Sunday, December 17, 2017

Meet Roku's new entry level unit - and a high tech backpack that can charge your phone

By Jim Bray

Cord cutter wannabes, also known as folks who want to pull the plug on conventional television delivery systems such as cable and satellite, have a new low cost reason to make that move thanks to Roku's new entry level Express.

This $40 CAD unit is the latest in the Roku line of streaming devices that all offer similar programming but with different capabilities - from "entry level" HD to 4K with HDR.

And if you're using your cord cutting experience as a way to get out into the supposedly great outdoors, Lifepack has created a backpack that not only carries your stuff, it helps keep your tunes close and charges your electronics at the same time.

But let's talk about the Roku first, because I need to screw up my courage to actually go outdoors to use the Lifepack before I can write about  it.

Express streaming…

According to Chas Smith, general manager of Roku TV's and players, "the Roku Express is one of our most popular streaming players, and is a great starting point for first time streamers or for people looking to extend the Roku experience to other TV's." He's right, too. Someone like my Dad, if he would ever stoop to getting Internet service, would love a Roku Express. It can put him in touch with oodles of old movies, TV shows, music and the like and he'd have a ball. And the Express would be more than adequate for his 720p television.

I just need to convince him he needs the Internet…

Roku says the new Express is five times more powerful than its predecessor and since I received my review sample I've been using it nearly every day to stream various video and audio sources - as well as news and sports and even cat videos. Sure, you don't get 4K from the Express but you do get excellent 1080p performance and that's probably more important right now to most people. 
The picture quality - remembering the GIGO syndrome (Garbage in, garbage out) - of the Express is great. We've been watching The Crown via the Roku's built-in Netflix app, and I've mentioned more than once to my wife how great the show looks and sounds. At the other end of the GIGO spectrum, I also watched some old TV Christmas specials that looked as if  they were sub-VHS quality.

The Express comes with everything you need to get it up and running, as long as you have Wi-Fi and Internet access and, of course, a TV with HDMI. It even comes with a high speed HDMI cable! A quick start guide is also in the box, along with the Roku remote, USB power, batteries and an adhesive strip with which you can stick the Roku to your TV, shelf or whatever. I just sat the thing on the TV stand, below the TV (a 1080p plasma) and it worked fine.

You have to either sign up for or log into your existing Roku account once the Express is hooked up and if it's a new account you'll have to put in your credit card info. This rubs me the wrong way, but I must admit I've never been charged for anything since I first started using a Roku about a year and a half ago.

The advantage of putting in your credit card into is you can access paid content without hassle. And there are quite a few paid services on offer. Cheap bastard that I am, I've never tried such a service other than the Netflix account I've had since before Roku and a couple of "free previews" that I never continued with once the free period was done, but there are also enough free apps to keep you going for years. You can partake of anything from all-audio services to classic rock, comedy and TV video channels, news "services" and the like. New apps come on stream all the time, too.

One with which I've been messing is a Christmas channel and last night my dear wife and I were watching a terrific Christmas concert from some small symphony orchestra of which we'd never heard. Great stuff - and if not for the Roku (and the app) we'd never have known it existed. And it's free!

Remember that in many cases you get what you pay for, so some of the free apps (many, actually) are of dubious worth to me - but since there's such a broad variety on offer there's undoubtedly several interesting channels regardless of your interests, from cars to aviation, lifestyle, you name it. I've managed to find several I enjoy streaming - and another nice thing about Roku is that if you've added apps to one device they'll show up on all of them.

Also, if you add an app that turns out to suck out loud, you can delete it whenever you want and it'll disappear from your "channel scroll" as if it were never there. I do this all the time: add a service that looks interesting, but when it turns out to be much ado about nothing (gee, someone should write a play with that theme…) it's gone in seconds.

And because you can use multiple Rokus on multiple TV's (or other devices; I have a Roku Ultra plugged into the rear HDMI port of my Oppo UDP-205 universal UHD disc player, for example, where it gives me 4K video with HDR) you can partake of the same programming in multiple locations. You can even, in the case of such apps as Netflix, start a program in one room and continue it in another - so if you want to continue your evening's entertainment in bed, for example, you can.

The Express, like all Roku devices, use the Roku Operating System and its simple home screen is really easy to navigate. The company says Canadian consumers can access more than 4,000 streaming channels, and they estimate some 150,000 movies and TV episodes are available there. I hope the person they hired to count all that stuff got paid well.

There's also a free Roku app for iOS and Android mobile devices that lets you use those things as your remote or to facilitate streaming media to the TV from such devices. It also has a virtual keyboard and offers such stuff as voice search and private listening. It works fine, but I prefer using the Roku remote and rarely stream from my smart devices.

Considering what you can access for your $40, the Roku seems like a bargain. Besides the GIGO syndrome, you should also keep Sturgeon's Law in mind ("90 per cent of anything is crap) when it comes to the free programming available.

Bag Man on Campus…

Meanwhile, the Lifepack Solar Powered & Anti-Theft Backpack is kind of like the Swiss army knife of backpacks. It not only carries your stuff, it's also built to keep your devices charged while annoying those around you with its Bluetooth speaker. 

It even has some stealthy pockets in which you can store stuff you really don't want stolen - such as your passport or Nexus card or even tiny bits of contraband. Two nearly invisible pockets are sewn into the straps, where they'd be really handy if you're actually packing the backpack on your back. Of course that doesn't help if the backpack gets stolen, but the folks behind the Lifepack think they have that figured out, too.

That's because the thing comes with its own combination lock, one that extends out from inside on a cord that's long enough to be useful. And even more interesting for those taking the Lifepack to the beach, or wherever, there's also a bottle opener! Alas, I couldn't find a corkscrew amongst the zillion other features of this nifty product.

Among the innovations of the Lifepack are the Solarbank, which is the USB charger and portable speaker. It isn't a really great portable speaker as far as sound quality is concerned, but I think it will probably be just fine for folks who aren't audio snobs and just want some tunes at the picnic table or in the hotel room. It even includes an auxiliary in jack for direct connection to your tunes, if you don't have or don't want to use Bluetooth.
And to be honest, the closest audiophile Bluetooth speaker (in size) that I've heard is the Bose SoundLink Mini, which currently lists on Bose' Canadian website for $229.99 CAD. It sounds plenty better than the Lifepack's, but considering that the entire Lifepack lists for 179.00 USD right now (on sale from $269.00 USD), it's really an apples-to-oranges audio comparison.

Besides, there's so much else to like about the Lifepack. It's designed with a two compartment configuration, one called "workzone" to put your mobile office stuff in while the "lifezone" side is meant for the clothes you want to take with you. Its capacity for clothes is a lot less than in my carryon luggage but for a quick overnight trip or such thing (or a trip to the beach, carrying your swim suit and towel, perhaps) it might be perfect.

The Workzone is designed to hold up to a 15 inch Laptop (and some 17 inchers, depending on their overall size). 

The zippers' sliders are lockable, thanks to big eye holes on them, and with a bit of futzing you can get all four of them into the Lifepack's locking mechanism.

And if those pockets hidden in the straps aren't enough stealth for you, there's another pair hidden on the back of the backpack.  There are also small pockets on each side, one of which has a USB port (the Solbarbank power supply has its own ports as well).

The Solarbank speaker/power centre fits into a pocket on the upper area of the front section and it works well there. I wish it were lower but, that said, the unit perches on its own bum very well and the presence of the speaker doesn't make it want to fall over. I do wish, however, that the space where the Solarbank sits could be used as another little pocket if you took out the speaker, but it just leaves a big hole there through which other stuff inside can be reached.

Which means you should leave the speaker where it's meant to be whether you like it or not.

The backpack is nice and light and appears to be built very well. It's as comfortable as a backpack can be when worn by a fat old oaf and I love how you can organize life vs. work. I wish it had a couple more small pockets with zippers inside, however, proving yet again that you can never please some people.

One of the Lifepack's aces in the hole is its solar charging aspect. Leave the Lifepack where it can see the sun and the Solarbank will charge itself, leaving you plenty of music or charging time. You need to charge it conventionally first, via USB, but this isn't a big deal. After that, the owner's manual says, two hours of good sunlight a day should top up a 50 per cent depleted smart phone, giving endless power - hey, there is such a thing as perpetual motion!

Solar charging a smart phone from zip to full is claimed to take four hours. And thanks to the Solarbank's two USB ports, you can charge a pair of devices at a time.

The manual also says a full charge of the Solarbank from depleted will take about 30 hours of "ideal sunlight," so if you want to do this you'd best be in a orbit around the earth that has the sun in view perpetually.

Or you can just use USB and get it done quickly and efficiently. That's what I did, since I'm afraid that taking the Solarbank outside to a sunlit location might cause me to burst into flames.

I'll probably never use the Lifepack's solar features, but despite that it's still a terrific product as far as being an efficient and comfortable backpack that can hold my stuff while bringing my tunes along for the ride.

Copyright 2017 Jim Bray

The Truth About DDT and Silent Spring

Hat Tip: Michael Bruno

The following article is posted on the New Atlantis

We have discovered many preventives against tropical diseases, and often against the onslaught of insects of all kinds, from lice to mosquitoes and back again. The excellent DDT powder which had been fully experimented with and found to yield astonishing results will henceforth be used on a great scale by the British forces in Burma and by the American and Australian forces in the Pacific and India in all theatres.
—Winston Churchill, September 24, 1944[1]

My own doubts came when DDT was introduced for civilian use. In Guyana, within two years it had almost eliminated malaria, but at the same time the birth rate had doubled. So my chief quarrel with DDT in hindsight is that it has greatly added to the population problem.
—Alexander King, cofounder of the Club of Rome, 1990[2]

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring at Fifty

by Robert Zubrin

by Charles T. Rubin

In the last days of September 1943, as the U.S. Army advanced to the rescue of Italian partisans — some as young as nine — battling the Germans in the streets of Naples, the enraged Nazis, in a criminal act of revenge against their erstwhile allies, deployed sappers to systematically destroy the city’s aqueducts, reservoirs, and sewer system. This done, the supermen, pausing only to burn irreplaceable libraries, including hundreds of thousands of volumes and artifacts at the University of Naples — where Thomas Aquinas once taught — showed their youthful Neapolitan opponents their backs, and on October 1, to the delirious cheers of the Naples populace, Allied forces entered the town in triumph.

But a city of over a million people had been left without sanitation, and within weeks, as the Germans had intended, epidemics broke out. By November, thousands of Neapolitans were infected with typhus, with one in four of those contracting it dying of the lice-transmitted disease.[3] The dead were so numerous that, as in the dark time of the Black Death, bodies were put out into the street by the hundreds to be hauled away by carts. Alarmed, General Eisenhower contacted Washington and made a desperate plea for help to contain the disaster. 
Anopheles mosquito
Fortunately, the brass had a new secret weapon ready just in time to deal with the emergency. It was called DDT,[4] a pesticide of un­prece­dented effectiveness. First synthesized by a graduate student in 1874, DDT went unnoticed until its potential application as an insecticide was discovered by chemist Paul H. Müller while working for the Swiss company Geigy during the late 1930s. Acquainted with Müller’s work, Victor Froelicher, Geigy’s New York representative, disclosed it to the American military’s Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) in October 1942. Examining Müller’s data, the OSRD’s experts immediately realized its importance. On Guadalcanal, and elsewhere in the South Pacific, the Marines were losing more men to malaria than they were to the Japanese, with the entire 1st Marine Division rendered unfit for combat by the insect-borne disease. Without delay, first Geigy’s Cincinnati factory and then the giant DuPont chemical company were given contracts to produce the new pesticide in quantity.[5]

By January 1, 1944, the first shipments of what would eventually amount to sixty tons of DDT reached Italy. Stations were set up in the palazzos of Naples, and as the people walked by in lines, military police officers with spray guns dusted them with DDT. Other spray teams prowled the town, dusting public buildings and shelters. The effects were little short of miraculous. Within days, the city’s vast population of typhus-transmitting lice was virtually exterminated; by month’s end, the epidemic was over.[6]

The retreating Germans, however, did not give up so easily on the use of insects as vectors of death. As the Allied forces advanced north from Naples toward Rome, they neared the Pontine Marshes, which for thousands of years had been rendered nearly uninhabitable by their enormous infestation of virulently malarial mosquitoes. In his most noteworthy accomplishment before the war, Mussolini had drained these marshes, making them potentially suitable for human settlement. The Germans demolished Mussolini’s dikes, quickly transforming the area back into the mosquito-infested malarial hellhole it had been for millennia. This promised to be very effective. In the brief Sicilian campaign of early summer 1943, malaria had struck 22,000 Allied troops — a greater casualty toll than that inflicted by the Axis forces themselves.[7] The malarial losses inflicted by the deadly Pontine Marshes were poised to be far worse.

But the Nazis had not reckoned on DDT. In coordination with their ground forces, the Americans deployed airborne crop dusters, as well as truck dusters and infantry DDT spray teams. Success was total. The Pontine mosquitoes were wiped out. With negligible losses to malaria, the GIs pushed on to Rome, liberating the Eternal City in the early morning of June 5.[8]

From now on, “DDT marches with the troops,” declared the Allied high command.[9] The order could not have come at a better time. As British and American forces advanced in Europe, they encountered millions of victims of Nazi oppression — civilians under occupation, slave laborers, prisoners of war, concentration camp inmates — dying in droves from insect-borne diseases. But with the armies of liberation came squads spraying DDT, and with it life for millions otherwise doomed to destruction. The same story was repeated in the Philippines, Burma, China, and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific theater. Never before in history had a single chemical saved so many lives in such a short amount of time.

A Civilian Success

In recognition for his role in this public health miracle, Paul Müller was given the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1948. Presenting the award, the Nobel Committee said: “DDT has been used in large quantities in the evacuation of concentration camps, of prisoners and deportees. Without any doubt, the material has already preserved the life and health of hundreds of thousands.”[10]

With the coming of peace, DDT became available to civilian public health agencies around the world. They had good reason to put it to use immediately, since over 80 percent of all infectious diseases afflicting humans are carried by insects or other small arthropods.[11] These scourges, which have killed billions of people, include bubonic plague, yellow fever, typhus, dengue, Chagas disease, African sleeping sickness, elephantiasis, trypanosomiasis, viral encephalitis, leishmaniasis, filariasis, and, most deadly of all, malaria. Insects have also caused or contributed to mass death by starvation or malnutrition, by consuming up to 40 percent of the food crop and destroying much of the livestock in many developing countries.

One of the first countries to benefit from the use of DDT for civilian purposes was the United States. In the years immediately preceding World War II, between one and six million Americans, mostly drawn from the rural South, contracted malaria annually. In 1946, the U.S. Public Health Service initiated a campaign to wipe out malaria through the application of DDT to the interior walls of homes. The results were dramatic. In the first half of 1952, there were only two confirmed cases of malaria contracted within the United States.[12]

Other countries were quick to take note of the American success, and those that could afford it swiftly put DDT into action. In Europe, malaria was virtually eradicated by the mid-1950s. South African cases of malaria quickly dropped by 80 percent; Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) reduced its malaria incidence from 2.8 million in 1946 to 17 in 1963; and India cut its malaria death rate almost to zero. In 1955, with financial backing from the United States, the U.N. World Health Organization launched a global campaign to use DDT to eradicate malaria. Implemented successfully across large areas of the developing world, this effort soon cut malaria rates in numerous countries in Latin America and Asia by 99 percent or better. Even for Africa, hope that the age-old scourge would be brought to an end appeared to be in sight.[13]

A Bestseller Begins a Movement

But events took another turn with the appearance of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring. A former marine biologist and accomplished nature writer, Carson in 1958 contacted E. B. White, a contributor to The New Yorker, suggesting someone should write about DDT. White declined, but the magazine’s editor, William Shawn, suggested that Carson herself write it. The ensuing articles, supplemented by additional material, became Silent Spring, for which Carson signed a contract with Houghton Mifflin in August 1958.[14]

Carson based her passionate argument against pesticides on the desire to protect wildlife. Using evocative language, Carson told a powerful fable of a town whose people had been poisoned, and whose spring had been silenced of birdsong, because all life had been extinguished by pesticides.[15] 
Rachael Carson--a more successful killer than Stalin and Hitler combined!
Published in September 1962, Silent Spring was a phenomenal success. As a literary work, it was a masterpiece, and as such, received rave reviews everywhere. Deeply moved by Carson’s poignant depiction of a lifeless future, millions of well-meaning people rallied to her banner. Virtually at a stroke, environmentalism grew from a narrow aristocratic cult into a crusading liberal mass movement.

While excellent literature, however, Silent Spring was very poor science. Carson claimed that DDT was threatening many avian species with imminent extinction. Her evidence for this, however, was anecdotal and unfounded. In fact, during the period of widespread DDT use preceding the publication of Silent Spring, bird populations in the United States increased significantly, probably as a result of the pesticide’s suppression of their insect disease vectors and parasites. In her chapter “Elixirs of Death,” Carson wrote that synthetic insecticides can affect the human body in “sinister and often deadly ways,” so that cumulatively, the “threat of chronic poisoning and degenerative changes of the liver and other organs is very real.” In terms of DDT specifically, in her chapter on cancer she reported that one expert “now gives DDT the definite rating of a ‘chemical carcinogen.’”[16] These alarming assertions were false as well.[17] (Carson’s claims about the supposed pernicious effects of DDT are examined more fully below.)

The Banning of DDT

The panic raised by Carson’s book spread far beyond American borders. Responding to its warning, the governments of a number of developing countries called a halt to their DDT-based anti-malaria programs. The results were catastrophic. In Ceylon, for example, where, as noted, DDT use had cut malaria cases from millions per year in the 1940s down to just 17 by 1963, its banning in 1964 led to a resurgence of half a million victims per year by 1969.[18] In many other countries, the effects were even worse.

Attempting to head off a hysteria-induced global health disaster, in 1970 the National Academy of Sciences issued a report praising the beleaguered pesticide:

To only a few chemicals does man owe as great a debt as to DDT. It has contributed to the great increase in agricultural productivity, while sparing countless humanity from a host of diseases, most notably, perhaps, scrub typhus and malaria. Indeed, it is estimated that, in little more than two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million deaths due to malaria that would otherwise have been inevitable. Abandonment of this valuable insecticide should be undertaken only at such time and in such places as it is evident that the prospective gain to humanity exceeds the consequent losses. At this writing, all available substitutes for DDT are both more expensive per crop-year and decidedly more hazardous.[19]
To some, however, five hundred million human lives were irrelevant. Disregarding the NAS findings, environmentalists continued to demand that DDT be banned. Responding to their pressure, in 1971 the newly-formed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched an investigation of the pesticide. Lasting seven months, the investigative hearings led by Judge Edmund Sweeney gathered testimony from 125 expert witnesses with 365 exhibits. The conclusion of the inquest, however, was exactly the opposite of what the environmentalists had hoped for. After assessing all the evidence, Judge Sweeney found: “The uses of DDT under the registration involved here do not have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds, or other wildlife.... DDT is not a carcinogenic hazard to man.... DDT is not a mutagenic or teratogenic hazard to man.”[20] Accordingly, Judge Sweeney ruled that DDT should remain available for use.

Unfortunately, however, the administrator of the EPA was William D. Ruckelshaus, who reportedly did not attend a single hour of the investigative hearings, and according to his chief of staff, did not even read Judge Sweeney’s report.[21] Instead, he apparently chose to ignore the science: overruling Sweeney, in 1972 Ruckelshaus banned the use of DDT in the United States except under conditions of medical emergencies.[22]

Initially, the ban only affected the United States. But the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) soon adopted strict environmental regulations that effectively prohibited it from funding international projects that used DDT.[23] Around the globe, Third World governments were told that if they wanted USAID or other foreign aid money to play with, they needed to stop using the most effective weapon against malaria.[24] Given the corrupt nature of many of the recipient regimes, it is not surprising that many chose lucre over life. And even for those that did not, the halting of American DDT exports (since U.S. producers slowed and then stopped manufacturing it) made DDT much more expensive, and thus effectively unavailable for poor countries in desperate need of the substance.[25] As a result, insect-borne diseases returned to the tropics with a vengeance.

(Article continues HERE)

Ed. On February 4th of 2017, Paul Offit wrote for the Daily Beast:   
“In 2006, the World Health Organization reinstated DDT as part of its effort to eradicate malaria. But not before millions of people had died needlessly from the disease.”

The Daily Beast! Not the most conservative site in the world! The environmental left is responsible for countless deaths and God knows how many illnesses thanks to the fraud perpetrated by Rachael Carson and William Ruckelshaus. But of course, the left never assume responsibility and are rarely criticized for the deaths perpetrated by their icons.

Trump Attorney GOES OFF After New Comey Edits Reveal Key Info About Hillary’s Private Server “Completely Removed” From Final Statement

The following article appeared on the Gateway Pundit on December 15th

by Cristina Laila

An attorney for President Trump, Jay Sekulow went off after new Comey edits were released by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee Thursday, revealing Comey made more edits to Hillary’s draft statement.

All of the edits show the FBI was fiercely working to prevent Hillary from being criminally charged, however; Sekulow pointed out that key information about Hillary’s private server was COMPLETELY REMOVED from the final statement. 
Jay Sekulow video HERE
Jay Sekulow read Comey’s original statement about Hillary’s emails being housed on unsecured servers on his radio show Jay Live Friday. This entire sentence was removed. Not just edited to sound more benign–completely removed from the final statement and Sekulow is mad as hell!

“‘This is especially concerning because all of these emails were housed on servers not supported by full time security staff like those found the departments and agencies in the United States government’–COMPLETELY EDITED OUT of the final statement,” Sekulow said.

This is important because the entire investigation was about Hillary mishandling classified information because she was using private servers.

Now we find out this statement was completely removed from the final draft!

To add to this, another very shocking revelation is that “hostile actors” likely gained access to Hillary Clinton’s private email which of course contained classified information–another statement that was edited by Comey and or top FBI brass.

The corruption in the top brass of the FBI is astounding. Lou Dobbs is right; people need to go to jail!