October 9th, 2010


Life on Titan?

Victoria Jaggard in Pasadena, California
National Geographic News
Published October 8, 2010

The chemical "letters" used to write the basic code for life on Earth might exist on Saturn's largest moon, according to new research presented Thursday.

The findings suggest the building blocks of life on Earth may have originated in the air, not only in primordial "soup" on land.

Based on lab experiments, scientists concluded it's possible the thick atmospheric haze on Titan contains the five so-called nucleotide bases used in DNA and RNA, as well as some simple amino acids—the building blocks of proteins. (See a quick guide to DNA.)

That's not to say Titan is any more likely to host birds, fish, or even microbes like those on Earth, emphasized study co-author Sarah Hörst, a graduate student at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

"If there's life on Titan, it probably—for a lot of different reasons—would not use the molecules that life on Earth uses," she told National Geographic News. For starters, Titan is much colder—an average of -290 degrees Fahrenheit (-180 degrees Celsius).
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Were gentle, plant-eating giants also scavengers and opportunists?

Brian Handwerk
National Geographic News
Published October 6, 2010

Fossils of an intriguing new species with a powerful hand may reveal an edgier side of some supposedly peaceful, plant-munching dinosaurs, a new study says.
The discovery of Sarahsaurus aurifontanalis, which roamed North America about 190 million years ago, also boosts the idea that at least some dinosaurs became masters of their domain less by dominance than by opportunistic behavior and a bit of good luck.
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Chinese activist wins Nobel Prize; no one in China gets to know about it.

Nobel Peace Prize Given to Jailed Chinese Dissident
Published: October 8, 2010

BEIJING — Liu Xiaobo, an impassioned literary critic, political essayist and democracy advocate repeatedly jailed by the Chinese government for his activism, has won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of “his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”

Mr. Liu, 54, perhaps China’s best known dissident, is serving an 11-year term on subversion charges, in a cell 300 miles from Beijing, and remains unknown to most Chinese.

He is one of three people to have received the prize while incarcerated by their own governments, after the Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 1991, and the German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky in 1935.

By awarding the prize to Mr. Liu, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has provided an unmistakable rebuke to Beijing’s authoritarian leaders at a time of growing intolerance for domestic dissent and a spreading unease internationally over the muscular diplomacy that has accompanied China’s economic rise.

In a move that in retrospect appears to have been counterproductive, a senior Chinese official had warned the Norwegian committee’s secretary that giving the prize to Mr. Liu would adversely affect relations between the two countries.

The committee, in announcing the prize Friday, noted that China, the world’s second biggest economy, should be commended for lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.

But it chastised the government for ignoring basic rights guaranteed by the Chinese Constitution and in the international conventions to which Beijing is a party. “In practice, these freedoms have proved to be distinctly curtailed for China’s citizens,” committee members said, adding, “China’s new status must entail increased responsibility.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry reacted angrily to the news, calling it a “desecration” of the peace prize and saying it would harm Norwegian-Chinese relations. The Chinese government summoned Norway’s ambassador to protest the award, a spokesman for the Norwegian Foreign Ministry told reporters.

“The Nobel Committee giving the peace prize to such a person runs completely contrary to the aims of the prize,” Ma Zhaoxu, a spokesman said in a statement posted on the ministry’s Web site. “Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who has been sentenced by Chinese judicial departments for violating Chinese law.”

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I thoroughly applaud this award, and I am not surprised by the media blackout that's happened in China; disturbingly large numbers of people there don't even know what "Tiananmen Square" refers to besides, well, the square. But while it seems quite clear that Liu Xiaobo and his supporters have fought for true democracy and human freedoms in China rather than for right-wing pro-capitalist views, I am concerned about how the international community, especially the US, will interpret this choice by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. China desperately needs reform, but because it's run under an extremely nominal Maoist/Communist doctrine, it's proven a favorite punching bag of reactionaries who can point to it and say, "See? Socialism doesn't work/it's evil/I oppose it for HUMAN RIGHTS reasons." Meanwhile those same people then ignore egregious human rights violations in other nations, even their home countries, and they also tend to harbor racist views about the Chinese people(s) in general. China is not a socialist state and never was, and if Liu Xiaobo is held aloft as A Good Asian or some bullshit, I'll be pretty furious.

In any case, Obama became US President and got this prize, Liu got thrown into prison and got this prize. Anyone else concerned about what may happen to this latest winner, or his wife, given what's been reported so far? Or would the government there not fuck around THAT much?

Beyond Pink: Lesbians and Breast Cancer by Dana Rudolph

It is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month once again. Lesbians have just as much reason to be concerned about breast cancer as other women -- and there are some indications that lesbians may be more likely to have certain risk factors for the disease.

Now, I have a love-hate relationship with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. On the one hand, breast cancer is a horrible disease, and anything that can be done to raise awareness or funds to help prevent or cure it is a good thing. But as Barbara Ehrenreich said in her 2001 essay, "Welcome to Cancerland," there are good reasons to be skeptical of products marketed for breast cancer awareness. "I can't help noticing that the existential space in which a friend has earnestly advised me to 'confront [my] mortality' bears a striking resemblance to the mall," she wrote. The breast-cancer "marketplace" is full of "ultrafeminine" and even "infantilizing" products, she noted -- pink teddy bears and the like -- whereas "Men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not receive gifts of Matchbox cars."


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Calvin & Hobbes: Hug
  • calybe

Macaque abducts, bites and drops baby from roof D: D: D:

Young mother Revathy and her husband V. Neru at the hospital. Inset: A medical officer taking the baby's body to the Tuanku Ja'afar Hospital mortuary.

SEREMBAN: In mere minutes, a young woman turned from a happy mother to a grieving one when she lost her four-day-old baby to a wild monkey that was shot dead several hours later.

In the 1.15pm tragedy yesterday, the macaque stole into the living room; snatched the child and fled up the roof of the house. The baby fell to the ground and died.

The mother, V. Revathy, 26, had left her first-born child in the living room of the single-storey house near Taman Happy Garden to use the toilet. The baby’s body was discovered later outside the house with her face and neck badly bitten. She was rushed to the Tuanku Ja’afar Hospital here where she was pronounced dead.

Revathi’s father-in-law A. Valayutham, 70, was in the living room with the newborn but had gone to get a glass of water when the tragedy occurred.

“We frantically searched all over the house and saw her body covered in blood lying outside the house,” he said.

Valayutham added that he had noticed a few monkeys outside the house compound at that time.

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Source: The Star

Update: They believe that the killer Macaque may still be alive.

More Americans Die of Poverty than Terrorism by Jon Stepanian

It's obscene that our country is spending hundreds of billions of dollars on the military when so many of our neighbors are suffering from poverty, hunger and the inability to meet their basic needs. Can we really justify this in the name of "National Security"? I don't think we're very secure at all when one in seven Americans lives below the poverty line.

The reality is that many more Americans die of poverty than terrorism. According to the U.S. State Department, 56 American civilians died due to terrorism worldwide in 2005. That same year, 472 lives were cut short due to homelessness in Los Angeles County alone.


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Do you agree or disagree that our military spending is out of control and/or hurting more Americans then it is helping?
Killjoy Spin
  • arisma

Why is This GOP House Candidate Dressed as a Nazi?

An election year already notable for its menagerie of extreme and unusual candidates can add another one: Rich Iott, the Republican nominee for Congress from Ohio's 9th District, and a Tea Party favorite, who for years donned a German Waffen SS uniform and participated in Nazi re-enactments.


Rich Iott, second from right, in a Nazi SS Waffen uniform.

Iott, whose district lies in Northwest Ohio, was involved with a group that calls itself Wiking, whose members are devoted to re-enacting the exploits of an actual Nazi division, the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking, which fought mainly on the Eastern Front during World War II. Iott's participation in the Wiking group is not mentioned on his campaign's website, and his name and photographs were removed from the Wiking website.

When contacted by The Atlantic, Iott confirmed his involvement with the group over a number of years, but said his interest in Nazi Germany was historical and he does not subscribe to the tenets of Nazism. "No, absolutely not," he said. "In fact, there's a disclaimer on the [Wiking] website. And you'll find that on almost any reenactment website. It's purely historical interest in World War II."


Rich Iott and his wife, as shown on his campaign website.

Iott, a member of the Ohio Military Reserve, added, "I've always been fascinated by the fact that here was a relatively small country that from a strictly military point of view accomplished incredible things. I mean, they took over most of Europe and Russia, and it really took the combined effort of the free world to defeat them. From a purely historical military point of view, that's incredible."

Iott says the group chose the Wiking division in part because it fought on the Eastern Front, mainly against the Russian Army, and not U.S. or British soldiers. The group's website includes a lengthy history of the Wiking unit, a recruitment video, and footage of goose-stepping German soldiers marching in the Warsaw victory parade after Poland fell in 1939. The website makes scant mention of the atrocities committed by the Waffen SS, and includes only a glancing reference to the "twisted" nature of Nazism. Instead, it emphasizes how the Wiking unit fought Bolshevist Communism:
Nazi Germany had no problem in recruiting the multitudes of volunteers willing to lay down their lives to ensure a "New and Free Europe", free of the threat of Communism. National Socialism was seen by many in Holland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and other eastern European and Balkan countries as the protector of personal freedom and their very way of life, despite the true underlying totalitarian (and quite twisted, in most cases) nature of the movement. Regardless, thousands upon thousands of valiant men died defending their respective countries in the name of a better tomorrow. We salute these idealists; no matter how unsavory the Nazi government was, the front-line soldiers of the Waffen-SS (in particular the foreign volunteers) gave their lives for their loved ones and a basic desire to be free.
Historians of Nazi Germany vehemently dispute this characterization. "These guys don't know their history," said Charles W. Sydnor, Jr., a retired history professor and author of "Soldiers of Destruction: The SS Death's Head Division, 1933-45," which chronicles an SS division. "They have a sanitized, romanticized view of what occurred." Sydnor added that re-enactments like the Wiking group's are illegal in Germany and Austria. "If you were to put on an SS uniform in Germany today, you'd be arrested."

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Christopher Browning, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said, "It is so unhistorical and so apologetic that you don't know to what degree they've simply caught up innocent war memorabilia enthusiasts who love putting on uniforms."

Iott says he does not recall exactly when he joined the Wiking group (his name appears on a unit roster as far back as 2003), but did so with his son "as a father-son bonding thing." He says his name and pictures were removed from the Wiking website not out of concern that they would harm his political career, but because he quit the group three years ago, after his son lost interest.

Iott participated in the group under his own name, and also under the alias "Reinhard Pferdmann," which has also been removed, and which Iott described as being his German alter ego. "Part of the reenactor's [experience]," Iott said, "is the living-history part, of really trying to get into the persona of the time period. In many, not just in our unit, but in many units what individuals do is create this person largely based on a Germanized version of their name, and a history kind of based around your own real experiences. 'Reinhard' of course is 'Richard' in German. And 'Pferdmann,' 'pferd' is a horse. So it's literally 'horse man.'"

Asked whether his participation in a Nazi re-enactor's group might not upset voters, particularly Jewish voters, Iott said he hoped it would not: "They have to take it in context. There's reenactors out there who do everything. You couldn't do Civil War re-enacting if somebody didn't play the role of the Confederates. [This] is something that's definitely way in the past. ... [I hope voters] take it in context and see it for what it is, an interest in World War II history. And that's strictly all."

Rabbi Moshe Saks, of the Congregation B'nai Israel in Sylvania, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo that sits in the 9th district, disagreed. "Any kind of reenactment or glorification of Nazi Germany, to us, would be something unacceptable and certainly in poor taste, if not offensive," he said. "I think the reaction here will be very negative. And not just among the Jewish community, but the broader community."

In a follow-up email today, Iott seemed at pains to address concerns that his conduct may have alienated veterans groups but made no specific mention of possible offense to Jews or human rights groups: "Never, in any of my reenacting of military history, have I meant any disrespect to anyone who served in our military or anyone who has been affected by the tragedy of war. In fact, I have immense respect for veterans who served our country valiantly, and my respect of the military and our veterans is one of the reasons I have actively studied military history throughout my life." He added that he has participated in re-enactments as a Civil War Union infantryman, a World War I dough boy and World War II American infantryman and paratrooper.

The actual Wiking unit has a history as grisly as that of other Nazi divisions. In her book "The Death Marches of Hungarian Jews Through Austria in the Spring of 1945," Eleonore Lappin, the noted Austrian historian, writes that soldiers from the Wiking division were involved in the killing of Hungarian Jews in March and April 1945, before surrendering to American forces in Austria.

"What you often hear is that the [Wiking] division was never formally accused of anything, but that's kind of a dodge," says Prof. Rob Citino, of the Military History Center at the University of North Texas, who examined the Wiking website. "The entire German war effort in the East was a racial crusade to rid the world of 'subhumans,' Slavs were going to be enslaved in numbers of tens of millions. And of course the multimillion Jewish population of Eastern Europe was going to be exterminated altogether. That's what all these folks were doing in the East. It sends a shiver up my spine to think that people want to dress up and play SS on the weekend."

[ other ] lite brite

Hatian Farmers Commit to Burning Monsanto Hybrid Seeds


Submitted by Other Worlds on Mon, 05/17/2010 - 11:00

    Jonas Deronzil from Verrettes has been farming since 1974. Like small producers
    throughout Haiti,
his meager income from corn, rice, and beans is threatened by
                                             new competition from Monsanto. Photo: Beverly Bell.

By Beverly Bell

“A new earthquake” is what peasant farmer leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) called the news that Monsanto will be donating 60,000 seed sacks (475 tons) of hybrid corn seeds and vegetable seeds, some of them treated with highly toxic pesticides. The MPP has committed to burning Monsanto’s seeds, and has called for a march to protest the corporation’s presence in Haiti on June 4, for World Environment Day.

In an open letter sent of May 14, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the Executive Director of MPP and the spokesperson for the National Peasant Movement of the Congress of Papay (MPNKP), called the entry of Monsanto seeds into Haiti “a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds…, and on what is left our environment in Haiti.”[1] Haitian social movements have been vocal in their opposition to agribusiness imports of seeds and food, which undermines local production with local seed stocks. They have expressed special concern about the import of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
For now, without a law regulating the use of GMOs in Haiti, the Ministry of Agriculture rejected Monsanto’s offer of Roundup Ready GMO seeds. In an email exchange, a Monsanto representative assured the Ministry of Agriculture that the seeds being donated are not GMO.
Elizabeth Vancil, Monsanto’s Director of Development Initiatives, called the news that the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture approved the donation “a fabulous Easter gift” in an April email.[2]  Monsanto is known for aggressively pushing seeds, especially GMO seeds, in both the global North and South, including through highly restrictive technology agreements with farmers who are not always made fully aware of what they are signing. According to interviews by this writer with representatives of Mexican small farmer organizations, they then find themselves forced to buy Monsanto seeds each year, under conditions they find onerous and at costs they sometimes cannot afford.
The hybrid corn seeds Monsanto has donated to Haiti are treated with the fungicide Maxim XO, and the calypso tomato seeds are treated with thiram.[3]  Thiram belongs to a highly toxic class of chemicals called ethylene bisdithiocarbamates (EBDCs). Results of tests of EBDCs on mice and rats caused concern to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which then ordered a special review. The EPA determined that EBDC-treated plants are so dangerous to agricultural workers that they must wear special protective clothing when handling them. Pesticides containing thiram must contain a special warning label, the EPA ruled. The EPA also barred marketing of the chemicals for many home garden products, because it assumes that most gardeners do not have adequately protective clothing.[4]  Monsanto’s passing mention of thiram to Ministry of Agriculture officials in an email contained no explanation of the dangers, nor any offer of special clothing or training for those who will be farming with the toxic seeds.
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Burning the hybrid seeds may seem counterproductive given the dire situation, but planting those seeds, and buying the fertilizer and the pesticides and the protective gear and having to buy new seeds every season...they're better off rejecting the hybrid seeds in favor of help that will actually help the cause of food sovereignty.

P.S. A "monsanto" tag would be helpful if there's room.
[ONTD_P] Mod Post Icon

Rally to Restore Sanity ~Planning Post~

I need a new Mod Post image :(

(1) Check the map to see who is in your area. [People should just add CITIES to the map, NOT specific addresses.]
- I lied, it won't let others edit the map, Write a comment with your city and I will add it to the map -

(2) Make sure they aren't a creeper.

(3) Carpool!

Use this post to find others who are going and arrange a meetup (The Starbucks on 1301 Penn Ave isn't a bad place) or just to make new friends