Republican moneybags Sheldon Adelson loses libel lawsuit

Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate and prominent Republican donor, has lost a $60 million libel lawsuit in which he claimed a Democratic group spread a false accusation that he had condoned prostitution in his casinos in Macau.

At issue was an article published on July 3, 2012 by the National Jewish Democratic Council on its website that sought to dissuade then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney and other Republicans from accepting Adelson’s allegedly “dirty” and “tainted” money.

It cited reports about an accusation that the Las Vegas Sands Corp chief executive “personally approved of prostitution” in his Macau properties.

U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken in Manhattan on Monday said the article constituted protected speech and was not libelous.

That accusation, which Adelson has denied, surfaced in a lawsuit brought against him by Steven Jacobs, a fired Las Vegas Sands executive. The allegedly libelous material contained a hyperlink to an Associated Press article that discussed Jacobs’ lawsuit.

Adelson…is worth $28.5 billion and the 11th-richest American, Forbes magazine said this month, and donated tens of millions of dollars to Republican candidates and organizations in the 2012 election cycle…

…In a 57-page decision, Oetken said Adelson failed to show that the defendants, which also included NJDC Chairman Marc Stanley and former NJDC President David Harris, acted with actual malice or reckless disregard of the truth.

The judge said the expressions “dirty money” and “tainted money” were imprecise and could not be proven true or false, and in context constituted protected expressions of opinion.

He also said the use of the hyperlink was proper, and that the defendant’s reliance upon an article from a “reputable” news organization precluded a finding of liability.

Oetken also ordered Adelson to pay the defendants’ legal fees.

Couldn’t have happened to a juicier target. Although Adelson handed out money in million-dollar chunk$, he stood to get multiples of it back in tax breaks from the Republican candidates he supported. Aside from ideology already pretty sleazy, the bucks he stood to gain from Romney’s election would have been enough to make the Sphinx blush.

The Greenland Sea is warming faster than the world’s oceans

CTD probe being lowered into the depths

Since 1993, oceanographers from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), have carried out regularly expeditions to the Greenland Sea on board the research ice breaker Polarstern to investigate the changes in this region. The programme has always included extensive temperature and salinity measurements. For the present study, the AWI scientists have combined these long term data set with historical observations dating back to the year 1950. The result of their analysis: In the last thirty years, the water temperature between 2000 metres depth and the sea floor has risen by 0.3 degrees centigrade.

‘This sounds like a small number, but we need to see this in relation to the large mass of water that has been warmed’ says the AWI scientist and lead author of the study, Dr. Raquel Somavilla Cabrillo. ‘The amount of heat accumulated within the lowest 1.5 kilometres in the abyssal Greenland Sea would warm the atmosphere above Europe by 4 degrees centigrade. The Greenland Sea is just a small part of the global ocean. However, the observed increase of 0.3 degrees in the deep Greenland Sea is ten times higher than the temperature increase in the global ocean on average. For this reason, this area and the remaining less studied polar oceans need to be taken into consideration’.

The cause of the warming is a change in the subtle interplay of two processes in the Greenland Sea: the cooling by deep convection of very cold surface waters in winter and the warming by the import of relatively warm deep waters from the interior Arctic Ocean. “Until the early 1980s, the central Greenland Sea has been mixed from the top to the bottom by winter cooling at the surface making waters dense enough to reach the sea floor” explains Somavilla. “This transfer of cold water from the top to the bottom has not occurred in the last 30 years. However, relatively warm water continues to flow from the deep Arctic Ocean into the Greenland Sea. Cooling from above and warming through inflow are no longer balanced, and thus the Greenland Sea is progressively becoming warmer and warmer.”

These modified conditions provide AWI scientists with unique research opportunities: “We use these changes as a natural experiment. The warming allows us to calculate how much water flows from the deep central Arctic into the Greenland Sea” says Prof. Dr. Ursula Schauer, head of the Observational Oceanography Department at the Alfred Wegener Institute, about this project and adds: “We observe here a distinct restructuring of the Arctic Ocean. This is a very slow process, and its documentation requires long term observations…”

Not exactly snap decisions; but, that wouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with the methods of science. This is why there is more time between IPCC publications, for example, than box scores for the Miami Marlins. When I joined the discussion on climate change at the turn of the millennium, some folks had a few decades of research underlying their analysis.

I spent two years in study while engaged in the debate before I came to my own conclusions. Fortunately, most of the best researchers in the world publish in English – even if it’s not the native language of the institute where they work. This is how you go about real study. Personally, I find a healthy balance between the naturally conservative pace of science and my own root progressivism.

Better desertification control using checkerboard sand traps

Click to enlarge

In the fight against desertification, so-called straw checkerboard barriers (SCB) play a significant role. SCB consists of half-exposed criss-crossing rows of straws of wheat, rice, reeds, and other plants. The trouble is that our understanding of the laws governing wind-sand movement in SCB and their surrounding area is insufficient. Now, Ning Huang and colleagues from Lanzhou University in China have performed a numerical simulation of the sand movement inside the SCB, described in a paper just published in EPJ E…

The authors relied on a simulation of large eddies, which are circulations around an obstruction such as the SCB walls, to study the turbulence stress.. They also used a discrete particle-tracing method to numerically simulate the wind-sand movement inside the SCB. Specifically, they described the sand as a gas, using equations to describe their space-averaged hydrodynamics. They also analysed in detail the movement characteristics of sand particles, the transverse velocities of sand particles and wind-sand flow within the SCB using a model taking into consideration the coupling effects of wind field and sand particles.

Huang and colleagues found that the SCB contributed to a decrease in the sand transport rate in its interior, thus helping the sand fixation. What is more, as the transverse distance increases, the strength of wind-sand flow eddies decreases. Meanwhile, the sand accumulates near the interior walls of the SCB. Finally, as the number of SCBs increases, the wind is less able to transport sand.

Future studies will be designed to optimise SCB design, based on the authors’ theoretical analysis. These findings could also be used to study the evolution to sand dunes.

Bravo. A special interest for me. I’ve spent a significant portion of my life living first among sand dunes in a beach environment – and the last 27 years in American Southwest high desert.

Giant rubber duck arrives in Pittsburgh

Scores of Pittsburghers filled the North Shore…to greet a much-anticipated four-story inflatable duck.
Artist Florentijn Hofman’s Rubber Duck Project floated down the Ohio and Allegheny rivers Friday, kicking off Pittsburgh’s Festival of Firsts.

The Rubber Duck Project launched with a party on the Roberto Clemente Bridge. The duck was expected to then be pulled by a tugboat to a nesting spot at the Point, where it will remain for about three weeks.

Gotta love this duck. I’ve posted about it in Europe, China and Australia, previously.

Saudi cleric says women who drive risk damaging their ovaries

A conservative Saudi Arabian cleric has said women who drive risk damaging their ovaries and bearing children with clinical problems, countering activists who are trying to end the Islamic kingdom’s male-only driving rules.

A campaign calling for women to defy the ban in a protest drive on October 26 has spread rapidly online over the past week and gained support from some prominent women activists. On Sunday, the campaign’s website was blocked inside the kingdom.

…Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan, the person quoted in the report, is a judicial adviser to an association of Gulf psychologists…

“If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards,” he told Sabq…”That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees,” he said.

He did not cite specific medical studies to support his arguments.

Religious fundamentalists aren’t about to start invoking peer-reviewed science in attempts to defend the indefensible. Ideology, superstition, cultural hangups are sufficient unto themselves – especially when the questions raised deal with equal opportunity for folks that accepted custom says “should know their place”.

It all sounds the same to those denied opportunity whether in Saudi Arabia or one of our neo-Confederate states.

US nuclear commander suspended in gambling probe

A vice admiral who is second in command at the United States Strategic Command, which oversees nuclear war-fighting forces for the military, has been suspended amid an investigation into his possible involvement in illegal gambling, officials said on Saturday.

The officer, Vice Adm. Timothy M. Giardina, is a highly decorated sailor with more than three decades in the Navy. The suspension occurred on Sept. 3, but was not announced publicly, said Capt. Pamela Kunze…

The Strategic Command was first alerted about the issue in mid-July. A month earlier, Admiral Giardina became the target of an inquiry being conducted by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation into possible use of counterfeit gambling chips at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, said David Dales, the head of the Southwest division of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

Mr. Dales said the criminality in question involved poker at the casino, but said he could provide no further information. The agency’s investigation is still open and no state charges have been filed against Admiral Giardina, Mr. Dales said…

The commander of the Strategic Command, General C. Robert Kehler, has submitted a recommendation to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that Admiral Giardina be reassigned, Captain Kunze said. It has not been determined what, if any, additional actions will be taken. The leadership of the Strategic Command is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

The Strategic Command, based at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, oversees a web of military efforts including the military’s space and cyberwarfare operations. It also controls the country’s nuclear arsenal.

Oops! It may sound silly to some that questions of security are raised; but, whenever behavior occurs that could place someone at risk for blackmail any security system has to be examined. He may only turn out to be dishonest. 🙂

Ex-Army sniper busted in sting – told drug cartel was hiring!

A former U.S. Army sniper has been charged with attempting to run what he thought was a security outfit for a Colombian drug cartel.

Joseph Hunter, 48, a former Army sergeant, had been in contact with what he thought was a Colombian drug dealer but who turned out to be an undercover agent for the Drug Enforcement Agency…

Hunter, aka “Rambo,” and a team of three others had traveled to various countries conducting security for what Hunter thought was a cocaine operation. He had agreed and planned to carry out the assassination of a DEA agent and a “snitch,” CNN said.

Prosecutors said Hunter’s actions were like that of a character in a spy novel.

“The bone-chilling allegations in today’s Indictment read like they were ripped from the pages of a Tom Clancy novel,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Friday. “The charges tell a tale of an international band of mercenary marksmen who enlisted their elite military training to serve as hired guns for evil ends.”

Timothy Vamvakias, 42, also an Army veteran, was also charged, along with Dennis Gogel, 27, a German national who served in the German armed forces, former Polish counterterrorism expert Slawomir Soboroski, and former German military sniper Michael Filter…

They face charges of conspiracy to murder a law enforcement agent, conspiracy to kill a person to prevent communications to law enforcement, conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States and other drug and gun-related charges.

Gun-for-hire amorality is just another symptom of the devolution of an avocation and hobby which used to be dedicated to gun safety, hunting, target shooting, education. It’s easy enough, nowadays, to make the transition from guns as judge, jury and executioner – to hired gunslinger.

It ain’t going to happen often; but, it’s not exceptional in a society where vigilantes are acceptable.

Dumb crooks of the day — twice!

Russian police said they locked up two alleged burglars who broke into the wrong store after botching a stick-up at a cafe earlier in the day.

The two 33-year-old suspects were nabbed after setting off a burglar alarm at a lingerie shop in Bogoroditsk, outside Moscow, Thursday night.

Although the suspects came away empty-handed in both incidents, they will be charged with robbery, the local branch of the Interior Ministry said in a written statement.

The suspects admitted to officers they had planned to clean out a cellphone shop next door but became confused in the darkness and broke into the lingerie store instead.

Police told the RIA Novosti news agency the pair had tried to rob a cafe earlier in the day, but the cashier ran off and took refuge in a beauty salon next door.

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it, again. People don’t decide to be criminals because they’re extra bright.