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Archive for April 3rd, 2012

Most coppers track cellphones’ locations without getting a warrant

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Don’t want the police or your local government to know where you are? Then put your cell phone in airplane mode or turn it off.

Location tracking is inherent in how cell networks function; otherwise nobody’s cell phone would ring. But new evidence from the American Civil Liberties Union shows that phone location tracking has also become a surprisingly common tool of law-enforcement investigations — with, but often without, a warrant.

The ACLU recently obtained records from over 200 police departments and other law enforcement agencies around the U.S. They found that “virtually all” of these agencies track the location of cell phones with data supplied by wireless carriers. (For information on police in your state, check the ACLU’s interactive map, which shows details from responding agencies. Not all states or agencies responded to ACLU’s public-records requests.)

But don’t the police need a warrant for that? It varies by state, but carriers generally say they require a court order to release this data. Regardless of these requirements, however, “Only a tiny minority reported consistently obtaining a warrant and demonstrating probable cause to do so,” said the ACLU.

Not surprisingly, the ACLU disapproves of this practice.

“The government should have to obtain a warrant based upon probable cause before tracking cell phones. That is what is necessary to protect Americans’ privacy, and it is also what is required under the Constitution,” states the ACLU on its site…

If the police decide they want to know where you’ve been, it’s likely that your carrier will tell them, for the right price. And right now, there’s no way to prevent that.

Keep on rocking in the Free World!

One of the ways you might have prevented Telcos from collaboration was by suing them. Which is why our benevolent government has made that illegal. I’ve mentioned a class action suit folks won against the FBI – back in the day – for illegal wiretapping. That started with suing the regional telephone company and winning that case first. They assisted the Feds without warrants or court orders.

When it came settlement time in court they asked how much money we wanted – and the answer was “you’re going to pick up the tab for suing the FBI. Whatever it is. You pay for it.”

They did and we won.

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Written by Ed Campbell

April 3, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Sandia experiments suggest sunny skies ahead for fusion reactors

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Sandia’s Z-Accelerator in action

In the beginning, there was the thermonuclear bomb – mankind had harnessed the energy of the Sun. Confident predictions abounded that fusion reactors would be providing power “too cheap to meter” within ten years. Sixty years later many observers are beginning to wonder if billions of dollars of effort has been lost in digging out dry wells. Now a new simulation study carried out at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, suggests that magnetized inertial fusion (MIF) experiments could be retrofitted to existing pulsed-power facilities to obtain fusion break-even…

The magnetized inertial fusion method works like this. A sample of mixed deuterium-tritium gas is placed in a small conducting cylindrical target. The target is placed in an extremely strong axial magnetic field (typically tens of Tesla in intensity). A pulsed laser is used to heat the sample gas, following which the cylinder is subjected to rapid radial compression, either by an imploding laser pulse or by an extremely strong current. Fusion follows…

Sandia National Laboratories’ Z-accelerator (Z for short) is an ideal platform upon which to test out magnetized inertial fusion. Designed as an intense X-ray source for testing nuclear weapon components, Z can deliver an electrical pulse with a sizable fraction of a petawatt of power for a duration of a tenth of a microsecond to a region about the size of your little finger. The axial magnetic field for the MIF experiment is supplied by a pair of coils energized just prior to the experiment by a 2.2 megajoule capacitor bank, supplying a field of about 10 Tesla. After heating the sample gas with an external laser pulse, the Z is discharged across the cylinder.

Such tests are currently being prepared. Sandia’s simulation of the soon-to-be-carried out tests were intended to discover if the likely enhancement of fusion reaction rate was likely to be a small effect or a large effect (previous analysis had suggested a small effect was more likely). To their surprise, they found that in a situation where the cylinder was compressed by 60 mega-amperes of current, the process yielded about 100 times break-even performance. Increasing the current to 70 mega-amperes produced 1000 times break-even – a level at which the ratio between power taken from the power grid to run the apparatus would be less than the power returned to the power grid – in excess of true break-even performance.

Sandia researchers are preparing experimental tests of the MIF technique. They will begin at smaller compression currents, as the Z can only deliver 26 mega-amperes with which to compress the cylinder. However, we continue to hope for encouraging results ahead.

As does anyone who hopes that future generations of Earthlings will grow and prosper in an unpolluted atmosphere – perhaps with boundless electrical energy at hand to provide a motive force for a global economy.

OTOH, our politicians may heed sufficient contributions from Big Oil and Big Coal and suddenly discover no pressing motivation to continue these experiments at all.

Since someone always mentions the possibility of an “oops” moment, I, too, rely on the safeguards designed into these experiments by Sandia scientists. If they screw up, I’ll probably be vaporized in the first nanosecond, anyway. 60 miles away.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 3, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Purchase a Portland Loo

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The Portland Loo is a cost effective public restroom that provides maximum function in minimal space. The Loo is safe, accessible and easy to maintain.

The Portland Loo is manufactured in Portland, Oregon as one unit, easy for transporting and installation.

Designed to promote public safety (CEPTED)
Highly durable/vandal resistant
ADA-accessible
Designed to be open 24/7 without an attendant
Solar-powered/LED lighting
Site almost anywhere (with sewer and water hook-up)
Advertising/art/sponsorship panels included

I’ll bet this is something your town or city could use. We aren’t exactly overbuilt with convenient support facilities for ordinary citizens in Santa Fe.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Written by Ed Campbell

April 3, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Will the Catholic church ever stop interfering with the lives of their employees?

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Dangerous geek Madonna and child

Because Christa Dias wasn’t a religion teacher or Catholic role model, the single teacher’s lawsuit accusing the Archdiocese of Cincinnati of firing her after she became pregnant can proceed…The ruling last week by U.S. District Court Judge S. Arthur Spiegel, clears the way for Dias’ suit to go to trial in a case that could set a national precedent.

“I hope that it stops them from doing it again,” Dias said Monday of the Archdiocese firing her in 2010 when she told them she was 5½ months pregnant and needed maternity leave…

Initially, the Archdiocese fired her for being single and pregnant. After it learned that could violate federal and state anti-discrimination laws, it fired her for being artificially inseminated, considered a “gravely immoral” act by the Roman Catholic Church.

Dias, 32, of Withamsville was a computer teacher at both Holy Family and St. Lawrence schools in East Price Hill…

Because Dias taught at a Catholic school, the Archdiocese argued it should be allowed to fire her using a “ministerial exception” to federal anti-discrimination laws. That exception protects religious institutions that “select and control who will minister to the faithful” from lawsuits. It’s a rule initially adopted to prevent ministers fired by their churches from suing using discrimination laws.

Spiegel ruled Dias isn’t a “ministerial exception” because:

• She isn’t Catholic.

• The Archdiocese employed other non-Catholics.

• The Archdiocese didn’t allow non-Catholics to teach religion classes…

The Archdiocese doesn’t consider “Thou shalt not lie” important when taken to court over the question of abusing the rights of their employees.

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Written by Ed Campbell

April 3, 2012 at 10:00 am

Brits protest against government plans for eavesdropping

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Soon to have antennas and microphones to match

British lawmakers and rights activists joined a chorus of protest Monday against plans by the government to give the intelligence and security services the ability to monitor the phone calls, e-mails, text messages and Internet use of every person in the country.

In a land where tens of thousands of surveillance cameras attest to claims by privacy advocates that Britain is the Western world’s most closely monitored society, the proposal has touched raw nerves, compounding arguments that its citizens live under what critics call an increasingly intrusive “nanny state…”

Under the proposal, reported in The Sunday Times of London, a law to be introduced this year would empower the authorities to order Internet companies to install hardware enabling the government’s monitoring agency, Government Communications Headquarters, known as GCHQ, to examine individual communications without a warrant.

A similar effort to enhance the authorities’ powers was made by the previous Labour government in 2006, but it was abandoned after ferocious opposition, including from the two parties that now form the coalition government — the Conservatives, who are dominant, and the Liberal Democrats…

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister and a Liberal Democrat, defended the plan, saying he was “totally opposed to the idea of governments’ reading people’s e-mails at will or creating a new central government database.”

“The point is, we are not doing any of that and I wouldn’t allow us to do any of that,” he said, arguing that the authorities wanted to update “the rules which currently apply to mobile telephone calls to allow the police and security services to go after terrorists and serious criminals and updating that to apply to technology like Skype, which is increasingly being used by people who want to make those calls and send those e-mails…”

And you all know how well you can trust Nick, eh?

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Written by Ed Campbell

April 3, 2012 at 6:00 am

China leading the way with processing trapped carbon from coal

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After studying chemistry at Shanghai’s Fudan University, Jane Chuan and Wang Youqi pursued doctorates in the U.S. She got hers from what’s now the University of Buffalo in 1988, the year they married. Wang graduated in 1994 from the California Institute of Technology.

A few years later, they were cashing in stock options in Silicon Valley companies they’d co-founded, one of which created a luminescent chemical to store X-ray images. Their home in Atherton, California, had seven bedrooms, 11 bathrooms and an acre of land…

By 2000, Wang was convinced that the research methods he was patenting could help stave off the environmental nightmare he saw unfolding during return visits to his homeland. China, already reeling from pollution, was poised to more than double coal consumption during the decade. That would choke cities with smog and exacerbate global warming.

Chuan, 61, bespectacled and smiling in her white lab coat, remembers pounding the pavement to pitch U.S. investors on cleaning China’s coal. Only a handful of California’s Internet- obsessed venture capitalists bit, she says.

So, in 2003, the couple moved back to Shanghai, the city from which they had emigrated 18 years earlier. They crammed into a 1,100-square-foot apartment that was hot in the summer, cold in the winter and crowded with two teenage children home from boarding school on weekends.

By 2006, Wang had his breakthrough in sight. He’d found a way to unlock a chemical stored in the coal that was poisoning his country and to put it to an unlikely use: cleaning China’s air.

The catalyst he discovered speeds reactions that convert methanol extracted from coal into a substance called dimethyl carbonate. By adding dimethyl carbonate to diesel fuel, Wang now plans to cut 90 percent of black carbon soot from the tailpipe emissions of 1,800 Shanghai buses by year-end…

Yashentech’s emissions-busting effort is one way in which China is racing to solve its clean-energy riddle: How can a country that’s hooked on coal mitigate environmental damage from the dirtiest of fossil fuels..?

With 1.3 billion people, power-hungry industries and scant oil or natural gas, it has no immediate alternatives to coal for fueling its economy. China gets 70 percent of its energy from coal, three times the U.S. figure. It even converts coal into diesel fuel and ammonia that’s used for making fertilizer…

China can’t quit coal. But with efforts from entrepreneurs, mining enterprises and electricity giants, it’s ready to tackle its addiction, says Zhou Fengqi, senior adviser to the Energy Research Institute of the government’s National Development and Reform Commission.

“Now that people have meat and fish to eat every day, the environment has also become a big concern,” Zhou says. “China is not like a developed country. We can’t simply stop using coal. If we want to use it, we have to clean it up.”

RTFA. The is only an excerpt from the beginning of an extensive review of the multiplicity of tech used, experimented with, being developed in China to handle the severe environmental questions they need to answer and solve. Fortunately, the resolve is there as well as the political will.

The article covers everything from coal to spirulina, omega-3 fatty acids to carbonated drinks. What’s most important? “In China, we get lots of support from the people, politicians and moneymakers,” Chuan says.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 3, 2012 at 2:00 am

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