Karma

This is great:

Late last month, the Federal Trade Commission settled a complaint against Brittain in which the agency accused the Coloradan and his defunct site, Is Anybody Down, with unfair business practices. The site paid its bills by soliciting women’s nude photos on Craigslist and/or from their exes, publishing the photos without the women’s permission (and often with their names and phone numbers attached), and then charging fees of $200 to $500 to take the photos down.

and it gets better:

On Feb. 9, Brittain filed a takedown request to Google, demanding that the search engine stop linking to nearly two dozen URLs — including a number of news articles, and files on the case from the FTC — because they used photos of him and information about him without his permission.

Of the 23 links he names, three are public records posted on government Web sites, and the balance are reported articles from major news sites or blogs. Only four contain a picture of Brittain that he appears to have taken himself; several others use a police booking photo from a 2003 incident.

Not only doesn’t he know the law but he complains about things he did in a much worse way. Great stuff.

Gerbils and the plague

Well, this is interesting:

Black rats may not have been to blame for numerous outbreaks of the bubonic plague across Europe, a study suggests.

Scientists believe repeat epidemics of the Black Death, which arrived in Europe in the mid-14th Century, instead trace back to gerbils from Asia.

The Black Death, which originated in Asia, arrived in Europe in 1347 and caused one of the deadliest outbreaks in human history.

Over the next 400 years, epidemics broke out again and again, killing millions of people.

It had been thought that black rats were responsible for allowing the plague to establish in Europe, with new outbreaks occurring when fleas jumped from infected rodents to humans.

Instead, the team believes that specific weather conditions in Asia may have caused another plague-carrying rodent – the giant gerbil – to thrive.

And this then later led to epidemics in Europe.

“We show that wherever there were good conditions for gerbils and fleas in central Asia, some years later the bacteria shows up in harbour cities in Europe and then spreads across the continent,” Prof Stenseth said.

He said that a wet spring followed by a warm summer would cause gerbil numbers to boom.

Notice this doesn’t say that rats had nothing to do with the outbreaks, just that they originated with gerbils. What’s nice about this hypothesis is that it includes a testable claim:

The team now plans to analyse plague bacteria DNA taken from ancient skeletons across Europe.

If the genetic material shows a large amount of variation, it would suggest the team’s theory is correct.

Where the money is

One of the weird attacks on scientists studying climate change is that they only claim to believe in it to make money. The reason this is so weird is that there’s a lot of money behind climate change denialism. A case in point:

One of the names they invoke most often is Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who claims that variations in the sun’s energy can largely explain recent global warming. He has often appeared on conservative news programs, testified before Congress and in state capitals, and starred at conferences of people who deny the risks of global warming.

But newly released documents show the extent to which Dr. Soon’s work has been tied to funding he received from corporate interests.

He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as “deliverables” that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.

Environmentalists have long questioned Dr. Soon’s work, and his acceptance of funding from the fossil-fuel industry was previously known. But the full extent of the links was not; the documents show that corporate contributions were tied to specific papers and were not disclosed, as required by modern standards of publishing.

and this is someone who doesn’t really have good credentials:

Though often described on conservative news programs as a “Harvard astrophysicist,” Dr. Soon is not an astrophysicist and has never been employed by Harvard. He is a part-time employee of the Smithsonian Institution with a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering. He has received little federal research money over the past decade and is thus responsible for bringing in his own funds, including his salary.

Though he has little formal training in climatology, Dr. Soon has for years published papers trying to show that variations in the sun’s energy can explain most recent global warming. His thesis is that human activity has played a relatively small role in causing climate change.

Imagine how much money a trained climatologist would get in funding if they were able to show that climate change is not real.

It’s ok because we’re doing it

It’s a good think I know that the US and England are such good countries, otherwise I might think this was criminal:

AMERICAN AND BRITISH spies hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe, according to top-secret documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The hack was perpetrated by a joint unit consisting of operatives from the NSA and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. The breach, detailed in a secret 2010 GCHQ document, gave the surveillance agencies the potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the world’s cellular communications, including both voice and data.

The company targeted by the intelligence agencies, Gemalto, is a multinational firm incorporated in the Netherlands that makes the chips used in mobile phones and next-generation credit cards. Among its clients are AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and some 450 wireless network providers around the world. The company operates in 85 countries and has more than 40 manufacturing facilities. One of its three global headquarters is in Austin, Texas and it has a large factory in Pennsylvania.

Additionally, the spy agency targeted unnamed cellular companies’ core networks, giving it access to “sales staff machines for customer information and network engineers machines for network maps.” GCHQ also claimed the ability to manipulate the billing servers of cell companies to “suppress” charges in an effort to conceal the spy agency’s secret actions against an individual’s phone.

TOP-SECRET GCHQ documents reveal that the intelligence agencies accessed the email and Facebook accounts of engineers and other employees of major telecom corporations and SIM card manufacturers in an effort to secretly obtain information that could give them access to millions of encryption keys. They did this by utilizing the NSA’s X-KEYSCORE program, which allowed them access to private emails hosted by the SIM card and mobile companies’ servers, as well as those of major tech corporations, including Yahoo and Google.

In effect, GCHQ clandestinely cyberstalked Gemalto employees, scouring their emails in an effort to find people who may have had access to the company’s core networks and Ki-generating systems. The intelligence agency’s goal was to find information that would aid in breaching Gemalto’s systems, making it possible to steal large quantities of encryption keys. The agency hoped to intercept the files containing the keys as they were transmitted between Gemalto and its wireless network provider customers.

So, the NSA and GCHQ broke into a private company that had done nothing wrong and stole company secrets, stole money (that’s what suppressing charges mean), and broke into the emails of private individuals who had done nothing wrong. This is the type of thing the US would denounce if China or Russia did it, but it’s perfectly fine for the US.

Sun sun sun

Given that the area is supposed to get another 8-10 inches of snow tonight and tomorrow, this is looking really good (Credit: NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory):

20150210_175456_4096_0304

This is what Republicans do

Here’s what Republicans in West Virginia are up to:

West Virginia’s House of Delegates passed legislation Tuesday that will make it more difficult for workers to sue their employers for on-the-job injuries.

The legislation (HB2011), which now goes to the Senate, restricts workers’ compensation recipients and their families from collecting lawsuit damages from employers following on-the-job injuries. The bill passed 59-38, with all but a handful of Republicans voting to support it.

House Republicans said the bill clarified — but didn’t eliminate — the “deliberate intent” exception that allows injured workers to sue employers.

But Democrats weren’t buying that explanation. “It clarifies that we are not willing to hold employers accountable if they specifically and intentionally expose workers to unsafe working conditions. Period,” said House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison. “We’re allowing employers who are reckless and unsafe to get by with their continued reckless behavior, and that’s wrong.”

But that’s not all, there’s more:

A year after a toxic leak contaminated drinking water for 300,000 residents, West Virginia lawmakers are considering a series of proposals that would weaken a new chemical tank safety law, remove stronger pollution protections for streams across the state, and protect the coal industry from enforcement actions over violations of water quality standards.

Among other things, the bill (SB 357) as aimed at stopping successful citizen suits brought over mining company violations of Clean Water Act standards where those standards were not specifically written into state DEP permits and prohibiting the DEP from incorporating those standards into future coal permits. It also includes a long-sought change the coal industry wants to West Virginia’s water quality limit for aluminum.

The legislation has come under criticism, though, from the United Mine Workers union, which says it also weakens safety standards for coal miners.“

As long as miners continue to die in West Virginia’s mines, we need to be looking for ways to strengthen health and safety protections, not gut them,” UMW President Cecil Roberts said Friday.

Companion bills in both houses (HB 2574 and SB 423) would exempt from the state’s new chemical tank safety standards the vast majority of aboveground storage tanks that registered with the DEP to comply with the law passed in the wake of the January 2014 leak at the Freedom Industries facility on the Elk River.

This is the Republican way.

Goodbye ice

The amount of ice in the Antarctic has actually been increasing so everything’s cool right? Well:

Sea ice increases in Antarctica do not make up for the accelerated Arctic sea ice loss of the last decades, a new NASA study finds. As a whole, the planet has been shedding sea ice at an average annual rate of 13,500 square miles (35,000 square kilometers) since 1979, the equivalent of losing an area of sea ice larger than the state of Maryland every year.

At least it’s not getting worse. Oh:

Furthermore, the global ice decrease has accelerated: in the first half of the record (1979-96), the sea ice loss was about 8,300 square miles (21,500 square kilometers) per year. This rate more than doubled for the second half of the period (1996 to 2013), when there was an average loss of 19,500 square miles (50,500 square kilometers) per year – an average yearly loss larger than the states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.

But there’s been a lot of snow in Boston

The third major storm in the past two weeks shattered a longstanding snowfall record in Boston, bringing the staggering total over a 30-day span to about 6 feet. That topped the old mark, 58.8 inches, set in 1978. Since the latest storm began Saturday, Boston has received almost 22 inches.

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 184 other followers

%d bloggers like this: