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CBC Warns Canadians of "US Law Enforcement Money Extortion Program"

Idarubicin Re:In other words....Don't look like a drug traffi (462 comments)

Oh I understand the issue just fine. But, they have to have a minimum level of proof to do the seizure and they also have to defend the action in court if/when the property owner objects. A judge will rip them a new one if they don't come up with justification and the property owner objects. There are checks and balances here.

No ,they don't need a minimum level of proof to carry out the seizure. They need a minimum level of proof to defend the seizure in court--which is a totally different ball game. Attorneys cost money, even if fees are eventually awarded many potential plaintiffs can't afford to be out of pocket for the time (months or years) required for a case to make its way through the courts. Seizures made against out-of-town and out-of-state victims are even harder to challenge--it can be quite costly to repeatedly travel to a distant jurisdiction's courts, even if you can afford to take the time off work. And to challenge even a blatantly illegal seizure is to invite additional scrutiny and future harrassment.

If crooked cops can hit the 'sweet spot' of around a few thousand dollars, in most cases it's going to be too much of a hassle and expense for a victim to fight.

about a week ago

Iceland Raises Volcano Aviation Alert Again

Idarubicin Re:Bah, character-set ignorance. (38 comments)

I feel embarrassed every time I see an English-language site render this as "Bardarbunga", when that "d" should be "th". Yes, the letter "eth" looks like a lowercase d with a crossbar and erectile dysfunction, but it's pronounced like "th".

The reason is because the Icelandic alphabet has two different letters that produce a sound that could be written "th" in English. The letter eth (Ð or ð) is a voiced "th", like in "they" or "this"; whereas the letter thorn (Wikipedia link, since Slashdot won't render it) is unvoiced, like in "thistle" or "theater". By convention, eth is transliterated as "d", whereas thorn is transliterated as "th". It does make some sense, as "d" is a voiced consonant, so that in addition to the look being similar, the naive pronunciation isn't horribly wrong. (And it means that someone seeing a "th" in an English transliteration of Icelandic text knows that it's unvoiced, so they'll get the pronunciation right.) And for better or for worse, it's the accepted transliteration, so if you want to fight it you're fighting against convention.

The gross transliteration error that kills me is when someone substitutes P or p for the thorn and turns something like Thingvellir into Pingvellir. That's just horribly wrong.

about three weeks ago

Feds Want Nuclear Waste Train, But Don't Know Where It Would Go

Idarubicin Re:TFA betrays Ray Henry 's ignorance of planning. (258 comments)

Exactly correct. If the target date for an "interim test storage site" is 2021, that's only 7 years out.

Let's allow a year to figure out what the specs ought to be, a year to request and evaluate proposals from possible contractors, a year to build prototypes, a year of testing, a year to fix problems identified in testing, a year to manufacture the first few final-version railcars, and a year for overruns. That's a seven-year timetable right there.

Unless we want to be running late, paying tons of money out in overtime, and getting railcars that kind-of-sort-of work right most of the time...then yeah, right now is a good time to start on this stuff.

about three weeks ago

San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant Dismantling Will Cost $4.4 Billion, Take 20 Years

Idarubicin Re:Not a bad deal (343 comments)

... FWIW: Three Mile Island (Shutdown in 1979) still hasn't been completely decommission. in 2011 they invested another $30 Million to retrofit the Spent fuel pool cooling system. These Plants are incredibly difficult and costly to dismantle and clean up.

If the $4.4 billion price tag for the San Onofre facility is anywhere near the right ballpark, a $30 million expenditure 35 years down the road would be, in today's money, a rounding error.

It also should go without saying that we do have 30+ more years of experience with decommissioning nuclear facilities now than we did in 1979. And San Onofre, unlike TMI, was not the site of a significant accident that damaged its core and contaminated the facility.

about a month and a half ago

States That Raised Minimum Wage See No Slow-Down In Job Growth

Idarubicin Re:Short-Lived? (778 comments)

...and that money taken from McDonalds will result in higher prices at McDonald's making everyone's earnings seem less driving wage increases, ad infinitum,.

Wages - and especially that subset of wages which are paid at the legal minimum - represent only a fraction of the total costs of operating a McDonald's restaurant. All wages together are about 25% of the total costs, and that includes a non-trivial number above-minimum management and support staff. So even if we make the unreasonable worst-case assumptions that a) all employees do earn minimum wage, and b) that increased wages don't result in any improvement in average employee productivity (because employees are physically healthier and because of reduced turnover) then a 1% increase in minimum wage only makes for a 0.25% increase in cost-of-Big-Mac.

And a 0.25% increase in cost-of-Big-Mac doesn't actually equate to a 0.25% increase in actual cost-of-living. The effect will be smaller or negligible for businesses where staff costs represent a smaller share of total costs, and where dealing with businesses in which employees are already better paid than minimum wage.

And finally, there are a number of costs associated with minimum-wage workers that you're already paying out of your own pocket, without realizing it. Wal-Mart and McDonald's know perfectly well that minimum wage isn't a living wage. Food stamps, state-subsidized health insurance programs, school lunch programs--that's money you're paying because Wal-Mart isn't. Forcing McDonald's to pay its employees a living wage (or closer to one, at least) means that your Big Mac's price is (less) subsidized by the government.

about a month ago

The Improbable Story of the 184 MPH Jet Train

Idarubicin Re:Railroads killed by the government... (195 comments)

Most of the Interstate is supported by fuel taxes. Fuel taxes are paid for by drivers. Who use the Interstate. So, I'd say that it's a pretty good case of 'user pays'.

Used to be more true, not so much today. The Highway Trust Fund - which is funded by a combination of federal fuel and vehicle taxes - has been bailed out before ($35 billion between 2008 and 2010) and is out of money again this year. And the federal government has turned over responsibility for the interstate highways to the individual states, so a big chunk of the construction, maintenance, and repair bills actually comes from the states.

Looking at 2010 numbers, total spending nationwide on highways was about $155 billion. The federal gas tax brought in $28 billion; state and local fuel taxes amounted to another $37 billion; plus state and local governments picked up another $12 billion from tolls and non-fuel taxes. All in all, that's about $77 billion in revenue for $155 billion in expenditures. Drivers are paying about...51% of the cost of the highway network.

For comparison, I note a comment below that shows in fiscal 2012 Amtrak spent $4.036 billion and had revenues of $2.877 billion. In other words, Amtrak riders paid 71% of their costs out of pocket--a much bigger share of the costs than highway users.

about 2 months ago

Elite Group of Researchers Rule Scientific Publishing

Idarubicin Re:Just an opinion... (123 comments)

Given how relatively time-consuming research is(and how negative results, however valid, tend to have difficulty moving papers), it would be...surprising... to hear that one percent of the scientists are co-authoring 41 percent of the papers on sheer productivity.

Actually, not so surprising, depending on how the analysis is done. And it also depends a lot on how you want to measure "sheer productivity". A supervisor who helps design the experiment, interpret the data, write the paper, and communicate with journal editors probably spends fewer hours than the trainee (grad student or postdoc) who actually does all the bench work--but that doesn't mean that the supervisor hasn't earned an authorship credit.

If Alice, Bob, Carol, Dave, and Elsa are all graduate students in Dr. Frink's lab, and each of those students publishes two papers over the course of their PhD programs, then all of those students are going to be authors on 2 papers each, and Frink will be an author on 10 papers. Dr. Frink is 1 out of 6 scientists - a bit less than 17% - but is on 100% of the papers. If you have a big lab in a relatively hot (or well-funded) field, then your name is going to be on a lot of papers.

And papers these days - especially the high-impact, widely-read, highly-cited papers - tend to have a longer list of authors. If you look at the table of contents for the most recent issue of Science, the two Research Articles have 26 and 12 authors. Out of the dozen or so Reports, one has 4 authors, two have 5, all the rest have more. Speaking personally and anecdotally, my last three manuscripts (in the biomedical sciences) had 8, 3, and 7 authors.

Going back to "1% of scientists are on 45% of papers"--well, if those are all six-author papers, then that top 1% is only responsible for a 7.5% share (45 divided by 6) of the "output". Given that there is a very long tail of authors who only have 1, 2, or 3 authorships in their lifetime (the majority of PhD graduates never end up conducting research as university faculty; there just aren't enough jobs), I am willing to believe that there is a small fraction of productive, top scientists whose names are on a disproportionately large share of papers.

about 2 months ago

Elite Group of Researchers Rule Scientific Publishing

Idarubicin Re:Just an opinion... (123 comments)

The intellectual penury that comes with serving with a leader in a given field seems to be gladly endured by most young researchers. This story ignores the fact that, although the senior researcher's name may be at the top of the paper, the junior researcher's name is right there below it.

Actually, in many of the sciences (mathematics and parts of physics are notable exceptions, where authors tend to be listed alphabetically) it is usually the graduate student or postdoc who did most of the work who is the first author on the paper. The senior researcher - a principal investigator who actually has the academic appointment, who may have secured the funding, and who is ultimately responsible for the lab - is generally listed as the last author on the manuscript. ("Middle" authorship has the least cachet by far.)

Broadly speaking, young scientists and trainees want to accumulate as many first-author papers as possible, to demonstrate their scientific productivity. Faculty members - senior scientists - want to accumulate last-author papers, to demonstrate that their labs are productive.

about 2 months ago

Physicists Spot Potential Source of 'Oh-My-God' Particles

Idarubicin Re:WTFis "as much energy as well-thrown baseballs" (144 comments)

WTF is "as much energy as well-thrown baseballs"?

That should technically be something like "as much kinetic energy as a well-thrown baseball". In other words, about 50 joules: what you get from a baseball at about 60 miles per hour. So, not major-league fastball fast (90+ mph) but quite a respectable velocity.

And we're not going to talk about assorted forms of chemical or nuclear potential energy in the baseball. If you set fire to a baseball, you could get quite a bit more thermal energy. And you could get a heck of a lot more energy out of a baseball if you fused all its component atoms down to iron.

about 2 months ago

Airbus Patents Windowless Cockpit That Would Increase Pilots' Field of View

Idarubicin Re:Windows as point of weakness (468 comments)

I would say that cockpit windows are a solved problem.

You could say that, but you would be wrong. Cockpit windows remain a weak point aboard modern aircraft. Extensive and costly preventive maintenance programs reduce the risks, but they still regularly crack and leak, and occasionally fail spectacularly. A bit of Googling turned up this freedom-of-information response from the UK's civil aviation authority. It lists 88 pages of in-flight incidents of windscreen damage and failure that occurred - just in the UK - between 2008 and 2013.

about 2 months ago

Airbus Patents Windowless Cockpit That Would Increase Pilots' Field of View

Idarubicin Re: Failsafe? (468 comments)

This illustrates an important point. From a purely rational safety perspective, you don't actually need the electronic display system to be perfect, with an absolutely impossible zero risk of failure. You just need the system to be less likely to fail - in a way that causes a serious accident - than the known weak point (window) it replaces.

about 2 months ago

Airbus Patents Windowless Cockpit That Would Increase Pilots' Field of View

Idarubicin Re:Why? (468 comments)

Nobody complains about all those people jammed into a metal tube with no windows powered by a nuclear reactor and dumped into the ocean(s)...

On the other hand, the number of accidents per passenger-mile is probably a lot worse in nuclear submarines than in passenger aircraft. Broadly speaking, an overall higher risk of accidents and fatalities is tolerated in the military.

And honestly, military submarines (or any submarines, really) tend to be much more heavily built than aircraft, and travel at much lower speeds, both of which tend to make crashes much more survivable. Consider, for example, the 2005 collision of the USS San Francisco with a poorly-charted seamount. The fast-attack sub was travelling at its maximum speed (probably around 40 mph) when it smacked into solid rock--that it couldn't see, as they had no windows. Nobody drowned; the ship didn't sink; all of the injuries (and the one fatality) were caused by crew members getting bounced about by the collision. Compare and contrast with just about any aircraft incident involving controlled flight into terrain, where aircraft crumple like beer cans and everybody dies.

about 2 months ago

Airbus Patents Windowless Cockpit That Would Increase Pilots' Field of View

Idarubicin Re:Failsafe? (468 comments)

No, that would wreck the entire engineering of getting rid of the windows in the first place.

In principle, there could be 'emergency' windows that were smaller or more awkwardly placed (perhaps even requiring the use of a periscope or physical light pipe) that could nevertheless still be used to land a plane in the event of a complete failure of the electronic display system. From an engineering standpoint, even a switch from giant wrap-around windows to small portholes is still going to provide some improvement in strength and weight.

That said, it's worth noting two things. First, modern aircraft are so heavily electronics-dependent (and fly-by-wire driven) that in the event of a catastrophic failure of onboard electronics, the loss of virtual windows may not actually be the biggest problem on your plate. Second, modern aircraft are often rated for landing completely blind (at suitably equipped airports); even if you lose the view from the entire front 'window', a landing on instruments is still a reasonable option.

about 2 months ago

Solar-Powered Electrochemical Cell Used To Produce Formic Acid From CO2

Idarubicin Re:Efficiency (133 comments)

The point is, those solar lights at the dollar store? Yea... Make millions of them, throw them out in the desert, viola, carbon sink. You need to do something more with it beyond the acid, but this is the sort of idea we need to reduce already emitted CO2 after we've stopped creating all the extra.

Even if we ignore the carbon (and other toxic) footprint of creating and strewing millions of semiconductor devices across the desert, I really think you need to think about what happens to the formic acid. Left to its own devices, formic acid slowly and spontaneously decomposes to water and...carbon monoxide. Which is unpleasant enough by itself (and a greenhouse gas in its own right), but which in turn is slowly oxidized in the atmosphere right back to...carbon dioxide.

about 3 months ago

Site of 1976 "Atomic Man" Accident To Be Cleaned

Idarubicin Re:Treatment sort of worked (299 comments)

He died of heart problems. If you read the health effects they are claiming many of them seem just normal for a older person at that time. The rest might could also have been caused by chemical issues more than radiation. Heavy metals are for a large part things you want to avoid putting into your body.

For people who are interested in this sort of thing, the TOXNET entry for americium contains a number of excerpts from published work about the case, medical follow up, and eventual autopsy results. The first six case report entries on that page all involve publications involving McC|uskey; look for entries that refer specifically to "US Transuranium Registry (USTUR) Case 246". Because americium is an alpha emitter that principally deposits in bone, it is the bone and bone marrow that are most affected by exposure, and which show the most lasting (and ongoing) damage.

"...Eight yrs after a 64-year old man was exposed to americium-241 in a chemical explosion/, leukopenia was evaluated by a hematologist. Diagnosis of a possible hypoproliferative, myeloproliferative, or myelodysplastic syndrome was considered...."

"...The bone marrow of /USTUR Case 246/ had been substantially damaged by alpha-irradiation from americium, principally on the bone surfaces. A ... finding was a marked decrease in bone marrow cellularity associated with dilatation of blood sinusoids. The severity of these effects varied according to site and was greatest in the vertebral body, where the marrow was almost acellular, and least in the clavicle. In addition, extensive peritrabecular marrow fibrosis was present in some bones, including the rib and clavicle. ... Fibrosis is a common observation in bones irradiated by bone-seeking radionuclides and has been linked to bone sarcoma induction...."

"...The bones examined were the patella, clavicle, sternum, rib, vertebral body and ossified thyroid cartilage; all showed evidence of radiation damage. The cellularity of most bones was reduced, and little evidence of recent active bone remodeling was seen in any bone other than the vertebra, as concluded from the redistribution of the americium in the vertebral body. In several bones, the architecture was disrupted, with woven bone, abnormal appositional bone deposits, bizarre trabecular structures and marked peritrabecular fibrosis. Growth arrest lines were common. When compared with trabecular bone modeling, that of cortical bone in the rib appeared less disrupted. Overall, the results obtained are consistent with those observed in dogs at a similar level of actinide intake...."

In other words, he was 'lucky' that this accident occurred when he was in his mid-sixties, and that he managed to die of heart disease in his mid-seventies. If the patient had been forty years old instead, he likely would have been looking at a cancer of either the bone (an osteosarcoma or some such, and probably at multiple sites if he lived long enough) or the blood-forming cells (leukemia of some sort).

about 3 months ago

Wikipedia Editors Hit With $10 Million Defamation Suit

Idarubicin Re:Well, this won't backfire! (268 comments)

I'm assuming that he's filing suit in California because the Wikimedia Foundation headquarters is there, and it's easier to do it that way than to file fifty-four separate suits (four named editors plus 50 John Does) in 54 different jurisdictions. Further, Barry's lawyers can argue (don't know if it will work) that personal jurisdiction exists for all the defendants, as all of them were engaged in a relationship with the Foundation. Otherwise their case gets a lot messier and a lot more expensive.

Of course, not every lawsuit that is filed is followed through to trial and judgement. (Just as a general observation not related to this particular case -- not every lawsuit is filed with the expectation or intent to follow it through to trial. Lawsuits are often part of PR strategies, sometimes simply to chill public discussion on a particular topic. A big flashy statement of claim is sometimes just a route to a quiet small- or no-money settlement and a gag order.)

And heck, your original point stands. Suing U.S. defendants in a U.K. court would be pretty transparent libel tourism; it wouldn't have a beneficial PR effect, and judgements wouldn't be readily enforceable in the States.

about 3 months ago

Supreme Court Rules Cell Phones Can't Be Searched Without a Warrant

Idarubicin Re:Borders (249 comments)

Er...what does the warrantless, essentially-unrestricted search and/or seizure of personal electronic devices - generally belonging to U.S. citizens, legal residents, and legitimate travellers - have to do with immigration policy?

about 3 months ago

Supreme Court Rules Cell Phones Can't Be Searched Without a Warrant

Idarubicin Re:Imminent Threat (249 comments)

But personally, I could this as the worst administration in history.

That wasn't the worst sentence in history, but it's got to be right up there.

I'll leave aside your amusingly delusional implication that unwarranted invasions of privacy somehow didn't happen - or weren't attempted by law enforcement with similar enthusiasm and vigour - under the preceding 43 Presidents...

about 3 months ago

Half of Germany's Power Supplied By Solar, Briefly

Idarubicin Re:Thanks for pointing out the "briefly" part. (461 comments)

Wind and nuclear I understand, but how does gas significantly reduce carbon emmissions? Isn't it still burning stuff and thus producing CO2? How is gas better than coal in this respect?

Nuclear is for a big chunk of base load capacity--plants that take days or weeks to start up and shut down, and so run essentially continuously at their rated output. (Coal plants fill essentially the same niche in fossil-fuel-based generation.) Wind (and solar) stack on top of that; these are variable output plants that can be switched in and out of service quickly as needed to meet demand. Gas turbines, while not emission free, are more efficient (in terms of energy output per ton of carbon emissions) than coal or oil burners, and can be spun up relatively quickly (in a few minutes) to meet spikes in demand. They're a compromise - good fuel efficiency but also high cost - that would be used for a few hours a day, or a few days a month, to fill in gaps in supply.

about 3 months ago

Wikipedia Editors Hit With $10 Million Defamation Suit

Idarubicin Re:Well, this won't backfire! (268 comments)

That is true, and interesting...but beside the particular point at issue here. The SPEECH Act (ugh) deals with defamation suits against U.S. citizens and residents filed in foreign courts. The case here is the mirror image situation: a case filed in the U.S. against a (hypthetical) overseas defendant.

about 3 months ago


Idarubicin hasn't submitted any stories.



Thoughts on moderation--the missing mod

Idarubicin Idarubicin writes  |  more than 11 years ago There have always been a few denizens of Slashdot who have insisted that they will always metamod any negative moderations Unfair. Those who insist on such an absolute stance probably will not have their minds changed by my little journal entry. Not only might they feel smug about their little 'principle', but they are also saved from making the effort to read and understand negatively moderated comments. It smacks of laziness, really.

I digress. Here I intend to address the 'new' breed of metamods. They have a stated predisposition against negative mods (here, for example) but are willing to consider the content of a post. Looking at the negative mods:

Troll and Flamebait. Both of these mods suggest that the moderator knows the intent of the poster. Although it may seem apparent, the individual could be misguided, stupid, or (gasp!) even correct. Regardless, since we cannot glean intent (with certainty) from the post, these mods are always Unfair.

Offtopic. Unless a post is way out in left field, there really isn't a need to use this mod. It may be a crutch for a moderator who doesn't want to sound 'mean'...or a blind for a moderator who just doesn't 'get it' and wants to hide a post that is over his head.

Redundant. One man's redundant is another man's detailed shade of meaning. Again, tough to apply, except to the karma whores who have posted the full content of a linked article...for the third time.

Overrated. The chink in the armour. This moderation is not subject to metamoderation. It can therefore be abused, and should probably be eliminated. To quote (approximately) a fellow Slashdotter--unfortunately, one whose name I do not know--"the Offtopic mod is like saying, 'it sucks, because.'" It just doesn't seem to be a good reason. It fails to explain the reason for the moderation to anybody--poster, other moderators, metamoderators.

So what's the missing mod? I've just finished saying we can dispense with one moderation already--why replace it? The new mod that I propose is -1, Factually Inaccurate. Sad as it is, there is currently no moderation appropriate for a clear, polite, reasoned post based on objectively incorrect information. These posts may be flagged as Trolls or Flamebait because moderators don't know what to do with them. Moderators may throw up their hands and just mod up correct replies. They may use the flawed Overrated mod.

None of these techniques exposes the moderators thinking to the poster, and moderation leaves them open to vindictive (or 'corrective') metamoderation. By introducing a -1, Factually Inaccurate mod, metamoderators will be encouraged to check facts for themselves--read more of the thread, and so forth. The reason for the moderation will be crystal clear. Finally, the moderator will be encouraged to know his stuff before he goes out on a limb and claims a poster is wrong.

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