October Surprise -- NOT

on October 28, 2006 with 0 comments » |

U.S. Embassy bombings suspect confirmed killed

An al Qaeda operative wanted in connection with the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings was killed in April in Pakistan, U.S. officials have confirmed. DNA tests confirmed Muhsin Musa Matwalli Atwah died in an airstrike by Pakistani forces near the border with Afghanistan, the officials said. The simultaneous embassy attacks in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killed 224 people.
Aah. just found a plastic.com thread on the subject of an October Surprise!..
You know you want it. Perhaps we've seen a glimpse of it and haven't realized it. But.It. Will. Happen. So, here's the question. Just what will the October Surprise be and when will it drop? Karl Rove says he has it. Is it an OBL video, a terrorist capture, a Democratic scandal, record-low gas pump prices, or a brilliant Iraq plan, or something so surprising we can't begin to imagine it? Place your bets, folks. Because, unlike the breaching of levees and the flying of airplanes into buildings, this can be forseen by everyone.
Blaah... Meanwhile....

The
100th US soldier dies in Iraq this month. And we've pretty much lost count of the # of Iraqi's...

Staff Sgt. Billy Brown, an Alaska national guardsman, is believed to be the
first Eskimo killed because of the Iraq war. Apparently, it took 20 men a full day to dig his grave through the permafrost in a town 350 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Earlier last week... President George W. Bush signed the
Military Commissions Act, which suspends the right of habeas corpus for terrorism suspects and grants immunity to CIA interrogators and government officials, such as President Bush, for violations of the War Crimes Act.

VP Dick Cheney has confirmed that U.S. interrogators subjected captured Al-Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called "water-boarding," which creates a sensation of drowning. Cheney indicated that the Bush administration doesn't regard water-boarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it. "It's a no-brainer for me."

Update: Aah...here comes the back-tracking.
The White House denies that VP Cheney was referring to waterboarding when he endorsed a "dunk in water" as a way of getting information from detainees. But then what do you expect of people who "misquote themselves while purporting to display candor."

Meanwhile, some countries try to refute criticism over their treatment of prisoners by saying they are only following the U.S. example on handling terror suspects.

Rummy, who in the past has defended the war on terrorism and called Bush critics names - "Nazi appeasers"
- because the world faces a new type of fascism, said last week that those "demanding deadlines for progress in Iraq should "just back off," because it is too difficult to predict when Iraqis will resume control of their country."

And the Bush administration changes semantics but little else with their favorite phrase (No..not "Mission Accomplished" but "Stay the course") being redefined to convey the message that they are more flexible than previously stated. Cut and run is still part of the political rhetoric though...

Aah...good to hear there is a plan - albeit a secret plan! ;)

During a debate with his Democratic rival, Senator Conrad Burns of Montana said that President Bush (who this week compared Iraq to Vietnam) has a secret plan for winning the war, but that Bush is not going to share his plan with the world.

Meanwhile, Bush admin says U.S. has milestones, not ultimatums, for Iraq

Meanwhile, the pre-election name-calling reaches a new low with
the Republican National Committe running a T.V. ad in Tennessee in which ends with a pretty, blonde white woman is essentially soliciting African American Senatorial candidate Harold Ford...! (And perhaps not surprisingly, it is that racist George Allen's ad man that is responsible for the ads!

And here is a
compilation of all the members of the 109th Congress currently under investigation by the DoJ.

And a friend had written to me earlier about this but I had not realized it was the National Guard giving these cut-outs out - thought it was one family that was dealing with the situation by doing this!

The Maine National Guard has been offering “Flat Daddies” and “Flat Mommies,” life-size cardboard cutouts of deployed service members, to spouses, children, and relatives waiting for them to return.- Boston Globe

Watch this haunting observational film that explodes the myth around the claims that the Iraqis are preparing to take control of their own country.
Sean Smith spent nearly six weeks with the 101st Division of the US army in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the conservative news radio continues its blatherings... Limbaugh accuses Michael J. Fox of faking Parkinson's Disease symptoms while campaigning for Congress candidates who support stem cell research.

And last but not least....
read more about all the legal wranglings of this woman who had a bumper sticker that said..."I'm Tired of All the BUSH*T." We all are... but this woman was brave enough to put it on her car and got a ticket for it and is now fighting the system for her freedom of _expression. More power to her...!!!

Islam 101

on October 27, 2006 with 0 comments » |

Read this last night while reading the History of Islam for my own edification.. I did not realize the split between Sunnis and Shi'a's goes back all the way to when the Prophet died.
Historic background of the Sunni-Shi'a split
The Sunni-Shi'a split in Islam started with Prophet Muhammad death in 632, which was followed by a dispute over who was to lead the Muslim community, and how the leader was to be chosen. Although the Prophet had said several times, most notably in a famous speech delivered at his last pilgrimage, that Ali was to succeed him as leader of the Muslim community, a gathering of Muslims at Saqifah gave their allegiance to Abu Bakr, as the first caliph after they felt his old age would be a wiser choice than the young Ali. Sunnis also claim that the prophet himself chose Abu Bakr becaue Abu Bakr had led prayers in the prophet's mosque in the last few days of the prophet's life. Sunni Muslims accept Abu Bakr as a righteous and rightful caliph. Shi'a Muslims believe that the prophet had appointed his son-in-law Ali ibn Abi Talib as his successor and that in following Abu Bakr, the Sunni Muslims had strayed from the true path.
I think Islam is too complicated and too big a project for me to read everything about... I'm going to start with Iran - am reading 3 different books on Iran currently but more about that elsewhere... but here is a quick synopsis of the three main sects of Islam

Sunni

The Sunni are the largest group in Islam. In Arabic, as-Sunnah literally means principle or path. Sunnis and Shi'a believe that Muhammad is a perfect example to follow, and that they must imitate the words and acts of Muhammad as accurately as possible. Because of this reason, the Hadith in which those words and acts are described are a main pillar of Sunni doctrine.
Sunnis recognize four major legal traditions (madhhabs): Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanafi, and Hanbali. All four accept the validity of the others and Muslims choose any one that he/she finds agreeable to his/her ideas. There are also several orthodox theological or philosophical traditions (kalam).

Shi'a

Shi'a Muslims, the second-largest branch, differ from the Sunni in rejecting the authority of the first three caliphs. They honor different accounts of Muhammad (hadith) and have their own legal traditions. Shi'a scholars have a larger authority than Sunni scholars and have greater room for interpretation. The concept of Imamah (leadership) plays a central role in Shi'a doctrine. Shi'a Muslims hold that leadership should not be passed down through a system such as the caliphate, but rather, descendants of Muhammad should be given this right as Imams.

Sufism

Sufism is a spiritual practice followed by both Sunni and Shi'a. Sufis generally feel that following Islamic law or jurisprudence (or fiqh) is only the first step on the path to perfect submission; they focus on the internal or more spiritual aspects of Islam, such as perfecting one's faith and fighting one's own ego (nafs). Most Sufi orders, or tariqas, can be classified as either Sunni or Shi'a. However, there are some that are not easily categorized as either Sunni or Shi'a, such as the Bektashi. Sufis are found throughout the Islamic world, from Senegal to Indonesia. Their innovative beliefs and actions often come under criticism from Wahhabis, who consider certain practices to be against the letter of Islamic law.

Books on Iran

on October 26, 2006 with 0 comments » |

Reading the following books these days..

1.      Marjane Satrapi's famous Persepolis and Persepolis 2. Done with the first one ...will start second one soon. 


Her third book, Embroideries, has also been on my to read list for some time now. Seems she also has a new book - here is a snapshot - Chicken with Plums, in which she tells ...
...the story of her great-uncle, Nasser Ali Khan, a musician overtaken by a sense of futility and emptiness over the loss of his tar. Though Nasser Ali Khan tries very hard, he cannot find another tar to replace his broken one. In despair, he takes to his bed, renouncing the world and all its pleasures. Over the course of eight days that follows, his family and close friends attempt to change his mind, but Nasser Ali Khan slips further and further into his own reveries, with unexpected appearance by Sophia Loren. Despite the minimalism of its approach, Chicken with Plums still packs quite a punch. 
I have linked to some other articles and interviews with Satrapi in an earlier post.
2.      The Iranians by Sandra Mackey - The book covers the history of Iran... my plan is to read from the early 20th century with the end of the Qajar dynasty till the current time. So far have read about the rise and fall of the first Pahlavi King, Reza Khan till the end of WW II.

WTF - 2

with 0 comments » |

Proof that the human mind is f-ed up...

1. A Denver woman was ruled criminally insane for stabbing her 21-month-old granddaughter 62 times with a butcher knife after she received “spiritual messages from the geese flying overhead.”

2. German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday called photos of German soldiers in Afghanistan playing with a skull "shocking and disgusting," and Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said those involved will be dealt with harshly.

One image was published on the cover of the national tabloid Bild, under the words "Schock Fotos." In the picture, a soldier seems to be slightly smirking as he poses with the skull in his raised right hand. Other images show the skull displayed like an off-center hood ornament on the front of a jeep. Another picture shows a soldier holding the skull near his exposed penis.

3. Necrophiliac bestiality - wtf..!!! - A 44-year-old Saginaw man remains jailed today on charges of bestiality after he was seen engaged in sexual acts with a dead dog

4. Disturbing images from China show a distressed woman attempting suicide on the street. The woman tried to slash her wrists with a razor sharp blade, before slashing her throat.

5. Fighting the myth that "sex with a virgin can cure Aids"! Reminds me of the pod I saw on current.tv where an African orphan, who lost both his parents to AIDS, gives us his understanding of the disease - that the condom manufacturers put this disease into the condoms....sadly, ignorance rules!

Documentary videos

on October 18, 2006 with 1 comments » |

Some great documentaries available (atleast for now) on Youtube & Google-Video.

Injection is the real-life story of six health care workers falsely accused and jailed in Libya, the deplorable conditions that led to their arrest
, and the simple solution that might have prevented not only this injustice, but millions of needless infections. In Libya in 1999, five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor were arrested and convicted of infecting over four hundred Libyan children with HIV in a Benghazi hospital. Libyan dictator Moammar Khadaffi proclaimed before the trial that the nurses conspired with the American CIA and the Israeli Mossad to maliciously infect the children. Scientists and others (including some Bush rhetoric after meeting the Bulgarian president) rallying in their defence aside, I fear that "freeing the Benghazi Six" is only wishful thinking; although for now their death sentences have been quashed (on 25 December 2005) by the Libya's Supreme Court and a re-trial has been ordered.



Who killed the electric car? (Update: not available any more ... taken out by Youtube due to copyright violations)
The documentary (Review, Trailer, Wikipedia) explores the birth, limited commercialization, and subsequent death of the battery electric vehicle in the United States, specifically the General Motors EV1 of the 1990s. The film explores the roles of automobile makers, the oil industry, the US government, batteries, hydrogen vehicles, and consumers in limiting the development and adoption of this technology. It is due to be released on DVD to the home video market on November 14, 2006 by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Daily Show had an interview with the director, Chris Paine.


Improbable Collapse -The Demolition of our Republic - a documentary about the collapse of the Twin Towers. Speaking of 9-11, to whatever extent polls and surveys may reflect reality, its amazing to me that 84% of people in the US think the government is hiding something about that days events!



A two-part documentary -
Part I and Part II - about the Rape of Nanking - Japanese Atrocities during WWII: A documentary based on 20 years research and consists entirely of archival photos and film-clips.



A documentary about
imprisoned Kurdish female leader Leyla Zana

Painting Bihar pink to raise morale...instead of fighting crime! (didnt know there is an Aurangabad in Bihar too!) - via

Authorities in eastern India are painting a crime-infested town pink in the hope that an image makeover will lift the sagging morale of residents who are fed up with the decline in law and order
But waste of money by politicians and stupid shenanigans to raise morale are all fine and dandy in a superpower democracy...atleast India is rolling strong in the 21st century... no? :)
Deities 'oppose' mega power project - via

A man has survived 22 snake bites in the last 10 years and lived to relate his tale of woe. Because of what he has gone through, Sant Ram's family claims he is cursed. As a result, he had developed a particular odour in his body that attracted snakes towards him. On the other hand, Sant Ram can also smell the presence of a snake in his surrounding. - via

And now horoscopes for cattle in Ranchi

And last but the most UNBELIEVABLE but TRUE.... A 'Hindu' monkey goes to jail for sparking communal tension after biting Muslim kids - Raised by a Hindu family, the monkey, apparently bit some Muslim children five years ago, sparking communal tension in the area. The monkey has since been caged in Orissa for the last five years for disturbing communal harmony. - via
But we'll be fine - afterall, India does not take the honors of being the only place with stupid people and politicians with stupid plans.. :)
In China, a panda attacks a man who enters the panda's cage to 'hug' the bear. Man bites panda back.

In Iran, Iran's supreme leader answers asks his followers to
not masturbate during Ramadan as he answers this and other topics on his website!

Pakistan decides to remain as antiquated as ever with attempts to
reform Pakistan's rape laws have run aground

and in Australia, they want a lingerie subsidy to save marriages

Turkey-Armenia-France

on October 17, 2006 with 0 comments » |

Turkey, Armenia, France And The Nobelist Novelist - A plastic.com thread

Mixed feelings of pride and anger in Turkey, when on the same day that acclaimed but controversial Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel prize for literature, France passed legislation making it a crime to deny the Armeniangenocide. Between 1915 and 1920 the waning Ottoman empire executed a campaign of deportation against the Armenian people, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands to over one million Armenians. Official Turkish sources have always claimed that the deaths among the Armenians were not a result of a state-sponsored plan of mass extermination, but of inter-ethnic strife, disease and famine during the turmoil of World War I.

Apparently, even Pamuk thinks that the French
went a bit too far with their legislation criminalizing denying the Armenian genocide i.e. the French law is as reprehensible as the Turkish law he was charged with violating.

This IHT op-ed also basically says the same.. France in denial.

Legislating to make denying the Armenians suffered genocide at the hands of the Turks illegal deserves the scorn of France's greatest exponent of French speech - Voltaire (real name: François-Marie Arouet!!) must be turning in his grave!

Note: Actually, France is one of the few countries where thanks to the Gayssot Act (Loi Gayssot), voted for on July 13, 1990, it is an offense in France to question the existence of the category of crimes against humanity as defined in the London Charter of 1945, on the basis of which Nazi leaders were convicted by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1945-46


--
Speaking of IHT, while seeing the 1959 French movie Á bout de souffle
or Breathless - considered by many to be the first movie in the French New Wave - by Jean-Luc Godard, the heroine was selling the New York Herald Tribune along the Champs-Élysées ... so, I looked NYHT up on wiki and read that

Following the collapse of the World Journal Tribune, The New York Times and the Washington Post became joint owners with Whitney of the Herald Tribune's European dition, the International Herald Tribune, which is still published.

Aah... now I understand why NYT articles appear in IHT everyday..often the title is changed but the article is the same.

---

Rocky

on October 15, 2006 with 0 comments » |

First there is Rocky Singh...owns an airline company in Slovakia now and wants to give you a Punjabi experiene. read about him at this post by Amit Varma.

And then there is Rocky Patel... I read about him in some Indian zine last week.

Seems he came to the US when he was 13.. became a lawyer in Hollywood.. after long days, went to a cigar club to unwind (where he met ppl like Mel Gibson and other celebrities)... then got into cigar business ...after it took off left his cigar business and moved to Florida, where he now lives the life of a multi-millionare, whose cigars are quite famous (though he is not a Cuban or a Honduran or Guatemalan, by sheer persistence and hard work he broke into the industry, the article said).

He even has a cigar named after himself... so, next time u want a smoke....ask for a Rocky Patel

So, now onwards, the next time anyone says Rocky...I'll be reminded of Rocky Singh and Rocky Patel and not of Sanjubaba (somehow never thought of Stallone but then I am not a fan of Sly's movies or his mumbling & in fact, have not seen the Rocky series - wtf, a 6th one - I didn't know they even went beyond 3!) :)

--
Speaking of Sanjubaba, saw the Korean movie, OldBoy (won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2004) yesterday - it was remade in India with Sanjay Dutt as Zinda.
:)

GoogleTube - I

on October 13, 2006 with 0 comments » |

1. didnt realize one of the 3 owners of youtube is still a grad student... Jawed Karim. After being bought out by Google for 1.65 billion dollars (yes..thats billion!!), all 3 youngbies (in their 20s) are multi-millionares ofcourse...

Apparently, Jawed was also part of the original Paypal team and made $$$$ when eBay bought them. Has a penchant for making the right choices, this kid..huh? :)

And speaking of Ebay, apparently, airline terror suspects used eBay for operation's funding

2. Amit Varma asks
You Tube or Utube? Never ask, Whats in a name?

3. People everywhere are wondering what is Youtube's future
or lackthereof (latter from before Google bought it!). And here is fun-look at what the future holds for Youtube ...

Google: $225 billion ecommerce play

Google Earth aid for Maha farmers

Google Code Search is now live - a source code search engine!!

They also have a new beta version of Google Groups

And check out the directory of Google Gadgets for your webpage

Google tech talks are now availableGoogle Launches Classroom Project


Talented people in short supply: Google
There may be more than a billion people in India, but even an Internet superstar like Google Inc has trouble recruiting talented locals in its South Asian operations, a board member said here.

More on Google here...

And finally... my wife always says, given how much I use their products and rave about them, that I should have been working for Google. Well.. apparently,we all work for Google- because apparently “Every time you run a Google search, you make its brain more powerful"

6. And what about the others?

As Google whips out its fat wallet to buy the video site YouTube, it is making Yahoo look even more out of step with the fast-changing Internet advertising market.
Yahoo vs. Facebook, MySpace, Digg, YouTube

Neat applet from Yahoo! - A Digital Time Capsule
Info about this: After 30 days, time capsule content will be saved onto a digital archive and sealed, to be opened at Yahoo! corporate headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif. on the company's 25th anniversary in the year 2020. In addition, copies of this content will be presented to Smithsonian Folkways Recordings archives in Washington, DC to be preserved, studied and shared with future generations.

7. Should make for interesting reading...
All We Got Was Web 1.0, When Tim Berners-Lee Actually Gave Us Web 2.0

8. Why Microsoft’s future OS could be open source

9. And speaking of MS, never know where you'll run into the omnipresent Blue Screen of Death...

10. And with all these links about technology...have to link to this news story about global communication via a message in a bottle.. :)

Girl's message in a bottle reaches from Norway to NZ in 47 days..

More power to their tribe - 1

on October 11, 2006 with 0 comments » |

Dr. Chavan taught me Physical Chemistry for a semester in 2nd year of engineering at UDCT (now UICT).... he was involved, as I remember it, in some education efforts for the under-previleged in the shanties of Mumbai and left UDCT to persue this full-time in 1989... I had all but forgotten about him until I got an email on an alum newgroup I recently joined...

Madhav Chavan, is co-founder Director of Pratham ( www.pratham.org ), an organization that has been working for universalization of elementary education in India since 1994. Read more about his views on how technology can transform society...

He has also
blogged here

More power to his tribe!

Bush swaggered a few years ago - 'Bring it on'... and so here we are - at the helm of a future fraught with the possibility of a dangerous nuclear war with North Korea! For now, the war of words continues...

Iraq, Iran and the Folly of a Faith-Based Foreign Policy

The two faces of Rumsfeld
2000: director of a company which wins $200m contract to sell nuclear reactors to North Korea
2002: declares North Korea a terrorist state, part of the axis of evil and a target for regime change

After 9-11 ..Gore Vidal 5 years later
America's warrior nation - The legacy of 9/11

Jon Stewart

with 0 comments »

Daily Show host Jon Stewart dispelled rumors of a Presidential run as "a real sign of how sad people are" with the state of affairs in the country. Nothing says 'I am ashamed of you my government' more than 'Stewart/Colbert '08.

The Harrisonburg High School was forced to take down its display of banned books coommemorating banned books week because the school superintendent thought such a display would encourage students to read the books just because they were banned!

In the Caney Creek school district, Alton Verm, the father of a sophomore was not too happy about having his daughter read "Fahrenheit 451." Looking through the book, he found several parts of its content objectionable. "...Discussion of being drunk, smoking cigarettes, violence, "dirty talk," references to the Bible and using God's name in vain. He said the book's material goes against their religions beliefs. "It's just all kinds of filth," said Alton Verm, adding that he had not read Fahrenheit 451.

Like the Nameless Cynic wrote at the thread...

For those of you not up on your Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 is about a world where nobody reads books, and the role of firemen is not to put fires out, but to burn literature. The title refers to the temperature at which paper catches fire. I think that one of the "dirty words" that Alton Vern objected to was "irony."


- Above examples via this thread at plastic.com

Anna Politkovskaya, courageous journalist and critic of the Putin administration's brutal war of crimes in Chechnya, was shot dead at her apartment building earlier this week.

Vilhelm Konnander writes about Anna Politkovskaya murder and Vladimir Putin’s silence:

“The fact remains: When Russia’s “first journalist” is silenced, Russia’s “first person” stays silent. No word from Putin, no word from the Kremlin when the freedom of the press is trampled on by brutal suppression. The tacit message thus sent, resounds with piercing echo: Freedom of speech has no place in Putin’s Russia.”

White Sun of the Desert writes that Politkovskaya’s “death is a tragedy for Russia. If somehow the government was involved, it represents a disaster.”

Analysis: The assassination of Anna Politkovskaya is designed to warn others against exposing the abuses of Moscow's authoritarian nationalist drift

Chechnya: Articles by Anna Politkovskaya

"Russia's Secret Heroes", an excerpt from A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya.

Red October:Killing the Truth in Moscow

Edward Lucas posts the Economist’s obituary.

A Step At A Time translates an earlier interview with Anna Politkovskaya’s editor, Dmitry Muratov.

The Accidental Russophile compiles links on the tragic event; La Russophobe accuses him of “an early attack” on the murdered journalist.

A quick history recap perhaps is appropriate here:

First Chechen War (1994-96)
Second Chechen War (1999- present)


And earlier in September, Andrey Kozlov, the top deputy chairman of Russia's Central Bank was shot dead, allegedly because of his efforts to clean up the country's banking system by closing banks that were involved in money laundering. Kozlov, in the late 90s, was responsible for saving Russia from financial ruin.

Meanwhile, a report says that there have been 655,000 deaths in Iraq since the US invasion of the country...all I can say is..

"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" - 1 Corinthians 15:55

Chess World Championship - Update

on October 6, 2006 with 0 comments » |

Man..crazy! The high stakes of chess - who would have known that geeky geniuses could get so competitive, huh? :)

Today, I read this Amit Varma's blog:

I'd written earlier about the curious turns the World Championship unification match between Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov had taken, with Topalov accusing Kramnik of taking too many bathroom breaks, and implying that he cheated in the loo. Well, the action has hotted up since, with Topalov's manager having done an analysis that supposedly shows that 78% of Kramnik's moves were also the first choice of Fritz 9, a computer program. That hardly sounds like evidence to me: if another top player was put through the same situations, I imagine there would be pretty much that many moves in common. Something like 95% would have been more convincing.Here's the reaction of Kramnik's camp, which no doubt cheered up a bit after Evgeny Bareev and Peter Svidler, two top grandmasters, publicly took Kramnik's side. Former world champion Garry Kasparov put it all in perspective in a piece in the Wall Street Journal, while Yasser Seirawan, once a formidable grandmaster himself, explained the roles of the officials involved, and where they went wrong.

I had posted earlier about the Chess World Championship here.

Maybe those rumors about him & Sharapova were just that...rumors... because when you can 'flirt' with or 'date' (or whatever else they allegedly did) Sharapova...why'd you go for white-trash like Paris Hilton. It can't be the money (he has enuf)... And ugggh - save me the details, please!!
Paris and  Andy
After dating billionaire Greek heirs, rockers and actors, hotel heiress Paris Hilton reportedly has a new man in her life – tennis champion Andy Roddick. The couple were spotted flirting at Las Vegas' trendy Tao nightclub recently, and were also seen getting hot and heavy on the VIP bed in Vegas’ Pure nightclub.

Much research & hype about fuel cell-driven cars hitting the market soon but critics argue that powering vehicles with hydrogen fuel cells is both inefficient and expensive despite what the US Dept. of Energy has proclaimed:

'This emerging technology can significantly reduce energy use and harmful emissions, as well as our dependence on foreign oil.'
So, people argue that GM's billion-dollar bet is a bad strategy for the beleagured company. You ask why? Well...because:

Hydrogen fuel must be extracted from fossil fuels or water--both energy-consuming processes. Once produced, the gas must be compressed or liquefied for distribution, and this process and the distribution itself take yet more energy. By the time the hydrogen has been delivered to the fuel cell for conversion to electricity, then, a significant amount of energy has been lost to these processes.

"Along the way, you've thrown away nearly three-quarters of the electricity. No one in their right mind would do that--if your alternative is to just string a power line from zero-carbon electricity and charge a battery onboard a car," says Joseph Romm, executive director of the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions, and formerly in charge of energy efficiency and renewable energy at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Romm says a more promising alternative to internal-combustion engines are plug-in hybrids, which combine an electric motor powered by batteries with a conventional gasoline- or diesel-powered engine, but rely on the electric motor far more than today's hybrids. Plug-in hybrids, which are being developed by Toyota, with conversion kits for ordinary hybrids already available through several companies, would not eliminate the use of gas, but they would cut down on it significantly. In one type of plug-in hybrid, electricity from the grid can provide enough power for an average commute, at a fraction of the cost of gasoline.

Charging a battery in a plug-in hybrid would be around three to four times more energy efficient than going through the intermediate steps required to make hydrogen fuel from water, using a process called electrolysis, according to Ulf Bossel, organizer of the European Fuel Cell Forum, which supports fuel cells for electrical utilities.

There is more...read it at the article.

Also read:

News from 2003: Research, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US, says that diesel and petrol hybrid vehicles will still be the best option at this point, despite the prospect of "aggressive research" on hydrogen fuel. The report undermines the prospects of early success for President George W Bush's recently announced $1.2bn drive to develop commercially viable fuel cell "freedom cars" by 2020.

Hydrogen's Dirty Secret and this quick enumeration of the negatives of fuel cells from Hybrid Car supporters - though there apparently are a few happy customers and many supporters* of fuel-cell technology too. What was that they said about ignorance being bliss?

*
The Bumpy Road to Hydrogen - a paper by Daniel Sperling and Joan Ogden, Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis. Presented at World Hydrogen Energy Conference, Lyon, France, June 15, 2006. The accompanying presentation can also be found online (pdf).

Learn about how Fuel cells work (including an animated video)and here's a riposte to some of the questions you've been hearing and reading about hydrogen and fuel cells.

Nobel Prize

on October 4, 2006 with 0 comments »

Earlier this week, the 2006 Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded to Andrew Fire of Stanford University and Craig Mello at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, for groundbreaking discovery in silencing genes. Called RNA interference, it occurs in plants, animals and people and is important for regulating gene activity and helping defend against viruses. In RNA interference, certain molecules trigger the destruction or inactivation of the messenger RNA from a particular gene, so that no protein is produced. Thus the gene is effectively silenced.

Amazing that the prize has been awarded to researchers just 8-9 years after their discovery!

But it's appropriate, said Bruce Stillman, president of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., because the work ''is recognized now as one of the really revolutionary changes in the way we think about how genes are controlled.''

Apparently, this discovery has spawned a niche biotechnology industry almost immediately after its discovery in 1997. And earlier this week, I also read about a related research study

Scientists stop colon cancer growth in mice by blocking just one enzyme
Texas researchers have discovered what may become a potent new weapon in the fight against colon cancer. In cell culture experiments, scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) and the University of Texas at Arlington determined that stopping the activity of a single enzyme called aldose reductase could shut down the toxic network of biochemical signals that promotes inflammation and colon cancer cell growth.
And today the Nobel Prize for Chemistry is awarded to Roger Kornberg, the son of a Nobel laureate, for describing gene copying in cells, which can give insight into illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. The process of gene copying, known as "genetic transcription" is central to life.
"If transcription stops, genetic information is no longer transferred into the
different parts of the body. Since these are then no longer renewed, the
organism dies within a few days," the Academy said. Disturbances in
transcription contribute to many human illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease
and various kinds of inflammation, it added. Poisonous toadstools kill by
interrupting the process. Understanding transcription is also important for the
development of various therapeutic applications of stem cells, the Academy said.
Kornberg was the first to create pictures showing transcription in action. His
depictions were so detailed that separate atoms could be distinguished.

The God Delusion

on October 3, 2006 with 0 comments » | ,

Should be a very interested read - I've been meaning to read Dawkins' The Selfish Gene (and his later books like A Devil's Chaplain / The Ancestor's Tale / Unweaving the Rainbow) for some time now but have not gotten around to reading it or any of the books by the other eloquent evolutionist (who died prematurely at age 60 couple years back!) - Stephen Jay Gould!


Richard Dawkins, has a new book titled, The God Delusion. In it, according to his Web site, he "eviscerates the major arguments for religion and demonstrates the supreme improbability of a supreme being (and) shows how religion fuels war, forments bigotry, and abuses children, buttressing his points with historical and contemporary evidence." For a taste of Dawkins' evangelical atheism and disbelief in belief, check out this interview with him on the BBC's Newsnight Book Club. Link to YouTube video - via (with some hyperlinks added by me) a post by David Pescovitz at Boing Boing


Interview with Richard Dawkins - The renowned biologist talks about intelligent design, dishonest Christians, and why God is no better than an imaginary friend. You can also read earlier lectures, articles, letters, commentaries, and other interviews with him, where he argues persuasively that 'God is a delusion, religion is a virus, and America has slipped back into the Dark Ages.'

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins explains why God is a delusion, religion is a virus, and America has slipped back into the Dark Ages.

Dawkins marshalls a lifetime's arguments against believing in God Dawkins explains why he finds the resurgence of religion so annoying

Judgement Day - Book Review: Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion gives it to believers with both barrels.

An Excerpt from Chapter 1 of the book and an excerpt from Chapter 7 of the book, titled: The "Good" Book and the changing moral Zeitgeist.

Via BBC - Jeremy Paxman talks to Richard Dawkins, including some really interesting responses from readers & listerners. You can also read some extracts from the book here.

And ofcourse, it has gained its fair share of criticism from religious and conservative forces in society... though calling it a 'incurious and rambling diatribe' against religion is perhaps unfair.

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Related Books to read:
  1. Theology for Skeptics: Reflections on God by Dorothee Soelle
  2. A Devil's Chaplain by Richard Dawkins
  3. The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins
  4. Unweaving the Rainbow by Richard Dawkins
  5. Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life by Daniel C. Dennett
  6. Breaking the Spell by Daniel C. Dennett
  7. The Trial of God by Elie Wiesel
  8. The End of Faith by Sam Harris
  9. Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris
  10. Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. Dennett
  11. The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris
  12. Richard Dawkins: How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think: Reflections by Scientists, Writers, and Philosophers by Alan Grafen
  13. Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design by Michael Shermer
  14. The Paradox of God and the Science of Omniscience by Cliff Pickover
  15. A Sense of the Mysterious: Science and the Human Spirit by Alan Lightman
  16. Nature Via Nurture by Matt Ridley