B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘News-esque’ Category

News that doesn’t fit anywhere else

Gun-Friendly Texas Is Getting Even Gunnier

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Don't Bring Yer Guns to Town
Don’t Bring Yer Guns to Town

As someone who frequently visits the foreign country of Texas, this frightens me a bit…

Texas is so gun-friendly that it is easier to get into the Capitol in Austin with a firearm than without one — licensed, gun-carrying lawmakers and members of the public have their own no-wait security lane, and the unarmed masses have to stand in line and slog through the metal detectors.

But on Friday, gun rights throughout the state expanded still more, as a new law took effect that allows certain Texans to wear their handguns in holsters on their hips — or in shoulder holsters, Dirty Harry-style — openly displaying the fact that they are armed as they work, shop, dine and go about their day.

Gun rights will advance again in August, when students and faculty members at Texas universities will be allowed to carry concealed handguns on campus, although openly carrying them is prohibited.

 

(click here to continue reading Gun-Friendly Texas Is Getting Even Friendlier – The New York Times.)

I’m so glad I survived growing up in Texas when I was younger and rasher, I lived through many confrontations with frat boys or other ne’er-do-wells, luckily nobody was killed because nobody had a pistol. We just used our fists, feet and voices, and we lived. 

Written by Seth Anderson

January 2nd, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Posted in News-esque

Tagged with ,

Law Breaking By Police Is Not Acceptable

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Police Line - Do Not Cross
Police Line – Do Not Cross us…

The police are becoming more and more like an occupying army, obeying their own codes, and ignoring laws at will. Of course #notAllCops – but what troubles me is that the rogue cops always seem to have the backing of the rest of the police. How else can you explain the Chicago Police actions in the  LaQuan McDonald execution? Why exactly did police officers on the scene immediately try to destroy evidence? Why are those cops still employed? Jason Van Dyke should serve time for 1st Degree murder, but his buddies shouldn’t get off scott-free. 

As the shocking video of a Chicago police officer fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald is played worldwide, other footage from the scene that night has gone missing.

Minutes after McDonald was shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke on a Southwest Side street, several police officers entered a Burger King located just yards from where the teen fell, demanding to view the restaurant’s password-protected surveillance video, Jay Darshane, a district manager for the fast-food chain, told the Tribune this week.

Darshane said the restaurant’s assistant manager called him that night saying about four or five police officers were inside demanding the password to access the surveillance video. He authorized the manager of the store — who wasn’t working at the time — to give the code to the officers.
The officers stayed on the scene until almost midnight and even brought in their own information technology specialist when it appeared they were having trouble operating the system, Darshane said. 

The equipment had been in perfect working order for weeks before the shooting, Darshane said. But the next morning, Burger King discovered the 86-minute gap when investigators with the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates police shootings, sought to make a DVD copy of the surveillance video. Missing was any footage from 9:13 p.m. to 10:39 p.m., Darshane said.

When the video system kicked back on, it recorded two police officers in the Burger King office who appeared to be looking at something on the monitor over and over, according to Michael Robbins, an attorney representing McDonald’s family.

“It is curious,” Robbins said. “If they got there and turned it on and found that there was no video, what were they looking at for two hours?”

(click here to continue reading Burger King manager told grand jury of gap in Laquan McDonald video of police shooting – Chicago Tribune.)

Or Pay The Price
Or Pay The Price.

I’ve thought about this for days actually, and it still puzzles me. What possible rationalization can the police give for obstructing justice? Other than the obvious motivation that these rogue cops felt there was some illegal or morally ambiguous action they performed that was worth covering up, and they expected that there would not be consequences from their bosses, nor from the rest of the Chicago Police.

These four or five police officers, and their IT specialist need to be named, and to also be charged with a crime. I’d be happier if these criminal thugs were no longer employed by my tax dollars.

Written by Seth Anderson

November 30th, 2015 at 8:23 am

Decoding Daesh: Why is the new name for ISIS so hard to understand?

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Duly noted. Though using the phrase ISIS and sometimes ISIL has been going on long enough that most people will continue to use it for while, and will be confused to hear the phrase Daesh…

Over the last few months, there has been a concerted effort by several senior global politicians to give a new name to the group known as ISIS, or Islamic State, IS or ISIL. That new name is ‘Daesh’. If you’ve followed coverage of this attempted official linguistic sea change, you’ll have gathered that the new name, although it’s just an Arabic acronym equivalent to the English ‘ISIS’, apparently delegitimises the organisation, mocks them, and thus drives them to threaten taking violent retribution on anyone who uses it.

But why does this acronym have this power, and what’s so offensive about it? If your access to news media is only in English, you might still be none the wiser. You may have got the impression from this coverage that the exact meaning and connotations of the word cannot quite be fathomed by anyone – that this word is a nebulous drifter, never to be pinned down. Basically, the coverage seems to imply, it’s obscured by a veil, like so much else in the Arabo-Islamic world, and we can’t hope to get it spelled out for us. It’s far too Eastern and weird for that.

Well, I’m an Arabic translator, so my work revolves around pinning down and spelling out Arabic words and explaining them in English, and I’m here to let you know that there’s nothing mysterious about this new acronym: it may be from a language quite different to English, and an Eastern one at that, but trust me: it can be explained.

And so if the word is basically ‘ISIS’, but in Arabic, why are the people it describes in such a fury about it? Because they hear it, quite rightly, as a challenge to their legitimacy: a dismissal of their aspirations to define Islamic practice, to be ‘a state for all Muslims’ and – crucially – as a refusal to acknowledge and address them as such. They want to be addressed as exactly what they claim to be, by people so in awe of them that they use the pompous, long and delusional name created by the group, not some funny-sounding made-up word. And here is the very simple key point that has been overlooked in all the anglophone press coverage I’ve seen: in Arabic, acronyms are not anything like as widely used as they are in English, and so arabophones are not as used to hearing them as anglophones are. Thus, the creation and use of a title that stands out as a nonsense neologism for an organisation like this one is inherently funny, disrespectful, and ultimately threatening of the organisation’s status. Khaled al-Haj Salih, the Syrian activist who coined the term back in 2013, says that initially even many of his fellow activists, resisting Daesh alongside him, were shocked by the idea of an Arabic acronym, and he had to justify it to them by referencing the tradition of acronyms being used as names by Palestinian organisations (such as Fatah). So saturated in acronyms are we in English that we struggle to imagine this, but it’s true.

All of this means that the name lends itself well to satire, and for the arabophones trying to resist Daesh, humour and satire are essential weapons in their nightmarish struggle. But the satirical weight of the word as a weapon, in the hands of the Syrian activists who have hewn it from the rock of their nightmare reality, does not just consist of the weirdness of acronyms. As well as being an acronym, it is also only one letter different from the word ‘daes داعس’ , meaning someone or something that crushes or tramples. Of course that doesn’t mean, as many articles have claimed, that ‘daesh’ is ‘another conjugation’ of the verb ‘to crush or trample’, nor that that is ‘a rough translation of one of the words in the acronym’ – it’s simply one letter different from this other word. Imagine if the acronym of ‘Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’ spelt out ‘S.H.I.D’ in English: activists and critics would certainly seize the opportunity to refer to the organisation as ‘shit’ – but I think it’s safe to say that no serious foreign media outlet would claim that ‘shit’ was another conjugation of the verb ‘shid’, nor a rough translation of it. Of course, that analogy is an unfair one, given the hegemonic global linguistic position of English, not to mention the heightened currency of scatological words; but there is a serious point to be made here about the anglophone media’s tendency to give up before it’s begun understanding non-European language

(click here to continue reading Decoding Daesh: Why is the new name for ISIS so hard to understand? | Free Word Centre.)

Written by Seth Anderson

November 20th, 2015 at 10:18 am

Posted in News-esque

Tagged with ,

Quick Hitters – November 17th, 2015 Edition

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Well since the great Reeder / Delicious experiment failed, maybe I’ll try just posting this manually. If I had more mental energy, I’d craft responses to all these; instead I’ll leave that as an exercise to you, the reader, to imagine what I might have said…

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 Rolling up on stage after HRC, O’Malley got in on the action himself. “Last night in the debate, Secretary Clinton, to try to mask her proximity to Wall Street and the huge amount of contributions she has received personally from the major banks of Wall Street, sadly invoked 9/11,” O’Malley said. “She doesn’t have to mask it. It is what it is. That is the sort of economy, that is the sort of economic advice she would follow.”

So far, so ordinary. A lot of the audience, and most of the media, had filtered out after HRC had finished her spot, so there was a corporal’s guard of largely white, largely elderly folks remaining when Cornel West took the stage to pitch Bernie Sanders, and then the day stopped being ordinary for everyone.

“What a blessing it is to be here,” West began. “All of my brothers and sisters of all colors here in central I-O-WA!”

Suddenly, the whole atmosphere of the day changed. Some of the people who’d stuck around looked on in something like awe. Some of them laughed and cheered. And, admittedly, more than a few of them looked as though they’d been hit over the head with a shovel. For West it didn’t matter. He’d started at a higher altitude and he very quickly lit the afterburners.

(click here to continue reading Cornel West Stumps for Bernie Sanders in Iowa.)

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Indeed, it’s not clear that the talk of Christian refugees is meant, even by the loudest Republicans, to translate into the appearance of Syrian Christians in America, as opposed to being an acknowledgment that some of the crowds that cheer when they hear anti-immigrant rhetoric might have qualms of conscience. The problem, they can be told, is just that our Muslim-sympathizing, cowardly leaders would bring in the wrong refugees.

Christians are in danger in Syria. Their danger is distinct but not unique. The Yazidis, an even more isolated religious minority, has been a particular target of ISIS. Shiites and Alawites have been targeted, too. Refugee policies have at times rightly recognized the urgent danger that certain religious or otherwise distinct groups are in, and have properly responded. This is something quite different than saying, as Cruz does, that being a Muslim should be a basis for exclusion. Would he let in atheists, for that matter? It seems strange, when moderate Muslims are trying to distance themselves from a milieu of terror, that we would insist that such a thing is impossible. There are international and American laws that recognize people who need protection. There are principles of common decency which do the same. What they do not do is use faith, or the lack of it, as a basis for rejection. (America should have let in more Jewish refugees during the Second World War; that wouldn’t have meant turning away Thomas Mann.) And it is a brutal insult to Syrians who have gone through four and half years of carnage to say that the fact that they are Sunnis gives them some sort of immunity from ISIS or from the Assad regime. There are four million Syrian refugees outside of the country now, and many more inside it. There will likely be some bad people among them. That fact does not obviate their suffering. Taking more of them in can be an unpopular position at a moment when the news is full of speculation that one of the Paris attackers had passed through a refugee camp in Greece with a Syrian passport. But their desperation will not disappear if we lose interest in it; it may just take a different and more destructive form. We have a role in deciding where they will go next.

One of the more dishonest aspects of Cruz’s comments on Fox was his characterization of who the Syrian refugees are. He mentioned an estimate that, in the “early waves” of refugees entering Europe, “seventy-seven per cent of those refugees were young men. That is a very odd demographic for a refugee wave.” Perhaps it would be, if the number were accurate. A bare majority of the Syrian refugees are women, as FactCheck.org noted in September, when Ben Carson and Scott Walker raised similar alarms. About twenty-two per cent are men between the ages of eighteen and fifty-nine—a broad definition of “young.” Cruz is smart enough to know this. He may be referring to a number given for migrants who arrived in Europe, from nine different countries, by taking a specific, dangerous Mediterranean sea route in 2014 (seventy-two per cent). Among the two million Syrian refugees the United Nations has registered in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon, a full thirty-eight per cent are under the age of twelve.

(click here to continue reading Ted Cruz’s Religious Test for Syrian Refugees – The New Yorker.)

“States lack legal authority to refuse to accept refugees (or any other immigrants) that are admitted by the federal [government],” [Adam Cox, a New York University Law School professor who is an expert in immigration and constitutional law] wrote in an email.

* And, of course…

“There are no barriers, no requirements in the Refugee Act of 1980 that indicate a governor has to give permission to resettle in a state,” [Anna Crosslin, the president of International Institut] said. “That’s all a federal process.”

That’s pretty obvious. We can’t just shut our state borders.

(click here to continue reading Capitol Fax.com – Your Illinois News Radar » Missing the point.)

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He’s part news anchor, part gleeful nerd—a formula that’s almost scientific in its ability to deliver hard-core information with chasers of wit. In this, however, he was just giving us a kind of release.

“So here is where things stand. First, as of now, we know that this attack was carried out by gigantic fucking assholes, unconscionable, flaming assholes, possibly, possibly working with other fucking assholes, definitely working in service of an ideology of pure assholery,” he said. His audience began to laugh. “Second, and this goes almost without saying, Fuck these assholes!” The audience began to cheer. “Fuck them, if I may say, sideways!” He made some definitive hand gestures. Third, he said, nothing these assholes attempt is going to work. “France is going to endure. And I’ll tell you why. If you are in a war of culture and life style with France, good fucking luck!” More cheering. “Go ahead, go ahead. Bring your bankrupt ideology. They’ll bring Jean-Paul Sartre, Edith Piaf, fine wine, Gauloises cigarettes, Camus, Camembert, madeleines, macarons”—images of these appeared behind him as he spoke—“Marcel Proust, and the fucking croquembouche!” An image of what looked like a glazed-cream-puff Christmas tree popped up. He waved his hands and pointed at it. “The croquembouche! You just brought a philosophy of rigorous self-abnegation to a pastry fight, my friends. You are fucked! That is a French freedom tower!” The crowd howled with delight.

(click here to continue reading Vive John Oliver – The New Yorker.)
Funky Funky Christmas

During a press conference this morning, President Obama used the term “pop off” in reference to people making uninformed and patently ridiculous claims about what should be done with France and ISIS. And, unless I go outside today and witness a Sojourner Truth hologram double dutching with Marilyn Mosby, I’m very confident in declaring that the Black president dismissively referring to his haters the exact same way Loretha Lyon or Draymond Green or your barber or your best friend or you would have will be the Blackest thing that ever happened this week.

So Black, in fact, that instead of attempting to determine and assess exactly how Black it was, I’m more interested in how “folks wanna pop off” found its way into the President’s lexicon. Does he possess a reservoir of culturally relevant slang terms and colloquialisms that he employs when White people aren’t around? We know he code switches — we see it with every seven-step handshake, and his rendition of Amazing Grace during Rev. Clementa Pinckney’s eulogy is a first-ballot entry in the Code Switch Hall of Fame — but he’s also a 54-year-old man who hoops in Sam’s Club Nikes and tucks his shirt into his sweatpants. (No. seriously. He does.) He is, and will always be, cool in a macro sense. But, in micro sense, he, again, is a 54-year-old man who hoops in Sam’s Club Nikes and tucks his shirt into his sweatpants. This is not what cool people do. Cool people do, however, reflexively use “pop off” to address haters. President Obama is a paradox.

(click here to continue reading President Obama’s “Folks Wanna Pop Off” Is The Blackest Thing That Ever Happened This Week » VSB.)

 

ANTALYA, Turkey — President Barack Obama is sending a message to critics he says “pop off” with their opinions about the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State.

He says they should present a specific plan. And if his critics think their advisers are smarter than Obama’s, the president says, “I want to meet them.”

Obama says his sole interest is in keeping the American people safe. He says he’s not interested in doing what works politically or will make him or America look tough.

(click here to continue reading Obama decries critics who ‘pop off’ with opinions on IS – The Washington Post.)

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It seems like it has taken an eternity, but the Roosevelt Road raised bikeway is finally getting the green paint and bike symbols that will turn it into a functional cycling route. This Chicago Department of Transportation initiative is part of a streetscaping project that involved widening the sidewalk along Roosevelt between State Street and Michigan Avenue to make room for the two-way bike lane.

(click here to continue reading Eyes on the Street: Roosevelt Raised Bike Lane Is Almost Ready to Ride | Streetsblog Chicago.)

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Directly across the street stood a house painted in bright, horizontal rainbow stripes. The house had been bought, in 2012, by Planting Peace, a nonprofit group whose mission, according to its Web site, is “spreading peace in a hurting world.” The Equality House, as it’s known, is home to a group of young L.G.B.T. activists. Planting Peace has worked with former Westboro members to spread its message of tolerance. Megan first visited the house in 2013, after her cousin Libby encouraged her to visit. She sneaked in the back door, for fear of being spotted by her family.

Today, Megan and Grace’s only connection to Westboro is virtual. Although Phelps-Roper no longer believes that the Bible is the word of God, she still reads it to try to find scriptural arguments that could encourage Westboro to take a more humane approach to the world. Sometimes she’ll tweet passages, knowing that church members will see them. After they left the church, Megan and Grace were blocked from Westboro’s Twitter accounts, but they created a secret account to follow them. Sometimes, when her mother appears in a video, Megan will loop it over and over, just to hear her voice.

Fred Phelps died in March, 2014, at the age of eighty-four. Former members of the church told me that Fred had had a softening of heart at the end of his life and had been excommunicated.

(click here to continue reading Conversion via Twitter – The New Yorker.)

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In some ways, his story mirrors that of Lassana Bathily, a young immigrant from Mali who hid a group of frightened shoppers from the assault at the Kosher supermarket in January. Both were Muslim, and both risked their lives for others while men claiming to represent their faith caused so much carnage. A contrast that perhaps illustrates the complex nature of Muslim relations in France. I asked him what he thought about the killers claiming their actions in the name of Islam. “This has nothing to do with religion.” “Real Muslims are not made for killing people,” he said. “These are criminals.”

(click here to continue reading Paris attacks: Restaurant worker who saved two women – BBC News.)

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Governors of at least 20 U.S. states have now said they won’t accept additional refugees from Syria after the attacks Friday in Paris, which French officials say were masterminded by a Belgian who fought for the Islamic State in Syria. As of Monday evening, governors in five other states said they would welcome refugees as part of President Obama’s plan to accept 10,000 people in 2016 who are fleeing the Islamic State and Syria’s civil war.

That means at least half of governors have weighed in, even though they can’t block refugees from entering the United States (though they could complicate settlement within their states’ borders).

There is one stark, obvious difference between these two groups of states: the party that controls the statehouse. Just one of the 20 governors who oppose taking in more refugees is a Democrat: Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire.

(click here to continue reading Governors Who Want To Ban Syrian Refugees Have Something In Common | FiveThirtyEight.)

Doonesbury - Texas Secession
Doonesbury – Texas Secession

Californium is an upcoming first-person game inspired by science fiction author Philip K. Dick. It seems to be about a writer who “slips” between different realities as his life falls apart.

If you’ve any familiarity with Dick, you’ll know that most of his fiction — which has been made into movies like Total Recall, Through a Scanner Darkly, and Blade Runner — deals with the conflict between paranoid characters and the world around them, which may or may not confirm their darkest fears.

Californium is vividly illustrated by French artist Oliver Bonhomme, wh may be the perfect fit for this sort of surreal story about Elvin Green, a sentimental writer with not too many prospects. You become Green in the story, discovering a break up letter from your wife, an editor who fires you, and other such travails.

(click here to continue reading Upcoming Philip K Dick-inspired game is appropriately bizarre | Cult of Mac.)

For most of U.S. history, cities and towns were not eligible for bankruptcy protection. But during the Great Depression, more than 2,000 municipalities defaulted on their debt, and they pleaded with President Roosevelt for a federal bailout. “All they got was sympathy,” reported Time magazine in 1933. Instead, Roosevelt pushed through changes to the bankruptcy laws that allow towns and cities to file for bankruptcy. They even got their own section of the bankruptcy code: Chapter Nine.

(click here to continue reading What Happens When City Hall Goes Bankrupt? : NPR.)

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The long-rumored Apple store at the gateway to the North Michigan Avenue shopping district won’t be a 2.0 version of the famous glass cube that forms an iconic entry into the retailer’s Fifth Avenue flagship in Manhattan. It would be more like a high-tech version of Frank Lloyd Wright’s quintessentially Midwestern Prairie Style homes, with river views to boot.

Soon-to-be-unveiled plans for the store call for a glass-sheathed temple of computing near the historic Michigan Avenue bridge and grand flights of stairs that would cascade from street level to the walkway along the Chicago River’s north bank. These details are outlined in a report from the city’s Department of Planning and Development, a draft copy of which was obtained by the Tribune.

(click here to continue reading Apple store on Chicago River: An exclusive first look at plans – Chicago Tribune.)https://i0.wp.com/farm1.staticflickr.com/531/18578039911_eff2134bb6_n.jpg?resize=320%2C240&ssl=1

Written by Seth Anderson

November 18th, 2015 at 9:44 am

Quick Hitters – November 16th, 2015 Edition

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Gentle Wandering Ways
Gentle Wandering Ways…

Apologies if you are one of the few brave and foolhardy souls who still subscribe to my daily newsletter. Your email contained a bunch of gobbledygook links today. Some background: before Twitter and Facebook, there was a social URL-sharing network called Delicious. Users of Delicious shared snippets from webpages, which is sort of how I still use Twitter1

Delicious was, and still remains, integrated with Google’s long neglected RSS engine, Feedburner. In other words, if you subscribe to my email newsletter, or use my blog’s RSS feed, you see Delicious links, Flickr images as well as occasional actual blog posts like this one merged together. But2 yesterday I started using a new RSS reading app. NetNewsWire has been my RSS reading app of choice since 2002, but it is feeling increasingly neglected, without much integration into the web services of 2015, so I purchased a competitor, Reeder, and lo-and-behold, posting directly to Delicious is an option! If I can press a button and post to Delicious, I’ll use the feature more frequently. With NetNewsWire, posting to Delicious meant logging in the site, copying and pasting the URL, copying and pasting the snippet, adding tags – about the same amount of effort would yield an actual blog post. With Reeder, I just press a button, and if I want, add tags. Much simpler. Except as I discovered this morning, the Delicious post gets mangled somewhere between Feedburner and Reeder. Basically, the URL is not properly formatted and looks like

The%20Great%20Controversy%3A%20Ben%20Carson%2C%20 Ellen%20G.%20White%2C%20and%20Seventh-day%20Adventism  [del.icio.us] Posted: 16 Nov 2015 12:33 PM … [del.icio.us]

Reeder Fail

Reeder Fail

Not acceptable. Oh well.

Here are the five snippets I wanted to post, but didn’t have the stamina nor time to annote/respond to. One snippet I did manage to later turn into a blog post, but I’m including it here anyway …

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The Great Controversy: Ben Carson, Ellen G. White, and Seventh-day Adventism

Ben Carson has famously said that a Muslim who wishes to become president of the United States must “reject the tenets of Islam.”

But what about members of his own church — The Seventh-day Adventist church? Must they reject its doctrines in order to become president?

The SDA church was co-founded by Ellen G. White, who was its original leader and prophet. She is to Adventists what Mary Baker Eddy, Joseph Smith, and Muhammad are to Christian Scientists, Mormons, and Muslims, respectively (not respectfully). And her book, The Great Controversy, corresponds to Science and Health, the Book of Mormon, and the Quran. And it fully deserves to be among them, as one of the the worst books ever written.

Someone should ask Dr. Carson if he believes in Ellen White’s prophecy in The Great Controversy with regard to the “big role” that the United States will play. Specifically, is the United States the two-horned beast that speaks like a lion of Revelation 13:11?

If so, he should renounce that belief (along with the rest of White’s “prophecy”) before anyone should consider voting for him for president.

(click here to continue reading Dwindling In Unbelief: The Great Controversy: Ben Carson, Ellen G. White, and Seventh-day Adventism.)

78.7

Björk on Iceland: ‘We don’t go to church, we go for a walk’ Björk used to walk across the tundra singing at the top of her lungs. John Grant left America for its rocky grandeur and Sigur Rós’s music captures its isolation. What is it about the Icelandic landscape that hypnotises artists?

(click here to continue reading Björk on Iceland: ‘We don’t go to church, we go for a walk’ | Music | The Guardian.)

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Cornel West tears into hypocritical “sister Clinton” while filling in for Bernie Sanders at an Iowa BBQ “Democratic socialism isn’t some kind of alien element. It’s organic and indigenous in the history of this nation.”

West turned to Sanders’ main opponent for the Democratic ticket, claiming that “we have to be honest about our dear sister Hillary Clinton — when it comes to my gay brothers and my lesbian sisters, one year, she says ‘marriage is just male and female.’ A few years later, she says she’s ‘evolved.’ I say, ‘I’m open to evolution.’

“But there’s certain issues that should cut so deep,” he concluded, “that you don’t need to be a thermometer — you can be a thermostat!”

(click here to continue reading Cornel West tears into hypocritical “sister Clinton” while filling in for Bernie Sanders at an Iowa BBQ – Salon.com.)

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The Velvet Underground – see the video for Some Kinda Love (live) The new Complete Matrix Tapes box set is a brilliant insight into one of rock’s greatest bands – and we’ve got this track from the set

This Friday sees the release of The Complete Matrix Tapes, bringing together all the recordings made of the Velvet Underground at the San Francisco venue on 26 and 27 November 1969. Heard in their entirety, the recordings are revelatory – you get to hear wildly different versions of the same songs, Lou Reed chatting and joking with his audience, and a rock band exploring the limits of their performance – right up to a 38-minute version of Sister Ray.

While most of the 42 tracks on the four-disc box have been heard before, nine are exclusives. What’s more, the tracks previously heard on The Bootleg Series, Vol 1: The Quine Tapes were in nothing like this level of fidelity. In a world of box sets packed with unnecessary fillers, this one is anything but.

(click here to continue reading The Velvet Underground – see the video for Some Kinda Love (live) | Music | The Guardian.)

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Ryan Gosling confirms role in Blade Runner sequel

The actor will star alongside Harrison Ford in the sequel to the sci-fi classic

he offered this fairly long-winded account of where Deckard has been living following the events of the original film:

We decided to start the film off with the original starting block of the original film. We always loved the idea of a dystopian universe, and we start off at what I describe as a ‘factory farm’ – what would be a flat land with farming. Wyoming. Flat, not rolling – you can see for 20 miles. No fences, just plowed, dry dirt. Turn around and you see a massive tree, just dead, but the tree is being supported and kept alive by wires that are holding the tree up. It’s a bit like Grapes of Wrath, there’s dust, and the tree is still standing. By that tree is a traditional, Grapes of Wrath-type white cottage with a porch. Behind it at a distance of two miles, in the twilight, is this massive combine harvester that’s fertilizing this ground. You’ve got 16 Klieg lights on the front, and this combine is four times the size of this cottage. And now a spinner [a flying car] comes flying in, creating dust. Of course, traditionally chased by a dog that barks, the doors open, a guy gets out and there you’ve got Rick Deckard. He walks in the cottage, opens the door, sits down, smells stew, sits down and waits for the guy to pull up to the house to arrive. The guy’s seen him, so the guy pulls the combine behind the cottage and it towers three stories above it, and the man climbs down from a ladder – a big man. He steps onto the balcony and he goes to Harrison’s side. The cottage actually [creaks]; this guy’s got to be 350 pounds. I’m not going to say anything else – you’ll have to go see the movie.

(click here to continue reading Ryan Gosling confirms role in Blade Runner sequel | Consequence of Sound.)

Footnotes:
  1. if you follow me, and why shouldn’t you, you’ll notice the majority of my my tweets are links to news and other articles []
  2. and you knew this was coming, right? []

Written by Seth Anderson

November 17th, 2015 at 10:34 am

Neon Cal’s Liquors Sign Can Be Yours For $8,500

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Neon Signs for Sale

I don’t ask for much, but could someone purchase this neon sign for me, and find me a place to store it?

The Neon Cal’s Liquors Sign Can Be Yours For $8,500 – The Loop – DNAinfo.com Chicago: “The big, neon sign for shuttered Downtown dive bar Cal’s Liquors can be yours, thanks to the Internet.”

The sign, which adorned the tavern at 400 S. Wells St. for decades before it closed two years ago, was listed for sale Monday on Craigslist. The asking price is $8,500 or ‘best offer.’

The 121-inch wide by 53-inch tall sign was previously listed for $1,000 less two years ago, according to Gapers Block, which first reported the new listing. The more expensive listing arrives amid a recent preservationist push to save vintage neon signs, which have fallen out of favor to cheaper, more environmentally friendly electronic ones in recent years. 

‘The antiques business is an interesting industry,’ said Erik Retzer of Architectural Artifacts, the North Side collector who acquired the sign after the bar closed. ‘As things become more scarce and rare, they become more valuable.'”

(Via.)

Cal's Liq
Cal's Liquors Open Xmas Eve

Domestic Tranquility of A Nation

Cops and Liquor Stores - Agfa Scala

Written by Seth Anderson

November 5th, 2015 at 8:16 am

Posted in News-esque

Tagged with ,

Historians Exploring the Tech Graveyard

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Tech Graveyard
Tech Graveyard

As someone who has studied history, I’ve long been interested in how future historians will handle our recent, tech-based civilization. Cords, cables, incompatible software, proprietary systems, historians will have a tangled mess to sort out.

When archivists at Northwestern University Library received boxes of personal items from the late actress Karen Black, they expected the usual: correspondence, scripts and fan mail. So when they found a silver Sprint flip phone, they were surprised and excited.

But there was one problem: It didn’t come with the cables.

Without the charger and data cables, the former Northwestern student’s phone went from being a potential treasure trove documenting her life to just a piece of plastic and metal.

For years, archivists have combed through papers and books to capture life at a specific point in time or a famous person’s work. With digital technology advancing rapidly and devices becoming outdated even quicker, the need to come up with strategies on preserving the nonphysical becomes urgent.

After exhausting other options, library archivists are encouraging the public to empty junk drawers and send in outdated cords through their zombie-themed #UndeadTech campaign. Their hope is to raise awareness about the challenges they face in preserving history and reach out to the public to help them resurrect devices such as Black’s.

 …

But once a device is turned on, then archivists have to figure out how to access the information and then how to transfer it to a format where it can be read in the future.

Chris Prom, assistant archivist for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library, said he has been given computers without power cords as well. But after finding the right cords for the device, he was faced with the daunting task of figuring out how to process the data and then convert it into a form that is accessible later. Oftentimes, the systems that are needed to read the information on the device no longer exist.

“It’s like a big detective project to untangle it all and find out exactly what software you need to read it,” Prom said.

(click here to continue reading Northwestern University archivists aim to resurrect outdated technology – Chicago Tribune.)

Cell Phone Evolution
Cell Phone Evolution

When I was a student at UT, my senior history thesis was written after spending many an afternoon flipping through the Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum’s archives, handling memos and various scraps of paper. Fast forward a few decades, will there be anything to flip through? And not just governments, but people too: will those emails you sent last month survive your death? Your Instagram photos? When is the last time you booted up that old laptop?

 Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph

Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph

While Northwestern archivists said their program could be the first in the nation to tap into the junk drawers of the public for mobile devices, Dennis Meissner, president of the Society of American Archivists, said that the problem of turning on and deciphering outdated technology is not a new one. Technologies such as microfilm, magnetic media and wax media are just some of the devices that archivists have had to tackle.

“The first part is getting the hardware that can help you read items, and the second problem is pulling together software to help you make sense of it,” Meissner said. “It’s just a new instance of an age-old problem that archivists face.”

Written by Seth Anderson

October 27th, 2015 at 9:06 am

Posted in government,News-esque

Tagged with ,

Amtrak Plans Long Overdue Union Station Makeover

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Reign In Your Instincts
Reign In Your Instincts…

I’m pleased to note that Union Station is getting a rehab, a long over-due rehab, opening up hidden rooms and so forth. Can’t wait – Union Station is such an iconic Chicago building, yet it has been seemingly neglected for a while, probably due to the inexplicable animosity the GOP has towards Amtrak and passenger trains in general.

John Hilkevitch reports:

Amtrak is betting millions of dollars to transform Union Station into an entertainment and tourist destination, complete with restaurants and outdoor cafes, retail, a hotel and even a grocery store, Getting Around has learned.

Amtrak wants to open up thousands of square feet of space long closed to the public, literally throwing open the doors to the 90-year-old building in a bid to return the landmark station to its heyday in the 1940s and ’50s.

Hidden deep inside Union Station are palatial rooms with 33-foot-high ceilings and assorted alcoves that have been mothballed for decades. During the golden age of passenger rail, those spaces were filled with ritzy restaurants, coffee shops (including the fabled Harvey House), a dance hall, tailoring shops specializing in custom suits, law offices and more.

Behind locked doors is the former Women’s Waiting Room, adorned with murals dating to the station’s opening in 1925, a period when female passengers would take refuge from the rough-and-tumble of traveling alone and freshen up during a stopover in Chicago by using pay showers.

Other hidden spaces, tucked behind the station’s marble walls and ornamental iron bars that cover part of the building’s facade, collect dust. Some of Union Station’s doors fronting Canal Street, potential portals to outdoor cafes, haven’t been cracked open in years, officials said.

Sanders said a well-known high-end grocery chain has expressed interest in opening a food emporium at Union Station. Sanders also said he envisions a hotel on the station’s second floor, with the hotel entrance and marquee on Adams Street between Canal and Clinton streets. He’s already dreaming about reinstalling canopies that once gracefully draped the entrances to Union Station, he said.

(click here to continue reading Amtrak plans Union Station makeover – Chicago Tribune.)

Ready to Take That Night Train To Memphis
Ready to Take That Night Train To Memphis

Either Whole Foods or Mariano’s, I’d guess, even though both have stores nearby on Halsted. 

Got the Wine Country Blues
Got the Wine Country Blues

And I should pop over, and snap a few photos of the staircase in its current worn condition, just for posterity.

In the meantime, the Canal Street entrances will be closed for more than two months starting around July 15, when work is scheduled to begin to replace both sets of the worn marble steps connecting the Great Hall to the station’s main entrance on Canal, where CTA buses stop. The combination deli and bar under the steps has closed in preparation for the work.

The friction from countless pairs of shoes over the years has effectively sanded down the marble, creating indentations on the treads of the steps, which display the most wear and tear near the brass railings.

The grand staircases are famous in their own right, having been filmed and photographed repeatedly in images seen around the world. There’s a dramatic scene in the 1987 film “The Untouchables” where Kevin Costner, playing mob crime fighter Eliot Ness, exchanges gunfire with Al Capone’s gang while a runaway baby carriage rolls bump by bump down the marble stairs.

New marble for the steps was recently cut out of the same quarries near Rome where 100 years ago the marble for the original Union Station steps was mined, Sanders said.

300 S Jackson - Ilford Delta 100
300 S Jackson – Ilford Delta 100

Written by Seth Anderson

June 29th, 2015 at 7:47 am

Chicago, Glenview police officers charged with perjury

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Police Line - Do Not Cross
Police Line – Do Not Cross.

In a just world, these officers would all serve time in prison. Knowing our skewed justice system, they will not spend a moment in jail. The state’s attorney’s office must have been pretty pissed at these guys to file felony perjury charges.

Three Chicago police officers and a Glenview police officer have been charged with lying under oath in court during a drug case last year.

The officers — Chicago police Sgt. James Padar, Officer William Pruente, Officer Vince Morgan and Glenview Officer James Horn — have been charged with felony perjury, according to a statement issued early Monday by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

The charges come after a video contradicted the officers’ sworn testimony during a March 2014 court hearing on whether evidence in the drug case had been properly obtained.

The other officers took the stand and backed up Pruente’s version of the stop, to one degree or another, before Sperling’s lawyer played police video of the traffic stop.

The video, a copy of which was obtained by the Tribune, showed Pruente walking up to the car, reaching through the open driver’s window, unlocking the door and having Sperling step out of the car. Sperling was then frisked, handcuffed and led to a squad car while his car was searched.

 

(click here to continue reading Chicago, Glenview police officers charged with lying in drug case – Chicago Tribune.)

The digital revolution has changed our society in many ways, many negative1 but also in one undeniably positive way. So many citizens now have the capability to record what actually happens during interactions with law enforcement. We are learning that police cannot be trusted to tell the truth unless they know there is contrary evidence. How many drug arrests over the decades come down to the word of a police officer cited as incontrovertible evidence? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Millions?

Footnotes:
  1. planned obsolescence leading to massive amounts of environmental pollution, stripping our planet of resources to feed the insatiable maw, isolating people from human contact, etc. []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 9th, 2015 at 12:06 pm

Posted in crime,News-esque

Tagged with , ,

FBI behind mysterious surveillance flights over U.S. cities

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Eye see u Willis
Eye see U. All of you!

A police state? Whoever could imagine such a thing in the United States of America? Civil liberties? Ha! The Bill of Rights is no longer required because the War on Terra has usurped them.

This is the real legacy of disgraced former Congressman Dennis Hastert: willingly gutting the Constitution to please the Neo Cons and Dick Cheney, and his little puppy GWB.

Scores of low-flying planes circling American cities are part of a civilian air force operated by the FBI and obscured behind fictitious companies.

The Associated Press traced at least 50 aircraft back to the FBI, and identified more than 100 flights in 11 states over a 30-day period since late April, orbiting both major cities and rural areas. At least 115 planes, including 90 Cessna aircraft, were mentioned in a federal budget document from 2009.

For decades, the planes have provided support to FBI surveillance operations on the ground. But now the aircraft are equipped with high-tech cameras, and in rare circumstances, technology capable of tracking thousands of cellphones, raising questions about how these surveillance flights affect Americans’ privacy.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has its own planes, also registered to fake companies, according to a 2011 Justice Department inspector general report. At the time, the DEA had 92 aircraft in its fleet. And since 2007, the U.S. Marshals Service has operated an aerial surveillance program with its own fleet equipped with technology that can capture data from thousands of cellphones, the Wall Street Journal reported last year.

 …

Some of the aircraft can also be equipped with technology that can identify thousands of people below through the cellphones they carry, even if they’re not making a call or in public.

(click here to continue reading FBI behind mysterious surveillance flights over Chicago, other U.S. cities – Chicago Tribune.)

You Are Being Film
You Are Being Film

In other words, we are all assumed to be guilty of something, and thus can be monitored and spied upon without need for quaint antiques like warrants or probable cause.

Evolving technology can record higher-quality video from long distances, even at night, and can capture certain identifying information from cellphones using a device known as a “cell-site simulator” — or Stingray, to use one of the product’s brand names. These can trick pinpointed cellphones into revealing identification numbers of subscribers, including those not suspected of a crime.

The FBI has recently begun obtaining court orders to use this technology. Previously, the Obama administration had been directing local authorities through secret agreements not to reveal their own use of the devices, even encouraging prosecutors to drop cases rather than disclose the technology’s use in open court.

Do All Photographers Need a Warrant?
Do All Photographers Need a Warrant?

Up in the sky! Look! It’s a bird! A plane! It’s the FBI!

Another Crappy Photo of a Prop Plane
Another Crappy Photo of a Prop Plane

From Wall Street Journal reporter Devlin Barrett last year:

The Justice Department is scooping up data from thousands of mobile phones through devices deployed on airplanes that mimic cellphone towers, a high-tech hunt for criminal suspects that is snagging a large number of innocent Americans, according to people familiar with the operations.

The U.S. Marshals Service program, which became fully functional around 2007, operates Cessna aircraft from at least five metropolitan-area airports, with a flying range covering most of the U.S. population, according to people familiar with the program.

Planes are equipped with devices—some known as “dirtboxes” to law-enforcement officials because of the initials of the Boeing Co. unit that produces them—which mimic cell towers of large telecommunications firms and trick cellphones into reporting their unique registration information.

Even having encryption on a phone, such as the kind included on Apple Inc.’s iPhone 6, doesn’t prevent this process.

 …

Also unknown are the steps taken to ensure data collected on innocent people isn’t kept for future examination by investigators. A federal appeals court ruled earlier this year that over-collection of data by investigators, and stockpiling of such data, was a violation of the Constitution.

The dirtbox and Stingray are both types of what tech experts call “IMSI catchers,’’ named for the identification system used by networks to identify individual cellphones.

The name “dirtbox’’ came from the acronym of the company making the device, DRT, for Digital Receiver Technology Inc., people said. DRT is now a subsidiary of Boeing. A Boeing spokeswoman declined to comment.

“DRT has developed a device that emulates a cellular base station to attract cellphones for a registration process even when they are not in use,’’ according to a 2010 regulatory filing Boeing made with the U.S. Commerce Department, which touted the device’s success in finding contraband cellphones smuggled in to prison inmates.

 

(click here to continue reading Americans’ Cellphones Targeted in Secret U.S. Spy Program – WSJ.)

Continuous Video Recording in Progress
Continuous Video Recording in Progress

and a follow up by the same reporter:

The Central Intelligence Agency played a crucial role in helping the Justice Department develop technology that scans data from thousands of U.S. cellphones at a time, part of a secret high-tech alliance between the spy agency and domestic law enforcement, according to people familiar with the work.

The CIA and the U.S. Marshals Service, an agency of the Justice Department, developed technology to locate specific cellphones in the U.S. through an airborne device that mimics a cellphone tower, these people said.

Today, the Justice Department program, whose existence was reported by The Wall Street Journal last year, is used to hunt criminal suspects. The same technology is used to track terror suspects and intelligence targets overseas, the people said.

The surveillance system briefly identifies large numbers of cellphones belonging to citizens unrelated to the search. The practice can also briefly interfere with the ability to make calls, these people said.

Some law-enforcement officials are concerned the aerial surveillance of cellphone signals inappropriately mixes traditional police work with the tactics and technology of overseas spy work that is constrained by fewer rules. Civil-liberties groups say the technique amounts to a digital dragnet of innocent Americans’ phones.

(click here to continue reading CIA Aided Justice Department Secret Program to Spy on U.S. Cellphones – WSJ.)

City of Chicago Emergency Management Surveillance Vehicle
City of Chicago Emergency Management Surveillance Vehicle

Remember when the CIA was banned on spying on Americans, and from conducting operations on American soil? Ah, those were the days…

To civil libertarians, the close involvement of America’s premier international spy agency with a domestic law-enforcement arm shows how military and espionage techniques are now being used on U.S. citizens.

“There’s a lot of privacy concerns in something this widespread, and those concerns only increase if we have an intelligence agency coordinating with them,” said Andrew Crocker of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has filed a lawsuit seeking more details about the program and its origins.

The Truth Is Not So Comfortable
The Truth Is Not So Comfortable

Written by Seth Anderson

June 3rd, 2015 at 11:33 am

Let’s Extol the Art of Clutter

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Smelling the new Shelves
These shelves are overflowing now, btw…

Let us pause a moment to extol the art of clutter. And it isn’t even a Slate Pitch!

Dominique Browning writes:

Entire companies are being built on the backs of a neurosis that makes us believe that the process of shedding is complicated to the point of paralyzing.

It is all pointless and misguided, and it is time to liberate ourselves from the propaganda of divestment.

I would like to submit an entirely different agenda, one that is built on love, cherishing and timelessness. One that acknowledges that in living, we accumulate. We admire. We desire. We love. We collect. We display.

And over the course of a lifetime, we forage, root and rummage around in our stuff, because that is part of what it means to be human. We treasure.

Why on earth would we get rid of our wonderful things?

It is time to celebrate the gentle art of clutter. We live, and we pick up things along the way: the detritus of adventure; the vessels of mealtimes; the books and music of a life of the mind; the pleasures of our daily romps through the senses.

(click here to continue reading Let’s Celebrate the Art of Clutter – NYTimes.com.)

If you’ve ever been in my house, you’ll know that I have things everywhere: piles of books, magazines, newspapers, stacks of compact discs and DVDs, artwork in process of being hung, not to mention the more permanent items already displayed, plus cat toys, file folders for the projects de jure, notebooks full of scribbles and diagrams, shelves of vitamins and herbs, bottles of wine and spirits, both empty and partially full, electronic flotsam and jetsam, and all the little snippets and objects of a life lived. Some might consider it clutter, but we’re ok with it, mostly. We vacuum, dust, and clean at least once a week, so it isn’t that it is dirty and disgusting in here, just not spartan. We are not minimalists, we are maximalists. Sorry, Leo! I love you, cuz, but I’m on the other side of the spectrum… 


“Oh, You wanted to *work* at your desk?”

When fashion icons like Iris Apfel agree with me, I’m even more ok with not following the de-clutter trend. 

Similarly, people seem to be obsessed with decluttering their homes these days, but you’re known for keeping your house filled with all sorts of treasures. Why? I love clutter. I think being totally minimal shows a lack of history and soul, and I find it sort of pitiful. I think it’s wonderful to have stuff and live with memories and things you enjoy.

(click here to continue reading Iris Apfel Doesn’t Do Normcore – NYTimes.com.)

That is not to say I don’t need to throw out things, and in fact, I do get rid of things on a semi-regular basis. I rarely save magazines after I’ve finished reading them, (digital excerpts an exception of course, as anyone who is on my email list can attest) I donate clothes to Goodwill or elsewhere whenever I stop wearing them. I don’t have problem discarding objects just because I once used them, I only keep a small portion of talismans of my history. I’m only saying I don’t need your advice on what I should keep. And my house will never look like a yoga studio, sleek, spartan and empty.

kthxbai…

Onward Thru The Fog! Oat Willie's
Onward Thru The Fog! Oat Willie’s

There is a reason we talk about nesting. Next time you are out walking, take a close look at a nest.

Nests are full of twigs, bits of fluff, string, moss and bark. Stuff birds take home, and fit to a shape that accommodates their lives.

Some birds even press their warm bodies against their stuff as they are making their nests, molding them to the shape of their breasts, so that they feel like … home.

A home that is uniquely theirs, and uniquely beloved.

(click here to continue reading Let’s Celebrate the Art of Clutter – NYTimes.com.)

Nesting
Nesting

Written by Seth Anderson

June 3rd, 2015 at 9:39 am

Up to 18 Labs May Have Received Inadvertent Anthrax Shipments

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In War, There Are No Unwounded Soldiers
In War, There Are No Unwounded Soldiers

How can this be a good thing?

Investigators believe live anthrax samples inadvertently may have been sent from an Army research facility to as many as 18 labs in nine states and South Korea, officials said Thursday.

The U.S. military has ordered 22 service members and Defense Department civilians in South Korea who may have come near the live samples to take the antibiotic Cipro as a precautionary measure.

“There are no suspected or confirmed cases of anthrax infection in any of these personnel,” said Col. Steve Warren, the chief Pentagon spokesman.

In addition to South Korea’s Osan Air Base, the defense lab at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah also sent samples of anthrax to the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Virginia, and the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland.

The Pentagon hasn’t identified private labs that received the shipment, nor said whether their employees are being treated as a precaution. But U.S. officials said there are no confirmed cases of anthrax infection in anyone who came in contact with the samples. The civilian labs are in Texas, Wisconsin, Delaware, Tennessee, California, New York and New Jersey.

(click here to continue reading Up to 18 Labs May Have Received Inadvertent Anthrax Shipments – WSJ.)

I wonder how that FBI investigation into the weaponized anthrax attacks during the run-up to the Boondoggle in the Iraqi Desert aka Operation Iraqi Freedom is going, btw? Remember? Since there no convictions, I’m guessing the investigation continues, and Dick Cheney chuckles…

Written by Seth Anderson

June 3rd, 2015 at 8:25 am

Posted in News-esque

Tagged with , , ,

Boeing 787 software bug could cause crash

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Double Rainbow Over Boeing
Double Rainbow Over Boeing

Damn, that sounds like a pretty serious, life-threatening bug. If I were a stock trader, I’d be shorting Boeing right about yesterday…

The US air safety authority has issued a warning and maintenance order over a software bug that causes a complete electric shutdown of Boeing’s 787 and potentially “loss of control” of the aircraft.

In the latest of a long line of problems plaguing Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, which saw the company’s fleet grounded over battery issues and concerns raised over possible hacking vulnerabilities, the new software bug was found in plane’s generator-control units.

The plane’s electrical generators fall into a failsafe mode if kept continuously powered on for 248 days. The 787 has four such main generator-control units that, if powered on at the same time, could fail simultaneously and cause a complete electrical shutdown.

“If the four main generator control units (associated with the engine-mounted generators) were powered up at the same time, after 248 days of continuous power, all four GCUs will go into failsafe mode at the same time, resulting in a loss of all AC electrical power regardless of flight phase.”

Should the electrical shutdown happen at a critical phase in flight such as take-off or landing, or while manoeuvring in the air, the loss of control could be catastrophic.

 

(click here to continue reading US aviation authority: Boeing 787 software bug could cause ‘loss of control’ | Technology | The Guardian.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 1st, 2015 at 11:22 am

Posted in News-esque

Tagged with

American Psychological Association Collaborated on Torture Justification

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 Electricity is a Bitter Herb

Electricity is a Bitter Herb…

In a just world, these evil doers would be publicly humiliated, named by name, and forced to stand trial for war crimes at The Hague. The Bush administration too. It’s a travesty that President Obama’s response to war crimes perpetrated by his predecessor was to sweep all the evidence under the rug and shrug, “Bygones…”

The American Psychological Association secretly collaborated with the administration of President George W. Bush to bolster a legal and ethical justification for the torture of prisoners swept up in the post-Sept. 11 war on terror, according to a new report by a group of dissident health professionals and human rights activists.

The report is the first to examine the association’s role in the interrogation program. It contends, using newly disclosed emails, that the group’s actions to keep psychologists involved in the interrogation program coincided closely with efforts by senior Bush administration officials to salvage the program after the public disclosure in 2004 of graphic photos of prisoner abuse by American military personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

“The A.P.A. secretly coordinated with officials from the C.I.A., White House and the Department of Defense to create an A.P.A. ethics policy on national security interrogations which comported with then-classified legal guidance authorizing the C.I.A. torture program,” the report’s authors conclude.

(click here to continue reading Report Says American Psychological Association Collaborated on Torture Justification – NYTimes.com.)

Six Thousand Thirteen Too Many
Six Thousand Thirteen Too Many

and why did the Bush thugs do it?

The involvement of health professionals in the Bush-era interrogation program was significant because it enabled the Justice Department to argue in secret opinions that the program was legal and did not constitute torture, since the interrogations were being monitored by health professionals to make sure they were safe.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 30th, 2015 at 8:00 am

Going Clear and the Ridiculousness of Tax Exemption for Religious Organizations

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Ideas and Not Battles…
Ideas and Not Battles…

I hope you’ve seen, or plan to see, the documentary by Alex Gibney called Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. Besides the whole insanity of Xenu, and thetans and Suppressive Persons, a big question raised is why exactly did the IRS classify L. Ron Hubbard’s science fiction stories as a religion, entitled to evade taxes? Was it a result of Operation Snow White? Or some other reason?

The latter half of Going Clear delineates how David Miscavige uses the above dogma to create a financial empire built on celebrity outreach, with the organization’s Celebrity Centre being a major landmark, and Hubbard’s directive of “fair game” (i.e., harassment and threats to enemies labeled “suppressive persons”). The result is extensive research and testimony based on the experiences of former church members, some of them former senior members, with allegations of torture, labor camps, re-education camps, human trafficking, and a non-profit religion that has at least $1.5 billion in the bank. If you or I paid someone who worked for us 40 cents an hour or forced someone to mop a bathroom with their tongue, we would probably be looking at spending some time in a courtroom.

However, because Scientology has tax-exempt status as a religion, these practices are protected by the First Amendment as “self-inflicted” punishments by adherents of a religion.

That tax-exempt status was also important in saving Scientology from bankruptcy. Going Clear asserts the church was looking at a $1 billion tax bill in 1993 after fighting the IRS for decades. Not only was the tax debt forgiven, but the classification of Scientology as a religion also means sales of Dianetics and other Hubbard books are not taxed either, since they’re considered “religious texts.” And all of this is supposed to be given a happy face by trotting out celebrities like Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and others so they can peddle Scientology in other countries and attempt religious recognition in Europe and elsewhere. However, Cruise is shown to be the equivalent of manipulated royalty within the church. Church insiders paint a picture of him as pampered and coddled to be Scientology’s ambassador to the world, with his every whim attended to, but Miscavige dictates who can be close to Cruise and is jealously protective of his own relationship with the star. And Travolta is implied to be either indifferent to the religion’s abuses or a “captive” who stays in his place because of the threat of blackmail.

(click here to continue reading ‘Going Clear’ offers a devastating exposé of greed and abuse.)

Truthfully, I don’t understand why any mega-rich church gets to be tax exempt. My taxes partially go to support schools, I don’t object to that despite me having no children of my own. I understand the idea of the public good – a well educated society is better for all of us. I pay for the park district, and I don’t object to that. I use the parks, I am happy to see others using the parks, families, dogs, whatever. But what good to society is Scientology doing? or any of us who aren’t Tom Cruise or John Travolta?

I don’t think the Catholic Church should be tax-exempt either, but at least they seem to do a small amount of good for the public – soup kitchens, outreach, etc. What is Scientology doing for the community? Other than separating rubes from their money? 

The Nonprofit Risk Management Center reports that more than 100 501(c)(3) organizations are stripped of their tax-exempt status each year. The reasons can vary, covering the violation of laws that govern private benefits, lobbying, political campaign activity, unrelated business income, the obligation to report annually and maintaining operation in accord with stated exempt purpose.…

According to the film, Church of Scientology Chairman David Miscavige ordered the organization’s members to file individual lawsuits against the IRS for its failure to recognize it as a church. Overwhelmed by 2,400 individual suits and the prospect of defending itself against all of them, the IRS agreed to grant Scientology tax-exempt status in exchange for the withdrawal of the cases.

A 2011 tax filing reveals that the three organizations comprising Scientology claim a combined value of $1.5 billion, a sum that has allegedly been built on the backs of members who pay thousands of dollars to rise within the organization, are paid 40 cents an hour for labor and have been tortured for dissent, combined with the organization’s vast international property portfolio. “This issue is not about whether Scientology is a religion,” Gibney told TheWrap. “The issue is whether or not Scientology is pursuing policies that are not in the public interest.” The government simply needs to determine whether there’s a “fundamental overriding interest” in declassifying an organization involved in the above activities as exempt from taxation.

According to the IRS website, to be tax-exempt, an “organization’s purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.” An IRS representative told TheWrap he’s unable to comment on whether there’s currently an investigation into any organizations or individual cases.

(click here to continue reading HBO’s ‘Going Clear’ Triggers New Scrutiny of Scientology’s Tax-Exempt Status.)

Church of Scientology London
Church of Scientology London

So how exactly did the Scientologists get the IRS to reverse itself? There are many still unanswered questions:

For 25 years, I.R.S. agents had branded Scientology a commercial enterprise and refused to give it the tax exemption granted to churches. The refusals had been upheld in every court. But that night the crowd learned of an astonishing turnaround. The I.R.S. had granted tax exemptions to every Scientology entity in the United States.…The landmark reversal shocked tax experts and saved the church tens of millions of dollars in taxes. More significantly, the decision was an invaluable public relations tool in Scientology’s worldwide campaign for acceptance as a mainstream religion. On the basis of the I.R.S. ruling, the State Department formally criticized Germany for discriminating against Scientologists. The German Government regards the organization as a business, not a tax-exempt religion, the very position maintained for 25 years by the American Government.

The full story of the turnabout by the I.R.S. has remained hidden behind taxpayer privacy laws for nearly four years. But an examination by The New York Times found that the exemption followed a series of unusual internal I.R.S. actions that came after an extraordinary campaign orchestrated by Scientology against the agency and people who work there. Among the findings of the review by The Times, based on more than 30 interviews and thousands of pages of public and internal church records, were these:

*Scientology’s lawyers hired private investigators to dig into the private lives of I.R.S. officials and to conduct surveillance operations to uncover potential vulnerabilities, according to interviews and documents. One investigator said he had interviewed tenants in buildings owned by three I.R.S. officials, looking for housing code violations. He also said he had taken documents from an I.R.S. conference and sent them to church officials and created a phony news bureau in Washington to gather information on church critics. The church also financed an organization of I.R.S. whistle-blowers that attacked the agency publicly.

*The decision to negotiate with the church came after Fred T. Goldberg Jr., the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service at the time, had an unusual meeting with Mr. Miscavige in 1991. Scientology’s own version of what occurred offers a remarkable account of how the church leader walked into I.R.S. headquarters without an appointment and got in to see Mr. Goldberg, the nation’s top tax official. Mr. Miscavige offered to call a halt to Scientology’s suits against the I.R.S. in exchange for tax exemptions.

After that meeting, Mr. Goldberg created a special committee to negotiate a settlement with Scientology outside normal agency procedures. When the committee determined that all Scientology entities should be exempt from taxes, I.R.S. tax analysts were ordered to ignore the substantive issues in reviewing the decision, according to I.R.S. memorandums and court files.

The I.R.S. refused to disclose any terms of the agreement, including whether the church was required to pay back taxes, contending that it was confidential taxpayer information. The agency has maintained that position in a lengthy court fight, and in rejecting a request for access by The Times under the Freedom of Information Act. But the position is in stark contrast to the agency’s handling of some other church organizations. Both the Jimmy Swaggart Ministries and an affiliate of the Rev. Jerry Falwell were required by the I.R.S. to disclose that they had paid back taxes in settling disputes in recent years.

(click here to continue reading Scientology’s Puzzling Journey From Tax Rebel to Tax Exempt – NYTimes.com.)

Xenu dot Net
Xenu dot Net

From the IRS manual, your organization only needs to check these boxes off to be classified as a religion, and not even check all the boxes:

The Service considers all the facts and circumstances in determining whether an organization is a church, including whether the organization has the following characteristics:

  • a distinct legal existence
  • a recognized creed and form of worship
  • a definite and distinct ecclesiastical government
  • a formal code of doctrine and discipline
  • a distinct religious history
  • a membership not associated with any other church or denomination
  • a complete organization of ordained ministers ministering to their congregations
  • ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study
  • a literature of its own
  • established places of worship
  • regular congregations
  • regular religious services
  • Sunday schools for religious instruction of the young
  • schools for the preparation of its ministers

The above list of 14 church characteristics (first published by the Service in 1978 as a news release, IR–1930) is not exclusive—any other facts and circumstances that may bear upon the organization’s claim for church status must also be considered.

An organization need not have all of the characteristics (few churches do, and newly-created churches cannot be expected to); thus, no single characteristic is controlling.

Some of the characteristics may be given more weight than others in a given case.

(click here to continue reading Internal Revenue Manual – 7.26.2 Private Foundations Defined – IRC 509(a)(1) Exlcusions (Other Than IRC 170(b)(1)(A)(vi)) and IRC 509(a)(4) Exclusion.)

Church of Scientology
Church of Scientology

Written by Seth Anderson

March 31st, 2015 at 11:46 am

Posted in News-esque,religion

Tagged with , , ,