February 2010 Archives

Party of No Government at All

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There's a resurgent dire wind blowing and Rich tells us we ignore it at our peril. The only thing more dangerous than an angry man with a gun is a really stupidly paranoid angry man with a gun.

The Axis of the Obsessed and Deranged

by Frank Rich

No one knows what history will make of the present -- least of all journalists, who can at best write history's sloppy first draft. But if I were to place an incautious bet on which political event will prove the most significant of February 2010, I wouldn't choose the kabuki health care summit that generated all the ink and 24/7 cable chatter in Washington. I'd put my money instead on the murder-suicide of Andrew Joseph Stack III, the tax protester who flew a plane into an office building housing Internal Revenue Service employees in Austin, Tex., on Feb. 18. It was a flare with the dark afterlife of an omen.

What made that kamikaze mission eventful was less the deranged act itself than the curious reaction of politicians on the right who gave it a pass -- or, worse, flirted with condoning it. Stack was a lone madman, and it would be both glib and inaccurate to call him a card-carrying Tea Partier or a "Tea Party terrorist." But he did leave behind a manifesto whose frothing anti-government, anti-tax rage overlaps with some of those marching under the Tea Party banner. That rant inspired like-minded Americans to create instant Facebook shrines to his martyrdom. Soon enough, some cowed politicians, including the newly minted Tea Party hero Scott Brown, were publicly empathizing with Stack's credo -- rather than risk crossing the most unforgiving brigade in their base.

Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, even rationalized Stack's crime. "It's sad the incident in Texas happened," he said, "but by the same token, it's an agency that is unnecessary. And when the day comes when that is over and we abolish the I.R.S., it's going to be a happy day for America." No one in King's caucus condemned these remarks. Then again, what King euphemized as "the incident" took out just 1 of the 200 workers in the Austin building: Vernon Hunter, a 68-year-old Vietnam veteran nearing his I.R.S. retirement. Had Stack the devastating weaponry and timing to match the death toll of 168 inflicted by Timothy McVeigh on a federal building in Oklahoma in 1995, maybe a few of the congressman's peers would have cried foul.

It is not glib or inaccurate to invoke Oklahoma City in this context, because the acrid stench of 1995 is back in the air. Two days before Stack's suicide mission, The Times published David Barstow's chilling, months-long investigation of the Tea Party movement. Anyone who was cognizant during the McVeigh firestorm would recognize the old warning signs re-emerging from the mists of history. The Patriot movement. "The New World Order," with its shadowy conspiracies hatched by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. Sandpoint, Idaho. White supremacists. Militias.

Barstow confirmed what the Southern Poverty Law Center had found in its report last year: the unhinged and sometimes armed anti-government right that was thought to have vaporized after its Oklahoma apotheosis is making a comeback. And now it is finding common cause with some elements of the diverse, far-flung and still inchoate Tea Party movement. All it takes is a few self-styled "patriots" to sow havoc.

Amazing A Cappella


A dedication medley to Michael Jackson from Sam Tsui and Kurt Schneider. Sam plays all the vocal parts and Kurt acts as beat box. They both arranged the music.

New Idol So far


I don't particularly like American Idol but this is my pick for winner so far:

What can nanotechnology do for us?


Consider that this technology is not far off.

So It Goes



Health Care Debate a Symptom in Itself


I've been trying to figure out lately just what it is that makes Americans so incapable of achieving what the rest of the world did years ago; namely, a decent public health care system that provides affordable universal coverage. It's not just the warring factions of capitalist vs socialists which certainly is part of it, but it seems there's something more fundamentally screwed up in the American psyche that's really at the root of the problem. I think the article below comes quite close to describing what I'm talking about.

The Narcissus Society

by Roger Cohen

Where Oedipus once tormented us, it is now Narcissus. Pathologies linked to authority and domination have ceded to the limitless angst of self-contemplation. The old question -- "What am I allowed to do?" -- has given way to the equally scary "What am I capable of doing?" Alain Ehrenberg, a French author and psychologist, speaks of the "privatization of human existence."

Community -- a stable job, shared national experience, extended family, labor unions -- has vanished or eroded. In its place have come a frenzied individualism, solipsistic screen-gazing, the disembodied pleasures of social networking and the à-la-carte life as defined by 600 TV channels and a gazillion blogs. Feelings of anxiety and inadequacy grow in the lonely chamber of self-absorption and projection.

These trends are common to all globalized modern democracies, ranging from those that prize individualism, like the United States, to those, like France, where social solidarity is a paramount value. Ehrenberg's new book, "La Société du Malaise" ("The Malaise Society") is full of insights into the impact of narcissistic neurosis.

Sometimes, it seems, we are as lonely as those little planes over the Atlantic in on-board video navigation maps.

I was thinking of this during a recent spell as a grand juror. Thrown together for two weeks at Brooklyn Supreme Court with 22 other jurors, I was struck by how rare it is now in American life to be gathered, physically, with an array of other folk of different ages, backgrounds, skin colors, beliefs, faiths, tastes, education levels and political convictions and be obliged to work out your differences in order to get the job done.

It was not always easy, of course; not easy to deal with the fidgety paramedic chewing chips through murder testimony, the scattershot flirtations of the former rhythm-and-blues musician, the off-point ruminations of the old guy who knew he was always right, the intermittent tedium and incoherence.

I can still hear the juror next to me. "I work at 311" -- the number New Yorkers dial with complaints or questions about the city. "Drives me nuts, been doing it five years. People treat you like idiots. Most of the time it's water seeping into basements, sewage systems blocked. At least my job hasn't been outsourced to Bangalore. People ask me, 'You in New York?' They ask me, 'Are you a human being or a robot?' Sometimes I say, "I ... AM ... A ... ROBOT.' But we've got supervisors listening to calls. One thing that drives me crazy is all the people who speak slowly, as if I'm an idiot. I tell them, 'You can speak faster, you know!' Jury duty's actually a relief!"

In a way, it was -- a relief from being alone on a phone or in front of a screen. We got to know each other's tics and, having dealt with killing and rape and assault and insurance fraud, we all embraced at the end. Oh unthinkable act, we'd done something selfless for the commonweal, learned to listen to each other, accepted differences and argued our way to decisions.

America could use more of that kind of experience. As it is, everyone's shrieking their lonesome anger, burrowing deeper into stress, gazing at their own images -- and generating paralysis.

Which brings me to health care: Crunch time has come on a question central to the nation's future, where an acknowledgment is needed that, when it comes to health, we're all in this together. Pooling the risk among everybody is the most efficient way to forge a healthier society. That's what other developed societies do. And they don't have 30 million plus uninsured.

Now, as I understand it, the Tea Party movement is angry about waste, bail-outs for the rich and spiraling debt. They detest big government. But if waste and debt are really what's bothering them, how about the waste in the more than 1,800 daily health-care related personal bankruptcies, the 25 to 30 percent of some corporate insurers' costs going on administration (versus 6 percent for Medicare), the sky-rocketing health premiums that are undermining U.S. corporations (and so taking jobs), the endless paperwork of private reimbursement procedures, and the needless deaths?

Americans don't want a European nanny state -- fine! But, as a lawyer friend, Manuel Wally, put it to me, "When it comes to health it makes sense to involve government, which is accountable to the people, rather than corporations, which are accountable to shareholders."

All the fear-mongering talk of "nationalizing" 17 percent of the economy is nonsense. Government, through Medicare and Medicaid, is already administering almost half of American health care and doing so with less waste than the private sector. Per capita Medicare costs for common benefits grew 4.9 percent between 1998 and 2008, against 7.1 percent for private insurers. Why not offer Medicare as a choice -- a choice -- to everyone? Aren't Republicans about choice?

The public option, not dead, would amount to recognition of shared interest in each other's health and of the need to use America's energies and resources better. It would involve 300 million people linking arms.

Or we can turn away from each other and, like Narcissus, perish in the contemplation of our own reflections.

Haiti Ripe for Contractor Rape


I find this sort of marketeering horrendous.

"We've seen it happen so many times before that whenever there is a disaster, there are a bunch of vultures trying to profit from it,whether it's a man-made disaster like Iraq, or a nature-made disasterlike Haiti."

Contractors "Like Vultures Coming to Grab the Loot"

by: Anthony Fenton Inter Press Service

Critics are concerned that private military contractors are positioning themselves at the center of an emerging "shock doctrine" for earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
Next month, a prominent umbrella organization for private military and logistic corporations, the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA), is co-organizing a "Haiti summit" which aims to bring together "leading officials" for "private consultations with attending contractors and investors" in Miami, Florida.

Dubbed the "mercenary trade association" by journalist Jeremy Scahill, author of "Blackwater: the Rise of the World' Most Powerful Mercenary Army", the IPOA wasted no time setting up a "Haiti Earthquake Support" page on its website following the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated the Caribbean country.

IPOA's director Doug Brooks says, "The first contacts we got were journalists looking for security when they went in." The website of IPOA member company, Hart Security, says they are currently in Haiti "supporting clients from the fields of media, consultancy and medical in their disaster recovery efforts." Several other IPOA members have either bid on or received contracts for work in Haiti.

Likewise, the private military contractor, Raidon Tactics, has at least 30 former U.S. Special Operations soldiers on the ground, where they have been guarding aid convoys and providing security for "news agencies," according to a Raidon employee who told IPS his company received over 1,000 phone calls in response to an ad posting "for open positions for Static Security Positions and Mobile Security Positions" in Haiti.

Just over a week following the earthquake, the IPOA teamed up with Global Investment Summits (GIS), a UK-based private company that specializes in bringing private contractors and government officials from "emerging post-conflict countries" together, to host an "Afghanistan Reconstruction Summit", in Istanbul, Turkey. It was there, says IPOA's director Doug Brooks, that the idea for the Haiti summit was hatched "over beers".

GIS's CEO, Kevin Lumb, told IPS that the key feature of the Haiti summit will be "what we call roundtables, [where] we put the ministers and their procurement people, and arrange appointments with contractors." Lumb added that his company "specializes in putting governments together [with private contractors]."

IPOA was "so pleased" with the Afghanistan summit, says Lumb, they asked GIS to do "all the organizing, all the selling" for the Haiti summit. Lumb pointed out that all of the profits from the event will be donated to the Clinton-Bush Haiti relief fund.

While acknowledging that there will be a "a commercial angle" to the event and that "major companies, major players in the world" have committed to attend, Lumb declined to name most of the participants.

One of the companies Lumb did mention is DACC Associates, a private contractor that specializes in management and security consulting with contracts providing "advice and counsel" to governments in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

DACC President Douglas Melvin, a former Special Forces commander, State Department official and director of Security and Administrative Services for President George W. Bush, acknowledged that "from a revenue perspective, yes there's wonderful opportunities at these events."

700 Yr Old Iranian Cave Condos


Kind of like the SW American Anasazi cliff dwellers.

Pretty cool living conditions if you are someone like, say, bin Laden.

More pix of this cave village are here

hat tip to sister MO

Embrace Life

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Cricket Trickery


How damned weird is this?

Crickets Warn Young Before Birth of Dangers of Wolf Spiders

If an expectant mother knew that dangerous creatures lurked around her, and knew also that she wouldn't be around to take care of her young, she might be stressed.

And if she had a way to warn her young before they were born, surely she would.

Human mothers cannot do this, to the best of our knowledge. But pregnant crickets, it appears, do have the ability to forewarn. This is especially useful since crickets abandon their young after birth.

Researchers from the University of South Carolina Upstate and Indiana State University placed pregnant crickets in an enclosure where they were stalked, but not eaten, by a wolf spider, whose fangs had been coated with wax to protect the crickets.

The young of the spider-exposed mothers turned out to be more predator-savvy than those with mothers who were not exposed to the wolf spider; they stayed hidden longer, and were more likely to freeze when they encountered spider feces or spider silk.

In a second experiment, the researchers placed the juvenile crickets in an arena with a starving wolf spider with fully functioning fangs. Eventually, the spider got all the crickets, but the young born from spider-exposed mothers lasted longer in the arena of death.

The research was published last month in The American Naturalist.

What remains unclear is exactly how the crickets are warning their unborn. "We don't know a specific mechanism," said Jonathan Storm, a professor at the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg and one of the authors of the paper.

Although it is conjecture at this point, he said, "It's possible that there could be some sort of hormone transmitted."

Da Prez on Health care


The President points to outrageous premium hikes from health insurance companies, especially those already making massive profits, as further proof of the need for reform. Looking ahead to the coming bipartisan meeting on reform, the President urges members of Congress to come to the table in good faith to address the issue.

Curbing HIV Transmission


This is a great idea that should be put into force as rapidly as possible. There will of course be huge head-in-the-sand cultural resistances to the universal testing regimens that would be required, but the principle is a strong one and the need to slow HIV transmission is vital.

Using antiretroviral drugs early may curb HIV/AIDS spread

By Elizabeth Landau

Antiretroviral drugs that are being used to prolong the lives of patients infected with HIV/AIDS could also be greatly effective in slowing its spread, epidemiologist Brian Williams said.

The concentration of the virus drops by a factor of 10,000 with antiretroviral treatment, resulting in 25 times the reduction of infectiousness, said Williams, formerly of the World Health Organization and now at the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis. That means that if more people with HIV received this therapy early, there would be fewer new cases of the disease, he said Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"We could effectively stop transmission within five years," Williams said.

About 33 million people are living with HIV, according to 2008 estimates by the World Health Organization and UNAIDS. That year, 2 million people died of AIDS and 2.7 became newly infected.

Because people who have HIV are living longer, and because in some parts of the world behaviors that facilitate transmission have not decreased, there are more new infections every year than deaths, and the epidemic continues to grow, said Dr. Kenneth Mayer, professor of medicine and community health at Brown University.

In a 2009 article in The Lancet, Williams and his colleagues at the World Health Organization advocated for broader use of antiretroviral drugs, proposing that everyone over age 15 should be tested annually for HIV, and that anyone who tests positive should begin antiretroviral treatment immediately.

Technology's epic story


In this wide-ranging, thought-provoking talk from TEDxAmsterdam, Kevin Kelly muses on what technology means in our lives -- from its impact at the personal level to its place in the cosmos.

Torture Lawyers Off the Hook


If you can't get in trouble for this level of lawyer malfeasance, when can you? This is like handing any future Justice Dept decisions a carte blanche get out jail card.

Justice Department Declines Punishment for Bush Officials for "Bad Judgment"

The Obama Administration continued the tradition of the "Friday night dump" by just releasing the Justice Department report on former Justice officials John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury. The report is linked below. The Justice Department confirmed that the investigation originally found professional misconduct by Yoo and Bybee, but an unnamed high-ranking official at the Office of Professional Responsibility overruled the finding to avoid any professional action against them. I will be discussing this story tonight on Countdown.

Now the report merely states that the men "exercised poor judgment." That is a remarkable downgrade from the Nuremberg prosecutions of lawyers and judges for war crimes to the Obama Administration saying that support of torture is a matter of "poor judgment." Poor judgment is when you invite the NRA's Wayne LaPierre and Susan Brady to a small dinner party. Arguing for torture and misrepresenting settled law to facility a torture program is usually viewed as something of a slightly higher order than "poor judgment" or "bad form."

Now we are left with a former Vice President who proclaims proudly his support for torture and lawyers who will face no repercussions for their role -- and of course an Administration that is refusing to even investigate war crimes. In the meantime, Bybee will continue to rule on cases as an appellate judge under a lifetime appointment - due to the failure of the Democrats to block the nomination.

How did we come to this ignoble moment?

Here is the report: OPR Report

Ah, them Central Florida Gals



hat tip Rick D

A Seminal Black History Moment


How the personal courage of four Black students in North Carolina in 1960 became the spark for a wider civil rights movement that continues to this day. Here's the link to the award winning PBS Independent Lens film on the topic;

February One: The Story Of The Greensboro Four

below, a brief intro;

B.O. No Go


I don't know why this made me laugh so much...but it did.

Smelly passenger kicked off flight

By A. Pawlowski

(CNN) -- Air travelers already have to deal with unruly passengers, excessively talkative ones and many other types who make flying miserable.

But a new low may just have been reached for weary road warriors: The overwhelmingly smelly passenger.

A man on Jazz Air, a regional airline in Canada that also serves U.S. cities, was reportedly kicked off a plane earlier this month because of his strong body odor.

"People were just mumbling and staring at him," said a woman who sat near the man, according to The Guardian, a newspaper in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, where the flight originated on February 6. It was a very uncomfortable situation, she added.

Another passenger described the smell as "brutal."

Jazz Air spokeswoman Manon Stuart confirmed that a passenger was "deplaned" from the flight, but she could not provide specific information about the person involved or the reason why he was asked to leave because of privacy issues.

"As an airline, the safety and comfort of our passengers and crew are our top priorities. Therefore, any situation that compromises either their safety or comfort is taken seriously, and in such circumstances, the crew will act in the best interest of the majority of our passengers," Stuart said.

"It's important to understand that our crew members make every effort to resolve a situation before it becomes an issue. Unfortunately, in some circumstances, it may become necessary for our crew to remove passengers."

The airline, like most air carriers, doesn't have a specific policy covering body odor, Stuart said.

Tea Baggers Pining for the 1950s


Bill Maher from his comedy special ...But I'm Not Wrong on the Tea Bag protesters longing for the return of the 1950s in America when they say "they want their country back". As Bill points out those times weren't so great if you were anything besides male and white.

An excellent discussion


These are cool podcasts. Ever hear of Trivium or Quadrium? Check it out.

Let My Gluons Go


Further proof that any sufficiently advanced technology will appear as magic to those not in the know. (Apologies to AC Clarke)

Scientists Briefly Break a Law of Nature

by Dennis Overbye

Slideshow of facility

phoenix.jpgPhysicists said Monday that they had whacked a tiny region of space with enough energy to briefly distort the laws of physics, providing the first laboratory demonstration of the kind of process that scientists suspect has shaped cosmic history.

The blow was delivered in the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, or RHIC, at the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, where, since 2000, physicists have been accelerating gold nuclei around a 2.4-mile underground ring to 99.995 percent of the speed of light and then colliding them in an effort to melt protons and neutrons and free their constituents -- quarks and gluons. The goal has been a state of matter called a quark-gluon plasma, which theorists believe existed when the universe was only a microsecond old.

The departure from normal physics manifested itself in the apparent ability of the briefly freed quarks to tell right from left. That breaks one of the fundamental laws of nature, known as parity, which requires that the laws of physics remain unchanged if we view nature in a mirror.

This happened in bubbles smaller than the nucleus of an atom, which lasted only a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second. But in these bubbles were "hints of profound physics," in the words of Steven Vigdor, associate director for nuclear and particle physics at Brookhaven. Very similar symmetry-breaking bubbles, at an earlier period in the universe, are believed to have been responsible for breaking the balance between matter and its opposite antimatter and leaving the universe with a preponderance of matter.

"We now have a hook" into how these processes occur, Dr. Vigdor said, adding in an e-mail message, "IF the interpretation of the RHIC results turns out to be correct." Other physicists said the results were an important window into the complicated dynamics of quarks, which goes by the somewhat whimsical name of Quantum Chromo Dynamics.



from the fingers of pal Ouroboros

The Psychology of Denial:

our failure to act against climate change



In the case of climate change, then, we can intellectually accept the evidence of climate change, but we find it extremely hard to accept our responsibility for a crime of such enormity. Indeed, the most powerful evidence of our denial is the failure to even recognise that there is a moral dimension with identifiable perpetrators and victims. The language of 'climate change', 'global warming', 'human impacts', and 'adaptation' are themselves a form of denial familiar from other forms of human rights abuse; they are scientific euphemisms that suggest that climate change originates in immutable natural forces rather than in a direct causal relationship with moral implications for the perpetrator.

Secondly, we diffuse our responsibility. Cohen writes at length of the 'passive bystander effect' whereby violent crimes can be committed in a crowded street without anyone intervening. Individuals wait for someone else to act and subsume their personal responsibility in the collective responsibility of the group. One notable feature of the bystander effect is that the larger the number of actors the lower the likelihood that any individual person feels capable of taking unilateral action. In times of war and repression, entire communities can become incapacitated. In the case of climate change we are both bystanders and perpetrators, an internal conflict that can only intensify our denial.

Psychoanalytic theory contains valuable pointers to the ways that people may try to resolve these internal conflicts; angrily denying the problem outright (psychotic denial), seeking scapegoats (acting out), indulging in deliberately wasteful behaviour (reaction formation), projecting their anxiety onto some unrelated but containable problem (displacement), or trying to shut out all information (suppression). As the impacts of climate change intensify we can therefore anticipate that people will willingly collude in creating collective mechanisms of denial along these lines.

my reaction:

Of course...then add
- the typical 12 cups of science illiteracy
- 2lbs obstinate dumb (unsifted)
- half a pack of instant Old Time Religion
- 6 tbsp of well-aged manifest destiny
- 260 lb of Limbaugh cheese
- mix thoroughly while pouring in 23 bottles of Beck

Then bake in a FOX oven at high temp for 18 months.
Top with generous amounts of Human Exceptionalism Icing.

Serves up to 30% of the population.

Its an old recipe.

What Do Teachers Make?

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Damn That Loud-Mouthed Gay Lobby


Its so inconvenient how gays are all up in arms about not wanting to be murdered. Its just distasteful.

Kincaid Defends Ugandan Anti-Gay Law. Again.

Ed Brayton

Cliff Kincaid, the uber-nut head of Accuracy in Media, is defending the Ugandan anti-gay law yet again against the "loud-mouthed homosexual lobby." Yeah, those uppity gays - thinking they shouldn't be murdered for being gay. And he's quoting from one of the leading voices in Uganda calling for the murder and imprisonment of gay people.

A leading pro-family activist in Uganda says that Christians in that East African country need help resisting the schemes of the international homosexual lobby. Charles Tuhaise tells AIM that he is also disturbed by the general silence of conservatives in the U.S. to stand up for Uganda and its emerging Christian culture.

Yeah, stand up for their "emerging Christian culture." That's what it's all about. It's not about them wanting to destroy the lives of gay people, it's about their "emerging Christian culture." And you conservatives should be ashamed of yourselves for not backing them up on it!

"Many Ugandans are shocked at the reaction to this bill and the extent to which homosexual activists can intimidate everyone to silence," Tuhaise said.

Yes, that's exactly right. Homosexual activists have intimidated everyone into not wanting to murder them for being homosexual.

Tuhaise is chairman of the board of Agape Community Transformation (ACT), a Christian organization dedicated to improving the spiritual, physical, economic and societal conditions of their communities.

Except for the gay people in those communities. They're going to improve their spiritual and physical conditions by murdering them in the name of God. Positively Orwellian, isn't it?

"I am a Ugandan and I'm writing to thank you for your bravery," Tuhaise said in his message to AIM. "The articles you've written in support of the right of Ugandans to exercise self-determination on the issue of homosexuality have thrown fresh light on the American scene [and show] that not every American is scared of the loud-mouthed homosexual lobby."

Ah yes, the ridiculous old argument that groups of people have "self-determination" to violate the rights of individuals. They reject the notion that individuals have any right to self-determination, the only level on which any such right could possibly exist, but endorse a collective right to kill anyone they don't like. Welcome to crazy town.

Showing disdain for Uganda's sovereign right to chart its own course in domestic and foreign affairs, the "gay rights" lobby has mounted an aggressive strategy to undermine the government of Uganda and threaten the cut-off of foreign aid if the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda is passed.

Gee, how do you think Kincaid feels about the "sovereign right to chart its own course in domestic and foreign affairs" when it comes to, say, Iran allowing honor killings? Wanna guess whether he was defending the "sovereign right to chart its own course in domestic and foreign affairs" when we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq?

Ah, but such rhetoric is only used for convenience. When he agrees with what another country is doing, as he does here, it's all about their sovereign rights; such sovereign rights end when another country does something he doesn't like.

The Evolution of Homer Sapiens


Splitting Hairs as a Science


This a cool advance in genetic marking science used as an anthropological tool.

Hairs trace human history

inuk.jpgFor the first time, scientists have deciphered the genetic code of an ancient human from a long-gone culture, using the DNA from just a few tufts of 4,000-year-old hair preserved in Greenland's permafrost.

Thanks to the rapid advance of gene-sequencing technology, researchers could tell the hair belonged to a brown-skinned man whose ancestors came to the New World from Siberia around 5,500 years ago, during a previously unknown migration. And that's not all.

The genetic evidence suggests that the man, nicknamed "Inuk," had the kind of eyes, teeth and even earwax associated with modern-day Asians and Native Americans ... and that he might have been going bald.

One of the research team's leaders said the technique used on Inuk's hair could be used on other ancient samples as well, almost literally fleshing out humanity's saga through the millennia. "I think it will be something we will see much more of in the coming five years," said Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Copenhagen.

After two years of study, the team published their findings in this week's issue of the journal Nature. The latest report follows up on earlier research published in the journal Science.

Scientists have been analyzing ancient DNA for years - and in fact, they've found out enough about the extinct Neanderthals' genetic code to conclude that at least some of them were redheads. But the study of Inuk (a name that comes from the Greenlandic word for "human") sets a new standard. The Neanderthal genome is only in rough-draft form, while Inuk's genome has been checked 20 times over (20x, in genomic parlance). That's about as good as it gets, even for modern-day genome sequencing.

"It is amazing how well-preserved this sample is, presumably due to its rather young age and the permafrost," Svante Pääbo, a geneticist who led the Neanderthal DNA study at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, told me via e-mail. "Eighty percent of the DNA is human, whereas at most 4 percent is from Neandertals in the bones we study. I am envious."

Edward Rubin, director of the U.S. Energy Department's Joint Genome Institute, was similarly impressed: "The coverage of the genome is such ... that they begin to get clues to what the flesh and blood of this creature was."

Anyone Can Be Next


Even with a President as ostensibly concerned about the concepts of justice and constitutional principles as Obama appears to be, there are questionable maneuvers his administration have taken that called the depths of such concerns into question. Here's a report that indicates how important it is that we pay attention still to the inherent dangers of a state that recently tasted overarching power to remove civil liberties by fiat rationalized by government propaganda and the false fears it can engender.

The U.S. is Now a Police State

By Paul Craig Roberts

Americans have been losing the protection of law for years. In the 21st century the loss of legal protections accelerated with the Bush administration's "war on terror," which continues under the Obama administration and is essentially a war on the Constitution and U.S. civil liberties.

The Bush regime was determined to vitiate habeas corpus in order to hold people indefinitely without bringing charges. The regime had acquired hundreds of prisoners by paying a bounty for "terrorists." Afghan warlords and thugs responded to the financial incentive by grabbing unprotected people and selling them to the Americans.

The Bush regime needed to hold the prisoners without charges because it had no evidence against the people and did not want to admit that the U.S. government had stupidly paid warlords and thugs to kidnap innocent people. In addition, the Bush regime needed "terrorists" prisoners in order to prove that there was a terrorist threat.

As there was no evidence against the "detainees" (most have been released without charges after years of detention and abuse), the U.S. government needed a way around U.S. and international laws against torture in order that the government could produce evidence via self-incrimination. The Bush regime found inhumane and totalitarian-minded lawyers and put them to work at the U.S. Department of Justice (sic) to invent arguments that the Bush regime did not need to obey the law.

The Bush regime created a new classification for its detainees that it used to justify denying legal protection and due process to the detainees. As the detainees were not U.S. citizens and were demonized by the regime as "the 760 most dangerous men on earth," there was little public outcry over the regime's unconstitutional and inhumane actions.

As our Founding Fathers and a long list of scholars warned, once civil liberties are breached, they are breached for all. Soon U.S. citizens were being held indefinitely in violation of their habeas corpus rights. Dr. Aafia Siddiqui an American citizen of Pakistani origin might have been the first.

Dr. Siddiqui, a scientist educated at MIT and Brandeis University, was seized in Pakistan for no known reason, sent to Afghanistan, and was held secretly for five years in the U.S. military's notorious Bagram prison in Afghanistan. Her three young children were with her at the time she was abducted, one an eight-month old baby. She has no idea what has become of her two youngest children. Her oldest child, 7 years old, was also incarcerated in Bagram and subjected to similar abuse and horrors.

Siddiqui has never been charged with any terrorism-related offense. A British journalist, hearing her piercing screams as she was being tortured, disclosed her presence. An embarrassed U.S. government responded to the disclosure by sending Siddiqui to the U.S. for trial on the trumped-up charge that while a captive, she grabbed a U.S. soldier's rifle and fired two shots attempting to shoot him. The charge apparently originated as a U.S. soldier's excuse for shooting Dr. Siddiqui twice in the stomach resulting in her near death.

On February 4, Dr. Siddiqui was convicted by a New York jury for attempted murder. The only evidence presented against her was the charge itself and an unsubstantiated claim that she had once taken a pistol-firing course at an American firing range. No evidence was presented of her fingerprints on the rifle that this frail and broken 100-pound woman had allegedly seized from an American soldier. No evidence was presented that a weapon was fired, no bullets, no shell casings, no bullet holes. Just an accusation.

Wikipedia has this to say about the trial: "The trial took an unusual turn when an FBI official asserted that the fingerprints taken from the rifle, which was purportedly used by Aafia to shoot at the U.S. interrogators, did not match hers."

An ignorant and bigoted American jury convicted her for being a Muslim. This is the kind of "justice" that always results when the state hypes fear and demonizes a group.

The people who should have been on trial are the people who abducted her, disappeared her young children, shipped her across international borders, violated her civil liberties, tortured her apparently for the fun of it, raped her, and attempted to murder her with two gunshots to her stomach. Instead, the victim was put on trial and convicted.

This is the unmistakable hallmark of a police state. And this victim is an American citizen.

Simon said:

What would the founding fathers have thought - or for that matter previous great leaders? These quotes from Jefferson and Lincoln seem clear enough that they do NOT consider a corporation the equal of a person. It is a great shame that they did not express such thinking in the constitution.

"If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."

Thomas Jefferson

"The money powers prey upon the nation in times of peace and conspire against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than a monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, and more selfish than bureaucracy. It denounces as public enemies, all who question its methods or throw light upon its crimes. I have two great enemies, the Southern Army in front of me and the Bankers in the rear. Of the two, the one at my rear is my greatest foe.. corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money powers of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in the hands of a few, and the Republic is destroyed."

Abraham Lincoln

More Than One Way to be Black


Blackness 101

Skip Gates talks about Black History Month--and what it means to be black today.

By Raina Kelley

skip-gates.jpgNowadays when people think Henry Louis Gates Jr., they think of the Beer Summit. But Gates is so much more than that--the Alphonse Fletcher University professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Editor and author of countless books, including the African American National Biography, Gates is also the editor in chief of TheRoot.com. In his eternal quest to answer the questions "What made America?" and "What makes us?" Gates has hosted a series of PBS specials (African American Lives,African American Lives 2) and the most recent Faces of America With Henry Louis Gates Jr., in which he studies the family histories of 12 famous Americans, including Stephen Colbert, Eva Longoria, and Meryl Streep. He took a few minutes to talk with NEWSWEEK about black history, Black History Month, and Faces of America.

Kelley: Tell me what you think of Black History Month.

Gates: I love Black History Month. But for me, every day is Black History Month, and I would like one day to see the need for Black History Month disappear because the contributions of our ancestors have become a fundamental part of the American-history curriculum.

What do you think of people who call for an end to Black History Month?

It depends on who is doing the asking. Their concerns are understandable if they feel Black History Month  is ghettoizing. But these sorts of gestures are necessary to reclaim the past. Black History Month has been very effective in resurrecting the stories of our ancestors and in integrating those stories into our history. But we're not even on the horizon of the time to end Black History Month. When as many Americans are as familiar with Harriet Tubman as they are with Paul Revere, then we can talk about ending Black History Month.

A Good Soldier Gone


Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., dies at 77

Vietnam veteran, lawmaker was an outspoken critic of the Iraq war

murtha.jpgRep. John Murtha, a retired Marine Corps officer who became the first Vietnam War combat veteran elected to Congress and later an outspoken and influential critic of the Iraq War, died Monday. He was 77.

The Pennsylvania Democrat had been suffering complications from gallbladder surgery. He died at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va., spokesman Matthew Mazonkey said.

Murtha was an officer in the Marine Reserves when he was elected in 1974. Ethical questions often shadowed his congressional service, but he was best known for being among Congress' most hawkish Democrats. He wielded considerable clout for two decades as the ranking Democrat on the House subcommittee that oversees Pentagon spending.

Who dat?




Random Lunacy


These are my people.

Videos From the Road Less Traveled

by Peter Travers

Movies like to pretend they're different, but Random Lunacy really, truly is. The gifted filmmakers Victor Zimet and Stephanie Silber have grabbed themselves a subject who can wiggle off any hook, so they avoid glib judgments and do the smart thing by wiggling right along with him. It turns out to be the only way to tell this questing, quicksilver story.

The subject is Poppa Neutrino, the name David Pearlman, now 74, has been calling himself for decades. And since a neutrino is "a sub-atomic particle in constant motion," the name fits. Poppa doesn't work, pay rent, listen to doctors or kiss institutional butt. He prefers to invent his life as he goes along, whether he's building a raft out of scraps and sailing the Atlantic, inventing a new football play or touring the world from Mexico to Russia with his band, the Flying Neutrinos.

But don't discount the intellect that Poppa uses to back up his wit and daring as leader of his tribe. That's right, tribe. Family is what you call the Waltons. The collection of wives, children, step-children and believers who make up the Neutrinos defies categorization. And so, using Poppa's own videos to augment their tale, Zimet and Silber throw us into a life that intoxicates, infuriates and leaves us panting for each unique and unforgettable adventure.

Prepare to be wowed.

Hi Ho Over the Edge Boys


How many scifi horror stories does this evoke? Think of the social issues if they are made to be sentient.

Pentagon Looks to Breed Immortal 'Synthetic Organisms

Molecular Kill-Switch Included

By Katie Drummond

The Pentagon's mad science arm may have come up with its most radical project yet. Darpa is looking to re-write the laws of evolution to the military's advantage, creating "synthetic organisms" that can live forever -- or can be killed with the flick of a molecular switch.

As part of its budget for the next year, Darpa is investing $6 million into a project called BioDesign, with the goal of eliminating "the randomness of natural evolutionary advancement." The plan would assemble the latest bio-tech knowledge to come up with living, breathing creatures that are genetically engineered to "produce the intended biological effect." Darpa wants the organisms to be fortified with molecules that bolster cell resistance to death, so that the lab-monsters can "ultimately be programmed to live indefinitely."

Of course, Darpa's got to prevent the super-species from being swayed to do enemy work -- so they'll encode loyalty right into DNA, by developing genetically programmed locks to create "tamper proof" cells. Plus, the synthetic organism will be traceable, using some kind of DNA manipulation, "similar to a serial number on a handgun." And if that doesn't work, don't worry. In case Darpa's plan somehow goes horribly awry, they're also tossing in a last-resort, genetically-coded kill switch:

Develop strategies to create a synthetic organism "self-destruct" option to be implemented upon nefarious removal of organism.

The project comes as Darpa also plans to throw $20 million into a new synthetic biology program, and $7.5 million into "increasing by several decades the speed with which we sequence, analyze and functionally edit cellular genomes."

Of course, Darpa's up against some vexing, fundamental laws of nature -- not to mention bioethics -- as they embark on the lab beast program. First, they might want to rethink the idea of evolution as a random series of events, says NYU biology professor David Fitch. "Evolution by selection is nota random process at all, and is actually a hugely efficient design algorithm used extensively in computation and engineering," he e-mails Danger Room.

Even if Darpa manages to overcome the inherent intelligence of evolutionary processes, overcoming inevitable death can be tricky. Just ask all the other research teams who've made stabs at it, trying everything from cell starvation to hormone treatments. Gene therapy, where artificial genes are inserted into an organism to boost cell life, are the latest and greatest in life-extension science, but they've only been proven to extend lifespan by 20 percent in rats.

But suppose gene therapy makes major strides, and Darpa does manage to get the evolutionary science right. They'll also have a major ethical hurdle to jump. Synthetic biology researchers are already facing the same questions, as a 2009 summary from the Synthetic Biology Project reports:

The concern that humans might be overreaching when we create organisms that never before existed can be a safety concern, but it also returns us to disagreements about what is our proper role in the natural world (a debate largely about non-physical harms or harms to well-being).

Even expert molecular geneticists don't know what to make of the project. Either that, or they're scared Darpa might sic a bio-bot on them. "I would love to comment, but unfortunately Darpa has installed a kill switch in me," one unnamed expert tells Danger Room.

Petition to Amend Constitution

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"We the corporations"

On January 21, 2010, with its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run our government. Human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions. The Supreme Court is misguided in principle, and wrong on the law. In a democracy, the people rule.

We Move to Amend.

We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to:

* Firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.
* Guarantee the right to vote and to participate, and to have our votes and participation count.
* Protect local communities, their economies, and democracies against illegitimate "preemption" actions by global, national, and state governments.

Sign the Motion

Signed by 57,631 and counting . . .

When no one else speaks your language


And you're the last living member of a 65,000 yr old tribe...

Ancient tribe becomes extinct as last member dies

By Harmeet Shah Singh

New Delhi, India (CNN) -- The last member of an ancient tribe that has inhabited an Indian island chain for around 65,000 years has died, a group that campaigns for the protection of indigenous peoples has said.

Boa Sr, who was around 85 years of age, died last week in the Andaman islands, about 750 miles off India's eastern coast, Survival International said in a statement.

The London-based group, which works to protect indigenous peoples, said she was the last member of one of ten distinct Great Andamanese tribes, the Bo.

"The Bo are thought to have lived in the Andaman islands for as long as 65,000 years, making them the descendants of one of the oldest human cultures on earth," it noted.

With her passing at a hospital, India also lost one of its most endangered languages, also called Bo, linguists say.

"She was the last speaker of (the) Bo language. It pains to see how one by one we are losing speakers of Great Andamanese and (their) language is getting extinct. (It is) A very fast erosion of (the) indigenous knowledge base, that we all are helplessly witnessing," read an obituary in Boa Sr's honor posted on the Web site of the Vanishing Voices of the Great Andamanese (VOGA) project.

Project director Anvita Abbi, a professor at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, met with Boa as recently as last year. "She was the only member who remembered the old songs," Abbi recounted in her obituary.

"Boa Sr was the only speaker of Bo and had no one to converse with in that language," Abbi told CNN. Her husband and children had already died, the linguist said.

Why I hate cultural stupidity # 644


Sometimes you just want to say screw it to deference to cultural differences and ever so politely ram your fist down this grandfather's throat in order to grab his intestines and pull them out so you can show his village what you think of their inhumanity.

Turkish girl, 16, buried alive for talking to boys


Turkish police have recovered the body of a 16-year-old girl they say was buried alive by relatives in an "honour" killing carried out as punishment for talking to boys.

The girl, who has been identified only by the initials MM, was found in a sitting position with her hands tied, in a two-metre hole dug under a chicken pen outside her home in Kahta, in the south-eastern province of Adiyaman.

Police made the discovery in December after a tip-off from an informant, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported on its website.

The girl had previously been reported missing.

The informant told the police she had been killed following a family "council" meeting.

Her father and grandfather are said to have been arrested and held in custody pending trial. It is unclear whether they have been charged. The girl's mother was arrested but was later released.

Media reports said the father had told relatives he was unhappy that his daughter - one of nine children - had male friends. The grandfather is said to have beaten her for having relations with the opposite sex.

A postmortem examination revealed large amounts of soil in her lungs and stomach, indicating that she had been alive and conscious while being buried. Her body showed no signs of bruising.

The discovery will reopen the emotive debate in Turkey about "honour" killings, which are particularly prevalent in the impoverished south-east.

Official figures have indicated that more than 200 such killings take place each year, accounting for around half of all murders in Turkey.

Law suit over patenting of human genes


To me it is insane to allow corporations to claim ownership of gene sequences. Mere primary discovery of a sequence and its functions should not allow any particular company from barring others to either the information or allowing the company to exclusively profit from it. This is the same sort of problem as allowing genetically altered organisms or seeds to be made commodities.

New York Court to Decide Whether Human Genes Can Be Patented

There is an interesting case developing in New York where a court is being asked to declare that companies cannot patent human genes. The case involves a patent claim by Myriad Genetics, and the University of Utah Research Foundation, In 1994, the company and foundation isolated the DNA sequence for the BRCA1 and later the BRCA2 genes -- mutations that greatly increase a woman's chance of developing breast and ovarian cancer. The patent protects a test that the company and foundation are selling to detect the genes.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Public Patent Foundation, March of Dimes and the American Society for Human Genetics oppose the effort. They are asking Judge Robert Sweet to declare that such genes are a natural phenomenon and thus not patentable.

Sexbot Frigid Farrah to Wild Wendy


OK...a sex bot was bound to happen and at $7K per unit, this guy (who somehow appropriately looks like Seinfeld George's younger brother) is probably going to rich.

Now come the obvious questions (in no particular order of import):

  1. What about cleanup?
  2. Is there more than one type of simulated orgasm?
  3. If they produce a male version, will the two bots be able to perform for the voyeurs?
  4. What will be the legal age barriers on the models?
  5. Are there plans for S&M models that scream, bruise and/or bleed and then heal?
  6. How much will airlines charge for the extra seat when the owner travels?

and most importantly

  7. Given China's hugely unbalanced ration of males to females, will this product become the most exported US product and serve to eliminate the trade deficit?

Inventor unveils $7,000 talking sex robot

By Brandon Griggs

Las Vegas, Nevada (CNN) -- To some men, she might seem like the perfect woman: She's a willowy 5 feet 7 and 120 pounds. She'll chat with you endlessly about your interests. And she'll have sex whenever you please -- as long as her battery doesn't run out.

sexbot.jpgMeet Roxxxy, who may be the world's most sophisticated talking female sex robot. For $7,000, she's all yours.

"She doesn't vacuum or cook, but she does almost everything else," said her inventor, Douglas Hines, who unveiled Roxxxy last month at the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Lifelike dolls, artificial sex organs and sex-chat phone lines have been keeping the lonely company for decades. But Roxxxy takes virtual companionship to a new level.

Powered by a computer under her soft silicone "skin," she employs voice-recognition and speech-synthesis software to answer questions and carry on conversations. She even comes loaded with five distinct "personalities," from Frigid Farrah to Wild Wendy, that can be programmed to suit customers' preferences.

"There's a tremendous need for this kind of product," said Hines, a computer scientist and former Bell Labs engineer.

Roxxxy won't be available for delivery for several months, but Hines is taking pre-orders through his Web site, TrueCompanion.com, where thousands of men have signed up

G7 to meet in Arctic


Wow...what a great idea...I wonder how their Blackberries will do. This a pretty smart move on somebody's part.

Arctic town gears up for G-7 ministers

iqaluit.jpgIQALUIT, Nunavut - This Canadian Arctic capital has no stop lights and didn't start naming its streets until a decade ago. Blizzards can last a week or more, and they tend to come very suddenly. So when the financial chiefs of the seven big industrial democracies meet here Friday and Saturday, they'd better have a quick way out.

Iqaluit, population 7,000, may seem an unlikely venue for a Group of 7 bull session about the global economy, but the host nation chose it in part to underscore a message about sovereignty over its part of the Arctic.

Climate change is altering the Arctic geography by melting ice and creating open waterways, and with them new access to a bonanza of minerals, petroleum and polar shipping routes. This has led to a welter of conflicting claims by Canada's neighbors, including Russia.

Iqaluit (pronounced ee-KAL-oo-eet) lies on Baffin Island and is the capital of what in 1999 became Nunavut, a Western-Europe-sized chunk of Arctic with a small measure of self-government for the 85-percent Inuit population of 35,000.

Average February temperatures fall to minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit, and that's not counting wind chill. So the Canadians will give the finance ministers and central bankers of the G-7 governments heavy-duty parkas. That should make for quite a photo op.

Demand Question Time



We live in a world that increasingly demands more dialogue than monologue. President Obama's January 29th question-and-answer session with Republican leaders gave the public a remarkable window into the state of our union and governing process. It was riveting and educational. The exchanges were substantive, civil and candid. And in a rare break from our modern politics, sharp differences between elected leaders were on full public display without rancor or ridicule.

This was one of the best national political debates in many years. Citizens who watched the event were impressed, by many accounts. Journalists and commentators immediately responded by continuing the conversation of the ideas put forward by the president and his opponents -- even the cable news cycle was disrupted for a day.

America could use more of this -- an unfettered and public airing of political differences by our elected representatives. So we call on President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader John Boehner to hold these sessions regularly -- and allow them to be broadcast and webcast live and without commercial interruption, sponsorship or intermediaries. We also urge the President and the Republican Senate caucus to follow suit. And we ask the President and the House and Senate caucuses of his own party to consider mounting similar direct question-and-answer sessions. We will ask future Presidents and Congresses to do the same.

It is time to make Question Time a regular feature of our democracy.

Please join us by signing the Demand Question Time petition.

The Incredible Depth of Dumb

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The Republicans never fail to please when it comes to producing dumb. Witness these results of the independent poll released by the Daily Kos yesterday:








Astonishing, no?

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