December 16th, 2014
Geek.com / By Lee Mathews
This Nemo is no clown fish. In fact, it’s not even a real fish. It’s a prototype Navy drone that’s being tested in the waters surrounding Joint Expeditionary Base East in Virginia Beach.
Also called Ghost Swimmer by the Navy, Silent Nemo is designed to look and swim like a blue fin tuna. At five feet long and around 100 pounds, it’s actually fairly light. Its Atlantic Ocean perciform counterparts can weigh nearly ten times that amount.
The Navy’s Rapid Innovation Cell says they’ve had to “take thousands of years of evolution…and try to incorporate that into a mechanical device” — a tall order, to be sure. They’re busy “reverse-engineering nature,” and plan to have the drone ready for deployment within the next twelve months.
The results are impressive. Nemo’s rubbery-looking skin and subtly-wriggling fins look an awful lot like the real thing swimming through the water.
Convincing biomimicry should make Nemo harder to detect than a more conventional drone, and the Navy is not the only branch of the armed forces that sees that potential. The Army showed off their bird-like Maveric drone back in November of last year. Though it’s mostly a mimic in terms of appearance, the slight wobble in its flexible wings make it look convincing enough.
No word yet on whether or not the Navy plans on using their awesome torpedo-tube drone launching system to assist with deployments. Though they’ve only shown it launching aerial drones, but it could also provide express delivery of their new robo-tuna into areas that have been marked for aquatic surveillance.
December 16th, 2014
By Eric Bradner
Washington (CNN) -- A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled Tuesday that President Barack Obama's move to halt deportations for millions of undocumented immigrants violates the Constitution -- but it's not clear that the ruling will have any immediate impact.
Pittsburgh-based U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab, a George W. Bush appointee, became the first judge to rule on the legality of Obama's executive overhaul of immigration rules when he issued his unusual opinion in a criminal case.
The Justice Department shot back that the judge was "flatly wrong" and his ruling wouldn't halt the implementation of Obama's immigration policies.
The decision -- which came in a criminal case against Honduran immigrant Elionardo Juarez-Escobar, who'd been deported before, returned to the United States and faced charges of unlawful re-entry after a drunk driving arrest -- was unexpected, and is unrelated to the legal challenge dozens of states have launched against Obama's move.
Prosecutors in the case argued that Obama's immigration policies were only meant to apply to civil proceedings, and don't have any impact on criminal proceedings like what Juarez-Escobar faced.
Still, Schwab said in his 38-page ruling that Juarez-Escobar could have benefited under Obama's action to halt deportations for some undocumented immigrants.
Obama's action violates the Constitution's separation of powers and its "take care clause," Schwab said.
He wrote that Obama's action "goes beyond prosecutorial discretion because: (a) it provides for a systematic and rigid process by which a broad group of individuals will be treated differently than others based upon arbitrary classifications, rather than case-by-case examination; and (b) it allows undocumented immigrants, who fall within these broad categories, to obtain substantive rights."
The judge also quoted several of Obama's statements, asserting that, prior to issuing his executive action in November, the President personally considered such a move beyond his authority.
Schwab said Juarez-Escobar didn't fall within any of the priority categories Obama identified for deportation, so it's not clear that removing him from the country would be a priority -- potentially blurring the lines between civil and criminal proceedings.
The Justice Department blasted the opinion, with a spokesperson saying it was "unfounded and the court had no basis to issue such an order."
"No party in the case challenged the constitutionality of the immigration-related executive actions and the department's filing made it clear that the executive actions did not apply to the criminal matter before the court," the spokesperson said. "Moreover, the court's analysis of the legality of the executive actions is flatly wrong. We will respond to the court's decision at the appropriate time."
More from CNN
December 15th, 2014
Members of Overpasses for America and the Georgia Security Force militia protest new Mosque plans in Kennesaw Georgia
By LEO HOHMANN
KENNESAW, Georgia – The Kennesaw City Council has approved a land-use permit for a new mosque less than two weeks after it had denied the permit citing traffic and parking concerns.
The council voted 4-1 to deny the permit on Dec. 3, but after legal threats from the Suffa Dawat Center, the council reversed its earlier decision with a 5-0 vote Monday. The vote was taken without discussion as six police officers lined the walls of the council chambers and another contingent of officers patrolled outside where about 25 protesters from Overpasses for America and the Georgia Security Force militia held American flags and signs saying “No Mosque!” and “Ban Islam!”
Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews told WSB-TV in Atlanta that the council changed its vote due to “legal advice from our own city attorney, not based on input received from the public or anybody else.”
Mosque members were pleased with Monday’s outcome.
“I think we have achieved success for the whole community including those who oppose us,” Khalid Hashmi told WSB.
“The Bible says love thy neighbor. Our religion teaches love your neighbor,” said Samir Malik.
But the protesters outside weren’t buying it.
Capt. Linc Doberman with the Georgia Security Force told WND he believes Islam is more than just a religion and should be treated as such.
“The imams in the mosques are all striving towards the establishment of a caliphate and you can’t have a constitutional republic along with a caliphate,” he said. “So you can allow it to continue creeping in, until you feel the deep, red welts of domination.”
One of the protesters yelled at the Muslims as they filed out of city hall saying, “We will never respect Islam! We will never convert!”
Suffa Dawat applied for the permit to lease a space in a retail shopping plaza that is zoned for commercial use. A residential neighborhood sits directly behind the strip shopping center, and neighbors were not happy about the prospect of hearing the Friday call to prayer blasting near their homes. The mosque has entered into a two-year lease.
Flip-Flop Angers Residents
Suffa Dawat had the backing of the Council on American-Islamic Relations or CAIR, which is a wealthy Islamic rights organization affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
The council’s flip-flop angered residents who had come out against the mosque. But residents were not allowed to speak for or against the mosque until after the vote was taken.
One Kennesaw woman, Carlene Fregeolle, addressed the council after the vote. She said she met with the Muslims and found they had not disclosed all of their plans for the building on their application.
The mosque will be open for prayer five times a day, for the weekly call to prayer on Fridays, and also for an educational program for children on Sundays. They are restricted to 80 worshipers at a time and 40 parking spaces.
“They said they’re expecting about 80 children on Sundays. So, again, no worries about traffic and parking issues? Really? We’re now talking kids and lots of them,” Fregeolle said.
“Everything was done behind the scenes,” Fregeolle continued. “If they don’t get their way they sue. Our city council is afraid to stand behind their own zoning laws.”
Local media were reporting that a federal complaint had been filed with the U.S. Department of Justice and that the DOJ had threatened a lawsuit.
Fregeolle asked the council if that were indeed the case.
“I can answer that. No, the DOJ has not come in and has not threatened a lawsuit,” said city attorney Randall Bentley.
As a neighbor who lives closest to the mosque, Fregeolle said the Muslims lied to the city about her attitudes toward the new house of worship.
“They told the council I wouldn’t mind,” she said. “Again, that is false information. …By your flip-flopping you have made the city even more vulnerable.”
Suffa Dawat Center has also opened an online fundraising account with YouCaring.com with the goal of raising $30,000 for “legal costs and startup costs for Kennesaw Mosque.”
The legal expenses will apparently no longer be needed given the council’s about face.
Fregeolle said that if any other applicant had applied for the same space using the same tactics they would have been denied. “But with this group you have to be PC,” she said.
December 15th, 2014
We've come down in support of the Cops in the last (2) major cases which have been roiled by the Leftists and used to divide and separate America.
But then there's this...and this is just plain wrong, no matter how one slices it.....~Refocus Notes
By Jon Street
Police in Victoria, Texas, placed an officer on administrative duty pending an investigation after an altercation with a 76-year-old man who didn’t have an inspection sticker on his car.
Victoria resident Pete Vasquez pulled over at the Adams Auto Mart, where he helps with mechanical work, when the officer, 23-year-old Nathanial Robinson, got out of his patrol car and confronted him. The 76-year-old is seen on dashcam video pointing to the dealer license plate on the back of the car.
The Victoria Advocate newspaper reported that Vasquez told Robinson the vehicle was exempt from requiring an inspection sticker because it still had dealer tags. Police chief Jeffrey Craig later confirmed to the paper that the vehicle was, in fact, exempt.
Robinson appears to have tried to take something out of Vasquez’s hand but failed to do so. That’s when Robinson twists Vasquez’s arm behind his back, eventually landing the man on the ground out of view of the dashcam. Moments later, Robinson is seen standing in front of the patrol car holding a stun gun, which he used on Vasquez at least twice, police told the Victoria Advocate....
December 15th, 2014
Geoffrey Smith / Fortune
Russia’s ruble is melting down faster than you can say “Vladimir Vladimirovich”. That’s nothing short of disastrous for him–but it ain’t good for you either.
The ruble fell a jaw-dropping 11% against the dollar Monday. Even when seen in the context of the dollar routing all emerging market currencies (Brazil’s real fell 1.2% and South Africa’s rand 1.5%), a move like that is straight out of the Financial Crisis Handbook–completely unsustainable. Russia has seen nothing like it since it defaulted on its domestic debt in 1998.
Given President Vladimir Putin’s status as the West’s new bogeyman, the temptation to rejoice in the abrupt collapse of his regime’s economic clout is acute. Many will want to congratulate themselves at the success of economic sanctions, the aim of which was to punish Putin for his annexation of Ukraine and its covert sponsorship of a civil war there.
They shouldn’t get carried away.
For one thing, it doesn’t make Russian concessions on Ukraine any more likely: the worse the economic pressure, the more the Kremlin’s propaganda will drum home the message that it is the Evil West, denying Russia its holy Crimean birthright, that is to blame.Opinion polls suggest that the vast majority of Russians still accept this version of events.
As such, Ukraine will remain a running sore, infecting both the European economy and, through it, the world’s. Moreover, Ukraine itself is on the verge of a default that will send shock waves through European and global financial markets, amplifying the effect.
A financial crisis in Russia would have much larger negative consequences than a Ukrainian one: western banks (mainly European ones) will have to write off more loans, western companies will have to write off investments. And that’s even if contagion doesn’t spread to other vulnerable emerging markets such as Indonesia or Brazil, both big recipients of western investment.
For the moment, the signs are that Putin is gambling on the oil market turning round, trusting to the legendary endurance of the people while his government keeps the plates spinning as long as it can.
In the meantime, the loyal will be taken care of. Covert bailouts to the country’s biggest banks from the country’s rainy-day fund are already getting more frequent. VTB and Gazprombank, two lenders that are “too-big-to-fail”, have already had their capital levels topped up.
But that is nothing compared to the egregious piece of money-printing that was agreed last week, when the central bank agreed to lend money against 625 billion rubles (still over $10 billion, even after Monday’s mayhem) of bonds freshly printed by Rosneft, the oil company headed by Putin confidant Igor Sechin. The aim is to let Rosneft hoard its export dollars and meet a $10 billion loan repayment later this month (and another $4 billion in February).
The realization that Rosneft, one of the biggest players on the foreign exchange market, would be buying far fewer rubles with its export dollars appears to have been one of the reasons for the ruble’s drop Monday (the failure of the central bank’s half-hearted rate hike and intervention last week also being partly responsible).
If the central bank shows anything like the same generosity to other companies, then the ruble’s debasement will be complete. The central bank now estimates that the economy will shrink 4.5% next year if oil stays at $60/barrel, and that is something that would certainly trigger a wave of corporate defaults.
Unless the ruble bounces back sharply, inflation is heading much, much higher than the 10% the CBR is already forecasting. Specifically, food, which makes up over 30% of Russian disposable income, is going to get more expensive (Russia imports over 40% of its food and has made a rod for its own back by banning relatively cheap produce from the E.U.).
Moreover, since over 80% of retail deposits are now held in rubles, devaluation means that the savings that Putin’s voters have accumulated as they came to trust their own currency over the last 14 years will be devastated. Already Monday, the yield on the 10-year bonds of a government that hasn’t run a deficit in 14 years hit 13%–anything but an expression of trust.
This is a recipe for social instability far greater than the tame, middle-class, metropolitan protests at Putin’s tainted election victory in 2012.
But what does an authoritarian leader do in such a situation? Back down or crack down? There is no evidence from this year to suggest Putin has suddenly become the backing-down kind. Repression seems the likelier option. If that doesn’t work, then doubling-down with another foreign policy adventure to distract from domestic problems hardly seems fanciful any more: in the summer, Putin cast doubt on the statehood of neighboring Kazakhstan, which doesn’t have the NATO guarantee that the Baltic States enjoy.
Either way, the consequences are too miserable to contemplate, both for Russia and for the world in general. The only other way out is for Putin to be replaced in a palace coup. That’s a time-honored Russian tradition too, but anyone with memories of 1991 and 1993 will remember how badly they can go.
Barring a rapid turnaround in the oil price, there are only bad and worse outcomes from here on.
More from Geoffrey Smith at Fortune