Author Archive | SpaceNeedle

It Is Now Possible To Decode An Unborn Baby’s DNA

Writes Bonnie Rochman on TIME:

Researchers at the University of Washington have sequenced the entire genome of a fetus. The scientific advance could help detect certain diseases in the womb, but some experts worry that the trove of genetic information may prove more scary and overwhelming than useful.

Suspended in the blood of a pregnant woman — along with some added information from a dad-to-be’s saliva — lurks enough fetal DNA to map out an unborn baby’s entire genetic blueprint.

It may sound like something conjured by Jules Verne, but it happened at the University of Washington: a professor and his graduate student used DNA samples from the parents of a baby boy who was still in utero and reconstructed his entire genetic makeup from A to Z.

The account, published in Science Translational Medicine, takes prenatal testing to new heights, promising a motherlode of genetic information about a child who had not even been born — along with a corresponding trove of data that even experts don’t yet know how to interpret…

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Meet Command Central: The People in Charge of Wisconsin Voting Machines

Writes Barbara With, Marianne M. Moonhouse and John Washburn on Wisconsin Citizens Media Co-op:

Command Central is one of Wisconsin’s leading vendors of voting machines and election supplies. They are distributors for Dominion Voting Systems, a privately-owned electronic voting equipment company. Founded in Canada in 2002, Dominion is now based in Denver, CO, since their acquisitions of Premier Election Solutions, from Election Systems & Software (ES&S), and Sequoia Voting Systems.

Command Central deals directly with Wisconsin county and municipal clerks and is closely involved in their selection of voting machines, ballots, and other election supplies. Command Central does all the maintenance on the voting machines and provides tech support throughout the year, with a special “hot line” should clerks need help with glitches, etc., on election day.

In June 2011, the Wisconsin County Clerks Association held their annual summer conference in Ladysmith. Seventy-five county clerks from across the state came together to, among other things, “assist the legislators in developing sound legislation that affects county clerks and county government by providing accurate and useful information.” WCCA Legislation Committee chair at the time was Kathy Nickolaus.

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The Empire Strikes Back (Again)

Darth RobberNow we really do understand the power of the Dark Side. Hey Darth, how about addressing the Sith infestation on Wall Street? Thought there were only two at one time. Via WNWO:

The FBI and Toledo Police are investigating a Wednesday afternoon bank robbery at the Huntington Bank on Monroe Street in Toledo.

The lone gunman walked into the bank around 3 p.m., wearing a plastic Darth Vader mask, when he demanded money from victim tellers. After getting an undisclosed amount of money,he fled the scene using a dark colored BMX bike.

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Bradley Manning’s Defense Claims U.S. Military is Withholding Evidence on His Innocence

Bradley ManningEd Pilkington reports in the Guardian:

Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of being behind the biggest leak of state secrets in US history, is being denied a fair trial because the army is withholding from him crucial information that might prove his innocence or reduce his sentence, his defence team is arguing.

With Manning’s court-martial approaching in September, his legal team has released details of what they claim is a shocking lack of diligence on the part of the military prosecutors in affording him his basic constitutional rights.

The stakes are high, with Manning facing possible life imprisonment for a raft of charges that include “aiding the enemy”.

Manning’s main civilian lawyer, David Coombs, has filed a motion with the military court in Fort Meade, Maryland, that sets out a catalogue of delays and inconsistencies in the army’s handling of the case. In particular, he claims the government has failed to disclose key evidence that could help Manning defend himself against the charges.

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Solar-Powered Plane Flies Over Mediterranean

Solar Impulse

Photo: Matth1 (CC)

Via the Telegraph:

The Solar Impulse took off on the world’s first cross-Mediterranean flight from an airfield in western Switzerland and is scheduled to make a stop-over in Spain after a 20-hour flight, before finally flying to the Moroccan capital Rabat on Monday.

Lessons learned on this fight will help prepare the pilots for an attempt at a round-the-world journey. “Today it’s the last rehearsal for the flight around the world in 2014. For Andre and myself as pilots and for the entire team, the mission control team and technical team”, Solar Impulse founder, Bertrand Piccard, told Reuters. Pilot Andre Borschberg, who was flying the aircraft to Madrid, found it “rewarding” that the plane flies only using solar power.

“Well the most fun is to be able to go up to 9,000 metres with solar energy, and the more I will fly during the day, the more energy I will collect even in the batteries, so that’s very impressing, very different”…

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Russia Wants To Build A Permanent Moon Base

RoscosmosReports Aviation Week:

Mankind’s next objective in space exploration should be the establishment of a permanent international base on the Moon, in the “professional opinion” of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, instead of the near-Earth object (NEO) visit that is the stated goal of U.S. space policy.

Vladimir Popovkin, the Roscosmos head, told the Global Exploration Conference in Washington May 22 that the next big international exploration effort should build on the past 40-plus years of lunar exploration, and not repeat the sortie missions of the Apollo era.

“It’s a new Moon,” Popovkin said of his agency’s concept during a panel appearance with other space agency chiefs. A long-term permanent base could take advantage of the water-ice at the lunar poles, continue exploring the lunar surface, and prepare for the next leap into the Solar System, he says.

The concept, which is roughly the same one NASA pursued under President George W.

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Homeland Security Releases Keyword List Used to Monitor Social Networking Sites

Writes Reuven Cohen on Forbes:

If you are thinking about tweeting about clouds, pork, exercise or even Mexico, think again. Doing so may result in a closer look by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

In a story appearing earlier today on the UK’s Daily Mail website, it was reported that the DHS has been forced to release a list of keywords and phrases it uses to monitor social networking sites when looking for “signs of terrorist or other threats against the U.S.”

The list was posted by the Electronic Privacy Information Center who filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act, before suing to obtain the release of the documents. The documents were part of the department’s 2011 ’Analyst’s Desktop Binder‘ used by workers at their National Operations Center which instructs workers to identify ‘media reports that reflect adversely on DHS and response activities’.

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Quebec: The Empire Strikes Back

MontrealZig Zag writes on the Vancouver Media Co-Op:

Provincial and city governments in Quebec are resorting to repressive new laws in an effort to defeat the student mobilization, which has rocked that province for the past three months. Faced with strong and militant resistance by thousands in the streets, on May 18 Montreal passed a by-law banning the wearing of masks during protests. If convicted, people could be fined $3,000. This comes as the federal government prepares to amend the Criminal Code making it an offense to wear a mask during a riot or unlawful assembly (Bill C-306), with a maximum 10 year prison sentence if convicted.

On the same day as Montreal passed its anti-masking by-law, the Quebec government passed emergency legislation aimed directly at the student mobilization but affecting civil rights in general, “Bill 78: A Law Allowing Students to Receive the Education Provided by the School Which They Attend.” It contains 36 articles, which lawyers, professors, and others have described as “draconian” and similar to the 1970 War Measures Act (when martial law was declared).

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Supreme Court Lets Stand Student’s $675,000 Penalty For Downloading 30 Songs

Joel Tenenbaum

Photo: Joel Tenenbaum (CC)

That’s a penalty of $22,500 per song. Reports Mark Memmott on NPR:

the Supreme Court this morning let stand a $675,000 jury verdict against a 25-year-old Boston University student who downloaded 30 songs nearly a decade ago and then shared them with others on a peer-to-peer network.

The court denied Joel Tenenbaum’s “write of certiorari,” which means his appeal of a lower court’s ruling and the judgment were turned down.

Bloomberg News reminds us that: “The Recording Industry Association of America, acting on behalf of major record labels, sued more than 12,000 people and sent notices to thousands of others it claimed were illegally sharing music … Tenenbaum and a woman from Minnesota took their cases to trial, and both lost.”

Tenenbaum tells his side of the story at his Joel Fights Back website. He says he’s part of an effort to defend “the average Davids against the corporate Goliath.”

Wired says, “the significance of Monday’s action by the Supreme Court … appears to be minimal in the music-sharing context.

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Will Multinational Corporations Eventually Own Everyone’s Land?

Imperialist OctopusGood question. Julian Whitcrosse writes at io9.com:

Hundreds of years ago, European colonists took possession of much of the surface of our planet through unsubtle means: murder, subjugation, and their special move, bringing horrific new diseases. Nowadays, the wealthy and powerful expand their domains less confrontationally, but the effects can still be pretty harmful. Interests in rich countries — mainly multinational corporations (MNCs) make deals with local governments to attain land for their own big-money projects, sometimes evicting locals from their traditional homes and farmland, and contributing to food insecurity. Over the past 10 years, almost 800,000 square miles of land has been bought or leased (eight times the size of Britain), mostly in Asia and Africa….

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