Saturday, April 15, 2006

Ken Miller on Intelligent Design (YouTube)

Ken Miller's talk on Intelligent Design at Case Western University. Ken Miller basically rips Intelligent Design apart in a 2 hour long exposé of the claims of intelligent design and the tactics that creationists employ to get it shoehorned into the American school system.

Excellent and thorough presentation. --McLir

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Stop a U.S. nuclear attack on Iran!

A powerpoint presentation on the danger of a U.S. nuclear attack on Iran (March 15, 2006)

A 10-minute movie, discussing why the US is likely to use nuclear weapons in a confrontation with Iran, and how to prevent it from happening (March 25, 2006)

The new U.S. Nuclear Posture defined in 2001 and reaffirmed in 2005 and in 2006 envisions the U.S. use of nuclear weapons against underground facilities of non-nuclear countries. Such nuclear earth penetrating weapons (B61-11) are in the US stockpile since September 2001. The escalating rift with Iran over its nuclear program is likely to lead to the U.S. using low yield earth penetrating nuclear weapons against Iran.

The article by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker (4/17/2006) presents independent evidence [1], [2], [3].

1800 physicists have joined in a petition expressing strong repudiation of the new US nuclear weapons policies.

If America uses nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear country it will have catastrophic consequences for America and the world.

Please consider asking your representative in Congress [1], [2] to enact emergency legislation requiring congressional approval for the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries. This is a power granted to Congress under Article I, Section 8, Clause 14 of the US constitution.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

MUST LISTEN: Seymour Hersh interviewed by Terry Gross on "Fresh Air"

"Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker discusses on the latest developments between Iran and the United States regarding Iran's nuclear power program. Hersh writes that the Bush administration has clandestine plans for a possible major attack on Iran."

According to Hersh's New Yorker article, the Bush Administration is preoccupied with a nuclear strike against Iran.
The "Fresh Air" interview ends with Hersh explaining that despite all of the operational planning around a nuclear strike, the Bush Administration has not studied ONE SINGLE ESTIMATE of civilian casualties. -- McLir

Rifkin: World on the 'cusp of a new energy regime'

The world is moving towards a new third industrial revolution based on a new energy regime, argues US thinker Jeremy Rifkin as Europe considers how to reformulate its energy policy.
"We are on the cusp of a new energy regime that will alter our way of life as fundamentally as the introduction of coal and steam power in the 19th century and the shift to oil and the internal combustion engine in the 20th century", argues Mr Rifkin in an interview with the EUobserver.
"The hydrogen era looms on the horizon and the first major industrial nation to harness its full potential will set the pace for economic development for the remainder of the century."

PMS - Starring Andrea Martin and Catherine O'Hara (YouTube)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Hawaii Senate Resolution: Take Steps to Withdraw Troops from Iraq (PDF)

Study Links Depleted Uranium with Genetic Mutation

The use of depleted uranium in munitions and weaponry is likely to come under intense scrutiny now that new research that found that uranium can bind to human DNA. The finding will likely have far-reaching implications for returned soldiers, civilians living in what were once war-zones and people who might live near uranium mines or processing facilities.
Uranium - when manifested as a radioactive metal - has profound and debilitating effects on human DNA. These radioactive effects have been well understood for decades, but there has been considerable debate and little agreement concerning the possible health risks associated with low-grade uranium ore (yellowcake) and depleted uranium.
Now however, Northern Arizona University biochemist Diane Stearns has established that when cells are exposed to uranium, the uranium binds to DNA and the cells acquire mutations, triggering a whole slew of protein replication errors, some of which can lead to various cancers. Stearns' research, published in the journals Mutagenesis and Molecular Carcinogenesis, confirms what many have suspected for some time - that uranium can damage DNA as a heavy metal, independently of its radioactive properties. "Essentially, if you get a heavy metal stuck on DNA, you can get a mutation," Stearns explained. While other heavy metals are known to bind to DNA, Stearns and her team were the first to identify this characteristic with uranium.

Reinventing Public Diplomacy Through Games Competition

The State Department teamed up with the USC Annenberg School for Communication to sponsor the Reinventing Public Diplomacy Through Games Competition, which seeks to improve America's reputation abroad.
Contestants must employ the principles of "public diplomacy" while cooking up a video-game concept from scratch or creating an original "mod" of an existing massively multiplayer online game, or MMO. The winner, who will receive a $5,000 prize, will be announced in May.

Dictionary of African-American Slang for Japanese Speakers

"OFF THE HOOK", a Dictionary of African American Slang. In Japanese. Being sold in the remainders section of a WHSmith a sleepy provicial Norfolk town.
The weirdness quotient was just too high, and the price (only £2!) was too low not to buy it. Plus it's author, Randall C. Miller Junior, looked cool!
I wasn't disappointed. In fact I think, per penny, it's one of the funniest books I've ever bought.

Creationist Museum Closed for Defying Well-Established Laws of Building Permits

Escambia County authorities this week locked up a museum building at the theme park on North Palafox Street in Pensacola after Circuit Judge Michael Allen ruled the owners were in contempt of court.
Owners of the park, which shows how dinosaurs may have roamed the Earth just a few thousand years ago, did not obtain a building permit before constructing the building in 2002. They have argued in and out of court that it violates their "deeply held" religious beliefs, and that the church-run facility does not have to obtain permits.
After almost four years of litigation, the judge disagreed and said the county has the authority to close the building until the owners comply with regulations.
The judge also fined two church leaders $500 each per day for every day the building is used or occupied. If church officials continue to refuse to comply with local ordinances, the judge may decide that the building can be razed, Allen's ruling said.

Nanoparticles that Attack Prostate Cancer

Fighting cancer is currently a messy war. Modern chemotherapies attack tumors with the equivalent of a machinegun approach: cover the area widely with deadly fire and hope to destroy the tumor with a minimum of collateral damage. Doctors have long sought a way to precisely target tumors with their chemical therapies. Now researchers may have found it in a nanoparticle laced with a cancer-combating drug.
Omid Farokhzad of Harvard University, Robert Langer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and their colleagues created the nanoparticle out of a previously FDA-approved polymer that has been shown to dissolve inside cells. This nanoparticle--one-thousandth the width of a human hair--carries a load of a lethal chemical: docetaxel, which is currently used to treat prostate cancer. In addition, the scientists studded the outside of the particle with so-called aptamers--tiny proteins that link directly to cancer cells while avoiding regular cells. Finally, they equipped the nanoparticles with polyethylene glycol molecules, which allow them to resist the internal defenses of a tumor cell.
In both laboratory dishes and mice with human prostate cancers, the nanoparticles proved extremely effective. "A single injection of our nanoparticles completely eradicated the tumors in five of the seven treated animals and the remaining animals had significant tumor reduction compared to the controls," Farokhzad says. now provides photo-sharing

Those Moon Rocks Gonna Get Blowed Up Good. Yeah, Get Blowed Up Real Good

The new mission has two components: An impactor will slam into the moon’s South Pole, sending up a massive plume of lunar dust almost 40 miles high. Meanwhile, an orbiting satellite will fly through the plume, sampling the ejected debris for water vapor, a sign of ice. Then the satellite will itself impact the lunar surface in a separate area, sending up another plume for analysis by the LRO and Earth based observatories. “This mission will generate a huge amount of data,” said Scott Horowitz, assistant administrator for NASA’s Exploration Directorate. “It’ll generate quite a few PhD theses."

Blair Blocks Book on Run-Up to Iraq War

A controversial fly-on-the wall account of the Iraq war by one of Britain's most senior former diplomats has been blocked by Downing Street and the Foreign Office.
Publication of The Costs of War by Sir Jeremy Greenstock, UK ambassador to the UN during the build-up to the 2003 war and the Prime Minister's special envoy to Iraq in its aftermath, has been halted. In an extract seen by The Observer, Greenstock describes the American decision to go to war as 'politically illegitimate' and says that UN negotiations 'never rose over the level of awkward diversion for the US administration'. Although he admits that 'honourable decisions' were made to remove the threat of Saddam, the opportunities of the post-conflict period were 'dissipated in poor policy analysis and narrow-minded execution'.

Iraqi prisoners vanishing in 'black hole': Blair envoy

Iraqis arrested by United States-led forces have been vanishing into a "black hole", British Prime Minister Tony Blair's human rights envoy told a Sunday newspaper.
Had the United States taken this problem seriously from the beginning, it may have helped prevent the abuse of prisoners in Iraq, Ann Clwyd, a Member of Parliament for the governing Labour Party, told The Observer newspaper in a rare interview about her work.
Clwyd, who reports directly to Blair, expressed concern about the "tremendous effort" required to trace detainees.
"You did feel that people were disappearing into black holes and it's very difficult," she said.
The human rights envoy suspected the reason for this problem was incompetence rather than malice.
US officials wrote down names "sometimes in Arabic, sometimes not, sometimes in bad Arabic", which rendered any attempt to trace prisoners much harder.

Experts Slam 'Disease Mongering'

Experts from around the world Monday called on the global health community to challenge what they see as a trend of pharmaceutical companies blurring the boundaries of legitimate illness and normal conditions in an attempt to increase sales of their products.
The trend, which is dubbed "disease mongering" by the experts, "turns healthy people into patients, wastes precious resources, and causes iatrogenic harm," David Henry, a professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia, and Ray Moynihan, a journalist and conjoint lecturer at the university wrote in a commentary in PLoS Medicine.
"Like the marketing strategies that drive it," Henry and Moynihan added, "disease mongering poses a global challenge to those interested in public health, demanding in turn, a global response."

Monday, April 10, 2006

Incredible Photo-Realism

Click on the link above and feast your eyes on a spectacularly painstaking computer graphic. The artist, Bert Monroy, used Adobe's Photoshop and Illustrator to recreate this Chicago subway platform.
I'm a graphics guy but I can only wish to have the time and patience to make such an image.
For non-graphics people, here's the basics: We've all filled in a color-by numbers -- putting colors into outlines to create an image. The linked image is the same concept, except the artist created the outlines also.
The outlines (hundreds of thousands) were created in Illustrator, a vector-based program (vector programs work in geometrical shapes). The colors and textures were achieved in Photoshop, a raster-based program (raster programs work in dots.)
This image combines the two techniques with overwhelming precision.
Be sure to scroll down and see the mind-bending attention to detail.

This reminds me of the equally obsessive computer graphic "The Wet Bird" by Gilles Trans -- a ray-tracing graphic so photo-realistic that other ray-tracers thought the artist just took a snapshot. Peers became convinced when the artist posted a detailed explanation of how the image was made. (Graphics people, be sure to read the explanation of how the blurry figure with the umbrella was created.)

The Trailer Park HQ Where the 'Long War' is Being Waged

It may look like one of the multitude of retirement communities that dot the shores of the sunshine state. But this set of trailers in Fort MacDill, near Tampa, and the military officers who emerge from their tin doors in various configurations of camouflage, are engaged in a far more serious enterprise. They are planning for a global conflict that, Washington believes, will dominate the next 20 years. The Pentagon calls it the "long war": an integrated military, financial and diplomatic campaign against al-Qaida and its affiliates that will eventually span the globe, shaping the lives of the coming generation much as the cold war defined the baby boomers.
And yet within the very heart of Centcom the contours of the coming clash remain a matter of debate. The 63 countries represented here see a need for a joint effort against al-Qaida, but are not at all sure that they share America's vision, or its leadership, of that war.

Atlantic Monthly: Big Brother Is Listening

NSA personnel, the customs inspectors of the information superhighway, have the ultimate goal of intercepting and reviewing every syllable and murmur zapping into, out of, or through the United States. They are close to achieving it. More than a dozen years ago, an NSA director gave an indication of the agency's capability. "Just one intelligence-collection system," said Admiral William O. Studeman, referring to a listening post such as Sugar Grove, "can generate a million inputs per half hour." Today, with the secret cooperation of much of the telecommunications industry, massive dishes vacuuming the airwaves, and electronic "packet sniffers," software that monitors network traffic, diverting e-mail and other data from fiber-optic cables, the NSA's hourly take is in the tens of millions of communications. One transatlantic fiber-optic cable alone has the capacity to handle close to 10 million simultaneous calls. While most communications flow through the NSA's electronic net unheard and unread, those messages associated with persons on the agency's watch lists - whether guilty or innocent - get kicked out for review.
As history has shown, the availability of such vast amounts of information is a temptation for an intelligence agency. The criteria for compiling watch lists and collecting information may be very strict at the beginning of such a program, but the reality - in a sort of bureaucratic law of expansion - is that it will draw in more and more people whose only offense was knowing the wrong person or protesting the wrong war.

A New Climate

"Forget the environment for a moment. What’s the business environment going to be? Regulations are coming," he says, even if the federal government doesn’t create them. "States are [reducing emissions], city mayors are doing it, businesses are doing it. Forget the science. Looking forward, something’s coming" to change the market.
The search for opportunities led Hoffman and Lyon to organize that first conference. Hoffman believes it is imperative to bring together a cross-disciplinary crowd. "Climate change is the environmental issue right now," he says. "It has a magnitude like no other. It requires input from so many different systems—economics, international relations, science… ."
He believes U-M is the ideal place to generate this sort of conversation. "One thing that makes Michigan unique," he says, "is that cross-disciplinary work is more likely here. I’ve been at other schools, where the ‘silo mentality’ is much more pronounced." Other professors agree: U-M has always built links between schools and departments. It has a huge number of joint-degree programs and cross-disciplinary institutes, and many faculty have joint appointments.
"I would love to see Michigan become the go-to place on climate change," says Hoffman, "with every researcher linked in an open network."

Whistleblower: "NSA is capable of ...vacuum-cleaner surveillance"

Based on my understanding of the connections and equipment at issue, it appears the NSA is capable of conducting what amounts to vacuum-cleaner surveillance of all the data crossing the internet -- whether that be peoples' e-mail, web surfing or any other data.
Given the public debate about the constitutionality of the Bush administration's spying on U.S. citizens without obtaining a FISA warrant, I think it is critical that this information be brought out into the open, and that the American people be told the truth about the extent of the administration's warrantless surveillance practices, particularly as it relates to the internet.
Despite what we are hearing, and considering the public track record of this administration, I simply do not believe their claims that the NSA's spying program is really limited to foreign communications or is otherwise consistent with the NSA's charter or with FISA. And unlike the controversy over targeted wiretaps of individuals' phone calls, this potential spying appears to be applied wholesale to all sorts of internet communications of countless citizens.

Pro-Harassment Suit

Ruth Malhotra went to court last month for the right to be intolerant.
Malhotra says her Christian faith compels her to speak out against homosexuality. But the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she's a senior, bans speech that puts down others because of their sexual orientation.
Malhotra sees that as an unacceptable infringement on her right to religious expression. So she's demanding that Georgia Tech revoke its tolerance policy.

Election Phone-Jamming Records Point to White House

Key figures in a phone-jamming scheme designed to keep New Hampshire Democrats from voting in 2002 had regular contact with the White House and Republican Party as the plan was unfolding, phone records introduced in criminal court show.
The records show that Bush campaign operative James Tobin, who recently was convicted in the case, made two dozen calls to the White House within a three-day period around Election Day 2002 — as the phone jamming operation was finalized, carried out and then abruptly shut down.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Early Christian Writings

A comprehensive list of early Christian writings gives a list of, links to the online full text of, and articles detailing some of the alternative Christian writings that were and weren't canonized. Of note include the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, Justin Martyr, the Didache, the Acts of Thomas , the Gospel of Thomas (which many link with the "Q" from the two-source hypothesis, which attempts to answer the Synoptic problem), and some early apocalyptic writings. [from]

Bill Moyers: Getting Money Out of Politics

Our system of privately financed campaigns has shut regular people out of any meaningful participation in democracy. Less than one-half of one percent of all Americans made a political contribution of $200 or more to a federal candidate in 2004. When the average cost of winning a seat in the House of Representatives has topped $1 million, we can no longer refer to that chamber as "The People's House." Congress belongs to the highest bidder.
At the same time that the cost of getting elected is exploding beyond the reach of ordinary people, the business of influencing our elected representatives has become a growth industry. Since President Bush was elected the number of registered lobbyists in Washington has more than doubled. That's 16,342 lobbyists in 2000 and 34,785 last year: 65 lobbyists for every member of Congress. The total spent per month by special interests wining, dining, and seducing federal officials is now nearly $200 million. Per month.

Leaked NIE Report Was Also Under Dispute

President Bush's apparent order authorizing a senior White House official to reveal to a reporter previously classified intelligence about Saddam Hussein's efforts to obtain uranium came as the information was already being discredited by several other officials in the administration, interviews and documents from the time show.
A review of the records and interviews conducted during and after the crucial period in June and July of 2003 also show that what the aide, I. Lewis Libby Jr., said he was authorized to portray as a "key judgment" by intelligence officers had in fact been given much less prominence in the most important assessment of Iraq's weapons capability.
Mr. Libby said he drew on that report, the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, when he spoke with the reporter. However, the conclusions about Mr. Hussein's search for uranium appear to have been buried deeper in the report in part because of doubts about their reliability.

Frontline: The Tank Man

coming Apr. 11, 2006 at 9pm (check local listings)
(90 minutes) On June 5, 1989, one day after Chinese troops expelled thousands of demonstrators from Tiananmen Square in Beijing, a solitary, unarmed protester stood his ground before a column of tanks advancing down the Avenue of Eternal Peace. Captured by Western photographers watching nearby, this extraordinary confrontation became an icon of the fight for freedom around the world. On April 11, veteran filmmaker Antony Thomas investigates the mystery of the tank man -- his identity, his fate, and his significance for the Chinese leadership. The search for the tank man reveals China's startling social compact -- its embrace of capitalism while dissent is squashed -- designed to stifle the nationwide unrest of 1989. This policy has allowed educated elites and entrepreneurs to profit handsomely, while the majority of Chinese still face brutal working conditions and low wages, and all Chinese must endure strict political and social controls. Some of these controls regulate speech on the Internet -- and have generated criticism over the involvement of major U.S. corporations such as Yahoo!, Cisco, Microsoft, and Google. (read the press release)

Bush Plan to Build 125 Nuclear Weapons per Year

The plan calls for the most sweeping realignment and modernization of the nation's massive system of laboratories and factories for nuclear bombs since the end of the Cold War.
Until now, the nation has depended on carefully maintaining aging bombs produced during the Cold War arms race, some several decades old. The administration, however, wants the capability to turn out 125 new nuclear bombs per year by 2022, as the Pentagon retires older bombs that it says will no longer be reliable or safe.