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Comments

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Experts Say Hitching a Ride in an Airliner's Wheel Well Is Not a Good Idea

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Re:We need experts to tell us this? (2 comments)

Understatement is a form of speech or disclosure which contains an expression of less strength than what would be expected. This is not to be confused with euphemism, where a polite phrase is used in place of a harsher or more offensive expression.

Understatement is a staple of humor in English-speaking cultures, especially in British humor. For example, in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, a suburban dinner party is invaded by Death, who wears a long black cloak and carries a scythe. "Well," says one party guest, "that's cast rather a gloom over the evening, hasn't it?" In another scene, an Army officer has just lost his leg. When asked how he feels, he looks down at his bloody stump and responds, "Stings a bit."

2 days ago
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How Riot's social scientists fixed League of Legends trolling

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Interesting Insight (1 comments)

"That's a paradigm shift: trolls aren't trolls all the time, they're sometimes trolls because they're in a bad mood every now and again. Players bring frustrations and tensions from the outside world into the game and even though it might not be common behaviour in a particular player, because it happens to most people once in a while you'll likely run up against examples of it pretty often in a game as popular as League of Legends."

"Once you acknowledge that, Lin recognised, you have to change the way you mete out sentences. This realisation is why Lin believes punishing players is often not effective. "If you look at the community at large and split them into demographics based on their behaviour there is a small demographic, say one percent of players, who are persistently negative and you'll need systems in place to help those players reform or improve their behaviours, but the majority of negative experiences come from neutral and positive players having a bad day so we need systems like honour and behaviour alerts to shape their behaviour."

about two weeks ago
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Fifty Years Ago IBM 'Bet the Company' On the 360 Series Mainframe

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Re:CMU 1968-72 (169 comments)

Same here.

We had a 360/50 that occupied one entire floor of the building.

Turn in your cards then wait 12 hours to get your print out and see if it even compiled.

Basicly if you had a CS problem due in a week you had 14 chances to write your program and get all the bugs out before it was due.

about two weeks ago
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Morse code test requirement to be reinstated for Amateur Radio License

Hugh Pickens DOT Com April Fools (1 comments)

"It was a big mistake eliminating the Morse Code test," admits Dotty Dasher, the FCC's director of examinations.

about three weeks ago
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Morse code test requirement to be reinstated for Amateur Radio License

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Re:I'm a llittle puzzIed (5 comments)

Good. I hope the FCC does re-instate the Morse code requirement. My father used Morse code every day for twenty years as a telegrapher for the Rock Island Railroad and I studied it when I worked the "extra board" summers while I was going to college. It's really an excellent way to communicate when you are in a high noise environment. In any case, I'm glad I did a search on google news for Morse Code because otherwise I wouldn't have seen the story about Jeremiah Denton that I just submitted.

The POW Who Blinked 'Torture' In Morse Code

The LA Times reports on the passing of Jeremiah Denton, the US Navy pilot held by the Viet Cong, who let the world know in a TV interview that POWs were being tortured by blinking out the word "torture" in Morse code. From 1965 to 1973, Denton was held at the "Hanoi Hilton" and several other infamous Vietnamese prisons and was held in isolation for lengthy periods totaling about four years. At points, he was in a pitch-black cell, a cramped hole crawling with rats and roaches. His beatings opened wounds that festered in pools of sewage. Frustrated that Denton would not confess to alleged American war crimes or reveal even basic details of US military operations, jailers subjected him to horrific abuse. Taking command of fellow POWs he usually could not see, Denton fashioned a secret prison communication system using the sound of coughs, hacks, scratching, spitting and throat-clearing keyed to letters of the alphabet. "When you think you've reached the limit of your endurance, give them harmless and inaccurate information that you can remember, and repeat it if tortured again," he told his men. "We will die before we give them classified military information." Thinking they'd broken him, Denton's captors allowed a Japanese TV reporter to interview him on May 2, 1966. "The blinding floodlights made me blink and suddenly I realized that they were playing right into my hands," he wrote. "I looked directly into the camera and blinked my eyes once, slowly, then three more times, slowly. A dash and three more dashes. A quick blink, slow blink, quick blink ⦠." While his impromptu blinks silently told the world that prisoners were being tortured, he was unabashed in the interview, which was later broadcast around the world, in his denial of American wrongdoing. "Whatever the position of my government is, I believe in it â" yes, sir," said Denton. "I'm a member of that government and it is my job to support it, and I will as long as I live."

about three weeks ago
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Morse code test requirement to be reinstated for Amateur Radio License

Hugh Pickens DOT Com I'm a llittle puzzIed (5 comments)

Both your links are to a press release dated December 15, 2006.

Can you provide a link to a story in 2014?

When I search google news for "Morse code," I don't see anything about it recently.

about three weeks ago
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Urine Trouble: Chemists Warn that Peeing in the Pool is Dangerous

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Alternate Title (1 comments)

Chemists Say Urine Danger If You Pee in Your Pool

about three weeks ago
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Security for the 'Internet of Things' (Video)

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Dear Roblimo (106 comments)

Why are you stepping on a story with another one 17 minutes later?

Best Regards,

Hugh Pickens

about a month ago
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Malaysia Jet Made Radical Course Change at Time of Disappearance

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Re:Misleading title (2 comments)

Better Title: Malaysian Military Says Missing Jet Made Radical Course Change at Time of Disappearance

From NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03...

Malaysia Jet Changed Course at Time of Disappearance, Officials Say

"The Malaysian authorities now believe that a jetliner missing since Saturday may have radically changed course around the time that it stopped communicating with ground controllers. But there were conflicting accounts of the course change and what may have happened afterward, adding to the air of confusion and disarray surrounding the investigation and search operation."

From The Malaysian: http://www.themalaysianinsider...

Malaysian military now reveals it tracked MH370 to Malacca strait

In a strange twist, Malaysia's military believes it tracked the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 by radar over the Strait of Malacca, far from where it last made contact with civilian air traffic control over the Gulf of Thailand.

A military source confirmed with Reuters that the Boeing 777-200ER with 239 on board changed course and made it to the other side of the Malay peninsula.

"It changed course after Kota Baru and took a lower altitude. It made it into the Malacca Straits," the military official, who has been briefed on investigations, told Reuters.

From Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article...

Malaysia military tracked missing plane to west coast: source

(Reuters) - Malaysia's military believes a jetliner missing for almost four days turned and flew hundreds of kilometers to the west after it last made contact with civilian air traffic control off the country's east coast, a senior officer told Reuters on Tuesday.

In one of the most baffling mysteries in recent aviation history, a massive search operation for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER has so far found no trace of the aircraft or the 239 passengers and crew.

Malaysian authorities have previously said flight MH370 disappeared about an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur for the Chinese capital Beijing.

about a month and a half ago
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WSJ: Americans' Phone Bills Are Going Up

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Re:Ting (273 comments)

Ting is great.

I bought an iphone 4s from sprint and activated it on Ting and my monthly bill is about $10.

about a month and a half ago
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Meat Makes Our Planet Thirsty

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Mames McWilliams?? (2 comments)

Sorry, it should be James McWilliams.

about a month and a half ago
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How much time do you spend gaming compared to 10 years ago?

Hugh Pickens DOT Com About the same (270 comments)

None.

about 2 months ago
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Psychologists: Internet Trolls Are Narcissistic, Psychopathic, and Sadistic

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Re:Survey results != Real world (293 comments)

Good point. There is a second part of the study that addresses this issue is to some extent.

A limitation of Study 1 is that we asked participants to select their favorite activity from a list of options. This necessitated a categorical index of trolling that likely underestimated the effects. Hence in Study 2, we assessed enjoyment of each commenting activity (including trolling) on separate continuous scales. To rule out the possibility that overall Internet use explains relations with trolling, we also included a question about total time spent on line for use as a control variable. Finally, to triangulate on trolling with multiple measures, we constructed a second brief index:the Global Assessment of Internet Trolling (GAIT) scale, which assessed trolling behavior, identiïcation, and enjoyment. As in Study 1, measures of the Big Five were included for comparison. Study 2 also featured data from a larger and more diverse sample, furnishing us with enough statistical power to test hypotheses about the unique contributions of the Dark Tetrad. For reasons articulated earlier,we expected sadism to dominate personality effects on trolling. Thus we predicted that the relations between sadism and trolling would remain signiïcant even when controlling for overlap with psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism.

about 2 months ago
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25% of Charter Schools Owe Their Soul To the Walmart Store

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Crystal Bridges (233 comments)

That's not all Alice has done. My wife and I recently spent a few days at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, a world class museum in Bentonville, Arkansas created by Alice Walton, and had an incredible experience. "Located on 120 acres of native Ozark forest, Crystal Bridges' grounds invite visitors to enjoy the natural environment as a continuation of their museum experience. The Museum's distinctive architecture immerses visitors in the landscape, while three miles of nature trails encourage exploration and reflection." And admission is free.

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Why Can't Slashdot Classic and Slashdot Beta Continue to Co-Exist?

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Insight into Dice's Thought Process (9 comments)

Here's some excerpts and a question and answer from Dice's Chief Executive Officer, President and Director Michael P. Durney at the 4th quarter earnings report for Dice on February 4, 2014:

Michael P. Durney - Chief Executive Officer, President and Director of Dice Holdings:

We took a pretax noncash impairment charge of $15 million to write down the goodwill at Slashdot Media and Health Callings, as well as intangible assets at Slashdot. Based on our projection of expected cash flows, which is in part based on no anticipated improvement at Slashdot Media and on Health Callings being combined into HEALTHeCAREERS, we determined that we needed to record the charge.

Michael P. Durney - Chief Executive Officer, President and Director of Dice Holdings:

In addition to the 2 specific areas of focus for us in 2014, we have 3 key strategic priorities. One, leverage the power of data and analytics to maximize value of the targeted nature of our brands; two, build robust mobile applications and mobile-enabled sites to deliver our services anywhere; and three, continue building a culture of high performance within the company to leverage innovation across all of our sites.

Financial Analyst Stephen Sheldon:

It looks like you took a charge for the Slashdot assets this quarter. So I was curious to get your commentary on how we should think about that business on an ongoing basis?

Michael P. Durney - Chief Executive Officer, President and Director of Dice Holdings:

Yes, it's a good question. So if you go back to why we bought it, originally, we bought Slashdot Media for 3 reasons. First and foremost, it was to get access to the users of Slashdot and SourceForge in order to promote engagement in our tech business. And that has happened. There's still more to do and we want more engagement, a more direct engagement, and we'll work on that in 2014. But strategically, that is the primary reason we bought it, and that has happened to some extent.

The second reason we bought it was we thought internationally we could grow that business, and that hasn't happened.

And the third reason is we like the tech advertising business when we bought it, and that business has fallen off generally and, certainly, specifically for us. So if we look at it from a purely financial standpoint, the expected cash flows in the business don't support the carrying value that we had, and we took a write-down for that. Strategically, though, we're still continuing to work on that integration with Dice and promoting that user engagement between the 2, and that hasn't changed.

The conclusion is that Dice isn't writing off Slashdot. Slashdot will continue to exist. Although Slashdot hasn't given Dice the return in advertising that it had anticipated, Slashdot has promoted Dice's engagement with their tech business which was their primary reason for buying it. However one of Dice's strategic thrusts is to "build robust mobile applications and mobile-enabled sites" and that is why they are pushing slashdot beta. What Dice doesn't seem to understand clearly is that by pushing the beta to the exclusion of slashdot classic they run the risk of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

about 3 months ago
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Building Deception Into Encryption Software

Hugh Pickens DOT Com "Honey Encryption" (106 comments)

"Honey Encryption" to Bamboozle Attackers with Fake Secrets

Tom Simonite writes at MIT Technology Review that security researcher Ari Juels says that trickery is the missing component from the cryptography protecting sensitive data and proposes a new encryption system with a devious streak. It gives encrypted data an additional layer of protection by serving up fake data in response to every incorrect guess of the password or encryption key. If the attacker does eventually guess correctly, the real data should be lost amongst the crowd of spoof data. The new approach could be valuable given how frequently large encrypted stashes of sensitive data fall into the hands of criminals. Some 150 million usernames and passwords were taken from Adobe servers in October 2013, for example. If an attacker uses software to make 10,000 attempts to decrypt a credit card number, for example, they would get back 10,000 different fake credit card numbers. "Each decryption is going to look plausible," says Juels. "The attacker has no way to distinguish a priori which is correct." Juels previously worked with Ron Rivest, the "R" in RSA, to develop a system called Honey Words to protect password databases by also stuffing them with false passwords. Juels says that by now enough password dumps have leaked online to make it possible to create fakes that accurately mimic collections of real passwords and is currently working on creating the fake password vault generator needed for Honey Encryption to be used to protect password managers. This generator will draw on data from a small collection of leaked password manager vaults, several large collections of leaked passwords, and a model of real-world password use built into a powerful password cracker. "Honeywords and honey-encryption represent some of the first steps toward the principled use of decoys, a time-honored and increasingly important defense in a world of frequent, sophisticated, and damaging security breaches."

about 3 months ago

Submissions

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A Best Selling 700 Page Tome on Economics is Freaking Out the Super-Wealthy

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  about an hour ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Rana Foroohar reports at Time Magazine that there are many reasons why French academic Thomas Piketty’s 685-page tome, “Capital in the 21st Century,” has vaulted to the top of the Amazon.com best seller list and is being discussed by middle class Americans who wonder why they haven’t gotten a raise in year. The main reason for the book's popularity is that it proves what we’ve all suspected for some time — that the rich ARE getting richer compared to everyone else, and their wealth isn’t trickling down. Digging through 300 years of economic data, tax records, 19th-century novels, and modern TV shows, Piketty argues that as economic growth slows in a country, the income generated by wealth balloons compared with income generated by work, and inequality skyrockets. This is because the return on wealth, such as a stock portfolio or real estate or even a factory, usually averages about 5 percent. If growth rates fall below that mark, the rich get richer. "When inequality gets to an extreme, it is completely useless for growth. You had extreme inequality in the 19th century, and growth was not particularly large," says Piketty. "Because the growth rate of productivity was 1 to 1.5 percent per year (in 19th-century Europe), and it was much less than the rate of return to wealth, which on average was 4 to 5 percent, the consequence was huge inequality of wealth. It’s important to realize that innovation and growth in itself are not sufficient to moderate inequality of wealth."

Piketty says that the post-World War II period when growing national prosperity benefited everyone was an aberration. "It was really a transitory period due to very exceptional circumstances. Growth was extremely high, partly because of postwar reconstruction," say Piketty. "The other reason I think we should not be nostalgic is that part of the reason the inequalities were lower in the ’50s and ’60s is that the wars destroyed some of the inherited capital that were the sources of earlier inequality.""
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iPad Fever is Officially Cooling

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  13 hours ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Christina Bonnington reports that the public is not gobbling up iPads like they used to. Analysts had projected iPad sales would reach 19.7 million but Apple sold 16.35 million iPads, a drop of roughly 16.4 percent since last year. "For many, the iPad they have is good enough–unlike a phone, with significant new features like Touch ID, or a better camera, the iPad’s improvements over the past few years have been more subtle," writes Bonnington. "The latest iterations feature a better Retina display, a slimmer design, and faster processing. Improvements, yes, but enough to justify a near thousand dollar purchase? Others seem to be finding that their smartphone can do the job that their tablet used to do just as well, especially on those larger screened phablets."

While the continued success of the iPad may be up in the air, another formerly popular member of Apple’s product line is definitely on its way to the grave. The iPod, once Apple’s crown jewel, posted a sales drop of 51 percent since last year. Only 2.76 million units were sold, a far cry from its heyday of almost 23 million back in 2008. "Apple's past growth has been driven mostly by entering entirely new product categories, like it did when it introduced the iPod in 2001, the iPhone in 2007, and the iPad in 2010," says Andrew Cunningham. "The most persistent rumors involve TV (whether a new Apple TV set-top box or an entire television set) and wearable computing devices (the perennially imminent "iWatch"), but calls for larger and cheaper iPhones also continue.""
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The Science of Shakespeare

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  yesterday

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Dan Falk writes in Scientific American that in the last few years, scholars have begun to look more closely at William Shakespeare’s interest in the scientific discoveries of his time—asking what he knew, when he knew it, and how that knowledge might be reflected in his work. Astronomer Peter Usher argues that examples of the playwright’s scientific knowledge can be found in works spanning his entire career and has taken a particular interest in Hamlet, which he sees as an allegory about competing cosmological worldviews. "According to Usher, the play references not only Copernicus, but also Ptolemy, as well as Tycho Brahe (PDF), who pushed for a hybrid model of the solar system (a compromise that preserved elements of the ancient Ptolemaic system as well as the new Copernican model). Digges, too, is central to Usher’s theory. When Hamlet envisions himself as “a king of infinite space," could he be alluding to the new, infinite universe described—for the first time—by his countryman Thomas Digges?" Usher’s proposal may sound far-fetched—but even skeptics do a double take when they look at Tycho Brahe’s coat of arms, noticing that two of Tycho’s relatives were named “Rosencrans” and “Guildensteren.”

According to Falk, Shakespeare’s characters were connected to the cosmos in a way that seems quite foreign to the modern reader. Whether crying for joy or shedding tears of anguish, they look to the heavens for confirmation, calling out to “Jupiter” or “the gods” or “the heavens” as they struggle to make sense of their lives. "[Shakespeare] lived in an age of belief, yet a streak of skepticism runs through his work, especially toward the end of his career; in King Lear it reaches an almost euphoric nihilism. His characters often call upon the gods to help them, but their desperate pleas are rarely answered. Was Shakespeare a closet atheist, like his colleague Christopher Marlowe?"
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Supreme Court Upholds Michigan's Ban On Affirmative Action in College Admissions

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  2 days ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "CNN reports that the Supreme Court by a vote of 6 — 2 has upheld a Michigan law banning the use of racial criteria in college admissions, finding that a lower court did not have the authority to set aside the measure approved in a 2006 referendum supported by 58% of voters. "This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved. It is about who may resolve it," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy. "Michigan voters used the initiative system to bypass public officials who were deemed not responsive to the concerns of a majority of the voters with respect to a policy of granting race-based preferences that raises difficult and delicate issues." Kennedy’s core opinion in the Michigan case seems to exalt referenda as a kind of direct democracy that the courts should be particularly reluctant to disturb. This might be a problem for same-sex marriage opponents if a future Supreme Court challenge involves a state law or constitutional amendment enacted by voters. Justice Sonia Sotomayor reacted sharply in disagreeing with the decision in a 58 page dissent. "For members of historically marginalized groups, which rely on the federal courts to protect their constitutional rights, the decision can hardly bolster hope for a vision of democracy (PDF) that preserves for all the right to participate meaningfully and equally in self-government."

The decision was the latest step in a legal and political battle over whether state colleges can use race and gender as a factor in choosing what students to admit. Michigan has said minority enrollment at its flagship university, the University of Michigan, has not gone down since the measure was passed. Civil rights groups dispute those figures and say other states have seen fewer African-American and Hispanic students attending highly competitive schools, especially in graduate level fields like law, medicine, and science. “Today’s decision turns back our nation’s commitment to racial equality and equal treatment under the law by sanctioning separate and unequal political processes that put undue burdens on students,” National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel said in a statement. “The Supreme Court has made it harder to advocate and, ultimately, achieve equal educational opportunity.""
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Experts Say Hitching a Ride in an Airliner's Wheel Well Is Not a Good Idea

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  2 days ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Hasani Gittens reports that as miraculous as it was that a 16-year-old California boy was able to hitch a ride from San Jose to Hawaii and survive, it isn't the first time a wheel-well stowaway has lived to tell about it. The FAA says that since 1947 there have been 105 people who have tried to surreptitiously travel in plane landing gear world-wide on 94 flights — with a survival rate of about 25 percent. But agency adds that the actual numbers are probably higher, as some survivors may have escaped unnoticed, and bodies could fall into the ocean undetected. Except for the occasional happy ending, hiding in the landing gear of a aircraft as it soars miles above the Earth is generally a losing proposition. According to an FAA/Wright State University study titled “Survival at High Altitudes: Wheel-Well Passengers,” at 20,000 feet the temperature experienced by a stowaway would be -13 F, at 30,000 it would be -45 in the wheel well — and at 40,000 feet, the mercury plunges to a deadly -85 F (PDF). "You’re dealing with an incredibly harsh environment,” says aviation and security expert Anthony Roman. “Temperatures can reach -50 F, and oxygen levels there are barely sustainable for life.” Even if a strong-bodied individual is lucky enough to stand the cold and the lack of oxygen, there’s still the issue of falling out of the plane. “It’s almost impossible not to get thrown out when the gear opens,” says Roman.

So how do the lucky one-in-four survive? The answer, surprisingly, is that a few factors of human physiology are at play: As the aircraft climbs, the body enters a state of hypoxia—that is, it lacks oxygen—and the person passes out. At the same time, the frigid temperatures cause a state of hypothermia, which preserves the nervous system. “It’s similar to a young kid who falls to the bottom of an icy lake,” says Roman. "and two hours later he survives, because he was so cold.""
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Sherpas Contemplate Strike after Everest Disaster

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  2 days ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Three days have passed since an avalanche killed at least 13 Sherpas as they carried gear for international expedition groups in the worst single-day death toll in the mountain’s history. Now the NYT reports that disappointed at the Nepali government’s offer of 40,000 rupees, or about $408, as compensation for the families of the dead, some Sherpas gathered at Everest’s base camp proposed a “work stoppage” that could disrupt or cancel the 334 expeditions planned for the 2014 climbing season and more than 300 Sherpas have signed a petition to the Nepalese government saying that Everest summit attempts should be suspended this year out of respect for the dead. They also asked the government — which takes in $3.3 million a year in Everest climbing fees alone — to increase work death benefits to $10,000 from the current $400, cover medical costs for injuries sustained while climbing and provide disability benefits. “Sherpas are the backbone of Mount Everest expeditions, but the government neglects them,” says Mingma Sherpa, a mountaineering entrepreneur.

The tension promises to heighten when groups of Sherpas plan to carry the bodies of their dead colleagues through the streets of Katmandu, Nepal’s capital. Members of the ethnic group are the backbone of the Himalayan adventure-tourism industry, where they work as guides, porters and climbers. Many of the international commercial teams still at the base camp are weighing whether to continue their push to the summit or abandon their expeditions. Everest is attracting more climbers each year, most of them members of groups that pay professional Western guides to lead them up the mountain. Clients prepare for months or years, often investing tens of thousands of dollars, and some experts said they would be unlikely to turn around. “I don’t think this is going to slow down the machine, which will escalate through May,” said David Roberts, a climber and the author of several books about climbing. “Even though it is the greatest tragedy in the history of Everest, right now at base camp they are saying, ‘This is a tragedy, but we have paid all this money to get here.’ ”"
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Oklahoma Moves To Discourage Solar and Wind Power

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  3 days ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Paul Monies reports at NewsOK that Oklahoma's legislature has passed a bill that allows regulated utilities to apply to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to charge a higher base rate to customers who generate solar and wind energy and send their excess power back into the grid reversing a 1977 law that forbade utilities to charge extra to solar users. "Renewable energy fed back into the grid is ultimately doing utility companies a service," says John Aziz. "Solar generates in the daytime, when demand for electricity is highest, thereby alleviating pressure during peak demand."

The state’s major electric utilities backed the bill but couldn’t provide figures on how much customers already using distributed generation are getting subsidized by other customers. Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma have about 1.3 million electric customers in the state. They have about 500 customers using distributed generation. Kathleen O’Shea, OG&E spokeswoman, said few distributed generation customers want to sever their ties to the grid. “If there’s something wrong with their panel or it’s really cloudy, they need our electricity, and it’s going to be there for them,” O’Shea said. “We just want to make sure they’re paying their fair amount of that maintenance cost.” The prospect of widespread adoption of rooftop solar worries many utilities. A report last year by the industry’s research group, the Edison Electric Institute, warns of the risks posed by rooftop solar (PDF). “When customers have the opportunity to reduce their use of a product or find another provider of such service, utility earnings growth is threatened,” the report said. “As this threat to growth becomes more evident, investors will become less attracted to investments in the utility sector.”"
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In a Hole, Golf Courses Experiment With 15-inch Holes

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  3 days ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "According to the National Golf Foundation, golf has lost five million players in the last decade with 20 percent of the existing 25 million golfers apt to quit in the next few years. Now Bill Pennington writes that golf courses across the country are experimenting with 15 inch golf holes the size of pizzas to stop people from quitting the game. “We’ve got to stop scaring people away from golf by telling them that there is only one way to play the game and it includes these specific guidelines,” says Ted Bishop, president of the PGA of America. “We’ve got to offer more forms of golf for people to try. We have to do something to get them into the fold, and then maybe they’ll have this idea it’s supposed to be fun.” A 15-inch-hole event was held at the Reynolds Plantation resort last week featuring top professional golfers Sergio García and Justin Rose, the defending United States Open champion. “A 15-inch hole could help junior golfers, beginning golfers and older golfers score better, play faster and like golf more,” says García, who shot a six-under-par 30 for nine holes in the exhibition. Another alternative is foot golf, in which players kick a soccer ball from the tee to an oversize hole, counting their kicks. Still it is no surprise that not everyone agrees with the burgeoning alternative movement to make golf more user-friendly. “I don’t want to rig the game and cheapen it,” says Curtis Strange, a two-time United States Open champion and an analyst for ESPN. “I don’t like any of that stuff. And it’s not going to happen either. It’s all talk.”"
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Obama Delays Decision on Keystone Pipeline Yet Again

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  4 days ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "The Christian Science Monitor reports that once again, the Obama administration has pushed back a final decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline possibly delaying the final determination until after the November midterm elections. In announcing the delay, the State Department cited a Nebraska Supreme Court case that could affect the route of the pipeline that may not be decided until next year, as well as additional time needed to review 2.5 million public comments on the project. Both supporters and opponents of the pipeline criticized the delay as a political ploy. Democratic incumbents from oil-rich states have urged President Obama to approve the pipeline but approving the pipeline before the election could staunch the flow of money from liberal donors and fund-raisers who oppose the project. The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell said in a statement that “at a time of high unemployment in the Obama economy, it’s a shame that the administration has delayed the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline for years.” Activists say its construction could devastate the environment, but several State Department reviews have concluded that the pipeline would be safe and was unlikely to significantly increase the rate of carbon pollution in the atmosphere. Even if the pipeline was canceled, it said, the oil sands crude was likely to be extracted and brought to market by other means, such as rail, and then processed and burned."
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The Design Flaw That Almost Wiped Out an NYC Skyscraper

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  5 days ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Joel Werner writes in Slate that when Citicorp Center was built in 1977 it was, at 59 stories, the seventh-tallest building in the world but no one figured out until after it was built that although the chief structural engineer, William LeMessurier, had properly accounted for perpendicular winds, the building was particularly vulnerable to quartering winds — in part due to cost-saving changes made to the original plan by the contractor. "According to LeMessurier, in 1978 an undergraduate architecture student contacted him with a bold claim about LeMessurier’s building: that Citicorp Center could blow over in the wind," writes Werner. "LeMessurier realized that a major storm could cause a blackout and render the tuned mass damper inoperable. Without the tuned mass damper, LeMessurier calculated that a storm powerful enough to take out the building hit New York every 16 years." In other words, for every year Citicorp Center was standing, there was about a 1-in-16 chance that it would collapse.

LeMessurier and his team worked with Citicorp to coordinate emergency repairs. With the help of the NYPD, they worked out an evacuation plan spanning a 10-block radius. They had 2,500 Red Cross volunteers on standby, and three different weather services employed 24/7 to keep an eye on potential windstorms. Work began immediately, and continued around the clock for three months. Welders worked all night and quit at daybreak, just as the building occupants returned to work. But all of this happened in secret, even as Hurricane Ella, the strongest hurricane on record in Canadian waters, was racing up the eastern seaboard. The hurricane became stationary for about 24 hours, and later turned to the northeast away from the coast. Hurricane Ella never made landfall. And so the public—including the building’s occupants—were never notified.

Until his death in 2007, LeMessurier talked about the summer of 1978 to his classes at Harvard. The tale, as he told it, is by turns painful, self-deprecating, and self-dramatizing--an engineer who did the right thing. But it also speaks to the larger question of how professional people should behave. "You have a social obligation," LeMessurier reminded his students. "In return for getting a license and being regarded with respect, you're supposed to be self-sacrificing and look beyond the interests of yourself and your client to society as a whole.""
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The Science of the Crucifixion

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  5 days ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Each year, Cahleen Shrier, associate professor in the Department of Biology and Chemistry at Azusa Pacific University, presents a special lecture on the science of Jesus' crucifixion detailing the physiological processes a typical crucified victim underwent based on historical documentation of crucifixion procedures used during that time period. According to Dr. Chuck Dietzen, the Romans favored it over hanging because it was a slow death — taking as long as two days — making it quite effective for quelling dissent. "It is important to understand from the beginning that Jesus would have been in excellent physical condition," says Shrier. "As a carpenter by trade, He participated in physical labor. In addition, He spent much of His ministry traveling on foot across the countryside."

Evidence suggests that Jesus dreaded his fate. The New Testament tells of how he sweated blood the night before in the garden of Gethsemane. A rare medical condition known as hematohidrosis may explain this phenomenon, Dietzen says. In this condition, extreme stress causes the blood vessels around the sweat gland to rupture into the sweat ducts. While few of these cases exist in the medical literature, many of those that do involve people facing execution.

Crucifixion was invented by the Persians in 300-400 BC. It was developed, during Roman times, into a punishment for the most serious of criminals and is quite possibly the most painful death ever invented by humankind. The Romans would tie or nail the accused to the cross being sure to avoid the blood vessels. While many people envision the nail going into a person's palm, it was placed closer to the wrist. The feet were nailed to the upright part of the crucifix, so that the knees were bent at around 45 degrees. "Once the legs gave out, the weight would be transferred to the arms, gradually dragging the shoulders from their sockets. The elbows and wrists would follow a few minutes later; by now, the arms would be six or seven inches longer," says Alok Jha. "The victim would have no choice but to bear his weight on his chest. He would immediately have trouble breathing as the weight caused the rib cage to lift up and force him into an almost perpetual state of inhalation." Suffocation would usually follow, but the relief of death could also arrive in other ways. "The resultant lack of oxygen in the blood would cause damage to tissues and blood vessels, allowing fluid to diffuse out of the blood into tissues, including the lungs and the sac around the heart," says Jeremy Ward.

Eventually the person being crucified would go into shock and die after organs failed. Medical science can also explain why blood and water spurted out of Jesus's body when a Roman stabbed him with a spear. That was likely a pleural effusion, in which clear lung fluid came out of his body as well as blood. Shrier says Jesus' stamina and strength were, most likely, very well developed so if the torture of the crucifixion could break a man in such good shape, it must have been a horrific experience. "I am struck every time with the stunning realization that as a flesh and blood human, Jesus felt every ounce of this execution," concludes Shrier. "What greater love than this can a man have for his friends?""
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New Facebook Phone App Lets You Stalk Your Friends

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  about a week ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Iain Thomson reports that Facebook is adding a new application called "Nearby Friends" that alerts smartphone users when their friends are nearby. "If you turn on Nearby Friends, you'll occasionally be notified when friends are nearby, so you can get in touch with them and meet up," says Facebook in a statement. "For example, when you're headed to the movies, Nearby Friends will let you know if friends are nearby so you can see the movie together or meet up afterward." The feature, which is opt-in, allows users to select which friends get a warning that you are in the area, and prepare a subset of people who might like to know when you're near, if they have the Nearby Friends activated as well. According to Josh Constine what makes "Nearby Friends" different than competitors and could give it an advantage is that it’s centered around broadcasting proximity, not location. " If someone’s close, you’ll know, and can ping them about their precise location and meeting up. Broadcasting location is creepy so we’re less likely to share it, and can cause awkward drop-ins where someone tries to come see you when you didn’t want them to.""
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Americans Wary of Some Futuristic Technology

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  about a week ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Doug Gross reports at CNN that Americans are generally excited about the new technology they expect to see in their lifetimes but when confronted with some advances that already appear possible — from skies filled with drones to meat made in a lab — they get nervous. Overall, respondents to a survey by the Pew Research Center were upbeat about how technology will shape the near future. In the report, 59% of Americans think tech developments will make life in the next half-century better, while only 30% said they will make life worse. More than eight out of 10 respondents (81%) said they think that in the next 50 years, people who need transplants will be able to get them with organs grown in labs. More than half (51%) think computers will be able to create art as skillfully as humans do. But Americans are a little less optimistic about some science-fiction staples. Only 39% think it's likely scientists will have figured out how to teleport things (or, presumably, people), 33% say we'll have long-term space colonies by 2064 and a mere 19% expect humans will be able to control the weather.

But some of the advances that may be closest to becoming reality are the ones survey respondents were most worried about (PDF). Nearly two out of three Americans think it would make things worse if U.S. airspace is opened up to personal drones. A similar number dislike the idea of robots being used to care for the sick and elderly, and of parents being able to alter the DNA of their unborn children. Only 37% of respondents think it will be good if wearable devices or implants allow us to be digitally connected all the time. People were split almost evenly (48%-50%) on whether they would ride in a driverless car. But only 26% said they'd get a brain implant to improve their memory or intelligence, and a mere 20% said they'd try eating meat made in a lab. Some 9% said they'd like to be able to time travel. A similar number said they'd like something that would keep them healthy or extend their lives, 6% said they wanted a flying car (or bike), 3% said they'd take a teleportation device and a mere 1% said they want their own jetpack.

Asked to describe in their own words the futuristic inventions they themselves would like to own, the public offered three common themes: 1) travel improvements like flying cars and bikes, or even personal space crafts; 2) time travel; and 3) health improvements that extend human longevity or cure major diseases. "In the long run, Americans are optimistic about the impact that scientific developments will have on their lives and the lives of their children — but they definitely expect to encounter some bumps along the way," says Aaron Smith, a senior researcher at Pew and the author of the report. "They are especially concerned about developments that have the potential to upend long-standing social norms around things like personal privacy, surveillance, and the nature of social relationships.""
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Switching from Sitting to Standing at Your Desk

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  about a week ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Chris Bowlby reports at BBC that medical research has been building up for a while now, suggesting constant sitting is harming our health — potentially causing cardiovascular problems or vulnerability to diabetes. Advocates of sit-stand desks say more standing would benefit not only health, but also workers' energy and creativity. Some big organizations and companies are beginning to look seriously at reducing “prolonged sitting” among office workers. "It's becoming more well known that long periods of sedentary behavior has an adverse effect on health," says GE engineer Jonathan McGregor, "so we're looking at bringing in standing desks." The whole concept of sitting as the norm in workplaces is a recent innovation, points out Jeremy Myerson, professor of design at the Royal College of Art. "If you look at the late 19th Century," he says, Victorian clerks could stand at their desks and "moved around a lot more". "It's possible to look back at the industrial office of the past 100 years or so as some kind of weird aberration in a 1,000-year continuum of work where we've always moved around." What changed things in the 20th Century was "Taylorism" — time and motion studies applied to office work. "It's much easier to supervise and control people when they're sitting down," says Myerson. What might finally change things is if the evidence becomes overwhelming, the health costs rise, and stopping employees from sitting too much becomes part of an employer's legal duty of care "If what we are creating are environments where people are not going to be terribly healthy and are suffering from diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes," says Prof Alexi Marmot, a specialist on workplace design, "it's highly unlikely the organization benefits in any way.""
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Apple Wants Evidence That Steve Jobs Was A 'Bully' Excluded From Trial

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  about a week ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Dan Levine reports at Reuters that four major tech companies are arguing in a court filing that witnesses at an upcoming trial over no-hire agreements in Silicon Valley should not be allowed to offer evidence that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was "a bully." "Plaintiffs' only purpose for offering this testimony would be improper — to cast Mr. Jobs in a bad light," the companies said in the filing, adding that such evidence has no bearing on whether any defendant entered into an illegal conspiracy. "Free-floating character assassination is improper." Tech workers filed a class action lawsuit against Apple Inc, Google Inc, Intel Inc and Adobe Systems Inc in 2011, alleging they conspired to avoid competing for each other's employees in order to avert a salary war. Tens of thousands of workers stand to benefit if they win the case, which could yield over $9bn in damages. In a joint court filing late last week, the companies told U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California that they were not seeking to bar Jobs' interactions with other witnesses about the no-hire agreements. However, opinions based on other evidence should be barred. All four companies previously settled with the US Department of Justice in 2010 after a DoJ investigation, agreeing not to enter into any future no-hire pacts, but because they settled the case, they argue that any evidence from the DoJ probe should be inadmissible as well. "To admit evidence of the DoJ investigation for any purpose would be unduly prejudicial because the jury might incorrectly assume Defendants have admitted to or been found guilty of antitrust violations.""
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Chinese Pollution Could Be Driving Freak Weather in US

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  about a week ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Jonathan Kaiman reports at The Guardian that China's air pollution could be intensifying storms over the Pacific Ocean and altering weather patterns in North America leading to more intense cyclones, increased precipitation and more warm air in the mid-Pacific moving towards the north pole. "Mid-latitude storms develop off Asia and they track across the Pacific, coming in to the west coast of the US," says Ellie Highwood, a climate physicist at the University of Reading. "The particles in this model are affecting how strong those storms are, how dense the clouds are, and how much rainfall comes out of those storms." Fossil fuel burning and petrochemical processing in Asia's rapidly developing economies lead to a build-up of aerosols, fine particles suspended in the air. Typically, aerosol formation is thought of as the antithesis to global warming: it cools our Earth's climate. But researchers say, too much of any one thing is never good. "Aerosols provide seeds for cloud formation. If you provide too many seeds, then you fundamentally change cloud patterns and storm patterns," says co-author Renyi Zhang. China's top leaders are aware of the extent of the problem and Beijing will soon revise an important piece of legislation and give environmental protection authorities the power to shut polluting factories, punish officials and restrict industrial development in some areas. The changes to the China's environmental protection law, the first since 1989, will legally enshrine oft-repeated government promises to prioritise environmental protection over economic growth. "The provisions on transparency are probably the most positive step forward," says Alex Wang, expert in Chinese environmental law at UCLA. "These include the requirement that key polluters disclose real-time pollution data.""
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Snowden Used the Operating System Designed for Internet Anonymity

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  about two weeks ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "When Edward Snowden first emailed Glenn Greenwald, he insisted on using email encryption software called PGP for all communications. Now Klint Finley reports that Snowden also used The Amnesic Incognito Live System (Tails) to keep his communications out of the NSA’s prying eyes. Tails is a kind of computer-in-a-box using a version of the Linux operating system optimized for anonymity that you install on a DVD or USB drive, boot your computer from and you’re pretty close to anonymous on the internet. "Snowden, Greenwald and their collaborator, documentary film maker Laura Poitras, used it because, by design, Tails doesn’t store any data locally," writes Finley. "This makes it virtually immune to malicious software, and prevents someone from performing effective forensics on the computer after the fact. That protects both the journalists, and often more importantly, their sources." The developers of Tails are, appropriately, anonymous. They’re protecting their identities, in part, to help protect the code from government interference. “The NSA has been pressuring free software projects and developers in various ways,” the group says. But since we don’t know who wrote Tails, how do we now it isn’t some government plot designed to snare activists or criminals? A couple of ways, actually. One of the Snowden leaks show the NSA complaining about Tails in a Power Point Slide; if it’s bad for the NSA, it’s safe to say it’s good for privacy. And all of the Tails code is open source, so it can be inspected by anyone worried about foul play. "With Tails", say the distro developers, "we provide a tongue and a pen protected by state-of-the-art cryptography to guarantee basic human rights and allow journalists worldwide to work and communicate freely and without fear of reprisal.""
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Humans Are Taking Jobs From Robots in Japan

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  about two weeks ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Bloomberg reports that humans are taking the place of machines in plants across Japan so workers can develop new skills and figure out ways to improve production lines and the car-building process. “We need to become more solid and get back to basics, to sharpen our manual skills and further develop them,” says Mitsuru Kawai, a half century-long company veteran tapped by President Akio Toyoda to promote craftsmanship at Toyota’s plants. “When I was a novice, experienced masters used to be called gods (Kami-sama in Japanese), and they could make anything.”

According to Kawai, learning how to make car parts from scratch gives younger workers insights they otherwise wouldn’t get from picking parts from bins and conveyor belts, or pressing buttons on machines. At about 100 manual-intensive workspaces introduced over the last three years across Toyota’s factories in Japan, these lessons can then be applied to reprogram machines to cut down on waste and improve processes. In an area Kawai directly supervises at the forging division of Toyota’s Honsha plant, workers twist, turn and hammer metal into crankshafts instead of using the typically automated process. Experiences there have led to innovations in reducing levels of scrap and shortening the production line and Kawai also credits manual labor for helping workers improve production of axle beams and cut the costs of making chassis parts. “We cannot simply depend on the machines that only repeat the same task over and over again,” says Kawai. “To be the master of the machine, you have to have the knowledge and the skills to teach the machine.”"
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IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay A Relative's Debt

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  about two weeks ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Just in time for the April 15 IRS filing deadline comes news from the Washington Post that hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who are expecting refunds are instead getting letters informing them that because of a debt they never knew about — often a debt incurred by their parents — the government has confiscated their check — sometimes on debts 20 or 30 years old. For example, when Mary Grice was 4, back in 1960, her father died, leaving her mother with five children to raise. Until the kids turned 18, Sadie Grice got survivor benefits from Social Security to help feed and clothe them. Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family — it’s not sure who — in 1977. After 37 years of silence, four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. “It was a shock,” says Grice, 58. “What incenses me is the way they went about this. They gave me no notice, they can’t prove that I received any overpayment, and they use intimidation tactics, threatening to report this to the credit bureaus.”

The Treasury Department has intercepted $1.9 billion in tax refunds already this year — $75 million of that on debts delinquent for more than 10 years, says Jeffrey Schramek, assistant commissioner of the department’s debt management service. The aggressive effort to collect old debts started three years ago — the result of a single sentence tucked into the farm bill lifting the 10-year statute of limitations on old debts to Uncle Sam. The Federal Trade Commission, on its Web site, advises Americans that “family members typically are not obligated to pay the debts of a deceased relative from their own assets.” But Social Security officials say that if children indirectly received assistance from public dollars paid to a parent, the children’s money can be taken, no matter how long ago any overpayment occurred. Many of the taxpayers whose refunds have been taken say they’ve been unable to contest the confiscations because of the cost, because Social Security cannot provide records detailing the original overpayment, and because the citizens, following advice from the IRS to keep financial documents for just three years, had long since trashed their own records. More than 1,200 appeals have been filed on the old cases but only about 10 percent of taxpayers have won those appeals. "The government took the money first and then they sent us the letter," says Brenda Samonds.." We could never get one sentence from them explaining why the money was taken.”"
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Jenny McCarthy: 'I Am Not Anti-Vaccine'

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  about two weeks ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Jenny McCarthy is claiming she has been misunderstood and is not anti-vaccine. In an op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times, McCarthy tries to ignore everything she’s been saying about vaccines for years and wipe the record clean. “People have the misconception that we want to eliminate vaccines,” McCarthy told Time magazine science editor Jeffrey Kluger in 2009. “Please understand that we are not an anti-vaccine group. We are demanding safe vaccines. We want to reduce the schedule and reduce the toxins.” But Kluger points out that McCarthy left the last line out of that quotation: "If you ask a parent of an autistic child if they want the measles or the autism, we will stand in line for the f--king measles." That missing line rather changes the tone of her position considerably, writes Phil Plait and is a difficult stance to square with someone who is not anti-vaccine. As Kluger points out, her entire premise is false; since vaccines don’t cause autism, no one has to make the choice between measles (and other preventable, dangerous diseases) and autism." Something else McCarthy omitted from her interview with Kluger: "I do believe sadly it’s going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe," said McCarthy. "If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it’s their f*cking fault that the diseases are coming back. They’re making a product that’s sh*t. If you give us a safe vaccine, we’ll use it. It shouldn’t be polio versus autism." Kluger finishes with this: "Jenny, as outbreaks of measles, mumps and whooping cough continue to appear in the U.S.—most the result of parents refusing to vaccinate their children because of the scare stories passed around by anti-vaxxers like you—it’s just too late to play cute with the things you’ve said. " For many years McCarthy has gone on and on and on and on and on and on about vaccines and autism. "She can claim all she wants that she’s not anti-vax," concludes Plait, "but her own words show her to be wrong.""

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