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NSA's Information Dominance Center
You can't make this stuff up!
As the NSA scandal moves from appalling to laughable, the latest report in the Guardian indicates that the current NSA chief spent US taxpayers' money to create a command center for his intelligence operations that was styled just like Star Trek. From the PBS News Hour report: 'When he was running the Army's Intelligence and Security Command, Alexander brought many of his future allies down to Fort Belvoir for a tour of his base of operations, a facility known as the Information Dominance Center. It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a 'whoosh' sound when they slid open and closed. Lawmakers and other important officials took turns sitting in a leather 'captain's chair' in the center of the room and watched as Alexander, a lover of science-fiction movies, showed off his data tools on the big screen. "Everybody wanted to sit in the chair at least once to pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard," says a retired officer in charge of VIP visit
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By Brad Petrishen/Daily News staff
Posted Sep 11, 2013 @ 12:00 AM
An applicant is looking to build a solar farm in a residential neighborhood on Newton Street, town officials told the Planning Board Tuesday, prompting the board to ask whether the town could move to temporarily ban such farms from town.
In a 3-2 decision, the board asked Town Planner Kathy Joubert to look into whether such a moratorium would be legal, and, if so, whether the Board of Selectmen might authorize a Special Town Meeting for a vote before year’s end.
Little information was disclosed about the proposal Tuesday night. The Conservation Commission is scheduled on Sept. 23 to hear a pitch from the applicant, Mohamad Z. Ramadan, for permission to construct the farm within 100 feet of wetlands at 85 Newton St.
According to the town assessor’s office, Ramadan owns 10.7 acres of land at 85 Newton St., including a home valued at $1.1 million. It was not clear Tuesday whether he lives in the home, and Joubert was unavailable after the meeting because the board went into executive session to discuss a legal matter.
The Conservation Commission agenda does not say how large the proposed farm would be. During the Planning Board meeting, Fred Lonardo, the town’s Building Inspector and Zoning Enforcement Officer, said Ramadan is looking to clear-cut as much as possible in order to make the project financially feasible.
Planning Board member Leslie Harrison – who lives nearby and said she just got a certified letter notifying her of the proposal – asked whether board members might be interested in a moratorium on such farms.
Chairman Rick Leif said he would not be in favor of such an approach. He said that as long as Ramadan gets an application to the Planning Board before a Special Town Meeting could be held, he would be grandfathered under current zoning bylaws and the moratorium would not apply to him.
But member Theresa Capobianco said she would be in favor of such a moratorium, noting she would not like to see other proposals in highly visible areas of town like Rte. 20.
Leif noted that the board already plans to develop a bylaw for spring Town Meeting that would restrict solar farms to certain zones. He said the chances of another farm being proposed before then are likely not large enough to justify proposing a Special Town Meeting to be held, at earliest, in December.
Further complicating the discussion is that Joubert said she is not sure whether a moratorium on solar farms would even be legal. She said the state classifies such farms in the same categories as churches and schools, so banning them, even temporarily, might not be an option.
In a 3-2 vote, the board voted to ask Joubert to send a letter to selectmen requesting a Special Town Meeting if a moratorium would in fact be legal. Leif and member George Pember dissented.
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Thousands of American higher-education administrators will spend part of Labor Day weekend trying to plumb the meaning of the ideas President Obama dropped on them last week to "reform" the American college and university system. Given the political genome of college administrators nowadays, they'll try to make the Obama plan work. But for the handful who want to preserve and protect their hallowed institutions, here's a recommendation: Drop by the nearest medical school for a chat with the doctors about how it's going with the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare.
Insofar as all these higher-ed reforms will be tied to federal rules for getting the money, it is beyond dispute that this will be ObamaCare for education, just as Dodd-Frank was ObamaCare for banking and finance.
A clue to where this is headed may be seen by clicking on the White House backgrounder's link to the "Financial Aid Shopping Sheet" jointly developed by the U.S. Department of Education and Dodd-Frank's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The sheet has a striking name atop it: "University of the United States (UUS)"—with a logo, no less.
The education proposal reflects the Obama modus operandi. First, identify an American industry that long ago made a Faustian bargain for federal support, such as hospitals and housing. Then describe the subsidy-dependent industry's inevitable bloat and inefficiency in images so stark no reasonable person could disagree. "Burdened with tens of thousands of dollars" in student debt, Mr. Obama said at Binghamton University in New York, "they have to put off buying a home, or starting a business, or starting a family." [Footnote: That was federal student debt.] Then after getting buy-in from the mortified industry, he imposes the solution—on his terms.
Those terms, as described by the White House, are that future financial aid will be tied to "college performance," based on a federal rating system of all colleges designed by the Department of Education with metrics defining affordability (average tuition, scholarships, loan debt), admission rates for disadvantaged students, remedial support for disadvantaged students, student outcomes (graduation and transfer rates, postgraduate earnings), and bonuses based on the number of Pell students graduated. And a lot more. The White House calls this a "datapalooza."
Terry Hartle of the American Council on Education commented on the proposals in the Chronicle of Higher Education, "If you want to condition the receipt of student aid on this information, you have an obligation to have perfect data." Wrong. Like ObamaCare, you'll make this work with far-from-perfect data.
One attribute that sets the U.S. higher education system apart from any in the world is the diversity of its 4,495 degree-granting institutions—big, small, private, public, religious. Under this plan, that historic diversity would melt beneath conformance. The Obama plan says it will increase the number of college graduates and contain tuition costs by "rewarding states that are willing to systematically change their higher education policies and practices."
Random thought: Will professors at participating ObamaEd universities become subject in time to the same cost-containment rules that, say, Medicare imposes on doctors? Think it can't happen? Better read the president's speeches last week.
To better comprehend the origins of all this, one need only visit the White House website and read the proposal's first sentence. Actually it's the first half of the first sentence, which makes it clear that something other than student debt loads and repayment schedules is in play here: "Earning a postsecondary degree or credential is no longer just a pathway to opportunity for a talented few." A talented few?
When, since the end of World War II, has U.S. higher education been for the "talented few"? Like everything else the past four years, the economics of higher education is about to be refracted through the same lens of social antagonism Mr. Obama uses to think about pretty much everything.
Here are two higher-ed reforms that weren't in the president's speeches last week, and likely never will be.
The first is reform of the U.S.'s No. 1 national disgrace: the failed inner-city public-school system. Their doors opened again this week, and in nine months they will sweep tens of thousands of uneducated "graduating" seniors out the doors, with no chance of qualifying for any college.
The Obama administration's contribution to the new school year? A lawsuit just filed by Eric Holder's Justice Department against Louisiana's school-voucher program, whose black participation rate is 90%. Why isn't Education Secretary Arne Duncan finally resigning in protest?
The second reform would be returning the U.S. to its historic 3.3% economic growth rate, rather than the below 2% rate of nearly the entire Obama presidency. In his speeches Mr. Obama said a college education ensures higher lifetime earnings. But not if you've graduated into four years of unemployment or underemployment.
Imposing ObamaCare on health, education, finance, energy and anything else in reach is the reason why 2% growth and 7.5% unemployment looks chronic. We may have the best higher-education system in the world, but we're underachieving. So is the president.