Tuesday, February 12, 2008

New Cosmic Theory Unites Dark Forces

By Michael Schirber
Special to SPACE.com

The two biggest mysteries in cosmology may be one. A new theory says that dark matter and dark energy could arise from a single dark fluid that permeates the whole universe. And this could mean Earth-based dark matter searches will come up empty.

Dark matter, as originally hypothesized, is extra hidden mass that astrophysicists calculate is necessary for holding together fast-turning galaxies. The most popular notion is that this matter is made of some yet-to-be-identified particle that has almost no interactions with light or ordinary matter. Yet it seems to be everywhere, acting as a scaffolding for galaxy clusters and the whole structure of the universe.

On the other hand, dark energy is needed to explain the more recently-discovered acceleration of the universe's expansion. It supposedly exists all throughout space, delivering a pressure that counteracts gravity.

It's counterintuitive that one substance could be both a gravitational anchor for galaxies and anti-gravity force for the universe. However, HongSheng Zhao of the University of St Andrews in Scotland claims that a fluid-like dark energy can act like dark matter when its density becomes high enough.

"Dark energy is a property of the vacuum — of fields that we do not easily see," Zhao told Space.com. "From it, we can derive the dark matter effect."

Zhao compares this dark fluid to Earth's atmosphere. Atmospheric pressure causes air to expand, but part of the air can collapse to form clouds. In the same way, the dark fluid might generally expand, but it also could collect around galaxies to help hold them together.


Zhao is not the first theorist to try to bring dark energy and dark matter under the same framework.

The type of dark fluid that Zhao is looking at is similar to one that Pedro Ferreira of the University of Oxford and his colleagues devised a few years ago.

"[Our theory] involves positing a preferred time direction, in some sense a special time frame," Ferreira said. "It has the interesting effect of modifying Einstein's theory of general relativity."

The idea is similar to the "ether," an invisible medium that physicists once thought light waves travelled through. Einstein's relativity did away with the need for such a medium, but cosmologists have recently found that an ether-like substance can mimic dark matter.

The presence of such a substance changes the way gravity works. This is most noticeable in the distant outskirts of a galaxy, where the galaxy's gravitational pull would be expected to be small, but the ether makes it much stronger.

The ether "effectively softens space-time in regions of low [gravitational] acceleration making it more sensitive to the presence of mass than usual," Ferreira explained.

Zhao has refined this approach and found that it can match a lot of astronomical data, as reported in a recent article in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"I like [Zhao's model] because it shows that these theories are predictive and, if worked out in detail, can be tested properly against experiment," Ferreira said.

For one, Zhao's fluid divides itself into a dark energy part and a dark matter part with the same ratio that is seen from observations (dark energy is about 75 percent of the universe's mass-energy content, while dark matter is about 21 percent and normal matter makes up the last 4 percent).

Although the fluid is all around us, Zhao found that it does not affect the motion of Earth or the other planets, which is "reassuring," he said, because data shows that our solar system obeys traditional gravity to very high accuracy.

But the fluid does affect the speed at which galaxies can rotate. Some 75 years ago, astronomers noticed that galaxies were turning faster than would be expected from the amount of normal light-emitting matter they contained. The answer seemed to require some form of unseen dark matter.

However, Zhao has shown that his fluid can keep galaxies from flying apart just as well as dark matter can.

Zhao has also tested his model against the bullet cluster of galaxies, where a massive collision appears to have stripped hot gas from its dark matter envelope. This "naked" dark matter was seen as iron-clad proof for traditional dark matter theories, but Zhao claims that his fluid can reproduce the same effect.

Christian Boehmer from University College London thinks it "compelling" that Zhao's model can reproduce so much galaxy data.

Word search

If the dark fluid is mimicking dark matter, then scientists are searching in vain for the elusive dark matter particle, often called a WIMP (for weakly interacting massive particle).

Currently, several experiments are trying to detect a rare collision of a WIMP on Earth or observe gamma rays from distant WIMP self-annihilations.

"Direct detections will be more difficult," Zhao said. WIMPs may still exist, but there won't be as many of them as predicted.

Without WIMPs to worry about, the dark fluid could make scientists' jobs easier.

But not many cosmologists are ready to abandon dark matter just yet. The dark fluid idea is still fairly new, so some issues have yet to be worked out, whereas dark matter is a fairly mature theory.

"The current [dark matter] model provides the best fit to the data and is therefore the best model at hand," Boehmer said.

However, Boehmer agrees that having two unknowns — dark matter and dark energy — make up 95 percent of the universe is a bit embarrassing for cosmology.

"Frankly speaking, these are just fancy words we use to name something we do not understand," he said.

If a simpler model (with a single word) can explain all the data, then cosmologists will gladly accept it, Boehmer said.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Egypt-Gaza border resealed

Many in Israel are said to support the idea of Egypt supplying Gaza's fuel and power [Reuters]

Egyptian and Hamas security forces have closed the border with Gaza Strip after more than two weeks during which Palestinians were able to pass freely through the crossing.
Barbed wire and metal barricades were used to reseal the only remaining gap in the Egyptian side of the border on Sunday.

Hamas fighters had blown holes in the border fence to allow Gazans to travel to towns in Sinai to stock up on food, fuel and other necessities which were dwindling during an Israeli blockade of the territory.

One gate remained open to allow Palestinians to return to Gaza and Egyptians to return home, witnesses said.

'Restoring control'

Hamas has been under pressure from Egypt to stop the movement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt.

After talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo on Saturday, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a former Palestinian foreign minister, said Hamas "will restore control over this border, in co-operation with Egypt ... gradually".

Al-Zahar also said that the closure would be temporary while the Egyptians search for a way to reopen the border.

Egyptian officials were not available for comment on the Hamas claims.

Any role for Hamas for controlling the border would be sure to anger the international community and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, because it would amount to tacit recognition of Hamas rule in Gaza.

Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, reporting from the Gaza side of the crossing, said that Egypt allowing Hamas to help with securing the border, indicated the government's recognition of Hamas as the ruling authority in the Gaza Strip.

She said: "This is sure to anger Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah, considering they refuse to recognise the rule of Hamas."

"But it seems that Egypt is concentrating on the realities on the ground - which is Hamas remaining in control of Gaza, which is why they are working with them."

Hamas leaders took full control of the Gaza Strip after their fighters defeated security forces loyal to Abbas in June last year.

The border breach has sparked calls from Hamas leaders for closer ties between Egypt and Gaza, which currently depends on Israel for its supplies.

Improved ties

Ismail Haniya, the deposed Palestinian prime minister and Hamas leader, is pushing for increased ties between Gaza and Egypt.

He wants to disengage the coastal territory's economy from Israel and instead receive fuel and electricity supplies from Egypt.

"We have said from the days of our election campaign that we want to move toward economic disengagement from the Israeli occupation," he said.

"Egypt has a greater ability to meet the needs of Gaza."

Some Israeli officials believe that would be good for Israel it would reduce Israel's responsibility for the impoverished territory.

The Israeli defence ministry is currently drafting an official position on the idea, security officials have said.


AFRICOM: US Military Control of Africa’s Resources

MoonofAlabama.org 2/21/2007
Title: “Understanding AFRICOM”
Author: Bryan Hunt

Project Censored Media

Student Researcher: Ioana Lupu
Faculty Evaluator: Marco Calavita, Ph.D

In February 2007 the White House announced the formation of the US African Command (AFRICOM), a new unified Pentagon command center in Africa, to be established by September 2008. This military penetration of Africa is being presented as a humanitarian guard in the Global War on Terror. The real objective is, however, the procurement and control of Africa’s oil and its global delivery systems.
The most significant and growing challenge to US dominance in Africa is China. An increase in Chinese trade and investment in Africa threatens to substantially reduce US political and economic leverage in that resource-rich continent. The political implication of an economically emerging Africa in close alliance with China is resulting in a new cold war in which AFRICOM will be tasked with achieving full-spectrum military dominance over Africa.
AFRICOM will replace US military command posts in Africa, which were formerly under control of US European Command (EUCOM) and US Central Command (CENTCOM), with a more centralized and intensified US military presence.
A context for the pending strategic role of AFRICOM can be gained from observing CENTCOM in the Middle East. CENTCOM grew out of the Carter Doctrine of 1980 which described the oil flow from the Persian Gulf as a “vital interest” of the US, and affirmed that the US would employ “any means necessary, including military force” to overcome an attempt by hostile interests to block that flow.
It is in Western and Sub-Saharan Africa that the US military force is most rapidly increasing, as this area is projected to become as important a source of energy as the Middle East within the next decade. In this region, challenge to US domination and exploitation is coming from the people of Africa—most specifically in Nigeria, where seventy percent of Africa’s oil is contained.
People native to the Niger Delta region have not benefited, but instead suffered, as a result of sitting on top of vast natural oil and natural gas deposits. Nigerian people’s movements are demanding self-determination and equitable sharing of oil-receipts. Environmental and human rights activists have, for years, documented atrocities on the part of oil companies and the military in this region. As the tactics of resistance groups have shifted from petition and protest to more proactive measures, attacks on pipelines and oil facilities have curtailed the flow of oil leaving the region. As a Convergent Interests report puts it, “Within the first six months of 2006, there were nineteen attacks on foreign oil operations and over $2.187 billion lost in oil revenues; the Department of Petroleum Resources claims this figure represents 32 percent of ‘the revenue the country [Nigeria] generated this year.’”
Oil companies and the Pentagon are attempting to link these resistance groups to international terror networks in order to legitimize the use of the US military to “stabilize” these areas and secure the energy flow. No evidence has been found however to link the Niger Delta resistance groups to international terror networks or jihadists. Instead the situation in the Niger Delta is that of ethnic-nationalist movements fighting, by any means necessary, toward the political objective of self-determination. The volatility surrounding oil installations in Nigeria and elsewhere in the continent is, however, used by the US security establishment to justify military “support” in African oil producing states, under the guise of helping Africans defend themselves against those who would hinder their engagement in “Free Trade.”
The December 2006 invasion of Somalia was coordinated using US bases throughout the region. The arrival of AFRICOM will effectively reinforce efforts to replace the popular Islamic Courts Union of Somalia with the oil industry–friendly Transitional Federal Government. Meanwhile, the persistent Western calls for “humanitarian intervention” into the Darfur region of Sudan sets up another possibility for military engagement to deliver regime change in another Islamic state rich in oil reserves.
Hunt warns that this sort of “support” is only bound to increase as rhetoric of stabilizing Africa makes the dailies, copied directly out of official AFRICOM press releases. Readers of the mainstream media can expect to encounter more frequent usage of terms like “genocide” and “misguided.” He notes that already corporate media decry China’s human rights record and support for Sudan and Zimbabwe while ignoring the ongoing violations of Western corporations engaged in the plunder of natural resources, the pollution other peoples’ homelands, and the “shoring up” of repressive regimes.
In FY 2005 the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Initiative received $16 million; in FY 2006, nearly $31 million. A big increase is expected in 2008, with the administration pushing for $100 million each year for five years. With the passage of AFRICOM and continued promotion of the Global War on Terror, Congressional funding is likely to increase significantly.
In the end, regardless of whether it’s US or Chinese domination over Africa, the blood spilled will be African. Hunt concludes, “It does not require a crystal ball or great imagination to realize what the increased militarization of the continent through AFRICOM will bring to the peoples of Africa.”

Update by Bryan Hunt
By spring 2007, US Department of Energy data showed that the United States now imports more oil from the continent of Africa than from the country of Saudi Arabia. While this statistic may be of surprise to the majority, provided such information even crosses their radar, it’s certainly not the case for those figures who have been pushing for increased US military engagement on that continent for some time now, as my report documented. These import levels will rise.
In the first few months following the official announcement of AFRICOM, details are still few. It’s expected that the combatant command will be operational as a subunit of EUCOM by October 2007, transitioning to a full-fledged stand-alone command some twelve months later. This will most likely entail the re-locating of AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany, where EUCOM is headquartered, to an African host country.
In April, US officials were traversing the continent to present their sales pitch for AFRICOM and to gauge official and public reaction. Initial perceptions are, not surprisingly, negative and highly suspect, given the history of US military involvement throughout the world, and Africa’s long and bitter experience with colonizers.
Outside of a select audience, reaction in the United States has barely even registered. First of all, Africa is one of the least-covered continents in US media. And when African nations do draw media attention, coverage typically centers on catastrophe, conflict, or corruption, and generally features some form of benevolent foreign intervention, be it financial and humanitarian aid, or stern official posturing couched as paternal concerns over human rights. But US military activity on the continent largely goes unnoticed. This was recently evidenced by the sparse reporting on military support for the invasion of Somalia to rout the Islamic Courts Union and reinstall the unpopular warlords who had earlier divided up the country. The Pentagon went so far as to declare the operation a blueprint for future engagements.
The DOD states that a primary component of AFRICOM’s mission will be to professionalize indigenous militaries to ensure stability, security, and accountable governance throughout Africa’s various states and regions. Stability refers to establishing and maintaining order, and accountability, of course, refers to US interests. This year alone, 1,400 African military officers are anticipated to complete International Military Education and Training programs at US military schools.
Combine this tasking of militarization with an increased civilian component in AFRICOM emphasizing imported conceptions of “democracy promotion” and “capacity-building” and African autonomy and sovereignty are quick to suffer. Kenyans, for example, are currently finding themselves in this position.
It is hoped that, by drawing attention to the growing US footprint on Africa now, a contextual awareness of these issues can be useful to, at the very least, help mitigate some of the damages that will surely follow. At the moment, there is little public consciousness of AFRICOM and very few sources of information outside of official narratives. Widening the public dialogue on this topic is the first step toward addressing meaningful responses.

Media Misquotes Threat From Iran’s President

Global Research, January 20, 2007
Title: “Wiped Off The Map—The Rumor of the Century”
Author: Arash Norouzi

Information Clearing House, May 9, 2006
Title: “Full Text: The President of Iran’s Letter To President Bush”
Translated by Le Monde

Student Researchers: Becky Bazell
Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips, Ph.D.


Across the world a media story has spread that Iran’s President Ahmadinejad has threatened to destroy Israel, by saying that, “Israel must be wiped off the map.” Contrary to general belief, this statement was actually a misinterpretation. However, it was the Islamic Republic News Service in Iran that first mistranslated the quote. Iran’s Foreign Minister attempted to clarify the statement, but the quote ended up having a life of its own in the corporate media.
Amid heated wrangling over Iran’s nuclear program and the threat of preemptive strikes by the US, the quote has been continually used to reinforce the idea that Iran is being run by extremists seeking the total destruction of Israel.
So what did Ahmadinejad actually say? To quote his exact words in Farsi:
Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad.”
Rezhim-e is the word “regime,” pronounced just like the English word with an extra “eh” sound at the end. Ahmadinejad did not refer to Israel the country or Israel the landmass, but the Israeli regime. This is a vastly significant distinction, as one cannot wipe a regime off the map. Ahmadinejad did not even refer to Israel by name, he instead used the specific phrase “rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods” (regime occupying Jerusalem).
A similar statement by Ahmadinejad in December 2006, “As the Soviet Union disappeared, the Zionist regime will also vanish and humanity will be liberated,” has also been misinterpreted.
In May of 2006 President Ahmadinejad published an open letter to President Bush clearly asking for peace and the mutual respect of human rights. He warns that Western media, through contrived and deceptive information, has intensified the climate of fear that leads to attacks on innocent peoples. The letter was not reported in the US news media. Ahmadinejad began the letter writing, “Mr. George Bush, For some time now I have been thinking, how one can justify the undeniable contradictions that exist in the international arena. Can one be a follower of Jesus Christ (PBUH), the great Messenger of God, Feel obliged to respect human rights, Present liberalism as a civilization model, Announce one’s opposition to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and WMDs, Make “War on Terror” his slogan, And finally, Work towards the establishment of a unified international community—a community which Christ and the virtuous of the Earth will one day govern, But at the same time, have countries attacked; The lives, reputations and possessions of people destroyed and on the slight chance of the … of a … criminals in a village city, or convoy for example the entire village, city or convey set ablaze.”

Evaluator Comment
Ahmadinejad declared that Zionism is the West’s apparatus of political oppression against Muslims. He says the “Zionist regime” was imposed on the Islamic world as a strategic bridgehead to ensure domination of the region and its assets. This position is viewed as threatening to many in the West. While threats and counter-threats escalates tensions in the Persian Gulf, I believe it is important for the media to publish both sides of issues and be as accurate as possible by seeking to build understanding rather than fear and anger.
—Peter Phillips

UPDATE BY Arash Norouzi
In May 2007, the US House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution calling on the U.N. Security Council to charge Ahmadinejad with the crime of inciting genocide “because of his calls for the destruction of the State of Israel”—a violation of the U.N.’s 1948 Genocide Convention—specifically citing the false “wiped off the map” quote from October 2005. It also called for the U.N. to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, with the “potential means to the end of carrying out President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threats against Israel.”
This misquote has become a key component of the push for war with Iran, a war that would make Iraq look like the cakewalk it was predicted to be. Attacking Iran would result in massive death and destruction, affect world oil supplies, provoke terrorism, could initiate the next World War, and might even include the use of nuclear weapons for the first time since WWII. In this heated atmosphere, an accurate narrative is essential in averting the next cataclysmic Mideast intervention. When President Bush emphasizes the importance of taking the words of America’s enemies seriously, that process begins with first determining just what exactly those words are.
Yet my article is about more than just clarifying a mistranslated statement. It’s about the media, propaganda, plagiarism, language, false assumptions ...Functioning much like a puzzle, it engages readers by allowing them to deconstruct the quote and its meaning themselves. This self-verification process adds a compelling aspect in which credibility becomes largely obsolete. The article’s ’punchline’ demonstrates undeniably that members of the mainstream media knowingly spread this rumor, and readers are challenged to check for themselves by comparing linked sources proving this claim.
The idea is not merely to contest a single misquote, but to also promote skepticism about all pre-war intelligence. If this quote is false, then it’s logical to assume that other accusations against Iran could be wrong too—just as they were with Iraq.
The overwhelming ubiquity of this misquote has deterred others from correcting what they probably view as a lost cause. Yet my article alone has been viewed by millions, translated into at least half a dozen languages, garnered radio interviews, inspired videos on YouTube, and become the subject of an entire article in The Bangkok Post. It got the attention of people at the BBC, Washington Post, IAEA, State Department, United Nations, and the Islamic Republic itself. It’s been quoted by numerous journalists, authors and academics, in published letters to the editor, and on call-in TV shows such as on C-SPAN. The Associated Press has now begun citing the “vanish from the page of time” phrase, adding that “independent analysts” have refuted the “map” quote; and Dennis Kucinich was prepared to correct the rumor when asked about the subject on TV recently.
These are hopeful signals that underscore the importance of alternative voices in the media, and their potential effectiveness in influencing the discourse. If the first casualty of war is the truth, then it’s up to the truth tellers—whomever they may be—to enlighten us.