Cool News From NASA:
Phoenix Verifies Water On Mars

TOPIC: water on Mars

Image: full-circle panorama in approximately true color, combining more than 400 images taken during the first several weeks after NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander arrived on the Martian artic plane. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University Arizona/Texas A&M University. See http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/phoenix/images/press/15158.html for more details.

NASA's Phoenix spacecraft & Mars probe has confirmed the presence of ice in the polar soil:

NASA Spacecraft Confirms Martian Water, Mission Extended

The Mission News site at NASA.gov reports:

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Laboratory tests aboard NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander have identified water in a soil sample. The lander's robotic arm delivered the sample Wednesday to an instrument that identifies vapors produced by the heating of samples.

"We have water," said William Boynton of the University of Arizona, lead scientist for the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA. "We've seen evidence for this water ice before in observations by the Mars Odyssey orbiter and in disappearing chunks observed by Phoenix last month, but this is the first time Martian water has been touched and tasted."

Boyton went on to say that "From my standpoint, it tastes very fine." (Mars probe finds water. USA Today, 7/31/2008).


Mars probe finds water (7/31/2008). USA Today, accessed 7/31/2008 at http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/space/2008-07-31-mars-water_N.htm

NASA Spacecraft Confirms Martian Water, Mission Extended (7/31/2008). NASA website, accessed 7/31/2008 at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/phoenix/news/phoenix-20080731.html


Massachusetts Takes Another Step Toward Equal Rights

TOPIC: gay rights, gay marriage

The Massachusetts legislature has now voted to repeal a 1913 law that had been used to block gay marriages involving out-of-state couples, and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick indicates he will sign the bill.

So, now in addition to allowing residents of Massachusetts to participate in same-sex marriages (since 2004 under then governor Mitt Romney), out-of-state gay couples can go to Massachusetts to get married, even if their "home state" does not allow/recognize such unions.

Partly (ironically) driven by economic considerations, sure. But my less cynical side hopes that Massachusetts state Rep. Byron Rushing is sincere when he says that "This is question of fairness, and it is a question of equity" (Mass. House OKs out-of-state gay marriage, USA Today, 7/29/2008).


Braun, Stephen (7/16/2008). Massachusetts Senate votes to end gay marriage restriction. Los Angeles Times, accessed Tues 7/29/2008 at web address http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-gaymarry16-2008jul16,0,5071765.story .

Goodridge v. Mass. Department of Public Health, 440 Mass. 309, 798 NE2d 941 (Nov. 18, 2003).

Mass. House OKs out-of-state gay marriage. (7/29/2008). USA Today, accessed 7/29/2008 at web page http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-07-29-mass-gaymarriage_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip .

Massachusetts Law About Same-Sex Marriage. Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries (online), web page accessed Tues 7/29/2008 at http://www.lawlib.state.ma.us/gaymarriage.html.

Viser, M. (7/10/2008). Gay-marriage advocates hope to repeal old law: Nonresidents now barred. The Boston Globe, accessed Tues 7/29/2008 online at web address http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/07/10/gay_marriage_advocates_hope_to_repeal_old_law/ .


Deroy Murdock Blasts "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" on National Review Online

TOPIC: gays in the military

Deroy Murdock (a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution) has authored a nice article on National Review Online pointing up the continuing absurdities of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" anti-gay military policy, and reporting particularly on the increased granting of "moral waivers" (through which the Army has evidently even inducted felony child molestors!):

… Pentagon officials evidently trust military inductees with felony rap sheets more than they do law-abiding gay GIs. Having relaxed academic, age, and weight restrictions to achieve recruitment goals, the Defense Department has granted “moral waivers” to criminal convicts. Simultaneously, it uses the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy to jettison gays in uniform, usually for merely disclosing their sexuality. This policy deserves a dishonorable discharge.

… Between 2003 and 2006, U.C. Santa Barbara’s Michael D. Palm Center calculates, “106,768 individuals with serious criminal histories were admitted” to the armed forces.

Last year, the Army gave moral waivers to 106 applicants convicted of burglary, 15 of felonious break-ins, 11 of grand-theft-auto, and eight of arson. It also admitted five rape/sexual-assault convicts, two felony child molesters, two manslaughter convicts, and two felons condemned for “terrorist threats including bomb threats.”

Conversely, expelled military personnel include Arabic linguists and intelligence specialists who help crush America’s foes in the War on Terror. “Don’t Ask” has ousted at least 58 soldiers who speak Arabic, 50 Korean, 42 Russian, 20 Chinese, nine Farsi, and eight Serbo-Croatian — all trained at the prestigious Defense Language Institute. Al-Qaeda intercepts need translation, and Uncle Sam may need people who can walk around Tehran with open ears. Yet these dedicated gay citizens now are ex-GIs.

Murdock's take-home message is rationality itself:

“Don’t Ask” should yield to equality: Sexual orientation should be irrelevant while inappropriate sexual conduct — gay, straight, or otherwise — should be punished.


American Veterans for Equal Rights, http://aver.us/aver/

Freeman, Simon (7/02/2008). Pride & patriotism: The fight for the right to serve. Published online and accessed 7/03/2008 at web site http://atlanta.creativeloafing.com/gyrobase/pride_amp_patriotism/Content?oid=508559

Murdock, Deroy (7/23/2008). Don’t Make Sense: A policy that deserves a dishonorable discharge. National Review Online. Article accessed 7/28/2008 at web address http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ODliYjkwN2RkNWExMWE5OGQxMzA2ODNlZTc5NTRhYjY=


Discovery Channel’s
I Love The Whole World (Boom-de-Ah-Dah)

TOPIC: Discovery Channel and the Whole World

OK, so I love to sing along with it (apparently like millions of others out there). And if you're one of the few who haven't had enough of it, here it is again:

I'm also a sentimental sap for feel-good songs with children singing:

And I really wish I had had someone like singingcera for one of my science teachers as a kid:

and then morbid me, I am thinking about the WHOLE world, with its violence and poverty and hunger and disease …


(Gay) Pride & Patriotism:
A Cover Story by Scott Freeman
At Creative Loafing

TOPIC: gay rights, don't-ask-don't-tell

Here's a terrific article on the US military’s painful "don't ask, don't tell" policy, by Scott Freeman at Creative Loafing (Atlanta), including some interview comments from Stephen Benjamin (recent former Arabic translator for the Navy, recent op-ed contributor to The New York Times: Don't Ask, Don't Translate, and recent guest on "The Colbert Report") and Danny Ingram (described as "one of the first gays kicked out of the Army under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' ").

Along with some important personal stories and history of gays in the military, Freeman also has some sobering number for us:

In the 15 years since the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law was put in place, an estimated 12,000 gay, lesbian and transgendered soldiers have been forcibly discharged.

"'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' has been an expensive proposition," says [Atlanta lawyer Jeff] Cleghorn, who sits on the board of directors of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. He points to a study by the University of California that determined the law has cost the military $363 million over the past 10 years. "Unfortunately, the military is not impressed by the numbers," he says.

Cleghorn's confident "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will soon be repealed. According to the Pew Research Center, 52 percent of Americans supported removing the ban on gays in 1994 and 45 percent thought the ban should be continued. A recent Gallup poll showed 79 percent now support allowing gays to openly serve. And numerous other countries – including Great Britain, Australia, Canada and Israel – no longer have bans.

Freeman's article is a worthwhile read.

Related References

American Veterans for Equal Rights, http://aver.us/aver/

American Veterans for Equal Rights (Georgia Chapter), http://www.avergeorgia.org/

Freeman, Simon (7/02/2008). Pride & patriotism: The fight for the right to serve. Published online and accessed 7/03/2008 at web site http://atlanta.creativeloafing.com/gyrobase/pride_amp_patriotism/Content?oid=508559

Graphical Analysis of Shakespearean Sonnet

TOPIC: humor, math, & poetry, from graphjam

song chart memes