Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Warwick Davis and Mike Quinn at Star Wars Weekends 2004 at Disney MGM (now Hollywood Studios).
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
“To be reasonable is not to be perfect,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the court’s 8-1 decision. “And so the Fourth Amendment allows for some mistakes on the part of government officials, giving them ‘fair leeway for enforcing the law in the community’s protection.’”
The case concerned the 2009 arrest of Nicholas Heien near Dobson, North Carolina. Sgt. Matt Darisse pulled Heien over for having only one working brake light, then found a bag of cocaine while searching his vehicle and charged him with attempted drug trafficking. However, the state only requires motorists to have one brake light working at any time. Heien’s attorneys argued that this made Darisse’s search unlawful.
Roberts wrote that the ruling “does not discourage officers from learning the law,” because the Fourth Amendment only covers “objectively reasonable” errors from police.
Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg filed separate concurring opinions. Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed the only dissent, arguing that the ruling meant “further eroding the Fourth Amendment’s protection of civil liberties” at a time when that protection has already been deteriorated.
Friday, December 12, 2014
History hasn't been particularly kind to Robert Hooke. Inescapably linked to Sir Isaac Newton, with whom he famously feuded, Hooke was also a notable associate of surveyor Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Boyle, the father of modern chemistry. Gifted in everything from architecture to anatomical dissection, he perhaps spread his knowledge too thin to have had a towering impact on any one field. His versatility combined with an impolitic personality damaged Hooke's standing in his lifetime and, author Lisa Jardine convincingly contends, in the centuries since his death. Jardine, the author of On a Grander Scale: The Outstanding Life and Tumultuous Times of Christopher Wren , once again delves deep into the 17th century to resurrect the reputation of "a founding figure in the European scientific revolution." A London-based professor of renaissance studies, Jardine brings great enthusiasm to her task, even embarking on some detective work to discover what she convincingly contends is a long-lost painting of Hooke, whose appearance had heretofore been limited to unflattering descriptions by his contemporaries. As readable as it is thoroughly researched, The Curious Life of Robert Hooke will stand for some time as the definitive account of one of history's great dabblers.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Monday, December 8, 2014
Coming nearly three-and-a-half years after the final space shuttle launch, the maiden flight of Orion marked a major milestone for NASA, the first test of a new U.S. spacecraft designed to carry astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit since the final Apollo moon mission more than four decades ago.
While NASA’s budget is constrained and flights to Mars are not expected before the mid-2030s (at the earliest), the launch Friday generated widespread interest and served as a major morale-booster for NASA and its contractor workforce.
“Its biggest significance is symbolic,” space historian John Logsdon, founder of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, told CBS News. “This is the first time a piece of hardware intended to take humans beyond low-Earth orbit is being tested or used, for 42 years, since Apollo 17.
“It’s a very small but real, tangible step towards eventually sending people out to the moon, beyond and eventually to Mars.”
Saturday, December 6, 2014
Georgia police officer won’t be charged in the fatal shooting of a teenager holding a video game controller — even though a previous grand jury found the use of force was not authorized.
A grand jury in Bartow County declined to indict Cpl. Beth Gatny, of Euharlee police, in the February shooting death of 17-year-old Christopher Roupe.
Police said the teen pointed a gun at one of them Feb. 14, when officers knocked on the door of his family’s mobile home to serve a warrant to Roupe’s father on a probation violation.
Gatny said she heard “what she believed to be the action of a firearm” before the door was opened and drew her own weapon, which she fired after the teen opened the door holding what she believed was a pistol.
Family members, however, said the boy was holding a Nintendo Wii game controller.
Gatny could have faced possible charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct in the teen’s death.
But the grand jury this week found insufficient evidence for the case to proceed.
Monday, December 1, 2014
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Back in May, the US government began to process a bill aimed at reining in the NSA’s powers of surveillance — if Google, Apple and Microsoft are sending group letters, you know it’s an important bill. However, it’s been left on Capitol Hill, rejected by the Senate. It failed a procedural vote, after senior Republicans said it would affect efforts to defend the country from enemies. It fell short of the 60 votes needed, gathering 58 to 42 votes.
Gruber referred to “lack of transparency” as key to passing Obamacare at several academic conferences in 2012. He also made explicit reference to the “stupidity of the American voter” as “critical to getting this thing passed.”
Although Obama claims that Gruber was merely “some advisor” who “never worked on our staff,” Gruber is actually an MIT economist who helped create the Obamacare law. The Obama administration had paid Mr. Gruber $380,000 in 2009, cited him several times in hearings and White House blogs, and even dedicated a webpage to his expert analysis. Visitor logs show Gruber meeting repeatedly with senior officials at the White House including one meeting with President Obama.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Steam is rising over Discworld, driven by Mister Simnel, the man with a flat cap and a sliding rule. He has produced a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all of the elements—earth, air, fire, and water—and it’s soon drawing astonished crowds.
To the consternation of Ankh-Morpork’s formidable Patrician, Lord Vetinari, no one is in charge of this new invention. This needs to be rectified, and who better than the man he has already appointed master of the Post Office, the Mint, and the Royal Bank: Moist von Lipwig. Moist is not a man who enjoys hard work—unless it is dependent on words, which are not very heavy and don’t always need greasing. He does enjoy being alive, however, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse.
Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a fat controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs, and some very angry dwarfs if he’s going to stop it all from going off the rails . . .
Monday, November 17, 2014
Friday, November 14, 2014
Thursday, November 13, 2014
The European Space Agency’s Philae lander has sent back the first ever image from the surface of a comet.
The picture shows the cracked, bumpy surface in monochrome, with one of Philae’s three legs in the bottom left of the frame. It is not yet clear whether the leg in the image is actually touching the surface. What is certain is that Philae is not level, and may be wedged into a pit.
“We’re either looking into a ditch or we are against a wall,” said ESA Rosetta project scientist Matt Taylor.
Comets are often described as “dirty snowballs”, irregular blocks of ice covered with dust and rocks, but no human craft has ever reached the surface of one before.
Scientists re-established communications with Philae on Thursday after an anxious overnight wait while its mothership Rosetta, which relays the signals to Earth, dipped below the comet’s horizon.
Unfortunately, big businesses too often think about how the government can help their bottom line instead of what’s best for the little guy. As a result of a well-orchestrated media campaign, the FCC is on the cusp of reclassifying ISPs under Title II of the Communications Act to enact net neutrality so Big Internet doesn’t have to pay its share of traffic. Ultimately, the change would empower the government to regulate the business models of private ISPs, chaining the Internet to one-size-fits all solutions for millions of customers with different needs.
Internet giants love to scaremonger the public into believing that a world without net neutrality would lead to customers being charged different data plans for the amount of internet they use, much like cell phone companies currently do. The problem with this argument is that we already live in this world, and it is largely not the case. Most Internet subscribers pay a monthly fee that entitles them to as much data as they desire, and that will likely not change anytime soon.
Asked by Beck for his thoughts on the Second Amendment, Carson gave the popular pro-gun argument: “There’s a reason for the Second Amendment; people do have the right to have weapons.”
But when asked whether people should be allowed to own “semi-automatic weapons,” the doctor replied: “It depends on where you live.”
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
As the power of the Dark One grows stronger, Rand al'Thor and his friends face greater challenges in their war against the Shadow. From the halls of Tar Valon, where the Aes Sedai mystics discover agents of darkness in their own ranks, to the Aiel Waste, where a hidden city holds secrets forbidden to all but a few, Rand and his companions seek to fulfill the destiny laid out for them. Jordan's multivolume epic continues to live up to its high ambitions.
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Peter Mayhew and Jerome Blake during Star Wars Weekends at Disney MGM Studios (now Hollywood Studios) in Orlando Florida in 2004.
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Former Congressman Ron Paul told RT in the midst of Tuesday’s midterm elections that the “monopoly” system run by the leaders of the two main parties is all too evident as Americans go to the polls this Election Day.
“This whole idea that a good candidate that’s rating well in the polls can’t get in the debate, that’s where the corruption really is,” Paul, the 79-year-old former House of Representatives lawmaker for Texas, told RT during Tuesday’s special midterm elections coverage. “It’s a monopoly…and they don’t even allow a second option,” he said.
“If a third party person gets anywhere along, they are going to do everything they can to stop that from happening,” the retired congressman continued.
A half-starved young Russian man in a long black overcoat is smuggled into Hamburg at dead of night. He has an improbable amount of cash secreted in a purse round his neck. He is a devout Muslim. Or is he? He says his name is Issa.
Annabel, an idealistic young German civil rights lawyer, determines to save Issa from deportation. Soon her client’s survival becomes more important to her than her own career—or safety. In pursuit of Issa’s mysterious past, she confronts the incon- gruous Tommy Brue, the sixty- year-old scion of Brue Frères, a failing British bank based in Hamburg.
Annabel, Issa, and Brue form an unlikely alliance—and a triangle of impossible loves is born. Meanwhile, scenting a sure kill in the so-called War on Terror, the spies of three nations converge upon the innocents.
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Jerome Blake and Peter Mayhew at Star Wars Weekends 2004 at Disney MGM Studios (now Hollywood Studios) in Orlando, Florida
Monday, November 3, 2014
In September, both Apple and Google announced plans to encrypt information on iOS and Android devices by default. Almost immediately, there was a collective freakout by law enforcement types. But, try as they might, these law enforcement folks couldn’t paint any realistic scenario of where this would be a serious problem. Sure, they conjured up scenarios, but upon inspection they pretty much all fell apart. Instead, what was clear was that encryption could protect users from people copying information off of phones without permission, and, in fact, the FBI itself recommends you encrypt the data on your phone.
But it didn’t stop FBI director James Comey from ignoring the advice of his own agency and pushing for a new law that would create back doors (he called them front doors, but when asked to explain the difference, he admitted that he wasn’t “smart enough” to understand the distinction) in such encryption.
As of this writing, wunderkind statistician Nate Silver puts the GOP chance of retaking control of the Senate in tomorrow’s midterm elections at 68.5 percent and trending upward. The New York Times model is similarly optimistic for Republicans, and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is so close to Senate Majority Leader that he’s probably daydreaming about it right now.
Yes, the GOP is likely to win the Senate tomorrow. But if the Republican establishment keeps failing to live up to its limited government rhetoric, who cares?
Sure, many politicians in the Republican Party talk a good talk. The problem is that—for most of them—it’s nothing but talk.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.
The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.
“How can this happen?” Ms. Hinders said in a recent interview. “Who takes your money before they prove that you’ve done anything wrong with it?”
The federal government does.
Jordan continues his Wheel of Time saga (after The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt ). Three thousand years ago the Dragon led the male mages of the world into entrapping the Dark One, but the cost was high: all male mages, then and thereafter, were driven mad. Now the Dark One is breaking free, and the only salvation may come through Rand al'Thor who may be a reincarnation of the Dragon and who must obtain the sword Callandor, held in the city of Tear. All of Rand's companions from the previous books find themselves, willing or not, moving toward Tear for a confrontation with evil traps.
Monday, October 27, 2014
"A Journey Into The Movies" ride at Disney MGM Studios (now Hollywood Studios) in Orlando, Florida.
Friday, October 24, 2014
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Most Americans probably believe that the government must first convict you of a crime before it can impose a sentence on you for that crime. This is incorrect: When federal prosecutors throw a bunch of charges at someone but the jury convicts on only some of those charges, a federal judge can still sentence the defendant on the charges for which he was acquitted. In fact, the judge can even consider crimes for which the defendant has never been charged.
During his 60 Minutes interview late last month, President Obama put an old and familiar rhetorical question to the voters: “Ronald Reagan used to ask the question, ‘Are you better off than you were four years ago?’…And the answer is, the country is definitely better off than we were when I came into office.”
Most members of the public do not share this view, according to this week’s Washington Post/ABC News poll. Only 22 percent surveyed agreed that they are “better off financially” than they were when Obama was inaugurated in January 2009 — including only 37 percent of Democratic partisans. This says a lot about how people feel, because six years ago, the nation was embroiled in the very financial crisis that Obama still cites to absolve himself from blame for America’s continued economic doldrums.
When pressed in the same interview, Obama had to concede that most Americans aren’t feeling the recovery he has been touting ever since the so-called “Recovery Summer” of 2010. That’s because for workers, there hasn’t been much of a recovery.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) and Jake Lloyd (Anakin) during Star Wars Weekends 2005 at Disney MGM Studios (Now Hollywood Studios).
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
It is said that all England mourned the heartbreaking fate of little Paul Dombey, but it is the ordeal of his loving and long-suffering sister, Florence, that carries the full emotional weight of the story. Their father’s cold obsession with the future of his business empire, the malevolent plotting of his greedy manager, Mr. Carker, and the tragic self-contempt of his proud second wife, Edith, cast a dark shadow over the life of the motherless girl. But as the world of Dombey and Son begins to fall to pieces, Florence is sustained by the warmth and brightness of humbler allies: her fiercely loyal nurse, Susan Nipper; her haplessly devoted suitor, Toots; the rough but loveable old salt Captain Cuttle and his friend Sol Gills; and her fervent admirer, the orphan Walter Gay. In its locomotive power and its transcendent moments of suspense and revelation, Dombey and Son is a superb example of Dickens’s ability to combine the qualities of a social historian, a theatrical artist, and a poet of the utmost tenderness and insight.
Charles Dickens set this tale of a hard-hearted businessman, the son he pins all his hopes on, and the daughter he cruelly neglects in a country undergoing the storms of change brought by the Industrial Revolution.
Friday, October 17, 2014
The Freedom Socialist Party wants the minimum wage to be $20 an hour. However, they don’t feel compelled to compensate their own workers with that kind of cash.
The party is looking for a web developer, and posted a job listing on Craigslist a week ago and Indeed.com yesterday, and it’s been raising eyebrows on social media.
Although the average annual salary of a web developer in the U.S. is around $62,500, the Freedom Socialist Party only wants to pay $13 an hour, which would be $26,000 a year. Except that the party won’t hire someone full-time, so their next web developer’s total compensation won’t even be that modest chunk of change.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
A family’s secret, a ruthless fanatic, and a covert arm of the American government—all are linked by a single puzzling possibility:
What if everything we know about the discovery of America was a lie? What if that lie was designed to hide the secret of why Columbus sailed in 1492? And what if that 500-year-old secret could violently reshape the modern political world?
Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist Tom Sagan has written hard-hitting articles from hot spots around the world. But when one of his stories from the Middle East is exposed as a fraud, his professional reputation crashes and burns. Now he lives in virtual exile—haunted by bad decisions and a shocking truth he can never prove: that his downfall was a deliberate act of sabotage by an unknown enemy. But before Sagan can end his torment with the squeeze of a trigger, fate intervenes in the form of an enigmatic stranger. This stranger forces Sagan to act—and his actions attract the attention of the Magellan Billet, a top-secret corps of the United States Justice Department that deals with America’s most sensitive investigations. Sagan suddenly finds himself caught in an international incident, the repercussions of which will shudder not only Washington, D.C., but also Jerusalem. Coaxed into a deadly cat-and-mouse game, unsure who’s friend and who’s foe, Sagan is forced to Vienna, Prague, then finally into the Blue Mountains of Jamaica—where his survival hinges on his rewriting everything we know about Christopher Columbus.
Introduction of Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) during Star Wars Weekends at Disney MGM Studios (now Hollywood Studios) in 2004.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Monday, October 13, 2014
The FBI director James Comey has expressed concern that Apple and Google are making phones that cannot be searched by the government.
Speaking to reporters in a briefing Thursday, Mr. Comey said he is worried that such phones could place users “beyond the law,” The Wall Street Journal reported. He added that he’s been in talks with the companies “to understand what they’re thinking and why they think it makes sense.”
It’s worth noting that earlier this year, law enforcement argued to the Supreme Court that it shouldn’t actually need that court order to search someone’s phone, but the high court disagreed.
Comey had already expressed concern about Apple’s new iCan’tOpenThisOS to the press last month, so I’d hoped that 60 Minutes interviewer Scott Pelley would push Comey more on what law enforcement might do to try to force Google and Apple’s hands. He did not, instead leaving the topic with Comey suggesting that Apple is making us all live in a more dangerous global neighborhood with its new encrypted operating system. Pelley failed to make the point that a locked trunk or locked home could have inside a hostage, a body, or contraband that needs to be seized. Phones can’t store those things for us (yet). They contain only our self-incriminating data.
Friday, October 10, 2014
In the first full-length biography of Alexander Hamilton in decades, National Book Award winner Ron Chernow tells the riveting story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America. According to historian Joseph Ellis, Alexander Hamilton is “a robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.”
Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. “To repudiate his legacy,” Chernow writes, “is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.” Chernow here recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.
Historians have long told the story of America’s birth as the triumph of Jefferson’s democratic ideals over the aristocratic intentions of Hamilton. Chernow presents an entirely different man, whose legendary ambitions were motivated not merely by self-interest but by passionate patriotism and a stubborn will to build the foundations of American prosperity and power. His is a Hamilton far more human than we’ve encountered before—from his shame about his birth to his fiery aspirations, from his intimate relationships with childhood friends to his titanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Monroe, and Burr, and from his highly public affair with Maria Reynolds to his loving marriage to his loyal wife Eliza. And never before has there been a more vivid account of Hamilton’s famous and mysterious death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July of 1804.
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
When Teresa Hooks looked outside the craft room window of her Georgia home one night last week, she saw hooded figures wearing camouflage standing outside.
The East Dublin woman woke up her husband, David Hooks, who grabbed his shotgun, believing burglars who had recently targeted the couple had come back again, reported WMAZ-TV.
The sheriff’s deputies burst through the back door about 11 p.m. on Sept. 24 and, seeing David Hooks holding the weapon, fired 16 shots – killing the 59-year-old grandfather.
Authorities said Hooks met deputies at the door and pointed his weapon aggressively at officers as they announced themselves.
But Teresa Hooks said the officers did not knock and never identified themselves as law enforcement, and her attorney said David Hooks was killed behind a wall in the home — not at the door.
Deputies were executing a search warrant as part of a drug investigation based on a tip from one of the burglars accused of stealing a vehicle from Hooks.
John Yoder and Brad Cates, who headed the Asset Forfeiture Office at the U.S. Department of Justice from 1983 to 1989, slammed civil forfeiture as a “complete corruption” and “fundamentally at odds with our judicial system and notions of fairness,” in an op-ed for The Washington Post. Thanks to civil forfeiture laws, police and prosecutors don’t need to charge someone with a crime to seize and keep their property. Yoder and Cates “were heavily involved in the creation of the asset forfeiture initiative at the Justice Department,” they write, but after seeing civil forfeiture become a “gross perversion of the status of government amid a free citizenry,” the two now believe it should be “abolished.”
Their criticisms come on the heels of an extensive, three-part investigation by The Washington Post into highway interdiction. Since 9/11, without warrants and despite a lack of criminal charges, law enforcement nationwide has taken in $2.5 billion from 61,998 cash seizures under equitable sharing. This federal civil forfeiture program lets local and state law enforcement literally make a federal case out of a seizure, if they collaborate with a federal agency. Not only can they then bypass state forfeiture laws, they can pocket up to 80 percent of the proceeds. So of that $2.5 billion seized through equitable sharing, local and state authorities kept $1.7 billion for their own uses.
The beginning of the hilarious and irreverent series that has more than 80 million copies worldwide, The Color of Magic is where we meet tourist Twoflower and wizard guide Ricewind, and follow them on their always-bizarre journeys.
A writer who has been compared to Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, and Douglas Adams, Sir Terry Pratchett has created a complex, yet zany world filled with a host of unforgettable characters who navigate around a profound fantasy universe, complete with its own set of cultures and rules.
Monday, October 6, 2014
Friday, October 3, 2014
Thursday, October 2, 2014
The Federal Reserve, which was just caught paying footsie with Goldman Sachs, is as shadowy as it is powerful. So why can’t Congress bring itself to actually audit the damn thing?
If you want to get a sense of just how incredibly powerful the Federal Reserve really is, forget about interest rates, reserve requirements, or even the ways in which a random nose-pick or burp by Janet Yellin during lunch at a Jackson Hole delicatessen might send markets soaring or crashing.
Instead, think about this: In an age utterly bereft of bipartisanship, auditing the nation’s central bank is one of the few issues on which Rand Paul and Elizabeth Warren agree. So does everyone else. Polls consistently show anywhere between 70 percent and 80 percent of Americans supporting an audit that would not just open the Fed’s ledger books but peer into exactly how monetary policy gets set.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the House of Representatives passed The Federal Reserve Transparency Act by an overwhelming vote of 333-92; a majority of House Democrats voted for an audit while just one Republican voted against the bill.
Yet despite overwhelming public and congressional support for an audit, it’s just not going to happen.
What is it about the Fed that inspires such solidarity among its critics? Ever since its creation during the Woodrow Wilson era, it’s been a favorite target of everyone from right-wing conspiracists who fear the Fed is simply another cog in an international Jewish banking conspiracy to left-wing populists who see it as both a cause and effect of globalized capital. Because it controls the money supply of the planet’s biggest economy and because it operates so opaquely, it’s an obvious place to project all sorts of anxieties about large, impersonal forces beyond our reach that sharply affect, if not actually control, virtually all aspects of our daily lives.
But one needn’t wade into the fever swamps of conspiracy to see the Fed as an inherently problematic institution. The central bank is explicitly tasked with the fundamentally incompatible duties of conducting stable monetary policy, promoting full employment, acting as a lender of last resort, and regulating the banks it works with. Good luck with all that. Also, while it’s technically independent, the federal government exerts massive political pressure on the Fed and appoints its chair and board of governors.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
In this, the riveting second installment in Stephenson and company’s epic tale, we witness the aftermath of the world-shattering Mongolian invasion of 1241 and the difficult paths undertaken by its most resilient survivors.
The Shield Brethren, an order of warrior monks, search for a way to overthrow the horde, even as the invaders take its members hostage. Forced to fight in the Mongols’ Circus of Swords, Haakon must prove his mettle or lose his life in the ring. His bravery may impress the enemy, but freedom remains a distant dream.
Father Rodrigo receives a prophecy from God and believes it’s his mission to deliver the message to Rome. Though a peaceful man, he resigns himself to take up arms in the name of his Lord. Joining his fight to save Christendom are the hunter Ferenc, orphan Ocyrhoe, healer Raphael, and alchemist Yasper, each searching for his place in history.
Brevard Busking Coalition performs 'Hey You' at the 1st annual Nerd Fest in Melbourne, Florida.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Monday, September 29, 2014
Brevard Busking Coalition performs 'Spacebar (UKO)' at the 1st annual Nerd Fest in Melbourne, Florida.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
The Obama administration hasn’t kept track of the $3.7 billion it spent last year on Obamacare and other federal health programs’ implementation, according to a federal audit.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency charged with implementing the health-care law, spent a boatload of money on building and advertising Obamacare exchanges, but it doesn’t have data to show what money it spent on what efforts — or what parts of it were effective.
“CMS’s processes are inconsistent with certain federal accounting and internal control standards,” the General Accountability Office concluded in an audit released Monday evening.
CMS spent a whopping $3.7 billion in fiscal year 2014; as of September 2013, it had 347 staff members whose total salary costs were $79.8 million between March 2010 through 2013, the audit found. Beyond that, not much was clear.
Chosen by fate to become the Dragon Reborn--savior and destroyer of his world--young Rand al'Thor attempts to outrun his destiny by joining in a mad search for the lost Horn of Valere. Continuing the story begun in The Eye of the World ( LJ 2/15/90), Jordan creates a lush, sprawling tapestry of a novel in the tradition of Tolkien and Eddings.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
A rapidly expanding digital network that uses cameras mounted to traffic signals and police cruisers captures the movements of millions of vehicles across the U.S., regardless of whether the drivers are being investigated by law enforcement.
The license plate scanning systems have multiplied across the U.S. over the last decade, funded largely by Homeland Security grants, and judges recently have upheld authorities’ rights to keep details from hundreds of millions of scans a secret from the public.
Such decisions come as a patchwork of local laws and regulations govern the use of such technology and the distribution of the information they collect, inflaming civil liberties advocates who see this as the next battleground in the fight over high-tech surveillance.
“If I’m not being investigated for a crime, there shouldn’t be a secret police file on me” that details “where I go, where I shop, where I visit,” said Michael Robertson, a tech entrepreneur fighting in court for access to his own files. “That’s crazy, Nazi police-type stuff.”
Monday, September 22, 2014
From the most respected chronicler of the early days of the Republic—and winner of both the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes—comes a landmark work that rescues Benjamin Franklin from a mythology that has blinded generations of Americans to the man he really was and makes sense of aspects of his life and career that would have otherwise remained mysterious. In place of the genial polymath, self-improver, and quintessential American, Gordon S. Wood reveals a figure much more ambiguous and complex—and much more interesting. Charting the passage of Franklin’s life and reputation from relative popular indifference (his death, while the occasion for mass mourning in France, was widely ignored in America) to posthumous glory, The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin sheds invaluable light on the emergence of our country’s idea of itself.
Brevard Busking Coalition performs 'Egghead Salad' at the 1st annual Nerd Fest in Melbourne, Florida.
Friday, September 19, 2014
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Former Rep. Ron Paul’s push to audit the Federal Reserve got another boost Wednesday when the House passed the bill for the second time in three years, and by a bigger margin than before.
The bill, now sponsored by Rep. Paul Broun, Georgia Republican, was approved on a 333-92 vote, with all but one Republican and 106 Democrats in favor of it. That’s a major jump from last time, when a majority of Democrats voted against it.
Still, despite the overwhelming support, the law is likely to die. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had previously indicated support for such an audit, reversed himself in 2012 and said he wouldn’t let the bill come to to the Senate floor.
Two men possess vital information on Russia's Star Wars missile defense system.
One of them is CARDINAL -- America's highest agent in the Kremlin -- and he's about to be terminated by the KGB.
The other one is the American who can save CARDINAL and lead the world to the brink of peace . . . or war.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Brevard Busking Coalition performs 'The Mount' at the 1st annual Nerd Fest in Melbourne, Florida.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Friday, September 12, 2014
After the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the government called on police to become the eyes and ears of homeland security on America’s highways.
Local officers, county deputies and state troopers were encouraged to act more aggressively in searching for suspicious people, drugs and other contraband. The departments of Homeland Security and Justice spent millions on police training.
The effort succeeded, but it had an impact that has been largely hidden from public view: the spread of an aggressive brand of policing that has spurred the seizure of hundreds of millions of dollars in cash from motorists and others not charged with crimes, a Washington Post investigation found. Thousands of people have been forced to fight legal battles that can last more than a year to get their money back.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
America’s beloved and distinguished historian presents, in a book of breathtaking excitement, drama, and narrative force, the stirring story of the year of our nation’s birth, 1776, interweaving, on both sides of the Atlantic, the actions and decisions that led Great Britain to undertake a war against her rebellious colonial subjects and that placed America’s survival in the hands of George Washington.
In this masterful book, David McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence—when the whole American cause was riding on their success, without which all hope for independence would have been dashed and the noble ideals of the Declaration would have amounted to little more than words on paper.
Based on extensive research in both American and British archives, 1776 is a powerful drama written with extraordinary narrative vitality. It is the story of Americans in the ranks, men of every shape, size, and color, farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers, no-accounts, and mere boys turned soldiers. And it is the story of the King’s men, the British commander, William Howe, and his highly disciplined redcoats who looked on their rebel foes with contempt and fought with a valor too little known.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Friday, September 5, 2014
Over 1,000 data analysts at 23 U.S. governmental agencies, including the DEA, FBI, and CIA, were given access to ICREACH — a Google-like search engine populated with hundreds of millions of records detailing e-mails, phone calls, instant messages, and phone geo-location.
The search engine, described by Edward Snowden in documents leaked to “The Intercept,” provided deep meta data on both foreigners and American citizens to law enforcement. Many of those surveilled had not been accused of any illegal activity.
Up until now, the exact mechanisms used by the NSA to share the massive amounts of data it has collected were somewhat unclear, as were the number of agencies it was sharing information with. More search portal than repository, ICREACH pulls on information stored in a number of different databases created by programs greenlit under Executive Order 12333 — a Reagan-issued order vastly expanding the data-collection powers of the American intelligence community.
Described as a “one-stop shopping tool” by the NSA, ICREACH generates a portrait of communication patterns associated with a particular piece of information, like a phone number or e-mail address attached to a person. Although ICREACH does not have direct access to the content of the conversations it’s searching, information analysts are able to piece together fairly descriptive maps that detail who was talking to who and when communication took place.
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Brevard Busking Coalition performs 'Cockroach Spray' at the 1st annual Nerd Fest in Melbourne, Florida.
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
The Wheel of Times turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, and Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Thursday, August 28, 2014
As the murderous, terrorist Islamic State continues to threaten Iraq, the region and potentially the United States, it is vitally important that we examine how this problem arose. Any actions we take today must be informed by what we’ve already done in the past, and how effective our actions have been.
Shooting first and asking questions later has never been a good foreign policy. The past year has been a perfect example.
In September President Obama and many in Washington were eager for a U.S. intervention in Syria to assist the rebel groups fighting President Bashar Assad’s government. Arguing against military strikes, I wrote that “Bashar Assad is clearly not an American ally. But does his ouster encourage stability in the Middle East, or would his ouster actually encourage instability?”
The administration’s goal has been to degrade Assad’s power, forcing him to negotiate with the rebels. But degrading Assad’s military capacity also degrades his ability to fend off the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Assad’s government recently bombed the self-proclaimed capital of ISIS in Raqqa, Syria.
To interventionists like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, we would caution that arming the Islamic rebels in Syria created a haven for the Islamic State. We are lucky Mrs. Clinton didn’t get her way and the Obama administration did not bring about regime change in Syria. That new regime might well be ISIS.
This is not to say the U.S. should ally with Assad. But we should recognize how regime change in Syria could have helped and emboldened the Islamic State, and recognize that those now calling for war against ISIS are still calling for arms to factions allied with ISIS in the Syrian civil war. We should realize that the interventionists are calling for Islamic rebels to win in Syria and for the same Islamic rebels to lose in Iraq. While no one in the West supports Assad, replacing him with ISIS would be a disaster.
Our Middle Eastern policy is unhinged, flailing about to see who to act against next, with little thought to the consequences. This is not a foreign policy.
H.R. 5344 is a bill currently going through Congress that would ban the purchase of body armor.
Violation would carry CRIMINAL penalties, including up to ten years in prison.
Many bullet-resistant items on the market now, such as bulletproof backpacks for school children, would be banned by this legislation.
This is incredible given that the legislation is all about banning something that is purely defensive.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Monday, August 25, 2014
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Habersham County officials say they do not plan to pay for the medical expenses of a toddler seriously injured during a police raid.
Bounkham Phonesavah, affectionately known as “Baby Boo Boo,” spent weeks in a burn unit after a SWAT team’s flash grenade exploded near his face. The toddler was just 19-months-old and asleep in the early morning hours of May 28. SWAT officers threw the device into his home while executing a search warrant for a drug suspect.
Habersham County officials are defending their decision not to pay, but the child’s family isn’t giving up.
Not content with a regular prosecution or a vigorous investigation, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said he hopes that Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson will receive a “vigorous prosecution” in the shooting death of Michael Brown on Aug. 9.
“A vigorous prosecution must now be pursued,” Nixon said in a five minute video address posted to his website Tuesday.
“The democratically elected St. Louis county prosecutor and the attorney general of the United States each have a job to do,” said Nixon, a Democrat.
“Their obligation to achieve justice in the shooting death of Michael Brown must be carried out thoroughly, promptly, and correctly,” said Nixon of investigators.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder plans to visit Ferguson on Wednesday to meet with federal law enforcement officials and community leaders. Forty FBI investigators traveled to Ferguson over the weekend to interview witnesses.
Nixon has not directly justified his call for a strong prosecution. He has not indicated that he has any information on the shooting that has not been made public.
Wilson, a six-year police veteran with a clean disciplinary record, has not even been arrested or charged with a crime. A grand jury is set to convene on Wednesday to determine if he will be charged.
Wilson, who is on paid leave during the investigation, has reportedly claimed that he shot Brown after the man hit him in the face and struggled to gain control of his service weapon.
Several eye-witnesses who gave media interviews shortly after the shooting have said that Brown was surrendering with his hands up as Wilson shot him.
Wilson is reportedly claiming the Brown ran towards him before the fatal shots were fired. The interviewed witnesses have claimed that they did not see Brown running at Wilson. An unnamed witness unwittingly captured on video talking about what he saw unfold said that he saw Brown move towards Wilson.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Brevard Busking Coalition performs 'Cheeseburger Cheeseburger' at the 1st annual Nerd Fest in Melbourne, Florida.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Monday, August 18, 2014
The harrowing events of the last week in Ferguson, Missouri – the fatal police shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager, Mike Brown, and the blatantly excessive and thuggish response to ensuing community protests from a police force that resembles an occupying army – have shocked the U.S. media class and millions of Americans. But none of this is aberrational.
It is the destructive by-product of several decades of deliberate militarization of American policing, a trend that received a sustained (and ongoing) steroid injection in the form of a still-flowing, post-9/11 federal funding bonanza, all justified in the name of “homeland security.” This has resulted in a domestic police force that looks, thinks, and acts more like an invading and occupying military than a community-based force to protect the public.
Friday, August 15, 2014
The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen's rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins.
For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out. It is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze.
However, it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand . . .