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Monday, August 19, 2013

Trying to Catch Up

I've been out of town the last few days, and will be gone a few days this week, too, so my posts have been rather light. It seems, though, that the news pretty much seems to be tracking the same issues: the IRS scandal continues, the NSA surveillance program gets worse, and Egypt creeps closer to civil war.

A few notable stories:

1.  For those of you familiar with Ayn Rand's book, Atlas Shrugged, may enjoy this op-ed from the Telegraph comparing fracking to Rearden metal.

2.  NSA whistleblower Russell Tice provides some tips on how to fool a lie detector test. (Of course, lie detector tests are inherently unreliable--this U.S. Supreme Court case notes that lie detector tests may be no more accurate than flipping a coin). So why does the NSA or other agencies use them? Tice says:

Tice, who is now working on a Ph.D. in global security studies, says the NSA "routinely uses polygraphs to terrorize the rank and file of NSA employees" and to "gather very personal information on them that they can use to blackmail them into participating in illegal and unethical conduct."
The whistleblower's view is supported by AntiPolygraph.org, a nonprofit that seeks to abolish polygraphs from the workplace.George Maschke, a U.S. army reserve captain who was rejected from the FBI for failing a polygraph and now runs AntiPolygraph.org, tells Whispers he believes the NSA's polygraph is intended to be a "psychological tool of coercion."

"Polygraphs are detrimental to individuals and to national security," says Maschke, "because federal agencies are relying on technology that is unreliable... that is junk science." A number of studies from the scientific community have also said polygraphs rely on pseudoscience.
3.  The Atlantic discusses how resource shortages (including water shortages, fuel prices, and increased food prices) are driving the problems in Egypt.

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