Author Archives: Kestrel

So it’s come to this.

Venezuelan soldiers can open fire on demonstrators if they feel their lives are at risk, under a new regulation published one year after anti-government riots left 43 people dead.

The rules announced Thursday outlined procedures for soldiers to maintain public order, going up gradually from asserting an “imposing presence” to the use of deadly force.

The regulations were published just days before the anniversary of the start of anti-government riots that erupted when Venezuelans vented fury over rampant crime, runaway inflation, corruption and shortages of basic goods in the country with the world’s largest proven oil reserves.

During those months of unrest, mainly in Caracas and the city of San Cristobal, protests often ended with hooded demonstrators throwing Molotov cocktails at police who answered with tear gas, water cannons and — in some cases — rubber bullets.

Graphene – and its siblings.

Graphene isn’t the only game-changing material to come out of a lab. From aerogels nearly as light as air to metamaterials that manipulate light, here are six supermaterials that have the potential to transform the world of the future.

Good idea.

Researchers in Norway have succeeded in getting bacteria to power a fuel cell. The “fuel” used is wastewater, and the products of the process are purified water droplets and electricity. This is an environmentally-friendly process for the purification of water derived from industrial processes and suchlike. It also generates small amounts of electricity – in practice enough to drive a small fan, a sensor or a light-emitting diode. In the future, the researchers hope to scale up this energy generation to enable the same energy to be used to power the water purification process, which commonly consists of many stages, often involving mechanical and energy-demanding decontamination steps at its outset.

An important ‘false crowd scare’ to remember. On this day in history.

The McMartin Preschool trials

No new homes, no new jobs. A vicious circle.

Housing: The homeownership rate continues to dive, wiping out the gains from last decade’s housing boom. Many Americans have nothing to show for federal policies boosting homeownership — except huge debts.

Since the housing crisis, which was caused by these policies, we figure that Washington has spent more than $3.5 trillion trying to buoy the sinking homeownership rate. Much of the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing went to buying U.S. housing agency debt and to keeping mortgage rates low.

A lot of good that’s done.

I’m sure most of these are ‘lost’ by now. …

… You know – accidently deleted, destroyed, saved but overwritten …

Senate GOP demands Obama turn over all communications with IRS

In and out of the top 1%.

Here’s some good news for the New Year: According to new research, there’s a 1 in 9 chance that a typical American will hit the jackpot and join the wealthiest 1 percent for at least one year in her or his working life. And now the bad news: That same research says only an elite few get to stay in that economic stratosphere — and nonwhite workers remain among those who face far longer odds.

Seems like the people who initiated the crisis should probably pay for it.

… Including the cost of crime and disease.

Obama to request $1B for Central America in wake of border crisis

Geez … in some circles this would be call a ‘surrender’.

Topface, a Russian online dating service, has paid an undisclosed sum to an attacker who stole 20 million user email addresses and then advertised them for sale.

According to Bloomberg, Topface, based in St. Petersburg, managed to track down the intruder after he advertised to sell the email addresses.

CEO Dmitry Filatov said that Topface won’t be pressing charges, given that the attacker hadn’t (yet) passed the data to anyone and agreed not to do so.

Topface is not calling this payment “ransom.” Topface is, rather, calling it “an award for finding a vulnerability”.

There are no details available on what vulnerability the attacker exploited to exfiltrate the user data, but the company seems to have struck up some sort of working relationship with him.

No going home.

Joining forces against the Counter-terrorism bill, a galaxy of Muslims activists from different ethnic and professional backgrounds have launched a campaign against the measures that have been introduced two months ago.

… Under new “exclusion orders”, British Muslims travelling abroad to take part in the conflict in Syria and Iraq would be barred from returning to Britain, unless they agreed to be placed under strict controls.

UK Muslims would also face arrest after coming from the conflict areas in the Middle East.

Such a move “will help, not hinder, those determined to commit acts of terror,” a spokesman of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said.

Boy – who could have seen this coming?

A U.S. Republican senator and frequent Mideast traveler said Thursday that the Taliban detainees released from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl have been in touch with members of the al-Qaida linked Haqqani network, yet all five still are being monitored in Qatar.

The Pentagon said Thursday that it is working with Qatar and is confident that any threat posed by the former detainees can be mitigated.

Sen Lindsey Graham, who recently visited Qatar, said he had been afraid that one of the detainees had left the country, but said he was assured during his visit that all five remain in the small Gulf nation.

Qatar gained public praise from President Barack Obama for brokering the controversial deal in May 2014 that freed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity in exchange for the release of the five senior Taliban officials who had been imprisoned for years at the U.S.-run Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.


Even the threat of annihilation may not work.

The Iranian bomb is a national-security issue, an alliance issue, and a regional Middle East issue. But it is also a uniquely Jewish issue because of Israel’s situation as the only state on earth overtly threatened with extinction, facing a potential nuclear power overtly threatening that extinction.

On the 70th anniversary of Auschwitz, mourning dead Jews is easy. And, forgive me, cheap. Want to truly honor the dead? Show solidarity with the living — Israel and its 6 million Jews. Make “never again” more than an empty phrase. It took Nazi Germany seven years to kill 6 million Jews. It would take a nuclear Iran one day.

Good idea II- Graphene

Novel Production Technique Could Make Graphene 1000 times cheaper

The method he developed is not only extremely cheap, but it’s also 10 times faster, and has basically infinite scalability – according to Zhu. He used a low-pressure mix of hydrogen, methane and argon, spraying it over a layer of copper at a temperature of 1,000 degrees Celsius to develop a sheet of graphene. The idea to obtain the material through vapor deposition is not new, but this production method is.

“Now a single piece of graphene costs about €1,000,” Zhu said. “We expect to reduce the price by a factor of a thousand to about €1 per piece in a few years. I want to make graphene real and bring it into daily life. Bring it into products anyone can touch.”

Good idea.

Beer – is there nothing that it can’t do?

The health-promoting perks of wine have attracted the spotlight recently, leaving beer in the shadows. But scientists are discovering new ways in which the latter could be a more healthful beverage than once thought. They’re now reporting in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that a compound from hops could protect brain cells from damage — and potentially slow the development of disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Out of africa … through Israel.

The discovery of a 55,000-year-old partial skull in Northern Israel provides new insights into the migration of modern humans out of Africa. A key event in human evolution was the expansion of modern humans of African origin across Eurasia, replacing all other forms of hominin (humans and their predecessors), around 40,000-60,000 years ago. However, due to the scarcity of human fossils from this period, these ancestors of all present-day non-African modern populations have largely remained a mystery. Now, researchers describe a partial skull that dates to around 55,000, which was found at Manot Cave in Israel’s Western Galilee.

This has interesting possibilities.

A common algae commercially grown to make fish food holds promise as a source for both biodiesel and jet fuel, according to a new study published in the journal Energy & Fuels.

The researchers, led by Greg O’Neil of Western Washington University and Chris Reddy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, exploited an unusual and untapped class of chemical compounds in the algae to synthesize two different fuel products, in parallel, a from a single algae.

I think it’s safe to assume that they don’t care about you.

Leading trade groups and corporate offices spent almost $800 million lobbying the White House and Congress last year, a 10 percent increase over 2013, disclosure records show.

Among the top 50 spenders, none matched the firepower of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Realtors, which spent $124.1 million and $55.1 million on their influence efforts, respectively.

But while many of Washington’s biggest advocacy shops spent big, some associations and companies opted to cut back in a midterm election year where Congress was often mired in gridlock.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, Philip Morris International, BP and Airlines for America all dropped off the list of top 50 spenders from 2013, according to disclosures compiled and provided to The Hill by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Facebook, Coca-Cola, the National Association of Manufacturers and theater company National Amusements took their places.

Eventually they’ll learn.

The Obama administration’s troubling flirtation with another mortgage meltdown took an unsettling turn on Tuesday with Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt’s testimony before the House Financial Services Committee.

The Obama administration’s troubling flirtation with another mortgage meltdown took an unsettling turn on Tuesday with Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt’s testimony before the House Financial Services Committee.

Local – O.k. with fracking.

No … not in Boulder … you idiot.

The U.S. oil and gas industry, under siege from plunging world prices and climate change fears, notched a much-needed win this week in an unlikely place: liberal Boulder County, Colorado.

The board of trustees of Erie, which straddles Boulder and Weld counties, voted 4-3 to reject an “emergency” one-year moratorium on new drilling permits within the town’s borders over concerns that the restriction targeting the booming practice of fracking would send an anti-business signal and result in costly lawsuits.

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Colorado liberals make peace with fracking, reject emergency moratorium

Secret tapes undermine Hillary Clinton on Libyan war

Top Pentagon officials and a senior Democrat in Congress so distrusted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2011 march to war in Libya that they opened their own diplomatic channels with the Gadhafi regime in an effort to halt the escalating crisis, according to secret audio recordings recovered from Tripoli.

Audio at the link.

It’s never enough.

The good news: The discomfort over the embargo of Cuba has led to a good bargaining position in talks with the US. The bad news: Raul Castro’s the one that thinks so. Far from being grateful for the diplomatic overture from Barack Obama, Castro wants the US to pay reparations for the economic damage that Castro says the embargo caused, plus the immediate return of control over Guantanamo Bay, as the opening ante for normalizing relations:

How could we not learn this lesson?

Subprime Bonds Are Back With Different Name Seven Years After U.S. Crisis

The business of bundling riskier U.S. mortgages into bonds without government backing is gearing up for a comeback. Just don’t call it subprime.

Graphene – This should help.

One of the major reasons that solar panels are facing such hurdles to replace conventional electricity sources is because they are very inefficient. The most efficient (and most expensive) panel is currently somewhere around 32 percent efficiency. However, scientists in Switzerland have figured out a way to utilize Graphene in solar panel design, raising its efficiency to an absolutely staggering 60% – a finally feasible amount.

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