Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Photosynthesis and Curiosity

WSWS has a really great science article by Philip Guelpa and Thomas H. Douglass, here's the opening:

 A common trope among some environmentalists is that human population growth has outstripped the planet’s carrying capacity and is responsible for environmental degradation. This political outlook holds that only a drastic reduction in the number of humans can avert utter disaster (see “ The working class and the environmental crisis ”). A corollary to this view is that because science and technology have created the environmental crisis, they will not provide solutions to it.
Newly announced research has demonstrated that genetic engineering can radically improve upon the natural photosynthetic process in plants, the basis of nearly the entire food chain on the planet. This work demonstrates that advances in science and technology, if applied rationally, can end the threat of hunger that faces large swaths of humanity. The new technology can furthermore decrease the areas of land needed to feed the Earth’s population, thereby mitigating habitat destruction and increasing carbon capture, a process necessary to reverse global warming.
The work, conducted by researchers at the US Department of Agriculture, and genome research, crop science and plant biology centers at the University of Illinois, was published in the journal Science (South, Cavanagh, Liu, and Ort, “Synthetic glycolate metabolism pathways stimulate crop growth and productivity in the field,” January 4, 2019; see also commentary by Eisenhut and Weber, “Improving crop yield”).
The research reports success in overcoming a “flaw” in the photosynthetic process that, if implemented in food crops, could improve productivity by as much as 40 percent.
Photosynthesis is the process by which green plants use the energy from sunlight to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) and water into sugars, and ultimately all other biological molecules. These in turn provide the food on which the plants themselves and animals, including humans, depend.

The rate at which photosynthesis operates is a key limiting factor in the planet’s biological carrying capacity—the number of living organisms that can be sustained by Earth.

Imagine all the possibilities there.  By the way, I did a science project in sixth grade on photosynthesis but I can't remember what it was right now!  Seventh grade was hatching eggs with a light bulb.  Fifth grade was making a volcano that would spew.  I can't remember sixth grade though.

Okay, Doreen e-mailed to tell me I hadn't noted Curiosity in some time.  I'm sorry!!!  I must have been distracted during Christmas.  I love Curiosity.  He is the rover on the planet Mars.  Here are some Tweets:

  • Your friendly neighborhood rover here to remind you that raw images like these go straight from me to your browser:
  • Go, Go, Gadget Seismometer! has placed a seismometer on the surface of . While the Viking landers had seismometers on their decks, and Apollo astronauts put a seismometer on the Moon, this is a first on the surface of another planet.
  • How was your weekend? I hit the 19th hole on . Cheers, everyone!

  • And note this too:

    A beautiful animation tracking the Curiosity rover's path on Mars from Sols 1094 to 1108 (a "Sol" is a Martian day). The path tracks along the Bridger Basin while looking at the Bob Marshall Ridge.

    "Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
    Wednesday, January 9, 2019.  Another surprise visit.

    In Iraq today, another unannounced visit.

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives in Iraq in an unannounced stop on his Mideast tour meant to promote the White House's hard-line position on Iran.

    The Iraq War, the ongoing Iraq War, hits the 16 year mark in two months and still US officials have to make "unannounced visits."  All these years later.

    ABC avoids reality by allowing Elizabeth McLaughlin and Conor Finnegan to insist, "The president visited Iraq, also unannounced, the day after Christmas, saying the U.S. still could use bases there for operations in Syria."

    They have all been unannounced.

    Biden makes surprise trip to Iraq


    As US president, Barak Obama made one visit to Iraq in his two terms (eight years).  Guess what?  It was unannounced.

    Obama Makes Surprise Visit To Iraq

    CBS News

    Bully Boy Bush?

    Background: Bush's Surprise Visits To Iraq, Afghanistan

    CBS News

    And, yes, it was also true of Afghanistan.

    Obama makes surprise visit to Afghanistan

    Washington Post


    Get it yet?  If not, here's the BBC's Becky Branford:
    Almost every visit by a Western figure to a warzone since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 has been done without warning.
    US President Barack Obama made regular unannounced visits to Afghanistan, as did Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair to Iraq.
    Earlier this year Secretary of State John Kerry turned up in Somalia, a war-ravaged state currently waging an armed campaign against al-Shabab Islamist rebels - with reports suggesting even Somali officials believed a more junior US official would be attending.
    But clearly these leaders - and their advisers - judge that the advantages of paying these visits outweigh the attendant security risks, both in terms of boosting morale of personnel overseas and in giving the leader in question a PR lift.
    For those attempting to provide 'context,' grasp that there was a world before President Donald Trump (and there will be a world after him).  Back to Pompeo:

    Reports: On Mideast trip, Pompeo makes unannounced Iraq stop
    Pompeo in reassurance mission to Iraq over US Syria pullout plans

    Pompeo Makes Surprise Stop In Iraq During Mideast Trip To Rally Allies

    AP notes:

     In Baghdad, Pompeo met with Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, President Barham Salih, Foreign Minister Mohamed Alhakim and Parliament Speaker Mohamed al-Halbousi.
    Pompeo and the Iraqi officials made no statements to the media.

    The US State Dept issued the following this morning:

    Office of the Spokesperson
    Washington, DC
    January 9, 2019

    The below is attributable to Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino:‎
    Secretary Michael R. Pompeo met today with Iraq’s Council of Representatives Speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi and members of the Council of Representatives Foreign-Relations Committee. The Secretary emphasized U.S. support for the long-term bilateral partnership, anchored by the Strategic Framework Agreement, and the necessity of supporting Iraq’s democratic institutions, economic development, energy independence, and sovereignty. Secretary Pompeo emphasized the U.S. commitment to addressing Iraq’s security challenges, including the continuation of our security partnership with Iraqi Security Forces. 

    Nick Wadhams (BLOOMBERG NEWS) maintains:

    U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Baghdad on Wednesday, which appeared partly aimed at patching up relations strained during Donald Trump’s surprise visit last month.
    The U.S. president upset Iraqi lawmakers when he visited troops at the Ain Al-Asad base west of Baghdad but didn’t meet with the country’s new prime minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, though the two leaders did speak by phone.

    If that was the point of the visit, it doesn't appear to have been very successful:

    Iraqi Council of Representatives’ Foriegn Affairs Committee met today and called for reviewing US-Iraq relations following Pres Trump’ “uncoordinated” Visit to Iraq’s Anbar Province last month. If US Gov fails to handle Iraq file properly, it may lose it.

    Again, if that was the purpose of the trip, it doesn't appear to have been successful.  But when has the US government ever delivered success in Iraq?


    Well, that's not fair of me.  They have helped Big Business make tons of money off the lives of Iraqis because -- blood stained or not -- greed requires dollars, dollars and more dollars.

    I'll tell you who is *really* unhappy at the thought of pulling out of Syria and Afghanistan. The contractors and the generals connected to the contractors. $$BILLIONS$$

    Iraqi persecution of Sunni men helped to transform Al Qaeda in Iraq into ISIS. Now Iraq is doing it again--collective punishment of Sunnis that may help transform ISIS into ISIS 2.0.

    He's linking to this report by Kristen Keo and Mara Revkin (WASHINGTON POST):

    In Iraq, the government’s harsh counterterrorism strategy, which is widely perceived as collectively punishing the Sunnis, is generating new grievances that could increase local support for an Islamic State 2.0. More than 19,000 people have been detained on terrorism-related charges since 2014. Over 3,000 have been sentenced to death in rapid-fire trials that are sometimes decided in less than 10 minutes. Convictions are often based on thin and circumstantial evidence, the testimony of secret informants, or confessions induced through torture, making it easy for innocent people to be falsely accused and unfairly punished.
    These injustices are fueling anger, and with it, a new wave of violence. Since 2016, the average number of Islamic State attacks in Iraq — including suicide bombings and targeted assassinations — has risen to 75 per month. In August, U.S. and U.N. reports estimated that the number of Islamic State fighters active in Iraq and Syria might exceed 30,000.
    In our working paper based on an original household survey of over 1,400 Mosul residents — the Islamic State’s former de facto capital in Iraq — we identify two serious flaws in the government’s approach to prosecuting and punishing individuals accused of joining or supporting the Islamic State. First, it is unwilling to recognize variation in the severity and voluntariness of “collaboration.” Second, it relies heavily on unproven criminal justice and counterterrorism theories.

    The following community sites updated: