Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Asteroid Discovery from 1980 - 2010

Mesmerizing Time-Lapse Shows Every Asteroid Discovered Since 1980

VIDEO here. Best viewed full screen.

Huffington Post: Two white numbers in the lower left-hand corner of the video indicate the year and the number of asteroids known to scientists at that time. Meanwhile, the animation shows the location of these asteroids within the solar system. As the years pass, new discoveries are highlighted briefly in white. 'Earth Crossers' are shown in red. 'Earth Approachers' are in yellow, and other asteroids are shown in green.

In 1980, according to the video, there were only 8,954 known asteroids. By 1990, that number had grown to over 14,000. The YouTube user who uploaded the video explains the new discoveries that took place throughout the 1990s: 'As the video moves into the mid 1990s we see much higher discovery rates as automated sky scanning systems come online. Most of the surveys are imaging the sky directly opposite the sun, and you'll see a region of high discovery rates aligned in this manner.'

Inner solar system planets Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars orbit at the centre of the video. Now and then Jupiter, the next planet outside the asteroid belt, moves through the corners of the screen.

Story with explanatory stills in The Daily Mail.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tar sands industry pollutes the Athabasca

Elevated levels of toxins found in Athabasca River
Finding refutes long-standing claims that water quality hasn't been affected by oil sands development

Globe and Mail: The study, to be published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the oil industry 'releases' all 13 of the United States' Environmental Protection Agency's so-called priority pollutants, including mercury and lead, into the Athabasca at concentrations that are higher near industry during the summer. In winter, before a melt, only levels of mercury, nickel and thallium were elevated near industry.

Overall levels of seven elements -- mercury, lead, cadmium, copper, nickel, silver and zinc -- exceed those recommended by Alberta or Canada for the protection of aquatic life, it said, concluding the 'oil sands industry substantially increases loadings' of toxins into the river...

Simon Dyer, oil sands program director for the Pembina Institute, an environmental think-tank based in Calgary, praised the report... 'It does make the research 'make the Alberta government's claim, that there is no pollution downstream of those sites, increasingly untenable.'... Joe Obad, associate director of Alberta advocacy group Water Matters, called the study 'the most detailed, independent, peer-reviewed work we have seen so far on mercury and lead' in the oil sands.
Image source here.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Wiglesdor through the Danevirke

Archaeologists Find Gateway to the Viking Empire

Der Spiegel: The massive construction, called the Davevirke -- 'work of the Danes' -- is considered the largest earthwork in northern Europe... Archeologists have now taken a closer look a part of the construction -- a three-meter-thick wall from the 8th century near Hedeby... It is constructed entirely out of stones collected from the surrounding region...

The researchers have discovered the only gate leading through the Danevirke, a five-meter wide portal. According to old writings, 'horsemen and carts' used to stream through the gate, called 'Wiglesdor.' Next to it was a customs station and an inn that included a bordello. For a century, archaeologists have been dreaming of finding this gate between Denmark and Charlemagne's empire.

New calculations as to the age of the construction indicate, however, that the earliest parts of the wall might have been built by the Frisians and not by the Danes. Archaeologists now think the foundation stone might have been laid as early as the 7th century...

The Frisians, who lived on the west coast of what is now Denmark [and northern Germany] and on a number of islands in the North Sea, were fighting for supremacy in the region with three other peoples: the Danes, the Slavs and the Saxons... In the end, however, it was the Danes who emerged victorious. According to contemporary records, King Göttrik of Denmark ordered in 808 that the border of his empire with that of the Saxons be fortified.

But why make such an effort?... There was an Achilles heel in this far-flung trading empire, and that was at Hedeby. In order for goods from the east to be shipped to the west, they had to cross the narrow strip of land... For the duration of this short overland trek, the valuable goods -- including gold from Byzantium, bear pelts from Novgorod and even statues of Buddha from India -- were open to attack from the mainland... The Danevirke, in other words, was little more than a protective shield for commerce.
Image source here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Portrait of the day

Hole in the Sun

Earth Observer: This ominous, dark shape sprawling over the face of the sun is a coronal hole -- a low density region extending above the surface where the solar magnetic field opens freely into interplanetary space. Studied extensively from space since the 60s in ultraviolet and x-ray light, coronal holes are known to be the source of the high-speed solar wind, atoms and electrons which flow outward along the open magnetic field lines. During periods of low activity, coronal holes typically cover regions just above the sun's poles. But this extensive coronal hole dominated the Sun's northern hemisphere earlier this week, captured here in extreme ultraviolet light by cameras onboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory. The solar wind streaming from this coronal hole triggered auroral displays on planet Earth.
Image source here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ice breakup on Ellesmere coast 'significant'

Breakup on the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf

Earth Observatory: In mid- to late August 2010, a Bermuda-sized ice island broke free from the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf along the northern coast of Canada's Ellesmere Island... The breakup on this ice shelf continued a years-long pattern of retreat on the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, and a decades-long pattern of retreat of the ice shelves along the Ellesmere coast...

The ice chunk... was much smaller than the ice island that calved from Greenland's Petermann Glacier a few weeks earlier, but in some ways, the Ward Hunt fracture was more significant.

Fed by the Greenland Ice Sheet, the Petermann Glacier is a floating ice tongue that periodically calves large icebergs, and is replenished by new ice upstream. In contrast, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf formed from compressed sea ice that was gradually replaced by accumulated snow... The calving cycle on the Ward Hunt is slow, and to recover from the recent retreat would require centuries.

Driftwood and narwhal remains found along the Ellesmere coast have radiocarbon dates from roughly 3,000 to 6,800 years ago, implying that the ice has been intact since those remains were deposited. Breakup along the Ward Hunt indicates a change in the conditions that previously allowed this ice shelf to persist for millennia.
Image source here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Quote for the day

Blossom and Fade
So male sports, in which males triumph over other males, whether joined in teams or each against all (golf, auto racing), aren't singular, but certainly the attention paid to them is. Margaret Mead once suggested that a recurrent problem for civilization was finding something satisfying for the men to do, and in our place and time, what has largely been found for them to do is play sports. Or rather to associate themselves with the playing of sports -- which is to say experiencing the joys of competition, loyalty, and triumph, as well as the agony and shame of defeat, without actually moving any physical part of themselves except the arm in the air.

-- John Crowley on 'The Glass Bead Game' in Lapham's Quarterly

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Greenland oil 'grave news'

Cairn Energy finds oil signs off Greenland
BBC News: Edinburgh-based Cairn, the first company for a decade to drill for oil offshore in Greenland, said it had 'early indications of a working hydrocarbon system' in Baffin Bay. But environmental campaigners have raised concerns in the wake of BP's Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster. Greenpeace said the announcement was 'grave news.' The group says it threatens the fragile Arctic environment, and has sent a protest ship to Baffin Bay.

Cairn's T8-1 well in Baffin Bay found small quantities of gas in thin sands. Drilling is continuing at the site, and the company plans to drill at least two other wells this summer. In the long term, it plans to target depths of more than 4,000 metres.

A separate report on Tuesday from the Health and Safety executive in the UK said major oil and gas leaks offshore in Britain rose 39% last year.
Image source here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

'The whole damn mountain had fallen down'

These slopes channeled the runout and are completely stripped. [Caption and photo: D. Steers.]

Stunning Photos of Massive Meager Slide
Rescue worker David Steers was there to save hikers, and he took his camera.

The Tyee: It was pitch- black when a roar and a rumble rocked Mt. Meager. These are the unmistakable signs of disaster in a region classified slide-prone. When word of a landslide reached Pemberton, some 70 kilometres south of the Meager region, David Steers was among the first dispatched by helicopter early on Friday, August 6. He and his colleagues with Pemberton search-and-rescue were tasked to reach the disaster site, evaluate the damage and rescue any people. Only later would he learn that the roar in the night had registered a 2.6 on the Richter scale, and would amount to one of the largest landslides in Canadian history...

But it was only when the helicopter turned a bend in the river that the magnitude fully sunk in: the debris field stretched to a vanishing point in the distance. 'People describe being dumbstruck,' he says. 'When we turned that corner, that's the only word for it. We all just sat there staring. Someone occasionally said, 'Wow.' That's about it.' The omens went from bad to worse when the helicopter eventually reached the peak of Mt. Meager, where the slide had originated. 'That's when I realised the whole damn mountain had fallen down.'

What Steers and his colleagues saw on their mission is documented in the incredible series of photos he published to Flickr, a selection of which you can click through and view here. Steers' photos represent the only comprehensive collection of this historical landslide currently available, taken by one of the very first people on the scene.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Petermann ice island, day 11

August 16, 2010. To enlarge, click here.

Earth Observer: The ice island that calved off Petermann Glacier in northwestern Greenland on August 5, 2010, was continuing its slow migration down the fjord 11 days later... Although slivers of ice have loosened around its edges, the ice island has largely retained its original shape. The island, which has rotated counterclockwise since the calving, also retains the crevassed structure of the Petermann Glacier... Visible in this image are multiple small glaciers that feed the Petermann, flowing down to the massive glacier from the northeastern side of the fjord.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Are we 'The weirdest people in the world?'

Westerners vs. the World: We are the WEIRD ones
National Post: The Western mind differs in fundamental ways from the rest of humanity, according to Dr. [Joseph] Henrich. He and two other UBC researchers authored a paper shaking up the fields of psychology, cognitive science and behavioural economics by questioning whether we can know anything about humanity in general if we only study a 'truly unusual group of people' -- the privileged products of Western industrial societies, who just happen to make up the vast majority of behavioural science test subjects.

The article, titled 'The weirdest people in the world?' appears in the current issue of the journal Behavioural and Brain Sciences. Dr. Henrich and co-authors Steven Heine and Ara Norenzayan argue that life-long members of societies that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic -- people who are WEIRD -- see the world in ways that are alien from the rest of the human family...

After analyzing reams of data from earlier studies, the UBC team found that WEIRD people reacted differently from others in experiment after experiment involving measures of fairness, anti-social punishment and co-operation, as well as visual illusions and questions of individuality and conformity.

Moreover, WEIRD people do not simply react to the world differently, according to the paper, they perceive it differently to begin with. Take the well-known Muller-Lyer optical illusion, which uses arrows to trick the viewer into thinking one line is longer than another, even if both are the same length... Dr. Henrich says... 'You do this with foragers in the Kalahari [Desert] and they just see two lines as the same length.'...

If WEIRD people are indeed weird, it is the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution that have made them so... The UBC team hypothesizes that growing up in an industrial-era environment with plenty of 90-degree lines and carpentered edges led to WEIRD people's sense of vision being susceptible to the deception...

Cultural psychologist Will Bennis of Northwestern University... notes a human tendency, throughout history and across cultures, to regard one's own group as unique. 'There's a lot of reasons why we might mistakenly assume that our group is special,' he says. 'The point isn't that our group is not special, it's that each group is special in its own unique way.'
Image source here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Blue eyes recent genetic mutation

One Common Ancestor Behind Blue Eyes
LiveScience: People with blue eyes have a single, common ancestor, according to new research. A team of scientists has tracked down a genetic mutation that leads to blue eyes. The mutation occurred between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. Before then, there were no blue eyes. 'Originally, we all had brown eyes,' said Hans Eiberg from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Copenhagen.

The mutation affected the so-called OCA2 gene, which is involved in the production of melanin, the pigment that gives color to our hair, eyes and skin... Rather than completely turning off the gene, the switch limits its action, which reduces the production of melanin in the iris. In effect, the turned-down switch diluted brown eyes to blue. If the OCA2 gene had been completely shut down... hair, eyes and skin would be melanin-less, a condition known as albinism...

Eiberg and his team examined DNA from mitochondria, the cells energy-making structures, of blue-eyed individuals in countries including Jordan, Denmark and Turkey. This genetic material comes from females, so it can trace maternal lineages... Over the course of several generation, segments of ancestral DNA get shuffled so that individuals have varying sequences. Some of these segments, however, that haven't been reshuffled are called haplotypes. If a group of individuals shared long haplotypes, that means the sequence arose relatively recently in our human ancestors...

'All blue-eyed individuals are linked to the same ancestor,' Eiberg said. 'They have all inherited the same switch at exactly the same spot in their DNA.' Eiberg and his colleagues detailed their study in the Jan 3 online edition of the journal Human Genetics.

Blue eye colour most likely originated from the near east area or northwest part of the Black Sea region, where the great agriculture migration to the northern part of Europe took place in the Neolithic periods about six-10,000 years years ago. 'That is my best guess,' [Eiberg] said. 'It could be the northern part of Afghanistan.'
Image source here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A third of Pakistan is under water

Earth Observatory: On August 18, the Pakistan government stated that 15.4 million people had been directly affected by the flood with nearly a million homes damaged or destroyed. The land along the Indus River is prime farmland, and nearly 80 percent of the flood victims are farmers, who have lost crops, animals, and equipment. At least 3.2 million hectares of crops had been destroyed as of August 18, reported the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Image source here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Harper's formers

via tedbetts at
Supporting the Troops
Twelve of a Kind?

Bernard Shapiro, former Ethics Commissioner
John Reid, former Information Commissioner

Jean-Guy Fleury, former Chair, Immigration and Refugee Board
Adrian Measner, former CEO of the Wheat Board
Mark Mayrand, former Chief Electoral Officer

Linda Keen, former Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission president
Arthur Carty, former national science adviser

Robert Marleau, former Information Commissioner
Richard Colvin, former senior diplomat in Afghanistan
Paul Kennedy, former RCMP Complaints Commissioner
Peter Tinsley, former chair, Military Police Complaints Commission

Remy Beauregard, former President, Rights and Democracy
Munir Sheikh, former Chief Statistician
Pat Strogan, former Veterans Affairs Ombudsman
Marty Cheliak, former head, RCMP Canadian Firearms Program

Bill Casey, former Conservative MP
Helena Guergis, former Conservative cabinet minister
Garth Turner, former Conservative MP, Progressive Conservative cabinet minister and leadership candidate
Image source here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Where there's fire, there's soot

Soot is second leading cause of climate change
Vancouver Sun: A new U.S. study probing the role of soot emissions in driving climate change highlights the severe impact that black carbon in the air and dirty snow on the Earth's surface have in melting Canada's Arctic sea ice.

During a 10-year investigation detailed in the latest issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research, Stanford University scientist Mark Jacobson isolated the widespread warming effects of soot -- the visible residue of burned wood, crops, oil, biomass and other fuels -- from the climate impacts caused by greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.

He concluded that soot is currently the No. 2 driver of climate change -- behind CO2 but ahead of methane -- and that curbing emissions of black carbon would produce the fastest, most effective and affordable international response to climate change and the shrinking of the Arctic sea ice...

Jacobson explained that working to reduce soot's effects would have a more immediate impact on the Earth's climate and ice cover because black carbon persists in the environment for a much shorter time than either carbon dioxide or methane. That means reductions in global soot output can quickly curb its heating effects...

Jacobson's research not only accounts for the warming effect of soot as it settles on snow and ice, but also the atmospheric impact as black-carbon particles suspended in the air absorb the sun's heat and create higher ambient temperatures. The subsequent loss of sea ice only reinforces warming by replacing frozen ocean with dark stretches of open water... 'There is a big concern that if the Arctic melts, it will be a tipping point for the Earth's climate.'...

In 2007, the U.S. scientists behind another study of soot's climate impact... identified Canada as key to any global effort to reduce the effect of black carbon emissions. One of the co-authors [said] 'Just as Brazil is the custodian of the Amazon, a world resource whose deforestation has all sorts of negative consequences, so is Canada a custodian of an important swath of snow-covered land that helps to cool the planet.'...

Zender also raised a red flag about increased ship traffic through the Northwest Passage [as] 'likely to exacerbate these effects by putting soot emissions right in the middle of the remaining snow and sea ice. We must think very carefully about this.'
Image source here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Quote for the day

In solitary reverie we can tell ourselves everything. Our consciousness is still clear enough that we are sure that what we are saying to ourselves is really being said only to ourselves... The repose of sleep refreshes only the body. It rarely sets the soul at rest... Sleep opens within us an inn for phantoms. In the morning we must sweep out the shadows... Quite to the contrary, daytime reverie benefits from a lucid tranquility. Even it is is tinged with melancholy, that melancholy is restful, it is an engaging melancholy which gives a continuity to our repose... But the reverie would not last if it were not nourished by the images of the sweetness of living, by the illusions of happiness.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How others see us

Social practices -- not laws -- govern many types of behaviour in Canada. Some traditions are well established and are politely but firmly enforced. For example:
  • Lining up, or queuing: People normally line up or queue according to the principle of 'first come, first served.' They will be angry if you push ahead in a line-up instead of waiting your turn.
  • Not smoking in private homes: Most Canadians do not smoke. When you are in people's homes, you should always ask their permission to smoke. However this may be different in Quebec.
  • Being on time: You should always arrive on time. People who are often late may be fired from their jobs or suspended from school. Many Canadians will not wait more than 10-15 minutes for someone at a business meeting. For social events, it is expected that you will arrive within half an hour of the stated time.
  • Respect for the environment: Canadians respect the natural environment and expect people to avoid littering.
  • Bargaining: Bargaining for a better price is not common in Canada, but there are some exceptions. People who sell things privately may also bargain.
  • Smart shopping: Stores compete on price with one another to attract customers. Note: the price marked on goods in stores does not include taxes, which add from 7-15% to the cost of an item, depending on the province.
  • Shaking hands: It is customary that you always shake hands at a first-time meeting and always in business situations.
  • First names: Canadians are always on a first-name basis: especially in social situations and informal business environments.
  • Not Americans: The Canadian visitor to Britain is not an American.
  • Many in Britain treat Canadians as Americans even though they are quite different from their American neighbours. Canadians may take offence if labeled as American. Canadians often identify themselves as Canadians by wearing a maple leaf pin, or a maple leaf on clothing, etc.
Image source here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

US NATO allies 'pallbearers'

Ex-Pakistan spy chief: Afghanistan war 'lost cause'
CNN: The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan is a 'lost cause,' said a former Pakistani intelligence chief, and the United States needs to negotiate peace with Taliban leader Mullah Omar. 'You have to talk to him, and I am sure it will work out very well.' Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul told CNN's Fareed Zakaria...

The career military officer, who supported the U.S.-backed Taliban resistance against Soviet occupation during the 1980s, called the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan 'unjust' and said he sees legitimacy in the Afghan insurgency against Western forces. 'This is a national resistance movement. It should be recognized as such.'

The attacks of September 11 were a pretext to a war already under consideration, Gul said. 'I think some of the neocons... wanted [to] embark on a universal adventure of Pax Americana, and they thought that the world was lying prostrate in front of them.'... There was no legitimate reason for the United States to attack Afghanistan, Gul said, because the FBI had no solid evidence that Osama bin Laden was involved in the attacks on New York and Washington...

The hunt for al-Qaeda does not justify the almost 9-year-old war either because the global terrorist movement has moved on... The United States and its allies won't win the war in Afghanistan, said Gul, who referred to U.S. NATO allies as 'pallbearers.'... 'Time is on the side of the resistance... I would advise President Obama -- please, do not listen to your military, because militaries have [the] unfortunate tendency never to accept their defeat.'...

The only solution would be peace negotiations with Taliban leader Mullah Omar... 'There is only one man who can give the guarantee that there will be no terrorism exported from Afghanistan,' Gul said. 'Don't talk to Karzai; he's a puppet.'
Image source here.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Demand Zero

Ground Zero, Nagasaki

Take Part: Demand Zero
Countdown to Zero [movie trailer here] traces the history of the atomic bomb from its origins to the present state of global affairs: nine nations possess nuclear weapons capabilities with others racing to join them, the world held in a delicate balance that could be shattered by an act of terrorism, failed diplomacy, or a simple accident. Written and directed by acclaimed documentarian Lucy Walker (Devil's Playground, Blindsight)... the film was produced by Academy Award winner and 2009 nominee Lawrence Bender (Inglourious Basterds, An Inconvenient Truth) and developed, financed and executive produced by Participant Media, together with World Security Institute.

Global Zero: A world without nuclear weapons
The International Global Zero movement launched in December 2008 includes more than 200 political, military, business, faith and civic leaders -- and hundreds of thousands of citizens -- working for the phased, verified elimination of all nuclear weapons worldwide. Global Zero members believe that the only way to eliminate the nuclear threat -- including proliferation and nuclear terrorism -- is to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, secure all nuclear materials and eliminate all nuclear weapons: global zero. The International Global Zero Commission of 23 political and military leaders has developed a practical step-by-step plan (.pdf) -- backed by hundreds of former heads-of-state, foreign ministers, national security advisers and military commanders -- to achieve this goal over the next two decades.
Image source here.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Our final century

Human race 'will be extinct within 100 years'
Daily Mail: Professor Frank Fenner, emeritus professor of microbiology at the Australian National University, has predicted that the human race will be extinct within the next 100 years. He has claimed that the human race will be unable to survive a population explosion and 'unbridled consumption.'... 'It's an irreversible situation. I think it's too late.'... We have an effect on the planet that rivals any ice age or comet impact, he said. Fenner blames the onset of climate change for the human race's imminent demise.

BBC News: The human race has only a 50/50 chance of surviving another century, says Sir Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal... In an eloquent and tightly argued book, Our Final Century, Sir Martin ponders the threats which face, or could face, humankind during the 21st century... He asks whether scientists should withhold findings which could potentially be used for destructive purposes, or if there should be a moratorium, voluntary or otherwise, on certain types of scientific research, most notably genetics and biotechnology... Our actions today may 'make the difference between a near eternity filled with ever more complex and subtle forms of life and one filled with nothing but base matter.'

The New York Times: The divisions between industrialized and developing nations over climate policy seem even deeper than they were six months ago... The European Union, which has led the way in vowing to reduce its emissions, complained that some of the options included in the negotiating text seem 'outside the realm of what is achievable'... Indeed, many scientists say that limiting climate change to 1 or 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is probably impossible.
Image source here.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Human extinction is OK with me

Stephen Hawking to Human Race: Move to Outer Space or Face Extinction (VIDEO)
The Huffington Post: Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, in an interview with Big Think, warns that if humans can't find another planet to inhabit, they will face extinction. 'We are entering an increasingly dangerous period in our history,' Hawking says. 'There have been a number of times in the past when survival has been a question of touch and go,' ... and the frequency of such occasions 'is likely to increase in the future.'... Because we are rapidly depleting the finite natural resources that Earth provides, and because our genetic code 'carries selfish and aggressive instincts,' our 'only chance for longterm survival' may be to 'spread out into space.'
Image source here.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Hiroshima 65

Common Dreams: The immediate effects of the blast killed approximately 70,000 people in Hiroshima. Estimates of total deaths by the end of 1945 from burns, radiation and related disease, the effects of which were aggravated by lack of medical resources, range from 90,000 to 140,000. Some estimates state up to 200,000 had died by 1950, due to cancer and other long-term effects.
Image source here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Quote of the day

Prison is essentially a shortage of space made up for by the surplus of time; to an inmate, both are palpable... Prison is indeed a translation of your metaphysics, ethics, sense of history, etc. into the compact terms of your daily deportment. The most effective place for that is of course solitary, with its reduction of the entire human universe to a concrete rectangle permanently lit by the sixty-watt luminary of its bulb under which you revolve in pursuit of your sanity... On the whole, poets fare better in solitary confinement than do fiction writers, because their dependence on professional tools is marginal: one's recurrent back-and-forth movements under that electric luminary by themselves force the lyric's eventual comeback no matter what. Furthermore, a lyric is essentially plotless and, unlike the case against you, evolves according to the immanent logic of linguistic harmony.

Image source here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

'Bad news if we continue on our present course'

National Post: Canadian scientists are 'flagging up warnings' to the world as new research shows a marine species is rapidly dying, which could significantly change the way humans live -- from what we eat to the air we breathe.

A Dalhousie University-based study, published in the scientific journal Nature... suggested for the first time that microscopic marine algae known as 'phytoplankton' have been declining globally -- its population has decreased by roughly 40% since 1950 -- because of rising sea surface temperatures and changing ocean conditions.

'This may well be one of the largest biological changes observed in recent times, simply because it affects most of the biosphere,' said study co-author Boris Worm... 'Phytoplankton are a critical part of our planetary life-support system. They produce half of the oxygen we breathe... and ultimately all of our fisheries.' ... He said the species is just as valuable to survival as 'all plants on land combined.'...

'The climate is changing and all of these impacts are occurring simultaneously and that's tough for any ecosystem to withstand. It'll be bad news if we continue on our present course,' he said.

Plants at base of ocean food chain in decline
The Globe and Mail: Phytoplankton act as the grass of the ocean and form the base of the aquatic food chain. The organisms live at the surface of the water, and are the main source of food for zooplankton, which in turn form the diet of fish and other sea creatures that are eaten by bigger fish, large whales and humans that occupy the top of the food chain... The study found phytoplankton populations fell in eight out of 10 regions globally. These declines were occurring more rapidly in polar and tropical regions.

The Toronto Star: Despite their tiny size, plant plankton found in the world's oceans are crucial to much life on Earth. They are the foundation of the bountiful marine food web, produce half the world's oxygen and suck up harmful carbon dioxide. They are also declining sharply... The probable cause is global warming...

When plant plankton plummet, as they do during El Niño climate cycles, sea birds and marine mammals starve and die in huge numbers... 'Phytoplankton ultimately affects all of us in our daily lives,' said lead author Daniel Boyce, also of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. 'Much of the oxygen in our atmosphere today was produced by phytoplankton or phytoplankton precursors over the past 2 billion years.' Plant plankton -- some of it visible, some microscopic -- help keep Earth cool. They take carbon dioxide, the key greenhouse gas, out of the air to keep the world from getting even warmer...

Worm said when the surface of the ocean gets warmer, the warm water at the top does not mix as easily with the cooler water below. That makes it more difficult for the plant plankton, which are light and often live near the ocean surface, to get nutrients [from] deeper, cooler water. It also matches other global warming trends, with the biggest effects at the poles and around the equator.
Image source here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Israel's 'erasure of the Muslim past'

Haaretz: The first one to excavate the site and come upon human remains was archaeologist Gideon Sulimani, a senior archaeologist with the Antiquities Authority... He began a 'rescue excavation' financed, as mandated by Israeli law, by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, intended to remove antiquities, or in this case, human bones, before the area was cleared for construction... A serious excavation, says Sulimani, could open a window into the lives of Jerusalem's Muslim residents over the past millennium.

In this case, however, he says that there was pressure on him to hurry up and remove the graves without adhering carefully to professional standards... The guiding principle of the work was not a careful and scientific archaeological excavation, one that was respectful of the remains found at the site, but rather an excavation that proceeded as quickly as possible as as to leave the whole skeleton affair behind, so that full attention could be turned to building the Museum of Tolerance... The message to the workers was clear: 'It was like being in the army. You need to keep quiet,' says N... Workers were also asked to sign a confidentiality agreement prohibiting them from talking to anyone about what they saw on the job...

Sulimani and other archaeologists are highly critical of the work methods... One thing that seriously disturbs them is the fact that the work was carried out in shifts, and continued through the night. 'Shift work does not allow for a processing of the material... They call this an archaeological excavation but it's really a clearing out, an erasure of the Muslim past. It's actually Jews against Arabs,' says Sulimani, who himself is Jewish... A senior archaeologist who also visited the excavation had the following to say about the way it was being run: 'It's very unusual. They wanted to finish the whole story as fast as possible. It's a known method. They wanted to create a done deed, after which people could yell all they wanted to, but there wouldn't be any graves left anymore.'...

All those interviewed by Haaretz agree that no fewer than 1,000 skeletons were excavated at the site. One worker, who was familiar with the numbers as part of his job, puts the figure at more than 1,500.

Wikipedia: One component of Sand's argument is that the people who were the original Jews living in Israel, contrary to what is official, accepted history, were not exiled... He further argues that many of the Jews converted to Islam following the Arab conquest, and were assimilated... He concludes that the progenitors of the Palestinian Arabs were Jews.

Richard Cohen: The greatest mistake Israel could make... is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism.

Ilan Pappe: Israel is in many ways a settler Prussian state: a combination of colonialist policies with a high level of militarisation in all aspects of life... It is manifested in the dominance of the army over political, cultural and economic life.

Israel... is a nation of 'cowards with guns' in the sense that they lack the confidence to feel secure about their ability to defend themselves and are seeking to quell that lack of confidence visiting violence and abuse on helpless people.

Sefi Rachlevsky: What happens when a country has no borders?... A border is one of the fundamental factors that define a country. Decades without one have distorted Israel's thinking.
Image source here.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Israel's 'grinning teens' cheer destruction

The 'Summer Camp of Destruction:' Israeli High Schoolers Assist The Razing of a Bedouin Town
Max Blumenthal: On July 26, Israeli police demolished 45 buildings in the unrecognized Bedouin village of al-Arakib, razing the entire village to the ground to make way for a Jewish National Fund forest. The destruction was part of a larger project to force the Bedouin community of the Negev away from their ancestral lands and into seven Indian reservation-style communities the Israeli government has constructed for them. The land will then be open for Jewish settlers... The Israeli government intends to uproot as many villages as possible and erase them from the map by establishing 'facts on the ground' in the form of JNF forests. (See video of al-Arakib's demolition here.)

One of the most troubling aspects of the destruction of al-Arakib was a report by CNN that the hundreds of Israeli riot police who stormed the village were accompanied by 'busloads of cheering civilians.' Who were these civilians?... High school students who appeared to have volunteered... Prior to the demolitions, the student volunteers were sent into the villagers' homes to extract their furniture and belongings... The volunteers smashed windows and mirrors in their homes and defaced family photographs with crude drawings. Then they lounged around on the furniture of al-Arakib residents in plan sight of the owners. Finally... the volunteers celebrated while bulldozers destroyed the homes. 'What we learned from the summer camp of destruction, 'Abu Madyam remarked, 'is that Israeli youth are not being educated on democracy, they are being raised on racism.'

The Israeli civilian guard, which incorporates 70,000 citizens including youth as young as 15 (about 15% percent of Israeli volunteers are teenagers) is one of many programs designed to incorporate Israeli children into the state's military apparatus... The volunteers' behaviour toward Bedouins, who are citizens of Israel and serve loyally in Israeli army combat units despite widespread racism, was strikingly reminiscent of the behavior of settler youth in Hebron who pelt Palestinian shopkeepers in the old city with eggs, rocks and human waster. If there is a distinction between the two cases, it is that the Hebron settlers act as vigilantes while the teenagers of Israeli civilian guard vandalize Arab property as agents of the state...

The widespread indoctrination of Israeli youth by the military apparatus is a central factor in Israel's authoritarian trend... The scenes from al-Arakib, from the demolished homes to the uprooted gardens to the grinning teens who joined the mayhem, can be viewed as much more than the destruction of a village. They are snapshots of the phenomenon that is laying Israeli society as a whole to waste.
Image source here.