Pope simplifies life for Obama, gives him FREE bioethics answer book!

Obama and Benedict held private talks for about 40 minutes in the pope’s frescoed study in the Vatican’s apostolic palace and the Vatican said bioethics and life issues were a central part of the discussion.

In a surprise move, the pontiff gave Obama a booklet explaining Vatican opposition to practices such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research, which Obama supports….

“Dignitas Personae” (dignity of a person) condemns artificial fertilization and other techniques used by many couples and also says human cloning, “designer babies” and embryonic stem-cell research are immoral.

The document defends life from conception to natural death and a Vatican statement issued after the meeting said the topics discussed included “the defense and promotion of life and the right to abide by one’s conscience.”

The pope’s private secretary told reporters after the meeting: “This reading can help the president better understand the Church’s position on these issues.”

The pope also gave the president a copy of his latest encyclical, “Charity in Truth,” which called for a “world political authority” to manage the global economy and for more government regulation of national economies to pull the world out of the current crisis and avoid a repeat.

Obama, who was going to the airport from the Vatican, joked to the pope when he gave him the two documents: “I’ll have something to read on the plane.”

This should be a great relief to Obama. Now he will know what GOD wants him to do.

Modern church high-level philosophy/science debate:
“The glass is half-full.”
“I say half-empty.”
“Half Full!”
“Half Empty!”

Sea ice near Greenland at lowest level in 800 years

Special shapes Greenland potato award for climate “skeptics”

New research, which reconstructs the extent of ice in the sea between Greenland and Svalbard from the 13th century to the present indicates that there has never been so little sea ice as there is now. The research results from the Niels Bohr Institute, among others, are published in the scientific journal, Climate Dynamics.

There are of course neither satellite images nor instrumental records of the climate all the way back to the 13th century, but nature has its own ‘archive’ of the climate in both ice cores and the annual growth rings of trees and we humans have made records of a great many things over the years – such as observations in the log books of ships and in harbour records. Piece all of the information together and you get a picture of how much sea ice there has been throughout time…

In order to determine how much sea ice there has been, the researchers needed to turn to data from the logbooks of ships, which whalers and fisherman kept of their expeditions to the boundary of the sea ice. The ship logbooks are very precise and go all the way back to the 16th century. They relate at which geographical position the ice was found. Another source of information about the ice are records from harbours in Iceland, where the severity of the winters have been recorded since the end of the 18th century.

By combining the curve of the climate with the actual historical records of the distribution of the ice, researchers have been able to reconstruct the extent of the sea ice all the way back to the 13th century. Even though the 13th century was a warm period, the calculations show that there has never been so little sea ice as in the 20th century…

None of this is a surprise to anyone who follows climate science in peer-reviewed journals. OTOH, there is the crowd who gets their rocks off when a daily weather chart shows what they hope to be a contradictory anomaly.

Too bad our professional weather “skeptics” have no perception of the differences between weather and climate.

Americans respect science – they just don’t understand any of it

According to a survey from the Pew Research Center, 84 percent of Americans think science has had a mostly positive effect on society, and scientists are held in high regard – more so than any other professions apart from the military and teaching, and way ahead of the clergy (or journalists, for that matter).

But along with all this adulation comes a shaky grasp of science – fewer than half those surveyed knew that electrons are smaller than atoms, for example.

And there’s a widespread refusal to believe ideas that are generally accepted by the scientific community. While 84 percent of scientists agree that the Earth is getting warmer because of human activity, for example, more than half the general public thinks we’ve had no effect at all…

But if you want the prime example of the public’s fundamental disagreement with basic scientific tenets, then – you’ve guessed it – it’s the question of human and animal origins.

According to the survey, an extraordinary 68 percent of Americans don’t believe in evolution through natural selection – a state of affairs that is surely unparalleled elsewhere in the western world. Less surprisingly, the figure is just 13 percent for scientists, who understand that the word “theory” in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution doesn’t actually mean “random guess”.

As you might expect, this situation creates a touch of cognitive dissonance. Over a third of the public said that science sometimes conflicted with their religious beliefs. This doesn’t put them off, mind you, as a full 63 percent of these creationists reckoned that scientists contributed “a lot” to society’s wellbeing. So perhaps there’s hope…

We could try making the creationists breed fruit flies, and actually see evolution in action. But a better way might be to make them put their money where their mouth is. Presumably, if you don’t believe in evolution, you don’t believe in newly-emergent strains of flu or other diseases, either. Just deny the latest vaccines to the creationists, and they’ll weed themselves out in the next hundred years or so. By natural selection.

I would suggest the same for the climate “skeptics”. The quote-marks are necessary. They abuse the historic meaning of the word – especially in science.

Let’s park them along the global riparian boundaries and deny them the seawalls many can afford. Especially those with funding contributed by the Oil Patch Boys. Another hundred years or so, they’ll be too busy treading water to reproduce.

Will Chrome OS offend the Open Source Community – WGAS?

I’m reasonably sure that Chrome OS will offend the open source community. There may even be a major reaction against it. You might not see open source luminaries picketing the Googleplex (although I wouldn’t be surprised), but there will almost certainly be a handful of inflammatory blog postings, and some very hot collars.

Here are Chrome OS’s sins, laid out one-by-one:

1. Chrome OS will include proprietary technologies. Linux still lacks a high-quality open source Flash plugin. Practically the only choice for 100% site compatibility is to use Adobe’s proprietary plugin, so Chrome OS will need to license and include it out of the box…

Then there are multimedia codecs. People are gonna want to play their tunes and watch their movies…Google will have to license the patents covering them. This will offend the open source community, who see the software patenting system as broken and corrupt…

2. Chrome OS was created to take away your privacy. Chrome OS exists to give Google access to your data. All of it. Chrome OS might be free of charge but you’ll pay for it with your online soul.

3. Google is big, ergo Google is evil. Open source people are suspicious of corporations, especially ones that are big. I have open source friends who won’t even shop at major supermarket chains, simply because of their size.

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Panetta halts controversial program – still won’t say what it was!

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Four months after he was sworn in, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta learned of an intelligence program that had been hidden from Congress since 2001, a revelation that prompted him to immediately cancel the initiative and schedule a pair of closed-door meetings on Capitol Hill.

The next day, June 24, Panetta informed the House and Senate intelligence committees of the program and the action he had taken, according to Democratic and Republican members of the panels.

The incident has reignited a long-running dispute between congressional Democrats and the CIA, with some calling it part of a broader pattern of the agency withholding information from Congress.

Republicans could care less.

The program remains classified, and those knowledgeable about it would describe it only vaguely yesterday. Several current and former administration officials called it an “on-again, off-again” attempt to create a new intelligence capability and said it was related to the collection of information on suspected terrorists that was instituted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks…

Current and former administration officials familiar with the program said it was not directly related to previously disclosed high-priority programs such as detainee interrogations or the warrantless surveillance of suspected terrorists on U.S. soil. It was a intelligence-collection activity run by the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, officials said. It was not a covert action, which by law would have required a presidential finding and a report to Congress.

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Should Google CEO stay on Apple’s board of directors

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said he will discuss with Apple how his role on its board might change after Google’s move to launch a new operating system.

Because Google’s new Chrome OS would compete with Apple’s own computer software, Schmidt said he would talk to the Mac computer maker about whether he should recuse himself from Apple’s board.

“I’ll talk to the Apple people. At the moment, there’s no issue,” Schmidt told reporters at a Sun Valley media and technology conference organized by boutique investment bank Allen & Co.

While Google and Apple compete directly or indirectly in a number of areas — the most obvious being the smartphone market — Google’s announcement this week that it will launch an operating system raised more questions about the relationship between their boards…

Schmidt began recusing himself from Apple board meetings where the iPhone was discussed after Google launched its own Android mobile phone operating system.

Google’s Chrome OS — expected to debut in netbooks in the second half of 2010 — would compete directly with Apple’s OS X platform.

Schmidt said Chrome, which is based on open-source technology, worked with Apple’s Safari browser.

“There’s a very large collaboration with respect to Chrome and Safari,” he said.

Sensible and fair-minded. A couple of qualities absolutely impenetrable to geeks, pundits and so-called analysts who focus on either firm. Makes me chuckle when I witness emotional hangups over rather common business questions.

If anything, these two firms handle such questions better than, say, the Oil Patch Boys or the Big Three. Those clowns practically invented collusion and cronyism.

RTFA if you absolutely, positively have to hear about Steve Jobs health.

“Cash for Clunkers” wins over drivers, dealers not waiting for paperwork

I’d buy one of these…

Having driven the equivalent of six smoke-belching laps of the planet, Tony Metzler figured his aging Chevrolet Blazer SUV would not make a good trade for a new car. Until now that is.

With a $1 billion federal “Cash for Clunkers” program that pays consumers $3,500 or $4,500 in credit to swap aging gas-guzzlers for new, more fuel efficient models, he made the plunge. “It ended up being right place, right time for me,” said Metzler who traded his eight-year-old sport utility vehicle for a new Chevrolet Equinox this week. “It seemed like a good opportunity.”

The program signed into law by President Barack Obama in June offers a trade-in credit of up to $4,500 to owners of cars built since 1984, with fuel economy of 18 miles per gallon or less. It also applies to SUV, vans and pickup trucks. Participating dealers assess the discount, apply it to the new vehicle, and then obtain reimbursement from the government. Details of eligibility are available at http://www.cars.gov…

The program, which backers hope will arrest the auto industry’s slide and sell 250,000 new vehicles this year, runs through November 1 or until funds are exhausted. It has been broadly welcomed by auto dealers across the country…

To safeguard against fraud, U.S. authorities have warned consumers not to give financial details to third parties touting the program on the Internet. Individuals taking part also need to provide proof of identity as part of the transaction — to prevent repeated use by the same person — while the clunkers themselves are crushed or shredded to prevent resale…

Adverts are on local TV already here in New Mexico. Dealers figure they’ll catch up with the paperwork later.

May not do this family any good. My wife’s early 1980’s Volvo gets gas mileage better than the program allows and the only new vehicle that could interest me would be a small to mid-size turbodiesel pickup. Fat chance!