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Exploring a St. Louis decaying church

| August 9, 2013 | Reply

Last Saturday I joined a small group of urban explorers (I just joined this group on meetup.com). The location: Bethlehem Lutheran Church in North St. Louis. You can’t help but think of all of the people who have stepped into this massive building on all of the emotional occasions. And today, there are a few more of us, admiring what this building once was. Here are a few photos glorious but sad building.

open floor one observer - good

IMG_4763 Bethlehem Church

IMG_4717 Bethlehem Church

IMG_5118 Bethlehem Church

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Your extremely low odds of dying in a terrorist attack

| August 9, 2013 | Reply

What are the odds of you dying in a terrorist attack. Extremely, absurdly low. You are NINE times more likely to die by choking in your own vomit. Six times more likely to die due to hot weather. 87 times more likely to die of drowning. We can easily fix most of our terrorism problem is we merely fix our innumeracy problem.

Related topic: Here are eight ways to allow 3,000 people die.

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I have nothing to hide . . .

| August 9, 2013 | 2 Replies

You hear this so often: I have nothing to hide (so it’s OK for the NSA to read my email). Really?

What if they spy on you without any probable cause, find out that you possess drugs, then they turn this information over to the DEA, which pretends it didn’t get this information from the NSA, then recreates the path necessary to put you in prison? Far fetched?

A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence – information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.

What else could happen to those of you who have never committed a crime? How about identity theft? How about some NSA contractor stealing your passwords to your financial institutions? This is an agency with no accountability, with hundreds of thousands of employees with the technical ability to read all of your most private information. How about screwing up your computer as they search through it with the viruses they manufacture? Far Fetched?

Why should we be concerned? Check out this video. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/05/dea-surveillance-cover-up_n_3706207.html

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Lee Camp on losers and real racism in Afghanistan and on militarizing global warming

| August 8, 2013 | Reply

Lee Camp has been on a roll for a long time:

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U.S. forces encrypted email server to shut down – gags owner

| August 8, 2013 | 1 Reply

George Orwell must truly be tired of spinning in his grave by now.

From Raw Story, the U.S. government has apparently forced the man running a secure email server to shut down. It is thought that this server, Lavabit, was the service Edward Snowden was using will holed up in the Moscow airport. This story also reports that the owner of Lavabit, Ladar Levison, has been barred, apparently by the U.S. from discussing this coercive action by the U.S.:

An encrypted email service believed to have been used by US leaker Edward Snowden shut down on Thursday apparently as a result of pressure from US authorities. Lavabit owner Ladar Levison posted a message at the website telling users that the he was pulling the plug on the secure email service launched in Texas nearly a decade ago. “I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit,” Levison said.

Addendum August 9, 2013:

How can this be happening, that in our beloved United States of America, “our” government can try to force a company to trample on treasured constitutional rights in a secret appeals court proceeding? This is pure insanity. Here’s where we’re headed: None of us will be allowed to communicate in any way with each other unless our BIG Nanny government is able to monitor the conversation. That’s what they are after, and they are going to get it, because most of us rely on the government’s war-cheering stenographer journalists for most of their information. Thus, organized resistance will be virtually impossible, even if 90% of the people favor massive change. This rampant spying has already killed off investigative journalism aimed at government corruption and abuses (who’s willing to call or email a reporter any more?). The situation has already become stunningly Orwellian. Along with the thorough corruption of our government with money, this government spying is turning the U.S. into a Third World fascist state, and I don’t use that term loosely. Jimmy Carter has it right: ‘America no longer has a functioning democracy.”

Here’s the latest disturbing news, from Glenn Greenwald:

What is particularly creepy about the Lavabit self-shutdown is that the company is gagged by law even from discussing the legal challenges it has mounted and the court proceeding it has engaged. In other words, the American owner of the company believes his Constitutional rights and those of his customers are being violated by the US Government, but he is not allowed to talk about it. Just as is true for people who receive National Security Letters under the Patriot Act, Lavabit has been told that they would face serious criminal sanctions if they publicly discuss what is being done to their company. Thus we get hostage-message-sounding missives like this:

I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on – the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

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We are entering the third great carbon era

| August 8, 2013 | Reply

From Alternet:

Many other experts share this view, assuring us that increased reliance on “clean” natural gas combined with expanded investments in wind and solar power will permit a smooth transition to a green energy future in which humanity will no longer be pouring carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. All this sounds promising indeed. There is only one fly in the ointment: it is not, in fact, the path we are presently headed down. The energy industry is not investing in any significant way in renewables. Instead, it is pouring its historic profits into new fossil-fuel projects, mainly involving the exploitation of what are called “unconventional” oil and gas reserves. The result is indisputable: humanity is not entering a period that will be dominated by renewables. Instead, it is pioneering the third great carbon era, the Age of Unconventional Oil and Gas. . . . Hydro-fracking — the use of high-pressure water columns to shatter underground shale formations and liberate the oil and natural gas supplies trapped within them — is being undertaken in ever more regions of the United States and in a growing number of foreign countries. In the meantime, the exploitation of carbon-dirty heavy oil and tar sands formations is accelerating in Canada, Venezuela, and elsewhere.

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FOX news tells yet another climate change lie

| August 8, 2013 | Reply

From Rocky Mountain Institute:


According to Fox Business reporter Shibani Joshi, renewables are successful in Germany and not in the U.S. because Germany has “got a lot more sun than we do.” Sure, California might get sun now and then, Joshi conceded during her now-infamous flub, “but here on the East Coast, it’s just not going to work.” (She recanted the next day while adding new errors.)

Actually, Germany gets only about as much annual sun as Seattle or Alaska; its sunniest region gets less sun than almost anywhere in the lower 48 states. This underscores an important point: solar power works and competes not only in the sunniest places, but in some pretty cloudy places, too.

I would have taken 30 seconds for FOX to figure out that Germany gets much less sun than most of the U.S., which leads me to conclude that FOX is intentionally telling a lie to support the fossil fuel industry.

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Stunning Russian color photos from around 1910

| August 7, 2013 | Reply

A friend shared this link to these Russian color photos from around 1910. Stunning images. Here’s the story:

“With images from southern and central Russia in the news lately due to extensive wildfires, I thought it would be interesting to look back in time with this extraordinary collection of color photographs taken between 1909 and 1912. In those years, photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) undertook a photographic survey of the Russian Empire with the support of Tsar Nicholas II. He used a specialized camera to capture three black and white images in fairly quick succession, using red, green and blue filters, allowing them to later be recombined and projected with filtered lanterns to show near true color images. The high quality of the images, combined with the bright colors, make it difficult for viewers to believe that they are looking 100 years back in time – when these photographs were taken, neither the Russian Revolution nor World War I had yet begun. Collected here are a few of the hundreds of color images made available by the Library of Congress, which purchased the original glass plates back in 1948.”

 

russian photo

St. Louis photographer Ed Crim adds this information: “The camera was situated on a very sturdy tripod, the image format was large (roughly 2.75 x3.5 inches) and the emulsions dense with silver. With precise registration of the images and cooperative subjects, it wouldn’t be too hard to get sharp images.”

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NSA appears to be planting spyware

| August 6, 2013 | 1 Reply

Fascinating article at Slate makes the argument that the NSA is planting spyware in order to ship private information to one of its contractors. I wasn’t sold in the first few sentences, but then the article kept disclosing more and more evidence.

Intriguingly, the malware that had apparently been placed on some of the Freedom Hosting websites Sunday may have turned up evidence showing how the feds are attempting to infiltrate Tor networks in order to track down suspects. According to an analysis by security researcher Vlad Tsrklevic, the malware in question collects identifying information about the person visiting the page and sends it back to an IP address near Reston, Va. Because the malware does not infiltrate the computer like criminal malware and instead merely collects identifying information, according to Tsrklevich, “it’s very likely that this is being operated by a law enforcement agency.”

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