Are the World’s Religions Ready for E.T.?

October 1st, 2014

Via: Vanderbilt University:

Realization that the nature of the debate about life on other worlds is about to fundamentally change led Vanderbilt Professor of Astronomy David Weintraub to begin thinking seriously about the question of how people will react to the discovery of life on other planets. He realized, as Einstein had observed, that people’s reactions will be heavily influenced by their religious beliefs. So he decided to find out what the world’s major religions have to say about the matter. The result is a book titled “Religions and Extraterrestrial Life” (Springer International Publishing) published this month.

“When I did a library search, I found only half a dozen books and they were all written about the question of extraterrestrial life and Christianity, and mostly about Roman Catholicism, so I decided to take a broader look,” the astronomer said. As a result, his book describes what religious leaders and theologians have to say about extraterrestrial life in more than two dozen major religions, including Judaism, Roman Catholicism, the Eastern Orthodox churches, the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, several mainline Protestant sects, the Southern Baptist Convention and other evangelical and fundamentalist Christian denominations, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Seventh Day Adventism and Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), Islam and several major Asian religions including Hinduism, Buddhism and the Bahá’í Faith.


New Docs Show How Reagan-Era Executive Order Unbounded NSA

October 1st, 2014

Via: Ars Technica:

A set of newly declassified documents shows definitively and explicitly that the United States intelligence community relies heavily on what is effectively unchecked presidential authority to conduct surveillance operations, as manifested through the Reagan-era Executive Order (EO) 12333.

And at a more basic level, the new documents illustrate that the government is adept at creating obscure legalistic definitions of plain language words, like “collection of information,” which help obfuscate the public’s understanding of the scope and scale of such a dragnet.

More: New Documents Shed Light on One of the NSA’s Most Powerful Tools


Defense Distributed CNC Machine and Plans to Mill AR-15 Lower Receivers at Home for $1200

October 1st, 2014

Via: Wired:

When Cody Wilson revealed the world’s first fully 3-D printed gun last year, he showed that the “maker” movement has enabled anyone to create a working, lethal firearm with a click in the privacy of his or her garage. Now he’s moved on to a new form of digital DIY gunsmithing. And this time the results aren’t made of plastic.

Wilson’s latest radically libertarian project is a PC-connected milling machine he calls the Ghost Gunner. Like any computer-numerically-controlled (or CNC) mill, the one-foot-cubed black box uses a drill bit mounted on a head that moves in three dimensions to automatically carve digitally-modeled shapes into polymer, wood or aluminum. But this CNC mill, sold by Wilson’s organization known as Defense Distributed for $1,200, is designed to create one object in particular: the component of an AR-15 rifle known as its lower receiver.

That simple chunk of metal has become the epicenter of a gun control firestorm. A lower receiver is the body of the gun that connects its stock, barrel, magazine and other parts. As such, it’s also the rifle’s most regulated element. Mill your own lower receiver at home, however, and you can order the rest of the parts from online gun shops, creating a semi-automatic weapon with no serial number, obtained with no background check, no waiting period or other regulatory hurdles. Some gun control advocates call it a “ghost gun.” Selling that untraceable gun body is illegal, but no law prevents you from making one.


Russia Reportedly Considering Capital Controls

October 1st, 2014

Bloomberg rumors. Maybe something, maybe nothing.

However, about a month ago, I suggested the following to a family member with a Russian girlfriend:

“I’d seriously consider getting her and her money out of there ASAP. You wouldn’t want her to be in Putin-Land or holding Putin-Bucks if this thing gets any worse.”

Via: Bloomberg:

Now so much money is leaving Russia that its central bank is considering temporary capital controls, according to two officials with direct knowledge of the discussions.


Meet the Prison Bankers Who Profit From the Inmates

October 1st, 2014

Even by Cryptogon standards, this one is shocking.

Via: Time:

JPay and other prison bankers collect tens of millions of dollars every year from inmates’ families in fees for basic financial services. To make payments, some forego medical care, skip utility bills and limit contact with their imprisoned relatives, the Center for Public Integrity found in a six-month investigation.

Inmates earn as little as 12 cents per hour in many places, wages that have not increased for decades. The prices they pay for goods to meet their basic needs continue to increase.

By erecting a virtual tollbooth at the prison gate, JPay has become a critical financial conduit for an opaque constellation of vendors that profit from millions of poor families with incarcerated loved ones.

JPay streamlines the flow of cash into prisons, making it easier for corrections agencies to take a cut. Prisons do so directly, by deducting fees and charges before the money hits an inmate’s account. They also allow phone and commissary vendors to charge marked-up prices, then collect a share of the profits generated by these contractors.

Taken together, the costs imposed by JPay, phone companies, prison store operators and corrections agencies make it far more difficult for poor families to escape poverty so long as they have a loved one in the system.


One Person Diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas

September 30th, 2014

Update: Initially Sent Home from Hospital

Via: Bloomberg:

A man with Ebola in Dallas was initially sent home from the hospital with antibiotics after seeking treatment for an unknown illness, officials said.

The man, whose name wasn’t released, is the first case of the deadly viral infection to be diagnosed outside of Africa. He traveled from Liberia and arrived in the U.S. on Sept. 20, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday.

The man is being kept in isolation in an intensive care unit. He had no symptoms when he left Liberia and began to show signs of the disease on Sept. 24, the CDC said. He sought care on Sept. 26, was hospitalized two days later at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and is critically ill, said CDC Director Thomas Frieden. The agency is working to identify anybody who had contact with the man and track them down, he said.

Via: Guardian:

Medical officials in the United States announced on Tuesday the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed outside Africa during the latest outbreak, which has killed more than 3,000 people this year.

The patient, who has not yet been identified, is being treated in Dallas, Texas.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said the patient left Liberia in west Africa on 19 September, but did not develop symptoms until a few days after arriving in the US. He was admitted to the Texas Health Presbyterian hospital in Dallas on Sunday.

Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC, said the patient was being treated in strict isolation, and that all measures would be taken to ensure that the disease would not spread in the US.


Cryptogon Readers Send Contributions

September 30th, 2014

Thanks to Blacklisted News for sending $25 and DS for sending $25.


One-Fifth of U.S. Workers Were Laid Off in Past Five Years

September 30th, 2014

Remember the green shoots?

Via: Los Angeles Times:

One in five U.S. workers was laid off in the past five years and about 22% of those who lost their jobs still haven’t found another one, according to a new survey that showed the extent Americans have struggled in the sluggish labor market since the Great Recession ended.

Those who did find work had a difficult time with their job search and the effects of unemployment, the survey by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University found.

Nearly 40% said it took more than seven months to find employment and about one in five of laid-off workers said all they could find was a temporary position.

Almost half — 46% — of the estimated 30 million layoff victims who found new jobs said they paid less then their old ones, according to the survey of 1,153 U.S adults done over the summer.


California Governor Vetoes Bill Limiting Drone Surveillance

September 30th, 2014

Via: CBS:

Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed a bill that would have placed strict limits on law enforcement agencies using unmanned aerial drones for surveillance.

The governor’s office announced that the bill was one of more than a dozen pieces of legislation he vetoed Sunday.

AB1327 by Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorrell of Camarillo would have required government agencies to get warrants before conducting surveillance with drones and would have required that they publicly announce their intent to buy and use them.


Los Angeles County Planning Massive Biometric Database

September 30th, 2014

Via: KPCC:

Without notice to the public, Los Angeles County law enforcement officials are preparing to widen what personal information they collect from people they encounter in the field and in jail – by building a massive database of iris scans, fingerprints, mug shots, palm prints and, potentially, voice recordings.

The new database of personal information – dubbed a multimodal biometric identification system – would augment the county’s existing database of fingerprint records and create the largest law enforcement repository outside of the FBI of so-called next-generation biometric identification, according to county sheriff’s department documents.

On Sept. 15, the FBI announced that the Next Generation Identification System was fully operational. Now that the central infrastructure is in place, the next phase is for local jurisdictions across the country to update their own information-gathering systems to the FBI’s standards.

When the system is up and running in L.A., any law enforcement official working in the county, including the Los Angeles Police Department, would collect biometric information on people who are booked into county jails or by using mobile devices in the field.

This would occur even when people are stopped for lesser offenses or pulled over for minor traffic violations, according to documents obtained by The Center for Investigative Reporting through a public records request.

Officials with the sheriff’s department, which operates the countywide system, said the biometric information would be retained indefinitely – regardless of whether the person in question is convicted of the crime for which he or she was arrested.

The system is expected to be fully operational in two or three years, according to the sheriff’s department.

All of this is happening without hearings or public input, yet technology companies already are bidding to build the system, interviews and documents show. Officials would not disclose the expected cost of the project or which companies are bidding but said it would be a multimillion-dollar undertaking.

Research Credit: winstonsmith


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