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Showing posts from August 20, 2015

Will the Pope Change the Vatican? Or Will the Vatican Change the Pope?

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[A lovely read. “He won’t change doctrine. What he will do is return the church to its true doctrine—the one it has forgotten, the one that puts man back in the center. For too long, the church put sin in the center. By putting the suffering of man, and his relationship with God, back in the center, these harsh attitudes toward homosexuality, divorce, and other things will start to change.” *RON*]
By Robert Draper, Photographs by Dave Yoder, National Geographic, Published: August 2015
When about 7,000 awed strangers first encounter him on the public stage, he is not yet the pope—but like a chrysalis stirring, something astounding is already present in the man. Inside Stadium Luna Park, in downtown Buenos Aires, Argentina, Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians have gathered for an ecumenical event. From the stage, a pastor calls out for the city’s archbishop to come up and say a few words. The audience reacts with surprise, because the man s…

Bigger glut sends oil back to January price levels

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["Analysts at Citi warned that oil’s previous low of $32 at the height of the 2008 financial crisis was now a 'conceivable reality'.... The data heightened producer worries that inventories will pile up further.... In Canada, output from oil sands continues to grow." *RON*]

Gregory Meyer, Financial Times, 19 August 2015

Oil sank to the lowest price since January after an increase in US crude stocks pointed to a deepening glut.

Commercial crude inventories expanded by 2.6m barrels to 456.2m last week, the US Energy Information Administration reported on Wednesday, upending analysts’ beliefs that stocks would decline. The rise followed record weekly imports of 3.4m barrels a day from Canada and the breakdown of a large crude processing unit at an Indiana refinery.

ICE October Brent dropped $2 to $46.81 a barrel, the weakest since January for the global benchmark. Nymex September West Texas Intermediate crude plunged as much as $2…

There Might Be Fracking Wastewater on Your Organic Fruits and Veggies

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[This loophole should definitely be plugged - not just for organic farms but for all of them. However, I also don't see proof of contamination (as opposed to risk) in this story - the statements made are all along the lines of "does not prevent" or "does not insist." *RON*]

—By Josh Harkinson, Mother Jones, 20 August 2015
The US Department of Agriculture's organics standards, written fifteen years ago, strictly ban petroleum-derived fertilizers commonly used in conventional agriculture. But the same rules do not prohibit farmers from irrigating their crops with petroleum-laced wastewater obtained from oil and gas wells—a practice that is increasingly common in drought-stricken Southern California.
"No one expects their lettuce to contain heavy chemicals from fracking wastewater."

As I reported last month, oil companies last year supplied half the water that went to the 45,000 acres of farmland in Kern County…

'Warrant canaries': a subtle hint that your email provider is compromised

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[The surveillance state. The business of protecting privacy is getting tougher by the day – this shows the extent that companies have to go to not breach the law and still safeguard privacy. *RON*]
Cory Doctorow, The Guardian, 20 August 2015
Since the Snowden revelations, the market for privacy-oriented services has only grown – indeed, it’s likely that it will keep growing. We’re not at peak surveillance, but we’re way past peak indifference to surveillance.

Running a privacy service comes with two distinct technical challenges: the cryptographic challenge of making messages secure in transit and at rest on your server; and the legal challenge of keeping your promises to your customers intact when a government wants to spy on them.

These two problems are intimately entwined, and so are their solutions.

The cost of getting it wrong is high. Take Lavabit, the privacy-oriented email provider used by Edward Snowden to communicate with journalists when …

Car crashing: new budget accommodation in New York

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[Sheesh. Just great to see that Class Warfare is coming along nicely. "Budget stays are hard to find in New York, but from £23 a night you can have a killer view of Manhattan … if you don’t mind sleeping in the back of a car." *RON*]

Richard Mellor, The Guardian, 20 August 2015
New York is a famously expensive city, where finding a hotel for under $200 a night can be a struggle. There are so few options for those on a serious budget, travellers could be forgiven for being tempted to sleep rough in Central Park.
But a new and unusual type of affordable accommodation – costing from just £23 a night – could be a useful option for adventurous types who can live without necessities like space, electricity and running water.

A small fleet of adapted vans, plus a yellow New York taxi, are now available as holiday rentals through Airbnb.

Parked around Queens’ gentrified Long Island City, the five furnished vehicles include conversion vans with …

Why Bezos' Denials About Exploitation at Amazon Sound Like Sociopathic CEO-Speak

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[Human rights and the corporatocracy. Recent reports of exploitation at Amazon simply continue reporting that has been going on for almost 15 years. *RON*]
By Adam Johnson / AlterNet, 18 August 2015

One of the core tenets of libertarianism is that the market is always self-correcting; that any injustice or moral offense carried out through Darwinian competition will somehow, by virtue of the invisible hand, fix itself. Restaurant uses rats in its meat loaf? People will find out and the business will shut down. Too many rapes at Northwestern University? It will come to light and women will choose to get educated elsewhere.

It is impossible, therefore, for a libertarian to accept that a worker can ever be exploited. Being the fully realized Randian heros that they are, abusive working conditions will simply compel workers to walk across the street, making any workplace abuse short of criminality a virtual impossibility.

So when the New York Times pub…

Pentagon Manual Calls Some Reporters Spies

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[The supremacy of the military and a controlled mass media are two key warning signs of impending totalitarianism. *RON*]
By Don North, Consortium News, 19 August 2015

Exclusive: The Pentagon’s new “Law of War” manual puts some journalists in the category of “unprivileged belligerents,” meaning they can be tried by military tribunals as spies, a further sign of U.S. government hostility toward reporting that undercuts Washington’s goals, writes veteran war correspondent Don North.

Honest war correspondents and photographers who try to cover wars effectively are about to become suspect spies if a new Pentagon manual, “Law of War,” is accepted by U.S. military commanders. I can confirm from personal experience that reporting on wars is hard enough without being considered a suspicious character secretly working for the other side.

The 1,176-page manual, published on June 24, is the first comprehensive revision made to the Defense Department’s law …

Major publisher retracts 64 scientific papers in fake peer review outbreak

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[So many important decisions in the world depend on the reliability of published science. *RON*]

By Sarah Kaplan, Washington Post, 19 August 2015
Made-up identities assigned to fake e-mail addresses. Real identities stolen for fraudulent reviews. Study authors who write glowing reviews of their own research, then pass them off as an independent report.

These are the tactics of peer review manipulators, an apparently growing problem in the world of academic publishing.

Peer review is supposed to be the pride of the rigorous academic publishing process. Journals get every paper reviewed and approved by experts in the field, ensuring that problematic research doesn’t make it to print.

But increasingly journals are finding out that those supposedly authoritative checks are being rigged.