Tabletop Fusion, Voting Machine Oversight
Revealing News Articles
August 28, 2008
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on tabletop fusion, voting machine oversight, CIA deception, and more. Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails to function, click here. Key sentences are highlighted for those with limited time. By choosing to educate ourselves and to spread the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
Nuclear Ambitions: Amateur Scientists Get a Reaction From Fusion
August 18, 2008, Wall Street Journal
In the garage of his house, Frank Sanns spends nights tinkering with one of his prized possessions: a working nuclear-fusion reactor. Mr. Sanns, 51 years old, is part of a small subculture of gearheads, amateur physicists and science-fiction fans who are trying to build fusion reactors in their basements, backyards and home laboratories. Mr. Sanns ... believes he's on track to make fusion a viable power source. "I'm a dreamer," he says. Many of these hobbyists call themselves "fusioneers," and have formed a loosely knit community that numbers more than 100 world-wide. Getting into their elite "Neutron Club" requires building a tabletop reactor that successfully fuses hydrogen isotopes and glows like a miniature star. Only 42 have qualified; some have T-shirts that read "Fusion -- been there...done that." Called fusors and based on a 1960s design first developed by Philo T. Farnsworth, an inventor of television, the reactors are typically small steel spheres with wires and tubes sticking out and a glass window for looking inside. But they won't be powering homes anytime soon -- for now, fusors use far more energy than they produce. But the allure is strong. A fusion power plant would likely be fueled by deuterium and tritium, both isotopes of hydrogen that are in plentiful supply. Fusion advocates say reactors would be relatively clean, generating virtually no air pollution and little long-lived radioactive waste. Today's nuclear power plants, in contrast, are fission-based, meaning they split atoms and create a highly radioactive waste that can take millennia to decompose.
Note: How strange that this article seems to accept table-top nuclear fusion as a fact, when mainstream science supposedly debunked this possibility two decades ago. For lots more on infinite energy posibilities, click here.
The Rich Man's Michael Moore
February 23, 2008, Wall Street Journal
Jamie Johnson, heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, used to be an accepted member of the New York elite, with a trust fund, a top education and loads of old-money friends. Now, thanks to his film career, he's not as welcome. "I'll walk into a social event where there are a number of people who I grew up with and they'll treat me apprehensively," says Mr. Johnson, 28. His relationship with his family, especially his father, has also cooled. "There was a sense that 'If you go too far with these [films], you won't be welcome in your own home,'" he says. Mr. Johnson is getting used to being an outcast among the upper class. After the 2003 release of his first film, "Born Rich," which looked at the lives of the silver-spoon set, and now his second, "The One Percent," which focuses on the American wealth gap, Mr. Johnson has become the rich man's Michael Moore -- a trust-fund populist who's not afraid to attack the wealthy and powerful. While his wealth has helped him gain access to the people he's filming, it's also carried personal costs. He has learned the hard way that the biggest betrayal for the rich is to talk publicly about their riches. "I think most wealthy people want to live with this myth of equal opportunity and equality in this country," he says. "I don't think they want to question their right to this wealth." With "The One Percent," Mr. Johnson wanted to show ... that today's wealthy have become an increasingly isolated elite. He says rather than using their wealth for good, they have used it to restructure the economy, lower their taxes, cut social programs for the middle and lower classes, and amass ever more wealth. "We have an aristocracy in this country that has convinced everybody else that they don't exist," Mr. Johnson says.
Bruce Ivins Wasn't the Anthrax Culprit
August 5, 2008, Wall Street Journal
Over the past week the media was gripped by the news that the FBI was about to charge Bruce Ivins, a leading anthrax expert, as the man responsible for the anthrax letter attacks in September/October 2001. But despite the seemingly powerful narrative that Ivins committed suicide because investigators were closing in, this is still far from a shut case. The FBI needs to explain why it zeroed in on Ivins, how he could have made the anthrax mailed to lawmakers and the media, and how he (or anyone else) could have pulled off the attacks, acting alone. The spores could not have been produced at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, where Ivins worked, without many other people being aware of it. Furthermore, the equipment to make such a product does not exist at the institute. The product contained essentially pure spores. The particle size was 1.5 to 3 microns in diameter. There are several methods used to produce anthrax that small. But most of them require milling the spores to a size small enough that it can be inhaled into the lower reaches of the lungs. In this case, however, the anthrax spores were not milled. They were also tailored to make them potentially more dangerous. The spores were coated with a polyglass which tightly bound hydrophilic silica to each particle. Each particle was given a weak electric charge, thereby causing the particles to repel each other at the molecular level. This made it easier for the spores to float in the air, and increased their retention in the lungs. In short, the potential lethality of anthrax in this case far exceeds that of any powdered product found in the now extinct U.S. Biological Warfare Program.
Warning on voting machines reveals oversight failure
August 24, 2008, McClatchy Newspapers
Disclosure of an election computer glitch that could drop ballot totals for entire precincts is stirring new worries that an unofficial laboratory testing system failed for years to detect an array of flaws in $1.5 billion worth of voting equipment sold nationwide since 2003. Texas-based Premier Elections Solutions [formerly Diebold Inc.] last week alerted at least 1,750 jurisdictions across the country that special precautions are needed to address the problem in tabulation software affecting all 19 of its models dating back a decade. Voting experts reacted skeptically to the company's assertion that election workers' routine crosschecks of ballot totals would have spotted any instances where its servers failed to register some precinct vote totals when receiving data from multiple memory cards. Like nearly all of the nation's modern voting equipment, Premier's products were declared "qualified" under a voluntary testing process overseen from the mid 1990s until 2005 by the National Association of State Election Directors. Computer scientists, some state officials and election watchdog groups allege that the NASED-sponsored testing system was a recipe for disaster, shrouded in secrecy, and allowing equipment makers to help design the tests. As a result, charged Susan Greenhalgh, a spokeswoman for watchdog group Voter Action, the systems on which Americans will decide the race between Barack Obama and John McCain in November are "scandalously flawed"' and "the integrity of this election is in question."
Note: Why isn't this important news being picked up by other major media?
A New Rush to Spy
August 22, 2008, New York Times
There is apparently no limit to the Bush administration's desire to invade Americans' privacy in the name of national security. According to members of Congress, Attorney General Michael Mukasey is preparing to give the F.B.I. broad new authority to investigate Americans – without any clear basis for suspicion that they are committing a crime. Opening the door to sweeping investigations of this kind would be an invitation to the government to spy on people based on their race, religion or political activities. Mr. Mukasey has not revealed the new guidelines. But according to senators whose staff have been given limited briefings, the rules may also authorize the F.B.I. to use an array of problematic investigative techniques. Among these are pretext interviews, in which agents do not honestly represent themselves while questioning a subject's neighbors and work colleagues. The F.B.I. has a long history of abusing its authority to spy on domestic groups, including civil rights and anti-war activists, and there is a real danger that the new rules would revive those dark days. Clearly, the Bush administration cannot be trusted to get the balance between law enforcement and civil liberties right. It has repeatedly engaged in improper and illegal domestic spying – notably in the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping program. The F.B.I. and the White House no doubt want to push the changes through before a new president is elected. There is no reason to rush to adopt rules that have such important civil liberties implications.
CIA Denies Deception About Iraq
August 23, 2008, Washington Post
The controversy over a best-selling author's account of forgery and deception in the White House deepened yesterday with a new CIA denial that it helped the Bush administration produce phony documents suggesting past links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Author Ron Suskind's book The Way of the World, released earlier this month, contends that the White House learned in early 2003 that the Iraqi president no longer possessed weapons of mass destruction but went to war regardless. Suskind wrote that the information was passed to British and U.S. intelligence officials in secret meetings with Tahir Habbush, Iraq's spy chief at the time. Moreover, in an allegation that implies potentially criminal acts by administration officials, the author wrote that White House officials ordered a forgery to influence public opinion about the war. The book contends that the CIA paid Habbush $5 million and resettled him in Jordan after the war. Then, it says, in late 2003, the White House ordered the CIA to enlist Habbush's help in concocting a fake letter that purported to show that Iraq helped train Mohamed Atta, the [alleged hijacker] in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Such a letter surfaced in Iraq in December 2003, but its authenticity quickly came into question. Suskind ... yesterday continued to stand by his book and accused the CIA and White House of orchestrating a smear campaign. "It's the same old stuff," said Suskind, who said his findings are supported by hours of interviews, some of them taped. "There's not a shred of doubt about any of it."
Fire, Not Explosives, Felled 3rd Tower on 9/11, Report Says
August 21, 2008, New York Times
Fires in the 47-story office tower at the edge of the World Trade Center site undermined floor beams and a critical structural column, federal investigators [from the National Institute of Standards and Technology] concluded on Thursday, as they attempted to curb still-rampant speculation that explosives caused the building's collapse on Sept. 11, 2001. The collapse of 7 World Trade Center ... is cited in hundreds of Web sites and books as perhaps the most compelling evidence that an insider secretly planted explosives, intentionally destroying the tower. [Critics] have pointed to the fact that the building fell straight down, instead of tumbling, as proof that explosives were used to topple it, as well as to bring down the twin towers. Sixteen percent of the respondents in a Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll said it was very likely or somewhat likely that explosives were planted. Other towers in New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles have remained standing through catastrophic blazes that burned out of control for hours because of malfunctioning or nonexistent sprinkler systems. But 7 World Trade Center, which was not struck by a plane, is the first skyscraper in modern times to collapse primarily as a result of a fire. Adding to the suspicion is the fact that in the rush to clean up the site, almost all of the steel remains of the tower were disposed of, leaving investigators in later years with little forensic evidence. Skeptics ... have long argued that an incendiary material called thermite, made of aluminum powder and a metal oxide, was used to take down the trade center towers. They also have argued that a sulfur residue found at the World Trade Center site is evidence of an inside job.
Researchers Question Wide Use of HPV Vaccines
August 21, 2008, New York Times
Two vaccines against cervical cancer are being widely used without sufficient evidence about whether they are worth their high cost or even whether they will effectively stop women from getting the disease, two articles in this week's New England Journal of Medicine conclude. Both vaccines target the human papillomavirus, a common sexually transmitted virus that usually causes no symptoms and is cleared by the immune system, but which can in very rare cases become chronic and cause cervical cancer. The two vaccines, Gardasil by Merck Sharp & Dohme and Cervarix by GlaxoSmithKline, target two strains of the virus that together cause an estimated 70 percent of cervical cancers. "Despite great expectations and promising results of clinical trials, we still lack sufficient evidence of an effective vaccine against cervical cancer," Dr. Charlotte J. Haug ... wrote in an editorial in Thursday's issue of The New England Journal. "With so many essential questions still unanswered, there is good reason to be cautious." The vaccines have been studied for a relatively short period – both were licensed in 2006 and have been studied in clinical trials for at most six and a half years. Researchers have not yet demonstrated how long the immunity will last, or whether eliminating some strains of cancer-causing virus will decrease the body's natural immunity to other strains. Because cervical cancer develops only after years of chronic infection with HPV, Dr. Haug said there was not yet absolute proof that protection against these two strains of the virus would ultimately reduce rates of cervical cancer.
Internet Providers' New Tool Raises Deep Privacy Concerns
August 21, 2008, Washington Post
If you're reading this story on our Web site, I don't know what you did online before you reached this page. But your Internet provider might if it engages in something called deep packet inspection. That phrase may sound like what the Transportation Security Administration does to uncooperative airline passengers, but on the Internet it means a thorough and automatic inspection of online traffic -- not just where you've been but also what you've seen. Peering inside the digital packets of data zipping across the Internet -- in real time, for tens of thousands of users at once -- was commercially impractical until recently. But the ceaseless march of processing power has made it feasible. Unsurprisingly, companies have been trying to turn this potential into profit. By tracking users' Web habits this closely, they can gain a much more detailed picture of their interests -- and then display precisely targeted, premium-priced ads. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce recently asked dozens of providers to explain whether they had done any such testing. Most companies said they had yet to try the technology and had no plans to do so. (Although AT&T allowed that "if done properly," deep packet inspection "could prove quite valuable to consumers.") Taking these companies at their word, what's there to worry about? Systems such as deep packet inspection unnerve a lot of Internet users for sound reasons. One is, of course, the immensely greater surveillance they allow. Another concern is the difficulty of circumventing this constant tracking. The machinery of deep packet inspection hides out of reach in your provider's servers.
A Few Speculators Dominate Vast Market for Oil Trading
August 21, 2008, Washington Post
Regulators had long classified a private Swiss energy conglomerate called Vitol as a trader that primarily helped industrial firms that needed oil to run their businesses. But when the Commodity Futures Trading Commission examined Vitol's books last month, it found that the firm was in fact more of a speculator, holding oil contracts as a profit-making investment rather than a means of lining up the actual delivery of fuel. Even more surprising to the commodities markets was the massive size of Vitol's portfolio -- at one point in July, the firm held 11 percent of all the oil contracts on the regulated New York Mercantile Exchange. The discovery revealed how an individual financial player had gained enormous sway over the oil market without the knowledge of regulators. Other CFTC data showed that a significant amount of trading activity was concentrated in the hands of just a few speculators. The CFTC ... now reports that financial firms speculating for their clients or for themselves account for about 81 percent of the oil contracts on NYMEX, a far bigger share than had previously been stated by the agency. That figure may rise in coming weeks as the CFTC checks the status of other big traders. Some lawmakers have blamed these firms for the volatility of oil prices, including the tremendous run-up that peaked earlier in the summer. "It is now evident that speculators in the energy futures markets play a much larger role than previously thought, and it is now even harder to accept the agency's laughable assertion that excessive speculation has not contributed to rising energy prices," said Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.).
Citizens' U.S. Border Crossings Tracked
August 20, 2008, Washington Post
The federal government has been using its system of border checkpoints to greatly expand a database on travelers entering the country by collecting information on all U.S. citizens crossing by land, compiling data that will be stored for 15 years and may be used in criminal and intelligence investigations. The Border Crossing Information system, disclosed last month by the Department of Homeland Security in a Federal Register notice, ... reflects the growing number of government systems containing personal information on Americans that can be shared for a broad range of law enforcement and intelligence purposes, some of which are exempt from some Privacy Act protections. While international air passenger data has long been captured this way, Customs and Border Protection agents only this year began to log the arrivals of all U.S. citizens across land borders, through which about three-quarters of border entries occur. The volume of people entering the country by land prevented compiling such a database until recently. But the advent of machine-readable identification documents, which the government mandates eventually for everyone crossing the border, has made gathering the information more feasible. Critics say the moves exemplify efforts by the Bush administration in its final months to cement an unprecedented expansion of data gathering for national security and intelligence purposes. The data could be used beyond determining whether a person may enter the United States. For instance, information may be shared with foreign agencies when relevant to their hiring or contracting decisions.
Special note: For a top-notch, amazingly revealing video documentary on blatant elections corruption filled with reliable information, see http://freeforall.tv. It's even quite inspiring!
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Tabletop Fusion, Voting Machine Oversight, CIA Deception