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Inventing a Light Bulb, Innovating an Electrical System: Thomas Edison and the Transformation of Invention

January 27, 2015 in History

Thomas Edison Papers, Rutgers University

January 27, 2015 5:00 p.m.

The name Thomas Edison has become synonymous with invention and his most famous invention, the electric light bulb, has become a familiar symbol for that flash of inspired genius traditionally associated with invention. In part the light bulb’s symbolic value comes from its obvious role as a visual metaphor of the “bright idea.” But this symbolism also arises from its association with Thomas Edison — the electric light as the greatest invention of the world’s greatest inventor. The “electric light,” however, was no single invention emanating from an inspired genius. Instead it was a complex network of inventions produced by teams of researchers working under his direction in the world’s first true invention laboratory. As he invented the system of electric lighting, Edison simultaneously reinvented the system of invention.

We often think of invention as the work of lone geniuses and Edison’s era as the heyday of this kind of invention, which has since been replaced by team research conducted in R&D laboratories. But even in this era invention was a cooperative venture in which skilled operatives, machinists, and manufacturers in various industries forged technological communities centered on machine shops. While they drew on practical experience to design, build, and refine new technology, they also kept abreast of scientific and technical research that might contribute to their work, and sometimes undertook experiments designed to give them more general knowledge that might prove crucial to their success. It was out of this tradition that Edison forged the first industrial research and development laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey by merging this shop tradition with sophisticated laboratory research into basic scientific and technical principles.

When Edison arrived at Menlo Park in 1876 he had a reputation as an ingenious inventor and manufacturer of telegraph technology. In his earlier inventive work Edison had relied on skilled machinists and craftsmen, who, like himself, were self-taught in electricity. This continued to be true in the early years at Menlo Park where he developed the carbon-button transmitter that proved crucial to the commercial success of the telephone and the phonograph, the first device to enable the recording and playback of sound. It was the astonishment that greeted the phonograph which made Edison’s international reputation as the “inventor of the age” and gave him his famous nickname, “The Wizard of Menlo Park.” In turn, …read more

Source: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE

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Sen. Rand Paul Introduces the FAIR Act

January 27, 2015 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Rand Paul yesterday reintroduced S. 255, the FAIR (Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration) Act. This legislation would protect the rights of property owners and restore the Fifth Amendment’s role in property proceedings. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) is the lead sponsor of the FAIR Act in the House of Representatives. ‘The federal government has made it far too easy for government agencies to take and profit from the property of those who have not been convicted of a crime. The FAIR Act will ensure that government agencies no longer profit from taking the property of U.S. citizens without due process, while maintaining the ability of courts to order the surrender of proceeds of crime. I will continue to do all I can to protect the rights of Americans and ensure that their Fifth Amendment rights are no longer infringed upon,’ Sen. Paul said. ‘America was founded on the principles of due process and property rights. These principles must be defended, not undermined by a system that allows the government to seize an individual’s private property without filing criminal charges. At a time when trust between government and its citizens is quickly eroding, the FAIR Act intends to return the balance of power back to the American people and away from an overreaching federal government,’ Rep. Walberg said. Click HERE for the FAIR Act legislation text.
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Source: RAND PAUL

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No, Mass Surveillance Won't Stop Terrorist Attacks

January 27, 2015 in Economics

By Patrick G. Eddington

Patrick G. Eddington

The recent terrorist attack on the office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo generated a now-familiar meme: Another terrorist attack means we need more surveillance.

The continued use of digital dragnets is a virtual guarantee of more lethal intelligence failures.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said that while “Congress having oversight certainly is important … what is more important relative to these types of events is ensuring we don’t overly hamstring the NSA’s ability to collect this kind of information in advance and keep these kinds of activities from occurring.” Similarly, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) spoke of his “fear” that “our intelligence capabilities, those designed to prevent such an attack from taking place on our shores, are quickly eroding,” adding that the government surveillance “designed to prevent these types of attacks from occurring is under siege.”

A recent poll demonstrates that their sentiments are widely shared in the wake of the attack.

But would more mass surveillance have prevented the assault on the Charlie Hebdo office? Events from 9/11 to the present help provide the answer:

  • 2009: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab—i.e., the “underwear bomber”—nearly succeeded in downing the airline he was on over Detroit because, according to then-National Counterterrorism Center (NCC) director Michael Leiter, the federal Intelligence Community (IC) failed “to connect, integrate, and fully understand the intelligence“ it had collected.
  • 2009: Army Major Nidal Hasan was able to conduct his deadly, Anwar al-Awlaki-inspired rampage at Ft. Hood, Texas, because the FBI bungled its Hasan investigation.
  • 2013: The Boston Marathon bombing happened, at least in part, because the CIA, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), FBI, NCC, and National Security Agency (NSA) failed to properly coordinate and share information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his family, associations, and travel to and from Russia in 2012. Those failures were detailed in a 2014 report prepared by the Inspectors General of the IC, Department of Justice, CIA, and DHS.
  • 2014: The Charlie Hebdo and French grocery store attackers were not only known to French and U.S. authorities but one had a prior terrorism conviction and another was monitored for years by French authorities until less than a year before the attack on the magazine.

No, mass surveillance does not prevent terrorist attacks.

It’s worth remembering that the mass surveillance programs initiated by the U.S. government after the 9/11 attacks—the legal ones and the constitutionally-dubious ones—were premised on the belief that bin Laden’s hijacker-terrorists were able to pull off the attacks because of …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Atheist Teacher Claims He Was Fired for Objecting to Christian Proselytizing in Public School

January 27, 2015 in Blogs

By Cliff Weathers, AlterNet

Kevin Pack says that he objected to his principal's proselytizing, and that got him fired.


An Indiana school teacher says that he was fired by his school’s Christian principal and school board because he identifies as an atheist.

Kevin Pack, who taught German at the Northridge High School in Middlebury, says that his principal, Gerald Rasler, gave him poor reviews because he questioned prayers and other religious practices performed by Rasler on school time.

Pack, who was fired by the district last year, was hired just a year earlier. The school district’s Superintendent, Jane Allen, contends that Pack was not fired because he’s an atheist, but that he was an immoral, incompetent and insubordinate teacher.

However, Pack maintains that it was his opposition to Rasler’s proselytizing that got him fired. In his lawsuit, Pack maintains:

  • During a phone interview before he was hired, Rasler asked Pack about his religious beliefs and political leanings.

  • Before breakfast or lunch was served during faculty meetings, Rasler asked teachers to take part in a Christian prayer. The prayers offended Pack, an atheist committed to the separation of church and state. Because he was a new hire, he didn’t feel he could openly challenge Rasler, but he declined to act as if he was praying, which Rasler noticed.

  • In an email sent to all faculty, Rasler once asked teachers to pray it wouldn’t snow so that student testing wouldn’t be disrupted. In a reply to all recipients of the email, Pack, alluding to his atheism, said he would choose instead to rely upon the predictions of meteorologists.

Complaints by Pack to the district’s Human Resources department did get Rasler in some hot water, as such religious conduct is prohibited in public schools by law. But it was when Pack began to stand up against Rasler that he says he started to get the disciplinary warnings and poor reviews that lead to his dismissal last April.

The school board counters that Pack showed two inappropriate films to students, “Run, Lola, Run” which is R-rated, and the 1930 Marlene Dietrich classic “The …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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What You Have to Earn to Be in the 1% in Every State

January 27, 2015 in Blogs

By Cliff Weathers, AlterNet

It's the wealthiest Americans who are recovering from the Great Recession.


A new report from the Economic Policy Institute says that the benefits from the economic recovery are being enjoyed by the nation’s top 1% of income earners while the rest of us still languish with relatively stagnant, even falling, wages.

Overall income grew by nearly 37% since 1979, but growth for “1 Percenters” was some 181%. When factoring the 1% out, the 99% saw their income grow only by 2.6%. Moreover, after the recovery from the Great Recession, the top 1% have enjoyed “an alarming share of economic growth.” According to University of California/Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, who is cited in the report, the top 1% captured 95% of the total income growth between 2009 and 2012.

“In previous recoveries, the majority of income growth was accounted for by the bottom 99 percent,” said Mark Price, a labor economist who co-authored the study.

Price says several factors, including a minimum wage that hasn’t kept up with the rate inflation, declining union membership, and an extremely slow recovery from the Great Recession, are the primary factors why a vast majority of Americans haven’t seen their incomes rise over the past several years.

The Institute’s report, “The Increasingly Unequal United States of America,” details the disparity in wealth, not only for the nation, but in every U.S. state. It’s based on tax data collected every year by the Internal Revenue Service.

Added to the report is a map that details income inequality by state, and shows how much income it would take to be a 1 Percenter in each state and the District of Columbia.

So, what does it take to make it into the 1% of earners? In Arkansas, you'd need to pull in $228,000 a year. In Connecticut, the threshold is $678,000, which also happens to have the greatest income disparity of all states. The Nutmeg State’s 1% makes 51 times more money than what the rest of the wage earners average in the state. By comparison, Hawaii’s 1% make just under 15 …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Sen. Rand Paul Appears on Fox's America's Newsroom with Martha MacCallum – January 27, 2015

January 27, 2015 in Politics & Elections

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Source: RAND PAUL

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Robert Reich: Wall Street Is Hard at Work Cooking Up the Next Financial Collapse

January 27, 2015 in Blogs

By Robert Reich, AlterNet

The finance industry still presents a massive threat to the middle class.


Presidential aspirants in both parties are talking about saving the middle class. But the middle class can’t be saved unless Wall Street is tamed.

The Street’s excesses pose a continuing danger to average Americans. And its ongoing use of confidential corporate information is defrauding millions of middle-class investors.

Yet most presidential aspirants don’t want to talk about taming the Street because Wall Street is one of their largest sources of campaign money.

Do we really need reminding about what happened six years ago? The financial collapse crippled the middle class and poor — consuming the savings of millions of average Americans, and causing 23 million to lose their jobs, 9.3 million to lose their health insurance, and some 1 million to lose their homes. 

A repeat performance is not unlikely. Wall Street’s biggest banks are much larger now than they were then. Five of them hold about 45 percent of America’s banking assets. In 2000, they held 25 percent.

And money is cheaper than ever. The Fed continues to hold the prime interest rate near zero.

This has fueled the Street’s eagerness to borrow money at rock-bottom rates and use it to make risky bets that will pay off big if they succeed, but will cause big problems if they go bad.

We learned last week that Goldman Sachs has been on ashopping binge, buying cheap real estate stretching from Utah to Spain, and a variety of companies.

If not technically a violation of the new Dodd-Frank banking law, Goldman’s binge surely violates its spirit.

Meanwhile, the Street’s lobbyists have gotten Congress to repeala provision of Dodd-Frank curbing excessive speculation by the big banks.

The language was drafted by Citigroup and personally pushed by Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase.

Not incidentally, Dimon recently complained of being “under assault” by bank regulators.

Last year JPMorgan’s board voted to boost Dimon’s pay to $20 million, despite the bank paying out more than $20 billion to settle various legal problems going back to financial crisis.

The American middle class needs stronger bank regulations, not weaker ones.

Last summer, bank regulators told the big banks their …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Why (Almost) Everyone Got Snowpocalypse Wrong

January 27, 2015 in Blogs

By Cliff Weathers, AlterNet

A high-tech weather prediction model said New York wouldn't get much snowfall. So why didn't we know about it?


This morning, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the Great ‘15 Blizzard had spared much of the state, especially New York City. In Central Park, only 8 inches fell, and in the nearby Hudson Valley accumulation is little more than 4 inches. Scant amounts of snow continues to fall in those areas, but the storm ended up passing 25 miles to the east of the city, sparing it from the brunt of its force.

While New York City was spared, the storm is still pummeling parts of Long Island, northeastern Westchester County, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

So was the blizzard forecast exaggerated, or was the science bad? Neither really. One model actually got the storm right. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the one that meteorologists used in their forecasts. 

On the East Coast, winter storms typically form in the Atlantic off the coast of the Carolinas and move along the east coast. Known as Nor’Easters. As these storms form over water, instead of land, they’re not easy to forecast. That’s why sometimes major snowstorms hit us by surprise and other times dire weather predictions don’t pan out.

In this case, three models were looked at, the European (ECWMF) Model, the North American Model Mesoscale (NAM) Model, and the Global Forecast (GFS) model. The forecasts that we all saw were based on the European model, which has been the “go to” model for the National Weather Service for such storms, as it has been fairly accurate in the past. The NAM model basically concurred with the ECWMF model, giving those two forecasts a lot of weight in the meteorological community.

But one model did get the forecast right. The revamped GFS model, which uses the latest technologies but is relatively untested, showed divergent results. It showed a distinctively more eastern track for the storm and has gotten snowfall totals and wind speeds right, so far. It also accurately predicted only 6-8 inches of snow for New York.

An old version of …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Jon Stewart Skewers the GOP Geniuses Who Want to Be President

January 27, 2015 in Blogs

By AlterNet

Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin — the future is looking bright for the GOP.


On last night's Daily Show, Jon Stewart mocked the aspiring GOP presidential candidates — a.k.a. the Fox News Correspondent Auditions — who showed up at the Iowa Freedom Summit. From Sen. Ted Cruz's forced folkiness to Fmr. Gov. Mike Huckabee's perplexing demand that Americans engange in more “pig killing,” the Summit's speakers gave Stewart more than enough comedy fodder. And then Rick Perry came on. And then Donald Trump.

“How can it get less electable than that?” Stewart wondered. 

Cue Sarah Palin. Watch Stewart skewer Palin's insane speech below. 

 

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Source: ALTERNET

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Is Ridesharing Safe?

January 27, 2015 in Economics

Rideshare companies Uber and Lyft are facing predictable complaints as they continue to grow. Many of these complaints concern safety, with some in the taxi industry claiming that ridesharing is less safe than taking a traditional taxicab. In a new study, Cato scholar Matthew Feeney says there is little evidence that the sharing economy services are more dangerous than traditional taxis, and argues that concerns about the safety risks of ridesharing are overblown.

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Source: CATO HEADLINES