Friday, March 31, 2006

Headline Says it All

Rice admits "thousands" of errors in Iraq

By Gideon Long and Sue Pleming Fri Mar 31, 10:03 AM ET

BLACKBURN, England (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accepted on Friday the United States had probably made thousands of errors in Iraq but defended the overall strategy of removing Saddam Hussein.

Local Muslims and anti-war activists told Rice to "Go Home" when British counterpart Jack Straw earlier led her on a tour of his home town of Blackburn in the industrial northwest, an area which rarely plays host to overseas politicians.

"Yes, I know we have made tactical errors, thousands of them," she said in answer to a question over whether lessons had been learned since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"I believe strongly that it was the right strategic decision, that Saddam had been a threat to the international community long enough," she added.
Kinda like Castro, or Ahmadinejad, or Chavez.. Ooops, nope. The latter's election was more legitimate than that of Rice's boss. Hhhmmm.. So was the kooky Persian's, come to think of it.

Too bad neither Google nor I can read farsi.

And I can't see or hear the name, Jack Straw, without thinkin' of the D Street letters and the Grateful Dead.

Gettin' back to that "threat" issue, though. I think she may need to check with the EFF on what constitutes a threat. Her boss goes to the head of the list, if the threat's against the Balance of Powers in this country.

Check

Getty Up Girl!


Cloning is catching on. It's showing embryonic signs of commercial success, and that should help the progress continue more quickly as it grows.

Co. Produces Clones From Cutting Horses
Thu Mar 30, 8:16 PM ET

PURCELL, Okla. - A company that offers horse owners exact duplicates of their animals says it has successfully cloned two top-earning horses.

ViaGen Inc. announced Thursday that two mares had delivered clones of top cutting horses, which are trained to help separate individual animals from cattle herds.

The foals, born at a ranch near Purcell, were doing well, according to the Austin, Texas-based company.

The first cloned horse was born in 2003 in Italy. In 2005, Texas A&M University created the first cloned horse in the United States.

Elaine Hall of Weatherford, Texas, owns one of the horses that was cloned and said the foal is the image of its mother.

"I can already see so many similarities from the original horse, a certain look about the eyes," she said.

A laboratory at the University of California-Davis has confirmed that one of the clones and its offspring share the same genetics. Scientists are working to make the same determination with the second clone.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Dharma Bums: Ribbit

This is for the frogs @ Depalma's pond.
by Dread Pirate Roberts
"these frogs, as their name indicate, live in the forest. they don't apparently climb trees very much, preferring damp places under rocks or logs or forest litter, where they find insects to eat. in early spring the males find a pond, mark territory with ribbits, and start calling the females. so all that noise is either 'c'mere honey' or 'beat it bud, you're on my turf.' we like the sound. from the quiet, one frog, the 'chorusmaster,' will begin croaking. then others will chime in and the chorus will go on for a while, til at some hidden signal they all stop. i'm impressed in the same way that bands impress me by winding up a big number with a final flurry of sound and all stopping on the same beat, or the way that a flock of several hundred little birds flies as a unit."
Pseudacris regilla. Neat cuz frogs are kinda like a canary in a coal mine, but their population is what you've got to watch.


They've got
pictures too.

New Battle Cry ...

I don't normally post Doonesbury clips because, I mean, come on! Who reads here and not the D as well? lol!



This was just so apropos of my most recent post.

Ages Old Question

Via Common Dreams
Published on Wednesday, March 29, 2006 by the Guardian/UK

'If You Start Looking at Them as Humans, Then How Are You Gonna Kill Them?'

They are a publicity nightmare for the US military: an ever-growing number of veterans of the Iraq conflict who are campaigning against the war. To mark the third anniversary of the invasion this month, a group of them marched on Katrina-ravaged New Orleans. Inigo Gilmore and Teresa Smith joined them.

At a press conference in a cavernous Alabama warehouse, banners and posters are rolled out: "Abandon Iraq, not the Gulf coast!" A tall, white soldier steps forward in desert fatigues. "I was in Iraq when Katrina happened and I watched US citizens being washed ashore in New Orleans," he says. "War is oppression: we could be setting up hospitals right here. America is war-addicted. America is neglecting its poor."

A black reporter from a Fox TV news affiliate, visibly stunned, whispers: "Wow! That guy's pretty opinionated." Clearly such talk, even three years after the Iraq invasion, is still rare. This, after all, is the Deep South and this soldier less than a year ago was proudly serving his nation in Iraq.
One soldier, Michael Blake of New York state, recalls his perspective on the formula, and how it works with humans for whom deadly, violent conflict is a highly competitive job; one which rewards the employee, and their competition, with either a life of psychological scars, or death.
He claims that US soldiers such as him were told little about Iraq, Iraqis or Islam before serving there; other than a book of Arabic phrases, "the message was always: 'Islam is evil' and 'They hate us.' Most of the guys I was with believed it."

Blake says that the turning point for him came one day when his unit spent eight hours guarding a group of Iraqi women and children whose men were being questioned. He recalls: "The men were taken away and the women were screaming and crying, and I just remember thinking: this was exactly what Saddam used to do - and now we're doing it."
As I don't whenever Cindy Sheehan is in the news, I'll not add much here, except to say that the stories need all be told. Life ends quickly enough without putting politics and economics ahead of it but, if the means are nonviolent, then the ends may indeed Justify them.

It's how I can post other people's opinions when I'm not in complete agreement with those folks' stated agenda.

Secure the 4th

Cleveland 107, Dallas 94
Preview - Box Score - Recap

By JOE MILICIA, Associated Press Writer
March 29, 2006

CLEVELAND (AP) -- LeBron James was in seventh grade the last time the Cleveland Cavaliers played in the postseason.

And he wasn't even a Cavaliers fan.

"I was a Bulls fan -- all Michael Jordan back then. I'm all Cavs now," James said.

James helped end the NBA's third-longest playoff drought by scoring 46 points in a 107-94 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night, clinching Cleveland's first postseason berth since 1998.
Even if there weren't too many teams makin' the playoffs, this Cavs team would still be in at the 3rd or 4th seeds.
"I've always felt since I was drafted here that I was going to light it up like Vegas," (Lebron) James said. "I said that on Day One once I got drafted. It's been slow progress, but it takes a few years to put a building up in Vegas, too."

Kid's funny! Maybe not Einsteinien smart .. but he's Amadaeus on the full court. He's a 21 year old mega-millionaire and the stars in his eyes have got to be going super nova! Only Kobe is his match right now, and 'Bron's bent on learning how to handle the ends of NBA games like even Jordan didn't do for a few years into the pro game. And Michael played a lot of college ball. Majik and Bird, both college standouts, came into the league as passing demons. Lebron's already Jordan's equal there.

The organization (as are the Browns!!!) is settin' forseeable goals, guaranteeing only that they will do whatever money allows to meet 'em. Something the Indians' Dolan is unable to do.*

The Cavaliers were low-key about their accomplishment, leaving the court without celebrating.

"We have bigger goals than that," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "If the fans want to celebrate and the city wants to celebrate, that's fine. We expected to be in the playoffs."

Damn right they better expect it. Owner's got the money to win. Team's got the talent to win. Now the organization's just gotta develop the talent to win it all. Resigning both Gooden and Murray has got to be in their plans, unless they're gonna spend more big money for a 'Sheed Wallace caliber player.

I'm just hoping for a battle through the 7th game of the 2nd round next month. If they reach the conference finals, it'll be bonus points for next year's run.

Come on Cavs!!!



* Shapiro's got a pretty freakin' good plan for handlin' Dolan's financial means though. 6 years for Sizemore is right on schedule and by the book.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Hypoxia at Work

Sad but interesting story. There's a tie-in here for a possible bioevolutionary hypothesis, which I'll approach, as always from a layman's perspective, near the end.
Lack of Oxygen Can Mean More Male Fish
By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer

WASHINGTON - Dead zones — oxygen-starved patches of ocean — may be turning normal breeding grounds into the equivalent of male-dominated locker rooms for fish.

In lab experiments, newly born male zebrafish outnumber females 3-to-1 when oxygen is reduced. And the precious few females have testosterone levels about twice as high as normal, according to a scientific study released Wednesday.


Scientists are concerned that might reflect life in the dead zones, too.
And of course this is caused by human byproducts. According to the article, and other stories I've seen on topic, Nitrogen from fertilizers is one of the primary culprits, so it's not even as if we were talking about super high tech or paper mill bleaches or power plants, though all of those things have their own catastrophic side-effects* **when contributed in such large quantities.

The world's dead zones add up to about 100,000 square miles and most of those zones are man-made because of fertilizer and other farm run-off, said Robert Diaz, a professor of marine sciences at the College of William and Mary. More than 30 dead zones are in U.S. waters and are part of key fisheries.

The stress of hypoxia — the lack of oxygen in water — tinkers with the genes that help make male and female sex hormones, said study lead author Rudolf Wu, director of the Centre for Coastal Pollution and Conservation at the City University of Hong Kong. Wu's peer-reviewed study will appear in the May issue of the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Wu restricted the oxygen of zebrafish, which are freshwater aquarium fish, but said similar changes are possible in other species of fresh and saltwater fish. Fish often change genders during their lives, but this is different, he said.

"Since development of sex organs is modulated by sex hormones, hypoxia may therefore affect sex determination and development," Wu wrote in an e-mail interview. "Hypoxia covers a very large area worldwide, many areas and species may be affected in a similar way."

But I got another wonder aloud.

If hypoxia promotes testosterone, did hyperoxygenation first promote sexual reproduction by stimulating the synthesis and mutation of female hormones? Maybe stupid but brutal male hormones are how the biological practicum of sex began on Earth.

What's the geological evidence for peak O2 concentrations in the atmostphere or the oceans? What are the earliest known fossils suggestive of sexual behavior? You could probably study it in a lab if you figure out what bacterium and/or other life were around at the time sexual characteristics start occurring, and if O2 levels were extraordinally high at the time.
In the Gulf of Mexico, sexual development problems have been found with shrimp and croakers, said Nancy Rabalais, executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium.

The trend is worrisome, said Peter Thomas, professor of marine sciences at the University of Texas.

"Hypoxia is emerging as a really important stressor, possibly of even greater significance than chemicals," Thomas said. "When it does act, it shuts things down completely."

I really wanna know which came first; the chicken or the egg. It's sounding like 'twas the cock.




* Sorry, but a sub to SciAm Digital is needed. Either that or the rag itself, which is how I know that the story actually covers such effluents. The **expletive**ty thing is that you don't get one with the other. Capitalist scientists.. .

** Hhhmmm... Actually that is NOT the correct story. I'll have to check the mag when I get home today. Updated it shall be. (1:49PM 03-30-06)

Now That's Pretty Harsh


EITHER SPEAK OUT FOR CENSURE NOW
OR YOU ARE A BUSH SUPPORTER


ACTION PAGE: http://www.millionphonemarch.com/censure.php
In an email for Activists(.thepen.) Made me laugh out loud.

Who knows, maybe they're Right.

Still...

CALL YOUR SENATORS NOW TOLL-FREE: 888-355-3588 or 800-828-0498

'night

Gesundheit!

Conversations with Carl Sagan


It's been just over 9 years since Carl Sagan succumbed to complications of myelodysplasia. For all that I can be overly emotional about people and situations in my life, I've never been much of a fanatic of celebrities. There are 3 people on the stage of celebrity whose deaths drew tears from my eyes though, and one of them was Sagan.

Tom Head has recently released a new collection of interviews and news stories on the man who may be the most well-known and admired of all the publicists of the human endeavour which is Science.
Conversations with Carl Sagan covers twenty years of Sagan's drive to not only understand the universe in which we live, but to share both the joy and the benefits of that understanding with as many people as possible. Head quotes Sagan speaking with USNews & World Report in the introduction.
(Y)ou can see a very clear long-term trend, if you just look at the size of the group the average person identifies with. One hundred thousand years ago people identified with groups of hunter-gathers -- maybe 100 people. Today the typical allegiance is to tens or even hundreds of millions of people. [Introduction pg. xvi]
Those are the kind of numbers Sagan was able to reach on the basis of both his "darkly handsom, good looks" and his peer-reviewed accomplishments as an astronomer. He approached his existence with joi de vive and awe at the immensity of possibilities which the known laws of the universe enabled.

The author alludes to how many of Sagan's critics accused the man of being too much the showman, a dreamer and even a proselytizer of science fictionesque expectations. Head's collection clarifies Sagan's personal motivations nicely in the introduction.
Pseudoscientific concepts such as astrology, crystal healing, and alien abduction were, in Sagan's view, ultimately mind-numbing appeals to authroity. Sagan argued that countering fuzzy thinking with airtight reasoning, human beings can foster a scientific attitude and thereby increase the odds that humanity will be able to accept new ideas and solve the considerable problems it faces. Although some of his critics argue that the scientific method also restricts new ideas, Sagan scoffed at the notion. "I don't think that scientists are prejudiced to begin with," he told PBS Nova, "Prejudice means pre-judging. They're post-judiced. After examining the evidence, they decide there's nothing to it." [Introduction pg. xvii]
The important point is that 10 people can all look at the same thing and come up with 10 different explanations. Science involves whatever number of people looking at that thing in detail and describing it's effects and components in a clear, precise and empirical manner. It is about gaining such an understanding of that thing to the extent that 10 different people will concurr on the majority, if not all, of the conclusions of the study,
after independantly judging the findings for themselves.

This collection gave me a chance to see Carl Sagan off-screen and get a better understanding of what kind of thoughts and attitudes made him such an engaging and hopeful public figure. As Head writes,
Sagan's interviews convey a humaninism, a confidence in the potential of the human race tempered by a sense of its vulnerability as a tiny hive swept about in an indifferent cosmos. This explains, in part, his passion for science --- the only way humanity has ever learned to protect itslef from the unspeakably powerful and mysterious blind forces of nature. "It's not that scientists are prejudiced towards science," Sagan told U.S. News' Stephen Budiansky. "It's that science demonstrably works better than anything else. If something else worked better, we'd be for the something else." [Introduction pg. x]
I thouroughly enjoyed reading more about Sagan. If I have to provide one little quibble with this wonderful collection of the words and ideas of a man who helped me to appreciate the concept of reality, despite my lackadaisacal scholastic efforts and rebellious refusal to toe the line as I grew up, it is merely that there is unavoidable overlap when compressing 20 years of interviews into a single volume. Head's editorial composition mixed it up well though, and kept me looking forward to seeing how else Sagan might respond to interviewers of a diverse nature and from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds.

Whether or not I'm ever to find a niche in life that allows me to build a substantial Library in a permanent home, Conversations with Carl Sagan will always be, if not on the coffee table near my reading chair, then proudly ensconced on my bookshelf.

FYI: Corporatism is a Subset of Fascism

And the following is a result of the current Administration's use of Corporatism.

Halliburton's Performance Worsens under Second Iraqi Oil Contract

WASHINGTON - March 28 - Today Rep. Waxman released the first analysis of Halliburton's RIO 2 contract to restore Iraq's southern oil fields. The examination of previously undisclosed correspondence, evaluations, and audits reveals that government officials and investigators have harshly criticized Halliburton's performance under RIO 2. The documents disclose an "overwhelmingly negative" performance, including:

  • Intentional Overcharging: Halliburton repeatedly overcharged the taxpayer, apparently intentionally. In one case, "[c]ost estimates had hidden rate factors to increase cost of project without informing the Government." In another instance, Halliburton "tried to inflate cost estimate by $26M." In a third example, Halliburton claimed costs for laying concrete pads and footings that the Iraqi Oil Ministry had "already put in place."

  • Exorbitant Costs: Halliburton was "accruing exorbitant indirect costs at a rapid rate." Government officials concluded that Halliburton's "lack of cost containment and funds management is the single biggest detriment to this program." They found a "lack of cost control ... in Houston, Kuwait, and Iraq." In a partial review of the RIO 2 contract, DCAA auditors challenged $45 million in costs as unreasonable or unsupported.

  • Inadequate Cost Reporting: Halliburton "universally failed to provide adequate cost information," had "profound systemic problems," provided "substandard" cost reports that did "not meet minimum standards," and submitted reports that had been "vetted of any information that would allow tracking of details." Halliburton produced "unacceptable unchecked cost reports."

  • Schedule Delays: Halliburton's work under RIO 2 was continually plagued by delays. Halliburton had a "50% late completion" rate for RIO 2 projects. Evaluations noted "untimely work" and "schedule slippage."

  • Refusal to Cooperate: Evaluations described Halliburton as "obstructive" with oversight officials. Despite the billions in taxpayer funds Halliburton has been paid, the company's "leadership demonstrated minimal cooperative attitude resolving problems."

The report is available online at www.democrats.reform.house.gov or emailed upon request.

Agreed


British Memo: War of choice


SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER EDITORIAL BOARD

In the first months of 2003, we joined much of the rest of the world in hopes that war with Iraq could be avoided, that a diplomatic breakthrough or confirmation of reports that Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction might render the military option unnecessary.

How silly of us.

A confidential memo recording a Jan. 31, 2003, Oval Office meeting between President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair makes it clear that the two men were going to war in Iraq in any event.

The memo first appeared in a book, "Lawless World," by British lawyer Philippe Sands. The New York Times reported extensively on the memo in Monday's paper. Neither the authenticity of the memo nor its contents have been challenged by U.S. or British officials.

According to the memo, written by Blair's chief foreign policy adviser, David Manning, Bush was determined to invade Iraq without explicit U.N. sanction and even if arms inspectors failed to find WMD in Iraq. The two met just five days before then-Secretary of State Colin Powell tried to convince the United Nations that Iraq posed a threat to global security by hiding WMD.

Bush was so committed to going to war that he discussed painting a U.S. surveillance plane in U.N. colors in hopes of drawing Iraqi fire. "If Saddam fired on them," Bush said, "he would be in breach."

Manning noted, "The start of the military campaign was penciled in for 10 March," U.S.- and British-led forced invaded Iraq March 19, 2003.

The memo is stark evidence that it was a war of choice -- a choice that had been made early on.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Life Changes Everything

So I emailed the advisor at the online Grad School where I was accepted. I told him .. well...

Here's the email.

Howdy Mr Thomas

It's been extremely difficult but I've had to decide to rescind my decision to attend Norwhich in the fall.


I've dealth with emotional difficulties, anxiety and panic attacks, for the majority of my 40 years and, while I've made much progress in overcoming such attacks, I've also learned when I must simply move away from any precise cause. When I can't even take a simple phonecall, I know that the battle with my anxiety is lost, and must be dealth with accordingly. Despite the irrationality of this psychological condition, it is an emminently rational decision I have made to halt the process immediately.


I understand that my $50 App fee is non-refundable, and assure you that it was worth it to me as motivation to seriously consider such a proposition as attendance in Norwhich's online program.


I do wish it was otherwise, but it is not.


Thank you for you efforts on my behalf, and feel to respond or not. I cannot change my mind at this point in my life. I also sincerely assure you that I would choose to go forward in the application process if there were any way for me to do so and hope I will be ready for such this time next year.


Thanks again


Michael Bains

My stomach ache is
startin' to go away, but there's almost as much self-recrimination as relief for the decision. I do hope to get beyond this kind of frustration and think this was the right way to go right now.

My future isn't any clearer, but it feels as if I've still plenty of time to make it a good one. The blog is going a little better than I ever imagined it really would. That's completely cool and refreshing. My love life on the other hand... LOL! whatever.

The worst part is finding out that my step kid is strugglin' with grades and down to
one friend at school; and she's been asked - her friend - to find another school for next year.

And that's the thing that I think is keeping my view of the future still so

Blurry.
Written by Wes Scantlin

Everything's so blurry
And everyone's so fake
And everybody's empty
And everything is so messed up
Preoccupied without you
I cannot live at all
My whole world surrounds you
I stumble then I crawl

And you could be my someone
You can be my scene
You know that I'll protect you
From all of the obscene
I wonder what you're doing
Imagine where you are
There's oceans in-between us
But that's not very far

Can you take it all away
Can you take it all away
Well you shoved it in my face
This pain you gave to me
Can you take it all away
Can you take it all away
Well you shoved it my face

Everyone is changing
There's no-one left that's real
So make up your own ending
And let me know just how you feel
'Cos I am lost without you
I cannot live at all
My whole world surrounds you
I stumble then I crawl

And you could be my someone
You could be my scene
You know that I will save you
From all of the unclean
I wonder what you're doing
I wonder where you are
There's oceans in-between us
But that's not very far

Can you take it all away
Can you take it all away
Well you shoved it in my face
This pain you gave to me
Can you take it all away
Can you take it all away
Well you shoved it my face
This pain you gave to me

Nobody told me what you thought
Nobody told me what to say
Everyone showed you where to turn
Showed you when to run away
Nobody told you where to hide
Nobody told you what to say
Everyone showed you where to turn
Showed you when to run away

Can you take it all away
Can you take it all away
Well you shoved it in my face
This pain you gave to me
Can you take it all away
Can you take it all away
Well you shoved it my face
This pain you gave to me

You take it all
Can you take it all away
Explain it again to me
You take it all away
Explain again to me
Take it all away
Explain again to me ...

That's a sappy, codependant, effed up bit o' pop rock-n-roll there, but the melody, music, and the sentiment - Scantlin wrote it for his kid and the kid's mom - all speak really freakin' well to where I'm at right now.

I promise, and assure myself, that I will get over it.

Brown -vs- DeWine: WaPo's Watching

Dear Friend,

You can be proud to know that your hard work and support for our campaign is turning heads across the state and country.

This weekend, The Washington Post, The Columbus Dispatch, and The Associated Press all weighed in on the race, which conservative columnist George Will described as a "harbinger" for the 2008 presidential election.

I've included the full text of The Washington Post profile for you to read.

Thank you for all that you do.

Sincerely,

Joanna Kuebler

Communications Director


Ohio Republicans Racing Storm Clouds

Liberal Democrat Brown Seeks to Block Reelection of Moderate Sen. DeWine


By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 26, 2006; Page A04

COLUMBUS, Ohio, March 25 -- Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) wants you to know he is not President Bush, whose popularity has plummeted.

Nor is he Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, who was fined for taking unreported gifts.


Or Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, who is under indictment.


Or Ohio Rep. Robert W. Ney, who is under investigation.


Yet the well-publicized troubles of DeWine's GOP colleagues are becoming one of the biggest obstacles to his election to a third term in November against an energized Democratic opponent, Rep. Sherrod Brown, and his long-thwarted party that smells a chance to paint red-state Ohio a shade of blue.


"Look, it's a tough climate," said DeWine, a battle-tested campaigner who remains undeterred. "My experience is that Ohio voters are fiercely independent. They make decisions on their own. They look at the candidates. That's been the history in Ohio, and I see no reason this election will be any different."

I've provided just a bit of the Washington Post article, along with a [link] which the newsletter didn't supply.

The only other commentary I'll add is that, DeWine still hasn't done enough to distance himself from this catastrophic Administration, and he is still an anti-choice politician. Those are my two, emminently rational and quite substantial, reasons for lending the Silly Humans' forum, humble in reach though it may be, to candidate Sherrod Brown.

And if any representatives of Sherrod's should happen to be reading this, may I highly recommend buying your boss a copy of the latest Scientific American. Point him to the article by Pranad Bardhan entitled Does Globalization Help or Hurt the World's Poor, and do what you're able to make sure he reads it!

Or just show this post.
[Link] When Talk Gives Way to Action

Fortunately, the two sides of the globalization debate are--slowly--developing some measure of agreement. In many areas, advocates in both camps see the potential for coordination among transnational companies, multilateral organizations, developing country governments and local aid groups on programs to help the poor. Going beyond the contentious debates and building on the areas of emerging consensus and cooperation, international partnerships may be able to make a dent in the poverty that continues to oppress the lives of billions of people in the world. Here are some measures under discussion.
Brown's knowledge of global trade has to have introduced him to Barnhan already.

I can't stomache class warfare from any politician, regardless of their Party affiliation. Such is what Rep Brown's learned opinions border upon.

Dawn Mission Back On


NASA Revives Mission To Investigate Asteroids
Tuesday, March 28, 2006; Page A06

NASA decided yesterday to restart a mission to explore two of the solar system's largest asteroids, just weeks after the project was killed because of budget problems.

The space agency earlier this month scrapped the $446 million Dawn mission to orbit the asteroids Ceres and Vesta, nearly a half year after it was put on hold because of cost overruns and technical problems.

NASA decided to review the cancellation after the Jet Propulsion laboratory, which managed the mission, made an appeal.

"Our review determined the project team has made substantive progress on many of this mission's technical issues, and, in the end, we have confidence the mission will succeed," NASA Associate Administrator Rex Geveden, who led the review panel, said in a statement.

Powered by a xenon ion engine, Dawn would be the first spacecraft to circle Ceres and Vesta, which are in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Ceres and Vesta are believed to have formed in different parts of the solar system about 4.5 billion years ago, and studying them could provide clues to how the sun and planets formed.
I remember posting on how pissed I was that they'd cut this mission. As I said then, I know the budgets are only so large (thanks Military Industrial Complex! {shakin'head}) but this is the kind of research which is needed in order to make the manned missions being planned for the future safe enough to even attempt.

All I'll add here is kudos to NASA for showing some understanding of their own long-term goals and priorities.

Ain't no Show Time here folks. It's just good, good Science!

Monday, March 27, 2006

What Would Jesus Do?


Ramen!

er, uhhh.. Hey! Wait just a theocratic minute...


In case you're an Ohioan, and/or interested, here's one of those dufuses Democratic opponents.

Brilliant!

Just found this Neil Shakespeare post an hour or so ago.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 26 — The bodies of 30 beheaded men were found on a main highway near Baquba this evening, providing more evidence that the death squads in Iraq are becoming out of control.
You see?! That's editorializing! Just because 30 more beheaded bodies were found doesn't necessarily mean that "the death squads are becoming out of control"! For heavenssakes! That's what death squads do! They 'death' people! Far from being "out of control", I would say that success points to efficiency, and that they are rather "in control" of what they do! But you don't hear the news media reporting on the success rates of Iraqi Death Squads, do you? No, you don't!

But that's enough! You get my point, I think.
Seems the Media is right about something anyhow: Miss a day, miss a lot.

The Power of Gold .. in Biology

Drug Nanoshuttles Target ‘Zip Codes’ in Human Body
By Scott Fields
Special to LiveScience

Scientists have developed a way to build self-piloted "nanoshuttles." These tiny structures, just a few billionths of a meter long, could someday attack troublesome tissue, carry drugs, or reflect signals back to imaging systems.

The nanoshuttles' guidance system depends on two parts.

Onboard the nanoshuttle itself is a special type of virus called a bacteriophage, or phage for short, that infects only bacteria. The scientists engineer these phages to include peptides—molecules that include at least two but no more than 50 amino acids each—that exactly match certain proteins in the body.

The other part of the guidance system is a kind of phage library that the scientists have spent years building. The work is led by the University of Texas husband-and-wife team of Wadih Arap and Renata Pasqualini.

"We do molecular mapping of zip codes in the body," Pasqualini, a professor of medicine and cancer biology, told LiveScience. "We now have a large collection of phage particles that display peptides that can be directed at nearly any organ or disease."
Now before ya go sayin' "where the hekk's the 'Power o' Gold, Bains," let's jump ahead to the really interestin' part, in my opinion.
Each phage in the library corresponds to a protein located somewhere in the body's vascular highway of veins and arteries. When injected into a vein, for example, a phage could wind its way through the body until it reached a protein counterpart on the vessels of a kidney tumor.

When the phage reached its tumor, however, there wouldn't be much it could do.

That's where the cargo section of the nanoshuttle comes in. The researchers are constructing shuttle bodies of gold, a material often seen in “nano-bio” applications because the body doesn't reject it or react strongly to it.
Ahhh Gold. That illustrious, and oh so lustrous, metal of the gods. The "motherload" ain't referrin' to mushrooms mi amigos (not that I'd diminish the divinity of our fungal friend on many a different level!) Gold though... Gold has for centuries been the lure, the goal, the prime mover of expeditions and, yea, of mountains!

But the utility and value of gold is in Man's minds, not in our veins, you may protest.

Electrical engineers have long known that gold's conductivity and resistance (heheheh) to corrosion make it an exceptional component in their endeavours. Apparently this epic catalyst of dreams and death, avarice y amour, glory and gory ignominity, is proving quite worth it's weight in, uhh, itself, in the realm of the biological sciences as well.

The group had assumed that finding a way to connect the homing-device phage to a golden structure, sometimes referred to as a "scaffold," would be a formidable task. But when Glauco Souza, a post-doc in the team, mixed phage and gold flecks, he found they assembled spontaneously. Gold, although it is friendly to most biological material, can bond with some chemically compatible materials, including, as it turns out, phage.

Pasqualini says these self-assembling structures, which have not yet been tested in animals, could be customized to ferry drugs to the places they are most needed in the body, to attack tumors, to carry stain to highlight certain cells, and to enhance other imaging technologies as well.

Scientists at other laboratories, for example, have designed gold nanostructures for such applications as laser-activated, fluorescing imaging systems, but those structures must be injected near the area to be imaged.

"Now you have a way to target gold particles to where you want them to be," Pasqualini said. "You integrate this nanoshuttle with the vascular map and all of a sudden you can form the shuttle and then direct it to whatever address in the body you want to find."
And if you don't realize how expensive science can be, Gold is currently selling at around $565 per troy ounce.

'Tis a price of progress. Looking back on some of the other prices we've had to pay in the cause of scientific discovery, I'd say this one ranks amongst the most worth it. Talk about the motherload, Nanotech is coming folks.

Nano tech is here.

Let's Just Say ..

.. I ain't nowhere near desperate 'nuff to answer this ad.

It's actually just an email from the
alte cocker 'cross the cube-wall at work. (Thanks Dick. Nice. Really nice.. .)

She is pretty cute though .. errruhmmm... yah...

{-;

This has to be one of the best singles ads ever printed. It is reported to have been listed in the Atlanta Journal.
SINGLE BLACK FEMALE seeks male companionship, ethnicity unimportant. I'm a very good girl who LOVES to play. I love long walks in the woods, riding in your pickup truck, hunting, camping and fishing trips, cozy winter nights lying by the fire. Candlelight dinners will have me eating out of your hand. I'll be at the front door when you get home from work, wearing only what nature gave me. Call (404) 875-6420 and ask for Daisy, I'll be waiting....


Over 15,000 men found themselves talking to the Atlanta Humane Society about an 8-week-old black Labrador retriever.

Hat Tip to Dubya


The Freedom to Describe Dictatorship

By Jackson Diehl
Monday, March 27, 2006; Page A15

Following the first day of Egypt's deeply flawed parliamentary election last November, the country's largest newspaper, the state-controlled al-Ahram, appeared with an equally flawed headline: 'The Fairest Parliamentary Elections in 50 Years.' Its sister, al-Gumhuriya, proclaimed to its readers that 'Egyptians Spoke Yesterday -- They Chose True Democracy Rather Than Slogans and Heeded President Hosni Mubarak's Call.'

But for the first time in the 24 years of Mubarak's rule, there was another voice that day on the newsstands. The newspaper al-Masri al-Yom, or the Daily Egyptian, reported 'death threats, bribes, violence and partisan security forces.' It said that 'the elections were marred by irregularities and violations carried out by a large number of [Mubarak's] National Democratic Party and independent candidates and their militias, which prevented people from entering polling stations.'
And why is that cause for praising W?

Well, let's just say that this is one subject on which I'll be sparing in any hyperbolic descriptions of a pol's actions. But please, read on.

Al-Masri al-Yom was launched in June 2004. Though the first months were rocky, the paper took off as Mubarak opened his campaign for another term as president a year ago. Early on, it covered an anti-Mubarak protest with the once-unthinkable headline, "Angry Demonstrations Demand Information on President's Health." The next day Kassem brushed off the inevitable threats from the mukhabarat , or state security, and never looked back. In the past year the paper's daily circulation has grown from 3,000 to a peak of 40,000. Meanwhile, other opposition papers are springing up, including several that attack Mubarak so unmercifully that even Kassem is put off.

How did this space for press freedom open? Kassem doesn't hedge: "U.S. pressure on the Mubarak regime has been the catalyst for most of the change we have seen," he said. He traces the turning point to an April 2004 summit between Mubarak and President Bush in Crawford, Tex., at which the aging Egyptian strongman heard for the first time from an American president that political liberalization would be necessary to maintain good relations. After stalling a few months in the hope that Bush would lose the 2004 election, Mubarak reluctantly concluded that he must take some visible steps, Kassem says. One was the allowance of greater press freedom; another was the conversion of his reelection from a referendum into a multi-candidate competition.
So here is my hat being tipped to President George W Bush; an ignorant and fascist-leaning theocratic wannabe dictator in the cause of Freedom and Democracy. It may be done somewhat sarcastically, and I may have a slight sneer on my face as I type it, but I do mean it sincerely and with hope in my heart.

I have never thought the man was completely, or even remotely irredeemably, evil. He's just wrong about what our Democratic Republic needs for Security and Prosperity, and abusive of the ways he has used his power as a means to accomplish some halfway honorable and efficacious ends.

Ya gotta give credit where credit is do though, eh.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Brown -vs- DeWine: A Race to Watch

I don't normally post an entire article. Usually there's a lead in paragraph or two, a little bit o' my take, then some more quotes I found especially relevant or meaningful. Alas, as my Ohio neighbor (and blogger extraordinaire!) Blue Girl once blecched about, I tend to enjoy and find agreement with many of the opinions of Conservative commentator, George Will.

Well, here's a column which I think even my redoubtably Democratic buddy, BG, will find some enthusiasm for.


Who knows, maybe I'll leave more commentary at the end.

Harbinger In Ohio?

By George F. Will
Sunday, March 26, 2006; Page B07

CLEVELAND -- In the central Ohio town of London, an independent pharmacy was absorbed by a national chain because, says Rep. Sherrod Brown, the pharmacy could not afford the staff needed to decipher for customers the new prescription drug entitlement that Brown voted against because the Bush administration 'let the drug companies write it.' Brown, whose district is in the western portion of the Cleveland-Akron-Canton metropolitan area, where nearly one-third of Ohio voters live, voted against authorizing the use of force in Iraq, against the Bush tax cuts, against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and against school choice for 2,700 District of Columbia children. If Democrats are to recapture the Senate this year, Brown probably must defeat Sen. Mike DeWine in the state that secured President Bush's reelection when, late on election night, it turned red.

Brown, a political lifer, was elected to the state legislature a year after graduating from Yale University. He ran statewide at age 29, becoming secretary of state, and has been elected to the U.S. House seven times. DeWine, after four terms in the House, won a Senate seat in a Republican's dream year, 1994. But now fate has dealt him a ghastly hand."

Senators seeking a third term have 12 years of Senate votes to justify to voters. DeWine is seeking a third term in an inhospitable environment -- the middle of the second term of an incumbent president of his own party. That is when the electorate often experiences "the six-year itch," the desire to reshuffle the political deck. A recent national generic poll -- do voters generally prefer to vote for a Democrat or Republican for Congress? -- found a staggering 16-point advantage for the Democrats. The redistricting done for incumbent-protection after the 2000 Census may have made the House almost impervious to the itch -- nationally, at most 35 of 435 House races are currently considered competitive -- so voters may vent their restlessness in Senate elections. And "restless" hardly describes Ohio's dyspeptic mood regarding its Republicans, who hold all statewide offices. Scandals and tax increases drove Gov. Bob Taft's approval rating in one poll to six . He has bounced all the way back to 16. Richard Nixon's job approval rating was 24 on the eve of his resignation.

Republicans, who revere markets, should fear that the political market is working in some states, that Democrats are adapting to market signals. In Pennsylvania, the Democrats' likely Senate candidate, Bob Casey, is pro-life, and has a 10-point lead over Sen. Rick Santorum, who is seeking a third term.

Brown, whose career voting record is, according to the American Conservative Union, more liberal than another Cleveland area congressman, Dennis Kucinich, makes scant concession to conservatism, cultural or economic. He opposes bans on same-sex marriage (DeWine also opposed the ban that Ohio voters overwhelmingly passed in 2004), human cloning and partial-birth abortion. But he does favor a line-item veto and a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget. That amendment, which would constitutionalize fiscal policy, is a terrible idea but a convenient gesture by Brown, who knows it is going nowhere. Besides, in 1992 his district was one of the nation's strongest for Ross Perot, giving him 27 percent.


Brown is a harbinger of a momentous, and ominous, aspect of the 2008 presidential election: For the first time in living memory, one of the major parties -- Brown's -- will be essentially hostile to free trade, the foundation of today's prosperity. The Democratic Party's protectionism operates under the dissimulating label of "fair trade.

A serious student of trade policy, Brown notes that the trade deficit for all of 1992 was $39 billion, but was $724 billion last year and $68 billion just for January 2006. He wants U.S. trade policy to force "stronger labor and environmental standards" in less-developed nations. He says the point is to "bring up their living standards." Oh, please. The primary point is to reduce the competitive advantages of nations with lower labor costs and lighter environmental regulations -- nations that many Ohioans believe have caused their state to lose 222,800 manufacturing jobs in the past 10 years.

DeWine, one of only four senators who supported John McCain in 2000, is a moderate conservative with an independent streak -- for example, he has repeatedly voted against drilling in the Alaskan refuge. This may be enough to annoy some conservatives without being sufficient to distance him from the state Republican shambles. We shall find out late on election night, when, as usual, the nation will be watching Ohio.

georgewill@washpost.com
Just a wee piece o' that aforementioned commentary: DeWine's petite independent streak has endeared him to me at times in the past. Both of Ohio's Republican Senators have spoken out against legalizing descrimination against homosexuals in the past, but their anti-choice rhetoric is simply indicative of an emotionally derived decision. It is not a moral one since it takes control of a femal person's entire life away from her; the only one who has to live it.

DeWine's stallwart support of the freakin' Chimperor has simply chilled me to his worthiness for residence on The Hill as of late. Yes, he tried to modify Bush's stand on warrantless spying by specifying that such could
only be done against non US citizens, but supporting the War and the President's final say are both issues I can't understand outside of flawed ideological principles.

Despite the political hyperbole rampant in Sherrod Brown's email updates, I still think he has a more rational awareness of the needs of our country heading into this new century. I just wish he would find some more rational compromise between the two men's opposing views on Free Trade, an issue where Will's ideological myopia could use some refocusing as well. Free AND Fair Trade ain't easy, but it definitely has to evolve and grow. Isolationism isn't a viable option no matter how hard a country the size of the US may try to achieve it.


Okay,
fin

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Afar Again!

This is totally cool news.
Scientists Find Skull of Human Ancestor - Yahoo! News:
By DAGNACHEW TEKLU, Associated Press Writer 53 minutes ago

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - Scientists in northeastern Ethiopia said Saturday that they have discovered the skull of a small human ancestor that could be a missing link between the extinct Homo erectus and modern man.

The hominid cranium — found in two pieces and believed to be between 500,000 and 250,000 years old — 'comes from a very significant period and is very close to the appearance of the anatomically modern human,' said Sileshi Semaw, director of the Gona Paleoanthropological Research Project in Ethiopia.


Archaeologists found the early human cranium five weeks ago at Gawis in Ethiopia's northeastern Afar region, Sileshi said.


Several stone tools and fossilized animals including two types of pigs, zebras, elephants, antelopes, cats, and rodents were also found at the site.
I just had to blog it before I head out for the night. Great story, and it's no surprise that they found it in the Afar region.

Wow! I really wonder what it would be like to travel through time and watch these folks living life in such an Earth changing transition.

"A good fossil provides anatomical evidence that allows us to refine our understanding of evolution. A great fossil forces us to re-examine our views of human origins. I believe the Gawis cranium is a great fossil," said Scott Simpson, a project paleontologist from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine at Cleveland, Ohio.

Scientists conducting surveys in the Gawis River drainage basin found the skull in a small gully, the project statement said.

"This is really exciting because it joins a limited number of fossils which appear to be evolutionary between Homo erectus and our own species Homo sapiens," said Eric Delson, a paleoanthropologist at Lehman College of the City University of New York, who was not involved in the discovery but has followed the project.
And this is the kind of discovery that totally makes me wonder how so many folks can not understand animal evolution? It ain't like it's algebra or something like that.

{sigh}

Oh well, I'm absolutely happy that there a mathematicians at any rate. So many of the axioms of that particular discipline just leave me agonizingly frustrated and dissapointed by my own limitations.

Happy Saturnight y'all!

LMAO!

I can't read a word of it, so it may be some bad news, but the pics are freakin' hilarious!

A Côca

Hold on There Ya Little Crackers!

I knew it! I just knew it! Well, guessed it a probability, at any rate. And note the source. It could just be a load of bull.

Still...

March 23, 2006 -- ISAAC Hayes may not have quit "South Park" at all - or at least not willingly. Turns out Hayes has been away from Comedy Central's hit show for the past three months because he had a stroke. According to foxnews.com, he's at home recuperating and did not issue the press release which said he was quitting because the show made fun of his faith. That release was put out by fellow Scientologist Christina "Kumi" Kimball, a fashion executive for designer Craig Taylor. According to foxnews.com, "Hayes loves 'South Park' and needs it for income. He has a new wife and a baby on the way."
Here's hoping:
  1. It's true!
  2. If it is, that he recovers his health both quickly and completely.
  3. This whole affair is setting up an episode where the boys go on a mission to rescue Chef from aliens or some kind of kinky Sex Cult.
  4. Russ Feingold wins the Dem's nomination for President in '08 (just seein' if yer still with me here. ;-)
Alright, so the link in #3 has nothing to do with kinky sex cults. I did LMAO when I found it in a Google search though. So, like, whatever..

Come on Chef! Shake it off baby!

Or not. lol!

H/t to The Raving Atheist.

Spring .. Cleaning???

As I always say, Silly Humans...



Dude would hafta sharpen that thing
daily if he were real!

LOL!

The Rights Of the Born - Los Angeles Times

The Rights Of the Born - Los Angeles Times

By Anne Lamott,
ANNE LAMOTT is a novelist and essayist. Her most recent book is "Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith" (Riverhead, 2005).

February 10, 2006


EVERYTHING WAS going swimmingly on the panel. The subject was politics and faith, and I was on stage with two clergymen with progressive spiritual leanings, and a moderator who is liberal and Catholic. We were having a discussion with the audience of 1,300 people in Washington about many of the social justice topics on which we agree — the immorality of the federal budget, the wrongness of the president's war in Iraq. Then an older man came to the mike and raised the issue of abortion, and everyone just lost his or her mind.


Or, at any rate, I did.
This story spoke to me about how it feels to have a clear understanding of something which those around me simply don't get at all. In Ms. Lamott's case, it's knowing that abortion is an option which every woman has individually to choose or discard, regardless of anyone else's emotional or religious opinions on her right to maintain her own body.

For me, the issue is god certitude; the fact that so many people assume there is a god and refuse to reason out the likelihood of such a silly notion. As the recent UoM poll I linked shows, the experience of my everyday life is something Lamott found herself confronted with in a single, unexpected instance.

It was not until the reception that I finally realized part of the problem — no one had told me that the crowd was made up largely of Catholics.

I had flown in at dawn on a red-eye, and, in my exhaustion, had somehow missed this one tiny bit of information. I was mortified: I had to eat my body weight in chocolate just to calm myself.

But then I asked myself: Would I, should I, have given a calmer answer? Wouldn't it have been more useful and harder to dismiss me if I had sounded more reasonable, less — what is the word — spewy?
Yeah... It kinda sucks to realize that everyone around you believes a demonstrably insane proposition, and is gonna be shocked and uncomfortable might you have the gall to point out the silly selfishness of that belief.

{shakin'head}

Try experiencing such discomfort amongst nearly everyone you know, no matter what the occasion!

H/T to
The Catherine Chronicles, the blog which replaced mine own on The Daou Report's upper left-hand column. There's some good reading there folks!

Friday, March 24, 2006

I'm not much of a movie buff, so I didn't even know Clooney had a latest film since Confessions... Not that I saw that.

More importantly, not that it has anything to do with the state of affairs in the American Media.

Liberal biased? Conservative lapdog?

Corporate Owned and worth it to the stock holders, if no one else, is my take, and this guy's as well apparently.

This was CBS
A timely reminder of what the American press once was

By Steffen Silvis
Staff Writer, The Prague Post
March 15, 2006

George Clooney's latest film feels much like the old CBS program You Are There. Hosted by Walter Cronkite, You are There re-imagined historical events, such as Lincoln's assassination and the sailing of the Mayflower, as if they had been covered by CBS reporters. In Good Night, and Good Luck, Clooney looks at CBS broadcaster Edward R. Murrow's public battle against Senator Joseph McCarthy and the anticommunist witch hunts of the 1950s in the United States. The director's careful recreation of this world and its time are so thorough that it feels as if we are there.

Considering the politics of our own day, we really are there. But even with the current upheaval in the States over the Bush junta's flagrant wiretapping and injudicious and childish "with us or against us" prattle, Clooney's film points to an even more alarming failure in contemporary America's body politic: the absence of an independent, critical media — something that existed in the early days of television.

It's a good read from an interesting source.

Water or Wine?

There are quite a few songs that I've always had trouble singing all the way through. Bohemian Rhapsody, Number of the Beast (Iron Maiden,) the Catholic hymnal version of The Prayer of Saint Francis and Subdivisions (Rush,) all held deeply personal meanings for me, and all inevitably led to my chokin' on the strong emotions which would well up whenever I attempted them.

Looking back on my maturation, both musically and emotionally, I can see a transition around the time of Black (Pearl Jam) and a cut called You and I, by my 1rst wife, where the promise of Hope began to be an even more relevant trigger of the choke-ups. Some of those are pretty sappy, so pardon me if I demur from even naming them here. {-;

There is one that consistently reminds me, no matter how bad things have been, no matter what I'd like to do to escape my fears, and worries, and still way too frequent attacks of seemingly random panic, it is my responsibility to steer myself through life's roadblocks, detours and stretches of open highway.

And that's what makes it hard for me to get through an entire rendition of this
song by Incubus.
Drive

Sometimes
I feel the fear of
uncertainty
stinging clear

And I
can't help but ask myself
how much I let the fear
take the wheel and steer

It's driven me before
and it seems to have a vague
haunting mass appeal
but lately I'm
beginning to find that I
should be the one behind the wheel

Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there
with open arms
and open eyes, yeah..
Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there
I'll be there..

So If I
decide to waiver my
chance to be one of
the High*
Will I
choose water over wine
and hold my own and drive

Ah o' o' oh o' oh o' o'...

It's driven me before
and it seems to be the way
that everyone else gets around
but lately I'm
beginning to find that
when I drive myself
my light is found

Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there
With open arms
and open eyes

yeah..

Whatever tomorrow brings,
I'll be there
I'll be there..

Would you choose
water over wine?
Oh hold the wheel and drive...

Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there
with open arms
and open eyes
yeah..
Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there
I'll be there...

Happy Friday, all!



* Most of the lyric sites I've found transcribe this as "hive". They're likely right, but this means more to me and is how I've always sung it. Like I say,