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Saturday, March 31, 2012

NBC Doctored Audio of Zimmerman

I had only just blogged about ABC doctoring video of Zimmerman to make him appear more guilty, and now I read that NBC's Today Show selectively edited the 911 call by Zimmerman to make it look like Zimmerman was racially profiling Martin, rather than answering a question from the 911 dispatcher as actually happened. (H/t Instapundit).

Friday, March 30, 2012

Europe Increases "Firewall" to € 800 Billion

Austrian Finance Minister Maria Fekter announced on Friday that the permanent euro rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), would be expanded, by considering the around €200 billion in current bailouts as being separate from the €500 billion earmarked for the ESM -- originally, the €500 billion figure was to have included the €200 billion in existing aid. The ESM, which is due to come into operation in mid-2012, will also be boosted by including around €100 billion in bilateral aid that was given to Greece in 2010, as well as aid from other EU funds, bringing the firewall's total capacity to over €800 billion.

Fekter expressed her confidence that Friday's move would be enough to calm the financial markets. "The markets are already signaling relative calm," she said. "That shows that the markets can work with what we have set up here."

The Nuclear Option

On Thursday evening, in the run-up to Friday's summit, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble had said he was prepared to combine the existing bailouts with the new permanent mechanism. He said that the €800 billion capacity was "convincing" and "sufficient."

But not everyone shares his view that the sum is enough. On Thursday, French Finance Minister François Baroin called for the permanent euro bailout fund to be increased to €1 trillion, to shore up market confidence and prevent contagion in the euro crisis. "The firewall, it's a little like the nuclear option in military planning, it's there for dissuasion, not to be used," Baroin said in a radio interview. He was echoing calls made by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) earlier in the week to boost the firewall to €1 trillion.

At the beginning of the week, SPIEGEL reported that Merkel and Schäuble had dropped their long-held resistance to allowing both the temporary European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and the ESM, which was supposed to replace it, to operate in parallel for a period, thereby expanding the scope of the funds available. Berlin had come under massive international pressure to increase the size of the firewall so that it was large enough to potentially bail out countries such as Spain and Italy.
Meanwhile, the Bundesbank has exercised new authority from the European Central Bank (ECB) to not accept as collateral bank bonds backed by Ireland, Greece and Portugal. (From the Wall Street Journal via the National Review Online).
The decision signals the determination of the Deutsche Bundesbank to limit risks from the nonstandard measures the European Central Bank has taken to combat market stress during the crisis.

More broadly, it reflects concerns that the ECB’s crisis-fighting measures may be encouraging banks to shift debt of dubious value to central-bank balance sheets, ultimately exposing taxpayers to what may wind up being toxic assets.
Humpty Dumpty has already fallen off the wall and shattered. It is only inertia that keeps people from realizing it. I don't think all of the King's horses and all the King's men will be able to put the European Monetary Union back together again.

Has the Administration Sabotaged Possible Israeli Attack on Iran?

An article on the website of Foreign Policy magazine last Wednesday, written by former unofficial Yasser Arafat adviser and established Israel-basher Mark Perry, quoted four unnamed ‘senior diplomats’ and ‘intelligence officers’ saying that Israel had been granted access to air bases in Azerbaijan on Iran’s northern border.

The article suggested that this meant Israel planned to use Azerbaijan either for a strike at Iran or for other support for such an attack.

An Azeri official has subsequently said the claim that Azerbaijan has granted Israel access to its air bases for an attack is ‘absurd and groundless’. That denial, however, is clearly limited. And several observers have concluded that whether this is a genuine leak or disinformation, the story is an attempt to harm Israel by its principal western ally. Indeed, assuming it is not a total fabrication but is based on actual briefings, it is hard to conclude anything else.

On Fox News, [former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John] Bolton said: ‘I think this leak today is part of the administration’s campaign against an Israeli attack.’ Bolton, a Fox News contributor, noted that a strike launched from Azerbaijan would be much easier for the Israelis than a strike launched from their own country - jets could stay over their targets longer and worry less about refueling. But he said tipping the Israelis’ hand by revealing 'very sensitive, very important information' could frustrate such a plan.

'Clearly, this is an administration-orchestrated leak,' Bolton told FoxNews.com. 'This is not a rogue CIA guy saying I think I’ll leak this out. It’s just unprecedented to reveal this kind of information about one of your own allies.'

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Did ABC Doctor Videos of Zimmerman?

Stories have been circulating that police security cameras show Zimmerman without the wounds he claims to have suffered at the hands of Martin. However, the Daily Caller questions this, and provides images from the surveillance videos that appear to show a large laceration on the back of Zimmerman's head. (H/t Instapundit). Bob Owens provides additional commentary, accusing ABC of deliberately doctoring the video it showed on TV to cover up the wounds:
In fact, not one but both camera views showed that Zimmerman has a laceration several inches long on the back of his head. Any blood had been cleaned up by the Fire Dept assets that had treated Zimmerman at the scene. Bruising would not have shown on the low-resolution video.

More disgusting is the obvious fact that ABC News used a strategically placed chyron (graphic) to cover up the back of Zimmerman’s head for their broadcast, covering up the video evidence that would have disproven their story. View the video at the Daily Caller, and you’ll note that they did not even need a chyron, as their was no need to transmit any additional visual data to explain the story. The only logical reason the chyron exists is to cover-up Zimmerman’s wounds. ABC News doctored the video to sell a false narrative, in a dishonest attempt to brand a man a murderer.

HARPS Finds Evidence of Rocky Planets...

A new result from ESO's HARPS planet finder shows that rocky planets not much bigger than Earth are very common in the habitable zones around faint red stars. The international team estimates that there are tens of billions of such planets in the Milky Way galaxy alone, and probably about one hundred in the Sun's immediate neighbourhood. This is the first direct measurement of the frequency of super-Earths around red dwarfs, which account for 80% of the stars in the Milky Way.

* * *

"Our new observations with HARPS mean that about 40% of all red dwarf stars have a super-Earth orbiting in the habitable zone where liquid water can exist on the surface of the planet," says Xavier Bonfils (IPAG, Observatoire des Sciences de l'Univers de Grenoble, France), the leader of the team. "Because red dwarfs are so common -- there are about 160 billion of them in the Milky Way -- this leads us to the astonishing result that there are tens of billions of these planets in our galaxy alone."

The HARPS team surveyed a carefully chosen sample of 102 red dwarf stars in the southern skies over a six-year period. A total of nine super-Earths (planets with masses between one and ten times that of Earth) were found, including two inside the habitable zones of Gliese 581 and Gliese 667 C respectively. The astronomers could estimate how heavy the planets were and how far from their stars they orbited.

* * *

"The habitable zone around a red dwarf, where the temperature is suitable for liquid water to exist on the surface, is much closer to the star than the Earth is to the Sun," says Stéphane Udry (Geneva Observatory and member of the team). "But red dwarfs are known to be subject to stellar eruptions or flares, which may bathe the planet in X-rays or ultraviolet radiation, and which may make life there less likely."

For the Harry Potter fans...

... a first look at the Harry Potter studio tour in London.

"Assassinations" of Allied Troops by Afghani Troops

A couple of weeks ago, I had posted a link to a statement by Michael Yon about the military covering up attacks by Afghani "allies" on American troops. Certainly these incidents don't get much air time in the U.S. media. In any event, here are a couple recent examples of these attacks.

For instance, this article from March 26 and 27, 2012 reports:
A mass suicide attack which was to target buses in the Afghan capital of Kabul has been foiled.

Intelligence officials seized 11 custom made 'suicide jackets' in the country's ministry of defence, less than a mile from the presidential palace.

Several Afghans, some reportedly soldiers in the Afghan National Army, were arrested and are now being questioned.

The discovery came on the same day two British servicemen were murdered by a renegade Afghan soldier who tried to trick his way into their fortified base. 
As the Royal Military Police began investigating yesterday’s tragedy, it emerged that the gunman went berserk after a row broke out at the entrance to the British military compound in Lashkar Gah, Helmand.

Lieutenant Gul Nazir is said to have arrived in an army vehicle with several men pretending to be assigned to guard a delegation of VIPs visiting the base.

But when he was challenged by guards and told to wait outside, he opened fire with an M16 semi-automatic rifle, killing the two men and wounding a third.
Also:
A U.S. Nato service member was also killed by an Afghan policeman yesterday at a checkpoint in eastern Afghanistan.
It further relates:
Fifteen Nato troops have been killed by their Afghan allies in the first three months of 2012 – one in six of all coalition dead.
On that point:
Yesterday’s killings are the third ‘green on blue’ attack in which Afghan security forces have murdered British servicemen.

On November 3, 2009, an Afghan policeman called Gulbuddin – who was angry after being repeatedly disciplined – slaughtered five UK troops with an AK47 as they relaxed following a patrol in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand.

Six British soldiers and two Afghan policemen were wounded. UK military chiefs denied Taliban claims that Gulbuddin was working for them.

Then on July 13, 2010, three British troops were gunned down by an Afghan soldier after a row over bottled water.

Sergeant Talib Hussein, 23, who was being mentored by the 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, launched a machine-gun and grenade attack.

Relations between British and Afghan forces had flared when a Gurkha temple at the base was vandalised after an Afghan was reprimanded for taking bottles of chilled water.
Another story, also from March 27, 2012, reports:
. . . A US serviceman claims he was savagely gunned down by an Afghan National Army soldier while playing football outside a forward operating base in Afghanistan.

Three gunshot wounds ripped through his gut and hit 'pretty much every organ' in his torso. But miraculously, he survived and is making a speedy recovery at a US military hospital, he says.

He posted his unvarnished account of being badly wounded in a deliberate attack by one of his own 'allies' on the website Reddit and fielded dozens of questions from across the broad expanses of the Internet.

The man said he made the post to educate his fellow Americans about how dangerous and difficult the war in Afghanistan is proving because soldiers cannot trust the Afghans they are training to take over security in the country.

The authenticity of the man's account could not be verified -- he provided few details such as his unit name, the location of the forward operating base or the date he was wounded.

He and another soldier were both wounded. A third was killed in the shooting.

'I can say now, after being shot and losing a friend I hope we pull out ASAP,' he wrote.

* * *

He was playing football with several of his fellow-servicemen and about six Afghan National Army soldiers were watching the Americans.

Suddenly, one of the soldiers swung up his rifle and opened fire on the Americans.
Neither story indicates when Afghani President Karzai would be offering an abject apology for his troops murderous behavior, what steps they would be taking to investigate the incident, or if Afghanistan would be paying reparations to the families of the murdered and injured troops.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Review of the Viking Mission's Search for Life on Mars

And continued controversy whether Viking discovered evidence of life. From Alan Boyle's Cosmic Log.

Camp Integrity...

... "Blackwater's" base in Afghanistan.

Questions Over the Standard Theory of Lunar Formation

The moon's chemical composition matches that of the Earth's mantel, which poses a problem for the standard theory of how the moon was formed:
A chemical analysis of lunar rocks may force scientists to revise the leading theory for the Moon's formation: that the satellite was born when a Mars-sized body smacked into the infant Earth some 4.5 billion years ago.

If that were the case, the Moon ought to bear the chemical signature of both Earth and its proposed 'second' parent. But a study published today in Nature Geoscience suggests that the Moon’s isotopic composition reflects only Earth's contribution.

Junjun Zhang at the University of Chicago in Illinois and her colleagues used a mass spectrometer to make the most precise measurement so far of the relative abundance of titanium-50 and titanium-47 in Moon rocks gathered by the Apollo missions in the 1970s. The authors report that the lunar ratio of the two isotopes is identical to that found in Earth’s mantle, within about 4 parts per million.

This presents a conundrum for the lunar-formation model, Zhang says, because any Mars-sized body that might have collided with the fledgling Earth is believed to have been chemically distinct. Studies of meteorites — the modern stand-ins for planet-sized bodies that once roamed the Solar System — indicate that such objects had an isotopic titanium abundance that could have deviated from the terrestrial value by as much as 600 parts per million. And because simulations suggest that the second body contributed more than 40% of the Moon’s bulk, the lunar isotopic ratio shouldn’t mirror the terrestrial value so closely.

EPA Issues New Rules for CO2 Emissions from Power Plants

The Obama administration on Tuesday proposed the first ever standards to cut carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants -- a move welcomed by environmentalists but criticized by some utilities as well as Republicans, who are expected to use it as election campaign fodder.

The standards have divided the power industry between companies that have moved toward cleaner energy, such as Exelon and NextEra, which rely on plants fired by natural gas, and those that generate most of their power from coal, such as Southern Co. and American Electric Power.
In an apparent concession to his re-election bid, the rules supposedly only apply to new power plants, but I'm sure that won't last long.

Meanwhile, some commentary on this issue from around the Web: Gateway Pundit;  the Lonely Conservative; and Hot Air.

It should be noted that the U.S. clearly has some of the largest coal reserves in the world, and so by restricting the use of coal for energy production, Obama is making our energy production less secure and more dependent on foreign sources.

More Trayvon Martin Fallout

The Black Panther leader that issued a $10,000 bounty for Zimmerman has been arrested for illegal possession of a firearm. Meanwhile, Martin's family are complaining that the police are trying to ruin Martin's reputation by confirming that Zimmerman's account of the fight is consistent with the evidence. Maybe they are concerned about not receiving the large royalty payments they had hoped for.

Meanwhile, Democrats continue to try and make this a campaign issue by holding "briefings" on Capitol Hill. And remember, Team Obama is all over this:
Federal Justice Department officials are investigating, and President Obama entered the debate last Friday when he called the killing a tragedy and said, “If I had a son, he would look just like Trayvon.”

Monday, March 26, 2012

Baths and Quarks -- A video by David Tong about solitons

(Link here).

Medieval Warming Not Confined to Europe

Unbelievable--the climate can change without us. From the Daily Mail:
Current theories of the causes and impact of global warming have been thrown into question by a new study which shows that during medieval times the whole of the planet heated up.

It then cooled down naturally and there was even a 'mini ice age'.

A team of scientists led by geochemist Zunli Lu from Syracuse University in New York state, has found that contrary to the ‘consensus’, the ‘Medieval Warm Period’ approximately 500 to 1,000 years ago wasn’t just confined to Europe.

In fact, it extended all the way down to Antarctica – which means that the Earth has already experience global warming without the aid of human CO2 emissions. 
At present the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) argues that the Medieval Warm Period was confined to Europe – therefore that the warming we’re experiencing now is a man-made phenomenon.

The Trayvon Martin Narrative Is Falling Apart

News stories are now leaking out that Martin attacked Zimmerman, punching Zimmerman and slamming his head into the ground before being shot. (See here and here). Also, Martin was not the angel his family has made him out to be. And while this has no bearing on the facts of the case, I found this story to be interesting:
The mother of slain Trayvon Martin recently filed a trademark to protect the rights to his name as an attempt to control- and collect funds from- the masses of merchandise being produced in support of their cause.

It was revealed today that Sabrina Fulton, the boy’s mother, filed two petitions last week to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to specifically gain the rights to the phrases ‘I Am Trayvon’ and ‘Justice For Trayvon’, both of which have been frequently used by protesters across the country.

The trademark application shows that she is specifically looking for control of the use of those phrases on CDs and DVDs that feature her deceased son.

* * *

A wide variety of t-shirts, pins, buttons and banners are being sold in Florida and have been ever since the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin became a national issue, flaring fraught racial tensions throughout the state and the country.

The sale of merchandise has sped up in recent weeks, and will likely continue strong as rallies continue to be held in Sanford, Florida, where the incident occurred on February 26.

Obama Sells Out U.S. Defense for Reelection Bid

At the tail end of his 90 minute meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev Monday, President Obama said that he would have “more flexibility” to deal with controversial issues such as missile defense, but incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to give him “space.”

The exchange was picked up by microphones as reporters were let into the room for remarks by the two leaders.

The exchange:

President Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.

President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…

President Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.

President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.
Some commentary from Hot Air (here and here) and Legal Insurrection. (H/t Instapundit). Romney and Gingrich have also responded. (See also here). The White House controlled media has already begun to put a positive spin on the statement, trying to explain it away as an instance of candor about having to deal with a hostile Congress (apparently the Democratic Senate doesn't count).

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Another Reason this Coming Election is So Important

The Telegraph reports that North America has the potential to be the new "Middle East" of petroleum production.
... 2011 was the first year since 1949 that the country exported more petroleum products than it imported.

Some of that was down to new supply, but declining domestic demand also played a role. US oil demand fell to 18.8m barrels a day last year, down almost 10pc from 2005, according to the Energy Department. The report predicts that the declining US demand for petroleum products, driven largely by the downturn, will continue as fuel efficient technologies are more widely adopted.

That, too, could contribute to making North America the pivotal player in shaping global supply. "The growing Continental surplus of hydrocarbons points to North America effectively becoming the new Middle East by the next decade," the report argues.

Its authors stress that the scenario it paints is one that could happen, rather than one that will. But they add that a reshaping of the America's position in the energy chain would have wider economic benefits, with up to 3.6m new jobs created.

The question of America's energy policy is not an exclusively economic one, with concerns over the environment and the wider role of government featuring heavily in the debate in the US.

"With political gridlock in Washington precariously high, it remains unlikely that a comprehensive energy policy will be achieved in the near future," the report says.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Washington Insider Warned Us

So will he [Obama] stir up the race issue if it means guilting or scaring white voters to keep him in the White House? Hell yes he will. He’s been doing that sh*t his whole damn life! You wanna say so what to that? You wanna see this country torn apart by race because we have a president who sees it as a viable political tool? Don’t answer – let me talk here. I’m laying some things out I’ve been holding back on, so if you wanna hear it, let me talk. Don’t interrupt me with one of your little questions…

The race card, the racial thing – whatever it’s gonna be called, it is the number one asset this administration believes it has to win in 2012. Their own polling data has shown that to be true over and over again. But how far are they willing to push that? Race. The charges of racism? I believe all the way if they have to. And they are gonna get people stirred up. And if Barack Obama doesn’t win re-election, watch them stand back while the riots break out, and watch them mouth the words “Burn baby burn.” I don’t think they are willing to go that far, I know it. If they can’t have America, nobody will. That’s how big – that’s how important this election coming up is. Even the people who pay attention to this stuff…they don’t realize how big this is. How important to the country. We are truly at a fork in the road here. This administration is going to attempt whatever necessary to remain in power. Race. Intimidation. Media attacks. Division – divide and f***ing conquer. You notice how divisive the Republican primary campaigns have already started to become? You think that’s all occurring on its own? Hell no. Tens of millions of dollars are already being spent getting conservatives, Republicans, Independents, whatever – get them to attack each other. Get them frustrated and lower their desire to vote for the eventual nominee. You know, Republicans used to be the party that would unite behind the nominee when they were chosen – it frustrated the hell out of us Democrats who were always bitching over this or that right up until the election. That’s not the case anymore, and your Republicans are much weaker because of it. I’ll say this, if Republicans don’t get their shit together and vote for whoever is the nominee – and I mean WHOEVER is the nominee, then it will be another four years of Barack Obama running this country into the f***ing dirt and that’s what we deserve. If we are too stupid as a country to fix this mess…then so be it. It’s over. The America we know, the America we knew – it’s over. Done. And we will only have ourselves to blame.
 Ulsterman observes:

By inserting himself directly into the ongoing conversation regarding the shooting death of a 17 -year old Black youth in Florida by a Hispanic man, and with Obama supporters in the Liberal Media repeating charges of national racism, Barack Obama appears quite willing to push the United States into a potential race war.
 Of course, this isn't all of the violence we will see. The Occupy Movement is already planning more violent protests during the coming months.

FTL Neutrino Debate Continues

As Giudice’s quote suggests, experimental and theoretical physicists have a long-standing tendency to be combative toward one another. Often it’s all in good fun or friendly rivalry. But the researchers on hand last night brought up another important point: This dialog shapes what experiments are conducted and thus the direction of physics.

Cline, who helped replicate the OPERA results in a separate experiment known as ICARUS, measured neutrinos traveling very close to—but not exceeding—the speed of light. Based on his research and the technical faults found in the OPERA experiment, he questions if it’s even necessary to continue testing for faster-than-light neutrinos, saying it might be more productive for physicists to chart a different path.

"OPERA is going against the standard tradition and has found an error in their terminal," Cline says. To him, that technical error justifies the decision to halt any further studies on neutrino velocity. "These experiments can take a decade, so you don’t go after some wild crazy idea, and 20 years later you regret you did it," he said.

But Patrizii disagrees. "We’re allowed to be wrong," she said. "Physicists, they can be wrong. Physics is not. Eventually we will see what is true." To Glashow, an experiment that turns up a surprise—even if it turns out to be untrue—is a good thing that can push physics further. "We need surprises, we depend on results that contradict our own theories. We want to be contradicted."
Sort of a "the science is settled, so don't bother us" argument, which is, of course, anathema to good science.

Apparently It Will Be Mob Justice for George Zimmerman (Updated)

They want mob justice for an someone they accuse of being a vigilante. From Fox News:
"We cannot allow a precedent when a man can just kill one of us ... and then walk out with the murder weapon," said civil rights leader Al Sharpton, flanked by Martin's parents and a stage full of supporters at a rally in Sanford on Thursday night. "We don't want good enough. We want George Zimmerman in court with handcuffs behind his back."
* * *
Martin's parents said the police chief's action wasn't enough, and that Zimmerman should be taken into custody.

"We want an arrest, we want a conviction and we want him sentenced for the murder of my son," Martin's father, Tracy, said to the fiery crowd of protesters at Fort Mellon Park.
Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, contends that he shot Martin in self-defense.

I suspect that Zimmerman will eventually be charged simply because State and Federal authorities don't want a repeat of the 1980 Miami Race Riots.

Update: Protests spread to other communities even as new evidence comes out suggesting that Zimmerman may have been acting in self-defense as he claims. (Story here).  Meanwhile, Obama is once again sticking his nose into what is a local matter. (Story here). This is because the media is turning this into an opportunity to create racial division. There has been some push back on the media double standard of not reporting on black-on-white violence. (See here). And I'm seeing a lot of comments about the media not bothering to cover the story of a white teen in Kansas that was set on fire by two black teens. (Story here and here).

Update 3/31/12: Thousands march on Stanford, FL, police station demanding the arrest of Zimmerman.
Protesters have begun marching in the Florida town where 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer.

About a thousand people carrying signs and wearing T-shirts with the teen's image marched to the Sanford Police Department Saturday morning.

Civil rights leader Al Sharpton helped lead the charge, demanding the arrest of George Zimmerman, 28, who shot the unarmed teenager dead.
Protesters carried signs, chanted 'Justice for Trayvon' and 'We want an arrest. Shot in the chest,' , and clutched the hands of their children while they walked from Crooms Academy of Information Technology - the county's first high school for black students - to the Sanford Police Department.

The march was organized by the NAACP was one of several taking place over the weekend.

'We live in the middle of an American paradox,' Rev. Al Sharpton told the crowd. 'We can put a black man in the White House but we cannot walk a black child through a gated neighborhood. We are not selling out, bowing out or backing down until there is justice for Trayvon.'
Hispanic voters should take note of the lynch-mob mentality that has taken hold here at the instigation of top Democrats, including Obama.

Michael Walsh: The Consequences of No Consequences

Michael Walsh has penned a piece at the National Review Online noting the connecting between declining birthrates and the Leftist demand for free contraceptives. (H/t Instapundit). He writes:
On the one hand — as NRO’s resident demography bore has been tirelessly pointing out — the Western world is facing an unparalleled demographic crisis brought on by a feminist-inspired modern twist on Lysistrata (showering sex but withholding children), while at the same time, the West’s vaunted “safety net” is collapsing because the system has been turned upside-down and a bevy of great-grandparents now coos over a single child.

Surely, this is the ultimate expression of the suicide cult that is the modern Left, a subset of libertine takers that so loathes itself that it will dragoon the makers into underwriting the chalices of tasty hemlock it’s so eager for everybody to quaff in order to put itself out of its misery. If, as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody, it feels good, do it! Alas, it does hurt somebody — it hurts society, by robbing it of its future and burdening those lucky kids who make it through the contraceptive/abortifacient gauntlet with an unpayable debt to the very people who tried to get rid of them.

And for what? So that somebody might not be “punished” by a baby as a consequence of his or her personal behavior?

Self-centered Baby Boomer liberalism emerged from the “sexual revolution” of the sixties, and for the past half century Boomers have been trying to escape the consequences of no consequences, which now threaten the underpinnings of the Left’s beloved, bankrupting welfare state. And yet, at the same time, women of child-bearing age demand that somebody — insurance companies, Washington, the pope in Rome — pay for universal contraceptive and abortion services in the name of “women’s health.”

If this is not the definition of a suicide cult — one driven by the leftist insistence that sexual license be, well, licensed by the state, non-judgmentally and consequence-free — it’s hard to know what is. The Shakers had nothing on these people; at least they made furniture. But it’s what comes from treating pregnancy as a preventable disease, and viewing people as carbon-based pollutants instead of beings created in the image and likeness of God.
 I've written before on the "birth dearth"--see here.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Live Real Time Satellite Tracking

Website here. Also has satellite news.

New Type of Aircraft Propulsion

Came across this interesting article about an aircraft displayed at last year's Paris air show employing a new method of propulsion:
The D-Dalus vehicle uses four contra-rotating turbines for propulsion, each reaching 2,200 rpm. Each turbine blade has a variable angle of attack, which according to the designer allows the main thrust to be fired in any direction, around any axis. This allows the craft to launch vertically, hover, rotate in any direction and even thrust upwards, holding itself down.

The designer, Austrian Innovative Aeronautical Technology (IAT21), maintains a sparse website that says the craft has several patented inventions, including "a friction-free bearing at the points of high G force, and a system that keeps propulsion in dynamic equilibrium, thereby allowing the guidance system to quickly restore stability in flight."

IAT21 has been working on a prototype for three years and has recently completed initial testing using a 120-bhp KTM engine to drive the turbines, according to Gizmag. The company completed tests transitioning from vertical to forward flight in a laboratory near Salzburg, Austria.

The current model has 5-foot-long turbines and can lift a payload of about 150 pounds. IAT21 is working with Cranfield University in the U.K. on a larger, more powerful motor, a new hull shape and advanced guidance and control systems, Gizmag said.

It's designed to work as a drone for sea- and land-based uses, like search and rescue, disaster monitoring and surveillance, the company said. Eventually, larger models could be used for passenger flight.

Counting Christian Noses

An article at the American Interest on the number of Christians in the world:
The world population has, of course, expanded enormously between the two dates. Thus the proportion of Christians in the world population has remained stable at about 33%. But the absolute number of Christians has increased very greatly, from about 600 million to about 2.8 billion. Christianity is by far the largest religion in today’s world. Muslims come second, at about 25% of the world population. Among Christians, about 50% are Catholic, about 37% Protestant. [These last figures should be taken with a grain of salt: Catholics tend to include as adherents all who were baptized as Catholics—even if, particularly in Latin America, many may now be noisily enthusiastic (mainly Pentecostal) Protestants. In the other camp, many Protestants (again especially Pentecostal ones) belong to informal groups meeting in private homes, storefronts, garages—and are thus hard to count. Therefore, the above total of Protestants is probably an underestimate. General advice: When counting Christian noses, have a good supply of salt at hand.]

If the size of world Christianity today is amazing, the distribution is even more so. There has been a massive shift in the geography of the religion. In 1910 two thirds of Christians lived in Europe. In 2010 26% lived in Europe, 37% in the Americas, 24% in Africa, 13% in Asia and the Pacific region. But this still does not give the full picture. The figure for “the Americas” is ambiguous, since it includes both North and Latin America. According to the Atlas of Global Christianity (2009—it, by the way, was co-edited by Todd Johnson), in 2010 there were about 283 million Christians in North America (United States and Canada), about 549 million in Latin America. The basic fact: About 1.3 billion Christians, 61% of the total number, live in the Global South. [This is without figuring in the fact that a considerable number of Christians in North America, Catholics as well as Protestants, are Latinos.] The most dramatic shift has occurred in Africa: Christians were 9% of the population in 1910, 63% in 2010. [This figure lumps together mainly Muslim northern Africa and mainly Christian sub-Saharan Africa. The percentage of Christians in the latter would be much higher: Sub-Saharan Africa is basically Christian territory.] Example: Nigeria now has twice as many Protestants than Germany, the homeland of the Reformation. Example: Brazil has twice as many Catholics than Italy, where the Vatican sits as it tries to make sense of the religious landscape. [It is hardly surprising that Pope Benedict XVI regards the “evangelization of Europe” as a top priority. Some African priests might be helpful for this project.]

Further Boko Haram Attacks in Nigeria

The attack by the sect known as Boko Haram happened overnight in Tundun Wada in Kano state, a city about 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the capital city of Kano. There, gunmen attacked a police headquarters, the home of a senior police officer and set fire to a nearby bank, Brig. Gen. Iliyasu Abba told journalists during a briefing Wednesday.

The gunmen stole police uniforms, Kalashnikov rifles, bulletproof vests and ammunition before leaving for a road back to Kano, Abba said. There, military forces who received a distress call from the town attacked them, killing nine suspected sect members, he said.

Soldiers arrested two suspected sect members, who the military paraded before journalists Wednesday.

Tuesday night, officials said gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on a local gathering spot in Kano, killing two people and wounding others.

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the Hausa language of Nigeria's Muslim north, is blamed for more than 360 killings this year alone, according to an AP count.
Based on their "shopping list," they are planning attacks while masquerading as police.

Human "Invasion" Wiped Out Australia's Giant Herbivores

Humans landed on the shores of Australia more than 45,000 years ago. The land they encountered was full of huge plant-eating animals, such as the 6,000-pound rhinoceros wombat and giant kangaroo. Sadly, things would soon change.

Soon after humans settled on Australia, some 55 giant animal species vanished from Australia, with various theories, from climate change to human hunting, put forth to explain the extinction.

Now, researchers have discovered that the arrival of these humans was likely the driver of intense changes to the region, which led to the annihilation of Australia's giant herbivores and drastic changes to the habitat that turned a patchy, shrub-filled landscape into a fire-prone grassy eucalyptus forest.
Bad aborigines!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Nuclear Space Rockets

How to get to Mars? There is growing evidence that extended stays in weightless conditions can cause serious health problems. The answer, in part, would be to employ a high impulse propulsion system that could get astronauts there more quickly. Thus, it was with interest that I read the following article on the history of nuclear rockets.
The case for nuclear propulsion is based on its high “specific impulse,” which roughly equates to a rocket’s miles per gallon rating. A nuclear plant that can get a spacecraft to Mars is much lighter than a chemically-propelled one. In one common setup, hydrogen propellant is passed through a uranium nuclear reactor, it would turn the hydrogen to plasma and vent out of the nozzle, providing thrust with relatively low weight, according to David S. Portree’s history, “Humans to Mars: Fifty Years of Mission Planning, 1950-2000.”
The article mentions that there had been some limited testing, but that the biggest concern with testing was safety. However, that didn't stop all testing:
An account in Annie Jacobsen’s “Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base,” paints an even wilder picture. On Jan. 12, 1965, Jacobsen writes, a Kiwi reactor at Los Alamos was allowed to overheat as a kind of practice drill for a nuclear accident , and eventually burst. A radioactive cloud floated west toward Los Angeles and then out to sea, according to Jacobsen’s book. The Russians argued it violated the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. NASA’s official history confirms the test. Jacobsen asked Finger about the test in 2010. “I don’t recall the exact test,” he replied.
It is also notable that the military also experimented with nuclear powered aircraft in the 1960s. (See also here).

Although testing in these programs supposedly stopped in the 1960s, there is a "UFO" encounter in 1980 that, if true, is highly suggestive of an operational test of a  nuclear rocket or aircraft--perhaps experiencing mechanical difficulties.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Police Corner French Shooting Suspect (Updated)

MSNBC is reporting that police have cornered the suspect behind the recent shooting of a rabbi and students at a Jewish school in France, and a separate shooting of French soldiers. Unsurprisingly, given his targets, the suspect is, or at least, claims to be, an Islamic terrorist.
A suspect wanted in connection with the killing three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school wounded three police officers in a shootout at a house in Toulouse, France, early Wednesday. He was identified as 24-year-old Mohammed Merah.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant said the man, who was under siege by hundreds of police officers in an ongoing standoff, claimed to be a member of al-Qaida and that he had shot dead the four out of "revenge for Palestinian children." He is also suspected by authorities of having killed three French soldiers of North African origin last week.
Update: Fox News is reporting that the suspect was preparing for another attack on French soldiers when the French police attempted the raid. Also, police are preparing to storm the building where the suspect is holed up.

Update: Live "blogging" by the Telegraph. Also, the suspect appears to have been arrested by the U.S. military in Afghanistan, where he was fighting with the Taliban, and sent home to France. Another victory for winning their hearts and minds.

Update: Fox News is reporting that the suspect was killed when police forced their way into his residence.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

China May be Prepping Its Carrier for Flight Operations

Photos posted to the Internet in China last week seem to confirm that the Chinese Navy has installed arrestor gear and other vital equipment on its refurbished Soviet-made aircraft carrier, the ex-Varyag. If genuine, the installations could represent a big step forward for the first-ever seaborne, fixed-wing aviation capability for the People's Liberation Army Navy.
The article notes that there are a lot of other aircraft handling equipment, including aircraft control hardware, that would need to be installed; and it would be years to train crews and pilots to launch and recover aircraft. Nevertheless, it is clear that China is pursuing its goal of a blue sea navy.

More on the Flow of Military Weapons to Mexico's Cartels

About a month ago, I posted about how the vast majority of U.S. weapons winding up in the hands of the drug cartels actually originated with sales of military weapons. This has been a long-known fact conveniently ignored by the media. However, Reuters recently published an article on this very topic, stating:
Under the direct commercial sales program, foreign governments can submit an application to the DDTC. When approved, they are free to purchase weapons made by private U.S. manufacturers.

In 2009 alone, U.S. manufacturers sold 18,709 guns to the Mexican military, reports CBS News. About 26% of those guns were "diverted" into the wrong hands.

This is because an estimated 150,000 Mexican soldiers have defected and now work for cartels. They take their military-issued guns with them.
The real question, of course, is why bother with Fast and Furious and similar operations that focused on the inconsequential number of firearms being obtained through straw purchases? Probably to "brainwash" people against firearms.

7.6 Earthquake Near Acapulco, Mexico

Report from MSNBC.

To Attack or Not to Attack...That is the Question

The U.S. and Israel have very different answers to a key issue: how Iran would respond to an attack on its nuclear facilities. Jeffrey Goldberg states that Israeli leaders seem positive that an attack by Israel on Iran's nuclear weapons facilities would not spark a regional war, but that Iran would mute its response to avoid a conflict with the U.S., or perhaps even cover up the attack just as Syria covered up a successful attack on a nuclear facility several years ago. He writes:
One conclusion key officials have reached is that a strike on six or eight Iranian facilities will not lead, as is generally assumed, to all-out war. This argument holds that the Iranians might choose to cover up an attack, in the manner of the Syrian government when its nuclear facility was destroyed by the Israeli air force in 2007. An Israeli strike wouldn’t focus on densely populated cities, so the Iranian government might be able to control, to some degree, the flow of information about it.

Some Israeli officials believe that Iran’s leaders might choose to play down the insult of a raid and launch a handful of rockets at Tel Aviv as an angry gesture, rather than declare all-out war. I’m not endorsing this view, but I was struck by its optimism. (A war game held by the U.S. military this month came to the opposite conclusion, according to the New York Times: A strike would likely lead to a wider war that could include the U.S.)

Another theory making the rounds was that Obama has so deeply internalized the argument that Israel has the sovereign right to defend itself against a threat to its existence that an Israeli attack, even one launched against U.S. wishes, wouldn’t anger him. In this scenario, Obama would move immediately to help buttress Israel’s defenses against an Iranian counterstrike.

Some Israeli security officials also believe that Iran won’t target American ships or installations in the Middle East in retaliation for a strike, as many American officials fear, because the leadership in Tehran understands that American retaliation for an Iranian attack could be so severe as to threaten the regime itself.
As Goldberg notes, however, the U.S. military has wargamed this scenario and believes that an attack by Israel will cause a regional war.
But the game has raised fears among top American planners that it may be impossible to preclude American involvement in any escalating confrontation with Iran, the officials said. In the debate among policy makers over the consequences of any Israeli attack, that reaction may give stronger voice to those in the White House, Pentagon and intelligence community who have warned that a strike could prove perilous for the United States.

The results of the war game were particularly troubling to Gen. James N. Mattis, who commands all American forces in the Middle East, Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia, according to officials who either participated in the Central Command exercise or who were briefed on the results and spoke on condition of anonymity because of its classified nature. When the exercise had concluded earlier this month, according to the officials, General Mattis told aides that an Israeli first strike would be likely to have dire consequences across the region and for United States forces there.
The two-week war game, called Internal Look, played out a narrative in which the United States found it was pulled into the conflict after Iranian missiles struck a Navy warship in the Persian Gulf, killing about 200 Americans, according to officials with knowledge of the exercise. The United States then retaliated by carrying out its own strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities.

Monday, March 19, 2012

An Oil Rich Nation

The oil scarcity myth:
  • At least 86 billion barrels of oil in the Outer Continental Shelf yet to be discovered
  • About 24 billion barrels in shale deposits in the lower 48 states, according to EIA.
  • Up to 2 billion barrels of oil in shale deposits in Alaska’s North Slope
  • Up to 12 billion barrels in ANWR, according to the USGS.
  • As much as 19 billion barrels in the Utah tar sands
  • A stunning 1.4 trillion barrels of oil shale the massive Green River Formation in Wyoming

Green Failure -- Wind Farms

An article at the Daily Mail that is critical of Britain's decision to subsidize wind farms, and uses the failure of wind generators in the United States as an example.
‘The key lesson from history is that when the subsidies go, the wind farms go,’ he told me. ‘It costs too much to maintain them and they just get abandoned.’

How ironic that the British government is pushing through permissions for thousands of new turbines just as the Americans are going cool on the idea.

The latest figures show U.S. investment in wind energy plunged 38 per cent last year. Experts say there are simply too many turbines out there and not enough people buying the electricity.

Republicans in Congress want to cut wind energy’s 20-year-old subsidy at the end of the year.

Why, they ask, should the debt-laden country be giving wind energy companies a 30 per cent tax credit, costing taxpayers nearly $3 billion a year, when wind accounts for only 2.3 per cent of America’s electricity and 8 per cent of its pollution-free electricity?

Wind energy companies claim the move will ‘kill 37,000 jobs, shut plants and cancel billions of dollars in private investment’.

They don’t mention more abandoned windmills, but it hardly seems impossible.

Nicolas Loris, an energy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, told me it just goes to prove ‘you can build anything if you subsidise it enough’.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

New Experiments Show Neutrinos Not FTL

New experiments in timing neutrino transmissions seem to confirm that the earlier OPERA measurements were mistaken.
The scientists use the same short pulsed beam from September’s experiment to conduct the ICARUS experiment. CERN’s press release states that the new measurement “is at odds with the initial measurement reported by OPERA last September.”

“The evidence is beginning to point towards the OPERA result being an artefact of the measurement,” said CERN Research Director Sergio Bertolucci, in a press release, adding that “it’s important to be rigorous, and the Gran Sasso experiments, BOREXINO, ICARUS, LVD and OPERA will be making new measurements with pulsed beams from CERN in May to give us the final verdict.”
The article also mentions recent advancements in using neutrinos for communication:
Even if neutrinos are not able to travel faster than the speed of light, the subatomic particles harbor other interesting abilities. A recent experiment by researchers at the University of Rochester and North Carolina State University found that neutrinos can communicate messages through solid materials.

The scientists beamed neutrinos through approximately 780 feet of stone, spelling out the word “neutrinos” on the other side. The research team believes that neutrino communication technology could have numerous uses in the not-so-distant future.

Neutrinos are nearly massless and they have a neutral electric charge. This means that neutrinos are not subject to magnetic attractions and are not significantly impacted by gravity, which allows them to move through solids and liquids without being impeded.

While neutrinos may not be able to move faster than the speed of light, their construction certainly has significant implications for the future of space and underwater communications.

The Impact of an Nuclear Terror Attack on Washington D.C.

An article at the Daily Mail about the impact and aftermath if a small nuclear device were detonated in Washington D.C. based from a government study. A copy of the study can be found here.

"The Ally From Hell"

"The Ally From Hell" is a must-read article at the Atlantic. Here is the gist:
Much of the world, of course, is anxious about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and for good reason: Pakistan is an unstable and violent country located at the epicenter of global jihadism, and it has been the foremost supplier of nuclear technology to such rogue states as Iran and North Korea. It is perfectly sensible to believe that Pakistan might not be the safest place on Earth to warehouse 100 or more nuclear weapons. These weapons are stored on bases and in facilities spread across the country (possibly including one within several miles of Abbottabad, a city that, in addition to having hosted Osama bin Laden, is home to many partisans of the jihadist group Harakat-ul-Mujahideen). Western leaders have stated that a paramount goal of their counterterrorism efforts is to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of jihadists.

“The single biggest threat to U.S. security, both short-term, medium-term, and long-term, would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon,” President Obama said last year at an international nuclear-security meeting in Washington. Al-Qaeda, Obama said, is “trying to secure a nuclear weapon—a weapon of mass destruction that they have no compunction at using.”

Pakistan would be an obvious place for a jihadist organization to seek a nuclear weapon or fissile material: it is the only Muslim-majority state, out of the 50 or so in the world, to have successfully developed nuclear weapons; its central government is of limited competence and has serious trouble projecting its authority into many corners of its territory (on occasion it has difficulty maintaining order even in the country’s largest city, Karachi); Pakistan’s military and security services are infiltrated by an unknown number of jihadist sympathizers; and many jihadist organizations are headquartered there already.

* * *

Nuclear-weapons components are sometimes moved by helicopter and sometimes moved over roads. And instead of moving nuclear material in armored, well-defended convoys, the SPD prefers to move material by subterfuge, in civilian-style vehicles without noticeable defenses, in the regular flow of traffic. According to both Pakistani and American sources, vans with a modest security profile are sometimes the preferred conveyance. And according to a senior U.S. intelligence official, the Pakistanis have begun using this low-security method to transfer not merely the “de-mated” component nuclear parts but “mated” nuclear weapons. Western nuclear experts have feared that Pakistan is building small, “tactical” nuclear weapons for quick deployment on the battlefield. In fact, not only is Pakistan building these devices, it is also now moving them over roads.

What this means, in essence, is this: In a country that is home to the harshest variants of Muslim fundamentalism, and to the headquarters of the organizations that espouse these extremist ideologies, including al-Qaeda, the Haqqani network, and Lashkar-e-Taiba (which conducted the devastating terror attacks on Mumbai three years ago that killed nearly 200 civilians), nuclear bombs capable of destroying entire cities are transported in delivery vans on congested and dangerous roads. And Pakistani and American sources say that since the raid on Abbottabad, the Pakistanis have provoked anxiety inside the Pentagon by increasing the pace of these movements. In other words, the Pakistani government is willing to make its nuclear weapons more vulnerable to theft by jihadists simply to hide them from the United States, the country that funds much of its military budget.
The article details how the Pakistani government has been infiltrated by jihadists and conspired in attacks against American and NATO troops and installations. Essentially, we are giving Pakistan money which they spend on killing Americans.

The country is politically unstable, as well, which brings up the issue of what happens to all those nuclear weapons if there is a coup or a collapse of the government.
But Pakistanis are correct to believe that the U.S. government—because it does not trust Pakistan, because it knows that the civilian leadership is weak, and because it does not have a complete intelligence picture—is worried that the SPD could fail in its mission, and that fissile material or a nuclear weapon could go missing. Pakistanis are also correct to believe that the Pentagon—concerned that Pakistan, beset by ethnic division, corruption, and dire levels of terrorism, could one day come apart completely—has developed a set of highly detailed plans to grapple with nuclear insecurity in Pakistan. “It’s safe to assume that planning for the worst-case scenario regarding Pakistan nukes has already taken place inside the U.S. government,” Roger Cressey, a former deputy director of counterterrorism under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, told NBC News in August. “This issue remains one of the highest priorities of the U.S. intelligence community … and the White House.” From time to time, American officials have hinted publicly that there are concrete plans in place in the event of a Pakistani nuclear emergency. For instance, during Senate hearings for her confirmation as secretary of state in 2005, Condoleezza Rice, who was then President Bush’s national-security adviser, was asked by Senator John Kerry what would happen to Pakistan’s nukes in the event of an Islamic coup in Islamabad. “We have noted this problem, and we are prepared to try to deal with it,” Rice said. Those preparations have been extensive. According to military and intelligence sources, any response to a Pakistani nuclear crisis would involve something along the following lines: If a single weapon or a small amount of nuclear material were to go missing, the response would be small and contained—Abbottabad redux, although with a higher potential for U.S. casualties. The United States Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) maintains rotating deployments of specially trained units in the region, most of them Navy SEALs and Army explosive-ordnance-disposal specialists, who are trained to deal with nuclear weapons that have fallen into the wrong hands. Their area of operation includes the former Soviet states, where there is a large amount of loose fissile material, and, of course, Pakistan. JSOC “has units and aircraft and parachutes on alert in the region for nuclear issues, and regularly inserts units and equipment for prep,” says a military official who was involved in supporting these technicians. Seizing or remotely disabling a weapon of mass destruction is what’s known in military jargon as a “render-safe mission”—and render-safe missions have evidently been successfully pulled off by JSOC in the past.
. . . This “disablement campaign,” as one former senior Special Operations planner calls it, would be the most taxing, most dangerous of any special mission that JSOC could find itself tasked with—orders of magnitude more difficult and expansive than Abbottabad. The scale of such an operation would be too large for U.S. Special Operations components alone, so an across-the-board disablement campaign would be led by U.S. Central Command—the area command that is responsible for the Middle East and Central Asia, and runs operations in Afghanistan and Iraq—and U.S. Pacific Command.

JSOC would take the lead, however, accompanied by civilian experts, and has been training for such an operation for years. JSOC forces are trained to breach the inner perimeters of nuclear installations, and then to find, secure, evacuate—or, if that’s not possible, to “render safe”—any live weapons. At the Nevada National Security Site, northwest of Las Vegas, Delta Force and SEAL Team Six squadrons practice “Deep Underground Shelter” penetrations, using extremely sensitive radiological detection devices that can pick up trace amounts of nuclear material and help Special Operations locate the precise spot where the fissile material is stored. JSOC has also built mock Pashtun villages, complete with hidden mock nuclear-storage depots, at a training facility on the East Coast, so SEALs and Delta Force operatives can practice there. At the same time American military and intelligence forces have been training in the U.S for such a disablement campaign, they have also been quietly pre-positioning the necessary equipment in the region.
The article discusses other concerns, such as threats by Pakistan to ally itself with China, or a war with India that could go nuclear. Read the whole thing.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Military Covering Up Murders of U.S. Troops by Afghani Troops

Michael Yon reports:
Info just coming out that a 22-year-old Marine was murdered on 01 Feb, about 6 weeks ago, in another insider attack. The military covered it up as if it were combat operations. Lance Cpl. Edward J. Dycus of Greenville, Mississippi was shot in the back of the head by an Afghan soldier. Our people immediately turned over the murderer to the Afghans.
(H/t Instapundit). Mr. Yon wonders how many more incidents like this have been covered up by the military. I wonder if this will be raised as an issue at the trial of the yet-unidentified suspect of the 16 Afghan civilians.

"Complex Societies Need Simple Laws"

We have 160,000 pages of rules from the feds alone. States and localities have probably doubled that. We have so many rules that legal specialists can’t keep up. Criminal lawyers call the rules “incomprehensible.” They are. They are also “uncountable.” Congress has created so many criminal offenses that the American Bar Association says it would be futile to even attempt to estimate the total.

So what do the politicians and bureaucrats of the permanent government do? They pass more rules.

That’s not good. It paralyzes life.

Politicians sometimes say they understand the problem. They promise to “simplify.” But they rarely do. Mostly, they come up with new rules. It’s just natural. It’s how the public measures politicians. Schoolchildren on Washington tours ask, “What laws did you pass?” If they don’t pass new laws, the media whine about the “do-nothing Congress.”

This is also not good.

When so much is illegal, common sense dies. Out of fear of breaking rules, people stop innovating, trying, helping.
I would also note that as the number of laws and regulations increase, it increases uncertainty because there are rules, exceptions to the rules, and exceptions to the exceptions. The laws are so complex that the people that help write the regulations then turn around and sell their services as consultants to explain how the regulations work. (The ADA is a prime example of this).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Role of Bacteria in Precipitation


I recently read an article on the role of bacteria in precipitation--that is, causing ice crystals to form in clouds, producing snow and/or rain. I can't find the article I read, but I found a couple others.

First, this article from Wired in 2008.

And this article from the BBC last year. It explains:
Now, Alexander Michaud of Montana State University has added to the idea, having collected hailstones on the university campus following a major hailstorm in 2010.

He analysed the hailstones' multi-layer structure, finding that while their outer layers had relatively few bacteria, the cores contained high concentrations.

"You have a high concentration of 'culturable' bacteria in the centres, on the order of thousands per millilitre of meltwater," he told the meeting.

The bacteria are known to gather together in "biofilms" on the plant surfaces and can form bacteria-rich aerosols in forest canopies - aerosols that can rise on updraughts, eventually stimulating precipitation in clouds at temperatures far higher than would be required if soot or dust served as the nucleation sites.

Dr Christner, also present at the meeting, said the result was another in favour of the bio-precipitation idea - that the bacteria's rise into clouds, stimulation of precipitation, and return to ground level may have evolved as a dispersal mechanism.

"It's an interesting idea that's been thrown around for decades but only recently has the data accumulated to support it," he told the meeting.

"As a microbiologist, this idea that... an organism could piggy-back on the water cycle I find just intriguing.

"We know that biology influences climate in some way, but directly in such a way as this is not only fascinating but also very important."

And, finally, an article from a Discovery Magazine blog, also from last year.

Bait and Switch--CBO Reports That Obamacare will Cost Twice as Much

The CBO is now estimating that Obamacare will cost twice its original projection--$1.73 Trillion through 2022, twice the original estimate of $900 Billion (and this does not include all the costs of implementation). Sen. Jeff Sessions also contends that the bill will ensure fewer people, and implements higher taxes than promised. (Full story here).

This shouldn't really be surprising since, according to the Democratic leadership, we needed to pass the bill to find out what was in it.

Of course, the liberal media has a different spin on the subject, saying that the current estimate is less than a prior estimate (which still doesn't explain why its twice as much as the original estimate), and then explaining that it is difficult to get an accurate estimate because the costs are a moving target.
The CBO explained in its report that “the addition of 2022 to the projection period has the effect of increasing the costs of the coverage provisions of the ACA relative to those projected in March 2011 for the 2012–2021 period because that change adds a year in which the expansion of eligibility for Medicaid and subsidies for health insurance purchased through the exchanges will be in effect.”

Two core provisions of the law do not take effect until 2014: expanded Medicare eligibility for the poor and the insurance subsidies for middle-income people. And the tax on high-cost so-called “Cadillac” health insurance plans does not start until 2018.
In other words, as the CBO has to start calculating various mandates and provisions that don't take effect until further down the road, the costs keep going up. The funny part of the MSNBC article is that it never explains why the changing estimates is an issue--that is, it doesn't talk about the fact that Obamacare will cost twice as much as originally promised.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Red Deer People--New Species of Hominid?

Four Stone Age people found in caves in China could be a entirely new species of humanoid - and the discovery 'opens a new chapter' in the history of evolution, say archaeologists.

The fossils, found in two caves, belong to a previously unknown Stone Age people and have a 'highly unusual' mixture of ancient and modern features.

Named the 'Red Deer people' because of the animals they hunted and dating from between 14,500 to 11,500 years ago, they are the youngest humanoid fossils to be found in Asia.

* * *

The 'Red Deer' discovery has ‘startling implications for the early peopling of Asia’, said Professor Curnoe, of the University of New South Wales.

They would have shared the land with modern looking humans at a time when China's earliest farming culture was beginning, he said.

Writing in journal PLoS One, Prof Curnoe explained: ‘These new fossils might be of a previously unknown species, one that survived until the very end of the Ice Age around 11,000 years ago.

He said: ‘The discovery of the red-deer people opens the next chapter in the human evolutionary story - the Asian chapter - and it's a story that's just beginning to be told.’

‘Alternatively, they might represent a very early and previously unknown migration of modern humans out of Africa, a population who may not have contributed genetically to living people.’

Three sets of remains were found at Maludong - Red Deer Cave' - in the Yunnan province in 1989. They were unstudied until 2008.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mysterious Foam Causing Hog Farms to Explode

Seriously!
Scientists are baffled by an expanding foam that is growing on manure pits and causing entire hog farms to explode.

Six farms have blown up since 2009 - killing thousands of animals - after methane trapped inside the unidentified foam caught a spark.

And there's no stopping it: the foam has now started growing on one in four farms across the Midwest.
(Full story here).

Self-Selecting for Extinction

Evolving over millions of years in synergy with our biology, family values informed the creation of all other human institutions, despite claims from some bombasts that it happened the other way around or others who insist that family no longer matters. Any theory of government that doesn’t take into account truths discovered over countless millennia can expect a rough go of it.

While gender roles have certainly changed over time, and will continue to change in response to circumstances, the unique investment women make when they chose to bring a new life into the world, as well as the prolonged dependency of children as they mature into adulthood, are inescapable truths.

Despite and even because of the burdens imposed by motherhood, fatherhood evolved in symmetry. Hence, the intimate, lasting, and for the most part monogamous pair-bonds that form between a man and a woman make sex not just another form of recreation, but nature’s precious gift worthy of celebration, respect, and reinforcement by cultural institutions.

That is, if we want to survive as a species. If we think that humans are just another form of pollution, then there is no reason not to haul down the flag of procreation and party until the last person turns off the lights. Which seems to be the game plan for some.

* * *

Admittedly, comparing radical feminists to Shakers is a stretch. While both tendentiously preach equality of the sexes as the primary virtue, the Shakers approached their ideal through celibacy and fruitful labor while radical feminists seem to revel in public displays of outrage whenever the media gives them occasion to sally forth from their academic sinecures. I suppose this means that aside from the nightly news archives, radical feminists will only leave behind a legacy of endowed chairs rather than the kind that go around your dining room table.
Read the whole thing.

Catholic Church Rolls Over

I had previously posted about a Catholic priest that had refused to offer communion to a lesbian. Rather than standing up for the morals and commandments that it supposedly teaches, the Catholic Church has suspended the priest. From the Huffington Post:
Rev. Marcel Guarnizo, the priest who denied a lesbian woman communion at her mother's funeral, has been withdrawn and placed on administrative leave.

Father Marcel Guarnizo, who until recently served at Gaithersburg's Saint John Neumann Catholic Church outside of Washington D.C., was reported to have covered the bowl containing the Eucharist as Barbara Johnson, who is a lesbian, approached him at her mother's funeral.

The priest is reported to have told her: “I cannot give you communion because you live with a woman and that is a sin according to the church."

The widely reported incident created a public outcry and Ms. Johnson received an apology from the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.
The Archdiocese is claiming that the suspension is for other reasons, however. Yeah, right. It was only a coincidence that he was placed on administrative leave after the issue made headlines, and the Archdiocese apologized for a decision (the denial of communion) that is supposedly at the discretion of the priest.

NYPD Under Reporting Crime Statistics

Confirmation that the New York Police Department has made it a practice to under report crime statistics, while encouraging arrests for trivial matters. Full story here.

Does Obama Have A Secret Plan to Deal with a Debt Crises?

Yes, according to James Pethokoukis at the Enterprise Blog. (H/t Instapundit). In May 2009, the White House asked Peter Orszag, who now works for Citigroup, to draft a memorandum laying out the government's options in the event of runaway deficits leading to increasing interest rates. Although the contents of the memo are not known, Pethokoukis notes that Orszag believes that Americans are undertaxed, and supports repealing all Bush-era tax cuts, as well as a national values-added tax (VAT). So, he concludes, the plan is likely a massive increase in taxes.

Classified FBI Documents Contradict Public FBI Statements Concerning 9/11 Hijackers

The issue is whether the 9/11 hijackers had assistance while in the U.S. The FBI publicly has said "no," but former Senator Bob Graham, who once headed the Senate Intelligence Committee, says that he was shown two FBI documents that indicated otherwise, showing a connection between the hijackers and a Saudi national, Abdulaziz al-Hijji, who lived in Sarasota, Florida, just prior to the attacks. The information from those FBI documents are supported by recently release Florida law enforcement records showing visits by some of the hijackers to al-Hijji's Sarasota home. Full story here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

British Report Finds that Stable Marriages Benefit Children

Wow. Thousands of years of human experience proven right again. From the Telegraph:
Marriage is particularly good for children, the paper says. The Government is “concerned” by the long-term trend away from marriage, it says.

Mr Duncan Smith will say the strategy marks a change in the approach to marriage. Successive governments have done too little to promote stable families, he will say.

Mr Duncan Smith has had a long personal interest in family issues but the main paper he will publish today constitutes a government commitment to promote marriage.

The command paper quotes evidence showing that “children tend to enjoy better life outcomes when the same two parents give them support and protection”.

Children who have experienced the breakdown of their parents’ relationship are “more likely to have poor cognitive development and education and employment outcomes than those who have lived with both birth parents”. “Outcomes” are better for children when parents stay together, the paper says.

Israel and Cyprus Ink Deals Over Gas Reserves

From Fox News:
At issue is the recent discovery of huge untapped natural gas fields in the Levant Basin, the section of the eastern Mediterranean Sea that abuts Israel to the East, and Cyprus to the North.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that this underwater area holds 123 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. In simpler terms: That's equal to 20 billion barrels of oil, more than twenty times what the United States maintains in its Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Through "exclusive economic zones" finalized under prevailing laws of the sea, Israel and Cyprus have laid internationally recognized claims to these fields, which analysts suggest could be worth $130 billion to the Israeli economy.

This is why in February, Benjamin Netanyahu became the first Israeli prime minister ever to visit Cyprus, and why the two nations have inked a number of unprecedented pacts with each other.

Led by Texas-based Noble Energy, the Israelis have already identified two gas fields south of Cyprus, code-named "Leviathan" and "Tamar," that offer a combined 24 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas. Talks are underway between Jerusalem and Nicosia to build underwater pipelines, refineries, air bases, and other critical infrastructure to facilitate -- and protect -- these ventures.

If successful, they could serve not only to make the Jewish state energy-independent but allow it to become an energy exporter.

This, in turn, would give Jerusalem increased clout over energy-hungry states like India and China.

The latter, in particular, has repeatedly voted on the U.N. Security Council to protect Iran; but Beijing may be persuaded to abandon that stance if Israel becomes a significant supplier of Chinese gas imports.

Turkey, which has historically clashed with Cyprus and has feuded with Jerusalem in recent years, has deployed warships to protect what it sees as its interests in the underwater gas fields; and Lebanon, backed by the terrorist group Hezbollah, has warned that the U.S. and Israel will not be permitted to "plunder" natural resources that Beirut, too, claims as its own.

Finally, both Iran and Russia – which has surged over the last decade to become the world's leading exporter of natural gas – have also taken note of the potential geopolitical shifts that these gas discoveries could bring about. It is, in short, a situation rife with both economic promise and the potential for military peril.

China Posts Largest Trade Deficit in a Decade

China's trade balance plunged $31.5 billion into the red in February as imports swamped exports to leave the largest deficit in at least a decade and fuel doubts about the extent to which frail foreign demand or seasonal distortion drove the drop.

Import growth of 39.6 percent on the year in February was the strongest in a year, well ahead of the 27 percent expected and more than twice the rate of export growth of 18.4 percent that was barely more than half the pace forecast -- albeit at a six month high.

* * *

Exports in January fell 0.5 percent from a year earlier, the worst showing since November 2009, while imports in January tumbled 15.3 percent, raising concerns that domestic demand may be weaker than previously thought -- even allowing for Lunar New Year factory shutdowns.

China's quarterly economic growth is widely forecast by analysts to slow to just over 8 percent in the first quarter from 8.9 percent in the previous quarter, marking the fifth consecutive quarter of slowdown and likely to put the economy on track for its slowest full year of growth in at least a decade.

Still, that slowdown is on course to be a soft landing, with a clutch of indicators on Friday easing investor fears of a sharp deterioration and revealing ample room for Beijing to loosen policy further to support growth.
Also, check out this article from the Economist on increasing factory wages in China.
China is the world’s largest manufacturing power. Its output of televisions, smartphones, steel pipes and other things you can drop on your foot surpassed America’s in 2010. China now accounts for a fifth of global manufacturing. Its factories have made so much, so cheaply that they have curbed inflation in many of its trading partners. But the era of cheap China may be drawing to a close.

Costs are soaring, starting in the coastal provinces where factories have historically clustered (see map). Increases in land prices, environmental and safety regulations and taxes all play a part. The biggest factor, though, is labour.

On March 5th Standard Chartered, an investment bank, released a survey of over 200 Hong Kong-based manufacturers operating in the Pearl River Delta. It found that wages have already risen by 10% this year. Foxconn, a Taiwanese contract manufacturer that makes Apple’s iPads (and much more besides) in Shenzhen, put up salaries by 16-25% last month.
Although the latter article takes a positive spin on the matter--suggesting that automation and increased efficiency and productivity will compensate for wage increases--China may be on a slippery slope economically. Its economic power has been based on cheap labor and externalizing manufacturing costs (pollution and safety) in the production of low-margin goods. (And currency manipulation, but that is another issue). We should expect that as its labor pool continues to decline, and competition for labor increases, wages will continue to increase, which will erode China's competitive advantage. We should also expect that as the Chinese, overall, experience greater prosperity, they will begin to pursue quality of life issues, including wanting clean water and clean air. As those external costs are internalized, manufacturing costs will continue to rise, further eroding China's competitive advantage.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Making Hay from a Tragedy

Afghan president Hamid Karzai once again demonstrates why we should just leave him high and dry. Following the tragic shooting of civilians by a U.S. soldier,"Afghan president Hamid Karzai condemned the attacks as 'an assassination' and furiously demanded an explanation from the U.S." This comes from the same man that, to my knowledge, has never offered any apologies or explanations for why his troops and police have "assassinated" American troops.

HELLADS Laser Defense System

A short article on the HELLADS laser defense system. (H/t Instapundit).
DARPA is unveiling a portable laser weapons system, HELLADS, which seems like something out of a sci-fi movie. The new laser application, created by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems with a custom power system from Saft Batteries, will help change the way the American military fights future wars. Current military laser systems are bulky contraptions which are mainly the size of a passenger jet, while the proposed DARPA weapon can fit on the back of a flatbed truck. The 150-kilowatt, solid state laser weapon is strong enough to take down drones or other aerial targets; a prototype is expected to be available by the end of 2012.