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 on: Aug 26, 2016, 05:33 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
America’s most remote site – the undiscovered side of Yellowstone

To access the farthest point in America from a road, Mark Jenkins spent a week backpacking through rugged terrain populated by some of the backcountry’s most fearsome animals 

Mark Jenkins
Thursday 25 August 2016 16.41 BST

The most remote place in the contiguous 48 states, the farthest you can go to get away from it all – the only place you can be more than 20 miles from a road – is deep in the south-eastern corner of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

I discovered this after spending an afternoon at the University of Wyoming’s Geographic Information Systems Science Center, where geographer and GIS specialist Shawn Lanning explained that he’d discovered it by using “a spatial analyst extension to access the Euclidean distance tool, and a Lambert conformal conic projection, with a raster 100 meters x 100 meters cell parameter”. I nodded like I knew what he was talking about. Minutes later, he printed out a topographic map with a red dot dead center. That was my destination. The question was: could I actually get there? And could I do it without having uncomfortably close encounters with the sometimes sour, hirsute locals: grizzlies.

It wasn’t going to be easy – it would take a week of backpacking to hike in and out – but I’d done several long trips into Yellowstone and thoroughly looked forward to this one. I chose Dave Gaillard, a long, lean, carrot-headed scientist as my partner. An indefatigable backpacker, Gaillard was a specialist in endangered species, namely the wolf, wolverine, grizzly and lynx. These are species that only thrive where there are very few humans. All four of them had been exterminated from 95% of their natural habitat, only surviving in the most remote pockets of America’s backcountry. The lynx and wolverine were already so rare that the chances of us seeing either was small. But we had high hopes of spotting wolves and, at a distance, grizzlies.

Our plan was simple: hike through the largest roadless area in the lower US, an 80-mile jaunt exploring the most unknown part of our most well-known national park.

    “Best watch yerselves! Seen 11 grizzlies in seven hours!”
    A tobacco-chewing wrangler

We started on the eastern edge of the Washakie Wilderness, an hour’s drive east of Cody, Wyoming. It was late October, snow had fallen and the hunting season was in full swing. We weren’t on the trail 10 minutes before a wrangler high on a black horse and trailing six mules trotted by.

“Best watch yerselves!” shouted the wrangler, pushing a plum-size wad of chewing tobacco from one side of his mouth, “Seen 11 grizzlies in seven hours!”

“How far down the trail?” asked Gaillard excitedly.

“Just a little ways back there was a sow with a cub. Reared up mad as hell and swatted at my dog.”

Dave and I expected to see bears. We wanted to see them. We’d both spent months in grizzly bear country, from the Beartooth Wilderness in Montana to Katmai National Park in Alaska. Grizzly bears have little fear of humans and often use foot trails like the one we were on.

As we hiked, we talked loudly so as not to surprise a griz on the path. We had bear spray and knew how to use it.

At the time of Lewis and Clark, it is estimated that there were over 50,000 grizzlies in North America. Today there are less than 2,000 in the lower 48, most of them roaming in or between Yellowstone and Glacier National Park

We came upon the tracks of a sow and cub in the snow a few miles later, but the bears were long gone. We camped that first night in a meadow, hanging our food in a tree. The night air was cold and pine-scented and it felt good to sleep on the ground.


The next morning there was frost in the meadow and a skim of ice on the pond. My hands froze filling our pot but soon warmed up clamped around a scalding cup of hot chocolate. It’s cliché, but camping does simplify your life. Your biggest concerns are staying warm, staying dry, eating, moving. It is a rare opportunity to live like humans lived for thousands of years.

    It is a rare opportunity to live like humans did for thousands of years

Back on the trail we discovered an enormous, steaming pile of bear scat not 100 yards from where our tent had been. We spent the whole day gamely walking through mud in the low country and snow in the high country, our feet getting soaked despite waterproof boots and gaiters.

Dave regaled me with stories of critters that inhabited the landscape. How wolverines build snow caves as far as they can get from humans and have their kits in the winter, which are born snow white. How the primary diet of the lynx is the snowshoe hare, and without it, the population dies.

“There probably aren’t more than 300 wolverines left in the Rockies,” he lamented.

The next night we camped just outside the Yellowstone boundary on a bluff that burned during the 1988 fires. Already, tall, brilliant saplings were taking over the blackened totem poles of their ancestors.

We made a little fire, just enough to warm our knees and hands, but not enough to alter the starlight pouring down through the trees. We were tired, that good tired, and didn’t speak much. By now, the madness of everyday life was as far off as the Milky Way.
Increase in Yellowstone visitors raises park's concerns over wildlife and safety
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The next day, we arrived at Thorofare Ranger station, the most remote cabin in all national parks outside Alaska.

A park ranger came out and shook our hands and said “more than three million people visit Yellowstone every year, but probably not more than a hundred get this far back!”

He wanted to know if we’d seen any bears.

“Just scat,” Dave said with disappointment.

“Well then you must be doing everything right.”

At dusk we forded the freezing Thorofare Creek, bare assed and barefoot, and set up our tent amid enormous wolf tracks in the snow.

“Wolves once roamed the entire continent, from Panama to Prudhoe Bay,” Dave told me that night. But due to government bounties and predator control policies designed to help ranchers, the last original Yellowstone wolf was killed in 1926. Then, over vociferous objections of ranchers, wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in 1995.

“Today there are an estimated 1700 wolves in the Northern Rockies,” Dave said. “They are a keystone species.”

A keystone species is one that directly impacts the balance of the ecosystem. In Yellowstone, the extermination of wolves caused the elk population to explode. With no wolves to disperse them, elk chewed down the aspen saplings and willows along streams, which depleted the food source for the beavers, reducing their numbers.

    Today, what visitors to Yellowstone most want to see – more than elk or buffalo or even geysers – is a wolf

Fewer beavers caused a drop in beaver dams, which reduced the amount of cool, shaded water, which reduced the fish populations. Fewer willows caused a drop in migrating neotropical songbirds.

“Everything is connected,” said Dave, poking the fire with a stick.

Today, what visitors to Yellowstone most want to see – more than elk or buffalo or even geysers – is a wolf.

That night, after days of hard hiking, I slept like a dead man. I awoke to a deep-throated howl. The roar was so close and so loud I thought Gaillard was having me on. I crawled from my tent to find him pumping the camp stove, his furred red face grinning ear to ear.

“Quite a wake-up call isn’t it!” he said. “Not 50 yards away. Biggest wolf I’ve seen in my life.”

Envious, I scanned the valley. It was twilight, the stars still vanishing into a lavender sky, straight dead pines white with frost.

I didn’t see a wolf. I saw wild, open, primeval country.

After that first howl, we assumed a portent silence. Wolves have an acute sense of hearing. I knew they were watching us right now, through the gloaming, but we couldn’t see them. Like dogs and cats, wolves have a thin, reflective film inside their retinas, called the tapetum lucidum, which gives them night vision.

Dave headed off to break a hole in the ice and fill our pot while I lowered the food bag out of the tree. A short time later we were standing over the dead coals of last night’s fire, stomping our frozen boots, digging into our bowls of hot granola and watching the sunlight gild the surrounding summits.

Then the gorgeous howl came back. This time it was much farther away and echoed across the still-shaded valley. Another howl answered it from the stony mountainside to the northwest, then another from the dark line of forest to the southeast.

The wolves had triangulated us.

    Black as night, the wolves looked right at me

“This is the Delta pack,” said Dave, “could be as many as a dozen.”

We were standing in the most remote place in the lower 48, two small, pink creatures inside a prodigious sanctuary. The wolves commenced to sing. Perhaps three or four in a group, a call and refrain. Dave threw his arms back like a preacher.

“Now this is Yellowstone!”

They howled together in thundering choruses, bringing music to the morning. Individual voices could be distinguished, just like in a choir. Numerous basses, two baritones, even a tenor trying out her young pipes. They ululated for perhaps five minutes, then abruptly stopped.

I began glassing along a bank of trees to the south from whence the closest howling had come, stopping for some reason on a stand of spruce. I was studying the conifers when two huge wolves stepped out into the open. Black as night, they looked right at me, then loped off through the trees.

I had so desperately wanted to get away, to escape – and I’d done it. But now everything was inverted. Being there in the moment in the mountains with the wolves, I realized we actually hadn’t gotten away from it all, we gotten right into the middle of it. The office and the asphalt are what felt strange now. We had hiked ourselves back in time into an environment that was once common and now barely exists, a place I had imagined to be silent and austere but was in truth songful and profoundly complex.

And is this not the very point of a national park? To reveal a world in which humans are just another species in a beautifully intricate ecosystem.

 on: Aug 26, 2016, 05:27 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

Can wolves and ranchers coexist in Washington state?

After a series of attacks on livestock, wildlife officials agreed to remove the Profanity Peak wolf pack. Can compromise satisfy both conservationists and cattlemen?

By Joseph Dussault, Staff August 25, 2016

After a series of attacks on livestock, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) authorized state officials to cull the wolf pack responsible – a decision that has prompted backlash from conservation groups throughout the state.

The WDFW has linked six cattle deaths to the Profanity Peak pack, a group of 11 gray wolves near Kettle Falls. State wildlife officials had shot two pack members earlier this month, but suspended removal efforts after livestock killings ceased.

“At that time, we said we would restart this operation if there was another wolf attack, and now we have three,” Donny Martorello, head of wolf policy at WDFW, said in a statement. “The department is committed to wolf recovery, but we also have a shared responsibility to protect livestock from repeated depredation by wolves.”

The dispute is just one of many that pit cattlemen against conservationists in the Pacific Northwest. But there are compromises which could satisfy officials, ranchers, and environmentalists alike.

At one time, the gray wolf was one of the most widely distributed animals on the planet. The species was found naturally throughout most of the northern hemisphere, until it was hunted to near-extinction in the 1930s. Wolf populations slowly rebounded after receiving protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1974, but the species is still considered locally endangered in some northern states.

In Washington, the Profanity Peak pack is one of just eight packs with successful breeding pairs. There are fewer than 20 total wolf packs in the state, and a total of 90 individuals. Conservationists aim to preserve these populations, which play an important role in both national heritage and local ecosystem flow.

But to cattlemen, the gray wolf is a menace. Many of these livestock owners have used the same business practices for generations – practices that didn’t account for wolves, which were virtually nonexistent at the time.

Now, wolf populations are growing and brushing up against open range ranchers. The resulting attacks are financially devastating, as cattle can cost up to $2,000 per individual. And since only federal officials are allowed to kill wolves legally, many livestock owners feel that their livelihoods are not adequately protected.

But some new problems call for old solutions.

In the early days of American ranching, cowboys stayed close to their herds. But when wolf populations dropped in the beginning of the 20th century, many thinned their staff to increase profit. Now, the Range Rider Pilot Project – a collaborative effort between Conservation Northwest, a Washington-based environmental group, and seven cattle ranchers in the state – hires range riders to monitor herds on horseback.

Often, just human presence is enough to deter a wolf pack. Ranch partners can also receive up to $9,000 toward nonlethal livestock protection equipment, such as tracking collars and automated sirens. The WFDF has also provided similar subsidies throughout the state.

In most project areas, the nonprofit has successfully reduced conflicts between wolves and cattlemen. Between 2012 and 2014, participating ranchers didn’t lose any livestock to wolf attacks.

“We're seeing a promising increase in these practices and social tolerance for wolves in the last few years, in part through collaboration and cost-sharing with the state,” says Chase Gunnell, a spokesperson for Conservation Northwest, in an email to The Christian Science Monitor.

In 2013, Oregon also experimented with nonlethal livestock protection, and achieved moderate success despite growing wolf populations. But while range riding and other preventative measures have worked in many cases, none is 100 percent effective.

In 2015, Conservation Northwest ranching partners lost three cows to depredation. Some wolf groups, such as the Profanity Peak pack, have attacked livestock in spite of nonlethal prevention methods. In those cases, Gunnell says, state officials must defer to last-resort solutions.

“Achieving these long term goals requires compromise,” Gunnell says, “including new proactive and costly efforts from ranchers and sometimes the removal of wolves that are preying on livestock despite those efforts. This is a fact of responsible wolf recovery, and though it can be heartrending, it won’t stop wolves from flourishing in our region over the long run.”

 on: Aug 26, 2016, 05:24 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
A smudgy galaxy far, far away may be 99.99 percent dark matter

Dragonfly 44 is about the same mass as our own galaxy, the Milky Way. But most of that mass isn't stars or 'normal' matter.

By Eva Botkin-Kowacki, Staff writer August 25, 2016

Like many great science stories, it all began with a smudge.

A group of astronomers at Yale University and the University of Toronto were peering through a telescope they had built from camera parts when they saw something that could change the universe.

"We planned to study the outskirts of galaxies to see what exists around them, but by accident we saw all these little smudges," Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University told The Washington Post.

No, their scrappy, self-made Dragonfly Telephoto Array telescope wasn't defective. It had picked up on what could represent an entirely new class of massive objects: a galaxy 320 million light-years away that is 99.99 percent dark matter.

To confirm their discovery, Dr. van Dokkum and his colleagues turned to more conventional telescopes: the W.M. Keck Observatory and the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii. And they found that the dark galaxy, dubbed Dragonfly 44, was surprisingly massive.

The scientists measured the velocities of the stars in the newfound galaxy to determine Dragonfly 44's mass, as speedier stars mean a more massive galaxy. Their findings are described in a paper published Thursday in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"Amazingly, the stars move at velocities that are far greater than expected for such a dim galaxy. It means that Dragonfly 44 has a huge amount of unseen mass," study co-author Roberto Abraham of the University of Toronto said in a press release.

The scientists estimate that Dragonfly 44 has a mass about 1 trillion times the mass of the sun, which is equivalent to 2 tredecillion kilograms (a 2 followed by 42 zeros, so a lot of mass).

That means Dragonfly 44 is as massive as our own star-filled galaxy, although it only has 0.01 percent of the stars and "normal" matter that fills the Milky Way. The remaining 99.99 percent of Dragonfly 44's mass must, therefore, be dark matter, the researchers concluded.

Dark matter has yet to be directly detected, but scientists have hypothesized that it makes up as much as 90 percent of the mass of the universe. The idea is that dark matter provides the extra mass necessary to hold the universe together with its gravitational pull.

"Ultimately what we really want to learn is what dark matter is. The race is on to find massive dark galaxies that are even closer to us than Dragonfly 44, so we can look for feeble signals that may reveal a dark matter particle," van Dokkum said in the press release.

Dragonfly 44 is not the first dark galaxy to be discovered, but it stands out because its mass is so similar to the Milky Way.

"We have no idea how galaxies like Dragonfly 44 could have formed," said Dr. Abraham. "The Gemini data show that a relatively large fraction of the stars is in the form of very compact clusters, and that is probably an important clue. But at the moment we’re just guessing."

But the astronomers do know they've found something significant.

"We think that this galaxy is representative of an entirely new class of object," van Dokkum told the Post. "It’s not some weird singular galaxy that’s just a curiosity."

 on: Aug 26, 2016, 05:22 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

Proxima b: Can we actually send a probe there?

Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner have proposed sending hundreds of nanobots toward Proxima b, an exoplanet 4 light-years from Earth.

By Liz Fuller-Wright, Correspondent August 25, 2016

Astronomers announced this week that Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to our own solar system, has an orbiting planet – Proxima b – that is only 30 percent larger than Earth and could be warm enough to have liquid water. We've rounded up some frequently asked questions to catch you up to speed.

The news keeps saying that Proxima Centauri is 'in our backyard.' Is it really?

Other than our own sun, which is a medium-sized yellow star, Proxima Centauri is the closest star to Earth in the universe. (That's how it got the name – "proxima" is the Latin word for "close".) Yes, it's our stellar next-door-neighbor, but considering the enormousness of outer space, that's still pretty far away.

Exactly how far away is Proxima b?

About 4.24 light-years, which is roughly 25 trillion miles. In other words, it's about 270,000 times farther away than the sun. To help visualize the distance, says SETI astronomer Laurance Doyle, spread your fingers out wide. "If your thumb is the Earth and your pinkie is the moon, and you're standing in North America, Proxima Centauri is in Europe."

What kind of a mission could we send?

The only proposal likely to get a spacecraft there within the next few decades would be a "wafersat" or "nanobot," essentially a postage-stamp-sized microchip carried by a light-sail about 10 feet across, propelled by Earth-based lasers that push it to about one-fifth the speed of light (roughly 100 million miles per hour).

As exciting as it would be to send humans, says Dr. Doyle, "We don't have spacecraft that go that fast yet." The fastest crewed mission ever flown by NASA, carrying the Apollo 10 crew back to Earth, only got up to about 25,000 miles an hour, he notes.

How soon would it get there?

If it successfully accelerated to one-fifth of light speed, it would get to Proxima b in about 20 years. It could then take as many photos or measurements as its "nanocraft" would allow, then beam back the results to Earth scientists. The data would come back at the speed of light, so we could start getting results a little more than 4 years after the spacecraft arrived. In other words, if engineers and scientists can design, build, and launch this fleet of wafersats in 10 years, we could get results by 2050.

But 10 years till launch is very ambitious, since researchers still need to prove that the underlying technology works as well in the real world as it does in theory.

How much could a nanocraft hold?

Miniaturization keeps improving – just look at your smartphone, which has more processing power than the Apollo mission computers – so it's hard to predict how much scientists could load onto a few grams of a spacecraft in a decade. Fortunately, even just a few tiny instruments could provide a huge amount of information.

"If you're going to go all the way there, you want pictures, and you want to know if it's inhabited or not. Other things are details," says Doyle, in an interview with The Christian Science Monitor. "Those are the main goals: pictures and spectrographic analysis of the planet."

"A spacecraft equipped with a camera and various filters could take color images of the planet and infer whether it is green (harboring life as we know it), blue (with water oceans on its surface) or just brown (dry rock)," wrote Abraham Loeb, a Harvard University astrophysicist and a Starshot mission advisor, in an email to reporters.

Is anyone working on this?

A project called "Breakthrough Starshot," jointly launched by Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner in April, proposed sending hundreds of nanobots toward Alpha Centuri. They listed 20 likely challenges to the mission, and offered $100 million in research funding to investigate them all. A Harvard team led by Professor Loeb has just published their results from tackling the first question: Could interstellar dust pulverize a wafersat?

What's the risk from interstellar dust?

If a grain of dust only 15 microns across – that's a third the width of a strand of hair – runs into one of these tiny satellites, it could completely destroy the nanocraft, Loeb and his colleagues reported.

Fortunately, that's enormous, as far as interstellar material is concerned. "There is no measurement of dust between us and Proxima Cen that amounts to anything," says Maggie Turnbull, an astrobiologist with SETI, in a phone interview with the Monitor. "That doesn't mean there's none, but the densities are very low," she says.

Loeb's team calculated that the odds of hitting something that big were about one in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion.

On the other hand, there are plenty of smaller particles in the interstellar medium, and for a ship traveling a good fraction of the speed of light, even a single atom can cause some damage. Loeb and his colleagues calculated that collision with a submicroscopic particle would vaporize a few atoms from the nanocraft's surface, essentially producing a tiny crater. Over the 25-trillion-mile journey, the craft would hit enough of these to have pockmarked its entire surface by arrival, making it unlikely it would be able to do any science.

The researchers recommended either reducing the craft's cross-section – maybe by folding up the light-sail – or coating it with a stronger material than silica, like graphite. Of course, graphite is also heavier than silica, and every gram makes it harder to get the craft up to speed.

Why are scientists already so excited about this?

"It's exciting primarily because it's our nearest neighbor, and it shows how little we know about the stars in the sky," says Dr. Turnbull.

"It shows how we have to look really deeply at each individual star system and try to get to know it, because they're all so different from each other," she continued. Most astronomy missions and programs focus on the broad sweep of the sky, she said, like trying to determine how many exoplanets there are in total – but this discovery encourages a "deep dive" into this particular star system.

"The whole field has basically dropped whatever it was doing before, and it's just really focused on this one star right now, and I love that," says Trumbull.

She adds, "The more you know about something, the more questions it raises.

 on: Aug 26, 2016, 05:20 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
August 26, 2016

NASA celebrates Voyager 2’s 35 year anniversary at Saturn

by Brett Smith
Red Orbit

Today, August 25, marks the 35th anniversary of our first close-up look at Saturn, courtesy of NASA’s Voyager 2 probe.

The space agency took the occasion to look back at Voyager 2’s Saturn legacy, and note just how crucial those close-up glimpses were to the future of space exploration.

Voyager 2 made its closest fly-by of Saturn in 1981 and what that pass revealed inspired American and European scientists to join forces to develop a mission that would carry on Voyager's legacy at Saturn: the Cassini mission, which has been examining the Saturn system since 2004.

"Saturn, like all of the planets the Voyagers visited, was full of exciting discoveries and surprises," Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist at Caltech, said in a NASA statement. "By giving us unprecedented views of the Saturn system, Voyager gave us plenty of reasons to go back for a closer look."

NASA scientists said they were taken aback by what they saw on Saturn’s moons. The subsequent Cassini mission has taken an even closer look at Saturn’s moons and revealed exciting new details about our Solar System. In particular, Enceladus with its erupting geyser has captured the imagination of the wider public.

Voyager found four new moons and honed our view of some we already knew about. The spacecraft also showed how the gravitational forces of these satellites create ripples in Saturn's rings, just like the wake of a boat on a lake. There were also unexpected gaps seen in the rings, some brought on by the moons set within them.

Voyager also showed an enormous hexagonal shape in the clouds that encircled Saturn's north pole, which Cassini discovered was still going strong 25 years later. Furthermore, Voyager assessed the wind speeds, temperature and density of Saturn's atmosphere. With Voyager's data as a starting point, Cassini further explored how Saturn's atmosphere shifts with the seasons.

"The twin Voyagers rewrote the textbooks on Saturn, its rings and moons, and we couldn't wait to go back with Cassini," said Linda Spilker, project scientist for Cassini at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena. "New mysteries uncovered by Cassini will await the next missions to follow in the footsteps of Voyager."

 on: Aug 26, 2016, 03:30 AM 
Started by Sabrina - Last post by Skywalker
Hi Sabrina,

I would think that the key undercurrent to identify is the intention behind the desire. I don´t think that having a car as a symbol of status has anything to do with a desire to return to the Source but, having that same car could have a very specific function within a context that would serve the whole or the Source in some way. Again the key is the intention behind the desire and intentions themselves are also connected to deeper desires. Let´s say you are a writer and you have a desire to help others thru what you write.. if you would have some form of attachment to your computer because it´s a necessary tool to do your work, then I personally wouldn´t consider it a separating desire as it´s serving a deeper desire which is to serve others thru your writing.

From my understanding most people won´t have a conscious desire to reunite with the Source yet will try to do what they feel is right within their hearts. Others will want to improve the lives of others or their surroundings or be of service in some way. Others will want to achieve specific tasks which they simply know from within that need to be done.

Spirituality is a buzzword in the world at the present moment and many times means nothing at all. Some people think that doing yoga poses without any intention to connect with the divine is spiritual. Others think that doing Reiki, Tai chi or charity etc all automatically equals being spiritual. 

I can´t say for certain whether what you are asking was a separating desire masked as spirituality or not but the search for authenticity and that which is natural to you is necessary for real spiritual development. Your depressed feeling could be coming from inner judgements based on man made morality and the un-natural guilt related to them. If you are discerning you will know what is true and what is not in relation to this question.

We are all alive and have our independent lives which we need to live thru the choices we make... it´s a matter of aligning our will with the will of the Source thru those choices.

All the best

 on: Aug 25, 2016, 08:41 PM 
Started by Sabrina - Last post by Sabrina
What are some ways we can articulate the difference between a separating or returning desire?

It goes beyond the surface value of a desire... such that I think that buying a car that is a status symbol could be somehow spiritual and that entering a monastery could be somehow separating. Or is attachment to anything ephemeral itself of a separating nature?

What is the undercurrent we are identifying?

Though I don't have many words for it, I grasp a feeling, that returning is like being with the Universal current, and separating is like stepping out of alignment. But not every soul's alignment looks the same on the surface.

For example, on a personal note, I read the Tao Te Ching in high school and felt depressed afterward because I felt that what I had read was true, but I did not feel ready to live by it as I understood what the book was telling me. I felt like I still had to explore the realities of being an eighteen year old in southern california, and whatever else, and that to live by the Tao (as I understood it in a limited way then) would be inauthentic. If I had renounced my contextual, social life in the name of spirituality, rather than going along my path as it naturally was at that moment in space-time and in personal development, would that have been a separating desire masked in spirituality?

Really welcoming multi-faceted ways of looking at the difference between returning and separating desire, your examples, and thoughts.


 on: Aug 25, 2016, 10:15 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Cocks Not Glocks: Texas students carry dildos on campus to protest gun law

Hundreds protested ‘campus carry’ law that permits licensed gun owners aged 21 and older to carry concealed handguns in most places at public colleges

Tom Dart in Austin
Thursday 25 August 2016 11.30 BST

It was a typical scene at the start of the new school year – student groups setting out tables and trying to sign up recruits for sororities, clubs and religious organisations. Until the end of the row, that is, where hundreds of people had gathered to pick up free dildos.

Wednesday’s Cocks Not Glocks protest against Texas’s “campus carry” law was held on the first day of classes at the University of Texas at Austin, which has spearheaded resistance to the new rule from students and faculty members at colleges in the state.

The rally took place along a tree-lined avenue beneath the tower at the heart of the campus from where Charles Whitman embarked on a shooting spree on 1 August 1966.

The new law, passed last year by Texas’s Republican-dominated legislature, came into effect on the 50th anniversary of the massacre. It permits licensed gun owners aged 21 and older to carry concealed handguns in most places on public university campuses, including dorms and classrooms.

    We have crazy laws but this is by far the craziest, that you can’t bring a dildo to campus but you can bring your gun
    Rosie Zander, history student

Demonstrators gathered to brandish sex toys in the air or strap them to their backpacks. Or other places. “We have crazy laws here but this is by far the craziest, that you can’t bring a dildo on to campus legally but you can bring your gun. We’re just trying to fight absurdity with absurdity,” said Rosie Zander, a 20-year-old history student.

“We wanted something fun that people could really engage in. Because it’s hard to get involved in the political process at our age, people our age don’t tend to vote or get involved, and this is so easy. Strap a dildo on and you’re showing the Texas legislature this is not a decision we wanted.”

Standing near a pile of empty boxes and a decorative small forest of upright phalluses, Zander said that Cocks Not Glocks has distributed more than 5,000 dildos in the past five days, donated by sex shops. A few metres away, someone waved a poster that declared “Cock and Load” near a sign fixed to a lamppost advising passers-by that this is a tobacco-free campus.

The Campus (Dildo) Carry movement began last year when Jessica Jin, a University of Texas alum, organised a protest aiming to satirise the apparent absurdity of weapons being allowed on campus but not the showing of sex toys, which arguably contravenes university rules and a state law against displays of obscene items.

The choice of device also aims to challenge perceptions that carrying a gun is normal. Jin told the crowd on Wednesday that she felt self-conscious shopping at Home Depot this week with a dildo strapped to her backpack, but protesters should “deal with the discomfort, deal with the weird looks – that’s the way we should be treating gun culture”.

Proponents of campus carry argue that the law will apply to only a small number of responsible gun owners who want to exercise their constitutional rights and enhance their personal safety and that other states have had similar laws for years without major problems.

Critics claim the measure is opposed by the vast majority of students and staff, as well as police; will have a chilling effect on free speech; is more likely to reduce safety than promote it, especially given that many students are young people under stress; may cause “brain drain” among faculty and discourage students to apply; and was introduced not because of public demand but so politicians can appease powerful pro-gun groups such as the National Rifle Association. Attempts to pass further permissive gun laws are likely when the Texas legislature reconvenes next year.

Miguel Robles, a 19-year-old political communications student, wielded a poster that said: “You’re packin’ heat, I’m packin’ meat.” He said that he feels “less safe now that campus carry exists. During class you’re not sure if you can argue or have discussions any more because if someone gets very offended at any moment, violence could just spill out … It’s just very unnerving, really,” he added. “I haven’t met anyone that thinks it’s a good idea.”

Someone who does is Jason Buckelew, a 36-year-old who was one of several gun rights advocates mingling with the protesters. He wore a black T-shirt with the slogan “Welcome to Texas. Notice: this is not a gun-free zone.” The bulges in the pockets on the right side of his camo shorts were made by a Glock and a Ruger LCP pocket pistol.

“Shooting sprees happen in gun-free zones. It’s just crazy not to arm yourself. You should be able to defend yourself wherever you go,” he said. “They say that having guns on campus will stifle their free speech but then they’re walking around with sex toys, so they’re not very stifled, really.”

Buckelew would have been committing a crime if he had displayed his weapons openly on the campus, but under a state law introduced in January, he can carry handguns visibly in most other public places in Texas – and does. “People think it’s cool that I do it,” he said.

On Monday a federal judge in Austin denied a request by three professors for a preliminary injunction blocking the law. They argue that it infringes free speech by creating an intimidating atmosphere that will stifle the unhindered discussion of controversial issues that is an important part of academic life.

“I do believe in the second amendment and the right to own guns and bear arms, however I don’t think that public university is really the place for that,” said Zenyth Gale, a 22-year-old burlesque dancer and doughnut shop worker with a substantial green phallus attached to the front of her skirt.

“Every mass shooting they say, ‘Oh, if everyone has their own guns, someone will be able to stop it.’ But that just isn’t how it’s turned out. It’s devastating. I mean, after Sandy Hook there’s been no gun reform or anything and I don’t know what it’s going to take after that.”

Jennifer McKay, a senior majoring in history, said she is “very uncomfortable” about the new law. “I think that having guns in classrooms is absurd and this protest is equally absurd and we may as well be sex-positive while making a political statement,” she said.

 on: Aug 25, 2016, 06:31 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
U.S. Elections

‘Bombshell’ AP Report About Clinton’s Meetings As Secretary of State Is Actually a Sham

By Sean Colarossi on Wed, Aug 24th, 2016 at 7:59 pm

The media has every right to examine the Clinton Foundation's work, but they should do it in a way that is driven by facts.

In the click bait age, it’s tempting for media outlets to sacrifice accuracy and objectivity for clicks and shares on social media. Fudging some numbers and framing a story in a misleading way is poor journalism, sure, but it may just get the most attention.

That’s what The Associated Press was up to in their new report about the number of Clinton Foundation donors Hillary Clinton met with as secretary of state.

It all started with this tweet on Tuesday night:

    BREAKING: AP analysis: More than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation.

    — The Associated Press (@AP) August 23, 2016

In the story itself, the AP reported: “At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press.”

The sample size of 154 meetings is ridiculous if you think about it for more than 10 seconds.

As the leader of the State Department, Clinton met with thousands of people. Instead of emphasizing that in their reporting, the AP cherry-picked a limited number of meetings to give off the impression that a majority of her interactions were with Clinton Foundation donors.

That simply isn’t the truth.

Even if we do examine the meetings the AP reported on, there was still nothing near scandalous to be found.

As Matthew Yglesias of Vox wrote today, “The State Department is a big operation. So is the Clinton Foundation. The AP put a lot of work into this project. And it couldn’t come up with anything that looks worse than helping a Nobel Prize winner, raising money to finance AIDS education, and doing an introduction for the chair of the Kennedy Center.”

The media has every right to examine the Clinton Foundation’s work, but they should do it in a way that is driven by facts, not the need to make noise and get clicks.

Perhaps they can talk about how a majority of people around the world getting AIDS medications received them from the Clinton Foundation. That’s an actual statistic, too, not a cherry-picked number meant to drive a media narrative.

Ultimately, the AP’s “bombshell” report did what it intended to do, which was create controversy and get people talking, but it was irresponsible and sloppy. The reporting was incomplete at best and intentionally misleading at worst.

But at the end of the day, it found no wrongdoing on the part of Hillary Clinton or her family’s charitable organization – even if that wasn’t in the headline.


Rachel Maddow Just Wrecked Trump By Filleting His Campaign Manager With Smart Questions

By Jason Easley on Wed, Aug 24th, 2016 at 9:46 pm

Rachel Maddow’s interview with Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was a disaster for Trump as Maddow pushed for details on policy and Conway’s performance proved that Trump’s latest campaign reboot is a fraud.

Maddow asked Conway if Trump has ever apologized to Judge Curiel. Conway’s answer was, “I don’t know.” Conway retreated to Trump’s use of the vague word regret. Maddow followed up and said, “but there has been no apology.” Maddow turned to the Trump’s remarks about the Khan family and asked if Trump has apologized to the Khan family directly. Conway answered, “I don’t know.” Trump’s campaign manager talked about her own personal feeling about the Khan family.

Rachel Maddow highlighted the fact that Trump’s behavior like getting into a fight with a Gold Star family is shockingly personal. Maddow asked about Trump’s Muslim ban, and Conway did more dancing. Maddow got Conway to admit that the Trump campaign no longer supports banning all Muslims. The MFSNBC host did something rare that isn’t often seen in mainstream interviews. She pressed for details.

Maddow said that if Trump wanted the controversies to end, he is the one that has to end them by telling the American people exactly what he means. Rachel Maddow told Trump’s campaign manager that the candidate created these controversies, and he has to clean them up. Maddow broke up the false equivalency pushed by the Trump campaign that Clinton not holding press conferences is the same as Trump planning to ban Muslims.

The Trump campaign’s latest reboot just ran into a buzzsaw named Rachel Maddow.

The MSNBC host pointed out that Trump’s extreme vetting of immigrants was rejected by the Supreme Court in the past. Kellyanne Conway said that Trump is talking about four issues a week, and Maddow replied, but Trump’s positions have to make sense.

Maddow called out Trump for wasting donors’ money in Mississippi. She asked why was he there? Conway answered, “He wanted to hold a rally in Mississippi.”

Rachel Maddow asked Conway if the Clinton Foundation is so bad, why did Trump donate to it? Conway responded by admitting that the Clinton Foundation does some good work. The subject turned to Trump not releasing his tax returns and asked why should this audit out only apply to him? Conway said that voters don’t need to see his tax returns.

Maddow used Trump’s attack on Hillary Clinton’s health to ask if Trump should release a full health record. Conway’s answer, “Perhaps.” Trump’s campaign manager highlighted how vigorous Trump is “for a man his age.”

Rachel Maddow led Conway into torching the entire Trump reboot by simply asking intelligent questions. It wasn’t pretty, and Rachel Maddow just doomed Trump’s reboot to total failure.


The Media Turns A Blind Eye As Donald Trump Can’t Stop Insulting Black People

By Jason Easley on Wed, Aug 24th, 2016 at 5:34 pm

The press keeps treating Donald Trump like he is a normal presidential candidate while ignoring another day of the Republican nominee insulting black people.

Trump said:

Trump is once again assuming that all African-Americans are poor, living in the inner city, and have children who are at risk of being shot. The Republican nominee continues to insult African-Americans. Trump’s comments about African-American life in the United States have been called offensive and insulting.

The media should be calling Trump out for this behavior, but instead, the overwhelmingly white mainstream media has contented themselves with a debate about whether Trump is really reaching out to black people or if he is trying to soften his image with white suburban voters. If the press would take the time to listen to the words that Trump is saying, they might realize that what the Republican nominee is suggesting is deeply insulting and racist.

If Trump were making these same remarks about a gay person, the media would be outraged, but the Republican can insult African-Americans on a daily basis without most of the press batting an eye.

Pollsters always ask respondents if they believe the presidential candidates care about people like them. A close examination of Trump’s words reveals that not only does the Republican nominee not care about black people, but his ideas about the lives of people of color in the United States are based on old racial stereotypes.

Trump not only doesn’t care. He is on an entirely different planet.

Donald Trump can’t stop insulting black people, and our press doesn’t care enough to make him pay for his racism.


Hillary Clinton Will Put Spotlight on Trump’s Ties to Racist Alt-Right in Reno Today

By Hrafnkell Haraldsson on Thu, Aug 25th, 2016 at 7:57 am

Sexist, Racist, and Anti-Semitic. Clinton has every reason to criticize Trump's relationship with these people when she speaks in Reno, Nevada today.

It is an interesting convergence, that just as Trump hires Steve Bannon, the alt-right head of Breitbart, to win him the White House, he issues a phony appeal to minorities to support him. There is nothing that says anti-minority like the white supremacist alt-right. Today, in Reno, Nevada, Hillary Clinton is calling him out.

Observers can claim this is a stroke by Clinton to nail Trump mid-pivot, but Trump’s association with these people is nothing new, and unlike what the right says about Clinton, these charges are not unfounded. Even Fox News doesn’t pretend the alt-right doesn’t love Trump. They focus instead on, if you’ll pardon use of the term, “whitewashing” the alt-right.

Fox News yesterday joined Breitbart launched into a defense of the alt-right, but CNN’s Brian Stelter points out that the “passion on these fringe websites, fringier than Breitbart, does sometimes come across as sexist, racist, and antisemitic.”

    BRIAN STELTER: Breitbart dot com, the website chaired by Steve Bannon, has proudly led the charge. Last month, Bannon told Mother Jones “we are the platform for the alt-right.” Now Bannon is the Trump campaign CEO, and Clinton is seizing on the connection, calling the alt-right disturbing and extreme. So what is it, exactly?
    This video blogger says the movement, which started online several years ago, is about ethnic nationalism, race — specifically the sense that white identity is under assault in America, fuels the alt-right, which stands opposed to both progressive and mainstream conservative thought. Supporters say they’re not racist or divisive, but that is what critics charge.
    Trump is a favorite of the mostly young, mostly white men who identify as alt-right.
    Nativism and even racial separatism are themes of at-right websites that embrace Trump, but some of the loudest adherents say they are just being provocative. Milo Yiannopoulos has become a face of the movement through social media stunts, though he has been banned from Twitter. He is cheering on Trump.
    MILO YIANNOPOULOS: He represents the best hope we have of smashing political correctness apart, of breaking open, you know, all of the taboos, the stuff you’re not supposed to say allowing real debate to be had again.
    STELTER: Some of his supporters of this mostly online movement say they’re bringing new energy, new passion to a party that needs it. But that passion on these fringe websites, fringier than Breitbart, does sometimes come across as sexist, racist, and antisemitic, and Jim, I’m sure that’s what Clinton will bring up tomorrow.

Philip Bump at The Washington Post‘s The Fix calls the alt-right “the worst of the Web.” Bump points out too that “Anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim and otherwise explicit images riddle the online alt-right.”

Just this morning Fox News’ Doug McKelway wrote at that the “‘Alt right’ conservative movement embraces the Trump campaign.” McKelway objects to the Clinton campaign speaking of the alt-right as

“Embracing extremism and presenting a divisive and dystopian view of America which should concern all Americans, regardless of party.”

Ann Coutler blames the alt-right on multiculturalism, which sounds a great deal like a National Socialist excuse, and this is no mere coincidence. If the term did not exist yet in the 30’s, the animus was very real.

I brought you the example of The Daily Stormer yesterday, which has nearly the same name as the Nazi-era The Stormer (and is about as anti-Jewish but without the creepy cartoons). The Daily Stormer claims to be the most visited alt-right site, and it echoes a Nazi propaganda rag in more than its name.

Hillary Clinton has every reason to criticize Trump’s relationship with these people when she speaks in Reno, Nevada today. Mainstreamed Nazism? In the United States?

Yes. Even McKelway admits,

    Some Jewish conservatives who have criticized Trump – Fox News contributor and National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg among them – have been targeted by the alt right with hate mail and tweets that use holocaust imagery.

McElway doesn’t seem concerned by the Nazi imagery of websites like The Daily Stormer or the rampant anti-Semitism and racism exhibited not only on these fringe websites but by Trump supporters at his rallies; he wouldn’t admit to it in any case.

You can’t make excuses for this kind of sexist, racist, and anti-Semitic behavior.

People like Jared Taylor, editor of the non-profit American Renaissance, whom McKelway profiles, can claim they are not “white supremacist” and don’t even know what that means, but when Taylor says…

“The idea that America is just a nation up for grabs, that whoever can get here owns the place. No. We think that the United States has an identity and that the people who are extended from the founding stock have a right to resist dispossession.”

Or tweets this:

    Blacks are more prone to crime. They have higher levels of testosterone than whites, as well as the following:

    — Jared Taylor (@jartaylor) July 15, 2016

…You get the idea Taylor knows pretty damn well what it means. And practices it. And so does Donald Trump.

H/t to reader NathanDerby for pointing me to Taylor’s tweet

 on: Aug 25, 2016, 06:20 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Farc peace deal: rebels and Colombian government sign accord to end war

After 52 years of war, government and guerrillas present disarmament and justice plan that Colombian voters will be asked to ratify in a plebiscite

Sibylla Brodzinsky in Bogotá
Thursday 25 August 2016 08.55 BST

Colombia’s government has secured a groundbreaking peace deal with leftist Farc rebels – promising to end a war that wracked the country for more than half a century, killing tens of thousands and displacing millions.

The Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, announced on Wednesday that a national plebiscite would take place on 2 October for voters to either accept or reject the accord.

“The war is over,” declared Humberto de la Calle, chief government negotiator, after signing the deal in Havana, where talks have been held since November 2012. “It is the time to give peace a chance.

Iván Márquez, the Farc’s top negotiator, said: “We have won the most beautiful of all battles: [the battle] of peace for Colombia. The battle with weapons ends and the battle of ideas begins.”

With the deal, the Farc – Latin America’s oldest guerrilla group, which took up arms against the state in 1964 under a banner of social justice – renounces its armed struggle and begins its transformation into a legal political party.

'Unarmed, we are nothing': Farc guerrillas wary of future without guns..Read more:

“Today marks the beginning of the end of the suffering, the pain and the tragedy of the war,” President Santos said in an address to the nation after the announcement in Havana.

Colombians gathered in a central Bogota square to watch the announcement live on a large screen. They burst into cheers as they watched Márquez and De la Calle sign the deal. “This is a historic moment and I wanted to share it with other people,” said Bogota resident Andrés García.

The comprehensive deal addresses both the root causes of the conflict and its most nefarious consequences, while laying out a calendar for the Farc’s estimated 7,000 fighters to lay down their arms and reintegrate with Colombian society.

“It is the best possible accord,” De la Calle said. “We probably all would have wanted something more but the agreement is the best possible deal.”

Now Colombians will have to decide whether to accept or reject the deal in a plebiscite that polls show could be a tight race.

“Everybody wants peace but not everyone is sure that this peace deal is the right peace deal,” said Peter Schechter, of the Latin America Centre at US-based thinktank the Atlantic Council.

Under the agreement, the government commits to development programmes and addressing gross inequalities in the country’s long-neglected rural sector. It also agrees to widen the opportunities of political participation to smaller political movements, including the party that a demobilised Farc may create.

The Farc agrees to help dismantle and discourage the business of drug crops and trafficking that helped sustain its war financially for the past three decades.

The deal also includes reparations to victims and sets up a transitional justice system for crimes committed during the conflict. Farc members who committed or ordered atrocities but confess their crimes will avoid serving their sentences in jail, instead performing “community service” projects and acts of reparation.

That point is at the centre of controversy surrounding the accords.

Alvaro Uribe, a former president whose government of 2002-2010 unleashed an all-out war against the Farc, is leading the campaign to reject the accords, claiming the deal reached by negotiators is akin to handing the country over to the rebels.

“It took them four years to give everything to the Farc,” said Ernesto Macias, a senator with Uribe’s Centro Democrático party. “They could have done that in one day.”

Critics say the accord should be renegotiated to include jail time for crimes against humanity and a ban on those convicted of such crimes from holding public office. Many Colombians are wary of the Farc who have won the hatred of the public through decades of abuses including kidnapping, indiscriminate mortar attacks of villages and towns and the forced displacement of thousands.

Many Colombians also doubt the government’s capacity to make good on promises of investment in social projects and infrastructure needed to support the peace deal.

“There are many people who are sceptical or against the accords because they don’t trust the Farc and they don’t trust the government either, and they have good reasons for it,” says Kristian Herbolzheimer, a conflict resolution expert with Conciliation Resources who has consulted with negotiators in the Colombian peace process.

One well-known sceptic is Sigifredo López, who spent seven years as a Farc hostage in rebel camps after a guerrilla commando kidnapped him and 11 fellow regional legislators in Cali in 2002. In 2007 all his colleagues were killed in a confused incident that the Farc believed was a rescue attempt. López was the only survivor and after his release was falsely charged with having orchestrated the kidnapping. He was subsequently cleared of all charges.

Although he feels that the Colombian government has conceded too much to the Farc, López is convinced that Colombians need to approve the peace deal. “I would like to see them in jail but it is an act of responsibility with future generations to see this deal through,” he said in a recent interview in his offices in downtown Cali.

Herbolzheimer, the mediator, said that if negotiating the deal was hard, implementing it could prove an even harder task. “The main challenge in any peace process is moving from words to action,” he said.

Potential spoilers abound. Colombia’s smaller guerrilla group, the ELN, says it wants to negotiate a peace deal as well but has shown no sign of being serious about it, continuing to kidnap civilians and attack infrastructure. Renegade members of the Farc could find refuge in the ranks of the smaller guerrilla group.

Organised criminal groups born of demobilised rightwing militias also pose a threat to building peace.

But in a world wracked by conflict, Colombia had become a sign of hope, said Herbolzheimer. “It shows that no matter how complex a conflict is, if there is political will there is a political solution.”

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