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old dude, all hair, swell new teeth

31 July 2005

odds for finding a blue lobster: 1 in 2,000,000

DespicableTeacher wrote:

Ain't he cute??


Posted 19 August 2003
Sea Sabres Scuba Diving club, Southern California

Come see a blue lobster!
He's one in 2,000,000

NEW CASTLE, N.H. -- A rare blue lobster has been caught off the New Hampshire coast. Ricker Lobster Company said the lobster was caught Saturday off the Isles of Shoals. The company plans to give it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye.

Two years ago, another blue lobster turned up about 80 miles off the coast of Kittery. The odds of finding a blue lobster are about one in 2 million.

Another article from 6 February 2001

Seabrook Station's Science & Nature Center is the new home for Chilly Willy, a very rare blue lobster. Marine scientists believe a genetic condition causes the blue pigmentation, seen in only about one in 2,000,000 lobsters.

The male blue lobster came from the Gulf of Maine where a lobsterman pulled him up in a trap. Originally, the lobster was donated to the Children's Museum in Portland, Maine, but because of his aggressiveness, a new home had to be found. Now Willy has found a permanent home at the Science & Nature Center. Please stop by soon and visit with our new blue friend.

30 July 2005

Shareef don't like it! He says it's not Kosher! ROCK the Casbah! ROCK the Casbah!


Dear Rabbi,

I'm Jewish. All my life I've wanted to travel around in Outer Space. Does this present any special problems or conflicts?

"Flash" Merkin
Ciudad Vleeptron


Dear "Flash",

Oy vey! You don't know the half of it! Got a few minutes?

The Rabbi

^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

posted 17 January 2003

We're Jews, Jews in space...

Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, blasted off from Cape Canaveral yesterday aboard a 16-day space shuttle mission. This is a momentous event for Israel, but the halachically minded - which may or may not include Col. Ramon - will instantly see the difficulty: a sixteen-day period includes at least two Saturdays. When, exactly, does Shabbat begin in space - and is the picture complicated by the fact that "sunset" on the Space Shuttle will occur approximately every ninety minutes?

As luck would have it, this question was answered last June by Rabbi David Golinkin of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. (At the time, Ramon was scheduled to blast off in July, so the issue was a timely one.) In his Responsum Regarding Space Travel, Rabbi Golinkin noted the lack of prior authority on the subject:

In 1982, Rabbi Bezalel Stern of Vienna published a brief responsum regarding the proper time for prayer, Shabbat and festivals on a spaceship. He concluded by saying that "this is not currently an issue of halakhah l'ma'aseh (practical halakhah) but only of research for the sake of knowledge. Therefore, this brief note is sufficient for now." In 1980, Rabbi Solomon Freehof (1892-1990) also thought that this was a theoretical question. Twenty years have passed and this is now a question of halakhah l'ma'aseh.

Before he could get to Shabbat and festival times, however, Rabbi Golinkin had to determine whether space travel itself was permissible. He concluded that it was, "as long as the motive is research and investigation and not to challenge God's authority in the universe." (Prior discussion, not surprisingly, had centered on the fall of the Tower of Babel, which represented mankind's first attempt to "ascend to the heavens." Interestingly enough, though, there doesn't seem to have been any discussion of the significance of Genesis 1:28, which gives human beings dominion over the earth. I suppose that won't come into play until people start thinking about establishing space colonies, although the "research and investigation" requirement would also seem to rule out permanent habitations. Orthodox Jewish science fiction authors, take note.)

Rabbi Golinkin then made two conclusions: that kashruth was required in space (an obligation which, he noted, was made possible by the use of pre-packaged kosher foods in the military), and that Jewish astronauts are required to observe Shabbat and the festivals. But when?

The rabbi rejected the two most extreme positions - that space travel was entirely forbidden because of uncertainty about festival times, or that observance should be excused entirely. He also discounted the idea that each orbit should be counted as a day: "an astronaut who prays three times every ninety minutes and observes Shabbat every nine hours will indeed be exhausted... and unable to perform any of his duties [and] the purpose of Shabbat is to rest after six 24-hour days of work and not every nine hours!" His ruling, instead, was that "Jewish astronauts should observe Shabbat, festivals and daily prayer according to local time in Houston." His reasons:

1. Simple logic. All astronauts set their watches by Houston time. Otherwise they would spend all of their time in space changing the time on their watches as Rabbi Sheloosh would require.

2. Secondly, we have a classic source for dealing with a similar situation. We have learned in Shabbat 69b: "A person lost in the desert who doesn't know when it is Shabbat, counts six days and rests on the seventh". In other words, when you are in a place where normal time divisions don't exist, you arbitrarily adopt a method for observing Shabbat after six 24-hour days.

3. Finally, we have a clear precedent for Shabbat in space, as already hinted above. Since the eighteenth century, rabbis have discussed how to observe Shabbat in "inner America", Norway, Sweden, Alaska, Iceland and other areas where the sun does not rise or set for months on end. Polar days are unusually long; space days are unusually short -- but the general problem is similar.

Curiously enough, Rabbi Golinkin's ruling was somewhat inconsistent with the advice of an earlier and no less eminent authority: Sol the Answer Man of the Baltimore Jewish Times. In Do They Keep Kosher on Mars?, a collection of columns published in 1990, he discussed candle-lighting time on the moon:

Shabbat starts for Jewish tourists on the moon at the same earth time as it would start at their point of origin - Cape Canaveral, no doubt, since until recently, the Soviets have tended to fling their Jews into jail, not into space.

Rabbi Golinkin accepted the idea that Jewish astronauts should be guided by earth time, but used the Houston home base rather than Cape Canaveral as the point of reference. So the Answer Man didn't have the right answer about the halacha of space travel - but he should still get points for correctly guessing Col. Ramon's point of takeoff.

(Suggested by QS)
Posted by jonathan at January 17, 2003 08:27 AM


See what happens when we send Jews into space? The shuttles will blow up because "Yaweh" doesn't like the Jews going into space. After all, He did give humans dominion over the earth. He did not say that the Jews should be going into space.

Posted by: John Doe at March 19, 2004 11:13 AM

Replies to Various Comments 2

Jim Olson said...

Bob, I knew I liked you.

I have never liked Hilary, and I've always wanted to know what she knew about Travel-gate and Vince Foster's "suicide". Frankly, I think she's the brains behind the scene, and knew all about Travel-gate, and the Whitewater shady deal.

Thanks for the flattery, and please forgive Vleeptron for taking a little more time to reply.

Pat's Pub's query about what the heck is going on in American politics right now ... that was fairly easy to answer. Fear is very human, very understandable, and the silly or sad things people do when they're frightened out of their wits are very human.

But Hillary Clinton isn't scared, and the things she's done and the things she's doing now aren't ordinary human responses to fear and confusion.

Hillary Clinton is just a self-serving greedy acquisitive power-hungry Yuppie lawyer who's looking for any sleazy way to make herself more and more powerful, and she's never cared who else has to suffer so she can keep climbing.

Being the wife of a man who was President of the United States for (despite an unsuccessful impeachment) eight years gives her the most Name Recognition in American politics, and she's now trying to parlay her Name Recognition into the White House.

That's nice. Wanting to be President is a very American ambition.

What's not nice is that Hillary Clinton intends to do it entirely without ethics or morals or concern about the pain and suffering of anyone else on Earth -- just as she's always done everything in her public life. She also lacks any fundamental wisdom or mercy or sense of justice -- components which Bill Clinton had, to a reasonable or identifiable degree, while he was President.

I was deeply unhappy that the Democrats nominated John Kerry in 2004. There's not much reason to retro-bash him now, he lost, Bush got four more years in the White House, and the whole Planet Earth is suffering bigtime.

But while Kerry was the only realistic hope against Bush, I felt compelled to keep my big mouth shut about Kerry's gaping flaws, loopiness, inadequacy, and his bizarre attempt to resurrect his bizarre career as a U.S. Navy combat officer in the Vietnam War into something proud and heroic. He was trying, then, and in 2004, to create a War Hero Legend for himself like the World War II combat achievements of John F. Kennedy. It was part Silly, part Lies, part anti-Asian genocide, part post-Colonial Gunboat Imperialism, and All Crap.

I kept my big mouth shut throughout the Kerry Campaign -- remember the motto of all Americans of good will: ANYBODY BUT BUSH -- but it couldn't help Kerry win the presidency.

The real Villain in American politics right now is the leadership of the Democratic Party, which is addicted to picking total loser fools to run incompetently against focused and politically competent, even politically talented Republican candidates.

And it looks like they're poised to do it all over again by giving the 2008 nomination to Hillary Clinton.

I'm deeply hoping for a GOOD woman president. Electing a GOOD woman president will do miracles for maturing American politics.

But I don't have the slightest desire to see a Dangerous, Unethical Fool Scoundrel in the White House just because she'd be the first woman president. Any woman reading this who thinks differently, who thinks President Hillary would do wonders for America and wonders for women: Please Leave a Comment.

Travel-gate, Vince Foster, Whitewater -- I don't know any Inside Skinny on these controversies. But you're right to point them out, because of the systematic way Hillary Rodham Clinton steps into these shitpiles and sleazes her way out of them, so evasively, so weasely, so slippery.

Well. There are two kinds of lawyers. Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer -- and a damn successful and damn fine lawyer, too.

And then there's the Hillary Clinton kind of lawyer. An unethical lawyer who'll do unethical things for unethical people and unethical causes, as long as she gets paid lots of money, and helped along with her megalomaniacal political ambitions.

Together, Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush Jr. are the epitome of the contemporary collapse of American political leadership. In a nation which has known George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Lincoln, both Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, Harry S Truman and Jimmy Carter, this is our current Republican and Democratic leadership cesspool: George Bush and Hillary Clinton.

We're an Open Society, we're a Democratic Republic, we vote. So somehow, this must be what we wanted. These must be the scoundrels and fools we wanted.

It's just pathetic and shameful to have to believe there's nobody in either major party substantially better, wiser, more moral and more ethical, more dedicated to justice and citizens' rights, than these recent candidates and recent presidents. We've got Republican shit in the White House now, and the Democrats are promising to save America by putting their indistinguishable brand of shit in the White House in 2008.



First of all, everyone who says Pluto is NOT a planet can just bite me. Clyde Tombaugh discovered it, it revolves around Sol, our Sun, it's spherical more or less, it's solid -- so what's the problem? Pluto is the Ninth Planet.

So this new one is the Tenth Planet.

1. Mercury
2. Venus
3. Earth
4. Mars
5. Jupiter
6. Saturn
7. Uranus
8. Neptune
9. Pluto
10. Xena or Lila or

Okay okay ... first of all, temporarily, the discoverers have been calling this new planet "Xena." According to The New York Times:

Dr. [Mike] Brown [of California Institute of Technology] said they had a name they have proposed for the planet, but did not want to disclose it until it had been formally approved by the International Astronomical Union. "We have a name we really like, and we want it to stick," he said.

Informally, the astronomers have been calling it Xena after the television series about a Greek warrior princess, which was popular when the astronomers began their systematic sweep of the sky in 2000. "Because we always wanted to name something Xena," Dr. Brown said.

But Dr. Mike Brown's Website seems to be calling his team's new planet "Lila." Click on his site to see 3 photos of the tiny star-like dot which is Xena or Lila or 2003UB313.

For scientific reasons, we have posted a photo of Xena, Warrior Princess. We don't know who Lila is, and we don't have her photo.

The Mount Palomar Observatory in Southern California is the observatory where Edwin Hubble spent his career. Hubble discovered that Nebulae (fuzzy objects in the night sky) are Galaxies just like our Melkweg or Dwingeloo-2 or Dwingeloo-1. And he also discovered that The Universe Is Expanding.

from Dr. Mike Brown's Website:

Astronomers at
Palomar Observatory

Discover a 10th Planet
Beyond Pluto

The planet, with the current temporary name 2003UB313, was discovered in an ongoing survey at Palomar Observatory's Samuel Oschin telescope by astronomers Mike Brown (Caltech), Chad Trujillo (Gemini Observatory), and David Rabinowitz (Yale University). We have proposed a name to the IAU and will announce it when that name is accepted.

It is bigger than Pluto!!!

Usually when we find these we don't know their size for certain, only lower limits. The lower limit to this object is the size of Pluto. This object is at least the size of Pluto and likely a bit larger.

Check back for more information as we post it over the weekend.

Note that this object is NOT 2003EL61, announced yesterday by Jose Ortiz.

29 July 2005

Estimated South American beaver population 1946 - 2050

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

1. In 1946, to start a fur industry, the government of Argentina imported 50 Canadian beavers and set them loose on an island in Tierra del Fuego.

2. The beavers have no natural predators in their new habitat, and are thriving in vast forests.

3. They have already swum to adjacent islands and established new colonies. Biologists fear they will swim to the South American mainland.

4. The beavers are now multiplying at an annual rate of 20%.

year ..... beavers
1946 .......... 50
1947 .......... 60
1948 .......... 72
1949 .......... 86
1950 ......... 103
1951 ......... 124
1952 ......... 149
1953 ......... 179
1954 ......... 214
1955 ......... 257
1956 ......... 309
1957 ......... 371
1958 ......... 445
1959 ......... 534
1960 ......... 641
1961 ......... 770
1962 ......... 924
1963 ....... 1,109
1964 ....... 1,331
1965 ....... 1,597
1966 ....... 1,916
1967 ....... 2,300
1968 ....... 2,760
1969 ....... 3,312
1970 ....... 3,974
1971 ....... 4,769
1972 ....... 5,723
1973 ....... 6,868
1974 ....... 8,242
1975 ....... 9,890
1976 ...... 11,868
1977 ...... 14,242
1978 ...... 17,091
1979 ...... 20,509
1980 ...... 24,611
1981 ...... 29,533
1982 ...... 35,440
1983 ...... 42,528
1984 ...... 51,033
1985 ...... 61,240
1986 ...... 73,488
1987 ...... 88,186
1988 ..... 105,823
1989 ..... 126,988
1990 ..... 152,386
1991 ..... 182,863
1992 ..... 219,436
1993 ..... 263,323
1994 ..... 315,988
1995 ..... 379,185
1996 ..... 455,022
1997 ..... 546,027
1998 ..... 655,232
1999 ..... 786,279
2000 ..... 943,535
2001 ... 1,132,242
2002 ... 1,358,691
2003 ... 1,630,429
2004 ... 1,956,515
2005 ... 2,347,818
2006 ... 2,817,382
2007 ... 3,380,859
2008 ... 4,057,031
2009 ... 4,868,437
2010 ... 5,842,125
2011 ... 7,010,550
2012 ... 8,412,660
2013 .. 10,095,193
2014 .. 12,114,232
2015 .. 14,537,079
2016 .. 17,444,496
2017 .. 20,933,396
2018 .. 25,120,076
2019 .. 30,144,093
2020 .. 36,172,913
2021 .. 43,407,497
2022 .. 52,088,999
2023 .. 62,506,801
2024 .. 75,008,165
2025 .. 90,009,801
2026 . 108,011,766
2027 . 129,614,124
2028 . 155,536,956
2029 . 186,644,354
2030 . 223,973,234
2031 . 268,767,892
2032 . 322,521,483
2033 . 387,025,795
2034 . 464,430,972
2035 . 557,317,189
2036 . 668,780,654
2037 . 802,536,816
2038 . 963,044,218
2039 1,155,653,108
2040 1,386,783,784
2041 1,664,140,608
2042 1,996,968,809
2043 2,396,362,666
2044 2,875,635,313
2045 3,450,762,513
2046 4,140,915,180
2047 4,969,098,414
2048 5,962,918,333
2049 7,155,502,285
2050 8,586,603,083

WHO WILL WIN??? Check one: [ ] Castor canadensis [ ] Homo sapiens

Castor canadensis

New York Times News Service

Argentina Battles a Plague
of Eager Beavers

by Clifford Krauss

USHUAIA, Argentina, 3 August 1998 -- In 1946, someone in Gen. Juan Domingo Peron's navy came up with the idea of colonizing Tierra del Fuego with 25 pairs of beavers from Canada to promote the local fur industry.

Half a century later the Peronist innovation has taken a Malthusian twist and gone seriously awry. Today this snowy archipelago on the tip of South America is being overrun by the beavers.

These beavers are nothing if not eager. They have cut down hundreds of acres of forests to build dams hundreds of feet long. Their architectural wonders of branches and mud make fine tourist attractions, but they are also re-routing streams and rivers, thereby interrupting trout migrations to traditional spawning grounds. The beavers have created hundreds of artificial lakes that are flooding still more forest land and roads, threatening the livelihoods of island cattlemen and farmers.

But what scientists fear most is the possibility that Tierra del Fuego's beavers may one day manage to swim -- or be smuggled -- across the Magellan Strait and invade the South American mainland.

"They could take over the Andean forests," warned Alejandro Gonzalez, a government biologist. "They must be eliminated.''

Of all the rodents in the world, beavers still have the best reputation. They are industrious, furry and among a very few species that are monogamous. Even in Tierra del Fuego, pictures of beavers appear on postcards. But the beaver's good name has been tarnished.

"For us, the beaver isn't just some cute little creature,'' said Juan Manuel Harrington, 51, a strawberry farmer. "He's a plague whose dikes flood our forests and erode our land."

Juan Esteban Rivero, a 52-year-old hunter, said, "If I don't hunt down these beavers, the widow who lives next door will lose all her sheep and cattle from the floods created by these little animals."

The Peron government came up with many half-baked ideas that ruined the Argentine economy for decades. But at the time its beaver policy seemed perfectly sensible, since fashion-conscious women around the world draped themselves in pelts without thinking twice about animal rights.

The unintended consequences of the policy originated from one simple fact: Tierra del Fuego does not have any of the natural predators of beavers, like wolves and bears, which flourish in their original home in the Canadian wilds.

Consequently, beavers have thrived in Tierra del Fuego like nowhere else on earth.

Marta Lizarralde, a researcher at the Austral Center for Scientific Studies here, estimated that the original population of 50 beavers expanded to 2,500 by 1966, then to 30,000 by 1986, reaching an estimated 50,000 on the main island of Tierra del Fuego today. But her figures are for only the Argentine side of the island. There are tens of thousands more beavers on the Chilean side.

Having reached saturation point on the main island of the archipelago, the beavers have swum to several outlying islands and that makes biologists worry about an eventual continental invasion.

The problem is barely known outside Tierra del Fuego, but several Argentine government scientists are pressing for a beaver eradication campaign. Government environmentalists have trained scores of local hunters in the last year in modern trapping techniques and they are now distributing 1,100 new beaver traps to the local population.

Meanwhile, the Argentine Foreign Ministry is pressing the European Community to open its market to Argentine beavers as a way of raising pelt prices and providing greater incentives to trappers.

But the European market for furs has been circumscribed for years under the pressure of activists pressing for more humane treatment of animals. European animal lovers have not specifically attacked Argentine beaver trapping methods -- by global standards, the trapping of a few thousand beavers a year here is small potatoes. But their campaign against furs has had an impact here, according to Argentine government officials.

Since 1991, the United States, Canada, Russia and the European Community have been trying to negotiate an understanding on the humane trapping of animals. At the moment, the European Community has a list of 13 species, including lynx, sable and beaver, that can be imported into Europe only if caught in traps that immediately kill their prey.

Until very recently, Argentine hunters used restraining traps that broke the beavers' legs, a method prohibited by the European Community. To get around the ban, the Argentine government has spent more than $50,000 to train and supply trappers so they will hunt with modern, Canadian-designed traps that reduce animal suffering by immediately crushing the heads and throats of the captured beavers.

But late last year, the European Community ruled that it still could not permit the importation of Argentine beaver pelts because Argentina's trap-replacement program was confined to Tierra del Fuego.

Argentina refused to apply a nationwide ban. For now, the beavers are nowhere in Argentina but Tierra del Fuego. And officials said they were reluctant to ban restraining traps for beavers nationwide since those traps are still widely used in other provinces to hunt fox and coypu, which are not on Europe's restricted list and together represent up to $80 million in annual exports.

That animal rights activists in other countries would stand in the way of Argentina's campaign to halt the beaver scourge "is quite a stupid thing," said Victoria Lichtschein, director of forest fauna and flora in Argentina's Natural Resources Secretariat. "This is not a species that needs to be protected."

- 30 -

be afraid ... be very afraid ...



here comes the

§ • ø § • ø § • ø

Argentina's great
beaver plague

By Elliott Gotkine
BBC correspondent in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

At the end of the world,
a sky-blue stream sweeps down from an ice-glazed mountain on its way to the Beagle Channel.

Wild horses chomp nonchalantly on lush, green bushes. Tourists gawp at a submerged forest as a beaver glides gracefully among the trees.

This is the Argentine part of the island of Tierra del Fuego, which is shared with Chile. It looks like an ecological paradise.

But on closer inspection you realise that something isn't quite right.

"All those trees you see," says Bismark, our tour guide, as he points towards a dammed river that is now a lake, "they're all dead. And this is because of the beaver."

Inside the beaver-built body of water there are hundreds of petrified-looking trees. They are dried-out, grey and naked.

Environmental havoc

Each lake is usually formed by just two beavers. They chop down trees with their razor-sharp teeth and use them to dam rivers.

They do this to protect themselves from possible predators -- even if there aren't any -- and to give them easier access to food, primarily tree bark and other vegetation.

Now, if you consider that there are estimated to be up to 250,000 beavers on the island, you begin to get an idea of the environmental havoc being wreaked here by the world's second-largest rodent (the capybara is number one).

Yet beavers are not native to South America. Around 50 of them were introduced here from Canada in the 1940s. Argentina's then military rulers hoped that they would multiply and create a fur industry -- in earlier centuries beaver pelts were among the most valuable in the world.

The beavers certainly multiplied. But their fur was out of fashion.

With no natural predators and an abundance of food, these tree-eating herbivores thrived -- so much so, that beavers are now officially considered a plague.

Loggers fear for livelihood

Local loggers have borne the brunt of the beaver plague.

"The day will come when
they're going to be
the only ones left here."

-- Manuel Berbel

Manuel Berbel owns a timber-yard just outside the island town Tolhuin. Dressed in a red lumberjack shirt and speaking through his handlebar moustache, he told me he had been logging here for 20 years.

During that time, he has seen large chunks of his livelihood ravaged by beavers. They also pollute the water, he told me, and make roads impassable. The situation, he says, is getting worse every day.

"The number of beavers keeps growing and growing," he said, as he pointed to the land he rents from the government.

"The day's going to come when they're going to be the only ones left here and we're all going to have to leave. It will become the island of the beavers." He chuckled stoically at the thought, before continuing his anti-rodent rant.

"And I want to tell people in other countries, who say what a cute animal the beaver is, to think before introducing it. Its only natural predator is the bear. So they should have brought the bear too."

Beaver bounty

To control the population, local hunters used to be paid a beaver bounty of $1.50 for every dead rodent.

There were claims that 20,000 were killed, but little proof. So the payments were suspended last year, and the beavers are now multiplying at an annual rate of 20%.

"We've decided to launch a controlled killing campaign in some specific beaver colonies and to find possible uses for the animal's skin and meat," says Sergio Luppo, the island's top environmental official. "We want a controlled management of the population."

For some, though, beavers have been a boon.

The tourists being led by Bismark through the labyrinth of desiccated trees have paid a local travel agency more than $30 a head in the hope of snatching a glimpse of a wild beaver. In the National Park, they have a "beaver trail," and there are plans to build a second one.

There are even improbable sounding plans to harness the pent-up energy in beaver dams to extract hydro-electric power.

Most of the people here have over the years resigned themselves to sharing the island with the beavers. But there could be worse to come.

The rodents have multiplied so prodigiously that they're running out of space.

It is feared they could soon swim cross the Straits of Magellan and colonise the mainland. And if that happens, Argentina's Great Beaver Plague could go continental.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/05/02 22:54:34 GMT


What's wrong with this picture?

The cancellation stamp for mail from Tierra de los Sueños, whose postal authority is TdSPosta.

Sending mail from Tierra de los Sueños is difficult, because remembering dreams clearly upon waking is a very iffy business; all mail must successfully cross the International Waking Zone / Zona Internaçional de Vigilia.

Vleeptron PizzaQ: An old, old Question from Childhood:

What's Wrong With This Picture?

"mutant mice" attack rare birds on remote Atlantic island

Photo: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Reuters Alertnet Foundation
Alerting humanitarians to emergencies

Rare island birds
threatened by "super mice"

Tuesday 26 July 2005 10:30:43 GMT

By Ed Stoddard

JOHANNESBURG, July 26 (Reuters) - "Monster mice" are eating metre-high albatross chicks alive, threatening rare bird species on a remote south Atlantic island seen as the world's most important seabird colony.

Conservation groups say the avian massacre is occurring on Gough Island in the South Atlantic, a British territory about 1,600 kms (1,000 miles) southwest of Cape Town and home to more than 10 million birds.

"Gough Island hosts an astonishing community of seabirds and this catastrophe could make many extinct within decades," said Dr Geoff Hilton, a senior research biologist with Britain's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

"We think there are about 700,000 mice, which have somehow learnt to eat chicks alive," he said in a statement.

The island is home to 99 percent of the world's Tristan albatross and Atlantic petrel populations -- the birds most often attacked. Just 2,000 Tristan albatross pairs remain.

"The albatross chicks weigh up to 10 kg (22 lb) and ... the mice weigh just 35 grams; it is like a tabby cat attacking a hippopotamus," Hilton said.

The house mice -- believed to have made their way to Gough decades ago on sealing and whaling ships -- have evolved to about three times their normal size.

This is a common phenomenon on island habitats -- for reasons much debated among scientists -- where small animal species often grow larger while big species such as elephants display "dwarfism" and become smaller.

In the case of the mice of Gough Island, their remarkable growth seems to have been given a boost by a vast reservoir of fresh meat and protein.


The rapacious rodents gnaw into the bodies of the defenceless and flightless chicks, leaving a gaping wound that leads to an agonising death. Scientists say once one mouse attacks the blood seems to draw others to the feast.

While predation by oversized mice is unusual, birds on small islands are especially vulnerable to extinction from human activities such as the introduction of alien species.

This is because many birds that have evolved on isolated islands with no predators have become what biologists term "ecologically naive" -- meaning they do not recognise danger from other animals.

Flightless species -- or chicks that cannot yet fly -- are especially at risk. The predatory nature of the mice was confirmed by researchers from the RSPB and the University of Cape Town.

The ground-nesting Gough bunting, a small finch found nowhere else in the world, is also at risk.

Gough Island is the most southerly of the Tristan da Cunha group. There are 22 bird species nesting on the island of which 20 are seabirds.

- 30 -

Hang on to Surface of Earth! 5 months till Mozart's 250th Birthday!!!

If you have gotten the impression from many of the most recent posts that everything humans do on Earth really sucks, that happens not always to be the case.

Right now on Earth -- New York City, to be exact -- the Mostly Mozart Festival is on at Lincoln Center through Saturday 27 August.

Everything Mozart wrote didn't suck. (Hmmm ... did I say that right? How about: NOTHING Mozart wrote sucked.) And they're playing a whole bunch of his stuff at the Mostly Mozart.

But if we can all just hang on to the surface of the Earth until 2006, that will be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 250th Birthday, and no matter what else discordant, ugly, miserable, small, talentless, toxic and mean-spirited is going on, this planet will shimmer and shake for that entire year with every piece of music Mozart ever wrote.

Earth will be -- or at least Earth will sound -- beautiful for an entire year. Take my word for it.

Jeez -- I may not even bother to hop the Zeta Beam and visit my beloved Vleeptron for that entire year! I just might spend all of 2006 on Planet Earth!

^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

The New York Sun
Tuesday 26 July 2005

Classical Music
Too Much of a Good Thing


The Austrian region of Styria, which includes the city of Graz, has declared itself a "Mozart Free Zone" for the entire calendar year of 2006. Individual Styrians will still be able to listen to the works of Wolfgang in their own homes, but all public performances of this repertoire are strictly verboten. This drastic measure is a response to the anticipated orgy of events throughout the rest of the country as part of the 250th birthday celebration of the boy genius.

Already the Salzburg Festival has announced that its schedule next year will consist of presentations of all 22 Mozart operas, with the desire for encyclopedic comprehensiveness overshadowing any considerations of quality. The initial response to the festival's announcement has been extremely negative - I, for one, would not wish to spend my holiday listening to revivals of "Apollo et Hyacinthus," "L'oca del Cairo," and "Mitridate, Re di Ponto."

But there may be more to the Salzburgers' decision than meets the ear. Mozart is their own private property, featured as a tourist attraction in every incarnation from street names to candies, and this type of concentrated effort may translate less into musical scholarship and more into savvy civic self-promotion. Here I am already talking about the season an entire year in advance.

New York has its own summer festival devoted to Mozart, and this year promises to be an interesting one. Last season the big story was the marked improvement of the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra under new music director Louis Langree. Currently the emphasis is on programming, the entire proceedings christened "Arrivals and Departures: Traveling With Mozart." The premise emerges from Mozart's unsettled lifestyle. He did indeed travel quite a bit as a young performer - describing his life as that of a trained monkey - and cross-pollinated influences in many corners of musical Europe.

For me, the most promising concerts on this year's bill are those that re-create musical evenings that the wunderkind might have encountered during his peregrinations to France and Italy. The scholarly facade begins to ravel rather quickly when the planners include Russia - a nation never visited by Mozart - but that particular evening features Joshua Bell performing the Tchaikovsky concerto, so who really cares about historical accuracy?

But why is Mozart considered a festival commodity, treated annually like some eagerly awaited wine or cheese? Perhaps the most relevant reason is that so little of his music is programmed during the regular season. A sea change in Mozart performance over the past 60 years has unintentionally marginalized his great symphonic output.

Back in the day of Josef Krips or Toscanini, Mozart was approached in a full-bodied manner, as 80-piece or chestras intoned his granitic phrases with a sense of timeless import. But over the years Mozart has been downsized drastically, and not just in the rarefied gardens of the period-instrument movement.

Today it is not uncommon for a modern orchestra to stand at only 30 to 35 members for an evening of late 18th century music. Only when Beethoven arrives does everyone work again. As a result all-Mozart concerts during the main season are increasingly rare. The demise of the overture-concerto-symphony model of standard programming of the first half of the 20th century also nudged the shorter symphony off the stage.

Harder to quantify but just as real is a sense in modern society that we the people somehow "own" Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, that he is in the public domain. No composer has been so tinkered around with in music history. Wolfie himself started the tradition by improvising many of his own instrumental parts, caring little for subtleties of tessitura or human limits of intervallic locomotion -- no composer before Webern is so demanding on individual singers as Mozart -- and legend has it he scribbled parts in the orchestra pit during the first performance of "Die Zauberflote."

The 19th century marched to an advancing parade of Mozart bastardization. Both Rossini and Berlioz borrowed "soave sia il vento" for their own most splendid moments, and conductors like Mahler shuffled arias from one opera to another on a regular basis. The Metropolitan Opera has already announced that one of its contributions to the anniversary proceedings at the end of 2006 will be a shortened, English version of "The Magic Flute" - from two and a half hours to 90 minutes. Wolfgang is our boy and we can do what we want with him, including relegate his works to the languid world of the white jacket and high humidity.

Finally, there are aesthetic and stylistic reasons for the dearth of Mozart works during a normal winter season. Artur Rubinstein's comment that Mozart is too simple for children and too difficult for adults is relevant here. Many conductors, following the trend of concert halls around the world, do not dare introduce such pristine lines into the now standard, overstuffed Romantic and post-Romantic concert environment. Factor out the contemporary music that is force-fed into the mix against the audience's wishes, and the bulk of evenings at Avery Fisher or the Barbican or the Concertgebouw can be seen to be built around only about 10 composers of fleshy and meaty symphonies from Beethoven to Shostakovich.

The latter, born in 1906, will ever be linked to the anniversary years of Mozart. Some venues, for example the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, will be presenting so much of his and Mozart's music this year that a visitor from another planet - or the average university-educated American, who knows as little about classical music - might think the two were twin gods who deigned to allow a few others to construct pale imitations of their art as tribute.

If there is indeed common ground between the persecuted Russian and the angst-ridden Viennese, it is the dirty little secret that, in each case, much of their music sounds remarkably similar. Mozart composed a great deal of marginal music, and not just as part of his prodigious juvenilia. An evening featuring more than one of these pieces can seem shallow and repetitive.

Likewise, much as I admire the Shostakovich symphonies, many colorful passages in the later efforts are transparent reworkings of ideas from the composer's previous orchestral essays. In 2006, the Emerson String Quartet will offer all 15 of the Shostakovich quartets; the quintet of evenings may be just a tad dull, as these works share very narrow harmonic vocabularies and similar emotionally charged devices for artistic expression. Each was made to be heard on its own, not as part of a compendium.

So just what is the relevance of the Mostly Mozart Festival when their composer will be center stage for an entire year? What degree of satiety will become excessive for listeners, and at what point will both having our cake and eating it degenerate into simple gluttony? I hope the quality of the individual concert will trump all other considerations, but what I am really curious about is next year.

Once we are all totally immersed in Mozartiana, it will be very challenging for the directors of the festival at Lincoln Center to remain relevant and yet interesting in 2006. Perhaps they can utilize their newly discovered connection between Mozart and Russia and present an entire summer of Shostakovich. Personally, I don't really care. I am thinking of taking a sabbatical in Styria.

Our Critic Recommends

I would venture to state that most serious music listeners have at least one Mozartian moment in their handful of most cherished auditory memories. "Soave sia il vento" from "Cosi Fan Tutte" is often excerpted as the most sublime number in all of opera, and the later symphonies, the adagio of the Clarinet Concerto, the string quintets, and the mature piano concerti all contain undeniably wondrous passages.

For me, the greatest moment in all of music occurs during the ending section of the overture to "The Magic Flute," when the overwhelmed composer can do no less than repeat that most exuberant of phrases, is, in fact, powerless to do otherwise, caught in the grip of divine inspiration. Not bad for a music hall theatrical.

Although it is always dangerous to predict the success of future performances, a few in the upcoming festival seem particularly promising. In particular, those evenings attempting to recreate the concert environment of Mozart's time may turn out to be the jewels in this particular crown.

The period instrument group Concert d'Astree and the superb Freiburg Baroque Orchestra will be offering programs concentrating on France (August 7) and Italy (August 14 & 15), respectively. For sheer talent of conductor and soloist, it would be hard to beat Paavo Jarvi and Viktoria Mullova in an all-Beethoven concert with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen (August 4).

Finally, several of the fine soloists who are performing Mozart with the house orchestra - Emmanuel Ax (August 2 & 3), Jean-Yves Thibaudet (August 5), and Emmanuelle Haim (August 6) - will also be holding more intimate recitals at the Kaplan Penthouse as part of the "little night music" series at 10:30 p.m.

The Mostly Mozart Festival begins July 28 and continues until Saturday August 27 (Lincoln Center, 212-875-5456).

The New York Sun
105 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007
© 2005 The New York Sun

28 July 2005

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replies to Various Comments 1

First, to PatsPub, our Man on the Ground in Helvetia ...

Say, are there any plans to set up giant iron statues or oversized banners of Dubyah in major US cities yet ? No introducrion of a 5-year plan yet or to abandon all parties but the republicans? Turning the First Ammendement to Freedom To Say What We Think Is Right ? New World Order American Style ?

Europeans are watching current events and tendenciesin in the US with disbelief and astonishment. Just what the bleep is going on over there ? Our politicians are not that dumb, are they ?

We know what people like Jello Biafra or Chomsky (and you, of course) think about these events.
but what about the bloke on the street ? Are John Doe, Norman Normalrealizi ng what's going on ??
I mean, you don't have to be a genius to see that your country (not mine, thank god !) is slowly turning into one of Philip K Dick's worst nightmares...
Posted by pat's pub to Virtual Toon Teen Pixel Porn, News, Weather, Sports & Opera from Vleeptron at 7/27/2005 05:05:33 PM

It's miserable and it's simple. Americans are scared. Authentically frightened.

That's a very different issue from What, properly, they should be frightened of. And a very different issue from How, properly, they should respond to the things they fear.

Almost everything that's happened since the attacks of 11 September 2001 is debatable -- "Who struck John?" is an American term for trying to make sense of very confusing matters that took place very quickly in the dark after we had lost our eyeglasses.

The only thing that's not debatable is that four passenger airliners were hijacked; two were crashed into high stories of both the World Trade Center towers; and a few hours later, both skyscrapers collapsed, and about 3000 people -- just about all of them civilians (that counts police and firefighters) -- were killed.

Another airliner was crashed into the Pentagon. Arguably the Pentagon is a military target -- but the victims there were essentially office workers, even if some of them were wearing military uniforms.

And unarguably, these three airliner attacks were, like Pearl Harbor, sneak attacks. The attacks themselves were the enemy's Declaration of War; Americans did not at that moment know or acknowledge that a state of war against anyone resembling the terrorists existed.

In other words, we were defenseless and unprepared because we didn't know our cities and civilians were about to be attacked.

Like Switzerland's very effective ring of Alps, the United States has always historically taken a sense of geographical security and safety from its two great oceans. For centuries at a stretch, American politics has encouraged itself to ignore all events in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, because they could not possibly ever effect, threaten or harm us. Perhaps the Alps and political neutrality have historically served the same purpose for the Swiss. (How did you pursuade Napoleon to just skip Switzerland?)

Mexico is a militarily powerless Third World neighbor; the USA has made war on it twice, and both times has effectively demonstrated that in any conventional war between the USA and Mexico, the USA will win pretty easily.

Canada to the north has, wonderfully and blessedly, evolved as America's historical ally, trading partner and friend. Our extremely long border has, until very recently, been essentially "porous" -- hardly guarded at all, more a bi-directional Welcome Mat than any kind of effective barrier between sovereign nations.

That now the USA media and political dialogue increasingly describes Canada as a source and harbor of anti-American terrorists, that now the USA is beefing up and plugging up and militarizing the holes in the long-friendly border, reflects just how frightened Americans have become since 9/11/01. Looking at Canada and seeing danger and fear is like an infant looking at its mother and seeing danger and fear.

We're very frightened, many of us are clinically paranoid. In America, sales of pharmaceutical anti-depressants have shot through the roof. We are in the grip of a wave of fear on the personal, individual level. (Similarly, during The Great Depression -- there was widespread and profound financial depression, and widespread and profound psychiatric depression.)

Now, today, when we fly on a plane or ride on a train or bus or ferry and see a swarthy Asian-looking stranger, we think of bombs and box-cutters. Yesterday an airliner in flight was diverted and made an emergency landing in Boston because passengers expressed such fears; the Pakistanis they suspected were, of course, simply fellow passengers.

That's the background of what's going on in America right now. To be blunt, and to admittedly veer away from the Absolutely Factual, and into the Debatable and Arguable ...

Political America, the federal Executive Branch (White House and all the federal agencies it constitutionally leads) is in the control of a historically rare bunch of right-wing militaristic ideological scoundrels and fanatics. They compare very closely to the militaristic ultranationalists who seized control of the Japanese government in the 1920s. They compare closely to the militaristic ultranationalists who seized control of the German democracy in the 1920s.

If the comparisons are at all valid, one thing is common to the political success of all three groups: They have made their political gains and successes against and manipulating a background of widespread and profound popular fear and terror.

I will not be the first Thinker to note that when everyone is frightened out of his and her wits, political decisions, choices and votes become very bad, poor, and often quite dangerous and foot-shooting choices. ("Fahrenheit 9/11" made this point in a remarkable interview with the only member of the U.S. Congress who is a professional psychiatrist.)

We are a democracy (more technically, a republic), and as an electorate, we are not voting well. Because we are very frightened, and this is always a background in which scoundrels and psychopaths thrive.

Those overseas and overtrees who authentically admire American democracy and freedom, and the society that blossomed here, and the European and Asian and African people who immigrated to the USA and evolved to become Americans -- perrhaps the best thing our overseas admirers can do to help America in this era is to understand our fear, sympathize with it, and encourage us to come to our senses -- just as I pray the Netherlands which I so admire will quickly come to its political senses and return to its ancient traditions of racial, religious and intellectual tolerance and progressive policies.

I don't wish to suggest anything terrible, but imagine tomorrow a series of huge car bomb explosions or poison gas attacks in downtown Geneva, Zurich and Berne -- the kind we have become used to reading about in Baghdad and Beirut, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, Israel/Palestine, Tokyo, and now London. Then imagine the political consequences in Switzerland in the years to follow.

If you wish to try to persuade me that Switzerland would never make democratic choices as badly as America's choices, or Austria's, or Italy's, or France's, or even the Netherlands' recent political slides to the right, the xenophobic and nationalistic, and the fearful, if you truly believe Switzerland will always, under all threats, remain politically rational and wise, then please, by all means, make your case, and I will listen very well. I would like to believe such things are possible; I would like to believe in wise, cautious, measured, responsible national leadership during times of crisis and panic.

But I suspect all terrified people are capable of being misled by and manipulated by fanatics, psychopaths and scoundrels. Fear of sudden death, fear of bomb attacks in subways and marketplaces and skyscrapers -- this is universal, and transcends any authentic social or cultural differences between nations.

Best I can say is: This will not be a very Proud Moment or High Mark in American history. The rest of the world will not look at this era and admire it -- the way the world admired America's walk on the Moon, or its war which ended slavery, or the war which won us our freedom, or the passage of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, or the part Americans and Canadians played in ending the fascist death grip on most of Europe in 1945.

America has had Regret Eras before -- the Vietnam War a recent one. This will be another. Most Americans will just want to forget it.

I hope most Americans will do just the opposite: Remember these times very clearly, and resolve never to repeat them.