Saturday, June 19, 2010

Welcome To My World

I am surprised this news (below, image above) did not cause more fuss:
After almost 15 years of work and $40 million, a team of scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute says they have succeeded in creating the first living organism with a completely synthetic genome. This advance could be proof that genomes designed in a computer and assembled in a lab can function in a donor cell, eventually reproducing fully functional living creatures, that is, artificial life.
Scientists have created the first synthetic life form, and it replicates.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sunday, January 30th, 1972

Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain offered an extraordinary apology on Tuesday for the 1972 killings of unarmed demonstrators by British troops in Northern Ireland, saying that a long-awaited investigation into the violence had left no doubt that the shootings were "both unjustified and unjustifiable."

"On behalf of our country, I am deeply sorry," Mr. Cameron said in a speech to Parliament. "What happened should never, ever have happened."

The violent events on Jan. 30, 1972, in the Northern Irish city of Londonderry, known as Bloody Sunday, triggered three decades of bitter and sectarian strife in Northern Island and became one of the most notorious single events in the recent history of the Troubles, which claimed more than 3,600 lives.
"Too long a sacrifice
Makes a stone of the heart"

-- Yeats

I am surprised that this news brief from the New York Times somehow managed to omit the number of dead: thirteen men died instantly or shortly after the soldiers opened fire, of whom seven were teenagers. The future of Derry and Northern Ireland was transformed in a handful of minutes by what amounts to a lack of respect.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Keeping the Goats Away From the Poppies

I would say this will be a mixed blessing:

New York Times: U.S. Discovers Nearly $1 Trillion in Afghan Mineral Deposits
The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits -- including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium -- are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.
If this discovery really does alter the dynamic of the war in favor of the U.S. (as opposed to stalemate or even defeat), then we can go back to thinking that President Obama, on top of his many talents,  really is one lucky man.

How come no one discovered these deposits before?

At very least, the economy will be transformed from the current model (known as "Keep the Goats Away from the Poppies") to something more modern.

The Fires

The above photograph looks like a street in Belfast after the Provisional IRA started its car bombing campaign in 1971 or '72. The era is correct — 1970s — but instead of Belfast, it's the Bronx: another building burnt to the ground in one of what seemed like an decade-long epidemic of fires that killed over 2,000 people. 

Why this happened has been mulled over ever since, but there was no mistaking that "the Bronx is burning" (as Howard Cosell didn't say). 

And now, a new writer presents a controversial theory: "The Fires," by Bronx native Joe Flood, has a rather long subtitle which explains, or claims: "How a Computer Formula, Big Ideas, and the Best of Intentions Burned Down New York City — and Determined the Future of Cities."
The RAND Corporation had presented an alluring proposal to a city on the brink of economic collapse: Using RAND’S computer models, which had been successfully implemented in high-level military operations, the city could save millions of dollars by establishing more efficient public services.

Over the next decade — a time New York City firefighters would refer to as “The War Years” — a series of fires swept through the South Bronx, the Lower East Side, Harlem, and Brooklyn, gutting whole neighborhoods, killing more that two thousand people and displacing hundreds of thousands. Conventional wisdom would blame arson, but these fires were the result of something altogether different: the intentional withdrawal of fire protection from the poorest neighborhoods — all based on RAND’s computer modeling systems.
Below, another grim shot of a building ablaze! Flood has stirred a still-simmering pot, for he has interviewed RAND people from the era, and his criticisms seem to have not been welcomed.

And finally, the book cover, in case any one wants to buy the book.

I've said it before: I love the Bronx, with all its sad history and surprising beauty; for all the energy that one feels on the busy streets of Manhattan, sometimes the streets of the Bronx are raw with an even more frenetic and animalistic, careless and carefree, spirit. As quickly as your heart is broken, a swelling hope comes... and cusses you and shoves you off the sidewalk.