Archive for March, 2010

Rent A Monster

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Looking at their pictures, they don’t look like monsters. Crooks, maybe. Paid $1000 a day, after misrepresenting themselves, not such a bad gig.

Except the misrepresentation consisted of made up stories of the efficacy of torture, and their expertise at it. And the client was the CIA.

“But it turns out neither Mitchell nor Jessen had any experience in conducting actual interrogations before the CIA hired them. ”

“the CIA later came to learn that the two psychologists’ waterboarding “expertise” was probably “misrepresented” and thus, there was no reason to believe it was “medically safe” or effective.”

Amazingly, these “psychologists” have not been sanctioned by the American Psychological Association or disbarred by state medical boards.

Rent a Torturer

And of the victims ? Jason Leopold reports on one of them:

“I would describe it this way,” said one former National Security official. “[Zubaydah] was an experiment. A guinea pig. I’m sure you’ve heard that a lot.”

And he wasn’t even the kingpin they claimed him to be:

“The Justice Department, in its factual return, has since abandoned every major claim that the Bush administration made about Zubaydah being a high-level al-Qaeda official and no longer believes or contends that he was ever connected to the terrorist organization or was involved in the planning of any terrorist plots”

Warning: The following link requires a strong stomach:Torture and Consequences

In the process of fighting terrorists, these men have become terrorists.

New Robots Scrutinize Solar Cells

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

The race to build a better solar cell is looping through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory where new robots are fabricating thin-film cells and analyzing glitches faster and with more precision than ever before.

How much faster? The robot working with silicon can build a semi-conductor on a six-inch-square plate of glass, plastic or flexible metal in about 35 minutes. It pivots and dishes like a point guard, sifts like a master chef, analyzes like a forensics expert and does it all while maintaining a vacuum seal on the entire process.

Simultaneously, it can analyze glitches and measure light absorption, while preparing the next half-dozen plates.

“It used to require us to go to, let’s see, one … two … three … four … five labs to do the same thing,” NREL scientist Ingrid Repins said.

And the silicon robot is one of just six such robots in six bays in NREL’s Process Development and Integration Laboratory (PDIL), the place where industry is starting to turn to test their newest cells.

The bay that uses silicon as the semiconductor for solar cells was the first to begin operating and holds all the speed and performance records so far.

Next to go on line were bays devoted to stand-alone characterization, integrated characterization and atmospheric processing.

The latest bay to start operating is the one that uses Copper Indium Gallium diSelenide (CIGS) as the semi-conductor in solar cells. Still being installed is the final bay, which will work with cadmium-telluride cells.

In each bay, the central transfer robot is the hub, operating like a jukebox, delivering the plate to chambers that can deposit micron-thin layers of chemicals to build the semi-conductors, or test and measure the growth of the crystals that make the cells.

Solar Companies Can Test Samples, Use Their Own Tools
Solar companies will be able to hook their own tools to the central robot and discover how their newest formulas compare. A vacuum transport tool can take the sample plates to the different, yet compatible, bays to see how an unusual process might bolster the power of a cell.

Solar companies know how to make solar cells in a dozen different ways — as shingles, as windows, as fanny packs, as attachments to space vehicles — but they constantly are searching for ways to lower costs and gain efficiency.

“The whole goal is dollars per watt,” Repins said.

President Obama has set a goal that solar energy become cost-competitive with coal and other fossil fuels by 2015.

“The gap is closing,” Repins said. “We’re getting closer. Already, First Solar is saying that for a large installation in southern California where electricity prices are relatively high, they are at parity now.”

NREL scientists are hoping their PDIL facility will help industry close that gap sooner by bringing lab-like precision to industrial-type processes.

R&D Agreement with Climax Molybdenum
For example, NREL last month signed a cooperative agreement with Climax Molybdenum of Empire, Colorado, which wants the lab to help test a new process of building sodium into the molybdenum layer of solar cells and then sputtering that sodium onto the CIGS layer.

Traditionally, the sodium leaches into the solar cell from the glass plate, but that’s not really a good way to do it because there is little quality-control in the glass-making procedure, Repins said.

For Climax Molybdenum, NREL will measure how well the company uses its tools to sputter the sodium from the molybdenum into the semiconductor, and how precisely it gets there.

“The assumption is that there will be more control getting sodium from the molybdenum than from the glass,” she said.

If it’s perfected, that’s another step toward lowering the cost of solar energy.

Solar cells are like mini-batteries, with three layers of thin films representing the two terminals and the current in between. The three layers together are about one-seventh the thickness of a human hair.

The middle layer, which absorbs the sun’s rays and acts as the current, is where the action is.

Some companies are sure CIGS will emerge as the best semi-conductor; others pin their hopes on cadmium telluride or the venerable silicon.

World Record; Now, How to Transfer It to Industry?
NREL two years ago set a world record for the efficiency of a thin-film solar cell, when its CIGS cell was able to convert to electricity 20 percent of the energy it absorbed from the sun. The record for a cadmium-telluride cell is 16.8 percent.

Today’s roof-top solar panels typically are able to convert about 10 or 11 percent of the sun’s energy, although there is a large range of between 8 percent and 20 percent efficiency.

Now, the challenge is to be able to layer a film of CIGS on commercial-sized solar panels without dropping down much from that 20 percent pinnacle.

Repins envisions that with the 20-percent formula as the template, in a few years companies can roll out kilometer-long sheets of solar cells and still achieve 16 percent efficiency — even as they strive to use the least expensive materials and put an emphasis on speed.

The difference between 11 percent and 16 percent is huge, because the cost savings multiply on each other, she said.

It means solar panels can be smaller and generate the same amount of energy, and that means lower materials costs, lower factory costs and lower installation costs.

Getting there — to reach a 16 percent efficiency level while making miles of thin-film cells a day — is the goal of the one-of-a-kind testing facility at NREL.

Sensors Can Read How Cells Are Growing
In the brightly lit PDIL on NREL’s campus in Golden, Colorado, scientists simulate the processes industry will use. The goal is to answer previously unanswerable research questions, while controlling and characterizing the surfaces of the cells, developing new techniques and devising new structures.

“The old way we used to do things, each layer required a different machine,” Repins said. “We would take out the substrate and put it into another machine.” Each time the plate was removed, humidity could weaken the cell and there were issues of cleanliness and contamination.

Now, the goal is a process that is seamless, spotless and transparent.

In each bay, lasers shine light on the cells and sensors can read how the cells are growing.

PDIL’s ultra-high-vacuum environment lets researchers study the role of impurities and defects, said NREL senior scientist Miguel Contreras. “We can do basic R&D at the material level. We can also develop analytical tools on site to test new plates and to test for quality.”

What combination of heat, metals, chemicals and time can grow the crystals to form the perfect cell? At one step excess copper is needed; at another, just enough sodium needs to leach into the middle layer.

The goal of all the depositing, analyzing and measuring is to be able to tell industrial partners why the cell isn’t growing as well as it should and what can be done about it.

“We do a post-mortem,” Repins said. For example, “‘We got 14 percent efficiency with these materials, why are you only getting 12 percent?’”

Companies want to know how they can turn the knobs to get the ultimate performance out of the cells. “This helps take that step toward telling them what to do in the process,” she said. “We can tell them, ‘this is what the sodium content should look like,’ for example. It’s one more clue.”

Bill Nemeth, a scientist in NREL’s PDIL facility, says he doesn’t have to wear a lab coat at work “because everything revolves around maintaining a vacuum,” and the researchers never come into direct contact with semi-conductors.

“We have the capability that no other place can duplicate,” Nemeth added. “This encourages cooperation.”

Goal: Fewer Impurities, Better Efficiency, Better Yield
The CIGS PDIL tool also was designed to do basic research and development on materials. The ultra-high vacuum environment allows scientists to study the role of impurities and defects, as well as what happens when the metals are deposited at the fast rate demanded by industry. That knowledge will help researchers develop analytical tools for quality control and to test for new plate materials.

“The system was designed to allow us to do things we could not do before, such as get a better look at impurities and the quality of materials, the different layers that compose the CIGS cell,” Contreras said. “It’s helping us understand better what is limiting our efficiencies, as well as learning how to improve industrial productivity.

“This gives us more insight into the physics and materials science of CIGS-based solar cells,” Contreras added. The fundamental research will “lead to better solar cell efficiency, process control, improved uniformity and improved yield.”

Learn more about NREL’s photovoltaics research.

— Bill Scanlon

Preying on the Ill

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Sell expensive insurance, then drop those who fall ill. What a business.

“Shortly after his diagnosis, however, his insurance company, Fortis, revoked his policy.”

“Fortis had a company policy of targeting policyholders with HIV. A computer program and algorithm targeted every policyholder recently diagnosed with HIV for an automatic fraud investigation, as the company searched for any pretext to revoke their policy”

Hide the evidence.

“…members of the rescission committee not record the identity of the persons present”

“…agreed with the lower court’s finding that Fortis destroyed records to hide the corporation’s misconduct.”

“Fortis demonstrated an indifference to Mitchell’s life and a reckless disregard to his health and safety.”

For no legal reason:

“…concluded that Anthem Blue Cross lacked legal grounds for cancelling policies in every single instance.”

Hide some more evidence.

“There was also evidence that documents and/or records regarding (Mitchell’s) policy were deleted; and that telephone logs and recordings contained key omissions.”

“…shredded” documents…”

These corporations are slime. Their leaders are scum. Read the article, but be warned, you need a strong stomach:

Sick Stories

Sugar Daddy

Monday, March 8th, 2010

After poisoning the land, losing half a billion dollars, who you gonna call to bail you out? The politicians you bough and paid for, that’s who.

“United States Sugar was, as one official put it during an interview, ‘pretty much in the driver’s seat.’ ”

“On Nov. 15, 2007, two United States Sugar lobbyists met in the governor’s office”

“The lobbyists, J. M. Stipanovich and Brian Ballard, had supported Mr. Crist’s campaign for governor”.”

“Mr. Crist said in an interview that he could not remember ‘the particulars’ of when or how the idea had originated. ”

Gee, that’s a whole lotta campaign contributions you forgot there Charlie.

“This is a death warrant for the Everglades”

“while the water district agreed to pay United States Sugar nearly $7,000 an acre for citrus land, it is now selling for $4,000 an acre”

“Thomas Van Lent, a hydrologist for the Everglades Foundation, said he had “no idea” why the state had agreed to purchase it as part of the deal.”

“An environmental assessment presented to the district revealed that 49,000 acres of the United States Sugar land was contaminated with high levels of copper, DDT, selenium and other chemicals. Arsenic was detected at levels above human health standards in more than 6,000 acres of land, the documents showed.”

Sugar companies have been poisoning the Everglades since they began. Let’s not even talk about the politically motivated tariffs on imported sugar, that make them millions. Now that the land is trashed, unload it on the government, aided by corrupt politicians, lawyers and lobbyists. After all, it worked for the banks didn’t it ?

Excuse me, I have to take a shower now.

Sweet, sweet money

Great Moonbuggy Race

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC — More than 100 student teams from around the globe will drive their specially crafted lunar rovers through a challenging course of rugged, moon-like terrain at NASA’s 17th annual Great Moonbuggy Race in Huntsville, Ala., April 9-10.

Some 1,088 high school, college and university students from 20 states and Puerto Rico, Canada, Germany, Bangladesh, Serbia, India and Romania are expected to participate in the race at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

Students begin to prepare for the event each year during the fall semester. They must design, build and test a sturdy, collapsible, lightweight vehicle that addresses engineering problems similar to those overcome by the original Apollo-era lunar rover development team at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville in the late 1960s.

The buggies are based on the design of those classic rovers, which American astronauts drove across the moon’s surface during the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions in the early 1970s. Teams of students build their vehicles using trail bike tires, aluminum or composite-metal struts and parts. The best teams drive trains, gears, suspension, steering and braking systems they find or construct.

Top prizes are awarded to the three teams in both the high school and college/university divisions that post the fastest race times, which include assembly and penalty times. A variety of other prizes are given by race corporate sponsors. These include “rookie of the year” and the “featherweight” award, presented to the team with the lightest, fastest buggy.

NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race is one of many educational projects and initiatives the agency conducts each year to attract and engage America’s next generation of scientists, engineers and explorers. They will carry on the nation’s mission of exploration to unchartered destinations in our solar system.

“NASA is committed to inspiring young people in science, technology, engineering and math, and the Great Moonbuggy Race is an excellent way for us to reach out to young people and get them excited and involved in technical opportunities available to them,” said Mike Selby, an avionics technical assistant in the Marshall Center’s Engineering Directorate. While completing his engineering degree at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Selby was a member of the school’s moonbuggy teams, helping them to a second-place finish in 1995 and to first place in 1996. Since 2001, he has served each year as a volunteer scorekeeper.

The race is hosted by the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, and is sponsored by Lockheed Martin Corporation, The Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman Corporation, and Jacobs Engineering ESTS Group, all of Huntsville.

Eat Your Share

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

And act like you like it.

“Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may force lenders including Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co. and Citigroup Inc. to buy back $21 billion of home loans this year as part of a crackdown on faulty mortgages.”

Heeheehee, sob. I dunno whether to laugh or to cry.

“JPMorgan said in a presentation last month that it loses about 50 cents on the dollar for every loan it has to buy back.”

So,: US Govt owns 79.9% of Fannie and Freddie and is paying tens of billions every quarter to keep em afloat. So its a good thing right, that F&F gets some money back from the crooked banks ?
Not so fast, look again. The Federal Reserve is monetizing the banks, and get this, this is the good part: any loss the Fed takes is an obligation of the US Treasury

so.. we are moving money from one pocket to another…and i think there is a hole in both. Because falling real estate is worth far less than the notes already, and because the banks are getting slammed by rising default and rising loss severity on all asset classes. US taxpayers unto the third generation hence will pay. Like I said, eat your share.

Read all about it
Circles of Debt

With Friends Like These…

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

You can’t make this up.

“Critics of the teaching of evolution in the nation’s classrooms are gaining ground in some states by linking the issue to global warming, arguing that dissenting views on both scientific subjects should be taught in public schools. ”

‘a bill recently introduced in the Legislature would encourage teachers to discuss “the advantages and disadvantages of scientific theories,” including “evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning.” ‘

Read all about it:

The stupid, it burns

Earthquake Leaves Haze Over Santiago Chile

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

This NASA images shows the haze lingering over the metropolitan area of Santiago, Chile, following a magnitude 8.8 earthquake on February 27, 2010. In an image from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite at 14:25 UTC, black smoke hung over the northern part of the city, while light-colored haze (perhaps pollution and/or dust) covered the southern part of the city and filled a canyon that cuts eastward into the mountains.

Earthquake Leaves Haze Over Santiago Chile

Earthquake Leaves Haze Over Santiago Chile

Afghanistan War

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

The following email was sent to me by United for Peace and Justice. Can anyone substantiate their claims?

The U.S. occupation of Afghanistan passed a sobering milestone last week.  The 1,000th U.S. soldier to die in Operation Enduring Freedom lost his life in the Marja offensive, even as 27 Afghan civilians were killed Sunday by a NATO airstrike in nearby Uruzgan province.

In a campaign initiated by American Friends Service Committee, UFPJ member groups throughout the country staged vigils, rallies and ceremonies calling for an end to the bloodshed.   Reading the names of dead U.S. soldiers and Afghan civilians, they expressed sorrow, anger and frustration at the rising violence.   They signed postcards calling on Congress to immediately end funding for the Afghanistan war.

In the ninth year of war, violence is escalating in Afghanistan, making life less safe both for the occupied and occupier.  Almost one-third of the 1,000 U.S. deaths, 317, took place last year, and 2,412 Afghan civilians lost their lives.

The U.S. is sending additional troops, doubling the number of U.S. forces to 100,000. Each U.S. soldier in Afghanistan costs $1 million per year – making our investment there $100 billion per year.    Meanwhile, people in the U.S. lack health care, jobs, and housing, teachers are being laid off, and nothing is being done about the climate crisis.

Call on Congress to stop funding the war.   The U.S. must announce an immediate cease-fire, stop sending additional troops, withdraw all U.S. troops, and end U.S. control of bases in Afghanistan.

In peace,
United for Peace and Justice

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