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A curmudgeon looks at the world
From: "delanceyplace" <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, 31 October, 2014 03:51
Subject: the lost love of john quincy adams -- 10/31/14
These tropical paradises and famous urban islands are threatened by rising sea levels, and may be underwater in the next fifty or a hundred years:
Ric Gillespie is a pilot and former aviation insurance investigator who, for the last several decades, has advocated the theory that Amelia Earhart, on the day she disappeared during her around-the-world journey, crash-landed on a tiny Pacific island called Nikumaroro, 350 miles away from her intended target. Gillespie isn't a quack, but his explanation of Earhart's disappearance and death (he presumes she died of thirst or hunger after being stranded on the island) is far from universally accepted. He's collected a number of intriguing artifacts on Nikumaroro, but his finds have never been definitive. When The New Republic profiled Gillespie two years ago, reporter Jesse Zwick wrote that the Earhart-ologist is as much a storytelling dreamer as a researcher:Rico says it would be nice to have a resolution of poor Amelia's fate...
“If Earhart's a pioneer in something,” Gillespie told me near the end of my visit, “she and her husband were pioneers in media manipulation.”
When I spoke with Gillespie’s critics, I was struck by how much their descriptions of him echoed his own description of Earhart. “I think he’s a genius,” Susan Butler told me. “I understand why he does it. I think he’s having a wonderful time. He’s getting other people to bankroll a wonderful way of life. Nikumaroro is a gorgeous island. And I think he must also believe it.” Indeed, Gillespie’s search, the way in which his gifted showmanship has overshadowed the dubiousness of his discoveries and long odds of success, may be the most fitting tribute that the world could offer Earhart on the seventy-fifth anniversary of her death.
Gillespie and his organization, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), are planning another of their Nikumaroro trips for next year. And, perhaps not coincidentally, they've just announced that they "strongly" believe a scrap of metal found on the island— which had previously been shown not to match the material used to make Earhart's plane— is, in fact, a makeshift patch that was installed over what had been a window. You can see TIGHAR's analysis at its website; it's probably too technical for the layman to make a judgment on, but with the attention that the announcement has gotten via
Wired, Discovery News, and other science-y outlets, outside specialists will no doubt weigh in. And, either way, Gillespie and his group say their trip next year could uncover the fuselage of Earhart's plane, which they believe they might have found (via sonar image) under six hundred feet of water near the island.
One of TIGHAR's sponsors, incidentally? FedEx, whose affiliation with Gillespie actually predates Cast Away by four years.
In a rare display of public protest, thousands of Iranians in Tehran, Isfahan, and Saqez, including women with their faces covered to hide their identities, took to the streets to protest the recent spate of acid attacks on women in Isfahan.Rico says he doesn't get how you square this with any 'just, peaceful, and kind' religion... (But, then, Rico doesn't buy into anyone's religion.) And if they want to see 'lax dressing', they should visit Los Angeles (with its airport code, of course, of LAX) on a hot day...
At least nine women have been maimed (with one succumbing to her injuries) in the last three weeks by suspected hardliners unhappy with the level of obedience to the Iranian regime’s strict dress code. Shouting: "The one who splashes acid is a regime element, and we lack security" and "Support us, support us, splashing acid is a crime," protesters skirmished with Iran’s brutal Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, who reportedly fired tear gas and pepper spray into the crowd. The protesters also demonstrated against a leading imam who has condoned the use of violence against women who do not dress according to the Islamic regime's strict dress code.
Authorities briefly detained famed Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who
spent three years in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for defending political prisoners. She has since been prevented from practicing law. Two days after the protest, authorities arrested Iranian photojournalist Arya Jafara, whose photos of the protesters were distributed globally.
The acid attacks and subsequent protests took place as the backdrop of a debate being waged in the Iranian parliament about a controversial bill that has been proposed by hardliners to allow common citizens, as well as militias, to enforce the dress code, as well as any other interpretation of Islamic morality that they deem is being violated.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani opposes the legislation. “Rue the day some lead our society down the path to insecurity, sow discord, and cause rifts, all under the banner of Islam,” Rouhani reportedly told a cheering crowd. “We should not see vice as manifested only in ‘bad hijab’ and overlook lies, corruption, slander, and bribery,” he added.
al-Jazeera reported that the dress code issue has brought Rouhani in “direct confrontation” with the hardline, conservative clergy of the country. In an unusual move, Rouhani responded to remarks made by the Ayatollah Sayed Yousef Tabatabaei-Nejad during Friday prayers in Isfahan. "Hijab is the symbol of women's piety," said Nejad. "Anyone who deviates from it is deviating from Islam."
Answering Nejad, Rouhani said, in a speech, that "the dress code should not be the only subject about which we propagate virtue. A few people should not assume they are the only moral compass in the country."
Images of victims of acid attacks circulated widely on Iranian social media, with some reports claiming that there have been as many as fifteen attacks in the last weeks.
One victim wrote: "My entire body was burning, but, when I took some of my clothes off to cool down, passersby didn't think of helping me, instead they kept telling me off for forgetting the dress code."
Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple Computer, has spoken publicly about his sexuality in a Bloomberg Businessweek op-ed, writing: “I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me”. It’s the most forceful declaration of self we’ve seen by a gay person in recent memory, one that presents being gay as something legitimately different from being straight, and none the worse for that. It’s an inspiring new way to come out.
To be fair, Cook’s sexuality has been such an open secret that it’s legitimate to question if this is even a coming-out. The hard lines around “coming out”, traditionally the process by which someone tells the world for the first time that one is gay, have been eroded by the openness of the press and the relaxing of stigmas around homosexuality have made it far less taboo to write about a person’s sexuality before their explicit say-so. This is the first time Cook has spoken so openly about being gay; that has hardly stopped the press from, without evident malice or homophobia, including him on an Out power list of gay celebrities, or, at the time of his appointment as Steve Jobs’ replacement, calling him “the most powerful gay man in America”. Though the mainstream press has been more reticent, with a New York Times article in May of 2014asking where the openly gay CEOs were, some segments of the press covered Cook’s sexuality as they would his race or gender, as an unremarkable fact about him.
Other coming-outs, like that of Anderson Cooper in 2012, have followed a similar script: the public figure’s sexuality is unremarkable, neither here nor there, worthy of acknowledgment solely as a biographical detail. Cooper, a CNN anchor, wrote, in a public letter to the blogger Andrew Sullivan: “In a perfect world, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business, but I do think there is value in standing up and being counted.” In his declaration of his sexuality, there was a strong undertone of reluctance: This shouldn’t be necessary, as it had little to do with Cooper’s identity. Even in coming out, Cooper spent far more time describing his life as a journalist, which he insisted was not colored by his life experiences, than he did acknowledging his sexuality. So, too, did Neil Patrick Harris, in 2006, express his annoyance at the “speculation and interest in my private life and relationships” even while finally discussing them with the press. In her 2013 speech at the Golden Globes, Jodie Foster acknowledged her former partner while framing any and all inquiries into her private life as forcing her into the position of Honey Boo Boo Child, a reality show entertainer.
Tim Cook has set a new paradigm, describing his sexuality as not merely a small aspect of himself that he needs to get through talking about, but as central to his identity. “Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day,” writes Cook. “It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life.”
Some will likely grouse that Cook’s silence for so long dulls the impact of his coming out now, at the age of 53. And his own essay presents the same privacy arguments we’ve heard before, explaining that this was, indeed, a difficult choice. Past celebrity coming-out declarations have had a certain breeziness to them, as though the stars decided they might as well finally entertain the press’s endless inquiries. Cook’s desire not to acknowledge his sexuality, he writes, stemmed from his fear that it would overtake all other aspects of his persona in the public eye. “I’m an engineer, an uncle, a nature lover, a fitness nut, a son of the South, a sports fanatic, and many other things.”
But it’s a sign of how much society has changed even since 2012 that Cook is finally able to present the somewhat revolutionary idea that being gay is not just the same as being straight, that it is not a simple aspect of one’s makeup. It changes the way one views the world, as Cook writes. It also compels one forward to take part in a cause larger than oneself. As Cook writes, citing the civil-rights legacies of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy: “We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick.”
In the immediate aftermath of World War One, Britain carved the new country of Iraq out of the defeated Ottoman Empire to protect its access to newly discovered oil fields and its imperial possessions in Asia. The new country was an illogical aggregation of factions, Sunnis, Shi'ites, and Kurds among them, that were so hostile to each other it almost immediately led Britain to bomb some of its villages. The British recruited an out-of-work king to preside over the ill-fated land:Rico says we all know how well all that turned out...During the war, London had encouraged Hussein, the Sharif of Mecca, to take the lead in raising an Arab revolt against Turkey. This he did, beginning in 1916, aided by a few Englishmen, of whom the most famous was T.E. Lawrence, known to history as Lawrence of Arabia. In exchange, Hussein and his sons were to be installed as the rulers of the various, predominantly Arab, constituents of the Turkish empire. Faisal, third son of Hussein, (photo) was generally considered the most able.
The British put Faisal on the throne of the newly created nation of Syria, one of the independent states carved out of the extinct Turkish empire. But a few months later, when control of Syria passed to France under the postwar understandings, Faisal was abruptly deposed and turned out of Damascus. He showed up at a railway station in Palestine, where, after a ceremonial welcome by the British, he sat on his luggage waiting for his connection.
But his career as a king was not yet over. The British needed a monarch for Iraq, another new state, this one to be formed out of three former provinces of the Turkish empire. Political stability in the area was required not only by the prospect for oil, but also for defense of the Persian Gulf and for the new imperial air route from Britain to India, Singapore, and Australia. The British did not want to rule the region directly; that would cost too much. Rather, what Winston Churchill, then head of the Colonial Office, wanted was an Arab government, with a constitutional monarch, that would be 'supported' by Britain under the League of Nations mandate, as it would be cheaper. So Churchill chose the out-of-work Faisal as his candidate. Summoned from exile, Faisal was crowned King of Iraq in Baghdad in August of 1921.
Faisal's task was enormous; he had not inherited a well-defined nation, but rather a collection of diverse groups— Shia and Sunni Arabs, Jews, Kurds, and Yazidis— a territory with a few important cities, most of the countryside under the control of local sheikhs, and with little common political or cultural history, but with a rising Arab nationalism. The minority Sunni Arabs held political power, while the Shia Arabs were by far the most numerous. To complicate things further, the Jews were the largest single group among inhabitants of Baghdad, followed by Arabs and Turks.
A group of retailers known as the Merchant Customer Exchange said that it could yet decide to use the technology that Apple Pay relies on to process transactions
Rain fell recently on a red-hot river of lava as it threatened to consume its first home on its slow advance into a rural Hawai'ian town. A breakout of the lava flow was about a hundred feet from a Paho'a residence, about the length of a basketball court, said Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira. The couple that lives in the home has left.Rico says that, if you live on top of an active volcano, you shouldn't be surprised by stuff like this...
Scientists from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory walking alongside the lava reported its leading edge was just two hundred yards from Pahoa Village Road, which goes through a commercial hub of the Big Island’s sprawling and isolated Puna district.
“This is just a little quiet village is a very rural community. We farm, we fish, we hunt,” said Jamila Dandini. “We’re going to be an island on an island.”
The leading edge remained in a large agricultural parcel that included another house, which was about a hundred yards from the lava, Oliveira said.
Dozens of homes, business and other structures are in the area of the lava flow. That number could increase as the flow front widens. “The people who are meant to stay will stay. The people that have to leave, sadly, will leave,” Dandini said.
So far, lava has burned a garden shed, tires, and some metal materials. On Wednesday, it burned mostly vegetation, while the rain helped tamp down smoke from the crackling stream.
Officials are monitoring hazards from the smoke. Chemists from the observatory detected only low levels of sulfur dioxide, Oliveira said.
The lava flow emerged from a vent in June of 2014 and, until recently, had been slowly weaving through uninhabited forest and pastureland.
The flow is expected to slither past properties across the street from Jeff and Denise Lagrimas’ home as it works its way toward the ocean, about 6 miles away. The Lagrimases decided not to stay and see the lava burn their home. They packed up to leave for a town fourteen miles away. “I don’t want to stick around and just wait for it to come and take it,” Denise Lagrimas said, while taking a break from loading kitchen cups and bowls in cardboard boxes. “You just never know.” She said they decided to move to Kurtistown, because it’s a safe distance away. “Never in my wildest dreams as a kid growing up did I think I would be running from lava,” she said.
Erbin Gamurot, 48, a handyman, said Pele, the volcano goddess, just wants to visit her sister, Namakaokahai, the sea goddess. “She gotta go see her sister. She gotta go say hi. You know how family are. It’s all good,” Gamuret said.
A spokesman for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has described the closure of a disputed holy site in Jerusalem as a "declaration of war".
The move came amid tension and violence after the shooting of a Jewish activist. Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu urged calm, saying Abbas was stoking unrest. The holy site will reopen on Friday, Israel's economy minister says.
Yehuda Glick, a campaigner for greater Jewish prayer rights at the Temple Mount/al-Haram al-Sharif, was wounded. Israeli police later killed a Palestinian suspected of shooting him. Moataz Hejazi, 32, was shot after opening fire when police surrounded his home.
Rabbi Glick is a well-known US-born campaigner for the right of Jews to pray at the site, which is currently prohibited.
The compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, is the holiest site in Judaism, and contains the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.
In other developments, Sweden became the first major Western European country to officially recognize Palestine as a state, and Israel has recalled its ambassador to Sweden in response, according to an official quoted by AFP.
The UN Human Rights Committee urged Israel to halt settlement-building in the West Bank and investigate alleged violations committed by its military in Gaza since 2008.
Secretary of State John Kerry described alleged insults which a senior US official aimed at Netanyahu as "disgraceful, unacceptable and damaging".
Analysis by the BBC's Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem:Rico says the Jews could have had a state made out of Baja California in 1945, but noooo...
A delicate status quo governs rights of access to al-Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. Israel captured the Old City in 1967, but swiftly handed control of the compound back to Islamic religious authorities, fearful of triggering a Holy War. Israel's security forces do impose restrictions, banning men under the age of fifty from worshipping on occasion, but argue that is about maintaining order.Known as the Temple Mount to Jews and al-Haram al-Sharif to Muslims, it comprises the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, and is next to the Western Wall, which, from the time of the original Jewish temples, is the holiest site where Jews can pray; the Dome of the Rock, where, according to Jewish tradition, the Ark of the Covenant rested in the First Temple, is the holiest site in Judaism.
Jews are allowed to visit the site but not to pray there. Now some right-wing religious groups say Jews should be allowed to pray, a demand which causes anger and unease in the Muslim world.
If it all sounds familiar, well, that's because it is. When Britain governed the Holy Land in 1929 a very similar dispute provoked rioting that led to widespread loss of life; a proper resolution of it all still feels hopelessly distant.
There was also a small demonstration by far-right Israelis outside the holy site, with several arrested for attempting to enter it.
Palestinians hold the Israeli government responsible for a "dangerous act", Abbas was quoted as saying by spokesman Nabil abu Rudeina, the AFP reports.
Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett told the BBC that the holy site would reopen in time for Friday prayers "unless there are unusual events that take place over the next few hours".
The al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam; the Dome of the Rock is revered by Muslims because of its connections to the Prophet Muhammad, and Christians also venerate the site because of its Biblical links to Jesus.
A Muslim committee has managed the compound since the time of the Crusades, while Israel, which has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967, controls access.
Israel maintains a ban on prayer by non-Muslims at the compound as a security measure, but Rabbi Yehuda Glick campaigns for allowing Jews to pray at the site.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for calm, suggesting Abbas is responsible for the increasing tension. "We're facing a wave of incitement by radical Islamic elements as well as by the Palestinian Authority chairman, who said that Jews must absolutely be prevented from going on to the Temple Mount," he said, quoted by the Haaretz newspaper.
Some districts of East Jerusalem have seen nightly clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces since the Gaza conflict last summer. A Jewish baby and an Ecuadorian woman were killed when a Palestinian attacker drove his car into a group of pedestrians in Jerusalem last week.
Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman, said: ''There was an attempted assassination on a known right-wing activist'' Police say Hejazi belonged to the Islamic Jihad militant group and served time in jail in Israel before being released in 2012.
Police say they were fired at after surrounding a house where he was staying, and they shot back, hitting the suspect.
Rabbi Glick has undergone surgery for gunshot wounds to his chest and abdomen.
Israel argues that it protects freedom of worship at the site, but Palestinians claim it is unilaterally taking steps to allow larger numbers of Jewish visitors.
The tale of the engines that propelled the Antares rocket, which exploded in a spectacular ball of flame in Virginia, begins four decades ago, thousands of miles away, in the land of Communism and Sputnik. There, in the Soviet Union, rocket scientists conceived and built dozens of rocket engines meant to power Russian astronauts into the cosmos. But it didn’t work out that way.Rico says that when you try and do things on the cheap, you get cheap shit...
Instead, all four launches of the mighty N1 Soviet rocket, which used an earlier iteration of the first-stage engines used in the Antares launch, failed between 1969 and 1972. And as the Soviet Union abandoned the idea of putting cosmonauts on the moon, those engines languished in Russia “without a purpose,” reported Space Lift Now.
That was until they were snapped up by Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences, which built the rocket that exploded. It uses two modified versions of those Russian engines to propel missions to the International Space Station, according to the company’s user’s guide. To be clear, investigators say they do not know what caused the explosion, which destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment. But some observers are questioning those Soviet-era engines.
An Orbital executive complained there aren’t more modern alternatives to the decades-old engines, The Guardian reported. “When you look at it, there are not many other options around the world in terms of using power plants of this size,” said Frank Culbertson, the company’s executive vice president. “Certainly not in this country, unfortunately.” The first issues with the rocket appeared to arise, he said, during the rocket’s first stage, when it was powered by Soviet engines. “The ascent stopped and there was some, let’s say, disassembly of the first stage, after which it fell to Earth,” he said.
Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, the explosion is likely to stall the ambitions of Orbital Sciences, which has a two billion dollar contract to make eight supply missions to the International Space Station. It shed $266 million in market value after the failed launch. What’s more, this is not Orbital’s only recent engine-related explosion.
In May of 2014, one of its refurbished Soviet engines failed at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. “Sources claim the engine ‘exploded,’” reported NASA Space Flight. “The failure is currently under evaluation.”
Elon Musk, the chief executive of Orbital’s competitor, SpaceX, has long warned against using such decades-old technology. Calling it one of the “pretty silly things going on in the market,” he told Wired last year some aerospace firms rely on parts “developed in the 1960s” rather than “better technology”. He called out Orbital Sciences in particular. It “has a contract to resupply the International Space Station, and their rocket honestly sounds like the punch line to a joke,” he said. “It uses Russian rocket engines that were made in the 1960s. I don’t mean their design is from the 1960s— I mean they start with engines that were literally made in the 1960s and, like, packed away in Siberia somewhere.”
That synopsis isn’t far from the truth. After the N1 rocket failed in the early 1970s, the Soviet Union pulled back on its space ambitions, and its engines went into hibernation, Space Flight Now reported. “After the engines were built, Soviet space dreams were adjusted to focus on Earth-orbiting space stations, leaving the engineering marvels in storage without a purpose.”
They were eventually brought to the United States in the 1990s for a California-based company looking to supply engines for the Atlas 5 rocket, but another engine was ultimately chosen, the news agency said. And the “NK-33 appeared to be left in the dust for a second time until Orbital Sciences came along.”
The engines were far from perfect, but Orbital scientists nonetheless hailed them as unlike anything in the United States. “As we went through testing, we did discover there were some effects of aging since they had been in storage for awhile, including some stress corrosion cracking,” Culbertson conceded at the time. “That’s what we corrected with weld repairs and other inspections.” The company’s “user guide” boasts that the engines, “refurbished with modern components,” have “an extensive test history.”
Culbertson was less sure of the engines on Tuesday night. “We need to go through this investigation and be very thorough before we determine whether that’s a factor in this or not,” he said.
How do we make sense of the fact that America’s most progressive cities, the ones that cherish diversity, are losing African Americans? And that the most conservative places are doing the opposite?This phenomenon is happening in Philadelphia, too. It's what happens when some people get rich and others don't... (Rico says he's been to the Broken Spoke (photo), back when he used to go to Austin when he worked for Apple.)
Between 2000 and 2010, cities like Austin, Chicago, Washington D.C., and San Francisco— places that vote majority Democrat, consider themselves socially and culturally progressive, and boast racial diversity— all lost unprecedented numbers of African Americans. San Francisco, for instance, saw a staggering twenty percent loss in its African American population between 2000 and 2010. Chicago and Washington D.C. also experienced double-digit losses.
During that same decade, the only three major cities (those with populations over half a million) that voted Republican in the 2012 presidential election— Phoenix, Arizona, Fort Worth, Texas, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma—all saw significant increases in African American numbers; their African-American populations grew by thirty-six percent, twenty-eight percent, and twelve percent, respectively.
Rebecca Diamond, an economist at Stanford University, offers one salient explanation.
Her research points to how cities such as Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. have, over the past three decades attracted ever-larger numbers of college graduates. Using census data, Diamond shows that, as college graduates occupied larger shares of these cities’ work forces (while avoiding other cities they deem less attractive) income inequality in these cities grew.
Urban industries and amenities catered to the higher-waged worker, making these cities more expensive to live in. Lower-wage workers (those with only a high school diploma) also desired the enhanced quality of life offered by these cities— better food and air quality and lower crime rates— but they couldn’t afford to live in them. Simply put, as college grads arrived, lower-waged workers were driven out.
Although Diamond’s study does not analyze how specific racial groups are impacted by what she terms a “national gentrification effect,” it appears that African Americans have bore the disproportionate brunt of it.
This is certainly the case in in Austin, Texas. A recent study we conducted at the University of Texas at Austin reveals that Austin in the only major growth city (a city with over half a million people that saw at least ten percent growth between 2000 and 2010) that experienced an absolute loss in its African-American population.
According to the census data, Austin grew by twenty percent between 2000 and 2010, granting it third place among fastest growing major cities in the United States. But during that same decade, its African-American population declined by six percent, or 3,769 people.
What happened in Austin seems to be consistent with the Stanford research. Austin has the highest percentage of college graduates as well as the highest median incomes in Texas. Census data also suggests that the African Americans who left Austin between 2000 and 2010 were by and large lower-waged workers (African American losses occurred in tracts that were on average poorer than those that did not see losses).
The loss of Austin’s African American population amid tremendous growth in its general population certainly doesn’t square with the city’s reputation as a “tolerant” place, one celebrated for its progressivism, cultural dynamism, and emphasis on sustainability.
Of course, some might argue that the notion of a liberal city— especially those as moneyed as Austin, Chicago, New York City, and San Francisco— is now irrelevant. But this line of argument too easily dispenses with the reality that high-earning college graduates identify strongly as liberals, and moreover, that the municipal governments they elect are taking the lead on the some of the most progressive environmental and cultural policies in the nation.
It’s not that these cities are no longer liberal, per se, but that the brand of neo-liberalism they now celebrate is unaccountable to the concerns championed by lower-waged workers: universal pre-kindergarten, affordable housing, and the de-privatization of public space (crystallized by last month’s San Francisco’s playground fiasco that garnered national headlines). It’s a liberalism that has, quite literally, left no room for the low-waged worker, particularly African Americans.
Hackers, believed to be employed by the Russian government, breached White House computer networks in recent weeks, temporarily disrupting services.The New York Times has the same story:
Citing unnamed sources, The New York Times reported there was no evidence that hackers had breached classified networks or that any of the systems were damaged. Intranet or VPN access was shut off for a period, but the email system was never down. The breach was discovered two to three weeks ago, after US officials were alerted to it by an unnamed ally.
“On a regular basis, there are bad actors out there who are attempting to achieve intrusions into our system,” a White House official told the NYT. “This is a constant battle for the government and our sensitive government computer systems, so it’s always a concern for us that individuals are trying to compromise systems and get access to our networks.”
Cybersecurity firms in recent weeks have identified NATO, the Ukrainian government, and US defense contractors as targets of Russian hackers thought to be working for the government.
Hackers recently breached an unclassified computer network used by President Obama’s senior staff, a White House official said recently, prompting countermeasures by the administration that caused temporary system outages.Rico says somebody has to call Putin and tell him to stop this shit...
Administration officials said the attack did not appear to be aimed at destruction of either data or hardware, or to take over other systems at the White House. That strongly suggests that the hackers’ intention was either to probe and map the unclassified White House system, find entry points where they connect to other system, or conduct fairly standard espionage.
That means it would be different from the kind of attack that Iran launched two years against the computer systems of the Saudi company Aramco, and would be more in the style of the kind of attacks that Russia and China have used over the years against United States government targets.
Some White House staff members lost their connections to the system “as a result of measures we have taken to defend our networks”, the official said.
The Thomas Edison Memorial Tower and Menlo Park Museum were built in 1938, in the Menlo Park section of what is now the town of Edison. They mark the site of Edison's greatest triumphs, particularly the invention of recorded sound and the light bulb, which he unveiled to the public on 31 December 1879. The spot is marked by a hundred-foot-tall tower topped with the World's Largest Light Bulb, which is fourteen feet tall, weighs eight tons, and is illuminated at night. (Henry Ford stole the actual workshop for his Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, and supposedly bottled Edison's Last Breath). The museum curator, Jack Stanley, entertained us with amazing tales of Edison and his competitors, but said the Last Breath thing was a bunch of hooey.Rico says he thought it was a single bulb, but no...
The museum was closed in 2010, given a makeover, then reopened in June of 2012. At that time the light bulb was switched off and the tower surrounded by scaffolding for a complete renovation. The museum announced in January of 2014 that the tower will reopen later in the year, at which point the big bulb will be switched back on, but lit by LEDs, not Edison's incandescent light bulbs.
Vice President Joe Biden, his wife, and eleven other family members spent four nights on vacation in August of 2014at a lakeside log cabin overlooking the snowcapped peaks of Mount Moran in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. The four-bedroom Brinkerhoff Lodge, where they stayed, is owned and operated by the National Park Service. Under a policy adopted in 1992, after controversy over VIPs using the cabin for vacations, the National Park Service banned purely recreational activities by Federal employees at the property, restricting its use to “official purposes”. But, in recent years, the National Park Service has interpreted that same rule so broadly as to again allow senior officials to take cheap vacations in Grand Teton with friends and family.Rico says this falls right into his 'who-the-fuck-cares' category... We pay them a lot of money, provide very expensive Secret Service protection 24/365 for them and their families, fly them there on big government jets, and it's not like we're sending them to some fancy hotel in Miami or New York City, fer crissakes. Much to-do about nothing and, except for that pesky First Amendment, we ought to bill Time for all the gummint employee time spent researching this non-story...
While visiting the park, Biden held no events, kept no public schedule, and his staff initially declined to answer a reporter’s question about where he spent the night. Last week, after Time uncovered documents confirming his stay at the lodge, Biden’s office said the Vice President planned to personally reimburse the park $1,200 for “renting the Brinkerhoff” for his family’s vacation.
Under National Park Service rules, the lodge is maintained for use by Federal employees for “training and official conferences”, and for those on “temporary duty in the park.” In practice, the superintendent of Grand Teton National Park, who has discretion over whether to demand payment for the lodge, has interpreted those rules to allow extended family vacations if there is an element of official business involved.
A Grand Teton National Park spokeswoman, Jackie Skaggs, said last week the Biden family visit met the internal criteria, since the Vice President received an official park briefing and tour while staying at the lodge. “With few, if any, exceptions, officials who stay at the Brinkerhoff are given in-depth briefings and/or issue tours,” she wrote in an email to Time.
But that explanation may not stand. In response to further questions from Time, the Interior Department said that it was launching an investigation into how the park service has managed the Brinkerhoff. “In light of inconsistencies in billing practices and ambiguity in the policy at the park, the Interior Department has directed the National Park Service to conduct an immediate review of compliance with the policy and related record--keeping and to seek reimbursement, where appropriate, for use of the Brinkerhoff,” wrote National Park Service spokeswoman April Slayton in an email to Time.
Biden is not the only senior member of the Obama Administration who has taken advantage of the Brinkerhoff in recent years for family vacations or getaways with friends. Records obtained by Time through the Freedom of Information Act show that at least four cabinet-level officials, a deputy White House chief of staff, and the director of the National Park Service have made use of the lodge with friends and family since 2011.
Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson stayed three nights in 2011 with her husband and five other people, including a person listed as a friend. She received a tour of a new air quality monitoring station, according to a park official.
Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood traveled there in 2012 for eight nights with his wife, his daughter-in-law, three grandchildren, two other adults and his son, Illinois State Senator Darin LaHood. He attended the Department of Transportation grant award event, according to LaHood’s office.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan stayed there for six nights with his wife and children in 2013. He attended a nearby roundtable with tribal leaders and an event at a local school, according to the Department of Education.
Former Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, who oversaw the National Park Service, stayed there with his family for three nights in 2011. His office did not return a call about the purpose of his visit.
Former White House Special Advisor Phil Schiliro also used the lodge for one night in August of 2011 with his wife and one other person. The White House did not return emails about the purpose of his visit.
National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, his wife, his son, and his son’s girlfriend stayed for five days in August of 2012. The park service said he had official business on two of the five days. "The director took personal time during the remaining days,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
Under Federal policy, family members may accompany government employees who travel on official business. “Family members’ travel costs and incidental expenses are not typically reimbursed by the Federal government, although they may stay in the accommodations reserved for the traveling employee, as long as any additional costs incurred as a result of the stay are covered by personal funds,” wrote National Park Service spokeswoman Slayton.
The offices of several officials who stayed at Brinkerhoff, including Biden, Duncan, and LaHood, said there was initial confusion over their need to pay for extended stays at the lodge with family members.
Under National Park Service policy, “a bill of collection will be prepared” for those who visit the Brinkerhoff on “project related travel that will be billed to another entity.” The Freedom of Information Act request returned no documents showing that any bills had been issued. The National Park Service also produced no records of official stays at the Brinkerhoff between 2000 and 2010.
A spokesperson for the Vice President, who declined to be named, said Biden’s office was still waiting for an invoice from the park two months after the stay, when Time made inquiries. “The office understood from the National Park Service that personal use would cost the local per diem rate,” the spokesperson said, referring to the a schedule of overnight hotel costs maintained by the General Services Administration for a single hotel room. Biden’s office said the Vice President will now personally pay $1,200 for the four nights, a figure that includes an extra ten dollars per night for each additional member of his family.
That cost, which assumes that a four-bedroom lodge is comparable to a single hotel room, is far below market rate for other nearby accommodations, especially during peak summer tourism season. At the nearby Jackson Lake Lodge, a two-bedroom cabin that sleeps four, without a view of the lake, averages $250 a night in August. Nearby homes outside the park can rent for more than a thousand dollars per night during the summer.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education says the National Park Service “never conveyed” to Duncan that he would have to pay for the non-official portion of his family’s nearly week-long stay. “Secretary Duncan requested an invoice for his family’s stay and will reimburse the park fully for the time he was on personal leave,” the official said.
A spokesperson for LaHood, who is now a policy adviser at a law firm, said he made a donation to the park at the time of around $250 after consulting with Salazar. LaHood has since asked the park if he is obligated to pay more.
With the exception of a $150 check from Salazar, the park service has no record of any payment from other officials for their stays, though Skaggs said charges are sometimes directly billed to other government offices, and that the park doesn’t maintain records of those transactions.
There is evidence, however, that the park service is now trying to improve its management of the Brinkerhoff, at least on the public relations front. After being contacted by Time, a computer with an IP address registered to the National Park Service made alterations to the Wikipedia page for the Brinkerhoff Lodge. A phrase describing the property as a “vacation lodge” was changed to “historic lodge” and a phrase noting the Brinkerhoff’s history as a destination for “VIP housing” was deleted.
Located on the banks of Jackson Lake with views of the glacier-strewn peak of Mount Moran, the Brinkerhoff Lodge was built in 1947 by the family of Zachary Brinkerhoff, a prominent Wyoming oil company executive. It features a two-story living room, a full-length deck, Western-style chandeliers, and interior walls lined with log or knotty pine paneling.
After it was acquired by the National Park Service in the 1950s, the lodge became one of several VIP properties across the country, which were used by presidents, members of Congress, and government bureaucrats. The National Park Service curtailed their use following public outcry in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “The Secretary has concluded that the public interest will be better served by having the four existing VIP accommodations used only for official purposes,” reads a memorandum by former National Park Service director James M. Ridenour, which remains in effect. “As of 10 February 1992, these sites will no longer be available as VIP accommodations.”
All but the Brinkerhoff were eventually converted to other uses. The Bodie Island Cottage, a three-bedroom lodge that sleeps eleven, just off the beach below the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in North Carolina, was turned into a ranger station. Little Cinnamon House in the Virgin Islands National Park, where former President Jimmy Carter stayed for nearly two weeks after his 1980 electoral defeat, was turned into employee housing, and “is currently in disrepair and uninhabited” according to park service officials. Camp Hoover in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, once a favorite of members of Congress with sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, was converted to a museum in 1996.
The National Park Service maintains that it is cheaper for the Federal government to house officials at the Brinkerhoff on official travel, because it costs less than nearby hotels. “Historic structures are better maintained when they are actively used, and the park has determined that seasonal use of the Brinkerhoff will better protect this valuable historic facility,” Skaggs said. “By allowing officials and governmental employees access to occasional overnight stays in the Brinkerhoff, the park is able to fund the long-term maintenance of this historic structure.” She added that the fees, when collected from stays at the Brinkerhoff, are earmarked for preserving the building.
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