Eideard

White House says just a coincidence CIA director is in Ukraine

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Nothing wrong with recycling the same old lies!

Sanctions have been the most visible sign of U.S. anger at Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region in southern Ukraine last month, reflecting the deepest plunge in U.S.-Russian relations since the Cold War.

Obama spoke to French President Francois Hollande about the crisis on Monday and praised Ukraine’s government for showing “great restraint” and working to unify the country, the White House said.

Spokesman Jay Carney confirmed that the director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, had been in Kiev over the weekend and decried what he called “false claims” leveled at the CIA by Russian authorities.

“Senior level visits of intelligence officials are a standard means of fostering mutually beneficial security cooperation including U.S.-Russian intelligence collaboration going back to the beginnings of the post-Cold War era,” Carney said.

“U.S. and Russian intelligence officials have met over the years. To imply that U.S. officials meeting with their counterparts (in Kiev) is anything other than in the same spirit is absurd,” he said.

According to media reports, Russia has urged Washington to explain what Brennan was doing in Ukraine.

Bobblehead politicians nod in agreement and sagely quote the nearest brass hat, “Peace is our profession”.

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Written by Ed Campbell

April 15, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Wildfire enters Valparaiso, Chile

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Click to enlargeAP Photo/Luis Hidalgo

People watch as a forest fire rages towards urban areas in the city of Valparaiso, Chile.

Thanks, Mike

Written by Ed Campbell

April 15, 2014 at 8:00 am

CT scans of Ice-Age bees from the La Brea tar pits

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Los Angeles’ La Brea tar pits have coughed up massive animals, from saber-toothed tigers to mammoths. But this discovery is much smaller—tiny bee pupae, still wrapped up in the leaves they use as a nest.

The samples were actually excavated all the way back in 1970. But at the time there wasn’t a way to analyze the sample without destroying them, so they were set aside. But now, the tiny pupae can be seen with a micro-CT scanner. Just take a look:


Click to enlarge

The researchers say that the cells are so well preserved that they were probably assembled in the exact place they were found—rather than moved around by time. Using the micro-CT scanner, the team was able to create a 3-D model of the pupae made of 2,172 scanned slices.

These bees are between 23,000 and 40,000 years old, according to radiocarbon dating. They are probably a species called Megiachile gentiles, a species of bee that’s actually still alive today. And, the researchers say, this bee is one of the rare species that’s probably benefitting from climate change, having expanded its range since the last ice age all across the United States.

Photomicrographic study is actually a scientific craft I apprenticed at – 57 years ago :) – working at the time in a lab that did non-ferrous metals research. Laid off when the whole research department was shutdown as the result of early days conglomerate building by capitalist boffins who only cared about this year’s P&L Statement.

Rather like Paul Ryan and his peers on Wall Street.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 15, 2014 at 2:00 am

Guardian and Washington Post win Pulitzer prize for NSA revelations by Edward Snowden

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The Guardian and the Washington Post have been awarded the highest accolade in US journalism, winning the Pulitzer prize for public service for their groundbreaking articles on the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities based on the leaks of Edward Snowden.

The award, announced in New York on Monday, comes 10 months after the Guardian published the first report based on the leaks from Snowden, revealing the agency’s bulk collection of US citizens’ phone records.

In the series of articles that ensued, teams of journalists at the Guardian and the Washington Post published the most substantial disclosures of US government secrets since the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam war in 1971.

The Pulitzer committee praised the Guardian for its “revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, helping through aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy”.

Snowden, in a statement, said: “Today’s decision is a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government. We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognises was work of vital public importance.”

He said that his actions in leaking the documents that formed the basis of the reporting “would have been meaningless without the dedication, passion, and skill of these newspapers”.

At the Guardian, the reporting was led by Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and film-maker Laura Poitras, and at the Washington Post by Barton Gellman, who also co-operated with Poitras. All four journalists were honoured with a George Polk journalism award last week for their work on the NSA story…

The Pulitzers have been bestowed since 1917, at the bequest of the legendary newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer who established the honour in his will as a means of encouraging publicly-spirited journalism. The awards have shifted and grown over the years to reflect the modern publishing landscape and today stands at 22 categories, including 14 journalism awards and seven gongs for books, drama and music. All the awards are administered by Columbia University.

Bravo! Stick that in your eye Mr. Constitutional Scholar Obama! Freedom of the Press still exists in a small brightly-illuminated corner of what has become entertainment media. The mass of what passes for journalism nowadays extends from pallid to putrid, an imitation of the life once generated by courageous writers and editors.

I’ve read the Guardian since early days based in Manchester – even then a focus on the world of principle and journalistic freedom that has been unrelenting. The best witness for that being the voices of death and destruction that try day in and day out to shout down this voice of reason and progress.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 14, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Global trade to gain speed in 2014 and 2015

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containers offloading in Qingdao, Shandong province
Trucks carry containers unloaded from ship in Qingdao, China’s Shandong province

The growth of global commerce will pick up speed this year and next, says the World Trade Organization…Trade will grow by a “modest” 4.7% this year and by 5.3% in 2015, says the WTO.

Next year’s figure, if correct, would be in line with the average growth rate in world trade over the last 20 years…These forecasts are consistent with other figures that show the world economy is gradually recovering from the financial crisis…

The overall impact is that global trade is above its pre-crisis level, but well below where it would have been, had it grown in line with the earlier pre-crisis trend…In fact, that gap is still getting wider and by next year will, on the new forecasts, be 19%.

So the analysis by the WTO does suggest progress…But if world trade and its growth before 2008 was in some sense normal, we are still not back there…

“In addition to creating a permanent shift downward in the level of trade,” said the WTO in a press release…”The global recession of 2008-09 may have reduced its average growth rate as well.”

The agency’s director general, Roberto Azevedo, said that just waiting for an automatic increase in trade was not enough…He called for new trade liberalisation agreements, in particular the negotiations known as the Doha Round…”Concluding the Doha Round would provide a strong foundation for trade in the future, and a powerful stimulus in today’s slow growth environment.”

The new WTO figures confirm that China is now the biggest goods trader in the world…Adding together exports and imports, China leads the United States, which is itself still the biggest trader in commercial services…However, the picture is different if the European Union is treated as a single unit, counting the trade of EU member states with outside nations and excluding commerce within the Union.

On that basis, the EU is the world’s biggest trader.

A significant portion of the whole equation is foreign direct investment, one of those economically rich processes that typically provides jobs and trade at both ends of such agreements. As long as Congressional Republicans control regulations governing FDI, the United States doesn’t stand a chance of improving trade.

Tea Party Confederates and the rest of the Republican Party have done everything they can to sabotage foreign direct investment from China in the United States. Between their Cold War mentality and fear-based ideology leftover from the Bush-Cheney years, FDI from China last year was less than 1% of the total.

Logic makes it clear to the Chinese their investment plans are better served within the European Union and in bilateral agreements with developing nations. That is where they are going to send their money. Americans who want jobs had better start asking questions of the isolationist patriots in Congress who believe their only mandate is to protect the likes of General Electric and the Koch Brothers.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Pulling drinking water out of thin air

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In some parts of Ethiopia, finding potable water is a six-hour journey.

People in the region spend 40 billion hours a year trying to find and collect water, says a group called the Water Project. And even when they find it, the water is often not safe, collected from ponds or lakes teeming with infectious bacteria, contaminated with animal waste or other harmful substances…

The invention from Arturo Vittori, an industrial designer, and his colleague Andreas Vogler doesn’t involve complicated gadgetry or feats of engineering, but instead relies on basic elements like shape and material and the ways in which they work together.

At first glance, the 30-foot-tall, vase-shaped towers…have the look and feel of a showy art installation. But every detail, from carefully-placed curves to unique materials, has a functional purpose.

The rigid outer housing of each tower is comprised of lightweight and elastic juncus stalks, woven in a pattern that offers stability in the face of strong wind gusts while still allowing air to flow through. A mesh net made of nylon or polypropylene, which calls to mind a large Chinese lantern, hangs inside, collecting droplets of dew that form along the surface. As cold air condenses, the droplets roll down into a container at the bottom of the tower. The water in the container then passes through a tube that functions as a faucet, carrying the water to those waiting on the ground…

So how would Warka Water’s low-tech design hold up in remote sub-Saharan villages? Internal field tests have shown that one Warka Water tower can supply more than 25 gallons of water throughout the course of a day, Vittori claims. He says because the most important factor in collecting condensation is the difference in temperature between nightfall and daybreak, the towers are proving successful even in the desert, where temperatures, in that time, can differ as much as 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

The structures, made from biodegradable materials, are easy to clean and can be erected without mechanical tools in less than a week. Plus, he says, “once locals have the necessary know-how, they will be able to teach other villages and communities to build the Warka.”

It costs about $500 to set up a tower.

Not certain if Vittori’s project is set for donations, yet – but, I’d recommend checking in with the Water Project. Folks at Tekzilla and HD Nation have worked with them in the past.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 14, 2014 at 8:00 am

Portrait of the Artist hidden in the portrait

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Click to enlarge

Artist Liu Bolin paints his body to merge with his background. Liu’s first solo exhibition, The Heroic Apparition, is at the Scream gallery in London until 9 May. This picture is entitled Hiding in Colombia – Mochilas

I love this stuff.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 14, 2014 at 2:00 am

Photos from Japan’s Festival of the Steel Phallus

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Click to enlarge

Lots more photos.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Written by Ed Campbell

April 13, 2014 at 8:00 pm

America’s ten least healthy cities

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smoking, obesity, no exercise

There’s no doubt that great strides have been made in Americans’ health over the years. Americans smoke less, are more likely to be insured and live longer. However, significant health disparities remain across the nation, influenced by individual choices, the community and clinical care.

To determine the well-being of Americans, Gallup-Healthways surveyed hundreds of thousands of Americans in 189 metropolitan areas in the United States in 2012 and 2013. The survey recorded the physical and emotional health of the residents, as well as measuring job satisfaction and access to basic needs. The resulting Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index allows for comparisons between places and over time.

Not surprisingly, the physical health of residents was influenced by their habits. While less than 20% of Americans surveyed were smokers, more than 34% of Charleston, W.Va., residents smoked, the most in the nation. Residents also reported among the highest rates of obesity in the country…

According to Dan Witters, research director for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, there is a clear relationship between poor physical health outcomes, such as obesity, and many of these habits. “When you’re talking about obesity, the big three are healthy eating, exercise, and smoking…”

AMERICA’S LEAST HEALTHY CITIES:

10. Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, Ark.

9. Spartanburg, S.C.

8. Chattanooga, Tenn.-Ga.

7. Clarksville, Tenn.-Ky.

6. Fort Smith, Ark.-Okla.

5. Redding, Calif.

4. Columbus, Ga.-Ala.

3. Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, Tenn.-Va.

2. Charleston, W.Va.

1. Huntington-Ashland, W.Va.-Ky.-Ohio

RTFA for the depressing details. Each metro area is rated for a physical health index, obesity, blood pressure and poverty rate. Following notes describe contributing factors – without having the courage to confront politics and ideology.

Fact is – nine of these ten unhealthiest cities are in the old [and new] Confederacy. You’re looking at the actual achievements of Tea Party and right-wing Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats and True Believers in fundamentalist religion. This is the reality they offer to Americans gullible enough, ignorant enough to vote them into power.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 13, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Where to watch – Years Of Living Dangerously

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Dangerous environment

Director and producer of films like Terminator, Titanic and Avatar, James Cameron has made a 9-part documentary on the environmental challenge climate change presents. The Years of Living Dangerously debuts Sunday night, April 13th, on Showtime. If you don’t subscribe to Showtime the debut will be available on YouTube.

Click on the graphic above to check out your choices.

Thanks, Mike

Written by Ed Campbell

April 13, 2014 at 8:00 am

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