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marble falls

marble falls's Journal
marble falls's Journal
August 30, 2013

New Leaked Document Outlines U.S. Spending on Intelligence Agencies

The most detailed public disclosure of American intelligence spending in history shows a surprisingly dominant role for the Central Intelligence Agency, a growing emphasis on both defensive and offensive cyberoperations, and significant gaps in knowledge about targeted countries despite the sharp increase in spending after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
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The Guardian, via Associated Press

Edward J. Snowden obtained the spending information when he was a contractor for the National Security Agency.

The top secret budget request for the current fiscal year was obtained by The Washington Post from the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden and published in part on its Web site on Thursday. The newspaper said it was withholding most of the 178-page document at the request of government officials because “sensitive details are so pervasive” in its description of spying programs.

The document shows that the agencies’ budget request for the year ending Sept. 30 was $52.6 billion, a small decrease from the 2011 peak of $54.6 billion, which came after a decade of rapid spending growth. Of that, the biggest share was taken by the C.I.A., which carries out traditional human spying and intelligence analysis but also now conducts drone strikes against terrorism suspects in Pakistan and Yemen.

The C.I.A. asked for $14.7 billion, significantly outpacing the two big technological spy agencies, the eavesdropping N.S.A., which sought $10.8 billion, and the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates surveillance satellites and sought $10.3 billion. While the document reflects the money requested for the 2013 fiscal year and not what was actually received, the record of past expenditures suggests that real spending this year is probably very close to the amount requested.

The 16 American spy agencies employ about 107,000 people, including some 21,800 working on contract, the document shows. The number does not include tens of thousands of contractors who work in support of the intelligence agencies, in some cases outnumbering actual employees, said Jeffrey T. Richelson, a prolific author on intelligence.

Mr. Richelson said he thought the N.S.A. budget figure understated the real cost of its electronic surveillance, because it omits much of the support it receives from military personnel who carry out eavesdropping on its behalf.

The latest disclosure underscores the extraordinary impact of the leaks by Mr. Snowden, 30, who has accepted temporary asylum in Russia as he tries to avoid prosecution in the United States on espionage charges.

The documents he took from his job as an N.S.A. contractor and provided to The Guardian, The Post and other publications have set off the most significant public debate in decades about surveillance and data collection by the government. The parts of the new budget document published by The Post, while containing no major surprises, offer by far the most granular look to date at how billions of dollars is spent for intelligence collection. (The Guardian has recently shared some of Mr. Snowden’s documents with The New York Times.)


August 30, 2013

Feds won't sue to stop pot use in Washington and Colorado - with caveats

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - Despite 75 years of federal marijuana prohibition, the Justice Department said Thursday that states can let people use the drug, license people to grow it and even allow adults to stroll into stores and buy it - as long as the weed is kept away from kids, the black market and federal property.

In a sweeping new policy statement prompted by pot legalization votes in Washington and Colorado last fall, the department gave the green light to states to adopt tight regulatory schemes to oversee the medical and recreational marijuana industries burgeoning across the country.

The action, welcomed by supporters of legalization, could set the stage for more states to legalize marijuana. Alaska could vote on the question next year, and a few other states plan similar votes in 2016.

The policy change embraces what Justice Department officials called a "trust but verify" approach between the federal government and states that enact recreational drug use.

In a memo to all 94 U.S. attorneys' offices around the country, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the federal government expects that states and local governments authorizing "marijuana-related conduct" will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that address the threat those state laws could pose to public health and safety.

"If state enforcement efforts are not sufficiently robust ... the federal government may seek to challenge the regulatory structure itself," the memo stated. States must ensure "that they do not undermine federal enforcement priorities," it added.

The U.S. attorney in Colorado, John Walsh, said he will continue to focus on whether Colorado's system has the resources and tools necessary to protect key federal public safety interests.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said the state is working to improve education and prevention efforts directed at young people and on enforcement tools to prevent access to marijuana by those under age 21. Colorado also is determined to keep marijuana businesses from being fronts for criminal enterprises or other illegal activity, he said, and the state is committed to preventing the export of marijuana while also enhancing efforts to keep state roads safe from impaired drivers.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also laid out guidelines for marijuana entrepreneurs.

"If you don't sell this product to children, if you keep violent crime away from your business, if you pay your taxes and you don't use this as a front for illicit activity, we're going to be able to move forward," Inslee said.

Under the new federal policy, the government's top investigative priorities range from preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors to preventing sales revenue from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels and preventing the diversion of marijuana outside of states where it is legal.

Other top-priority enforcement areas include stopping state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover for trafficking other illegal drugs and preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana. The top areas also include preventing drugged driving, preventing marijuana cultivation and possession on federal property.

The Justice Department memo says it will take a broad view of the federal priorities. For example, in preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors, enforcement could take place when marijuana trafficking takes place near an area associated with minors, or when marijuana is marketed in an appealing manner to minors or diverted to minors.

Following the votes in Colorado and Washington last year, Attorney General Eric Holder launched a review of marijuana enforcement policy that included an examination of the two states. The issue was whether they should be blocked from operating marijuana markets on the grounds that actively regulating an illegal substance conflicts with federal drug law that bans it.

Peter Bensinger, a former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said the conflict between federal and state law is clear and can't be reconciled. Federal law is paramount, and Holder is "not only abandoning the law, he's breaking the law. He's not only shirking his duty, he's not living up to his oath of office," Bensinger said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R- Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and cochairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, called the administration's decision the latest example of selective law enforcement.

"The administration is now effectively instructing law enforcement not to prioritize the prosecution of the large-scale distribution and sale of marijuana in certain states," Grassley said late Thursday. "Apprehending and prosecuting illegal drug traffickers should always be a priority for the Department of Justice."

Last December, President Barack Obama said it doesn't make sense for the federal government to go after recreational drug users in a state that has legalized marijuana. Last week, the White House said that prosecution of drug traffickers remains an important priority.

A Pew Research Center poll in March found that 60 percent of Americans think the federal government shouldn't enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in states where its use has been approved. Younger people, who tend to vote more Democratic, are especially prone to that view. But opponents are worried these moves will lead to more use by young people. Colorado and Washington were states that helped re-elect Obama.

Advocates of medical marijuana were cautious about the new policy. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that effectively allow patients to access and use medical marijuana. Threats of criminal prosecution and asset forfeiture by U.S. attorneys have closed more than 600 dispensaries in California, Colorado and Washington over the past two years, said Americans for Safe Access, which advocates for safe and legal access to therapeutic cannabis.

Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation's largest marijuana policy organization, called the policy change "a major and historic step toward ending marijuana prohibition" and "a clear signal that states are free to determine their own policies."

Kevin Sabet, the director of Project Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group, predicted the new Justice Department policy will accelerate a national discussion about legalization because people will see its harms - including more drugged driving and higher high school dropout rates.

Kristi Kelly, a co-founder of three medical marijuana shops near Denver, said the Justice Department's action is a step in the right direction.

"We've been operating in a gray area for a long time. We're looking for some sort of concrete assurances that this industry is viable," she said.

A national trade group, the National Cannabis Industry Association, said it hopes steps will be taken to allow marijuana establishments access to banking services. Federally insured banks are barred from taking money from marijuana businesses because the drug is still banned by the federal government.


Johnson reported from Seattle. Associated Press writers Alicia Caldwell, Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., and Kristen Wyatt in Denver contributed to this report.

August 29, 2013

Jerry Jones says CAT Scan reveals he has the ‘brain of a 40-year old’

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says CAT Scan reveals he has the ‘brain of a 40-year old’
Eric Edholm 5 hours ago Shutdown Corner FootballJerry JonesDallas Cowboys

(USA Today Sports Images)
Dallas Cowboys fans who are prone to questioning the sanity of owner Jerry Jones, please take note: Medical science says you're way off base.

Jones, 70, apparently told the Dallas Morning News that he has the brain of a man 30 years younger. And wouldn't we all like to have one of those?

[Play Y! Sports Fantasy Football: Create or join a league today!]

“I’ve been told that I have, by [CAT Scans], that it’s like the brain of a 40-year-old,” Jones crowed. “…The guy really did not know it was me. I was there anonymously. He said, ‘And so I just wanted to come down. I saw your chart. I know how old you are. That part is really impressive.’”

Jones is at the nerve center of the Cowboys, from top to bottom, and he has shown no signs of slowing down. Age apparently is no matter for the man who recently said that Tony Romo (who is 33) has an offensive mind on par with Saints head coach (and former Cowboys assistant) Sean Payton, who is 49. And Jones green-lit the acquisition of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who is a venerable 73.

Lest you think Jones has lost his touch during a period in which the Cowboys have won two postseason games since 1996, Jones begs to differ.

“I know more about what I’m doing than hopefully I did 25 years ago,” he said, referring to the time he entered the NFL as an owner.

Recently, Jones' son, Stephen, who has taken on an increased role in the running of the franchise, said that the Cowboys have the "secret sauce" to win championships (plural) again. If you ask Dad what the recipe for said sauce is, it apparently is coursing through his veins, like some kind of naturally produced youth serum. And that means that neither Jones is likely to go anywhere anytime soon.

Isn't science cool, Cowboys fans?
August 28, 2013

Air strikes ineffective, even counterproductive, analysts say

Punitive strikes ineffective, even counterproductive, analysts say
The type of limited military campaign being contemplated against Syria has failed to deter U.S. adversaries in the past, military analysts say.


1998 Sudan strike

A U.S. operation in 1998 targeted a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan that U.S. officials thought was making chemical weapons. Later evidence cast doubt on that claim. (Raouf, Associated Press / August 21, 1998)

By Ken Dilanian

August 27, 2013, 6:00 a.m.

WASHINGTON — The type of limited, punitive military campaign now being contemplated against Syria has failed to deter U.S. adversaries in the past, and at times emboldened them, military analysts say.

In two major episodes in 1998, the U.S. government unleashed a combination of bombs and cruise missiles against its foes — Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq. In a more distant third case, in 1986, the U.S. bombed Moammar Kadafi's Libya.

The bombs and missiles mostly hit their targets, and the U.S. military at the time declared the attacks successful. But in the end, they achieved little.

Two years after the U.S. bombed Tripoli, Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 passengers and crew. Investigators later concluded that the U.S. attack was a primary motive for Kadafi to support the Lockerbie bombing.

Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people in attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. Hussein kicked out international weapons inspectors and survived despite sanctions until a U.S.-led invasion deposed him in 2003. The benefit to the U.S. of that costly war and the occupation that followed remains in dispute.

In a paper reviewing the 1998 attack on Iraq, Mark Conversino, associate dean of the U.S. Air War College, cited the unease of some military experts about the use of air power within tight constraints.

"Many air power theorists had long cautioned against using air power in penny packets or in hyper-constrained political environments," he wrote in the 2005 paper.

Yet presidents confronting limited options continue to consider such action. President Obama is said to be contemplating a limited series of cruise missile strikes in response to the apparent chemical weapons attack last week on civilians by the Syrian government of Bashar Assad.

Military analysts are warning about the limits of such an approach.

"If the U.S. does something and Assad is left standing at the end of it without having suffered real serious, painful enough damage, the U.S. looks weak and foolish," said Eliot Cohen, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a former State Department official in the Bush administration, who has long been skeptical about reliance on air power.

"Can you do damage with cruise missiles? Yes," said Anthony Cordesman, military analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. "Can you stop them from having chemical weapons capability? I would think the answer would be no. Should you limit yourself to just a kind of incremental retaliation? That doesn't serve any strategic purpose. It doesn't protect the Syrian people, it doesn't push Assad out."

Previous such punitive attacks were aimed at countries that had targeted or threatened American personnel or facilities. If Obama authorizes action against Syria, he would be striking a country that has posed no clear threat to the United States.

However, Obama did authorize U.S. participation in a U.N.-approved mission to protect civilians in 2011 that ultimately led to the fall of Kadafi's government. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, in a toughly worded statement Monday, cited what he called "the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians" in the attack last week in Syria.

In 1986, after officials concluded that Kadafi had ordered a bombing that killed two U.S. service members in a Berlin disco, President Reagan authorized an airstrike of 60 tons of munitions in 12 minutes on targets in Tripoli. Among the targets was Kadafi's residential compound, but he had fled after having been warned.

In August 1998, days after Al Qaeda bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, President Clinton signed off on plans to target Bin Laden with cruise missiles, and the U.S. fired 75 of them into terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.

Clinton's operation also targeted a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan that U.S. officials thought was making chemical weapons. Later evidence cast doubt on that claim.

Bin Laden canceled a planned meeting at one of the bombing sites, and he and many of his top lieutenants escaped unharmed. Documents declassified in 2008 suggested the strikes may have brought Al Qaeda and the Taliban closer politically and ideologically. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan after the 2001 attacks when the Taliban refused to hand over Bin Laden.

A few months later, in December 1998, Clinton ordered an operation designed to "strike military targets in Iraq that contributed to its ability to produce, store, maintain and deliver weapons of mass destruction," according to a Pentagon history.

Later evidence showed Hussein had shelved his banned weapons programs by then, but the attacks were at the time considered a military success, having inflicted serious damage on Iraq's missile development program.

However, Hussein's government survived, and he ended United Nations weapons inspections. The attacks also weakened the international sanctions against him, analysts say, because some countries in the coalition were opposed to the operation and became less committed to the penalties afterward.


Like WillPitt says, 10# bag and 20# of poop.

August 23, 2013

Rick Perry begging for Obamacare even as he maligns it

Rick Perry begging for Obamacare even as he maligns it


by Egberto WilliesFollow

Big bad macho Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the governor who says publicly he won’t take any Obamacare dollars, is now begging for these dollars discreetly. Politico reports:

Perry health aides are negotiating with the Obama administration on the terms of an optional Obamacare program that would allow Texas to claim stepped-up Medicaid funding for the care of people with disabilities.

the move comes as a surprise coming from a governor who has insisted he won’t implement the Obamacare reforms, and who slammed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for touting the law during a trip to the Lone Star State earlier this month.

“With due respect, the secretary and our president are missing the point: It’s not that Americans don’t understand Obamacare, it’s that we understand it all too well,” Perry said at the time. “In Texas, we’ve been fighting Obamacare from the beginning, refusing to expand a broken Medicaid system and declining to set up a state health insurance exchange.” [Source]

More than 25 percent of Texas residents are uninsured. No one would believe that in the home of one of the best medical centers in the world (Texas Medical Center), that over one quarter of its population do not have insurance and receive substandard medical coverage. It won’t be long before the Texas medical establishment forces the hand of Texas politicians as they lose billions to other states.

The Texas Republican governor and legislature have done nothing to solve Texas health insurance problem. They have not offered alternatives to the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act nor have they done anything to provide incentives to control the cost of health insurance.

This should really not be a surprise. Gov. Perry has a habit of speaking out against federal government handouts in public even as he begs for government handouts behind the scene. When the fertilizer plant exploded in West, Texas, a private company that was privy to virtually no state regulations, he vehemently complained when his requests for government handouts were initially denied.

The Affordable Care Act will be a marked improvement to the current state of the health insurance market in the United States. In fact in the states that have been proactive in adopting all aspects of Obamacare, it is proving very successful. Instead of running around the country maligning the new law, Perry should stay in Texas and fix its many problems that are undermining the Texas working middle class even as the Texas wealthy do well.

August 21, 2013

Stun gun death toll mounts


By Frank Cerabino - Cox Newspapers

When a teenager made the fatal mistake of running from Miami Beach police officers this month, he became the 12th Floridian to die after being zapped by an electronic stun gun during the past five years.

Israel Hernandez, 18, an aspiring artist, was spray-painting the letter “R” on the side of a vacant McDonald’s in the early morning hours of Aug. 6 when officers confronted him. The teen ran. The foot chase ended when one officer shot Hernandez in the chest with a Taser cartridge, causing him to collapse on the sidewalk, where he went into cardiac arrest and died.

It’s extremely rare that stun guns, which deliver 50,000 volts through barbed prongs that pierce the skin, end up leading to a person’s death. But consider this:

In the final five years that Florida operated “Old Sparky” to kill Death Row inmates, 11 Floridians died in the electric chair.

With Hernandez’s death, stun guns have now been instrumental in the deaths of more Floridians than the electric chair over the same period of time.

These stun-gun-related deaths aren’t ending the lives of killers but often people who are suffering from mental problems, drug-related psychosis or just a lack of common sense not to run from police after being stopped for a minor infraction.

Derrick Humbert, a 38-year-old father of three, was stopped by a Bradenton police officer for riding his bike without a light one night five years ago. Humbert, who was high on cocaine at the time, ditched the bike and ran. The officer zapped him, and Humbert died after going into cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital.

Another man, Preston Bussey III, voluntarily walked into a Melbourne hospital emergency room to seek treatment. Several officers of the Rockledge Police Department arrived and tried to take the mentally confused, unarmed man into custody. When Bussey failed to follow their instructions, he was shot six times by their stun guns, which led to his death.

In 2006, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducted a study of the use of these weapons, which the agency refers to as “electronic control devices,” or ECDs.

“ECD devices are not likely to cause serious injury or loss of life for suspects or law enforcement officers, except in situations where certain medical conditions and drug use are factors,” the study found. “However, more research should be done on the overall safety of such devices.”

An Orange County Sheriff’s Office Taser Task Force report found that the use of stun guns reduced officer injuries by 80 percent and produced less injuries to detainees than batons, sprays and other arrest techniques used by its deputies.

But in 2005, the U.S. Army discontinued the use of stun guns on its own soldiers during training exercises, finding that “seizures and ventricular fibrillation can be induced by the electric current.”

The Police Executive Research Forum published a list of 50 guidelines for the use of stun guns, recommending that they should be deployed only to counteract “active aggression,” that fleeing from police isn’t enough justification to use them, that no more than one officer at a time should use them, and that officers should refrain from stunning children, pregnant women, the elderly and people in handcuffs.

Danielle Maudsley was in handcuffs at a Florida Highway Patrol substation in Pinellas Park two years ago after she had been caught trying to leave the scene of two traffic accidents. The 20-year-old woman, who had cocaine and oxycodone in her system, tried to slip away from the substation before she could be processed. But a trooper chased her out the building and fired his Taser at her back.

Maudsley fell backward, hitting her head on the asphalt parking lot, causing a concussion that led to a coma and left her brain in a vegetative state.

She is not listed among Florida’s stun-gunned dead.

Cerabino is a columnist for the Palm Beach Post.frank_cerabino@pbpost.com
August 18, 2013

Death of 2-year-old points to lack of accountability


Another civil function that should not be privatized.

By Andrea Ball - American-Statesman Staff

Sherill Small was headed to criminal court for passing a bad check when a state-hired company approved her to care for foster children.

Her husband has two convictions for delivery of marijuana, court records show. Her two adult daughters, who live in the area and visit the Small house, had legal problems of their own. One served prison time for robbery. Court records show the other has an unresolved drug charge.

Still, Texas Mentor, the child placing agency, approved the Smalls as foster parents, and it continued to send them children even when the home showed more signs of trouble.

Now Small is charged with murder in the death of Alexandria Hill, a 2-year-old girl in her care. Police say the 54-year-old Rockdale woman slammed Alex’s head on the floor, causing a traumatic brain injury that killed the toddler two days later.

It is unclear how many warning signs Texas Mentor saw when it licensed the Smalls as foster parents last fall, but the case illustrates the kind of judgment calls that child placing agencies have to make when choosing caretakers. And it underscores weaknesses in a fragmented system that spreads the responsibility for 11,500 children among more than 200 private vendors.

The state takes custody of children. Private organizations find them homes. Subcontractors often study homes for eligibility. That splintered process makes it much more complicated to deconstruct why warning signs were missed, parent advocates say.

Officials with Child Protective Services say the state shoulders the blame for Alex’s death. But the current system makes it nearly impossible for the state to know what’s going on with the children, said Johana Scot with the Parent Guidance Center, which advocates for parents of minors in the foster system.

“They’re trusting that people like Texas Mentor do what they’re supposed to do,” Scot said. “But do they really have capacity to monitor those contracts? Probably not.”


In October 2012, the Smalls started taking in foster children. Over the next 10 months, they would house seven children, all between the ages of 6 weeks and 13 years old.

Because Texas Mentor is refusing to release any details about its decision, it’s unclear what the company knew about the Smalls before licensing them.

Court records show that Sherill Small was accused of theft by passing a hot check in February 2012 for $41.81 at a Speedy Stop in Southeast Austin. A judge signed a warrant for her arrest in August 2012, two months before she was approved as a foster parent.

Small’s husband, Clemon, had at least four misdemeanor convictions, all of which had occurred more than a decade earlier. Two of them were for delivery of marijuana, two for driving with a suspended license.

Court records show that one of Sherill Small’s adult daughters, Tracy Forester, had an unresolved misdemeanor drug possession charge at the time the Smalls were approved for foster care.

A second daughter, Amber Forester, was convicted in 2002 of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery, according to court documents. Police said she and a man staged a robbery at a gas station where she worked, taking one of her co-workers hostage before letting her go and making off with cash, lottery tickets and money orders.

Forester pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years in prison.


On July 29th, Sherill Small was upset that Alex woke up too early, and she made the toddler stand in time-out for two hours, Newlin said.

At 7:06 p.m., Sherill Small called 911 and said Alex wasn’t breathing, Newlin said. The child was flown to McLane Children’s Hospital at Scott & White in Temple, where she was put on life support. Doctors said the toddler had sustained a traumatic brain injury.

“I stood looking at her and knew in my heart she wasn’t going to make it,” Sweeney said.

On July 31, Alex’s parents took her off life support.

Small was arrested Aug. 1 after telling police that Alex’s injury was an accident that occurred while she was swinging the child over her head as they played, an affidavit says. The police say they charged her based on inconsistent details in her statement, interviews with family members and a medical examiner’s report that ruled Alex’s death a homicide.

A grand jury indicted Small on a capital murder charge last week, meaning Small could face life in prison or the death penalty if she is convicted.

“Texas Mentor should never have allowed her anywhere near that child,” Cirkiel said.

Since Alex’s death, Sweeney has created a little memorial to her daughter at home, a purple shelf decorated with Alex’s stuffed animals, pictures, sneakers and other personal items.

In the center of the display, in a box made of wood and stained glass, rest Alex’s ashes.


Andrea Ball has covered social services for the American-Statesman since 2002. Recently, her work prompted a federal investigation that concluded poor health care killed a patient at Terrell State Hospital. She has also reported about sluggish efforts to find affordable housing for homeless people and complaints about adult guardianship services in Texas.
August 17, 2013

As convicts, staff swelter, prison system buys ‘climate-controlled’ pig barns

As convicts, staff swelter, prison system buys ‘climate-controlled’ pig barns
Officials defend purchase for swine-breeding program; critics call $750,000 deal ‘outrageous.’


By Mike Ward - American-Statesman Staff

At a time when Texas convicts and guards complain they are sweltering in prisons without air conditioning, the prison system is getting six new pig barns with a “climate-controlled environment” to ensure the hogs don’t overheat.

Prison officials on Friday defended the construction of the modular pig barns that feature water misters and large fans that can reduce temperatures by 20 degrees or more. They also have heating in the winter.

Art’s Way Scientific, a Monona, Iowa-based firm that’s building the $750,000 worth of barns, touts them on its website as featuring “continuous air movement through controlled exhaust fans,” a ventilation system that continually circulates air with exhaust fans and systems in which “outside air is preheated in winter and cooled in the summer.”

Bryan Collier, deputy director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said the barns “are consistent with the industry standard for swine operations.”

“This isn’t air conditioning,” he said. “It’s a climate-controlled environment for our swine breeder operation.”

The agency uses convict labor to raise pigs for consumption inside prisons and for sale.

Asked about comparisons to the overheated conditions inside many of Texas’ 111 state prisons — corrections officers have complained that the heat regularly tops 120 degrees in some spots, even with fans — Collier said, “That’s ridiculous and outrageous. … You can’t compare the two.”

Scott Medlock, an Austin civil rights attorney who is suing the prison system over several heat-related deaths, and Lance Lowry, president of a Huntsville local of a union that represents correctional officers, disagreed.

“It is outrageous that TDCJ would prioritize the safety of pigs raised for slaughter over the lives of human beings,” said Medlock, with the Texas Civil Rights Project. “TDCJ has literally made the decision that protecting its bacon is more important than protecting human lives.”

Lowry called for Texas prisons to get the same “climate-controlled environment” as the hog barns.

“Right now, there’s just fans blowing around very hot air — if there’s fans at all,” he said. “There’s no misters. There’s no exhaust air systems. It’s incredibly hot and dangerous, especially when you consider the officers and inmates who are on heat-sensitive medication.

“There’s no constitutional right to air conditioning in prisons, but the state of Texas can certainly do better than it is right now,” he added.

Collier said the new barns are replacing older buildings that also had misters. They house breeding sows for a limited time while they deliver their piglets “and then they all go back outdoors.”

But while they’re there, the builder’s website notes, “air quality is key to a successful swine program. Excess heat or cold will cause stress and can impact health.”

In the past six years, sweltering heat in Texas prisons has been blamed for at least 14 deaths, and at least five lawsuits are pending against prison officials, including one involving the Aug. 3, 2012, death of drunken-driving offender Rodney Adams at the Gurney Unit near Palestine, in East Texas.

His body temperature was 109.9 when he was found. As in many of the other deaths, Adams was on psychotropic medications at the time of his death that made him more sensitive to heat, according to Medlock.

“Most inmate living areas in (Texas) prisons are not ‘climate controlled,’” Medlock said. “The indoor heat index can regularly reach 130 degrees – temperatures the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advises are ‘extremely dangerous.’ TDCJ’s own policies recognize such extreme heat makes heat stroke ‘imminent.’”

Despite the complaints, prison officials have insisted the prisons are safe and are cooled as much as possible without air-conditioning them — a move that could cost tens of millions of dollars and would be sure to spur public debate.

Collier insisted there’s no correlation between the pig barns and prisons: “Those are two very different subjects. One is not related to the other.”

Different only in that Pigs run one and pigs are confined in the other.

August 15, 2013

Texas cops raid farm commune when mistaking tomato plants for marijuana

Texas cops raid farm commune when mistaking tomato plants for marijuana
By Arturo Garcia
Wednesday, August 14, 2013 10:32 EDT
Texas cops criticized for botched drug raid on 'Garden of Eden' [KXAS-TV]


Police in Arlington, Texas are being criticized for their tactics during a drug raid on a local farm that came up empty while allegedly damaging both the property and the crops.

“They can’t even tell the difference between tomato plants and a marijuana drug cartel,” farm resident Quinn Eaker told KXAS-TV. “That’s just really bad intel.”

Eaker said to KXAS that he and several residents at the “Garden of Eden” sustainability garden were handcuffed at gunpoint by officers during the Aug. 2 raid, which also involved a SWAT team, after an undercover officer and helicopter surveillance allegedly gave authorities probable cause to believe there was marijuana being grown on the premises.

“They came here under the guise that we were doing a drug trafficking, marijuana-growing operation,” owner Shellie Smith told WFAA-TV. “They destroyed everything.”

August 13, 2013

Bright Explosion on the Moon

Bright Explosion on the Moon
May 18, 2013

NASA researchers who monitor the Moon for meteoroid impacts have detected the brightest explosion in the history of their program.

credit: NASA


Pretty darn cool.

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About marble falls

Hand dyer mainly to the quilters market, doll maker, oil painter and teacher, anti-fas, cat owner, anti nuke, ex navy, reasonably good cook, father of three happy successful kids and three happy grand kids. Life is good.

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