Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Horses watch volcano in Iceland

Icelandic volcano: is this the start of the 'traincation'?


Iceland's erupting volcano is forcing many to travel overland across Europe for the first time, but regular slow traveller Ed Gillespie argues that rail travel needn't be flying's poor relation

Travelling on the Glacier Express to St Moritz

Another private jet whined overhead as I crossed the frozen lake into St Moritz. This was only a few weeks back, "pre-volcano", but as a second plume of silicate dust from Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull crater keeps many European planes grounded, it already seems a long time ago.

I was in St Moritz after riding the famous Glacier Express railway across the top of the Alps from Zermatt, an eight-hour journey through scandalously spectacular scenery. During the trip I'd passed the valley in which Europe's biggest glacier, the monstrous Aletsch, edges it's way downhill. This 27bn-tonne river of ice is, like most glaciers, shrinking as a result of global warming.

I once went to the, perhaps excessive, length of circumnavigating the world without flying as part of my own personal exploration of the relationship between travel, carbon emissions and climate change. The retreat of Aletsch was a stark reminder of that journey and the motivations behind it.

Noam Chomsky Has "Never Seen Anything Like This"

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By Chris Hedges

AP / Hussein Malla

Noam Chomsky is America's greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite and the myths they perpetrate. Chomsky has done this despite being blacklisted by the commercial media, turned into a pariah by the academy and, by his own admission, being a pedantic and at times slightly boring speaker. He combines moral autonomy with rigorous scholarship, a remarkable grasp of detail and a searing intellect. He curtly dismisses our two-party system as a mirage orchestrated by the corporate state, excoriates the liberal intelligentsia for being fops and courtiers and describes the drivel of the commercial media as a form of "brainwashing." And as our nation's most prescient critic of unregulated capitalism, globalization and the poison of empire, he enters his 81st year warning us that we have little time left to save our anemic democracy.

"It is very similar to late Weimar Germany," Chomsky told me when I called him at his office in Cambridge, Mass. "The parallels are striking. There was also tremendous disillusionment with the parliamentary system. The most striking fact about Weimar was not that the Nazis managed to destroy the Social Democrats and the Communists but that the traditional parties, the Conservative and Liberal parties, were hated and disappeared. It left a vacuum which the Nazis very cleverly and intelligently managed to take over."

"The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen," Chomsky went on. "Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response. What are people supposed to think if someone says 'I have got an answer, we have an enemy'? There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don't think all this is very far away. If the polls are accurate it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election."

"I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime," Chomsky added. "I am old enough to remember the 1930s. My whole family was unemployed. There were far more desperate conditions than today. But it was hopeful. People had hope. The CIO was organizing. No one wants to say it anymore but the Communist Party was the spearhead for labor and civil rights organizing. Even things like giving my unemployed seamstress aunt a week in the country. It was a life. There is nothing like that now. The mood of the country is frightening. The level of anger, frustration and hatred of institutions is not organized in a constructive way. It is going off into self-destructive fantasies."

"I listen to talk radio," Chomsky said. "I don't want to hear Rush Limbaugh. I want to hear the people calling in. They are like [suicide pilot] Joe Stack. What is happening to me? I have done all the right things. I am a God-fearing Christian. I work hard for my family. I have a gun. I believe in the values of the country and my life is collapsing."

Republicans Are A Disease

Posted on the April 21st, 2010 under Unbelieveable by All Facts Support My Positions

O'reilly Republicans Are A DiseaseHannity Republicans Are A DiseaseAs far as I can tell, just about the only person in the "main stream media" that actually does investigative reporting is Rachel Maddow. Bill Moyers has a weekly show, and his work does count, but it is not really a news show. I can understand why so many people don't understand what is really going on in America. It is because the politicians they elect are constantly lying to them, and the "reporters" just go onto the next question. For instance, the talk of "Death Panels" or McConnell's "Bailouts" are talking points, and outright lies. The story should be 99% the fact that that politicians, or has beens have to lie, or that they are lying,  and 1% what the actual lie is. This way they score no points for lying and are trashed in the media for not telling the truth instead. Like it should be. The news should be "Top ten lies of the day".

Then you have people like Hannity telling his viewers that they found WMD's in Iraq, or Bill O'Riley saying no one on Fox ever said people that don't buy health insurance will go to prison. When the actual "news" is the lie it's not hard to understand why so many people haven't got a clue…

Medicinal Marijuana by State


Smoking pot for your health?

Research shows that marijuana may relieve symptoms of certain chronic illnesses.

It has been proven to treat nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite, and it may also ease pain. Marijuana is illegal in the U.S., but certain states allow it to be used as medical treatment. Here's a state-by-state guide to medical marijuana use.

Adapted from research by

Image: The dark green represents states that allow medicinal marijuana. Light green represents states with marijuana-friendly laws or pending legislation. Alaska and Hawaii (not pictured) allow medicinal marijuana.

Next: Alaska

Credit: Getty Images/

Scientists mine YouTube to study effects of Salvia divinorum

by Maggie Koerth-Baker at 4:20 PM April 20, 2010


I can't say the thought ever occurred to me, but apparently enough people think it's a good idea to get high, film themselves and post the results to YouTube that psychologists at San Diego State University were able to use the crowd-created video archive to do one of the first studies of the drug's behavioral impacts.

Why study how people act when they're high on Salvia? Despite carrying a lot of the same cultural trappings as pot, Salvia is actually pretty unique, from a chemical standpoint. In fact, that was part of why it was legal in so much of the U.S. for so long—the chemical structure wasn't close enough to any already-outlawed drugs to be automatically covered as an analog under the same bans. Not surprisingly, Salvia's effects on the human brain are also very different, and science doesn't know much about those effects, says Mind Hacks' Vaughan Bell.

Pharmacologically, it is fascinating as it seems to have its major effect on kappa opioid receptors. These are not the same opioid receptors that drugs like heroin and morphine work on, so the effects are very different, but it is a completely different mechanism to virtually all other hallucinogenic drugs (only ibogaine is known to have a similar effect on the brain).

Book Trailer: The Harvard Psychedelic Club by Don Lattin

"[Don Lattin] has created a stimulating and thoroughly engrossing read." —Dennis McNally, author of A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead, and Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation, and America

It is impossible to overstate the cultural significance of the four men described in Don Lattins The Harvard Psychedelic Club. Huston Smith, tirelessly working to promote cross-cultural religious and spiritual tolerance. Richard Alpert, a.k.a. Ram Dass, inspiring generations with his mantra, "be here now." Andrew Weil, undisputed leader of the holistic medicine revolution. And, of course, Timothy Leary, the charismatic, rebellious counter-culture icon and LSD guru. Journalist Don Lattin provides the funny, moving inside story of the Cambridge Quartet, who crossed paths with the infamous Harvard Psilocybin Project in the early 60s, and went on to pioneer the Mind/Body/Spirit movement that would popularize yoga, vegetarianism, and Eastern mysticism in the Western world.

Graham: Climate bill needs business


The energy reform bill to be released next week will include $54 billion in government-backed loan guarantees for the nuclear industry, roughly a threefold increase, as well as regulatory reforms to ease legal and permit issues that slow new plant construction, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday.

The measure will put a price on carbon emissions through penalties tailored to specific economic sectors, which is "far more business friendly" than a nationwide emissions cap-and-trade system that was in the energy bill passed by the House, Graham, a co-sponsor of the legislation, told POLITICO in an interview for the video series "The Green Divide."

The bill would also expand offshore drilling and — for the first time — permit states to share revenue from it, offer tax breaks for big manufacturers to make their facilities more energy efficient and encourage development of more hybrid automobiles and trucks fueled by natural gas.

Finally, the proposal would remove the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate carbon, choking off an emerging debate between the White House and Congress.

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Cancellation signs at Paris airport today