Bush officials sneak-attack nation’s wildlife

In the excitement of the Olympics, the run-up to the presidential conventions and the flurry of late summer vacations, it was easy to miss the Bush administration’s stealth attack on the Endangered Species Act last week. A proposed regulation would simply eliminate independent scientific reviews that have been required for over 30 years.

“I have been working on the Endangered Species Act for 15 years and have never seen such a sneaky attack,” declared John Kostyack, executive director of wildlife conservation and global warming at the National Wildlife Federation.

In a proposal, first reported by the Associated Press, biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service would no longer have input into the actions of many other federal agencies in evaluating projects that could impact endangered species.

Essentially it would be up to officials at agencies like the Forest Service, the Minerals Management Service and the Department of Transportation to decide for themselves if a new timber allotment, mining project or road would harm endangered animals and plants, without consulting third-party biologists from Fish and Wildlife.

Many of the agencies, which would now be making decisions affecting the fate of species themselves, don’t even have biologists on staff to make such determinations. The proposal presents a conflict of interest, which could effectively gut the Endangered Species Act, by asking the very agencies the act regulates to also enforce it. A 2008 Fish and Wildlife Service memorandum obtained by environmentalists states that when agencies regulated themselves in the past, they consistently violated the Endangered Species Act.

If the new regulation is approved by the Department of the Interior in the next couple of months, it would undercut the authority of the Endangered Species Act. “With this change, the Bush administration threatens to undo more than 30 years of progress,” said Kostyack. “This move is consistent with other efforts by the administration to cement industry-friendly policies before leaving office in January.”

The Department of the Interior maintains the new regulation won’t change the Endangered Species Act. Only Congress can do that. If agencies choose not to consult the Fish and Wildlife Service under the proposed policy, and fail to protect endangered species, they will be liable. “There is nothing that allows an agency of the federal government to not obey the Endangered Species Act, and the agencies are liable under civil and criminal penalties if they do not obey,” says Tina Kreisher, director of communications for the Department of the Interior.

Back in May, when the Department of the Interior reluctantly listed the polar bear as a threatened species, due to global warming ravaging its habitat, U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne specified that he would make rules in the future to try to limit the scope of that listing. Now he has done just that.

Announcing the proposal last week, the Department of the Interior asserted that greenhouse gas emissions are exempt from regulation under the Endangered Species Act. It stated the “proposed rule is consistent with the FWS [Fish and Wildlife Service] current understanding it is not possible to draw a direct causal link” between the fate of a species, like the polar bear, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmentalists say the Bush administration’s motive is to preempt environmental groups from suing the government in the name of protecting the polar bears when the feds do things that would increase greenhouse gas emissions, like approving new coal-fired power plants.

To add insult to injury, the Bush administration said it will accept public comment on the proposed changes for a mere 30 days, and it will not accept such comments via e-mail, which is the common way that many environmental groups activate their memberships to fight egregious policies. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now accepting public comment about the proposed changes through Sept. 15 on the Regulations.gov Web site.

Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, D-W.V., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, called the proposed changes to the enforcement of the Endangered Species Act “deeply troubling.” Sen. Barbara Boxer, who chairs the Environment and Public Works committee, said that they’re “illegal.” The senator from California has legal precedent for that charge. In 2003, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved hundreds of pesticides for use without consulting either the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Services about their implications for endangered wildlife and sea critters. When environmental groups sued, a federal judge ruled against the EPA.

“It takes great hubris to resurrect an issue the court has already definitely struck down,” stated Patti Goldman, an attorney for Earthjustice. “This is like a zombie movie … their proposal to toss the Endangered Species Act over the cliff died, but now has somehow come back to life.”

The Department of the Interior has tried to drum the Fish and Wildlife Service out of endangered species decisions before. In 2004, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management began allowing timber sales without first consulting biologists for Fish and Wildlife about the potential impact on endangered species. Environmental groups are currently suing the agencies in federal court in Washington over the policy. But before a judge has ruled on the legality, the agency’s own scientists weighed in.

In 2008, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a memorandum documenting an audit of how well those agencies regulated themselves. The result: Without the oversight of Fish and Wildlife, the agencies violated the Endangered Species Act 62 percent of the time.

The Department of the Interior failed to publish the results of that review in the federal register. Now, it is attempting to implement a policy that its own biologists at the Fish and Wildlife Service have documented does not work.

“This is akin to a drug company suppressing results showing that a medicine is killing people, and then trying to put the medicine broadly on the market,” says Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, Ariz.

In the last seven and a half years, the Bush administration has been no friend to the nation’s flora and fauna, refusing to consider extending protections to the likes of the polar bear until it’s been sued in court to do so by environmental groups. So, it’s probably a good thing for wildlife that the Bush administration is itself an endangered species.

A spokesperson for the Obama campaign told the Associated Press that if elected president, the candidate would kill the new regulation. “As president, Senator Obama will fight to maintain the strong protections of the Endangered Species Act and undo this proposal from President Bush,” Obama campaign spokesman Nick Shapiro told the AP. “After over 30 years of successfully protecting our nation’s most endangered wildlife like the bald eagle, we should be looking for ways to improve it, not weaken it.”

Sen. John McCain’s campaign office had no comment.

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Save your MONEY or your PLANET? HMMMMMMMMMMMM

Idiocy raises its ugly head again. There is a new bill on the docket and it is known as the Lieberman Bill. This bill is a move toward saving our planet. Which in my opinion; is the most important goal on our planet. I can tell by using my immediate surroundings as an example that the most idiotic people will oppose this bill. I say this with all due respect but you know your local surrounding better than anywhere else and if you listen to the debaters you will find that the people you have least respect for their knowledge automatically think about their wallet. they believe it is better to have man made money in their pockets than having a life supporting biosphere so they can LIVE. If you can not breathe and your planet turns into an autoclave, then what is money worth. Are these people victims of social programming or are they a direct result of our failing educational system? Either way it is common sense and I hope it passes.

Bush moves toward martial law – News that did not make the news

In a stealth maneuver, President Bush has signed into law a provision which, according to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), will actually encourage the President to declare federal martial law (1). It does so by revising the Insurrection Act, a set of laws that limits the President’s ability to deploy troops within the United States. The Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C.331 -335) has historically, along with the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C.1385), helped to enforce strict prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law enforcement. With one cloaked swipe of his pen, Bush is seeking to undo those prohibitions.

Public Law 109-364, or the “John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007” (H.R.5122) (2), which was signed by the commander in chief on October 17th, 2006, in a private Oval Office ceremony, allows the President to declare a “public emergency” and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to “suppress public disorder.”

President Bush seized this unprecedented power on the very same day that he signed the equally odious Military Commissions Act of 2006. In a sense, the two laws complement one another. One allows for torture and detention abroad, while the other seeks to enforce acquiescence at home, preparing to order the military onto the streets of America. Remember, the term for putting an area under military law enforcement control is precise; the term is “martial law.”

Section 1076 of the massive Authorization Act, which grants the Pentagon another $500-plus-billion for its ill-advised adventures, is entitled, “Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies.” Section 333, “Major public emergencies; interference with State and Federal law” states that “the President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of (“refuse” or “fail” in) maintaining public order, “in order to suppress, in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.”

For the current President, “enforcement of the laws to restore public order” means to commandeer guardsmen from any state, over the objections of local governmental, military and local police entities; ship them off to another state; conscript them in a law enforcement mode; and set them loose against “disorderly” citizenry – protesters, possibly, or those who object to forced vaccinations and quarantines in the event of a bio-terror event.

The law also facilitates militarized police round-ups and detention of protesters, so called “illegal aliens,” “potential terrorists” and other “undesirables” for detention in facilities already contracted for and under construction by Halliburton. That’s right. Under the cover of a trumped-up “immigration emergency” and the frenzied militarization of the southern border, detention camps are being constructed right under our noses, camps designed for anyone who resists the foreign and domestic agenda of the Bush administration.

An article on “recent contract awards” in a recent issue of the slick, insider “Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International” reported that “global engineering and technical services powerhouse KBR [Kellog, Brown & Root] announced in January 2006 that its Government and Infrastructure division was awarded an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract to support U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities in the event of an emergency.” “With a maximum total value of $385 million over a five year term,” the report notes, “the contract is to be executed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” “for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) – in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs.” The report points out that “KBR is the engineering and construction subsidiary of Halliburton.” (3) So, in addition to authorizing another $532.8 billion for the Pentagon, including a $70-billion “supplemental provision” which covers the cost of the ongoing, mad military maneuvers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places, the new law, signed by the president in a private White House ceremony, further collapses the historic divide between the police and the military: a tell-tale sign of a rapidly consolidating police state in America, all accomplished amidst ongoing U.S. imperial pretensions of global domination, sold to an “emergency managed” and seemingly willfully gullible public as a “global war on terrorism.”

Make no mistake about it: the de-facto repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act (PCA) is an ominous assault on American democratic tradition and jurisprudence. The 1878 Act, which reads, “Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both,” is the only U.S. criminal statute that outlaws military operations directed against the American people under the cover of ‘law enforcement.’ As such, it has been the best protection we’ve had against the power-hungry intentions of an unscrupulous and reckless executive, an executive intent on using force to enforce its will.

Unfortunately, this past week, the president dealt posse comitatus, along with American democracy, a near fatal blow. Consequently, it will take an aroused citizenry to undo the damage wrought by this horrendous act, part and parcel, as we have seen, of a long train of abuses and outrages perpetrated by this authoritarian administration.

Despite the unprecedented and shocking nature of this act, there has been no outcry in the American media, and little reaction from our elected officials in Congress. On September 19th, a lone Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) noted that 2007’s Defense Authorization Act contained a “widely opposed provision to allow the President more control over the National Guard [adopting] changes to the Insurrection Act, which will make it easier for this or any future President to use the military to restore domestic order WITHOUT the consent of the nation’s governors.”

Senator Leahy went on to stress that, “we certainly do not need to make it easier for Presidents to declare martial law. Invoking the Insurrection Act and using the military for law enforcement activities goes against some of the central tenets of our democracy. One can easily envision governors and mayors in charge of an emergency having to constantly look over their shoulders while someone who has never visited their communities gives the orders.”

A few weeks later, on the 29th of September, Leahy entered into the Congressional Record that he had “grave reservations about certain provisions of the fiscal Year 2007 Defense Authorization Bill Conference Report,” the language of which, he said, “subverts solid, longstanding posse comitatus statutes that limit the military’s involvement in law enforcement, thereby making it easier for the President to declare martial law.” This had been “slipped in,” Leahy said, “as a rider with little study,” while “other congressional committees with jurisdiction over these matters had no chance to comment, let alone hold hearings on, these proposals.”

In a telling bit of understatement, the Senator from Vermont noted that “the implications of changing the (Posse Comitatus) Act are enormous”. “There is good reason,” he said, “for the constructive friction in existing law when it comes to martial law declarations. Using the military for law enforcement goes against one of the founding tenets of our democracy. We fail our Constitution, neglecting the rights of the States, when we make it easier for the President to declare martial law and trample on local and state sovereignty.”

Senator Leahy’s final ruminations: “Since hearing word a couple of weeks ago that this outcome was likely, I have wondered how Congress could have gotten to this point. It seems the changes to the Insurrection Act have survived the Conference because the Pentagon and the White House want it.”

The historic and ominous re-writing of the Insurrection Act, accomplished in the dead of night, which gives Bush the legal authority to declare martial law, is now an accomplished fact.

The Pentagon, as one might expect, plays an even more direct role in martial law operations. Title XIV of the new law, entitled, “Homeland Defense Technology Transfer Legislative Provisions,” authorizes “the Secretary of Defense to create a Homeland Defense Technology Transfer Consortium to improve the effectiveness of the Department of Defense (DOD) processes for identifying and deploying relevant DOD technology to federal, State, and local first responders.”

In other words, the law facilitates the “transfer” of the newest in so-called “crowd control” technology and other weaponry designed to suppress dissent from the Pentagon to local militarized police units. The new law builds on and further codifies earlier “technology transfer” agreements, specifically the 1995 DOD-Justice Department memorandum of agreement achieved back during the Clinton-Reno regime.(4)

It has become clear in recent months that a critical mass of the American people have seen through the lies of the Bush administration; with the president’s polls at an historic low, growing resistance to the war Iraq, and the Democrats likely to take back the Congress in mid-term elections, the Bush administration is on the ropes. And so it is particularly worrying that President Bush has seen fit, at this juncture to, in effect, declare himself dictator.

7 Conspiracies that were actually disclosed

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(Prescott Bush)
#7. The Business Plot
The Plan:
In 1933, group of wealthy businessmen that allegedly included the heads of Chase Bank, GM, Goodyear, Standard Oil, the DuPont family and Senator Prescott Bush tried to recruit Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler to lead a military coup against President FDR and install a fascist dictatorship in the United States. And yes, we’re talking about the same Prescott Bush who fathered one US President and grandfathered another one.

How did that work out?
A good rule of thumb: never trust a man named Smedley to run your hostile military coup for you. Besides being no fan of fascism, Smedley Butler was both a patriot and a vocal FDR supporter. Apparently none of these criminal masterminds noticed that their prospective point man had actively stumped for FDR in 1932.

Smedley spilled the beans to a congressional committee in 1934. Everyone he accused of being a conspirator vehemently denied it, and none of them were brought up on criminal charges. Still, the House McCormack-Dickstein Committee did at least acknowledge the existence of the conspiracy, which ended up never getting past the initial planning stages. Though many of the people who had allegedly backed the Business Plot also maintained financialties with Nazi Germany up through America’s entry into World War II. But at least the United States never ended up becoming a fascist dictatorship (unless you ask Ron Paul supporters).

#6. The July 20 Plot
The Plan:
Near the end of WWII, things were rapidly going south for Germany and the time seemed ripe for guilt-ridden Nazi officers to assassinate Hitler and overthrow his government. Colonel Henning von Tresckow recruited Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg to join the conspiracy in 1944.The plot to take out Hitler and then all of his loyal officers was called Operation Valkyrie, based on the belief that no plan can fail if it has a cool enough name.How did that work out?
In July 1944, Stauffenberg was promoted so that he could now start attending military strategy meetings with Hitler himself. On more than one occasion Stauffenberg planned to kill Hitler at such a meeting with a briefcase bomb, but he always held off because he also wanted to take out Hitler’s two right-hand men, Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler. On July 20, he went for it anyway and exploded a bomb inside Hitler’s conference room with a remote detonator.Hitler, who as a level-20 dark wizard had extraordinary damage absorption abilities, survived with only minor injuries.Stauffenberg fled when he found out his assassination attempt had failed and that the Fuhrer was explosion-proof. When the other conspirators found out that Hitler was still alive, they lost their nerve and Operation Valkyrie never went into effect. After the coup never got off the ground, several conspirators committed suicide, and Fromm turned in the rest to save his own skin. Unfortunately for him, Hitler wasn’t nearly as forgiving as his fiery public speeches and penchant for genocide would lead you to believe, and Fromm was executed along with the remaining conspirators.The good news for the legacy of Claus von Stauffenberg is that he’s become something of a folk hero in Germany, a symbol of conscientious resistance to the Nazi regime. #5. Operation Ajax

The Plan:
For years, Britain had a spiffy trade deal with Iran regarding their prodigious oil fields. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was basically a giant money machine for the Anglo half, while the Iranian half got shafted. That all changed in 1951 when Iran nationalized the AIOC and the Iranian parliament elected Mohammed Mossadegh as Prime Minister. Mossadegh was relatively secular, something that pissed of Iranian clerics, but he was also very nationalistic. When Britain tried to regain control of the AIOC, he gave them the finger. Tea was spilled, crumpets were dropped and monocles everywhere popped out in shock.

You can guess what happened next. Jolly old England went to its ally, the United States, and convinced President Dwight D. Eisenhower to help overthrow the democratically elected leader of Iran and install a pro-West monarchy. Together the CIA and British intelligence services funneled guerrilla troops, anti-Mossadegh propaganda and tons of bribes into Iran.

How did that work out?
In the short term? Great! The mostly ceremonial position of Shah (king) of Iran was restored to its former imperial glory, but this time as a puppet of the West. The White House and Tehran became BFFs, and as long as the US government overlooked the numerous human rights abuses happening in Iran, all was well.

Until 1979, that is, when a pissed off Iranian populace finally revolted and replaced the monarchy with an anti-West Islamic Republic. One messy hostage crisis later, and Iran and the US were no longer BFFs. But hey, at least the US learned a very important lesson about overthrowing the governments of unfriendly Middle Eastern countries.

The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company is now known as Britsh Petroleum

#4. The Gunpowder Plot

The Plan:
A group of conspirators (including Guy Fawkes, Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving) decided to blow the fuck out of the British House of Parliament, thus killing pretty much all of the aristocracy, as well as King James I.

In May of 1604, a group of Britons who were fed up with King James’s rule met with Robert Catesby. As Catholics, they were tired of the Protestant government. In accordance with the teachings of their faith, they apparently decided that the best way to solve their problems was to kill everyone.

The conspirators were taking up residence across the street from The House of Lords, the building the upper house of parliament met in. Their original plan was to burrow their way to the underground foundation of The House of Lords, and lay their explosives there. When that proved to be more difficult than they had originally planned, they decided to just rent a room in the cellar of building. The explosives were quickly moved into place, and all that was left was to wait for the annual Opening of Parliament.

How did that work out?
While they were waiting, one of the conspirators sent a letter to Lord Monteagle, a high ranking Catholic, which basically said, “Hypothetically, we could blow up Parliament on the day it opens this year. So don’t go, hypothetically speaking.” This proved to be their undoing, as Lord Monteagle immediately passed the news on to the Secretary of State. The House of Lords was searched, and Guy Fawkes, the man left in charge of watching the explosives, was found and arrested.

None of the protestant politicians were killed, but the plan wasn’t a complete failure. King James admitted in a speech that not all Catholics were as crazy as the ones arrested in connection with the plot, which is good, because a lot of historians have suggested that if the plot succeeded, there would have been a very violent backlash against Catholic communities. Plus, England now celebrates Guy Fawkes night every November 5th.

Apparently the conspirators had also planned to kidnap the royal children, as well as incite a revolt. However, they never made it to this part of their plan due to the fact that they had been hung and eviscerated.

#3. The Tuskegee Experiment

The Plan:
Sometimes referred to as the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, the idea was that the United States government was going to monitor the effects of syphilis and perform experiments on those who had a developed form of the disease. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well you’re a terrible person for thinking that, because the experiments were exclusively performed without consent, and on the very poor, mostly illiterate black males.

These men weren’t told that they had syphilis and were denied proper treatment for their disease. Because that would have skewed the results, you see. But hey, at least the government promised free burials to those who died.

How did that work out?
The study (started in 1932 in Tuskegee, Alabama) eventually rounded up 400 black men in a move that would inspire Rage Against the Machine-esque lyrics for years to come. But, contrary to conspiracy enthusiasts, they did not actually give people syphilis, they just examined the symptoms of people who already had the disease. Then, things got out of hand:

Doctor 1: “Darn. I’m afraid that we might not get the numbers we want for the next part of this study.”

Doctor 2: “Why is that?”

Doctor 1: “Because it involves administering a painful and dangerous spinal tap for no medical reason.”

Doctor 2: “Hmm … Well, why don’t we just underline the word “Free” and tell them that it’s a special treatment for their symptoms.”

Doctor 1: “But, wouldn’t that be a horrible lie?”

Doctor 2: “A horrible what?”

When there was a national campaign to use penicillin to stamp out the disease, those in the study were denied access. If they complained loudly enough, they were given a placebo and then sent back home to die. But not before scientists poked and prodded them for the remaining years of their life.

It took until 1972 for someone to blow the whistle on all of this. That’s 40 years. And that’s after Peter Buxtun, the whistle blower, went to the Center for Disease Control, which told him that they would absolutely end this barbaric experiment, just as soon as they completed the last stage of the study. That stage involved studying the corpses of the subjects, and of course they couldn’t do that quite yet because some were stubbornly still alive.

As a result, in 1974 they passed the National Research Act, which finally closed the apparent loophole in American law that said it was OK for mad scientists to kill people in their experiments.

#2. Operation Snow White

The Plan:
Some time during the 1970s, the Church of Scientology decided that they’d had enough. Their religion about magic space aliens in a volcano wasn’t getting the same respect as the religion about the magic bearded man whose dad made us all out of mud 6,000 years ago. Instead of converting to a slightly less silly religion, they did what any of us would have done and decided to destroy every single document that made their religion look bad, presumably including a trip into the future to destroy every copy of Battlefield Earth.

How did that work out?
Disturbingly well, at least for a little while. Apparently, the Church of Scientology managed to perform the largest infiltration of the United States government in history. Ever. With all the people who have wanted to get their dirty little hands on incriminating records, the United States of America was finally duped by the people who came up with Dianetics. So those billions of dollars we put into national security annually are clearly well spent.

Anyway, somewhere around 5,000 of Scientology’s crack commandos wiretapped and burglarized various agencies. They stole hundreds of documents, mainly from the IRS. No critic was spared, and in the end, 136 organizations, agencies and foreign embassies were infiltrated.

When all of this hit the fan, the Church naturally denied it. Then they kidnapped one of the operatives arrested for stealing documents and prevented him from testifying. These days, the Church of Scientology generally refuses to talk about Operation Snow White, except to say that they “purged” those who were involved. They won’t say what the guilty parties were involved in, and those who were purged still hold high ranking offices in the Church, but goddamn it, they were purged for their involvement.

#1. Project MKULTRA

The Plan:
Don’t be fooled. Project MKULTRA isn’t the misspelled secret recipe to McDonald’s newest hamburger. It was actually a series of CIA experiments in which they tried to figure out how to control your mind. Over a hundred sub-projects were authorized under the MKULTRA heading, though the documents on many of those have been destroyed.

How did that work out?
If you listen to late night talk radio, then you’ve probably already heard of Project MKULTRA. Paranoid schizophrenics from coast to coast like to call in to recount their harrowing tales of psychic violation at the hands of the CIA. Turns out the schizophrenics got something right though, because Project MKULTRA was an actual series of experiments started on April 13, 1953.

You can decide for yourself whether or not the late-night radio callers are actually victims of these experiments, though we would like to suggest that if they are all telling the truth, it’s strange that the CIA would only experiment on nocturnal conspiracy-nuts.

The project started out as a response to rumors of Communist mind control being used on American prisoners from the Korean War. Afraid of being left in the enemy’s pseudo-scientific dust, the CIA quickly jumped on the mind control bandwagon. However, they got their procedures wrong in one crucial aspect; instead of experimenting on enemy prisoners that the national media wouldn’t miss, they decided to go ahead and start jamming probes and shooting drugs into unwitting United States citizens.

Did we mention that these experiments resulted in at least one death? Or that experiments done on people seeking treatment for minor psychological issues (such as anxiety) often caused them to suffer permanent comas and/or incontinence? Or that the CIA themselves admitted that the experiments made no scientific sense?

The project was eventually found out, and the CIA was given a stern talking to.

As far as anyone can tell, they were unable to succeed in finding a way to control the way people act or think. Though we’d probably say the same thing if they had succeeded.

Scientists point out our flock mentality

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This has been talked about for ever, and as much as we admit it or not, a big mass of people is in fact quite easy to manipulate, because of our… flock mentality. Results from a study at the University of Leeds show that it takes a minority of just five per cent to influence a crowd’s direction. The other 95% will follow the path of the 5%, without even realizing this.

The findings could have a major significance for directing the flow of large crowds especially in disaster cases, when it’s crucial to evaluate how the mass of people will react.

“There are many situations where this information could be used to good effect,” says Professor Jens Krause of the University’s Faculty of Biological Sciences. “At one extreme, it could be used to inform emergency planning strategies and at the other, it could be useful in organising pedestrian flow in busy areas.”

They conducted a series of experiments in which groups of people were asked to walk randomly around a large hall. A few of them received more exact instructions about where they were supposed to go. They were not allowed to talk with each other, but they were supposed to stay within an arm’s reach of any other person. So the results were not that surprising, when you stop to think about it: the ‘informed individuals’ were followed by others in the crowd.

“We initially started looking at consensus decision making in humans because we were interested in animal migration, particularly birds, where it can be difficult to identify the leaders of a flock,” says Professor Krause. “But it just goes to show that there are strong parallels between animal grouping behaviour and human crowds.”

Planet-hunters set for big bounty

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Rocky planets, possibly with conditions suitable for life, may be more common than previously thought in our galaxy, a study has found. New evidence suggests more than half the Sun-like stars in the Milky Way could have similar planetary systems.

There may also be hundreds of undiscovered worlds in outer parts of our Solar System, astronomers believe.

Future studies of such worlds will radically alter our understanding of how planets are formed, they say.

New findings about planets were presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston.

Nasa telescope

Michael Meyer, an astronomer from the University of Arizona, said he believed Earth-like planets were probably very common around Sun-like stars.

I expect that we will find a very large number of planets
Alan Stern, Nasa

“Our observations suggest that between 20% and 60% of Sun-like stars have evidence for the formation of rocky planets not unlike the processes we think led to planet Earth,” he said. “That is very exciting.”

Mr Meyer’s team used the US space agency’s Spitzer space telescope to look at groups of stars with masses similar to the Sun.

They detected discs of cosmic dust around stars in some of the youngest groups surveyed.

The dust is believed to be a by-product of rocky debris colliding and merging to form planets.

Nasa’s Kepler mission to search for Earth-sized and smaller planets, due to be launched next year, is expected to reveal more clues about these distant undiscovered worlds.

Frozen worlds

Some astronomers believe there may be hundreds of small rocky bodies in the outer edges of our own Solar System, and perhaps even a handful of frozen Earth-sized worlds.

We have to find the right mass planet and it has to be at the right distance from the star
Debra Fischer, San Francisco State University

Speaking at the AAAS meeting, Nasa’s Alan Stern said he thought only the tip of the iceberg had been found in terms of planets within our own Solar System.

More than a thousand objects had already been discovered in the Kuiper belt alone, he said, many rivalling the planet Pluto in size.

“Our old view, that the Solar System had nine planets will be supplanted by a view that there are hundreds if not thousands of planets in our Solar System,” he told BBC News.

He said many of these planets would be icy, some would be rocky, and there might even be objects with the same mass as Earth.

“It could be that there are objects of Earth-mass in the Oort cloud (a band of debris surrounding our planetary system) but they would be frozen at these distances,” Dr Stern added.

“They would look like a frozen Earth.”

Goldilocks zone

Excitement about finding other Earth-like planets is driven by the idea that some might contain life or perhaps, centuries from now, allow human colonies to be set up on them.

The key to this search, said Debra Fischer of San Francisco State University, California, was the “Goldilocks zone”.

This refers to an area of space in which a planet is “just the right distance” from its parent star so that its surface is not-too-hot or not-too-cold to support liquid water.

“To my mind there are two things we have to go after: we have to find the right mass planet and it has to be at the right distance from the star,” she said.

The AAAS meeting concludes on Monday.

Scientists Urge Broadening Search for Extraterrestrial Life

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Scientists from around the world are discussing how to improve the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program after 50 years of “The Great Silence” at The Sound of Silence conference, being held at Arizona State University

“Have we been looking in the wrong place, at the wrong time, in the wrong way?” ASU astrophysicist Paul Davies told the New Scientist. “SETI’s big mistake is that it’s relying on ET to do all the heavy lifting,” Princeton University astrophysicist Richard Gott said. According to Gott, if the aliens have the same attitude as us, “we’ll all just be sitting round listening”.

Australian astrophysicist Paul Davies said the approach currently being undertaken by SETI researchers is too narrow, assuming aliens communicate the same way we do here on Earth. “We’re making a lot of assumptions about aliens based on human 20th century western society,” he told New Scientist.

So far, we have no evidence we are not alone in the universe, and yet the odds that not one single other planet has evolved intelligent life would appear, from a statistical standpoint, to be quite small. There are an estimated 250 billion (2.5 x 1011) stars in the Milky Way alone, and over 70 sextillion (7 x 1022) in the visible universe, and many of them are surrounded by multiple planets. The shear size of the known universe is staggeringly and inconceivably vast.

The odds of there being only one single planet that evolved life among all that unfathomable vastness seems so incredible, that it is all but completely irrational to believe. But then “where are they?” asked physicist Enrico Fermi while having lunch with his colleagues in 1950.

Fermi questioned, if there are other advanced extraterrestrial civilizations, then why is there no evidence of such, like spacecraft or probes floating around the Milky Way. His question became famously known as the Fermi Paradox. The paradox is the contradiction between the high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and yet the lack of evidence for, or contact with, any such civilizations.

Given the extreme age of the universe, and its vast number of stars, if planets like Earth are at all typical, then there should be many advanced extraterrestrial civilizations out there, and at least a few in our own Milky Way. Another closely related question is the Great Silence, which poses the question: Even if space travel is too difficult, if life is out there, why don’t we at least detect some sign of civilization like radio transmissions?

Milan Cirkovic of the Astronomical Observatory in Belgrade, points out that the median age of terrestrial planets in the Milky Way is about 1.8 gigayears (one billion years) greater than the age of the Earth and the Solar System, which means that the median age of technological civilizations should be greater than the age of human civilization by the same amount. The vastness of this interval indicates that one or more processes must suppress observability of extraterrestrial communities.

Since at this point, there is no direct and/or widely apparent evidence that extraterrestrial life exists, it likely means one of the following:

We are (A) the first intelligent beings ever to become capable of making our presence known, and leaving our planet. At this point, there are no other life forms out there as advanced as us. Or perhaps extraterrestrial life does exists, but for some reason extraterrestrial life is so very rare and so very far away we’ll never make contact anyway—making extraterrestrial life nonexistent in a practical sense at least.

Or is it (B) that many advanced civilizations have existed before us, but without exception, they have for some unknown reason, existed and/or expanded in such a way that they are completely undetectable by our instruments.

Or is it (C) There have been others, but they have all run into some sort of “cosmic roadblock” that eventually destroys them, or at least prevents their expansion beyond a small area.

Then ancients once believed that Earth was the center of the universe. We now know that Earth isn’t even at the center of the Solar System. The Solar System is not at the center of our galaxy, and our galaxy is not in any special position in contrast to the rest of the known universe. From a scientific viewpoint, there is no apparent reason to believe that Earth enjoys some privileged status.

Since Earth’s placement in space and time appears to be unremarkably random, proposition “A” seems fairly unlikely. Assuming humans evolved like other forms of life into our present state due to natural selection, then there’s really nothing all that mystical, special or remarkable about our development as a species either. Due to the shear numbers, there are almost certainly other planets capable of supporting at least some form of life. If that is so, then for Earthlings to be the very first species ever to make a noticeable mark on the universe, from a statistical perspective, is incredibly unlikely.

For proposition “B” to be correct would defy all logic. If potentially thousands, or even millions of advanced extraterrestrial civilizations exist in the known universe, then why would all of them, without exception, choose to expand or exist in such a way that they are completely undetectable? It’s conceivable that some might, or perhaps even the majority, but for all of them to be completely undetectable civilizations does not seem likely either.

Proposition C in some ways, appears to be more likely than A or B. If “survival of the fittest” follows similar pathways on other worlds, then our own “civilized” nature could be somewhat typical of extraterrestrial civilizations that have, or do, exist. Somehow, we all get to the point where we end up killing ourselves in a natural course of technological development and thereby self-inflict our own “cosmic roadblock”.

“Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Fermi Paradox is what it suggests for the future of our human civilization. Namely, that we have no future beyond earthly confinement and, quite possibly, extinction. Could advanced nanotechnology play a role in preventing that extinction? Or, more darkly, is it destined to be instrumental in carrying out humanity’s unavoidable death sentence?” wonders Mike Treder, executive director of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN).

Treder believes that some of the little understood new technologies now being developed such as nanotech, and others, could well be either our salvation or just as likely end up causing our ultimate destruction.

“Whatever civilizations have come before us have been unable to surpass the cosmic roadblock. They are either destroyed or limited in such a way that absolutely precludes their expansion into the visible universe. If that is indeed the case—and it would seem to be the most logical explanation for Fermi’s Paradox—then there is some immutable law that we too must expect to encounter at some point. We are, effectively, sentenced to death or, at best, life in the prison of a near-space bubble,” suggests Treder. “Atomically-precise exponential manufacturing could enable such concentrations of unprecedented power as to result in either terminal warfare or permanent enslavement of the human race. Of course, that sounds terribly apocalyptic, but it is worth considering that the warnings we heard at the start of the nuclear arms race, and the very real risks we faced in the height of the Cold War, were but precursors to a much greater threat posed by an arms race involving nano-built weaponry and its accompanying tools of surveillance and control.”

When we consider the chronological history of life on Earth, humans have only existed for a small fragment of time and our existence has always been precarious. The entire time we’ve existed, we been banding into various groups and attempting to kill each other—or at least are constantly in the process of developing more effective ways of killing each other—just in case. The US government, for example, spends on “Defense” (including “preemptive” warfare) and Homeland Security, 8 times what it spends on educating the next generation. There is enough nuclear weaponry in storage around the world to kill every living creature on the planet several times over. Clearly, we’re a species with poor odds of surviving indefinitely.

Our self-destructive natures aside, curiosity may end up killing more than the cats. The faster technology is advancing, the more our “leap now, look later” nature appears to grow as well. If evolution on Earth serves as a somewhat typical template for evolution of other life forms, then becoming a truly advanced civilization must be a very daunting task indeed and a very rare, if not impossible, achievement.

In fact, Sir Martin Rees, Great Britain’s Astronomer Royal and respected professor of astrophysics at Cambridge University has estimated that humans have only a 50-50 shot of making it through the 21st century. If Rees is right, and our standing on the planet is as precarious as he and others believe it is, then we may be alone due to a built-in evolutionary self-destruct button. Others have come before and others will exist after, but the cosmic roadblock may be an innate, finite nature, which only allows sentient life forms to exist for a very small window of time—windows of life which may be too small for our civilization to match up with the small windows of other civilizations that have been before or will come after.

In a contrary point of view, Milan Cirkovic believes that highly efficient city-state type of advanced technological civilizations could easily pass unnoticed even by much more advanced SETI equipment, especially if located near the Milky Way rim or other remote locations.

In spring of 2007, the SETI Institute switched on the first of 42 dishes that will make up the Allen Telescope Array, a facility in the California Sierras dedicated to searching for extraterrestrial signals.

“In the next two years we will have collected and analysed more new data than we have over the past 50 years,” Dr Seth Shostack of SETI said. By 2028, the project will have surveyed more than one million star systems. “If it remains silent after that, then that will be the time to rethink.”

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