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Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
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Environmental Scientist

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Obama Won't Disclose Spy Agency Budgets

Resisting a campaign for greater transparency, the White House has decided to keep American taxpayers in the dark about how much they’re likely to spend on government spy agencies.

President Barack Obama unveiled his fiscal 2016 budget requests Monday with the continued omission of proposed spending levels for specific intelligence agencies, which are funded with a so-called “black budget” supplement debated and voted upon behind closed doors by congressional appropriators.

Last year, dozens of members of Congress asked Obama to voluntarily disclose the dollar amount requested for individual spy agencies, pressing for more democratic decision-making as a check against potential waste and arguing limited transparency would not harm national security. Sixty-two members signed onto legislation that would have forced the disclosure.

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., one of the effort’s leaders, calls the non-disclosure "a missed opportunity for transparency and rebuilding public confidence in the intelligence community."


Of course, he's no different from his predecessors on this.

Chrispie Christie: Vax 'Choicer'

By Charles P. Pierce
I realize you shouldn't ever completely write off any constituency, especially when you're polling a few ticks above Absolute Zero in Iowa, but is Chris Christie kidding here?

In remarks here, Mr. Christie stopped short of recommending that parents immunize their children against measles, or any other illness, calling for "balance" and "choice." Mr. Christie, when asked about the connection between the new measles cases and parents who object to the long-recommended vaccine against it, said that he and his wife had vaccinated their four children. He called that "the best expression I can give you of my opinion." But he added: "It's more important what you think as a parent than what you think as a public official. I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well. So that's the balance that the government has to decide."

It's like hitting a Republican in the knee with a rubber hammer. Say "parents," and they say "choice."

(And, as Steve M points out, the panjandrums of New Jersey's bustling pharmaceutical industry must be thrilled with Big Chicken's latest policy pronouncement.)

This is not something on which you need to hedge. This is like running a campaign on Teach The Controversy regarding Creationism, or a campaign based on the fact that 9/11 was an inside job. You simply say, the people who are choosing not to vaccinate their children based on some Internet cranks or the spouting of some half-dim television personality are endangering your children and mine. Get the shots. Period. Then you move on to hedge on something more important, at least if you're Chris Christie. It is almost impossible to believe that he doesn't know this. But he's polling in single digits in Iowa, and his reception last week in Des Moines was tepid, and, let's face it, there's no herd immunity in any of them against the contagion that is The Base.


A 50th anniversary few remember: LBJ's warning on carbon dioxide

By Marianne Lavelle
The Daily Climate

It is a key moment in climate change history that few remember: This week marks the 50th anniversary of the first presidential mention of the environmental risk of carbon dioxide pollution from fossil fuels.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson, in a February 8, 1965 special message to Congress warned about build-up of the invisible air pollutant that scientists recognize today as the primary contributor to global warming.

"Air pollution is no longer confined to isolated places," said Johnson less than three weeks after his 1965 inauguration. "This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through radioactive materials and a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels."

The speech mainly focused on all-too-visible pollution of land and waterways, including roadside auto graveyards, strip mine sites, and soot pollution that had marred even the White House.



Monday Toon Roundup 2- The Rest








Monday Toon Roundup 1-2016

First-ever rainless January in San Francisco history

The month ended with a sun-drenched bang Saturday, an apropos ending for what was the driest January on record in San Francisco.

Not one drop of measurable rain fell on city streets in January, the first time that’s happened in recorded weather history, which dates back to the Gold Rush.

Other Bay Area cities, including San Jose, saw at most two one-hundredths of an inch during the same time, which was probably just real heavy fog with a drizzle rather than real rain, said Jan Null, former lead meteorologist for the National Weather Service and a meteorology consultant.

“It certainly has been a memorable January,” Null said.

Memorable because it didn’t look anything like a January.


Croatia just canceled the debts of its poorest citizens

Starting Monday, thousands of Croatia's poorest citizens will benefit from an unusual gift: They will have their debts wiped out. Named "fresh start," the government scheme aims to help some of the 317,000 Croatians whose bank accounts have been blocked due to their debts.

Given that Croatia is a relatively small Mediterranean country of only 4.4 million inhabitants, the number of indebted citizens is significant and has become a major economic burden for the country. After six years of recession, growth predictions for Croatia's economy remain low for this year.

"We assess that this measure will be applicable to some 60,000 citizens," Deputy Prime Minister Milanka Opacic was quoted as saying by Reuters. "Thus they will be given a chance for a new start without a burden of debt," Opacic said earlier this month.

To be eligible, Croats need to fulfill certain criteria: Their debt must be lower than 35,000 kuna ($5,100), and their monthly income should not be higher than 1,250 kuna ($138). Those applying for the scheme are not allowed to own any property or have any savings.



Gravitational waves discovery now officially dead

A team of astronomers that last year reported evidence for gravitational waves from the early Universe has now withdrawn the claim. A joint analysis of data recorded by the team's South Pole telescope and by the European spacecraft Planck has revealed that the signal can be entirely attributed to dust in the Milky Way rather than having a more ancient, cosmic origin.

The European Space Agency (ESA) announced the long-awaited results on 30 January, a day after a summary of it had been unintentionally posted online by French members of the Planck team and then widely circulated before it was taken down.

The March finding was released by researchers using a radio telescope at the South Pole called BICEP2. It had hinged on finding a curlicue pattern in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background, the Big Bang's relic radiation. The team attributed the pattern to gravitational waves — ripples in space-time — generated during the earliest moment of the Universe when cosmologists believe the cosmos underwent a brief but tumultuous episode of expansion known as inflation. If detected, the primordial waves would confirm the highly successful but unproven theory of inflation.

But dust in the Milky Way also emits polarized light that can have the same curlicue pattern imprinted on it. Astronomers have suggested several times over the past year that the BICEP2 team had been fooled by that galactic signal (see 'Full-Galaxy dust map muddles search for gravitational waves'). The Planck-BICEP2 analysis confirms that BICEP2 cannot claim to have seen evidence of primordial gravitational waves.



Science working as it should.

Boyfriend sought in murder of transgender woman in Los Angeles

VAN NUYS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A search is underway for a man after his transgender girlfriend was found stabbed to death at the scene of an apartment fire in Van Nuys.

The fire at the two-story structure was reported shortly after 5 a.m. Saturday in the 14600 block of Saticoy Street.

Firefighters forced entry into the apartment and quickly put out fire in a rear bedroom. They also found a woman, later identified as Michelle Vash Payne, stabbed to death on the kitchen floor. Investigators said the victim's body may have possibly been burned.

A murder weapon was recovered at the scene.

The victim lived at the location with her boyfriend, whom authorities have since identified as the prime suspect.



The day the river turned grey

Posted on Feb 1, 2015
by Taft Wireback
EDEN — At 6 that morning, a guard at the Duke Energy plant made his rounds and noticed that the coal ash ponds by the river were iced over. That’s all — nothing dramatic or unusual for a cold February dawn.

But eight hours later, on that Super Bowl Sunday, that same guard checked again and did a double take. The water level in the larger of the two ponds looked suspiciously low.

By midnight, a platoon of environmental experts was on the scene at the Dan River Steam Station, trying to staunch the third-largest coal ash spill in U.S. history.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would later describe what happened that day at the retired power plant near Eden as the “sudden collapse” of a drainage pipe running under the main pond.

much more

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