What’s Happening In Sunspot?

The National Solar Observatory is located, appropriately, in Sunspot, New Mexico, on Sacramento Peak. It was closed by the FBI on September 6 and the employees told to stay home until further notice. Even the Otero County Sheriff doesn’t know what’s going on.

James McAteer, a New Mexico State University professor who is also the director of the Sunspot Solar Observatory said the “telescope did not see aliens. All data will be made public in its unaltered form. Nothing is hidden or kept secret.” (Source)

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, which runs the observatory, issued a statement saying

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) is addressing a security issue at the National Solar Observatory (NSO) facility at Sacramento Peak, New Mexico and has decided to temporarily vacate the facility as a precautionary measure until further notice. All other NSO facilities are open and operating normally. AURA, which manages Sacramento Peak with funding from the National Science Foundation, is working with the proper authorities on this issue.

The FBI is not commenting.

My guess is that someone has made a threat against the observatory or its personnel. That person may be inside or outside the observatory community. But not aliens or a sunspot that will destroy the Earth.

Photo from Space.com.

And Open Thread!

Gas Explosions In Massachusetts

There have been 60 to 100 gas explosions in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover, Massachusetts. Here’s a local news outlet updating regularly. Some of the fires have been put out as I write, but check for the latest. There is no information on what went wrong. Here’s a map of the explosions and fires. Electricity is being cut off to the area to prevent more explosions.

I didn’t want to say this, but a number of other people are saying it and implying it. This many gas explosions at one time is unusual. So the question arises of a cyberattack.

A pressure surge in an old gas system could cause something like this. The question is how the surge originated. I don’t know enough about how the gas distribution system works to guess at accidental surges. The Stuxnet worm that damaged Iran’s uranium enrichment facility worked by messing with the system’s controls to speed up the centrifuges to their breaking point. The control system can do many things, including allowing the pressure to increase in a gas system.

This is just guessing right now. It’s too soon to know anything, and the authorities have said nothing about the cause. So stay frosty.

I checked in with front-pager Tom Levenson on Twitter, and he’s some distance from the explosions. We need to hear from Anne Laurie, and others in the area too.


Quick Note On A Developing Story

The plane is isolated, and CDC officials are checking passengers. It appears that some of the passengers are being released.

An earlier report on ABC said that the number of sick passengers was 100, which now appears to be wrong. The symptoms reported are fever and coughing.

As you might expect, there are panicky tweets that try to be humorous. But, as usual for an incident that gets the public eye, early reports are likely to be inaccurate.

One speculation I’ve seen is that this may be related to food poisoning, although the reported symptoms don’t check out in my limited knowledge of such things.

What the symptoms seem to fit with is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, which is serious but seems to be not easily transmitted. It’s one of the viruses the public health people keep an eye on for possible epidemics. It will probably take a day or more to figure out exactly what the illness is.

As usual, take anything you read with a grain of salt, and don’t spread rumors.

Alternate Working Theory

I’m watching a Storage Wars marathon (and basically anything else that can hold my interest) because I am so fucking sick and tired of this election, but I had a random thought. Let’s see if we’re being cynical enough about this whole Comey.

Given the disclosures today about Trump and the Russian server and the bombshell that the Russians were allegedly attempting to recruit Trump for five years, what if Comey found out a while back that this was happening, but wanted to hold it close to vest so as not to endanger the investigation. Then when they found out, they desperately wanted to inform the public, but were afraid if they came forward with this info, it would play into Trump’s spiel about rigged elections. Simultaneously, Comey knows he has a lot of rogue agents who are leaking crap about the Clintons at every time, and for obvious reasons, he wants to get rid of them.

The next best way to do this would be to first leak the nothing burger about emails neither wrote nor received, knowing full well it will be quickly refuted, then track who knows what and was involved and you could follow the leaks and find out who the disloyal and rogue agents are. Then, you could coordinate the planned leaks about Trump and the Russians for maximum damage, and no one can claim the election is rigged, because if it was ok for Clinton it is ok for Trump.

You then take out Trump, who you think is a real threat, identify the problems within the FBI, retain your nonpartisan stature, and you and Loretta get to go on a nice purge prior to HRC taking over in January.

Or I have read too many shitty spy novels and Comey is just an idiot.

We Don’t Know Much…

In the aftermath of yesterday’s shooting at the Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs we still don’t know much. While speculation, good, bad, moronic, and/or otherwise, about the shooter and his motives have abounded, all we really know is his name and where he is from. The shooter, identified as Robert Lewis Dear, is from North Carolina. Where he has two properties. One of which is an off the grid shack near Black Mountain. No real word on his other property in NCPolice are also searching a property about an hour away from Colorado Springs that has been identified as Dear’s local/Colorado address.

Until the police release further information all we can do is wait, and for those so inclined, speculate as to motive. While the Colorado Springs Police Department spokeswoman indicated that they “did not know his ‘mentality, or his ideas or ideology'”, the Colorado Springs mayor made the following remarks: “people could make ‘inferences from where it took place'”.

Open Thread: Show Your Patriotism – Be Afraid!

From the local paper, the Washington Post:

Facts are often the first casualty when news breaks. The confusion and speed of onrushing events can crimp the accuracy of the who, what and when of a story.

But some news reports of a shooting at Washington’s Navy Yard on Thursday didn’t just blow the details. In a few cases, reporters got the whole story wrong.

In fact, there was no shooting — only reports of one, apparently based on a single phone call to D.C. police from someone within the complex. But for a few brief and tense moments, some media outlets reported otherwise, summoning up grim memories of the September 2013 shootings that left 12 Navy Yard workers dead.

“Multiple sources confirm there was a shooting at Navy Yard just after 7:30 a.m.,” Washington’s Fox station, WTTG, tweeted as reporters and law enforcement personnel converged on the scene…

We’re tentatively planning to go watch the professionals set off fireworks tomorrow, so as to avoid traffic on the holiday itself. Anybody else got plans to watch what the Japanese call “fire flowers” this extended-for-some weekend?

Friends Like These

This is the NY Post, but if this is true, it is nauseating and confirms everything bad we ever thought about Andrew Cuomo:

The state’s most powerful Republican secretly worked for months to help Democratic Gov. Cuomo win re-election — in exchange for Cuomo’s promise not to aid Senate Democrats in their Long Island races, a top New York GOP leader has charged.

Former state Republican Party Executive Director Michael Lawler — who managed Rob Astorino’s ill-fated gubernatorial run against Cuomo — told The Post that he learned of the alleged bombshell deal between Senate GOP leader Dean Skelos and Cuomo just days ago, after suspecting for months that it existed.

“Dean Skelos clearly was working against Rob’s campaign — he and the governor cut a deal,’’ seethed Lawler, a protégé of GOP Chairman Ed Cox.

The Nassau County-based Skelos and his aides “fight for nothing, stand for nothing except staying in power,’’ Lawler charged.

Lawler said he found out about the alleged Skelos-Cuomo arrangement from a top political aide to Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, a Republican and Skelos ally who, in a serious setback to Astorino, endorsed Cuomo last month. “We heard rumblings that Mangano was going to [endorse Cuomo], and I reached out to his folks and was told ‘absolutely not,’ that Mangano would endorse Astorino, although he would then let Cuomo use a video of him praising the governor,’’ Lawler said.

“But after Mangano actually endorsed Cuomo in a video on TV, I called Mangano’s guy and said, ‘What the f–k?’ He said, ‘When this is over, give me a call.’

“So I called him a few days ago, and he said, ‘A deal was cut for Mangano to endorse Cuomo in exchange for Cuomo staying out of the Senate races on Long Island,’ ’’ Lawler continued. “I asked him, ‘Who cut the deal?’ And he said, ‘People higher than me.’

“I said, ‘Dean?’ And he responded, ‘That would be a pretty good guess.’ ”

Again, it is the Post, but it would not surprise me. And it is one more reason that Cuomo’s 2016 ambitions must be strangled in the cradle.