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Submission Summary: 0 pending, 13 declined, 4 accepted (17 total, 23.53% accepted)

+ - Trolls Will Always Win->

Submitted by maynard
maynard (3337) writes "Kathy Sierra spent a tech career developing videogames and teaching Java programming in Sun Microsystems masterclasses. Up until 2007, she'd been a well regarded tech specialist who happened to be female. Until the day she opined on her private blog that given the crap-flood of bad comments, maybe forum moderation wasn't a bad idea. This opinion made her a target. A sustained trolling and harassment campaign followed, comprised of death and rape threats, threats against her family, fabricated claims of prostitution, and a false claim that she had issued a DMCA takedown to stifle criticism. All of this culminated in the public release of her private address and Social Security Number, a technique known as Doxxing. And so she fled from the public, her career, and even her home.

It turned out that a man named Andrew Auernheimer was responsible for having harassed Sierra. Known as 'Weev', he admitted it in a 2008 New York Times story on Internet Trolls. There, he spoke to the lengths which he and his cohorts went to discredit and destroy the woman.

Over a candlelit dinner of tuna sashimi, Weev asked if I would attribute his comments to Memphis Two, the handle he used to troll Kathy Sierra, a blogger. Inspired by her touchy response to online commenters, Weev said he “dropped docs” on Sierra, posting a fabricated narrative of her career alongside her real Social Security number and address. This was part of a larger trolling campaign against Sierra, one that culminated in death threats.

Now, seven years later, Kathy Sierra's returned to explain why she'd left and what recent spates of online harassment against women portend for the future if decent people don't organize. Because the situation has grown much more serious since she went into hiding all those years ago. It's more than just the threat of Doxxing to incite physical violence by random crazies with a screw loose.

These days, malicious trolls have taken to SWATting, where harassers call police and make false accusations to induce a SWAT raid. One prominent example is that of game developer Chris Kootra, who experienced a SWAT raid on camera while playing an online video game recently. There is also the troubling trend of developing malicious software intended to harm victims directly. For example, posting images on epilepsy forums which flicker at rates known to induce epileptic seizure. Given that Sierra is epileptic herself, this kind of harmful trolling hits home personally. She writes:

[While not photo-sensitive], I have a deep understanding of the horror of seizures, and the dramatically increased chance of death and brain damage many of us with epilepsy live with, in my case, since the age of 4. FYI, deaths related to epilepsy in the US are roughly equal with deaths from breast cancer. There isn’t a shred of doubt in my mind that if the troll hackers could find a way to increase your risk of breast cancer? They’d do it. Because what’s better than lulz? Lulz with BOOBS. Yeah, they’d do it.

And yet Auernheimer, the man who put her through all this horror, has for entirely different reasons become a kind of 'Net cause célèbre for Internet freedom. After having committed a hack against AT&T where he'd obtained the email addresses of thousands of iPad users, he attracted the attention of federal authorities. In due course he was convicted and sentenced to 41 months in federal prison for identity fraud and conspiracy to access a computer without authorization. A conviction and sentence many thought egregious. Attracting support from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and prominent Georgia University Law Professor Tor Ekeland, the two worked together to craft an appeal and overturn the conviction. In April 2014, they succeeded. Auernheimer is now free.

Ekeland wasn't the only one bothered by the government's case. Even Kathy Sierra disagreed. Yet she's appalled that somehow she'd been dragged into supporting the very man who'd abused her.

But you all know what happened next. Something something something horrifically unfair government case against him and just like that, he becomes tech’s “hacktivist hero.” He now had A Platform not just in the hacker/troll world but in the broader tech community I was part of. ... But hard as I tried to find a ray of hope that the case against him was, somehow, justified and that he deserved, somehow, to be in prison for this, oh god I could not find it. I could not escape my own realization that the cast against him was wrong. So wrong. And not just wrong, but wrong in a way that puts us all at risk.

The lawyer Ekeland, in recent commentary at Wired, continues to defend Auernheimer as having been wronged by an overzealous prosecution, the precedent of which could have significant ramifications for 'Net freedom. "...the crucial issue here is not weev or his ideas but the future of criminal computer law in the U.S. You may think weev is an asshole. But being an asshole is not a crime, and neither is obtaining unsecured information from publicly facing servers."

Which leaves Sierra lamenting that Auernheimer still hasn't been charged and convicted for what she considers the real crime of harassment he'd committed, harming her and countless others. Where's the justice? Inciting violence and dissemination of 'fighting words' are not free speech. Yet, as she admits, unless you're a celebrity you're "...more likely to win the lottery than get any law enforcement agency to take action." So there is none. "We are on our own," she laments. "And if we don’t take care of one another, nobody else will."

So she came back to push back, to push back against prominent journalists and members in Tech who'd conflate prosecutorial violations of due process with the right to disseminate harassment and cruelty.

I came back because I believe this sent a terrible, devastating message about what was acceptable. ... To push back on the twist and spin. I believed the fine-grained distinctions mattered. I pushed back because I believed I was pushing back on the implicit message that women would be punished for speaking out. I pushed back because almost nobody else was, and it seemed like so many people in tech were basically OK with that.

Auernheimer, for his part, remains unapologetic. Responding to Sierra on Livejournal, he writes:

Yesterday Kathy Sierra (a.k.a. seriouspony), a mentally ill woman, continued to accuse me on her blog of leading some sort of harassment campaign against her by dropping her dox (information related to identify and location) on the Internet. ... Kathy Sierra has for years acted like a toddler, throwing tantrums and making demands whenever things didn't go her way. She rejects any presentation of polite criticism or presentation of evidence as some sort of assault on her. She was the blueprint for women like Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian, who also feign victimhood for financial and social gain. Kathy Sierra is the epitome of what is wrong with my community. She had something coming to her and by the standards set by her own peers in the social justice community, there was nothing wrong with what she got.

Some people never change."
Link to Original Source

+ - James Bamford Releases DOJ Report on NSA Warrantless Wiretapping from 1976->

Submitted by maynard
maynard (3337) writes "Investigative Journalist James Bamford knows a thing or two more than most about the National Security Agency. Across his more than three-decade long career digging muck out of exactly those places US government intelligence agencies prefered he wouldn't tread, he's published five books and over eighty press reports. Which at times made for some tense confrontations with intelligence officials from an organization once so secret even few members of congress knew of its existence.

For the last several years public focus on the NSA has been on Bush and Obama era reports of illicit domestic spying. From allegations of warrantless wiretapping reported by James Risen in 2005 to secret documents released to journalists at The Guardian by Edward Snowden a year ago. And smack in the middle, Bamford's 2012 revelation of the existence of a huge exabyte capable data storage facility then under construction in Bluffdale, Utah.

Given all this attention on recent events, it might come as a surprise to some that almost forty years ago Senator Frank Church convened a congressional committee to investigate reports of unlawful activities by US intelligence agencies, including illegal domestic wiretapping by the NSA. At the time, Church brought an oversight magnifying glass over what was then half-jokingly referred to as "No Such Agency." And then, like today, James Bamford was in the thick of it with a Snowden like cloak-and-dagger game of spy-vs-journalist.

It all began by giving testimony before the Church Committee. Writing yesterday in The Intercept, Bamford tells his first hand historical account of what led him to testify as a direct witness to NSA's wiretapping of domestic communications decades ago and then details the events that led to the publication of his first book The Puzzle Palace back in 1982:

...during the summer of 1975, as reports began leaking out from the Church Committee, I was surprised to learn that the NSA was claiming that it had shut down all of its questionable operations a year and a half earlier. Surprised because I knew the eavesdropping on Americans had continued at least into the prior fall, and may have still been going on. After thinking for a day or so about the potential consequences of blowing the whistle on the NSA—I was still in the Naval Reserve, still attending drills one weekend a month, and still sworn to secrecy with an active NSA clearance—I nevertheless decided to call the Church Committee.

But he didn't stop at the witness stand. Afterward, he continued researching the matter for a book. And the further he dug the more waves he made. Until someone slipped him a then recently declassified copy of a 1976 Justice Department memo [PDF] detailing a criminal investigation into illicit domestic spying by the NSA. But when agency officials discovered he had that document they took extraordinary measures attempting to get it back. From threatening to prosecute under the 1917 Espionage Act to retroactively reclassifying the memo to squelch its contents.

Fearing someone might break into his home and steal the manuscript, Bamford arranged to transport and secure a copy outside of US jurisdiction with a colleague at the Sunday Times of London. It was only upon the 1982 publication of Puzzle Palace that the agency dropped their pursuit of Bamford and his document as a lost cause. That's at least one stark difference between then and today when it comes to whistleblowers, back then they merely threatened espionage charges.

Yogi Berra famously once said, "It's like Deja Vu all over again." And though the Yankees' star wasn't speaking of illicit domestic wiretaps by the national security state, given a comparison of recent revelations to those detailed by Bamford decades earlier the quote certainly fits. In telling his story of how he published details about the last NSA Merry-Go-Round with warrantless wiretapping, Bamford shows us that our recent troubles of lawless surveillance aren't so unique. It's deja-vu all over again. But if deja vu is like a waking dream, this seems more a recurring nightmare for a body-politic lured to snoring slumber by a siren-song of political passivity.

That old Justice Department memo isn't likely to wake the public from their slumber. But within its pages is a stark warning we all should have heeded. As Bamford notes in that Intercept story, the report's conclusion that NSA lawlessness stems straight from the birth of the agency suggests a constitutional conflict systemic and intentional.

...the NSA’s top-secret “charter” issued by the Executive Branch, exempts the agency from legal restraints placed on the rest of the government. “Orders, directives, policies, or recommendations of any authority of the Executive branch relating to the collection ... of intelligence,” the charter reads, “shall not be applicable to Communications Intelligence activities, unless specifically so stated.” This so-called “birth certificate,” the Justice Department report concluded, meant the NSA did not have to follow any restrictions placed on electronic surveillance “unless it was expressly directed to do so.” In short, the report asked, how can you prosecute an agency that is above the law?

"Prosecutive Summary" follows (PDF):"
Link to Original Source

+ - Fired NY Fed Regulator's Secret Audio Recordings Inside Goldman Sachs 2

Submitted by maynard
maynard (3337) writes "Carmen Segarra used to work as a regulator for the New York Federal Reserve Bank, one of twelve regional banks that make up the US central banking system. In her capacity as regulator, Ms. Segarra was assigned to a team overseeing investment banking giant Goldman Sachs. There, while investigating a case of Goldman having advisied a client about a buyout offer by another company in which the firm held significant investment holdings, she determined that Goldman didn't even have a conflict of interest policy. Her supervisor initially backed the investigation, until it became clear she meant to file a written report detailing her findings of fact. Then they abruptly fired her.

And all this would have been another unfortunate case of 'she-said / institution-said' ineffective whistleblowing were it not for the fact that Ms. Segarra saw what was coming and had bought a keychain audio recorder. With it, she collected 46 hours of internal discussion and meetings, including statements by Goldman Sachs principles admitting the firm didn't have a conflict of interest policy and that the deal under investigation had been "shady." Additionally, she collected reams of documents and testimony. She thought her case iron clad.

However, when it came time to reveal her findings in full to superiors, though initially supportive of the investigation, her boss quickly shifted gears and worked to squelch the report. This culminated in a recorded meeting where her boss made clear his supervisors at the Fed insisted she downplay those findings. Then, a week later, before she could formally file the report, they fired her.

While bits of the story have been out in print for about a year, the radio show This American Life just published actual excerpts from those audio recordings. They make for harrowing listening. As the producer says in the introduction, her recordings show: "Repeated examples of pervasive regulatory capture by the industry regulators are meant to oversee."

In other words, whereas before we could all surmise just how bad banking regulation must be, what with the Financial Crisis having nearly tanked the world economy and all, with this audio we can hear first hand and in minute detail what it's like for an honest regulator to try to do the job properly: You get fired. Quickly. Then your embarrassing work is buried and reputation smeared. And if she'd just kept her mouth shut, she coulda gotten rich! This, at the very heart of the global financial system.

Is it any wonder why the public has lost faith in our political and economic institutions?"
Music

+ - Net Conferencing Tools for Collaborative Jamming?

Submitted by
maynard
maynard writes "Slashdot musicians: Wouldn't it be cool to use video/audio conferencing software for online collaborative jam sessions? The idea isn't as ridiculous as it sounds. For folks who focus on lessor known sub-genres of music, like Renaissance classical, 20s dance jazz, or Country Blues, it can be pretty tough to find local playing partners. And there's always scheduling hassles with playing in meat-space. So, why not?

Everything seems almost ready for this. For example, VRVS offers free java based video/audio/whiteboard conferencing. And we've all seen commercial versions which run on both Windows and Macintosh. Unfortunately, none of these tools offer quality stereo audio, nor do they synchronize the streams well enough for musicians to jam in time.

This is definitely within the realm of the possible, at least for those with low latency connections. But can musicians really create good music thousands of miles away from one another? And would jam-conferencing really be as fun as playing with a bunch of friends?"
Biotech

+ - Single human gene gives mice tri-color vision

Submitted by
maynard
maynard writes "Scientists from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Howard Hughes Medical Institute working in collaboration have published a study in the peer reviewed journal Science showing that mice transgenetically altered with a single human gene are then able to see in full tri-color vision. Mice without this alteration are normally colorblind. The scientists speculate that even mammalian brains from animals that have never evolved color vision are flexible enough to interpret new color sense information with just a simple addition of new photoreceptors. Such a result is also indicated by a dominant X chromosome mutation that allows for quad-color vision in some women. From the article:

The experiments were designed to determine whether the brains of the genetically altered mice could efficiently process sensory information from the new photoreceptors in their eyes. Among mammals, this more complex type of color vision has only been observed in primates, and therefore the brains of mice did not need to evolve to make these discriminations.


The new abilities of the genetically engineered mice indicate that the mammalian brain possesses a flexibility that permits a nearly instantaneous upgrade in the complexity of color vision, say the study's senior authors, Gerald Jacobs and Jeremy Nathans.
"
The Media

+ - FCC Comissioner Copps stumps for media diversity

Submitted by
maynard
maynard writes "I don't know how else to contact you guys. The FAQ says to resubmit for corrections. My article, currently on the front page, is COMPLETELY WRONG. The FCC Chairman is Kevin Martin, whereas FCC Commissioner Michael Copps is a minority Democratic member of the commission. I got the facts completely wrong, and I am imploring an editor to _please_ fix this and post a retraction (or wipe the submission off the front page).

Here is corrected text:



Speaking at a New York City town hall meeting on corporate media consolidation and its deleterious impact on the expression of minority viewpoints, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, Democrat, stumped against greater local media concentration and instead argued for greater diversity of media outlets and voices. In 2003 the FCC, under Chairman Michael Powell, changed media ownership rules to favor greater corporate media consolidation at the expense of local owners. In an apparent total reversal of prior FCC policy, Mr. Copps argued strongly for a complete policy shift at the FCC to favor independent media owners:

MICHAEL COPPS: "The FCC is in the midst of a hugely important proceeding right now to decide what the future of our media, our TV, our radio, our newspapers, our cable, even our internet, are going to look like for a long, long time to come.

A little history, just to set the stage for our discussion. Three years ago, under then FCC Chairman Michael Powell and over the objections of my good friend Commissioner Adelstein and myself, the FCC severely cut back — really "eviscerated" is a better word — the rules that were meant to check big media's seemingly endless appetite for more consolidation. It passed new rules, which have allowed a single media giant to own in a single market up to three television stations, eight radio stations, the cable system, the cable channels, even the internet portal, and the local newspaper, which in most cities in the United States of America is already a monopoly. And the agency did all of that behind closed doors and without seeking meaningful input from the American people. Can you imagine that? Authorizing a sea change in how news and entertainment are produced and presented over the people's airwaves, without even involving the people who own those airwaves and who depend so heavily upon them. It was a near disaster for America.

Thankfully, citizens rose up across the land. They sent nearly 3 million protests to the Federal Communications Commission. Congress rose up, too, and then a federal court sent those rules back to the FCC saying they were badly flawed and they needed to be reworked. That was good, and anybody that doesn't believe that citizen action can have an effect should just revisit what happened there. We checked those rules. You checked those rules from going into effect. It was concerned citizens at work, and it was a citizen consumer victory.

But, here's a reality check now. We're right back at square one, and it's all up for grabs again. And if we're going to have a better result this time around, doing something positive for media democracy, it's going to be because of more citizen action and more input from folks like you. So, this time we need to make it an open public process, instead of hiding in our office in Washington like the majority did in 2003. This time, let all the commissioners come to New York City — I wish they were all here tonight — and let all the commissioners get out across America and find out what's happening in the real world, beyond that Beltway that they bemoan so much but seem to love staying behind so much.

So, as we begin our discussion, then begin with that simple reminder: it's all of us who own the airwaves. There is not a broadcaster, a business, a special interest, and any industry that owns one airwave in the United States of America. They belong to you, and they belong to me. And, my friends, now is the time to assert our ownership rights."
"
The Media

+ - FCC Chairman Copps stumps for media diversity

Submitted by
maynard
maynard writes "Speaking at a New York City town hall meeting on corporate media consolidation and its deleterious impact on the expression of minority viewpoints, FCC Chairman Michael Copps stumpped against greater media local media concentration and instead argued for greater diversity of media outlets and voices. In 2003 the FCC, under Chairman Michael Powell, changed media ownership rules to favor greater corporate media consolidation at the expense of local owners.

In an apparent total reversal of prior FCC policy, Mr. Copps argued strongly for a complete policy shift at the FCC to favor independent media owners:

MICHAEL COPPS: "The FCC is in the midst of a hugely important proceeding right now to decide what the future of our media, our TV, our radio, our newspapers, our cable, even our internet, are going to look like for a long, long time to come.

A little history, just to set the stage for our discussion. Three years ago, under then FCC Chairman Michael Powell and over the objections of my good friend Commissioner Adelstein and myself, the FCC severely cut back — really "eviscerated" is a better word — the rules that were meant to check big media's seemingly endless appetite for more consolidation. It passed new rules, which have allowed a single media giant to own in a single market up to three television stations, eight radio stations, the cable system, the cable channels, even the internet portal, and the local newspaper, which in most cities in the United States of America is already a monopoly. And the agency did all of that behind closed doors and without seeking meaningful input from the American people. Can you imagine that? Authorizing a sea change in how news and entertainment are produced and presented over the people's airwaves, without even involving the people who own those airwaves and who depend so heavily upon them. It was a near disaster for America.

Thankfully, citizens rose up across the land. They sent nearly 3 million protests to the Federal Communications Commission. Congress rose up, too, and then a federal court sent those rules back to the FCC saying they were badly flawed and they needed to be reworked. That was good, and anybody that doesn't believe that citizen action can have an effect should just revisit what happened there. We checked those rules. You checked those rules from going into effect. It was concerned citizens at work, and it was a citizen consumer victory.

But, here's a reality check now. We're right back at square one, and it's all up for grabs again. And if we're going to have a better result this time around, doing something positive for media democracy, it's going to be because of more citizen action and more input from folks like you. So, this time we need to make it an open public process, instead of hiding in our office in Washington like the majority did in 2003. This time, let all the commissioners come to New York City — I wish they were all here tonight — and let all the commissioners get out across America and find out what's happening in the real world, beyond that Beltway that they bemoan so much but seem to love staying behind so much.

So, as we begin our discussion, then begin with that simple reminder: it's all of us who own the airwaves. There is not a broadcaster, a business, a special interest, and any industry that owns one airwave in the United States of America. They belong to you, and they belong to me. And, my friends, now is the time to assert our ownership rights."
"
User Journal

+ - 29 New US Nuclear Power Plant License Permits Soug

Submitted by
maynard
maynard writes "Dale Klein, Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), was interviewed on C-SPAN's Newsmakers this last Sunday on October 22nd, 2006. Regarding twenty nine recent pending license requests for the construction of new nuclear power plants in the US, he stated that there will be a nuclear renaissance in the United States:

"I do believe that we will see license applications in 2007 and we are looking - we have expressions of intent from a lot of the utilities indicating up - as I said, up to about 29 new nuclear plants. So I believe that there will be a [nuclear] renaissance in the United States."


The interview covered a broad range of nuclear issues, such as: Licenses and permits for pending US nuclear power plant construction, nuclear waste reclamation and the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, the threat of terrorism against nuclear electric generation facilities, as well as the scope of citizen involvement in the regulatory process.. He was interviewed by Cox News reporter Jeff Nesmith and George Lobsenz of Energy Daily, with the event being hosted by C-SPAN's Susan Swain.

Pending Nuclear Power Plant Licenses

Both Lobsenz and Nesmith directly questioned Klein on the issue of new nuclear power plant construction within the United States. Citing the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (full text of legislation), which provides billions of dollars in incentives for the construction of new nuclear power plants through tax credits and loan guarantees, Klein says that the NRC has received twenty nine 'expressions of intent' from the nuclear industry to build new nuclear power plants throughout the country. Further, he stated that worldwide, there are "... 140 plants either under construction or being planned."

Klein referred to Department of Energy projections which indicate a 50% increase in electrical demand by 2025, along with environmental concerns over global climate change due to carbon emissions, as principal reasons for the reconsideration of nuclear power generation. Currently the United states generates about 20% of its electrical capacity from 104 nuclear power plants. However, private funding availability for nuclear power generation isn't certain, with Lobsenz noting that:

"There's a lot of questions on Wall Street about whether they want to invest in a nuclear plant. I think if you talk to the industry they'll tell you, well, we're going to iron out all the kinks in the regulatory process and building these plants with the first six plants and after that it will be more like a cookie cutter and these plants will be a lot cheaper to build and a lot quicker to build.

I think a lot of people need a lot of convincing on that, particular the money men."


Nuclear Waste Reclamation and Yucca Mountain

Speaking to the issue of Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Storage Facility and nuclear waste reclamation, Klein appeared to contradict long standing US policy against the use fast breeder reactors to reclaim and extend the life of nuclear fuel stock. Calling it "recycling," and noting the large number of nations that already reprocess spent nuclear fuel, Klein suggested it might be a wise policy decision:

"France currently recycles, Japan is recycling, Russia will recycle, United Kingdom recycles. And so there is a lot of experience in the recycling era."

[...]

There are advantages to do that reducing the volume for the - for the material."


This is in contrast to longstanding US policy against the construction of fast breeder reactors, going back to former President Jimmy Carter's 1977 veto of the Department of Energy Authorization Bill on several grounds, one of which being that it funded the construction of the Clinch River Breeder Reactor. Since then, no new fast breeder reactors have been proposed on US soil for commercial fuel reclamation.

One of the principal concerns over the use of breeder technology is that it converts non-weapons grade nuclear waste from uranium into highly radioactive plutonium, which can then be used in the construction of a nuclear weapon. However, reclamation would also stretch out the expected life of a limited nuclear resource, and in the process, reduce the amount of radioactive waste that would need to be stored at the upcoming Yucca Mountain. As Mr. Nesmith noted, one of the primary arguments against construction of the facility is the problem of transporting large amount of nuclear waste cross country for storage.

Threat of Terrorism

Dr. Klein did not speak long on the threat of terrorism against nuclear electric generation facilities, such as crashing a jet airliner into a nuclear power plant (warning: PDF; google cache html version), however, he did address the subject after several direct questions were posed. Lobsenz asked, within the context of 9/11:

"However, the NRC has said that in doing environmental reviews of new plants it will not be looking at possible impacts from terrorism. And I think that there's been a contrary court decision questioning the NRC's position on this. And I guess the question I would have for you is, this is clearly an issue that's in the public's mind about nuclear plants. And if you don't have a public dialog in the course of doing an environmental review, how are you going to address this public concern? Shouldn't there be a public dialog in relation to the building of these new plants about what would happen if there is a terrorism attack and maybe you could even reassure the public somewhat that something is being done?"


Dr. Klein responded by pointing out that the specific issue being questioned had to do with a dry cast storage facility at Diablo Canyon. He then offered a to sooth concern about the potential threat, saying that "...nuclear power plants are examined for terrorist activities. We take that very seriously. We have a very robust program."

Nesmith, noting that the National Academy of Sciences report on nuclear power plant terrorism was less optimistic of US defenses, asked if a plant-by-plant review of safety procedures, as the report recommended, due to it's finding (his words): "that it's only a matter of time before a determined, well-equipped terrorist crashes an airliner into one of these plants and releases a large amount of radioactivity."

Dr. Klein assured Nesmith that such a review had been conducted, "Yes. We do have a very robust plant-by-plant analysis both for pressurized water reactors, boiling water reactors. We have a very detailed assessment."

Scope of Public Participation

Lobsenz also discussed with Dr. Klein the scope of public participation, and limit thereof. Noting that the only means for public participation the review process was through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), he asked about security requirements in disclosing information to the public. Dr. Klein responded:

"In terms of the public's participation, because of the security requirements that are there, there are certain things that we don't go into a lot of detail on how we address security for obvious reasons. The terrorist get too many hints the way it is. So we don't want to provide a lot of information about how we address that, but I can assure you we do look at safety, security and reliability and we are addressing potential terrorist threats in a very robust and effective way."


How this addresses public concern for reactor safety, or what other venues might be opened for the public, was not addressed. However, it would appear that a good deal of thought has been put into place to prevent a new resurgence of the anti-nuclear movement so popular back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Conclusions

Based upon this interview one can reasonably assert several statements of fact:

  • The Bush Administration is vigorously promoting a dramatic expansion of nuclear power generation throughout the United States. There are 29 pending 'expressions of interest' for licenses to construct new plants. And there are 140 plant facilities on the drawing board or currently in construction throughout the world.

  • A policy review of fast breeder reclamation technology appears to be underway, with the likelihood of a transition away from opposition to new breeder facilities as set by former President Carter.

  • Dr. Klein acted to assure the public that the threat against nuclear power plants from terrorism is being handled with all due diligence. Even as the two reporters directly questioned him about a NAS report that suggests the threat is real and highly dangerous.

  • The limits to public participation in regulating the nuclear industry are in the form of EPA procedures, thereby forcing all concerns to fit within the framework of environmental concerns. Terrorism, and other issues, are apparently not relevant issues for public participation.


Based upon this interview one might reasonably ask: is the threat from global warming due to human carbon emissions greater than the threat of radioactive contamination due to a nuclear accident or terrorist attack? Is the transition to promoting nuclear fuel reclamation through a new class of fast breeder reactors a wise policy move, or a dangerous one considering its nuclear proliferation potential? And what should the scope of public involvement be for future nuclear regulation?

All worthy questions. The answers, however, are far more difficult to discern.

---

Updates and archive available at Daduh.org
Text Copyright ©2006 J. Maynard Gelinas.
Images Copyright respective owners under a creative commons license and taken from Wikipedia
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.
"
User Journal

+ - Antarctic Ozone Hole Largest Ever Recorded

Submitted by
maynard
maynard writes "In a joint announcement, both NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) have released findings from the Aura satellite which shows that from September 21st through the 30th of 2006, the Antarctic ozone hole was the largest ever recorded.

"From September 21 to 30, the average area of the ozone hole was the largest ever observed, at 10.6 million square miles," said Paul Newman, atmospheric scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. If the stratospheric weather conditions had been normal, the ozone hole would be expected to reach a size of about 8.9 to 9.3 million square miles, about the surface area of North America.


Ozone, or O3, is simply three oxygen atoms formed into a single triatomic molecule. It is far less stable than O2, and as such is present in fairly low concentrations throughout the atmosphere. However, in the stratosphere, ozone concentrations act to filter out high energy ultraviolet light from the sun. Known as the ozone layer, without this filtering mechanism, sufficient quantities of ultraviolet light will damage skin by sunburn, and can even lead to a variety of skin cancers. A complete destruction of the earth's ozone layer would be an environmental disaster, likely leaving the planet uninhabitable for most plant and animal life.

The story of ozone begins in the 1930s, when English physicist Sidney Chapman first formulated a theory of atmospheric ozone creation and destruction known as the Ozone Cycle. However, instrument measurements of the actual atmospheric ozone content showed a significant discrepancy between the ozone density as recorded compared to calculations done using his theory. Atmospheric physicists were perplexed until the early 1970s when three atmospheric physicists, Professors Paul Crutzen, Mario Molina, and F. Sherwood Rowland, each began to explore this discrepancy from different angles.

Professor Crutzen, in 1970, untangled a link between certain soil microorganisms and ozone destruction, determining that these bacteria release nitrogen oxides which react as a catalytist to destroy ozone. In 1974 professors Molina and Sherwood then published a study in Nature showing a connection between chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), chemicals in widespread use throughout industry as a refrigerant, in plastics and insulation production, and -- most well known -- as a supposedly inert gas to pressurize spray cans, could break down and destroy ozone in the stratosphere.

Their work showed that CFCs, while inert in the lower atmosphere, could float up to the stratosphere, then react strongly with ambient ultraviolet light to break down into chlorine, which would then act to break down ozone. Newly created instruments then detected measurable global atmospheric CFC content throughout the world. While industry leaders downplayed the situation, by the late 1970s near worldwide concern of the use of CFCs led some to suggest a worldwide ban on CFC production. In 1996 the three won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work.

By 1983 the predictions of declining atmospheric ozone were alarmingly confirmed when Joseph Farman (Dr. BBC interview of Dr. Farman on the discovery), a British Antarctic survey scientist, discovered a curious ozone hole in the stratosphere while collecting atmospheric data in the Antarctic. At first he and his colleges "... doubted the validity of their own measurements ..." however their work was "... was quickly confirmed by measurements from satellites and from other Antarctic research stations." (7th paragraph) Due to graphic imagery from NASA and NOAA weather satellites, the story soon made its way to the popular press -- as shown by this old 1987 Time Magazine article. By 1985 the ozone hole was widely understood to be growing in size for reasons unknown, and was considered a serious environmental threat worth serious inquiry.

In 1986, Susan Soloman, a senior scientist with NOAA, along with several others, proposed the first model to explain why ozone above Antarctica might decline to nearly nothing in a yearly cycle of ozone accumulation and destruction, while remaining of fairly consistent (if declining) density in the stratosphere throughout the rest of the world. She suggested it was the extreme cold of Antarctic atmospheric conditions, due to higher than normal sulfuric acid concentrations in stratospheric clouds, that reacted with CFCs to increase ozone destruction beyond the already understood destructive component of ultraviolet light. (11th paragraph)

Due to longstanding concerns about CFCs, and the severity of the data collected, action was swift. In 1987 the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty banning CFC production, was opened for signature and finally ratified by the United States in 1989. Since then most nations worldwide have followed suit, due to the alarming dangers of continued ozone depletion.

Weather satellites of varying capacity have been tracking the situation ever since, the latest of which is known as Aura. It creates daily maps of ozone density, providing a nice detailed image of ozone density over time. It is this satellite, and it's Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI), which collected the data from September 21st to the 30th. What it found is alarming. According to the press release, the instrument recorded that the hole itself comprised 10.6 million square miles, compared to an expected 8.9 - 9.3 million miles. Further, on October 9th, balloon and satellite had "...plunged to 93 DU (Dobson Units) from approximately 300 DU in mid-July..." (5th paragraph). The Dobson Unit is a measure of atmospheric ozone concentration.

David Hoffman was quoted in the press release:

"These numbers mean the ozone is virtually gone in this layer of the atmosphere," said David Hofmann, director of the Global Monitoring Division at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory. "The depleted layer has an unusual vertical extent this year, so it appears that the 2006 ozone hole will go down as a record-setter."

Fortunately, scientists do believe the ozone hole is nearing the apex of its increasing size. Due to reductions in worldwide CFC gas production, scientists believe it "...is estimated to annually very slowly decrease in area by about 0.1 to 0.2 percent for the next five to 10 years." (11th paragraph) But the long half-life of ozone depleting chemicals can last for as many as 40 years. Meaning constant satellite vigilence of the ozone hole may be necessary for decades, perhaps even centuries, to come.

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Text Copyright ©2006 J. Maynard Gelinas.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License."
User Journal

+ - Omega 3 fatty acid deficiency linked to violence

Submitted by
maynard
maynard writes "The Guardian reports on a series of recent studies showing that feeding vitamin and Omega 3 fatty acid supplements may decrease violence among repeat offenders by as much as 37%. These results are leading researchers, and some psychiatrists, to conclude that at least some violent outbursts and other mental disorders are the result of vitamin and essential fatty acid deficiency.

For decades nutritionists discounted the notion that the type of oil one consumes has any impact on health. That is, until cardiologists discovered a strong causative link between high cholesterol blood serum levels and heart disease. For years heart patients were encouraged to reduce fat intake in order lower cholesterol levels, until further research untangled the distinction between High Density Lipoprotein and Low Density Lipoprotein, showing that not all cholesterol acts alike in affecting human health.

Cholesterol is just one of many lipids (fats) that act as an essential cellular building block. Like a brick forming only part of a wall, these fats form portions of the cell membrane - that division between the inside and outside of a cell that must both allow essential nutrients in, while blocking dangerous particles out. Thus, the story between cholesterol and heart disease is not one of a dangerous oil invading our bodies to make us sick, but instead one of a critical life-sustaining cellular building-block, that, in some circumstances, can lead to a blood serum lipid imbalance that then, over the long term, is believed to cause atherosclerosis and finally general cardiovascular disease (heart disease).

-----------------------------------

So what does this have to do with Omega 3 fatty acids? Well, one might reasonably argue that the state of research into Omega 3s is at about where the research into cholesterol was in the 1970s: Like the discovery that rickets is caused by either a vitamin D or a calcium deficiency, so researchers are discovering tantalizing links between Omega 3 dietary consumption and mental health. For example, results from the Oxford-Durham study indicate that Omega 3 supplementation helps young children with dyslexia and attention-deficit disorder:

Conclusions: Fatty acid supplementation may offer a safe efficacious treatment option for educational and behavioral problems among children with DCD. Additional work is needed to investigate whether our inability to detect any improvement in motor skills reflects the measures used and to assess the durability of treatment effects on behavior and academic progress.


Further, in a recent randomized trial of severely uni-polar depressed patients that supplementing with Omega 3 fatty acids generated "... significant benefits ..." for those who received the supplement and not a placebo.

RESULTS: Highly significant benefits of the addition of the omega-3 fatty acid compared with placebo were found by week 3 of treatment.


Though they do note that since the patients were also taking Lithium, it is impossible to determine whether the benefit from supplementing Omega 3 fatty acids acted alone, or in conjunction, with the drug.

Pubmed has an abstract of the study referred to in the Guardian article, which says:

Mechanisms by which aggressive and depressive disorders may be exacerbated by nutritional deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids are considered. Early developmental deficiencies in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) may lower serotonin levels at critical periods of neurodevelopment and may result in a cascade of suboptimal development of neurotransmitter systems limiting regulation of the limbic system by the frontal cortex. Residual developmental deficits may be manifest as dysregulation of sympathetic responses to stress including decreased heart rate variability and hypertension, which in turn have been linked to behavioral dysregulation. Little direct data are available to disentangle residual neurodevelopmental effects from reversible adult pathologies. Ensuring optimal intakes of omega-3 fatty acids during early development and adulthood shows considerable promise in preventing aggression and hostility.


So, given recent recent findings of a psychiatric benefit for some in consuming Omega 3s, it should not come as a surprise that there may also be a link to other, more violent, behavior disorders. And this is exactly what this recent research would appear to indicate.

The Guardian article describes a study conducted at UK prison trial at Aylesbury jail showing that violent offenders "...fed multivitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, the number of violent offences they committed in the prison fell by 37%." This is an astonishing number. As the article states that these findings:

... [call] into question the very basis of criminal justice and the notion of culpability. It suggests that individuals may not always be responsible for their aggression. Taken together with [this] study in a high-security prison for young offenders in the UK, it shows that violent behaviour may be attributable at least in part to nutritional deficiencies.


The article is careful to note that not all violence is caused by nutritional deficiencies; this is not a panacea that will rid the world of violence. But in understanding how nutritional deficiencies can cause certain mental disorders, the psychiatric community may soon be better able to tailor combinations of drug and nutritional supplements to better treat patients.

-----------------------------------

But what is the underlying causative action? That is, why do Omega 3s impact mental health just as other forms of cholesterol affect heart health? Scientists are currently only able to offer an educated guess. However, there are some facts that lead these guesses to be considered good speculation.

To understand their thinking, one must also understand the differences between various lipids and their relationship to how the body processes them. Omega 3 is a polyunsaturated fat, or a fat with two or more structural points able to support hydrogen bonds that are currently unconnected. This leaves the carbon bond chains weak with respect to trans-saturated fats like animal fat, and is one reason why monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats tend to remain liquid at lower temperatures than trans-saturated fats. Thus, Omega 3 is one of many polyunsaturated fat (the type of fats most physicians recommend patients consume for heart health).

However, Omega 3 is not the whole story. Like how cholesterol lipids are separated into High Density and Low Density Lipoproteins, so are the essential Omega 3 fatty acids broken down into three sets called: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). As the Wikipedia article states, what makes these lipids Omega 3, as opposed to Omega 6 or Omega 9 fatty acids is that:

... omega-3 (aka "n-3", "-3") signifies that the first double bond exists as the third carbon-carbon bond from the terminal methyl end () of the carbon chain.


And speculates that the carbon ordering may explain certain relationships to cell membrane health:

Structurally, omega-3 fatty acids are helically twisted, because every cis- double bond, separated by a methylene group, changes the carbon chain's direction. This configuration may explain a host of biological phenomena observed in structures that are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially the lipid bilayer of the cell membrane.


-----------------------------------

It is without a doubt that these lipids are essential to proper metabolic functioning. But that doesn't explain why these studies are showing nutritional deficiencies in the industrialized world. Rickets is rarely found outside of the poorest of the developing nations, so why are researchers finding that Omega 3 deficiencies are a common occurrence even in the western world? Current speculation revolves around the radical change in human diet throughout the western world over the last one hundred years.

The three Omega 3 fatty acids (ALA, EPA, and DHA) are called essential because the human liver cannot synthesize these lipids on its own, they must be consumed directly. Currently, the best source of Omega 3s comes from certain types of cold water fish, such as salmon, herring, or mackerel. Oil from some plant seeds, such as flax, chia, and hemp offer ALA, one of the three Omega 3s. It is believed that ALA may then be processed by the liver into EPA and DHA, however, this assertion is debated by others. For example, some claim that the conversion rate efficiency is so poor as to make consumption of only flax seed unable to meet the body's need for the two other essential lipids. Which leaves fish as the only other primary source of Omega 3s.

Yet, according to the United Nations, worldwide fish stocks are at an all time low due to rampant overfishing.

According to a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate, over 70% of the world's fish species are either fully exploited or depleted. The dramatic increase of destructive fishing techniques worldwide destroys marine mammals and entire ecosystems. FAO reports that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing worldwide appears to be increasing as fishermen seek to avoid stricter rules in many places in response to shrinking catches and declining fish stocks.


So, assuming that these studies are correct, just as we discover a serious mental health impact due to a widespread dietary deficiency, the very fish species needed to treat this nutritional deficiency are also depleted throughout oceans worldwide. Which brings up the question: If there are not enough fish to supply a proper nutritional balance of Omega 3 throughout the world, who will be the ones to receive the benefit of this research? While one can't say for sure, it is reasonable to conclude: it won't be the poor:

The consequences [of current trends] could be dire, depending on whether supply gains are feasible," says Mahfuzuddin Ahmed, a co-author of the study, which was done by the Penang-based WorldFish Center and the Washington, D.C.-based International Food Policy Research Institute. But a continuation of those gains--which have produced a sixfold rise in total fish catch since the 1950s--is doubtful, says his boss, center director Meryl Williams, because three-quarters of the current catch comes from fish stocks that are already overfished, if not depleted. "Those [who study] the population dynamics of fisheries would probably be pessimistic" about supplies, she says.


As one of the researchers quoted in the Guardian article concludes:

Gesch believes we should be rethinking the whole notion of culpability. The overall rate of violent crime in the UK has risen since the 1950s, with huge rises since the 1970s. "Such large changes are hard to explain in terms of genetics or simply changes of reporting or recording crime. One plausible candidate to explain some of the rapid rise in crime could be changes in the brain's environment. What would the future have held for those 231 young men if they had grown up with better nourishment?" Gesch says.


If the poor can't afford the necessary nutrition to stave off certain mental health problems that can lead to violent outbursts, are these criminals due for a proper prison sentencing or patients in need of a proper diet?

---
Text Copyright ©2006 J. Maynard Gelinas.
This work is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.
Article and updates archived at daduh.org.
"
Robotics

+ - Build a humanoid robot kit for $1300

Submitted by
maynard
maynard writes "Yuri Kageyama of the Associated Press writes of building a humanoid robot kit by Kyosho. Called the Manoi AT01, it sells for or ¥147,000 (~$1300). When complete the unit stands 13.3 inches tall and weighs 3.1 pounds. Don't expect an easy assembly, the author described the kit as consisting of: "a sprawling, mind-boggling concoction of matchbox-size motors, plastic Lego-like parts, twisted wiring, 200 tiny screws and a 100-page manual." (sounds like fun to me) Google has a nice promotional video, as well as a pretty funny video of two of them racing. Unfortunately, it's only available in Japan. Perhaps if it catches on the rest of the world might get local distributors. Fortunately, there's always Price Japan for those die-hards who *must* *have* *now!*"

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