Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ether returns to oust dark matter

By Aussiegirl

An interesting article on the reemergence of the ether, once banned from civilized discourse, and the threat it poses to Einstein's special theory of relativity.
The Wikipedia article on dark matter describes dark matter thus: In astrophysics, dark matter refers to matter that does not emit or reflect enough electromagnetic radiation (such as light, x-rays and so on) to be detected directly, but whose presence may be inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter. Among the observed phenomena consistent with the existence of dark matter are the rotational speeds of galaxies and orbital velocities of galaxies in clusters, gravitational lensing of background objects by galaxy clusters such as the Bullet cluster, and the temperature distribution of hot gas in galaxies and clusters of galaxies. Dark matter also plays a central role in structure formation and Big Bang nucleosynthesis, and has measurable effects on the anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background. All these lines of evidence suggest that galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and the universe as a whole contain far more matter than is directly observable, indicating that the remainder is dark.

Ether returns to oust dark matter

Ether returns to oust dark matter
Author: Zeeya Merali

From his office window, Glenn Starkman can see the site where Albert Michelson and Edward Morley carried out their famous 1887 experiment that ruled out the presence of an all-pervading "aether" in space, setting the stage for Einstein's special theory of relativity. So it seems ironic that Starkman, who is at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, is now proposing a theory that would bring ether back into the reckoning. While this would defy Einstein, Starkman's ether would do away with the need for dark matter.

Nineteenth-century physicists believed that just as sound waves move through air, light waves must move through an all-pervading physical substance, which they called luminiferous ("light-bearing") ether. However, the Michelson-Morley experiment failed to find any signs of ether, and 18 years after that, Einstein's special relativity argued that light propagates through a vacuum. The idea of ether was abandoned – but not discarded altogether, it seems.

Starkman and colleagues Tom Zlosnik and Pedro Ferreira of the University of Oxford are now reincarnating the ether in a new form to solve the puzzle of dark matter, the mysterious substance that was proposed to explain why galaxies seem to contain much more mass than can be accounted for by visible matter. They posit an ether that is a field, rather than a substance, and which pervades space-time. "If you removed everything else in the universe, the ether would still be there," says Zlosnik. This ether field isn't to do with light, but rather is something that boosts the gravitational pull of stars and galaxies, making them seem heavier, says Starkman. It does this by increasing the flexibility of space-time itself . "We usually imagine space-time as a rubber sheet that's warped by a massive object," says Starkman. "The ether makes that rubber sheet more bendable in parts, so matter can seem to have a much bigger gravitational effect than you would expect from its weight." The team's calculations show that this ether-induced gravity boost would explain the observed high velocities of stars in galaxies, currently attributed to the presence of dark matter. [....]

Both Bekenstein and Albrecht say Starkman's team must now carefully check whether the ether theory fits with the motions of planets within our solar system, which are known to a high degree of accuracy, and also explain what exactly this ether is. Ferreira agrees: "The onus is definitely on us to pin this theory down so it doesn't look like yet another fantastical explanation," he says.

However, physicists may be reluctant to resurrect any kind of ether because it contradicts special relativity by forming an absolute frame of reference . "Interestingly, this controversial aspect should make it easy to test for experimentally," says Carroll.


Could it pick up Raquel? Not in a million years

By Aussiegirl

From the article: The results may even be of interest to film buffs. Prof Neill Alexander, of Leeds University, once calculated that a scene in the film "One Million Years BC", in which Raquel Welch is carted off by the flying reptile, is inaccurate. Even if humans had been alive then, a pterosaur would have been too feeble to lift her, he concluded. However, with his model, Dr Wilkinson can now reconsider this question. "Perhaps Raquel would like to take part in our experiments."
This is the second time that Raquel has appeared in Ultima Thule. The first time was as part of an article on the Casimir effect -- it might be noted, for all my red-blooded male readers, that an attractive photo of her accompanies this first article. Here the earnest professor grapples with the question, Could a pterodactyl have been able to carry her? I found a good illustration for the present article, in which Raquel stands, scantly clad in her best cave-girl outfit, unaware that a pterodactyl is flying towards her, ready to pick her up -- or can he? That's the point of the experiment.

Telegraph | Connected | Could it pick up Raquel? Not in a million years

Could it pick up Raquel? Not in a million years

The mysteries of how the pterodactyl stayed airborne against the odds could be solved by flying a model over the Fens, finds Roger Highfield.

The largest flying creature ever to have lived could soon be swooping around the skies over Cambridge, after an absence of millions of years.

The creatures, the first with backbones to take to the air, ruled the skies during the days of the dinosaurs and died out with them some 65 million years ago. Called the pterosaurs, (or pterodactyls) they came in a huge range of sizes.

There were gull-sized creatures, giants such as Anhanguera ("Old Devil") and Tupuxuara with wing spans of about four metres, and massive flyers like Quetzalcoatlus, with wingspans of more than 10 metres.

Now Dr Matthew Wilkinson, of Cambridge University, with the German model builder Vivian Bock, have finished the most accurate model of Anhanguera ultra ever built to test ideas about how it was able to fly, until this particular species died out about 100 million years ago.

Scientists have argued for years about how these giants could take off and land, given that their size should have made their minimum flight speed dangerously high and hindered their ability to take off to throwing themselves off a cliff face.

Much debate has centred on whether their wings were narrow and bird-like, leaving their hind limbs free, or wide, incorporating the hind limbs, which would have limited their running.

In earlier work, Dr Wilkinson showed how the biggest pterosaurs got into a flap, solving the enduring problem of how these giants could get off the ground if their wings were tethered to the legs - a fourth finger sported a thin membrane connected to the body and the hind legs, akin to the wing of a bat.

With Prof Charles Ellington, of Cambridge, and Dr David Unwin, in Berlin, he found that the secret was a unique bone called the pteroid, which was like a thumb, only it sprouted from the creature's wrist.

The traditional view is that this bone pointed towards the shoulder of the creature, and supported a skin-like forewing in front of the arm.

Thus the forewing, which scientists called the propatagium, was slim, short and ineffectual.

However, exceptionally well-preserved fossils from Brazil of Ahanguera and its relatives indicate that the pteroid could have pointed forwards, giving a much larger forewing with a far greater range of movement, rather like the leading edge flap of a modern aircraft.

The wings "could not be vigorously flapped", Dr Wilkinson said. But having large, relatively moveable forewings meant that they could always catch the air - crucial for take-off - and fits in with the discovery of fossilised footprints of larger species, which suggest that they took off from flat ground.

Dr Wilkinson's results indicate that the biggest might have merely needed to spread their wings while facing into a moderate breeze for lift-off. Wind-tunnel tests of models incorporating the forward pteroids performed much better than the traditional narrow version, showing the creatures were efficient and agile fliers, not just ineffectual gliders.

As a consequence, it was likely that this design feature made it possible for the creatures to grow to such a huge size, Dr Wilkinson said.

Yet not everyone is convinced that a forward-facing pteroid could cope with the stresses of flying, so flying the model pterosaur, will put his theories to the test.

Military and hang-glider enthusiasts were also interested in seeing the robo-pterosaur, which will glide and twist its wings initially as it soars over the fens, but may be able to flap in later versions, he said.

The results may even be of interest to film buffs. Prof Neill Alexander, of Leeds University, once calculated that a scene in the film One Million Years BC, in which Raquel Welch is carted off by the flying reptile, is inaccurate.

Even if humans had been alive then, a pterosaur would have been too feeble to lift her, he concluded. However, with his model, Dr Wilkinson can now reconsider this question. "Perhaps Raquel would like to take part in our experiments."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Atomic force weaker than thought

By Aussiegirl

I find it hard to imagine the delicacy of technique that can isolate a single electron in some sort of bottle, and then measure its motion. Probably this new, more accurate value of the "fine structure constant" -- I love the poetry of this name! -- will in turn be found to be slightly inaccurate. So goes the slow progress of science towards a better and better understanding of our natural world -- but of course never getting any closer to the ultimate mystery of existence.
Here's another article on this subject: Refining the fine-structure constant. And another: Atoms looser than expected.
And if that isn't enough to satisfy those of my readers who can't get enough of this constant, here's a long, 4-screen article from April 2003 exhaustively delving into this topic, asking just what are laws of nature, using other methods of investigating this constant, and explaining what's at stake if a fundamental constant is found to have changed: Are the laws of nature changing with time?

Atomic force weaker than thought - LiveScience - MSNBC.com

By Sara Goudarzi
Staff Writer

A fundamental force that holds electrons inside atoms and governs how charged particles and light interact is a little weaker than previously thought, scientists reported today.

The strength of electromagnetic force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature, is specified through a value known as the fine structure constant. Through studying an individual electron in isolation, scientists were able to calculate a new value for this number that is six times more precise than previous estimates.

"Little did we know that the binding energies of all the atoms in the universe were smaller by a millionth of a percent — a lot of energy given the huge number of atoms in the universe," said Gerald Gabrielse, a researcher at Harvard University.

Gabrielse and his colleagues developed a giant atom by isolating an electron in a bottle devoid of almost all particles and chilled to temperatures colder than the surface of Pluto.

Similar to a real atom, they kept the lone electron in circular motion through electric and magnetic forces. The electron also wobbled down in the direction of the magnetic field, a setup similar to a merry-go-round, with an electromagnetic trap as the carousel and the electron as the lone horse.

The setup was sensitive enough to sense when the electron is moving upwards and when the motion is restricted, allowing the electron's energy to be precisely measured. This helped refine measurements of the fine structure constant.

The more precise value could help improve the design of electric devices and aid scientists in the details of the workings of the universe, the researchers say.

These results appear in two papers in the July 21 issue of the journal Physical Review Letters.

Fundamental limitation to quantum computers

By Aussiegirl

It seems we can't get away from quantum physics, even if we wanted to. Here's an interesting article on something called a quantum computer, which promises to speed things up at a fantastic rate. First, acquaint yourself with this device with this introduction toWikipedia's article on the subject: A quantum computer is any device for computation that makes direct use of distinctively quantum mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement, to perform operations on data. In a classical (or conventional) computer, the amount of data is measured by bits; in a quantum computer, it is measured by qubits. The basic principle of quantum computation is that the quantum properties of particles can be used to represent and structure data, and that quantum mechanisms can be devised and built to perform operations with these data.
Though quantum computing is still in its infancy, experiments have been carried out in which quantum computational operations were executed on a very small number of qubits. Research in both theoretical and practical areas continues at a frantic pace, and many national government and military funding agencies support quantum computing research to develop quantum computers for both civilian and national security purposes, such as cryptanalysis.
It is widely believed that if large-scale quantum computers can be built, they will be able to solve certain problems faster than any classical computer. Quantum computers are different from classical computers such as DNA computers and computers based on transistors, even though these may ultimately use some kind of quantum mechanical effect (for example covalent bonds). Some computing architectures such as optical computers may use classical superposition of electromagnetic waves, but without some specifically quantum mechanical resource such as entanglement, they do not share the potential for computational speed-up of quantum computers.

The illustration is an electron microscope image of a qubit from Hans Mooij's research group at Delft University of Technology.

Fundamental limitation to quantum computers

Fundamental limitation to quantum computers

Quantum computers that store information in so-called quantum bits (or qubits) will be confronted with a fundamental limitation. This is the claim made by Dutch theoretical physicists from the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM) and Leiden University in an article recently published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

A quantum computer can only function if the information exists for long enough to be processed. The so-called coherence of the qubit ensures that the quantum information remains intact. The researchers have now discovered that the coherence spontaneously disappears over the course of time and with this the stored information as well. This could pose a considerable problem for the development of a quantum computer.

A quantum computer makes use of the fact that a quantum mechanical system -an electron, an atom or even a larger system such as a superconducting quantum bit - can simultaneously exist in two states. Normally one of the two states disappears as soon as the system comes into contact with the outside world. The coherence then disappears as a result of the decoherence process and the information in a quantum bit is lost.

A quantum bit typically consists of a large number of particles, with an unavoidably large number of possibilities to be influenced by the environment and thus be subjected to decoherence. Jasper van Wezel, Jeroen van den Brink (FOM) and Jan Zaanen, all attached to the Lorentz Institute of Leiden University have now investigated whether it is possible to maintain the coherence in an isolated qubit.

Much to their surprise they discovered that the coherence tends to spontaneously disappear, even without external influences. The degredation process is linked to the occurrence of quantum mechanical spontaneous symmetry breaking. In classical physics an equivalent example of this process is spontaneous crystallisation in a solution. At a certain position a crystal is spontaneously formed, as a result of which the fluid structure is broken.

According to the researchers' predictions, the coherence in some highly promising concepts for qubits will disappear after about a second. Moreover, the smaller the qubits the faster that process occurs. All of this would seem to pose a fundamental limitation on the development of qubits. Experimental research will now have to demonstrate whether this phenomenon actually occurs.

The article "An Intrinsic Limit to Quantum Coherence due to Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking" was published in Physical Review Letters, in the week ending 17 June 2005.

Scientists say they have cleared technical hurdle in fusion research

By Aussiegirl

Imagine, limitless energy from seawater using the same physics that our Sun uses to keep us alive! Here is the always informative Wikipedia on nuclear fusion.
If you want to make your own fusion reactor, here's an interesting website I found: "Fusion is Easy!" The Homemade Amateur Nuclear Fusion Reactor. You will recall that a few weeks ago I posted an article about a young man who succeeded in making a fission reactor, so it looks like anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
The illustration is of the ITER reactor that is discussed in this article. You will notice a tiny figure at the bottom right, under one of the tubes. That's a man standing there, so I figure that the whole device is perhaps 100 feet tall!

Scientists say they have cleared technical hurdle in fusion research

by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) May 21, 2006

Physicists working in the United States believe they have cracked an important problem facing man-made nuclear fusion, touted as the cheap, safe, clean and almost limitless energy source of the future.
In fusion, atomic nuclei are fused together to release energy, as opposed to fission -- the technique used for nuclear power and atomic bombs -- where nuclei are split.

In a fusion reactor, particles are rammed together to form a charged gas called a plasma, contained inside a doughnut-shaped chamber called a tokamak by powerful magnetic coils

A consortium of countries signed a deal last year to build the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in southern France as a testbed for an eventual commercial design.

But many experts have been shaking their heads at the many challenges facing the ITER designers.

One of them is a phenomenon called edge localised modes, or ELMs.

These are sudden fluxes or eddies in the outer edge of the plasma that erode the tokamak's inner wall -- a highly expensive metal skin that absorbs neutrons emitted from the plasma.

Erosion means that the wall has to be replaced more often, which thus adds hugely to costs. Eroded particles also have a big impact on the plasma performance, diminishing the amount of energy it can deliver.

Writing on Sunday in the British journal Nature Physics, a team led by Todd Evans of General Atomics, California, believes that the problematic ELMs can be cleverly controlled.

They found that a small resonant magnetic field, derived from special coils located inside a reactor vessel, creates "chaotic" magnetic interference on the plasma edge, which stops the fluxes from forming.

The experiments were conducted at the General Atomics' DIII-D National Fusion Facility, a tokamak in San Diego.

Nuclear fusion is the same process used by the Sun to radiate energy. In the case of our star, hydrogen atoms are forced together to produce helium. On Earth, the fusion would take place in a reactor fuelled by two istopes of hydrogen -- deuterium and tritium -- with helium the waste product.

Deuterium is present in seawater, which makes it a virtually limitless resource. Tritium would be derived from irradiating the plentiful element lithium in the fusion vessel.

The 10-billion-euro (12.8-billion-dollar) ITER scheme entails building the largest tokamak in the world at Cadarache, near the southern French city of Marseille.

The partners are the European Union (EU), the United States, Japan, Russia, China, India and South Korea.

It is designed to be a test bed of fusion technologies, with a construction period of about 10 years and an operational lifespan of 20 years.

If ITER works, a prototype commercial reactor will be built, and if that works, fusion technology will be rolled out across the world.

Other problems facing fusion technology include the challenge of creating a self-sustaining plasma and efficiently containing the plasma so that charged particles do not leak out.

In the various tokamaks, no one has achieved a self-sustaining fusion event for longer than about five seconds, and at the cost of using up far more energy than was yielded.

A huge jolt of heat, of nearly 100 million C (180 million F), is needed to kickstart the process, which then has to be sustained by tiny amounts of fuel pellets.

Ion Mihai Pacepa on Russia & War on Terror on National Review Online

By Aussiegirl

On Monday I posted a blockbuster revelation from China Confidential about China's alliance with radical Islam. Here is a long, must-read article about the Kremlin's alliance with radical Islam, written by Lt. General Ion Mihai Pacepa,the highest-ranking intelligence officer ever to have defected from the former Soviet bloc.

Ion Mihai Pacepa on Russia & War on Terror on National Review Online

Russian Footprints
What does Moscow have to do with the recent war in Lebanon?

By Ion Mihai Pacepa

The Kremlin may be the main winner in the Lebanon war. Israel has been attacked with Soviet Kalashnikovs and Katyushas, Russian Fajr-1 and Fajr-3 rockets, Russian AT-5 Spandrel antitank missiles and Kornet antitank rockets. Russia’s outmoded weapons are now all the rage with terrorists everywhere in the world, and the bad guys know exactly where to get them. The weapons cases abandoned by Hezbollah were marked: “Customer: Ministry of Defense of Syria. Supplier: KBP, Tula, Russia.”

Today’s international terrorism was conceived at the Lubyanka, the headquarters of the KGB, in the aftermath of the1967 Six-Day War in the Middle East. I witnessed its birth in my other life, as a Communist general. Israel humiliated Egypt and Syria, whose bellicose governments were being run by Soviet razvedka (Russian for “foreign intelligence”) advisers, whereupon the Kremlin decided to arm Israel’s enemy neighbors, the Palestinians, and draw them into a terrorist war against Israel.

General Aleksandr Sakharovsky, who created Communist Romania’s intelligence structure and then rose to head up all of Soviet Russia’s foreign intelligence, often lectured me: “In today’s world, when nuclear arms have made military force obsolete, terrorism should become our main weapon.”

Between 1968 and 1978, when I broke with Communism, the security forces of Romania alone sent two cargo planes full of military goodies every week to Palestinian terrorists in Lebanon. Since the fall of Communism the East German Stasi archives have revealed that, in 1983 alone, its foreign intelligence service sent $1,877,600 worth of AK-47 ammunition to Lebanon. According to Vaclav Havel, Communist Czechoslovakia shipped 1,000 tons of the odorless explosive Semtex-H (which can’t be detected by sniffer dogs) to Islamic terrorists — enough for 150 years.

The terrorist war per se came into action at the end of 1968, when the KGB transformed airplane hijacking — that weapon of choice for September 11, 2001 — into an instrument of terror. In 1969 alone there were 82 hijackings of planes worldwide, carried out by the KGB-financed PLO. In 1971, when I was visiting Sakharovsky at his Lubyanka office, he called my attention to a sea of red flags pinned onto a world map hanging on the wall. Each flag represented a captured plane. “Airplane hijacking is my own invention,” he claimed. [....]

In the mid-1970s we also started showering the Islamic world with an Arabic translation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a tsarist Russian forgery that had been used by Hitler as the foundation for his anti-Semitic philosophy. We also disseminated a KGB-fabricated “documentary” paper in Arabic alleging that Israel and its main supporter, the United States, were Zionist countries dedicated to converting the Islamic world into a Jewish colony.

We in the Soviet bloc tried to conquer minds, because we knew we could not win any military battles. It is hard to say what exactly are the lasting effects of operation SIG. But the cumulative effect of disseminating hundreds of thousands of Protocols in the Islamic world and portraying Israel and the United States as Islam’s deadly enemies was surely not constructive.

Post-Soviet Russia has been transformed in unprecedented ways, but the widely popular belief that the nefarious Soviet legacy was rooted out at the end of the Cold War the same way that Nazism was rooted out with the conclusion of World War II, is not yet correct.

In the 1950s, when I was chief of Romania’s foreign intelligence station in West Germany, I witnessed how Hitler’s Third Reich had been demolished, its war criminals put on trial, its military and police forces disbanded, and the Nazis removed from public office. None of these things has happened in the former Soviet Union. No individual has been put on trial, although the Soviet Union’s Communist regime killed over a hundred million people. Most Soviet institutions have been left in place, having simply been given new names, and are now run by many of the same people who guided the Communist state. In 2000, former officers of the KGB and the Soviet Red Army took over the Kremlin and Russia’s government. [....]

Power Up With Magnetic Bacteria

By Aussiegirl

An interesting article about a new way to produce electricity. Here's the Wikipedia article on these magnetotactic bacteria, and Wikipedia's description of them: Magnetotactic bacteria (or MTB) are a class of bacteria discovered in the 1960s, that exhibit the peculiar ability to orient themselves along the magnetic field lines of Earth's magnetic field. The term magnetotaxis has been coined to describe the biological phenomenon upon which these microorganisms tend to move in response to the magnetic characteristics of the environment. [....] The sensitivity of magnetotactic bacteria to the Earth's magnetic field arises from the fact that the bacteria precipitate within their cells chains of crystals of magnetic minerals; all magnetotactic bacteria reported to date precipitate either magnetite or greigite. These crystals, and sometimes the chains of crystals, can be preserved in the geological record as magnetofossils. The oldest reported magnetofossils come from the 1.9 billion year old Gunflint Chert. There have also been claims of their existence on Mars based on the shape of magnetite particles within the Martian meteorite ALH84001, but these claims are highly contested.

Wired News: Power Up With Magnetic Bacteria

By Stephen Leahy|
May, 12, 2006

A 16-year-old high school student has invented a new way of producing electricity by harnessing the brawny power of bacteria.

Kartik Madiraju, an 11th-grader from Montreal, was able to generate about half the voltage of a normal AA battery with a fifth of an ounce of naturally occurring magnetic bacteria. And the bacteria kept pumping current for 48 hours nonstop.

"No one has ever used magnetic bacteria to produce an electrical current before," Madiraju said.

The experiment is being presented this week at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, an über-science geek competition in which the chipmaker annually hands out $4 million in prize money to students. Winners will be announced Friday.

Magnetotactic or magnetic bacteria have extremely small crystals of magnetite inside their bodies. Only discovered in 1975, these aquatic bacteria are quite common and found in fresh water and saltwater around the world.

A bit of a science whiz kid, Madiraju was browsing through the science journal Nature and happened to see something about magnetic bacteria while trying to think of a project to benefit the environment. "I knew that spinning windmills use a magnetic generator to produce electricity and wondered if I got the magnetic bacteria spinning they might generate a current and be a clean, alternative energy source," he said.

Madiraju put the free-floating bacteria, which are essentially tiny magnets, into plastic boxes less than a fifth of a cubic inch. Metal strips on two sides act as electrodes and get them spinning, generating a magnetic field and an electric current. Current and power were sustained at 25 microamps and 5.5 microwatts, respectively, beyond 48 hours at a resistance of 10 kohms.

"I was one of the most surprised when it worked the very first time," said John Sheppard, a professor in the Department of Bioresource Engineering at Montreal's McGill University.

"I'm optimistic about the practical applications; he's developed the technology quite a bit just working on weekends," said Sheppard.

Madiraju envisions clean-running underwater power plants in the developing world. "The latter is long-term of course, but not too far-fetched," he said.

Micro-energy sources in nanotechnology or biosensors would be easier to do and are more likely uses, said Sheppard, who was Madiraju's mentor under the strict conditions of two big science contests, the Intel competition and Canada's Sanofi-Aventis Biotech Challenge. Madiraju has won in various categories previously and on May 10, his magnetic bacteria battery demonstration placed third in the Canadian competition.

Results aside, as a science fair project, inventing a new clean and green source of electricity sure tops the old papier-mâché volcano.

Bird attacks influenced human evolution, researchers say

By Aussiegirl

Shades of Alfred Hitchcock!

Bird attacks influenced human evolution, researchers say

By Holly Wagner/Ohio State University
and World Science staff

Pre­his­tor­ic birds of prey may have tar­geted our an­ces­tors for meals so of­ten that the threat of them helped drive hu­man ev­o­lu­tion, re­searchers say based on a study.

An­a­ly­z­ing hun­d­reds of mo­d­ern mon­key bones ga­th­ered be­low Af­ri­can ea­g­les’ nests, the sci­en­t­ists found the birds are a se­vere me­nace to some of our pri­mate cou­sins.

They al­so con­c­lu­d­ed that the re­sult­ing bone in­ju­ries are sus­pi­cious­ly ve­ry like those on the skull of an ape-like child of hu­man an­ces­tors, found de­cades ago. It ap­pa­r­ent­ly has clawed-out eye­sock­ets, they sa­id.

“It seems that rap­tors have been a se­lec­tive force in pri­ma­te ev­o­lu­tion for a long time,” said W. Scott Mc­Graw of Ohi­o State uni­ver­si­ty, the stu­dy’s lead au­thor.

“Be­fore this stu­dy I thought that ea­g­les would­n’t con­t­ri­b­ute that much to the mor­tal­i­ty rate of pri­mates in the fo­r­est. I could­n’t have been more wrong.”

The ide­a that birds ate ear­ly hu­mans is­n’t new. A 1995 stu­dy sug­gested that the pre­his­tor­ic 3½-year-old “Taung Child,” whose skull turned up in a South Af­ri­can ca­ve in 1924, might have been a vic­tim of such an in­ci­dent. But sci­en­tists saw the ev­i­dence as in­con­clu­sive.

McGraw, though, ar­gued that punc­ture marks on mon­key skulls close­ly re­sem­ble those found on the Taung skull, of the spe­cies Aus­t­ra­lo­pi­the­cus af­ri­ca­nus. “Ea­gles leave ve­ry dis­tinc­tive beak and tal­on punc­tures around the face and in the eye sock­et­s,” he ar­gued. “The skull of the Taung child has these same kinds of punc­ture mark­s.”

“This fos­sil is pro­b­a­bly the most writ­ten-a­bout, stu­d­ied and han­dled ho­m­i­nid skull ev­er,” he added. “But al­most no one had real­ly bo­th­ered to look at skulls dis­carded from ea­gle nests” to ce­ment the case against birds. [....]

The Day The Earth Fell Over

By Aussiegirl

So -- you want to buy some tropical seaside property from me in Alaska? Might become a reality if we see a repeat of something that happened in Earth's history some hundreds of millions of years ago. Whoops, did I just feel the earth move under my feet?

LiveScience.com - The Day The Earth Fell Over

The Day The Earth Fell Over

Earth might have spun on its side to keep its balance in the distant past, and could do so again, scientists reported today.

Alaska was suddenly at the equator, the thinking goes. [Graphic]

Scientists already know that the North Pole wanders over time. But a theory known as true polar wander suggests that if a very heavy object, like an oversized volcano forms far from the equator, the force of the planet's rotation would pull the object away from the axis the Earth spins around.

Should a mass such as the very heavy volcano become unbalanced, Earth would tilt and rotate itself until the extra weight moves somewhere near the equator.

Analyzed samples of ancient sediments found in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard show that such an event may have indeed happened in the past.

"The sediments we have recovered from Norway offer the first good evidence that a true polar wander event happened about 800 million years ago," said Adam Maloof, an assistant professor of geosciences at Princeton University. "If we can find good corroborating evidence from other parts of the world as well, we will have a very good idea that our planet is capable of this sort of dramatic change."

The evidence

When rock particles sink to the ocean floor, small magnetic grains within the particle align with the magnetic lines of the Earth. These rocks then become records of the Earth's magnetic field at the time that they were pointing.

If a rock has been spun by an unusual geological event, the orientation of its magnetic field will be out of the ordinary.

"We found just such anomalies in the Svalbard sediments," Maloof said. "We made every effort to find another reason for the anomalies, such as a rapid rotation of the individual crustal plate the islands rest upon, but none of the alternatives makes as much sense as a true polar wander event when taken in the context of geochemical and sea level data from the same rocks."

Flowing backwards

The polar wander could also be responsible for the unusual changes that happened in ocean chemistry 800 million years ago.

"Scientists have found no evidence for an ice age occurring 800 million years ago, and the change in the ocean at this juncture remains one of the great mysteries in the ancient history of our planet," Maloof said. "But if all the continents were suddenly flipped around and their rivers began carrying water and nutrients into the tropics instead of the Arctic, for example, it could produce the mysterious geochemical changes science has been trying to explain."

Future work can test directly the true polar wander hypothesis because this type of event would affect every continent in a predictable manner, depending on the continent’s changing position relative to Earth’s spin axis, the researchers report in the Aug. 25 issue of the Geological Society of America Bulletin.;

Islam's Fascist roots -- Rumsfeld uses the "F" word

By Aussiegirl

China Confidential has a lengthy and in-depth review of the deep roots of Fascism in Islam, dating back to WWII and the Grand Mufti's close association with Hitler. Powerful reading. Don't miss. When the Islamists squeak about being called Fascists, it's only because the truth hurts. Hard-hitting stuff you won't find anywhere else.

China Confidential

The defense secretary's use of the "F" word follows remarks earlier this month by President George W. Bush, after British security agencies foiled a plot to bomb US-bound passenger jets, that America was "at war with Islamic fascists."

Which is true. Islamism is a political movement, akin to clerical fascism. Presently bridging Islam's Sunni and Shiite branches, despite their theological differences and historical rivalries, Islamism has its origins in the formation of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. Founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, the Brotherhood was an outgrowth of an earlier pan-Islamic movement.

In 1936, the Brotherhood's youth group and other fronts spawned paramilitary units, initially called the Rovers and then renamed the Battalions, which were explicitly modeled along European fascist lines.

Other Arab political parties founded during the '30s that were modeled after Nazi and fascist parties included Syria's Popular Party and Socialist Nationalist Party, whose leader, Anton Saada, saw himself as an Arab Hitler. The party's banner sported a Nazi swastika; members used the Nazi salute.

Iraq's Baath party was formed upon the principles and organizational structure of the Nazi party. Iraq, because of its oil, was a strategically important battleground between the Axis and Allied powers in World War II. Nazi propaganda was broadcast throughout Baghdad, and pro-Nazi Iraqis massacred Jews during the war.

In Palestine, the Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini declared his solidarity with Nazi Germany in 1937. A cleric and political activist, the fanatically anti-Semitic Mufti led a campaign of terrorism against Jewish and British targets during the 1936-'39 Arab Revolt, which, according to documentation from the Nuremberg and Adolf Eichmann trials, was financed by the Nazi SS. The high ranking Nazi, who was responsible for implementing the industrialized genocide of the "Final Solution" that sought to exterminate European Jewry, visited British controlled Palestine during the '30s, met with the Mufti, and subsequently maintained regular contact with him in Berlin. The Mufti spent the war years in the Nazi capital as Hitler's special guest, advocating the mass murder of Jews in radio broadcasts aimed at the Middle East. The Mufti also recruited Balkan Muslims for SS units that massacred Jewish communities throughout the region.

At the Nuremberg Trials, Eichmann's deputy Dieter Wisliceny (subsequently executed as a war criminal) testified: "The Mufti was one of the initiators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry and had been a collaborator and adviser of Eichmann and Himmler in the execution of this plan. ... He was one of Eichmann's best friends and had constantly incited him to accelerate the extermination measures. I heard him say, accompanied by Eichmann, he had visited incognito the gas chamber of Auschwitz."

More stem cell lies

By Aussiegirl

More lies coming from the stem cell arena. Leftists never let truth or science deter them from their politically correct beliefs.

TCS Daily - Is Dishonesty in Our Nature?

What magic is there in embryonic stem cells to make some scientists so economical with the truth and some science journals so credulous? Only a few months after the disgraceful Korean stem cell scandal, another scientist has again announced a breakthrough, and has again been denounced as a liar.

Last week a Massachusetts company declared that it had mastered a technique for creating "ethical" embryonic stem cells which could break the logjam in America's stem cell politics. The world's leading science journal, Nature, rushed the news into its on-line express edition. Since stem cells could become the key medical platform for the 21st century, finding a way to harvest the most versatile variety without destroying human embryos would have been a major coup. And this is the way Advanced Cell Technology described its work in a press release.

"We have demonstrated, for the first time, that human embryonic stem cells can be generated without interfering with the embryo's potential for life," said lead author Robert Lanza.

CEO William Caldwell delivered the same message: "we do not destroy the embryo. That's the whole purpose of what we perceive to be a major scientific breakthrough." Ronald Green, a bioethicist at Dartmouth who heads ACT's Ethics Advisory Board, gave it his blessing. "This technique overcomes this [ethical] hurdle and has the potential to play a critical role in the advancement of regenerative medicine."

But their claim was false. None of the embryos described in the paper had survived. Talk of breaking the impasse was a con.

What Lanza's team had done was to biopsy an eight-cell human embryo and gently remove a single cell -- a standard technique nowadays in IVF. With this cell Lanza created a stem cell line while the embryo continued to develop normally. At least that was what he intended. In fact, although 16 embryos were dismembered into 91 separate cells, Lanza produced only two stem cell lines.

"It was a very disruptive, very wasteful, very inefficient procedure, and it left all the old embryos dead, just like the old method did," said Richard Doerflinger, the pro-life spokesman for US Catholic Bishops, who blew the whistle on ACT's claims. In a rare moment of consensus on the controversial issue of embryonic stem cells, even supporters of therapeutic cloning dismissed Lanza's work. "A pitiful attempt to look morally acceptable, rather than do valuable science," sneered Glenn McGee, editor of the American Journal of Bioethics. Even the Australian IVF industry dismissed ACT's claims as "absurd" and "over-sold".

Fox News and Forced Conversions

By Aussiegirl

I tuned in last night to watch the one-hour interview with Fox reporters Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig. I fully expected to hear a further explanation and discussion of their forced conversion to Islam at gunpoint. Curiously, no mention was made of that part of their ordeal at all. Why is this? Are they afraid? Is this an uncomfortable reality that does not comport with their passionate defense of the "beauty of the Palestinian people"? Or is it merely embarrassing and something they'd rather forget.

Just imagine for a moment if a Muslim prisoner being held by United States authorities was forced to convert to Christianity at gunpoint. Imagine the hue and cry from Amnesty International, the invocations of the sacred Geneva Convention, the denunciations of the abuses of fundamental human rights, and lamentations about religious fanaticism. But all we heard was the sound of silence, or perhaps - the silence of the dog that did not bark in the night.

I have no problem with Steve and Olaf reciting those words or pretending to convert under those circumstances. Heaven knows what I would do. I doubt that I would be impelled to refuse to convert knowing that I was not dealing with rational players. But that's beside the point. They are not being held now. Why the silence? Are they not outraged at this violation of their fundamental human right to believe as they wish? Is it important to them to make clear to the world that they disapprove of this kind of religious coercion and wish to set the record straight that they do not now consider themselves Muslims and that their conversion was false. Or are they afraid to do so for fear of retaliation from Islamic groups? After all, apostacy is punishable by death in Islam, and as such this forced conversion was more than a mere extortion of false statements by a prisoner, it was tantamount to a death sentence or a fatwah. What happens if either of them chooses to attend a church service in the future? Will this be seized on as evidence of apostacy by Muslim fanatics? Are they to eschew Christmas or Easter services from now on?

No one seems to be discussing this. It seems that there is a curious delicacy regarding talking openly about what has happened to these two newsmen. Let's look at some of the ramifications of this conversion.

As I already said, one is that there is an obvious reluctance by Steve and Olaf, and Fox News to discuss this issue at all. As such, they are already guilty of censoring the news. In addition, there has been a reluctance to criticize these two journalists because of the fact that they work for Fox News, an ostensibly middle-of-the-road or conservative leaning news outlet. But Steve and Olaf were quick to point out that the most "tragic" thing about their abduction was the fact that all journalists left Gaza after their abduction, and their statement that the most important thing for them was making sure that the story of the beautiful and peaceful Palestinian people was told. Their ordeal does not seem to have changed their view in the least. Their forced conversion and the implied fatwah that it carries just seems to be an inconvenient fact that they are willing to overlook. Perhaps this can also be explained by the fact that neither journalist may hold a strong personal religious belief and so a professed conversion to one or another religion makes little difference -- Muslim, Christian, Jewish, what's the difference?

But there have been reports coming out of that part of the world that terrorist groups were out to target news outlets in order to intimidate them into more favorable coverage, and as part of this intent, Fox News came in for particular attention, given that they are perceived to be more sympathetic in their coverage to the Israeli side, or at least try to not be as openly pro-Palestinian and pro-Arab as CNN, which famously made a deal with Saddam Hussein to cover up unpleasant stories and to allow their reports to be censored in exchange for access. It seems that the terrorists have succeeded in their goal. There was not one word of criticism or outrage coming from either of these two men last night.

As such I would say that from now on neither of these journalists, especially Centanni, should be allowed to report from the Middle East. Their impartiality is in question. Are they Muslims? Do they now consider themselves Muslim? If not, why have they not made it clear that their conversion was coerced and therefore invalid. Or are they now afraid? If they are, they are compromised, and so is Fox News, and other news outlets. This is another nail in the coffin of the silencing of our media by the Islamists of all stripes.

In our own country we have CAIR ready to pounce on any speech which portrays Islam in any way realistically. President Bush recently had to backtrack from rightly naming our adversary as Islamic Fascism. The assault on our free speech proceeds unabated, from the Cartoon Jihad to the abduction and conversion of journalists, no one dare to say out loud what is really happening.

American Thinker - This is your Gazan conversion -- Andrew Bostom

The forced conversion of two television journalists to Islam is nothing new – except for the use of videotape and the celebrity value in play. The jihad of today is actually very old, and embedded in the very foundations of Islam.

Fox News journalists Steve Centanni and his accompanying cameraman Olaf Wiig were released on Sunday, August 27, 2006, following almost two weeks of captivity. While both men appeared to be in good physical health, the prognosis for their psychological state, and future journalistic contributions, is less sanguine. As depicted in this disturbing video, Centanni and Wiig were forced to convert to Islam, and recite an anti-Western diatribe, complemented by treacly Islamic apologetics.

During the brief press conference held almost immediately after their release , both men preferred to focus on the plight of the kind and benevolent denizens of Gaza. Momentarily acknowledging the coercive nature of their “conversion,” Centanni admitted off camera, “We were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint.” But he felt compelled to add this bizarre disclaimer,

“Don’t get me wrong here. I have the highest respect for Islam, and I learned a lot of good things about it,”

before concluding candidly

“…it was something we felt we had to do because they had the guns, and we didn’t know what the hell was going on.”

Centanni expressed his primary concern to the reporters gathered at the Gaza City Beach Hotel press conference as follows.

“I hope that this never scares a single journalist away from coming to Gaza to cover the story because the Palestinian people are very beautiful and kind-hearted…The world needs to know more about them. Don’t be discouraged.”

Wiig reiterated these sentiments.

“My biggest concern really is that as a result of what happened to us foreign journalists will be discouraged from coming to tell the story and that would be a great tragedy for the people of Palestine…You guys need us on the streets, and you need people to be aware of the story.”

And Wiig’s wife thanked unnamed “Palestinian women” from Gaza for their “solidarity”.

Within moments of making these effusively conciliatory statements—despite having been held captive and forcibly converted to Islam—the freed kidnapping victims were whisked off to Israel. Notwithstanding their pious ecumenical pronouncements, Centanni and the Wiigs failed to linger and socialize with the “very beautiful and kind hearted” local Muslim residents of Gaza, even those Gazan women who had shown them such “solidarity.”

Soros' takeover of the Democrat party threatens our democracy

By Aussiegirl

Here's a Jamie Glazov interview in Front Page Magazine concerning the new book by David Horowitz and Richard Poe on the takeover of the Democratic party, and by extension American politics, by the Marxist ideologue, George Soros. Read and digest to fully understand what is going on in our country. The destruction of Joe Lieberman is only the beginning. And this article makes even more curious the strange friendship between the Bush family and the Clintons. One would almost be excused for thinking in terms of elites getting together to rule the country while fooling the electorate into believing there is a dime's worth of difference between them. I'm afraid the actions of both Democrats and Republicans in the past few years have left me cynical beyond hope. I simply no longer believe there are any, or at least precious few, elected officials who actually care about serving their constituencies. Instead they appear to be more interested in feathering their own political nests and pushing their own agendas irrespective of the wishes of the electorate, whom they seem to regard as pesky nags who won't let them rule the way they want to. If this is true, then the Bush family are either knowingly complicit in this scenario, or they are unbelievably foolish idiots and tools of forces they do not understand. After reading this I don't know which is the greater threat to our future -- unrestricted illegal immigration, Islamic fundamentalism or George Soros and the useful-idiot ruling elites that seem clueless as to the gathering dangers.

On the other hand, we will find out soon enough if Soros' plans are successful, or if he crashes on the shoals of his own hubris. If he manages to wrest control of the Democrat party and swing it wildly leftward, he may well make Democrats irrelevant for the foreseeable future. In which case he would have wasted a lot of his own money. A fool and his money are often soon parted, after all. But should this happen. it is also not a good thing for Republicans. Without a credible opposition in the Democratic Party, we will continue to see the kind of out-of-control hubris and wild spending that has characterized the Republican majority in the past few years. That too is a danger. If all Soros' succeeds in doing is making one party irrelevant, it is still damaging to our way of life and our political health.

All in all, we are witnessing a huge change in not only our global future, but our domestic one was well. The center does not seem to be holding, domestically or in foreign affairs, and we are living in very dangerous and unstable times. But perhaps it was always so. I just heard on the radio today that when the news came out that Hitler had invaded Poland, a United States Senator made the statement "If only I had had a chance to talk to Hitler this could all have been avoided." Who knew John Kerry was a senator way back then?

In addition, the book lays out in great detail the incredible harm done to our political system and free speech by the infamous McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform. If nothing else, this piece of perfidious legislation should put paid to any hope that John McCain has for running for the presidency on the Republican ticket. And it is another instance of a curious dereliction of duty by George Bush, who signed the bill while saying openly he believed it was unconstitutional. By doing so he was openly flouting his sworn oath to uphold and defend the Constitution when he was inaugurated. Was he being merely politically cynical and following advice that the bill would be politically expedient for the Republican party and end up hurting Democratic fundraising, or was it a knowing collusion with a plan to limit free speech in the electoral process. Either scenario is damning, I'm afraid.

All I can say is that the political process seems broken in our country, and if the talking heads wonder why we can't get hyped up about the coming election, they need look no further than the hopeless mess that Washington has become. The people have come to realize that the politicians no longer reckon with them, and instead seek to rule rather than to lead.

FrontPage magazine.com :: The Shadow Party by Jamie Glazov

A new book by David Horowitz and Richard Poe has enraged the Left and alarmed many conservatives. It exposes the machinations of a radical clique working at the highest levels of government and finance to undermine American power. That book is The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party. It hit the New York Times bestseller list in its first week in print.

Here to tell us about The Shadow Party is co-author Richard Poe, our esteemed colleague at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, where he serves as director of research. Mr. Poe has written a number of bestselling books. His last two releases were Hillary's Secret War and The Seven Myths of Gun Control.

[...]FP: So what exactly is the Shadow Party?

Poe: The Shadow Party is the real power driving the Democrat machine. It is a network of radicals dedicated to transforming our constitutional republic into a socialist hive.

The leader of these radicals is multibillionaire George Soros. He has essentially privatized the Democratic Party, bringing it under his personal control. The Shadow Party is the instrument through which he exerts that control.

FP: How does it work?

Poe: It works by siphoning off hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions that would have gone to the Democratic Party in normal times, and putting those contributions at the personal disposal of Mr. Soros. He then uses that money to buy influence and loyalty where he sees fit.

In 2003, Soros set up a network of privately-owned groups which acts as a shadow or mirror image of the Party. It performs all the functions we would normally expect the real Democratic Party to perform, such as shaping the Party platform, fielding candidates, running campaigns, and so forth. However, it performs these functions under the private supervision of Mr. Soros and his associates.

The Shadow Party derives its power from its ability to raise huge sums of money. By controlling the Democrat pursestrings, the Shadow Party can make or break any Democrat candidate by deciding whether or not to fund him.

During the 2004 election cycle, the Shadow Party raised more than $300 million for Democrat candidates, prompting one of its operatives, MoveOn PAC director Eli Pariser, to declare, “Now it’s our party. We bought it, we own it…”

FP: Everyone knows that Soros has poured money into MoveOn. Can you name some other Shadow Party groups?

Poe: The Shadow Party is always changing. New groups form and old ones dissolve. For instance, America Coming Together -- which raised $135 million for Democrat get-out-the-vote drives in 2004 – has been mothballed, at least for now. The most active Shadow Party groups today are probably the Center for American Progress, America Votes, Democracy Alliance, the New Democrat Network, the New Politics Institute, ACORN and, of course, MoveOn.org.

FP: How does Soros use his influence over the Party?

Poe: He uses it to push the Party leftward. He is systematically purging the Party of moderates and packing it with radicals. For instance, the Shadow Party ousted Senator Joseph Lieberman in favor of Ned Lamont, because Lieberman refused to support a “cut-and-run” policy in Iraq.

FP: Isn’t that just politics as usual, though – wealthy fat cats funding their favorite candidates?

Poe: Funding ordinary candidates, be they Democrats or Republicans, would be politics as usual. Funding radical candidates who seek America’s destruction is not. Money is a tool. It can be used for good or evil. The Shadow Party is using it for evil.

FP: Does the Shadow Party really seek to destroy America?

Judge for yourself. In his new book The Age of Fallibility, Soros writes, “The main obstacle to a stable and just world order is the United States.” He announced in 2003 that it is necessary to “puncture the bubble of American supremacy.” Soros is working systematically to achieve that goal.

On the economic front, he is shorting the dollar in global currency markets, trying to force a devaluation. At the same time, Soros is orchestrating a nationwide movement to encourage mass immigration into the United States, and to mandate the provision of free social services to illegal immigrants. These measures alone have the potential to bankrupt the nation. However, if they fail, Soros has another program that will certainly finish the job. A long-time Soros operative named Jeffrey Sachs has been placed in charge of the United Nations Millennium Project – a global war on poverty designed to transfer wealth from rich countries to poor ones. Sachs is currently demanding that American taxpayers turn over $140 billion per year to his global welfare bureaucracy.

On the political front, Soros has poured massive funding into such groups as the ACLU, which uses lawsuits to hamstring the War on Terror. Soros also funds Amnesty International, whose US executive director has called for the arrest of President Bush as a war criminal. Another Soros-funded group, The Center for Constitutional Rights, has drawn up detailed articles of impeachment against the President.

FP: Tell me about Soros’ efforts to rewrite the U.S. Constitution.

Poe: Mr. Soros advocates deep structural change in our system of government. In April 2005, Yale Law School hosted an event called, “The Constitution in 2020”, whose stated goal was to formulate “a progressive vision of what the Constitution ought to be.” Of the event’s five institutional sponsors, one was Soros’ flagship foundation The Open Society Institute, and two others were Soros-funded Shadow Party groups; the Center for American Progress and the American Constitution Society. We nicknamed that event the Shadow Constitutional Convention.

FP: What parts of our Constitution does Soros want to change?

Poe: He appears to have a special animus against the Bill of Rights. Take freedom of worship, for instance. Soros seems to favor some sort of religious apartheid, with fundamentalist Christians banished to a socio-political Bantustan. For example, in a New Yorker interview of October 18, 2004, he said of President Bush, “The separation of church and state, the bedrock of our democracy, is clearly undermined by having a born-again President.”

Then there’s the Second Amendment. Soros has provided massive funding to anti-gun groups and anti-gun litigators. The unprecedented assault on gun rights during the 1990s was largely bankrolled by Soros.

FP: You and David Horowitz have also accused Soros of promoting political censorship in America.

Poe: Most Americans do not realize that the McCain-Feingold Act of 2002 was a Trojan Horse. Its stated purpose was to reform campaign finance law. Its actual effect is to regulate political speech. McCain-Feingold was a Shadow Party initiative. Soros and a group of leftwing foundations spent over $140 million to get it passed.

Here’s how it works. McCain-Feingold authorizes federal election officials to decide who may or may not run political advertisements during election season, and what sorts of ads they may run. In September 2004, a federal judge expanded McCain-Feingold’s reach by ordering the FEC to begin censoring the Internet. Blogger outrage forced the FEC to back down, but McCain-Feingold remains on the books. Sooner or later, it will be enforced, to the full extent its creators envisioned. We can thank Mr. Soros for these developments.

FP: Of course, we can also thank Republican Senator John McCain, who co-sponsored the bill.

Poe: Yes, but McCain has a long history of collusion with the Shadow Party.

During the 2000 presidential campaign, Soros sponsored two so-called “Shadow Conventions,” held at the same time and in the same cities as the Republican and Democratic Conventions, in Philadelphia and Los Angeles respectively. Their purpose was to promote campaign finance reform. John McCain gave the keynote speech at the Philadelphia “Soros Convention” (as columnist Robert Novak dubbed it), while Russ Feingold did so at the LA event.

McCain’s service to the Shadow Party brought him financial benefits. In 2001, McCain founded the Reform Institute for Campaign and Election Issues. The Institute’s major funders were mostly leftwing foundations. Prominent among them was George Soros’ Open Society Institute.

FP: It seems ironic that Soros spent ten years lobbying for campaign finance reform, only to emerge as one of the biggest influence buyers in Washington.

Poe: As I said, the McCain-Feingold Act was a Trojan Horse. It made the Shadow Party possible. Among other things, it forced the Democratic Party into a financial crisis, enabling Soros to swoop in and buy up the Party at a bargain-basement price.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

New Definition Of Species Could Aid Species Identification

By Aussiegirl

Will scientists ever stop making trouble for themselves? First they redefined what a planet is, and in so doing poor Pluto gets demoted. Now they turn their attention to the innocent mammal, and all of a sudden there are 2000 more mammalian species!

New Definition Of Species Could Aid Species Identificationon

by Staff Writers
Los Angeles (SPX) Aug 28, 2006

Scientists at Texas Tech University argue that defining mammalian species based on genetics will result in the recognition of many more species than previously thought present. This has profound implications for our knowledge of biodiversity and issues based on it, such as conservation, ecology, and understanding evolution. Their study is published in the latest Journal of Mammalogy.
The classical definition of species was proposed by Ernst Mayr in 1942, defining it as reproductively isolated groups of organisms. According to this study, the problem with applying this concept is that it is hard to observe mating and to know whether there is interbreeding between populations and thus creation of hybrid species. Traditionally, species have been recognized based on physical characteristics, although it has been assumed that species differences are inherited and thereby reflect genetic differences.

Study researchers Robert Baker and Robert Bradley define "species" based on genetic data. The new definition distinguishes species that are genetically isolated from one another. Baker and Bradley's genetic species concept also differs from the phylogenetic species concept proposed by Joel Cracraft in 1989 by emphasizing genetic isolation and protection of the integrity of the gene pool.

New molecular techniques for sequencing genes provide far greater resolution than was previously available. They also allow researchers to quantify problems in understanding the process of speciation. Using genetic data, it is now possible to distinguish species that are morphologically similar-those known as cryptic species. It is also possible to identify species that hybridize but have gene pools that are protected from one another.

The result of using genetic data is that species can be identified that cannot be distinguished using other methods. Baker and Bradley point out that this means there are doubtless many more species than previously thought.

They hypothesize that there are 2,000 more mammalian species than are currently recognized. According to the authors, this means that we will need to rethink the nature of speciation in mammals, barriers that evolve to produce genetic isolation between species, and how diverse mammals are, as well as other species-based issues such as those relating to conservation and zoonoses, communicable diseases from animals to humans.

Return of the Tribes -- The resistance to globalization runs deep

By Aussiegirl

This long but important article, by Ralph Peters, explains so much of what is going on today.

Return of the Tribes

Globalization is real, but its power to improve the lot of humankind has been madly oversold. Globalization enthralls and binds together a new aristocracy--the golden crust on the human loaf--but the remaining billions, who lack the culture and confidence to benefit from "one world," have begun to erect barricades against the internationalization of their affairs. And, from Peshawar to Paris, those manning the barricades increasingly turn violent over perceived threats to their accustomed patterns of life. If globalization represents a liberal worldview, renewed localism is a manifestation of reactionary fears, resurgent faiths, and the iron grip of tradition. Except in the commercial sphere, bet on the localists to prevail.

When the topic of resistance to globalization arises, an educated American is apt to think of a French farmer-activist trashing a McDonald's, anarchist mummers shattering windows during World Bank powwows, or just the organic farmer with a stall at the local market. But the swelling resistance to globalization is far more powerful and considerably more complex than a few squads of drop-outs aiming rocks at the police in Seattle or Berlin. We are witnessing the return of the tribes--a global phenomenon, but the antithesis of globalization as described in pop bestsellers. The twin tribal identities, ethnic and religious brotherhood, are once again armed and dangerous. [....]

Far from softening, national and other local identities are hardening again, reverting to ever-narrower blood-and-language relationships that Europe's dreamers assumed would fade away. Who now sees himself as fundamentally Belgian, rather than as a Fleming or Walloon? Catalans deny that they are Spaniards, and the Welsh imagine a national grandeur for themselves. In the last decade, the ineradicable local identities within the former Yugoslavia split apart in a bloodbath, while a mortified Europe looked away for as long as it could. The Yugoslav disaster was written off as an echo from the past--anyway, Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, and Kosovars were "not our kind"--but the Balkan wars instead signaled a much broader popular discontent with pseudo-identities concocted by political elites. The collapse of Yugoslavia hinted at the future of Europe: not necessarily the bloodshed, but the tenacity of historical identity. [....]

There is, indeed, a globalizing class, and hundreds of millions of human beings share the consumer tastes that announce their membership: Prada handbags for the striving women of Tokyo and Manhattan; the poverty-born music of Cesaria Evora for well-off fans from Frankfurt to San Francisco; the Mercedes sedan and the credit card; voyeuristic leftism for professors in Ann Arbor, Buenos Aires, and Vienna; computers for the literate and solvent from Budapest to Bangalore; wine from the region-of-the-week for London suburbanites or Shanghai's nouveaux riches; media conglomerates that eschew patriotism; and, for the platinum specks on that golden crust of humanity, private jets and $30,000-per-week vacation rentals when they weary of their own three or four homes.

Such people may well be more at home with foreigners of their own cultural stratum than with their less-fortunate countrymen. For the upper-tier of these new aristocrats of globalization, place of residence and citizenship are matters of convenience, tastes, and tax codes. This is a nobility with no sense of responsibility to the serfs, and its members are shielded as never before from life's inconveniences.

For the billions remaining, globalization and its consort, the information revolution, merely open a window into an exclusive shop they are not allowed to enter. A second-hand Pittsburgh Steelers shirt on a Congolese beggar isn't globalization, but only the hind end of global trade. The new awareness of the wealth of others is hardly pacifying. On the contrary, it excites the conviction (which local demagogues are delighted to exacerbate) that they can only be so rich because they stole what was ours. [....]

The power of local beliefs and traditions will continue to frustrate dreams of a globalized, homogenized society beyond our lifetimes. If we can recognize and exploit the power of local customs, we may find them the most potent tools we have for containing the religious counterrevolution of our Islamist enemies. If, on the other hand, we continue to deny that local traditions, beliefs, and habits constitute a power to be reckoned with, we will lose potential allies and many a well-meant assistance project will falter as soon as we remove our hand.

As for the potential for violence from insulted local beliefs, consider this statement: "They can preach holy war, and that is ever the most deadly kind, for it recks nothing of consequences."

This doesn't refer to mad mullahs and postmodern suicide bombers. It's a quotation from a historical novel by Rosemary Sutcliff, The Eagle of the Ninth. Published half a century ago for adolescents, it describes a Druid revolt against the Romans in Britain.

Globalization isn't new, but the power of local beliefs, rooted in native earth, is far older. And those local beliefs may prove to be the more powerful, just as they have so often done in the past. From Islamist terrorists fighting to perpetuate the enslavement of women to the Armenian obsession with the soil of Karabakh--from the French rejection of "Anglo-Saxon" economic models to the resistance of African Muslims to Islamist imperialism--the most complex forces at work in the world today, with the greatest potential for both violence and resistance to violence, may be the antiglobal impulses of local societies. From Liège to Lagos, the tribes are back.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Stanley Kurtz on Iran on National Review Online

By Aussiegirl

This is a long and and troubling article, but realistic. We are going to have to face a dangerous future, and we better start thinking about how we are going to deal with some unpleasant possibilities now.

The thing that is most worrisome in this article to me is the idea that the U.S. would be reluctant to retaliate for a nuclear strike with a nuclear response, but would opt for a major conventional military invasion of the country responsible. There are a number of problems with this possibility, although I agree that sadly, we have become so civilized that our nuclear deterrent is useless, because no one really believes we will ever use it. The first problem is identifying the country from where the attack originates, and the second is the hopelessness of a conventional ground war against a country like Iran. All you have to do is look at the killing fields that was the Iran/Iraq war - and that was with Saddam being willing to use all sorts of horrific methods. We would, as always, be constrained by our own civilized Geneva accord rules, while Iran would employ tactics such as using children in waves of suicide attacks like they did in the war with Iraq. None of these scenarios is good - but steeling ourselves to the necessity of overwhelming nuclear retaliation is by far the preferable solution.

Stanley Kurtz on Iran on National Review Online

American politics is about to undergo a sea change. Our lives are going to be transformed on a more personal level as well. Sometime between now and five-to-ten years from now we’re going to be forced to choose between preemptive war with Iran, and living in a post-proliferation world. War with Iran will probably mean casualties on American soil. Iran has likely placed terrorist agents in the United States, with instructions to retaliate against civilian targets in the event of war. We’ll also likely see attacks on Persian Gulf oil shipments, and therefore a huge spike in the price of gasoline, with major economic consequences.

But what if there is no preemptive strike? What if Iran gets the bomb? (I find it tough to credit the notion that a negotiated agreement with Iran can prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. At any rate, only an imminent American military strike would have any hope of generating a verifiable bargain.) An extraordinary new article by Stephen Peter Rosen, “After Proliferation: What to Do if More States Go Nuclear,” makes it obvious that our lives and our politics are going to change dramatically in a post-proliferation world. So either we go to war with Iran — likely a more costly war than any we’ve faced since 9/11 — or our lives will transform forever. To see what I mean, let’s take a tour of Rosen’s remarkable argument.

Who Hit Me?
Rosen begins by sidestepping (or seeming to sidestep) the controversy between hawkish proliferation pessimists and dovish proliferation optimists. Proliferation pessimists (like yours truly) see only a limited chance of averting disaster if states like Iran get the bomb. For hawkish proliferation pessimists, tough action in the present is our last, best chance to keep the dangerous nuclear genie corked-up in his bottle.

China Confidential: Chinese Think Tanks Predict Perfect Storm for US

By Aussiegirl

China Confidential is on the case again. Chinese think tanks are predicting the perfect storm for America. Just as we thought - there is a connection between Iranian threats and North Korea's missile tests and impending nuclear test. This blog is definitely worth checking on a regular basis. There's information here you won't find anywhere else.

China Confidential: Chinese Think Tanks Predict Perfect Storm for US

It's an exciting time to be working for a Chinese think tank.

Foreign affairs analysts, academicians, and propagandists employed--and deployed--by China's elite, government-run institutes and research centers are abuzz with anticipation and speculation concerning the coming weeks and months. Though more sober and sensible individuals are justifiably worried that changing world currents (a favorite Chinese concept) can spin dangerously out of control and lead to a global conflict, the prevailing mood is one of heady optimism--for China.

Hardliners are apparently convinced that Beijing's most powerful adversary, the United States, also known as "the Hegemon," is heading for a perfect storm, so to speak, in international relations, as China's Islamist ally, Iran, and Stalinist vassal, North Korea, intensify nuclear tensions in tandem. North Korea is increasingly likely to test a nuclear weapon before the winter months--and may even test-launch another long-range missile capable of hitting the US. And Iran is not going to give up its covert nuclear weapons program. Instead, it will try to buy time by offering "serious negotiations"--in best bazaar behavior--while continuing its uranium enrichment program and accelerating an alternative method of producing plutonium for bombs via its new heavy water facility.

Nuclear North Korea and Islamist Iran--the perfect storm! For Rising China, it does not get much better than that, provided, of course, that the criminally insane Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il and Hitler-admiring Mahmoud Ahmadinejad don't get carried away and actually make good on their threats of mass death and destruction ... because, at the end of the day, US consumer dollars are still needed to fuel the mighty export machine that is central to China's economic expansion and growth.

China Confidential: China's Alliance with Radical Islam Recalls '70s Ties to Palestinian Terror and Forgotten TWA Bombing

By Aussiegirl

Don't miss this blockbuster revelation about China's long connection to Palestinian terrorism and a series of plane bombings. China Confidential has the inside scoop. Stunning information. Read the whole thing, it's quite illuminating, even touching on TWA flight 800 that blew up (ostensibly from a fuel tank leak) shortly after leaving JFK airport. I've always believed that China and Russia have had their fingers in the Islamic terrorism pie for a long time. The unholy alliance of Russia, China and fanatical Islam are working together to bring down the U.S.

China Confidential: China's Alliance with Radical Islam Recalls '70s Ties to Palestinian Terror and Forgotten TWA Bombing

If there is a special section of hell reserved for the top torturers and henchmen of totalitarian mass murderers--men like SS leader Heinrich Himmler of Hitler Germany and NKVD head Lavrenty Beria of Stalinist Russia--China's Kang Sheng must be there, looking up at the Middle East with a smile on his fiendish face. The man who ruled over Mao's secret service was an architect of China's secret alliance with anti-American Arab extremism, building ties with the superstars of international terror, from Yasser Arafat and George Habash of the PLO and PFLP, respectively, to Wadi Haddad of the PFLP (he headed his own faction) and Ahmed Jibril of the PFLP-GC.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Islamic Society subpoenas WTTK in defamation suit

By Aussiegirl

It's beginning -- the wholesale assault on freedom of speech in our country by the Islamic extremists -- read Muslims. These people will not stop until it is forbidden to discuss or otherwise criticize the actions of Muslims. And our stupid government will probably go along with it. Michael Graham is a particular target of these people. They've already had him fired from his local radio show in Washington (one that I particularly enjoyed), and now they are after him and the Boston Herald in Boston.

BostonHerald.com - Local & Regional: Islamic Society subpoenas WTTK in defamation suit

The group building a vast Islamic mosque and social center in Roxbury has subpoenaed a local radio talk station after one of its prominent hosts, Michael Graham, discussed the project on the air.

A lawyer for the Islamic Society of Boston said the subpoena is part of routine evidence gathering for its defamation case against The Boston Herald, WFXT-TV (Fox 25) and advocacy groups that have questioned the mosque, including the David Project, a Jewish group.

Some civil liberties lawyers who reviewed the subpoena, however, expressed concern that it goes too far and could chill free expression.

ISB attorney Howard Cooper said “the appearance for the lawyer of the David Project on the Graham show is directly relevant to the issues before the court in the pending litigation, and this is why a subpoena has been issued simply asking for copies of the broadcast.”

But after reviewing the subpoena, attorney Harvey Silverglate, a Cambridge civil liberties specialist, described it as “extraordinary.” He noted that it also asks for materials used by Graham to support his remarks about the ISB, documents related to David Project lawyer Jeffrey Robbins’ appearance on the show and communications between Graham and other defendants or attorneys involved in the ISB defamation suit.

“Courts have to take seriously their obligation, their duty to protect the First Amendment, because civil litigation can be overwhelming and can really easily turn into harassment,” Silverglate said.

During the mid-August broadcasts on WTTK-FM (96.9), Robbins and Graham discussed the ISB and a controversial Muslim scholar, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and other issues.

Phil Redo, Greater Media/Boston general manager, said the station will hand over audiotapes of the broadcasts, but not in time for a deadline of tomorrow set by ISB.

Regarding the other materials, “We don’t have any of those of things,” Redo said.

Cooper said the subpoena is a “simple matter” of gathering evidence for his lawsuit.

North Carolina attorney W. Andrew Copenhaver, who is not involved in the defamation suit, said if he was defending WTTK in this matter he would argue the subpoena is a “fishing expedition.”

“They are trying to curtail legitimate public discussion on this matter,” said Copenhaver, who was referring to legal strategy. “They are going to try to punish people for talking about them.”

Graham was fired from Washington radio station WMAL-AM last year after he refused to soften his on-air description of Islam as “a terrorist organization.”

Torture fear for blogger

By Aussiegirl

When blogging may cost you your freedom or your life.

The Observer | World | Torture fear for blogger

A Syrian blogger has been arrested by the country's security forces without explanation, raising fears that President Assad's government is seeking to curb freedom of speech on the internet.
Ali Sayed al-Shihabi, an English language teacher, has not been seen since he was summoned to a meeting with security agents in Damascus on 10 August. It is believed his detainment may be linked to articles he has written on a political website.

Amnesty International warned that Shihabi, who is 50, is at risk of torture, and urged its members to write to the Syrian authorities.

Amnesty's joint campaign with The Observer, at Irrepressible.info, calls for an end to governments' censorship of the web and has attracted more than 36,000 signatures.

Two days after Shihabi was taken, his wife was told that he was being held at the state security centre at Kafr Soussa, Damascus, but that she could not see him. Shihabi has written political articles on the website Hiwar al-Mutamedn ('Civilised Dialogue'). He also has had two books about social affairs published in Syria and was detained between 1982 and 1991 for his membership of the outlawed Party for Communist Action.

Amnesty said Syria has a history of persecuting bloggers. Tim Hancock, its UK campaigns director, said: 'We know Syrian military intelligence has held internet dissidents in secret locations in the past and we know they are then at risk of torture.'

Krakatoa erupted on this day in 1883

By Aussiegirl

It looks like it's Supervolcano Week on Ultima Thule. We just had articles about new information regarding the strength of the eruption of Santorini that may have led to the effects described in Exodus, and just yesterday was the anniversary of the eruption of Vesuvius. It turns out that today is also the anniversary of one of the most cataclysmic eruptions ever seen on earth, at least in recorded history, that of Krakatoa. Here's the Wikipedia introduction about this massive earthquake. The Discovery Channel had a fascinating recreation of the sequence of events that took place on Krakatoa from eyewitness reports from that time. It was an amazing special, which is often repeated. You can check out the Discovery Channel website here, and watch a trailer from the special along with some additional info.

Krakatoa - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Krakatoa (Indonesian name: Krakatau, Portuguese name: Krakatao) is a volcanic island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra in Indonesia. The name is used for the island group, the main island (also called Rakata), and the volcano as a whole. It has erupted repeatedly, massively and with disastrous consequences throughout recorded history. The best known eruption culminated in a series of massive explosions on August 26-27, 1883.

The 1883 eruption ejected more than 25 cubic kilometres of rock, ash, and pumice [1], and generated the loudest sound ever historically reported — the cataclysmic explosion was distinctly heard as far away as Perth in Australia (approx. 3100 km), and the island of Rodrigues near Mauritius (approx. 4800 km). Atmospheric shock waves reverberated around the world seven times and were felt for five days[citation needed]. Near Krakatoa, according to official records, 165 villages and towns were destroyed and 132 seriously damaged, at least 36,417 (official toll) people died, and many thousands were injured by the eruption, mostly in the tsunamis which followed the explosion.

The eruption destroyed two-thirds of the island of Krakatoa. New eruptions at the volcano since 1927 have built a new island, called Anak Krakatau (child of Krakatoa).

Worldwide effects
The eruption produced erratic weather and spectacular sunsets throughout the world for many months afterwards, as a result of sunlight reflected from suspended dust particles ejected by the volcano high into Earth's atmosphere. The area around Java is now known as Lady Bull because of its fiery nature. This worldwide volcanic dust veil acted as a solar radiation filter, reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the surface of the earth. In the year following the eruption, global temperatures were lowered by as much as 1.2 degrees Celsius on average. Weather patterns continued to be chaotic for years, and temperatures did not return to normal until 1888. British artist William Ashcroft made thousands of color sketches of the red sunsets half-way around the world from Krakatoa in the years after the eruption. In 2004, researchers proposed the idea that the blood-red sky shown in Edvard Munch's famous 1893 painting The Scream is also an accurate depiction of the sky over Norway after the eruption.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Fathers and Daughters in the Operas of Verdi

By Aussiegirl

When Verdi was a young man in his twenties and newly arrived in Milan with his family, a great tragedy befell him that was to mark the rest of his personal and creative life. In the span of a few short years his wife and both his infant children, a son and daughter, died tragically of mysterious fevers. Understandably, the loss nearly drove the young composer into complete and black despair. In the midst of his grief he was forced to complete a comic opera that had already been commissioned. Not surprisingly, "Un Giorno di Regno" was a failure and left the young composer vowing never to compose again. But a chance encounter with Ricordi, the great music publisher, luckily brought the composer's self-imposed absence from the stage to an end. Once the libretto of "Nabucco" was thrust into his hand and Verdi's eyes fell on the verse of "Va Pensiero", the rest, as they say, is musical history.

Perhaps as a result of his early loss and thus the frustration of all of Verdi's paternal instincts (he never had additional children with his eventual second wife, Giuseppina Strepponi), the theme of fathers and daughters, and parents and children in general, figures prominently in the grand oeuvre of Verdi's great and long operatic career. Of the twenty-eight operas composed in his lifetime, a number of them explore the theme of parental love in its many guises and many aspects. Works such as "Il Trovatore", "Rigoletto", "Louisa Miller", even "La Traviata", followed years later by masterpieces such as "Simon Boccanegra", "Aida" and others attest to his lifelong attention to the dynamic, subtleties and depth of parental and filial love.

In addition, there may be other factors that weighed in Verdi's preference for this relationship over the more typical operatic preoccupation with young romantic love between the lead tenor and lead soprano. Verdi was always a very serious man, given to serious thoughts on weighty topics. He read widely and deeply, and had little truck with romantic nonsense. He did not have a reputation as a ladies man, for instance, and so seemed to take little interest in the romantic mewlings of lovesick tenors and sopranos, finding young love to be lacking in dramatic and psychological interest.

Another possible reason for his special preoccupation with father-daughter relationships was his constant love for the baritone voice. Verdi was a product of a village life. He was familiar with the "bandas" of his youth -- the local orchestras that seemingly every Italian town could not be without -- with their preponderance of wind instruments, a device he used routinely in his operas as a kind of off-stage comment on the passing scene. In addition every Italian village had a good men's choir, and Verdi would have had ample exposure at an early age to the timbre and sonority of a fine baritone voice.

He always felt that the tenor voice was somewhat of an aberration, and that the male voice more naturally resided in the baritone range. In addition, a tenor-soprano duet ends up being more of a duel between tenor and soprano, occupying as they do the same range separated by an octave or two. This often leads to the spectacle of the tenor and soprano both vying for that high C together at the end, rather than one voice being lower and therefore providing a natural harmonic counterpart. The sound of the baritone and soprano voice together is an absolutely melting combination, as evidenced by glorious father-daughter duets in such masterpieces as "Rigoletto", "Louisa Miller", "Simon Boccanegra" and even "La Traviata".

Normally the baritone and soprano only meet onstage in an antagonistic duet consisting of the evil baritone who's always forcing his attentions on the unwilling soprano, who actually loves the tenor (she loves to sing those high-C's with him, you know). As such these situations don't allow much room for psychological exploration of subtle emotions. Verdi as a rule abhorred the cliches and conventions of opera, and even though he had to adhere to many of them, he never gave up stretching and expanding the range of operatic themes and techniques.

Enlarging on this theme of psychological penetration, it is important to underscore the depth and insight that Verdi brought to all of his characters. Even the seemingly stock characters are always wrought more skillfully in Verdi's sure hand. In addition to being a great composer, Verdi was a great dramatist and master of the theater and the theatrical moment. Nothing escaped his eagle eye. His attention to details of costume, scenery and staging were no less meticulous than his delineation of scene and character and musicology. In opera, Verdi was the sole creator of a human universe that he explored with the depths of his own great character, and then presented to an appreciative world.

Let's take a look at some of the operas with parent-child themes in order of their composition. In "Louisa Miller" Verdi first broaches the father-daughter theme that will come to feature prominently in his later works. Louisa is put upon by a local noble and the freedom of her father is threatened. In a memorable duet, father and daughter pledge their love and devotion and vow to escape together to a land of freedom. "Louisa Miller" marks the beginning of the composer's transition into a wholly Verdian form, departing in this opera from the styles of Bellini and Donizetti who came before him.

Following "Louisa Miller", Verdi embarked on what many consider one of the crowning achievements of his musical career -- the glorious trilogy of masterworks that came one after the other -- "Rigoletto", "Il Trovatore" and "La Traviata". These works established Verdi as a completely new and unique voice never before heard in opera. Each opera was now clearly delineated with what he called a distinct "tinta" or emotional and musical tint. Unlike other composers, you would be hard put to place any aria or duet from one opera easily into another. They each have a distinct style and sound. It is a remarkable achievement that he managed to maintain the mood of a piece even when he reworked and rewrote operas many years later, as he did with works such as Simon Boccanegra.

In Rigoletto we have a rather unusual father-daughter situation. Rigoletto is a reviled and deformed man, shunned and mocked by society, and in possession of a cruel and mocking wit in his role as court jester to the Duke of Mantua's court. He is nevertheless portrayed as deeply human and selfless in his love for his only daughter, Gilda, whom he keeps isolated and under guard, protecting her from the lecherous reaches of the Duke's court. His love, of course, as so often happens with over-protective parental love, verges on the obessive, and in the end smothers the young Gilda, making her more curious about the outside world that she is not allowed to explore, and simultaneously more naive. As such, ironically, she becomes easy prey for the predations of the lecherous Duke, who having wooed her and won her love, has her abducted for his pleasure in the court.

Here Verdi pours his paternal heart into the poor hunchbacked father, whose love and aching paranoia mix into a lethal combination of possessiveness and revenge. And in the end, it is his lust for revenge that ends up inadvertantly causing the death of his own daughter. Verdi shows us that you can love something so much that you end up smothering it. Yet the scenes between father and daughter cannot fail to move the average operagoer, who perhaps is surprised to discover such deep feelings in a character he had expected to dislike.

Here too, Verdi shows us that he is a master of psychology and subtlety. Gilda is not entirely the innocent girl that we might expect in the character of a young and innocent girl. She is headstrong and rebellious. Time and again she goes against her father's wishes and meets with the Duke secretly. And even after she is abducted and raped, she continues to love and defend the Duke, and in the end even sacrifices her life to save his. Rigoletto for his part is also a complex character, neither entirely good nor entirely bad. His love for his daughter is in the end tragically thwarted by his own lust for revenge on the Duke. This is the first of Verdi's great trilogy, each with its distinct style, powerful dramatic effect and glorious musical expression.

From here, Verdi moved on to "Il Trovatore", an opera that has been consistently mocked as having a ridiculous libretto and story, and is typically mentioned as one of the more egregious offenders when it comes to operatic plotline excess. But even here, Verdi always manages to bring us distinctly realistic and dramatically human portraits in the midst of seemingly stock situations. In this opera he explored the mother-son relationship between Manrico the troubador, and his mother, the gypsy woman Azucena. Verdi actually had wanted to make the mezzo-soprano role of Azucena the primary female lead in this opera, relegating the romantic interest soprano to second-fiddle. Convention and pressure wouldn't allow him to do it, so he did the next best thing. He gave all the juicy and dramatic arias and duets to Azucena, and left the soprano to warble a few charming solos. But the emphasis is primarily on the love of Azucena for Manrico, even though it turns out he is her adopted son. (Her own son died when she accidentally, while in a frenzy of grief, threw him in the fire instead of Manrico, whom she had abducted as a form of revenge on Manrico's father. I told you the story sounds absurd.) Still, Verdi makes us care about these characters, and makes even these absurd sounding situations completely believable.

Even in "La Traviata" we find a father-daughter theme. Germont is the father of Rudolfo, the young impetuous man who falls in love with Violetta, a famous courtesan fatally ill with tuberculosis. Violetta and Rudolfo run off to the country together where they hope to escape the demands of society. Germont calls on Violetta one day, intending to confront her and demand that she give up his son. But when he meets her, he is struck by her noble manner and proud carriage. He realizes that he must use subtlety and appeal to her better nature in a fatherly way, rather than issuing threats. And so Verdi embarks on one of the most fascinating scenes in all of his operas, an extended duet, which is really more of a dramatic conversation of psychological persuasion, between the elder Germont and the stricken Violetta.

Germont probes Violetta's motivations and attacks her where she is most vulnerable. He appeals to her goodness and her selflessness, and points out the difficulties she will face, implying the eventual loss of interest which a young man must inevitably feel for an older woman. He appeals to her lost innocence by invoking the image of a young woman -- his daughter -- whose impending nuptuals are being threatened by the scandal involving her brother Rudolfo. And as the scene progresses, Verdi skillfully shows us that Germont cleverly plays the role of father to Violetta. In the end, just before she agrees to his demand that she renounce Rudolfo and leave him forever, she begs Germont to "embrace me as a daughter" one last time in order to give her the strength to go on without her love. The scene is one of unforgettable subtlety, power and building tragedy.

Verdi did not revisit the father-daughter bond in any great depth until his later opera, "Simon Boccanegra", which also features one of Verdi's most beautiful and emotionally powerful duets. Simon Boccanegra has always thought that his young daughter was lost while he was away on one of his many voyages, but as an aging Doge he suddenly discovers that the daughter of his onetime friend, and current rival, is in reality his own daughter. The emotional and musical highs of this recognition scene are nothing short of miraculous.

In the duet, Amelia Grimaldi relates to Boccanegra a secret of her life. She remembers being raised by an old woman and being visited by a seafaring man. She shows Boccanegra a locket bearing a portrait of her dead mother that the old lady had given her, Boccanegra produces an identical portrait -- she is Maria, his long-lost daughter. The tearful and joyful reunion is one of Verdi's most glorious creations, and cannot fail to move.

In the end, we can say that perhaps no other opera composer managed to explore the psychological depths of his characters in quite the way that Verdi was able to do. And no other composer plumbed the depths of the parent-child, particularly the father-daughter bond, with such compassion, insight and understanding. It is perhaps the deep well of loss in Verdi's own personal life that gave birth to such profound emotion. Whatever the impetus, it has given the world a legacy of love and music unequalled before or since.

There remains one final unwritten chapter in Verdi's exploration of the theme of fathers and daughters, one that contains a great mystery. Throughout most of Verdi's career he attempted on many occasions to broach the subject of perhaps the ultimate father-daughter drama -- that of "King Lear". Verdi loved Shakespeare and returned to the plays of the great English dramatist time and again, in works such as "Macbeth", "Otello" and "Falstaff". But "King Lear" always eluded him. He even had a scenario and libretto laid out for the great Lear, in four acts and eleven scenes, and reportedly worked on the opera on and off over a period of nearly fifty years. On several occasions the opera seems to have almost come to fruition, but something always seemed to get in the way of its competion. There is even speculation that some music was composed that eventually found its way into other operas, perhaps into the glorious reunion duet of Boccanegra and Maria. But the great "King Lear" lay unfinished to the end.

There has been much speculation as to the reason for Verdi's inability to apply himself to this deeply tragic story, a story that seemed to be made to order for him. In the end, he offered the libretto and scenario to Mascagni. According to Charles Osborne in his book, "The Complete Operas of Verdi", when Mascagni inquired as to the reason why Verdi himself had never composed it, "Verdi closed his eyes for a moment, perhaps to remember, perhaps to forget. Then softly and slowly he replied: 'The scene in which King Lear finds himself on the heath terrified me." Verdi, who entered into the emotional lives of his creations so completely, perhaps feared the depths of tragedy that he would encounter.

Let me end with Charles Osborne's insightful penetration into this ultimate mystery:

The practical explanations why Verdi never wrote his Lear are all feasible. The psychical reason for his failure to attempt something he so clearly wanted to do is obscure. Perhaps, as he told Mascagni, he was terrified by Lear's madness. He himself was gloomy of temperament, neurotic and given to psychosomatic upsets. But, more likely, he was terrified by Lear's feeling for Cordelia. The father-daughter relationship had a special meaning and emphasis for him. Might not Lear have proved too overwhelming an exposition of it, or have led Verdi to too deep an exploration? My surmise is that, throughout his life, Verdi's subconscious protected him from Lear.