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+ - Obama unveils 6-year-old report on NSA surveillance->

Submitted by schwit1
schwit1 writes: With debate gearing up over the coming expiration of the Patriot Act surveillance law, the Obama administration on Saturday unveiled a 6-year-old report examining the once-secret program to collect information on Americans' calls and emails.

They found that while many senior intelligence officials believe the program filled a gap by increasing access to international communications, others including FBI agents, CIA analysts and managers "had difficulty evaluating the precise contribution of the PSP to counterterrorism efforts because it was most often viewed as one source among many available analytic and intelligence-gathering tools in these efforts."

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+ - Top scientists start to examine fiddled global warming figures-> 1

Submitted by schwit1
schwit1 writes: Last month, we are told, the world enjoyed " its hottest March since records began in 1880 ". This year, according to "US government scientists", already bids to outrank 2014 as "the hottest ever". The figures from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were based, like all the other three official surface temperature records on which the world's scientists and politicians rely, on data compiled from a network of weather stations by NOAA's Global Historical Climate Network (GHCN).

But here there is a puzzle. These temperature records are not the only ones with official status. The other two, Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) and the University of Alabama (UAH), are based on a quite different method of measuring temperature data, by satellites. And these, as they have increasingly done in recent years, give a strikingly different picture. Neither shows last month as anything like the hottest March on record, any more than they showed 2014 as "the hottest year ever".


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+ - Tiny robots climb walls carrying more than 100 times their weight->

Submitted by schwit1
schwit1 writes: Mighty things come in small packages. The little robots in this video can haul things that weigh over 100 times more than themselves.

The super-strong bots — built by mechanical engineers at Stanford — will be presented next month at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Seattle, Washington.

The secret is in the adhesives on the robots' feet. Their design is inspired by geckos, which have climbing skills that are legendary in the animal kingdom. The adhesives are covered in minute rubber spikes that grip firmly onto the wall as the robot climbs. When pressure is applied, the spikes bend, increasing their surface area and thus their stickiness. When the robot picks its foot back up, the spikes straighten out again and detach easily.

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+ - 11-Year-Old Taken From Mother For Defending Her Need For Medicinal Cannabis->

Submitted by schwit1
schwit1 writes: This is the story of an 11-year-old boy who bravely defended his mom's use of cannabis oil during an anti-drug program at his school. His mother suffers from Crohn's disease and uses cannabis oil to treat her symptoms. If she lived here in Colorado, or any of the other 23 states enlightened enough to permit adults to use a plant for medical purposes, her son (who obviously loves his mom enough to defend her in class) would still be with her.

This is just the latest example of bureaucrats who think they know best doing untold damage for no good reason. They are the ones who should be charged with abuse and neglect. Absolutely horrifying. From Reason :

Yesterday Shona Banda, the Kansas medical marijuana activist whose home was searched after her 11-year-old son challenged anti-pot propaganda at school, failed to regain custody of the boy, who is now under the control of Child Protective Services (CPS). "I am not giving up," Banda said after yesterday's family court hearing. "I will get him, and I am not going to stop until I do."



The Garden City Police Department, which conducted the search of Banda's home, insists that the state-sanctioned kidnapping is in the boy's best interest. "The most important thing here is the child's well-being," said Capt. Randy Ralston. "That is why it is a priority for us, just because of the danger to the child."

Yes, snatching away a young child from his mother because she uses a plant to treat a disease is clearly in the boy's best interest. What a monumental moron this guy is.

Banda uses cannabis oil to treat the symptoms of Crohn's disease, a fact that she openly discusses. But Kansas is not one of the 23 states that recognize marijuana as a medicine, so all use of cannabis is equally illegal there. Ralston emphasizes that "the items taken from the residence were within easy reach of the child," although he cites no evidence that the boy was actually endangered by his mother's medicine.



Banda has not been formally accused of any crimes yet. Ralston says the charges could include possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, misdemeanor or felony possession of drug paraphernalia, and child endangerment. Making cannabis oil also seems to qualify as manufacturing a controlled substance, a "drug severity level 1 felony" punishable by a prison sentence as long as 17 years.

The fact that it is even conceivable for her to be locked up for 17 years for this tells you all you need to know about American "justice," but if you need more evidence:

Radley Balko over at the Washington Post also covered this despicable situation. Here's an excerpt:

He also said the initial anti-drug program was put on entirely by the school â" the police had no involvement. At that event Banda's son apparently contradicted some of the claims made about marijuana. The school then contacted the child protection agency, which then contacted the police.

The absurdity here of course is that a woman could lose her custody of her child for therapeutically using a drug that's legal for recreational use an hour to the west. It seems safe to say that the amount of the drug she had in her home was an amount consistent with personal use. (If she had been distributing, she'd almost certainly have been charged by now.)

Of course, this doesn't stop the CPS for continuing to hold the child.

This boy was defending his mother's use of a drug that helps her deal with an awful condition. Because he stuck up for his mother, the state arrested her and ripped him away from her. Even if he is eventually returned to his mother (as he ought to be), the school, the town, and the state of Kansas have already done a lot more damage to this kid than Banda's use of pot to treat her Crohn's disease ever could.

Exactly, and that's the key point.

Banda's supporters have now set up a legal defense fund page for her at Go Fund Me.

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+ - Russia ends effort to build a nuclear-powered rocket engine

Submitted by schwit1
schwit1 writes: The Russian government has decided to shut down its research project to build a nuclear rocket engine for interplanetary travel in space.

The idea of using nuclear power for propulsion in space has been around since the 1960s, and has shown great promise. It would provide far more power for less fuel than any existing engine. The U.S. unfortunately abandoned this research in the 1960s, partly because of the cut-backs after winning the space race and partly because of environmental protests that fear anything to do with nuclear. If the Russians had followed through, it would have given them an advantageous position in any competition to colonize the planets.

+ - Hubble finds something astronomers can't explain

Submitted by schwit1
schwit1 writes: The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted the explosion of a star that does not fit into any theory for stellar evolution.

The exploding star, which was seen in the constellation Eridanus, faded over two weeks — much too rapidly to qualify as a supernova. The outburst was also about ten times fainter than most supernovae, explosions that destroy some or all of a star. But it was about 100 times brighter than an ordinary nova, which is a type of surface explosion that leaves a star intact. "The combination of properties is puzzling," says Mario Livio, an astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. "I thought about a number of possibilities, but each of them fails" to account for all characteristics of the outburst, he adds.

We can put this discovery on the bottom of a very long list of similar discoveries by Hubble, which this week is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its launch.

+ - Federal agent smashes cellphone woman was using to record police activity...->

Submitted by schwit1
schwit1 writes: After high-profile uses of force caught on video in places like South Carolina, New York and L.A.'s skid row, officers in the Southeast L.A. suburb had been told to take filming in stride. If you're not doing anything wrong, police brass reasoned, what do you have to worry about?

So on Sunday, when a lawman was caught on video snatching a woman's cellphone in South Gate as she recorded and smashing it on the floor, it was with relief that South Gate police said the officer wasn't one of their own but a deputy U.S. marshal.

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+ - Oklahoma says it will now use nitrogen gas as its backup method of execution->

Submitted by schwit1
schwit1 writes: Yesterday, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin signed into law a bill that approves the use of nitrogen gas for executions in the state. The method, which would effectively asphyxiate death row inmates by forcing them to breathe pure nitrogen through a gas mask, is meant to be the primary alternative to lethal injection, the Washington Post reports.

Fallin and other supporters of the procedure say it's pain-free and effective, noting that the nitrogen would render inmates unconscious within ten seconds and kill them in minutes. It's also cheap: state representatives say the method only requires a nitrogen tank and a gas mask, but financial analysts say its impossible to give precise figures, the Post reports.

Oklahoma's primary execution method is still lethal injection, but the state's procedure is currently under review by the Supreme Court. Earlier this week, Tennessee suspended executions statewide following challenges to its own lethal injection protocol.

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