Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bigot starts ground zero church: Where's the outrage

Aug 30, 2010
Bigot starts ground zero church: Where's the outrage?
A pastor who hates Muslims, Mormons and gays will start preaching Sunday. Will mosque opponents speak out?
By Justin Elliott

A bigoted pastor who has assailed gays and Muslims is launching the "9-11 Christian Center at Ground Zero" a mere two blocks from the World Trade Center site this Sunday, but so far the project hasn't drawn a peep of protest from those who are outraged by the "ground zero mosque."

Pastor Bill Keller of Florida said today he will begin preaching Sunday at the Marriott at 85 West Street (see proximity to ground zero here). A weekly service is planned at the hotel until the $8 million 9/11 Christian Center finds a permanent space. (Fundraising is going well, Keller told Salon today.)

To get a sense of where Keller is coming from, consider his project's website, which calls Islam a religion of "hate and death" whose adherents will go to hell. It also says: "Islam is a wonderful religion... for PEDOPHILES!"

Keller is the same pastor who hosted a birther infomercial that encouraged viewers to send him and a partner donations to advance the birther cause. His Internet ministry explicitly calls President Obama the new Hitler. He calls homosexuality a perversion. And in 2008, he targeted presidential contender Mitt Romney for being Mormon with a campaign called "voting for Satan."...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Christians must reject "Burn a Quran Day"

Christians must reject "Burn a Quran Day"
By Jennifer S. Bryson
Washington Post
August 2010

"Burn a Quran Day" is how a church in Florida is preparing to mark the ninth anniversary of 9/11. So far the Christian response to this in America has been nearly dead silence.

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) has issued a press release opposing Burn a Quran Day. This is good, but it is basically just a statement to assure non-Evangelical Christians that Terry Jones does not represent authentic Evangelical Christianity.

More direct are efforts by John Rankin, an Evangelical and President of the Theological Education Institute, to reach out Pastor Terry Jones in person. In addition, Rankin has initiated the "Yes to the Bible, No to the Burning of the Qur'an" collective affirmation. So far, however, John Rankin seems to be a voice in the wilderness on this.

Since 9/11 many American Christians have been asking why Muslims who oppose Islamist radicalism don't do more to counter it. Today I suspect more than a few Muslims are looking at Christians in America wondering why Christians don't try to dissuade the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida, led by Pastor Terry Jones, from hosting Burn a Quran Day.

What is the responsibility of religious believers in a given faith to engage fanatics advocating ideologies of hate while claiming to act in the name of this faith?

Quran burning does not equate with murdering thousands in terrorism. However, these are similar in being ideological expressions of hatred which identify themselves with Abrahamic faiths better known for their emphasis on God's mercy toward all humans.

Both are independent movements evoking the name of far larger, broader religions. The Dove World Outreach Center is an independent church. Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda is an independent movement. Just as millions of Christians peacefully attend churches with no affiliation with the Dove World Outreach Center, millions of peaceful Muslims have no affiliation with al-Qaeda and associated movements.

Among Muslims there are emerging efforts beyond press releases to engage Islamist fanatics and Muslims, especially young Muslims, at risk of radicalization. Examples include the Quilliam Foundation, a Muslim counter-radicalization think-tank in the U.K., and the video Believers Beware: Injustice Cannot Defeat Injustice, released this summer by the Muslim Public Affairs Council based in Washington, DC, featuring Muslim leaders speaking Muslim-to-Muslim against religious fanaticism.

This video is not a press release to assure non-Muslims that al-Qaeda does not represent authentic Islam. Rather, the video targets fellow Muslims.

The target audiences for countering Burn a Quran Day and Islamist fanaticism need to be, precisely, co-religionists, and in particular the enthusiasts of hatred and violence.

We need to reach inside our faiths across the lines of specific religious movements and denominations to engage those who promote and even act on hatred in the name of faith.

In the Believers Beware video, Imam Zaid Shakir of the Zaytuna Institute in California observes, with a passion emphasized in his repetition, that as for the "advocates of extremism...advocates of indiscriminate violence...advocates of killing civilians, where are they successful? Where are they successful? You just see one mess after another, one mess after another. And it is time for us to start cleaning up those messes..."

There is a mess brewing inside Christendom. Some American Christians might be thinking, "Terry Jones and his church - ahem, his "church" - have nothing to do with me because I am Catholic/Methodist/fill-in-the-blank." And yet the only thing a flood victim in Pakistan, likely Muslim, is probably going to hear about this story is, 'American Christians put their energy and resources into Quran burning, not into helping us in our hour of dire need.'

Moreover, if American Christians don't try to reach out to Terry Jones, then who will? Press releases will not be enough...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Message to anyone who will listen: You're a victim. Be very afraid.

The right-wing, blinded by its own hysteria
By Eugene Robinson
Washington Post
August 24, 2010

When did the loudmouths of the American right become such a bunch of fraidy-cats and professional victims? Or is it all just an act?

The hysteria over plans for an innocuous Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan -- two blocks from Ground Zero, amid an urban hodgepodge of office buildings, eateries and strip clubs -- is wildly out of proportion. It would be laughable if it didn't threaten to do great harm to the global campaign against Islamic terrorism.

It is by now firmly established that the project, dubbed Park51, is promoted by a peacenik Muslim cleric whose sermons often sound a bit like the musings of new-age guru Deepak Chopra. It is also undisputed fact that the imam in question, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is such a moderate that the U.S. government regularly sends him as an emissary to Muslim countries to preach peace, coexistence and dialogue.

Yet right-wing commentators and politicians have twisted themselves in knots to portray the Park51 project as a grievous assault -- and "the American people" as victims. Victims of what? Rauf's sinister plot to despoil the city with a fitness center, a swimming pool and -- shudder -- a space for the performing arts?

The whole "controversy" is ridiculous. Yet conservatives who should know better are doing their best to exploit widespread ignorance about Islam by transforming it into fear and anger. They imply, but don't come right out and say, that it was Islam itself that attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, rather than an extremist fringe that espouses what the vast majority of the world's Muslims consider a perversion of the faith. They paint Park51 as a "victory dance" over the hallowed ground where thousands of Americans died -- never mind that there wouldn't even be a sight line between the building and Ground Zero -- and suggest that the project, even though it would be run by an imam who's practically a flower child, could somehow serve as a recruiting center for terrorists.

Message to anyone who will listen: You're a victim. Be very afraid.

In the process, this anti-mosque pitchfork brigade is surely recruiting terrorists left and right. As Ahmad Moussalli, a professor at the American University of Beirut, told the Los Angeles Times: "Rejecting this has become like rejecting Islam itself." All the Islamophobic rhetoric tends to reinforce the jihadists' main argument, which is that the United States and the West seek to destroy the faith held dear by more than 1 billion souls.

The thing is, though, that the manufactured brouhaha over the Park51 project is part of a larger pattern in which the far right embraces victimhood and stokes fear. The faction that likes to portray itself as a bunch of John Waynes and "mama grizzlies," it turns out, spends an awful lot of time cowering in the corner and complaining about how beastly everyone else is being...

Monday, August 23, 2010

After Complaints about Abuse of Apes, Dodge Removes Ape From Ad

Dodge Removes Ape From Ad After Controversy
PETA Complains Over Great Ape In Sale Ad
Aug 23, 2010

..."Most top ad agencies in the country won't even consider producing an ad featuring a great ape these days given the well-documented abuse that young chimpanzees and orangutans suffer in the entertainment industry. This abuse starts when they are prematurely removed from their mothers and continues when they are trained to perform through savage beatings, denied even the most basic necessities, transported and housed in barren steel cages, and then discarded at seedy roadside zoos around the age of 8, even though they can live into their 60s. You won't find a great-ape trainer without a history of Animal Welfare Act violations and a reputation for dumping animals when they're no longer profitable. After watching a video narrated by Anjelica Huston about the use of great apes in entertainment, savvy ad agencies such as BBDO, Young & Rubicam, Grey Group, Draftfcb, and Saatchi & Saatchi made the compassionate decision not to exploit great apes in future ads. Dodge isn't going to dodge a bullet on this one. It needs to pull the ad - and we've contacted the company asking it to do just that."

So, Dodge, in its righteous glory, edited the ape out of the ad. No, they didn't change the ad and remove the part of the ad featuring the chimp as one might expect, instead, they made the chimp invisible. For those of you that have been put through the pain of watching that ad over and over again, you may not have even noticed because you have started to tune it out. But take a look here and see the invisible ape at work.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Americans can worship freely except near Ground Zero, say Rabbi Klein and Jihad Turk

Clergy Support Protested Mosque; Scientists Find Oil Plume in Gulf of Mexico
Aired August 20, 2010

...It's an article in faith in this country that Americans can worship freely or not according to our beliefs or lack of belief, and we can voice our opinion about religion or politics or anything else. These fundamental, monumental freedoms come from the very same sentence in the Bill of Rights, and thus comes the passionate and sometimes painful exercise that's come to be known as the Ground Zero mosque debate.

If you haven't been keeping up, it centers on plans to build a $100 million Islamic community center two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. Opponents have argued that it dishonors the memory of 9/11 victims, and many take issue with Islam itself, the religion.

That view is not confined to Manhattan. In a southern California town of Temecula, protesters confronted Muslim worshippers over plans to build a mosque next to a church. One of the protestors' signs read "Muslims danced with joy on 9/11." A broad array of Southern California religious leaders don't want that to be the final word. Last hour, they gathered in Los Angeles in defense of religious liberty in general, and in defense of the Ground Zero mosque in particular.

I'm joined now by two of those interfaith leaders, Rabbi Jonathan Klein f the group called Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, and Jihad Turk, director of religious affairs at the Islamic Center of Southern California.

Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining me.

Rabbi Klein, let me start with you. What caused you and the others to get together to -- to take a position on this? Because it seems every time someone has taken a position in defense of allowing this mosque to be built there, they become targets from all around them.

RABBI JONATHAN KLEIN, CLERGY AND LAITY UNITED FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE: Well, there's no question, but that this is a moment when we need the interfaith community or really the multifaith community to come together.

We have as Jews, my community, has benefited from having a community welcome for us. Over the years, we've had our hard times. But Americans have prospered in our society. There's no reason that Muslims should have any less of a fair treatment in our society. It's very frustrating.

VELSHI: Jihad Turk, we have had this discussion daily on this channel, on other channels and newspapers, and there is a growing feeling that Muslims in America are becoming more militant, or we're finding more militant people amongst Muslims of America, in some cases, American-born. What's the effect on your congregation, and the responses you've been getting from people as this discussion has been going on?

JIHAD TURK, DIRECTOR OF RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS, ISLAMIC CENTER OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Well, first let me say, Ali, that the Islamic community in the United States is really on the front lines of trying to protect our country from extremist rhetoric and extremist individuals who want to do harm to our country.

We work closely with law enforcement at the local level, at the federal level, to ensure that mosques across the country are insulated and protected from extremist rhetoric, and also can identify individuals who would want to do this country harm. So American Muslims are really the greatest ally, locally and internationally, on this war on terror. So let me just say that first.

With regards to this particular issue, you know, still I think the case is most Americans, according to a recent Pew study, don't know anything about Islam or very little. I think it was something like 60 some percent know little or nothing about Islam. And it's not surprising that a similar number have a negative impression now of Islam, given the ratcheted up rhetoric concerning the Ground Zero mosque. And the conflation -- the unfortunate conflation between Islam and terrorists. Muslims have extremists in -- we have extremists in our ranks, and we want to try and root them out, just as other religions...

VELSHI: Why is that...

TURK: Others also have extremists, where they're talking about abortion and doctor killers, et cetera.

VELSHI: Why is that not obvious? Why is it that polling shows otherwise?

TURK: Well, you know, I have to say that Muslims are kind of the new kids on the block. I mean, I'm an American Muslim. I was born and raised here. My mom is American Christian. My dad is an Arab immigrant from Jerusalem. And I just think most people don't know a Muslim personally. Muslims are relatively recent on the stage in terms of immigration and establishing themselves as, you know -- ourselves as a community here.

But I would say that what we have in our favor is that American Muslims are very integrated in society. If, you know -- if you poll the people, the American people about Islam, their impression or their information about Islam isn't from directly from Muslims or interaction with the Muslim community. It's from the news media. And so there's not really anything to counter that negative impression.

So I can't blame the average American for having a negative impression about Islam. Growing up within the tradition, the American tradition, as well as the Muslim tradition, there's no conflict there. And in fact, I feel empowered as an American Muslim to really, you know, try and take an educational role and try to take this as a teaching moment.

VELSHI: Guys, I apologize. We have a bit of a delay in our signal, which is why it sounds like we're talking over each other a little bit, and I apologize for that.

Rabbi Jonathan Klein, I want to ask you. Jews have gone through this. I talked to Bobby Gauche (ph) yesterday, who wrote the article, the cover story on "TIME" magazine, is America Islamophobic?

And this is a story the Jews have gone through for different reasons by different associations. But he said that, if we had listened to the polls, Jews still wouldn't have proper rights, blacks wouldn't be able to vote, women wouldn't have the vote in this country. Sometimes you just need leadership to get ahead of this.

But as somebody from the Jewish community befriending the Muslim community, what advice can you give in the face of a society that seems to be increasing its phobia, its fears and its prejudices against Muslims?

KLEIN: Yes. Well, it's -- really, it's amazing to watch where the Muslim community is today and compare it to where the Jewish community was 75 years ago or so. It is an uphill struggle to be given the -- the support of our tradition as Americans to support life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all, and equal and -- equality and justice. All these values that are at the core of our tradition as Americans are sometimes pushed in different communities in different ways. And the end result is that some people are left out.

And so it's really important, I think, for the Muslim community to continue to do what it has done, which is to build bridges. Jihad is a personal friend of mine. Jihad is a personal friend of a number of the rabbis in this city, and I am close to the Muslim community in my own way. It's about building bridges so that we can move past this paradigm of hatred, which tends to move the scapegoating tendencies of human beings toward the most egregious examples of hatred.

We have a tendency in America sometimes to scapegoat those for our problems that we feel are either easy targets or in the margins of our society. We have the same issue with immigrants in general.

I think that the struggle of the Muslim community is, in part, because there is a tendency for people to just want to treat the other as other, and to not love those that they don't understand.

So I think that it's important for those bridges to continue to build, which Jihad just mentioned about the deep relationship between Muslims and other parts of our society, that they are not insular entirely, as I think a good thing, for forging a path forward. It's about those bonds in American society.

VELSHI: I want to put this comment to you that Franklin Graham made on "JK USA" the other night. I'm going to -- I'm going to read you this and then I need to just take a quick break, and I'm going to ask you for your commentary on the other side.

Franklin Graham said on John King's show, quote, "The teaching of Islam is to hate Jews." You know what, I think we -- can we just play it? Let's play it.


FRANKLIN GRAHAM, SAMARITAN'S PURSE: The teaching of Islam is to hate the Jew, to hate the Christian, to kill them. Their goal is world domination. And for the Muslim, peace means when all the other nations are subject to Islam. Then we are at peace. The world will be at peace when the entire world is under Islam. Well, I don't agree with the teachings of Islam.


VELSHI: I want to get your comment from that -- about that after a break. Let's just think about that all for a second, because it is definitely the kind of language that I see on my Facebook page, definitely the belief that some Americans have about Islam. So I want to address that to both of you.

Let's take a quick break. We'll continue this conversation about faiths coming together to try and make sense of this dispute that's going on. We'll be right back.


VELSHI: So much noise in this conversation about this mosque at Ground Zero it's hard to get down to brass tacks. So I'm putting it to two gentlemen, Rabbi Jonathan Klein of the group Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice in Los Angeles. Standing next to him on his left, Jihad Turk. He's the religious director of the Islamic Center of Southern California, also in Los Angeles.

Gentlemen, just before the break, I read you something that sounded very inflammatory from Franklin Graham, or you heard Franklin Graham's comments from when he was on John King's show the other day. It starts by saying the teaching of Islam is to hate the Jew.

Rabbi, you probably heard that. You probably heard it from Jews. You probably heard it from Christians. Tell me what you think of that.

KLEIN: I think that what's happened, if you look at the history of Jews and Islam, in fact, Jews have fared quite well in the context of Muslim society. And so what's happened is, in the last past century in particular, since the creation of the state of Israel and even a little before that, you see an increase in tensions between the communities.

But that's to really distort the record of the relationship. It is completely wrong to say that Islam is out to destroy Jews or Christians or anyone. People are trying to live with their values on -- in their lives, and live fairly and faithfully to their traditions in an American context.

We're blessed with a beautiful system that allows people to live with the freedom of religion. This is not about Islam being evil. And I can't believe that -- I mean, if we look at any religious tradition, you can find all sorts of perspectives that are contrary to the world view that Jihad and I bring to the table, one which is about love and about community-building.

VELSHI: Jihad, isn't there...

TURK: And if I could add, Ali, that...

VELSHI: Go ahead.

TURK: No, go ahead. I was just going to add that, you know, I would suggest it's not just the view that I hold here at the -- you know, West Coast of the United States, the idea that Jews and Christians and people of other faith are free to practice their own religion.

In fact, the Koran describes Christians and Jews as people of the book, i.e. people of the faith. And the Koran describes Jews as the chosen people. So Muslims respect and honor and give dignity to people of various faiths. And it's -- and it's our goal to really try and counter the extremist rhetoric that you'll hear out of parts of the Muslim world with the perspective that most -- most American Muslims and Muslims internationally hold about pluralism and tolerance of other faith traditions.

VELSHI: Well, I think we both -- we've gone some distance at countering extremist rhetoric and giving a real story by having this discussion with the two of you today. I appreciate the work that you're doing in trying to foster a better understanding of what this issue is. Rabbi Jonathan Klein, Jihad Turk.

And by the way, these two gentlemen are representative of a larger group of people who have come together to try and get this dialogue back on track...

Sessions and Hatch say Thurgood Marshall was right, RNC was wrong

Sessions, Hatch Distance Themselves From RNC Attack On Kagan
The Huffington Post

Two high-ranking Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have sought to distance themselves from the RNC in the wake of yesterday's bizarre decision on the part of the committee to attack Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan for supporting former SCOTUS Justice Thurgood Marshall's view that the U.S. Constitution was "defective" for not according proper rights to women and blacks.

This is understandable, seeing as how that particular line from the RNC was surely one of the worst attempts to score political points ever undertaken by ostensible grown-ups in the history of America.

Via The Hill, here's Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.):

"I would say that the original Constitution was a document that needed amending, and after the Civil War it was amended and removed those offending parts," he told reporters.

And while Senator Orrin Hatch professed to not liking it when anyone "downgrade[s] the Constitution, he nevertheless allowed that the whole "three-fifths" compromise, while necessary to getting the Constitution passed, "wasn't right."

It's a pretty lonely place right now, to be criticizing Thurgood Marshall for making one of the most obvious points in the universe...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Google, Verizon net pact has 'many problems' says FCC commish

Google, Verizon net pact has 'many problems' says FCC commish
Interests of consumers versus giant corporations
The Register
By Rik Myslewski
10th August 2010

If Google and Verizon thought that their "free except when it isn't" internet plan would have smooth sailing through the US Federal Communications Commission, a response by one FCC commissioner should snap them back to reality.

"Some will claim this announcement moves the discussion forward," said Michael Copps in a statement (PDF) referencing the Google/Verizon proposal. "That's one of its many problems."

Copps didn't detail the "many problems," but the remainer of his statement made it clear that he's firmly on the side of FCC chairman Julius Genachowski's third way plan, which claws back some of the regulatory mojo that the FCC lost when their ability to regulate internet traffic was dope-slapped into near irrelevancy by a federal judge in the Comcast decision.

"It is time to move a decision forward — a decision to reassert FCC authority over broadband telecommunications, to guarantee an open Internet now and forever, and to put the interests of consumers in front of the interests of giant corporations," Copps wrote.

From Copps' point of view, the battle lines in this tug of war are as clear as the stakes are great. Genachowski, a network neutrality proponent, has two "interests of consumers" allies on the commission: Copps and Mignon Clyburn, both Democrats. And then there are the "interests of giant corporations" commissioners, Robert McDowell and Meredith Baker, both Republicans.

While that characterization may seem simplistic, it's far from insupportable.

Genachowski's "third way" plan would grant to the FCC limited "Title II" powers, meaning that some aspects of broadband traffic and carriage would be subject to a subset of the regulatory strictures over which the FCC has control in the telephone marketplace.

When he announced that plan this June, McDowell and Baker pounced on it, characterizing it as a disincentive to investment in infrastructure and — brandishing the anti net-neuts' most powerful talismanic incantation in this time of high unemployment — a "job killer".

Commissioner Clyburn shot back: "I can understand why powerful companies balk at government oversight. They view any government authority as a threat to their unbridled freedom. Indeed, if it were up to them, we would not enact rules; but rather, rely on 'voluntary organizations and forums' made up solely of industry personnel to give us advice on how to serve as a backstop for consumers."...

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Fareed Zakaria returns ADL prize over ADL opposition to mosque near ground zero

The irony here seems to be that the ADL itself seems to be engaging in a bit of anti-Semitism. Arabs and Palestinians are Semites, too! In fact, Palestinians are descendants of the farmers and herders of Judea who were, of course, Jews.

CNN host returns ADL award over stance on Islamic center
By the CNN Wire Staff
August 7, 2010

New York (CNN) -- Fareed Zakaria, the CNN host and Newsweek columnist, has returned a prestigious prize to the Anti-Defamation League, another rebuke for the esteemed civil rights group's opposition to an Islamic center near ground zero.

Zakaria, who received the ADL's Hubert Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize five years ago, gave back the honor to ADL for publicly siding "with those urging the relocation" of the center, which would be located near the site of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

"I cannot in good conscience hold onto the award or the honorarium that came with it and am returning both," he said.

It is the latest in a wave of stinging criticism toward the Jewish organization's position from a range of people and groups, including those in the Jewish community, and the ADL said it was "saddened and stunned" by Zakaria's decision.

The ADL, which exists to fight discrimination, especially anti-Semitism,... said "that building the center at the site will cause some victims more pain -- unnecessarily -- and that is not right."...

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Ex-lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti charged with campaign-finance fraud

Ex-lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti charged with campaign-finance fraud
By Dan Eggen and Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 6, 2010

Paul J. Magliocchetti was one of the most powerful and influential lobbyists in Washington not too long ago, known for steering campaign contributions to favored lawmakers while securing millions of dollars in projects for his clients.

On Thursday, the former defense lobbyist stood accused by federal prosecutors of orchestrating one of the largest campaign-finance frauds in U.S. history. He faces devastating testimony from his son and has checked himself into a Baltimore clinic for anxiety.

Magliocchetti, 64, the founder and owner of the now-closed PMA Group, was charged in U.S. District Court in Alexandria with eight counts of illegal campaign contributions and three counts of making false statements. He is accused of funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to lawmakers to enhance his firm's stature and business prospects.

His 34-year-old son, Mark, pleaded guilty in the same Alexandria courthouse Thursday to one charge of making illegal campaign contributions at the behest of his father, whom he portrays in a sworn statement as the mastermind of the scheme...

Sorry, Vegans: Brussels Sprouts Like to Live, Too

Sorry, Vegans: Brussels Sprouts Like to Live, Too
New York Times
December 21, 2009

...When plant biologists speak of their subjects, they use active verbs and vivid images. Plants “forage” for resources like light and soil nutrients and “anticipate” rough spots and opportunities. By analyzing the ratio of red light and far red light falling on their leaves, for example, they can sense the presence of other chlorophyllated competitors nearby and try to grow the other way. Their roots ride the underground “rhizosphere” and engage in cross-cultural and microbial trade.

“Plants are not static or silly,” said Monika Hilker of the Institute of Biology at the Free University of Berlin. “They respond to tactile cues, they recognize different wavelengths of light, they listen to chemical signals, they can even talk” through chemical signals. Touch, sight, hearing, speech. “These are sensory modalities and abilities we normally think of as only being in animals,” Dr. Hilker said.

Plants can’t run away from a threat but they can stand their ground. “They are very good at avoiding getting eaten,” said Linda Walling of the University of California, Riverside. “It’s an unusual situation where insects can overcome those defenses.” At the smallest nip to its leaves, specialized cells on the plant’s surface release chemicals to irritate the predator or sticky goo to entrap it. Genes in the plant’s DNA are activated to wage systemwide chemical warfare, the plant’s version of an immune response. We need terpenes, alkaloids, phenolics — let’s move.

“I’m amazed at how fast some of these things happen,” said Consuelo M. De Moraes of Pennsylvania State University. Dr. De Moraes and her colleagues did labeling experiments to clock a plant’s systemic response time and found that, in less than 20 minutes from the moment the caterpillar had begun feeding on its leaves, the plant had plucked carbon from the air and forged defensive compounds from scratch.

Just because we humans can’t hear them doesn’t mean plants don’t howl. Some of the compounds that plants generate in response to insect mastication — their feedback, you might say — are volatile chemicals that serve as cries for help. Such airborne alarm calls have been shown to attract both large predatory insects like dragon flies, which delight in caterpillar meat, and tiny parasitic insects, which can infect a caterpillar and destroy it from within.

Enemies of the plant’s enemies are not the only ones to tune into the emergency broadcast. “Some of these cues, some of these volatiles that are released when a focal plant is damaged,” said Richard Karban of the University of California, Davis, “cause other plants of the same species, or even of another species, to likewise become more resistant to herbivores.”

Yes, it’s best to nip trouble in the bud.

Dr. Hilker and her colleagues, as well as other research teams, have found that certain plants can sense when insect eggs have been deposited on their leaves and will act immediately to rid themselves of the incubating menace. They may sprout carpets of tumorlike neoplasms to knock the eggs off, or secrete ovicides to kill them, or sound the S O S. Reporting in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Hilker and her coworkers determined that when a female cabbage butterfly lays her eggs on a brussels sprout plant and attaches her treasures to the leaves with tiny dabs of glue, the vigilant vegetable detects the presence of a simple additive in the glue, benzyl cyanide. Cued by the additive, the plant swiftly alters the chemistry of its leaf surface to beckon female parasitic wasps. Spying the anchored bounty, the female wasps in turn inject their eggs inside, the gestating wasps feed on the gestating butterflies, and the plant’s problem is solved.

Here’s the lurid Edgar Allan Poetry of it: that benzyl cyanide tip-off had been donated to the female butterfly by the male during mating. “It’s an anti-aphrodisiac pheromone, so that the female wouldn’t mate anymore,” Dr. Hilker said. “The male is trying to ensure his paternity, but he ends up endangering his own offspring.”

Plants eavesdrop on one another benignly and malignly. As they described in Science and other journals, Dr. De Moraes and her colleagues have discovered that seedlings of the dodder plant, a parasitic weed related to morning glory, can detect volatile chemicals released by potential host plants like the tomato. The young dodder then grows inexorably toward the host, until it can encircle the victim’s stem and begin sucking the life phloem right out of it. The parasite can even distinguish between the scents of healthier and weaker tomato plants and then head for the hale one...

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Proposition 8 overturned; same-sex marriage ban ruled unconstitutional

California's Proposition 8 has been overturned. It was ruled unconstitutional.

San Jose Mercury News
By Howard Mintz

A San Francisco federal judge today struck down California's ban on same-sex marriage, concluding that it tramples on the equal rights of gay and lesbian couples and that they are entitled to be married throughout the state.

Within minutes of his historic decision, however, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker agreed to put his ruling on hold for at least a few days to consider arguments on whether California should be barred immediately from enforcing Proposition 8, a move that would allow county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples...

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Six Teens' Drowning A Reminder Of Swimming Disparity

Six Teens' Drowning A Reminder Of Swimming Disparity
August 3, 2010

If there's sadder news than the story of six teens — three children from one family and three from another — drowning in the Red River in Shreveport, La., it's hard to imagine what it could be.

The youngsters, none of whom could swim, were at a river side picnic at a local park and apparently went wading in the water when some got into trouble as the river bottom dropped away.

Other youngsters who attempted to help them, couldn't swim either, adding immensely to the tragedy.

The story is a reminder of one of the safety related disparities that exist in the U.S.; young blacks are victims of unintentional drowning at significantly higher rates than white of like age.

In 2008, USA Swimming commissioned a study to examine the issue and found that the ability to swim correlated strongly with household income and whether parents themselves could swim.

The study found that nearly 60 percent of black children couldn't swim safely compared with 31 percent of white children...

Monday, August 02, 2010

29 Unitarian Universalists arrested in protest against Arizona's SB 1070

Photo: Mar Cardenas of San Diego, granddaughter of Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas

See all blog posts re Arizona SB 1070.

29 UUs arrested in Phoenix protest
Unitarian Universalists demonstrate against Arizona's SB 1070
By Donald E. Skinner

Twenty-nine Unitarian Universalists, including eight ministers, were arrested in Phoenix, Ariz., for acts of civil disobedience protesting Arizona's strict anti-illegal immigration law.

Among those arrested were Unitarian Universalist Association President Peter Morales and the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, minister of the UU Congregation of Phoenix. They were among 150 UUs, many from out of state, who came to Phoenix for actions in support of immigrant families on Thursday, July 29, the day Senate Bill 1070 went into effect. Opponents of SB1070 say it encourages racial profiling by police, although a federal judge issued an injunction July 28 that blocked several controversial provisions of the law.

UUs were among hundreds of people who swarmed into downtown streets, blocking traffic at midday in the vicinity of the Fourth Avenue Jail and the offices of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio, who calls himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” is a strong supporter of anti-immigrant legislation, launching workplace raids and authorizing the arrest and deportation of thousands of undocumented people...

UUs were acting in support of local immigrant groups, including Puente and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. In all, more than 80 people were arrested Thursday...

Phoenix police and sheriff’s deputies allowed the blockades to go on for one to two hours before arresting those who refused to move. Arrests began around noon on Thursday; prisoners were released overnight or Friday morning. Court appearances were set for some in mid-August. Most were charged with obstructing a public roadway and with failure to obey police, both misdemeanors...

The nearly two-hour service at the cathedral included Roman Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal, Muslim, Jewish, Unitarian Universalist, and nondenominational faith group representatives.

...Taudte was indeed arrested Thursday when she sat down in the street and refused to move. After her release Friday afternoon she called her experience “life changing.” She said she plans to go back to Florida and challenge her congregation to get even more active than it has been on immigration issues.

The Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo, minister of the UU Church of Marblehead, Mass., and president of UU Allies for Racial Equity, was arrested at the county jail with Morales and Frederick-Gray. The experience was “physically frightening,” she said. “The experience validated much of what I understand about white privilege and racism.” She said that while she experienced some roughness during the arrest and the jail experience was harsh, fellow inmates of color were treated far worse.

Held overnight in a cell with as many as 30 other women, von Zirpolo said the group bonded, even those people who had been arrested for other issues. “It was an unintended consequence of their strategy to disrupt our sleep by moving us around. Each time, we would share names and origins. We sang together, held those who needed to cry, demanded medical attention for our sisters in need, and most importantly, listened to each others stories. We made community.”

The Rev. Gregory Scott Ward, minister of the UU Church of the Monterey Peninsula in Carmel, Calif., said being in jail changed him. “I no longer think I’m different from other people. I was surprised by how quickly one’s humanity can be taken away when wearing prison stripes and the pink socks and pink underwear they make you wear. And how that humanity is restored when you find out that people are waiting for you when you come out.”

UUs who had not been arrested held a late evening candlelight vigil outside the jail Thursday night, bringing a guitar and flute and singing songs in Spanish and English. A few people remained all night, to be there when fellow UUs were released from jail.

Unitarian Universalists were the most visible religious group in Phoenix. Many wore the yellow T-shirts of the UUA’s Standing on the Side of Love campaign. UUA Moderator Gini Courter said, “On the street we were clearly identifiable as religious people. We lived our faith in a very public way. People were coming up to us and thanking us for being there.” ...

14 different countries have reported all-time record high temperatures this year

US, Other Nations Bake in Record Summer Heat
Paul Yeager
AOL News
Aug. 1, 2010

Summer 2010 is far from over, but extremely hot weather has been a major weather story to date, not only in the United States but also in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere. All-time record high temperatures have been tied or broken in more than a dozen nations.

Across the United States, the heat has been particularly persistent in the Southern and Eastern parts of the country. A July heat wave produced 100-plus-degree heat along the Eastern Seaboard from southern New England to the Virginias, including temperatures in excess of 105° F in parts of Maryland (including Baltimore) and Virginia. Hartford, Conn., tied its all-time record high temperature of 102° F on July 6.

Globally, at least 14 different countries have reported all-time record high temperatures this year (not all have been during the Northern Hemisphere summer), according meteorologist to Jeff Masters of Weather Underground...