Australia withdraws troops from Iraq

NASSIRIYA, Iraq (Reuters) – About 500 Australian combat troops pulled out of their base in southern Iraq on Sunday, fulfilling an election promise by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to bring the soldiers home this year.

A British military spokesman in the southern city of Basra said the pullout from Talil base in Nassiriya was under way, but a spokesman for the governor of Dhi Qar province said it had been completed, with U.S. forces replacing the Australians.

“The Australian battle group is pulling out,” the British military spokesman said.

Australia, a staunch U.S. ally, was one of the first countries to commit troops to the Iraq war. In addition to the combat troops, it also deployed aircraft and warships to the Gulf to protect Iraq’s offshore oil platforms.

Read moreAustralia withdraws troops from Iraq

Children will learn by downloading information directly

Children will learn by downloading information directly into their brains within 30 years, an education expert has predicted.

Chris Parry, the new chief executive of the Independent Schools Council, said “Matrix-style” technology would render traditional lessons obsolete.

He said: “It’s a very short route from wireless technology to actually getting the electrical connections in your brain to absorb that knowledge.”

Read moreChildren will learn by downloading information directly

Don’t Be Afraid Buy Gold

As the price of gold has taken some lumps since it crashed into the symbolically significant $1,000 per ounce mark back in March, those on Wall Street who had consistently underplayed its potential on its way up are now assuring its continued retreat. According to these gold market spectators, prices have risen solely as a result of financial panic, and now that the fear has apparently subsided, gold’s gains will evaporate as well.

I have been buying gold and gold stocks for myself and my clients since 1999 and not once did I buy out of fear. In fact, from my perspective the only fear I’ve observed in the gold market is from those who have been too afraid to buy.

While fear may from time to time play a role in creating price spikes in gold, the underlying bull market has been driven by solid fundamentals. Those who have been too afraid to buy simply do not understand the underlying dynamics and have instead decided that the market is irrational. As a result, gold continues to climb the classic wall of worry as any dip in its otherwise upward trajectory causes the speculative investors to jump ship.

Read moreDon’t Be Afraid Buy Gold

Ahmadinejad says Israel will soon disappear

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad predicted on Monday that Muslims would uproot “satanic powers” and repeated his controversial belief that Israel will soon disappear, the Mehr news agency reported.I must announce that the Zionist regime (Israel), with a 60-year record of genocide, plunder, invasion and betrayal is about to die and will soon be erased from the geographical scene,” he said.

“Today, the time for the fall of the satanic power of the United States has come and the countdown to the annihilation of the emperor of power and wealth has started.”

Since taking the presidency in August 2005, Ahmadinejad has repeatedly provoked international outrage by predicting Israel is doomed to disappear.

“I tell you that with the unity and awareness of all the Islamic countries all the satanic powers will soon be destroyed,” he said to a group of foreign visitors ahead of the 19th anniversary of the death of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Ahmadinejad also again expressed his apocalyptic vision that tyranny in the world be abolished by the return to earth of the Mahdi, the 12th imam of Shiite Islam, alongside great religious figures including Jesus Christ.

Read moreAhmadinejad says Israel will soon disappear

Newest McCain official: President has “near dictatorial powers”

McCain reaches into the most deceptive propaganda organ in America to staff the highest level of his communications apparatus.

Bill Kristol today proudly announces that one of his Weekly Standard staff members, Michael Goldfarb, was just named the Deputy Communications Director of the McCain campaign. Last April, this newest McCain official participated in a conference call with former Senator George Mitchell, during which Mitchell advocated a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Afterwards, this is what Goldfarb wrote about what he thinks are the powers the President possesses in our country:

Mitchell’s less than persuasive answer [to whether withdrawal timetables “somehow infringe on the president’s powers as commander in chief?”]: “Congress is a coequal branch of government…the framers did not want to have one branch in charge of the government.”True enough, but they sought an energetic executive with near dictatorial power in pursuing foreign policy and war. So no, the Constitution does not put Congress on an equal footing with the executive in matters of national security.

As I noted at the time:

Until the Bill Kristols and John Yoos and other authoritarians of that strain entered the political mainstream, I never heard of prominent Americans who describe the power that they want to vest in our political leaders as “near dictatorial.” Anyone with an even passing belief in American political values would consider the word “dictatorial” — at least rhetorically, if not substantively — to define that which we avoid at all costs, not something which we seek, embrace and celebrate.

And the very idea that the Founders — whose principal concern was how to avoid consolidated power in any one person — sought to vest “near dictatorial power” in the President is too perverse for words. But that’s been the core “principle” driving the destructive radicalism of the last seven years, and it’s an extremist view that is obviously welcomed at the highest levels of the McCain campaign.

Kristol closes his boastful announcement by noting that the pro-dictatorial Goldfarb will return to the Weekly Standard after the campaign ends — “unless he’s appointed national security adviser in the McCain White House.” Somehow, McCain continues to be depicted in the media as a “moderate” and the like despite the enthusiastic support of our nation’s most crazed and unprincipled warmongers. But even more revealing is that McCain is now staffing his communications apparatus at the highest levels by reaching into Bill Kristol’s The Weekly Standard — one of the most deceptive propaganda organs of the Bush years. Does one even need to point out that there are few things more incompatible with one another than “straight talk” and The Weekly Standard?

UPDATE: Michael Goldfarb on waterboarding and other illegal interrogation practices internationally considered to be “torture” (h/t A.L.):

The Times indicts the Bush administration for exposing terrorists captured abroad to “head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.” Boo hoo.

McCain is a deeply principled opponent of torture and waterboarding which is why his new communications official’s view of objections to those techniques is “Boo hoo.”

UPDATE II: Last October, this is what Goldfarb wrote in arguing that telecoms deserve amnesty even if they broke the law in enabling warrantless spying on Americans:

[I]f federal agents show up at a corporate headquarters for a major American company and urgently seek that company’s officers for assistance in the war on terror, the companies damn well ought to give it as a matter of simple patriotism, whether the CIA wants a plane for some extraordinary rendition or help in tracking terrorists via email. . . . [T]o expect a company to resist a plea from the government for help in a time of war is ridiculous.

So, consistent with his President-as-Dictator vision, McCain’s new communications official believes that — as I wrote at the time — when “federal agents” come knocking at your door and issue orders, you better “damn well” obey — you had better not “resist” — even if the orders you’re being given are illegal, even if they’re designed to spy on Americans in violation of the law, and even if they’re intended to facilitate the torture of detainees. That’s what patriotic Americans do — they obey the orders of their near-dictatorial Leader, so sayeth the heel-clicking Michael Goldfarb. That’s a superb, and very mainstream, new addition to the maverick McCain team.

Glenn Greenwald
Jun. 02, 2008

Source: Salon

Airport Security is a joke

Tacoma runaway arrested again boarding flight



Runaway gets through airport security again

SEATTLE – A Tacoma, Wash.10-year-old who made national headlines last year by stealing a car, getting caught, then hopping a flight from Seattle to Phoenix and then San Antonio without a ticket was arrested again Tuesday after trying to hop another flight, apparently to trying again to get to Texas.

The Transportation Security Administration confirms to KING 5 News that Semaj Booker was captured at Concourse B at Sea-Tac Airport. A Southwest Airlines flight attendant called police around 6:30 a.m. to say Booker tried to follow a man onto a Sacramento, Calif.-bound flight.

“An employee reported a minor was trying to board an aircraft without a ticket,” said Sea-Tac Airport spokesman Perry Cooper, who says Booker was trying to get to Dallas.

However, the TSA says there was no breach of security. Surveillance video shows Booker passed through the central checkpoint security area without any problems, but it’s still not clear how he managed to get through without a boarding pass.

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, it became a requirement to have a ticket when passing through security.

Booker is back in his mother’s custody, but neither he nor his family would comment at their Tacoma home.

A Tacoma Police spokesperson says Booker’s mother initially reported him missing at 3 a.m. It’s not clear how he got to the airport.

Booker could face trespassing charges.

Read moreAirport Security is a joke

After years of increases, some fear a tipping point has finally been reached

Relentless rise in oil prices tests economy’s resilience

WASHINGTON — Only a few weeks ago, prominent policymakers and economists were cheerfully asserting that the U.S. economy would dodge recession and keep chugging forward despite a housing bust, a credit crunch and continuing job losses.

“The data are pretty clear that we are not in recession,” said President Bush’s chief economist, Edward Lazear. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. declared “the worst is likely to be behind us” and confidently predicted that more than $100 billion in tax rebates would help create half a million new jobs by the end of the year.

But instead of clearing, the skies over the economy have ominously darkened in recent days. The chief reason is oil. And there are signs the nation may have reached an economic tipping point after years of shrugging off the petroleum problem.

“We may finally have crossed the line where the price of crude actually matters for most companies,” said Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at New York financial firm Miller Tabak & Co. “The stock market has been in la-la land when it comes to oil, but they got a pretty good dose of reality the last few days.”

The ill effects of the latest price hikes would not be so surprising if it were not for the fact that the nation’s economy and financial markets remained blissfully unruffled by oil’s upward march during most of the last five years. Until this week.

“The economic outlook has been taken hostage by the relentless surge in oil prices,” said Robert V. DiClemente, chief U.S. economist at Citigroup in New York.

“We’re seeing an inexorable increase, and it doesn’t seem like anybody’s in charge or can do anything about it,” added Bank of America senior economist Peter E. Kretzmer.

Big, small firms take hits

Among the signs that the economy may finally be feeling the effect of rising oil prices was Ford Motor Co.’s announcement Thursday that it was abandoning any hope of making a profit this year or next now that sales of its gas-guzzling pickup trucks and Explorer sport utility vehicles have plunged.

And experts said that the other two U.S. automakers, General Motors Corp. and Chrysler, may be in even greater trouble.

Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally said the industry had “reached a tipping point” where energy costs were fundamentally changing what kind of vehicles Americans buy.

Meantime, to cope with higher energy prices, American Airlines and United Airlines both raised ticket prices, and American announced plans to impose a new baggage-handling fee. But experts say the price hikes barely begin to make up for recent losses.

“The airline industry is devastated. It can’t survive $130-a-barrel oil,” said industry analyst Ray Neidl at Calyon Securities in New York.

Read moreAfter years of increases, some fear a tipping point has finally been reached

Organic Bees Surviving Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)

bees

I know this won’t come as a surprise to many of our readers, nor to the many organic beekeepers that have been commenting on our posts, but there have been several reports of organic bee colonies surviving where the ‘industrial’ bee colonies are collapsing. Here is the latest to come to my attention:

Sharon Labchuk is a longtime environmental activist and part-time organic beekeeper from Prince Edward Island…. In a widely circulated email, she wrote:

I’m on an organic beekeeping list of about 1,000 people, mostly Americans, and no one in the organic beekeeping world, including commercial beekeepers, is reporting colony collapse on this list. The problem with the big commercial guys is that they put pesticides in their hives to fumigate for varroa mites, and they feed antibiotics to the bees. They also haul the hives by truck all over the place to make more money with pollination services, which stresses the colonies.

Her email recommends a visit to the Bush Bees Web site, where Michael Bush felt compelled to put a message to the beekeeping world right on the top page:

Most of us beekeepers are fighting with the Varroa mites. I’m happy to say my biggest problems are things like trying to get nucs through the winter and coming up with hives that won’t hurt my back from lifting or better ways to feed the bees.

This change from fighting the mites is mostly because I’ve gone to natural sized cells. In case you weren’t aware, and I wasn’t for a long time, the foundation in common usage results in much larger bees than what you would find in a natural hive. I’ve measured sections of natural worker brood comb that are 4.6mm in diameter. What most people use for worker brood is foundation that is 5.4mm in diameter. If you translate that into three dimensions instead of one, it produces a bee that is about half as large again as is natural. By letting the bees build natural sized cells, I have virtually eliminated my Varroa and Tracheal mite problems. One cause of this is shorter capping times by one day, and shorter post-capping times by one day. This means less Varroa get into the cells, and less Varroa reproduce in the cells.

Who should be surprised that the major media reports forget to tell us that the dying bees are actually hyper-bred varieties that we coax into a larger than normal body size? It sounds just like the beef industry. And, have we here a solution to the vanishing bee problem? Is it one that the CCD Working Group, or indeed, the scientific world at large, will support? Will media coverage affect government action in dealing with this issue?

These are important questions to ask. It is not an uncommonly held opinion that, although this new pattern of bee colony collapse seems to have struck from out of the blue (which suggests a triggering agent), it is likely that some biological limit in the bees has been crossed. There is no shortage of evidence that we have been fast approaching this limit for some time.

We’ve been pushing them too hard, Dr. Peter Kevan, an associate professor of environmental biology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, told the CBC. And we’re starving them out by feeding them artificially and moving them great distances. Given the stress commercial bees are under, Kevan suggests CCD might be caused by parasitic mites, or long cold winters, or long wet springs, or pesticides, or genetically modified crops. Maybe it’s all of the above… – InformationLiberation

That’s funny – that’s just what I said…

Let’s hear it for the natural/organic beekeepers out there! I hope this CCD incident will reinforce that natural systems respond far better to imitation and cooperation than reductionist arbitrary control. Work within the system, observe and learn. There’s a lot more to nature than meets the eye, or the microscope.

You Tube has removed the VIDEO

Further Reading:

May 15, 2007

Source: Celsias

Canada’s water crisis ‘escalating’


In Quebec, St. Lawrence water levels were so low this fall in places like Haut Gorge park that water had to be pumped in from Lake Ontario. Photograph by : Allen McInnis, Canwest News Service

Experts expect climate change to present serious water challenges, many of which already exist

In Quebec, St. Lawrence water levels were so low this fall in places like Haut Gorge park that water had to be pumped in from Lake Ontario.

In Quebec, St. Lawrence water levels were so low this fall in places like Haut Gorge park that water had to be pumped in from Lake Ontario.

Canada is crisscrossed by innumerable rivers, some of which flow into three oceans.

Yet Canada’s fresh water isn’t as abundant as you may think. And it’s facing serious challenges and the looming menace of climate change, which is expected to exacerbate Canada’s water problems and leave more of the world thirsting after our precious liquid resource.

“They say you need a crisis before people get jerked into taking responsible action,” says Chandra Madramootoo, a water researcher and founding director of McGill University’s Brace Centre for Water Resources Management.

“When are we going to finally say, ‘Jeez, we’re not as water rich as we thought we were and maybe we better start doing something?’ Is it going to be the day when we [must] ration water?”

Some think the crisis is already here. They say it’s time to take action — by, for example, conserving water, cracking down on polluters, preparing for the effects of climate change and coming to the aid of waterless poor in the developing world.

(Important article! Please continue to read. – The Infinite Unknown)

Read moreCanada’s water crisis ‘escalating’

Crisis talks on global food prices


A child carries a tray of bread in Cairo. Photograph: Nasser Nuri/Reuters

World leaders are to meet next week for urgent talks aimed at preventing tens of millions of the world’s poor dying of hunger as a result of soaring food prices.

The summit in Rome is expected to pledge immediate aid to poor countries threatened by malnutrition as well as charting longer-term strategies for improving food production.

Hosted by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, it will hear calls for the establishment of a global food fund, as well as for new international guidelines on the cultivation of biofuels, which some have blamed for diverting land, crops and other resources away from food production.

The urgency of the meeting follows historic spikes in the price of some staple foods. The price of rice has doubled since January this year, while the cost of dairy products, soya beans, wheat and sugar have also seen large increases.

The world’s urban poor have been hit hardest, sending a wave of unrest and instability around the world. Thirty-seven countries have been hit by food riots so far this year, including Cameroon, Niger, Egypt and Haiti.

The Rome summit is the first of a series of high-level meetings aimed at tackling what many leaders now see as a much bigger threat to international stability than terrorism.

A fortnight after the UN meeting, the EU council will focus much of its time on the food crisis. A ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation in late June will make a last-ditch attempt in Geneva at agreeing the lowering of international trade barriers, with the aim of cutting food prices and making it easier for farmers in poor countries to export their produce.

Food and climate change will also be the twin top themes of the G8 summit in Japan in early July, and then in September a UN summit will attempt to put the world back on course towards meeting the millennium development goals, agreed eight years ago, one of which was the halving of the number of the world’s hungry.

Read moreCrisis talks on global food prices