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Great Green Globs of Galaxy Guts

January 14, 2011

What looks like the remnants of some cosmic sneeze in the foreground of the image above is actually Hanny’s Voorweep, a huge cloud of heated oxygen floating around the spiral galaxy IC 2497 some 650 million light years from earth. It was originally noticed in 2007 by a Dutch participant in the Galaxy Zoo project. Those orange bits among the green are new stars forming outside the galaxy.

More on the Voorweep from HubbleSite

Recent X-ray observations have revealed why Hanny’s Voorwerp caught the eye of astronomers. The galaxy’s rambunctious core produced a quasar, a powerful light beacon powered by a black hole. The quasar shot a broad beam of light in Hanny’s Voorwerp’s direction, illuminating the gas cloud and making it a space oddity. Its bright green color is from glowing oxygen.

~snip~

Radio studies have revealed that Hanny’s Voorwerp is not just an island gas cloud floating in space. The glowing blob is part of a long, twisting rope of gas, or tidal tail, about 300,000 light-years long that wraps around the galaxy. The only optically visible part of the rope is Hanny’s Voorwerp. The illuminated object is so huge that it stretches from 44,000 light-years to 136,000 light-years from the galaxy’s core.

The quasar, the outflow of gas that instigated the star birth, and the long, gaseous tidal tail point to a rough life for IC 2497.

“The evidence suggests that IC 2497 may have merged with another galaxy about a billion years ago,” [astronomer William] Keel explains. “The Hubble images show in exquisite detail that the spiral arms are twisted, so the galaxy hasn’t completely settled down.”

In Keel’s scenario, the merger expelled the long streamer of gas from the galaxy and funneled gas and stars into the center, which fed the black hole. The engorged black hole then powered the quasar, which launched two cones of light. One light beam illuminated part of the tidal tail, now called Hanny’s Voorwerp.

More from Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy

In the image, you can see how the tip is yellow; that light is coming from stars that are forming as the gas is compressed. These stars are being born well outside the galaxy itself! What a view any potential future civilizations will have: an almost entirely black sky, with a giant galaxy hanging there looking down on them. They’ll have interesting mythology, I’d wager.

The amount of energy that must have been required to heat up a cloud of gas tens of thousands of light years across and keep it heated for over 200,000 years is, with a tip of the hat to Richard Feynman, truly of economic proportions.

The mind reels.

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58 Comments leave one →
  1. cometman permalink*
    January 14, 2011 12:37 pm

    And in other astronomy news, The Kepler satellite has discovered its first rocky exoplanet and it’s not all that far away by astronomical standards, just 560 light years away.

    More from NASA with a nice video at the link –

    NASA’s Kepler mission confirmed the discovery of its first rocky planet, named Kepler-10b. Measuring 1.4 times the size of Earth, it is the smallest planet ever discovered outside our solar system.

    ~snip~

    In the case of Kepler-10b, the picture that emerges is of a rocky planet with a mass 4.6 times that of Earth and with an average density of 8.8 grams per cubic centimeter — similar to that of an iron dumbbell.

    “This planet is unequivocally rocky, with a surface you could stand on,” commented team member Dimitar Sasselov, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge and a Kepler co-investigator.

    There have been other discoveries of rocky exoplanets but the results are not as certain as this latest. This is the first planet of its kind to be found by Kepler which was specifically designed to search out other planets.

    This scientist calls Kepler-10b the first unambiguous rocky exoplanet.

    For the sake of completeness and to give a broad context, it is not the first time that a rocky exoplanet has been claimed to be discovered. I mentioned in one of my previous posts the detection of Corot-7b (R~1.6 x Rearth; M ~ 5 x Mearth), discovered by transit in 2009 using the COROT mission, which has a bulk density from 0 to 11 g/cc. GJ1214b is another example of transiting super-Earth planet, almost 3 time larger than Earth and with a density of 1.9 g/cc. Small, but exotic exoplanets, were also discovered around the pulsar PSR B1257+12 with a mass of less than four time Earth Mass.

    ~snip~

    The uncertainty in the density of Corot-7b is quite large, so it is impossible to know if COROT-7b is a water planet, a rocky planet or an iron-core planet. The measurement of density of Kepler-10b is obviously more accurate, implying that the exoplanet has a composition similar to Earth or an iron-core planet. Kepler-10b is the first unambiguous detection of a rocky exoplanet, and the first super-Earth discovered around a sun-like star. This is obviously a significant step in the search for exo-worlds and for the Kepler team, and also a major achievement since it was the main objective of this mission.

  2. cometman permalink*
    January 14, 2011 3:57 pm

    Things get worse in Tunisia as a state of emergency is declared.

    Meanwhile Shillary, and by extension Uncle Sugar who we all know luvs some freedum and democrasay, continues to back the oppressive Tunisian dictatorship against its citizens.

  3. cometman permalink*
    January 14, 2011 3:58 pm

    Will we ever be rid of the fucking “Patriot” Act?

  4. sisdevore permalink
    January 15, 2011 5:33 pm

    keep intending to read Feynman. Have time now since the dog-training books are beside the point.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 17, 2011 10:44 am

      Only one I’ve read is “Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman” and it was really good. Quick read, very entertaining, and you don’t need to know anything about physics to enjoy it.

      Also watched several of his old physics lectures that you can find in various places on the interwebs and those were really good too. Much more entertaining and easier to understand than some of the soporifics I sat through in college.

  5. artemis54 permalink
    January 15, 2011 7:03 pm

    Am I in a Tolkien book? My email is full of Reince Priebus and Hanny’s Voorwerp.

    Of possible interest to the ceph squad: simpler days

  6. sisdevore permalink
    January 16, 2011 11:18 am

    In case anyone missed Naomi Klein on friday:

    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/01/14-4

    • cometman permalink*
      January 17, 2011 10:46 am

      I had missed that one – thanks!

      Unbelievable reading all these other idiots claiming the oil is all gone just because they don’t see it floating on the surface. Since they used millions of gallons of toxic dispersants that were designed to break up the oil and sink it to the bottom, you’d think some of these idiots would maybe check the ocean floor before making stupid proclamations about how everything is AOK.

      • sisdevore permalink
        January 17, 2011 2:07 pm

        Hey and the article mentioned a squid “as small as a baby’s fingernail”–or something to that effect. Do you know the one of which they speak?

        • cometman permalink*
          January 17, 2011 2:36 pm

          I don’t know if there is a species where the adults are that small or not. When I read it I thought she was referring to the baby ones that float around with the rest of the plankton right after hatching like this one.

  7. artemis54 permalink
    January 17, 2011 3:02 am

    Claire Danes won a Golden Globe last night for her portrayal of Temple Grandin.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 17, 2011 10:58 am

      I was thinking about Grandin recently when the squidlette got smacked in the head by a cow.

      Can’t remember if I mentioned that episode already, so at the risk of repeating myself (again), I got quite a scare several weeks ago out in the cow pasture. I was out there with the kid and my niece for about 20 minutes in the pasture with the whole herd of cows. They really weren’t familiar with any of us and I could tell they were getting a little skittish as my older niece tried to do a little herding. Squidlette was right next to me the whole time until right at the end when she and my niece somehow got about 20-30 feet ahead of me. One cow bent down to sniff her face and that was when I figured we’d had enough cow time and I went to pick her up. Evidently she smelled pretty nice because before I could get to her the same cow made another pass with her muzzle and this time she hit the squidlette pretty good and knocked her in the air backwards four or five feet, crying and with a bloodied mouth. My heart sunk pretty fast and I was picturing all her chicklets knocked out and a nasty trip to the dentist, but when I brought her inside all she had was a scratch on the inside of her mouth. She quit crying in a couple minutes and a half hour later she was out in the barn playing with the cows again.

      I learned a very good lesson about keeping a little closer eye on her when around large animals :) Won’t have to worry about her around the pigs though which she also like to play with, as they were recently turned into sausage. Still not sure how to explain to her where the pigs went next time we visit….

      • sisdevore permalink
        January 17, 2011 2:13 pm

        Also keep closer eye when around small animals….like chihuahuas, for example.

        I miss my little guy so much. I was watching movie on the computer and icing down my eyes because I have to return to work tomorrow. Then I got my mail and the veterinary clinic had sent me a sympathy card, signed with messages from 2 vets and 3 staff members.

        I am going to need so much more ice.

        • cometman permalink*
          January 17, 2011 2:40 pm

          Been training her around the cats and so far she’s managed not to get shredded.

          I’ll send out a good thought for you Miss D. Sounds like you’ve got a really nice vet clinic. Very kind of them to do that.

  8. cometman permalink*
    January 17, 2011 1:36 pm

    Now that protesters have forced the Tunisian strongman to flee, the remnants of his police force are making a last stand – Confusion, fear and horror in Tunisia as old regime’s militia carries on the fight.

    Hadn’t caught this before but evidently it was a Tunisian setting themselves on fire that helped bring on the protests and now copycats in other nations in the region have gone the self-immolation route hoping to spark (sorry, couldn’t help myself) similar uprisings.

  9. artemis54 permalink
    January 17, 2011 1:41 pm

    thegrio.com is peddling this list of the 25 most influential African-Americans, with Obama at #2.

    I have a major beef: it is heavy with activist writers, lawyers etc. That’s all well and good, but there are no scientists, inventors or engineers. Not one.

    Where in the hell is George Washington Carver? 40 odd years at Tuskegee, the publications on the uses of various crops for self sufficiency and profit – I think it’s hard to appreciate now how much this meant at the time, hell his homemade philosophy.

    Roosevelt’s SecAg and veep Henry A. Wallace found Carver’s company and correspondence instructive and uplifting, as did Luther Burbank.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 17, 2011 2:19 pm

      That is a strange omission of Carver. He’s the one guy even most white kids learn about.

      Somehow I doubt Barry would have made the cut if it were say, Black Agenda Report coming up with the list. And even if I actually liked the guy, I think it’s way too early to tell what kind of influence Barry’s had. I half expected to see Lebron James or Tiger Woods on the list too and I was somewhat heartened to see that there weren’t any athletes unless you count Paul Robeson, but that wasn’t his biggest source of influence. I might have put Mohammed Ali on the list for his non-boxing endeavors and maybe Jack Johnson too in place of Barry.

      Checking out that page reminded me that our own new dumbass teabagging governor who has now decided he will attend today’s MLK event after all after previously telling the state NAACP to “kiss my butt”. Says he even participated in an African dance. Bet that was a real treat for all those in attendance.

  10. cometman permalink*
    January 17, 2011 1:43 pm

    Some notes from foreign lands –

    This cannot be good at all. In the wake of disputed elections in Haiti, not to mention all the other problems currently being faced there, Baby Doc decides that now would be a nice time to visit the old country again.

    He claims he isn’t seeking to run the country again but I really doubt he’s there to visit some long lost aunt. Knowing how the US encouraged coups against Aristide there not once but twice and did the same with Zelaya in Honduras, this is really sickening.

    Despite his return being “unexpected”, I have a hard time believing that Shillary didn’t know his ETA. Bitch probably bought him the plane ticket.

    Not the best article as it can’t help trying to label Chavez a dictator again, but Venezuela is now claiming larger oil reserves than Saudi Arabia. No word yet on whether Chavez has started hiring body doubles.

    Russia warns of a new Chernobyl in Iran if the Iranians try to keep to their schedule for opening a nuclear power plant. Not because their technology is somehow inferior though, but because the US and Israel hit Iran with the Stuxnet computer virus which has infected their nuclear hardware. In related news, unnamed US officials are holding a conference in an undisclosed location in an attempt to figure out why they hate us.

    And the latest US teenager to be tortured is still in Kuwait, still wondering what the hell he did other than being brown with a funny name. He was scheduled to return to the US over the weekend but the US had put him on the no fly list for reasons that have of course not been disclosed.

    Last night, the Kuwaiti deportation officers took Gulet, along with the ticket, to the airport and were prepared to send him back to the U.S. But when he attempted to board the plane, he was told that he was barred from doing so. According to Mohad, no reason was given, but it is presumably due to the U.S.’s placement of him on the no-fly list (which State Department officials, to The New York Times, previously confirmed they had done). As a result, Gulet — thinking he was finally headed home — instead was returned to his detention facility, where he remains, and his prospects for release are now very unclear.

    • artemis54 permalink
      January 17, 2011 1:56 pm

      I heard on Fox news: “Haiti’s former dictator has returned” and thought you assholes, what a way to talk about Aristide. I almost fell over when it turned out to be Duvalier.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 18, 2011 2:42 pm

      Here’s another one touching on the West’s desire to eradicate Iran’s nuclear capabilities – Who Killed the Iranian Physics Professors?

      Don’t think it will come us too much of a surprise that the major suspects are the Mossad and the CIA. Also good stuff in there about the MEK, the Iraqi organization that a lot of right wingers would like to see off the list of terrorist organizations condemned by the US. Because these guys commit all their terror in Iran, often as proxies for Western governments.

      Been a rough week trying to listen to anything coming from the hypocrites who claim to represent us all.

  11. artemis54 permalink
    January 17, 2011 1:57 pm

    Moderation??????????????????????????????????

    I have a note that says my comment is awaiting moderation.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 17, 2011 2:31 pm

      Hmmmm. Just checked and didn’t see anything that was listed as “pending”. Here’s the text when you click on the “pending” button –

      No comments awaiting moderation… yet.

      Maybe it will show up as pending later? I’ll check again but you may have to retype it.

      And really, I’m not deleting comments! If I did, it wouldn’t be one from you guys ;)

    • cometman permalink*
      January 17, 2011 4:06 pm

      So I just checked my email and there were two automatic ones saying that there were comments from you awaiting moderation but they were your comment about Baby Doc and the one above which had both already appeared on the blog before I checked anything. There was a link in the email to “approve comment” and when I clicked on it it said “already approved”. Well I didn’t approve it and they showed up anyway so I have no idea what’s going on or why you got that message.

      Maybe stemella got the same email and approved them or something, I really don’t know. Anyhoo, doesn’t appear that anything is missing.

  12. cometman permalink*
    January 17, 2011 2:47 pm

    Some banking news. Now banks themselves are walking away from foreclosures as plummeting housing prices make it unprofitable to foreclose. Sounds like despite what the cheerleaders in the corporate media tell us, there’s still a long way to go before this bullshit is settled.

    Here’s something that might settle a few scores though – Swiss whistleblower Rudolf Elmer plans to hand over offshore banking secrets of the rich and famous to WikiLeaks.

    The offshore bank account details of 2,000 “high net worth individuals” and corporations – detailing massive potential tax evasion – will be handed over to the WikiLeaks organisation in London tomorrow by the most important and boldest whistleblower in Swiss banking history, Rudolf Elmer, two days before he goes on trial in his native Switzerland.

    British and American individuals and companies are among the offshore clients whose details will be contained on CDs presented to WikiLeaks at the Frontline Club in London. Those involved include, Elmer tells the Observer, “approximately 40 politicians”.

    ~snip~

    Elmer says he is releasing the information “in order to educate society”. The list includes “high net worth individuals”, multinational conglomerates and financial institutions – hedge funds”. They are said to be “using secrecy as a screen to hide behind in order to avoid paying tax”. They come from the US, Britain, Germany, Austria and Asia – “from all over”.

    Fuck ’em up!

  13. cometman permalink*
    January 18, 2011 1:49 pm

    Barry, shredding one campaign promise after another, seems bound and determined to prove to the American people that the fucking right wingers were right all along.

    Greenwald notes today how even Dick Cheney, now that he’s sure he won’t be facing prosecution in the US for shredding the law, has come out singing Barry’s praises regarding illegal wars, torture, extraordinary rendition, etc. Uncle Dick finally got Barry’s mind right – The vindication of Dick Cheney.

    Moving on to economic policy, Bushwa Barry wants to make sure corporations aren’t hindered by any pesky regulations and he isn’t willing to wait for Congress to make changes but plans to issue an executive order for some vague regulatory overhaul.

    In an article published in the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Obama said he intends to issue an executive order initiating a review to “make sure we avoid excessive, inconsistent and redundant regulation,” focusing on rules that “stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive.” He also suggested future regulations must do their job “while promoting economic growth.”

    Sounds to me like any regulation that might cost a too big too fail company a nickel or two is out the window.

    (Side note: Isn’t it just hilarious how Barry had to wait for Congress and wait for the military brass and wait for the mailman, the milkman, and just about everybody else to weigh in before moving to repeal the egregious DADT policy but when it comes time to do the bidding of the Blankfeins of the world he jumps as soon as he’s told how high?)

    As a result of this kind of abject stupidity, it appears that Bill Black still finds it necessary to repeat once again that it was lack of regulation that caused all these problems in the first place and caused millions to lose their jobs.

    The anti-regulators subverted the rule of law and allowed elite frauds to loot with impunity. Why isn’t the new House leadership investigating that disgrace as one of their top priorities? Why is the new House leadership so eager to repeat the job killing mistakes of taking the regulatory cops off their beat?

    I’ve read much the same article from Black on numerous occasions over the past few years. I imagine he’ll keep writing it until somebody decides to fucking listen.

  14. cometman permalink*
    January 18, 2011 1:59 pm

    And speaking of regulation, the Goldies were once again trying to avoid the spirit of the law by pushing forward with an offering of Facebook stock to its preferred clientele. Now they have decided to make the investment opportunity available only to foreign investors. Check out the first bit –

    Goldman Sachs Group Inc. slammed the door on U.S. clients hoping to invest in a private offering of shares in Facebook Inc., because it said the intense media spotlight left the deal in danger of violating U.S. securities laws.

    Uh, it wasn’t the media spotlight that put the deal in violation of US laws, it was the goddamned illegal deal they were setting up. But we can’t expect the WSJ to portray it that way, ie honestly. Privately held companies can’t issue stock the same way publicly held ones can under current US law and the Goldies were trying to sidestep that pretty clear directive with some clever accounting and shell companies.

    Yves Smith tears into the Goldiesand by extension the lax regulators here with an argument I found quite clever –

    …perversely, Goldman’s truthiness is an accurate account of the real state of affairs. Goldman sees that securities regs operate in the world of Schrodinger’s cat, where legality is in an indeterminate state until someone takes the trouble to look. And that remains true of what happened during much of the crisis.

    ~snip~

    So the corollary of the Goldman uncertainty principle is: make anything so complicated that mere mortals are deterred from understanding a product or a business practice, and no one will open the box wide enough to see whether it is legal or not.

  15. cometman permalink*
    January 18, 2011 2:37 pm

    Interesting article from Foreign Policy on the recent uprising in Tunisia – Why Tunisia’s Revolution Is Islamist-Free.

    The answer seems to be the the former US-backed regime had all the Islamists exiled, jailed, or killed.

    So the question is what will fill the vacuum now? The author of the following article who sounds like they are Tunisian says there are two options. Either the military will retake control with a new leader and things will go on much as before or the people can continue to work towards a new government –Tunisians must dismantle the monster Ben Ali built.

    In the aftermath of Ben Ali’s era, the Tunisian scene is divided between two strategies. The first involves a recycling of the old regime with a few cosmetic amendments. That is the strategy of the so-called “unity government”, announced by Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi today, a man who had served for years under the fallen dictator. It excludes the real forces on the ground, which genuinely reflect the Tunisian political landscape: independent socialists, Islamists and liberals. The unity government seems intent on turning the clock back, behaving as if the revolution had never been, reinstalling the loathed ruling party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), with all the same faces – bar Ben Ali’s, of course – and the same security machine. That is why protests have erupted again in many cities, with “Ben Ali out” changed to “RCD out”.

    The alternative strategy – and the task now facing the Tunisian people – is to build a wide coalition of the forces that can dismantle the legacy of the despotic post-colonial state and bring about the change their people have been yearning for decades. This has been the driving force for the alliance being forged between the Communist Workers’ Party, led by Hamma al-Hammami, the charismatic Moncef al-Marzouqi’s Congress Party for the Republic, and Ennahda, led by my father Rachid Ghannouchi, along with trade unionists, and civil society activists.

  16. cometman permalink*
    January 19, 2011 2:51 pm

    More on Tunisia and related issues-

    Democracy Now! has an excellent interview with Juan Cole regarding the uprising (and the horrendous coverage the story received in the corporate media) –

    Egyptian activists are urging Egyptians to take to the streets next week to protest the rule of Mubarak.

    This Rawstory article suggests that former IAEA chief Mohamed El-Baradei was also calling for street action –

    The US branch of the National Association for Change, an umbrella group of activists led by former IAEA chief Mohamed El-Baradei, issued a statement on Tuesday “urging all Egyptians to take to the streets on January 25th to protest the deteriorating conditions caused by the dictatorial Mubarak regime.”

    The message places El-Baradei — a prominent figure in the international community since his role in Iraqi weapons inspections in 2002 and 2003 — in virtually direct conflict with President Hosni Mubarak, who is generally considered an ally of Washington and whose government receives billions in US aid yearly.

    -however that may be due to some sloppy reporting because in this article El-Baradei issues a warning to Egypt but doesn’t directly call for street action –

    The Egyptian dissident Mohamed ElBaradei has warned of a “Tunisia-style explosion” in his country as self-immolation protests proliferated and anti-government activists announced plans for a nationwide “day of anger” next week.

    But the former UN nuclear weapons chief stopped short of calling on his supporters to take to the streets, prompting scathing criticism from opposition campaigners who believe ElBaradei is squandering a rare opportunity to bring an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s three decades of autocratic rule.

    Hard to tell if El-Baradei is just doing a little CYA in that Guardian article or what. You’d have to think that if Mubarak were being forced out by protesters hitting the streets, El-baradei wouldn’t suddenly ask them all to go home.

  17. cometman permalink*
    January 19, 2011 3:03 pm

    Some links –

    Looks like we won’t have Droopy Dawg to kick around anymore. Make sure you don’t get a jowl caught in the door on your way out of the Senate, douchebag.

    This seems a little strange – now that Baby Doc has come back for a visit, Haiti is putting him up on corruption charges. Appropriate, but strange. Why would he come back at all if this was what were likely to happen? Maybe he’s hoping he still has some allies left there (or in the US) who haven’t rallied to his cause yet? Guess we’ll see…

    And the slime oozing out from your TV set just got a little oozier as the FCC and the “Justice” Dept. approve the Comcast merger. Looks like Barry isn’t wasting any time at all getting rid of those pesky regulations.

    • artemis54 permalink
      January 20, 2011 12:05 pm

      Ha! Maybe Droops and Sarah can open a graduate school in self-aggandizement. Now he’s comparing himself to JFK.

      • cometman permalink*
        January 20, 2011 1:13 pm

        Are you shitting me?!?!?! And I suppose she’s the new Susan B. Anthony or something…

  18. cometman permalink*
    January 19, 2011 3:31 pm

    Financial notes –

    Backdoor bailouts continue unabated. Look who is going to rake in huge fees to sell Uncle Sugar’s shares of AIG

    AIG chose Bank of America Corp (BAC.N), Deutsche Bank AG (DBKGn.DE), Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) and JPMorgan Chase Co (JPM.N) to lead the sale of part of the government’s stake and primary offering of shares.

    ~snip~

    The banks will ultimately split a fee capped at 75 basis points of the deal’s value and likely to end up closer to 50 basis points, sources have said. On a $15 billion deal the lower value would equal $75 million — far less than banks usually expect on a deal this size.

    Boo fucking hoo. $75 mil isn’t exactly chump change. My question is, if these banks’ services are actually necessary for some unknown reason, considering the billions they’ve already received through the AIG bailout at taxpayer expense, why aren’t they required to do this for free as a condition of being bailed out?!?!?!?!?! Ratfuckers.

    Remember that the Dodd-Frank financial “reform” didn’t have too many concrete stipulations in it but the details were to be worked out later (once industry insiders were invited to put in their $.02) So now they’re trying to figure out what to do about the so-called “Volcker rule” that would ban banks from proprietary trading (aka dumping the shit they own themselves off on the rubes, or as they prefer to call them, clients). If the following is any guide, not surprisingly they are all trying to figure out how to completely ignore the Volcker rule while making it look like they aren’t . This part is key –

    In its Volcker-rule study, the council said it “strongly supports the robust implementation” of the regulation and recommends that regulators consider requiring banks “to sell or wind down all impermissible proprietary trading desks.”

    The study’s language on market-making activities, which are permitted, “was even more positive than industry was expecting,” Jaret Seiberg, a financial-services policy analyst with MF Global in Washington, said in a research note. While banks can’t use market-making to conduct proprietary trading, the study appears to let them “engage in market-making activities without worry that miscalculating customer demand would result in large penalties,” he said.

    Market-making is what these assholes are supposed to be doing, matching buyers with sellers and keeping the markets liquid. This sure makes it sound like that if the bank just happens to find a potential buyer for XYZ shares and the bank just happens to have some of its own XYZ shares to sell and just happens to sell its own shares at a handsome profit to that buyer, all will be forgiven, even though this is precisely what prop-trading is. Motherfuckers.

    Dean Baker with more on the coming cuts to SS benefits. Fucking father rapers.

    James K Galbraith takes the opposite approach to the Catfood Commission and suggests cutting the retirement age and paying people to work less. Hear Hear!!!!!

  19. cometman permalink*
    January 19, 2011 3:43 pm

    Here are a couple regarding higher education. The second especially is worth reading in its entirety.

    A new study shows that many college students are not learning to think critically

    An unprecedented study that followed several thousand undergraduates through four years of college found that large numbers didn’t learn the critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication skills that are widely assumed to be at the core of a college education.

    Many of the students graduated without knowing how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument or objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event, according to New York University sociologist Richard Arum, lead author of the study. The students, for example, couldn’t determine the cause of an increase in neighborhood crime or how best to respond without being swayed by emotional testimony and political spin.

    Sounds about right to me. Did have a small quibble with this part –

    Combining the hours spent studying and in class, students devoted less than a fifth of their time each week to academic pursuits. By contrast, students spent 51 percent of their time — or 85 hours a week — socializing or in extracurricular activities.

    Again, that sounds about right to me judging by my own hours spent in college, but the implication seems to be that hours spent socializing, etc., don’t improve critical thinking. IMO a good argument can be made that those activities can contribute to critical thinking. I learned quite a bit about the world from hanging out with different types of people in college that I never encountered in the small town where I grew up, even if some of the lessons I learned didn’t sink in for a few years.

    Interesting note, which also sounds about right to me –

    Students who majored in the traditional liberal arts — including the social sciences, humanities, natural sciences and mathematics — showed significantly greater gains over time than other students in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills.

    That segues nicely into the next article which explains why this is occurring. Hint: it’s the corporations, stupid. Small snippet –

    Memories of the university as a citadel of democratic learning have been replaced by a university eager to define itself largely in economic terms. As the center of gravity shifts away from the humanities and the notion of the university as a public good, university presidents ignore public values while refusing to address major social issues and problems.(3) Instead, such administrators now display corporate affiliations like a badge of honor, sit on corporate boards and pull in huge salaries. A survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that “19 out of 40 presidents from the top 40 research universities sat on at least one company board.”(4) Rather than treated as a social investment in the future, students are now viewed by university administrators as a major source of revenue for banks and other financial institutions that provide funds for them to meet escalating tuition payments.

  20. artemis54 permalink
    January 20, 2011 1:06 pm

    CBD issues Obama’s half term report card: C-

    The details

    • cometman permalink*
      January 20, 2011 1:19 pm

      Hmmm. I’m surprised they graded him that high. A lot of the positives they give him are for less than concrete measures – nonbinding recommendations, “initial” positive decisions which may change, and judging by his track record, likely will, proposals which aren’t final yet, etc.

      Based on the actual results of his bad decisions like those regarding offshore drilling, I’d give him a D- , and that’s only because nobody else has been that great either and it’s necessary to grade on a curve.

  21. cometman permalink*
    January 20, 2011 1:29 pm

    Some science news –

    Researchers have created a robotic knifefish. A video report –

    Astronomers with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey have released the largest color map of the night sky yet. Click on the links at the Sloan website to see the maps. Neat-O!

    And, a little while back I mentioned some news pertaining to Type Ia supernovas that could effect how galactic distances are calculated. haven’t seen anything new on that particular front yet, but there is a new development regarding Cepheid variables which are other objects astronomers use to calculate intergalactic distances. Researchers with the Spitzer telescope have found that the standard candle is not so standard after all

    Astronomers have turned up the first direct proof that “standard candles” used to illuminate the size of the universe, termed Cepheids, shrink in mass, making them not quite as standard as once thought. The findings, made with NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, will help astronomers make even more precise measurements of the size, age and expansion rate of our universe.

    Standard candles are astronomical objects that make up the rungs of the so-called cosmic distance ladder, a tool for measuring the distances to farther and farther galaxies. The ladder’s first rung consists of pulsating stars called Cepheid variables, or Cepheids for short. Measurements of the distances to these stars from Earth are critical in making precise measurements of even more distant objects. Each rung on the ladder depends on the previous one, so without accurate Cepheid measurements, the whole cosmic distance ladder would come unhinged.

    Now, new observations from Spitzer show that keeping this ladder secure requires even more careful attention to Cepheids. The telescope’s infrared observations of one particular Cepheid provide the first direct evidence that these stars can lose mass-or essentially shrink. This could affect measurements of their distances.

    “We have shown that these particular standard candles are slowly consumed by their wind,” said Massimo Marengo of Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, lead author of a recent study on the discovery appearing in the Astronomical Journal. “When using Cepheids as standard candles, we must be extra careful because, much like actual candles, they are consumed as they burn.”

  22. cometman permalink*
    January 20, 2011 1:47 pm

    News from the justice front –

    Common Cause is asking the “Justice” Dept. to investigate a potential conflict of interest with Scalia and Thomas regarding the Citizen’s United case which if successful could overturn that decision by invalidating their votes.

    When the conservative financier Charles Koch sent out invitations for a political retreat in Palm Springs later this month, he highlighted past appearances at the gathering of “notable leaders” like Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court.

    A leading liberal group is now trying to use that connection to argue that Mr. Scalia and Mr. Thomas should disqualify themselves from hearing campaign finance cases because they may be biased toward Mr. Koch, a billionaire who has been a major player in financing conservative causes.

    The group, Common Cause, filed a petition with the Justice Department on Wednesday asking it to investigate potential conflicts by Justices Scalia and Thomas and move for their disqualification from the landmark Citizens United case, in which the court last year lifted a ban on corporate spending on political campaigns.

    While I’d love to see it happen, based on the way “Justice” operates lately and the fact that these asshats have refused to recuse themselves even when conflicts of interest have been readily apparent, well, good luck with that.

    A new case also regarding “corporate personhood” is going before the Supremes. AT&T is trying to avoid releasing some billing information that could be used in a government investigation against them, claiming they have the exact same privacy rights as an individual and shouldn’t be required to cough up the details. After Citizen’s United, the old saw about not needing a weatherman comes to mind…

    But there is a little actual justice to be found today as after a decades long investigation of torture by the Chicago PD, rotten Chicago cop Jon Burge was found guilty on all counts. Here’s hoping he rots in prison for the rest of his days.

  23. cometman permalink*
    January 20, 2011 1:54 pm

    The teabagger House has managed to overturn Barry’s health care “reform”, for all the wrong reasons of course. As stupid, hypocritical, and as colossal of a waste of time as this is, credit where credit is due – the GOP actually did what they said they would do and didn’t wring their hands looking for a stupid compromise for months on end. We might have had at least a public option by now had the Dems been willing to so the same.

    But, since the national Dems are so feckless, vermont is still pushing forward with it’s own single payer plan. New details here.

  24. artemis54 permalink
    January 20, 2011 2:07 pm

    This ought to frost your tentacles: Gates said today he thinks Droopy would make a great SecDef. Jowls of mass destruction? This is just the kind of imbecile move you can count on Obama pulling.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 20, 2011 2:14 pm

      Heh. The missing ingredient to bring peace to the Middle East!

      I shouldn’t joke though because if Gates is saying it, it may mean he is on the way out and Barry does love himself some Droopy.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 20, 2011 2:17 pm

      Here’s a much better appointment for the Drooper. Make him the new ambassador to Australia and have him tour their flooded areas. I’m sure the hungry bullsharks roaming the flooded streets won’t bother him at all. I’d even personally purchase him a pair of hip waders.

  25. cometman permalink*
    January 20, 2011 2:28 pm

    One last somewhat ominous note today. The Fed will begin doing some creative accounting of its own books so they will never appear insolvent even when they are. Great.

    Following on recent speculation that the Fed could in theory have a equity capital deficiency due to its massive asset book, and its tiny equity buffer, both discussed many times previously on Zero Hedge (here and here), the Fed recently announced as part of its January 6 H.4.1 release “an important accounting policy change with the release of its weekly H.4.1 report on January 6 that effectively prevents it from facing a negative capital position even in the event that it incurs substantial losses.” Here is how Bank of America’s Priya Misra explains this curious, and most certainly politically-motivated development: “The Fed remits most of its net earnings on a weekly basis. Prior to this accounting change, any unremitted earnings due to the Treasury would accrue in the “Other capital” account, but will now be shown in a separate liability line item called “Interest on Federal Reserve notes due to the Treasury.” As a result, any future losses the Fed may incur will now show up as a negative liability (negative interest due to Treasury) as opposed to a reduction in Fed capital, thereby making a negative capital situation technically impossible regardless of the size of the Fed’s balance sheet or how the FOMC chooses to tighten policy.”

    The BofA person later mentioned this little tidbit –

    Similarly, the Fed could face capital losses if it were to sell securities below their original purchase price.

    Like most people, I’m a bit confused as to what assets the Fed actually holds these days, but it sure sounds like that last part might be referring to some of those “toxic” assets nobody seems to be able to locate (or want to purchase). So the Fed is either going to have to hold them and keep claiming they’re worth a lot more than they are since there is no mark-to-market accounting (and I’d imagine as time goes on fewer people are going to fall for that ruse), or they’re going to unload them at a substantial loss if not write them off all together. And now they can just cook the books to make it look like everything is just peachy.

    Another year or two and it may be cheaper to wipe our butts with dollar bills than to buy toilet paper.

  26. cometman permalink*
    January 21, 2011 2:37 pm

    Mentioned above only half in jest that it was not apparent whether Hugo Chavez had started hiring body doubles in the aftermath of their new announcement of huge oil reserves. Judging by the following article on new plans for Latin America coming from the Republican controlled house, maybe he better get on that – The Empire Strikes Back: The Republicans Target Latin America .

    Rep. Lleana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl), a long-time hawk on Cuba and leftist regimes in Venezuela and Bolivia, is the new chair of the powerful House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the rightist Rep. Connie Mack (D-Fl) heads up the House subcommittee on Western Hemisphere affairs. Ros-Lethinen is already preparing hearings aimed at Venezuela and Bolivia, and Mack will try to put the former on the State Department’s list of countries sponsoring terrorism.

    Ros-Lehtinen plans to target Venezuela’s supposed ties to Middle East terrorist groups and Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and to push for economic sanctions against Venezuela’s state-owned oil company and banks. “It will be good for congressional subcommittees to start talking about [President of Venezuela Hugo] Chavez, about [President of Bolivia Evo] Morales, about issues that have not been talked about,” she told the Miami Herald.

  27. cometman permalink*
    January 21, 2011 2:57 pm

    Various notes on various subjects –

    Now Aristide is seeking to return to Haiti. Funny (not in the ha ha way) how he can’t just show up there like Baby Doc did….

    Blackwater founder and murderous douchebag Erik Prince is looking to set up shop in Somalia. What could possibly go wrong!!?!?!?!?!?!

    Don’t hear much about the goings on in Iraq these days now that Barry has “fixed” that country, yet somehow hundreds of people still keep getting blown to smithereeens.

    Gulet Mohamed, the teenager who had been held in Kuwait and claims to have been tortured has made it back to the US.

    This article about the little noticed tax benefit trickling down upon us all kind of pisses me off. If you didn’t already know, you’d have to read quite a bit of the article before finding out that this wasn’t really a “tax cut” but a reduction in the amount you are paying into Social Security. no mention whatsoever that this reduction will likely not be temporary and will probably negatively effect how much people get when they retire, if anyone will be allowed to retire once the clowns in DC get done with their austerity measures. Then there’s the focus on how this will help the economy [read: rich motherfuckers who run big corporations] with little regard for how the average citizen may fare as a result –

    “What tax cut are you talking about?’’ asked Michael Berry, a 43-year-old Princeton University professor traveling through Boston.

    That is exactly the reaction many economists were hoping for, said Bill Gale, codirector of the Tax Policy Center, a think tank in Washington. The tax cut was designed to get consumers to spend when the economy needs it. Returning money in barely noticeable increments, rather than sizeable one-time payments, makes it less likely people will sock it away in savings.

    God forbid people actually hold onto a little of their wealth for a rainy day. Much better to boost Starbucks stock and buy that extra cup or two of coffee again and keep the Ponzi economy humming.

    You’d think maybe an across the board wage increase might be a way to both increase tax revenue, give more money for people to spend, and allow them to save some as well. You might think that, but judging by his most recent appointment to head his new economic advisory council, Barry begs to differ. Rather than appointing a labor leader or so anyone who can tell their ass from a whole in the ground, here’s Barry’s pick –

    The White House will announce a new economic advisory council on Friday, one that will be headed by Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO and chairman of General Electric.

    “Because we still have a long way to go to get Americans back to work and strengthen our economy, the President will announce on Friday that he will sign a new Executive Order creating a new board, the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, which will have a new composition and new mission as we move to a new phase in our economic recovery,” a White House statement said.

    That’s right, another fat cat CEO. And no mention in that CNN article whatsoever that GE, which has a huge finance arm, was also the recipient in billions of dollars worth of bailout money to keep their shitshow afloat.

  28. cometman permalink*
    January 21, 2011 3:05 pm

    Despite all the continuing crappy news, I did get to read stories this week on two of my favorite subjects. Animals eating humans was already covered above with the potential for shark attacks in Australian streets.

    And today I ran across the following excellent article on art forgery. Pretty unique in that the forger just donates his work to unsuspecting galleries without looking for any financial gain and nobody can figure out what to arrest him for. If they could figure out where he went.

    Museums and universities across the US are being targeted by a suspected art forger who has tried to donate works, complete with auction house records, that the museums now believe to be fakes. In September, a man posing as a Jesuit priest, visited the Hilliard University Art Museum in Lafayette, Louisiana, and tried to donate a work that the museum says was a skillful forgery.

    Research into his previous donations at other museums has uncovered a history of what appear to be fraudulent gifts going back 20 years.

    Last month, Mark Tullos, the director of the Hilliard museum, emailed colleagues about fake donations. The email was circulated on the Museum Security Network and the American Association of Museums Registrar’s Committee listservs. According to Tullos, a man dressed as a Jesuit priest came to the museum wanting “to donate a painting in honour of his late mother. [He had] an elaborate story about his Philadelphia family—their patronage to museums. He brought an American impressionist painting he purported to be by Charles Courtney Curran with what appeared to be proof of provenance.”

    Tullos said the man, calling himself Father Arthur Scott, first wrote to him on what appeared to be church letterhead. On Tullos’ invitation, Father Scott paid a visit. “He got out of a red Cadillac dressed like a priest, with the collar and pin,” said Tullos. The museum accepted the painting, issued a receipt, and Father Scott “blessed us in the parking lot” and left, said Tullos.

    Now that is priceless!

    • artemis54 permalink
      January 21, 2011 3:20 pm

      Enjoy: Fox shoots hunter

  29. artemis54 permalink
    January 21, 2011 3:28 pm

    I may need treatment. I’m structuring the day now so that I can watch the beginning of Beck’s show. It really is the funniest thing on tv. I haven’t laughed so much since Carol Burnett.

    Today he is pulling out his shirttails to show the various tags he claims to have sewn in himself. One is some sort of merit badge he gave himself – I guess for uncovering the conspiracy that has obscured the true nature of the Enlightenment, which was really all about the direct apprehension of god OR SOMETHING. Another is about the nine principles and 11 ingredients in the secret sauce OR SOMETHING.

    Somehow Van Jones is in there too. This guy meditates 24/7 on the evil that is Van Jones.

    Anyway, the tags will come in handy if he gets lost out on the high desert range herding and shooting his cattle.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 22, 2011 9:13 am

      Still never actually watched Beck’s show except for clips from it used by others to make fun of the guy. Maybe I should give it a try once to get the full effect. Might be fun to try with the folks around this weekend since my mother has already been caught trying to tune in Fox news at my house.

      But is he really funnier than these guys? :)

      Remember watching that show as a kid with the family busting a gut watching Harvey Korman trying not to laugh. Don’t know if I’ve laughed so hard at any TV show since either.

      • sisdevore permalink
        January 22, 2011 12:34 pm

        I don’t have tv so I only know beck from the clips. But maybe the show is something that would be even more hilarious under the influence of drugs. “hey let’s get stoned and watch glenn beck”

        • artemis54 permalink
          January 22, 2011 8:00 pm

          When I was in college, it was a regular sunday morning thing to gather, get stoned, and watch Kathryn Kuhlman – I Believe in Miracles (because, whispered tone, I believe in God). Innocents as we were, she seemed ridiculous, a dinosaur. She was just a little ahead of her time.

          • cometman permalink*
            January 22, 2011 9:28 pm

            Ha! We used to watch a lot of Star Trek after our attitude adjustments which was a big treat for me because I’d never seen it before. That and The Warriors which has got to be in the top 5 best campy B-movies ever made. There was one guy named in our crowd named Warren Weiner, who looked and acted exactly as you’d expect someone named Warren Weiner would. There’s one scene where after the gang leader is shot, somebody in the crowd shouts out “Who killed Cyrus?” and we’d all yell out “Warren Weiner killed Cyrus!!!!” which we found hilarious. But maybe you had to be there….

        • cometman permalink*
          January 22, 2011 9:18 pm

          I’m in! What time is Beck on? :)

  30. artemis54 permalink
    January 23, 2011 12:51 pm

    The guy never shuts the fuck up

  31. artemis54 permalink
    January 23, 2011 11:40 pm

    RIP Jack Lalanne, 96

    With all the bs constantly flowing around diets and lifestyles, it is pretty hard to argue with results that included being more healthy and more active well into his nineties than many people are in their forties. Daily exercise, an avoidance of processed foods, heavy on the raw vegetables and vitamins, and near-vegetarianism – although he ate some fish, he avoided red meat and even chicken.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 24, 2011 9:39 am

      Saw a little blurb on the TV about him yesterday. He did look awfully damn good for 90 +

      Reminds me to start buying bread from the local bakery rather than the processed crap at the grocery store. Recently found out we have a pretty nice bakery not too far away.

      Still going to eat the T-bones from the uncle’s farm that the folks brought by this weekend though :)

  32. cometman permalink*
    January 24, 2011 2:01 pm

    Couple of science notes –

    The kilo has been losing weight over the years and scientists are now attempting to redifine the kilo in non-physical terms.

    At the moment, the international standard for the kilo — the equivalent of around 2.2 pounds — is a chunk of metal, under triple lock-and-key in France since 1889.

    But scientists became concerned about the cylinder of platinum and iridium housed at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Sevres, near Paris, after discovering it had mysteriously lost a tiny amount of weight.

    Experts at the institute revealed in 2007 that the metal chunk is 50 micrograms — 0.0000017 ounces — lighter than the average of several dozen copies, meaning it had lost the equivalent of a small grain of sand.

    They are now searching for a non-physical way of defining the kilo, which would bring it in line with the six other base units that make up the International System of Units (SI).

    Other researchers have succeeded in using light to control the behavior of nematode worms.

    Physicists and bioengineers have developed an optical instrument allowing them to control the behavior of a worm just by shining a tightly focused beam of light at individual neurons inside the organism.

    ~snip~

    “This optical instrument allows us to commandeer the nervous system of swimming or crawling nematodes using pulses of blue and green light — no wires, no electrodes,” says Aravinthan D.T. Samuel, a professor of physics and affiliate of Harvard’s Center for Brain Science. “We can activate or inactivate individual neurons or muscle cells, essentially turning the worm into a virtual biorobot.”

    Thinking of the potential applications of something like this and not many of them are good.

  33. cometman permalink*
    January 24, 2011 2:22 pm

    Now 78 year-old Frances Piven is receiving death threats from Beck viewers. I’d imagine she isn’t the only object of his ranting who has received this treatment.

    But this little bit in the article was something I hadn’t heard before –

    His litany of outrageous comments and often completely fabricated narratives led many advertisers to stop supporting his program and at one point last year his show found itself without even a single underwriter in Britain, where it has been kept on the air nearly 11 months with no advertisers.

    Here’s more from StopBeck.com.

    So what does that say about Murdoch and Ailes if they’re willing to flush money down the toilet for this buffoon? Is Beck that effective of a propagandist that the money they lose on his show can be made back by his influence on the political class, getting them to pass favorable legislation for Fox? The political class has been doing favors for Rupert for a lot longer than Beck’s been around. Hard to believe Beck is that useful of an idiot.

  34. cometman permalink*
    January 24, 2011 2:39 pm

    Some notes –

    IIRC, we had mentioned in passing not long ago that recent measures by the TSA wouldn’t prevent jack shit if somebody wanted to blow something up outside a security area where there were still lots of people. So this can’t be good – Deadly blast at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport. The key bit –

    Sergey Brilev, a journalist and member of Russia’s Council on Defense and Foreign Policy, told RT it is not by chance that part of the airport was chosen.

    “If you go through security control at Domodedovo Airport, if you’re about to fly, you have to pass through security,” he pointed out. “Here they organized the whole thing in an area which is not normally checked in any airport anywhere in the word – that is, the waiting area, where people wait for those passengers who arrive.”

    So what next, armed guards patting everyone down as soon as they leave their homes?

    More protests in Tunisia, as the citizenry decides they don’t much care for the latest replacement either. Go get ’em! Interesting to note that protests are spreading to Algeria and Yemen as well.

    The protests in Yemen appeared to be the first of their kind. The nation’s 23 million citizens have many grievances: they are the poorest people in the Arab world, the government is widely seen as corrupt and is reviled for its alliance with the United States in fighting Al Qaida, there are few political freedoms and the country is rapidly running out of water.

    It’ll be interesting to see how things in Yemen especially play out, considering how that government is so keen on helping out Uncle Sugar.

    The corporate media didn’t mention it when mentioning GE CEO Immelt’s new job with Barry, but here a good article explaining how GE was bailed out with billions of dollars. Also nice for the smackdown of Joke Line, which I always enjoy.

    And more on bird deaths. Seems there was another round in S. Dakota but this time the USDA admits it was due to culling on their part but not until after a local reporter got on the air speculating about the cause.

    Still not buying the official explanation of the Arkansas deaths though. Too many conflicting reports to be believable without more info.

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