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+ - Mahdism: How does religion really influence Iranian nuclear policy?->

Submitted by Lasrick
Lasrick (2629253) writes "Many observers of American Christianity are familiar with the notion of an "end times" and a return of Jesus to earth. More radical believers of this notion have welcomed climate change, nuclear war, and other threats to mankind because, to them, this chaos and destruction fulfills Biblical prophecy. Islam has its own version: Mahdism: 'Shia Muslims believe that the Mahdi, born in the ninth century and also known as the Hidden Imam or the Twelfth Imam, is the Prophet Mohammed’s last legitimate successor. They believe that he has gone into occultation—the state of being blocked from view—but will eventually return...reappear along with Christ...restore peace and justice, saving the world from the chaos into which it would otherwise descend.' In this article, Ariane Tabatabai discusses the idea that Mahdism informs Iran's public policy, especially its nuclear policy, providing hardliners with an excuse to hasten the Mahdi's return. Terrific analysis."
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+ - Head of FCC Proposes Increasing Internet School Fund

Submitted by Rambo Tribble
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "The commissioners at the FCC are expected to vote, on December 11, on a proposal by Chairman Tom Wheeler to increase the funding for the nation's largest educational technology subsidy program, E-Rate, by 62 percent. The proposal is intended to be paid for by higher fees on phone service. The increased cost is pegged at $1.92 a year, per telephone line. Support for the proposal, or lack thereof, appears to be falling along partisan lines. To quote Wheeler, however, "Almost two-thirds of American schools cannot appropriately connect their students to the 21st century." National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García adds, "Today's announcement will go a long way to help level the digital playing field for our country's students and ensuring equity.""

+ - How Medical Care Is Being Corrupted in the US 1

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "Pamela Hartzband And Jerome Groopman write in an op-ed in the NYT that hidden financial forces are beginning to corrupt medical care in the US and undermine the bond of trust between doctors and patients because insurers, hospital networks and regulatory groups have put in place rewards and punishments that can powerfully influence your doctor’s decisions. "For example, doctors are rewarded for keeping their patients’ cholesterol and blood pressure below certain target levels. For some patients, this is good medicine, but for others the benefits may not outweigh the risks. Treatment with drugs such as statins can cause significant side effects, including muscle pain and increased risk of diabetes," write the authors. "Physicians who meet their designated targets are not only rewarded with a bonus from the insurer but are also given high ratings on insurer websites. Physicians who deviate from such metrics are financially penalized through lower payments and are publicly shamed, listed on insurer websites in a lower tier."

According to Hartzband and Groopman these measures are clearly designed to coerce physicians to comply with the metrics. Thus doctors may feel pressured to withhold treatment that they feel is required or feel forced to recommend treatment whose risks may outweigh benefits. Some insurers are offering a positive financial incentive directly to physicians to use specific medications. For example, WellPoint, the largest for-profit managed health care company in the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, recently outlined designated treatment pathways for cancer and announced that it would pay physicians an incentive of $350 per month per patient treated on the designated pathway (PDF). The authors propose a public website to reveal the hidden coercive forces that may specify treatments and limit choices through pressures on the doctor. "Medical care is not just another marketplace commodity. Physicians should never have an incentive to override the best interests of their patients.""

+ - Fish tagged for research become lunch for gray seals->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "When scientists slap an acoustic tag on a fish, they may be inadvertently helping seals find their next meal. The tags, rods a few centimeters long that give off a ping that can be detected from up to a kilometer away, are often used to follow fish for studies on their migration, hunting, or survival rates. Researchers working with 10 gray seals (Halichoerus grypus) who were captive for a year have now reported that the animals—including the female seal pictured above, named Janice—can learn to associate the pings with food. If the findings hold true in the wild, the authors warn, they could skew the results of studies trying to analyze fish survival rates or predation."
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+ - What if Congress Votes a Pipeline and Nobody Comes?

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "Tim Mullaney reports at CNBC that as Congress rushes to approve the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline, it is questionable whether or not the controversial pipeline will make as much of a difference as proponents expect. The so-called "heavy oil" extracted from sand in Alberta, which the proposed pipeline would carry to Nebraska, en route to refineries on the Gulf Coast, will cost between $85 and $110 to produce, depending on which drilling technology is used, according to a report in July by the Canadian Energy Research Institute, a nonprofit whose work is often cited by Keystone proponents. But crude oil futures now hover near four-year lows as sustained concerns over a glut in world markets continued to weigh heavily on prices and oil ministers from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait resisted calls to lower production to prevent further price declines. CERI' s analysis squares with the views of other experts, who have pointed to low prices as a sign that economic facts, at least for now, don't match political rhetoric coming from Washington, where Keystone has been a goal for both Republicans and for Senate Democrats from oil-producing states. "Anything not under construction [is] at risk of being delayed or canceled altogether," says Dinara Millington

The situation is broadly similar to that faced by an earlier proposal to build a natural-gas pipeline from Alaska to the Midwest says energy economist Chris Lafakis. After being approved by then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in 2007, the pipeline was never built, because newly discovered supplies of gas in the Lower 48 states pushed gas prices down by about two-thirds. "If oil were to stay as cheap as it is right now," says Lafakis, "you might very well get that Palin pipeline scenario.""

Comment: Re:This is bad (Score 1) 377

by Lasrick (#48375501) Attached to: How 4H Is Helping Big Ag Take Over Africa
No one has said it's bad. I participate in a huge fundraiser for my county 4H each year, and much of the money goes to international programs. I never knew that 4H was involved in a program like this. The point is to have information, and maybe to ask more questions. Information is never a bad thing. And do the farmers know what the long term cost of the seeds are? Seems to me they should be told. This is much like Nestle giving out formula to maternity wards, getting new mothers to feed their babies formula instead of breastfeed. Which turns out to have been a horrible idea, as the formula needed to be mixed with water, which was often unsanitary and caused untold numbers of deaths. Having information is never a bad thing, especially if 4H is acting as some sort of USAID program.

+ - 4H is helping Big Ag take over Africa->

Submitted by Lasrick
Lasrick (2629253) writes "4H is in Africa, helping to distribute Big Ag products like DuPont's Pioneer seeds through ostensibly good works aimed at youth. In Africa, where the need to produce more food is especially urgent, DuPont Pioneer and other huge corporations have made major investments. But there are drawbacks: 'DuPont's nutritious, high-yielding, and drought-tolerant hybrid seed. It costs 10 times as much, and while Ghanaians typically save their own seeds to plant the next year, hybrid seeds get weaker by the generation; each planting requires another round of purchasing. What's more, says Devlin Kuyek, a researcher with the sustainable-farming nonprofit Genetic Resources Action International, because hybrid seeds are bred for intensive agriculture, they typically need chemicals to thrive.' Bigger question is the role of 4H in this process."
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+ - Hanging out with the disgruntled guys who babysit our aging nuclear missiles->

Submitted by Lasrick
Lasrick (2629253) writes "This is a rather distrubing read about the troops who guard our nuclear weapons.'"The Air Force has not kept its ICBMs manned or maintained properly," says Bruce Blair, a former missileer and cofounder of the anti-nuclear group Global Zero. Nuclear bases that were once the military's crown jewels are now "little orphanages that get scraps for dinner," he says. And morale is abysmal. Blair's organization wants to eliminate nukes, but he argues that while we still have them, it's imperative that we invest in maintenance, training, and personnel to avoid catastrophe: An accident resulting from human error, he says, may be actually more likely today because the weapons are so unlikely to be used. Without the urgent sense of purpose the Cold War provided, the young men (and a handful of women) who work with the world's most dangerous weapons are left logging their 24-hour shifts under subpar conditions—with all the dangers that follow.'"
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+ - 25th Anniversary: When the Berlin Wall Fell->

Submitted by Lasrick
Lasrick (2629253) writes "Today is the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This retrospective describes how quickly the Wall was erected, and how Berliners were completely caught off guard by its construction: 'Berlin’s citizens woke up one morning in August 1961 to find coils of barbed wire running down the middle of their streets; the first inkling some people had that anything was amiss was when their subway train didn’t stop at certain stations. Later, the first strands of wire were replaced with a cement wall, along with watchtowers, a wide “death strip,” and an electrified fence.' Includes a link to a heartbreaking set of photographs that show a woman handing her child over a roll of barbed wire that soon became part of the Wall."
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+ - The Military's Latest Enemy: Climate Change->

Submitted by Lasrick
Lasrick (2629253) writes "A surprising report from the Pentagon last month places climate change squarely among the seemlngly endless concerns of the US military. Although a ridiculous Wall Stree Journal editorial misrepresented the report in an editorial (subtitled 'Hagel wants to retool the military to stop glaciers from melting'), the report itself is straightforward and addresses practical military issues such as land managment of bases and training facilities. 'So, this plan is not really about mobilizing against melting glaciers; it’s more like making sure our ships have viable facilities from which to launch bombs against ISIS. And the report doesn’t just focus on home, though. It casts a wider eye towards how a changing climate will affect defense missions in the future.' Terrific read."
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+ - Why Scientists Think Completely Unclassifiable and Undiscovered Life Forms Exist

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "In a new paper published in Science, researchers at the Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute note that "there are reasons to believe that current approaches [to discovering life] may indeed miss taxa, particularly if they are very different from those that have so far been characterized." They believe life forms exist that don't fall into the established eukaryota, archaea, or bacteria kingdoms.
They argue that there may be life out there that doesn't use the four DNA and RNA bases that we're used to; there may be life out there that has evolved completely separately from everything that we have ever known to exist; there may be life that lives in places we haven't even looked."

+ - Interviews: Ask Robert Ballard about Ocean Exploration

Submitted by samzenpus
samzenpus (5) writes "A former Navy officer and a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, Robert Ballard is one of the most famous ocean explorers in the world. He is best known for his discoveries of hydrothermal vents, the Titanic, and the German battleship the Bismarck. Ballard is the “Explorer-in-Residence” for the National Geographic Society. He works extensively on exploration through telepresence capabilities and distance learning programs including the JASON Project, which reaches more than 1 million students. His latest work involves the Ocean Exploration Trust, the organization that manages his exploration ship the E/V Nautilus. The ship carries with it two ROVs named Hercules and Argus that explore the seafloor in real-time online. Dr. Ballard has just concluded the 2014 season and has agreed to answer your questions. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post."

+ - We Are Running Out of Sand 1

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "John R. Gillis writes in the NYT that to those of us who visit beaches only in summer, beaches seem as permanent a part of our natural heritage as the Rocky Mountains but shore dwellers know that beaches are the most transitory of landscapes, and sand beaches the most vulnerable of all. Today, 75 to 90 percent of the world’s natural sand beaches are disappearing, due partly to rising sea levels and increased storm action, but also to massive erosion caused by the human development of shores. The extent of this global crisis is obscured because so-called beach nourishment projects attempt to hold sand in place(PDF) and repair the damage by the time summer people return, creating the illusion of an eternal shore. But the market for mined sand in the US has become a billion-dollar annual business, growing at 10 percent a year since 2008. Interior mining operations use huge machines working in open pits to dig down under the earth’s surface to get sand left behind by ancient glaciers.

One might think that desert sand would be a ready substitute, but its grains are finer and smoother; they don’t adhere to rougher sand grains, and tend to blow away. As a result, the desert state of Dubai brings sand for its beaches all the way from Australia. Huge sand mining operations are emerging worldwide, many of them illegal, happening out of sight and out of mind, as far as the developed world is concerned. "We need to stop taking sand for granted and think of it as an endangered natural resource," concludes Gillis. "Beach replenishment — the mining and trucking and dredging of sand to meet tourist expectations — must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, with environmental considerations taking top priority. Only this will ensure that the story of the earth will still have subsequent chapters told in grains of sand.""

+ - Yucca Mountain, a GOP Congress, and Imaginary "Drip Shields"->

Submitted by Lasrick
Lasrick (2629253) writes "Now that the GOP has taken control of the Senate and sidelined Nevada's Harry Reid, calls for reviving the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, are sure to resume. Recent reports have pointed out that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission now deems a Yucca Mountain repository "safe." But is that really what the NRC said? As this article points out, what the NRC claims as a safe design for Yucca Mountain is 'the Energy Department’s pie-in-the-sky design for Yucca Mountain—not the repository as it is likely to be configured.' The key design element is the installment of "drip shields," massive, corrosion-resistant titanium alloy boxes to sit over each of the thousands of waste canisters in Yucca Mountain’s underground tunnels to prevent seepage water from dripping directly on the canisters (yes, there is much more water at Yucca Mountain than originally thought). However, these drip shields will not be installed for at least 100 years after the waste goes in, and realistically speaking, they probably won't ever actually be installed. When you look at the details of what is planned (and what isn't), It's clear that the piecing together a repository a Yucca Mountain is a bad idea."
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