American Elephants


It’s All Falling Apart. Chapter 8 by The Elephant's Child
June 5, 2015, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Politics

I referred to this in Chapter 7, but it is such a big hack that it deserves its own chapter. Hackers, the Chinese are suspected, breached the computers of the US government agency that collects personnel information for federal workers in a massive cyber attack that compromised the data of about 4 million current and former employees.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had launched a probe and would hold the culprits accountable.

The breach affected the Office of Personnel Management’s IT systems and its data stored at the Department of the Interior’s data center which is a shared service center for federal agencies, a DHS official said on condition of anonymity. The official would not comment on whether other agencies’ data had been affected.

OPM had previously been the victim of another cyberattack, as have various government computer systems at the State Department. the U .S. Postal Service and the White House.

The U.S. government has long raised concerns about cyber spying and theft emanating from China and has urged Beijing to do more to curb the problem. China has denied U.S. accusations.

There was no immediate comment from the White House on the latest cyber attack.

Since the intrusion, OPM said it had implemented additional security precautions for its networks. It said it would notify the 4 million people affected and offer credit monitoring and identity theft services to the people affected.

How effective to urge Beijing to do more to curb the problem! Chinese government hackers would not hack without the express permission of the Chinese government. But then my knowledge of cyber attacks is limited to reading Mark Bowden’s account of the Conficker worm which infected its first computer in November 2008 and had infiltrated 1.5 million computers in 195 countries. By January 2009, it lay hidden in at least 8 million computers. The book is simply called Worm:The First Digital World War, and is a great read. The US government was only vaguely aware of the threat that Conficker posed, and the task of fighting back fell to what came to be called the Conficker Cabal.



It ‘s All Falling Apart. Chapter Seven by The Elephant's Child
June 5, 2015, 5:16 pm
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Domestic Policy | Tags: , ,

The Modernize and Innovate the Delivery of Agricultural Systems Program (MIDAS) of the Department of Agriculture was intended to act as a more efficient IT system that streamlined USDA programs for farmers. Two years past its deadline and $140 million over budget, the Department has only completed 1.5 percent of its goal to update its IT system.

MIDAS was supposed to replace the “Web Farm.” the centralized computer server that keeps track of information about the farmers who are receiving aid from the USDA’s 31 programs that was antiquated and beginning to fail. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) reported to Congress that $305 million would allow them to consolidate their 32 farm programs into MIDAS by the end of fiscal year 2012. So far they are $140 million over budget and have completed only one of the 66 applications. By 2022, the program is projected to have a total cost of nearly $824 million.

Last July, the USDA was ordered to stop the development of MIDAS by an order of Secretary Tom Vilsak. Congress said the USDA’s mismanagement of the program is of “greatest concern” when drafting an appropriations bill for FY 2015. The planning for MIDAS began over 10 years ago, and after spending over $400 million USDA stopped the program. At a projected annual operational and maintenance cost of over $50 million a year, the department must determine whether the benefits of the program warrant that level of resource commitment.

The federal government seems to be having a continuing problem with internet technology. The computerization of the Affordable Care Act was a disaster. The White House system was hacked. Then the IRS was hacked, and now the latest cyber attack has breached the computers of the US government agency that collects personnel information for federal workers that compromises the data of about 4 million current and former federal employees.



It’s All Falling Apart. Chapter Six by The Elephant's Child
June 5, 2015, 4:36 pm
Filed under: Health Care, Regulation | Tags: ,

The National Institutes of Health Clinical Center was inspected by the Food and Drug Administration late last month and several quality problems were found, NIH disclosed on Thursday. The facility on NIH’s Bethesda campus, makes products for clinical research studies in hospitals and other facilities. It will be shuttered until  improvements can be made.

FDA inspectors found insects in two of the five clean room lighting areas last month. They found two vials of albumin, a human blood protein, contaminated with fungus. Vials from the same batch were administered to six patients, although it is unknown of those vials were contaminated. The six patients have been notified but have shown no evidence of infection or illness.

FDA inspectors found 17 quality problems at the facility, as well as three problems at a hospital pharmacy including not cleaning areas properly.

NIH Director Francis Collins said “This is a distressing and unacceptable situation.”



The EPA Reports there Is No Danger to Drinking Water Supplies From “Fracking” by The Elephant's Child
June 5, 2015, 3:47 pm
Filed under: Energy, Environment | Tags: , ,

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The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a 1,000 page report briskly titled “Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources.” The Executive Summary is only 28 pages.

The EPA report says that there is no systemic danger to drinking water supplies from fracking. There have been a few instances of improper drilling techniques, and a very few identified cases where one or more mechanisms led to contamination of drinking water wells, but the number of cases was small compared to the number of hydraulically fractured wells.

The New York Times reported:

The report identified 151 cases from 2006 to 2012 in which fracking fluids or chemicals spilled on or near a drilling well. The spills ranged from 5 gallons to more than 19,000 gallons, with equipment failure the most common cause. Fluids reached surface water in 13 cases and soil in 97 cases, the report said. None of the spills were reported to have reached groundwater.

The environmental movement was outraged. They have their approved story line, and certainly are not going to accept any correction. One group, Earthworks, insisted that the report says the opposite of what it actually says. Expect comments that “the government is trying to cover up…”

Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing ,”fracking,” has increased domestic crude oil production of 3.6 million barrels a day in less than four years. reversing  almost four decades of decline. In response to sharply lower prices, domestic oil producers have shed jobs and cut operating rigs by more than half.

The smartest competitors have worked relentlessly to increase their productivity. Leading operators report that they can produce more profitable oil today at a price of $65 a barrel than they could three years ago at $95 a barrel.

Wells in light tight-oil formations can be drilled and completed for millions—not billions—of dollars, and the majority of the estimated recovery will occur within a year or two of bringing it on line. Capacity across a diversified portfolio of wells can be turned on when future prices justify it, and off when they don’t. That turns upside-down the traditional model of oil megaprojects that require billions in upfront capital, years of lead time, and always-on production irrespective of price.

All this means that, for the first time in history, oil production is becoming a modern manufacturing process. The frackers are engaged in “just-in-time” production, analogous to the methods pioneered by Japanese manufacturers in the 1970s and 1980s, which led directly to hyper-efficient global supply-chain management perfected by Wal-Mart in the 1990s. (emphasis added)



The EPA Wants To Raise The Cost of Air Travel And Ordinary Goods by The Elephant's Child
June 5, 2015, 6:24 am
Filed under: Junk Science | Tags: , ,

The Environmental Protection Agency, in its quest to save the world from the horrors of climate change will announce:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is set to announce that it will require new rules to cut emissions from airplanes, expanding a quest to tackle climate change that has included a string of significant regulations on cars, trucks and power plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to report as early as Friday its conclusion that greenhouse gas emissions from airplanes endanger human health because they significantly contribute to global warming, although people familiar with the agency’s plans said the announcement could slip into next week.

That announcement, known in legal parlance as an endangerment finding, will prompt a requirement under the Clean Air Act for the agency to issue new regulations to reduce airplane emissions. The agency is expected to limit the rule to commercial aircraft, leaving out small craft and military planes.

William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said “Aircraft are the largest remaining unregulated source of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector and can only be regulated by the federal government. This presents President Obama with a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate leadership not only domestically but, indeed, around the world.”

Progressives, congenitally unable to grasp things like cause and effect, are apparently unaware that this will cause a dramatic rise in the cost of an airline ticket. Airlines will try to reduce that effect by maybe squeezing the seats a little closer together. Those who take long fossil-fueled trips to Paris or Davos will be hardest hit.

They are going after the trucking industry as well. President Obama has directed the EPA to add emission rules for big-rig trucks to a growing list of regulations to “combat the threat of climate change.” He wants them more fuel efficient, while lowering their carbon dioxide emission to lessen the effects of global warming.  Effect? Higher prices on all goods that are transported by truck. You won’t mind a little more inflation.

The amount of warming caused by extra CO² is not really a big deal. A doubling of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would cause less than 1 degree C of surface warming. The EPA’s ecobabble about effects on health are pure crap, and they shouldn’t get away with it.

On the bright side, the extra CO² in the atmosphere is greening the Sahara, just like we said it would.

(h/t: the pirates cove)




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