Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Look to the Heavens

"Eleven years ago results were first presented indicating that most of the energy in our universe is not in stars or galaxies but is tied to space itself. In the language of cosmologists, a large cosmological constant is directly implied by new distant supernovae observations. Suggestions of a cosmological constant (lambda) were not new - they have existed since the advent of modern relativistic cosmology. Such claims were not usually popular with astronomers, though, because lambda is so unlike known universe components, because lambda's value appeared limited by other observations, and because less- strange cosmologies without lambda had previously done well in explaining the data. What is noteworthy here is the seemingly direct and reliable method of the observations and the good reputations of the scientists conducting the investigations. Over the past eleven years, independent teams of astronomers have continued to accumulate data that appears to confirm the existence of dark energy and the unsettling result of a presently accelerating universe. The above picture of a supernova that occurred in 1994 on the outskirts of a spiral galaxy was taken by one of these collaborations."

Albert Schweitzer

"Is the spirit capable of achieving what we in our distress must expect of it? Let us not underestimate its power, the evidence of which can be seen throughout the history of mankind. The spirit created this humanitarianism which is the origin of all progress toward some form of higher existence. Inspired by humanitarianism we are true to ourselves and capable of creating. Inspired by a contrary spirit we are unfaithful to ourselves and fall prey to all manner of error.

The height to which the spirit can ascend was revealed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It led those peoples of Europe who possessed it out of the Middle Ages, putting an end to superstition, witch hunts, torture, and a multitude of other forms of cruelty or traditional folly. It replaced the old with the new in an evolutionary way that never ceases to astonish those who observe it. All that we have ever possessed of true civilization, and indeed all that we still possess, can be traced to a manifestation of this spirit.

Later, its power waned because the spirit failed to find support for its ethical character in a world preoccupied with scientific pursuits. It has been replaced by a spirit less sure of the course humanity should take and more content with lesser ideals. Today if we are to avoid our own downfall, we must commit ourselves to this spirit once again. It must bring forth a new miracle just as it did in the Middle Ages, an even greater miracle than the first.

The spirit is not dead; it lives in isolation. It has overcome the difficulty of having to exist in a world out of harmony with its ethical character. It has come to realize that it can find no home other than in the basic nature of man. The independence acquired through its acceptance of this realization is an additional asset.

It is convinced that compassion, in which ethics takes root, does not assume its true proportions until it embraces not only man but every living being. To the old ethics, which lacked this depth and force of conviction, has been added the ethics of reverence for life, and its validity is steadily gaining in recognition.

Once more we dare to appeal to the whole man, to his capacity to think and feel, exhorting him to know himself and to be true to himself. We reaffirm our trust in the profound qualities of his nature. And our living experiences are proving us right."
- Albert Schweitzer

What Being Human Means: Todd Huston

"Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment,
sparkling like a star in our hand- and melting like a snowflake..." - Marie Beyon Ray

"Todd Huston broke the world record for climbing the highest points in all 50 United States. At 14 years old his legs were severely mangled in a boating accident and Todd died twice on the operating table. At 21 he had his right leg amputated. He is the only leg-amputee to hold an able-bodied world record and this is his inspiring story of how he overcame adversity to set the world record, and he is a really big fan of the Moody Blues. We hope you are inspired! If you want to learn more about Todd Huston, check out his website, www.toddhuston.com." -YouTube.
Song: “This is the Moment”, the Moody Blues.

“GhostNet: Vast Spying System Looting Networks”

“GhostNet: Vast Spying System Looting Networks”
by NY Times Staff

"A vast electronic spying operation has infiltrated computers and has stolen documents from hundreds of government and private offices around the world, including those of the Dalai Lama, Canadian researchers have concluded. In a report to be issued this weekend, the researchers said that the system was being controlled from computers based almost exclusively in China, but that they could not say conclusively that the Chinese government was involved.

The researchers, who are based at the Munk Center for International Studies at the University of Toronto, had been asked by the office of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader whom China regularly denounces, to examine its computers for signs of malicious software, or malware. Their sleuthing opened a window into a broader operation that, in less than two years, has infiltrated at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries, including many belonging to embassies, foreign ministries and other government offices, as well as the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan exile centers in India, Brussels, London and New York.The researchers, who have a record of detecting computer espionage, said they believed that in addition to the spying on the Dalai Lama, the system, which they called GhostNet, was focused on the governments of South Asian and Southeast Asian countries. Intelligence analysts say many governments, including those of China, Russia and the United States, and other parties use sophisticated computer programs to covertly gather information. The newly reported spying operation is by far the largest to come to light in terms of countries affected. This is also believed to be the first time researchers have been able to expose the workings of a computer system used in an intrusion of this magnitude.

Still going strong, the operation continues to invade and monitor more than a dozen new computers a week, the researchers said in their report, “Tracking ‘GhostNet’: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network.” They said they had found no evidence that United States government offices had been infiltrated, although a NATO computer was monitored by the spies for half a day and computers of the Indian Embassy in Washington were infiltrated. The malware is remarkable both for its sweep — in computer jargon, it has not been merely “phishing” for random consumers’ information, but “whaling” for particular important targets — and for its Big Brother-style capacities. It can, for example, turn on the camera and audio-recording functions of an infected computer, enabling monitors to see and hear what goes on in a room. The investigators say they do not know if this facet has been employed. The researchers were able to monitor the commands given to infected computers and to see the names of documents retrieved by the spies, but in most cases the contents of the stolen files have not been determined. Working with the Tibetans, however, the researchers found that specific correspondence had been stolen and that the intruders had gained control of the electronic mail server computers of the Dalai Lama’s organization.

The electronic spy game has had at least some real-world impact, they said. For example, they said, after an e-mail invitation was sent by the Dalai Lama’s office to a foreign diplomat, the Chinese government made a call to the diplomat discouraging a visit. And a woman working for a group making Internet contacts between Tibetan exiles and Chinese citizens was stopped by Chinese intelligence officers on her way back to Tibet, shown transcripts of her online conversations and warned to stop her political activities.

The Toronto researchers said they had notified international law enforcement agencies of the spying operation, which in their view exposed basic shortcomings in the legal structure of cyberspace. The F.B.I. declined to comment on the operation. Although the Canadian researchers said that most of the computers behind the spying were in China, they cautioned against concluding that China’s government was involved. The spying could be a nonstate, for-profit operation, for example, or one run by private citizens in China known as “patriotic hackers.” “We’re a bit more careful about it, knowing the nuance of what happens in the subterranean realms,” said Ronald J. Deibert, a member of the research group and an associate professor of political science at Munk. “This could well be the C.I.A. or the Russians. It’s a murky realm that we’re lifting the lid on.”

A spokesman for the Chinese Consulate in New York dismissed the idea that China was involved. “These are old stories and they are nonsense,” the spokesman, Wenqi Gao, said. “The Chinese government is opposed to and strictly forbids any cybercrime.” The Toronto researchers, who allowed a reporter for The New York Times to review the spies’ digital tracks, are publishing their findings in Information Warfare Monitor, an online publication associated with the Munk Center. At the same time, two computer researchers at Cambridge University in Britain who worked on the part of the investigation related to the Tibetans, are releasing an independent report. They do fault China, and they warned that other hackers could adopt the tactics used in the malware operation.

“What Chinese spooks did in 2008, Russian crooks will do in 2010 and even low-budget criminals from less developed countries will follow in due course,” the Cambridge researchers, Shishir Nagaraja and Ross Anderson, wrote in their report, “The Snooping Dragon: Social Malware Surveillance of the Tibetan Movement.” In any case, it was suspicions of Chinese interference that led to the discovery of the spy operation. Last summer, the office of the Dalai Lama invited two specialists to India to audit computers used by the Dalai Lama’s organization. The specialists, Greg Walton, the editor of Information Warfare Monitor, and Mr. Nagaraja, a network security expert, found that the computers had indeed been infected and that intruders had stolen files from personal computers serving several Tibetan exile groups.

Back in Toronto, Mr. Walton shared data with colleagues at the Munk Center’s computer lab. One of them was Nart Villeneuve, 34, a graduate student and self-taught “white hat” hacker with dazzling technical skills. Last year, Mr. Villeneuve linked the Chinese version of the Skype communications service to a Chinese government operation that was systematically eavesdropping on users’ instant-messaging sessions. Early this month, Mr. Villeneuve noticed an odd string of 22 characters embedded in files created by the malicious software and searched for it with Google. It led him to a group of computers on Hainan Island, off China, and to a Web site that would prove to be critically important. In a puzzling security lapse, the Web page that Mr. Villeneuve found was not protected by a password, while much of the rest of the system uses encryption.

Mr. Villeneuve and his colleagues figured out how the operation worked by commanding it to infect a system in their computer lab in Toronto. On March 12, the spies took their own bait. Mr. Villeneuve watched a brief series of commands flicker on his computer screen as someone — presumably in China — rummaged through the files. Finding nothing of interest, the intruder soon disappeared. Through trial and error, the researchers learned to use the system’s Chinese-language “dashboard” — a control panel reachable with a standard Web browser — by which one could manipulate the more than 1,200 computers worldwide that had by then been infected. Infection happens two ways. In one method, a user’s clicking on a document attached to an e-mail message lets the system covertly install software deep in the target operating system. Alternatively, a user clicks on a Web link in an e-mail message and is taken directly to a “poisoned” Web site.

The researchers said they avoided breaking any laws during three weeks of monitoring and extensively experimenting with the system’s unprotected software control panel. They provided, among other information, a log of compromised computers dating to May 22, 2007. They found that three of the four control servers were in different provinces in China- Hainan, Guangdong and Sichuan- while the fourth was discovered to be at a website hosting company based in Southern California. Beyond that, said Rafal A. Rohozinski, one of the investigators, “attribution is difficult because there is no agreed upon international legal framework for being able to pursue investigations down to their logical conclusion, which is highly local.”

Meanwhile, on Mars...

"Mars is not the dead world we once thought it was. Stuart Atkinson is part of the UnmannedSpaceflight.com crew, the folks who have created fantastic visual treats from raw images sent back from our space exploring robots. Stu also has his own website, Cumbrian Sky . Today, Stu posted some pictures on his website, along with his story of how he came to create an utterly fantastic image from a rather ordinary-looking picture from the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaisaince Orbiter. After seeing Stu's handiwork today, I asked him if he wouldn't mind sharing his story on Universe Today of how he came to make an amazing discovery on Mars. Stu said he found the image above on the "dangerously addictive" Mars Global Data website, http://global-data.mars.asu.edu/. The image, of the Aram Chaos region, didn't look very interesting at first. But then he zoomed in to get a better look at the "slumpy" feature in the middle of the image, and then zoomed in some more. "It looked like a section of the valley wall had come loose and slid down to the lower ground below," Stu said as he raised a Spock-like eyebrow… There, he discovered the track of a huge boulder that had "fallen from the valley wall and tumbled down, bouncing and rolling and boinging along for a long, long way."
Adding color to the image really highlighted the tracks left by the bouncing boulder, and a few other tracks showed up as well, creating an absolutley awesome image and discovery! "You know what I love about these images?," Stu wrote on his blog. "They show movement, they show that things are moving on Mars right now. It’s not the dead, lifeless, corpse of a world I grew up with; it’s a world - we now know - where dust devils whirl and twirl across the plains… where clouds drift through the pale pink sky… and where huge stones fall from high cliff face, fall to the ground below, then bounce and roll and crash over it… unseen by anyone. For now."

Microsoft Windows Users: Info on "Conficker Worm"

"Even if it's not an April Fools' joke, the latest moves by the dreaded Conficker worm are by no means an Internet Armageddon, either. The worm's alarming outbreak entered a new phase Wednesday as clocks around the world ticked into the first day of April, the day it was scheduled to change programming. But security experts appeared correct in their predictions that the day was likely to come and go without any major disruptions, even though the worm has infected anywhere from 3 million to 12 million PCs running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system.

Computer infections now are all about making money by stealing people's personal information. And Conficker's authors stand to make more money from renting out parts of their huge "botnet" to spammers or identity thieves than by destroying parts of the Internet. "These guys have been pretty smart until now _ the worm is unfortunately very well done," said Patrik Runald, chief security advisor for F-Secure Corp. "So far they haven't been stupid. So why should they start on April 1?" But panic over the worm has reached a frenzy. Lori Lynn Pavlovich, a mother of four from Racine, Wis., unplugged her PC and vowed to stay offline for a week after seeing a local TV news report about the worm. "I get scared real easy when it comes to stuff like that," she said. Pavlovich, who says she keeps her antivirus software and security patches up to date, got back online 24 hours later after a relative assured her that her system was safe.

In the last six months, the worm has also caused sleepless nights for the technicians who maintain corporate and governmental computer systems. European media reported that the French military grounded some of its fighter planes after the Navy's network was infected over the winter. Companies were on high alert to any change in Conficker's behavior that could affect their systems. But a lot of the heavy lifting for big corporations has already been done. Most large organizations hurried to fix the vulnerability that Conficker exploits long ago _ Microsoft released a software "patch" for it in October. Many smaller businesses and consumers started worrying about the problem later, making them more vulnerable to infection. "Consumers are very, very, very aware of this, more so than I've seen in years," said Alfred Huger, vice president of Symantec Security Response. "Enterprises are certainly aware of this, and they're treating this seriously, but no more so than other threats they're faced with."

Detecting a Conficker infection is actually very easy. One of the telltale signs is if you're able to navigate the Internet freely but can't access Microsoft's site or the sites for the major antivirus software vendors. Conficker's authors included that feature to prevent infected machines from downloading programs that remove the worm. That makes it harder to get the Conficker removal programs, but not impossible. Security experts recommend that people with infected machines find a friend whose machine isn't infected, and have that person download the removal tool and e-mail it to them. Many companies that have already protected their networks from Conficker have become concerned again because of the publicity the worm generated in recent weeks as the April 1 change to Conficker's programming approached.

Michael La Pilla, manager of the malicious code operations team at VeriSign Inc.'s iDefense division, said some of his company's customers were asking for immediate notification about changes to Conficker's behavior, instead of the hourly updates that many receive. The bad guys behind Conficker haven't been able to reliably communicate with the computers the worm has infected. That means they haven't been able to program the PCs to send spam, carry out identify-theft scams, or perform any other kind of cybercrime. That has likely started changing with the dawn of April 1. Now the programming on the latest version of Conficker tells those infected machines to generate 50,000 new Internet addresses each day that they can try and "phone home" for instructions. Previously, they had been looking for commands from just 250 sites each day. The point of the change is to make it harder for the security community to pre-register those addresses and keep them out of the bad guys' hands. Microsoft has offered a $250,000 bounty for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible for Conficker.

The hoopla surrounding a very arcane change to Conficker's programming code was reminiscent of the doomsday fears about the Y2K bug, when the dawn of the millennium was thought to threaten computer networks by interpreting the new year as 1900 rather than 2000. "There are a lot of people who are on standby waiting to see what happens," said George Kurtz, senior vice president of McAfee Inc.'s risk and compliance division. "Ultimately, it could be a big event or Y2009 _ April 1 rolls around and nothing happens. But that doesn't mean it's the end of the story."

Relax, in "A Moment with Nature"

"A wooden wharf extends from the shores of Lake Audy in Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba, Canada as the sunset hues reflect off the surface of the water. A pinkish hue spans the horizon as two small clouds leisurely drift by leaving behind their mirror image. At sunset, the stillness of the area is uncanny as during the day, boats, fishermen and swimmers are scattered across the surface of the lake. The wharf makes the ideal place to watch the sunset colors slowly disappear into the darkness of the night."

Frederick Douglass

“At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. Oh! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation's ear, I would today pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be denounced.”
- Frederick Douglass

"Law Enforcement Builds Artificial Noses to Detect Fear"

You just couldn't make this stuff up...

"LAW enforcement agencies are seeking scientists to develop an artificial nose that can detect the smell of fear as terrorists pass through security at airports. The US Department of Homeland Security is advertising for specialists to devise airport scanners that will sniff out “deceptive individuals”. The technology builds on recent breakthroughs in finding human scent-prints which, many researchers believe, may be as unique to individuals as fingerprints. Body odours also change perceptibly according to mood. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have already produced a gel that acts like the smell receptors in the human nose. Now they are trying to create a version that can isolate the tangy smell of adrenaline, the stress hormone, so that nervous passengers or those with a guilty conscience can be singled out.

Homeland Security wants a device that automatically compares odours with scents collected from crime scenes and held in a “smell bank” which, like DNA or fingerprints, could be used in court. Last week officials said they only wanted to explore the possibilities but scientists are already predicting that it is only a matter of time before police will be able to sniff out crime artificially.

Professor Kenneth Furton, who is assembling a smell bank at Florida International University in Miami, said the technology could identify bank robbers by matching scent molecules collected from crime scenes on swabs. He said chemists could already identify human smells by race, age and environment. Scientists will be able to tell police whether a thief is white, black or Asian, whether they are a teenager or older, and maybe even their last meal. Furton, who taught chemistry at the University of Wales, Swansea, before moving to Miami, is also seeking body odours which mark people out as depressed. Other chemists are looking for the signature smells of cancers, asthma and other diseases.

Such advances could also be an additional tool in paternity cases, as family members give off a similar scent. Twins can smell as identical as they look. One barrier to better security through sniffing is perfume. Detectors will have to be adapted to screen out more complicated molecules in bestselling scents such as Jennifer Lopez's Glow range and Chanel No 5 which mask natural smells and confuse detector dogs. Natural scents can be boosted by stress, which releases hormones from armpits and hands. The odour can then spread in 20ft clouds to cling to clothes, furniture and walls.

"How It Really Is"

"Earth's Population 'Exceeds Limits'"

"There are already too many people living on Planet Earth, according to one of most influential science advisors in the US government. Nina Fedoroff told the BBC One Planet programme that humans had exceeded the Earth's "limits of sustainability". Dr Fedoroff has been the science and technology advisor to the US secretary of state since 2007, initially working with Condoleezza Rice. Under the new Obama administration, she now advises Hillary Clinton. "We need to continue to decrease the growth rate of the global population; the planet can't support many more people," Dr Fedoroff said, stressing the need for humans to become much better at managing "wild lands", and in particular water supplies.

Pressed on whether she thought the world population was simply too high, Dr Fedoroff replied: "There are probably already too many people on the planet." A National Medal of Science laureate (America's highest science award), the professor of molecular biology believes part of that better land management must include the use of genetically modified foods. "We have six-and-a-half-billion people on the planet, going rapidly towards seven. "We're going to need a lot of inventiveness about how we use water and grow crops," she told the BBC. "We accept exactly the same technology (as GM food) in medicine, and yet in producing food we want to go back to the 19th Century."

Dr Fedoroff, who wrote a book about GM Foods in 2004, believes critics of genetically modified maize, corn and rice are living in bygone times. "We wouldn't think of going to our doctor and saying 'Treat me the way doctors treated people in the 19th Century', and yet that's what we're demanding in food production." In a wide ranging interview, Dr Fedoroff was asked if the US accepted its responsibility to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be driving human-induced climate change. "Yes, and going forward, we just have to be more realistic about our contribution and decrease it - and I think you'll see that happening." And asked if America would sign up to legally binding targets on carbon emissions - something the world's biggest economy has been reluctant to do in the past - the professor was equally clear. "I think we'll have to do that eventually - and the sooner the better."

Sydney J. Harris

"An idealist believes the short run doesn't count.
A cynic believes the long run doesn't matter.
A realist believes that what is done or left undone
in the short run determines the long run."

— Sydney J. Harris

Archaeology: "Supersized Lions of 13,000 Years Ago"

"Giant lions were roaming around Britain, Europe and North America up to 13,000 years ago, scientists from Oxford University have found. Remains of giant cats previously discovered were thought to be a species of jaguar or tiger but after DNA analysis they were proved to be lions. They were 25% bigger than the species of African lion living today, and had longer legs to chase their prey. They would have lived in icy tundra with mammoths and sabretooth tigers. It is thought these animals would hunt over longer distances, and their longer legs would help them chase down their prey as opposed to the modern-day species which tends to ambush its victims.

The Oxford team analysed DNA from fossils and other remains gathered from Germany to Siberia, and Alaska to Wyoming. Dr Ross Barnett, who conducted the research at Oxford University's department of Zoology, said: "These ancient lions were like a super-sized version of today's lions and, in the Americas, with longer legs adapted for endurance running. "What our genetic evidence shows is that these ancient extinct lions and the lions of today were very closely related. The extinction is a big question that remains unresolved.

Cave art also suggests that they formed prides, although the males in the pictures would not have had manes and they are depicted very realistically. Lions appear to have been very important to early man with many depictions of them in their cave paintings, as in seen in the pre-historic cave complex at Chauvet in France. Other archaeological finds in Germany include figurines which are half man, half lion, leading to the theory that lions may even have been worshipped by ancient humans.

The team found that these remains from the Pleistocene Epoch (1.8 million years ago to 10,000 years ago) could be divided into two groups: the American Lion which lived in North America, and the Cave Lion which lived in northern Europe, Russia, Alaska and the Yukon. These ancient cats would have lived in an environment that was more like an icy tundra and would have shared their habitat with herds of other large animals such as mammoth, woolly rhino, sabre tooth tigers and giant deer.

About 13,000 years ago these species died out in a mass extinction. Figuring out the reason behind this, Dr Barnett said, was one of the last great scientific mysteries. He said: "There are a couple of different schools of thought. It could have been climate change or something to do with humans. Humans could have been killing off their prey or killing the lions themselves. "The extinction is a big question that remains unresolved. More research and more advanced genetic analysis may help answer it."

Economists: "Chance of Depression 50-50"

"In the wake of the biggest financial shock since 1929, economists say the odds of a depression are less than 50-50 - though still uncomfortably high. But even if a depression comes to pass, a 21st-century version would look very different from the one 80 years ago. There is no consensus definition for "depression." Harvard University economist Robert Barro defines it as a decline in per-person economic output or consumption of more than 10%, and puts the odds of a depression at about 20%. Many economic historians say the line between recession and depression is crossed when unemployment rises above 10% and stays there for several years. The current recession, though severe, is not at depression levels now. Unemployment in February was at 8.1%, not as bad as in the early 1980s - the last time the idea of a depression was being kicked around seriously, when it remained over 10% for 10 months. In the Great Depression it reached 25%."When you get an unemployment rate of 25%, it's everywhere," recalls economist Anna Schwartz, who is 94 years old and best known for her analysis of the causes of the Great Depression with the late Milton Friedman. "Everyone is conscious of that and fearful. We're not talking in that league at all." Using the Barro definition, economists in a Journal poll conducted in early March put the odds of a depression at 15%, on average. But there was wide disagreement. John Lonski, chief economist at Moody's Investors Service, put the depression odds at 30% in early March, but better-than-expected news recently has led him to put it closer to 20%. In contrast, Paul Kasriel of Northern Trust put the odds of a depression at just 1% because of the aggressive lending by the Federal Reserve and the fiscal stimulus just beginning to hit the economy. "There are just too many powerful countercyclical policies in place that will prevent the worst-case scenario," he says.

Today's government response is a far cry from the early 1930s, when the Fed raised interest rates, the infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act crushed trade and Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon's prescription for the economy was "liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate." "The Great Depression was a mass of policy errors that made it worse," says historian and investment consultant Peter Bernstein, 90. "This time we have our fill of policy errors, but at least they're not making it worse." Mr. Bernstein lived on Manhattan's Upper West Side during the Depression. "You were conscious of it all the time when you were out in the street," he says. "People looked so threadbare."

The different structure of today's economy means that a modern depression would differ from the Great Depression of the 1930s. Fewer than 2% of Americans working today have agricultural jobs, compared with one in five in 1930. Three-quarters of today's workers are in service-related jobs, which tend to be more stable than manufacturing, compared with fewer than half in 1930. And then there are the social-safety-net programs that emerged after the Great Depression to blunt the blows. "There were no unemployment insurance, no food stamps, none of the automatic things that maintain some income for people who are out of work," says former Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate. Mr. Solow, 84, grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and remembers his parents' constant worry about the next month's money. With spending on food accounting for a little less than a tenth of a typical family's disposable income today, compared with a little less than a quarter in 1930, a modern depression wouldn't hit people in the stomach as the Great Depression did. Growing up on a Wisconsin farm, Catherine Jotka, 89, remembers taking dried corn meant for animal feed out of the granary and sifting dirt out of it to make corn bread.

Today's cutbacks would be for more discretionary purchases - cable television, iTunes songs and restaurant meals. And there's plenty of room for trimming, says Victor Goetz, 81, a retired engineer who lives outside Seattle. "This has a whole different feel than anything we had in the 1930s," he says. Even if the downturn isn't deep enough to be called a depression, the restructuring that it needs to go through means that even after the economy bottoms out, there could be a "lost" four or five years of sluggish growth, says Nobel laureate Paul Samuelson, 93.

As a University of Chicago student during the Depression, Mr. Samuelson remembers attending economic lectures that seemed completely out of step with the times, based on laissez-faire principles that stopped making sense after the 1929 crash. "I was perplexed because I could not reconcile the assignments I got from these great economists with what I heard out the windows and I heard from the street," he says. Starting in the 1980s, the U.S. saw an extraordinary period of economic quiescence, where growth was steady and policy makers dealt with financial crises handily. Economists began to doubt the possibility of a financial crisis so severe it would upend the economy. And that left them as blindsided as their counterparts when the crisis came 80 years ago."
- http://finance.yahoo.com/banking-budgeting/article/106822/How-a-Modern-

"Bailout, 'Rescue' Costs Equals Entire GDP?"

"The U.S. government and the Federal Reserve have spent, lent or guaranteed $12.8 trillion, an amount that approaches the value of everything produced in the country last year, to stem the longest recession since the 1930s. New pledges from the Fed, the Treasury Department and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. include $1 trillion for the Public- Private Investment Program, designed to help investors buy distressed loans and other assets from U.S. banks. The money works out to $42,105 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. and 14 times the $899.8 billion of currency in circulation. The nation’s gross domestic product was $14.2 trillion in 2008.

President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met with the chief executives of the nation’s 12 biggest banks on March 27 at the White House to enlist their support to thaw a 20-month freeze in bank lending. “The president and Treasury Secretary Geithner have said they will do what it takes,” Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein said after the meeting. “If it is enough, that will be great. If it is not enough, they will have to do more.”

Commitments include a $500 billion line of credit to the FDIC from the government’s coffers that will enable the agency to guarantee as much as $2 trillion worth of debt for participants in the Term Asset-Backed Lending Facility and the Public-Private Investment Program. FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair warned that the insurance fund to protect customer deposits at U.S. banks could dry up because of bank failures. The combined commitment has increased by 73 percent since November, when Bloomberg first estimated the funding, loans and guarantees at $7.4 trillion.

“The comparison to GDP serves the useful purpose of underscoring how extraordinary the efforts have been to stabilize the credit markets,” said Dana Johnson, chief economist for Comerica Bank in Dallas. “Everything the Fed, the FDIC and the Treasury do doesn’t always work out right but back in October we came within an eyelash of having a truly horrible collapse of our financial system, said Johnson, a former Fed senior economist. “They used their creativity to help the worst-case scenario from unfolding and I’m awfully glad they did it.”
- http://www.freedomsphoenix.com/Find-Freedom.htm?EdNo=001&At=048045

This made me think of a scene from the movie "No Country For Old Men", where the Sheriff and Deputy discuss the horrible murders. To paraphrase:
Deputy: "This is really a worst-case scenario, ain't it, Sheriff?"
Sheriff: "Well, if it ain't, it'll do until worst-case scenario gets here."

"You Can't Handle the Truth"

"Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies..."- Fleetwood Mac

"Lie to me." Listen, our new mantra's getting louder: "Lie to me." And the whining grows. Investors (Americans) whine about bulls, whine about bears. We're spoiled, became whiners. We got used to easy money. Got soft, can't take the bear's stress. We want somebody, anybody to take away the anxiety, please just "lie to me." Doesn't matter who, our brain keeps whining: "Lie to me."
Yikes, what has happened to America's backbone? We're acting like spoiled brats, self-indulgent teenagers. Whiners. We let "them" lie to us. Beg for more. We get more, then whine when it isn't easy, doesn't work. Grow up America, take responsibility. Wait, maybe you can't. Maybe "you can't handle the truth!" Remember that line from Marine Col. Nathan Jessup in "A Few Good Men," as delivered by Jack Nicholson? I'm a Marine veteran, served under men like him. Today "you can't handle the truth" is more than a line in a movie. It's a warning that something toxic is spreading across America. You feel it everywhere. We're getting "soft," losing our soul: No, "you can't handle the truth." Investors (Americans) would prefer drifting along in a perpetual bull market fantasyland. Even when things go south, as they are now, we try desperately to deny reality, dreaming of a quick bottom, new bull, dreaming bullish fantasies in a deepening bear market. Why? We want to be lied to. We've become wimps. We sit passively on the sidelines, letting our "leaders" lie to us, brainwashing us into whatever they want us to think. Meanwhile, it keeps getting worse. And our leaders know it, know America is trapped in this insidious "lie-to-me" mindset. They know that if they just "lie to me," we'll let them do whatever they want.

In early 2009 BusinessWeek and Kiplinger's reported on lies fed to us last year as the meltdown spread: Bernanke, "I don't anticipate any serious [failures] among large internationally active banks." ... Barney Frank, "Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are fundamentally sound" ... Madoff, "In today's regulatory environment it's virtually impossible to violate the rules" ... Barron's, "Home prices about to bottom" ... Ken Fisher, "This year will end in the plus column ... so keep buying." ... Worth, "Emerging markets are the global investors' safe haven." ... Cramer, "Bye-bye bear market, say hello to the bull." ... and in late 2008 even Kiplinger's said, "Stock investors should 'beat the rush to the banks." Bad calls? Grow up. Stop the "political correctness" whining. They're "lies." And we're all trapped in this new disease we're calling the "lie-to-me" syndrome, a cultural malaise.

Let's go deeper into America's collective brain: We've lost the revolutionary spirit that defeated the British army, preserved the Union, won WWII. What happened? It's an eerie feeling, but something's lost. We're surrendered a proud heritage, drifting, losing our identity and self-confidence. Blame leaders? You picked them. You and me. You were warned for years, yet stood by, let this meltdown happen. Feigned amnesia, mesmerized by lies. Grow up. Stop blaming "them." Stop whining. You are responsible.

That new television series "Lie to Me" is not just brilliant, like Col. Jessup's "mad-as-hell" response, it's an indictment of the "wimpy" syndrome that's infiltrating the investor's brain. "Lie to Me" episodes show us how and why people lie. The series is based on real-life scientific discoveries by a team of "deception experts" who study involuntary facial expressions and body language to determine whether someone's lying: A shoulder shrug, a raised lip, hand gesture, and they know whether you're lying. They work with governments, law enforcement and corporations, "exposing the truth behind lies." America's new culture is based on lies and lying. The public has gotten used to living inside a world epidemic where lies and lying, like obesity, are the rule not the exception; it's a way of life, a new culture based on lies.

Can you trust anyone? Who's lying? And does it matter any more if "they" have new ways to soften your psychological defenses, and manipulate you without you really knowing it. As P.T. Barnum said: "There's a sucker born every minute." Also a whiner who wants someone to "lie to me." This diminished American spirit hit home recently while watching "Mad Money's" Jim Cramer on Jon Stewart's show. Cramer's not alone, he's one of many poster boys for what's wrong with Wall Street, and how the media adds to it. Yes, Cramer got a ratings boost from Stewart. Yes, he feigned humility, while patronizing passive Main Street's investors. And even though Stewart "won," Cramer got his boost. Moreover, within 24 hours, the "news cycle" bumped Cramer as AIG bonuses grabbed the spotlight. And "Mad Money" quietly relapsed into its version of "Lie to Me" in the parallel universe of short-term traders who played a big role in the larger "Wall Street conspiracy" that created the credit meltdown. Besides, insiders like Cramer know there's no such thing as bad publicity. "Just spell my name right." They know their viewers will keep demanding someone, anyone to "lie to me."

Logic and facts will never stop the spread of this condition. It's inevitable, and silently corrupting America, making us soft, weak and vulnerable from within, setting up another bigger tragic meltdown. Bottom line: The opposite side of this toxic "lie-to-me" syndrome is even more dangerous. Why? Our market and economic cycles are accelerating, occurring more frequently, increasing in intensity. It's a "drug" impairing our judgment as we develop tolerance, increase dosage, become blind to warnings, oblivious to the lies, and deaf to warnings over longer periods ... until finally, a new bigger crisis explodes in our face. Time to prepare for another bigger meltdown. Remember Robert Shiller's classic warning: America's "psychological vulnerability to bubble thinking is greater than it's ever been ... We recently lived through two epidemics of excessive financial optimism. ... We are close to a third episode."

Today our new "lie-to-me" syndrome is making us "psychologically vulnerable" as we spend trillions at the second episode and run up huge debts, sabotaging our future ... unfortunately, this may well be our last shot, as we set ourselves up for the catastrophic "third [and final] episode," one that we may be mentally too "soft" to handle successfully. For now, remember, liars won't stop lying, the "lie-to-me" disease will keep spreading, along with the lies everywhere, in our new cultural epidemic of "lies." Wake up, protect yourself, your family, your portfolio ... help revive the American soul, your soul."

To Other Bloggers: The "Blogger" Comment/Links Monster

For about a week now I've had a problem with "Blogger"- it seems to have developed a mind of it's own, or lost what little mind it may have once had. I "follow" a number of sites in Google Reader, allowing me to read their posts and follow what's happening there quickly, without going to the site itself. The problem became apparent when I got an angry email from a fellow blogger about a large number of active links appearing at the bottom of my most recent comment there. Not having done this, I was baffled, then horrified to see the same thing at a number of other blogs that I had NOT commented on. Folks, this is really embarrassing! It looks like the most brazen, arrogant self-promotion there could be. This post is to explain to my fellow bloggers what's going on. I am NOT link-bombing your sites. Those who know me know there is no reason to do so. I've re-done all my settings 3 times, no changes had been made, yet this problem persists. I'll continue to try to find and fix the problem, meanwhile please accept my apologies for what must appear to be an outrageous misuse of your site. If anyone does know what this is please contact me. Thanks for your patience and understanding!

George Graham Vest, "A Tribute to Dogs"

"George Graham Vest (1830-1904) served as U.S. Senator from Missouri from 1879 to 1903 and became one of the leading orators and debaters of his time. This delightful speech is from an earlier period in his life when he practiced law in a small Missouri town. It was given in court while representing a man who sued another for the killing of his dog. During the trial, Vest ignored the testimony, but when his turn came to present a summation to the jury, he made the following speech and won the case."
My boys, left to right: Echo, Scooter and Moose.

"Gentlemen of the Jury: The best friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it most. A man's reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us, may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads.

The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog. A man's dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master's side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer. He will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings, and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

If fortune drives the master forth, an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him, to guard him against danger, to fight against his enemies. And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes his master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by the graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad, but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even in death."

- George Graham Vest - c. 1855

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Daily "Near You?"

Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA. Thanks for stopping by.


"The measure of compassion is the extent to which
we show it to those different from ourselves."

Author Unknown

A Look to the Heavens

"Images from two different cameras, a digital SLR and an astronomical CCD camera, are combined in this color starscape. Both cameras made use of the same telescope at the oceanside Winter Star Party in the Florida Keys, appropriately creating this portrait of the Seagull Nebula. The wide view covers a 4x3 degree swath across the plane of the Milky Way, near the direction of Sirius, alpha star of the constellation Canis Major. Of course, the broad region includes objects with other catalog designations: notably NGC 2327 - a compact, dusty emission region with an embedded massive star that forms the bird's head (above center), and IC 2177 - forming the sweeping arc of the seagull's wings. Dominated by the reddish glow of atomic hydrogen, the complex of cosmic gas and dust clouds with bright young stars spans over 250 light-years at an estimated 3,800 light-year distance."

Meanwhile, on Mars...

"Over time, I've come to the conclusion that the amazing thing about Mars is not that it's an alien world, but that in many aspects, like mineralogy, it's very much like Earth."- Samuel P. Kounaves of Tufts University, who is leading the Phoenix Mission chemical analysis.
Although the preliminary findings from Phoenix do not answer whether life ever existed on Mars (or might still exist somewhere underground), an experiment on the Phoenix Mars lander showed the dirt on the planet’s northern arctic plains similar to alkaline surface soils found in the upper dry valleys in Antarctica, though not strongly alkaline, and full of the mineral nutrients that a plant would need.

Mars today is frigid and dry, and the surface is bombarded by ultraviolet radiation, making life unlikely, but conditions in more ancient epochs may have made the planet more habitable. “We basically have found what appears to be the requirements, the nutrients, to support life whether past, present or future,” said Samuel P. Kounaves during a telephone news conference on Thursday. “The sort of soil you have there is the type of soil you’d probably have in your backyard.”

NASA reported that the Phoenix Mars Lander performed its first wet chemistry experiment on Martian soil flawlessly , returning a wealth of data that for Phoenix scientists was "like winning the lottery." "We are awash in chemistry data," said Michael Hecht of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, lead scientist for the Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer on the Phoenix. "We're trying to understand what is the chemistry of wet soil on Mars, what's dissolved in it, how acidic or alkaline it is. With the results we received from Phoenix yesterday, we could begin to tell what aspects of the soil might support life." "This is the first wet-chemical analysis ever done on Mars or any planet, other than Earth," said Kounaves, science lead for the wet chemistry investigation. "The alkalinity of the soil at this location is definitely striking. At this specific location, one-inch into the surface layer, the soil is very basic, with a pH of between eight and nine. We also found a variety of components of salts that we haven't had time to analyze and identify yet, but that include magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride."

About 80 percent of Phoenix's first, two-day wet chemistry experiment is now complete. Phoenix has three more wet-chemistry cells for use later in the mission. "This is more evidence for water because salts are there. We also found a reasonable number of nutrients, or chemicals needed by life as we know it," Kounaves said. Another analytical Phoenix instrument, the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA), has baked its first soil sample to 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,800 degrees Fahrenheit). Never before has a soil sample from another world been baked to such heat.TEGA scientists have begun analyzing the gases released at a range of temperatures to identify the chemical make-up of soil and ice. Analysis is a complicated, weeks-long process. But "the scientific data coming out of the instrument have been just spectacular," said Phoenix co-investigator William Boynton of the University of Arizona, lead TEGA scientist. "At this point, we can say that the soil has clearly interacted with water in the past. We don't know whether that interaction occurred in this particular area in the northern polar region, or whether it might have happened elsewhere and blown up to this area as dust."

Leslie Tamppari, the Phoenix project scientist from JPL, tallied what Phoenix has accomplished during the first 30 Martian days of its mission, and outlined future plans. The Stereo Surface Imager has by now completed about 55 percent of its three-color, 360-degree panorama of the Phoenix landing site, Tamppari said. Phoenix has analyzed two samples in its optical microscope as well as first samples in both TEGA and the wet chemistry laboratory. Phoenix has been collecting information daily on clouds, dust, winds, temperatures and pressures in the atmosphere, as well as taking first nighttime atmospheric measurements. Lander cameras confirmed that white chunks exposed during trench digging were frozen water ice because they sublimated, or vaporized, over a few days. The Phoenix robotic arm dug and sampled, and will continue to dig and sample, at the 'Snow White' trench in the center of a polygon in the polygonal terrain.

"We believe this is the best place for creating a profile of the surface from the top down to the anticipated icy layer," Tamppari said. "This is the plan we wanted to do when we proposed the mission many years ago. We wanted a place just like this where we could sample the soil down to the possible ice layer."

For more information on the Phoenix mission, link to http://www.nasa.gov/phoenix and http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu.

Robert F. Kennedy

"Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one person can do against the enormous array of the world's ills, misery, ignorance, and violence. Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events.
And in the total of all those acts will be written the history of a generation."

- Robert F. Kennedy

"A Thought Experiment"

"Imagine that someone you absolutely believe (god, an omniscient alien, your mother, a republican talk show host, tarot card reader, etc. whoever it might be for you personally) told you with 100% certainty that the worst case scenario WAS going to happen, and that by say, 2014 there would be permanent blackouts, no food on grocery store shelves, mad-max communities, basically A World Made By Hand, in relatively short order.

If you KNEW this, and internalized it to the point where it felt 100% certain, would you change what you are doing now? Would you call all your friends and hold emergency town meetings to get regional agricultural and resilience programs started? Would you camp outside your senators office entreating him/her to initiate immediate consumption taxes on Veblen goods, etc.? Would you start growing your own food and meeting and engaging your neighbors? Would there be fear and outrage?

Or would there be fear and apathy? Would you say - well - its been fun - we have 5 more years to party on. Let's go to Africa while we can, start pouring the libations more freely, quit your job, cash out what's left of your 401k at a penalty, and go hedonistic for 60 months?

Or would you do nothing, really? Would that information, even in its certainty, not change your daily routine, of surfing the net, finding out more interesting information, searching for unexpected reward as long as there was not too much physical effort required, etc.?

Events are making it increasingly clear to me, that the scale of change needed in our institutions and leadership is so large that our government is essentially 'too big to change', and that change has to come from the ground up. I worry though, that just like the environmentalists of the past generation, many of whom foresaw limits to growth and were very articulate about its details and timing, we talking about the upcoming energy train wreck, with oil at $50 and natural gas under $4, may be just alleviating our consciences, and that there is enough information out there now to see the sweet spot of the default future distribution, without further number torture.

After you've thought these issues through, here is perhaps a more important question: if you knew with certainty the worst cases would NOT arrive, would you change your behavior then? What would be the inflection point? Events themselves, or waiting for others to act and joining in?"

5 Tips to Beat Negativity"

"Nobody’s immune to feelings of negativity. No matter how optimistic you try to be, there are times in your life when you feel depressed or angry. Sometimes these negative feelings hang around and you just can’t shake off the sensation of gloom. You worry constantly and can’t find solutions to any of your problems, and there’s no end in sight to your difficulties. How can you go from seeing the glass as perpetually half empty to half full?

Do Something Different: Many times people feel depressed or bored with life because they don’t have anything new going on. It’s easy to fall into routines and dig yourself into a rut so deep you have a hard time getting out. By doing something different you’re interrupting those well-worn neuro-pathways and forcing your brain to wake up and take notice. Drive a different way home from work. Shop at a new store. Try a new recipe. Brush your teeth with the opposite hand. Change around your furniture. Read a completely different type of book or magazine than you normally would. Take a short class at the local community college.

Make a Solutions List: If you’re feeling negative because problems are looming before you with seemingly no way around them, sit down and brainstorm ways to overcome your current situation. Write down anything and everything, no matter how mundane or silly it may seem and you’ll probably come up with some workable solutions in the process. Every problem has at least one solution.

Set a Goal: Without constant goals it’s easy to fall into a funk. Think of some dreams or interests you may have been putting off and dedicate yourself to pursuing them. Whether you’ve wanted to lose weight, paint, take a dance class, further your education, run a marathon, or come up with a new inventions, do it! Nothing gets your energy flowing better than having something worthwhile to look forward to.

Go Back In Time: Think back to a time in your life when things were working, when you felt healthy, happy, and optimistic. What were you doing then? How was your life different than it is now? Try to do those things now if possible. Nobody has ever been depressed or negative from the moment of conception! If you can repeat your actions of the past your mind will home in on those old feelings and you should soon feel a shift in your energy level. You may need to fake it for awhile if you’ve been living with negativity for some time, though it’s not impossible to get back the “old you.”

Exercise Daily: This is one of the fastest and easiest ways to change your mood around. Exercising is not only good for your heart and body, but it releases endorphins in your brain that dramatically boost your mood. Getting yourself into the exercise habit is usually the most difficult part, but keep in mind that the benefits far exceed the laziness you experience beforehand.

These are some of the best tips for overcoming negativity. Try them all or choose the ones you think will work best for you. It’s not impossible to feel happier, more energetic, and to face each day with a positive outlook. All it takes is a bit of effort and commitment to actually make changes."

"Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth"

"Noted San Francisco architect Richard Gage told the audience at Freedom Law School’s annual health and freedom conference recently that his organization, Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, is growing quickly and now has more than 600 structural experts who have grave doubts about the official story of what happened to the three World Trade Center buildings that were destroyed in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.“We hope to have 1,000 members by September and have over 600 now,” said Gage, a successful architect whose projects dot the California landscape.

The audience heard Gage describe the many problems with the official version, not the least of which is that fire is an “organic process” that could not have caused the symmetrical (uniform) destruction of the 110-story Twin Towers that morning, and the fall of the 47-story Soloman Brothers Building (Building 7) more than six hours later. These three buildings were part of the Rockefeller-inspired WTC complex, consisting of seven buildings on 16 acres. Gage noted that the vaunted National Institute for Safety and Technology (NIST) study of the WTC buildings did not even look at the voluminous evidence of a controlled demolition of the three structures on 9-11, so it’s not as if the evidence was examined by NIST and declared inconclusive. NIST instead only examined the event “up to the point of collapse” and went no further. Thus, there is no way the government can objectively assess the entire catastrophic event.

“How can you find what you are not looking for?” Gage asked, adding that various forces that can destroy buildings—including fire and earthquakes—have obvious characteristics. Fire does not devour a structure uniformly because it randomly branches out wherever there is, say, furniture and other “fuel” to consume. The melting point of structural steel is around 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit. The short-duration Twin Tower fires reached no more than 1,400 degrees (and that is very generous). So for the government to say that burning jet fuel within the Twin Towers not only uniformly melted structural steel to the point of collapse—but brought the huge buildings down at near freefall speed—is the height of absurdity, not to mention that it is categorically impossible for fire to pulverize concrete. More than 90,000 tons of concrete was pulverized mid-air, along with metal decking. Blast waves blew out windows in buildings 400 feet away.

That third building that many Americans still are only dimly aware of, Building 7, really drives this issue home, in Gage’s view. “Well, the 600 architects I represent are most concerned about the freefall collapse of Building 7, the third skyscraper [that was] not hit by an airplane to fall on the afternoon of 9/11. This is a 47-story skyscraper that in the first hundred feet of its fall is falling at freefall speed. This is acknowledged by NIST. That can’t happen unless the structure [underneath] is removed. There is no resistance from the structure to that fall in the first 2.25 seconds. So this of great concern. Of course it falls symmetrically almost at freefall speed and collapses thereafter—the whole building is destroyed in 6.5 seconds,” as he told AFP in an exclusive interview. He added: “NIST . . . claims that we have 10 fires [in Building 7], one of which was ‘roaring’ . . . and [the fires] ‘expanded the beams,’ knocking a girder off its seat and causing ‘an internal cascading collapse’—which is ludicrous because we would have seen all kinds of deformation on the perimeter structure. Anyway, they claim fires brought this building down, but fire is an organic process that doesn’t bring buildings down symmetrically at freefall speed, in the manner of a classic controlled demolition. So that’s the No. 1 key point of evidence.”

As for the Twin Towers, he said there are “many similar features of controlled demolition, but very different as well. It’s explosive. Everything is being ejected outside of the footprint – 95 percent of the debris. Four-ton perimeter wall units are being hurled laterally 600 feet, which takes 55 miles per hour instant acceleration out of the sides of the tower. Now underneath all three buildings we have several tons of molten metal [at 2,700 F or hotter, which stayed hot for 3-4 months] which is not created by jet fuel or office fires or anything else. Where does all this come from? We have video evidence, photographic evidence. The official government reports don’t even talk about it; nor do they talk about the dozens of explosions heard by 118 witnesses recorded orally by the chief fire commissioner of the City of New York.” Gage continued: “It’s extraordinary what we don’t have in the [NIST] report, and that’s what we focus on in Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. In addition in the towers we have 110 floors of four-inch thick concrete; they are an acre in size each. We’re looking for some of those floors at the bottom of the pile. The photographs don’t reveal any of them—just a pile of debris two or three stories high.”

“Where did the ‘pancakes’ go?” AFP then asked Gage, referring to the government’s “pancake” theory, wherein the heavy collapsing floors from the top overwhelmed the structure below and “pancaked” down to the bottom. Counting both towers, 220 floors were missing on that “Black Tuesday.” “That’s what we’re looking for is pancakes,” he replied. “We’ve got the ‘syrup,’ we have no pancakes. The ‘syrup’ is the molten metal.” He went on to say: “Also we are looking at explosions that occurred 20, 40 and 60 stories down—below the collapsing building! Where are they coming from? NIST says they are ‘puffs of air’ because there are piledrivers pushing down the building and that air has to come out somewhere, right? They are not puffs of air; they are pulverized building materials and they occur at 160 to 200 feet per second. These are propelled by explosive speeds.”

As determined by former Brigham Young physicist Steven Jones—and reiterated by Gage—the telltale signs of an ultra-hot incendiary known as thermite (which becomes thermate with sulfur added) were found in the dust at 4-5 distinct locations in New York. Thermite can reach temperatures of 4,500 F and can be explosive when it’s souped up. Microspheres formed from molten iron constitute some of the evidence, as well as red chips comprised of unignited thermite. Gage believes that nano-thermite is the most likely culprit, since it is a “quieter” but ultra-powerful explosive. “Al Qaeda probably did not have access to these buildings or to thermite (or thermate), which was not made in a cave in Afghanistan,” Gage commented, adding, however, that his organization [www.AE911truth.org] does not formally probe who the perpetrators were. But he fears whoever pulled it off could do it again because the truth has long been suppressed, leaving Americans vulnerable. Gage’s group supports a new, genuine investigation, whereas the official “investigation” did not even include establishing a crime scene at the WTC complex and ended with the official 9/11 Commission report that does even mention Building 7."
Mark Anderson is corresponding editor for American Free Press.

"As seen in the revealing photo, top right, the Twin Towers' destruction exhibited all the characteristics of destruction by explosives: (and some non-standard characteristics)
1.Destruction proceeds through the path of greatest resistance at nearly free-fall acceleration.
2.Improbable symmetry of debris distribution.
3.Extremely rapid onset of destruction.
4.Over 100 first responders reported explosions and flashes.
5.Multi-ton steel sections ejected laterally 600 ft at 60 mph.
6.Mid-air pulverization of 90,000 tons of concrete & metal decking.
7.Massive volume of expanding pyroclastic-like clouds.
8.1200-foot-dia. debris field: no "pancaked" floors found.
9.Isolated explosive ejections 20 – 40 stories below demolition front.
10.Total building destruction: dismemberment of steel frame.
11.Several tons of molten metal found under all 3 high-rises.
12.Evidence of thermite incendiaries found in steel & dust samples.
13.FEMA steel analysis: sulfidation, intergranular melting,
and oxidation.
14. No precedent for steel-framed high-rise collapse due to fire.

And exhibited none of the characteristics of destruction by fire, i.e.
1.Slow onset with large visible deformations.
2.Asymmetrical collapse which follows the path of least resistance (laws of conservation of momentum would cause a falling, intact, from the point of plane impact, to the side most damaged by the fires).
3.Evidence of fire temperatures capable of softening steel.
4.High-rise buildings with much larger, hotter, and longer lasting fires have never “collapsed.”


The REAL question, Americans:
If it were proven beyond any doubt that 9/11 was in fact an "inside job",
what would you do about it?

Coach John Wooden, "Success and Winning- the Difference"

"With profound simplicity, Coach John Wooden redefines success and urges us all to pursue the best in ourselves. In this inspiring talk he shares the advice he gave his players at UCLA, quotes poetry and remembers his father's wisdom.Born in 1910, Coach John Wooden is the first person to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame both as a player and coach, while ESPN ranks him as the greatest coach of all time, across all sports. In his 40 years at UCLA, he has mentored legends such as Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. His career has been illustrious to say the least, and he has created a model, the Pyramid of Success, and authored several books to impart his insight on achievement to others. Coach wanted his players to be victors in life and not just on the court, so he treated them as an extended family and emphasized that winning was more than scoring. Indeed, most of his inspiring theories were born from conversations with his father, as a boy on their farm in Indiana. One that sums up his ideology quite well is his often quoted definition of success: "Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best that you are capable of becoming."

"Coach Wooden is a humble, private man who has selflessly given up his life to make other people’s lives better ... John Wooden gave us the necessary tools to overcome the adversity and obstacles that he knew from the beginning would always be in our way. He taught us to find a source of motivation to inspire us to ever higher levels of preparation and work." - Bill Walton

"The End is Near, The End is Far"

"This unraveling is going to take time. I read all of the blogs. I feel the intensity of emotion permeating the ether. There seems to be a quasi-consensus in the econo-blogosphere that this coming summer could be rough, that next fall could be rougher, and that the end of 2009 could be disastrous. I am beginning to believe, however, that the ultimate collapse may take far longer than I first thought- though I must admit to having no real empirical data to back up my "gut" feeling.

My rationale for holding such a view stems from my belief that our government, despite teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, possesses an arsenal of resources that they can deploy in an effort to hold back the flood. And that these resources could buy the government years, possibly even decades, before the paradigm shift is complete.

Don't get me wrong. I am a "doomer", through and through. I see carnage and darkness and horror down the road. The simple fact, as I see it, is that we are a global society built upon false growth and hundreds of trillions of dollars of gambling debt, and now that the era of growth is ending and the biggest margin-call in history is being made, the entire fabric of our existence as a global community is being torn to shreds. BUT, I think it may take longer than we FEEL (and think). Assuming China doesn't pull the plug on U.S. debt, the U.S. government could go on printing and spending for a while- that is, until deflation gave way to Zimbabwean hyper-inflation. But that could be 2-3 years out, maybe longer. It's hard not to feel like ultimate collapse is imminent when all around us the drama is unfolding. I wouldn't be surprised if we hold out for several more years before the floor falls out from underneath."
Dan W, - http://ashizashiz.blogspot.com/

"How It Really Is"

"Inequality Rage Stalks the World..." Well, almost.

"On the one side, inequality harms by pampering; on the other, by vulgarising and depressing. A system founded on it is against nature and, in the long run, breaks down.” Matthew Arnold, lecture on “Equality”, 1903.

"Inequality rage stalks the world, from Vladivostok to Helsinki, from Vilnius to Washington. The trashing of Sir Fred Goodwin’s windows and Mercedes in Edinburgh points to the dangers of unrepentant insistence on continuing privilege displayed by the former Royal Bank of Scotland chief: this was, warned the trashers, “just the beginning”. A Put People First demonstration will parade in London on Saturday – and will be, say the organisers, “noisy but peaceful”. But what of demonstrations planned by the G20 Meltdown group and others for the meeting of the Group of 20 developed and emerging countries in London on Wednesday and Thursday? One website advocates the burning, another the hanging, of bankers. Sounding like a Jeeves gone demented, the London Chamber of Commerce advised that “businesses might want to consider asking their staff not to dress in a suit and tie”.

Suddenly we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it from these bloated creeps any more. Suddenly we want an equalising wind to blow them down – for they seem like men from another, callous, planet.
In their book, Unjust Rewards (2008), Polly Toynbee and David Walker – writers on the left-of-centre Guardian newspaper – describe speaking to a group of City of London bankers and lawyers, among whom the lowest-paid had a salary of £150,000. These bankers did not think of themselves as rich – they assumed they were just middling. “They wanted,” wrote Toynbee and Walker, “to compare themselves to richer people.” That sentence reveals a mindset where what matters are those above – in the same company; in the same job – who have another hundred thousand; another million. It is the “because you deserve it” society. It explains Sir Fred’s stone-deaf incomprehension: did he not work for his millions? Wouldn’t everyone take them if they could? The savvier know they cannot much longer: Michel Platini, president of the Union of European Football Associations, called for higher taxes on the wages of star players, saying everybody knew that “the market is incapable of correcting its own excesses”. In fact, everybody does not know it: both the European and the British associations of top clubs told him to get lost.

And thus, through anger, the old socialist cry for equality swims up on a populist tide. The case has been made on moral grounds. In Equality (1931), an inspirational text for generations of social democrats, the British ethical socialist, R.H. Tawney, concluded that “a society is free insofar as ... its institutions and policies are such as to enable all its members to grow to their full stature”. A more recent text, The Spirit Level, by the medical researchers Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, attempts a more gritty argument: that inequalities are bad for health, life expectancy and the incidence of crime. It has its critics – John Kay, in this newspaper, found its policy recommendations flimsy – but he allowed that “the argument is a powerful counter to any simple equation of social progress and the advance of GDP”, especially now.

Populist tides go this way and that. Radicals of the left blame bankers; those of the right blame immigrants: protests have flared in Spain and France, Italy and Britain, diverse in their targets but all mobilising a resentment that living standards, outraged by those above, should be also threatened from below. The large question is how far the rage will have lasting consequences, and how far old and new arguments for equality can be translated into a fixed, general and electorally sustaining opinion, driving out the view of the past few decades that the prosperity of the few is to the ultimate benefit of all. Socialism of any strong kind seems as far away as at any time since the 1970s: if the far-left groups are gaining militants, the leftwing parties of Europe are generally in opposition or, if in power, battered and unpopular. Neither of the great growth economies, China and India, has any stated intention of returning to socialist economics.

Equality thus becomes a cross-party matter. It is already hydra-headed. Where for Tawney it was largely confined to what the state could do about incomes and education and health provision, it now resides in issues of race, sex, esteem. In every aspect, it is a popular as well as a populist cause: almost no one speaks against sexual or racial equality, and polls reveal a strong preference for less inequity of income and privilege.

The past few decades have licensed the Promethean, even Nietzschean, super-business-being who– as did Sir Fred in his prime, remoulding the prim provincial RBS into a global force– tears up rules, pushes finance into areas too complex for common understanding and ramps up profits, yields and incomes to unprecedented levels. Everyone could be a winner: the first-time low-income homebuyer in unity with the masters of the financial universe– financial legerdemain allowing the first to buy and the second to get rich at the same time. Now all of us are or will be losers, in one way or other: and the sour weight of our losses and rage will, if stopping short of burning bankers, underpin the rhetoric and perhaps the reality of more equable societies, at least for a time. It may, indeed, be good for us."

Of course, in America, there are no protests, as the slumbering Sheeple feel nothing at all...