I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence
And so the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're goin' through

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Linkee-poo Saturday March 18

"The retailer hopes this will turn a new leaf. Barnes & Noble sales have been rising, and last year grew more than 4%, according to Shannon DeVito, director of books."

"The remains of a glacier have been found near the Martian equator, suggesting that some form of water could still exist in a region on the red planet where humans may one day land… The ice mass is no longer there, but scientists spotted telltale remains among other mineral deposits near Mars’ equatorial region. The deposits there usually contain light-colored sulfate salts."

"The Webb Space Telescope has captured the rare and fleeting phase of a star on the cusp of death."

"Moonwalking astronauts will have sleeker, more flexible spacesuits that come in different sizes when they step onto the lunar surface later this decade." Lookin' slim, Buzz.

"Nuclear power is pollution free," they say. Hold my beer for a second… "Water containing tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, leaked out of Xcel Energy's nuclear power plant in Monticello, Minn. in November, state officials said Thursday… Xcel reported that about 400,000 gallons of the tritiated water leaked from a water pipe between two buildings." It's true that they don't spew carbon dioxide and other gases, and that the amount of pollution is much less, but what does come out is deadlier and lasts way longer.

"It stretches over 5,000 miles. It weighs over 10 million tons. And it's circling around the Gulf of Mexico and the mid-Atlantic, where the right combination of currents and wind could push it ashore… If you haven't heard of the great Atlantic sargassum belt, or even if you have, chances are high that you'll see it pop into your news feed at least once this summer. After a decade of record-breaking blooms, 2023's sargassum mass is again shaping up to cause headaches (literally and figuratively) for beachside towns and tourists." The blob is coming for Florida.

One of the major problems of climate change… "Some of the tall, stately trees that have grown up in California's Sierra Nevada are no longer compatible with the climate they live in, new research has shown… Hotter, drier conditions driven by climate change in the mountain range have made certain regions once hospitable to conifers — such as sequoia, ponderosa pine and Douglas fir — an environmental mismatch for the cone-bearing trees." Now do where we live and grow our crops.

Apparently they held the Oscars again. "Making this the comeback Oscars was, of course, consistent with the industry's chosen narrative of rebirth. But it's also part of the Academy's effort to revive interest in the ceremony after years of hearing the theory that the ratings were dropping because blockbusters weren't being nominated. That theory might turn out to be right or it might be wrong, but if this year didn't do it, then nominating big movies isn't a solution to the ratings problem as has so often been speculated."

"What's the big deal? You mean aside from the prospect of having your brain tracked? Farahany worries about potential privacy issues, and outlines various scenarios in which access to this information could be problematic, if the right protections aren't put in place."

"Almost four years ago, Gray became one of the first patients with a genetic disorder — and the first patient with sickle cell disease — to get an experimental treatment that uses the revolutionary gene-editing technique known as CRISPR."

"A rare tick-borne disease is on the rise in the northeastern United States, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention… Cases of babesiosis rose by 25% from 2011 to 2019, causing the CDC to add three states — Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire — to the list of those where the illness is considered endemic."

"Mint Mobile, partly owned by actor Ryan Reynolds, is being acquired by T-Mobile as part of a cash-and-stock deal worth as much as $1.35 billion."

"For workers, there were jobs; for employers, there were workers filling shortfalls caused by the pandemic; for the Federal Reserve, there were indications that the labor market was loosening and wage pressures were easing… Then again, the total of 311,000 net jobs added was significantly higher than expectations of 205,000, and the unemployment rate surprisingly grew to 3.6%."

"An unexpected spending spree by U.S. shoppers seems to have calmed… Retail spending declined 0.4% in February compared to January, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday. That's after a surprise start-of-the-year shopping spree that contradicted the Federal Reserve's goal of cooling down the economy to fight high prices."

"Latitude’s pricey AI bills underscore an unpleasant truth behind the recent boom in generative AI technologies: The cost to develop and maintain the software can be extraordinarily high, both for the firms that develop the underlying technologies, generally referred to as a large language or foundation models, and those that use the AI to power their own software." Still, the rise of this AI (which is just machine learning married with big data) was founded exactly on how low the cost of storage and processing power has become. But I still wonder when the switch from CPU to GPU will happen. We tried that slightly with the advent of RIS chips being used as CPUs. Also, much of these costs should come down in the next few years, and then drop significantly as the Biden initiative to bring chip manufacture back to the US engages and bears fruit. IT will also be interesting when the developers of these AI models realize that each "inference" is an opportunity for the machine learning program to continue to train (but then, that will also require more GPU cycles…).

"The Biden administration has announced that customers of Silicon Valley Bank will have full access to their deposits, an extraordinary move by federal officials to backstop billions of dollars in uninsured money amid fears that the bank's collapse could lead to greater panic."

But they're going to let the investors take the hit, like Ohio's STRS which will lose $27.2 million.

"Shares in the globally connected Swiss bank Credit Suisse plunged Wednesday and dragged down other major European lenders as fears about deeper problems in the world banking system spread in the wake of bank failures in the United States." Rhut rho.

"Banks across the nation are reassuring their customers that they will not collapse like Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., says Congress and the Federal Reserve are to blame for bank failures." Could be, Rabbit, could be.

"The biggest banks in the U.S. are stepping in to save First Republic Bank… A group of 11 lenders says they will deposit $30 billion in the beleaguered midsized lender in an effort to prop it up."

"French President Emmanuel Macron ordered his prime minister to wield a special constitutional power Thursday that skirts parliament to force through a highly unpopular bill raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 without a vote." "We're gonna see a brave new world where they run everyone a wire and hook us all up to the grid. Yessir, a veritable age of reason - like they had in France."

"The Pentagon and U.S. European Command said that two Russian Su-27 aircraft dumped fuel on the MQ-9, which was conducting a routine surveillance mission over the Black Sea in international airspace. They said the Russian jets flew around and in front of the drone several times for 30 to 40 minutes, and then one of the Russian aircraft 'struck the propeller of the MQ-9, causing U.S. forces to have to bring the MQ-9 down in international waters.'" Naughty naughty, my Russian friends.

"The Kremlin said the incident proved again that Washington is directly involved in the fighting and added that Moscow would try to recover the wreckage of the drone from the Black Sea. U.S. officials said the incident showed Russia’s aggressive and risky behavior and they pledged to continue their surveillance." Of course they will, that was the whole objective of this exercise. The question is did the drone have internal destruction charges, were they activated, and how badly did the drone crash (like, how many pieces does Russia have to put back together).

"The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes involving accusations that Russia has forcibly taken Ukrainian children… The ICC also issued a warrant for Putin's commissioner for children's rights, Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova." Well, it doesn't mean much, except that it will curtail their travel outside the Russian sphere. Sleep safe, my Russian friends.

But what does it really mean? "Poland’s prime minister said Tuesday that his government may hand its Soviet-made MiG-29 fighters jets over to Ukraine 'within the next four to six weeks.'" And there have been other pledges made recently.

"The United States has described the China-brokered normalisation deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran as a 'good thing', despite the message it may send about waning US influence in the region… The pact between Riyadh and Tehran, announced last week in Beijing, merely cements the reality of China’s growing role as a significant trade — and now diplomatic — partner in the Gulf, analysts say." Good for them. Although in the long run I expect it will mean as much as when Sadat and Begin shook hands, which mostly signaled a long term cease fire.

"Ohio filed a lawsuit against railroad Norfolk Southern to make sure it pays for the cleanup and environmental damage caused by a fiery train derailment on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border last month, the state's attorney general said Tuesday."

"A Wisconsin man who drove past the vacation home of Michigan’s governor during a scheme to kidnap her in 2020 is returning to court to change his not-guilty plea, records show."

"The shortage in this conservative region has not been driven by political forces, national efforts to reform law enforcement or the movement of funding to programs that help reduce crime, but rather years-long labor issues. The sheriff’s office in the county, one of the poorest in the state, has pay rates far below nearby agencies and has struggled to recruit and retain its employees." We had similar problems in my little part of the world, so I know first hand that pay is not the only problem. It took years to restructure my police department, and I'm quite proud of that work and the people I hired, and it took the county to elect a new sheriff to change things. We won back the confidence of the local populace. Then we added extra money, and everything got a little easier.

"Florida Republicans on Tuesday advanced a proposal to ban classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity through the eighth grade, expanding the controversial law critics call 'Don’t Say Gay.'"

"Federal prosecutors in New York involved in the criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s social media company last year started examining whether it violated money laundering statutes in connection with the acceptance of $8m with suspected Russian ties, according to sources familiar with the matter." Once again, for no collaboration or coordination, there sure a lot of fucking Russians around.

"The U.S. government on Wednesday charged Guo Wengui, an exiled Chinese businessman with ties to former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon, with leading a complex conspiracy to defraud Guo's online followers out of more than $1 billion." (Grokked from Dan)

"At least two dozen people – from Mar-a-Lago resort staff to members of Donald Trump’s inner circle at the Florida estate – have been subpoenaed to testify to a federal grand jury that’s investigating the former president’s handling of classified documents, multiple sources familiar with the investigation told CNN." Like my friend Jim says, "We've got Skynet by the balls now."

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Linkee-poo Sunday March 12

"As for how small the chance of impact (from a newly discovered asteroid) is currently estimated to be, NASA puts it at '1 in 560 odds of impact.' Put another way, there is only a 0.18% chance of hitting Earth, or a 99.82% chance that the asteroid will streak harmlessly past our planet."

"Last winter, most ski resorts at Lake Tahoe had to postpone their usual November openings because there wasn’t enough snow… This season, several have been forced to close at times because there’s been too much."

"A new study in the journal PLOS Biology finds that (bees) can actually learn to solve puzzles from one another, suggesting that even some invertebrates like these social insects have a capacity for what we humans call 'culture.'" But we already knew bees "danced" to show other bees where to go for pollen.

"School cafeterias typically don’t turn away a hungry kid, but debts for unpaid school meals have been rising — showing the level of need, and raising questions about how schools will keep feeding everyone, without federal money to do it. The neediest kids are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, as before the pandemic, but qualifying for those benefits requires applications that haven’t been necessary for several years."

"U.S. health officials are alerting consumers about two more recalls of eyedrops due to contamination risks that could lead to vision problems and serious injury… The announcements follow a recall last month of eyedrops made in India that were linked to an outbreak of drug-resistant infections. One person died and at least five others had permanent vision loss."

"Some studies suggest that rates of (transgender people completing transitioning) regret have declined over the years as patient selection and treatment methods have improved. In a review of 27 studies involving almost 8,000 teens and adults who had transgender surgeries, mostly in Europe, the U.S and Canada, 1% on average expressed regret. For some, regret was temporary, but a small number went on to have detransitioning or reversal surgeries, the 2021 review said."

"Researchers have found long-term evidence that actively monitoring localized prostate cancer is a safe alternative to immediate surgery or radiation… The results, released Saturday, are encouraging for men who want to avoid treatment-related sexual and incontinence problems, said Dr. Stacy Loeb, a prostate cancer specialist at NYU Langone Health who was not involved in the research."

"It is a nail-biting limbo state that many tech startups deeply entrenched in Silicon Valley Bank are now facing in the wake of the bank's implosion, the largest American bank failure since the 2008 financial crisis… For tech startups, which for decades have relied heavily on the bank based in Santa Clara, Calif., it has set off a crisis that could lead to mass layoffs, or hundreds of startups collapsing, according to industry insiders." Sure seems different when rich people are about to lose everything as compared to less well off people who lost everything in 2007. The FDIC is supposedly holding an auction for SVBs business.

"Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Sunday that the federal government would not bail out Silicon Valley Bank, but is working to help depositors who are concerned about their money." Just going to give a gentle reminder about all the times the tech industry has yelled that they don't want any government interference of regulations.

"More than a dozen retailers have dropped a flurry of financial reports in recent weeks. They have a broad view of consumer spending, which is a key driver of the U.S. economy. Here's what they say… People are still spending, though stores' forecasts are cautious…"

"The maker of the Funko Pop! collectibles plans to toss millions of dollars' worth of its inventory, after realizing it has more of its pop culture figurines than it can afford to hold on to." Funko Pop!, 2020's Beanie Baby.

"News Corp., the parent company of The Wall Street Journal and several other news outlets, said that hackers were inside its network for nearly two years and made off with private documents and emails… News Corp. first disclosed the breach in February 2022, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission and an article in The Wall Street Journal. The company said at the time that it discovered “persistent cyberattack activity” a month earlier in a third-party cloud service it used. Security firm Mandiant, which aided News Corp. in investigating the intrusion, told the WSJ it believed the attack was conducted by a threat actor aligned with the Chinese government."

"In one exchange, Lavrov received loud applause for accusing the West of having a double standard, noting its heavy criticism of Russia's invasion of Ukraine despite Western powers having invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. In another, the reaction was less positive… 'The war, which we are trying to stop, which was launched against us using Ukrainian people,' he said… Before Lavrov could finish his sentence, the audience laughed and groaned — loud enough for the foreign minister to pause and stumble on his words."

"Russian forces have made progress in their campaign to capture the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, the focus of the war’s longest ground battle, but their assault will be difficult to sustain without more significant personnel losses, British military officials said Saturday." Russian military doctrine has a very different view of losses when compared to the West.

"'It is not a crime to give someone the finger. Flipping the proverbial bird is a God-given, Charter enshrined right that belongs to every red-blooded Canadian,' Judge Dennis Galiatsatos wrote in the Feb. 24 ruling." Fucking right.

"A new bill introduced in the South Carolina Statehouse could put the death penalty on the table for women who get an abortion." Remember when it was about the "sanctity of life"?

"Five women who were denied abortions under Texas law while facing medical crises are suing the state, asking a judge to clarify exceptions to the laws… '[The women] have been denied necessary and potentially life-saving obstetrical care because medical professionals throughout the state fear liability under Texas's abortion bans,' says the lawsuit, filed in state court by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the five women and two doctors."

"A new bill in the Ohio House would strike out all references to federal firearm policy from state law in an attempt to render state and local law enforcement in Ohio no longer responsible for enforcing federal gun laws." Ohio, where the crazy comes to live.

"A federal jury found both former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and ex-Ohio Republican Party chairman Matt Borges guilty of racketeering conspiracy Thursday – a dramatic outcome in the biggest public corruption case in state history." And while the nuclear plant bailout part of the bill has been repealed, most of House Bill 6 remains in effect, including the bailout for the coal powered plants. So Ohioans are still getting ripped off.

"Former Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday harshly criticized former President Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, widening the rift between the two men as they prepare to battle over the Republican nomination in next year’s election." But he's still going to kiss Trump's ass.

"The states announced in tandem Monday that they were beginning the process to pull out, after weeks of tense negotiations over potential changes the organization could make to appease GOP members who have been facing constituent pressure about ERIC, in part due to a sustained misinformation campaign from the far-right." For the far right there is never a "too far to the right", and for authoritarians there can be no other expert, no-one else in the spotlight.

Just like… "In writing, the new board will end Disney's long practice of taxing itself to develop on the 25,000 unincorporated acres sandwiched between Osceola and Orange counties. It'll oversee services like sewage treatment and maintain the local roads, as well as decide how much Disney will pay for those services… But in effect, DeSantis said last week, the board will also serve as a moral arbiter."

"But the five board members appointed by DeSantis hinted Wednesday at future controversial actions they may take, including prohibiting COVID-19 restrictions at Disney World and recommending the elimination of two cities that were created after the Florida Legislature in 1967 approved the theme park resort’s self-governance."

Friday, March 3, 2023

Linkee-poo, in like a lion, March 3

Sorry about the chaotic pubishing lately. I think part of it is the distraction of the t-shirt business, but part of it is my subonscious rebelling at still going at 7 years after I said I would take a hiatus. I'm realy glad these last few years I can focus on something other than politics, and I'm resentful that the GOP and certain assholes remain committed to making politics the main point of discussions and news. I'm not sure how to fix this at the moment. It may be I need to step away for a little bit, but we're already into the election positioning for 2024 and lots of pieces are moving quickly (including my suspecion that Trump installed his own Deep State to wage an information battle which is just gearing up as exemplified by the DoJ announcement of the possibility that COVID-19 was a lab leak, even while being stated that it's own conclusion was of "low confidence" which almost lost during the first few days it made a splash, and which fortunately burried the story in irrelevance except for far right corners). Plus part of the time has been adsorbed (yes, that's the word) by playing with AI tools. Which I should probably talk about at some point. Right now I'm trying to see if they can be a starting point for designs I can't find references for, and use as a photo scrap book for novel writing (in the same way writes clip photos). BEcause right now while some people can create journeyman level pieces, mostly it's crap, just interesting looking crap.

"Jimmy Carter took great pride in pointing out that the United States didn't start any new wars during his term as president. But after he left office he launched a war against 'neglected' diseases — diseases in far-off lands that most Americans will never suffer from and may not have even heard of. Diseases like lymphatic filariasis, trachoma, river blindness, schistosomiasis ... and a nasty little bug called Guinea worm disease."

Fish on Fridays? "Alas, Christendom never really developed a hankering for snake. But fish — well, they'd been associated with sacred holidays even in pre-Christian times. And as the number of meatless days piled up on the medieval Christian calendar — not just Fridays but Wednesdays and Saturdays, Advent and Lent, and other holy days — the hunger for fish grew. Indeed, fish fasting days became central to the growth of the global fishing industry. But not because of a pope and his secret pact."

"Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, went on a racist rant this week on his Coffee with Scott Adams online video show, and we will no longer carry his comic strip in The Plain Dealer."

"The distributor of Scott Adams' 'Dilbert' comic strip, Andrews McMeel Universal, announced Sunday it was severing ties with the cartoonist." Note that this isn't the first time Mr. Adams has done this kind of thing. This is, IIRC, about the 4th major blowup regarding his racist viewpoint.

"Things took a weird turn when Associated Press technology reporter Matt O'Brien was testing out Microsoft's new Bing, the first-ever search engine powered by artificial intelligence, last month." Hey, remember when Microsoft released their first social media chatbot and then had to pull the plug less than 8 hours later because it had become a raving Nazi? It seems that Skynet or the paranoid and psychotic HAL9000 is the inevitable end of the process.

"On February 15, Neil Clarke shared a graph showing an exponential jump in submission bans for Clarkesworld, with nearly 350 bans in the first half of this month alone. The graph accompanied his essay 'A Concerning Trend' on how AI chatbot stories were responsible for the vast majority of these bans." This is not the robot uprising I was promised. Jason Sanford has been doing some good work here, and this Grapevine post also includes a story about Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki detention and denied admission to the US to attend another award ceremony, and an update about the Chengdu Worldcon.

"The key to being a good writer? It’s being a good reader, authors including Carol Ann Duffy and Alan Moore have said this World Book Day. However, commonly doled-out advice such as 'write what you know' is 'dreadful', says Lee Child."

"Don't mess with Roald Dahl's language or his 'swashboggling' fans. When his UK publisher announced it would be changing some of his words, the response was fierce. 'An affront to democracy,' wrote one reader responding to The Daily Telegraph's report on the proposed changes. 'An exercise in priggish stupidity,' read a headline in The Sydney Morning Herald. Even the Queen Consort and U.K. Prime Minister dismissed the idea of tampering with Dahl's original language."

"Dr. Seuss fans might find their hearts growing three sizes this coming holiday season with the release of a sequel to the 1957 classic children’s book 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas!'" Ugh.

"A dozen dead whales have washed up on New York and New Jersey beaches since December. It's part of a years-long trend in whale deaths up and down the east coast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is trying to figure out what's going on."

Something new has been added… "Egypt's antiquities authorities on Thursday unveiled a newly discovered, sealed-off chamber inside one of the Great Pyramids at Giza, just outside of Cairo, that dates back some 4,500 years ago… The corridor — on the northern side of the Pyramid of Khufu — was discovered using modern scanning technology. It measures nearly 30 feet in length and is over 6 feet wide, perched above the main entrance of the pyramid."

"It's been nearly a month since a Norfolk Southern train derailed and spilled hundreds of thousands of pounds of toxic chemicals into the air, soil and water around East Palestine, Ohio. In the weeks since, authorities have undertaken a massive operation to clean up the hazardous materials." A story exploring the difficulties of cleaning up toxic waste, and some of the unique challenges of this accident site.

"Seeing a political opportunity, former President Donald Trump and a cadre of other conservatives descended on the small town of fewer than 5,000 residents. Trump handed out campaign hats, 'Trump'-branded water and Trump-branded insults of the Biden administration. Then, under political pressure, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made his way there, too, met with local leaders and offered his own rejoinders for the former president." I wonder if anyone reminded East Palestine that Trump rolled back the rules that might have prevented the derailment or have reduced the impact and scale of the disaster?

"As Women’s History Month gets underway, mobile billboards are visiting college campuses in 14 states with abortion bans carrying a reminder that abortion pills are still accessible all across the country… Mayday.Health, a nonprofit launched last year after legal abortions were heavily restricted or banned in 26 states, was created to provide information on where and how to safely order abortion pills. The traveling billboards are fitted with QR codes that direct people to resources specific to the state where they are hoping to have pills delivered."

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raising warning doctors and the public about an increase in extensively drug-resistant (XDR) cases of Shigella, a highly transmissible bacteria that causes an infection called shigellosis, an inflammatory diarrhea."

"Black married couples, in general, pay more in tax costs than white, married couples, according to a new report by the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center… Officially, the U.S. tax code is considered race blind, William Gale, one of the report's authors, told NPR… 'But what we've suspected, and what we found, was that the income tax can still impose differential burdens on Black and white households' because of several factors, he said."

They will greet us as liberators is always a lie… "Kherson was the first major city occupied by Russian forces. With Kherson's deep historical ties to Russia, Moscow did not expect it to be a center of resistance. But the city, like the rest of Ukraine, defied the Kremlin's expectations."

"We firmly believe that it is journalism’s sacred duty to endanger the lives of as many trans people as possible… Indeed, there are critical questions to be asked about the social complexities of gender, as well as medical ethics in a profit-driven healthcare system. We are simply not interested in any of that. Instead, we will use flawed data and spurious logic to repeatedly write the same hand-wringing arguments asking whether there are suddenly too many trans people around. Journalistic integrity demands nothing less." Oh Onion, don't ever change.

"Former College Park, Maryland, Mayor Patrick Wojahn was arrested Thursday on several charges of child pornography, city officials announced… The Prince George's County Police Department was notified by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on Feb. 17 that there was a social media account in the county posting child pornography, and police tracked it back to Wojahn, 47, the department said." Still not a drag show to be found.

"Transgender youth may soon no longer be able to access gender-affirming health care. A ban on medical transitioning for minors has passed the Tennessee General Assembly and is on its way to the governor’s desk… The bill would mean no hormone therapy, no surgeries and no puberty blockers — with two exceptions. One is for intersex kids who aren’t easily assigned a gender at birth. Another would be a temporary exception for trans kids who are already taking hormones before the law goes into effect July 1. After that, minors have until March of 2024 to stop their treatments."

"One side effect of political division in the states — blue states getting bluer and red states getting redder — is that some policies don't have a chance of getting passed by partisan state legislatures, even if a majority of voters back them… But a left-leaning advocacy group called the Fairness Project has created a playbook for using ballot initiatives to go around GOP-led state legislatures." And now you know why some states are making it harder to get initiatives on the ballot.

"The event may be the closest thing yet to Greene’s vision for the GOP, which she has urged to become the 'party of Christian nationalism.' The Idaho Panhandle’s especially fervent embrace of the ideology may explain why Greene, who has sold T-shirts reading 'Proud Christian Nationalist,' traveled more than 2,300 miles to a county with fewer than 67,000 Republican voters to talk about biblical truth: Amid ongoing national debate over Christian nationalism, North Idaho offers a window at what actually trying to manifest a right-wing vision for a Christian America can look like — and the power it can wield in state politics." Cue up Poltergeist clip of little girl saying, "They'e here."

"The report describes attempts by top officials to link protesters to an imaginary terrorist plot in an apparent effort to boost Trump’s reelection odds, raising concerns now about the ability of a sitting president to co-opt billions of dollars’ worth of domestic intelligence assets for their own political gain. DHS analysts recounted orders to generate evidence of financial ties between protesters in custody; an effort that, had they not failed, would have seemingly served to legitimize President Trump’s false claims about 'Antifa,' an 'organization' that even his most loyal intelligence officers failed to drum up proof ever existed." Who was weaponizing the government?

"Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, the former chair of the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, says House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's decision to release security video of that day to Fox News host Tucker Carlson could compromise the security of the U.S. Capitol by exposing the placement of cameras throughout the complex."

"A Republican state senator in Florida has introduced a bill that, if passed, would require bloggers who write about Gov. Ron DeSantis, his Cabinet or state legislators to register with the state." Fuck this Nazi shit, and fuck the Florida Mussolini DeSantis.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Linkee-poo Wednesday Feb 22 Late night edition

"A monster winter storm took aim at the Upper Midwest on Tuesday, threatening to bring blizzard conditions, bitterly cold temperatures and 2 feet of snow in a three-day onslaught that could affect more than 40 million Americans."

"New editions of legendary works by British author Roald Dahl are being edited to remove words that could be deemed offensive to some readers, according to the late writer's company." Ugh. Okay, well, they do have the right to change the works. And yes, some of that language could be deemed "offensive." But while I applaud the effort to be more inclusive and aware of other people's feelings, these books have been in print for a long time. An introductory warning and apology would have sufficed here, but I'm not in the categories that have been offended. I can't help but think this isn't really about doing "what is right", but is more about continued income. Not to mention that they have just created a whole class of "rare" books (the "uncorrected" versions printed before now) that could be lucrative to some.

"The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that it would take control of the cleanup of a Norfolk Southern train derailment in Ohio earlier this month that released hazardous chemicals into the environment… Under the legally binding order, Norfolk Southern must identify and clean up contaminated soil and water resources, pay for the costs of work performed by the EPA and reimburse the agency for additional cleaning services offered to residents and businesses." It's great to have a government that works for us again.

"EPA says it can fine Norfolk Southern $70,000 a day if it falls short of cleaning up and paying for the Ohio toxic train wreck."

"But reporting by NPR found a broad consensus among drug policy experts that strategies now being put forward are unrealistic and won't keep fentanyl off American streets." We've had almost 50 years with the War on Drugs. It has barely made a dent, and it never will because it was never meant to. The only real solution to the problem would be to spend the money being spent on supporting people before they get into drugs, and having a robust treatment and rehab system. Until you make a dent in the demand, you'll never end the war on trying to stop the supply.

"One big reason people want to ditch their commutes: they can save money. They found this out during the pandemic, of course. In 2019, just 6% of Americans worked primarily from home in 2019. By the end of 2020, that number had increased to more than 33.3%. An Upwork study in September of that year found the average American had saved $2,000 by ditching their commute. LendingTree weighed in with a study that found that remote work led to debt reductions of approximately $9,117 for the average American. Meanwhile, 60% of millennial and adult Gen Z respondents to a Bankrate survey that year said that working from home was financially beneficial." But wait, the commute is "not bad." At least, this is what the article wants you to believe. As a veteran of decades of long commutes, using them as a buffer zone between work and home is a good idea. There's another branch of though that tries to make that time "productive." Ignore that bullshit.

"Results from a new pilot program at dozens of employers in the United Kingdom showed major benefits to workers' health and productivity when their hours were reduced — and a vast majority of firms plan to stick with the condensed schedule… Advocates say the results help validate the idea that it's possible for companies to shorten the workweek to 32 hours with no reduction in pay while maintaining previous levels of work output." Huhn, imagine that. Of course it will be imported to the US (which also ran a study back in the Obama administration IIRC which came to the same conclusion), but they will most definitely miss that part about "no reduction in pay."

"The Supreme Court is weighing Wednesday whether Facebook, Twitter and YouTube can be sued over a 2017 Islamic State group attack on a Turkish nightclub based on the argument the platforms assisted in fueling the growth of the terrorist organization."

"Speaking to a joint session of the Russian parliament and Kremlin officials, Russian President Vladimir Putin presented the war in Ukraine as an existential struggle against the West, while announcing he was suspending Russia's participation in the last remaining arms control treaty with the U.S." Fuck around and find out, Vlad. (Waves to my Russian friends, also, guys, you do know he's insane now, right, it's not safe for you anymore.)v "Speaking from Warsaw, Poland, Biden boasted of how the west had responded to the aggression from Moscow and said leaders must continue to stand up for freedom and democracy… 'When Russia invaded, it wasn't just Ukraine being tested. The whole world faced a test for the ages. Europe was being tested,' Biden said from the gardens of the Royal Castle."

"American and allied sanctions and export controls are constraining Russia’s ability to wage war on Ukraine by degrading its military, a top Treasury Department official said Tuesday, adding that more sanctions will be imposed on the Kremlin in the coming days." War is economy and logistics.

"President Joe Biden swept unannounced into Ukraine on Monday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a defiant display of Western solidarity with a country still fighting what he called “a brutal and unjust war” days before the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion."

"And oh goddamn were both the Russians and Republicans mad about it… The symbolism of Biden's visit to war-torn Ukraine wasn't lost on the enemies of America." Jim Wright on the current conflict (which is more than just Ukraine resisting Russia).

"A handful of congressional Republicans met Tuesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a signal of continued U.S. support even as hard-right members of the party vow to block future aid to the embattled country." A day late and a dollar short, as they say.

"A maintenance worker was killed and 13 were sent to hospitals with injuries after an explosion and large fire at a metal plant outside of Cleveland, Ohio… Emergency crews responded to I. Schumann & Co. in Bedford, Ohio, around 2:20 p.m. on Monday. The cause of the explosion is still unclear, but photos shared on social media and in local news reports showed debris scattered for hundreds of yards, damaged vehicles and a plume of smoke visible for miles."

"A former Proud Boys member who pleaded guilty to plotting with group leaders to violently stop the transfer of presidential power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden told jurors Tuesday that he viewed their far-right extremist organization as 'the tip of the spear' after the 2020 election."

"President Biden is seeing his highest approval ratings in almost a year, while former President Donald Trump, who is hoping to take the job back, is getting his worst scores among potential Republican voters in years, according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll." Polls about an election that is almost 2 years away are essentially meaningless (except to pollsters who will chart the fluctuations and declare "movement"). But it's nice to see this.

"The former attorney general of Arizona, Mark Brnovich, failed to release documents that showed his office’s investigation into the 2020 election did not find evidence of widespread fraud in the state’s most populous county."

"In remarks that appeared to have been made at a Project Veritas' office, (James) O'Keefe said the board had stripped him of all decision-making. The move comes after the board reportedly put him on leave from his role as chairman amid complaints about his treatment of staff at the organization, which is known for using hidden cameras and hiding identities to try to ensnare journalists in embarrassing conversations and to reveal supposed liberal bias." Apparently he was a real asshole and was stealing money. Who could have seen that coming?

"Roger Bergman, the sole incumbent Republican commissioner the group failed to oust, had attended one of those forums last year, and as he sat in the audience, he grew concerned. But even Bergman, who at 76 has decades in local politics, wasn’t sure what it would all mean when it came time for a new, far-right majority to actually govern… That is, until they took office last month, and havoc broke out."

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Linkee-poo Sunday Feb 19th

Raquel Welch, and so it goes.

"'After a series of short hospital stays, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter today decided to spend his remaining time at home with his family and receive hospice care instead of additional medical intervention,' the Carter Center said in a statement on Saturday." Thank you, Mr. President.

"In Senegal, rising seas have led to devastating coastal erosion. If there is a war against climate change, the UNESCO World Heritage city of Saint-Louis is on the front lines. And the ocean is winning."

"Concerned that such harvesting was harming lobster populations, Indonesia’s fishing ministry in 2016 prohibited the export of the tiny crustaceans. Shortly after taking office, Prabowo lifted the ban. Court documents show that just a month later, in June of 2020, the minister accepted a $77,000 bribe from a seafood supplier to grant it a permit to sell the hatchlings abroad."

"Thanks to a planet-wide collaboration, scientists have released an image of the Milky Way that contains 3.32 billion individually identifiable objects, most of which are stars." And the zoomable image is here. (Grokked from Dan)

"Residents forced to evacuate the Ohio village of East Palestine began trickling home after being told Wednesday that hundreds of air samples showed no dangerous levels of toxins following the controlled release and burn of five tankers that were among nearly 50 cars that derailed last Friday."

"Health and environmental concerns are mounting in East Palestine, Ohio, after several derailed train cars released toxic fumes last week… The evacuation order was lifted on Wednesday and since then, there have been a growing number of reports about people experiencing a burning sensation in their eyes, animals falling ill and a strong odor lingering in the town."

"The president of Norfolk Southern made a visit to East Palestine, Ohio, on Saturday following criticism from residents and political leaders about the company’s response to the fiery derailment of a freight train carrying toxic materials earlier this month."

"Folklore customs dating back centuries are suddenly cool with a new generation keen to connect with the planet and defy the establishment." Punk to be folk? (Grokked from Deborah Beal, I think)

"Citizens for Responsible Solar seems to be a well-mobilized 'national effort to foment local opposition to renewable energy,' Burger adds. 'What that reflects is the unfortunate politicization of climate change, the politicization of energy, and, unfortunately, the political nature of the energy transition, which is really just a necessary response to an environmental reality.'" Why we can't have good things.

"A Nevada company that recycles batteries for electric vehicles has won a $2 billion green energy loan from the Biden administration."

"Adolescent girls across the country are facing record levels of violence, sadness and despair, according to new survey data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And teens who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning and other non-heterosexual identities also experience high levels of violence and distress, the survey found." The kids are not alright.

"'Instead of using artificial materials for building drones, we can use the dead birds and re-engineer them as a drone,' New Mexico Tech mechanical engineer Mostafa Hassanalian told New Scientist. Video demo below." (Grokked from Dan)

"After several rounds of treatment for a rare eye cancer — weekly drug infusions that could cost nearly $50,000 each — Paul Davis learned Medicare had abruptly stopped paying the bills… That left Davis, a retired physician in Findlay, Ohio, contemplating a horrific choice: risk saddling his family with huge medical debt, if he had to pay those bills from the hospital out-of-pocket, or halt treatments that help keep him alive."

"The World Health Organization convened an emergency meeting earlier this week, just a day after Equatorial Guinea, in West Africa, confirmed its first-ever outbreak of the highly lethal Marburg virus disease… The WHO emergency meeting on February 14 was to discuss whether to test one of several Marburg vaccines and treatments in development during this outbreak."

"Inflation cooled in January for the seventh month in a row… But there's a cautionary sign: While the 12-month price increase was slightly lower, prices surged between December and January, suggesting inflation is still far from tamed."

"When Adidas cut ties with Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, over the rapper's antisemitic remarks, the sportswear giant quickly had another problem on its hands: what to do with all of its merchandise associated with Ye, branded as Yeezy."

"A Wisconsin-based company that provides workers to clean food processing plants paid a $1.5 million fine for illegally putting 102 children to work in dangerous jobs at meatpacking facilities, including those in Kansas and Nebraska… Packers Sanitation Services paid the maximum civil penalty allowed under the Fair Labor Standards Act to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) after an investigation found children working overnight shifts at 13 meatpacking plants in eight different states."

"The amount of grain leaving Ukraine has dropped even as a U.N.-brokered deal works to keep food flowing to developing nations, with inspections of ships falling to half what they were four months ago and a backlog of vessels growing as Russia’s invasion nears the one-year mark."

"The United States has determined that Russia has committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine, Vice President Kamala Harris said Saturday, insisting that 'justice must be served' to the perpetrators."

"Our commitment to AP African American Studies is unwavering. This will be the most rigorous, cohesive immersion that high school students have ever had in this discipline. Many more students than ever before will go on to deepen their knowledge in African American Studies programs in college." The College Board changes direction.

"Late last fall, West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Amelia Ferrell Knisely reported one story after another about allegations that people with disabilities were abused in facilities run by the state… The state agency Knisely was covering demanded that one of her key stories be fully retracted. While her coverage remains on West Virginia Public Broadcasting's website, Knisely is gone. She says she was told the decision came from the station's chief executive."

"Fox News hosts repeatedly singled out the election-tech company Dominion Voting Systems for 'rigging' the election and 'flipping' votes from Trump to Democratic nominee Joe Biden without evidence to back up the claims. Yet internal communications and private messages show the network's talent and executives agreed that claims were 'ludicrous' and 'bs.'"

"Long seen as a fringe viewpoint, Christian nationalism now has a foothold in American politics, particularly in the Republican Party — according to a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution… Researchers found that more than half of Republicans believe the country should be a strictly Christian nation, either adhering to the ideals of Christian nationalism (21%) or sympathizing with those views (33%)."

"The Spotlight was a very widely read 'conservative' periodical back in the 70s and 80s. It was a few clicks to the right of National Review, but almost certainly had a larger circulation. In 1980 it had about 310K subscribers. National Review was probably about 1/3 of that." The whackaloons started early, and as this twitter thread describes, there was once guardrails to keep it from overtaking the face of the Republican party. No longer. (Grokked for Eric)

"Florida has become sort of an epicenter for right-wing and far-right forces. The populist political agenda of Governor Ron DeSantis plays with some far-right tropes, while far-right figures like Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro have found refuge in the state. On the ground, extremist groups are looking to capitalize on the moment. Some have been using high-powered projectors to cast hateful images and messages onto buildings, which recently prompted Jacksonville City Council to make it illegal for anyone to project messages onto buildings without the owner's consent."

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Linkee-poo Saturday Feb 11

"Scientifically known as Palaeoloxodon antiquus, the towering animals were the largest land mammals of the Pleistocene, standing more than 13 feet (4 meters) high. Despite this imposing size, the now-extinct straight-tusked elephants were routinely hunted and systematically butchered for their meat by Neanderthals, according to a new study of the remains of 70 of the animals found at a site in central Germany known as Neumark-Nord, near the city of Halle."

"The bright pink bird won supporters beyond New York City as people hoped the young king pigeon, dubbed Flamingo, would survive its ordeal of being dyed with chemicals and then released into the wild… But it was not to be: The Wild Bird Fund rescue group said on Tuesday that Flamingo died roughly a week after a rescuer found him in Manhattan's Madison Square Park."

"The proposed rule involves a section of the federal law that offers exceptions to its broad prohibitions on harming species listed as endangered or threatened. It allows 'taking' — killing — individual plants or animals for scientific purposes, or to preserve a species through steps such as establishing new populations."

"'Killer whale mothers pay a really huge cost to take care of their sons,' says Weiss. That cost is that they have fewer offspring. 'And they do this throughout their son's life and never really stop paying that cost to keep their sons alive.'"

"Mysterious Russian satellites are now breaking apart in low-Earth orbit… 'This suggests to me that perhaps these events are the result of a design error.'" Hey Ivan, stop leaving your trash all over the place.

"An uncrewed Russian spacecraft docked at the International Space Station has lost cabin pressure, but the incident does not pose a danger to the station's crew, the Russian space corporation said on Saturday."

"President Joe Biden sparked a firestorm in energy circles when he said in Tuesday’s State of the Union address that the United States will need oil 'for at least another decade.'"

Jason Sanford's long awaited article on the AI "revolution"…
"I choose to be optimistic about all this. As Maurice Broaddus recently told me, 'The market has always been horrible for writers and artists. But the way it's been terrible changes over time. What we do as writers and artists is we adapt. We change. We thrive." So many thoughts that it could take several books to explain them all. In general I agree with much of Jason's reporting here and his extrapolation. There are some missing aspects here (which is unsurprising, again, this is a subject that could take an Encyclopedia Britanica amount of space and still not cover everything). Humans are making the same mistakes we've always made, mostly in thinking "this is New!" What we are experiencing is the start of another industrial revolution. Most people are familiar with the 2 recognized periods of this, steam and electricity, but there have been thousands of smaller revolutions. And just like the mass manufacturing brought about by the electrical revolution in the late 1800's spawned the Art Nouveau and "craft" response, they where then subsumed into Art Deco, and finally Modernism and Brutalism. In graphic design I've seen two of these (desktop publishing and mass market digital photography) and benefited from a third (computerization). Publishing has recently gone through the revolution that self-publishing brought. So let me jump ahead in the timeline here. We're currently at the stage of Salon and the Salon des Refusés. The Salon will steadfastly resist the changes brought, decry the "loss of creativity, style, craftsmanship, and importance of the individual" and in twenty years the Salon des Refusés will have become the standard Salon, against which there will be a new revolt and the cycle will continue. These machine learning tools are crappy, but they'll get better. They will appeal because of their "democratization" and (more importantly) low cost. There will be a valiant struggle against adoption, the cry of the civilized against the decadence and crassness. There will be the class who see's the opportunities provided by the new tools and will learn to use them. Eventually the tools will be adopted wholesale and the general public will never understand what the big deal was anyway while accepting lower grade output as the height of what is possible. While the factories producing buggy whips have crumbled into dust there is a still a dedicated workforce that cranks them out as a cottage industry and sells into specialty markets (the Amish for instance). As the middle of the old joke goes, "Any technology created before you're 30 is exciting and new and you can probably make a living with it." And us olds will go to our grave and take the knowledge of what was the standards of quality at one time with us, and the young people will shake their heads at our delusions.

"Google’s much-hyped new AI chatbot tool Bard, which has yet to be released to the public, is already being called out for an inaccurate response it produced in a demo this week… In the demo, which was posted by Google on Twitter, a user asks Bard: 'What new discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope can I tell my 9 year old about?' Bard responds with a series of bullet points, including one that reads: 'JWST took the very first pictures of a planet outside of our own solar system.'" Garbage in, garbage out.

"First out of the gate among big tech companies with a publicly accessible search chatbot, Microsoft executives said this week they had been hard at work on the project since last summer. But the excitement around ChatGPT brought new urgency." Skynet's greatest power, it seems, is its ability to lie to us.

"Employees showed Musk internal data regarding engagement with his account along with a Google Trends chart. Last April, they told him, Musk was at “peak” popularity in search rankings, indicated by a score of '100.' Today, he’s at a score of nine… 'You’re fired, you’re fired,' Musk told the engineer." The "stable genius" at work.

A great twitter thread about the possibility of H5N1 becoming a major threat. Unfortunately the author doesn't seem to have factored in the anti-tax/anti-science brigade and how broken the health system is after COVID into her calculations. But it's a good rundown on the state of where we are vis-a-vis this virus.v "But 17 months before her three-day ordeal, Tennova had outsourced its emergency rooms to American Physician Partners, a medical staffing company owned by private equity investors. APP employs fewer doctors in its ERs as one of its cost-saving initiatives to increase earnings… This staffing strategy has permeated hospitals, and particularly emergency rooms, that seek to reduce their top expense: physician labor. While diagnosing and treating patients was once doctors' domain, they are increasingly being replaced by nurse practitioners and physician assistants, collectively known as 'midlevel practitioners,' who can perform many of the same duties and generate much of the same revenue for less than half the pay." And it's not just doctors, and it's not just ERs. Lean does not work in service industries, and the creators of that business model specifically called out healthcare as a place their philosophies would never work (and should never be tried).

"During that three-week wait – a wait they had to endure only because of the Ohio law – the risk to Beth of potentially deadly complications grew. Their ability to try to have another baby was delayed, and their 'agony' couldn’t end, Beth said." (Grokked from John Scalzi)

"The Walt Disney Co. announced plans Wednesday to cut about 4% of its entire workforce. That means layoffs for 7,000 employees… The company's stock increased immediately after the announcement, which was expected."

"The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($726,200 or less) decreased to 6.18% from 6.19%, with points falling to 0.64 from 0.65 (including the origination fee) for loans with a 20% down payment. That rate was 3.83% the same week one year ago."

"At a camp for displaced people inside the municipal stadium in downtown Gaziantep, in southeast Turkey, families devastated by this week's magnitude 7.8 earthquake say they are struggling to survive. In a camp set up by Turkey's disaster relief arm, and in makeshift settlements in the fields around it, survivors of the quake say they do not have enough food, water, heating or basic amenities to keep themselves alive."

"Australia's Defense Department will remove surveillance cameras made by Chinese Communist Party-linked companies from its buildings, the government said Thursday after the U.S. and Britain made similar moves." Here's the thing, you can check the equipment to see where it may be sending data. You can monitor its traffic. You can examine the electronics. But this sounds like mostly it's over the fear that the Chinese government may have installed a Trojan Horse.

"Miller worries about China as a rising threat to the U.S., but questioned how much intelligence could be gained from a balloon. China’s bigger threat, he said, is to the U.S. economy. Like many throughout the country, Miller wonders if stricter laws are needed to bar farmland sales to foreign nationals so power over agriculture and the food supply doesn’t end up in the wrong hands."

"Ramzan Kadyrov, a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has begun rattling off threats about attacking Poland after Ukraine… Kadyrov, the head of Chechnya, suggested Monday that Russia should 'denazify and demilitarize' Poland next." It's always one more thing.

"The Biden administration on Tuesday approved a $10 billion arms sale to NATO ally Poland as Russia’s war in neighboring Ukraine rages… The State Department notified Congress that the sale comprises mid-range, mobile HIMARS artillery rocket systems, associated ammunition and related equipment." And the arms buildup begins.

"The president of SpaceX revealed the company has taken active steps to prevent Ukrainian forces from using the critical Starlink satellite technology with Ukrainian drones that are a key component of their fight against Russia." Wow, that's some pretty quick retconning. And the CEO of Starlink saying she didn't even know Starlink could be used for military comms and directing drones? Is everybody in the top echelon of Elon's companies as dumb as he is?

"An internal investigation by the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission, obtained by The Associated Press via a public records request Wednesday, concluded that Executive Director Steve Marks and five other agency officials had diverted sought-after bourbons, including Pappy Van Winkle’s 23-year-old whiskey, for their personal use."

"A reporter was pushed to the ground, handcuffed and arrested for trespassing while covering a news conference about the derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals in Ohio."

"The Cardinal Local Schools Board of Education on Wednesday announced it will allow the play (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) to proceed, a little over two weeks after it made the controversial decision to cancel the production because it was deemed 'vulgar' and not 'family-friendly.'" The culture wars comes to Middlefield, Ohio.

"One of Tennessee’s most influential Republican lawmakers says the state should stop accepting the nearly $1.8 billion of federal K-12 education dollars that help provide support for low-income students, English learners and students with disabilities." It's easy when your a sociopath and don't give a damn about the poor and people with disabilities.

"A Missouri man who sought to ban several LGBTQ books from schools for depicting sexual content is now facing a felony charge of second-degree child molestation… Accusations against Utterback, according to court documents, describe separate instances in 2020 in which he allegedly touched a 12-year-old girl under her clothes and rubbed a teenager’s leg underneath her jeans. Another case alleged in 2021 that he showed pornographic video footage to a child starting from when she was around 4 years old." Another case in the "every allegation is a confession" group.

"Former Twitter officials denied claims the U.S. government and Joe Biden's presidential campaign were involved in the social network's controversial, short-lived decision to block users from sharing a New York Post story about Biden's son Hunter just weeks before the 2020 election."

"Republicans are living in a reality distortion field… That is the only conclusion that can be drawn from Wednesday’s hearing on Capitol Hill where GOP lawmakers continued to push a factually unsupported narrative about the federal government secretly colluding with Twitter to censor the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story in 2020."

"Fewer than five months after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration flew about 50 migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard, Mass. – a move that ended up costing the state around $1.5 million and is the subject of legal challenges – the Republican supermajority in the legislature has granted the administration another $10 million to transport migrants from other states."

"After four years of punishing the people of Florida with actions largely meant to increase his personal power, Governor Ron DeSantis appears to be bringing his corrosive brand of politics to a presidential run. But DeSantis only looks like an even remotely reasonable or centrist candidate when viewed in a line-up between his gubernatorial predecessor Rick Scott and ex-U.S. catastrophe Donald Trump. That he sits comfortably between the two, accompanied by a host of extremists, should be cause for alarm, not suggestions that he is anything other than an authoritarian."

"But there are reasons why the narrative that Republicans want to cut Social Security and Medicare sticks. Look at recent history — President George W. Bush tried to privatize Social Security, former House Speaker Paul Ryan's budget proposed sweeping changes to Medicare, and even though former President Trump largely tabled serious talk of entitlement cuts, his budget did call for cuts to some aspects of Social Security and Medicaid."

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Linkee-poo Wednesday Feb 8

"Residents of East Palestine in northeast Ohio (were) asked to evacuate, as officials fear the cars of a train that derailed nearby might explode or release toxic gases… Gov. Mike DeWine issued an evacuation order on Sunday evening for people living within a mile of the train derailment. According to DeWine, a majority of residents left prior to the evacuation notice, but at least 500 people had refused. Families with children who fail to evacuate could face possible arrest."v "Authorities (planned) to release toxic chemicals into the air from five derailed tanker cars that were in danger of exploding Monday, telling residents near the Ohio-Pennsylvania state line to leave immediately or face the possibility of death."

"Visitors to one of Florence’s most iconic monuments — the Baptistry of San Giovanni, opposite the city’s Duomo — are getting a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see its ceiling mosaics up close thanks to an innovative approach to a planned restoration effort."

Ah, something new has been added. "Astronomers have discovered 12 new moons around Jupiter, putting the total count at a record-breaking 92."

"A small California city that was overrun by visitors four years ago when heavy winter rains produced a “super bloom” of wild poppies has a message for the public after this year’s deluge: Do not come. You could be arrested."

"But then I took a look closer — wait, this wasn’t a state tax credit that DeWine proposed, but a tax deduction." Ohio, doing nothing but trying to make it seem like something.

"Ohio’s privatized economic development office has finalized an agreement with Honda to infuse another $237 million into development of a massive battery plant project that the Japanese automaker plans to use to transform the state into its North American electric vehicle hub." Ah, Ohio is once again giving away the state.

"Search and rescue teams continue to look for survivors in Turkey and Syria on Wednesday, following the massive earthquake and multiple aftershocks on Monday. Thousands of buildings have been leveled and the confirmed death toll has soared past 11,000 people, according to the Associated Press."

"Rescuers in Turkey and war-ravaged Syria searched through the frigid night into Tuesday, hoping to pull more survivors from the rubble after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed more than 4,000 people and toppled thousands of buildings across a wide region."

"Monday's earthquake all but destroyed a 2,000-year-old castle in southeastern Turkey, according to state and local reports… Gaziantep Castle — located in the heart of the city closest to the quake's epicenter — began as an observation point during the Hittite Empire, was fortified during the Roman Empire and expanded under Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century."

"For years, the people of Aleppo bore the brunt of bombardment and fighting when their city, once Syria’s largest and most cosmopolitan, was among the civil war’s fiercest battle zones. Even that didn’t prepare them for the new devastation and terror wreaked by this week’s earthquake."

"China on Monday accused the United States of indiscriminate use of force in shooting down a suspected Chinese spy balloon, saying it 'seriously impacted and damaged both sides’ efforts and progress in stabilizing Sino-U.S. relations.'"

"Two people, including a known neo-Nazi leader, were arrested last week after the FBI interrupted their plot to attack the Baltimore power grid, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland announced Monday morning."

"Florida lawmakers will meet Monday to begin a state takeover of Walt Disney World’s self-governing district and expand a migrant relocation program, key conservative priorities of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis ahead of his expected White House run." Killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

"When President Joe Biden suggested that Republicans want to slash Medicare and Social Security, the GOP howls of protest during his State of the Union address showcased a striking apparent turnaround for the party that built a brand for years trying to do just that." You know, just like they didn't "really want to overturn Roe v Wade."

"Sanders says the choice in the U.S. is 'normal or crazy' in GOP response to Biden." Well, in her favor, that is true. Just not in the direction she thinks it is. But then very few people when in the grips of a mental health issue can realize that they're crazy. It's always everybody else.

"A slew of bills, mostly in Republican-led states, are looking to restrict or prohibit drag show performances in the presence of children, part of a larger fight over a burgeoning culture war issue… Republicans say the performances expose children to sexual themes and imagery that are inappropriate, a claim rejected by advocates, who say the proposed measures are discriminatory against the LGBTQ community and could violate First Amendment laws."

Monday, February 6, 2023

Linkee-poo Monday Feb 6 early AM report

"A furry critter in a western Pennsylvania town has predicted six more weeks of winter during an annual Groundhog Day celebration." Fuck Phil.

"U.S. health officials are advising people to stop using over-the-counter eye drops that have been linked to an outbreak of drug-resistant infections."

"Their study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, is based on a rare archaeological find: An embalming workshop with a trove of pottery around 2,500 years old. Many jars from the site were still inscribed with instructions like 'to wash' or 'to put on his head.'… By matching the writing on the outside of the vessels with the chemical traces inside, researchers uncovered new details about the 'recipes' that helped preserve bodies for thousands of years." Like Young Frankenstein finding the "How I did it" book.

"How did the U.S. end up celebrating Groundhog Day in the first place?… It dates back to ancient traditions — first pagan, then Christian — marking the halfway point between the winter solstice and spring equinox, says Troy Harman, a history professor at Penn State University who also works as a ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park."

"The Arctic air that descended on the Northeast on Saturday brought dangerously cold sub-zero temperatures and wind chills to the region, including a record-setting wind chill of minus 108 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 78 C) on the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire."

"The Biden administration released a long-awaited study Wednesday that recommends allowing a major oil development on Alaska’s North Slope that supporters say could boost U.S. energy security but that climate activists decry as a 'carbon bomb.'"

"The heated debate over regulating gas stoves is really about the burners in those appliances. That's where natural gas, a fossil fuel, is combusted and air pollution is released into homes… Four decades ago, the gas industry and appliance manufacturers developed a partial solution for this problem. They created a cleaner and more efficient burner. But you can't buy ranges with those burners because the industry never manufactured those appliances for sale."

EVs are too expensive, cry conservative lawmakers. "Last month, Tesla dropped its prices dramatically — up to 20%… Here's how the announcement is having ripple effects, from the impact on Tesla owners to the changes it could spur across the auto industry." While not stated in this article there are also reports that insuring Teslas has become more expensive because of repairs being so costly, even minor damage can classify a car as being "totaled."

And then… "Tesla has raised prices on its Model Y in the U.S., apparently due to rising demand and changes in U.S. government rules that make more versions of the small SUV eligible for tax credits."

"But a full three weeks after they bought the car and took it home, they got what's called 'yo-yo'd.'" The fuck?

"A whale that washed ashore in Hawaii over the weekend likely died in part because it ate large volumes of fishing traps, fishing nets, plastic bags and other marine debris, scientists said Thursday, highlighting the threat to wildlife from the millions of tons of plastic that ends up in oceans every year."

"Researchers are trying to figure out a mystery: Why are so many humpback whales, right whales, and other large mammals dying along the U.S. East Coast? One possible explanation is a shift in food habits. And while theories are circulating that blame the growing offshore wind industry, scientists say there's no proof to support that idea."

"Nine-year-old Bobbi Wilson may be in the fourth grade, but last month the Yale School of Public Health held a ceremony honoring the budding scientist's recent work… The accolades come just three months after Bobbi, who is Black, made headlines when former Caldwell Borough Council member Gordon Lawshe, who is white, called local police on the girl."

"Maryland officials are preparing for as many as 80,000 residents who could no longer qualify for Medicaid coverage this spring, as the federal government reinstates a requirement that existed before the COVID-19 pandemic for states to verify the eligibility of recipients."

"AstraZeneca said its third phase trial results showed its single-dose treatment was nearly 75% effective at preventing severe infection in babies throughout an RSV season. The data was published in March 2022 in the New England Journal of Medicine."

"As global demand for Covid-19 vaccines dries up, the program responsible for vaccinating the world’s poor has been urgently negotiating to try to get out of its deals with pharmaceutical companies for shots it no longer needs… Drug companies have so far declined to refund $1.4 billion in advance payments for now-canceled doses, according to confidential documents obtained by The New York Times." But remember, they're going to hike the prices from around $20 to $150.

"Despite its illegal status, ayahuasca has become increasingly popular in the U.S., and interest has intensified as celebrities like NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Hollywood star Will Smith talked about attending ceremonies. Supporters have formed churches to hold their ceremonies, which are largely held underground in homes, at rented facilities or in remote locations like deserts."

"Stocks have surged since the start of the year. The Nasdaq is up nearly 15% this year after posting its best January since 2001. And it's not just stocks: bonds have risen and even bitcoin has made a roaring comeback, though all markets fell a tad on Friday." Recession? What recession?

"After a long run of surging profits from pandemic-era shopping sprees, Amazon is feeling the hangover. The retail and tech giant is reporting its first unprofitable year since 2014… By far, the biggest culprit for Amazon's losses over the year was the company's hefty investment in the electric automaker Rivian whose value plummeted last year and ate into Amazon's bottom line."

"An intense winter storm finally passed through Texas on Thursday, but residents will feel the impact of the storm for more time. The storm led to power outages in hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses."

"Energy giant Shell has reported its highest annual profits in the company's 115-year history, after energy prices soared due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine… London-based Shell's profits for 2022 were almost $40 billion, twice those reported for 2021, at a time of continued political debate about more targeted taxation on energy companies."

"Up to half a million British teachers, civil servants, and train drivers walked out over pay in the largest coordinated strike action for a decade on Wednesday, with unions threatening more disruption as the government digs its heels in over pay demands."

"For the last six years, tourists at London's Tate Modern who wandered up to the 10th story could catch a glimpse of one of the gallery's more unusual attractions: the luxury apartments across the way… Now that unofficial exhibit may be soon closing." What a load of crap.

"The U.K. government said Thursday it was responding to 'deeply shocking' revelations that debt-collectors working for British Gas broke into customers’ homes to install prepay gas meters that left vulnerable people at risk of having their heating cut off… British Gas’ parent company, Centrica PLC, said it had halted the 'unacceptable' practice. The country’s energy regulator launched an investigation." YEs yes, totally unacceptable to have our legal representatives violate our policies by :: checks notes :: getting warrants to enter homes accompanied by police, breaking in with the help of locksmiths. I mean, who could have seen them doing this using corporate assets, working on billable time, invoicing their expenses. Why, we're totally shocked.

"Truss on Sunday blamed a 'powerful economic establishment' and internal Conservative Party opposition for the rapid collapse of her government, and said she still believes her tax-cutting policies were the right ones… Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister resigned in October, six weeks into the job, after her inaugural budget plan sparked market mayhem." Nope. Liz, I'm pretty sure it was you and your wackaloon economy theory. Just a reminder that not all thoughts are good thoughts.

"Despite overwhelming domestic protest and concerns from the U.S., Israel's most far-right government in history is doubling down on its plan to fundamentally remake Israel's system of government by weakening the powers of the judiciary."

"Iran's supreme leader on Sunday reportedly ordered an amnesty or reduction in prison sentences for 'tens of thousands' of people detained amid nationwide anti-government protests shaking the country, acknowledging for the first time the scale of the crackdown." It's amazing at what happens when you run out of jail space.

"Undergraduate college enrollment is continuing its years-long decline, though at a much less drastic rate than during the pandemic. According to data released Thursday, Feb. 2, U.S. colleges and universities saw a drop of just 94,000 undergraduate students, or 0.6%, between the fall of 2021 and 2022. This follows a historic decline that began in the fall of 2020; over two years, more than 1 million fewer students enrolled in college." Even though they upgrade this year's numbers, the demographic cliff is still coming in 3 years.

In case you ever heard the argument about how restricting legal guns sales wouldn't stop criminals from getting guns… "The most expansive federal report in over two decades on guns and crime shows a shrinking turnaround between the time a gun was purchased and when it was recovered from a crime scene, indicating firearms bought legally are more quickly being used in crimes around the country." Just where do you think criminals get their guns?

"A federal judge in Wisconsin ruled Wednesday that a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the father of a man shot and killed by Kyle Rittenhouse during a protest in 2020 can proceed against Rittenhouse, police officers and others." Good.

"Police converged in force on the tiny, unincorporated community of Wolf Creek in southwest Oregon the night of Jan. 26 as they hunted for a suspect who was wanted for kidnapping and torturing a woman nearly to death — and who had previously been convicted of a similar crime in Nevada."

"The people who live in this other Jacksonville are mostly Black, and many of them lay blame for their neighborhoods’ lack of services on the city’s politics. They point to a lack of representation resulting in part from the way the districts have been drawn for the city council, the decision-making body for Jacksonville’s 950,000 residents."

"In the announcement, College Board CEO David Coleman called the newly revised course, which high schoolers can take for college credit, 'an unflinching encounter with the facts and evidence of African American history and culture.'… But critics point out that the newest iteration of the course is now missing several themes and voices from Black scholars that were originally presented in a pilot program already being taught at dozens of schools this year across the country. Others are saying that changes to the curriculum were made to appease Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis after his administration rejected the original iteration of the course last month."

"Brazil's former president Jair Bolsonaro has applied for a six-month visa to remain in the U.S. as his home country continues to investigate whether he's partially responsible for an attack on Brasilia's capital buildings last month." Where are the conservative cries of "illegal immigration" here?

"On its face, the National Prayer Breakfast is a serene, bipartisan event full of spiritual reflection… But over the years, the breakfast has also been a source of controversy — full of shadowy fundraising, behind-the-scenes lobbying and even infiltration by a Russian spy." Upset at the controversies around it, and lack of control, Congress is taking it back in-house so they can avoid future embarrassments. The people involved will be the same, their goals will be the same, The Family still has its tentacles in the highest offices of government, it's just you won't see it anymore.

"A case before a federal judge in Texas could dramatically alter abortion access in the United States – at least as much, some experts say, as the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision last year, which overturned decades of abortion-rights precedent… A decision is expected soon in the case challenging the Food and Drug Administration's approval more than 20 years ago of the abortion drug mifepristone, which a growing number of patients use to terminate pregnancies."

"Eyes were locked on the Carolina skies Saturday as a suspected Chinese spy balloon ended its weeklong traverse over the U.S. when it drifted over the Atlantic Ocean and was shot down by a fighter jet." Much ado over very little.

The Pentagon's response. Including this gem, "The balloon did not pose a military or physical threat. Still its intrusion into American airspace over several days was an unacceptable violation of U.S. sovereignty. The official said Chinese balloons briefly transited the continental United States at least three times during the prior administration." Considering the chest beating over, "this would never had happened in Trump was president.

"Prisoners in Massachusetts may soon have the option to get their sentences reduced in exchange for donating their organs or bone marrow if a proposed law is passed in the US state." JFC.

"A lawyer for President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, asked the Justice Department in a letter Wednesday to investigate close allies of former President Donald Trump and others who accessed and disseminated personal data from a laptop that a computer repair shop owner says was dropped off at his Delaware store in 2019."

"But speaking to reporters later on Capitol Hill, McCarthy offered more specifics, saying he would not agree to a 'clean' bill that would only raise the debt ceiling without spending cuts attached." McCarthy's disappearing/reappearing spine trick is growing tiresome. But of course he's not going to toss away his only have negotiation point.

The US parallel to Liz Truss saying, "It wasn't me, I wasn't at fault"… "Evans joins a series of Jan. 6 defendants who — when up against possible prison time in court — have expressed regret for joining the pro-Trump mob that rattled the foundations of American democracy only to strike a different tone or downplay the riot after receiving their punishment." Funny how that happens.