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Home country: USA
Current location: Georgia
Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
Number of posts: 38,327

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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

Snowden's TED Talk

Appearing by telepresence robot, Edward Snowden speaks at TED2014 about surveillance and Internet freedom. The right to data privacy, he suggests, is not a partisan issue, but requires a fundamental rethink of the role of the internet in our lives — and the laws that protect it. "Your rights matter,” he say, "because you never know when you're going to need them." Chris Anderson interviews, with special guest Tim Berners-Lee.

video at link


Why Isn't the Fourth Amendment Classified as Top Secret?


Notice how much the Fourth Amendment tells our enemies. "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated," it states, "and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The Framers are usually considered patriots. Yet they gave traitors and criminals in their midst such powerful knowledge about concealing evidence of skullduggery! Today every terrorist with access to a pocket Constitution is privy to the same text. And thanks to the Supreme Court's practice of publishing its opinions, al-Qaeda need only have an Internet connection to gain a very nuanced, specific understanding of how the Fourth Amendment is applied in individual cases, how it constrains law enforcement, and how to exploit those limits.

Such were my thoughts Friday at UCLA Law School, where Stewart Baker, an attorney who worked in the Department of Homeland Security during the Bush Administration, participated in a debate about Edward Snowden. Some of his remarks focused on the NSA whistleblower's professed desire to trigger a debate among Americans, many of whom think it's their right to weigh in on all policy controversies.

Baker disagrees.

"You can't debate our intelligence capabilities and how to control them in the public without disclosing all of the things that you're discussing to the very people you're trying to gather intelligence about," he said. "Your targets are listening to the debates." In fact, he continued, they're listening particularly closely. For that reason, publicly debating intelligence techniques, targets and limits is foolish. As soon as targets figure out the limits of what authorities can touch, they'll change their tactics accordingly. In his view, limits should be set in secret. A class of overseers with security clearances can make the necessary judgment calls.



Tom Toles- The Slammer


Everyone can imagine vividly the sound of a jail door closing. The slightly vibratoed deep clang of a heavy steel door swinging into a heavy steel frame has been featured in so many films that description is hardly necessary.

But the door that’s closing now is the one of economic justice. Not the distribution of economic-benefits justice, which by the way is also closing. More like the door to economic-legality justice, which is closing with a ka-lang. Or maybe just a whimper. I return from time to time here to one of the themes I started this Blog with: that it was clear that the financial crisis could not have occurred without some laws, (at the very least laws about fair representation), having been broken at high levels of large financial institutions. And that the book could not fairly be closed on this disgraceful and calamitous chapter in US economic history without bringing charges against people in high places who did wrong, and putting some of them in jail. But it looks like that pretty much isn’t going to happen.

Big surprise. But we pause here to showcase the obvious quote: “The report fits a pattern that is scary for a democracy, that there really are two levels of justice in this country, one for the people with power and money and one for everyone else.” We return you now to your standard news feed and its regularly scheduled narrative.


Paul Krugman Blog- High Fallutin’ Nazis

Here comes another billionaire who thinks that anyone who talks about income inequality is a Nazi; this time it’s Ken Langone, co-founder of Home Depot. I don’t have anything useful to say about this, other than the observation that there must be a lot of these guys. I mean, there aren’t that many billionaires, so that coming up with multiple examples of the genus who not only believe that progressives are just like Hitler but are willing to say so in public must indicate that a substantial proportion of our billionaires share this belief, but more privately. Luckily, great wealth doesn’t bring great political influence in modern America — does it?

But Jonathan Cohn’s report on Langone brought to mind an earlier rant by the same guy, in which he denounced yours truly and my “high-fallutin’ thoughts and ideas.” And I think, now that I remember that, that this rant (and others like it) gives a partial clue to the mystery of the continuing popularity of the Wall Street macro canon, despite its total failure in practice.

For what, after all, was Langone raging against? Well, me, of course. But not, presumably, against “high-fallutin” ideas in general: Langone can’t really be a stupid man, and I’m sure that when it comes to, say, information systems for inventory management hes’ quite willing to accept the idea that some things are technical and require some knowledge.

No, what I think he’s really raging against are two things. First is the idea that understanding economics, as opposed to other issues, might involve some kind of special expertise. This is an all too common problem with the wealthy, and maybe especially among self-made men: they think that their personal financial success means that they understand the economic system, and bristle at the notion that macroeconomics may be more than the sum of individual business strategies.



Drone flies into Volcano


I don't know how that thing survives some of the explosions....

Meet Mercury, the solar system's incredibly shrinking planet

The smallest planet in our solar system is getting even smaller.

Mercury, the first scorched rock from the Sun, has contracted into itself even more than previously thought over the past 4 billion years, according to new research using images from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft.

The proof is in its stretch marks.

Looking at tectonic features like wrinkle edges and rounded cliffs (similar to wrinkles on our skin), researcher determined Mercury has shrunk up to 8.6 miles in diameter over the course of several millennia.

The shrinkage is a result of the huge temperature difference between Mercury's core and its surface.



Officials give up on evicting pythons — big but nearly invisible in the wild — from Everglades

Only in Florida can a search for one invasive monster lead to the discovery of another.

On a balmy Sunday recently, a group of volunteers called Swamp Apes was searching for pythons in Everglades National Park when it stumbled on something worse: a Nile crocodile, lurking in a canal near Miami suburbs.

It was an all-points alarm, prompting an emergency response by experts from the national park, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the University of Florida. They joined the Swamp Apes and wrestled the reptile out of the canal. Nile crocs are highly aggressive man-eaters known to take down huge prey in Africa, and officials worried that the one in the canal might be breeding in the swamp since it was first spotted two years ago.

Worrying is what Florida wildlife officials often do when it comes to invasive species. The state is being overrun by animals, insects and plants that should not be there, costing Floridians half a billion dollars each year in, among other things, damaged orange groves, maimed pets and dead fish in water where plants have depleted the oxygen.



Climate change is putting world at risk of irreversible changes, scientists warn

The world is at growing risk of “abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes” because of a warming climate, America’s premier scientific society warned on Tuesday.

In a rare intervention into a policy debate, the American Association for the Advancement of Scientists urged Americans to act swiftly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – and lower the risks of leaving a climate catastrophe for future generations.

“As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do,” the AAAS said in a new report, What we know.

“But we consider it our responsibility as professionals to ensure, to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know: human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes, and responding now will lower the risks and costs of taking action.”



Narwhal’s tusk is super sensitive

By Ella Davies

Narwhals' distinctive long tusks are super sensitive, research has found.

The whales are known for their tusks which can reach 2.6m (9ft) in length, earning them comparisons with mythological unicorns.

The tusk is an exaggerated front tooth and scientists have discovered that it helps the animals sense changes in their environment.

Experts suggest males could use the tusks to seek out mates or food.

The results are published in the journal The Anatomical Record.



West Texas county sues Odessa oil service company for dumping chemicals

ODESSA, Texas -- Ector County in West Texas is suing an Odessa oil services company for as much as $1 million in fines for allegedly dumping thousands of gallons of toxic oil field chemicals down Odessa city sewers.

The suit charges Roywell Services, which services existing oil wells in six locations in Texas, with pumping xylene acid and other chemicals down a manhole cover on its property. The manhole connects to the Odessa city sewer.

The lawsuit cites three Roywell employees, interviewed by Odessa police, as having been told to pump the chemicals on the orders of an unnamed manager.

The chemicals were stored in a waste pit on the property which was “hot,” according to one employee interviewed by police, meaning the chemicals were toxic. The employee told police he could see the chemicals bubbling, and that dirt and rocks thrown into the waste pit would dissolve.


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