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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 126580 times)
WingsofCrystal
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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8520 on: May 23rd, 2013, 09:16am »

on May 22nd, 2013, 2:30pm, Swamprat wrote:
"IRS testimony by Lois Lerner is about to start. I'll be back later. I want to watch this."

Didn't "Lern" much, didja?? laugh


"What planet are you from, again?"

Nice one, Phil! grin



Good morning Swamprat cheesy

Lerner may have put her foot in it by not taking the 5th immediately. She had to make a speech first. It will be interesting to watch.

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« Reply #8521 on: May 23rd, 2013, 09:21am »

Guardian

Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing
by Melissa Mohr – review

Sam Leith relishes an obscenity-strewn journey through Roman, biblical and medieval times.

23 May 2013


It's wonderful stuff, swearing. It stiffens the sinews and summons up the blood, and not just metaphorically. Obscenities actually do act on us physiologically. Swearing increases electrical conductance across the skin, pushes the heart rate higher and measurably increases resistance to pain.

Obscenities are also linguistically interesting in themselves: the more currency they have, the more their emotional colouring and the associations they trigger overwhelms what they actually mean. "Fucking", these days, only rarely means "having sex". And they become marvellously plastic, grammatically.

Swearing doesn't just mean what we now understand by "dirty words". It is entwined, in social and linguistic history, with the other sort of swearing: vows and oaths. Consider for a moment the origins of almost any word we have for bad language – "profanity", "curses", "oaths" and "swearing" itself .

Melissa Mohr's title, then, is more than just an attention-grabber: the history of swearing is one of a movement back and forth between the holy and the shit. At different times in the history of the west, the primary taboo has been to do either with God, or with the functions of the human body. (The latter, though, does subdivide in a meaningful way between the sexual and the excremental. Really, this book should have been called "Holy Fucking Shit".)

Though Mohr is mainly interested in English, she is generous in roping in examples from outside it. A helpful and interesting chapter on ancient Roman filth does much to sketch the background, too. How do we know what was obscene in a dead language? By literary genre, essentially: if it was written on the toilet wall but didn't appear in satire, it was likely to be properly rude. English has a "Big Six": "cunt", "fuck", "cock", "arse", "shit" and "piss" (though Mohr plausibly suggests that "nigger" should now be in there). The Romans had a "Big 10": cunnus (cunt), futuo (fuck), mentula (cock), verpa (erect or circumcised cock), landica (clitoris), culus (arse), pedico (bugger), caco (shit), fello (fellate) and irrumo (er, mouth-rape).

So the Romans, like us, had a primary relationship between the body and the idea of obscenity – though their sexual schema was a little different, with shame attaching, above all, to sexual passivity. Sexual obscenity also, to complicate things, had a sacramental function – as witness the fruity ways of the god Priapus. Some of that shit was holy.

In medieval times, though, the emphasis was all on the holy. Common words for places and things contained vulgarities regarded as quite innocuous. London and Oxford both boasted a "Gropecuntelane", which is where the prostitutes hung out, and if you visited a country pond "there would've been a shiterow in there fishing, a windfucker flying above, arse-smart and cuntehoare hugging the edges of the pond, and pissabed amongst the grass". At the same time it's hard to recapture quite how shocking medieval people would find a vain oath.

Christianity was founded on oaths and covenants – as was the whole dispensation of feudal society. To swear an oath was to compel God to pay attention to your promise – and to do so in vain was to dishonour God and risk eternal damnation. Indeed, it was believed that if you swore on God's body – "'sblood!"; "God's bones!"; "by Christ's nails!" – you physically spilled his blood, broke his bones and tore out his nails in heaven.

Mohr credits the decline in the importance of oath-swearing to the rise of the merchant classes. Feudal society's scheme of estates was bound by chains of oaths between lords and vassals, right up to the king. Capitalism moved us from oaths to contracts: the oath before God became less important than keeping your word to business partners – and you didn't need eschatological terror to enforce that. Plus, there's the dry, old complaint that swearing constantly "devalues the currency". Between 1640 and 1660, around the civil war, men might have to swear as many as 10 conflicting oaths of loyalty if they wanted to keep their heads attached to their necks.

At the same time, something else was going on: the idea of privacy. In an age when everybody pissed and shat in public, and sex would as like as not take place in a room or even a bed shared with others, taboos around bodily functions weren't all that strong. Chaucer's "swiving", "toords", "queyntes" and "erses" were vulgar and direct, but they weren't obscene. One word was regarded in the late-18th and 19th centuries as so shocking that it was variously rendered "inexpressibles", "indescribables", "etceteras", "unmentionables", "ineffables", "indispensables", "innominables" "inexplicables" and "continuations". That word? "Trousers."

How things change. By the first world war, soldiers swore so much that the word "fucking" came to function as no more than "a warning that a noun is coming". Now even the extremest obscenities have lost their power to shock. In Irvine Welsh's novels, for instance, "cunt" is more or less a synonym for "bloke". It is telling that, where for the Romans the genitals were veretrum or verecundum ("parts of awe" or "parts of shame"), "in today's American slang, the genitalia are devalued as 'junk'".

The only actually taboo language is that of racial insult. Words like "wop", "kike" and "yid" (though not, interestingly, "nigger") were intended to give offence from the off – but only to those on the receiving end. As Mohr writes, the idea that everybody should find them offensive is a relative innovation. Not, it should be said, a bad one.

Mohr's scholarship seems to be sound and her approach positively twinkles with pleasure and amusement. She gives her chapters headings such as "Shit, That Bloody Bugger Turned Out To Be A Fucking Nackle-Ass Cocksucker!", and she's not above finding it funny that a paper on urinary incontinence was co-authored by Splatt and Weedon.

I'd like Mohr's account to have tipped a wink to Viz comic's monumental and still-growing Profanisaurus. Her argument might have been strengthened, too, by reminding us that Eric Cartman, in South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, saves the world from Satan and Saddam Hussein with the words: "Fuck, shit, cock, ass, titties, boner, bitch, muff, pussy, cunt, butthole, Barbra Streisand!"

But here I pick nits. This is a cracking fucking book, and innominables to anyone who says otherwise.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/may/23/holy-shit-history-swearing-mohr?guni=Network

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« Reply #8522 on: May 23rd, 2013, 09:27am »

Reuters

Sweden riots expose ugly side of 'Nordic model'

By Niklas Pollard and Philip O'Connor

STOCKHOLM
Thu May 23, 2013 10:21am EDT

(Reuters) - The scene of Sweden's worst riots in years, Husby is on the surface at least a typically neat suburb of colorful playgrounds, manicured parks and low rise apartment buildings.

Conversations with residents of this immigrant neighborhood soon bring tales of fruitless job hunts, police harassment, racial taunts and a feeling of living at the margins that are at odds with Sweden's reputation for openness and tolerance.

Riots that began in Husby have spread across Stockholm over the last four nights in scenes reminiscent of London in 2011 and Paris in 2005 - outbursts with their roots in segregation, neglect and poverty. The Swedish model of welfare - such as its 480 days of parental leave for each child - hides another side.

Some 15 percent of the population is foreign born, the highest in the Nordic region. The rise of the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats party, which has called for a curfew in response to the violence, has polarized Swedes.

Metros and trains out of Stockholm center late at night are full of exhausted-looking Arabic or Spanish speaking immigrants returning home from menial jobs. Even second generation immigrants struggle to find white collar employment.

As one Asian diplomat puts it: "On the one hand Sweden has all these immigrants. On the other hand, where are they? It sometimes seems they are mostly selling hotdogs."

In a further illustration of two very different worlds, the first riot happened as many Swedes celebrated winning the world ice hockey championship. Most immigrants play football - it is a common refrain that ice hockey kits are too expensive.

"The worst vandalism is not what we've experienced in recent days," said community leader Arne Johansson at a protest rally in Husby. "It is the creeping, slow vandalism that this rightist government has exposed us to over the past seven years."

Seven years of center-right Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt - who has labeled the rioters hooligans - have lowered taxes and reduced state benefits. That has helped economic growth outpace most of Europe but Sweden also has the fastest growing inequality of any OECD nation.

Professor of criminology at Stockholm University Jerzy Sarnecki said society has become much more segregated, with a large, poor immigrant population living in areas of major cities where unemployment is dramatically higher than elsewhere.

Polls show a majority of Swedes still welcome immigration. Sweden has a reputation for treating new arrivals well - providing housing, Swedish lessons and allowing asylum seekers to live with relatives.

But the consensus is increasingly frayed.

"Those who, for whatever reason, don't have work have not taken part in the general rise in prosperity," said Ulf Bjereld, political science professor at Gothenburg University.

One recent government study showed up to a third of young people between 16-29 in some of the most deprived areas of Sweden's big cities neither study nor have a job.

Sweden received 43,900 asylum seekers in 2012, a nearly 50 percent jump from 2011 and the second highest on record. Nearly half were from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. Many native Swedes worry welfare could become unaffordable if the trend continues.

Asylum seekers, in the short term, add a fiscal burden on the welfare state. OECD data show foreign-born unemployed rates, at 16 percent, compared with 6 percent for native Swedes. Sweden needs high employment levels to pay for its extensive welfare.

ANGRY, YOUNG MEN

The riots appeared organized. Cars were set alight near pedestrian bridges and youths hurled stones when police and emergency services arrived at the scene.

Witnesses said heavy handed policing made the situation worse. Locals in Husby said they were taunted by police who shouted "ape".

"In the beginning it was just a bit of fun," said one young man in his early 20s who did not wish to be named. He was one of a Husby group of 30-40 youths that battled with police.

"But then when I saw the police charging through here with batons, pushing women and children out of the way and swinging their batons, I got so damned angry."

Police, who have called the rioters youth gangs and criminals, said accusations against the police were being investigated.

In interviews with youths in Husby, most were unemployed or interns. Many said they were bounced around intern schemes, seldom being offered full-time work, fostering resentment.

Local youths believe their Husby address is in part to blame for their lack of success. If they are lucky enough to be called to a job interview, many say they come from neighboring Kista - an IT hub symbolizing Sweden's more modern, global image.

Many complained a conviction for a small amount of cannabis might stay on a teenager's record for ten years, ruining job chances.

Stockholm has suffered riots and burning of cars before in recent years, although most fizzle out after one night. Other cities in the Nordic country have also experienced unrest.

Five years ago in Malmo, which has one of Sweden's biggest immigrant populations, local youths threw home-made bombs and attacked emergency services to protest a police eviction.

In Husby, the shooting of a suspected machete wielding man by police earlier in the month was the spark. Local people - around 80 pct of whom have immigrant backgrounds - organized a peaceful protest for which more than 100 people turned up.

But their call for an inquiry into the death of the 69-year-old fell on deaf ears. Plugged in young locals complained about racist insults on Twitter, feeding anger.

"Young people wound each other up and started a small fire," said Nefel, a beautician in her 20s. "I saw how the police came and treated them. I was in shock."

"I was there and saw it happen. I wasn't struck, but I did have a dog come at me. A police dog isn't a nice little puppy."

On the streets, resentment shows no signs of ebbing.

"My daughter comes home from school and says the kids say they can't play with her because she's dark," said Maria Petersson, a 39 year old Ethiopan-born nurse. "I am both Ethiopian and Swedish but I will never be considered Swedish by the Swedes. To them, I am just another immigrant."

(Additional reporting by Johan Ahlander, Mia Shanley, Patrick Lannin and Simon Johnson; Writing by Alistair Scrutton; Editing by Janet McBride)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/23/us-sweden-riots-idUSBRE94M0PF20130523

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« Reply #8523 on: May 23rd, 2013, 09:30am »

Wired

Driving Volkswagen’s 261-MPG Diesel-Electric Supercar Spacepod

By Damon Lavrinc
05.23.13
9:30 AM

WOLFSBURG, Germany – At first glance, the Volkswagen XL1 is like any other supercar. It’s long and low — lower, even, than a Lamborghini Aventador — with the same alluring blend of science and art and physics. Getting in requires opening gullwing doors and oh-so-carefully climbing over a wide carbon fiber sill before sliding into a carbon fiber seat with just enough upholstery to approximate comfort.

The interior is more of the same supercar aesthetic. There’s a small, race car-inspired steering wheel (yes, also carbon fiber) framing the usual gauges. The cabin is minimalist and confined, but strangely comforting. It isn’t until you start the car that you sense it’s not what you think. Press the “Engine Start” button and… nothing. There is no engine noise. No chimes or beeps or bongs. The only indication that it’s running is a brief flash of lights on the gauges, the sat-nav blinking on, and the climate fans starting to whir. That’s it.

I shift into drive, hang a right out of the parking lot and get on the gas. The speedometer needle crawls past 20, then 30, then 40 mph. It takes an almost agonizing amount of time to reach these speeds. In less than a minute, as I tool along at a leisurely 60 mph, it becomes obvious that the XL1, despite its sleek, futuristic appearance, has all the sporting pretenses of an asthmatic race horse sucking air through a coffee stirrer.

How could such a vehicle possibly be considered a supercar when it takes more than 12 seconds to reach 60 mph? Because once you’re there, it takes a scant 8.3 horsepower to maintain that speed — one-third that of a Jetta — and you can cruise along there all day while getting the equivalent of 261 mpg. That’s enough to go from San Francisco to Los Angeles and back on less than three gallons of fuel.

It’s time to redefine “supercar,” a term that now includes VW’s super-efficient diesel-electric hybrid, which goes on sale in Germany and Austria later this year.

VW’s “one liter” car — a vehicle capable of traveling 100 km on one liter of fuel — has been around since 2002. It started as an engineering exercise, a way for the wonks at VW to show off their hyper-efficiency chops. A draft concept debuted, with in-line seating for two — fighter jet-style — and a body that looked like metallic cigar sleeve with windows and wheels. VW followed up a few years later with another concept that was slightly more refined but still completely unfeasible.

Then Volkswagen got serious.

Volkswagen Group chairman and former Porsche engineer Ferdinand Piech decided the time was right to bring the car to market. It represents the culmination of his relentless campaign to build the most efficient automobile in the world, utilizing the latest and greatest technology the VW Group’s legions of engineers and designers could muster. If the Bugatti Veyron is a monument to Piech’s dedication to unfettered speed and unrivaled hedonism, the XL1 is its fuel-sipping anti-hero and proof that supercar engineering can maximize efficiency as easily as velocity. Piech is 75 and the XL1 is almost certainly his swan song, and the amount of money the VW Group has sunk into the technology underpinning this car approaches 10 figures.

The car, redesigned and repackaged around the latest diesel and hybrid technology, was christened the XL1 and made its debut two years ago at the Geneva Motor Show. In reworking the car, VW actually exceeded its goals by making what is actually a 0.9-liter car. But that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

With the car set for production in very limited numbers, I got a chance to drive it in Germany. The engine wedged behind me is, essentially, half of the 1.6-liter turbodiesel you’d find under the hood of the Euro-only Golf hatchback. At a mere 800 cc, this two-cylinder engine is good for just 47 horsepower. The minuscule powerplant is mated to a 27 hp electric motor, which is in turn bolted to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox similar to what you’ll find in a Porsche Carrera. This makes the XL1 the first mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive diesel-electric supercar.

Yes, it puts down just 68 hp and 103 pound-feet of torque, which is less than most motorcycles. But that’s where all the supercar-derived technologies come into play.

more after the jump:
http://www.wired.com/autopia/2013/05/volkswagen-xl1-driven/

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« Reply #8524 on: May 23rd, 2013, 09:32am »

Massive submerged structure stumps Israeli archaeologists

Published May 23, 2013
Associated Press

The massive circular structure appears to be an archaeologists dream: a recently discovered antiquity that could reveal secrets of ancient life in the Middle East and is just waiting to be excavated.
It's thousands of years old -- a conical, manmade behemoth weighing hundreds of tons, practically begging to be explored.

The problem is -- it's at the bottom of the biblical Sea of Galilee. For now, at least, Israeli researchers are left stranded on dry land, wondering what finds lurk below.

The monumental structure, made of boulders and stones with a diameter of 230 feet, emerged from a routine sonar scan in 2003. Now archaeologists are trying to raise money to allow them access to the submerged stones.

"It's very enigmatic, it's very interesting, but the bottom line is we don't know when it's from, we don't know what it's connected to, we don't know its function," said Dani Nadel, an archaeologist at the University of Haifa who is one of several researchers studying the discovery. "We only know it is there, it is huge and it is unusual."

Archaeologists said the only way they can properly assess the structure is through an underwater excavation, a painstakingly slow process that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. And if an excavation were to take place, archaeologists said they believed it would be the first in the Sea of Galilee, an ancient lake that boasts historical remnants spanning thousands of years and is the setting of many Bible scenes.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/05/23/massive-submerged-structure-stumps-israeli-archaeologists/#ixzz2U7s8NDxl
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« Reply #8525 on: May 23rd, 2013, 09:33am »

Phil sent me this. And the pup is a Schnauzer! LOVE SCHNAUZERS!!!!!!!!!


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« Reply #8526 on: May 23rd, 2013, 09:37am »

on May 23rd, 2013, 09:32am, Swamprat wrote:
Massive submerged structure stumps Israeli archaeologists

Published May 23, 2013
Associated Press

The massive circular structure appears to be an archaeologists dream: a recently discovered antiquity that could reveal secrets of ancient life in the Middle East and is just waiting to be excavated.
It's thousands of years old -- a conical, manmade behemoth weighing hundreds of tons, practically begging to be explored.

The problem is -- it's at the bottom of the biblical Sea of Galilee. For now, at least, Israeli researchers are left stranded on dry land, wondering what finds lurk below.

The monumental structure, made of boulders and stones with a diameter of 230 feet, emerged from a routine sonar scan in 2003. Now archaeologists are trying to raise money to allow them access to the submerged stones.

"It's very enigmatic, it's very interesting, but the bottom line is we don't know when it's from, we don't know what it's connected to, we don't know its function," said Dani Nadel, an archaeologist at the University of Haifa who is one of several researchers studying the discovery. "We only know it is there, it is huge and it is unusual."

Archaeologists said the only way they can properly assess the structure is through an underwater excavation, a painstakingly slow process that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. And if an excavation were to take place, archaeologists said they believed it would be the first in the Sea of Galilee, an ancient lake that boasts historical remnants spanning thousands of years and is the setting of many Bible scenes.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/05/23/massive-submerged-structure-stumps-israeli-archaeologists/#ixzz2U7s8NDxl



Wow! Thanks Swamprat, I didn't see this.

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« Reply #8527 on: May 23rd, 2013, 12:41pm »

Uh oh! Anyone got a tin-foil hat?? tongue


California man arrested for more than 100 calls to 911 claiming satellites control him

Published May 23, 2013

A Sacramento man arrested for calling 911 more than 100 times in the last month -- because he believes his body is controlled by satellites -- says he won’t stop until lawmakers launch an investigation.

“My brain, I can feel it starting. I’m blasted by the signals, every couple of minutes,” Jimmy Shao told CBS Sacramento. “I yell and I scream, ‘Stop it, I don’t need this,’ but they never listen.”

Shao says he thinks he’s being watched by shadowy government figures.

The 56-year-old was arrested late Monday night, according to Fox 40 , and faces charges of falsely reporting emergencies and making harassing 911 calls.

Police say 60 of the 911 calls he made went to the Sacramento Police dispatcher.


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/05/23/californian-man-who-claims-to-be-tracked-by-satellites-arrested-for-11-calls/?test=latestnews#ixzz2U8cCWjOK
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« Reply #8528 on: May 24th, 2013, 08:11am »

"Uh oh! Anyone got a tin-foil hat??

California man arrested for more than 100 calls to 911 claiming satellites control him"



Good morning Swamprat cheesy

My hat is at the cleaners grin

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« Reply #8529 on: May 24th, 2013, 08:13am »



Please be an angel



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« Reply #8530 on: May 24th, 2013, 08:21am »

Wired

The Declassification Engine: Your One-Stop Shop for Government Secrets

By Cade Metz
05.24.13
6:30 AM

The CIA offers an electronic search engine that lets you mine about 11 million agency documents that have been declassified over the years. It’s called CREST, short for CIA Records Search Tool. But this represents only a portion the CIA’s declassified materials, and if you want unfettered access to the search engine, you’ll have to physically visit the National Archives at College Park, Maryland.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, historians and researchers have urged the CIA to provide them with their own copy of the CREST electronic database, so that they can seek greater insight into U.S. history and even build up additional checks and balances against the government’s approach to official secrecy. But the agency won’t do it. “Basically, the CIA is saying that the database of declassified documents is itself classified,” explains Steve Aftergood, a senior research analyst with the Federation of American Scientists, who oversees the federation’s government secrecy project.

It’s an irony that represents a much larger problem in the world of declassified government documents. According to Aftergood — a researcher some have called the “the Yoda of Official Secrecy” — most government agencies haven’t even gone as far as the CIA in providing online access to declassified documents, and as it stands, there’s no good way of electronically searching declassified documents from across disparate agencies.

“The state of the declassified archives is really stuck in the middle of the 20th Century,” says Aftergood. He calls it a “fairly dismal picture,” but he also says there’s an enormous opportunity to improve the way we research declassified materials — and improve it very quickly — through the use of modern technology.

That’s the aim of a new project launched by a team of historians, mathematicians, and computer scientists at Columbia University in New York City. Led by Matthew Connelly — a Columbia professor trained in diplomatic history — the project is known as The Declassification Engine, and it seeks to provide a single online database for declassified documents from across the federal government, including the CIA, the State Department, and potentially any other agency.

The project is still in the early stages, but the team has already assembled a database of documents that stretches back to the 1940s, and it has begun building new tools for analyzing these materials. In aggregating all documents into a single database, the researchers hope to not only provide quicker access to declassified materials, but to glean far more information from these documents than we otherwise could.

In the parlance of the day, the project is tackling these documents with the help of Big Data. If you put enough of this declassified information in a single place, Connelly believes, you can begin to predict what government information is still being withheld. Many documents are declassified only with certain text redacted, for instance, and Connelly aims to develop tools that predict what text has been removed. “We may never completely understand official secrecy,” Connelly says, “but the best solution may be to just throw massive amounts of data at it.”

The trouble, as Connelly freely acknowledges, is that if you build a system that can reveal redacted text or predict what data is still classified, you may cross certain ethical and political boundaries. “You can imagine where the project would reach a point where it became threatening to declassifiers and make them more reticent to use redactions, as opposed to not releasing the documents in the first place,” says David Pozen, a Columbia law professor who specializes in government secrecy, has worked on secrecy issues for the State Department, and has closely followed the creation of The Declassification Engine. “That’s the potential perverse consequence of this work.”

Like the CIA, other government agencies are already working to improve electronic access to declassified documents. The State Department offers an “online reading room” for declassified materials, and the National Archive now runs a National Declassification Center that seeks to centralize the government’s declassification efforts (the National Archive and the Declassification Center were not immediately available to discuss this story). But according to many outside researchers, we’re still a long way from the sort of consolidation they’re looking for.

“Scholars have never been satisfied,” says Richard Immerman, a professor of history at Temple University who has been working with declassified documents since the 1970s. “The problems hanging over classification have been severe, pretty much since the beginning, and the process has really not gotten much better. The problem is under-resourced and under-staffed, and those doing the work are under-trained.”

In many cases, documents are declassified only because individuals will request them under the Freedom of Information Act, and this often means they’re spread to the four winds. “There are a lot of declassified documents out there. Some of them are in historians’ basements. Some are in specific libraries. Some are in digital archives. And they’re in different formats. No one has systematically collected them into a searchable, usable, user-friendly database,” says Columbia law professor David Pozen.

The Declassification Engine seeks to remedy this, but that’s only the first step. Columbia’s Matthew Connelly first dreamed up the idea when he realized that although more and more government documents are now created in electronic format, a dwindling percentage are declassified in electronic format. The rise of digital records, he told himself, should provide more opportunities for researchers, not less.

“When I began to notice that more and more of this stuff was born digital,” he says, “I began to think you could start to use computational methods to try to figure out what was being withheld.”

That’s why he has enlisted the help of Columbia’s David Madigan, the chair of the university’s statistics department, and Michael Collins, a computer science professor who specializes in natural language processing and machine learning. Working alongside a fourth researcher — an MIT computer science PhD candidate named Alexander Rush — the team has already built tools that can analyze document redactions in new ways.

What their database of declassified materials has shown is that many documents are declassified at multiple times, often by multiple agencies, and that the redactions will differ depending on who is doing the declassifying and when. At the very least, says David Pozen, this suggests “a certain lack of meticulousness” on the part of government declassifiers. But it also provides a means predicating redacted text in other documents. If you know what’s been redacted in some cases, you predict what has been redacted in others.

“This is entirely premised on there being the same document released at different times or by different agencies, with certain text being visible in one version but not the other,” Pozen explains. “At the very least, it’s unproblematic to look at how documents diverge and try to learn some lessons.”

Connelly says the team is already working to determine the probability that a certain redaction is, say, a place name or an individual. And they can point to certain terms and names that increase the likelihood that information in a document will be redacted. But before going much further, he and others on the project aim to explore the ethical and political ramifications of such work. To that end, they held a conference in New York early this month, bringing together various historians, computer scientists, and other academics to discuss the matter, including Steve Aftergood and David Pozen.

On the one hand, researchers worry that the government is actively holding back the progress of digital researchers. Aftergood cites the CIA’s stance on the CREST database as an example. The agency has released 11 million digital declassified documents, but it won’t release the database providing access to those documents. “The CIA’s stance seems to confirm one of the premises of The Declassification Engine project — that the collection of declassified documents may have emergent properties, that the whole is somehow greater than the parts,” says Aftergood.

But the aim isn’t to antagonize. The aim is to improve life for historians and researchers. Those involved in the project aren’t looking to cross those ethical and political lines. “We don’t even want to start tightroping on them,” says Temple University professor Immerman, another who has followed the progress of The Declassification Engine. “We want to make things better.”

http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2013/05/the-declassification-engine/

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« Reply #8531 on: May 24th, 2013, 08:24am »

Seattle Times

Originally published May 23, 2013 at 10:09 PM
Page modified May 24, 2013 at 1:23 AM

‘Miracles’: 3 survive I-5 collapse

An I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon collapsed Thursday evening, sending cars and people into the water. Three people were rescued from the water and taken to hospitals.

A chunk of Interstate 5 collapsed into the Skagit River near Mount Vernon on Thursday evening, dumping two vehicles into the icy waters and creating a gaping hole in Washington state’s major north-south artery.

Officials said the highway will not be fixed for weeks at the very least.

Rescuers pulled three people with minor injuries from the water after the collapse, which authorities say began when a semitruck with an oversized load struck a steel beam at around 7 p.m.

That caused a massive piece of the northern side of the bridge to wobble, and then fall into the water, taking with it a gold pickup, its travel trailer and an orange SUV.

Rescuers did not believe there was anybody else in the water but were planning a morning search to be sure.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced it is launching an investigation into the collapse.

Officials urged residents to avoid traveling in the area for the foreseeable future.

“We Washingtonians are going to have to do what we do best, which is to hold together, to show strength of character and a good deal of patience,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a late-night news conference at the scene.

Inslee expressed relief the injuries were not greater.

One of the victims, 47-year-old Dan Sligh, of Oak Harbor, said he was happy to be alive.

“You talk miracles,” Sligh said in an interview outside the hospital. “I don’t know what you want to call it. When you’re sitting down in the water and all that mangled metal of the bridge. You look around and you pinch yourself.”

Sligh said he and his wife Sally were in the pickup, on the way to a Memorial Day weekend camping trip near Granite Falls when he saw a semitruck strike a side of the southbound Interstate 5 bridge over Skagit River.

“Forward momentum just carried us right over and as we saw the water approaching,” he said. “You just hold on as tight as you can. Then just a white flash and cold water.”

Sligh said he dislocated his shoulder but got out of the pickup. His wife was knocked unconscious, and he kept her head above water until the rescuers arrived more than an hour later.

The SUV driver, a 20-year-old man, was able to get out of his vehicle, said Marcus Deyerin of the Northwest Washington Incident Management Team.

The victims were treated at local hospitals.

The bridge, built in 1955, was inspected twice last year and repairs were made, according to state Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson.

The bridge is classified as a “fracture critical” bridge by the National Bridge Inventory.

That means one major structural part can ruin the entire bridge, as compared with a bridge that has redundant features that allow one member to fail without destroying the entire structure.

The bridge is used by an average of about 70,000 vehicles per day, 12 percent of which are trucks.

Those vehicles will now have to find another route.

Travis Phelps, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said “this is going to be a long-term traffic issue, because we need to rebuild this section of I-5.”

But he added the shutdown “is not going to be years, but it could be weeks.”

A timeline of merely “weeks” raises the possibility of a temporary structure being installed, but Phelps said “right now, it’s way too soon to tell” what might happen.

The DOT and contractors will be looking at different options in the next few days, Phelps said.

“It’s going to be H-E-double toothpicks,” said resident Ron Engstrom, 68, of Mount Vernon.

On Thursday night, the collapse attracted attention across the country. Onlookers also flocked to the scene to watch the rescue, cheering as each victim was brought ashore. Police had to push back hundreds of spectators.

Among those pushed back was Ramiro Ortiz, 40, who used to live in a migrant-worker camp near the bridge. He rushed from Blaine to see the collapse in person because, for an entire summer in the 1980s, Ortiz would cross the bridge by foot.

Every day, Ortiz said, he’d worry about whether a car would hit him or a friend as they crossed. But he never worried about the bridge falling from beneath him.

“I just find it shocking that a bridge like that would fall without any bomb going off or anything,” he said.

Other witnesses described the scene as surreal.

State Patrol trooper Jason Betts, who was the first to arrive, said it was incredible that only two vehicles fell in the water.

“It’s a miracle,” Betts said. “That is the only way I can explain it.”

Seattle Times staffers Brian M. Rosenthal, Jennifer Sullivan, Rick Lund, Steve Miletich, Cheryl Phillips and Alexa Vaughn contributed to this report.

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2021045926_bridgecollapsexml.html

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« Reply #8532 on: May 24th, 2013, 08:25am »

Science Daily

Bacterium from Canadian High Arctic Offers Clues to Possible Life On Mars

May 23, 2013 — The temperature in the permafrost on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian high Arctic is nearly as cold as that of the surface of Mars. So the recent discovery by a McGill University led team of scientists of a bacterium that is able to thrive at -15ºC, the coldest temperature ever reported for bacterial growth, is exciting. The bacterium offers clues about some of the necessary preconditions for microbial life on both the Saturn moon Enceladus and Mars, where similar briny subzero conditions are thought to exist.

The team of researchers, led by Prof. Lyle Whyte and postdoctoral fellow Nadia Mykytczuk, both from the Dept. of Natural Resource Sciences at McGill University, discovered Planococcus halocryophilus OR1 after screening about 200 separate High Arctic microbes looking for the microorganism best adapted to the harsh conditions of the Arctic permafrost.

"We believe that this bacterium lives in very thin veins of very salty water found within the frozen permafrost on Ellesmere Island," explains Whyte. "The salt in the permafrost brine veins keeps the water from freezing at the ambient permafrost temperature (~-16ºC), creating a habitable but very harsh environment. It's not the easiest place to survive but this organism is capable of remaining active (i.e. breathing) to at least -25ºC in permafrost."

In order to understand what it takes to be able to do so, Mykytczuk, Whyte and their colleagues studied the genomic sequence and other molecular traits of P. halocryophilus OR1. The researchers found that the bacterium adapts to the extremely cold, salty conditions in which it is found thanks to significant modifications in its cell structure and function and increased amounts of cold-adapted proteins. These include changes to the membranes that envelop the bacterium and protect it from the hostile environment in which it lives.

The genome sequence also revealed that this permafrost microbe is unusual in other ways. It appears to maintain high levels of compounds inside the bacterial cell that act as a sort of molecular antifreeze, keeping the microbe from freezing solid, while at the same time protecting the cell from the very salty exterior environment.

The researchers believe however, that such microbes may potentially play a harmful role in extremely cold environments such as the High Arctic by increasing carbon dioxide emissions from the melting permafrost, one of the results of global warming.

Whyte is delighted with the discovery and says with a laugh, "I'm kind of proud of this bug. It comes from the Canadian High Arctic and is our cold temperature champion, but what we can learn from this microbe may tell us a lot about how similar microbial life may exist elsewhere in the solar system."

This research was funded by: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada CREATE Canadian Astrobiology Training Program, Canadian Space Agency, the Polar Continental Shelf Program, Canada Research Chairs Program, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130523113802.htm

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« Reply #8533 on: May 24th, 2013, 08:32am »

Telegraph

Police have been criticised after banning an elderly grandmother from making a giant Double Gloucester wheel for an annual cheese rolling event.

By Paige Tabone and Agencies
3:42PM BST 23 May 2013

The event started in the early 1800s and sees competitors chasing the massive 1ft diameter cheese down the 200-yard Cooper's Hill near Brockworth, Gloucestershire, as they race to reach the bottom first.

Farmer Diana Smart, 86, has been making her handmade cheese for the downhill run for a quarter of a century and it is something, she said, that brought her 'such joy'.

This year, however, Mrs Smart, who has provided the large piece of cheese since 1988, has now been warned off doing so after a visit by police.

Three officers visited her farm and told her not to donate five 8lb wheels of her cheese in a bid to prevent the "dangerous" event.

Mrs Smart said the "heavy handed" police visited her home last week and told in a "threatening" manner she would be responsible for any injuries caused – and so has pulled out.

"They threatened me, saying I would be wholly responsible if anyone got injured," she said. "I'm 86, I don't have the will or the cash to fight any lawsuits. It's crazy."

It is the first time in its 200-year history that police have banned a cheesemaker providing the cheese – leaving organisers outraged by the polices warnings.

A spokesperson said: "It's outrageous. Completely unbelievable. You cannot stop someone selling cheese. If they try and stop us we will use something else"

It has been found, however, following health and safety fears, 2009 was the last official cheese rolling event but unofficially the event is still held every year – without proper medical cover or insurance.

A Gloucestershire police spokesman said: "Advice has been given to all those who have participated in any planning of an unofficial cheese rolling event. We feel it is important that those who could be constituted as organisers of the event, are aware of the responsibilities that come with it so that they can make an informed decision about their participation."

Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, slammed the police for threatening Mrs Smart.

He said: "Taxpayers will be appalled that the valuable time of three police officers was wasted trying to scare an elderly lady into withdrawing her involvement in a centuries-old tradition.

"People expect the police to be keeping us safe and solving crime, not badgering innocent old ladies.

"Anyone participating in the cheese-rolling needs to take personal responsibility for themselves and the idea that Diana Smart should be liable for any injuries is frankly ludicrous."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/10076336/Grandmother-wont-make-Double-Gloucester-for-cheese-rolling-event-after-heavy-handed-threats-from-police.html

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« Reply #8534 on: May 24th, 2013, 12:17pm »

on May 24th, 2013, 08:21am, WingsofCrystal wrote:
Wired

The Declassification Engine: Your One-Stop Shop for Government Secrets

By Cade Metz
05.24.13
6:30 AM


Thanks for this, Crystal. If helpful to know, Steve Aftergood, who was referenced in the article, has a blog, Secrecy News, which maintains an email list and is hosted on the Website of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). The FAS was formed as a watchdog organization following publication of the Manhattan Project. Mr. Aftergood's blog and the FAS address such topics as journalists placed under surveillance, formerly classified aircraft, drones and weapons research, among other items potentially of interest to the UFO community.

I appreciate the reference to the subject matter, as the circumstances surrounding public access to declassified information continue to present many challenges. In addition to those mentioned in the article, when one is submitting an FOIA request, they must navigate such hurdles as knowing and understanding the specific search methods being used by the FOIA officers. For instance, an officer might only search file names, not contents of files, for the requested search terms, potentially resulting in minimal returns, all while having the option of billing the citizen for the 'work' conducted.

In recent years, legislation was passed allowing agencies to deny existence of files that are classified. The CIA therefore currently responds to requests that result in no info with a statement to the effect that there is either no data or it remains classified. I do not particularly argue the point or practicality of the policy one way or the other, but the result is nonetheless that you might continue to submit the same request every few years from now 'till doomsday, hoping the data you seek may exist and eventually become declassified/available.

Also, one must file their request to not only the correct agency (like, the FBI may have conducted an investigation and subsequently have a file on it that the CIA does not), but sometimes different offices within the same agency should be contacted. The Air Force, for instance, suggests those filing requests to check the command the info would fall under, as well as the specific base where the file might be stored, depending on what one is seeking.

Yet another item of interest is the CIA conducts their FOIA correspondence only by snail mail. My understanding for this is that it includes the safety precaution that no matter how competent and advanced a computer system's security may be, the protection cannot overcompensate for breeches and viruses that may occur due to human error, thus the possibility is taken out of the equation altogether.

Obviously, there are still a lot of challenges involved in accessing information, even after the info is declassified. It is only a matter of time until more practical systems are implemented due to the persistence of researchers such as Aftergood and the orgs they represent, and I look forward to it. Thanks again for the post, Crystal.
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