Gun Show nutballs fire 105mm howitzer for kicks – hit someone’s home!

The owner of a historic World War II artillery cannon has agreed to pay for the damage caused after an artillery shell fired at the Oklahoma Full Auto Shoot and Trade Show hit a house three miles away.

Homeowner Gene Kelley of Wyandotte and his wife were home when the shell entered from an outside wall, hit the ceiling and then damaged another wall.

Fortunately no one was hunt and Kelley found the 105 howitzer artillery shell, 14 and a half inches long and 3 and a half inches across, lying on his bedroom floor last Saturday…

The impact would have been a lot more severe had the shell not first hit a tree and then the ground, he said.

The owner of the gun range where the weapon was fired has described the incident as a ‘freak accident’ and said safety precautions had been followed correctly.

Just in case anyone wondered how stupid and thoughtless the All-American gun nuts can be.

Thanks, Mike

Boy Scouts make statement by marching in gay pride parade


James Estrin/The New York Times

The color guard leading the annual Gay Pride March down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on Sunday carried flags of sky blue, navy blue, red-white-and-blue and rainbow. But, for these marchers, the colors that mattered most were the ones they wore.

Khaki shirts, olive pants and rainbow neckerchiefs: the Boy Scout uniform, pride-style — a uniform that had never been seen on a group of marchers in New York City’s pride parade before.

They had come to mark progress — the Boy Scouts of America’s breakthrough vote last year to end a decades-old policy of prohibiting openly gay youths from being scouts — and to call for more. However, the organization, a touchstone of traditional America, still bars openly gay adults from participating as troop leaders or volunteers. Ending that ban has become a signature cause for the gay-rights movement…

The marchers’ uniforms were a provocative statement. Boy Scout officials have said that scouts are forbidden to wear their uniforms in events that support social or political positions, including gay pride events, and have disciplined scouts and scoutmasters in other states for doing so. But the New York area council has adopted a nondiscrimination policy that leaders of the parade group, called Scouts for Equality, said they believed would protect them.

A spokesman for the national organization declined to comment on the group of marchers, which included parents and straight supporters of the gay rights movement as well as gay and straight scouts and leaders…

The scouts did not take their “marching” lightly. No meandering on the asphalt for them, no dancing and high-fiving the spectators. As they stepped off to frenzied cheers from the crowd, lifting their flags, Peter Brownstein conducted their progress in low, determined tones, as if he were directing a military procession: “Left, right, left right left right.”

As the group passed the Stonewall Inn, the West Village bar known as the birthplace of the gay-rights movement, he and the other marchers paused and gave the Scout salute.

Mr. Brownstein, a Boy Scout leader from Utah, was forced to leave his troop after marching in the Salt Lake City pride event last year. That did not deter him in the least from coming to New York’s celebration.

We’re showing,” he told his fellow scouts, “that we belong.”

Power to the People still means all the people, folks. Cheers to the scouts who marched for progress.

Think United States has the world’s best colleges — Wrong!

Americans have a split vision of education. Conventional wisdom has long held that our K-12 schools are mediocre or worse, while our colleges and universities are world class. While policy wonks hotly debate K-12 reform ideas like vouchers and the Common Core state standards, higher education is largely left to its own devices. Many families are worried about how to get into and pay for increasingly expensive colleges. But the stellar quality of those institutions is assumed.

Yet a recent multinational study of adult literacy and numeracy skills suggests that this view is wrong. America’s schools and colleges are actually far more alike than people believe — and not in a good way. The nation’s deep education problems, the data suggest, don’t magically disappear once students disappear behind ivy-covered walls.

The standard negative view of American K-12 schools has been highly influenced by international comparisons. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, for example, periodically administers an exam called PISA to 15-year-olds in 69 countries. While results vary somewhat depending on the subject and grade level, America never looks very good. The same is true of other international tests. In PISA’s math test, the United States battles it out for last place among developed countries, along with Hungary and Lithuania.

America’s perceived international dominance of higher education, by contrast, rests largely on global rankings of top universities. According to a recent ranking by the London-based Times Higher Education, 18 of the world’s top 25 universities are American. Similarly, the Academic Ranking of World Universities, published annually by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, gives us 19 of 25.

But there is a problem with this way of thinking. When President Obama has said, “We have the best universities,” he has not meant: “Our universities are, on average, the best” — even though that’s what many people hear. He means, “Of the best universities, most are ours.” The distinction is important…

The fair way to compare the two systems, to each other and to systems in other countries, would be to conduct something like a PISA for higher education. That had never been done until late 2013, when the OECD published exactly such a study…Piaac…

Like PISA, Piaac tests people’s literacy and math skills. Because the test takers were adults, they were asked to use those skills in real-world contexts. They might, for example, be asked to read a news article and an email, each describing a different innovative method of improving drinking water quality in Africa, and identify the sentence in each document that describes a criticism common to both inventions. The test also included a measure of “problem-solving in technology-rich environments,” reflecting the nature of modern work.

As with the measures of K-12 education, the United States battles it out for last place, this time with Italy and Spain. Countries that traditionally trounce America on the PISA test of 15-year-olds, such as Japan and Finland, also have much higher levels of proficiency and skill among adults…

This reality should worry anyone who believes — as many economists do — that America’s long-term prosperity rests in substantial part on its store of human capital. The relatively high pay of American workers will start to erode as more jobs are exposed to harsh competition in global labor markets. It will be increasingly dangerous to believe that only our K-12 schools have serious problems.

The demand for H1B visas for degreed foreign nationals is not based solely on a lower cost of employment. You’re kidding yourself if you believe that. There were 4.5 million job openings in the United States at the beginning of June. It ain’t because all the skilled, well-educated professionals are driving tractors in Kansas and don’t want to move to Silicon Valley. Mostly, it’s because we haven’t folks trained and educationally equipped for those jobs.

The brave new world of three-parent IVF

In August 1996, at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J., a 39-year-old mechanical engineer from Pittsburgh named Maureen Ott became pregnant. Ott had been trying for almost seven years to conceive a child through in vitro fertilization. Unwilling to give up, she submitted to an experimental procedure in which doctors extracted her eggs, slid a needle through their shiny coat and injected not only her husband’s sperm but also a small amount of cytoplasm from another woman’s egg. When the embryo was implanted in Ott’s womb, she became the first woman on record to be successfully impregnated using this procedure, which some say is the root of an exciting medical advance and others say is the beginning of the end of the human species.

The fresh cytoplasm that entered Ott’s eggs (researchers thought it might help promote proper fertilization and development) contained mitochondria: bean-shaped organelles that power our cells like batteries. But mitochondria also contain their own DNA, which meant that her child could possess the genetic material of three people. In fact, the 37 genes in mitochondrial DNA pass directly from a woman’s egg into every cell of her offspring, including his or her germ cells, the sperm or eggs that eventually produce the next generation — so if Ott had a girl and the donor mitochondria injected into Ott’s egg made it into the eggs of her daughter, they could be passed along to her children. This is known as crossing the germ line…In May 1997, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl…

Two months later, her doctors published her case in the journal Lancet; soon, at least seven other U.S. clinics were doing the injection. Because the amount of donor mitochondria added to Ott’s egg was small, it was unclear how much third-party DNA would be present in the cells of her daughter. Ott says her doctors ran tests and did not find any, but it has been found in two other children born from the procedure. Although IVF drugs and devices are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, IVF procedures (like all medical procedures) are generally not. But what media outlets came to call “three-parent babies” compelled the agency to take action. In 2001, the FDA informed IVF clinics that using a third person’s cytoplasm — and the mtDNA therein — would require an Investigational New Drug application…

Now, more than a decade later, two research groups in the United States and one in Britain each believes it has nearly enough data to begin clinical trials for a new technique based on the transfer of mitochondria — only in this case, researchers want to pair the nuclear DNA of one egg with all the mitochondria of another. Their aim is not to cure infertility. Rather, they hope to prevent a variety of devastating diseases caused by mutations in mtDNA. The new technique, which they call mitochondrial-replacement therapy, is far more advanced than the cytoplasm injection — and the researchers have studied the procedure’s impact on animals and human cells up to a pivotal point: They have created what appear to be viable three-parent embryos. They have yet to implant one in a woman, though…

Is our fear of crossing the germ line causing us to block a technology that could improve people’s lives, and if so, is the fear itself a thing we should also be afraid of?

RTFA. I’ve barely introduced the topic. You can presume my personal opinion would not be acceptable to any flavor of the FDA. Crass politics aside – unlikely in the USA – science moves ahead in tiny conservative steps. Bodies like the FDA are more conservative than that.

I think consenting adults have the right and freedom to participate in an unlimited range of experiments excepting those designed to destroy humans, individually and as a species. Our government and military already have that market cornered, anyway.

Like I said. RTFA. Think about what you think.

Republican claims he lost primary to dead incumbent, replaced with a body double

03.02-Tim-Murray

An Oklahoma congressional candidate has announced he plans to contest Tuesday’s primary election of long time Rep. Frank Lucas.

In a bizarre letter obtained by NewsChannel 4, Tim Murray says he doesn’t feel Rep. Lucas is qualified for office…Murray brings it up in his letter announcing his plan to contest Lucas’s election writing, “…it is widely known Rep. Frank D. Lucas is no longer alive and has been displayed by a look alike…”

…His campaign website goes into detail about his theory that Lucas was hanged “…executed by the world court on or about jan. 11, 2011…” in Ukraine…“I’ve never been to Ukraine,” said Rep. Lucas.

For the past 20 years, Lucas has been working in Congress, and he’s faced Murray in past elections.

“He was the Democratic nominee for Congress two years ago. This time, he chose to run as a Republican,” said Rep. Lucas.

On Tuesday, 5.2 percent of Oklahomans voted for Murray. Lucas won more than 82 percent of the vote. Since Murray doesn’t believe Lucas is living, he wants those votes.

“Many things have been said about me, said to me during course of my campaigns. This is the first time I’ve ever been accused of being a body double or a robot,” said Rep. Lucas.

RTFA for copies of two letters describing the World Court trial and execution Murray says he saw on television.

Draw your own conclusions. My dog says she could beat him in an election debate.

Thanks, Mike

Fiery protest against militarist revision of Japan’s constitution

self-immolation Shinjuku

A man burned himself at crowded Shinjuku train station in Japan’s capital Tokyo in a move allegedly to protest against the Japanese government’s attempt to exercise the rights to collective self-defense…

The man, according to pictures, was in his 50s and reportedly had a speech opposing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration and its efforts to lift the country’s self-imposed ban on collective self-defense rights before burning himself on a bridge connecting buildings at around 2:00 p.m. local time…

Local police has blocked the site and declined to provide details to Xinhua through a telephone interview, and the man’s condition after the suicidal attempt remains unknown.

The incident came after the Japanese government on Friday submitted the final version of the resolutions of exercising the “defense” rights to the ruling coalition…

The collective self-defense rights allow the Japanese Self- Defense Forces engage battles overseas, which run contrary against Japan’s war-renouncing pacifist constitution which bans the SDF to combat outside Japan.

According to the latest survey on the controversial issue by Japan’s Asahi Shimbun, about 67 percent of Japanese opposed lifting the ban through constitution reinterpretation and 56 percent of Japanese oppose relaxing the ban through any means.

One of the most amazing feats of self-contradiction happened when the United States forced Japan to renounce any use of their military abroad to implement political policy. Quite reasonable in light of decades of Japan’s imperial ambitions, invasions.

Of course, we went ahead and did exactly what we forbade to the Japanese. At present, we still maintain hundreds of thousands of American troops in over 150 countries. We still suffer the effects of the wars we promoted around the world, small or large, Granada or Vietnam, Kuwait or Iraq, Americans try to recover the lives wasted in national-aggrandizement.

Blimp flies over NSA data centre protesting our secret police

anti-nsa blimp
Click to enlarge

Activists flew a blimp emblazoned with the words “Illegal Spying Below” over the National Security Agency’s data centre in Utah on Friday in protest against the US government’s mass surveillance programmes.

The one-hour flight was carried out by the environmental group Greenpeace, digital rights activists the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a conservative political organisation, the Tenth Amendment Centre.

The 41 metre blimp, owned by Greenpeace, was adorned with a sign that read “NSA Illegal Spying Below”.

In an email to Reuters the agency declined to comment. But a spokesman did note there was no restricted airspace over the data centre, housed on the grounds of the Utah National Guard’s Camp Williams in Bluffdale, 23 miles (37km) south of Salt Lake City.

The NSA says the facility provides the government with intelligence and warnings about cyber security threats. It is thought to be the agency’s largest data storage centre.

The blimp protest coincided with the launch of an online campaign that rates members of Congress on actions the activists say either further or stop data collection efforts by the NSA…

It’s right pleasing to an old activist like me to see an issue of human rights and privacy carry across ideological boundaries. The only one of the three groups that put this protest together that I’d ever find myself sharing a song together with – would be the EFF, the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The occasion is not one for differences but common ground. That being a government that has marched away from the heart of the constitution that is the foundation of this nation. Maybe they tip-toed because they didn’t want us to hear what they were doing. A whistleblower named Edward Snowden took care of that.

Here’s a link to the website they were advertising with their flight. I hope it moves the cause of privacy forward, aids in bringing back the intent of a democratic United States of America.

Dark Money is fueling the nutballs who deny climate change


Some folks can’t get enough Big Oil green air conditioning

This spring, new research out of Canada’s McGill University that reviewed historical temperature records and geological data (ice cores, tree rings and lake sediments) concluded with 99% certainty that our current climate change predicament cannot be ascribed to natural cycles.

But many are still dubious that man-made climate change is real. What’s more, some skeptics even claim climate change is a money-making scam. In reality, you can follow the “dark money” to see how targeted funding is perpetuating these misconceptions — even as climate change awareness and research groups lose funding.

Canadian and American governments spend a pittance on climate research and conservative pressures inside both work hard at cutting it down further. But, let’s look at the private side of climate politics.

A study released out of Drexel University at the end of last year found that 140 foundations had directed $558 million between 2003 and 2010 to approximately 100 organizations, which in turn devoted those funds to climate misinformation campaigns.

The study, which was conducted by environmental sociologist Robert Brulle and published in the peer-reviewed journal Climactic Change in late December, found that much of this “dark money” is funneled through third-party foundations like DonorsTrust and Donors Capital. In particular, DonorsTrust was found to account for 25% of all traceable foundation money used by organizations to promote climate skepticism. Other groups found to be significant funders of climate skeptic material were the Searle Freedom Trust, the John Williams Pope Foundation, the Howard Charitable Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation.

To come to his findings, Brulle developed a list of 118 influential climate denial organizations in the United States. After that, he coded data on philanthropic funding for each organization, referring to the Foundation Center’s global philanthropy database and financial data records submitted to the Internal Revenue Service…

Forbes has also experienced a recent uptick in climate skeptic content, especially from regular columnist James Taylor, an attorney and Senior Fellow of the Heartland Institute, which came under fire in 2012 for featuring a billboard in Illinois equating those who believe in global warming to Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. The publicity stunt caused Heartland to lose funding support from two dozen insurance companies, including State Farm.

According to transcripts leaked to and posted on DeSmog Blog, the Charles G. Koch Foundation donated $200,000 to Heartland in 2011, as reported by a 2012 Heartland memo on climate strategy. Heartland documents also referred to an “anonymous donor” with an interest in climate skepticism who contributed $1,664,150 in 2010 to $979,000 in 2011 to the group — comprising approximately 20% of the group’s annual revenue…

However, the tide seems to be turning as more investors are becoming wary of funding organizations that advocate for climate skepticism or that plan to perpetuate a carbon-intensive economy in light of the uncertainties posed by climate change.

Last month, Stanford became the first major U.S. university to divest its shares in coal-mining companies worth $18.7 billion from its endowment funds. And back in March, shareholders of Apple voted down a resolution by the National Center for Public Policy Research a proponent of climate skepticism that would have forced the corporate behemoth to disclose the money it has invested in tackling climate change.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook even explicitly called on climate denialists to ditch their Apple stocks if they did not support company’s plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions…

And that is more than a little ray of sunshine. Though many of the greedy bastards dedicated to fossil fuel profits couldn’t care less about the future of a less polluted life on this planet – there are a number of investors who really would like their kids and grandkids have a life worth living.

A survey released last year by the Global Investor Coalition on Climate Change, which examined the investment behaviors of asset managers and owners whose collective assets exceeded $14 trillion, found that more than half (53%) referred to climate change as a motivation when investing in or divesting from certain stocks.

“There’s a lot of question about who is funding what and where,” says Gretchen Goldman, a lead analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy, where she has recently researched the influence of trade associations on climate policy in the U.S. “More and more shareholders are concerned about this and want to make sure their companies don’t deny science or interfere with any sort of action that can be taken on climate change.”

Many more examples inside the body of this 3-page article. Worth reading, worth remembering.