Monday, April 28, 2008

MESSENGER Mission News - Mercury Features receive new names.

MESSENGER Mission News
April 28, 2008

Mercury Features Receive New Names
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has approved new names for features on Mercury and agreed on a new theme for fossae on the planet. These newly christened features were discovered from images taken by the MESSENGER spacecraft during its first flyby of Mercury in January.

The IAU is the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations to surface features on celestial bodies. “We are very pleased with how quickly the IAU has responded to the need to name many of the prominent landforms on Mercury first seen in MESSENGER images,” says MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. “The Science Team has just submitted our first scientific papers on the flyby observations, and this prompt action by the IAU has meant that we are able to refer to these features by their formal names.”

Naming rules exist for most features on planets, moons, and asteroids. Mercury’s cliffs are named after the ships of famous explorers. One set of cliffs discovered by MESSENGER (called by the Latin name for cliffs, rupes) is named Beagle Rupes, after the ship on which naturalist Charles Darwin sailed around the world.

Craters on Mercury are named after famous deceased artists, musicians, or authors. The approved crater names are:
  • Apollodorus, after Apollodorus of Damascus, a second-century Greek architect credited by many with designing the Pantheon temple in Rome.
  • Atget, after Eugène Atget, a French photographer noted for his photographs documenting the architecture and street scenes of Paris.
  • Cunningham, after Imogen Cunningham, an American photographer known for her portraits, still lifes, and figure studies.
  • Eminescu, after Romanian poet Mihail Eminescu, considered to be the “godfather” of the modern Romanian language.
  • Kertész, after André Kertész, a Hungarian-born American photographer famous for developing the photo essay.
  • Neruda, after Chilean poet, Nobel laureate, and politician Pablo Neruda, most famous for his love poems.
  • Raditladi, after Leetile Disang Raditladi, a Botswanan poet and playwright who founded the first political party in Botswana, the Federal Party.
  • Sander, after German photographer August Sander best known for his portrait series.
  • Sveinsdóttir, after Júlíana Sveinsdóttir, one of Iceland’s first woman painters and textile artists and a significant innovator from the 1930s to the 1950s through her approach to the landscape subject and color palette.
  • Xiao Zhao, after Xiao Zhao, a Chinese artist from the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) who once served as Emperor Gao Zong’s dai zhao (painter-in-attendance) with the honorary title di gong lang (gentleman for meritorious achievement).
MESSENGER discovered a striking set of graben (or fault-bounded troughs) that radiate out from a small area near the center of the Caloris basin. An individual graben is termed a fossa (plural is fossae) by the IAU. No previous fossae had been discovered on Mercury from the Mariner 10 images, so the IAU had to approve a new naming scheme—“significant works of architecture.” Pantheon Fossae were named after the Pantheon, a still-used second-century Roman temple and later church. The ancient building and the fossae both feature a central circular feature and radiating texture.

Arizona State University’s Mark Robinson, who leads the development of global image products from MESSENGER, says he drew on a database maintained by the IAU, as well as requests from individuals, for nomenclature ideas.

“There’s a certain romance to these names,” says Robinson. “But more practically, naming these features facilitates communication among scientists studying the planet. It’s very cumbersome to write a scientific paper and say, ‘that big crater just east of that really huge crater near Mercury’s North pole.’ It’s much easier to name the features.”

An image of Mercury showing the locations of the newly named features is available online at (Multiply Users check out the Mercury photo at

During its first Mercury pass, MESSENGER’s cameras imaged a large portion of Mercury’s surface that had not been previously seen by spacecraft. (When Mariner 10, the only other space mission to visit Mercury, examined the surface 33 years ago, the Sun illuminated a different portion of the planet.) As the MESSENGER Science Team continues to study the images of Mercury, more features on Mercury will be named.

“The naming process is an ongoing effort because as we get more and more science out of the data we start finding more and more features,” Robinson says.

MESSENGER will next fly past Mercury in October, viewing the opposite side of the planet. A third flyby is scheduled for September 2009, and the probe will settle into Mercury’s orbit in March 2011.

MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is a NASA-sponsored scientific investigation of the planet Mercury and the first space mission designed to orbit the planet closest to the Sun. The MESSENGER spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and after flybys of Earth, Venus, and Mercury will start a yearlong study of its target planet in March 2011. Dr. Sean C. Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, leads the mission as Principal Investigator. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the MESSENGER spacecraft and manages this Discovery-class mission for NASA.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

CNG Vehicles in Utah, from the AP

Natural-gas vehicles hot in Utah, where the fuel is cheap

By PAUL FOY, AP Business WriterFri Apr 25, 3:06 AM ET

Troy Anderson was at the gas pump and couldn't have been happier, filling up at a rate of $5 per tank.

Anderson was paying 63.8 cents per gallon equivalent for compressed natural gas, making Utah a hot market for vehicles that run on the fuel.

It's the country's cheapest rate for compressed gas, according to the Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, and far less than the $3.56 national average price for a gallon of gasoline.

"I'm totally celebrating," crowed Anderson, a 44-year-old social worker, who picked up a used Honda Civic GX two months ago. "This is the greatest thing. I can't believe more people aren't talking about it. This is practically free."

Personal ownership of natural gas-fueled vehicles in Utah soared from practically nothing a few years ago to an estimated 5,000 vehicles today, overwhelming a growing refueling network, where compressors sometimes can't maintain enough pressure to fill tanks completely for every customer.

"Nobody expected this kind of growth. We got caught by the demand," said Gordon Larsen, a supervisor at Utah utility Questar Gas.

Utah has 91 stations, including 20 open to the public, mostly in the Salt Lake City area. The others are reserved for commercial drivers, such as school districts, bus fleets and big businesses such as a Coca-Cola distributor.

It's possible to drive the interstates between Rock Springs, Wyo., and St. George, Utah — a distance of 477 miles — and find 22 places to pull off and fill up.

California has more stations but prices are much higher there, the equivalent of $2.50 a gallon for gasoline.

"Utah has the cheapest prices by a big margin," said Richard Kolodziej, president of the Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, whose members include utilities, Honda Motor Co., environmental groups and transit agencies.

Among major utilities outside of Alaska, Questar is the country's cheapest provider of natural gas for home use. It can offer compressed natural gas for cars even cheaper because of a federal tax credit.

The incentives don't stop there. Buyers of new and some used and converted vehicles can claim their own federal and state tax credits totaling up to $7,000 — nearly the extra cost of a CNG-fueled vehicle.

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a Republican, paid $12,000 of his own money to modify a state-owned Chevrolet Suburban last June.

"Converting to CNG gives us an opportunity to promote energy security and support a clean-burning alternative," Huntsman said in an e-mail Thursday. "Plus, who can beat running a Suburban on 63 cents a gallon?"

Mike Gaffa, a 39-year-old Continental Airlines reservation clerk, bought a used Ford F-150 pickup for $10,500. The vehicle came with a bonus: a previous owner added three extra tanks that fill the bed of his pickup.

"I don't even keep track of gasoline prices anymore," Gaffa boasted. "You'd be hard-pressed to find another vehicle that can go 600 miles on a fill-up."

And when he runs out of natural gas, he can switch over to a regular gasoline tank for a total range of more than 850 miles.

Utah has caught the attention of Honda, which can't make CNG-equipped Civic GXs fast enough at an Ohio plant. For now, it makes the compact available for sale to individuals only in California and New York, but executives say Utah could be next on their list.

Aside from fleet sales, no other automaker offers a CNG-powered car in the U.S.

Most Utah buyers must turn to the used-car market. They are tracking down vehicles on the Internet, some made earlier by the Detroit automakers. Some dealers here are hauling used CNG vehicles to Utah by the truckload.

"The demand in Utah is huge," Kolodziej said. "It's sucking all the used vehicles from around the country."

Friday, April 25, 2008

Just when you thought the big bad Russians were gone......

This bodes well for our Arab friends. They can no longer have exclusive control over the politics of their region. The future will be a different world for sure.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Interesting essay about the quake...

I thought I might post this from the paper the other day. For those that are not from St. Louis, Chief George was recently fired in a racially motivated scandal in promotions in the St. Loius Fire Department.

Friday's quake could be just 'The Precursor' of a bigger one

Excerpts from a speech given to the St. Louis Historical Society on April 21,

Good morning. As you probably know, this is the anniversary of the St. Louis
Earthquake. It struck at precisely 4:52 p.m. on this date 50 years ago. Some of
you have studied it, but for the rest of you, let me recap a little bit.

What is now known as "The Precursor" had struck early in the morning three days
earlier. Not much more than a little rumble — a shaking of the bed, is the way
many people described it — on a Friday morning at approximately 4:30. The
Precursor measured 5.2. Scientists pinpointed the epicenter five miles from the
town of Bellmont in southeastern Illinois.

The people of St. Louis were surprised — and perhaps even relieved — to learn
that this was not the New Madrid Fault, but the Wabash Valley Fault. I think
it's safe to say that few people had even heard of the Wabash Valley Fault.

I'm not saying we know everything about earthquakes now — we certainly don't —
but it's surprising how little we knew back in 2008.

Not even the scientists of that time understood that the activity in the Wabash
Valley Seismic Zone was simply a reaction to what was happening along the New
Madrid Fault.

The pressure along the New Madrid Fault had already begun to increase on that
Friday morning, and it was that shifting that caused the little bump along the
Wabash Valley Fault. We have a saying now, "When the New Madrid catches cold,
the Wabash Valley sneezes."

People didn't understand that then. They knew nothing of the interconnectedness
of things under the Earth.

In fact, it was the St. Louis Earthquake — more precisely, the fact that the
Precursor had been from another fault — that led scientists to the discovery of
the relationships of one seismic zone to another.

Most of you are familiar with what happened. The rumbling began at 4:52. In
those first moments, it probably seemed much like The Precursor of three days

Then the ground began to undulate. You've seen the home videos. It's as if the
earth had been turned into the sea.

You can actually see the waves. Within seconds, buildings began to collapse.
Gas lines burst. There were explosions, fires. The Gateway Arch rocked back and
forth, and then back and forth again before shearing apart.

It was over in less than a minute, but the survivors didn't believe that. To
them, it seemed like the ground had been moving for a much longer time. Five
minutes, some said. Ten minutes, some said. In reality, the actual duration was
46 seconds.

Of course, that was just the start of things. Power was out and wouldn't be
fully restored for weeks.

This occurred during the administration of George W. Bush, which was, as you
know, one of the most inept administrations in our country's history. Some of
you have read, I'm sure, about that administration's response to the hurricane
that devastated New Orleans. The response to the St. Louis Earthquake was even

The rioting and looting started that first night. It was hard to tell which
buildings had caught fire on their own, and which had been torched. No power at
all, and yet the city glowed.

On the second day, civic leaders and ministers took to the streets to try to
bring order out of the chaos. The most effective of these leaders was the
former Fire Chief Sherman George. He was later appointed to head the Rebuilding
Commission, and it was his work on that commission that catapulted him to
mayor, and eventually, of course, to governor.

In a sense, it was reminiscent of the rise of Raymond Tucker. He was the
Washington University engineering professor who was named Smoke Commissioner in
1934 by Mayor Bernard Dickmann and asked to do something about the heavy smog
that used to hang over St. Louis in the winter.

You might remember the famous Black Christmas of 1927 when it was almost pitch
black at noon.

So successful was Tucker that he later ran for mayor and beat the establishment
candidate, Mark Eagleton, whose son, Tom, would become a U.S. senator.

I bring up Tucker because he had a street named after him, the old 12th Street.
It had tunnels underneath it, and so completely cratered during the earthquake
of 2008.

Many of the fatalities were people who worked along what was then called Tucker
Boulevard. Maybe that's why when the street was rebuilt, the name Tucker was
discarded in favor of a return to 12th Street.

Eventually, 12th Street was dropped and the street became what it is today —
George Avenue.

Now, before I close, I'd like to ask for a moment of silence for all those
folks who lost their lives in this city 50 years ago today.

Thank you.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

On the recent Earthquake

The New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811 and 1812 were three severe quakes over a 4 month period that affected the entire Mississippi/Ohio Valley. Among the ancedotes recorded in this earthquake were that: Church bells were rung (by the quake) in Boston, Sidewalks cracked in Washington DC. along with the facts that the Mississippi River ran backwards and so forth. In fact, the area was so altered that maps based on the old configuration of the river were rendered obsolete. (However, the state borders were defined by the old maps which is why you have areas that are cut off from the continguous states like the Kentucky Bend areaand Reverie, Tennessee, which lies on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi). Reelfoot Lake was a bend in the river cut off by the quake as the rivers course was changed.

Because of the configuration of the bedrock in the midwest, a quake can affect a vast area in comparison to a similar California quake. A 6.0 quake in California may affect a few counties, but a similar quake in the Midwest can be felt (and affect and DAMAGE) over several states as this one has. It woul be like a California quake affecting Las Vegas, Phoenix and Salt Lake City.

If an earthquake of the maginitude of the 1811 quake occoured the results would be disastorous. Memphis would be the new Katrina zone along with St. Louis. If it occoured in winter, areas of the Northeast would freeze and shut down as a majority of the Petrolium pipelines go through the zone. The majority of homes in St. Louis, along with its sewer system are of brick construction. Houses and streets would collapse rendering large parts of the city inaccessable and uninhabitable.

Needless to say, it would be a disaster of epic proportions. In 1990, eccentric scientist Iben Browing predicted that the New Madrid would generate an earthquake of epic proportions on December 2nd or 3rd of 1990 due to an allignment of the planets, sun and moon. Public officials took the predictions seriously enough that preparations were made for a disaster. The City of St. Louis parked some fire trucks in an open field in order that they not be crushed by the brick firehouses. I remember one television station putting out a special program on earthquake prepardness. Media gathered in New Madrid. Nothing happened. However, spurned on by the increase in awareness, state officials began quietly to upgrade local bridges and increase building codes to bring them in line with earthquake rediness. Local universities were granted some research dollars to increase study of the New Madrid Seismic Zone which covers areas of seven states.

The area doesn't have the research grants that the California area does in the field of Earthquake research because the quakes in the Midwest are rarely over 3.0. The recent quake has generated a 4.6 aftershock, but the vast majority have been in 2.0 to 3.0 range. Hopefully this isn't a precursor shock for an even bigger quake.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

MESSENGER Mission News - Now Introducing: Eminescu

Now Introducing: Eminescu
Release Date: April 17, 2008
Last week, the MESSENGER team learned that the impact crater seen in the middle of this Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) image has been officially named Eminescu. The crater was named in honor of Mihai Eminescu, an accomplished and influential poet who is still considered the national poet of Romania. The MESSENGER team proposed the name to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the authority that officially names surface features on planetary bodies.

Eminescu crater is 125 kilometers (78 miles) in diameter and can be seen just at the top of the image previously released on January 30. The image shown here was acquired by the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) on January 14, 2008, and shows a portion of Mercury's surface unseen by spacecraft prior to MESSENGER's historic flyby. Eminescu is a particularly interesting crater for several reasons. Eminescu formed more recently than most of the craters on Mercury, on the grounds that there are very few later craters superposed on it. Moreover, impressive chains of secondary craters, formed by material ejected by the impact explosion that formed the crater, radiate away from Eminescu. The central peaks within the crater are arranged in a circular pattern; geologists call this a “peak ring.” The bright peaks inside Eminescu exhibit unusual color characteristics in the 11-color Wide Angle Camera (WAC) images, which the MESSENGER Science Team is currently studying. They show up with a bluish tinge in the previously released false-color image of the entire planet; Eminescu is just north of the equator, near the day/night “terminator” in that image.

Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 108828468

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

For information regarding the use of MESSENGER images, see the image use policy.

MESSENGER Mission News - Now Introducing: Eminescu

Now Introducing: Eminescu
Release Date: April 17, 2008
Last week, the MESSENGER team learned that the impact crater seen in the middle of this Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) image has been officially named Eminescu. The crater was named in honor of Mihai Eminescu, an accomplished and influential poet who is still considered the national poet of Romania. The MESSENGER team proposed the name to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the authority that officially names surface features on planetary bodies.

Eminescu crater is 125 kilometers (78 miles) in diameter and can be seen just at the top of the image previously released on January 30. The image shown here was acquired by the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) on January 14, 2008, and shows a portion of Mercury's surface unseen by spacecraft prior to MESSENGER's historic flyby. Eminescu is a particularly interesting crater for several reasons. Eminescu formed more recently than most of the craters on Mercury, on the grounds that there are very few later craters superposed on it. Moreover, impressive chains of secondary craters, formed by material ejected by the impact explosion that formed the crater, radiate away from Eminescu. The central peaks within the crater are arranged in a circular pattern; geologists call this a “peak ring.” The bright peaks inside Eminescu exhibit unusual color characteristics in the 11-color Wide Angle Camera (WAC) images, which the MESSENGER Science Team is currently studying. They show up with a bluish tinge in the previously released false-color image of the entire planet; Eminescu is just north of the equator, near the day/night “terminator” in that image.

Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 108828468

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

For information regarding the use of MESSENGER images, see the image use policy.

MESSENGER Mission News - Now Introducing: Eminescu

Now Introducing: Eminescu
Release Date: April 17, 2008
Last week, the MESSENGER team learned that the impact crater seen in the middle of this Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) image has been officially named Eminescu. The crater was named in honor of Mihai Eminescu, an accomplished and influential poet who is still considered the national poet of Romania. The MESSENGER team proposed the name to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the authority that officially names surface features on planetary bodies.

Eminescu crater is 125 kilometers (78 miles) in diameter and can be seen just at the top of the image previously released on January 30. The image shown here was acquired by the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) on January 14, 2008, and shows a portion of Mercury's surface unseen by spacecraft prior to MESSENGER's historic flyby. Eminescu is a particularly interesting crater for several reasons. Eminescu formed more recently than most of the craters on Mercury, on the grounds that there are very few later craters superposed on it. Moreover, impressive chains of secondary craters, formed by material ejected by the impact explosion that formed the crater, radiate away from Eminescu. The central peaks within the crater are arranged in a circular pattern; geologists call this a “peak ring.” The bright peaks inside Eminescu exhibit unusual color characteristics in the 11-color Wide Angle Camera (WAC) images, which the MESSENGER Science Team is currently studying. They show up with a bluish tinge in the previously released false-color image of the entire planet; Eminescu is just north of the equator, near the day/night “terminator” in that image.

Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 108828468

Friday, April 18, 2008


We had an earthquake here in the area this morning. I felt the first one at 4:36 am. I was putting some food in the microwave, and it felt like my trailer was moving )as in roling down the hill). It lasted about 30 seconds. I was thinking that was a wierd thing, Then again we have to think that the largest earthquake that occoured in recorded history in the US occoured in the New Madrid region in Missouri in 1811 and 1812. Over a terrifying period of four months, the earth shook with a series of earthquakes that reached a magnitude of 8.0 on the Richter Scale. The temblors affected the whole midwest and changed the course of Mississippi. They were felt as far away as Philadelphia where church bells were rang by the shaking of the earth.

We have a lot to fear here in the midwest because of the unique structure of the area here. The Earthquake energy is conducted by the bedrock and an earthquake will affect a much larger area than a similar quake in California. However, in spite of that, the California earthquake zones get far mor research grant money than Missouri. We'll see what happens soon. Maybe after the big one, we will get some money. However, after that, it will be too late.

Scientists: Even Bigger Quake Could Hit Midwest

Robin Lloyd
LiveScience Senior Editor
36 minutes ago

The magnitude 5.2 earthquake that rocked the Midwest on Friday was felt from Kansas to Georgia, and aftershocks could continue for months at this strange seismic zone at the nation's center and even trigger another big quake, a geophysicist said.

The quake occurred on a northern extension of the New Madrid fault, about 6 miles north of Mt. Carmel, Ill. The New Madrid fault was responsible for devastating quakes in the Mississippi Valley in 1811 and 1812. So the Friday quake and its aftershocks likely are raising the blood pressure of some residents and scientists.

For decades, scientists have debated whether and when the underlying fault could generate another temblor of similar and deadly strength.

"I think we saw a window to this possibility today in the Wabash Valley," said geophysicist Allessandro Forte of the Universite du Quebec à Montreal, who has studied the region's seismicity. "It's to the north of the New Madrid seismic zone, but given the strength of crust, the stress can be distributed great distances. It's not clear if we could see something in the next few years or even next few months, I would say."

The last earthquake in the region to approach the severity of Friday's temblor was a 5.0 magnitude quake that shook a nearby area in 2002, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

An event actually surpassing today's magnitude last occurred in 1968, a magnitude 5.3 quake that was felt in 23 states, said Forte. The magnitude scale is logarithmic so a change of 0.1 or 0.2 makes a big difference in terms of energy output. The 1968 event was felt in Ontario and Boston.

"The $64,000 question is what this earthquake portends for the future," Forte said. "The answer is I'm afraid it can go either way."

Stress relief or hair trigger?

One scenario predicts that some stress is relieved on the local faults where this earthquake occurred and will cool things down for a few decades. The other scenario is not so happy.

"There is the possibility, and we can only see over next few months what will happen, that the redistribution of stress on neighboring faults might trigger further earthquakes, and we can only guess as to whether they'll be equally large as today's earthquake," Forte said.

Aftershocks from the Friday quake will continue for several weeks, maybe months, he said. Already, there have been many, of magnitudes in the range of 2 and 3, radiating outward from the epicenter.

"If we are seeing a propagation outward of stress changes after today's 5.2, which was a big one, and those stress changes finally come up on a fault which is on a hair trigger and ready to go, those small changes are sufficient to generate another big one on a fault which is locked and ready to go," Forte said.

How much risk?

Recent estimates have downgraded the risk of a large earthquake on the New Madrid fault.

In the 1980s, scientists said there was a 90 percent chance of a magnitude 6 or 7 temblor occurring in this area within the next 50 years.

A 2007 USGS fact sheet, however, said there is only a 25 percent to 40 percent chance of a magnitude 6 or larger there in the next 50 years.

However, a team that includes Michael Ellis of the University of Memphis estimated in 2005 that the odds of another 8.0 event in the region within 50 years are between 7 and 10 percent.

These debates about the New Madrid fault are far from resolved, Forte said, with some saying the accumulated stress in area faults is weakening while others say it is not going to dissipate any time soon. "This is not exactly a well-defined science as yet," he said.

Forte is part of the latter camp, based on his research on an ancient, giant slab of Earth called the Farallon slab that started its descent under the West Coast 70 million years ago and now is causing mayhem and deep mantle flow 360 miles beneath the Mississippi Valley, where it effectively pulls the crust down an entire kilometer (.62 miles).

"The stresses from the sinking Farallon slab are not going to disappear any time soon," he said.

So, apparently, is J. David Rogers in the latter camp. The geological engineer at Missouri University of Science and Technology says Midwestern earthquakes are potentially more powerful than California quakes.

Shakier situation

Unique geology in the Midwest increases the shaking intensity of earthquakes because seismic energy moves through the dense bedrock at very high speeds, then becomes trapped in soft sediments filling river channels and valleys, Rogers said.

Rogers and some of his graduate students have been modeling synthetic seismic events in the New Madrid region. Most of their scenarios are modeled after an 1895 earthquake with a magnitude of 6.4 that was centered in Charleston, Mo.

The preliminary results are sobering, said Rogers. Data indicates ground shaking would be magnified about 600 percent within the flood plain of the Missouri River, a development that would cause most of Missouri's existing long-span bridges to collapse.

"You don't even need a really big earthquake to do significant damage in Missouri," Rogers says. "It could happen tomorrow."

The relative quake risk of the New Madrid seismic zone is a great debate that might be driven in part by competition for grant money, Forte said. Those scientists who work on West Coast quakes have an incentive to claim that the research money should be spent on that region, while the central continent-focused researchers obviously are more invested in funds coming their way.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Jet stream moving North

Yeah, I know I can copy and paste, but I usually like to do this for links that I know are going to be gone in a few weeks like news items. I this is a significant event here and we will see if it is too late to change things.

Jet stream, America's storm maker, moving slowly northward

By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science WriterThu Apr 17, 6:32 PM ET

The jet stream — America's stormy weather maker — is creeping northward and weakening, new research shows. That potentially means less rain in the already dry South and Southwest and more storms in the North.

And it could also translate into more and stronger hurricanes since the jet stream suppresses their formation. The study's authors said they have to do more research to pinpoint specific consequences.

From 1979 to 2001, the Northern Hemisphere's jet stream moved northward on average at a rate of about 1.25 miles a year, according to the paper published Friday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The authors suspect global warming is the cause, but have yet to prove it.

The jet stream is a high-speed, constantly shifting river of air about 30,000 feet above the ground that guides storm systems and cool air around the globe. And when it moves away from a region, high pressure and clear skies predominate.

Two other jet streams in the Southern Hemisphere are also shifting poleward, the study found.

The northern jet stream "is the dominant thing that creates weather systems for the United States," said study co-author Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington in Stanford, Calif. "Bascially look south of where you are and that's probably a good guess of what your weather may be like in a few decades."

The study looked at the average location of the constantly moving jet stream and found that when looked at over decades, it has shifted northward. The study's authors and other scientists suggest that the widening of the Earth's tropical belt — a development documented last year — is pushing the three jet streams toward the poles.

Climate models have long predicted that with global warming, the world's jet streams would move that way, so it makes sense to think that's what happening, Caldeira said. However, proving it is a rigorous process, using complex computer models to factor in all sorts of possibilities. That has not been done yet.

A rate of 1.25 miles a year "doesn't sound like much, but that works out to about 18 feet per day," Caldeira said. "If you think about climate zones shifting northward at this rate, you can imagine squirrels keeping up. But what are oak trees going to do?

"We are seeing a general northward shift of all sorts of phenomena in the Northern Hemisphere occurring at rates that are faster than what ecosystems can keep up with," he said.

Dian Seidel, a research meteorologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who wrote a study about the widening tropical belt last year, said she was surprised that Caldeira found such a small shift. Her study documented that the tropical belt was bulging at a much faster rate. Caldeira said his figures represent the minimum amount of movement.

The jet stream also factors into bumpy air travel. It is a cause of clear air turbulence that airline pilots try to avoid by tracking where the jet stream is.


On the Net:

Carnegie Institution of Washington's Department of Global Ecology:

Copyright © 2008 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

Picture Perfect - Fragile Earth

On this pale blue dot are all the people you have ever known, all the popes and presidents, all the traitors and tyrants, all the lovers and dreamers, all the masses of humanity, all on this pale blue dot in the cosmos.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

MESSENGER News - Discovering New Rupes on Mercury

Discovering New Rupes on Mercury
Release Date: April 8, 2008
When MESSENGER flew by Mercury on January 14, 2008, the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) snapped images of a large portion of Mercury's surface that had not been previously seen by spacecraft. On these images, new examples of long cliffs were identified and viewed for the first time. This image, taken by the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC), shows one of those cliffs in the bottom right corner. The cliff can be followed from the bottom edge of the image, cutting through and deforming an impact crater, and curving out of the image frame on the middle right edge. This cliff is the northern continuation of the cliff visible in the images previously released on January 16 and January 27. This image shows an area of Mercury's surface about 200 kilometers (125 miles) across, and by tracing this cliff through the three images, it can be seen that it extends for hundreds of kilometers.

Cliffs that mark geologic escarpments on Mercury are called "rupes," which is simply the Latin word for cliff. On Mercury, rupes are named after the ships of famous explorers, and names include Discovery Rupes, for a ship of Captain Cook, Santa Maria Rupes, for a ship of Christopher Columbus, and Victoria Rupes, for a ship of Ferdinand Magellan. (The word rupes is both singular and plural). The MESSENGER team proposed to the International Astronomical Union, which has the final say on all names of landforms on planets and satellites, that this cliff be named the Beagle Rupes, after the ship on which naturalist Charles Darwin sailed around the world. Today the MESSENGER team received word that the proposed name has received formal approval.

Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 108827037

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

For information regarding the use of MESSENGER images, see the image use policy.

MESSENGER News - Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA) Images Mercury from 4 Million Kilometers

Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA) Images Mercury from 4 Million Kilometers
Release Date: March 31, 2008
From a distance of approximately 4 million kilometers (2.5 million miles), MESSENGER's Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA) imaged the half-moon shape of Mercury one week after the January 14, 2008, flyby of the planet. This image was produced by recording the noise counts in the MLA detector as the spacecraft scanned slowly across the face of the planet. Higher counts are shown as red in this image and lower counts as blue. The scale of the image is given in milliradians (mrad), a unit of angular size, relative to the calculated center of Mercury. At a distance of 4 million kilometers, 1 mrad covers a size of about 4000 kilometers (2500 miles).

This activity was coordinated with scans conducted by the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) and the Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS) instruments (shown as the wider patterns near the bottom of the image) in order to co-align the instruments and the spacecraft inertial reference frame. The crosshairs show the calculated position of Mercury, while the circle is a fit to the crescent shape of the planet as determined by the MLA measurements. The offset between the crosshairs and the center of the circle is only roughly 0.05 mrad, which is well within the 0.4-mrad field of view (FOV) of the MLA detector, shown in the top left corner of the image. The MLA detector FOV is designed to allow the altimeter receiver to cover the 0.08-mrad-diameter laser spot when the instrument is within a range to the planet of 1800 kilometers (1100 miles), so it produces a somewhat blurry image at the much greater distance of this image. Observations such as this one continue to improve the calibration of the MESSENGER spacecraft and its science payload.

Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

For information regarding the use of MESSENGER images, see the image use policy.

MESSENGER News - Appreciating Mozart in a New Light

Appreciating Mozart in a New Light
Release Date: March 27, 2008
When Mariner 10 flew by Mercury in 1974, morning sunlight was just striking Mozart crater so that most of the feature was hidden in darkness near the terminator. During MESSENGER's Mercury flyby on January 14, 2008, Mozart was in full sunlight, allowing the crater to be seen in detail for the first time, as shown in this image snapped by the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS). Named in honor of the classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Mozart is the large crater near the center of the image. The crater’s diameter is about 225 kilometers (140 miles). The arc of dark hills visible on the crater's floor probably represents remnants of a central peak ring, similar to that shown in the January 30 image release. Clues to the origin of the dark material on the peak ring and the curious dark streaks radiating outward from the crater will be provided by 11-color image data collected by the spacecraft’s Wide Angle Camera (WAC). A close inspection of the area around Mozart crater shows many long chains of secondary craters, formed by impact of material thrown out during the formation of the main crater. Mozart crater is located just south of the Caloris basin and can be identified in the false color image previously released. Members of the MESSENGER Science Team are currently studying and characterizing the small craters on Mercury in order to provide new insight into the cratering process as it operates on the different planets in the Solar System.

Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 108830250

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

For information regarding the use of MESSENGER images, see the image use policy.

Monday, April 14, 2008

On Dick Cheney and Darth Vader

From what I have heard, Dick Cheney is proud of his being associated with Darth. Now I think this is an insult to Darth. Darth or Aniken is a once good Jedi knight who has fallen to the Sith, but is eventually redeemed through his son's faith in him.

However, I do not see such a change occurring to our Vice President.

On God and Hillary.

I think Hillary really put her foot in her mouth this weekend when I heard her say at the "Compassion Conference" the following when asked why God permits suffering. According to the AP:

One of the toughest questions she faced was why God allows innocent people to suffer. Clinton said that has been the subject of much debate for generations, and added: "I don't know. I can't wait to ask him."

Now let me throw my two cents in here. God gave each of us a brain. He gave each of us a heart. He also gave us something called Free Will. WE are the ones who choose to let suffering continue on this planet. When we as a collective species change our minds about this, agree to put the suffering of others above our own selfish concerns, then we will have the paradise on the planet that God intended for us to have.

I don't think that Hillary answered the question right. In fact I think she hesitated and seemed to struggle to choose the right words. Apparently she said what she thought her audience wanted to hear.

Hillary to me seems to have this sense of entitlement. An arrogant idea that she alone is destined to carry the torch for the Democratic party and will do anything, even up to the destruction of party unity in odder to achieve her dream of presidency. This idea of destroying the village in order to save it is dangerous. She accuses Obama of being elitist but fails to note such characteristics in herself. I'm not sure what scares me more - The fact that I may have to vote for Hillary, or that fact that Condelezia Rice may be the next vice president. Apparently Condi is on the short list of candidates being considered..

Please understand that I don't think I am being sexist here. If a male candidate had similar ambitions, I would still have these feelings. To me, sex isn't the issue. What is the issue is what this candidacy is doing to the Democratic party's chances for victory in the fall. We do not need a divisive Party conference or else its 1968 and 1972 all over again.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Its Just Business

Many of you have seen my Wal-Mart blogs. I thought I would say something about how I feel about them. I grew up in Joplin, MO which was one of the first cities that Wal-Mart expanded to. Where I grew up we used to have a store called Missouri Mills that had all the fabric and sewing supplies you could think of. Wal-Mart came in, and it went out of business.

Wal-Mart recently made a decision at the corporate level that it can no longer affored to keep the fabric department in their stores so they are eliminating them. Now they can't make money off of it and so they are letting it go. Its sad and really gives me a poor opinion of the store. Here they are making billions of dollars a day and this is just one thing they could do for their customers. Hopefully the craft stores can step in, if there are any left after Wal-Mart stole their business.

When we were little, Sam Walton would come up in his beat up ol 73 Ford pick-up to inspect the stores on occasion. I think he would be dissapointed in what his empire has become and what it has done to American jobs. Then again, maybe not. It seems there is an attitude in America today. I call it "Its just business." It doesn't matter what happens to the little guy. It doesn't matter what affect the activities of a business do to the rest of the economy. It doesn't matter how many downtown areas have been laid to waste. It doesn't matter how many small busineses have been put out of business. It doesn't matter how many factories go overseas. It doesn't matter how many people are put out of work. "Its just business."

Its-just-business-men have no care for the little people. For them, the little people deserve what they get because they are lazy or unmotivated. They cost too much because the profit motive has been made sacrocanct. Paying decent wages or providing health insurance is not profitable so it has to be eliminated. Everything is motivated to increasing profit margin and if you aren't making money for the company you are not welcome. Your contribution matters little.

Senator Obama has recently stated that there is a group of people who have become frustrated. Here is what he said:

"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," Obama said. "And it's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

He is right. This attitude has been prevelant since the 1970's when we began to find out there was an outside world in American and we started giving up ourselves and stopped depending on ourselves. We all decided that number one is what mattered and it didn't matter what happened to anyone else. We all decided that we are going to get our little piece of the pie and it doesn't matter how many people we step on to do it.

It has resulted in our world of today. We have a President that has run roughshod over our rights while he fights a war with our best and brightest, draining our army and making it unable to deal with a real crisis. (This concerns me greately because a weak army makes us more likely to use nuclear weapons because we are unable to deal with another crisis, but that, as they say, is the subject of another blog). We have businessmen that live in obscene luxury with salaries that exceed any just compensation. Even when they run a business into the ground, they seem to get compensated above and beyond what any normal person should. I think if I didn't do a job very well, the CEO in question wouldn't reward me.

Now there are food riots in the smaller countries. In Hati, they are eating a new delcacy called "dirt cookies" made of dirt and lard mixed together with a binder. No one can afford food on two dollars a day. Its starting. The poorest are being hit first. It will be a while before it gets here, but I would start planning. Its comming. I hope I am wrong, but the signs are all there. Ours is the last generation that will enjoy the luxury of having a coice in their lives. Our is the last generation of the private automobile. The powers that be have decided that we are to be drones in their retail stores.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Letter to my Congressman - PBS DTV subchannels

Name: Mr. Stephen Koehler
Fenton, MO
Area of Interest: Telecomm,Arts,Defense,Energy,Environment,Foreign Affairs,Govt. Reform,Govt. Reform,Homeland Security,Telecomm,Transportation

I was thinking about a proposal for an increase in the funding for Public Television. What this increase would do is to provide for PBS to broadcast the various government cable channels over the air on their DTV sub-channels. CSPAN-1 and 2, NASA and the Pentagon Channel would be repeated on the subchannels. For areas that do not have PBS service, a local station would be contracted and their DTV sub-channels would be appropriated for use. In this case, in addition to the other government cable channels PBS would be added to the service. This would help some local stations that are not able to convert to DTV a little boost in their abilities. It would also bring PBS to areas that do not have it. It would also bring government to people who cannot afford cable in these areas. Funding would be via an increase in FCC licence fees for television station or some other such funding as Congress would determine. I would like to know what your office would think about this idea.


Stephen Koehler

Friday, April 11, 2008

Storm chasing

Went to get my bi-annual Storm Spotter certification renewed the other night. I still have one class to go to on Saturday which should complete my level 2 class. Its good to get thsi being in Tornado Alley as I am. St. Louis has some unique annals in Tornado history. One being the 1896 Tornado which was among the most deadly and damaging tornados in history. If a similar tornado happened today, the damage would be in the billions of dollars. Being in an urban area doesn't mean you don't get tornadoes. They can happen anywhere or anytime if the conditions are right.

Anyway, look for sites and links and other interesting things on Tornadoes in the next few weeks as I renew my interest in this subject.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hurricanes in the Gulf - The Oil industry take

The Hurricanes in the Gulf

The "Thunder Horse" semi-submersible Oil platform damaged as a result of Hurricane Dennis in 2005. (Photo by the USCG).

Even though every year for the past couple of years we have heard that this will be "a severe hurricane season," the number of predicted storms for the season has failed to materialize. While it may be a good thing, this really gives me the willies. Hurricanes are the way the Earth's weather systems balance the planet's heat load by transporting excess energy to the north in order to disperse it. Global climate change has disrupted this by increasing the amount of waste heat in the equatorial areas. The recent large breaks off the Antarctic Ice Shelf (where a Manhattan Island sized chunk of ice recently broke off) and the increasing amount of fresh water coming off the Greenland Ice Shelf point to the fact that the temperature is increasing.

I sincerely believe that man has some doing in this. We have exploited the environment and are about to pay the price.

Anyway, the greatest danger to the environment in an extreme hurricane are the oil platforms that recover petroleum products off shore in the Gulf of Mexico. Like "Thunder Horse" depicted above, theoretical limits on such platforms sometimes do not stand up to the realities of nature.

However, the industry prides itself on the safety of its workers in these situations and evacuations and shutdowns in the face of adverse weather are the norm. In these evacuations damage by storms cannot be mitigated on the spot and thus are only discovered after the storm has passed. During Dennis, Katrina and Rita for example, many rigs simply disappeared and the wreckage was unable to be located after these storms. So the industry has a vested interest in wondering what the season is like and takes any warning seriously.

What follows are two articles from the Oil industry website Rigzone.

Batten Down The Hatches: Experts Warn Of Extreme Hurricane Season
by Kerry Laird
Rigzone 4/9/2008

A "well above average" hurricane season has been predicted for the Atlantic Ocean by weather experts at Colorado State University April 9. Big oil operators and owners are making sure company safety procedures and evacuation plans are in place to protect offshore assets.

The forecast was delivered from the Bahamas Weather Conference by 25-year hurricane forecast veteran William Gray.

"Current oceanic and atmospheric trends indicate that we will likely have an active Atlantic basin hurricane season," said William Gray.

Fifteen named storms are expected to originate in the Atlantic basin between June 1 and Nov. 30. The CSU team predicts that eight will become hurricanes, four of which will develop into "intense or major hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 or greater."

"Based on our latest forecast, the probability of a major hurricane making landfall along the U.S. coastline is 69% compared with the last-century average of 52%," said Phil Klotzbach of the Colorado State hurricane forecast team. "We are calling for a very active hurricane season this year, but not as active as the 2004 and 2005 seasons."

In a press release issued by the university, the forecasting team stated that the hurricane forecast team predicts tropical cyclone activity in 2008 will be 160 percent of the average season. By comparison, 2005 witnessed tropical cyclone activity that was about 275 percent of the average season.

Within these parameters, the CSU forecasters predict a 45% chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula (the long-term average is 31%); and a 44% chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville (the long-term average is 30%).

The team also predicted above-average major hurricane landfall risk in the Caribbean.

Despite the threat of an above-average hurricane season, offshore operators and owners contacted by Rigzone said safety procedures and evacuation plans are in place to ensure the safety of personnel, equipment and production.

We want to hear from you. Questions, opinions and suggestions are all welcomed by the Rigzone Staff. Write us at .

Hurricane Season 2008: Going Gets Tough, Owners Get Tougher
by Kerry Laird
Rigzone 4/9/2008

While the hurricane season may be tough, operators and owners of offshore operations are even tougher. Safety procedures and evacuation plans ensure that platforms and personnel are well-protected in the event of a hurricane.

For ExxonMobil, the beginning of hurricane season is a little like spring cleaning. "We update response plans, train personnel [and] initiate ongoing hurricane activity monitoring," said ExxonMobil spokesperson Margaret Ross. Ross told Rigzone that the most important aspect of hurricane preparedness is the protection of ExxonMobil personnel.

Understandably, the human life quotient is the most valuable one for all companies.

As the largest deepwater producer in the Gulf of Mexico, Anadarko Petroleum has a lot on the line when hurricanes approach offshore operations.

"Our primary concern is the safety of our employees and contractors," Anadarko spokesperson John Christiansen said. "We monitor the weather very closely in the Gulf of Mexico and will evacuate our platforms and drilling operations as soon as we perceive there may be a threat to their safety."

Christiansen added that several of Anadarko's platforms have taken direct hits from category four and five hurricanes.

"We have a lot of confidence in the robust construction of our deepwater facilities," he said.

Enterprise Products Partners representatives Rick Rainey and Randy Burkhalter also spoke with Rigzone about the possibility of a torrential hurricane season. They revealed that the Gulf of Mexico's deepest platform, Independence Hub, which is owned by Enterprise, can stand up to category 5 hurricane wind speeds.

"Some of our newest platforms, like Marco Polo and Atlantis, can also withstand category 5 hurricane winds," said Rainey. He added that the "plans in place" for approaching hurricanes occur in stages, "With each level of intensity, [safety procedures] increase."

While there can be water damage, Burkhalter said the platforms are "engineered so that critical parts can be secured" to minimize, even eliminate, wind damage.

Deepwater RUPE, a collaborative effort in its sophomore year, incorporates $12 million of "specialized pipeline repair systems and equipment stored in the Gulf of Mexico region" to facilitate quicker deepwater pipeline repairs.

"Deepwater RUPE reduces lead times on pipeline repairs," limiting production downtime, said Burkhalter.

Enterprise collaborated with Enbridge, BP Exploration and Production and Eni SpA to bring into fruition the Deepwatr RUPE project. Between the four companies, one-fourth of the Gulf's total pipeline mileage is covered.

"This program is modeled after successful shallow water RUPE that has been in place for about 30 years and involves a co-ownership group consisting of about 30 members," said Ray Ayers of Stress Subsea, Inc. in a 2007 press release "This new DW RUPE gives us the capability to significantly expand our capabilities beyond the original 1,000 foot limit." Ayers added that the value of having co-owned systems and tools available, which was apparent during Hurricane Katrina, should be equally valuable in helping to assure the flow of domestic energy supplies from deepwater assets.

We want to hear from you. Questions, opinions and suggestions are all welcomed by the Rigzone Staff. Write us at .

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Some do understand the lessons of Nuremberg - from Show Me Progress.

Some do understand the lesons of Nüremberg...

by: Michael Bersin

Wed Apr 09, 2008 at 20:35:41 PM CDT

...unfortunately, not anyone in this administration.

Digby got me going on this.

There are some names which most people don't know. They should. Samuel Provance. Charles Swift. Matthew Diaz.

On Thursday in the National Press Club in Washington, a crowd gathered to witness the presentation of the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling to Lieutenant Commander Matthew Diaz...

Matthew Diaz was "...a staff judge advocate at Guantánamo..."

Principle IV

The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.

Matthew Diaz made a moral choice and was sent to prison for it. His crime? He released the list of detainees to defense lawyers in violation of a direct order.

The Persecution of Lt. Cmdr. Diaz

Matthew Diaz also took an oath to the Constitution [pdf]:

I [name] do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
"...and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice..." "It was not a lawful order" is a defense for disobeying an order.

Red Cross Monitors Barred From Guantánamo
By William Glaberson
November 16, 2007
New York Times

A confidential 2003 manual for operating the Guantánamo detention center shows that military officials had a policy of denying detainees access to independent monitors from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The manual said one goal was to "exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee," by denying access to the Koran and by preventing visits with Red Cross representatives, who have a long history of monitoring the conditions under which prisoners in international conflicts are held. The document said that even after their initial weeks at Guantánamo, some detainees would not be permitted to see representatives of the International Red Cross, known as the I.C.R.C.

It was permissible, the document said, for some long-term detainees to have "No access. No contact of any kind with the I.C.R.C...."

And why would anyone not want the International Committee of the Red Cross to check on detainees? You think it might be because of an operational torture memo?

Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)
Headquarters, Joint Task Force - Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO)

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
23 March 2003
[as leaked]

...17-4. Levels of Visitation

All detainees will have a level of ICRC contact designated for them. These different levels are as follows:
a. No Access: No contact of any kind with the ICRC. This includes delivery of ICRC mail.
b. Restricted: ICRC is allowed to ask the detainee about health and welfare only. No prolonged questions.
c. Unrestricted: ICRC is allowed full access to talk to detainees.
d. Visual: Access is restricted to visual inspection of the detainee's physical condition. No form of communication is permitted. No delivery of ICRC mail....

[emphasis added]

The United States prosecuted people for "grave breaches" of international law in the aftermath of World War II.

The United State is a signatory to (and duly ratified) the Geneva Conventions:

Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949.

Part I : General provisions


In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed 'hors de combat' by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) taking of hostages;

(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

(2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.

The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.

The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

[emphasis added]

"Big deal!", you say, "It's an international treaty and we're under no obligation to follow that stuff ['hello' Antonin and Clarence!]" Au contraire. We are bound. There's even a Federal law in reference to this:

TITLE 18, PART I, CHAPTER 118, § 2441

§ 2441. War crimes

(a) Offense.- Whoever, whether inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime, in any of the circumstances described in subsection (b), shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death.

(b) Circumstances.- The circumstances referred to in subsection (a) are that the person committing such war crime or the victim of such war crime is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States or a national of the United States (as defined in section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act).

(c) Definition.- As used in this section the term "war crime" means any conduct-

(1) defined as a grave breach in any of the international conventions signed at Geneva 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party;

(2) prohibited by Article 23, 25, 27, or 28 of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, signed 18 October 1907;

(3) which constitutes a violation of common Article 3 of the international conventions signed at Geneva, 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party and which deals with non-international armed conflict; or

(4) of a person who, in relation to an armed conflict and contrary to the provisions of the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices as amended at Geneva on 3 May 1996 (Protocol II as amended on 3 May 1996), when the United States is a party to such Protocol, willfully kills or causes serious injury to civilians.

[emphasis added]

But, you know, that Geneva Conventions stuff is "quaint". It's not like anyone on the United States Supreme Court would really care about that. Think again:

Kennedy, J., concurring in part

on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the district of columbia circuit
[June 29, 2006]

Justice Kennedy, with whom Justice Souter, Justice Ginsburg, and Justice Breyer join as to Parts I and II, concurring in part.

...The Court is correct to concentrate on one provision of the law of war that is applicable to our Nation's armed conflict with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and, as a result, to the use of a military commission to try Hamdan. Ante, at 65-70; see also 415 F. 3d 33, 44 (CADC 2005) (Williams, J., concurring). That provision is Common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. It prohibits, as relevant here, "[t]he passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples." See, e.g., Article 3 of the Geneva Convention (III) Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Aug. 12, 1949, [1955] 6 U. S. T. 3316, 3318, T. I. A. S. No. 3364. The provision is part of a treaty the United States has ratified and thus accepted as binding law. See id., at 3316. By Act of Congress, moreover, violations of Common Article 3 are considered "war crimes," punishable as federal offenses, when committed by or against United States nationals and military personnel. See 18 U. S. C. §2441. There should be no doubt, then, that Common Article 3 is part of the law of war as that term is used in §821.

The dissent by Justice Thomas argues that Common Article 3 nonetheless is irrelevant to this case because in Johnson v. Eisentrager, 339 U. S. 763 (1950) , it was said to be the "obvious scheme" of the 1929 Geneva Convention that "[r]ights of alien enemies are vindicated under it only through protests and intervention of protecting powers," i.e., signatory states, id., at 789, n. 14. As the Court explains, ante, at 63-65, this language from Eisentrager is not controlling here. Even assuming the Eisentrager analysis has some bearing upon the analysis of the broader 1949 Conventions and that, in consequence, rights are vindicated "under [those Conventions]" only through protests and intervention, 339 U. S., at 789, n. 14, Common Article 3 is nonetheless relevant to the question of authorization under §821. Common Article 3 is part of the law of war that Congress has directed the President to follow in establishing military commissions. Ante, at 66-67. Consistent with that view, the Eisentrager Court itself considered on the merits claims that "procedural irregularities" under the 1929 Convention "deprive[d] the Military Commission of jurisdiction." 339 U. S., at 789, 790.

In another military commission case, In re Yamashita, 327 U. S. 1 (1946) , the Court likewise considered on the merits-without any caveat about remedies under the Convention-a claim that an alleged violation of the 1929 Convention "establish[ed] want of authority in the commission to proceed with the trial." Id., at 23, 24. That is the precise inquiry we are asked to perform here.

Assuming the President has authority to establish a special military commission to try Hamdan, the commission must satisfy Common Article 3's requirement of a "regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples," 6 U. S. T., at 3318. The terms of this general standard are yet to be elaborated and further defined, but Congress has required compliance with it by referring to the "law of war" in §821. The Court correctly concludes that the military commission here does not comply with this provision.

Common Article 3's standard of a "regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples," ibid.,supports, at the least, a uniformity principle similar to that codified in §836(b). The concept of a "regularly constituted court" providing "indispensable" judicial guarantees requires consideration of the system of justice under which the commission is established, though no doubt certain minimum standards are applicable. See ante, at 69-70; 1 Int'l Committee of the Red Cross, Customary International Humanitarian Law 355 (2005) (explaining that courts are "regularly constituted" under Common Article 3 if they are "established and organised in accordance with the laws and procedures already in force in a country").

The regular military courts in our system are the courts-martial established by congressional statutes. Acts of Congress confer on those courts the jurisdiction to try "any person" subject to war crimes prosecution. 10 U. S. C. §818. As the Court explains, moreover, while special military commissions have been convened in previous armed conflicts-a practice recognized in §821-those military commissions generally have adopted the structure and procedure of courts-martial. See, e.g., 1 The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies 248 (2d series 1894) (Civil War general order requiring that military commissions "be constituted in a similar manner and their proceedings be conducted according to the same general rules as courts-martial in order to prevent abuses which might otherwise arise"); W. Winthrop, Military Law and Precedents 835, n. 81 (rev. 2d ed. 1920) ("[M]ilitary commissions are constituted and composed, and their proceedings are conducted, similarly to general courts-martial"); 1 United Nations War Crimes Commission, Law Reports of Trials of War Criminals 116-117 (1947) (reprint 1997) (hereinafter Law Reports) (discussing post-World War II regulations requiring that military commissions "hav[e] regard for" rules of procedure and evidence applicable in general courts-martial); see also ante, at 53-57; post, at 31, n. 15 (Thomas, J., dissenting). Today, moreover, §836(b)-which took effect after the military trials in the World War II cases invoked by the dissent, see Madsen v. Kinsella, 343 U. S. 341 , and n. 6 (1952); Yamashita, supra, at 5; Quirin, 317 U. S., at 23-codifies this presumption of uniformity at least as to "[p]retrial, trial, and post-trial procedures." Absent more concrete statutory guidance, this historical and statutory background-which suggests that some practical need must justify deviations from the court-martial model-informs the understanding of which military courts are "regularly constituted" under United States law.

In addition, whether or not the possibility, contemplated by the regulations here, of midtrial procedural changes could by itself render a military commission impermissibly irregular, ante, at 70, n. 65; see also Military Commission Order No. 1, §11 (Aug. 31, 2005), App. to Brief for Petitioner 46a-72a (hereinafter MCO), an acceptable degree of independence from the Executive is necessary to render a commission "regularly constituted" by the standards of our Nation's system of justice. And any suggestion of Executive power to interfere with an ongoing judicial process raises concerns about the proceedings' fairness. Again, however, courts-martial provide the relevant benchmark. Subject to constitutional limitations, see Ex parte Milligan, 4Wall. 2 (1866), Congress has the power and responsibility to determine the necessity for military courts, and to provide the jurisdiction and procedures applicable to them. The guidance Congress has provided with respect to courts-martial indicates the level of independence and procedural rigor that Congress has deemed necessary, at least as a general matter, in the military context.

At a minimum a military commission like the one at issue-a commission specially convened by the President to try specific persons without express congressional authorization-can be "regularly constituted" by the standards of our military justice system only if some practical need explains deviations from court-martial practice. In this regard the standard of Common Article 3, applied here in conformity with §821, parallels the practicability standard of §836(b). Section 836, however, is limited by its terms to matters properly characterized as procedural-that is, "[p]retrial, trial, and post-trial procedures"-while Common Article 3 permits broader consideration of matters of structure, organization, and mechanisms to promote the tribunal's insulation from command influence. Thus the combined effect of the two statutes discussed here-§§836 and 821-is that considerations of practicability must support departures from court-martial practice. Relevant concerns, as noted earlier, relate to logistical constraints, accommodation of witnesses, security of the proceedings, and the like, not mere expedience or convenience. This determination, of course, must be made with due regard for the constitutional principle that congressional statutes can be controlling, including the congressional direction that the law of war has a bearing on the determination.

These principles provide the framework for an analysis of the specific military commission at issue here...

[emphasis added]

That's Justice Kennedy's way of saying, "somebody broke the law".

And those administration lawyers?:

...In powerful and extraordinary words, Justice Kennedy reminded the Administration that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions was binding upon them, and that a violation could constitute a criminal act. One senior member of the Bush legal team, informed of the decision over lunch, was reported to have turned "white as a sheet" and to have immediately excused himself. For the following months, Bush Administration lawyers entered into a frenzied discussion of how to protect themselves from criminal prosecution...
[emphasis added]
They've got to be thinking "presidential pardon". I wouldn't be surprised. Like father, like son.

More on the Geneva Conventions:

Art 10. The High Contracting Parties may at any time agree to entrust to an organization which offers all guarantees of impartiality and efficacy the duties incumbent on the Protecting Powers by virtue of the present Convention.

When prisoners of war do not benefit or cease to benefit, no matter for what reason, by the activities of a Protecting Power or of an organization provided for in the first paragraph above, the Detaining Power shall request a neutral State, or such an organization, to undertake the functions performed under the present Convention by a Protecting Power designated by the Parties to a conflict.

If protection cannot be arranged accordingly, the Detaining Power shall request or shall accept, subject to the provisions of this Article, the offer of the services of a humanitarian organization, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross to assume the humanitarian functions performed by Protecting Powers under the present Convention.

Any neutral Power or any organization invited by the Power concerned or offering itself for these purposes, shall be required to act with a sense of responsibility towards the Party to the conflict on which persons protected by the present Convention depend, and shall be required to furnish sufficient assurances that it is in a position to undertake the appropriate functions and to discharge them impartially.

No derogation from the preceding provisions shall be made by special agreements between Powers one of which is restricted, even temporarily, in its freedom to negotiate with the other Power or its allies by reason of military events, more particularly where the whole, or a substantial part, of the territory of the said Power is occupied.

Whenever in the present Convention mention is made of a Protecting Power, such mention applies to substitute organizations in the sense of the present Article...

...Art 13. Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention. In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest.

Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.

Measures of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited...

...Art 126. Representatives or delegates of the Protecting Powers shall have permission to go to all places where prisoners of war may be, particularly to places of internment, imprisonment and labour, and shall have access to all premises occupied by prisoners of war; they shall also be allowed to go to the places of departure, passage and arrival of prisoners who are being transferred. They shall be able to interview the prisoners, and in particular the prisoners' representatives, without witnesses, either personally or through an interpreter.

Representatives and delegates of the Protecting Powers shall have full liberty to select the places they wish to visit. The duration and frequency of these visits shall not be restricted. Visits may not be prohibited except for reasons of imperative military necessity, and then only as an exceptional and temporary measure.

The Detaining Power and the Power on which the said prisoners of war depend may agree, if necessary, that compatriots of these prisoners of war be permitted to participate in the visits.

The delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross shall enjoy the same prerogatives. The appointment of such delegates shall be submitted to the approval of the Power detaining the prisoners of war to be visited...

[emphasis added]

And John Yoo is now a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley?

Principle III

The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible Government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law.

Again, from "A Tale of Three Lawyers":

...Each of these techniques is long established as torture as a matter of American and international law. The application and implementation of these techniques was and is a crime.

The exact circumstances surrounding the dealings between Haynes and Yoo that led to the development of this memorandum are unclear. However, it is clear that Haynes had previously authorized the use of the torture techniques, and had secured an order from Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld authorizing them.

Following the implementation of these techniques, more than 108 detainees died in detention. In a large number of these cases, the deaths have been ruled a homicide and connected to torture. These homicides were a forseeable consequence of the advice that Haynes and Yoo gave...

I ask, what "moral compass"? Matthew Diaz spent six months in prison.;jsessionid=5C6853737D7D79AD3B29C27B332C4643?diaryId=927

Why I don't want to go to Florida......

Florida lawmakers pass "take your guns to work" law

By Michael Peltier Wed Apr 9, 3:49 PM ET

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - Most Florida residents would be allowed to take guns to work under a measure passed by Florida lawmakers on Wednesday.

The bill, allowing workers to keep guns in their cars for self-protection, was approved by the Florida Senate by a vote of 26-13. It now goes to Republican Gov. Charlie Crist to sign into law.

Backed by the National Rifle Association and some labor unions, the so-called "take-your-guns-to-work" measure would prohibit business owners from banning guns kept locked in motor vehicles on their private property.

The measure applies to employees, customers and those invited to the business establishment as long as they have a permit to carry the weapon.

Backers say the measure upholds the vision of the authors of the U.S. Constitution, who made the right to bear arms part of the Bill of Rights.

"The second thing they wrote about in that constitution was the right to bear arms," said Sen. Durell Peaden, a Republican from Crestview, Florida. "It was what was dear in their hearts."

The measure exempts a number of workplaces including nuclear power plants, prisons, schools and companies whose business involves homeland security.

Critics say the measure usurps business owners' rights to determine what happens on their property and puts workers and managers at risk from disgruntled employees.

Dozens of workplace shootings occur every year in the United States and studies have shown that job sites where guns are permitted are more likely to suffer workplace homicides than those where guns are prohibited.

"This is an attempt to trample upon the property rights of property owners and attempt to make it more difficult to protect the workers in a workplace and those who visit our retail establishments," said Sen. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat.

Oklahoma, Alaska, Kentucky, and Mississippi have similar laws, although in Oklahoma, an appellate court barred the state from enforcing the legislation on grounds that it was unconstitutional.

Florida business groups are urging the governor to veto the measure, saying owners should be allowed to determine what happens on their property.

"We are disappointed that politics clearly won over good policy," Mark Wilson, president and chief executive of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.

(Editing by Tom Brown and Eric Walsh)

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