Monday, May 30, 2011

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences: Study Week on Astrobiology Honors Galileo

Listen to the facinating and thoughtful interview with NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) Director Carl Pilcher and Vatican Observatory astronomer and Jesuit brother Guy Consolmagno.

In November 2009, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences hosted a Study Week on Astrobiology to commemorate the fourth centenary of Galileo Galilei's first observations by telescope.

Wikipedia explains that "Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe." NASA has a site that explains astrobiology as well as the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). You can read the biographies of the scientists who participated in the Vatican Study Week beginning on page 14.

The Catholic News Service (11-10-09) reports on the conference and how the leaders of the Catholic Church view the possibility of extraterrestrial life from both a scientific and religious perspective:

[Jesuit Father Jose Funes, head of the Vatican Observatory/homepage] said that even though the study week looked exclusively at scientific evidence and theories, it was "very important that the church is involved in this type of research" looking at life in the cosmos.

He quoted Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the commission governing Vatican City, as telling participants that "truth from research cannot make us afraid; what is to be feared is error."

Science opens up the human mind to new knowledge and contributes toward the fulfillment of humankind, the cardinal said, according to Father Funes.

When asked whether God would have to be incarnated elsewhere if there were intelligent life on another planet, Father Funes recalled the parable of the lost sheep.

God's incarnation in Jesus Christ was a singular and "unique event not only in human history but in the history of the universe and the cosmos," he said.

The existence of evil and original sin on Earth meant God, the good shepherd, had to leave behind his entire flock to go get his one lost sheep, he said.

"Humanity would be this lost sheep and in order to find this lost sheep (God) became man in Jesus," Father Funes said.

In May 2008, Father Funes gave an interview to L’Osservatore Romano titled "The Extraterrestrial is my Brother" (5-14-08). An article describing this remarkable interview was published by the Catholic News Agency (5-13-08).

I don't read Italian, but the Google translation of Father Funes' full interview in LOR seems consistent with this blog translation. At the end of the interview, Father Funes was asked if extra-terrestrials would need to be redeemed from sin:

LOR: And what about redemption?

FUNES: We borrow the gospel image of the lost sheep. The pastor leaves the 99 in the herd for go look for the one that is lost. We think that in this universe there can be 100 sheep, corresponding to diverse forms of creatures. We that belong to the human race could be precisely the lost sheep, sinners who have need of a pastor. God was made man in Jesus to save us. In this way, if other intelligent beings existed, it is not said that they would have need of redemption. They could remain in full friendship with their Creator.

LOR: I insist: if they were sinners, would redemption also be possible for them?

FUNES: Jesus has been incarnated once, for everyone. The incarnation is an unique and unrepeatable event. I am therefore sure that they, in some way, would have the possibility to enjoy God’s mercy, as it has been for us men.

The Washington Post (11-8-09) and the Guardian (11-11-09) also covered the Pontifical Academy's astrobiology conference; but instead of focusing on the scientific presentations, the newspapers focused more on scientists who believe that the possibility of extraterrestrial life is fraught with troubling theological implications for Christianity.

Even NASA has posted an article about the Pontifical Academy's Study Week on Astrobiology:

This past week in Rome as part of the International Year of Astronomy, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences hosted a Study Week on Astrobiology, an interdisciplinary event during which “cloistered astrobiologists confronted each other’s fields of research” and dialogued about the connections. The participants included many from the extended astrobiology community, including John Baross, David Charbonneau, Roger Summons, Andy Knoll, Chris Impey, Jonathan Lunine, Jill Tarter, Sara Seager, and Giovanna Tinetti.

“The questions of life’s origins and of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe are very suitable and deserve serious consideration,” said the Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, an astronomer and director of the Vatican Observatory, in an Associated Press Interview. Funes, a Jesuit priest, also said that the possibility of alien life raises “many philosophical and theological implications” but added that the gathering was mainly focused on the scientific perspective and how different disciplines can be used to explore the issue. RadioVaticana reports.

Today, NAI Director Carl Pilcher and Vatican Observatory astronomer and Jesuit brother Guy Consolmagno continue the conversation with Anna Maria Tremonti, host of the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s radio program The Current. Their discussion ranges from what it would mean to the Church if alien life were found, to whether or not science needs religion.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pope Benedict Phones Astronauts on Space Shuttle

"On Earth, people often fight for energy; in space we use solar power and we have fuel cells on the Space Station. You know, the science and the technology that we put into the Space Station to develop a solar power capability, gives us pretty much an unlimited amount of energy. And if those technologies could be adapted more on Earth, we could possibly reduce some of that violence."---Astronaut Mark Kelly during his audience with Pope Benedict

On May 11, 2011, the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences published a report titled "Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene."

Today, Pope Benedict sat in the Foconi Room of the Vatican Library in Rome, called the astronauts on the International Space Station, and asked them some scientific and religious questions. The Pope spoke with two crews of astronauts: those who work on the space station and a second crew that had arrived on the Space Shuttle Endeavor. The Papal audience was organized by the European Space Agency. NASA has video of the interview. See also the video of the Pope's remarks at

Vatican Radio reports (5-21-11) reports:

This is the story of the latest milestone in a Vatican - space connection. One which began at the time of the 1969 moonwalk when Paul VI made history by sending a the first papal radio message to astronauts hurtling through space.

Over forty years on, on Saturday 21st May 2011, Benedict XVI continued that trend going one step further: a two way approach to space in a conversation with astronauts. It took place in a landmark audio visual satellite linkup with two crews of astronauts: those who work at the station and those who’d reached there on the Shuttle Endeavour.

This event which was the result of international cooperation and organized by the European Space Agency included serious, touching and even humorous moments which brought a smile to the Pope’s face as the astronauts who could not see the pope, but knew he could see them, played on the floating elements in space, among which a medal he had given them representing Michelangelo’s depiction of creation in the Sistine chapel . The appointment began shortly after 1 pm Rome time as the astronauts from different nationalities , including Russian cosmonauts introduced themselves and welcomed him on board.

And when the Holy Father replied he began by recognizing the scientific progress as well as express his admiration for their courage as representatives of humankind in a mission to explore new spaces:

“... We are convinced you are inspired by noble ideals and that you intend placing the results of your research and endeavours at the disposal of all humanity and for the common good."

But the pope also remarked he didn’t really want to be the only one doing the talking:

“…this is a conversation, so I must not be the only one doing the talking…I am very curious to hear you tell me about your experiences and your reflections. If you don’t mind, I would like to ask you a few questions…”

And question the astronauts he did: asking about the perspective from their observation point in space, regarding issues ranging from the contribution of science to the cause of peace among nations in the earth below, to the responsibility and concern for the future generations of our planet.

The answers were brief and pragmatic even when asked if there were any special tips they might pass on to others from this experience. There was time for a personal touch of consolation addressed to one of the astronauts whose mother had passed away while he was in space.

As might be expected there was also a question surrounding the origins and destiny of the universe and humanity. For while space exploration the pope pointed out is a fascinating scientific adventure, it is also an adventure of the human spirit, a powerful stimulus to reflect on the origins and on the destiny of the universe and humanity:

“…Believers often look up at the limitless heavens and, meditating on the Creator of it all, they are struck by the mystery of His greatness. ..

In the midst of your intense work and research, the Holy Father went on to ask the astronauts: do you ever stop and reflect like this – perhaps even to say a prayer to the Creator? Or will it be easier for you to think about these things once you have returned to Earth?

Listen to this report by Veronica Scarisbrick :

Full text of conversation [Go to Vatican Radio and scroll down.]

Dear astronauts,

I am very happy to have this extraordinary opportunity to converse with you during your mission. I am especially grateful to be able to speak to so many of you, as both crews are present on the Space Station at this time.

Humanity is experiencing a period of extremely rapid progress in the fields of scientific knowledge and technical applications. In a sense, you are our representatives – spear-heading humanity’s exploration of new spaces and possibilities for our future, going beyond the limitations of our everyday existence.

We all admire your courage, as well as the discipline and commitment with which you prepared yourselves for this mission. We are convinced you are inspired by noble ideals and that you intend placing the results of your research and endeavours at the disposal of all humanity and for the common good.

This conversation gives me the chance to express my own admiration and appreciation to you and to all those who collaborate in making your mission possible, and to add my heartfelt encouragement to bring it to a safe and successful conclusion.

But this is a conversation, so I must not be the only one doing the talking.

I am very curious to hear you tell me about your experiences and your reflections.

If you don’t mind, I would like to ask you a few questions…

First Question:

From the Space Station you have a very different view of the Earth. You fly over different continents and nations several times a day. I think it must be obvious to you how we all live together on one Earth and how absurd it is that we fight and kill each other one. I know that Mark Kelly’s wife was a victim of a serious attack and I hope her health continues to improve. When you are contemplating the Earth from up there, do you ever wonder about the way nations and people live together down here, or about how science can contribute to the cause of peace?

Reply :

Well, thank you for the kind words, Your Holiness, and thank you for mentioning my wife Gabby. It’s a very good question: we fly over most of the world and you don’t see borders, but at the same time we realize that people fight with each other and there is a lot of violence in this world and it’s really an unfortunate thing. Usually, people fight over many different things. As we’ve seen in the Middle East right now: it’s somewhat for democracy in certain areas, but usually people fight for resources. And it’s interesting in space … on Earth, people often fight for energy; in space we use solar power and we have fuel cells on the Space Station. You know, the science and the technology that we put into the Space Station to develop a solar power capability, gives us pretty much an unlimited amount of energy. And if those technologies could be adapted more on Earth, we could possibly reduce some of that violence.

Second Question:

One of the themes I often return to in my discourses concerns the responsibility we all have towards the future of our planet. I recall the serious risks facing the environment and the survival of future generations. Scientists tell us we have to be careful and from an ethical point of view we must develop our consciences as well.

From your extraordinary observation point, how do you see the situation on Earth?

Do you see signs or phenomena to which we need to be more attentive


Well, Your Holiness, it’s a great honour to speak with you and you’re right: it really is an extraordinary vantage point we have up here. On the one hand, we can see how indescribably beautiful the planet that we have been given is; but on the other hand, we can really clearly see how fragile it is. Just the atmosphere, for instance: the atmosphere when viewed from space is paper-thin, and to think that this paper-thin layer is all that separates every living thing from the vacuum of space and is all that protects us, is really a sobering thought. You know, it seems to us that it’s just incredible to view the Earth hanging in the blackness of space and to think that we are all on this together, riding through this beautiful fragile oasis through the universe, it really fills us with a lot of hope to think that all of us on board this incredible orbiting Space Station that was built by the many nations of our international partnership, to accomplish this tremendous feat in orbit, I think … you know, that just shows that by working together and by cooperating we can overcome many of the problems that face our planet, we could solve many of the challenges that face the inhabitants of our planet … it really is a wonderful place to live and work, and it’s a wonderful place to view our beautiful Earth.

Third Question:

The experience you are having right now is both extraordinary and very important – even if you must eventually come back down to Earth like all the rest of us.

When you do return, you will be much admired and treated like heroes who speak and act with authority. You will be asked to talk about your experiences. What will be the most important messages you would like to convey – to young people especially – who will live in a world strongly influenced by your experiences and discoveries?


Your Holiness, as my colleagues have indicated, we can look down and see our beautiful planet Earth that God has made, and it is the most beautiful planet in the whole Solar System. However, if we look up, we can see the rest of the universe, and the rest of the Universe is out there for us to go explore. And the International Space Station is just one symbol, one example of what human beings can do when we work together constructively. So our message, I think - one of our many messages, but I think one of our most important messages – is to let the children of the planet know, the young people know that there is a whole universe for us to go explore. And when we do it together, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.

Fourth Question:

Space exploration is a fascinating scientific adventure. I know that you have been installing new equipment to further scientific research and the study of radiation coming from outer space. But I think it is also an adventure of the human spirit, a powerful stimulus to reflect on the origins and on the destiny of the universe and humanity. Believers often look up at the limitless heavens and, meditating on the Creator of it all, they are struck by the mystery of His greatness. That is why the medal I gave Robert (Vittori) as a sign of my own participation in your mission, represents the Creation of Man – as painted by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel. In the midst of your intense work and research, do you ever stop and reflect like this – perhaps even to say a prayer to the Creator? Or will it be easier for you to think about these things once you have returned to Earth?


Your Holiness, to live on board of the International Space Station, to work as an astronaut on the shuttle Soyuz of the Station, is extremely intense. But we all have an opportunity, when the nights come, to look down on Earth: our planet, the blue planet, is beautiful. Blue is the colour of our planet, blue is the colour of the sky, blue is also the colour of the Italian Air Force, the organization that gave me the opportunity to then join the Italian Space Agency and the European Space Agency. When we have a moment to look down, beauty which is the three-dimensional effect of the beauty of the planet is capturing our heart, is capturing my heart. And I do pray: I do pray for me, for our families, for our future. I took with me the coin and I allow this coin to float in front of me to demonstrate lack of gravity. I shall thank you very much for this opportunity and I’d like to allow this coin to float to my friend and colleague Paolo: he will make return to Earth on the Soyuz. I brought it with me to space and he will take it down to Earth to then give it back to you.

Fifth Question – in Italian – for Paolo Nespoli:

La mia ultima domanda è per Paolo. Caro Paolo, so che nei giorni scorsi la tua mamma ti ha lasciato e quando fra pochi giorni tornerai a casa non la troverai più ad aspettarti. Tutti ti siamo stati vicini, anche io ho pregato per lei…Come hai vissuto questo tempo di dolore? Nella vostra Stazione vi sentite lontani e isolati e soffrite un senso di separazione, o vi sentite uniti fra voi e inseriti in una comunità che vi accompagna con attenzione e affetto?


Santo Padre, ho sentito le sue preghiere, le vostre preghiere arrivare fino qua su: è vero, siamo fuori da questo mondo, orbitiamo intorno alla Terra ed abbiamo un punto di vantaggio per guardare la Terra e per sentire tutto quello che ci sta attorno. I miei colleghi qui, a bordo della Stazione – Dimitri, Kelly, Ron, Alexander e Andrei – mi sono stati vicini in questo momento importante per me, molto intenso, così come i miei fratelli, le mie sorelle, le mie zie, i miei cugini, i miei parenti sono stati vicini a mia madre negli ultimi momenti. Sono grato di tutto questo. Mi sono sentito lontano ma anche molto vicino, e sicuramente il pensiero di sentire tutti voi vicino a me, uniti in questo momento, è stato di estremo sollievo. Ringrazio anche l’Agenzia spaziale europea e l’Agenzia spaziale americana che hanno messo a disposizione le risorse affinché io abbia potuto parlare con lei negli ultimi momenti.

(Dear Paolo (Nespoli), I know that your Mother passed away recently and that when you get back home in a few days she will not be there to greet you. We are all close to you in your loss, and I personally have prayed for her…How did you cope with this sorrowful time? Do you feel alone and cut off in your Space Station? Do you suffer a sense of separation, or do you feel united among yourselves and part of a community that follows your endeavours with attention and affection?)

Final greeting:

Dear astronauts,

I thank you warmly for this wonderful opportunity to meet and dialogue with you. You have helped me and many other people to reflect together on important issues that regard the future of humanity. I wish you the very best for your work and for the success of your great mission at the service of science, international collaboration, authentic progress, and for peace in the world. I will continue to follow you in my thoughts and prayers and I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing…

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Vatican's Pontifical Academy Reports: "Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene"

"Atmospheric chemist V. Ramanathan of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography -- a member of the Pontifical Academy since 2004 -- said he hopes the new report will have a lasting impact. His model is the papal academy's 1981 statement on nuclear war, which condemned the use of nuclear weapons.

'That was communicated to world leaders personally, in some cases by the pope,' Ramanathan said. 'Apparently it had a big impact on President Reagan.'

The scientist, who has spent decades studying climate change, said working under the auspices of the Vatican also offered a fresh perspective.

'I have never participated in any report in 30 years where the word 'God' is mentioned,' Ramanathan said. 'I think the Vatican brings that moral authority.'"---NYT (5-6-11)

Recently, I posted an article titled "Pontifical Academy of Sciences Hosts a Workshop on the Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene" (3-20-11).

My previous post described the history of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy, highlighted some of the Academicians, and touched on the research and impressive scientific credentials of the scientists who organized this workshop.

The Pontifical Academy has now published the Report on their April 2011 workshop: "Fate of the Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene: A Report by the Working Group Commissioned by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences."

The New York Times has published an informative article titled "Green Smoke Is Sighted as Vatican Releases Glacier Report" (5-6-11) that describes the Pontifical Academy workshop.

Reporter Lauren Morello interviewed several of the Academicians who participated in the Pontifical Academy workshop, such as V. Ramanathan. Academician Ramanathan's research on Asia's brown cloud is described in the A.P. Environmental Science book used by Catholic high school students.

Joe Romm's Climate Progress has a post about the Report by the Working Group titled Vatican on climate: Pray for science (5-11-11).

The homepage of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy states:

Workshop on Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene
(2-4 April 2011)

We call on all people and nations to recognise the serious and potentially irreversible impacts of global warming caused by the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, and by changes in forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other land uses. We appeal to all nations to develop and implement, without delay, effective and fair policies to reduce the causes and impacts of climate change on communities and ecosystems, including mountain glaciers and their watersheds, aware that we all live in the same home. By acting now, in the spirit of common but differentiated responsibility, we accept our duty to one another and to the stewardship of a planet blessed with the gift of life. We are committed to ensuring that all inhabitants of this planet receive their daily bread, fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink as we are aware that, if we want justice and peace, we must protect the habitat that sustains us. The believers among us ask God to grant us this wish.

Ajai, L. Bengtsson, D. Breashears, P.J. Crutzen, S. Fuzzi, W. Haeberli, W.W. Immerzeel, G. Kaser, C. Kennel, A. Kulkarni, R. Pachauri, T. Painter, J. Rabassa, V. Ramanathan, A. Robock, C. Rubbia, L. Russell, M. Sánchez Sorondo, H.J. Schellnhuber, S. Sorooshian, T. F. Stocker, L.G. Thompson, O.B. Toon, D. Zaelke

Download the complete Statement

Erratum: This version dated May 11, 2011, corrects an error in the May 5 version. The word 'expansion' in the 2nd sentence in the 1st paragraph of p. 6 has been replaced with 'exploitation'.

The Climate Show

The Climate Show is an Internet radio and video program from New Zealand about climate change. The episodes are listed and linked (newest first) at Hot Topic. Each episode includes a short post explaining the program's focus.

The "About" link at The Climate Show expains:

The Climate Show is a fortnightly roundup of the latest climate news, science, research, sceptics, politics and solutions. It answers the question "what is happening with the Earth's climate right now?" Every week the show features a special guest, chosen for their specialist knowledge in a current area of climate science or first hand experience of climate change. Hosted by radio and internet broadcaster Glenn Williams and Gareth Renowden from Hot Topic along with Skeptical Science's John Cook. We are passionate about understanding and communicating the biggest issue facing life on Planet Earth. Take time to go back through the archives, subscribe to the iTunes audio or rss audio feed and keep in touch on Twitter or Facebook. [See full text and links.]

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Confusing Michael Mann's Hockey Stick with the Decline in Tree-Ring Density

Michael Mann, the Nobel-Winning Climate Scientist Who is Being Persecuted and Hounded by Virginia's Vicious, Ambitious, Greedy, Duplicitous, Fossil-fuel tool---Attorney General Cuccinelli!

Unless we get to vote him off the island, I won't be voting for that scoundrel Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli again! I probably won't be voting for any Republicans for a long time because they are taking money from the fossil fuel interests, confusing us about the science of climate change, and persecuting our great scientists.

It is not easy to judge what brilliant scientists are discussing amongst themselves just from reading their e-mails. We need more context. We don't understand what they are talking about.

That's why criminal political operatives, who don't care about the truth or the protection of world civilization, hatched a plan to steal the climate scientists' e-mails: they wanted to trick us and destroy the scientists' credibility and reputations by mischaracterizing what the e-mails really said. In Russia they call that kompromat.

John Cook of Skeptical Science (5-1-11) has published the following helpful post about the allegation that the climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann (above) dishonestly used a "trick" to supposedly "hide the decline" in the earth's temperature.

John Cook (5-1-11) explains:

A common climate misconception is confusing the hockey stick with the 'decline' in tree-ring density. Skeptical Science has cleared up the misconception in Muller Misinformation #1: confusing Mike's trick with hide the decline as well as in this interview on The Climate Show. A new Climate Crock video Unwinding "Hide the Decline" has been released by Peter Sinclair which is one of the clearest explanations of 'Mike's trick' and 'hide the decline' yet (as well as the most entertaining).

Conspiracist Blogger James Corbett Appears on the Kremlin-Financed Russia Today

James Corbett is a conspiracist with a site on the Internet. He is a 9-11 Truther. Truthers argue amongst themselves, but typically claim that 9-11 was masterminded by President George W. Bush and/or an inside job orchestrated by the U.S. government and not the work of Osama bin Laden. James Corbett claims that man-made global warming is a hoax. He claims that President Kennedy's killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, worked for the CIA.

James Corbett recently appeared on Russia Today (RT, the Kremlin-financed, English-language, propaganda satellite T.V. channel) the day after bin Laden was killed and claimed that bin Laden had deep ties to U.S. intelligence.

Russia Today is an uncritical purveyor of conspiracy theories and frequently interviews American and British conspiracists who claim that global warming is a "hoax," too. RT doesn't interview the famous scientists--Russian or Western---who understand global warming. The anti-scientific claim that global warming is a "hoax" has been a staple of Russian propaganda.

President Medvedev claimed in early 2010 that global warming was a "tricky campaign." After the 2010 forest fires, President Medvedev reversed himself and claimed that man was causing global warming. (Andrei Areshev, a lunatic attached to a Foreign Ministry drunk tank, even claimed right in RIA Novosti that those sneaky U.S. climate scientists were causing global arming by beaming secret climate weapons at Russia!)

Fossil fuel companies such as Gazprom have a lot of power and own much of the media in Russia. The Russian gas company Gazprom is majority-owned by the Russian government and pays taxes that support the government.

In the U.S., Politicians like Senator Inhofe and Attorney General Cuccinelli even cite official Russian/Gazprom propaganda in defence of their global warming denialism. These politicians might want to reconsider spreading propaganda that even the Russian scientist don't agree with and stop persecuting our great scientists!

In his suit against the EPA, Cucinelli even cites a report by Putin's former adviser, the economist Andrei Illarionov, that has been discredited by Russian scientists. Illarionov was also an aviser to Victor Chernomyrdin, the head of the Soviet Gas Ministry and its post-Soviet reincarnation Gazprom. Illarionov has a think tank in Russia called the Institute for Economic Analysis (IEA) and also writes about climate change for the Libertarian Cato Institute, which is funded by Koch brothers, who own a coal company and other businesses. The father of the Koch brothers built Stalin's oil refineries. Cuccinelli gets money from fossil-fuel interests. He even gets money from his father, a career lobbyist for the gas industry.

The NYT (2-22-11) reports that Russian scientists have distanced themselves from Illarionov's IEA report:

Alexander Bedritskiy, president of the World Meteorological Organization and the top climate change adviser to President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia, said that the Russian report [by Illarionov's IEA] was thoroughly discredited by top scientists in his country more than a year ago.

“Any scientific discussion on the results, pretending to be science-based, does not make sense,” Dr. Bedritskiy said in an e-mail.

He also noted that the author of that report, Andrei Illarionov, is not a climate scientist but an economist with the Cato Institute, a conservative research group in the United States.

Mr. Cuccinelli could not say how he had verified the accuracy of the report, which is written in Russian, but said that his legal complaint had been “heavily researched.” The research did not consist of consultations with scientists, however, he said.

“We have to have a certain understanding of our context to operate, but that doesn’t require expert witnesses,” he said.

Here is a video of James Corbett interviewing the Canadian Dr. Tim Ball, who falsely claims to be a climate scientist but has published little peer-reviewed research in this field. Ball is being sued for defaming the famous climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann because he publically claimed that Dr. Mann should be in the state pen instead of at Penn State. We still don't know who precipitated this fake "Climategate" scandal by stealing, publishing, and mischaracterizing the meaning of scientists' private e-mails. Russian entities may have been involved, but it is difficult to know. There is sometimes a confluence of interests between Russian and Western fossil fuel corporations and their denialist mouthpieces.

I only noticed Corbett's weird RT interview about bin Laden because a screen-snatch appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty with the title "Six Countries, Six Conspiracies: Skepticism Over Bin Laden's Death" (5-4-11). [See also "Bin Laden Conspiracy Theories Flourish Amid Demands For Proof".]

Corbett's conspiracist claim that bin Laden is a CIA asset is the top myth about bin Laden, according to the reporter Peter Bergen's article "Five Myths about Osama Bin Laden" (5-6-11):

1. The CIA created Osama bin Laden.

Common among conspiracy theorists is the notion that bin Laden was a CIA creation and that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were blowback from an agency operation gone awry. Typifying this view is filmmaker Michael Moore, who on the day after the terrorist attacks wrote: “WE created the monster known as Osama bin Laden! Where did he go to terrorist school? At the CIA!”

In fact, during the Soviet war in Afghanistan during the 1980s, the CIA had no dealings with “Afghan Arabs” such as bin Laden and had few direct dealings with any of the Afghan mujaheddin. Instead, all U.S. aid to Afghanistan was funneled through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the ISI. Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf, the ISI officer who coordinated Pakistani efforts during the war, explained in “The Bear Trap,” his 1992 book: “No Americans ever trained or had direct contact with the mujaheddin.”

Since 9/11, al-Qaeda insiders have responded in writing to assertions that they had some kind of relationship with the CIA. Bin Laden’s top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in his autobiographical “Knights Under the Banner of the Prophet,” wrote, “The truth that everyone should learn is that the United States did not give one penny in aid to the [Arab] mujaheddin.” Similarly, Abu Musab al-Suri, long an associate of bin Laden’s, explained in his history of the jihadist movement, “The Call to Global Islamic Resistance”: “It is a big lie that the Afghan Arabs were formed with the backing of the CIA.”

There are very few things that al-Qaeda and the CIA agree upon — except that they have never had any relationship.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Thank-You Mr. President, CIA, and Navy Seals!

May 1, 2011: The Fanatical Killer Osama bin Laden Is Dead!

"Jihadist Web sites mourn their slain mentor, but few in the Arab street care for a man who brought nothing to the region but havoc and desolation, provoked the United States into waging war and, above all, reinforced the very rulers whom radical Islamists most wished to topple ... From Libya to Bahrain, Syria to Yemen, a pluralistic political system is the goal of a young, urban middle class that is sick of the old order."---NYT (5-7-11)

In this iconic Situation Room photo (click to enlarge), a grim President Obama and his advisers watch as the the assault on Osama bin Laden's lair unfolds. See the NYT coverage of "The Death of Osama bin Laden."

It's not really clear what our leaders are watching. Perhaps the Seals even have video cameras mounted on their helmets. Hillary Clinton's hand covers her mouth. I remember that many women in New York covered their mouths when they watched the Twin Towers burn.

Perhaps our leaders are in the "Surge Room," a smaller room in the Situation Room that is filled with communications equipment and staffed by telecommunications experts. Here is a video about the different rooms in the Situation Room. Many government agencies had to cooperate and keep a big secret to make this great victory possible.

The Seal who shot bin Laden will probably take his secret to the grave. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (5-7-11) has an article about the "Team 6" Navy Seals. Wikipedia also notes:

The United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (NSWDG), commonly known as DEVGRU and informally by its former name SEAL Team Six (ST6), is one of the United States' two secretive Tier One counter-terrorism and Special Mission Units (SMUs); the other such group is 1st SFOD-D (Delta Force)...In a recent article, Marc Ambinder wrote that DEVGRU's designation had been changed by the Defense Department to a new name. Hovever, the new name is currently classified. [Full text].

In Homer's Iliad, after Achilles finally finishes off his enemy Hector in the tenth year of the Trojan War, Achilles keeps screaming "die, die, die!" Homer's point seems to be that even the bloody, painful, gruesome death of Hector has failed to satisfy Achilles' insatiable lust for revenge.

I thought I would feel elated when they got bin Laden; and I was happy, but I was also left a bit disatisfied. Killing bin Laden wasn't enough. The bloody death of this twisted fanatic can never restore all the 9-11 victims or the victims of these ten long years of war to their loved ones. I felt like the vengeful Achilles screaming to the dead Hector: "Die, die, die!"

I had almost given up hope that Osama bin Laden would ever have to pay for his mass murders. Initially, Wolf Blitzer was afraid to report what his sources were telling him. I could tell he wanted to tell what he had heard, but he didn't want to jump the gun.

Finally, Mr. Blitzer reported that President Obama was about to appear on T.V. and announce that U.S. forces had killed bin Laden.

I think bin Laden's death will damage Al Qaeda, although I know that the terrorism probably won't end in my lifetime. Still, the revolutions spearheaded by young educated people in the Middle East give me hope that a new day may be dawning.

I thought I would feel jubilant when this day came, but we can only kill bin Laden once. The announcement of bin Laden's death mostly brought back all those terrible memories of 9-11. We should remember bin Laden's innocent victims, and not their twisted killer.

I thought President Obama's speech set a good tone. He was serious and dignified. He didn't focus on Bin Laden. He remembered the dead instead of gloating about the killing of this twisted mass-murderer.

I think that's what I needed. President Obama had promised the American people that he would catch bin Laden, and he did. Mr. Obama told people that bin Laden was a terrorist, not a Muslim; he reminded us that bin Laden was a murderer of Muslims. The President's speech diminished the bin Laden that I couldn't kill enough.

President Obama thanked the patient intelligence experts and the brave operatives who tracked down and killed bin Laden. He offered comfort to the bereaved, and he promised to protect us. I was very moved by his elegant, dignified words. He took responsibility for this mission, but he gave credit and thanks to many government employees and military men and women who can never be named and who worked together in secret to make this victory possible after ten arduous years of war.