Tag Archives: United States

Bitcoin Proves The Libertarian Idea Of Paradise Would Be Hell On Earth

Libertarians love Bitcoin.

About 44% of the online crypto-currency’s users self-identify as Libertarians.

They love the fact that it’s not controlled by a government or central bank — so no online Fed can “print” more of it and inflate our way out of trouble. They love that it’s decentralized; it’s the currency of The People, not The Man. They love that it’s “mined,” a bit like gold, because that makes it a bit like the gold standard, which libertarians think real currencies ought to be tied to. They love that Bitcoin isn’t taxed, so you can hide your income from the government if you want to. They love the way its value reflects pure supply and demand, and not a value forced into the system by regulation or monopoly. And they love that it’s fairly lawless — it’s difficult to enforce rules (other than the rules of the market) when everyone in the market is anonymous.

Continue reading Bitcoin Proves The Libertarian Idea Of Paradise Would Be Hell On Earth

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The 5 Most Jaw-dropping Swimming Holes in the United States

It’s easy to assume that travelers need to trek to Thailand or some undiscovered South American waterfall to find the perfect swimming hole. But, many of the world’s most stunning lagoons are located right in the Lower 48. Here are five of the most jaw-dropping swimming holes in the contiguous United States.

Continue reading The 5 Most Jaw-dropping Swimming Holes in the United States

House intelligence chiefs: we have seen no evidence for Trump’s wiretap claim

The top Republican and Democrat on the House intelligence committee said they have still not seen any evidence to support Donald Trump’s extraordinary claim that Barack Obama tapped his phones at Trump Tower.

“We don’t have any evidence that that took place and in fact I don’t believe – just in the last week of time, the people we’ve talked to – I don’t think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower,” the committee chairman, Devin Nunes, a Republican from California and a supporter of Trump’s campaign, said during a joint press conference with the panel’s top Democrat on Wednesday.

The committee has asked that the justice department provide information by 20 March.

Continue reading House intelligence chiefs: we have seen no evidence for Trump’s wiretap claim

Civil Society Intimidation In Hungary

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. (File)

The United States is concerned about an apparent campaign of intimidation directed toward civil society and independent media in Hungary.

The United States is concerned about an apparent campaign of intimidation directed toward civil society and independent media in Hungary.

The harassment began in April 2014 when the Hungarian government accused organizations that conduct legitimate work in human rights, transparency and gender equality of serving so-called foreign interests. 

 

The Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office alleged that non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, that monitor and evaluate grant proposals for the European Economic Area, or EEA, -Norway NGO fund were tied to an opposition party.

Members of the media in Hungary report that they practice self-censorship because they fear retaliation for articles critical of the government.

Treatment of the media overall shows a disturbing willingness to use pressure to undermine media pluralism, from an independent radio station’s long legal battle to finally win a broadcasting license, to a new advertising tax that apparently targets the largest independently owned television station.

Most recently, on September 8th, Hungary’s National Bureau of Investigation initiated a series of police raids on two NGOs responsible for the EEA-Norway NGO grant program in Hungary.

With no prior warning, and in a show of intimidation, over 30 officers entered the NGO facilities and seized the organizations’ documents and computers.

These police raids, said U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Kaye Byrnes, “Appear to be aimed at suppressing critical voices and restricting the space for civil society to operate freely.  The United States again reminds Hungary of its OSCE commitments to human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy, and the rule of law.”

Több helyszínen is tartották házkutatást

The United States continues to encourage the government of Hungary to observe its human rights commitments and to allow NGOs and the independent media to operate without further harassment, interference, or intimidation.

Upholding these values will help Hungary become a more prosperous, robust, and inclusive democracy.

Russia Offers To Help Resupply The International Space Station

Moscow (AFP) – Russia on Wednesday offered to help the United States with deliveries to the International Space Station after an unmanned American supply rocket exploded on lift-off.

“If a request is made for the urgent delivery of any American supplies to the ISS with the help of our vessels then we will fulfill the request,” Russian space agency official Alexei Krasnov told state-run RIA Novosti news agency, adding that NASA had not yet asked for assistance.

An unmanned rocket owned by private firm Orbital Sciences Corporation exploded Tuesday in a giant fireball and plummeted back to Earth just seconds after a launch from Wallops Island, Virginia on what was to be a resupply mission.

Orbital’s Cygnus cargo ship was carrying 5,000 pounds (2,200 kilograms) of supplies for the six astronauts living at the research outpost, a US-led multi-national collaboration.

Officials said the cost of the rocket and supplies was over $200 million, not including the damage caused on the ground.

A NASA video image shows an Orbital Sciences Corporation unmanned spacecraft exploding on October 28, 2014 at Wallops Island, Virginia, six seconds after launch

Europe stopped delivering supplies to the ISS this summer, and the outpost is now resupplied by Russia and two NASA-contracted private American firms — Space X and Orbital Sciences.

Russia on Wednesday successfully launched its own supply mission from the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan.

The Russian cargo ship Progress took off for the ISS on a planned mission to replace a sister vessel.

Krasnov said that the impact of the loss of the rocket on Russian operations at the space station would be “minimal.”

GREEN COTTAGE GETAWAY IN MAINE (PHOTOS)

On an island 20 miles off the coast of Maine, a writer, with the help of his daughter, built not only a room but an entire green getaway of his own.

Exterior view of modern cottage in Maine

The Porter cottage makes the most of its unwieldy site. The cottage was sited as close to the water as legally allowed to take advantage of the views and far enough away from the graywater leach field where the soil is deep enough to allow for proper run off. The screen porch was angled to capture direct southern exposure for the solar panels.

Living on one of the outermost inhabited islands on the American eastern seaboard requires a vigilance in numbers, and the villagers of the community of Criehaven (technically Ragged Island) take their record-keeping seriously, but not too seriously. The library—–still littered with evidence of a raucous game of Texas hold ’em—–is a fine example. In addition to portraits of the Crie and Simpson families, early residents of the 0.7-square-mile island 20 miles off the Maine coast, one mile south of Matinicus Island, there are photo albums dating back to the early 1970s documenting island life. There’s also a copy of the “2010 census,” a cartoonish rendering of the 20 family homes on the island. In it, a series of circumflex rooflines populate the page, save for an aberrant addition on the eastern end: a simple backslash of a roof, under which is written “Welcome Porters!”

 The deck off the front is also minimally furnished with elegant lines of beach rock and two Leaf chairs by Arper. Photo by Eirik Johnson.

The interior is furnished with Lubi Daybeds from CB2, which Howell and Porter designed to include hidden cubbies behind and beneath the cushions.

Bruce Porter, a journalist and retired professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has owned a roughly three-quarter-acre lot on this remote, off-the-grid island for years, but it’s taken nearly a lifetime for him to build anything. The Porters first came to Criehaven in 1971, the summer his oldest daughters, Alex and Nell, turned two and six, but it wasn’t until the late 1990s that he seriously considered building. “I was getting older and older, and I thought, If not now, when?” Bruce recalls. Over the course of 30-plus years, Bruce devised and abandoned countless plans for what to put there, including a Sisyphean scheme that involved shipping a tiny cabin from the Adirondacks. The lot, however, mainly sat empty and unused. It wasn’t until Bruce divorced, remarried, and adopted his third daughter, Hana, that he finally resolved to build. By that time, Alex had grown up and become an architectural designer, founding her own practice, Alex Scott Porter Design, and Bruce’s last and best plan was to have her design something. He’d envisioned an unobtrusive abode that would blend with the local color, to which Alex replied, “Well, Dad, if you want something like a Maine farmhouse, you don’t need me!”

 The interior is clad exclusively in white pine, the diagonal orientation adding visual interest to the neutral palette. Alex sourced utilitarian features like cattle fencing and plumbing pipe for the loft sleeping area. Photo by Eirik Johnson.

Alex devised a system that takes advantage of ocean views while protecting the cottage from that same northeasterly orientation. The large windows and doors can be shuttered with corrugated aluminum panels.

Despite the aesthetic differences, their first real hurdle was finding the borders of the lot, which had come to be known as “the floating acre” among the local fishermen. Nobody was exactly sure of the property lines, so as soon as she graduated from ­architecture school in 1997, Alex flew to the island with a surveyor. (In clement weather, chartering a flight to Criehaven is the cheapest and easiest way to get there.)

 Alex enjoys a sun-filled breakfast at the built-in dining table and bench, one of many space-saving designs. Photo by Eirik Johnson.

After determining the site lines, Alex, Bruce, and their contractor, Josh Howell, spent one stormy afternoon in June 2008 siting the house. From the shelter of a pup tent, Alex rendered the house in CAD on a laptop while Bruce and Howell braved the rain with a compass. The difficulty of this task made it clear that building on the island would require foresight and exhaustive precision. “I wanted the interior to be super simple, using local material,” Alex explains. “We did every­thing on a 24-inch grid. I’m in New York and Josh is up here in Maine, so I tried to make it very easy; you could always tell what size everything was going to be.” Additionally, over 90 per­cent of the building material had to be organized and shipped to the island on an amphibious vehicle, or “sea truck.” Compared to mainland projects, much of the construction work of the home was done without the aid of power tools, and the primary vehicle used to haul supplies on-site was
a converted riding lawnmower.

 One of the early challenges of building the house was defining the property lines of the lot, which had come to be known as "the floating acre" among the local fishermen. Photo by Eirik Johnson.

The deck off the front is also minimally furnished with elegant lines of beach rock and two Leaf chairs by Arper.

Time, it seems, has had a curious effect on Criehaven. Technologically speaking, it has moved backward, not forward. When the year-round population of ten lobstering families held tight, there was a telephone line and a power generator (plus a schoolhouse, post office, and general store). Over the years those services withered, leaving the island’s transient residents to their own devices. Personal generators are now the norm, but the Porters have challenged this by installing solar panels and an on-demand water heater. Bruce’s motivation for incorporating these systems, however, was more practical than ideological. After watching a friend haul propane tanks over from Matinicus then schlep them on foot to his house, Bruce was determined to make island life a bit more leisurely. Fortunately, Howell, an avid outdoorsman, armed with an equally intrepid crew, was up to the challenge of building in harsh conditions. The Porters would have been hard-pressed to find a better man for the job. As Bruce recalls with both horror and admiration, “Josh and the workers would drink straight from the cistern!”

Gardening Can Help Keep Kids in School

If we want to lower childhood obesity rates, educating kids about the need to swap junk and fast food for healthier choices is essential. But is teaching students how to grow fruits and vegetables the key to getting them to come to school and engage in the academic curriculum?

That’s what South Bronx teacher and administrator Stephen Ritz believes. Ritz has been gardening with students for years, and he launched the first indoor edible gardens in New York City’s public schools. He believes that growing fruits and vegetables ensures that kids have something other than a bag of chips to eat and also makes them want to show up for class almost every day.

“The kids really believe that they are responsible for [the plants], and attendance has increased from 43% to 93%,” Ritz wrote in the The Guardian. “Students come to school to take care of their plants — they want to see them succeed. Along the way, the kids succeed too. That’s great, because if I have their bodies in school, I have their brain.”

Once they’re in the building, Ritz’s students learn the academic curriculum while being immersed in the agricultural process. They also pick up skills that are transferable to the job market. The Bronx, where Ritz is based, has long been known as the poorest congressional district in the United States. Generational poverty is rampant, and jobs are scarce.

“A lot of these kids’ families are on minimum wages, so we are giving them the skills to use in well paid culinary careers,” wrote Ritz. “We are creating the next generation of customer service specialists and gourmet chefs.”

As a result of all their hard work, the gardens produce enough food to feed 450 kids. Ritz has received plenty of accolades; last spring he and his students were invited to the White House.

Through his nonprofit Green Bronx Machine, which he started in 2011, Ritz hopes to help schools in other communities jump-start comparable agricultural programs. “I can’t expect everyone to be a Herculean farmer in a classroom, but running a similar growing project in your school is safe, lightweight, and no kids are getting dirty,” he wrote.

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