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Gulags in the Land of the Free

— Filed under: Politics & Government, Opinion
The prisoner's dilemma is an example of game t...

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"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever" - from George Orwell's 1984

For millions of Americans this is their future. How else can you describe a person's future as a prisoner of the American Prison Industrial complex? Take a look at the facts and figures and what you will find is incredibly frightening and something needs to be done about it.

I'm not saying that people who commit horrible crimes shouldn't be locked up but when one in every 18 men are either behind bars or being monitored there is something wrong in society. As of June 2009[update], 2,297,400 were incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails  This means America, the land of the free, has the worlds largest prison population. The worst part is that although crime rates have declined by about 25 percent from 1988-2008 the Prison population has increased dramatically in same period. This cost the states $47 billion dollars in 2008.… Continues …

Attack of the Drones

— Filed under: People & Culture, Science & Technology

If you thought the TSA's new "naked scanners" and enhanced pat-downs were invasive and obnoxious, you haven't seen anything yet. Cue The Ride of the Valkyries and pan to the horizon: here comes the attack of the personal drones.

The age of personal robots has long been predicted, and it appears that with respect to personal drones, that age is already upon us. The biggest and most publicized entry into the market has been the Parrot AR.Drone, a "quadricopter" with an onboard video camera sending a real-time feed to your iPhone (which also acts as the controller). Marketed as a video game and with a price tag of just $300, the applications are really endless. Let the flying and spying begin.… Continues …

Murder of John P. Wheeler Connected to Mass Bird Deaths?

— Filed under: Breaking News, Politics & Government, Science & Technology

Death

Last week, a celebrated and influential Pentagon insider and defense contractor was found dead in Delaware. The body of John P. Wheeler was discovered as a garbage truck dumped its load at a landfill. The death has been ruled a homicide, and thus far the investigators who are piecing together the case have offered no clear motive or reason for his mysterious murder.

In seemingly unrelated news, there has been a sudden die-off of birds and fish in the southern United States that has a lot of people talking about the apocalypse. First 5,000 blackbirds plummeted to the earth in Arkansas, littering the ground with their corpses and even hitting passers-by. Then a few days later, 500 red-winged blackbirds and starlings were found dead in nearby Louisiana. And 80,000 drum fish died in an Arkansas river close to where the blackbirds died.… Continues …

Afghanistan Is A Lost Cause

— Filed under: Politics & Government, Opinion
President Barack Obama with Afghanistan Presid...

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Today in the News US President Obama said progress was sufficient to permit a "responsible reduction" of US forces to begin in July.

I'd like to ask what progress? Afghanistan still is by far the worlds largest producer of opium and has the 2nd most corrupt government in the world. Transparency International rates only one country, Somalia, as worse.

The cornerstone of the coalition strategy in Afghanistan calls for the Afghan government to eventually take over security and to provide stronger government institutions and services. How can this happen though in a country where the police set up checkpoints and stop cars demanding payment for permission to pass. In 2009, Afghan citizens had to pay approximately US$ 2.5 billion in bribes, which is equivalent to 23 per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).… Continues …

Revolting youths!

— Filed under: Politics & Government
Nick Clegg election homepage for libdems.org.uk

Image by Rob Fenwick via Flickr

The recent peaceful demonstrations planned by the NUS in response to the Lib Dems U-Turn on tuition fees have all turned sour resulting in a blame game between the students and the Police. The NUS and it seems the mass media have blamed a mixture of heavy handedness on the part of the Police and the hijacking of non-student youths with various mixed agendas.

I feel, as opposed to the notion of these hijackers being organised anarchists and the like the whole affair is the resultant “spilling over”, of tensions between generations.

For so long the youths (yoofs) of our society have been marginalised and pilloried by a succession of reactionary governments and mainstream media resulting in a socio-political shift in the collective consciousness of the country which instead of encouraging and nurturing our future generations, serves only to demonise, alienate and disenfranchise them resulting in an unprecedented lack of trust between “them” and “us”.… Continues …

Science Upended Again: The Fountain of Youth and Living Clouds

— Filed under: Breaking News, Science & Technology
The Fountain of Youth by Lucas Cranach the Elder

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Just when we think that we have a grasp on what's possible — on the outer limits of what science is likely to achieve or learn — something comes along to turn all that on its head. If, like many people (including myself), you thought that science would probably never discover anything resembling a fountain of youth, it turns out you were wrong. Not only have scientists recently succeeded in slowing down the aging process in mice, they have actually reversed it.

According to PopSci, scientists at Harvard "turned unhealthy old mice into youthful versions of themselves." Ronald DePinho, the lead scientist working on the project, told the Guardian:

"What we saw in these animals was not a slowing down or stabilisation of the ageing process. We saw a dramatic reversal – and that was unexpected... These were severely aged animals, but after a month of treatment they showed a substantial restoration, including the growth of new neurons in their brains."

Wikileaks: What's The Point?

— Filed under: Breaking News, Politics & Government, Science & Technology
 History Is The Only Guidebook Civil...

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As much as I like the idea of a rebellious man-without-a-country causing grief to all the world's governments in the name of freedom, I must admit I'm having some serious misgivings in light of the latest Wikileaks' release.

I'll let you read about the latest bombshells at the New York Times special section or The Guardian. What I'm having trouble with is understanding exactly how these leaks are supposed to help anyone. I'm not alone. As Ta-Nehisi Coates, senior editor of the The Atlantic puts it:

"What responsibility does Assange have to this country? Does American media exist to serve the immediate good of the American public? Or is there some longer, greater, good in disclosing these dispatches? Is information, in and of itself, good?"

"No Disassemble!"

— Filed under: Politics & Government
Flank photo of Johnny 5 robot from the Short C...

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As an aviation enthusiast I have been aware of the development of the increasing autonomy of military technology for a number of years. In the apparent pursuit of making life easier for pilots by decreasing their workload has morphed into a sinister beast however and we are at the point where a number of seemingly disparate technological military advances could converge and make sci-fi like future conflicts a reality.

What follows is a run-down of the areas I find a concern.

UAV/UAS

UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle)/Unmanned Aircraft Systems technology is a relatively new direction, where the pilots fly the aircraft as though are on board (following all rules of the air) themselves but are actually in front of a screen flying the aircraft remotely. Initially UAV’s were envisaged as a means of assisting the air power forces by providing “spy” roles such as finding targets and relaying the info to the correct arm of the air power wing and then providing imagery of the aftermath of any strike operations. The most developed UAV is the RQ-1 Predator, initially designed for reconnaissance purposes. In the winter 2000-2001 (post 9/11) tests were conducted with the view of arming Predators with Hellfire missiles (a lightweight but highly effective and accurate missile as used on AH64 Apachehelicopters), these tests culminated in the successful test attack on a stationary tank with 3 missiles. The head of the CIA at the time after seeing how successfully the Predators reconnaissance of Afghanistan was vocal in his support of the arming programme and had the updates accelerated so as to target Osama Bin Laden.  The armed version was re-designated MQ-1 and software and technological upgrades are frequently applied. They have launched hundreds of attacks during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom with some moderate success; however a large number have been destroyed for varying reasons. The Bae System Taranisis the latest development in UAV, it even looks nasty!… Continues …

The Wake of the Week - Everyday Stories

— Filed under: Breaking News, People & Culture, Opinion
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