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    • The First Great Environmental Crisis Will Be
      Water. As I’ve said for many years. The world is facing an imminent water crisis, with demand expected to outstrip the supply of fresh water by 40 percent by the end of this decade, experts have said on the eve of a crucial UN water summit. I’ll use the US as an example, though this going to effect almost all countries, some much worse than others, and it wi […]
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Wednesday News

Good Morning Conflucians!!

The aftermath of last weeks election is still being felt. In fact, it’s not over yet. The Senate race in Alaska is still being counted. Regardless of whether the winner is Miller or Murkowski, the seat will be held by a Republican. But it will certainly be interesting to see who won. Both because of the tea party angle and because of the possibility of a write-in candidate winning. The latter outcome would be very interesting and perhaps eye opening to many citizens of the country. The fact that we don’t have to take the two choices given to us would be refreshing. Everyone seems to be talking about it including WaPo, Politico, and Reuters among, well, everyone. And of course as you’d expect, the lawyers are at the ready. Miller has already launched one lawsuit requiring that Murkowski name be spelled correctly and exactly as it is registered. That’s silly as the law clearly gives leeway to counters to determine intent. Some of the legal fun from WaPo:

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R) both urged supporters to donate money to Miller’s legal fund, in part to send enough lawyers and monitors to Juneau. In Anchorage, tea party supporters pooled their frequent-flier miles in hopes of sending about a dozen volunteers to be trained as official observers.

Murkowski, meanwhile, has reportedly hired lawyer Ben Ginsberg, who represented George W. Bush in the 2000 recount fight and Republican Sen. Norm Coleman in his 2008 recount battle in Minnesota.

Miller has also argued that the law requires Murkowski’s name to be spelled properly, though election officials ruled that misspellings are okay as long as the voter’s “intent” is clear – a subjective standard that could lead to a litany of disputes.

Meanwhile, Obama was in Indonesia pushing the message that we’re cool with Muslims. And that Indonesia provides an example to the world given its diversity:

“Today, I return to Indonesia as a friend, but also as a president who seeks a deep and enduring partnership between our two countries,” he said.

“Because as vast and diverse countries; as neighbours on either side of the Pacific; and above all as democracies – the United States and Indonesia are bound together by shared interests and shared values.”

He also highlighted the role religion had played in Indonesia’s development, praising the country’s spirituality and “rich diversity”.

“Just as individuals are not defined solely by their faith, Indonesia is defined by more than its Muslim population,” he said.

Reasonably good message. That’s about the best I can say about it.

There was a mysterious launch including video recorded contrail from a plane or something off the coast of LA yesterday:

Military and aviation authorities denied any knowledge of a scheduled launch and the Pentagon said only that it was looking into a report of an “unexplained contrail,” or vapor trail, left by an aircraft.

Whatever it was, it never posed a threat, officials said, and there’s no evidence it was a missile.

That didn’t stop aerospace experts, news outlets and curious onlookers from snapping photos and guessing the true nature of the “mystery missile” and who may have launched it.

No one is talking. We’re hearing “nothing to see here, move along, move along.” Who knows. What’s your best guess? There was video shot and some experts who got to see it commented:

Some aerospace experts who reviewed the footage said the size of the plume hinted that it was a government operation.

“It can’t belong to anyone but the military,” said Marco Caceres, an analyst with Teal Group Corp., a Fairfax, Va.-based aerospace research firm. The appearance of such a massive rocket contrail near military bases that are known for regularly testing missiles is unlikely to be a coincidence, Caceres said.

A more likely explanation, Caceres said: It was a mistake, perhaps a defense exercise launched by accident.

The military does, after all, operate a floating ocean platform and regularly carries out tests at San Nicolas Island, one of the Channel Islands, and Point Mugu Naval Air Station is a missile defense testing site.

Speaking of mysterious aircraft, paparazzi are starting to use unmanned drones with cameras aboard to spy on celebrities:

Anyone following the news out of America’s Af/Pak engagement knows that drones are being used increasingly – some say alarmingly so – to ferret out and eliminate militants along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. But if drones can track militants hiding in the Pakistani hills, why can’t they track a celebrity in Hollywood Hills? A celebrity-photo agency is developing a camera-equipped paparazzi drone that could soon be tracking and terrorizing celebrities in public and at their homes.

As aviation goes, of course, drones are the next big thing. The military is training up drone pilots and purchasing unmanned aerial vehicles at unprecedented rates, and being the military they’ve drafted a fairly stringent set of rules for how those drones can be used. In the civilian space, those rules are far less defined. The FAA limits the domestic use of drones to those operated by the governent – that is, they’re not cleared for commercial use.

Well, that’s just great. Soon we’ll be seeing drone helicopters flying this way and that with cameras attached, and you won’t know if it’s the government or the media, or just your nosy neighbor. That can only mean one thing, more target practice with your anti-drone weapons.

While we’re vaguely on the topic of flying, there are more reports of problems with the body scanning machines. We’ve all been hearing that the X-ray dosage is so low, it will only shorten your life by hours for each use. At least they admit it’s killing you, just not by much. Well, it may turn out they’re wrong. The radiation seems only collect in one area, the skin, so though the dosage might seem low for your entire body, it’s actually not low for your skin. In an article about a UCSF study, we have:

A group of UCSF researchers released a letter earlier this year, warning of potential health risks of the machines. Although the backscatter devices are being installed at airports around the country, the researchers are unconvinced that they are safe.

There are a number of problems with the machines. For one thing, the energy that they release tends to remain concentrated in the skin, rather than more safely dissipated throughout the body. Because the concentration is so much higher, there is an increased risk of causing skin cancer.

Or maybe there isn’t. The data simply doesn’t exist. There haven’t been any thorough studies into the concentration of energy in the skin. There are also unanswered questions regarding the effect on eyes and the thymus.

And related to that story, the worlds largest pilot union opts out of letting their members go through the scanners:

The world’s largest independent airline pilot association is warning its members to avoid security screening by full-body scanners out of concern the machines emit dangerous levels of radiation.

The American Pilots Association, which represents about 12,000 pilots, is recommending members instead submit to new pat-down searches, even though critics have described them as “horribly invasive” and likened them to foreplay. The recommendation is based on concerns that, contrary to claims by the US Transportation Security Administration, the types of X-rays emitted by the machines could pose serious risks that still aren’t well understood.

“We are already subjected to larger amounts of radiation by flying long distances at high altitudes,” Captain Sam Mayer, who is the APA’s communications committee chairman, told The Register. “While the TSA is telling us it’s completely safe, that may be true for the occasional user, but we haven’t seen any data yet talking about the long term cumulative effects of this over time.”

Read further for a link to a memorandum about the study and further details. I think I’ll be opting for the pat down, which is pretty bad itself. Even better, I think I’ll try to avoid flying if at all possible. If I can drive or take a train, I’ll do that instead.

Let’s switch gears and look at a great breakthrough where chips have been implanted in the retina of a blind patent resulting in some site. Discover and PopSci cover the story. From Discovery:

German doctors on Wednesday announced a breakthrough in retinal implants, the fledgling technology that aims to restore sight in people cursed by a form of inherited blindness.

Three patients fitted with the new device were able to see shapes and objects, and one was able to walk around a room by himself, approach people, read a clock face and distinguish between seven shades of gray.

The device “represents an unprecedented advance in electronic visual prostheses,” the Royal Society, Britain’s de-facto academy of sciences, said as one of its journals published the research.

And another story from PopSci of interest, you can improve your math skills with a bit of shock treatment:

With just 15 minutes of a barely perceptible electric current passed through the brain, scientists at the University of Oxford have succeeded in improving a person’s math abilities with an effect lasting as long as six months. Using a non-invasive method known as transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS), the scientists passed a mild electric current through the skull into the brain’s parietal lobe, where numbers are processed.

Patients were asked to learn new symbols to represent numbers, then, while they were on TDCS, they attempted to organize the numbers. Participants whose brains were being stimulated demonstrated an improved ability to perform the task. The amazing part is that, when tested again six months later, they retained their higher performance level. The current helps the affected nerves to fire more quickly, making it easier to learn information.

Shocking. But it adds up. OK, stop me before I make any more math jokes.

Finally, just when you thought social networking was all it could be, there’s still more. Now the Queen of England has a Facebook page:

The official British Monarchy page was launched at 8am on the world’s most popular social networking site, allowing users to connect with the Royal Family online.


The new Facebook page has been described as “the final frontier” of the Queen’s foray into digital technonogy.

The official @BritishMonarchy account on Twitter already has 70,148 followers. There is also TheRoyalChannel on YouTube, the video-sharing website, which has 32,418 subscribers and whose films have been watched 8.3million times over the past three years.

Yea, it’s all ruined now. If the Queen is doing it, it’s definitely not cool any more.

That’s a few things going on. Chime in with what you’re seeing today.

51 Responses

  1. The Caceres guy sounds about right. I think there are a couple of little islands off the coast of California that are owned by the US military. I don’t know why this is considered such a mystery except that it looks like one of them accidentally escaped and let everyone see it.
    Yes, your military tests missiles, fairly close to where you live. Oooooo, scary.
    Come to think of it, when I was a child (insert creaky old voice) stuff like sonic booms were commonplace. And then there was the year we lived in Hawaii when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor again for the movie Tora Tora Tora. Lots of japanese planes flying in formation. One day, they set a replica of half of the Arizona ablaze in the harbor.
    Ahhh, childhood, so innocent.

    • I grew up watching B-52’s coming in for landing at Castle AFB. It was a SAC base and some of the bombers were carrying nukes.

      They would take off and go up around the Arctic Circle were they would fly in a holding pattern waiting for orders to bomb the USSR.

      The fathers of some of my school friends were in those planes,

      • During the first Gulf War they flew hundreds of bombing missions out of Castle.

      • I went to UTAustin, where Bergstrom was a nuke-equipped SAC base. You could hear the B-52’s revving up and taking off all the way to the university neighborhood. Between Bergstrom and the USAF and USA installations in San Antonio 80 miles away, we figured we’d be among the first to go up in sub-atomic particles if it came to a nuclear exchange.

    • Ir’s Skynet coming on line!!!!!!!! Flee to Mexico!!!!!!!!!


    • I assume they do most of that launching at night. It would be interesting to discover why the daytime launch. But yea, it’s no biggie, those sorts of things are going up all the time.

  2. While we’re vaguely on the topic of flying, there are more reports of problems with the body scanning machines. We’ve all been hearing that the X-ray dosage is so low, it will only shorten your life by hours for each use.

    Good thing I’m on the “no fly” list.

  3. Ruh-roh, the NYTimes is taking on WaPo over for profit education. It turns out that WaPo owns Kaplan and Donald Graham,Katherine’s son is chairman? WaPo had been a big proponent of for profit education. But it looks like Kaplan is running college diploma mills with high tuition costs and no real value to the students.
    Veddy interesting.
    Read it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/10/education/10kaplan.html?_r=1&hp

    • This is an important story!!!

      Such schools enroll about 11 percent of the nation’s college students, and get a quarter of all federal student aid. But their students account for 43 percent of those defaulting on student loans.

      I’ve known a LOT of people who took out huge loans to go to these schools…. and everyone dropped out before “graduating”

  4. Via Uppity:

    • How truly sad, heart breaking to think/know that there are women/girls in Afghanistan that are under such suffering that they set themselves a light. The ending of the story of the young man saying goodbye to his mother, is very heart breaking and upsetting because it was for shaming, due to poverty.

      In these hard economic times, there are many even here in the states, that consider suicide, and don’t know, or may not know that there are people that care and willing to help…

      Are you in crisis? Please call 1-800-273-TALK
      Are you feeling desperate, alone or hopeless? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
      , a free, 24-hour hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Your call will be routed to the nearest crisis center to you.

      * Call for yourself or someone you care about
      * Free and confidential
      * A network of more than 140 crisis centers nationwide
      * Available 24/7

  5. My Morning Sneeze is not at all political. But you can’t control what makes you sneeze, right?

  6. Matthew Norman: How did this wastrel ever find his way to the White House?

    His sadness over Hurricane Katrina is not for the victims in New Orleans, as Mr West understood, but for the damage done to his reputation by that snap of him staring blankly and aloofly down on the catastrophe from the window of Air Force One. His paramount distress over Iraq is not over the loss of life, civilian and military, but how that banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished” on the aircraft carrier came to make him look naive and vainglorious. He reveals his shallowness and vapidity with these reflections in the most crystalline of clarity, and hasn’t a notion he is doing so.

    It takes a certain minimal intelligence for the truly dim to have a notion of their own dimness, but this is denied him. Unlike Mr Tony Blair, who emerges from his well-calibrated if often chilling memoir as a man of colossal cleverness (though not intellect), W has the self-awareness of a bison. There seems even less to him than met the eye, and there was precious little of that. Astounding as it appears, we misoverestimated him.

    • But he was a man of God. That’s what’s important.

      • Does anyone know if he goes to church yet? So, many churches, how does one decide…what to do…

      • In fact, it’s the answer to the question in the title:
        Because God wanted him there

      • I wish we spent more time reminding people of how bad Bush was.

        That perspective is lost.

        • If we did that then people might notice how your hero is continuing all the bad Bush policies.

        • Please tell me, how many hours you spent on the PUBLIC OPTION or The Medicare Buy In!

          When we were working on policy issues trying to get their attention, only the foreign press dropped in and then did stories. How about it, or is it pure idol worship! Do you really care about the people? Come on…TWEET about the Public Option and hold the current Minority Leader to his campaign promise of Getting The Public Option as AN OPTION!

        • BTW: I have been on BUSH II for days, but you NEVER PAY ATTENTION! Come on, if you are for the people than ADVOCATE FOR THE PEOPLE!

    • I heard clips of W’s interview about his memwah. I haveto hand it to him, he can fake “humble” a lot better than Obumbles.

    • After watching his interview on the Today Show, it is clear that he has been advised and even with the deficit, he was saying that it shouldn’t be judged like that (as any sound mind would), but rather as compared to other presidents??? WHAT! So, he had a Bush reality answers scheme and Matt didn’t challenge him at all on it.

    • Oh, get ready for Jeb Bush to go for the White House.

  7. And, astonishingly, a second morning sneeze – the “Put Upon Men” theme is continued

  8. STD Test? There’s an App for That

    British health officials are hard at work on a new app that will allow users to pee into their cell phones and find out within minutes if they have an STD.

    Sounds like a handy little tool to take to the pub with you.

    “Would you mind pissing on my phone?”

  9. Credo Action:

    The media conglomerate Discovery Communications used to be known for their earth-friendly offerings. But they’ve just paid millions to Sarah Palin to host a “nature” show, despite her decidedly anti-environmental stance: She vocally advocates for habitat-destroying oil drilling, she denies global warming is a human-caused threat, and she spearheaded a brutal wolf-slaughter program as governor of Alaska.

    It’s one thing if Fox News gives Sarah Palin a platform. But when Discovery Communications – home to the Discovery Channel, the “Planet Earth” series, the Science Channel, Animal Planet, and TreeHugger.com – gives a show to Sarah Palin, it undercuts everything the Discovery brand has come to represent.

    Anti-environmentalism has no place in the Discovery Communications lineup. Demand that the company cancel “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” before it airs.

    Some people need to get a life.

  10. Funny Shit:
    Subject: Progressive America Rising: Setting Aside Despair: Time for the Left to Get Serious About Itself

    The formerly awesome Van Jones:
    “But somehow we became a movement, after our greatest victory, that sits around munching popcorn, waiting for one person to give a great speech so we can feel good,” tells the activists. “Now, that’s gotta stop.”

    The inauguration wasn’t even the high point of the post-election euphoria in 2008, Jones asserts. It was brutally cold, he reminds his audience: “People had snot frozen in their mustache and beard and nobody told ’em,” he says. “It was horrible. The inauguration was an important day; it was not a happy day.” 
    Far happier, he says, was the pre-inaugural event two days before — the star-studded We Are One concert at the Lincoln Memorial. “Who remembers the president’s speech that day?” he asks, rhetorically. “Nobody.”

    He raves about being in the presence of Bono and Samuel L. Jackson. The lineup also included Bruce Springsteen, Garth Brooks, Beyoncé, Josh Groban, Mary J. Blige, Stevie Wonder and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, among others.

    “You had the full beauty of the American people, the full force of our culture on display,” he says. “None of those people quit the movement and joined the Tea Party. All that creativity, all that power, all that spirit, all that soul — it’s still here. We went from We Are One to We Are Done, and we never got a chance to bring that back out. Well, guess what? The days are now over when any of us can afford to wait for a politician in Washington, D.C., to set the tone and the tenor and the face of our movement.”

    If Jones’ talk had a sound track, this is where you would cue up the orchestra swell for the grand finale.

    Fucking Pathetic!

  11. Room at the top? Not for new Dems

    A younger generation of Democrats is chafing at being asked to stand aside and let a triumvirate of elders keep their leadership positions in the wake of a catastrophic midterm election result.

    Barring an unexpected shake-up, House Democrats next year will be led by a combination of Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Steny Hoyer (Md.) and James Clyburn (S.C.) — lawmakers who are 70 or older and have served in Congress for decades.

    One more reason to dump Pelosi.

  12. Alec Baldwin Dismisses Idea of Congressional Run

    That’s too bad. We’ve never had a rich actor go into politics before.

  13. […] DandyTiger at The Confluence: […]

  14. Why should anybody be surprised about the health risks associated with the body scanners?

    Big business has paid off your congress members so you don’t know what is in the food you eat or how it was processed.

    They pay them off so they can save money by taking environmentally risky actions in mineral extraction or depleting old growth forests. Think Deepwater Horizon.

    And thanks to these same congress members your car may erupt in a ball of flame after the fuel systems degrades from the effects of ethanol.

    To paraphrase: They’re from the government and are here to help themselves of the contents of your wallets.

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