The California Department of Public Health has halted shipment of the glorious rooster sauce until mid-January, for what sounds like kind of bogus reasons. "Customers are furious and restaurants are panicking!" says this alarmist teevee news report that is not at all worth waiting through the ad for. UPDATE: It also autoplays! Teevee news, you're going after the jump.
Kelly O has a really good ghost story, from her excellent "Things I Remember About Detroit":
A Talking Cat
Move into a gorgeous brick brownstone called Phillips Manor—hardwood floors, fireplace, four bedrooms. My two roommates and I pay $110 apiece. The three of us are sitting and watching the huge Star Trek–looking TV I scored for $15 at the thrift store. All the remote controls are sitting in plain view on the coffee table. We're watching VH1. The channel changes itself to The New Dance Show—the local, low-budget version of Soul Train. This is the first of many times that the TV switches itself to another station. The radio randomly switches itself, too. And always to a black TV show or song. Seems to be a friendly ghost. Most definitely an African-American ghost. The only other thing living in that house, aside from the three of us, is my roommate's spooky black Persian cat. Always hiding somewhere. Can never pet it. Once, we can't find it for almost a week. My roommate leaves to make a "Lost Cat" flyer at Kinko's, thinking it somehow got outside. Boyfriend is sitting in the living room, and I'm at one end of the long hallway near the bathroom. The cat comes stumbling out of one of the bedrooms and just sits in the middle of the hallway, not moving, staring intently at me. I say, all sweet, "Kiiiii-teee, there you are!" The cat just stares. Then its mouth opens slightly and a very deep man's voice says, "Hello." With that, the cat walks back into the bedroom. Boyfriend says, "Who just said 'Hello'?" Not making this up. I scream and lock myself in the bathroom. For hours.
A 7.3 magnitude earthquake has struck off the coast of Fukushima, Japan, site of the crippled nuclear reactor. A tsunami warning has been issued, but authorities expect little damage.
As Brendan has already posted, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is reportedly expanding its operations to include pre-screening of passengers based on various databases. It is an effort that could surely prove to be an inconvenience to passengers who the TSA chooses to harass, but which would do absolutely nothing to impede a dedicated terrorist from exploiting the obvious flaw in the TSA system: The total disconnect between the physical screening process and the airlines' passenger databases.
Through its pre-screening process the TSA could target individual passengers for additional screening at the gate, but it has absolutely no idea who we are at the time we pass through the security checkpoint. Sure, a security officer does check to see that we match the picture ID we present, and that the name on the ID matches that on a valid-looking ticket. But for domestic travelers, TSA screeners make no effort to match our IDs to any sort of database. Meanwhile, while airlines do require a valid ticket at the gate, they do not check the name on the ticket against a valid picture ID before allowing you to board.
So if I wanted to fly anonymously I would simply book my flight under an assumed name, then print out two different boarding passes: One with the name under which I booked my flight, which I would present at the gate, and the other Photoshopped to include the name that matched my picture ID (real or forged), which I would present to TSA at the security checkpoint. A TSA agent might see my name, but would never check it against a database; the airline would scan my ticket, but their database would not have my real name. There would be absolutely no record of me booking or taking the flight.
Yes, the TSA does stamp and initial your boarding pass at the checkpoint, but the gate agents don't look for that stamp—they frequently reprint boarding passes beyond security, and you could always board by displaying your ticket's barcode on your phone. There really is a total disconnect between the security screening process and the boarding process, if you choose to exploit it.
Now, I don't recommend that you attempt this. It's likely illegal (not that that's your typical terrorist's main concern). Still, even as a lark, it is unlikely that you'd ever be caught.
So yeah, it's hard to see the TSA's new pre-screening process making us any safer. At its best, it's yet more security theater. At its worst, it will be used as a privacy-invading tool for harassing travelers who federal officials choose to harass.
Meanwhile, back at Fukushima:
Japan is poised to declare a toxic water leak at the Fukushima nuclear plant a level 3 "serious incident," its gravest warning since the massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami that sent three reactors into meltdown.
... Scientists have pointed to high radiation levels in the waters off the plant for more than a year as evidence of problems with the company's efforts to contain the water.
In July, TEPCO admitted that radioactive groundwater was leaking into the Pacific Ocean from the plant, even though an underground barrier was built to seal in the water, underscoring a growing sense of crisis at the site.
Last night I was chatting with a neighbor who is in the business of providing independent oversight of the Hanford cleanup (it wasn't an interview, so I'll leave him nameless for now), and he seemed quite distressed at what is going on at Fukushima. Things are so bad, he nervously laughed, that they've resorted to calling in "experts" from Hanford to advise TEPCO on the cleanup. You know Hanford, where our experts have so far spent tens of billions of dollars cleaning up nothing.
Worse, he says, TEPCO is preparing to manually remove 1,230 irradiated spent fuel rods from the open pools at the crippled facility. If they screw up just once, he suggested, and the fuel goes critical, we could end up with a nuclear disaster so big that it poisons the Northern Hemisphere.
I'm rather fond of the Northern Hemisphere.
Some bar mitzvah videos can't wait until 11 AM:
Sam is a man now, people! (Via Gawker.)
Really? I mean, really?
As hundreds of commuters emerged from Amtrak and commuter trains at Union Station on a recent morning, an armed squad of men and women dressed in bulletproof vests made their way through the crowds.
The squad was not with the Washington police department or Amtrak’s police force, but was one of the Transportation Security Administration’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response squads — VIPR teams for short — assigned to perform random security sweeps to prevent terrorist attacks at transportation hubs across the United States.
As distressing as it is to imagine armed squads of airport screeners roaming our public places, could they have possibly chosen a sillier namer? VIPR? Really? I mean, if they're going to take security theater to that cliche extreme, why not just have the TSA agents played by marionettes?
My God, it's like our country is being run by 12-year-old boys.
The United States extended the closures of some embassies and consulates in the Middle East - which had been closed Sunday due to an al Qaeda threat - through August 10 due to caution but not the emergence of any new threat, the State Department said.
Now, I'm not suggesting that there isn't some sort of credible terrorist threat to US embassies in the Middle East, but exactly how does this work that, now that they know the date, the terrorists won't just delay their attack until the embassies reopen on August 11? Are we just counting on the terrorists being really impatient? Did they travel on restricted fares? Did they use frequent flyer miles, and are up against post-Ramadan blackout dates?
I mean, no doubt it's inconvenient, but if I had spent all that time and effort planning to blow up a US embassy, I'm guessing I could delay gratification an extra week or two, instead of abandoning my plans entirely. Or maybe that's just me?
This story, awfully, has it all. Slog tipper Jill in Columbia City says:
The news helicopters just left after about an hour. And the firefighter request for cops is horrible-sounding.
The part where
four pit bulls (and a mixed-breed dog pit bull mix and, possibly, a Pomeranian) surrounded the firefighters' truck, preventing medics from treating the victim, and they had to call SPD for backup... yes, horrible-sounding, indeed.
UPDATE: They've updated the story at KOMO since this post was written, so I have now updated it here, but thanks for yelling at me in comments anyway! I think you're still right, though, commenter JimmyCap—Dan's gonna love this.
UPDATE-UPDATE: Headline changed to reflect changed headline of KOMO story. That is all.
Tulsa, Oklahoma, deserves to host the 2024 Olympics because, you know, Tulsa is the "real" America:
Tulsa, its boosters argue, offers something that big-ticket American rivals like Los Angeles, Boston and Dallas can only dream of—the vast frontier of America. This part of the country produced Woody Guthrie and Jim Thorpe. Neon signs still glow along Route 66. J.... “The larger cities aren’t truly representative of what the real America is,” said Jennifer Jones of the Tulsa 2024 bid committee. “The real America is the midsize cities, and we want people to see America.”
And what do some people in the "real America" want to see?
A Tulsa man who was arrested on allegations that he watched a woman and her 7-year-old daughter from underneath a White Water Park toilet near the Keystone Dam could face felony charges. Kenneth Webster Enlow, 52, was arrested about 5 p.m. Sunday after being found covered in human waste inside the holding tank beneath a permanent outhouse at the park, which is west of Sand Springs. The woman told sheriff’s deputies that she looked into the toilet and “saw the water move,” according to Enlow’s arrest report. “As she looked closer, she noticed that there was a man looking up at her,” the report states.
Lord knows we've got shit-covered perverts right here in unreal America. But I've never heard any of our shit-covered perverts describe America's small towns as less authentically American. (Shit-covered pervert story via Gawker.)
In one of the stupidest scholarly studies to come across my transom, a new report out of the University of Southern California concludes that a terrorist anthrax attack in Seattle would cause real estate values to plunge 33 percent, resulting in 70,000 foreclosures. But no mention in the abstract about actually killing people, because real estate values are apparently what's really important.
According to a USC email pimping the study:
The study’s authors said the impact of the 2008 housing crash and foreclosure crisis underscores the importance of researching how a terrorist attack may impact a region’s housing market.
I'm all far studying the potential impacts of natural and man-made disasters. Better to be prepared, and all that. But the focus on the housing market is just plain weird.
So, yeah, about this story...
Rachel Maddow on Tuesday night noted that Representative Michael Burgess (R-TX) was a leading member of a House subcommittee focused on public health and biomedical issues. Burgess said Monday he supported the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act because male fetuses pleasure themselves as early as 15-weeks after conception. The bill, which would impose a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, was approved by House Republicans on Tuesday. “It is one thing to be a random Texas congressman, Michael Burgess, saying that we should set laws for everybody in the whole country based on when he thinks fetuses masturbate,” Maddow remarked. “But this guy also is in charge of something. The House Republicans took the fetal masturbation theorist and put him in charge of their Subcommittee on Health.”
I haven't seen the proof. No one has. But for the sake of argument—sigh—let's concede the point: boy fetuses are in there pleasuring themselves. They're rubbing 'em out, one after another. And it's just the boy fetuses because, you know, there aren't any outlets in there where girl fetuses can plug in their itty bitty Hitachi Magic Wands. So! At the same time congressional Republicans are moving to ban abortion because THE BOYS ARE MASTURBATING IN THERE, Republicans in various states are passing laws that require women to submit to medically unnecessary trans-vaginal ultrasounds—against the will of the woman, if necessary, which meets the legal definition of rape. (But whatever! there are boys masturbating in there! Priorities, people!)
So, yeah, if boy fetuses are masturbating in there and we're passing laws requiring doctors to take their pictures... and make videoes... of horny boy fetuses and chaste girl fetuses alike... aren't Republicans in Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Texas basically mandating the production of child porn with their trans-vaginal-ultrasound/rape-that-lady laws? At least half the time?
Former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) told FOX Business Network that he fears the U.S. government may try to assassinate the whistleblower who leaked information about National Security Administration surveillance programs to the media.Ron Paul is nuts, his supporters are nuts, and you should do your best not to end up in the same foxhole with their kind. True, NSA's power needs to be checked, but I'm far more terrified of the ideology of individualism than I'm of any kind of secret agency. Even the Chinese "artist" Ai Weiwei sees the whole business as an attack on the sacred ideology of American individualism:
In an interview with FOX Business on Tuesday, Paul said he was worried that someone within the U.S. government might try to use a missile to kill Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old who has been the source of information about two top secret NSA programs.
I lived in the United States for 12 years. This abuse of state power goes totally against my understanding of what it means to be a civilised society, and it will be shocking for me if American citizens allow this to continue. The US has a great tradition of individualism and privacy and has long been a centre for free thinking and creativity as a result.Americans tend to be weak for this sort of stuff. But here is the real deal, real matter, what we remain with when the babble has been boiled away: In the early 00s, when the FBI were, for the purpose of detecting terrorists and drug dealers, given power to monitor bank accounts and activities, they found almost no terrorists but instead rampant mortgage fraud. The FBI actually went public and warned the government and press of this financially dangerous situation in 2004, but the government and public did nothing about it. I kid you not. Nothing:
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Rampant fraud in the mortgage industry has increased so sharply that the FBI warned Friday of an "epidemic" of financial crimes which, if not curtailed, could become "the next S&L crisis."Not one arrest was made, no whistleblowers were hiding in exotic cities, no public outrage about their banking business being monitored by the Feds.
Assistant FBI Director Chris Swecker said the booming mortgage market, fueled by low interest rates and soaring home values, has attracted unscrupulous professionals and criminal groups whose fraudulent activities could cause multibillion-dollar losses to financial institutions.
"It has the potential to be an epidemic," said Swecker, who heads the Criminal Division at FBI headquarters in Washington. "We think we can prevent a problem that could have as much impact as the S&L crisis," he said.
A Cali couple discovers a Kennedy-era nuclear fallout shelter in their backyard...
When a California couple closed a deal to buy a home in Woodland Hills earlier this month, they knew that their new home came with a unique feature - a 1960s nuclear fallout shelter.Apparently, the last living thing in this small part of the world's end was a salamander.
But what Chris and Colleen Otcasek initially believed to be nothing more than a hole in their backyard turned out to be a perfectly preserved underground refuge fully stocked with vintage supplies....
The inventory of the shelter also includes kitchen supplies like Reynolds Wrap foil and Saran wrap, Kleenex tissues, argyle clothing, an assortment of sleeping pills, and the ever-important bed-pen.
In case the family got bored while waiting for the radiation to clear above round, they could play a board game or read a dozen copies of Analog science fiction magazine inside their temporary dwelling.
Why are Americans alarmed by something like this?
The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post. The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley. Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”It's like showing alarm upon learning that there is a war in Afghanistan, a war that's claiming the lives of Americans. But when did Obama end the war in Afghanistan? Or expressing alarm upon learning that people are being held in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp without being charged for anything. But when did Obama fulfill his promise to close Gitmo? The real surprise would be to learn that there are thousands of US soldiers fighting right now in Iraq. Why? Because the gate to that war was closed on 18 December 2011. Now where was it reported that Obama dismantled any of the surveillance projects or goals instigated in the early post-9/11 years? Where? You will not find that report because such a thing never happened.
So why the sudden alarm and concern over the obvious? My guess is it has more to do with the inculcated deep distrust Americans have of the government, and this distrust is, at the end of the day, more useful to the right than it is to the left. And, by the way, this is the same information that's gathered by marketing firms all the time with little or no worry or fear from the public. Of the many disappointments that Obama's presidency has generated, this NSA one will prove to be of a second order. Watching Americans is really nothing new in the post-9/11 world...
As Google, Facebook, et al. have learned, Americans don't really mind giving up their privacy as long as they get something they value in return. I'm just sayin'.
Americans overwhelmingly favor installing video surveillance cameras in public places, judging the infringement on their privacy as an acceptable trade-off for greater security from terrorist attacks, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.
A week after the Boston Marathon attack, which was unraveled after the release of video footage of the two suspects flushed them out of hiding, 78 percent of people said surveillance cameras were a good idea, the poll found.
But that's what the people of America think. What do the people of Slog think?
A 747 cargo plane crashed yesterday at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, shortly after takeoff, killing seven crew members. Warning: Don't watch this video unless you want to watch video of a 747 falling out of the sky and exploding on impact.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility, but there's no sign of a missile or anything. Instead, this has more of a look of a catastrophic failure due to cargo shifting on takeoff.
The Mississippi man charged with sending poisoned letters to President Barack Obama, a U.S. senator and a state judge was released from jail on Tuesday, federal official said, though the reason for the release wasn’t immediately clear.
Jeff Woodfin, chief deputy with the U.S. Marshals Service in Oxford, Miss., said Paul Kevin Curtis has been released from custody.
A search of Curtis's belongings reportedly turned up no trace of ricin or ricin processing. Curtis, an Elvis impersonator, claims that he was framed.
UPDATE: The AP now reports that charges have been dropped against Curtis.
Looks like somebody's watched The Mouse That Roared a few too many times:
The North Korean army said Thursday it had final approval to launch “merciless” military strikes on the United States, involving the possible use of “cutting-edge” nuclear weapons.
In a statement published by the official KCNA news agency, the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) said it was formally informing Washington that reckless US threats would be “smashed by ... cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means”.
I sure hope it's true that Boeing has engineered a fail-safe solution to the Dreamliner's self-immolating battery problem, but their confident claims have that disturbing famous last words ring to it:
Two top Boeing executives delivered an unflinching defense of the 787 Dreamliner in a Friday morning news conference in Japan... “We’ve been able to demonstrate that no fire is possible,” [Boeing VP Mike] Sinnett concluded.
Not that it'll keep me from flying in a 787, and this is probably more of a PR issue than a technical one. But if there's one thing we've learned from history, it's that the gods hate hubris and love irony.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria with the potential to cause untreatable infections pose "a catastrophic threat" to the population, the chief medical officer for Britain warns in a report calling for urgent action worldwide.
Also: "The problem of microbes becoming increasingly resistant to the most powerful drugs should be ranked alongside terrorism and climate change on the list of critical risks." One root of the problem: doctors over-prescribing, and scared patients over-demanding, antibiotics for every little thing.
Meanwhile, the CDC is warning that a new SARS-like virus has popped up in the Middle East.
With the Washington State Legislature now being warned about problems with a bill intended to protect people from aerial drones, perhaps it's time for the drone-fearing masses to consider how they might dodge drones without government help. From the experts:
Al-Qaeda's list of 22 tips for dodging drone attacks—including at least one believed to originate with Osama bin Laden—has been found hidden inside a manila envelope in a building abandoned by Islamists in Mali.
The document includes advice such as "hide under thick trees" (believed to be bin Laden's contribution), and instructions for setting up a "fake gathering" using dolls to "mislead the enemy."
And if there don't seem to be enough thick trees in this Evergreen State to offer sufficient protection, there's always the anti-drone scarf.
When the meteor exploded above the Tunguska River in Siberia it detonated with an "estimated power 1,000 times greater than the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima [...] leveled trees over 40 kilometers away and shook the ground in a tremendous earthquake."
Brightly burning rocks could be seen for hundreds of kilometres as they crashed into the Ural region.
Chelyabinsk residents reported the ground shook, windows shattered and car alarms were set off during the shower.
"A meteorite exploded above the Chelyabinsk region," an emergencies ministry spokesman told Interfax, while one report spoke of several injuries.
Update: Phil Plait at Slate says asteroid and Russian meteor shower appear to be unrelated.
I’m trying to piece together what happened from the videos. First of all, I do not think this is related in any way to the asteroid 2102 DA14! For one thing, this occurred about 16 hours before DA14 passes. At 8 kilometers per second that’s nearly half a million kilometers away from DA14. That puts it on a totally different orbit.
For another, from the lighting, time of day, and videos showing the rising Sun, it looks like this was moving mostly east-to-west. I may be off, but that’s how it looks. DA14 is approaching Earth from the south, so any fragment of that rock would also appear to move south-to-north.
What’s got a lot of cosmic worriers glancing skyward this month was the announcement that on Feb. 15, a 148-ft. (45 m) long asteroid known as 2012 DA 14 will pass just 17,200 mi. (27,7000 km) above the Earth. And if 17,200 miles sounds like a lot, consider that it’s only one-thirteenth of the distance to the moon and actually below the 22,000 mi. (35,800 km) altitude at which some of our satellites orbit. That leaves awfully little margin for error in NASA’s cosmic calculations. So there’s plenty of reason to worry, yes? Well, no, actually. But making that call for any one object—knowing which space bullets are likely to hit us and which ones we’re likely to dodge—can be a complicated business.In this case, a miss is not as good as mile. A miss is much more unsettling than a mile. And if you want to be unsettled even more, visit NASA‘s Near-Earth Object Program website. It lists all of the known objects that, in the near future, will come near to our one and only world.
A stunned nation mourns.
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration will remove airport body scanners that privacy advocates likened to strip searches after OSI Systems Inc. (OSIS) couldn’t write software to make passenger images less revealing...
The agency removed 76 of the machines from busier U.S. airports last year. It will now get rid of the remaining 174 Rapiscan machines, with the company absorbing the cost, said Karen Shelton Waters, the agency’s assistant administrator for acquisitions.
The scanner-manufacturing company couldn't meet a congressional requirement to make the images more generic—which would presumably have shown everything except details of your swimsuit area. Working for TSA just isn't what it used to be. (Via Gizmodo.)
It's like I hardly know you anymore, Slog. It's like you're a different blog now.