Monday, January 23, 2012

aljazeera goes in on russia today..,

aljazeera | Murder in Tehran could be the title of the latest Hollywood blockbuster, but this is not a movie.

On January 11, the fourth Iranian nuclear scientist to be assassinated in two years was blown up by a magnetic bomb attached to his car door. And while the media did not reveal Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan's assassin, they did reveal their own agendas and double standards.

Iranian media instantly pointed the finger at Israel. As ever, the Israelis neither confirmed nor denied. Over in the US and the UK, mainstream media outlets used his death as yet another beat in the drum roll for war against the Islamic Republic.

In this week's News Divide, we look at what the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist says about the news media and their own agendas.

Quick hits from Listening Post Newsbytes: Thousands of websites go offline to protest against proposed anti-piracy legislation; the Indian government backs a court order that could have implications for leading internet companies; the trial of a prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist comes to an end but the sentence is little comfort for supporters; and Pakistan's poor record on investigating murder cases involving journalists just got worse.

News channel or propaganda tool?

In 2005, the Kremlin created Russia Today, or RT, as it is now known. RT is an international news channel set up to rival Western news channels and to provide a Russian perspective. The network has since added two more channels, broadcasting in Spanish and Arabic. RT's English-language project is getting mixed reviews. Its criticism of Washington's political agenda is relentless and it has a penchant for off-beat stories and conspiracy theories.

In this week's feature, Listening Post's Ana de Sousa looks at a channel that seems more interested in reviving the Cold War than reporting what is really happening in Russia today.

Our Internet Video of the Week comes from a California-based duo named Corridor Digital. The pair spend their time producing mini-films that they post online. Their latest offering was shot in the streets of Los Angeles and shows a man fighting off death - with a spray can. Bringing graffiti to life, the video has racked up nearly two million hits online. We are sure you will like it as much as we did.

irish field negroism leaves european central banker speechless

BusinessInsider | In the video below, Irish journalist Vincent Browne presses Klaus Masuch, head of the ECB's countries division, over the premises behind the ECB's approach to Ireland's fiscal issues.

Browne hits Masuch hard on the question of why the Irish people should be forced to protect unguaranteed bondholders.

Masuch's response is, well, less than thorough.

Things start getting good at about the 1:15 mark Fist tap Dale.

icelandic field negroism loose in hungary...,

aljazeera | More than 100,000 people have marched in the Hungarian capital in support of Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, who is under fire from the European Union and at home over controversial reforms.

The demonstration, which headed for the parliament in Budapest, was organised by Orban's ruling centre-right Fidesz party.

The long procession dubbed the "Peace March for Hungary" left Heroes' Square at 4pm (15:00 GMT) on Saturday and began arriving two hours later at the Neo-Gothic legislature on the banks of the Danube River.

The European Commission has given Hungary a month to change some laws, particularly those related to the independence of the central bank.

The laws have impeded talks with the EU over a $25bn credit from the bloc and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Orban is to meet Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, in Brussels on Tuesday.

The prime minister has said that "a political agreement" will likely be reached at that meeting.

Many marchers carried Hungarian flags, candles, torches and signs expressing their support for Orban.

Al Jazeera's Rory Challands, reporting from Budapest, said that Orban had before him a very difficult choice.

"If he doesn't capitulate to the EU and the IMF then what that might do is jeapordise the money that the IMF might provide for Hungary to help it out of its dire economic situation," he said.

"If he does capitulate, he runs the risk of looking quite weak in front of his supporters, because he did win a two-thirds majority in 2010 ... but since then his opinion polls have been sliding and he is not nearly as popular as he was.

"We have seen that thanks to exaggerated and biassed reports, our country is being portrayed in an unjust and undignified way and that is harming our economy and our people," the organisers said in their call to protest.

"We want nothing else than for the people of Europe and the United States to understand that we want to live in freedom, within the framework of democracy, by respecting others.

"We democrats believe in our nation's independence, we believe in its future and its present."

Demonstrators came from all over Hungary, as well as from neighbouring countries with large ethnic Hungarian populations, such as Romania and Slovakia.

Many of those taking part carried Hungarian flags and banners with slogans saying "We love our country, we love Viktor".

The crowd remained peaceful throughout the demonstration, playing drums and repeatedly singing the Hungarian national anthem, as well as revolutionary chants from the 1848 to 1849 rebellion against Austria.

Some marchers brandished anti-EU placards.

pat buchanan teaches a living memory history lesson..,

antiwar | "Bibi" Netanyahu is desperate to have the United States launch air and missile strikes to stop Tehran from becoming the world’s ninth nuclear power. And he is echoed not only by U.S. neocons, but GOP candidates save Ron Paul.

Nor should we be surprised.

To bring America into its war with Germany, Winston Churchill set up William Stephenson, "A Man Called Intrepid," with hundreds of agents in New York to engage in everything from bribery to blackmail of U.S. senators to get the United States to enter the war and pull England’s chestnuts out of the fire.

This is what desperate countries do.

And while America First kept us out of the European war until Adolf Hitler invaded Russia, ensuring that Russians, not Americans, died in the millions to defeat him, eventually America was maneuvered into war.

Whoever is assassinating these Iranian scientists, be it homegrown Iranian terrorists, Jundallah at the instigation of Israel, or Mossad, the objective is clear: Enrage the Iranians so they strike out at America, provoking a U.S.-Iranian war.

Is such a war in America’s interests? Consider.

While U.S. air and naval power would prevail, Iranian civilians would die, as some of their nuclear facilities are in populated areas. Moreover, we cannot kill the nuclear knowledge Iran has gained. Thus we would only set back their nuclear program by several years. And a bloodied and beaten Iran would then go all-out for a bomb.

The regime, behind which its people would rally, would emerge even more entrenched. U.S. bombing did not cause Germans to remove Hitler or Japanese to depose their emperor. And we lack the ground troops to invade and occupy a country three times the size of Iraq.

All U.S. ships, including carriers in that bathtub the Persian Gulf, would be at risk from shore-based anti-ship missiles and the hundreds of missile boats in Iran’s navy. Any sea battle would send oil prices to $200 and $300 a barrel. There goes the eurozone.

Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Shia of the Saudi oil fields and Bahrain, home port to the Fifth Fleet, and Iranian agents in Afghanistan and Iraq could set the region aflame.

As America started up the road to Baghdad in 2003, Gen. David Petraeus is said to have asked, "Tell me how this ends."

Before some agent provocateur pushes us into war with Iran, Congress should debate the wisdom of authorizing President Obama, or anyone else, to take America into her fifth war in a generation in the Middle and Near East.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

what's the matter boss, "we" sick?

Fist tap Nomad.

how the poor get poorer: the bitter truth

the age of stupid: resource wars

the age of stupid: consumerism

umm..., I need to see adler in a twist tie and ankle bracelets...,

Haaretz | The owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, Andrew Adler, has suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu consider ordering a Mossad hit team to assassinate U.S. President Barack Obama so that his successor will defend Israel against Iran.

Adler, who has since apologized for his article, listed three options for Israel to counter Iran’s nuclear weapons in an article published in his newspaper last Friday. The first is to launch a pre-emptive strike against Hamas and Hezbollah, the second is to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and the third is to “give the go-ahead for U.S.-based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice president to take his place and forcefully dictate that the United States’ policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies.”

Adler goes on to write: “Yes, you read “three correctly.” Order a hit on a president in order to preserve Israel’s existence. Think about it. If have thought of this Tom-Clancy-type scenario, don’t you think that this almost unfathomable idea has been discussed in Israel’s most inner circles?”

Adler apologized yesterday for the article, saying “I very much regret it; I wish I hadn’t made reference to it at all,” Adler told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. And in an interview with, Adler denied that he was advocating an assassination of Obama.

The American Jewish Committee in Atlanta last night issued a harsh condemnation of Adler’s article, saying that his proposals are “shocking beyond belief.”

"While we acknowledge Mr. Adler's apology, we are flabbergasted that he could ever say such a thing in the first place. How could he even conceive of such a twisted idea?" said Dov Wilker, director of AJC Atlanta. "Mr. Adler surely owes immediate apologies to President Obama, as well as to the State of Israel and his readership, the Atlanta Jewish community."
Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, also blasted Adler on Friday, saying "There is absolutely no excuse, no justification, no rationalization for this kind of rhetoric. It doesn't even belong in fiction. These are irresponsible and extremist words. It is outrageous and beyond the pale. An apology cannot possibly repair the damage. Irresponsible rhetoric metastasizes into more dangerous rhetoric. The ideas expressed in Mr. Adler's column reflect some of the extremist rhetoric that unfortunately exists -- even in some segments of our community -- that maliciously labels President Obama as an 'enemy of the Jewish people.' Mr. Adler's lack of judgment as a publisher, editor and columnist raises serious questions as to whether he's fit to run a newspaper." Fist tap Bro. Makheru.

wait, wait, wait, we didn't mean it, we didn't mean it!!!

Haaretz | Like most of you, I have never met Andrew B. Adler, owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, but I think we can all agree that the man is spectacularly stupid. In his contorted apologies he has described himself, after all, as “an idiot.”

The three or four infantile paragraphs of vile text that Adler published in his obscure Atlanta newspaper last week, in which he suggested that Israel consider assassinating President Obama, almost slipped under the radar, but was picked up yesterday by, and is now going viral. “A fool may throw a stone into a well which even a hundred wise men cannot pull out”, the saying goes, and it will indeed take a long time and a great effort to undo the damage that Adler has wrought, in one fell swoop, in defaming Israel by implying that it might, in anyone’s wildest dreams, consider such a kooky conspiracy; in staining American Jews by appearing to supposedly represent their twisted way of thinking; and even by undermining the institution of Jewish journalism by exposing that it harbors such birdbrained bozos in its midst.

It is ironic that Adler’s despicable diatribe comes against the backdrop of a fierce blogosphere debate that flared up yesterday about the term “Israel-firsters” and whether it is a legitimate critique or an anti-Semitic slur. Adler, for his part, has provided an example of a sub-specie of “Israel-firsters” that have not only lost track of where their loyalties lie, they have gone off the tracks altogether. He has pleased anti-Zionists and delighted anti-Semites by giving them the kind of “proof” they relish for accusing American supporters of Israel not of “double loyalty” but of one-sided treachery, plain and simple.

Under Israeli law, Adler could be prosecuted for inciting to violence and could be sentenced to five years in jail. I do not purport to know much about the Georgian penal code, but I note that it contains the offense of “criminal solicitation” which occurs “when, with intent that another person engage in conduct constituting a felony, he solicits, requests, commands, importunes, or otherwise attempts to cause the other person to engage in such conduct.” Adler’s column of January 13 might arguably fit the bill.

There is something eerily familiar in all this, of course, for anyone who was present 16 years ago at Tel Aviv’s Kikar Malchei Yisrael, as it was then known, on the night that Yitzhak Rabin was murdered. One can already envisage how Adler will be disowned, described as a “wild weed,” depicted as a lone wolf who does not represent anyone in his or in anyone else’s community and used as a springboard for a righteously indignant, preemptive counteroffensive that will show how his solitary case is being exploited to score points against anyone who legitimately criticizes Obama.

And while we might all stipulate that there is no Jew anywhere in the world who is currently contemplating any act of violence against President Obama, I know, and most of you know, that Adler’s crazy and criminal suggestions are not the ranting of some loony-tune individual and were not taken out of thin air - but are the inevitable result of the inordinate volume of repugnant venom that some of Obama’s political rivals, Jews and non-Jews included, have been spewing for the last three years.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

life as art: the legacy of lynn margulis

RealitySandwich | Richard Dawkins, formidable commander of both the Queen's English and a veritable worldwide army of devoted reductionists, once referred to the late Lynn Margulis as the "high priestess of symbiosis". Was this a warm colourful accolade or a shrewd slight? Given that Dawkins has spent decades steadfastly clinging to his beloved selfish gene paradigm and has even spoken of selfish cooperation when dealing with the symbiotic side of life that Margulis championed, I suspect his sentiment was not entirely benign. Although Dawkins openly admired Margulis for persevering with the theory that various cell organelles evolved through a process of endosymbiosis, and while aware, like any biologist, that the web of life evinces all manner of symbiotic relationships, he always seemed distinctly rattled by the social connotations that symbiosis invariably evokes. After all, unlike the notion of selfish genes, mutually beneficial cooperation sounds nice. Two or more organisms working together in an integrated and coherent way? Why, symbiosis has an almost ‘lovey-dovey' and ‘new-agey' air to it! Goddess forbid that we should draw any social lessons from such intimate biological arrangements! Best, then, to employ a cunning linguistic trick and make this embarrassingly alluring aspect of life disappear. Or at least shove it out of the way. Hence Dawkins use of the clumsy term ‘selfish cooperation' (as opposed to speaking of, say, emergent higher order selves, or even unconscious cooperation).

According to Dawkins, we might be impressed by two living systems working in some sort of mutually beneficial accord but in reality it is nothing more than a convoluted extension of selfishness. Don't be too moved by the astonishing sight of a pollen dusted humming bird feeding on a symbiotic nectar rich bloom! Don't let exotic symbiotic corals (that are a union of an animal and an alga) blow your mind! Don't gloat too long over a picture of a bobtail squid packed full of symbiotic bioluminescent bacteria! Move on people, this symbiosis business is all smoke and mirrors. Life is, at heart, no more than inert bits of digital DNA code that know nothing of cooperation and harmonious coexistence but only the competitive drive to replicate. If their phenotypic expression is involved in some exquisite symbiotic arrangement or another, then this is really beside the point.

Such was the kind of paradigmatic resistance that Margulis was up against. It is probably no coincidence that it was a woman who came to the fore promoting the significance of symbiosis in the evolution of life -- and not just the symbiotic origins of mitochondria and chloroplasts or the symbiosis evinced by corals or flowering plants and their pollinators, but even the emergence of new species through the process of symbiogenesis (this is still a contentious issue -- but examples continue to emerge). Is there something deeply feminine about cooperation? Is the drive for co-existence somehow more active in the female psyche than in the male psyche? In any case, legend tells us that Margulis had a really hard time convincing her academic male superiors that certain organelles within mammalian cells were once free living bacteria. It's one thing to note the symbiotic alliance of, say, cleaner fish with their bigger fish customers (who could easily gobble up the diminutive cleaners if they wanted), but when you realise that mitochondria (the energy engines of animals) and chloroplasts (the energy engines of plants) were once separate living micro-organisms that are now symbiotically woven inside animals and plants, symbiosis emerges as a kind of advanced technique learned by life, so sophisticated and subtle in deployment that we may be blind to it. If, however, we acknowledge the important role symbiosis has played in life's evolution, the way we perceive life begins to change. Life is no longer seen to be wholly red in tooth and claw -- but rather symbiotic in embrace and interchange (at least where possible).

evolving multicellularity

Multicellular Yeast from thescientistllc on Vimeo.

The Scientist | In as little as 100 generations, yeast selected to settle more quickly through a test tube evolved into multicellular, snowflake-like clusters, according to a paper published today (January 16) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Over the course of the experiment, the clusters evolved to be larger, produce multicellular progeny, and even show differentiation of the cells within the cluster—all key characteristics of multicellular organisms.

“It’s very cool to demonstrate that [multicellularity] can happen so quickly,” said evolutionary biologist Mansi Srivastava of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Massachusetts, who was not involved in the research. “Looking at the fossil record, we learned it took a very long time whenever these different transitions to multicellularity happened. Here they show it can happen very quickly.”

“[The study] was provocative,” agreed biochemist Todd Miller of Stony Brook University in New York, who did not participate in the work. “It’s a different way of attacking the problem [of how multicellularity evolved]—coming from a simple system that doesn’t normally do this and seeing what it takes to make it do it.”

The evolution of multicellular life has long intrigued evolutionary biologists. Cells coming together and cooperating for the good of the group goes against basic Darwinian principles. Yet multicellularity has evolved some two dozen times independently in nature, and has shaped the world as we know it.

But because most transitions to multicellularity happened more than 200 million years ago, many questions remain about how it happened. What were the ecological conditions that drove the transitions? And how did organisms overcome the conflicts of interest that accompany any sort of cooperative effort?

Friday, January 20, 2012

at this very moment...,

you know what you need to do today...,

we are the 99%, we do not forgive, we do not forget, expect us...,

city of london now in the crosshairs?

umm..., it was all good!

TheAtlantic | Should Google have taken a stronger stance against SOPA and functionally disabled its search service for the day? Earlier in the day I saw a few people arguing that Google, the number-one most visited site on the Internet, should have pulled a Wikipedia, which holds the number-six spot. Whether you agreed with the protest or not, it seemed indisputable that doing so would have been a stronger statement.

But, now, at the end of the day of protests, I wonder if Google's more subtle position -- blacking out only its logo -- wasn't as effective as Wikipedia's total blackout. After checking out Wikipedia's blacked-out site early in the day, I just didn't visit it again. But Google I used all day, many times, and each time I was reminded of the ongoing protest.

The real strength was not in either's particular approach but in the two together. Without Wikipedia's more splashy approach, Google's black box may have been too small to draw much attention. Without Google's day-long reminder, Wikipedia's blackout might have seemed like the action of a fringe group, the diehards of the site. But cumulatively, along with the many other sites that protested in big and small ways, the statement was powerful. The New York Times is now reporting that 4.5 million people have signed Google's petition against these bills.

Of course, in the end there's really only one metric that matters for effectiveness: whether these bills -- and similar ones down the road -- find their final resting place in the dustbin or in U.S. code.

killer apes: survival of the self-promoters

Physorg | Take the reaction to a recent survey in which about 52 percent of college students rated their emotional health as below average. About half of them are, after all, going to be below average. But the UCLA researchers who did the survey say it indicates a deeper problem. In past surveys, at least 64 percent of the respondents said they were above average.

What's going on here? Are we truly living in Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average?

Several scientists blame evolution for our ego-inflating tendencies - call it survival of the self-promoters.

We naturally tend to puff ourselves up and kid ourselves, says Rutgers University evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers. That's because evolution has shaped many organisms into natural-born liars. In his new book, "The Folly of Fools, Trivers lays out a case that we humans are such good liars we even lie to ourselves.

People tend to overrate themselves on looks, smarts, and leadership ability, he says. Academics, he notes, are particularly deluded - in one survey, 94 percent thought they were in the top half of their profession.

Wouldn't a clear-eyed view of reality give us all the best chance for survival? Not necessarily, says Trivers, since much of our success in life and mating hinges on deception. And what better way to improve our powers of deception than to believe our own lies? It's survival of the deluded.

Trivers achieved scientific prominence in the 1970s, when he revolutionized the scientific understanding of altruistic behavior, showing how it can pay off as long as good deeds are reciprocated. He also pioneered the idea that evolution works at the level of individual genes - a concept Richard Dawkins popularized in his breakout best seller "The Selfish Gene."

Trivers starts his book with a discussion about ordinary deception, which happens throughout the natural world. Male sunfish fight over territory to get a mate, but small male sunfish can avoid all that by imitating females. That way, the little male gets to share the favors of a female with a clueless dominant male. Butterflies take on the appearance of toxic species to avoid being eaten without expending the energy of making toxins.

Among primates, the bigger the brain, the greater the tendency to deceive, says Trivers. We're the dishonest apes. Over the eons, it has been to our ancestors' advantage to convince the world they were nicer, prettier, and smarter than they really were.

Believing your own lies makes you more convincing, as long as you don't go overboard to the point that people laugh at you behind your back. Among children, he says, those who score highest on intelligence tests are most likely to lie to themselves and others.

Humans can also work together to magnify self-deception. In his chapter on religion, he notes the obvious problem with all religions that claim to be the one true system of belief about the one true God. They can't all be right.

From his part-time home in Jamaica, Trivers said he sees a blizzard of deception and self-deception in America today. One antidote, he said, is humor, of the type doled out by his favorite television personalities - Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.