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Environmental Scientist

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Army can't track spending on $4.3b system to track spending, IG finds

More than $725 million was spent by the Army on a high-tech network for tracking supplies and expenses that failed to comply with federal financial reporting rules meant to allow auditors to track spending, according to an inspector general’s report issued Wednesday.

The Global Combat Support System-Army, a logistical support system meant to track supplies, spare parts and other equipment, was launched in 1997. In 2003, the program switched from custom software to a web-based commercial software system.

About $95 million was spent before the switch was made, according to the report from the Department of Defense IG.

As of this February, the Army had spent $725.7 million on the system, which is ultimately expected to cost about $4.3 billion.



Direct Brain-To-Brain Communication Used in Humans

Tapping directly into someone’s brain in order to share thoughts isn’t just for Spock anymore. An international team of researchers were able to replicate the Vulcan Mind Meld by creating a device that allows two people to share information through thought. The researchers tested the technology by separating the users over 8,000 km (5,000 mi) apart—with one user in France and the other in India. The paper has been published in PLOS ONE.

"We wanted to find out if one could communicate directly between two people by reading out the brain activity from one person and injecting brain activity into the second person, and do so across great physical distances by leveraging existing communication pathways," co-author Alvaro Pascual-Leone said in a press release.

"One such pathway is, of course, the internet, so our question became, 'Could we develop an experiment that would bypass the talking or typing part of internet and establish direct brain-to-brain communication between subjects located far away from each other in India and France?'"

The device connects directly to the users’ scalps and impulses from the sender were picked up via electroencephalogram (EEG) as well as by image-guided and robot-assisted transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). The signal was encoded and sent via the internet to the user on the other end. Once it reached its target destination, the code was then interpreted by a computer interface and delivered to the recipient.



Qatar 'detains' Britons probing World Cup labour conditions

Britain said it was investigating Thursday after two British researchers were reported detained in Qatar while probing the working conditions of migrants building infrastructure for the 2022 football World Cup.

"We are aware of reports that two British nationals have been detained in Qatar and we are investigating," a spokesperson for the British embassy in Doha told AFP.

The Norway-based Global Network for Rights and Development said Wednesday that two British staff -- Krishna Upadhyaya and Ghimire Gundev -- had disappeared in the Qatari capital after complaining of being followed by police.

The pair had been carrying out follow-up research on the working conditions of migrant labourers in Qatar after the authorities promised a raft of reforms to address an international outcry over their working conditions as the emirate prepares to host football's premier tournament.


Amazing coincidence! No working cameras from incident where man died in police custody

MORGAN COUNTY, Missouri — A court proceeding will examine the drowning of a young Clive man who went overboard while handcuffed by a Missouri State Highway Patrol. Officials are holding a coroner’s inquest in Missouri’s Morgan County Justice Center Thursday. This type of proceeding is unusual and used when the manner of death is questionable. A lot of these questions are usually answered by the footage captured from the patrol boat’s three cameras. But officials have no footage, because none of the cameras had SD cards to record what happened.

Brandon Ellingson, 20, drowned last May in the Lake of the Ozarks while in custody of a Missouri State Trooper. Ellingson was arrested on suspicion of boating while intoxicated. He was being moved across the lake on a state patrol boat when he fell or jumped into the water. Ellingson was handcuffed and wearing a life vest, but he slipped out of the jacket.

Witnesses say Ellingson’s hands were not in the armholes of the jacket when he went overboard. Ellingson’s family is also questioning the type of life vest the trooper used. Patrol officials say the trooper used a type III life preserver. Experts say officers are supposed to use a type I life preserver which can turn an unconscious person face up and has the most buoyancy.

Six jurors will review the evidence. Their decision will play a large role in whether or not the prosecutor presses charges. But either way, the Ellingson family plans on filing a wrongful death lawsuit.


Obama names Google exec Megan Smith as new US chief technology officer

Source: The Verge

Megan Smith, a Google vice president and champion of women in technology, has been named the new chief technology officer of the US. Smith is an MIT-educated engineer who worked most recently at Google X, the company's lab for hyper-ambitious projects like the self-driving car and the future of robots. Before that, she led the business development team for nine years.

Alex Macgillivray, Twitter's former top lawyer, has been named deputy CTO. It's an interesting choice: at Twitter, Macgillivray set a tone for that company's independence from the US government and resistance to law enforcement data requests.

The US CTO position is relatively new. The first US CTO, Aneesh Chopra, served from 2009 to 2012. He was succeeded by Todd Park, who left in late August. Smith will be the third US CTO ever.

The role is loosely defined as an advisor on technology policy. "Smith will guide the Administration's information-technology policy and initiatives, continuing the work of her predecessors to accelerate attainment of the benefits of advanced information and communications technologies across every sector of the economy and aspect of human well-being," writes presidential science advisor John Holdren, according to The Washington Post.

Read more: http://www.theverge.com/2014/9/4/6105985/obama-names-google-exec-megan-smith-us-chief-technology-officer

If You Are 'Waiting for the Facts' from the Police, You Will Be Waiting for the Rest of your life

It means waiting until "get over it" becomes a legitimate excuse.

By Luke O'Neil

By now you've likely had the misfortune of wading knee-deep into the overflowing septic tank that passes for dialogue surrounding the Michael Brown story. Predictably, on one side of the argument, there are those who see this as yet another example of violence perpetrated against black men by an institutionally racist law enforcement complex. On the other extreme, you have those who think that Brown, simply because he was even in a position to run afoul of the police, must have done something to provoke his own killing, aggression being the natural state of the animalistic black man.

Somewhere in that spectrum there are those who are still waiting for all the facts to come in.

They're going to be waiting a long time.

“Waiting for all the facts to come in” is a common trope whenever there's a racially charged, or politically tendentious story in the news that captures all of our attention. In theory, it's an appeal to some unreachable, platonic model of journalistic balance, the type of “some say, others say” equivocating that comprises most of the work done by our milquetoast national media. This myth presumes that the truth in any story must fall in the exact center of some probability distribution equation between either extreme. It assumes that both extremes hold equal validity, when that is almost never true.



Charles P. Pierce - No, You Will Not Be President, Either

The "deep bench" the Republicans were bragging about as regards the 2016 presidential campaign seems to be a very long bench, indeed. The problem is that it comes to an end right at the edge of a cliff.

Look out below.

Hospital officials last week announced a November closure for Baton Rouge General's Mid-City emergency room. That was before the state swooped in with an unexpected cash infusion of $7.2 million, which, when coupled with a federal match, means $18 million. The state saved the day -- for now. The emergency room is hemorrhaging $1 million per month, due to an average increase of 400 patients. All of the new patients are uninsured, driven there by the administration's decision to close down the nearby Earl K. Long Medical Center as part of the governor's hospital privatization plan. Other once-public hospitals around the state are now being privately managed, but the situation in Baton Rouge could pave the way for more unintended cash infusions if the long-term solution of diverting patients elsewhere flatlines.

Has there ever been a moment since he came to national quasi-prominence in which "Bobby" Jindal wasn't a hopeless fk-up? He's not in legal trouble, like Christie and Walker and McDonnell, and his companion governors there on the "deep bench." But from his debut on national television, to his leap aboard the Goodhair Bandwagon in 2012, to his return to his day job, in which he spends most of his time icing his nuts because another court has kicked him there, there has not been a mistake out there that he's avoided making. Granted, he has to wait in line behind Marco Rubio to step on a rake, but he's a patient fellow.


But if we were to triage all of the administration's health care-related woes, the privatization of Louisiana's public hospitals would move to the front of the line. The final decision from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on the state's revamped hospital privatization plan, which was initially rejected earlier this year, was expected last month. But the feds have "stopped the clock" as they seek more information on the financial structure of the deals struck with the private managers. As the feds dig deeper, the arrangement for the now-private hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe is being sullied by a $25 million overdue payment. LSU contends the Biomedical Research Foundation owes the cash, while the foundation is accusing the university of mismanaging the clinics before the transfer took place, with irregular scheduling practices being alleged...It also makes the wonk-wonder appeal of Jindal, a self-professed health care expert, vulnerable to attacks on the presidential campaign circuit.

Indeed it does.

No, pal. Not you, either. Cancel the trip to Iowa.


Obama Just Made the Ultimate Commitment to Eastern Europe


Presidents give a lot of speeches, and most of them don’t mean very much. They “urge,” they “call on,” and they “challenge”—and, for the most part, their messages bounce off their intended audiences. Congress doesn’t fund the program or balance the budget; the American people carry on wasting energy and dropping out of school. But there are occasions when presidential words are not mere puffs of breath and waves of sound—and today was one of those occasions.

Ever since Vladimir Putin launched his war on Ukraine, the question has been whether the United States would really act to defend its new NATO allies on Russia’s borders. During the Cold War, the United States stationed a powerful army in West Germany to put force behind its treaty guarantee of European security. Then the Cold War ended. NATO enlarged to include first Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic in 1999, then the Baltic republics, plus Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia in 2004, and most recently Albania and Croatia in 2009.

Partly for economic reasons, partly to appease the Kremlin, NATO did not garrison the new member states on Russia’s border. Polish officials would joke that the only uniformed American in their country was the defense attaché at the U.S. embassy, which was an exaggeration, but not by much. They had NATO’s word—America’s word—but not much more than that word. And all of them had to worry: Was that enough?

The worry has intensified since Barack Obama came to power. Eager to prove themselves loyal allies, the new NATO members had cooperated with the United States—and then some—in the first decade of the 2000s. They had sent troops to the Iraq War. They had allowed the CIA to hold and question detainees on their territory. They had accepted a U.S. missile-defense system—even as the U.S. insisted that the system was intended to protect only against Iranian missiles (which didn’t threaten them) and not against Russian missiles (which did).



How Do Planets Form?

In the past half-decade, we’ve learned about thousands of planets throughout the galaxy, but we still don’t really know what turns young, spinning baby stars into stable solar systems. In fact, scientists hold two conflicting theories of planetary formation. In one, the enormous discs that surround baby stars collide and accrete into planet-sized objects; in the other, gravitational instabilities in a star’s surrounding nebula cause new planets to clump their way into existence.

But these theoretical efforts are hampered by a real limitation: We don’t have many examples of baby planets to look at.

An international team of astrophysicists is helping to change that. On Thursday, the researchers announced evidence of a second planet orbiting HD100546, a still-young star much larger than our sun. The baby planet seems to be a gas giant, and it orbits its star a little farther than Saturn orbits ours.

This is the second proto-planet that Brittain’s team discovered orbiting HD100546. They detected the first, also a gas giant, last year, which marked “the first time a planet forming inside its natal environment.”


Why Do Newspapers Keep Publishing Op-Eds by John McCain?


America's most prestigious op-ed pages are run by highly accomplished editors who know a tight argument when they see one. They reject so many pieces each day that even a minor factual error or logical inconsistency is enough to doom a submission—at least a submission from someone who isn't part of the ruling class.

But a much less rigorous standard governs articles written by well-known politicians. Take John McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona. I assume the op-eds he submits to The New York Times or Washington Post or Wall Street Journal are ghostwritten for him. But so long as McCain's byline is attached, the usual standards for subject-matter expertise, internally consistent argument, and factual accuracy are abandoned. In their place, newspaper readers get the ostensible benefit of knowing what a powerful person wants to be seen as thinking. The approach is widely accepted but journalistically indefensible.

For a thorough evisceration of McCain's most recent Times op-ed, co-bylined with Senator Lindsey Graham, see my colleague Peter Beinart's recent article. His critique of the authors' factual inaccuracies and misrepresentations is so persuasive I began to marvel that a reputable newspaper published the piece. Then I looked back at McCain's past contributions to prestigious newspapers. That he's still treated as a foreign-policy expert is not to opinion journalism's credit.


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