Categories
government health Links Photography politics

Reading Around on May 21st

Some additional reading May 21st from 10:35 to 17:13:

  • David H. Murdock: A Recipe For Longevity: 33 Of The Healthiest Foods On Earth – No pills, not even aspirin, and certainly no supplements ever enter my mouth — everything I need comes from my fish-vegetarian diet, which incorporates 30-40 different kinds of fruit and vegetables every week. Even though I am Chairman and Owner of Dole Food Company, I do most of my own grocery shopping, and even took Oprah on an impromptu trip to Costco, in a day that included bike riding, exercise in the gym, and juicing vegetables in the kitchen. Oprah marveled at how much I eat, and yet never gain a pound. In fact, I expend a lot of energy in my 50-60 minutes of cardio and strength training every day. Plus there’s the fact that fruit and vegetables tend to be lower in calories, but higher in filling fiber and other nutrients that help you feel satisfied.
  • Expert Tips on Photographing Your Pets – Gadgetwise Blog – NYTimes.com – “Back in the day when I was obsessively photographing just my own cats, I’d wait for them to do something interesting or cute before I actually brought the camera up to shoot. Of course by that time, 1 or 2 seconds have elapsed, and they’re doing something less interesting, and I’ve missed the shot.Now, I sort of treat my still camera as a video camera. Even if I’m not actively shooting, and even if the subject is not doing something “capture-worthy,” I continue tracking through the viewfinder and recomposing. Because soon enough they will do something capture-worthy, and I’ll be ready to press the shutter the second it happens.”
  • Data.gov – The purpose of Data.gov is to increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. Although the initial launch of Data.gov provides a limited portion of the rich variety of Federal datasets presently available, we invite you to actively participate in shaping the future of Data.gov by suggesting additional datasets and site enhancements to provide seamless access and use of your Federal data. Visit today with us, but come back often. With your help, Data.gov will continue to grow and change in the weeks, months, and years ahead


Swanksalot’s Geek Chart

Categories
government health

Uncle Sam’s Human Lab Rats

This isn’t a new allegation1 but still disquieting. Experimenting with mind altering drugs on your own initiative is one thing, but being dosed by your employers? Strange, and disturbing.


“The Project MKULTRA Compendium: The CIA’s Program of Research in Behavioral Modification” (Stephen Foster)


“Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond” (Martin A. Lee, Bruce Shlain)

Gordon Erspamer [a San Francisco lawyer]…has filed suit against the CIA and the US Army on behalf of the Vietnam Veterans of America and six former American soldiers who claim they are the real thing: survivors of classified government tests conducted at the Army’s Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland between 1950 and 1975. “I get a lot of calls,” he says. “There are a lot of crazy people out there who think that somebody from Mars is controlling their behavior via radio waves.” But when it comes to Edgewood, “I’m finding that more and more of those stories are true!”

That government scientists conducted human experiments at Edgewood is not in question. “The program involved testing of nerve agents, nerve agent antidotes, psychochemicals, and irritants,” according to a 1994 General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office) report (PDF). At least 7,800 US servicemen served “as laboratory rats or guinea pigs” at Edgewood, alleges Erspamer’s complaint, filed in January in a federal district court in California. The Department of Veterans Affairs has reported that military scientists tested hundreds of chemical and biological substances on them, including VX, tabun, soman, sarin, cyanide, LSD, PCP, and World War I-era blister agents like phosgene and mustard. The full scope of the tests, however, may never be known. As a CIA official explained to the GAO, referring to the agency’s infamous MKULTRA mind-control experiments, “The names of those involved in the tests are not available because names were not recorded or the records were subsequently destroyed.” Besides, said the official, some of the tests involving LSD and other psychochemical drugs “were administered to an undetermined number of people without their knowledge.”

Erspamer’s plaintiffs claim that, although they volunteered for the Edgewood program, they were never adequately informed of the potential risks and continue to suffer debilitating health effects as a result of the experiments. They hope to force the CIA and the Army to admit wrongdoing, inform them of the specific substances they were exposed to, and provide access to subsidized health care to treat their Edgewood-related ailments. Despite what they describe as decades of suffering resulting from their Edgewood experiences, the former soldiers are not seeking monetary damages; a 1950 Supreme Court decision, the Feres case, precludes military personnel from suing the federal government for personal injuries sustained in the line of duty. The CIA’s decision to use military personnel as test subjects followed the court’s decision and is an issue Erspamer plans to raise at trial. “Suddenly, they stopped using civilian subjects and said, ‘Oh, we can get these military guys for free,'” he says. “The government could do whatever it wanted to them without liability. We want to bring that to the attention of the public, because I don’t think most people understand that.” (Asked about Erspamer’s suit, CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf would say only that the agency’s human testing program has “been thoroughly investigated, and the CIA fully cooperated with each of the investigations.”)

[Click to continue reading Uncle Sam’s Human Lab Rats | Mother Jones]

The CIA lying to the American people? I’m sure that has only happened in the past, and not in the present day. Ahem…

From the Project MK-Ultra wikipedia page:

The Agency poured millions of dollars into studies probing dozens of methods of influencing and controlling the mind. One 1955 MK-ULTRA document gives an indication of the size and range of the effort; this document refers to the study of an assortment of mind-altering substances described as follows:[16]

  1. Substances which will promote illogical thinking and impulsiveness to the point where the recipient would be discredited in public.
  2. Substances which increase the efficiency of mentation and perception.
  3. Materials which will prevent or counteract the intoxicating effect of alcohol.
  4. Materials which will promote the intoxicating effect of alcohol.
  5. Materials which will produce the signs and symptoms of recognized diseases in a reversible way so that they may be used for malingering, etc.
  6. Materials which will render the induction of hypnosis easier or otherwise enhance its usefulness.
  7. Substances which will enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture and coercion during interrogation and so-called “brain-washing”.
  8. Materials and physical methods which will produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use.
  9. Physical methods of producing shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use.
  10. Substances which produce physical disablement such as paralysis of the legs, acute anemia, etc.
  11. Substances which will produce “pure” euphoria with no subsequent let-down.
  12. Substances which alter personality structure in such a way that the tendency of the recipient to become dependent upon another person is enhanced.
  13. A material which will cause mental confusion of such a type that the individual under its influence will find it difficult to maintain a fabrication under questioning.
  14. Substances which will lower the ambition and general working efficiency of men when administered in undetectable amounts.
  15. Substances which promote weakness or distortion of the eyesight or hearing faculties, preferably without permanent effects.
  16. A knockout pill which can surreptitiously be administered in drinks, food, cigarettes, as an aerosol, etc., which will be safe to use, provide a maximum of amnesia, and be suitable for use by agent types on an ad hoc basis.
  17. A material which can be surreptitiously administered by the above routes and which in very small amounts will make it impossible for a man to perform any physical activity whatsoever.

Historians have learned that creating a “Manchurian Candidate” subject through “mind control” techniques was undoubtedly a goal of MK-ULTRA and related CIA project

I would not be surprised to learn that the CIA has continued their experiments up until the present. They just probably outsourced the location to Gitmo and Syria and Abu Ghraib.I had not ever heard this allegation:

A considerable amount of credible circumstantial evidence suggests that Theodore Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, participated in CIA-sponsored MK-ULTRA experiments conducted at Harvard University from the fall of 1959 through the spring of 1962. During World War II, Henry Murray, the lead researcher in the Harvard experiments, served with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was a forerunner of the CIA. Murray applied for a grant funded by the United States Navy, and his Harvard stress experiments strongly resembled those run by the OSS.[42] [Alexander Cockburn article at Counter-Punch]

Beginning at the age of sixteen, Kaczynski participated along with twenty-one other undergraduate students in the Harvard experiments, which have been described as “disturbing” and “ethically indefensible.

nor this one:

Jonestown, the Guyana location of the Jim Jones cult and Peoples Temple mass suicide, was thought to be a test site for MKULTRA medical and mind control experiments after the official end of the program. Congressman Leo Ryan, a known critic of the CIA, was assassinated after he personally visited Jonestown to investigate various reported irregularities [M Meier]

though I have heard this conspiracy theory, and dismissed it2

Lawrence Teeter, attorney for convicted assassin Sirhan Sirhan, believed Sirhan was under the influence of hypnosis when he fired his weapon at Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. Teeter linked the CIA’s MKULTRA program to mind control techniques that he claimed were used to control Sirhan.[47] Teeter’s assertions are generally dismissed due to lack of supporting evidence

Footnotes:
  1. I’ve read several books on the subject in the early 1990s []
  2. well, to the extent that any Kennedy assassination theory can be dismissed []
Categories
government

Legalize our Sins

Other than the headline – that believing in sins requires one to believe in a religious authority that assigns value to actions – this is an idea I believe would benefit our society. Nick Gillespie, editor of Reason Magazine, writes:

Wages of Sin and a Pink Caddy

Here’s a better idea — and one that will help the federal and state governments fill their coffers: Legalize drugs and then tax sales of them. And while we’re at it, welcome all forms of gambling (rather than just the few currently and arbitrarily allowed) and let prostitution go legit too. All of these vices, involving billions of dollars and consenting adults, already take place. They just take place beyond the taxman’s reach.

Legalizing the world’s oldest profession probably wasn’t what Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, meant when he said that we should never allow a crisis to go to waste. But turning America into a Sin City on a Hill could help President Obama pay for his ambitious plans to overhaul health care and invest in green energy. More taxed vices would certainly lead to significant new revenue streams at every level. That’s one of the reasons 52 percent of voters in a recent Zogby poll said they support legalizing, taxing and regulating the growth and sale of marijuana. Similar cases could be made for prostitution and all forms of gambling.

In terms of economic stimulation and growth, legalization would end black markets that generate huge amounts of what economists call “deadweight losses,” or activity that doesn’t contribute to increased productivity. Rather than spending precious time and resources avoiding the law (or, same thing, paying the law off), producers and consumers could more easily get on with business and the huge benefits of working and playing in plain sight.

[Click to continue reading Nick Gillespie – Paying With Our Sins – NYTimes.com]

Unfortunately, too many vested interests impeding the progress of this idea. Too bad, because the economic numbers are extremely favorable:

Based on estimates from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Americans spend at least $64 billion a year on illegal drugs. And according to a 2006 study by the former president of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Jon Gettman, marijuana is already the top cash crop in a dozen states and among the top five crops in 39 states, with a total annual value of $36 billion.

A 2005 cost-benefit analysis of marijuana prohibition by Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard economist, calculated that ending marijuana prohibition would save $7.7 billion in direct state and federal law enforcement costs while generating more than $6 billion a year if it were taxed at the same rate as alcohol and tobacco. The drug czar’s office says that a gram of pure cocaine costs between $100 and $150; a gram of heroin almost $400; and a bulk gram of marijuana between $15 and $20. Those transactions are now occurring off the books of business and government alike.

Categories
government

DNA Database will protect the innocent

Putting aside your thoughts regarding the creation of a massive government database of intimate details about its citizens, because that already exists, and consider why the police can copy a suspect’s fingerprints when arrested, but not also take a DNA sample. Seems to me, a lot of the falsely accused would have not spent time in jail for crimes they did not commit if the police routinely collected DNA evidence as well.

When someone is arrested for a serious crime, police automatically take a set of fingerprints and no one thinks twice about it.

In close to 20 states — but not Illinois — the cops go a step further: They take a DNA sample from everyone who has been arrested for a serious crime but not yet tried. The FBI recently started to do the same.

That’s a reflection of just how valuable DNA has become as a way to catch the guilty — and exonerate the innocent. Experience shows that such databases stop criminals and solve cases.

[Click to continue reading: Stretching the DNA net — chicagotribune.com]

Federal Bureau of Investigation Chicago Division

I wonder if the resistance to routine collection of DNA evidence is based on cultural prejudice, or religious grounds (knee-jerk reaction to stem cell and the like)? I see no real reason that evidence shouldn’t include DNA, especially since fingerprint data is problematic, and often wrong.

Categories
Business government

A New Route to Ease Plane Congestion

A glimmer of hope for frequent fliers in the US, if the FDA can get off their asses and dance with the new technology

U.S. airlines and the FAA are phasing in a new navigation system that has already proved it can reduce weather delays, shave minutes off flight times and reduce noise pollution on the ground.

“Required Navigation Performance,” or RNP, is already in use in parts of China, Australia, Canada and Alaska. U.S. airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration are working to expand it to major U.S. airports. Southwest Airlines, for example, will have all its planes and pilots ready next year. Washington’s Reagan National Airport already has an RNP procedure in place.

The plan in the U.S. is to attack the most congested cities first, starting with New York and Chicago. “We’ll apply it where the need is greatest to start,” said Victoria Cox, FAA senior vice president for “NextGen” air-traffic modernization.

Think of RNP as precision navigation. Using two different kinds of standard navigation equipment, the newest generation of Boeing and Airbus jets have the ability to fly an exact path with deviation of no more than the wingspan of the airplane. RNP routes take advantage of that equipment by creating very precise flight paths that require computers on board to alert pilots if the plane strays. No ground-based equipment like radar and instrument landing systems is needed. The plane’s autopilot can put the aircraft at an exact position within seconds of an assigned time.

[Click to continue reading A New Route to Ease Plane Congestion – WSJ.com]

Circumstances Beyond Our Control - oil paint

[not related, but hey, my blog, my rules…]

Categories
government politics

More Guns Means More Deaths

Bob Herbert reports this salient fact:

Killing People Is Rude

Since Sept. 11, 2001, when the country’s attention understandably turned to terrorism, nearly 120,000 Americans have been killed in nonterror homicides, most of them committed with guns. Think about it — 120,000 dead. That’s nearly 25 times the number of Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For the most part, we pay no attention to this relentless carnage. The idea of doing something meaningful about the insane number of guns in circulation is a nonstarter. So what if eight kids are shot to death every day in America. So what if someone is killed by a gun every 17 minutes.

The goal of the National Rifle Association and a host of so-called conservative lawmakers is to get ever more guns into the hands of ever more people. Texas is one of a number of states considering bills to allow concealed guns on college campuses.

[Click to continue reading Bob Herbert – The American Way – NYTimes.com]

First Stop Guns

I have nothing against hunters owning rifles, and even responsible homeowners having pistols, but allowing more weapons to be carried in public is ridiculous. I don’t want to live in Deadwood, circa 1872, I want to live in the modern world. Assault rifles in the hands of 19 year old college students is not a solution, it is a problem, it is a danger to all of us.

Categories
Chicago-esque government

Daley and his Parking Meter Scandal

Doubt if this particular Mayor Daley scandal has percolated into the national news media yet, but it is only a matter of time.

No one in Chicago has been happy about the recent hike in parking meter rates, but by last week the frustration had become outrage, and the outrage had become a political problem. Since the city’s speedy decision in December to lease the meters for 75 years in return for about $1.2 billion in quick cash, what you get for your quarter has declined precipitously. Worse, residents are fed up with the tickets they’re receiving thanks to broken meters and outdated labeling. Some are boycotting meters by parking on side streets or not driving at all; others have tagged or vandalized them.

Finally, on March 31, city officials called a press conference to confront the problem—or at least to offer up someone who could take the blame so the Daley administration didn’t have to. They presented one Dennis Pedrelli, chief executive officer of Chicago Parking Meters, the private entity that’s now responsible for operating the meters. Pedrelli delivered a mea culpa. “We regret any issues that occurred,” he said. “We are working as quickly as possible to address those issues.” He promised that the company wouldn’t raise rates or write any more tickets until it had fixed the broken meters and posted accurate information.

But the event didn’t touch on what’s really behind the parking meter problems: the deal that put the city’s 36,000 meters in the hands of Pedrelli’s company. Once city officials decided to privatize the meters, they rushed into a deal with little regard for the financial risks or potential impact on the public, turning control of a revenue-generating city asset over to a company that had just qualified for federal bailout funds.

[Click to continue reading Chicago Reader | FAIL: The Story of Chicago’s Parking Meter Lease Deal – How Mayor Daley and his crew hid their process from the public, ignored their own rules, railroaded the City Council, and screwed the taxpayers | By Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke]

Citizens get angry over the kind of corruption that directly effects them every time they drive in the city; Daley better watch out if he wants to remain Mayor-For-Life. I’m voting against him in the next election, should he decide to run again.

Fixing Another Parking Meter

Not sure if this Department of Revenue employee was repairing a vandalized parking meter, or just a damaged one, but I suspect vandalization as he repaired several on this block or W. Randolph.

–update 4/10/09

Ramsin Canon of Gapers Block has an excellent article expanding on the topic

Progressives, do you think your constituencies will forgive you for your silence, cooperation, and collaboration? Do you think your legitimacy will survive what is now growing into more than a decade of utter silence? Do you think making demands on behalf of some corner or slice of the city will make up for refusing to take on the system that forces you to beg in the first place? It won’t. Your irrelevancy grows with each day you refuse to dissent in any meaningful way. Spending money to replace one group of aldermen, state legislators, or whoever, with another group that have to work with the same rotten system is not an effort at real change; it is political posturing meant to extract more concessions from a system left untouched.

The excuse we always hear (off the record of course) from Aldermen, community groups, think tanks, and the rest, is that taking on the Mayor is just too darn scary. He’s too powerful. But what makes him powerful, like all bullies, is the constant refusal of anybody to stand up to him. And of course, it isn’t fear: its convenience. That whole “…but he’s our sonofabitch” mentality. We saw how well that worked with Augusto Pinochet and Saddam Hussein.

[Click to continue reading Gapers Block : Mechanics : Chicago Politics – The Erosion of Daley and the Coward Defense]

Daley had better watch out, the public rage at his administration is palpable, and growing.

Categories
Apple government

Vast Spy System Loots Computers

Amazing, but not that surprising. The full 53-page report is available here, if you are interested in the details1.

Computer Consultants

A vast electronic spying operation has infiltrated computers and has stolen documents from hundreds of government and private offices around the world, including those of the Dalai Lama, Canadian researchers have concluded.

In a report to be issued this weekend, the researchers said that the system was being controlled from computers based almost exclusively in China, but that they could not say conclusively that the Chinese government was involved.

The researchers, who are based at the Munk Center for International Studies at the University of Toronto, had been asked by the office of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader whom China regularly denounces, to examine its computers for signs of malicious software, or malware.

Their sleuthing opened a window into a broader operation that, in less than two years, has infiltrated at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries, including many belonging to embassies, foreign ministries and other government offices, as well as the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan exile centers in India, Brussels, London and New York.

The researchers, who have a record of detecting computer espionage, said they believed that in addition to the spying on the Dalai Lama, the system, which they called GhostNet, was focused on the governments of South Asian and Southeast Asian countries.

Intelligence analysts say many governments, including those of China, Russia and the United States, and other parties use sophisticated computer programs to covertly gather information.

[Click to read more of Vast Spy System Loots Computers in 103 Countries – NYTimes.com]

Amusing that this front page article doesn’t once mention the operating system the target computers ran. Did Microsoft agree to purchase full page advertisements in the Sunday New York Times for the next ten years in order to keep Windows and Outlook from being mentioned in the story? Why do governments use Windows in sensitive networks anyway? Even if they didn’t use Macs, perhaps they could use Linux machines instead.

Apple Logos

Kim Zetter of Wired adds:

Infected computers include the ministries of foreign affairs of Iran, Bangladesh, Latvia, Indonesia, and the Philippines and embassies of India, South Korea, Germany, Pakistan and Taiwan. Thirty percent of the infected computers could be considered “high-value” diplomatic, political, economic and military targets, the researchers say.

The largest number of infected computers in a single country were in Taiwan (148), followed by Vietnam (130) and the U.S. (113). Seventy-nine computers were infected at the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA). One computer at Deloite & Touche in New York was among those infected in the U.S.

The earliest infection the researchers found occurred May 22, 2007; the most recent infection at the time they wrote their report was March 12, 2009. Each computer was infected for various amounts of days, with the average being about 145 days. There were significant spikes in the number of systems infected in December 2007 (113 of 320 infections in December occurred at TAITRA in Taiwan) and August 2008.

The researchers found the network after examining computers at the Dalai Lama’s office and found that the system had gained control of mail servers for the Dalai Lama’s offices, allowing the spies to intercept all correspondence.

The computers were infected either after workers clicked on an e-mail attachment containing malware or clicked on a URL that took them to a rogue web site where the malware downloaded to their computer. The spy network continues to infect about a dozen new computers in various places each week, according to the researchers, who are based at the University of Toronto’s Munk Center for International Studies.

The malware includes a feature for turning on the web camera and microphone on a computer in order to secretly record conversation and activity in a room.

They write that e-mails that OHHDL workers received that contained the infected attachments appeared to come from Tibetan co-workers. In some cases, monks received infected e-mails that appeared to come from other monks. The attackers seemed to target their infected correspondence at key people in the OHHDL office, including network administrators. In this way, the attackers likely gained login credentials for the mail server. Once they had control of the mail server, they were able to infect more computers by intercepting legitimate e-mail in transit and replace clean attachments with infected .doc and .pdf attachments that installed rootkits on the recipient’s computer that gave the attacker full control over the computer.

One monk reported that he was looking at his screen when his Outlook Express program launched on its own and began sending out e-mails with infected attachments.

[Click to continue reading Electronic Spy Network Focused on Dalai Lama and Embassies | Threat Level from Wired.com]

Fascinating stuff. China is very serious about keeping Tibet under their thumb.

Footnotes:
  1. unfortunately, to download the document as a PDF, you have to give up an email account, and other personal data []
Categories
government Photography

High Speed Rail proposal


High Speed Rail proposal, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

Awesome. Would love for more transportation options, especially ones that used Chicago as a hub.
[view large: www.flickr.com/photos/swanksalot/3312216345/sizes/o/ ]

via The Chicagoist [ chicagoist.com/2009/02/26/chicago_closer_to_high-speed_hu… ].

More info at NPR:
www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101073906

these are just the monorails, of course, there are other connections. Also, note the date (lower right corner), 2005. So none of this is new, just possibly funded, if our whole country doesn’t go down the debt hole first. But I’d rather we spend money on infrastructure than on Boeing and Halliburton largesse.

I’m on board, figuratively, with any big national rail program, with super trains, or just adding some zing to the existing cobbled-together Amtrak system. I’d love to see America catch up with the rest of the developed world and have a rail system that wasn’t an afterthought.

Categories
Apple Film government humor Links

Reading Around on February 19th

A few interesting links collected February 17th through February 19th:

  • CBS Falsely Portrays Stanford as Democratic Scandal – But as Public Citizen, Huffington Post, ABC News and Talking Points Memo all reported, Stanford and his Stanford Financial Group PAC contributed to politicians and political action committees of both parties (including $448,000 in soft money contributions from 2000 to 2001 alone) to advance his agenda of banking and money-laundering deregulation. Many others journeyed on Stanford's junkets to Antigua and elsewhere, prompting TPM to brand his company "a travel agent for Congress." (TPM has a slide show of one of those of Stanford getaways.)

    As it turns out, the list of Stanford beneficiaries is long – and bipartisan.

  • Remembering Gene – Roger Ebert's Journal – Gene died ten years ago on February 20, 1999. He is in my mind almost every day. I don't want to rehearse the old stories about how we had a love/hate relationship, and how we dealt with television, and how we were both so scared the first time we went on Johnny Carson that, backstage, we couldn't think of the name of a single movie, although that story is absolutely true. Those stories have been told. I want to write about our friendship. The public image was that we were in a state of permanent feud, but nothing we felt had anything to do with image. We both knew the buttons to push on the other one, and we both made little effort to hide our feelings, warm or cold. In 1977 we were on a talk show with Buddy Rogers, once Mary Pickford's husband, and he said, "You guys have a sibling rivalry, but you both think you're the older brother."
  • TidBITS iPod & iPhone: iPhone to Add Location Logging? – Could the iPhone soon be able to track your location in the background as you walk around? A hint that such a capability is in the works at Apple comes from a programmer friend who spent some time spelunking around inside iPhoto '09, which shows traces of being able to associate such GPS log data with photos.
  • Daily Kos: Chocolate Covered Cotton – billmon – The fatal innovation…was the rise of so-called collateralized obligations, in which the payment streams from supposedly uniform pools of assets (say, for example, 30-year fixed prime mortgages issued in the first six months of 2006 to California borrowers) could be sliced and diced into different securities (known as tranches) each with different payment characteristics.

    This began as a tool for managing (or speculating on) changes in interest rates, which are a particular problem for mortgage lenders, since homeowners usually have the right to repay (i.e. refinance) their loan when rates fall, forcing lenders to put the money back out on the street at the new, lower rates. This means mortgage-backed securities can go down in value when rates fall as well as when they rise. By shielding some tranches from prepayments (in other words, by directing them to other tranches) the favored tranches are made less volatile and thus can be sold at a higher price and a lower yield.

  • An old habit dies… hard. « chuck.goolsbee.org – "I stumbled across a likely little application that seems to fit the bill: Gyazmail. It has a very flexible UI that allows me to make it behave very Eudora-like when I want it to. It has very good search, rules, and filters. It can import all my old mail(!)

    I’m test driving it at the moment and liking it so far. Switched my work mail to it late last week, and my personal mail is still coming over one account at a time. So far so good. If you regularly contact me via email be patient while I work through this transition period."

    I'm still using Eudora on three of our most used Macs (since 1995 probably -only 14 years), but the writing is on the wall. Have to check out Gyazmail.

  • Hands on: Drop.io's private, easy file sharing with a twist – Ars Technica – Sharing information online is getting more complex than it sometimes should be. If you want to share pictures, files, plain ideas, or even faxes with friends or businesses, you can try the old e-mail standby, but you may end up joining a social network, agree to a dense privacy policy, and then track down an app made by who-knows-who to get the job done. Even starting a simple blog usually involves more time than most users can afford‚ and more features than they'll ever need. Drop.io is an intriguing, but simple, new service that is part wiki, part file sharing, and part personal secretary, with an emphasis on privacy and ubiquitous access, requiring no signup or account activation.

    Upon visiting Drop.io—pronounced as a seamless single word: "drop-ee-o"—the site presents a basic elevator pitch about its services and a short form with which to get started uploading files.

  • Fat Tire Ale Downed Near Load Of Burgers – A Good Beer Blog – Motorists on Interstate 15 were impeded by a piles of hamburgers after a truck spilled a load of the patties, blocking the northbound lanes for four hours. The driver of a tractor-trailer carrying 40,000 pounds of hamburger patties dozed off around 5 a.m., said Utah Highway Patrol trooper Cameron Roden. The truck driver's rig drifted to the left side of the freeway near 2300 North and crashed into a wall and an overhead sign, which ripped open his trailer, spilling hamburger over the north and southbound lanes of the interstate…A second truck spill east of Morgan caused minor delays. Before 7:30 a.m., a truck was heading westbound on Interstate 84 about a half-mile east of Morgan… The truck slipped off to the left, hit a guardrail, and flipped over on its side. The impact split the truck open, spilling Fat Tire Beer being shipped from Colorado, Roden said.
  • The Associated Press: Chimp owner begs police in 911 call to stop attack – Police said that the chimp was agitated earlier Monday and that Herold had given him the anti-anxiety drug Xanax in some tea. Police said the drug had not been prescribed for the 14-year-old chimp.

    In humans, Xanax can cause memory loss, lack of coordination, reduced sex drive and other side effects. It can also lead to aggression in people who were unstable to begin with, said Dr. Emil Coccaro, chief of psychiatry at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

    "Xanax could have made him worse," if human studies are any indication, Coccaro said.

  • Facebook | Home – Over the past few days, we have received a lot of feedback about the new terms we posted two weeks ago. Because of this response, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised. For more information, visit the Facebook Blog.

    If you want to share your thoughts on what should be in the new terms, check out our group Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

  • Big Tuna – Chicago — Anthony 'Big Tuna' Accardo, reputed crime syndicate figure, and his wife are shown as they arrive at the St. Vincent Ferrer Church in suburban River Forest to attend wedding of their son Anthony Jr, who was married to the former Janet Hawley, 1961 Miss Utah. Many top gangland bosses and other underworld figures attended the wedding under the watchful eye of law enforcement agencies
  • Home | Recovery.gov – Recovery.gov is a website that lets you, the taxpayer, figure out where the money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is going. There are going to be a few different ways to search for information. The money is being distributed by Federal agencies, and soon you'll be able to see where it's going — to which states, to which congressional districts, even to which Federal contractors. As soon as we are able to, we'll display that information visually in maps, charts, and graphics.
  • George Will: Liberated From the Burden of Fact-Checking | The Loom | Discover Magazine – In an opinion piece by George Will published on February 15, 2009 in the Washington Post, George Will states “According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.”

    We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.

    It is disturbing that the Washington Post would publish such information without first checking the facts.

  • Wonk Room » George Will Believes In Recycling – Will’s numerous distortions and outright falsehoods have been well documented by Joe Romm, Nate Silver, Zachary Roth, Brad Plumer, Erza Klein, David Roberts, James Hrynyshyn, Rick Piltz, Steve Benen, Mark Kleiman, and others. They recognized that George Will is recycling already rebutted claims from the lunatic fringe, and offer the excellent suggestion that Washington Post editors should require some minimum level of fact-checking.

    But I haven’t seen anyone comment that Will is also recycling his own work, republishing an extended passage from a 2006 column — which Think Progress debunked — almost word for word. Take a look:

Categories
government

The Nipple That Didn’t Destroy America

Janet Jackson Justin Timberlake and the infamous Nipple That Destroyed America

Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake and the infamous Nipple That Destroyed America

[click to embiggen, iffen ya dare]

Thank the pasta lords, now I can sleep at night without worrying that a giant nipple is going to destroy America. I have no sympathy for the dingleberries who own/run CBS, but the FCC is even less sympathetic a beast,

In a decision that clears CBS of any wrongdoing for airing the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show that featured Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction,” a federal appeals court overturned the $550,000 fine that the Federal Communications Commission levied against the station, calling the fine arbitrary and capricious.

Text of the Opinion (pdf)

The decision was handed down early Monday by a three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that the fine was unfair because the commission, in imposing it, deliberately strayed from its practice of exempting fleeting indecency in broadcast programming from punishment. The commission also erred, the judges ruled, by holding CBS responsible for the actions of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, who were characterized by the judges as “independent contractors hired for the limited purposed of the Halftime Show.”

[Click to read more detail regarding Court Throws Out Super Bowl Indecency Fine – NYTimes.com]

and because the FCC acted in poor faith, deciding which incidents were worth going after.

The court, in its ruling, said the FCC would have had a stronger case against CBS had the performance been pre-recorded. But because it was aired live, and there was no solid evidence that CBS had advance knowledge that Timberlake was going to tear at Jackson’s bustier, the station did not appear to have acted recklessly by broadcasting the show.

In fact, the court said, CBS had implemented an audio delay and other measures to help censor any unexpected profanity, and numerous “script reviews” and “wardrobe checks” before the show did not reveal any problems.

“CBS rejected other potentially-controversial performers who had previously engaged in offensive on-air conduct in favor of Jackson and Timberlake, with the NFL ultimately approving the selections,” the court wrote. “Timberlake in particular, CBS asserts, had on several prior occasions performed ‘Rock Your Body’ live on national television without incident.”

As Steve Earle sang: Fuck the FCC

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUYWGo4Fl2s

and another version, after performing F the CC a couple of years:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Af5SahC1DE

Categories
government

FAA doesn’t care if you die

Safety regulations are not important to the FAA. Much more important is making the airlines happy because that way ex-FAA officials can get cushy airline industry jobs when they resign in disgrace.

In July 1996, a fuel-tank explosion ripped apart TWA Flight 800, killing all 230 people aboard and sparking an urgent call from air-safety experts to find a fail-safe way to avoid a repeat tragedy.

Twelve years later, they’re still waiting.

Experts quickly and broadly agreed that like TWA 800’s main fuel tank, those on thousands of other planes were at risk of exploding during normal operations if hot vapors became exposed to sparks or electrical short-circuits. Within months, federal investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board called for a sweeping retrofit of planes with “fundamentally flawed” fuel-tank designs. Independent safety experts called such changes essential.

But the issue has bogged down for more than a decade inside the Federal Aviation Administration, the agency charged with regulating U.S. airlines. Manufacturers argued the proposed fix was unnecessary, while carriers called it marginal and too expensive. They repeatedly persuaded the FAA to delay, revise or scale back its plans. While the industry has reduced the danger of fuel-tank accidents, whatever “foolproof” plan the agency ultimately imposes will come too late to affect many jetliners now in service.

The fuel-tank issue is just one of the major initiatives to stall at the FAA, which finds itself in the spotlight following a series of safety lapses that came to light this spring. Even when change is clearly needed, critics say, the agency can be reluctant to challenge the industry’s strongly held positions.

The FAA has failed to make good on longstanding promises to quickly modernize air-traffic control systems and to institute effective technology to prevent aircraft from colliding on busy runways. In 1995, the FAA proposed sweeping changes to address chronic pilot fatigue. Airlines resisted, and 13 years later, the FAA is still waiting for carriers and pilot unions to reach compromises on crew scheduling.

Failure to take an aggressive stand on some of the toughest safety issues could end up costing lives, critics say. Too often, they say, the agency is hobbled by bureaucratic inertia and a lack of political will, with FAA leaders more focused on cooperative efforts than on taking a hard line on a change-resistant industry.

[From Safety Pushes Stall at Embattled FAA – WSJ.com]

Gee, I feel so much safer knowing the FAA is so cozy with the industry it is in charge of regulating. I’ll be thinking of them next time I have to fly somewhere, and am already nervously twitching my legs and self-medicating drinking herbal tea.

Full access to complete story for non WSJ subscribers available using this link

Remember this?

the shortcomings of the FAA’s partnership approach became apparent earlier this year. In March, the FAA proposed a record $10.2 million penalty against Southwest Airlines Co., after revelations that the carrier had missed mandatory maintenance work. Shortly afterward, FAA whistleblowers alleged that cozy ties between the airline and some local inspectors had allowed the carrier to keep these planes flying. A few weeks later the FAA also found maintenance lapses at AMR Corp.’s American Airlines, forcing the carrier to cancel thousands of flights over several days

Categories
government health

Mad Cow Disease

A few things being done on the war on meat-related terrorism:

a comic by R.J. Matson from a few years ago (click to embiggen)


Posted by Picasa


"Animal Pharm: One Man’s Struggle to Discover the Truth about Mad Cow Disease and Variant CJD" (Mark Purdey)

indeed


"Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual" (Michael Pollan)