Big Data Analysis to find Nuclear Submarines?

Are Submarines About to Become Obsolete?
http://nationalinterest.org/feature/are-submarines-about-become-obsolete-12253

I got to admit I was skeptical when I first read the title. People have been trying for decades to find a way to easily locate submarines with little to show for it, but the idea as described sounds more plausible. I found this article via a post at Schneier’s blog and the comments (as is quite typical) are very interesting. Several pointed out that simply knowing where something is doesn’t necessarily provide much utility, essentially all of our bombers and missile silos are known to the inch, yet they largely remain ‘safe’ because to take them on is to start a full-scale war. However, as I have attempted to show before, if we are to be involved in a war with a sophisticated adversary, we are not likely to be attacked in any conventional sense, so conventional weapons/systems are likely to be totally useless and represent an incredibly expensive drag on our economy.

Anyway, I thought my reader(s) might find this interesting. Computer hardware is getting so cheap today (they are just about ready to come out with computers with close to 100 cores (assuming quad CPU) likely for under $50K) that doing this sort of analysis just requires the willingness to commit to hiring a few people like me for a year or two…

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AA for Obesity

Diet and exercise not enough, obesity experts say
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/diet-exercise-treatment-for-obese-patients/

There is increasing evidenced that many chronically obese people are that way because of the gut flora (e.g.), so if this is a medically treatable condition, what distinguishes it from any other disease? If it is a disease, why not treat it that way instead of shaming people and blaming their size on their lack of impulse control?

Of course, we in America like to blame people for things largely outside of their control, so naturally we won’t stop blaming fatties for being so.

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Common detergent causes birth defects in mice!

Missing Mouse Mojo
Cracking the case of laboratory mice that suddenly stopped reproducing involved a little chemical sleuthing
http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/41943/title/Missing-Mouse-Mojo/

The abstract from the article:

Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs) are antimicrobial disinfectants commonly used in commercial and household settings. Extensive use of QACs results in ubiquitous human exposure, yet reproductive toxicity has not been evaluated. Decreased reproductive performance in laboratory mice coincided with the introduction of a disinfectant containing both alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (ADBAC) and didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride (DDAC). QACs were detected in caging material over a period of several months following cessation of disinfectant use. Breeding pairs exposed for six months to a QAC disinfectant exhibited decreases in fertility and fecundity: increased time to first litter, longer pregnancy intervals, fewer pups per litter and fewer pregnancies. Significant morbidity in near term dams was also observed. In summary, exposure to a common QAC disinfectant mixture significantly impaired reproductive health in mice. This study illustrates the importance of assessing mixture toxicity of commonly used products whose components have only been evaluated individually.

Since these things are ubiquitous in our environment this should be a huge wakeup call. While I am not totally convinced on the BPA issue, at least with respect to adults (I believe there is enough evidence it should be kept away from infants and children), I think that the QAC results with the mouse study above should warrant a close look at the effects in humans.

While it is possible this is much ado about nothing (meaning the effects on humans are negligible (something only known through specific studies)) the effect in mice is dramatic enough that I would want to assume there is a problem until evidence is shown to the contrary.

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Our ‘Justice’ system is even more corrupt than I thought!

Will HSBC Deal Come Back to Haunt Loretta Lynch?
Deal to save HSBC’s American office looks very bad in retrospect
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/will-hsbc-deal-come-back-to-haunt-loretta-lynch-20150209

Got to be read to be believed, but the gist of the matter is the ‘punishment’ that our so-called Justice system meted out to HSBC for laundering money for drug cartels (!), a joke at the time, is even more inexplicable given that our government already knew that HSBC was also acting as an illegal tax haven for the wealthy.

And oh, by the way, our soon-to-be new Attorney General Loretta Lynch was instrumental behind it. No question she is a perfect for for Obama, she clearly knows where all sorts of bodies are buried.

So NICE to be an American!

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Watchdogs watch in private

’22 fraudulent clinical trials’ on FDA radar ‘hidden from journals and public’
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/289167.php

A trawl of internal documents held by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has revealed official action due to “significant departures from good clinical practice” against a total of 57 clinical trials, including 22 affected by “falsification” – yet a parallel search of the published study reports finds no mention of these grave concerns being made public.

This is an incredibly important issue that you likely will never hear about anywhere else. It just shows how beholden the FDA is to industry: they not only keep this stuff private, but even when forced to release it they make every effort to make it difficult to associate the studies with published results.

Your tax dollars at work!

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Shhh! Your TV is listening…

Samsung Privacy Policy: Watch What You Say Around Your Smart TV
http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/samsung-privacy-policy-watch-smart-tv/story?id=28829387

Not terribly surprising to me given that with the proper malware installed on your phone anyone can listen to any nearby conversation and that people can also turn on your video camera on your computers to see what there is to see (increasingly, TVs are also coming with cameras!). ‘Tis the new world order, us paranoid people just have to adjust…

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Wow! Email encryption relies on just ONE guy!

The World’s Email Encryption Software Relies on One Guy, Who is Going Broke
Werner Koch’s code powers the email encryption programs around the world. If only somebody would pay him for the work.
http://www.propublica.org/article/the-worlds-email-encryption-software-relies-on-one-guy-who-is-going-broke

Also interesting comments here.

It is amazing how many fundamental pieces of open source software are dependent on a handful (or just one) person. There are a few that are supported by large groups, for instance Linux, Apache, gcc, but so many are hanging by a thread. It would be nice to see some process whereby these people could be compensated, but I am not holding my breath.

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‘Expensive’ placebos work better than ‘cheap’ ones!

Does getting ‘expensive’ drug affect how much patient benefits?
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-01/aaon-dg012215.php

Since I talk about the placebo effect from time to time I figure this might be interesting to my reader(s)…

For the study, 12 people with Parkinson’s disease were told that they would receive shots of two formulations of the same drug, with the second shot given after the first shot wore off. They were told that the formulations were believed to be of similar effectiveness, but that they differed in manufacturing cost–$100 per dose versus $1,500 per dose. Participants were told that the study was intended to prove that the drugs, while priced differently, were equally effective.

In reality, the participants received only a saline solution for both injections, but were told they were receiving either the “cheap” or “expensive” drug first. Before and after each shot, participants took several tests to measure their motor skills and also had brain scans to measure brain activity.

When people received the “expensive” drug first, their motor skills improved by 28 percent compared to when they received the “cheap” drug. On one test of motor skills, people’s scores improved by seven points when taking the “expensive” drug first, but improved by only three points when taking the “cheap” drug.

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Forming your own echo chamber

The propagandists have won: What Fox News and the pornography revolution have in common
Truthiness has replaced truth. Now that we all have our own facts, we may rue the day we personalized the news
http://www.salon.com/2014/12/21/the_propagandists_have_won_what_fox_news_and_the_pornography_revolution_have_in_common/

I rant about ‘sheeple‘ a lot here and am often frustrated trying to understand why we are that way. While this book excerpt (here is the book on Amazon; I haven’t bought it because I already haven’t read a pile of books I have purchased in the past) doesn’t exactly explain _why_ we are so stupidly credulous, it does describe how we are getting better and better at being so.

There are a lot of interesting parts in the excerpt, the author seems to be a good writer, insofar as turning a phrase. I particularly like how she likens our search for ‘real’ pornography with our search for ‘real’ news (where ‘real’ basically is just confirming our preconceived notions).

Anyway, I encourage my reader(s) to at least take a look at the excerpt…

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Whose side are _you_ on?

Free speech and state power: Americans shouldn’t feel complacent about French hypocrisy
Yeah, the French look like merde arresting a comedian for a Facebook post. But we’re free-speech hypocrites too
http://www.salon.com/2015/01/17/free_speech_and_state_power_americans_shouldnt_feel_complacent_about_french_hypocrisy/

Another thoughtful article on Salon; though to be fair, Salon is really a liberal Fox News and tend to spew hysterical left-leaning nonsense (as opposed to the right-leaning nonsense of Fox). Since Greenwald left (he is currently at the Intercept) I have to admit that I don’t spend much time there and often scroll through the Salon main page and don’t even read a single article. However, this one caught my eye as something that gets right to the heart of this ‘free speech’ matter. I will toss out a few quotes in an effort to get my reader(s) to take a deeper look…

In the aftermath of 9/11, Americans eagerly surrendered a wide range of constitutional rights and liberties in the name of an imaginary security. We have accepted a subtly restricted zone of free speech – where we “watch what we say, [and] watch what we do,” in the Rumsfeldian phrase — and have entirely abandoned our traditional conception of privacy rights. It’s not entirely coincidental that the censorious jingoism and groupthink of the Fox News right finds a faint echo on the left, in campus speech codes and similar phenomena designed to purge public discourse of sexism or racism or homophobia. Both sides accept the premise that suppressing undesirable forms of expression is a valid use of power.

We, as a nation of sheeple, neither have, nor deserve security. This goes for ‘free’ speech as well. When the only ‘free’ speech is speech that identifies with those in power (“watch what we say, [and] watch what we do,”) and the ability to be critical of the government or any institution within or without it (hello religious right wing!) is absent then there is no free speech. ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’

What we have here in the good old USofA is just a half step from being the French way of ‘free’ speech.

I have no desire to revisit the tiresome debate among leftists and liberals about whether or not to embrace Charlie Hebdo, which was always a distraction from more urgent political issues. But this was precisely the question: What was Charlie Hebdo’s relationship to power? Was it an equal-opportunity, anti-authoritarian gadfly, as its defenders professed? Or did it consistently “punch down,” by mocking the faith of a despised and marginalized minority on behalf of a racist power structure? Implicit in the question lay the idea that, if the latter theory were borne out, Charlie Hebdo’s so-called freedom was not freedom at all and not worth defending. In the utopian society that lay just over the horizon it would be banned by righteous edict, or at least shamed into nonexistence.

Everything I have read about Charlie indicates he is (was) a frothing-at-the-mouth islamaphobe and was far from an ‘equal opportunity’ gadfly. As such, his ability to rant about the “despised and marginalized minority” has nothing to do with freedom of speech. I also find incredibly hypocritical “those prominent politicians who marched for freedom of expression in Paris”. However, since sheepleness seems a state of being human, I guess it shouldn’t be unexpected at all.

Beneath the complicated and contradictory debate over free speech lies an essential philosophical conflict that doesn’t get discussed openly enough. In American terms, it is often depicted as the division between wild-eyed right-wing libertarians (and a much smaller number of wild-eyed left-wing anarchists) and the normal people who want a normal government. But here’s a telegram from Captain Obvious, or maybe from Mr. Orwell: We don’t have a normal government, people. The conflict over the nature and purpose of state power cannot be boiled down to conventional binaries like right vs. left, or Islam vs. the West, or democracy vs. terrorism, or capitalism vs. whatever-can-be-said-to-oppose capitalism, although it intersects with all those things in unpredictable ways. Either you embrace the idea of state power – the power of your own state, or somebody else’s, or an imaginary state yet to come — as a tool for purifying minds and hearts, encouraging good speech and driving out the bad kind, or you don’t. It’s time to be clear about which side we’re on.

So, whose side are you on? The police state or the people?

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