Puppet MastersS


Massive airship off to a flying start

Blimps and zeppelins plied the skies in the early part of the 20th Century, carrying passengers and cargo and even serving as military aircraft during the World Wars. But it didn't take long for airplanes to replace dirigibles for commercial and military flight and by the middle of the 20th Century, airships were mostly use for advertising, sightseeing and surveillance.

But blimps may be back. Montabello, Calif.-based Aeros is working on a rigid airship that can fly like a plane and float like a balloon. If realized, the 500-foot-long Aeroscraft would greatly alter the way cargo is shipped. The craft is designed to take off vertically and cruise at up to 130 miles an hour at an altitude of 12,000 feet. It will be able to travel thousands of miles on a single tank of fuel, carrying 66 tons of cargo -- that's three times the capacity of a C-130 and half that of the C-5, the largest military aircraft flown by the United States.

"This vehicle doesn't need infrastructure," Munir Tojo-Verge, the flight control systems engineer at Aeros, told Discovery News. "It could even land on water."


Flashback Weapons reportedly meant for Brad Pitt film seized

© Jeff J. Mitchell, Getty ImagesAuthorities in Hungary say the weapons that were to be used as props in Brad Pitt's World War Z had not been fully deactivated.
Nearly 100 live weapons to be used in Brad Pitt's World War Z film were confiscated by Hungarian authorities, local media reported Tuesday. The weapons included machine guns, rifles and pistols, security officials said.

The weapons arrived from London to Budapest's Ferenc Liszt Airport on Saturday and were discovered at a nearby duty free zone, Janos Hajdu, head of Hungary's Counterterrorism Center, said. He said he could not confirm they were meant for the film.


Alabama lawmaker pushing 'personhood' because 'aborted babies' might go to Hell

A Republican lawmaker in Alabama says that he wants to pursue a so-called "personhood" bill outlawing abortion rights for women because the Bible proves that a fetus "is life inside of a mother," but he's not sure if "aborted babies" are going to Heaven or Hell.

In a recent interview with the Times-Journal, state Sen. Shadrack McGill lamented that "you can be charged up to $250,000 for destroying an eagle egg, but you can destroy babies in the womb?"

McGill explained that his interpretation of Psalm 22 made it clear that life began at fertilization.

"Just based on the Scripture alone, the Psalm that talks about God knowing us before he placed us in our mother's womb, is enough for me to know that that is a life inside of a mother," he said.

"So my question concerning aborted babies is, where do they go, heaven or hell?"

Snakes in Suits

Idaho lawmaker's bill would force students to pass 'Atlas Shrugged' test to graduate

The chairman of the Idaho Senate's Education Committee says that he introduced a bill to require all students to read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged because the book "made my son a Republican."

State Sen. John Goedde (R) introduced the bill in committee on Tuesday to mandate that each student pass a test on the novel before they are able to graduate from high school, according to The Spokesman-Review.

But Goedde said that he filed the bill to make a point and does not plan on pushing the issue.

"It was a shot over their bow just to let them know that there's another way to adopt high school graduation requirements," Goedde said during the committee meeting. "I don't intend to schedule a hearing on it."

Eye 1

Drone zone: Proposed aerial surveillance rules for Seattle

The Draganflyer X6 is an electric powered Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) which most people refer to as a drone. Seattle Police have two of them. The drones must follow FAA guidelines which include not flying over crowds. They must be monitored by at least one operator and one observer
Put words like "surveillance" and "unmanned aerial systems" together, and people begin to worry about Big Brother watching their every move.
At the direction of Mayor Mike McGinn, the Seattle Police Department has been working on rules governing the use of drones. A city council committee will discuss, and likely vote, on the proposed policy Wednesday afternoon.

The SPD has two drones, so far, that were obtained with a grant from the Department of Homeland Security. While the technology will become more advanced, the drones Seattle has burn through batteries in about 10 minutes.

The city says the systems "are intended to help us protect public safety by gathering visual information in specific situations where sending in an officer would not be safe, or to take crime scene photography that a human being could not easily capture.

The use of aerial surveillance cameras will be "tightly controlled, regulated and will not be used to conduct random surveillance," they say.


Former Target store manager to oversee U.S. nuclear security

Ever since last summer, when a 82-year-old nun broke into the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the National Nuclear Security Administration has scrambled to improve its leadership and beef up security at America's nuke facilities. Now it appears the agency has found the man for the job: The weekly trade publication Nuclear Weapons & Materials Monitor reported last week that the NNSA has named as its acting head of nuclear security Steve Asher, a retired Air Force colonel who fewer than four years ago was working as a "team leader" at a Target store in Spokane, Washington. Prior to that, he commanded a missile base in Montana that flunked a nuclear security test within five months of his departure.

This November 2009 video, dug up by the Project On Government Oversight (where I used to be a fellow), shows Asher hawking Black Friday bargains: "A lot of folks were being thrifty in their shopping this year, and so we sold more of our $1.99 towels than we expected!"

Light Saber

Best of the Web: De-propagandizing the 'North Korea bogeyman': South Korea still occupied, Real threat to world is U.S.

Abby Martin Breaks the Set on the North Korean threat, the US government's expanding terror programs, and the implications of intervention in Mali.

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Episode Breakdown: On this episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin talks to the national coordinator for the ANSWER Coalition, Brian Becker, about North Korea's nuclear drive, its tense relations with the US and the rationale of harsh rhetoric coming from the International community.

Abby then talks to editorial board member for Liberation News, Eugene Puryear, about the efficacy of the 'bombing for peace' strategy by French troops in Mali, given the volatility of a nation already stricken with poverty and violence. BTS wraps up the show with a look at the global network the US has employed to carry out extraordinary rendition as well as the recently leaked memo outlining the government's expansive power as it relates to drones and kill lists.


NYPD Muslim spying operation takes 'security' to an unjustified extreme

© Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters
How many more lawsuits will it take for the NYPD to cease monitoring American citizens without a good explanation?

The New York Police Department's Muslim surveillance operation, set up under the direction of an ex-CIA operative, deployed undercover officers and informants in mosques, schools, restaurants, and bodegas throughout the city to spy on the daily lives of thousands of Americans.

Reams of information about innocuous activity landed up in police files. Unsurprisingly, these indiscriminate operations have proven ineffective. NYPD Intelligence Chief Thomas Galati made no bones about the fact that a key part of the program never turned up a lead worth pursuing.

After the Associated Press revealed that the NYPD had placed entire American Muslim neighborhoods under surveillance, police commissioner Raymond Kelly vigorously defended the program.

Bizarro Earth

Wealthiest U.S. colleges suing students over default loans

© Reuters / Kevin Lamarque
Graduate student borrowers are defaulting on almost US$1 billion in federal loans that were given out to the poor. US colleges such as Yale, Penn State and George Washington are coming after them in the courts, suing for nonpayment.

All three colleges have pursued lawsuits against students who defaulted on their Perkins loans. The exact number of lawsuits is not known, but just last year alone the University of Pennsylvania filed at least a dozen lawsuits over the Federal Perkins Loan, Bloomberg reported.

Colleges are suing to collect unpaid Perkins Loans, given out by individual colleges to students who demonstrate extreme financial hardship.

Colleges depend on repayment of money to finance the new Perkins loans and so when graduates fail to pay back the borrowed sum, the current students are put at risk of not receiving new loans.

Between June 2010 and 2011 students defaulted on $964 million in Perkins loans, 20 per cent more than five years ago, Bloomberg reports.

Cell Phone

Maryland cell phone tracking bill in motion

© Reuters / Nacho Doce
Officials may gain access to intimate knowledge of the whereabouts of cell users in Maryland. Phone records could be handed over without a search warrant if a new bill passes. A civil liberties group has labeled the proposal 'invasive'.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has criticized government plans to allow law enforcement officials automatic access to these records, testifying against the intrusive tracking bill, House Bill 377 , on Tuesday. The bill is currently being considered by the Maryland House Judiciary Committee.

Law enforcement officials must obtain a search warrant prior to accessing such information, insisted ACLUM.

"Of all of the recent technological developments that have expanded the surveillance capabilities of law enforcement agencies at the expense of individual privacy, perhaps the most powerful is cell phone location tracking," said the national American Civil Liberties Union last September, in response to knowledge they obtained that numerous police departments were tracking the devices without a search warrant anyway.