Luxembourg PM forced to resign over spying scandal


“I need to whisper a secret in your ear”

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker has resigned after being forced out of power by his coalition partner for failing to curb the excesses of the secret services.

Jean-Claude Juncker, prime minister since 1995 and the European Union’s longest serving government chief, tendered his resignation on Thursday to Grand Duke Henri, the royal head of state who himself has been implicated in media reports of espionage…

He announced his decision after a charged seven-hour debate, prompted by a motion from junior coalition partners, the Socialists, calling for the dissolution of parliament and elections.

A parliamentary report found that the country’s intelligence agency had, among other offences committed from 2003 to 2009, illegally bugged politicians’ phones, sought payments for access to officials and bought luxury cars for private use.

The report criticised Juncker for having little control over the agency, known as SREL, despite being the minister with overall responsibility for it…

Some opponents accused the 58-year-old of abusing the secret service for his own and his party’s benefit, but he angrily denied that during the parliamentary debate…

Socialist leader, Alex Bodry, said that the prime minister “must assume his responsibilities, not because he was dishonest or incompetent but because he made the wrong choices.”

So, the other side of the pond we see a nation’s leader caught spying on citizens of the nation itself. Not only his political opposition; but, his party’s partners rise up in anger over a betrayal of privacy and purpose by the government. He is forced to resign.

This side of the Atlantic? Americans accept political corruption as natural and inevitable. And lack the backbone to demand allegiance to the principles of our constitution. Do you think we can rely on Congress to sort out the NSA – and our president?

Rosphere robot could be rolling up for precision agriculture

If you see what looks like a hamster ball rolling around a cornfield, it doesn’t mean that someone’s pet is incredibly lost. It may be an experimental robot developed by the Robotics and Cybernetics Research Group at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) called Rosphere. The spherical robot can propel itself over uneven ground and may one day be rolling up for work in fields to monitor and tend crops.

Spherical robots aren’t new. There have been a number built over the years for use in military operations, security, and experiments in space exploration. Rosphere’s approach is to take the simplicity of the sphere to make a robot that is low cost and a bit more general purpose. Its spherical shape gives the robot the ability to handle rough terrain, yet is safe to use around humans and delicate crops.

Mechanically, the Rosphere prototype is remarkably simple. The researchers compare the robot’s “mechatronics” to a hamster ball, which it strongly resembles except for the rubber ridges on the outside and the mechanical workings inside. Like a hamster making a ball roll by running up the sides to shift the center of gravity, the Rosphere uses an eccentric pendulum rotating on an axle to roll and steer itself…

UPM sees the main application for Rosphere being in precision agriculture. That is, instead of tending crops by broadcasting pesticides and fertilizers and dealing with a field as a whole, small robots can tend the individual plants like a gardener. Robots like Rosphere would be able to move about crops without damaging them, making close-up examinations of local conditions and precisely applying pesticides and fertilizers.

I want one.

I think our dog would like to have one, too.

Railway head faces devastated Quebec town


Click to enlargeREUTERS/Christinne Muschi

The head of the company whose runaway oil-tanker train exploded and devastated a Quebec town faced cries of “murderer” from residents on Wednesday, and he said the train’s hand brakes were likely set improperly, causing the calamity.

Police say they expect the death toll to rise to 50, confirming the worst fears of residents who had mostly given up hope that the missing would be found alive. Police earlier had said 60 people were dead or missing…

The disaster happened early on Saturday after a parked Montreal Maine & Atlantic (MMA) train came free on a sloping stretch of rail line and headed downhill, without a driver, toward the lakeside town.

The train, with five locomotives hauling 72 cars of crude oil, derailed on a curve and blew up just after 1 a.m., flattening the center of the town in a series of massive explosions…

The comments from MMA Chairman Ed Burkhardt were his clearest yet on what he thought had gone wrong.

“It’s very questionable whether the hand brakes were properly applied on this train. As a matter of fact I’ll say they weren’t, or we wouldn’t have had this incident,” he told an outdoor news conference in Lac-Megantic.

As he spoke, irate town residents looked on and called out repeatedly, on occasion drowning out his words. Some could be heard shouting “murderer!”

There are no words to describe what this man did here,” Alyssia Bolduc, 23, told Reuters afterwards.

Here is the Reuters slideshow of photos from the disaster scene.

The latest word from town officials makes it clear that everyone “missing” is now presumed dead. Most bodies are so badly charred it will take DNA testing to determine the identity of the bodies.

Republicans continue to block law on energy-efficient lighting


Preparing for a meeting of the House Republican Caucus

A U.S. House vote Wednesday blocked enforcement of light bulb standards aimed at promoting the use of bulbs that are more energy efficient but also pricier.

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, inserted the language pertaining to the light bulbs in the energy and water spending bill. His addition prohibits using any Department of Energy funds to implement the standards…

Although the government was authorized to implement bulb standards under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, Congress has delayed imposition of the standards for several years…

The measure’s supporters said it does not outlaw any particular bulb, but rather requires bulbs to become more energy efficient. Incandescent bulbs are available that meet the standards and the law does not require the purchase of specific alternatives, such as compact fluorescent bulbs, Democrats said.

Burgess’ amendment was passed in a voice vote with no House member calling for a recorded vote.

The carnival of incompetence which now is the Republican Party would be laughable if they weren’t trying their best to continue the damage to the US economy that reached its peak under the Lesser George Bush.

The Party of NO want to turn this whole nation back to driving 1929 Chevrolets and declaring war on anyone who calls for civil rights and voting rights for non-whites and women. Beating their drum at the cave-mouth of Congress to drown out reason and rational law is all they have left to call their political platform.