New Epoch Tuesday

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Earthrise over the moon, photographed on Christmas Eve 1968 from Apollo 8 by William Anders. Photograph: -/AFP/Getty Images

On Christmas Eve 1968, the Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders took a photograph of the view outside the window as his spaceship orbited the moon. The now iconic Earthrise image shows our half-moon blue planet under a decoration of clouds rising from the blackness of space over the lunar surface.

The picture encapsulated Earth’s precariousness in the cosmos and, for many, contained a message of humility and stewardship for our home.

We’ve had Earthrise and images like it from the Apollo missions for half a century now. But suppose some aliens had been viewing our planet for its entire 4.5bn-year history. What would they have seen?

Over nearly all that immense time, changes would have been very gradual: continents drifted; the ice cover waxed and waned; successive species emerged, evolved and became extinct during a succession of geological eras.

But visible change has accelerated rapidly in the past few thousand years – a tiny sliver of the Earth’s history. Now geologists have decided those changes have been so profound, so global and so permanent that our catalogue of the Earth’s history needs to change accordingly. Since the last ice age, around 11,000 years ago, human civilisation has flourished in the climatically benign Holocene. Now they believe that epoch has come to an end and we have entered a new human-influenced age, the Anthropocene.

@ TG

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Hacker Monday

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The FBI has uncovered evidence that foreign hackers penetrated two state election databases in recent weeks, prompting the bureau to warn election officials across the country to take new steps to enhance the security of their computer systems, according to federal and state law enforcement officials.

The FBI warning, contained in a “flash” alert from the FBI’s Cyber Division, a copy of which was obtained by Yahoo News, comes amid heightened concerns among U.S. intelligence officials about the possibility of cyberintrusions, potentially by Russian state-sponsored hackers, aimed at disrupting the November elections.

Those concerns prompted Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to convene a conference call with state election officials on Aug. 15, in which he offered his department’s help to make state voting systems more secure, including providing federal cyber security experts to scan for vulnerabilities, according to a “readout” of the call released by the department.

Johnson emphasized in the call that Homeland Security was not aware of “specific or credible cybersecurity threats” to the election, officials said. But three days after that call, the FBI Cyber Division issued a potentially more disturbing warning, entitled “Targeting Activity Against State Board of Election Systems.” The alert, labeled as restricted for “NEED TO KNOW recipients,” disclosed that the bureau was investigating cyberintrusions against two state election websites this summer, including one that resulted in the “exfiltration,” or theft, of voter registration data. “It was an eye opener,” one senior law enforcement official said of the bureau’s discovery of the intrusions. “We believe it’s kind of serious, and we’re investigating.”

@ YAHOO NEWS

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Solar Sector Sunday

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SOLAR SECTOR BOUNDARY CROSSING: On Aug. 28th, Earth will cross a fold in the heliospheric current sheet. This “solar sector boundary crossing” could disturb our planet’s magnetic field and spark auroras at high latitudes. NOAA forecasters estimate a 25% to 30% chance of G1-class geomagnetic storms.

@ SPACEWEATHER

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Our Guns and Bombs Saturday

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The forgotten girl, why?

Many Americans were shaken last week after a picture of a stunned Syrian child, whose home had just been bombed into rubble, went viral. Time magazine noted that “[d]evastating pictures and footage from Syria are common now.” But what about children in other war-torn countries?

This is one of the questions posed by journalist Andrew Cockburn, who argues that Saudi Arabia’s bombing and destruction of Yemen is largely ignored. In a recent article for Harper’s Magazine, he summed up what’s going on in Yemen:

Thousands of civilians— no one knows how many— have been killed or wounded. Along with the bombing, the Saudis have enforced a blockade, cutting off supplies of food, fuel, and medicine. A year and a half into the war, the health system has largely broken down, and much of the country is on the brink of starvation.

This rain of destruction was made possible by the material and moral support of the United States, which supplied most of the bombers, bombs, and missiles required for the aerial onslaught. … But no one that I talked to in Washington suggested that the war was in any way necessary to our national security.

In a “Democracy Now!” interview with Amy Goodman on Monday, Cockburn elaborates on the Saudis’ “slaughter” of Yemeni people and why the mass media need to provide more coverage of the situation. “I defy you to find a single picture in The New York Times or any other mainstream New York media of any of the hundreds, if not thousands, of Yemeni children, because no one really knows how many have been wounded or killed by the Saudi bombing,” he says.

@ TRUTHDIG

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What the fuck America?? Your highly profitable arms sales are coming back to bite you in the ass, which by the way has been long overdue. Supplying weaponry to these people is INSANE! The person or persons responsible for arms sales to anyone outside on the US needs to have their citizenship examined!

The United States of America should not be gun merchants for the World, knowing full well events like the above will occur but selling anyway is pure shameful and in-human, all for the almighty dollar, assholes! I hope you all burn in your own private Hell for what you have done, shame!

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Home Grown Terror Thursday

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President Obama has been emphatically warning Americans about the dangers of a Trump presidency. But these warnings divert attention from a much darker reality. His Justice Department is in fact pushing the law in a direction that will enable the next president to declare war against any “terrorist” group or nation without the consent of Congress.

This reality is clear from the Department’s response to a lawsuit challenging the legality of Obama’s war against the Islamic State.

In 1973, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution over President Richard Nixon’s veto. It represented the culmination of a national effort to prevent future presidents from repeating Nixon’s unilateral escalations in Vietnam. The Resolution provides that, when a president commits American forces to a new military engagement, he has 60 days to gain the explicit authorization of Congress for the war. If Congress refuses its consent, the Resolution requires the commander in chief to withdraw his forces from the battlefield within the next 30 days.

The Resolution represented a fundamental breakthrough. According to Senator Jacob Javits, its leading sponsor:

“We live in an age of undeclared war, which has meant Presidential war. Prolonged engagement in an undeclared Presidential war has created a most dangerous imbalance in our Constitutional system of checks and balances. . . . [The bill] is rooted in the words and the spirit of the Constitution. It [aims] to restore the balance which has been upset by the historical enthronement of that power over which the framers of the Constitution regarded as the keystone of the whole Article of Congressional power–the exclusive authority of Congress to declare war; the power to change the nation from a state of peace to a state of war.”

Bruce Ackerman @ THE ATLANTIC

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Wednesday’s Woes

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In a little under five months, President Barack Obama will no longer be the president of the United States, and so that is why, for this last month and for the next five months, he is going to do nothing, other than push the TPP onto the American public. A lot of reports have come out in the last day or two that show that Obama is out there, and he has planned 30 events during this congressional recess through the month of August, where he is going to pitch the TPP to the American people. He’s telling us that his arguments are correct on this. This is his legacy. This is the best thing for the American public.

Unfortunately, it seems that President Obama is the only one who actually believes that, other than corporations because that’s all the TPP is. It is a massive giveaway to corporations that want to rip off consumers, or destroy the environment, or pillage our natural resources. That’s all this deal will do. It’s going to drive down American wages and leave us with no economic mobility whatsoever.

@ TROFIRE

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