I've written recently (here and here) about rumors that the Turkish military may be preparing to go after PKK fighters based in Iraqi Kurdistan. The latest news is that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have signed an agreement to take on PKK forces based in northern Iraq's remote Kandil Mountains, near the Iranian border. As Maliki told a gathering of reporters in Ankara:
We found a mutual understanding with the Turkish side about the need to co-operate to confront the activities of all terrorist organisations in Iraq, including the PKK... There was agreement to unite our joint efforts to find a solution that will end, eliminate, and cancel [the PKK's] presence on Iraqi territory through shared action by both parties.
So, is it really going to be that easy? Should we write off the PKK altogether? Nope, not according to Time's Andrew Lee Butters in Beirut. You can read his thoughts here.
The DNA of ancient microorganisms frozen in glaciers has the ability to return to life as the glaciers melt. A paper published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science by scientists who melted five samples of ice ranging in age from 100,000 to 8 million years old found many microorganisms trapped inside. The younger ice contained more lifeforms, which grew fast when cultured, doubling every couple of days. By contrast, the microorganisms from the oldest ice samples grew slowly, doubling only every 70 days. The researchers calculated a DNA half-life of 1.1 million years in Antarctic ice, and warned that as warming melts the glaciers, the revived DNA could fuel a new wave of bacterial evolution. . . Blimey. Will nature's cryogenesis be the end of us? JULIA WHITTY
Corals in the central and western Pacific Ocean are dying faster than previously thought. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers have found nearly 600 square miles of reef have disappeared per year since the late 1960s, twice the rate of rainforest loss. The reefs are now disappearing at a rate of one percent per year, a decline that began decades earlier than expected. Historically, coral cover, a measure of reef health, hovered around 50 percent. Today, only about 2 percent of reefs in the Indo-Pacific have coral cover close to the historical baseline. "We have already lost half of the world's reef-building corals," said John Bruno, author of the study published in the online journal PLoS One. The Indo-Pacific contains 75 percent of the world's coral reefs and has the highest coral diversity in the world.
One of the most surprising results of the study was that coral cover was similar between reefs maintained by conservationists and unprotected reefs. This consistent pattern of decline across the entire Indo-Pacific indicates that coral loss is a global phenomenon, likely due in part to large-scale stressors such as climate change. . . Check out this video from the Philippines to see how climate change is adding to their reef problems. JULIA WHITTY
Ploughs and a rapidly growing world population are combining to deplete the Earth's soil supply. A new study from the University of Washington finds that long-established farm practices appear to increase soil erosion 10 to 100 more than the rate at which soil is created. The good news is there is a solution. No-till agriculture eliminates ploughing, instead mixing the crop stubble with the top layer of soil using a method called disking. Study author David Montgomery notes that as oil becomes more expensive and less available, preserving soil fertility through no-till farming becomes even more important, since it requires less fertilizer and many fewer passes with a tractor. No-till farming could also prove a major benefit in a warming climate by increasing organic matter in soil, and as much as tripling its carbon content in less than 15 years. More carbon in the ground means less in the air.
"If all farms on the planet were converted to no-till, the range of estimates for sequestered carbon runs from 10 percent of current carbon emissions to about half," says Montgomery. In his book, "Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations," Montgomery links the demise of history's major civilizations to how long it took them to deplete their soil supply. . . That's why that organic cheese and tomato sandwich on whole organic wheat bread you're munching is only good for you (in the short term) and not for the planet unless the components are also sustainably farmed.JULIA WHITTY
The WSJ's Washington Wire notes that the primary insanity is still getting worse.
[New Hampshire and South Carolina] are moving up their presidential primary dates earlier into January, according to a prominent South Carolina Republican.... That likely will force Iowa always protective of its party caucuses as the first-in-the-nation nominating contests to make good on its vow to move their date from next Jan. 14 into pre-Christmas December.
Pre-Christmas December! We're talking almost a full year before the general election, which at this point will probably just go to whichever party is least sick of its candidate. And let's not even begin on the pointlessness of the conventions, which used to officially choose a nominee amongst legitimate contenders and will now be a hollow media event (sorry, an even more hollow media event) a full seven months after the first primary.
The Reverend Al Sharpton led a protest in Detroit on Tuesday against degrading lyrics in hip-hop. Sharpton's National Action Network organized demonstrations in more than 20 cities nationwide in a so-called "Day of Outrage" against "gutter terms" in popular music. Using a typical counterargument to the whole "free speech" concept, the group is urging public divestment (specifically, government-run pension funds) from record labels that promote racially and sexually degrading music.
In Detroit, Sharpton referenced the city's Motown history, describing it as a time "when music was not denigrating and was entertaining." He then turned and aimed a sword at a nearby windmill.
As we've reported here on the Riff, the reunited Police have had some good and bad nights on their recent tour. But you know what makes interpersonal issues or musical struggles seem a little less important? I'll tell you what: one hundred meeellion dollars. That's right, Billboard magazine is reporting the 38-date first leg of the Police tour has already grossed $107,592,002, and was attended by 929,941 people. And that doesn't even include the Bonnaroo or V festival stops in Tennessee and Baltimore, so add in a couple zillion to both those numbers. The two July dates at Chicago's Wrigley field grossed $9,494,248 on their own. Gulp. I made $50 at a DJ gig once. Anyway, the tour continues at the end of August, returning to the US Halloween night at Madison Square Garden. The band then plan to continue touring until they have all the money in the world.