John McCain flip flops on torture


This video is called John McCain Flip Flops on Gay Marriage.

From the weblog in the USA of Arianna Huffington; an ex-ally of Republican presidential candidate John McCain:

John McCain Sells His Soul to the Right: Backs Off on Torture Ban

Has there ever been a more repugnant example of political pandering than John McCain’s decision to vote against a bill banning waterboarding, putting hoods on prisoners, forcing them to perform sex acts, subjecting them to mock executions, or depriving them of food, water, and medical treatment?

That’s right, John McCain, the former POW who has long been an outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s disturbing embrace of extreme interrogation techniques.

But that was before his desperate attempt to win over the lunatic fringe that is running the Grand Old Party.

Earlier this week, I showed how outdated the image of McCain as an independent-thinking maverick had become — and called on the media and independent voters to snap out of their 2000 reverie and see the 2008 McCain for what he has turned into: a Rove-embracing Bush clone, willing to jettison his principles in his hunger for the presidency.

And now comes this latest unconscionable capitulation, which should drive a stake through the heart of the McCain-as-straight-talker meme once and for all.

McCain the maverick had been unequivocal in his condemnation of torture, and eloquent in expressing why. “We’ve sent a message to the world that the United States is not like the terrorists,” he said at an Oval Office appearance in December 2005, after he had forced the president to endorse an earlier torture ban McCain had authored and pushed through (a ban the president quickly subverted with a signing statement). “What we are is a nation that upholds values and standards of behavior and treatment of all people, no matter how evil or bad they are. And I think this will help us enormously in winning the war for the hearts and minds of people throughout the world in the war on terror.”

He made a similar case on the campaign trail in Iowa in October 2007: “When I was imprisoned, I took heart from the fact that I knew my North Vietnamese captors would never be treated like I was treated by them. There are much better and more effective ways to get information. You torture someone long enough, he’ll tell you whatever he thinks you want to know.”

And there was this pithy and powerful summation of why torture should never be an option: “It’s not about who they are, it’s about who we are.”

Of course, all that was before he put his conscience in leg irons — and before caving to the would-be Torquemadas on the Right became his campaign strategy.

Now we get tortured logic instead. Taking to the Senate floor to justify his vote against the torture ban yesterday, McCain twisted himself in knots trying to explain how he could sponsor a bill — the 2006 Detainee Treatment Act — that prohibits the use of any cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment by the military while voting against a bill that would extend that ban to the CIA and other intelligence agencies: “It is important to the war on terror that the CIA have the ability to [detain and interrogate terrorists]. At the same time the CIA’s interrogation program has to abide by the rules, including the standards of the Detainee Treatment Act.”

Got that? The CIA has to abide by rules prohibiting torture but we can’t tie the CIA’s hands by making it abide by rules prohibiting torture. Straight talk, RIP.

What’s more, McCain said he voted against the bill because it would be a mistake to “tie the CIA to the Army Field Manual” — a Manual he gave a ringing endorsement to in a November debate: “I just came back from visiting a prison in Iraq. The army general there said that techniques under the Army Field Manual are working and working effectively, and he didn’t think they need to do anything else. My friends, this is what America is all about.”

But not apparently once you have the White House in your sights. Then all bets — and deeply held convictions — are off.

The media and independent voters need to stop offering McCain valentines, and start interrogating him — humanely, of course — about the Faustian bargain he has struck.

McCain Flip Flops on Ethics Reform – Pandering: video here.

McCain flip flops on Social Security: here.

Already from 2006: McCain’s flourishing flip-flop list: here. And here.

Bush defends torture: here.

Majority of 2003 Dutch government says we were wrong to support Bush’s invasion of Iraq


This music video is called HARRY LOCO – PEACE DEMONSTRATION AMSTERDAM 2003.

Translated from the Dutch site Openheid over Irak:

14 February 2008

Probably, there is not any precedent in massiveness and harshness of ministers criticizing a decision of their own government. Nine members of the first Balkenende administration [in office, as a caretaker cabinet, as Bush invaded Iraq in 2003], when asked by TV program NOVA, said that, according to them, the decision to give [“political”, not “military”] support to the war in Iraq was taken on a base of dubious and even plainly wrong information. Fourteen out of the twenty-eight members of that government told their views – anonymously – to NOVA. According to over two-thirds of those, the rationale for that decision was dodgy or rotten.

Two coroners criticised the Ministry of Defence yesterday after hearing that the deaths of three British soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq could have been prevented had they been better equipped: here.

How echolocation evolved in bats


This video from the USA is called The Fossils of Inner Space Caverns, Texas; including bat fossils.

From the BBC:

Bat fossil solves evolution poser

A fossil found in Wyoming has resolved a long-standing question about when bats gained their sonar-like ability to navigate and locate food.

They found that flight came first, and only then did bats develop echolocation to track and trap their prey.

A large number of experts had previously thought this happened the other way around.

Details of the work by an international team of researchers is published in the prestigious journal Nature.

Echolocation – the ability to emit high-pitched squeaks and hear, for example, the echo bouncing off flying insects as small as a mosquito – is one of the defining features of bats as a group.

There are over 1,000 species of bats in the world today, and all of them can echolocate to navigate and find food.

But some, especially larger fruit bats, depend on their sense of smell and sight to find food, showing that the winged mammals could survive without their capacity to gauge the location, direction and speed of flying creatures in the dark.

The new fossil, named Onychonycteris finneyi, was found in the 52-million-year-old Green River Formation in Wyoming, US, in 2003. It is in a category all on its own, giving rise to a new genus and family.

Its large claws, primitive wings, broad tail and especially its underdeveloped cochlea – the part of the inner ear that makes echolocation possible – all set it apart from existing species. It is also drastically different from another bat fossil unearthed in 1960, Icaronycteris index, that lived during the same Early Eocene epoch.

Many experts had favored an “echolocation first” theory because this earlier find, also from the Green River geological formation in Wyoming, was so close in its anatomy to modern species.

But the new fossil suggests this wasn’t the case.

“Its teeth seem to show that it was an insect eater,” said co-author Kevin Seymour, a palaeontologist at the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada.

“And if it wasn’t echolocating then it had to be using other methods to find food.”

The next big question to be answered, he added, was when and how bats made the transition from being terrestrial to flying animals.

See also here. And here. And here.

Cave maze Internet game: here.

Good year for large blue butterflies in Somerset, England


This is a large blue butterfly video, recorded in Somerset, England.

From the BBC:

A record number of rare large blue butterflies were counted at a key breeding site during 2007.

A survey at Collard Hill, Somerset, counted 354 adults during 2007, beating the previous record of 300 in 2003.

Experts believe a warm spring helped the caterpillars at the National Trust-owned site develop quickly before the arrival of a very wet summer.

Efforts to re-introduce the species began in 1983 after it disappeared from the UK in the late 1970s.

“Despite the poor summer, 2007 was a remarkable year for the large blue at Collard Hill,” explained Matthew Oates, nature conservation adviser for the National Trust.

“It saw record numbers of butterflies in flight and it was the earliest and longest flight season since its re-introduction.”

Dr Martin Warren, chief executive of Butterfly Conservation, welcomed the survey’s findings.

“This is marvellous news for one [of] our most endangered species of butterfly,” he said.

“With seven out of every 10 butterfly species in decline, Butterfly Conservation is delighted to be working with the National Trust to save this, and other species.”

Ant ‘adoption’

In the 1970s, scientists discovered that the reason why the large blue (Maculinea arion) became locally extinct was a result of changes to the way the rural landscape was managed.

A team led by Jeremy Thomas, from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Dorset, found that the survival of the butterflies was closely linked to a particular species of ant.

Professor Thomas observed that up to five species of red ants would “adopt” a large blue caterpillar, but the butterfly would survive in the nest of only one – the Myrmica sabuleti red ant.

But the decline of pastoral grazing saw a demise in the population of these ants, which in turn caused the large blue butterfly to disappear from the UK.

He found that the ants thrived in areas with short grass because sunlight was able to warm the soil, which suited this species.

Yet a shift away from grazing resulted in sites becoming overgrown, which caused the soils to cool.

As part of the reintroduction programme by the conservationists, grazing was re-established on the sites chosen for the butterflies.

Their efforts to manage the habitat paid dividends during the summer of 2006, when an estimated 10,000 of the creatures were recorded at sites across southern England.

See also here.