Thursday, May 25, 2006

Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" Movie: Fact or Hype?

National Geographic News asks a few experts about claims made in Al Gore's new movie about global warming and climate change. You can watch the trailer below:

I haven't seen the movie yet. It won't be released in my area until late June. If I'm able to go see it, I'd like to do that. But the theater it's playing at in my town is rather small. I've read on other sites that theaters are already selling out. I have no problem waiting for the DVD to come out. You can check here for a list of theaters and dates of when the film will be playing near you.

The National Geographic piece speaks primarily to Eric Steig, an Associate Professor from University of Washington's Earth and Space Sciences department. He wrote a more in depth piece on the film for the website Real Climate: "RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists." Steig is also a founder of that site.

Most of the reviews from scientists that I've read resonate with Steig's commentary. I'm sure there's a handful of scientists who will contest every point in the film and I'm sure those individuals will get plenty of sound bites on certain radio and news shows. Most agree that Gore has presented the big picture on global climate change quite well. It's the smaller facts that seem to be not discussed adequately. NPR has the audio of a nice report and review on the film here.

The Boston Globe has a great article surrounding the events of the film including current politcal moves:
"The film has already provoked a backlash. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market group that gets funding from oil companies, is running television ads rebutting Gore's arguments."
So there's forces out there already trying to make this an "us against them" kind of issue. I'm so tired of that cliche and I hope the film doesn't take that angle. From what I've read, it doesn't do that and it's presented more as a lecture with slick slideshow. I'll see the movie and I'll post my own opinion and review of it at that time.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

New Antibiotic Eliminates Superbugs

"A compound produced by a simple soil microbe may prove a new and extremely effective antibiotic. In recent decades, strains of Staphylococcus aureus and various Enterococcus bacteria have shown resistance to the most powerful antibiotics in the modern medical arsenal. The new compound has wiped out the two superbugs in vitro and in mice.
"The path ahead remains a long one that includes further preclinical study, and, if these studies are successful, extensive clinical trials for safety and efficacy in humans," writes Eric Brown of McMaster University in Ontario in a commentary accompanying the piece in today's Nature. If it passes all of those tests, platensimycin could be the third new antibiotic--and the strongest--to reach patients in the last 40 years.
This is amazing news for medicine and potentially human health. According to the FDA:
  • Disease-causing microbes that have become resistant to drug therapy are an increasing public health problem. Tuberculosis, gonorrhea, malaria, and childhood ear infections are just a few of the diseases that have become hard to treat with antibiotic drugs.
  • Though food-producing animals are given antibiotic drugs for important therapeutic, disease prevention or production reasons, these drugs can cause microbes to become resistant to drugs used to treat human illness, ultimately making some human sicknesses harder to treat.
  • About 70 percent of bacteria that cause infections in hospitals are resistant to at least one of the drugs most commonly used to treat infections."
  • And according to the NIH:
  • Nearly 2 million patients in the United States get an infection in the hospital each year
  • About 90,000 of those patients die each year as a result of their infection, up from 13,300 patient deaths in 1992
  • More than 70 percent of the bacteria that cause hospital-acquired infections are resistant to at least one of the antibiotics most commonly used to treat them
  • People infected with antibiotic-resistant organisms are more likely to have longer hospital stays and require treatment with second- or third-choice medicines that may be less effective, more toxic, and more expensive"
  • A decrease in the over use of anitbiotics is definitely called for, but new medicines are still needed to combat the resistant monsters our over use has created.

    I've always been interested in the work that biologists, botanists, microbiologists, and chemists have done in combing our terrestial lands looking for unknown compounds occuring in our environment that can combat our illnesses. Why go through the work of creating a synthetic chemical compound when a naturally occuring one might already exist? One of thee most interesting articles I've read on the subject was from the May 2004 issue of the Smithsonian titled Medicine from the Sea: "From slime to sponges, scientists are plumbing the ocean's depths for new medications to treat cancer, pain and other ailments." What a job. Hopefully my career path will take me there one day.

    Monday, May 22, 2006

    Iranian Dress Code Revisted

    It greatly disturbs me when a news organization simply erases a news story from their website. That's what the National Post did with their story about a new law passed by Iranian officials which included a dress code to identify Jews and Christians. You can find a copy of that article here. A flurry of stories broke about the validity of the story and the National Post then published this article.

    The Iranian government denies anything of the sort was passed. The National Post story continues to cast a shadow of doubt over the issue with their last article with an air of speculation. The main issue revolves around a law setting an Iranian dress code with traditional Islamic standards. Iranian officles have stated ideas were tossed around it's possible someone brought up clothing which identifies non-Muslims since that has been part of traditional Islamic dress in the past. Iranians are saying the concept was never part of the law.

    So my question is what is the motivation of creating such a massive story on this premise knowing it would get much international press? Why the rush to print without confirmation? Why delete the story immediately without editorial or explanation? That story is a bold action which already stresses a pressing internationl juncture.

    The blog Regime Change Iran has an excellent detailed post that closely follows this controversial reporting and policy. I can understand some hesitation on believing the statements that come out of Iran since they repeatedly stated their nuclear research was solely for the purpose of developing energy technology and it is now known Iran is persuing nuclear weapons technologies. But there doesn't seem to be any conclusive evidence that what the National Post first reported on dress code was factual.

    UPDATE: This story is totally bogus and now talented folk out there a tracking down who did this, how, and why. These folks have done the research and taken action to look into the bogus stories: Antonia Zerbisias, Firedoglake, Taylor Marsh, and Juan Cole. The people behind this bogus story are pretty horrible people and seems the reasons for doing so are completely dubious. It's disgusting. People should be put in prison for something like. Inciting international alarm and panic and tensing already strained relations. The people behind this know what they were doing. It's sick.

    UPDATE II: The Galloping Beaver makes great sense out of the story and those who began this ordeal.

    Friday, May 19, 2006

    New Iranian Law Would Require Non-Muslim Insignia

    On November 14, 1939, the President of Lódz decreed that all Jews must wear arm bands or badges with a Jewish star.
    Photo credit: Meczenstwo Walka, Zaglada Zydów Polsce 1939-1945. Poland. No. 43.
    I don't even know what to say or think about this:
    "Iranian expatriates living in Canada yesterday confirmed reports that the Iranian parliament, called the Islamic Majlis, passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical "standard Islamic garments."

    The law, which must still be approved by Iran's "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims.

    Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth.
    From the Jerusalum Post:
    "Furthermore, according to the law, the Iranian government has envisioned that all Iranians wear "standard Islamic garments" designed to remove ethnic and class distinctions.

    The purpose for the law was to prevent Muslims from becoming najis "unclean" by accidentally shaking the hands of non-Muslims in public.
    It's almost near impossible not to draw Nazi Germany comparisons. Nuclear weapons programs, refusing the recognize the Jewish state, and now this. First comes identification, then segregation, and then...? What exactly is our White House administration's foreign policy on all this? I'd like to hear from all our representatives on Capitol Hill on the subject of Iran. The American public doesn't need political games and posturing. They need real foreign policy. We shouldn't have to wait until the 2006 elections are over before real work is accomplished.

    Stores owned by Jews had to be marked with a Star of David, another part of the increasing segregation of Jews.
    Photo credit: Meczenstwo Walka, Zaglada Zydów Polsce 1939-1945. Poland. No. 49.

    UPDATE: US concerned over reports of Iranian dress law
    "The State Department said Friday it is concerned about reports that Iran's parliament is considering legislation to require non-Muslims in the country to wear badges.

    Spokesman Sean McCormack said any such measure would be "despicable" and carry "clear echoes of Germany under Hitler."

    US government statistics indicate that 98 percent of Iranians are Islamic. Other faiths are Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha'i.

    McCormack said he could not comment further because the precise nature of the proposal is unclear.

    "I don't have all the facts," he said.
    UPDATE II:Democrats ask Bush for intelligence update on Iran
    "Senate Democrats asked President George W. Bush on Friday to order a new U.S. intelligence report on Iran to avoid the errors that plagued prewar assessments on Iraq.

    Five Democrats, headed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, wrote to Bush requesting a new National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE, while the United States is involved in an international diplomatic effort to get Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions.

    The Democrats want an NIE, the intelligence community's most authoritative written judgment, to address several points including Iran's nuclear program and its military and defense capabilities.
    UPDATE III: Be sure to see Iranian Dress Code Revisited for more updates.

    Thursday, May 18, 2006

    Judge issues split decision in AT&T privacy lawsuit

    My question revolves around this:
    He [U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker] ordered the Electronic Frontier Foundation and its consultants not to give the documents to anyone pending further court review. He will hear arguments June 23 by AT&T and the Justice Department to dismiss the case.

    The Justice Department, which filed a motion Saturday seeking to classify the documents as military secrets, also sought to keep the papers sealed.
    Classify the documents as military secrets? Information that passes through AT&T's servers and switchboards 24/7/365 is a military secret? Tracking American's phone calls and emails without warrents? This is beyond keeping a database of phone numbers. And how "classified" should this information be if an AT&T service technician can access it? A person would think that if this information was so vital to national security, the government would have deemed it classified ages before a service technician could get his hands on it.

    CNET News looks a little deeper into the legal issues at hand with the tech company. This certification letter from AShcroft is interesting, but if it exsists, why wouldn't AT&T just play that card and everything would be in the clear? Maybe their customers wouldn't be too happy about that. I wouldn't be happy if I was one of their customers.

    More from the San Francisco Chronicle.
    "AT&T contends that Klein's documents contain trade secrets that could help a hacker, a competitor or even a terrorist, and asked Walker to order Klein and the plaintiffs to return their copies. Although Klein isn't a party to the case, he is a potential witness who signed a confidentiality agreement with AT&T while he worked there. That means the judge has the power to control his conduct to keep the material secret and preserve the company's property rights, argued David Anderson, a lawyer for AT&T."
    So the EFF gets to hold onto the documents for now. I'm curious how far a confidentiality agreement goes when it deals with one of the parties breaking laws. I'm also curious what kind of "trade secrets" are involved in spying on your customers' phone conversations and emails. And it's intersting how this case is being kept seperate from the story about the NSA keeping a database of millions of Americans phone calls.

    Tuesday, May 16, 2006

    Front Page Snark at Firedoglake

    I made a snarky comment over at FDL about the youthful Republican cheerleaders out there and Christy thought it was funny enough to share on the front page. My slight rant was inspired by by this post at FDL about young'n Ben Ferguson taking on Randi Rhodes on Larry King Live. Can O Fun has the whole show.

    I don't have a degree in political science or constitutional law. I read the papers and watch the news like anyone else can. But I'm not trying to make a name for myself, let alone a career, by rehashing political memes.

    Sunday, May 14, 2006

    Light Weight Sunday Blogging

    To start off, enjoy this clip of Frank Zappa on the Arsenio Hall show from 1989. Man, Arsenio was a pretty bad interviewer, funny guy, just bad at that on air give and take.
    My Favorite quote from Zappa:
    "Well, let's not be too rough on our own ignorance. I mean, after all, it's the thing that makes America great. Because if we weren't incomparably ignorant, how could have tolerated the last 8 years?
    And that's talking about the Reagan administration. I really wonder what the guy would say about the U.S.'s current state of affairs. And if you didn't check it out the last time I posted it, check out Zappa on CNN's Crossfire with Robert Novak and John Lofton back in 1986 here. Zappa knew what was what.

    And I've only got one song this weekend. Check out Rage Against the Machine - Testify. You read the lyrics here. I'm sure you know what most of the members of RATM are doing, but here's a great site that keeps updates on Zack de la Rocha. Check him in this clip at Google Video performing for the South Central Farmers.

    Thursday, May 11, 2006

    NSA tracking and Porter Goss

    I may have been a little off base with my previous post about Goss and the NSA/AT&T spying, but I was onto something. Other people are connecting the dots for me and it's pretty spooky. Eric Alterman does quite a job delving into the "history" of Porter Goss over at Mother Jones. Now throw the recent news about phone numbers being tracked by the NSA of millions of Americans. E-Commerce Times has an article that ties the latest phone number collections with the current EFF lawsuit against AT&T to tap phones and email. And now put all that into context with the new nominee to head the CIA: Gen. Michael Hayden. May favorite quote from Alterman:
    " should be surprising to no one that we have to rely on Jon Stewart, once again, to shed the most necessary light on this process. Through “the magic of TiVo,” Stewart’s staff of crack comedy writers shamed the national press by noticing, as none of them did, that Bush used the exact same words to nominate the catastrophic Porter Goss as he would to nominate Gen. Hayden: "He's the right man to lead the CIA at this critical moment in our nation's history."
    Firedoglake has a list of of the phone companies that gave out the info as well as alternatives you can sign with that haven't handed out your records. Glad I use Sprint (for the time being). Interesting comments with that post too. And Crooks And Liars has video of Jack Cafferty with a rant that's spot on. But does this really suprise anyone since cell phone companies have been selling your records to anyone who will pay for them?

    So my question, if phone companies will sell your personal phone records to anyone willing to pay for them, what are the phone companies getting from the government in this latest story? Big business isn't likely to do something for nothing or for "the good of the country." I'm really curious how this all ties into net neutrality. But the concept itself of the gov't knowing who I call is disturbing itself. Great for tracking a terrorist, but tracking "millions" of Americans? Are there really millions of people aiding terrorists in this country? I bet there were millions of pinko communists during the McCarthy era too.

    And this screen shot made me chuckle. No shame in AT&T's game:

    Friday, May 05, 2006

    CIA Chief Porter Goss Resigns

    Wow, that's pretty huge. Goss was met with a healty dose of opposition when his name was first circulated as the new potential CIA Director and that clamour followed him when he entered the position.

    But why the sudden, unexpected departure now? That's very out of the ordinary for something like this to happen at the top level of an agency for this administration. Has Fitzgerald's CIA leak investigation poked into this realm? Or maybe the CIA has been doing some snooping like the NSA and Goss is getting out while he can?

    Tuesday, May 02, 2006

    Tired of WHCAD Bush V. Bush video clips

    I thought the Bush impersonator interpreting what Bush was thinking during the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner was unfunny and just plain lame. I have no other way to describe it. It's like when the priest in church or the CEO of your company tells a completely unfunny joke, yet everyone laughs because they feel as though they have to laugh.

    So for some clips that the MSM isn't reporting on, check out Stephen Colbert's speech at the WHCAD. He did it in his Colbert Report character and the "truthiness" rang free. The only MSM mention of Colbert is either how inappropriate or unfunny his appearance turned out. I couldn't disagree more. Maybe it's because Colbert hit way too close to home on Bush AND the MSM.

    Check out his appearance here.

    (Updated the video clips. You Tube was forced tot ake them down. The video still exists on Google Videos. Properly linked now)

    UPDATE: Do a Google News Search of Colbert and see how many stories are flying around the internet now. Interesting, no?