Friday, February 21, 2014

Keystone XL Pipeline Litigation? - 2

Giving New Meaning To "Protection"
In the first post of this series we discussed the issue of the state of the law with regards to who could use oil from the Keystone XL pipeline (assuming it is approved).

This discussion was in the context of its usage by the U.S. Government.

And more importantly, federal laws forbidding that use.

Remember that the U.S. Government (includes military) is the single largest user of toxic oil that is destroying life, flora, fauna, and even global climate peace on this planet Earth.

The consensus seems to be, as pointed out in the first post of this series, that it would violate federal law for the U.S. Government to use that tar-sands oil.

Considering that breaking the law (even the supreme law of the land written in the U.S. Constitution) has not held the government back from violating the law, that aspect of the subject was not a show stopper.

Enter the state courts of Nebraska:
Because LB 1161 [Nebraska statute] has the effect of either temporarily or permanently divesting the PSC [Public Service Commission] of control over the routing decisions of oil pipelines subject to the act, and because LB 1161 vests such regulatory control over common carriers not in the Legislature but in NDEQ and the Governor, the evidence before this court clearly establishes LB 1161 violates NEB. CONST. art. IV, § 20, and therefore is unconstitutional. Furthermore, the court finds there is no set of circumstances under which such provisions could be constitutional.
(Nebraska Keystone XL Case, PDF; cf. this). Nebraska constitutional law requires that either the legislature or the PSC have authority over oil pipeline common carrier practices, but the statute in question, LB 1161, did not comply with the Nebraska Constitution.

The state says it will appeal Judge Stacy's decision, but it appears to be a sound decision, which leaves the question of standing (right to sue) of the plaintiffs as the weaker part of the case.

In the mean time, this may give President Obama (who denied the first application for a Presidential Permit) to consider the issue over a longer period of time.

I criticized one democrat for an improper analysis of the issue in The Red Green Show of Ed Shultz, so let's hope he also reconsiders (UPDATE: last night on The Ed Show, he reflected on all the evidence and urged President Obama to not approve the pipeline because of the grave danger to the Ogallala Aquifer).

The previous post in this series is here.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

An Old Catastrophe: Climate Policy - 2

Regular readers know that Dredd Blog began a series titled New Climate Catastrophe Policy: Triage in September of 2009, then completed that series with New Climate Catastrophe Policy: Triage - 10 in October of 2012.

In a sense we were saying that the government was behaving as a passive denier of climate change as we demanded "show me your sincerity with sincere steps in the direction of discontinuing the pollution of the atmosphere, the oceans, the drinking water, and the minds of the public."

Adding emphatically that "then and only then will we acknowledge that the government is coming out of its trance."

Rather than choose to do that, they resorted instead to the very old mainstay of government response, replying to its old and ongoing genocidal-ecocidal climate policy critics, with propaganda.

But that is not going to fool us any more.

I started a new series An Old Catastrophe: Climate Policy, in March of 2013, to focus once again on the Oil-Qaeda induced trance of government.

A trance that is paralyzing government into considering the ongoing climate catastrophe as a political issue, rather than a scientific issue, a survival issue, and a security issue for all of civilization.

During the time of virtual denial by the government, giving only some lip service now and then, a lot of people became distraught, those who realize that The Damaged Global Climate System is a reality:
“In the past I was naive enough to think that if we used rational evidence-based argument to engage the wider public and the government with these issues, that it would be possible to effect change. Arguably my misplaced faith in the goodwill and good sense of humanity can now be
White House Police Arrest Climate Scientist
regarded as a foolish notion, justification for a misanthropic viewpoint if ever there was one.”

Instead of talking about “stages of collapse” in the manner of Orlov, he categorised collapse as follows: “we can roughly grade the degrees of collapse according to the spectrum (narrow or broad), the duration (short, medium or long term) and the geographic extent (regional, national or global)”

Collapse will occur to different extents over different time periods in different locations but with the same long term ultimate global result — total collapse of all centralised service provision — everywhere, permanently.
(Nature Bats Last, "Collapse, what is it?"). I have pointed out, over and over again, the very deep roots that pollution has in our oil-war culture.

Roots that are older than our fathers' generation, yes, even reaching way back to our grandfathers' generation (Viva Egypt - 2).

I have pointed out that culturally: Pollution-R-Us, and that the government of US hasn't a sincere clue of the reality yet.

In their stupor it is still a political game, yes, they still think that propagandizing us will solve the problem, like a kid lying to their parents as a solution to kiddo problems.

The killer reality is that Oil-Qaeda has subverted, and still owns, the government (MOMCOM's Mass Suicide & Murder Pact - 5).

Thus, the government / Oil-Qaeda propaganda continues in its deceit of many people:
But the climate flat-earthers are having none of it. As a result, what should be a pressing debate about how to head off global calamity has been reframed in the media as a discussion about whether industrial-driven climate change is in fact taking place at all – as if it were a matter of opinion rather than science.

The impact of this phoney controversy during an economic crisis has been dramatic: in the US, the proportion of the population accepting burning fossil fuels drives climate change dropped from 71% to 44% between 2007 and 2011. In Britain, the numbers who believe the climate isn't changing at all rose from 4% to 19% between 2005 and 2013 (though the floods seem to be correcting that).

The problem is at its worst in the Anglo-Saxon world – which has also historically made the largest contribution to pumping carbon into the atmosphere. Take Australia, which is afflicted by longer and hotter heatwaves, drought and bushfires. Nevertheless, its rightwing prime minister Tony Abbott dismisses any link with climate change, which he described as crap, and has pledged to repeal a carbon tax on the country's 300 biggest polluters. The move was hailed by his political soulmate, the Canadian prime minister and tar sands champion Stephen Harper, as an important message to the world. And in the US, climate change denial now has the Republican party in its grip.

What lies behind the political right's growing refusal to accept the overwhelming scientific consensus? There's certainly a strong tendency, especially in the US, for conservative white men to refuse to accept climate change is caused by human beings. But there shouldn't be any inherent reason why people who believe in social hierarchies, individualism and inequality should care less about the threat of floods, drought, starvation and mass migrations than anyone else. After all, rightwing people have children too.

Part of the answer is in the influence of some of the most powerful corporate interests in the world: the oil, gas and mining companies that have strained every nerve to head off the threat of effective action to halt the growth of carbon emissions, buying legislators, government ministers, scientists and thinktanks in the process. In the US, hundreds of millions of dollars of corporate and billionaires' cash (including from the oil and gas brothers Koch) has been used to rubbish climate change science. That is also happening on a smaller scale elsewhere, including Britain.
(Climate Change Deniers - Guardian). Anywhere there is an Oil-Qaeda affiliate, whether in your town or mine, there is also the propaganda of denial.

Moving us toward more and more, larger and larger catastrophes.

Our national policy concerning civilization's greatest threat is a catastrophe itself, as this series will continue to point out.

The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fighting Terrorism For 200 Years - 5

This series began with a Dredd Blog post that was taking a look at, was focusing on, and was journalistically noticing a certain media story about some frat brats in a Yale Fraternity (@ YaleU).

The catchy part that started it, that had piqued the reporter's curiosity, involved the Grand Nagus who walked among those frat brats with authority.

A supreme Grand Nagus who had hypothesized that it would be a venerable idea for the Skull & Bones Skulk & Boners to ritualistically go all the way (The War Whores Ride The War Horse) to Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Once there, the frats would steal one more good time.

A very good time would be had by all who would go there, because certain locations at or near Fort Sill are a special place for certain groups within the Native American culture.

One location especially, because the bones of Geronimo rest there (Fighting Terrorism For 200 Years).

Geronimo's Bones that were resting in a grave of course, which the young frats dug up and absconded with, then transported to Yale University.

Where they then placed those Bones of Geronimo into common containers.

They then stored them within buildings housing the Skull & Bones fraternity of Yale.

Eventually forcing the descendants of Geronimo to file a lawsuit asking "is it ever too late to get some justice?"

According to the court that litigated the case, the answer so far is "don't ask, we won't tell":
Geronimo's descendants have sued Skull and Bones _ the secret society at Yale University linked to presidents and other powerful figures _ claiming that its members stole the remains of the legendary Apache leader decades ago and have kept them ever since.
And, as far as the secret society is concerned, U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts held that the law under which Skull and Bones was sued, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, only applies to grave robberies that took place after its enactment in 1990.
(Yale Secret Society Skull and Bones Wins Lawsuit, emphasis added). In other words, history is not one of our strong suits.

At least when it comes to making sense of it.

So, eat cake and carry on.

The previous post in this series is here.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Communicating With The Underworld

Microbe photo by Hassan Sakhtah
Regular readers know that the Dredd Blog System has advocated a new way for dealing with the microbial underworld of bacteria and viruses.

That new way is diplomacy via communication, yes, striking up a conversation with them rather than trying in vain to utterly destroy them.

Yes, I know that it would be like the old musical Dr. Dolittle which had a song in it about a person who wanted to be able to "Talk to the Animals."

Regular readers who read Dredd Blog posts also know by now that microbiologists are beginning to learn how to communicate with "the Underworld" where the millions of microbe species thrive:
Living in harmony with the nature around us and in us is a fundamental prerequisite --because if we make critical life forms extinct, we thereby make our species extinct at the same time.

Living in harmony may also require us to do "remedial rehabilitation of the unseen", as the title of today's post suggests.

By that I mean to rehabilitate the microbes that have experienced past mass extinction events that utterly upended their world.

Which may have caused some of them to thereby end up going rogue and to then eventually become ill behaved parasites (Are Microbes The Origin of PTSD?).

Perhaps by learning to communicate with the rogues among them we will thereby be able to talk sense into some of the microbes that have become killers, maimers, or otherwise harmful?
(Microbial Languages: Rehabilitation of the Unseen). Researchers have discovered that some species, which were once parasitic or pathogenic microbes, have changed their behavior to become symbiont once again, to give up the parasitic or pathogenic lifestyle and return to a mutualistic type of behavior:
Like pretty much all multi-cellular organisms, humans enjoy the benefits of helpful bacteria. (As you may have heard, there are more bacteria in the human body than cells.) These mutualistic microbes live within the body of a larger organism, and, like any good long-term house guest, help out their hosts, while making a successful life for themselves. It’s a win-win situation for both parties.

Scientists still don’t understand exactly how these relationships began, however. To find out, a team of researchers from the University of California, Riverside, used protein markers to create a detailed phylogenic tree of life for 405 taxa from the Proteobacteria phylum—a diverse group that includes pathogens such as salmonella as well as both mutualistic and free-living species.

Those analyses revealed that mutualism in Proteobacteria independently evolved between 34 to 39 times, the researchers report in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.  The team was a bit surprised to find that this happened so frequently, inferring that evolution apparently views this lifestyle quite favorably.

Their results also show that mutualism most often arises in species that were originally parasites and pathogens.
(Microbial Languages: Rehabilitation of the Unseen - 2). That is probably going to be considered a bad thing by Big Pharma, which like Big Military, would rather just cut them down with chemical warfare.

Yes, kill, maim, and destroy has been the "medical treatment" of choice for our unaware world of yesteryear ideology, which continues, for the most part, unabated.

But, inventions and techniques are being implemented that promise to give us yet another way to enter into a diplomatic phase with them:
Now, scientists are turning that optics-based imaging approach on its head, instead developing a chip based on integrated circuit technology that lets them not only electrochemically image bacteria, but listen in on them as well.

The chip "is an 'active' glass slide, a slide that not only forms a solid-support for the bacterial colony but also 'listens' to the bacteria as they talk to each other," Columbia University engineering professor and research head Ken Shepard said in a school news release.
(Scientists Listen in on Bacteria). Learning the language of the most abundant life forms on Earth, the oldest life forms on Earth, the life forms in us, on us, and around us no matter where we go, is a new approach for scientists:
In the first post of this series we learned that microbes signal one another, that is, they communicate with each other.

In that post we also covered the issue of signal interpretation, that is, discerning which signals to listen to and how to interpret them.

In this post we will take that a bit further, and discuss the findings of science teams we have not yet considered, to learn that microbes actually communicate via a language all their own.

Their language is composed of molecules as words, molecules which the microbes construct within themselves, then broadcast for other microbes to receive, then interpret and act upon.

The importance of this reality cannot be underestimated.

I say this because one of the types of activity that microbes perform is to shape humans in various degrees, both in physical shape and size, including our brains, as well as to influence and/or control some of our behavior, including activating the most extreme behaviors (see Hypothesis: Microbes Generate Toxins of Power - 6).
(Microbial Hermeneutics - 2). Heretofore we have been acting like an alien species that does not want to protect and preserve the Earth, the only planet we can now exist on (Maybe Human Civilization Is From Mars & Venus?).

We are like the two ants in the cartoon who were observing a golfer trying to hit his ball, but was missing every time and cratering the place up dangerously close to them.

One ant said to the other, "if we are going to survive we had better get on the ball."

CF: The Real Dangers With Microbes & Viruses

Further explanation by Dr. Bassler about why this scientific diplomacy is a good endeavor:

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Uncertain Gene - 9

~14 bn. yrs. of evolution
The Oxford Dictionary tells us that "evolution" means "the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form", and in terms of living things, evolution means "the process by which different kinds of living organisms are thought to have developed and diversified from earlier forms during the history of the earth" (Oxford).

The graphic to the left shows a 14 billion year time line of both types of theoretical evolution, i.e., gradual development of non-living things (abiotic evolution) and the evolutionary process involving living things (biotic evolution).

The two sections of the graphic are designed to fit the two definitions of evolution; the top section in red as abiotic, the bottom section in blue: biotic.

This is in accord with the dictionary which also tells us that "abiotic" means "physical rather than biological; not derived from living organisms, devoid of life; sterile" (Oxford), and that "biotic" means "of, relating to, or resulting from living things" (Oxford).

Thus, abiotic evolution is shown taking place from the Big Bang, circa 14 billion years ago, until circa 3.5 billion years ago when biotic evolution began on Earth.

The sequences of development in the abiotic time line portion are not in actual, detailed sequence (for that, see e.g. Graphical Timeline of the Big Bang), because that detailed precision is not required for the general ideas in today's post.

Notice that in the time line depiction RNA/DNA is shown as a late development in the abiotic time line, and that viruses cross over from abiotic into biotic.

More about that follows.

Note that RNA/DNA are abiotic molecules rather than being live biotic entities, as has been discussed earlier in this Dredd Blog series:
We are involved in a project to incorporate innovative assessments within a reform-based large-lecture biochemistry course for nonmajors. We not only assessed misconceptions but purposefully changed instruction throughout the semester to confront student ideas. Our research questions targeted student conceptions of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) along with understanding in what ways classroom discussions/activities influence student conceptions. Data sources included pre-/post-assessments, semi-structured interviews, and student work on exams/assessments. We found that students held misconceptions about the chemical nature of DNA, with 63 % of students claiming that DNA is alive prior to instruction. The chemical nature of DNA is an important fundamental concept in science fields. We confronted this misconception throughout the semester collecting data from several instructional interventions. Case studies of individual students revealed how various instructional strategies/assessments allowed students to construct and demonstrate the scientifically accepted understanding of the chemical nature of DNA. However, the post-assessment exposed that 40 % of students still held misconceptions about DNA, indicating the persistent nature of this misconception. Implications for teaching and learning are discussed.
(The Uncertain Gene - 8, see also this and this). Additionally, the viruses have given scientists classification problems at times:
For about 100 years, the scientific community has repeatedly changed its collective mind over what viruses are. First seen as poisons, then as life-forms, then biological chemicals, viruses today are thought of as being in a gray area between living and nonliving: they cannot replicate on their own but can do so in truly living cells and can also affect the behavior of their hosts profoundly. The categorization of viruses as nonliving during much of the modern era of biological science has had an unintended consequence: it has led most researchers to ignore viruses in the study of evolution. Finally, however, scientists are beginning to appreciate viruses as fundamental players in the history of life.
(Scientific American). More recent research indicates that those virus entities do fit on the border line between abiotic and biotic, or perhaps fit in both:
If viruses were already present in the biosphere when LUCA [the Last Universal Common Ancestor, or the Last Universal Cellular Ancestor] was living, one would expect to find some common features between viruses that now infect members of different domains. This is precisely the case.
The idea that viruses are very ancient and have co-evolved with the three cellular lineages from the time of LUCA and even before has recently led to several hypotheses posing that viruses have played a major role in several critical evolutionary transitions. For instance, it has been suggested that DNA and DNA replication machineries first originated in the viral world (Forterre 1999; Villarreal and DeFilippis 2000; Forterre 2002), that virus-induced transition of cells with RNA genomes into cells with DNA genomes triggered the emergence of the three cellular domains (Forterre 2006), that the nucleus of eukaryotic cells originated from a large DNA virus (Takemura 2001; Bell 2001), or even that the selection pressure to prevent the entry of virions promoted the evolution of cell walls (Jalasvuori and Bamford 2008). All these hypotheses are not easily testable, but recent findings make them reasonable.
(Defining Life: The Virus Viewpoint). What the new research is getting at is that the abiotic molecular machine realm existed prior to the biotic / biological realm, and in some sense the viral realm is seen as a fusion of, or cross-over, from one realm, abiotic, into the other realm, biotic:
The existence of several genes that are central to virus replication and structure, are shared by a broad variety of viruses but are missing from cellular genomes (virus hallmark genes) suggests the model of an ancient virus world, a flow of virus-specific genes that went uninterrupted from the precellular stage of life's evolution to this day. This concept is tightly linked to two key conjectures on evolution of cells: existence of a complex, precellular, compartmentalized but extensively mixing and recombining pool of genes, and origin of the eukaryotic cell by archaeo-bacterial fusion. The virus world concept and these models of major transitions in the evolution of cells provide complementary pieces of an emerging coherent picture of life's history.
(Koonin 2005, emphasis added). So, consider molecular machines such as a primitive virus, that is, consider a collection of molecular machines of various sorts.

Consider further that molecular machines are not fanciful:
An industrial revolution on a minute scale is taking place in laboratories at The University of Manchester with the development of a highly complex machine that mimics how molecules are made in nature.

The artificial molecular machine developed by Professor David Leigh FRS and his team in the School of Chemistry is the most advanced molecular machine of its type in the world. Its development has been published in the journal Science.

Professor Leigh explains: "The development of this machine which uses molecules to make molecules in a synthetic process is similar to the robotic assembly line in car plants. Such machines could ultimately lead to the process of making molecules becoming much more efficient and cost effective. This will benefit all sorts of manufacturing areas as many human made products begin at a molecular level. For example, we're currently modifying our machine to make drugs such as penicillin."

The machine is just a few nanometres long (a few millionths of a millimetre) and can only be seen using special instruments. Its creation was inspired by natural complex molecular factories where information from DNA is used to programme the linking of molecular building blocks in the correct order. The most extraordinary of these factories is the ribosome, a massive molecular machine found in all living cells.
(Science Daily, emphasis added). These ideas are part of a new paradigm shift in science:
A new paradigm exists for understanding how cells function. Scientists are recognizing that the cell is a highly integrated biological factory with a modular architecture. Each modular unit acts as a molecular machine. These machines have highly specialized functions and are large assemblies of proteins and nucleic acids. They range in size from about 10 - 150 nanometers (10-9 m) and provide environments in which chemical species can interact in a highly specific fashion. Molecular machines also function as mechano-chemical energy transducers, converting chemical free energy into mechanical energy for cellular processes. They operate cyclically, and can reset themselves.

With the genetic information gained from the U.S. Human Genome Project and DOE's Microbial Genome Program, scientists now have the raw information with which to observe, manipulate, characterize and, ultimately, replicate these large protein assemblies. Using conventional and newly developed microscopy techniques, PBD researchers, through an initiative called Microscopies of Molecular Machines (M3), are creating a toolkit for probing the inner workings of these molecular machines.
(Molecular Machines, A New Paradigm). The virus realm may be the bridge from the molecular machine realm into the biological realm, the bridge from the abiotic evolutionary realm into the biotic evolutionary realm.

Regular readers know that Dredd Blog has considered these issues for several years now (The New Paradigm: The Physical Universe Is Mostly Machine).

It is "The Abiology Rebellion" of "microabiology" (consider macroabiology too).

The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.