Apple, Morgan Stanley, corporations unite to support gay marriage

Gay-marriage advocates, aiming to show broad support as the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the issue for the first time, have enlisted Apple, Morgan Stanley and dozens of Republicans who once held top government positions…

The justices will hear arguments March 26 on California’s Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that halted gay marriage in the state after it was allowed for five months.

The corporate group, which also includes Facebook and Intel will argue in its brief that gay-marriage bans in 41 states harm workplace morale and undermine recruiting.

“No matter how welcoming the corporate culture, it cannot overcome the societal stigma institutionalized by Proposition 8 and similar laws,” the companies will argue.

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An external airbag for your car

According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, approximately 250,000 cars are damaged by hail every year in the U.S. alone. The average cost of repair comes in at just over US$3,100, so what’s a person to do to protect their vehicle when rain takes the form of ice sculpted golf balls? The obvious solution – airbag the car.

Shifting the airbag from a car’s interior to its exterior was the idea of the folks at Texas-based Hail Storm Products. The company’s patented Hail Protection System is essentially a puffy car cover/airbag in one that is designed to protect from hail damage…

The cover itself is made up of two layers, the first of which straps to the wheels and under the car, with the second forming the outer protection. The cover inflates via four blowers that are powered by a small compressor that sits idle until the owner engages the defense system using a small remote.

With the ability to inflate in less than five minutes, the manufacturer claims the system can protect vehicles from hail up to the size of a softball. Once the storm has passed, the system then goes on standby and returns to its role as the Clark Kent of car covers.

In addition to hail defense, the cover also offers the usual UV protection, water resistance and breathability when not in armor mode. Installation is also car cover simple, with a few minor steps added for the strapping down and power connections.

Back in the day, I was visiting clients in Denver and looked out the window and saw a black cloud approaching – flat, ferocious and big enough to scare the average dragon. It said only one thing to me. Here comes a monster hail storm.

My client had his own car parked inside the single-car garage at his business and it didn’t look like there were any other choices in the neighborhood. I jumped in my car and headed for the nearest freeway entrance. Got on, got rolling away from the storm as fast as I could – and turned back off at the first exit I came to that obviously connected to an underpass back beneath the freeway.

Dived down the ramp and just got parked under the freeway when the storm hit. Denver suffered tens of millions of dollars of damage that day. Glass-fronted buildings had their whole facade ripped away, smashed and demolished.

My car was just fine.

But, if I lived someplace in West Texas – where there isn’t an abundance of bridges – I would buy one of these critters.

Drone pilots found to get same PTSD as combat pilots do

In the first study of its kind, researchers with the Defense Department have found that pilots of drone aircraft experience mental health problems like depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress at the same rate as pilots of manned aircraft who are deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

The study affirms a growing body of research finding health hazards even for those piloting machines from bases far from actual combat zones…

…Air Force officials and independent experts have suggested several potential causes, among them witnessing combat violence on live video feeds, working in isolation or under inflexible shift hours, juggling the simultaneous demands of home life with combat operations and dealing with intense stress because of crew shortages.

“Remotely piloted aircraft pilots may stare at the same piece of ground for days,” said Jean Lin Otto, an epidemiologist who was a co-author of the study. “They witness the carnage. Manned aircraft pilots don’t do that. They get out of there as soon as possible…”

Since 2008, the number of pilots of remotely piloted aircraft — the Air Force’s preferred term for drones — has grown fourfold, to nearly 1,300. The Air Force is now training more pilots for its drones than for its fighter jets and bombers combined. And by 2015, it expects to have more drone pilots than bomber pilots, although fighter pilots will remain a larger group.

Those figures do not include drones operated by the C.I.A. in counterterrorism operations over Pakistan, Yemen and other countries.

The Pentagon has begun taking steps to keep pace with the rapid expansion of drone operations. It recently created a new medal to honor troops involved in both drone warfare and cyberwarfare. And the Air Force has expanded access to chaplains and therapists for drone operators…

Well, then, we’re all OK, right?