I’ll be back at a future date.
My Mother passed away today.
Join 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.
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A spokesman for Napolitano immediately blasted the report as “out of date, inaccurate and misleading.”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:
“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…
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 it, 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 coldewey.cc.
Time for me to walk on down the road…
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. 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…
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.
As the clock winds down to Dec. 21, experts on the Mayan calendar have been racing to convince people that the Mayas didn't predict an apocalypse for the end of this year.
Some experts are now saying the Mayas may indeed have made prophecies, just not about the end of the world. Archaeologists, anthropologists and other experts met Friday in the southern Mexico city of Merida to discuss the implications of the Mayan Long Count calendar, which is made up of 394-year periods called baktuns.
Experts estimate the system starts counting at 3114 B.C., and will have run through 13 baktuns, or 5,125 years, around Dec. 21. Experts say 13 was a significant number for the Mayans, and the end of that cycle would be a milestone — but not an end.
Fears that the calendar does point to the end have circulated in recent years. People in that camp believe the Maya may have been privy to impending astronomical disasters that would coincide with 2012, ranging from explosive storms on the surface of the sun that could knock out power grids to a galactic alignment that could trigger a reversal in Earth's magnetic field.
Mexican government archaeologist Alfredo Barrera said Friday that the Mayas did prophesize, but perhaps about more humdrum events like droughts or disease outbreaks. Experts stressed that the ancient Mayas, whose "classic" culture of writing, astronomy and temple complexes flourished from A.D. 300 to 900, were extremely interested in future events, far beyond Dec. 21.
"There are many ancient Maya monuments that discuss events far into the future from now," wroteGeoffrey Braswell, an anthropologist at the University of California, San Diego. "The ancient Maya clearly believed things would happen far into the future from now."
"The king of Palenque, K'inich Hanaab Pakal, believed he would return to the Earth a couple of thousand years from now in the future," Braswell wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Moreover, other monuments discuss events even before the creation in 3114 B.C."
Only a couple of references to the 2012 date equivalency have been found carved in stone at Mayan sites, and neither refers to an apocalypse, experts say. Such apocalyptic visions have been common for more than 1,000 years in Western, Christian thinking, and are not native to Mayan thought.
"This is thinking that, in truth, has nothing to do with Mayan culture," said Alexander Voss, an anthropologist at the University Of Quintana Roo, a state on Mexico's Caribbean coast. "This thing about looking for end-times is not something that comes from Mayan culture."
Braswell compared the Mayan calendar, with its system of cycles within cycles, to the series of synchronized wheels contained in old, analogue car odometers. "The Maya long count system is like a car odometer," Braswell wrote.
"My first car (odometer) only had six wheels so it went up to 99,999.9 miles. That didn't mean the car would explode after reaching 100,000 miles." source
Good Day Humboldt County!
As a combat veteran with PTSD, I really appreciate the efforts from fellow warriors like Stephen Cochran – who has been there, and done that.
His story is the new reality for thousands of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who returned home physically…but not mentally.
Please, take a moment and read Stephen’s story, and if you have time listen to his song “Pieces.”
“Everything you see in the music video happened to Marine-turned-country-singer Stephen Cochran: Pushing the girl away, boozing into oblivion, the gun on the blanket. It all went down last year. Even the actor who portrays Cochran is, himself, a former Marine and Iraq veteran who knows of post-traumatic stress, who has wrangled with identical demons. The actor was not acting.
The only on-screen tweak from reality was the type firearm shown. In his dimmest hour, behind a locked door in his Nashville home, exhausted, alone, and telling himself: “I’m done,” Cochran rested a loaded shotgun against his bed.
“I was just trying to get the nerve. I had it planned out,” Cochran told NBC News. “I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was tired of taking all these pills. I was going through a breakup. Couldn’t write anymore. Watching everything fall apart. I was ready to check out.”
Then: salvation, and a surreal rescue scene worthy of an epic ballad. His dog, Semper Fi, began scratching relentlessly at his door, bloodying her paws. Next, Cochran’s ex-fiancé unexpectedly entered the house, simply to retrieve a forgotten item, he said. She saw the anxious dog. She expected the worst. She barged into the bedroom, spotted the gun and physically restrained Cochran.
But from anguish came inspiration. Amid an existence long blurred by PTSD — the residue of Afghanistan firefights, Marine buddies lost in combat, and his own nearly fatal injury — one question blazed in Cochran's head. He jotted it down: “How do you paint a picture back in focus?”
“It was the only way I could describe trying to put your life back together, literally trying to do the impossible,” he said.
Around that single thought, Cochran penned an entire song, “Pieces,”an ode to the blackness from which he was aching to escape, a tale of reconnecting the scattered fragments of his shattered world, and a message of solidarity for his military brothers and sisters. The single — part of a CD with the same title — will be released in this country on Nov. 11. The song already has charted in Europe.
“It’s not just my story. So many of us think about (suicide) because you just get so tired, so tired of being the crazy guy. Or of hearing: ‘He’s weird.’ Or of hearing: ‘We can’t hire you because we really don’t know what post-traumatic stress is and you might come back and kill us all.’
“I really wrote it as my own healing, for what I was going through,” added Cochran, 33, who teamed with fellow musician Trevor Rosen to complete the song. It took them only 15 minutes.
But after playing it at several veterans’ benefits, Cochran heard from service members up and down the chain of command how they, too, connected with the lyrics. That feedback has turned “Pieces” into the soundtrack of the singer’s ongoing crusade.
Time for me to walk on down the road…
Good Day Humboldt County!
New York! New York! Forget Broadway! Forget the skyscrapers!
People will soon know the city as a fun place with an extreme Ferris Wheel.
I wonder how New Yorkers feel about that?
“The world's tallest ever Ferris wheel is to be created in New York - at twice the height of the it will overlook. It will offer views of the Manhattan skyline (pic: New York Wheel LLC)
Unveiled by the city's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, the planned tourist attraction in Staten Island will cost £142m ($230m) and measure up at 625ft (190m). The wheel will hold 1,440 passengers (pic: New York Wheel LLC) Offering views of the downtown Manhattan skyline, the New York Wheel will be significantly bigger than the 443ft (135m)-London Eye and the 541ft (165m) Signapore Flyer.
It is designed to carry 1,440 passengers at a time and expected to attract 4.5 million people a year to what has been described as New York's "forgotten borough".
Construction is due to begin in 2014 (pic: New York Wheel LLC) Mr Bloomberg said: "It will be an attraction unlike any other in New York City. In fact, it will be, we think, unlike any other on the planet." While the privately financed project faces various reviews, officials hope to have the wheel turning by the end of 2015.
It is hoped the scheme will create 1,100 jobs (pic: New York Wheel LLC) Senator Charles Schumer said: "It's going to be a real icon. The Ferris wheel will be Staten Island's Eiffel Tower."
The overall project will also feature the creation of a huge shopping center and a 200-room hotel and is expected to bring $500m (£308m) in private investment and 1,100 permanent jobs to the borough. (source)
Time to walk on down the road…
A mysterious 1,000-year-old Buddhist statue with a history that sounds like an Indiana Jones film plot was carved from a meteorite, researchers have discovered.
The 24cm-tall figure was stolen from Tibet in 1938 by a Nazi team who were looking for the origins of Adolf Hitler's Aryan race. A large swastika, which was carved on the chest of the figure, may have enticed the German expedition leaders.
The swastika symbolizes good fortune in Buddhism and the ancient symbol was adopted by the Nazis, who modified it into a mirror-image form. The expedition was supported by SS chief Heinrich Himmler who believed the roots of Aryanism - the notion of racial superiority that underpinned Nazism - could be found in Tibet.
The figure, called the Iron Man because of the high content of iron in its rock, was brought to Germany by a team headed by zoologist and ethnologist Ernst Schafer. It is not known exactly how the statue was found, but after being transported there it became part of a private collection in Munich. Scientists were only able to study it after an auction in 2007.
The statue weighs 10.6kg (23.3lb) and features the Buddhist god Vaisravana seated, with the palm of his right hand outstretched and pointing downwards. Experts led by Dr Elmar Buchner, from the University of Stuttgart, analysed samples of the figure and found it was made of a rare kind of meteorite called an ataxite, which has iron and high contents of nickel.
The rock survived a long trip through the Solar System and the destructive friction with the atmosphere when it collided with Earth. "The statue was chiselled from a fragment of the Chinga meteorite which crashed into the border areas between Mongolia and Siberia about 15,000 years ago," Dr Buchner said.
"While the first debris was officially discovered in 1913 by gold prospectors, we believe that this individual meteorite fragment was collected many centuries before." The exact dating of the carving cannot be established accurately, but its style links it to the pre-Buddhist Bon culture of the 11th century in Tibet, according to the study published in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science.
Meteorites inspire worship from many ancient cultures, ranging from the Inuit of Greenland to Australian aborigines. (source)
Good Day Humboldt County!
It looks like the NFL and the referees’ union came to an agreement in time for tonight’s game.
After what seemed the entire country – including presidential candidates and their sidekicks – calling for an end to the abysmal referees time on the professional gridiron, a deal was made. It was a short, and nasty, period of time that fans will look back at and call “ the three weeks of hell that practically destroyed the integrity of the game.” It’s all good now. Are you ready for “Thursday Night Football in America?”
“The NFL and the referees' union reached a tentative contract agreement at midnight Thursday, ending an impasse that began in June when the league locked out the officials and used replacements instead.
"Our officials will be back on the field starting tomorrow night" for the Cleveland-Baltimore game, Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "We appreciate the commitment of the NFLRA in working through the issues to reach this important agreement."
With Goodell at the table, the sides concluded two days of talks with the announcement of a tentative 8-year deal, which must be ratified by 51 percent of the union's 121 members. They plan to vote Friday.
"Our Board of Directors has unanimously approved taking this proposed CBA to the membership for a ratification vote," said Scott Green, president of the NFLRA. "We are glad to be getting back on the field for this week's games." (source)
Time for me to walk on down the road…
He was perhaps the most famous law enforcement official in America once. He was the bane of New York's organized crime families and Wa...