Name a crater on Mercury!

Dec. 20th, 2014 08:09 pm
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Posted by Daniel Cornwall

You have a chance to suggest a name for one of Mercury’s impact craters!

The MESSENGER science team has selected five craters of particular geological interest for this contest. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is the global authority in charge of assigning official names to features on the planets. According to the IAU rules for Mercury, impact craters are named in honor of people who have made outstanding or fundamental contributions to the Arts and Humanities (visual artists, writers, poets, dancers, architects, musicians, composers and so on).  The person must have been recognized as an art-historically significant figure for more than 50 years and must have been dead for at least three years.  We are particularly interested in submissions that honor people from nations and cultural groups that are under-represented amongst the currently-named craters.  See the current list of named Mercury craters.

via Rules – Name A Crater on Mercury.

Now’s your chance to have a crater named for a dead artist.

Filed under: astronomy Tagged: arts, Astronomy, Mercury, solar system, space exploration

Holiday Picture Book Roundup

Dec. 19th, 2014 06:36 pm
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At the time of this writing, it’s eight days until Christmas. EIGHT? To sound like nearly everyone else right about now, how is that possible?

The Weight of 'When'

Dec. 18th, 2014 06:15 pm
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Those of you who’ve read Rachel Ward’s Numbers trilogy will find the premise of Victoria Laurie’s upcoming When familiar: A young girl is capable of seeing what no one else can see—the deathdates of everyone she meets. Rest assured, though—that is pretty much the only thing that the books have in common. Despite the similarity in set-up, they differ in tone, storyline, character type and even genre.
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Posted by Daniel Cornwall

Here’s what the President’s new approach will do:

Re-establish diplomatic relations
Our diplomatic relations with Cuba were severed in January of 1961. The President is immediately reopening discussions with Cuba and working to re-establish an embassy in Havana in the next coming months. The U.S. will work with Cuba on matters of mutual concern that advance U.S. national interests, such as migration, counternarcotics, environmental protection, and trafficking in persons, among other issues.

More effectively empower the Cuban people by adjusting regulations
The President is taking steps to improve travel and remittance policies that will further increase people-to-people contact, support civil society in Cuba, and enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people.

Facilitate an expansion of travel to Cuba
With expanded travel, Americans will be able to help support the growth of civil society in Cuba more easily, and provide business training for private Cuban businesses and small farmers. Americans will also be able to provide other support for the growth of Cuba’s nascent private sector.

General licenses will be made available for all authorized travelers in 12 existing categories:

1. Family visits

2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations

3. Journalistic activity

4. Professional research and professional meetings

5. Educational activities

6. Religious activities

7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions

8. Support for the Cuban people

9. Humanitarian projects

10. Activities of private foundations, research, or educational institutions

11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials

12. Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines

via Charting a New Course on Cuba | The White House.

I rarely have had cause to unabashedly celebrate one of President Obama’s actions, but today my rejoicing is genuine. After more than 50 years of failed sanctions and decades of friendly relations with countries like Saudi Arabia, China, Russia and Vietnam, it is long past time to normalize relations with Cuba.

The President’s actions today are an important first step, but they will have to be backed up by Congress. Under the Constitution, a President is entitled to deal with any nation they choose. But if he appoints an ambassador to Cuba, that nominee would have to be confirmed by the Senate. Also, if Congress chose to, they could prohibit the President from spending funds to establish an Embassy.

But I hope Congress will not stand in the way of common sense. As the President himself noted, we’ve been trying the same thing for more than 50 years without result. We maintain fully normal relations with countries with worse human rights records and potential for mischief than Cuba. Please, regardless of party, join the President in trying something new.

Filed under: politics Tagged: cuba
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Posted by David Ferriero

Throughout the halls of government, perhaps no word is more often cited than ‘innovation.’ While there’s no doubt that innovation holds the key to envisioning government’s work in the future, I’ll admit that innovation itself can be a challenging word, given that it has so many meanings to so many people.

At its core, I believe innovation is the ability to think, envision and act audaciously, to set far-reaching, often disruptive goals and enlist a collaborative, multi-disciplinary team to meet them. At the National Archives and Records Administration, our mission is to drive openness, cultivate public participation, and strengthen our nation’s democracy through public access to high-value records. In order to do this, and to do it well, we must be audacious.

One way NARA is working toward this vision is by partnering with the Presidential Innovation Fellows program. Established by the White House in 2012 and now led by a dedicated program office at 18F in the General Services Administration, the Presidential Innovation Fellows program brings the principles, values, and practices of the innovation economy into government through the most effective agents of change we know: our people. This highly competitive program pairs talented, diverse individuals from the innovation community with top civil servants to tackle many of our Nation’s biggest challenges, and to achieve a profound and lasting social impact.

Out of … [ Read all ]

In Memoriam: Norman Bridwell

Dec. 17th, 2014 12:00 am
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Norman Bridwell, the author/illustrator of the Clifford the Big Red Dog series of children’s books, died on Martha’s Vineyard on Friday, December 12, 2014. Bridwell created the character of Clifford in 1963 and went on to write and illustrate more than 150 titles. He had 129 million books in print in 13 languages.
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Posted by Daniel Cornwall

The United States tortures people. It isn’t a matter of rogue agents and rogue government officials, it is systemic. The United States tortures people. One president may order the torturing stopped, but there is nothing to prevent another from ordering it resumed. Those responsible for torturing people are identified but not brought to justice. They are, in fact, given free rein to talk openly about it, to minimize it, to justify it, to continue to lie about it, and to act as if questions or criticism about torturing people is just another partisan political argument. The traditional media, the most powerful mass media, play right along. Some in the mass media all but gloat about it. The United States tortures people. It is known. It is not treated as a crime against humanity. It is normalized. It will happen again.

via The United States tortures people. (Daily Kos)

The Daily Kos post above summarizes most of what I feel about the torture practiced during the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration’s consistent obstruction of justice and accountability. We WILL do this again. There is no remorse, despite the fact that torture is seen as an intrinsic evil by most sects of the Christianity most of our country professes. There is no regret despite the fact that the CIA’s own documents showed we tortured 26 completely innocent people. There isn’t even a twinge of guilt about the waste of spending $300 million dollars on a program run by two people without ANY experience in interrogation and which by the CIA’s own internal reviews, failed to produce any actionable intelligence.

Nope. Torture made us feel like we were “doing whatever it took” to get the terrorists. It was sort of the ultimate security theater and the soul of our country was the price of admission. Because our country is addicted to the appearance of “do whatever it takes” regardless of it actual effectiveness or morality and because we have steadfastly refused ANY accountability for torture, I’m convinced we’ll do it again.

Read the report. See especially pages p. 18 – 20 for notes on outsourcing and torture of innocent prisoners. Then check out the footnotes to the summary. More detail available further into the 525 page report, which is only a summary of a 6,000 page report the CIA and President Obama still won’t let us see.

A word about comments: I want to be up front and say that any comments to the effect of “But ISIS/Al-Qaeda did …..” will not be posted here. I refuse to let any terrorist group set the limits of American behavior. If that’s your only point, I invite you to post about it on your own blog.

Feel free to dispute any specific facts and be prepared with opposing evidence.


Filed under: security theater, war Tagged: torture

Celebrate Water, Celebrate Life

Dec. 12th, 2014 06:00 pm
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I wrote at my blog the other day that it’s hard to write about new picture books at this time of year. It’s the end of a calendar year, that is, and most fall books are well past initial release. Instead of looking at newer titles, everyone’s talkin’ Caldecott—an exciting pastime, to be sure.

Santa Picks Up His Pen

Dec. 11th, 2014 06:09 pm
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There is no shortage of holiday picture books at this time of year, but here’s one unlike all the rest: Bob Raczka’s Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole, illustrated by Chuck Groenink. It’s a collection of 25 haiku from the bearded man himself. That’s right: You knew of his many talents, including transglobal flight in just one evening, but it turns out he likes to burn the midnight oil, writing short poems as well.
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Posted by Daniel Cornwall

This is a matter of deep conscience. What kind of country are we? Is this what America is? Is this what we defend? The worst kind of barbarism? In particular I want to say to my fellow Christian conservatives: think hard about this report, and the idolatrous attitude that so many of us have toward America. We are America’s good servants, but God’s first. When our country has done evil, we must not hesitate to condemn it, and work to reform it. What we must not do is fall victim to an instrumentalist mentality that calls evil acts good because they achieved, or are believed to have achieved, desired results.

I would also point out to liberal and Democratic readers that President Obama, despite his statement today praising the report, hid 9,400 documents from Senate investigators. That man’s hands are not clean either.

via ‘Such Language Is Not Helpful’ | The American Conservative.

While most conservatives and Republicans I’ve read about are busy defending torture, here is one conservative voice that understands that it is wrong. Another voice is Senator John McCain, who broke party ranks to praise the report’s release.

What I appreciate about Rod Dreher, the writer of the American Conservative article is his reference to idoltry – that self-identifying Christians have put their version of the State in the role of God and sees everything that the [National Security] State does as righteous and necessary. I concur with his analysis.

I’m going to try and have this be my last post of the night.

Filed under: current events, politics Tagged: torture
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Posted by Daniel Cornwall

See, let’s just say that torture is a reliable and effective means of interrogation. It’s not, but for the sake of argument let’s say it is.


Theft is an effective means of making a living.

Murder is an effective means of winning an argument.

Abortion is an effective means of ending a pregnancy.

Terrorism is an effective means of conveying a political point.

Follow me?

Again, if you’re going to lay claim to the moral high ground, then you’d better walk the walk or you’re nothing but a miserable hypocrite and no better than your enemies.

via Stonekettle Station: The Road to Hell.

Plain talk from Jim Wright, former intelligence officer and Alaskan Resident talking about torture and what it has done to America.

Torture proponents like to invoke “the ticking bomb” but I haven’t seen real life examples of it. Of course, even if I did, I wouldn’t be persuaded. In the Gospels Jesus said that it is better to put out an eye than to walk into Hell with both eyes open. He also asked “What does it profit a man to gain the world if he loses his soul.”

President Bush, VP Cheney and their minions lost America’s soul by ordering the torture program. President Obama abandoned America’s soul by steadfastly refusing to bring torturers to account and blocking efforts at accountability.

Filed under: current events Tagged: torture
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Posted by Daniel Cornwall

Now consider what we now know about whom we tortured under the torture program under Bush and Cheney. First off, we tortured 26 people who were cases of mistaken identity. We tortured 26 innocent people. This is so far outside any of the parameters that even Krauthammer allowed for that it beggars belief.

via The Truth About Torture, Revisited « The Dish.

A post from Andrew Sullivan comparing a 2005 defense of torture with how it was actually carried out. Not only did we torture, we tortured some innocents.

Filed under: current events, security theater Tagged: torture
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Posted by David Ferriero

In a recent Wall Street Journal piece on the digital Einstein Papers Project, Walter Isaacson, waxed poetical about the “tingling inspiration of seeing original documents.”  Every day I am lucky to witness that “tingling” in the Rotunda of the National Archives as visitors stand in line to be in the presence of the Charters of Freedom.  On the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, more than 9,000 people stood in line for a weekend display of the original document.  Across the country in our many facilities, ordinary citizens get to examine original records in their family history journeys, researchers use originals to track down evidence, and our government is held accountable for its action by review of the records of decisions made or not made.

Isaacson is no Luddite!   He understands the value of digital access.  “…my brooding soon gave way to marveling about the benefits that will come when millions of curious people, with new technologies in hand, get to dive into the papers of historical figures.”  And he cites our Founders Online as an exemplar.  The ability to search across the papers of six Founders, including early access to unpublished letters, has already proven to be a great boon to historical research. Einstein

“Artwork: ‘Albert Einstein’ Artist: Elin Waite” National Archives Identifier 6343429

I, like Isaacson, “…hope that archives will remain inspiring … [ Read all ]

A Quiet Strength

Dec. 8th, 2014 05:46 pm
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For a moment I want to say: Nadine, hold on to all this. Remember this. Not because it is all beautiful or good—so much of it is ugly and broken—but because it is ours.
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Posted by Denise

Today, the National Archives will roll out the new, updated National Archives Catalog. For over a year, NARA staff worked with the firm Search Technologies to design and develop a robust catalog that will facilitate the Agency’s big, hairy, audacious goal to Make Access Happen. While at first glance, it doesn’t look much different from the Online Public Access (OPA) system, once our users start searching, the differences are apparent.

First and foremost, there’s a new address – check it out at

Screenshot of catalog search for "Truman"

And now, about what users won’t see – the “under the hood” stuff. First, the catalog is powered by a completely new search engine with improved relevancy rankings and faster response times. The system has been scaled up to initially handle 100 terabytes of data with a future capacity of up to 10,000 terabytes – so we’re more than ready to handle the millions of digital images that have been created through our external partnerships. We’re also pretty excited that the catalog is the second system at the National Archives to be launched completely in the cloud and is fully integrated with the backend system that NARA staff uses to enter descriptions and upload digital content. What does that mean for our end users? Minimal down-time for system maintenance and weekly updates of new content to search and discover.

Once users start searching in the catalog, they’ll see a new look and feel to the user interface (UI). Based on user feedback, the search results have been streamlined into a tabbed interface that groups results. Users who click into a search result that has digital content associated with it will notice an improved viewer that now allows PDFs to be viewed within it, instead of having to download the file. The UI has been optimized for mobile so users can search, discover, and contribute to the catalog on any mobile device.

Let’s talk contributions. Based on the successful transcription pilot in the Citizen Archivist Dashboard, we’ve integrated transcription directly into catalog. We’re proud to note that NARA is the first archives to do that! By registering for an account, users can now not only tag records but they can transcribe them too. Tags and transcriptions will be indexed nightly and fully searchable creating an enhanced level of access that wouldn’t exist without the help of our citizen contributors.

Screenshot of Truman Doctrine transcription screen

Concurrent with the development of the catalog, NARA also developed a public read-write API for the catalog. The API will allow developer communities to use, re-use, and contribute to our data. By Making Access Happen through the API, others can make even more access happen.

We’ll be posting more about the catalog in the next few weeks, explaining new features and highlighting new content. And while we’re excited for the roll-out, the catalog is still a work-in-progress. We’ll be tweaking over time and we want you to be a part of that. Have an idea for an enhancement? Find a glitch? Email us at
so we can pass it along.

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