Author Archives: Kestrel

A cushy job.

Dozens of employees working for an obscure federal agency went years with little work to do, allowing them to collect salaries and bonuses while they shopped online, caught up on chores, watched television or walked the dog, an investigation revealed Tuesday.

The probe by the Commerce Department’s inspector general found that paralegals at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s appeals board were paid more than $5 million for their time even though there was so little work for them to do that supervisors didn’t care how they used it.

Slideshow.

nationals

nationals

It helps if you can create a crisis. Which, of course ‘should never go to waste’.

… Some have attempted to attribute the sudden wave of migration to factors other than the actions taken by the Obama administration. Most frequently cited is the stunning violence plaguing Central America, but according to United Nations data the region’s dramatic increase in violence began in 2007.

The other frequently cited cause is a little-known anti-trafficking law that gave additional protections to certain immigrant minors, but that law passed in 2008. While those two factors may intensify the crisis, there was no greater pull factor than the president’s executive decree forbidding immigration officials from enforcing the law. …

They all had feathers?

The first ever example of a plant-eating dinosaur with feathers and scales has been discovered in Russia. Previously only flesh-eating dinosaurs were known to have had feathers, so this new find raises the possibility that all dinosaurs could have been feathered.

The new dinosaur, named Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus as it comes from a site called Kulinda on the banks of the Olov River in Siberia, is described in a paper recently published in Science.

Kulindadromeus shows epidermal scales on its tail and shins, and short bristles on its head and back. The most astonishing discovery, however, is that it also has complex, compound feathers associated with its arms and legs.

Birds arose from dinosaurs over 150 million years ago so it was no surprise when dinosaurs with feathers were found in China in 1996. But all those feathered dinosaurs were theropods, flesh-eating dinosaurs that include the direct ancestors of birds.

Good idea.

Scientists from the University of Illinois at Chicago have synthesized a catalyst that improves their system for converting waste carbon dioxide into syngas, a precursor of gasoline and other energy-rich products, bringing the process closer to commercial viability.

Amin Salehi-Khojin, UIC professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, and his coworkers developed a unique two-step catalytic process that uses molybdenum disulfide and an ionic liquid to “reduce,” or transfer electrons, to carbon dioxide in a chemical reaction. The new catalyst improves efficiency and lowers cost by replacing expensive metals like gold or silver in the reduction reaction.

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications on July 30.

The discovery is a big step toward industrialization, said Mohammad Asadi, UIC graduate student and co-first author on the paper.

Well this is not the answer.

Otzi Iceman had genetic predisposition for atherosclerosis: Much the same in ancient peoples as it is today

Can’t we primary this guy?

Against all odds, embattled Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) could be headed back to Congress next year.

The GOP physician looked like he would be booted from office in late 2012 after revelations that he had pushed his ex-wife to have two abortions and carried on affairs with patients, one of whom he urged to terminate a pregnancy.

The socially conservative congressman drew a strong primary opponent this year in state Sen. Jim Tracy (R), and many in the GOP privately say they are rooting for the challenger, because it would rid the party of another member of its “scandal caucus.”

I hate to put this up. It only encourages more crazy talk. But …

It’s probably better to trust a used car salesman than any level of government.

The UK city of York plans to roll out, citywide, the sweet, sweet candy of free Wi-Fi.

All you have to do to get it is to roll over and expose your personal data’s tender underbelly.

After that, just sit back, buckle up, and let the marketing blitz begin!

In an interview with the BBC, Roy Grant, CIO for the City of York Council, said that the free service has only been up and running for a few weeks, but already, his team can discern such choice data nuggets as:

Who’s using the Wi-Fi;
Where they’re coming from, in terms of origin; and
Where they’re going.

But these were the exactly the loans that Freddie and Fannie were asking them to make.

Bank of America’s Countrywide business must pay the US government $1.3bn (£769m) for selling defective home loans, a New York judge has ruled.

Countrywide was found guilty of selling bad loans, as part of a programme called “hustle”, to US mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2007.

In October, a judge found the bank liable on a fraud charge but did not decide a penalty.

Former Countrywide executive Rebecca Mairone must also pay $1m.

“We believe that this figure simply bears no relation to a limited Countrywide programme that lasted several months and ended before Bank of America’s acquisition of the company,” Bank of America spokesperson Lawrence Grayson told the BBC.

…and a every price point there is somebody at the margin …

Demand Elasticity.

It’s also important to understand that e-books are highly price-elastic. This means that when the price goes up, customers buy much less. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000.

Day by Day

Only tens of millions?

The federal government’s botched handling of HealthCare.gov cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, according to a new report by the General Accountability Office (GAO). The report will be officially presented tomorrow to a House subcommittee.

The GAO report faults the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which was led by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Sebelius announced her resignation in April following the disastrous launch of the government-run website, as well as revelations about serious security concerns.

Though the GAO blames federal officials for not correctly predicting and troubleshooting problems, the Obama administration has not made any public move to hold federal officials accountable.

Boy, who would have expected this.

Swedish neo-Nazis join fight in Ukraine

A look back … way back.

Dis-similar salts – a new one for me.

Salinity-gradient-power cell’s surprisingly high voltage gives it best cost-per-watt of its kind

Several different methods exist for generating electricity from the mixing of salt water and fresh water, which is also called salinity gradient power (SGP). One method uses concentration cells, in which two semi-cells separated by a porous diaphragm such as filter paper are filled with solutions of different ion concentrations. However, concentration cells are not as popular as other SGP techniques because they don’t perform as well, typically generating only half the voltage of other methods.

So a team of scientists from Italy was very surprised to find that, when substituting a zinc chloride solution for the sodium chloride solution that is typically used, concentration cells generate a voltage that is up to 150% higher than any other SGP technique, including reverse electrodialysis. Even though the device is only at the proof-of-principle stage, it already offers the lowest cost per watt (0.5 euro [$0.67 USD] / Watt) among all SGP devices.

Spain looking up

The Spanish economy grew at its fastest pace over the last three months since the end of 2007, according to Spain’s statistics office.

But falling prices show the country is facing a deflation threat after it emerged from a two year recession last year.

Economic growth for the last three months was 0.6%, ahead of the Bank of Spain’s forecasts of around 0.5%.

That leaves the annualised rate of growth at 1.2%.

IDF Finds Hamas Training Manual; Hospitals Used as Terrorist Bases

Israel’s Operation Protective Edge uncovered a comprehensive Hamas training manual that features step-by-step instructions on building homemade bombs. The terrorist manual includes detailed techniques concerning the concealing and detonation of various types explosives.

For example, the manual explains how to produce a television-shaped explosive with shrapnel intended to kill and mutilate as many Israeli victims as possible. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) also discovered different types of mines and remotely detonated bombs throughout the Gaza Strip.

Eventually people will stop paying attention to them.

Before lawmakers adjourn for August recess, they’re expected to vote on the Sunscreen Innovation Act (H.R. 4250), designed to streamline the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory process.

Don’t look for new sunscreen on store shelves anytime soon, though. The FDA hasn’t approved a new sunscreen formula since the Clinton administration, and Time reports that there are eight different sun-bloc ingredients that have been backlogged for more than a decade.

Good idea.

3-D printers can create all kinds of things, from eyeglasses to implantable medical devices, straight from a computer model and without the need for molds. But for making spacecraft, engineers sometimes need custom parts that traditional manufacturing techniques and standard 3-D printers can’t create, because they need to have the properties of multiple metals. Now, researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are implementing a printing process that transitions from one metal or alloy to another in a single object.

Clearly a creep. … But it’s good that his name is getting out.

The man refusing to leave a Palm Springs, California, condo rented through Airbnb has been involved in a number of other questionable activities, including a Kickstarter campaign that raised nearly $40,000 but hasn’t delivered the product.

He appears to regret nothing, telling Kickstarter backers that he would “squat again.”

Maksym Pashanin had a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2013 for a video game called Confederate Express that raised $39,739 back in November from nearly 2,400 people. He had promised an estimated ship date of June 2014 but has yet to deliver the game.

In response to questions about the game and his refusal to leave the condo, Pashanin wrote on Saturday, “Ok guys, what’s the latest deets on the drama? 10/10, would squat again.”

Now the only question is ‘How many mosques do they have?’

During the night, the IDF attacked 80 terrorist targets within Gaza, including mosques that Hamas used for terrorist activities. The infantry and engineering corps destroyed three tunnels designed to harm Israeli civilians, in addition to revealing anti-tank missiles and other weapons hidden inside a mosque.

I think it’s good idea.

Another generation needs to be informed of how easy it is to let your politics get in front of the truth. Of course that won’t show up in the movie but it will show up everywhere else. CBS will, once again, have to defend it’s actions. The rest of the press was dead in the water. And – a bunch of amateurs, collectively, got to the truth and embarrassed the ‘smart set’.

It sounds like a big project, starring two of my favorite actors. And I can understand why you’d want to tell the story of those memos. It’s exciting! That’s why I devoted a chapter to it in “The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success.” The story of how Rather and Mapes and their CBS team were snookered by fake memos purporting to show that President George W. Bush had been absent without leave is a fascinating case study in how we can overlook the obvious and become wedded to dubious narratives.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound as if you’re making a movie about the fallibility of human nature. Instead, it sounds as if you’re making a movie based on Mapes’s book about it — an upside-down version in which Mapes is upholding the highest standards of journalism while everyone else caves in to the vast right-wing conspiracy to suppress the truth.

Who’s in charge here?

PLO official Yasser Abd Rabbo on Tuesday said all Palestinian factions were prepared to announce a unilateral 72-hour cease-fire in fighting between Israeli and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

According to Rabbo, the announcement was made with the consent of Hamas.

Speaking at a press conference in Ramallah, Rabbo said the initiative for a three-day halt in fighting was based on a proposal by the UN’s special envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry.

However, Hamas spokespersons have denied these reports and said they do not agree with this announcement and that a cease-fire cannot exist when Israeli forces are inside Gaza.Who’s in charge here

I’m guessing that no flags were burned and no arrests were made.

In the first major pro-Israeli demonstration in France since hostilities erupted in the Gaza Strip earlier this month, thousands of people took to the streets of Marseille on Sunday, chanting “Israel has the right to defend itself.”

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