Saturday, August 31, 2013

Why We Shouldn't Trust the Media or Police When It Comes to Guns

The Daily Mail reports on photos found by police after a bust of Los Angeles street gang members. The photos show children posing with firearms. One of the photos is hysterically reported as showing a young girl in Disney Pajamas holding an AK47. From the story:
Law enforcement in Los Angeles have been left stunned after they discovered photographs on social media showing young children holding AK-47's during a massive crackdown on the notorious Rollin' 30s Harlem Crips gang. 
In one of the shocking images a young girl in Disney pajamas brandishes the iconic Russian assault rifle, pointing the barrel right at the camera ...
The photograph is captioned: "Disturbing: This image shows a young girl wearing Disney pajamas pointing an AK-47 rifle at the camera. The image was recovered during a massive crackdown on the Rollin' 30s Harlem Crips gang in LA." The headline to the story proclaims: "A little girl in Disney pajamas aiming a machine gun: The shocking pictures of gang members' children playing with deadly weapons discovered in LA police bust." Presumably LA law enforcement told the low information reporters what type of weapon was in the photo.

Here is the photograph in question:

Disturbing: This image shows a young girl wearing Disney pajamas pointing an AK-47 rifle at the camera. The image was recovered during a massive crackdown on the Rollin' 30s Harlem Crips gang in LA

The problem, of course, is that the weapon is a U.S. made M-1 carbine--i.e., a weapon that is NOT an AK47, NOT an assault rifle, NOT Russian, and NOT a machine gun (it only being a semi-auto weapon, after all). Moreover, there is nothing indicating that the weapons were loaded, so calling them "deadly" is pure hyperbole. And finally, I don't see anything indicating that kids handling a firearm under adult supervision is a violation of California law. So why should we believe the media and police when it comes to firearms if they get so hysterical they can't even get basic facts correct?

Scientists Pull Their Heads Out of the Sand

The World Federation of Scientists, at its annual seminars on planetary emergencies, has been advised by its own climate monitoring panel that global warming is no longer a planetary emergency. The President of the Italian Senate, Judge Pietro Grasso … and the President of the Federation, Professor Antonino Zichichi {emeritus professor of Physics, U of Bologna}, said that care should be taken to examine carefully the basis for concern about CO2 emissions as well as the relevance and cost-effectiveness of proposed mitigation measures. 
… This year Dr. Christopher Essex, Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Western Ontario and chairman of the Federation’s permanent monitoring panel on climate, gave the Federation’s closing plenary session his panel’s confirmation that “Climate change in itself is not a planetary emergency.” 
… {Essex said} “Human societies have lived and thriven under every conceivable climate, and modern technology makes adaptation to changing weather conditions entirely routine.” The increasing fraction of CO2 in the air could be expected to result in some warming, but it had been accepted that “the benefits of food production and the relief of starvation overwhelm concerns about the potential climate changes induced by land-surface modification.” 
… “Our greatest concern at present is that the intellectual climate for scientific investigation of these matters has become so hostile and politicized that the necessary research and debate cannot freely take place. Political constraints take the form of declaring the underlying science to be settled when it clearly is not; defunding or denigrating research that is perceived to threaten the case for renewable energy; or the use of odious pejoratives like “denialist” to describe dissent from officially-sanctioned views on climate science.”
I've always told my children that there are multiple questions to be answered before the global warming should be the subject of massive government programs and interference:

1.  Is there global warming? This is an issue that itself is coming unraveled as we are now 15 or 16 years into a period of no new warming.

2. Is it harmful? I hear about sea levels rising and this or that ecological disaster, but in all the cases I've followed, the claims from the climate Nazis have either been fake or exaggerated.

3. Is it man-made? Very weak evidence here, since the earth has warmed and cooled on its own without our help.

4. Is there anything we can do about it? Another one that is seriously questionable.

Finally, as Glenn Reynolds frequently points out, until those pushing global warming start themselves acting as if it is an emergency, why should the rest of us do anything? I think that global warming will have been one of the largest, if not the largest, confidence scam in history. A plan to squeeze just a bit more blood out of the middle-class, but make them feel good about it.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Obama's Trivial Focus on Gun Control (Updated 8/30/2013)

Obama has decided to bypass Congress and impose his own gun control. Although his actions will have a significant impact on firearm collectors, it will have no impact on crime. The Associated Press reports:
One new policy will end a government practice that lets military weapons, sold or donated by the U.S. to allies, be reimported into the U.S. by private entities, where some may end up on the streets. The White House said the U.S. has approved 250,000 of those guns to be reimported since 2005; under the new policy, only museums and a few other entities like the government will be eligible to reimport military-grade firearms. 
To understand what is going on here, you have to have some background. Back during and after the Korean War, the U.S. donated to South Korea hundreds of thousands of M1 Garands and M1 Carbines (and some M1911 Colt pistols)--the same type of weapons that were brought home (i.e., to their personal home) by thousands of troops at the end of WWII. These weapons are now long obsolete--in fact, they are considered antique firearms that can be transferred with a limited collectors license--and no longer need by South Korea. South Korea planned on selling or sending these rifles back to the United States, where they are in high demand by collectors of WWII weapons and memorabilia.  In fact, the United States Government even has a program--the Civilian Marksmanship Program--whose sole purpose is to inspect and sell old military rifles such as the M1 Garands and M1 Carbines to the public. However, since Obama doesn't like South Koreans all that much, and particularly dislikes "fat old white men" that collect WWII arms, but wants to show how important he is to his worshippers, he put the kibosh on the whole sale. Since M1 Garands are big, heavy, semi-automatic rifles with an 8-round magazine, there is not a lot of demand for them by gang-bangers. So, the impact on gun crime by this executive order is zero.
The Obama administration is also proposing a federal rule to stop those who would be ineligible to pass a background check from skirting the law by registering a gun to a corporation or trust. The new rule would require people associated with those entities, like beneficiaries and trustees, to undergo the same type of fingerprint-based background checks as individuals if they want to register guns.
Again, this is an issue that only impacts a small number of collectors--in this case, collectors of fully automatic weapons, silencers, etc., strictly controlled by the National Firearms Act. The use of trusts had two advantages for collectors. First, it simplified estate planning for NFA items because they would be passed to a trust or corporation, which, of course, would not die. Second, for some reason, such entities (probably because this was intended to benefit security companies) didn't have to get approval of a local law enforcement official to approve the transfer. So, in reality, all this does is require the entity to now get approval of a local law enforcement official. Since properly licensed NFA weapons are never used in crimes (except for an errant police officer here and there), this will again have zero impact on gun crime.

More on this story at the Weekly Standard.

In short, all this shows is how mean-spirited Obama can be.

Updated (Aug. 30, 2013): Some more analysis from The Truth About Guns on the impact on NFA trusts.

Some Hints Concerning the NSA's Decryption Capabilities

Wired Magazine speculates on the NSA's ability to decrypt electronic communications based on information in the black budget report published by the Washington Post. From Wired's article:

One of those methods, though, is hinted at in the Clapper summary — and it’s interesting. Clapper briefly notes some programs the intelligence agencies are closing or scaling back, as well as those they’re pouring additional funds into. Overhead imagery captured by spy satellites was slated for reduction, for example, while SIGINT, the electronic spying that’s been the focus of the Snowden leaks, got a fresh infusion.
“Also,” Clapper writes in a line marked “top secret,” “we are investing in groundbreaking cryptanalytic capabilities to defeat adversarial cryptography and exploit internet traffic.” 
The Post’s article doesn’t detail the “groundbreaking cryptanalytic capabilities” Clapper mentions, and there’s no elaboration in the portion of the document published by the paper. But the document shows that 21 percent of the intelligence budget — around $11 billion — is dedicated to the Consolidated Cryptologic Program that staffs 35,000 employees in the NSA and the armed forces. 
In a WIRED story in March of last year — the pre-Snowden era of NSA reporting — James Bamford reported that the NSA secretly made some sort of “enormous breakthrough” in cryptanalysis several years earlier. 
Previous Snowden leaks have documented the NSA and British intelligence’s sniffing of raw internet traffic. But information on the NSA’s efforts to crack the encrypted portion of that traffic — which would include much of the email transiting the net — has remained absent; conspicuously so, given the NSA’s history as world-class codebreakers. The leaked budget document is the first published Snowden leak to touch upon the question of how safe routinely encrypted traffic is from cutting-edge nation-state spying.

IRS Continues to Persecute Tea Party Groups

The Washington Times reports that the IRS is still targeting conservative groups:
The initial firestorm surrounding the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups may have subsided, but tea party leaders say the situation has only become worse and may lead to more lawsuits against the embattled agency. 
New documents show the depth of information the IRS is seeking from Tea Party Patriots, a leading conservative group that first applied for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status in late 2010 and one of many organizations singled out for extra scrutiny by the Obama administration. 
An IRS letter sent to the group last week and obtained by The Washington Times contains a laundry list of requests related to virtually all the group’s activities, including its involvement in the 2012 election cycle and its get-out-the-vote efforts, fundraising activities, all radio and TV advertising, and other information. 
The IRS also is asking for detailed financial records, including “the amounts and percentages of your total expenses that were for fundraising activities in the tax year 2011, 2012 and 2013.”
Fascist tactics from a fascist administration.

Obama Lacks Support to Attack Syria

Apparently, only die-hard progressives like Nancy Pelosi favor attacking Syria--whatever the Dear Leader wants appears to be their motto. However, nearly 80% of Americans think the President should consult with Congress (i.e., obtain Congressional approval) before launching a strike; and even so, 50% are opposed to any sort of military action. Even our closest ally, Great Britain, will not be joining us on this foray.

The Washington Post reports that military officers--of all ranks--are similarly opposed to military intervention in Syria. From that story:
Former and current officers ... said the main reservations concern the potential unintended consequences of launching cruise missiles against Syria. 
Some questioned the use of military force as a punitive measure and suggested that the White House lacks a coherent strategy. If the administration is ambivalent about the wisdom of defeating or crippling the Syrian leader, possibly setting the stage for Damascus to fall to fundamentalist rebels, they said, the military objective of strikes on Assad’s military targets is at best ambiguous. 
... Marine Lt. Col. Gordon Miller, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, warned this week of “potentially devastating consequences, including a fresh round of chemical weapons attacks and a military response by Israel.” 
“If President [Assad were] to absorb the strikes and use chemical weapons again, this would be a significant blow to the United States’ credibility and it would be compelled to escalate the assault on Syria to achieve the original objectives,” Miller wrote in a commentary for the think tank. 
... A young Army officer who is wrapping up a year-long tour there said soldiers were surprised to learn about the looming strike, calling the prospect “very dangerous.” 
“I can’t believe the president is even considering it,” said the officer.... “We have been fighting the last 10 years a counterinsurgency war. Syria has modern weaponry. We would have to retrain for a conventional war.”
The Financial Times also points out that such a strike would be a lose/lose proposition for the United States in that it would do little harm to Assad, but would reduce America's position in the Middle-East even further:
Every now and then one of my English-speaking colleagues asks me what Russia will do if the western powers make good on their threats and strike at Syria. My answer is: nothing. 
Russia does not have to do anything, it can just sit quiet. The situation is advantageous to Moscow. Our leaders will be only too happy to see the US start a new war it cannot win.
Consider the options. A land invasion is out of the question. Sustained air bombardment risks the loss of pilots, and would therefore be unacceptable for the public in the west. The likeliest avenue is missile strikes; President Bashar al-Assad’s regime will undoubtedly suffer – but Russia and Iran will be able to make up for any losses. The allies will give Mr Assad a bloody nose and that is it. Punitive strikes cannot bring about a turning point in the hostilities. Any substantial change in the correlation of forces on the ground is not feasible.

So, morally and psychologically, the Assad regime will score points, at least in the eyes of the developing world – and certainly in those of Russia. Propaganda is certain to draw parallels with the intervention in Iraq 10 years ago. It is, of course, very easy to picture the US as a global bully ever bent on inventing pretexts for aggression. Iran will be jubilant. Many people in Syria will be inclined to resist a new imperialist crusade.
Upping the ante is advantageous for Moscow. The more the western powers are involved in the conflict, the more deeply they are immersed, the more opportunities emerge for Russia to back the Assad regime as a “legitimate authority under attack”. Since a land operation can be ruled out, it may appear in the end that not only has Mr Assad survived but also that Moscow and Tehran have won in the global confrontation with the coalition of the west, Turkey and the Arab League.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Fiscal 2013 "Black Budget"

At the Washington Post:

The $52.6 billion “black budget” for fiscal 2013, obtained by The Washington Post from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, maps a bureaucratic and operational landscape that has never been subject to public scrutiny. Although the government has annually released its overall level of intelligence spending since 2007, it has not divulged how it uses those funds or how it performs against the goals set by the president and Congress.
One point:
In words, deeds and dollars, intelligence agencies remain fixed on terrorism as the gravest threat to national security, which is listed first among five “mission objectives.” Counterterrorism programs employ one in four members of the intelligence workforce and account for one-third of all spending.
Frankly, I wish they would spend more money on NASA and less on bribing Pakistan to play ball.

Huge Canyon Discovered in Greenland

Bigger than the Grand Canyon.

Data from a NASA airborne science mission reveals evidence of a large and previously unknown canyon hidden under a mile of Greenland ice. 
The canyon has the characteristics of a winding river channel and is at least 460 miles long, making it longer than the Grand Canyon. 
In some places, it is as deep as 2,600 feet. 
This immense feature is thought to predate the ice sheet that has covered Greenland for the last few million years.

Middle East in Precarious Balance

Right now, Israel and Syria are flash points, and Obama is waiting to strike the match. First up, Israeli leaders have said that they are not going to stand by this time if they are attacked in retribution for a U.S. attack on Syria. From the Los Angeles Times:

During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Israel endured dozens of Scud missiles launched by Saddam Hussein's forces, but refrained from retaliating because of U.S. concern that Israeli involvement would fracture the international coalition it had built against Iraq. 
As the United States prepares for a possible military attack against the Syrian government over its alleged use of chemical weapons, Israeli leaders are making it clear that they have no intention of standing down this time if attacked. 
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday issued the starkest warning to date in response to recent saber-rattling by Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, which has said it might respond to a U.S. strike by attacking Israel. 
"We are not part of the civil war in Syria, but if we identify any attempt whatsoever to harm us, we will respond with great force," Netanyahu said after huddling for a second consecutive day with key Cabinet members to discuss the possible ramifications of a U.S. strike against Syria.
 Russia may not idly stand by either:
Russia has deployed two powerful warships to the Mediterranean Sea to augment its normal naval presence amid rising expectations of Western airstrikes on its ally, Syria. 
A senior Russian naval officer denied Thursday that the dispatch of an anti-submarine ship and a guided-missile cruiser were in response to U.S. and European naval buildups in preparation for possible punitive strikes on the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. 
But Russia's Interfax news agency this week quoted an unidentified Russian General Staff source as saying that "the well-known situation now in the eastern Mediterranean required us to make some adjustments to the naval force."

Continued Uncertainty Over Chemical Weapons Attacks

American officials said Wednesday there was no “smoking gun” that directly links President Bashar al-Assad to the attack, and they tried to lower expectations about the public intelligence presentation. They said it will not contain specific electronic intercepts of communications between Syrian commanders or detailed reporting from spies and sources on the ground. 
But even without hard evidence tying Mr. Assad to the attack, administration officials asserted, the Syrian leader bears ultimate responsibility for the actions of his troops and should be held accountable. 
“The commander in chief of any military is ultimately responsible for decisions made under their leadership,” said the State Department’s deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf — even if, she added, “He’s not the one who pushes the button or says ‘go’ on this.” 
Administration officials said that communications between military commanders intercepted after Wednesday’s attack provided proof that the assault was not the result of a rogue unit acting against orders. It is unclear how much detail about these communications, if any, will be made public.
 Well, good. If the chief executive bears ultimate responsibility, then Obama should bear responsibility for the deaths caused by the Gun Walker and similar programs; he should bear responsibility for the deaths at Benghazi; he should bear responsibility for the IRS targeting conservatives; etc., etc.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

10,000 Year Old Remains Found in Amazon

From the Daily Mail:
Ten thousand-year-old remains of human settlements have been found in Bolivia and is now the oldest archaeological site in the Amazon region. 
The find came as a surprise to experts as it was thought the previously unexplored area had been rarely occupied by communities due to poor environmental conditions.
Swiss archaeologists made the discovery after analysing forest islands - small forested mounds of earth - which are found throughout Amazonia.
... [The layers of deposits in the mound] appear to have formed in two phases with an older layer composed mostly of snail shells and a top layer containing materials such as pottery, bone tools and human bones.  
The two layers are separated by a thin band rich in pieces of burnt clay and earth and the uppermost layer of deposits was also seen to contain occasional fragments of earthenware pottery.
The middle layer was probably the result of efforts to increase soil fertility and, thus, productive agricultural land.

Harvard Study: Guns Unrelated to Murders

The Harvard study attempts to answer the question of whether or not banning firearms would reduce murders and suicides.  Researchers looked at crime data from several European countries and found that countries with HIGHER gun ownership often had LOWER murder rates. 
Russia, for example, enforces very strict gun control on its people, but its murder rate remains quite high.  In fact, the murder rate in Russia is four times higher than in the “gun-ridden” United States, cites the study.  ”Homicide results suggest that where guns are scarce other weapons are substituted in killings.”  In other words, the elimination of guns does not eliminate murder, and in the case of gun-controlled Russia, murder rates are quite high. 
The study revealed several European countries with significant gun ownership, like Norway, Finland, Germany and France – had remarkably low murder rates.  Contrast that with Luxembourg, “where handguns are totally banned and ownership of any kind of gun is minimal, had a murder rate nine times higher than Germany in 2002.”

Black "Civil Rights" Leader Compares Supreme Court to KKK

From Breitbart:

Melanie Campbell, the president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, ... said, "Today there are no white sheets, but there are judges in black robes in the U.S. Supreme Court striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, opening the floodgates in many states to pass more voter ID laws... with the goal of ensuring we never see a black man elected to the president, or woman, of the United states of America."
Another liberal that thinks that skin color is the most important thing about a person ... sort of like the KKK. Speaking of which, the nation's only black Senator, Tim Scott, was not invited to the MLK march because he is a Republican. I guess Democrats can't outgrow their racist roots.

Proof that Syrian Forces Behind Chemical Weapon Attack?

The Obama administration is confident that Assad was behind the attack because of an intercepted phone call:
The U.S is confident that Syria was behind the deadly chemical weapons attack after intercepting a phone call from a Syrian defence chief demanding an explanation from its chemical weapon military unit for the action, according to new claims.  
Just hours after the attack last Wednesday an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of the unit, demanding answers, according to website Foreign Policy. 
The phone call was intercepted by U.S spies according to the website, and is now the reason that America is confident that it was carried out by the regime.
However, such a phone call is hardly dispositive that the Syrian military was behind the attack, and certainly casts doubt that top Syrian officials authorized the attack. Rather, it indicates the opposite. I hope that there is more proof than just this one ambiguous phone call before we waste more blood and treasure supporting the Arab-Nazis that Obama seems to like.

While we are on the subject, the DiploMad discusses a short discussion he had with an Iraqi ambassader following the fall of Iraq, and stated that chemical weapons had been snuck away into Syria.

A Pox On Both Your Houses

W. James Antle has a must-read piece at the American Spectator on weaknesses to the big government model. A few highlights:
... One of the biggest reasons the state tends to grow no matter who is in power is that the country has two big-government parties. Some Republicans are starting to change that, however. 
Serious fiscal conservatives now have large enough numbers in the House that they, not the Republican leadership, often drive the legislative agenda. Yes, John Boehner was re-elected speaker while Justin Amash, Tim Huelskamp, and Walter Jones were kicked off their preferred committees for being too conservative. But Boehner often has to turn to either his right flank or the Democrats to get anything done. 
In the Senate, committed fiscal conservatives haven’t just reached critical mass. Senators like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee have repeatedly shown a willingness to rock the boat and confront the leadership of both parties when necessary. Such go-it-alone conservatives have existed in the Senate before—think Jesse Helms—but seldom has there been a group of them working in tandem. 
Republicans in Washington face enormous outside pressure—and for the first time ever, much of the pressure is coming from their right. Organizations like the Club for Growth, Heritage Action, FreedomWorks, Young Americans for Liberty, and countless Tea Party groups all over the country are making it very difficult to be a big-government Republican. They are not just measuring how often legislators voted against bad bills or supported good ones. They are evaluating how members behaved in key moments in the growth of government.

Why Do Liberals Hate Children? -- School Food Edition

The Daily Caller notes the increasing dislike of Michelle Obama's cafeteria menu for students.
Students in a rural Kentucky county — and their parents — are the latest to join a growing national chorus of scorn for the healthy school lunches touted by first lady Michelle Obama. 
“They say it tastes like vomit,” said Harlan County Public Schools board member Myra Mosley at a contentious board meeting last week, reports The Harlan Daily Enterprise.
The growing body of USDA meal regulations implemented by the Department of Agriculture under the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010″ has long been a signature issue for the first lady.
 Denizens of Harlan County don’t much care, though. Their primary concern at the board meeting was a bevy of complaints that local children are starving at lunch — and for the remainder of the school day — because the food on offer in the cafeteria is crappy and there isn’t nearly enough of it.
... Under the National School Lunch Program, participating schools must provide lunches — including free or reduced price lunches — with minimum amounts of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and whole grains. Also, in what presumably falls outside the hunger-free aspect of the act, there’s a calorie cap: 850 for high school lunches, 700 for middle schools and a mere 650 calories for kids in elementary school.
Well, we can't expect mere peasants to eat like the President.

Why Only Police Should Have Guns--Shoot Out At the Chino Campground

The Truth About Guns has a story of two LA sheriff deputies that got drunk while camping, got into a dispute, and started shooting their guns (supposedly into the air, but probably at each other).

A Few Questions Before We Start Bombing Syria...

From the Threat Matrix. I agree--we might want to know if there is actual proof of the use of chemical weapons, why we need to bomb anything, and what our end-game/goals are for depleting our stockpiles of weapons and endangering our troops.

(H/t Instapundit)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Air Force's Space Program

Due to long term neglect of NASA, the Air Force has had to take up the job that NASA was supposed to do. From Foreign Policy:
America's civilian space program may be on life support, now that the Space Shuttle's gone. But its military space program is very much alive -- and about to get much, much bigger. In the coming decades, the U.S. Air Force plans to pour an additional $36 to $40 billion into its effort to put military and spy satellites in orbit using commercial rocket services. 
The Air Force is using that cash to add 60 launches between 2018 and 2030 to its $35 billion rocket launch effort called the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle. EELV is the Air Force's program to pay private businesses to build and launch the rockets that carry Defense Department satellites into orbit. This planned cash infusion would make EELV one of the Pentagon's top ten spending programs, InsideDefense points out. This comes just two years after the EELV program began experiencing massive cost increases -- that sucked funding from other space initiatives -- due to a spike in the price of rocket production. (Interestingly, one of the rockets currently used in the EELV program, the Atlas V, relies on a Russian engine to get it off the ground.) 
For almost a decade, the air service has purchased launches from a joint business venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing called United Launch Alliance. However, the Pentagon has recently decided to introduce real competition to the EELV program starting in 2018. Rocket-makers ATK, Lockheed, Orbital Sciences and Elon Musk's SpaceX are all planning to bid to send the military's satellites into space between 2018 and 2030.

Why Do Liberals Hate Children So Much? -- Golden Rice Edition

It is distressing how liberals love to hide behind children, yet in reality do everything they can to harm children. Case in point: the recent Greenpeace initiative to destroy golden rice. From Slate (h/t Instapundit):

Did you hear that a group of 400 angry farmers attacked and destroyed a field trial of genetically modified rice in the Philippines this month? That, it turns out, was a lie. The crop was actually destroyed by a small number of activists while farmers who had been bussed in to attend the event looked on in dismay. 
The nature of the attack was widely misreported, from the New York Times to New Scientist to BBC News, based on false claims by the activists. But then anti-GMO activists often lie. In support of the vandals, Greenpeace has claimed that there are health concerns about the genetically modified rice. In fact there is no evidence of risk, and the destruction of this field trial could lead to needless deaths. 
The rice is genetically enhanced to produce the vitamin A precursor beta-carotene, giving it a golden color. This vital nutrient is missing from the diets of millions of rice-dependent people in poor countries, where vitamin A deficiency leads to preventable blindness and death on a massive scale. 
The golden rice trial was being conducted by the government’s Philippine Rice Research Institute, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and other public sector partners—contrary to the activists’ accusations, there is no private corporate involvement.
... So who are these groups [that destroyed the fields]? MASIPAG describes itself as a "farmer-led network of people's organizations." It has long been a mainstay of the anti-GMO scene in the Philippines and recently joined with Greenpeace in securing a court injunction against a genetically modified eggplant designed to reduce insecticide use. 
KMP is an extreme-left organization that promotes a conspiracy theory that golden rice is being produced to facilitate a multinational takeover of the Filipino rice market. In reality, golden rice is being produced by public sector organizations and would be handed out free to farmers, who would be encouraged to save and replant seeds year after year with no technology fees or royalties. Such widespread, free distribution is central to the project’s plans for achieving its humanitarian goals.

Obama a "Love Child"?

Normally I wouldn't give much thought to this most recent of conspiracy theories concerning Obama, but since, lately, so many conspiracy theories are turning out to be true (e.g., Gun Walker, the NSA domestic spying, the IRS scandal, Benghazi and CIA gun running), who knows...?

Anyway, WND has a short article about a theory by Joel Gilbert that Obama's real father was actually Frank Marshall Davis, including a photograph from Obama's Facebook page that Gilbert believes has been altered.

Super Heavy Elements, Warp Drives, and Babies

A trio of science news articles from NBC News that I found interesting.

First, although first produced in Dubna, Russia about 10 years ago, researchers have confirmed the existence (ability to produce) element 115 on the Periodic Table.
A committee from the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), which governs chemical nomenclature, will review the new findings to decide whether more experiments are necessary before element 115 gets an official name.
Second, another article on the theory of a workable "warp drive." From the article:
NASA scientists are performing experiments that could help make warp drive a possibility sometime in the future from a lab built for the Apollo program at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. 
A warp-drive-enabled spacecraft would look like a football with two large rings fully encircling it. The rings would utilize an exotic form of matter to cause space-time to contract in front of and expand behind them. Harold "Sonny" White, a NASA physicist, is experimenting with these concepts on a smaller scale using a light-measuring device in the lab.  
"We're looking for a change in path length of the photon on the interferometer, because that would be potential evidence that we're generating the effect we're looking for," White told "We've seen, in a couple different experiments with several different analytic techniques, a change in optical-path length. We're making one leg of the interferometer seem a little shorter because of this device being on, versus the device being off. That doesn't mean that it's what we're looking for." 
While these results are intriguing, they are in no way definitive proof that warp drive could work, White said. The scaled-down experiments are just a first step toward understanding if these concepts can be taken out of the realm of theory and applied practically.
We're a long way from proving its even possible, but it is exciting that it has moved beyond merely being a theoretical game, to where someone is doing actual research.

Finally, in what I'm sure is a devastating blow to Planned Parenthood and other supporters of infanticide, scientists have shown that unborn babies can hear sounds in the womb, and it impacts their brain development--i.e., they learn. From the article:
A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reinforces what many people had believed—babies hear what their moms say and their brains recognize these words after birth. 
Researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland looked at 33 moms-to-be, and examined their babies after birth. While pregnant, 17 mothers listened at a loud volume to a CD with two, four minute sequences of made-up words (“tatata” or “tatota”, said several different ways and with different pitches) from week 29 until birth. 
The moms and babies heard the nonsense words about 50 to 71 times. Following birth, the researchers tested the all 33 babies for normal hearing and then performed an EEG (electroencephalograph) brain scan to see if the newborns responded differently to the made-up words and different pitches. 
Babies who listened to the CD in utero recognized the made-up words and noticed the pitch changes, which the infants who did not hear the CD did not, the researchers found. They could tell because their brain activity picked up when those words were played, while babies who didn’t hear the CD in the womb did not react as much.
Prior to Judah's destruction by Babylon, Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesied of Jerusalem's destruction if the people did not repent, and one of the primary reasons for God's judgment was the sacrifice of children to the pagan god, Moloch. We (speaking as a nation) do not sacrifice children on a literal alter, but we (speaking as a nation) do sacrifice children on the figurative alter of liberalism. I doubt we will fare much better than ancient Judah.

Modern Debtors' Prison

Bloomberg reports on a man that essentially has lifetime jail for not being able to afford to pay child support payments and alimony. From the story:

Schochet, who said he worked as a portfolio manager at Citadel Investment Group Inc. and Fortress Investment Group LLC (FIG) and once earned $1 million a year, has been jailed for missing court-ordered payments at least eight times in the past two years as he coped with the end of his 17-year marriage. 
The reason he ran afoul of the law was simple. He was out of work for most of that time, a victim of a weak economy, and he ran through his savings trying to pay his wife alimony and child support that totaled almost $100,000 a year. 
“It’s a circle of hell there’s just no way out of,” Schochet said. “I paid it as long as I could.” 
Schochet and ex-spouses in similar changed circumstances say New Jersey’s law unfairly imposes lifetime alimony on them. If they fail to make payments, like the $78,000 a year Schochet owes his ex-wife in alimony, they can be jailed for contempt of court regardless of whether they have a job or resources.
 One of the problems is that many jurisdictions will not allow you to amend your alimony/support order once you get behind in payments. You have to move to amend the order before you get behind. So here is a guy unable to pay $100,000 per year who can never get the amount he owes changed, notwithstanding the change in his circumstances.

Crackdowns in China

On Monday, a senior manager of the giant oil company China National Petroleum was placed under formal investigation for “severe breaches” of Communist Party discipline, the government announced, the second executive of a major state-owned enterprise to face such an inquiry this month. Xi has vowed to fight the vested interests that are thought to be blocking efforts to reform the country’s economy, as well as to eliminate the “tigers” and the “flies” — senior and junior officials — believed to be responsible for widespread corruption. 
Wang Yongchun was vice president of China National Petroleum, the parent company of PetroChina; he was also the head of the country’s biggest oil field, Daqing, and was seen as a likely candidate to take over the company earlier this year. A regional manager of China Mobile was placed under a similar investigation this month. 
The party’s efforts to assert more control over social media have also intensified. On Sunday, authorities announced the detention or arrest of three prominent critics: A 60-year-old Chinese American businessman, Xue Manzi, a widely followed commentator on social media, was detained in Beijing on Friday night on suspicion of soliciting a 22-year-old prostitute; a newspaper reporter who had accused a senior politician of corruption was detained in Chong­qing; and a whistleblower was arrested for allegedly soliciting bribes from people he had accused. Two other leading bloggers were also detained last week as part of a campaign against people accused of spreading “rumors” online.

Yet Another Hate Crime... (Updated)

... involving a black man attacking an elderly white man. From the New Haven Register:

Police arrested a 35-year-old New Haven man on gun charges among others after an allegedly unprovoked attack on a 71-year-old man. 
Jorge DelaPaz was arrested on charges of assault in the third degree of an elderly person, carrying a dangerous weapon, carrying a pistol without a permit, criminal posession of a pistol and interfering with police. 
Police say on Sunday, the elder New Haven man was eating a hamburger in the Goffe Street Park following a Toni Harp mayoral campaign-sponsored event that afternoon when he was approached by DelaPaz. Police say DelaPaz told the elder white male that he shouldn’t be “in his park where young black kids are playing.” When the man refused an order from DelaPaz to pick up a football, DelaPaz punched the man multiple times in the face, knocking him to the ground, police say. Several witnesses supported the victim’s account of the unprovoked attack, police say.
(Underline added).

Update: I went over to Drudge and found stories of two more incidents. The first involves older black children teasing a three-year old white girl until she cries--the 12-year old filming the incident titled his video "When white people piss black people off."

The second was this report from Pittsburgh of black teenage girls that attacked and severely beat a white woman. From the story:
Three teenage girls are facing several charges, including ethnic intimidation, after police said they brutally beat a 32-year-old woman Sunday in Pittsburgh’s North Side.
Investigators said the incident happened around 2 p.m. near the intersection of Concord and Itin streets.
According to police, the girls threw a bottle at the woman’s car, and when she stopped to confront the girls, they attacked her. 
... Officers said the woman was kicked, punched, robbed and left in the middle of the street.  Police said they also called the victim a racial slur.

Titles of Nobility and Special Privileges

Glenn Reynolds writes at USA Today about the proliferation of special privileges favoring certain government employees, and suggests that these privileges are the equivalent of the grant of titles of nobility specifically prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. Among these privileges, he notes:
All over America, government officials enjoy privileges that ordinary citizens don't. Sometimes it involves bearing arms, with special rules favoring police, politicians and even retired government employees. Sometimes it involves freedom from traffic and parking tickets, like the special non-traceable license plates enjoyed by tens of thousands of California state employees or similar immunities for Colorado legislators. Often it involves immunity from legal challenges, like the "qualified" immunity to lawsuits enjoyed by most government officials, or the even-better "absolute immunity" enjoyed by judges and prosecutors. (Both immunities -- including, suspiciously, the one for judges -- are creations of judicial action, not legislation).
Read the whole thing.

Monday, August 26, 2013

... By The Friends They Keep

In this Financial Times article on the collapse of America's Middle-East alliances, there was this tid-bit:

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, is a leader that Mr Obama has carefully cultivated. According to a recent book by Vali Nasr, a former Obama administration official, the US president “phones [Mr] Erdogan often and has probably conferred with him more than he has with any other world leader”.

Runaway Production

Hollywood, and California, bleeding jobs to other locals. The article and interviewees seem to heap the blame solely on competition via tax incentives from other states and countries. However, this part leapt out at me:
These days studio chiefs insist that filmmakers they work with take advantage of out-of-state incentives to lower production costs, which on a single major motion picture can amount to savings of tens of millions. Those savings are crucial in a franchise-obsessed era when big-budget movies commonly cost north of $200 million to produce, while on the revenue side the DVD market has largely collapsed and cinema attendance has been generally flat over the past decade. In the current climate, most independent projects would not even be produced without incentives.
I would suggest that poor writing and a media culture out of touch with much of America has caused a decline in demand for Hollywood's product. I know that I don't want to spend $10 per ticket to see a movie that either insults my intelligence or my values.

Magnetar Discovery

Scientists using the European Space Agency’s (ESA) XMM-Newton space telescope have discovered that a curious dead star has been hiding one of the strongest magnetic fields in the universe all along, despite earlier suggestions of an unusually low magnetic field.
The object, known as SGR 0418+5729 (SGR 0418), is a magnetar, a particular kind of neutron star.
A neutron star is the dead core of a once massive star that collapsed in on itself after burning up all its fuel and exploding in a dramatic supernova event. They are extraordinarily dense objects, packing more than the mass of our Sun into a sphere only some 12 miles (20 kilometers) across. 
A small proportion of neutron stars form and live briefly as magnetars, named for their extremely intense magnetic fields, billions to trillions of times greater than those generated in hospital MRI machines, for example. These fields cause magnetars to erupt sporadically with bursts of high-energy radiation.

The Threat to Religious Freedom

I've written before of the potential threat to religious freedom posed by legal recognition of "gay rights" and "gay marriage" (see, e.g., here). Although there have been complaints filed against certain businesses (generally sole proprietors) for refusing to provide services to homosexual couples, we did not previously have a legal opinion (at least that I am aware). As of last week, however, the New Mexico Supreme Court has issued an opinion holding a photography studio (it was an LLC) liable for discrimination for refusing to provide photography services to a homosexual couple. The Wall Street Journal reports:

New Mexico’s highest court ruled Thursday that the owners of an Albuquerque wedding photography company violated state law when they turned away a lesbian couple who wanted to hire them to take pictures of their ceremony. 
Upholding a lower-court ruling, the New Mexico Supreme Court held that the company’s refusal was an act of discrimination. They rejected the argument of the devout Christian owners of Elane Photography who claimed they had a free speech and religious right not to shoot the ceremony. 
... Under the New Mexico Human Rights Act, it’s unlawful for a public accommodation to refuse to offer its services to someone because of the person’s sexual orientation. The same law also prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry and gender. 
“When Elane Photography refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, it violated the NMHRA in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races,” the court stated in its opinion. 
“Even if the services it offers are creative or expressive, Elane Photography must offer its services to customers without regard for the customers’ race, sex, sexual orientation, or other protected classification,” the court said. 
Elaine Huguenin and her husband Jonathan, the owners of the company, argued that shooting the ceremony would have conflicted with their fundamental religious tenets and given the impression that they were supportive of gay marriage. 
The Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the photographers, said the decision amounted to government-enforced coercion. “This decision is a blow to our client and every American’s right to live free,” stated the group’s senior counsel, Jordan Lorence. 
... “When you open a business, you are opening your doors to all people in your community, not just the select few who share your personal beliefs,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, in a statement. The ACLU filed a brief in support of Ms. Willock.
 Without going into the details of the court's decision, the court found that the photography studio had violated the New Mexico law providing protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The court also held that the studio and its employees' rights to freedom of speech were not violated because the statute did not require the studio to engage in or prohibit any speech, and did not require the studio to espouse a government message. As to freedom of religion, the court held that the freedom of religion did not outweigh the requirement to follow religiously neutral laws. In his concurring opinion, though, Justice Bosson echoed the statements of the Supreme Court in the 1890 Davis v. Beason decision. Justice Bosson wrote:

 In a constitutional form of government, personal, religious, and moral beliefs, when acted upon to the detriment of someone else's rights, have constitutional limits. One is free to believe, think and speak as one's conscience, or God, dictates. But when actions, even religiously inspired, conflict with other constitutionally protected rights—in Loving the right to be free from invidious racial discrimination—then there must be some accommodation. Recall that Barnette was all about the students; their exercise of First Amendment rights did not infringe upon anyone else. The Huguenins cannot make that claim. Their refusal to do business with the same-sex couple in this case, no matter how religiously inspired, was an affront to the legal rights of that couple, the right granted them under New Mexico law to engage in the commercial marketplace free from discrimination.
I have two points about the New Mexico Supreme Court's decision and Bosson's concurring opinion. First, it is not clear that "sexual preference" anti-discrimination statutes are religiously neutral. I would suggest that since opposition to homosexuality is overwhelmingly based on religious beliefs, the statute is, in reality, a burden on religions, notwithstanding its supposedly neutral wording.

Second, although Bosson's concurring opinion discusses the balancing between conflicting constitutional rights, there is, in fact, no argument or holding that the lesbian couple was exercising a constitutional right. Rather, the whole case was based upon a violation of New Mexico statute.

"The Future Is Paranoia"

Peggy Noonan writes at the Wall Street Journal about the implications of the NSA domestic surveillance program:

If the citizens of the United States don't put up a halting hand, the government can't be expected to. It is in the nature of security professionals to always want more, and since their mission is worthy they're less likely to have constitutional qualms, to dwell on such abstractions as abuse of the Fourth Amendment and the impact of that abuse on the First.
If you assume all the information that can and will be gleaned will be confined to NSA and national security purposes, you are not sufficiently imaginative or informed. If you believe the information will never be used wrongly or recklessly, you are touchingly innocent.
If you assume you can trust the administration on this issue you are not following the bouncing ball, from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who told Congress under oath the NSA didn't gather "any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans" (he later had to apologize) to President Obama, who told Jay Leno: "We don't have a domestic program." What we do have, the president said, is "some mechanism that can track a phone number or an email address that is connected to a terrorist attack." 
Oh, we have more than that. 
... But democratic nations must always balance "the citizens' right to live their lives in freedom, with minimum interference with their privacy from the security agencies" against the governments' responsibility "to protect their citizens from harm." That balance, she [Stella Rimington, former director of MI-5] warned, had already begun to swing toward "more emphasis to our safety than our civil liberties." It has become more acceptable "for the government . . . to take more powers." She laments this. Pointedly: There is a danger, she observes, that "security can become an industry in itself and will not be protecting what is truly at risk." 
Terrorism will continue to appeal to extremists, to "weak minded" individuals drawn by passionate causes. But lack of attentiveness to our liberties will not help us succeed against them, and it can damage us. I wrote in the margins: "She's saying we can't become suicide bombers of our own rights."

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Obama Cedes Influence to Russia and China

The giant sucking sound you here, I said on August 15 on CNBC's The Kudlow Report, is the implosion of America's influence in the Middle East. Vladimir Putin's August 17 offer of Russian military assistance to the Egyptian army after US President Barack Obama cancelled joint exercises with the Egyptians denotes a post-Cold-War low point in America's standing. Along with Russia, Saudi Arabia and China are collaborating to contain the damage left by American blundering. They have being doing this quietly for more than a year.  
The pipe-dream has popped of Egyptian democracy led by a Muslim Brotherhood weaned from its wicked past, but official Washington has not woken up. Egypt was on the verge of starvation when military pushed out Mohammed Morsi. Most of the Egyptian poor had been living on nothing but state-subsidized bread for months, and even bread supplies were at risk. The military brought in US$12 billion of aid from the Gulf States, enough to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. That's the reality. It's the one thing that Russia, Saudi Arabia and Israel agree about.  
America's whimsical attitude towards Egypt is not a blunder but rather a catastrophic institutional failure. President Obama has surrounded himself with a camarilla, with Susan Rice as National Security Advisor, flanked by Valerie Jarrett, the Iranian-born public housing millionaire. Compared to Obama's team, Zbigniew Brzezinski was an intellectual colossus at Jimmy Carter's NSC. These are amateurs, and it is anyone's guess what they will do from one day to the next. 
There is also this ominous note:
The Saudis, meanwhile, have installed Chinese missiles aimed at Iran. There are unverifiable reports that Saudi Arabia already has deployed nuclear weapons sourced from Pakistan. The veracity of the reports is of small relevance; if the Saudis do not have such weapons now, they will acquire them if and when Iran succeeds in building nuclear weapons. What seems clear is that Riyadh is relying not on Washington but on Beijing for the capacity to deliver nuclear weapons. ...
And this:
 But the Obama administration (and establishment Republicans like John McCain) insist that America must support democratically elected Islamist governments. That is deeply misguided. The Muslim Brotherhood is about as democratic as the Nazi Party, which also won a plebiscite confirming Adolf Hitler as leader of Germany. Tribal countries with high illiteracy rates are not a benchmark for democratic decision-making ... As long as the United States declares its support for the humbug of Muslim democracy in Egypt and Syria, the rest of the world will treat us as hapless lunatics and go about the business of securing their own interests without us.


Peering through the windswept snow on a dark February day, the rescue party finally came on the first sign of life — the flapping remains of a tent pitched on ski poles on an uppermost slope of Kholat Syakhl, ‘Mountain of the Dead’ in the native language of northern Siberia. 
But where were the nine young Russian students who should have been sheltering beneath the canvas? 
Curiosity turned to mystery as human tracks were seen in the snow heading downhill away from the tent in single file for a third of a mile... barefoot human tracks.
In temperatures of minus 24! And mystery became horror when an inspection of the tent showed its front flaps still buttoned tightly together but huge knife slashes down the sides — through which the occupants apparently fled.
Inside was like the Mary Celeste, with everything intact — warm clothes, waterproof jackets, blankets and sweaters that would have been essential to survive in the Siberian weather; plus cameras, diaries and cooking utensils, all apparently abandoned in a moment of madness. 
So began the story of what became known as the Dyatlov Pass Incident, one that has baffled the world for more than half a century since whatever horrific tragedy overtook the nine in February 1959. 
They had been missing for almost a month after trekking out into the bleak wildness of the Ural mountains — seven men and two women, all of them fit, hardy and experienced hikers on what was supposed to be a short and invigorating break from their graduate studies. 
... The first bodies — frostbitten and frozen stiff — were discovered lying in the snow on flat land near a river, a mile from the tent, next to the remains of a long burnt-out fire.
Around 350 yards away lay the corpse of Igor Dyatlov, the 23-year-old engineering student from Ural Polyetchnic who had put the expedition together and was its leader. (His name would later be given to the area where the tragedy took place.) 
Nearby, a search dog sniffed out the remains of Zina Kolmogorova, 22, under four inches of snow, and then that of Rustem Slobodin. The bodies were in a line 200 yards apart, as if they had been trying to crawl behind each other back up to the shelter of the tent, but never made it. 
Another two months went by before the rest of the group were found, under 15ft of snow in a den they had desperately hollowed out for themselves before succumbing to the cold.  
Some of this group had broken bones and terrible internal injuries but, strangely, no external wounds, not even scratches on the skin.  
Stranger still, odd bits of their clothing contained higher than normal levels of radiation.
Indeed, post-mortem examinations of all nine bodies threw up a string of bewildering anomalies. Why were some fully clothed, but others nearly naked? Most disconcerting of all was Lyudmilla Dubinina’s body, which was missing her tongue and eyes.
... The official Soviet investigator into the tragedy, Lev Ivanov, could find no answers. He concluded in his hastily composed report that all nine deaths had been caused by what he described as ‘an unknown elemental force which they were unable to overcome’. 
Privately, he told people he thought they’d been killed by aliens in a UFO. 
And that was where official investigations ended. Case closed. Access to the entire area was sealed off from prying eyes for the next four years, by which time the authorities believed this incident would have disappeared off the radar, as many strange happenings did in the old Soviet empire.
Unfortunately, the story above is misleading. It appears that the tent may have been hit by an avalanche, and that the group fled the tent. Some apparently started a fire, while a smaller group went to look for help. The bodies found after the initial search--under 15 feet of snow--were at the bottom of ravine, where they probably fell while looking for help. However, it makes a good story for around the camp fire while deep in the woods....

NSA Employees Spied on Love Interests

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday:
The LOVEINT violations involved overseas communications, officials said, such as spying on a partner or spouse. In each instance, the employee was punished either with an administrative action or termination. 
Most of the incidents, officials said, were self-reported. Such admissions can arise, for example, when an employee takes a polygraph tests as part of a renewal of a security clearance. 
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, said the NSA told her committee about a set of “isolated cases” that have occurred about once a year for the last 10 years, where NSA personnel have violated NSA procedures.
Since lie detector tests are no more accurate than flipping a coin, and Dianne Feisntein cannot be trusted, I don't believe these incidents are as rare as indicated.

Advances Toward Bendable Electronics

MIT Technology Review reports on advances with printing graphene circuits on plastic--important for developing flexible electronics. From the article:

Akinwande’s group is focused on practical applications for graphene, one-atom-thick sheets of carbon with exceptional mechanical and electrical properties. 
Graphene transistors and circuits, made on rigid surfaces using conventional chip-making techniques, have broken electronic speed records. But when researchers have tried to take advantage of graphene’s toughness and extreme flexibility in bendable devices built on plastic, the switching speed takes a dive. That’s a problem because for flexible electronics to become economical, says Akinwande, they must be printed over larger areas, like newspaper. 
This week in the journal ACS Nano, Akinwande and University of Texas materials scientist Rodney Ruoff describe record-breaking 25-gigahertz graphene transistors printed on flexible plastic. Communications circuits have to be able to switch on and off billions of times per second—2.4 gigahertz for Bluetooth, and about 1 gigahertz for cellular communications. To really work for practical applications, the transistors in these circuits have to be rated about 10 times faster than that, says Akinwande. The University of Texas graphene transistors make the cut. 
... The graphene transistors are not only speedy but robust. The devices still work after being soaked in water, and they’re flexible enough to be folded up. “As you make [electronics] thinner, the mechanical properties get better and better,” says Javey. “And graphene is the thinnest material you can have.” 
Akinwande is now working with industry partners, including glass maker Corning of New York and 3M of Saint Paul, Minnesota, to demonstrate printed graphene circuits on a larger, more practical scale. And the group is currently designing a printer for continuously manufacturing graphene circuits. “All the building blocks are done,” says Akinwande. He says the circuits could be manufacturable in five to 10 years. 

McWhorter--Don't Ignore Race in Christopher Lane Killing

John McWhorter writes at Time Magazine:
The numbers don’t lie: young black men do commit about 50% of the murders in the U.S. We don’t yet know whether the attack on Lane was racially motivated, nor can we know whether the three black boys who attacked a white boy on a Florida school bus recently would not have done the same to a black kid. (Criticstook Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to task for not condemning the violence.) But hardly uncommon are cases such as the two black guys who doused a white 13-year-old with gasoline and lit him on fire, saying “You get what you deserve, white boy” (Kansas City, Mo.) or 20 black kids who beat up white Matthew Owens on his porch “for Trayvon” (Mobile, Ala.). 
So, it’s just fake to pretend that the association of young black men with violence comes out of thin air. Young black men murder 14 times more than young white men. If the kinds of things I just mentioned were regularly done by whites, it’d be trumpeted as justification for being scared to death of them.
It’s not that black communities are in complete denial about these statistics — Stop the Violence events are a staple of high-crime areas. But let’s face it: black America isn’t nearly as indignant about black boys killing one another or whites as about the occasional white cop killing one black boy, even though the former wreaks much more havoc in black communities. ...
... it’s time for the media to stop proudly emblazoning the race of white cops who kill black boys while cagily describing black teens as, say, “from the grittier part of town,” as has been the case regarding Lane’s killers. The media needs to be as honest with black people as we need to be with ourselves. No group gets ahead by turning away from its real problems.

Neolithic Peoples Used Spices

This seems like a "well, duh," type of discovery, but it is significant because spices were valuable trading goods, and served to establish long distance trade routes. From The Christian Science Monitor:

... In fact, as early as about 6,000 ago, Neolithic people added garlic mustard, a spice, to boiling meals of meat and fish, according to a new paper published in PLOS ONE. The research identifies the earliest known, definitive example of spice use in cooking, as well as revises popular culture's take on the Neolithic peoples as unrefined, tearing at meat and fish without a care for how it tastes. 
"The finding of spice use by these people implies a much more sophisticated diet than many people have imagined," says Oliver Craig, lecturer in Archaeological Science at the University of York and a co-author on the paper. "We suggest that people's perception of food also encompassed an aesthetic dimension at this time."
... In the latest research, scientists looked at charred deposits inside broken pottery that dates to about 5,800 and 6,150 years ago and was taken from three locations in Denmark and Germany. Those deposits contain what are called phytoliths, microscopic silica brewed in a plant’s leaves and that later function as ancient signatures of the plant cooked in the pot. 
In these pots, the phytoliths were traced to mustard seeds. Since mustard seeds have little nutritional value, their presence, stirred up with meat and fish, suggests that Neolithic peoples used it as a spice, not as a source of calories, said Dr. Craig. And, since the seeds were found in a cooking pot, there is little doubt that the spice was used as such, he said.
The roughly 300-year-long period to which the seeds were dated corresponds to a time of critical transition in Northern Europe, when hunters and gathers turned to agriculture and seeded crops whose growth was mirrored in a sophisticating culture. 
"These people were coastal hunter-gatherers and early farmers," says Craig. "This finding adds to our understanding of the complexity of these peoples life-ways and shows a rich culinary variability."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bo Xilai Defiant As Trial Begins

According to lengthy transcripts the court released in an extraordinary show of transparency, Mr. Bo, 64, called his wife’s assertions that she had noticed anonymous deposits in their bank account “laughable.” He accused a businessman who had recorded video testimony against him of having “sold his soul.” And he discounted his earlier confession to taking bribes, saying he had made the statements to Communist Party investigators against his will, out of “opportunism and weakness” and under “mental strain.” 
The authorities’ unexpected openness about the trial, including allowing a running court microblog and social media updates by state media organizations, turned what many had expected to be banal theater into a showcase of Mr. Bo’s defiance.

... Mr. Bo insisted that he knew nothing of a villa on the French Riviera that prosecutors said Ms. Gu bought in 2000 with $3.2 million from Xu Ming, a young tycoon, or about a hot-air balloon venture between the two. He denied knowledge of a $16,000 trip to Africa made by his youngest son, Bo Guagua, and his friends; an $18,000 Segway-like vehicle that Mr. Xu bought for the son; and $50,000 of debt on the son’s credit card that Mr. Xu paid off. 
He said he did not know much about his wife and son’s expenses, because Ms. Gu was “a person of culture and taste, a modern intellectual woman,” so they did not discuss money.

Nova Delphini Still Visible

From NBC News:
A dazzling star explosion discovered in the night sky last week is the brightest nova seen from Earth in at least five years and it's visible now to the naked eye.

The Nova Delphinus 2013 star explosion can be seen by the naked eye from places without too much light pollution, skywatching experts say. The stellar phenomenon is expected to be visible for weeks to come, and its location in the night sky should make the nova easy for even novice stargazers to spot.
"The nova is easy to locate north of the lovely star pattern of Delphinus. And the constellation Sagitta, the Arrow, points right toward it," Tony Flanders, associate editor of Sky & Telescope, said in a statement. [See Stargazer Photos of Nova Delphinus 2013 (Gallery)] 
Arne Henden, who is director of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), added that the nova will be easily visible in the eastern sky starting in the early evening. 
"The nova can be seen with binoculars even from light-polluted metropolitan areas," Henden said in a statement. "Hundreds of observers, many for the first time, have submitted brightness estimates of the nova to the AAVSO."
More information here.

Video of Full-Auto Gauss Gun...

... at the Truth About Guns.

Racial Terrorism from the Left

Fox News reports:
One of three teens charged in the 'thill kill' of an Australian college student [Chris Lane] in Oklahoma last week has previously posted racist tweets on his Twitter account, according to a report. 
The Daily Caller reported that the tweets belonged to James Francis Edwards, 15. One tweet from his account reads, "90% of white ppl are nasty. #HATE THEM." Another post read, "Ayeee I knocced out 5 woods since Zimmerman court!:)" 
The Daily Caller's report noted that 'woods' is used as a derogatory term for white people.
Notice the reference to the Zimmerman trial.

Then there is this from the Blaze:
A young white male was walking to his car on a city street late at night on August 12 when he was confronted by a trio of black individuals. They shot him dead. Police have arrested three people and charged them with first degree murder. But some in the victim’s family can’t understand why the shooting is being called a failed robbery when they say the evidence suggests something possibly more sinister: a hate crime. 
... The first and foremost question in De Diago’s mind: If this was a robbery, why did his brother-in-law still have his wallet, car keys, and cell phone? Nothing was taken from him. And witnesses confirm that. 
... In addition to the fact that Santucci was still in possession of his phone and wallet, Miguel says witnesses told police that the car drove past David, stopped and backed up. One of the suspects (Mario Patterson) got out of the car and walked toward Santucci, fired a shot and ran back to the car, jumping into the driver’s seat and speeding off.  Miguel also says the police told him that the 9mm shell casing was found 10 feet from the body — an indication to him that the shooter was not at close range as would typically happen with a robbery. 
Miguel told TheBlaze that he tracked the alleged shooter, Patterson through his Facebook account — an account now deleted.  He said the page had numerous photos of Trayvon Martin, and he wondered if it’s possible the shooting was a revenge killing for the Zimmerman verdict.
The Daily Caller reports on a false flag incident:
One of the two students removed from Oberlin College earlier this year for allegedly circulating virulently racist, anti-Jewish and anti-gay messages around campus  is an ardent leftist and committed supporter of President Obama, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned. 
Dylan Bleier, one of the two students, hosted a voter registration drive in a Walmart parking lot sponsored by Organizing for Action, the community organizing project that advances the agenda of President Obama. 
The Oberlin Police Department identified Bleier and his partner in the spree, Matt Alden, as two of the principal architects of a month-long spate of racist, anti-Jewish and anti-gay messages at the small, private campus.
The article goes on to list Bleier's connections with other liberal causes, including, ironically, groups opposed to racism.
On his Twitter account, which he protected after TheDCNF reached him on Tuesday, Bleier hailed Obama’s comments on George Zimmerman, tweeting: “Zimmerman is just the tip of the iceberg, a single highly visible symptom of the racist system that is ‘succeeding’ in the US.” 

Abuse of Material Witness Orders...

... by New York City district attorneys. The orders allow them to arrest witnesses to ensure a valuable witness won't flee. However, NYC apparently was using the orders to intimidate or force people to testify a particular way in cases, and not providing the witnesses the due process to which they were intended.

Another reason why only law enforcement should have guns?

(H/t Instapundit)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

California Jails are Full...

... due to releases of over 40,000 prisoners from state prisons because of "overcrowding."
There was at least one alternative to releasing the 40,000+ prisoners into our communities, but when former Governor Schwarzenegger tried to transfer prisoners to much lower cost prisons in other states, the correctional officers' labor group sued in court and won to stop such transfers. The losers? You guessed it right - the good people of California.
And this:
A consequence of this government-made prison crisis is that local jails can rarely accept a criminal for booking by the local police for new crimes committed. Accordingly, local criminals have little to fear. In fact, when under arrest, they frequently joke with officers that being arrested is no big deal since there will be no real consequences for them. With the additional releases pending, I see a very dark future for the safety and security of people living in California - especially those living lower and middle class lifestyles. The more affluent areas of this state will not feel the bite as much. And it is not lost on me that the people who make the destructive policies, federal judges included, tend to be more affluent that the rest of us.

China in Pre-Revolutionary Phase?

Paul A. Rahe at Ricochet writes about how the Chinese elite seem to be taking the wrong lesson from Tocqueville's Ancien Regime and the Revolution, by attempting to return to their Maoist roots. Party leaders have instructed functionaries to reject seven "Western" influences, including “Western constitutional democracy,” “universal values” of human rights, Western-inspired notions of media independence and civic participation, ardently pro-market “neo-liberalism,” and “nihilist” criticisms of the party’s traumatic past. Rahe notes the similarity between China and pre-revolutionary France:
Today's China really is a lot like late eighteenth-century France. It is a closed aristocracy of birth, and there is hardly anyone left in the country who believes in the old bromides of the Maoist era. If Xi Jinping follows through on the logic implicit in Document No. 9, he may someday be remembered as the Louis XV of old-regime China. When the great-grandson of Louis XIV attempted a crackdown in the middle of the eighteenth century, it not only came to naught. It scandalized public opinion and delegitimized the regime. I am all for reading Tocqueville. But one must read him with discernment and care.
Rahe's view of the French revolution, informed by Tocqueville, is that it was a crises of expectations--the quality of life for most French had been improving for some time, and there was an expectation that they should continue to increase. Rahe sees the same potential in China today:
 All that it would take, I argued, would be an economic downturn -- and the place would blow up. Beneath the surface, deep resentment of the inequalities that came with economic growth was becoming pervasive, and this resentment was bound to be reinforced by the fact that -- given the level of government control and the profound familial orientation of traditional Chinese culture -- the party would quickly turn into a crony-capitalist cabal, as the descendants of famous communist revolutionaries enriched themselves and displayed their ill-gotten lucre in ostentatiously obnoxious ways. All of this might be tolerated as long as rapid economic growth continued and nearly everyone profited. But, I contended, if and when a contraction takes place, if and when unemployment grows, if and when the dreams of ordinary Chinese are dashed, there will be hell to pay.
 He does not have faith that Chinese leaders can make it work:
The evidence now suggests ... that Xi Jingpin and his lieutenants take quite seriously the possibility that China is in a pre-revolutionary situation, and that they are intent on putting a lid on everything. Where Tocqueville might have suggested that the way forward was for the country’s leaders to embrace the “seven subversive currents,” to carry out a revolution from above, and to gradually introduce into the country the rule of law, constitutionalism, freedom of the press, judicial independence, civil associations, and a respect for human rights, they have decided in this year – the 120th anniversary of Chairman Mao’s birth – to return to the path he charted more than 60 years ago. 
Whether this is possible I doubt. One cannot sustain a modern economy without modern communications, and one cannot sustain modern communications without opening up one’s country to influences beyond the control of a centralized administration. The party established by Mao Tse-Tung is long gone. As numerous studies have shown, the party that now exists is dominated at the lower and middle ranks by a technocratic elite – much of it educated in the West. Its members may well fall in line and give lip-service to the new policy, and those in China who denounce the policy may suffer arrest. But Xi’s campaign may well backfire. It may serve only to popularize the “seven subversive currents” -- for, in commercial societies, there is no fruit like forbidden fruit. In the short term, to be sure, it will reinforce party discipline and control. But, in the circumstances, this is likely to strengthen immeasurably the “princelings” descended from the old Maoist elite and deepen the widespread corruption that the Bo Xilai scandal made manifest and that I touched on in January here and here. This may, in fact, be the larger purpose of the Maoist revival, for the party leadership seems unperturbed by the problem of corruption. ...

Why Only Police Should Have Guns--Accidental Discharge At College

Savannah State University officials say a public safety officer's gun accidentally discharged on the campus, sending a bullet crashing through two windows before it came to a stop in a classroom wall. 
University spokeswoman Loretta Heyward tells The Savannah Morning News ( that the officer's weapon misfired during either a training exercise or a demonstration Wednesday morning. There was a class in session in the room where the bullet came to rest, but no one was hurt. 
The gunfire happened in the Hubert Tech Science Building, where the Department of Public Safety is housed.

Syrian Rebels Report Massive Chemical Weapon Attack

From Reuters:

Syria's opposition accused President Bashar al-Assad's forces of gassing many hundreds of people - by one report as many as 1,300 - on Wednesday in what would, if confirmed, be the world's worst chemical weapons attack in decades. 
Western and regional countries called for U.N. chemical weapons investigators - who arrived in Damascus just three days ago - to be urgently dispatched to the scene of one of the deadliest incidents of the two-year-old civil war. 
Russia, too, urged an "objective" investigation but Assad's biggest foreign ally also heaped skepticism on his enemies' claims. A foreign ministry spokesman in Moscow said the release of gas after U.N. inspectors arrived suggested that it was a rebel "provocation" to discredit Syria's government. 
Images, including some by freelance photographers supplied to Reuters, showed scores of bodies including of small children, laid on the floor of a clinic with no visible signs of injuries. 
Reuters was not able to verify the cause of their deaths. The Syrian government denied that it had used chemical arms.
 Seems odd that Assad's forces would resort to using chemical weapons given their recent successes versus the odds it would generate a military response from the West.

NSA Surveillance Vacuums Up 75% of Domestic Communications

From Fox News:

The National Security Agency's surveillance network has the capacity to spy on 75 percent of all U.S. Internet traffic, The Wall Street Journal reports.  
Citing current and former NSA officials for the 75 percent figure, the paper reported that the agency can observe more of Americans' online communications than officials have publicly acknowledged.  
The NSA's system of programs that filter communications, achieved with the help of telecommunications companies, is designed to look for communications that either start or end abroad, or happen to pass through the U.S. between foreign countries. However, the officials told the Journal that the system's reach is so broad, that it is more likely that purely domestic communications will be intercepted as a byproduct of the hunt for foreign ones.