Special thanks go to Magnifico for starting this venerable series.
Lead Off Story
122 Objects Spotted Possibly Related To Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammudin Hussein said in a press conference that new satellite images have spotted 122 objects possibly related to Malaysia Airlines flight 370.
Hussein said that Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency received satellite images from Airbus Defense and Space in France that were taken on March 23, and they reveal new debris possibly connected to the missing plane.
"MRSA analyzed the images and in one area of the ocean, measuring some 400 square kilometers, we were able to identify 122 potential objects," reported Hussein.
He added that the objects ranged in length from 1 meter to 23 meters with several objects appearing to be bright, perhaps indicating they are solid material.
The objects were spotted approximately 2,557 kilometers from Perth, Australia, where the plane is suspected to have crashed.
Space Station Arrival Delayed For US-Russian Crew
A software glitch on a Russian spacecraft heading to the International Space Station has delayed the arrival of three astronauts, including an American.
NASA said the crew was in no danger, and the U.S.-Russia space partnership was strong despite tensions over Ukraine.
The Soyuz spacecraft carrying Russians Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev and NASA’s Steve Swanson blasted off successfully early Wednesday and was scheduled to dock six hours later. Because of the glitch, the trip will now take two days.
Since the 2011 retirement of the U.S. space shuttle fleet, NASA has depended on the Russian spacecraft to ferry crews to the orbiting outpost and is paying Russia nearly $71 million per seat. This cooperation has continued despite tensions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and U.S. calls for harsher sanctions on Russia.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden repeatedly has said that the conflict in Ukraine would have no effect on the U.S.-Russian partnership. As recently as Tuesday he reiterated on his blog that while NASA continues to cooperate successfully with Russia, it wants to resume launch crews from U.S. soil. NASA is trying to speed up private American companies’ efforts to send crews into orbit, but it needs extra funding.
Russian Threat Forces Ukraine To Begin Troops Pullout From Crimea
The interim government of Ukraine Monday ordered the withdrawal of armed forces from Crimea with Russian military tightening the grip over the Black Sea peninsula.
"The acting President of Ukraine (Oleksandr Turchynov) has given an order to the Ukraine Defense Ministry for the withdrawal of all Ukrainian forces from Crimea," an official spokeswoman for the president was quoted as saying by the CNN. The soldiers' families will be evacuated as well.
Russian troops meanwhile consolidated control over Crimea and seized most of Ukraine's bases in the peninsula, including a naval base at Feodosia Monday. Witnesses said several Mi-24 and Mi-8 helicopters were involved. Between 60 and 80 Ukrainian troops were captured and taken from the base.
This comes a week after the Crimean parliament held a controversial referendum that Ukraine and the West say was illegal.
North Korean Missile Launch Draws ‘Strong’ Protest From Japan
Japan filed a strong protest Wednesday against Pyongyang over its test-firing of two intermediate-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan earlier in the day.
The launch took place as the leaders of the U.S, South Korea and Japan gathered in The Hague for summit talks on the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.
The timing of the missile launch during a trilateral meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, President Park Geun-hye and President Barack Obama suggested it was a deliberate show of force by Pyongyang aimed squarely at their three countries.
The launch of what are believed to be Rodong missiles marks a significant escalation from a series of shorter-range rocket launches in recent weeks to protest ongoing annual military drills by Washington and Seoul, which Pyongyang claims are preparation for an invasion.
It would be the North’s first launch of this type of missile since 2009, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in Seoul.
Jury Convicts bin Laden Son-In-Law On Terrorism Charges
Suleiman Abu Ghaith, a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, was found guilty of terrorism-related charges on Wednesday following a three-week trial that offered unusually vivid details of the former al Qaeda leader's actions in the days after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Abu Ghaith, 48, a Kuwait-born Muslim cleric, faces life in prison after a federal court jury in New York convicted him of conspiring to kill Americans, conspiring to provide material support for terrorists, and providing such support.
Jurors took just over one day to reach a verdict in a courtroom that is blocks from the site of the World Trade Center destroyed in the hijacked plane attacks nearly 13 years ago.
Abu Ghaith's court-appointed lawyer, Stanley Cohen, said there were several issues he would raise on appeal. They include U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan's decision to bar testimony from Pakistan-born Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man the U.S. government accuses of masterminding the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
"He was stoic, he was at ease," Cohen said of Abu Ghaith's reaction to the verdict. "I think he feels that it was impossible under the circumstances to receive a fair trial."
Obama Deplores Russia’s ‘Brute Force’ In Ukraine
President Obama offered a sustained and forceful rejoinder against Russia on Wednesday, denouncing the “brute force” he said it has used to intimidate neighbors like Ukraine and vowing that the United States “will never waver” in standing up for its NATO allies against aggression by Moscow.
In a speech meant as a capstone to his trip to Europe in the midst of an East-West confrontation with Russia, Mr. Obama addressed Moscow’s justifications for its intervention in Ukraine point by point, dismissing them as “absurd” or unmerited. He even defended the Iraq war, which he had opposed as a senator, as a stark contrast to the way Russia has seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.
“America and the world and Europe has an interest in a strong and responsible Russia, not a weak one,” Mr. Obama told an audience of leading figures here in the capital of the European Union. “But that does not mean that Russia can run roughshod over its neighbors. Just because Russia has a deep history with Ukraine does not mean it should be able to dictate Ukraine’s future. No amount of propaganda can make right something the world knows is wrong."
More Remains Found Wednesday And New Details Of Helicopter Rescue
Authorities in Washington state say they've found additional remains at the site of a massive, deadly landslide.
Washington State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins said authorities will release more specific information Wednesday evening.
Previously, authorities said they believed they had found 24 bodies from the slide that swept through a rural area north of Seattle on Saturday.
Dozens of people remain unaccounted for, although that number is expected to go down.
Science and Technology
America Needs A Bunker To Store Its Mountain Of Toxic TVs
The mountain of broken down televisions and computer screens caught fire at around 11 o’clock in the morning, sending a thick plume of grey smoke over the tiny Utah town of Parowan. Soon, about ten fire trucks from neighboring towns Paragonah and Brian joined local firefighters on the scene, and authorities shut down an entire mile of Interstate 15.
The firefighters extinguished the blaze within a few hours, but the larger danger remains. The March 2 fire was just one symptom of enormous problem that’s spreading across the country. As we move to flat screen TVs and computer displays, we’re discarding our big, bulky old school televisions and CRT monitors, and they’re piling up in warehouses like the one that caught fire in Parowan, with nowhere to go. These discarded screens aren’t just a fire hazard. They’re filled with lead and other toxic materials.
In California alone, more than 100 million pounds of leaded CRT monitors glass is recovered each year, according to CalRecycle, the state’s recycling agency. In some states, recycling programs have provided cash incentives for companies to haul away junky old monitors and TVs, but there’s almost no secondary market for the biggest parts of these monitors. So they just sit there, in massive piles. Over the past year, at least a half dozen warehouses filled with CRT debris have been abandoned in places like Baltimore, Cincinnati, Denver, and Yuma, Arizona. The stockpile in Parowan, Utah had not been abandoned, but just months earlier, state environmental officials had ordered its owner, Stone Castle Recycling, to move the waste out of the facility because of environmental code violations.
One company — Dow Management — was paid by about ten California recycling companies to haul away about 10 million tons of old monitors and TVs over a three-year period. According to Hunts and Arizona state officials, Dow stuffed them into a warehouses Los Angeles and Arizona, and simply walked away from the toxic glass, leaving the California recyclers and local officials to clean up the mess. Dow’s website is still active, but the company didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment and a number listed on the website has been disconnected. State officials believe that its operators have fled the country.
Quantiphobia And The Turning Of Morals Into Facts
When stats-wiz and political prognosticator Nate Silver’s new venture, FiveThirtyEight, launched last week, it punctuated the rise of “data journalism,” journalism that incorporates actual numerical data into reporting and storytelling! Silver’s star rose through his New York Times blog, which largely focused on political analysis and his ability to correctly predict 50 out of 50 states correctly in the 2012 presidential election. As a standalone venture, FiveThirtyEight, focuses on sports, science, economics, and lifestyle issues in addition to politics, and brings in data and statistical analysis to bear on these topics. That Nate Silver can be heralded as a star, and that a site like FiveThirtyEight even exists is indicative of a culture that has grown increasingly (and thankfully) enamored with data. Alongside data journalism like FiveThirtyEight, the it’s-everywhere trend of big data, the pervasiveness of infographics as a journalistic tool, and the rise of Moneyball-esque advanced analytics techniques in professional sports prove that quantification is IN.
Yet at the same time, the launch of FiveThirtyEight was mostly met with negativity. Although the criticism [...] included some disappointment that Silver’s site didn’t do MORE with data, a lot of it to me smacked of quantiphobia, a fear or disdain of numbers. Much of the backlash also seemed to respond to a proclamation Silver made to Time Magazine earlier in the month as to how he hires:The x-axis runs from “quantitative” to “qualitative,” the y-axis (top to bottom) from “rigorous and empirical” to “anecdotal and ad hoc.” All FiveThirtyEight employees, he says, need to land in the upper-left quadrant of the coordinate plane, where they are quantitatively inclined, rigorous and empirical. The adjacent quadrant above the x-axis, Silver says, belongs to journalists like some of his former colleagues at the New York Times and Ezra Klein, most recently of the Washington Post. “People call them numbers whizzes, but they’re not that—just very good journalists.” The bottom two quadrants belong to the dregs of American journalism: on the left, sportswriters who cherry-pick statistics without thinking through them, and on the right, op-ed columnists. “That’s the crap quadrant. Two-thirds of the op-ed columnists at America’s major newspapers are worthless,” Silver says. He hates punditry, he hates narratives, he hates bold proclamations — and so too does he hate the media’s most willing vessels for all three.scientific american
Do Insects Sleep?
So, do insects sleep? Finally, we have a match: yes, yes they do. Unlike plants and microbes, insects have a central nervous system, which appears to be an important characteristic for sleep. They also have interesting circadian behaviors, which govern when they sleep and when they wake up.
Some insects are active at night to take advantage of stealth dining. Cutworms eat leaves when the sun goes down to avoid birds and other predators, and bed bugs usually feed at night to take advantage their meal as it sleeps (that's us). By comparison, insects that forage for their food in the daytime, such as various bee species seeking out pollen, are on the opposite circadian cycle. Which makes sense if the flowers they pollinate close up at night.
Science first defined sleep in insects in 2000 when separate research groups led by the Neurosciences Institute in California and the University of Pennsylvania published reports on sleep in the fruit fly.
Both groups found that the flies exhibited key features of sleep. For example, flies at rest were harder to startle than those that where active, just as it’s harder to get your attention when you’re snoozing on the couch than when you’re up and moving around. And if the scientists kept the flies awake at night by periodically tapping their container, the flies had to make up for it with extra rest just like you have to take a nap after pulling an all-nighter.
Society and Culture
What If Everything You Knew About Poverty Was Wrong?
Blond and midwestern cheerful, Kathryn Edin could be a cruise director, except that instead of showing off the lido deck, she's pointing out where the sex traffickers live off a run-down strip of East Camden, New Jersey. Her blue eyes sparkle as she highlights neighborhood landmarks: the scene of a hostage standoff where police shot a man after he'd murdered a couple in their home and abducted their four-year-old; the front yard where a guy was gunned down after trying to settle a dispute between his son and two other teens.
Edin, 51, talks to every stranger we pass. She chirps hello to some guys working on a car jacked up in their front yard, some dudes selling pot, and a little girl driving a pink plastic jeep on the sidewalk. Most of them look at her like she's from another planet—which in a way, she is.
A sociologist at Johns Hopkins University, Edin is one of the nation's preeminent poverty researchers. She has spent much of the past several decades studying some of the country's most dangerous, impoverished neighborhoods. But unlike academics who draw conclusions about poverty from the ivory tower, Edin has gotten up close and personal with the people she studies—and in the process has shattered many myths about the poor, rocking sociology and public-policy circles.
For three years Edin lived with her family in a studio apartment smack in between the two crime scenes we just passed and a few blocks from one of the city's largest and most notorious public housing projects. Here she spent years doing intensive fieldwork for her latest book, coauthored with husband and Johns Hopkins colleague Tim Nelson, on low-income, unwed fathers. Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City is a complicated portrait of a group of people all but ignored by statistics-driven social-science research—in large part because there's little ready-made data about them.
'Dirty Old Man' Judge Wants To Tell Women Lawyers What To Wear
A male federal judge in Nebraska is getting attention for writing a blog post Tuesday about "how young women lawyers dress."
"I have three rules that young women lawyers should follow when considering how to dress for court," U.S. District Court Richard Kopf wrote on his personal blog. "1. You can’t win. Men are both pigs and prudes. Get over it. 2. It is not about you. That goes double when you are appearing in front of a jury. 3. Think about the female law clerks. If they are likely to label you, like Jane Curtin, an ignorant slut behind your back, tone it down."
Kopf was nominated to his current position by President George H.W. Bush, and was confirmed by the Senate on May 21, 1992. He has maintained a personal blog, titled Hercules And The Umpire, since February 2013.
Kopf's post Tuesday was prompted by a recent Slate article titled "Female Lawyers Who Dress Too 'Sexy' Are Apparently a 'Huge Problem' in the Courtroom." In his own post on female attire in the courtroom, Kopf wrote that he has "been a dirty old man ever since I was a very young man." He recounted how at the church wedding of one of his daughters, he insisted that his wife look in the church's lost and found to "locate a demure white sweater for [his other daughter] to wear over her very revealing frock." And Kopf also wrote about a "wonderfully talented and very pretty female lawyer who is in her late twenties" that he knows.
"She is brilliant, she writes well, she speaks eloquently, she is zealous but not overly so, she is always prepared, she treats others, including her opponents, with civility and respect, she wears very short skirts and shows lots of her ample chest," Kopf wrote. "I especially appreciate the last two attributes."
A Town Called Malice
On the first day of July last year, a man called Scott Hammond was found bludgeoned to death in his home in a tiny town in rural NSW. A news report had drawn me to this particular murder. The bizarre sound bite was that everyone in the town was a suspect. That's how hated Scott Hammond was.
A local must know something, the police said, but no one was coming forward.Six months after the crime, no one had been arrested.
"Scotty used to sick his dogs on people," a red-haired woman in the pub tells me. "So, you know, like, he was just a scumbag."
She tells me the citizens of Tahmoor aren't exactly on board with the investigation. "Nobody's speaking. It's just that nobody cares enough to say, 'Well, who killed that fella?' Because everybody's going, 'Thank God somebody did.' "
Scott Hammond was 48 when he died. Plenty of people in town thought his death was tied to a drug deal gone wrong. His murder wasn't the first time violence rained upon Hammond. A few years back, someone broke into his home and snapped both his legs. Hammond had his dogs pull him around the streets in a wheelchair, like reindeer, [restaurant owner, Danny] Forrest says.
Well, that's different...
That’s One Way To Do It
With just a little ingenuity and knowledge about the kids it is still possible to keep order in the classroom. One well read math teacher in France came up with a real gem that seems to be working for him. Having read all the books in the series he informed the class that he would post 'Game of Thrones' spoilers if order was not maintained. Afterwards there was what one student described as a "religious silence". Well done sir, well done!
Bill Moyers and Company:
Who’s Buying Our Midterm Elections?
This week Bill speaks with investigative journalists Kim Barker and Andy Kroll about the role of dark money — and the wealthy donors behind it — in this year’s midterm elections.