Tag Archives: politics

Scientists pick apart US committee chair’s arguments on climate change

Michael Oppenheimer and Kevin Trenberth have spent more than 70 years between them studying Earth’s climate. And they were both left shaking their heads, when Republican Lamar Smith from Texas recently published an op-ed defending not raising prices on carbon emissions.

“Contrary to the claims of those who want to strictly regulate carbon dioxide emissions and increase the cost of energy for all Americans, there is a great amount of uncertainty associated with climate science,” Mr. Smith wrote.

A claim that didn’t sit well with Oppenheimer and Trenberth. Especially as Mr. Smith is the Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

In a link-o-rama of a rebutal, they asserted that climate change is real, and not surrounded by the uncertainty Mr. Smith alluded to.

“[…] most of the world’s major scientific organizations indicate that by the end of this century, people will be experiencing higher temperatures than any known during human civilization — temperatures that our societies, crops and ecosystems are not adapted to,” they said.

Who to agree with…hmm, I think I’ll go with the 70 years of experience on this one….

Of course, the rebuttal might be more than futile. As one reader commented:

“How quaint, using facts, science and logic to rebut a GOP congressional numbskull. It’s a complete waste of time and effort, of course. You might as well talk to the wall.”

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Israli army tweets entire war in ‘livetime’

The Israli Defence Forces (IDF) are tweeting an entire war in what it is calling ‘livetime’ – the same as realtime.

Anyone worried about the possible fallout can take refuge (these are some appalling war puns for which I must apologise) in the fact that the war in question ended 45 years ago.

What is happening is that the IDF is tweeting key events from the Six Day War, that took place from June 5 to 10, 1967.

“In response to repeated provocations by Egypt, the State of Israel and the IDF are going to war. We will not sit idly as the enemy forces tighten the noose around our necks,” the first tweet on Wednesday said.

You can follow the action here.

This is what 50 equal American states look like

The electoral college system of voting has…well, let’s jsut say that some people like it, while other people know it doesn’t really work.

As artist Neil Freeman states on his website:

“The fundamental problem of the electoral college is that the states of the United States are too disparate in size and influence. The largest state is 66 times as populous as the smallest and has 18 times as many electoral votes. This allows for Electoral College results that don’t match the popular vote.”

So what can you do?

Well, Neil Freeman made an algorithm that changed the layout of USA so that it was made up of 50 states with equal populations. He might not get Texas to downsize, become several states – or change its name to ‘Big Thicket’, but his map does look interesting.

See for yourself:

electoral10-1100

New York State introduces new, tough gun law – but seem to lack the ‘how’

About a month after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, New York became the first US state to react to the massacre by introducing a new, tougher gun law.

The new law includes a tougher ban on assault weapons and broadens the definition of what constitutes an assault weapon. It limits the legal size of magazines to seven bullets, compared to the previous limit of ten bullets and introduces legislation to limit mentally ill people’s access to firearms as well as a hike in the fines and prison sentences that the courts can hand out to people caught in possession of illegal firearms.

“I’m proud to be a New Yorker, because New York is doing something, because we are fighting back, because, yes, we’ve had tragedies, and yes, we’ve had too many innocent people lose their lives, and yes, it’s unfortunate that it took those tragedies to get us to this point, but let’s at least learn from what’s happened, let’s at least be able to say to people, yes, we went through terrible situations, but we saw, we learned, we responded, and we acted, and we are doing something about it,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at the signing of the new law.

As could be expected, the nice people at the National Rifle Association weren’t exactly pleased, saying in a statement that they were:

“outraged at the draconian gun control bill that was rushed through … late Monday evening.”

“These gun control schemes have failed in the past and will have no impact on public safety and crime. Sadly, the New York Legislature gave no consideration to that reality. While lawmakers could have taken a step toward strengthening mental health reporting and focusing on criminals, they opted for trampling the rights of law-abiding gun owners in New York, and they did it under a veil of secrecy in the dark of night. The legislature caved to the political demands of a governor and helped fuel his personal political aspirations,” the NRA added.

And while lawmakers and interest groups like the NRA voice their opinions in very long quotes, the reality of the new bill is that the ‘what’ is there, but the ‘how’ seems to be, sadly, missing.

For example keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill is something that most people can agree is a good idea. A person diagnosed as suffering from bi-polar paranoia holding a shotgun could make most of us nervous. And, quite frankly, the basic idea of needing to make it more difficult for such a person to get a hold of the shotgun beggars the question: surely there must have been some way of preventing that for a while? Perhaps through combining a simple database with that there newfangled internet?

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is that the law is full of new legislation that is supposed to punish people once they’re found to break the new, tougher law, but it seems to fall shamefully short when it comes to introducing new ways (or means) for tracking down people or weapons that are illegal. So, in short, it answers the question of what we (if we were the state of ´New York) want to do, but doesn’t say much about how we want to do it.

Cheap 3D printing kills Obama’s clip control stone dead

In the wake of another school massacre, the US Government is once again looking at introducing some sort of control to the American gun market.

Now as a European, the fact that a large percentage of Americans seemingly think you really do need that semi-automatic rifle when hunting squirrels makes absolutely no sense. It’s like saying you need a canon to get rid of the sparrows who’ve set up shop on your roof and then being surprised when the cannon takes part of your roof with it in the attempt to get rid of said sparrows.

That minor tirade taken care of, let’s turn to a new suggestion by the Government who, instead of talking about squirrels and cannons, are thinking about introducing a law to prohibiting the size of magazines.

The proposal actually comes from California Senator Diane Feinstein, but President Obama has voiced support.

What the Government wants to is re-introduce the ban on high-capacity magazines that are capable of holding, well, a lot of bullets.

However, the suggestion isn’t likely to have the desired effect. And the rise of new technology is (sort of) to blame.

A group of gun-happy and slightly tech savvy people called Defence Distributed have already show that the rise of cheap 3D printing and the Internet is going to make it nigh on impossible to enforce a new ban on high-capacity magazines by just making it impossible for shops to sell them legally.

Defence Distributed’s plan is to prove that it is possible to create and build a lethal firearm with a high-capacity magazine solely using the blueprints supplied by the organisation and access to a 3D printer. Recently the group said that they had successfully a 30 round magazine for a semi-automatic and that they had fired a total of 86 round from the magazine.

So the end result they are looking for is a working gun with a massive clip that can be built by anyone with access to a 3D printer and the Internet.

Obama seems to be fighting an up-hill battle with people who want the right to not only build and fire their own canons at sparrows. They want ‘Mad Mike’ down the street to have exactly the same possibility. ANd the right to blame Obama when ‘Mad Mike’ decides that canons could be the thing that the game ‘Tag’ has been missing all these years….

President Obama’s drone ‘baseball card kill-list’ revealed

In a startling piece in the New York Times, journalists Jo Becker and Scott Shane have gained an insight into how the top brass at the White House pick out which suspected terrorists it will target for assassination using unmanned aircraft, also commonly referred to as drones.

The article describes how President Obama personally reads through the potential targets’ biographies before signing off on the orders. One official describes the bios as ‘the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war’.

The article is a stark reminder of the fact that Obama has signed off on more than three times as many drone assassinations during his first term as president than George Bush Jr. got around to in his entire two-term presidency.

Some critics of the new strategy describes it as a “Whac-A-Mole” approach to counter terrorism, where you are hitting the insurgents and terrorists every time you find out where they are instead of working out how to prevent them becoming terrorists in the first place.

Japan’s nuclear plants are (almost) offline

According to an article in The New York Times, nearly all of Japan’s nuclear plants are now offline. Only two of the country’s 54 nuclear reactors are still running.

So far, the shut down hasn’t led to any major power outages, but that’s partially due to some pretty extreme measures taken by the people and Government of Japan.

For example, air-conditioners are now shut off, even in the heat of summer.

One place the country have felt the brunt force of what shutting off the plants means is on the economy. Partially due to the tsunami, but also due to a sudden rise in the cost of energy, Japan posted its first trade deficit for nearly three decades.

Apart from rising energy prices, Japan also faces another financial problem. Several of the country’s industrial giants have both constructed and run nuclear power plants. The shutting down of these plants leaves these companies with a greatly reduced income and many workers very suddenly out of a job.

One potential way out of this is for the companies to look abroad for opportunities to build and run nuclear power plants there. However, the mood is very much against nuclear power in many places at the moment.