Archive for the ‘U.S. government’ Category

antarctica

Time on his hands. Sebastian Vivancos (inset) is part of the newly arrived team whose planned research activities at the U.S. Palmer Station in Antarctica are being thwarted by the government shutdown.

After 5 years as a lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard, Jamie Collins knows what it’s like to be at sea. But nothing in his military service prepared him for his current 30,000-km scientific round trip to nowhere, courtesy of the failure of the U.S. Congress to approve a budget. His predicament is one of the stranger—and sadder—tales of how the government-wide shutdown is affecting researchers.

Collins, a third-year graduate student in chemical oceanography, arrived Wednesday at the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Palmer Station in Antarctica. He was eager to begin working on a long-running ecological research project funded by NSF and to start collecting data for his dissertation in a graduate program run jointly by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. But the rough seas he encountered during his 4-day crossing of the notorious Drake Passage in the south Atlantic—the final leg of a journey that began in Boston—paled in comparison to the storm he encountered once he stepped off the Laurence M. Gould, a U.S. icebreaking research vessel that ferries scientists and supplies between Puenta Arenas, Chile, and the west Antarctic Peninsula.

On Tuesday, NSF had announced that its contractor for Antarctic logistical support, Lockheed Martin, would begin putting the three U.S. stations on “caretaker” status unless Congress passed an appropriations bill to continue funding the government by 14 October. Although legislators will eventually adopt such a bill, nobody expects them to act in the next few days. Without an appropriation, NSF has no money to operate the stations.

For Collins, that announcement meant his plans for an intensive 5-month research regime had suddenly melted away. “The station manager told us not to unpack our stuff and to stay on the ship,” he says in a phone call to ScienceInsider from the ship. “She said we were to wait here for a week while they prepare to shut down the station. Then we’d sail back to Chile, and go home.”

Collins was stunned. “I had spent all summer preparing for this trip,” he says. He had filled three pallets with supplies for his experiments on how algae in the region detect and react to the presence of ultraviolet radiation, part of a larger effort to understand the role that bacteria play in sequestering carbon in the Southern Ocean. “Without the data from those experiments, I may have to reevaluate what to do for my Ph.D.,” he adds.

Collins was also part of the first wave of students arriving at Palmer this season to work on a research project, begun in 1990, that explores how the extent of annual sea ice affects the polar biota. The project is one of 26 so-called LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) sites around the world that NSF supports. He was scheduled to divide his time at Palmer between his own research and monitoring penguin colonies on several offshore islands as part of the LTER project. And he had signed up for a 6-week research cruise aboard the Gould that supplements the land-based LTER observations with oceanographic data collected up and down the peninsula.

Despite the jarring news, the 31-year-old Collins says that he is more worried about what it may mean to some of his younger colleagues with less worldly experience. “I spent 5 years in the military and I’m used to dealing with bureaucracy,” he explains. “And nothing that happens here is going to deter me from pursuing my goal of a career in science. But for some of the undergraduates on the trip, this is their first taste of what Congress thinks about the value of scientific research. And it’s sending them a pretty horrific message.”

http://news.sciencemag.org/people-events/2013/10/tales-shutdown-grad-student-frozen-out-research-antarctica

Thanks to Dr. Rajadhyaksha for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

1984

With news of government spying and surveillance dominating the headlines, sales of Orwell’s classic novel have shot up more than 3,000 percent on Amazon.com. The book currently comes in at No. 5 on the site’s Movers and Shakers list of the biggest sales gainers of the day, and had been as high as No. 4 earlier in the day. Sales of the book began to jump on Monday, when it rose to No. 19.

In “1984,” English author Orwell presents a dystopian future with a totalitarian, tyrannical government where “Big Brother is watching you.”

Separately, a dual edition of “1984” and Orwell’s other classic, “Animal Farm,” comes in at No. 11 on Amazon’s list.

Orwell died in 1950, just a year after “1984” was published.

http://news.msn.com/pop-culture/sales-of-george-orwells-1984-surge-on-amazon

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

brandon-raub-released_s640x427

A former Marine involuntarily detained for psychiatric evaluation for posting strident anti-government messages on Facebook has received an outpouring of support from people who say authorities are trampling on his First Amendment rights.

Brandon J. Raub, 26, has been in custody since FBI, Secret Service agents and police in Virginia’s Chesterfield County questioned him Thursday evening about what they said were ominous posts talking about a coming revolution. In one message earlier this month according to authorities, Raub wrote: “Sharpen my axe; I’m here to sever heads.”

Police – acting under a state law that allows emergency, temporary psychiatric commitments upon the recommendation of a mental health professional – took Raub to the John Randolph Medical Center in Hopewell. He was not charged with any crime.

A Virginia-based civil liberties group, The Rutherford Institute, dispatched one of its attorneys to the hospital to represent Raub at a hearing Monday. A judge ordered Raub detained for another month, Rutherford executive director John Whitehead said.

“For government officials to not only arrest Brandon Raub for doing nothing more than exercising his First Amendment rights but to actually force him to undergo psychological evaluations and detain him against his will goes against every constitutional principle this country was founded upon,” Whitehead said.

Raub’s mother, Cathleen Thomas, said by telephone that the government had overstepped its bounds.

“The bottom line is his freedom of speech has been violated,” she said.

Thomas said her son, who served tours as a combat engineer in Iraq and Afghanistan, is “concerned about all the wars we’ve experienced” and believes the U.S. government was complicit in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. One of his Facebook posts, she said, pictured the gaping hole in the Pentagon and asked “where’s the plane?”

Whitehead said he found nothing alarming in Raub’s social media commentaries. “The posts I read that supposedly were of concern were libertarian-type posts I see all the time,” he said.

The big concern, Whitehead said, is whether government officials are monitoring citizens’ private Facebook pages and detaining people with whom they disagree.

Dee Rybiski, an FBI spokeswoman in Richmond, said there was no Facebook snooping by her agency.

“We received quite a few complaints about what were perceived as threatening posts,” she said. “Given the circumstances with the things that have gone on in the country with some of these mass shootings, it would be horrible for law enforcement not to pay attention to complaints.”

Whitehead said some of the posts in question were made on a closed Facebook page that Raub had recently created so he questioned whether anyone from the public would have complained about them.

“Support Brandon Raub” Facebook pages have drawn significant interest, and other Internet sites had numerous comments from people outraged by the veteran’s detention.

Raub’s supporters characterized the detention as an arrest, complaining he was handcuffed and whisked away in a police cruiser without being served a warrant or read his rights. But authorities say it wasn’t an arrest because Raub doesn’t face criminal charges.

Col. Thierry Dupuis, the county police chief, said Raub was taken into custody upon the recommendation of mental health crisis intervention workers. He said the action was taken under the state’s emergency custody statute, which allows a magistrate to order the civil detention and psychiatric evaluation of a person who is considered potentially dangerous.

He said Raub was handcuffed because he resisted officers’ attempts to take him into custody.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/21/brandon-j-raub-marine-detained_n_1817484.html

Thanks to Dr. Mike Moore for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.