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PLA website confirms sea trial of shipborne railgun Anonymous 03/16/2018 (Fri) 07:29:29 Id: 3137e1 [Preview] No. 107 [Reply] [Last 50 Posts]
Recent reports by Chinese media confirm previous rumors that the PLA had mounted a railgun on a landing ship

Sea tests of China’s indigenous electromagnetic railguns are under way, Chinese papers have revealed, quoting delegates of the People’s Liberation Army who are attending the annual parliamentary session in Beijing.

This has been further confirmed by a feature on the PLA-run news portal 81.cn bout a female lead engineer who was the brains behind a repeating pulsating direct current power system that could charge the railgun.

Zhang Xiao, associate research fellow at the Wuhan-based PLA Naval University of Engineering, said the breakthrough was a hard-won result after hundreds of failures and more than 50,000 tests.

She also led a team that scaled the technical hurdles of installing shipborne electromagnetic launching systems, believed to be planned for use in future Chinese aircraft carriers.

The Global Times quoted commentators as saying that the United States used to maintain a lead in developing such state-of-the-art power systems, but the breakthrough could bring the PLA Navy into the same league as the US in railgun development and trials.

Railguns use electricity to generate strong electromagnetic fields between two rails. A conductive metal device, called an armature, picks up a projectile and accelerates down the path between the rails, slinging the projectile downrange at hypervelocity.

China is also set to be the first country to mount a railgun on a warship. The PLA landing ship Haiyang Shan, carrying what appeared to be a shipborne railgun, was seen undergoing tests at a dock in Wuhan before its reported sea trail this year.

The test was a massive project, involving more than 200 staffers from 20 different units, according to the website.

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America Is Giving Away the $30 Billion Medical Marijuana Industry Anonymous 03/08/2018 (Thu) 08:10:27 Id: b7f306 [Preview] No. 106 [Reply] [Last 50 Posts]
Lyle Craker is an unlikely advocate for any political cause, let alone one as touchy as marijuana law, and that’s precisely why Rick Doblin sought him out almost two decades ago. Craker, Doblin likes to say, is the perfect flag bearer for the cause of medical marijuana production—not remotely controversial and thus the ideal partner in a long and frustrating effort to loosen the Drug Enforcement Administration’s chokehold on cannabis research. There are no counterculture skeletons in Craker’s closet; only dirty boots and botany books. He’s never smoked pot in his life, nor has he tasted liquor. “I have Coca-Cola every once in a while,” says the quiet, white-haired Craker, from a rolling chair in his basement office at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he’s served as a professor in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture since 1967, specializing in medicinal and aromatic plants. He and his students do things such as subject basil plants to high temperatures to study the effects of climate change on what plant people call the constituents, or active elements.

Craker first applied for a license to grow marijuana for medicinal research in 2001, at the urging of Doblin, the founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a nonprofit that advocates for research on therapeutic uses for LSD, MDMA (aka Ecstasy), marijuana, and other psychedelic drugs. Doblin, who has a doctorate in public policy, makes no secret of his own prior drug use. He’s been lobbying since the 1980s for federal approval for clinical research trials on various psychedelics, and he saw marijuana as both a promising potential medicine and an important front in the public-relations war. Since 1970 marijuana has been a DEA Schedule I substance, meaning that in the view of the federal government, it’s as dangerous as LSD, heroin, and Ecstasy, and has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

By that definition, pot—now legal for medicinal use by prescription in 29 states and for recreational use in eight—is more dangerous and less efficacious in the federal government’s estimation than cocaine, oxycodone, or methamphetamine, all of which are classified Schedule II. Scientists and physicians are free to apply to the Food and Drug Administration and DEA for trials on Schedule I substances, and there are labs with licenses to produce LSD and Ecstasy for that purpose, but anyone who seeks to do FDA-approved research with marijuana is forced to obtain the plants from a single source: Uncle Sam. Specifically, since 1968 the DEA has allowed only one facility to legally cultivate marijuana for research studies, on a 10-acre plot at the University of Mississippi, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and managed by the Ole Miss School of Pharmacy.

The NIDA license, Doblin says, is a “monopoly” on the supply and has starved legitimate research toward understanding cannabinoids, terpenes, and other constituents of marijuana that seem to quell pain, stimulate hunger, and perhaps even fight cancer. Twice in the late 1990s, Doblin provided funding, PR, and lobbying support for physicians who wanted to study marijuana—one sought a treatment for AIDS-related wasting syndrome, the other wanted to see if it helped migraines—and was so frustrated by the experience that he vowed to break the monopoly. That’s what led him to Craker.

In June 2001, Craker filed an application for a license to cultivate “research-grade” marijuana at UMass, with the goal of staging FDA-approved studies. Six months later he was told his application had been lost. He reapplied in 2002 and then, after an additional two years of no action, sued the DEA, backed by MAPS. By this point, both U.S. senators from Massachusetts had publicly supported his application, and a federal court of appeals ordered the DEA to respond, which it finally did, denying the application in 2004.

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Google Employees “Outraged” Their Tech Is Being Used to Build Better Killing Machines Anonymous 03/08/2018 (Thu) 07:20:02 Id: 918902 [Preview] No. 105 [Reply] [Last 50 Posts]
Last fall, onetime Google C.E.O. and current Alphabet board member Eric Schmidt neatly summed up the ethical concerns of those in Silicon Valley about contributing to military initiatives. “There’s a general concern in the tech community of somehow the military-industrial complex using their stuff to kill people incorrectly,” he said, but added that despite being a member of the Defense Innovation Board, where he’s advised the Defense Department on matters relating to tech, there remained a clear line in the sand: “I can’t suggest Alphabet things inside the military,” he said, ”nor would I ever do that.”

It seems that Google, however, has made no such distinction. Though the company claimed back in 2013 to have no ambitions to become a military contractor in its own right, according to Gizmodo, the tech giant has quietly partnered with the Department of Defense to help the federal agency develop artificial intelligence to analyze footage from drones. When news of the pilot project, which is the company’s first with the Defense Department’s Project Maven, was circulated on an internal mailing list, some Google employees were reportedly “outraged” and “concerned” that the company would offer its services for drone-related surveillance technology.

A Google spokesperson confirmed the partnership to Gizmodo, but said that it does not pertain to military combat. Google, the spokesperson said, is providing the Defense Department with TensorFlow A.P.I.s, to help with machine-learning applications. “We have long worked with government agencies to provide technology solutions. This specific project is a pilot with the Department of Defense, to provide open source TensorFlow A.P.I.s that can assist in object recognition on unclassified data,” the spokesperson said. “The technology flags images for human review, and is for non-offensive uses only. Military use of machine learning naturally raises valid concerns. We’re actively discussing this important topic internally and with others as we continue to develop policies and safeguards around the development and use of our machine-learning technologies.”

The partnership is not without precedent; In 2017, the Defense Department spent $7.4 billion on A.I.-related initiatives; Project Maven, also known as the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team, was founded last year to “accelerate DoD’s integration of big data and machine learning.” Months after Project Maven was announced, its leader, Col. Drew Cukor, said the Pentagon would be looking for “commercial partners” to work on its tech. For Google, the collaboration could come with an added boon: a chance to position its cloud business as a viable competitor to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure as it eyes the federal government as a client. For employees nostalgic for the days of “Don’t Be Evil”, however, the partnership could prove a bitter pill.


Asia-Pacific Stocks Lower on Gary Cohn Resignation Anonymous 03/07/2018 (Wed) 07:44:38 Id: 935c78 [Preview] No. 103 [Reply] [Last 50 Posts]
Asia-Pacific stocks were broadly lower Wednesday with investors spooked by news that Gary Cohn would resign as President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser after he lost a fight over tariffs.

There was a lot of confusion in the morning session, said Kay Van-Petersen, global macro strategist at Saxo Bank. He expects further volatility once European traders arrive at their desks.

“I’ve gone from being a little bit relaxed about the trade-war thing to being quite a lot more nervous,” he added. “People are not giving it as much weight as they should be…I don’t think people are really thinking this through.”

Highlighting the back-and-forth in markets, Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average briefly turned positive after an early 1% drop. But Tokyo stocks were recently lower, falling along with many Asian equities benchmarks. The Japanese index was off 0.5% with commodities-related stocks, banks and auto makers sagging.

The commodities-heavy S&P/ASX 200 in Australia was 0.9% lower ahead of the close amid a similar-sized drop in oil futures.

S&P 500 futures were down 1% while the ICE Dollar Index eased 0.1%.

Mr. Cohn’s resignation is bad news for markets, said Robert Gillam, chief executive at McKinley Capital. “Gary Cohn is well-regarded in the investment community and we are likely to see some short-term negative sentiment” from his departure, he noted.

But the move might help to “strike a balance” between trade hawks and doves, said Jane Fu, sales trader at CMC Markets. “Trump may want to appoint someone more hawkish, but that will not eliminate the opposition within the White House,” she said.

Mr. Cohn was one of several White House voices arguing against the planned tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. But the trade measures face opposition, even from Mr. Trump’s fellow Republicans.

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U.S. Sues California to Void Immigrant Protection Laws Anonymous Board owner 03/07/2018 (Wed) 06:13:25 Id: 7199b6 [Preview] No. 102 [Reply] [Last 50 Posts]
The U.S. Justice Department sued California, escalating a war over the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigration.

The lawsuit targets three state laws that interfere with federal immigration enforcement and violate the Constitution, according to the complaint filed Tuesday in federal court in Sacramento.

Specifically, the statutes at issue restrict state and local law enforcement entities, as well as private employers, from sharing information about undocumented immigrants with federal agencies including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Justice Department said in the lawsuit.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is scheduled to visit Sacramento Wednesday, and Homeland Security officials have threatened for months to take punitive action against the largest U.S. state over its refusal to help ramp up deportations. Just last week, a top administration official accused the mayor of Oakland, one of California’s largest cities, of sabotaging a federal raid targeting undocumented
immigrants after she issued a public warning about the enforcement action.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra -- named individually as a defendant in the lawsuit -- said local police will continue to work “in concert” with federal agents on issues related to drug enforcement and sex trafficking, but the Trump administration remains misguided in its attempts to encumber enforcement of California laws aimed at protecting its undocumented residents.
‘Track Record’

“We’re in the business of public safety, not deportation, and we’ll continue to uphold all of the laws, including AB450 and SB54,” he said at a press briefing in San Francisco shortly after the case was made public. “Our track record so far with this administration in court has been pretty good. We’ve proven that California is doing things the way it should, and also proven that it’s the Trump administration that has acted outside of the law.”

Sessions plans to discuss the lawsuit during a speech he is scheduled to give on Wednesday at a law enforcement conference in Sacramento.

“The Department of Justice and the Trump administration are going to fight these unjust, unfair and unconstitutional policies that have been imposed,” Sessions wrote in his prepared remarks. “We are fighting to make your jobs safer and to help you reduce crime in America.”

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Italy Election Gives Big Lift to Far Right and Populists Anonymous 03/05/2018 (Mon) 07:48:23 Id: 10b0ad [Preview] No. 101 [Reply] [Last 50 Posts]
ROME — Italians registered their dismay with the European political establishment on Sunday, handing a majority of votes in a national election to hard-right and populist forces that ran a campaign fueled by anti-immigrant anger.
The election, the first in five years, was widely seen as a bellwether of the strength of populists on the continent and how far they might advance into the mainstream. The answer was far, very far.
After Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Emmanuel Macron of France beat back populist and far-right insurgencies, Europe seemed to enjoy a reprieve from the forces threatening its unity and values.
In Sunday’s vote, early results showed, the parties that did well all shared varying degrees of euroskepticism, with laments about Brussels treating Italians like slaves, agitation to abandon the euro and promises to put Italy before Europe.
The most likely result will be a government in Italy — a founding European Union nation and the major economy of the Mediterranean — that is significantly less invested in the project of a united Europe. All the while, geopolitical competitors from Russia to China are seeking to divide and weaken the bloc.
The results were not just a disconcerting measure of Italy’s mood but also a harbinger of the troubles that may yet lay ahead for Europe. Far-right and populist forces appeared to gain more than 50 percent of the vote in Italy, where the economy has lagged, migration has surged and many are seething at those in power.
But with no one party or coalition appearing to win enough support to form a government, the election offered up an outcome familiar in Italy: a muddle. It may take weeks of haggling to sort out who will lead the next government, and who will be in it.
One thing seemed clear, however: Any government will be difficult to form without the insurgent Five Star Movement, a web-based, populist party less than a decade old. The party was poised to become the country’s biggest vote-getter, winning about a third of the votes cast — its best showing ever.
“A triumph of the Five Star Movement,” Alessandro Di Battista, a leader of the party, said on Sunday night. “Everybody has to come talk to us.”
Roberto D’Alimonte, a political scientist at Luiss University in Rome, said that if the results held, the Five Star Movement would find itself in “a pivotal position.” With previously solid-seeming coalitions now fluid, he said, Five Star is in the driver’s seat.
The question will be who is in the passenger seat with it.
The projections also showed big gains for the far-right League, a formerly northern-based secessionist party run by Matteo Salvini. He has been unapologetic about his use of inflammatory language about migrants, calling for their expulsion.
Mr. Salvini’s party gained about 17 percent of votes, according to early projections. That was more, remarkably, than the party of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, his coalition partner and the personification of the conservative mainstream.
For years, migrants who survived the perilous crossing of the sea arrived by the hundreds of thousands on Italy’s southern coasts. Italy’s center-left government sought to strike a balance between a humane response and enforcement of its borders.
Italy pleaded with other countries in Europe to help share the burden, both by patrolling the waters and accepting a portion of the migrants sheltered in reception centers. But its neighbors, including France, locked their doors and the migrants, many of whom felt stuck in Italy, became an open political nerve.
The center-left government eventually reduced the arrivals through deals in Libya and further south. But by then the damage was done, and Europe, which is deeply wary of the Five Star Movement and the League, may now be about to pay the consequences.
The newly formed Parliament will meet for the first time on March 23.

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"Big Bitcoin Heist": 600 powerful computers stolen in Iceland Anonymous 03/04/2018 (Sun) 06:31:55 Id: 9376fe [Preview] No. 100 [Reply] [Last 50 Posts]
REYKJAVIK, Iceland -- Some 600 computers used to "mine" bitcoin and other virtual currencies have been stolen from data centers in Iceland in what police say is the biggest series of thefts ever in the North Atlantic island nation. Some 11 people were arrested, including a security guard, in what Icelandic media have dubbed the "Big Bitcoin Heist." A judge at the Reykjanes District Court on Friday ordered two people to remain in custody.

The powerful computers, which have not yet been found, are worth almost $2 million. But if the stolen equipment is used for its original purpose -- to create new bitcoins -- the thieves could turn a massive profit in an untraceable currency without ever selling the items.

"This is a grand theft on a scale unseen before," said Olafur Helgi Kjartansson, the police commissioner on the southwestern Reykjanes peninsula, where two of the burglaries took place. "Everything points to this being a highly organized crime."

Three of four burglaries took place in December and a fourth took place in January, but authorities did not make the news public earlier in hopes of tracking down the thieves.

Bitcoin is a kind of digital money that isn't tied to a bank or a government. It has been hugely volatile, posting some dizzying intra-day rises and falls over the past year or so. The price of a single bitcoin rocketed to nearly $20,000 late last year and then plunged early this year. On Friday, it was trading just below the $11,000 mark.


Anonymous 03/03/2018 (Sat) 08:46:54 Id: 842c11 [Preview] No. 99 [Reply] [Last 50 Posts]
President Trump's billionaire friend Carl Icahn dumped $31.3 million in steel-related stock days before the White House announced intentions to impose steep tariffs on steel imports.

In a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Icahn disclosed that he sold off nearly 1 million shares of Manitowoc Co. Inc., a Wisconsin-based global crane manufacturer.

The liberal-leaning Think Progress policy website first reported on the filing Friday.

Wall Street has reeled since Trump's announcement Thursday that he planned to impose a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminum.

Manitowoc stock tanked, losing roughly 6% of its value.

Icahn unloaded his shares of the crane company on Feb.12, days before the Commerce Department released a report recommending the tariffs that Trump later championed.

Icahn was not immediately available for comment.

The wealthy investor was floated as the president's first choice for Treasury secretary, and then-candidate Trump invoked his name often on the campaign trail.

He declined to serve in the Trump administration, but accepted a role as a special advisor on regulation.

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Anonymous 03/02/2018 (Fri) 15:42:32 Id: 6def8f [Preview] No. 98 [Reply] [Last 50 Posts]
We’ve said for some time that Uber and Lyft are exploiting the fact that their drivers don’t understand their own economics and don’t factor in the wear and tear on their vehicles. One former Uber driver did a back of the envelope work up and argued that you’d make more than minimum wage only if your car was more than six years old. The fact that only 4% of Uber drivers continue for more than a year suggests that working for these ride-sharing companies is an unattractive proposition.

A large-scale study confirms these doubts about driver pay, and then some. A team from Stanford, Stephen M. Zoepf, Stella Chen, Paa Adu and Gonzalo Pozo, under the auspices of MIT’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research obtained information from 1100 Uber and Lyft drivers using questionnaires and information about vehicle-specific operating costs, such as insurance, maintenance, repairs, fuel and depreciation.

Their main finding:

Results show that per hour worked, median profit from driving is $3.37/hour before taxes, and 74% of drivers earn less than the minimum wage in their state. 30% of drivers are actually losing money once vehicle expenses are included. On a per-mile basis, median gross driver revenue is $0.59/mile but vehicle operating expenses reduce real driver profit to a median of $0.29/mile.

If you gross up the median hourly profit to gross revenue, using the same ratio for gross revenue versus net profit per mile, median gross revenue is only $6.86 an hour, still below minimum wage. These drivers would be better off doing almost anything else. Consider the safety risks. From Wired:

Because the ridesharing industry is so new, and laws regulating it so patchwork, official figures are tough to come by, and the big companies don’t share specifics about incidents their drivers report. Still, online forums for drivers brim with descriptions of attacks on drivers by passengers, both verbal and physical, such as a driver posted a video of being spit on and punched.

You might think ridesharing companies would be doing everything they can to ensure driver safety. But it turns out what they can do is limited by the kind of businesses they are. Because drivers operate as independent contractors instead of employees, the companies can’t offer true safety training. Under federal law, training is a signifier that someone is an employee, and both Uber and Lyft have fought bitterly against re-classifying drivers as employees. By the very nature of how on-demand businesses operate today, drivers in many ways have to go it alone…

Still, if ridesharing companies don’t make their figures public, federal regulators do. “Taxi drivers are over 20 times more likely to be murdered on the job than other workers,” the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration said in 2010. In a 2014 report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that of 3,200 3,200 taxi drivers who were hurt or killed on the job, 180 sustained injuries caused by a violent person—about 5.6 percent.
If you are using either Uber or Lyft, stop. Now. You are contributing directly to the growth of the precariat and the debasement of work. The fact that you use an app to distance yourself from the exploitation of desperate and not very savvy drivers doesn’t change the nature of what you are doing. Old fashioned cabs have embraced apps without Uber-esque spying on you even its app is off and trying to get you to turn over your contact list to them.

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Washington post op-ed: Why do Christians support trump? Anonymous 12/06/2017 (Wed) 02:47:06 Id: 38e491 [Preview] No. 97 [Reply] [Last 50 Posts]
>For many millions of people of faith, Trump is the last line of defense preventing their having to choose between their religious beliefs and full participation in the community and in business.
brilliant op-ed