Machine makes water good enough to drink

Victoria Fray with a glass of drinking water made with her new desalination machine. Photo / Greg Bowker

Auckland engineer Victoria Fray has come up with a new variation on the age-old theme of teaching someone to fish so they can feed themselves forever.

She has designed a mini-desalination plant that is small and robust enough to be sent to remote Pacific islands to provide water for up to 900 people in an emergency – then be hauled back to Auckland and used again in the next disaster elsewhere.

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Pilots Yanked Out of Planes for Drone Duty


How bad do they need drones in Iraq and Afghanistan? So bad, the Air Force is yanking pilots out of old-school planes, and sticking them on drone duty, instead.

For the past several years, there’s been a “300% annual increase” in battlefield commanders’ request in video from robot aircraft. Drone-makers – and military paper-pushers – are struggling to keep up with the demand. Defense Secretary Gates has ordered that the Air Force send all available Predator unmanned aerial vehicles into action. Air Force officials whined about the non-stop 13-hour days their pilots were clocking (in Nevada, not Iraq). But ultimately, the number of Predator flights was doubled.

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Analyst Predicts Corn Rationing in 2008

NEW YORK – A BB&T Capital Markets analyst said Monday corn rationing may be necessary this year, following a U.S. Department of Agriculture report predicting farmers would plant far fewer acres of corn in 2008.

According to the March Prospective Plantings Report, farmers intend to plant about 86 million acres of corn this year, down 8 percent from 2007, when the amount of corn planted was the highest since World War II.

Analyst Heather L. Jones said in a note to investors if the USDA estimate proves accurate, the year may produce just 200 million bushels of corn. That, she said, wouldn’t be enough to meet demand, given current export and feed demand trends and higher ethanol demand. Both ethanol and animal feed are made with corn.

“That is an untenable inventory demand, in our opinion,” she said. “Consequently, we believe demand must be rationed or there needs to be a big supply response from other growing regions of the world.”

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Cheney Moves Forward with Plans to Nuke Iran

While everyone is focused on celebretard drivel, the failing economy, the outrageous price of oil (after Iraq goes down in flame with 4,000-plus Americans who lost their lives for what exactly?), and the slimy campaign shenanigans, the Bushbots are quietly ramping up plans to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities.

exxxxallent.jpgUnreported in corporate media:burnsapproves.jpg Cheney is currently running around the Middle East drumming up war on Iran. (Lots more on this here, here, here, and here). But this hellacious old man hasn’t even finished his other two wars yet: Is the “surge” in Iraq about to unravel?

Good lord. McCain has a 67-percent approval rating as Democrats squabble. If he’s elected, that means eight more years of genocidal horrors. But the complicit corporate media will never tell you what’s really going on while we sleep.

Journalists have been writing about the effects of a nuclear attack on Iran for years. It’s in the interest of every human being on earth to read Nuclear Bunker Buster Bombs against Iran: This Way Lies Madness

An estimated 16-20 million Iranians would die in a nuclear war with Israel, according to a report issued by a respected Washington think tank.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) also estimates that between 200,000 and 800,000 Israelis would be killed, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The report, which is theoretical and based on limited verified knowledge of Israel’s and Iran’s nuclear capability, paints a bleak picture for both nations.
On March 22 Chris Floyd wrote a frightening piece, One Foot in the Grave, Iran Attack Nearer, More Likely Than Most Suspect.

Then on March 23 he wrote Saudis Prepare for “Sudden Nuclear Hazards” After Cheney Visit.

Read it and freak:

I. One Tick Closer to Midnight

Last Friday, Dick Cheney was in Saudi Arabia for high-level meetings with the Saudi king and his ministers. On Saturday, it was revealed that the Saudi Shura Council — the elite group that implements the decisions of the autocratic inner circle — is preparing “national plans to deal with any sudden nuclear and radioactive hazards that may affect the kingdom following experts’ warnings of possible attacks on Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactors,” one of the kingdom’s leading newspapers, Okaz, reports. The German-based dpa news service relayed the paper’s story.

Simple prudence — or ominous timing? We noted here last week that an American attack on Iran was far more likely — and more imminent — than most people suspect. We pointed to the mountain of evidence for this case gathered by scholar William R. Polk, one of the top aides to John Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and to other indicators of impending war. The story by Okaz — which would not have appeared in the tightly controlled dictatorship without approval from the top — is yet another, very weighty piece of evidence laid in the scales toward a new, horrendous conflict. We don’t know what the Saudis told Cheney in private — or even more to the point, what he told. But the release of this story now, just after his departure, would seem to be a clear indication that the Saudis have good reason to fear a looming attack on Iran’s nuclear sites and are actively preparing for it. And they certainly should be bracing themselves. A U.S. attack on Iran will come suddenly, and if it is indeed aimed at destroying Iran’s nuclear capabilities — a “threat” being talked up again with new urgency by both Cheney and Bush lately — it has the potential for unimaginable consequences. As we noted here in a previous piece:

Twelve hours. One circuit of the sun from horizon to horizon, one course of the moon from dusk to dawn. What was once a natural measurement for the daily round of human life is now a doom-laden interval between the voicing of an autocrat’s brutal whim and the infliction of mass annihilation halfway around the world. Twelve hours is the maximum time necessary for American bombers to gear up and launch an unprovoked sneak attack – a Pearl Harbor in reverse – against Iran, the Washington Post reports. The plan for this “global strike,” which includes a very viable “nuclear option,” was approved months ago, and is now in operation. The planes are already on continuous alert, making “nuclear delivery” practice runs along the Iranian border, as Sy Hersh reports in the New Yorker, and waiting only for the signal from President George W. Bush to drop their payloads of conventional and nuclear weapons on some 400 targets spread throughout the condemned land. And when this attack comes – either as a stand-alone “knock-out blow” or else as the precusor to a full-scale, regime-changing invasion, like the earlier aggression in Iraq – there will be no warning, no declaration of war, no hearings, no public debate. The already issued orders governing the operation put the decision solely in the hands of the president: he picks up the phone, he says, “Go” – and in twelve hours’ time, up to a million Iranians could be dead.

This potential death toll is not pacificist hyperbole; it comes from a National Academy of Sciences study sponsored by the Pentagon itself, as The Progressive reports. (Although Bush’s military brass like to peddle the public lie that “we don’t do body counts” of the enemy, in reality, like all good businessmen they keep precise accounts of their production outputs: i.e., corpses.) The Pentagon’s NAS study calibrated the kill-rate from “bunker-busting” tactical nukes used to take out underground facilities – such as those which house much of Iran’s nuclear power program. Another simulation by scientists, using Pentagon-devised software, was even more specific, measuring the aftermath of a “limited” nuclear attack on the main Iranian underground site in Esfahan, the magazine reports. This small expansion of the Pentagon franchise would result in stellar production figures: three million people killed by radiation in just two weeks, and 35 million people exposed to dangerous levels of cancer-causing radiation in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Bush has about 50 nuclear “earth-penetrating weapons” at his disposal, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.Nor is the idea of a nuclear strike on Iran mere “liberal paranoia.” Bush himself pointedly refused to take the nuclear option “off the table” this week. But what’s more, Bush has made the use of nuclear weapons a centerpiece of his “National Security Strategy of the United States,” issued last month, The Progressive notes. While reaffirming the criminal principle of “pre-emptive” attacks on perceived enemies which may or may not be threatening America with weapons they may or may not possess, Bush declared that “safe, credible and reliable nuclear forces continue to play a critical role” in the “offensive strike systems” that are now a key part of America’s “deterrence.” In the depraved jargon of atomic warmongering, a “credible” nuclear force is one that can and will be used in the course of ordinary military operations. It is no longer to be regarded as a sacred taboo. This has long been the dream of the Pentagon’s “nuclear priesthood” and its acolytes, going back to the days of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For decades, a strong faction within the American power structure has been afflicted with a perverted craving to unleash these weapons once more. An almost sexual frustration can be discerned in their laments as time and again, in crisis after crisis, their counsels for “going nuclear” were rejected – often at the very last moment. To justify their abberant desire, they have relentlessly demonized an ever-changing array of “enemies,” painting each one as an imminent, overwhelming threat, led by “madmen” in thrall to pure evil, impervious to reason, fit only for destruction. Evidence for the “threat” is invariably exaggerated, manipulated, even manufactured; this ritual cycle has been enacted over and over, leading to many wars – but never to that ultimate, orgasmic release.

Now this paranoid sect has at last seized the commanding heights of American power…they have found a most eager disciple in the peevish dullard strutting in the Oval Office. Under their sinister tutelage, Bush has eviscerated 40 years’ worth of arms control treaties; officially “normalized” the use of nuclear weapons, even against non-nuclear states; rewarded outlaw proliferators like India, Israel and Pakistan; and is now destroying the last and most effective restraint on the spread of nuclear weapons: the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The treaty guarantees its signatories – such as Iran – the right to establish nuclear power programs in exchange for rigorous international inspections. But Bush has arbitrarily decided that Iran – whose nuclear program undergone perhaps the most extensive inspection process in history – must end its lawful activities. Why? Because the country is led by “madmen” in thrall to pure evil, impervious to reason, who one day may or may not threaten America with weapons they may or may not have…. So the NPT is dead. As with the Geneva Conventions and the U.S. Constitution, it now means only what Bush says it means. Force of arms, not rule of law, is the new world order. The attack on Iran. The obvious, murderous insanity of such a move in no way precludes its implementation by this gang – as their invasion of Iraq clearly shows.

The nuclear sectarians have waited decades for this moment. Such a chance may never come again. Will they let it pass, when with just a word, in just twelve hours, they can see their god rising in a pillar of fire over Persia?

And more evidence on March 22 from Deutsche Presse-Agentur

The Saudi Shura council will secretly discuss national plans to deal with any sudden nuclear and radioactive hazards that may affect the kingdom following experts’ warnings of possible attacks on Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactors, media reports said Saturday.

The Saudi-based King Abdul-Aziz City for Science and Technology has prepared a proposal that encapsulates the probabilities of leaking nuclear and radiation hazards in case of any unexpected nuclear attacks in Iran, the Okaz Saudi newspaper said.

The Saudi Shura or consultative council plans to debate the proposal on Sunday.

The power plants in the south-western Iranian port of Bushehr were built with German assistance in 1974 and resumed with Russian aid in 1992, after it had been stopped by the Islamic revolution.

And if this attack moves forward this fall, you can forget any elections, now or ever again…and anyway, do you seriously think they’re going to let go of the power they’ve seized over the past several decades? You’re dreaming if you think they’re going to relinquish their power to the likes of Obama.

You know you live in a dictatorship when the pResident commits unending pre-emptive wars at his own whim, without public comment, without Congressional approval, without any discussion whatsoever.

And you thought you wouldn’t have to see that smug expression ever again after 2008…

March 25, 2008

Source: luminaria

As Jobs Vanish, Food Stamp Use Is at Record Pace

Driven by a painful mix of layoffs and rising food and fuel prices, the number of Americans receiving food stamps is projected to reach 28 million in the coming year, the highest level since the aid program began in the 1960s.The number of recipients, who must have near-poverty incomes to qualify for benefits averaging $100 a month per family member, has fluctuated over the years along with economic conditions, eligibility rules, enlistment drives and natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, which led to a spike in the South.

But recent rises in many states appear to be resulting mainly from the economic slowdown, officials and experts say, as well as inflation in prices of basic goods that leave more families feeling pinched. Citing expected growth in unemployment, the Congressional Budget Office this month projected a continued increase in the monthly number of recipients in the next fiscal year, starting Oct. 1 – to 28 million, up from 27.8 million in 2008, and 26.5 million in 2007.

The percentage of Americans receiving food stamps was higher after a recession in the 1990s, but actual numbers are expected to be higher this year.

foodstamps.jpg

Read moreAs Jobs Vanish, Food Stamp Use Is at Record Pace

Subprime crisis hits governments

THE SUBPRIME mortgage crisis that pushed homeowners into foreclosure and forced the Federal Reserve to bail out investment banker Bear Stearns has also sent state and local governments across the country scrambling to refinance municipal bonds before they are hit with exorbitant interest rates.At the center of the storm are long-term variable-interest bonds known as “auction-rate securities.” Unlike traditional fixed-rate bonds, the interest rates on these securities are reset every 7, 28 or 35 days through an auction process.

Historically, the rate paid has been less than on traditional bonds, making the national $160-billion auction-rate market a reliable source of cheap financing.

But that market has collapsed in the past two months, sending interest rates climbing. As a result, California, Richmond, the Bay Area Toll Authority, the East Bay Municipal Utility District and Sacramento County are among countless government agencies forced to restructure their bond debts.

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Iran’s Wheat Fungus: Coincidence or Biological Warfare?

 Global Research reports:

A dangerous new fungus with the ability to destroy entire wheat fields has been detected in Iran, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported today.

The wheat stem rust, whose spores are carried by wind across continents, was previously found in East Africa and Yemen and has moved to Iran, which said that laboratory tests have confirmed its presence in some localities in Broujerd and Hamedan in the country’s west.

Up to 80 per cent of all Asian and African wheat varieties are susceptible to the fungus, and major wheat-producing nations to Iran’s east – such as Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan – should be on high alert, FAO warned.

“The fungus is spreading rapidly and could seriously lower wheat production in countries at direct risk,” said Shivaji Pandey, Director of FAO’s Plant Production and Protection Division.

He urged the control of the rust’s spread to lower the risk to countries already impacted by high food prices.

Iran has said that it will bolster its research capacity to tackle the new fungus and develop wheat varieties that are rust-resistant.

Called Ug99, the disease first surfaced in Uganda and subsequently spread to Kenya and Ethiopia, with both countries experiencing serious crop yield losses due to a serious rust epidemic last year. Also in 2007, FAO confirmed that a more virulent strain was found in Yemen.

Sure, maybe it was carried by the wind — and maybe the fungus was introduced by man. Not so much a conspiracy theory when history is taken into account. For instance, back in 1977, the San Francisco Chronicle reported the CIA dispatched “anti-Castro terrorists” to introduce “African swine fever virus into Cuba in 1971…. Six weeks later an outbreak of the disease forced the slaughter of 500,000 pigs to prevent a nationwide animal epidemic.” It was so scary that the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization labeled the outbreak the “most alarming event” of 1971.

Read moreIran’s Wheat Fungus: Coincidence or Biological Warfare?

Israel’s Defense Minister authorizes nationwide emergency drill

Barak authorizes nationwide emergency drill

Defense establishment, government and cabinet all to participate in exercise simulating crisis situation as part of upcoming national emergency drill to be held in April. Drill part of implementation of lessons from Second Lebanon War.

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25 Environmental Threats of the Future

 pollution.jpg

Forget genetically modified crops, the great environmental concerns of the future should be nanomaterials, manmade viruses and biomimetic robots.

So say researchers, policymakers and environmental campaigners, who have identified 25 potential future threats to the environment in the UK, which they say researchers should focus on.

In addition to well-publicised risks such as toxic nanomaterials, the acidification of the ocean and increasingly frequent extreme weather events, the list includes some more outlandish possibilities. These include:

” Biomimetic robots that could become new invasive species.

” Experiments involving climate engineering, for instance ocean ‘fertilisation’ and deploying solar shields

” Increased demand for the biomass needed to make biofuel.

” Disruption to marine ecosystems caused by offshore power generation.

” Experiments to control invasive species using genetically engineered viruses.

Read more25 Environmental Threats of the Future