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FAS Roundup: June 21, 2016

From the Blogs Red Teams Needed to Critique Military Operations: U.S. military commanders would do well to make use of “red teams,” composed of independent experts to evaluate and…

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FAS Roundup: April 19, 2016

From the Blogs Counting Casualties in Syria & Iraq, and More from CRS: The number of people killed in Syria since March 2011 is variously estimated to be between…

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FAS Roundup: April 12, 2016

From the Blogs   Nuclear Transparency and the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan: Hans Kristensen, director of the FAS Nuclear Information Project, addresses the Obama administration’s nuclear policy, mainly…

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FAS Roundup: March 15, 2016

Report Release: Use of Microbial Forensics in the Middle East/North Africa Region In this report, Christoper Bidwell, JD and Randall Murch, PhD, explore the use of microbial forensics as…

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Ben Stein Is Very, Very Wrong: Problems with Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

Wolfgang Pauli is a legendary figure among physicists. He is remembered for having both one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century and one of its sharpest tongues. One student’s paper he dismissed by saying: That’s not right; it isn’t even wrong. (Or words to that effect in German; Pauli was Viennese.) If a theory isn’t relevant to the facts at hand, if it can’t be tested, if it doesn’t advance our understanding, then it isn’t that the theory is not right, it’s not even really a theory, it isn’t even wrong. It simply isn’t a tool for scientific understanding. Congressman Rush Holt once used Pauli’s expression in response to the claims that creationism, now often called Intelligent Design (ID), could be an “alternative” to the theory of evolution. Creationism isn’t even wrong because creationism can’t explain anything in the sense that science understands the word “explain.” Most advocates of creationism accept that evolution works at some scale and explains some things but for anything evolution does not explain they then assert that God, the Intelligent Designer, simply made it so. This is a valid religious belief. But what is the testable hypothesis? What is the prediction? What is the deeper understanding of mechanism? There isn’t anything there for a scientist to grab hold of. As far as science is concerned, creationism isn’t even wrong. In contrast, Ben Stein has just released a movie, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, that is very, very wrong, indeed. (I confess, I have not seen the movie yet. It opens later today. This essay is based on Ben Stein's extensive interviews, the movie website, and an extended, nine minute trailer available on the website. I will see the movie this weekend, although it pains me to give him any of my money.) I won’t argue about creationism here; it has been discussed in depth elsewhere. That “Intelligent Design” is a phrase designed in a transparent attempt to teach creationism without using the word “creationism” is well established. Ben Stein's charges of unethical suppression of creationist spokesmen has been repudiated. But what is so very wrong about Ben Stein’s movie is not just the science; what I want to discuss here is his portrayal of how science works.

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Farewell to Bill Patrick, “Bioweaponeer”.

Dr. William "Bill" C. Patrick III, 1926-2010 (Credit: fredericknewspost.com) Dr. William “Bill” C. Patrick III, 84, passed away on Friday, Oct. 1, 2010. Born on July, 24, 1926 in Southhampton, SC, Patrick was a U.S. veteran and influential microbiologist that devoted over three decades of service to the U.S. Army’s headquarters for biological weapons research in Fort Detrick, MD. After serving in the Army during World War II, Patrick received a graduate degree from the University of South Carolina (1948) and a master’s degree in microbiology and biochemistry from the University of Tennessee (1949).

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Prof. Thomas Butler – Miami International Airport

Dewar flask, metal canister similar to the one carried by Dr. Butler. (Credit: LegitReviews.com) Prof. Thomas Butler, who was indicted in early 2003 of various charges including improperly transporting samples of plague bacteria (Yersinia Pestis) into the United States, was held overnight at the Miami International Airport after TSA agents found a "suspicious" metal canister in his bag, which they thought could be a pipe bomb. After searching for Prof. Butler in a database, officials learned of his past charges associated with plague bacteria. He had been on a teaching assignment in Saudi Arabia, which likely raised another red flag. With this information and a "suspicious" canister, airport officials decided to evacuate a portion of the airport and bring in the bomb squad.

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FAS Roundup: June 24, 2013

Obama's new nuclear guidance, look at Senate Intelligence Committee, radiological ray gun and much more. From the Blogs New Nuclear Weapons Employment Guidance Puts Obama's Fingerprint on Nuclear Weapons Policy and Strategy: On June 19, the Obama administration released its long-awaited new guidance on nuclear weapons employment policy. On one hand, the guidance directs pursuit of additional reductions in deployed strategic warheads. On the other hand, the guidance reaffirms a commitment to core Cold War posture characteristics such as counterforce targeting, retaining a triad of strategic nuclear forces, and retaining non-strategic nuclear weapons forward deployed in Europe. A Candid Look at the Senate Intelligence Committee: Much of the continuing controversy over intelligence surveillance policy revolves around whether the sweeping collection of U.S. telephone data by intelligence agencies violates constitutional norms. But it is also an occasion to assess the quality of intelligence oversight, and to review the performance of oversight mechanisms in representing the public and defending its interests. Recently, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence blocked its former general council, Vicki Divoll, from speaking on the record about how the Committee functions.

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