Thursday, April 25, 2013

Around the Solar System

In Focus shows us Around the Solar System. "Robotic probes launched by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and others are gathering information all across the solar system. We currently have spacecraft in orbit around the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Saturn, and two operational rovers on Mars. Several others are on their way to smaller bodies, and a few are heading out of the solar system entirely. Although the Space Shuttle no longer flies, astronauts are still at work aboard the International Space Station, performing experiments and sending back amazing photos. With all these eyes in the sky, I'd like to take another opportunity to put together a recent photo album of our solar system -- a set of family portraits, of sorts -- as seen by our astronauts and mechanical emissaries. This time, we have a great shot of comet Pan-STARRS between the Earth and Sun, some very sharp images from Mars rover Curiosity, a preview image of Comet ISON, potentially the 'comet of the century', when it approaches in November, intriguing glimpses of Saturn and its moons, and, of course, lovely images of our home, planet Earth. [35 photos]"

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Accidents happen: How one mistaken vote killed Montana’s Medicaid expansion

Sarah Kliff explains Accidents happen: How one mistaken vote killed Montana’s Medicaid expansion "When I first read about this in a local Montana paper, it sounded unbelievable. How did a legislator get the vote wrong? And, if the vote was a mistake, was there some mechanism to change it? This was, after all, a vote deciding whether 70,000 Montanans would gain health coverage — and whether the state would massively expand an entitlement program. So I started making some phone calls to Montana. Turns out everybody knew about this mistaken vote — and that the story was even more complex than I had thought."

There are so many things wrong with this situation.

Reid bill would require background checks to purchase explosives

The Hill reports Reid bill would require background checks to purchase explosives "Under current law, people can buy up to 50 pounds of explosive 'black powder' with no background check, and can buy unlimited amounts of other explosive powders, such as 'black powder substitute' and 'smokeless powder.' Lautenberg's bill would require a background check for the purchase of any of these powders."

Just How Did Apple “Journalism” Get This Bad?

I don't really have any comments on Apple's quarterly report. Whether they're the number one or two biggest company in the world doesn't seem like a big difference to me and I don't expect them to invent new markets every two years. but Gruber linked to this article and I thought it applied to more than just anti-Apple tech writing and I liked the definition of Journalism. Just How Did Apple “Journalism” Get This Bad?

"When I learned to be a journalist, we had one rule: We did what was the right thing for the readers. That sometimes meant annoying companies like Apple, if ‘doing the right thing for the readers’ meant giving them details of an unannounced Mac. Sometimes it meant giving large advertisers bad reviews. But whatever it meant, it always meant giving them the truth: facts we found out, put into context so the readers could understand what was going on better.

By those standards, David Gewirtz’s piece over at ZDNet entitled ‘iOS developers abandoning sinking Apple mothership: biggest drop ever’ isn’t just bad journalism. It’s beyond that. It’s anti-journalism. Where journalism is about fact, Gewirtz brings us speculation. Where journalism adds context to make things clearer, Gewirtz removes it in order to make things more difficult to understand."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sichuan Earthquake Recovery

In Focus shows us the Sichuan Earthquake Recovery "Last Saturday, a destructive earthquake struck China's Sichuan province, near the epicenter of the devastating 2008 earthquake, damaging thousands of structures and triggering landslides in the mountainous region. As of yesterday, the death toll stood at more than 200, with nearly 12,000 injured, 23 still missing, and tens of thousands made homeless. The quake was measured at magnitude 7.0 by China's earthquake administration and magnitude of 6.6 by the U.S. Geological Survey. Rescue teams and government aid personnel have struggled to reach the affected area, as many roads were damaged. [39 photos]"

Monday, April 22, 2013

Texas's Fertilizer Plant Explosion

Texas's Fertilizer Plant Explosion - In Focus - The Atlantic "Last week, while media attention was focused on Boston, a massive explosion took place at the West Fertilizer Company, in the small town of West, Texas. The blast damaged 150 buildings, including three of West's four schools, killed 14 people and injured more than 160 others. It was so powerful that it set off seismographs, registering as a 2.1-magnitude tremor. The cause remains unknown, and investigators are still sifting through the rubble. Today, about 1,500 West students returned to school, set up in makeshift classrooms or in nearby districts. [40 photos]"

Finally, a sense of scale of the damage:

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Why Is Congress Trying to Make Our Internet Abuse Laws Worse, not Better?

Orin Kerr and Lawrence Lessig warn in The Atlantic, Why Is Congress Trying to Make Our Internet Abuse Laws Worse, not Better?

"Swartz's death has turned a light on the statute that had put Swartz's liberty in jeopardy: the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, or CFAA for short. This federal criminal statute has gotten way out of hand. The CFAA was passed in 1986 to punish the new crime of computer hacking. But a lot has changed since 1986. Use of computer networks was rare then. Now it is ubiquitous. And Congress has expanded the law several times, making its reach broader and its punishments more severe. The act has become a sprawling mess -- a powerful and mysterious weapon that could potentially reach millions of ordinary Americans."

"The problem results from the law's vague language: The act criminalizes "unauthorized access" to a computer. But almost 30 years after its passage, no one yet knows when access is unauthorized. Some courts say (correctly, we think) that access is unauthorized only when a person bypasses a technological restriction like a password gate. But other courts take a broader view, finding access unauthorized whenever a user violates the terms of service on a website or even just uses the computer in a way the owner wouldn't like."

"The law cries out for a common-sense reworking. After Swartz's death, a cross-partisan coalition in Congress, led by Democrat Zoe Lofgren and Republican Darrell Issa, did just that, proposing a law that would end liability for terms-of-service violations and would limit felony liability for violations. But, incredibly, some in Congress are going the other way. Last month, the House Judiciary Committee, ignoring that common-sense reworking, circulated a draft of proposed changes to the law that would actually increase its penalties, not decrease them -- making the law even broader and more punitive than before. The new bill would jack up criminal penalties and largely embrace the broadest views of the law's reach."

They quote Judge Alex Kozinski, here's the full line. "Under the government’s proposed interpretation of the CFAA, posting for sale an item prohibited by Craigslist’s policy, or describing yourself as “tall, dark and handsome,” when you’re actually short and homely, will earn you a handsome orange jumpsuit."

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Police, citizens and technology factor into Boston bombing probe

The Washington Post has the most complete account of the investigation I've seen so far. Police, citizens and technology factor into Boston bombing probe "That decision, which appeared to be a straightforward request for the public’s help in identifying the two men, turns out to have been a tactic with several purposes."

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Three Fucktards

Lindsey Graham tweeted yesterday "The last thing we may want to do is read Boston suspect Miranda Rights telling him to 'remain silent.'" See the previous post for comments on that thought.

Jennifer Rubin wrote, Sen. Lindsey Graham: Boston bombing “is Exhibit A of why the homeland is the battlefield”

"I spoke with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) by phone just a few minutes ago. He said of the Boston bombers: “They were radicalized somewhere, somehow.” Regardless of whether they are international or “homegrown,” he said, “This is Exhibit A of why the homeland is the battlefield.” Recalling Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster, Graham noted that he took to the Senate floor specifically to object to Rand’s notion that “America is not the battlefield.” Graham said to me, “It’s a battlefield because the terrorists think it is.” Referring to Boston, he observed, “Here is what we’re up against,” and added, “It sure would be nice to have a drone up there [to track the suspect.]” He also slammed the president’s policy of “leading from behind and criminalizing war.” I’ll have more on my interview with Sen. Graham on Sunday."

Sorry Lindsey but a drone strike would have caused more damage than the Marathon bombs did. Spencer Ackerman from December 2011, Rare Photographs Show Ground Zero of the Drone War

Katrina Trinko wrote in the National Review about an interview with Peter King (R-NY) GOP Congressman: ‘Increase Surveillance’ of Muslim Community. "“Police have to be in the community, they have to build up as many sources as they can, and they have to realize that the threat is coming from the Muslim community and increase surveillance there,” the New York Republican congressman tells National Review."

He apparently doesn't see the contradiction in these two statements: “I think we need more police and more surveillance in the communities where the threat is coming from, whether it’s the Irish community with the Westies [an Irish-American gang in New York City], or the Italian community with the mafia, or the Muslim community with the Islamic terrorists.” and “There’s never been any history of any threats emanating in this country from the Chechen community, so in a way this opens up a new front in the war.”

Then there's Nate Bell (R-AK) who tweeted "I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine? #2A" I'd link to it but he took it down and then posted an almost apology:

"I would like to apologize to the people of Boston & Massachusetts for the poor timing of my tweet earlier this morning. As a staunch and unwavering supporter of the individual right to self defense, I expressed my point of view without thinking of its effect on those still in time of crisis. In hindsight, given the ongoing tragedy that is still unfolding, I regret the poor choice of timing. Please know that my thoughts and prayers were with the people of Boston overnight and will continue as they recover from this tragedy."

We weren't cowering, civilians didn't need assault weapons, we weren't scared, and our police force got the suspects. The terrorists did some damage with pressure cookers, nails, and stolen cars, I'm glad they didn't have assault weapons too. Maybe Arkansasians cower if they don't have their guns, but that's not what we do. We host a world class sporting event, invite everyone, cheer as people run 26 miles, run towards the danger, treat the wounded so that none of them die, find the suspects and send the police to capture them, alive.

What the fuck has Arkansas done? You're ranked 45th in per capita income and 49th in median household income and that's with Walmart headquarters in your state. Want to compare education rankings? Health care? GDP? Crime rates? Accidental death rates? You don't have a major league sports team in any sport. STFU.

This Is the Modern Manhunt: The FBI, the Hive Mind and the Boston Bombers

Spencer Ackerman explains This Is the Modern Manhunt: The FBI, the Hive Mind and the Boston Bombers "When the smoke literally cleared on Monday, investigators had a huge problem and nearly no leads. No individual or organization claimed responsibility for the bombings that killed three and wounded more than 180. So they took a big leap: They copped to how little they knew, and embraced the wisdom of The Crowd."

"Hiding in plain sight was an ocean of data, from torrents of photography to cell-tower information to locals’ memories, waiting to be exploited. Police, FBI, and the other investigators opted to let spectator surveillance supplement and augment their own. When they called for that imagery, locals flooded it in. They spoke to the public frequently, both in person and especially on Twitter. All that represented a modern twist on the age-old law enforcement maxim that the public’s eyes and ears are crucial investigative assets, as the Internet rapidly compressed the time it took for tips to arrive and get analyzed."

"There was another element to the modern manhunt: the Boston Police’s social media presence.All through the week, the @Boston_Police Twitter account has provided surprisingly rapid factual information about the manhunt. Yael Bar-Tur, a social media and law-enforcement consultant, says Boston bucked a trend among cop shops to shy away from the unfamiliar terrain of Twitter and Facebook. “It’s so unusual for police departments to do this,” she says."

Tsarnaev and Miranda Rights

Orin Kerr explains in Tsarnaev and Miranda Rights "The police aren’t required to follow Miranda. Miranda is a set of rules the government can chose to follow if they want to admit a person’s statements in a criminal case in court, not a set of rules they have to follow in every case."

"Chavez holds that a person’s Miranda rights are violated only if the statement is admitted in court, even if the statement is obtained in violation of Miranda...Further, the prosecution is even allowed to admit any physical evidence discovered as a fruit of the statement obtained in violation of Miranda — only the actual statement can be excluded."

There is an exemption to Miranda, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Miranda Rights: The public safety exception and terrorism cases "There is one specific circumstance in which it makes sense to hold off on Miranda. It’s exactly what the name of the exception suggests. The police can interrogate a suspect without offering him the benefit of Miranda if he could have information that’s of urgent concern for public safety." She goes on to give a nice history of the exemption and the rulings that define it.

Scott Lemieux explains another reason Why Tsarnaev Should Be Read His Miranda Rights. "Miranda does not require us to be indifferent about the distinction between coercive and non-coercive interrogations, and indeed its logic suggests that we shouldn’t be...the intent of the rule was to inhibit coercive interrogations, because coercive interrogations were both wrong in themselves and produced unreliable information."

"To refuse to inform Tsarnaev of his rights — outside of the acknowledged emergency exception to Miranda — sends the opposite message. It’s the message of the previous administration — i.e. that the rule of law and the “war on terror” are incompatible, that slapping the label “terrorist” on a suspect means that professional procedures that respect the rights of the accused can’t work. This isn’t right — it’s wrong in terms of the values it represents and it’s wrong in terms of the underlying assumption that less respect for the rights of the accused means more effective crime control."

And of course Glenn Greenwald talks about What rights should Dzhokhar Tsarnaev get and why does it matter? "First, the Obama administration has already rolled back Miranda rights for terrorism suspects captured on US soil. It did so two years ago with almost no controversy or even notice, including from many of those who so vocally condemned Graham's Miranda tweets yesterday."

He goes on. "It is bizarre indeed to watch Democrats act as though Graham's theories are exotic or repellent. This is, after all, the same faction that insists that Obama has the power to target even US citizens for execution without charges, lawyers, or any due process, on the ground that anyone the president accuses of Terrorism forfeits those rights. The only way one can believe this is by embracing the same theory that Lindsey Graham is espousing: namely, that accused Terrorists are enemy combatants, not criminals, and thus entitled to no due process and other guarantees in the Bill of Rights. Once you adopt this "entire-globe-is-a-battlefield" war paradigm - as supporters of Obama's assassination powers must do and have explicitly done - then it's impossible to scorn Graham's views about what should be done with Tsarnaev."

I'll just say, I'm not in the "same faction"

Updates on Aftermath of Boston Marathon Explosions

The New Yorks Times provides Updates on Aftermath of Boston Marathon Explosions "In an interview on CNN, Chief Deveau told how the older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, burst out of a stolen S.U.V. shooting at the police, only to run out of ammunition, be tackled by officers and then get run over by his younger brother, Dzhokhar." "The brothers were driving two cars, the S.U.V. and a Honda. The S.U.V. owner’s cellphone was still in the car. “Lucky for him and lucky for us that his cellphone remained in that vehicle, so we were able to get updates” on its location, Chief Deveau said."

Jon Stewart on Gun Control

Friday, April 19, 2013

Some of My Favorite Tweets Today

Bed now. This week is so bad that an Elvis-impersonating conspiracy theorist sent poison to Obama and THAT'S LIKE THE TENTH BIGGEST STORY.

Boston is probably the only major city that if you fuck with them, they will shut down the whole city...stop everything.. and find you.

If you expect #Boston ease up, you are not aware of how we treated Bill Buckner for 18 years after a baseball rolled between his legs.

Things we'll do to keep people safe: Lock down an entire city for hours. Things we won't do: A 5 min background check before you buy a gun

And I still like this from a few days ago, This is a very tough town. We take only three things seriously here, and that's sports, politics, and revenge.

Manhunt Underway, Boston Under Lockdown

In Focus has photos of Manhunt Underway, Boston Under Lockdown "Hours after the FBI released images of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, a response to a robbery in nearby Cambridge led to the fatal shooting of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer. The shooting became a carjacking, then later a dangerous chase reportedly involving dozens of gunshots and explosive devices, ending up in neighboring Watertown. Authorities reported the shooting suspects were indeed the same men sought in the Boston Marathon bombing, identifying them as brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev 'Suspect #1' and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev 'Suspect #2', both Kyrgyz nationals living in Cambridge. They later stated that Tamerlan, age 26, had been shot and killed, but younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was still at large. The manhunt intensified as the night went on, and the entire Boston area woke to find itself on lockdown, with public transportation shut down and citizens advised to stay indoors. I will update throughout the day, as the massive house-to-house search for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev continues. [30 photos so far]"

What I'm Reading

There are two reddit threads that are being updated with info:

Also:The most entertaining is the #bostonchase IRC channel. Lots of noise, updates on current info (from scanners), explanations of police codes (bearcat and jargon and snarky comments (lots of Nick Fury references). Just take it all with a grain of salt.


So I'm fine. The stuff going down now is in the next town over.

This reddit thread is the best place to find info.

I'm not sure how accurate all the details are on this, but someone made a google map with all the incidents.

Slate has a good summary of events since last night Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev-Tamerlan Tsarnaev: Watertown, Cambridge, rest of Boston in lockdown as FBI searches for remaining marathon suspect.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boston Bombing Victim in Iconic Photo Helped Identify Attackers

Bloomberg reports Boston Bombing Victim in Iconic Photo Helped Identify Attackers

"Just before 3 p.m. on April 15, Bauman was waiting among the crowd for his girlfriend to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon. A man wearing a cap, sunglasses and a black jacket over a hooded sweatshirt looked at Jeff, 27, and dropped a bag at his feet, his brother, Chris Bauman, said in an interview."

“He woke up under so much drugs, asked for a paper and pen and wrote, ‘bag, saw the guy, looked right at me,’” Chris Bauman said yesterday in an interview."

"While still in intensive care, Jeff Bauman gave the FBI a description of the man he saw, his brother said. Bauman’s information helped investigators narrow down whom to look for in hours of video of the attack, he said."

Amazing Exoplanet Infographic

The New York Times has a nice article on the new Earth-like planets Kepler discovered, 2 Good Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years Away. But it's accompanied by an amazing interactive graphic, Kepler’s Tally of Planets.

"NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered more than 100 confirmed planets orbiting distant stars. Planets with a known size and orbit are shown below, including five planets orbiting Kepler 62, announced this week."

It's amazing, check it out, though I had some problems with it in Safari, it worked well in Chrome.

Avoid This Man

Days after runner skirts bomb, he photographs Texas blast "A bomb exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon seconds after Berti finished the race. Two days later, he was in his home state of Texas when he saw a fertilizer plant explode near Waco."

What Happens When You Wring Out a Wash Cloth in Zero-G

I've Seen DDR Before, But Never Like This


The Onion Nails It

Next Week's School Shooting Victims Thank Senate For Failing To Pass Gun Bill.

"WASHINGTON—Following the Senate’s rejection of a bipartisan amendment to expand background checks for gun buyers, the young victims of next week’s school shooting emphatically thanked members of Congress today for failing to pass more comprehensive gun control legislation. ‘Great job, guys,’ said 14-year-old Jacob Miller, one of nine junior high school students who will be shot next week by a mentally ill gunman wielding a legally acquired assault rifle that was purchased at a gun show. ‘My classmates and I are really proud of you for cowering to the NRA and caring more about politics than my friends and I getting shot and killed. It totally makes sense. You’re the best.’ The soon-to-be massacred teenager added that his parents, Caroline and Pete Miller, also wanted to extend their heartfelt congratulations to the Senate."

Interesting Reads

Ars Technica explains Why Johnny can’t stream: How video copyright went insane. It's a great explanation of both law and tech and how ugly things get when tech works around law (or tries to).

WonkBlog asks and answers The Texas fertilizer plant explosion is horrific. But how common is this?. I didn't realize that the fertilizer industry is growing because the natural gas industry is booming.

Peter Horvath writes in Medium, Everything I knew about food was wrong.

The New Yorker explains Why Boston's Hospitals Were Ready. Since 9/11 and Iraq there's been a change in how emergency response is orchestrated and it seems to have been really successful as "it now appears that every one of the wounded alive when rescuers reached them will survive."

Businessweek claims to explain Why Cell Phone Networks Fail in Emergencies but it really does more to debunk the 'police shut down the cell network' myth. Cell towers can handle about 150-200 calls at once and in emergencies they max out. Text and data (particularly Twitter) can be queued up and squeak through, so they're better in those cases.

Neil Irwin describes What the Reinhart-Rogoff debacle tells us about the mysteries of macroeconomics. It's nice background on the field and the study.

The NY Daily News talks to Salah Barhoum, who the NY Post plastered on its front page and called a bag man. Boston Marathon spectator Salah Barhoum, who was interviewed by authorities following the bombings, swears he 'didn't do it'.

The Pot Calling the Kettle Intolerant

Michael Rohrer in The Pot Calling the Kettle Intolerant takes on Rick Perry for using a common tactic on the right, complaining about their bigoted beliefs being vilified.

Age Guessing By Clicking

Here's some online study from Harvard, Click on a few dots and our program will guess your age! They guessed I was 15 years younger than I actually am, so there's that.

Earth-sized planets: Two super-Earths found orbiting the same star.

Kepler is a space telescope designed to look for planets around other stars. Most of the exoplanet reports from the last couple of years come from Kepler. It's still going strong and Phil Plait wrote a very good article on the most recent discovery, Earth-sized planets: Two super-Earths found orbiting the same star.

"The two planets, called Kepler-62e and Kepler-62f, are both bigger than Earth, but not by much; they are 1.6 and 1.4 times the Earth’s diameter, respectively. Kepler-62e orbits the star every 122 days, while Kepler-62f, farther out, takes about 267 days. Given the temperature and size of the parent star, this means that both planets are inside the zone around the star where water on the surface could be a liquid. Now, to be clear, this depends on a lot of factors we don’t know yet: the masses of the planets, their compositions, whether they have atmospheres or not, and what those putative atmospheres are made of. For example, Kepler-62e could have a thick CO2-laden blanket of air, making its surface temperature completely uninhabitable, like Venus."

So there isn't a lot of news but this is pretty fun. Kepler will keep looking for planets and by the nature of the process, it takes longer to find smaller planets with larger orbits.

"For a planet to be in the star’s habitable zone, it may take months or even years for it to pass in front of the star several times (multiple transits are needed to make sure we’re not seeing some other event, like a starspot). That takes time, but Kepler has been observing these stars for years now, which is why we’re seeing more and more smaller planets now."

But yeah, it's fun to speculate...

"What an amazing thing that would be: two inhabitable worlds around one star (as opposed to all the Tatooines we’ve been finding)! It’s fun to imagine it being like a Victorian science fiction novel, spurring interplanetary travel and trade between alien races… or war. I guess that depends on which writer you read."

A Senate in the Gun Lobby’s Grip

Gabrielle Giffords on A Senate in the Gun Lobby’s Grip. A scathing op-ed.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Reddit and 4Chan Are on the Boston Bomber Case

Reddit and 4Chan Are on the Boston Bomber Case

"The Boston Marathon bombing investigation, now in its third day, is not just the largest crime scene in the city's history — it's the most crowdsourced terror investigation in American history. With the FBI, the ATF, and Boston law enforcement soliciting videos, cellphone pictures, and anything that could lead to the capture of whoever set off those pressure cooker bombs, the plea has more or less turned the interested and the Internet into amateur investigators armed with what we know the remains of the bag and the bomb look like. On Reddit, where they can now apparently track murder by way of Google Maps and where some of the most detailed information on the Boston case has surfaced publicly, the FBI's plea for info has spurred the "Find Boston Bombers" subreddit, with all kinds of analysis. But here's the find they're most excited about: They've found a photo of a man with a backpack that has straps which resemble what federal officials believe is the detonated backpack. (Update: Authorities appeared to have a suspect — follow here.)"

The Saudi Marathon Man

The Saudi Marathon Man

"A twenty-year-old man who had been watching the Boston Marathon had his body torn into by the force of a bomb. He wasn’t alone; a hundred and seventy-six people were injured and three were killed. But he was the only one who, while in the hospital being treated for his wounds, had his apartment searched in “a startling show of force,” as his fellow-tenants described it to the Boston Herald, with a “phalanx” of officers and agents and two K9 units. He was the one whose belongings were carried out in paper bags as his neighbors watched; whose roommate, also a student, was questioned for five hours (“I was scared”) before coming out to say that he didn’t think his friend was someone who’d plant a bomb—that he was a nice guy who liked sports. “Let me go to school, dude,” the roommate said later in the day, covering his face with his hands and almost crying, as a Fox News producer followed him and asked him, again and again, if he was sure he hadn’t been living with a killer."

"It might be comforting to think of this as a blip, an aberration, something that will be forgotten tomorrow—if not by this young man. There are people at Guanátanmo who have also been cleared by our own government, and are still there. A new report on the legacy of torture after 9/11, released Tuesday, is a well-timed admonition. The F.B.I. said that they would ‘go to the ends of the earth’ to get the Boston perpetrators. One wants them to be able to go with their heads held high."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Chris Hayes Calls Susan Collins a Disgrace

"It is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture," according to a bipartisan commission and Chris Hayes looks at how reaction to the Boston Marathon bombings includes suggestions that are just as reactive and unconstitutional, like Senator Susan Collins saying a foreign national should be held by a military tribunal.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

James Wood Podcast on Keith Moon's Drumming

This is a few years old but this 15 minute audio clip was wonderful, A podcast with James Wood "This week in the magazine, James Wood writes about Keith Moon, the drummer for the Who. Here Wood talks with Blake Eskin about discovering the Who and learning to play drums. Wood also demonstrates—by finger-drumming—how Moon’s wild style stands out in the world of rock and roll."

Related is this article.

This Looks Amazing

(via io9)

U.S. Practiced Torture After 9/11

U.S. Practiced Torture After 9/11, Nonpartisan Review Concludes

"A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that ‘it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture’ and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.

The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been ‘the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.’ The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, is to be released on Tuesday morning.

Debate over the coercive interrogation methods used by the administration of President George W. Bush has often broken down on largely partisan lines. The Constitution Project’s task force on detainee treatment, led by two former members of Congress with experience in the executive branch — a Republican, Asa Hutchinson, and a Democrat, James R. Jones — seeks to produce a stronger national consensus on the torture question."

"While the Constitution Project report covers mainly the Bush years, it is critical of some Obama administration policies, especially what it calls excessive secrecy. It says that keeping the details of rendition and torture from the public “cannot continue to be justified on the basis of national security” and urges the administration to stop citing state secrets to block lawsuits by former detainees.

The report calls for the revision of the Army Field Manual on interrogation to eliminate Appendix M, which it says would permit an interrogation for 40 consecutive hours, and to restore an explicit ban on stress positions and sleep manipulation.

The core of the report, however, may be an appendix: a detailed 22-page legal and historical analysis that explains why the task force concluded that what the United States did was torture. It offers dozens of legal cases in which similar treatment was prosecuted in the United States or denounced as torture by American officials when used by other countries."

Two Logan Flights Disrupted Due To Security Concerns

The Boston Globe reports, Two Logan flights disrupted due to security concerns. Don't both of these incidents sound stupid?

"A United Airlines flight that was about to take off for Chicago was brought back to the gate after passengers expressed concern over two people speaking a foreign language, according to aviation authorities."

"About an hour later, a US Airways flight just in from Philadelphia was kept from pulling up to the gate due to suspicions about a checked bag on the plane. Baggage handlers in Philadelphia alerted the airline to concerns about a bag after loading it onto the plane, according to the Transportation Security Administration."

Is the best evidence for austerity based on an Excel spreadsheet error?

Brad Plumer writes Is the best evidence for austerity based on an Excel spreadsheet error?

"One of the most influential studies justifying austerity policies in recent years has come in for an extensive new critique. And one of the big problems found? An Excel coding error.

The paper in question is Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff’s famous 2010 study ’Growth in a Time of Debt,’ which found that economic growth severely suffers when a country’s debt level reaches 90 percent of GDP. That 90 percent figure has been widely cited in the past few years as a key reason why countries must trim their deficits.

But a new critique (pdf) by Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash and Robert Pollin finds that this result may need serious revision. For one, the economists argue that Reinhart and Rogoff excluded three episodes of high-debt, high-growth nations — Canada, New Zealand, and Australia in the late 1940s. Second, they argue, Reinhart and Rogoff made some debatable assumptions about weighting different episodes.

Now, those are debatable methodological critiques. But there’s also a third problem, as Mike Konczal details at length here, Reinhart and Rogoff appear to have made a troubling error with one of their Excel spreadsheet formulas. By typing AVERAGE(L30:L44) at one point instead of AVERAGE(L30:L49), they left out Denmark, Canada, Belgium, Austria, and Australia:

This error wasn’t caught earlier because Reinhart and Rogoff hadn’t released their underlying data to the public. They only shared their spreadsheet with the Herndon, Ash and Pollin after the latter three tried to replicate the initial results and failed."

Mark Thoma puts this in perspective, How Much Unemployment Was Caused by Reinhart and Rogoff's Arithmetic Mistake? "What she asserted is that pain now -- austerity -- can avoid even more pain down the road in the form of lower economic growth. Here's the problem. She is right that austerity causes pain in the short-run. But according to a review of her work with Rogoff discussed below, the lower growth from debt levels above 90 percent that austerity is supposed to avoid turns out, it appears, to be largely the result of errors in the research. In fact, there is no substantial growth penalty from high debt levels, and hence not much gain from short-run austerity."

Paul Krugman sums up the issues with the data, Holy Coding Error, Batman.
"According to the review paper, R-R mysteriously excluded data on some high-debt countries with decent growth immediately after World War II, which would have greatly weakened their result; they used an eccentric weighting scheme in which a single year of bad growth in one high-debt country counts as much as multiple years of good growth in another high-debt country; and they dropped a whole bunch of additional data through a simple coding error."

Jared Bernstein adds a nice graph putting the issue in context:


Krugman comments on Reinhart-Rogoff's response.

2013 Pulitzer Prize Winners

It seems yesterday the 2013 Pulitzer Prize Winners were announced. It's worth following the links on the site to the details of each award. Click on the "Works" tab to see links to the actual articles. Easy way to fill up Instapaper.

East Coast Can Watch a Space Launch Wednesday

How to Spot the Antares Launch from NASA Wallops on WednesdayAntares Launch 515x580

"A space launch marking a new era is departing from the Virginia coast this Wednesday evening, and if you live anywhere along a wide area of the US Eastern seaboard, you’ll have a great opportunity to witness the launch with your own eyes. Here’s all the information you’ll need to see it, plus some tips for capturing it with your camera.

Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket will launch from Pad 0A at NASA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport based on Wallops Island, Virginia. This will mark not only the first launch of Antares, but the first orbital launch of a liquid-fueled rocket from Wallops. The launch window runs from 5:00 to 8:00 PM EDT (21:00-24:00 UT)."

6 False Things You Heard About the Boston Bombing

Mother Jones nicely lists 6 False Things You Heard About the Boston Bombing. I just heard the "cell phone service shutdown" one again on NPR an hour ago.

They also have a running story, What We Know About the Boston Marathon Explosions with various images and videos and updates as they happen.

xkcd's Time is still going

xkcd's Time comic is still going, one frame an hour, explain xkcd has running commentary and this animated gif.

Boston Marathon Explosions

The Big Picture shows Terror at the Boston Marathon "With thousands of runners still on the course at the Boston Marathon, two explosions rocked Boylston Street just yards from the finish line. The blasts ripped through crowded spectator viewing stands. The death toll as we publish stands at three and is expected to rise, with over 140 others injured and transported to local hospitals. No arrests have been made. Please follow for further updates. (WARNING: Some images are graphic by nature.) (32 photos total)"


In Focus has different Photos of the Boston Marathon Bombing including one that's blacked out unless you click on it that shows a VERY graphic injury that you probably don't want to see. Oddly, they pixelated the victims face but not his injury.

Boston news has been on constantly (canceling all regular programming) and has had very little to say. I followed reports yesterday and just paying attention to reputable sources saw a lot of incorrect (and conflicting) reporting. I don't understand the journalistic urge to be early but not necessarily accurate.

The only interesting thing at this mornings press conference was that there were no other devices found aside from the two explosions. Other "suspicious packages" were not bombs, maybe they should call them "packages of interest". The JFK Library incident seems unrelated. The 8 year-old boy who was killed has been identified. Some apartment in Revere was searched.

Scientific American has some info on How Do Terrorists Use Improvised Explosive Devices?

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Boston Marathon Bombing: Keep Calm and Carry On

Bruce Schneier: The Boston Marathon Bombing: Keep Calm and Carry On "How well this attack succeeds depends much less on what happened in Boston than by our reactions in the coming weeks and months. Terrorism isn't primarily a crime against people or property. It's a crime against our minds, using the deaths of innocents and destruction of property as accomplices. When we react from fear, when we change our laws and policies to make our country less open, the terrorists succeed, even if their attacks fail. But when we refuse to be terrorized, when we're indomitable in the face of terror, the terrorists fail, even if their attacks succeed."

Friday, April 12, 2013

Game of Thrones Infographic

Where Have All The Wildlings Gone? is a Game of Thrones infographic by Nigel Evan Dennis. I'm not sure it makes things clearer but it's pretty interesting.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Senator

The Globe Investigates Boston Taxis

A couple of weeks ago the Boston Globe ran a great investigative series on Boston taxis. It was in three parts, read them all.

Part 1: For Boston cabbies, a losing battle against the numbersPart 2: An empire built of ambition and a very hard edgePart 3: For Boston cab drivers, risk and reward are a mismatch

Linda Greenhouse on DOMA Case

Linda Greenhouse writes about the DOMA case, Trojan Horse, "But as these two lawyers clearly recognized, striking down DOMA on federalism grounds is a truly bad idea, and the campaign for marriage equality would be worse off for it. To explain the argument is to reveal its dangers. A ruling that left the states to their own devices when it comes to marriage would take the equal protection guarantee out of the picture."

"And of course the most famous federal intervention of all was Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 decision (shockingly recent) that overturned the laws of Virginia and 15 other states prohibiting marriage between people of different races. Virginia maintained that its law did not amount to racial discrimination because the prohibition ran equally in both directions – just as blacks couldn’t marry whites, whites couldn’t marry blacks either. Consequently, the state argued, the case came down to a simple matter of federalism. But Chief Justice Earl Warren’s unanimous opinion didn’t buy it. “Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man,” the court said. “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” The right, in other words, belonged to the individuals involved, not to the state."

I like this. When people use the argument, that something is the right of the state and not the federal government, a good counter-argument is that perhaps the right is reserved to the people and not the state. Greenhouse also points out the real issue in this case:

"Where were they when Edith Windsor got a federal estate tax bill of more than $300,000, a tax she wouldn’t have had to pay had DOMA not barred the Internal Revenue Service from recognizing a spousal exemption based on her New York-recognized marriage to her partner of more than 40 years?"

The Strange Beauty of Salt Mines

In Focus shows The Strange Beauty of Salt Mines. "Salt, an essential element for all animal life, is abundant here on Earth, but it still requires extraction from stone deposits or salty waters. The process of mining that salt can produce beautiful landscapes, including deep, stable caverns, multicolored pools of water, and geometric carvings. Some of these locations have even become tourist destinations, serving as concert halls, museums, and health spas touting the benefits of halotherapy. Collected here are images of salt mines across the world, above and below ground. [31 photos]"

I had no idea. Stunning.

The PC inside your phone: A guide to the system-on-a-chip

Ars Technica presents The PC inside your phone: A guide to the system-on-a-chip "To help you keep things straight, we've assembled this handy guide that will walk you through the basics of how an SoC is put together. It will also serve as a guide to most of the current (and future, where applicable) chips available from the big players making [system-on-a-chips] today: Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung, Nvidia, Texas Instruments, Intel, and AMD. There's simply too much to talk about to fit everything into one article of reasonable length, but if you've been wondering what makes a Snapdragon different from a Tegra, here's a start."

I mostly skimmed this but it explained all the chip codenamed I've heard and didn't know how they related to each other.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Obama's Budget

The $4.6 trillion difference between the White House and House Republicans’ budget

"The House GOP budget sees tax revenues totaling 18.8 percent of GDP over the next decade, while Obama’s budget puts them at 19.1 percent. The difference over 10 years, using the GOP’s numbers? Three-tenths of a percentage point of GDP, or about $640 billion.

House Republicans see an average deficit of 0.6 percent over the next decade, while Obama’s looking at 2.5 percent. The difference there is 1.9 percent of GDP, or more than $4 trillion.

Put the two together and House Republicans are putting about $4.6 trillion more toward lower deficits or lower taxes than the White House. If you want to know why the House GOP’s budget looks so different from the White House, that $4.6 trillion is the answer. That $4.6 trillion is why House Republicans need to make such deep cuts to social programs. That $4.6 trillion is why the Obama administration can keep Obamacare as well as fund a new pre-kindergarten initiative."

Here are 12 things you may have missed in the budget.

Wonkblog also updated it's neat interactive budget analyzer to include Obama's budget, Interactive: How the Obama budget stacks up against Paul Ryan’s.

Typing Test

Typing Test

Visit the Typing Test and try!

New Toy

My main computer was a 15" MacBook Pro I bought in March 2008. At five years old it's getting a little long in the tooth. Before that I had a PowerBook that I got shortly after retiring so that only lasted 3 years. I was very happy with a laptop as a single machine. I could travel with it, I could use it at a desk or on the couch, and I didn't need to sync files with another machine. One thing I didn't like was trying to use it while referencing a book. When trying to use it to learn to code on a mac, I kept the laptop connected to a 23" monitor, mouse and external keyboard in a tray under the desk. A book fit nicely on the desk just above the keyboard. And I loved all the screen real estate.

My MacBook Pro has stayed connected to the monitor for a couple of years. I really liked the screen real estate. And now that I have an iPad, I have something to use on the couch or to bring while traveling and sync'ing isn't a problem. The iPad can't do everything the mac can do, but I don't need it to.

So, time for a new machine, and I've been debating what to get for a long time. I decided on a desktop machine (and yes it was only going to be a mac). I don't need the portability and I liked a big monitor (mine was getting a little wonky and the laptop couldn't drive the monitor unless it was plugged in). I also wanted a better graphic card to play the occasional game (I had Diablo III in mind, but tried StarCraft II when it came out and I could only run it on the lowest graphics settings). So a Mac Mini was a little under powered for games and a Mac Pro is both more than I need and at this point a little under powered (new models are expected soon). So that leaves an iMac.

New models were announced in November and were available in January. They're nice. I still had doubts about getting an all-in-one machine. I expect the computer to last 3-5 years but I think a monitor should last longer than that. Why replace the monitor with the computer? But then, that's what you do with a laptop (though there's a big difference between a 15" laptop screen and a 27" monitor). I'd really wish Apple would come out with a desktop machine with about the same guts as an iMac but with an external display. That hasn't been in the cards but there are rumors now that the Mac Pro is getting a remodel.

The iMac has a couple of knocks against it. It's really thin but that kind of has no point and just removes the internal optical drive that would otherwise fit. I don't use mine much, but I do occasionally to rip a CD or install something (like StarCraft II). Also they are notoriously difficult to open and repair. To replace a hard drive you need to have a professional do it. You need a pro to upgrade memory in the 21" model but in the 27" model there's a user accessible panel. But I realized, that's about the same for the laptops. I've gotten all too good at replacing a hard disk in my TiVo but I wouldn't attempt it on a mac laptop.

So after much debate yesterday I bought a 27" iMac. I roughly maxed it out getting a model available in the local Apple Store. 3.4GHz quad-core i7, 8GB RAM, 1TB Fusion Drive, 2GB GTX 680MX, Trackpad, and Wireless Keyboard. The fusion drive is a nice compromise between the speeds of an SSD and the capacity of HDD. Apple is really expensive for RAM, so 8GB is what I wanted. It's twice what I had in the laptop and I can buy 16GB at Crucial for $125. I had a wired keyboard and magic mouse so I opted for the trackpad and wireless keyboard. The keyboard I figured I might use with the iPad. I already love the trackpad and OS X has incorporated useful gestures into many apps.

I also got a thunderbolt to firewire adaptor. Apple has a migration assistant that copies over all the data from an old machine to a new one. Thunderbolt is the new fast connector and to move 200GB I wanted as fast as I could get. But the best the 5 year old laptop could do was a FireWire 800 port. I use that to backup the machine to an external drive. Researching online I could migrate with Gigabit Ethernet but that process was a little more involved. I couldn't just connect the two machines directly and a router wasn't nearby. So the adaptor looked fine though there were some reports that it was slow with an unpowered drive. So I migrated from the mac while it was plugged in. Holding down the T button on the laptop while booting puts it in Target mode so the iMac will see the drive on the laptop as just a drive.

I got it home and opened it up. It's a big box but not that heavy. It's a little awkward to unpack but overall pretty easy. There's no documentation in the box. The trackpad, keyboard, and a thunderbolt to firewire adaptor all came with (pointless) documentation, the iMac, none. I connected the laptop and put it in Target Disk mode. I plugged in the keyboard and booted the iMac. It came on with a background and one window that switched between drawings of a trackpad and a mouse each with an arrow pointing to their power buttons. I pushed the button on the trackpad and saw it's green light come on and occasionally blink. The iMac however didn't change. I knew it was trying to pair the bluetooth connection but it wasn't happening. I turned the trackpad on and off several times but no luck. I tried the same with my magic mouse but again no luck. I thought maybe the bluetooth in the iMac was defective. I'm not sure why it occurred to me but I held down the button on the trackpad and then it eventually connected. The mac needs a better diagram on this screen or maybe some words (horrors, they would need to be translated) that explain hold down the freaking button.

But after that everything went well. It connected to the wifi and asked for permission to enable location services and figured out timezone. It got to the Setup Assistant and I knew to select to read from a drive rather than a mac, it found the laptop drive and started the migration. The progress bar started at about 6 hours but that came down quickly to 3. It made good progress and then it's estimates jumped as high as 20 hours and as low as 2. It settled down and made steady progress and finished in about two hours. I have to say the migration was perfect. Everything came up and it was exactly like my old machine. All the passwords were remembered, the printer was found and configured, etc. It just freaking worked.

The new machine is really fast. Everything just happens immediately. Spotlight indexed in just about 15 minutes. I didn't' realize it was so slow on my laptop, now it's instantaneous. The slowest thing seems to be Numbers when accessing the large spreadsheet of movies I've seen which is stored in iCloud and has a thousand row table tons of graphs. Other spreadsheets are zippy. All the screen real estate feels luxurious. It's silent, no fan and the speakers are good (though I have some cheap Cambridge Soundworks speakers connected, they have more bass).

I ordered this drive for backups. I had had issues with Time Machine and the laptop (wirelessly to a Time Capsule), with incremental backups taking over an hour which meant they were always running. The wireless configuration is convenient for a laptop that moves around the house but they aren't as reliable as a wired connection. With a desktop machine I'll just connect a drive. I had wanted to try Thunderbolt (I'm using my USB slots for keyboard, iPad and iPhone and have nothing else to do with these two fast connections) and had settled on this drive (it allowed daisy chaining and was quiet) but as a friend pointed out it's really expensive. USB 3.0 is in practice just as fast, particularly for backups. If Time Machine doesn't work out, I'll go back to using Carbon Copy Cloner.

So far, I'm really happy.

Gorgeous Moonrise

Dan Marker-Moore posted this moonrise over LA.

Moon Rise LA from Dan Marker-Moore on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Secret Tape from Mitch McConnell Campaign Meeting

David Corn as the story of the day in Mother Jones Secret Tape: McConnell and Aides Weighed Using Judd's Mental Health and Religion as Political Ammo.

"Later that day, [Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell] was huddling with aides in a private meeting to discuss how to attack his possible Democratic foes, including actor/activist Ashley Judd, who was then contemplating challenging the minority leader. During this strategy session—a recording of which was obtained by Mother Jones—McConnell and his aides considered assaulting Judd for her past struggles with depression and for her religious views."

So there was some early campaign strategy meeting and they considered a bunch of things. I can't get too worked up on that actually. The fun part is the reaction to the story after it leaked. Nothing on the actual content, everything about how the tape was obtained and how his opponents will stop at nothing (kinda amusing considering the content of the meeting).

Update: An update from Ed Kilgore, The McConnell Taping Farce

How Not To Say The Wrong Thing

The LA Times has an article, How not to say the wrong thing

"Susan has since developed a simple technique to help people avoid this mistake. It works for all kinds of crises: medical, legal, financial, romantic, even existential. She calls it the Ring Theory.

Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma. For Katie's aneurysm, that's Katie. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma. In the case of Katie's aneurysm, that was Katie's husband, Pat. Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. When you are done you have a Kvetching Order. One of Susan's patients found it useful to tape it to her refrigerator.

Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, 'Life is unfair' and 'Why me?' That's the one payoff for being in the center ring. Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings...Comfort IN, dump OUT."

Monday, April 08, 2013

Three Economic Stories

Robert Reich explains why the sequester is starting to hurt but you might not realize it yet, The Stealth Sequester. "That’s because so much of what the government does affects the nation in local, decentralized ways. Federal funds find their way to community housing authorities, state unemployment offices, local school districts, private universities, and companies. So it’s hard for most Americans to know the sequester is responsible for the lost funding, lost jobs, or just plain inconvenience.

A tiny sampling: Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts is bracing for a cut of about $51 million in its $685 million of annual federal research grants and contracts. The public schools of Syracuse, New York, will lose over $1 million. The housing authority of Joliet, Illinois, will take a hit of nearly $900,000. Northrop Grumman Information Systems just issued layoff notices to 26 employees at its plant in Lawton, Oklahoma. Unemployment benefits are being cut in Pennsylvania and Utah."

Krugman a week ago described how California is now able to try some liberal ideas to fix their economy and it seems to be working, Lessons From a Comeback "And that’s where things get really interesting — because the era of hamstrung government seems to be coming to an end. Over the years, California’s Republicans moved right as the state moved left, yet retained political relevance thanks to their blocking power. But at this point the state’s G.O.P. has fallen below critical mass, losing even its power to obstruct — and this has left Mr. Brown free to push an agenda of tax hikes and infrastructure spending that sounds remarkably like the kind of thing California used to do before the rise of the radical right.

And if this agenda is successful, it will have national implications. After all, California’s political story — in which a radicalized G.O.P. fell increasingly out of touch with an increasingly diverse and socially liberal electorate, and eventually found itself marginalized — is arguably playing out with a lag on the national scene too. So is California still the place where the future happens first? Stay tuned"

Ezra Klein explains Why Japan is the most interesting story in global economics right now "Through the last six years of rumbling global financial crisis, Japan has been an afterthought. In 2008, the world’s second-largest (soon to be third-largest) economy was still dealing with the consequences of its own banking crisis from the 1990s, its economy mired in a generation of economic stagnation and low-level but persistent deflation. If you had taken a snapshot of the Japanese economy in 2002 and again in 2012, you wouldn’t have missed much.

How quickly that has changed. A new government took office the day after Christmas, led by prime minister Shinzo Abe, pledging to, in effect, go whole-hog on the Keynesian remedies for Japan’s long recession, particularly by pushing for a combination of fiscal stimulus on a mass scale, and, through appointment of Haruhiko Kuroda as governor of the Bank of Japan; he has pledged to do ‘whatever it takes’ to get annual inflation to 2 percent in a country where inflation has averaged -0.3 percent since 2000. The Japanese stock market is on a tear and the yen has been falling steeply on currency markets, exactly the kind of reaction the BOJ hopes to see."

Friday, April 05, 2013

Robert Reich Explains Chained CPI

I wish it was a little clearer but it's pretty good. Post.

UPDATE I think this Economist article is clearer.

Syria in Ruins

In Focus shows us Syria in Ruins "While much of the world's attention focuses on a possible war with North Korea, the war currently being fought in Syria grinds on. March of 2013 was a month of grim milestones in Syria. It marked two years since the start of hostilities; the number of war refugees passed one million; and it was was the bloodiest month to date, with more than 6,000 people killed. Neither the pro-Assad forces, nor the group of rebels opposing them have gained much ground recently, and little or no progress has been made by international agencies to halt the bloodshed. The following photographs come from across Syria, taken over the past six weeks, showing just some of the devastation in Aleppo, Deir al-Zor, Homs, Deraa, Idlib, and Damascus. [38 photos]"

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Thursday, April 04, 2013

12 Movies that Are Incredibly Beautiful and Utterly Vapid

12 Movies that Are Incredibly Beautiful and Utterly Vapid "Movies are getting prettier all the time. Thanks to computer animation, IMAX cameras, 3-D and a million other innovations, we can now create films that tower like candy palaces. But that just means it's easier for movies to be pretty but dumb. Here are 12 films that are lovely to look at, but totally braindead."

I haven't seen all of these but I agree with the descriptions of the eight I have.

Lawrence Lessig: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim

Lawrence Lessig at TED 2013 Lawrence Lessig: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim "There is a corruption at the heart of American politics, caused by the dependence of Congressional candidates on funding from the tiniest percentage of citizens. That's the argument at the core of this blistering talk by legal scholar Lawrence Lessig. With rapid-fire visuals, he shows how the funding process weakens the Republic in the most fundamental way, and issues a rallying bipartisan cry that will resonate with many in the U.S. and beyond."

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Conservatives Still Don't Have a Health Care Plan

Kevin Drum has a really good post, Conservatives Still Don't Have a Health Care Plan.

First he quotes Matt Yglesias on a conservative replacement for Obamacare:

"The core of a replacement would be a change in the tax treatment of health insurance. The tax break for coverage would be flattened and capped so that people would not get a bigger break the more comprehensive their insurance. The break would also be extended to people who do not have access to employer coverage....Once a robust market for individually purchased insurance has emerged, the problem of people who are locked out of that market because of preexisting conditions should diminish: People will have both the incentive and the ability to buy cheap, renewable catastrophic policies before getting sick."

Then he says why it won't work:

"Catastrophic insurance is already available to individuals, but there's no robust market for it. Nor will different tax treatment change that: Insurers will continue to discriminate based on health status; they won't offer renewable policies to everyone; and policies will remain too expensive for low-income workers. Being able to buy them with pretax dollars won't change that, since most low-income workers don't pay very much—or any—federal income tax in the first place. A tax credit or a subsidy might help, but then you're back to Obamacare—except that instead of offering poor people subsidies for actual health care, you're offering them only the opportunity to make premium payments for a policy that probably won't do them any good and that they can't afford. So they won't buy them."

But then he gets to the point:

"that health insurance, as currently provided, isn't true insurance. It doesn't protect you against big but unlikely events, like auto insurance or fire insurance. It simply pays for health care."

"Once you do that, you run into a hard, shiny nugget that you can't wiggle around: about a third of the country, maybe more, just flatly can't afford decent health care for their families. No amount of smooth talk about HSAs and tax treatment and catastrophic care will change that. So you can either pay for this coverage via tax dollars or you can let them go without, and chalk it up to nature red in tooth and claw. Insurance is a red herring. It's not the primary cause of high health care costs in America, and offering different kinds of insurance, or making it available across state lines, won't change things by more than a hair. The problem is the actual provision of health care. If you want to do that via a private sector middleman, that's fine. Unnecessary, but fine. But you still have to pay for the actual health care somehow. When conservatives have a plan for that, let me know."

Six lessons from the Post’s awesome budget charts

Six lessons from the Post’s awesome budget charts has a really nice little chart comparing the four plans (House GOP, Senate Dem, House Progressive Caucus and GOP Study Committee). Also a few summary takeaways.

This is the Republican Party’s biggest problem

This is the Republican Party’s biggest problem "The Republican Party is a different story. There, 22 percent of Democrats, 17 percent of independents, and fully 26 percent of Republicans complained that the GOP refuses to compromise. That’s rather remarkable: It turns out that the GOP’s rigidity is the top complaint of both Democrats and Republicans. It easily beats ‘nothing,’ even among Republicans!"

Cancer clinics are turning away thousands of Medicare patients. Blame the sequester.

Cancer clinics are turning away thousands of Medicare patients. Blame the sequester.

"Oncologists say the reduced funding, which took effect for Medicare on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially. ‘If we treated the patients receiving the most expensive drugs, we’d be out of business in six months to a year,’ said Jeff Vacirca, chief executive of North Shore Hematology Oncology Associates in New York. ‘The drugs we’re going to lose money on we’re not going to administer right now.’ After an emergency meeting Tuesday, Vacirca’s clinics decided that they would no longer see one-third of their 16,000 Medicare patients."

"The federal government typically pays community oncologists for the average sales price of a chemotherapy drug, plus 6 percent to cover the cost of storing and administering the medication. Since oncologists cannot change the drug prices, they argue that the entire 2 percent cut will have to come out of that 6 percent overhead. That would make it more akin to a double-digit pay cut."

1. Maybe we shouldn't have a sequester. 2. Maybe Medicare should be able to negotiate a volume discount on drug prices

These aren't the only cuts that are starting to affect real people in real ways. Sequestration Effects: Cuts Sting Communities Nationwide.

Black hole wakes up and has a light snack

Black hole wakes up and has a light snack "Astronomers have watched as a black hole woke up from a decades-long slumber to feed on a low-mass object - either a brown dwarf or a giant planet - that strayed too close. A similar feeding event, albeit on a gas cloud, will soon happen at the black hole at the centre of our own Milky Way Galaxy.

The discovery in galaxy NGC 4845, 47 million light-years away, was made by ESA's INTEGRAL space observatory, with follow-up observations from ESA's XMM-Newton, NASA's Swift and Japan's MAXI X-ray monitor on the International Space Station."

There's just this animation on the page so I'm not sure what the instruments actually observed.

Galaxy Size Comparison Chart

Rhys Taylor spent a Saturday making a Galaxy Size Comparison Chart "The images I used were selected purely on an ad-hoc basis. Obviously, the Milky Way had to be there. Since really giant galaxies are many times larger than the Milky Way, and those were the ones I particularly wanted to show, that basically ruled out showing any dwarf galaxies (like the LMC and SMC for example). I tried to get a nice selection of well-known, interesting objects. I was also a little limited in that I needed high-resolution images which completely mapped the full extent of each object (often, because of a small field of view, only the central regions are mapped)."


See his post for another chart that includes IC1101 which blows all the others out of the water.

Family Man Made Great Chili, Discovered Relativity

io9 pointed me at Family Man Made Great Chili, Discovered Relativity "This weekend, The New York Times published an obituary for Yvonne Brill that began with praise for the acclaimed rocket scientist's 'mean beef stroganoff.' (An intro that was later removed, without mention.) Today at Last Word on Nothing, Jennie Dusheck responds by imagining how Einstein's obit might have read had it received a similar treatment. It's... well it's inspired, really."

Dusheck's full post is here.

Monday, April 01, 2013

The International Space Station: Expedition 34

In Focus on The International Space Station: Expedition 34 "Back in November, the astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) began Expedition 34, and entered into the 13th year of its continuous human habitation. Some of the research goals for Expedition 34 included investigations into the human cardiovascular system in microgravity, the gravity-sensing systems of fish, and the impact of changes in the sun's electromagnetic radiation on Earth's climate. The crew of six astronauts from the United States, Russia, and Canada also took hundreds of photographs of life aboard the ISS and the spectacular views from orbit. Collected here are scenes from Expedition 34, and a few from the current mission, Expedition 35. [40 photos]"

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Bees Still Dying

Soaring Bee Deaths in 2012 Sound Alarm on Malady

"A mysterious malady that has been killing honeybees en masse for several years appears to have expanded drastically in the last year, commercial beekeepers say, wiping out 40 percent or even 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables."

"Precisely why last year’s deaths were so great is unclear. Some blame drought in the Midwest, though Mr. Dahle lost nearly 80 percent of his bees despite excellent summer conditions. Others cite bee mites that have become increasingly resistant to pesticides. Still others blame viruses. But many beekeepers suspect the biggest culprit is the growing soup of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides that are used to control pests. While each substance has been certified, there has been less study of their combined effects. Nor, many critics say, have scientists sufficiently studied the impact of neonicotinoids, the nicotine-derived pesticide that European regulators implicate in bee deaths. The explosive growth of neonicotinoids since 2005 has roughly tracked rising bee deaths."

Outside of 128 is a Forest

Screen Shot 2013 04 01 at 1 29 38 PM copy.


Virgin Atlantic Launches World's First-Ever Glass-Bottomed PlaneApple to bottle, sell scent of Steve JobsTwitter to start charging for vowels

And in what I hope is reference to The Lost Skeletons of Cadavra, Sony Introduces Animalia Line of Tech Products for PetsThe Game of Thrones Watch is Coming