— Brian Schmidt won the 2011 Nobel Physics Prize for his co-discovery of dark energy. He went to Fargo, North Dakota to show the prize – a half pound medal, made out of gold – to his grandmother.
As he was leaving Fargo, with the medal in his laptop bag, he had an encounter with airport security:
[As the bag] went through the X-ray machine. I could see [security agents] were puzzled. [The medal is] made of gold, so it absorbs all the X-rays—it’s completely black. And they had never seen anything completely black.
“They’re like, ‘Sir, there’s something in your bag.’
I said, ‘Yes, I think it’s this box.’
They said, ‘What’s in the box?’
I said, ‘a large gold medal,’ as one does.
So they opened it up and they said, ‘What’s it made out of?’
I said, ‘gold.’
And they’re like, ‘Uhhhh. Who gave this to you?’
‘The King of Sweden.’
‘Why did he give this to you?’
‘Because I helped discover the expansion rate of the universe was accelerating.’
At which point, they were beginning to lose their sense of humor. I explained to them it was a Nobel Prize, and their main question was, ‘Why were you in Fargo?’”
— In other flying news, U.S. District Judge Anna Brown of Portland, Oregon ruled that
…people placed on the [No Fly] list have a constitutionally protected interest in traveling by air, and the right to due process when its denied.
Seven American citizens were part of an ACLU lawsuit. They wanted to be taken off the No Fly list or told why their names were on it. The government decided to take them off the list. According to news reports, this was “the first time the United States has ever informed someone whether they are or are not excluded” from the list. “This is huge in terms of the secrecy regime, and a regime of unconstitutional unfairness crumbling,” said an ACLU lawyer.
— In still more news about flying rights, the Association of Flight Attendants wants the FAA to stop people from using portable electronic devices during take off and landing. Again. Apparently people are ignoring the how to use a seat belt and oxygen mask speeches. Besides, devices could turn into projectiles.
— Tom McHale, at mygunculture.com, complains that TSA is forcing gun owners to violate federal laws (Title 49: Transportation, Parts 1540 and 1544) when they make travelers flying with firearms surrender gun case keys to security inspectors.
— In a related story, TSA continued its unbroken streak and found 50 more firearms in carry on bags last week.
— Edward Snowden told a New Yorker crowd that people who argue “if you have nothing to hide you shouldn’t mind a little government intrusion every now and then” have it backward:
“You’re inverting the model of responsibility for how rights work… When you say, ‘I have nothing to hide,’ you’re saying, ‘I don’t care about this right.’ You’re saying, ‘I don’t have this right, because I’ve got to the point where I have to justify it.’ The way rights work is, the government has to justify its intrusion into your rights.”
— Robert Turner - writing in the August/September issue of (the consistently informative) Homeland Security Today Magazine – believes “Snowden is a pathetic, narcissistic, high-school dropout… [who] may very well [be] the most injurious traitor in American history.” Turner also writes that he does not see how NSA is violating the Constitution. “The NSA is not “spying” [sic] on hundreds of millions of Americans. It is collecting information like telephone records so a computer [sic] can scan through vast amounts of data….”
— Glenn Greenwald gives a 20 minute TED talk presenting his reasons why privacy matters. Most of the argument seems to be a synthesis of chapter 4 in his book No Place to Hide.
— Tom Englehardt continues his quest to convince people we’ve moved way beyond Stupid with the fear business. His latest example is the ISIS hysteria: Inside the American Terrordome. After giving a few examples of the current soundtrack of terrorism fear, he writes:
You can repeat until you’re blue in the face that the dangers of scattered terror outfits are vanishingly small in the “homeland,” when compared to almost any other danger in American life. It won’t matter, not once the terror-mongers go to work….
Let’s be honest. Post-9/11, when it comes to our own safety (and so where our tax dollars go), we’ve become as mad as loons. Worse yet, the panic, fear, and hysteria over the dangers of terrorism may be the only thing left that ties us as a citizenry to a world in which so many acts of a destructive nature are being carried out in our name….
Terror-phobia, after all, leaves you feeling helpless and in need of protection. The only reasonable response to it is support for whatever actions your government takes to keep you “safe.” Amid the waves of fear and continual headlines about terror plots, we, the people, have now largely been relegated to the role of so many frightened spectators when it comes to our government and its actions. Welcome to the Terrordome.
— Speaking of things to be afraid of, the 2013 National Health Security Preparedness Index is available at this link. Called “a new way to measure and advance our nation’s preparedness,” the Index charts the health preparedness of the states. Says the website, “The NHSPI™ applies the National Health Security Strategy definition of national health security: the state in which the Nation and its people are prepared for, protected from, and resilient in the face of health threats or incidents with potentially negative health consequences.” I have no clue why the Index is trade marked
— A British company, Shoothill, has an online tool called GuageMap that can (eventually) send messages to interested parties when one of the 2,400 rivers in England and Wales is either threatening to flood or is becoming dangerously low.
— The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society issued a report titled ”Explaining Extreme Events of 2013 from a Climate Perspective.” One conclusion: “Climate change influenced several of the world’s most extreme weather events of 2013, including heat waves in Australia, Europe, China, Japan and Korea.” The report is available at this link. Said one government research meteorologist (in a USA Today story about the report), “It’s a granted that climate change is influencing all manner of weather….” This report looks not if climate change influenced weather, but how it did – trying to quantify the influence….”
— Speaking of the weather, NASA confirmed there is a “vast methane cloud over the southwestern U.S.” “[The] 2,500-square mile methane cloud over the region where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah meet traps more heat in a year than all the annual carbon dioxide emissions of Sweden,” the Christian Science Monitor reports. Scientists first noticed the methane data several years ago but ignored it because the readings were so extreme.
Homeland Security Baseball News
– The Kansas City Star reports:
It had been 29 years since the Kansas City Royals made it to the postseason and no one in town wanted to miss the end of what turned out to be their thrilling 9-8 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
No one – not even the police department.
The Kansas City Police took to Twitter with a message for folks across the city, and it was hard to believe that anybody disobeyed the request:
“We really need everyone to not commit crimes and drive safely right now. We’d like to hear the Royals clinch.”