China Seals Off Town After Man Dies of Bubonic Plague

July 23rd, 2014

Via: AFP:

A Chinese town has been sealed off and 151 people placed in quarantine since last week after a man died of bubonic plague, state media said Tuesday.

The 30,000 people living in Yumen in the northwestern province of Gansu are not being allowed to leave, and police at roadblocks on its perimeter are telling motorists to find alternative routes, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) said.

Research Credit: DF


Court Strikes Down Federal Obamacare Subsidies

July 22nd, 2014

Via: NBC:

In a potentially lethal blow to Obamacare, a federal appeals court has ruled that the federal government may not subsidize health insurance plans for people in 36 states that decided not to set up their own marketplaces under the law.

The law clearly says that states are to set up the exchanges. But most states opted not to, and the federal government took over in those states. The court ruled that the federal government may not pay subsidies for insurance plans in those states.


Texas: National Guard Activation Over Border Situation

July 21st, 2014

While I agree that the use of the military to secure the border is a legitimate course of action here, the question remains: Why was this situation created in the first place?

Via: Houston Chronicle:

Gov. Rick Perry is expected to announce Monday that he will activate up to 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the Rio Grande Valley, state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, confirmed Sunday night.

Perry wants these troops to bolster the work already being done with a surge of Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, said Hinojosa’s spokesperson, Jennifer Saenz, who added that the governor gave the Rio Grande Valley delegation notice prior to the planned 2 p.m. announcement on border security.

“The senator understands that Perry wants this troop build-up but is not sure what kind of federal approval he needs for it. He just knows he wants to deploy 1,000 troops there,” Saenz said.

The announcement comes amid a wave of growing resistance to the federal government’s efforts to shelter the unprecedented 57,000 children from Central America who have crossed the border in the last nine months – double the number who made illegal border crossings last year. President Barack Obama has asked Congress to provide $3.7 billion in emergency funding to deal with the influx.


‘Back Doors’ Running on Every iOS Device

July 21st, 2014

Via: ZDnet:

Forensic scientist and author Jonathan Zdziarski has posted the slides (PDF) from his talk at the Hackers On Planet Earth (HOPE/X) conference in New York called Identifying Backdoors, Attack Points, and Surveillance Mechanisms in iOS Devices.

According to one slide the iPhone is “reasonably secure” to a typical attacker and the iPhone 5 and iOS 7 are more secure from everybody except Apple and the government. But he notes that Apple has “worked hard to ensure that it can access data on end-user devices on behalf of law enforcement” and links to Apple’s Law Enforcement Process Guidelines, which clearly spell this out.


U.S. Terrorist Database Growing at Rapid Rate

July 19th, 2014

Via: AP:

The U.S. government is rapidly expanding the number of names it accepts for inclusion on its terrorist watch list, with more than 1.5 million added in the last five years, according to numbers divulged by the government in a civil lawsuit.

About 99 percent of the names submitted are accepted, leading to criticism that the government is “wildly loose” in its use of the list.


Meet the Electric Life Forms That Live on Pure Energy

July 18th, 2014

Via: New Scientist:

Unlike any other life on Earth, these extraordinary bacteria use energy in its purest form – they eat and breathe electrons – and they are everywhere

STICK an electrode in the ground, pump electrons down it, and they will come: living cells that eat electricity. We have known bacteria to survive on a variety of energy sources, but none as weird as this. Think of Frankenstein’s monster, brought to life by galvanic energy, except these “electric bacteria” are very real and are popping up all over the place.

Unlike any other living thing on Earth, electric bacteria use energy in its purest form – naked electricity in the shape of electrons harvested from rocks and metals. We already knew about two types, Shewanella and Geobacter. Now, biologists are showing that they can entice many more out of rocks and marine mud by tempting them with a bit of electrical juice. Experiments growing bacteria on battery electrodes demonstrate that these novel, mind-boggling forms of life are essentially eating and excreting electricity.


Israel Ready to Widen Gaza Ground Offensive

July 18th, 2014

While everyone watches the situation in Ukraine…

Via: BBC:

Israel is prepared to “significantly widen” its ground offensive against militants in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said.

He said the military was targeting the Hamas tunnel network, which it could not do “only from the air”.

Thousands of troops moved into parts of Gaza on Thursday night, backed by tanks and artillery fire.


Top AIDS Researchers Killed in Malaysia Airlines Crash

July 18th, 2014

Utopia, Series 2 Episode 1, 14 July 2014, Channel4, Britain: “We have to plant a bomb on board the plane and we have to kill all of them.”

Utopia, Channel4

Utopia, Channel4

Utopia is probably the best show I’ve ever seen on TV. The first two episodes from series 2 were recently broadcast in Britain.

Most people outside of Britain won’t have ever heard of Utopia, so I’ll just write a couple of sentences about it in case you need some context. Utopia is a show about the granddaddy of all “conspiracy theories”: A forced reduction in the population of planet earth. This is accomplished by Janus, a bioweapon that sterilizes most people and is delivered as a vaccine during a bogus flu pandemic.

No, it’s not a documentary. *wink*

So I’m leaning back in my chair, enjoying the Series 2 opener, drinking some tea, eating an apple and…

I’ll just type out some dialog from Series 2 Episode 1:

Assistant: The network lab in Tel Aviv, one of the men worked out the RNA codes for Janus. He has an idea of what it does.

Milner: Has he told anyone?

Assistant: Half the lab, as many as fifty people. We’re not sure exactly who yet but we have it locked down.

Milner: Do you have a plane ready?

Assistant: TWA 841 heading to JFK. We’ve told them they’re going to be debriefed by the CIA.

Milner: We know what we have to do then. We have to bring it down. We have to plant a bomb on board the plane and we have to kill all of them.

A few days later, we read that some of the world’s top AIDS researchers were killed in the Malaysia Airlines shoot-down incident.

Obviously, this is just another coincidence, like Neo’s passport or Sandy Hook labeled “Strike Zone” In Dark Knight Rises.

People in Britain can watch Utopia on the Channel4 Website. If you’re outside of Britain, you’ll have to look into bypassing the absurd geoblocking that Channel4 uses. I’m not going to get into that here, but there are countless sites out there that can help you.

Via: Time:

About 100 people traveling to a global AIDS conference in Australia were on board the Malaysia Airlines flight that crashed and killed 298 people in eastern Ukraine, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

The researchers, health workers and activists were on their way to the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne. Among the victims planning to attend was Dutch national Joep Lange, a top AIDS researcher and former International AIDS Society president. Briton Glenn Thomas, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization and a former BBC journalist, was also on flight MH17.

The International AIDS Society expressed sadness over the news that its colleagues were on the Malaysian jetliner.

While the medical field mourns the lives of those killed, experts like Associate Professor Brian Owler, federal president of the Australian Medical Association, also fear that breakthroughs in HIV/AIDS research will now be stalled.

“The amount of knowledge that these people who died on the plane were carrying with them and the experiences they had developed will have a devastating impact on HIV research,” Owler told TIME.

“The amount of time it takes to get to a stage where you can come up with those ideas cannot be replaced in a short amount of time. So it does set back work for a cure and strategic prevention of HIV/AIDS very significantly,” he said.

Related: Utopia on BluRay


NBC News Pulls Veteran Reporter from Gaza After Witnessing Israeli Attack on Children

July 18th, 2014

Via: First Look:

Ayman Mohyeldin, the NBC News correspondent who personally witnessed yesterday’s killing by Israel of four Palestinian boys on a Gazan beach and who has received widespread praise for his brave and innovative coverage of the conflict, has been told by NBC executives to leave Gaza immediately. According to an NBC source upset at his treatment, the executives claimed the decision was motivated by “security concerns” as Israel prepares a ground invasion, a claim repeated to me by an NBC executive. But late yesterday, NBC sent another correspondent, Richard Engel, along with an American producer who has never been to Gaza and speaks no Arabic, into Gaza to cover the ongoing Israeli assault (both Mohyeldin and Engel speak Arabic).

Mohyeldin is an Egyptian-American with extensive experience reporting on that region. He has covered dozens of major Middle East events in the last decade for CNN, NBC and Al Jazeera English, where his reporting on the 2008 Israeli assault on Gaza made him a star of the network. NBC aggressively pursued him to leave Al Jazeera, paying him far more than the standard salary for its on-air correspondents.

Yesterday, Mohyeldin witnessed and then reported on the brutal killing by Israeli gunboats of four young boys as they played soccer on a beach in Gaza City. He was instrumental, both in social media and on the air, in conveying to the world the visceral horror of the attack.

Research Credit: eyelight


Cheaper Thermoelectric Material to Hit Market Later This Year

July 17th, 2014

Via: MIT Technology Review:

California-based Alphabet Energy plans to begin selling a new type of material that can turn heat into electricity. Unlike previous thermoelectrics, as such materials are known, it is abundant, cheap, and nontoxic.

Thermoelectric materials can turn a temperature difference into electricity by exploiting the flow of electrons from a warmer area to a cooler one. Thus, they can theoretically turn waste heat into a power source. But an efficient thermoelectric material has to conduct electricity well without conducting heat well, because otherwise the temperature across the material would soon equalize. Most materials that are good electrical conductors are also good thermal conductors, and the few materials researchers have been able to develop with good thermoelectric properties have been rare, expensive, or toxic. Alphabet Energy’s solution is tetrahedrite: an abundant, naturally occurring mineral that also happens to be more efficient on average than existing thermoelectric materials.

Ali Shakouri, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University, says that tetrahedrite has promise because it doesn’t require the expensive up-front manufacturing that other materials require. “I think that’s kind of quite unique in thermoelectrics,” Shakouri says. “People look at so many materials, but the starting point has always been pure materials that they synthesize together.”

The fact that it’s abundant is another big plus, says MIT professor Mildred Dresselhaus. Other materials are made from elements so rare that they wouldn’t be available for widespread use.

According to data released by Alphabet Energy, tetrahedrite costs about $4 per kilogram, whereas other thermoelectric materials cost between $24 and $146 per kilogram. For now, the company is focusing on stand-alone generators, but founder and CEO Matt Scullin says it’s currently working with car companies to see if tetrahedrite can be used to harness heat from car exhaust.

Scullin says that other thermoelectric materials have typically achieved about 2.5 percent efficiency in cars, but tetrahedrite could reach 5 to 10 percent efficiency. “These aren’t incremental improvements,” he says. “They’re really huge improvements that make really significant impact.”


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