Thursday, September 21, 2017

MIT grads build reactor that uses nuclear waste

Can Reusing Spent Nuclear Fuel Solve Our Energy Problems? - Gary Strauss, National Geographic:

September 19, 2016 - "Nuclear ... engineer Leslie Dewan believes that a safe, environmentally friendly, next-generation nuclear reactor isn’t just feasible — it's commercially viable.

"As cofounder and CEO of Boston-based startup Transatomic Power, Dewan and fellow Massachusetts Institute of Technology grad Mark Massie are working on commercial-scale development of a molten salt reactor first prototyped in the 1960s at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

"'“We’ve changed the design to make it more compact, power dense, and able to run on spent nuclear fuel,' says the 31-year-old Dewan, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer....

"Unlike most traditional nuclear reactors that use water as a coolant and are fueled by solid uranium pellets, molten salt reactors [are] fueled by uranium dissolved in liquid salt, consuming fuel more slowly and efficiently.

 "Transatomic's reactor is also designed to automatically shut down during a power outage, with fuel draining into an escape tank and freezing solid, avoiding the kind of meltdown that has made more traditional nuclear power plant development abhorrent to power companies, alternative-energy proponets, environmentalists, and policymakers, many of whom remain alarmed by the prospect of more nuclear power.

 "Transatomic ... offers a solution to the problem of where to store spent nuclear fuel, which has long vexed scientists. Typical nuclear reactors consume only a fraction of the energy in their uranium fuel, which has lead to vast amounts of spent radioactive fuel rods.

"Transatomic's molten salt reactors would use that spent waste.

"''The world’s stockpile of nuclear waste is about 300,000 metric tons, about a football field’s worth that’s two meters deep,' Dewan says. 'There’s a tremendous amount of energy that’s left. With that waste, a waste-consuming molten salt reactor could produce enough electrical energy to power the world for decades.'"

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Illinois governor signs civil forfeiture reform

Rauner enacts civil asset forfeiture reform |

"September 20, 2017 - "Gov. Bruce Rauner today signed HB303, bipartisan legislation aimed at reforming Illinois’ asset forfeiture system. The reforms will increase transparency and shift burdens of proof to protect innocent citizens while maintaining the proper use of asset forfeiture as a tool for law enforcement. Gov. Rauner was joined by Illinois State Police (ISP) officials, ACLU members, legislators, and advocate organizations.

"'Illinois residents should be protected from the unfair seizure of their private property,' Gov. Rauner said. 'This legislation will enact needed reforms to prevent abuse of the civil asset forfeiture process, while maintaining its importance as a critical tool for law enforcement to make our communities safer.'

"When properly applied, asset forfeiture strikes at the economic foundation of criminal activity.... However, if asset forfeiture is misused, it can have major economic ramifications on Illinoisans who may be innocent of any wrongdoing. The forfeiture of cash, a vehicle, or even a home can also affect their family members and exacerbate financial insecurity.

"This important piece of legislation will provide for greater public transparency in Asset Forfeiture proceedings through the collection and publicly accessible reporting of forfeiture data, as well as additional sanction authority for abuse and violations of forfeiture rules by the ISP.

"HB 303 also shifts the burden of proving guilt to the government, and increases the burden of proof to mirror that of the federal government in forfeiture cases from probable cause to a preponderance of the evidence, a fair and equitable standard. It also makes a number of other changes such as eliminating restrictive bonding requirements and adjusting the threshold amounts of money subject to forfeiture as well as the levels of cannabis and controlled substance possession that can lead to forfeiture proceedings as a way to thoughtfully limit the use of this system to its intended purposes."

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Chinese government banning digital currencies

China orders Bitcoin exchanges in capital city to close - BBC News:

September 19, 2017 - "China is moving forward with plans to shut down Bitcoin exchanges in the country, starting with trading platforms in key cities.

"All Bitcoin exchanges in Beijing and Shanghai have been ordered to submit plans for winding down their operations by 20 September....

"Chinese authorities decided to ban digital currencies as part of a plan for reducing the country's financial risks.

"A website set up by the Chinese central bank warned that cryptocurrencies are 'increasingly used as a tool in criminal activities such as money laundering, drug trafficking, smuggling, and illegal fundraising'.

"According to a document leaked online by users on the social network Weibo that was seen by Coindesk, Chinese regulators ordered all cryptocurrency exchanges in Beijing to stop registering new user registration by midnight local time on 15 September, and ... to send regulators a detailed 'risk-free' plan of how they intend to exit the market before 18:30 local time on Wednesday 20 September.

"The regulator also ordered the exchanges to submit DVDs containing all user trading and holding data to the local authorities.....

"'China is shutting the exchanges down for good reasons - I think it's right they're being cautious at this time,' Paul Armstrong, an emerging technology adviser and author of the book Disruptive Technologies, told the BBC.... However, Mr Armstrong does not think that this will be the end of Bitcoin in China for good.

"'They're shutting it down for now, but it doesn't mean that in six months or so they won't create new Bitcoin regulations like Japan and Australia did," he said. 'All the other countries have digital currencies and are making important decisions about it, so it doesn't make sense for China to dismiss it out of hand.'"

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Monday, September 18, 2017

US House votes to block civil forfeiture expansion

In Surprise Vote, House Passes Amendment to Restrict Asset Forfeiture - Zaid Jilani, The Intercept:

September 12, 2017 - "In a surprise move, the House of Representatives on Tuesday approved an amendment to the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act that will roll back Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s expansion of asset forfeiture.

"Amendment No. 126 was sponsored by a bipartisan group of nine members, led by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich. He was joined by Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna of California; Washington state’s Pramila Jayapal, ... and Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard.

"Civil asset forfeiture is a practice in which law enforcement can take assets from a person who is suspected of a crime, even without a charge or conviction. Sessions revived the Justice Department’s Equitable Sharing Program, which allowed state and local police agencies to take assets and then give them to the federal government — which would in turn give a chunk back to local police. This served as a way for these local agencies to skirt past state laws designed to limit asset forfeiture....

"Amash, the prime mover of the amendment, spoke forcefully in favor of the Obama-era rules.... 'Unfortunately these restrictions were revoked in June of this year. My amendment would restore them by prohibiting the use of funds to do adoptive forfeitures that were banned under the 2015 rules,' he explained.

"Virginia Democratic Rep. Don Beyer reached across the aisle to voice support for Amash’s effort. 'Civil asset forfeiture without limits presents one of the strongest threats to our civil, property, and constitutional rights,' he said on the floor. 'It creates a perverse incentive to seek profits over justice.'

"The amendment passed with a voice vote, meaning it had overwhelming support.

"Republican Reps. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Raúl Labrador of Idaho, and Dana Rohrabacher of California joined in the effort, along with Democrat Earl Blumenauer of Oregon."

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Film chronicles cancer doctor's battles with FDA (video)

Synopsis - Burzynski, the Movie:

"Burzynski, the Movie is an internationally award-winning documentary originally released in 2010 (with an Extended Edition released in 2011) that tells the true story of a medical doctor and Ph.D biochemist named Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski who won the largest, and possibly the most convoluted and intriguing legal battle against the Food & Drug Administration [FDA] in American history.

"His victorious battles with the United States government were centered around Dr. Burzynski’s gene-targeted cancer medicines he discovered in the 1970’s called Antineoplastons, which have currently completed Phase II FDA-supervised clinical trials in 2009 and ... been given permission by the FDA to begin the final phase of FDA testing – randomized controlled clinical trials....This documentary takes the audience through the treacherous, yet victorious, 14-year journey both Dr. Burzynski and his patients have had to endure in order to obtain FDA-approved clinical trials of Antineoplastons....

"[T]he Food and Drug Administration engaged in four Federal Grand Juries spanning over a decade attempting to indict Dr. Burzynski, all of which ended in no finding of fault on his behalf. Finally, Dr. Burzynski was indicted in their 5th Grand Jury in 1995, resulting in two federal trials and two sets of jurors finding him not guilty of any wrongdoing."

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Don't blame the alt.right on Ron Paul

Stop trying to blame the alt-right on Ron Paul | Rare - Jack Hunter:

August 25, 2017 - "Did Ron Paul’s popular presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012 kick-start the racist alt-right? No, they didn’t. But some are trying to say they did.

"This conversation began with Matt Lewis’ thought provoking 'The Insidious Libertarian-to-Alt-Right Pipeline' on The Daily Beast Wednesday, in which Lewis ponders if the explosion in popularity of libertarianism over the last decade also served as a breeding ground for today’s new generation of young white nationalists. My answer to Lewis is that ... the overwhelming majority of libertarians did not veer in that direction and explicitly reject white nationalism....

"Then Lewis got around to Ron Paul... '"The paleo-libertarian seed that Ron Paul, Murray Rothbard, and Lew Rockwell planted in the 1990s has come to bear some really ugly fruit in the last couple of years as elements of the alt-right have made appearances in various libertarian organizations and venues,” writes Steve Horwitz, an economist who writes at Bleeding Heart Libertarians.... “In a way, Ron Paul is the guy who lit the fuse,” Nick Gillespie says. “And he embodies some of those contradictions" [between libertarianism and the alt-right]'....

"Horwitz, a left libertarian cited by Lewis, has posted negative things about the Pauls for many years, both Ron and Rand, despite the fact that far less people would even know who Horwitz is and other prominent libertarians if not for the Paul family. That said, Horwitz is not wrong about Rothbard and Rockwell’s dalliances with paleoconservatives in the 1990s, how that racially troubling movement (I identified as paleoconservative back then and know the history well) was a precursor to the alt-right....

"[But] whatever questionable actions Ron Paul’s friends were taking in the 90s, the Ron Paul “rEVOLution” a decade later was the exact opposite regarding the current discussion about the alt-right.... I explained my journey from paleoconservative to libertarian in a lengthy Politico story in 2013. Central to that path was how Paul’s influence pushed me away from the kind of hateful ugliness we see even more extremely with the alt-right today:....

"I cannot count the number of liberty movement members I have met over the course of ten years, traveling across the country during both of Paul’s presidential runs and in the years in between, who had a similar journey: Conservatives who once had little reservation about demonizing immigrants, or blacks or Muslims, who due to Ron Paul’s influence had become libertarians and thus embarrassed by their former views. Not to mention the throngs of people younger than me who came to Ron Paul from not only the right, but left, or even many who had been politically apathetic prior. They weren’t right-wingers looking for redder meat. They were attracted to Paul in part because he was the opposite of that kind of politics, which so many had soured on.....

"I could just as easily make the argument that the Paul’s liberty movement is the exact opposite of the alt-right, something Paul touched on himself commenting on the chaos in Charlottesville."

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Senate kills Rand Paul's war powers repeal

Senate scuttles Rand Paul's war powers repeal - POLITICO - Connor O'Brien:

September 13, 2017 - "The Senate Wednesday scuttled a proposal by Sen. Rand Paul to repeal the war authorizations that underpin the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as military action in a slew of other countries.

"The vote was 61 to 36 to table — or kill — Paul's amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. The Kentucky Republican's proposal would have repealed both the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for the use of military force [AUMF's] six months after the bill becomes law, giving lawmakers a tight window to pass a new framework for U.S. military operations overseas....

"In a floor speech Tuesday, Paul torched his fellow lawmakers for refusing to vote to authorize the myriad military actions the U.S. has engaged in since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. 'I don't think that anyone with an ounce of intellectual honesty believes that these authorizations from 16 years ago and 14 years ago ... authorized war in seven different countries,' Paul said.

"Wednesday's vote came after Paul blocked Senate leaders' efforts to speed consideration of the must-pass defense policy bill for two days. Paul objected to procedural efforts to begin debate sooner and threatened to hold up all other senators' amendments if he wasn't granted a vote on his proposal.

"Paul was joined by senators from both parties who supported sunsetting the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs in order to force Congress to debate and pass a new authorization that covers the current military campaign against ISIS as well as other contingencies.

"Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine, who has pushed for a new AUMF with Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, said it was 'way past time' for a vote.... 'Of all the powers Congress has, the one that we should most jealously guard is the power to declare war,' he said....

"In a classified briefing with senators in August, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the 2001 AUMF provides legal authority for current military operations in the Middle East, though Mattis has said Congress should enact a new resolution."

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