Sunday, September 22, 2013

did gold come from outer space?

bbc | For the chieftains of pre-Columbian America, the dazzling yellow stuff they found glinting at the bottom of streams or buried in the rocky ground captured the power of the sun god. They dressed themselves in battle armour wrought from the enchanted metal, believing it would protect them.

They were sadly deceived.

Gold, an unusually soft metal, wasn't any match for the steel of the Spanish. But the Native Americans may well have been right in believing the element was otherworldly.

"Why do you find nuggets of gold on the surface of the Earth?" asks science writer John Emsley. "The answer to that, is that they've arrived here from space in the form of meteorites."

This theory has come in the last few decades to be held by the majority of scientists as a way of explaining gold's abundance. There may only be 1.3 grams of gold per 1,000 tonnes of other material in the Earth's crust (the rocky shell of the planet that is around 25 miles thick) but that's still too much to fit with the standard models of our planet's formation.

After its birth four-and-a-half billion years ago, the surface of the Earth heaved with volcanoes and molten rock. Then, over tens of millions of years, most of the iron sank down through the outer layer, known as the mantle, to the Earth's core. Gold would have mixed with the iron and sunk with it. Matthias Willbold, a geologist at Imperial College London, likens the process to droplets of vinegar collecting at the bottom of a dish of olive oil.

"All the gold should be gone," he says.

It isn't though. So science has had to come up with an explanation, and the answer currently favoured is - a meteoric shower.

"The theory is that after the core formed there was a meteoric shower that struck the Earth," says Willbold. "These meteorites contained a certain amount of gold and that replenished the Earth's mantle and the continental crust with gold."

Willbold says the theory fits with the pattern of meteorite activity as scientists understand it, climaxing with a huge storm that took place more than 3.8 billion years ago, referred to as the "terminal bombardment". The meteorites punched out the craters we see on the moon and came from an asteroid belt that still exists between Earth and Mars.

This idea of the gold-laden-meteorite "veneer" was first proposed following the Apollo moon landings of the 1970s. Scientists examining rock samples from the moon's mantle found much less iridium and gold than they did in samples from the surface of the moon or from the earth's crust and mantle. It was proposed that the moon and Earth had been battered by iridium-rich meteorites, known as chondrites, from outer space. While the precious fallout from this meteoric shower lay scattered on the surface of the moon, on Earth the planet's internal activity had churned it into the mantle too.

The idea, called the "late veneer hypothesis", has become a fundamental theory in planetary science.

It also helps to explain many other anomalies in the Earth's composition - it is thought that the same meteorites delivered the carbon, nitrogen, water and the amino acids that are vital to all life on the planet.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

stephen colbert is now america's catholic!

slate | Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has always reminded me of the robed men of the Catholic Church in which I grew up: well-fed and saturnine, burbling with derisive erudition, jolly one moment and imperious the next, a weary disgust often flickering at the edges of the brow and lips. These men only really engaged with the boys; the girls always seemed to them to have wandered into the room by mistake. I’ll never forget the look of vague revulsion on the face of the vast monsignor who served Holy Communion at my confirmation, the corners of his mouth pulling down to contain his nausea at the riffraff they let into the church these days. It’s the shape of a mouth reading an acrid Scalia dissent.

For a lot of reasons—because he is the longest-serving and most boisterous member of America’s own Ecumenical Council, because he frequently addresses Catholic groups, because Andy Borowitz says as much—we think of Justice Scalia as “America’s Catholic,” as my Slate colleague Dahlia Lithwick put it in an email. In fact, you could easily imagine him as America’s first Bishop of Rome, or at least his duly appointed representative. Pope Benedict XVI was a fun cartoon villain because of the fumes of nefarious conspiracy wafting off his haute couture threads—he was Mugatu in a chasuble. Scalia wouldn’t have gone shopping with him, but otherwise they were two hearts beating as one: They’re both deeply conservative, nostalgic for “tradition,” rigid in their interpretations of doctrine, belittling of women and gays, and forever erring on the side of consolidating more power—be it political, social, or religious—in the hands of the already powerful.

What Scalia and Benedict also have in common is that, for all their institutional authority, they represent a last stand against the prevailing, decades-long trend toward a more inclusive, liberal Catholic Church. For proof, of course, just look to Pope Francis, the selfie-taking, Twitter-using, biker gang-blessing, money-hating, atheist-redeeming, female-prisoner’s-foot-kissing Jesuit who made liberal Catholics everywhere gnaw ecstatically on their rosaries with an interview in the Jesuit weekly America magazine (excerpts of which were republished in the New York Times). In the interview, he makes it clear that, in contrast to his glamorous predecessor, Francis wants to frame the church as an institution by and for the poor. He’s sharply critical of “authoritarian” decision-making (specifically from his own past), “closed and rigid thought,” and “censorship.” He addresses the church’s views on homosexuality by posing a question that answers itself: “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?” He doesn’t condemn birth control, but he does criticize the church’s obsession with it. Most intriguingly, Francis says, “We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman,” and while I have no idea what that means, I guarantee that this thought never crossed the mind of Antonin Scalia, or of any man who ever dropped a wafer in my mouth at Mass.

is the pope anti-conservative?

slate | The new head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has given his first long interview. In three sessions with Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of the Jesuit publication La Civiltà Cattolica, Francis outlines his thinking on a series of issues, from poverty to homosexuality to women in the church. What does the interview tell us? It tells us the pope is a liberal. He’ll pull the church to the left, not just on sexuality, but on every issue that pits tradition against freedom or progress. Here’s a breakdown of the English translation of the interview, published by the Catholic journal America.

11. Developing dogma. Spadaro, according to his own paraphrase, asks Francis “about the enormous changes occurring in society.” Francis steers this question toward the need for doctrinal reform in the church. He reads Spadaro a passage from St. Vincent of Lerins: “Even the dogma of the Christian religion must follow these laws, consolidating over the years, developing over time, deepening with age.” Francis elaborates:

“Human self-understanding changes with time, and so also human consciousness deepens. Let us think of when slavery was accepted or the death penalty was allowed without any problem. So we grow in the understanding of the truth. Exegetes and theologians help the church to mature in her own judgment. Even the other sciences and their development help the church in its growth in understanding. There are ecclesiastical rules and precepts that were once effective, but now they have lost value or meaning.”

The pope’s meaning is clear: The church, like other institutions, makes mistakes. Four centuries ago, it was wrong about the cosmos. A century and a half ago, it was wrong about slavery. As science develops—about sexual orientation, for instance—will the church “grow in its understanding” and “mature in its judgment”? I can tell you how Francis would answer that question: God knows.

a big heart open to god

americamagazine | This interview with Pope Francis took place over the course of three meetings during August 2013 in Rome. The interview was conducted in person by Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal. Father Spadaro conducted the interview on behalf of La Civiltà Cattolica, America and several other major Jesuit journals around the world. The editorial teams at each of the journals prepared questions and sent them to Father Spadaro, who then consolidated and organized them. The interview was conducted in Italian. After the Italian text was officially approved, America commissioned a team of five independent experts to translate it into English. America is solely responsible for the accuracy of this translation. This interview is copyrighted by America Press and cannot be used, except for brief quotations, without written permission.
Father Spadaro met the pope at the Vatican in the pope’s apartments in the Casa Santa Marta, where he has chosen to live since his election. Father Spadaro begins his account of the interview with a description of the pope’s living quarters.

Friday, September 20, 2013

far more impressed with this old soldier of jesus than I am with myself...,

NYTimes | Six months into his papacy, Pope Francis sent shock waves through the Roman Catholic church on Thursday with the publication of his remarks that the church had grown “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he had chosen not to talk about those issues despite recriminations from critics. 

His surprising comments came in a lengthy interview in which he criticized the church for putting dogma before love, and for prioritizing moral doctrines over serving the poor and marginalized. He articulated his vision of an inclusive church, a “home for all” — which is a striking contrast with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, the doctrinal defender who envisioned a smaller, purer church. 

Francis told the interviewer, a fellow Jesuit: “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. 

“We have to find a new balance,” the pope continued, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.” 

The pope’s interview did not change church doctrine or policies, but it instantly changed its tone. His words evoked gratitude and hope from many liberal Catholics who had felt left out in the cold during the papacies of Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul II, which together lasted 35 years. Some lapsed Catholics suggested on social media a return to the church, and leaders of gay rights and gay Catholic groups called on bishops to abandon their fight against gay marriage. 

But it left conservative and traditionalist Catholics, and those who have devoted themselves to the struggles against abortion, gay marriage and artificial contraception, on the defensive, though some cast it as nothing new. 

“Nobody should try to use the words of the pope to minimize the urgent need to preach and teach about abortion,” said the Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, who said he spoke Thursday about the “priority of the abortion issue” at a Vatican conference. 

The interview with Francis was conducted by the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit journal whose content is approved by the Vatican. Francis, the first Jesuit to become a pope, agreed to grant the interview after requests from Father Spadaro and the editors of America, a Jesuit magazine based in New York. 

Father Spadaro conducted the interview during three meetings in August in the pope’s spartan quarters in Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse, where Francis said he had chosen to live because it is less isolated than the papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace. “I cannot live without people,” Francis told Father Spadaro.

the real agenda is regulating dysgenic breeders...,

addictinginfo | On September 9, 2013 Attorneys for the state of Michigan filed paperwork in District Court asserting the state’s right to “regulate sexual relationships.” The court filing is in response to a civil action filed earlier this by Plaintiff Deboer. Deboer filed a suit against the state’s unconstitutional same sex marriage ban, which denies same sex couples the right to marry or to adopt children. In the state’s response, filed on behalf of Governor Rick Snyder, the Michigan attorney general claims:
“One of the paramount purposes of marriage in Michigan — and at least 37 other states that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman — is, and has always been, to regulate sexual relationships between men and women so that the unique procreative capacity of such relationships benefits rather than harms society.”
Far from being a casual statement made off the cuff, this is a statement that has been carefully crafted by the state’s attorneys, and undoubtedly reflects the position held by Snyder administration.
The state not only claims the authority to regulate sexual relationships, but states that regulating sexual relationships is the paramount purpose of marriage in Michigan.

Attorneys also make the claim that the state has the right to regulate procreation, and argument which has been tried and debunked at least a thousand times already. If procreation were the primary reason to allow or not allow marriage there would be a lot of people denied marriage certificates, not just gay and lesbian couples. Infertile couples, for instance, and couples who have passed the age of “procreation.”

If the court were somehow to rule in favor of the state in this case, it is logical to assume that marriages between senior citizens or between couples that cannot conceive, could (hypothetically) be denied using the same ruling. Could the state also move ban sex for any reason other than procreation?  A good many GOP and Tea Party reps across the country would certainly support such laws.

This claim goes even further beyond the procreation argument though. The Snyder administrations asserts that the state has the right to regulate sex. How many citizens in the state of Michigan realized that the “paramount purpose of marriage in the state of Michigan” was for the state to regulate their sexual relationships?

A ruling that upholds the state’s right to “regulate sexual relationships” could also (hypothetically) open the doors for any number of laws banning sexual activity, both inside and outside of marriage. Other states have attempted to outlaw anal sex and oral sex. What about sex outside of marriage? What about Adultery?

Maybe they’ll outlaw everything except the missionary position.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


globaresearch | The President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff announces publicly the creation of a world internet system INDEPENDENT from US and Britain ( the “US-centric internet”).

Not many understand that, while the immediate trigger for the decision (coupled with the cancellation of a summit with the US president) was the revelations on NSA spying, the reason why Rousseff can take such a historic step is that the alternative infrastructure: The BRICS cable from Vladivostock, Russia  to Shantou, China to Chennai, India  to Cape Town, South Africa  to Fortaleza, Brazil,  is being built and it’s, actually, in its final phase of implementation.

No amount of provocation and attempted “Springs” destabilizations and Color Revolution in the Middle East, Russia or Brazil can stop this process.  The huge submerged part of the BRICS plan is not yet known by the broader public.

Nonetheless it is very real and extremely effective. So real that international investors are now jumping with both feet on this unprecedented real economy opportunity. The change… has already happened.

Brazil plans to divorce itself from the U.S.-centric Internet over Washington’s widespread online spying, a move that many experts fear will be a potentially dangerous first step toward politically fracturing a global network built with minimal interference by governments.

President Dilma Rousseff has ordered a series of measures aimed at greater Brazilian online independence and security following revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency intercepted her communications, hacked into the state-owned Petrobras oil company’s network and spied on Brazilians who entrusted their personal data to U.S. tech companies such as Facebook and Google.

BRICS Cable… a 34 000 km, 2 fibre pair, 12.8 Tbit/s capacity, fibre optic cable system
  • For any global investor, there is no crisis – there is plenty of growth. It’s just not in the old world
  • BRICS is ~45% of the world’s population and ~25% of the world’s GDP
  • BRICS together create an economy the size of Italy every year… that’s the 8th largest economy in the world
  • The BRICS presents profound opportunities in global geopolitics and commerce
Links Russia, China, India, South Africa, Brazil – the BRICS economies – and the United States.
Interconnect with regional and other continental cable systems in Asia, Africa and South America for improved global coverage
Immediate access to 21 African countries and give those African countries access to the BRICS economies.
Projected ready for service date is mid to second half of 2015.

the original AT&T whistleblower

wired | Today’s revelations that the National Security Agency collected bulk data on the email traffic of millions of Americans provides startling evidence for the first time to support a whistleblower’s longstanding claims that AT&T was forwarding global internet traffic to the government from secret rooms inside its offices.

The collection program, which lasted from 2001 to 2011, involved email metadata — the “enveloped” information for email that reveals the sender’s address and recipient, as well as IP addresses and websites visited, the Guardian newspaper reported today.

Mark Klein, a retired AT&T communications technician, revealed in 2006 that his job duties included connecting internet circuits to a splitting cabinet that led to a secret room in AT&T’s San Francisco office. During the course of that work, he learned from a co-worker that similar cabins were being installed in other cities, including Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego, he said.

The split circuits included traffic from peering links connecting to other internet backbone providers, meaning that AT&T was also diverting traffic routed from its network to or from other domestic and international providers, Klein said.

That’s how the data was being vacuumed to the government, Klein said today.

“This is a complete vindication,” Klein, a San Francisco Bay area retired man, said in a telephone interview.

Wired was leaked and subsequently published Klein’s documents detailing the spying equipment in 2006, when he said an NSA agent showed up years before to interview a management-level technician for a special job.

Klein’s documents were lodged under seal in an Electronic Frontier Foundation lawsuit accusing the government of siphoning Americans’ communications to the NSA.

“This is exactly what we’ve been arguing in court for years,” Trevor Timm, an EFF digital-rights analyst, said in a telephone interview.

The documents, in part, fueled the lawsuit that so scared Congress that lawmakers passed legislation immunizing AT&T and any other telecommunications companies from being sued for assisting the NSA’s dragnet surveillance program.

“They are collecting everything on everybody,” Klein said.

After Congress killed the litigation, the EFF sued the government instead. That case is pending in a San Francisco federal courtroom.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

the silent military coup that took over...,

Children, many of whose deformities are believed to be the results of the chemical dioxin that the US used in the Vietnam war, play outside a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.
guardian | On my wall is the Daily Express front page of September 5 1945 and the words: "I write this as a warning to the world." So began Wilfred Burchett's report from Hiroshima. It was the scoop of the century. For his lone, perilous journey that defied the US occupation authorities, Burchett was pilloried, not least by his embedded colleagues. He warned that an act of premeditated mass murder on an epic scale had launched a new era of terror.

Almost every day now, he is vindicated. The intrinsic criminality of the atomic bombing is borne out in the US National Archives and by the subsequent decades of militarism camouflaged as democracy. The Syria psychodrama exemplifies this. Yet again we are held hostage by the prospect of a terrorism whose nature and history even the most liberal critics still deny. The great unmentionable is that humanity's most dangerous enemy resides across the Atlantic.

John Kerry's farce and Barack Obama's pirouettes are temporary. Russia's peace deal over chemical weapons will, in time, be treated with the contempt that all militarists reserve for diplomacy. With al-Qaida now among its allies, and US-armed coupmasters secure in Cairo, the US intends to crush the last independent states in the Middle East: Syria first, then Iran. "This operation [in Syria]," said the former French foreign minister Roland Dumas in June, "goes way back. It was prepared, pre-conceived and planned."

When the public is "psychologically scarred", as the Channel 4 reporter Jonathan Rugman described the British people's overwhelming hostility to an attack on Syria, suppressing the truth is made urgent. Whether or not Bashar al-Assad or the "rebels" used gas in the suburbs of Damascus, it is the US, not Syria, that is the world's most prolific user of these terrible weapons.

In 1970 the Senate reported: "The US has dumped on Vietnam a quantity of toxic chemical (dioxin) amounting to six pounds per head of population." This was Operation Hades, later renamed the friendlier Operation Ranch Hand – the source of what Vietnamese doctors call a "cycle of foetal catastrophe". I have seen generations of children with their familiar, monstrous deformities. John Kerry, with his own blood-soaked war record, will remember them. I have seen them in Iraq too, where the US used depleted uranium and white phosphorus, as did the Israelis in Gaza. No Obama "red line" for them. No showdown psychodrama for them.

The sterile repetitive debate about whether "we" should "take action" against selected dictators (ie cheer on the US and its acolytes in yet another aerial killing spree) is part of our brainwashing. Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law and UN special rapporteur on Palestine, describes it as "a self-righteous, one-way, legal/moral screen [with] positive images of western values and innocence portrayed as threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted political violence". This "is so widely accepted as to be virtually unchallengeable".

It is the biggest lie: the product of "liberal realists" in Anglo-American politics, scholarship and media who ordain themselves as the world's crisis managers, rather than the cause of a crisis. Stripping humanity from the study of nations and congealing it with jargon that serves western power designs, they mark "failed", "rogue" or "evil" states for "humanitarian intervention".

An attack on Syria or Iran or any other US "demon" would draw on a fashionable variant, "Responsibility to Protect", or R2P – whose lectern-trotting zealot is the former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, co-chair of a "global centre" based in New York. Evans and his generously funded lobbyists play a vital propaganda role in urging the "international community" to attack countries where "the security council rejects a proposal or fails to deal with it in a reasonable time".
Evans has form. He appeared in my 1994 film Death of a Nation, which revealed the scale of genocide in East Timor. Canberra's smiling man is raising his champagne glass in a toast to his Indonesian equivalent as they fly over East Timor in an Australian aircraft, having signed a treaty to pirate the oil and gas of the stricken country where the tyrant Suharto killed or starved a third of the population.

Under the "weak" Obama, militarism has risen perhaps as never before. With not a single tank on the White House lawn, a military coup has taken place in Washington. In 2008, while his liberal devotees dried their eyes, Obama accepted the entire Pentagon of his predecessor, George Bush: its wars and war crimes. As the constitution is replaced by an emerging police state, those who destroyed Iraq with shock and awe, piled up the rubble in Afghanistan and reduced Libya to a Hobbesian nightmare, are ascendant across the US administration. Behind their beribboned facade, more former US soldiers are killing themselves than are dying on battlefields. Last year 6,500 veterans took their own lives. Put out more flags.

The historian Norman Pollack calls this "liberal fascism": "For goose-steppers substitute the seemingly more innocuous militarisation of the total culture. And for the bombastic leader, we have the reformer manqué, blithely at work, planning and executing assassination, smiling all the while." Every Tuesday the "humanitarian" Obama personally oversees a worldwide terror network of drones that "bugsplat" people, their rescuers and mourners. In the west's comfort zones, the first black leader of the land of slavery still feels good, as if his very existence represents a social advance, regardless of his trail of blood. This obeisance to a symbol has all but destroyed the US anti-war movement – Obama's singular achievement.

In Britain, the distractions of the fakery of image and identity politics have not quite succeeded. A stirring has begun, though people of conscience should hurry. The judges at Nuremberg were succinct: "Individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity." The ordinary people of Syria, and countless others, and our own self-respect, deserve nothing less now.

command and control...,

The Titan II carried a W-53 thermonuclear warhead, with more than 560 times the explosive yield of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
motherjones | The term "wake-up call" is a tired cliché, but it is appropriate in the case of Command and Control, the frightening new exposé of America's nuclear weapons mishaps by Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser. (Click here to read an excerpt and my detailed review.) In short, Schlosser delivers a book full of revelations that left me agape. While we still worry in the abstract about Iran and North Korea and Pakistan, it's easy to forget that we still have thousands of our own ungodly devices on hair-trigger alert at this very moment. And even if we never drop or launch another nuke on purpose, these weapons are, in Schlosser's words, "the most dangerous machines ever invented. And like every machine, sometimes they go wrong."

That's what the book is about. Through hard-fought documents and deep digging and extensive interviews, Schlosser reveals how close we've come, on numerous occasions, to a domestic nuclear detonation or an accidental war in which there are only losers. Command and Control will leave many readers with a deep unease about America's ability to handle our nukes safely. Schlosser's hope is that this unease will beget a long-neglected debate about "why we have them and when we use them and how many we need." But his book is no screed. Schlosser delivers an engrossing page-turner. Would that it were fiction.

the cowboy of the nsa

foreignpolicy | The NSA was already a data behemoth when Alexander took over. But under his watch, the breadth, scale, and ambition of its mission have expanded beyond anything ever contemplated by his predecessors. In 2007, the NSA began collecting information from Internet and technology companies under the so-called PRISM program. In essence, it was a pipes-bending operation. The NSA gets access to the companies' raw data--including e-mails, video chats, and messages sent through social media--and analysts then mine it for clues about terrorists and other foreign intelligence subjects. Similar to how Alexander wanted the NSA to feed him with intelligence at INSCOM, now some of the world's biggest technology companies -- including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple -- are feeding the NSA. But unlike Hayden, the companies cannot refuse Alexander's advances. The PRISM program operates under a legal regime, put in place a few years after Alexander arrived at the NSA, that allows the agency to demand broad categories of information from technology companies. 

Never in history has one agency of the U.S. government had the capacity, as well as the legal authority, to collect and store so much electronic information. Leaked NSA documents show the agency sucking up data from approximately 150 collection sites on six continents. The agency estimates that 1.6 percent of all data on the Internet flows through its systems on a given day -- an amount of information about 50 percent larger than what Google processes in the same period.
When Alexander arrived, the NSA was secretly investing in experimental databases to store these oceans of electronic signals and give analysts access to it all in as close to real time as possible. Under his direction, it has helped pioneer new methods of massive storage and retrieval. That has led to a data glut. The agency has collected so much information that it ran out of storage capacity at its 350-acre headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland, outside Washington, D.C. At a cost of more than $2 billion, it has built a new processing facility in the Utah desert, and it recently broke ground on a complex in Maryland. There is a line item in the NSA's budget just for research on "coping with information overload." 

Yet it's still not enough for Alexander, who has proposed installing the NSA's surveillance equipment on the networks of defense contractors, banks, and other organizations deemed essential to the U.S. economy or national security. Never has this intelligence agency -- whose primary mission is espionage, stealing secrets from other governments -- proposed to become the electronic watchman of American businesses. 

This kind of radical expansion shouldn't come as a surprise. In fact, it's a hallmark of Alexander's career. During the Iraq war, for example, he pioneered a suite of real-time intelligence analysis tools that aimed to scoop up every phone call, email, and text message in the country in a search for terrorists and insurgents. Military and intelligence officials say it provided valuable insights that helped turn the tide of the war.  It was also unprecedented in its scope and scale. He has transferred that architecture to a global scale now, and with his responsibilities at Cyber Command, he is expanding his writ into the world of computer network defense and cyber warfare. 

As a result, the NSA has never been more powerful, more pervasive, and more politically imperiled. The same philosophy that turned Alexander into a giant -- acquire as much data from as many sources as possible -- is now threatening to undo him. Alexander today finds himself in the unusual position of having to publicly defend once-secret programs and reassure Americans that the growth of his agency, which employs more than 35,000 people, is not a cause for alarm. In July, the House of Representatives almost approved a law to constrain the NSA's authorities -- the closest Congress has come to reining in the agency since the 9/11 attacks. That narrow defeat for surveillance opponents has set the stage for a Supreme Court ruling on whether metadata -- the information Alexander has most often sought about Americans -- should be afforded protection under the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against "unreasonable searches and seizures," which would make metadata harder for the government to acquire.

Alexander declined Foreign Policy's request for an interview, but in response to questions about his leadership, his respect for civil liberties, and the Snowden leaks, he provided a written statement.

"The missions of NSA and USCYBERCOM are conducted in a manner that is lawful, appropriate, and effective, and under the oversight of all three branches of the U.S. government," Alexander stated. "Our mission is to protect our people and defend the nation within the authorities granted by Congress, the courts and the president. There is an ongoing investigation into the damage sustained by our nation and our allies because of the recent unauthorized disclosure of classified material. Based on what we know to date, we believe these disclosures have caused significant and irreversible harm to the security of the nation." 

In lieu of an interview about his career, Alexander's spokesperson recommended a laudatory profile about him that appeared in West Point magazine. It begins: "At key moments throughout its history, the United States has been fortunate to have the right leader -- someone with an ideal combination of rare talent and strong character -- rise to a position of great responsibility in public service. With General Keith B. Alexander ... Americans are again experiencing this auspicious state of affairs."
Lawmakers and the public are increasingly taking a different view. They are skeptical about what Alexander has been doing with all the data he's collecting -- and why he's been willing to push the bounds of the law to get it. If he's going to preserve his empire, he'll have to mount the biggest charm offensive of his career. Fortunately for him, Alexander has spent as much time building a political base of power as a technological one.

information dominance center modelled after the deck of the starship enterprise...,

pbs | Congressional leaders already have a lot of power, but do they secretly want to captain the USS Enterprise? In an in-depth profile of NSA Director Keith B. Alexander, Foreign Policy reveals that one of the ways the general endeared himself to lawmakers and officials was to make them feel like Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the starship Enterprise from the TV series "Star Trek: The Next Generation."
"When he was running the Army's Intelligence and Security Command, Alexander brought many of his future allies down to Fort Belvoir for a tour of his base of operations, a facility known as the Information Dominance Center. It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a 'whoosh' sound when they slid open and closed. Lawmakers and other important officials took turns sitting in a leather 'captain's chair' in the center of the room and watched as Alexander, a lover of science-fiction movies, showed off his data tools on the big screen. 'Everybody wanted to sit in the chair at least once to pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard,' says a retired officer in charge of VIP visits."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

twelve conscious men working together CAN rule the world...,

This video provides a visual analogy for how social cohesion is obtained in groups of people.  Our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and actions are influenced in the direction of the group norm by information received from other group members.  Over time, the psychological pressure on non-conforming members tends to bring them into line with the developing group consensus.  It's an evolved mechanism, and explains why it's so hard to get action on an issue when the group consensus either opposes it or favors another action that has mutually exclusive requirements.  Like respectable americans vs. ratchet dysgenic breeders, legalization vs. war on drugs, infrastructure investment vs. war on terra, culture of competence vs. dopamine hegemony....,

It takes strong system-level pressure to shift the overall group norm from one stable state to another. That pressure can be in the form of either effective legislation or a shift embraced by a minimum critical mass of non-conformants and supported by generally available information. Fist tap io9.

parental investment and discipline nogroes - everything else is limp-wristed conversation...,

HuffPo | Wanting African-Americans to take responsibility for their lives, their kids and their education, Bill Cosby has offered some strong words to a group of people he has dubbed "no-groes."

In an interview with CNN's Don Lemon Saturday, the comedian was asked to reflect on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and to comment on the future of black leadership in the United States. 

“I think it has to come from the universities,” Cosby said, stressing that education is the key to a community's success. And it's not just prestigious universities, either. 

"Okay, you backed up and didn’t do well. You quit school but now you find you need that high school credential. Go to the community college,” he advised. 

The veteran actor went on to say that while women appear to be the leaders in the majority of households, he hopes to see more men step up to the plate. 

"What we need is for people to realize -- 'I want to raise my kid. I want to go back and get my three kids. I want to take on that responsibility. I want to love my children,'" he said, adding that he would love to see more black men taking a more visible role in parenting. 

Later in the interview, Cosby, who has previously stirred up controversy for telling blacks to "stop complaining" and take more responsibility for their choices, went on to talk about what he sees as the shortfalls of the juvenile rehabilitation system. He argued that juvenile inmates are often given medication instead of being counseled or equipped with skills to change their behavior. 

“If you drug these people, and then you release them, and there’s no prescription for them to get to take to do the same thing, and they go back to the same place,” he said.

At this juncture, Cosby interrupted himself, saying: “Now, about this time, this is when you hear the no-groes jump up and say, ‘Why don’t you talk about the good things?’”

The issue, Cosby argued, is that while the good things are "taking care of themselves pretty well," he wants to help people get to a position "so they will understand" how to take control of their lives.

dramatic race films are for losers...,

Calvin and Muad'Dib
guardian | Lee Daniel's new film The Butler is a box office success, already generating Oscar buzz, but I am not interested in seeing it. I'm also skipping British filmmaker Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, another movie about black people dealing with slavery.

I'm convinced these black race films are created for a white, liberal film audience to engender white guilt and make them feel bad about themselves. Regardless of your race, these films are unlikely to teach you anything you don't already know. Frankly, why can't black people get over slavery? Or, at least, why doesn't anyone want to see more contemporary portrayals of black lives?

The narrow range of films about the black life experience being produced by Hollywood is actually dangerous because it limits the imagination, it doesn't allow real progress to take place. Yet, sadly, these roles are some of the only ones open to black talent. People want us to cheer that black actors from The Butler and 12 Years a Slave are likely to be up for best actor and actress awards, yet it feels like a throwback, almost to the Gone with the Wind era.

I am not against revisiting the past, but there are already numerous black films that have covered the civil rights era and slavery. The quandary with black movies is they are overly fixated on the past, only depicting black suffering in relation to race, which is bizarre and peculiar. 

Can a black film be created about black people not focusing on race? Is race the only central conflict the lives of people of colour? 

I don't know about other black people, but I don't sit around all day thinking only about the fact I am black. I think about the problems in my life: the struggles, the joys, the happiness, most of which don't involve the issue of race. As a black person, I can honestly say I am exhausted and bored with these kinds of "dramatic race" films.

I might have to turn in my black card, because I don't care much about slavery. I've already watched the television series Roots, which I feel covered the subject matter extremely well. Of course, I understand slavery is an important part of any black person's history, but dwelling on slavery is pathetic. It ended in North America over 100 years ago, yet since Django Unchained made over $400m last year, more slavery movies emerge.

culture of competence in twenty five words or less...,

Calvin and Muad'Dib

Monday, September 16, 2013

greenwald better start looking over his shoulder for nazgul from tel aviv...,

guardian | The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens, a top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.

Details of the intelligence-sharing agreement are laid out in a memorandum of understanding between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart that shows the US government handed over intercepted communications likely to contain phone calls and emails of American citizens. The agreement places no legally binding limits on the use of the data by the Israelis.

The disclosure that the NSA agreed to provide raw intelligence data to a foreign country contrasts with assurances from the Obama administration that there are rigorous safeguards to protect the privacy of US citizens caught in the dragnet. The intelligence community calls this process "minimization", but the memorandum makes clear that the information shared with the Israelis would be in its pre-minimized state.

The deal was reached in principle in March 2009, according to the undated memorandum, which lays out the ground rules for the intelligence sharing.

The five-page memorandum, termed an agreement between the US and Israeli intelligence agencies "pertaining to the protection of US persons", repeatedly stresses the constitutional rights of Americans to privacy and the need for Israeli intelligence staff to respect these rights.

But this is undermined by the disclosure that Israel is allowed to receive "raw Sigint" – signal intelligence. The memorandum says: "Raw Sigint includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content."

According to the agreement, the intelligence being shared would not be filtered in advance by NSA analysts to remove US communications. "NSA routinely sends ISNU [the Israeli Sigint National Unit] minimized and unminimized raw collection", it says.

Although the memorandum is explicit in saying the material had to be handled in accordance with US law, and that the Israelis agreed not to deliberately target Americans identified in the data, these rules are not backed up by legal obligations.

why never no call for israel to disarm?

alalam | Syria President Bashar Assad says Israel should be the first to disarm from weapons of mass destructions, since it has nuclear, biological and chemical arms.

He added on Thursday that that all countries in the Mideast should be held to international protocol in order to achieve stability in the region.

Syria decided to cede control of its chemical weapons because of a Russian proposal and not the threat of US military intervention, Interfax news agency quoted President Bashar Assad as saying in an interview with Russia's state-run Rossiya-24 channel.

"Syria is placing its chemical weapons under international control because of Russia. The US threats did not influence the decision," he said.

Assad also told Rossiya-24 that Syria would submit documents to the United Nations for an agreement governing the handover of its chemical arsenal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the initiative will not succeed unless Washington abandons plans for potential air strikes on Syria on the pretext of an alleged Aug. 21 poison gas attack which US President Barack Obama blames on Syrian government forces.

Syria has denied any involvement in the attack, but agreed to Moscow's proposal that it give up its chemical weapons stocks.

one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them...,

latimes | Israel has 80 nuclear warheads and the potential to double that number, according to a new report by U.S. experts.

In the Global Nuclear Weapons Inventories, recently published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, proliferation experts Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris write that Israel stopped production of nuclear warheads in 2004.

But the country has enough fissile material for an additional 115 to 190 warheads, according to the report, meaning it could as much as double its arsenal.

Previous estimates have been higher but the new figures agree with the 2013 Stockholm International Peace Research Institute yearbook on armament and international security. The yearbook estimated 50 of Israel's nuclear warheads were for medium-range ballistic missiles and 30 were for for bombs carried by aircraft, according to a report in the Guardian

Although widely assumed a nuclear power, Israel has never acknowledged possessing nuclear weapons or capabilities and continues to maintain its decades-old "strategic ambiguity" policy on the matter, neither confirming nor denying foreign reports on the issue. 

In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, an Israeli nuclear technician, leaked the country's alleged nuclear secrets to a British newspaper, and said Israel had at least 100 nuclear weapons. Vanunu was later convicted of espionage and treason and was released from jail in 2004 after serving 17 years.

Israel continued to adhere to its vagueness policy after comments made by then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2006 were interpreted by many as an inadvertent confirmation that Israel had nuclear weapons. 

Following Sunday's reports, Israeli defense analyst Amir Oren wrote that the ambiguity policy has done "its duty honorably and can now retire." In the current regional conditions, Israel could benefit from giving up the vagueness, he wrote in Haaretz.

Founded in 1952, the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, is nearly as old as the state. It acknowledges two "nuclear research centers," one in central Israel, the other in the Negev desert.

old soldiers can't catch a break...,

foxnews | It could be a long semester for David Petraeus.

The retired four-star general and former CIA director — whose career ended in scandal last year — was heckled by roughly a dozen protesters following his first lecture at the City University of New York’s Macaulay Honors College on Monday, according to a 90-second video posted online Wednesday that has been viewed more than 130,000 times.

“Why are you teaching at CUNY?” one heckler screamed as Petraeus walked near Central Park. “What do you have to say, huh?”

The hecklers seemed more enraged by Petraeus' 37-year military career, which culminated in his commanding U.S. forces in Afghanistan, than the adultery scandal which prompted his resignation from the CIA in November.

Petraeus, 60, was also blasted as a “scumbag” and a “war criminal” by the angry throng. The heckling became so intense at one point that Petraeus walked into the street and dodged oncoming traffic — including a city bus — as his critics closely followed.

“Petraeus out of CUNY! Petraeus out of CUNY!” the hecklers continued.

Several in the crowd promised to harass Petraeus after “every class” at the public university, while another demanded that he "leave.”

“He’s a war criminal, there’s a war criminal right here,” another protester said. “He deserves to be tried.”

Petraeus admitted having an affair with Paula Broadwell — author of his biography "All In: The Education of General David Petraeus" — when he resigned from the CIA. The affair came to light in a messy fashion: Broadwell was accused of sending harassing emails to a Florida socialite who was friends with the general's family, prompting her to complain to an acquaintance who worked for the FBI. Investigators traced the emails to Broadwell, and in the course of doing so, uncovered intimate messages between Broadwell and Petraeus. Although the affair, which would have violated military rules, allegedly occurred after Petraeus left the Army, it was also seen as a serious matter at the CIA, where such secrets could make someone vulnerable to compromise.

Months after stepping down, Petraeus made it known he would seek a career in academia. The New York Times reported in July that Petraeus would teach a seminar at the school for just $1 following a report by that indicated he was to be paid $200,000 according to documents the website obtained.

Petraeus proposed the salary reduction following criticism of his anticipated compensation to “remove money as a point of controversy,” according to his attorney, Robert Barnett.

"The general never was taking on this teaching assignment for the money," Barnett told The Associated Press. "Once controversy arose about the amount he was being paid, he decided it was much more important to keep the focus on the students, on the school and on the teaching and not have it be about the money."

Petraeus, who has a doctorate from Princeton University and extensive teaching experience, was scheduled to start at the school as a visiting professor on Aug. 1.

The college’s dean, Ann Kirschner, lauded Petraeus while announcing the hire in April, saying the position correlates with his research interests in energy, manufacturing, life sciences and information technology and their implications for the U.S. His first seminar this fall is a course in American Studies called “Are We on the Threshold of the North American Decade?”

In a statement posted to the college's website, Kirschner called for a more civilized debate.