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Faith-based Freaks - by Paul Krugman


Faith-based Freaks
Paul Krugman
May 16, 2014

Noah Smith isn’t very happy with Steve Levitt, who thinks he was being smart by telling David Cameron that he should scrap the NHS and let the magic of the marketplace deal with health care. Strangely, Cameron wasn’t impressed.

I think there are actually several things going on here. One is a Levitt-specific, or maybe Freakonomics-specific, effect: the belief that a smart guy can waltz into any subject and that his shoot-from-the-hip assertions are as good as the experts’. Remember, Levitt did this on climate in his last book, delivering such brilliant judgements as the assertion that because solar panels are black (which they actually aren’t), they’ll absorb heat and make global warming worse. So it’s true to form that he would consider it unnecessary to pay attention to the work of lots of health economists, or for that matter the insights of Ken Arrow, and assert that hey, I don’t see any reason not to trust markets here.

There’s also the resurgence of faith-based free-market fundamentalism. I’ll write more on this soon, but I’m seeing on multiple fronts signs of an attempt to wave away everything that happened to the world these past seven years and go back to the notion that the market always knows best. Hey, it’s always about allocating scarce resources (never mind all those unemployed workers and zero interest rates), and why would you ever imagine that market prices are wrong (don’t mention the bubble).


Scout Willis is on a campaign to free the nipples


Scout Willis is on a campaign to free the nipples
On Instagram and beyond

Prachi Gupta
Thursday, May 29, 2014 07:19 AM PST

What started as a movement to point out the hypocrisy in Instagram’s censorship has turned into a larger commentary on society’s discomfort with the female nipple. Scout Willis, daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, recently began her “free the nipple” hashtag campaign by protesting Instagram, which banned this photo:

And because it was too damn racy for @instagram apparently.... The Babe Bomber. For sale soon pic.twitter.com/CXjnEclXvJ
— Scout LaRue Willis (@Scout_Willis) May 20, 2014

Then, Willis got angry, and walked around topless in New York to make her point:

Legal in NYC but not on @instagram pic.twitter.com/YX9BymV6R6
— Scout LaRue Willis (@Scout_Willis) May 27, 2014

“@Scout_Willis:What @instagram won't let u see #FreeTheNipple pic.twitter.com/9O5fjvwmhH”being comfortable in ur skin doesn't merit slutshaming
— Frances Bean Cobain (@alka_seltzer666) May 29, 2014

Willis’ avatar, a European magazine cover that features a bare-chested Rihanna, was also banned by Instagram when the pop singer posted it. Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, is known for what Nerve’s Beejoli Shah calls a “fast and loose” censorship of posts that contain “arbitrarily sensitive material.” Exhibit A:

So photo A) gets you 2.5 mil follower and the photo while photo B) gets you kicked off in less than 24 hours?? @cher pic.twitter.com/vuhxwZx8OU
— Scout LaRue Willis (@Scout_Willis) May 27, 2014

While it may be easy to dismiss Willis’ protest as a celebrity stunt, Willis seems to know what she’s talking about and makes her point eloquently:

“@Itz_Nandini: @scout_willis ur profile picture is disgusting” no it's not, it's a celebration of the female body
— Scout LaRue Willis (@Scout_Willis) May 29, 2014

Now that every1 is listening,let's talk about root of what is happening here, stop sensationalizing and talk about what's really at stake
— Scout LaRue Willis (@Scout_Willis) May 29, 2014

It's so much bigger than @instagram now
— Scout LaRue Willis (@Scout_Willis) May 29, 2014

This is about helping women feel empowered to make personal choices about their bodies not dictated by what society says is decent
— Scout LaRue Willis (@Scout_Willis) May 29, 2014

Nipples on men are just tiny dots with very little function. But on women, they are these pointy devilish spires of sex and lust and greed that basically embody the seven deadly sins. Except that, you know, the deadly sins are cool on TV, social media, but breasts aren’t:

. @Scout_Willis Something is also wrong about the @FCC censoring public broadcasting of female areolas and nipples yet permitting violence.
— Jeffrey Guterman PhD (@JeffreyGuterman) May 29, 2014

@ModernFam @abc @fcc @freethenipple censoring breasts just fuels the taboo, fem sexualization & inequality even more pic.twitter.com/CXMMDpo2c4
— FreeThinker (@Guy4Progress) April 24, 2014

Keep on fighting the good fight, Scout Willis!
Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at [email protected].

Pentagon Papers Whistleblower: Snowden Won't Get a Fair Trial

Source: NBC News

Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg said Friday he does not believe Edward Snowden would receive a fair trial if he returned to the United States.

Ellsberg — who Secretary of State John Kerry praised for standing trial and defending himself in the Vietnam war-era while bashing Snowden as a “coward” and “traitor” on Wednesday — told Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" on Friday that the 1917 Espionage Act under which Snowden is charged prevents him from getting a shot at justice.

"He's a fugitive, not as Secretary Kerry says from justice — he's a fugitive from injustice. He has no chance of a fair, just trial in this country," Ellsberg said.

Kerry’s comments, also to MSNBC, came in advance of Snowden’s exclusive interview with NBC News, in which Snowden, from a hotel room in Russia, told Brian Williams that he misses the United States.


Ellsberg, calling Kerry's statement "despicable," said the Espionage Act gave Snowden nearly no chance at justice if he returns to the U.S.

"He'd be facing a jail cell from the time he stepped off the plane here," Ellsberg said. "He would probably never get out, unless the Espionage Act is changed, as it should be."

Ellsberg is a former military analyst who worked on the top-secret study of U.S. decision-making in the Vietnam War, which came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. In 1969, he secretly photocopied the 7,000-page study, which revealed the U.S. government had knowledge that the war most likely could not be won, and gave it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and later to newspapers across the country.


Read more: http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/edward-snowden-interview/pentagon-papers-whistleblower-snowden-wont-get-fair-trial-n118561

Solar Energy Dominates First Quarter With 74 Percent of New Electric Capacity

Source: EcoWatch

Solar energy was clearly the top choice when it came to new, electric generating capacity installed during this year’s first quarter.

Power generated from the sun accounted for 74 percent of that new capacity, according to a quarterly report produced by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research. That figure outpaced all other forms of energy by at least 54 percent. Natural gas checked in with a paltry 4 percent.

In all, 1,330 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV) were installed in the first three months of 2014. That figure—a 79-percent increase over the same period last year—brings the U.S. total installed solar capacity to 14.8 gigawatts. That’s enough to power 3 million homes.

“Solar accounted for 74 percent of all new U.S. electric capacity installed in Q1 2014, further signaling the rapidly increasing role that solar is playing in the energy market,” Shayle Kann, senior vice president at GTM Research, said in a statement. “Expect to see a resurgence in the non-residential market, combined with continued incremental residential growth, throughout the rest of this year.”

For the first time, since SEIA and GTM have been tracking the numbers, residential PV installations outpaced commercial in a quarter. Additionally, this quarter marked the best-ever for concentrating solar power, led by that sector’s largest plant, Ivanpah, located near the California-Nevada border.


Read more: http://ecowatch.com/2014/05/29/solar-energy-first-quarter-2014/

SpaceX Dragon Version 2 Unveil - live webcast

spacex reveals dragon 2 live webcast 7pm pt thursday may 29

starts in a few minutes

edit to add: "7pm pt" means 7pm Pacific Time
people have given up trying to figure out when to use PST and PDT

Abe administration ignored massive public opposition to nuclear power - 95.2% of public comments


Abe administration ignored massive public opposition to nuclear power
May 25, 2014
By ATSUSHI KOMORI/ Senior Staff Writer

More than 90 percent of respondents during a public comment period on the Abe administration's basic energy policy were opposed to nuclear power generation, according to an Asahi Shimbun estimate released on May 25.


Failing to take into account that overwhelming public sentiment, the Cabinet approved in April the basic energy policy, which described nuclear power generation as an “important base load electricity source.” The base load electricity source means that nuclear power will continue to be relied on to meet a percentage of the electricity demand, regardless of the season or time of day.


The Asahi Shimbun asked the ministry to release all the comments under the information disclosure law. In response, the ministry disclosed 2,109 e-mails (totaling 2,301 pages) with the names of the senders redacted to protect their personal information.

The ministry said that it released e-mails that were submitted to the ministry early in the public comment period. It will decide by September whether it will release the remaining responses.

As for the 2,109 e-mails, The Asahi Shimbun counted how many were for or against nuclear power generation. It found that 2,008 of them, or 95.2 percent, opposed nuclear power generation. Only 33, or 1.6 percent, supported nuclear power. The remaining 68 e-mails, or 3.2 percent, were “other replies.”


Fukushima lessons learned? None! NRC ends consideration of expedited unloading of radioactive waste


Fukushima lessons learned? None! NRC ends consideration of expedited unloading of radioactive waste pools

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission snuck out a major decision on the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend. Its generic study of whether or not to require the expedited transfer of "spent nuclear fuel" (irradiated nuclear fuel rods, highly radioactive waste) out of vulnerable storage pools will be unceremoniusly ended, with no requirement to unload pools into dry cask storage. The study was undertaken as part of NRC's Fukushima "lessons learned" process, created by former NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko in the immediate aftermath of the Japanese nuclear catastrophe.


The sole dissenting vote on the NRC Commission came from its Chairwoman, Allison Macfarlane.


Chairwoman Macfarlane provided a more than 10-page analysis explaining her dissent. Three of the other Commissioners who blessed the staff's recommendation for inaction provided a page, or less, of explanation for their own votes.

In Jan. 2003 (nine years before she would be appointed as NRC Chairwoman), Macfarlane herself co-authored a study, published by Princeton's Science and Global Security, warning about the potentially catastrophic risks of densely-packed storage pool fires.


U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) blasted the NRC decision, stating:

“Overcrowded spent nuclear fuel pools are a disaster waiting to happen. Experts agree an accident at one of these pools could result in damage as bad as that caused by an accident at an operating nuclear reactor. Pilgrim Nuclear Plant’s spent fuel pool contains nearly four times more radioactive waste than it was originally designed to hold. It is time for the NRC to post the ‘Danger’ sign outside the fuel pools and begin to swiftly move spent fuel to safer storage now before a disaster occurs.”


U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a leading critic of Entergy's Vermont Yankee atomic reactor, responded:

“We are one natural disaster, mechanical failure or terrorist attack away from a disaster. The sooner we get the spent (fuel) out of the pools and into dry casks, the better, and if the NRC will not change the rules, I will continue to work with my colleagues to change the rules through legislation.”


U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said she was “deeply troubled” by the NRC’s inaction, adding:

“Earlier this month, a wildfire came within a half mile of the now-closed San Onofre nuclear plant, which is storing most of its spent fuel in pools rather than in dry cask storage.”

Boxer chairs the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), on which Markey and Sanders also serve. EPW has oversight on NRC. Two weeks ago -- coincidentally, on the very day those fires threatened San Onofre nuclear power plant -- Boxer convened a hearing to address the risks of high-level radioactive waste pool storage. Boxer, Markey, and Sanders had just introduced legislation the previous day, requiring expedited transfer of irradiated nuclear fuel from pools to dry casks. The three Senators grilled a top official from the NRC, as well as the top official from the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry's DC lobby HQ.


Along with Macfarlane, Lyman served as a co-author of the 2003 independent study.

David Wright, physicist and co-director of Global Security at UCS, has also published a blog on the NRC decision, entitled "Nuclear Power Regulator Sticks Its Head Further Into the Ground." Wright's blog contains numerous additional links to further analyses and documents.


Nuclear-waste facility on high alert over risk of new explosions


Nuclear-waste facility on high alert over risk of new explosions

US repository scrambles to seal off barrels containing cat-litter buffer thought to be responsible for February accident.

Declan Butler
27 May 2014

Time bombs may be ticking at the United States’ only deep geological repository for nuclear waste. US authorities concluded last week that at least 368 drums of waste at the site could be susceptible to the chemical reaction suspected to have caused a drum to rupture there in February. That accident caused radioactive material to spill into the repository and leak into the environment above ground.


To mitigate the threat of further exploding drums, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) in Santa Fe issued an order on 20 May giving the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the Nuclear Waste Partnership — the contractor that operates the WIPP site — until 30 May to come up with a plan to “expedite” the sealing of panel 6 and part of panel 7.


The WIPP has come under fire since the accident for progressively watering down safety standards and allowing a lax security culture to develop (see 'Call for better oversight of nuclear-waste storage').


In addition to the drums at the WIPP, another 57 containing the suspect mix are still in temporary storage at the LANL. On 19 May, the NMED told the DOE and the LANL that they had two days to present a plan to secure the drums. In their response on 21 May, the LANL and the DOE said that the drums were being transferred to a tent fitted with fire-control and high-efficiency particulate air filtration to contain any radioactive particles in the event of an accident. They added that air radiation levels and the temperature of the drums were being monitored, and that the drums were being inspected hourly for signs of rupture.


Nature doi:10.1038/nature.2014.15290

The Planetary Society Announces Strong Support for NASA's Asteroid Initiative


Home » Press Room » Press Releases » 2014

The Planetary Society Announces Strong Support for NASA's Asteroid Initiative

But an independent cost estimate is needed as the program moves forward


Casey Dreier
Email: [email protected]

In May 2013 The Planetary Society issued a statement saying that the Society "conditionally supports NASA's plan to capture a small asteroid and place it in lunar orbit." The Society’s support was conditional because the detailed goals, costs, and implementation plan for this asteroid mission were not yet well defined. In the past year, NASA has made commendable progress in developing its plans for what now is known as the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). Based on this progress, we now offer strong, but still conditional, support for ARM.

Our concern is that a rigorous and independent cost and technical evaluation of the mission has not yet been completed. We worry that the ARM effort will prove a great deal more expensive than is currently being suggested. As has happened too often in the past, cost overruns lead to budgeting difficulties for years into the future. NASA's numerous other worthy science and exploration endeavors become difficult to manage and complete. We thus urge NASA as soon as possible to undertake as comprehensive a cost and technical evaluation as is feasible at this early stage in mission definition.

The Planetary Society in 2008 developed a "Beyond the Moon" roadmap that called for a step-by-step expansion of human activity into deep space. One of the steps on the path to Mars recommended in that Roadmap was a rendezvous with an asteroid in its native orbit. However, the initial versions of the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft mandated by the Congress and being developed by NASA cannot send astronauts on a weeks-long journey to such an asteroid without the expensive addition of a habitation module. Thus it makes sense to define an activity that can be carried out sooner, traveling to a location that can be reached with systems currently under development. The ARM is such an activity; in redirecting an asteroid to a location where it can be reached using the first generation Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, it certainly reflects the spirit of our 2008 Roadmap.

NASA has set the ARM effort in the broader context of developing and demonstrating technologies relevant to human missions to Mars and its moons, such as the large solar electric propulsion system that would be used to transport cargo to the Martian vicinity. The ARM mission would help gain experience with deep-space technologies and operations relevant to missions to Mars, including long-duration life support, navigation, rendezvous, docking, and extra-vehicular activity. With the Asteroid Redirect Mission, NASA would gain experience relevant both to developing an infrastructure for possible missions to the lunar surface and to missions deeper into space, ultimately to Mars and its moons.

The Planetary Society sees the ARM initiative as one—but only one—step in achieving the goal of its 2008 Roadmap, humans traveling to Mars. We hope for a series of increasingly ambitious deep space missions during the 2020s, establishing an exploratory cadence that will carry explorers away from our home planet. For all the above reasons, we support ARM, with the condition that it soon undergo a full cost and technical evaluation, as an initial step in a new era of U.S.-led discovery and space achievement.

About the Planetary Society

The Planetary Society has inspired millions of people to explore other worlds and seek other life. Today, its international membership makes the non-governmental Planetary Society the largest space interest group in the world. Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded the Planetary Society in 1980. Bill Nye, a long time member of the Planetary Society's Board, serves as CEO.

The Planetary Society
85 South Grand
Pasadena, CA 91105 USA
Web: www.planetary.org
Voice: (626) 793-5100
Fax: (626) 793-5528
Email: [email protected]


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