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Member since: Sun Jul 31, 2011, 05:36 PM
Number of posts: 4,981

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Astronomy Picture of the Day


maybe those space rock hunters can find a few more of these ice rocks......

How Ancient Viruses Invaded Our Genomes --New Clues Discovered

Scientists have uncovered clues as to how our genomes became riddled with viruses. The study reveals important information about the so–called 'dark matter' of our genome. For years scientists have been struggling with the enigma that more than 90 percent of every mammal's genome has no known function. A part of this 'dark matter' of genetic material is known to harbour pieces of DNA from ancient viruses that infected our ancestors going back as far as the age of the dinosaurs.

Researchers at Oxford University, the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York and the Rega Institute in Belgium wanted to know how these ancient viruses got into their hosts' genomes in such abundance.
The team searched the genomes of 38 mammals covering a large range of species: from mouse, rat and bat to human, elephant and dolphin. Genetic material from all of the residing viruses was collected and then compared using mathematical models.

The findings revealed that one particular group of viruses had lost the ability to infect new cells. Their genetic material is still able to amplify itself but the whole lifecycle of the virus is passed within a single cell. This change, they found, was followed by a dramatic proliferation of the virus' genetic material within the genomes.

A comparison with all of the other viruses in the genomes revealed this to be a universal phenomenon, and that loss of cell infectivity is associated with a roughly 30-fold increase in the abundance of the virus.


The Operator -- What does the 2012 campaign’s biggest donor really want?

In early 2010, Karl Rove convened a group of businessmen for lunch at a private club in Dallas. The guests included some of the richest and most influential people in Texas. T. Boone Pickens, the corporate raider from Amarillo, was there, as was Harlan Crow, the prodigal son of Trammell Crow, the most prominent real estate developer in the country in his day. Some of the men had contributed to Rove’s campaigns for a quarter of a century.

Rove had come to them with a new proposition. He and his partner, former George W. Bush White House counselor Ed Gillespie, were traversing the country to drum up financial support for an organization called American Crossroads. Taking advantage of the Supreme Court’s recent obliteration of limits on corporate campaign contributions in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Rove and Gillespie were building an independent campaign operation with the aim of taking Congress back from the Democrats that November and, two years later, pulling the plug on Barack Obama’s presidency. “All of us,” Rove told the group, according to an account of the meeting in The Wall Street Journal, “are responsible for the kind of country we have.”

After Rove finished, one of the men spoke up. “I’m in,” Harold Simmons said.

Simmons, the billionaire owner of a Dallas-based constellation of companies in industries ranging from sugar-refining to nuclear waste disposal, had been financing Rove’s campaigns since 1986. He had donated $90,000 to Bush’s gubernatorial campaigns and $2.5 million to Bush-allied political organizations during his presidential runs. Gale Norton, Bush’s interior secretary, had previously been a Washington lobbyist for one of Simmons’s companies. When Bush held his first white-tie dinner at the White House in 2007, in honor of Queen Elizabeth, Simmons and his third wife, Annette, were among the guests eating spring lamb off the Lenox china.

Still, nobody knew just how “in” Simmons intended to be until this February, when Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings revealed him to be the single largest contributor in American politics. In late March, the Dallas billionaire told the Journal that, along with his wife and his holding company, Contran, he had donated $18.7 million to Republican political organizations—not just Crossroads ($14.5 million) but also independent expenditure groups aligned with Mitt Romney ($800,000), Rick Santorum ($1.2 million), Newt Gingrich ($1.1 million), and Rick Perry ($1.1 million)—and that he planned to give nearly twice that much by November.

Simmons’s appearance at the top of the donors list marked the second reordering of the conventional wisdom regarding what the post–Citizens United frontier of campaign finance would look like. At first, doomsayers predicted that groups like Crossroads—the independent-but-not-really organizations known as super PACs—would become de facto fronts for behemoths like Exxon Mobil and Walmart. Then came the South Carolina primary and Gingrich’s unlikely resurrection thanks to a $5 million contribution to the Gingrich-aligned Winning Our Future super PAC from the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Suddenly, it appeared that American politics had been hijacked not by corporations, but by a handful of mildly eccentric plutocrats driven by personal hobbyhorses: Adelson’s Israel hawkishness or the Santorum-backing multimillionaire Foster Friess’s fear of Al Qaeda training camps in Latin America.

for The rest of the Story about the man who wants to own America.... The story of an American Capiltalist at work..


Public Utility, Private Profit: Privatization of Water Is as Benign as Lucifer

San Rafael, California -- There hasn’t been much rain this season where I live. Personally, I don’t mind much. I like sunny days, summer weather, dry fairways at San Geronimo. The deer are not very happy, having to spend more time on my street than they’d prefer but they’ve had to come down from the hills a bit looking for food.

Where I live the reservoirs are still mostly full from the last winter’s rain and we will not experience any delays or service interruptions. I pay for water every month, the local water district sends a bill, costs maybe 30 bucks if everybody showers a lot and there are loads of clothes.

Drinking water, all I have to do is open the tap.

I take water for granted, did even during drought years when we recycled water for the garden and to flush toilets. Shower with a friend, the saying went, and we did, although that didn’t really seem to save much water.

Every year about 2 million people, most of them children, die from lack of water, either directly or indirectly through lack of sanitation; that’s twice as many people as the United States killed in Iraq. Estimates of international agencies put the number at 1.1 billion who do not have access to enough water to drink, cook with, or properly bathe.

Water in Marin County is a public utility. There’s a water board elected by the voters and various projects from time to time. For most of my life I was not even aware that water might be a problem for some people, blissfully wrapped in the Bay Area cocoon. What I’d heard seemed to be passing news bulletins. Droughts somewhere, I wasn’t sure. Relief efforts.

I’ve also been ignorant about nearly everything else in the world. I don’t think I really got how deeply evil some corporations were. I didn’t understand how money worked, nor what the World Bank was about, nor the International Monetary Fund. They sounded benign. They are about as benign as Lucifer.



Vital Signs of the Planet

This website presents a data-rich view of climate and a discussion of how that data fits together into the scientists' current picture of our changing climate. But there's a great deal that we don't know about the future of Earth's climate and how climate change will affect humans.

For convenience and clarity, climate scientists separate things that affect climate change into two categories: forcings and feedbacks (see sidebar at right).

Also, climate scientists often discuss "abrupt climate change," which includes the possibility of "tipping points" in the Earth's climate. Climate appears to have several states in which it is relatively stable over long periods of time. But when climate moves between those states, it can do so quickly (geologically speaking), in hundreds of years and even, in a handful of cases, in only a few decades. These rapid 'state changes' are what scientists mean by abrupt climate change. They are much more common at regional scales than at the global scale, but can be global. State changes have triggers, or "tipping points," that are related to feedback processes. In what's probably the single largest uncertainty in climate science, scientists don't have much confidence that they know what those triggers are.

Below is an explanation of just a few other important uncertainties about climate change, organized according to the categories forcing and feedback. This list isn't exhaustive. It is intended to illustrate the kinds of questions that scientists still ask about climate.

Checkout Eyes on the Earth.....simply amazing...

See this link for amazing resources..... http://climate.nasa.gov/

Earth Day Facts

Annually, April 22 is a day set aside to honor the Earth. But every day is Earth Day, and some of the things that will happen 365 times in a year are listed below. Not all of them can continue indefinitely.

Earth will travel 1.6 million miles in its annual journey around the Sun, the 4.6-billionth such round-trip. It will rotate about its axis exactly once.

The Sun will travel 13.5 million miles around the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.

The Sun will fuse 51.8 billion tons of hydrogen into 51.5 billion tons of helium. (Lest you worry, it will have the capacity to do this for another 5 billion years or so.) The other 0.3 billion tons will be released as energy (Einstein's E = mc2). The energy poured forth in all directions each day is 10 trillion trillion kilowatt-hours. The fraction of this energy that bathes the Earth powers nearly everything that lives there.

The fraction of the sun's energy intercepted by the Earth at the top of its atmosphere is 6000 trillion kilowatt-hours, about 600,000 times the quantity Americans consume in a day.

The population of the world will grow by 211,000 people.

A new Akron, Ohio will be added every day.

40,000 acres of land, an area about the size of Boise, Idaho will be converted to desert.

200 million tons of topsoil will be lost through erosion from croplands.

50,000 acres of forest will be eliminated.

Between 20 and 500 species will disappear from the planet forever.

We know so little about the family of life to which we belong that we cannot quantify the damage we are inflicting upon it. We do know that extinctions are occurring 100 to 1,000 times faster than the normal background rate.

People will consume more than 3 billion gallons of oil.

Burning the oil and other fossil fuels will release 70 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, slowly but surely nudging the planet's temperature upward.

3 million tons of iron ore, 575 thousand tons of tin, 330 thousand tons of bauxite (for aluminum), and 34 thousand tons of copper will be ripped from the Earth.

800 million people will go to bed hungry and awake too weak to lead productive lives.

18,000 children will die from chronic hunger, malnutrition, and related diseases.

The world will spend $3 billion on military expenditures, half by one country.

$2 billion will be invested in research and development.

This will result in the publication of 1,900 science and engineering articles

and granting of 150 patents.

4000 books will be published.

1.3 billion children will be educated in pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools.

97 billion e-mail messages will be sent, more than 40 billion of which will be spam.

One thing is certain: the world of today will be different tomorrow - and the day after that, and on and on ad infinitum. The question is not whether we must learn to live sustainably, but how fast we can do so.


Embarrassed by Bad Laws

A year ago, few people outside the world of state legislatures had heard of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a four-decade-old organization run by right-wing activists and financed by business leaders. The group writes prototypes of state laws to promote corporate and conservative interests and spreads them from one state capital to another.

The council, known as ALEC, has since become better known, with news organizations alerting the public to the damage it has caused: voter ID laws that marginalize minorities and the elderly, antiunion bills that hurt the middle class and the dismantling of protective environmental regulations.

Now it’s clear that ALEC, along with the National Rifle Association, also played a big role in the passage of the “Stand Your Ground” self-defense laws around the country. The original statute, passed in Florida in 2005, was a factor in the local police’s failure to arrest the shooter of a Florida teenager named Trayvon Martin immediately after his killing in February.

That was apparently the last straw for several prominent corporations that had been financial supporters of ALEC. In recent weeks, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Intuit, Mars, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have stopped supporting the group, responding to pressure from activists and consumers who have formed a grass-roots counterweight to corporate treasuries. That pressure is likely to continue as long as state lawmakers are more responsive to the needs of big donors than the public interest.

The N.R.A. pushed Florida’s Stand Your Ground law through the State Legislature over the objections of law enforcement groups, and it was signed by Gov. Jeb Bush. It allows people to attack a perceived assailant if they believe they are in imminent danger, without having to retreat. John Timoney, formerly the Miami police chief, recently called the law a “recipe for disaster,” and he said that he and other police chiefs had correctly predicted it would lead to more violent road-rage incidents and drug killings. Indeed, “justifiable homicides” in Florida have tripled since 2005.


Ted Nugent Eats Tiger Dick

Tell friends you're going to a classic-rock show in San Francisco and bands like Furthur and Journey might come to mind. The last thing they'd expect is a gun-toting Glenn Beck pal with a ranch in Texas, unless they knew that 62-year-old Ted Nugent regularly swings through town on his US tours—which have been happening for 40 years and counting. It's no surprise that a guy who draws cheers from his audience by exclaiming, "Let's hear it for dead shit on the fucking grill!" once got in a tiff with SF animal-rights protesters that ended up with a 21-year-old activist being hauled off to jail. That was 11 years ago. In an email after his most recent show, Nugent told me he hadn't run into any trouble this time around. "But I was lookin'."

I arrive outside The Independent, a venue that's a bit small for Nugent's oversized persona, 15 minutes before the doors open. There are about six dozen people waiting in line, mostly middle-aged white guys, some donning an assortment of wide-brimmed hats and camo. It's not exactly the mix of youthful hipsters and aging hippies you normally encounter at shows around here.

Most of these guys it seems, have been Nugent fans since the 1970s, but up at the front of the line, I spot an anomaly: a young couple from San Francisco's Marina District. "We're very conservative," explains the man, noting that he, like Nugent, is an avid hunter. There probably aren't many people here from the city, he wagers.


Nugent NRA Video Removed From YouTube


Poverty In America: Defining The New Poor

Welfare reform in 1990s helped slash cash benefit rolls, and yet the use of food stamps is soaring today. About 15 percent of Americans use food stamps, and it has become what some call the new welfare.

A big reason why is because of a deal struck between President Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress in 1996. At that time, the number of Americans who received cash payments — what's often thought of as welfare — was at an all-time high.

The Clinton overhaul made it much harder to qualify for those payments, and today the welfare rolls are down 70 percent, but that's only if you define welfare in one way.

"We decided cash assistance is welfare and that's bad, but we decided food aid is nutritional assistance and that's good," says New York Times reporter Jason DeParle. "We made program much easier to get on."

DeParle, who covers poverty for The Times, tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz that 18 million Americans have had to apply for food aid since the economic crisis began.

The program has become a political talking point for some critics of the program: Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich began referring to President Obama as the "food stamp president," and said "no president has put more people on food stamps than Obama."

It's not technically true, and in fact more people went on food stamps under President George W. Bush. What is true, DeParle says, is that more Americans depend on food assistance now than at any other time in modern history: 1-in-6 people or almost 50 million Americans. The question is whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.


The Trouble with Experts....

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