Over Easy: Monday Science

Make soup out of me? I don't THINK so!
Make soup out of me? I don’t THINK so!
Greetings!

Well, it was a great 4th here…unless you were a pet. A nearby display drove our dogs into hiding and they were still behind the couch when I went to bed. The cats couldn’t care less.

Fukushima Update:

There is a new robot for Fukushima. This is a new design, specially hardened, and intended to look for fuel amongst the debris. The hope is that it will last 10 hours or so in the high radiation environment. If they are looking for fuel anywhere but the area beneth the reactor, it means that they think either the core exploded (#3) or the SFP is compromised.

TEPCO has been held responsible for a suicide linked to the accident and ordered to pay $27M yen (About $220,000). This is the second loss for a suicide for TEPCO and there are 69 others that TEPCO could potentially be sued for so far. These could add up, but the courts are holding the payouts low it seems.

TEPCO has been granted loans of over $2.1B by major Japanese banks. This is considered a show of confidence, but anybody who thinks it was not done under EXTREME government pressure isn’t paying attention.

Nearly 1/3 of bass spawned as females turn males. No word yet if bass will be banned from Southern Baptists households.

Large number of black holes found, with the implication that there are a LOT more then we thought. Are there enough to disprove dark matter?

Micro-organisms COULD explain the features we see with Rosetta on the comet. So could a lot of other things, but it’s an interesting theory.

Ceres is providing surprises. We may be able to identify the bright spots on the next pass.

New Horizons had a hiccup, but all is well.

Bee soup, anyone?

Boxturtle (When choosing between evils, I always try the one I haven’t tried before – M. West)

Still Waiting for USS Liberty’s Truth

During the Six-Day War in 1967, Israeli warplanes and warships tried to sink the USS Liberty, killing 34 of the spy ship’s crew. Afterwards, U.S. and Israeli officials excused the attack as an unfortunate mistake and covered up evidence of willful murder.

By Ray McGovern

Israel’s chokehold over U.S. politics and politicians has been so powerful for so many decades that this obvious reality is routinely denied, a collective gagging of the truth that is itself a measure of how strong the Israeli grip is.

The most potent and poignant example of how much American independence has been surrendered to Israel when it comes to events in the Middle East may be the contortions of cover-up that followed Israel’s attempt to sink the USS Liberty during the Six-Day War in 1967, killing 34 American seamen.

The desire of virtually the entire U.S. political and media establishments was for this unpleasant incident to go away. No one, it seemed, wanted to hold Israel to account or to challenge its lame excuses about an inadvertent mistake. One of the few who eventually did was Navy Admiral and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Thomas Moorer, who helped lead an independent, blue-ribbon commission to investigate what happened to the Liberty.

Those finding were released on Oct. 22, 2003. The introduction and first four findings stated:

“We, the undersigned, having undertaken an independent investigation of Israel’s attack on USS Liberty, including eyewitness testimony from surviving crewmembers, a review of naval and other official records, an examination of official statements by the Israeli and American governments, a study of the conclusions of all previous official inquiries, and a consideration of important new evidence and recent statements from individuals having direct knowledge of the attack or the cover up, hereby find the following:

“1. That on June 8, 1967, after eight hours of aerial surveillance, Israel launched a two-hour air and naval attack against USS Liberty, the world’s most sophisticated intelligence ship, inflicting 34 dead and 173 wounded American servicemen (a casualty rate of seventy percent, in a crew of 294);

“2. That the Israeli air attack lasted approximately 25 minutes, during which time unmarked Israeli aircraft dropped napalm canisters on USS Liberty’s bridge, and fired 30mm cannons and rockets into our ship, causing 821 holes, more than 100 of which were rocket-size; survivors estimate 30 or more sorties were flown over the ship by a minimum of 12 attacking Israeli planes which were jamming all five American emergency radio channels;

“3. That the torpedo boat attack involved not only the firing of torpedoes, but the machine-gunning of Liberty’s firefighters and stretcher-bearers as they struggled to save their ship and crew; the Israeli torpedo boats later returned to machine-gun at close range three of the Liberty’s life rafts that had been lowered into the water by survivors to rescue the most seriously wounded;

“4. That there is compelling evidence that Israel’s attack was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew; evidence of such intent is supported by statements from Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Undersecretary of State George Ball, former CIA director Richard Helms, former NSA directors Lieutenant General William Odom, USA (Ret.), Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, USN (Ret.), and Marshal Carter; former NSA deputy directors Oliver Kirby and Major General John Morrison, USAF (Ret.); and former Ambassador Dwight Porter, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon in 1967;”

[The signers included Adm. Moorer; General Raymond G. Davis; former Assistant Commandant, United States Marine Corps; Rear Admiral Merlin Staring, United States Navy (Ret.), former Judge Advocate General Of The Navy; and Ambassador James Akins (Ret.) former United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.] (more…)

US Spin on Access to Iranian Sites has Distorted the Issue

Access to Iranian sites continues to be a thorny issue and the Americans may be playing a dirty game in the media (photo:PressTV)

By Gareth Porter

A public diplomacy campaign by the Obama administration to convince world opinion that Iran was reneging on the Lausanne framework agreement in April has seriously misrepresented the actual diplomacy of the Iran nuclear talks, as my interviews with Iranian officials here make clear.

President Barack Obama’s threat on Tuesday to walk out of the nuclear talks if Iranian negotiators didn’t return to the Lausanne framework – especially on the issue of IAEA access to Iranian sites — was the climax of that campaign.

But what has really been happening in nuclear talks is not that Iran has backed away from that agreement but that the United States and Iran have been carrying out tough negotiations – especially in the days before the Vienna round of talks began — on the details of how basic framework agreement will be implemented.

The US campaign began immediately upon the agreement in Lausanne 2 April. The Obama administration said in its 2 April fact sheet that Iran “would be required” to grant IAEA inspectors access to “suspicious sites”. Then Deputy Security Adviser Ben Rhodes declared that if the United States wanted access to an Iranian military base that the US considered “suspicious”, it could “go to the IAEA and get that inspection” because of the Additional Protocol and other “inspection measures that are in the deal”.

That statement touched a raw nerve in Iranian politics. A few days later Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei insisted that Iran would not allow visits to its military bases as a signal that Iran would withdraw concessions it made in Lausanne. That reaction was portrayed in media as evidence that Iranian negotiators were being forced to retreat from the Lausanne agreement.

In fact it was nothing of the sort. The idea that IAEA inspectors could go into Iranian military facilities at will, as Rhodes had suggested, was a crude oversimplification that was bound to upset Iranians. The reason was more political than strategic. “It is a matter of national dignity,” one Iranian official in Vienna explained to me.

The Iranian negotiators were still pushing back publicly against Rhodes’s rhetoric as the Vienna round began. Iranian Deputy Foreign Miniser Abbas Aragchi appeared to threaten a reopening of the provisions of the Lausanne framework relating to the access issue in an interview with AFP Sunday. “[N]ow some of the solutions found in Lausanne no longer work,” Araghchi said, “because after Lausanne certain countries within the P5+1 made declarations.”

But despite Araghchi’s tough talk, Iran has not reversed course on the compromise reached in Lausanne on the access issue, and what was involved was a dispute resolution process on the issue of IAEA requests for inspections. In interviews with me, two Iranian officials acknowledged that the final agreement will include a procedure that could override an Iranian rejection of an IAEA request to visit a site.

The procedure would allow the Joint Commission, which was first mentioned in the Joint Plan of Action of November 2013, to review a decision by Iran to reject an IAEA request for an inspection visit. The Joint Commission is made up of Iran, the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) and the European Union.

If this Joint Commission were to decide against an Iranian rejection, the IAEA could claim the right to access even to a military site, despite Iran’s opposition.

Such a procedure represents a major concession by Iran, which had assumed that the Additional Protocol to Iran’s “Safeguards” agreement with the IAEA would have governed IAEA access to sites in Iran. Contrary to most media descriptions, that agreement limits IAEA inspection visits to undeclared sites to carrying out “location-specific environmental sampling.” It also allows Iran to deny the request for access to the site, provided it makes “every effort to satisfy Agency requests without delay at adjacent locations or through other means.”

The dispute resolution process obviously goes well beyond the Additional Protocol. But the Obama administration’s statements suggesting that the IAEA will have authority to visit any site they consider “suspect” is a politically convenient oversimplification. Under the technical annex to the Lausanne agreement that is now under negotiation, Iran would have the right to receive the evidence on which the IAEA is basing its request, according to Iranian officials. And since Iran has no intention of doing anything to give the IAEA valid reason to claim suspicious activities, Iranian officials believe they will be able to make a strong argument that the evidence in question is not credible.

Iran has proposed that that the period between the original IAEA request and any inspection resulting from a Joint Committee decision should be 24 days. But that number incensed critics of the Iran nuclear deal. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is unhappy with the whole idea of turning the decisions on inspections over to a multilateral group that includes adversaries of the United States, has criticized the idea of allocating 24 days to the process of dispute resolution.

Under pressure from Corker and Senate Republican opponents of the nuclear deal, the US negotiating team has been demanding a shorter period, Iranian officials say.

The determining factor in how the verification system being negotiated would actually work, however, will be the political-diplomatic interests of the states and the EU who would be voting on the requests. Those interests are the wild card in the negotiations, because it is well known among the negotiators here that there are deep divisions within the P5+1 group of states on the access issue.

There are divisions within the P5+1, especially over aspects of what the Security Council should be doing, on how sanctions would be lifted and on access [verification regime]. “We can say with authority that they have to spend more time negotiating among themselves than negotiating with us,” one Iranian official said.

Even as Obama was publicly accusing Iran of seeking to revise the basic Lausanne framework itself, US negotiators were apparently trying to revise that very same framework agreement itself. A US official “declined to say if the United States might agree to adjust some elements of the Lausanne framework in return for new Iranian concessions,” according to a New York Times report.

The Americans may have been doing precisely what they were accusing the Iranians of doing.

——————

© 2015 Middle East Eye

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist on U.S. national security policy who has been independent since a brief period of university teaching in the 1980s. Dr. Porter is the author of five books, the latest book, “Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare,” was published in February 2014. He has written regularly for Inter Press Service on U.S. policy toward Iraq and Iran since 2005.

Greeks vote to reject Eurozone bailouts conditioned on austerity measures

The polls closed in Greece (at noon EST) with various Greek television stations projecting “No” to be the winner. The referendum asks voters to approve (Yes) or to disapprove (No) of tough austerity measures that the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are requiring the Greek government to impose on its citizens as a condition of receiving additional bailout money. The government is recommending a “No” vote. All Greek citizens are required by law to vote, although that law has not been enforced for many years.

A majority of Greek citizens have decided that the austerity demanded by the money lenders is just another word for debt slavery that they are no longer willing to accept. I support the “No” vote because I am opposed to idea of central bankers conditioning loans on the elimination safety nets that consist of financial assistance programs that protect those who are least able to survive financial disadvantage; namely, the unemployed, the poor, the mentally ill and the marginalized.

The central bankers support neoliberal economic theory that promotes balancing budgets on the backs of the poor, a policy that I despise and repudiate. The “No” vote probably will result in Greece getting kicked out of the Eurozone.

Anxiety Over Possible ISIS Attacks in US Expected to End When CNN Grows Bored with Fear

Screen capture of CNN newscast inviting all Americans to be very, very afraid for no good reason at all
Screen capture of CNN newscast inviting all Americans to be very, very afraid for no good reason at all

All throughout the week prior to the Fourth of July in the United States, CNN, as well as other media outlets, incessantly repeated vague threats about ISIS launching terrorism attacks during the holiday.

On June 30, CNN quoted unnamed US officials who claimed “symbolic July 4th celebrations coinciding with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan will further embolden ISIS supporters in the US to unleash attacks.” The media organization, as well as other outlets, spread the contents of a bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security and FBI, which warned law enforcement agencies of the potential for attacks in advance of the holiday.

The bulletin was titled, “Holiday Celebrations Remain Attractive Target.” It was sent to 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States and warned Independence Day celebrations and activities that “appear to defame the prophet Mohammed” would “likely result in threats or plans to conduct violent extremist acts.”

It is July 5, the day after “lone offenders” were expected to strike a decisive blow somewhere in the so-called home of the brave.

Former FBI assistant director Thomas Fuentes, who now works as a CNN law enforcement analyst, said this morning, “I think there have been a lot of people hyper ventilating over the last couple of weeks of what was to happen.”

Fuentes added:

…[T]he fact that some crazy ISIS follower chose not to grab a butcher knife and go out the door and attack somebody is not because they chose not to, not because of the measures that were taken. All the security measures are designed to contain an attack, minimize it, but really are going to be in response to an attack. So, if someone or a small group of someone carries out an attack, the police are there to stifle it so that no further attack is made. But people are still vulnerable up to that point.

So, yes, we’re not going to be able to stop, we’re going to be talking about this next year on July 4th and the year after that and the year after that, because we can’t contain the message ISIS puts out and the ability of people to track that message on the Internet and then the ability in their crazy brains to follow it…

Essentially, no matter how many bombs the US-led coalition drops against ISIS in Iraq, no matter how many sting operations are launched by the FBI against alleged ISIS supporters, the US cannot stop ISIS propaganda from spreading. So long as the propaganda can reach individuals on the internet, there is a potential for someone to launch an attack. (Note: Some of ISIS’s propaganda calls out US atrocities against Muslims and security officials likely recognize that resonates with some people because the propaganda contains a few grains of truth.) (more…)

Sunday Food: Greek Lamb

Dish of roast lamb
Dish of roast lamb

(Picture courtesy of Kal Hendry at flickr.com.)

Cannot resist taking the day of the Greek referendum on whether or not to cave to EU demands that it sacrifice its economy, for the offering of that sacrificial lamb cooked up in Greek fashion.   This takes a twist on the usual lemon flavoring, and goes with the Orange is the New Black theme too.

While I’m treating the situation with humor, this is a classical tragedy for the people whose ability to make a living by doing the honorable work available to them has been taken away.   It is fraud by deception to offer one thing, in this case a working economy, and give another for the exchange value.   The Greek workers have not been treated honestly by banksters, or the former leaders who made this bad bargain on their behalf.

Greek Orange Roast Lamb:

Ingredients
Serves: 4 

  • 1 half leg of lamb

  • 10 to 12 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 5cm pieces

  • 5 cloves garlic

  • 4 tablespoons dark french mustard

  • juice of one large orange

  • 1 tablespoon oregano

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Method
Prep:30min  ›  Cook:1hr  ›  Ready in:1hr30min 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas mark 4. In large bowl, whisk together the orange juice, mustard, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper.
  2. Once combined, add potatoes to bowl and coat thoroughly with mixture. Transfer the potatoes to a large roasting tin.
  3. Next, cut 2cm deep slits into the lamb, and stuff the garlic cloves into the slits. Place the lamb into the bowl with the remaining orange juice mixture; coat thoroughly and transfer to roasting tin on top of potatoes. If any of the orange juice mixture remains in the bowl, pour over the lamb and potatoes.
  4. Bake uncovered until potatoes are done and lamb is medium / medium-well (approximately 60 minutes). Check every 20 to 30 minutes while baking, and add a bit of hot water if you find the potatoes are drying out.

Cook’s note

If you prefer, use the juice of two lemons instead of the orange for another traditional preparation.

This should be delicious, as the result of the referendum may also prove to be.

(Picture courtesy of Sharon Mollerus at flickr.com.)

Carrying water for the EU
Carrying water for the EU

The Superpower Conundrum: The Rise and Fall of Just About Everything

(Image: Hawaii Independent)

By Tom Engelhardt

The rise and fall of great powers and their imperial domains has been a central fact of history for centuries. It’s been a sensible, repeatedly validated framework for thinking about the fate of the planet. So it’s hardly surprising, when faced with a country once regularly labeled the “sole superpower,” “the last superpower,” or even the global “hyperpower” and now, curiously, called nothing whatsoever, that the “decline” question should come up. Is the U.S. or isn’t it? Might it or might it not now be on the downhill side of imperial greatness?

Take a slow train — that is, any train — anywhere in America, as I did recently in the northeast, and then take a high-speed train anywhere else on Earth, as I also did recently, and it’s not hard to imagine the U.S. in decline. The greatest power in history, the “unipolar power,” can’t build a single mile of high-speed rail? Really? And its Congress is now mired in an argument about whether funds can even be raised to keep America’s highways more or less pothole-free.

Sometimes, I imagine myself talking to my long-dead parents because I know how such things would have astonished two people who lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and a can-do post-war era in which the staggering wealth and power of this country were indisputable. What if I could tell them how the crucial infrastructure of such a still-wealthy nation — bridges, pipelines, roads, and the like — is now grossly underfunded, in an increasing state of disrepair, and beginning to crumble? That would definitely shock them.

And what would they think upon learning that, with the Soviet Union a quarter-century in the trash bin of history, the U.S., alone in triumph, has been incapable of applying its overwhelming military and economic power effectively? I’m sure they would be dumbstruck to discover that, since the moment the Soviet Union imploded, the U.S. has been at war continuously with another country (three conflicts and endless strife); that I was talking about, of all places, Iraq; and that the mission there was never faintly accomplished. How improbable is that? And what would they think if I mentioned that the other great conflicts of the post-Cold-War era were with Afghanistan (two wars with a decade off in-between) and the relatively small groups of non-state actors we now call terrorists? And how would they react on discovering that the results were: failure in Iraq, failure in Afghanistan, and the proliferation of terror groups across much of the Greater Middle East (including the establishment of an actual terror caliphate) and increasing parts of Africa?

They would, I think, conclude that the U.S. was over the hill and set on the sort of decline that, sooner or later, has been the fate of every great power. And what if I told them that, in this new century, not a single action of the military that U.S. presidents now call “the finest fighting force the world has ever known” has, in the end, been anything but a dismal failure? Or that presidents, presidential candidates, and politicians in Washington are required to insist on something no one would have had to say in their day: that the United States is both an “exceptional” and an “indispensible” nation? Or that they would also have to endlessly thank our troops (as would the citizenry) for… well… never success, but just being there and getting maimed, physically or mentally, or dying while we went about our lives? Or that those soldiers must always be referred to as “heroes.”

In their day, when the obligation to serve in a citizens’ army was a given, none of this would have made much sense, while the endless defensive insistence on American greatness would have stood out like a sore thumb. Today, its repetitive presence marks the moment of doubt. Are we really so “exceptional”? Is this country truly “indispensible” to the rest of the planet and if so, in what way exactly? Are those troops genuinely our heroes and if so, just what was it they did that we’re so darn proud of?

Return my amazed parents to their graves, put all of this together, and you have the beginnings of a description of a uniquely great power in decline. It’s a classic vision, but one with a problem.

A God-Like Power to Destroy (more…)

We must rely on science to inform us about climate change and its causes

The existence or non-existence of climate change and global warming can only be determined by empirical observation and interpretation of data. These activities are scientific in nature, not religious. Scientists have been collecting and interpreting the data for many years. Studies analyzing the data have been published and reviewed in peer reviewed professional journals for many years leading to consensus in the community of climate scientists that due to human activity, climate change and global warming have been occurring at an accelerating rate since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Science consists of asking questions and forming theories that answer those questions that can be proven or disproven. Religion, on the other hand consists of asking questions that cannot be answered by empirical observation. Instead, answers ultimately depend on faith. For example, we cannot prove the existence or nonexistence of God.

Climate change deniers generally base their doubts on religious ideas such as a belief in God’s stewardship of the planet and his promise to preserve it until he returns. However, religious ideas by their very nature cannot prove or disprove the existence of climate change or global warming and they cannot identify a cause.

For these reasons, politicians who question climate change and global warming by relying on religious ideas are merely proving their own ignorance. Their opinions are irrelevant and should be disregarded.

Resource: Can Religion and Science Coexist?

The Roundup for July 4th, 2015

A fitting song for today.

Greece And The Giant Grexit, Day 5

A new poll found 44 percent of Greeks favoring “Yes” and 43 percent favoring “No”

– Greece is on the edge of collapse with capital controls implemented and shortages across the country

– Greek banks dismissed a report saying they were looking into a “haircut” of deposits

Part one with professors John Weeks and Ozlem Onaram on the Greek referendum and the troika’s response

International Politics

Overall

Part two of two with former CIA analyst Ray McGovern and former Sergeant Bryce Lockwood on Israel’s attack against the U.S.S. Liberty 48 years ago

– France declined to offer Julian Assange asylum after reviewing his request

– A coalition of former British officials, along with other Britons, called for the U.S. to release Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo Bay (more…)