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Environmental Scientist

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Senator Warren doubts whether Fischer should be vice chairman of Fed

United States Senator Elizabeth Warren has expressed reservations about Stanley Fischer as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, in an interview that aired on Bloomberg TV on Friday.

Speaking on the program “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” the Massachusetts Democrat and longtime consumer advocate said she expects incoming Federal Reserve Board Chairman Janet Yellen will be a more aggressive financial regulator than her predecessor, Ben S. Bernanke.

"I want to be hopeful," Warren said, when asked whether Fischer is a good choice for vice chairman.

"This is a hard time right now for the Federal Reserve," she said. "This economy has not recovered the way it should coming out of this recession. And what we’re seeing is the Federal Reserve has very limited tools. And in a world in which Congress is willing to act, a world in which Congress is not cutting back on spending using the sequester to cut back, shutting down the government, costing the economy $24 billion, Congress is supposed to do its part, the Fed does its part.



The Space Station’s new lease on life

The United States committed itself this past Thursday at the International Space Exploration Forum to extending the shelf life of the International Space Station (ISS) until at least 2024. Speaking in front of ministerial-level delegates from almost every space-faring country on the planet, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology, John Holdren, explained that “the Obama Administration’s decision to extend (the ISS’) life until at least 2024 will allow us to maximize its potential, deliver critical benefits to our Nation and the world, and maintain American leadership in space.”

The forum, aimed at ensuring ongoing international support for space exploration, was a high-profile demonstration of that American leadership.

In a written statement, Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the assembly and the significance of space research, noting how endeavors like the ISS “promote innovation and economic development, foster scientific advancement, and inspire the next generation of explorers to pursue studies and careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

Mr. Kerry’s lieutenant, Deputy Secretary William Burns, summarized the significance of the ISS’ extension most succinctly: “we all share a deep stake in extending humanity’s reach further into the solar system, advancing innovation further and faster, and extending the benefits of discovery to more people in more places.”


The Weapons of the Poor

January 11, 2014

Many on the American Right define themselves as Christians and angrily defend the religion’s symbols and myths, but this Christian Right ignores a core reality about Jesus, that he spoke to and for the poor, decried the rich, and demanded social justice for all, as Rev. Howard Bess recounts.

By Rev. Howard Bess

Jesus spent nearly all his life with poor people, and these were the truly poor, eking out a subsistence living, struggling just to survive. In Nazareth where Jesus grew up, there were no people of wealth; there was no middle class; the people were rural and illiterate.

These people of Galilee were not simply poor, they were expendable as far as the ruling elites were concerned. As such, they were not a happy, contented lot. They lived at wits end, which is why Galilee gave rise to the Zealot movement of violent rebellion.

It was from this population that Jesus drew his disciples and found the audiences for his sermons. His relationship with the poor people of rural Galilee became the context in which he advocated for justice or what he called the kingdom of God on earth.

Somewhere in my theological/religious journey, I found a truth in reading and interpreting the Bible. It was that a text without context is a pretext. As applied to Jesus, that means that if the reader does not understand the context in which Jesus taught, his stories can be twisted to mean whatever the reader wants.



Marshawn Lynch causes another Beast Quake in Seahawks’ win over Saints

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is famous for making the ground shake with his 67-yard “Beast Quake” touchdown run three years ago against the Saints in the NFL playoffs. On Saturday, he did it again.

It wasn’t the spectacular TD run he had in January 2011, when the 7-9 Seahawks sneaked into the playoffs and upset the defending Super Bowl-champion Saints in Seattle. But in the second quarter Saturday, when Lynch powered up the middle and broke several tackles on a 15-yard rush into the end zone for Seattle’s first touchdown, the 12th Man at CenturyLink Field make the earth shake.

Three seismometers installed by the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network at and near the CLink registered ground movement on that first Seahawks TD. Here’s the info from the PNSN:

Lynch TD shows up all three seismometers. This ground motion NOT fan noise #BeastQuake #GoHawks #NOvsSEA


Construction of Monsanto plant in north Argentina halted on environmental grounds

“We have filed a criminal complaint to inform the prosecutor of certain irregularities in violation of environmental law that have occurred in the heart of the Ministry of the Environment which is involved with authorizations of projects,” said attorney Raúl Montenegro.

The construction at the site has been suspended until an environmental assessment is completed to determine the plant’s future impact on the area. Local newspaper La Voz reported that the environmental study could be completed as soon as early February.

The multinational company said it will appeal the decision. “We consider our right to build legitimate since we have complied with all legal requirements and have obtained authorization to build according to the regulations,” said Monsanto’s statement.
The company stated that it already conducted an environmental assessment, which is currently under the review by the provincial Secretary of the Environment.

Activists had been blockading the construction site for 113 days, preventing workers from completing work on the plant.


Success! SpaceShipTwo hits new heights during rocket test

Alan Boyle, Science Editor

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo fires its rocket engine after separating from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane on Friday.

MOJAVE, Calif. — With Virgin Galactic's chief pilot behind the controls for the first time, the company's SpaceShipTwo plane reached a new high on Friday in its first supersonic rocket-powered test of 2014.

The test at Mojave Air and Space Port was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventually for commercial space tours.

"2014 is our year to do it for real," Mike Moses, a former space shuttle manager who now serves as Virgin Galactic's vice president of operations, told NBC News.



Researchers show possibility of cloning quantum information from the past

Popular television shows such as “Doctor Who” have brought the idea of time travel into the vernacular of popular culture. But problem of time travel is even more complicated than one might think. LSU’s Mark Wilde has shown that it would theoretically be possible for time travelers to copy quantum data from the past.

It all started when David Deutsch, a pioneer of quantum computing and a physicist at Oxford, came up with a simplified model of time travel to deal with the paradoxes that would occur if one could travel back in time. For example, would it be possible to travel back in time to kill one’s grandfather? In the Grandfather paradox, a time traveler faces the problem that if he kills his grandfather back in time, then he himself is never born, and consequently is unable to travel through time to kill his grandfather, and so on. Some theorists have used this paradox to argue that it is actually impossible to change the past.

“The question is, how would you have existed in the first place to go back in time and kill your grandfather?” said Mark Wilde, an LSU assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and with the Center for Computation and Technology, or CCT.

Deutsch solved the Grandfather paradox originally using a slight change to quantum theory, proposing that you could change the past as long as you did so in a self-consistent manner.



Obama WH: Pro-Sanctions Senators Should Admit They Want War With Iran

As Jason Ditz highlights in the news section today, congressional support for heaping additional sanctions on Iran, even as the interim deal plays out ahead of further negotiations on a final deal, is picking up in the Senate. Up to 58 senators have committed to voting yes on new sanctions, an action the Obama administration and Iranian negotiators have said would kill good faith negotiations.

But the Obama White House seems to be stepping up the rhetoric in opposition to the new sanctions bill. The Huffington Post: White House Dares Democratic Senators Pushing Iran Sanctions To Admit They Want War…

“If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be up front with the American public and say so,” Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council spokeswoman, said in a statement. “Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed.”

The “certain members” the White House is referring to are led by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who is pushing legislation, backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, that would tighten sanctions on the Iranian regime despite the ongoing negotiations.

Let’s remember that Iran and the P5+1 came to an historic deal in November which freezes or rolls back the entirety of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for meager sanctions relief and unfrozen assets. That deal lasts for 6-months while negotiators work to hammer out a more comprehensive and permanent agreement. This interim period is critical and new sanctions on Iran could destroy any chance for success, giving credibility to hardliners in Iran pushing to terminate talks.



A ‘Fast Track’ to Less Democracy and More Economic Dislocation

John Nichols

The framers of the Constitution were wise to include Congress in the process of framing and approving trade agreements made by presidents. That authority to provide advice and consent should, the wisest legislators have always argued, be zealously guarded.

Unfortunately, in recent decades, Congress has frequently surrendered its authority when it comes to the shaping of trade agreements. By granting so-called “fast-track authority” to the White House, Congress opts itself out of the process at the critical stage when an agreement is being struck and retains only the ability to say “yes” or “no” to a done deal.

The result has been a framing of US trade agreements that is great for multinational corporations but lousy for workers, communities and the environment. Instead of benefitting the great mass of people in the United States and countries with which it trades, deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the permanent normalization of trade relations agreement with China de-emphasize worker rights, human rights, environmental and democracy concerns and clear the way for a race to the bottom.

Candidate Barack Obama recognized this. In 2008, he told Pennsylvania labor activists, “The current Fast Track process does not mandate that agreements include binding labor and environmental protections nor does it give an adequate role to Congress in the selection and design of agreements. I will work with Congressional leaders to ensure that any new TPA authority fix these basic failings and open up the process to the American people for their participation and scrutiny.”



Ha Ha! Greg Abbott forced to Pay Wendy Davis' Legal Fees

By Seth Millstein

The state of Texas was ordered Thursday to reimburse Wendy Davis for over $200,000 in legal fees that she spent fending off a Republican attempt to carve up her legislative district (and, in the process, disenfranchise minorities in the area). The kicker is that the one responsible for reimbursing her is Attorney General Greg Abbott, who she’s currently running against in the governor’s race.

Davis and the League of United Latin American Citizens sued Texas Republicans in 2011 for trying to enact a redistricting plan that, they claimed, “was draw with the purpose, and has the effect, of minimizing and reducing the strength of minority populations in the Tarrant and Dallas counties area of North Texas.” They won, and Davis was permitted to seek reimbursement for what her campaign had spent on legal fees, in the neighborhood of $600,000. Abbott fought the ruling that Davis was eligible to be reimbursed, because of course he did, but lost that fight as well, and was ordered by a federal court Thursday to fork over $267,000 to Davis’s campaign.

This is more or less unrelated to the governor’s race, in which Davis and Abbott are facing off to fill Rick Perry’s seat as Perry, inexplicably, contemplates another run for president. While Davis faces an uphill battle against Abbott later this year, she effectively just received a $200,000 campaign contribution from her opponent, which has to be somewhat satisfying.


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