Blogs of Note …

… I've added a bunch of blogs to the list on the right side of the page after surfing through the site tonight. I will probably add to the list as time goes on, but everything here caught my interest in some way.

I wanted to highlight a few of the finds I made. Near the bottom of my list is one called Design Sponge that is a treasure trove of photos of design. If you are fascinated by neat looking stuff, you'll be fascinated by some of the pics and posts there. Some of the chairs and tables are true works of art.

Another entry of note was Mommy on the Verge, a wonderfully written site with a quirky personal touch. That we share a fondness for the TravelGnome is reason enough for the shout out, but honestly, her writing is very refreshing :).

121Blog Iran is a fascinating conversation between a guy in the UK (Steve) and a similar fellow living in Tehran (Mr Behi). The juxtaposition of similar people with similar jobs in such dissimilar environments is phenomenal. Well worth the look.

Beyond the Outhouse has some amazing photography. Some of the images here are truly remarkable, and proof that pictures are often worth far more than 1000 words. On the other side of the fence, The Good Word of Sprout proves that words can paint colours as vividly as oil on canvas.

There are far better people than me to read on here, LOL … but thanx for reading me :).


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Charles Taylor and the CIA …

Will Charles Taylor sing? – from Salon

Permalink [11:20 EST, March 30, 2006]
Now that he is back in custody and facing charges, it does raise some interesting questions. I think the most interesting information will be about what sort of ties he had to al-Queda while he was on the CIA payroll for information on Libya. There's no question that in the world of international espionage, you sometimes have to get dirty. But Taylor represents the worst of the worst, and there's never really been any question of that. It'll be nice to see him stand trial for the abuses of his reign, but it'll be even more interesting, I think, to get details of some of the other intrigue that went on around him.

The ‘Liberal’ press …

“Saddam chose to deny inspectors”

Bush repeated this bald-faced lie recently. The cowering press still lets him get away with it, but the public is no longer fooled.

By Joe Conason

http://www.salon.com/opinion/conason/2006/03/31/bush_lies/

Its a wonderful article that points out once again perhaps the biggest lie the Bush admin tells, and its also the easiest one to prove, and the hardest one for supporters of Bush to wiggle out of.

As Conason points out, he’s catagorically stated on at least 3 occasions that Saddam refused to allow inspectors into Iraq before the war, and that he ignored 1441 by failing to disclose the weapons programs he had. This is a bald-faced lie that is easy to prove.

The documents that Iraq submitted to the UN in response to 1441 detailed exactly what the US forces later found on the ground in Iraq. The calims Iraq made in the run-up to the war about destroying certain weapons programs were accurately reported in the documents submitted for 1441, and the US forces have since found those claims match what was found on the ground. In the months leading up to the war, Hans Blix and others were in Iraq with free and unfettered access to any sites they chose to look into (including several Presidential palaces and secure military facilities).

So the fact is, when the President said in his press conference that “he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose” he was uttering a bald-faced lie. The facts indicate that Saddam complied with 1441 completely … he allowed inspectors in, and he disclosed the true state of his weapons programs, as demanded by 1441. My question is, why does the press keep letting Bush lie about those facts?

Harper defends right to secret cabinet meetings

Harper defends right to secret cabinet meetings

Claims Canadians have 'no right' to know when federal cabinet is meeting



House of Commons security restrains reporters Monday outside Prime Minister Harper's office


Photograph by : Canadian Press






Bruce Cheadle, Canadian Press

Published: Tuesday, March 28, 2006


In Canada it seems we no longer have openness in government. For a man who only recently campaigned on openness and reforming the ethical structure of government, it seems Harper is off to a VERY bad start.

It wasn't bad enough that he appointed an unelected Senator to cabinet, or welcomed a former Liberal who'd been actively insulting the Conservative platforms hours before. With this barring of the press core from the 3rd floor hallways, Harper has definately shown the true colours of Conservative openness anyway. I'd like to remind Mr. Harper that despite all protestations of ending "12 years of Liberal one party democracy in Ottawa" he comes from a province in its 3rd decade of one party conservative rule.

After the previous Liberal scandals, Canada expected a government that would operate ethically, in the open, with nothing to hide. From unelected decision makers, through aisle hopping turncoats, all the way to secret cabinet meetings and barring the press from a time honoured tradition. Mr. Harper, you are NOT off to a good start …

Aliens among us …

There’s no specific reason i am posting this now, except that the life found around thermal vents has always fascinated me, from the first time I started hearing about it. It ties into my interest in SETI and extra-terrestrial life because in many very real ways, the environment around thermal vents isn’t terrestrial in any way. From dictionary.com, terrstrial is …

ter·res·tri·al ( P ) Pronunciation Key (t-r strl)
adj.

  1. Of or relating to the earth or its inhabitants.
  2. Having a worldly, mundane character or quality.
  3. Of, relating to, or composed of land.
  4. Biology. Living or growing on land; not aquatic: a terrestrial plant or animal.

I suppose I have to give thermal vent life a point for definition one … the vents DO exist on earth, but the other 3 don’t really even come close. 3 & 4 have OBVIOUS problems when talking about life 2 miles beneath the ocean, and even #2 is hard to work with. At best, its a stretch to say that thermal vent life is mundane, or similar in character to other wordly life.

Anyway, I was fascinated by a few things in the article. Previous reading had left me with the impression that the environment of thermal vents was intensely hot, and while that seems to be true, I hadn’t realized how quickly the water around the vents cooled down. As this article points out, that makes it mostly the odd chemical mix, not the intense heat, that most of the life thrives on. One of the other interesting points was the notion of vents popping up for a few years or decades (or longer?) and then dying out. Yet at each new site, it seems life springs up almost immediately. The higher life, such as lobsters and octopus’s that seem to have adapted to the toxic environment raise interesting for me about whether colonies of life around the vents springs up on its own, or moves.

Its clear that vents speak to life off the planet earth, however. Again, as the article points out, the vents spew a chemical brew that is throroughly toxic to what we normally think of as life. The giant tube worms are a fascinating visual spectacle, swaying in the ‘breeze’ as they do, but I think the real fascination is in the wealth of higher creatures who have developed and thrived in this environment, and the structure of how they survive will likel speak to the structure of life off planet earth. The surface of Venus, as one example, is a place that closely resembles an undersea thermal vent. Intense pressures, weird chemical mixes, high temperatures, the entire surface is essemtially like the inside of a high pressure thermal vent. Unlike our ocean, it doesn’t cool down anywhere, but we know that life exists in both the high and low temp areas of the vent. With so much area, and so much varied terrain and food sources, one wonders what sort of ecosystem might develop.

Or take Titan. The recent data from Huygens and Cassini show a cold place, but a place rich in petrocarbons. Even Mars looks to have a deeply buried aquifer, and there are several other fascinating candidates in our solar system alone now for life. Recently, my New Continuum group also posted a fascinating article on the 8 places where life might exist that touches on this … I will paste it below the Popular Science article.

http://seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov/OCEAN_PLANET/HTML/ps_vents.html


Creatures of the Thermal Vents

by Dawn Stover

The three-person submersible Alvin sank through the cold, dark waters of the Pacific Ocean for more than an hour, finally touching down on the sea floor more than 8,000 feet below the surface. It was December 1993, and the scientists inside the sub had come to this stretch of the East Pacific Rise, an underwater mountain range about 500 miles southwest of Acapulco, Mexico, to inspect a recently formed hydrothermal vent – a fissure in the ocean bottom that leaks scalding, acidic water.

Peering out through the sub’s tiny windows, the visitors were astonished to see thickets of giant tube worms, some four feet tall. The tail ends of the worms were firmly planted on the ocean floor, while red plumes on the other ends swayed like a field of poppies. Alvin had brought researchers to the same spot less than two years earlier, when they had seen none of these strange creatures. Measurements at the site have since shown that individual tube worms can increase in length at a rate of more than 33 inches per year, making them the fastest-growing marine invertebrates. That means tube worms can colonize a vent more rapidly than scientists once thought.
photo © Al Giddings/Images Unlimited, Inc.

The giant tube worm is one of the most conspicuous members of a diverse community that forms around hydrothermal vents. Scientists once thought that no living thing could survive the harsh combination of toxic chemicals, high temperatures, high pressures, and total darkness at these vents. But in 1977, researchers diving in Alvin discovered tube worms and other bizarre organisms thriving at a vent off the Galapagos Islands. Similar communities have since been found at several hundred hot spots around the world. These creatures are like nothing else on Earth.

Vents form where the planet’s crustal plates are slowly spreading apart and magma is welling up from below to form mountain ranges known as mid-ocean ridges. As cracks form at these spreading centers, seawater seeps a mile or two down into the hot rock. Enriched with minerals leached from the rock, the water heats and rises to the ocean floor to form a vent.

Vents are usually clustered in fields, underwater versions of Yellowstone’s geyser basins. Individual vent openings typically range from less than a half inch to more than six feet in diameter. Such fields are normally found at a depth of more than a mile. Most have been discovered along the crest of the Mid-Oceanic Ridge, a 46,000- mile-long chain of mountains that wraps around Earth like the seams on a baseball. A few vents have also been found at seamounts, underwater volcanoes that are not located at the intersection of crustal plates.

The largest vent field, called TAG (short for Trans-Atlantic Geotraverse), is about the size and shape of a football stadium. Other fields have more whimsical names like Clam Acres, Mussel Bed, Rose Garden, Garden of Eden, Broken Spur, and Lucky Strike. Snow Blower is named for the white, flaky bacteria discharged from its vents. Genesis is a vent that sputtered out but came back to life a few years later.

Hydrothermal vents are underwater oases, providing habitat for many creatures that are not found anywhere else in the ocean. More than 300 new species have been identified since the first vent was discovered in 1977.

Besides the giant tube worms, which have so far been found only in the Pacific, there are pencil-size Jericho worms with accordion-like tubes; orange worms covered with tiny bristles; small benthic worms that wriggle through the mud; and finger-length, dark red palm worms that stand upright, topped with wiglike fronds. A special class of small worms, called Alvinellids (named after the sub), live on the walls of mineral deposits that form around vents.

Mussels, shrimp, clams, and crabs are abundant at many vents, but these are not the same species that you find in seafood dishes. The cocktail-size shrimp that dominate vents in the mid-Atlantic, for example, have no eyes. However, at least one species has an extremely sensitive receptor on its head that may be used to detect heat or even dim light coming from vents. Scientists still aren’t sure how shrimp and other vent creatures cope with chemical-laden seawater that would kill ordinary shellfish.

Biologists have observed a variety of smaller crustaceans around vents, including miniature lobsters called galatheids, and amphipods resembling sand fleas. They have also seen snail-like limpets the size of BBs, sea anemones, snakelike fish with bulging eyes, and even octopuses.

While octopuses are at the upper end of the vent’s food chain, bacteria are at the bottom. They are the first organisms to colonize newly formed vents, arriving in a snowlike flurry and then settling to form white mats or tendrils attached to the ocean floor. Bacteria have been found living beneath the ocean’s floor, and it seems likely that they emerge from below when the conditions are right. Vent bacteria can withstand higher temperatures than any other organism. That makes them attractive to researchers who are developing heat-stable enzymes for genetic engineering, and culturing bacteria designed to break down toxic waste.

Water pouring out of vents can reach temperatures up to about 400 C; the high pressure keeps the water from boiling. However, the intense heat is limited to a small area. Within less than an inch of the vent opening, the water temperature drops to 2 C, the ambient temperature of deep seawater. Most of the creatures that congregate around vents live at temperatures just above freezing. Thus chemicals are the key to vent life, not heat.

The most prevalent chemical dissolved in vent water is hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs. This chemical is produced when seawater reacts with sulfate in the rocks below the ocean floor. Vent bacteria use hydrogen sulfide as their energy source instead of sunlight. The bacteria in turn sustain larger organisms in the vent community.

The clams, mussels, tube worms, and other creatures at the vent have a symbiotic relationship with bacteria. The giant tube worms, for example, have no digestive system – no mouth or gut. “The worm depends virtually solely on the bacteria for its nutrition,” says microbial ecologist Colleen M. Cavanaugh of Harvard University. “Both partners benefit.”

The brown, spongy tissue filling the inside of a tube worm is packed with bacteria – about 285 billion bacteria per ounce of tissue. “It’s essentially a bacterial culture,” says Cavanaugh.

The plumes at the top of the worm’s body are red because they are filled with blood, which contains hemoglobin that binds hydrogen sulfide and transports it to the bacteria housed inside the worm. In return, the bacteria oxidize the hydrogen sulfide and convert carbon dioxide into carbon compounds that nourish the worm.

Tube worms reproduce by spawning: They release sperm and eggs, which combine in the water to create a new worm. Biologists don’t know how the infant worm acquires its own bacteria. Perhaps the egg comes with a starter set.

Scientists also don’t know how tube worms and other organisms locate new vents for colonization. “The vents are small, and they’re separated, like islands,” says Cindy Lee Van Dover, a biologist and Alvin pilot who studies vent life. Most vent organisms have a free- swimming larval stage. But scientists aren’t sure whether the larvae float aimlessly or purposely follow clues – such as chemical traces in the water – to find new homes.

Studying the life cycle of vent organisms is difficult. Researchers have visited only a fraction of the ocean’s hot spots. They have been able to observe vent life only by shining bright lights on creatures accustomed to inky darkness, and many specimens die quickly when removed from their unique environment. Underwater cameras are helping scientists make less intrusive observations, but diving expeditions are still the most useful way to gather information. The 1993 Alvin expedition to the East Pacific Rise was one in a series of dives to the area. The site was first visited in 1989, and scientists observed vent organisms thriving there. But when Alvin returned in April 1991, its flabbergasted occupants witnessed the birth of a hydrothermal vent. A recent volcanic eruption had spread glassy lava across the ocean floor, and the researchers measured temperatures up to 403 C – the hottest ever recorded at a hydrothermal vent. The scientists dubbed the site Tube Worm Barbecue, because the worms they brought back to their ship had charred flesh.

“The most spectacular sight down there was this massive blinding snowstorm of bacteria,” says Rich Lutz, a marine ecologist at Rutgers University, who led the expedition. On the ocean floor, the bacteria formed mats several inches thick, but the scientists saw no other living things.

Since the eruption, scientists have been able to watch several stages of colonization at the site. When they returned in March 1992, only a few bacterial mats remained. In their place were colonies of Jericho worms and a variety of small crustaceans. The scientists named the area Phoenix, because new life had arisen from the ashes of the eruption.

The scientists first observed the giant tube worms at Phoenix in December 1993. They also noticed a number of mineral deposits, some towering to heights of more than 30 feet. These structures form where hot vent water meets cold seawater, causing metal sulfides to precipitate out. The precipitating sulfides, which look like smoke, amass to form chimneys called black smokers. Like the vent fields, some smokers have names. Smoke and Mirrors, for example, has shelflike overhangs that trap hot water rising from below, creating upside-down shimmering pools. The largest known black smoker is Godzilla, a 160-foot-tall structure off the coast of Oregon.

During a December 1993 dive to the Phoenix vent field, Alvin accidentally toppled a 33-foot-tall smoker. When the sub returned for a brief visit three months later, the chimney had already grown back 20 feet. Scientists were surprised by the speedy recovery, which seems to parallel the rapid growth of tube worms and other organisms at the vents. The visits to the Phoenix site “give us a sense of how quickly these vents are colonized,” says Van Dover.

Another expedition is planned for November. By then, the community of organisms now prospering at the vents may already be a ghost town. When the flow of hot, sulfide-rich water slows to a trickle, death also comes quickly.

Ocean Planet Exhibition Floorplan

gene carl feldman (gene@seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov) (301) 286-9428
Judith Gradwohl, Smithsonian Institution (Curator/Ocean Planet)
EdB  (myxtplkn@yahoo.com) thought you might be interested in this news article
from SPACE.com.

8 Worlds Where Life Might Exist
http://www.space.com/searchforlife/060323_seti_biomes.html


Its your karma … use it wisely

http://elronsviewfromtheedge.blogspot.com/

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–elron

Fwd: [new-continuum] Blog entry for today …

On 3/30/06, myxtplkn wrote:

I have posted it before and it never seems to take--killing innocent people that are not armed and the taking of hostages that are innocent and then threatening to kill them or killing them and then equating that to innocents killed accidentally does not excuse or cancel out the killing human beings neither hostile, hostages, insurgents, terrorists or whatever name is affixed to them There may be some debate as to which is the most horrifying, but the result is the same --dead people Somehow many of the posts seem to excuse bloodshed on one side or the other because each death cancels out the death of another. In terms of the process, IMO it is worse to kill an innocent person purposefully than it is if it happens accidentally. Enemy combatants do kill one another. Terrorism in terms of killing those that are innocent of wrongdoing is despicable no matter whose side you are on The release of hostages recently, has only been done because of the bad press the insurgents are getting from the World and not because they are such nice people--If they were all that nice they wouldn't have taken innocent people as hostages in the first place EdB


———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Elron Steele <elron6900@gmail.com>
Date: Mar 30, 2006 3:52 PM

Agreed Ed … I think Gandhi may have said it best …

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?
[info] [add] [mail]

Mahatma Gandhi , "Non-Violence in Peace and War"

There's no question the kidnappers are nasty people … my point in my blog article was to say that they aren't the blood thirsty thugs they are portrayed to be, whatever else they may be. And when "security consultants" end up dead, but intelligent and nuanced reporters and Christian Peace Teams end up alive, we HAVE to ask why, and be willing to examine those reasons closely.

It seems clear to me that if indiscriminate killing were what the insurgency in Iraq were after, all 5 people would be dead. Its not a matter of good guys and bad guys, as the Gandhi quote points out, and we NEED to ask whu some people are killed, and others aren't. The answers won't be pleasant, but the questions have to be asked I think.

Hostages released …

Jill Carroll released …
Charles Adler on Hostage releases

In recent days, two seperate high profile hostage incidents from Iraq have been resolved, with hostages being found alive and well for the most part. Charles Adler used the release of 2 Canadians and a Brit (sadly, Tom Fox, the American, was killed in an escape attempt) to rail against the homosexuality of one of the Canadian hostages and twist that into a reason why he should never have been allowed to protest a bloody war being fought in the wrong place.

Adler took the opportunity also to criticize the Christian Peacemaker Teams group that sponsered Loney and the others, pulling a statement they made after 9/11 and twisting their words against them.

It was also on the day after Sept. 11, 2001, that CPT shared the following on its website: "Our most realistic hope for safety comes from working to make sure that everyone in the world community is treated fairly and being just as willing to give our lives in pursuit of loving the enemy as the terrorists were willing to give their lives to kill the enemy."

The enemy? Which one of the more than 3,000 victims (many of them Canadian) of Sept. 11 are Christian Peacemakers calling the enemy?

The Christian Peacemakers weren't saying anyone in the Towers was their enemy, and any rational reading of the quote makes that clear. They were making a nuanced statement about how the men who flew those planes into the buildings were thinking, men who were CLEARLY committed to their cause in a very specific and life changing way. Thats not to make them out to be anything but the cold blooded killers they are, but the CPT statement is NOT trying say the people killed by those terrorists were CPT's enemy, or our enemy. The statement says the people in the towers were the enemy of the men who were piloting those planes, and if Adler wants to ignore that fact, he does so at his own ignorance and peril, IMO. Unfortunately, he and his ilk do so at my peril as well.

Today, Jill Carroll was released, unharmed after months of captivity. While her full story is yet to emerge, one general truth seems to be abundantly clear … the image of the insurgency in Iraq as blood-thirsty tyrants bent only on desctruction of innocent life is the big lie. If the people who took Jill Carroll hostage were crazed lunatics, bent on killing and terrorizing as many innocent people as possible, Jill Carroll would be dead. So would Loney and the rest of the CPT team. They'd ALL have been dead months ago, and videos of their beheadings would have showed up on CNN and al-Jazeera.

But instead, we have 4 people (out of 5 involved in the 2 abductions) alive and well, going on with their lives. We have to examine the reasons they are alive, while others are not … putting it down to 'luck' is simply non-sensical … there's no question that if the people holding either group felt their deaths would have advanced their causes, then we'd have 5 bodies on our hands, not 4 live people and an unfortunate guy killed escaping. If we continue to ignore facts like these, then we are doomed to a very dark and disturbing future, IMO.

There are ways out of the darkness, I think, but its not easy. The first is to start to intelligently examine why Jill Carroll, and Jim Loney and his friends, aren't corpses today. If we fail to ask that question, then I think the 'exit strategy' dissapears.