Sunday, February 27, 2011

How Not to Solve Climate Change

James Hansen
Director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

"Keep doing exactly what the U.S. Government is doing and you’re off to a perfect start." The NASA climatologist explains why the cap-and-trade proposal only represents the interests of the polluters and will not work.

Will the cap-and-trade proposal curb emissions?

James Hansen: Yeah. You know, Obama is still perhaps our best hope, but he's going to have to study this problem and understand it. Presently, his approach is to let Congress debate it and make their horse trading, and end up with some sort of compromises with the polluters. And then we end up with this cap-and-trade and offsets, and a completely ineffective system. But this situation, in which we can see what we are doing to future climate and what the implications will be for young people -- we're in danger of sending them into a situation where dynamical system will be out of their control. But this -- the intergenerational injustice of that is -- this problem is analogous to that faced by Abraham Lincoln with slavery, or Winston Churchill with Nazism. It's not a problem where you can compromise. Lincoln couldn't say, well, let's reduce the slaves by 50 percent. You can't compromise on this; we have to phase out the carbon dioxide emission over the next several decades. And frankly, that means phasing out coal emissions. And this cap-and-trade system doesn’t do it at all.

Question: Why do you feel many politicians support the bill?

James Hansen: Well, they are -- they're taking the easy way out. They're allowing the polluters to write the bill. The Waxman-Markey bill in the House is 2,000 pages long. Do you think that Representative Waxman wrote this? No, this is written by the polluters; and even by environmentalists -- there are good points in those bills also. It's filled with the polluters' point of view and some environmental things to increase solar power, for example. But that's not going to solve the problem. It's just like the old Kyoto Protocol approach. They have to face the fundamental issue: as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy, then they are going to be burned, and their use will continue to increase. You have to face it. That's what the lawmakers are not facing, and that's what President Obama has got to understand. So the only way you can address that is by putting a rising price on the carbon emissions. Then the alternatives -- the renewable energies, energy efficiency, nuclear power, anything that doesn't produce carbon -- will compete more effectively, and those which are most effective will begin to win economically.

Question: Do you feel anybody in Washington sees this?

James Hansen: Yes, there are people in Washington who get it. There is one bill that
was introduced in the House which had a gradually increasing carbon price. The Democratic Party -- it was introduced by a Democrat, and I'm sorry I can't think of his name of the moment -- but it was conveniently ignored by the Democratic Party. We've got to have an open discussion of this. I think the public is not excited about this issue the way they were about health care. But we need to have that kind of an open discussion so that we see what the alternatives are, because this approach that is being pushed by the Democratic Party is a disaster. 
All we want are better living standards, so we decide to burn fossil fuels and deforest our planet, which in the end create worst living standards on a global scale; however, the scale at which it worsens globally is slower than the immediate rise in short term living standards.

In focussing on Climate Change Deniers, more heat than light emerges. I don’t see much discussion of the real issue: which is, taking the Change as a given, is it potentially under human control, as the current debate seems to assume, or is the human contribution a minor part, in which case even our successful “solutions” , like burning NO carbon ,would be useless. I gather indirectly that there is really no scientific consensus about this point; I wish it were discussed more. It’s going to cost a lot of effort in either case, but it would be good to have more information on just how wasteful our efforts are.. Case in point: Ethanol: a totally useless program, is it not?

Libya: UN Security Council Passes Sanctions Vote

The UN Security Council has voted unanimously to impose sanctions on Muammar Gaddafi's Libyan regime for its attempts to put down an uprising. The vote was passed  by all 15 Security Council members.

They backed an arms embargo and asset freeze while referring Col Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity. US President Barack Obama has said the Libyan leader should step down and leave the country immediately. Discussions on forming a transitional government are reportedly underway.  The US has already imposed sanctions against Libya, and closed its embassy in Tripoli. Australia says it will place sanctions on 22 individuals in Col Gaddafi's inner circle. barring financial transactions and their entry to Australia

Mustafa Abdel-Jalil - who resigned as justice minister in protest against the excessive use of force against demonstrators - said a body comprising military and civilian figures would prepare for elections within three months. Libya's ambassadors to the United States and UN have both reportedly voiced their support for the plan, which was being discussed in the rebel-controlled eastern town of Benghazi.

The UN estimates more than 1,000 people have died as Col Gadddafi's regime attempted to quell the 10-day-old revolt. The most controversial debate over the Libya resolution was whether to refer the government crackdown to the International Criminal Court for an investigation. This is a very sensitive issue: some Council members view the ICC as a threat to national sovereignty, and worry that referrals may set a precedent which could be used against them. 
A day of intense negotiations saw three positions emerge: Strong opponents (China), strong advocates (UK, France and Germany) and those in between (almost everyone else).  The middle ground eventually swung behind the proposal, leaving China the only holdout. In the end Beijing joined the consensus.

The Council has only referred one other country to the ICC (Sudan in 2005) and that vote was not unanimous. Analysts said the speed and strength of Saturday's decision was due to reports of excessive regime brutality in Libya.  Strong condemnations by the Arab League and African Union also had influence, as did clear support for the ICC referral from Libya's UN Mission. Afterwards, Libya's deputy UN envoy said the sanctions would give "moral support" to the anti-Gaddafi protesters. The Libyan delegation at the UN had sent a letter to the Council backing measures to hold to account those responsible for armed attacks on Libyan civilians, including action through the International Criminal Court .

 On Saturday, one of Col Gaddafi's sons, Saif al-Islam, insisted that normal life was continuing in three-quarters of Libya. By contrast, anti-Gaddafi forces say they control 80% of the country. Each side's claims are difficult to confirm but it is known that the opposition controls Benghazi, Libya's second city, while Col Gaddafi still controls the capital Tripoli, home to two million of the country's 6.5 million population.

Thousands of foreign nationals - many of them employed in the oil industry - continue to be evacuated from the country by air, sea and land. Some 10,000 people remain outside Tripoli airport's terminal building and several thousand more are inside, says BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, who saw piles of discarded luggage abandoned by people desperate to flee the country.  Most of those trying to leave were Egyptians, many of whom had been waiting at the airport for several days.

Friday saw Col Gaddafi make a defiant address to supporters in Tripoli and reports of anti-government demonstrators in several areas of the city coming under fire from government troops and pro-Gaddafi militiamen. On Saturday the capital city was calm, with shops open, people on the streets, and supporters of Col Gaddafi reportedly occupying central Green Square in a public show of support for the beleaguered leader.

Outside the capital, anti-Gaddafi protesters were consolidating their power in Benghazi, with leaders of the uprising establishing committees to run the city and deliver basic services.

Rebirth of a nation in progress.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Gen Ban Ki-moon Urges UN Security Council Take Action in Libya

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged the global body's Security Council to take "decisive action" over the Libya crisis. He said violations of human rights have been carried out by Muammar Gaddafi's regime, and more than 1,000 have died.

  In Libya, reports say anti-government protesters in the capital Tripoli came under heavy gunfire on Friday. Witnesses reported deaths and injuries as militiamen and government troops confronted protesters as they emerged from mosques following Friday prayers and started demonstrating in several areas of the city.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon: ''It is time for the Security Council to consider concrete action'' At the same time, Libyan state TV showed Colonel Gaddafi speaking from the Tripoli's old city ramparts, urging the crowd to arm themselves and defend the nation and its oil against the anti-Gaddafi elements who have taken control of large parts of the country. "We shall destroy any aggression with popular will," he said. "With the armed people, when necessary we will open the weapons depots. So that all the Libyan people, all the Libyan tribes can be armed. Libya will become a red flame, a burning coal."

The US sanctions announced late on Friday by President Obama block transactions involving assets of Col Gaddafi and several close family members. "These sanctions therefore target the Gaddafi government, while protecting the assets that belong to the people of Libya," Mr Obama said in a statement.

Earlier, at a hastily organized news conference at the UN in New York, Libyan deputy ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi described Col Gaddafi, who has been in power for 42 years, as a "madman". He warned that thousands would die in Tripoli because the Libyan leader would never flee and would fight to the end.

Diplomats at the UN Security Council say Britain and France have drawn up a draft resolution with a package of measures aimed at isolating Libya's political and military leaders. As well as targeted sanctions, this could include an arms embargo, and a proposed referral of the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court.

Journalist Jeremy Bowen  entered the Libyan capital at the invitation of the Libyan government. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the Libyan leader, told him that the reports of extreme violence were an "exaggerated media campaign" run by "hostile Arab TV channels". It was not true that Libya had bombed civilians, Mr Gaddafi said, although he did say that the air force had bombed ammunition dumps that were in enemy hands.

Visitors to Tripoli would not hear gunfire but might hear fireworks, Mr Gaddafi said. He criticized the protesters, some of whom wanted an Islamic "Afghan solution" to the country's problems. He admitted that the east of Libya was "a big mess". People were behind his father, Mr Gaddafi said, and would come out into the streets to support him.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Obama administration was acting "to put pressure on the regime" to cease the violence. "Colonel Gaddafi has lost the confidence of his people," he added.

Outside the airport there's a sad sight. Several thousand people queuing in the darkness and rain, trying to get flights out. Some people told reporters they were from Syria, others appear to be from the Indian sub-continent, the kind of migrant workers upon whom this economy has been depending. There's a fair amount of traffic on the streets. There were some reports of shooting near the airport.

Much of the east of the country is in the hands of anti-Gaddafi protesters and units of the Libyan military that have crossed over to them. 22,000 people had fled Libya via Tunisia, and a further 15,000 via Egypt.  There are widespread reports of refugees being harassed and threatened with guns and knives.
There is also a food crisis inside Libya that the UN World Food Programme (WFP) expects to worsen. The WFP says Libya's food supply chain is at risk of collapse because imports have not been getting into the country and food distribution is hampered by violence.

A US-chartered ferry carrying Americans evacuated from Libya arrived in Malta on Friday evening. Britain has sent a second ship, the destroyer HMS York, to deploy to the sea area near Libya; the frigate HMS Cumberland has picked up more than 200 people and is taking them to Malta. India is sending warships to the region to evacuate its nationals. Hundreds of sub-Saharan Africans are said to be fleeing southern Libya into Niger. Many more are stranded in Libya, where they say they are being attacked by people accusing them of being mercenaries fighting for Col Gaddafi.

Coral Reefs Heading for Fishing and Climate Crisis

Acid oceans and marine life
Healthy coral reefs provide a living for about 275 million people, with many more dependent on them.  Three-quarters of the world's coral reefs are at risk due to overfishing, pollution, climate change and other factors, says a major new assessment. Reefs at Risk Revisited collates the work of hundreds of scientists and took three years to compile. The biggest threat is exploitative fishing, the researchers say, though most reefs will be feeling the impact of climate change within 20 years. But, they say, there are measures that can be taken to protect at least some.

The report is compiled by a group of more than 20 research and conservation organisations, led by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in Washington DC. "This report serves as a wake-up call for policymakers, business leaders, ocean managers, and others about the urgent need for greater protection for coral reefs," said Jane Lubchenco, head of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency . "Local and global threats, including climate change, are already having significant impacts on coral reefs, putting the future of these beautiful and valuable ecosystems at risk."

The report revisits some of the territory explored in the original Reefs at Risk project, published in 1998, but in much greater detail. Over the 13 years intervening, the area at risk of destruction has increased by nearly a third. The main reason for that change has been a massive increase in damage from exploitative fishing, particularly in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Altogether, more than half of the world's reefs are threatened by the ways in which fishermen use them. Tackling issues such as fishing and pollution can keep reefs healthy, the report says - for now These range from simply catching more than nature can replace to the use of extremely damaging fishing methods such as dynamiting fish to stun or kill them - which also blasts coral formations to smithereens.  Other major threats are pollution carried in rivers, coastal development, and climate change.

If climate projections turn into reality, then by 2030 roughly half of the world's reefs will experience bleaching in most years - rising to 95% during the 2050s. Coral polyps - the tiny reef-building creatures - live in partnership with algae that provide nutrition and give corals their colour. When the water gets too hot, the algae are expelled and the coral turns white. Although reefs can recover, the more often it happens, the more likely they are simply to die.

In addition, the slow decrease in the pH of seawater as it absorbs more carbon dioxide - usually known as ocean acidification - will compromise coral's capacity to form the hard structures it needs. "Reefs are already being hit by global warming," said Mark Spalding, senior marine scientist with The Nature Conservancy.
"They are the canaries in the coal mine, super-sensitive to warm summer temperatures, such that even a small increase induces bleaching. Into the future, I suspect warming and acidification will become the major threats, but as we say again and again, no threats act in isolation; often it's the combination that really hurts."

Regionally, southeast Asia is the worst affected region, with 95% of reefs on the threatened list. But in terms of the impact on human society, threat is only part of the equation.  The researchers reasoned that societies most affected by reef degradation would be those where the threats are high, where a big proportion of the population depends on reefs for their livelihood, and where people's capacity to adapt is low. Combining these criteria, the countries highest on the risk register are Comoros, Fiji, Haiti, Indonesia, Kiribati, Philippines, Tanzania and Vanuatu.

Against this bleak backdrop, the researchers have been at pains to emphasize that there are things that can be done to reduce the damage. "There are reasons for hope," said Lauretta Burke, senior associate at WRI and a lead author of the report.  "Reefs are resilient; and by reducing the local pressures, we can help buy time to find solutions to global threats that can preserve reefs for future generations."

Research has shown for example that allowing a diversity of life to flourish on a reef keeps it healthy and more resistant to rising water temperatures. However, having evaluated more than 2,500 protected areas of reef, these researchers concluded that even though over a quarter of the world's coral is nominally protected, only one-sixth of those areas offer good protection for reefs.

"The report is full of solutions - real world examples where people have succeeded in turning things around," said Dr Spalding. "However, if we don't learn from these successes then I think that in 50 years' time, most reefs will be gone - just banks of eroding limestone, overgrown with algae and grazed by a small variety of small fish."
 With the reefs gone, the food chain in the oceans will be affected. Other species of fish further up the food chain may disappear.  And together with the decline of plankton, increasing acidity and higher temperatures, one day we could be facing dead oceans.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A 40 Million Ton Iceberg Dumped In Lake by NZ Earthquake

The 6.3 magnitude  earthquake in  New Zealand's South Island on Tuesday apparently caused a massive iceberg , estimated at 30 -- 40 tons , to shear off from Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake , as Aoraki Mount Cook National Park .

In what must have been a truly spectacular glacier calving  , the gigantic iceberg ripped off from the glacier within minutes of the earthquake  that rocked the  South Island , and crashed into the lake . Some chunks are now towering up to 50 meters -- or 164 feet -- above the lake .

"Within about a minute of that happening  , the staff at the lake heard from five kilometers away (from the glacier) a second sound that sounded like a rifle shot and then over the next two minutes  all the events started to unfold.

When it collapsed  , it created waves up to three meters high  (almost ten feet) in the lake for 30 minutes , rocking two sightseeing boats  that were on the lake at the time .

Richard McNanara from the Department of Conservation did not witness it himself , but said if "it carved in one big lot  ; a face about  a kilometer long carving is a spectacular sight ." The iceberg , he said , would then have popped up to water like a porpoise  before starting to break into smaller pieces.

The glacier was already at the tipping point , according to locals  who had been expecting a major iceberg  to drop from the glacier for the  past month.

McNamara also believed that the timing may have been coincidental . "You could argue thether the earthquake precipitated it or not  -- the fact is that the terminal face was about due to carve anyway.

Gadaffi's Amazon body Guards

The brave, strong women qualified to be security guards to a crazy, eccentric dictator . Here are some of the Libyan leader’s appealing  female Amazon guards.

Like any man with money and supreme power would do, Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi (or if you prefer, Gadhafi, Khaddafy, Quaddafi, Kaddafi, etc.), surrounds himself with beautiful, strong women. The Libyan dictator, who has ruled since 1969, has 30 to 40 female body guards, all of whom are said to be virgins ( Now that's an interestng question but who can you ask?).
 If you’d like to confront him, you have to get past these no-nonsense “Amazonian” staffers. Such a task may seem simple if you’re unafraid of taking down a girl, but never underestimate the power of a well trained, military woman. I wonder if they are so protective and loyal at this moment.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Theory of Everything (The String Theory)

My favorite theoretical physicist Dr. Michio Kaku
 addresses a question posed by Bruce Vang Vang:
 What will we gain if we eventually discover the Theory of  Everything?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Defiant Gaddafi Refuses to Quit Amid Libyan Protests..."I Will Die a Martyr at the End"

Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi has refused to stand down amid widespread anti-government protests which he said had tarnished the image of the country. In his first major speech since unrest began last week, Col Gaddafi said the whole world looked up to Libya and that protests were "serving the devil". He urged his supporters to go out and attack the "cockroaches" demonstrating against his rule.
  A defiant and angry Col Gaddafi said that he had brought glory to Libya. As he had no official position from which to resign, he would remain the head of the revolution, he said. He blamed the unrest on "cowards and traitors" who were seeking to portray Libya as a place of chaos and to "humiliate" Libyans. At other points he referred to the protesters as rats and mercenaries.

Even by his own bizarre and eccentric standards, the latest speech by Col Gaddafi was breathtaking in its defiance of both the wider world and the reality now facing him.  Speaking from his favourite location, Tripoli's bombed-out Bab Al-Azizia Barracks, he referred to the protesters variously as "cockroaches" and "traitors" who were "drug-fuelled, drunken and duped". 

 At times, the Libyan leader seemed to lose control of his temper, shouting his words in Arabic. At others, he paused to adjust his matching khaki shawl and cap. His language, while undoubtedly aimed at shoring up what support he still has in the country, was one of quaint nationalist slogans from the 1960s and 70s.  To many of those opposing his rule, who use Twitter, Facebook and the internet, this was a speech from a bygone era from a man whose time they believe has long passed.

State TV had said Col Gaddafi was going to announce "major reforms" in his speech, but the only such reference was to some devolution of power to local authorities.
In his angry and rambling speech, Col Gaddafi said the protesters represented less than 1% of Libya's population. They had been given drink and drugs, he said, urging people to arrest them and hand them over to the security forces.

He called on "those who love Muammar Gaddafi" to come out on to the streets, telling them not to be afraid of the "gangs".  "Come out of your homes, attack them in their dens. Withdraw your children from the streets. They are drugging your children, they are making your children drunk and sending them to hell," he said.
He would "cleanse Libya house by house", he said. "If matters require, we will use force, according to international law and the Libyan constitution," he said, and warned that the country could descend into civil war or be occupied by the US if protests continued.

"Anyone who plays games with the country's unity will be executed," he said, citing the Chinese authorities' crushing of the student protests in Tiananmen Square as an example of national unity being "worth more than a small number of protesters".
Gaddafi appears to be completely divorced from reality, as if he has been living inside a bubble for the 40 years of his rule.  The Libyan leader said he had not authorized the army to use force, despite opposition statements that more than 500 people have been killed and more than 1,000 are missing - an indication that he was either not aware of the deaths or was deluded. But witnesses say foreign mercenaries have been attacking civilians in the streets and that fighter planes have been shooting down protesters.

In Eastern Libya, the region appears to be wholly under opposition control and people are deliriously happy. Many of the army and police have defected and have been accepted by the opposition. Local people said the government there had collapsed on Thursday after the first protests. They believe the only people now supporting Col Gaddafi are foreign mercenary fighters in the country.

Libyan diplomats, including the country's ambassador to the US, have turned their backs on Col Gaddafi and are urging the international community to take action. They have urged the UN to impose a no-fly zone over the country in protest. Interior Minister Abdel Fattah Younes al-Abidi is reported to have resigned on Tuesday evening, and to have urged the army to "join and heed the people's demands". Justice Minister Mustapha Abdeljalil reportedly resigned on Monday.

There are no government officials at the border, the minimum of formalities. They are flying a new flag; there is a picture of Muammar Gaddafi crossed out.”
There is now little doubt that Col Gaddafi's rule is finished;  the only question remaining  is how long it will take and how bloody the end will be.

Planet could be 'unrecognizable' by 2050

A growing, more affluent population competing for ever scarcer resources could make for an "unrecognizable" world by 2050, researchers warned at a major US science conference Sunday.The
 United Nations has predicted the global population will reach seven billion this year, and climb to nine billion by 2050, "with almost all of the growth occurring in poor countries, particularly Africa and South Asia," said John Bongaarts of the non-profit Population Council.

To feed all those mouths, "we will need to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we have in the last 8,000," said Jason Clay of the World Wildlife Fund at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). "By 2050 we will not have a planet left that is recognizable" if current trends continue, Clay said.

The swelling population will exacerbate problems, such as resource depletion, said John Casterline, director of the Initiative in Population Research at Ohio State University. But incomes are also expected to rise over the next 40 years -- tripling globally and quintupling in developing nations -- and add more strain to global food supplies.

People tend to move up the food chain as their incomes rise, consuming more meat than they might have when they made less money, the experts said. It takes around seven pounds (3.4 kilograms) of grain to produce a pound of meat, and around three to four pounds of grain to produce a pound of cheese or eggs, experts told AFP.

"More people, more money, more consumption, but the same planet," Clay told AFP, urging scientists and governments to start making changes now to how food is produced. Population experts, meanwhile, called for more funding for family planning programs to help control the growth in the number of humans, especially in developing nations.

"For 20 years, there's been very little investment in family planning, but there's a return of interest now, partly because of the environmental factors like global warming and food prices," said Bongaarts. "We want to minimize population growth, and the only viable way to do that is through more effective family planning," said Casterline.

See what we have created : in every way, a time bomb.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Full Effects of Gulf Spill Wll Not be Seen for a Decade


The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill "devastated" life on and near the seafloor, a marine scientist has said. Assessments of the clean-up effort have focused on the surface oil, but much oil remains at the deepest levels.  Professor Samantha Joye told the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington that it may be a decade before the full effects on the Gulf are apparent.

Studies using a submersible found a layer, as much as 10cm thick in places, of dead animals and oil just above the seafloor, said Dr Joye of the University of Georgia. Knocking these animals out of the food chain will, in time, affect species relevant to fisheries. She disputed an assessment by BP's compensation fund that the Gulf of Mexico will recover by the end of 2012.

Millions of barrels of oil spewed into the sea after a BP deepwater well ruptured in April 2010. She said they concluded the layers had been deposited between June and September 2010 after it was discovered that no sign of sealife from samples taken in May remained. Professor Joye and her colleagues used the Alvin submersible to explore the bottom-most layer of the water around the well head, known as the benthos.
"The impact on the benthos was devastating," she said. "Filter-feeding organisms, invertebrate worms, corals, sea fans - all of those were substantially impacted - and by impacted, I mean essentially killed."
"Another critical point is that detrital feeders like sea cucumbers, brittle stars that wander around the bottom, I didn't see a living (sea cucumber) around on any of the wellhead dives. They're typically everywhere, and we saw none."

Organisms on the seafloor stimulate the activity of micro-organisms and oxygenate the sediments, two tasks at the bottom of the aquatic food chain that will inevitably have longer-term effects on species nearer the surface - including the ones we eat.  Professor Joye noted that after the Exxon Valdez spill, it took several years before it became clear that the herring industry had been destroyed.

As such, she disagrees with the assessment in February, by the administrator of BP's $20bn (£12bn) compensation fund, that the Gulf of Mexico will have recovered from the spill by the end of 2012.
"The Gulf is resilient," she said.  "I do believe that it will recover from this insult, but I don't think it's going to recover by 2012. "I think it's going to be 2012 before we begin to really see the fisheries implications and repercussions from this.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Morocco Takes up the Cause....Freedom From Oppression

Thousands of people, encouraged by protests in other North African/Middle Eastern countries, marched in Moroccan cities to demand that King Mohammed VI give up some of his powers. In  the capital, Rabat, police allowed protesters to approach parliament, chanting slogans like "The people reject a constitution made for slaves!"  A separate protest is under way in the country's biggest city, Casablanca, and another was planned in Marrakesh.

Protests have spread across the region since popular movements in Tunisia and Egypt forced out leaders. Sunday's rallies in Morocco are organised by groups including one calling itself the February 20 Movement for Change. More than 23,000 people have expressed their backing for its Facebook site.

The protesters have not called for the removal of King Mohammed, but for a new constitution curbing his powers. "This is a peaceful protest to push for constitutional reform, restore dignity and end graft," said Mustapha Muchtati of the Baraka (Enough) group, one of the organisers behind the protest.
Moroccan Finance Minister Salaheddine Mezouar had urged people not to march, warning that any "slip may, in the space of few weeks, cost us what we have achieved over the last 10 years".

Analysts say that - unlike other countries that has seen protests - Morocco has a successful economy, an elected parliament and a reformist monarchy, making it less vulnerable to a major uprising than other countries. "Most of what these people and organisations are calling for has been on the political scene for quite some time - political change, freedom, reform, change in the constitution," political analyst Abdelhay Moudden told journalists.

 Regular protests are allowed, the economy is growing and the government has promised to double food subsidies.  But beneath the surface real problems are lurking - with a huge young population, many of them poor or unemployed; a gap between rich and poor described by one commentator as "obscene"; and parliamentary elections said by critics to be a fig leaf for an undemocratic system.

King Mohammed is a member of the Alaouite dynasty that has been ruling Morocco for some 350 years, claiming a direct line of descent from the Prophet Muhammad.  It is regarded as almost sacrilegious to question his role as king. Another Arab despot bites the dust?? We shall see.

Profound Quotes by Profound Men

* In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm and three or more is a congress.- John Adams

* If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed. - Mark Twain

*Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself. - Mark Twain

*I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle. - Winston Churchill

*A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. - George Bernard Shaw

*A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money. - G. Gordon Liddy

*Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. - James Bovard, Civil Libertarian (1994)

*Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries. - Douglas Casey, Classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University

*Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.
- P.J. O'Rourke, Civil Libertarian

*Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else. - Frederic Bastiat, French Economist (1801-1850)

*Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it. - Ronald Reagan (1986)

 *In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other. - Voltaire (1764)

*Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you! - Pericles (430 B.C.)

*No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session. - Mark Twain (1866)

*The government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other. - Ronald Reagan

*The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery. - Winston Churchill

*The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin. - Mark Twain

*The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools. - Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

*What this country needs are more unemployed politicians. - Edward Langley, Artist (1928-1995)

Mars 500 Crew 'Walk on Mars' on Simulated Mission

   Two men wearing spacesuits walked across a sandpit at a Moscow institute in a simulation of a mission to Mars. The pair - both volunteers - have spent eight months with four other men locked away in a series of windowless steel tubes representing a spacecraft. The Mars500 project is trying to find out how the human mind and body would cope on a long-duration spaceflight.

Russian Alexander Smoleevskiy and Italian Diego Urbina planted flags on their pretend planet. One flag was for Russia, another for China and a third for the European Space Agency (Esa). They then undertook some virtual experiments with the assistance of a robot rover, with the whole activity lasting an hour and 12 minutes.

The walk was overseen by Mission Control Moscow which normally deals with events on the International Space Station (ISS). "We have made great progress today," commented Vitaly Davydov, the deputy head of the Russian Federal Space Agency, who was watching a video feed of the two men. All systems have been working normally."

The life the six men are experiencing is quite different from that on the ISS where vehicles and their passengers come and go. The station is a busy place and communication with the ground is also possible in real-time for its residents.  On the Mars500 ship, however, life is much more restricted. The messages these pretend explorers send to the scientists outside their simulation craft have a 20-minute delay on them to mimic the sort of time lag radio signals would build up as they crossed the vastness of space between Mars and Earth.
The landing operations are brief moments of excitement for the team. The Orlan suits are of the type worn by real cosmonauts. In this bulky gear, the Marswalkers have drill to get below their simulation surface and do virtual analyses on the samples they pull up.

Mars500 is so called because it follows broadly the duration of a possible human Mars mission in the future using conventional propulsion: 250 days for the trip to the Red Planet, 30 days on the Martian surface and 240 days for the return journey, totalling 520 days. (In reality, it would probably take a lot longer than this).

Events were followed at Moscow Mission Control

A real mission to Mars is still decades away. The challenges involved are immense, both technologically and in terms of the budget required. It would probably cost tens of billions of dollars to mount such an endeavour.  Scientists would need to find a way of protecting the crew from space radiation. On the ISS, this is not so much of a problem because the Earth's magnetic field helps shield the orbiting platform from damaging, high-energy particles emanating from the Sun and deep space.


Libyan Troops Open Fire on Protesters

The unrest is part of protests across North Africa and the Middle East

Libyan troops have opened fire with machine-guns and large-calibre weapons on anti-government protesters in the second city Benghazi, witnesses say. An unknown number of people, including children, are said to have been killed. Witnesses described scenes of chaos as snipers shot from the roofs of buildings and demonstrators fought back against troops on the ground. The machine gun fire was random, mowing down women and children also. But so far there have been no reports of major protests in the capital Tripoli.A doctor at a local hospital said he and his colleagues were treating hundreds of injured protesters. Correspondents say Benghazi and another eastern city, al-Bayda, appear to be out of government control.

The Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, is the Arab world's longest-serving leader, having ruled the oil-rich state since a coup in 1969. Libya is one of several Arab countries to have experienced pro-democracy demonstrations since the fall of long-time Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January. Egypt's Hosni Mubarak was forced from power on 11 February. Benghazi, about 1,000 km (600 miles) from Tripoli, has been the main focus of the demonstrations against Col Gaddafi's 42-year rule.  Troops opened fire on people attending a funeral there on Saturday, killing dozens according to an eye witness.
The latest deaths take the toll over the past three days of protests in Libya to at least 100 dead. Some reports put it significantly higher.

A Benghazi resident said that security forces inside a government compound had fired on protesters with mortars and 14.5mm machine guns - a heavy machine gun typically produced in the former USSR. They were, he said, machine-gunning cars and people indiscriminately. "A lot [of people] have fallen  today," he added.  Other witnesses spoke of snipers firing at protesters from rooftops and there were widespread reports of foreign mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa being brought in to attack protesters.

In an appeal sent to Reuters news agency, a group of religious and clan leaders from across Libya urged "every Muslim, within the regime" or anyone helping it: "Do NOT kill your brothers and sisters, STOP the massacre NOW!" Another Benghazi resident claimed that the government compound was the only part of the town still under military control. "The rest of the city is liberated," he said. He added that local government offices and police stations in the city had been burnt down and thousands of protesters were organising around the courthouse, equipped with makeshift clinics, ambulances, speakers and electricity. His account could not be verified independently, and Libyan state media have ignored the unrest, focusing instead on pro-Gaddafi rallies in Tripoli.

 Rebellion is spreading across the Middle east like a brush fire. People who have been oppressed and controlled by dictators for decades, even centuries, are taking courage from  the success of  rebels in other Arab countries and demanding a voice in their own government. If democracy takes hold in that part of the world, it may bring an end to organizations like the Taliban. Terrorism  may die a natural death as people decide their priorities and show their desire to live in peace and harmony with the rest of the world.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Few Favorite Jokes and Quotes

My husband  hates Valentine's Day. He says, "you have to come up with the same shit every year." 
Last week he sent me a 'Post-it-Note', saying, "I still love you, see last years card for full details.”

1)  It's Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, and a man makes his way to his seat right at center ice. He sits down, noticing that the seat next to him is empty. He leans over and asks his neighbor if someone will be sitting there. "No" says the neighbor. "The seat is empty." "This is incredible," said the man. "Who in their right mind would have a seat like this for the Stanley Cup and not use it?" The neighbor says, "Well, actually, the seat belongs to me. I was supposed to come with my wife, but she passed away. This is the first Stanley Cup we haven't been to together since we got married." "Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that. That's terrible... But couldn't you find someone else, a friend or relative, or even a neighbor to take the seat?" The man shakes his head. "No,” he says. “They're all at the funeral."

2)  ratings A young boy enters a barber shop and the barber whispers to his customer, “This is the dumbest kid in the world. Watch while I prove it to you.” The barber puts a dollar bill in one hand and two quarters in the other, then calls the boy over and asks, “Which do you want, son?” The boy takes the quarters and leaves. “What did I tell you?” said the barber. “That kid never learns!” Later, when the customer leaves, he sees the same young boy coming out of the ice cream store. “Hey, son! May I ask you a question? Why did you take the quarters instead of the dollar bill?” The boy licked his cone and replied, “Because the day I take the dollar, it's all over!”

3)  A guy meets a hooker in a bar. She says, "This is your lucky night. I’ve got a special game for you. I’ll do absolutely anything you want for $300, as long as you can say it in three words."  The guy pulls his wallet out of his pocket, and one at a time lays three hundred-dollar bills on the bar, and says, very distinctly: "Paint…my…house."

4)  Three kids come down to the kitchen and sit around the breakfast table. The mother asks the oldest boy what he’d like to eat. "I’ll have some fuckin’ French toast," he says. The mother is outraged at his language, hits him, and sends him upstairs. She asks the middle child what he wants. "Well, I guess that leaves more fuckin’ French toast for me," he says. She is livid, smacks him, and sends him away. Finally she asks the youngest son what he wants for breakfast. "I don’t know," he says meekly, "but I definitely don’t want the fuckin’ French toast."

5)  Two Irish guys are fishing. The first guy reels in his line and sees that he's snagged an old bottle. As he's taking it off the hook, a genie pops out and promises to grant him one wish. "Turn the lake into beer," he says. The genie goes "Poof!" and the lake turns into beer. He says to the other guy, "So what do you think?" The other guy says, "Damn fool. Now we have to piss in the boat."

6)  I went to the psychiatrist, and he says "You're crazy." I tell him I want a second opinion. He says, "Okay, you're ugly too!" (Rodney Dangerfield)

7)  I can’t think of anything worse after a night of drinking than waking up next to someone and not being able to remember their name, or how you met, or why they’re dead. (Laura Kightlinger)

8)  A lady at a party goes up to Winston Churchill and tells him, "Sir, you are drunk." Churchill replies, "Madam, you are ugly. However, in the morning, I shall be sober."

9)  I knew these Siamese twins. They moved to England, so the other one could drive.
(Steven Wright)

10)  My wife and I took out life insurance policies on each other -- so now it's just a waiting game. (Bill Dwyer) 

11)  I was making love to this girl and she started crying. I said, "Are you going to hate yourself in the morning?" She said. "No. I hate myself right now." (Rodney Dangerfield)

12)  I have a large seashell collection, which I keep scattered on beaches all over the world. (Steven Wright)

13)  At a White House party, a woman approached Calvin Coolidge, famed for his silence, and said "Mr. President, I made a bet I can get more than two words out of you." He replied: "You lose."

14) The only thing I know about Africa is that it's far, far away. About a thirty-five hour flight. The boat ride's so long, there are still slaves on their way here. (Chris Rock)

15)  An old woman is upset at her husband’s funeral. "You have him in a brown suit and I wanted him in a blue suit" The mortician says "We’ll take care of it, ma’am" and yells back, "Ed, switch the heads on two and four!"

16) Sincerity is everything. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made. (George Burns)

17)  If this is coffee, please bring me some tea. If this is tea, please bring me some coffee. (Abraham Lincoln)

18) I always keep a supply of stimulant handy in case I see a snake, which I also keep handy. (W.C. Fields)

19) I worked some gigs in the Deep South…Alabama…You talk about Darwin’s waiting room. There are guys in Alabama who are their own father. (Dennis Miller)

20)  I believe Dr. Kevorkian is onto something. I think he’s great. Because suicide is our way of saying to God, "You can’t fire me. I quit." (Bill Maher)

21)  Last night I was having dinner with Charles Manson, and in the middle of dinner he turned to me and said "Is it hot in here, or am I crazy?" (Gilbert Gottfried)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Solar flare eruptions set to reach Earth


Scientists around the world will be watching closely as three eruptions from the Sun reach the Earth over Thursday and Friday.  These "coronal mass ejections" will slam into the Earth's magnetic shield. The waves of charged solar particles are the result of three solar flares directed at Earth in recent days, including the most powerful since 2006. The biggest flares can disrupt technology, including power grids, communications systems and satellites.

The northern lights (Aurora Borealis) may also be visible further south than is normally the case - including from northern parts of the UK. "Our current view is that the effect of the solar flare is likely to reach Earth later today (Thursday GMT), possibly tomorrow morning," said Alan Thomson, head of geomagnetism at the British Geological Survey (BGS). He said "In the scientific community, there's a feeling that it's not as intense as we first thought it might be. But it's possible still that it could be a large enough event for us to see the northern lights in the UK."

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) said that three coronal mass ejections (CMEs) were en route as the result of solar flares on the 13, 14 and 15 February (GMT). "The last of the three seems to be the fastest and may catch both of the forerunners about mid-to-late day tomorrow, February 17," read a statement from Noaa's Space Weather Prediction Center.

The northern lights could be seen further south than is normal.  The flare recorded at 0156 GMT on 15 February was the strongest such event in four years, according to the US space agency (Nasa), which has been monitoring activity on the Sun. The event was classified as a so-called X-flare, the most intense type.The source of all three events, sunspot 1158, has expanded rapidly in recent days.

Solar flares are caused by the sudden release of magnetic energy stored in the Sun's atmosphere. Their effects can interfere with modern technology on Earth, such as electrical power grids, communications systems and satellites - including satellite navigation (or sat-nav) signals. Although scientists are expecting most geomagnetic activity to occur on Thursday, Chinese state media has already reported some disruption to shortwave radio communications in the south of the country.

In 1972, a geomagnetic storm provoked by a solar flare knocked out long-distance telephone communication across the US state of Illinois. And in 1989, another storm plunged six million people into darkness across the Canadian province of Quebec. Dr Thomson said it was possible infrastructure could be affected this time, but stressed: "The X-flare that was observed the other day was lower in magnitude than similar flares that have been associated with technological damage such as the loss of the Quebec power grid... and even the large magnetic storm in 2003, which caused some damage to satellites in orbit."

Scientists will have around half an hour's notice that the wave of charged particles is about to hit the Earth's magnetic shield.  This is taken from the point at which a Nasa satellite called Ace (the Advanced Composition Explorer) registers the solar radiation on its instruments: "We're sitting waiting for that event to happen," said Dr Thomson. Researchers say the Sun has been awakening after a period of several years of low activity.

Svalbard Seed Vault to Take Peruvian Potato Samples

Exterior of the vault

 Peruvian farmers fear that some potato varieties could be lost forever if they are not protected. And so they are are sending 1,500 varieties of potatoes to a "doomsday vault" in the Arctic Circle in order to safeguard the tubers' future. Potatoes are regarded as the world's most important non-cereal crop, and have been eaten for about 8,000 years.

But native species from the highlands of South America appear to be at risk. The climate changes in Peru  have seriously endangered the native potatoes. As the planet becomes hotter many crucial crops will wither, even cease to germinate. The samples will be stored in a vault inside a mountain, which aims to protect the world's food crop species against natural and human disasters.
"Peruvian potato culture is under threat," said Alejandro Argumedo, a plant scientist involved in the project. "The work we begin today will guarantee the availability of our incredible potato diversity for future generations."

The samples being sent to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault are being provided by the Cusco Potato Park, which covers more than 10,000 hectares and was set up by six indigenous communities in order to protect biodiversity and protect food security in the region. The Andes are homes to more than 4,000 varieties of native potato, and the park's collection has attracted plant breeders from all over the world, searching for traits such as disease resistance, flavour or nutritional attributes.

However, the park faces an uncertain future because changes to the area's climate could undermine the farmers' weather-dependent agricultural systems. "Climate change will mean that traditional methods of maintaining this collection can no longer provide absolute guarantees," explained Lino Mamani, head of the "potato guardians" collective. The remote, frozen landscape provides the ideal natural conditions for the vault's task "Sending seeds to the [vault] will help us to provide a valuable back-up collection - the vault was built for the global community and we are going to use it." One of the varieties that will be stored in Svalbard is known as the "bride's potato".  Its unusual name, it is said, dates back to Inca times, when a bride was expected to peel this potato in order to display that she had the necessary skills to be a good wife.

The Svalbard seed vault, which opened in February 2008, was designed to store duplicates of all seed samples from the world's crop collections.  Permafrost and thick rock surrounding the vault, built 130 metres inside a mountain, ensure that the samples will remain frozen even in the case of power failure.  The Global Crop Diversity Trust, which operates the facility, describes it as the "ultimate insurance policy for the world's food supply".

Cary Fowler, the Trust's executive director, said: "The Potato Park highlights the active role that individual communities play in creating and conserving diversity. "This partnership demonstrates the critical importance of the seed vault in backing up conservation efforts of all kinds." All crops, globally, grow and thrive at certain necessary temperatures. Few are hardy enough to survive the increasing temperatures of global warming.  It takes many,many generations for a plant to adapt to a new environment. New, hardier crops must be developed and that takes time. Time is a currency we have little of to spend.

Egypt After Mubarak: Three Ex-Ministers Arrested

Habib el-Adly has been blamed for deadly police violence during the protests Continue reading the main story

Ahmed Ezz was a close ally of President Mubarak Mr Ezz is a senior leader in Mr Mubarak's party and owner of Ezz Steel.

The authorities in Egypt have arrested three ex-ministers for corruption including the former Interior Minister, Habib el-Adly. Mr Adly and the ex-ministers for housing and tourism, Ahmed Maghrabi and Zuheir Garana, were detained for 15 days along with steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz. All four, who are already banned from travelling abroad, deny any wrongdoing.

Suspicions of corruption at the top fuelled the protests which forced out President Hosni Mubarak last week. Correspondents say the arrest of four prominent figures from the Mubarak era are an attempt by the military-led interim government to quell continuing unrest. Charges were filed against Mr Maghrabi, Mr Garana and Mr Ezz last week, along with former Trade and Industry Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid, who also denies misconduct. Allegations against the four men arrested on Thursday range from money laundering to abuse of authority and squandering state wealth.

Mr Adly was in charge of police during the massive demonstrations against President Mubarak in Cairo and other cities and is blamed by some for the deadly use of force by riot police against protesters. Prosecutors froze the bank accounts of Mr Adli and his family members on accusations that over 4m Egyptian pounds (£420,000; $680,000) were transferred to his personal account by the head of a contractor company, Reuters news agency reports, quoting Egyptian state TV.

Some policemen have been calling for the prosecution and even execution of the former minister. The company said in a statement last week that he strongly denied the accusations against him and the investigation was a personal matter that would not affect its operations. In all, about a dozen ex-ministers and businessmen are now under investigation for corruption or abuse of authority, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Anti-corruption campaigners have been pressing prosecutors to open an investigation into the assets of Mr Mubarak and his family. The family's wealth - put at anywhere from $1bn to $70bn - has come under growing scrutiny since Mr Mubarak resigned on 11 February after three decades in power. All his assets have been fozen until the investigation is complete.