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|What did he just say?
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will be given an opportunity to repeat it.
|Judge him by the company he keeps.
|Who is the bird in eyeliner anyhow?
|Sunday, December 22nd, 2013|
|NSA bribed Encryption Companies to Install Back Doors: Was the Law Broken? Did Obama Know?
(By Juan Cole)
Reuters gets the scoop: the National Security Agency gave internet security firm RSA some $10 million to use an NSA encryption formula in its BSafe software. RSA is now a subsidiary of the EMC corporation, and they have urged customers not to use BSafe since the revelations by Edward Snowden made clear that the NSA’s formula in fact allowed the agency access to all the information supposedly encrypted with it.
This story should be a huge scandal, but I fear it won’t be. This is like the FDA paying a pharmaceutical company to carry a drug that does not work and could therefore leave patients open to dying from an untreated illness after taking medication they are assured will cure it. If the NSA could exploit weaknesses in the encryption formula, so could hackers. The NSA subverted the will of millions of customers around the world who used RSA software precisely in a quest to be safe from the prying eyes of government officials and other peeping Toms.
Moreover, the $10 million has to be seen as a bribe (it was a third of that RSA’s income that year). Isn’t it illegal for government officials to bribe private companies? Isn’t it moreover illegal for intelligence officials to give out money like candy to a private company in order to spy on Americans on American soil?
I’d like to know what NSA official or officials were involved in this sting operation on the American people. I’d like to know if Barack Obama knew about it. I’d like to know if the corporate officials who accepted the “contract” with these strings attached knew they were screwing us all over.
This Reuters story makes sense of the allegation emerging from the Snowden leaks three months ago that the NSA had spent $250 million on keeping access to encrypted data by working with firms that provided encryption services. Presumably they have just been ensuring that no one’s encryption formula actually shields things from them.
Increasingly, firms and governments abroad would be crazy to buy encryption products from American companies. Likewise, getting cloud services from US corporations is a way to ensure that the US government can steal your trade secrets.
The NSA’s grasping ambition to abolish all human privacy has endangered $35 billion a year in business for US internet giants such as Apple, Google and Cisco Systems. Cisco’s China orders fell off by 18% after this summer’s revelations from the NSA documents.
German politician Hans-Peter Uhl, from the ruling conservative coalition of Chancellor Angela Merkel, has urged that Germany boycott American firms such as Cisco because their security is compromised. Under the so-called PATRIOT Act, government agencies can demand information from companies without a warrant via a National Security Letter. In addition, the NSA routine demands access to company servers, and can compel compliance without having to go to a judge. Not to mention that the NSA has just arrogantly exploited its deep pockets and profound expertise to find weaknesses in corporate encryption and so to insert itself into server-to-server information transfers, without the knowledge of the corporations.
The NSA practices go so far as to endanger the internet itself, since most people don’t want creepy G-Men peeping in on their privacy, and many may simply disengage from the internet to regain their privacy.
RT reported on the earlier revelations:
|Walt Whitman’s “Salut au Monde” (Poem of the Day)
(By Walt Whitman)
“Salut au Monde” [Greeting to the World: from Leaves of Grass, 1856]
O TAKE my hand, Walt Whitman!
Such gliding wonders! such sights and sounds!
Such join’d unended links, each hook’d to the next!
Each answering all—each sharing the earth with all.
What widens within you, Walt Whitman?
What waves and soils exuding?
What climes? what persons and lands are here?
Who are the infants? some playing, some slumbering?
Who are the girls? who are the married women?
Who are the groups of old men going slowly with their arms about each other’s necks?
What rivers are these? what forests and fruits are these?
What are the mountains call’d that rise so high in the mists?
What myriads of dwellings are they, fill’d with dwellers?
Within me latitude widens, longitude lengthens;
Asia, Africa, Europe, are to the east—America is provided for in the west;
Banding the bulge of the earth winds the hot equator,
Curiously north and south turn the axis-ends;
Within me is the longest day—the sun wheels in slanting rings—it does not set for months;
Stretch’d in due time within me the midnight sun just rises above the horizon, and sinks again;
Within me zones, seas, cataracts, plants, volcanoes, groups,
Malaysia, Polynesia, and the great West Indian islands.
What do you hear, Walt Whitman?
I hear the workman singing, and the farmer’s wife singing;
I hear the Coptic refrain, toward sundown, pensively falling on the breast of the black venerable vast mother, the Nile;
I hear in the distance the sounds of children, and of animals early in the day;
I hear quick rifle-cracks from the riflemen of East Tennessee and Kentucky, hunting on hills;
I hear emulous shouts of Australians, pursuing the wild horse;
I hear the Spanish dance, with castanets, in the chestnut shade, to the rebeck and guitar;
I hear continual echoes from the Thames;
I hear fierce French liberty songs;
I hear of the Italian boat-sculler the musical recitative of old poems;
I hear the Virginia plantation-chorus of negroes, of a harvest night, in the glare of pine-knots;
I hear the strong baritone of the ’long-shore-men of Mannahatta;
I hear the stevedores unlading the cargoes, and singing;
I hear the screams of the water-fowl of solitary north-west lakes;
I hear the rustling pattering of locusts, as they strike the grain and grass with the showers of their terrible clouds;
I hear the bugles of raft-tenders on the streams of Kanada;
I hear the chirp of the Mexican muleteer, and the bells of the mule;
I hear the Arab muezzin, calling from the top of the mosque;
I hear the Christian priests at the altars of their churches—I hear the responsive bass and soprano;
I hear the wail of utter despair of the white-hair’d Irish grandparents, when they learn the death of their grandson;
I hear the cry of the Cossack, and the sailor’s voice, putting to sea at Okotsk;
I hear the wheeze of the slave-coffle, as the slaves march on—as the husky gangs pass on by twos and threes, fasten’d together with wrist-chains and ankle-chains;
I hear the entreaties of women tied up for punishment—I hear the sibilant whisk of thongs through the air;
I hear the Hebrew reading his records and psalms;
I hear the rhythmic myths of the Greeks, and the strong legends of the Romans;
I hear the tale of the divine life and bloody death of the beautiful God—the Christ;
I hear the Hindoo teaching his favorite pupil the loves, wars, adages, transmitted safely to this day, from poets who wrote three thousand years ago. </p>
What do you see, Walt Whitman?
Who are they you salute, and that one after another salute you?
I see a great round wonder rolling through the air;
I see diminute farms, hamlets, ruins, grave-yards, jails, factories, palaces, hovels, huts of barbarians, tents of nomads, upon the surface;
I see the shaded part on one side, where the sleepers are sleeping—and the sun-lit part on the other side,
I see the curious silent change of the light and shade,
I see distant lands, as real and near to the inhabitants of them, as my land is to me.
I see plenteous waters;
I see mountain peaks—I see the sierras of Andes and Alleghanies, where they range;
I see plainly the Himalayas, Chian Shahs, Altays, Ghauts;
I see the giant pinnacles of Elbruz, Kazbek, Bazardjusi,
I see the Rocky Mountains, and the Peak of Winds;
I see the Styrian Alps, and the Karnac Alps;
I see the Pyrenees, Balks, Carpathians—and to the north the Dofrafields, and off at sea Mount Hecla;
I see Vesuvius and Etna—I see the Anahuacs;
I see the Mountains of the Moon, and the Snow Mountains, and the Red Mountains of Madagascar;
I see the Vermont hills, and the long string of Cordilleras;
I see the vast deserts of Western America;
I see the Lybian, Arabian, and Asiatic deserts;
I see huge dreadful Arctic and Antarctic icebergs;
I see the superior oceans and the inferior ones—the Atlantic and Pacific, the sea of Mexico, the Brazilian sea, and the sea of Peru,
The Japan waters, those of Hindostan, the China Sea, and the Gulf of Guinea,
The spread of the Baltic, Caspian, Bothnia, the British shores, and the Bay of Biscay,
The clear-sunn’d Mediterranean, and from one to another of its islands,
The inland fresh-tasted seas of North America,
The White Sea, and the sea around Greenland.
I behold the mariners of the world;
Some are in storms—some in the night, with the watch on the look-out;
Some drifting helplessly—some with contagious diseases.
I behold the sail and steamships of the world, some in clusters in port, some on their voyages;
Some double the Cape of Storms—some Cape Verde,—others Cape Guardafui, Bon, or Bajadore;
Others Dondra Head—others pass the Straits of Sunda—others Cape Lopatka—others Behring’s Straits;
Others Cape Horn—others sail the Gulf of Mexico, or along Cuba or Hayti—others Hudson’s Bay or Baffin’s Bay;
Others pass the Straits of Dover—others enter the Wash—others the Firth of Solway—others round Cape Clear—others the Land’s End;
Others traverse the Zuyder Zee, or the Scheld;
Others add to the exits and entrances at Sandy Hook;
Others to the comers and goers at Gibraltar, or the Dardanelles;
Others sternly push their way through the northern winter-packs;
Others descend or ascend the Obi or the Lena;
Others the Niger or the Congo—others the Indus, the Burampooter and Cambodia;
Others wait at the wharves of Manhattan, steam’d up, ready to start;
Wait, swift and swarthy, in the ports of Australia;
Wait at Liverpool, Glasgow, Dublin, Marseilles, Lisbon, Naples, Hamburg, Bremen, Bordeaux, the Hague, Copenhagen;
Wait at Valparaiso, Rio Janeiro, Panama;
Wait at their moorings at Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, New Orleans, Galveston, San Francisco.
I see the tracks of the rail-roads of the earth;
I see them welding State to State, city to city, through North America;
I see them in Great Britain, I see them in Europe;
I see them in Asia and in Africa.
I see the electric telegraphs of the earth;
I see the filaments of the news of the wars, deaths, losses, gains, passions, of my race.
I see the long river-stripes of the earth; 1
I see where the Mississippi flows—I see where the Columbia flows;
I see the Great River and the Falls of Niagara;
I see the Amazon and the Paraguay;
I see the four great rivers of China, the Amour, the Yellow River, the Yiang-tse, and the Pearl;
I see where the Seine flows, and where the Danube, the Loire, the Rhone, and the Guadalquiver flow;
I see the windings of the Volga, the Dnieper, the Oder;
I see the Tuscan going down the Arno, and the Venetian along the Po;
I see the Greek seaman sailing out of Egina bay.
I see the site of the old empire of Assyria, and that of Persia, and that of India;
I see the falling of the Ganges over the high rim of Saukara.
I see the place of the idea of the Deity incarnated by avatars in human forms;
I see the spots of the successions of priests on the earth—oracles, sacrificers, brahmins, sabians, lamas, monks, muftis, exhorters;
I see where druids walked the groves of Mona—I see the mistletoe and vervain;
I see the temples of the deaths of the bodies of Gods—I see the old signifiers.
I see Christ once more eating the bread of his last supper, in the midst of youths and old persons;
I see where the strong divine young man, the Hercules, toil’d faithfully and long, and then died;
I see the place of the innocent rich life and hapless fate of the beautiful nocturnal son, the full-limb’d Bacchus;
I see Kneph, blooming, drest in blue, with the crown of feathers on his head;
I see Hermes, unsuspected, dying, well-beloved, saying to the people, Do not weep for me,
This is not my true country, I have lived banish’d from my true country—I now go back there,
I return to the celestial sphere, where every one goes in his turn.
I see the battle-fields of the earth—grass grows upon them, and blossoms and corn;
I see the tracks of ancient and modern expeditions.
I see the nameless masonries, venerable messages of the unknown events, heroes, records of the earth.
I see the places of the sagas;
I see pine-trees and fir-trees torn by northern blasts;
I see granite boulders and cliffs—I see green meadows and lakes;
I see the burial-cairns of Scandinavian warriors;
I see them raised high with stones, by the marge of restless oceans, that the dead men’s spirits, when they wearied of their quiet graves, might rise up through the mounds, and gaze on the tossing billows, and be refresh’d by storms, immensity, liberty, action.
I see the steppes of Asia;
I see the tumuli of Mongolia—I see the tents of Kalmucks and Baskirs;
I see the nomadic tribes, with herds of oxen and cows;
I see the table-lands notch’d with ravines—I see the jungles and deserts;
I see the camel, the wild steed, the bustard, the fat-tail’d sheep, the antelope, and the burrowing wolf.
I see the high-lands of Abyssinia;
I see flocks of goats feeding, and see the fig-tree, tamarind, date,
And see fields of teff-wheat, and see the places of verdure and gold.
I see the Brazilian vaquero;
I see the Bolivian ascending Mount Sorata;
I see the Wacho crossing the plains—I see the incomparable rider of horses with his lasso on his arm;
I see over the pampas the pursuit of wild cattle for their hides.
I see little and large sea-dots, some inhabited, some uninhabited;
I see two boats with nets, lying off the shore of Paumanok, quite still;
I see ten fishermen waiting—they discover now a thick school of mossbonkers—they drop the join’d seine-ends in the water,
The boats separate—they diverge and row off, each on its rounding course to the beach, enclosing the mossbonkers;
The net is drawn in by a windlass by those who stop ashore,
Some of the fishermen lounge in their boats—others stand negligently ankle-deep in the water, pois’d on strong legs;
The boats are partly drawn up—the water slaps against them;
On the sand, in heaps and winrows, well out from the water, lie the green-back’d spotted mossbonkers.
I see the despondent red man in the west, lingering about the banks of Moingo, and about Lake Pepin;
He has heard the quail and beheld the honey-bee, and sadly prepared to depart.
I see the regions of snow and ice;
I see the sharp-eyed Samoiede and the Finn;
I see the seal-seeker in his boat, poising his lance;
I see the Siberian on his slight-built sledge, drawn by dogs;
I see the porpoise-hunters—I see the whale-crews of the South Pacific and the North Atlantic;
I see the cliffs, glaciers, torrents, valleys, of Switzerland—I mark the long winters, and the isolation.
I see the cities of the earth, and make myself at random a part of them;
I am a real Parisian;
I am a habitan of Vienna, St. Petersburg, Berlin, Constantinople;
I am of Adelaide, Sidney, Melbourne;
I am of London, Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh, Limerick;
I am of Madrid, Cadiz, Barcelona, Oporto, Lyons, Brussels, Berne, Frankfort, Stuttgart, Turin, Florence;
I belong in Moscow, Cracow, Warsaw—or northward in Christiania or Stockholm—or in Siberian Irkutsk—or in some street in Iceland;
I descend upon all those cities, and rise from them again.
I see vapors exhaling from unexplored countries;
I see the savage types, the bow and arrow, the poison’d splint, the fetish, and the obi.
I see African and Asiatic towns;
I see Algiers, Tripoli, Derne, Mogadore, Timbuctoo, Monrovia;
I see the swarms of Pekin, Canton, Benares, Delhi, Calcutta, Yedo;
I see the Kruman in his hut, and the Dahoman and Ashanteeman in their huts;
I see the Turk smoking opium in Aleppo;
I see the picturesque crowds at the fairs of Khiva, and those of Herat;
I see Teheran—I see Muscat and Medina, and the intervening sands—I see the caravans toiling onward;
I see Egypt and the Egyptians—I see the pyramids and obelisks;
I look on chisel’d histories, songs, philosophies, cut in slabs of sand-stone, or on granite-blocks;
I see at Memphis mummy-pits, containing mummies, embalm’d, swathed in linen cloth, lying there many centuries;
I look on the fall’n Theban, the large-ball’d eyes, the side-drooping neck, the hands folded across the breast.
I see the menials of the earth, laboring;
I see the prisoners in the prisons;
I see the defective human bodies of the earth;
I see the blind, the deaf and dumb, idiots, hunchbacks, lunatics;
I see the pirates, thieves, betrayers, murderers, slave-makers of the earth;
I see the helpless infants, and the helpless old men and women.
I see male and female everywhere;
I see the serene brotherhood of philosophs;
I see the constructiveness of my race;
I see the results of the perseverance and industry of my race;
I see ranks, colors, barbarisms, civilizations—I go among them—I mix indiscriminately,
And I salute all the inhabitants of the earth.
You, whoever you are!
You daughter or son of England!
You of the mighty Slavic tribes and empires! you Russ in Russia!
You dim-descended, black, divine-soul’d African, large, fine-headed, nobly-form’d, superbly destin’d, on equal terms with me!
You Norwegian! Swede! Dane! Icelander! you Prussian!
You Spaniard of Spain! you Portuguese!
You Frenchwoman and Frenchman of France!
You Belge! you liberty-lover of the Netherlands!
You sturdy Austrian! you Lombard! Hun! Bohemian! farmer of Styria!
You neighbor of the Danube!
You working-man of the Rhine, the Elbe, or the Weser! you working-woman too!
You Sardinian! you Bavarian! Swabian! Saxon! Wallachian! Bulgarian!
You citizen of Prague! Roman! Neapolitan! Greek!
You lithe matador in the arena at Seville!
You mountaineer living lawlessly on the Taurus or Caucasus!
You Bokh horse-herd, watching your mares and stallions feeding!
You beautiful-bodied Persian, at full speed in the saddle, shooting arrows to the mark!
You Chinaman and Chinawoman of China! you Tartar of Tartary!
You women of the earth subordinated at your tasks!
You Jew journeying in your old age through every risk, to stand once on Syrian ground! 210
You other Jews waiting in all lands for your Messiah!
You thoughtful Armenian, pondering by some stream of the Euphrates! you peering amid the ruins of Nineveh! you ascending Mount Ararat!
You foot-worn pilgrim welcoming the far-away sparkle of the minarets of Mecca!
You sheiks along the stretch from Suez to Bab-el-mandeb, ruling your families and tribes!
You olive-grower tending your fruit on fields of Nazareth, Damascus, or Lake Tiberias!
You Thibet trader on the wide inland, or bargaining in the shops of Lassa!
You Japanese man or woman! you liver in Madagascar, Ceylon, Sumatra, Borneo!
All you continentals of Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, indifferent of place!
All you on the numberless islands of the archipelagoes of the sea!
And you of centuries hence, when you listen to me!
And you, each and everywhere, whom I specify not, but include just the same!
Health to you! Good will to you all—from me and America sent.
Each of us inevitable;
Each of us limitless—each of us with his or her right upon the earth;
Each of us allow’d the eternal purports of the earth;
Each of us here as divinely as any is here.
You Hottentot with clicking palate! You woolly-hair’d hordes!
You own’d persons, dropping sweat-drops or blood-drops!
You human forms with the fathomless ever-impressive countenances of brutes!
I dare not refuse you—the scope of the world, and of time and space, are upon me.
You poor koboo whom the meanest of the rest look down upon, for all your glimmering language and spirituality!
You low expiring aborigines of the hills of Utah, Oregon, California!
You dwarf’d Kamtschatkan, Greenlander, Lapp!
You Austral negro, naked, red, sooty, with protrusive lip, grovelling, seeking your food!
You Caffre, Berber, Soudanese!
You haggard, uncouth, untutor’d, Bedowee!
You plague-swarms in Madras, Nankin, Kaubul, Cairo!
You bather bathing in the Ganges!
You benighted roamer of Amazonia! you Patagonian! you Fejee-man!
You peon of Mexico! you slave of Carolina, Texas, Tennessee!
I do not prefer others so very much before you either;
I do not say one word against you, away back there, where you stand;
(You will come forward in due time to my side.)
My spirit has pass’d in compassion and determination around the whole earth;
I have look’d for equals and lovers, and found them ready for me in all lands;
I think some divine rapport has equalized me with them.
O vapors! I think I have risen with you, and moved away to distant continents, and fallen down there, for reasons;
I think I have blown with you, O winds;
O waters, I have finger’d every shore with you.
I have run through what any river or strait of the globe has run through;
I have taken my stand on the bases of peninsulas, and on the high embedded rocks, to cry thence.
Salut au monde!
What cities the light or warmth penetrates, I penetrate those cities myself;
All islands to which birds wing their way, I wing my way myself.
I raise high the perpendicular hand—I make the signal,
To remain after me in sight forever,
For all the haunts and homes of men.
(see Arthur L. Ford, “The Rose-Garden of the World: Near East Imagery in the Poetry of Walt Whitman).
Related video: Walt Whitman, “ Song of the Open Road,” Forever Lucky Films
The Song of the Open Road by Walt Whitman from Forever Lucky Films on Vimeo.
|Saturday, December 21st, 2013|
and i watched "le pacte des loups", which seemed totally incoherent. it was also in french, which didn't help me much, but probably didn't interfere all that much either -- fortunately i had larksdream
to translate the really wittiest lines! i was just reading its wikipedia entry, and it's apparently "based on a true story", which sounds just as weird and incomprehensible as the movie made it seem....
[ pekmez ]
|curb alert: live 6ft Christmas tree
Student neighbors going away for break have put out a free tree on the curb. (Yes, it is still 4 days before Christmas.)
Take home a spontaneous tree, and make my walk to the bus stop less cluttered till tree collection season! It was last seen in front of 102 Bromfield, and the folks who put it out say it is free for the taking.
Looks to be about 6 feet tall and still healthy, though probably losing more needles at this stage than one you just bought today would.
|Real-Life “Gravity:” Space Repair Walk and NASA’s Breakthroughs 2013
CBS reports on today’s space walk by astronauts to repair the cooling system at the International Space Station:
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration reports on its achievements and breakthroughs in space and on earth in 2013.
NASA video here
And here is the NASA press release covering these developments:
In 2013, NASA helped U.S. commercial companies transform access to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station even as one of the agency’s venerable spacecraft was confirmed to have reached interstellar space, and engineers moved ahead on technologies that will help carry out the first astronaut mission to an asteroid and eventually Mars.
“Even in a time of great change and transition, NASA employees stayed focused on what it takes to get the job done — returning space station resupply launches and the jobs they support back to the United States, developing cutting-edge technologies that will help us send American astronauts to an asteroid and Mars, uncovering new knowledge about our home planet and the universe and helping develop cleaner and quieter airplanes,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “It’s all the hard work and dedication from the NASA folks on the frontlines that keep the United States the world’s leader in space exploration.”
The following are some of NASA’s top stories this year:
Commercial Space Progress
A little more than two years after the end of the Space Shuttle Program, NASA has returned the International Space Station resupply missions to the United States in a powerful partnership with U.S. companies SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, who are investing here and creating good-paying jobs for American workers.
NASA remains committed to launching American astronauts from U.S. soil within the next four years. Recent progress includes key milestones in commercial crew development met by three American companies: Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corporation; a Nov. 19 request for proposals on the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract (CCtCap), designed to ensure commercial companies meet NASA’s safety requirements for transporting NASA and international partner crews to the International Space Station; unfunded Space Act Agreements with other potential commercial providers; and creation of a Space Technology Program focused on breakthrough innovations that will change future transportation options. These accomplishments have been bolstered by the extension of International Space Station operations to 2020, enabling expanded commercial and research opportunities.
Enabling Deep Space Exploration
The primary destination of these commercial launches, the International Space Station, celebrated 15 years in orbit in November, and crew members have lived and worked aboard the station non-stop since October 2000.
Interest in human spaceflight remains extremely high, and this year NASA welcomed new astronaut candidates from a near-record applicant pool of more than 6,000. Half of the class is women, which is the highest percentage in any class to date. These astronaut candidates are the explorers who will first fly on commercial rockets to low-Earth orbit and help us execute missions to an asteroid and Mars.
2013 was a year of progress toward new capabilities as the agency’s new Space Launch System (SLS) heavy lift rocket completed its preliminary design review and the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle reached many milestones on its path to undertake its first flight test in 2014. The heat shield that will protect Orion on that mission’s re-entry next year was delivered to the Kennedy Space Center for installation; NASA reached an agreement with the European Space Agency (ESA) to partner on the spacecraft’s service module; and Orion itself underwent loads testing, a water recovery test, and full power-up.
NASA and 12 of its international partners released a Global Exploration Roadmap, sending a clear signal that the global community is committed to a unified strategy of deep space exploration, with robotic and human missions to destinations that include near-Earth asteroids, the moon and Mars.
The public imagination has been captured by the mission NASA announced in April to redirect an asteroid into a stable retrograde orbit in the vicinity of the moon using cutting-edge space technology, such as solar electric propulsion. This will allow astronauts to visit the asteroid, study its characteristics and bring samples home. In November, NASA held a workshop to discuss about 100 of the best ideas the agency has received from around the world about both identifying asteroids and figuring out what to do about those that are a threat, as well as how to best carry out the asteroid redirect mission. The mission formulation review has been completed, and NASA will move into mission baseline discussions in 2014.
The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft, having completed its original mission, was reactivated this year to hunt for asteroids. OSIRIS-REx, NASA’s robotic mission to return samples from an asteroid, moved from formulation to the development phase in 2013.
NASA also announced an Asteroid Grand Challenge to find and characterize asteroid threats and gather ideas for capturing and redirecting an asteroid for human exploration. The public is incredibly interested in asteroids, and the agency expects strong participation in this initiative.
NASA science this year uncovered new knowledge about our home planet and the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Analysis showed the Voyager 1 spacecraft has entered interstellar space and, at 12 billion miles away, is the most distant man-made object ever created.
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) launched in September to study lunar dust and help us better understand other planetary bodies and their formation. It also carried the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) — breakthrough new technology to improve communication with deep space missions that the agency will continue to refine and advance.
In June, NASA launched the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) spacecraft to study how solar material moves, gathers energy and heats up.
In February, NASA’s Van Allen Probes discovered a third Van Allen Radiation Belt around the Earth.
The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) was launched in February for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to maintain one of the longest-term imagery data sets about our Earth ever — more than 40 years.
Earth Science continues to be a high priority, and our amazing fleet of Earth-observing satellites helped us see how an amplified greenhouse effect is shifting the northern latitudes’ growing season. A study this year of Landsat data yielded the best view to date of global forest losses and gains during this century.
One of the International Space Station’s most prominent scientific experiments produced its first results in April. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) is a state-of-the-art cosmic ray particle physics detector located on the exterior of the orbiting laboratory. Scientists hope that by measuring cosmic rays, AMS will provide new data about the formation of the universe, antimatter, and evidence of the mysterious dark matter believed to make up most of the universe.
The Kepler mission awed scientists and the public with new exoplanet findings, including discovery of numerous planets in the habitable zone. NASA will be evaluating Kepler data for years to come, as well as exploring the possibility of doing new science investigations with the spacecraft.
The James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, continued to move toward its 2018 launch. In November, the telescope’s primary mirror backplane support structure, essentially the spine of the massive telescope, completed a rigorous testing regime. The final three of Webb’s 18 primary mirrors arrived at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., this month for integration. Once in orbit, the 18 hexagonal mirror segments will work together as one 21.3-foot (6.5-meter) primary mirror, the largest ever flown and the first to deploy in space.
Elsewhere in astrophysics, scientists saw one of the brightest gamma-ray bursts ever with the Fermi, Swift and NuSTAR telescopes and learned more about the black hole at the center of the Milky Way using the agency’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. Fermi celebrated five years in orbit and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope celebrated 10 years of incredible science.
Mars is the centerpiece of NASA’s planetary exploration. The Curiosity rover continues to explore the planet, and in its first year already has accomplished its primary goal of determining that Mars could indeed have supported life in the past, possibly much later than originally thought. Curiosity’s Radiation Assessment Detector instrument is helping scientists assess round-trip radiation doses for a human mission to Mars.
NASA also launched in November its next mission to the Red Planet, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft, which will study the Martian upper atmosphere from orbit. NASA’s 2016 InSight mission narrowed its landing sites for Mars while the Mars 2020 team outlined its goals for our next rover to the planet.
Aeronautics – the First ‘A’ in NASA
Here on Earth, NASA continued to mark progress in developing the next generation of air transportation systems (NextGen).
A new computer software tool developed by NASA’s aeronautical innovators — the Precision Departure Release Capability (PDRC) — allows commercial aircraft to be sequenced for takeoff so that they are able to climb directly to their enroute travel altitudes instead of being required to make multiple intermediate level-offs as in the past. NASA officially presented this innovative software to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) during a ceremony at the FAA’s headquarters in Washington on Aug. 6. With PDRC, controllers will be able to improve the overall efficiency of air traffic management by reducing missed or delayed departures and allowing more aircraft to depart within a given timeframe.
NASA announced a new aeronautics strategy with six areas of focus to help address upcoming challenges in global air transportation. The agency also tested alternate jet fuel in its DC-8 flying laboratory; selected eight large scale technology demonstrations to advance concepts for reducing aviation impact on the environment; chose six companies to partner on advanced composite materials research to enable a significant reduction in development to certification time; and flew the X-48C hybrid-wing body subscale aircraft to demonstrate concepts for cleaner and quieter air travel.
Developing Technologies for the Future
This year, NASA created a Space Technology Mission Directorate to help advance the cutting-edge technologies it will need for future missions. The agency completed testing on a prototype composite cryogenic propellant tank with a 25 percent reduction in cost and 30 percent reduction in weight, resulting in increased payload capacity.
NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne hot-fire tested a 3-D printed rocket engine injector, marking a first step in using additive manufacturing to support space travel.
The agency began the next chapter in NASA’s improved entry, descent and landing capabilities through the completion of a test of a full-scale supersonic inflatable decelerator. The test successfully demonstrated the ability to deploy and pull a large parachute through the dynamic loads it would experience at Mars, using a helicopter to drop the ringsail parachute and a rocket sled to pull the parachute with 90,000 pounds of force. This technology will increase the current capability to land heavy payloads on Mars by as much as 25 percent.
In April and November, NASA sent three Cubesats — two early designs and one more mature — to space as part of the agency’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program. The first three PhoneSats successfully orbited Earth for a week, sending back pictures and demonstrating that an off-the-shelf commercial smart phone can serve as a spacecraft operating computer. The fourth PhoneSat launched in November and is expected to be in space for a year, proving the longevity of a smart phone cubesat in space, powered by solar panels.
NASA strengthened its early stage pipeline with the nation’s brightest and best by engaging in more than 400 activities with 75 accredited U.S. universities to enable future missions and our continued leadership in space. For the third consecutive year, NASA awarded competitive technology fellowships for graduate research on the agency’s most difficult space technology challenges. Sixty-five new fellowships were awarded this year, bringing to 193 the total number of graduate student space technology development efforts funded to-date. Several fellowship graduates already are making an impact in the nation’s aerospace and innovation workforce.
Public Engagement, Economic and Societal Benefits
NASA also continued to transfer the benefits of exploration to improving life on Earth. NASA and Homeland Security, for instance, collaborated on the Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER) prototype to detect life signs in piles of rubble after a disaster. The portable device is based on radar technology NASA uses for planetary exploration.
NASA continues to effectively engage the public, and this year, the International Space Apps Challenge drew more than 9,000 hackers, designers and explorers in 83 cities around the world to contribute their ideas to space exploration missions. The agency’s Minority University Research and Education Program (MUREP) funded 148 interns and continued to help draw minority students into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.
NASA launched the Exploration Design Challenge (EDC) to teach students about radiation and the challenges it presents for human space exploration. A cooperative effort with Lockheed Martin, the EDC allows students to become virtual crew members on the maiden Exploration Test Flight of the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle, currently scheduled for September 2014. More than 112,000 students are current participants in the EDC, which aligns with the agency’s STEM education priorities.
NASA’s Twitter account, with 5.5 million followers, is the most followed in government while millions also engage with the space program through Facebook, Google+ and other platforms, and the agency’s new Instagram profile drew more than 400,000 followers. NASA’s website had its second-busiest year on record with 115 million visits.
NASA will build on the achievements of 2013 as it looks ahead to a busy new year where the agency is already preparing for more milestones in commercial space, the first flight test of the Orion spacecraft, five Earth Science launches, and many more accomplishments.
For more about NASA’s missions, research and discoveries, visit:
Mirrored from NASA
[ benign_cremator ]
|South facing Room for rent in Queer and poly-friendly geek Apartment between Teele Sq and Tufts
Queer and poly-friendly geek household seeking fourth roommate (March 1st, earlier move-in date negotiable). My room will be opening up at the end of February in our Somerville apartment, between Teele Square and Tufts.
Who the roommates are: Two males (One is a poly, pagan sysadmin who likes playing with swords and theater equipment, reading science texts, and historic re-enactment. The other works as a barista at Starbucks and loves coffee/tea, theatre, sci-fi/fantasy books and movies, and baking. He is super into recycling and composting and contributes a great deal to cleaning the apartment on a regular basis. Oftentimes out and about in Boston with friends at various events and shows..) and one female (She works in the publishing industry and likes writing, book clubs, and theater. She's a self-described introvert and Netflix fan but enjoys talking to fun, interesting people).
We're sociable and hold occasional social gatherings (though not of the loud drunken sort). The roommates are interested in maintaining a strong household community, with open communication channels and shared responsibility in terms of chores. There is currently no television in the common space, but there is a projector for the occasional movie.
Unfortunately, due to allergy constraints, we cannot consider anyone with a furry pet (though the roommates generally like pets and would be willing to consider a small, quiet, hypoallergenic animal).
The apartment is alternative-lifestyles and queer-friendly.
The apartment: The apartment is the upstairs unit in a two-family house on a residential street near Tufts. Hardwood floors throughout. There is a front balcony
accessible through the living room window, a screened-in back porch accessible through the kitchen, and access to the back yard in which the downstairs neighbors keep bees.
The open room is 12'x16'10" with a large closet. It faces south and gets lots of afternoon sun. Rent for the room is $675, plus utilities. Interviewing after New Years.
|NYC on Monday?
I have half a day to spare on Monday on the way from central Connecticut to Philadelphia, so I am probably going to stop in New York. If you're in NYC and have free time Monday morning/midday/early afternoon and want to get together, ping me.
|a kind word
i'm having a sort of lousy night full of body-angst and insomnia. i've been sullen to the kind people in my life and not even patient with my pets. it's dawn now and i've gotten maybe two hours of actual sleep? teh suck :/
anyway in all this i got a very sweet note from somebody reading the last draft of the werewolf novel:Just a quick progress report. I'm about half thru and I LOVE it!
fwiw makes me happy :)
|How many American Weddings would have to get hit by Drones before they were Banned?
(By Tom Engelhardt)
The headline — “Bride and Boom!” — was spectacular, if you think killing people in distant lands is a blast and a half. Of course, you have to imagine that smirk line in giant black letters with a monstrous exclamation point covering most of the bottom third of the front page of the Murdoch-owned New York Post. The reference was to a caravan of vehicles on its way to or from a wedding in Yemen that was eviscerated, evidently by a U.S. drone via one of those “surgical” strikes of which Washington is so proud. As one report put it, “Scorched vehicles and body parts were left scattered on the road.”
It goes without saying that such a headline could only be applied to assumedly dangerous foreigners — “terror” or “al-Qaeda suspects” — in distant lands whose deaths carry a certain quotient of weirdness and even amusement with them. Try to imagine the equivalent for the Newtown massacre the day after Adam Lanza broke into Sandy Hook Elementary School and began killing children and teachers. Since even the New York Post wouldn’t do such a thing, let’s posit that the Yemen Post did, that playing off the phrase “head of the class,” their headline was: “Dead of the Class!” (with that same giant exclamation point). It would be sacrilege. The media would descend. The tastelessness of Arabs would be denounced all the way up to the White House. You’d hear about the callousness of foreigners for days.
And were a wedding party to be obliterated on a highway anywhere in America on the way to, say, a rehearsal dinner, whatever the cause, it would be a 24/7 tragedy. Our lives would be filled with news of it. Count on that.
But a bunch of Arabs in a country few in the U.S. had ever heard of before we started sending in the drones? No such luck, so if you’re a Murdoch tabloid, it’s open season, no consequences guaranteed. As it happens, “Bride and Boom!” isn’t even an original. It turns out to be a stock Post headline. Google it and you’ll find that, since 9/11, the paper has used it at least twice before last week, and never for the good guys: once in 2005, for “the first bomb-making husband and wife,” two Palestinian newlyweds arrested by the Israelis; and once in 2007, for a story about a “bride,” decked out in a “princess-style wedding gown,” with her “groom.” Their car was stopped at a checkpoint in Iraq by our Iraqis, and both of them turned out to be male “terrorists” in a “nutty nuptial party.” Ba-boom!
As it happened, the article by Andy Soltis accompanying the Post headline last week began quite inaccurately. “A U.S. drone strike targeting al-Qaeda militants in Yemen,” went the first line, “took out an unlikely target on Thursday — a wedding party heading to the festivities.”
Soltis can, however, be forgiven his ignorance. In this country, no one bothers to count up wedding parties wiped out by U.S. air power. If they did, Soltis would have known that the accurate line, given the history of U.S. war-making since December 2001 when the first party of Afghan wedding revelers was wiped out (only two women surviving), would have been: “A U.S. drone… took out a likely target.”
After all, by the count of TomDispatch, this is at least the eighth wedding party reported wiped out, totally or in part, since the Afghan War began and it extends the extermination of wedding celebrants from the air to a third country — six destroyed in Afghanistan, one in Iraq, and now the first in Yemen. And in all those years, reporters covering these “incidents” never seem to notice that similar events had occurred previously. Sometimes whole wedding parties were slaughtered, sometimes just the bride or groom’s parties were hit. Estimated total dead from the eight incidents: almost 300 Afghans, Iraqis, and Yemenis. And keep in mind that, in these years, weddings haven’t been the only rites hit. U.S. air power has struck gatherings ranging from funerals to a baby-naming ceremony.
The only thing that made the Yemeni incident unique was the drone. The previous strikes were reportedly by piloted aircraft.
Non-tabloid papers were far more polite in their headlines and accounts, though they did reflect utter confusion about what had happened in a distant part of distant Yemen. The wedding caravan of vehicles was going to a wedding — or coming back. Fifteen were definitively dead. Or 11. Or 13. Or 14. Or 17. The attacking plane had aimed for al-Qaeda targets and hit the wedding party “by mistake.” Or al-Qaeda “suspects” had been among the wedding party, though all reports agree that innocent wedding goers died. Accounts of what happened from Yemeni officials differed, even as that country’s parliamentarians demanded an end to the U.S. drone campaign in their country. The Obama administration refused to comment. It was generally reported that this strike, like others before it, had — strangely enough — upset Yemenis and made them more amenable to the propaganda of al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula.
In the end, reports on a wedding slaughter in a distant land are generally relegated to the inside pages of the paper and passing notice on the TV news, an event instantly trumped by almost anything whatsoever — a shooting in a school anywhere in the U.S., snow storms across the Northeast, you name it — and promptly buried and forgotten.
And yet, in a country that tends to value records, this represents record-making material. After all, what are the odds of knocking off all or parts of eight wedding parties in the space of a little more than a decade (assuming, of course, that the destruction of other wedding parties or the killing of other wedding goers in America’s distant war zones hasn’t gone unreported). If the Taliban or the Iranians or the North Koreans had piled up such figures — and indeed the Taliban has done wedding damage via roadside bombs and suicide bombers — we would know just what to think of them. We would classify them as barbarians, savages, evildoers.
You might imagine that such a traffic jam of death and destruction would at least merit some longer-term attention, thought, analysis, or discussion here. But with the rarest of exceptions, it’s nowhere to be found, right, left, or center, in Washington or Topeka, in everyday conversation or think-tank speak. And keep in mind that we’re talking about a country where the slaughter of innocents — in elementary schools, high schools, colleges, and universities, workplaces and movie theaters, parking lots and naval shipyards — is given endless attention, carefully toted up, discussed and debated until “closure” is reached.
And yet no one here even thinks to ask how so many wedding parties in foreign lands could be so repeatedly taken out. Is the U.S. simply targeting weddings purposely? Not likely. Could it reflect the fact that, despite all the discussion of the “surgical precision” of American air power, pilots have remarkably little idea what’s really going on below them or who exactly, in lands where American intelligence must be half-blind, they are aiming at? That, at least, seems likely.
Or if “they” gather in certain regions, does American intelligence just assume that the crowd must be “enemy” in nature? (As an American general said about a wedding party attacked in Western Iraq, “How many people go to the middle of the desert… to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization?”) Or is it possible that, in our global war zones, a hint that enemy “suspects” might be among a party of celebrants means that the party itself is fair game, that it’s open season no matter who might be in the crowd?
In this same spirit, the U.S. drone campaigns are said to launch what in drone-speak are called “signature strikes” — that is, strikes not against identified individuals, but against “a pre-identified ‘signature’ of behavior that the U.S. links to militant activity.” In other words, the U.S. launches drone strikes against groups or individuals whose behavior simply fits a “suspect” category: young men of military age carrying weapons, for instance (in areas where carrying a weapon may be the norm no matter who you are). In a more general sense, however, the obliterated wedding party may be the true signature strike of the post 9/11 era of American war-making, the strike that should, but never will, remind Americans that the war on terror was and remains, for others in distant lands, a war of terror, a fearsome creation to which we are conveniently blind.
Consider it a record. For the period since September 11, 2001, we’re number one… in obliterating wedding parties! In those years, whether we care to know it or not, “till death do us part” has gained a far grimmer meaning.
Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.
[Note on American air power and wedding parties: TomDispatch has attempted over the years to record and point out the cumulative nature of these “incidents.” Check out, for instance, “The Wedding Crashers,” or a 2012 piece, “It Couldn’t Happen Here, It Does Happen There.” What follows, gathered by TomDispatch’s Erika Eichelberger, are links to the other seven wedding massacres with brief descriptions of what is known: December 29, 2001, Paktia Province, Afghanistan (more than 100 revelers die in a village in Eastern Afghanistan after an attack by B-52 and B-1B bombers); May 17, 2002, Khost Province, Afghanistan (at least 10 Afghans in a wedding celebration die when U.S. helicopters and planes attack a village); July 1, 2002, Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan (at least 30, and possibly 40, celebrants die when attacked by a B-52 bomber and an AC-130 helicopter); May 20, 2004, Mukaradeeb, Iraq (at least 42 dead, including “27 members of the [family hosting the wedding ceremony], their wedding guests, and even the band of musicians hired to play at the ceremony” in an attack by American jets); July 6, 2008, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan (at least 47 dead, 39 of them women and children, including the bride, among a party escorting that bride to the groom’s house — from a missile attack by jet aircraft); August 2008, Laghman Province, Afghanistan (16 killed, including 12 members of the family hosting the wedding, in an attack by “American bombers”); June 8, 2012, Logar Province, Afghanistan (18 killed, half of them children, when Taliban fighters take shelter amid a wedding party. This was perhaps the only case among the eight wedding incidents in which the U.S. offered an apology).]
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Ann Jones’s They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars — The Untold Story.
Copyright 2013 Tom Engelhardt
Mirrored from Tomdispatch.com
RT reports on this week’s tragic bombing by US drone of a Yemeni wedding party, which I covered at IC .
|Obama will Veto new Iran Sanctions, Israel War Mandate pushed by AIPAC Senators
(By Juan Cole)
In his end-of-the-year press conference, President Obama had to defend his Iran negotiations in the face of a revolt within his own party.
Thirteen Democratic senators and thirteen Republican senators banded together to try to derail President Obama’s negotiations with Iran by slapping new sanctions on that country in the middle of delicate negotiations. This behavior is no surprise coming from the GOP, but the thirteen Democratic senators involved are traitors to the party. They are acting at the behest of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and other American supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who actively wants to torpedo Obama’s Iran talks. They are attempting to make the leader of their party, their president, fail in one of his major diplomatic initiatives. They are disloyal and the Democratic National Committee should pull their funding. They include most prominently Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). If we could trace the money involved it would go back to billionaire American Likudniks.
The bill they crafted includes $55 bn in new sanctions on Iran and requires the United States to support Netanyahu in any war he launches on Iran. (President Obama and his officials have in the past have hinted broadly that Israel is welcome to attack Iran but is on its own if it does so.)
The proposed new sanctions split the Israel lobbies in the senate, being opposed by Sens. Diane Feinstein, Carl Levin, Barbara Boxer and seven other committee chairs, as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. As Democratic Party committee chairs, they had no choice but to maintain party discipline (and some of them probably don’t like Netanyahu or the prospect of more Middle East wars).
According to the transcript, this is what Obama said about the Senate rebellion:
“And so I’m not surprised that there’s been some talk from some members of Congress about new sanctions — I think the politics of trying to look tough on Iran are often good when you’re running for office or if you’re in office. But as President of the United States right now, who’s been responsible over the last four years, with the help of Congress, in putting together a comprehensive sanctions regime that was specifically designed to put pressure on them and bring them to the table to negotiate — what I’m saying to them, what I’ve said to the international community, and what I’ve said to the American people is let’s test it. Now is the time to try to see if we can get this thing done.
And I’ve heard some logic that says, well, Mr. President, we’re supportive of the negotiations, but we think it’s really useful to have this club hanging over Iran’s head. Well, first of all, we still have the existing sanctions already in place that are resulting in Iran losing billions of dollars every month in lost oil sales. We already have banking and financial sanctions that are still being applied even as the negotiations are taking place. It’s not as if we’re letting up on that.
I’ve heard arguments, well, but this way we can be assured and the Iranians will know that if negotiations fail even new and harsher sanctions will be put into place. Listen, I don’t think the Iranians have any doubt that Congress would be more than happy to pass more sanctions legislation. We can do that in a day, on a dime. But if we’re serious about negotiations, we’ve got to create an atmosphere in which Iran is willing to move in ways that are uncomfortable for them and contrary to their ideology and rhetoric and their instincts and their suspicions of us. And we don’t help get them to a position where we can actually resolve this by engaging in this kind of action. ”
Obama in his gentlemanly way excused the senators on the grounds that they might have tough reelection fights coming up in which hawkish posturing on Iran might be useful for fundraising and vote-getting. Nevertheless, the White House had earlier made clear that Obama would veto any such sanctions bill.
In fact, the vast majority of Americans approve of Obama’s Iran negotiations in polling and only a minority is opposed. So the rebel senators aren’t playing to the voters, but rather to determined and very wealthy special interests in the Northeast.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has warned that a major new round of sanctions would kill the negotiations.
The government of President Hassan Rouhani, elected this past summer, faces its own hard line hawks who want to cause the talks with the US to fail. Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Jaafari, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, criticized Rouhani for being infected with Western ideas.
The question is if Jaafari from his side and Menendez and Schumer from their side can succeed in sinking the talks and ensuring we march off to war instead.
Reuters on Obama’s defense of his Iran negotiations on Friday :
|Friday, December 20th, 2013|
[ pekmez ]
|the new Martsa on Elm
Martsa on Elm is open again, with its new menu and new management.
I went during the first week of December for their lunch buffet, and tonight for dinner. I am pleased. It used to be one of my favorites, and I particularly liked the range of things on the menu and the buffet that I surmise were a little bit more creative interpretations of favorite flavor combinations, particularly soups and vegetable dishes. (I was, and still am, very sad that a few of my favorite soups from the old Martsa will never be tasted again in the same way, *and* I can't figure out quite how to do the tricks they did with grains and turnips and slightly thickened soup that is neither creamy nor broth.)
The new Martsa looks about the same inside as the old one - some new art on the wall, a new rug, but mostly the same decor.
The menu has some items that overlap with the old one, and is still very broad and if anything a bit more creative and loose with the interpretations of "Tibetan food" (blue cheese, goat cheese, chipotle aioli mentioned in at least one appetizer each), and everything I tried both at lunch and dinner were well executed and tasty. I don't think we ordered anything that had exactly the same name as anything in its previous incarnation, aside from tingmo (steamed bread).
They said they planned to offer different entrees at the lunch buffet each day, not a fixed set of choices. The particular set the day I was there was a bit less exciting to me than the choices they had every single day at the old Martsa for years, but I had at least one favorite and I like the idea of variety.
Tonight we tried their momos, which were delicious, and several other appetizers, the hand-pulled noodle soup (small entree sized), and one entree. I think the average spice level / fraction of dishes labeled spicy is a little bit higher, the food is still wonderfully prepared, and the general sense of a widely varied menu with many things that make me say "ooh I wanna try that" is similar. So, aside from not necessarily getting to order any one specific favorite dish that did not happen to be a generic Tibetan classic again, I think it's fair to say that Martsa is back. Yay!
|Scotland is going 100% Green by 2020; shame on Dirty America
(By Juan Cole)
Glasgow is the city of the future, not Phoenix.
Scotland has a population of about 5.3 million, a little more than the US state of Arizona. But the resemblance stops there. Arizona’s state government is backward-looking, roiled by racial politics, contemptuous of higher education, and a climate laggard, dirtying up the atmosphere and causing its state’s own increasing desertification.
Last year, Scotland got 40% of its electricity from renewables, up from 24% in 2010.
Arizona gets 9 percent of its electricity from renewables, despite vast solar potential that completely dwarfs that of Scotland. Almost all Arizona renewable energy is hydroelectric. About 35% of Arizona electricity is from coal, the dirtiest possible source. A similar proportion comes from natural gas, also a big source of carbon dioxide emissions. Arizona has a pitiful plan to be at 15% renewables by 2025, which is the sort of goal that dooms the earth.
Scotland is planning to get 50% of its electricity from wind, solar, wave and hydro in 2015, and is going for 100% green energy in 2020.
About 12% of Scottish power is from hydro-electric, just slightly more than Arizona. The share of Scottish electricity produced by nuclear plants has fallen from 50% to 34%, and the Scottish government has no plans to build new nuclear plants. The Scottish public is on board with the government’s plans. Scots don’t mind dams or solar panels or wind turbines. They deeply dislike nuclear reactors and want nothing to do with hydraulic fracturing.</p>
Scotland is so good at generating electricity that it exports about a quarter of what it generates. This datum suggests that it could just close most of its coal plants tomorrow and still have enough power (which is what it should do), though there may be grid issues with moving quite that quickly. In any case, Scotland, which invented the steam engine in 1780 and kicked off the Anthropocene era of human-caused global warming, won’t have coal plants by 2020.
In contrast, the Conservative government of the UK is committing itself to building nuclear plants and to fracking underground rocks in search of natural gas, a dirty source of C02. The fracking process may well release substantial amounts of methane, making fracked gas as dirty as coal.
Nuclear plants are extremely expensive and take a long time to build, and depend on a fuel that can become depleted, not to mention that the waste is impossible to dispose of safely. In contrast, solar panels have fallen 60% in price in just 18 months, and the price per kilowatt hour of wind turbines is also plummeting. By the time the last new renewable electric power installations are being put in in Scotland in 2020, it will be crazy to use any other source.
If the whole world did what Scotland is doing, an enormous climate change catastrophe could be averted. Scotland is demonstrating that going completely green rapidly enough to keep global warming to a 2 degrees Centigrade increase is entirely possible. It is a matter of political will, not of technology or expense.
Scotland should sue the polluting countries for going on dumping 32 billion metric tons of C02 into the atmosphere annually, as though our air were an elevated sewage drain. Scotland will suffer damages from extreme weather, variable rainfall and fish die-off that comes from climate change, and shouldn’t have to bear that cost since it is among the few virtuous global citizens.
Scottish Enterprise explains how Glasgow is going to emerge as a World Center of Renewables Technology
|Sunday, December 22nd, 2013|
|2013 Informed Comment Fundraiser
I hope you all like the new design. Of course, the changes are a work in progress but 2014 is an important year for Informed Comment. We will be adding some editorial staff and expanding our coverage to include the most important news organisations in the Middle East to provide a comprehensive political and news overview. We will also be including more original opinion from other regional experts. We have already started to develop a maps collection and will be adding a primary documents collection soon as well, to provide visitors with single stop access to high quality curated sources for research on the Middle East.
Thanks to all those who have contributed in the past to make it possible for Informed Comment to continue and improve. This year those who contribute to Informed Comment will become members with a Golden Lion beside their own name in the comments as recognition for your role in making this site possible. You will also be included in a monthly private newsletter only for contributors with some additional big picture behind-the-scenes analysis which will be newsletter only.
Those of you who donated last year supported several important trips to the region so as to have first-hand, on-the-ground impressions that would help me interpret the news. I’d like to tell you about those trips.
Click graphic to donate via PayPal!
Philosophy and Mission of Informed Comment
Years ago I decided that I did not want to put Informed Comment behind a firewall and charge a subscription fee for it. That just isn’t who I am. In my own view, there has been a long crisis between the United States (and perhaps much of the West) and the Muslim world that I felt a duty to attempt to interpret and analyze for both publics, not just for well-heeled elites. More recently issues have arisen such a climate change and the energy and water crises, which have a great deal to do with the Middle East and South Asia, my areas of expertise. This is a democratic blog, for the people and in dialogue with the people, for the common weal.
Travel and Field Reporting in 2013
Although I have some research funds from my university, there are categories of expense it does not cover, and my ability to go spontaneously to the region when there are important developments is enhanced by your subscriptions (academic fellowships have to be plotted out at least a year in advance, which is too inflexible for my style of academic journalism). Also, I do some pro bono speaking and traveling for, e.g. peace groups, and you support those expenses, too. Your support gives me the determination and courage to go on.
Visits to the region this year included a trip last year this time to Istanbul for its annual World Forum. I was able to hear movers and shakers such as Turkey’s PM Tayyib Erdogan, Libya’s former interim PM Mahmoud Jibril, and democracy and labor activist Ahmad Maher (who is now, sadly, in prison in Cairo). In February I was in Kuwait for a conference, and was very interested in the obviously powerful and active labor movement, and in the 600,000-strong Indian guest worker community. That same month I visited Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the UAE, where I saw the internet activist Sultan al-Qassemi and visited Abu Dhabi’s no-carbon planned city, Masdar.
Abu Dhabi’s Green City, Masdar
I went to Tunisia in the spring for a conference where I was able to hear from the current power elite - the prime minister, cabinet officials, opposition party members and the leader of the center-right religious party, al-Nahda or Renaissance. The conference was sponsored by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) to whom I am grateful. I was also able to stay on and meet with secular youth activists. My visit then helped me understand the outbreak of protests and the political crisis that arose in summer of 2013 and are still roiling Tunisia.
In early May, I was able to visit Baghdad (I put up a photo gallery of my visit to the Iraqi National Muslim, kindly arranged by the Ministry of Culture.
Juan buying books on Mutanabbi St. and posing with Mutanabbi statue
My colleague MarK LeVine was important in setting up that visit and in arranging for a meeting with youth at the Independent Film Institute, with the History Department at the University of Baghdad and at the National Archives.
Juan at the 3rd International Conference on Translation, Baghdad, May 2013
In early June I was in Egypt, getting a sense of the mood there in the run-up to the overthrow of then President Muhammad Morsi. I was able to make contact with a number of activists, at the Egyptian Institute for Personal Freedoms, Human Rights Watch, and elsewhere and to interview the important blogger Amr Ezzat. Everywhere I went people gave me that petition to sign, asking that Morsi submit himself to a recall election. At that time no one was talking about military intervention, and most people in my circles would have been against it.
In August, I took my first trip to Indonesia, where I was looking at Hindu-Muslim relations as part of an investigation into the legal and social status of non-Muslims in contemporary Muslim-majority states. This was just spadework, but it certainly was informative and introduced me to a part of the world I hadn’t known much about aside from reading a few books.
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|Friday, December 20th, 2013|
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|American Public: Invasion of Afghanistan a Mistake, Speed up Withdrawal
(By Sarah Lazare)
More than twelve years after the initial invasion, U.S. public opinion of the so-called Good War in Afghanistan appears to be souring.
A clear majority of people in the U.S. say the 2001 decision to attack Afghanistan as a response to the events of September 11th was a mistake and that the current withdrawal of U.S. troops is not moving fast enough, according to an Associated Press-Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung poll (pdf) released Wednesday.
"I'm glad to know the majority of Americans now acknowledge what we've been saying all along," said Suraia Sahar of Afghans United for Justice in an interview with Common Dreams. "This war continues to have disastrous consequences. I can only hope this time a lesson has been learned."
Based on results from 1,367 adults with a reported margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points,
the poll finds that 57 percent say the United States did the "wrong thing" by "going to war in Afghanistan." By contrast, 40 percent said the U.S. did the "right thing."
Fifty-three percent said the withdrawal of troops is moving too slowly, 34 percent said the pace is good, and 10 percent said it is too fast.
A slim 16 percent of respondents said they expect the situation in Afghanistan to improve over the next year, with 32 percent saying they expect it to worsen—numbers that reflect a decline in hope since the same question was asked in 2009.
Six out of 10 respondents in the U.S. also said they approve of an interim deal struck with Iran in late November.
The poll comes as the Obama administration pushes for ratification of a so-called Bilateral Security Agreement with Afghanistan, which would extend U.S. military presence far beyond Obama's 2014 withdrawal deadline, grant U.S. troops and contractors immunity from Afghan law, and allow U.S. troops to continue raiding Afghan homes.
The deal is currently stalled over Afghan President Hamid Karzai's refusal to sign it, citing demands for the U.S. to repatriate Afghan Guantanamo Bay prisoners, launch peace talks with the Taliban, and stop raiding Afghan homes.
"Invading Afghanistan is a national mistake that must be addressed now and into the future," said Maggie Martin of Iraq Veterans Against the War in an interview with Common Dreams. "We cannot ignore the possibility of 10 more years of occupation, the legacy of war that continues to impact the people of Afghanistan, and the lack of care and transitional support for hundreds of thousands of veterans who have served there."
"American history tells us it was wrong. Afghan history tells us it was wrong," said Sahar. "The war was doomed to fail before it began, and I fear we've still learned nothing."
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Mirrored from Commondreams
NDTV Interview: “US can’t be aggressive, intimidatory: Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai”