AREAS OF CONFLICT
India to discuss Afghanistan's demand on supply of military equipments
Khaama Press; Mirwais Adeel
Indian officials on Saturday announced New Delhi's willingess to "discuss and respond" to specific requests by Afghan government regarding supply of lethal weapons to Afghan security forces.
The demand to supply lethal and non-lethal weapons to Afghan security forces was raised publicy by Afghan envoy to India, however, New Delhi insisted that such discussions will be held through proper channels.
Afghan ambassador to India, Shaida M Abdali on Thursday said that president Hamid Karzai will visit India to hold talks on bileral issues including enhanced defense cooperation of India to Afghanistan.
I wonder if Pakistan has any comment on this. This source is new to me.
US-Russia-led meet welcomed by Assad
Hurriyet Daily News
U.S.-Russian peace initiative to end Syria's civil war is welcome but not likely to actually succeed, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said May 18, while ruling out any resignation from his post in an interview with an Argentine newspaper.
"To resign would be to flee," he told daily Clarin when asked if he would consider stepping aside as called for by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. "I don't know if Kerry or anyone else has received the power of the Syrian people to talk in their name about who should go and who should stay. That will be determined by the Syrian people in the 2014 presidential elections," al-Assad said.
AROUND THE WORLD
Hamburg 'avoids radiation disaster' as ship loaded with fissile material, explosives burns (VIDEO)
Reuters via twitter
The German city of Hamburg likely avoided a major technological disaster on May 1, when a freighter ship caught fire. It had several tons of radioactive material and explosives among its cargo, it was revealed.The news of the averted disaster in Hamburg was broken by the opposition Green Party. It criticized the city authorities for not reporting the full details of the incident on its own initiative.
"It is an outrage that the Senate has not informed the public about this near catastrophe," Greens' member of the Hamburg parliament Anjes Tjarks said. "Here one must speak of a cover-up."
The city responded by saying that the firefighters were informed of the dangerous nature of the cargo promptly, which is the reason why the containers in question were quickly removed from the ship.
It is always good to avoid radiation disasters. Also, maybe their parliament needs to have hearings over the "cover-up"?
NSW bill to ban 'anti-vax' kids
Sydney Morning Herald
A move to ban unvaccinated kids from NSW preschools and childcare centres isn't about discriminating against the children of vaccine refusers, the state opposition says.
Labor leader John Robertson will introduce amendments to the public health act which would give early childhood centres the right to refuse kids who haven't had their shots.
The move comes amid concern about high rates of unvaccinated children in some parts of NSW as well as the emergence of so-called ''anti-vaxxers'' who refuse vaccination.
Some parts of NSW had lower vaccination rates than Rwanda, Mr Robertson said.
This seems to have bipartisan support in the New South Wales province/state. Maybe it will go national in Australia. Lucky them.
What Is It About Bees And Hexagons?
NPR; Robert Krulwich
Well, this is a very old question. More than 2,000 years ago, in 36 B.C., a Roman soldier/scholar/writer, , proposed an answer, which ever since has been called "The Honeybee Conjecture." Varro thought there might be a deep reason for this bee behavior. Maybe a honeycomb built of hexagons can hold more honey. Maybe hexagons require less building wax. Maybe there's a hidden logic here.
I like this idea - that below the flux, the chaos of everyday life there might be elegant reasons for what we see. "The Honeybee Conjecture" is an example of mathematics unlocking a mystery of nature, so here, with help from physicist/writer Alan Lightman, () is Varro's hunch.
h/t to my friend trashablanca. Suitable for a home-school lesson.
What's The #1 Killer Of Girls Aged 15-19 Worldwide?
Upworthy; Kaye Toal
In many developing countries, having more children at younger ages acts as a safety net as parents age. However, when girls as young as 15 (and younger) are getting married and getting pregnant, there can be serious physical consequences. Pregnancy and childbirth are the #1 killers of girls aged 15-19 worldwide - but as this infographic from The Girl Effect shows, investing just $17 in family planning (as in gynecological and prenatal care for pregnant women) and contraceptives can empower not only individual girls, but their entire communities.
Great info-graphic at the link.
Life under Zim's 'mutilated rule of law'
Mail & Guardian; Susan Njanji
Beatrice Mtetwa spoke to journalists in Johannesburg on Friday at the screening of a film about her fight for the rule of law in Zimbabwe.
Mtetwa was arrested in March when she went to represent clients during a raid of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's office. But she has refused to buckle under in the face of intimidation.
Mtetwa's arrest for obstructing justice, a day after the country held a constitutional referendum in March, sparked international condemnation.
She is hopeful that one day she will work under normal conditions in the country.
Living by the Numbers: Big Data Knows What Your Future Holds
Der Spiegel; Martin U. Müller, Marcel Rosenbach and Thomas Schulz
Forget Big Brother. Companies and countries are discovering that algorithms programmed to scour vast quantities of data can be much more powerful. They can predict your next purchase, forecast car thefts and maybe even help cure cancer. But there is a down side.
Google and Facebook are pure, unadulterated Big Data. Their business models are based on collecting, analyzing and marketing information about their users, through advertising tailored as closely as possible to the individual. This gigantic database and the notion of what can be done with more than a billion individual profiles in the age of Big Data was worth at least $100 billion (€78 billion) to Facebook investors.
The prospect of turning their treasure troves of data into dollars is now fueling the fantasies of businesses in many industries, from supermarkets to the automobile industry, and from aviation to banks and insurance companies. According to figures published by industry association Bitkom, global sales related to Big Data applications amounted to €4.6 billion in 2012. That number is expected to increase to about €16 billion by 2016.
Countless Big Data applications are also being tested in medicine and science. Even the public sector, especially police departments and security agencies, not always the most progressive when it comes to IT, have recognized the potential benefits in their fields.
What captivates so many people is the promise of gazing into the future, thanks to the lightning speed at which massive amounts of data can be analyzed. In fact, algorithms allow for astonishingly precise predictions of human behavior, be it in front of supermarket shelves, in traffic or when it comes to credit-card payment patterns.
In 2010, Google predicted a wave of flu outbreaks on the basis of user searches. American data specialist Nate Silver predicted the outcome of the last US presidential election well in advance and more precisely than all demographers.
This is a seven page article.
Strong winds blow away smog but bring sand to Beijing
South China Morning Post; Zhuang Pinghui
Strong winds swept through Beijing yesterday and cleared the air of smog that had blanketed it on Saturday, only to bring sand.
Heavy gusts picked up around noon, mixed with local dust and sand from Inner Mongolia , which was hit by a strong sandstorm yesterday. As well as reducing visibility and stirring up debris such as plastic bags, the winds were strong enough in Beijing for some people reporting that their windows rattled loudly.
The capital's Environmental Monitoring Centre tracked the sand to the Inner Mongolia storm that blew in via Hebei .
Air quality took a noticeable hit. The centre said the level of PM10 pollutants - those with a diameter of less than 10 microns - increased sharply around noon and surpassed 500 micrograms per cubic metres.
The air in Beijing is seldom fair. See also Salt Lake City. :-(
ACROSS THE USA
What We Mean When We Say 'Race Is a Social Construct'
The Atlantic; Ta-Nehisi Coates
Our notion of what constitutes "white" and what constitutes "black" is a product of social context. It is utterly impossible to look at the delineation of a "Southern race" and not see the Civil War, the creation of an "Irish race" and not think of Cromwell's ethnic cleansing, the creation of a "Jewish race" and not see anti-Semitism. There is no fixed sense of "whiteness" or "blackness," not even today. It is quite common for whites to point out that Barack Obama isn't really "black" but "half-white." One wonders if they would say this if Barack Obama were a notorious drug-lord.
When the liberal says "race is a social construct," he is not being a soft-headed dolt; he is speaking an historical truth. We do not go around testing the "Irish race" for intelligence or the "Southern race" for "hot-headedness." These reasons are social. It is no more legitimate to ask "Is the black race dumber than then white race?" than it is to ask "Is the Jewish race thriftier than the Arab race?"
The strongest argument for "race" is that people who trace their ancestry back to Europe, and people who trace most of their ancestry back to sub-Saharan Africa, and people who trace most of their ancestry back to Asia, and people who trace their ancestry back to the early Americas, lived isolated from each other for long periods and have evolved different physical traits (curly hair, lighter skin, etc.)
But this theoretical definition (already fuzzy) wilts under human agency, in a real world where Kevin Garnett, Harold Ford, and Halle Berry all check "black" on the census. (Same deal for "Hispanic.") The reasons for that take us right back to fact of race as a social construct. And an American-centered social construct. Are the Ainu of Japan a race? Should we delineate darker South Asians from lighter South Asians on the basis of race? Did the Japanese who invaded China consider the Chinese the same "race?"
The man rocks.
River of Grass flows again into Everglades National Park
Tampa Bay Times; Craig Pittman
Eighty-five years ago, work crews built a dam across the Everglades and called it the Tamiami Trail. The two-lane highway, completed in 1928, blocked most of the flow of the River of Grass just as it began trickling into what would become Everglades National Park.
On Wednesday, the dam broke.
About 10 a.m., a worker driving a backhoe cracked apart the old roadbed, letting the shallow water flow into the park the way it did eight decades before.
"It's an important milestone in Everglades restoration," said Mary Plumb, a spokeswoman for the park.
But federal officials acknowledge that it's not enough.
The Great Salt Lake has a human-made mid-lake barrier. Hmmmm.
Worsening A Warming-Fueled Wildfire Season, Sequestration Threatens Firefighting Efforts
Think Progress; Ryan Koronowski
Due to sequestration, the federal government will be at least $115 million short of normal wildfire fighting capacity during this year's wildfire season. This is particularly problematic as large portions of the U.S. face a serious drought and extremely dry conditions. As the Washington Post reported, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack said "I hope we can get through this fire season without any fatalities."
A new report from the House Appropriation committee Democrats found that the Forest service "will have 500 fewer firefighters, 50-70 fewer fire engines, and two fewer aircraft because of sequestration." Some of the equipment it does still have is outdated - such as the 50-years-old-on-average tanker planes that have crashed multiple times in the last decade, killing 14 people.
The West is dry. Monday was so hot, it seemed like we might burn all summer 'til it snowed. I am so thankful it cooled off and even rained this weekend.
HERE IN UTAH
All guns all the time:
Gun-toting Utah teachers to parents: Your kids are safe with us
Salt Lake Tribune; Lisa Schencker
The issue of whether to allow guns in schools and who should carry them has sparked debate in Utah and nationwide since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary in December. But at least one group of voices has been mostly missing: those of teachers who already carry.
No one knows exactly how many Utah teachers are packing because, as concealed-firearm permit holders, they're not required to tell parents, school police officers or their principals.
Plus, many of those teachers fear revealing their identities would give criminals a tactical advantage or cause backlash from parents, colleagues or administrators.
To get their perspective, The Salt Lake Tribune interviewed two teachers who carry in class and confirmed where they teach, but chose to use pseudonyms to protect their safety.
Utah gun sales, permits triple since Sandy Hook
Salt Lake Tribune; Derek P. Jensen
Utahns made an all-time high 23,000 gun purchases in December, the same month as the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
That number more than triples the state's gun-sale average from the first 11 months of 2012. And while December's buying spree was a spike, firearms sales have seemed to settle in at a new, higher normal.
According to the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification, requests for concealed-weapons permits hovered at 6,600 in the month before the mass shooting. They climbed to 13,000 in January, 18,000 in February and 19,000 in March.
Wildlife officers trap bear in Provo neighborhood
Fox13; Mark Green
Authorities worked to capture a small bear in a Provo neighborhood on Sunday night.
Sgt. Spencer Cannon, Utah County Sheriff's Office, said sheriff's deputies were assisting wildlife officers in trapping the bear. The incident was handled by the Department of Wildlife Resources.
Cannon said the bear had been spotted in the neighborhood multiple times in the last few days, and when it appeared on Sunday night authorities responded.
I am not sure if they are done trapping the bear or not. I do not like bears in urban areas. No I do not.
Crossposted from the orange.