Saturday, December 20, 2008

NASA Finds Carbonate, But Not Funds

NASA found water on Mars with the MIA carbonate minerals giving way to being able to land somebody there for the rest of their lives to colonize the planet in the future. NASA has some skin in the game as a President Obama is going to decide the mission and the money to go into the programs that shape the space race. Right now the president-elect is heavily focused on earthbound scientists who are bit more aghast at Global Warming and the damage incurred by the Neanderthals that were in charge that denied it all. Meanwhile, the head of NASA and his seven degrees got into a snotty spat with the ex-NASA scientist, current head geek of the Obama transition team about the Constellation project and its funding because its way over budget with an end schedule like the number π. Endeavour went up, came down, knowing in about a year nobody from the US is going into space without thumbing a wild ride on Mr. Putin's Russian rockets.

Now its the 3,600,000,000 year old acidic belief system on trial. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter by virtue of the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) beamed back evidence that some spots like the crater Isidis are less acidic and life gain a green toehold. The images are under review as the carbonates would have dissolved or dissapated long ago and not shown up for their Orbiter DeMille-like closeups. What it really means is a tiny step closer to rationalizing a fantastically expensive but scientifically prolific trip to Mars. Manned or unmanned just makes the stakes that much higher because they need a really powerful rocket... Out of the endless loop, comes proof that the mineral is there giving hope that missions even past Mars are possible.
"Carbonate, like the baking soda in your refrigerator, dissolves quickly when exposed to acid," said study leader and Brown University professor Bethany Ehlmann yesterday at an American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.
"So the fact that … carbonate is still present means that the waters flowing through [Nili Fossae] must not have been acid" and could therefore have been conducive to life.

Bacteria and microbes on a meteorite that plopped down to Earth help the hypothesis that life could exist on the red planet. Right now its just a theory that is gaining a foothold as more discoveries are made. The Phoenix Lander and the Energizer twin Mars Rovers have paid for themselves a hundred times over with their discoveries. With each new discovery and scoops full of analyzed dirt more questions arise out of the oxidized red dust. But NASA's next rover that could settle the life (bacteria/microbe) on Mars question, the Mars Science Laboratory rover, is experiencing a two year delay from 2009 to 2011 due to design challenges. That's a big money fix in the works. Spirit and opportunity have taken full effect of the solar panels to beam back photographic evidence. (Photo Opportunity on Mars 2004 NASA)

Now where ever will the financing come from in a totally broke USA to fund the next Rover, Lander, Pathfinder steps? I am sure President Obama will get a group of science money people to find money on Earth to support life on Mars. An international coalition, oh yeah, the International Space -Hotel- Station needs some new bunk beds too. Russia, we'd like to book room for a party of six... Obama is going to find a spare billion somewhere in the name of science and carbonates on Mars.

Passion for Mars: Intrepid Explorers of the Red Planet enlists the imaginations of famous planet watchers to envision what it would be like or take to live there. NASA has finite resources and Mars aficionados are planning to keep the red planet at the top of the list someway, somehow. My guess, some sort of gravitational knowledge pull with a black hole that sucks in the naysayers. Andrew Chaikin writes a biography of the current and future of the red planet that will fire the imagination rockets into our own Habitable Zone in space.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Eat A Camel or Kangaroo to Save Planet

Australians first received patriotic pleas to eat kangaroos. Based on a three year study, the next request is more urgent, the wild and proliferating camels are destroying the desert ecosystem. Eat them. It is part of the new age million camel herd control plan urged by the government. To ensure the example starts at the top, civil servants in Canberra are putting a camel on the "barbie" for their annual BBQ. Water, already an issue is a commodity that is being consumed by the animals that are now reaching out of control numbers. Same could be said for humans too - but we already know which will consume which and blame the other in the name of preservation. What a way to get over the hump.
But as they increased in numbers, they also increased greenhouse gasses and helped turn some environments into deserts, destroying plants and animals.

According to the Northern Territory natural resources department, Australia's feral camel population is doubling every nine years.

Says department spokesperson Glenn Edwards: "Because camels are cautious animals and beautifully camouflaged, and because these areas are sparsely settled, most people are simply unaware of the sheer numbers of these introduced pests – or of the extent of the damage they are causing." (Camel Herd Photo: Hans Boessem)
More than a century ago in the name of progress and needing animals better suited to the dry conditions, the great camel pack "horse" arrived for immigrants to make their way to the Australian interior hauling their survival necessities. Transportation methods drastically improved making the camel no longer required. They were set free and Voila!, a veritable camel population explosion ensued. Now, Australians in charge of policy are tying novel culinary methods to change the balance of environmental power and justice.

While Territory Camel sends some meat interstate and overseas, most is eaten in and around Alice Springs.
Camel dishes include a camel, kangaroo and crocodile pizza served at the King's Canyon Resort, and the traditional Middle Eastern "baked camel", in which carp are stuffed into turkeys, which are stuffed into a sheep, which is stuffed into a camel, which is wrapped in banana leaves and baked in coals for two days.

Monir Samad, owner of Afghan Village restaurant in Camberwell, has never eaten camel — watching them being slaughtered outside his house when he was a child was enough to put him off — but said he would certainly serve camel meat in his restaurant if it became readily available.
I am not sure about the image of being replete after eating a marsupial versus consuming filet of camel hump, but it appears to be of no concern to many. On the other hand, eating the animals to control their numbers has been part of the human condition since walking upright. Meat eating is a known accelerant to global warming so there is an "upside" to partaking. These are the latest to be put on the list as causes of methane gas that heat the earth, especially in drought stricken Australia.

One of the great food books that talks about where the food originates to the time it hits the taste buds is from author Michael Pollan. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals puts it all in perspective. Carnivores have ruled the earth for eons, now find out what greens and vegetables have been hiding along with all the processed food available at every price point. Eye opening, but not exactly mouth watering.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

An Obama National Security Council

Since 1947 amidst Harry S Truman's presidency, the National Security Council (NSC) was born out of the military and intelligence interagency disorganization post WWII. In 1949, the NSC became the sole province of the president. By law, the National Security Act, this creature exclusive to the White House the NSC remains unmonitored by Congress and operates as a president chooses in matters pertaining to national security and foreign policy with some mandated participation. A National Security Adviser (NSA) is appointed by the president. The role oversees portfolios of regional or specific interest depending on the president's choice and mitigates between major cabinet officers (principals) and ideas that may have jurisdictional overlap. The real power is the Deputies meetings or the surrogates sent by the main principals to get into the fine detail in the conference rooms allocated off the White House's semi-secret Sit Room.

A six foot five inch four star combat tested former marine commandant, Jim Jones, is the President Obama selection. The President-Elect has authorized Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff, Greg Craig as Counsel to the president and Lawrence Summers in his capacity as Assistant to the President fon Economic Policy to participate in the 2009 United States National Security Council. In spite of being part of Bush's war council, Robert gates remains atop the military industrial complex as the SecDef and a top spot on the NSC battling Clinton among others for resources and policy supremacy. General Jones is the lead arbitrator before it gets to the president's desk.

Sometimes the president is forced to "redo" his NSC in the middle of a term. Why? Because they have usually committed a terrible wrong that leaves the nation and the world aghast. Not likely one might say in Obama world -snicker. In sixty years, NOT one president escaped unscathed from not watching the NSC more closely. The bet is when, not if, Obama gets into trouble with his. History beckons and Obama's name will either be in smaller font or writ large depending on
what the issue is he wrangles with and gambles on the wrong person. That's when he's going to need all the political friends he made because he will build up a reservoir of Goodwill. He is smart like that.

In the White House there are 5,000 square feet of first rate technology including cell sensors in the cieling and the best military minds dedicated to crisis management and day to day intelligence activities. CNN's show The Situation Room is named after this collection of rooms inside the White House. The Sit Room is where the president discusses domestic emergencies, planning for pending military action or response to a global crisis. Those familiar with Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing TV show will immediately recognize the room. It was beautifully rehabbed during George W. Bush's 2nd term in 2007 with wainscoting lower on sliding padded walls to receive better transmission of secure communications than the prior mahogany covered walls did during the Clinton administration. Three secure conference rooms, plastic phone booths for calls and direct communication with Air Force One increase the Sit Room complex's functionality and capabilities. There are over 33 LCD monitors and 32 hookups that allow multiple simultaneous conference call capability. All that fancy hardware is needed to manage the threats and the fast growing cyber security incursions.

The NSC has a collection of people considered principals. Getting on the permanent principals list is at the sole discretion of the president. One ofthe layers below the principals is made up of their second in commands or in DC parlance, Deputy blah blah Undersecretary of the Molehill region.Usually, the presidents are the Main Man, Vice president, Secretary of Defense,Secretary of State, Director of National Intelligence or the CIA Director, and the National Security Adviser who chairs the meeting and directs traffic. Condoleeza Rice was George Bush's 1st term NSA and she was awful. Regan's second term guy who waded in and cleaned up the Iran Contra mess, was Colin Powell. Whoever gets that chair in an Obama Administration needs to be the consummate professional that cannot be pushed around by the big guns on the NSC.

Richard Clarke, the upstanding hard edged intel NSC guy sets the scene here:
On the ground level of the West Wing of the White House, a dozen men and women trickle into the wood-paneled Situation Room. They balance thick briefing books and cups of hot coffee from the White House Mess next door. The meeting's chairman, a member of the National Security Council staff, brings to order this gathering of the Counterterrorism Security Group, the committee that coordinates U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Behind and above his chair is the seal of the president of the United States.

"All right, let's get going," the NSC man intones. "President Obama wants a high-level
game plan for counterterrorism efforts in 2009. First, we need the intelligence picture." The NSC staffer turns to the woman sitting to his left, who works in the National Counterterrorism Center.

"Well, as we said in the recent National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism, we had a break for a while after we smashed the al-Qaida sanctuary in Afghanistan after 9/11," she begins. "But now al-Qaida has reconstituted itself in the Pakistani tribal areas, right along the border with Afghanistan. The Pakistani army tries every once in a while to rein them in, but essentially, they're just too weak to gain control of the Wild West border areas. Al-Qaida is busy training terrorists up there, including Europeans and Asians, people who could slip into the United States without arousing suspicion. And al-Qaida is also developing another sanctuary in Somalia, where their local allies have been taking over Somali cities. It's not a soothing picture. We could see al-Qaida attacks in 2009 on the Arabian Peninsula, in Europe, even here at home. But of course, we have no actionable intelligence pointing to a specific plot."
Back to the trouble president's get in. Nobody likes telling a president no. Harry Truman Korea, Dwight Eisenhower is the best to date that pulled together an NSC that was stellar, but a certain pilot was shot down while spying over Russia and trainers were parachuted into Indochina in a former French colony. There was the NSC's fingerprints all over the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Kissinger & Pol Pot among others, China, Iran Contra, WHIG or Bush's White House Iraq Group an off shoot of the NSC that set up to market the war. Time will tell whether the error will be a combination of haste and sloppiness or a personal hubris on the part of his team or horrible circumstance that will bring the NSC to the public's attention in an Obama administration.

The only expert to write a book with scholarly dimensions but wickedly funny asides on the NSA came in a truly fascinating 2006 book from David Rothkopf. Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power traces the NSA from gestation to now with a look at the internecine connections amongst those who serve the public good (usually) inside the NSA.

This part of The Transition Series to the presidency of Barack Obama.
(please not the posts at the link above are stored by date)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hate in a Time of Cholera

Water sustainer of life is also the conduit of cholera deaths in Zimbabwe. Complicating the ever increasing numbers of deaths is tyrant extraordinaire Robert Mugabe claiming no problem. A person has to hate and loathe its people to deny a problem and proffered help from aid organizations or NGO's. Almost 10,000 cases with 412 confirmed deaths to date plus the spread into neighboring Botswana and South Africa screams bloody murder for a lack of urban public health infrastructure containment and fast action on part of Zimbabwe's inept government. Shades of George Bush in America's dénouement during Katrina, but weirdly juxtaposed against Africa policy being one of his singular net positive achievements.

Hygiene is a matter of life and death while the midst of a crisis is not an opportune time for educating the people. Out of necessity, Zimbabwe's citizenry is getting a crash course along with buckets, soap and water treatment tablets. Don't use the water and that goes double for the cities. Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, remains politically aflame amidst contested election results and a mountain of constitutional amendments meant to secure powers for Mugabe against rival Morgan Tsvangirai. Rural

UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) spokeswoman Veronique Taveau said that unlike previous outbreaks that mainly affected rural areas, the current epidemic is affecting densely-populated urban centres, "which leads to itsrapid expansion and makes it harder to fight against the disease."

Jean-Philippe Chauzy of the International Organization for Migration said Zimbabweans fleeing deprivation in their country were contributing to spreading the disease.

Zimbabwe belatedly changed its tune Thursday and asked for international help to fight the outbreak after long insisting that the
situation was under control.

"With the coming of the rainy season, the situation could get worse," said deputy health minister Edwin Muguti. "Our problems are quite simple. We need to be helped."
With a belated invite, the International Committee of the Red Cross and a plethora of United Nations agencies are rushing to put their fingers in the dikes as hordes collapse in a dam of humanity. People providing care to victims are starving and others are spreading the disease crossing the borders into neighboring nations. Inflation was so bad Zimbabwe's bankrupt treasury had to issue a 10,000,000,000 bill as prices for bread, gas and clean bottled water went up hourly. Day to day survival left little time for the niceties of proper hygiene in the middle of the slums or in rural areas where supply chains are figments of imagination. Yet, Zimbabwe is a bountiful country blessed with a Mosi-oa-Tunya UNESCO designation since the late 1980s for Victoria Falls which should facilitate tourism that would make a less corrupt government solvent under competent leadership.
"Some of the staff workingin the clinics have not received a salary for weeks, and they cannot keep working if we do not get them food," ICRC spokeswoman Anna Schaaf said.

The agency said on
Thursday it was doubling the budget of its Zimbabwe office to nearly 13 million Swiss francs ($11 million) in 2009. "The situation in hospitals is catastrophic," ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger told Reuters.

Zimbabwe's inflation is more than 230 million percent. Its economic crisis has caused many public hospitals to close, and most towns suffer from only intermittent water supplies, broken sewers, and uncollected garbage.
A dire situation is playing out as a UN mandated power sharing governance model between Zunu-PF (Team Mugabe) versus Movement for Democratic Change (the opposition) suffers the tortures of the diseased as resources trickle in to the hardest hit areas in Eastern Zimbabwe. The rainy season starts in late November and lasts until April. Western nations were accused of enjoying what they see coming from the mandated sanctions by Mugabe loyalists like the utterly failed Deputy Health Minister, Edwin Muguti. Memo to M2, Mugabe and Mufuti - sanctions rendered unnecessary where democracy flourishes and Human Rights receive all due respect.

A story with heart that goes deep inside the cultural mores and restrictions that form life in Zimbabwe as told by a journalist with skin in the game, Love in the Driest Season: A Family Memoir. Newlywed white man with African American wife gets a detailed education in African politics as told in autobiographical format from Neely Tucker.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Art, Architecture and Arabia

I M Pei's architectural pedigree scales the heavens of all types of art on the world's most populated continents. A mix of cultural form and function wrapped in glass, steel and stone gives iconic meaning to some of the world's most prestigious museums, Louvre's inverted pyramid, Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the National Gallery of Art or the Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean (MUDAM) in Luxembourg, all containing priceless works on display. At the age of ninety one, Ieoh Ming Pei, Pritzker Prize winner and a multicultural phenom put his imprimatur in Doha, Qatar on the newly opened Museum of Islamic Art (MIA). The magnificent spare no expense building sits astride one of the famed man-made islands as a modern wonder paying homage to the past. Showcasing the art pieces on two floors the curator paid attention to a span of a thousand years, across geography from the ancient Persia to a jade pendant from India to a multitude of art materials. Exhibits are exquisite after the impressive eye candy the symmetrical museum makes upon arrival with reflecting pools, a geometric main staircase hall with the Zen of an Islamic garden. It was a cool enough event that Robert De Niro attended the museum opening amongst the Gulf region's pantheon of royalty.

Ten years ago, this started with the Emir H H Sheikj Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thanki and Sheikh Hassan Al Thani family concentrating on the procurement of Islamic artifacts amidst Europe's established auction houses. London's art scene saw an influx of capital dedicated to filling a museum that was but an idea on a draft board as the final crown jewel in the stellar architectural career of I M Pei. Five stories of wonder encapsulating 382,000 square feet with a price tag of $300 million is the entry fee to establish Doha as a cultural destination for Arabian and Western tourism and pride of place in the hoity-toity art world. The collection features a $73 million dollar Mark Rothko abstract painting as well as the best of art from other cultures while featuring the works of little known Islamic masters. (Picture: Maher Attar)
Not long ago, the idea of culture being a reason to visit the Gulf would have made other Arabs laugh. No longer.

The Syrian cultural historian Rana Kabbani sees a political element to the museum, putting Doha on the cultural map.

"I think all the rulers in the Gulf see what they really lack isculture on a grand scale, as a kind of imperial identity. It's a political-cultural lack. They have the means, and they're going for it."
That's why along the coast, two museums are planned for Abu Dhabi - branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim.
Art in the Islamic world is taking a new resonance as the museum of the millennium opens and Saudi Arabia holds more gallery exhibitions albeit in embassies. To inaugurate the museum there is an exhibit and a conference Beyond Boundaries - Islamic Art Across Cultures. There was a Sunday special panel featuring the architect of the decade, I M, Pei on Islamic Architecture from Tradition to Modernity.

Women are painting, sculpting and creating their own art behind the veils and scrolled walls in Saudi society. A public showing is a cultural possibility with embassy exhibits more prevalent in the realm of the possible and where chances increase the art's exposure. The colors and compositions are arresting, more so because of who the people are that are trying new mediums are garnering attention for their sophisticated works. The Kingdom pledged to sponsor the best are culled from a competition in their own embassies as a furtherance of showcasing their people's talents with clay, camera or paintbrush.

One artist took advantage of the venue to hang an abstract painting of a woman, with one breast clearly depicted — a hint of nudity still taboo outside the diplomatic confines of the embassy, where Saudi Arabia's religious police cannot enter.

The Wednesday night showing in a small hall was packed with expatriates and, more significantly Saudis, whose presence was a reflection of the surge of interest in the arts in the kingdom in the past few years. Local artsshows have been on the rise, more Saudi artists are participating in overseas exhibits, and more universities and schools are offering arts degrees.

The first non-governmental arts society was established a year ago, with four women on its 10-member board. Saudis have become more accepting of abstract art, which, only a few years ago, was the subject of ridicule. And in many Arab cities, Saudi collectors are snapping up works by local artists, some of whom get special orders from their rich clients.

So many beautiful works to page through in Islamic Art and Culture: A Visual History. It was important to me to find a book written by an eminent Islamic scholar. Professor Nasser D. Khalili presents the full range of art possibilities and the meaning behind each selected piece. Great coffee table book sure to cause cultural discussion.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Musical Chair Derby to Audition for Transition

The White House is the scene of the best braggarts and brightest burblers competing to get one of the last seats before the dramatic Gothic music stops. The scramble is fierce. The players have the arrogance of elitists, use dumb seeking minions to sharpen their wits upon and find any means necessary to wipe out, trip or just outright legally slit the throats of their fellow professionals. Out of the mêlée comes sanguine victors who join the legions of cube rates across corporate America for a chance to sit and work in the Brady Briefing Room located in the West Wing. The latest journalistic perk is getting senior in front of the words White House reporter.

Confinement to little sections of the White House with special security passes and an itsy bitsy workspace with wifi was worth all of the professional rivalry, hidden hand backstabbing of a new administration and pontificating that goes on in millions of workplaces around the globe. But this is the White House. Barack Obama will be running the historic show. Hidden from public view is the transition to see which millionaire TV journalists and their less well paid print counterparts get to be assigned to stand outside the White House when the mosquitoes bite or the snow piles up around their ears to cover the most closely watched presidential transition in world history. Yet, because the White House during the Bush locusts and famine years was pretty much like a GOP convention - a surfeit of non-French vanilla with an arresting rare chocolate or butterscotch sprinkle for spice, more media enterprises feel a sudden need to diversify their reporting pool. Will the miracles that just the advent of a President-Elect Barack Obama can do never cease...

While The New York Times has yet to announce its White House team, sources tell Politico that it will include Liberian-born journalist Helene Cooper, previously a diplomatic correspondent. Cooper has something in common with the president-elect — her own highly acclaimed memoir delving into her familial ties in Africa, published earlier this

But simply wanting to cover the White House isn't as easy as just showing up. Longtime correspondents tightly hold onto the best seats in the small work space in the basement. Coveted hard passes can take months to obtain through the Secret Service.

"I think people who haven't covered the White House will be surprised how rigid they are about rules," said Julie Mason, White House correspondent for the Washington Examiner, mentioning the assigned seating as a particular sticking point among veterans.

DC journalists notoriously protected privilege and access to their bottom line detriment. Many political bloggers, especially on the left, just moved into the wide open space left by many journalists. Scooter Libby's trial transcripts put the punctuation marks ^%#$(^ of how in the tank many top journalists were for republican agendas after their almost total meek acceptance of all things Bush led to the travesty, the Iraq War. So now people see an opening and the editors and producers have to decide who is going to get the crown jewel of a WH spot to cover this presidency. Do they keep the same people in place or shake things up? Obama decided in-house bloggers were going to get an official White House stamp of approval.

Also getting under way is a new team of official White House bloggers. One, prominent liberal blogger Michael Lux, joined the transition team this week.

He's expected to be joined by bloggers assigned to specific Obama initiatives, such as overhauling health care and conserving energy.

At the same time, McClatchy Newspapers has learned that Obama's Internet army, which is in the course of moving from his campaign communications Web site to his transition site,, may be asked to move again in January. (AFP)

Some media conglomerates are seeking to add more reporters to cover this White House. Just a whiff of drama is catnip to the reporters who strangely enough tell the news on Tv in virtually the same order night after night. Newspapers are hiring their own bloggers while former print magazines are folding shop and becoming web only operations. Newsrooms have a high degree of anxiety over what January 20, 2009 will bring. Media staffing decisions are fraught with peril because they have no control over how an Obama Administration plans to set up or upset current traditions the press deems dear.

Dishing the dirt and taking no guff from press or presidents is the Iron Lady of the Beltway. An eighty year plus feisty woman who famously gave JFK tough questions and every president since. Watchdogs of Democracy?: The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Failed the Public, is her book outlining the press and its epic failures to fulfill their purpose of being the People's representative, not their corporations. Waves hi to the Mouse, a Lightbulb and assorted other corporate brands bringing the tarted up "news".

Part of the Transition Series.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Norway Top, Iran Near Bottom on Gender

The constitutional monarchy of Norway and home of the Nobel Prize stewards leads the world with the smallest gender gap. Iran is a dark ages basement dweller at 116 out of 130 on gender equality for the 18th largest sized country on Earth. The world's number one super power democracy is solidly behind Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland and New Zealand coming in at #27. Sadly, that's an improvement over last year. Persian and Iranian civilization has been around in some form since before 4000 BC. The USA only gave suffrage to women in 1920 with a constitutional amendment passing by one vote. Since the 21st millennium began, Norway had a firm grip on the top spot in human development with an enlightened universal Scandinavian welfare model. Just to get to the top spot Norway had to move up just two places on their Nordic neighbors.
The UK came 13th and slipped from 11th place last year while France was among those countries whose ranking rose sharply, from 51st to 15th place helped by gains in economic participation and political empowerment.
Syria, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia all fell in the ranking and showed a drop in overall scores. Progress in closing the gap is not only "possible" but can be achieved in a relatively short space of time said the forum.
The index surveyed economic participation, educational attainment, political empowerment and health and survival.
Women in senior leadership roles in government, business and other organization needs to happen in more nations but the bugaboo of diversifying escapes rational discussion and implementation year after year. Looks bleak in the United Kingdom as the pay gap widens as the UK falls two places to number 13 on the World Economic Forum's Flobal Gender gap index, especially for women with the top job in a business. Canada took a greased toboggan down Mount Robson sliding to an ungainly stop 13 spots down from their prior perch. Turkey considered by those in Bush's state department as the most moderate Muslim nation sparkles in infamy at 123 out of 130 as the formerly secular nation grows ever more rigidly conservative in it politics. Don't hold your breath for the Bush guys to mention that out loud either as Turkey's air space is a vital American interest.
Women in the US still have trouble reaching equal status and equal pay. In Missouri, three female anchors are suing their former television station for tossing them off the air while their balder, fatter and squinting male counterparts got to stay on the tube. Gender bias shows up in a multitude of areas while significant accomplishments receive noteworthy attention. The United States military broke the so-called brass ceiling pinning a fourth star on General Ann E. Dunwoody's dress uniform. The 55 year old is the top commander of the Army Matériel Command unit which supplies all soldiers with weapons and gear. She is a master jumper and which led to her creds as the 82nd Airborne's first female battalion commander at Fort Bragg.
"It was clear to me that my Army experience was just going to be a two-year detour en route to my fitness profession," she added. "So when asked, `Ann, did you ever think you were going to be a general officer, to say nothing about a four-star?' I say, `Not in my wildest dreams.'

"There is no one more surprised than I — except, of course, my husband. You know what they say, `Behind every successful woman there is an astonished man.'"

Too bad that is has such the ring of truth - still in the USA and everywhere else...

In a story of intolerance from a temperate religion comes the story of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She fought against the cultural norms on three continents suffering horrible deprivations along the way. While I may not agree with all of her political views, her courage and intellect are diamonds of the first water and her story is the beginning of her legend. She titled the book strongly, Infidel. A Great Read!