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Global Warming Threatens U.S. Security, Ex-Generals Report April 15, 2007

Posted by Dan in Environment, Main, Must Read, Politics, Science.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Global warming poses a “serious threat to America’s national security” and the U.S. likely will be dragged into fights over water and other shortages, top retired military leaders warn in a new report.

The report says that in the next 30 to 40 years there will be wars over water, increased hunger instability from worsening disease and rising sea levels and global warming-induced refugees. “The chaos that results can be an incubator of civil strife, genocide and the growth of terrorism,” the 35-page report predicts.

“Climate change exacerbates already unstable situations,” former U.S. Army chief of staff Gordon Sullivan told Associated Press Radio. “Everybody needs to start paying attention to what’s going on. I don’t think this is a particularly hard sell in the Pentagon. … We’re paying attention to what those security implications are.”

Gen. Anthony “Tony” Zinni, President Bush’s former Middle East envoy, says in the report: “It’s not hard to make the connection between climate change and instability, or climate change and terrorism.”

The report was issued by the Alexandria, Virginia-based, national security think-tank The CNA Corporation and was written by six retired admirals and five retired generals. They warn of a future of rampant disease, water shortages and flooding that will make already dicey areas — such as the Middle East, Asia and Africa — even worse.

“Weakened and failing governments, with an already thin margin for survival, foster the conditions for internal conflicts, extremism and movement toward increased authoritarianism and radical ideologies,” the report says. “The U.S. will be drawn more frequently into these situations.”

Joining calls already made by scientists and environmental activists, the retired U.S. military leaders call on the U.S. government to make major cuts in emissions of gases that cause global warming.

The Bush administration has declined mandatory emission cuts in favor of voluntary methods. Other nations have committed to required reductions that kick in within a few years.

“We will pay for this one way or another,” writes Zinni, former commander of U.S. Central Command. “We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll.”

Top climate scientists said the report makes sense and increased national security risk is a legitimate global warming side-effect.

The report is “pretty impressive,” but may be too alarmist because it may take longer than 30 years for some of these things to happen, said Stanford scientist Terry Root, a co-author of this month’s international scientific report on the effects of global warming on life on Earth.

But the instability will happen sometime, Root agreed.

“We’re going to have a war over water,” Root said. “There’s just not going to be enough water around for us to have for us to need to live with and to provide for the natural environment.”

University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver said the military officers were smart to highlight the issue of refugees who flee unstable areas because of global warming.

“There will be tens of millions of people migrating, where are we going to put them?” Weaver said.

Weaver said that over the past years, scientists, who by nature are cautious, have been attacked by conservative activists when warning about climate change. This shows that it’s not a liberal-conservative issue, Weaver said.

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Tomb of Jesus Found? February 27, 2007

Posted by Dan in Middle East, Must Read, Religion, Science, Video.

The truth is indisputable, 2000 year old tombs bearing the names of Jesus and his family have been found, and at least so far, are proving to be authentic. Scholars calculate the odds of this “family” being found together, and not being that of Jesus, to be around 600 to 1…. still within the realm of ‘random chance’ possibility. So ultimately, nothing is proven that can be interpreted as anything other than an article of faith.

Still, should the tomb prove to be genuinely that of the Biblical Jesus and his family, the fact that one of the other tombs bears the name of Jesus’ son would cast major doubt upon the accuracy of large portions of Biblical text. Such an error at the very heart of Christianity could potentially invalidate the entire religion in one fell swoop. If the New Testament is wrong about such a critical fact of Jesus’ progeny, and in actuality, claims the opposite to be true, then every other statement made within its text should be doubted; if not as historically accurate, than certainly not as the literal word of God (how could God make so many mistakes?)

It is through this chain of logic that the discovery gains so much meaning. But will Christians every truly accept that their most esteemed religious text could be flawed… and fatally so? Those who believe the literal truth of the Bible have managed to ignore things like Archeology, Astronomy, Biology, and Sociology in favor of things like Astrology and Alchemy (Don’t believe me? Read your Bible). So who are we to think that the addition of History into the mix would have any bearing on the minds of a true “believer”?

UPDATE: You can “explore the tomb” and the documentary at Discovery’s website.

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Why I Like Barack Obama… February 10, 2007

Posted by Dan in Must Read, News, Politics, Science.
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I like Barack Obama, and I’m not afraid to say so. Why? Because he and I agree on one very crucial truth… partisan politics is tearing America apart. I see it again and again, when Congress repeatedly votes along party lines on some of the most profound issues before our country since universal suffrage and the abolishment of slavery.

Stem cell research will fundamentally change the way we look at healthcare. Millions of people who would otherwise die waiting for organ transplants, will instead be presented with a customized organ that their body will not reject, providing them the opportunity for a long, healthy life instead of a slow, agonizing death. The replacement organ is necessarily grown from the patients own stem cells (not someone’s baby). In fact, many of the recipients of such organs would be children! Normally, when a child is given a transplanted organ, it fails within about a year or two, and must be replaced again. This is because as the child grows, the organ does not. However, customized organs grown from the individual’s own stem cells would provide a “one-stop” replacement for the rest of the child’s long and happy life. And yet, when Congress is presented with this scientific problem with the possibility of saving so many lives at so little cost, they fall back to their party platforms, usually devised to appease those with no real knowledge of the issue. And so, millions of Americans, including children, die each year because the truth of stem cells is clouded in partisan gas.

But, the problem is not isolated to medical research. Everything from the government’s stance on minimum wage to healthcare, social security and highway construction, environmental protection and corporate rights, are decided by high ranking party officials, many of whom hold no elected office, and filtered down to the voting members through some ill-gotten sense of indentureship, a feeling that politicians describe as “owing something” to the party that put them in office. This is a far cry from a republic, and even further away from democracy, where leaders make decisions in the best interest of the people.

Notice I didn’t say “right” or “wrong” decisions, only those “in the best interest of the people.” Such decisions are derived at through rational debate and discourse, centering around facts, evidence, and expert testimony, taking into account both the needs of the many and the rights of the few. This is how our Justice system is set up to operate… why not our Legislative as well? Why is it considered common practice for a Congressmen to deliberately conceal facts contrary to their personal beliefs, while a similar action in a Court of Law would force a mistrial? We seem to be implying that truth has less of a place in Congress than opinion, the end result of which is the ultimate downfall of our country as one bad decision mounts atop another, and another, and another, until finally we can’t get out from under the corruption that will have become our convoluted political system. Currently, we seem to be on the fast track towards that end.

So… why do I like Barack Obama? He understands what I’m talking about. He knows that our country, democracy, the republic and freedom are far to valuable to abandon willingly in the face of meaningless power squabbling. Our country must be about more, or soon we will become less, and the greatness that is America will devolve into nothing more than a historical footnote of how not to run a government.

Obama’s announcement to form an exploratory committee puts this into his words:

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Web 2.0 in Five Minutes – Video February 8, 2007

Posted by Dan in Main, Science, Snipets, Technology, Video.
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This video is amazing. Its both a description and a demonstration of how the Internet is changing the way we interact as a species.

“The machine is Us/ing Us” is deeply profound conclusion, and one in which I find no fault. We both drive the forces behind the Internet and are driven by them. We share a common language that transcends all borders, even those of reality: Binary. This video is really just the tip of an iceberg so large it stretches all the way to our core. Within the next 10 years, humanity will undergo a transition unlike anything we have been through before. As barriers between communication are broken down, we will find that the only way for us to exist is as a united species.

More on that next time….

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Why Are Astronauts Dating Each Other? February 7, 2007

Posted by Dan in Main, News, Science, Space.
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Astronaut Lisa Nowak attempted to murder a colleague, Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman, when it was discovered that another astronaut, Navy Commander Bill Oefelein, was having relationships with both women. As a result, NASA has agreed to revamp its psychological screening process. But, the question that many are asking is, why were astronauts allowed to date each other in the first place?

The answer actually has more to do with the speed of light, than any corporate convention. Science currently believes the speed at which light travels, 299,792,458 meters per second or 670,616,629 miles per hour. Yet, even at that extreme speed, the Universe is so large that a journey outside of our solar system to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, would still take 4 and half years. At more realistic speeds, the trip could take hundreds. The problem because obvious… either we need to keep people alive for hundreds of years, or entire generations will live out their lives traveling between the stars. In response, NASA has gently been encouraging its astronauts to develop relationships between one another, to study that aspect of human interaction in space.

While NASA is reassessing its psych screening procedures for astronauts, perhaps they should also address the conduct between them. On the other hand, I believe NASA has just learned a very valuable lesson about relationships in space: They’re exactly like relationships on Earth.

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Humans ‘Very Likely’ Cause of Global Warming, Report Warns February 2, 2007

Posted by Dan in Main, Must Read, News, Politics, Science, Technology.
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NY Times Reporter Andrew C. Revkin brings some great insight:

PARIS, France (AP) — The world’s leading climate scientists, in their most powerful language ever used on the issue, said global warming is “very likely” man-made, according to a new report obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

The report provides what may be cold comfort in slightly reduced projections on rising temperatures and sea levels by the year 2100. But it is tempered by a flat pronouncement that global warming is essentially a runaway train that cannot be stopped for centuries.

“The observed widespread warming of the atmosphere and ocean, together with ice-mass loss, support the conclusion that it is extremely unlikely that global climate change of the past 50 years can be explained without external forcing, and very likely that is not due to known natural causes alone,” said the 20-page report.

Human-caused warming and rises in sea-level “would continue for centuries” because the process has already started, “even if greenhouse gas concentrations were to be stabilized,” said the 20-page report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The report by a group of hundreds of scientists and representatives of 113 governments contains the most authoritative science on the issue. It was due for official release later Friday morning in Paris.

The phrase “very likely” translates to a more than 90 percent certainty that global warming is caused by man.

What that means in layman’s language is “we have this nailed,” said top U.S. climate scientist Jerry Mahlman, who originated the percentage system.

It marked an escalation from the panel’s last report in 2001, which said warming was “likely” caused by human activity. There had been speculation that the participants might try to up the ante to “virtually certain” man causes global warming, which translates to 99 percent chance.

On sea levels, the report projects rises of 7-23 inches by the end of the century. That could be augmented by an additional 4-8 inches if recent surprising polar ice sheet melt continues.

The 2001 report projected a sea level rise of up to 35 inches.

Many scientists had warned that this was being too cautious and said sea level rise could be closer to 3 to 5 feet because of ice sheet melt.

But despite losing on that battle, scientists said the report is strong.

“There’s no question that the powerful language is intimately linked to the more powerful science,” said one of the study’s many co-authors, Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria, who spoke by phone from Canada. He said the report was based on science that is rock-solid, peer-reviewed, conservative and consensus.

“It’s very conservative. Scientists by their nature are skeptics.”

The scientists wrote the report, based on years of peer-reviewed research; government officials edited it with an eye toward the required unanimous approval by world governments.

In the end, there was little debate on the strength of the wording about human activity most likely to blame.

“That is a big move. I hope it is a powerful statement,” said Jan Pretel, head of the department of climate change at the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute.

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Subternet – An Insider’s Guide to the Web’s Secret Underbelly February 1, 2007

Posted by Dan in Main, Must Read, Science, Technology.
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Recently, one of my readers mentioned the possibility of a kind of “black market” internet. Its a place where freedom of information and anonymity run hand in hand… a secret web called the “Subternet.”

If you’ve ever heard the term “terrorist chatter,” then you’ve got all the proof you need that a secret international program dubbed Project ECHELON is monitoring global electronic communications. This is far from conspiracy theory, however, as this is a fairly well documented system for a covert project. In fact, it is estimated that the National Security Agency (NSA), located in Ft. Meade, Maryland (just down the road from where I grew up) captures enough digital information to fill the Library of Congress every hour! Even with today’s highest speed supercomputers, that is a massive amount of information to crunch. Hence the term terrorist chatter: The system is able to monitor the quantity of terror related communications, but not necessarily the contents of those messages.

What does this mean for you? Well, suppose you were curious about how Nuclear Weapons are constructed… you might visit a website like this one, detailing the design of several kinds of nuclear bombs. RED FLAG. You have probably accidentally alerted internet monitoring systems in place to scan for terrorist activity. Not to worry though, as I said before, the system is most likely not capable of investigating every single curious web hit, and barring an extended history of online communications with the Middle East, you’re probably fine. But…. computers are getting faster.

In the near future, ECHELON’s successor will do an in depth check into all suspicious communications activity, meaning your web traffic, cell calls, and even credit card purchases will all be monitored, cross-referenced and recorded, within the next decade. Some of you might be wondering how something like this even possible? “The Internet is a global system. I know my employer can watch what I do online, but if I’m not browsing the web from within the NSA, then how do they know which pages I’m visiting?” The answer lies in the foundation of the Internet.

If you’ve been browsing for any period of time, you’ve probably run into the term DNS or Domain Name System, but you might not know what it is. In a nutshell, the internet actually runs on numbers. When you type a website into your address bar (something like http://www.webmerica.org), you’re actually asking a computer to convert that text into an IP address (example. That IP address is what you’re really connecting to, almost like a phone number. Now here’s the catch… the main DNS computers, from which the rest of the world just duplicates, are owned and operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Every time you visit a website, you’re actually asking the USDOC to send you that site. Tying in to those communications would be child’s play for the National Security Agency.

So, how can you avoid this kind of an intrusion into your personal life? By staying one step ahead of current monitoring techniques. There are various programs that will route your web traffic through a “proxy.” In other words, as far as the outside world is concerned, your online activity is coming from that “proxy” server and not your own computer. However, I recommend the beta program known as The Onion Router (TOR). Originally developed with the US Naval Research Laboratory, a TOR network relays your internet communication amongst several random, encrypted servers, before finally reaching the website you requested. However, the program is still in its infancy, and I do not suggest it for serious internet anonymity (such as to avoid a hostile government which has placed restrictions on the web inside their own countries). The program is growing though, and I feel its the “one to watch” for the next couple of years. Right now, hiding your web activity from Government Anti-Terror programs is probably a little extreme. But in a couple of years, it may become necessity.

The Subternet:

Ever since the beginnings of the web, with 14.4 modems and AOL dial-up, there has been a “black market” to the Internet. However, what once was found only in WAREZ IRC chat rooms, private rationed ftp sites, and other innovative comm systems like KDX, Hotline, and Carracho, has progressed through Napster and on into BitTorrent. Although, unlike most forms of black market, when it comes to the internet, “free” is the key. Everything today is about the free distribution of information (copyrighted or not), and the collaborative effort to disseminate that information. With a program like BitTorrent, each person downloads specific portions of a file from a single host, which they then send to everyone else in the swarm who hasn’t received that portion yet, thereby distributing the required bandwidth between every downloader, and reducing the load upon the server.

In other words, the black market of the Internet has begun to move off of the web and onto our own computers (which then speak directly to one another). This is the foundation of Peer-to-Peer communications. Already, torrent tracker sites are requiring users to register, creating closed file-sharing systems mostly isolated from the Internet at large. This isolation will only greaten as it increases protection from Anti-copyright infringement agencies. As a result, the black market will move further away from the web at large. It is only a matter of time before private DNS servers will allow “Internets” that remain isolated from the web as a whole. These “Subternets” will have to be patrolled by governments seeking monitoring rights, and their monitoring will necessarily become “active” (compared to the “passive” monitoring systems we see today). It will mean the true birth of both the “web-cop” and the “underground network.”

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Ancient City Unearthed Beneath Stonehenge January 30, 2007

Posted by Dan in News, Science, Video.
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Today, the discovery of the largest ever found neolithic village underneath the monument of Stonehenge may yield invaluable clues as to who built the rock structure and for what purpose. It is believed that the structure may be an astronomical clock, capable of identifying the summer and winter solstices (the longest and shortest days of the year, respectively).

Mike Parker Pearson of the University of Sheffield describes the find:

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China Carries Out Space Weapons Test – First in 20 Years – Video January 20, 2007

Posted by Dan in Must Read, News, Politics, Science, Space, Technology, War.

The United States is demanding answers after Beijing reportedly carried out a weapons test in space last week. The weapon, however, was not “space based.” It is thought the Chinese used a ground-based, medium-range ballistic missile to destroy a defunct Feng yun 1C Polar Orbit weather satellite. If confirmed, the test represents the first known satellite intercept in more than 20 years.

The US, though officially opposed to placing weapons in space, has been reportedly researching such devices, particularly in the last several years. Space based weapons, or devices that orbit the Earth with the sole purpose of providing attack capability to their controllers, have generally been frowned upon by the global community.

You may remember Reagan’s Star Wars Missile Defense System, a planned space based weapons array capable of eliminating ballistic missiles in flight by heating them with lasers. Such “defensive” platforms, aimed at ground based weapons, have traditionally garnered modicums of support, while weapons designed to specifically target objects in space have largely been scorned.

However, I deeply hope that we are developing such weapons in secret. No one country should be allowed possession of such large scale destructive forces. Weapons aimed at eliminating satellites would provide our now or future enemies with the capabilities to cripple the world’s telecommunications systems, amongst others like GPS, Satellite TV, and even XM radio. The effects on the globe would be devastating and widespread.

Unfortunately, if the cold war has taught us anything, it is that the theory of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), whereby if you launch, I launch, has successfully kept the world from all out nuclear war, despite some very close calls. In other words, it may not be perfect, but it worked. Looking for further proof? Despite the some odd 20,000 nuclear weapons in the possession of both the United States and Russia, none has ever been used maliciously since the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki proved so completely horrific.

The bottom line is this: If other countries are developing new weapons capable of destruction on the global scale, we must follow suit.

CNN’s reports on the consequences of China’s Space Weapons:

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Don’t Buy Hybrid… Buy Pollution! January 19, 2007

Posted by Dan in Must Read, News, Science.
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I can’t put a number on the faces of people I know who think that, by driving a hybrid, they’re actually doing something to help the environment. The truth is, if you don’t factor in the additional manufacturing, usage of raw materials, or the premium you pay on top of pure gasoline models, you’re actually doing very little to stem the flow of pollution into the world around you.

What should you be doing with all that cash you spent on that bio-diesel conversion? Purchasing pollution! The most popular place is from the website TerraPass where you can enter in your car’s make and model and actually purchase from the “Pollution Market” an equivalent amount of CO2. But, you can buy as much as you want. They even have a section for purchasing pollution equivalent to your air-miles.

But, there is a catch. Right now, these purchasers are still relatively small compared to the massive corporations that usually buy pollution credits. So, the majority of your money wont actually go to buy up these credit. Some of it is paid in administrative costs, the expenses of running the business, but the majority actually goes towards investing in other “green” operations…. things like solar and wind power. In other words, your money isn’t exactly being wasted. And, one thing is for certain, those couple of thousand dollars you were going to spend on that Hybrid car will go much farther if donated towards a proper charity, or invested in ventures like TerraPass.

Here is Wikipedia’s entry for Pollution Market:

A Pollution Market is a method of partly internalizing the costs a negative externality (such as pollution) by setting up a government designated maximum amount of the specified activity and then auctioning or selling tradable permits to engage in some of the specified activity.

For example, in a fictional state, perhaps 100 units of industrial pollution will be permitted each year. 100 permits to pollute one unit each year will be sold/auctioned/lotteried to industries in the state. Each firm will compare the cost of buying more permits to pollute with the cost of making their factories pollute less. The firms that are easiest to reform for less pollution will do so, and sell their permits to the firms that have the greatest difficulty in achieiving low pollution. Firms which cannot reform the amount they pollute and are not productive enough to afford permits to pollute will go out of business, firms which develop pollution reduction technology will become more profitable. Only 100 units of pollution will be emitted during the year, with the least reduction of productivity overall.

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