Archive for June 2006

Pluto’s new moons officially named Nix and Hydra

June 23, 2006

Pluto's moons The International Astronomical Union today will confer official names on Pluto’s recently-discovered pair of moons. Along with Charon, Pluto now has three known satellites, all of whose names are thematically liked with Pluto. “Nix”, the middle of the three moons, was originally intended to be “Nyx,” the proper name for Charon’s mother in Greek mythology. However, a Near-Earth Object has already been named “Nyx”, so “Nix” it is. “Hydra”, the outermost known moon, is the name of a mythical guardian of the underworld.

Multiple stories on the event can be found here, here, here, and here.

(Image Credit: NASA and STSci)

It is no accident that ‘N’ and ‘H’ also stand for “New Horizons,” the spacecraft now en route to Pluto, and the first craft ever sent there. New Horizons is due to zoom past Pluto on July 14, 2015.

The two moons, formerly known as P1 and P2, were discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope, and announced last October. Unfortunately, at magnitude 23, they are far too dim to be seen by backyard telescopes.

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Where can I get an original Airport card? (Updated 11/16/06)

June 22, 2006

Original Airport Card New ways to find a wireless card for your favorite, older Mac.

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AT&T: We own your personal, confidential data. Not you.

June 22, 2006

Read it and weep. For people who believe in democracy recent news has been disheartening: warrant-less spying on Americans by the NSA, the Supreme Court’s weakening of the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, and police and government agencies using illegally obtained, private information such as phone records. Now AT&T has the audacity to claim they own any confidential information they have about me. Who do they think they are?

I realize this is mainly about CYA–they have been named in class-action suits because of their alleged cooperation with the NSA’s controversial domestic surveillance program(s). Still, I was surprised and disturbed recently when a service rep from my phone company asked for my Social Security number to “verify my identity.” I have never provided them with that information, and I protect that number’s privacy fiercely. That number is between parts of the US Government and myself. When doctors ask me for it, for instance, I do not give it. When I am coerced, I use a number that will never be associated with another person because it was used in advertisements, and has never been issued.

Back to the point: why is my phone company spying on me?

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The Fourth Amendment vs. Antonin “Spinmeister” Scalia

June 22, 2006

Sorry for the inflammatory title, but I couldn’t resist. Yesterday TheAgitator.com, a blog authored by Cato Institute policy analyst Radley Balko, reported that Mr. Scalia, in supporting his contention that the “knock and announce” rule is no longer needed because police are more professional and better-trained than in the past, cited research by Dr. Sam Walker. The trouble is, according to Dr. Walker, “Scalia turned my research completely on its head. My point was that these reforms came about because the courts, specifically the Warren Court, forced the police to institute better procedures with judicial oversight. Scalia now wants to take that oversight away.”

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2002: There are WMDs in Iraq. 2003: Whoops, our bad. 2006: There were WMDs in Iraq

June 22, 2006

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to believe. Fox News is reporting that yesterday, Republican Senator Rick Santorum read from a newly declassified portion of a Department of Defense document, saying over 500 pre-1991-era chemical WMDs have been discovered in Iraq since 2003. The senator believes more will be discovered.

The aged and “degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent” chemical munitions are not in usable condition, said a senior Defense Department official, who added that they “are not the WMDs this country and the rest of the world believed Iraq had, and not the WMDs for which this country went to war.”

If the report is true, it means Saddam Hussein was lying or misinformed when he claimed that all of Iraq’s WMDs had been destroyed. It also would question the effectiveness of the years of UN weapons inspections in Iraq. (Click “Read More” for commentary.)

————- Minor update: The title was originally “1992: … 1993: … 1996…” How humbling to not only be living in the wrong decade, but the wrong century!

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The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution suffers a defeat at the hands of the Supreme Court

June 20, 2006

As of today, the law of the land is re-interpreted such that law enforcement officers may burst into your house unannounced, even with guns drawn, so long as they have a search warrant. Just pray they have the right house. In the name of 9/11 and thanks to a Republican majority on the Supreme Court, we all take another step closer to a police state. And that’s not a good thing.

Update 6/20/06: CNN is reporting an AP story that “Federal and local police across the country — as well as some of the nation’s best-known companies — have been gathering Americans’ phone records from private data brokers without subpoenas or warrants.” What’s worse is, these infringements of civil liberties aren’t just recent–they cite a 1977 example from the Jon Benet Ramsey case. [Ed. note- the “Read More” text was not changed as of 6/20.]

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Sports Illustrated: Lance Armstrong wants accountability from anti-doping officials

June 20, 2006

Sports Illustrated reports that Lance is asking the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to investigate possible negligence and intentional misconduct on the part of WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) officials. In late May, Lance was finally cleared of all suspicion of wrongdoing, putting to rest a vicious bit of xenophobic subterfuge started by the French paper L’Equipe and immediately accepted as fact by the likes of Tour de France Director Jean-Marie LeBlanc. In my opinion, after years of letting Lance twist in the wind as the press and the public had at him with unsubstantiated accusations, while the WADA reacted with silence or even by aiding the rumormongers, it’s time for justice.

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