TIME NSA

‘The Day We Fight Back’ Protests NSA Surveillance

Reddit, Tumblr, and the ACLU among the over 5,700 participating sites

Over 5,700 websites plan to protest National Security Agency surveillance on Tuesday, Feb. 11 — “The Day We Fight Back” — by hosting banners on their homepages urging Internet users to call and email members of Congress and ask them to vote against proposed NSA reforms that the American Civil Liberties Union has labeled “bad for privacy.”

The event comes two years after 8,000 websites went black to protest bills that would have given the government free reign to remove websites that were found to violate copyrights. According to the Huffington Post, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act never made it out of committee.

“In January 2012 we defeated the SOPA and PIPA censorship legislation with the largest Internet protest in history,” a letter on the protest website reads. “Today we face another critical threat, one that again undermines the Internet and the notion that any of us live in a genuinely free society: mass surveillance.”

TIME weather

El Niño Event Likely in 2014, Researchers Say

The weather event would lead to warmer temps across the globe in 2015

There is a 75% chance an El Niño event will occur in 2014, according to an early warning report published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) Monday. The report uses a research method that projects the occurrence of the weather system a full year out—versus the six month maximum typically predicted by other methods.

El Niño events are characterized by a warmer Pacific Ocean, which can lead to overall warmer temps across the globe and cause droughts in Australia and an increase in rain in South America, Bloomberg reports. According to the report, the method correctly predicted the absence of El Niño events in 2012 and 2013. A 2014 event would also increase temperatures in 2015.

One of the report’s researchers told Bloomberg News that the early forecast could actually benefit to agricultural workers.

“Farmers might find it worthwhile to invest in drought- or flood-resistant varieties of crops,” Ludescher and Bunde said today in an e-mail to Bloomberg. “A strong El Niño event in late 2014 can make 2015 a record year for global temperatures.”

[Bloomberg]

TIME weather

How Beet Juice Is Helping Keep Roads Safe This Winter

How Beet Juice Is Helping Keep Roads Safe This Winter
A Streets and Sanitation worker grooms a pile of road salt as the city makes preparations for another winter storm on Feb. 4, 2014 in Chicago. Scott Olson—Getty Images

In the face of dwindling rock salt supplies as storm after storm slam the nation, U.S. towns are turning to some bizarre alternatives, cheese brine included, to help keep ice off the streets

As large parts of the eastern United States get smacked with snowstorm after snowstorm, some states are turning to bizarre alternatives to help deal with dwindling supplies of salt to clear icy roads. Namely, beet juice and cheese brine.

A number of municipalities are reporting shrinking reserves of road salt, the most common substance used to fight icy roads. In Wichita, Kan., the city has gone through roughly 70% of its supply. Pennsylvania has used 200,000 more tons of salt than an average winter. New York City has needed help from the state to restock its supply.

But some states are thinking differently. In Indiana, K-Tech Specialty Coatings has been distributing “Beet Heet,” a sugar beet molasses-based product that increases rock salt’s ice melting capacity when the two are mixed. The mixture helps rock salt melt ice below its 15-degree limit, according to Beet Heet distributors, and helps municipalities melt larger amounts of ice and clean up snow more quickly. It is also sticky, preventing salt rocks from bouncing off of the road as cars drive past.

This year about 175 municipal agencies, mostly in the Midwest, are using the product. Butler County in Pennsylvania has been experimenting with the solution as part of a department or transportation research project into de-icing option, a PennDot official told TIME.

(MORE: Salt Supplies Dwindle as Snow Piles Up Across U.S.)

“Agencies can trust us now,” Denver Preston of Beet Heet said. “And they’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well it works.”

According to Preston they are expecting sales to be up 100% at the end of this season, which may end up being the case—at the end of last winter, they sold around 900,000 gallons. So far this year they’ve sold 1.5 million gallons.

Other municipalities have their own regional variations on traditional rock salt. In Wisconsin, the state has turned to – what else – cheese. Actually, cheese brine.

Todd Matheson, a state maintenance engineer for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, says cheese brine from dairy farms is spread on the roads to keep them from freezing in about half a dozen counties around the state.

(MORE: 4 Businesses Making a Killing on the Polar Vortex)

The brine is a farm waste product, but in the last few years a handful of counties has repurposed it as a substitute for road salt.

For the 2012-2013 winter, Wisconsin spent $37 million on salt statewide. The state used 2.9 million gallons of salt brine – salt and water – last year. The state doesn’t track the number of gallons of cheese brine it uses, but it does appear to save the state at least a bit of money: the DOT often gets the brine for free from dairy farms looking to unload the liquid anyway.

While Wisconsin has been hit hard by snow and ice this year, Matheson says the state still has 275,000 tons of salt on hand out of about 500,000 tons it has each winter. The state, however, has had to redirect salt to certain parts of the state that have been hit harder by extreme weather.

The use of cheese brine in the state has grown since Polk County, on the Wisconsin-Minnesota border, began first using it in 2008. And while it seems to be an effective salt substitute, there are environmental concerns if significant amounts of it entered a river or lake. Then, there’s the odor, something more than a few Wisconsin residents have mentioned.

“I don’t know what it smells like,” Matheson says. “But I’d rather not get into that.”

TIME Women's Health

First Stroke Guidelines for Women Created

Strokes are the third leading cause of death for women in the U.S.
Strokes are the third leading cause of death for women in the U.S. Jaime Monfort—Getty Images

Hormonal changes caused by pregnancy or birth control are factors in the third leading cause of death for females, the American Heart Association reports

The American Heart Association outlined Thursday its first ever guidelines for primary care provider sand OBGYNs developed specifically to prevent women’s strokes, the third leading cause of death for U.S. women, and the fifth leading cause for men.

Stroke risk factors for both men and women include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking, but certain hormonal changes can reportedly increase a woman’s risk.

“If you are a woman…your risk is also influenced by hormones, reproductive health, pregnancy, childbirth and other sex-related factors,” said Cheryl Bushnell, M.D., M.H.S., author of the new scientific statement published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

According to the guidelines, women with a history of high blood pressure before pregnancy are at risk for preeclampsia, a blood pressure disorder that occurs during pregnancy. Preeclampsia doubles the risk for stroke and increases the risk for high blood pressure four-fold, according to the guidelines.

The combination of high blood pressure and birth control use can also raise a woman’s risk for stroke. Migraines with aura, diabetes, depression, and emotional stress, which occur more frequently among women, are also contributing factors.

TIME Bitcoin

Bitcoin Value Nosedives as Exchange Stops Withdrawals

Bitcoin value falls
Bitcoin surrounded by various world coins. David Malan—Getty Images

Mt. Gox paused withdrawals to deal with technical issues

The value of the digital currency Bitcoin fell dramatically on Friday after one of the world’s largest Bitcoin exchanges halted withdrawals to deal with technical issues.

Mt. Gox, a Japan-based exchange, said on its website that the pause in withdrawals was needed to address technical problems caused by an increase in withdrawal requests. Bitcoin prices plummeted from $831 on Thursday to $658 on

Bitcoin prices fell from $831 on Thursday night to $658 on Friday morning, before rebounding to $719, CNN reports. The price of the virtual currency has been extremely volatile in recent months.

TIME Crime

Four Found Dead in Apparent Ohio Murder-Suicide

A family member discovered the bodies on Thursday

Four bodies were discovered in an Ohio home on Thursday in what authorities believe was a triple-murder-suicide.

A relative found the bodies after stopping by the home in Defiance County, which is in between Toledo and Fort Wayne, to check on the family, Toledo News Now reports. Authorities are investigating whether Robert Garza, Sr. shot and killed his wife, daughter and teenaged granddaughter before turning the gun on himself. Local television station WANE reports that the Defiance County sheriff’s department found the handgun they believe Garza used during the incident inside the home. Sheriff David Westrick said Garza was a Vietnam veteran and had been battling “health issues,” though police are still investigating a motive.

The family was reportedly last seen alive on Wednesday afternoon.

[Toledo News Now]

TIME Education

California School Sorry for Black History Month Menu

Students and parents found the menu of fried chicken and watermelon offensive

A school in northern California apologized this week for a Black History Month lunch menu that offended students and parents.

Administrators at Carondelet High School for Girls, a private Christian school in Concord, Calif., had announced earlier this week that they wanted to celebrate Black History Month during lunch this February by serving the students fried chicken, cornbread and watermelon, a local NBC affiliate reports. But parents and students quickly expressed outrage at the stereotypical choice. Principal Nancy Libby issued an apology letter to parents and held an assembly for students on Wednesday, NBC Bay Area reports. “I’d like to apologize for the announcement and any hurt this caused students, parents or community members,” Libby said in the letter. “Please know that at no time at Carondelet do we wish to perpetrate racial stereotypes.”

Throughout the early 20th Century, watermelon was often used in minstrel shows that caricatured black people. Fried chicken, a Southern staple, has also been stereotypically linked to African Americans. In the 1915 film Birth of a Nation, which depicted the founding of the Ku Klux Klan, the black characters in the film ravenously eat fried chicken.

[NBC Bay Area]

TIME joan mondale

Former Second Lady Joan Mondale Dies

Joan Mondale
AP—AP

Called "Joan of Arts" for her love of the arts, the wife of former Vice President Walter Mondale, who served during the Carter years, passed away at the age of 83 Monday with her husband and two sons at her side

Updated at 8:03p.m. EST on Feb. 3

Former Second Lady Joan Mondale, whose love for the arts led her to be known as “Joan of Arts,” died on Monday. She was 83 years old.

On Sunday, Mondale’s family announced that she had entered into hospice care, though her exact illness was not disclosed. According to the Associated Press, her husband Walter and her sons Ted and William were by her side when she died.

Mondale was an advocate for the arts throughout her life. While her husband Walter Mondale served as vice president under Jimmy Carter, she was named honorary chairwoman of the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities. When her husband later became a U.S. ambassador to Japan under President Bill Clinton, she studied Japanese art and gave dignitaries clay pots as gifts.

In a statement expressing their condolences, the President and First Lady extolled the former Second Lady’s passion for the arts: “Joan filled the Vice Presidential mansion with works by dozens of artists, including many unknowns, and later did the same at the U.S. embassy in Japan during her husband’s tenure as ambassador.”

Minnesota’s Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar spoke to the Associated Press about Mondale, who Klobuchar met while interning for the Vice President in 1980. “She was always down to earth,” Klobuchar said. “She was just as happy going out to rural farms in Elmore (Minn.) as she was mixing it up at fancy receptions at the ambassador’s residence in Japan.”

According to the AP, Sen. Klobuchar still has two coffee mugs Joan made in her kitchen. Walter Mondale was also a Democratic U.S. senator from Minnesota. Service is scheduled for Saturday in Minneapolis.

This story has been updated with a statement by the Obamas.

[AP]

TIME Google

Google Told to Move Mystery Barge

Mysterious structure built on floating barge is seen in San Francisco Bay
© Stephen Lam / Reuters—REUTERS

Officials say the tech giant didn't get the right permits for its mystery ship docked in the San Francisco Bay, which the company has said could be used as an "interactive space" to show off its latest technologies around the world

Google must move its infamous mystery barge from its construction site in the San Francisco Bay.

The director of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission investigated the Google project after receiving complaints. According to the Associated Press, the commission found that the company did not obtain the necessary permits to complete the project. The Treasure Island Development Authority, which leased the space to Google for the construction, could also face fines.

A Google spokesperson told TIME that it “just received the letter from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission and we are reviewing it.” Originally rumored to be for super-secret parties, the barge could potentially be used as an “interactive space where people can learn about new technology,” according to the company.

Google can resolve the issue by moving the construction to a fully-permitted facility.

[AP]

TIME Crime

YouTube Sex Abuse Claims Lead to Charges Against School Principal

Andrea Cardosa has been charged with 16 counts of abuse

An educator in California was charged with 16 counts of sexual abuse on Monday, a month after a former student alleged in a YouTube video that she had abused her.

The Riverside County District Attorney’s office said in a statement that Andrea Cardosa had been charged with five counts of aggravated sexual assault on a child and 11 counts of abuse, the Associated Press reports. Cardosa had been working as an assistant principal in the Alhambra Unified School District, but resigned after school officials informed police about the case.

In the YouTube video, the now 28-year-old student claimed the abuse began when she was 12. According to the Associated Press, 15 of the counts against Cardosa are from the 28-year-old’s allegations. Days after the video was posted, it had nearly 1 million hits and a second victim came forward. One of the abuse counts was related to the second woman’s claims.

There is a $5 million warrant out for Cardosa’s arrest. Her lawyer told AP that a prosecutor had yet to advise him of the charges and declined to comment on them.

[AP]

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