Friday, December 18, 2015
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Led by its founding father, the great psychohistorian Hari Seldon, and taking advantage of its superior science and technology, the Foundation has survived the greed and barbarism of its neighboring warrior-planets. Yet now it must face the Empire—still the mightiest force in the Galaxy even in its death throes. When an ambitious general determined to restore the Empire’s glory turns the vast Imperial fleet toward the Foundation, the only hope for the small planet of scholars and scientists lies in the prophecies of Hari Seldon.
But not even Hari Seldon could have predicted the birth of the extraordinary creature called The Mule—a mutant intelligence with a power greater than a dozen battle fleets…a power that can turn the strongest-willed human into an obedient slave.
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
“I think if you’re in favor of World War III, you have your candidate,” said Sen. Rand Paul during the Republican debate. He was referring to Gov. Chris Christie, but could have been talking about virtually any of the other eight people standing on the stage at The Venetian.
Indeed, only the libertarian-ish Republican senator from Kentucky was willing to admit that reckless U.S. interventionism in the Middle East—cheered on by Republicans and Democrats alike—gave birth to ISIS. He calmly explained that deposing Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gadhafi in Libya created a vacuum for even worse radicals to thrive. And as Paul pointed out, if President Obama and Republican hawks had gotten their wish two years ago and deposed Bashar al-Assad, ISIS would now rule in Syria as well.
While most of the other candidates remained staunchly anti-Russia, anti-Iran, and anti-ISIS—even though the former two are unwaveringly opposed to the latter—Paul was willing to criticize the recklessness of a go-to-war-with-Vladimir-Putin over nothing policy.
“If we announce that we’re going to have a no-fly zone… it’s a recipe for disaster,” said Paul. “It’s a recipe for World War III.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Monday, December 14, 2015
Friday, December 11, 2015
When debating the wisdom of the Constitution’s Second Amendment, the media tends to start from the presumption that the question is purely scientific, and that the answers can — and should — be derived from statistical analyses and relentless experimentation. This approach is mistaken. The right of the people to keep and bear arms is not the product of the latest research fads or exquisitely tortured “data journalism,” but a natural extension of the Lockean principles on which this country was founded. It must be protected as such.
The Declaration of Independence presumes that all men enjoy certain inalienable rights, among them “life” and “liberty.” Practically speaking, at both the state level (as a bulwark against tyranny) and at the individual level (as a means by which to protect oneself), this necessitates the auxiliary right to the private ownership of “arms,” which, in the common law that preceded the Second Amendment, was understood to include personal weapons that could be wielded by an individual — such as the “musket and bayonet”; “sabre, holster pistols, and carbine”; and sundry “side arms.”
At the time of the American founding, it was widely understood that there was a real danger in a government’s attempting to deprive the people of what Alexander Hamilton called their “original right of self-defense.” This is why, when it came to writing the Constitution, the anti-Federalists, who feared the government’s potential to become corrupt, refused to sign on to a more powerful national government until they had been promised certain explicit protections. Then, as now, their logic was clear: It makes no sense to allow the representatives of a free people to disarm their masters.
Reacting to this argument, we often hear advocates of gun control propose that the Founders’ observations are irrelevant because they could “not have imagined the modern world.” I agree with the latter assertion: They couldn’t have. As well-read in world history as they were, there is no way that they could have foreseen just how prescient they were in insisting on harsh limitations of government power. In their time, “tyranny” was comparatively soft — their complaints focused on under-representation and the capricious restriction of ancient rights. In the past century, by contrast, tyranny involved the systematic execution of entire groups and the enslavement of whole countries. The notion that if James Madison had foreseen the 20th century he would have concluded that the Bill of Rights was too generous is laughable.
Nor could the Founders have imagined the entrenched tyranny that would arise in their own country. Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Company were hypocrites, certainly — like so many at the time they spoke of equality and liberty while indulging slavery — but the generation that met at Philadelphia did at least consider that the institution would die out peacefully. Instead, it was abolished only by bloody force, and then transmuted into something almost as abhorrent.
Conservatives who are scared of tyrants often ask, “Could it happen here?” Well, it did. Jim Crow, the KKK, lynching, legal segregation — for a period, the South was everything a free man should fear. When Ida B. Wells noted that “a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give,” she was confirming an age-old truth: The gun is a great equalizer, and the state a capricious beast.
Does everyone who uses a firearm to protect himself survive? Of course not. But as a free man, I do not consider my inalienable rights to be contingent upon my ability to exercise them successfully. I may debate freely, even if I am destined to lose the argument. I may enjoy a jury trial even if I am guilty.
Thursday, December 10, 2015
When Arthur Clennam returns to England after many years abroad, he takes a kindly interest in Amy Dorrit, his mother's seamstress, and in the affairs of Amy's father, William Dorrit, a man of shabby grandeur, long imprisoned for debt in Marshalsea prison. As Arthur soon discovers, the dark shadow of the prison stretches far beyond its walls to affect the lives of many, from the kindly Mr Panks, the reluctant rent-collector of Bleeding Heart Yard, and the tipsily garrulous Flora Finching, to Merdle, an unscrupulous financier, and the bureaucratic Barnacles in the Circumlocution Office. A masterly evocation of the state and psychology of imprisonment, Little Dorrit is one of the supreme works of Dickens's maturity. Stephen Wall's introduction examines Dickens's transformation of childhood memories of his father's incarceration in the Marshalsea debtors' prison. This revised edition includes expanded notes, appendices and suggestion for further reading by Helen Small, a chronology of Dickens's life and works, and original illustrations.
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Host Marc B. Lee warms up the crowd before John Rhys-Davies comes on stage.
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
President Obama Hints At Asking Silicon Valley To Magically Block Terrorists From Using Tech Products
As you probably know, last night President Obama gave a big address from the Oval Office about what he plans to do about ISIS, along with dealing with the threat of lone wolf and other attacks at home. Buried deep within (in fact, I missed it the first time through) was a nod towards the idea of pushing Silicon Valley to magically undermine encryption. Here’s the entirety of what he said on the subject:
I will urge high tech and law enforcement leaders to make it harder to use technology to escape from justice.
That seems like a simple sentence, but it’s loaded with meaning, and most of it’s not good. As we’ve noted over and over again, the last refuge of those looking to undermine encryption is to bring up the idea of “if only Silicon Valley techies and law enforcement could get together, surely they could come up with some magic golden key. But that’s clueless, because what they’re asking for is impossible. This isn’t something that’s “difficult” — it’s impossible. You can’t make a backdoored encryption system that doesn’t make everyone vulnerable and less safe.
And, yes, while you can say he doesn’t specifically say “encryption” here, the use of the phrase “technology to escape from justice” clearly implies encryption.
2016 Republican presidential candidate and billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump said that he supports reauthorizing the USA PATRIOT Act and bulk cell phone metadata collection by the National Security Agency in an interview on the Hugh Hewitt Show earlier this month.
In the above-embedded clip, Hewitt asks Trump, “On metadata collection, Ted Cruz is glad the NSA got out of it. Marco Rubio wants it back. What’s Donald Trump think?”
“Well, I tend to err on the side of security, I must tell you,” Trump replied, “and I’ve been there for longer than you would think. But, you know, when you have people that are beheading if you’re a Christian and frankly for lots of other reasons, when you have the world looking at us and would like to destroy us as quickly as possible, I err on the side of security, and so that’s the way it is, that’s the way I’ve been, and some people like that, frankly, and some people don’t like that.”
Hours after Donald Trump suggested the U.S. ban Muslims from entering the United States, the leading Republican presidential candidate said America should also consider “closing the Internet up in some way” to fight Islamic State terrorists in cyberspace.
Trump mocked anyone who would object that his plan might violate the freedom of speech, saying “these are foolish people, we have a lot of foolish people.”
“We have to go see Bill Gates,” Trump said, to better understand the Internet and then possibly “close it up.”
Trump characterized the problem of Internet extremism by saying, “We’re losing a lot of people because of the Internet.”
The Internet has taken center stage in both the 2016 presidential race and the Obama administration’s current fight against ISIS. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton urged tech companies to “deny online space” to terrorists. Clinton then anticipated and waved away presumed First Amendment criticisms.
“We’re going to hear all the usual complaints,” she said on Monday, “you know, freedom of speech, et cetera. But if we truly are in a war against terrorism and we are truly looking for ways to shut off their funding, shut off the flow of foreign fighters, then we’ve got to shut off their means of communicating. It’s more complicated with some of what they do on encrypted apps, and I’m well aware of that, and that requires even more thinking about how to do it.”
The Obama administration spoke about cyberspace in a Sunday night speech from the Oval Office. The president said he would “urge high-tech and law enforcement leaders to make it harder to use technology to escape from justice.”
Thursday, December 3, 2015
For outstanding heroism in the field (despite himself), computational demonologist Bob Howard is on the fast track for promotion to management within the Laundry, the supersecret British government agency tasked with defending the realm from occult threats. Assigned to External Assets, Bob discovers the company (unofficially) employs freelance agents to deal with sensitive situations that may embarrass Queen and Country.
So when Ray Schiller—an American televangelist with the uncanny ability to miraculously heal the ill—becomes uncomfortably close to the Prime Minister, External Assets dispatches the brilliant, beautiful, and entirely unpredictable Persephone Hazard to infiltrate the Golden Promise Ministries and discover why the preacher is so interested in British politics. And it’s Bob’s job to make sure Persephone doesn’t cause an international incident.
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Monday, November 30, 2015
One of the most troubling recent scenes from Sacramento came as the California state legislature reached the end of its session. A simple bill that would rein in abuses of the civil-asset forfeiture process—i.e., when police agencies take property from people, even if they’ve never been accused of a crime—came far short of passage after the law-enforcement lobby pulled out all the stops. The final vote was about money, not justice.
Police organizations argued they would lose a significant amount of funding if a law passed requiring that they secure a conviction before taking property. They often take homes, cars and cash from people after claiming the property was used in the commission of a crime. They need only prove the low standard of “probable cause.” (For instance, one Anaheim couple almost lost a $1.5 million commercial building after an undercover cop bought $37 in marijuana from a tenant, but the feds dropped that case after bad publicity.)
Created in the early days of the nation’s war on drugs, asset forfeiture was designed to grab the proceeds from drug kingpins. But most of the money now is grabbed from ordinary citizens. According to a study last year, about 80 percent of the time, seized property is taken from people who have never been charged with anything. That same study, by the Drug Policy Alliance, found wanton abuses in California cities. Police are not supposed to budget forfeiture proceeds, but they increasingly depend on the revenues to fund their operations.
The study also found “multiple instances of cash grabs by law enforcement being incentivized over deterring drug sales, wherein police wait until a drug sale concludes and then seize the cash proceeds of the sale rather than the drugs, as drugs must be destroyed and are of no monetary value to law enforcement.” It also found that some Los Angeles County cities “were found to be prioritizing asset forfeiture over general public safety concerns … .” In other words, police skew their policing strategies around these lucrative takings.
California’s law actually requires, in property seizures of more than $25,000, that the police agency gain a conviction and the legal standard requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. California law-enforcement agencies don’t like that higher standard, so they circumvent the state law. They participate in something called “equitable sharing”—i.e., they invite the feds into their operation, take the property using the lower federal standard, and then split the loot.
A new national study by the Institute for Justice, a Virginia-based civil-liberties group, gave California a “C+” in its civil-forfeiture laws. That leads to an obvious question: Given the terrible problems documented in California, how bad must things be in other states? Only seven states had better protections than California and the preponderance of states received “D” grades.
The British public is increasingly sceptical that human activity is to blame for climate change, a poll for Sky News suggests.
Almost one in five people believes that natural processes rather than man-made carbon dioxide emissions are causing global warming, according to the survey by Sky Data.
In a similar poll by YouGov two years ago, just one in 14 people said humans were not responsible for the problem.
The Sky News poll comes ahead of the United Nations summit in Paris that is likely to result in big cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
Prime Minister David Cameron will be among almost 150 world leaders attending the talks.
The survey suggests he could struggle to sell a climate deal if it increases household bills.
It shows 54% of the public oppose green taxes on petrol, electricity and imported food.
Just over a third would back extra taxes on products with a high carbon footprint.
The UN wants world leaders to agree a deal that would limit the rise in average global temperature to 2C, regarded by the overwhelming majority of scientists as the danger point for the world’s climate.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Friday, November 20, 2015
UnitedHealthGroup Inc. said it expects major losses on its business through the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges and will consider withdrawing from them, in the most prominent signal so far of health insurers’ struggles with the health law’s marketplaces.
The disclosure by the biggest U.S. health insurer, which had just last month sounded optimistic notes about the segment’s prospects, will sharply boost worries about the sustainability of the law’s signature marketplaces, amid signs that many insurers’ losses on the business continue to mount.
UnitedHealth Group’s chief executive, Stephen J. Hemsley, said it made the move, which included a downgrade of its earnings projections for 2015, amid reduced growth expectations, the expected shutdowns of the majority of the health law’s nonprofit cooperative insurers, and signs that its own enrollees continue to increase their use of medical services, raising costs.
As a result, UnitedHealth said it is pulling back on marketing its exchange products, as open enrollment is currently under way for plans that will take effect in 2016. And the insurer said it is “evaluating the viability of the insurance exchange product segment and will determine during the first half of 2016 to what extent it can continue to serve the public exchange markets in 2017.” UnitedHealthhad previously expanded its exchange offerings to 11 new states for 2016, and said in October it had around 550,000 people enrolled.
UnitedHealth said it was revising its 2015 earnings projection to $6 a share, from a previous range of $6.25 to $6.35. The move reflected “pressure” of $425 million, or 26 cents a share, tied to individual plans sold under the health law, it said. The $425 million includes $275 million related to the “advance recognition” of losses it expects to incur in 2016. UnitedHealthalso said it expects its 2016 earnings to be between $7.10 and $7.30 per share in 2016; previously, the company said it thought next year’s earnings would be within the range of analysts’ projections, then around $7.09 to $7.55.
Chris Rigg, an analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group, wrote that it was likely “this is more of an industry issue,” and if the exchanges don’t stabilize, he would expect UnitedHealth to “exit this business line.
UnitedHealth’s announcement comes as other insurers have been sounding alarms about their exchange business, but the big insurer went considerably farther than its peers in flagging the recent rapid deterioration of its performance and raising concerns about future viability. UnitedHealthalso changed its own tone markedly from its Oct. 15 earnings call, when it said it expected “strikingly better” results on the exchanges in 2016, due partly to price increases that it said averaged in the double digits.
The impact of the insurance industry’s struggles is already clear in the products currently on offer in the marketplaces, many of which are aimed at stanching a flood of red ink. For these plans, which will take effect in 2016, many insurers have raised premiums in order to cover the medical costs of enrollees, which have run higher than many companies originally projected, fueling this year’s losses. Insurers have also shifted to offering more limited choices of health-care providers. The majority of the startup cooperative insurers created under the health law are slated to shut down.
Some of the suspects in the Paris attacks took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to “slip in” unnoticed, the French premier said Thursday, warning the EU needed to “take responsibility” over border controls.
Manuel Valls said the EU’s cherished passport-free Schengen zone would be in danger if the bloc did not improve border controls, after it emerged the ringleader of the Paris attacks had managed to enter Europe unnoticed.
It was confirmed on Thursday that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan origin linked to a series of extremist plots in Europe over the past two years, had died in a police raid on an apartment in northern Paris on Wednesday.
As debate raged about the failings that had let Abaaoud slip through the net, Valls urged France’s neighbours to “play their role properly”, saying the whole Schengen system would be “called into question… if Europe does not take responsibility” for its borders.
The Schengen system allows passport-free travel between 26 countries but it has come under severe strain this year as the continent struggles with its biggest migration crisis since World War II.
More than 800,000 migrants and refugees have arrived this year and Valls said some of the Paris attackers had turned the chaos to their advantage.
GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump believes that the war on terror will require unprecedented surveillance of America’s Muslims.
“We’re going to have to do thing that we never did before,” he said during a Yahoo interview.
“Some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule,” Trump said.
“Certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy,” he added. “We’re going to have to do things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”
Trump would not rule out warrantless searches in his plans for increased surveillance of the nation’s Muslims, Yahoo reported Thursday.
He also remained open toward registering U.S. Muslims in a database or giving them special identification identifying their faith, the news outlet added.
“We’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely,” Trump continued. “We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.”
Trump additionally floated former New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly for a position in his potential presidential administration.
“Ray’s a great guy,” he said of the former NYPD chief. “Ray did a fab job as commissioner, and sure, Ray would be somebody I’d certainly consider.”
Kelly notably spearheaded the NYPD’s controversial surveillance program of New York City’s Muslim population following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The Associated Press reported in November 2011 that the NYPD built extensive databases detailing life in Islamic communities.
The department monitored grocery sales, social life and even worship among New York’s Muslims, the AP added.
Trump has repeatedly called for increased surveillance of Islamic mosques following last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
“You’re going to have to watch and study the mosques, because a lot of talk is going on in the mosques,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” early Monday.
“And from what I heard, in the old days — meaning a while ago — we had a great surveillance going on in and around the mosques of New York City,” the outspoken billionaire added.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
A complete reference manual to the MIPS RISC architecture, this book describes the user Instruction Set Architecture (ISA), by the R2000, R3000, R4000, and R6000 (collectively known as the R-Series) processors, together with an extension to this ISA. Focusing on the new R4000 and R6000 chips, this book is organized into two major sections: Chapters 1 through 6 describe the characteristics of the CPU, while Chapter 7 through 9 describe the Floating Point Unit (FPU). This book describes the general characteristics and capabilities of each RISC processor, along with a description of the programming model, memory management unit (MMU), and the registers associated with each processor. Also included is an overview of the underlying concepts that distinguish RISC architecture from Complex Instruction Set Computer (CISC) architecture.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Rand Paul says Hillary Clinton is a “neoconservative” — just like Marco Rubio.
The Kentucky senator and GOP presidential candidate lumped Clinton, the Democratic 2016 front-runner, and Rubio, a surging Republican candidate, together on foreign policy — criticizing them for being too willing to intervene in Middle Eastern conflicts in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday on “State of the Union.”
Asked about Clinton, Paul said: “I see her as a neoconservative.”
“I see her and Rubio as being the same person,” he said. “They both wanted a no-fly zone. They both have supported activity in Libya — the war in Libya that toppled Gadhafi, an intervention that made us less safe.
“They both have supported pouring arms into the Syrian civil war, a mistake that I think allowed ISIS to grow stronger. And they both have supported the Iraq War. So I mean, what’s the difference?”
He was particularly critical of both Clinton and Rubio over Libya, saying the two had advocated an intervention that led to instability and turned the country into fertile territory for ISIS.
“I fault Hillary Clinton. I fault President Obama. But I also fault the neoconservatives within my party like Rubio who have been eager for war in Libya, in Syria, in Iraq, and they want a no-fly zone in an airspace where Russia is already flying,” Paul said.
A federal appeals court dealt a potentially fatal blow Monday to President Obama’s immigration plan, leaving more than 4 million undocumented immigrants in legal limbo and setting up a possible Supreme Court battle at the sunset of his administration.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld a challenge to the deferred deportation program brought by Texas and 25 other states with Republican governors, who argued that Obama lacked the authority to protect about one-third of the nation’s undocumented immigrants by executive fiat.
The authority that the administration claimed, the court said in a 2-1 ruling, would allow it “to grant lawful presence and work authorization to any illegal alien in the United States.”
The White House said in a statement that it strongly disagreed with the court and that the departments of Justice and Homeland Security will review the ruling to determine the “next steps” in the case.
“The Supreme Court and Congress have made clear that the federal government can set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws,” the statement read. “This lawsuit is preventing people who have been part of our communities for years from working on the books, contributing to our economy by paying taxes on that work, and being held accountable.”
The decision had been anticipated by the administration and immigration rights groups, who have hung their hopes on the Supreme Court rather than the conservative appeals court with jurisdiction over Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. But the four-month wait for a ruling, since oral arguments were held before the three-judge panel, could mean that the justices won’t get the case during their current term — and won’t decide it before Obama leaves office.
Under that scenario, the 4.3 million undocumented immigrants deemed eligible for the program would be at the mercy of the next president — either a Democrat who favors giving them temporary protection from deportation, or a Republican who most likely would have campaigned against it.
That makes the panel’s decision a major blow to Obama, who has hoped to overhaul the nation’s immigration system before leaving office even if Congress won’t go along
Love him or hate him, few people until recently would deny that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has a unique brand as an independent, libertarian-leaning Republican, which he has successfully leveraged to national fame.
For a variety of reasons, Paul has failed to gain traction as a Republican presidential candidate. And his peevish and lackluster performances in the first three GOP debates did him no favors.
At the Republican debate in Milwaukee on Tuesday night, though, the old Paul was back: the guy who is steadfast and combative in his libertarianism, but in a likable way. The crowd ate it up.
On foreign policy, Paul stood by his insistence that the United States should engage Russian President Vladimir Putin to seek a resolution to the war in Syria. He dismissed a no-fly zone in Syria as a reckless move that could lead to war with Russia. And playing to anti-interventionists in both parties, he noted that the proposal has the support of Hillary Clinton, as well as his Republican rivals.
“If you’re ready for [a no-fly zone], be ready to send your sons and daughters to another war in Iraq,” Paul warned.
“I don’t want to see that happen. I think the first war in Iraq was a mistake,” Paul added, before being cut off by applause.
On fiscal policy, Paul was unapologetic about his plans shrink the government by starving it of revenue — and unforgiving in his attacks on his rivals for deviating from conservative fiscal orthodoxy.
He called Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) proposed child care tax credit a “welfare transfer payment.
A little more than an hour into Tuesday night’s G.O.P. presidential primary debate, most of the Republican hopefuls were ready for a commercial break. Most of the moderators were, too. So were the majority of viewers, and certainly, the advertisers who paid a pretty penny for their spots to air.
But Rand Paul and debate moderator and Wall Street Journal editor Gerard Baker had another idea.
Just before the planned break on Fox Business Network, Baker asked Donald Trump about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, the full text of which was released last week. Trump gave a long-winded reply, in which he referred to it as “a horrible bill” several times, and spent the bulk of time bringing up how China is leaving America in the dust.
“It’s a deal that was designed to lead to China to come in, as they always do, through the back door and totally take advantage of everyone,” he said.
When Trump finally concluded, Paul piped up: “Hey Gerard,” he said. “We might want to point out [that] China’s not part of this deal.” He was correct. The crowd began to cheer, and at the same time, the sweet, sweet music leading up to a commercial break started to play.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Welcome to Guards! Guards!, the eighth book in Terry Pratchett’s legendary Discworld series.
Long believed extinct, a superb specimen of draco nobilis ("noble dragon" for those who don't understand italics) has appeared in Discworld's greatest city. Not only does this unwelcome visitor have a nasty habit of charbroiling everything in its path, in rather short order it is crowned King (it is a noble dragon, after all...). How did it get there? How is the Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night involved? Can the Ankh-Morpork City Watch restore order – and the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork to power?
Magic, mayhem, and a marauding dragon...who could ask for anything more?
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Police and intelligence officers will be able to access suspects’ “internet connection records”.
But new safeguards, including allowing judges to block spying operations, will be introduced to prevent abuses.
The home secretary said the powers in the draft Investigatory Powers Bill were needed to fight crime and terror.
The large and complex draft bill also contains proposals covering how the state can hack devices and run operations to sweep up large amounts of data as it flows through the internet, enshrining in law the previously covert activities of GCHQ, as uncovered by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The draft bill’s measures include:
A new criminal offence of “knowingly or recklessly obtaining communications data from a telecommunications operator without lawful authority”, carrying a prison sentence of up to two years
Local councils to retain some investigatory powers, such as surveillance of benefit cheats, but they will not be able to access online data stored by internet firms
The Wilson doctrine – preventing surveillance of Parliamentarians’ communications – to be written into law
Police will not be able to access journalistic sources without the authorisation of a judge
A legal duty on British companies to help law enforcement agencies hack devices to acquire information if it is reasonably practical to do so
Mrs May told MPs the draft bill was a “significant departure” from previous plans, dubbed the “snooper’s charter” by critics, which were blocked by the Lib Dems, and will “provide some of the strongest protections and safeguards anywhere in the democratic world and an approach that sets new standards for openness, transparency and oversight”.
The legislation brings together a variety of existing powers that cover how the home secretary and other ministers can authorise operations to intercept communications – such as telephone taps and other surveillance.
But it also proposes to order communications companies, such as broadband firms, to hold basic details of the services that someone has accessed online – something that has been repeatedly proposed but never enacted.
This duty would include forcing firms to hold a schedule of which websites someone visits and the apps they connect to through computers, smartphones, tablets and other devices.
Police and other agencies would be then able to access these records in pursuit of criminals – but also seek to retrieve data in a wider range of inquiries, such as missing people.
New surveillance powers will be given to the police and security services, allowing them to access records tracking every UK citizen’s use of the internet without any need for any judicial check, under the provisions of the draft investigatory powers bill unveiled by Theresa May.
It includes new powers requiring internet and phone companies to keep “internet connection records” – tracking every website visited but not every page – for a maximum of 12 months but will not require a warrant for the police, security services or other bodies to access the data. Local authorities will be banned from accessing internet records.
The proposed legislation will also introduce a “double-lock” on the ministerial approval of interception warrants with a new panel of seven judicial commissioners – probably retired judges – given a veto before they can come into force.
But the details of the bill make clear that this new safeguard for the most intrusive powers to spy on the content of people’s conversations and messages will not apply in “urgent cases” – defined as up to five days – where judicial approval is not possible.
The draft investigatory powers bill published on Wednesday by the home secretary aims to provide a “comprehensive and comprehensible” overhaul of Britain’s fragmented surveillance laws. It comes two-and-a-half years after the disclosures by the whistleblower Edward Snowden of the scale of secret mass surveillance of the global traffic in confidential personal data carried out by Britain’s GCHQ and the US’s National Security Agency (NSA).
It will replace the current system of three separate commissioners with a senior judge as a single investigatory powers commissioner.
May told MPs that the introduction of the most controversial power – the storage of everyone’s internet connection records tracking the websites they have visited, which is banned as too intrusive in the US and every European country including Britain – was “simply the modern equivalent of an itemised phone bill”.
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Over the Atlantic, an airliner's controls suddenly stop reacting. In Japan, an oil tanker runs aground when its navigational system fails. And in America, a nuclear power plant nearly becomes the next Chernobyl.
At first, these computer failures seem unrelated. But Jeff Aiken, a former government analyst who saw the mistakes made before 9/11, fears that there may be a more serious attack coming. And he soon realizes that there isn't much time if he hopes to stop an international disaster.
Facing annihilation at the hands of the warlike Vogons? Time for a cup of tea! Join the cosmically displaced Arthur Dent and his uncommon comrades in arms in their desperate search for a place to eat, as they hurtle across space powered by pure improbability.
Among Arthur’s motley shipmates are Ford Prefect, a long-time friend and expert contributer to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; Zaphod Beeblebrox, the three-armed, two-headed ex-president of the galaxy; Tricia McMillan, a fellow Earth refugee who’s gone native (her name is Trillian now); and Marvin, the moody android. Their destination? The ultimate hot spot for an evening of apocalyptic entertainment and fine dining, where the food speaks for itself (literally).
Will they make it? The answer: hard to say. But bear in mind that The Hitchhiker’s Guide deleted the term “Future Perfect” from its pages, since it was discovered not to be!
Monday, November 2, 2015
Larry Zottarelli, the last original Voyager engineer still on the project, is retiring after a long and storied history at JPL. While there are still a few hands around who worked on the original project, now the job of keeping this now-interstellar spacecraft going will fall to someone else. And that someone needs to have some very specific skills.
Yes, it’s going to require coding, but it won’t be in Ruby on Rails or Python. Not C or C++. Go a little further back, to the assembly languages used in early computing. Know Cobol? Can you breeze through Fortran? Remember your Algol? Those fancy new languages from the late 1950s? Then you might be the person for the job.
“It was state of the art in 1975, but that’s basically 40 years old if you want to think of it that way,” Suzanne Dodd, program manager for the Voyager program, said in a phone interview. “Although, some people can program in assembly language and understand the intricacy of the spacecraft, most younger people can’t or really don’t want to.”
As the new engineer, you have a few tasks ahead of you and about 64 kilobytes of memory to work with. The Voyager twins sport NASA’s earliest on-board computers, a step away from the sequencers used on projects like ISEE-3. A sequencer uses radio or audio tones to turn on an instrument but with an onboard computer, more functions can be automatic, which is especially helpful if your spacecraft is more than 12 billion miles away—17 hours by radio—and only certain antennas work with it. Voyager 2, now moving downward from the ecliptic of the solar system, can only be reached by the Canberra antenna of the Deep Space Network.
The last true software overhaul was in 1990, after the 1989 Neptune encounter and at the beginning of the interstellar mission. “The flight software was basically completely re-written in order to have a spacecraft that could be nearly autonomous and continue sending back data to us even if we lost communication with it,” Dodd said. “It has a looping routine of activities that it does automatically on board and then we augment that with sequences that we send up every three months.”
Both spacecrafts are “very healthy for senior citizens” Dodd says and they have enough power left to run for another decade, though beyond that the future is uncertain. To try and prolong their lives, a new engineer would have to help figure out a way to make a sort of “energy audit” from afar, check to see the energy requirements of remaining instruments, and help institute shutdown procedures that make the most of what’s left of the onboard energy.
“[The original engineers] said, ‘This subsystem takes 3.2 watts of power.’ Well, it really took 3 watts, but they wanted to be conservative when they built the spacecraft,” Dodd says. “Now, we are at the point in the mission where we are trying to get rid of the margins and get the actual numbers.”
That’s when it’s time to turn back to old documents to figure out the logic behind some of the engineering decisions. Dodd says it’s easy to find the engineering decisions, but harder to find the reasoning. This means combing through secondary documents and correspondence hoping to find the solution, trying to get in another engineer’s head.
When President Obama signs into law the new two-year budget deal Monday, his action will bring into sharper focus a part of his legacy that he doesn’t like to talk about: He is the $20 trillion man.
Mr. Obama’s spending agreement with Congress will suspend the nation’s debt limit and allow the Treasury to borrow another $1.5 trillion or so by the end of his presidency in 2017. Added to the current total national debt of more than $18.15 trillion, the red ink will likely be crowding the $20 trillion mark right around the time Mr. Obama leaves the White House.
When Mr. Obama took over in January 2009, the total national debt stood at $10.6 trillion. That means the debt will have very nearly doubled during his eight years in office, and there is much more debt ahead with the abandonment of “sequestration” spending caps enacted in 2011.
“Congress and the president have just agreed to undo one of the only successful fiscal restraint mechanisms in a generation,” said Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union. “The progress on reducing spending and the deficit has just become much more problematic.”
Some budget analysts scoff at the claim made by the administration and by House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, that the budget agreement’s $112 billion in spending increases is fully funded by cuts elsewhere. Mr. Boehner left Congress last week.
“The Boehner-Obama spending agreement would allow for unlimited borrowing by the Treasury until March 2017,” said Paul Winfree, director of economic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation. “This deal piles on billions of dollars to the national debt by increasing spending over the next three years and then not paying for it for a decade — with half of the offsets not occurring until 2025.”
The bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that only about half of the increased spending in the budget deal is paid for. Rather than a spending increase of $80 billion over two years, the nonprofit group said, the actual spending hike is $154 billion when interest costs and budget gimmicks are factored into the equation.
“Of this $154 billion, about $78 billion is paid for honestly” through Medicare reforms, reductions in farm subsidies, asset sales and other measures, the group said. “The remaining $56 billion of the legislation — mostly the war spending increase and interest costs — is not paid for at all.”
Of course, Congress bears equal responsibility for the high level of debt. A prime reason that Mr. Boehner left office was conservatives’ displeasure with his accommodation of the president’s budget requests, aside from three years of “sequestration” spending caps that helped limit annual deficits.
“We will be raising the debt ceiling in an unlimited fashion,” said Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican who tried to filibuster the budget deal before the Senate approved it in the wee hours of Friday. “We will be giving President Obama a free pass to borrow as much money as he can borrow in the last year of his office. No limit, no dollar limit.
Sen. Rand Paul said the Republican Party needs “to become the party of the entire Bill of Rights” if it wants to take the White House next fall.
The Kentucky senator encouraged the audience at the Growth and Opportunity Party to defend all constitutional amendments “with the same furor and the same passion that we defend the Second Amendment.” He took a direct shot at Sen. John McCain, who has supported imprisoning people deemed dangerous without a trial — a right guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment.
In recalling a conversation with the Arizona senator, Paul said he couldn’t help but think of “all the times we got it wrong” and jailed the wrong person. “Trial by jury is slipping away,” he said.
Ashley Jorgensen was only seven days old when she died. Her mother, Jennifer Jorgensen was convicted of manslaughter for causing her death and sentenced to three to nine years in prison.
That should have been that.
But it wasn’t over. Jennifer appealed the case, arguing that she couldn’t have committed manslaughter because Ashley Jorgensen wasn’t a person when she was fatally injured.
The New York Court of Appeals overturned her ruling and Jorgensen is free.
She was in her third trimester with Ashley in 2008 when she was involved in a head-on collision in New York State. She had been indicted for DUI.
The baby was delivered by C-section and died six days later.
But the courts ruled that Jennifer is only guilty of a misdemeanor...
The new budget deal arranged by John Boehner and Democrats— approving $50 billion of additional spending in 2016 and $30 billion in 2017—will be split between domestic discretionary programs and defense. Cuts will supposedly take effect in 2025, by which time this deal is likely to be buried under a dozen budget debates and a trillion dollars of bad memories for fiscal conservatives.
We’re told the reason for GOP capitulation is that Boehner, acting selflessly, is about to “clean out the barn” for a Paul Ryan speakership. Implicit in this argument is the idea that this kind of budget agreement would normally be a no-brainer but the crazies must be appeased. Passing it now and avoiding the heat will allow Ryan to move forward with his own agenda.
If only it were that simple.
For one thing, the GOP will have to live with the precedent set by the terrible deal in future negotiations. Barack Obama, as The New York Times points out, is now going to be able to “break free of the spending shackles” of the imaginary reign of austerity that was brought on by the Budget Control Act of 2011. So are all Democrats.
For another thing, conservatives will almost surely see this as a betrayal. The administration came up with the idea of sequestration, and it turned out to be the only tangible victory Republicans could claim on spending.
You may remember the 2010 Pledge to America, in which congressional Republicans promised to roll back government spending to pre-stimulus/bailout levels, cutting at least $100 billion in the first year after taking power. They failed to achieve that improbable goal. And almost every year since, government spending has gone up, though the GOP keeps adding seats by promising to achieve the opposite.
Expecting the GOP to return Washington to 2008 spending levels—now, with a Democratic president in power, or probably ever—is unrealistic. Expecting Republicans at the very least not to piddle away the only leverage they have to keep the status quo is surely reasonable.
Friday, October 30, 2015
At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.
It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.
And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.
And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.
Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
Thursday, October 29, 2015
After five years in the U.S. Senate, Marco Rubio does not like his job. A long-time friend told The Washington Post “he hates it.” Rubio says hate might be too strong a word, but he sure acts like he hates his job.
Rubio has missed more votes than any other senator this year. His seat is regularly empty for floor votes, committee meetings and intelligence briefings. He says he’s MIA from his J-O-B because he finds it frustrating and wants to be president, instead.
“I’m not missing votes because I’m on vacation,” he told CNN on Sunday. “I’m running for president so that the votes they take in the Senate are actually meaningful again.”
Sorry, senator, but Floridians sent you to Washington to do a job. We’ve got serious problems with clogged highways, eroding beaches, flat Social Security checks and people who want to shut down the government.
If you hate your job, senator, follow the honorable lead of House Speaker John Boehner and resign it.
Let us elect someone who wants to be there and earn an honest dollar for an honest day’s work. Don’t leave us without one of our two representatives in the Senate for the next 15 months or so.
Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio speaks during a campaign rally at the Utah State Fairpark Monday, Oct. 19, 2015, in Salt Lake City. Rubio pitched himself as a fresh face in his party’s crowded primary contest during the campaign stop in Utah.
You are paid $174,000 per year to represent us, to fight for us, to solve our problems. Plus you take a $10,000 federal subsidy — declined by some in the Senate — to participate in one of the Obamacare health plans, though you are a big critic of Obamacare.
You are ripping us off, senator.
True, it’s not easy to raise money and run a presidential campaign while doing your day job. But two other candidates — Sens. Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders — have missed only 10 Senate votes during their campaigns for the White House. You, on the other hand, have missed 59, according to a tally by Politico. This includes votes on the Keystone pipeline, the Export-Import Bank and trade, to name just a few.
It is unpersuasive — and incredible, really — that you say your vote doesn’t matter. “Voting is not the most important part of the job,” you told CNN.
And it is unconscionable that when it comes to intelligence matters, including briefings on the Iran nuclear deal, you said, “we have a staffer that’s assigned to intelligence who gets constant briefings.”
And you want us to take you seriously as a presidential candidate?
Last week the US House of Representatives called former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to appear before a select committee looking into the attack on a US facility in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. The attack left four Americans dead, including US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.
As might be expected, however, the “Benghazi Committee” hearings have proven not much more than a means for each party to grandstand for political points.
In fact, I would call these Congressional hearings “too much, too late.”
Four years after the US-led overthrow of the Libyan government – which left the country a wasteland controlled by competing Islamist gangs and militias – the committee wants to know whether Hillary Clinton had enough guards at the facility in Benghazi on the night of the attack? The most important thing to look into about Libya is Hillary Clinton’s e-mails or management style while Secretary of State?
Why no House Committee hearing before President Obama launched his war on Libya? Why no vote on whether to authorize the use of force? Why no hearing after the President violated the Constitution by sending the military into Libya with UN authorization rather than Congressional authorization? There are Constitutional tools available to Congress when a president takes the country to war without a declaration or authorization. At the time, President Obama claimed he did not need authorization from Congress because the US was not engaged in “hostilities.” It didn’t pass the laugh test, but Congress did next to nothing about it.
When the Obama Administration decided to attack Libya, I joined Rep. Dennis Kucinich and others in attempt to force a vote on the president’s war. I introduced my own legislation warning the administration that, “the President is required to obtain in advance specific statutory authorization for the use of United States Armed Forces in response to civil unrest in Libya.”
We even initiated a lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia asking the courts to rule on whether the president broke the law in attacking Libya.
Unfortunately we got nowhere with our efforts. When it looked like we had the votes to pass a resolution introduced by Rep. Kucinich to invoke War Powers Resolution requirements on the president for the use of force in Libya, Speaker Boehner cancelled the vote.
Why were there no hearings at the time to discuss this very important Constitutional matter? Because the leadership of both parties wanted the war. Both parties — with few exceptions — agree with the ideology of US interventionism worldwide.
Secretary Clinton defended the State Department’s handling of security at the Benghazi facility by pointing out that there are plenty of diplomatic posts in war zones and that danger in these circumstances is to be expected. However she never mentioned why Benghazi remained a “war zone” a year after the US had “liberated” Libya from Gaddafi.
Why was Libya still a war zone? Because the US intervention left Libya in far worse shape than it was under Gaddafi. We don’t need to endorse Gaddafi to recognize that today’s Libya, controlled by al-Qaeda and ISIS militias, is far worse off – and more of a threat to the US – than it was before the bombs started falling.
Republican presidential candidate and Kentucky senator Rand Paul says he’ll filibuster a bill to raise the debt ceiling, he told reporters on Tuesday.
“I will filibuster the new debt ceiling bill,” Paul said before a campaign appearance at the University of Colorado. “I think it’s a horrible — it’s hard for me to not use profanity in describing it.”
“It’s a bill that shows a careless disregard for debt,” he said. “It will raise the debt with no limit.”
Congressional leadership reached a budget deal with the White House this week that would raise the federal debt limit, avoiding a potential shutdown. The deal, which would raise discretionary spending limits by $80 billion, has been been opposed by some Capitol Hill conservatives, though it is expected to pass. The House may vote on the bill on Wednesday, and a vote has not yet been scheduled in the Senate.
“I will do everything I can to stop it, I will filibuster it, I will not let them condense the time,” Paul said. “I will make sure that the country is aware that really both sides appear to have given up, right and left.”
“The right wants more money for the military and the left wants more money for welfare,” Paul said. “Guns and butter, that’s what we’re going to have, guns and butter, but as a consequence they’re destroying the country by adding more debt.”
The text is 144 pages long and increases the debt ceiling beyond when President Barack Obama leaves office, all the way until March 2017. It also, according to Politico, increases spending by $50 billion this year and $30 billion more the following year.
As AP reports, House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) is pushing for a Wednesday vote, this would be yet another instance in which he has broken his promise to give members and the public three full days—72 hours—to read legislation before voting on it.
“We will ensure that bills are debated and discussed in the public square by publishing the text online for at least three days before coming up for a vote in the House of Representatives,” Boehner’s “Pledge to America” reads. “No more hiding legislative language from the minority party, opponents, and the public. Legislation should be understood by all interested parties before it is voted on.”
In a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February 2010, Boehner also promised that three full days meant “at least 72 hours.”
By scheduling a vote on Wednesday—any time before 11:36 p.m. on Thursday, actually—Boehner would be violating that pledge.
Boehner is also putting the chances of his likely successor, House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), at risk. Ryan has indicated he thinks the “process stinks” on this, but is planning to review the deal in its entirety before making a decision one way or the other.
Ryan’s office has refused to answer a series of basic questions from Breitbart News on whether he believes all Republicans in the House should support or oppose the deal, what took him so long to comment on the deal at all (he still hasn’t weighed in on the substance just the process), whether he would support Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) remaining on as Majority Leader if he becomes Speaker after McCarthy contradicted him on the process of the deal, and whether Ryan would allow staffers who were involved in this process who currently work for Boehner to remain working for the Speaker’s office if and when this takes over. Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck, over the course of several emails on Tuesday, openly refused to answer each of those questions.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
This completely updated and revised version of the best-selling First Edition describes how to develop interactive applications for the X Window System using the Motif user interface toolkit.The X Window System is the industry-standard software system that allows programmers to develop portable graphical user interfaces. Motif is a high-level user-interface toolkit that makes it easier to write applications that use the X Window System. Shows how to use the facilities of all three Motif libraries—Xlib, Xt Intrinsics, and visual components. Explains the Resource Manager; primitive Motif widgets; manager widgets; menus; dialogs; events and other input techniques; using color; bitmaps, pixmaps, and images; graphics contexts; text and fonts; Xlib graphics; interclient communication; creating new widget classes; creating manager widget classes; and constraint-based widget classes. For programmers developing interactive applications for the X Window System using the Motif user-interface toolkit.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
The $15 minimum wage increase in the Seattle area “is getting off to a pretty bad start,” according to a new report.
Data shows that the Seattle Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) lost 700 restaurant jobs from January to September of this year, and a report from the American Enterprise Institute suggests that this could be the product of adverse effects of minimum wage hikes on restaurant jobs.
“What is also noteworthy about the loss of Seattle restaurant jobs this year is the fact that restaurant employment in the rest of Washington state is booming this year,” writes Mark Perry, an AEI scholar and professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus.
A report by Perry, published Wednesday on AEI’s public policy blog Carpe Diem, notes that there has been an increase of 5,800 new restaurant job positions in the rest of the state of Washington.
While the overall job growth rate this year for the Seattle MSA is higher than the national average, the drop in restaurant jobs stands out. The past three years have seen restaurant employment in the Seattle MSA area at an average job gain of almost 4,000 employees during January-September, according to Perry’s work.
“One likely cause of the stagnation and decline of Seattle area restaurant jobs this year is the increase in the city’s minimum wage,” Perry wrote.
The Seattle City Council passed a $15 minimum wage ordinance that is currently being phased in. On April 1, the minimum wage jumped to $11 per hour.
Monday, October 26, 2015
Friday, October 23, 2015
The math is harsh: The federal penalty for having no health insurance is set to jump to $695, and the Obama administration is being urged to highlight that cold fact in its new pitch for health law sign-ups.
That means the 2016 sign-up season starting Nov. 1 could see penalties become a bigger focus for millions of people who have remained eligible for coverage, but uninsured. They’re said to be squeezed for money, and skeptical about spending what they have on health insurance.
Until now, health overhaul supporters have stressed the benefits: taxpayer subsidies that pay roughly 70 percent of the monthly premium, financial protection against sudden illness or an accident, and access to regular preventive and follow-up medical care.
But in 2016, the penalty for being uninsured will rise to the greater of either $695 or 2.5 percent of taxable income. That’s for someone without coverage for a full 12 months. This year the comparable numbers are $325 or 2 percent of income.
Marketing usually involves stressing the positive. Rising penalties meet no one’s definition of good news. Still, that may create a new pitch:
The math is pretty clear. A consumer would be able to get six months or more of coverage for $695, instead of owing that amount to the IRS as a tax penalty. (That example is based on subsidized customers now putting in an average of about $100 a month of their own money.)
Backers of the law are urging the administration to drive the math lesson home.
“Given that the penalty is larger, it does make sense to bring it up more frequently,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a liberal advocacy group. “It’s an increasing factor in people’s decisions about whether or not to get enrolled.”
“More and more, people are mentioning the sticks as well as the carrots,” said Katherine Hempstead, director of health insurance coverage for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a nonpartisan organization that has helped facilitate the insurance expansion under Obama’s law.
A cowardly cop put another family pet to death on October 20, leaving a mother and her children grief-stricken.
As surveillance video shows, a Florida City police officer knocks on the front door of the unfortunate family. He was going to inform them that they left a car door open.
The daughter opens the door slightly and their dog, named Duchess, was able to get out first. The cop reaches for his gun as the 40-pound dog emerges and fires three rounds into its head without hesitation.
“She was curious. She wasn’t barking (and) she wasn’t growling. There was no reason for him to think she was aggressive in any way,” said the mother, Gillian Palacios.
The daughter comes out immediately after, and could only stand paralyzed in horror at the scene of murder. Duchess is lying on the sidewalk, still alive but fatally wounded, and the repugnant cop is out of the camera’s view.
Palacios is yelling at the cop while her daughter cradles the dying dog in her hands. Duchess can be seen wagging her tail, perhaps finding some comfort in her owner’s embrace.
The cop said “your dog charged me” and promptly left the scene, telling them Animal Services would pick up the dog later.
Thursday, October 22, 2015
For most children, summer vacation is something to look forward to. But not for our 13-year-old hero, who's forced to spend his summers with an aunt, uncle, and cousin who detest him. The third book in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series catapults into action when the young wizard "accidentally" causes the Dursleys' dreadful visitor Aunt Marge to inflate like a monstrous balloon and drift up to the ceiling. Fearing punishment from Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon (and from officials at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry who strictly forbid students to cast spells in the nonmagic world of Muggles), Harry lunges out into the darkness with his heavy trunk and his owl Hedwig.
As it turns out, Harry isn't punished at all for his errant wizardry. Instead he is mysteriously rescued from his Muggle neighborhood and whisked off in a triple-decker, violently purple bus to spend the remaining weeks of summer in a friendly inn called the Leaky Cauldron. What Harry has to face as he begins his third year at Hogwarts explains why the officials let him off easily. It seems that Sirius Black--an escaped convict from the prison of Azkaban--is on the loose. Not only that, but he's after Harry Potter. But why? And why do the Dementors, the guards hired to protect him, chill Harry's very heart when others are unaffected? Once again, Rowling has created a mystery that will have children and adults cheering, not to mention standing in line for her next book...
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Monday, October 19, 2015
Pyramids is the seventh book in the award-winning comic fantasy Discworld series by Terry Pratchett.
In Pyramids, you'll discover the tale of Teppic, a student at the Assassin’s Guild of Ankh-Morpok and prince of the tiny kingdom of Djelibeybi, thrust into the role of pharaoh after his father’s sudden death. It's bad enough being new on the job, but Teppic hasn't a clue as to what a pharaoh is supposed to do. First, there's the monumental task of building a suitable resting place for Dad -- a pyramid to end all pyramids. Then there are the myriad administrative duties, such as dealing with mad priests, sacred crocodiles, and marching mummies. And to top it all off, the adolescent pharaoh discovers deceit, betrayal—not to mention a headstrong handmaiden—at the heart of his realm.
The search for signs of life in a mysterious star system hypothesized to potentially harbor an “alien megastructure” is now underway.
Astronomers have begun using the Allen Telescope Array (ATA), a system of radio dishes about 300 miles (483 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco, to hunt for signals coming from the vicinity of KIC 8462852, a star that lies 1,500 light-years from Earth.
NASA’s Kepler space telescope found that KIC 8462852 dimmed oddly and dramatically several times over the past few years. The dimming events were far too substantial to be caused by a planet crossing the star’s face, researchers say, and other possible explanations, such as an enormous dust cloud, don’t add up, either.
The leading hypothesis at the moment involves a swarm of comets that may have been sent careening toward KIC 8462852, possibly after a gravitational jostle by a passing star. But it’s also possible, astronomers say, that the signal Kepler saw was caused by huge structures built by an alien civilization — say, a giant assortment of orbiting solar panels.
That latter possibility, remote though it may be, has put KIC 8462852 in the crosshairs of scientists who hunt for signals that may have been generated by intelligent aliens.
Here’s a horrifying story out of Chicago, where at least two police officers are under investigation for the sex trafficking of a 14-year-old girl. The local Fox news station is referring to it as a “sex scandal,” but I think depraved and egregious abuse of power is probably a better descriptor. The officers were originally under scrutiny for possessing child pornography. An Internal Affairs investigation has since uncovered evidence that they were advertising a 14-year-old girl and potentially other teens for commercial sex.
This story comes just a few days after the FBI announced the “rescue” of “149 child sex trafficking victims” across the country. By children, the FBI means teenagers, and by sex trafficking victims, they mean any teen selling sex, regardless of whether force or coercion are involved. As more media reports of these so-called rescues are released, the inhumanity and futility of this model of “saving” teens in the sex trade becomes clear.
Take this account out of Michigan, where the FBI heralded the takedown of 12 alleged pimps and the recovery of 19 minors engaged in prostitution. After identifying “escort” advertisements featuring teens, Michigan State Police and FBI agents swarmed houses and hotel rooms en masse and raided them with weapons drawn. Teens they found were given two options: reunite with their parents or guardians, or receive no help at all—nevermind that some of these girls likely had good reason for running away from foster homes or parents in the first place.
FBI Supervisory Special Agent Michael Glennon, who led the Detroit sting, told the Free Press that some of the “19 children rescued” this week have already returned to the sex trade. But at least everyone got to add them to press releases about how many victims were rescued first, right?
This is what so many well-meaning people don’t seem to understand: the tough-on-crime approach to sex-trafficking is about arresting as many people as possible and wresting as many assets as possible from them, not legitimately helping sex trafficking victims (legitimately helping people means paying attention to what they actually need, not threatening them with arrest if they don’t testify against others or sending them to church-run “prostitution diversion” camps or giving them bags filled with socks and toiletries and calling it a day.) Just look at the language used by Marinus Analytics, a company getting lots of attention for using big data analysis to aid in human trafficking investigations. In its intro, Marinus promises to help cops and prosecutors “focus your attention to high value criminal targets” and “track the highest value criminal targets in less time.”
The assets that can be seized are the prize, the teens selling sex are just convenient cover. And sometimes worse, as in the case of the two Chicago officers.
A federal whistleblower investigator who put his career on the line to expose what he calls bureaucratic dysfunction has been fired, NBC Bay Area has learned.
Darrell Whitman, a former San Francisco-based investigator for the Whistleblower Protection Program administered by OSHA, claimed the agency failed to defend workers who faced retaliation for reporting illegal activity and public safety concerns.
“They got rid of the squeaky wheel,” Whitman said.
He now views his own termination from OSHA as retaliation for raising red flags about the agency.
“I was going to report what I thought to be violations of law and policy,” Whitman said. “They were going to have to answer to those reports and they didn’t like that.”
In an interview with NBC Bay Area earlier this year, Whitman said he tried to warn OSHA leaders that his managers pressured investigators to close complaints without proper review to clear a backlog of cases. He also said his supervisor altered his reports by changing his conclusions and dismissed cases even when Whitman found they had merit.
Whitman wrote letters to OSHA leadership and to the U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez.
“I had gone through every conceivable channel and what I saw was inaction,” Whitman said.
In a Notice of Removal written in May, OSHA states it fired Whitman for six different reasons including “lack of candor during an investigatory meeting” and “unauthorized release of government documents.”
“The real reason was that I appeared on [NBC Bay Area News],” Whitman said.
Whitman is now a complainant before the Office of Special Counsel, another government agency which protects federal employees from retaliation for whistleblowing. If he is successful, Whitman’s claim could result in a settlement with OSHA or include financial reinstatement.
Tom Devine, the legal director for the Government Accountability Project based in Washington D.C., is representing Whitman. Over the past three decades Devine has testified before Congress, helped pass whistleblower laws and assisted thousands of whistleblowers defend themselves against retaliation.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
A division of the hacker group Anonymous says it has hit two of ISIS’ most important web platforms. The attacks come during a week in which it has gloated online about the wave of deadly attacks carried out in its name, including one day of attacks in Tunisia, Kuwait and possibly France and the most recent attack in Egypt.
Both of the cyber attacks occurred Wednesday, perpetrated by the Anonymous-affiliated group “GhostSec” which has declared war on ISIS and its growing social media presence. The platforms attacked by the hackers are mnbr.info, a prominent ISIS forum used by the group’s supporters to communicate among themselves, and nshr.me, a cloud service used by ISIS followers to disseminate propaganda on social media channels. The forum mnbr.info was hit with a DDOS attack (Distributed Denial of Service), a brute force attack usually used to make a server or a network resource unavailable to users. It was back up shortly after the attack, however nshr.me remained down over 13 hours after the attack occurred.