People

US: There's A Secret Patriot Act, Senator Says

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You may think you understand how the Patriot Act allows the government to spy on its citizens. Sen. Ron Wyden says it's worse than you've heard.

Congress is set to reauthorize three controversial provisions of the surveillance law as early as Thursday. But Wyden says that what Congress will renew is a mere fig leaf for a far broader legal interpretation of the Patriot Act that the government keeps to itself - entirely in secret. Worse, there are hints that the government uses this secret interpretation to gather what one Patriot-watcher calls a "dragnet" for massive amounts of information on private citizens; the government portrays its data-collection efforts much differently.

"We're getting to a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what the American government secretly thinks the law says," Wyden tells Danger Room in an interview in his Senate office. "When you've got that kind of a gap, you're going to have a problem on your hands."

What exactly does Wyden mean by that? As a member of the intelligence committee, he laments that he can't precisely explain without disclosing classified information. But one component of the Patriot Act in particular gives him immense pause: the so-called "business records provision," which empowers the FBI to get businesses, medical offices, banks and other organizations to turn over any "tangible things" it deems relevant to a security investigation.

"It is fair to say that the business records provision is a part of the Patriot Act that I am extremely interested in reforming," Wyden says. "I know a fair amount about how it's interpreted, and I am going to keep pushing, as I have, to get more information about how the Patriot Act is being interpreted declassified. I think the public has a right to public debate about it."
Radar

US: Feds threaten to ground Texas airplanes if anti-groping bill becomes law

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A bill that would criminalize TSA agents who conduct airport patdown searches was scuttled last night after the federal government threatened to ground all flights out of Texas.

The proposed law would have levied misdemeanor charges against security agents who "intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly [touch] the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of the other person, including touching through clothing, or touching the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person."

An earlier version of House Bill 1937 would have made such action a felony.

"If [the legislation] passes, the federal government would likely seek an emergency stay of the statute," a letter from the Department of Justice explained (PDF). "Unless or until a such a stay were granted, TSA would likely be required to cancel any flight or series of flights for which it could not ensure the safety of passengers and crew."
Nuke

Risk From Spent Nuclear Reactor Fuel Is Greater in U.S. Than in Japan, Study Says

Spent nuclear fuel pool
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Spent nuclear fuel pool
The threat of a catastrophic release of radioactive materials from a spent fuel pool at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant is dwarfed by the risk posed by such pools in the United States, which are typically filled with far more radioactive material, according to a study released on Tuesday by a nonprofit institute.

The report, from the Institute for Policy Studies, recommends that the United States transfer most of the nation's spent nuclear fuel from pools filled with cooling water to dry sealed steel casks to limit the risk of an accident resulting from an earthquake, terrorism or other event.

"The largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet will remain in storage at U.S. reactor sites for the indefinite future," the report's author, Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar at the institute, wrote. "In protecting America from nuclear catastrophe, safely securing the spent fuel by eliminating highly radioactive, crowded pools should be a public safety priority of the highest degree."
Info

Ireland: Ryanair flies plane through Icelandic volcano ash cloud

Ryanair called for restrictions on airlines to be lifted after it claimed to have flown a plane safely though the thickest part of the volcanic ash cloud.

The airline said it strongly objected to the disruption under orders from the Irish Aviation Authority which saw flights cancelled at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Health

Are your Hormones Making you Miserable?

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Are your hormones out of balance?

Does your life feel like a song played badly out of tune?

If so, the problem may have to do with imbalances in your hormones, which are wreaking havoc on your body and mind.

There is one hormone in particular I am going to focus on today, and it could be at the root of your problems.

I will share with you 12 tips you can start using immediately to begin rebalancing your hormones and bring your life back into tune.
Eye 2

How Psychologists Put Us All at Risk by Confusing Categories and Reaching Wrong Conclusions: Is Fear Deficit a Harbinger of Future Psychopaths?

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Patty McCormack from "The Bad Seed"
Psychopaths are charming, but they often get themselves and others in big trouble; their willingness to break social norms and lack of remorse means they are often at risk for crimes and other irresponsible behaviors.

One hypothesis on how psychopathy works is that it has to do with a fear deficit. A new study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that children with a particular risk factor for psychopathy don't register fear as quickly as healthy children.


Comment: Risk factor? This term is usually applied in reference to any attribute, characteristic or exposure of an individual that increases the likelihood of developing a disease, illness (mental illness, for example), or injury.

But there is a difference between "mental illness" and psychopathy. Mental illness is what non-psychopaths may or may not have: emotional problems caused by trauma, toxins, abuse, etc. Psychopathy is completely different. Yes, psychopaths may have some apparently useful qualities, but they're incidental to the underlying psychopathy. Yes, they may be charming and good talkers, but that's an act. Yes, they may not kill, but they manipulate and harm others in different ways. It's just the way they are.

And while we are aware of the hesitancy among the psychological community to diagnose young children as psychopaths without resorting to mental gymnastics or looking for ways to "fix" them, considering the above, failing to accurately assert the real nature of psychopathy puts us all at grave risk of continuous exposure to the danger, while our attempts to cure them don't do much than train them how to be better manipulators.

From Review: Jon Ronson's The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry:
There was the failed experiment at Oak Ridge, in Canada, where psychopathic offenders were treated with LSD and encouraged to "share their feelings", engaging in group therapy where they acted as each other's psychotherapists. The inmates showed remarkable improvement and were released into the world, reformed beings eager to start life anew. At least, that's what the doctors thought. But the therapy had simply taught them to be better manipulators, and it seemed to have gone to their heads. Their recidivism rates ended up being even higher than ordinary psychopaths...As psychopathy expert and author of the Psychopathy Checklist, Bob Hare, says, psychopaths are born psychopaths. You can't treat them.

The hypothesis that psychopaths don't feel or recognize fear dates back to the 1950s, says the study's primary author Patrick D. Sylvers, of the University of Washington. "What happens is you're born without that fear, so when your parents try to socialize you, you don't really respond appropriately because you're not scared." By the same token, if you hurt a peer and they give you a fearful look, "most of us would learn from that and back off," but a child with developing psychopathy would keep tormenting their classmate.
Bulb

Religion May Cause Brain Atrophy

brain
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Faith can open your mind but it can also cause your brain to shrink at a different rate, research suggests.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Centre in the US claim to have discovered a correlation between religious practices and changes in the brains of older adults.

The study, published in the open-access science journal, Public Library of Science ONE, asked 268 people aged 58 to 84 about their religious group, spiritual practices and life-changing religious experiences. Changes in the volume of their hippocampus, the region of the brain associated with learning and memory, were tracked using MRI scans, over two to eight years.

Protestants who did not identify themselves as born-again were found to have less atrophy in the hippocampus region than did born-again Protestants, Catholics or those with no religious affiliation. Frequency of worship was not found to have a bearing on results, while participants who said they had undergone a religious experience were found to have more atrophy than those who did not.
Smoking

Papers please! Anti-Smoking FASCIST calls for 'License to Smoke'!


Professor Simon Chapman: fascist
There's been a call to license smoking, and to have a system similar to the one proposed for gamblers, to limit the number of cigarettes people can smoke in a set time.

The Sunday Age reports this morning Professor Simon Chapman, an anti-smoking campaigner from the University of Sydney says a smoking ban could be a reality within 10 to 15 years, and he believes a licensing scheme, using a swipe card for authorised smokers, would pave the way.

Comment: The only antidote to this kind of pathological poison is to say...

Let's All Light Up!

Oh, and by the way, Smoking Helps Protect Against Lung Cancer.

Magic Wand

Yup, Still Here

© Thomas Hawk / Flickr
But of that day and hour no one knoweth, no, not the Angels of Heaven, but the Father alone.

- Jesus of Nazareth

A few weeks ago, my wife and I took a drive to visit friends and family in her small hometown out in western Pennsylvania. It was what you'd expect from a region that has been dealing with economic recession since the steel and rail industries dried up and blew away forty years ago - sweet and beautiful in places, blighted and depressing in others, but with the first faint bloom of spring on the trees whispering of better days to come - except for one strange, glaring thing.

It was one of those digital billboards, looming and gaudy amid the neglected sprawl of Altoona, and displayed on it was something I'd only heard about in passing. According to that blinking monstrosity, Jesus was going to ride back to Earth on the wave of a planet-annihilating earthquake that would summon The Faithful to Heaven and consign the remaining mass of sinful humanity to the yawning doom of the damned. This was to happen on May 21st, roundabout six in the evening (Eastern Standard Time), and the last dregs of the un-chosen would be completely scourged from the Earth by October.

By the time we left for home, I had spotted three more billboards of varying sizes and technologies espousing the same apocalyptic message, and upon our return, I did some digging. As it turned out, these things had been popping up all over the country; even here in liberal Boston, I discovered the existence of one of these billboards not three miles from where I now sit. Something called Family Radio Worldwide, in the guise of a fellow named Harold Camping, laid out the scratch to buy all that billboard space across the continent, because ol' Harold had consulted his trusty Bible, done some wildly questionable math, and pulled the exact moment of the End Times out of his cash-filled hat.
Meteor

Did a meteor bring down Air France 447?

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Back in 1996, after the initially very mysterious explosion and crash of Flight 800 from JFK to Rome, there were numerous eyewitness accounts of a "streak in the sky" just before the crash. This led to the "missile theory" of the crash, which was eventually attributed to the explosion of the center fuel tank by the NTSB. But, also at the time, it was suggested that a meteor of sufficient size could have struck the plane, bringing it down.

Could a meteor have brought down Air France 447? Today we are starting to see reports that there actually may have been a meteor:
However, both pilots of an Air Comet flight from Lima to Lisbon sent a written report on the bright flash they said they saw to Air France, Airbus and the Spanish civil aviation authority, the airline told CNN.

"Suddenly, we saw in the distance a strong and intense flash of white light, which followed a descending and vertical trajectory and which broke up in six seconds," the captain wrote.

Comment: Actually, SOTT called this one when it happened! The reader is invited to take a look at What are they hiding? Flight 447 and Tunguska Type Events, that clearly demonstrates the possibility of Flight 447 being hit by a meteorite or a shockwave from an exploding comet fragment.

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