Monday, June 13, 2011

Fake Syrian Lesbian Bloggers, Living Laser Cells, and Why We're Probably At War In Libya (Link Round-Up 6/13/11)

[via imgur]

Yet Another Awful Story About Mexican Drug Cartel Violence
Cartel-forced "gladiator"-style death matches between captured victims
Former and current federal law-enforcement officers in the U.S. said that while they knew Mexican bus passengers had been targeted for violence, they'd never before heard of forcing passengers into death matches.
But given the level of violence in Mexico — nearly 40,000 killed in gangland warfare over the past several years — they didn't find it tough to believe.
Borderland Beat, a blog specializing in drug cartels, reported an account in April of bus passengers brutalized by Zeta thugs and taunted into fighting.
"The stuff you would not think possible a few years ago is now commonplace," said Peter Hanna, a retired FBI agent who built his career focusing on Mexico's cartels. "It used to be you'd find dead bodies in drums with acid; now there are beheadings."
Pseudonyms
Lesbian Syrian blogger turns out to be 40-year-old white guy
MacMaster, a Middle East peace activist who is working on his master’s degree at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, wrote that he fictionalized the account of a gay woman in Syria to illuminate the situation for a Western audience.

The hoax raises difficult questions about the reliance on blogs, tweets, Facebook postings and other Internet communications as they increasingly become a standard way to report on global events. Information from online sources has become particularly important in coverage of the Middle East uprisings, especially in countries that severely restrict foreign media — or that use social media against protesters.
Every Day I'm Hustlin'
Keeping Argentine businesses alive in a corrupt, erratic climate
Since the 1950s, a series of dictators had devastated the Argentine private sector, concentrating wealth into the hands of politically connected oligarchs, corrupt government contractors, and, most recently, foreign investors. In Argentine Spanish, the word for businessman—empresario—had become synonymous with criminal, and it was widely assumed that the most successful people had robbed and cheated to get where they were. The word for what Bilinkis was—emprendedor—was not in regular use. "I'd gone to one of the top business schools, and I'd never heard the word entrepreneur," Bilinkis says. "I just knew I wanted to start my own thing.
Vested Interests
The frosty relationship between Gaddafi and US Oil Companies
The companies needed little encouragement. Libya has some of the biggest and most proven oil reserves — 43.6 billion barrels — outside Saudi Arabia, and some of the best drilling prospects. Its older fields, which suffered during U.S. sanctions, could benefit from enhanced recovery techniques and be the source of vast new production.

“Oil companies were extremely excited to move into a territory that had been neglected for 20 years,” said Geoff D. Porter, a political risk and security consultant specializing in North Africa and the Sahara. He said experts believed that only 30 percent of Libya had been explored and that there was “much more oil to be discovered.”
Waiting In The Shadows
Iranian labor awaits the fall of the current regime
The labor movement is a modern phenomenon. It comes with industrialization and the factories. The clerical establishment comes from medieval times. It hasn’t changed a lot in the past 1,000 years. So the two look at each other with an innate suspicion, especially because the secular-left Marxist groups always based themselves on the labor movement, and many clerics consider them anti-religious. But one great thing about this Green Movement is that it’s breaking down the old barriers and boundaries. So between the labor movement and the democratic movement, everybody’s now open to new avenues and new ideas. So I imagine many clerics on the Green Movement side are now very keenly interested in the labor movement, and vice versa.
...
Obama is staying away from giving too much support—even moral support—to our movement, because if he does that, that’s very scary, because that makes it easier for the government to clamp down very heavily. So I think that’s a good decision. We don’t think it would help us at all if Obama gave lots of even verbal support. So the best support the U.S. government can give publicly is no support. Go after this regime with sanctions—we are all for it. And no military intervention of any kind, because this regime craves it. It would be a real shot in the arm for this regime if there is any sort of military threat to it, let alone bloodshed.
Lack of Focus Group
Can teen brainwaves predict pop hits?
A comparative analysis revealed that the neural data had a statistically significant prediction rate for the popularity of the songs, as measured by their sales figures from 2007 to 2010.

"It's not quite a hit predictor," Berns cautions, "but we did find a significant correlation between the brain responses in this group of adolescents and the number of songs that were ultimately sold."
Still No Cure For Cancer
Scientists create cell capable of making visible laser beam
Normal lasers, ever since their invention in the 1950s, use synthetic gain materials like gases, crystals and dyes to amplify photon pulses. But professor Seok-Hyun Yun and colleague Malte Gather, instead used green fluorescent protein (GFP), which is used to make jellyfish bioluminescent, as their gain material.

The team genetically engineered human embryonic kidney cells to produce GFP. They then placed a single cell between two mirrors. In terms of size, the mirrors were spaced 20 micrometers apart (20 millionths of a meter), and the cell was just 15 to 20 micrometers.

When the team ran pulses of blue light through the kidney-jellyfish combo, a visible laser beam shot out. It only lasted for a few nanoseconds, but the light could be easily detected and carried useful information on the properties of the cell. The cell also left the experiment unharmed.
Not Just Africa
Land commodification in India hits farmers hard
Land in not about building concrete jungles as proof of growth and development; it is the progenitor of food and water, a basic for human survival. It is thus clear: what India needs today is not a land grab policy through an amended colonial land acquisition act but a land conservation policy, which conserves our vital eco-systems, such as the fertile Gangetic plain and coastal regions, for their ecological functions and contribution to food security.

Handing over fertile land to private corporations, who are becoming the new zamindars [heriditary aristocrats], cannot be defined as having a public purpose. Creating multiple privatised super highways and expressways does not qualify as necessary infrastructure. The real infrastructure India needs is the ecological infrastructure for food security and water security. Burying our fertile food-producing soils under concrete and factories is burying the country's future.

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