Archive for July, 2008

New Inexpensive Way To Make Hydrogen

A scientist at MIT has found a way to make hydrogen more efficiently

I hope some of our readers who are knowledgeable about science will comment on this:

Scientists have found an inexpensive way to produce hydrogen from water, a discovery that could lead to a plentiful source of environmentally friendly fuel to power homes and cars.

The technique, which mimics the way photosynthesis works in plants, also provides a highly efficient way to store energy, potentially paving the way to making solar power more economically viable.

Hydrogen is a clean, energy-rich fuel that many experts believe could become important as nations attempt to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The gas can be produced by splitting water but current techniques are expensive, use harsh chemicals and need carefully controlled environments in which to operate.

Daniel Nocera, a chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has developed a catalyst made from cobalt and phosphorus that can split water at room temperature, a technique he describes in the journal Science. “I’m using cheap, Earth-abundant materials that you can mass-manufacture. As long as you can charge the surface, you can create the catalyst and it doesn’t get any cheaper than that.”

He said the discovery could have major implications for the uptake of solar photovoltaic technology. One of the reasons, he said, why solar panels have not penetrated the consumer market properly is that no one has found a way to store energy in a way that, when the Sun is not shining, people still have electricity. “You can’t think about an energy economy or a global energy system only when the sun is out.”

Batteries could do the job but they cannot store anywhere near as much energy per unit mass as chemical fuels. Nocera’s technique would allow the storage of excess energy from sunlight during the daytime. “You could imagine, during the day you have a photovoltaic cell, you take some of that electricity and use it in your house, then take the other part of that electricity for my catalyst, feed the catalyst water and you get hydrogen and oxygen.”

Sounds nifty. I sure hope it works.

- Aggie

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Very Funny Comedy Central Video

He absolutely nails Obama.

I hope that Obama loses, but, if he wins, I hope he continues to be the arrogant prick he’s shown himself to be so far. It is just so much fun.

- Aggie

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Bus Ride From Hell

We don’t know anything about the perpetrator yet, but a guy on a Greyhound bus decided to behead his seat mate.

He wanted to, I guess:

As horrified travelers watched, a Greyhound Canada bus passenger repeatedly stabbed and then decapitated a young man who was sitting and sleeping beside him, a witness said Thursday.

Police officers and cars surround the bus near Portage la Prairie, Canada, on Wednesday night.

“There was a bloodcurdling scream. I was just reading my book, and all of a sudden, I heard it,” Garnet Caton, who was sitting in front of the two men, said of the Wednesday night incident west of Portage la Prairie in Manitoba.

“It was like something between a dog howling and a baby crying, I guess you could say,” Caton said. “I don’t think it will leave me for a while.”

I’m not going to speculate about this. But the description is bone-chilling.

Caton said the victim was sleeping with his head leaning against the window when the attack happened. Caton said he shouted at the other passengers, many of whom also were sleeping, to leave.

“Everybody got off the bus. Me and a trucker that stopped and the Greyhound driver ran up to the door to maybe see if the guy was still alive or we could help or something like that,” Caton said.

“And when we all got up, we saw that the guy was cutting off the guy’s head. … When he saw us, he came back to the front of the bus, told the driver to shut the door. He pressed the button and the door shut, but it didn’t shut in time, and the guy was able to get his knife out and take a swipe at us,” Caton said.

Caton told the AP that the attacker didn’t sit near the victim when he first got on the bus, about an hour before the attack.

“He sat in the front at first; everything was normal,” Caton said. “We went to the next stop, and he got off and had a smoke with another young lady there. When he got on the bus again, he came to the back near where I was sitting. He put his bags in the overhead compartment. He didn’t say a word to anybody. He seemed totally normal.”

- Aggie

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Traction or Distraction?

So is Iraq a distraction from Afghanistan? …

Al-Qaida has posted a statement on the Internet saying one of its commanders in Afghanistan has been killed by a U.S. airstrike.

Abu Abdullah al-Shami was one of four al-Qaida militants who brazenly escaped from U.S.-run Bagram prison in Afghanistan three years ago.

Thursday’s statement was dated July 14 and signed by the terror network’s top Afghanistan commander, Mustafa Abu al-Yazeed.

It says al-Shami was “martyred with a group of his companions.” It did not elaborate on where he was killed, or who was with him.

Or is Afghanistan a distraction from Iraq?

Iraqi and US forces on Thursday arrested 189 people in a massive security operation targeting al-Qaeda in the northern province of Diyala, the Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

“Joint police and army forces arrested 155 wanted men, while Multi-National Forces captured 34 others during Bashaer al-Kheir (Promise of Good) operation in Diyala,” General Mohammed al-Askari told the news agency, Voices of Iraq.

Because if this is distraction, I say we… uh, what was I saying?

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Obama Doesn’t Look Like ALL THOSE OTHER Presidents On The Dollar Bills

Did you know that?

Here’s the quote:

Democrat Barack Obama, the first black candidate with a shot at winning the White House, says John McCain and his Republican allies will try to scare them by saying Obama “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.”

And when he asked if he was playing the race card, the campaign responded:

“What Barack Obama was talking about was that he didn’t get here after spending decades in Washington,” Gibbs said.

And the PUMAs rightly point out that George Washington and Abe Lincoln didn’t spend decades in Washington either.

But of course, they’re lying again. It was both the race card and one of the most presumptuous comments I’ve ever heard anyone make, ever. Is he trying to compare himself to Washington or Lincoln? Does he think his face belongs on our money? How ’bout Mt. Rushmore? What is the matter with this guy?

- Aggie

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Poll Dancing II

Obama may play well in Berlin (20,000 to 200,000 Germans can’t be wrong), but it’s less clear that he plays in Peoria:

Barack Obama and John McCain are statistically tied in Florida and Ohio while Obama holds a clear advantage in Pennsylvania, new Quinnipiac polls out of those crucial battleground states Thursday show.

But in what could be a warning sign for Obama as voters begin to turn their attention to the general election race, Obama’s lead appears to have dwindled, or barely remained steady, in all three states, even as the Democratic presidential candidate has enjoyed a wave of intense media coverage surrounding his trip abroad.

In Florida, Obama now holds a statistically insignificant 2-point lead over McCain, 46-44 percent. In a similar poll taken one month ago, Obama held a wider, and statistically significant, 47-43 percent advantage over the Arizona senator there. The difference appears to be a shift among independent voters, who now support McCain in Florida by a 5-point margin. In the June poll, Obama held the advantage among the same group of voters by a 10-percent advantage.

In Ohio, the battleground state where a weak economy should give Democrats an advantage, Obama is ahead by a 2-point margin, 46-44 percent. That lead, also statistically insignificant, is down from the 6-point advantage the Illinois senator held there one month ago.

Obama’s lead has also narrowed in Pennsylvania, though he still enjoys a clear edge there. Obama now leads McCain by a 7-point advantage, 49-42 percent, down from the 11 point advantage he had in June.

We’re not even in August yet, so this isn’t worth the bandwidth it’s written on—but obviously some people aren’t as persuaded as Obama that he did the Europe thing “really well”.

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Good “Old” John McCain [UPDATED]

Did he say “old”?

Barack Obama is charging that rival John McCain doesn’t have any new ideas and that’s why the Arizona senator’s campaign is focusing its energy on anti-Obama ads.

“You haven’t heard a positive thing out of that campaign in a month. All they do is try to run me down,” Obama said while campaigning Wednesday in Union, Missouri.

“Since they don’t have any new ideas, the only strategy they’ve got in this election is to try to scare you about me,” Obama said.

That’s reasonable criticism—but this?

[...] Obama released an ad comparing McCain to President Bush.

The spot declares that McCain has taken the “low road” over the course of the presidential campaign.

“He’s practicing the politics of the past,” the ad’s narrator says as headlines from various medial outlets stating McCain has gone negative flash across the screen. “John McCain. Same old politics, same failed policies,” the ad’s narrator also says.

“Old”, huh? You think that word just happened? You don’t think those bastards aren’t playing the “ageism” card? I wonder how the AARP heard the ad? Think they were deaf to the implication? Deaf maybe, myopic certainly—but not completely insensate.

Turn the tables: how would it sound if the McCain camp ran a commercial referring to “dark” days ahead in an Obama administration?

UPDATE:
Looks like that may not have been the most offensive thing he said, either:

Stumping in Missouri, Obama, the first black candidate with a shot at winning the White House, argued Wednesday that President Bush and McCain will resort to scare tactics to maintain their hold on the White House because they have little else to offer voters.

“Nobody thinks that Bush and McCain have a real answer to the challenges we face. So what they’re going to try to do is make you scared of me,” Obama said. “You know, ‘he’s not patriotic enough, he’s got a funny name,’ you know, ‘he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.’”

Yeah, they’re not covered in slime (well, maybe Grant was).

Obama “played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck,” McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said in a statement. He called Obama’s remarks “divisive, negative, shameful and wrong.”

We may be touchy, we may be wrong—but, speaking for all white folks, we just don’t like to be called racists. No, I take that back: there are more than a few masochists who like the flagellation. But count me among those who won’t forgive or forget this blatant race-baiting.

PS: See Aggie’s post above.

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He Likes W.

Just one voice, I admit, and not the head honcho—but worth a listen:

Following are excerpts from an interview with Iraqi MP Mithal Al-Alousi, which aired on Al-Salam TV on July 17, 2008:

Mithal Al-Alousi: Some people want to keep Iraq weak. They do not want Iraq to have powerful friends. They do not want Iraq to have room to operate on the international level.

Our neighbor Turkey – that Muslim neighbor, which is now ruled by an Islamic party and not by the army – cuts off the water supply to the Iraqis, knowing this spells drought for the fields, and harms the Iraqi citizens and their economy. The king of Saudi Arabia is the Guardian of the Two Holy Places, in Mecca and Al-Madina, but this does not prevent some [Saudis] from sponsoring terrorists, killers, and criminals. The Syrian regime, which heralds pan-Arabism, does not dare to fire a single bullet in the Golan Heights, or even mention the word “Golan,” yet it has the audacity to kill Iraqis.

If we do not have international commitments and agreements, with which we can force the international community and that strong country, America, to defend the Iraqi borders and sovereignty – who will defend Iraq’s borders in the east, the west, or even Basra?

I want a strategic agreement [with the U.S.], which would guarantee the building of an army, as well as Iraqi universities, which would guarantee that American universities be open to Iraqis, and which would guarantee financial ties between Iraqi and American banks.

By Allah, we will build a strong Iraq, which will be an ally of the West. Let Iran and all those foolish Arab countries listen carefully. Iraq will be the ally of the West, and will progress more than the Emirates and Singapore, and all the rest will come looking for work in Iraq.

The more time passes, the more President Bush is proved correct.

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Clueless in Massachusetts

Boston is breeding ground for comic talent: Dennis Leary, Lenny Clarke, Jay Leno—William Delahunt:

Time running out for US in Iraq

Time is running out? For what? By every conceivable measurement, Iraq is showing improvement as never before. What’s he talking about?

[T]he clock ticks toward Dec. 31 – when the current UN mandate expires and US troops lose their legal authority to fight and their immunity from prosecution in Iraq. We are concerned that the administration is not preparing to renew the mandate, which has been done routinely and will be necessary if negotiations do not culminate in a valid security agreement.

The UN? He’s talking about the “legal authority” of the UN? I’m old-fashioned, but don’t you first need moral authority to have legal authority? The UN aided and abetted Saddam’s murderous reign—laundered money for him through Oil-for Food—and they are said to have any authority whatsoever?

He’s got to be kidding, doesn’t he? I mean, we’re supposed to laugh in his face, right?

I got your “legal authority” of the UN right here:

More than 100 nonaligned nations backed Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear power on Wednesday, an endorsement sought by Tehran in its standoff with the U.N. Security Council over its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment.

The decision came as supreme Iranian leader Ayatolla Ali Khamenei pledged to continue the country’s nuclear program.

Senior Iranian officials depicted the support from a high-level conference of the Nonaligned Movement as deflating claims by the U.S. and its allies that most of the international community wanted Iran to stop enrichment.
The conference’s backing, which echoes the group’s previous declarations, acts to “remove this notion that the international community opposes the nuclear activities of Iran,” said Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

If the UN ever stood for anything noble and honorable, that day is shrouded in the foggy past. This is how the UN is run today. And it’s not just the General Assembly; Iran is trying to line up support to to get a seat on the Security Council.

I don’t know if Iran is laughing at Massachusetts Rep. Delahunt, but they’re laughing, that’s for sure.

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The Coalition of the Killing

Is it possible to have a “Save Darfur” bumper sticker next to a “War is Never the Answer” bumper sticker?

A Darfur advocacy group complained Wednesday that nations aren’t doing enough to help the U.N. peacekeeping mission for the stricken Sudanese region, urging them to provide helicopters and other equipment needed to protect civilians.

“Without helicopters, the force’s ability to respond quickly to events and fulfill its mandate to protect civilians is severely compromised,” said a report released by the Save Darfur Coalition.

The report, written by aviation expert Thomas Withington, said military powers like the U.S., Britain and France are tied down in wars and other peacekeeping operations.

But it singled out the Czech Republic, Italy, Romania, Spain, Ukraine and India, saying they have suitable aircraft needed for the mission.

The “coalition of the willing”, you mean? It’s gratifying to see the Bush Doctrine embraced by new people.

I guess we all need to invest in a different bumper sticker: “War might not be the answer…but its a damn good guess.”

I just hope we’re prepared for the inevitable consequences. Helicopters are not invulnerable (see Black Hawk Down); an air war in Africa would become a land war before you could say “indicted war criminal”. (How many countries would volunteer to put their captured troops in the hands of someone like Omar al-Bashir, do you think?)

There was no immediate comment from the governments of those nations.

No kidding!

Include me out.

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If Silence = Death, I Guess I Got More to Say

I am both shocked and grateful to learn about the AIDS epidemic in the black community. Shocked because I knew it was bad, but not this bad.

Grateful because the discussion of the epidemic has allowed us a glimpse into how such self-inflicted wounds are administered:

Since she was 12 years old, Suzanne Africa Engo has been working to raise AIDS awareness.

“Black women are an endangered species,” she said in a phone interview.

AIDS is the leading cause of death among black women between 25 and 34, and the second-leading cause of death in black men from 35 to 44, according to a report released Tuesday.

“For a lot of young black women, what’s putting them at risk is emotion,” the 29-year-old iReporter said. “Young women are going to men for security — you’re talking about a fatherless home and a girl looking for approval. That’s the kind of thing that puts them at risk.”

I’m not sure I could get away with laying the AIDS epidemic among black women on black men—but that’s why I’m anxious to learn more.

iReporter Nashawn Anderson also sent in a video about perceptions of HIV on campus. She interviewed her fellow students at Spelman College, a historically black women’s college, also in Atlanta.

“AIDS is alive and active and [Spelman students] realize this,” she said by phone. “They want to tell people to stay educated.” Lack of education “is the only reason AIDS is still going on.”

“Put yourself first,” a woman says in Anderson’s video report. “A lot of people don’t use protection because their partner doesn’t want to use protection. But they need to think about it. If their partner really loves them, would they want to put them in that predicament?”

That’s lack of education? It sounds like lack of something else—self-respect, for starters. To repeat what Suzanne Africa Engo said above:

“For a lot of young black women, what’s putting them at risk is emotion. Young women are going to men for security — you’re talking about a fatherless home and a girl looking for approval. That’s the kind of thing that puts them at risk.”

I don’t like the sound, the insinuation, of the claim that African Americans are uninformed about AIDS. I don’t like much of anything about this epidemic, but I’d rather address self-esteem in the community than ignorance.

In any case, the lives of millions of African Americans hang in the balance. Aren’t those stakes worth a few uncomfortable questions?

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“You Jews Should Be Aware”

Out of the mouths of Hamass babes:

“You Jews should be aware: You will never, but never have peace with Hamas. Islam, as the ideology that guides them, will not allow them to achieve a peace agreement with the Jews. They believe that tradition says that the Prophet Mohammed fought against the Jews and that therefore they must continue to fight them to the death.

“An entire society sanctifies death and the suicide terrorists. In Palestinian culture a suicide terrorist becomes a hero, a martyr. Sheikhs tell their students about the ‘heroism of the shaheeds.’”

So that’s Aggie or I talking, right? No big deal?

Wrong. Big deal.

A moment before beginning his supper, Masab, son of West Bank Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef, glances at the friend who has accompanied him to the restaurant where we met. They whisper a few words and then say grace, thanking God and Jesus for putting food on their plates.

It takes a few seconds to digest this sight: The son of a Hamas MP who is also the most popular figure in that extremist Islamic organization, a young man who assisted his father for years in his political activities, has become a rank-and-file Christian. “I’m now called Joseph,” he says at the outset.

He’s not telling any secrets you couldn’t glean from reading just one newspaper for one day, but it helps to hear the truth from the other side.

Did I say other side?

“Send regards to Israel, I miss it. I respect Israel and admire it as a country,” he says.

PS: As if more proof were needed:

Hamas alone is currently conducting no less than 300 summer camps for tens of thousands of children, and the focus is on familiarizing kids with the Palestinian towns and cities destroyed in 1948, as well as instilling religious fervor in them. The camps also feature sports and military-type trainings such as crawling under barbed-wire.

Islamic Jihad has also launched its own summer camps, offering some 10,000 children activities similar to those of Hamas. The kids study passages from the Koran and participate in quizzes on religious matters, with emphasis on the required commitment to political prisoners and Palestinian land. They also learn how to hold a Qassam rocket-launcher.

snapshot-2008-07-31-05-56-55.jpg

(See the playground slide in the background? Nice touch.)

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