Daily Archives: 06/05/2006

Monday Link-O-Rama

Time for a Link-O-Rama of stuff I’ve come across in the last week or so. It’s mostly science related stuff, with a couple political stories tossed into the mix. Enjoy.

  • The Condor And The Whale – It’s kind of grisly, but also pretty cool: Check out these California condor’s picking on the washed up corpse of a whale near Big Sur.
  • Giant Impact Crater Found Under Antarctic Ice – Scientists located a massive 300 mile wide impact crater from a meteor strike buried under a mile of ice in Antarctica. They speculate this strike played a part in the Permian extinction event 250 million years ago.
  • From Hawaii to Iraq: A century of American Regime Change

    By Stephen Kinzer’s count, the United States has toppled foreign governments 14 times in the 110 years between the 1893 coup in Hawaii and the occupation of Iraq, making regime change by force as American as apple pie. But Mr. Kinzer says the results are always damaging to the countries involved, and to American security as well.

    Mr. Kinzer, formerly a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, has written on this subject before, in books on United States intervention in Iran and Guatemala. In ”Overthrow” he surveys all 14 cases in an admirably written page-turner.

    Although the book does not add to historical knowledge of the individual cases, it may be the first to bring them together in a comparison over time. This makes the narrative more interesting than a single case study, but also more depressing.

    In Mr. Kinzer’s treatment there are no bright spots. In one instance after another, arrogant Americans are shown tossing out legitimate governments and installing corrupt brutes who turn out to cause more problems for foreign policy than did the ousted leaders.

    Mr. Kinzer’s main explanation for these recurrent misadventures is greed.

  • Ash Plume Photographed from Space – Maybe the Internation Space Station has some uses after all. Astronaut Jeff Williams was the first person to notice the Cleveland volcano erupting on the Aleutian island of Chuginadak on May 23. He snapped some cool photos as the ISS passed overhead.
  • Slab of Ocean Floor Found Deep Within Earth – Geologists discovered a piece of the ocean floor submerged deep within the earth’s molten mantle, halfway to the center of the earth. They believe it offers up clues to the dynamics of plate tectonics, theorizing that the slab actually pulls the ocean floor down towards the center of the earth “like a carpet sliding off the dining room table.”
  • Drought Worsens Water Problems in China – China is in the grip of a terrible water shortage and the countryside is particularly hard hit.
  • Dalai Lama gives Awards to Tutu and Tintin – The Dalai Lama presented Archbishop Desmond Tutu with the Light of Truth Award from the Campaign for Tibet, along with another award for the Herge Foundation, publisher of the Tintin series of children’s books.
  • 5,000 Years of Genetic Manipulation in a Cup of Yogurt – Turns out yogurt is a hotbed of genetic evolution. The bacteria that causes yogurt, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, originally ate plants. Somehow it got mixed in with some milk and people discovered it clotted the milk and kept it from spoiling. Thousands of years of yogurt making produced a markedly different creature from that original bacillus, one that can no longer survive outside of its creamy habitat.
  • Ozone Making a Comeback – Finally a little good news about the environment. Almost 20 years after halocarbons (like CFCs) were banned by international accord, the ozone layer shielding our planet from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation is making a comeback. The gaping hole over Antarctica is still there, but the global concentrations are increasing. Make no mistake, the ozone is still terrible depleted and letting unprecedented amount of ultraviolet light reach the surface.
  • Flock of Dodos – I’d like to catch this movie, probably on DVD I guess. Carl Zimmer has good things to say about it, so let me plug it here too.
  • Flores Hobbit and Her Tools – Speaking of Carl and his excellent blog, The Loom, he has a good piece on Home floresiensis, the Hobbit discovered last year in Indonesia. There’s been a lot of discussion about the skull found by the archaeologists, and whether a being that small was the norm on Flores, or just a diseased individual. But it looks like the tools found in the cave were just as diminutive as the Hobbit fossils and show a long period of habitation on the island.
  • Container Wasteland – The interesting bit in this story about railroad and shipping upgrades is the first couple paragraphs. Across the eastern USA, vast yards of empty shipping containers have piled up alongside railroad tracks. “China is shipping so many goods to the United States that the Chinese often find it cheaper to build new containers with low-cost labor and leave their empty ones in the United States than send them home empty.”
  • Meat on a Stick – I like meat. Our species eats meat. It tastes good. But it has all these messy ethical challenges in our industrial era. I can’t say I’m happy eating ground beef from those meat packing plants, or pork from hogs raised in cages. So why not grow our meat? We have the technology to create artificial meat cultured in labs. I’d rather eat something like that than a can of Spam…
  • Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – Nice intro article on number stations, that weird relic of the Cold War (maybe) which can be found on shortwave all over the world. To make a long story short, number stations are used by governments to send orders and instructions to spies and undercover moles. They are rather creepy to listen too, check out the archived recordings.

Kurt Moylan And The Nigerian 419 Scam

I was hoping somebody would ask about who was silly enough to fall for a Nigerian 419 scam on Guam. Let’s go ahead and rescue this trusty little gem before it gets tossed down the memory hole.

Kurt Moylan, former Lieutenant Governor, father of current governor Kaleo Moylan and owner of Moylan’s Insurance, was contacted by by Nigerian Benjamin Okafor in 1994 and Moylan fell for the scam. Okafor, claiming to be a representative of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), with access to an excess $20 million in the corporation’s bank accounts. He dangled the lure of an $8 million kickback in front of Moylan if he submitted a fraudulent invoice for a $20 million contract to the NNPC. Oh, and Moylan would also need to submit $1.35 million in administrative fees to make it look legit before the Central Nigerian Bank would release the millions. Moylan was initially suspicious, but agreed to the scheme after meeting Okafor in Hong Kong.

The FBI got wind of the deal when they noticed large transfers of money from Moylan’s account to a bank account in Viriginia belonging to Nigerian Ihedinachi Uzodinma. They froze the account and charged Uzodinma with wire fraud and conspiracy. The court ruled that Moylan was complicit in the scam and not entitled to restitution of the siezed funds. Moylan’s run in with the Nigerians cost him $1.3 million, most of which was taken by the Federal government from the Virginia bank accounts. Okafor was not apprehended remains at large.

It is worth reading the entire decision in which Moylan tried to get his money back from the Feds. He got scammed by the Nigerians and then burned by the Federal government when they refused to give him back his $1.3 million.