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Peter Thiel: We Need a New Atomic Age 15

HughPickens.com writes: Peter Thiel writes in the NYT that what's especially strange about the failed push for renewables is that we already had a practical plan back in the 1960s to become fully carbon-free without any need of wind or solar: nuclear power. "But after years of cost overruns, technical challenges and the bizarre coincidence of an accident at Three Mile Island and the 1979 release of the Hollywood horror movie "The China Syndrome," about a hundred proposed reactors were canceled," says Thiel. "If we had kept building, our power grid could have been carbon-free years ago. Instead, we went in reverse."

According to Thiel, a new generation of American nuclear scientists has produced designs for better reactors. Crucially, these new designs may finally overcome the most fundamental obstacle to the success of nuclear power: high cost. Designs using molten salt, alternative fuels and small modular reactors have all attracted interest not just from academics but also from entrepreneurs and venture capitalists like me ready to put money behind nuclear power. However, none of these new designs can benefit the real world without a path to regulatory approval, and today's regulations are tailored for traditional reactors, making it almost impossible to commercialize new ones. "Both the right's fear of government and the left's fear of technology have jointly stunted our nuclear energy policy," concludes Thiel. "supporting nuclear power with more than words is the litmus test for seriousness about climate change. Like Nixon's going to China, this is something only Mr. Obama can do. If this president clears the path for a new atomic age, American scientists are ready to build it."

France Using Emergency Powers To Prevent Climate Change Protests (theguardian.com) 161

Bruce66423 writes: Following the Paris massacre, the French government declared a state of emergency. One of the regulations this introduced was control of large scale gatherings, and one of the events that is being caught up in this is planned protests to do with the Climate Change conference in Paris next month. This has resulted in some activists being put under house arrest — yet other gathering, such as commercial street markets — are being allowed to go ahead. Funny that; anyone would think that the government is using the opportunity to suppress dissent.

Richard Dawkins Opposes UK Cinemas Censoring Church's Advert Before Star Wars (theguardian.com) 289

An anonymous reader writes: A controversy has erupted in the United Kingdom following the decision of the three theatre chains that control 80% of the movie screens in the country to refuse to show an advertisement for the Anglican church. The 60 second advertisement is for a new Church of England website, JustPray.uk, the purpose of which is to encourage people to pray. The Odeon, Cineworld and Vue chains refused to allow it to be shown due to a policy not allowing political or religious advertising. Richard Dawkins supported the Church on free speech grounds, stating, "I still strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might 'offend' people. If anybody is 'offended' by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended." Dawkins was joined by fellow atheist, Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston in backing the right of the Church to show the advertisement, stating "As a gentle atheist, I'm not offended by Church screening gentle cinema adverts; we shouldn't reject our deep cultural roots in Christianity." The assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain said he was "flabbergasted" by the decision to refuse to show it. The National Secular Society found it a "perfectly reasonable decision." The Anglican church had wanted to show the advert prior to the screening of the upcoming Star Wars movie given the expected large, multi-generational audiences.
The Military

Turkey Downs Allegedly Intruding Russian Fighter Near Syria Border (reuters.com) 583

jones_supa writes: Turkish fighter jets shot down a Russian Sukhoi SU-24 fighter near the Syrian border on Tuesday after repeated warnings over airspace violations. Moscow said it could prove the jet had not left Syrian air space. Footage from private Turkish broadcaster Haberturk TV showed the warplane going down in flames in a woodland area. Separate footage from Turkey's Anadolu Agency showed two pilots parachuting out of the jet before it crashed. A Syrian rebel group sent a video to Reuters that appeared to show one of the pilots immobile and badly wounded on the ground and an official from the group said he was dead. This is the first time a NATO member's armed forces have downed a Russian military aircraft since the 1950s. The Guardian is following the developments with live updates. Also covered by the BBC, which notes Russian aircraft have flown hundreds of sorties over northern Syria since September. Moscow says they have targeted only "terrorists", but activists say its strikes have mainly hit Western-backed rebel groups. Turkey, a vehement opponent of Syria's president, has warned against violations of its airspace by Russian and Syrian aircraft. Last month, Ankara said Turkish F-16s had intercepted a Russian jet that crossed its border and two Turkish jets had been harassed by an unidentified Mig-29.

Sabotage Blacks Out Millions In Crimea 150

HughPickens.com writes: In a preview of what the U.S. may one day face with cyberattacks on the U.S. power grid, Ivan Nechepurenko reports at the NY Times that power lines in southern Ukraine that supply Crimea have been knocked down by saboteurs, leaving millions without electricity. Four local power plants, including two nuclear ones, scaled back production because they had no means to distribute electricity. More than 1.6 million people still lacked power on Monday morning, Russia's Energy Ministry said in a statement. Local power plants in Crimea, as well as backup generators, were being used to provide power to hospitals, schools and other vital facilities. The Crimean authorities declared Monday a day off for non-government workers and declared a state of emergency, which can last as long as one month.

It was not immediately clear who destroyed the main electric pylons on Friday and Sunday, but the blasted-away stump of at least one tower near the demonstrators was wrapped in the distinctive blue Crimean Tatar flag with a yellow trident in the upper left-hand corner. Tatar activists blockaded the site, saying they would prevent repairs until Russia released political prisoners and allowed international organizations to monitor human rights in Crimea. The activists claim that the 300,000-member minority has faced systematic repression since Russia annexed the peninsula in March 2014. In the meantime Russia is building an "energy bridge" to Crimea that officials hope will supply most of the peninsula's need and its first phase will begin operating by the end of this year.

Defending the power grid in the United States is challenging from an organizational point of view. There are about 3,200 utilities, all of which operate a portion of the electricity grid, but most of these individual networks are interconnected. The latest version of The Department of Defense's Cyber Strategy has as its third strategic goal, "Be prepared to defend the U.S. homeland and U.S. vital interests from disruptive or destructive cyberattacks of significant consequence."

Florida Group Wants To Make Space a 2016 Presidential Campaign Issue (examiner.com) 118

MarkWhittington writes: According to a story on News 13, an Orlando TV station, Space Florida is working to make space a political issue in the 2016 presidential election. Thus far the campaign for the presidency has been dominated by more mundane issues such as the economy, illegal immigration, and the threat of terrorism. Space Florida, which is "the State of Florida's aerospace economic development agency," is said to be "working with three other battleground states to make sure America's space program is a part of the campaign for president." Presumably one of those states is Texas, which has lots of electoral votes

Ex-CIA Director Says Snowden Should Be 'Hanged' For Paris Attacks (thehill.com) 485

SonicSpike writes with this excerpt from The HIll: A former CIA director says leaker Edward Snowden should be convicted of treason and given the death penalty in the wake of the terrorist attack on Paris. "It's still a capital crime, and I would give him the death sentence, and I would prefer to see him hanged by the neck until he's dead, rather than merely electrocuted," James Woolsey told CNN's Brooke Baldwin on Thursday. Woolsey said Snowden, who divulged classified information in 2013, is partly responsible for the terrorist attack in France last week that left at least 120 dead and hundreds injured. "I think the blood of a lot of these French young people is on his hands," he said.

Donald Trump Obliquely Backs a Federal Database To Track Muslims 588

HughPickens.com writes: Philip Bump reports at the Washington Post that Donald Trump confirmed to NBC on Thursday evening that he supports a database to track Muslims in the United States. The database of Muslims arose after an interview Yahoo News's Hunter Walker conducted with Trump earlier this week, during which he asked the Republican front-runner to weigh in on the current debate over refugees from Syria. "We're going to have to do things that we never did before," Trump told Walker. "Some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule." When pressed on whether these measures might include tracking Muslim Americans in a database or noting their religious affiliations on identification cards, Trump would not go into detail — but did not reject the options. Trump's reply? "We're going to have to — we're going to have to look at a lot of things very closely," he said. "We're going to have to look at the mosques. We're going to have to look very, very carefully." After an event on in Newton, Iowa, on Thursday night, NBC's Vaughn Hillyard pressed the point. "Should there be a database system that tracks Muslims here in this country?," Hillyard asked. "There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases" Trump said. "We should have a lot of systems." Hillyard asked about implementation, including the process of adding people to the system. "Good management procedures," Trump said. Sign people up at mosques, Hillyard asked? "Different places," Trump replied. "You sign them up at different places. But it's all about management."

Georgia Gives Personal Data of 6 Million Voters To Georgia GunOwner Magazine (ajc.com) 109

McGruber writes: A class action lawsuit alleges that Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's office released the personal identifying information of Georgia voters to twelve organizations, "including statewide political parties, news media organizations and Georgia GunOwner Magazine".

According to Kemp, his office shares "voter registration data every month with news media and political parties that have requested it as required by Georgia law. Due to a clerical error where information was put in the wrong file, 12 recipients received a disc that contained personal identifying information that should not have been included."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution independently confirmed the inclusion of the personal data in the October file. The AJC did so by accessing the October data disc, looking up information for an AJC staffer and confirming his Social Security number and driver's license information was included. The AJC has returned its copy of the disc to the state.


Journalist: NASA Administrator Has Short Memory on Changing Space Policy (spacenews.com) 87

MarkWhittington writes: Recently, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden stated that NASA would be "doomed" if the next president were to deviate in any way from the current Journey to Mars program. Space journalist and founder of the America Space website Jim Hillhouse took exception to Bolden's assertion in a letter to the aerospace newspaper Space News. In the process, Hillhouse provides a good summary of how space policy has evolved during the past five years under the Obama administration.

Democrat Drops MN State House Run After Tweeting 'ISIS Isn't Necessarily Evil' (startribune.com) 519

An anonymous reader writes: Dan Kimmel, who works for U.S. Bank in its technology and operations section, dropped out of the race for a Minnesota House seat after unleashing a firestorm of criticism. The controversy erupted after Kimmel tweeted, "ISIS isn't necessarily evil. It is made up of people doing what they think is best for their community. Violence is not the answer, though." The tweet rapidly led to harsh criticism on twitter and spread from there. The DFL Party Chair issued a statement saying that Kimmel's "views have no place in our party. On behalf of the Minnesota DFL, I strongly condemn his comments. ..." The House Minority Leader for the DFL called for Kimmel to end his campaign. Kimmel issued a written apology and withdrew from the race.
The Military

Anonymous Vows Revenge For ISIS Paris Attacks 488

An anonymous reader writes: As usual, Anonymous members are quicker to respond to threats than investigators and have announced #OpParis as revenge for the Paris attacks. Their action is similar to #OpISIS from this spring, launched after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Previously Anonymous ousted thousands of ISIS Twitter accounts in #OpISIS. In a more conventional response, the government of France has been bombarding ISIS positions in Syria with airstrikes, and hunting for suspect Salah Abdeslam in connection with Friday's killings.

Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Paris Attacks; Death Toll At 127 728

The L.A. Times reports that Islamic State, the group variously known as ISIL, ISIS, and Daesh, has claimed responsibility for the multi-pronged terror attack yesterday in Paris which left at least 128 people dead, most of them from among the audience of a rock concert at the Bataclan theater, in the heart of the city. Details of how Friday’s assaults were carried out remained hazy. It was still unclear, for example, whether the restaurants and concert theater were attacked by two separate teams of militants or one group that went from one place to another. ... Attackers opened fire on the crowd with automatic weapons, shouting “God is great!” or blaming France for airstrikes on Islamic State in Syria, according to some reports. Dozens of concert-goers were killed before French forces stormed the theater. Many Parisians posted appeals and photos on social media asking for news of friends or loved ones whom they had not heard from since the attacks. One man said on Twitter that a government hotline set up to inquire about missing persons was so overloaded that calls could not get through. In the wake of the attacks and with an overloaded public infrastructure, Facebook activated its post-disaster check-in tool for Parisians to notify loved ones that they are safe. According to Reuters, French President Francois Hollande has vowed to undertake a "mercliess" response to the attacks.

Paper Retracted After Anti-Immigrant Scientist Bans Use of His Software (sciencemag.org) 418

sciencehabit writes: An 11-year-old research paper describing Treefinder, a computer program used by evolutionary biologists, has been retracted after the program's developer banned its use in European countries he deemed too friendly to refugees. In September, German scientist Gangolf Jobb announced on his website that researchers in eight European countries, including Germany and the United Kingdom, were no longer allowed to use Treefinder, which builds phylogenetic trees from sequence data. The move sparked outrage among some scientists, and now, BMC Evolutionary Biology has pulled the 2004 paper describing the software because the license change 'breaches the journal's editorial policy on software availability.'

2016 Presidential Candidate Security Investigation (infosecinstitute.com) 97

New submitter Fryan writes: InfoSec Institute has assessed the security posture of 16 of the presidential candidates' websites. This is an indicator of the level of security awareness the candidate and the campaign staff has. The recent breaches and security lapses of high profile individuals highlight the absolute need for everyone to take security awareness seriously. The hacking of the Director of the CIA's (John Brennan) personal email account, and the storage of classified emails on a personal email server with Hillary Clinton, show how damaging a lack of basic good security hygiene can be. In this survey (of only the best known presidential candidates, not the scads of others), the authors give both their highest grade (an A) and lowest (a D) for candidates still in the race to two Republicans, Ben Carson and Jim Gilmore, respectively; surprising for a tech-focused campaign, Lawrence Lessig (who has ended his candidacy since the survey began) ranked even lower, with a D-.

Speaking of presidential candidates, the fourth Republican debate, hosted by Fox Business, will kick off about an hour after this post goes live (9:00 PM Eastern, 0200 GMT). Feel free to discuss it alongside the security report.