Saturday, March 23, 2013

Inflation is out of control
Well, America what do you think? Are members of our government underestimating how high and how fast prices are rising? Chime in!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Internet is a Surveillance State by Bruce Schneier

CNN) -- I'm going to start with three data points.

One: Some of the Chinese military hackers who were implicated in a broad set of attacks against the U.S. government and corporations were identified because they accessed Facebook from the same network infrastructure they used to carry out their attacks.

Two: Hector Monsegur, one of the leaders of the LulzSac hacker movement, was identified and arrested last year by the FBI. Although he practiced good computer security and used an anonymous relay service to protect his identity, he slipped up.


And three: Paula Broadwell,who had an affair with CIA director David Petraeus, similarly took extensive precautions to hide her identity. She never logged in to her anonymous e-mail service from her home network. Instead, she used hotel and other public networks when she e-mailed him. The FBI correlated hotel registration data from several different hotels -- and hers was the common name.

The Internet is a surveillance state. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, and whether we like it or not, we're being tracked all the time. Google tracks us, both on its pages and on other pages it has access to. Facebook does the same; it even tracks non-Facebook users. Apple tracks us on our iPhones and iPads. One reporter used a tool called Collusion to track who was tracking him; 105 companies tracked his Internet use during one 36-hour period.


Increasingly, what we do on the Internet is being combined with other data about us. Unmasking Broadwell's identity involved correlating her Internet activity with her hotel stays. Everything we do now involves computers, and computers produce data as a natural by-product. Everything is now being saved and correlated, and many big-data companies make money by building up intimate profiles of our lives from a variety of sources.

Facebook, for example, correlates your online behavior with your purchasing habits offline. And there's more. There's location data from your cell phone, there's a record of your movements from closed-circuit TVs.


This is ubiquitous surveillance: All of us being watched, all the time, and that data being stored forever. This is what a surveillance state looks like, and it's efficient beyond the wildest dreams of George Orwell.

Sure, we can take measures to prevent this. We can limit what we search on Google from our iPhones, and instead use computer web browsers that allow us to delete cookies. We can use an alias on Facebook. We can turn our cell phones off and spend cash. But increasingly, none of it matters.


There are simply too many ways to be tracked. The Internet, e-mail, cell phones, web browsers, social networking sites, search engines: these have become necessities, and it's fanciful to expect people to simply refuse to use them just because they don't like the spying, especially since the full extent of such spying is deliberately hidden from us and there are few alternatives being marketed by companies that don't spy.


This isn't something the free market can fix. We consumers have no choice in the matter. All the major companies that provide us with Internet services are interested in tracking us. Visit a website and it will almost certainly know who you are; there are lots of ways to be tracked without cookies. Cellphone companies routinely undo the web's privacy protection. One experiment at Carnegie Mellon took real-time videos of students on campus and was able to identify one-third of them by comparing their photos with publicly available tagged Facebook photos.


Maintaining privacy on the Internet is nearly impossible. If you forget even once to enable your protections, or click on the wrong link, or type the wrong thing, and you've permanently attached your name to whatever anonymous service you're using. Monsegur slipped up once, and the FBI got him. If the director of the CIA can't maintain his privacy on the Internet, we've got no hope.

In today's world, governments and corporations are working together to keep things that way. Governments are happy to use the data corporations collect -- occasionally demanding that they collect more and save it longer -- to spy on us. And corporations are happy to buy data from governments. Together the powerful spy on the powerless, and they're not going to give up their positions of power, despite what the people want.


Fixing this requires strong government will, but they're just as punch-drunk on data as the corporations. Slap-on-the-wrist fines notwithstanding, no one is agitating for better privacy laws.

So, we're done. Welcome to a world where Google knows exactly what sort of porn you all like, and more about your interests than your spouse does. Welcome to a world where your cell phone company knows exactly where you are all the time. Welcome to the end of private conversations, because increasingly your conversations are conducted by e-mail, text, or social networking sites.


And welcome to a world where all of this, and everything else that you do or is done on a computer, is saved, correlated, studied, passed around from company to company without your knowledge or consent; and where the government accesses it at will without a warrant.

Welcome to an Internet without privacy, and we've ended up here with hardly a fight.


Scientists More Certain that Particle is Higgs Boson by Elizabeth Landau

 (CNN) -- Just in time for Albert Einstein's birthday Thursday, scientists delivered exciting news about how the universe works.

Last summer, physicists announced that they had identified a particle with characteristics of the elusive Higgs boson, the so-called "God particle." But, as often the case in science, they needed to do more research to be more certain.

On Thursday, scientists announced that the particle, detected at the Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful particle-smasher, looks even more like the Higgs boson.

The news came at the Moriond Conference in La Thuile, Italy, from scientists at the Large Hadron Collider's ATLAS and Compact Muon Solenoid experiments. These two detectors are looking for unusual particles that slip into existence when subatomic particles crash into one another at high energies.

"The preliminary results with the full 2012 data set are magnificent and to me it is clear that we are dealing with a Higgs boson though we still have a long way to go to know what kind of Higgs boson it is," Joe Incandela, spokesperson for the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment, said in a statement.

Scientists have analyzed two and a half times more data than they had when the first announced the Higgs boson results last July 4.

The Higgs boson is associated with the reason that everything in the universe -- from humans to planets to galaxies -- have mass. The particle is a component of something called the Higgs field, which permeates our universe. It's not a perfect analogy, but Brian Greene, theoretical physicist at Columbia University and "NOVA" host, offered this comparison when I spoke with him last year:

"You can think of it as a kind of molasses-like bath that's invisible, but yet we're all immersed within it," Greene said. "And as particles like electrons try to move through the molasses-like bath, they experience a resistance. And that resistance is what we, in our big everyday world, think of as the mass of the electron."

The electron would have no mass if it were not for this "substance," the field made of Higgs particles. So, without the Higgs boson, we would not be here at all.


To read more click on the following link:

Are Victims falling through America's Hate Crime Data Gap? by Nicole Krasavage

Are victims falling through America's hate crime data gap?

By Nicole Krasavage and Scott Bronstein

Washington (CNN) -- Two hit-and-run deaths in rural Mississippi just a few miles apart highlight a disturbing problem about data collection on possible hate crimes.

Last summer, 61-year-old African-American Sunday school teacher Johnny Lee Butts was hit and killed by an 18-year-old white driver. The teen told Panola County Sheriff deputies he thought he hit a deer but the driver's two passengers said he steered straight for Butts. One passenger said he could see that Butts was black. The killing has sparked outrage in the local African-American community. Civil rights groups have demanded that police prosecute Butts' killing as a hate crime.

Nonetheless, prosecutors chose not to.

There was no evidence, authorities said, to suggest a racial motive. The driver was charged with murder. He has not yet pleaded in the case.

In another hit and run, 41-year-old African-American Garrick Burdette was found dead along a Panola County road in November 2009.

His mother, Ruby Burdette, says for three years she had heard nothing about any police investigation into her son's death until CNN began asking about the case.

CNN received no response after calling the Panola County Sheriff's department, but just hours after CNN's call, a sheriff's investigator drove to Ruby Burdette's house.

"He came in and said he was the investigator," she told CNN. "He told me he apologized for no one coming out before now. And he told me that the first investigators they had didn't do anything."

If police suspect Burdette's death was a hate crime, they're not saying. And even if Burdette's death turns out to be a hate crime, there's a chance it won't even be reported.

"The data sucks," said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks the issue. "Hate crime data as the FBI reports is underreported by an ungodly amount."

In 2005, 2006 and 2007 there were zero hate crime incidents reported in the state of Mississippi, according to the FBI.

"States like California have thousands of hate crimes, and the state of Mississippi with its record of racial animus has none?" said Beirich. "It's ridiculous."'

Federal law has required states to collect hate crime data since the early 1990s. Congress has defined a hate crime as a "criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation."


To read more click on the following link:

Saturday, March 9, 2013

There is a Supplement for That

MEN: You Aren’t Getting Enough of This Nutrient!

Americans eat too much of everything, right? Wrong. In fact, a common mineral deficiency could be messing with your mind, finds a new study in the journal Biological Trace Element Research.

Scientists asked post-grads about their moods and diets and noticed a trend: People with depressive symptoms tended to consume lower amounts of magnesium, while happier folks were more apt to hit or exceed the daily recommended intake of 400 milligrams (mg).

It could be that magnesium plays a part in regulating the enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters that are involved with depression, speculate researchers.

Besides not consuming enough magnesium, your day-to-day schedule could be depleting your levels—for instance, the more you sweat, the more magnesium you excrete. And alcohol wastes the mineral, too.

Here’s the kicker: Fifty-six percent of Americans aren’t getting an adequate amount of magnesium, according to the USDA. What’s more, the average adult male consumes just 322 mg a day.

A simple way to boost your intake: Have a daily dose of roasted pumpkin seeds, which contain 150 mg of magnesium per ounce—making them one of the top food sources of the mineral. Look for pumpkin seeds in the snack or health-food section of your grocery store, next to the peanuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds.

Or try a 250 mg supplement, says Dana King, M.D., a professor of family medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina. Just check the bottle for magnesium citrate, the form best absorbed by your body.

Additional research by Jason Stevenson

America, the Nomocracy by Ken Krayeske

America, the Nomocracy

In December 2010, a Mercedes sedan, driven by a hedge fund manager, struck and seriously injured a bicyclist in Vail, Colorado, then drove off. The hit and run driver, Martin Erzinger, was soon arrested in a nearby parking lot, where he was calling his car company, inquiring about damage repair.

Prosecutors soon allowed Mr. Erzinger to plea bargain to a felony and two misdemeanors. The felony would be erased from his record with good behavior. Why? According to the Eagle County district attorney: “felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger’s profession.”

That is the point of criminal prosecution. If you almost kill someone and flee, there should be consequences for your behavior. What kind of a society do we live in when a person can avoid the worst consequences of their actions? It seems against the laws of nature, for every action there should be an equal and opposite reaction.

I use this story to illustrate the breakdown of the rule of law in the United States. A wealthy man almost killed someone, fled, and showed more concern for his car than the person he hit. Yet he escaped harm because it would be bad for his career.

Does this one story show men are above laws in the United States today? If so, how do we return to the rule of law that characterized American life for so long?

I am not going to look at American history with rose colored glasses and say we have seen centuries of justice and verdant pastures. Various class and racial privileges cannot be denied.

Watergate and other annals of prosecuted political corruption (John Rowland, Joe Ganim, John Edwards, etc) demonstrate the rule of law in effect, and show how no man is above the law.

But in the last decade, we have seen more people avoid paying a price for illegal behavior than ever. Consider the warrantless wiretapping, illegal wars, extraterritorial drone strikes, indefinite detention, extraordinary rendition and torture from the George W. Bush years.

For many, the threat of terrorism continues today to justify this departure from the rule of law. For many others, this kind of behavior was and is unacceptable, and internationally, there have been discussions about how to bring the rogue actors within the American government to international justice.

Aristotle said simply “Laws should govern.” The old Greek believed in a strong middle class as a check and balance against tyrannical rule of the rich or of the mobs.

In Politics, Aristotle wrote that the middle class – those who had moderate fortunes – found it “easiest to obey the rule of reason.” And thus, they were less likely to act unjustly towards their fellow man than rich or poor.

Right now, thanks in part to Bush tax cuts, America has the largest gap between rich and poor in its history. The middle class is shrinking. Does this mean we are veering away from a just and equitable society? In Aristotle’s eyes, yes. Where the rich have too much power, there is tyranny.

Rulers must be servants of the laws. Many an American wag has suggested “We are a government of laws, not men.” Some have said the rule of law is simply that no one is exempt from the law, not even those in power.

When a President like Obama has a kill list that he uses to execute enemies of the state without due process, he acts above the law. Who is to punish the president of the United States when he inflicts the ultimate punishment of death upon someone with giving that someone due process of law?

I cannot simply trust a man who says he studies the list before deciding who to kill. How long before a president decides to use a kill list against American citizens?

Some would say that the federal assault on Waco or Ruby Ridge were data points placing us beyond the rule of law. But we must ask: Would that hit and run driver, Mr. Erzinger, have gotten off 20 years ago, before hedge funds so dominated our financial landscape?

Founding father James Madison said in Federalist Paper No. 51: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

Madison and his group of men decided on an independent judiciary as a way to oblige the government to control itself, and to prevent one faction from gaining too much control. But does this work two centuries later, when the judiciary rubber stamps the worst of the executive abuses?

Members of the American Bar Association have spent a lot of time thinking about and publicizing the importance of the rule of law. One pamphlet quotes Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter from 1947: “If one man can be allowed to determine for himself what is law, every man can. That means first chaos, then tyranny.”

A political theorist named Joseph Raz in 1977 summarized elements that make up the rule of law. I quote almost directly from the Wikipedia entry on the rule of law. Raz said the rule of law is when:

§  Laws are prospective rather than retroactive.

§  Laws should be stable and not changed too frequently, as lack of awareness of the law prevents one from being guided by it.

§  There should be clear rules and procedures for making laws.

§  The independence of the judiciary has to be guaranteed.

§  The principles of natural justice should be observed, particularly those concerning the right to a fair hearing.

§  The courts should have the power of judicial review over the way in which the other principles are implemented.

§  The courts should be accessible; no man may be denied justice.

§  The discretion of law enforcement and crime prevention agencies should not be allowed to pervert the law.

During the coming weeks, I am going to explore Raz’s tenets piece by piece. Rather than dwelling on micro political data points like Brandon McGee’s recent victory thanks to insane amounts of outside spending, I want to take a macro look at political theory, and the assumptions underlying our society.

Maybe it is simply self-interest. As a bicyclist, if I get hit by a car and suffer traumatic brain injury, I want to be certain that the driver who hits me will not escape criminal liability. There should be consequences to bad behavior. How can we make this so?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Global warming is epic, by Ben Brumfield

(CNN) -- Global warming has propelled Earth's climate from one of its coldest decades since the last ice age to one of its hottest -- in just one century.

A heat spike like this has never happened before, at least not in the last 11,300 years, said climatologist Shaun Marcott, who worked on a new study on global temperatures going back that far.

"If any period in time had a sustained temperature change similar to what we have today, we would have certainly seen that in our record," he said. It is a good indicator of just how fast man-made climate change has progressed.

A century is a very short period of time for such a spike.


It's supposed to be cold

The Earth was very cold at the turn of the 20th century. The decade from 1900 to 1909 was colder than 95% of the last 11,300 years, the study found.

Fast forward to the turn of the 21st century, and the opposite occurs. Between 2000 and 2009, it was hotter than about 75% of the last 11,300 years.

If not for man-made influences, the Earth would be in a very cold phase right now and getting even colder, according the joint study by Oregon State University and Harvard University. Marcott was the lead author of the report on its results.

To boot, the range of temperatures from cold to hot produced since the industrial revolution began are about the same as the 11,000 years before it, said Candace Major from the National Science Foundation, "but this change has happened a lot more quickly."


Far from natural warming

Variations in how the Earth is tilted and its orbit around the sun make for a pattern of planetary warming phases followed by cooling phases across the millennia.

The team's research shows the Earth's overall temperature curve dipping down over about the past 4,000 years, but the downward plod comes to an abrupt halt in modern times.

"If you were to predict -- based on where we are relative to the position of the sun and how we are tilted -- you would predict that we would be still cooling, but we're not," Marcott said.

Instead, the planet is warming up. It hasn't been quite this warm in thousands of years. And it's getting hotter.

By 2100, the Earth will be warmer than ever before, Marcott said. If emissions continue as currently predicted until then, global temperatures will rise "well above anything we've ever seen in the last 11,000 years."

That could be a rise of 2 to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the NSF.


To read more click on the following link:

Restructuring the American Economy By Lester Brown

We need an economy for the twenty-first century, one that is in sync with the earth and its natural support systems, not one that is destroying them. The fossil fuel-based, automobile-centered, throwaway economy that evolved in western industrial societies is no longer a viable model — not for the countries that shaped it or for those that are emulating them. In short, we need to build a new economy, one powered with carbon-free sources of energy — wind, solar, and geothermal — one that has a diversified transport system and that reuses and recycles everything. We can change course and move onto a path of sustainable progress, but it will take a massive mobilization — at wartime speed.

A History Lesson in Economic Restructuring

Whenever I begin to feel overwhelmed by the scale and urgency of the changes we need to make, I reread the economic history of U.S. involvement in World War II because it is such an inspiring study in rapid mobilization. Initially, the United States resisted involvement in the war and responded only after it was directly attacked at Pearl Harbor. But respond it did. After an all-out commitment, the U.S. engagement helped turn the tide of war, leading the Allied Forces to victory within three-and-a-half years.

In his State of the Union address on January 6, 1942, one month after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced the country’s arms production goals. The United States, he said, was planning to produce 45,000 tanks, 60,000 planes, and several thousand ships. He added, “Let no man say it cannot be done.”

No one had ever seen such huge arms production numbers. Public skepticism abounded. But Roosevelt and his colleagues realized that the world’s largest concentration of industrial power was in the U.S. automobile industry. Even during the Depression, the United States was producing 3 million or more cars a year.

After his State of the Union address, Roosevelt met with auto industry leaders, indicating that the country would rely heavily on them to reach these arms production goals. Initially they expected to continue making cars and simply add on the production of armaments. What they did not yet know was that the sale of new cars would soon be banned. From early February 1942 through the end of 1944, nearly three years, essentially no cars were produced in the United States.


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