Archive for October, 2011


Roundup – The Ninja Enters

Line O’ the Day:

“American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions, according to officials. There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House’s National Security Council, several current and former officials said. Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.”

– Mark Hosenball, Secret panel can put Americans on “kill list’ [Reuters]

Best of the Best:

A Conspiracy Is Afoot With The Dunge [Big Daddy Drew on KSK]


Sanchez: Hey, Coach!


Ten Enduring Myths About the U.S. Space Program [Mark Strauss on The Smithsonian]

Proponents of unmanned space exploration make the case that the most essential element for sustaining public interest are missions that produce new images and data, and which challenge our notions of the universe. “There is an intrinsic excitement to astronomy in general and cosmology in particular, quite apart from the spectator sport of manned spaceflight,” writes the famed philosopher and physicist Freeman Dyson, who offers a verse from the ancient mathematician Ptolemy: “I know that I am mortal and a creature of one day;
 but when my mind follows the massed wheeling circles of the stars, my feet no longer touch the earth.”

Drones Evolve Into Weapon in Age of Terror: Intelligence Services Overcome Philosophical, Legal Misgivings Over Targeted Killings; Pilotless Attacks Doubled in 2010 [Siobhan Gorman on The Wall Street Journal]

Legal challenges to the drone program have secured little traction. The main debate inside the government has been over how to execute the campaign without irreversibly damaging Pakistani cooperation. American citizens can be targets, too. Under the legal authority for the drone program, the CIA must consult the National Security Council before capturing an American posing an imminent threat, but no additional consultation is required to kill an American, a former senior intelligence official said. “The reason there hasn’t been more of an outcry about it is, it’s the Obama administration defending this authority,” said the American Civil Liberties Union’s Jameel Jaffer. “But the authority is going to be used not just by this administration but the next one, and not just the war on terror but the next war.” As the reliance on the drone campaign grows, some intelligence veterans are quietly questioning whether the remote-control killings violate ethical boundaries. “They shouldn’t be judge, jury and executioner,” said a former U.S. official. “It’s an important program, but are there checks and balances?”

A decade after the 9/11 attacks, Americans live in an era of endless war [Greg Jaffe on The Washington Post]

Other top military officials fret that the troops are developing a troubling sense that they are better than the society they serve. “Today’s Army, including its leadership, lives in a bubble separate from society,” wrote retired Lt. Gen. David Barno, who commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan, in an essay for the Web site of Foreign Policy magazine. “This splendid military isolation — set in the midst of a largely adoring nation — risks fostering a closed culture of superiority and aloofness. This must change if the Army is to remain in, of, and with the ever-diverse peoples of the United States.”

The NCAA’s Pocket Universe Is Collapsing [Barry Petchesky on Deadspin]

The bowls remain the superconferences’ pieces of silver (35 pieces of silver at last count), rewards to keep everybody in line. And even those are so lightly policed that bowl CEOs can pay themselves what they deem appropriate; men become millionaires without once meeting the athletes who bring in their money. Just this bowl cycle, the Sugar Bowl successfully lobbied to reinstate players declared ineligible—for its own ratings and prestige, not as a reward to the players—and the Fiesta Bowl was called out for shenanigans and shady accounting and taking some of that pot of football money and giving it to politicians.

Ant uses chemicals to bind its own corpse to an attacker [Discover Magazine on io9]

The liquid (which is, actually, orange) is carried in special sacks that run the length of the ant’s body. The compartments are specially lined, because the liquid is nasty stuff. Not only is it an irritant to any external organs, it dries solidly enough to permanently glue the ant’s body to its attackers. This is why the ant will try to grab on to the intruder’s face. With any luck, this will blind the attacker, or seal its mouth shut, and keep it from going on to the rest of the hive. Even if the ant doesn’t get to blind the attacker, it makes an unwieldy burden that the creature has to carry around for the rest of its life.

The “unmeltable” weapon that could have changed the course of World War II [Esther Inglis-Arkell on io9]

When World War II broke out, he went to work for the war effort, and was most concerned with the lack of steel. The substance was used in everything, and so constantly in short supply. Pyke went looking for the perfect, cheap, and easy-to-make substance to replace it, and stumbled on Pykrete. Put a mix of water and fourteen percent sawdust in a mold, let it freeze, and you have Pykrete. It doesn’t shatter like ice, it’s strong enough to use in building projects, and strangely, it doesn’t appear to melt.

Who Killed 3-D?: A box-office whodunit. [Daniel Engber on Slate]

For every brilliant 3-D feature like Toy Story 3 or Cave of Forgotten Dreams, we’ve seen half a dozen dopey kids’ movies, a handful of violent horror pics, and a few superhero retreads. The same could be said of flat movies, of course, but that’s exactly the point: If 3-D films are just as bad as everything else that comes out of Hollywood, then they aren’t worth a ticket premium at any price. What happened to 3-D? It may have died from a case of acute septicemia—too much crap in the system.

Operation Northwoods, the 1960s government plan to fake terrorist attacks on the U.S. [Ed Grabianowski on io9]

At the core of the 9/11 Truther movement is the idea that the government staged the attacks to drum up support for a war. So much Truther evidence is laughable that it’s easy to dismiss the idea, but there exists a chilling reminder that the U.S. military was once all-too-willing to deceive and attack its own citizens for political reasons. That was the goal of Operation Northwoods.

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s… A Hero of the Bulgarian Revolution?: Mixed Feelings Toward Communist Past Make for Monumental Arguments in Sofia [Wall Street Journal]

On June 18, Bulgaria’s capital awoke to find the statues in a monument to the Soviet armed forces brightly spray-painted as Superman, Ronald McDonald, Santa Claus, Captain America and The Joker. The characters, according to graffiti the pranksters left at the base of the monument, were now “in step with the times.” But not in step with all of Bulgaria. Many people here in the European Union’s newest member country (in 2007) were outraged. Socialist organizations called for the culprits to be hunted down. Even members of the country’s center-right government, which agreed with the vandals’ sentiment, said they were unhappy. Only the government gets to “destroy the monuments of socialism,” the government said in a statement.

How Alcohol Affects Your Decision-Making Process [Lifehacker]

Dr. Bruce Bartholow, the study’s author, said: “It’s not as though people do drunken things because they’re not aware of their behavior, but rather they seem to be less bothered by the implications or consequences of their behavior than they normally would be.” Basically, if you’re drunk, you’ll still be aware of your mistakes but you just won’t care. The question of whether or not you can actually motivate yourself to care about the consequences is still up in the air, but hopefully this research will lead to an answer. For now, drinking a little too much is essentially creating a version of you who will be more than happy to make stupid choices. So, as always, drink safely.

The Closer [Albert Clawson via via The New York Times]

If they didn’t clean out the house, I have to ask them to sign a waiver stating that everything left inside can be disposed of. Hospital beds. Hundreds of boxes of shoes. A mannequin. A second grader’s homework portfolio. A wedding album filled with pictures with one person torn out. Get-rich-quick “business plans.” Sometimes I linger as I check the basement for mold and lead. I am the final period on so many significant chapters. I feign dispassion, but I’m not fooling anybody. There is no difference between myself and these people. The house keys are peeled from a ring. Sometimes they thank me. Sometimes they cry. I wait for their car to vanish before I put up the sign. To most everybody else it is just another house on just another block in just another city in just another financial catastrophe. But I was there. I saw the dream end. At least I don’t make them turn out the lights one last time as they leave. That’s my job.

Libyan Jew Reopens Tripoli’s Lone Temple [Charles Levinson on The Wall Street Journal]

Then Sheik Jamal Abdullah, one of two local Muslim clerics who signed off on the temple’s reopening, arrived, Mr. Gerbi ushered him into the sanctuary, to the ark that once held the congregation’s Torah scrolls. Mr. Gerbi pointed to the faint remains of a Hebrew inscription pledging fealty to God above the ark. “Here is the name of God, your God, my God,” he said. “Is it right that the name of God will reside among all this garbage?” The elderly imam in a white robe and skull cap clutched Mr. Gerbi’s hands. “We must clean this up,” he said. “Only when Jews and Muslims again live together, will there be no more war, no more fighting.”

Could an electromagnetic pulse send us back to the Dark Ages? [Keith Veronese on io9]

There have been at least two series of EMP tests, Operation Fishbowl carried out by the United States over Hawaii and the K Project carried by the USSR over the skies of Kazakhstan. Both tests used high altitude nuclear detonations to create a limited E1 pulse and measured the subsequent damage, as this was a major fear in the early 1960s while both countries were in the shadow on the Cold War. Both tests resulted in the disruption in electrical systems, with hundreds of streetlights in Hawaii being blown, civilian telecommunications disrupted, and military monitoring equipment sent off scale in the process of detonating the Starfish Prime portion of Operation Fishbowl.

Secret Orders Target Email: WikiLeaks Backer’s Information Sought [Julia Angwin on The Wall Street Journal]

The U.S. government has obtained a controversial type of secret court order to force Google Inc. and small Internet provider Inc. to turn over information from the email accounts of WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.  Sonic said it fought the government’s order and lost, and was forced to turn over information. Challenging the order was “rather expensive, but we felt it was the right thing to do,” said Sonic’s chief executive, Dane Jasper. The government’s request included the email addresses of people Mr. Appelbaum corresponded with the past two years, but not the full emails. Both Google and Sonic pressed for the right to inform Mr. Appelbaum of the secret court orders, according to people familiar with the investigation. Google declined to comment. Mr. Appelbaum, 28 years old, hasn’t been charged with wrongdoing.

Curiously Strong Remains:










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