Sunday, August 28, 2011

Last Call

The latest numbers from Irene put over 4 million Americans without power tonight, stretching from South Carolina to Maine.

Nearly 4.2 million homes and businesses along the U.S. East Coast were without power Sunday evening as Tropical Storm Irene, downgraded from a hurricane as it hit New York early Sunday, continued to wreak havoc on power grids in New England even as the storm weakened, according to reports from power companies.

New York City avoided the extensive damage and power loss that had been feared.

While Irene's visit took less than a day, work to restore power will likely take weeks and cost millions.
As skies cleared and high wind retreated, some utilities along the Eastern Seaboard were able to begin sending out workers to assess damage. Utilities normally spend the first hours after a storm looking at overall system damage so that proper equipment and workers can be dispatched when restoration work begins in earnest.

"With the passing of the storm, the damage assessment has begun," John Bruckner, president for National Grid's Long Island transmission and distribution services, told reporters.

Utility line crews and tree trimmers from around the country will converge on storm-damaged areas. Many customers will see power restored in the first 24 to 48 hours, but full restoration is likely to take weeks, utility officials warned, due to flooding.

Hopefully help will be directed to where it needs to go and fast.  But the reality is that the storm has caused billions of damage across the mid-Atlantic and New England, and the Republicans have already signaled that paying for the cleanup will be the next hostage situation they plan to force when Congress is back in session after Labor Day.

Hopefully the Democrats are ready to fight on this.

Liberating Libya, Part 2

Meanwhile, Tripoli has descended into chaos as the true extent of the butchery in Libya becomes clearer.

Residents of Tripoli dug makeshift graves to bury the dead as evidence emerged of widespread summary killings during the battle for the Libyan capital.

A week after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, the stench of decomposing bodies and burning garbage hung over the city as it faced a major humanitarian crisis due to collapsing water and power supplies, shortages of medicine and no effective government.

In a sign of continuing instability in the city, bursts of heavy machine gun fire could be heard overnight.

The rebels now in control of most of Tripoli vowed to take Gaddafi's home town of Sirte by force if negotiations with loyalists in one of their last strongholds there failed.

As the fighting ebbed away in the capital, more and more bodies were found. Some were Gaddafi soldiers who perished, while others appeared to have been executed. Still more were found in the grounds of a hospital abandoned by its doctors.

The charred remains of around 53 people have been found in a warehouse in Tripoli, apparently opponents of Gaddafi who were executed as his rule collapsed, Britain's Sky News reported on Saturday.

Sky broadcast pictures of a heap of burned skeletons, still smouldering, in an agricultural warehouse, where the victims were apparently prisoners.

And this will continue as the world finds out you can't stop a ground war with air power alone.  At some point outside troops are going to have to impose order.  Maybe it will be the African Union, maybe the UN, maybe NATO.  But someone's going to have to go in.

Hope somebody's working on that.  We're not done in Libya, not by a long shot.

"Weather" Or Not It's Ridiculous

Gotta hand it to FOX News, they never pass on any opportunity to attack the notion that the federal government has any business helping Americans making less than six figures.  The latest stupidity thanks to Hurricane Irene:  this FOX Nation hit piece on, believe it or not, getting rid of the National Weather Service courtesy of the Randian think tank brotherhood at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

While Americans ought to prepare for the coming storm, federal dollars need not subsidize their preparations. Although it might sound outrageous, the truth is that the National Hurricane Center and its parent agency, the National Weather Service, are relics from America’s past that have actually outlived their usefulness. 

No, seriously.  That's the argument.  It gets worse.

As it stands today, the public is forced to pay more than $1 billion per year for the NWS.  With the federal deficit exceeding a trillion dollars, the NWS is easily overlooked, but it shouldn’t be. It may actually be dangerous.

Relying on inaccurate government reports can endanger lives. Last year the Service failed to predict major flooding in Nashville because it miscalculated the rate at which water was releasing from dams there. The NWS continued to rely on bad information, even after forecasters knew the data were inaccurate. The flooding resulted in 22 deaths.

Private weather services do exist, and unsurprisingly, they are better than the NWS. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, the National Weather Service was twelve hours behind AccuWeather in predicting that New Orleans would be affected. Unlike the NWS, AccuWeather provides precise hour-by-hour storm predictions, one of the reasons private industry supports them.

You know why AccuWeather and the Weather Channel stay in business?  Because they take the basic weather data that the National Weather Service provides and they refine it.  They are provided raw meteorological data provided at the public domain level by, you guessed it, that barbarous and outdated relic known as the NWS.  Otherwise, we need to abolish the NWS because they're not 100%, and the Magic Of Liberty Free Market power will make forecasts more accurate...if you are willing to pay for them.  The weather service providers take a public service and make it better.  If anyone's guilty of corporate welfare here, it's AccuWeather and the Weather Channel, who take the free data provided and then make money off of it

That of course is not mentioned in this idiotic tirade where meteorologists are added to the list of government evil that must be drowned in Grover Norquist's Bathtub Of Liberty.  Because the NWS doesn't have enough funding, they are dangerous and should be eliminated so that, why exactly?  We live in a world where weather forecasts are only available to those who can afford it?  As global climate change makes weather patterns more erratic and dangerous, are these morons really saying that we need to cut the NWS and privatize all weather prediction, so that the rich survive and the ignorant poor are literally washed away?

But why should anyone be surprised by this nonsense?  We've turned teachers, police officers, firefighters, public safety employees, and bus drivers into evil, parasitic unionized cancers on American society that must be expunged.  Why should the weather guys get a pass?

Let's put the NWS on the block and put them in the unemployment lines too.  Hey, it's a "jobs program."

Now That's A Rock!

An international team of astronomers, led by Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology professor Matthew Bailes, has discovered a planet made of diamond crystals, in our own Milky Way galaxy.

The planet is relatively small at around 60,000 km in diameter (still, it’s five times the size of Earth). But despite its diminutive stature, this crystal space rock has more mass than the solar system’s gas giant Jupiter.
Radio telescope data shows that it orbits its star at a distance of 600,000 km, making years on planet diamond just two hours long. Any closer and it would be ripped to shreds by the star’s gravitational tug. Putting together its immense mass and close orbit, researchers can reveal the planet’s unique makeup.

It’s “likely to be largely carbon and oxygen,” said Michael Keith, one of the research team members, in a press release. Lighter elements, “like hydrogen and helium would be too big to fit the measured orbiting times”. The object’s density means that the material is certain to be crystalline, meaning a large part of the planet may be similar to a diamond.

SETI has been spared, at least for now.  This is a cool discovery.  I hate to see funding diverted (I know it's necessary, I'm just saying I hate it).  We could be on the edge of a world-changing discovery, and lose that because we can't afford the space programs.

That's Nuts

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. -- The Mesa County Sheriff's Office says a deputy who grabbed a man's testicles to subdue him was reasonable, even though it was unorthodox.
Sheriff's Deputy Hassan Hassan wrote in an arrest affidavit that Samuel Fazio, 22, quit resisting after the deputy grabbed Fazio's genitals for a few seconds. Hassan said the grab happened Monday when Fazio fought attempts to be handcuffed.

Gee, if you are being subdued by a bunch of manhandlers (literally!) I can imagine putting up a bit of resistance. This isn't an acceptable way to treat a person, the fact that they are in custody doesn't change that whatsoever. Supporting it is disgusting.

Hard Coring The Apple

If you can beat them, join them.

A 19-year-old who is probably the world's most noted iPhone hacker said Thursday he's been hired by Apple, the very company whose products he's been hacking into.

"It's been really, really fun, but it's also been a while and I've been getting bored," Nicholas Allegra, who's better known by his pseudonym Comex, posted on Twitter. "So, the week after next I will be starting an internship with Apple."

Apple did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment on Comex's internship at the company.

Forbes writer Andy Greenberg revealed Comex's identity this month, calling him the "iPhone uber-hacker who keeps outsmarting Apple."

In the story, he noted that Comex was looking for an internship, and he suggested that Apple give him one.

"Now it has," he wrote Friday.

Yeah, I'd hire the kid too if I were Apple.  Kid's been making a mockery of your product's information security, you white hat him and have him show you how to make it better.  Very smart move on Apple's part, and one I applaud.
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