Sunday, December 1, 2013

Why China is fixated on the Moon

Source: BBC News

I asked him if the idea of a Chinese moonbase extracting minerals was remotely plausible.

"It's perfectly plausible from the technical point of view, absolutely plausible from the finance point of view because they have great buying power, so I think, yes, there's nothing at all to stop them doing that probably within something like 10 years."

So a great deal is riding on the Chang'e 3 launch - national prestige, the quest for technological prowess and the desire to harness all available natural resources.

If all goes according to plan, the spacecraft will take six days to reach the Moon and then face the challenge of a soft landing.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Yes, One Person Could Actually Destroy the World

Source: io9

Philippe van Nedervelde is a reserves officer with the Belgian Army's ACOS Strat unit who's trained in Nuclear-Biological-Chemical defense. He's a futurist and security expert with a specialization in existential risks, sousveillance, surveillance, and privacy-issues and is currently involved with, among others, the P2P Foundation.

"The vast majority of humanity today seems blissfully unaware of the fact that we actually are in real danger," said van Nedervelde. "While it is important to stay well clear of any fear mongering and undue alarmism, the naked facts do tell us that we are, jointly and severally, in 'clear and present' mortal danger. What is worse is that a kind of 'perfect storm' of coinciding and converging existential risks is brewing."

If we're going to survive the next few millennia, he says, we are going to need to get through the next few critical decades as unscathed as we can.

van Nedervelde also warned me about SIMADs, short for 'Single Individual, MAssively Destructive'.

"If you think ADC through to its logical conclusions, we have actually less to fear from a terrorist organization, small as it is, as Al-Qaeda or such, than from smart individuals who have developed a deep-seated, bitterly violent grudge against human society or the human species," he says.

The Unabomber case provides a telling example. Now imagine a Unabomber on science-enabled steroids, empowered by NBIC-converged technologies. Such an individual would conceivably have the potential to wreak destruction and cause death at massive scales: think whole cities, regions, continents, possibly even the entire planet.

"SIMAD is one of the risks that I worry about the most," he says. "I have lost sleep over this one."

Thursday, November 28, 2013

New Study Finds U.S. Has Greatly Underestimated Methane Emissions

Source: New York Times

Robert Howarth:

Using this new information as well as other independent studies on methane emissions published since 2011, and the latest information on the climate influence of methane compared to carbon dioxide from the latest synthesis report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released in September of this year, it is clear that natural gas is no bridge fuel. When used to generate electricity, natural gas likely has a greenhouse gas footprint similar to that for coal. However, when used for domestic heating of water, the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas is at least two-times larger than that of using modern electric-driven heat pumps.

Society should move as quickly as possible away from using natural gas for water heating and domestic and commercial space heating – uses which are equal to the use of gas to generate electricity in the US. This is the low-hanging fruit for reducing the total greenhouse gas emissions from the United States.

When you add up that there is more methane being emitted than E.P.A. has estimated, that methane is responsible for up to half of all the greenhouse gas emissions for the entire US, and that each unit of methane emitted is far more important in causing global climate change over the critical few decades ahead, it should be clear that bridge-fuel argument just doesn’t hold up. And the oil and gas industry is the major source of these methane emissions.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Americans have "no reasonable expectation" to privacy when it comes to phone calls they make

Source: Courthouse News

Americans have "no reasonable expectation" to privacy when it comes to the telephone calls they make, Assistant Attorney General Stuart Delery said at a packed hearing in federal court.
"People assume that phone companies are recording phone numbers and how long the call lasted," he said. "We know that because all of us get the bills with those details."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Secular Victory: Religious income tax exemption ruled unconstitutional

Source: Examiner

“Some might view a rule against preferential treatment as exhibiting hostility toward religion, but equality should never be mistaken for hostility. It is important to remember that the establishment clause protects the religious and nonreligious alike.” --Judge Barbara Crabb

Sono, a noise cancelation and isolation device that sticks on your window

Source: Extreme Tech

... a concept created by Australian industrial designer Rudolf Stefanich. Sono works by vibrating a window in a pattern counter to the vibrations caused by the ambient noise, essentially turning the surface into a noise-canceling speaker. ...

The strength of Sono is not that it can cancel out obnoxious ambient noises, but can still filter pleasant ambient noises through. So, not only can you still get the chirping birds and rustling leaves from that park across the street, but the sounds are natural...

Monday, November 18, 2013

The FAA Says Pilots Are Forgetting How To Fly

Source: Vice Motherboard

“Automation has become so sophisticated that on a typical passenger flight, a human pilot holds the controls for a grand total of just three minutes.”

CHANGING THE GLOBAL FOOD NARRATIVE

Source: Ensia

The dominant story about the future of the world food supply is logical, well known and wrong.

You’ve probably heard it many times. While the exact phrasing varies, it usually goes something like this: The world’s population will grow to 9 billion by mid-century, putting substantial demands on the planet’s food supply. To meet these growing demands, we will need to grow almost twice as much food by 2050 as we do today.

To be fair, there are grains of truth in each of these statements, but they are far from complete. And they give a distorted vision of the global food system, potentially leading to poor policy and investment choices.

To make better decisions, we need to examine where the narrative goes off the rails. 

There are more than 7 billion people on Earth today, and we’re expected (if current demographic trends continue unabated) to reach 9 billion by mid-century. Two billion more people in the next 40 years — that’s roughly a 28 percent increase. If those additional 2 billion people were to eat the average diet (which is actually unlikely, since most of these people will be added to the poorest regions of the world, where diets are very minimal) that would mean we need roughly 28 percent more food. It’s just simple math.

What we really need to do is deliver more food and good nutrition to the world. And there is another way to deliver more food to the world besides simply growing more crops: Better use of the crops we already grow, making sure they create as much nutritious food as possible.

... the use of crops for animal feed (instead of for direct human consumption) can be extremely inefficient in feeding people. Furthermore, some key crops are increasingly being used for biofuels, at the expense of producing food.

... the typical Midwestern farm could theoretically provide enough calories to feed about 15 people daily from each hectare of farmland. But there’s a catch: People would need to eat the corn and soybeans these farms grow directly, as part of a plant-based diet, with little food waste.

... the actual Midwestern farm today provides only enough calories to feed roughly five people per day per hectare of farmland, mainly because the vast majority of the corn and soybeans are being used to make ethanol or to feed animals.

The new narrative might sound something like this: The world faces tremendous challenges to feeding a growing, richer world population — especially to doing so sustainably, without degrading our planet’s resources and the environment. To address these challenges, we will need to deliver more food to the world through a balanced mix of growing more food (while reducing the environmental impact of agricultural practices) and using the food we already have more effectively. Key strategies include reducing food waste, rethinking our diets and biofuel choices, curbing population growth, and growing more food at the base of the agricultural pyramid with low-tech agronomic innovations. Only through a balanced approach of supply-side and demand-side solutions can we address this difficult challenge.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Do We Live in the Matrix?

If you were given the choice to take the red pill or the blue pill, would you want to know if we've been living in an artificial reality?

Source: Discover Magazine

As fanciful as it sounds, some philosophers have long argued that we’re actually more likely to be artificial intelligences trapped in a fake universe than we are organic minds in the “real” one.

Justice is reviewing criminal cases that used surveillance evidence gathered under FISA

Months after Ed Snowden leaked details of widespread spying on American citizens the Justice Department decided that they might need to notify some defendants that FISA was involved in their case and that due process may apply in some cases.

Source: Washington Post

The Justice Department is conducting a comprehensive review of all criminal cases in which the government has used evidence gathered through its warrantless surveillance program and will be notifying defendants in some of those cases, according to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

“We have a review underway now,” Holder said in an interview with The Washington Post. “We will be examining cases that are in a variety of stages, and we will be, where appropriate, providing defendants with information that they should have so they can make their own determinations about how they want to react to it.”

Friday, November 15, 2013

Some spent fuel rods at Fukushima were damaged before 2011 disaster

Source Reuters

Three of the spent fuel assemblies due to be carefully plucked from the crippled Japanese nuclear plant at Fukushima in a hazardous year-long operation were damaged even before the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that knocked out the facility.

The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, or Tepco, said the damaged assemblies - 4.5 meter high racks containing 50-70 thin rods of highly irradiated used fuel - can't be removed from Fukushima's Reactor No. 4 using the large cask assigned to taking out more than 1,500 of the assemblies.

Tepco is due within days to begin removing 400 tones of the dangerous spent fuel in a hugely delicate and unprecedented operation fraught with risk.

Having to deal with the damaged assemblies is likely to make that task more difficult and could jeopardize a 12-month timeframe to complete the removal that many have already called ambitious.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Insurance cancelled? Don't blame Obama or the ACA, blame America's insurance companies

Source: Fox News - Juan Williams - Opinion

The fact is if you are one of the estimated 2 million Americans whose health insurance plans may have been cancelled this month, you should not be blaming President Obama or the Affordable Care Act. 

You should be blaming your insurance company because they have not been providing you with coverage that meets the minimum basic standards for health care.

Let me put it more bluntly: your insurance companies have been taking advantage of you and the Affordable Care Act puts in place consumer protection and tells them to stop abusing people.

The government did not “force” insurance companies to cancel their own substandard policies.The insurance companies chose to do that rather than do what is right and bring the policies up to code. 

This would be like saying the government “forces” chemical companies to dispose of toxic waste safely rather than dumping it in the river. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

How to Hack the Backbone of the Internet

Source: The Motherboard blog at Vice Magazine

The highlight of the NSA’s Powerpoint presentation is a hand-drawn slide of two circles that shows where the public internet meets Google's private cloud. That meeting point is a prime spot for the NSA to intercept traffic,  encryption is “added and removed here!” as the slide states, with a smiley face no less.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Decade of Water - A map of how water supply has changed from 2003 to 2012

I've been gathering tons of information to help make a decision about where to homestead. Water-related data like this is particularly important. On a related note, see also Joel Skousen's book called "Strategic Relocation".

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Adapting to climate change will require more than fortifying coastlines and preparing for warmer temperatures. It will require a careful look at how we manage our water resources. Nearly a decade of observations from the twin GRACE satellites shows that some parts of the United States could face hard times in coming years.

This map shows how water supplies have changed between 2003 and 2012. GRACE measures subtle shifts in gravity from month to month. Variations in land topography or ocean tides change the distribution of Earth’s mass; the addition or subtraction of water also changes the gravity field. In the past decade, groundwater supplies have decreased in California’s Central Valley and in the Southern High Plains (Texas and Oklahoma)—places that rely on ground water to irrigate crops. Eastern Texas, Alabama, and the Mid-Atlantic states also saw a decrease in ground water supplies because of long-term drought. The flood-prone Upper Missouri basin, on the other hand, stored more water over the decade.

“Groundwater reserves, the traditional backup for water supplies during extended periods of drought, are in decline globally,” James Famiglietti (University of California, Irvine) and Matthew Rodell (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center) noted in a paper published in Science. This means that the water issues they observed in the United States are issues that other countries face as well.

The problem is only going to get worse over time, according to the most recent climate report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “The contrast in precipitation between wet and dry regions and between wet and dry seasons will increase,” warn scientists in the report. In Famiglietti and Rodell’s words, “the dry regions of the world will become drier, whereas the wet areas will become wetter.” This means that those places that now rely on groundwater because they are dry will need groundwater even more in the future. The current decrease in water reserves highlights the need to monitor and manage ground water resources for the future.

“Worldwide, groundwater supplies about half of all drinking water, and it is also hugely important for agriculture, yet without GRACE we would have no routine, global measurements of changes in groundwater availability,” said Rodell. “Other satellites can’t do it, and ground-based monitoring is inadequate.”

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Intel finds that Asian pollution makes computers sick, too

Source: Oregon Live

Intel’s engineers first spotted the issue a few years ago, when it noticed an unusual number of customers from China and India returning computers with failed motherboards. Once Intel noticed a trend, the cause was immediately evident.

The basics of the problem are straightforward. Copper is the essential element on an electronic circuit board, an excellent conductor of electricity that serves as a computer’s nervous system, carrying information and instructions.

But copper is also very susceptible to corrosion. And when the copper connections fail, the computer does, too.

“The copper is there to conduct the electricity,” said Tom Marieb, a vice president in Intel’s manufacturing group. “The more we eat away at it the less connectivity is left.”

Intel is intentionally brewing noxious air in a small chamber inside a windowless Hillsboro lab, to study the pollutants’ effects and, hopefully, devise a solution that protects the computers.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Drone Strikes in Yemen Generate 40-60 New Enemies for Every al-Qaeda Operative Killed

Source: The Cairo Review of Global Affairs

Nabeel Khoury previously served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Yemen (2004-2007), and in 2003, during the Iraq war, he served as Department spokesperson at U.S. Central Command in Doha and in Baghdad.

"Drone strikes take out a few bad guys to be sure, but they also kill a large number of innocent civilians. Given Yemen’s tribal structure, the U.S. generates roughly forty to sixty new enemies for every AQAP operative killed by drones."

Open source reporting records 45 drone strikes in Yemen in 2012, and 22 so far in 2013.  Reported casualties are 491 for 2012. In war, unmanned aircraft may be a necessary part of a comprehensive military strategy. In a country where we are not at war, however, drones become part of our foreign policy, dominating it altogether, to the detriment of both our security and political goals.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Does Army Consider Christians, Tea Party, a Terror Threat?

Source: Fox News Insider

Soldiers attending a pre-deployment briefing at Fort Hood say they were told that evangelical Christians and members of the Tea Party were a threat to the nation and that any soldier donating to those groups would be subjected to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The ocean is broken

The Pacific is terribly polluted as a result of the tsunami that hit Japan and dragged debris into the sea.

Source: The Newcastle Herald

“After we left Japan, it felt as if the ocean itself was dead”

“We hardly saw any living things. We saw one whale, sort of rolling helplessly on the surface with what looked like a big tumour on its head. It was pretty sickening."

“I’ve done a lot of miles on the ocean in my life and I’m used to seeing turtles, dolphins, sharks and big flurries of feeding birds. But this time, for 3000 nautical miles there was nothing alive to be seen.”

“In a lot of places we couldn’t start our motor for fear of entangling the propeller in the mass of pieces of rope and cable. That’s an unheard of situation, out in the ocean."

“If we did decide to motor we couldn’t do it at night, only in the daytime with a lookout on the bow, watching for rubbish."

“On the bow, in the waters above Hawaii, you could see right down into the depths. I could see that the debris isn’t just on the surface, it’s all the way down. And it’s all sizes, from a soft-drink bottle to pieces the size of a big car or truck."

“We saw a factory chimney sticking out of the water, with some kind of boiler thing still attached below the surface. We saw a big container-type thing, just rolling over and over on the waves…"

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Heritage Action CEO To Fox News: “We Can’t Repeal Obamacare Until ‘17”

Source: BuzzFeed

“Everybody understands that we’ll not be able to repeal this law until 2017. We have to win the Senate and win the White House. Right now, it is clear that this bill is not ready for prime time,” CEO Michael Needham said. Needham’s group has been a driving force behind Republican efforts to use the government shutdown fight to defund Obamacare.

Friday, October 11, 2013

MEMO WARNS TERRORISTS MAY BE DOING ‘DRY-RUNS’ TO PREPARE FOR NEXT 9/11-STYLE ATTACK

Source: TheBlaze

A Sept. 2 flight from Washington, D.C. to Orlando International is the most recent “dry-run” that the pilots are aware of. According to crew members, four “Middle Eastern” men caused a disturbance shortly after take off.
...
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) told WTSP-TV that the incident did indeed happen but that it doesn’t require any additional investigation.

“They’re flat-out liars,” a Federal Air Marshal said of the TSA’s stance.

The unidentified Air Marshal, who is prohibited from talking to the media, says the incident that occurred on Flight 1880 is serious, regardless of what the TSA claims.

“We’re waiting for the next 9/11 to happen, because it’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when,” he said.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Japan asks international community to help solve Fukushima crisis

Source: Telegraph

Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, confirmed that Japan was open to receiving assistance from overseas in a bid to help resolve the world's worst nuclear crisis in decades.

"We are wide open to receive the most advanced knowledge from overseas to contain the problem," said Mr Abe, during a speech made in English at a science forum in Kyoto. "My country needs your knowledge and expertise."

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Laws that apply when a appropriations gap leads to shutdown

Glenn Beck has been telling his webcast subscribers that Obama has shuttered national parks and monuments to "maximize pain" as part of his Marxist communist revolution.

Instead of believing an entertainer's interpretation of the law, I'm one of those cooky people who prefers to do a little reading on my own. So, I went to the Department of Interior web site and followed the link for information on the shutdown. There I found a carefully researched summary of several laws regarding operation of agencies during gaps in appropriations.

Source: Department of Interior

For years leading up to 1980, many federal agencies continued to operate during a funding gap, “minimizing all nonessential operations and obligations, believing that Congress did not intend that agencies close down,”while waiting for the enactment of annual appropriations acts or continuing resolutions. In 1980 and 1981, however, U.S. Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti issued two opinions that more strictly interpreted the Antideficiency Act in the context of a funding gap, along with the law’s exceptions.

The Attorney General’s opinions stated that, with some exceptions, the head of an agency could avoid violating the Antideficiency Act only by suspending the agency’s operations until the enactment of an appropriation. In the absence of appropriations, exceptions would be allowed only when there is “some reasonable and articulable connection between the function to be performed and the safety of human life or the protection of property.” Apart from this broad category of “human life and property” exceptions to the Antideficiency Act, the Civiletti opinions identified another broad category of exceptions: those that are “authorized by law.”

Monday, September 30, 2013

Heroin, Cocaine, and Weed Are Stronger, Cheaper, and Easier to Get Than They've Ever Been

Source: Vice

Heroin, cocaine, and marijuana are just as available, far cheaper, and more potent than they were at the start of the War on Drugs, according to a new study.

...

Between 1990 and 2010, the street price, adjusting for inflation, of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana fell roughly 80 percent. At the same time, the street drugs became much more potent: The average purity of heroin increased by 60 percent, the purity of cocaine increased by 11 percent, and the potency of cannabis increased 161 percent. The story is much the same in Europe and Australia, with street prices dropping and supply remaining stable, despite a huge increase in drug seizures.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

California signs state's first fracking rules

Source: Al Jazeera America

Law requires oil companies to disclose chemicals used, notify;
... state to study risks of hydraulic fracturing
... require oil companies to test ground water and notify neighboring landowners before drilling.
... The law "could create conditions that will make it difficult to continue to provide a reliable supply of domestic petroleum energy for California," said Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western State Petroleum Association, which represents oil companies in California.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Oil spills in flood-hit Colorado raise concerns over industry regulation

Source: Al Jazeera

"We've met all the state requirements … and we've worked diligently with air and water groups that have brought forth concerns."

"Everyone has a different level of tolerance … but we feel like we can coexist with municipal operations, and we're working hard to show that. We've got hundreds of wells within municipalities, and we don't have any issues."

Monday, September 16, 2013

Spotty coverage for La Niña as plausible reason surface global warming hit the brakes

Source: MIT Tracker Blog

    The data and model-backed hypothesis, not exactly new, got prominent attention in Nature this week via a letter from a research team based at the University of California's Scripps Institution of Oceanography near San Diego. ...

    The gist is that ENSO, the El Niño Southern Oscillation, has been persistently in its La Niña phase for more than a decade. And that phase has vigorous trade winds firing from South America toward the western Pacific north of Australia. They push an overturning of the sea, lifting cold, deep water from the abysss off South America to mix with surface waters.

... Data, and runs of models ... indicate that this ... compensate for the growing overall energy tilt due to greenhouse gases. So the Scripps team reports.

Historic child abuse inquiry opens in Australia

Source: FOX News

"It is now well known that the sexual abuse of children has been widespread in the Australian community, however the full range of institutions in which it has occurred is not generally understood," McClellan said in an address.

"Many of the stories we are hearing will shock many people."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Need To Avoid Nearby Gunfire? There's an App For That

Source: Vice Motherboard

"Within 30 seconds after a shot is fired, the application will determine the source location of the shooter, the direction he was aiming at, the type and caliber of the weapon used and the number of bullets fired. This data will be sent to the nearby residents for free and we will also send it to the army, paramedics, press."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Apple's Fingerprint ID May Mean You Can't 'Take The Fifth'

Source: Wired Threat Level

...the constitutional protection of the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees that “no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,” may not apply when it comes to biometric-based fingerprints (things that reflect who we are) as opposed to memory-based passwords and PINs (things we need to know and remember).

6 Whopping Misstatements By The Government About The NSA

Source: Wired Threat Level

“… NSA takes significant care to prevent any abuses and that there is a substantial oversight system in place.” -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), August 23.

“The ongoing national dialogue is not about your performance. The NSA/CSS work force has executed its national security responsibilities with equal and full respect for civil liberties and privacy.” -- NSA chief Keith Alexander, June 25.

“The government cannot target anyone under the court-approved procedures for this program unless there is an appropriate and documented foreign intelligence purpose for the acquisition, such as for the prevention of terrorism, hostile cyber activities or nuclear proliferation” --  Attorney General Eric Holder, June 15

“Now part of the reason [NSA spy powers] are not abused is because they’re — these checks are in place, and those abuses would be against the law and would be against the orders of the FISC,”  -- President Barack Obama, August 9.

“The administration is obeying the law, but the fact is we want more oversight.” -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California), June 6

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) asked “So what I wanted to see is if you could give me a yes or no answer to the question: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

“Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly.” --  James Clapper, director of national intelligence, March 12

Reporter’s note: Government officials have uttered plenty of other untruths in the wake of Snowden’s revelations.

FBI Admits It Controlled Tor Servers Behind Mass Malware Attack

Source: Wired Threat Level

It wasn’t ever seriously in doubt, but the FBI yesterday acknowledged that it secretly took control of Freedom Hosting last July, days before the servers of the largest provider of ultra-anonymous hosting were found to be serving custom malware designed to identify visitors.

Freedom Hosting was a provider of turnkey “Tor hidden service” sites — special sites, with addresses ending in .onion, that hide their geographic location behind layers of routing, and can be reached only over the Tor anonymity network. Tor hidden services are used by sites that need to evade surveillance or protect users’ privacy to an extraordinary degree – including human rights groups and journalists.

...the FBI took over the servers in late July...

On August 4, all the sites hosted by Freedom Hosting ... began serving an error message with hidden code embedded in the page. ... it exploited a security hole in Firefox to identify users of the Tor Browser Bundle ...

... It looked up the victim’s MAC address — a unique hardware identifier for the computer’s network or Wi-Fi card — and the victim’s Windows hostname. Then it sent it to a server in Northern Virginia server, bypassing Tor, to expose the user’s real IP address, coding the transmission as a standard HTTP web request.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Colorado lawmakers ousted in recall election over strict gun

Source: LA Times

In an unprecedented backlash, two state lawmakers who helped stiffen Colorado's gun laws were ousted Tuesday in a recall that turned into a nationally watched referendum on gun control.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Secrets Airline Pilots Won't Tell You

Source: ABC News

"I'm constantly under pressure to carry less fuel than I'm comfortable with. Airlines are always looking at the bottom line, and you burn fuel carrying fuel. Sometimes if you carry just enough fuel and you hit thunderstorms or delays, then suddenly you're running out of gas and you have to go to an alternate airport." -Captain at a major airline

"The truth is, we're exhausted. Our work rules allow us to be on duty 16 hours without a break. That's many more hours than a truck driver. And unlike a truck driver, who can pull over at the next rest stop, we can't pull over at the next cloud." -Captain at a major airline

John Kerry-US to "uphold the norms of international behavior as a country"


Source: CBS News

Face the Nation transcripts September 1, 2013

Secretary of State John Kerry:

The president has decided to take military action. Now, he also decided that it would be much stronger for our country and have much greater impact and allow us much greater latitude going forward in terms of how we address Syria if we have the congress of the United States backing it. He also felt that that was a very important message, if you will, to Iran, to North Korea, and to others not only about our Democratic process but most importantly that we are prepared to uphold the norms of international behavior as a country, and that we are united behind that, and that that gives greater impact to whatever choices we might face in other places in the future.

NSA spied on Brazil, Mexico leaders: report

Source: AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

The US National Security Agency's spy program targeted the communications of the Brazilian and Mexican presidents, and in the case of Mexico's leader accessed the content of emails before he was elected, the journalist who obtained secret documents from NSA leaker Edward Snowden has said.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, told Globo's news program "Fantastico'' that a document dated June 2012 shows that Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's emails were being read. The document is dated a month before Pena Nieto was elected.
...
Before news of the NSA program broke, the White House announced that Rousseff would be honored with a state dinner in October during a trip to the US, the only such full state dinner scheduled this year for a foreign
leader.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Fukushima Ice Barrier Will Block Radioactive Groundwater

Source: MIT Technology Review

Japanese officials desperate to contain an ever-growing crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power station are looking to use artificial permafrost to stop radioactive water from leaking. The idea is to build a mile-long wall of frozen earth around Fukushima’s toxic reactor buildings to stem the groundwater contamination; the most experienced specialists in the field say the plan should work

Saturday, August 31, 2013

As Attack Looms, F.B.I. Sharpens Scrutiny of Syrians in U.S. for Signs of Retaliation

Source: New York Times
...
The authorities are particularly concerned because Iran — one of Mr. Assad’s closest allies — has said there will be reprisals against Israel if the United States attacks Syria. The Iranians have also shown a willingness to sponsor terrorist attacks on American targets
...
Senior national security officials at F.B.I. headquarters in Washington have told the bureau’s field offices in recent days to follow up with sources who have ties to Syrians in an attempt to find talk or evidence of a retaliatory strike, the officials said.
...
And Syrians implicated in continuing investigations will be put under even closer scrutiny, the officials said.
...
Mansur Haqiqatpur, an influential member of the Iranian Parliament, was quoted by the semiofficial Fars news agency as saying, “In case of a U.S. military strike against Syria, the flames of outrage of the region’s revolutionaries will point toward the Zionist regime” — Iran’s derogatory term for Israel.
...

Friday, August 30, 2013

How to Keep the NSA Out of Your Computer

Source: Mother Jones

"It changes attitudes," Bonicioli says. "People start sharing a lot. They start getting to know someone next door—they find the same interests; they find someone to go out and talk with."
...
THE RISE OF community meshes suggests a possibility that is considerably more radical. What if you wanted a mesh that spanned the globe? A way to communicate with anyone, anywhere, without going over a single inch of corporate or government cable? Like what Joseph Bonicioli has in Athens writ large—a parallel, global internet run by the people, for the people. Could such a beast be built?

On a purely technical level, mesh advocates say it's super hard, but not impossible. First, you'd build as many local mesh networks as you can, and then you'd connect them together. Long-distance "hops" are tricky, but community meshes already use special wifi antennas—sometimes "cantennas" made out of Pringles-type containers—to join far-flung neighborhoods.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Listen To This Argument Against Bombing Syria Before You Make Up Your Mind

Source: Huffington Post

"Why would Assad want to use chemical weapons in the northeastern suburbs of Damascas -- Damascus that's under his control -- to kill only, forgive me for being so cold, about 1,000 people, whereas he's killed 5,000 people every month for 16 months without chemical weapons? So why now?"

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Future flood losses in major coastal cities

Source: Nature via Vice Motherboard

With climate change and subsidence, present protection will need to be upgraded to avoid unacceptable losses of US$1 trillion or more per year. Even if adaptation investments maintain constant flood probability, subsidence and sea-level rise will increase global flood losses to US$60–63 billion per year in 2050. To maintain present flood risk, adaptation will need to reduce flood probabilities below present values. In this case, the magnitude of losses when floods do occur would increase, often by more than 50%, making it critical to also prepare for larger disasters than we experience today. The analysis identifies the cities that seem most vulnerable to these trends, that is, where the largest increase in losses can be expected.

Right now, global loses due to flooding run about $6 billion per year, hitting primarily four cities: Miami, New York, and New Orleans in the United States, and Guangzhou in China. Together those four pay out just under half of the yearly global total.

Zurich unveils 'sex boxes' for prostitutes

Here's an interesting example of direct democracy at work.

Source: The Local

But with local residents fed up of prostitutes and clients plying the streets, notably along the riverside Sihlquai, the authorities decided to try to shift the sex trade from the city centre.
...
The sex-box plan was approved by Zurich's voters in March 2012 -- referendums from the local to the national level are the bedrock of Switzerland's system of direct democracy.

Insight: After disaster, the deadliest part of Japan's nuclear clean-up

Source: Reuters

The operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is preparing to remove 400 tons of highly irradiated spent fuel from a damaged reactor building, a dangerous operation that has never been attempted before on this scale. ... more than 1,300 used fuel rod assemblies packed tightly together need to be removed from a building that is vulnerable to collapse, should another large earthquake hit the area.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) is already in a losing battle to stop radioactive water overflowing from another part of the facility, and experts question whether it will be able to pull off the removal of all the assemblies successfully.
...
The operation, beginning this November at the plant's Reactor No. 4, is fraught with danger, including the possibility of a large release of radiation if a fuel assembly breaks, gets stuck or gets too close to an adjacent bundle, said Gundersen and other nuclear experts.
...
Tepco has already removed two unused fuel assemblies from the pool in a test operation last year, but these rods are less dangerous than the spent bundles. Extracting spent fuel is a normal part of operations at a nuclear plant, but safely plucking them from a badly damaged reactor is unprecedented.
...
The utility says it recognizes the operation will be difficult but believes it can carry it out safely.

Nonetheless, Tepco inspires little confidence. Sharply criticized for failing to protect the Fukushima plant against natural disasters, its handling of the crisis since then has also been lambasted.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Historic and future increase in the global land area affected by monthly heat extremes

Source: IOP Publishing Ltd

The projections show that in the near-term such heat extremes become much more common, irrespective of the emission scenario. By 2020, the global land area experiencing temperatures of 3-sigma or more will have doubled (covering∼10%) and by 2040 quadrupled (covering ∼20%). Over the same period, more-extreme events will emerge: 5-sigma events, which are now essentially absent, will cover a small but significant fraction(∼3%) of the global land surface by 2040. These near-term projections are   practically independent of emission scenario.

The rise in the frequency of extremes becomes strongly  dependent on the emission scenario only by mid-century.

Dim Coumou (1) and Alexander Robinson (1,2,3)
1 Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research—Earth System Analysis, Telegrafenberg A62/0.04, D-14412 Potsdam, Germany
2 Departamento de Astrofísica y Ciencias de la Atmósfera, Facultad de Ciencias Físicas, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, E-28040 Madrid, Spain
3 Instituto de Geociencias, UCM-CSIC, E-28040 Madrid, Spain
Dim Coumou and Alexander Robinson 2013 Environ. Res. Lett. 8 034018
doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/034018
© 2013 IOP Publishing Ltd
Received 11 June 2013, accepted for publication 26 July 2013
Published 14 August 2013

Content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 licence. Any further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the title of the work, journal citation and DOI

Brooklin Mother Says State Not Happy With Her Formula Choice

Source: WABI TV

Alorah Gellerson loves her three month old son.

"Oh he loved it. We put celery juice in it and he just loves that and it worked really well with his body and he grew like a weed," she said.

But when her doctor reported this to the Department of Health and Human Services, things got messy.

"She came in and threatened to take him away and put him in foster care until I complied to go to the doctor and get him seen and he's perfectly healthy, we can all see that," said Gellerson.

Gellerson, who receives state benefits, says she has complied with all of the mandates from DHHS, including numerous doctor visits, an overnight hospital stay, and even switched over to store bought formula to please them, but she says the state is still not dropping it.

DHHS said they had no one available to speak with us. But they sent us to websites for procedures they follow, like one from the USDA, which says goat milk is not recommended for infants because of inadequate quantities of certain vitamins.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why This Year's Gulf Dead Zone Is Twice As Big As Last Year's

Source: Mother Jones

Why such massive annual dead zones? It's a matter of geography and concentration and intensification of fertilizer-dependent agriculture. Note that an enormous swath of the US landmass—41 percent of it—drains into the Mississippi River basin, as shown below. It's true that even under natural conditions, a river that captures as much drainage as the Mississippi is going to deliver some level of nutrients to the sea, which in turn will generate at least some algae. But when US Geological Survey researchers looked at the fossil record in 2006, they found that major hypoxia events (the technical name for dead zones) were relatively rare until around 1950—and have been increasingly common ever since. The mid-20th century is also when farmers turned to large-scale use of synthetic fertilizers. Now as much a part of Mississippi Delta life as crawfish boils, the Gulf dead zone wasn't even documented as a phenomenon until 1972, according to NOAA.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Snowden: NSA targeted journalists critical of government after 9/1

Edward Snowden said in an interview that he chose to leak details about top secret programs to documentary filmaker Laura Poitras and reporter Glenn Greenwald because they had both been targeted by the NSA for being critical of the government after 9/11. The following are quotes from Snowden's interview.

Source: The Hill

“Laura and Glenn are among the few who reported fearlessly on controversial topics throughout this period, even in the face of withering personal criticism, and resulted in Laura specifically becoming targeted by the very programs involved in the recent disclosures".

“I was surprised to realize that there were people in news organizations who didn’t recognize any unencrypted message sent over the Internet is being delivered to every intelligence service in the world. In the wake of this year’s disclosures, it should be clear that unencrypted journalist-source communication is unforgivably reckless,”

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Mayor Bloomberg trashes New York judge’s stop-and-frisk curbs

Source: Russia Today

On Monday, US District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that police have intentionally and systematically violated the civil rights of tens of thousands of New Yorkers by mainly targeting black and Hispanic men. Scheindlin said she wasn’t putting an end to the practice, but merely trying to reform the way the NYPD carried it out.

The judge has also appointed an outside independent monitor to oversee major changes in police tactics, a reform in policies and training and supervision of officers. She has also ordered a pilot program to test body cameras, which will be worn by police in the areas of the city where most checks occurred.

“This is a dangerous decision made by a judge who I think does not understand how policing works and what is compliant with the US Constitution as determined by the Supreme Court,” Bloomberg said. “I worry for my kids, and I worry for your kids. I worry for you and I worry for me. Crime can come back any time the criminals think they can get away with things.”

He warned that the ruling could see a return to the days of mayhem and rampant crime in the 1990s before his predecessor, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, took office. Murders in the city hit an all-time high in 1990 at 2,245, but by 2012 the murder rate had fallen to an all-time low of 418.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

$1990 for Launch of Cremated Remains on an Elysium Memorial Spacecraft

Source: Elysium Space

For US $1990 you will receive:

  • A custom ash capsule with up to 3 characters of your choice engraved on its cap.
  • A mini-scoop to easily transfer a symbolic portion of the remains from a cremation urn
  • A message of your choice, up to 80 characters, engraved in one of the  Elysium memorial spacecraft metal plates.
  • A launch viewing event and webcast of the launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida
  • A professionally produced video
  • A certificate attesting the success of the launch and official spacecraft tracking ID assigned by NORAD
  • A few months to several years orbiting the Earth while family and friends follow the journey using a mobile app for iOS and Android devices
  • A reentry of the remains into the Earth's atmosphere, blazing as a shooting star.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Ozone Hole Takes Its Revenge with Climate Change

New modeling suggests that the ozone hole affects climate more than expected.

Source: VICE

The Antarctic ozone hole is shifting the southern-hemisphere jet stream further toward the south and, according to the models used in the study, the effect is to pull clouds toward the South Pole. Cloud cover over the polar region is less effective at blocking radiation, so the net effect is an increase in radiation hitting the Earth. In total, we should see an additional 0.25 watts per square meter being absorbed by the planet, which adds up to a good blast of extra heat.

Robotic plant learns to grow like the real thing

Source: New Scientist

Modelling a growing root is complex because it bends while increasing in length, adding cells on the opposite side from the direction in which it is heading. At the same time, a root perceives several physical and chemical stimuli at once and prioritises them; how it makes these decisions is not completely understood.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Fears over NSA surveillance revelations endanger US cloud computing industry

Companies say they could lose billions as customers become wary about their data being turned over to US authorities

Source: Guardian

A survey by the US-based Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) found that American companies which offer file storage and computing in cloud systems – so they can be stored and accessed anywhere in the world – are gloomy about the effects of the Guardian's revelations of the extent of US government snooping and data gathering through projects such as Prism and Xkeyscore.

Daniel Castro, author of the ITIF survey, said that it seemed reasonable to suggest that US cloud businesses could lose between 10% and 20% of the overseas market to rivals.

The effect has already been felt, Castro said. The ITIF survey found that of those outside the US, 10% had cancelled a project with a US-based cloud computing provider, and 56% would be "less likely" to use a US-based cloud computing service.

Of those surveyed inside the US, 36% said that the NSA leaks had "made it more difficult" for them to do business outside the US.

Congress Exempt from Obamacare, or Something

Source: New York Magazine

Republican senator Charles Grassley introduced an amendment into the [healthcare reform] debate over the law requiring Congress and its staff to get its own insurance under Obamacare. It was a message amendment — that is, an amendment designed not to actually change the law in a way Grassley wanted but to provide the grist for a talking point for opponents of the law. The talking point would be that those fat cats in Washington are forcing their laws down yer throat but won’t live by the same laws. Democrats surprised Grassley by accepting the amendment. That’s where the trouble began.
<p>
The inherent problem is that the entire premise of the amendment is false. The premise was that Obamacare is going to wreck the whole health-care system, forcing decent Americans to lose their hard-earned employer health insurance and be herded on to grim, socialistic health-care exchanges. That is false: The law was designed to leave virtually the entire employer-sponsored health-insurance system alone and create subsidized coverage for the people who don’t get insurance through their job (or through Medicare or some other government plan) already.
<p>
... So Grassley’s amendment created a situation for government workers that Republicans claimed, falsely, the law would create for everybody else: forcing them off their employer insurance and on to the exchanges.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Exclusive: U.S. directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans

Source: Reuters

A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
<p>
Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin - not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.
<p>
The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to "recreate" the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant's Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don't know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence - information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.
<p>
The documents reviewed by Reuters are marked "Law Enforcement Sensitive," a government categorization that is meant to keep them confidential.
<p>
"Remember that the utilization of SOD cannot be revealed or discussed in any investigative function," a document presented to agents reads. The document specifically directs agents to omit the SOD's involvement from investigative reports, affidavits, discussions with prosecutors and courtroom testimony. Agents are instructed to then use "normal investigative techniques to recreate the information provided by SOD."
<p>
...two senior DEA officials defended the program, and said trying to "recreate" an investigative trail is not only legal but a technique that is used almost daily.
<p>
A former federal agent in the northeastern United States who received such tips from SOD described the process. "You'd be told only, ‘Be at a certain truck stop at a certain time and look for a certain vehicle.' And so we'd alert the state police to find an excuse to stop that vehicle, and then have a drug dog search it," the agent said.
<p>
The training document reviewed by Reuters refers to this process as "parallel construction."
<p>
... Some defense lawyers and former prosecutors said that using "parallel construction" may be legal to establish probable cause for an arrest. But they said employing the practice as a means of disguising how an investigation began may violate pretrial discovery rules by burying evidence that could prove useful to criminal defendants.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

XKeyscore: NSA tool collects 'nearly everything a user does on the internet'

Source: The Guardian
<ul>
<li>XKeyscore gives 'widest-reaching' collection of online data
<li>NSA analysts require no prior authorization for searches
<li>Sweeps up emails, social media activity and browsing history
</ul>
A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
<p>
The NSA boasts in training materials that the program, called XKeyscore, is its "widest-reaching" system for developing intelligence from the internet.
<p>
While the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008 requires an individualized warrant for the targeting of US persons, NSA analysts are permitted to intercept the communications of such individuals without a warrant if they are in contact with one of the NSA's foreign targets.
<p>
The ACLU's deputy legal director, Jameel Jaffer, told the Guardian last month that national security officials expressly said that a primary purpose of the new law was to enable them to collect large amounts of Americans' communications without individualized warrants.
<p>
"The government doesn't need to 'target' Americans in order to collect huge volumes of their communications," said Jaffer. "The government inevitably sweeps up the communications of many Americans" when targeting foreign nationals for surveillance

Saturday, July 27, 2013

We Cannot Know Who Are We Are At War With Because It's Classified

Source: ProPublica

At a hearing in May, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., asked the Defense Department to provide him with a current list of Al Qaeda affiliates.

The Pentagon responded – but Levin’s office told ProPublica they aren’t allowed to share it “because elements that might be considered ‘associated forces’ can build credibility by being listed as such by the United States, we have classified the list. We cannot afford to inflate these organizations that rely on violent extremist ideology to strengthen their ranks.”

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Syrian rebels to start receiving US weapons amid anxiety from Congress

Apparently Gen. Martin Dempsey is wrong about how we've learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Source: Guardian

The top US military officer warned senators on Monday that taking military action to stop the bloodshed in Syria was likely to escalate quickly and result in "unintended consequences". Alluding to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said that once the US became embroiled militarily in the Syrian civil war, "deeper involvement is hard to avoid".

He said: "We have learned from the past 10 years, however, that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state."

Armed Rebels Massacre Entire Population of Christian Village in Syria

Source: Assyrian International News Agency (AINA)

The armed rebels affiliated to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) raided the Christian-populated al-Duvair village in Reef (outskirts of) Homs near the border with Lebanon….and massacred all its civilian residents, including women and children.

See also this post on the Infowars blog for photos they claim were taken after the attacks.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Judge Challenges White House Claims on Authority in Drone Killings

Source: New York Times

A federal judge on Friday sharply and repeatedly challenged the Obama administration’s claim that courts have no power over targeted drone killings of American citizens overseas.

Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of the United States District Court here was hearing the government’s request to dismiss a lawsuit filed by relatives of three Americans killed in two drone strikes in Yemen in 2011.

“Are you saying that a U.S. citizen targeted by the United States in a foreign country has no constitutional rights?” she asked Brian Hauck, a deputy assistant attorney general. “How broadly are you asserting the right of the United States to target an American citizen? Where is the limit to this?”

She provided her own answer: “The limit is the courthouse door.”

Mr. Hauck acknowledged that Americans targeted overseas do have rights, but he said they could not be enforced in court either before or after the Americans were killed.

... But he argued, as Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has in the past, that there are multiple “checks” inside the executive branch to make sure such killings are legally justified.

Judge Collyer did not buy it. “No, no, no,” she said. “The executive is not an effective check on the executive.”

Congress Expresses Anger Over NSA Surveillance Program

Source: Boston Globe

For the first time, NSA Deputy Director John C. Inglis disclosed that the agency sometimes conducts what is known as <b>three-hop analysis</b>. That means the government can look at the phone data of a suspected terrorist, plus the data of all of the contacts, then all of those people’s contacts, and all of those people’s contacts.
<p>
If the average person calls 40 unique people, three-hop analysis could allow the government to mine the records of 2.5 million Americans when investigating one suspected terrorist.
<p>
The government says it stores everybody’s phone records for five years.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Treasury Debt Has Been Exactly $16,699,396,000,000.00 for 56 Days

Source: CSN

According to the Daily Treasury Statement for July 12, which the U.S. Treasury released this afternoon, the federal debt that is currently subject to a legal limit of $16,699,421,095,673.60 has stood at exactly $16,699,396,000,000.00 for 56 straight days.

That means that for 56 straight days the federal debt has remained approximately $25 million below the legal limit.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Feds Banned From Def Con Due To PRISM

Source: Slashdot

Federal law-enforcement agents haven’t been exactly welcome at Black Hat, the security conference that approaches large-scale IT security from the cracker’s point of view.

This year they’re not welcome at all, at least at the larger Def Con conference that spawned Black Hat and is usually held in conjunction with it. The reason? The ever-growing scandal over revelations of NSA surveillance programs that allegedly capture data on millions of phone calls and emails by tens of millions of Americans.

The resulting hostility toward the NSA and other government intelligence or law-enforcement agencies could ruin the carefully non-confrontational atmosphere at the conferences.

Def Con and the feds who attend its “need some time apart,” according to a post from Def Con/Black Hat founder Jeff Moss, who is also known as Dark Tangent. “For over two decades Def Con has been an open nexus of hacker culture, a place where seasoned pros, hackers, academics and feds can meet, share ideas and party on neutral territory.”

...

“Here’s the thing,” wrote Errata Security’s Graham. “[Def Con is] not a fed convention but a hacker party. The feds don’t have a right to be there– the hackers do. If bad behaving hackers are going to stir up trouble with innocent feds, it’s still the feds who have to go.” Or not go, as the case may be.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sarah Slamen Testimony on the Abortion Restrictions in Texas SB1

The Texas legislature is about to pass some of the most restrictive abortion laws as part of House Bill 2 (HB-2) which has become Senate Bill 1 (SB-1). If passed, SB-1 would criminalize abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and shut down most abortion clinics in the state. On July 12 a young woman named Sarah Slamen signed up to testify during the public debate of SB-1 and I wanted to include the video and a transcript of her testimony on my blog as an example of how Texas women are fighting against this bill and how the Texas legislature treats constituents when they challenge their elected leaders.

Senator Jane Nelson: Sarah Slamen.

Sarah Slamen: Thank you, Chair Committee, my name is Sarah Slamen. I am a constituent of Senator Whitmire. I’m here to testify against SB1 because I’m tired of Republican primary politics, misogyny and greed dominating the state I was born, raised and schooled in. And you know, I had some really eloquent remarks written out but you guys have just worn me down all day. With all this terrible science and glad-handing and to be frank I get to move to New York next month. So I don’t have to live in fear of you Texas legislators anymore and what you’re going to do to my education system, or my healthcare system, ‘cause I’m going to a state that doesn’t kill its own inmates. That’s how pro-life it is, up there. I will thank you, though, first. It was destiny that you would discriminate against us and try to force your way inside the bodies of Texas women. Thank you for finally working against women so publicly, and not in the shadows like you’re used to. Thank you for every single bad press conference with your bad information. Thank you for every hateful statement degrading women and girls to sex objects and brood mares and bald eagles and leather wallets like your eloquent pro-life supporters have done today. Thank you for being you, Texas legislature. You have radicalized hundreds of thousands of us. And no matter what you do for the next 22 days, women and their allies are coming for you.

Let’s start down the line: Senator Campbell you’re an ophthalmologist so I won’t be making you the expert on reproductive health. We can give you all the children with chlamydia and herpes in their eyes, since we don’t have Sex Ed in this state. And Senator Hegar, you are about as helpful ...

Senator Jane Nelson: [hammers gavel and speaks over Slamen] I will not allow ...

Sarah Slamen: ... Excuse me. This is my government ma'am. I will judge you!

Senator Nelson: [unintelligible - apparently chastising and trying to speak over Slamen]

Sarah Slamen: ... I will judge you ma’am! Is this counting against my time?

Senator Nelson: Yes, it is.

Sarah Slamen: ... the senator talking against me?

Senator Nelson: Yes it is.

Sarah Slamen: OK, well I will just go ahead and talk over her ...

Senator Nelson I will not allow you to disrespect ... [unintelligible trying to speak over Slamen]

Sarah Slamen: This is how big of a fraud I knew you are for being so proud of these proceedings all night. It’s a low bar that you hold yourself to that you simply allowed us to speak.
[State Trooper steps towards Slamen]
... and I will speak against an ophthalmologist who says ...
[Another State Trooper steps forward and the two troopers begin dragging her away from the microphone]
... Everyone on the internet can see what you’re doing right now. This is a farce! The Texas legislature is a bunch of liars who hate women. These men are paid off ...
[A third State Trooper helps drag Slamen away from the microphone]

Senator Jane Nelson: Our next witness is Gary Oldham.

Sarah Slamen: [Shouting louder and leaning forward so she can be heard while being dragged away from the microphone] ... so they can tell us what to do with the inside of our bodies ...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

With Surf Like Turf, Huge Algae Bloom Befouls China Coast

The algae blooms seem to be feeding on nutrients from fertilizer that is carried from farms into the sea.

Source: <a href="http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/07/06/world/asia/huge-algae-bloom-afflicts-qingdao-china.html">New York Times</a>

BEIJING — In what has become an annual summer scourge, the coastal Chinese city of Qingdao has been hit by a near-record algae bloom that has left its popular beaches fouled with a green, stringy muck.
...
A group of researchers believe that the algae that washes up around Qingdao originates farther south in seaweed farms along the coast of Jiangsu Province. The farms grow porphyra, known as nori in Japanese cuisine, on large rafts in coastal waters. The rafts attract a kind of algae called Ulva prolifera, and when the farmers clean them off each spring they spread the algae out into the Yellow Sea, where it finds nutrients and warm conditions ideal for blooming.
...
While farmers have long grown seaweed along the Jiangsu coast, the rafts expanded much farther offshore starting in 2006, which may have contributed to the recent blooms, according to an article published by Dr. Keesing and his colleagues. The answer to curtailing the blooms may lie in disposing of the algae that clogs the nori rafts on land.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Syrian rebels may have used chemical weapon in Aleppo, says Russia

Jabhat al-Nusra is an al-Qaeda linked group who Obama and McCain want to provide with weapons, financial aid and/or military aid.

Source: <a href="http://m.guardiannews.com/world/2013/jul/09/syrian-rebels-chemical-weapon-russia">Guardian</a>

Russian scientific analysis indicates that a deadly projectile that hit a suburb of the Syrian city of Aleppo on 19 March contained the nerve agent sarin and was most likely fired by rebels, Russia's UN envoy said on Tuesday

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Growing Spirulina at Home

Source: <a href="http://www.algaeindustrymagazine.com/growing-spirulina-at-home/">Algae Industry Magazine</a>

Spirulina is in fact an extremophile, capable of growing in extremely alkaline water inhospitable to almost every other organism. Most other algae grow in essentially pH-neutral water, which supports the growth of a vast range of algae—including types that produce toxins—as well as doing nothing to inhibit the growth of other potentially harmful organisms such as bacteria. In my biofuel-algae work, we’re constantly fending off invasive species. It’s not just an academic concern. Since it is generally hard to control the growth of possibly harmful stuff (and although it’s fun, we think you should look at your culture under the microscope every day), this aspect of Spirulina cultivation is pretty key to growing pure and safe cultures on a DIY basis.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

How Rob Rhinehart Stopped Eating Food

Several months ago, a man named Rob Rhinehart decided he would create a food substitute that contains all of the nutrients needed without any unnecessary "food" ingredients. He calls his creation "Soylent" which is probably named after the science fiction film "Soylent Green". From reading his blog posts, it seems that Rob was most interested in reducing the time and money spent fueling his body, but he claims that he feels much better and is much more healthy.  I love food too much to give it up, but this is a very interesting project.

Source: Rob Rhinehart

I hypothesized that the body doesn't need food itself, merely the chemicals and elements it contains. So, I resolved to embark on an experiment. What if I consumed only the raw ingredients the body uses for energy? Would I be healthier or do we need all the other stuff that's in traditional food? If it does work, what would it feel like to have a perfectly balanced diet? I just want to be in good health and spend as little time and money on food as possible

There are no meats, fruits, vegetables, or breads here. Besides olive oil for fatty acids and table salt for sodium and chloride nothing is recognizable as food. I researched every substance the body needs to survive, plus a few extras shown to be beneficial, and purchased all of them in nearly raw chemical form from a variety of sources. The section on the ingredients ended up being quite long so I'll save that for a future post. The first morning my kitchen looked more like a chemistry lab than a cookery, but I eventually ended up with an thick, odorless, beige liquid. I call it 'Soylent'.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

5 Fun Facts From the Latest NSA Leak

Source: Wired Threat Level

1) The NSA generally destroys communication of U.S. persons that are collected incidental to collecting data on foreign individuals — unless the communication is encrypted...

2) The NSA maintains a massive database of U.S. email addresses and phone numbers...

3) The NSA also maintains a database of information incidentally collected from GSM and Home Location Registers...

4) When the NSA does pick up purely domestic communications, it can still use or pass the intercepted call or email to the FBI or other federal agencies if there is evidence of a crime or a national security leak...

5) If the NSA intercepts data between an attorney and client, it will still be retained...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Pentagon bracing for public dissent over climate and energy shocks

Why is the NSA spying domestically on citizens? According to the Guardian, they are spying on political activists and have a particular interest in environmentalists.

Source: The Guardian

Top secret US National Security Agency (NSA) documents disclosed by the Guardian have shocked the world with revelations of a comprehensive US-based surveillance system with direct access to Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft and other tech giants. New Zealand court records suggest that data harvested by the NSA's Prism system has been fed into the Five Eyes intelligence alliance whose members also include the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

But why have Western security agencies developed such an unprecedented capacity to spy on their own domestic populations? Since the 2008 economic crash, security agencies have increasingly spied on political activists, especially environmental groups, on behalf of corporate interests. This activity is linked to the last decade of US defence planning, which has been increasingly concerned by the risk of civil unrest at home triggered by catastrophic events linked to climate change, energy shocks or economic crisis - or all three.

Just last month, unilateral changes to US military laws formally granted the Pentagon extraordinary powers to intervene in a domestic "emergency" or "civil disturbance"

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Senator Rand Paul on targeted drone strikes against American Citizens

In this interview with Senator Rand Paul he talks Tech, Civil Liberties, Keeping the Government Out of Your Email, and many areas of civil liberties, but I especially wanted to share Paul's views on targeted assassination of US citizens without due process.

Source: Wired Danger Room

Danger Room: : It’s been about three months since your Senate filibuster. What do you think you’ve changed?

Senator Rand Paul: We have the president thinking about civil liberties and actually responding and saying that he believes in due process. Now if we could just have a little tutorial on what due process is I think we’d be making real progress.

Danger Room: You’re referring to Obama’s claim that Americans accused of terrorism don’t have to be hauled in front of a court before execution?

Rand Paul: I just can’t imagine that any kind of definition of due process wouldn’t include a court or a jury or a lawyer, it would include only someone from a political branch of government. It almost seems to be absurd that someone would call that due process. That being said, I’m only talking about an American citizen being targeted. When we’re talking about people fighting in wars or actively engaging in combat, I’m not talking about that either, American citizen or not. But for an American citizen not engaged in combat, due process is not someone who’s an elected politician deciding whether they should die or not.

Danger Room: And that holds for you even if the government accuses an American of being a terrorist, as with the executed radical preacher Anwar Awlaki?

Rand Paul: We’re talking about extraordinary circumstances. I have no doubt that the evidence indicates Awlaki was a bad person and was a terrorist. But I would have tried him for treason. I would have presented the evidence in court. If it was classified, I would have gone into closed session of court. But I still would have had a judge and a jury convicting him. If he won’t come home, he could have been tried in absentia. I would make the process such that he can’t appeal it for a decade or so. You have to have a fairly swift process. But you can’t have someone who runs for office on a political label, someone from the political branch of government [sentence someone]– that’s the real reason we divided the judiciary into a separate and co-equal branch.

Danger Room: What did you think of Obama’s speech on targeted killing and drones last week? Even if he’s not where you are, he seems to be edging in some of the directions you laid out.

Rand Paul: I was pleased that he responded to us. He talked about the idea and the need for due process. Disappointed, though, that a constitutional law professor thinks due process doesn’t include a court, a trial, a jury or a lawyer. That concept of due process almost is meaningless. So I’m glad that he’s trying but he needs to try a little harder.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Government Says Secret Court Opinion on Law Underlying PRISM Program Needs to Stay Secret

Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation

Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall revealed the existence of a court opinion, which found that collection activities under FISA Section 702  "circumvented the spirit of the law” and violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. But, at the time, the Senators were not permitted to discuss the details publicly. Section 702 has taken on new importance this week, as it appears to form the basis for the extensive PRISM surveillance program reported recently in the Guardian and the Washington Post.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Assange Statement on the First Day of Manning Trial

Source: Wikileaks

Bradley Manning may not give evidence as to his stated intent (exposing war crimes and their context), nor may he present any witness or document that shows that no harm resulted from his actions. Imagine you were put on trial for murder. In Bradley Manning’s court, you would be banned from showing that it was a matter of self-defence, because any argument or evidence as to intent is banned. You would not be able to show that the ’victim’ is, in fact, still alive, because that would be evidence as to the lack of harm.

But of course. Did you forget whose show it is?

The government has prepared for a good show. The trial is to proceed for twelve straight weeks: a fully choreographed extravaganza, with a 141-strong cast of prosecution witnesses. The defense was denied permission to call all but a handful of witnesses. Three weeks ago, in closed session, the court actually held a rehearsal. Even experts on military law have called this unprecedented.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Vitamin tablet makes your whole body an authentication token

Source: Wired UK

The tablets contain a small chip with a switch and something that amounts to an inside-out potato battery. After swallowing it the acids in your stomach act as electrolytes, which power the battery and turn the switch on and off in a sequence.

The result is that your body contains an 18-bit ECG-like signal, which can be picked up by devices and used as an authentication method.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Atlantic Road - Atlanterhavsveien

The Atlantic Road, known locally as the Atlanterhavsveien winds over an entire archipelago in the Norwegian Sea, linking the tiny islands and connecting the communes of Eide and Averoy in the county of Møre og Romsdal. Along with the practical reason for the road (to unify Norway) the swooping stretch is also a popular fishing spot; one of the bridges is specifically designed for it. Tourists and locals alike can go cod fishing on the designated side of the highway.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Illinois Department of Agriculture Destroyed or Confiscated Bees

Source Northwest Illinois' Prairie Advocate

Terrence Ingram reported the theft of $5000 of his bees and bee hives after Illinois Department of Agriculture inspector Susan Kivikko examined his apiary and determined that “foulbrood [was] present” in 15 samples of his bee colonies. Ingram later received a “Disease Notice” and a copy of the “Bee Disease Diagnosis” submitted by Kivikko to the USDA Bee research Laboratory in Maryland. Ingram was later informed that his apiary was infected with foulbrood, and that treatment by burning was ordered in accordance with Sec. 60.50(b) of the Illinois Bees and Apiaries Act.

Monday, May 27, 2013

I Built This AK-47. It's Legal and Totally Untracable

Source: Mother Jones

Although US customs laws ban importing the weapons, parts kits—which include most original components of a Kalashnikov variant—are legal. So is reassembling them, as long as no more than 10 foreign-made components are used and they are mounted on a new receiver, the box-shaped central frame that holds the gun's key mechanics. There are no fussy irritations like, say, passing a background check to buy a kit. And because we're assembling the guns for our own "personal use," whatever that may entail, we're not required to stamp in serial numbers. These rifles are totally untraceable, and even under California's stringent assault weapons ban, that's perfectly within the law.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

World Bank Insider Blows Whistle on Corruption, Federal Reserve

Source: The New American

A former insider at the World Bank, ex-Senior Counsel Karen Hudes, says the global financial system is dominated by a small group of corrupt, power-hungry figures centered around the privately owned U.S. Federal Reserve. The network has seized control of the media to cover up its crimes, too, she explained.

“The group that we’re talking about from the Zurich study — that’s the Federal Reserve; it has some other pieces to it, but that’s the Federal Reserve,” Hudes explained. “So the Federal Reserve secretly dominated the world economy using secret, interlocking corporate directorates, and terrorizing anybody who managed to figure out that they were having any kind of role, and putting people in very important positions so that they could get a free pass.”

The shadowy but immensely powerful Bank for International Settlements serves as “the club of these private central bankers,” Hudes continued. “Now, are people going to want interest on their country’s debts to continue to be paid to that group when they find out the secret tricks that that group has been doing? Don’t forget how they’ve enriched themselves extraordinarily and how they’ve taken taxpayer money for the bailout.”

As far as intervening in the gold price, Hudes said it was an effort by the powerful network and its central banks to “hold onto its paper currency” — a suspicion shared by many analysts and even senior government officials. The World Bank whistleblower also said that contrary to official claims, she did not believe there was any gold being held in Fort Knox. Even congressmen and foreign governments have tried to find out if the precious metals were still there, but they met with little success. Hudes, however, believes the scam will eventually come undone.

“This is like crooks trying to figure out where they can go hide. It’s a mafia,” she said. “These culprits that have grabbed all this economic power have succeeded in infiltrating both sides of the issue, so you will find people who are supposedly trying to fight corruption who are just there to spread disinformation and as a placeholder to trip up anybody who manages to get their act together.… Those thugs think that if they can keep the world ignorant, they can bleed it longer."

Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food

Source: New York Times

Studies published within the past 15 years show that much of our produce is relatively low in phytonutrients, which are the compounds with the potential to reduce the risk of four of our modern scourges: cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia. The loss of these beneficial nutrients did not begin 50 or 100 years ago, as many assume. Unwittingly, we have been stripping phytonutrients from our diet since we stopped foraging for wild plants some 10,000 years ago and became farmers.

Hezbollah and the Syrian Pit

You don't see this covered in the mainstream media and it has only been mentioned on a few blogs as far as I can tell.

Source: The Peoples Voice

This week, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted overwhelmingly to arm elements of the Syrian opposition with a recommendation to “provide defense articles, defense services, and military training” directly to the opposition throughout Syria, who naturally, will “have been properly and fully vetted and share common values and interests with the United States”. History teaches that the vetting part would not happen if the scheme is implemented, despite only a few in Congress objecting.

Perhaps lacking some of his father Ron Paul’s insights into US hegemonic plans for this region, Senator Rand Paul did object to the measure and he fumed at his colleagues: ”This is an important moment. You will be funding, today, the allies of al Qaeda. It’s an irony you cannot overcome.”

According to the Hill Rag weekly, veteran war-hawks Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham, flashed a knowing smile but gave no rebuttal, perhaps realizing that Senator Paul is a bit untutored on the reality of current Obama Administration policy in Syria generally, and for al-Qusayr, in particular.

Contrary to the shock and anger expressed by Senator Paul, American policy in Syria is to de facto assist allies of al Qaeda including the US “Terrorist-listed” Al-Nusra Front as well as anti-Iran, anti-Shia and anti-Hezbollah groups gathering near al-Qusayr. These groups currently include, but not limited to, Ahl al-Athr Brigade, Ahrar al-Sham, Basha’ir al-Nasr Brigades, Commandos Brigades, Fajr al-Islam Brigades, Independent Farouq Brigades, Khalid bin al-Waleed Brigade, Liwa al-Haq, Liwa al-Sadiq, Al-Nour Brigade, Al-Qusayr Brigade, Suqur al-Fatah, Al-Wadi Brigades, Al-Waleed Brigades and the 77th Brigade among the scores of other Jihadist cells currently operating in, near, or rushing to, al-Qusayr.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Obama Just Made Himself a Prisoner of His Own Gitmo Policy

Source: Wired Danger Room

Obama's speech on the future of the war on terrorism yesterday contained a contradiction that threatens to tie his counter-terror policy in rather thick knots. First he said he prefers to capture detainees instead of killing them. Then he recommitted himself to closing the Guantanamo Bay facility that houses those detainees — without offering an alternate prison. Welcome to a paradox.
<p>
Obama turned more than a few heads by declaring his “strong preference” for “the detention and prosecution of terrorists” over sending an armed robot to end their lives. It’s hard to know what to make of that. The simplest interpretation is that it’s a lie. Whatever Obama’s preferences are, he has killed exponentially more people than he has detained and prosecuted.
<p>
Obama definitely prefers to prosecute terrorism suspects who are Americans inside the United States. But overseas, outside the declared battlefield of Afghanistan, the only major terrorist he detained and tried criminally is the Somali Ahmed Warsame.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Budget cuts endanger agency that saved countless lives in Oklahoma

Source: The Nation

Since taking control of the House in 2011, Republicans have targeted NOAA for severe cuts—they came out of the gate proposing a massive 28 percent cut in their first budget that year, which was moderated by the end of the process.

But the assaults on the NOAA budget continued, and the agency couldn’t escape the sequester, which will lop 8.2 percent from the NOAA budget. This lead the acting administrator to institute an across-the-board hiring freeze in March, and four days of mandatory furloughs are on the horizon. (There is already a 10 percent vacancy rate at the agency.)

Mass shootings are not increasing, experts say

S.E. Cup was on the panel this week on Real Time with Bill Maher and she claimed that mass shootings had decreased so I did some googling and found this article...

Source: Los Angeles Times

"What we’ve seen after Aurora and what we’ve seen after Newtown is kind of the typical response that we’ve seen over the last 50 years following high-profile mass public shootings," said Grant Duwe, a criminologist for the Minnesota Department of Corrections who's written a book on the history of mass murders since 1900.

“We had mass public shootings before 1966, but the frequency with which those cases occurred is less than what we’ve observed since the mid-1960s,"

The country saw an increase in mass public killings during the 1980s and '90s, but Duwe's tallies showed that mass shootings had decreased since then. The 26 public shooting massacres he tallied between 2000 and 2009 were significantly down from the 43 cases he counted in the 1990s. (Duwe counts shootings in public places that result in four or more dead, but he excludes robberies and gang violence.)

NASA is funding a 3D food printer, and it'll start with pizza

Source: The Verge

The pizza printer will first print a layer of dough, which will be cooked while being printed, before mixing tomato powder with water and oil to print a tomato sauce. The topping for the pizza will be a nondescript "protein layer."

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cell phone users 'have no legitimate expectation of privacy' - judge

Turn off your mobile phone and remove the battery whenever you wish the retain your fourth amendment rights.

Source: Russia Today

“Given the ubiquity and celebrity of geolocation technologies, an individual has no legitimate expectation of privacy in the prospective of a cellular telephone where that individual has failed to protect his privacy by taking the simple expedient of powering it off,” New York magistrate judge Gary Brown wrote. 

Sen. Warren demands to know why criminal bankers aren't being locked up

Source: The Raw Story

"I believe very strongly that if a regulator reveals itself to be unwilling to take large financial institutions all the way to trial — either because it is too timid or because it lacks resources — the regulator has a lot less leverage in settlement negotiations and will be forced to settle on terms that are much more favorable to the wrongdoer.

The consequence can be insufficient compensation to those who are harmed by illegal activity and inadequate deterrence of future violations. If large financial institutions can break the law and accumulate millions in profits and, if they get caught, settle by paying out of those profits, they do not have much incentive to follow the law."

--Sen Elizabeth Warren

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Let's All Stop Saying 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' Forever

Source: Wired Danger Room

... federal law has established the absurdity that a rocket-propelled grenade is a weapon of mass destruction.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Hear Ye, Future Deep Throats: This Is How to Leak to the Press

Wired today offered some advice on how to safely leak information to the press using a "burner phone", computer or tablet.

Source: Wired

Get a dedicated computer or tablet: the cheapest Windows laptop will do. And pay cash... Leave your cellphone, your normal computer, and your metro card (like SmarTrip) at home: anything that speaks over a wireless link must stay behind. Then go to a coffee shop that has open Wi-Fi, and once there open a new Gmail account that you will only use to contact the press and only from the dedicated computer. When registering, use no personal information that can identify you or your new account: no phone numbers, no names.

...When you are done you must clear the browser’s cookies and turn off the Wi-Fi before turning off the computer and removing the battery. The dedicated computer should never be used on the network except when checking your press-contact account and only from open Wi-Fi connections away from home and work.