Friday, April 29, 2011

Why is it so often when I read about trees, we're losing 'em?

The Moroccan cedar tree, principal conifer in the country's main mountain range and source of water, is also a prized material for high-end furniture.

Thus, cutting it down and selling it is profitable. Thus, people are doing too much of that illegally.

'Cedar Mafia' threatens Morocco's cherished wood

"In the Ajdir forest, in the heart of the Middle Atlas mountain range, these imposing trees once covered every slope. Now their numbers are in rapid decline, to the bitter dismay of the local Berber-speaking population."

The map shows where the Atlas Mountains are. Presumably the Middle Atlas mountains are in the middle of the range.

One of Mercury's prettiest craters

Brightly-rayed Debussy Crater is one of the most impressive craters I've seen so far in the early MESSENGER returns. Remember that if you click on this picture you can see it much bigger, and it's impressive.

The 3D Musketeers

I guess that was inevitable, but I'm getting just a tad tired of these remakes that stray ("Sherlock Holmes") further and further from the source material.

Sneak peek: The Three Musketeers are armed and dangerous (not to mention Milla Jovovich's killer curves)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Two GOP Presidential pretenders flip like pancakes on climate change

Notice that I didn't say "contenders".

Newt Gingrich abandons the plan I once admired him for, a GOP conservative proposing action on climate change.

Now: Gingrich said evidence for climate change is “not nearly complete” and that he viewed a cap-and-trade program as a “massively expensive” plan based on “a theory”:

“I think we honestly don’t know,” he said. “I think the evidence is not nearly as complete as the computerized models, and I think that the understanding of climatology is a lot more incomplete than the global warming advocates would have you believe.”

Then: He even joined fellow former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — who he now views as “despicable,” “dishonest,” “vicious,” and “trivial” — in a commercial for former Vice President Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection to say “we do agree our country must take action to address climate change.”

Gingrich even supported a cap-and-trade plan!!!

Tim Pawlenty takes the politically expedient route, leaving friends in his wake

Then (2006): "The two began touring the state together, appearing at a forum in Duluth—where they discussed what global warming would mean for Lake Superior—and the Twin Cities. In interviews, Pawlenty referred to their alliance as the "odd couple," and compared his new partner to Paul Revere, for his role in sounding the alarm on the threat of climate change. He acknowledged that not everyone in his party was happy with his position, but that was the point: He and [polar explorer Will] Steger, he said, were going to "convince the skeptics."

Now: "... the former Minnesota governor and current GOP presidential contender abruptly reversed himself on the issue in 2008, just as his name was being floated as a possible presidential running mate for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Steger and Pawlenty haven't spoken since. Today, the politician who once cut a radio ad with Janet Napolitano calling for a federal cap on greenhouse gas emissions calls his work on climate change "stupid" and says the science is uncertain at best."

I have one word for these twerps: HYPOCRITES. And that's being kindly mild.

HuffingtonPost features Cheryl Cole

A girl this pretty can't stay unnoticed for long when she gets on TV. Huffington Post linked to CoEd Magazine, which has a collection of 19 CC pictures.

Cheryl Cole's X-Factor O-Faces

Actually, I didn't realize, and I'm not sure from the link title if HuffPost did either, that these are pictures of Cheryl's "O-Faces" -- i.e., the type of expression that might be on her face when she's enjoying the Big O. I guess we'd have to let Derek Hough choose his favorite.

I guess if she had a Big O on TV, she'd attract some attention, too.

More on "Dimples" Cole (I mentioned that her dimples define the Cole cuteness factor back in January.)

Not exactly original, but befitting.

Is this really the End of Nuclear?

The end of nuclear? I don't think it's that bad.

The End of Nuclear

Note that this report was commissioned by the Worldwatch Institute. The conclusions highlight something that they want to happen. So why is it that wealthy Middle Eastern desert countries, some of the best places to generate solar power, have been lining up to build new nuke plants? Because, simply, economy-of-scale; a nuke plant generates a lot more reliable (meaning 24 hours a day!) electrical power than acres of solar panels. These growing countries need power to, among other things, run desalination plants that their increasing population is going to require.

Contrast with this:

The end of nuclear: Worldwatch / Nuclear alive and well: MIT

"The potential for using nuclear power to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions is significant, the study suggests. In the U.S., nuclear power now represents 70 percent of all zero-carbon electricity production. While no new U.S. plants have been ordered in 30 years, 27 new license applications have been submitted since new regulations were instituted to streamline the process. Meanwhile, China, India, and other nations have accelerated construction of new plants."

Regarding the Middle East:

Japan’s Woes Do Little to Slow Mideast’s Nuclear Drive

"At the same time, many of the countries eyeing nuclear power are swimming in oil, natural gas and/or sunlight to power solar plants. Turkey has vast hydropower resources. But with growing populations and rising standards of living, governments are worried that fossil fuels and alternative energy won’t be enough."

Here's what Nature said (end of this article):

Nuclear energy: Defying disaster

"The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that the 14% of electricity currently produced by nuclear means worldwide will rise by 10–20% by 2050. Sixty-five nuclear plants are currently under construction, 27 in China alone. The United States is building one new reactor, and up to eight are scheduled to go online by 2020. Whether safety reviews ordered in response to the Fukushima events will slow the growth of the global nuclear fleet is not yet clear."

The briskly rising global demand for energy will require all available technologies, including nuclear, says Thierry Dujardin, deputy director for science and development at the Nuclear Energy Agency in Paris. “So whatever nuclear policies some countries may opt for,” he says, “the world will need a qualified nuclear workforce for decades to come.”

Thinking and opining that nuclear power is in decline is short-sighted, at odds with current trends, and not a good idea in light of greenhouse-gas climate change concerns. Current plant designs are much safer than the older ones, and new technology like thorium reactors might be game-changers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Washington Post's Robert Samuelson on how to (really) balance the budget

The budget conversation we should be having

"Suppose we increased the federal gasoline tax by 25 cents a gallon, from 18.4 cents to 43.4 cents. That would raise $291 billion from 2012 to 2021, estimates the CBO*. Or we could advance the ages for early and full Social Security benefits; one suggestion is to raise them (now 62 and 66) by two months a year until reaching predetermined targets (say, 64 and 70). The CBO reckons the decade’s savings at about $264 billion. How about slowly moving Medicare’s eligibility age from 65 to 67? The savings: $125 billion."

* Higher gas prices would also substantially motivate the public to buy gas-stingy cars, motivating manufacturers to make more of them, hence saving a lot of gasoline, reducing foreign oil imports, reducing our trade gap, and reducing CO2 emissions. Win-win-win-win-win.

"But Obama has no plan to balance the budget — ever. He asserted “every kind of spending [is] on the table.” But every kind of spending is not on the table. He virtually ruled out cutting Social Security, the government’s biggest program (2011 spending: $727 billion). For example, Social Security is excluded from a proposed “trigger” that would automatically reduce spending and raise taxes if certain deficit targets weren’t met. He also put Medicare (2011 spending: $572 billion) largely off-limits."

OK, so Paul Ryan's plans for Medicare are too drastic. But we have to do SOMETHING about entitlements.

"Deficit politics are inherently unpopular. One way — maybe the only way — to break today’s deadlock is to alter public opinion so that some government benefits are seen as unnecessary or illegitimate and some taxes are seen as fair burden-sharing. Given better health, longer life expectancy and wealthier elderly, why shouldn’t Social Security and Medicare eligibility ages be raised and means-testing broadened?"

It's all about the baby-boomers getting their act together and making tough choices. I'm a tail-ender boomer, and I know what we need to do. Why can't Congress figure out these simple steps. Politics and pols truly need to GROW some. And we the people need to accept the need for hard choices and not reward the tough citizens with a quick defeat in the next election.

Does that mean I agree with the Tea Party? Are you KIDDING me? Ryan's plan has already been panned as a totally unrealistic approach that caters to much to the political rhetoric of the far right. However, inasmuch that it is broaching the subject of reducing Medicare expenditures, maybe it at least constitutes a realistic starting point.

Status of Vogtle nuclear station - back to normal

One of the units at Georgia's Vogtle nuclear power station shut down last week; this is key because it is where the first new nuclear generating unit in the U.S. in quite some time is being built. This was routine, a circuit breaker cut-off, but probably got a bit of extra prominence due to the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

Nothing to see here.

It's back up and running at full power as of yesterday, April 26th.

Arnie will be back as Terminator

Schwarzenegger to return as the Terminator

Considering these killer robot replicas never age, I guess they'll be using the same movie magic on Ahnold that generated a young Jeff Bridges in "TRON: Legacy".

They should get Summer Glau in this movie, too. She was a pretty good teenage Terminator in "The Sarah Connor Chronicles". And she needs a job!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Republicans didn't like what Christie Todd Whitman said about global warming

And she's still saying it.

Former EPA chief says ignoring global warming would be costly

"Whitman, a former governor of New Jersey, is a director of a bipartisan national security think tank called the American Security Project. Last week it released a study estimating that inaction on climate change by 2025 will cost Florida $27 billion, because of hurricane damage, real estate and tourism losses, and electricity consumption."

(She was being interviewed in Florida.)

Just some random views

Miranda Kerr in a dress, showing her post-baby body has got more curves in the places men like 'em:


Eva Longoria in a bikini, showing a pair of fascinating curves herself:


Monday, April 25, 2011

Yes indeed, I told you soz

As I have noted a few time before this, one of the main problems with wind and solar power, despite their renewable "credentials", is that of varying supply. If you can't trust the power to be delivered in a somewhat regular fashion, then there has to be a good, safe, reliable, backup -- and with coal being increasing demonized (note that Virginia is closing down 18 coal plants), that type of alternative, for the time being, still seems to be best spelled "nuclear".

Fickle Winds, Intermittent Sunshine Start to Stress U.S. Power System

This NY Times article backs up my supposition and contention, showing that the increasing delivery of wind and solar power, which is by nature (yes indeed) variable, can stress the grid and power plants that need to cycle on or off to adjust to it. Note this:

"Officials of the American Wind Energy Association sparred with a representative of the Bentek Energy consulting firm, who presented a new analysis, "The Wind Energy Paradox." It asserts that increased wind energy output forces coal generation into inefficient start-stop operations that increase emissions of nitrogen- and sulfur-oxide pollutants."

--- Yes, this quote supports my position, and the American Wind Energy Association contends that it's not entirely realistic. But then, what about:

"Grid operators must plan for a future worst-case scenario of several consecutive days with very low wind and solar power coinciding with very high summer power demand, PĂ©rez-Arriaga said. This is a key challenge in designing the long-term generation mix."

Ya gotta deal with that! So I humbly opinionate that nuclear power integration and storage technologies have to be included at a much higher level than is currently being discussed.

Japanese tsunami causes earthquake disaster in Chile

Chilean scallop farms devastated by tsunami

I didn't think that the tsunami hit South America hard, but apparently it came in hard enough to hurt these deep-water scallop farms. As a staunch advocate of fish farming (provided it's done with the best methods to reduce excreta pollution), this makes me upset.

Here's a picture and a page of how they do it:

Scallop culture technologies

OK, I'll admit, I didn't know scallops could be, and are being, farm-raised. I guess, despite the setback in Chile, I can put them on my list of seafood I can eat, as long as they're labeled "farm-raised".

Peruvian farm-raised scallops:

Web page (animated slide show): IQF Scallops-CNV Marketing

Something is rotten in the state of the steak (maybe)

Colour-changing food packaging 'could end food poisoning' by showing when fresh produce has gone off

This is a lot better than the "sell by" date. And it could end household arguments about whether or not the fresh chicken bought on Tuesday is still safe for consumption on Saturday.

Another article about it, well, has a title worth considering:
New sensor indicates the state of your meat

I also enjoy using an old-fashioned kind of sensor to check the state of my meat:

Pregnancy news and views

Pregnancy news

Kelly Brook is pregnant and showing, and still pretty good looking.

Is the First lady of France, former model Carla Bruni, pregnant with French president Sarkozy's child?

Nobody apparently has tried, or gotten pregnant, in space

(I wrote about this earlier - SELL TICKETS!)

Miranda Kerr is clearly not pregnant anymore.

Neither is Kate Beckinsale, who looks to good to be true shopping. Len Wiseman is a wise man to keep this woman happy.

And when the HECK are Mariah Carey and Natalie Portman going to end their procreative stint?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sad news from world of sports

Couldn't believe reading this that Grete Waitz, superb women's distance runner, Olympic silver medalist in the 1984 Los Angeles Games marathon, has passed away from cancer at 57.

Grete Waitz dead - 9-time NYC Marathon winner dies at 57

Track and field doesn't get nearly the buzz that the pro sports do (well, OK, track and field at the Olympic level is pro, but not like the big team sports or tennis), but Grete was one of track-and-field's true greats over the past 50 years. Cancer does not pick and choose its victims.

Barton and the GOP favor poisoning babies, fetuses, pregnant women -- and the rest of us

I tweeted this yesterday as an HonestGOPbumpersticker, but this is the post from Climate Progress that inspired it:

Joe ‘I am not a doctor’ Barton denies any “medical negative” for mercury, smog, and soot pollution

First off:
"The new power plant toxics rule will put over 30,000 people to work upgrading plants to dramatically reduce toxic mercury and other chemicals that cause neurological damage to fetuses and babies. Those upgrades will also cut enough particulate pollution to prevent as many as 17,000 premature deaths, 11,000 heart attacks, 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms, 11,000 cases of acute bronchitis among children, 12,000 emergency room visits and hospital admissions and 850,000 days of work missed due to illness."

Now, if you oppose this new toxics rule, that means that you favor causing neurological damage to fetuses and babies, as well as all the other things that not passing it will cause (i.e., poisoniong and sickening U.S. citizens). Because if you didn't favor those things, you'd see that it was important to pass the toxics rule, right?

Barton says this:
"The average 500-MW coal-fired power plant produced three pounds of mercury a year. Three pounds. According to Mr. Walke’s testimony these standards reduce this by 91 percent. Well that’s great! So you go from three pounds per plant to three tenths of a pound per plant. But that’s per year! Now, to actually cause poisoning or a premature death you have to get a large concentration of mercury into the body. I’m not a medical doctor, but my hypothesis is that’s not going to happen! You’re not going to get enough mercury exposure or SO2 exposure or even particulate matter exposure! I think the EPA numbers are pulled out of the thin air! And I’m going to send a document to the EPA, let’s back them up!"

To which I reply:

Minamata disease

Screw you, Rep. Barton.

Europe retreats on nuclear power (but I don't think France will)

Just months after Italy decided to go ahead with nuclear power, the Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe has caused them to back off. Obviously I don't think that's a good idea, so I'll be curious as to what energy sources the Italians turn to for increasing energy demands in their country. However, the article indicates that the retreat may be temporary.

Italian Senate votes to halt nuclear programme

Economic Development Minister Paolo Romani said Italy would reconsider nuclear power "when Europe as a whole takes decisions shared by all countries," referring to planned "stress tests" on European nuclear power stations.

"Fukushima has shown us that major accidents are possible. I don't say that voluntarily, having said that I was and remain pro-nuclear," Romani said in a newspaper interview. "Nuclear power is not culturally acceptable at the moment."

Meanwhile in France, there are protests against nuclear power. But France is so well energized with nuclear that I don't think much will change; and besides, shutting down older, obsolete, and less-safe nuclear plants might actually not be a bad thing to do.

In France, opposition to nuclear growing

Two pieces of this article:

Environmental activists have staged demonstrations and launched hunger strikes to call for the closure of the Unit 1 reactor at the Fessenheim nuclear power plant, one of France's oldest. Built in 1977, the reactor is in eastern France about 1 mile from the German border, in an area that experiences frequent earthquakes.

and there's this:

In the aftermath of the Japanese nuclear crisis, French President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered stress tests for all French reactors. He didn't call for abandoning nuclear power, and such a move would be hard to realize: The 58 French reactors produce around 80 percent of the domestic power demand and make France an electricity exporter.

One thing this tells us about France; their carbon footprint is pretty small, collectively.

Another reason to question Eric Cantor's sanity and intelligence

This is constructed from a Daily Mail article. Rather than me comment much, let the House of Representatives highest court jester speak his mind, which for him is somewhat of a large effort considering the dimness of the light bulbs in there:

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor warned Democrats that he is willing to let the U.S. default to creditors if GOP demands for massive cuts to spending and budget process reforms are not met by President Obama and House Democrats, who are seeking to increase the debt ceiling to avoid another economic crisis.

‘With the debt-limit window fast approaching, House Republicans have made clear that, if the President and our Democratic colleagues refuse to accept serious reforms that immediately reduce federal spending and end the culture of debt in Washington, we will not grant their request for a debt limit increase,’ Cantor said is a statement Wednesday.
Economic Chernobyl: House Dems accuse GOP of playing kamikaze budget politics

In contrast, cooler and more intelligent (by FAR) heads comment:

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has warned of catastrophic consequences if the ceiling is not raised, saying that it will lead to an even worse crisis then the recession that the country is just emerging from, as an increase in interest rates and borrowing costs would be seen for Americans nationwide.
Vermont Representative Peter Welch also hit back at Cantor yesterday, accusing Republicans of holding the country’s good credit hostage.

‘Mr Cantor believes he has found political leverage in mixing the retroactive debt ceiling debate with the forward looking debt reduction debate. What he is willing to risk for this so-called leverage is a mid-air stall in America’s fledgling economic recovery and the tarnishing of the full faith and credit of the United States of America,’ Welch said.

‘America pays its bills. It always has and it always will. Holding that solemn tradition hostage in a game of kamikaze budget politics is reckless, irresponsible and playing with fire,’ he added."

Cantor is rapidly becoming almost as good a campaign issue as the thorniness of Mitch McConnell. I guess I could dream of a Palin-Cantor Presidential ticket, but that would just be too much to hope for.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Republicans don't get climate science, because of blowhards that tell them lies

Many observers have decried the politicization of climate science, while others have scratched their heads about how increasing scientific certainty is translating into increased resistance to what it means in the GOP rank-and-file sheepledom. Well, the blame for that can be placed directly on the anti-science twibblings of those to whom the sheepledom listen.

It works like this:
“The effects of educational attainment and self-reported understanding on beliefs about climate science and personal concern about global warming are positive for liberals and Democrats, but are weaker or negative for conservatives and Republicans.”

and this:

"New information on climate change (e.g., an IPCC report) is thus unlikely to reduce the political divide. Instead, citizens’ political orientations filter such learning opportunities in ways that magnify this divide. Political elites selectively interpret or ignore new climate change studies and news stories to promote their political agendas. Citizens, in turn, listen to their favored elites and media sources where global warming information is framed in a manner consistent with their pre-existing beliefs on the issue (Hindman 2009).We believe this occurred within the American public between 2001 and 2010, and our results seem to bear this out."

Translation: Liars stay in business because the people they are lying to believe them.

Good on you, Morano!

Saving the Baltic

The Baltic Sea, due to inhibited circulation and all the inputs caused by an increasing coastal population, resulting in elevated nutrient levels and eutrophication, needs help. Now there's an idea to use wind power to pump oxygenated surface waters into the deep water, helping to use up phosphorus, and thus inhibit the overabundance of algae which sucks oxygen out of bottom waters when the algae die and decompose.

This kind of innovative thinking deserves our support (and hopefully it'll work, too!)

Oh heck, Miranda Kerr amazes again

We didn't think that this would be a problem, but the divine Miranda Kerr, just months from popping out a baby boy (and there was definitely one in there*), is back in form.

*clothed and pregnant and pretty

Orlando Bloom is just way too much lucky.

Miranda Kerr Post-Partum Bikini Body (TMZ)
Miranda Kerr Post-Baby Bikini Body (Just Jared)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Solar activity increasing a bit (and a few other outlets) have articles about the slow buildup to peak solar activity, which will occur in 2013. It'll still be a low peak. Whether or not that has long term significance will probably have to wait until the NEXT solar max, around 2024 or so. The suspense is killing me.

Sun's Storm Season Finally Heating Up

A better orange?

Science is reporting that a new and improved orange has been created:

New Citrus Variety Is Very Sweet, Juicy and Low-Seeded

Large-sized for a mandarin, the fruit has an orange rind color. The rind is thin and extremely smooth. The 10-11 segments in each fruit are fleshy and deep orange in color.

'KinnowLS' (the LS is short for low seeded) is a mandarin selection developed by mutation breeding of the mandarin cultivar 'Kinnow,' a mid-to-late season maturing variety developed by UC Riverside nearly 100 years ago. While 'Kinnow' has 15-30 seeds per fruit, 'KinnowLS' has only 2-3 seeds per fruit. Rarely, individual 'KinnowLS' fruit may have 4-7 seeds.

"People who like very sweet fruit are going to find 'KinnowLS' to be very appealing," said Mikeal Roose, a professor of genetics in, and chair of, the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, who developed 'KinnowLS' along with staff scientist Timothy Williams.

Sounds good, but according to the article, we won't see it in stores for five years.

Friday, April 15, 2011

If you must eat seafood, use a condom (I mean, eat it responsibly)

Found this guide to eating seafood responsibly. What it doesn't say (surprisingly) is that it also might be better to consume farm-raised varieties rather than wild-caught. The other thing it could mention is that if it's possible, consume the invasives (lionfish, Asian carp) in MASS QUANTITIES!

Six ways to eat seafood responsibly

"Way number 1: Do your homework: It’s my belief that sustainable seafood is pretty simple. Unsustainable seafood is exceptionally complicated. With green-listed seafood, it’s a good idea to support those fisheries since many of those species represent the best opportunities we have available to us. Also, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) does a really good job of labeling sustainable fisheries. No label doesn’t mean it’s not sustainable, but MSC certification includes a rigorous chain of information that ensures you’re getting what’s on the label."

Now, I just wish there was a way to make zebra mussel soup or quagga chowder, and eat it in MASS QUANTITIES, too!

Invasive Mussels Causing Massive Ecological Changes in Great Lakes

Quagga and zebra mussels cover the Lady Elgin wreck in Lake Michigan:

Mimas from the side

Mimas, the "Death Star" Saturnian moon, looks kind of funny from the side, due to the largeness of Herschel Crater:

One thing leads to another

National Geographic had a gorgeous picture of Shoal Bay Beach, Anguilla, a couple of days ago; and this made me realize I didn't know where Anguilla was. OK, so it's east of the British Virgin Islands, right about at the point where the West Indies island chain turns south after going east from Puerto Rico. Anguilla is a British Overseas Territory.

Shoal Bay Beach (photographed by Collins Byers)

Anguilla Tourist Board

Another shot of Shoal Bay Beach, from TripAdvisor:

Photos of Shoal Bay, Anguilla

This photo of Shoal Bay is courtesy of TripAdvisor (they told me I had to say that)

National Geographic Caribbean Photos

Here's a small hotel on Shoal Bay Beach:
Ku Anguilla

And I totally did not do this because Sports Illustrated shot some of the 2011 Swimsuit issue in Anguilla, but since they did I would be remiss in not providing a link to that, too:

Sports Illustrated - On Location - Anguilla

Now, did they have a picture on Shoal Bay Beach? As I write these words I don't know if they did, but I can hardly see how they wouldn't have at least one shot on one of the world's best beaches. Hmmmmmmm... turns out that models were from "The Bachelor", and included the next Bachelorette, Ashley Hebert. The other two were Michelle Money and Chantal O'Brien. (Yum, Chantal O'Brien has a marvelous figure [translating the euphemistic compliment, she's got nice big round hooters]; Ashley and Michelle are nice and trim, too, but not as well-hootered).




Nope, they shot these girls at Rendesvous Bay, not Shoal Bay. (See the caption under Michelle.)

Vicky's Secret ALSO shot in Anguilla this year. The video at the site below says they were in Anguilla and St. Barts. I swear I didn't know that before I started writing this.

Sneak Peek: Victoria's Secret 2011 Swim Catalogue Cover Revealed

Now, looking at more Anguilla links, it turns out (as I suspected) that Anguilla is a favorite destination of the rich, famous, and in the case of the women, frequently hot. Viceroy Anguilla is apparently a top spot for them. I know, I know, if I have to ask...

Here's a big map of Anguilla, to locate the various bays and beaches.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Amazing fish pictures in the dark

I'll just use this amazing shot to point readers over to the article:

Colourful creatures: Amazing 'X-ray style' images of ocean dwellers at night

Obama deficit plan might have balance

"The point is that balance is essential," Obama spokesman Jay Carney said. "What is not acceptable in the president's view – and we believe in the American people's view – is a plan that achieves serious deficit reduction only by asking for sacrifice from the middle class, seniors, the disabled and the poor, and while providing substantial tax cuts to the very well off."

In a divided Washington, where a budget standoff between Obama and House Republicans nearly led to a government shutdown last week, the broader debt debate now begins in earnest. It is expected to shape both the course of legislation and a presidential campaign that already has Obama seeking a second term.

Obama has renewed his call to end the Bush-era tax cuts for households earning more than $250,000 a year or individuals earning above $200,000. The White House has insisted that every aspect of the government must be considered as part of a serious discussion on debt, including revenues, which tends to be Washington-speak for taxes."

America Held Hostage, Part Deux - The Debt Limit Ceiling

“Most people understand that Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said on “The Early Show.” “We can’t raise taxes,” he said, “that was settled last November during the elections.”

Read more:

"House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) made similar remarks on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” saying: “We don’t have a problem with our budget because Americans don’t pay enough taxes. We have problems with our budget because we spend too much money."

Katrina vanden Heuvel:
"Although the media seldom mention it, the cuts aren’t really a “down payment” on deficit reduction. They simply are a partial payment for the $700 billion, 10-year cost of the extension of the Bush top-end tax cuts that Republicans insisted on in December."

Republicans have doubled down on their reverse Robin Hood agenda. The plan put forth by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan calls for the wealthy to launch another offensive in the class war they’ve been winning. It would slash another 20 percent from domestic programs, end Medicare as we know it, cut a trillion from Medicaid, repeal protections for consumers and the environment. It would do this not to reduce the deficit — the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Ryan plan would increase the deficit over 10 years — but to pay for extending the Bush tax cuts and further lowering tax rates on the rich and corporations."

Repealing Tax Cuts would meet 4 trillion savings goal

From Obama a born moderate (by Dana Milbank):

Ryan’s proposal has spooked all the Republican presidential aspirants, save former senator Rick Santorum (R-Fugheddaboudit). Ideologues who defend the Ryan plan, such as former George W. Bush adviser Peter Wehner, attempt to argue that those who oppose it oppose any entitlement reform.

But even mainstream conservatives such as Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), part of the Gang of Six, say the no-new-taxes Ryan plan is a nonstarter. “What he seeks to do is to, number one, balance the budget over about a 10-year period simply by reducing spending,” he said. “And you can’t do that. It’s not going to work.”

What Ryan has done, however, is boost prospects for the Bowles-Simpson plan as a reasonablealternative. “When folks look at the two plans side by side,” Bowles told me, “they see balance in ours.”

Jordan questions its nuclear power commitment

According to the following report, some in Jordan are questioning whether the kingdom should proceed with its plans for nuclear power plants. As the article notes, how are they going to have enough water for cooling? I would like to know what their concept is on that score.

Since I just wrote about solar power installations in parking lots (preferably sunny parking lots), Jordan would seem to be somewhat of a natural for a big solar power commitment.

Still, I think it's premature to question nuclear power for a country that needs a lot of it. Jordan doesn't have a lot of oil but it does have a lot of uranium. So nuclear makes sense here, despite the cooling question.

Jordan urged to drop nuke plans after Japan nuclear crisis

"The biggest challenge for Jordan is the cooling systems. How can a water-poor country like the kingdom build a nuclear plant?" [environment ministry advisor] Dabbas said.

With desert covering 92 percent of its territory, Jordan, one of the world's 10 driest countries, is battling to face chronic water shortages and meet needs for its increasing population of 6.3 million.

"Our entire region is exposed to earthquakes. We are a small country and any nuclear leak will remain in Jordan for 5,000 years," Dabbas said.

"There are alternative solutions, like building solar and wind power systems, which can produce thousands of megawatts. Also, we can always ration our energy consumption."

There are a lot of parking lots in the world

One thing I really, really, really, really wish wouldn't happen is getting into a car on a hot day, such that the interior temperature of the car is just south of "volcanic". One of the ways this could be avoided is very simple - park in the shade! Problem is, most parking lots are very short on shade and very long on solar exposure.

That's why I noticed this article about the just-up-the-coast solar power installation at Anne Arundel Community College:

Anne Arundel Community College Installs Large Solar Carport System

I hadn't seen these before, probably because they aren't exactly in the right location, solar-exposure wise, here on the East Coast. Such an installation seems much more suited for sunnier climes, such as the U.S. Southwest, or many tropical islands.

But thinking about it; if a large enough parking lot, such as for a strip shopping mall, could be equipped with sufficient solar power parking lot shades to generate power to run the air conditioning for the stores on hot summer sunny days (when peak power is demanded, and currently this requires bringing on-line the older, less efficient, and frequently more polluting coal plants), then power demand would be reduced and so would greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, I could park in the shade and not lose half a gallon of sweat before my car air conditioner got the interior temperature down to something in the vicinity of tolerable. PLUS, shading a lot of parking lots would somewhat reduce the gasoline demands of exactly that kind of full-power car air conditioning.

So I'd like to see a lot more solar-powered parking lots!

Here's another article about a similar installation:

Tioga Unveils Largest Solar Canopy in Hawaii

Like I said, tropical islands seem somewhat logical for this kind of thing.


Tom Toles of the Washington Post NAILS it.

April 14, 2011 editorial cartoon by Tom Toles

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cole headed stateside for real

Cheryl Cole quits UK X Factor to concentrate on breaking the States with U.S. show

It's been in doubt and flux for months, but apparently dimpled and well-figured British singing beauty Cheryl Cole will indeed be on the U.S. X-Factor judges panel, accent or not.

I basically used this article as an excuse to show the picture of Cheryl that accompanied it (left).

No confirmation yet as to whether Cheryl and her frequent accompaniment, Derek Hough, have "done it". Remember that back when Cheryl had malaria she was given doctor's orders to refrain from the rigors of coitus, to aid her recuperation. Loyal Derek has been with her every step and vacation on the way to full restoration of her capabilities. Whether or not he's had a chance to test-drive those capabilities is still an open question.

For the sake of my fantasies, I sure hope so.

Apparently they're still "an item", as they're headed to Vegas.

Because what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, I hope this is Derek's big opportunity if he hasn't bedded the lovely/lusty lass yet.

Why am I so concerned about Derek Hough's sex life? I'm not. I'm concerned with Cheryl Cole's sex life. A girl this good-looking should not be chaste; she should be ravished regularly and with gusto. She should be using what she's got as God designed it. (As to whether God intended it, that's for Anglicans and Mormons to hash out). So I hope Hough's got the stuff.

What's behind the fall of penguins? Climate and conservation

Penguin numbers plummeting -- whales partly to blame?

I had read several years ago that the penguin population explosion was due mostly to the reduction of whales; a full compliment of whales eat a lot of krill. It's good to read that one of the reasons for penguin declines is the increase in whales. It's not so good to read that krill stocks are also down due to climate change, though krill fishing is also an influence - I'm just not sure how big an influence.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Whut got cut - holy shut the f*ck up!

Well, the details about the cuts that staved off the government shutdown are out. There are some real gaspers in there, especially the massive slash to the EPA. Well, it's a campaign issue to run on -- GOP Tea Party types don't care about public health, clean water, clean air, and clean up of toxic waste.

Katrina vanden Heuvel's op-ed from the Washington Post is agonizingly breathtaking. Parts of it:

The most sensible American economists warn against cutting back spending and laying off workers now. Even fiscal hawks like the co-chairs of the president’s deficit commission, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, opposed cuts in spending in the current fiscal year. Similarly, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, the conservative appointee of George W. Bush, warned against cutting spending or raising taxes in December, arguing that the economy still was struggling to get going.

That’s all forgotten now. “So be it” was Speaker Boehner’s infamous response when asked if the House budget assault would cost federal jobs. Goldman Sachs and Moody’s projected the original Republican plan would cost 700,000 jobs over the next year; now we’ll lose only three-fourths of that number. Some triumph.


Lost in this discussion is what the country needs: a clear strategy to build the economy and revive the middle class. That requires making the investments vital to our future and figuring out how to pay for them. It requires taxing what we have too much of (financial speculation and extreme concentration of income and wealth) and investing in what we have too little of (education programs such as pre-K, 21st-century infrastructure and renewable energy). And it would address the real —
and sole — source of our long-term debt crisis: not Social Security and Medicare, not “entitlements,” but a broken health-care system, dominated by powerful drug, insurance and hospital lobbies, that costs about twice as much per capita as the health systems of other industrial countries and ensures that while other systems may have bad results, our has worse.

Monitoring Twitter found some of these informative resources:

"RT @AGUSciPolicy: More details on NOAA/NASA/NSF/NIST cuts; polar-orbiting satellites (#JPSS) don't get funding to launch on time"

"Shutdown deal defunds NOAA climate service, cuts NSF $50 million, cuts EPA $1.5 billion--summary here:"

This section of the CR [continuing resolution] also prohibits funding for: the establishment of a Climate Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the approval of new fisheries catch-share programs in certain fisheries; and for NASA and the Office of Science and Technology Policy to engage in bilateral activities with China.

Interior: The CR includes $29.6 billion in discretionary funding in the Interior and Environment section of the bill, which is 8.1%, or $2.62 billion, below the fiscal year 2010 enacted level and 8.5%, or $2.8 billion, below the President’s request. [ A billion here, and billion there, and pretty soon you're talking really debilitating cuts -- which is the GOP's basic intention.]

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reduced by $1.6 billion, a 16% decrease from last year’s level. The cuts to the EPA alone represent 61% of the bill’s reduction compared to last year’s level. Funding levels for Land and Water Conservation Fund (land acquisition) programs are reduced $149 million (-33%), climate change funding bill-wide is cut by $49 million (-13%),
and funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities is reduced by a combined $25 million from last year’s levels.

"More details on EPA, DOI cuts--USGS cut $25.9 million, USDA Forest Service
cut $602 million"

And the really scary thing is: the GOP isn't done yet. They've already cut to the bone; their next step is to start removing bones until the whole corpus collapses.

Hurry up and wait, wait, wait for trip to space department

Budget cuts mean that the James Webb Space Telescope won't launch until 2018 now, and could get canceled COMPLETELY. I actually think that's a very bad thing, but the JWST is gobbling up so much of NASA's shrinking science budget that it might not entirely be a bad thing. I think NASA is too committed to JWST to have it disappear, though.

Similarly for the beleaguered JPSS, which was to be the next-gen primary climate variable observer.

All the nudes getting in print

It's time for the spring and the nude issues of magazine, where starlets pose sans clothes, enticing us to see their most recent projects, in which they are rarely similarly posed or sans. Allure, which in the past enticed us with Eliza Dushku, Padma Lakshmi, and Emmanuelle Chriqui, is promoting the uncoverage of Ashley Tisdale. But I'm more interested in how much female curvature "The Big Bang Theory's" Kaley Cuoco provides. (Update: moderate.) The revelation is Tom Brady's ex, Bridget Moynahan, who is in fine form at 40 after having the quarterback's first kid.

Lauren Conrad is on the cover and says she isn't sexy. Fine, she's really cute. (OK, her boyfriends say that, too).

The Naked Tush, er, Truth: 4 Celebrities Go Nude for Allure

Monday, April 11, 2011

Projection of where tsunami debris will go

A more scientific treatment of the drift pattern of the debris from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami:

Where will the debris from Japan's tsunami drift in the ocean?

Some of it should get to the U.S. West Coast in three years. I think that will be a little bit weird.

Eating blueberries can make you look like this

(Erin Heatherton)

Well, maybe not everybody can look like this. But it turns out that blueberries can help reduce fat in the body. Which might help.

Blueberries may help reduce belly fat, diabetes risk

The researchers studied the effect of blueberries (freeze dried blueberries crushed into a powder) that were mixed into the rat diet, as part of either a low- or high-fat diet. They performed many comparisons between the rats consuming the test diets and the control rats receiving no blueberry powder. All the rats were from a research breed that is prone to being severely overweight.

In all, after 90 days, the rats that received the blueberry-enriched powder, measured as 2 percent of their diet, had less abdominal fat, lower triglycerides, lower cholesterol, and improved fasting glucose and insulin sensitivity, which are measures of how well the body processes glucose for energy.

While regular blueberry intake reduced these risks for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, the health benefits were even better when combined with a low-fat diet.

Now, one tip on how to use blueberries effectively.

Good way to use blueberries in a diet to reduce body fat and diabetes risk:

Not such a good way:

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tsunami debris adrift in Pacific

This is really remarkable; especially the projections of where it'll float to.

Japan earthquake and tsunami debris floating toward U.S. West Coast

Call to arms, Democrats

Whether or not the 2011 budget deal is made [OK, so far it appears it was as I write this on Saturday, April 9, but the full impact of $39 billion in cuts is yet to be fully examined], the process has exposed the Tea Party-led agenda on social policy that targets health, consumer protection, many different aspects of environmental protection, women's health, for-profit colleges, and which also protect many environmentally-damaging practices of energy and agricultural corporations.

If you oppose what the Tea Party and the radicalized GOP are trying to do to this country, KEEP THIS LIST handy and break it out at rallies and pressers and public appearances of Tea Party candidates for election. Ask them point-blank if they support things like cutting funding for the Wetlands Reserve Program and flood prevention. Ask them if why they want to continue allow mercury emissions to the atmosphere, where mercury can enter the food chain, get incorporated in seafood, and thus threaten the neurological development of unborn babies.

Get serious, environmentally-minded independents and Democrats! Now is the time to start planning the defeats of Tea Party candidates and first-term representatives in Congress. Since my district's rep is the estimable Steny Hoyer, I'm targeting the clinically and chronically stupid Andy Harris in the 1st district of Maryland. He lost a close one to Frank Kratochvil when Obama was elected, then won in the GOP comeback. I think he can be taken DOWN.

1:28 PM Friday, April 8: Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) said that House Republicans remained intent on defunding Planned Parenthood. "It's about the sanctity of life," he said.

Rider deal-breakers

Partial list of GOP riders on budget bill:
- Prohibits funding for the Biomass Crop Assistance Program.
- Restricts the ability of the FDA to transfer funds.
- Prohibits the Federal Reserve from transferring more than $80 million to the
new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.
- Prohibits funds for a government sponsored “consumer products complaints database.”
- Prohibits funds to take any action to effect or implement the disestablishment,
closure or realignment of the US Joint Forces Command.
- Bans funding for the Department of Education regulations on Gainful Employment,
as-yet-unpublished rules that would restrict federal student aid to for-profit colleges whose students have high debt-to-income ratios and require the schools to report more information about student outcomes.
- Prohibits funding for the Wetlands Reserve Program.
- Prohibits funding for the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act.
- Prohibits funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program or the State Energy Program.
- Prohibits funding for EPA efforts to regulate greenhouse gases.
- Prohibits funds from being used to construct ethanol blender pumps or ethanol storage facilities.
- Prohibits the EPA, Corps of Engineers and the Office of Surface Mining from implementing coordination procedures that have served to extend and delay the review of coal mining permits.
- Prohibits funds for the EPA to deny proposed and active mining permits under Section 404 (c) of the Clean Water Act, specifically to revoke retroactively a permit for the Spruce Mine in West Virginia.
- Prohibits funding for Mom and apple pie.

"Under the House-passed measure, Republicans are pushing limits upon the Environmental Protection Agency to limit its ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, although the U.S. Supreme Court recently charged the Environmental Protection Agency with this responsibility. In addition, the House version of a budget would also block the EPA from issuing or enforcing new regulations on the emission of mercury from cement factories, pollution into the Chesapeake Bay, surface coal mining and runoff into Florida waters.

Other elements of the House-passed bill would stop the administration from issuing new regulations on for-profit private schools, which have been accused of bilking millions of dollars in heavy-interest tuitions and loans, from unsuspecting students for “college degrees” of marginal and often unaccredited value. The House “budget” would also block the Federal Communications Commission from enforcing rules on the Internet that are opposed by Verizon and other Internet service providers, even though these rules are highly regarded as consumer-friendly."

From the New York Times:

If the federal government shuts down at midnight on Friday — which seems likely unless negotiations take a sudden turn toward rationality — it will not be because of disagreements over spending. It will be because Republicans are refusing to budge on these ideological demands:

• No federal financing for Planned Parenthood because it performs abortions. Instead, state administration of federal family planning funds, which means that Republican governors and legislatures will not spend them.

• No local financing for abortion services in the District of Columbia.

• No foreign aid to countries that might use the money for abortion or family planning. And no aid to the United Nations Population Fund, which supports family-planning services.

• No regulation of greenhouse gases by the Environmental Protection Agency.

• No funds for health care reform or the new consumer protection bureau established in the wake of the financial collapse.

Abortion. Environmental protection. Health care. Nothing to do with jobs or the economy; instead, all the hoary greatest hits of the Republican Party, only this time it has the power to wreak national havoc: furloughing 800,000 federal workers, suspending paychecks for soldiers and punishing millions of Americans who will have to wait for tax refunds, Social Security applications, small-business loans, and even most city services in Washington. The damage to
a brittle economy will be substantial.

Read the rest.

But it finishes like this:

The public is not going to be fooled once it sees what the Republicans, pushed by Tea Party members, were really holding out for. There are a few hours left to stop this dangerous game, and for the Republicans to start doing their job, which, if they’ve forgotten, is to serve the American people.

Bush science adviser details Republican budgetary threat to science and U.S. future

John Marburger occasionally came under fire during his tenure as W's science adviser, due to the decidedly anti-intellectual, anti-scientific tone and policies of that administration. But he is a scientist and supports science strongly. Read the whole thing, if you have time; if not, just read what I've got here.

House science cuts threaten our future - Marburger

"Science is not a luxury; it reaches deep into the national infrastructure - economic, physical, and intellectual - that makes modern civilization possible. It operates at every step of the development of cures for disease and new approaches to energy independence. Most scientific research performed in the nation's laboratories - academic, industrial, or federal - is 'trouble-shooting' research where highly trained men and women puzzle out unexpected occurrences of every kind and build a knowledge base available to other scientists, engineers, and innovators throughout the economy. Economists estimate that approximately half of post-WWII economic growth is directly attributable to R&D-fueled technological progress.

The U.S. excels at this kind of work, partly because at the most challenging level we combine it with advanced education. The largest fraction of federal research funds awarded to universities goes to support graduate students and postdocs who conduct research and then transfer their cutting edge knowledge to industry "on two legs." During their studies, guided by professors, they immerse themselves in the details of prior knowledge and of experiments they design and build to solve puzzles and cut through to new solutions. It is no accident that high-value-added industries cluster around research universities. They can find solutions to problems through access to the nation's most skilled and motivated people, and they recruit them as employees."

So you want to help the economy, Pubbies? Then DON'T CUT SCIENCE BUDGETS! Investment in the future keeps us competitive in the future.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I was right -- well, close enough, but not quite

Boehner on Tea Party: "no daylight".

And lights out for the rest of us. (Actually, with regard to most Tea Party people and their Congressional representatives, the lights appear on but obviously nobody's home.)

Government shutdown will delay millions of tax refunds

Steve Cohen: Time for the President to demonstrate the courage of his convictions

I was right! (wrote this last night): A little theory of mine

Reid not optimistic about avoiding government shutdown

"Mr. Reid said that Republicans have “drawn a line in the sand” on issues of abortion funding and changes to the clean air act, and he said those issues could not be resolved in the hours left before a government shutdown."

Reid less optimistic shutdown can be averted

"The Senate Democratic leader said negotiators have basically agreed to the total level of cuts for the rest of fiscal 2011 but strong disagreement remains over controversial policy riders. These include proposals to defund Planned Parenthood and various Environmental Protection Agency initiatives."

“The numbers are basically there,” Reid said. “But I’m not nearly as optimistic — and that’s an understatement — as I was 11 hours ago. The numbers are extremely close. Our differences are no longer over how much savings we get on government spending.

“The only thing holding up an agreement is an ideology,” Reid told the Senate’s presiding chair. “I’m sorry to say, Mr. President, my friend the Speaker and the Republican leadership have drawn a line in the sand, not dealing with a deficit we know we have to deal with.

“The two main issues holding this matter up are the choice of women, reproductive rights, and clean air,” Reid said. “These matters have no place in a budget bill.”

Now, here's the Speaker of the House, confirming what he's denying:

Boehner, appearing on ABC's "Good Morning America," repeated that he was working to provide the "largest number of spending cuts possible."

"When it comes to an out of control bureaucracy in Washington, we know that that's also getting in the way of creating jobs in America. The EPA's out of control. And the American people do not want taxpayer dollars used to fund elective abortions," he said.
How many American people, John? And how do you quantify the EPA "being out of control"?

Now, watching the news today, the blame-setting game is in full swing. But the Democrats are winning decisively, because Reid is being plain and honest in what he's saying is happening, while Boehner has to talk mumbledy-mouth about "all the cuts still being on the table". The game they're playing is that NPR, Planned Parenthood, and EPA regulations are all "funding" issues. As Ben Cardin so clearly put it, determining that is not following regular rules of order. The Republicans have a crisis to use, and their trying to use it to get as much of their social issue agenda accomplished. A-HOLES.

Late night Thursday update:

I found the following article on the Huffington Post:

Government shutdown threatened by Republicans over Planned Parenthood

First, though, here's what I wrote yesterday:

But anyway, to my theory. I think the Boner Boehner is constantly changing the final negotiated "figure" for budget cuts to keep the media attention on that number, and less on the policy riders that haven't been removed from the negotiations.
Now, here's some quotes from the HuffPost piece:

A. "The White House and Senate Democrats have publicly capitulated to ever-increasing Republican demands for spending cuts, but negotiations over the budget for the remainder of the fiscal year have shifted their focus from money to so-called riders -- provisions that restrict the federal government from spending money on certain projects or entities."

B. "At a late-night White House meeting between the president and key congressional leaders, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made clear that his conference would not approve funding for the government if any money were allowed to flow to Planned Parenthood through legislation known as Title X. "This comes down to women's health issues related to Title X," a person in the meeting told HuffPost."

C. (Compare this to what I wrote) "Schumer said earlier Thursday that Democrats were ready to meet Boehner's number, but that Boehner was using money as a distraction so that the public wouldn't realize his members were fighting over cultural issues.

"The only reason the numbers aren't solved is because Speaker Boehner knows that if he did that, then everyone would know that it's the riders, and he doesn't want that out. But if you look at how many hours in the rooms of negotiators that discussing riders, it's predominant," he said. "The Speaker's folks have admitted that we've been fair on the numbers."

D. Now, here's the surprise, and what I didn't get quite right. The Tea Party precipitated this shutdown by insisting on the budget cuts. But the shutdown is coming on because a few senior members are pushing the riders:

"Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the number-two Democrat in the upper chamber, said that Boehner was under pressure on social issues not from the Tea Party, but from senior Republicans. "It's not about reducing the deficit. It's about hitting programs. He's gotta cut programs. And we think still we can reach agreement on the money. But he is under enormous pressure and he says it's not from the Tea Party, it's from the old guard, the Republican guard, that wants to once and for all show that they can force through some of these social issues, like abortion," Durbin told reporters Thursday evening in the Capitol. "The rider list gets longer and longer and non-negotiable."

A GOP aide confirmed Durbin's claim that it's the senior members who are insisting on riders. Polls show that the public is likely to blame the Tea Party for any shutdown, but ironically, most new members are more passionate about spending than social issues. [OK, I did this:] Yet the public is likely to conflate the Tea Party with the culture wars if the government ultimately shuts down due to a dispute over funding for family planning. [And isn't that overall a bad thing for the GOP? If they were just about budget cutting - never mind that trying to do too much in one year of discretionary spending is stupid - we could at least sympathize with their goals. But hiding the social policy agenda behind the budget cut smokescreen -- that just smacks of old fashioned smoke-filled backroom politics. And it's screwing the entire nation in the process.]

"It's mostly a few older members who have seen an opportunity," said the GOP aide."

So if Boehner was really a leader, and not a puppet, he'd tell the elderly statesman to suck it on the riders and fight that battle another day. There will be plenty of battles to fight.

Kassie Lyn Logsdon is dynamically pretty

Because Playmate Kassie Lyn Logsdon replied to me, identifying all the other Playmates at the City of Hope event (I thought I recognized the divine Julie M (McCullough) -- I'm going to just illustrate that she's gorgeous with a head shot:

Now, of course with her being a Playmate it isn't hard at all for any of us interested to find lovely images of MissKassieLyn in all her gorgeous glory -- and I really like her body type, slender and lengthy, beautiful long belly, with just the proper amount of plush curvature in the right locations.

And she also preserved some of her mark of maturity. I'm working on a long article about how I appreciate that in a woman.

Close flyby of a large asteroid coming up reports that a big ol' 400-meter asteroid will be flying nearby (0.85 x the distance to the moon) in November.

Huge asteroid 2005 YU55 passing Earth in November

Just another lesson that GOVERNMENT-funded research and technology development are probably necessary to deal with the potential of a planet-smashing asteroid. Meanwhile, the Tea Party is trying to defund Planned Parenthood.


Best map of the moon

Really spectacular results from a GOVERNMENT-funded space mission. But funny thing is, I can only conclusively identify Tycho in the right-hand image.

In case you missed Eva Longoria last night

I noted Eva Longoria on Letterman last night, in a somewhat amazing feminine version of a tuxedo. Well, on review (I remembered exchange but not the move), she really used the garment effectively.

Eva Longoria's wardrobe malfunction

Eva Longoria pops jacket on David Letterman

Besides the fact that she was dressed (and slightly undressed) to the nines, she also happens to be (at least publicly) just a really nice, real, hot, woman. Hopefully her current squeeze Eduardo Cruz appreciates the whole package.

British Medical Journal editorial on health and climate change

"The IISS report states that “The earth is warming, and has been for at least a century,” with this being “directly attributable to the increasing emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.” As a result, “Climate change may already be changing weather and precipitation patterns” and will continue to drive extreme weather events and changes in water resources (through flood, drought, and rising sea levels), and it will adversely affect global food and energy production." This quote comes not from an environmental pressure group but from security experts drawn from US and UK military and intelligence communities."

It might be considered unusual for the medical and military professions to concur. But on this subject we do. Climate change poses an immediate and grave threat, driving ill health and increasing the risk of conflict, such that each feeds on the other. And like all good medicine, prevention is the key. The IISS report stresses the need for “sustained investment in infrastructure and new technologies” of which “a shift to renewable energy sources will be the most visible effect of efforts to mitigate emissions.” Approaches that reduce demand, including efforts to increase efficiency, are also required."

So, as the Tea party shutdown snowball continues, the House is unwilling to budge on the EPA-restrictive riders forcing them not to use their regulatory authority that was UPHELD BY THE SUPREME COURT; and yet climate change poses increasing risks to the health of humans around the world and also to our own national security as it exacerbates societal conflicts in many regions of the world -- particularly arid regions which will be under increasing freshwater resource stress.

Climate change, ill health, and conflict

OK, this plane didn't crash

For some reason, the fact that President Obama allegedly (hopefully) quit smoking a short while ago reminded me of Lloyd Bridges in Airplane:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Honey, it was the mosquitoes!

If you gave your wife a sexually-transmitted disease, she'd at least be happy if it was a new and publishable scientific discovery, wouldn't she?

Sex After a Field Trip Yields Scientific First

"There is no direct evidence that Foy's wife was infected through sexual contact, but the circumstantial evidence is strong. It's very unlikely that she was infected by a bite by a mosquito that first bit her husband; the three tropical Aedes mosquito species known to transmit Zika don't live in northern Colorado, and moreover, the virus has to complete a 2-week life cycle within the insect before it can infect the next human; Foy's wife fell ill just 9 days after his return. And yes, as the paper puts it, "patients 1 and 3 reported having vaginal sexual intercourse in the days after patient 1 returned home but before the onset of his clinical illness." ("My wife wasn't happy with what happened afterwards," Foy adds.)"

Foy BD, Kobylinski KC, Foy JLC, Blitvich BJ, Travassos da Rosa A, Haddow AD, et al. Probable non–vector-borne transmission of Zika virus, Colorado, USA. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011

[I guess I shouldn't point out that the first reference is authored by a person named "Dick", right?]

The only way wind and solar can work

As I've noted many, many times, solar and wind power for large-scale energy production to meet the world's energy needs is unfeasible -- due to their episodic nature -- unless a true large-scale storage method can be found. I didn't think that batteries could be made big enough (or store enough) to make that actually feasible, despite an earlier post about one kind of battery that might do it for a household.

Well, maybe I was hasty. Possibly, "giant" redox flow batteries could provide sufficient intermediate level storage to even out the supply variability inherent in wind and solar power.

If you want to read more about it, try:
Giant batteries for green power

A Fraunhofer consortium is currently driving the development of large-scale energy-storage systems known as redox flow batteries. The experts' long-term goal is to build a handball-court-sized battery installation with a capacity of 20 MWh -- enough energy to provide power to roughly 2000 households through a long winter's night or a cloudy day. The results have not advanced quite so far: At the moment, the largest laboratory facilities at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT have an output of several kW.
OK, so I guess it's a possibility. We'll see if it has legs (like Eva's).

Here's how it works, diagrammatically:

In case you missed Longoria's legs

In case you missed Eva Longoria's leggy outfit on Letterman last night, the first five pictures in the series below show it nicely. The tuxedo jacket also provided tempting views of her upper body.

Eva Longoria shows off her long sexy legs

While I doubt Tony Parker is hurting for female companionship, seeing Eva going all out like this must make him at least a little regretful.

I sure hope so.

A little theory of mine

I conceived a theory about the Tea Party shutdown today. (As I tweeted a short time ago, personally I'm not calling it the "government shutdown" anymore.) This event is being totally caused by the Tea Party first-timers in the House in Congress, led by the Michelle Bachmann - Mike Pence duo (and no doubt cheered on by the country's 2nd-worst Senator, Jim DeMint).

But anyway, to my theory. I think the Boner Boehner is constantly changing the final negotiated "figure" for budget cuts to keep the media attention on that number, and less on the policy riders that haven't been removed from the negotiations. Mike Pence said as much:

“If liberals in the Senate would rather play political games and force a government shutdown, instead of accepting a modest down payment on fiscal discipline and reform, I say, ‘Shut it down!’ ” yelled Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) at a tea party rally at the Capitol.

Quoting from a Daily Caller article:

"Republicans say the final deal must include at least some of the policy riders in their bill, a long list that includes defunding Obamacare, a slew of strict EPA regulations, Planned Parenthood and National Public Radio, among others."

and back to Pence:
"Insiders say Rep. Mike Pence is leading the charge. His spokesman, Matt Lloyd, says Pence thinks Republicans ought to draw the line at “$61 billion in budget cuts, defunding Planned Parenthood and defunding ObamaCare.”

And here's some more quotes from Pence, from a PBS interview with Judy Woodruff (where another participant was the FINE Senator from Maryland, Ben Cardin):

A. "But, look, it's good news that discussions are under way, but it's also good news that House Republicans are determined to take a stand for fiscal discipline, keep our word to the American people, and do what we said we'd do, which is that we would take spending levels down to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels. That will require $61 billion in budget cuts.

We also passed provisions to defund Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood. We're fighting for those provisions. And we're going to continue to fight to them right up to April the 8th."

B. "There may be details. There may be room for negotiation. But the overall number and the key policy elements, defunding Obamacare, defunding abortion providers like Planned Parenthood, Republicans are going to keep fighting, and fighting hard."

[How is there "room for negotiation" if they insist on a number and insist on keeping all the riders in the bill?]

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you about that, the so-called policy rider, policy provisions, defunding Planned Parenthood, defunding health-care reform. Are those really germane to the budget bill?

REP. MIKE PENCE: Yes, sure. Well, they're spending. Of course they are.

I mean, to say that defunding Obamacare or defunding Planned Parenthood is not germane to a spending bill, you may as well say that funding Obamacare and funding Planned Parenthood, as we do to the tune of about $350 million, is not germane.


REP. MIKE PENCE: Look, all -- all spending decisions are policy decisions. The senator knows that. Everybody knows that. I appreciate the rhetorical jousting over policy riders and that, but this is all about spending and it's all about policy.

And check out these two ripostes from Cardin:

"Well, we have legislative committees that have jurisdiction over these areas. I thought that the Republican leadership in the House believed in regular order. Regular order allows these matters to go to the committees of jurisdiction to debate these issues."

and finally:

"Democrats are prepared to negotiate in good faith. We're not prepared, though, to give up the rights of the United States Senate or the rights of the American people. We will negotiate. We will come -- we will make compromises. But we're not going to just say that, whatever the House or Republicans want, it's going to become the law of the land."

Damn right we're not.

--- So to sum up, clearly Pence isn't willing to consider taking the riders out. And the riders are take 'em or leave 'em. So if we hear the GOP say tomorrow that they can't agree, and the Dems say (again) that they agreed to about $35 billion in cuts, then the whole issue comes down SQUARELY on the riders, and if the deal breaks on those, then the ENTIRE blame for the shutdown falls on the Tea Party a-holes.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I'll take the model

The nude sketch of Kate Winslet (as Rose Dewitt Bukater), actually sketched by James Cameron, is going on sale. The sketch was found in the safe brought up by the ROVs, and since she was wearing the diamond they were looking for, it piqued their interest.


Got $16K? That's what they're hoping to get for it.

Kill the lionfish! Eat the lionfish! (and say goodbye to a turtle)

Very interesting article from National Geographic about how reef sharks can be trained to eat the peskily invasive lionfish.

While we're on the subject of species, it's about time to say goodbye to a vertebrate. There are only 4 specimens of the Red River giant soft shell turtle in existence. The one living in Vietnam is a symbol to the Vietnamese people. The last remaining female is living with a male in a zoo, they've mated, and she's laid eggs, but the eggs have not hatched. So when the last of these is gone, mark another loss to beautiful biodiversity.

Explaining climate skepticism as coping mechanism

Denial is a "valid response" of people when confronted with tough times, and this response explains climate change deniers. So said Graeme Pearman, a climate consultant at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, during the Greenhouse 2011 conference in Cairns, Queensland, Australia today.

According to Pearman, a large proportion of sceptics are "the type of people" that deny any problems facing them. "It is a normal coping mechanism," he said.

Climate change sceptics: just regular folk, in denial

Arcticle's conclusion:

Greg Withers, who works for the Queensland state government, told the conference that there is more than enough scientific evidence to justify government climate action:

"For policy-makers there's a certain amount of data and information that you require before you can make recommendations and take action... [with climate change]... that threshold has been reached and exceeded."

How lucky is THIS?!

I stared watching the first episodes of "The Borgias", and noted the beauty, both clothed and unclothed, of Lotte Verbeek (who plays Pope Alexander VI's concubine Giulia Farnese). Farnese was a Renaissance looker; Verbeek is a modern-day looker.

Giulia Farnese
(left), Lotte Verbeek (right)

Giulia kept getting her portrait painted with a unicorn. I think that's pretty extraordinary because those things are NOT easy to find! Maybe there were more running around Renaissance Rome.

And I say lucky because Verbeek (not Farnese) is the next subject of Esquire's Me in My Place feature with celebrities in their places. Now, because the first installment of this feature was sizzling hot with Sarah Shahi, Verbeek, though fetching, comes off a bit demurely. I could have used a few less shots with the T-shirt and a few more with the negligee. But I know this is supposed to be casual time at home, so I get it. I just want more.

Lotte Verbeek (IMDb)

Lotte Verbeek in Her Place