Saturday, August 31, 2013

nuclear program of iran

wikipedia | The nuclear program of Iran was launched in the 1950s with the help of the United States as part of the Atoms for Peace program.[1] The participation of the United States and Western European governments in Iran's nuclear program continued until the 1979 Iranian Revolution that toppled the Shah of Iran.[2]

After the 1979 revolution, a clandestine nuclear weapons research program was disbanded by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who considered such weapons forbidden under Muslim ethics and jurisprudence.[3] Small scale research into nuclear weapons may have restarted during the Iran-Iraq War, and underwent significant expansion after the Ayatollah's death in 1989.[4]

Iran's nuclear program has included several research sites, two uranium mines, a research reactor, and uranium processing facilities that include three known uranium enrichment plants. [5]

Iran's first nuclear power plant, Bushehr I reactor was complete with major assistance of Russian government agency Rosatom and officially opened on 12 September 2011.[6] Iran has announced that it is working on a new 360 MW nuclear power plant to be located in Darkhovin. The Russian engineering contractor Atomenergoprom said the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant would reach full capacity by the end of 2012.[7] Iran has also indicated that it will seek more medium-sized nuclear power plants and uranium mines in the future.[8]

In November 2011, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors criticized Iran after an IAEA report concluded that before 2003 Iran likely had undertaken research and experiments geared to developing a nuclear weapons capability.[9] The IAEA report details allegations that Iran conducted studies related to nuclear weapons design, including detonator development, the multiple-point initiation of high explosives, and experiments involving nuclear payload integration into a missile delivery vehicle.[10] A number of Western nuclear experts have stated there was very little new in the report, that it primarily concerned Iranian activities prior to 2003,[11] and that media reports exaggerated its significance.[12] Iran rejected the details of the report and accused the IAEA of pro-Western bias.[13] and threatened to reduce its cooperation with the IAEA

lords of the black stone...,

nazibelluncovered | Put most simply the Nazi Bell was in fact a heavy particle accelerator used as an artificial neutron source to breed Protactinium 233 from Thorium 232. Protactinium would naturally degrade after 27 days into pure bomb grade Uranium 233

Uranium 233 derived from spent reactor waste is often contaminated by Uranium 232 when Thorium 230 gets bombarded by a second neutron, but in a particle accelerator this process does not have time to occur and thus U232 contamination is as low as one part per million and thus as safe to handle as weapons grade Plutonium.

According to speech notes recently uncovered in KGB archives, Heisenberg advocated harvesting Protactinium for a nuclear weapon at the Harneck Haus conference in July 1942. Later whilst interned at Farm Hall Cambridgeshire after the War, Heisenberg also identified harvesting Protactinium as one of three methods of obtaining fissile material for a nuclear bomb.

The other two of course, being to either enrich U235, or to reprocess Plutonium from spent fuel in a thermal nuclear  reactor... Our history books tell us all about these other two methods in Nazi Germany but are strangely silent on the Protactinium harvesting project. Why is that?

The wartime Chairman of AEG, Herman Bucher revealed to OSS informant Erwin Respondek that his company was funding development of a Heavy Particle Accelerator for the Atomic Bomb Project at Bisingen.

The process harnessed the fluorescent quality of Mercury to cause collisions between electrons and photons, which in result released thermal neutrons. The device was surrounded by a concave beryllium mirror to reflect neutrons back into a mass of Thorium oxide placed at the core. The machine generated this X-ray plasma in orbit around an axle which spun two carefully frequency  phased contra-rotating drums.

Respondek also revealed to the OSS that Heisenberg worked closely with Swiss engineer Dr Walter Dallenbach at a secret facility known as "Forschungsstelle D" at Bisingen to develop the Nazi bell. A report by the OSS in November 1944, cited information from an engineer named  Nagglestein who related Otto Hahn's laboratory at Tailfingen in a town close to Bisingen was using Thorium to obtain Uranium for an Atomic Bomb.
How the Story Emerges

In August 1997 a Polish Intelligence officer with access to Polish Government documents made writer Igor Witkowski aware of the Nazi Bell. Original documents came from war crime interrogation of former SS Lt General Jakob Sporrenberg after the war.

According to Witkowski whilst working as a military journalist, an undisclosed member of Polish military intelligence showed him some interesting documents. Witkowski received discreet access over a period of a month during which he transcribed files by hand. These documents have not been independently verified, however there are several less well detailed corroborations of the Bell project from entirely different sources. Leader for the Bell project was Prof Walther Gerlach, who was also the leader of Germany's Uranium project from January 1944. It's logical to assume therefore that the Bell was part of Nazi Germany's Atomic weapons project.

Witkowski read from Sporrenberg's depositions for his War Crimes trial of a centrifuge device shaped like a Bell with a hemispherical domed top. The outer Bell was made of three inch thick ceramic, much like a high voltage porcelain insulator. Said to be 9 feet in diameter and 12-14 feet high. It consumed prodigious amounts of electrical power and glowed violet-blue when operated for short periods.

Inside the Bell was located two contra rotating drums. Norwegian born physicist Rolf Wideroe wrote in his autobiography about development of the Bell at Hamburg, by the company CHF Muller. In his patent his diagrams showed one sphere inside another spun on a common axle. As is common with particle accelerators a vacuum has to be created to propagate plasma inside these evacuated chambers. Then heated mercury vapour would have been bled into the cavity and then once spun up subjected to powerful discharges of electricity to ionise the Mercury. Under this influence the Mercury would fluoresce and photons would collide with extremely energetic electrons, creating Gamma X-rays. These X-rays in turn would stimulate the Beryllium oxide in the Xerum 525 to emit thermal neutrons. In turn these thermal neutrons would be absorbed by the Thorium 232 changing it into Protactinium 233.

Wideroe called this device the Wirbel-Rohr, or Vortex Tube. Patents for variations on the same theme had been applied for in 1935 by both Prof Max Steenbeck and his rival Swiss scientist Dr Walter Dallenbach. After WW2 Steenbeck co-operated with the Soviets to replicate the Nazi Bell. The Soviets named it the Tokamak.

The Bell concept exploited an even earlier patent. In March 1934 Hungarian scientist Leo Szilard applied for a patent which was titled "improvements in, or relating to the transmutation of Chemical Elements. His Patent described how radioactive bodies are generated by bombarding suitable elements with neutrons. Szilard went on to describe "such uncharged nuclei penetrate even substances containing the heavier elements without ionisation loss and cause the formation of radio-active substances."   

[1] Mercury (alternate accounts say amalgams of Mercury) were spun inside these drums. In likelihood the Mercury was introduced from beneath as a heated vapour. Jelly like compounds of Beryllium with Thorium were located in flasks contained within the central axis. The Nazis were known to have made special paraffin from Deuterium (heavy Hydrogen) because of it's catalytic qualities in radioactive exchanges. Mercury also played a role by releasing photons into the plasma. It is the collision of energetic electrons with photons which gives off gamma radiation.

Beryllium compounds used in the Nazi Bell were called “Xerum 525.” During WW2 Nazi scientists discovered paraffin was useful as a moderator in reactor experiments. Paraffin would fit the description of "Xerum 525" as a pinkish jelly like substance. Pink colour possibly came from the mixing of Mercury (II) Iodide also known as Red Mercury into the compound, thus by implication Xerum 525 most likely contained Beryllium and Thorium suspended in heavy paraffin.

the special relationship: spying on israel a very high priority

slate | The Washington Post’s Barton Gellman has another blockbuster today from the mixed-up files of Mr. Edward J. Snowden, this one providing details of the top-secret $52.6 billion “black budget” for the 16 spy agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community.
Among other details, the report discusses the recent resurgence of the CIA and the intelligence community’s new focus on “offensive cyber operations.” It also includes this striking detail:
Pakistan is described in detail as an “intractable target,” and counterintelligence operations “are strategically focused against [the] priority targets of China, Russia, Iran, Cuba and Israel.”
The inclusion of Israel on that list might seem surprising, but the United States and its “greatest friend” have a long history of spying on each other. Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo of the AP reported on some of this last year:
In addition to what the former U.S. officials described as intrusions in homes in the past decade, Israel has been implicated in U.S. criminal espionage cases and disciplinary proceedings against CIA officers and blamed in the presumed death of an important spy in Syria for the CIA during the administration of President George W. Bush.
The CIA considers Israel its No. 1 counterintelligence threat in the agency's Near East Division, the group that oversees spying across the Middle East, according to current and former officials. Counterintelligence is the art of protecting national secrets from spies. This means the CIA believes that U.S. national secrets are safer from other Middle Eastern governments than from Israel. […]
The National Security Agency historically has kept tabs on Israel. The U.S., for instance, does not want to be caught off guard if Israel launches a surprise attack that could plunge the region into war and jeopardize oil supplies, putting American soldiers at risk.
Matthew Aid, the author of "The Secret Sentry," about the NSA, said the U.S. started spying on Israel even before the state was created in 1948. Aid said the U.S. had a station on Cyprus dedicated to spying on Israel until 1974. Today, teams of Hebrew linguists are stationed at Fort Meade, Md., at the NSA, listening to intercepts of Israeli communications, he said.
And then there’s the high-profile case of Jonathan Pollard, the former Navy civilian intelligence analyst who was convicted of spying for Israel in 1987 and sentenced to life in prison. Pollard’s release has long been a priority of the Netanyahu government and, apparently, Anthony Weiner.
None of this has prevented the intelligence services of the two countries from working together, as they apparently did in the creation of the Stuxnet worm that crippled Iranian nuclear systems in 2010. As I noted on Monday, a certain amount of spying between allies is expected.

But leaders in Tel Aviv probably still won’t be thrilled to see themselves included on a list with Russia and Iran. 

Die Glocke was code for the forging of an Atomic weapon - REDUX (originally posted 1/28/12)

naziabomb | Put most simply the Nazi Bell was in fact a heavy particle accelerator used as an artificial neutron source to breed Protactinium 233 from Thorium 232. Protactinium would naturally degrade after 27 days into pure bomb grade Uranium 233. Heisenberg advocated this method at the Harneck Haus conference in July 1942 and worked closely with Swiss engineer Dr Walter Dallenbach at a secret facilty known as "Forschungsstelle D" to develop the Nazi bell.

It harnessed the fluorescent quality of Mercury to cause collisions between electrons and photons, which in result released thermal neutrons. The device was surrounded by a concave beryllium mirror to reflect neutrons back into a mass of Thorium oxide placed at the core. The machine generated this X-ray plasma in orbit around an axle which spun two carefully phased contrarotating drums.

Friday, August 30, 2013

dave chappelle and the prophetic tradition on Double-0 in Syria ..,

Will Double-0 Go It Alone?: New York Times: "President Obama is willing to move ahead with a limited military strike on Syria even while allies like Britain are debating whether to join the effort and without an endorsement from the United Nations Security Council, senior administration officials said Thursday. Although the officials cautioned that Mr. Obama had not made a final decision, all indications suggest that the strike could occur as soon as United Nations inspectors, who are investigating the Aug. 21 attack that killed hundreds of Syrians, leave the country. They are scheduled to depart Damascus, the capital, on Saturday. The White House is to present its case for military action against Syria to Congressional leaders on Thursday night." 

He won't have to: New York Times: President François Hollande of France on Friday offered strong support for international military action against the Syrian government, supporting the Obama administration just a day after the British Parliament rejected Minister Prime David Cameron’s call for intervention. 

A chemical attack on Aug. 21 attributed to Syrian forces in the Damascus suburbs by Western powers “must not go unpunished,” Mr. Hollande said in an interview with Le Monde, the French daily newspaper. “Otherwise, it would be taking the risk of an escalation that would normalize the use of these weapons and threaten other countries.” 

A military strike against government targets would have a “dissuasion value” and push the government of President Bashar al-Assad toward a negotiated “political solution” to the conflict, Mr. Hollande said in referring to France’s explicitly stated goal. 

France has been outspoken in saying the government of Mr. Assad must be punished for the reported poison gas attack last Wednesday, in which hundreds of people were killed. Although Mr. Hollande has presented no specific evidence linking Syrian government to the attacks, he has spoken confidently of its culpability. Parliamentary approval is not required for French military action, and Mr. Hollande has said his government is “prepared to punish” those responsible.

see, what happened wuz..., they crossed that red line!

medialens | As this alert was being written, one week after the massacre in Egypt, claims emerged of a major gas attack killing hundreds of civilians in Damascus, Syria. Channel 4's Sarah Smith asked the question that arises so readily, so naturally, for UK journalists:
'Syria chemical weapons horror - is it time for intervention?' (Smith, Snowmail, August 22, 2013)
No need for UN inspectors to gather factual evidence of chemical weapons use; Smith, Channel 4's business correspondent, already knew what had happened and who was to blame:
'There seems little doubt that red lines have now been crossed, broken and smashed to pieces. But what will anyone do about it?'
The 'red lines' of course referred to Obama's warning to the Syrian government that its use of chemical weapons would trigger US 'intervention'. No-one is pretending the US would bomb the 'rebels'.
In similar vein, a Guardian leader commented, again with no serious evidence:
'There is next to no doubt that chemical weapons were used in Ghouta in eastern Damascus... Nor is there much doubt about who committed the atrocity.'
A second leader continued to mislead readers, insisting on the need for 'clear and persuasive information' indicating that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons:
'That information may well exist – much of the evidence points in that direction.'
In reality, the truth is simply unknown. Even US intelligence officials argue that the responsibility of the Syrian government, let alone Assad, is no 'slam dunk'. Chemical weapons experts are also clear that much doubt remains.
It is of course possible that government forces launched the attacks, although it would have been an inexplicably foolish, indeed suicidal, act for Assad to order the mass gassing of civilians three days after UN inspectors had arrived in the country. In the Daily Mail, Peter Hitchens offered a rare rational comment on this theme:
'In those circumstances, what could possibly have possessed him to do something so completely crazy? He was, until this event, actually doing quite well in his war against the Sunni rebels. Any conceivable gains from using chemical weapons would be cancelled out a million times by the diplomatic risk. It does not make sense. Mr Assad is not Saddam Hussein, or some mad carpet-biting dictator, but a reasonably intelligent, medically-trained person who has no detectable reason to act in such an illogical and self-damaging fashion.
'The rebels, on the other hand (in many cases non-Syrian jihadists who are much disliked by many ordinary Syrians because of the misery they have brought upon them), have many good reasons to stage such an attack.'
And recall that on May 6, speaking for the United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria, Carla Del Ponte said, 'there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated. This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities'.
No matter, the front page of the Independent read:
'Syria: air attacks loom as West finally acts' (Independent, August 26, 2013)
Even the Independent's Robert Fisk commented:
'The gassing of hundreds in the outskirts of Damascus has now taken Syria across another of the West's famous "red lines" – and yet again, only words come from Washington and London.'
Once again, as in the case of Houla, there was instantly little or no doubt about responsibility.
Once again, the talk was of 'options', 'possibly airstrikes against missile depots and aircraft that Mr Assad would not like to lose,' the Guardian surmised
And once again, discussion of the West's 'responsibility to protect' (R2P) exploded across the media 'spectrum': on the BBC, in an Independent leader and an article by Katherine Butler, in an Observer leader, in numerous editorials, letters and articles in the Telegraph, Times and elsewhere. In the last four days, the Guardian has published a flurry of articles discussing R2P in relation to Syria by Joshua Rozenberg, Malcolm Rifkind, Paul Lewis, John Holmes and Julian Borger.
The Lexis database continues to find (August 29) exactly no discussions of R2P in relation to the massacre by the West's military allies in Egypt.
We ought to find it astonishing that the corporate media can flip direction with such discipline - instantly, like a flock of starlings - between such clearly self-contradictory positions.
In truth, it takes a minimal capacity for rational thought to see that the corporate 'free press' is a structurally irrational and biased, and extremely violent, system of elite propaganda.

massacres that matter and massacres that don't....,

medialens | According to the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Research, 1,295 Egyptians were killed between August 14-16, with 1,063 losing their lives on August 14 alone. The violence was one-sided, as the Guardian reported:
'But the central charges – that most Brotherhood supporters are violent, that their two huge protest camps were simply overgrown terrorist cells, and that their brutal suppression was justified and even restrained – are not supported by facts.'
To put the slaughter in perspective, 108 people were killed in the May 25, 2012 massacre in Houla, Syria, which was instantly blamed by the West on Syrian president Assad personally, leading to a storm of denunciations and calls for a Western military 'response'.
So how does the US-UK political response compare on Libya, Syria and Egypt?
The Guardian quoted Obama's view on Libya in an article entitled, 'Obama throws the weight of the west behind freedom in the Middle East':
'While we cannot stop every injustice, there are circumstances that cut through our caution - when a leader is threatening to massacre his people and the international community is calling for action. That is why we stopped a massacre in Libya. And we will not relent until the people of Libya are protected, and the shadow of tyranny is lifted.'
With standard objectivity, the Guardian described this as 'a stirring speech', one that placed the US 'unambiguously on the side of those fighting for freedom across the Middle East'.
How did this US commitment to human rights manifest itself in the aftermath of the vast massacre committed by the Egyptian military junta on August 14? Obama commented:
'We appreciate the complexity of the situation... After the military intervention [sic] several weeks ago, there remained a chance to pursue a democratic path. Instead we have seen a more dangerous path taken.
'The United States strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt's interim government [sic] and security forces. We deplore violence against civilians. We support universal rights essential to human dignity, including the right to peaceful protest. We oppose the pursuit of marshal law.'
Obama cancelled joint military exercises but he did not even suspend the annual $1.3 billion of aid to Egypt's armed forces. Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, commented:
'This is a rocky road back to democracy. We continue to work at it.'
The New York Times noted that the $1.3 billion in military aid 'is its main access to the kind of big-ticket, sophisticated weaponry that the Egyptian military loves'. Global Post listed the 10 biggest 'defence' contracts involving major US corporations like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and AgustaWestland.

Spencer Ackerman wrote in the Guardian:
'Perhaps the most mystifying thing about the cosmetic US response to Wednesday's massacre in Egypt is the reluctance for the US to use its massive aid leverage over Cairo's generals.'
This must indeed be 'mystifying' for journalists who believe that the United States is 'unambiguously on the side of those fighting for freedom'. Indifference to mass slaughter notwithstanding, Ackerman affirmed the happy truth:
'Paramount among US concerns was that the military not massacre Egyptian civilians.'
UK foreign secretary William Hague, who has tirelessly demanded war against Libya and Syria in response to crimes real, imagined and predicted, had this to say about the killing of many hundreds of civilians in Egypt:
'Our influence may be limited - it is a proudly independent country - and there may be years of turbulence in Egypt and other countries... We have to do our best to promote democratic institutions and political dialogue....'
Patrick Cockburn supplied a rare, honest summary of at least part of the ugly truth:
'For all their expressions of dismay at last week's bloodbath, the US and the EU states were so mute and mealy-mouthed about criticising the 3 July coup as to make clear that they prefer the military to the Brotherhood.'
This helps explain why the Lexis media database finds exactly two articles containing the words 'Egypt' and 'responsibility to protect', or 'R2P', since July 3. One is a single-sentence mention in passing in an Observer editorial focusing on Syria. Ironically, the other cites a statement issued by Egypt's interior ministry after the August 14 bloodbath:
'Upon the government's assignment to take necessary measures against the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins, and out of national responsibility to protect citizens' security, the security forces have started to take necessary measures to disperse both sit-ins.' ('Voices from the violence,' Independent, August 15, 2013)
R2P is simply not an issue for the US-UK alliance in Egypt. But what is so striking is that R2P is simultaneously not an issue for the ostensibly objective and independent 'free press'.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

the plan: seven countries in five years

Because I had been through the Pentagon right after 9/11. About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said, "Sir, you've got to come in and talk to me a second." I said, "Well, you're too busy." He said, "No, no." He says, "We've made the decision we're going to war with Iraq." This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, "We're going to war with Iraq? Why?" He said, "I don't know." He said, "I guess they don't know what else to do." So I said, "Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?" He said, "No, no." He says, "There's nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq." He said, "I guess it's like we don't know what to do about terrorists, but we've got a good military and we can take down governments." And he said, "I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail."

So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, "Are we still going to war with Iraq?" And he said, "Oh, it's worse than that." He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, "I just got this down from upstairs" -- meaning the Secretary of Defense's office -- "today." And he said, "This is a memo that describes how we're going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran." I said, "Is it classified?" He said, "Yes, sir." I said, "Well, don't show it to me." And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, "You remember that?" He said, "Sir, I didn't show you that memo! I didn't show it to you!"

israel itching to get in this fight

latimes | During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Israel endured dozens of Scud missiles launched by Saddam Hussein's forces, but refrained from retaliating because of U.S. concern that Israeli involvement would fracture the international coalition it had built against Iraq.

As the United States prepares for a possible military attack against the Syrian government over its alleged use of chemical weapons, Israeli leaders are making it clear that they have no intention of standing down this time if attacked.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday issued the starkest warning to date in response to recent saber-rattling by Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, which has said it might respond to a U.S. strike by attacking Israel.

"We are not part of the civil war in Syria, but if we identify any attempt whatsoever to harm us, we will respond with great force," Netanyahu said after huddling for a second consecutive day with key Cabinet members to discuss the possible ramifications of a U.S. strike against Syria.

Speaking at a memorial service for fallen soldiers, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said, "Those seeking to strike us will find us sharper and fiercer than ever. Our enemies must know we are determined to take any action needed to defend our citizens."

Their comments followed statements this week by Syrian officials that they would hold Israel responsible for any U.S. strike. On Monday, Khalaf Muftah, a senior official in the ruling Baath Party, accused Israel of being "behind the [Western] aggression" and warned that Israel "will therefore come under fire."

if u.s. attacks then israel will pay

timesofisrael | A  senior Syrian official on Monday issued a first direct warning that if attacked, his country would retaliate against Israel. Khalaf Muftah, a senior Baath Party official who used to serve as Syria’s assistant information minister, said in a radio interview that Damascus would consider Israel “behind the [Western] aggression and [it] will therefore come under fire.”

“We have strategic weapons and we’re capable of responding,” he said. “Normally the strategic weapons are aimed at Israel.”

Muftah concluded with a warning that “If the US or Israel make the mistake of taking advantage of the chemical issue… the region will go up in flames… that will affect security not only in the region but across the world.”

His words were echoed by Iranian officials, who on Monday shrugged off the threat of a US attack on its close ally Syria, but said that if such a strike were to take place, Israel would suffer.

“[The Americans] are incapable of starting a new war in the region, because of their lacking economic capabilities and their lack of morale,” said Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the commander of the Republican Guards’ elite Basij force.

“No military attack will be waged against Syria,” said Hossein Sheikholeslam, a member of Iran’s Islamic Consultative Assembly. “Yet, if such an incident takes place, which is impossible, the Zionist regime will be the first victim of a military attack on Syria.”

Israeli military officials have indicated they believe it unlikely that Syria would target Israel if the US or others intervened, but Israel has reportedly been taking security precautions just in case.

“Our hand is always on the pulse,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday. “Our finger is a responsible one and if needed, is on the trigger. We will always know how to protect our citizens and our country against those who come to injure us or try to attack us.”

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

google and the nsa: who's holding the shitbag now?

thestringer | So just how close is Google to the US securitocracy? Back in 2011 I had a meeting with Eric Schmidt, the then Chairman of Google, who came out to see me with three other people while I was under house arrest. You might suppose that coming to see me was gesture that he and the other big boys at Google were secretly on our side: that they support what we at WikiLeaks are struggling for: justice, government transparency, and privacy for individuals. But that would be a false supposition. Their agenda was much more complex, and as we found out, was inextricable from that of the US State Department. The full transcript of our meeting is available online through the WikiLeaks website.

The pretext for their visit was that Schmidt was then researching a new book, a banal tome which has since come out as The New Digital Age. My less than enthusiastic review of this book was published in the New York Times in late May of this year. On the back of that book are a series of pre-publication endorsements: Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Michael Hayden (former head of the CIA and NSA) and Tony Blair. Inside the book Henry Kissinger appears once again, this time given pride of place in the acknowledgements.

Schmidt’s book is not about communicating with the public. He is worth $6.1 billion and does not need to sell books. Rather, this book is a mechanism by which Google seeks to project itself into Washington. It shows Washington that Google can be its partner, its geopolitical visionary, who will help Washington see further about America’s interests. And by tying itself to the US state, Google thereby cements its own security, at the expense of all competitors.

Two months after my meeting with Eric Schmidt, WikiLeaks had a legal reason to call Hilary Clinton and to document that we were calling her. It’s interesting that if you call the front desk of the State Department and ask for Hillary Clinton, you can actually get pretty close, and we’ve become quite good at this. Anyone who has seen Doctor Strangelove may remember the fantastic scene when Peter Sellers calls the White House from a payphone on the army base and is put on hold as his call gradually moves through the levels. Well WikiLeaks journalist Sarah Harrison, pretending to be my PA, put through our call to the State Department, and like Peter Sellers we started moving through the levels, and eventually we got up to Hillary Clinton’s senior legal advisor, who said that we would be called back.

Shortly afterwards another one of our people, WikiLeaks’ ambassador Joseph Farrell, received a call back, not from the State Department, but from Lisa Shields, the then girlfriend of Eric Schmidt, who does not formally work for the US State Department. So let’s reprise this situation: The Chairman of Google’s girlfriend was being used as a back channel for Hillary Clinton. This is illustrative. It shows that at this level of US society, as in other corporate states, it is all musical chairs.

That visit from Google while I was under house arrest was, as it turns out, an unofficial visit from the State Department. Just consider the people who accompanied Schmidt on that visit: his girlfriend Lisa Shields, Vice President for Communications at the CFR; Scott Malcolmson, former senior State Department advisor; and Jared Cohen,  advisor to both Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice, a kind of Generation Y Kissinger figure — a noisy Quiet American as the author Graham Greene might have put it.

new docs detail u.s. involvement in saddam's nerve gas attacks...,

theatlantic | The U.S. knew about, and in one case helped, Iraq's chemical weapons attacks against Iran in the 1980's, according to recently declassified CIA documents obtained by Foreign Policy. Their detailed timeline, also constructed with the aid of interviews with former foreign intelligence officials, indicates that the U.S. secretly had evidence of Iraqi chemical attacks in 1983. The evidence, FP writes, is "tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched."

Ever since last week's devastating evidence of chemical attacks in Syria, analysts have looked for benchmarks to predict the U.S.'s response. On Sunday, a U.S. official suggested that the U.S. is moving closer to possible military action in the country as the U.S. has "little doubt" that an "indiscriminate" chemical attack took place. Officials are reportedly looking to the 1998 air war on Kosovo for a precedent — a similar humanitarian crisis in the face of virtually no chance of a U.N. Security Council resolution to authorize use of force, thanks to dissent from Russia. And while Foreign Policy's additional reporting places the Iraq situation in contrast to today's debate over Syria, the details reveal just how sharply, in the past, the razor of U.S. interests in the Middle East has cut: "it was the express policy of Reagan to ensure an Iraqi victory in the war, whatever the cost," the report explains. And apparently, that went up to and including helping Saddam Hussein gas Iran.

another western war crime in the making...,

PCR | The war criminals in Washington and other Western capitals are determined to maintain their lie that the Syrian government used chemical weapons. Having failed in efforts to intimidate the UN chemical inspectors in Syria, Washington has demanded that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon withdraw the chemical weapons inspectors before they can assess the evidence and make their report. The UN Secretary General stood up to the Washington war criminals and rejected their demand. However, as with Iraq, Washington’s decision to commit aggression against Syria is not based on any facts. 

The US and UK governments have revealed none of the “conclusive evidence” they claim to have that the Syrian government used chemical weapons. Listening to their voices, observing their body language, and looking into their eyes, it is completely obvious that John Kerry and his British and German puppets are lying through their teeth. This is a far more shameful situation than the massive lies that former Secretary of State Colin Powell told the UN about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Colin Powell claims that he was deceived by the White House and did not know that he was lying. Kerry and the British, French, and German puppets know full well that they are lying.
The face that the West presents to the world is the brazen face of a liar.

Washington and its British and French puppet governments are poised to yet again reveal their criminality. The image of the West as War Criminal is not a propaganda image created by the West’s enemies, but the portrait that the West has painted of itself.

The UK Independent reports that over this past week-end Obama, Cameron, and Hollande agreed to launch cruise missile attacks against the Syrian government within two weeks despite the lack of any authorization from the UN and despite the absence of any evidence in behalf of Washington’s claim that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against the Washington-backed “rebels”, largely US supported external forces, seeking to overthrow the Syrian government.

Indeed, one reason for the rush to war is to prevent the UN inspection that Washington knows would disprove its claim and possibly implicate Washington in the false flag attack by the “rebels,” who assembled a large number of children into one area to be chemically murdered with the blame pinned by Washington on the Syrian government.

we back Assad, not those liver-eaters...,

al-monitor | Regarding the Syrian issue, the Russian president responded to Bandar, saying, “Our stance on Assad will never change. We believe that the Syrian regime is the best speaker on behalf of the Syrian people, and not those liver eaters. During the Geneva I Conference, we agreed with the Americans on a package of understandings, and they agreed that the Syrian regime will be part of any settlement.

Later on, they decided to renege on Geneva I. In all meetings of Russian and American experts, we reiterated our position. In his upcoming meeting with his American counterpart John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will stress the importance of making every possible effort to rapidly reach a political settlement to the Syrian crisis so as to prevent further bloodshed.”

As soon as Putin finished his speech, Prince Bandar warned that in light of the course of the talks, things were likely to intensify, especially in the Syrian arena, although he appreciated the Russians’ understanding of Saudi Arabia’s position on Egypt and their readiness to support the Egyptian army despite their fears for Egypt's future.

The head of the Saudi intelligence services said that the dispute over the approach to the Syrian issue leads to the conclusion that “there is no escape from the military option, because it is the only currently available choice given that the political settlement ended in stalemate. We believe that the Geneva II Conference will be very difficult in light of this raging situation.”

At the end of the meeting, the Russian and Saudi sides agreed to continue talks, provided that the current meeting remained under wraps. This was before one of the two sides leaked it via the Russian press.

temptation in high places...,

telegraph | The revelations come amid high tension in the Middle East, with US, British, and French warship poised for missile strikes in Syria. Iran has threatened to retaliate. 

The strategic jitters pushed Brent crude prices to a five-month high of $112 a barrel. “We are only one incident away from a serious oil spike. The market is a lot tighter than people think,” said Chris Skrebowski, editor of Petroleum Review.
Leaked transcripts of a closed-door meeting between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan shed an extraordinary light on the hard-nosed Realpolitik of the two sides.
Prince Bandar, head of Saudi intelligence, allegedly confronted the Kremlin with a mix of inducements and threats in a bid to break the deadlock over Syria. “Let us examine how to put together a unified Russian-Saudi strategy on the subject of oil. The aim is to agree on the price of oil and production quantities that keep the price stable in global oil markets,” he said at the four-hour meeting with Mr Putin. They met at Mr Putin’s dacha outside Moscow three weeks ago.
“We understand Russia’s great interest in the oil and gas in the Mediterranean from Israel to Cyprus. And we understand the importance of the Russian gas pipeline to Europe. We are not interested in competing with that. We can cooperate in this area,” he said, purporting to speak with the full backing of the US.

The talks appear to offer an alliance between the OPEC cartel and Russia, which together produce over 40m barrels a day of oil, 45pc of global output. Such a move would alter the strategic landscape.

The details of the talks were first leaked to the Russian press.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

fixing old markets with new markets the origins and practice of neoliberalism...,

nakedcapitalism | NT: Your new book, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste, is not the first work you have produced that discusses Neoliberalism. In the Postscript to the book you edited entitled “The Road from Mont Pèlerin: The Making of the Neoliberal Thought Collective” you state that:
[O]ur own guiding heuristic has been that Neoliberalism has not existed in the past as a settled or fixed state, but is better understood as a transnational movement requiring time and substantial effort in order to attain the modicum of coherence and power it has achieved today. It was not a conspiracy; rather, it was an intricately structured long-term philosophical and political project, or in our terminology, a “thought collective”.
Given this context, could you explain what the salient features of Neoliberalism are? In particular it would be helpful if you explained about why “traditional” approaches to intellectual history are inadequate for understanding Neoliberalism.

PM: Standard history of economics has been mired in the primacy of the individual author/intellectual for quite some time now. There, one tends to become attached to some particular intellectual hero, reads everything they wrote, and hence seeks to channel ‘their’ ideas to a general audience. Maybe one consults a few of their allies or opponents to add a dash of ‘context’. This, perhaps inadvertently, has resulted in deep misunderstanding of how economics has developed over the last century or more.

Ideas generally don’t incubate like that. Traditions in the history and sociology of science [my current disciplinary home] have developed a number of methods and devices in order to highlight the elaborate social character of intellectual disciplines, and display the complex trajectories of validation of knowledge. The landmarks there are many, but the one I lean upon in Never Let a Serious Crisis go to Waste is the concept of a ‘thought collective’ that dates back to the work of Ludwik Fleck.*
Whatever one thinks of the specifics, that framework has permitted me to write a history of Neoliberalism which comes to terms with some of its more slippery aspects. In the first instance, it nurtures appreciation for the fact that Neoliberalism is both a set of philosophical doctrines – and not, as some would have it, a narrow few abstract propositions in economics—and a flexible ongoing political project. The doctrines and the details of the project change through time, as do the roster of protagonists, but still maintain a coherence and stability that justifies treating the movement as an historical collective. Next, it insists that Neoliberalism cannot be reduced to the writings of the few standout neoliberals that readers of this blog may have heard of – Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, James Buchanan, Gary Becker – primarily because their individual tenets conflict, some with each other, and some with some other less famous comrades. Fleck points us towards the fact that thought collectives are held together, in part, by formal social structures; in the case of the Neoliberals, it started out as the Mont Pèlerin Society [MPS] in 1947, but by the 1980s it was extended to a connected ring of think tanks around the world, from the Institute for Economic Affairs to the American Enterprise Institute to Heritage and Cato to the Atlas Foundation and beyond. As early as 1956, the Volker Fund maintained a list of 1,841 affiliated individuals; the corresponding number easily exceeds the tens of thousands today. Clearly the thought collective harbors strong impressions of who is in and who is out.

Perhaps more importantly, the ‘thought collective’ approach has helped me grapple with one of the most nettlesome aspects of Neoliberalism: How can one write an intellectual history of a bunch of anti-intellectual intellectuals? Some readers may have encountered Hayek’s sneers about those whom he dubs ‘second-hand dealers in ideas’; but that is just symptomatic of a more general stance towards knowledge which sets the Neoliberals apart from almost every other thought collective in recent history. As I explain in Chapter 2, the MPS became a society of ‘rationalists’ who ended up promoting ignorance as a virtue for the larger population. Others have also documented this straddle in their think tank perimeter, such as Tom Medvetz in his Think Tanks in America. It seems we are not in Kansas anymore (apologies to Tom Frank).

Thus, to write a history of Neoliberalism in the current crisis, Fleck counsels one must connect their various epistemic attitudes to the content of their doctrines. In the case of modern Neoliberalism, this has been made manifest in their shared conviction that The Market knows more than any human being, however wise or well-schooled. Planning is doomed; socialism is a pipe dream. The political project of Neoliberalism is not laissez-faire; rather, it is to use state power to get the populace to prostrate themselves before the only dependable source of Truth and Wisdom in human civilization—viz., something they call “The Market”. The more discombobulated the average citizen can be rendered, the quicker they will get with the program

the fight for control over people as subjects...,

theoccupiedtimes | Various statutes including DPA 1998, RIPA 2000, ACSA 2001, and the proposed Communications Data bill all display the state’s attempts to control the wisps of algorithms, identities and data in the global communications databank. The right to the city – the focus of this issue – is another aspect of the same struggle. It is a fight for control over people as ‘subjects’, the spaces and currents we move between and occupy and the coercive forms of commodity and debt that shape and define our environment. 

Communities are fracturing as their inhabitants are flung to the periphery in the name of ‘regeneration’ and ‘redevelopment’. It is plainly apparent that the intention of policymakers is to purge central London, making it into a hub for commercial wealth. A grand supra-geographic terrain is being mapped, ensuring the global reach of national and supranational states of surveillance. In these physical and digital gated communities, free spaces for different identities to meet and create new social relations are limited. Under the guise of ‘protection’, all space in the city becomes monitored in true panopticon style. But this is not for the ‘greatest happiness for the greatest number’ as the proposed utility of this operation would have us believe.
Under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence exists, but not as an absolute right. It is curtailed ‘in accordance with the law’ and ‘where necessary in a democratic society’ i.e. by the state in the interests of ‘national security’, ‘public safety or the economic well-being of the country’, for ‘the prevention of disorder or crime’ etc; a very broad range of vague restrictions which are available to public authorities to curb our right to privacy. A form of global sovereign power has emerged, which comprises the dominant nation-states together with supranational institutions and major capitalist corporations with increasingly unlimited access to intelligence, and unhindered powers to usurp rights and property.
Within this global configuration, it becomes incredibly difficult to claim any right or power, especially when you are the one being regenerated – many residents who have fallen foul of ‘regeneration’ schemes are not given all the information they need, or are purposely misled by public relations representatives. Some are forcibly evicted without any meaningful redress, others face state-sanctioned brutality when protecting their space and communities, like those recently violently evicted from an established community on Rushcroft Road, Brixton. There is no power for people under the market-state duopoly: people have no right to ask how and why they are being dispossessed, how and why they are being surveilled, or for whose benefit, for fear of interfering with ‘business sensitivities’, revenue-generating streams or the power of the state and its corporate partners.
Various anti-eviction and private renters groups have sprung up in London, joining with already established similar groups  - a positive sign that an alternative to the status quo does exist, and the numbers in the multitude are growing. Housing action groups and dedicated campaigns continue to mushroom across the city, challenging the spread of powerful global networks of hierarchy and division. They are signs that an alternative network is slowly being produced whereby difference can be expressed through collaborative means. The common can take root and begin to shape itself.

Monday, August 26, 2013

34 years of protest pictured on a map...,

foreignpolicy | This is what data from a world in turmoil looks like. The Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT) tracks news reports and codes them for 58 fields, from where an incident took place to what sort of event it was (these maps look at protests, violence, and changes in military and police posture) to ethnic and religious affiliations, among other categories. The dataset has recorded nearly 250 million events since 1979, according to its website, and is updated daily. 

John Beieler, a doctoral candidate at Penn State, has adapted these data into striking maps, like the one above of every protest recorded in GDELT -- a breathtaking visual history lesson. Some events to watch for as you scroll through the timeline:
  • Strikes and protests in response to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's economic reforms.
  • Poland lighting up through the 1980s while Cold War-era Eastern Europe stays dark.
  • The escalation of apartheid protests in South Africa in the late 1980s.
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of protests in Eastern Europe preceding the end of the Soviet Union.
  • Protests in Iraq coinciding with Operation Desert Storm in early 1991.
  • The explosion of protests in the United States since 2008 -- think Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movements.
  • Iran's Green Movement protests after the presidential election in 2009.
  • The Arab Spring, with protests stretching across North Africa and the Middle East starting in 2011.
  • The persistence of protests in perennial hotspots like Kashmir, Tibet, and Israel and the West Bank.
The map also shows some of the limits of Big Data -- and trying to reduce major global events to coded variables. Take, for example, the protests across the United States in late 2011: Some are Occupy protests, others are Tea Party protests, but the difference in the political identity of those demonstrations isn't reflected in the map. There are some strange things that happen when the data are mapped, as well. A cursory glance at the map would suggest that Kansas is the most restive state in the union, but really the frequent protests popping up somewhere near Wichita are every media mention of a protest in the United States that doesn't specify a city (the same goes for that flickering dot north of Mongolia in Middle-of-Nowhere, Russia).

Sunday, August 25, 2013

american racism explains the decline of american public institutions and all americans will suffer in consequence of this fact...,

businessinsider | A society — any society —- is defined as a set of mutual benefits and duties embodied most visibly in public institutions: public schools, public libraries, public transportation, public hospitals, public parks, public museums, public recreation, public universities, and so on.

Public institutions are supported by all taxpayers, and are available to all. If the tax system is progressive, those who are better off (and who, presumably, have benefitted from many of these same public institutions) help pay for everyone else.

"Privatize" means "Pay for it yourself." The practical consequence of this in an economy whose wealth and income are now more concentrated than at any time in the past 90 years is to make high-quality public goods available to fewer and fewer.

In fact, much of what’s called “public” is increasingly a private good paid for by users — ever-higher tolls on public highways and public bridges, higher tuitions at so-called public universities, higher admission fees at public parks and public museums.

Much of the rest of what’s considered “public” has become so shoddy that those who can afford to do so find private alternatives. As public schools deteriorate, the upper-middle class and wealthy send their kids to private ones. As public pools and playgrounds decay, the better-off buy memberships in private tennis and swimming clubs. As public hospitals decline, the well-off pay premium rates for private care.

Gated communities and office parks now come with their own manicured lawns and walkways, security guards and backup power systems.

Why the decline of public institutions? The financial squeeze on government at all levels since 2008 explains only part of it. Fist tap Arnach.

innapropriate behavior impoverishes..., (rodney king syndrome at the 7:00 minute mark)

dreamandhustle | I want to make something very clear about wannabee cats running around Dream and Hustle or circling about Dream and Hustle and make sure everybody understand – I do not read, watch, listen to or subscribe to Dr. Claude Anderson and do not know much about what he say or what he offers. If Dream and Hustle sounds like Dr. Claude Anderson it is because we see the same obvious symptoms in our community and our economic outlook and the only thing that means to you is that Dr. Claude Anderson and we independently validated each other talking points that what we talking about is real – that is what you better realize.

Now, as you watch this video which is 2 hours and I’m not expecting you to watch it in one set. I need you to check out something as we did in our analysis. We want you to look at Dr. Claude Anderson solution he proposed. Notice he is saying the same thing we discovered here at Dream and Hustle about creating manufacturing, entertainment and distribution frameworks to our cities. But he said something interesting about technology that I don’t believe Dr. Anderson believe today.

What I took away from this video is we have too much “talking about the problem” instead of talking about the solution in the Black community. This is why I cannot hang around cornballs who talk about Powernomics or Dr. Anderson or come around me and post “you need to read..” – homey, I don’t need to read ish. Think about what homey just told me – I need to read…no, I need to get my behind out there in the real world and make a damn difference for my people, my community and our children future.

The truth of the matter is, we need to speak two hours on solutions and how to implement solutions and realize the past and previous history is nothing more than archaic data that has only nostalgia value. What happens yesterday do not matter, how we handle right now and setup for our future tomorrow matters and the only thing worth talking about. Dr. Anderson spend too much time talking about the problem, cats want to sympathize with the problem but when it comes to solutions – where’s the beef? We need to talk 80% solutions at this point and that’s why you don’t see me getting along with these lame ass book readers in the Black community talking about Amos Wilson and Claude Anderson all the time. 

Sorry, but in this video all I heard was problems and the solution was already implemented during the Great Migration – he providing an old school model that cannot compete with the Chinese fishing industry and leather making industry. Haiti?! Not Nicaragua that has Black community or even Honduras that has a Black community?! Some of yall want to worship this Dr. Claude Anderson dude and his books more than work on real solutions to the Black community problems…keep it real.

whatchoo thank?

In the event that the moderator kwestins are inadequate to the subject matter at hand, please feel free to hold forth here with disqus and properly express yourself...,

Saturday, August 24, 2013

projects that develop open-source data or software

sunlightfoundation | We know how challenging fundraising can be. You start an innovative project using technology to make government more open and accessible and halfway through -- you run out of money. Or maybe you know someone who is collecting municipal data and wants to make a cool app to help residents understand how local government works, but they don’t have funding.

If you are developing an open source tool and are looking for funds to jumpstart the project, apply now for an OpenGov Grant from the Sunlight Foundation. We are offering one-time grants in the range of $5,000 to $10,000 to help you fulfill your vision of making government more transparent and accountable. Discover how we will take your project to its next stage of development.

View our grant guidelines and apply for an OpenGov Grant.

the spectacular power and potential of open-source biology...,

sciencecodex | Researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have made a fundamental discovery relevant to the understanding and treatment of heart failure – a leading cause of death worldwide. The team discovered a new molecular pathway responsible for causing heart failure and showed that a first-in-class prototype drug, JQ1, blocks this pathway to protect the heart from damage.

In contrast to standard therapies for heart failure, JQ1 works directly within the cell's command center, or nucleus, to prevent damaging stress responses. This groundbreaking research lays the foundation for an entirely new way of treating a diseased heart. The study is published in the August 1 issue of Cell

"As a practicing cardiologist, it is clear that current heart failure drugs fall alarmingly short for countless patients. Our discovery heralds a brand new class of drugs which work within the cell nucleus and offers promise to millions suffering from this common and lethal disease," said Saptarsi Haldar, MD, senior author on the paper, assistant professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve and cardiologist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.

Heart failure occurs when the organ's pumping capacity cannot meet the body's needs. Existing drugs, most of which block hormones such as adrenaline at the cell's outer surface, have improved patient survival. Unfortunately, several clinical studies have demonstrated that heart failure patients taking these hormone-blocking drugs still succumb to high rates of hospitalization and death. Leveraging a new approach, the research team turned their attention from the cell's periphery to the nucleus – the very place that unleashes sweeping damage-control responses which, if left unchecked, ultimately destroy the heart. 

The team found that a new family of genes, called BET bromodomains, cause heart failure because they drive hyperactive stress responses in the nucleus. Prior research linking BET bromodomains to cancer prompted the laboratory of James Bradner, MD, the paper's senior author and a researcher at the Dana-Farber, to develop a direct-acting BET inhibitor, called JQ1. In models of cancer, JQ1 functions to turn off key cancer-causing genes occasionally prompting cancer cells to "forget" they are cancer. In models of heart failure, JQ1 silences genetic actions causing enlargement of and damage to the heart – even in the face of overwhelming stress.

"While it's been known for many years that the nucleus goes awry in heart failure, potential therapeutic targets residing in this part of the cell are often dubbed as 'undruggable' given their lack of pharmacological accessibility," said Jonathan Brown, MD, cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and co-first author on the paper. "Our work with JQ1 in pre-clinical models shows that this can be achieved successfully and safely."  Fist tap Dale.

breath straight kicking like cancer....,

thescientist | Fusobacterium nucleatum is a Gram-negative oral commensal microbe, but it has the potential to become pathogenic, occasionally causing periodontal disease. In October 2011, two separate teams from Canada’s BC Cancer Agency and the Broad Institute in Cambridge showed that the bacterium could also be found in the gut, where its abundance was associated with colorectal cancer. Now, two new studies present functional evidence to help explain how F. nucleatum spurs the development of cancer.

In papers published in Cell Host & Microbe today (August 13), teams led by Harvard Medical School’s Aleksandar Kostic and Case Western Reserve University’s Mara Roxana Rubinstein used a mouse model of intestinal tumorigenesis and human colon cancer cells, respectively, to show that F. nucleatum induces proinflammatory and oncogenic activities that promote the growth of colorectal cancer.

“It is usually impossible to infer whether microbes are causative or opportunistic colonizers without functional studies,” said Robert Holt, who led the BC Cancer Agency team that in 2011 reported an association between F. nucleatum in the gut and colorectal cancer but was not involved in the present studies. “Identifying an infectious origin for disease almost always starts with observing an association between the presence of a microbe and the presence of a particular pathology, but an understanding of causality—or lack thereof—requires the gradual accumulation of experimental and epidemiological evidence,” such as that reported today.

The Washington University School of Medicine’s Gautam Dantas agreed that the new work helps distinguish cause from consequence. “Is an observed altered microbiome state in a diseased individual the cause of the disease, or a symptom?” Dantas, who was not involved in the studies, wrote in an e-mail to The Scientist. The papers published today “report on significant strides towards . . . identifying the mechanisms by which a human commensal bacterium, Fusobacterium nucleatum, promotes colorectal cancer.”

Friday, August 23, 2013

lockhart's lament

maa | The first thing to understand is that mathematics is an art. The difference between math and the other arts, such as music and painting, is that our culture does not recognize it as such.

Everyone understands that poets, painters, and musicians create works of art, and are expressing themselves in word, image, and sound. In fact, our society is rather generous when it comes to creative expression; architects, chefs, and even television directors are considered to be working artists. So why not mathematicians?

Part of the problem is that nobody has the faintest idea what it is that mathematicians do. The common perception seems to be that mathematicians are somehow connected with science— perhaps they help the scientists with their formulas, or feed big numbers into computers for some reason or other. There is no question that if the world had to be divided into the “poetic dreamers” and the “rational thinkers” most people would place mathematicians in the latter category.

Nevertheless, the fact is that there is nothing as dreamy and poetic, nothing as radical, subversive, and psychedelic, as mathematics. It is every bit as mind blowing as cosmology or physics (mathematicians conceived of black holes long before astronomers actually found any), and allows more freedom of expression than poetry, art, or music (which depend heavily on properties of the physical universe). Mathematics is the purest of the arts, as well as the most misunderstood.

So let me try to explain what mathematics is, and what mathematicians do. I can hardly do better than to begin with G.H. Hardy’s excellent description:
A mathematician, like a painter or poet, is a maker of patterns. If his patterns are more permanent than theirs, it is because they are made with ideas.
So mathematicians sit around making patterns of ideas. What sort of patterns? What sort of ideas? Ideas about the rhinoceros? No, those we leave to the biologists. Ideas about language and culture? No, not usually. These things are all far too complicated for most mathematicians’ taste. If there is anything like a unifying aesthetic principle in mathematics, it is this: simple is beautiful. Mathematicians enjoy thinking about the simplest possible things, and the simplest possible things are imaginary.

For example, if I’m in the mood to think about shapes— and I often am— I might imagine a triangle inside a rectangular box:

I wonder how much of the box the triangle takes up? Two-thirds maybe? The important thing to understand is that I’m not talking about this drawing of a triangle in a box. Nor am I talking about some metal triangle forming part of a girder system for a bridge. There’s no ulterior practical purpose here. I’m just playing. That’s what math is— wondering, playing, amusing yourself with your imagination. For one thing, the question of how much of the box the triangle takes up doesn’t even make any sense for real, physical objects. Even the most carefully made physical triangle is still a hopelessly complicated collection of jiggling atoms; it changes its size from one minute to the next. That is, unless you want to talk about some sort of approximate measurements. Well, that’s where the aesthetic comes in. That’s just not simple, and consequently it is an ugly question which depends on all sorts of real-world details. Let’s leave that to the scientists. The mathematical question is about an imaginary triangle inside an imaginary box. The edges are perfect because I want them to be— that is the sort of object I prefer to think about. This is a major theme in mathematics: things are what you want them to be. You have endless choices; there is no reality to get in your way.

On the other hand, once you have made your choices (for example I might choose to make my triangle symmetrical, or not) then your new creations do what they do, whether you like it or not. This is the amazing thing about making imaginary patterns: they talk back! The triangle takes up a certain amount of its box, and I don’t have any control over what that amount is. There is a number out there, maybe it’s two-thirds, maybe it isn’t, but I don’t get to say what it is. I have to find out what it is.

So we get to play and imagine whatever we want and make patterns and ask questions about them. But how do we answer these questions? It’s not at all like science. There’s no experiment I can do with test tubes and equipment and whatnot that will tell me the truth about a figment of my imagination. The only way to get at the truth about our imaginations is to use our imaginations, and that is hard work.