Saturday, October 30, 2010

'Very adept con artists'

Nice But Not Good: The Art of Spotting Narcissists

Judith Acosta, Huffington Post: Narcissists are very nice until they don't get their way. They are great charmers and can get most people to do and accept things that they wouldn't in their wildest dreams imagine themselves doing or accepting. Narcissists are often very adept con artists.

Narcissism, in psycho-therapeutic parlance, is a term used to indicate a superficial personality type with a hyper-inflated sense of self to compensate for a grievously wounded core. They need a huge amount of support and reinforcement or applause to feel that they have any existence at all... A narcissist is simply someone who puts himself in the center of the universe and fully, comfortably, and syntonically expects you to do the same for him.

As a result, what they want is paramount in any relationship -- intimate or fleeting. They are people who don't accept 'no' for answer easily because it so threatens either their plan, their sense of self-worth, or both. In order to keep things moving where they want them to go, they will manipulate with sweetness and charm. If that doesn't work, they will lie. And if that doesn't work, in many cases (though not all) they will rage. Sometimes that rage is malignant and can result in profound emotional or bodily harm to others...

Because our culture puts such a premium on niceness, charm, and pleasure, ordinary, good people are put at a disadvantage when it comes to discernment. A narcissist can appear quite innocent because she has so mastered the technique of ingratiation, so much so that she can make you feel that you have somehow committed a terrible injustice by denying her X or Y or Z as she positions herself as the victim. As Gavin de Becker points out, in The Gift of Fear, this failure to see behind the mask of niceness can make the difference between life and death.
Image source here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Map: vulnerability to climate change

The new Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) released by global risks advisory firm Maplecroft evaluates 42 social, economic and environmental factors to assess national vulnerabilities across three core areas. These include: exposure to climate-related natural disasters and sea-level rise; human sensitivity, in terms of population patterns, development, natural resources, agricultural dependency and conflicts; thirdly, the index assesses future vulnerability by considering the adaptive capacity of a country's government and infrastructure to combat climate change. Additional image at New Scientist.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Event horizons: try this at home

How to Make a White Hole in your Kitchen Sink
WiredScience: That ring of water in your kitchen sink is actually a model white hole... Liquid flowing from a tap embodies the same physics as the time-reversed equivalent of black holes. When a stream of tap water hits the flat surface of the sink, it spreads out into a thin disc bounded by a raised lip, called the hydraulic jump... If the water waves inside the disc move faster than the waves outside, the jump could serve as an analogue event horizon. Water can approach the ring from outside, but it can't get in.

'The jump would therefore constitute a one-directional membrane or white hole,' wrote physicist Gil Jannes and Germain Rousseaux of the the University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis in France in a study on ArXiv... 'Surface waves outside the jump cannot penetrate in the inner region; they are trapped outside in precisely the same sense as light is trapped inside a black hole.' The analogy is not just surface-deep. The math describing both situations is exactly equivalent... 'The concept of horizons is not limited to relativity.'...

'This is a brilliant experiment: Kitchen-sink physics is turned into a black-hole analogue,' commented Ulf Leonhardt, a physicist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland who works on making analogue black holes in fiber-optic cables. 'Germain Rousseaux and his team used sophisticated equipment and did very careful measurements, but at its heart, the experiment is based on a simple idea everyone can understand and try at home.'

Image source here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Quote for the day

The technique of advertising and propaganda is to stun and demoralize the critical consciousness with statements too absurd or extreme to be dealt with seriously by it. In the mind that is too frightened or credulous or childish to want to deal with the world at all, they move in past the consciousness and set up their structures unopposed. What they create in such a mind is not necessarily acceptance, but dependence on their versions of reality...

What eventually happens I may describe in a figure borrowed from those interminable railway journeys that are so familiar to Canadians, at least of my generation. As one's eyes are passively pulled along a rapidly moving landscape, it turns darker and one begins to realize that many of the objects that appear to be outside are actually reflections of what is in the carriage. As it becomes entirely dark one enters a narcissistic world, where, except for a few lights here and there, we can see only the reflection of where we are.

-- Northrop Frye, in The Modern Century (1967)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Corruption: Canada in top 10 'very clean'

The 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption in 178 countries around the world.

1. Denmark 9.3
2. New Zealand 9.3
3. Singapore 9.3
4. Finland 9.3
5. Sweden 9.2
6. Canada 8.9
7. Netherlands 8.8
8. Australia 8.7
9. Switzerland 8.7
10. Norway 8.6
22. United States 7.1

Sunday, October 24, 2010

High latitude havens in global drought

Climate change: Drought may threaten much of globe within decades
UCAR: Heavily populated countries face a growing threat of severe and prolonged drought in coming decades, according to a new study by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Aiguo Dai. The detailed analysis concludes that warming temperatures associated with climate change will likely create increasingly dry conditions across much of the globe in the next 30 years, possibly reaching a scale in some regions by the end of the century that has rarely, if ever, been observed in modern times...

Using an ensemble of 22 computer climate models and a comprehensive index of drought conditions, as well as analyses of previously published studies, the paper finds most of the Western Hemisphere, along with large parts of Eurasia, Africa, and Australia, may be a threat of extreme drought this century. In contrast, higher-latitude regions from Alaska to Scandinavia are likely to become more moist...

A climate change expert not associated with the study, Richard Seager of Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, adds:... "The term 'global warming' does not do justice to the climatic changes the world will experience in coming decades. Some of the worst disruptions we face will involve water, not just temperature.'

Reuters: To get an idea of how severe the drought might get, scientists use a measure called the Palmer Drought Severity Index, or PDSI. A positive score is wet, a negative score is dry... An an example, the most severe drought in recent history, in the Sahel region of western Africa in the 1970s, had a PDSI of -3 or -4. By contrast, the new study indicates some areas with high populations could see drought in the -15 or -20 range by the end of the century.

Areas likely to experience significant drying include:
  • the western two-thirds of the United States;
  • much of Latin America, especially large parts of Mexico and Brazil;
  • regions bordering the Mediterranean Sea;
  • large parts of southwest Asia;
  • southeast Asia, including China and neighboring countries, and
  • most of Africa and Australia.
While Earth is expected to get dryer overall, some areas will see a lowering of the drought risk. These include:
  • much of northern Europe;
  • Russia;
  • Canada;
  • Alaska, and
  • some areas of the Southern Hemisphere.
That doesn't necessarily mean that agriculture will migrate from the drought areas to these places in the high latitudes, Dai wrote. 'The high-latitude land areas will experience large changes in terms of warmer temperatures and more precipitation, and thus may indeed become more habitable than today,' he wrote. 'However, limited sunshine, short growing season, and very cold nighttime temperature will still prevent farming over most of these high-latitude regions.'
Source of this image here, plus others projecting to the end of the century.

Friday, October 22, 2010

On Canada's resistance: US invasion of 1812

From the New York Review of Books:

Gordon S. Wood: Americans, says Taylor, tend to think of the war as a 'defensive triumph against British aggression.' But this perspective 'obscures the war's origins and primacy as an American invasion of Canada.'

Indeed, Taylor suggests that the Canadians have much more reason to celebrate the war than Americans do. In resisting the US invasion, theirs was a victory of 'a David over the American Goliath.' Americans remember the British burning of Washington, D.C., in 1814, but forget that the American invaders had burned the public buildings of Upper Canada's capital, York (present-day Toronto), the previous year.

The Canadians 'remember what Americans forget' -- that with a population that was just a tiny fraction of that of the United States, they repelled the American invaders and in the process created 'their own patriotic icons, particularly the martyr Issac Brock and the plucky Laura Secord, their equivalent of Paul Revere.'
Image source here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Violence against women: 'pandemic proportions'

UN Report Sheds Light on Rape as Weapon of War
Agence France Presse: Sexual violence as a weapon of war and as an outcome of turmoil and disaster is inflicting a terrifying toll on women, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

'Women rarely wage war, but they too often suffer the worst of its consequences,' the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said in its annual snapshot of the world's population.

'Gender-based violence, including rape, is a repugnant and increasingly familiar weapon of war. The immediate toll it takes extends far beyond its direct victims, insidiously tearing apart families and shattering societies for generations to come.'...

UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said conflict today was less and less about soldiers confronting each other on the battlefield and more about seeking to break the will of civilians. 'In many of today's conflicts women are disempowered by rape or the threat of it, and by the HIV infection, trauma and disabilities that often result from it,' she said. 'Girls are disempowered when they cannot go to school because of the threat of violence, when they are abducted or trafficked, or when their families disintegrate or must flee.'

Women and girls also become vulnerable in the aftermath of protracted emergencies, such as earthquakes and floods, where law and order have broken down...

'For war-affected women, justice delayed is more than justice denied -- it is terror continued,' said Margot Wallstrom, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's special representative on sexual violence in conflict.

  • At the turn of the 20th century, 5% of war casualties were civilians.
  • In World War I, 15% were civilians.
  • In World War II, the figure leapt to a 65% civilian death toll, as whole cities were bombed.
  • By the mid-nineties, 75% of war deaths were civilians.
  • Today, 90% of the human war toll are civilians -- the majority women and children.
One out of every three women worldwide is physically, sexually or otherwise abused during her lifetime.

Globally, women are still disproportionately affected by violence and abuse, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, age, or socio-economic group. As noted on the United Nations Development Fund for Women's website, violence against women has reached 'pandemic proportions.' Among women aged 15-44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined,' a UNIFEM fact sheet states.
Image source here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Stone Age dairy farmers invaded Europe

Neolithic Immigration: How Middle Eastern Milk Drinkers Conquered Europe
Der Spiegel: New research has revealed that agriculture came to Europe amid a wave of immigration from the Middle East during the Neolithic period. The newcomers won out over the locals because of their sophisticated culture, mastery of agriculture -- and their miracle food, milk...

At around 5300 BC, everyone in Central Europe was suddenly farming and raising livestock... Within less than 300 years, the sedentary lifestyle had spread to the Paris basin. New excavations in Turkey, as well as genetic analyses of domestic animals and Stone Age skeletons [indicate]:
  • At around 7000 BC, a mass migration of farmers began in the Middle East to Europe.
  • These ancient farmers brought along domesticated cattle and pigs.
  • There was no interbreeding between the intruders and the original population.

The new settlers also had something of a miracle food at their disposal: fresh milk, which, as a result of a genetic mutation, they were soon able to drink in large quantities. The result was that the population of farmers grew and grew...

There are also signs of conflict... The old hunter-gatherers had long been accustomed to hunting and fishing. Their ancestors had entered Europe 46,000 years ago -- early enough to have encountered the Neanderthals... The crossing of the Bosporus did not occur until sometime between 7000 and 6500 BC. The farmers met with little resistance from the hunter-gatherer cultures, whose coastal settlements were being inundated by devastating floods at the time. Melting glaciers had triggered a rise in the sea level of over 100 meters...

With military determination, the advancing pioneers constantly established new settlements. The villages often consisted of three to six windowless longhouses, strictly aligned to the northwest, next to livestock pens and masterfully constructed wells. Their tools, picks and bowls... were almost identical throughout Central Europe, from Ukraine to the Rhine...

The newcomers were industrious and used to working hard in the fields. Clay statues show that the men were already wearing trousers and shaving. The women dyed their hair red and decorated it with snail shells. Both sexes wore caps, and the men also wore triangular hats. By comparison, the... existing inhabitants of the continent wore animal hides and lived in spartan huts. They looked on in bewilderment as the newcomers deforested their hunting grounds, tilled the soil and planted seeds. This... motivated them to resist the intruders...

It is clear, however, that the dairy farmers won out in the end. During their migration, they encountered increasingly lush pastures, a paradise for their cows. An added benefit of migrating farther to the north was that raw milk lasted longer in the cooler climate... Europe became the land of the eternal infant as people began drinking milk their whole lives... Milk played a major part in shaping history.
Image source here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Quote for the day

I do many things on returning home from travels abroad, but smelling the air is always one of the first orders of business. I exit the plane. I make my way up the ramp. I collect baggage at the carousel. And then I head for the sliding glass doors, knowing exactly what's in store. I'm about to whisk free of airport and plane smells and emerge into -- deep breath now, draw it in, hold it, exhale -- Vancouver. Saline back scents, evergreen, pulp and fuel. Vancouver is many things when I leave. But when I return, it's always a port city hemmed in by a coastal Douglas fir rainforest. And it announces itself by scent.

-- Timothy Taylor, 'Ports of Call,' Vancouver Review (Fall 2010)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Scientists defy Harper gag rules

Federal scientists go public in face of restrictive media rules

Globe & Mail: The union that represents federal government scientists has created a website -- Public -- to give a voice to the work of its members. The move comes weeks after it was revealed that new restrictive rules have been placed on scientists at the Natural Resources department requiring them to clear a number of hoops, including approval from the minister's director of communications, before they may speak with the press about their work.

While Natural Resources was singled out, reporters and scientists across a wide range of departments are well aware that the government frowns upon direct communication between its employees and the media without prior approval.

The website launched by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, the national union that includes 23,000 who work in scientific research and testing says: 'Public scientists use their skills and expertise to benefit all Canadians. Their job is to work in the public interest as independent experts protecting the health and welfare of Canadians and their communities.'

The union said in a release the recent decision to end the mandatory long-form census is the latest step in a worrying trend away from evidence-based policy making... Cutbacks to research and monitoring limit Canada's ability to deal with serious threats and potential opportunities, the union added... The website... is part of a broader campaign to underline the importance of science for the public good.
Image source here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sea floor observatory off Vancouver Island

Vancouver Sun: After almost a decade of planning and installation, the planets have finally aligned for the NEPTUNE Canada project. Billed as the world's largest undersea cabled observatory, NEPTUNE consists of five main data-collection sites off the west coast of Vancouver Island. They are spread over an expanse of the ocean floor and connected by an 800-kilometre loop of fibre-optic cable.

The final link in the NEPTUNE chain was completed this week at Endeavour Ridge, a volcanically active area of undersea mountains about 300 kilometres from land. The node there has been outfitted with instruments and the final lengths of cable have been laid, essentially completing the data network. The installation team has just returned from a month at sea...

It's now poised to bring in more than 60 terabytes of data in the next quarter century -- the equivalent of the text contained in about 60 million books -- yielding information about biological, chemical and geological processes, which can be applied to all manner of research...

The application of the data collected could include insight into earthquakes, since NEPTUNE's area of coverage includes the Juan de Fuca plate... Pollution and climate change are other key areas of study that could benefit from subsea data...

Its name stand for North-East Pacific Time-Series Underwater Networked Experiments, indicating both its location and its goal of providing 25 years of continuous information from beneath the ocean's surface... A remotely operated underwater vehicle was used for the project.
Image source here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

'A scientific basis for the political left'

Why genes are leftwing
The right loves genetic explanations for poverty or mental illness. But science fingers society

The Guardian: When the map of the human genome was presented to the world in 2001, psychiatrists had high hopes for it. Itemising all our genes would surely provide molecular evidence that the main cause of mental illness was genetic -- something psychiatrists had long believed. Drug companies were wetting their lips at the prospect of massive profits from unique potions for every idiosyncrasy.

But a decade later, unnoticed by the media, the human genome project has not delivered what the psychiatrists hoped: we now know that genes play little part in why one sibling, social class or ethnic group is more likely to suffer mental health problems than another...

This February's editorial of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry was entitled 'It's the environment, stupid!' The author, Edmund Sonuga-Barke, stated that 'serious science is now more than ever focused on the power of the environment... all but the most dogged of genetic determinists have revised their view.'...

Politics may be the reason why the media has so far failed to report the small role of genes. The political right believes that genes largely explain why the poor are poor, as well as twice likely as the rich to be mentally ill. To them, the poor are genetic mud, sinking to the bottom of the genetic pool.

Writing in 2000, the political scientist Charles Murray made a rash prediction he may now regret. 'The story of human nature, as revealed by genetics and neuroscience, will be conservative in its political [shape].' The American poor would turn out to have significantly different genes to the affluent: 'This is not unimaginable. It is almost certainly true.' Almost certainly false, more like.

Instead, the Human Genome Project is rapidly providing a scientific basis for the political left. Childhood maltreatment, economic inequality and excessive materialism seem the main determinants of mental illness. State-sponsored interventions, like reduced inequality, are the most likely solutions.
Image source here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

'Bleedingly obvious'

Researcher: Suicide terrorism linked to military occupation
Laura Rozen, Politico: Robert Pape, a University of Chicago political science professor and former Air Force lecturer... present[s] findings... that argue that the majority of suicide terrorism around the world since 1980 has had a common cause: military occupation.

Pape and his team of researchers draw on data produced by a six-year study of suicide terrorist attacks around the world that was partially funded by the [US] Defense Department's Threat Reduction Agency... in publicly available database comprised of some 10,000 records on some 2,200 suicide terrorism attacks, dating back to the first suicide terrorism attack of modern times -- the 1983 truck bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, that killed 241 US Marines.

'We have lots of evidence now that when you put the foreign military presence in, it trigger suicide terrorism campaigns,... and that when the foreign forces leave, it takes away almost 100% of the terrorist campaign,' Pape said in an interview... Deaths due to suicide attacks in Afghanistan have gone up by a third in the year since President Obama added another 30,000 US troops. 'It is not making it any better,' Pape said. [The complete report is here. (.pdf)]

Glenn Greenwald, Salon: In 2004 [US] Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld commissioned a task force to study what causes Terrorism, and it concluded that "Muslims do not 'hate our freedom,' but rather, they hate our policies," specifically "American direct intervention in the Muslim world."... Now, a new, comprehensive study from Robert Pape... substantiates what is (a) already bleedingly obvious and (b) known to the US Government for many years: namely, that the prime cause of suicide bombings is not Hatred of Our Freedoms or Inherent Violence in Islamic Culture or a Desire for Worldwide Sharia Rule by Caliphate, but rather... foreign military occupations...

Imagine that. Isn't Muslim culture just so bizarre, primitive, and inscrutable? As strange as it is, they actually seem to dislike it when foreign militaries bomb, invade and occupy their countries, and Western powers interfere in their internal affairs by overthrowing and covertly manipulating their governments, imposing sanctions that kill hundreds of thousands of Muslim children, and arming their enemies. Therefore (of course), the solution to Terrorism is to interfere more in their countries by continuing to occupy, bomb, invade, assassinate, lawlessly imprison and control them, because that's the only way we can Stay Safe. There are people over there who are angry at us for what we're doing in their world, so we need to do much more of it to eradicate the anger. That's the core logic of the War on Terror. How is that working out?...

A desire to exact vengeance for foreign killings on your soil is hardly a unique attribute... It's fairly universal. See, for instance, the furious American response to the one-day attack on 9/11 -- still going strong even after 9 years... It hardly takes a genius to figure out the most effective way of reducing anti-American Terrorism; the only question is whether that's the actual goal of those in power.
Image source here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Canadian use of US health care 'infinitesimal'

Phantoms In The Snow: Canadians' Use of Health Care Services In The United States
Health Affairs: PROLOGUE: Over the past three decades, particularly during periods when the U.S. Congress has flirted with the enactment of national health insurance legislation, the provincial health insurance plans of Canada have been a subject of fascination to many Americans. What caught their attention was the system's universal coverage; its lower costs; and its public, nonprofit administration. The pluralistic U.S. system...stands in many ways in sharp contrast to its Canadian counterpart...

Throughout the 1990s... opponents argued that 'refugees' of Canada's single-payer system routinely came across the border seeking necessary medical care not available at home because of either lack of resources or prohibitively long queues. This paper... depicts this popular perception as more myth than reality, as the number of Canadians routinely coming across the border seeking health care appears to be relatively small, infinitesimal when compared with the amount of care provided by their own system.

Chart source here:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

New imagery out of the North

The New Raw: Contemporary Inuit Art
Eye on the Arctic: Global warming is having a profound effect on the circumpolar world. Late ice formation and early melt are changing animal behaviour and ancestral travel routes long used by Inuit. These disruptions to traditional hunting patterns are stressing the social fabric in many Inuit communities -- places already grappling with problems from substance abuse to suicide. Inuit artists like [Ningeokuluk] Teevee, Jiutai Toonoo and Kavavaow Mannomee, among others, are increasingly taking on these political, environmental and identity questions in their work. [For entire article, with more images, go here.]

Not Me Anymore by Jutai Toonoo

Cross Current by Ningeokuluk Teevee
Source of images here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Quote for the day

Jailed Chinese Dissident's 'Final Statement'

Liu Xiaobo, awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, made a 'final statement' dated December 23, 2009, two days before he was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Translation of the Chinese text is by David Kelly, an Australian professor of China Studies at the Chinese Research Center of the University of Technology Sydney.

I still want to tell the regime that deprives me of my freedom, I stand by the belief I expressed twenty years ago in my 'June Second Hunger Strike Declaration' -- I have no enemies, and no hatred...

For hatred is corrosive of a person's wisdom and conscience; the mentality of enmity can poison a nation's spirit, instigate brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society's tolerance and humanity, and block a nation's progress to freedom and democracy.

I hope therefore to be able to transcend my personal vicissitudes in understanding the development of the state and changes in society, to counter the hostility of the regime with the best of intentions, and defuse hate with love...

Freedom of expression is the basis of human rights, the source of humanity and the mother of truth. To block freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, to strangle humanity and to suppress the truth.

I do not feel guilty for following my constitutional right to freedom of expression, for fulfilling my social responsibility as a Chinese citizen. Even if accused of it, I would have no complaints.
Image source here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The oceans of Mars

New Evidence Suggests Icebergs in Frigid Oceans on Ancient Mars Ancient Mars once had surprisingly frigid oceans complete with their own icebergs, new evidence suggests... Researchers have found evidence of icebergs on Mars, supporting... a cold and wet Mars, governed by oceans or seas covered partly in ice, as well as glaciers and massive polar caps... [Photo evidence of past Mars icebergs here.]

Astrobiologist Alberto Fairen at the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center and his colleagues suggest the presence and distribution of boulders and chains of craters could have been caused by rock fragments carried by icebergs, a common process on Earth.

They suggest glaciers in the highlands could have eroded the terrain, transporting rock within them and on their surfaces. Armadas of icebergs would have formed at the edges of glaciers as they melted and broke apart, which could then float thousands of miles on the ocean before they disappeared, depositing rock downward... In addition, when icebergs roll along the sea floor on Earth, they can generate strings of dents, perhaps explaining the chains of craters seen on the Martian lowlands.

If there were icebergs, then there were open and sizeable bodies of stable liquid water on the surface of Mars, Fairen said. 'The size of the water bodies may have ranged from several local seas to a single hemispheric ocean, and they may have been continuous in time or episodic.'

Image source here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The future of oceans: 'toxic jellyfish and algae'

Acidifying oceans spell marine biological meltdown 'by end of century'
The Geological Society: A unique 'natural laboratory' in the Mediterranean Sea is revealing the effects of rising carbon dioxide levels on life in the oceans. The results show a bleak future for marine life as ocean acidity rises, and suggest that similar lowering of ocean pH levels may have been responsible for massive extinctions in the past.

The scientists, from the University of Plymouth and the University of Santa Catarina, Brazil, studied single-celled organisms called Foraminifera around volcanic carbon dioxide vents off Naples in Italy. The study, published in the September issue of the Journal of the Geological Society, found that increasing CO2 levels caused foram diversity to fall from 24 species to only 4.

'Previous studies have shown a reduction in diversity of 30%, but this is even bigger for forams, said Dr Jason Hall-Spencer, one of the study's co-authors. 'A tipping point occurs at mean pH 7.8. This is the pH level predicted for the end of this century.'...

'At a mean pH level of 7.8, calcified organisms begin to disappear, and non calcifying ones take over. We are headed towards that being the case in this century. The big concern for me is that unless we curb carbon emissions we risk mass extinctions, degrading coastal waters and encouraging outbreaks of toxic jellyfish and algae.'


Image: pH trend vs. CO2 trend around Station ALOHA; source here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kenyan farmers reject Monsanto for old ways

In Kenya, Farmers Grow Their Own Way
Thousands of grassroots, African-led efforts are building locally rooted alternatives to the chemical agriculture promoted by the Gates Foundation and Monsanto.

Yes Magazine: Like most of the farmers in this area, the Tumaini women explained, they had followed the advice of outsiders (mostly large-scale foreign NGOs) who told them that yields would increase if they purchased special seeds rather than saving their own and applied chemicals to their crops. But the women soon learned the long-term consequences of these methods. When the rains stopped, crops didn't produce well... Stripped from years of chemical use, the soil couldn't retain what little moisture was left. Yields declined and farmers could no longer afford the inputs -- chemical fertilizers, genetically engineered seeds, pesticides...

Now the women of the Tumaini group are rejecting the methods and learning both new and traditional ways of farming... In doing so, they are also rejecting the latest scheme by the Global North to cure Africa of hunger and poverty, the so-called 'New Green Revolution.'... [Josphat] Ngonyo, director of the African Network for Animal Welfare and member of the Kenya Biodiversity Coalition, states... 'Why do you want to spread the very same farming methods that have made our farmers poor and hungry?'...

Again and again, the farmers we met discussed the importance of controlling their own food source -- what the international peasant movement La Via Campesina calls 'food sovereignty.' Food sovereignty, as defined in the 'Declaration of Nyeleni,' a document produced by a gathering of farmers in Mali in 2007, is the 'right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produces through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.' Food sovereignty requires the democratization of our food system, with people, not corporations, in control...

Farmers all over the world, the majority of whom are women, are insisting on their right to food sovereignty, and placing seed at the center of that fight... growing a variety of crops appropriate to their region and their culture.
Image source here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rape in the Canadian Forces: 'so much secrecy'

Late soldier's letters tell of rapes at camp
National Post: Capt. Nichola Goddard, who in 2006 became the first female Canadian combat death, wrote to her husband that women working at bases in Afghanistan were often victims of sexual harassment or assault, and that in one week there had been six rapes at her camp.

'OK. Now for all the stuff I can't say over the phone,' she wrote in a personal letter to her husband of three years, Jason Beam, on Feb. 3, 2006, a little more than three months before she was killed in a firefight with the Taliban, west of Kandahar. 'There were six rapes in the camp last week, so we have to work out an escort at night.'...

Capt. Goddard's letters are the basis of Calgary Herald columnist Valerie Fortney's new book, Sunray: The Death and Life of Captain Nichola Goddard. 'Her husband was the only person she wrote about that to,' Ms. Fortney said in an interview... 'There's so much secrecy. I wanted to go farther into that, but I came upon brick walls every time I asked other soldiers and officers about assault or harassment. It's a big no-go zone. No one would even talk off the record about it.'...

While Capt. Goddard's words don't indicate that she ever felt physically threatened by her fellow soldiers, she did tell her husband that she suffered sexual harassment in the form of constant rumours that she was sleeping with men on the base...

Karen Davis, a retired lieutenant-commander and current defence scientist at the Canadian Forces Leadership Institute, conducted in-depth research in the late 1990s, looking at why certain women who served in the combat arms chose to leave. 'Their experiences were ... similar in terms of what [Goddard] made reference to -- being ogled, and comments implying that sooner or later they'd have to provide sex to their peers... They described a highly sexualized environment and, in some cases, assault or rape.'...

'Certainly, we know from the research I did in the '90s that there was a pretty difficult environment for women. And it would be naive to believe that all of a sudden things have just miraculously gone away in the last eight to 10 years.'
Image: Capt. Nichola Goddard; source here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chart: new Canadians, their origins

'Recent immigrants' = permanent residents who arrived in Canada within five years prior to a given census. For additional data from 1981 and 1991, go here.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

An ancient language speaks

Babylonian, Dead For Millennia, Now Online
2 Millennia After The Venerable Language Died Out, Sound of Babylonian Streams from Internet

CBS News: The language of the Epic of Gilgamesh and King Hammurabi has found a new life online after being dead for some 2,000 years. Academics from across the world have recorded audio of Babylonian epics, poems, and even a magic spell to the Internet in an effort to help scholars and laymen understand what the language of the ancient Near East sounded like. The answer? Cambridge University's Martin Worthington told The Associated Press that it's 'a bit like a mixture of Arabic and Italian.'

Babylonia was among the world's first civilizations and produced some of its earliest pieces of literature. Its people also play a central role in the Bible. Babylon's soaring, pyramid-shaped Temple of Marduk is thought to have inspired the tale of the Tower of Babel, while their conquest of the Kingdom of Judah in the early sixth century B.C. led to the deportation an exile of the nation's Jewish population.

The Babylonian language, written on clay tablets in cuneiform script, dominated the Near East for centuries before it was gradually displaced by Aramaic. After a long decline, it disappeared from use altogether sometime in the first century A.D. -- and was only deciphered nearly two millennia later by 19th-century European academics.

Worthington... said scholars have a pretty good idea of what Babylonian sounded like by comparing the language to its Semitic cousins -- Hebrew and Arabic -- and by picking out Babylonian words written in Greek or Aramaic. The vowel patterns within Babylonian itself also provide clues as to how some words are supposed to sound...

The website hosts some 30 audio files, generally a few minutes long. Among them are extracts from 'The Epic of Gilgamesh' and the 'Codex Hammurabi,' one of the world's oldest set of laws. There are also several versions of the 'Poem of the Righteous Sufferer,' a Babylonian tale that closely parallels the Biblical story of Job, and other texts, including an erotic hymn to the goddess Ishtar.
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