bloods and the Crips...?? Where all it takes is a glance to start the fighting, " 'Fug you lookin' at...??" 

Artifacts of imported primitive African culture...ROTFLMWAO.

Historically, Americans are not nationally aggressive and do not attack unless attacked or national security is seriously threatened.

The history of Afrika prior to the arrival of Western Europeans was the continuous formation of large, productive, and wealthy empires. Based on these cycles of development other empires would have risen out of the ashes of the Songhai Empire, just as Songhai rose after the fall of the Mali Empire. Neither the Afrikan, nor the Native American was prepared for strangers with the culturally structured thought of Europeans. If either group had known then what they know now, instead of welcoming these strangers, they would have cut their heads off. As Ayi Kwei Armah writes: "A ruinous openness we had. For those who came as beggars, turned to snakes after feeding. The suspicious among us had pronounced fears, incomprehensible to our spirit then, words generosity failed to understand. 'These are makers of carrion,' the wary ones said, ' do not shelter them. See their eyes, their noses. Such are the beaks of all the desert's predatory birds.' We laughed at the fearful ones, gave the askers shelter. And watched them unsuspicious, watched them turn in the fecundity of our way, turn into the force that pushed us till the proper flowing of all our people, the way itself became a lonely memory for abandoned minds." And for this a bastard asks for thanks. Go straight to Hell in a gasoline jacket--bastard.

Civilized people don't routinely physically fight continuously within their own country. -- Don

They just continuously fight in other peoples countries, which is okay in revenge-warped minds. They are always willing to sacrifice thousands of men and women to death and debilitating injuries and even more to psychological damage as long as they serve as "gangsters for capitalism." Their barbarism abroad will eventually kill what they consider to be civilization at home.

real christianity is still illegal in 2011

Guardian | An understanding of the medieval cult of martyrs' relics can help open our minds to the otherness of beliefs in today's world. Shortly after I entered my convent in 1962, the entire community processed to the altar one Sunday evening to kiss a reliquary that, I was told, contained a fragment of Jesus's swaddling clothes. In those early days I was ready to swallow anything but I balked at this. It seemed as preposterous as the claim of Chaucer's Pardoner that his pillowcase was a piece of the Virgin Mary's veil.

For similar reasons, I suspect, some may feel that the new exhibition at the British Museum, Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe, is not for them. In recent years the museum has performed the immensely important task of helping the public to appreciate cultures, such as Babylonia, Shia Iran and Afghanistan, that play a critical role in contemporary politics; next year, there will be a major exhibition on the Hajj. But unless we come to terms with our own past, we cannot hope to understand the beliefs and enthusiasms of others.

Far from being an unfortunate eruption of popular religion, historians such as Peter Brown have taught us that the cult of relics was in fact a serious attempt to explore the full dimensions of our humanity; surprisingly, it has much to teach us today. A ritualised journey to a holy place, where pilgrims encounter the divine, has been an important practice in nearly all religious traditions. The Hajj exhibition will show how crucial the pilgrimage to Mecca has been to Muslim spirituality, and Treasures of Heaven explores the development of Christian pilgrimage.

Because Christians were persecuted by the Roman imperial authorities for nearly 300 years, they were unable to build their own cult centres. But by the time Christianity was legalised in 312, they had begun to locate the divine in other human beings, a controversial idea that inspired intense debates about the divinity of Jesus. If a mere man could embody the sacred, what were the implications for the rest of us? "God became human," replied Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, "so that humans can become divine." Nobody had revealed this divine dimension of humanity more clearly than the martyrs, who were revered as "other Christs" because they had followed Jesus to their death. Their tombs became the new Christian holy places.

official suppression of "dying god" mystery made people crazy...,

Guardian | Relics may be no more than fragments of tortured bodies, but to Anglo-Saxons they promised a glimpse of heaven and were enshrined in glorious works of art, as the British Museum's magnificent exhibition shows. In 1190, Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, himself destined to be canonised one day, visited the abbey of Fécamp in Normandy, to venerate the monastery's greatest treasure, an arm bone of St Mary Magdalene. The relic was duly produced, sheathed in silk, but Hugh sliced open the wrapping, to see and kiss the bone. Then, to the mounting horror of the monks, he tried to break off a piece, and when that failed, gnawed at it, first with his incisor and then with his molar teeth, at last snapping off and pocketing two splinters. What he had done, he declared defiantly, had honoured the saint as Christians honour their Lord when they receive his body and blood in communion.

That notorious incident brings into focus some of the central themes of the British Museum's magnificent new exhibition. St Hugh's startling behaviour reflected these themes: the universal medieval belief that relics, the fragmented bodies of the saints, were charged with holiness and power, worth journeying great distances to see; the prestige which ownership of such relics brought (the Burgundian abbey of Vézelay was a rival claimant to Mary Magdalene's relics); ambiguity over whether the power of the relic could be tapped through its appearance – concealed in this instance by its silken cover – or by brute physical contact with its sanctified matter; the comparison between the holiness of the relics of the saints, and the holiness of the body and blood of Christ in the Mass; and finally the lengths to which some would go to secure even tiny fragments of the relic for their own church or community.

The cult of relics was already a thousand years old when Hugh staged his raid on the relic-house at Fécamp. In the earliest eyewitness martyrdom story, the account of the execution and cremation of Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna in AD156, the narrator tells how "we took up his bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather . . . to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom". The martyr's shrine and the remains of his shattered body were defiant affirmations of the central Christian belief, that defeat in the cause of Christ was in fact a transcendent victory. The body brutalised by torture and death would shine one day in glory, as Christ's risen body shone, and was already a channel of divine healing and consolation. Christians flocked to the graves of the martyrs, and treasured oil or water or cloth that had come into contact with their blood or bones.

The prestige of these shrines was so great that it seemed to threaten the institutional authority of the church and its bishops, but the problem was solved by moving the bodies of the martyrs under the cathedral altars. The charisma of the saint was thereby united to the power of the institution, the grave of the martyr identified with the tomb of Christ, relic and eucharist joined in a single overwhelming nexus of holiness. One of the most dramatic objects in the exhibition is a sixth-century marble altar, from Ravenna or Constantinople. On it, theatrically carved curtains are drawn back to reveal a central void, through which the faithful could have access to the relics of the saint in the shrine below.

As this suggests, initially it was the grave of martyrs that was the holy place (and later, the grave of any holy person). In the conservative west there was at first reluctance to divide holy bodies. When the Empress Constantina asked Pope Gregory the Great for the head of St Paul, he responded with horror stories of workmen struck dead for accidentally disturbing the apostle's rest, and sent her instead holy oil and "brandea", pieces of cloth, which had been in contact with the relics. But escalating demand made the division of the bodies of the saints necessary, and the dismemberment the saints had endured in their martyrdoms may have made it seem symbolically appropriate. The Fifth Council of Carthage required every altar to have relics "buried" within it, and as Christianity spread north and west, demand greatly exceeded supply. In the churches of Carolingian Europe and Anglo-Saxon England, the relics of the martyrs of the early Roman church were prized above all, symbols of Christian triumph over the still potent forces of paganism, and at the same time a coveted link to the glories of ancient Rome. One ninth-century Roman deacon, Deusdona, ran a lucrative international trade in holy bodies, ransacking the Roman catacombs for the bones of "saints" and sending them by mule-train to the kings, bishops and monasteries eager to acquire them. And those unable to procure a whole body had to settle for a skull, a rib or a finger bone.

mighty missouri defies the corps

Video - Arnie Gundersen on Five O'clock Shadow with Robert Knight, WBAI, June 28, 2011 at 5:00 pm EDT

CapJournal | In the nearly two-centuries-long interaction between the Missouri and the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the river has repeatedly defied the Army’s attempts at control. Today, the Army faces its greatest challenge to its regulation of the Mighty Mo.

As of June 25, Fort Peck reservoir is at 109.6 percent of capacity. The lake is so full that water is now flowing through the dam’s emergency spillway. Because the Army does not have the ability to halt the flows through the spillway without threatening the structural integrity of the dam, the dam and reservoir have lost the ability to curtail the Missouri. For all intents and purposes, the Missouri has defeated Fort Peck Dam. Water is passing through the reservoir and moving on downstream and the Army cannot stop it.

But that isn’t even the full story. The Rocky Mountain snowpack in Montana is now melting in earnest. In places, that snowpack had been at 140 percent of normal. That melt water (minus evaporation, seepage, and human withdrawals) is going to pass through Fort Peck reservoir. Then there is the issue of rainfall. The National Weather Service recently predicted above average precipitation across the northern plains for the next three months. The rains are going to come. As a matter of fact, portions of the Upper Missouri Basin may receive heavy, drenching rains in the next few days. If Montana receives additional monsoonal rains, that rainwater is going to pass through Fort Peck reservoir.

The next bulwark against the Missouri is Garrison Dam, situated 70 miles north of Bismarck. Garrison is a colossus. The dam rises 210 feet above the riverbed and stretches a little over two miles long from valley wall to valley wall. Lake Sakakawea possesses an elevation of 1854 feet above sea level when at full capacity. Today, the reservoir’s level stands at 1854.48 feet, which is equal to 103 percent of capacity. Garrison Dam can move 41,000 cfs through its five power tunnels and 98,000 cfs through its three flood tunnels (this figure is from the Omaha District’s website). Unfortunately, the dam’s tunnels have been unable to match the reservoir’s inflows. Consequently, the Missouri is now pushing 11,500 cfs through Garrison’s spillway. A second big dam athwart the Missouri can no longer stem the Great Flood.

Below Garrison, the Army built Oahe Dam. It is one of the world’s largest structures. At full capacity, Oahe’s reservoir has an elevation of 1620 feet above sea level. At present, the reservoir is at 1619.28 feet. Oahe can push a maximum of 167,000 cfs through its seven power tunnels and six flood tunnels. Oahe has only seven tenths of a foot of freeboard left before the Missouri laps against its spillway gates. The Army can increase discharges from Oahe from the present 150,300 cfs to 167,000 cfs to keep the river from the spillway — but doing so raises the flood threat to Fort Pierre and Pierre. Yet, to keep discharge levels at 150,300 cfs risks having the river enter the spillway and then discharge its uncontrolled waters downstream, where they will still inflict damage. If the Missouri goes into Oahe’s spillway, the river will have rendered it ineffective in halting the river’s greatest deluge. Big Bend Dam near Chamberlain has already had water through its spillway. It cannot stop the Missouri. Fort Randall is the last major Army bastion against the Missouri.

There is still 3.72 feet of freeboard in its reservoir (although on June 14th it had almost 12 feet of freeboard) before the Missouri enters its spillway. If the river goes through its spillway, the lower valley from Yankton south will have no protection whatsoever from the river. The Missouri will flow free and unchecked through the Army’s reservoirs and dam spillways. Gavin’s Point Dam does not have the reservoir capacity to absorb floodwaters emanating out from Fort Randall — it has to immediately release those high flows.

The Army is on the cusp of losing its already tenuous hold on the Missouri. Its military officers and civilian engineers and hydrologists know it. It is why they are feverishly attempting to drain the Dakota reservoirs as quickly as possible. The problem is that they may be too late. Great quantities of melt water have yet to enter the system.

At this writing, thunderstorms are predicted for northeastern Nebraska, northwestern Iowa, and the Dakotas. The big question is whether the Army’s controlled flood, with its 160,000 cfs out of Gavin’s Point Dam, will be sufficient to drain the reservoirs fast enough and open up additional storage capacity.

If it does, the Army will regain a semblance of control along the river. If those releases are not enough, and the river goes into the emergency spillways of every upstream dam, the lower river will face an uncontrolled flood that may surpass anything in living memory. Valley residents can only hope that the Army’s dominoes hold back the Missouri.

Robert Kelley Schneiders, Ph.D., environmental historian with Eco InTheKnow, LLC, P.O. Box 4393, Boulder, CO 80306,, author of “Unruly River: Two Centuries of Change Along the Missouri,” and “Big Sky Rivers: The Yellowstone and Upper Missouri.”