Monthly Archives: January 2012

A U.S. government panel today unanimously recommended that scientists limit publication of results relating to bird flu.

A U.S. government panel today unanimously recommended that scientists limit publication of their results relating to bird flu.

We found the potential risk of public harm to be of unusually high magnitude. In formulating our recommendations to the government, scientific journals and to the broader scientific community, we tried to balance the great risks against the benefits that could come from making the details of this research known. Because the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) found that there was significant potential for harm in fully publishing these results and that the harm exceeded the benefits of publication, we therefore recommended that the work not be fully communicated in an open forum. The NSABB was unanimous that communication of the results in the two manuscripts it reviewed should be greatly limited in terms of the experimental details and results.

As much as I am almost always in favor of the free flow of information, in this case this recommendation seems quite reasonable. The situation is in many ways identical to the government’s policy to routinely limit publication of the engineering details of its weaponry.

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Laser-guided bullets

Laser-guided bullets.

Invented by engineers at the US government’s Sandia National Laboratories, the self-guided bullet homes in on a laser spot trained on a target from up to 1.4 kilometres away from its firing point. If the target is a moving truck, say, and it moves after the bullet is fired, the laser illumination as seen by a laser sensor in the bullet’s nose instructs the bullet to finely twist tiny rudder-like fins on its rear end to keep it on target.

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The Great Moonbuggy Race

The Great Moonbuggy Race.

The Great Moonbuggy Race is an engineering competition that requires a team of six students to design a “proof-of-concept” wheeled rover that will race over a half mile of simulated lunar terrain. In April, two team members, one male and one female, will drive the completed vehicle in competition at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. This contest will present design challenges that are similar to those encountered by the original lunar rover team. This is the 16th year of competition for high school teams, but it will be the first year for Chicago’s public high school students.

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White nose syndrome has been found in bats in Europe

White nose syndrome, the fungus that has been killing bats in the northeast United States these past five years, has now been definitively found on bats in Europe.

With this information, scientists now know that it is the differences between North American and European bats that can explain why European bat colonies can survive the fungus while North American bats cannot. Furthermore, this information should show us how future North American bats will adapt to the fungus.

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The CBO has projected another trillion plus deficit for 2012, the fourth year in a row the U.S. government has produced such a deficit.

The day of reckoning looms: The CBO now predicts another trillion-plus deficit for 2012, the fourth year in a row the U.S. government has produced such a deficit.

For those who like to blame Bush for everything, it must be noted that these deficits, all during the Obama administration, are three to four times larger than any previous single year deficit of any previous administration. As bad as the deficits were in the Bush years — and they were bad — they don’t hold a candle to what Obama has done.

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The Russians now say the next manned flight to ISS will be delayed a month, until the end of April, due to defects found in the Soyuz capsule.

The Russians now say the next manned flight to ISS will be delayed a month, until the end of April, due to defects found in the Soyuz capsule.

The story suggests some confusion over what caused the cracks, either defects to the capsule itself or a mistake in the testing process.

A commission set up to probe the setback said violations of the testing procedure caused the damage to the reentry vehicle incident, earlier reports said. Either excessive pressure was applied by the personnel, or the shell of the reentry vehicle had defects or was improperly welded up.

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West Virginia sheriff falsified ballots in close election

Democratic Party campaign tactics: A West Virginia sheriff has pleaded guilty to falsifying ballots in close election.

Lincoln County, West Virginia Sheriff Jerry Bowman admitted falsifying absentee ballots in a case stemming from an investigation by federal authorities, the U.S. Attorney’s office said. Also pleading guilty to lying to investigators was Lincoln County Clerk Donald Whitten, the U.S. Attorney said.

Both are Democrats. I also like the article’s last paragraph, which tells us more about Democratic Party in Lincoln County, West Virginia as well as the consequences of one party rule:

Several years ago, Lincoln County’s Circuit Clerk and Assessor were convicted of felonies for vote buying after tampering with the 2004 Democratic primary. That same assessor, Jerry Weaver, is running for sheriff, despite being a felon.

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A Republican has announced he is running for the Congressional seat in Arizona being vacated by Gabrielle Gifford.

A Republican has announced he is running for the Congressional seat in Arizona being vacated by Gabrielle Gifford.

As it turns out, I moved from Steny Hoyer’s (D-Maryland) district in Maryland to Gifford’s district in Arizona, so this is an election I will have a say in. Time to start learning something about the candidates, as the primary is now set for April 17 and the special election for June 12.

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Six former and current employees have sued the FDA agency under the Obama administration over its secret surveillance of their private emails.

How Obama encourages transparency: Six former and current employees have sued the FDA agency under the Obama administration over its secret surveillance of their private emails.

According to a release by the law firm representing the group, the FDA targeted the employees with a “covert spying campaign” that lasted for two years after it learned they had written a letter to President-Elect Obama in early 2009. … The plaintiffs allege the agency used spyware to read the their personal emails and take screenshots while they used government computers. But whether such reconnaissance is illegal is not quite clear. According to the Washington Post, “the startup screen on FDA computers warns employees, ‘you have no reasonable expectation of privacy,’ ” including any communication accessed or sent from the machine.”

According to the law firm representing the current and former FDA employees, the monitoring continued even after the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General “denied the FDA’s request to take any criminal and/or administrative action against the whistleblowers” and noted the whistleblowers’ communications with Congress were protected under law.

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Newt and Scientists: A Long, Complicated Love Affair

Newt and scientists: A long, complicated love affair.

The article gives you the science community’s take on Gingrich. And since that community is almost entirely Democratic in make-up and routinely hostile and almost bigoted in their hatred of Republicans, it is not surprising that this take has a certain schizophrenic air about it. They want to like him because of his passionate interest and support of science, but how can they? He’s a Republican (whispered softly like one was saying a curse word.)

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Global warming activists seek to purge ‘deniers’ among local weathermen.

The inquisition is alive and well: A campaign by global warming activists is seeking to purge ‘deniers’ among local weathermen.

So far, the campaign has identified 55 “deniers” in the meteorologist community and are looking for more. They define “deniers” as “anyone who expressly refutes the overwhelming scientific consensus about climate change: that it is real, largely caused by humans, and already having profound impacts on our world. … We track the views of meteorologists through their on-air statements, blog posts, social media activity, public appearances, interviews, and interactions with viewers,” the campaign explains.

In other words, they should be fired because of their opinions.

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Investigators now think that MF Global, the company run by Jon Corzine, Obama adviser and fundraiser, lost its customers’ money in “a labyrinth of shady trading and raids.”

Investigators now think that MF Global, the company run by former Democratic governor Jon Corzine, Obama adviser and fundraiser, lost $1.2 billion of its customers’ money in “a labyrinth of shady trading and raids.”

In the end, Jon Corzine faces the serious possibility of prison time for his part in this scandal. And he was the go-to guy of the Obama administration for economic advice.

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