Saturday, September 29, 2007

Mystery Space Burst Found by Young Undergrad

Chalk another one up for the determined youth that once again does not take their elder scientists' words as gospel truth or settled facts. Out in deep space about 1.5 billion light years away, a catastrophic event happened causing a massive amount of energy to affect listening equipment. At the time of the event, with researchers stating adamantly it was man made. This pat explanation did not sit well with an enterprising undergrad wannabe astrophysicist who went on a quixotic quest to study the data from the Small Magellianic Cloud.

David Narkevik, an undergraduate at West Virginia University, was re-analysing data from the Parkes telescope in Australia when he came across a five-millisecond burst of energy so powerful that it "saturated" the equipment. Researchers had previously dismissed it as a man-made phenomenon, an accident to be ignored, according to Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).
Surely something in outer space will get named after this kid that just set the astrophysics world on its ear. This could very well be the first recorded instance of mega stars colliding, a black hole collapsing or some as yet to unimagined cosmic event. Astronomers are studying the telescopes data which is 5 milliseconds long. It won't be iPod worthy or a contestant on name that sound. But it is fascinating to know something changed out in deep space and was heard on earth, albeit six years later after rediscovering the radio burst tape.

Lorimer cautioned that it's impossible to say for certain what the radio burst might indicate at this point, as it is the only one that has been detected so far.

"We're keeping very open minds about this thing," Lorimer said, adding that their uncertainty stems from the inability to pinpoint it to a galaxy or other celestial object that could reveal some clues to its identity. "We're putting a lot of effort into poring through other radio data to find more of these things."

So far, the search has left the researchers empty-handed, but it may be an issue of sensitivity. Lorimer emphasized that the records are several years old and few radio observatories have the sensitivity to detect such short bursts.

"Based on the area we looked at, we think this type of burst may occur at a rate of a couple hundred each day," Lorimer said. He thinks that whole-sky surveys using next-generation radio observatories would be needed to detect most of them.

That is a stunner because the early betting is they might be able to understand more about the mystery of gravity. Imagine that you are a young student and physics took a major leap forward in comprehension as you were digging around listening to radio tape. Totally Awesome.

James B. Hartle gives an elegant explanation of the modern essence of physics in his tome, Gravity: An Introduction to Einstein's Relativity. It took Einstein a decade and a half to come up with the theory explained here in a beautifully postulated book that costs what the theory is worth.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Britain to Light Up Differently

Light Bulb Makeover: ugly BEFORE & Beautiful AFTER
Brits are learning how to light up their lives, homes and businesses with the latest curly cue energy saving light bulbs. A reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is one of the benefits of using the energy miser light bulbs. England already pays an astronomical price for a liter of petrol that would make the average American weep. The CFL light bulb is an excellent way to reduce utility costs as well. A light bulb illuminates a new path to help ameliorate the ravages of Global Warming without sacrificing any of the western world's coveted standard of living. There are ominous signs for manufacturers as more consumers look at their appliances and the world's ubiquitous television sets are squarely in the target scope for environmentalists to apply the emission saving technology to next. Stay tuned for the next announcement from Britain's Environmental secretary. Bush is in America touting his dubious devious global warming plans today that he was loathe to present at the UN - he wanted his own brightly lit stage. Condi is clapping

The full conversion away from the energy hog big round bulbs should finish by 2012. There is some debate as one announcement is for England to have the change complete by 2009. Depends on the supply and where the bulbs are imported from affecting a local economy, cough cough, America. Brits will have to make the change at some point because the bulbs everybody grew up with will be harder to find than a recalled Made in China Mattel toy. It seems Brits are not in a raging rush to save the planet by retiring the old lights, the Chinese, Indians and Americans can hypocritically applaud the action. There is no room for criticism from the biggest polluters.
The old light bulbs are being rapidly replaced by low-energy bulbs, which cost more to buy but last up to 12 times as long and use nearly 80% less electricity.

But the government's voluntary initiative was criticised by environmental groups and other political parties, who argued that it was weak compared with initiatives in other countries. Australia has banned conventional bulbs beyond 2009.

Greenpeace director John Sauven said: "The government needs to go further and introduce tough mandatory efficiency standards rather than relying on weak voluntary initiatives. For every year of delay in getting rid of these bulbs, 5m tonnes of CO2 are emitted into the atmosphere unnecessarily."

Bill Clinton is discussing Global Warming at his annual gathering of the business aristocracy, the royalty of non governmental organizations (NGO's) and individual activists named Clinton Global Initiative. The initial cost to just get into the elite CGI meeting is a cool $15,000 USD - that's the easy part. Participants must pony up time and resources in a specified time frame or never darken the door of this esteemed group again. Commitment-phobes need not apply. Global Warming affects the entire Earth and developing nations suffer in a more disproportionate way which is why all world initiatives to decrease climate change are being discussed and debated in New York this week at CGI.

Giving: How Each of Us Can Change The World is Bill Clinton's latest book released two weeks ago. America's president that retains the world attention, accolades and commands respect for his humanitarian efforts and embodying the spirit of diplomacy and partnership.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Is Immigrant Aphrodite Crying?

Just as Aphrodite gets all settled in the expensively renovated palace of the J. Paul Getty Museum, word comes that she's moving back to Italy. Aphrodite, the antiquity, must turn in her American passport and place of honor overlooking the gorgeous blue Pacific Ocean spread beneath her feet of limestone and respect the provenance of her ownership by the people of Italy. While Stone Goddess Aphrodite may not shed tears, the curators of the Getty Museum are choking back sobs. The day they knew would come has arrived, Aphrodite is being deported "home" as her rightful last known legal origin is from Italy. Created in the 5th century BC, it is believed Aphrodite was smuggled out of Sicily, bypassing Ellis Island, to land atop her beveled marble pedestal on some of the most expensive real estate per square centimeter in the world; Malibu, California.

In the world of Art, being looted and landing in the prestigious Getty Museum is better treatment than most human immigrants receive. The original purchaser/Getty curator, Dr. Marion True, is slated to go on trial for harboring Aphrodite after spending millions to procure the classical statue. Italy is in high dungeon that various collections in some of the most famous museums around the world, house their rightful art work. A somewhat broken Aphrodite owned her own palatial digs at the Getty after demonstrating her value as a member of the Getty society. In the wake of Aphrodite providing employment for so many American citizens and amateur art lovers, it is unknown what the economic effects of her departure will be on future Getty revenues and endowments.

It follows two years of often hostile negotiations, with Rome threatening to sever ties with Getty.

It is a victory for the Italian government, which has been battling in the courts for the past decade to defeat the enormously profitable international trade in smuggled ancient art works.

Aphrodite shall not be traveling alone on her return journey back to Italy. Forty lesser known yet major works of art were caught up in the immigration raid as well and will return to Italy shortly, paving the way for a grand reintroduction for the Athenian statue. A huge welcome is expected for each of the returnees. Italy's relationship with America came under scrutiny as the expensive security and motion detectors kept Italy's Art commissioners from examining Aphrodite as a witness and staving off their claims as The Getty rushed to prove American citizenship rightly earned based on documents. American curators vociferously claimed in artsy snippy tones, Aphrodite had served admirably on the front lines in service of American culture and was awarded citizenship in a most proper paid for fashion. Aphrodite watched the tug of war impassively from her secure safe haven in America. Getty curators have bowed to the inevitable immigrant argument and Aphrodite must relocate once again, this time lawfully. America fought the good fight for as long as possible to stop this deportation.

Learn more about the Getty Museum and the curator accused of harboring an illegal statue in Getty Villa by the former curator, Marion True, Jorge Silvetti and Salvatore Settis. The hardcover book is simply, The Getty Villa.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bad Back: Stick the Needles In

Acupuncture provides a measure of relief for back pain than other modern remedies is the thesis of a new German medical study. The study goes so far to suggest that even faux acupuncture may have better results than conventional remedies. Stay tuned, there are a lot of greedy pharmaceutical companies who will try to pin this down to junk science shortly. Big Pharma forgets the ancient science of acupuncture is a bit unnerving to see, but survives as a treatment method because of consistent good results that doesn't leave a residue of drugs all through the body. There were 10 acupuncture sessions lasting 30 minutes over a six week time frame and the effects lasted longer than just during the time of treatment.

After six months 47% of patients in the acupuncture group reported a significant improvement in pain symptoms, compared to 44% in the sham group, and just 27% in the group who received conventional therapy.

Dr James Young, of Chicago's Rush University, said: "We don't understand the mechanisms of these so-called alternative treatments, but that doesn't mean they don't work."

Acupuncture is based on the ancient Chinese theory that needles can be used to release the body's vital energy, or qi.

Conventional therapies tested in the study included painkillers, injections, heat therapy and massage.

When relieving the pain is paramount, especially if its chronic, this should be an option in medical practices. Don't worry if its a first time nervous shaking newbie with the needles. Results show that the inexperienced, squeamish or ham handed may well help manage the pain as the study demonstrated acupuncture pretenders even had better results than accepted medical methods. The needles are inserted into the skin between 5 to 40 millimeters - that's a wide margin for error. Eastern approaches to medicine have picked up in the last decade in the west. Now comes the latest medical study further showing a more holistic approach to medicine is needed in traditional western medical schools.

"The evidence as a whole suggests that the benefits of true acupuncture over sham acupuncture are almost clinically irrelevant," Eric Manheimer, MS, of the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine tells WebMD. "The reasons for this are not really clear. It may be that putting the needles anywhere stimulates some sort of analgesic effect."

Acupuncture is still considered an alternative treatment for low back pain in the U.S., but this is no longer the case in Germany. Based on findings from the newly reported study, it is now covered by state health insurance.

America needs a real overhaul of its health care delivery system, but it needs to be flexible enough to incorporate these type of medical advances and Eastern medical treatments into future plans. Acupuncture is an ancient science that should be an available treatment to everyone, especially if it has been persistent and precluded people from living a high quality of life and work at higher paying jobs that once were off limits. Alternative medicine is becoming mainstream.

Interestingly enough, this is a required eminently readable text from the California State Board. Two masters gives practical information on acupuncture. Chen Jirui and Nissi Wang offer the great book, Acupuncture Case Histories From China. The cover is beautiful.

Monday, September 24, 2007

UN Politely Applauds China's Wind Farms

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a major priority and anything the worst three polluters can contribute is a step towards making the planet eventually pass its physical. Right now, the Earth is rotating beneath a sky with gaping holes in its protective layer of ozone. The worst three polluters, China, United States and India, are accelerating global warming like a hulking fully loaded Hummer speeding on a steep downhill mountain of ice with no brakes. Scratch that we have the memo, the pictures and the proof Earth's glaciers are melting away due to Global Warming. From this head-on smoking Earth wreck between people and the environment, a concussed grudging China emerges with wind farms. India contributes by burning corn husks to demonstrate their growing commitment to reduce carbon emission to do their part to save the earth. A lot of folks believe in Karma.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will try to prod the U.S. and China, the world's top two polluters, to join the carbon- credit trading system at today's meeting in New York. Both countries have rejected mandatory emissions cuts as too restrictive.

``No nation can address this challenge on its own,'' Ban said today at the opening of the UN conference. ``We need to confront climate change within a global framework, one that guarantees the highest level of international cooperation.''

``The international negotiations are very much focused on the carbon market,'' Hartridge said. ``I would anticipate a post-2012 agreement which has the carbon market at its core.'' (Just picture him rubbing his hands together...) emphasis mine AFP & AP Photo

At the UN today, Nobel nominee Al Gore, will highlight where we are and how the Earth will suffer a catastrophic failure, toes up in hospital parlance, if we do not do more of the difficult changes needed to stave off rising seas erasing populated areas, killing of animals we actually take for granted (polar bears, seals), horrifying weather by baking the earth to death in some spots and drowning it in others, epidemic disease outbreaks and further degradation of our water supplies. US corporations, Morgan Stanley among them, are gleefully promoting their companies carbon credit trading products. Former Global Warming denier, George Bush, decided to skip the UN meeting with 80 other nations and hold his own separate climate change chit-chat fest with excellent cocktail weenies on Thursday in DC and meet UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for just a dinner with no Global Warming stuff that could turn his delicate gut. How's that for demonstrating world leadership? However, my movie star Governator saw fit to address the UN on Climate Change today. (AP photo)

An American National Treasure, Al Gore wrote the foreword to an amazing collection of resources, explanations and actions for the world to engage in and organizations to contact in World Changing: A Users Guide for the 21st Century by Alex Steffen. A book that heralded his advocacy at the highest level is a must have book for every environmentalist's library, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit. Al Gore worked for years to write it and it is the forerunner to the Academy Award-winning presentation of film, An Inconvenient Truth.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Israel's Secret Raid in Syria

George Bush refused to make any comment by saying "no comment" when asked by a reporter at Friday's press conference about Israel's September 6th commando and bombing raid in northern Syria. In light of his silence, Bush gave tacit American approval to Israel to conduct the raid on Syria who has a known partnership with Shi'a Iran, which George Bush keeps loudly accusing of being the main problem in Iraq while the remaining minority Sunnis are backed by Saudi Arabia. No comment is judicious inside this Middle Eastern tangled web that Bush has spun. Seems the Syrians had nuclear material and Israel went in and relieved them of it with full American approval. The origins of the nuclear material are stated to be from North Korea which the Cheney/Bush administration trumpeted their nuclear nonproliferation deal with the US earlier this year. Just last week Syrian officials were sighted in North Korea meeting with officials to get their stories straight before this all became public.
Evidence that North Korean personnel were at the site is said to have been shared with President George W Bush over the summer. A senior American source said the administration sought proof of nuclear-related activities before giving the attack its blessing.
This whole Axis of Evil triumvirate is about to become radio active redux. Six years later, North Korea has known nuclear capacity and is ruled by a miniature neurotic despot in love with Whitney Houston, Iran is in defiance of American led international UN sanctions while harshly emphasizing their nuclear work is for electricity and Iraq is a day-glo George Bush Gamma ray grade mess that no one is able to contain. Enter Israel who clearly states no nuclear weapons in the Middle East - except theirs. Israel's Air Force (IAF) back up their government's statements. We live in Interesting Times.

North Korea is known to be a source of missile technology that is shared within Syria. That Syria was prepared to store the nuclear materials leaves a multitude of questions about exactly how sophisticated is Syria with arming missiles with a nuclear war head. Syria has not been shy about lobbing bombs over its border into Israel, nor shooting at Israel's planes when they were in Syrian airspace.
The Syrian official expressed satisfaction that the “friendly and cooperative ties” between the two countries are growing stronger under President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria and Kim Jong Il of North Korea, KCNA said.
Guess who has said nothing so far and they have a vote at any proceedings undertaken by the United Nations Security Council and their own nuclear arsenal? China.

Israeli commandos have been the stuff of legend and lore for a variety of their known exploits. One of the most famous wrote a book covering much of Israel's military past. Secret Soldier: The True Life Story of Israel's Greatest Commando is told by Muki Betser with Robert Rosenberg.

Meteor Crash in Peru Sickens Frightened Citizens

Another science fiction plot turned into reality as a meteor fell from space with a loud heart stopping crash, landing in Carancas, Peru. Like most curious people, Peruvians wanted to see what fell from the heavens unbidden. They got more than they bargained for as those who got too close will attest when not throwing up from the gases emitting from the site. Enter the conspiracy theorists in various stages of intellectual déshabillé. Government sources are claiming no way - no how is it a meteor, experts nowhere near the scene are positing from London that it was a more common fireball. Great balls of fire falling from the sky somehow seems even a wee bit more fantastic.

"Increasingly we think that people witnessed a fireball, which are not uncommon, went off to investigate and found a lake of sedimentary deposit, which may be full of smelly, methane rich organic matter," said Dr Caroline Smith, a meteorite expert at the London-based Natural History Museum.

"This has been mistaken for a crater."

"That is why we are asking for an analysis, because we are worried for our people. They are afraid," he said.

Another local villager, Romulo Quispe, said people were worried that the water was no longer safe to drink.

"This is the water we use for the animals, and for us, for everyone, and it looks like it is contaminated," he said. (photo from BBC)

On top of it all, the uninvited meteor/former ball of fire stinks to high heaven. Some are calling it a rare meteor, which may be a mite redundant. Peru's researchers and scientists are investigating thoroughly as the water supply is a definitive issue as posted previously. This area in Peru suffers from poisonous deposits of naturally occurring arsenic in its soil already and this further makes procuring clean water a life threatening issue to the locals. The area affected is near Lake Titicaca.

But the illness was the result of inhaling arsenic fumes, according to Luisa Macedo, a researcher for Peru's Mining, Metallurgy, and Geology Institute (INGEMMET), who visited the crash site.

The meteorite created the gases when the object's hot surface met an underground water supply tainted with arsenic, the scientists said.

Numerous arsenic deposits have been found in the subsoils of southern Peru, explained Modesto Montoya, a nuclear physicist who collaborated with the team. The naturally formed deposits contaminate local drinking water.

"If the meteorite arrives incandescent and at a high temperature because of friction in the atmosphere, hitting water can create a column of steam," added José Ishitsuka, a geologist at the Peruvian Geophysics Institute, who analyzed the object.

The more than two dozen locals who became ill and nauseous are recovering. Peruvian scientists examining the fragments are finding magnetic fragments consistent with prior meteors that crashed into earth. Clean water repositories are important to the locals and the water supply is undergoing vigorous testing. The testing should not be a one time event because of the unexpected meteor, but because the ground soil is rich with arsenic seeping into the water supply is a known carcinogen the world over.

In 1908 a fireball devastated a Siberian forest. Scientists had consensus on the causation but this book poses some interesting questions. From author Surendra Verma, The Mystery of the Tunguska Fireball is a 2006 paperback release.

A local author from the area of Lake Titicaca, Peru writes beautifully about the ancient mystery and history of the highlands and his intimate knowledge of the area. Jorge Luis Delgado is famous as a guide and MaryAnn Male, a lady of doctorate letters, was so taken by his knowledge she urged him to write the story of the area. The excellent collaborative result is Andean Awakening: An Inca Guide to Mystical Peru.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Principled Protests Everywhere

In Burma, monks are protesting by marching in Yangon against the military dictatorship of the nation they renamed Myanmar. Buddhist monks exited monasteries in a show of strength and unification to publicly register dissent. In defiance, the public joined the monks, swelling their numbers. Holding an upside down alms bowl is a searing sign of protest. Monks leading the march made their positions clear and the boycott real. They refuse to accept alms from military personnel or perform any religious duties for them. It was not one protest, but many protests all over Burma that have put the totalitarian junta in a delicate position as they dare not try more heavy handed tactics against monks held in the highest esteem by the public. (Reuters photo/Aung Hla Tun)
Braving monsoon rains and the attention of dozens of plainclothes security police, the maroon-robed monks chanted mantras and then walked in procession round the guilded stupa of the Shwedagon Pagoda, the former Burma's religious heart.

Protest marches by monks are becoming a daily occurence, a sign of the civilian anger at last month's shock fuel price rises becoming a more deep-rooted religious movement against the generals and their 45 years of rule.

Several hundred ordinary people joined in before the monks marched through the streets of the main commercial city, past the embassies of Britain, Australia, India and the United States.

They met no opposition.

However, armed police threw up barbed wire barricades near Yangon university -- centre of a 1988 mass uprising crushed with the loss of an estimated 3,000 lives. Police also tightened security at the home of detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

Orders to stand down were paramount to the Myanmar government, in order to quell any overt confrontations. Because the protest went unmolested by the police and other government onlookers, there is fear the precedent may have a lasting detrimental impact on the militarists hold on power. After the unilateral 500% fuel rate hike in one day, bankrupting the broken poor, the Burmese government should be building bunkers to hide in from their own people. Resolute, steely eyed and patient are the monks, they have a country's affections and 2500 years of religious tradition on their side. There is no set end date for the historic religious protest. This is the longest and one of the largest sustained protests led by Burma's Holy Men in twenty years with no end in sight. Arrests continue apace with a Nobel Prize winner under house arrest since 2003. Yep, that's flop sweat forming on the bushy brows of the installed dictator's gun toting army generals.

One of the greatest speeches ever made in Washington D.C., came from a young preacher aptly named Martin Luther King, who led a reformation of the protest culture in this country based on nonviolence. yesterday's protest had no violence associated with it. Two civil rights activist from years and photo ops past were there as the old guard protested alongside young people of color many wearing black T's that used the internet to organize. One commonality with the 1963 March was the vast array of buses bearing protesters of all shapes and sizes were clogging the road, delaying the start because the roads weren't made for that much traffic all at one time. In each instance, they got out and walked. (AP photo/Alex Brandon)

Reminiscent of the late 1950's and 60's and pass the plate collections, colorful buses filled to the brim from all over the US, amassed to bring determined marchers to the sleepy backwater town of Jena, Louisiana. In 1963, the March on Washington featured mostly men, except for the soulful angelic voice of Mahalia Jackson.

Chanting slogans from the civil rights era and waving signs, protesters from around the nation converged in central Louisiana, where the charges have made this otherwise anonymous town of 3,000 people a high-profile arena in the debate on racial bias in the judicial system.

“That’s not prosecution, that’s persecution,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the founder of the RainbowPUSH Coalition and an organizer of the demonstration, told a crowd in front of the LaSalle Parish Courthouse. “We will not stop marching until justice runs down like waters.”

The Jena High School students, known as the Jena Six, are part of a court case that began in December, when they were accused of beating a white classmate unconscious and kicking him and a prosecutor charged them with attempted murder.

The beating was preceded by racially charged incidents at the high school, including nooses hanging from an oak tree that some students felt was just for white students. The tree has been cut down.

Solidarity was found across America for those who could not travel, staged local protests. Of course, the taser zapping seen 'round the world by the campus police, of a guy while down, at John Kerry's Florida speech, is mopping up attention.

(Photo Getty Images/Brendan Smialowski)
Seeking a national audience for protests in DC were those against the Iraq War.
Over 150 arrests were made among thousands of marching protesters. DC national press ignored the cause most central to America's world standing as they did in 2002 when millions said preeminently invading Iraq for WMD's was wrong and without legal merit. George Bush sent the troops in to occupy Iraq based on lies, equivocations and the chattering cheerleading voices of an overblown ego in his head. The rule of law is for everybody else and hence the protesters aim to remind him and all those sanctioning the Iraq travesty that they are full slumlord owners of the worst historical blunders in American history.

Update: My previous post on last week's protest in Taiwan, led by the president, for international recognition from the United Nations against communist China's All One wishes.

The satirically titled Finding George Orwell in Burma is just the first delight by Emma Larkin. She chronicles the journeys of George Orwell as he developed his mindfulness in Burma.

In honor of the young people of the 60's who risked life and limb to non-violently protest for equal justice under law, I highly recommend reading their stories and struggles in the late David Halberstam's The Children. Though they were children, John Lewis gave a fair amount of blood and heart, enduring beatings and hosings, to turn into the civil rights legend that he remains today. One of the most elegantly written books about the full range of Jesse Jackson comes from southern writer, Marshall Frady, simply titled, Jesse.

Bogs & Testicles Have Scientists Abuzz

Science goes where every man has gone before. Producing gas, lots of high powered world destructing gas, has scientists examining organisms and fossils that adapted to feeding upon bog methane. Though not exactly a regular British tourist trap, ancient bogs are providing early indicators related to studying the scary effects of Global Warming. Testicles may provide an important key to a healthy heart muscle and increased brain power, not through the usual way, but via stem cell research as scientists familiar with the subject will tell you.
Greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide are widely blamed for global warming. Scientists say average temperatures will rise by 2-6 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, causing droughts, floods and violent storms.

This section of exposed rock offered a clear sediment record of changes in vegetation and indicated how global warming affected the area tens of millions of years ago, Pancost said.

"Methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas," he said. "So if the processes at (the bog) were widespread, then the increase in methane emissions could have caused further warming, amplifying the climate change at this time."

The bog became part of a vicious cycle -- warmer temperatures caused higher emissions of methane, which drove temperatures even higher, he said. (AP photo/Tim Graham)

Bog burps, short ones, even for an old wetland, were actually dangerous to the environment by heating the earth. Testicles, even small ones, are providing a rich scientific body of work to follow upon. Gosh, the ability to regenerate right in a man's own trousers. It boggles the mind that science has found significant source of stem cells in human testicles that have shown the ability to adapt in brain tissue, kidneys and improving damaged hearts. (Note: Not the kind of heartache caused by when he doesn't call again.) These are adult stem cells found in male testes. This provides more impetus to find ways to harvest more of these stem cells for continuing this fruitful study.

According to Reuters, Dr Shahin Rafii (of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute) is pioneering the new bollock-based stem cell production methods.

It seems the ballsy boffin and his team "found a way to easily pick the cells out from other tissue in the testicles". Such dexterity is all the more impressive - not to say eye-watering - when you consider that thus far they have been working with the testicles of mice rather than men.

Reuters says that "Rafii... is starting work now to find the same cells in humans".

More great information about stem cells may be found in a book by world traveling science journalist Cynthia Fox called Cell of Cells: The Global Race to Capture and Control the Stem Cell.

And a wonderful New York Times classic is timely. The Bog People: Iron Aged Man Preserved in paperback by P.V. Glob and illustrated by Elizabeth Wayland Barber.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Paramilitary Protection for US Bananas & Iraq

Colombia is shouting foul after the USA's Chiquita Bananas Corp had fines of $25,000,000 levied against it for its horrible use of paramilitary parasites. Iraq is reeling from a paramilitary security gun fight involving the rightwing US Corporation, Blackwater, after an alleged shooting attack targeted a State Department convoy. The gunfight killed at least 8 innocent Iraqis and wounded 20 others. That incident initially angered the Iraqi president Maliki enough to revoke Blackwater's license to operate in Iraq. That put the US military in a deep bind, as Blackwater is hired by the Pentagon, u$ing hundred$ of million$ of US taxpayer dollar$ to handle $ecurity operation$ previously handled by the US Armed Forces. Another remnant Rumsfeld poorly thought out defense policy.
From the start, Blackwater has played a major role in securing U.S. interests in Iraq: guarding top diplomats like Paul Bremmer in 2003 to the current U.S. ambassador.

Now, the Iraqi government has ordered the company to stop working until the investigation is complete - a direct challenge to U.S. policymakers on the ground here who rely on Blackwater for their own security.

“That's going to severely hamper the ability of the diplomatic corps to move around, but again you got other companies that are well-placed to step in and fill that void,” says former Blackwater vice president Jamie Smith.

There are incidents that explain why many Iraqis hate foreign security companies. For example, contractors from another firm filmed themselves shooting at Iraqi civilian vehicles and showcased the images on their Web site over an Elvis Presley soundtrack. (AP photo)
A little known fact, is there are more private contractors (180,000) in Iraq than US soldiers (160,000 due to the deplorable surge & splurge). Enter a Gomer Pyle, surprise, surprise, surprise, after torching the phonelines between the US & Iraq, the governments are now going to do an independent joint investigation with, ahem, Iraqi cooperation and tacit agreement. Amazing how that stuff happens with Bush buddies getting a free pass.

Meanwhile, the global brand name of Chiquita is taking a hit after hiring paramilitary group, United Self Defense Committees of Colombia, a group listed by the US as a terrorist group. US corp., Chiquita Banana's is $25 million USD lighter after paying this infamous paramilitary group of known killers. The cute little Chiquita bananas logo doesn't look so inviting along side the corpses of dead Colombians funded by another US business.

A US federal court Monday ordered the Chiquita banana company to pay 25 million dollars in fines for paying millions of dollars in protection money to Colombian paramilitary groups between 1997 and 2004.

Judge Royce Lamberth accepted an agreement between the company and the US government in March that spared company executives. (emphasis mine)
Who is paying the families of the innocents caught in Chiquita's crossfire? Those were hails of murderous bullets, not overripe bananas.
In accepting the fines, the prosecution agreed not to name or prosecute the executives involved in ordering the payments. On Monday prosecutors called the company's actions, which it has said were taken in the face of extortion, "morally repugnant." "Chiquita was funding the bullets which killed innocent Colombians," said prosecutor Jonathan Malis.
It doesn't end there, as Colombia is vowing to prosecute the company executives involved. Chiquita's exec's must have a real interesting profile for being hired. Where on the executive resume do you exactly tout experience working with known terrorist groups to protect a bunch of bananas and oops a few people died in the execution of Chiquita's strategic plan. Would love to know what type of political contributions these executives made while hiring contract paramilitary killers to get this kind of a sweetheart banana pudding deal.

Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos joined other officials in blasting the deal as outrageous and demanded the fine go to victims of violence, who are already seeking damages from Chiquita, one of the world's top banana producers.

"If the conduct of executives at the banana company Chiquita Brands constitutes any crime in Colombia, then we will ask, with the help of the attorney general, for these people to be extradited," the foreign ministry said in a statement. (picture courtesy AFP)
Many of the individuals working for Blackwater are ex-military and former special forces receiving tremendous cash bonuses and three times the salary of enlisted military personnel. Chiquita's hiring... The 4 US Blackwater employees dragged through the streets in 2004 horrified Americans. The families of those Blackwater employees are being stonewalled by republicans in Congress and the White House from getting information on their demise. Private company Blackwater is working hard to have their lawsuit dismissed under the catch-all national security rubric.

A banana republic may be what Iraq is morphing into under the might of US military power. Diplomats were in short supply for Iraq and an over reliance on private security/paramilitary options has wrought continuous long term issues and outsourced certain skills to the private sector. Privately held by Erik Prince, Blackwater is devastatingly portrayed in its infinite pervasiveness in the spectacular 2007 book by Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. A frightening, unnerving must read to understand the full horrifying scope of the company's insidiousness ties to über rightwing politics and the conservative Christian movement. They are operating in a Muslim country.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mega Typhoon Targets China's Money City & Soccer

Aimed straight at the source of much of China's financial dealings is Typhoon Wipha. Boats are being anchored and mass evacuations are happening. Shanghai is bracing for a typhoon, which rivals an even more powerful August storm which killed 436 and was named the worst typhoon in the last fifty years. There is not much time left before the onset of the storm which is also causing a few tremors in the Chinese markets. Taiwan dodged the winds leaving Typhoon Wipha an unobstructed straight shot at Shanghai. (photo Mark Ralston/AFP Getty Images)

Shanghai is a vertical city with some of the world's tallest skyscrapers with millions of people living virtually atop one another. There is no spare space and everyone affected is urged to leave which creates chaos as the storm approaches. The city is home to the wheelers and dealers in the financial district with many companies occupying the urban sprawl. Typhoon Wipha has the power to be destructive on multiple levels.

About 200,000 people living in exposed areas in Shanghai, bordering Zhejiang in the north and with a population of over 14 million, would be moved to temporary shelter before evening.

Tens of thousands of boats and ships had returned to harbour in Zhejiang, where beach resorts and sea farms were evacuated and ferry services suspended, state media said.

"Wipha will hit our province head on and the areas affected would be the most economically developed and densely populated," the Zhejiang provincial government warned.
Getting your mind around evacuating, even partially, a city with 14,000,000 people and the amount of infrastructure involved demonstrates the vastness of China. Shanghai is only 1 of multiple cities in China with a population that size. Now, it is under direct threat from a late season typhoon. China needs sophisticated emergency planning on a scale not appreciated by the rest of the world. India is the other nation with over a billion people and in 2005 refused international assistance in the tragic aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami.

Even the impending drama of the typhoon, is not stopping the much anticipated soccer match between the top-rated United States and Nigeria female teams. The monster storm is expected to roar into Shanghai by midnight. It is hard to imagine a love of football/soccer so deep that a tremendous amount of strategizing World Cup venues went into keeping the tournament going while accommodating Wipha, who graciously will only disrupt the Shanghai games. The soccer world does not stop for a typhoon.

The disrupted football matches are crucial to deciding which teams qualify for the quarter-finals in the women's World Cup tournament, which is being played in five Chinese cities.

Moving the matches means that Brazil - who are almost certain to qualify from Group D - and potential qualifiers Denmark will have one fewer rest day before they have to play a quarter-final game on the weekend.

Norway, currently second in their group, face the added disruption of having their match relocated. Ghana cannot qualify for the last eight.

North Korea's game against Sweden in Chengdu city today, Australia v Canada tomorrow in Chengdu, and China against New Zealand in Tianjin city remain unchanged, as their venues are not in the typhoon's path.

In honor of blitheness, the book is focused on female football (soccer) for the rest of the world. My favorite female soccer film is Bend It Like Beckham.

US soccer star, Mia Hamm, is the interesting subject of many good biographies. Mia Hamm authored Winners Never Quit.