#0057 RRS Newsletter for September 14, 2007
Be sure to check out the RRS News section for the latest on Operation Spread Eagle!
For the rest of the month I will be posting on a regular three a week schedule, I may continue this trend next month, we'll see how it goes. So on every Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday the newest editions will be up. Some of you may have noticed the counters at the bottom recently, with that I've been keeping track of how many and what days readers have been loging in to read the newsletter, and the aforementioned days seem to be the most popular, counts on Friday and Sunday being especially high. However, the reason for the newly placed regularity is two-fold. The other reason is to better manage my time, since I will be going on vacation from the 27th to the 5th, and there is much to do in the interum in preparation. In the time I will be gone, there will be no newsletter posts (I'm sure you can all manage, lol) so I encourage you all to browse through the previous editions, as I'm sure there are many of you who haven't seen them all. While I'm gone, any questions, contributions, or comments you have will be fielded by my good friend and helper Adrian (a.k.a. Skeptictank, a.k.a. Freudian slip n' slide). Regulars to the chat room are probably familiar with him already.
Table of ContentsClick on a title to view the article.
NASA Astronomers Find Bizarre Planet-mass Object Orbiting Neutron Star
Extinction Crisis Escalates: Red List Shows Apes, Corals, Vultures, Dolphins All In Danger
New Theory Explains Ice On Mars
New Evidence On The Role Of Climate In Neanderthal Extinction
Operation Spread Eagle
There are quite a few people, both inside and outside the RRS ranks, involved in this project. Most noteably are prominent Youtubers Rabid Ape, Thunderf00t, Christopher Boe (the man responsible for the animation in the video for evryones favorite song, Tribute to Kent Hovind, a.k.a. Your a Fucktard), as well as the writer/performer of said song, Eddy Goombah, and the webmaster to a Way of the Master watchdog site who also keeps close tabs on the Hovind clan and CSE. The latest victim of the compaint happy CSE appears to be the Rational Response Squad, too!
The proverbial "wasp nest" has been smashed, and and the residents are pissed! Many lawsuits will ensue, to be sure. If you would like to help out, forward the following message to:
Dear Sir, I write to inform you of the abuse of copyright claims by cseministry (Creation Science Ministries).
cseministry (Creation Science Ministries) have been flagging videos as their copyrighted material even though they contain no material whatsoever from cseministry. cseministry was founded by the young earth creationist and public figure, Kent Hovind who is currently serving a 10 year jail sentence for tax fraud. Videos that cseministry have claimed infringed their copyright include phone calls from various scientists to Kent Hovind, Hovinds phone calls from jails where he conspires to hide property from the IRS and completely original satirical animations of the likeness of the public figure Kent Hovind. cseministry are evidently making abusive use of the copyright claims system by making false claims against videos which reflect badly on cseministry or their founder Kent Hovind.
-This is an abuse of the systems that cseministry have been systematically using as a form of 'back door censorship' and needs to be addressed.
Further cseministry have made copyright claims on videos they have previously made. Yet cseministry have previously declared that all material produced by their ministry is public domain material (see video below). Public domain material cannot be copyrighted. Indeed it would appear that it is only within the last week that cseministry have changed their website (drdino.com) to falsely claim they have copyright protection on all the material they have previously put in the public domain (see video below), simply so they can falsely flag videos critical of them on youtube. No-one can claim the copyright for public domain material, not even cseministry.
And even IF cseministry did own the copyright for any of this material, all of the videos they have flagged as infringing their copyright would fall into the category of fair use.
The following video explains the abuse by cseministry
The following is a partial list of accounts that have had videos deleted by false copyright claims by cseministry.
rabidape, johnplex, Acorvettes, EGarrett01, Desertphile, qxdc, Chrisboe4ever, RationalResponse and ExtantDodo
Here is the video that Thunderf00t made to accompany this letter.
You can also help by going to the following link and downloading the video, then upload it across the internet. Any site that supports user videos!
This empire of Christian Fudamentalists has gone too far, and we at the Rational Response Squad WILL NOT take this lying down! Here is a copy of what Brian has to say on the matter, you can also find this on the front page of this site, www.rationalresponders.com
Download the latest RRS (banned) video and post it on your account on any site anywhere.
We wont even pretend later that we still own the copyright!
"Someone" (the lawyers will have to figure it out) flagged our video exposing the criminal actions of the Creation Science Evangelism Ministry, and had our account pulled. Unlike false copyright complaints, we're unsure currently how we can have this rectified at the youtube level. We may in fact decide to stay off youtube and do as Gisburne has done, having you repost thousands of our videos over and over.
Our suggestion for right this minute is to upload as many videos as you can all over the internet exposing the illegal activity that the CSE Ministry has currently been engaging in. They want to silence critics, that is clear, to ensure that this doesn't happen you must become more critical of them than you ever have. DO SOMETHING!
If you don't have a video serving that purpose merely uploading a video critiquing Kent Hovind would be good enough. If you feel like acting as childish as "they"do, feel free to flag their videos like it's your business all day long. We don't condone restricting free speech, but since nobody at youtube seems to care about these egregious and vile actions it's up to us to do anything we can to get youtubes attention. (this account is the main account causing the problems - users are reporting that they are flagging these videos left and right). That they would allow such activity after dozens of warnings from youtube members is extremely horrible mismanagement at best. There are dozens of videos and thousands of comments from angry youtube members who are pissed off that it takes 1 minute for someone to pull down a video if they're willing to claim ownership but it takes 14 days, tons of paperwork, and lawyers to reinstate what is rightfully ours. We are pissed. The Creation Science Ministries picked the wrong people to fuck with.
You have just as much right to CSE material as they do, as they've made their videos public domain. They changed their website recently to reflect a change that will never hold up in a court of law. You can't make videos public domain, and then rescind the copyright. Not only have there been countless fraudulent DMCA take down notices, but tracks have been covered with more illegal activity (by attempting to rescind free copyright usage).
Please keep in mind, Sapient wrote the above after being awake for 46 hours spending almost all of that time trying to defend all youtube atheists, only to have his own account removed. Please consider a paypal donation to help offset what will be lost.
RRS MI, No meeting this month...
Due to the fact that two of the leading members of the Michigan chapter will be on vacation on the day that we usually hold our monthly meeting, we will not be conducting it this month. Next month we will resume the schedule as normal, and hopefully by then we can have more to report on the Creation Museum project. In the meantime, I encourage you all to go to the Meetup.com website and register for the Atheist meetup group in your area. The group listed for my area, Detroit area Atheists, meets on a day that I usually work, so I am hoping to make our presence know through my friend and helper (minion) Adrian, at least once in a while.
Creation Museum Project
The massive project being headed by Ashley (a.k.a. Healthy Addict) of RRS Ohio and project leaders Zombie of RRS Ontario, Bumbklaatt of RRS Colorado, Lunar Shadow of RRS Northern California, Voiderest of RRS Texas, Will Power of RRS Alabama, and myself, Jack of RRS Michigan to scientifically refute and debunk all of the claims put forth by Ken Ham and the AIG camp in the Creation Museum has started rolling along, slowly but surely. We have secured 2 evolutionary biologists to assist, and are working on getting an astronomer, a paleontologist, and Father Matthew Moretz, a prominent preist and Youtuber who may be supporting us by writing bits for pamphlets on why the "Museum" is a bad idea for any person of any faith to take seriously. His participation, of course, hinges on us not attacking religion as a whole in this project, but I think this is important enough to embrace the assistance of theists who see the value of what we are trying to accomplish. This projects main goal is to attack an affront to not only atheism, not only freethinkers, but everyone who values real science and the unhindered persuit of true knowledge, because the repercussions of this (dare I say) blasphemy to progress and education will be felt by all, atheists and theists alike.
Here is a video from Father Matthew.
Here's a quick video from Ashley on the project as a whole.
RRS MSCD developements
Amidst all the bullshit with YouTube, there is some good news. RRS MSCD, got alot of exposure at our college today. Our paper, The Metropolitan, and tv station, Metro TV, interviewed us during our event. The issue of the paper that our interview should appear it, pending the editors approval of the story, which is likely, will be next Thursday's issue (9/20). When it comes out we'll provide you all with the link to the online version of the story and if we are able, we'll get a copy of the tape from our TV interview and try and get it online asap. Speaking of video, we took about 4.5 hours of video from Fall Fest which we will be editing tomorrow and getting online either Friday night or Saturday afternoon. We also got about 10 or more people to do The Blasphemy Challenge which we will posting on the RRS YouTube account when it is rightfully reinstated and on our own YouTube account which will be created soon and we'll provide that link as well.
ok. news is done.
fuck the creation museum in the ear.
NASA Astronomers Find Bizarre Planet-mass Object Orbiting Neutron Star
Science Daily — Using NASA’s Swift and Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) satellites, astronomers have discovered one of the most bizarre planet-mass objects ever found.
The object’s minimum mass is only about 7 times the mass of Jupiter. But instead of orbiting a normal star, this low-mass body orbits a rapidly spinning pulsar. It orbits the pulsar every 54.7 minutes at an average distance of only about 230,000 miles (slightly less than the Earth-Moon distance).
"This object is merely the skeleton of a star," says co-discoverer Craig Markwardt of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "The pulsar has eaten away the star’s outer envelope, and all the remains is its helium-rich core."
Hans Krimm of NASA Goddard discovered the system on June 7, when Swift’s Burst Alert Telescope picked up an outburst of X rays and gamma rays in the direction of the galactic center. The source was named SWIFT J1756.9-2508 for its sky coordinates in the constellation Sagittarius.
RXTE began observing SWIFT J1756.9 on June 13 with its Proportional Counter Array (PCA). After analyzing the PCA data, Markwardt realized that the object was pulsing in X rays 182.07 times per second, which told him that it was a rapidly spinning pulsar. These so-called millisecond pulsars are neutron stars that spin hundreds of times per second, faster than a kitchen blender. Normally, the spin rate of neutron stars slows down as they age, but much like we can pull a string to “spin up” a top, gas spiraling onto a neutron star from its companion can maintain or even increase its fast spin.
In the case of SWIFT J1756.9-2508, Markwardt detected subtle modulations in the X-ray timing data that revealed a low-mass companion tugging the pulsar toward and away from Earth. His calculations show that the companion has a minimum mass about 7 times that of Jupiter. Because we don’t know the orbital inclination of the system, the companion’s actual mass is unknown, but it is extremely unlikely to exceed 30 Jupiters.
MIT astronomers led by Deepto Chakrabarty also observed the system with RXTE, before it faded to invisibility on June 21. Chakrabarty’s group reached identical conclusions, and the two teams have coauthored a paper that has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The system is only the eighth millisecond pulsar that is observed to be accreting mass from a companion. Only one other such system has a pulsar companion with such a low mass. The companion in this system, XTE J1807-294, also has a minimum mass of about 7 Jupiters. "Given that we don’t know the exact mass of either companion, ours could be the smallest," says Krimm.
The system probably formed several billion years ago, when it consisted of a very massive star and a smaller star with perhaps 1 to 3 solar masses. The more massive star evolved quickly and exploded as a supernova, leaving behind the neutron star. The smaller star eventually started to puff up en route to becoming a red giant, and the two objects became embedded in the extended stellar envelope. This drained orbital energy, causing the two stars to draw ever nearer, while simultaneously ejecting the envelope.
Today, the two objects are so close to each other than the neutron star’s powerful gravity produces a tidal bulge on its companion, siphoning off gas that flows into a disk that surrounds the neutron star. The flow eventually becomes unstable and dumps large quantities of gas onto the neutron star, causing an outburst like the one observed in June.
Evolution models by Christopher Deloye of Northwestern University suggest that the low-mass companion is helium dominated. "Despite its extremely low mass, the companion isn’t considered a planet because of its formation," says Deloye. "It’s essentially a white dwarf that has been whittled down to a planetary mass."
After billions of years, little remains of the companion star, and it remains unclear whether it will survive. "It’s been taking a beating, but that’s part of nature," adds Krimm.
With an estimated distance of roughly 25,000 light-years, the system is normally too faint to be detected at any wavelength, and is only visible during an outburst. SWIFT J1756.9 has never been seen to erupt until this June, so as Markwardt points out, "We don't know how long it will slumber before it wakes up again."
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
Extinction Crisis Escalates: Red List Shows Apes, Corals, Vultures, Dolphins All In Danger
Science Daily — Life on Earth is disappearing fast and will continue to do so unless urgent action is taken, according to the 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
There are now 41,415 species on the IUCN Red List and 16,306 of them are threatened with extinction, up from 16,118 last year. The total number of extinct species has reached 785 and a further 65 are only found in captivity or in cultivation.
One in four mammals, one in eight birds, one third of all amphibians and 70% of the world’s assessed plants on the 2007 IUCN Red List are in jeopardy.
Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), said: “This year’s IUCN Red List shows that the invaluable efforts made so far to protect species are not enough. The rate of biodiversity loss is increasing and we need to act now to significantly reduce it and stave off this global extinction crisis. This can be done, but only with a concerted effort by all levels of society.”
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is widely recognized as the most reliable evaluation of the world’s species. It classifies them according to their extinction risk and brings into sharp focus the ongoing decline of the world’s biodiversity and the impact that mankind is having upon life on Earth.
Jane Smart, Head of IUCN’s Species Programme, said: “We need to know the precise status of species in order to take the appropriate action. The IUCN Red List does this by measuring the overall status of biodiversity, the rate at which it is being lost and the causes of decline.
“Our lives are inextricably linked with biodiversity and ultimately its protection is essential for our very survival. As the world begins to respond to the current crisis of biodiversity loss, the information from the IUCN Red List is needed to design and implement effective conservation strategies – for the benefit of people and nature.”
Some highlights from this year’s IUCN Red List
Decline of the great apes
A reassessment of our closest relatives, the great apes, has revealed a grim picture. The Western Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) has moved from Endangered to Critically Endangered, after the discovery that the main subspecies, the Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), has been decimated by the commercial bushmeat trade and the Ebola virus. Their population has declined by more than 60% over the last 20-25 years, with about one third of the total population found in protected areas killed by the Ebola virus over the last 15 years.
The Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii) remains in the Critically Endangered category and the Bornean Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) in the Endangered category. Both are threatened by habitat loss due to illegal and legal logging and forest clearance for palm oil plantations. In Borneo, the area planted with oil palms increased from 2,000 km2 to 27,000 km2 between 1984 and 2003, leaving just 86,000 km2 of habitat available to the species throughout the island.
First appearance of corals on the IUCN Red List
Corals have been assessed and added to the IUCN Red List for the very first time. Ten Galápagos species have entered the list, with two in the Critically Endangered category and one in the Vulnerable category. Wellington’s Solitary Coral (Rhizopsammia wellingtoni) has been listed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct). The main threats to these species are the effects of El Niño and climate change.
In addition, 74 seaweeds have been added to the IUCN Red List from the Galápagos Islands. Ten species are listed as Critically Endangered, with six of those highlighted as Possibly Extinct. The cold water species are threatened by climate change and the rise in sea temperature that characterizes El Niño. The seaweeds are also indirectly affected by overfishing, which removes predators from the food chain, resulting in an increase of sea urchins and other herbivores that overgraze these algae.
Yangtze River Dolphin listed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct)
After an intensive, but fruitless, search for the Yangtze River Dolphin, or Baiji, (Lipotes vexillifer) last November and December, it has been listed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct). The dolphin has not been placed in a higher category as further surveys are needed before it can be definitively classified as Extinct. A possible sighting reported in late August 2007 is currently being investigated by Chinese scientists. The main threats to the species include fishing, river traffic, pollution and degradation of habitat.
India and Nepal’s crocodile, the Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) is also facing threats from habitat degradation and has moved from Endangered to Critically Endangered. Its population has recently declined by 58%, from 436 breeding adults in 1997 to just 182 in 2006. Dams, irrigation projects, sand mining and artificial embankments have all encroached on its habitat, reducing its domain to 2% of its former range.
This year the total number of birds on the IUCN Red List is 9,956 with 1,217 listed as threatened. Vultures in Africa and Asia have declined, with five species reclassified on the IUCN Red List. In Asia, the Red-headed Vulture (Sarcogyps calvus) moved from Near Threatened to Critically Endangered while the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) moved from Least Concern to Endangered. The rapid decline in the birds over the last eight years has been driven by the drug diclofenac, used to treat livestock.
In Africa, three species of vulture have been reclassified, including the White-headed Vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis), which moved from Least Concern to Vulnerable, the White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus) and Rüppell’s Griffon (Gyps rueppellii), both moved from Least Concern to Near Threatened. The birds’ decline has been due to a lack of food, with a reduction in wild grazing mammals, habitat loss and collision with power lines. They have also been poisoned by carcasses deliberately laced with insecticide. The bait is intended to kill livestock predators, such as hyenas, jackals and big cats, but it also kills vultures.
North American reptiles added
After a major assessment of Mexican and North American reptiles, 723 were added to the IUCN Red List, taking the total to 738 reptiles listed for this region. Of these, 90 are threatened with extinction. Two Mexican freshwater turtles, the Cuatro Cienegas Slider (Trachemys taylori) and the Ornate Slider (Trachemys ornata), are listed as Endangered and Vulnerable respectively. Both face threats from habitat loss. Mexico’s Santa Catalina Island Rattlesnake (Crotalus catalinensis) has also been added to the list as Critically Endangered, after being persecuted by illegal collectors.
Plants in peril
There are now 12,043 plants on the IUCN Red List, with 8,447 listed as threatened. The Woolly-stalked Begonia (Begonia eiromischa) is the only species to have been declared extinct this year. This Malaysian herb is only known from collections made in 1886 and 1898 on Penang Island. Extensive searches of nearby forests have failed to reveal any specimens in the last 100 years.
The Wild Apricot (Armeniaca vulgaris), from central Asia, has been assessed and added to the IUCN Red List for the first time, classified as Endangered. The species is a direct ancestor of plants that are widely cultivated in many countries around the world, but its population is dwindling as it loses habitat to tourist developments and is exploited for wood, food and genetic material.
Banggai Cardinalfish heavily exploited by aquarium trade
Overfishing continues to put pressure on many fish species, as does demand from the aquarium trade. The Banggai Cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni), which is highly prized in the aquarium industry, is entering the IUCN Red List for the first time in the Endangered category. The fish, which is only found in the Banggai Archipelago, near Sulawesi, Indonesia, has been heavily exploited, with approximately 900,000 extracted every year. Conservationists are calling for the fish to be reared in captivity for the aquarium trade, so the wild populations can be left to recover.
These highlights from the 2007 IUCN Red List are merely a few examples of the rapid rate of biodiversity loss around the world. The disappearance of species has a direct impact on people’s lives. Declining numbers of freshwater fish, for example, deprive rural poor communities not only of their major source of food, but of their livelihoods as well.
Species loss is our loss
Conservation action is slowing down biodiversity loss in some cases, but there are still many species that need more attention from conservationists. This year, only one species has moved to a lower category of threat. The Mauritius Echo Parakeet (Psittacula eques), which was one of the world’s rarest parrots 15 years ago, has moved from Critically Endangered to Endangered. The improvement is a result of successful conservation action, including close monitoring of nesting sites and supplementary feeding combined with a captive breeding and release programme.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species classifies species according to their extinction risk. It is a searchable online database containing the global status and supporting information on more than 41,000 species. Its primary goal is to identify and document the species most in need of conservation attention and provide an index of the state of biodiversity.
The IUCN Red List threat categories are the following, in descending order of threat:
- Extinct or Extinct in the Wild;
- Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable: species threatened with global extinction;
- Near Threatened: species close to the threatened thresholds or that would be threatened without ongoing specific conservation measures;
- Least Concern: species evaluated with a low risk of extinction;
- Data Deficient: no evaluation because of insufficient data.
Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct): This is not a new Red List category, but is a flag developed to identify those Critically Endangered species that are in all probability already Extinct but for which confirmation is required (for example, through more extensive surveys being carried out and failing to find any individuals).
The total number of species on the planet is unknown; estimates vary between 10 - 100 million, with 15 million species being the most widely accepted figure. 1.7 - 1.8 million species are known today.
People, either directly or indirectly, are the main reason for most species’ decline. Habitat destruction and degradation continues to be the main cause of species’ decline, along with the all too familiar threats of introduced invasive species, unsustainable harvesting, over-hunting, pollution and disease. Climate change is increasingly recognized as a serious threat, which can magnify these dangers.
Key findings from major analyses to date include:
- The number of threatened species is increasing across almost all the major taxonomic groups.
- IUCN Red List Indices, a new tool for measuring trends in extinction risk are important for monitoring progress towards the 2010 target. They are available for birds and amphibians and show that their status has declined steadily since the 1980s. An IUCN Red List Index can be calculated for any group which has been assessed at least twice.
- Most threatened birds, mammals and amphibians are located on the tropical continents – the regions that contain the tropical broadleaf forests which are believed to harbour the majority of the Earth’s terrestrial and freshwater species.
- Of the countries assessed, Australia, Brazil, China and Mexico hold particularly large numbers of threatened species.
- Estimates vary greatly, but current extinction rates are at least 100-1,000 times higher than natural background rates.
- The vast majority of extinctions since 1500 AD have occurred on oceanic islands, but over the last 20 years, continental extinctions have become as common as island extinctions.
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by World Conservation Union.
New Theory Explains Ice On Mars
Science Daily — Wobbles on Mars cause ice ages that are much more dramatic than those on Earth, says astronomer Norbert Schörghofer of the University of Hawaii.
Thanks to our large, stabilizing Moon, Earth's rotation axis is always tilted by about 23 degrees. The tilt of Mars, however, can wobble by as much as10 degrees from its current 25 degrees. Wobbles cause big changes in the amount of sunlight reaching different parts of Mars, so vast amounts of ice shift between the poles and the rest of the planet every 120,000 years.
"We expect to see two types of ground ice when the Phoenix Lander spacecraft arrives at Mars in 2008," says Schörghofer, "ice that formed on the surface and was then buried, and ice hidden in porous soil."
So much of this subsurface ice has been detected that its only plausible origin was thought to be massive snowfall. However, Schörghofer's theory suggests that a lot of that snowfall ice has since been lost to the atmosphere. It has been replaced by a new layer of ice, formed not from snowfall, since the climate had meanwhile turned less humid, but by diffusion of water vapor into the soil. Atmospheric vapor can freeze inside the soil and form "pore-ice," which is mainly soil with some ice in pore spaces.
As the planet's tilt toward the sun went back and forth, the climate kept changing between dry and humid, causing many cycles of ice retreat and formation. Today we are left with two kinds of ground ice: the old massive ice sheet and very recent pore-ice.
Schörghofer is part of the multidisciplinary UH Astrobiology Institute, which is sponsored by NASA and managed through the Institute for Astronomy. Its research focuses on water as the habitat of, and chemical enabler for, life.
During the 19th century, scientists discovered that Earth experienced ice ages. In the past few years, spacecraft have discovered that ice ages also occurred on Mars, but scientists have been puzzled because more ice than expected has survived far from the polar caps. What is left is now thought to be a combination of old ice from the last major glaciation and younger ice that formed later and in a way entirely different from the way ice formed on Earth.
The new theory sheds light on the history of vast ice-rich areas, which once covered most of Mars. Around 4 to 5 million years ago, ice accumulated from extensive snowfall outside the martian polar caps. The new theory describes what happened to this ice as the rotation axis of Mars continued to wobble over the last few million years.
Surface temperature and atmospheric humidity changed because of varying sunlight. When the climate was dry, the ice receded to a greater depth or disappeared entirely except at the highest latitudes. Dust contained in retreating ice eventually covered the ice, making it no longer visible on the surface.
Schörghofer's new theory appears in the September 13 issue of the journal Nature.
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by University Of Hawaii.
New Evidence On The Role Of Climate In Neanderthal Extinction
Science Daily — The mystery of what killed the Neanderthals has moved a step closer to resolution after an international study led by the University of Leeds has ruled out one of the competing theories -- catastrophic climate change -- as the most likely cause.
The bones of more than 400 Neanderthals have been found since the first discoveries were made in the early 19th century. The finds suggest the Neanderthals, named after the Neander Valley near Düsseldorf, where they were first recognized as an extinct kind of archaic humans, inhabited Europe and parts of western Asia for more than 100,000 years.
The causes of their extinction have puzzled scientists for years -- with some believing it was due to competition with modern humans, while others blamed deteriorating climatic conditions. But a new study recently published in Nature has shown that the Neanderthal extinction did not coincide with any of the extreme climate events that punctuated the last glacial period.
The research was led by Professor Chronis Tzedakis, a palaeoecologist at the University of Leeds, who explained: "Until now, there have been three limitations to understanding the role of climate in the Neanderthal extinction: uncertainty over the exact timing of their disappearance; uncertainties in converting radiocarbon dates to actual calendar years; and the chronological imprecision of the ancient climate record."
The team's novel method -- mapping radiocarbon dates of interest directly onto a well-dated palaeoclimate archive -- circumvented the last two problems, providing a much more detailed picture of the climate at the possible times of the Neanderthal disappearance.
The researchers applied the new method to three alternative sets of dates for the timing of the Neanderthal extinction from Gorham's Cave, Gibraltar, a site which is thought to have been occupied by some of the latest surviving Neanderthals:
- a set of generally accepted but older dates (around 30-32,000 radiocarbon years ago)
- newly-suggested younger dates (around 28,000 radiocarbon years ago)
- more contentious dates (around 24,000 radiocarbon years ago).
The team showed that during the first two sets of dates, Europe was experiencing conditions similar to the general climatic instability of the last glacial period -- conditions the Neanderthals had already proved able to survive.
The much more controversial date of around 24,000 radiocarbon years ago placed the last Neanderthals just before a large expansion of ice sheets and the onset of cold conditions in northern Europe. "But at that time, Gibraltar's climate remained relatively unaffected, perhaps as a result of warm water from the subtropical Atlantic entering the western Mediterranean," explained palaeoceanographer Isabel Cacho of the University of Barcelona.
"Our findings suggest that there was no single climatic event that caused the extinction of the Neanderthals," concludes palaeonthropologist Katerina Harvati of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. "Only the controversial date of 24,000 radiocarbon years for their disappearance, if proven correct, coincides with a major environmental shift. Even in this case, however, the role of climate would have been indirect, by promoting competition with other human groups."
The work also has wider implications for other studies, as paleoclimatologist Konrad Hughen of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution explained: "Our approach offers the huge potential to unravel the role of climate in critical events of the recent fossil record as it can be applied to any radiocarbon date from any deposit."
The article Placing late Neanderthals in a climatic context (Tzedakis, P.C., Hughen, K.A., Cacho, I. & Harvati, K) is published in Nature on September 13. The study was conducted by Chronis Tzedakis (University of Leeds); Konrad Hughen (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution); Isabel Cacho (University of Barcelona); Katerina Harvati (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology).
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by University of Leeds.
Crackpot Creationists taking the war on evolution to Turkey
U.S. Creationists Take War on Evolution to Turkey There's supposedly an old saying in the Middle East that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. That may or not be true, but almost certainly the friend of my enemy is my enemy, or at a minimum, not my friend. And in their campaign to help hard-line Islamists in Turkey to propagate the fraud of intelligent design, conservative Christian creationists in the United States are doing great harm to the American project. As PRI's global news program The World detailed on Thursday, the Seattle-based creationist Discovery Institute has taken its war against evolution to Turkey. At the very time Ankara is fighting to maintain its secular Islamic ethos as the nation battles for EU membership, the intelligent design (ID) charlatans have linked arms with fundamentalist Muslims to eject Darwin's theory from Turkish schools. Fresh off defeats in Pennsylvania, Kansas and Georgia to entrench creationism alongside evolution, the Discovery Institute has sought allies in the Islamic world. In February, Darwin critic David Berlinski was among the Discovery Institute's contingent at an Intelligent Design conference in Istanbul. (The event was sponsored by the city's Cultural Affairs Bureau, which is controlled by the Islamist AK Party.) In the war against evolution and the scientific method, Berlinski believes Christians and Muslims can find common ground: The budding creationist movement in Turkey is already having a chilling effect on the nation's science education. One public school teacher, who spoke anonymously for fear of retribution, described the tremendous pressure to teach creationism alongside the theory evolution. Some colleagues won't teach evolution at all. How ironic that the radical Christian right, the most fervent acolytes of an expansive view of the struggle against Islamic terrorism, take sides with Muslim fundamentalists against the scientific method, among the core enlightenment values of Western civilization. Then again, as CNN's Christiane Amanpour suggested in her series about fundamentalist Christian, Muslim and Jewish movements called "God's Warriors", it is not ironic at all. The shared life and death battle against modernity can make strange bedfellows among even the bitterest foes. The likes of the Discovery Institute may hate Osama Bin Laden and his jihad against the West, but seemingly share his critique of Western culture. Thanks to the good people at groups like the Discovery Institute, Americans don't need to travel to Kandahar - or even a few schools in Turkey - to see theocracy at work. Apparently, the American Taliban and their creationist allies are only too happy to offer it here at home. Listen to report from The World here. UPDATE: As the New York Times reported in July, the American-Turkish creationist alliance works both ways. Harun Yahya, who has produced videos, DVDs and books on issues of faith and science, mailed copies of his massive creationist tome "Atlas of Creation" to hundreds of scientists, physicians and researchers at universities and medical schools around the United States.
"This is a hot issue. We're n the midst of a worldwide religious revival. Historians 500 years from now will talk about the religious revival of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. There are a billion Muslims taking Islamic doctrine very seriously. Christians, too."
There's supposedly an old saying in the Middle East that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. That may or not be true, but almost certainly the friend of my enemy is my enemy, or at a minimum, not my friend. And in their campaign to help hard-line Islamists in Turkey to propagate the fraud of intelligent design, conservative Christian creationists in the United States are doing great harm to the American project.
As PRI's global news program The World detailed on Thursday, the Seattle-based creationist Discovery Institute has taken its war against evolution to Turkey. At the very time Ankara is fighting to maintain its secular Islamic ethos as the nation battles for EU membership, the intelligent design (ID) charlatans have linked arms with fundamentalist Muslims to eject Darwin's theory from Turkish schools.
Fresh off defeats in Pennsylvania, Kansas and Georgia to entrench creationism alongside evolution, the Discovery Institute has sought allies in the Islamic world. In February, Darwin critic David Berlinski was among the Discovery Institute's contingent at an Intelligent Design conference in Istanbul. (The event was sponsored by the city's Cultural Affairs Bureau, which is controlled by the Islamist AK Party.) In the war against evolution and the scientific method, Berlinski believes Christians and Muslims can find common ground:
The budding creationist movement in Turkey is already having a chilling effect on the nation's science education. One public school teacher, who spoke anonymously for fear of retribution, described the tremendous pressure to teach creationism alongside the theory evolution. Some colleagues won't teach evolution at all.
How ironic that the radical Christian right, the most fervent acolytes of an expansive view of the struggle against Islamic terrorism, take sides with Muslim fundamentalists against the scientific method, among the core enlightenment values of Western civilization. Then again, as CNN's Christiane Amanpour suggested in her series about fundamentalist Christian, Muslim and Jewish movements called "God's Warriors", it is not ironic at all. The shared life and death battle against modernity can make strange bedfellows among even the bitterest foes. The likes of the Discovery Institute may hate Osama Bin Laden and his jihad against the West, but seemingly share his critique of Western culture.
Thanks to the good people at groups like the Discovery Institute, Americans don't need to travel to Kandahar - or even a few schools in Turkey - to see theocracy at work. Apparently, the American Taliban and their creationist allies are only too happy to offer it here at home.
Listen to report from The World here.
UPDATE: As the New York Times reported in July, the American-Turkish creationist alliance works both ways. Harun Yahya, who has produced videos, DVDs and books on issues of faith and science, mailed copies of his massive creationist tome "Atlas of Creation" to hundreds of scientists, physicians and researchers at universities and medical schools around the United States.
Looking at the scriptures
What are Christians Waiting For?
Are Religious People Smarter?
Why there are no REAL Christians
OUR REPUBLIC - R.I.P.
Key anti-al-Qaida sheik slain in IraqBy ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD - The assassination Thursday of the leader of the Sunni Arab revolt against al-Qaida militants dealt a setback to one of the few success stories in U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq, but tribesmen in Anbar province vowed not to be deterred in fighting the terror movement.
American and Iraqi officials hoped the death of Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha would not stall the campaign to drive al-Qaida in Iraq from the vast province spreading west of Baghdad and reconcile Sunnis with the Shiite-led national government.
It was the biggest blow to the Anbar tribal alliance since a suicide bomber killed four anti-al-Qaida sheiks as they met in a Baghdad hotel in June. Abu Risha himself had escaped a suicide attack in February. But those attacks and others did not stop the campaign against al-Qaida.
Abu Risha, head of the Anbar Awakening Council who met with President Bush just 10 days earlier, died when a roadside bomb exploded near his home just west of Ramadi as he returned from his farm, police Col. Tareq Youssef said. Two bodyguards and the driver also were killed.
Moments later a car bomb exploded nearby but caused no casualties. An Interior Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, said the second bomb was intended as a backup in case Abu Risha escaped the first blast.
The attack occurred one year after the goateed, charismatic, chain-smoking young sheik organized 25 Sunni Arab clans into an alliance against al-Qaida in Iraq, seeking to drive the terror movement from sanctuaries where it had flourished after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
No group claimed responsibility for the assassination, but it was widely assumed to have been carried out by al-Qaida, which already had killed four of Abu Risha's brothers and six other relatives for working with the U.S. military.
U.S. officials credit Abu Risha and allied sheiks with a dramatic improvement in security in such Anbar flashpoints as Fallujah and Ramadi after years of American failure to subdue the extremists. U.S. officials now talk of using the Anbar model to organize tribal fighters elsewhere in Iraq.
Abu Risha's allies as well as U.S. and Iraqi officials insisted the assassination would not deter them from fighting al-Qaida, and the tribal alliance appears to have gained enough momentum to survive the loss of a single figure, no matter how key. Late Thursday, Abu Risha's brother, Ahmed, was selected to replace him as head of the council.
Still, the loss of such a charismatic leader is bound to complicate efforts to recruit more tribal leaders in the war against the terror network. Two Pentagon officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the matter, said the assassination sent a chilling message about the consequences of cooperating with the Americans.
"This is a criminal act and al-Qaida is behind it," said Sheik Jubeir Rashid, a senior member of Abu Risha's council. "We have to admit that it is a major blow to the council. But we are determined to strike back and continue our work. Such attack was expected, but this will not deter us."
Ali Hatem al-Sulaiman, deputy chief of the province's biggest Sunni tribe, said that if "only one small boy remains alive in Anbar, we will not hand the province over to al-Qaida."
Islamic extremist Web sites praised the killing in a flurry of postings, one of which called Abu Risha "one of the biggest pigs of the Crusaders," meaning the Americans. Another said Abu Risha would spend the Muslim holy month of Ramadan "in the pits of hell."
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite who had been reluctant to support Abu Risha, expressed "great sorrow" over the killing, but said he was confident "that this criminal act will strengthen the determination of Anbar people to wipe out the terrorists."
In Washington, Bush said that following Abu Risha's death, a fellow Sunni leader pledged to strike back against al-Qaida and continue working with the United States. "And as they do," the president said, "they can count on the continued support of the United States."
During a visit Sept. 3 to al-Asad Air Base, Bush hailed the courage of Abu Risha and others "who have made a decision to reject violence and murder in return for moderation and peace."
"I'm looking forward to hearing from the tribal leaders who led the fight against the terrorists and are now leading the effort to rebuild their communities," Bush said. "I'm going to reassure them that America does not abandon our friends, and America will not abandon the Iraqi people."
In his appearance before Congress this week to testify about the situation in Iraq, the top U.S. military commander, Gen. David Petraeus, often cited the recent success in Anbar of the forces organized by Abu Risha, and he called the leader's killing tragic.
"It's a terrible loss for Anbar province and all of Iraq," Petraeus said in a statement released in Washington. "It shows how significant his importance was and it shows al-Qaida in Iraq remains a very dangerous and barbaric enemy. He was an organizing force that did help organize alliances and did help keep the various tribes together."
Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino said Abu Risha "was one of the first to come forward to want to work with the United States to repel al-Qaida."
She said U.S. officials would "redouble our efforts" to work with local Iraqis to build support against those behind such killings. "There has been a complete shift in attitude over the past year or so and we have to capitalize on that," Perino said.
It was unclear how the killers managed to penetrate the web of security which protected Abu Risha, suggesting someone in his clan might have turned against him.
Abu Risha, who was in his mid-30s, lived in a walled compound of several villas that were home to him and his extended family, across the street from the largest U.S. military base in Ramadi. Within the walls were camels, other animals and palm trees, which he showed off to visitors.
He spent his days meeting with tribal sheiks, discussing the fate of Anbar and al-Qaida. He was constantly busy, with lines of people waiting to speak to him, and took endless calls on his cell phone.
He smoked profusely and drank endless glasses of sweet tea. He carried a pistol, usually stuck in a holster strapped around his waist, and dressed in traditional flowing robes and headdresses.
Many Ramadi residents reacted with shock and sadness, calling Abu Risha a "hero" who helped pacify their city.
"We were able to reopen our shops and send our children back to school," said Alaa Abid, who owns an auto parts store. "Now we're afraid that the black days of al-Qaida will return to our city."
A U.S. general, meanwhile, said a fatal attack on the headquarters garrison of the American military in Iraq this week was carried out with 240 mm rocket — a type of weapon that he said Iran provides to Shiite extremists.
One person was killed and 11 were wounded in the attack Tuesday outside Baghdad at Camp Victory, which includes the headquarters of Multinational Forces-Iraq.
Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner said the rocket was launched from the Rasheed district of west Baghdad, which he said was infiltrated by breakaway factions of the Mahdi Army militia of Muqtada al-Sadr.
Displaying a twisted piece of shrapnel from the attack, Bergner said military experts had so far determined only that its markings and manufacture were "consistent with" Iranian-produced munitions.
"Can I hold up a piece of fragment today that has a specific marking on it that traces this back to Iranian making?" he said. "At this moment I can't do that, but explosive experts — as I said — are still analyzing all the different fragments that they have gathered."
Canada holds man linked to Austrian al Qaeda caseBy Karin Strohecker
VIENNA (Reuters) - Canadian police have arrested a fourth suspect in connection with three Austrians linked to al Qaeda who were detained in Vienna on Wednesday, the Austrian Interior Ministry said on Thursday.
Canadian police later said they had arrested Said Namouh, 35, in the town of Maskinonge in the French-speaking province of Quebec on Wednesday. He was charged on Thursday with plotting to cause explosions in a foreign country.
Austrian officials said the man had been in contact with the three arrested in Vienna, who are suspected of having posted a video message on the Internet threatening attacks on Austria and Germany.
"The man in Canada was arrested at the same time as the three in Vienna," said Interior Ministry spokesman Rudolf Gollia. "They communicated a number of times through online Internet forums and by e-mail."
Gollia said the suspect arrested in Canada was of African descent but declined to give any further details. Canadian police said Namouh -- arrested after a joint operation with Austrian authorities -- had posed no direct threat to Canada.
The three suspects held in Vienna are a 22-year-old man and his 20-year-old wife and another man of 26, all of whom are second-generation immigrants from Arab countries and hold Austrian passports.
The video message posted in March demanded German and Austrian soldiers leave Afghanistan, but in electronic surveillance over several months police found no concrete indications that attacks were in the offing, the ministry said on Wednesday.
The arrests come just over a week after Germany said it foiled an Islamist militant plan to carry out "massive bomb attacks" on U.S. installations in the country. Germany arrested three men.
The Austrian Interior Ministry said it knew of no links between the German and the Austrian suspects.
Austrian authorities said they decided to close in on the suspects after learning they were about to leave the country.
"We received some information that the main suspect and his newly wed wife were planning to leave the country and travel to Egypt for their honeymoon," said Gollia. "The second reason was that the main suspect said he would destroy his computer, and a lot of information would have been lost."
The suspect arrested in Canada had also been about to leave the country, Gollia added.
(Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa, editing by Peter Galloway)
White House report shows little progressBy ANNE GEARAN, AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON - A new White House report on Iraq shows slim progress, moving just one more political and security goal into the satisfactory column: efforts to let former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to rejoin the political process, a senior administration official told The Associated Press.
The latest conclusions, to be released Friday, largely track a comparable poor assessment in July on 18 benchmarks. The earlier White House report said the Iraqi government had made satisfactory gains toward eight benchmarks, unsatisfactory marks on eight and mixed results on two.
Congress required President Bush to submit the report to lawmakers, assessing whether the Iraqi government had made progress toward achieving the 18 goals. In the new report, the Iraqi government showed positive movement on only one of the benchmarks.
The goal of enacting and implementing legislation on so-called "de-Baathification" was rated satisfactory instead of unsatisfactory, the official said Thursday evening. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the report had not been made public.
Such a law hasn't passed, but the official pointed to the tentative Aug. 26 power-sharing agreement among leading Iraqi politicians.
"This agreement by no means solves all of Iraq's problems, but the commitment of its leaders to work together on hard issues is encouraging," Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told Congress earlier this week.
In testimony this week, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, said Iraqis are struggling to come to terms with a vicious past in the matter of "de-Baathification."
"They are trying to balance fear that the Baath Party would one day return to power with the recognition that many former members of the party are guilty of no crime and joined the organization not to repress others but for personal survival," Crocker said.
The White House wouldn't confirm the contents of the report and has tried to lower expectations about its findings.
"It has only been 58 days since the last assessment of July 15, which showed the Iraqis are making some progress in many areas but that in others they are lagging," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Thursday. "While everyone continues to work toward more political reconciliation, we don't expect dramatic differences in the Sept. 15 report compared to the one submitted less than two months ago."
Congress included the 18 benchmarks in a war-spending bill in May.
The official said the latest progress report will show the Iraqi government was making satisfactory progress on items including:
_Establishing and supporting political, media, economic and services committees in support of the stepped-up security plan in Baghdad that the president announced in January.
_Providing three trained and ready Iraqi brigades to support Baghdad operations.
_Ensuring that the Baghdad security plan will not provide a safe haven for outlaws, regardless of sectarian or political affiliation, as Bush says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has pledged to do.
_Establishing all of the planned joint security stations in neighborhoods across Baghdad.
The report, according to the official, will cite unsatisfactory progress on other issues, such as:
_Enacting legislation to formally distribute oil resources equally among Iraqis without regard to their sect or ethnicity.
_Ensuring that the Iraqi security forces are providing evenhanded enforcement of the law.
_Increasing the number of Iraqi security forces units capable of operating independently.
_Ensuring that Iraq's political authorities are not undermining or making false accusations against members of the Iraqi security forces.
The White House report is more positive than two other recent Iraq progress reports that harshly criticized lack of progress in Iraq.
The Sept. 6 report by the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, chaired by retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones, said Iraq's security forces will be unable to assume control of the country in the next 12 to 18 months without U.S. help and that the national police force is rife with corruption and infiltrated by militia forces and should be disbanded.
The Government Accountability Office progress report on Iraq, released Sept. 4, said violence in Iraq remains high, fewer Iraqi security forces are capable of acting independently, and the parliament in Baghdad has failed to reach major political agreements needed to curb sectarian violence.
Atheist Blood Drive
In an attempt to show the world that atheists are every bit as charitable as the religious of society, and that we need no "divine warrent" to be so, the RRS has set up a daughter organization called Atheist Volunteers. We hope you will all chip in. The most prominent of it's projects is the Atheist Blood drive.
Atheists for Autism Research Charity!
Check these guys out, and donate if you can!
Religious Victim of the day
Atheist Group Protests Emmy Awards CensorshipEmmy Awards Cave To Religion Police -- Public Deserves To Hear Full Text of Griffin Monologue
CALIFORNIA - September 12 -An Atheist civil rights group is calling for a boycott of the Emmy Awards if officials censor remarks by comedienne Kathy Griffin making light of stars who "thank Jesus" for their good fortune.
The awards ceremony is scheduled for broadcast on the E! Channel on Saturday night. Ms. Griffin won a creative arts Emmy last weekend for her hit program "My Life on the D-List." She remarked that "a lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus... This award is my god now."
The Roman Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights complained however, and League president William Donohue blasted Ms. Griffin's remarks as "vulgar, in-your-face-brand of hate speech." The group called upon the TV academy to "denounce Griffin's obscene and blasphemous comment" as well. A statement released by the Academy of Television Arts& Sciences (which oversees the Emmy awards) concurred, saying that the "offensive" portions of Ms. Griffin's comments would be cut from Saturday's broadcast.
Ellen Johnson, President of American Atheists said that the League and the Academy were censoring speech by Atheists. Ms. Griffin has, in fact, described herself as a "militant Atheist."
"It's permissible to make religious comments at the Emmy Awards and other public events as long as they do not criticize or threaten the self-appointed 'Religion Police," said Johnson. "Celebrities can go on national television to 'thank' Jesus, or Allah, or Scientology for their success, but an Atheist cannot make an honest and forthright statement that their success came from developing their talents and working hard."
"Now we're going to be scrutinizing stage routines by comics for 'blasphemy'?" asked Johnson? "This is something I'd expect in a nation like Saudi Arabia or Taliban-controlled Afghanistan."
Dave Silverman, Communications Director for American Atheists, said that the decision by the Academy to "cave in" to threats was wrong. "Say what you want about God and Jesus, as long as it's positive and thankful. But disavow Jesus, even in a joke, and you might as well be swearing, and you'll get bleeped."
"Theistic speech is welcome at the Emmy Awards, but the least bit of levity and humor about religion is not."
Mr. Silverman added that American Atheists was urging its members, and all others concerned about censorship in the media, to contact the Awards to protest the decision to censor Ms. Griffin's comment.
AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a nationwide movement that defends civil rights for Atheists; works for the total separation of church and state; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.
Nicole Speaks Out Against the Creation Museum
Wanna See Jesus, why don't you go now?
Deek Jackson on 9/11
NEW SONG "Letter to the CSE"
Tribute to Kent Hovind LIVE
Huge thanks go to everyone that has helped me out on this endeavor. Specifically, Zombie, head of RRS Ontario for multple article submissions, Voiderest of RRS Texas, my coding guru without whom many of the features of this newsletter (like the Table of Contents) would not be in place, Brian Sapient for his guiding hand and for the space in which this is published, and all of you who have contributed articles. Cheers go out to you all!!!
The darkness of godlessness lets wisdom shine.