Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Free Web

The brain atlas is a good example of wonderful things that can be done on the web - in the interest of information and the advancement of knowledge.

The Allen Institute for Brain Science hosted a launch of its “Brain Atlas” at the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C., September 26, 2006. ASA staff members Marguerite Colston and Charles Scott were invited guests, along with representatives from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Congress and other advocacy groups.

The Allen Brain Atlas is a Web-based, 3-dimensional map of gene _expression in the mouse brain. Publicly available at no-cost, the map shows which genes are active or “expressed” within the brain, and which regions and cells they are expressed in. New findings already reveal that 80 percent of genes are turned on in the brain, and the map reveals locations of genes associated with specific functions. The Allen Institute aims to give scientists “the gift of time” by making this database available globally over the Internet.


Internet freedom reigns in Amsterdam

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Amsterdam has the world's busiest Internet exchange, thanks to nuclear physicists and mathematicians who in the 1980s connected their network needs with the academic belief that knowledge needs to be free.

At a time when the neutrality of the Internet is at stake, and Internet service providers (ISPs) are moving to prioritize their premium traffic, the Amsterdam Internet Exchange is a reminder that the Internet was built on the principle of the unrestricted exchange of ideas and information.

The popularity of the AMS-IX. the official name of the exchange, is the result of a liberal foundation which has created a place where ISPs can do business any way they like.

"'Anything goes unless it's forbidden', was our motto from the beginning. We added a few rules later on, but any unnecessary organizing is being prevented," said Rob Blokzijl from Nikhef, the National Institute for Nuclear Physics and High Energy Physics in the Netherlands.

It shares this spirit with the designers of the Internet who decided that all data packets were created equal, and with Tim Berners-Lee who developed the World Wide Web at the Swiss particle physics lab CERN as a universal and neutral platform.

"The public will demand an open Internet," Berners-Lee said in a recent interview with Reuters.

Indeed, the debate over "net neutrality" is one of the biggest issues facing the Web today on both sides of the Atlantic, pitting big cable and phone companies against Internet powerhouses like Google Inc. (more)

Friday, September 29, 2006

Water rising in the Sunderbans

A friend of mine was visiting Kolkata recently - his in-laws are from there. It brings it closer to home when you know of connections. The delta area (looking at yahoo maps) reminds me of the New Orleans/Lousiana delta area....

The Sundarbans

Where the land meets the sea at the southern tip of West Bengal lies the Indian Sundarbans, a stretch of impenetrable mangrove forest of great size and bio-diversity.... Sundarban is a vast area covering 4262 square kms in India alone, with a larger portion in Bangladesh....

The Sundarbans are a part of the world's largest delta formed by the rivers Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna. Situated on the lower end of the Gangetic West Bengal, 21°13’-22°40’ North and longitude 88°05’-89°06’ East, it is also the world’s largest estuarine forest....Dense mangrove forests occupy 56 islands and the balance is under saline water which flows through numerous tidal channels and creeks....


From New Delhi

Sunderbans suffers global warming impact

Climate change is taking its toll on the Sunderbans tiger reserve with rising sea level and erosion threatening its fragile ecosystem.

The rise of seawater in the Sunderbans, a world heritage site, is about 3.14 mm annually as against the global average of 2.2 mm.

As one moves eastwards towards Bangladesh the rise is even higher at almost 5mm in the centre and at Khulna in Bangladesh the rise annually is 10mm.

Expers say global warming raises atmospheric temperatures, which in turn, warms the world's oceans. Heat makes water molecules expand-called thermal expansion-causing sea levels to rise.

Over the past three decades, the world's oceans have warmed by .3 degrees Celsius on average.

The inter-governmental panel on climate change expects sea levels to rise by almost a metre by 2100.

...South Asia has been identified as one of the most vulnerable areas to sea level rise.

The Sunderbans are at the greatest risk as not only is it home to some of the world's most endangered species including the tiger, it is also home to 4.5 million people.

In the last two decades 6000 families have been left homeless by the rising sea, which has swallowed low lying islands....

This precious eco system is Kolkata's last barrier against the sea its loss will lead to disaster.

Arctic House Design

It's interesting to be able to read about the changes going on at the arctic level ->

In other Nunatsiaq News:

Pond’s Martian mansion

It looks like Martians have landed in Pond Inlet, where an odd structure crouches on a nearby hillside. It resembles three enormous pop cans fused together, standing one and a half metres above the tundra on three pointy legs.

In fact, it’s a prototype home being built by Richard Carbonnier, an architect who works by day as a project officer for the Government of Nunavut, and spends his evenings single-handedly labouring away on this odd creation.

“It’s not science fiction,” he says, during a telephone interview last Friday.....

“When he first started to build it, it sort of looked like it was some kind of a launch pad for a space shuttle,” Qamaniq says with a laugh.

Carbonnier says the tripod design is far more stable than a typical, four-cornered home, and that this will be important if the climate continues to warm, and permafrost continues to melt.

In the Nunavik community of Salluit, some buildings have already begun to buckle as their foundations sink into a boggy mess. But Carbonnier believes his building would simply tilt to one side if the permafrost melted, and he says this could be easily fixed.

“If the home goes crooked, I go beneath it with a five-tonne jack and I jack it up,” Carbonnier says.

Skunks & Moose in Kuujjuaraapik

From the Nunatsiaq News:

Climate change lures skunks, moose to the Arctic

Warmer temperatures also wreaking havoc with building foundations

The distinctively unpleasant odor of skunk is about the last thing you might expect to smell in the Eastern Hudson Bay community of Kuujjuaraapik.

Yet Lucassie Inukpuk, the mayor of Kuujjuaraapik, has spotted several black and white skunks lurking around the town.

“We’ve never seen these before,” Inukpuk said.

Skunks aren’t the only unfamiliar animals making their way up the tree line along the Great Whale River.

Moose, who favour swampy, treed areas with lots of vegetation to eat, have also been seen around Kuujjuaraapik.

Quebec’s department of the environment says it’s not out of the question for moose or skunks to roam as far north as Kuujjuraapik.

But multiple observations of these unfamiliar animals this past summer may be another sign of rising temperatures along the 55th parallel – similar to sightings of unfamiliar birds and insects further north.

...Workers in government offices and now even residents are responding to the warmer conditions – not by changing their range, but by altering their habitat, by equipping themselves with air conditioners.


One of the big things in the "War on Terror" is how different people see the terrorism threat.

For years we have been inundated with images of Palestinians blowing themselves up. The terrorist who cannot be held accountable. He killed himself already. So families are punished. Homes are bulldozed. The entire Palestinian society is punished - there are roadblocks, settlements, olive fields destroyed, people driven off from long established homes.

There is also the "terrorism" that has been documented - such as Gladio operations that are State-sponsored "terrorism". Things that are done by the State to control populations and influence opinion. (see this list of questionable collaborations ...the US with the ISI).

And then you have (or maybe it was part of that same sort of thing) where Osama Bin Laden was being used by the CIA in Afghanistan in the 80s against the Russians. And some people wonder if he is still being used.

The NIE report that was partly declassified shows that US actions fuel anger toward the US. (That's not really news).

• The Iraq conflict has become the cause celebre for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.

We assess that the underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement outweigh its vulnerabilities and are likely to do so for the duration of the timeframe of this Estimate.

• Four underlying factors are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement: (1) Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness; (2) the Iraq jihad; (3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and (4) pervasive anti-US sentiment among most Muslims, all of which jihadists exploit.

G.W.Bush interprets that (and it seems that he released this part of the NIE prior to the election because of this argument...) as legitimizing his fight against terrorism. So basically - Bush made the argument for pre-emptive war based on false charges and then when our invasion and occupation causes anger among those who were invaded (and their friends) - that is NEW justification for us fighting them. Nice. (And he calls those who don't agree with him - "naive".)

Meanwhile - we are supposed to be afraid of attacks on US soil. I don't see terrorism as being the huge threat that Bush and his pals would like for us to think. But I suppose - eventually - if Bush keeps it up - keeps pushing for there to be - there might be.

Bush likes to act like there are only 2 groups - the terrorists (and their supporters) and the non-terrorists. If that is so - I would say that Bush is definitely in the terrorist group. And I am against him. There is plenty of evidence against him. He deserves to go to jail.

As far as other people - I will wait for the evidence (and secret tribunals and "evidence" gotten from torture don't count).

P.S. Kucinch's remarks about the the Military Commissions Act of 2006. There were a few good speeches, amendments proposed - but in the end - Bush was given a blank check. (Of course it's an unconstitutional blank check - but a blank check nonetheless).

Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh said that "the image of Congress rushing to strip jurisdiction from the courts in response to a politically created emergency is really quite shocking, and it's not clear that most of the members understand what they've done."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Shooting up in the Great Lakes

I see this as a prime example of how ridiculous our country (well really - the people who run the country) is getting. I don't think this is necessary at all.

From the Globe and Mail (Toronto):

Great Lakes machine guns raise ire in Canada

U.S. Coast Guard conducting live-ammunition training drills

The United States Coast Guard has started to patrol the Great Lakes with machine guns mounted on their vessels and is conducting live-ammunition training drills on the U.S. side to prepare officers to combat terrorists flooding across the border from Canada by boat.

The automatic-weapon drills started earlier this year but came to light only in the past two weeks after information about the Coast Guard's move to create 34 permanent live-fire training zones in the Great Lakes was published in the U.S. federal register.

Since the beginning of the year, the Coast Guard have conducted 24 drills, each time firing about 3,000 rounds of lead bullets about a third of the size of a fishing-line sinker from light-weight machine guns in waters at least eight kilometres from the Canadian border and U.S. shores. Two more target practices are scheduled for this year...

Toronto Mayor David Miller has said the move violates a 90-year-old treaty that forbids weapons on the lakes, but the U.S. Coast Guard, however, says that is not an issue since Canadian and U.S. officials agreed 18 months ago that arming small craft wouldn't violate the treaty...

He said the target practice violates a treaty signed after the War of 1812 that outlaws military weapons on the Great Lakes, tampering with two centuries of peaceful history.

“This is very much the wrong direction, to militarize the border between these two countries,” he said in an interview. “It's symbolically important and practically important that the border remain open and doesn't become militarized.”

“At a time ... when there is interest in restoring the integrity of the lakes,” he writes in a letter to the Prime Minister, “it is most disturbing that the U.S. is contemplating exercises that will militarize the lakes, cause pollution and environmental degradation, restrict shipping and recreation, and change the peaceful border between Canada and the U.S.”

Far more people are killed on Toronto streets by illegal U.S. guns crossing the border, he said, than bloody-minded terrorists from Canada crossing south. “The idea that terrorists are flooding across the Great Lakes is utter nonsense,” he said. Until this year, U.S. Coast Guard vessels carried only handguns and small-calibre rifles. But anti-terrorist furor has led to a bolstering of firepower...

800+ Years Backwards

Hecate's summary of the US House passage of the prisoner treatment/torture bill (The Senate voted for it also today - 9.28) ->

The writ of habeas corpus in common law countries is an important instrument for the safeguarding of individual freedom against arbitrary state action....

As Wikipedia notes: Since the 18th century the writ has also been used in cases of unlawful detention by private individuals, most famously in Somersett's Case (1771), where the black slave Somersett was ordered to be freed, the famous words being quoted from an earlier case: "The air of England has long been too pure for a slave, and every man is free who breathes it."

Habeas Corpus appears to predate even the Magna Carta: From Magna Carta the exact quote is: "no free man shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled or in any way destroyed except by the lawful judgment of their peers or by the law of the land."” The practice and right of Habeas Corpus was settled practice and law at the time of Magna Carta and was thus a fundamental part of the unwritten common "law of the land" as was expressly recognized by Magna Carta.

The air of England must be better than the air of America. By the end of this week, the Bush junta will be able to imprison and torture anyone they like and the person imprisoned and/or tortured will have no legal right to challenge that. Thus, Americans will have fewer rights than did those Englishmen who gathered on the meadow of Runnymeade in 1215. In just five short years, the Bush junta has driven this country 800+ years backwards...

Slate has an article Forget Nuremberg.

Bush says, "People shouldn't forget there's still an enemy out there that wants to do harm to the United States." He also said some months back, "See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."


People are looking for the cycle - where have we seen this before. When has there been a country with this much power compared to the rest of the world? What other tyrants took away people's rights? What all milestones of history are crumbling?

It may be that civilization is moving like an arrow (see the Snake in the Road post) - everyone wonders when it's going to hit a tree - or did it already? Maybe the civilizations that are based the cycles of nature will keep going. The ones trying to go in a straight line will fall or get lost.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Europeans urged to eat less fish"

That was the headline earlier today at the BBC.

This evening it reads - "'Care needed' in fish purchases".

(I liked the first one better - it was more to the point.)

The conservation group WWF is calling on European consumers to make careful choices in the fish they buy and eat.
A WWF report says much of the fish sold in Europe is the product of illegal, destructive or wasteful fishing.

The report warns that continuing to buy it will bring many fish stocks to the brink of extinction.

One of the main casualties is plaice. The report says about half the plaice caught are too small and are thrown back - by which time most are dying.

"We've got too many boats chasing too few fish - there's a lot of illegal fishing going on as well," he said.

The report also draws attention to illegal drift-net fishing for swordfish, which it says kills an estimated 100,000 sharks every year - two for every swordfish.

The WWF says consumers should only be buying fish with a Marine Stewardship Council label, which certifies that the fish bearing it has come from a sustainable and well-managed fishery.

Some European retailers have begun using the label.

The EU has restricted fishing in European waters in recent years, in an attempt to preserve fish stocks.

In July, the European Commission proposed a 15% cut in quotas on cod fishing in the Baltic Sea.

"Jellyfish-Like Creatures Fight Global Warming"

From Astrobiology Magazine
(based on a WHOI release)

Transparent jellyfish-like creatures known as salps, considered by many a low member in the ocean food web, may be more important to the fate of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the ocean than previously thought.

In the May issue of Deep Sea Research, scientists report that salps, about the size of a human thumb, swarming by the billions in hot spots may be transporting tons of carbon per day from the ocean surface to the deep sea and keep it from re-entering the atmosphere. Salps are semi-transparent, barrel-shaped marine animals that move through the water by drawing water in the front end and propelling it out the rear in a sort of jet propulsion. The water passes over a mucus membrane that vacuums it clean of all edible material.

The oceans absorb excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, some from the burning of fossil fuels. In sunlit surface waters, tiny marine plants called phytoplankton use the carbon dioxide to grow. Animals then consume the phytoplankton and incorporate the carbon, but most of it dissolves back into the oceans when the animals defecate or die. The carbon can be used again by bacteria and plants, or can return to the atmosphere as heat-trapping carbon dioxide when it is consumed and respired by animals.

Biologists Laurence Madin of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Patricia Kremer of the University of Connecticut and colleagues have conducted four summer expeditions to the Mid-Atlantic Bight region, between Cape Hatteras and Georges Bank in the North Atlantic, since 1975. Each time the researchers found that one particular salp species, Salpa aspera, multiplied into dense swarms that lasted for months.

One swarm covered 100,000 square kilometers (38,600 square miles) of the sea surface. The scientists estimated that the swarm consumed up to 74 percent of microscopic carbon-containing plants from the surface water per day, and their sinking fecal pellets transported up to 4,000 tons of carbon a day to deep water...


While that is interesting and all - and certainly the Earth has balancing agents that people will never know about - these salps and similar things could not be considered to be the "solution" - or we wouldn't have the problem that we do - the temperatures wouldn't be rising as they are. It's interesting to know that without them - global warming would likely be worse.

Just for Fun

Let's see who does NOT believe that humans are creating global warming or that we should do anything about it.

There is Men's News Daily - Doug Powers and his "Pliocene Tortoises Driving SUV’s and other Global Warming Conundrums"

- his work can also be seen at WorldNetDaily, The American Spectator, and such.


The Business & Media Institute (Advancing the culture of Free Enterprise in America) and Ken Shepherd's "ABC Reheats Leftover Bias on Global Warming"

- links to your typical right-wing think tanks - including the "Competitive Enterprise Institute" - See last article "Royal Society tells Exxon: stop funding climate change denial".


News Busters - "Exposing and Combating Liberal Media Biaas" - and Lyford Beverage's "Good Morning America - Advocates for Global Warming Alarmism"

- This is another "Media Research Site" - along with "Business & Media Institute" (see above) and "Times Watch", and Cybercast News Service (, "The Right News. Right Now" - all endorsed by Rush Limbaugh, Robert D. Novak, and representatives from FOX, The Weekly Standard, Wall Street Journal, etc.


At something called LiveScience Blogs - "Your Daily dose of Science scuttlebutt..." Robert Roy Britt writes, "Anti-Global Warming Noise ‘Won’t Stop Until Some of These Scientists are Dead’"

- from Imaginova - a leading science and technology media and commerce company. "Imaginova Network content is syndicated to MSN/, Yahoo,,, and Captivate Networks." Major Investors include Gannett Company, Inc.

The Imaginova Network of media brands include: LiveScience™.com, focusing on innovative and intriguing science and technology news and multimedia features;®, a web site that offers rich and compelling space, astronomy and technology multimedia content; and Space News®, the premier business-to-business international news weekly dedicated to commercial and military space and satellite communications businesses.


Meanwhile (back in reality):

Journal says agency blocked report on hurricanes, warming

A government agency blocked release of a report that suggests global warming is contributing to the frequency and strength of hurricanes, the journal Nature reported yesterday...

In the new case, Nature said weather specialists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration -- part of the Commerce Department -- in February set up a seven-member panel to prepare a consensus report.

According to Nature, a draft of the statement said that warming may be having an effect. In May, when the report was expected to be released, panel chairman Ants Leetmaa received an e-mail from a Commerce official saying the report needed to be made less technical and was not to be released, Nature reported.

Leetmaa, head of NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in New Jersey, did not respond to calls. NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher was out of the country, but Nature quoted him as saying the report was merely an internal document and could not be released because the agency could not take an official position on the issue.

The journal said in its online report that the study was a discussion of the current state of hurricane science and did not contain any policy or position statements.

The report drew a response from Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, who charged that ``the administration has effectively declared war on science and truth to advance its anti-environment agenda . . . The Bush administration continues to censor scientists who have documented the current impacts of global warming."


Clean Air Watch Assails EPA Soot Decision, Says Agency Ignores Its Own Science Advisers

"With this decision, the Bush Administration has abdicated its responsibility to protect breathers from dangers in the air," charged Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch.

"This is a huge victory for big polluters, and a deadly setback for the breathing public. It is the single worst action the Bush administration has taken on air pollution."

O'Donnell noted that literally dozens of medical and health groups -- including the American Medical Association, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics -- had all urged the EPA to set much tougher standards to reduce both short-term and long-term exposure to particle soot.

EPA's independent science advisers had echoed that call.

But EPA Administrator Steve Johnson disregarded that scientific advice in the face of pressure from big polluters, including the oil, electric power, coal, chemical, steel, automotive and diesel engine industries -- big financial contributors to the Bush White House. O'Donnell noted an electric power industry lobbyist met with the White House on this issue as recently as Monday, Sept. 18.

"EPA's decision was based on political science, not real science," noted O'Donnell. "Why else would EPA disregard its own science advisers?"


Royal Society tells Exxon: stop funding climate change denial

Britain's leading scientists have challenged the US oil company ExxonMobil to stop funding groups that attempt to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change.

In an unprecedented step, the Royal Society, Britain's premier scientific academy, has written to the oil giant to demand that the company withdraws support for dozens of groups that have "misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence".

The scientists also strongly criticise the company's public statements on global warming, which they describe as "inaccurate and misleading".

...The groups, such as the US Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), whose senior figures have described global warming as a myth, are expected to launch a renewed campaign ahead of a major new climate change report.


You have to wonder if the people in the first set of essays that I listed are being funded by Exxon (I would guess that most of them are) - or if they are merely repeating the talking points of those who are paid. What nonsense. I wonder if any of them believe it.

Update - here is a list from 2005 of some of the groups that have been funded by Exxon. And the "Media Research Center" is one of the groups. Of course - the various think tanks might fund who-knows-who?


A Snake in the Road

Last night night I was reading, When God was a Woman where the author was going into detail about snakes - "Unraveling the Myth of Adam and Eve".

For example:

"On the island of Crete the snake appears in the worship of the female deity more repeatedly than anywhere else in the Mediterranean area. All over the island, artifacts have been unearthed that portray the Goddess or Her priestesses holding snakes in their hands or with them coiled about their bodies, revealing that they were an important part of the religious myths....

Evans, offering supportive evidence, asserted that the Lady of the Serpents on Crete was originally derived from the worship of the Cobra Goddess of the predynastic people of Egypt. He suggested that the worship of the Serpent Lady may have been brought to Crete in about 3000 BC."

It's pretty interesting to think about the Bible in relation to what the religions were at the time. The religions that the patriarchs of the Bible were trying to convince people to abandon - or if not - to be killed.

At any rate - I got up this morning and went on my ritual walk at dawn and here was a snake in the road - right by the mailbox (it seemed like a message). It was dead. It had been crushed. I do see snakes around here from time to time - usually about once or twice a year. I often see worms in the road - after a big rain. This snake was about the size of a worm - about 7-8 inches long. In good shape for the most part. Snakes are quite distinctive from worms - even when they are the same size. The shape of the head, the tapering of the tail into a point, the way their bodies curve. I decided to save it - rather than have it be breakfast for a bird.


I googled "the Little Goddess of the Serpents" looking for an image - and came across this:

"The Serpent Goddess symbolizes the bridge between the worlds, death, and renewal."

From "Awakening", "The old world (still alive in the beliefs of the East) and the new world (characterized by the Christian West) have differing views on the serpent.  What one thinks of the serpent (the primal, regenerating energy of nature) depends upon what one thinks of nature.

Civilization provides an isolating barrier between us and the harsh realities of the world outside.  The old world was far more intimate with nature than we.  To know Nature was survival: they knew it, honored it, and feared it.  Any other philosophy was inconceivable ‑ and suicidal. The primal, regenerating energy of nature was, to them, Divine Power incarnate in the animals, in the plants, in the soil of the earth, in the swirling wind of the sky, in the swirling water of the rivers.  Nature was a sacred, life‑bestowing Goddess; we can’t really imagine the awe early people felt for Her and the cyclical periodicity of Her Will: something begins, endures briefly, and ends...only to begin again in new form....

The dominance of this “Cycles of Nature” religion lasted for thousands of years, until a man from the Mesopotamian city of Ur, Abraham (c. 2000 BC), imagined an alternative view of time, and consequently, of nature and divinity. What if time doesn’t go around and around, with things rising and falling, only to rise and fall again?  What if the apparent cycles are actually contained within a larger linear motion of time?  Time is not a wheel, but a direction the wheel is traveling: this is the "Arrow of Time".
The world‑shaking import of this idea can hardly be overstated, for it is now the philosophy of the entire modern world - the forward-looking, ambition-driven civilization that it was instrumental in creating.

The "arrow of time" is also known as entropy. Our "forward-looking, ambition-driven civilization" - this disconnect from Nature - may take us back to the Cambrian time period 500 million years ago - when jellyfish and a few other things flourished. (Or it could be the Devonian (410 to 360 mya) - characterized by Mass extinction or the Ordovician (500 to 440 mya) - also having mass extinctions - but let's not quibble about that - that is not the point). It's a large cycle to think of in terms of Nature - yet if those are the conditions that people are creating (the earth is the warmest it's been in a million years) - that is where the "arrow of time" could go. To start the cycle over again - a cycle which may include some type of people in the far distant future becoming disconnected from Nature again.

It's all a cycle whether we like it or not.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Water Problems

It seems that most people still take water for granted - even as some areas are drying up. This is a part of the same problem as the e-coli in spinach (it being irrigated by contaminated sewage instead of clean water). Are people watering their lawns - playing golf on well-watered golf courses - instead of having safe spinach and/or fish to eat? Did anyone tell people that those are the choices that we are making?

A couple of news stories:

State should keep working to protect Apalachicola River

The state of Florida is doing the right thing in filing a federal lawsuit to preserve adequate water flows in the Apalachicola River, which flows to the Gulf Coast about 150 miles east of Pensacola.

It should take this fight as far as necessary.

The Apalachicola still resembles a wild river over much of its course, despite the loss of water in Alabama and Georgia, primarily to provide water to Atlanta.

The river's primary function in Florida is to feed freshwater and nutrients to Apalachicola Bay, one of the richest and most productive estuaries in the United States. It provides about 90 percent of the oysters produced in Florida -- 15 percent of the national harvest -- as well as various species of commercial and game fish.

The fertility of the bay -- and the productivity of its various fisheries -- is dependent on adequate seasonal water flows. High water floods the low-lying wetlands along the river, drawing nutrients and vegetable matter back to the Apalachicola, which carries them down to the bay to feed plants, algae, fish and other marine life.

Florida officials are charging in the lawsuit that so much water is being taken from the river that several endangered species are being killed. Officials say that at times, up to half the river's flow is being taken from the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers, which merge to form the Apalachicola....

Instead of continuing to drain the river excessively to water lawns and golf courses in Georgia, the federal government should require Atlanta to do everything it can to conserve water, including reuse of treated wastewater.


Eco-Paradises in Crossfire of Water Scarcity Fight

Delicate wetlands, coasts and wildlife sanctuaries could be ravaged as part of a struggle to stretch the world's water supplies, with the worst damage foreseen in poor countries.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), said precious ecosystems like the Okavango Delta in Botswana -- the planet's largest inland delta, which hosts a diversity of fish, game and birds -- may be targeted as a fresh water source if scarcity becomes acute.

"Botswana itself is a water-stressed country. The pressure to extract water that would otherwise maintain that ecological paradise will be immense," he told Reuters in a telephone interview from UNEP's headquarters in Nairobi.

Water basins in Africa's Sahel region, especially Lake Chad, could also be regarded as easy-to-access sources of fresh water if crippling droughts continue to grip countries like Chad, Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia, Steiner said.

"There will be difficult choices to make," he said.

One billion people, about a sixth of humanity, now lacks access to safe drinking water, and one in three lives in regions plagued by water scarcity, according to U.N. data.

Steiner said human water consumption could jump another 40 percent over the next 20 years as the global population grows and more affluent societies demand more supplies for drinking, bathing, irrigation, energy generation and manufacturing....

"The immediate consequence, if the environment is affected, is that the number of living species will be diminished in wetland, river and lake areas," he added.

On the Bill Clinton/FOX interview

Bill Clinton was on FOX recently and "smacked down" Chris Wallace (and anyone making bogus claims) about his attempt to try to "get" Osama Bin Laden.

While it's nice to have Republican propaganda effectively countered - I have doubts about the essential message that Clinton is promoting.

The idea that Americans are supposed to swallow is that the Republicans are so effective on foreign policy and "security" and that Democrats are weak. Clinton makes a convincing argument that he was not weak.

The Republicans thought that when Clinton was in office that he was exaggerating the terrorism problems and his response. And yet when G.W. does the same (only exponentially more so) - they seem to think that it's a wonderful thing for politicians to do. Maybe they have short memories. Clinton tried to remind them.

What gets me - is the notion that is adopted by so many - that if you oppose the US being an imperialistic country that you are against "security". I think that more people could be skeptical of politicians from both parties when it comes to how the "War on Terror" is sold to us.

The Democrats have not been representing their constituency when they argue that they would be even more tough than the Republicans have been. 60% of Americans oppose the war/invasion of Iraq - most of those are Democrats. Clinton is trying to sell us on the idea that Democrats can't be wimps - or mean old Karl Rove will see to it that the Democrats won't win.

The idea about "terrorists" is that they are people who work outside of any government or organization. The rogue person who gets a bomb and is desperate enough to blow himself up. Yet that idea has been turned into this this whole other thing - and becomes reasons to invade Iraq, for Israel to bomb Lebanon, for us to threaten Iran - as well as the reason to take away our constitutional rights, and the human rights of many other people.

I think the "War on Terror" has become the "US terrorizing the World". I have no respect for politicians of either side who promote that. Or who say that their side is "tougher" than the other. To play is to lose.

The National Intelligence Estimate that came out recently supports this idea. This is what the anti-war people have been saying since before the war began: "The war in Iraq has become the primary recruitment vehicle for violent Islamic extremists, motivating a new generation of potential terrorists around the world whose numbers are increasing faster than the United States and its allies are eliminating the threat."

Any politician who supports the idea that going around the world, threatening, torturing, invading, bombing and killing people is supposed to make us safer is part of the problem - not a part of the solution. And people who make the argument that doing those things promotes American security - are wrong.

The US military is not going to kill all of the terrorists. They are creating the conditions under which terrorism flourishes. Bush keeps saying that things are going according to plan - so I have to assume that this is his plan - to make the world a less secure place for us to live. To create the conditions for perpetual war.

The DLC - of which Clinton has been a member - has been very antagonistic toward anti-war people. It sounds like his message might be that the Democrats would be smarter in their acts of the "US terrorizing the World" - but how smart can that be?

I would like to hear him and others denounce the nonsense - not encourage it.

Snips From the transcripts (W.J.Clinton on FOX/Chris Wallace interview 9.22)

WJC:  Okay, let’s talk about it. I will answer all of those things on the merits, but I want to talk about the context (in) which this…arises. I’m being asked this on the FOX network…ABC just had a right-wing conservative on "The Path to 9/11" falsely claim that it was falsely based on the 911 Commission Report with three things asserted against me that are directly contradicted by the 9/11 Commission Report. I think it’s very interesting that all the conservative Republicans who now say that I didn’t do enough claimed (then) that I was obsessed with Bin Laden. All of President Bush’s neocons claimed that I was too obsessed with finding Bin Laden when they didn’t have a single meeting about Bin Laden for the nine months after I left office. All the right-wingers who now say that I didn’t do enough said (then) that I did too much. Same people.

They were all trying to get me to withdraw from Somalia in 1993, the next day after we were involved in Black Hawk Down.  And I refused to do it and stayed six months and had an orderly transfer to the UN. Okay, now let’s look at all the criticisms: Black Hawk Down, Somalia. There is not a living soul in the world who thought that Bin Laden had anything to do with Black Hawk Down or was paying any attention to it or even knew al Qaeda was a growing concern in October of 1993.

...after the Cole, I had battle plans drawn to go into Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban, and launch a full scale attack/search for Bin Laden. But we needed basing rights in Uzbekistan, which we got (only) after 9/11. The CIA and the FBI refused to certify that Bin Laden was responsible while I was there. They refused to certify. So that meant I would have had to send a few hundred Special Forces in helicopters and refuel at night. Even the 9/11 Commission didn’t do (think we should have done) that.

...And if I were still President, we’d have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill him. Now I never criticized President Bush, and I don’t think this is useful. But you know we do have a government that thinks Afghanistan is 1/7 as important as Iraq.

...Even if they agree with us about the Iraq war, we could be hurt by Karl Rove’s new foray if we don’t make it clear that we care about the security of this country... We’ve got a huge military presence in this campaign and you can’t let them have some rhetorical device that puts us in a box that we don’t belong in.

"Just a Comma"

Bush to Blitzer on CNN (posted at Wonkette):

“I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iran — Iraq — it will look like just a comma because there is — my point is, there’s a strong will for democracy, these people want a unity government, the unity government’s functioning.”

Juan Cole's answer to the Bush quote, "But Iraq is very clearly an exclamation point. Now you know why the whole policy has been wrong. Bush has been trying to close off a dependent clause, not realizing he was forcefully making a declarative statement."

And here I thought it was Bush's intention to change the world.

"In these four years, Americans have seen the unfolding of large events....The attack on freedom in our world has reaffirmed our confidence in freedom's power to change the world." (State of the Union Speech, 2005).

And then there is Rice and her, "birth pangs of a new Middle East" comment.

Richard Debs, (former Chair of the Board of the American University of Beirut) said on Democracy Now!, "This can't go on, this American incursion in creating a new Middle East, as the Secretary of State said, going through the birthing pains of creating a new Middle East. A new Middle East for what? A new Middle East for the benefit of Israel and the United States. That's the view over there.

Those are code words. “Democracy” has become a codeword, I’m sorry to say, and not a good codeword in the Middle East. Democracy stands for now, in their perception, the idea of American sovereignty over the whole area and Israeli incursions into the whole area. It's a very sad situation."

The Bush definition of "Freedom" is capitalism. As in "Freedom is exported every day, as we ship goods and products that improve the lives of millions of people."

While the Bush definition of "Democracy" is imperialism - the US right to control other's countries.

It's hard to tell - does Bush not want us to take Iraq seriously (it being a "comma") - or to not take him and his mission seriously. We all know that there was not a mission that was accomplished - other than taking Saddam out of power. Unless the mission was to turn Iraq into a mess.

Or when he says "there’s a strong will for democracy" - does he mean that he thinks that there are a lot of people in Iraq who have become so desperate (because of the situation created by the US military) that they are ready for the US military to come and take an even larger role.

Most of what Bush says is gobbledygook - and I certainly don't expect honesty or anything informative to come out of his mouth. But sometimes there are clues between the words - if you know what his definitions are.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Genetically Modified Disasters

Vegetables (including soy) these days are in a sorry state with the genetically engineering, seed control, what's shown up with the spinach (polluted water irrigation) and then there are the suicides of farmers in India.

(Soy is the pretend "meat" these days. There is "Soyrizo" and "Gimme Lean" - plus tofu and all of that.)

From the Kitchen of Dr. Frankenstein

We Americans are eating a lot of genetically engineered food, and for no good reason.

Since the mid-1990s, when corn and soybean varieties began being injected with genes from bacteria and other unrelated species, we've been paying participants in a food experiment with potentially unprecedented effects on human health, the environment and food security.

By 2005, the Agriculture Department says, the vast majority of U.S. soybean acres and 52 percent of corn acres were planted with genetically engineered seed.

....Corn and soybeans are ubiquitous: tens of thousands of processed foods contain soy, and the typical consumer takes in 200 calories of high-fructose corn syrup per day. Alter the genomes of corn and soybeans, and you've altered the diet of most Americans.

Corn and soybeans are staples of animal feeds, so we're also modifying the diets of our beef cattle and milk cows, our pigs and chickens.

The price of modified seed includes a technology fee that effectively siphons off the bulk of any additional revenue farmers might gain from reduced pest damage or decreased management costs.

Many hoped that genetically engineered crops would help the environment by cutting pesticide use. We should have known that growing crops engineered to tolerate herbicides could lead to more chemical use. A 2004 analysis funded by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that the introduction of engineered corn, soybeans and cotton caused a 122 million pound increase in pesticide use since 1996.

And because resistant crops have encouraged near constant use of one or two classes of herbicides, superweeds that withstand the chemicals have now emerged and will require ever more potent poisons to control.

The only clear reason why we're eating so much genetically modified food is that Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta, which together control over 25 percent of global seed sales, want us to....

On India’s Farms, a Plague of Suicide

Changes brought on by 15 years of economic reforms have opened Indian farmers to global competition and given them access to expensive and promising biotechnology, but not necessarily opened the way to higher prices, bank loans, irrigation or insurance against pests and rain.

Mr. Singh’s government, which has otherwise emerged as a strong ally of America, has become one of the loudest critics in the developing world of Washington’s $18 billion a year in subsidies to its own farmers, which have helped drive down the price of cotton for farmers like Mr. Shende.

At the same time, frustration is building in India with American multinational companies peddling costly, genetically modified seeds. They have made deep inroads in rural India — a vast and alluring market — bringing new opportunities but also new risks as Indian farmers pile up debt.

Monsanto, for instance, invented the genetically modified seeds that Mr. Shende planted, known as Bt cotton, which are resistant to bollworm infestation, the cotton farmer’s prime enemy. It says the seeds can reduce the use of pesticides by 25 percent.

The company has more than doubled its sales of Bt cotton here in the last year, but the expansion has been contentious. This year, a legal challenge from the government of the state of Andhra Pradesh forced Monsanto to slash the royalty it collected from the sale of its patented seeds in India. The company has appealed to the Indian Supreme Court.

The modified seeds can cost nearly twice as much as ordinary ones, and they have nudged many farmers toward taking on ever larger loans, often from moneylenders charging exorbitant interest rates.

Virtually every cotton farmer in these parts, for instance, needs the assistance of someone like Chandrakant Agarwal, a veteran moneylender who charges 5 percent interest a month.

He collects his dues at harvest time, but exacts an extra premium, compelling farmers to sell their cotton to him at a price lower than it fetches on the market, pocketing the profit.

His collateral policy is nothing if not inventive. The borrower signs a blank official document that gives Mr. Agarwal the right to collect the farmer’s property at any time.

Business has boomed with the arrival of high-cost seeds and pesticides. “Many moneylenders have made a whole lot of money,” Mr. Agarwal said. “Farmers, many of them, are ruined.”

Suicide rate high for India's farmers

BHADUMARI, India, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Suicides among farmers in India reached 17,107 in 2003, and anecdotal reports suggest the trend is ongoing, a report said Tuesday.

The high suicide rates have been building for years and have been attributed in part to economic troubles facing the populous South Asian nation's agriculture industry, The New York Times said.

"The suicides are an extreme manifestation of some deep-seated problems which are now plaguing our agriculture," said M.S. Swaminathan, chairman of the National Commission on Farmers. "They are climatic. They are economic. They are social."
Economic reforms have given farmers access to foreign biotechnology, but they have also opened the door for international competition. The expensive biotechnology also causes many farmers to sink deeper into debt, the Times said.

A study by Srijit Mishra, a professor at the Bombay-based Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, found that 86.5 percent of farmers who committed suicide were in debt, 40 percent had their crops fail and more than half owned less than five acres of land.

Farmers' suicide toll 253 in Vidarbha (India - this year as of 9.15) and more continue.


HBO Documentary on Daniel Pearl, Saeed Sheikh

I don't get HBO - but it sounds like this may be a good documenty.


The Centre for Research on Globalisation had pieced together some info on this back in 2002.

"Daniel Pearl and the Paymaster of 9/11"

Their version sounds more plausible than what the corporate media spits out. I'd be curious to know what HBO does with it.

From the simplified synopsis

A mere week after the destruction of the World Trade Center, authorities were gradually building toward an official announcement that would definitively link Osama bin Laden to the events of September 11 - a wire transfer of $100,000 to lead hijacker Mohamed Atta. To an increasingly skeptical public, here was the "smoking gun", a bona fide money trail that would demonstrate how al-Qaida planned and financed the operation.

On October 1, 2001, the press revealed the pseudonym of the al-Qaida operative who allegedly passed on the funds to the hijackers. Days later, CNN revealed that the pseudonym belonged to a 28-year old Pakistani militant, a former student at the London School of Economics named Omar Saeed Sheikh. Yet on October 9, the Times of India reported that Omar Saeed was in fact acting under the authority of General Mahmud Ahmad, the chief of Pakistani intelligence, who had spent the morning of September 11 in deep discussion with Sen. Bob Graham and Rep. Porter Goss (now the co-chairmen heading up the "independent" investigation into 9/11). An intricate disinformation campaign was now set in motion to control any damaging fallout that might have implicated elements of the U.S. government in the events of September 11.

At the insistence of U.S. authorities, General Ahmad was "quietly retired," and a cover story was then elaborated to explain that General Ahmad was "purged" by the Pakistani President for being "pro-Taliban" - yet distancing him from any connection to the 9/11 money trail....

From the main version:

Thus, courtesy of The Times of India, by October 9, Omar Saeed was not only tagged as the "bagman" of 9/11, but he was now reported as acting under the orders of the chief of Pakistani intelligence. That in itself is not so surprising, as the ISI was long acknowledged as being the primary backer - pre-9/11 - of the Taliban. Yet why, then, would the U.S. government insist on nothing more punitive than the general's immediate retirement? Here is one possible reason, courtesy of the archives of Karachi News, datelined September 9, 2001 (two days before 9/11, for those who didn't notice):

"ISI Chief Lt-Gen [Mahmud Ahmad's] week-long presence in Washington has triggered speculation about the agenda of his mysterious meetings at the Pentagon and National Security Council. Officially, State Department sources say he is on a routine visit in return to CIA Director George Tenet's earlier visit to Islamabad...What added interest to his visit is the history of such visits. Last time Ziauddin Butt, [General Ahmad's] predecessor, was here during Nawaz Sharif's government, the domestic politics turned topsy-turvy within days. That this is not the first visit by [General Ahmad] in the last three months shows the urgency of the ongoing parleys."

Saturday, September 23, 2006

"Ill-Gotten Gains"

I used to think that this did not make sense - the idea that restitution should be paid by institutions that capitalized on slavery. But in the political climate that we have - with a government which has no intention of trying to level any playing fields - which let the rich keep larger portions of their money - dead or alive - I've been rethinking my position.

When you have to have capital to get much done - when "old money" allows some people to live very well (and to start new businesses) - based on money that has been capitalized off of the labor and ownership of people 150+ years - it makes sense to have some kind of payback. Since neither the slaves nor their descendents were then nor since compensated. And yet other people keep profiting.

Corporate America's Uncashed Check: Disgorging the Ill-Gotten Gains of Slave Labor

On September 27th in a federal courthouse in Chicago an appellate panel will hear argument in the first case that seeks to hold major American financial institutions liable for their role in financing, underwriting and profiting from slavery in the United States.

Many groups have received reparations for past atrocities and historical injustices, but never African-Americans.

This recent lawsuit marks a new departure in the battle for reparations. Rather than seek to hold the government responsible for the general historic wrongs of slavery, this litigation targets the companies that specifically profited – often illegally – from slavery. The plaintiffs are descendants of slaves upon whom these financial institutions profited...

Institutions mentioned include: JP Morgan Chase , Bank of America, Brown Brothers Harriman, Aetna

"Western" Trash in Africa

We have 2 or 3 computers and other assorted extinct gadgets that we never have gotten around to discarding. Knowing how bad a system there is that exists for their disposal is not encouraging.

Toxic Shock: How Western Rubbish is Destroying Africa

Western corporations are exploiting legal loopholes to dump their waste in Africa. And in Ivory Coast, the price has been death and disease for thousands.

One August morning, people living near the Akouedo rubbish dump in Abidjan, capital of the Ivory Coast, woke up to a foul-smelling air. Soon, they began to vomit, children got diarrhoea, and the elderly found it difficult to breathe. "The smell was unbelievable, a cross between rotten eggs and blocked drains," said one Abidjan resident. "After 10 minutes in the thick of it, I felt sick."

As they live near the biggest landfill in Abidjan, the people of Akouedo are used to having rubbish dumped on their doorstep. Trucks unload broken glass, rotting food and used syringes. Children try to make the best of their dismal playground, looking for scraps of metal and old clothes to sell for a few cents.

But this time, the waste would benefit no one. By yesterday, at least six people, including two children, had died from the fumes...

Probo Koala, the ship that offloaded the waste, is registered in Panama and chartered by the Dutch trading company Trafigura Beheer. Trafigura had tried to offload its slops in Amsterdam, but the Amsterdam Port Services recognised its contents as toxic and asked to renegotiate terms. Trafigura said shipping delays would mean penalties of at least 250,000 US dollars (£133,000) so handed it over to a disposal company in Abidjan alongside a "written request that the material should be safely disposed of, according to country laws, and with all the correct documentation."

This story is a common one. All down the West Africa coast, ships registered in America and Europe unload containers filled with old computers, slops, and used medical equipment. Scrap merchants, corrupt politicians and underpaid civil servants take charge of this rubbish and, for a few dollars, will dump them off coastlines and on landfill sites....

The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that worldwide, 20 million to 50 million tons of electronics are discarded each year. Less than 10 per cent gets recycled and half or more ends up overseas.

Update: There have been 7 deaths and 44,000 seeking hospital treatment. The company denies disposing of toxic waste.


So essentially - the problem is that spinach is being grown using very contaminated water (esp. in California - not as much in Florida).

Spinach: What you should know

Q: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration recommend discarding bagged salad mixes that contain spinach, and not eating fresh spinach in its raw state for now. Is cooked spinach safe?

A: According to Tom Skinner, a CDC spokesman in Atlanta, fresh spinach should not be consumed raw. "We think that cooking to 160 degrees for 15 seconds will do what needs to be done to make it safe, but that's 160 degrees all the way through and it's hard to take the temperature of a leaf of spinach. For now, use frozen packaged spinach and cook it as directed." Microwaving can't guarantee a safe temperature.

Q: Will washing take away the E. coli?

A: "This is a very hardy bacteria," Skinner says. "Thoroughly washing fresh produce is always a good thing to do, but cook it properly too."

Q: So E. coli isn't just dangerous in meat or dairy products?

A: "These outbreaks are usually associated with undercooked meat, but we have seen a number of outbreaks related to produce," Skinner says.

Q: What other type of produce poses an E. coli risk?

A: Any produce that is irrigated. "It's not the produce itself, it's how it's grown, harvested and packed," Skinner says.

From the LA Times:
E. Coli Pervades Harvest Area

Salinas Valley waterways are known to carry the bacteria that poisoned at least 145 people and killed one who ate tainted spinach.

September 21, 2006

The bacterium that has sickened people across the nation and forced growers to destroy spinach crops is so pervasive in the Salinas Valley that virtually every waterway there violates national standards.

"There are many sources of water coming into the watershed, and I guarantee you that they all have generic E. coli," and many carry the deadly E. coli strain linked to food poisonings, said Christopher Rose, an environmental scientist at the state's Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, which tests the region's waterways.

Federal officials said Wednesday they are focusing on nine fields in San Benito, Santa Clara and Monterey counties as possible sources of the bacteria-contaminated spinach that killed one woman and sickened at least 145 others in 23 states.

Investigators also announced that spinach found in the refrigerator of a New Mexico resident who became ill tested positive for E. coli 0157:H7, the dangerous bacteria strain responsible for the outbreak. The finding confirmed suspicions that the tainted spinach originated from California's Central Coast, where it was packaged by Natural Selection Foods under the Dole label....

The O157:H7 strain was first recognized as a cause of illness during a 1982 outbreak traced to fast food hamburgers. But its prevalence in most regions is unknown because there is no EPA requirement to test for it in waterways, wells or irrigation water, Kemery said.

After food poisoning outbreaks several years ago, regional water officials stepped up sampling and added analysis for the deadly strain in the Salinas watershed, finding the bacteria in several waterways next to areas where livestock graze.

E. coli is a national problem, but it is especially severe in livestock areas. A single cow can shed as much as 100 billion fecal bacteria per day. The food-poisoning outbreak could pit vegetable growers against livestock owners, both economic powerhouses in the state.

Monterey County's spinach fields are downstream of the Gabilan Mountains, where beef cattle, dairy cows and horses graze. En route to the Salinas River, many tributaries flow through the livestock areas, picking up bacteria. The water then flows through the low-lying valley where vegetables are grown.

Cattle and other livestock graze near the banks of the creeks, and their manure can easily contaminate the water with millions of E. coli organisms. "In some areas, grazing has resulted in manure lining the banks of channels of tributaries to the Salinas River," a June report by the Central Coast water board stated.

"Russia sets the pace in energy race"

Article in the Asia Times:

Speaking at a conference under the rubric "Summit on Energy Security" at West Lafayette, Indiana, this month, the powerful chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, characterized Venezuela, Iran and Russia as "adversarial regimes" that were using energy supplies as "leverage" in foreign policy.

Lugar said: "We are used to thinking in terms of conventional warfare between nations, but energy is becoming a weapon of choice for those who possess it."

(big snip).....In conclusion, the Caspian Great Game is fraught with serious contradictions cutting across different levels. On the one hand, Russia is arrayed against the US and the EU in controlling Central Asian energy flows to the West. But having thwarted the latest US-EU plans of sourcing Caspian energy bypassing Russia, for the time being at least, Russia and the EU have a commonality of interests in meeting the energy security of the European market. The US becomes the odd man out in the cold, while European countries are busily negotiating their bilateral energy supplies from Russia.

For the EU, the viable alternative supply source of gas is Iran. But the policy of its US ally apropos containment of Iran precludes any near-term possibility for the EU to enter any form of expanded energy dialogue with Tehran. On the other hand, in keeping Iran out of the European market, Russia and the US would have a common interest at this juncture, though Washington ought to be aware that any realistic possibility of reducing its European allies' dependence on Russian energy supplies would depend on Iran being allowed into the European market.

Again, Russia and China are finding themselves competing for Central Asia's energy reserves, while the Central Asian exporting countries are gaining space to maneuver between Russia and China for extracting better prices for their oil and gas. And all this is while all three protagonists are members of an ambitious forum of regional cooperation called the SCO.

To the extent that the US realizes that it has become the "underdog" with regard to Russia in the Caspian energy race, it is keen to coordinate with China and India in evolving a common platform of "energy consuming countries". But would Washington succeed in subsuming the economic nationalism of the Asian giants, when it miserably failed to marshal the EU? After all, India just led a bruising dissenting campaign against Washington's move to give increased voting rights to China in the International Monetary Fund.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Not so Hopeful

Sounds like the same old same old runaround the law. The torture and treatment situation (and absence of accountability) might be even worse once this is passed....

From Democracy Now! :

Bush, GOP Senators Reach Prisoner Treatment Compromise

The Bush administration and dissident Republican Senators have resolved their dispute on the interrogation and trial of prisoners in US custody. Both sides say President Bush has dropped his insistence on being allowed to re-interpret the Geneva Conventions.

But in a major victory for the White House, the President will not have to follow the conventions themselves but only how they are interpreted under the congressional War Crimes Act. President Bush will also be allowed to interpret the Geneva conventions for practices the Washington Post says fall "between cruelty and minor abuse."

White House counselor Dan Bartlett explained: "We proposed a more direct approach to bringing clarification. This one is more of the scenic route, but it gets us there." In another victory for the Bush administration, prisoners tried by military courts will only have limited access to the evidence used against them. The prisoners will be allowed to see summaries of the evidence. But even those will be subject to major redaction from prosecutors.

The agreement also bars defendants from invoking the Geneva Conventions in any habeas or civil action involving government officials.

The so-called compromise is already coming under criticism. In an editorial today, the Washington Post writes: "The agreement means that U.S. violations of international human rights law can continue as long as Mr. Bush is president, with Congress's tacit assent."

The agreement is expected to go before Congress next week.

More from the Post editorial:

The bad news is that Mr. Bush, as he made clear yesterday, intends to continue using the CIA to secretly detain and abuse certain terrorist suspects. He will do so by issuing his own interpretation of the Geneva Conventions in an executive order and by relying on questionable Justice Department opinions that authorize such practices as exposing prisoners to hypothermia and prolonged sleep deprivation.

Under the compromise agreed to yesterday, Congress would recognize his authority to take these steps and prevent prisoners from appealing them to U.S. courts. The bill would also immunize CIA personnel from prosecution for all but the most serious abuses and protect those who in the past violated U.S. law against war crimes.


Oil and Stones

"The Stoneage didn't end because we ran out of stones."
- Al Gore on CNN today.


"Saudi Wary Of 'Green' Policies To Reduce Oil Consumption"

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia has expressed concern that oil could become a victim of "selective" environment policies and called for striking a balance between a cleaner environment and development. The kingdom, whose economy heavily relies on oil income, said the use of advanced technology to carry out environment-friendly projects is the best solution to achieve economic development without harming the climate.

"We are concerned that some environment-related decisions, which some countries are trying to impose, could reduce global consumption of oil," Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Nuaimi said....


It seems to me that G.W.Bush is too close to the Saudis for our own good. A lot of people remember the footage of Bush and one the Saudi princes walking hand in hand as if they were best friends (or better). The Bushes profit from Oil, along with the Saudis. It's not surprising that they are against recognizing global warming - or at least in taking any meaningful steps to reduce it.

The Nation is reporting "the Bush Administration and the Pentagon have issued orders for a major "strike group" of ships, including the nuclear aircraft carrier Eisenhower as well as a cruiser, destroyer, frigate, submarine escort and supply ship, to head for the Persian Gulf, just off Iran's western coast.

....official sources in the public affairs office of the Navy Department at the Pentagon confirm that this powerful armada is scheduled to arrive off the coast of Iran on or around October 21.

It's hard to know where the Israeli/Palestine conflict starts and stops and where the protection or control of oil begins and ends, instead. It seems to be all mixed up. And then there is the war profiteering of Haliburton/Cheney and all of that. There may be someone in government who thinks that what they are doing is for the public good - if they tell themselves that we need to use as much oil as possible and/or that we are the "good guys" for killing Muslims. It's hard to figure - and I don't see any good from any of it.

And we all know how a military strike bolsters the president's (and his party's) popularity polls - with this Iran thing coming just in time for the midterm elections. Blech.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Atheist Fundamentalists

That's how I see Sam Harris. He is anti-all-religion (or at least all Western religion) - doesn't see any good in any of it. Yet, his article, Head-in-the-Sand Liberals, could have been written by a Christian Fundamentalist with very few changes.

He spouts the "liberals are soft on terrorism" meme.

I noticed that a lot of people who like Harris, also like Daniel Pipes.I expect that they like being given more reasons to hate Muslims - that is what Harris really focuses on. Some people assume that he is some kind of liberal just because he is an atheist. I think that Harris makes the case that intolerance (esp. of other's religions) and liberalism are basically opposites (that's not the case he intended to make).

I see him as encouraging atheists to be extremists - as intolerant as the Christian Right. It's too bad that those are the people who make headlines - not the reasonable people. Harris makes it easy for people to characterize atheists as the "other" as "Atheist Fundamentalists" not as people who seek common ground. "Atheists for Peace" don't make headlines.

Indiana Jellyfish

The Indiana University newspaper has an article about jellyfish that live in fresh water lakes around here. That's pretty fun - it's not something that I usually think about - jellyfish in Indiana. It just goes to show you how universal they are. :)

Jelly fish Season

The white cross of the jellyfish distinguished its body against the dark background of Yellowwood Lake in Brown County. The rest of its transparent structure appeared as it slowly glided through the water. As stealthily as it surfaced, it sunk back into the darkness below the boat.

No one is quite sure when these elegant creatures arrived in local lakes, but their existence speaks to Indiana's impressive biodiversity and begs the question: Why would an animal so closely associated with marine environments annually show up hundreds of miles away from the nearest ocean?

....Jellyfish are most often spotted in August and September when the water is warm enough to allow them to grow....

People see the more recognizable medusa stage, or reproductive stage, of the jellyfish life cycle, said Terry Peard, professor of biology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, who studies freshwater jellyfish. Most of the rest of the year is spent attached to the underside of a log as a polyp, a tiny speck of an animal barely 1 millimeter in height.

Peard's research shows that these jellyfish are heartier -- and more adaptable -- than their delicate bodies, composed of more than 99 percent water, might suggest.

"We have collected jellies from bodies of water that run the gamut from pristine to various levels of pollution"...
Peard said he has found that jellyfish in the medusa form might migrate from site to site in boats, in bait buckets, by flooding or via underground aquifers connecting bodies of water....

"Most people are unaware they can find them as close to home as Indiana," (Cotten) said. 

Sailing to the North Pole

Scientists shocked as Arctic polar route emerges

European scientists voiced shock as they showed pictures which showed Arctic ice cover had disappeared so much last month that a ship could sail unhindered from Europe's most northerly outpost to the North Pole itself.

The satellite images were acquired from August 23 to 25 by instruments aboard Envisat and EOS Aqua, two satellites operated by the European Space Agency (ESA).

Perennial sea ice -- thick ice that is normally present year-round and is not affected by the Arctic summer -- had disappeared over an area bigger than the British Isles, ESA said.

Vast patches of ice-free sea stretched north of Svalbard, an archipelago lying midway between Norway and the North Ple, and extended deep into the Russian Arctic, all the way to the North Pole, the agency said in a press release.

"This situation is unlike anything observed in previous record low-ice seasons," said Mark Drinkwater of ESA's Oceans/Ice Unit....

Something Hopeful

Even if these CIA people were basically acting in their own self interest (not wanting to be prosecuted) - that's a hell of a lot better than having people in government who think that they are above the law and can do whatever....

CIA ‘refused to operate’ secret jails

Published: September 20 2006 22:07

The Bush administration had to empty its secret prisons and transfer terror suspects to the military-run detention centre at Guantánamo this month in part because CIA interrogators had refused to carry out further interrogations and run the secret facilities, according to former CIA officials and people close to the programme.

The former officials said the CIA interrogators’ refusal was a factor in forcing the Bush administration to act earlier than it might have wished.

When Mr Bush announced the suspension of the secret prison programme in a speech before the fifth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, some analysts thought he was trying to gain political momentum before the November midterm congressional elections.

The administration publicly explained its decision in light of the legal uncertainty surrounding permissible interrogation techniques following the June Supreme Court ruling that all terrorist suspects in detention were entitled to protection under Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions.

But the former CIA officials said Mr Bush’s hand was forced because interrogators had refused to continue their work until the legal situation was clarified because they were concerned they could be prosecuted for using illegal techniques. One intelligence source also said the CIA had refused to keep the secret prisons going.


The Bush Administration has recently been trying to push for legislation that would make such illegal activity legal. In another article:

John McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, called his opposition to an administration plan to allow aggressive interrogation techniques of detainees “a matter of conscience”.

“Are we going to be like the enemy, or are we going to be the United States of America?” said Mr McCain, who argues the White House plan would redefine US obligations under the Geneva conventions and put US forces at risk if they were captured in future wars. “We have to keep the moral high ground,” he told ABC News.

P.S. McCain ended up endorsing the torture/treatment deal (see 9.22) - so he was just blowing hot air - according to this - it had all been figured out a couple weeks ago, anyway. He likes to sound like the anti-torture guy - but that is apparently meaningless.


John Yoo (a deputy assistant attorney general from 2001 to 2003) - had quite the long op-ed Sunday in the New York Times - he wrote:

"The White House has declared that the Constitution allows the president to sidestep laws that invade his executive authority."

It was Yoo, along with Gonzalas, who wrote the nonsensical torture memos to begin with. As if since he said something was legal that that made it so. Or that he had the right the interpret the Constitution so it meant whatever he wanted it to mean.

The bottom line is that Bush and many people in his administration are guilty of war crimes. And they documented them, themselves - even as they lie about it.


A good NewYorker article from last year - OUTSOURCING TORTURE

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Google the word and all sorts of sorts of things come up. There is also an exhibition by the name in New York City:

“Ecotopia: The Second I.C.P. Triennial of Photography and Video” at the International Center of Photography - through Jan. 7.

“Ecotopia” is the center’s second “triennial of photography and video,” and like the first, it is purposefully germane. Its predecessor, “Strangers,” in 2003, explored the confusion of the post-9/11 world as it struggled with religious fundamentalism. Since the losses inflicted by the Indonesian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, a fear of political chaos has been at least equaled by a fear that the natural world itself is fatally compromised.

As Al Gore notes toward the end of “An Inconvenient Truth,” the film in which he charts the grim, imminent future of global warming, terrorism is not the only, nor necessarily the most urgent, problem confronting us today.

“Ecotopia” might be described as “An Inconvenient Truth” in exhibition form. It is a tale of beauty and devastation told by nearly 40 photojournalists and artists. Their viewpoints vary, as do their subjects and forms, but you rarely escape a sense of nature’s vast, incalculable richness or of photography’s ability to do it justice. There may be no greater meeting of subject and medium.


It's always an odd thing when people make beautiful photos of ugly things. That is not what all of what the exhibit is - but some of it - as you will see at the link.

I do mostly photograph things that are conventionally beautiful - like wildflowers or beaches. I edit out the trash, the inconvenient run down building or new development project. Sometimes it becomes quite a challenge - to get the beach photo without the condominum.

It helps having the National Wildlife Refuges, the State and National Parks. But those things seem so small in comparison to the developed land. In Florida - the St. Joe company (apparently friends of Jeb Bush) has been given much land to develop. They often have a marketing campaign that shows the land (or some land) in pristine condition - before development as a way to sell the land post-development. It seems really messed up.

If I were in charge of the world - there would not be development on the shoreline. It would all be free space for the public and for crabs and whatever else. Not only would this be beneficial to wildlife - it would save tons of reconstruction money. Resorts and houses built on sandbars are ridiculous and beaches restricted to local residents are one of my pet peeves in life. There would always be competition to be the closest property to the shore - whatever that was.


A misnomer if there ever was one.

I've read enough to believe that the 2000 as well as the 2004 elections were stolen (Florida and Ohio, respectively especially). Also there are midterm election questions as well. People - like Secretaries of State who are in position to purge voting rolls - have been one aspect - voting machines are another (voter suppression is also a component and unreliable voting machines adds to that). If our media was worth anything - this would be the main story until it was solved.

Princeton University came out with a study recently - it mostly confirms the problems with voting machines that we already knew about. See video here.

The main findings of our study are:

Malicious software running on a single voting machine can steal votes with little if any risk of detection. The malicious software can modify all of the records, audit logs, and counters kept by the voting machine, so that even careful forensic examination of these records will find nothing amiss. We have constructed demonstration software that carries out this vote-stealing attack.

Anyone who has physical access to a voting machine, or to a memory card that will later be inserted into a machine, can install said malicious software using a simple method that takes as little as one minute. In practice, poll workers and others often have unsupervised access to the machines.

AccuVote-TS machines are susceptible to voting-machine viruses — computer viruses that can spread malicious software automatically and invisibly from machine to machine during normal pre- and post-election activity. We have constructed a demonstration virus that spreads in this way, installing our demonstration vote-stealing program on every machine it infects.

While some of these problems can be eliminated by improving Diebold's software, others cannot be remedied without replacing the machines' hardware. Changes to election procedures would also be required to ensure security.


Update - a new article about this - Will The Next Election Be Hacked? Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Pakistan, the ISI & State Sponsored Terrorism

I saw this posted over at Daily Kos by London Yank

It's a timeline that shows how many of the terrorist attacks since 1993 have been connected to Pakistan (and the ISI - Pakistan's CIA). Also - releasing a U.S. shipment of F-16 fighter jets to the Pakistani government was one of the demands of Daniel Pearl's Pakistani kidnapper/killers.

"It struck me a week or so ago that every time Bush and Musharraf get together there is another major incident of terrorism somewhere in the world followed by another grant of billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan.  Pay off or blackmail, I couldn't say, but surely more than coincidence.  With Musharraf coming to the White House this week, and Bush's warning last week that the terrorists "will strike again", I felt it was time to do a little research.

....The Bush administration has been very generous to Pakistan while being very tight with just about every other developing nation."

Quoting from the Times(London)

"Pakistan has again become one of the biggest recipients of US aid -- just as it was during the Afghan war against Soviet occupiers when ISI was the main conduit for arms and funds. Since September 11, America has dismissed $1.5 billion in debt and provided Pakistan with more than $3 billion in military assistance.

Last year Pakistan was one of the world's fastest-growing economies. It recently placed a $2.5 billion order for American F-16 jet fighters -- as much as Afghanistan's entire annual foreign aid."

(see the Kos site for links & more info)

1993 (Feb.): Bombing of World Trade Center (WTC); 6 killed.
Mastermind was Ramzi Yousef, a Pakistani with links to the Pakistani government.

1998 (Aug.): Bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; 224 killed, including 12 Americans.
Masterminds were all terrorists based in Pakistan. Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was captured by Pakistani security forces in the eastern city of Gujrat in 2004.

1999 (Dec.): Plot to bomb millennium celebrations in Seattle foiled when customs agents arrest an Algerian smuggling explosives into the U.S.
Algerian plotters were trained in Pakistan and co-ordinated by Pakistan leadership.

2000 (Oct.): Bombing of the USS Cole in port in Yemen; 17 U.S. sailors killed.
Mastermind later captured in Pakistan and turned over via rendition to CIA.

2001 (Sept.): Destruction of WTC; attack on Pentagon. Total dead 2,992.
All 19 terrorists and Zacarias Moussaoui (suspected 20th) spent time in ISI-financed institutions in Pakistan.  In Septmeber 2001, the Bush administration proposes an aid package to Pakistan worth billions in sweeping debt rescheduling, grants stretching over many years and trade benefits as a reward for its support against terrorism.

2001 (Dec.): Man tried to denote shoe bomb on flight from Paris to Miami.
Richard Reid trained at an ISI-financed institution in Pakistan by the same explosives expert who taught Moussaoui.

2002 (April): Explosion at historic synagogue in Tunisia left 21 dead, including 11 German tourists.
Bomber trained in Pakistan and Al Qaeda unit in Pakistan claims responsibility for bombing.

2002 (May): Car exploded outside hotel in Karachi, Pakistan, killing 14, including 11 French citizens.

2002 (June): Bomb exploded outside American consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, killing 12.

2002 (Oct.): Boat crashed into oil tanker off Yemen coast, killing 1.

2002 (Oct.): Nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia, killed 202, mostly Australian citizens.
The leaders and perpetrators of the bombings were trained in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

2003 (May): 4 bombs killed 33 people targeting Jewish, Spanish, and Belgian sites in Casablanca, Morocco. Bombers linked to Zarqawi and other Pakistan-linked terrorists.

2004 (Jan.): Daniel Pearl, journalist for the Wall Street Journal investigating financing of 9-11, kidnapped and killed in Karachi.

2004 (March): 10 bombs on 4 trains exploded almost simultaneously during the morning rush hour in Madrid, Spain, killing 191 and injuring more than 1,500.
Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, the Syrian-born mastermind of the Madrid bombings, fled to Pakistan where he lived quietly until his reported arrest in 2005 when he was rendered to either the Americans or Syrians.

2004 (July): Pakistani arrested for plotting bombing of 34th Street Herald Square subway station.

2005 (July): Bombs on 7 July exploded on 3 trains and a bus in London, England, killing 52.
Mohammed Sidique Khan atttended a madrassa in northern Pakistan in July 2003, and Khan and Shehzad Tanweer took the same flight from London to Karchi on 19 November 2004, returning together 8 February 2005.  A Pakistani who remains unidentified led the group of bombers on a white water rafting trip in Wales a month before the bombings.
Bombs on 21 July in London. The leader of the bombers travelled to Pakistan in December 2004.
Sophisticated road-side bombs detonated by long range cellular phones are deployed in Afghanistan. Investigators conclude that insurgents, training and equipment are all coming from ISI in Pakistan.

2005 (Nov): Australian police arrest Islamic militants in raids in Sydney and Melbourne.
Arrested Australian Khaled Cheikho trained in a paramilitary camp run by ISI-connected Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2001.

2006 (March - June):  12 Pakistanis and Bangladeshis arrested for bomb plot in Toronto.

2006 (Feb.): Southern Afghanistan bombings intensify. Attacks were reported by suspects as organised and led by Taliban in Pakistan using Pakistani bombers.

2006 (March): 7 Pakistani Britons arrested for plotting shopping mall bomb.

2006 (Aug.): More than 25 arrested in plot to blow up jetliners between London and U.S.
At least 17 suspects arrested in London had ties to Pakistan.  Two ringleaders had travelled to and received funding from Pakistan.

Just this month Pakistan has agreed a truce with extremists, assuring them territorial sovereignty over the border region with Afghanistan and amnesty from arrest, including Osama Bin Laden. The Bush response has been to defensively assert in a press conference that we can't get OBL because it would violate Pakistani sovereignty. (Sovereignty didn't stop him in Afghanistan or Iraq, did it?)

"Report: Mercury accumulating in food chain"

This doesn't really seem like news - but apparently there is a new study out. Another reason to mostly eat vegetarian - the low end of the chain.

From the article @ the Union Leader:

A national study on environmental contamination released yesterday shows that the toxic effects of mercury are more widespread than once thought, reaching beyond fish and waterfowl, with measurable accumulation in all levels of the food chain.

However, the National Wildlife Federation report, "Poisoning Wildlife: The Reality of Mercury Pollution," also supports evidence from more than 65 studies that the cumulative effects of mercury can be reversed in a matter years, not decades.

"Nature can clean itself over time," said wildlife toxicologist Dr. David Evers, of Maine's Bidoiversity Research Institute, who addressed a national conference call on the subject yesterday.