Tuesday, July 31, 2012

9 Scientists Win Yuri Milner’s Fundamental Physics Prize

Yuri Milner

Physicists are rarely wealthy or famous, but a new prize rewarding research at the field’s cutting edges has made nine of them instant multimillionaires.

The nine are recipients of the Fundamental Physics Prize, established by Yuri Milner, a Russian physics student who dropped out of graduate school in 1989 and later earned billions investing in Internet companies like Facebook and Groupon.

“It knocked me off my feet,” said Alan H. Guth, a professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was among the winners. He came up with the idea of cosmic inflation, that there was a period of extremely rapid expansion in the first instant of the universe.

When he was told of the $3 million prize, he assumed that the money would be shared among the winners. Not so: Instead, each of this year’s nine recipients will receive $3 million, the most lucrative academic prize in the world. The Nobel Prize currently comes with an award of $1.2 million, usually split by two or three people. The Templeton Prize, which honors contributions to understanding spiritual dimensions of life, has been the largest monetary award given to an individual, $1.7 million this year.

The $3 million has already appeared in Dr. Guth’s bank account, one that had had a balance of $200. “Suddenly, it said, $3,000,200,” he said. “The bank charged a $12 wire transfer fee, but that was easily affordable.”

Mr. Milner said that he wanted to recognize advances in delving into the deepest mysteries of physics and the universe. “This intellectual quest to understand the universe really defines us as human beings,” he said.

Four of the physicists work at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J.: Nima Arkani-Hamed, Juan Maldacena, Nathan Seiberg and Edward Witten. They work on theories trying to tie together the basic particles and forces of the universe, particularly with a mathematical machinery known as string theory.

The other winners are Andrei Linde, a physicist at Stanford who also worked on cosmic inflation; Alexei Kitaev, a professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology who works on quantum computers; Maxim Kontsevich, a mathematician at the Institute of Advanced Scientific Studies outside Paris whose abstract mathematical findings proved useful to physicists unraveling string theory; and Ashoke Sen, a string theorist at Harish-Chandra Research Institute in India.

Mr. Milner personally selected the inaugural group, but future recipients of the Fundamental Physics Prize, to be awarded annually, will be decided by previous winners.

He declined to explain in detail how he selected which accomplishments to honor or why all of the winners are men. “I truly see this as a start,” Mr. Milner said. “Going forward, it’s going to be up to the committee to make those considerations.”

According to the rules, the prize in future years may be split among multiple winners, and a researcher will be able to win more than once. Mr. Milner also announced that there would be a $100,000 prize to honor promising young researchers.

Unlike the Nobel in physics, the Fundamental Physics Prize can be awarded to scientists whose ideas have not yet been verified by experiments, which often occurs decades later. Sometimes a radical new idea “really deserves recognition right away because it expands our understanding of at least what is possible,” Mr. Milner said.

Dr. Arkani-Hamed, for example, has worked on theories about the origin of the Higgs boson, the particle thought to have been discovered recently at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, and about how that collider could discover new dimensions. None of his theories have been proved yet. He said several were “under strain” because of the new data.

Several of the winners said they hoped that the new prize, with its large cash award, would help raise recognition of physics and draw more students into the field. “It’ll be great to have this sort of showcase for what’s going on in the subject every year,” Dr. Arkani-Hamed said.

The winners said they had not yet decided what to do with their windfall.

“There are some rather mundane things, like paying out the mortgage,” said Mr. Kitaev, who added that he was thinking about putting some of the money into education efforts.

“My success is in large part due to good education, my teachers and the atmosphere of excitement in science when I grew up,” he said. “I might try to help restore this atmosphere as much as I can.”

Dr. Guth agreed. “I do think prizes like this help put across to the public that fundamental physics is important, and it’s not just heavyweight boxing that’s worthy of prizes,” he said.

But he was going to warn his students not to get the wrong idea. “Certainly, it’s still not a great idea to go into physics for the money,” he said.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 1, 2012

An article on Tuesday about the new Fundamental Physics Prize misattributed a quotation by a winner about how he would spend the $3 million in prize money. It was Alexei Kitaev, a professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology — not Maxim Kontsevich, a mathematician at the Institute of Advanced Scientific Studies outside Paris who is among the eight other prizewinners — who said, in part, “There are some rather mundane things, like paying out the mortgage.” The article also gave an outdated amount for the monetary award to winners of the Nobel Prize. The prize was reduced this year to about $1.2 million, from about $1.5 million.

A version of this article appeared in print on July 31, 2012, on page A7 of the New York edition with the headline: 9 Scientists Receive a New Physics Prize.

Gore Vidal, Elegant Writer, Dies at 86 - NYTimes.com

Gore Vidal, Elegant Writer, Dies at 86 - NYTimes.com:

 "Gore Vidal, the elegant, acerbic all-around man of letters who presided with a certain relish over what he declared to be the end of American civilization, died on Tuesday at his home in the Hollywood Hills section of Los Angeles, where he moved in 2003, after years of living in Ravello, Italy. He was 86."

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Why Not in Vegas? - NYTimes.com

Why Not in Vegas? - NYTimes.com:

"I’ll make this quick. I have one question and one observation about Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel. The question is this: Since the whole trip was not about learning anything but about how to satisfy the political whims of the right-wing, super pro-Bibi Netanyahu, American Jewish casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, why didn’t they just do the whole thing in Las Vegas? I mean, it was all about money anyway — how much Romney would abase himself by saying whatever the Israeli right wanted to hear and how big a jackpot of donations Adelson would shower on the Romney campaign in return. Really, Vegas would have been so much more appropriate than Jerusalem. They could have constructed a plastic Wailing Wall and saved so much on gas."

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Gadding of a Gawky Gowk - NYTimes.com

Gadding of a Gawky Gowk - NYTimes.com:

 "Remember when Janice Soprano shot her fiance to death after he punched her in the mouth? Then she calls Tony to come over and help her. He mops up the blood and has his thugs chop up the body."

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Mitt Romney for President and Enrique Pena Nieto for Vice-President

These two hollow headed know nothings, are going to rule the US , and Mexico , if we go the way of the almighty dollar, and the subservient peso!

If you want to know the next vice-president of the North American Continent, visit Wikipedia.

Everybody Knows

Theological, and sometimes philosophical debates are incomprehensible to the lay public. Mathematical discussions in Theoretical Physics, get close to that level of obscurity. Nevertheless, everybody knows, that the moon is there when nobody is looking.

Einstein would not accept the non-sense that the moon was not there if nobody looked. He was denigrated by the physics establishment of his time.

It is not as simple as I am presenting this, nevertheless the recent work of Lucien Hardy, is basically saying, the moon is there even when nobody is looking. What is more important, electrons are there even when nobody is looking.

One important consequence of this breakthrough, is that there MUST BE A FIELD, that tells the electron where to go.

Did Mitt Romney Help Lake Michigan’s Polluters? - The Daily Beast

Did Mitt Romney Help Lake Michigan’s Polluters? - The Daily Beast:

 "The native Michigander trumpets his affection for the Great Lakes and their natural beauty, but his work for some of the lakes’ biggest polluters tells another story. Wayne Barrett reports."

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Where is Reality, Where is Digg?

Today I wanted to play my only online game, digg.com: The purpose of the game is to get the news posted before anybody else does.

digg.com is all changed!


Oh, well.

What about reality?

Lucien Hardy published a paper proving that Reality Exists!

I believe the wrong interpretation of Bohr was accepted because he helped to build a nuclear bomb. The opposite view was held by Albert Einstein, but since he chose to oppose the use of nuclear bombs, his views were squashed.

This is outrageous!

Mexico Lodges Drug Charges Against 3 Generals - NYTimes.com

Mexico Lodges Drug Charges Against 3 Generals - NYTimes.com:

"MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican prosecutors have formally lodged drug charges against four high-ranking army officers, including three generals and a lieutenant colonel."

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The 10 Most Persecuted Academics in America

Sadly, academic freedom isn’t a right guaranteed everywhere. Scholars and academics around the world are routinely threatened, removed from their positions, beaten, and even driven into exile for their opinions and publications. Even here in the U.S., where freedom of speech is a fundamental right guaranteed by our Constitution, there can be dire consequences for academics who espouse viewpoints that are different or controversial. Jobs can be lost, careers ruined, and in some extreme cases, the persecution may result in death threats or murder. We’d like to think of our nation as an enlightened one where multiple viewpoints can coexist, but the reality is that many professors, academics, and intellectuals are silenced here for their views just as they are in other parts of the world. Learn more about just a few of the American academics who have seen everything from death threats to imprisonment for daring to have different points of view.

  1. Chandler Davis:

    After receiving his doctorate in mathematics from Harvard in 1950, mathematician and professor Chandler Davis thought he would enjoy a fruitful, though perhaps uneventful, career in academia. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be. Davis came from a politically radical family and following in his father’s footsteps, Davis joined the Communist Party of America, though he never actually took part in any of the party activities and soon lapsed on his membership in the wake of WWII. Regardless, this association resulted in Davis coming under the scrutiny of the House Unamerican Activities Committee along with two other professors at the University of Michigan, Mark Nickerson and Clement Markert. Davis refused to cooperate with the investigation and was not only dismissed from his position but sentenced to a six-month prison term. While Davis would use his time incarcerated to complete a research paper, the experience soured him on American academia and he has lived in Canada since 1960. In 1991, he and his colleagues started the Davis, Markert, Nickerson Lecture on Academic and Intellectual Freedom, one positive outcome of a shameful episode in American history.

  2. Frances Fox Piven:

    Frances Fox Piven is a professor of political science and sociology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York and has been an outspoken activist throughout her career, opposing the Vietnam War, educating voters, supporting unions, and fighting for those who are disenfranchised. Her political views have caused a fair amount of controversy and her writings on welfare, the poor, rebellious social moments, the American electoral process, and the Bush administration have resulted in a fair amount of hateful speech being directed toward her in recent years. Much of the hate stems from conservative commentator Glenn Beck, who has accused Piven of trying to destroy the economy and incite violence, words that motivated many of his less civil fans to harass the 78-year-old with a number of threatening emails, letters, and calls, some calling for her death. Due to these threats, guards were posted outside of her classroom and the FBI is investigating the origin of the hateful communications. Piven doesn’t seem intimidated, however, stating that she sees this as a chance to encourage people like Beck to “practice journalism more responsibly.”

  3. Dana L. Cloud:

    An associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Dana L. Cloud’s research into feminism, Marxism, and social movements made her a target of conservative writer David Horowitz, who in 2006 included her in his book called The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. Horowitz accused Cloud of being an “anti-American radical” who supports the propaganda of the Saddam regime and brings her own, presumably dangerous, political views into the classroom. Words like these are rarely without consequence, and in the years since Cloud has seen numerous letters sent to the university calling for her dismissal, as well as threats of physical violence against her and her family. Cloud has spoken out publicly against Horowitz’s claims (even confronting him personally at an event in 2009), and there seems little evidence that she’s dangerous, but his accusations have nonetheless left her and others whom he named in his book to deal with serious threats, damage to their reputations, and potential harm to their careers.

  4. Ward Churchill:

    Ward Churchill is perhaps one of the most hated and controversial professors in the United States. In 2005, an essay Churchill wrote four years prior received national attention because of his assertion that the attacks on September 11 were the unavoidable consequence of unlawful and improper U.S. foreign policies. As a result of these incendiary comments, Churchill received more than 100 death threats and the University of Colorado began investigating Churchill for research misconduct. The result? Churchill was fired in 2007. Believing he was fired for the ideas he had published rather than his academic misconduct (dismissal is not the usual punishment for low-level research misconduct at the University of Colorado), Churchill filed a lawsuit against the university for wrongful termination. The court found that Churchill was indeed wrongly fired, but the battle hasn’t ended yet and is headed to the Colorado Supreme Court to determine whether the university has immunity from lawsuits like the one filed by Churchill.

  5. Sami Al-Arian:

    Born in Kuwait and raised in Egypt, Dr. Sami Al-Arian immigrated to the U.S. in 1975, eventually obtaining his Ph.D. in computer engineering from North Carolina State University in 1986. The son of Palestinian parents, Al-Arian founded the Islamic Committee for Palestine while he was teaching at the University of South Florida, which would be the beginning of his troubles with the law, as Al-Arian took a staunch anti-Israel position and supported a variety of Islamic causes. This involvement later caused former Attorney General John Ashcroft to call him “the most dangerous man in the world,” alleging that Al-Arian played a major role in funding, managing, and supervising terrorist organizations. Al-Arian was fired from his position at USF, indicted by the Department of Justice, and put in jail. And there he sits, to this day. Despite the constitutional right to a speedy trial, Al-Arian spent more than two years in solitary confinement waiting to hear the evidence against him, in conditions so questionable that Amnesty International called for an investigation. When he finally received a trial, a jury found Al-Arian innocent on eight of the charges against him and hung on the rest, with only one juror believing him guilty. The government, heavily invested in the case, decided to re-try him, offering a plea bargain if he would agree to leave the country and admit his guilt. Al-Arian agreed, but instead of the deal he was promised, he was sentenced to another 57 months in jail, during which he was called to testify against other accused terrorists, a violation of his plea bargain. Each refusal has caused Al-Arian to be held in contempt and resentenced to more time in prison, and he is still under house arrest. Whether Al-Arian is truly guilty is up for debate, but what is clear is that being on the wrong side of a political issue can land you in serious trouble, even in the U.S.

  6. J. Robert Oppenheimer:

    Most of us know Oppenheimer as a brilliant theoretical physicist who helped develop the first atomic weapons and made amazing discoveries in the fields of quantum mechanics. While he is often remembered for his achievements today, during his lifetime Oppenheimer was much more of a politically divisive individual. Like many other young intellectuals in his day, Oppenheimer supported many progressive policies that were to get him in trouble during the paranoia of the McCarthy era. His wife and a number of his close friends and colleagues were members of the Communist Party, though he himself was not an official member of the party. During the development of the atomic bomb, Oppenheimer was under close watch by the FBI (his phone tapped and mail opened), but it wasn’t until later that he would feel the full wrath of the investigation as the result of powerful political enemies who claimed to have evidence of his communist ties. The head of the Joint Atomic Energy Committee even advised J. Edgar Hoover that Oppenheimer was a Soviet agent. In 1953, Oppenheimer’s security clearance was revoked despite never being dishonest about his left-leaning views and the Communist connections of his peers. An extensive analysis of KGB archives in 2009 found that Oppenheimer has never been involved in espionage for the Soviets, despite efforts to recruit him, and in fact had removed several people from the Manhattan Project with Soviet sympathies.

  7. Tsien Hsue-shen:

    Tsien Hsue-shen is another academic working in America who met with some serious consequences during the McCarthy Era. During the 1940s Tsien helped to found the Jet Propulsion Lab at Caltech, making significant contributions to the missile and space programs in the U.S. through his work there. Unfortunately, the Chinese-born Tsien would come under suspicion of having Communist ties when he applied for naturalization in 1950, and he would be stripped of his security clearance, a penalty that made him unable to continue his career in the United States. As a result, Tsien decided to head back to his native China in order to find work, but with China now under communist leadership, U.S. government officials decided to detain Tsien on Terminal Island, imprisoning him for more than five years while the U.S. and China negotiated his release. Despite no substantial evidence of communist ties and the support of his colleagues, Tsien was forced to return to China in 1955 in exchange for American POWs captured during the Korean War, a move that his friend and attorney Grant Cooper called “one of the great tragedies of this century,” as his genius would be used to benefit the now Communist China, for whom he developed a number of ballistic missiles and long-range space rockets.

  8. Angela Davis:

    While academia is often accused of being too liberal, academics who lean a little too far to the left, like Angela Davis, can find their careers in jeopardy. An activist, radical, and scholar, Davis led the Communist Party and the Black Panthers during the tumultuous ’60s and ’70s, and was widely known as a radical feminist and activist for civil rights. Urged on by California Governor Ronald Reagan, the University of California fired Davis from her position at the school because of her membership in the Communist Party, an unlawful move that caused the UCLA regents to be censured by the American Association of University Professors. A California court agreed, stating that her political affiliations could not serve as a basis for her dismissal and she was reinstated at UCLA, much to the chagrin of the board. The board would again attack Davis for using “inflammatory language” in 1970. Davis had little time to retaliate, as things were about to get a lot worse for her. She would soon find herself on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list and would be arrested for her alleged involvement (the guns used were in her name) in a violent courtroom altercation that left six dead. In 1972, Davis was acquitted of all charges and would go on to teach at the University of California Santa Cruz and Syracuse University later in her career. Her trial would serve as the inspiration for two famous songs: “Angela” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono and “Sweet Black Angel” by the Rolling Stones.

  9. Margo Ramlal-Nankoe:

    Assistant professor Margo Ramlal-Nankoe was seeking tenure in Ithaca College’s sociology department, something she thought she’d easily attain given the glowing reviews by her students and colleagues. She was surprised when a small number of influential faculty members began actively campaigning against giving her tenure, as she had a strong academic and professional record. Of course, like most cases of academic persecution on this list, the reasons were largely political. Ramlal-Nankoe had spoken out against sexual harassment within the department, which probably ruffled some feathers. Yet she believes that at the heart of the campaign against her are her political views on Israel and Palestine, as she is an advocate for peace and has supported organizations and written articles on human rights violations she feels are being perpetrated by Israel. These unpopular views led to racist and sexist attacks and later an open death threat from another faculty member. Ramlal-Nankoe was told she didn’t fit into the department, was denied tenure, and that the board wanted a “native-born American.” She no longer teaches at the university.

  10. Loretta Capeheart:

    Free speech is a lofty ideal but one that isn’t always upheld in the United States, even in academic circles, as Loretta Capeheart would find out. Capeheart, a tenured professor at NEIU, has always been a vocal union supporter and an anti-war activist, but those issues, among others, would lead to direct conflicts with the school’s administration. In retaliation for her outspoken activism, push for minority scholars at the school, and support of student protestors, Capeheart would be denied merited awards and the appointment to chair of her department, a position to which she was elected. The university president told faculty at the school that they should be ready to “accept the consequences” of any of their actions or words, even those supposedly protected under the First Amendment. The most disturbing aspect of Capeheart’s situation? Capeheart took her case to court and after a four-year legal battle the judge ruled that NEIU was in the right, based on the legal case Garcetti v. Ceballos, which denies public employees the right to criticize their superiors. This opens up academics at institutions to being fired for a wide range of statements, further eroding the already shaky foundation of academic freedom in America.

Taken From Online Colleges

Phelps Wins Medal No. 19, Most of Any Olympian - NYTimes.com

Phelps Wins Medal No. 19, Most of Any Olympian - NYTimes.com:

"LONDON – Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time Tuesday night, anchoring the United States’ 800-meter freestyle relay team to a thunderous victory at the London Aquatics Centre."

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WASHINGTON: 5 ATF officials singled out in GOP report | Nation | Kentucky.com

WASHINGTON: 5 ATF officials singled out in GOP report | Nation | Kentucky.com:

 "WASHINGTON — Five officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives share much of the blame for what went wrong with the Arizona gun-smuggling probe called Operation Fast and Furious, a Republican congressional draft report concludes."

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I Told You So: Physics is Back!

A previous note explains why I believe we are going back to fundamental physics, my overarching interest. A friend of mine was interviewed by La Jornada,, an important Mexican newspaper. Also Yuri Milner made  Alan Guth -  one of my most respected acquaintances - a millionaire !

This is not the place to tell how I met these deserving physicists. Nevertheless I do want to tell you what they did.

Gerardo Herrera Corral , moved forward the field of  Experimental High Energy Physics in Mexico, which Mexican pioneers, like my professor Clicerio Avilez Valdez, started here at Fermilab, a few miles away from where I'm writing this.  Gerardo has been a successful physics leader.

Alan Guth invented Inflation.

Why is this important?

In the note before, I wrote that plutonium will move Curiosity on Mars, if it lands as planned. That battery was made by humans, based on our Fundamental Physics knowledge. Most of the plutonium at hand is "artificial", the primordial one, decayed long ago.

What about Inflation?

That was the ultimate Free Lunch!

Alan proposed that at the beginning of time, energy was stored in a fundamental scalar field, the inflaton, just waiting for us to show up, and develop that piece of plutonium waiting in Curiosity, to start another stage of human evolution.

Alan Guth must be happy today:

"The $3 million has already appeared in Dr. Guth’s bank account, one that had had a balance of $200. “Suddenly, it said, $3,000,200,” he said. “The bank charged a $12 wire transfer fee, but that was easily affordable.”"


Paranoia Strikes Shallow

ECB President Mario Draghi is being investigated by the EU’s ombudsman over his role in the Group of Thirty lobby group, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported Monday in its online edition.
EU Ombudsman Nikiforus Diamandouros has asked the ECB to report back by the end of October on Draghi’s role in the G30 and whether his membership could be considered a conflict of interest, according to Der Spiegel.
The EU’s ombudsman is charged with fielding and investigating complaints lodged against EU institutions by citizens or associations.
The G30 is a lobby group of senior bankers and economists, including some former and current central bankers.
I’m a member of the G30, and have been since 1988. If it’s a lobbying group, nobody told me. It’s a talk shop; I value it because I get a chance to hear what people like Trichet and Draghi have to say in an informal setting. No illusions on my part — they’re pitching a case, always; and while I’ve heard some smart things from people with a role in real-world decisions, I’ve also heard a lot of very foolish things said by alleged wise men. But then that’s a learning experience too.
Of all the things to worry about right now, the great G30 conspiracy is really off base.

9 Scientists Win Yuri Milner’s Fundamental Physics Prize - NYTimes.com

9 Scientists Win Yuri Milner’s Fundamental Physics Prize - NYTimes.com:

"Physicists are rarely wealthy or famous, but a new prize rewarding research at the field’s cutting edges has made nine of them instant multimillionaires."

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Orozco, Leyva Show Changing Face of US Gymnastics - NYTimes.com

Orozco, Leyva Show Changing Face of US Gymnastics - NYTimes.com:

 "LONDON (AP) — John Orozco knew from an early age he never quite fit in."

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Power Failures Hit Millions in India - NYTimes.com

Power Failures Hit Millions in India - NYTimes.com:

"NEW DELHI — About 600 million people lost power in India on Tuesday when the country’s northern and eastern electricity grids failed, crippling the country for a second consecutive day."

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Geneticists eye the potential of arXiv : Nature News & Comment

Geneticists eye the potential of arXiv : Nature News & Comment:

 "Population biologists turn to pre-publication server to gain wider readership and rapid review of results."

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Nuria Uriza is Better Than Zara Phillips

Equestrian Events Garner Attention at the London Games - NYTimes.com

Equestrian Events Garner Attention at the London Games - NYTimes.com:

 "LONDON — Centuries after the land now known as Greenwich Park went into the hands of Henry VI, the scenic greens were a hotbed of royal family buzz."

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Garcia Bernal Feels Chile's Pain in Latest Film - NYTimes.com

Garcia Bernal Feels Chile's Pain in Latest Film - NYTimes.com:

"SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Gael Garcia Bernal, best known for his role as a young Ernesto "Che" Guevara in "The Motorcycle Diaries," says his latest film has taught him a great deal about the pain that Chileans suffered during a long dictatorship."

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Abandoning Algebra Is Not the Answer | Observations, Scientific American Blog Network

Abandoning Algebra Is Not the Answer | Observations, Scientific American Blog Network:

 "In an opinion piece for the New York Times on Sunday, political science professor Andrew Hacker asks, “Is Algebra Necessary?” and answers, “No.” It’s not just algebra: geometry and calculus are on the chopping block, too. It’s not that he doesn’t think math is important; he wants the traditional sequence to be replaced by a general “quantitative skills” class, and perhaps some statistics."

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Studying Evolution With an Eye on the Future - NYTimes.com

Studying Evolution With an Eye on the Future - NYTimes.com:

"Charles Darwin came to many of his ideas by observing the wild creatures of South America. The biologist Sinéad Collins elaborates on his work by actually creating evolution in her laboratory at the University of Edinburgh. Dr. Collins, 36, sets up experiments to uncover evolution’s basic rules. She then uses the information to help work on solutions to contemporary environmental problems like global warming and marine acidification."

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Cave Findings Revive Debate on Human Behavior - NYTimes.com

Cave Findings Revive Debate on Human Behavior - NYTimes.com:

"In the widening search for the origins of modern human evolution, genes and fossils converge on Africa about 200,000 years ago as the where and when of the first skulls and bones that are strikingly similar to ours. So this appears to be the beginning of anatomically modern Homo sapiens."

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The Morality of Migration - NYTimes.com

The Morality of Migration - NYTimes.com:

"In announcing his executive order on June 15 that undocumented migrant youths who meet certain conditions would no longer be deported, President Obama said that “It was the right thing to do.” What he did not say was whether he meant “the right thing” legally or morally."

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Physics Again!

After a few years of applied mathematics, better known as Computer "Science", I expect Physics to become popular once again. Besides being a physicist, I believe this, because at some point, we will need hardware, which behavior can only be understood with Physics. Right now there is a spacecraft, the size of a Mini Cooper, in its way to the surface of Mars. It will be powered by a chemical that has all but disappeared from the Solar System. Plutonium has a lifetime of twenty thousand years, the Solar System was formed more than four billion years ago. All the primordial plutonium, baked for us in some far away star, which exploded as a supernova, is gone by now.

The only reason this rover will move around on the surface of Mars, if it lands properly, is that we know Fundamental Physics.

Curiosity, NASA Rover, Ready for Mars Landing - NYTimes.com

Curiosity, NASA Rover, Ready for Mars Landing - NYTimes.com:

"Right now, a spacecraft containing Curiosity — a car-size, nuclear-powered planet rover — is coasting at 8,000 miles per hour toward Mars, nearing the end of a journey that began in November. With tightening budgets, it is the last hurrah for NASA’s planetary program for quite a few years. Packed with ingenious new instruments, the rover promises to provide the best-ever examination of the Red Planet, digging up clues to a profound question: Could there ever have been life there?"

"Unlike the earlier rovers, Curiosity is powered by plutonium, generating electricity from the heat of radioactive decay. It is the same type of power supply that the two Voyager spacecraft traveling at the distant reaches of the solar system have been running on for nearly 35 years."

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Amazon.com: The Betrayal of the American Dream (9781586489694): Donald L. Barlett, James B. Steele: Books

Amazon.com: The Betrayal of the American Dream (9781586489694): Donald L. Barlett, James B. Steele: Books:

 "America’s unique prosperity is based on its creation of a middle class. In the twentieth century, that middle class provided the workforce, the educated skills, and the demand that gave life to the world’s greatest consumer economy. It was innovative and dynamic; it eclipsed old imperial systems and colonial archetypes. It gave rise to a dream: that if you worked hard and followed the rules you would prosper in America, and your children would enjoy a better life than yours."

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Donald L. Barlett - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Donald L. Barlett - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

"Donald L. Barlett (born July 17, 1936) is an American investigative journalist and author who collaborated with James B. Steele. According to The Washington Journalism Review (Magazine) they were a better investigative reporting team than even Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.[1] Together they have won two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Magazine Awards and six George Polk Awards. In addition, they have been recognized by their peers with awards from Investigative Reporters and Editors on five separate occasions. They are known for their reporting technique of delving deep into documents and then, after what could be a long investigative period, interviewing the necessary sources.[2] The duo has been working together for over 40 years and is frequently referred to as Barlett and Steele."

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Recaban lopezobradoristas en la capital y Chilapa pruebas del fraude electoral - La Jornada Guerrero

Recaban lopezobradoristas en la capital y Chilapa pruebas del fraude electoral - La Jornada Guerrero:

 "Realizan de manera simultánea 7 asambleas informativas"

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Insurance Rebates Seen as Early Benefit of Health Care Law - NYTimes.com

Insurance Rebates Seen as Early Benefit of Health Care Law - NYTimes.com:

 "Lucia Harkenreader’s check landed in her mailbox last week: a rebate of $456.15 from her health insurance company, with a letter dryly explaining that the money came courtesy of the federal health care law."

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NASA to Athletic Mars Rover - 'Stick the Landing' - NYTimes.com

NASA to Athletic Mars Rover - 'Stick the Landing' - NYTimes.com:

 "During its two-year exploration, the plutonium-powered Curiosity will climb the lower mountain flanks to probe the deposits. As sophisticated as the rover is, it cannot search for life. Instead, it carries a toolbox including a power drill, rock-zapping laser and mobile chemistry lab to sniff for organic compounds, considered the chemical building blocks of life. It also has cameras to take panoramic photos."

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Right now there is no plutonium on Mars. This man made plutonium will be on the surface of Mars, no matter how successful Curiosity lands, for twenty thousand years, which is plutonium's lifetime.

NASA to Athletic Mars Rover - 'Stick the Landing' - NYTimes.com

NASA to Athletic Mars Rover - 'Stick the Landing' - NYTimes.com:

 "PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — It's NASA's most ambitious and expensive Mars mission yet — and it begins with the red planet arrival late Sunday of the smartest interplanetary rover ever built. Also the most athletic."

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Major Mexican Newspaper Attacked 3rd Time in Month - NYTimes.com

Major Mexican Newspaper Attacked 3rd Time in Month - NYTimes.com:

"MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) — The offices of a major Mexican newspaper came under attack Sunday for the third time this month."

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Crash of the Bumblebee

Last week Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, declared that his institution “is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro” — and markets celebrated. In particular, interest rates on Spanish bonds fell sharply, and stock markets soared everywhere.

But will the euro really be saved? That remains very much in doubt.

First of all, Europe’s single currency is a deeply flawed construction. And Mr. Draghi, to his credit, actually acknowledged that. “The euro is like a bumblebee,” he declared. “This is a mystery of nature because it shouldn’t fly but instead it does. So the euro was a bumblebee that flew very well for several years.” But now it has stopped flying. What can be done? The answer, he suggested, is “to graduate to a real bee.”

Never mind the dubious biology, we get the point. In the long run, the euro will be workable only if the European Union becomes much more like a unified country.

Consider, for example, the comparison between Spain and Florida. Both had huge housing bubbles followed by dramatic crashes. But Spain is in crisis in a way Florida isn’t. Why? Because when the slump hit, Florida could count on Washington to keep paying for Social Security and Medicare, to guarantee the solvency of its banks, to provide emergency aid to its unemployed, and more. Spain had no such safety net, and in the long run, that has to be fixed.

But the creation of a United States of Europe won’t happen soon, if ever, while the crisis of the euro is now. So what can be done to save the currency?

Well, why was the bumblebee able to fly for a while? Why did the euro seem to work for its first eight or so years? Because the structure’s flaws were papered over by a boom in southern Europe. The creation of the euro convinced investors that it was safe to lend to countries like Greece and Spain that had previously been considered risky, so money poured into these countries — mainly, by the way, to finance private rather than public borrowing, with Greece the exception.

And for a while everyone was happy. In southern Europe, huge housing bubbles led to a surge in construction employment, even as manufacturing became increasingly uncompetitive. Meanwhile, the German economy, which had been languishing, perked up thanks to rapidly rising exports to those bubble economies in the south. The euro, it seemed, was working.

Then the bubbles burst. The construction jobs vanished, and unemployment in the south soared; it’s now well above 20 percent in both Spain and Greece. At the same time, revenues plunged; for the most part, big budget deficits are a result, not a cause, of the crisis. Nonetheless, investors took flight, driving up borrowing costs. In an attempt to soothe the financial markets, the afflicted countries imposed harsh austerity measures that deepened their slumps. And the euro as a whole is looking dangerously shaky.

What could turn this dangerous situation around? The answer is fairly clear: policy makers would have to (a) do something to bring southern Europe’s borrowing costs down and (b) give Europe’s debtors the same kind of opportunity to export their way out of trouble that Germany received during the good years — that is, create a boom in Germany that mirrors the boom in southern Europe between 1999 and 2007. (And yes, that would mean a temporary rise in German inflation.) The trouble is that Europe’s policy makers seem reluctant to do (a), and completely unwilling to do (b).

In his remarks, Mr. Draghi — who I suspect understands all of this — basically floated the idea of having the central bank buy lots of southern European bonds to bring those borrowing costs down. But over the next two days German officials appeared to throw cold water on that idea. In principle, Mr. Draghi could just overrule German objections, but would he really be willing to do that?

And bond purchases are the easy part. The euro can’t be saved unless Germany is also willing to accept substantially higher inflation over the next few years — and so far I have seen no sign that German officials are even willing to discuss this issue, let alone accept what’s necessary. Instead, they’re still insisting, despite failure after failure — remember when Ireland was supposedly on the road to rapid recovery? — that everything will be fine if debtors just stick to their austerity programs.

So could the euro be saved? Yes, probably. Should it be saved? Yes, even though its creation now looks like a huge mistake. For failure of the euro wouldn’t just cause economic disruption; it would be a giant blow to the wider European project, which has brought peace and democracy to a continent with a tragic history.

But will it actually be saved? Despite Mr. Draghi’s show of determination, that is, as I said, very much in doubt.


Here Bee Draghi

Given the tsunami of reporting about Mario Draghi’s remarks last week, not to mention the huge market reaction, it’s kind of strange how few links I’ve seen to what he actually said, which is considerably stranger than you’d gather from the coverage — and has a definite plaintive note, too.
Here’s the passage that caught my eye:
The euro is like a bumblebee. This is a mystery of nature because it shouldn’t fly but instead it does. So the euro was a bumblebee that flew very well for several years. And now – and I think people ask “how come?” – probably there was something in the atmosphere, in the air, that made the bumblebee fly. Now something must have changed in the air, and we know what after the financial crisis. The bumblebee would have to graduate to a real bee. And that’s what it’s doing.
Only considerably later did he make the declaration that the ECB would do “whatever it takes” — a declaration everyone seized on, but which may mean little.
The thing is, we know pretty well why the bumblebee was able to fly: massive capital flows from the core to the periphery, which led to an inflationary boom in said periphery, and which therefore also allowed the German economy — which was in the doldrums in the late 1990s — to experience a big gain in competitiveness and hence a surge in its trade surplus without needing to go through painful deflation. This meant, in turn, modest inflation in the eurozone as a whole — slightly above 2 percent over 1999-2007.
To keep the thing flying, you’d need something like a reverse play along the same lines: an inflationary boom in Germany, so that the periphery can regain competitiveness without devastating deflation. And it would actually have to involve a higher rate of inflation, both because the required adjustment is bigger and because the periphery is a smaller share of euro area GDP, which by the math means that overall inflation needs to be higher to accommodate a given amount of relative adjustment.
Nothing like that is happening. Germany is arguably close to full employment, but not in an inflationary boom; expected euro area inflation appears to be less than one percent.
And as for graduating to a real bee — that will take time that Europe doesn’t have.

Showtime for Draghi at European Central Bank Meeting - NYTimes.com

Showtime for Draghi at European Central Bank Meeting - NYTimes.com:

 "FRANKFURT — Mario Draghi demonstrated last week how a few choice words from a central bank chief can make or break fortunes, even those of whole nations."

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Here Bee Draghi - NYTimes.com

Here Bee Draghi - NYTimes.com:

"Given the tsunami of reporting about Mario Draghi’s remarks last week, not to mention the huge market reaction, it’s kind of strange how few links I’ve seen to what he actually said, which is considerably stranger than you’d gather from the coverage — and has a definite plaintive note, too."

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3 Sudanese Athletes Sought Asylum in Britain - NYTimes.com

3 Sudanese Athletes Sought Asylum in Britain - NYTimes.com:

"KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Sudan is denying that one of its Olympic runners has defected in London, while confirming that three athletes in another competition have requested asylum."

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A Civil Union Ends in an Abduction and Questions

The children of Timothy D. Miller, a Mennonite pastor, who knew the missing Isabella in Nicaragua. The girl and her mother were hidden there by supportive church members

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Lisa A. Miller and her daughter, Isabella, started their fugitive lives here in the fall of 2009, disguised in the white scarves and long blue dresses of the Mennonites who spirited them out of the United States and adopting the aliases Sarah and Lydia.

Now 10, Isabella Miller-Jenkins has spent her last three birthdays on the run, “bouncing around the barrios of Nicaragua,” as one federal agent put it, a lively blond girl and her mother trying to blend in and elude the United States marshals who have traveled to the country in pursuit.

She can now chatter in Spanish, but her time in Nicaragua has often been lonely, those who have met her say, long on prayer but isolated. She has been told that she could be wrenched from her mother if they are caught. She has also been told that the other woman she once called “Mama,” Ms. Miller’s former partner from a civil union in Vermont that she has since renounced, cannot go to heaven because she lives in sin with women.

Isabella’s tumultuous life has embodied some of America’s bitterest culture wars — a choice, as Ms. Miller said in a courtroom plea, shortly before their desperate flight, “between two diametrically opposed worldviews on parentage and family.”

Isabella was 7 when she and Ms. Miller jumped into a car in Virginia, leaving behind their belongings and a family of pet hamsters to die without food or water. Supporters drove them to Buffalo, where they took a taxi to Canada and boarded a flight to Mexico and then Central America.

Ms. Miller, 44, is wanted by the F.B.I. and Interpol for international parental kidnapping. In their underground existence in this impoverished tropical country, she and Isabella have been helped by evangelical groups who endorse her decision to flee rather than to expose Isabella to the “homosexual lifestyle” of her other legal mother, Janet Jenkins.

In a tale filled with improbables, an Amish Mennonite sect known for simple living and avoiding politics has been drawn into the high-stakes criminal case: one of its pastors is facing trial in Vermont on Aug. 7 on charges of abetting the kidnapping.

The decade-long drama touches on some of the country’s most contentious social and legal questions, including the extension of civil union and marital rights to same-sex couples and what happens, in the courts and to children, when such unions dissolve.

In this case, the passions of any divorce were multiplied by Ms. Miller’s born-again conversion to conservative Christianity and her denouncing of lesbianism as an addiction. Ms. Miller repeatedly prevented Isabella’s court-ordered visits with Ms. Jenkins until an exasperated Vermont judge said he would transfer custody.

And then Ms. Miller fled.

Her supporters say she has been persecuted because of her religion. They made “Protect Isabella” a rallying cry at a time when more gay couples are raising children, whether through adoption or, in Lisa Miller’s case, in vitro fertilization.

“I only want to see my daughter,” Ms. Jenkins said in an interview this spring in the four-bedroom house in Vermont that she and Ms. Miller bought when they dreamed of having five children. Ms. Jenkins, 47, has since married another woman and runs a day care business.

Even as Ms. Miller disappeared with Isabella, the Vermont judge granted Ms. Jenkins formal custody of the girl, as of Jan. 1, 2010. Ms. Jenkins keeps a bedroom piled with toys that Isabella is surely outgrowing.

“What’s hard for me as a parent is not knowing what she’s going through,” Ms. Jenkins said.

At the center of the story is a girl, tall for her age, whose cheerful face appears on a poster from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Based on the first extended interviews with the missionaries who harbored the pair, visits to places where Isabella and Ms. Miller stayed in Nicaragua and court documents, The New York Times has assembled the most complete picture yet of their getaway and subsequent life.

A Romance Turns Bitter

Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins met at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in Falls Church, Va., in 1997. In later interviews, with supporters and her lawyers, Ms. Miller described growing up with a mentally unstable mother and dealing with her own problems of pill addictions, food disorders and self-mutilation. After a failed marriage and a suicide attempt, she said, she began seeing women.

Ms. Jenkins, when they met, had recently ended a long-term relationship with a woman.

“It was a normal courtship, and we fell in love,” Ms. Jenkins recalled. “We wanted to have a family and spend the rest of our lives together.”

They became pioneers of sorts: in 2000, soon after Vermont became the first state to offer civil unions, they traveled there to seal the relationship, adopting the joint surname Miller-Jenkins.

When Ms. Miller decided to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization, they picked a donor with Ms. Jenkins’s green eyes. Isabella Ruth Miller-Jenkins was born in Virginia on April 16, 2002. Ms. Jenkins cut the umbilical cord as her own mother, Ruth, stood in the room.

Preferring to raise a family in a state that endorsed same-sex relationships, the couple moved to southern Vermont. They bought a two-story house within walking distance of a grade school in Fair Haven, a small town known for Victorian houses and summer music on the village green.

Isabella learned to call Ms. Jenkins “Mama” and Ms. Miller “Mommy.” In these apparently happier days, Ms. Miller made an Easter card for Ms. Jenkins with Isabella’s handprints and the words, “Mamma I love you.”

Ms. Miller later said in interviews that even before the move, she was rediscovering Christianity and questioning her lesbianism. During her difficult pregnancy with Isabella, “I promised God that if he would save my baby, I would leave the homosexual lifestyle,” she said in notes she left for one of her lawyers, Rena M. Lindevaldsen, associate dean of the Liberty University Law School. Ms. Lindevaldsen describes the notes in “Only One Mommy,” New Revolution Publishers, her 2011 book on Ms. Miller and what she calls the threat of “the homosexual lifestyle.”

But such doubts were not apparent to Ms. Jenkins, who said they lived as Unitarians at the time, nor to Ms. Jenkins’s parents in Virginia, Roman Catholics who said they had warm relations with Ms. Miller and doted over their new grandchild.

Ms. Miller became pregnant again but had a miscarriage. She fell into depression, according to Ms. Jenkins; Ms. Miller later said that she was tortured by guilt. They separated in September 2003, when Isabella was 17 months old. Ms. Miller moved back to Virginia, a state that does not recognize same-sex unions or marriage.

Ms. Jenkins signed a promise to pay child support, and they agreed, she said, that she and her parents would remain in Isabella’s life.

“I wanted to preserve the close bond with Isabella,” Ms. Jenkins said, and she started visiting on weekends, making the 10-hour drive from Vermont. Their civil union was formally dissolved in 2004, and Family Court in Vermont granted custody to Ms. Miller with visiting rights for Ms. Jenkins.

But according to court records, Ms. Miller soon began to block visits, disappearing with Isabella before Ms. Jenkins arrived. As she became more vocal about her religious beliefs she moved to Lynchburg, Va., where she got a teaching job at Liberty Christian Academy, a Baptist school founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell with close ties to Liberty University, which he also founded.

Her legal case was taken up by Liberty Counsel, which is affiliated with the Liberty Law School. Her lawyers, led by the dean of the law school, Matthew D. Staver, and Ms. Lindevaldsen, invoked the federal Defense of Marriage Act to argue that Virginia’s laws had precedence and that Ms. Jenkins was not a parent.

Seeing the custody battle as an important test, national gay rights advocates including Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders have given legal aid to Ms. Jenkins.

Initially, a Virginia court sided with Ms. Miller, and for two years she did not allow Ms. Jenkins to see Isabella. She told Ms. Jenkins’s parents that they should not consider themselves Isabella’s grandparents and that the child could no longer call them “Mom-Mom” and “Pop-Pop.”

“I couldn’t believe that Lisa was saying this,” Ruth Jenkins said in an interview. “I was in shock.”

But eventually, setting what legal experts said was an important precedent, the Virginia Supreme Court determined that Vermont still had jurisdiction, regardless of Virginia’s stance on same-sex unions. The Vermont court laid out a new schedule of visits.

The Flight

In 2009, Ms. Miller’s options were shrinking.

That January, she again started blocking visits. She complained, in a court filing and to friends, that Ms. Jenkins had upset Isabella by taking a bath with the child and was undermining the girl’s conservative beliefs by reading her “Heather Has Two Mommies.” When Isabella returned from a rare visit to Vermont showing anxiety and wetting her bed, Ms. Miller blamed Ms. Jenkins.

The exasperated judge in Vermont held Ms. Miller in contempt once again but gave her another chance, specifying visits in Virginia and in Vermont. But none took place. In August, the judge warned that he would transfer custody and ordered a weekend visit for late September.

Ms. Miller’s written appeal to the judge that fall gives some idea of her thinking.

“What is at stake is the health and well-being of an intelligent, delightful, beautiful, 7-year-old Christian girl,” she wrote. Isabella “knows from her own reading of the Bible that marriage is between a man and a woman,” she wrote, “that she cannot have two mommies, that when I lived the homosexual lifestyle I sinned against God, and that unless Janet accepts Christ as her personal savior, she will not go to heaven.”

Ms. Miller was also under financial pressure because her teaching position had not been renewed.

She prayed long hours, hoping God would tell her what was best for her daughter, said Linda M. Wall, a conservative activist and self-described “ex-gay” who befriended her in Virginia.

“I told Lisa that she should have a Plan B,” Ms. Wall said, but Ms. Miller, she added, seemed to resist the idea.

In fact, Ms. Miller made a secret plan, the government alleges, based partly on recovered e-mails and phone records.

One person named in the court papers is Philip Zodhiates, the owner of a conservative Christian direct-mail-list service who lives in Waynesboro, Va., and owns a beach house in Nicaragua. The other is Kenneth L. Miller, a pastor of the Beachy Amish Mennonite sect in Stuart’s Draft, Va., and manager of a family garden business five minutes from Mr. Zodhiates’s home. (He is not related to Lisa Miller.)

Mr. Zodhiates has not been indicted, but Mr. Miller’s trial is set to begin on Aug. 7. Prosecutors, citing extensive e-mail correspondence, say that he helped make arrangements for the escape to Nicaragua. If convicted, he could be sentenced to three years in prison. E-mails in the court documents suggest that Mr. Zodhiates also helped with the flight and later sent “care packages” with items like peanut butter to Lisa and Isabella.

Mr. Miller and Mr. Zodhiates declined to comment for this article.

Just how Ms. Miller got in touch with Kenneth Miller remains a central legal question, said Sarah Star, Ms. Jenkins’s lawyer in Vermont.

One of Mr. Zodhiates’s daughters, Victoria Hyden, is an administrative assistant at the Liberty Law School. But Mr. Staver, the dean, said that while he had met Mr. Zodhiates a few times, neither he nor his colleagues had ever discussed the Miller case with him or Ms. Hyden, and that they, too, were surprised when Ms. Miller disappeared.

On Sept. 21, 2009, Ms. Miller and Isabella drove south to meet Kenneth Miller, who, according to court documents and missionaries in Nicaragua, gave them Mennonite dresses and scarves for their journey. That evening they were driven to Buffalo, a trip documented by the F.B.I. in a trail of calls from two cellphones registered to Mr. Zodhiates’s company, Response Unlimited.

Just after midnight, prosecutors allege, Ms. Miller and Isabella took a taxi over the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls and were met by a Mennonite pastor who put them on a plane to Mexico City, where they continued on to El Salvador and Nicaragua.

The tickets had been bought at Kenneth Miller’s request, according to the indictment, with the purchase arranged by a fellow Mennonite pastor in Nicaragua who had his mother-in-law in the United States buy them. She was reimbursed with a money order from Virginia.

Ms. Wall said that after no one had heard from Ms. Miller for three weeks, she let herself into her house outside Lynchburg.

“Inside, it looked like she had just gone to the grocery store,” Ms. Wall recalled. The curling iron was sitting out and the closets were filled. When she discovered the dead hamster family, she said, she knew they were long gone.

“I thought, wow, congratulations Lisa Miller, you did it,” she recalled.

Embraced by Mennonites

Ms. Miller and Isabella were met at the Managua airport by Timothy D. Miller, 35, known as Timo, an ebullient pastor who was born to missionaries in Honduras and runs the Beachy Amish Mennonite outpost in a rough area of this capital city. He drove them straight to the interior town of Jinotega, in the coffee-growing hills of northern Nicaragua, he said in an interview, where they lived for two months on a farm. (Timo Miller is not related to either Kenneth or Lisa Miller.)

Isabella enjoyed the animals, but it was a rainy, foggy time of year in Jinotega and Ms. Miller felt isolated, Timo Miller said. The pair moved to Managua, to a $150-a-month one-bedroom home near the Mennonite mission.

The mother and daughter came to visit nearly every day, as Lisa helped with home schooling. Some evenings, Isabella sat on the pastor’s lap as he read to her and his own four children the American Girl books, “Little House on the Prairie” and Bible stories. “We were like family,” he recalled.

One of his daughters, RuthAnna, 9, said she and the girl she knew as Lydia used to ride bicycles in their courtyard and enjoyed giggle-filled sleepovers at each other’s homes. “We were best friends,” she said.

Mr. Miller’s wife, Joanna, said that when they went shopping together, “people would gawk over Isabella and her blond hair.”

But “the isolation is driving her and little Lydia crazy,” Timo Miller wrote of Lisa and her daughter in an e-mail to friends.

He noted that the girl’s 8th birthday was coming up on April 16, 2010, and said that she could use cheering up with a party. “She is going through a lot,” he wrote to his parents, also missionaries, who lived in the remote town of Waslala.

Timo Miller’s family and their guests made the rugged five-hour drive to Waslala, where the Mennonites have five scattered churches and a clinic among small cattle ranches and bean farms. The family of Pablo Yoder, another pastor, hosted a birthday party at their tranquil homestead with a green lawn and a pet macaw.

Isabella was feted by some 25 Mennonites with a cake, homemade ice cream and a piñata for the children. After a dinner of rice and chicken, they sang hymns in the yard, Mr. Yoder said in an interview in Waslala.

The group from Managua returned home within a day or two. But personal relations with Ms. Miller, who tends to see things “in black and white,” Timo Miller said, were getting strained. Within weeks after the party, she and her daughter moved back to Jinotega, renting a house on their own in town.

Missionaries in Jinotega, too, indicated that Ms. Miller struggled with depression.

“Lisa is very independent-minded,” said David Friesen, 45, a Canadian Mennonite in Jinotega. “She needed spiritual help,” he said, and there were issues of anger and forgiveness from her past life.

But eventually, he said, she embraced the fundamentalist faith of the Mennonites. She also showed initiative, inviting neighborhood children into her home to read them Bible stories through an interpreter.

Everything changed on April 18, 2011, a year after the birthday party, when Timo Miller, returning for a vacation in the United States with his family, was arrested at Dulles Airport and charged with aiding a kidnapping. Ms. Miller and Isabella quickly disappeared from their house in Jinotega, and there have been no reported sightings since, but federal agents believe the pair remain in Nicaragua.

In December 2011, federal prosecutors dropped the charges against Timo Miller in return for his testimony and filed charges against Kenneth Miller for what they allege was his more central role in the flight from the United States.

Up to Timo Miller’s arrest, the missionaries in Nicaragua said, they had not realized they could be prosecuted.

“We had no idea what we were getting into,” Mr. Friesen said of the decision to shelter Ms. Miller and Isabella. But he added, “We are willing to be persecuted for God’s will.”

Timothy Schrock, 46, bishop of the Mennonites in Nicaragua, originally approved Kenneth Miller’s request to help Isabella and her mother. Speaking in Waslala, where he is pastor of a remote church, he said that the “brethren,” as they call themselves, now feel under siege, their phones and e-mails presumably monitored, and some are afraid to return to American soil.

But he supported Ms. Miller’s decision to flee on religious grounds.

“As many rights as Janet may have, this child is being pushed into a situation that God has not agreed with,” Mr. Schrock said.

Ms. Lindevaldsen, the lawyer, said she knew that her former client could face jail time if caught, and that Isabella’s life could take another wrenching turn. She blames a misguided legal system.

“It’s sad that in America a woman was faced with this choice,” she said. “The court overstepped its bounds, calling someone a parent who is not a parent and turning a child over to a person who lives contrary to biblical truths.”

Ms. Jenkins said she had learned to shrug off the personal attacks and worries only about Isabella’s welfare, after years in hiding in a strange land, with all her former ties lost.

“Isabella was such a happy child,” she said. “That’s one of the things I hope has stayed the same.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 29, 2012

An earlier version of this article misidentified an organization that gave legal aid to Janet Jenkins. It is the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, not the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

A version of this article appeared in print on July 29, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Which Mother for Isabella? Civil Union Ends in an Abduction and Questions.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Robert Fisk: Syrian war of lies and hypocrisy

Has there ever been a Middle Eastern war of such hypocrisy? A war of such cowardice and such mean morality, of such false rhetoric and such public humiliation? I'm not talking about the physical victims of the Syrian tragedy. I'm referring to the utter lies and mendacity of our masters and our own public opinion – eastern as well as western – in response to the slaughter, a vicious pantomime more worthy of Swiftian satire than Tolstoy or Shakespeare.

While Qatar and Saudi Arabia arm and fund the rebels of Syria to overthrow Bashar al-Assad's Alawite/Shia-Baathist dictatorship, Washington mutters not a word of criticism against them. President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, say they want a democracy in Syria. But Qatar is an autocracy and Saudi Arabia is among the most pernicious of caliphate-kingly-dictatorships in the Arab world. Rulers of both states inherit power from their families – just as Bashar has done – and Saudi Arabia is an ally of the Salafist-Wahabi rebels in Syria, just as it was the most fervent supporter of the medieval Taliban during Afghanistan's dark ages.

Indeed, 15 of the 19 hijacker-mass murderers of 11 September, 2001, came from Saudi Arabia – after which, of course, we bombed Afghanistan. The Saudis are repressing their own Shia minority just as they now wish to destroy the Alawite-Shia minority of Syria. And we believe Saudi Arabia wants to set up a democracy in Syria?

Then we have the Shia Hezbollah party/militia in Lebanon, right hand of Shia Iran and supporter of Bashar al-Assad's regime. For 30 years, Hezbollah has defended the oppressed Shias of southern Lebanon against Israeli aggression. They have presented themselves as the defenders of Palestinian rights in the West Bank and Gaza. But faced with the slow collapse of their ruthless ally in Syria, they have lost their tongue. Not a word have they uttered – nor their princely Sayed Hassan Nasrallah – about the rape and mass murder of Syrian civilians by Bashar's soldiers and "Shabiha" militia.

Then we have the heroes of America – La Clinton, the Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, and Obama himself. Clinton issues a "stern warning" to Assad. Panetta – the same man who repeated to the last US forces in Iraq that old lie about Saddam's connection to 9/11 – announces that things are "spiralling out of control" in Syria. They have been doing that for at least six months. Has he just realised? And then Obama told us last week that "given the regime's stockpile of nuclear weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad … that the world is watching". Now, was it not a County Cork newspaper called the Skibbereen Eagle, fearful of Russia's designs on China, which declared that it was "keeping an eye … on the Tsar of Russia"? Now it is Obama's turn to emphasise how little clout he has in the mighty conflicts of the world. How Bashar must be shaking in his boots.

But what US administration would really want to see Bashar's atrocious archives of torture opened to our gaze? Why, only a few years ago, the Bush administration was sending Muslims to Damascus for Bashar's torturers to tear their fingernails out for information, imprisoned at the US government's request in the very hell-hole which Syrian rebels blew to bits last week. Western embassies dutifully supplied the prisoners' tormentors with questions for the victims. Bashar, you see, was our baby.

Then there's that neighbouring country which owes us so much gratitude: Iraq. Last week, it suffered in one day 29 bombing attacks in 19 cities, killing 111 civilian and wounding another 235. The same day, Syria's bloodbath consumed about the same number of innocents. But Iraq was "down the page" from Syria, buried "below the fold", as we journalists say; because, of course, we gave freedom to Iraq, Jeffersonian democracy, etc, etc, didn't we? So this slaughter to the east of Syria didn't have quite the same impact, did it? Nothing we did in 2003 led to Iraq's suffering today. Right?

And talking of journalism, who in BBC World News decided that even the preparations for the Olympics should take precedence all last week over Syrian outrages? British newspapers and the BBC in Britain will naturally lead with the Olympics as a local story. But in a lamentable decision, the BBC – broadcasting "world" news to the world – also decided that the passage of the Olympic flame was more important than dying Syrian children, even when it has its own courageous reporter sending his despatches directly from Aleppo.

Then, of course, there's us, our dear liberal selves who are so quick to fill the streets of London in protest at the Israeli slaughter of Palestinians. Rightly so, of course. When our political leaders are happy to condemn Arabs for their savagery but too timid to utter a word of the mildest criticism when the Israeli army commits crimes against humanity – or watches its allies do it in Lebanon – ordinary people have to remind the world that they are not as timid as the politicians. But when the scorecard of death in Syria reaches 15,000 or 19,000 – perhaps 14 times as many fatalities as in Israel's savage 2008-2009 onslaught on Gaza – scarcely a single protester, save for Syrian expatriates abroad, walks the streets to condemn these crimes against humanity. Israel's crimes have not been on this scale since 1948. Rightly or wrongly, the message that goes out is simple: we demand justice and the right to life for Arabs if they are butchered by the West and its Israeli allies; but not when they are being butchered by their fellow Arabs.

And all the while, we forget the "big" truth. That this is an attempt to crush the Syrian dictatorship not because of our love for Syrians or our hatred of our former friend Bashar al-Assad, or because of our outrage at Russia, whose place in the pantheon of hypocrites is clear when we watch its reaction to all the little Stalingrads across Syria. No, this is all about Iran and our desire to crush the Islamic Republic and its infernal nuclear plans – if they exist – and has nothing to do with human rights or the right to life or the death of Syrian babies. Quelle horreur!

Migrants’ Freedom Ride


On Sunday night or early Monday, about three dozen people are planning to set out on a six-week bus voyage through the dark terrain of American immigration politics. Their journey is to begin, fittingly, in the desert in Arizona, national capital of anti-immigrant laws and oppressive policing. It will wind through other states where laws and failed policies force immigrants to toil outside the law — New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee — and end in North Carolina at the Democratic National Convention.

There the riders plan to deliver a defiant message to a president who is hoping to return to office on a wave of Latino support that they believe he has not earned.

There is something very different about this particular protest. Many of those planning to ride the bus are undocumented and — for the first time — are not afraid to say so. Immigrants who dread arrest and deportation usually seek anonymity. These riders, weary of life in the shadows and frustrated by the lack of progress toward reform, will be telling federal authorities and the local police: Here are our names. This is our plan. If you want us, come get us.

The momentum for this daring ride, called the “UndocuBus,” began building last Tuesday at the federal courthouse in downtown Phoenix. The immigrants’ nemesis, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, was testifying at trial that day about his office’s long history of racial profiling and discriminatory policing. Out on the street, the midday glare off the pavement was blinding. Four unauthorized immigrants — Leticia Ramirez, Miguel Guerra, Natally Cruz and Isela Meraz — sat blocking traffic and waited to be arrested. They were taken away in cuffs to spend the night at Sheriff Arpaio’s red-brick jail on Fourth Avenue.

Their civil disobedience should not have been necessary. Hopes for reform were high in 2006, a year of huge, peaceful pro-immigrant marches in cities across the country, after which Congress entertained comprehensive reform that had strong bipartisan support. But Republicans killed the bill, and the years of inaction that followed crushed immigrants’ hopes while reinforcing the broken status quo — to the benefit of border vigilantes, the private-prison industry, the engorged homeland security apparatus and hard-right ideologues who started planting neo-nativist laws in legislatures across the land, starting in Arizona.

As Sheriff Arpaio quickly recognized, demonizing the undocumented was a potent political tool: once an immigration moderate, he recast himself as a relentless hunter of “illegal aliens.” With federal powers delegated to him by the Homeland Security Department, he spent years conducting “saturation patrols” in Latino neighborhoods of Maricopa County, abusing and terrifying those with brown skin.

All this time, as promises were broken and reforms went nowhere, as President Obama ratcheted up deportations to record levels, and as Republicans intensified their assaults, the immigrants lay low. But then groups of students, working outside the regular channels of immigrant advocacy, bravely “came out” as undocumented and demanded justice — and won from Mr. Obama a promise not to deport them.

A few more immigrants have now chosen to come out of the shadows. It is impossible to know how many of the 10 million to 12 million undocumented might dare to do the same. And while each and every one of them deserves a chance to get right with the law, one provocative bus trip may well seem like a voyage to nowhere, given the dismal state of Congress and the low odds of immigration reform.

But this small group has already won an important victory, a victory against fear. At the cramped offices of Puente Arizona, the Phoenix organization behind the “UndocuBus,” volunteers kept busy last week updating calendars and working phone banks. They made papier-mâché masks and silk-screen posters, and decorated plastic buckets for drumming. There was packing to be done, a bus to be painted. Saturday was the day for a march, Sunday will be for the gathering in a city park, for eating, singing and saying goodbyes. After that, the bus will roll.

A version of this editorial appeared in print on July 29, 2012, on page SR10 of the National edition with the headline: Migrants’ Freedom Ride.

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