Science

GM’s New CEO: This Model Has Titanium Features

Mary Barra, CEO-General MotorsThe woman in the photo at the right has big titanium ovaries — not malleable brass or rusting iron. Do I know Mary Barra personally to attest to this fact? No. But I have a pretty damned good idea where GM’s new CEO has been, and it takes a pretty tough set of specifications to survive the road she’s traveled.

Like her I grew up in the I-75 corridor in Michigan, where much of the automotive industry’s OEM facilities and Tiers 1 through 3 suppliers could be found. Like her father, my father worked in the automotive business; if her household was like mine, there were copies of Car and Driver, Road & Track, machinist, tool-and-die, and metalforming magazines cluttering coffee tables or in dad’s man-cave. The smell of machine oil and the grit of metal chips are familiar, as are an ever-present collection of safety glasses, hearing protection, and greasy jumpsuits. Picture a garage like that in Clint Eastwood’s movie Gran Torino; I’ll lay good money her dad probably spent a lot of his free time between shifts in a home shop like that, and where she might have been found as well if he needed a hand or she needed a tool to fix something.

It was in her blood, I’m sure; I’ll bet she could taste it. I’m pretty certain this is why she went into engineering, and likely why she went to that particular private engineering school.

After working for a couple years as a high school engineering co-op student I had been accepted at the same school, but I went a different road, preferring business and then-nascent computing technology over engineering. My daughter, though, is at that school now. She could taste it, too; we have pictures of her at age nine, wearing safety glasses, proudly holding her first aluminum machined part. She’s the first person her dad asks for help when working on the cars at home.

I wish now I’d taken pictures of her the time she was so damned mad at her brother and his friend for accidentally breaking the sibling-shared PlayStation 2 console. She ripped it down, diagnosed it using internet research, fixed and reassembled it on her own in an afternoon.

Driven to identify and solve the problem — that’s what it takes to choose engineering as a career, particularly if you are a woman.

Sure, men too must be driven to pursue the same field, but they don’t face the hurdles that women faced then or even now, 30 years after General Motors’ new CEO first started college at the former General Motors Institute. Nobody ever questions a boy’s right to pursue engineering, or a man’s right to practice that discipline. Nobody ever questions the gender of a man with an engineering degree when he makes it to the pinnacle of the corporate ladder. Continue reading

Science in the ‘National Interest’: What About Everything Else? [UPDATE]

FieldsOfScience_ImageEditor-FlickrThe Republican-led House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (TX-21), wants the National Science Foundation’s grants to be evaluated based on the “national interest.”

Bring it, boneheads. By all means let’s try that standard against EVERYTHING on which we spend federal money.

How many television and radio stations, licensing publicly-owned airwaves, are granted licenses under which they are supposed to serve the “public interest, convenience, or necessity”? Because apart from emergency broadcast signal testing, most of them don’t actually do that any longer, suggesting we really need to re-evaluate broadcasters’ licenses. Let’s put the FCC’s licensing under the microscope. If broadcasters aren’t truly serving “national interest” in the manner parallel to a House Science Committee discussion draft — proposed criteria being “economic competitiveness, health and welfare, scientific literacy, partnerships between academia and industry, promotion of scientific progress and national defence” — the least they could do is pay us adequately for a license to abuse our publicly-owned assets as well as our sensibilities. There’s probably something in the defunct Fairness Doctrine about broadcasting and the nation’s interests…unless, of course, “public” does not mean “nation.” Perhaps Rep. Smith believes “national interest” = “business interest,” which opens up a massive can of definition worms.

How about banks and insurance companies? How many of them were in one way or another not merely affected by the financial meltdown of 2008, but direct contributors to the cataclysm because their standards of operation were shoddy — specifically, with regard to subprime mortgages. Why not put their regulation under the same lens: are these financial institutions serving the “nation’s interest”? The financial industry’s business practices and the regulatory framework existing in early 2008 certainly didn’t defend this nation’s economic competitiveness, damaging the ability to obtain credit as liquidity was threatened. Jeepers, wasn’t that the intent of defunct Glass-Steagall Act after the Great Depression, to assure that commercial and investment banking acted in a secure manner consistent with the nation’s interests?

We could go on and on across the breadth of departments and regulatory bodies which either issue funds or licenses, putting them all to the same test. Do they serve the “national interest”?

The problem here isn’t that the NSF in particular isn’t validating grants as to whether they serve the “national interest.” The NSF already uses criteria to evaluate proposal submissions for their alignment with the nation’s aims. Continue reading

Massive Earthquake in Balochistan Kills Hundreds, Creates Temporary Island

An earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale hit southwest Pakistan yesterday. The Balochistan province where the quake struck is isolated and has been plagued by sectarian violence as well as clashes between government forces and local militias.

Dawn brings us news of the devastation:

The death toll from a massive earthquake that jolted southwest Pakistan rose to 306 on Wednesday, with officials saying thousands have been left homeless in remote parts of Balochistan province.

The 7.7-magnitude quake struck Tuesday afternoon in the province, toppling thousands of mud-built homes as it spread havoc through Awaran and Kech districts and the southwestern parts of the country.

Pakistan’s military on Wednesday rushed to reach the scene of the earthquake to launch a relief operation in the affected areas. Officials said the toll was expected to rise as rescue teams reach more villages in the remote area.

Provincial home secretary Asad Gilani confirmed 306 people had been killed and more than 400 injured from the huge quake.

In the areas hit worst, virtually all of the mud homes were leveled:

The scale of the affected territory is daunting. Awaran’s population is scattered over an area of more than 21,000 square kilometres. More than 60,000 people live within 50 kilometres of the epicentre, according to the UN disaster agency, mostly in easily collapsible mud homes.

Television footage showed collapsed houses, caved-in roofs and people sitting in the open air outside their homes, the rubble of mud and bricks scattered around them.

Abdul Rasheed Baloch, a senior official in the district, said teams had worked through the night to try to retrieve bodies and survivors from the rubble. “Around 90 per cent of houses in the district have been destroyed. Almost all the mud houses have collapsed,” he said.

The earthquake hit in the late afternoon local time, so we can hope that many people were able to move out of mud brick structures before they collapsed, but it still would not be surprising for the death toll to continue a rapid climb as more information emerges from remote sites.

Just off the port city of Gwadar, the earthquake appears to have created a new island. The island is not the result of uplifting of tectonic plates but is instead a structure referred to as a mud volcano:

Mohammad Danish, a marine biologist from Pakistan’s National Institute of Oceanography, said a team of experts had visited the island and found methane gas rising.

“Our team found bubbles rising from the surface of the island which caught fire when a match was lit and we forbade our team to start any flame. It is methane gas,” Danish said on a local television news channel.

The island is about 60 to 70 feet (18 to 21 metres) high, up to 300 feet wide and up to 120 feet long, he said. It sits about 200 metres away from the coast.

Gary Gibson, a seismologist with Australia’s University of Melbourne, said the new island was likely to be a “mud volcano”, created by methane gas forcing material upwards during the violent shaking of the earthquake.

In this video, we can see the methane bubbles coming to the surface on the new island:

[youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvSSqtn-L_I']

Islands of this sort have been formed by earthquakes in the region before, and they tend to get washed away by wave action:

“It’s happened before in that area but it’s certainly an unusual event, very rare,” Gibson told AFP, adding that it was “very curious” to see such activity some 400 kilometres from the quake’s epicentre.

The so-called island is not a fixed structure but a body of mud that will be broken down by wave activity and dispersed over time, the scientist said.

As H7N9 Infections Wane, MERS-CoV Claims Thirtieth Victim

Coronaviruses get their name from the crown-like spikes on their surface. (via WikiMedia Commons)

Coronaviruses get their name from the crown-like spikes on their surface. (via WikiMedia Commons)

With the winter flu season now over in the Northern Hemisphere, we can safely say that the feared global pandemic from the newly emerged H7N9 flu virus did not occur. As the weather in China warms up, cases are dwindling in the manner usually seen for any flu virus:

After months of mounting concern, Chinese health officials are breathing a sigh of relief: no new human cases of H7N9 have been reported in the country in more than a week. The milestone marks the first time since March, when the H7N9 outbreak first began, that human cases haven’t continued to increase.

In the week beginning May 13, one previously infected patient succumbed to the virus, according to a statement issued on Monday by China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission. That death brings the H7N9 fatality toll to 36, with 130 confirmed cases in total.

Vigilance will be needed next fall to see if the virus is now lurking, ready to re-emerge once weather conditions are more favorable.

Unfortunately, the situation with another emerging virus is not improving. The newly named (pdf) Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) still bears watching since the death toll from this virus has now reached 30:

Three more people have died in Saudi Arabia from the new SARS-like coronavirus, bringing the worldwide death toll to 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

Saudi health officials also told the WHO of a new case in the eastern province of al-Ahsa, increasing the number of cases worldwide to 50, WHO spokesman Glenn Thomas told reporters at a news conference in Geneva.

As shown in the schematic above, coronaviruses get their name from the crown-like spikes on their surface. The common cold is caused by various members of the coronavirus family.

Another coronavirus that got headlines in the past was the virus causing Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. That virus was first identified in 2003. This otherwise informative description of the virus and its outbreak that resulted in over 8000 cases and 750 deaths states that SARS is “here to stay”, but the CDC, in this backgrounder on coronaviruses, notes that there have been no reported cases of SARS since 2004.

From the link above where MERS-CoV was given its new name, we get more information on the virus (references removed): Continue reading

The “Conspiracy Theory” That Prompted Kevin Curtis’ Earlier Letters to Politicians

Yesterday, charges against Paul Kevin Curtis that he sent letters testing positive for ricin to Senator Lowell Wicker and the White House were dropped. It is quite encouraging that the FBI would this time choose not to continue harassing Curtis once they realized they had no evidence against him, unlike their behavior in the Amerithrax case where they pursued Steven Hatfill for years (until paying out a $2.8 million dollar settlement) and drove Bruce Ivins to his grave on the basis of evidence that couldn’t withstand scrutiny.

Curtis was true to his quirky and colorful character yesterday after being released, and the New York Times reported how he explained at a subsequent press conference that he had no idea what ricin is:

Mr. Curtis, a party entertainer who dresses and sings as Elvis, Prince, Johnny Cash, Bon Jovi and others, had been in jail since Wednesday. He said he had never even heard of ricin. “I thought they said rice,” he said. “I said I don’t even eat rice.”

Curtis was already known to local officials when the tainted letters surfaced and most press coverage of his arrest provided details about why he wrote so many letters before the tainted ones emerged. From a Washington Post article on his arrest:

But a darker world apparently also existed for Curtis, according to frequent writings on social media Web sites, legal records and a lengthy trail of letters sent previously to lawmakers from Mississippi to Capitol Hill.

The man the FBI says unnerved much of official Washington this week, leaving mail handlers, staffers and aides seeing danger in any crinkled or unmarked envelope, was also a well-practiced conspiracy theorist. He wrote online that Elvis-impersonating contests had become rigged and politicized.

Many of his diatribes revolved around conspiracy theories, on which he blamed many of the malignancies in his life. The broken relationships, the financial duress, the increasing isolation he perceived — all grew out of an episode when he was working in a morgue as a contract cleaner, according to an online post on ripoffreport.com, which was signed, “I am Kevin Curtis and I approve this message.”

According to the long, detailed post, Curtis accidentally discovered bags of body parts in the morgue and reported his finding to authorities, who immediately made him a “person of interest where my every move was watched and video taped.” He described cameras zooming in on him and said he was followed by agents.

So the picture painted when he was arrested and charged was that Curtis was a disturbed person who was so crazy he believed that there is a black market in human body parts and that he was being persecuted for exposing a portion of that market. Interestingly, now that the charges against him have been dropped, the New York Times piece linked above makes no mention of the conspiracy theory while today’s Washington Post story makes only a very brief reference to it in a list of other portions of his life story:

Curtis is known for detailed Internet diatribes, his long-held conspiracy theory about underground trafficking in human body parts — which he has turned into a novel-in-progress called “Missing Pieces” — and his work as an Elvis impersonator. The Corinth, Miss., man has been arrested four times since 2000 on charges that include cyber-harassment.

Curtis’ account of discovering evidence of illegal body part trafficking stood out to me because I knew that such illegal trafficking in fact exists. A local firm here in Gainesville has been in the middle of an ugly story unfolding around the difficult legal and ethical issues relating to how tremendous advances in medical science have driven a huge demand for human tissue and bone.

Most people are quite aware of the process of organ transplantation and how organ donation either through advance planning or by surviving family members signing off on donation saves many lives. But there also are many medical procedures that rely on human bone or tissue that has been processed.

Back in July of 2012, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists posted a long article that goes into the details of the black market for human tissue and bones and how this market is driven by the huge profits to be made: Continue reading

H7N9 Continues Slow Spread, Animal Reservoir Still Uncertain

A steady, but slow and at least for now, not accelerating, spread of the new H7N9 bird flu virus continues. Although infection of poultry in markets in Shanghai has been confirmed and thousands of birds culled, ongoing work on the virus has yet to provide what appears to be a full description of how the virus spreads in animal hosts and gets transmitted to humans.

The latest figures from China put the death toll at 9 and the number of confirmed cases at 28 people infected. The question of whether the virus can be passed from one person to another is still under intense investigation, and two possible family clusters are being investigated. WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl was quoted by Xinhua:

“At this point, there is no evidence of sustained human to human transmission,” he said, adding that there are some “suspected but not yet confirmed cases of perhaps very limited transmission between close family members.”

“They are still being investigated,” he said.

Hartl told Xinhua one of the suspected family clusters was in Shanghai, with three family members having similar symptoms and one of them being confirmed of H7N9.

The confirmed case died, so has another suspected family member, according to Hartl.

The other suspected family cluster, which included two family members with one of them being confirmed, was in Jiangsu Province, he said.

Hartl said that even if the infection of H7N9 is confirmed in other family member, further investigations are still needed to make sure whether that’s a human to human transmission between constant and close contacts or an infection with virus from the same environmental source.

That final point from Hartl illustrates the difficulties that scientists face in developing a full description of how the disease is transmitted. At the same time that we do not yet know fully which animals are the reservoir from which humans are infected, we are simultaneously trying to determine whether family members are passing the virus to one another. That question is complicated by the fact that because the family members live in close proximity to one another but by definition also are exposed to the same local environment, multiple family members could have been infected from the same animal source or one family member could have passed the disease to another.

Moving to the question of the animal host, the same Xinhua article that quotes Hartl also informs us that no pigs have been found to be infected with the virus. Recall that large numbers of pig carcasses had been disposed of in rivers in the same areas of China around the same time H7N9 emerged, so some scientists wondered whether the virus arose in pigs and caused those deaths. There were also observations of dead birds. Xinhua has new information on analysis of bird infections: Continue reading

Shanghai Culls Poultry as H7N9 Spreads, But Relevant US Research Remains Suspended Due to Security Theater

Partial screen capture of the home page of the Chinese news agency Xinhua (http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/), showing the culling of poultry in Shanghai.

Partial screen capture of the home page of the Chinese news agency Xinhua (http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/), showing the culling of poultry in Shanghai.

Yesterday saw a number of developments in the ongoing story of the emerging H7N9 virus in the Shanghai region of China, as the virus was identified in pigeons being sold at a meat market and the culling of all poultry at that market was initiated. One close associate of an infected person still is being monitored in isolation after developing possible symptoms of the virus and might turn out to be the first case of person to person transfer of the virus. Meanwhile, the CDC already has started work in the US that could lead to a vaccine.

As I pointed out yesterday, key questions to be addressed in understanding how dangerous this virus will be revolve around the issue of how the virus jumps from one host to another and whether it acquires the ability to transfer from one person to another. Sadly, the most directly relevant research in the US on these questions remains suspended due to a cowardly display of security theater by the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity. Back in late 2011, I wrote about this board asking two prominent scientific journals to censor work that had been approved for publication. The work eventually was published, but only after a hiatus of about six months. As I pointed out at that time, the fears expressed by NSABB were then shown to be entirely unfounded.

In their report online today on the latest developments in the H7N9 emergence, CNN provided a link at the bottom of their story to this story they published back in January, with the headline “Bird flu research resumes — but not in U.S.” From that report:

 Drama surrounding research on the deadly H5N1 avian flu continues, as 40 scientists urge work on the virus to continue in countries that have established guidelines on the safety and aims of the research. The United States is not among them.

This new correspondence, a letter from researchers published Wednesday in the journals Science and Nature, comes after a “voluntary pause” in the research, which scientists announced in January 2012.

/snip/

In many countries, those objectives have been achieved, according to the letter, and researchers who have permission from their governments to continue this research should do so.

Ah, but the US never misses out on an opportunity to over-play its hand when it comes to security theater, so the work hasn’t restarted here:

But the United States has been unclear about how long it will be before it issues official guidelines for conditions under which H5N1 transmission research can continue, the letter says. As such, laboratories in the United States and facilities abroad that receive U.S. funding should not proceed with their transmission studies.

Back when the NASBB first proposed to censor the work that had been done, I had this to say (emphasis added):

However, in the case of the bird flu version of influenza virus, the basic flu virus is found worldwide and undergoes rapid changes. The fact that flu virus changes rapidly suggests that, as mentioned in the snippet above from ScienceInsider, a version similar [to] that developed in the controversial experiment could even arise naturally. Those who would suppress publication of details on how Fouchier’s group developed the pathogenic virus would prevent responsible researchers repeating the work in order to develop an effective treatment for the virus.  Since the virus could arise naturally, preventing work on a treatment is completely irresponsible.

In the CNN article, we have this from one of the scientists whose work has been put on hold (emphasis added again):

“It’s so easily mutated, so the risk exists in nature already, and not doing the research is really putting us in danger,” Kawaoka said at a press conference Wednesday.

While NSABB was busily subjecting us to needless security theater, nature produced what could be the virus for which scientists were trying to prepare us. They were working with the H5N1 virus to address the very questions of host-jumping and person to person transmission that now lie at the heart of the H7N9 emergence. In the best of all worlds, H7N9 will turn out not spread quickly enough to turn into a deadly pandemic. In that good scenario, H7N9 will serve as a wake-up call to once again free the hands of researchers to carry out work that is vital to understanding deadly bird flu virus outbreaks. The alternative is too terrible to consider. If we see widespread death from H7N9, we will be left to wonder how many of those deaths could have been prevented if this important research had not been suspended.

H7N9: A New Influenza Virus Emerges

This post is in two parts. The first part deals with the news that a new flu virus has emerged. The second part, which comes below the fold, provides a bit of biological and public health information to help put the news into perspective.

According to the latest reports I can find, there are now three confirmed deaths and ten confirmed cases of people infected with a new strain of Type A (bird) influenza virus that has been designated H7N9. All cases have been in eastern China. The good news is that there is not yet evidence to suggest that this virus can spread from one person to another (although that question has not yet been fully answered), which is a prerequisite for a pandemic. The bad news, though, is that the animal host from which the infections were acquired has not been identified.

Earlier this week, Laurie Garrett began assembling what is known about the emerging cases of H7N9 infection and putting those cases into the context of mysterious mass die-offs of pigs and birds in the same general region of China (Garrett is asking important questions here since previous flu pandemics have come from swine or bird hosts):

By the end of March, at least 20,000 pig carcasses and tens of thousands of ducks and swans had washed upon riverbanks that stretch from the Lake Qinghai area all the way to the East China Sea — a distance roughly equivalent to the span between Miami and Boston. Nobody knows how many more thousands of birds and pigs have died, but gone uncounted as farmers buried or burned the carcasses to avoid reprimands from authorities.

While environmental clean-up and agricultural authorities scrambled to remove the unsightly corpses and provide the anxious public with less-than-believable explanations for their demise, a seemingly separate human drama was unfolding. On Feb. 19, a man identified by Xinhua, China’s state news agency, only as Li, an 87-year old retiree, was hospitalized in Shanghai with severe respiratory distress and pneumonia. On March 4, Li went into severe cardio-respiratory failure and succumbed.

On Feb. 27, a man identified only as Wu, a 27-year-old butcher or meat processor, fell ill with respiratory distress, was hospitalized, and died on March 10. The day Wu succumbed a third individual, a 35-year-old woman identified as Han, was hospitalized in the city of Nanjing, though she came from distant Chuzhou City, in Anhui province, about 300 miles northwest of Shanghai. Han is reportedly in critical condition, in intensive care. To date, no connection between the three individuals has been found.

The key question of whether person-to-person transmission of the virus can occur is made somewhat murky by the family of Li:

The elderly Li may have been part of a family cluster of illness, as his 55-year old son died of pneumonia in March, and another 67-year-old son suffered respiratory distress, but has survived.

On March 31 — Easter in the United States — China’s newly created National Health and Family Planning Commission (which includes the former Ministry of Health) announced that 87-year-old Li, Wu, and Han all were infected with a form of influenza denoted as H7N9 — a type of flu never previously known to infect human beings. The commission insisted that Li’s two sons (one dead, the other a survivor) were not infected with the flu virus — their ailments were reportedly coincidental, though they occurred at the same time as the elder Li’s demise.

Garrett goes on to point out that Chinese authorities have blamed a non-influenza virus for the pig deaths, but she casts some doubt on this claim, since the virus cited by the Chinese is known to kill young piglets but not adult pigs. The dead pigs found tossed into rivers primarily were adults.

Garrett rightly states that our knowledge of what is going on here is highly dependent on the accuracy of the tests that authorities are carrying out:

If the pigs, people, and birds have died in China from H7N9, it is imperative and urgent that the biological connection be made, and extensive research be done to determine how widespread human infection may be. Shanghai health authorities have tested dozens of people known to have been in contact with Wu and Li, none of whom have come up positive for H7N9 infection. Assuming the tests are accurate, the mystery of Li and Wu’s infections only deepens. Moreover, if they are a “two of three,” meaning two dead, of three known cases, the H7N9 virus is very virulent.

“At this point, these three are isolated cases with no evidence of human-to-human transmission”, the WHO representative in China, Dr. Michael O’Leary, told reporters on Monday. But, O’Leary added, the possibility of a family cluster of illness could not be ruled out, and, “We don’t know yet the causes of illness in the two sons, but naturally, if three people in one family acquire severe pneumonia in a short period of time, it raises a lot of concern.”

 

The key phrase above is “Assuming these tests are accurate”. When a new virus emerges, it is difficult to know what tests to conduct to detect the virus and how to conduct those tests. More detail is clearly needed to know what level of confidence can be placed on the Chinese claim that Li’s family members were not infected with the same virus that killed him.

Garrett puts these questions into more context in the Reuters article linked above:

However, China has yet to find any animals infected with H7N9, meaning how the humans got it remains a mystery.

“We know that it was originally a bird virus. We also know that it has taken on some genetic attributes that are not seen in bird viruses,” Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council for Foreign Relations, told Reuters in New York.

“In other words, it seems to have adapted somehow to mammals, to humans. How that happened, we don’t know,” added Garrett.

 

Update: Via Twitter, Laurie Garrett points out that Chinese authorities now have evidence that pigeons in Shanghai have been infected with a version of the H7N9 virus that is a genetic match to the viruses isolated from humans, so pigeons may be the source. More can be read here.

Continue reading

Pinheads Dance on Nuclear Accusations Against Iran

Cringe before the power of the dirt piles!

I noted on Tuesday that Fredrik Dahl of Reuters dutifully transcribed accusations from anonymous “Western diplomats” to report that satellite images (which David Albright finally published yesterday–I’m so happy we get to see those dirt pile photos!) revealed that Iran had brought fill dirt to the Parchin site where there have been accusations that Iran may have carried out work on developing an explosive trigger for a nuclear weapon. That post had barely been up for an hour or two when George Jahn unleashed a spectacularly bad graph purporting to show Iranian calculations on nuclear bomb yields. Glenn Greenwald did a terrific debunking of the graph yesterday, showing, among other things, how profoundly wrong the science in the graph was. I had noted back in September, when Jahn first started hinting at what turned out to be his beloved graph, that this particular accusation first came to light in the November, 2011 IAEA report. Jahn and those who are feeding him his “exclusives” sat on this graph for a year before releasing it, presumably because it is so craptastically ridiculous that it could not be made public until the laughter over Bibi’s bomb cartoon and the pink tarps had died down.

The timing of this nearly simultaneous flinging of poo by Dahl and Jahn is explained by the fact that the IAEA is meeting now to discuss the most recent report on Iran’s nuclear activities. The US is using this meeting to roll out a new bit of “leverage” against Iran, stating that if Iran does not comply with IAEA requests by the time of the next IAEA report in March, the US will request that the IAEA refer Iran to the UN Security Council for its intransigence. Aside from how hypocritical this announcement looks, coming within just a few hours of the US condemning the UN for allowing Palestine to achieve non-member observer status, it also appears that Iran knew this ploy was coming. Today we see a report from Mehr News noting that Iran has reported the US to the UN for violating Iranian airspace at least eight times during October.

Lost in all of this noise is the fact that for all the posturing over Iran’s 20% enriched uranium being “close” to weapons grade, Iran continues to divert significant amounts of the 20% enriched material into fuel plates for the Tehran reactor where the uranium has become chemically incapable of further enrichment to weapons grade. From David Albright’s summary of the most recent IAEA report (pdf), we see that Iran has produced 232.8 kg of 20% enriched uranium but has diverted 95.5 kg, or 41%, of this to fuel plates. Back in August, Moon of Alabama explained the significance of the chemical changes that take place when fuel plates are produced [emphasis in original]: Continue reading

AQ Khan Organizes Political Party: What Could Go Wrong?

Perhaps proving that the recent attempts to prepare JEB! Bush for another political run was not the only movement in the world intended to rehabilitate a name with a nuclear level of toxicity, Pakistan’s “Father of the Bomb”, AQ Khan, has registered a new political party. The party is named Tehreek-e-Tahaffuz Pakistan, which Wikipedia says translates to “Movement for the Protection of Pakistan”.

The Express Tribune brings us more details on the party:

TTP Secretary General Chaudhry Khurshid Zaman said Khan had yet to decide whether to stand himself for election. He added that as the chairman, Khan would guide the party through the campaign.

“Our party has been registered, we will take part in the elections with full strength,” Zaman told AFP.

“The whole country is burning, price hikes, unemployment, the energy crisis, poverty and other heinous problems have made public life miserable.”

“Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan has joined politics to change this face of Pakistan and he is the only hope. All other political parties have failed.”

Rohail Akbar, TTP spokesman, said the party would form an alliance with right-wing parties, but not those in government or main opposition party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

We get a slightly different take on the issue of Khan himself running as a candidate from PakPakistan.org:

Dr. Khan said he did not plan, at the moment, to contest the election. However, further fruition of his political organization is “in the hands of God”.

It would appear that the good doctor was paying attention to the number of Republican Presidential candidates in the US who stated during the primary that God wanted them to run. More from this same source on the religious connection:

He is considered as the star in Pakistan, while the religious right acclaims him for having created the “Islamic bomb”.

A brief refresher on Khan’s role in selling nuclear technology can be found at GlobalSecurity.org: Continue reading

Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz @cocktailhag @emptywheel We have a tunnel gap!
6mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Why won't Wolf Blitzer come to my terror tunnel?
8mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @mattmdiaz: "@thedailybeast: Israel has shrunk #Gaza by 40% in three weeks with its "buffer zone" http://t.co/WaVmFfP58k http://t.co/fqr
10mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @AZ_Dream_Killer: RT @sn_ncaab Calipari reportedly racked up more than $200K worth of private recruiting flights last year. http://t.co/
11mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @adambonin That would be the Shelly Sterling Case, right??
15mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @emptywheel Had to be. Also, the Tapper big segment today "Exporting Death!" https://t.co/2319TZxJcy
23mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @bmaz Oh, I knew he had gone. But it must have been during the "cease fire," right? And they haven't admitted that.
26mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @joshgerstein Yep, think so. Title suggests hoaxes and language broad enough to cover.
29mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @bmaz Did they confirm that? @CNN
30mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV RT @gatorhoops: Another Urban recruit --> Colts cut ex Gator RB Chris Rainey for reportedly violating team rules http://t.co/K29REonaix via…
31mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Huh, whatta ya know, @emptywheel noted that ceasefire was probably just to allow @CNN to take IDF propaganda shots of tunnels+she was right.
34mreplyretweetfavorite
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