Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Taking a BLOG BREAK…death in the family

I’ll be back at a future date.

My Mother passed away today.

Follow tonight’s Presidential Debate with Dave at Learnist

imagesCA6U3L08Join me at Learnist from 6:00 p.m. PST - (9:00 p.m. ET) to watch/ listen to the Presidential Debate LIVE tonight.

Click the above link and scroll down to the last (#9) “Learning” on the Board, and you’ll find the ALL the resources you need to keep track of the first of four debates between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney.

Shocking Bipartisan Senate Report: Homeland Security 'Fusion' Centers Spy on Citizens, Produce 'Shoddy' Work

                          Good Day Humboldt County!

                  Here’s something to think about today: 

 The Department of Homeland Security has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a network of 77 so-called “fusion” intelligence centers that have collected personal information on some U.S. citizens — including detailing the “reading habits” of American Muslims — while producing shoddy reports and making no contribution to thwarting any terrorist plots,  a new Senate report states.

The “ fusion centers,” created under President George W. Bush and expanded under President Barack Obama, consist of  special   teams of  federal , state and local officials collecting and analyzing  intelligence on suspicious activities throughout the country.  They have been hailed by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano as “one of the centerpieces”  of the nation’s counterterrorism efforts. But a bipartisan report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released Tuesday concludes that the centers “often produced irrelevant” and "useless” intelligence reports. “There were times when it was, ‘What a bunch of crap is coming through,’” one senior Homeland Security official is quoted as saying .

A spokesman for Napolitano immediately blasted the report as “out of date, inaccurate and misleading.” Another Homeland Security official, who spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity, said the department has made improvements to the fusion centers and that the skills of officials working in them are “evolving and maturing.”

While dismissing the value of much of the fusion centers’ work, the Senate panel  found  evidence of what  it called  “troubling” reports by some  centers that may have violated the civil liberties and privacy of U.S. citizens.  The evidence cited in the report could fuel a continuing controversy over claims that the FBI and some local police departments, notably New York City’s, have spied on American Muslims without a justifiable law enforcement reason for doing so. Among the examples in the report:

  • One fusion center drafted a report on a list of reading suggestions prepared by a Muslim community group, titled “Ten Book Recommendations for Every Muslim.” The report noted that four of the authors were listed in a terrorism database, but a Homeland Security reviewer in Washington chastised the fusion center,  saying, “We cannot report on books and other writings” simply because the authors are  in a terrorism database. “The writings themselves are protected by the First Amendment unless you can establish that something in the writing indicates planning or advocates violent or other criminal activity.”
  • A fusion center in California prepared a report about a speaker at a Muslim center in Santa Cruz who was giving a daylong motivational talk—and a lecture on “positive parenting.” No link to terrorism was alleged. 
  • Another fusion center drafted a  report on a U.S. citizen speaking at a local mosque that speculated that --  since the speaker had been listed in a terrorism data base — he may have been  attempting “to conduct fundraising and recruiting” for a foreign terrorist group.

“The number of things that scare me about this report are almost too many to write into this (form),” a Homeland Security reviewer wrote after analyzing the report. The reviewer noted that the nature of this event is constitutionally protected activity (public speaking, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion.)”

The Senate panel found 40 reports -- including the three listed above -- that were drafted at fusion centers by Homeland Security officials, then later “nixed” by officials in Washington after reviewers “raised concerns the documents potentially endangered the civil liberties or legal privacy protections of the U.S. persons they mentioned.”

Despite being scrapped, however, the Senate report concluded that “these reports should not have been drafted at all.” It also noted that the reports were stored at Homeland Security headquarters in Washington, D.C., for  a year or more after they had been  canceled —a potential violation of the U.S. Privacy Act, which prohibits federal agencies from storing information on U.S. citizens’ First Amendment-protected activities if there is no valid reason to do so.

The report said the retention of these reports also appears to contradict Homeland Security’s own guidelines, which state that once a determination is made that a document should not be retained, “The U.S  person identifying information is to be destroyed immediately.”

The investigation was led by the Republican staff of the subcommittee but the 107-page report was approved by chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich and ranking minority Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.  It stated that much basic information about the fusion centers – including exactly how much they cost the federal government — was difficult to obtain. Although the fusion centers are overseen by Homeland Security, they are funded primarily through grants to local governments by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Although Homeland Security “was unable to provide an accurate tally,” the panel estimated the federal dollars spent on the centers between 2003 and 2011 at between $289 million and $1.4 billion.

The panel’s criticism of the fusion centers was shared in part by Michael Leiter, the former director of the National National Counter-Terrorism Center and now an NBC analyst. “Since 9/11, the growth of state and local fusion centers has been exponential and regrettably in many instances it has produced an ill-planned mishmash rather than a true national system that is well-integrated with existing organizations like the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Forces,” Leiter wrote in an email when asked about the report. 

In its response to the Senate panel , Homeland Security said that the canceled reports could still be retained “for administrative purposes such as audit and oversight.” The report cited multiple examples of what it called fusion center reports that had little if any value to counterterrorism efforts.

One fusion center report cited described how a certain model car had folding rear seats to the trunk, a feature that it said could be useful to human traffickers. This prompted a Homeland Security reviewer to note that such folding rear seats are “featured on MANY different  makes and model of vehicles” and “there is nothing of any intelligence value in this report.” (Read the rest of the story here)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Future Technology: 3-D printed gun project derailed by legal woes


             Good Day Humboldt County!

This rapidly developing “printing technology” would have left Flash Gordon in shock.

It sure blows my mind. Actually printing solid objects. This new story points out this technology is going to bring a lot of legal challenges…soon.

It kinda creeps me out thinking about untold thousands of people printing up guns for themselves. I foresee a big problem with that. See what you think.

“After raising thousands of dollars to develop a free, 3-D-printable handgun, a group calling itself Defense Distributed has had to put its plans on hold, after the company providing their printing hardware refused to do business with them. It's an early episode in what is likely to be a long controversy.

Defense Distributed is a loosely organized group that intends to explore the possibility of creating weapons entirely using 3-D printed parts — and providing the files to do so freely online. They are unrelated to another recent project that partially built an assault rifle that way, but the concept is similar.

The group originally tried to raise money to develop the Wiki Weapon, as they call itStratasys, on the crowd-funding website IndieGoGo. The site pulled the plug, however, before the $20,000 the group was hoping to collect was pledged. Undeterred, Defense Distributed solicited donations in the Bitcoin virtual currency, and soon achieved their funding goal.

With the money, they leased a powerful 3-D printer from a company called Stratasys. But before they even had a chance to take the device out of its box, Stratasys caught wind of what its hardware was going to be used for and canceled the contract, sending someone to pick up the printer immediately.

Defense Distributed's Cody Wilson had expected some controversy, but the cancellation by Stratasys caught him by surprise. Speaking to Wired's Danger Room blog, he emphasized that what the group is doing is legal, since manufacture of weapons is not prohibited as long as they are not for sale or trade. This permits enthusiasts and artisans to create such things freely, but for anything more than personal use a license is required — a license Wilson doesn't have.

Stratasys may have erred on the side of caution (it commented to Wired that the company would not "knowingly allow its printers to be used for illegal purposes"), but it may also have been motivated by the equally understandable desire not to be associated with a potentially controversial project.

But as Wilson points out, the cat is out of the bag: The design and testing of a 3-D printed gun is inevitable given that the cost of doing it has dropped, and there is almost certainly a market for such devices. Defense Distributed is doing it openly and, they believe, legitimately — but others could easily do the same without bothering about the red tape. In the meantime, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is investigating, though they told Wilson they consider printed weapons a grey area at present.

The question of creating weapons at home, especially sophisticated and deadly ones like an automatic handgun, is bound to be a controversial one. The ability to bypass firearms regulations, not to mention the social and civil implications of cheap, ubiquitous and anonymous guns, will be a serious issue in the coming years, and Defense Distributed intends to be at the center of it.

More information about the Wiki Weapon and Defense Distributed's plans and rationale can be found at their website. Readers concerned with the legality and justification of producing printable weapons may find some answers in the FAQ. Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Monday, October 1, 2012

Another study that has to make you wonder: ‘Can You Tell A Woman's Politics By Looking At Her Face?’


                 Good Day Humboldt County!

Here’s an interesting study about perceptions of people based upon their appearance. Women are apparently very good at guessing who belongs to which party. But how do they do it?

            Scientists call it the “Michelle Bachmann Effect.”

                             Test yourself below.

Can you guess which of the US Representatives below is a Republican, and which is a Democrat, just based on their faces? (Answers are at the bottom, no peeking — unless you already recognize all these congresswomen, in which case you can scroll right down to the science.)


                                  1.                                                                         2.

                                3.                                                            4.


                              5.                                                                                  6.


                                7.                                                                                             8.



1. Martha Roby, R-Alabama
2. Lois Capps, D-California
3. Grace Napolitano, D-California
4. Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut
5. Judy Biggert, R-Illinois
6. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kansas
7. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine
8. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Missouri

That's a shorter version of the test psychologists Colleen Carpinella and Kerri Johnson gave undergraduates at UCLA for a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. The undergrads were significantly better at guessing than would be expected by chance, and they were especially accurate with women. The likely reason, according to the study: Republican women are more likely than Democratic ones to have stereotypically feminine facial features.

In another experiment, Carpinella and Johnson used a computer program to measure how "sex-typical" the faces of male and female Representatives were, looking at characteristics like jaw shape, lip fullness, and cheekbone placement (they discounted things like hair, makeup, and jewelry). They found that Republican women were more likely to have stereotypically feminine faces — and the effect was more pronounced the more conservative their voting records were. The reverse was true for Democrats — the more liberal their voting records, the less traditionally feminine their faces. The study authors call this "the Michele Bachmann effect."

The study authors think that because the Republican platform advocates for traditional gender roles, women with more traditionally feminine appearances may gravitate toward the GOP. Interestingly, however, they found that Republican men actually had more feminine faces than Democratic men. This surprised Carpinella and Johnson, but they speculate that since governing is still seen as masculine in general, a slightly feminized appearance might not be an impediment to a Republican politician — he's already showing his masculinity by running for office in the first place. And Republicans may have an easier time getting away with slightly feminine faces than Democrats, since their political views are often seen as more masculine (cf. Arnold Schwarzenegger's claim that Democratic legislators were "girlie-men").

It's not clear if less-feminine women have a harder time making it in the Republican party (or if more-feminine women have difficulty being accepted by Democrats), or if people's physical appearances actually influence their political beliefs. Someresearch has found that political leanings can have genetic underpinnings — maybe the genes that affect liberalism or conservatism affect appearance as well. Or maybe the way women look as they grow up, and the way people respond to their appearance, influence how they vote later on. The less-principled in both parties are likely to spin this research in their favor — Democratic women are manly! Republican men are secret sissies! — but the reality is almost certainly more interesting.

Update: Asked what might be behind her findings, Carpinella said voter preference probably played a bigger role than genetics: "We have no evidence to support a biological interpretation of our effects — and that evidence favoring that would require a very different study. Instead, we believe this reveals more about the voters themselves. [...] Specifically, it appears that conservative voters insist that their policy preferences are reflected in the physical appearance of the political candidates who they ultimately put in office. Here, valuing traditional gender norms is apparent in the faces of successful politicians."

It would be interesting to look at the faces of ordinary Republican and Democratic voters, rather than elected officials, to see if the same appearance differences hold true.    (source)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Sunday, September 30, 2012

AS IT STANDS: Milestone Medical Marijuana case goes to court

            By Dave Stancliff/For the Times-Standard
 A rare opportunity for medical marijuana patients is coming on October 16th at 9:30 a.m. in the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Science will be pitted against politically-motivated decisions for the first time. It’s a match-up the Feds have avoided for years.  
 Ten years after the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) filed its petition, the courts will finally review the scientific evidence regarding the therapeutic value of marijuana.
The D.C. Circuit Court agreed to hear oral arguments in Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration.
"Medical marijuana patients are finally getting their day in court," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access, the country's leading medical marijuana advocacy group.
"What's at stake in this case is nothing less than our country's scientific integrity and the imminent needs of millions of patients," Elford said in a press release.
  This is a case that could have major implications for taking marijuana out of Schedule I, a category that also includes heroin and LSD.

  Schedule I drugs are described as substances that “have a high potential for abuse, have no current accepted medical use in the United States, and there is a lack of accepted safety for the use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.”
  Perhaps it was no coincidence that the announcement of oral arguments comes weeks after a study by Dr. Igor Grant was published in The Open Neurology Journal. He is one of the leading U.S. medical marijuana researchers, and claims marijuana's Schedule I classification is "not tenable."
  For years now, advocates for medical marijuana have submitted reports and studies showing the medicinal effects of marijuana but have been unable to crack the Fed’s wall of blind resistance to them. Dr. Grant and his associates have concluded it’s not true that marijuana has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking. The study urged additional research, and stated that marijuana's federal classification and its political controversy are "obstacles to medical progress in this area." 
  The Obama Justice Department has been escalating its attacks in medical marijuana states, with dozens of new federal indictments and prosecutions. Though U.S. Attorneys often claim the accused have violated state law in some way, defendants are prevented from using any medical evidence or a state law defense in federal court.
Hopefully we’ll see sanity and logic prevail, and marijuana will be reclassified, allowing federal defendants to use a medical necessity defense in future cases.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have adopted medical marijuana laws that not only recognize the medical efficacy of marijuana, but also provide safe and legal access to it.
The DEA’s aggressive campaign against marijuana has escalated under the Obama administration and it’s more important now than ever for patients to get their rights back. The trend has to be stopped.
 How unreasonable have the Feds been? During congressional testimony earlier this year, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart refused to say whether crack or heroin posed bigger health risks than marijuana.
Really? I don’t know how Leonhart can look in the mirror after displaying that kind of stubborn ignorance. From day one, making marijuana illegal was a political ploy, based upon racism and ignorance.
  Now there’s a chance to reverse decades of a failed policy that should never have developed. Imagine how much more can be discovered about the medical properties of marijuana when legitimate research is funded instead of the bogus Fed-funded farces that have been the rule thus far?
  Millions of people will benefit. Millions of dollars can be diverted from the Lost War on Drugs if marijuana is rescheduled. The door will be open to legalization, something that fifty percent of Americans want according to national polls.
  As It Stands, this is a milestone case because it’s the first time the real merits of marijuana will be considered by a federal court that could change it’s legal status.

Blog Break Until Presidential Election is Over

I finally hit the wall today. I can't think of what to say about all of the madness going on in this country right now. I'm a writer...