“President Obama — Don’t drop bombs in my backyard!”


What the Pentagon thinks Pacific islands should look likeAlex Walters/U.S.Marine Corps

The small Pacific islands of Pagan and Tinian are home to pristine beaches, majestic mountains and colorful sea life. They are also home to 2,800 American citizens, as they are part of the Marianas, a US territory. The US Navy has plans to bomb these islands as part of a training exercise, obliterating their rare coral ecosystems, wildlife, and important historic artifacts. The islands’ residents would be relocated, kicked off their ancestral land for the sake of bomb testing. We cannot let this happen…

We need the Secretary of Navy to cancel plans for Combined Joint Military Training exercises on Tinian and Pagan Islands.

The bombings would restrict the use of two-thirds of my island of Tinian, leaving only 10 square miles for its people, and rare and endangered wildlife. On the island of Pagan, the Navy wants to relocate the entire indigenous population so that they may bomb 100% of the island. Our pristine beaches would become theaters for elaborate live-ammunition military exercises, and our people’s traditions and culture would be all but extinguished.

The residents of Tinian and Pagan are citizens of the United States, just like you. But since we are so far from the mainland and have no representation in Congress, our voices are often not heard. Now, we are crying out to make sure our homes are not demolished, and our 4,000 years of history are not lost forever.

We only have one home. We can’t let it be destroyed. Please join us in asking the Secretary of Navy to cancel his plans to bomb Tinian and Pagan.

Signed by Arley Long, Tinian MP

You can sign up over here to send a petition to President Obama requesting a halt to Pentagon plans to use this ancient home for bombing practice.

Dancing on police cars stops vampire ritual human sacrifice — Huh? Wha?

Authorities in Florida shared video of a man dancing on a marked sheriff’s office sport-utility vehicle in an incident he blamed on vampires.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office shared video on YouTube and Facebook showing Christian Radecki climbing atop a marked sheriff’s office SUV and performing a dance routine to songs including Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl” and Supertramp’s “Goodbye Stranger.”

Radecki, who was arrested on charges of disturbing the peace and criminal mischief, told deputies a “woman with fangs” came to his door and told him a human sacrifice involving vampires was imminent.

“Therefore, Radecki made the conscious decision to get the Sheriff of Nottingham to help him stop the slaughter of small children,” the Cape Coral police report of the April 7 incident states.

Radecki told officers he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident and he has not been diagnosed with any mental health conditions.

Of course, the doctor who told him he didn’t have any mental health conditions – was probably one of the vampires.

Just in case family-values drug moralists want to try out reality…

Portugal decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2001. Weed, cocaine, heroin, you name it — Portugal decided to treat possession and use of small quantities of these drugs as a public health issue, not a criminal one. The drugs were still illegal, of course. But now getting caught with them meant a small fine and maybe a referral to a treatment program — not jail time and a criminal record.

Whenever we debate similar measures in the U.S. — marijuana decriminalization, for instance — many drug-policy makers predict dire consequences. “If you make any attractive commodity available at lower cost, you will have more users,” former Office of National Drug Control Policy deputy director Thomas McLellan once said of Portugal’s policies. Joseph Califano, founder of the Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, once warned that decriminalization would “increase illegal drug availability and use among our children.”

But in Portugal, the numbers paint a different story. The prevalence of past-year and past-month drug use among young adults has fallen since 2001, according to statistics compiled by the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, which advocates on behalf of ending the war on drugs. Overall adult use is down slightly too. And new HIV cases among drug users are way down.

Now, numbers just released from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction paint an even more vivid picture of life under decriminalization: drug overdose deaths in Portugal are the second-lowest in the European Union….

Perhaps more significantly, the report notes that the use of “legal highs” — like so-called “synthetic” marijuana, “bath salts” and the like — is lower in Portugal than in any of the other countries for which reliable data exists. This makes a lot of intuitive sense: why bother with fake weed or dangerous designer drugs when you can get the real stuff? This is arguably a positive development for public health in the sense that many of the designer drugs that people develop to skirt existing drug laws have terrible and often deadly side effects…

…It’s very clear that decriminalization hasn’t had the severe consequences that its opponents predicted. As the Transform Drug Policy Institute says in its analysis of Portugal’s drug laws, “The reality is that Portugal’s drug situation has improved significantly in several key areas. Most notably, HIV infections and drug-related deaths have decreased, while the dramatic rise in use feared by some has failed to materialise.”

Between opportunist reactionaries grabbing every superstition-based vote at hand plus liberal politicians generally playing at cowardly lions, I doubt we’ll have the chance anytime soon to consider science, reason or reality creeping into American policy.

From economics to climate, the Republican Party is committed to a platform cobbled together from myth and bigotry. Democrats play at populism as mediocre as the average reality TV show and dedicate their political leadership to underachievers.

Same as it ever was remains the American anthem.

DARPA contest sends robots into mock-up nuclear reactor

On Friday and Saturday, the Darpa Robotics Challenge – the “Robolympics”, unofficially…completes its final competition, with 25 teams of engineers and scientists giving orders to huge machines trundling across a landscape designed to simulate the impassible environment that greeted aid workers after the Fukushima Daiichi reactor in Japan melted down multiple times in 2011.

Engineers tried to help, but no robots could navigate the hazardous terrain and disaster ensued, rendering a huge area around the plant uninhabitable after toxic steam exploded into the skies. The radioactive leftovers are still emitting a million watts of heat.

If a Darpa contestant is able to navigate the terrain successfully, and in a short amount of time (each team has an hour to run the course) it will become the richest robot in town: first prize is $2m, second prize is $1m, and third gets $500,000.

The public event is a cross between the Consumer Electronics Show and an episode of Mythbusters. Inside the Fairplex, the stands were filled on Friday with people cheering for their favorite androids. Outside was a big expo with kids running around playing with (or staring terrified at) all kinds of robots: some dancing, some playing music, some swimming in a giant tank where they can be piloted with a video game controller. One company, Ekso, makes robotic trousers that make it easier to carry a backpack.

The purpose of the main event, however, is deadly serious.

“The idea, inspired by Fukushima, is to come up with a simulation of a disaster that is like [that],” said Dr Gill Pratt, the avuncular, eloquent director of the Tactical Technology Office (TTO) program at Darpa that oversees the project.

Darpa is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the arm of the US Defense Department that is responsible in large part for the creation of the computer network, Arpanet, that became the internet.

“The teams will not have any human help for the robots themselves, and the key element, again, between the human controllers and the robot is a very degraded communication link,” Pratt explained.,,

“Particularly when you need to improvise, the environment you’re going into is a human environment, and a humanoid robot is designed to take on a human environment and we can adapt to it like humans,” Darwin Caldwell said.

“If you’ve got a quadruped robot, or a robot with wheels, it’s not really designed for that environment, so it might be able to adapt. But we know humans can go in there. We know humans can do that. That’s one thing we’re certain of.”

Some DARPA competitions don’t come close to succeeding in the first year of trials. Or more. But, unlike many extremely narrow experimental targets proposed for military trials, DARPA projects often have a broad framework and move sooner rather than later into civilian-focused experimentation, potentially global adoption.

Like autonomous automobiles or the Internet.