Tension between the US and Iran heightened dramatically today with the disclosure that Barack Obama is deploying a missile shield to protect American allies in the Gulf from attack by Tehran. The US is dispatching Patriot defensive missiles to four countries — Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait — and keeping two ships in the Gulf capable of shooting down Iranian missiles. Washington is also helping Saudi Arabia develop a force to protect its oil installations. American officials said the move is aimed at deterring an attack by Iran and reassuring Gulf states fearful that Tehran might react to sanctions by striking at US allies in the region. Washington is also seeking to discourage Israel from a strike against Iran by demonstrating that the US is prepared to contain any threat.
Author Archive | Aaron Dames
Via the Economist:
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Between 50,000 and 5,000 years ago roughly half of the earth’s larger mammals (species that were sheep-sized or bigger) went extinct. The distribution of these extinctions in time and space suggests strongly that humans were responsible.
Large mammals in Africa, which had evolved alongside humans for millions of years, were for the most part spared. The species which died out elsewhere — 178 of them, possibly more — tended to do so at around the time that they first encountered modern humans coming forth out of Africa with pointy sticks, good throwing arms and large appetites.
Ecologists have shown that wiping out big animals is surprisingly easy, since big animals reproduce slowly, which means that a small increase in the rate at which predators pick them off can have a large effect on the population, especially if the predators prefer hunting juveniles. Hence the now widely accepted argument that humans come with original ecological sin built in.
Fast-spreading parasite species force sex changes on their victims, induce virgin births, and turn animals into "gross monsters" — among other horrors. Now a new study has decoded how the bacteria may be able to wreak their havoc: by shutting down immune systems. The parasites, of the Wolbachia bacteria genus, cause a gene in wasps to stifle the insect's protein-based "alarms" against the bacterial invaders, say researchers who mapped the genomes of three species of Nasonia wasp for the first time. As a result, the wasps' antibacterial defenses are never deployed, allowing Wolbachia to begin their dirty work.
The infamous street artist Banksy premiered Exit Through The Gift Shop at Sundance last night, which was part of Sundance's "Secret Spotlight" series. In short, we enjoyed it, but there's a lot to say about it this movie, so check back later for our review. The title itself refers to Disneyland and Disney World's engineered design of having guests exit attractions right through the gift shop, so as to better serve all of their merchandising needs. Banksy, whose real identity is an extremely well-kept secret, may or may not have been at the screening last night (how would we even know?), but he did send a letter which Sundance Director of Programming John Cooper read aloud to the audience. Read on for the full text of the mysterious letter, keep your eyes peeled for our reviews ... and for more mysterious street art to appear.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday offered yet another way California can save on incarcerating illegal immigrants: pay to build prisons in Mexico. Schwarzenegger said in a Sacramento Press Club speech that rather than raise taxes, the state could find money by cutting pension costs, allowing offshore oil drilling and lowering prison expenditures. His budget calls for an $880 million infusion from the federal government to pay for housing illegal immigrant prisoners who have committed crimes in California. The governor also wants to rely more on private prison companies.
Jim Abrams on the Washington Post:
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Schoolchildren are taught that a bill finally goes to the president after selected lawmakers meet openly to forge a compromise, and the House and Senate approve their accord.
But in today’s Congress, formal conference meetings are rare, the minority party is usually shut out and the public has little or no access to the process.
That trend has been on display this month as Democrats and the White House engage in closed-door talks on how the government is going to change the delivery of health care that have effectively excluded the public and the media.
Dating back to 1789, the House and Senate have dealt with differences in bills by convening conference committees to thrash out a unified approach that the chambers can pass and send to the president. For the past two decades at least some of these bicameral, bipartisan meetings have been open to C-SPAN cameras.
Excerpt from the Campaign for Liberty Regional Conference in Atlanta, GA. As the crowd begins to cheer, Ron Paul states, "We need to take out the CIA!" There's been a coup — have you heard? It's the CIA coup. The CIA runs everything! They run the military .. and they're every bit as secretive as the Federal Reserve. And yet, think of the harm they have done since they were established at the end of World War II. They are a government unto themselves. They're in businesses, in drug businesses, they take out dictators ... We need to take out the CIA!
David Hambling writes for Wired:
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All kinds of of devices have been dubbed “sonic blasters” — from the Long Range Acoustic Device super loudhailer to the piercing Banshee to the Inferno (”most unbearable, gut-wrenching noise I’ve ever heard in my life” according to Danger Room’s own Sharon Weinberger). But a new device, developed in Israel, merits the “sonic blaster” label more than most: the Thunder Generator really is a blaster, producing a series of ear-splitting explosions. Some are so loud, they could be deadly.
Israeli firm PDT Agro developed the Thunder Generator, based on a gadget to scare away birds. The design is very simple: gas from a cylinder of domestic liquid petroleum (LPG) is mixed with air and then detonated, producing a series of high-intensity blasts. Patented “pulse detonation” technology ensures high-decibel blasts. According to Defense News, the Israeli Ministry of Defense has now licensed a firm called ArmyTec to market the Thunder Generator for military and security applications.
From Paul Sutherland on Scientific American:
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Final proof that Mars has bred life will be confirmed this year, leading NASA experts believe. The historic discovery will come not on Mars itself but from chunks of the red planet here on Earth.
David McKay, chief of astrobiology at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, says powerful new microscopes and other instruments will establish whether features in martian meteorites are alien fossils.
He says evidence for life in the space rocks could have been claimed by the UK if British scientists had used readily-available electron microscopes. Instead, images of colonies of martian bacteria were collected by American scientists.
The NASA team is already convinced that colonies of micro-organisms are visible inside three martian rocks that landed on Earth. If so, this would have profound implications for our understanding of life in the universe.
Two of the meteorites – ALH84001 and Yamato 593 – were found in the Antarctic by American and Japanese scientists after they lay in the icy desert for thousands of years.
Stephen Grocer writes in the Wall Street Journal:
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Major U.S. banks and securities firms are on pace to pay their people about $145 billion for 2009, a record sum that indicates how compensation is climbing despite fury over Wall Street’s pay culture.
An analysis by the Wall Street Journal shows that executives, traders, investment bankers, money managers and others at 38 top financial companies can expect to earn nearly 18% more than they did in 2008—and slightly more than in the record year of 2007. The conclusions are based on an examination of securities filings for the first nine months of 2009 and revenue estimates through year-end.
The rapid comeback of pay on Wall Street, which will be on display as companies report fourth-quarter results starting with J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. on Friday, has exposed the industry to a broadening mix of proposed crackdowns, including a 10-year, $90 billion bank tax described for the first time Thursday by President Barack Obama
In detailing the tax, Mr.