Greenland ice is melting faster than ever — affecting Earth’s axial rotation


Click to enlargeReuters/Bob Strong

Researchers from the Danish Meteorological Institute had to double-check their instruments to make sure they were working properly. It was hard to believe that 12% of the Greenland ice sheet was melting this early in the year; the previous record was set in 2010 when 10% of the ice sheet was melting in May.

The Earth’s two ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland and the ice that covers the Arctic sea routinely melt and freeze again each year with the seasons. In the latter years of the 20th century, this ice has been receding more than re-freezing in the cooler months.

Climate scientists are already worried about the melting ice’s contribution to sea level rise. New research from NASA…suggests that the melting ice is also redistributing water enough to affect changes in the Earth’s axial rotation…

The poles have been shifting over time; it’s called the axial “wobble,” and it’s been happening since scientists first recorded data in 1899. In 2000, researchers noticed that the North pole was shifting eastward — toward London, as opposed to Canada, which they attributed to the ice loss in Greenland. As the ice melted, the north pole shifted toward the area with less ice.

The new data, however, indicates that the ice sheets aren’t the only factor affecting axial wobble. The balance of water held in different continents is also making a difference, researchers said. Erik Ivins, a geophysicist and co-author of the paper, explained to Scientific American that he thinks that a recent lack of rainfall in central Eurasia is also pulling the north pole to the east.

❝ “If we lose mass from the Greenland ice sheet, we are essentially putting mass elsewhere. And as we redistribute the mass, the spin axis tends to find a new direction,” Surendra Adhikari, a researcher with Caltech and NASA and co-author of the study, told the Washington Post. He estimates that about 40% of the shift is due to Greenland ice sheet loss; 25% due to Anarctica ice sheet loss, and 25% due to where water is located in continents.

Watch this space. Ivins hopes to have sufficient data added within the year to determine whether or not climate change is the prime factor.

Supreme Court says any judge can OK search warrants for every computer in the country

The Supreme Court might have just given the FBI expanded hacking powers, opening the door for the feds to legally hack any computer in the country, and perhaps the world, with a single warrant authorized by a judge located anywhere in the United States.

The court approved a controversial change in in Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, a procedural rule that regulates when and under what circumstances judges can issue warrants for searches and seizures.

Under the old language of Rule 41…judges could approve warrants authorizing hacking — or as the FBI calls it, network investigative technique, or NIT — only within their jurisdiction.

With the changes, first proposed by the Department of Justice in 2014, judges could now approve hacking operations that go beyond their local jurisdiction if the target’s location is unknown or is part of a network of infected computers, or botnets, under the control of criminals.

This change would be “the broadest expansion of extraterritorial surveillance power since the FBI’s inception,” according to Ahmed Ghappour, an computer crime law expert and professor at UC Hastings…

Privacy advocates, legal experts, and Google, have long opposed changing Rule 41 with this new language, and are now arguing that Congress should step in and amend or reject the rule change.

“The Department of Justice is quietly trying to grant themselves substantive authority to hack into computers and masking it as a bureaucratic update,” Amie Stepanovich, the U.S. policy manager at Access Now, a digital rights organization…

Congress now has until December 1 to weigh in, according to the US law governing the rulemaking process. If Congress doesn’t act, the rule will automatically come into effect.

Do I need to suggest you write, email or otherwise inform your Congress-critter to get off their rusty-dusty and do some work for ordinary citizens? Tell our elected officials to shutdown the free-form snooping our Constitutional government thinks it needs to make us safe.

US gun violence is worse than we think


AFP via Getty Images

America is already known for leading the developed world in gun violence. But a new study finds the problem may be even worse than we think.

The study, from economists Jillian Carr and Jennifer Doleac, looked at new ShotSpotter data, which uses high-tech audio sensors to report gunshots, in Oakland, California, and Washington, DC. It found that only 12 percent of gunfire incidents resulted in a 911 call to report gunshots, and only 2 to 7 percent of incidents resulted in a reported assault with a dangerous weapon.

In other words, shootings are tremendously underreported in the US.

One catch to the research: ShotSpotter is likely picking up some false positives. Past evaluations have suggested the technology has anywhere from 50 to 97 percent accuracy, although Carr and Doleac acknowledge more rigorous research is necessary. But even if the low range is right, there would still be a lot of unreported shootings.

It’s also possible that many shootings go unreported because no one was injured or killed. It’s hard to imagine, after all, that a death went completely unnoticed, and Carr and Doleac note that homicide is reported to and by police “with near-accuracy.”…

Currently, crime research generally relies on surveys and crime reports from law enforcement. More specifically, the research tends to focus on reports for homicides, since homicide reports tend to have the most accurate data. Researchers use these data sources to try to evaluate the effects of certain policies — if crime reports went down after a policy was implemented, it’s presumed that the policy helped bring crime down (after some statistical checks).

But the ShotSpotter data suggests the traditional sources of crime research — the law enforcement reports — overlook a lot of crime. What’s more, Carr and Doleac suggest that a drop in reports of crime may just mean that people are reporting fewer crimes even as it continues happening. So researchers using the traditional sources may have been picking up how policies affect reports of crime, not necessarily crime itself…

Beyond the implications for policy research…at the very least, we’re not counting a lot of shootings as shootings.

Which is exactly the way folks with monomaniacal belief in guns as the righteous solution to everything from elections to divorce – would like things to stay.

Cartoon: look at the size of that hairball!

We have a lot of great cartoonists in the United States. Honestly, I think as much as corporate media moguls have succeeded in homogenizing, watering-down what used to be the American press, they haven’t the guts to take away all of our cartoonists. Even the Liberal and Progressive flavor with the courage to point a finger at the class served by most of our politicians.

Thanks, gocomics.org