Monday ReadsPosted: December 16, 2013
I’ve found a few things to keep you interested this morning. Some are depressing as usual and some are intriguing. The Sun is going to reverse polarity soon. This evidently happens every 11 years and causes some interesting space weather.
The sun switches its polarity, flipping its magnetic north and south, once every eleven years through an internal mechanism about which little is understood.
The swap could however cause intergalactic weather fronts such as geomagnetic storms, which can interfere with satellites and cause radio blackouts.
Nasa said in August that the change would happen in three to four months time, but it is impossible to give a more specific date. Scientist won’t know for around another three weeks whether the flip is complete.
The impact of the transfer will be widespread as the sun’s magnetic field exerts influence well beyond Pluto, past Nasa’s Voyager probes positioned near the edge of interstellar space.
The event will be watched closely by researchers at Stanford University’s Wilcox Solar Observatory, which monitors the sun’s magnetic field on a daily basis.
Todd Hoeksema, director of the Wilcox Solar Observatory, said the polarity change is built up throughout the eleven year cycle through areas of intense magnetic activity known as sunspots which gradually move towards the poles, eroding the existing opposite polarity.
Eventually, the magnetic field reduces to zero, before rebounding with the opposite polarity. “It’s kind of like a tide coming in or going out,” Hoeksema said. “Each little wave brings a little more water in, and eventually you get to the full reversal.”
One of the most noticeable effect on Earth will be a boost in the occurrence, range and visibility of auroras – the Northern Lights. “It’s not a catastrophic event, it’s a large scale event that has some real implications, but its not something we need to worry about,” added Hoeksema.
One more space story. The Chinese Flag is now on the moon. They landed a rover there last weekend.
Shanghaist reports China has photographed its flag on the moon for the first time in history.
China landed a rover on the moon last weekend, becoming the third country after the U.S. and U.S.S.R. to do so. No vehicle has touched the moon since 1976. China launched its first lunar orbiter in 2007.
I’ve been really upset by the news coming out of Syria recently even though our press has done a horrible job covering the country’s
squalid conditions resulting from of all the violence It’s been a harsh winter and the people are starving. There are also human rights violations even though the chemical weapons usage has ceased. Here is some information on a Syrian activists as well as foreign journalists who have been imprisoned by the brutal regiem and others.
THE Syrian regime has long enjoyed locking up activists. Mazen Darwish, who since 2004 has run the Syrian Centre for Media and Free Expression, has been in jail since February last year. Others have spent years behind bars. Sadly, some of the opponents to Bashar Assad, Syria’s president, have started to do the same. In the latest episode, on December 10th Razan Zeitouneh (pictured above), a lawyer who won several prizes last year for her dedication to peaceful activism, was taken along with three colleagues from their office in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus.
Ms Zeitouneh and her colleagues ran the Violations Documentation Centre, a local organisation that since the start of Syria’s uprising-turned-war has tracked the death toll of both the opposition and regime fighters. She has been in hiding since 2011. She was taken along with her husband Wael Hamada and Sameera Khalil, the wife of Yassin Haj Saleh, a famed Syrian writer who left the country just two months ago as civil society activists and free speakers became targeted as much by extremist groups as the regime. He wrote movingly about his experience.
The suspected culprit in the latest abduction is the Army of Islam, a Damascus-based umbrella group believed to receive funds from Saudi Arabia. Most of the kidnappings are carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an al-Qaeda linked group which aims to create a borderless caliphate and considers both non-Muslims and liberal Muslims as heretics. On the same day as Ms Zeitouneh was kidnapped, El Mundo, a Spanish newspaper, announced that its Middle East reporter Javier Espinosa and photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova have been held by ISIS since September 18th. Another 30 or so foreigners, a mixture of journalists and aid workers, are also being held, including Italian priest Paolo Dall’Oglio who spent three decades in Syria.
A fake holiday popularized by Seinfeld has become the symbol of secular pushback against religious dominion over American public life. Or something like that.
The Wisconsin and Florida state capitols currently have Festivus poles on display. To the uninitiated, the Festivus pole is a key component in the celebration of Festivus, a bizarre and agonizing December 23 holiday made famous by “The Strike,” a 1997 episode of the beloved NBC sitcom Seinfeld. Since the episode aired, the holiday has taken on a life of its own. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has thrown Festivus fundraisers, for example. And at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee on Wednesday, self-proclaimed “militant atheist” activist Chaz Stevens erected a 6-foot Festivus pole made out of empty Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans in the state house rotunda in protest of the privately funded nativity scene at the capitol.
Harry Mihet, of the “religious liberty” law firm Liberty Counsel, called Stevens’ views “extreme” and his display offensive. “Is this how PC we’ve gotten in our society, really?” Fox News host Gretchen Carlson said on Tuesday. “I am so outraged by this. Why do I have to drive around with my kids to look for nativity scenes and be like, ‘Oh, yeah, kids, look. There’s Baby Jesus behind the Festivus pole made out of beer cans!”
Oh Noes!!! Plastic Baby Jesus is hidden behind a Festivus pole! And a public airing of the Grievances! Right in front of that Plastic Nativity Scene!!!
“This whole thing is just a serious feat of … ridiculousness,” says Chaz Stevens, who marched into the Capitol building on Wednesday morning clutching a case of empty Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans and a 6-foot pole made of PVC pipe. It’s a nod to the unadorned aluminum pole that is part of the secular Festivus holiday invented by George Costanza’s dad on Seinfeld.
The celebration also includes an “airing of grievances” during the family meal, in which each person describes disappointments experienced over the course of the year.
Stevens says when he heard about the Capitol Nativity scene, it was just too much. So he applied to the state to install his own display: a pole covered in beer cans.
“This is about separation of church and state,” Stevens says. “The government shouldn’t be in this business of allowing the mixture of church and state.”
The displays are allowed inside Florida’s Capitol building because the state has designated the rotunda as “a public forum.” Howard Simon of the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says the state had no choice.
“They’re not going to be allowed to discriminate. It’s going to be a public forum for all forms of speech and expression and displays,” Simon says.
Professional Public Asshole, Paul Ryan, has decided that the debt ceiling will be the next hostage target. I guess he wasn’t satisfied with the blood of the unemployed.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) signaled that Republicans would not raise the debt ceiling next year without some sort of concessions from Democrats, saying lawmakers were still crafting their strategy.
“We, as a caucus, along with our Senate counterparts, are going to meet and discuss what it is we want to get out of the debt limit,” Mr. Ryan said on Fox News Sunday. “We don’t want ‘nothing’ out of the debt limit. We’re going to decide what it is we can accomplish out of this debt limit fight.”
The U.S. government spends more money than it brings in through taxes, which means the Treasury Department has to borrow money by issuing debt. The government can only borrow money up to a certain level -called the debt ceiling – which is set by Congress. In October, lawmakers agreed to “suspend” the debt limit until Feb. 7, 2014. The White House has said it will no longer negotiate with Republicans on conditions for raising the debt limit, but many Republicans have said they will only vote to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for budget changes like spending cuts.
The Republican party continues to be in complete denial about all things related to Real GDP and the debt and deficit in real terms. Size is relative to both real GDP and to whatever has happened in inflation over the years. You can’t arbitrarily look at a number without understanding the changes in prices and the overall size of an economy and its taxable assets. Is it just me or is Paul Ryan one of the least serious people on the hill?
Oh, wait. There’s also Darrell Issa. One of the most fun things I’ve seen recently is that the HHS Department has refused to turn information over to Issa because they believe he will violate the privacy of millions of Americans.
Rep. Darrell Issa has issued a subpoena to MITRE, a government contractor, to turn over documents on healthcare.gov security testing. HHS says Issa has already seen the documents he is seeking.
Politico: HHS To Darrell Issa: We Don’t Trust You
The Health and Human Services Department told House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa that it won’t turn over documents related to the security of the Healthcare.gov website because it can’t trust him to keep secret information that could give hackers a roadmap to wreak havoc on the system. Issa has issued a subpoena to MITRE, a government contractor, to turn over unredacted copies of security-testing documents by noon Friday. … Already, Issa has been given access to the documents he seeks “in camera” — meaning committee staff were able to review them in a room but not keep them — but he is seeking physical copies (Allen, 12/12).
Roll Call: HHS To Issa: You Can’t Be Trusted With Obamacare Documents
The HHS assistant secretary for legislation, Jim R. Esquea, signaled that HHS was blocking MITRE from turning over the documents, which have been subpoenaed, over concerns that Issa would — as he has done in the past — leak the documents to the public, potentially giving hackers a road map to the “potential vulnerabilities in the cyber defenses” (Fuller, 12/12).
Issa is having a hissy fit.
So, that’s my little bit of this and that this morning. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?