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Earth's icecap bigger than since 1979

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The Antarctic icecap, that is.

While the news focus has been on the lowest ice extent since satellite monitoring began in 1979 for the Arctic, the Southern Hemisphere (Antarctica) has quietly set a new record for most ice extent since 1979.

This can be seen on this graphic from this University of Illinois site The Cryosphere Today, which updated snow and ice extent for both hemispheres daily. The Southern Hemispheric areal coverage is the highest in the satellite record, just beating out 1995, 2001, 2005 and 2006. Since 1979, the trend has been up for the total Antarctic ice extent.

image

This doesn't fit the global warming template, does it?  (Of course, you can find someone somewhere who will say that it does, just like some argue that global warming will cause cooling.  Sigh.)

Are organic foods full of sh*+?

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Australian magazine Cosmos (via Reason Hit and Run and Fark) says organic foods aren't 'all that and a bag of chips':

The ultimate test of sustainability is whether organic farming could feed the planet. Scott Kinnear, president of Australia's Organic Farmers Federation, believes "it is imperative that the world moves over to organic farming as soon as possible".

Yet many agricultural scientists estimate that if the world were to go completely organic, not only would the remaining forests have to be cleared to provide the organic manure needed for farming, the world's current population would likely starve.

Norman Ernest Borlaug, the American plant geneticist who won a Nobel Peace Prize for breeding the high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties (triggering agriculture's 'Green Revolution'), is despairing of the organic fad. "This shouldn't even be a debate. Even if you could use all the organic material you have – the animal manures, the human waste, the plant residues – and get them back on the soil, you couldn't feed more than four billion people."

That would put about two and one half billion people on a very, very strict diet indeed.

Illicit underwear at Gitmo

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Yahoo News/AP:

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Guards at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp found two prisoners sporting unauthorized underwear, and the U.S. military is investigating to determine how they got the contraband.

Both prisoners were caught wearing Under Armour briefs and one also had on a Speedo bathing suit, items the military said were not issued by Guantanamo personnel or sent through the regular mail, according to a Defense Department letter obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

Why we can't trust the Left

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Jeff Goldstein:
. . . we “wingnuts” look upon today’s left as either cynical and insincere, or else suffering from the kind of mass delusion and collective political amnesia that we can’t comprehend — especially because we are able to show them their own words from a half decade ago, when the cause seemed quite just (or, at the very least, when they thought that saying that the cause was just would keep them from being marginalized politically).

Remember this headline in November 2008

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Democrats Reject General's Iraq Plan
WASHINGTON - A day before President Bush's war address, Senate Democrats rejected a four-star general's recommendation to keep some 130,000 troops in Iraq through next summer and sought legislation that would limit the mission of U.S. forces.

Their proposal was not expected to set a deadline to end the war, as many Democrats want, but restrict troops to narrow objectives: training Iraq's military and police, protecting U.S. assets and fighting terrorists, Democratic party officials told The Associated Press.

The goal is to attract enough Republicans to break the 60-vote threshold in the Senate needed to end a filibuster. Democrats have proved unable to do that since they took control of Congress eight months ago.

"I call on the Senate Republicans to not walk lockstep as they have with the president for years in this war," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said at a news conference. "It's time to change. It's the president's war. At this point it also appears clear it's also the Senate Republicans' war."

Democrats struggled to regain momentum in the war debate after two days of testimony by Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

Petraeus said the 30,000 troop buildup begun this year had yielded some gains and needed more time. He recommended slowly reversing the buildup, drawing down about 5,500 soldiers and Marines by year's end and aiming for a force of 130,000 next summer.

Deaths in US up over 2005

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Democrats blame Bush, MoveOn.org accuses Surgeon General of "betraying us," Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid demand US pull out . . .

Kansas City Star:

The number of deaths in the United States rose in 2005 after a sharp decline the year earlier, a disappointing reversal that suggests the 2004 numbers were a fluke. Cancer deaths were also up.

U.S. health officials said they believe the drop in deaths seen earlier may have been due to 2004's unusually mild flu season. Deaths from flu and lower respiratory disease jumped in 2005.

The new mortality data was released Wednesday in a report by the National Center for Health Statistics. It was a preliminary report, based on about 99 percent of the death records reported in all 50 states and the District of Columbia for 2005.

Last year, statistics from 2004 showed U.S. deaths fell to 2,397,615. It was a decline of about 50,000 from 2003, and was the largest drop in deaths in nearly 70 years. Some experts saw it as a sign of the triumph of modern medicine.

But the preliminary 2005 death count was up more than 50,000 - about 2,447,900 - almost back to the 2003 level.

We're All Going To Die!

One thing the "Petraeus Hearings" have revealed

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Is that Democrats seem to be utterly incapable of grasping new concepts, such as "we've changed strategy and tactics and are now having some success in Iraq." 

This is of course surprising, since it's now scientifically established that "liberals" are more intellectually flexible than "conservatives."  Whatever the hell that means.

Light Rail Doesn't Work

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So says the Cato Institute.  A couple of the more pungent points:

4. Light rail increases congestion.

Most light-rail lines operate on streets for at least part of their length, and transit planners time traffic signals to favour trains over automobiles. The delays that result greatly exceed the benefit of getting a handful of people out of their cars.

A new light-rail line in Minneapolis so disrupted traffic signals that people using a parallel highway found they were spending an added 20 minutes or more sitting in traffic. Internal documents revealed that the government knew this would happen, but the state says it can never be completely fixed because federal rules require that signals favour the light rail.

7. Light rail increases energy consumption and greenhouse gases.

Light rail uses less energy and generates less carbon dioxide, per passenger kilometre, than buses (though not necessarily less than autos). But light rail does not replace buses; instead, transit agencies typically reroute corridor buses to be feeder buses for the light-rail line.

Many people choose to drive to light-rail stations rather than wait for a bus and then transfer to a train, so feeder buses are much more lightly used than the previous corridor buses. When Salt Lake City opened its light-rail system, the average number of people riding its buses fell by nearly 50 per cent.

When taken as a whole, then, most transit systems with light rail use more energy and emit more greenhouse gases per passenger kilometre than they did when they operated only buses. Most also use more energy and emit more carbon dioxide, per passenger kilometre, than typical automobiles.

In the rare cases where light rail has reduced energy use, the energy cost of building it swamps any savings. If we want to save energy and reduce greenhouse gases, automotive improvements such as hybrid-electric cars can do far more at a far lower cost than even the best rail projects.

What makes smart people smart?

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ScienceBlog discusses:


“Recent neuroscience studies suggest that intelligence is related to how well information travels throughout the brain,” said Haier, a professor of psychology in the School of Medicine and longtime human intelligence researcher. “Our review of imaging studies identifies the stations along the routes intelligent information processing takes. Once we know where the stations are, we can study how they relate to intelligence.”

The data suggest that some of the brain areas related to intelligence are the same areas related to attention and memory and to more complex functions like language. Haier and Jung say this possible integration of cognitive functions suggests that intelligence levels might be based on how efficient the frontal-parietal networks process information.

Brain imaging studies of intelligence are relatively new, with Haier doing some of the first ones only 20 years ago. Although there is still discussion about how to define and measure intelligence, Haier and Jung found surprising consistency in the studies they reviewed despite the fact the studies represented a variety of approaches.

The hygiene hypothesis

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Science Daily:

“The natural immune system does not have as much to do as it did 50 years ago because we’ve increased our efforts to protect our children from dirt and germs,” says McMorris.

“Allergies are on the rise because our society has changed the way we live. As a result, people with allergies are having children with others who have allergies, which in turn creates a natural increase in the prevalence of allergies in our society.”

Allergies are a reaction by the body's immune system to foreign substances – pollen, mold, animal dander, dust and dust mites, insect stings and certain foods – that it deems  harmful.
I've heard of this before, and am pretty sympathetic to this argument.  We evolved in a dirty, nasty world.  Maybe Mr. Clean is causing our sniffles?