Expand social security – remove the senators who oppose it!

expand social security
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Thank you to the 42 US Senators who voted in support of U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s amendment increasing Social Security benefits!

The vast majority of Americans are overwhelmingly united in support of expanding our Social Security system. It’s great to see so many politicians finally catching on…

Sneeze catcher – Patent issued 12/16/2014

sneeze catcher

It’s a given that all manner of unwelcome microbial and viral particles can be exhaled by a person during a sneeze or a cough. Prompting inventor Joseph Apisa of Colts Neck, NJ, US, to create a ‘Sneeze catching method and apparatus’ It’s just received a US patent (Dec. 16, 2014). It can be, and indeed is, described in one sentence :Sneeze-catcher

“An apparatus for catching bodily fluids ejected during a sneeze or cough, said apparatus comprising: a sleeve having a first open end, a second open end and a perimeter wall being attached to and extending between said first and second open ends; a frame being pivotally coupled to said perimeter wall, said frame having an exterior edge, an interior edge, an upper surface and a lower surface, said frame having an attached edge and a free edge positioned opposite of each other, said attached edge being attached to said perimeter wall, said frame being positioned in an open position having said free edge spaced from said sleeve or in a closed position having said free edge secured to said sleeve, said frame bounding a receiving space when said frame is in said closed position; a covering being attached to and being coextensive with said interior edge, said covering extending over said receiving space, said covering being comprised of an air and fluid permeable material; a closure being mounted on said sleeve and releasably retaining said frame in said closed position; a pad being removably positioned in said receiving space, said pad having anti-bacterial properties; and wherein said sleeve is configured to be worn on an arm of a person such that the person may sneeze or cough into said pad and that said pad captures and destroys bacteria exhaled by the person.“

Thanks to the annals of Improbable Research

Google loses appeal in Safari cookie tracking case – can face trial in the UK


Security company director Marc Bradshaw, editor and publisher Judith Vidal-Hall

“Ordinary computer users like me will now have the right to hold this giant to account before the courts for its unacceptable, immoral and unjust actions”

The U.K.’s Court of Appeal has denied Google’s request to block lawsuits from British consumers over the search giant’s disregard for Safari privacy restrictions designed to prevent advertisers from tracking users.

These claims raise serious issues which merit a trial,” the Court said in its judgement, according to the BBC. “They concern what is alleged to have been the secret and blanket tracking and collation of information, often of an extremely private nature…about and associated with the claimants’ internet use, and the subsequent use of that information for about nine months. The case relates to the anxiety and distress this intrusion upon autonomy has caused.”

The case stems from 2012 allegations that Google intentionally bypassed Safari’s default privacy settings, which restrict websites from setting cookies unless the user has interacted with those sites directly. Google skirted this limitation by amending its advertising code to submit an invisible form on behalf of the user — without their consent — thus allowing tracking cookies to be set.

Those allegations prompted a six-month investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which Google eventually settled. The $22.5 million fine levied by the FTC was the largest such sanction in the agency’s history, and Google later agreed to pay a further $17 million in fines to settle cases in 37 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Google was able to avoid class-action lawsuits in the U.S., but its defense — that consumers had not suffered monetary harm — was not enough to evade British courts.

That’s right. The Feds and 37 states were able to claim damages from Google. But, US courts in their infinite concern for the almighty dollar and little else – ruled that the computer users whose privacy was deliberately abused by Google have no standing to sue in a class action because they didn’t lose any money as a result of Google’ sleazy practices.

But, in the UK, privacy is considered the right of an ordinary citizen and Google’s abuse of that right makes them liable for a class action suit by users. So saith this pissed-off cranky old geek who thinks we should have the same right here in the GOUSA.

And, yes, I think Google is just about the same level of scumbag as the NSA.

This past winter set a global heat record

This map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows vast areas around the world where temperatures from December through February were above average this winter. Only the Northeast U.S. was in a big chill…

Last week, the Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service reported that La Plata County’s average temperature for the meteorological winter – from December through February – was 5 degrees above average…

But Southwest Colorado was just part of a bigger global trend.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, with data from NASA, announced this week that this winter and the first two months of 2015 were the hottest on record globally, with the chilly Northeast U.S. sticking out like a cold thumb in a toastier world.

At nearly 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average, last month was the second-warmest February on record globally, slightly behind 1998.

But the combined January and February temperature beat the old record for the first two months set in 2002.

December through February broke the meteorological winter record set in 2007.

NOAA records go back 135 years to 1880. But, that’s OK. You probably can find a guy who trained as a weatherman for some local radio station, or a conservative investor who made money in the “weather business” – to dispute the sum of global scientific record-keeping and analysis.

And with slightly over 6% of the land area of planet Earth, you know the opinion of Americans about the weather is the only one that counts.

How many women made the Forbes Midas list? – You can’t be too cynical

In a bit of accidental perfect timing, Forbes just published its Midas List of top tech investors.

GGV Capital partner Jenny Lee is the first woman to crack its list of Top 10 investors, which is led by such well-known figures as Sequoia Capital’s Jim Goetz, who backed WhatsApp, the mobile messaging company acquired by Facebook for $22 billion, and Lowercase Capital founder Chris Sacca, an early investor in Twitter.

In the wake of the Ellen Pao gender discrimination trial, which shed a harsh light on the clubby world of venture capital, we decided to see how many women made it to the hot 100 of tech investors. The answer? Five (including Lee). That’s worse than the national average of 6 percent of female partners, according to research from Babson College.

Internet trends guru Mary Meeker, a general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers — the firm at the center of Pao’s suit — came in at No. 15 on the Forbes’ list. Biotech investor Beth Seidenberg, another partner at Kleiner, also made the cut.

Pao lost her suit, in a closely watched trial that captivated Silicon Valley and served as a referendum on the challenges women have faced in the world of technology and business.

FORBES continues to ignore it all. At least the part where change is accepted as a good thing.

Weed seeds publicly shared at Washington DC celebration


Potential family gardeners lined up for seedsDC Cannabis Campaign

Residents of Washington D.C. lined up for free cannabis seeds Saturday in a giveaway resulting from last year’s successful ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in the District of Columbia.

The event, sponsored by the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, was held Thursday and Saturday and saw hundreds of 18-and-up D.C. residents line up to receive and trade free seeds…

More than 3,500 people signed up for the giveaway, which saw distribution at Libertine bar and restaurant on Thursday and at D.C. Cannabis Campaign Headquarters on Saturday.

Legalization of marijuana for consumption and growth, known as Initiative 71, was passed 7 to 3 last November by D.C. voters who now join Colorado and Washington state in allowing use of the drug for recreational purposes.

The initiative, which went into effect in late February, allows D.C. residents to use the drug out of view and cultivate six seedlings and up to three mature plants, with a limit of 12 plants per household.

DC coppers were present. No one was bothered. Sharing or swapping seeds isn’t against the law, now.

I wonder if any of the coppers took any of the seeds? It is legal, after all. I wonder if any members of Congress had someone on their staff who is a DC resident pick up a few for the boss?

Florida scientists discover super termites


A hybrid colony of Coptotermes termites. A king C. gestroi (nutty-brown abdomen) is shown on the left, and a queen C. formosanus (orange abdomen) on the right. They are surrounded by their hybrid offspring, including eggs, larvae, workers, and soldiers.

Formosan subterranean termites (Coptotermes formosanus) and Asian subterranean termites (Coptotermes gestroi) are the most damaging pest species in the world. Both are highly invasive and have spread throughout many areas of the world due to human activity, and their distributions overlap in some areas.

Now scientists in Florida have observed Formosan males mating with Asian females — in fact, they seem to prefer the Asian females more than females from their own species — and their hybrid offspring seem to grow colonies twice as fast as their parents…

Many hybrids are unable to reproduce…And many hybrids that actually can reproduce tend to lose vigor after one or more generations, which is why farmers often buy new hybrid seeds each growing season…But so far that doesn’t seem to be the case for these termite hybrids. In the laboratory, the Florida researchers are raising a hybrid colony that is growing twice as fast as same-species colonies, suggesting a potential case of hybrid vigor…

While these laboratory observations remain to be confirmed in the field, the results still raise a tangible concern about the hybridization of these incredibly destructive pests, which could have significant economic impacts…

However, even if they do not produce viable reproductives, the hybrids could still be problematic in the wild. A C. formosanus colony can grow to contain millions of individuals within five to eight years, and since the hybrid colony in the UFL lab is growing at least as fast as its parental species, it’s reasonable to assume that hybrid colonies will also contain millions of termites after five years or so…

What we are dealing with here is a termite colony that acts like a super organism,” said Dr. Nan-Yao Su, another UFL professor and co-author of the study. “Whether or not it produces reproductives, the colony itself poses a serious threat to homeowners.”

Florida’s Republican governor is a reasonably consistent thug. He’ll probably handle this threat to homeowners the way he handles climate change. First, he’ll deny it exists. Them, he’ll order all scientists on the state payroll to censor their work so there will be nothing on the record admitting to the danger.

Philosophical idealism is laughable outside the world of academia. Attempting to justify a causal relationship between concepts held in thought – and material reality – is always refuted simply by the absurdity of trying to prove something comes from nothing. In today’s Republican politics, molding the bigotry of neo-cons around a core of religion and superstition, politicians behave as if denying a problem will make it go away. Refusing to answer a question will somehow eliminate the physical processes that provoked the question in the first place.

I’m not a fan of most vampire movies –

- and there are no vampies in this music video. But, it’s a segment appearing near the end of ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE by Jim Jarmusch. Worth seeing. This clip offered color from the neighborhood in Tangier where Adam and Eve returned to live in peace.

And I discovered Yasmine Hamdan: