Jaywalking mom gets probation but opts for new trial

The jaywalking mom whose daughter was killed by a drunk driverr, after being sentenced to one year probation, has also been given the option of a new trial.

Though I am glad for the mother, I wonder how it was possible for the judge, Katherine Tanksley, to award a new trial. First she sentenced the mother to one year of probation, then offered her the option of a new trial. If the first trial was faulty for some reason, how could she pass sentence? And if it wasn’t faulty, on what grounds could she allow another trial?

One in eight small businesses have stopped providing health insurance since Obamacare was passed

Finding out what’s in it: One in eight small businesses have stopped providing health insurance since Obamacare was passed.

One of the great “promises” of [Obamacare’s] supporters was that insured people would be able to keep their current health insurance plan. As a practical matter that has not been true for a substantial number of small employers and their employees. Since enactment, one in eight (12%) small employers have either had their health insurance plans terminated or been told that their plan would not be available in the future.

Why the Republicans revolted against their own leader’s proposed debt ceiling plan

Why the Republicans revolted against their own leader’s proposed debt ceiling plan:

The $7 billion that [was described as] “a real, enforceable cut for FY2012″ represents what the Government of the United States currently borrows every 37 hours. If the CBO’s scoring is correct – that it reduces the 2012 deficit by just $1 billion – then the ”cut” represents what the United States borrows every five hours and 20 minutes. In other words, in the time it takes to photocopy and distribute Boehner’s “plan”, the savings have all been borrowed back. [emphasis mine]

ISS to be deorbited in 2020

The head of the Russian space agency said today that ISS will be deorbited in 2020, as agreed to by the governments running it.

Wanna bet? They are only now starting to do the research the station is best designed for, and learning how to live in space for years is going to take years. Come 2020, that work will hardly be done. Moreover, the impossibility of replacing ISS without a shuttle to haul up large modules and trusses will make very appealing the idea of keeping the present station in operation.

Then again, everything I just wrote is simple common sense, and who ever expected common sense from these governments?

Texas Lawmaker Calls for Probe Into Ban of Prayers at Military Funerals

A Texas lawmaker claims he went undercover and witnessed officials at a veterans cemetery try to prevent the use of the word “God” as well as a Christian prayer at a military funeral.

Culberson [the lawmaker] said the commander of the honor guard was told by cemetery officials to approach a grieving widow to reconfirm that she wanted the word God mentioned at her husband’s graveside service. “He quite correctly said as a Texan and a man of honor and integrity, ‘I’m not bothering that poor woman at this most terrible time of her life. We’re going to do the ritual,’” Culberson said. “Right in front of me, the VA directly and deliberately attempted to prevent the VFW from doing their magnificent, spiritual ritual over the grave of this fallen hero.”

What Democrats did wrong on the debt ceiling in 2010

Analysis from a liberal at the Washington Post: What Democrats did wrong on the debt ceiling in 2010.

Raising the debt ceiling is really, really unpopular. The idea that Congress should vote itself more authority to run deficits is really, really unintuitive. Even now, after many months of coverage and the most aggressive communications campaign this White House has attempted, Americans are closely split on whether we need to raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2. Whenever I try to run out the logic of Obama simply refusing to allow Republicans to take the debt ceiling hostage, I end up with us approximately where we are now, but Obama’s numbers are lower, the GOP’s numbers are higher, a number of congressional Democrats have broken ranks, and Washington elites are firmly arrayed against the White House.

ISS partners discuss how to use the space station as a test bed for missions beyond low Earth orbit.

Now why didn’t they think of this before? The ISS partners met today to discuss how to use the space station as a test bed for missions beyond low Earth orbit.

As I wrote in Leaving Earth, a space station is nothing more than a prototype interplanetary spaceship. This kind of research is really its main purpose, and I am glad that the governments running ISS are finally beginning to recognize it, even though their engineers have known it for decades. Note too that the press release above also gives a nice overview of some of the ongoing research on ISS that is directly related to learning how to survive in space for long periods.

Better constants in science

More precise constants in science.

The numbers include reduced uncertainties for several key constants, which physicists say is encouraging because these will allow for better tests of theory. The more precise figures will also aid plans to redefine familiar units of measure­ment, such as the kelvin and the kilogram, in terms of unchanging fundamental constants rather than relying on a material object that might not be stable (as for the kilogram standard).

Downgrade could come as soon as Friday

The day of reckoning looms even closer: Credit rating downgrade for the U.S. government could come as soon as Friday. Key quote:

It’s not the debt ceiling that’s triggering a potential ratings change — it’s the trajectory of debt generated by the federal government.

And this:

The problem, as [the ratings agencies] see it, is not that America can’t pay its debts next month, but that America has grown its debt to such a degree that we can’t pay them in the long run without serious restructuring of the federal government — and this administration refuses to consider it:

Conservatives bridle at trillions in ‘phony’ cuts

Trillions in “phony” cuts?

The devil is in the details,” says a Republican strategist closely involved in the debt fight. “When you’re talking about $1 trillion [over ten years], you’re talking about $100 billion a year, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be evenly distributed among the years.” Does that mean it might be loaded mostly at the end of the decade, when it might not even happen? “That’s where you get into the details,” the strategist says.

Enceladus rains water onto Saturn

The Herschel space telescope has discovered that the water expelled from the tiger stripes on Enceladus eventually rains down on Saturn.

Enceladus expels around 250 kg of water vapour every second, through a collection of jets from the south polar region known as the Tiger Stripes because of their distinctive surface markings. These crucial observations reveal that the water creates a doughnut-shaped torus of vapour surrounding the ringed planet. The total width of the torus is more than 10 times the radius of Saturn, yet it is only about one Saturn radius thick. Enceladus orbits the planet at a distance of about four Saturn radii, replenishing the torus with its jets of water.

Thank the Gods for Climategate

Thank the gods for climategate.

We are certainly in a far different world vis-a-vis global warming than 21 months ago. The [global warming] climatologists are, to a very large extent, being ignored. Yes, there is an IPCC coming up, and perhaps we should wait until that is over. But I will predict that no matter what hoohah comes out of it, it will not have 50% of the energy of the previous IPCCs, because governments just aren’t listening with baited breath anymore. If there is any place where the mojo counted, it was with governments. But it ain’t there any more.

Over-optimism in Forecasts by Official Budget Agencies and Its Implications

Science discovers the obvious: Government agencies are routinely over-optimistic in their budget forecasts. From the abstract:

The paper studies forecasts of real growth rates and budget balances made by official government agencies among 33 countries. In general, the forecasts are found:

  • to have a positive average bias
  • to be more biased in booms
  • to be even more biased at the 3-year horizon than at shorter horizons.

This over-optimism in official forecasts can help explain excessive budget deficits, especially the failure to run surpluses during periods of high output: if a boom is forecasted to last indefinitely, retrenchment is treated as unnecessary. Many believe that better fiscal policy can be obtained by means of rules such as ceilings for the deficit or, better yet, the structural deficit. But we also find [that] countries subject to a budget rule, in the form of euroland’s Stability and Growth Path, make official forecasts of growth and budget deficits that are even more biased and more correlated with booms than do other countries. [emphasis mine]

In related news, it is now more than 800 days since the Democratically-controlled Senate has passed or even proposed a budget, as they are required to do by law.

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