Republicans try to clean up McCarthy’s Benghazi mess – By Julian Hattem, Mike Lillis and Jordain Carney – 10/01/15 01:30 PM EDT


Republicans are scrambling to contain the damage from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (D-Calif.) remarks about the Benghazi Committee amid a firestorm of criticism.

Outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was forced to defend the Benghazi panel on Thursday after McCarthy — his presumed successor for the gavel — linked the success of the investigation to Hillary Clinton’s falling poll numbers.

“This investigation has never been about former Secretary of State Clinton and never will be,” Boehner said in a statement.

“The American people deserve the truth about what happened in Benghazi. That’s always been our focus, and that’s going to remain our focus.”

McCarthy gave an opening to critics of the Benghazi investigation during an interview late Tuesday on Fox News in which he said the panel had played a role in Clinton’s declining poll numbers.

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping,” McCarthy said on Fox News.

“Why? Because she’s untrustable.”

The remark has undermined the GOP’s message that they are only seeking to learn what really happened when four Americans where killed during the 2012 assault in Libya. The attack occurred while Clinton was secretary of State.

Several Republicans have repudiated McCarthy’s remarks, saying they disagree with the implication that the investigation is politically motivated.

 

Article continues:

http://thehill.com/homenews/house/255632-republicans-try-to-clean-up-mccarthys-benghazi-mess

New Monsanto Spray Kills Bugs by Messing With Their Genes – —By Tom Philpott | Wed Aug. 19, 2015 6:05 AM EDT


B Brown/Shutterstock

In a fascinating long piece in MIT Technology Review, Antonio Regalado examines the genetically modified seed industry’s latest blockbuster app in development—one that has nothing to do with seeds. Instead, it involves the industry’s other bread-and-butter product: pesticide sprays. But we’re not talking about the poisonous chemicals you convinced your dad to stop dousing the lawn with. The novel sprays in question are powered by a genetic technology called RNA interference, which promises to kill specific insects and weeds by silencing genes crucial to their survival, while leaving nontarget species unscathed.

RNAi, as it’s known, is an emerging science; the two US researchers who discovered it brought home a Nobel Prize in 2006. Regalado describes the process like this:

The cells of plants and animals carry their instructions in the form of DNA. To make a protein, the sequence of genetic letters in each gene gets copied into matching strands of RNA, which then float out of the nucleus to guide the protein-making machinery of the cell. RNA interference, or gene silencing, is a way to destroy specific RNA messages so that a particular protein is not made.

If you can nix RNA messages that exist to generate crucial genes, you’ve got yourself an effective bug or weed killer. And GMO seed and pesticide behemoth Monsanto thinks it has just that. Robb Fraley, the company’s chief technology officer and a pioneer in creating GM seeds, told Regalado that within a few years, RNA sprays would “open up a whole new way to use biotechnology” that “doesn’t have the same stigma, the same intensive regulatory studies and cost that we would normally associate with GMOs.” Fraley described the novel technology as “incredible” and “breathtaking.”

A Monsanto exec describes the novel technology as “incredible” and “breathtaking.”
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The Real State of the Economy – Andrew Serge july 31 2015


Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at Aug 2, 2015 1.55

As Mitt Romney and Barack Obama vied for the Oval Office back in 2012, the U.S. teetered on the edge of another recession. And no one knew about it until now.

The Labor Department on Thursday released the country’s gross domestic product results for the second quarter. The economy expanded a modest 2.3 percent in April, May and June of 2015 after a meager 0.6 percent uptick in the first quarter. While the headline numbers fell short of analysts’ expectations, it was the revisions to previous years’ data that were arguably the most intriguing.

[READ: GDP Gains in Second Quarter, Revised Upward in First]

“The revisions show a recovery from the Great Recession that has been lackluster,” Gus Faucher, senior macroeconomist at PNC Financial Services Group, wrote in a research note Thursday. “This included a small downward revision to growth in 2012 (2.3 percent to 2.2 percent), a big downward revision to growth in 2013 (2.2 percent to 1.5 percent), and no revision to growth in 2014 (2.4 percent).”

The Bureau of Economic Analysis spent the last few months updating its seasonal adjustment methodology, allowing it to tweak GDP releases as far back as 2011. A series of weaker-than-expected first quarter GDP reports over the last several years led the bureau in May to start looking into potential flaws in its calculations.

Those revisions were published Thursday and likely weren’t what Americans wanted to see. For five consecutive quarters (or 15 months) in 2012 and 2013, the U.S. economy’s growth rate fell short of the country’s benchmark 2 percent. Over that five-quarter window beginning in April 2012, the economy averaged only 1.1 percent growth per quarter.

But in the third and fourth quarters of 2012, when America was in the throes of a political battle for the White House, the U.S. economy almost plunged off the deep end. The economy expanded only 0.5 percent in the third quarter and 0.1 percent in the fourth. Though the fourth quarter’s 0.1 percent growth was unrevised from previous reports, the third quarter’s GDP was originally thought to have clocked in at a much stronger 2.8 percent.

http://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2015/07/31/consumer-confidence-and-americas-close-call-with-recession?int=a14709

The Fourth Amendment and Driverless Cars – By John Frank Weaver JULY 27 2015


Google’s self-driving car, parked on Pennsylvania Avenue on April 23, 2014, in Washington. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Google’s self-driving car, parked on Pennsylvania Avenue on April 23, 2014, in Washington.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Driverless cars are still in their infancy—Google’s cute little vehicles don’t go faster than 25 mph. Nevertheless, courts around the country are currently deciding the future privacy rights of self-driving car owners. The opinions that judges write today will determine whether the police searching your car 20 years from now will be able to see everywhere the car has ever driven you, how long you stayed there, possibly who was with you, your communications from the car, etc. Think about all the places you travel in your car or the conversations you have in your car. How easily do you want that information available to a search?

One court making decisions that will affect autonomous cars is the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which is currently considering its decision in Commonwealth v. Dorelas, a case examining how specific a warrant must be before police can search a smartphone. (Full disclosure: I helped the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts draft its amicus brief.) There are two major schools of thought about warrants for searching cellphones. The first considers a smartphone a “container” and holds that a warrant essentially needs only to describe the phone and the probable cause. The second recognizes that smartphones are computers with tens of thousands of files; to satisfy the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, a warrant must describe the phone and files sought, as well as explain the probable cause.

Article continues:

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2015/07/fourth_amendment_and_autonomous_vehicles_should_cops_need_a_warrant_for.html

The All-Girl Soldier Club: Child Warriors of Donetsk – Vice News Published on Jun 4, 2015


Once a relic of the Soviet era, patriotic youth clubs in the Donetsk region of Ukraine are gaining new popularity, offering military training to their members. As young people practice assembling guns, marching, and military drills, a strong sense of allegiance flows through the ranks, with some members holding high aspirations of joining the Russian Federation army.

Up to 15 of these clubs compete in the annual Future Warrior Contest held in a local military academy, which is judged by the academy’s members and former Russian military. The contestants battle each other in displays of military prowess, vying for the prize of a visit to a training camp near Moscow.

VICE News follows the Vityaz Squad as they compete against other patriotic youth clubs at the Future Warrior Contest in Donetsk.

Online speech case heads to high court – By Julian Hattem – 11/29/14 12:16 PM EST


The Supreme Court is preparing to weigh in on a landmark free speech case that raises crucial questions about the First Amendment in the age of the Internet.

Greg Nash

The high court next week will sit down to decide whether or not police need to prove that people posting threats online actually intend to carry them out.

Free speech groups warned ahead of Monday morning’s arguments that a ruling in favor of the government “runs the risk of punishing protected First Amendment expression simply because it is crudely or zealously expressed.”

“As more and more speech moves onto the Internet, the constitutional protections afforded to online speech will increasingly determine the actual scope of First Amendment freedoms enjoyed by our society,” the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy and Technology and other organizations warned in a friend-of-the-court brief.

The court needs to determine that intention matters, they added, “to ensure that protected online speech is neither punished nor chilled.”

The case centers on Anthony Elonis, who posted a number of violent, expletive-laden Facebook messages after he and his wife, Tara, separated.

In one, he asked if her court protection order was “thick enough to stop a bullet.” In another, he expressed regret for not smothering her with a pillow, dropping her off in a creek and making it “look like a rape and murder.”

After the split, Elonis was fired from his job at an Allentown, Pa., amusement park over a post that some of his coworkers took to be a threat against them.

He was sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison for the threats. But Elonis says that the rants are essentially harmless and were intended to be raps in the style of Eminem or the Odd Future rap collective.

One post urging his sister-in-law to dress up his children as “matricide” on Halloween, for example, was accompanied by an emoticon of a face sticking its tongue out, his lawyers noted, “which he understood to be an indication a post is meant in jest.”

Article continues:

http://thehill.com/policy/technology/technology/225444-online-speech-case-heads-to-high-court