Hundreds of Israelis call on pilots to disobey orders to bomb Iran

Courtesy of American taxpayers

More than 400 Israelis, including Tel Aviv University law professors Menachem Mautner and Chaim Gans, have recently signed an online petition calling on Israel Defense Forces pilots to refuse to obey if ordered to bomb Iran.

The petition calls a decision to launch a strike against Iran a “highly mistaken gamble” that would only delay Iran’s nuclear program, without stopping it, and would come “at an exorbitant price.”

You have the option of saying “No,” the petition addressed to the pilots reads. “Certainly, this is not a simple option. It involves profound professional and moral dilemmas, and carries the risk of losing a career which is important to you and also the possibility of being prosecuted. Nevertheless, it is your duty to consider most carefully and seriously the possibility that by saying the little word ‘No,’ you will be rendering an important and vital service to the State of Israel and all who live here. This service would be infinitely more important than blind obedience to this particular order.”

The petition cautioned that in the event an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities caused the dispersal of radioactive materials among civilian populations “Israel as a country, as well as those carrying out the bombing might be charged with war crimes…”

Meanwhile, members of the board of directors of Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, including senior doctors in Israel’s health establishment, have sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak in which they expressed their fears about the consequences of a potential Israeli attack on Iran.

“If we liken the state to a ship, you are the captains gripping the wheel of power who are heading this ship and its passengers into an enormous iceberg,” the physicians’ letter said.

Bravo! Inaction against an international crime leaves you to be judged as a willing participant. How history has come full circle when Israelis may be condemned for being “Good Germans”.

Fuel cell could turn wastewater plant into electricity producer

Research at Oregon State University by engineer Hong Liu

In the latest green energy – or perhaps that should be brown energy – news, a team of engineers from Oregon State University (OSU) has developed new technology they claim significantly improves the performance of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) that can be used to produce electricity directly from wastewater. With the promise of producing 10 to 50 times the electricity, per volume, than comparable approaches, the researchers say the technology could see waste treatment plants not only powering themselves, but also feeding excess electricity back to the grid.

The electricity-generating potential of microbes has been known for decades, however, it is only in recent years that efforts to increase the amount of electricity generated to commercially viable levels has started to bear fruit. In MFCs, bacteria are used to oxidize organic matter – be it in wastewater, grass straw, animal waste, and byproducts from such operations as the wine, beer or dairy industries – which produces electrons that run from the anode to the cathode within the fuel cell to create an electrical current.

By adopting a number of new concepts, including reducing the anode-cathode spacing, and using evolved microbes and new separator materials, the researchers say they have been able to produce MFCs that produce more than two kilowatts per cubic meter of liquid reactor volume. The researchers point out this power density is much higher than has been achieved previously and could see the new technology replacing the widely used “activated sludge” process that has been used for almost a century…

The team has proven the system “at a substantial scale in the laboratory” and is now seeking funding to scale things up with a pilot study. A contained system that produces a steady supply of certain types of wastewater that would provide significant amounts of electricity, such as a food processing plant, is seen as an ideal candidate for such a test…

If this technology works on a commercial scale the way we believe it will, the treatment of wastewater could be a huge energy producer, not a huge energy cost,” said Hong Liu, an associate professor in the OSU Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering. “This could have an impact around the world, save a great deal of money, provide better water treatment and promote energy sustainability.”

Bravo! I have to track down the email address for Santa Fe’s wastewater treatment plant up north of us on county road 56. They’re already powering basic needs with solar panels; but, I’m willing to bet they’d be interested in something like this.

Scary enough making an emergency landing in Syria – the plane is running on empty – the crew has to pass the hat to buy fuel!

Air France asks passengers for whip-round to pay for fuel after emergency stop in Damascus…The plane had been due to land in Beirut on Wednesday night but was diverted due to violent demonstrations near the airport of the Lebanese capital.

The captain first announced the plane would land in Amman in Jordan but due to lack of fuel he was forced to divert to Syria, where rebels are fighting to oust the dictatorial regime of President Bashar Assad.

Once on the ground, the crew told the 174 passengers they were unable to use the Air France company credit card to refuel the plane because of financial sanctions imposed on Syria by the West.

They then asked for a whip round among the mainly French and Lebanese travellers to pay for the thousands of litres of kerosene needed to reach Larnaca in Cyprus – the nearest safe airport…

An Air France spokesman later confirmed that the passengers had been asked for money after in landed in Damascus on Wednesday.

“As a precaution and in anticipation, the crew asked how much money the passengers had in cash to pay to fill up with fuel.

“However a solution was finally found to fill up the plane without borrowing cash from the passengers and the plane took off for Larnaca two hours later.”

I’ve heard of flights to nowhere – but, never one where you had to raise the cash to pay for a fill-up.


Befuddled enough to believe our economy exists apart from the rest of the world? Pay attention!

Ships like this aren’t limited to one-way traffic – though Congress still won’t ratify rules of the road

Twice as many business executives around the world say the global economy will prosper better if incumbent President Barack Obama wins the next election than if his Republican challenger Mitt Romney does…

Democrat Obama was chosen by 42.7 percent in the 1,700 respondent poll, compared with 20.5 percent for Romney. The rest said “neither”.

The result was different among respondents in the United States, where a slim majority thought Romney would be better for their businesses than Obama.

One of the so-called delights of our dedication to entrepreneurship is that lot of people who don’t know crap about macro-economics can be successful. For a while, anyway.

Obama maintains a seven-point lead over Romney among registered voters in the race for the November 6 presidential election, despite the fact Americans are increasingly pessimistic about the future, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted last week.

American exceptionalism is a piece of ideology rooted in frontier culture – in turn a simple fact derived from this continent’s late arrival on the economic scene.

Americans are just about catching up to the old saw about learning from history before you repeat it. Trouble is there’s a qualitative addition to that dicho which suggests you learn from history – and do something different by examining current qualitative differences.

You can do it if you really try.

Prove genetic predisposition and American courts more likely to give a psychopath a break

Criminal psychopaths in the United States whose lawyers provide biological evidence for their brain condition are more likely to be sentenced to shorter jail terms than those who are simply said to be psychopaths…

A study published in the journal Science found that if judges were told a criminal was a psychopath, they considered it an aggravating factor. But if they also heard biological explanations for the disorder, they gave shorter sentences.

Researchers from the University of Utah who conducted the study said the findings were surprising and worrying, and external experts said they had problematic implications for how brain science might affect criminal justice in future.

“In the coming years, we are likely to find out about all kinds of biological causes of criminal behavior, so the question is, why does the law care if most behavior is biologically caused?” said Teneille Brown, an associate professor at the university’s college of law…

Several studies in recent years have found that psychopaths who have committed serious crimes like murder and rape have faulty connections in their brains which show up on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans.

These and other advances in neuroscience have led some to worry that such scientific evidence may be used increasingly in court to explain criminal actions or argue mitigating circumstances…

Brown and her colleagues said their study raised ethical questions: Whether it was right to reduce a criminal’s sentence because defective genes or brain function meant he had less self-control and ability to tell right from wrong. Or whether such evidence should be an argument for a harsher sentence because the criminal may be more likely to reoffend.

Though I have an abiding interest in the law – and justice – the topic raises new and interesting conflicts between the two. Teneille Brown’s questions put it to the test of ethical decisions that are going to have to be written into legal precedent.

So far, I haven’t an opinion. Though, having spent a few years BITD immersed in studies of the value of sociopathy in the creative arts – I recall what conclusions I came to at the time. Norman Mailer and Nietzsche were wrong.

Dallas mayor declares emergency over West Nile Virus – 17 dead

The mayor of Dallas has declared a state of emergency in the ninth largest US city as it struggles to contain an outbreak of mosquito-borne West Nile virus that has claimed the lives of 17 people so far this year…

The emergency declaration by Mayor Michael Rawlings followed a similar action last week by Dallas County officials and paves the way for aerial pesticide spraying to begin this week.

Nearly half of the 693 human cases of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus infections reported this year to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been in Texas.

Residents have been urged to use insect repellent and avoid going out at dusk and dawn.

Aerial spraying also is being used elsewhere, including in neighbourhoods in New York City and Sacramento, California, to combat the spread of West Nile virus.

Officials say spraying is the most effective way to fight the mosquitoes that carry the disease despite safety concerns about exposing people to chemical pesticides.

Hey – even a long-time enviro like yours truly agrees that a short-term solution is better than no solution.

There have been cases of infection reported in people, birds or mosquitoes in 42 US states, with 80 per cent of the cases in Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma…

The virus was first discovered in 1937 in Uganda. It is carried by birds and spread to humans by mosquitoes.

Of course, being Texas, they could hold mass prayer meetings and implore some invisible guy in the sky to lose the mosquitoes and make them all safe.

The mosquitoes would probably love the get-togethers. 🙂