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Election reflection from the mountains: Sun still came up today!

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The “blue” mountains of Colorado.

Time to move beyond tired election rehash stories and campaign post-mortems 

By Bob Berwyn

Mark Udall will be missed by many in Colorado’s high country towns, where people have developed a culture and lifestyle based on values that mostly transcend political and ideological divides. We don’t squabble so much about gun rights or abortion — mountain culture is global, rooted to natural resources and imbued, for the most part, with an appreciation of a clean and healthy environment.

Udall has hiked, skied and camped across the Colorado mountains and really involved himself in issues that matter to high country dwellers: Forest fires, outdoor recreation, water and wilderness preservation among the most important. He was probably the closest thing we had in Congress to a champion for the mountains, which isn’t surprising, given his family’s legacy, so there was a real sense of sadness in some of the social media comments on his loss to Cory Gardner.

More worrisome was the immediate nasty and partisan edge to some of the comments about Cory Gardner, who will represent Summit County, Vail, Steamboat Springs, Grand County … ALL of Colorado for the next six years.

Instead of setting the stage for more years of bickering and ideological grandstanding, this may be the time to make a genuine effort to reach out across party lines to try and find some common ground, even before the new Congress takes office. Continue reading

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Newly declassified documents offer partial explanation for dragnet-style domestic spying

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Intelligence officials are publishing a Tumblr to “provides immediate, ongoing and direct access to factual information related to the lawful foreign surveillance activities carried out by the U.S. Intelligence Community.”

Documents related to bulk collection of email data remains classified

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Newly declassified intelligence documents related to NSA telephone data collection show that the agency’s compliance and oversight mechanisms may simply been overwhelmed by the massive amount of data coming — “operational momentum,” as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described in a statement accompanying the release of the documents.

According to Clapper, the agency responded by ramping up compliance and oversight efforts by more than quadrupling personnel associated with making sure the data collection program doesn’t violate the law. Clapper’s office has also established a Tumblr blog to provide access to some limited information about intelligence activities.

“This increase was designed to address changes in technology and authorities and reflects a commitment on the part of the Intelligence Community and the rest of the Government to ensuring that intelligence activities are conducted responsibly and subject to the rule of law,” Clapper said in his statement.

U.S. Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who serve on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the release of the documents will help Americans understand the scope of the violations. According to Wyden and Udall, the documents show that intelligence agencies can gather information “without engaging in the dragnet surveillance of huge numbers of law-abiding Americans.” Continue reading

Court acknowledges that government made ‘substantial misrepresentations’ of surveillance programs

Released FISA Court document raises Fourth Amendment issues

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A heavily redacted FISA Court ruling from 2011 confirms that U.S. spy agencies have been violating the privacy rights of American citizens.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Far from just passively collecting long lists of telephone numbers, U.S. spy agencies actively worked to intercept communications by tapping into fiber-optic cables, going well beyond the bounds of programs authorized by a secret intelligence court.

The revelations came this week, as intelligence officials released a previously classified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Activities court ruling confirming what had already been leaked via other sources — that the government is spying on Americans with no connection to terrorism. The document shows that the NSA acquires more than 250 million internet communications each year. Continue reading

Latest NSA revelations just ‘the tip of the iceberg’

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The NSA broke the law thousands of times as it spied on Americans and foreigners during the past year.

Senators say Americans deserve more transparency

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — While Obama administration officials have acknowledged that the National Security Agency may have made some mistakes in the course of its widespread and invasive surveillance, new documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the agency overstepped its bounds, and broke the law, thousands of times just in the past year.

The Washington Post reported on the revelations of an internal NSA audit based on documents provided by Snowden. The NSA violations were widely reported in the press this week and drew a sharp response from a pair of U.S. Senators who have been watch-dogging the intelligence agency.

Senators Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, who serve on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the latest revelations are still just the tip of the iceberg. Continue reading

Obama addresses domestic spying concerns

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President Barack Obama.

President pledges more transparency and reform of Patriot Act

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — President Obama tackled the domestic spying controversy head-on during an Aug. 9 press conference, saying he will push for increased transparency and reforms in U.S. intelligence programs.

Obama spelled out four specific steps aimed at addressing issues raised by critics in Congress and at rebuilding public confidence in the intelligence community.

Obama said he wants to reform the PATRIOT Act and push U.S. spy agencies to declassify more information about data-gathering programs.

He said the White House will also take input from outside groups in a review of intelligence and communications technologies. Continue reading

Space: NASA plans 2016 asteroid mission

Long-range goal includes planning missions to redirect potentially dangerous asteroids in near-Earth orbit

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A NASA satellite image shows an asteroid pockmarked with craters.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — NASA may not be flying any shuttle missions in the immediate future, but that doesn’t mean the U.S. space agency has stopped working. Research continues on deep space exploration, including a potential manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.

Another important focus is the idea of being able to capture a near-Earth asteroid and put it into a stable orbit around the moon. The planning is beyond the science fiction stage, with engineers working on ion and electric-solar propulsion systems that could be used to reach, and then move, an asteroid.

As a first step, NASA is already planning to launch an asteroid sampling mission in 2016. OSIRIS-REx already has a target in mind — a 2018 rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu in 2018, bringing samples back to Earth in 2023. Continue reading

Evolution: Throwing skills unique to humans

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There’s more to a fastball than meets the eye. bberwyn photo.

Study says ability to throw hard and fast helped spur human evolution

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — If you’re a baseball fan, then you already knew that Nolan Ryan throwing a fastball is poetry in motion.

It turns out that the hard-throwing right-hander’s skill is the culmination of millions of years of evolution of a trait that was critical to the survival and success of our early human ancestors.

According to a new Harvard study featured on the cover of Nature, humans are unique among all animals in our ability to throw projectiles at high speeds and with incredible accuracy. Continue reading

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