Daily Archives: October 12, 2009

Bono invited to meet Pope as arts and faith re-engage

bono devil horned hand

belfasttelegraph.co.uk | Sep 28, 2009

When Bono met Pope John Paul II in 2005 he hailed him as the “best frontman the Roman Catholic Church ever had”.

So when his successor Pope Benedict XVI meets the U2 frontman in the coming weeks it will be interesting to see who ends up singing whose praises.

The pontiff has invited the Irish rock star to meet him in the Vatican, to revive the relationship between faith and art.

The singer will join more than 500 personalities from the worlds of art, theatre, literature and music who have been asked to gather with the pope in the Sistine Chapel on November 21.

Following the iconic moment when he placed his famous ‘Fly’ shades on the previous Holy |Father, it remains to be seen how the current pontiff will top his predecessor’s bond with the multi-millionaire Irish rocker. The guest list for this meeting of minds reads like a who’s who of the arts world and includes names such as Italian film score composer Ennio Morricone, avant-garde theatre director Bob Wilson and architect Daniel Libeskind, who is currently building developer Harry Crosbie’s theatre on Hanover Quay.

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture said that the artists were selected on the basis of their reputation and awards they had received.

The archbishop also explained the meeting was to be the first of many initiatives aimed at bridging the gap that has developed between spirituality and artistic expression over the last century.

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Why are Monsanto Insiders Now Appointed to Protect Your Food Safety?

The New Secretary of Agriculture is a Fan of Factory Farms, GM Crops and More

mercola.com | Oct 10, 2009

by: Dr. Mercola

As I write this I am in Washington DC for the International Vaccine Conference and I just did a 12 hour amazing tour of the Capitol that I will describe later, along with pictures that I will post on Facebook. So politics and patriotism is fresh in my mind.

When President Obama took office, many Americans welcomed what was supposed to be an era of much needed change not only for the economy but also for the food industry and U.S. health care system.

Time magazine put it quite well when they described current farm policy as “a welfare program for the megafarms that use the most fuel, water and pesticides; emit the most greenhouse gases; grow the most fattening crops; hire the most illegals; and depopulate rural America.”

And as has been recently disclosed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), between 2003 and 2006, millionaire farmers received $49 million in crop subsidies, even though they earned more than the $2.5 million cutoff for such subsidies. In a speech given at the end of 2008, President Obama stated that this was a prime example of the kind of waste he intends to end when he takes office.

Meanwhile, American medical care is the most expensive in the world.[1] The United States spends more than twice as much on each person for health care as most other industrialized countries. And yet it has fallen to last place among those countries in preventing avoidable deaths through use of timely and effective medical care.

That the system is fatally flawed and in need of a radical overhaul is self-evident.

In fact, according to a 2008 report published in the New England Journal of Medicine[2], 90 percent of Americans believe our medical system should be “completely rebuilt” or that “fundamental changes” are required.

And many are looking toward the Obama Administration to carry out these fundamental changes — changes that appear, on the surface at least, to be in the works.

But while health care reform is finally on the table, and an organic farm has, for the first time, been planted on the White House lawn, there are an unsettling number of foxes being appointed to guard the U.S. health care and food industry hen houses … foxes that have entirely too many connections to Monsanto, the chemical manufacturer turned agricultural giant that is slowly gaining control over the world’s population, one seed at a time.

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Murder and torture allegations ‘covered up by Royal Military police’

Allegations of murder and torture by British troops on civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan were covered up by the Royal Military Police, it has been claimed.

Telegraph | Oct 11, 2009

The RMP failed to investigate hundreds of claims of abuse and was ”not seeking out the truth”, a former officer alleged during a BBC investigation.

The Ministry of Defence said it was investigating the allegations but insisted there was no evidence its system was not ”fit for purpose”.

Referring to his time in the RMP’s Special Investigation Branch, the source, who was not named, told BBC 5 Live’s Donal MacIntyre programme: ”I believe that I was serving in something that was party to covering up quite serious allegations of torture and murder… For too long I belonged to an organisation that wasn’t seeking out the truth.”

He said a lack of resources was partly to blame, but claimed there were also serious structural flaws in the Army justice system.

One case which came to his attention involved the alleged murder of an Iraqi by a British officer.

There was, he claimed, evidence to strongly suggest the Iraqi victim had been shot at point blank range for throwing rocks at a British Army tank.

His allegations come amid the inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa, the Iraqi hotel receptionist who died in British military custody having been beaten by soldiers.

An MOD spokeswoman said: ”Any substantive allegations of abuse brought to our attention will always be investigated as fully as possible.

”We do not accept that the RMP and the military justice system are not fit for purpose, or that there is evidence of systemic failure or interference.

”The RMP do an outstanding job in very difficult and sometimes exceptionally dangerous circumstances.

”The RMP is subject to regular and exhaustive inspection by national bodies such as the Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary.

”This provides the assurance that the RMP has the capability, capacity and competence to conduct investigations into serious crime.

”We must also remember that over a hundred thousand of our personnel served in Iraq and, with the exception of a few individuals, they have performed to the highest standards under extraordinarily testing conditions there.”

‘Planned recession’ could avoid catastrophic climate change

Britain will have to stop building airports, switch to electric cars and shut down coal-fired power stations as part of a ‘planned recession’ to avoid dangerous climate change.

Telegraph | Sep 30, 2009

By Louise Gray

At the moment the UK is committed to cutting greenhouse gases by a third by 2020.

However a new report from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research said these targets are inadequate to keep global warming below two degrees C above pre-industrial levels.

The report says the only way to avoid going beyond the dangerous tipping point is to double the target to 70 per cent by 2020.

This would mean reducing the size of the economy through a “planned recession”.

Kevin Anderson, director of the research body, said the building of new airports, petrol cars and dirty coal-fired power stations will have to be halted in the UK until new technology provides an alternative to burning fossil fuels.

“To meet [Government] targets of not exceeding two degrees C, there would have to be a moratorium on airport expansion, stringent measures on the type of vehicle being used and a rapid transition to low carbon technology,” he said.

Prof Anderson also said individuals will have to consume less.

“For most of the population it would mean fairly modest changes to how they live, maybe they will drive less, share a car to work or take more holidays in Britain.”

More than 190 countries are due to meet in Copenhagen in December to decide a new international deal on climate change.

Speaking at an Oxford University conference on the threat of climate change, Profjkj Anderson said rich countries will have to make much more ambitious cuts to have any chance of keeping temperature rise below four degrees C.

“If we do everything we can do then we might have a chance,” he said.

Radio waves that ‘see’ through walls could be used by police

Radio Tomographic Imaging

On the left, a person walks around inside a square of 28 radio transceivers (mounted on plastic pipes) in the Warnock Engineering Building’s atrium at the University of Utah. The person creates “shadows” in the radio waves, resulting in the image displayed on right, in which the person appears as a reddish-orange-yellow blob. University of Utah engineers also showed this method can “see” through walls to make blurry images of people moving behind the walls. They hope the technique will help police, firefighters and other emergency responders apprehend burglars and rescue hostages, fire victims and others. Credit: Sarang Joshi and Joey Wilson, University of Utah.

Method could help police, firefighters, elderly, retailers

eurekalert.org | Oct 11, 2009

by Lee Siegel

SALT LAKE CITY, Oct. 12, 2009 – University of Utah engineers showed that a wireless network of radio transmitters can track people moving behind solid walls. The system could help police, firefighters and others nab intruders, and rescue hostages, fire victims and elderly people who fall in their homes. It also might help retail marketing and border control.

“By showing the locations of people within a building during hostage situations, fires or other emergencies, radio tomography can help law enforcement and emergency responders to know where they should focus their attention,” Joey Wilson and Neal Patwari wrote in one of two new studies of the method.

Both researchers are in the university’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering – Patwari as an assistant professor and Wilson as a doctoral student.

Their method uses radio tomographic imaging (RTI), which can “see,” locate and track moving people or objects in an area surrounded by inexpensive radio transceivers that send and receive signals. People don’t need to wear radio-transmitting ID tags.

One of the studies – which outlines the method and tests it in an indoor atrium and a grassy area with trees – is awaiting publication soon in IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing, a journal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

The study involved placing a wireless network of 28 inexpensive radio transceivers – called nodes – around a square-shaped portion of the atrium and a similar part of the lawn. In the atrium, each side of the square was almost 14 feet long and had eight nodes spaced 2 feet apart. On the lawn, the square was about 21 feet on each side and nodes were 3 feet apart. The transceivers were placed on 4-foot-tall stands made of plastic pipe so they would make measurements at human torso level.

Radio signal strengths between all nodes were measured as a person walked in each area. Processed radio signal strength data were displayed on a computer screen, producing a bird’s-eye-view, blob-like image of the person.

A second study detailed a test of an improved method that allows “tracking through walls.” That study has been placed on arXiv.org, an online archive for preprints of scientific papers. The study details how variations in radio signal strength within a wireless network of 34 nodes allowed tracking of moving people behind a brick wall.

The method was tested around an addition to Patwari’s Salt Lake City home. Variations in radio waves were measured as Wilson walked around inside. The system successfully tracked Wilson’s location to within 3 feet.

The wireless system used in the experiments was not a Wi-Fi network like those that link home computers, printers and other devices. Patwari says the system is known as a Zigbee network – the kind of network often used by wireless home thermostats and other home or factory automation.

Wilson demonstrated radio tomographic imaging during a mobile communication conference last year, and won the MobiCom 2008 Student Research Demo Competition. The researchers now have a patent pending on the method.

“I have aspirations to commercialize this,” says Wilson, who has founded a spinoff company named Xandem Technology LLC in Salt Lake City.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

How It Works

Radio tomographic imaging (RTI) is different and much less expensive than radar, in which radar or radio signals are bounced off targets and the returning echoes or reflections provide the target’s location and speed. RTI instead measures “shadows” in radio waves created when they pass through a moving person or object.

RTI measures radio signal strengths on numerous paths as the radio waves pass through a person or other target. In that sense, it is quite similar to medical CT (computerized tomographic) scanning, which uses X-rays to make pictures of the human body, and seismic imaging, in which waves from earthquakes or explosions are used to look for oil, minerals and rock structures underground. In each method, measurements of the radio waves, X-rays or seismic waves are made along many different paths through the target, and those measurements are used to construct a computer image.

In their indoor, outdoor and through-the-wall experiments, Wilson and Patwari obtained radio signal strength measurements from all the transceivers – first when the rectangle was empty and then when a person walked through it. They developed math formulas and used them in a computer program to convert weaker or “attenuated” signals – which occur when someone creates “shadows” by walking through the radio signals – into a blob-like, bird’s-eye-view image of that person walking.

RTI has advantages. “RF [radio frequency] signals can travel through obstructions such as walls, trees and smoke, while optical and infrared imaging systems cannot,” the engineers wrote. “RF imaging will also work in the dark, where video cameras will fail.”

Even “where video cameras could work, privacy concerns may prevent their deployment,” Wilson and Patwari wrote. “An RTI system provides current images of the location of people and their movements, but cannot be used to identify a person.”

Would bombardment by radio waves pose a hazard? Wilson says the devices “transmit radio waves at powers 500 times less than a typical cell phone.”

“And you don’t hold it against your head,” Patwari adds.

Radio ‘Eyes’ to the Rescue

Patwari says the system still needs improvements, “but the plan is that when there is a hostage situation, for example, or some kind of event that makes it dangerous for police or firefighters to enter a building, then instead of entering the building first, they would throw dozens of these radios around the building and immediately they would be able to see a computer image showing where people are moving inside the building.”

“They are reusable and you can pick them up afterwards,” he says.

The technique cannot distinguish good guys from bad guys, but at least will tell emergency personnel where people are located, he adds.

Patwari says radio tomography probably can be improved to detect people in a burning building, but also would “see” moving flames. “You may be able to look at the image and say this is a spreading fire and these are people,” says Patwari.

Wilson believes radio imaging also could be used in “a smarter alarm system. … What if you put radios in your home [built into walls or plugged into outlets] and used tomography to locate people in your home. Not only would your security system be triggered by an intrusion, but you could track the intruder online or over your phone.”

Radio tomography even might be used to study where people spend time in stores.

“Does a certain marketing display get people to stop or does it not?” Wilson asks. “I’m thinking of retail stores or grocery stores. They spend a lot of money to determine, ‘Where should we put the cereal, where should we put the milk, where should we put the bread?’ If I can offer that information using radio tomographic imaging, it’s a big deal.”

Radio image tracking might help some elderly people live at home. “The elderly want to stay in their homes but don’t want a camera in their face all day,” Wilson says. “With radio tomographic imaging, you could track where they are in their home, did they get up at the right time, did they go to the medicine cabinet, have they not moved today?”

Wilson says a computer monitoring the radio images might detect an elderly person falling down the stairs based on the unusually fast movement.

He says radio tracking also might be a relatively inexpensive method of border security, and would work in dark and fog unlike cameras.

Another possible use: automatic control of lighting, heating and air conditioning in buildings, says Wilson. Radio tracking might even control sound systems so that the best sound is aimed where people are located, as well as noise cancellation systems which could be aimed automatically at noise sources, Patwari says.

2012 isn’t the end of the world, Mayans insist

Mexico Apocalypse 2012

In this photo taken Oct. 3, 2009, Guatemalan Mayan Indian elder Apolinario Chile Pixtun poses for a portrait at the Iximche ceremonial site in Tecpan, Guatemala. Archaeologists, astronomers and modern-day Mayas shrug off the popular frenzy over the date of 2012, predicting it will bring nothing more than a meteor shower of new-age ‘consciousness,’ pseudo-science and alarmist television specials. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

Associated Press | Oct 11, 2009

by Mark Stevenson

MEXICO CITY – Apolinario Chile Pixtun is tired of being bombarded with frantic questions about the Mayan calendar supposedly “running out” on Dec. 21, 2012. After all, it’s not the end of the world.

Or is it?

Definitely not, the Mayan Indian elder insists. “I came back from England last year and, man, they had me fed up with this stuff.”

It can only get worse for him. Next month Hollywood’s “2012” opens in cinemas, featuring earthquakes, meteor showers and a tsunami dumping an aircraft carrier on the White House.

At Cornell University, Ann Martin, who runs the “Curious? Ask an Astronomer” Web site, says people are scared.

“It’s too bad that we’re getting e-mails from fourth-graders who are saying that they’re too young to die,” Martin said. “We had a mother of two young children who was afraid she wouldn’t live to see them grow up.”

Chile Pixtun, a Guatemalan, says the doomsday theories spring from Western, not Mayan ideas.

A significant time period for the Mayas does end on the date, and enthusiasts have found a series of astronomical alignments they say coincide in 2012, including one that happens roughly only once every 25,800 years.

But most archaeologists, astronomers and Maya say the only thing likely to hit Earth is a meteor shower of New Age philosophy, pop astronomy, Internet doomsday rumors and TV specials such as one on the History Channel which mixes “predictions” from Nostradamus and the Mayas and asks: “Is 2012 the year the cosmic clock finally winds down to zero days, zero hope?”

It may sound all too much like other doomsday scenarios of recent decades — the 1987 Harmonic Convergence, the Jupiter Effect or “Planet X.” But this one has some grains of archaeological basis.

One of them is Monument Six.

Found at an obscure ruin in southern Mexico during highway construction in the 1960s, the stone tablet almost didn’t survive; the site was largely paved over and parts of the tablet were looted.

It’s unique in that the remaining parts contain the equivalent of the date 2012. The inscription describes something that is supposed to occur in 2012 involving Bolon Yokte, a mysterious Mayan god associated with both war and creation.

However — shades of Indiana Jones — erosion and a crack in the stone make the end of the passage almost illegible.

Archaeologist Guillermo Bernal of Mexico’s National Autonomous University interprets the last eroded glyphs as maybe saying, “He will descend from the sky.”

Spooky, perhaps, but Bernal notes there are other inscriptions at Mayan sites for dates far beyond 2012 — including one that roughly translates into the year 4772.

And anyway, Mayas in the drought-stricken Yucatan peninsula have bigger worries than 2012.

“If I went to some Mayan-speaking communities and asked people what is going to happen in 2012, they wouldn’t have any idea,” said Jose Huchim, a Yucatan Mayan archaeologist. “That the world is going to end? They wouldn’t believe you. We have real concerns these days, like rain.”

The Mayan civilization, which reached its height from 300 A.D. to 900 A.D., had a talent for astronomy

Its Long Count calendar begins in 3,114 B.C., marking time in roughly 394-year periods known as Baktuns. Thirteen was a significant, sacred number for the Mayas, and the 13th Baktun ends around Dec. 21, 2012.

“It’s a special anniversary of creation,” said David Stuart, a specialist in Mayan epigraphy at the University of Texas at Austin. “The Maya never said the world is going to end, they never said anything bad would happen necessarily, they’re just recording this future anniversary on Monument Six.”

Bernal suggests that apocalypse is “a very Western, Christian” concept projected onto the Maya, perhaps because Western myths are “exhausted.”

If it were all mythology, perhaps it could be written off.

But some say the Maya knew another secret: the Earth’s axis wobbles, slightly changing the alignment of the stars every year. Once every 25,800 years, the sun lines up with the center of our Milky Way galaxy on a winter solstice, the sun’s lowest point in the horizon.

That will happen on Dec. 21, 2012, when the sun appears to rise in the same spot where the bright center of galaxy sets.

Another spooky coincidence?

“The question I would ask these guys is, so what?” says Phil Plait, an astronomer who runs the “Bad Astronomy” blog. He says the alignment doesn’t fall precisely in 2012, and distant stars exert no force that could harm Earth.

“They’re really super-duper trying to find anything astronomical they can to fit that date of 2012,” Plait said.

But author John Major Jenkins says his two-decade study of Mayan ruins indicate the Maya were aware of the alignment and attached great importance to it.

“If we want to honor and respect how the Maya think about this, then we would say that the Maya viewed 2012, as all cycle endings, as a time of transformation and renewal,” said Jenkins.

As the Internet gained popularity in the 1990s, so did word of the “fateful” date, and some began worrying about 2012 disasters the Mayas never dreamed of.

Author Lawrence Joseph says a peak in explosive storms on the surface of the sun could knock out North America’s power grid for years, triggering food shortages, water scarcity — a collapse of civilization. Solar peaks occur about every 11 years, but Joseph says there’s evidence the 2012 peak could be “a lulu.”

While pressing governments to install protection for power grids, Joseph counsels readers not to “use 2012 as an excuse to not live in a healthy, responsible fashion. I mean, don’t let the credit cards go up.”

Another History Channel program titled “Decoding the Past: Doomsday 2012: End of Days” says a galactic alignment or magnetic disturbances could somehow trigger a “pole shift.”

“The entire mantle of the earth would shift in a matter of days, perhaps hours, changing the position of the north and south poles, causing worldwide disaster,” a narrator proclaims. “Earthquakes would rock every continent, massive tsunamis would inundate coastal cities. It would be the ultimate planetary catastrophe.”

The idea apparently originates with a 19th century Frenchman, Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg, a priest-turned-archaeologist who got it from his study of ancient Mayan and Aztec texts.

Scientists say that, at best, the poles might change location by one degree over a million years, with no sign that it would start in 2012.

While long discredited, Brasseur de Bourbourg proves one thing: Westerners have been trying for more than a century to pin doomsday scenarios on the Maya. And while fascinated by ancient lore, advocates seldom examine more recent experiences with apocalypse predictions.

“No one who’s writing in now seems to remember that the last time we thought the world was going to end, it didn’t,” says Martin, the astronomy webmaster. “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of memory that things were fine the last time around.”

Denver breaks 104 year old cold temperature record as Arctic chill sets in

Examiner | Oct 10, 2009

by Tony Hake

The Arctic blast of cold air that has settled in across much of the nation’s midsection arrived in Colorado Friday night and allowed the Mile High City to set two low temperature records. Two more weather records may be set today and tonight before we start to warm up on Sunday.

Friday night the cold front moved in and temperatures plummeted 23 degrees in five hours. Before midnight the mercury read 18 degrees thus shattering the old low temperature record for October 9th of 25 degrees. That record dated to 1970.

This morning the low temperature at Denver International Airport has dropped to 17 degrees. That sets a new record low temperature for October 10th as well. The previous record low of 25 degrees was set more than a century ago in 1905.

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