The Toxins That Threaten Our Brains

March 28th, 2015

Via: The Atlantic:

Leading scientists recently identified a dozen chemicals as being responsible for widespread behavioral and cognitive problems. But the scope of the chemical dangers in our environment is likely even greater. Why children and the poor are most susceptible to neurotoxic exposure that may be costing the U.S. billions of dollars and immeasurable peace of mind.

Secret Trials in Britian

March 27th, 2015

Via: BBC:

On 13 October 2013, armed police blew out the tyres of a car near the Tower of London. That much we know for sure about the arrest and prosecution of Erol Incedal for preparing for acts of terrorism.

Since then, he has faced two trials for preparing for acts of terrorism. But what was his alleged plan?

Well, we simply do not know – and the jury at his retrial has decided it did not buy whatever it was being told he was supposed to have done.

This has been the most secret prosecution since World War Two – and it has ended with the only defendant being cleared.

A few journalists were permitted to hear to some of the secret Old Bailey sessions – but they will go to prison if they reveal what they learned.

The rest of us were allowed in to Court Nine for some brief open sessions – but most of the time the doors were locked.

More: Secret trial: Six Unanswered Questions

Research Credit: PW

Australia Outlaws Warrant Canaries

March 27th, 2015

Via: BoingBoing:

The exceptionally broad new surveillance bill lets the government do nearly unlimited warrantless mass surveillance, even of lawyer-client privileged communications, and bans warrant canaries, making it an offense to “disclose information about the existence or non-existence” of a warrant to spy on journalists.

DEA Agents had Cartel-Funded ‘Sex Parties’ in Colombia

March 26th, 2015

Via: Fusion:

Agents working abroad for the Drug Enforcement Administration allegedly attended and participated in drug cartel-funded “sex parties,” according to a new report released Thursday by the Department of Justice’s inspector general.

“We were particularly troubled by multiple allegations involving several DEA special agents participating in ‘sex parties’ with prostitutes while working in an overseas office,” the report reads.

The report says this type of agent misconduct took place for “several years” while some of the agents who participated held top-secret clearances, opening them up to potential extortion and coercion.

Peak… Sand?

March 26th, 2015

Via: Wired:

Apart from water and air, humble sand is the natural resource most consumed by human beings. People use more than 40 billion tons of sand and gravel every year. There’s so much demand that riverbeds and beaches around the world are being stripped bare. (Desert sand generally doesn’t work for construction; shaped by wind rather than water, desert grains are too round to bind together well.) And the amount of sand being mined is increasing exponentially.

Though the supply might seem endless, sand is a finite resource like any other. The worldwide construction boom of recent years—all those mushrooming megacities, from Lagos to Beijing—is devouring unprecedented quantities; extracting it is a $70 billion industry. In Dubai enormous land-reclamation projects and breakneck skyscraper-building have exhausted all the nearby sources. Exporters in Australia are literally selling sand to Arabs.

In some places multinational companies dredge it up with massive machines; in others local people haul it away with shovels and pickup trucks. As land quarries and riverbeds become tapped out, sand miners are turning to the seas, where thousands of ships now vacuum up huge amounts of the stuff from the ocean floor. As you might expect, all this often wreaks havoc on rivers, deltas, and marine ecosystems. Sand mines in the US are blamed for beach erosion, water and air pollution, and other ills, from the California coast to Wisconsin’s lakes. India’s Supreme Court recently warned that riparian sand mining is undermining bridges and disrupting ecosystems all over the country, slaughtering fish and birds. But regulations are scant and the will to enforce them even more so, especially in the developing world.

Sand mining has erased two dozen Indonesian islands since 2005. The stuff of those islands mostly ended up in Singapore, which needs titanic amounts to continue its program of artificially adding territory by reclaiming land from the sea. The city-state has created an extra 130 square kilometers in the past 40 years and is still adding more, making it by far the world’s largest sand importer. The collateral environmental damage has been so extreme that Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam have all banned exports of sand to Singapore.

All of that has spawned a worldwide boom in illegal sand mining.

“The messengers do talk… They end up asking each other which apps they work for”

March 25th, 2015

It’s not Portlandia.


Oh yeah, Silicon Valley.

Via: Medium:

Angel the concierge stands behind a lobby desk at a luxe apartment building in downtown San Francisco, and describes the residents of this imperial, 37-story tower. “Ubers, Squares, a few Twitters,” she says. “A lot of work-from-homers.”

And by late afternoon on a Tuesday, they’re striding into the lobby at a just-get-me-home-goddammit clip, some with laptop bags slung over their shoulders, others carrying swank leather satchels. At the same time a second, temporary population streams into the building: the app-based meal delivery people hoisting thermal carrier bags and sacks. Green means Sprig. A huge M means Munchery. Down in the basement, Amazon Prime delivery people check in packages with the porter. The Instacart groceries are plunked straight into a walk-in fridge.

Do Not Miss Absurdity:

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Hollywood Increasingly Re-Animating Dead Actors

March 25th, 2015

Via: The Hollywood Reporter:

No actor is indispensable. That is the blunt lesson from the fact that Universal Pictures was able to complete its April 3 tentpole, Furious 7, following star Paul Walker’s death in a November 2013 car accident about halfway through the shoot. Beyond saying that brothers Cody and Caleb stood in for Walker and that director James Wan culled footage of Walker from the earlier films, Universal declines to discuss which tricks were employed to breathe life into Walker’s character. But sources say Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital was asked to complete the sensitive and arduous task of reanimating Walker for Furious 7, and its cutting-edge work points toward a future where most actors can be re-created seam­lessly if needed. (The company declined to com­ment on its specific contributions.)

Yemen’s President Flees Residence

March 25th, 2015

Via: AP:

Yemen’s embattled president fled his palace home in the southern port city of Aden for an undisclosed location Wednesday as Shiite rebels closed in on the country’s third-largest city and launched airstrikes targeting the presidential forces guarding the palace’s compound.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi left the palace just hours after the rebels, known as the Houthis, and their allies seized a key air base where U.S. troops and Europeans had advised the country in its fight against al-Qaida militants. The base is only 60 kilometers (35 miles) away from Aden, where Hadi had established a temporary capital after fleeing from house arrest at the hands of the rebels in Sanaa earlier in March.

The rebels offered a bounty for Hadi’s capture and arrested his defense minister. Hours later, they launched airstrikes targeting presidential forces guarding the palace.

The advance of the rebels, empowered by the backing of the ousted Yemeni autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh and his loyalists, threatens to plunge the Arab world’s poorest country into a civil war that could draw in its Gulf neighbors. Already, Hadi has asked the United Nations to authorize a foreign military intervention in Yemen.

Some of Tesla’s Papers Remain Classified by U.S. Government

March 25th, 2015

This is from 2013.

Via: National Geographic:

5. Many of Tesla’s inventions were classified.

When Tesla died in 1943, during World War II, the Office of Alien Property took his belongings, Alcorn said. Most of his things were later released to his family, and many ended up in the Tesla Museum in Belgrade, which opened in the 1950s. But some of Tesla’s papers are still classified by the U.S. government.

“I know people have requested things through the Freedom of Information Act, and they are released heavily redacted,” said Alcorn.

As a result of the years of secrecy, many people have speculated about what fantastic inventions might have been suppressed, perhaps to keep them out of enemy hands or, more darkly, to perpetuate the status quo. Perhaps supporting the former theory, Tesla had spoken publically about working on a “death beam.” Those who fear the latter theory often point to his work on harvesting the energy in the forces of nature as something that would upset powerful oil companies.

Amazon Now Wanting to Automate Pick and Pack

March 25th, 2015

Via: MIT Technology Review:

Robots will use the latest computer-vision and machine-learning algorithms to try to perform the work done by humans in vast fulfillment centers.

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