Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Officials: Hagel pushes conviction reversal change

(AP) ? Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is recommending that military commanders be stripped of their ability to reverse criminal convictions of service members, a move that comes in response to a congressional uproar over an Air Force officer's decision to overturn a guilty verdict in a sexual assault case, U.S. officials said Monday.

According to defense officials, Hagel will seek legislation requiring that cases go through the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, and that senior officers no longer have the authority to set aside guilty findings. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly about the decision.

Hagel is ordering his staff to draft legislation. The change requires congressional action, but lawmakers have already begun looking into the matter in response to a furor over a recent Air Force sexual assault case.

Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, commander of the 3rd Air Force at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, overturned the conviction against Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, a former inspector general at Aviano Air Base in Italy, who had been found guilty last Nov. 2 of charges of abusive sexual contact, aggravated sexual assault and three instances of conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman. The incident had involved a civilian employee.

Wilkerson was sentenced to a year in prison and dismissal from the service, but after a review of the case Franklin overturned the conviction. His decision triggered outrage among senators and calls for a new look at the military justice system.

"This decision has turned the military on its ear," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., during a hearing last month. She added that Franklin's decision sets the Air Force "all the way back to Tailhook." The 1991 Tailhook scandal rocked the military as Navy pilots were accused of sexually abusing female officers at a Las Vegas convention.

Hagel ordered a review of the issue, but he does not have the sole authority to either change the law or the reverse Franklin's ruling.

Air Force officials have argued that overturning the results of a military court martial and granting clemency is rare. In the past five years, senior commanders have overturned 40 guilty verdicts out of the 3,713 courts martial that were tried. Of those, the Air Force said that 327 involved sexual assaults and just five of those convictions were reversed.

Under the current law, if an accused service member is found guilty and sentenced, the findings are not final until they are approved or disproved by the convening authority. The convicted service member can request clemency and the general officer ? usually a major general or lieutenant general ? seeks legal advice, reviews the trial record and considers information submitted by the accused.

Associated Press


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Monday, April 1, 2013

Measure Your Feet and Hands to Judge Distance Accurately Without a Ruler

Measure Your Feet and Hands to Judge Distance Accurately Without a Ruler Nobody carries a ruler with them everywhere, but you can measure short distances accurately if you memorize the lengths of your feet and hand span.

Quora user Peter Baskerville suggests measuring your appendages, and committing them to memory.

Learning the actual measurement of your span and your foot will help you whenever your need to measure something but don't have access to a ruler or tape measure. You can then measure anything by number of spans or feet (toe to heel). Then multiply the spans or feet by the known measurement to estimate fairly accurately the actual length, depth or breadth of things.

For other measurements, you could use the same trick with the distance between the tip of your thumb and its first knuckle, or the distance between your nose and your thumb with your arm outstretched. If you have a poor memory, you could always store the lengths in something like Evernote too. This tip is pretty obvious in hindsight, but it's worth mentioning if you haven't done it.

Learning: What is something useful I can learn right now in 10 minutes that would be useful for the rest of my life? | Quora


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South Africa says Mandela's condition has improved

By Ed Stoddard

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The condition of South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela has improved further, the government said on Sunday, as the 94-year-old anti-apartheid hero spent a fourth day in hospital receiving treatment for pneumonia.

"Nelson Mandela had a restful day," South Africa's presidency said in a statement, adding doctors treating him had reported "a further improvement in his condition".

"Government is satisfied that the doctors are providing the former president with the best medical care possible to enable his recovery and comfort," the statement said.

In their first detailed report of his condition, doctors said on Saturday that Mandela had "developed a pleural effusion which was tapped", meaning they had drained excess fluid from around his lungs.

It is his third visit to hospital in four months, raising new concerns about the health of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president in 1994, is revered at home and abroad for leading the struggle against white minority rule, then promoting the cause of racial reconciliation when in power.

He stepped down as president in 1999 and has not been politically active for around a decade.

President Jacob Zuma on Sunday thanked "the thousands of South Africans who prayed for Madiba at various Easter church services during the weekend." Madiba is Mandela's clan name.

"We also thank foreign governments for their messages of support," Zuma said. Global figures such as U.S. President Barack Obama have sent get well messages.

In the Regina Mundi Catholic Church in the sprawling black township of Soweto that Mandela once called home, worshippers attending Easter service prayed for the man seen by many as the father of their nation.

"We hear that the government tells us that he's okay, that he's still undergoing treatment for his lung condition, and as I say, we pray that God's healing hand may be upon him," Father Sebastian Russouw said during the service.

Mandela was in hospital briefly earlier in March for a check-up and spent nearly three weeks in hospital in December with a lung infection and after surgery to remove gallstones.

He has a history of lung problems dating back to when he contracted tuberculosis as a political prisoner.

He spent 27 years in prison on Robben Island off South Africa's Atlantic coast and other jails for his attempts to overthrow apartheid rule.

(Additional reporting by Pascal Fletcher and Shafiek Tassiem; Editing by Sophie Hares)


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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Risk and reward at the dawn of civilian drone age

WASHINGTON (AP) ? The dawn of the age of aerial civilian drones is rich with possibilities for people far from the war zones where they made their devastating mark as a weapon of choice against terrorists.

The unmanned, generally small aircraft can steer water and pesticides to crops with precision, saving farmers money while reducing environmental risk. They can inspect distant bridges, pipelines and power lines and find hurricane victims stranded on rooftops.

Drones ? some as tiny as a hummingbird ? promise everyday benefits as broad as the sky is wide. But the drone industry and those eager to tap its potential are running headlong into fears the peeping-eye, go-anywhere technology will be misused.

Since January, drone-related legislation has been introduced in more than 30 states, largely in response to privacy concerns. Many of the bills would prevent police from using drones for broad public surveillance or to watch individuals without sufficient grounds to believe they were involved in crimes.

Stephen Ingley, executive director of the Airborne Law Enforcement Association, says resistance to the technology is frustrating. Drones "clearly have so much potential for saving lives, and it's a darn shame we're having to go through this right now," he said.

But privacy advocates say now is the time to debate the proper use of civilian drones and set rules, before they become ubiquitous. Sentiment for curbing domestic drone use has brought the left and right together perhaps more than any other recent issue.

"The thought of government drones buzzing overhead and constantly monitoring the activities of law-abiding citizens runs contrary to the notion of what it means to live in a free society," Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said at a recent hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

With military budgets shrinking, drone makers have been counting on the civilian market to spur the industry's growth. Some companies that make drones or supply support equipment and services say the uncertainty has caused them to put U.S. expansion plans on hold, and they are looking overseas for new markets.

"Our lack of success in educating the public about unmanned aircraft is coming back to bite us," said Robert Fitzgerald, CEO of the BOSH Group of Newport News, Va., which provides support services to drone users.

"The U.S. has been at the lead of this technology a long time," he said. "If our government holds back this technology, there's the freedom to move elsewhere ... and all of a sudden these things will be flying everywhere else and competing with us."

Law enforcement is expected to be one of the bigger initial markets for civilian drones. Last month, the FBI used drones to maintain continuous surveillance of a bunker in Alabama where a 5-year-old boy was being held hostage.

In Virginia, the state General Assembly passed a bill that would place a two-year moratorium on the use of drones by state and local law enforcement. The measure is supported by groups as varied as the American Civil Liberties Union on the left and the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation on the right.

Gov. Bob McDonnell is proposing amendments that would retain the broad ban on spy drones but allow specific exemptions when lives are in danger, such as for search-and rescue operations. The legislature reconvenes on April 3 to consider the matter.

Seattle abandoned its drone program after community protests in February. The city's police department had purchased two drones through a federal grant without consulting the city council.

In Congress, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., co-chairman of the House's privacy caucus, has introduced a bill that prohibits the Federal Aviation Administration from issuing drone licenses unless the applicant provides a statement explaining who will operate the drone, where it will be flown, what kind of data will be collected, how the data will be used, whether the information will be sold to third parties and the period for which the information will be retained.

Privacy advocates acknowledge the many benign uses of drones. In Mesa County, Colo., for example, an annual landfill survey using manned aircraft cost about $10,000. The county recently performed the same survey using a drone for about $200.

Drones can help police departments find missing people, reconstruct traffic accidents and act as lookouts for SWAT teams. Real estate agents can have them film videos of properties and surrounding neighborhoods, offering clients a better-than-bird's-eye view though one that neighbors may not wish to have shared.

"Any legislation that restricts the use of this kind of capability to serve the public is putting the public at risk," said Steve Gitlin, vice president of AeroVironment, a leading maker of smaller drones.

Yet the virtues of drones can also make them dangerous, privacy advocates say. The low cost and ease of use may encourage police and others to conduct the kind of continuous or intrusive surveillance that might otherwise be impractical.

Drones can be equipped with high-powered cameras and listening devices, and infrared cameras that can see people in the dark.

"High-rise buildings, security fences or even the walls of a building are not barriers to increasingly common drone technology," Amie Stepanovich, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Council's surveillance project, told the Senate panel.

Civilian drone use is limited to government agencies and public universities that have received a few hundred permits from the FAA. A law passed by Congress last year requires the FAA to open U.S. skies to widespread drone flights by 2015, but the agency is behind schedule and it's doubtful it will meet that deadline. Lawmakers and industry officials have complained for years about the FAA's slow progress.

The FAA estimates that within five years of gaining broader access about 7,500 civilian drones will be in use.

Although the Supreme Court has not dealt directly with drones, it has OK'd aerial surveillance without warrants in drug cases in which officers in a plane or helicopter spotted marijuana plants growing on a suspect's property.

But in a case involving the use of ground-based equipment, the court said police generally need a warrant before using a thermal imaging device to detect hot spots in a home that might indicate that marijuana plants are being grown there.

In some states economic concerns have trumped public unease. In Oklahoma, an anti-drone bill was shelved at the request of Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, who was concerned it might hinder growth of the state's drone industry. The North Dakota state Senate killed a drone bill in part because it might impede the state's chances of being selected by the Federal Aviation Administration as one of six national drone test sites, which could generate local jobs.

A bill that would have limited the ability of state and local governments to use drones died in the Washington legislature. The measure was opposed by the Boeing Co., which employs more than 80,000 workers in the state and which has a subsidiary, Insitu, that's a leading military drone manufacturer.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., recently drew attention to the domestic use of drones when he staged a Senate filibuster, demanding to know whether the president has authority to use weaponized drones to kill Americans on American soil. The White House said no, if the person isn't engaged in combat. Industry officials worry that the episode could temporarily set back civilian drone use.

"The opposition has become very loud," said Gitlin of AeroVironment, "but we are confident that over time the benefits of these solutions are going to far outweigh the concerns, and they'll become part of normal life in the future."


Associated Press writer Michael Felberbaum in Richmond, Va., contributed to this report.


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Where can doctors publish literary writing?

Where can doctors publish literary writing?

There are many ways to write about health, medicine, and health care. And there are many people ? patients, caregivers, policymakers, pundits, thought leaders, and?health professionals?? in a position to do so.

Fortunately, the world also offers a similar and growing diversity of places in which to publish this sort of work.

My focus today is more, well, literary.

I know the word ?literary? often puts people off, particularly those in medicine. To some it sounds pretentious. To others, it seems distant from real world problems and irrelevant to their lives and concerns. Some aren?t quite sure what it means.

Here are the first two official definitions according to?Merriam-Webster:

  • Of, relating to, or having the characteristics of humane learning
  • Of or relating to authors or scholars

So when I say literary, I mean something related to both writing and humanity. Medicine too is focused on humanity, and often we write about that. So?literary + medical?is not an odd coupling but a perfect match. And writing about our experiences in medicine as patients, caregivers, or providers is a way of authoring our humanity.

Below is a partial list, in alphabetical order, of medical literary or medical humanities journals that publish essays, personal narratives, poetry, fiction, and art, and a link to a terrific resource of literary journals.

Some of the writing for these journals, whether print or online, overlaps with the sort of work published in narrative sections of medical journals discussed previously. But it?s also different. The essays in medical journals often require a more scholarly approach that includes data, insider language, and references. The writing for medical-literary journals can be equally rigorous, though it?s different in style. The emphasis here is more on story and language, metaphor and images, even for essays and certainly for stories and poems. What this means is that it?s often not enough to tell a good story well; in this sort of journal, you might also need to tell it with beautiful or interesting or original language.

But it varies a lot, so be sure to read the instructions for authors.

Abaton. Annual journal of poetry, essays, art and photography that explores aspects of health care that often elude academic disciplines. It is these often unspoken sentiments of the provider and patient that form a bridge to an evidence-based profession. By allowing these stories to be heard, we give voice to the most fundamental aspect of medicine ? humanism.

Ars Medica. A biannual literary journal that explores the interface between the arts and healing, and examines what makes medicine an art. ARS MEDICA allows a place for dialogue, meaning-making, and the representation of experiences of the body, health, wellness, and encounters with the medical system. Content includes narratives from patients and health care workers, medical history, fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and visual art.

Atrium. A journal of scholarly work and art about the medical humanities published by the Northwestern University Medical Humanities and Bioethics program.

Bellevue Literary Review. A unique literary magazine that examines human existence through the prism of health and healing, illness and disease. Each issue is filled with high quality, easily accessible poetry, short stories, and essays that appeal to a wide audience of readers. This is the journal on this list with the highest literary stature ? stories, essays, and poems in BLR win national prizes in literature.

Blood and Thunder. An arts journal published by the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. All interested authors and artists are invited to submit original, health care-related, unpublished literary or artistic works of no more than 3,500 words.

Daedalus. Draws on the enormous intellectual capacity of the American Academy, whose Fellows are among the nation?s most prominent thinkers in the arts, sciences, and humanities. Each issue addresses a theme with original, authoritative essays on a current topic like happiness, human nature, and imperialism.

Dermanities. Emphasis on patient care, physician experiences, and the interplay of medicine with the social & psychological sciences. Accepts stories, poetry, essays, and art.

The Examined Life. From the University of Iowa, which hosts an annual conference in April with the same name and focus. Accepts submissions of poetry, fiction and nonfiction.

The Healing Muse. The annual journal of literary and visual art published by SUNY Upstate Medical University?s Center for Bioethics & Humanities. We welcome fiction, poetry, narratives, essays, memoirs and visual art, particularly but not exclusively focusing on themes of medicine, illness, disability and healing.

Hektoen International. Features articles on the medical humanities from a wide spectrum of global and cultural perspectives, essays, personal narratives, short fiction, poetry, and art.?Looking for articles on medical history, medicine and literature, art history, anthropology, and ethics.

Hospital Drive. The on-line literary and humanities journal of the University of Virginia School of Medicine. The journal publishes original literature and art on themes of health, illness, and healing. Poems, short fiction, essays, visual arts, and audio and video art will be considered. Issues will be published 3 to 4 times a year and may include invited work.

The Intima. An electronic journal to stimulate thought, reflection, and conversation about the intersecting worlds of medicine, humanities and art. Accepts scholarly essays or articles geared towards educating a general audience about Narrative Medicine, non-fiction, personal narratives or perspective pieces, fiction, short fiction, field notes, reflections on working in the field, poetry, studio art, in any medium such as paintings, photographs, or prints, audio or visual multimedia. Submissions welcome?from patients, family, and clinicians, about their experiences in health care.

The Pharos (the AOA journal). Alpha Omega Alpha?s quarterly journal publishes scholarly essays covering a wide array of nontechnical medical subjects, including medical history, ethics, and medical-related literature, art, ethics, economics, health policy, and profiles of prominent persons. It also publishes scholarly nonfiction on a medical subject, poetry and poetry/photography combinations, and personal essays.

Pulse. One narrative, essay, or poem telling the personal story of healthcare delivered to your inbox each Friday. Mission: publishing personal accounts of illness or healing; fostering the humanistic practice of medicine; encouraging health care advocacy.

The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine. The Yale Program for Humanities in Medicine at Yale sponsors this electronic journal in the hope to encourage dialogue among physicians, nurses, nurse-practitioners and physician-assistants, students, and all other health-care workers. We are eager for stories ? narratives they now are called ? from the patients we all become. In short, we foster humanism in medicine, however defined. We welcome poetry, essays, and book reviews with some flexibility in those categories.

Literary journals

By this I mean the journals where professional and ?real? writers publish their fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. These are not for beginners and often have more literary work, meaning the bar is higher. Because many of these journals are just published two, three, or four times a year, getting your story or essay or poem into one can make getting your scientific article into JAMA or NEJM look relatively easy.

Louise Aronson is a geriatrician and the author of A History of the Present Illness. She blogs at her self-titled site, Louse Aronson, and can be found on Twitter @LouiseAronson.

Image credit:?


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Friday, March 29, 2013

Summer melt season is getting longer on the Antarctic Peninsula

Thursday, March 28, 2013

New research from the Antarctic Peninsula shows that the summer melt season has been getting longer over the last 60 years. Increased summer melting has been linked to the rapid break-up of ice shelves in the area and rising sea level.

The Antarctic Peninsula ? a mountainous region extending northwards towards South America ? is warming much faster than the rest of Antarctica. Temperatures have risen by up to 3 oC since the 1950s ? three times more than the global average. This is a result of a strengthening of local westerly winds, causing warmer air from the sea to be pushed up and over the peninsula. In contrast to much of the rest of Antarctica, summer temperatures are high enough for snow to melt.

This summer melting may have important effects. Meltwater may enlarge cracks in floating ice shelves which can contribute to their retreat or collapse. As a result, the speed at which glaciers flow towards the sea will be increased. Also, melting and refreezing causes snow layers to become thinner and more dense, affecting the height of the snow surface above sea level. Scientists need to know this so they can interpret satellite data correctly.

Dr Nick Barrand, who carried out the research while working for the British Antarctic Survey, led an analysis of data from 30 weather stations on the peninsula. "We found a significant increase in the length of the melting season at most of the stations with the longest temperature records" he says. "At one station the average length of the melt season almost doubled between 1948 and 2011."

To build up a more complete picture across the whole peninsula, the team (funded by the European Union's ice2sea programme) also analysed satellite data collected by an instrument called a scatterometer. Using microwave reflections from the ice sheet surface, the scatterometer was able to detect the presence of meltwater. The team were able to produce maps of how the melt season varied from 1999 to 2009, and showed that several major ice shelf breakup events coincided with longer than usual melt seasons. This supports the theory that enlargement of cracks by meltwater is the main mechanism for ice shelf weakening and collapse.

The researchers also compared data from both the satellite and weather stations with the output of a state-of-the-art regional climate model.

Dr Barrand, who now works at the University of Birmingham, says, "We found that the model was very good at reproducing the pattern and timing of the melt, and changes in melting between years. This increases confidence in the use of climate models to predict future changes to snow and ice cover in the Antarctic Peninsula."


British Antarctic Survey:

Thanks to British Antarctic Survey for this article.

This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

93% Zero Dark Thirty

All Critics (242) | Top Critics (45) | Fresh (227) | Rotten (17) | DVD (2)

What's striking is the absence of triumphalism -- Bigelow doesn't shy away from showing the victims shot down in cold blood in the compound -- and we come away with the overwhelming sense that this has been a grim, dark episode in our history.

This is an instant classic.

Chastain makes Maya as vivid as a bloodshot eye. Her porcelain skin, delicate features and feminine attire belie the steel within.

No doubt Zero Dark Thirty serves a function by airing America's dirty laundry about detainee and torture programs, but in its wake, there's a crying need for a compassionate Coming Home to counter its brutal Deer Hunter.

While "Zero Dark Thirty" may offer political and moral arguing points aplenty, as well as vicarious thrills,as a film it's simply too much of a passable thing.

From the very first scenes of Zero Dark Thirty, director Kathryn Bigelow demonstrates why she is such a formidable filmmaker, as adept with human emotion as with visceral, pulse-quickening action.

Slathered in controversy, Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty confidently and forcefully storms onto DVD with an admirable A/V transfer, only hindered by a paltry gathering of extras from Sony.

The direction by Kathryn Bigelow, who won Oscars for Best Film and Best Director in her previous film "The Hurt Locker," is fierce and focused...

Despite what those silly Oscars would have you believe, it was this movie, not Argo, that was the finest of 2012.

Indulges Cheneyian fantasies complete with the bad-movie scene of the prisoner's defiance: "You're just a garbage man in the corporation," shouts the Arab who needs a lesson in manners from the Ph.D. (in torture?) who is racking him.

Bigelow tells the story very well, very efficiently, but doesn't really say much about it, which is ironic given the response to the film in some quarters.

Kathryn Bigelow takes the procedural model and brushes away every unnecessary detail, leaving behind a heavy, blunt object of a film that is also hugely watchable, engrossing and, best of all... highly suspenseful.

Rotten Tomatoes notes that I agree with Tomatometer critics 80 percent of the time, but this is one of those times I have to part ways with them.

Bigelow has directed excellent movies before, but this deserves to be remembered as the film that established her as a master.

You can't deny that what Zero Dark Thirty sets out to do, it does excellently.

An exhilarating and compelling historical document worthy of praise.

Bigelow's latest proves a rewarding piece of filmmaking, one that, in its best moments at least, is as gripping and as troubling as anything the director's ever made.

Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal shape history -- those breaks, big and small, that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden -- into one of the finest fact-based thrillers since "All the President's Men."

Purely as cinematic exercise, Zero Dark Thirty is an exhilarating piece of work. But, beyond its for-the-times subject matter, the work does not linger whatsoever.

Zero Dark Thirty is interesting as opposed to enjoyable, intriguing as opposed to entertaining, and certainly less memorable than The Hurt Locker.

It's quite remarkable how Bigelow and Boal managed to take 12 years of information (including a conclusion that everyone knows) and packaged it into a coherent, intimate and intense movie.

We know the ending, yet remain mesmerized by familiar details, filmed with a harrowing sense of urgency. It's as close to being in the White House situation room that night, watching a closed-circuit broadcast, as anyone could expect.

The second half of the film IS the film.

Whereas Locker was less about war than what it is to have a death wish, ZDT is less about the suspenseful true-life search for Osama bin Laden than the red tape one woman must wade through to prove that a mean old bastard is living in suburban Pakistan.


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