Friday, October 06, 2006


An Insurance Policy for Human Civilization

Time to credit Norway with the level of forethought that humanity as a species almost never shows. This article talks about it:

The high-security vault, almost half the length of a football field, will be carved into a mountain on a remote island above the Arctic Circle. If the looming fences, motion detectors and steel airlock doors are not disincentive enough for anyone hoping to breach the facility's concrete interior, the polar bears roaming outside should help.

The more than 100 nations that have collectively endorsed the vault's construction say it will be the most secure facility of its kind in the world. Given the stakes, they agree, nothing less would do.

Crop seeds are the source of human sustenance, the product of 10,000 years of selective breeding dating to the dawn of agriculture. The "doomsday vault," as some have come to call it, is to be the ultimate backup in the event of a global catastrophe -- the go-to place after an asteroid hit or nuclear or biowarfare holocaust so that, difficult as those times would be, humankind would not have to start again from scratch.

Once just a dream -- albeit a dark one, attractive only in comparison to the nightmare that would precede its use -- this planetary larder is about to become a reality. Today, on the barren Norwegian outpost of Svalbard, the prime ministers of five nations and a small throng of other officials will lay the cornerstone for what will be, in effect, the Fort Knox of seeds.

"We will have the biological foundation for all of agriculture, which is really saying something," said Cary Fowler, executive secretary of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, the international organization coordinating the vault's creation with the Norwegian government. "It is a stunning achievement, if you think about it, and it would be about as safe as human beings can make it."

If progress continues during the short building season this summer and next, the high-tech cavern will start accepting deposits from smaller seed banks and agricultural and scientific organizations by fall 2007 under the terms of an international treaty that took effect two years ago.

Then, with a loud clank and the sound of sucking air, the door will close. And the Svalbard International Seed Vault will slip into a subzero slumber -- an insurance policy for human civilization.


Hispanic Islam

One of the fastest growing religous groups in America is muslim hispanics. This article talks about the phenomenon:

The population of Hispanic Muslims has increased 30 percent to some 200,000 since 1999, estimates Ali Khan, national director of the American Muslim Council in Chicago. Many attribute the trend to a growing interest in Islam since the 2001 terrorist attacks and also to a collision between two burgeoning minority groups. They note that Muslims ruled Spain centuries ago, leaving an imprint on Spanish food, music, and language.

"Many Hispanics ... who are becoming Muslim, would say they are embracing their heritage, a heritage that was denied to them in a sense," says Ihsan Bagby, professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky.

The trend has spawned Latino Islamic organizations such as the Latino American Dawah Organization, established in 1997 by Hispanic converts in New York City. Today the organization is nationwide.

The growth in the Hispanic Muslim population is especially prevalent in New York, Florida, California, and Texas, where Hispanic communities are largest. In Orlando, the area's largest mosque, which serves some 700 worshipers each week, is located in a mostly Hispanic neighborhood. A few years ago it was rare to hear Spanish spoken at the mosque, says Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida.

Today there is a growing demand for books in Spanish, including the Koran, and requests for appearances on Spanish-language radio stations, Mr. Musri says. The mosque offers a Spanish-language education program in Islam for women on Saturdays. "I could easily see in the next few years a mosque that will have Spanish services and a Hispanic imam who will be leading the service," he says.

The two groups tend to be family-oriented, religious, and historically conservative politically, Dr. Bagby says. Many who convert are second- and third-generation Hispanic Americans.

The two groups also share an interest in social issues such as immigration, poverty, and healthcare. Earlier this year Muslims joined Hispanics in marches nationwide protesting immigration-reform proposals they felt were unfair.


This is not photoshopped

This photo was taken by a man in Austrailia. It is of a lightning bolt strike 6 m from where he was standing. (Link)


Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Religon like porn

From Pharyngula:

Top Ten Reasons Religion is Like Pornography

  1. It has been practiced for all of human history, in all cultures
  2. It exploits perfectly natural, even commendable, impulses
  3. Its virtues are debatable, its proponents fanatical
  4. People love it, but can't give a rational reason for it
  5. Objectifies and degrades women even when it worships them
  6. You want to wash up after shaking hands with any of its leaders
  7. The costumes are outrageous, the performances silly, the plots unbelievable
  8. There's nothing wrong with enjoying it, but it's nothing to be proud of, either
  9. It is not a sound basis for public policy, government, or international relations
  10. Its stars are totally fake


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