Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for April 7th, 2010

Update on Molly, McGee, and the kids

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They’re doing fine (you may have to wait out a short commercial first)—and the oldest owlet (Max) is ENORMOUS.

And, man!, do they go through the rodents, up to and including rabbits.

So I wondered: Does Australia have any large owls? If not, should they be introduced?

UPDATE: Australia does indeed have owls, including barn owls (Molly and McGee are barn owls; so are their babies). But apparently not enough owls to keep up with the rabbit population.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 April 2010 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Daily life, Environment

The Child Nutrition Act

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Marion Nestle comments at some length, including a couple of book recommendations on the school lunch program.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 April 2010 at 1:52 pm

Our universe at home within a larger universe?

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Could our universe be located within the interior of a wormhole which itself is part of a black hole that lies within a much larger universe? Such a scenario in which the universe is born from inside a wormhole (also called an Einstein-Rosen Bridge) is suggested in a paper from Indiana University theoretical physicist Nikodem Poplawski in Physics Letters B. The final version of the paper was available online March 29 and will be published in the print edition April 12.

Poplawski takes advantage of the Euclidean-based coordinate system called isotropic coordinates to describe the gravitational field of a black hole and to model the radial geodesic motion of a massive particle into a black hole.

In studying the radial motion through the event horizon (a black hole’s boundary) of two different types of black holes — Schwarzschild and Einstein-Rosen, both of which are mathematically legitimate solutions of general relativity — Poplawski admits that only experiment or observation can reveal the motion of a particle falling into an actual black hole. But he also notes that since observers can only see the outside of the black hole, the interior cannot be observed unless an observer enters or resides within.

"This condition would be satisfied if our universe were the interior of a black hole existing in a bigger universe," he said. "Because Einstein’s general theory of relativity does not choose a time orientation, if a black hole can form from the gravitational collapse of matter through an event horizon in the future then the reverse process is also possible. Such a process would describe an exploding white hole: matter emerging from an event horizon in the past, like the expanding universe."

A white hole is connected to a black hole by an Einstein-Rosen bridge (wormhole) and is hypothetically the time reversal of a black hole. Poplawski’s paper suggests that all astrophysical black holes, not just Schwarzschild and Einstein-Rosen black holes, may have Einstein-Rosen bridges, each with a new universe inside that formed simultaneously with the black hole.

"From that it follows that our universe could have itself formed from inside a black hole existing inside another universe," he said.

By continuing to study the gravitational collapse of a sphere of dust in isotropic coordinates, and by applying the current research to other types of black holes, views where the universe is born from the interior of an Einstein-Rosen black hole could avoid problems seen by scientists with the Big Bang theory and the black hole information loss problem which claims all information about matter is lost as it goes over the event horizon (in turn defying the laws of quantum physics).

This model in isotropic coordinates of the universe as a black hole could explain the origin of cosmic inflation, Poplawski theorizes.

Poplawski is a research associate in the IU Department of Physics. He holds an M.S. and a Ph.D. in physics from Indiana University and a M.S. in astronomy from the University of Warsaw, Poland.

Source: Indiana University

Written by LeisureGuy

7 April 2010 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Science

The US needs more unions

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The government cannot carefully watch every company for illegal actions—that’s another reason unions are valuable. Watch this:

Written by LeisureGuy

7 April 2010 at 1:34 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

James Fallows on the Wikileaks video

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James Fallows has three good posts:

Further on the Wikileaks Iraq Footage

Two Reader Responses on the Wikileaks Footage

More on WikiLeaks and the Baghdad Footage

I highly recommend that you read ’em all.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 April 2010 at 1:29 pm

More on the assassination of American citizens on the President’s say-so

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First, Spencer Ackerman discusses the national-security case against assassinating Anwar al-Awlaki:

For a moment, leave aside the legal questions about the Obama administration’s apparent decision that it possesses the legal authority to order the extra-judicial killing of American citizen and possible al-Qaeda affiliate Anwar al-Awlaki. Karen Greenberg, director of New York University’s Center on Law and Security and the person who convinced me the government can’t just revoke al-Awlaki’s citizenship, views a potential assassination of the Yemen-based cleric as a looming national security blunder.

“Why kill someone who’s crucially important to linking that world and our world?” Greenberg said. “From the point of view of national security, having him in custody is far more important than killing him. He is an enemy that knows an incredible amount. Wouldn’t you like to know who in the U.S. has been in conversation with him?”

There’s an additional irony, as Marcy Wheeler pointed out this morning. (Full disclosure: Marcy and I are both part of the Firedoglake blog-mafia.) Chances are whatever determination that al-Awlaki has crossed the line from inciting terrorist plots to participating in them — as an anonymous administration official cited to Greg Miller – came from the interrogation of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Which occurred with the full protections of Miranda rights under the U.S. criminal justice system. Abdulmutallab, of course, isn’t a citizen and al-Awlaki is.

On the other hand, maybe we shouldn’t even credit the recent determination that al-Awlaki has “recently become an operational figure for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” as the official told Miller. After all, the U.S. tried to kill him with a drone-launched missile strike in December.

For Greenberg, even before the legal and constitutional questions about the permissibility of killing al-Awlaki arise, the strategic wisdom of it escapes her. “This is not a human rights issue, primarily, for me,” she said. “What do we get out of killing him?”

To be on the safe side, this morning, The Washington Independent filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the Justice Department and the CIA for any documentation determining the legal basis for an extra-judicial killing of any American citizen on counterterrorism grounds. This is after repeated messages left with DOJ, White House and CIA spokespeople to uncover that assertion. All I got was a quote from CIA spokesman George Little that “this agency conducts its counterterrorism operations in strict accord with the law.” I was unable to persuade George to elaborate on the basis for his confidence that, in this case, it’s doing that.


Also worth reading is this Spencer Ackerman story, which begins:

In an interview with Adam Serwer of The American Prospect, Ken Gude of the Center for American Progress says that the September 14, 2001 congressional Authorization to Use Military Force in response to 9/11 provides the Obama administration with the legal authority to launch the extra-judicial killing of an American citizen:

“There is much debate about how broadly both the Bush and Obama administrations have interpreted [the Authorization to Use Military Force], a concern that I share, but this instance is not one of those cases,” Gude says. “It cannot plausibly be argued that Awlaki, who is mentioned repeatedly in the 9/11 Commission report as having assisted the 9/11 hijackers, is not a person who aided the 9/11 attacks.”

But the evidence the 9/11 Commission report presents about Awlaki is far more fragmentary than Gude suggests. Awlaki’s possible role in the attacks is discussed in chapter 7 of the report, “The Attack Looms.” Basically, when hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar arrived in San Diego in mid-2000, they attended a mosque the American citizen Awlaki ministered at. This is what the commission says on page 221 of the first-edition text: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 April 2010 at 1:26 pm

More on the Wikileaks video from ProPublica

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Marian Wang, at ProPublica:

On Monday, WikiLeaks made a big splash when it released a still-classified military video from 2007 that shows a U.S. helicopter gunship shooting down a group of men in a suburb of Baghdad.

Reactions to the video range widely: Some believe it betrays a possible war crime; others find it completely justifiable. Interestingly enough, many commentators fail to mention that, in recent weeks, the military itself has made some serious admissions about shooting civilians.

During a videoconference to answer soldiers’ questions in March, military officials said that U.S and allied forces had killed 30 Afghans and wounded 80 others during shooting incidents at Afghan checkpoints and during convoy runs, the New York Times reported in a little noticed story. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said that military inquiries into the incidents revealed that none of civilians had turned out to be threats.

“We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat,” McChrystal said during the videoconference, the Times reported.

Earlier this week the U.S. military did an about-face and admitted that American forces killed three Afghan women during a nighttime raid in February. The military had previously denied involvement in their deaths.

Same Video, Different Interpretations

The aerial footage of the attack begins with several men walking down a street in Baghdad. The audio of transmissions between the helicopter pilots and gunners indicate that they believe some of the men in the group are armed, but it’s unclear from the video whether they are. The military personnel request permission to engage, and it is granted. They fire on the men, most of whom are struck down immediately.

One in the group is wounded and proceeds to slowly crawl away. An unmarked rescue van pulls up, and two men get out of the vehicle to help the wounded man and transport him elsewhere, but the personnel in the helicopter request permission to shoot the van, and when it is granted, they fire on it. Later, ground reconnaissance reveals that two Iraqi children are in the van and are wounded. Both the man who had been crawling and another man who was killed in the first round of fire were later identified as journalists working for Reuters.

In black-and-white and shot from a helicopter, the 17-minute, edited and subtitled WikiLeaks video leaves a great deal open to interpretation. On Tuesday WikiLeaks posted the original video on its Collateral Murder Web site—38 minutes of unedited footage from the helicopter gun-camera. While the unedited version may allay criticisms of selective editing, what it doesn’t provide is context on the larger climate of Baghdad that day.

David Finkel, a Washington Post staff writer, was with the same battalion of soldiers in Iraq that day in July 2007, doing reporting for his book, “The Good Soldiers.” In a discussion earlier this afternoon, he said that the attack occurred “in the midst of a large operation to clear an area where U.S. soldiers had been getting shot at, injured and killed with increasing frequency. What the Reuters guys walked into was the very worst part, where the morning had been a series of RPG attacks and running gun battles.”

At the time, the military issued this press release, announcing a “firefight” in New Baghdad, in which nine insurgents were killed, one was wounded, and two civilians—the journalists—were killed. Both the video and reporting by Reuters shows that no fighting was occurring on the street the men were walking on, though “there had been reports of clashes between U.S. forces and gunmen.”

Eugene Fidell, a professor of military law at Yale Law School, told me he was “disturbed” by the video when he saw it. “They didn’t have much to go on,” he said. “Who would they not have fired at? It looks like it was declared a free fire zone.” …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 April 2010 at 1:15 pm

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