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Why are conservatives afraid of Neil deGrasse Tyson?

Posted on July 30th, 2014 at 22:02 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

“You’re a scientist, and a black one, who’s smarter than [conservatives] are,” Maher quipped.

The line got laughs, but it’s worth remembering that Tyson served the George W. Bush administration as a member of the Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond in 2004. Conservatives have no problem harnessing Tyson’s intellect.

No, the danger Tyson brings to the political structure, as he gains an increasingly large foothold in the popular culture, is the threat of an informed populace.

“When you’re scientifically literate, the world looks different to you,” Tyson wrote in 2011. “It’s a particular way of questioning what you see and hear. When empowered by this state of mind, objective realities matter. These are the truths of the world that exist outside of whatever your belief system tells you.”

That may not sound radical, but the promise of a large, nerdy, young voting block that subscribes to Tyson’s sentiment is a threat to the political status quo — certainly Republicans, but Democrats as well.


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Comments:

  1. By that logic, the Americans would never have gone to the moon.

    There was an article recently about Republicans understanding climate science (and knowing global warming to be true) but not accepting it because it didn’t fit with their religious/political beliefs. Cognitive dissonance, head in the sand.

    Have you read Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality? (Caution: huge fanfic that’s not yet finished.) I wish J.K. R. had written that story and gotten the same popularity with it… then we’d have oodles of kids excited about science and rational thinking.

  2. Yes, I’m on the notification list for new episodes…

  3. @Desiato: Yes, it’s irrational. US conservatives are not actually conservative at all. You know the ideology of keeping government small and out of our faces? What will happen during climate diasters? Governments will get more power.

Fear of Ebola Breeds a Terror of Physicians

Posted on July 30th, 2014 at 21:07 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

Health workers here say they are now battling two enemies: the unprecedented Ebola epidemic, which has killed more than 660 people in four countries since it was first detected in March, and fear, which has produced growing hostility toward outside help. On Friday alone, health authorities in Guinea confirmed 14 new cases of the disease.

Workers and officials, blamed by panicked populations for spreading the virus, have been threatened with knives, stones and machetes, their vehicles sometimes surrounded by hostile mobs. Log barriers across narrow dirt roads block medical teams from reaching villages where the virus is suspected. Sick and dead villagers, cut off from help, are infecting others.

“This is very unusual, that we are not trusted,” said Marc Poncin, the emergency coordinator in Guinea for Doctors Without Borders, the main group fighting the disease here. “We’re not stopping the epidemic.”

Efforts to monitor it are grinding to a halt because of “intimidation,” he said. People appear to have more confidence in witch doctors.


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“This is why white people are so healthy”

Posted on July 30th, 2014 at 17:22 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

Deforestation, child labour, underpaid farmers: in the countries where it’s grown, cocoa isn’t really synonymous with social well-being. Whilst chocolate giants such as Mars, Mondelez or Nestle have never been doing so well, the cocoa industry is failing both socially and environmentally. The food multinationals are trying to react by announcing a shift towards ‘responsible’ cocoa, with a number of fair trade certifiers offering them customised labels. But for Mars and others, these moves are primarily a way to secure and optimize their supply chain.


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Florida Republicans Are Taking Secret Trips On Big Sugar And No One Will Talk About It

Posted on July 29th, 2014 at 12:36 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) once called the political contributions that flow from the powerful sugar industry to politicians “disgusting.”

But a Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald investigation published last week found that Scott, along with several other prominent Florida Republicans over the past three years, have traveled to a hunting lodge in Texas owned by industry giant U.S. Sugar. The lodge is located at King Ranch, one of the largest ranches in Texas and itself a stakeholder in several sugar-related businesses.

Other politicians who made the trips included former U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, now Florida’s commissioner of agriculture, as well as past and potential future state speakers of the House. The resources for the trips were not given to the candidates individually, but rather to the Republican Party of Florida.

In 2006, the state passed a law that forbids politicians from accepting freebies like travel and food. However, donors can still make those types of donations to political parties if the gift serves a “campaign purpose.” The hunting trips were classified as fundraising events.


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10 most corrupt states in America

Posted on July 28th, 2014 at 9:46 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

The researchers studied more than 25,000 convictions of public officials for violation of federal corruption laws between 1976 and 2008 as well as patterns in state spending to develop a corruption index that estimates the most and least corrupt states in the union. Based on this method, the the most corrupt states are:

1. Mississippi

2. Louisiana

3. Tennessee

4. Illinois

5. Pennsylvania

6. Alabama

7. Alaska

8. South Dakota

9. Kentucky

10. Florida

That these places landed on the list isn’t exactly surprising. Illinois, which has gain notoriety for its high-profile corruption cases in recent years, is paired with states like Mississippi and Louisiana, which are some of the least economically developed in the country. The researchers also found that for 9 out of the 10 of the most corrupt states, overall state spending was higher than in less corrupt states (South Dakota was the only exception). Attacking corruption, the researchers argue, could be a good way to bring down state spending without hurting services that people need.

Researchers also found that spending in these states was different than their less corrupt counterparts. According to the report, “states with higher levels of corruption are likely to favor construction, salaries, borrowing, correction, and police protection at the expense of social sectors such as education, health and hospitals.”

The paper explains that construction spending, especially on big infrastructure projects, is particularly susceptible to corruption because the quality of large, nonstandard projects are difficult for the public to gauge, while the industry is dominated by a few monopolistic firms. Corrupt states also tend to, for obvious reasons, simply have more and better paid public servants, including police and correctional officers. The researchers argue that the need for correctional officers is greater in corrupt places too because “the overall extent of corruption will be higher in states with higher numbers of convictions of public officials.”


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Comments:

  1. Noticeably absent: New York, New Jersey, California, and Texas

    Why would they base the study on convictions? I would think the most corruption occurs in places where there are no convictions or very few.

The NSA’s New Partner in Spying: Saudi Arabia’s Brutal State Police

Posted on July 27th, 2014 at 20:38 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

The National Security Agency last year significantly expanded its cooperative relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Interior, one of the world’s most repressive and abusive government agencies. An April 2013 top secret memo provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden details the agency’s plans “to provide direct analytic and technical support” to the Saudis on “internal security” matters.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior—referred to in the document as MOI— has been condemned for years as one of the most brutal human rights violators in the world. In 2013, the U.S. State Department reported that “Ministry of Interior officials sometimes subjected prisoners and detainees to torture and other physical abuse,” specifically mentioning a 2011 episode in which MOI agents allegedly “poured an antiseptic cleaning liquid down [the] throat” of one human rights activist. The report also notes the MOI’s use of invasive surveillance targeted at political and religious dissidents.

But as the State Department publicly catalogued those very abuses, the NSA worked to provide increased surveillance assistance to the ministry that perpetrated them. The move is part of the Obama Administration’s increasingly close ties with the Saudi regime; beyond the new cooperation with the MOI, the memo describes “a period of rejuvenation” for the NSA’s relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Defense.


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  1. Too many guys in white bed sheets for my taste.

NSA and Germany

Posted on July 27th, 2014 at 20:34 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

After the judges at the NSA investigation comission of the german parliament noted that most of the foreign intelligence program of the BND is against the constitution, the german government now answered that

http://dip21.bundestag.de/dip21/btd/18/021/1802128.pdf

1)The german government has noted the opinion of the german judges.
2) Everything what the BND does is legal and justified.
3) in general the german government only wants to act after the investigation comission has finished, (which could, however, take some years)…..

Furthermore the german government was asked what was in the letter that it had send to the US, asking questions on the criminal activities that the US government suspects Edward Snowden has done. (Note that interpol does exclude political crimes as a reason for extradition)

https://netzpolitik.org/2014/informationsfreiheits-ablehnung-des-tages-antwort-der-usa-wird-beeinflusst-wenn-frage-oeffentlich-wird/

The german government answered, that not even these questions can be published, because

1) this would perhaps modify the answers of the US government
2) decisions on extradition requests from other governments regularly contain an assessment of the juridical standards of the state that requests the extraditions. The letter sent to the US government is used with respect to this assessment. If the questions would become public, it could affect the cooperation of germany with the united states on extraditions…

In other words:

If this letter would become publicly known it would show the US as a government of low juridical standards and they fear Germany could never extradite anyone to the United States….


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“I see you’re using the clever ‘not moving’ ploy…”

Posted on July 27th, 2014 at 19:18 by John Sinteur in category: News


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  1. John, you are a day late – yesterday was Caturday! :-)

The most important battle you’ve probably never heard of

Posted on July 27th, 2014 at 18:38 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

“Bouvines is the most important battle in English history that no-one has ever heard of,” says John France, professor emeritus in medieval history at Swansea University.

“Without Bouvines there is no Magna Carta, and all the British and American law that stems from that. It’s a muddy field, the armies are small, but everything depends on the struggle. It’s one of the climactic moments of European history.”

[..]

Only three clauses are still valid – the one guaranteeing the liberties of the English Church; the clause confirming the privileges of the city of London and other towns; and the clause that states that no free man shall be imprisoned without the lawful judgement of his equals

Unfortunately, the UK now has arbitrary detention without trial, so what remains are the liberties of the Church, and if you interpret “the city of London” in the modern, financial way, well…..


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How the F-35 boondoggle shows that deficit hawkery is a sham

Posted on July 27th, 2014 at 1:28 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

Yesterday in Fort Worth, officials from the Pentagon, Lockheed Martin, and the Australian government gathered to celebrate the fact that two F-35 fighter jets bound for our ally down under were rolling off the assembly line. The news about this plane over the last few years has largely been buried on the inside pages of newspapers, but if you’d been following it you know that it has been one of the most remarkable boondoggles we’ve ever seen, not only the most expensive weapons system in history, but one that has been plagued by one disastrous problem after another (the latest of which came last month when an F-35 caught fire when taking off and the whole fleet of them were grounded).

The remarkable lack of interest in figuring out how things could have gone so wrong with this plane, especially from people who claim to be so desperately concerned about runaway government spending, tells you something about what a sham deficit hawkery really is.


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The Evidence Is In: Patent Trolls Do Hurt Innovation

Posted on July 26th, 2014 at 13:55 by Sueyourdeveloper in category: News

Quote from here

There were six times as many patent lawsuits last year than in the 1980s. The number of firms sued by patent trolls grew nine-fold over the last decade; now a majority of patent lawsuits are filed by trolls…

The economic burden of today’s patent lawsuits is, in fact, historically unprecedented. Research shows that patent trolls cost defendant firms $29 billion per year in direct out-of-pocket costs; in aggregate, patent litigation destroys over $60 billion in firm wealth each year. While mean damages in a patent lawsuit ran around $50,000 (in today’s dollars) at the time the telegraph, mean damages today run about $21 million. Even taking into account the much larger size of the economy today, the economic impact of patent litigation today is an order of magnitude larger than it was in the age of the telegraph.

Where’s the pesticide?


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New York apartment blocks are using “poor doors”

Posted on July 25th, 2014 at 2:42 by Sueyourdeveloper in category: News

Quote

Critics have dubbed this second entrance, which will apparently be located at the back of the building, the “poor door”. It offers access to the 55 affordable apartments, which face the street. The block’s 219 luxury apartments have those river views all to themselves.

This segregation is a sneaky way to appease New York’s drive for mixed-income housing, without actually forcing people with different incomes to mix. Developers are under pressure to ensure that a proportion of all new housing is affordable, and receive subsidies and tax exemptions for any affordable apartments they build. But Extell has decided to keep its two sets of apartments as separate as possible, and last week its plans were approved by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

I’m sure the rich and those of low net worth will be better off if they don’t meet in the elevators or hallways, don’t ya know?


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Comments:

  1. Best quote in the article:
    David Von Spreckelsen, senior vice president at Toll Brothers, the building’s developers, told The Real Deal last year:

    I think it’s unfair to expect very high-income homeowners who paid a fortune to live in their building to have to be in the same boat as low-income renters, who are very fortunate to live in a new building in a great neighbourhood.”

    We’re just going to leave that quote there for you to think about.

  2. Surprised they can sell any of the luxury apartments.

Antarctica’s Point of No Return

Posted on July 24th, 2014 at 23:30 by Sueyourdeveloper in category: News

Quote

Recent satellite observations have confirmed the accuracy of two independent computer simulations that show that the West Antarctic ice sheet has now entered a state of unstoppable collapse.
Save yourselves, little penguins!

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Thousands salute MH17 victims convoy

Posted on July 24th, 2014 at 18:19 by John Sinteur in category: News


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Cuomo’s Office Hobbled Ethics Inquiries by Moreland Commission

Posted on July 24th, 2014 at 17:25 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

In a 13-page statement responding to The Times’s questions, Mr. Cuomo’s office defended its handling of the commission. It said the commission was created by and reported to the governor, and therefore he could not be accused of interfering with it.

While he allowed the commission the independence to investigate whatever it wanted, the governor’s office said, it would have been a conflict for a panel he created to investigate his own administration.

“A commission appointed by and staffed by the executive cannot investigate the executive,” the statement said. “It is a pure conflict of interest and would not pass the laugh test.”

Yet, The Times found that the governor’s office interfered with the commission when it was looking into groups that were politically close to him. In fact, the commission never tried to investigate his administration.

I don’t see what the problem is. Every police department in America investigates itself on a regular basis and clears its officers of wrongdoing quickly, effectively and without controversy. If they can do it, why not the Cuomo administration?


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Three German students surprise a homeless guy

Posted on July 24th, 2014 at 14:50 by Paul Jay in category: News


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Comments:

  1. I lived on the street for a few years when I was young, depending upon the charity of others, and doing pickup work when I could find it (car wash, furniture moving, whatever). This was a simple act of kindness and these kids should be saluted for their abundant humanity!

  2. And what lovely harmonies! :-)

  3. I was surprised at how trusting the homeless guy was about somebody in his space & wanting his stuff. Seems just as likely somebody would ask to “use your bucket” and then clobber you with it. Kudos to the kids for sure.

The Group of Bloggers Unearthing MH17 Intel Quicker Than U.S. Spies

Posted on July 24th, 2014 at 9:01 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

“[The Americans] clearly only rely on open source information, or mostly on open source, yet they are not releasing what they’re relying on,” Higgins said. “It’s like they’re ashamed.”

These investigations are a good example of what Higgins wants to do with Bellingcat: create a community of online citizen investigative journalists that can fact check or even unearth evidence using open source intelligence available online. Higgins has been doing this for years, parsing tens of thousands of YouTube videos coming out of Syria to figure out which ones were legitimate and which was were not.


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Putin’s Tipping Point?

Posted on July 23rd, 2014 at 17:16 by Sueyourdeveloper in category: News

Quote

Moreover, Putin’s incompetence extends far beyond the economy. His security forces remain brutal and unaccountable; in some parts of the country, they have merged with criminal gangs. His managed judiciary provides no comfort to ordinary people; and the country’s military installations, submarines, oilrigs, mining shafts, hospitals, and retirement homes regularly blow up, collapse, or sink, owing to neglect and zero liability.

Ms. K’s perspective is that a successful totalitarian regime has got to deliver some good stuff…and she should know, her granddad ran it for a while.

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Fastest way to get through a border patrol checkpoint

Posted on July 23rd, 2014 at 13:32 by John Sinteur in category: News


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Lewis Macleod reads Little Red Riding Hood

Posted on July 23rd, 2014 at 13:23 by John Sinteur in category: News


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Inside the Mirrortocracy

Posted on July 23rd, 2014 at 9:47 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

If spam filt­ers sor­ted mes­sages the way Silicon Val­ley sorts peo­ple, you’d only get email from your col­lege room­mate. And you’d never sus­pect you were mis­s­ing a thing.


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  1. Yup. The best characteristic of the best manager I ever had was his habit of hiring outside his socio-economic and demographic group. The worst was his overwhelming desire to pay people peanuts :-)

Woensdag 23 juli dag van nationale rouw

Posted on July 22nd, 2014 at 22:24 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

Premier Mark Rutte heeft woensdag 23 juli uitgeroepen tot dag van nationale rouw. Dat is op de dag dat de eerste slachtoffers van de vliegramp in Oekraïne van vlucht MH17 aankomen in Eindhoven.

Translation; tomorrow is day of national mourning in NL.

First time since 1962….


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Comments:

  1. Okay, little reality check here. dutch news sources, which I can’t help but watch a lot, make clear that our government is holding back quite a lot just to make sure we get the bodies back first, and THEN we start looking for the idiots who did this.

    At the same time, there’s plenty evidence that a missile shot did the deed. And evidence points to… wait, let me short-cut that. Does anybody believe that the grunts who pulled the trigger in that SA-11 are still alive? I mean, be realistic…. if you’re a Ukrainian separatist with such a weapon system, and you fuck up like that, you are likely to be disappeared right away, right?

  2. I believe that the rocket launcher would likely have had a trained Russian crew, and that they and all the equipment are safely back in Russia. A trained crew can still make such a mistake – in 1988 the Vincennes shot down Iran Air flight 655 on its usual route in Iranian air space, even though it was emitting the signal indicating that it was a civilian aircraft. The USA never admitted legal liability, but in 1996 expressed “regret” and paid a financial settlement to the victims.

  3. Not sure equipment is back in Russia — reports are there are two new shoot-downs of Ukrainian mil aircraft today in the same area.

Defying allies, France to deliver first warship to Russia

Posted on July 22nd, 2014 at 20:46 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

resident Francois Hollande won broad domestic applause on Tuesday for defying allies Britain and the United States by confirming plans to deliver a helicopter carrier to Russia, with one backer dismissing the objections as hypocritical.

Speaking on the eve of an EU meeting to discuss sanctions on Moscow over the downing of a civilian airliner over Ukraine, Hollande said late on Monday that a first Mistral warship would be handed over on schedule in October but a decision on a second would depend on Russia’s attitude.

It was the clearest signal yet that Paris will go through with the controversial deal despite the Ukraine crisis and came only hours after British Prime Minister David Cameron said it would be “unthinkable” for his country to fulfil such an order.


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  1. A taxi driver writes:
    “The French are old ‘ores, just like the Brits. Only the Brits ‘av been selling the Russians soccer teams an’ Knightbridge pent’arses. Stolen money, the ‘ole lot, ‘swelp me, guv!”

  2. I firmly disagree that such behaviour is typical of “old ores” this is the kind of remark that brings the oldest profession into disrepute. The United Federation of Old Whores, which I have just dreamed up, would never behave in such a corrupt and disreputable way.
    The kind of decadent and depraved behaviour that is characterised by the selling of lethal ordinance to deranged dictators and their lackeys is much more typical of modern career politicians, who are much more easily bribed.

  3. I agree with Pete. Old ‘ores are far more ethical.

“Weird Al” Yankovic – Mission Statement

Posted on July 22nd, 2014 at 17:02 by John Sinteur in category: News


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Comments:

  1. I love Weird Al. He is an amazing talent. His songs are always so thought provoking.

    Still in this case I think I’ll stick with the original:

    http://youtu.be/nP0VBB7BO64

  2. I think I need to upgrade my version. I still have “Outreach” and “Capacity” left on my Bullshit Bingo card.

  3. Sue, I’m pretty sure ‘capacity’ was in there.

On Every Anniversary Of The Moon Landing, My Thoughts Always Turn To That Horse Neil Armstrong And I Jettisoned Out Of The Airlock |

Posted on July 22nd, 2014 at 16:51 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

The next thing I knew, it was time to stuff the horse into the airlock. Neil and I were shoving him in there, and the horse was screaming, and the other guy that was with us was yelling, “No, no, no! Don’t launch the horse!” but we said, “Shut the fuck up for a second, and just let us jettison this horse into the infinite blackness of outer space.”

And that’s exactly what we did.


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  1. I can’t make out if it’s the drugs or lack of oxygen…

Cops React to the Death of Eric Garner

Posted on July 22nd, 2014 at 16:43 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

There has been no shortage of community outrage in the days since the death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old father of six suspected of selling loose cigarettes, during a violent, videotaped arrest in Staten Island last week. Mayor de Blasio delayed his vacation and called the circumstances “very troubling,” while NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said “this would appear to have been a chokehold,” an illegal maneuver.

[..]

Daily Intelligencer
July 21, 2014 4:24 p.m.
How Anonymous Cops Online Are Reacting to the Death of Eric Garner
By Joe CoscarelliFollow @joecoscarelli
1.3k Shares
Share 1.1kTweet 140Share 2Share 31EmailPrint
A demonstration against the death of Eric Garner.Spencer Platt/2014 Getty Images

There has been no shortage of community outrage in the days since the death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old father of six suspected of selling loose cigarettes, during a violent, videotaped arrest in Staten Island last week. Mayor de Blasio delayed his vacation and called the circumstances “very troubling,” while NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said “this would appear to have been a chokehold,” an illegal maneuver.

Two officers involved, including eight-year veteran Daniel Pantaleo, who administered the neck-grab to bring Garner down, have been taken off the streets (as have four EMS workers, who were placed on modified duty). And while the PBA union has requested the police be given “the benefit of the doubt,” emotions are running high not just among the public but for police officers, too.

In internet communities for law enforcement, like PoliceOne.com, “the One resource for Law Enforcement online,” and Thee Rant, an NYPD message board, the Garner story has stirred up racial, political, and professional tensions, most of them quite ugly.


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Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmerman statement to United Nations on plane crash

Posted on July 21st, 2014 at 23:37 by John Sinteur in category: News


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Whirlpool Wants Congress to Ban Class-Action Suits Tied to Energy Star Program

Posted on July 21st, 2014 at 18:25 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

After government testing showed that scores of consumer products carrying the Energy Star label did not deserve the listing, a wave of class-action lawsuits was filed against the companies that manufacture the products.

Now, at least one major manufacturer wants Congress to ban the lawsuits and is threatening to withdraw from Energy Star, an Environmental Protection Agency program, unless it gets its way.

[..]

“By eliminating consumers’ access to the civil justice system, corporations will not be held accountable in court for swindling customers,” said Sarah Jones, a spokeswoman for the trial lawyers’ organization, the American Association for Justice.


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Malaysia Airlines diverts flight from Ukraine – to Syria

Posted on July 21st, 2014 at 17:41 by John Sinteur in category: News

1405941646472.jpg-620x349

[Quote]:

Malaysia Airlines re-routed a Kuala Lumpur-to-London flight over Syrian airspace on Sunday after its usual route over Ukraine was closed, flight tracking data showed on Monday.

Flightradar24 posted a flight map on its Twitter account on Monday showing the change in the flight’s route.


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How did the Snowden revelations impact behaviour?

Posted on July 21st, 2014 at 12:45 by Sueyourdeveloper in category: News

Quote

This week the Australian government announced what seems to be an extraordinary piece of legislation.

Spies who leak sensitive information will face tough new penalties of up to 10 years’ jail and internet firms could be forced to store customers’ data for up to two years under sweeping national security reforms…

To appreciate the impact of policies designed to curtail the dissemination of disclosures, it is useful to actually go to the evidence. A few months ago, Alex Marthews and Catherine Tucker provided that evidence in this paper

One thing is more certain, this adjustment is suggesting that moves like this one for the Australian government may be actually upsetting more citizens than they think and that might well add up in terms of votes. I’m sure that will be of interest to politicians who think supporting this legislation is innocuous.


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