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.
The 787 is the world’s newest and most sophisticated commercial jet. It entered service with Japan’s All Nippon Airways in October, 2011. JAL’s Boston-Narita service, introduced last spring, was the first 787 route in North America. The plane’s composite construction, along with much of its systems architecture, is for now unique among commercial jets. Teething problems, let’s call them, are common when new models are introduced. Jetliners undergo rigorous pre-delivery testing, and but they are large and highly complicated machines. Not everything works perfectly right from the blocks....
This is the third serious incident involving the 787′s aft equipment bay. The first two resulted in emergency landings—one by a pre-delivery 787 on a test flight in 2010; the other two months ago by a United 787 in New Orleans. Testing and certification criteria have come a long way since the days of the DC-10 and the Comet, and I am by no means calling the 787 unsafe, but still this trend is a worrying one. It could potentially affect the plane’s certification for overwater flying (so-called ETOPS restrictions dictate how far from diversion airports a twin-engine plane like the 787 is allowed to fly). Nevertheless, it’s important to keep in mind that not every technical problem involving a 787 is indicative of a design flaw. From this point on, we can expect the growing fleet of 787s to be under rather intense scrutiny. That’s good for obvious reasons, but also bad because the media, which goes bonkers over almost anything involving airplanes, is liable to overhype even minor malfunctions that have nothing to do with the plane’s engineering.
I'm a nervous flyer... so, yeah, I'm kindasorta invested in the whole notion that new airplane models should work perfectly "right from the blocks." But I will somehow find the inner strength—or the outer Xanax—to defer Patrick's expertise on this one. (Via BalloonJuice.)
While I've been shamelessly exploiting the tragedy in Newtown, responsible patriots like the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation have been responsibly inundating their email lists with responsible appeals for money:
I write this with the upmost urgency. The gun haters have stepped up their time table and are pulling out all the stops - on multiple fronts - to strip us of our guns, our right to protect our families and forfeit any shred of our Second Amendment rights over to the full control of the anti-gun United Nations.
Unless you and I act today, the anti-gun extremists could get away with undermining the Second Amendment.
Oh no! The gun haters are coming to take away our guns! If only we had some sort of weapon to defend our guns from these dangerous unarmed radicals! Better send $29.95 to this guy in Bellevue before it's too late!
And via another email, I just learned this frightening tidbit from Damien Campbell of the Liberty Alliance:
P.S. I found this interesting... Off-The-Grid-News is reporting that FEMA recently made a request for 420 Million more emergency food rations. What's so strange about that? FEMA normally maintains around 6 Million food reserves. Why go from 6 Million to 420 Million so fast? What is FEMA planning for?
I dunno, what is the Federal Emergency Management Agency planning for? An emergency? What does FEMA know that we don't know? *
I'm so scared!
* [And no, I couldn't actually find a reputable source to confirm that FEMA is actually stockpiling 420 million meals... unless you consider the Messianic Times a reputable source.]
Also, it's legal at midnight to possess and smoke marijuana.
All the bad news from Science Daily:
Sea levels are rising 60 per cent faster than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) central projections, new research suggests.
The shells of marine snails — known as pteropods — living in the seas around Antarctica are being dissolved by ocean acidification according to a new study published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience. These tiny animals are a valuable food source for fish and birds and play an important role in the oceanic carbon cycle.
Permafrost covering almost a quarter of the northern hemisphere contains 1,700 gigatonnes of carbon, twice that currently in the atmosphere, and could significantly amplify global warming should thawing accelerate as expected, according to a new report released November 27 by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Once the media cycle has stopped obsessing over and vomiting up words about November 6, it can resume freaking out about December 21, the so-called end of the Mayan calendar. (Remember that?)
Meanwhile, currently existing Mayans are calling bullshit on the authors, filmmakers, and gurus cashing in on the doomsday fetish:
"We are speaking out against deceit, lies and twisting of the truth, and turning us into folklore-for-profit. They are not telling the truth about time cycles," charged Felipe Gomez, leader of the Maya alliance Oxlaljuj Ajpop.
But end-of-the-worlders will not be deterred! The hot action on the big day will be in two tiny towns, one in France and one in Turkey, that will supposedly survive the eschatological crisis because aliens (or something) are slumbering in nearby mountains and will wake up to save the chosen few. The hordes have already begun to descend:
A tourism manager in the village, Engin Vatan, said the village had not received foreign guests between Dec. 15 and 31 in past years but this year was different. “Reservations have been continuing since the beginning of the year. We have never had foreign guests during the Christmas holiday, but this year we have guests from all around the world. Almost all the rooms in the village have been sold,” he said.
The towns' mayors seem split between enjoying the tourist attention and worrying about crazies, chaos, and mass suicides. "I don't want to tell anyone how to live," the French mayor said to a German newspaper, "but when hundreds of people storm our village, we won't be able to guarantee public safety anymore."
Hopefully, some publication with means will send a kick-ass feature writer to one of those villages for a few weeks of anthropological journalism about what happens when a tiny town becomes a global magnet for doomsday zanies. I want to know what that looks, sounds, and smells like on the days before, the day of, and (most importantly) the day after.
Having lived in Brooklyn for four years (near Carroll Street station, a few blocks in on the F train), it is hard to imagine New York City functioning without its subway system, yet transit authority officials have no idea when they'll have it running again:
The giant storm Sandy wreaked havoc on the New York City subway system, flooding tunnels, garages and rail yards and threatening to paralyze the nation's largest mass-transit system for days.
[...] All seven subway tunnels running under the East River from Manhattan to Queens and Brooklyn took in water, and any resulting saltwater damage to the system's electrical components will have to be cleaned - in some cases off-site - before the system can be restored, MTA spokeswoman Diedre Parker said on Tuesday.
[...] About 5.3 million people use the city's subway system on weekdays. The system, which runs around the clock, comprises 21 subway routes linked by 468 stations, and stretches across 660 miles (1,050 km) of track.
For many of these 5.3 million daily riders, the subway is the only way for them to get to and from work. I didn't know anybody in the city who owned a car, and there's no way the bus system could even begin to pick up the slack.
You know how when it snows in Seattle, sometimes some buses don't run? Multiply that by infinity and you've got an idea of what's going on in New York.
The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night. Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on our entire transportation system, in every borough and county of the region. It has brought down trees, ripped out power and inundated tunnels, rail yards and bus depots. As of last night, seven subway tunnels under the East River flooded. Metro-North Railroad lost power from 59th Street to Croton-Harmon on the Hudson Line and to New Haven on the New Haven Line. The Long Island Rail Road evacuated its West Side Yards and suffered flooding in one East River tunnel. The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel is flooded from end to end and the Queens Midtown Tunnel also took on water and was closed. Six bus garages were disabled by high water. We are assessing the extent of the damage and beginning the process of recovery. Our employees have shown remarkable dedication over the past few days, and I thank them on behalf of every New Yorker. In 108 years, our employees have never faced a challenge like the one that confronts us now. All of us at the MTA are committed to restoring the system as quickly as we can to help bring New York back to normal.
Rising water threatened the cooling system at the Oyster Creek nuclear plant, in Toms River, N.J., on Monday night. The plant declared an alert at 8:45 PM, which is the second-lowest level of the four-tier emergency scale established by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The water level was more than six feet above normal. At seven feet, the plant would lose the ability to cool its spent fuel pool in the normal fashion, according to Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The plant would probably have to switch to using fire hoses to pump in extra water to make up for evaporation, Mr. Sheehan said, because it could no longer pull water out of Barnegat Bay and circulate it through a heat exchanger, to cool the water in the pool.
Having first come online in 1969, Oyster Creek is the nation's oldest operating nuclear reactor, and is of the same design as those that failed at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The reactor is located 50 miles east of Philadelphia and 75 miles south of New York City; 4.5 million people live within its 50-mile radius.
The market will be closed for a second day. Politics is at a standstill. Nature makes its return...
As many as 300,000 customers in seven states are without power, CNN reported.We can do nothing but wait—wait for it to end, wait for something normal to return, wait for the market's profit-reaping machines to roar again...
The Hudson and East rivers in New York City have begun overflowing their banks.
Officials warned that flooding in lower Manhattan could inundate the city's underground electric and communications lines and subway system.
Trading on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq will stay suspended for a second day on Tuesday. The United Nations headquarters in New York has also been closed.
...and politics to go through another bout of Romnesia:
By the way, the world will not end like this...
As the UW professor and science writer Peter Ward pointed out to me once, the day there is no wind at all is the first day of the end.
The largest coordinated regional earthquake drill ever is happening right now, 10/18 at 10:18 a.m., which is why at this very moment I am preparing for what would happen in the event a major earthquake were to hit the aging masonry building that houses The Stranger, by simulating being crushed to death under tons of rubble.
Anchorage's Ted Stevens International Airport was shut down for three hours early Sunday morning, leaving evacuated travelers shivering outside in the cold, all because soon to be jobless hockey referee Peter Friesema of Colorado made an awkward, stupid joke:
"But my friend's bag has a bomb in it," the agent remembers him saying, according to a charging document. He recounted it to authorities slightly differently, more to the effect of "what if my friend's bag has a bomb in it?"
And so poor Mr. Friesema found himself in shackles, standing before a judge, potentially facing felony terrorism charge. And even though the FBI has determined the threat was not credible, the judge found Friesema to be a flight risk, and ordered him not to leave Alaska, likely costing him his job.
Yeah, sure, it was a stupid thing to say, particularly in this era when the flight crew or security personnel can have you arrested simply for looking at them funny, but JESUS FUCKING CHRIST, DOESN'T ANYBODY HAVE ANY COMMON SENSE ANYMORE?! Give the the guy a stern talking to, or possibly a citation if you have to, but shutting down the airport and sending him to jail for saying something that, stupid as it may have been, clearly wasn't intended as a threat?
Somewhere in Hell, Osama bin Laden is having a good laugh right about now.