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New Budget Delays or Cancels Much-Promoted NASA Missions

March 2nd, 2006

By DENNIS OVERBYE
The New York Times

Some of the most highly promoted missions on NASA’s scientific agenda would be postponed indefinitely or perhaps even canceled under the agency’s new budget, despite its administrator’s vow to Congress six months ago that not “one thin dime” would be taken from space science to pay for President Bush’s plan to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars….

Among the casualties in the budget, released last month, are efforts to look for habitable planets and perhaps life elsewhere in the galaxy, an investigation of the dark energy that seems to be ripping the universe apart, bringing a sample of Mars back to Earth and exploring for life under the ice of Jupiter’s moon Europa — as well as numerous smaller programs and individual research projects that astronomers say are the wellsprings of new science and new scientists….

The cuts have alarmed and outraged many scientists, who have long feared that NASA will have to cannibalize its science program to carry out the president’s vision of human spaceflight.

The Case for Impeachment: Why we can no longer afford George W. Bush

February 28th, 2006

Essay By Lewis H. Lapham
Harper’s Magazine

Drawing on evidence furnished over the last four years by a sizable crowd of credible witnesses—government officials both extant and former, journalists, military officers, politicians, diplomats domestic and foreign—the authors of the report find a conspiracy to commit fraud, the administration talking out of all sides of its lying mouth, secretly planning a frivolous and unnecessary war while at the same time pretending in its public statements that nothing was further from the truth….

The Conyers report doesn’t lack for further instances of the administration’s misconduct, all of them noted in the press over the last three years—misuse of government funds, violation of the Geneva Conventions, holding without trial and subjecting to torture individuals arbitrarily designated as “enemy combatants,” etc.—but conspiracy to commit fraud would seem reason enough to warrant the President’s impeachment. Before reading the report, I wouldn’t have expected to find myself thinking that such a course of action was either likely or possible; after reading the report, I don’t know why we would run the risk of not impeaching the man. We have before us in the White House a thief who steals the country’s good name and reputation for his private interest and personal use; a liar who seeks to instill in the American people a state of fear; a televangelist who engages the United States in a never-ending crusade against all the world’s evil, a wastrel who squanders a vast sum of the nation’s wealth on what turns out to be a recruiting drive certain to multiply the host of our enemies. In a word, a criminal—known to be armed and shown to be dangerous. Under the three-strike rule available to the courts in California, judges sentence people to life in jail for having stolen from Wal-Mart a set of golf clubs or a child’s tricycle. Who then calls strikes on President Bush, and how many more does he get before being sent down on waivers to one of the Texas Prison Leagues?

Mutant Chickens Grow Teeth

February 25th, 2006

By Jennifer Viegas
Discovery News

…These bird relatives lost their teeth 70-80 million years ago and subsequently developed beaks, but Harris and his team believe their study results prove that the potential to form teeth still exists in birds, especially during their earliest stages of growth.

… Dinosaurs, flying pterosaurs, crocodiles and birds all are classified within the diverse archosaur group of reptiles.

The mutant chicken teeth, as for crocodile and alligator choppers, are less complex than human and other mammalian teeth, but Harris said “they do a very fine job for their purpose,” which is to rip through fish and animal flesh.

Toyota’s recipe for success

February 22nd, 2006

By Alex Taylor III
FORTUNE senior editor
CNN Money

Toyota alone earned more than all the rest of the world’s 12 largest auto manufacturers combined — $11.4 billion. And it is pioneering a new technology for the 21st century that will shrink gasoline consumption and limit greenhouse gases.

[…]

By early in the next decade, Toyota expects to be selling one million hybrids a year. Since no other automaker can even approach that quantity, Toyota is way out in front — which would seem an unusual place to be for a company that lagged behind its Japanese competitors in opening assembly plants in the U.S. and moving into China.

Ice worms: They’re real, and they’re hot

February 22nd, 2006

By Sandi Doughton
Seattle Times staff reporter

Thriving in conditions that would turn most living things to Popsicles, these inch-long earthworm cousins inhabit glaciers and snowfields in the coastal ranges of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. They move through seemingly solid ice with ease and are at their liveliest near the freezing point of water. Warm them up slightly and they dissolve into goo.

Their life cycle remains a mystery.

[…]

NASA anted up $200,000 last year to explore the worms’ cold tolerance and what it might say about the possibility of life on Jupiter’s icy moons and other planets. That work could also improve cold storage of organs and tissues for transplantation.

As glaciers shrink in the face of global warming, interest is growing in ice worms and other animals whose habitat could melt away within the next 50 years….

Segway creator unveils his next act: Inventor Dean Kamen wants to put entrepreneurs to work bringing water and electricity to the world’s poor.

February 22nd, 2006

By Erick Schonfeld
Business 2.0 Magazine editor-at-large
CNN Money

Compared to building big power and water plants, Kamen’s approach has the virtue of simplicity. He even created an instruction sheet to go with each Slingshot. It contains one step: Just add water, any water. Step two might be: add an entrepreneur.

[…]

Quadir is going to try and see if the machines can be produced economically by a factory in Bangladesh. If the numbers work out, not only does he think that distributing them in a decentralized fashion will be good business — he also thinks it will be good public policy. Instead of putting up a 500-megawatt power plant in a developing country, he argues, it would be much better to place 500,000 one-kilowatt power plants in villages all over the place, because then you would create 500,000 entrepreneurs.

Court allows church’s hallucinogenic tea

February 22nd, 2006

GINA HOLLAND
Associated Press

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that a small congregation in New Mexico may use hallucinogenic tea as part of a four-hour ritual intended to connect with God.

Justices, in their first religious freedom decision under Chief Justice John Roberts, moved decisively to keep the government out of a church’s religious practice. Federal drug agents should have been barred from confiscating the hoasca tea of the Brazil-based church, Roberts wrote in the decision.

Bush and Blair have brilliantly done Bin Laden’s work for him

February 22nd, 2006

Simon Jenkins
The Sunday Times - Comment

…I doubt if there is a world leader who would nominate America as best qualified to handle Iran in its present sensitive state. The war-mongering of the neocon ascendancy — the calls for bombing and the constant listing of targets — seems to mirror the fundamentalist mullahs behind President Ahmadinejad. American policy in the Middle East is so counter-productive as to be the problem, not the solution….

There never was a “terrorist threat” to western civilisation or democracy, only to western lives and property. The threat becomes systemic only when democracy loses its confidence and when its leaders are weak, as now. Terror attacks are for the police. For George Bush and Blair to demand a “long war” against Bin Laden and, by implication, a long suppression of civil liberty is ludicrous. Western civilisation is not some simpering weakling that cowers before a fanatic ’s might, pleading for leaders to protect it by all means, however illegal. It has been proof against Islamic expansionism since the 17th century. It is not at risk….

Democrats doubt Bush can cut US oil imports

February 22nd, 2006

By Tom Doggett and Chris Baltimore
Reuters

Senate Democrats on Tuesday asked the Bush administration to explain how it can slash Middle East oil imports by 75 percent by 2025 when the government’s top energy forecaster predicts that won’t happen….

Consumer groups and environmentalists are tagging Bush’s energy initiative as merely a public-relations blitz meant to change public sentiment without changing policy.

“This is pure window-dressing, so the administration can get some new stories out there without offering any solutions that will offend (the Republican party’s) biggest contributor — the oil industry,” said Tyson Slocum at Public Citizen, the consumer watchdog group.

Democrats may unite on plan to pull troops: See Iraq withdrawal, deployment in region

February 21st, 2006

By Rick Klein, Globe Staff
The Boston Globe

The concept, dubbed ‘’strategic redeployment,” is outlined in a slim, nine-page report coauthored by a former Reagan administration assistant Defense secretary, Lawrence J. Korb, in the fall. It sets a goal of a phased troop withdrawal that would take nearly all US troops out of Iraq by the end of 2007, although many Democrats disagree on whether troop draw-downs should be tied to a timeline.

Howard Dean, Democratic National Committee chairman, has endorsed Korb’s paper and begun mentioning it in meetings with local Democratic groups. In addition, the study’s concepts have been touted by the senator assigned to bring Democrats together on Iraq — Jack Reed of Rhode Island — and the report has been circulated among all senators by Senator Dianne Feinstein, an influential moderate Democrat from California.

…The idea of a phased deployment of troops out of Iraq recognizes that a huge US military presence in the country is straining the armed services as well as feeding the insurgency, Reed said. He added that many military commanders agree that the nation should be moving toward taking American troops out of Iraq, to better equip the military to respond to threats around the world and give the Iraqi government a greater incentive to handle its own security.

…This fall, in elections that Democrats hope will bring them back to power in Congress, more than 50 military veterans are running in congressional races as Democrats.