82-year-old man missing for three-days — drone pilot finds him in 20 minutes

Drone

A search involving dogs, a helicopter and hundreds of volunteers came to a happy conclusion after a drone owner lent his gadget to the efforts.

The case for consumer drones got a boost after an amateur pilot ended a search-and-rescue effort last weekend by locating a missing ophthalmologist, who suffers from dementia, in a bean field in Wisconsin.

David Lesh, who normally uses the drone to make videos for his ski and snowboard business in Colorado, says he decided to try and help after learning of the search while visiting his girlfriend.

“I never thought that I would be using it to find somebody,” Lesh told NBC, saying he spotted 82-year-old Guillermo DeVenecia, who was found shoeless but unharmed, in 20 minutes after scoping a 200-acre field from the air.

The help from Lesh and his drone spared volunteers hours of trudging through a muddy field, and ended a three-day effort that had involved search dogs, a helicopter and hundreds of people.

The incident may also put additional pressure on the FAA to review its policy on the use of drones, many of which weigh under five pounds. The aviation regulator has so far taken a hard line on drones, banning their commercial use altogether, and ordering a well-known Texas-based search-and-rescue organization to ground its drones (the Texas group has since defied the order after a recent court ruling).

A significant portion of resistance to personal drone use is based on concerns for dangerous, intrusive or creepy use of the hardware and cameras. Like any reasonable geek, I think there are plenty of laws already on the books dealing with dangerous, intrusive or creepy behavior. No need for additional rules governing utilization of technology.

If behavior is unlawful — use existing law and make an arrest.

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What Halliburton fracking chemicals polluted an Ohio waterway?

On the morning of June 28, a fire broke out at a Halliburton fracking site in Monroe County, Ohio. As flames engulfed the area, trucks began exploding and thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals spilled into a tributary of the Ohio River, which supplies drinking water for millions of residents. More than 70,000 fish died. Nevertheless, it took five days for the Environmental Protection Agency and its Ohio counterpart to get a full list of the chemicals polluting the waterway. “We knew there was something toxic in the water,” says an environmental official who was on the scene. “But we had no way of assessing whether it was a threat to human health or how best to protect the public.”

This episode highlights a glaring gap in fracking safety standards. In Ohio, as in most other states, fracking companies are allowed to withhold some information about the chemical stew they pump into the ground to break up rocks and release trapped natural gas.

The oil and gas industry and its allies at the American Legislative exchange Council (ALEC), a pro-business outfit that has played a major role in shaping fracking regulation, argue that the formulas are trade secrets that merit protection. But environmental groups say the lack of transparency makes it difficult to track fracking-related drinking water contamination and can hobble the government response to emergencies, such as the Halliburton spill in Ohio.

This was true when I worked along the Gulf of Mexico decades ago. Ain’t nothing changed especially.

Trade secrets claims are a ruse to keep folks concerned with a living in a safe environment from finding out what crap the drilling companies are pumping into Mother Earth. Industry competitors will find out what they’re using for drilling and fracking if it appears to provide an advantage. Believe me.

No – the scumbags all the way up to the top of Halliburton and the American Petroleum Institute consider nothing to be as critical as optimizing the profits they suck from the ground. Whatever crap they leave behind, which poisons remain behind or pose a danger above-ground like the Monroe County fire – is only a concern if it makes a difference in dollar$ in their quarterly report to Wall Street and shareholders.

Worried about hobbling government response to emergencies? Go high enough up the state and federal food chain and the only handicap you’ll run into is making the mistake of thinking that hand is out to greet you. That palm is there to be greased with green.

Pic of the Day

solar filament eruprs
Click to enlargeImage Credit: NASA’s GSFC, SDO AIA Team

What’s happened to our Sun? Nothing very unusual — it just threw a filament. [Kind of like a plasma furball]

Toward the middle of 2012, a long standing solar filament suddenly erupted into space producing an energetic Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). The filament had been held up for days by the Sun’s ever changing magnetic field and the timing of the eruption was unexpected. Watched closely by the Sun-orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory, the resulting explosion shot electrons and ions into the Solar System, some of which arrived at Earth three days later and impacted Earth’s magnetosphere, causing visible aurorae.

Loops of plasma surrounding an active region can be seen above the erupting filament in the ultraviolet image…

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Colbert lampoons Steve Pearce – New Mexico’s primo Republican hypocrite

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 3.20.46 PM

Like any politician skewered by Colbert, Pearce has now passed beyond the deer-in-the-headlights stage and has his minions running hither and yon – trying to soften the effect of Colbert and his army of fans who laugh at what passes for a conservative in 21st Century America.

Thanks to Steve Terrell

Israelis shell a UN emergency shelter — kills 15, injures 200


This is how Israel brings Western democracy to the Middle eastMichael Longari/AFP/Getty Images

At least 15 people have been reported killed and 200 injured in the Israeli shelling of a UN school in northern Gaza which was being used as a shelter from fierce clashes on the streets outside…

In an interview with Al Jazeera Chris Gunness, the spokesman for UNRWA, the UN’s humanitarian organisation in Gaza, said his organisation had been in contact with Israeli forces as fighting closed in on the shelter.

“We gave the Israelis the precise GPS co-ordinates of the Beit Hanoun shelter. We were trying to co-ordinate a window [for evacuation] and that was never granted…”

He called the attack “tragic and appalling”…

Robert Turner, the director for UNRWA told Al Jazeera there was no warning from the Israelis before the shells landed.

This is a designated emergency shelter,” he said. “The location was conveyed to the Israelis.

“This was an installation we were managing, that monitored [to ensure] that our neutrality was maintained.

Thoughtful, concerned citizens of many nations want a UN investigation into Israeli war crimes like this and others. Of course, that doesn’t include representatives from the United States government. It really doesn’t matter how many civilians are killed by Israel’s military – to Congress, the White House, to the less-than-courageous journalists of the center and right mass media.

It has never mattered to the Israeli government or their kriegsmaschine.

It takes the Great State of Arizona 2 hours to finish killing Joe Wood

A convicted killer gasped on the gurney as the state of Arizona attempted to execute him on Wednesday, before being declared dead almost two hours after the process began.

Lawyers for Joseph Wood attempted to halt the execution in an emergency court motion, saying he had been “gasping and snorting for more than an hour”. The state attorney general announced Wood had died before the court could rule on the motion.

The developments echoed the botched execution of Clayton Lockett, who writhed and groaned on a gurney for nearly 45 minutes before eventually dying of a heart attack. The two-hour process in Wood’s case appeared certain to revive the arguments surrounding the death penalty in the US, as a shortage of execution drugs has forced states to use untried methods and unregulated drugs.

The office of the Arizona attorney general, Tom Horne, said Wood was pronounced dead at 3.49 pm local time, one hour and 57 minutes after the execution started…

The hours leading up to the execution were marked by a frenzied legal battle over the secrecy imposed by state officials on the source of the drugs. It was put on hold several times – first by a federal appeals court, then by the state supreme court of Arizona – only to have the stays lifted and the procedure go ahead.

One reason folks here in the Southwest call Arizona the Mississippi of the West is their politicians share that Southern Stalwart’s contempt for the value of any human life. Apparently an attribute shared by the folks who elect and re-elect the creeps running the state government and many of the flavors of incarceration much beloved of Old Testament ideologues.

Frankly, as a fiscal conservative, I oppose the death penalty for 99% of the cases it involves. It simply costs less to sentence a villain to life without parole. Even in a state like Arizona almost wholly in bed with for-profit prisons.

Single tree grows 40 kinds of fruit

In an ongoing series on hybridizing fruit trees, Syracuse University sculptor Sam Van Aken’s Tree of 40 Fruit is true to its name. Most of the year, it looks pretty ordinary, but in the spring, the tree blossoms display various tones of pink, crimson, and white. Then, from July through October, it bears 40 different types of stone fruit, including almonds, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and plums.

The feat is accomplished by grafting together several different varieties, including native fruit, heirlooms, and antiques, some of which are centuries-old…

His main source is an orchard at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, which he leased when he heard the orchard was to be torn down. After developing a timeline of when each of the 250 varieties blossom in relation to each other, he would graft a few onto the root structure of a single tree. When his “working tree” was about two years old, he would add more varieties onto the tree as separate branches — a technique called “chip grafting,” Science Alert explains. A sliver that includes a bud is inserted into an incision in the working tree and then taped in place. After it heals over the winter, the branch becomes just another normal branch on the tree, to be pruned as usual.

So far, 16 of these Trees of 40 Fruit have been grown, each taking about five years. He picked stone fruits because they’ve got a lot of diversity and they’re inter-compatible.

A praiseworthy enterprise.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Mayfly hatch blankets towns along the Mississippi River

Residents along the Mississippi River would rather do without this rite of summer, the annual mayfly hatch that fills the air with insects and leaves surfaces of cars and just about everything else with a slimy mess.

A hatch starting at about 8:45 p.m. CT Sunday was so prolific that it created a bow echo on radar, similar to one that would be made in a significant rainstorm, according to the La Crosse, Wis., office of the National Weather Service. A weather service employee captured some images of the short-lived insects covering nearly everything in their path…

Typically, mayflies emerge in three or four hatches from June to August along the upper Mississippi, but water temperature plays a big role in when the larvae mature. The delay of warm weather in the spring may have contributed to Sunday’s massive, simultaneous hatch.

Up and down the river, the mayfly hatch has been a problem. About 80 miles upriver from here, police in Trenton, Wis., say mayflies may have triggered a three-vehicle crash Sunday…

The road about 50 miles southeast of Minneapolis had become slick from the mayflies Sunday evening, causing at least one of the drivers involved in the crash to lose control of her vehicle. Visibility was limited at the time of the crash because to the massive cloud of mayflies in the air, police said.

RTFA article and enjoy the video of LaCrosse radar recording a flying infestation as dense as a rainstorm. :)