It's four o'clock in the morning
Damn it listen to me good
I'm sleeping with myself tonight
Saved in time, thank God my music's still alive

Friday, February 22, 2019

Linkee-poo closes out the week

"That’s when he saw it, a faint object at a distance 140 times farther from the sun than Earth — the farthest solar system object yet known, some 3.5 times more distant than Pluto. The object, if confirmed, would break his team’s own discovery, announced in December, of a dwarf planet 120 times farther out than Earth, which they nicknamed 'Farout.' For now, they are jokingly calling the new object 'FarFarOut'." I'm not sure I like the direction this naming scheme is leading.

"Israel's non-profit SpaceIL launched its spacecraft from Florida's Cape Canaveral Thursday on board a Falcon 9 rocket, in a bid to become the fourth country to make a soft landing on the moon."

"Pinterest has stopped returning results for searches related to vaccinations, a drastic step the social-media company said is aimed at curbing the spread of misinformation but one that demonstrates the power of tech companies to censor discussion of hot-button issues." Well, that's one way to solve a problem.

"Ford Motor said on Thursday it has hired outside experts to investigate its vehicle fuel economy and testing procedures after employees raised concerns, and did not know whether it would have to correct data provided to regulators or consumers." Oopsie.

"Now Lighthizer is leading President Trump's negotiations with China for what is shaping up to be the final round of trade talks that could change the destinies of the world's two largest economies." A story about one of Trump's top negotiators on trade. I'll note the new Mexico/Canada/US agreement has been described as a slight adjustment and updating of NAFTA.

"Google ends forced arbitration contracts for workers after googler uprising." Funny how when workers unite and fight together they're able to change corporate culture/procedures. And it's almost like corporations have been working hard to keep their workers from providing a united front. If only there were a word for such organizations of workers coming together in a… oh it's right on the tip of my tongue. It also helps that we have near full employment.

It tells you what kind of world this is that this news story has slipped off the radar so quickly. "We know their names, and where they were. But no one has given a public explanation for what several former elite U.S. service members were doing in Haiti — and why they were driving without license plates, carrying an assortment of automatic rifles, drones and other gear… 'They said that they were here on a '"government mission,"' Miami Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles told NPR from Port-au-Prince on Wednesday. 'They did not specify which government, but then they did tell the police that… their boss was going to call their boss.'" Mercenaries. And this is why we outlawed mercenaries for so long. Why do I think they're mercs? Because special forces don't try to intimidate when they are captured. In fact they're trained to STFU. Mercs like to showboat cowboy style, especially those employed by Academi (aka Blackwater or Xe). Apparently Triple Canopy hasn't cleaned them up, yet. The president of Haiti's office did try and get them released, which didn't stick (good on the local Haitian police).

Florida man. "The mayor of Port Richey, Florida, is 'lucky he's not dead' after firing two shots at a SWAT team at his house to serve a warrant, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco told reporters Thursday… Dale Massad, who was elected mayor in 2015, was arrested by the officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and accused of practicing medicine without a license. He now also faces two charges of attempted murder."

"Fox News senior executive producer Justin Wells blamed (Rutger) Bregman, saying he 'turned an opportunity to have a substantive, informative discussion into an obviously calculated personal insult campaign. We were disappointed in the segment and respect our audience’s time too much to consider airing it.'" You know, not that Tucker Carlson lost it or Bregman accurately pointed out that Tucker Carlson and Fox News have played the game for rich people and have gotten rich themselves in the process. It must really suck when those of us on the progressive and liberal spectrums don't play into their narratives and refused to be pushed into the responses they've prepared for. (Grokked from Wesley Chu)

"Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who is facing international pressure to step down after elections widely seen as rigged, ordered the country's vast border with Brazil to be closed. The move will make it harder for aid groups to get emergency food and medicine into the country." Just a reminder that what many on the right will call "socialism" (mostly pointing to Central and South American countries) are dictatorships that wrap themselves in "socialist policies", but are not actually socialists.

"'Sitting here four days into this meeting ... my son was a bit prophetic in his statement that day,' (Mark) Harris said of his son John's warning about McCrae Dowless, the political hand that is accused of running an illegal absentee ballot collecting scheme in the state's 9th Congressional District." Because apparently when he son, the lawyer, part of the US Attorneys' office, tried to warn him, well that was just that little boy making noise again. Nothing to really worry about. Seriously NC9th, this is the guy you want to represent you? I'm not buying it. Mark Harris, IMHO, is not some guy Dowless duped. He set up another corporation to hire Dowless so he could put distance between himself and Dowless. He's just affecting the "awe shucks, I'm just a trusting homebody who is just an innocent in the world" act. So you have the choice, either reverend Mark Harris is a conniving fraud attempting to picking your pockets, or he's too gullible to be allowed to spend more than pocket money. I don't think I'd want either person representing me. (Grokked from Amy Walter)

"When migrant children cross the border without their parents, they're sent to federal shelters until caseworkers can find them a good home. But everything changes when they turn 18. That's when, in many cases, they're handcuffed and locked up in an adult detention facility. The practice is sparking lawsuits and outrage from immigrant advocates." Abolish ICE.

"The Trump administration just walked back its approach to North Korea — less than a week before the president is set to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam… During a background call with reporters about the upcoming meeting, a senior administration official with knowledge of the negotiation’s status made two statements that contradict Washington’s previous stances on its effort to rid Pyongyang of its nuclear arsenal." The article headline implies that our negotiations with North Korea are now in total chaos. I disagree. They've always been in chaos. It's just that now the press can't hide behind the spin of the administration any more and appear credible.

This story just keeps getting deeper and weirder. "The father of an Alabama woman who joined the Islamic State in Syria filed suit against the Trump administration Thursday in an effort to allow her return to the United States."

Here we go, I say here we go again. "A wide-ranging disinformation campaign aimed at Democratic 2020 candidates is already underway on social media, with signs that foreign state actors are driving at least some of the activity." So, the question is if this is their focus, or noise. I'm gonna reverse and earlier statement and bet that the Kremlin has decided Trump is a useful tool going forward and will press (mostly) for his re-election. But the end goal, again, is chaos and enmity which will disable the US's ability to react on the world stage. Once the calculation changes to one where the largest impact will be tearing down Trump we can then expect to see evidence of how he was controlled and how we were manipulated. (Grokked from Matt Staggs)

"As of Friday only 627 days remain until the 2020 presidential election, which means reporters editors anchors and pundits are running out of time to speculate, trivialize and marginalize. To be baited by irrelevancy and to otherwise miss the forest for the clicks. But they've already got a head start with at least a half dozen women in the running for the Democratic nomination. The media ether already abounds with nonsensical tropes." "The Russia investigation could be on the verge of a spectacular finale — or it could be about to puff out like a damp firecracker… Or, as has been the case so often before, Washington could be gearing itself up for a fireworks display that doesn't even happen. Despite some indications that special counsel Robert Mueller could be wrapping up, there has been no official word from the Justice Department confirming that's so." I think the chance of nothing is not going to happen, but there is a chance we've seen all the fireworks that are going to launch. I think the most disappointing ending (for me) would be that Mueller determines there isn't enough evidence of direct coordination and manipulation with the Trump Campaign to effectively prosecute. Although we should note here that if the allegations against Cohen, Manafort, and Stone (and some others) are all true, that implicates the president in several breaches of election law and points to a strong interaction between Moscow and the current White House.

On the Media podcast on the Bund's rally in Madison Square Garden and a commercial for a new documentary about it. "Founded in 1936, the German-American Bund had approximately 25,000 members and 70 chapters around the country… February 20th marks the 80th anniversary of the Bund’s most notorious event when 20,000 of its members gathered at Madison Square Garden for a 'Pro-American Rally' featuring speeches and performances, staged in front of a 30-foot-high portrait of George Washington… The rally is the subject of the Oscar-nominated documentary short 'A Night at The Garden' by filmmaker Marshall Curry." Tweet of my heart: @Amy_Siskind Putin threatened to bomb the U.S. yesterday in his state of the nation speech. Still waiting for Trump or his regime - or even a Republican - to respond. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Linkee-poo Thursday

Stumbled upon DesignCrowd. It's a place where you can dangle the potential of payment in front of designers who will compete for the shit wages you're willing to pay. Yes, Virginia, writing isn't the only profession where people will try to get you to work for "exposure." Fuck these people.

"Neil Gaiman has built a career out of mythical storytelling. From his novels American Gods and Anansi Boys to his recent Norse Mythology collection, the British author is known for his deep well of folklore knowledge and his brilliant re-imaginings. Now, he's set to bring that passion to the small screen with a reboot of Jim Henson's classic '80s anthology series, The Storyteller." (Grokked from Mary Robinette Kowal)

SpaceX is going to make a moonshot tonight (it'll be a long time transferring to lunar orbit), and "Next week, SpaceX is poised to make history with the first-ever test flight of a private spaceship built to carry astronauts into orbit. That Crew Dragon Demo-1 mission won't carry astronauts, but it will be the first launch of a spacecraft built for humans from U.S. soil since 2011 and you can watch it all live."

"The head of the US Food and Drug Administration says that if states don't require more schoolchildren to get vaccinated, the federal government might have to step in." Can't wait until they get to the religious exemption.

"A Reuters report on Dec. 14 revealed that Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that small amounts of asbestos, a known carcinogen, had been occasionally found in its talc and powder products, according to tests from the 1970s to the early 2000s — information it did not disclose to regulators or the public."

"The 2,000 mile border between the U.S. and Mexico traverses hundreds of miles of public lands, including six national parks. Environmentalists have long argued that a border wall has negative impacts on wildlife and on delicate desert and mountainous terrains. With President Trump's national emergency declaration, those concerns will only grow." And with an emergency declaration he can ignore environmental laws.

"A 49-year-old Coast Guard lieutenant charged with stockpiling weapons and drugs is being described as a 'domestic terrorist' who was planning 'to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country,' according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland on Tuesday."

But what will knock this domestic terrorist off the news… "More than three weeks after he alleged that he was the victim of a hate crime, actor Jussie Smollett has been arrested on suspicion of filing a false report about it, Chicago police said Thursday morning."

"In its opinion, the Supreme Court rules that the U.S. Constitution's 8th amendment clause on excessive fines clause applies to states and local governments, and curbs their power to levy fines and seize property." The arc of history is long, but it does bend towards justice. Eventually. (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"So I’m a perfectly reasonable, women-friendly fellow who is completely open to the idea of a woman president. And I never thought I’d hate anyone as much as I hate Hillary Clinton. But to my surprise, I’m actually starting to hate Elizabeth Warren." McSweeneys pokes the bear. (Grokked from Sarah Goslee)

"That changed today, when we all learned that Mark Harris, the Republican candidate in North Carolina’s 9th district, has a son. And that son, John Harris, is an attorney. Not just any attorney, either: he’s an assistant US attorney in the Eastern District of North Carolina. Today he testified about McCrae Dowless, the campaign operative hired by his father to get out the Republican vote…" I was reading a tweet thread from someone live tweeting the hearing. Ho boy, Mark Harris is in trouble. Seriously, dude, conceded the election and withdraw. Yes, I understand that even if all the votes McCrae Dowless "might" have tampered with went to your opponent, you still would have won. That's the sad irony of it though, not exculpatory evidence. You cheated. You know you cheated. Your purposefully hired Dowless to cheat for you. Being in office is about trust. Your constituency and your party should have zero trust in your judgement now. At worst there should be a new election, one in which Mark Harris is explicitly not allowed on the ballot. At best he could just concede the election. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"Attorney General Bill Barr is preparing to announce as early as next week the completion of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, with plans for Barr to submit to Congress soon after a summary of Mueller's confidential report, according to people familiar with the plans… The precise timing of the announcement is subject to change." As it has with every previous announcement of Mueller being "done." But this time there does seem to be a "closing up shop" vibe going on. Now the real questions begin, like will we ever see the report, and will we see the whole report, or just an executive summary?

"The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is probing allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, has been keen to speak with David Geovanis for several months, the sources say… Geovanis worked for the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, whose ties to Trump's 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort have also been of interest to investigators." There's that name again.

"President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia is militarily ready for a Cuban Missile-style crisis if the United States is foolish enough to want one and that his country currently has the edge when it comes to a first nuclear strike." Oh Vlad. What does a minute or two matter if the whole world is in flames within 2 hours?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Linkee-poo stumbles over the hump

Yes, yes, Oppy did not send the message, "My battery is low and it's getting dark." Do you feel better now? Pedantic people gonna be pedantic. The last message was an information dump on its system status including the state of the battery and the power influx from its solar panels (as well as general conditions of all its systems). In human terms that is, "My battery is low and it's getting dark."

There are stars in the Southern sky. "Astronomers have seen these stars before, mixed in with lots of stars all around them. But until now, they didn't realize the stars were part of a group. The river, which is 1,300 light-years long and 160 light-years wide, winds through the Milky Way's vast, dense star field. But 3D-mapping data from Gaia, a European Space Agency spacecraft, showed that the stars in the stream moved together at roughly the same speed and in the same direction."

"Melina Thévenot, a citizen scientist from Germany, detected an anomaly while searching through data collected by the European Space Agency's Gaia spacecraft." A very old, "dusty" White Dwarf star.

A short history of the American Public Library. (Grokked from Patrick Nielsen Hayden)

"Veteran comedians know all about the funny side of anger."

"Back in 2012, UNOCHA, the U.N.'s humanitarian agency, created 250 specialized icons to use on maps, infographics and other materials. The pictographs represent all types of topics, including disasters, food aid, transportation and damage to infrastructure." A little on the difficulty of translating language and concepts into symbolism. The problem isn't so much that the symbols are "wrong", but that they require context to understand. Not everyone has the same context (or life experiences). While there's been a lot of jokes about these, this is a deadly serious topic. Creating symbols is a highly rarified and specialized form of design. Most designers think they can do it, but most have no real clue. I'm reminded that a design publication held a contest to design new bathroom sex-indicator icons. The winning design depicted two piles of poo (sort of like the poop emoji) one in blue and one in pink. There was no real visual distinction between the two than the color (and their tonal values were similar). While the design world thought this was fantastic I just laughed. Blues and reds 1) aren't culturally universal and 2) blues and reds are common colors to be missing if you're color blind. That design, in my book, was a complete failure.

"For nearly two decades at the Grand Canyon, tourists, employees, and children on tours passed by three paint buckets stored in the National Park's museum collection building, unaware that they were being exposed to radiation." Fuck the fucking fuck fuck fuckers fuckedity fucked fuck. (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"Whether that proximity was unsafe has not been determined. Simply being near uranium ore is unlikely to result in an unsafe dose of radiation." Repeat after me, there is no "safe" level of radiation exposure. Exposure to the sun's rays can cause cancer. Ore can discharge alpha particles which are weak in radiation, but have a bad habit of being inhaled and lodging in lungs (as well as traveling on clothing). So while you can be protected from alpha particles can a paper suit and simple mask, if you don't have those you are in serious danger of exposure (long term contact right next to susceptible tissues) without them. Uranium ore is also a beta emitter (this is the radiation you are mostly failure with). It may be "weak" (as compared to refined ore, or an x-ray machine direct beam), but it's still a fucking problem. Just because you don't drop dead in a few days, weeks, or months because of radiation poisoning does not mean your exposure was "safe."

"Scientists have launched a major new phase in the testing of a controversial genetically modified organism: a mosquito designed to quickly spread a genetic mutation lethal to its own species, NPR has learned… For the first time, researchers have begun large-scale releases of the engineered insects, into a high-security laboratory in Terni, Italy."

"Health officials and doctors treating patients with HIV in those states say any extra funding would be welcome. But they say that strategies that work in progressive cities like Seattle won't necessarily work in rural areas of Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and South Carolina." While the article mostly focuses on the continuing stigma of being gay or bi in those states (and particularly in rural parts of the US), they don't talk so much that many of these states also refused to expand Medicaid or embrace Obamacare. Also there's the pitiful state of sex education in the US. "'We've had teenagers write questions like, "I've heard that if you douche with Mountain Dew after sex that it kills sperm,"' (Andy Moore, clinic administrator of the Infectious Diseases Institute at the University of Oklahoma) says. They earnestly want to know if that's true. 'We have to back way up, and explain what sex is, how babies are made, different types of sex — before we can teach them about HIV prevention,' he says."

"Before the state's most destructive wildfire tore through Butte County, Calif., detailed plans for a tiny home village for the homeless in the northern California city of Chico were met with a mix of indifference, NIMBY-ism and outright rejection from a previous city council… But November's Camp Fire, which killed 85 people and incinerated some 14,000 area homes, breathed new life into plans for a community of one-room wooden homes to help house some of Butte County's homeless." Funny how one fire can change everyone's perception.

"The pitches to the health insurance brokers are tantalizing… Such incentives sound like typical business tactics, until you understand who ends up paying for them: the employers who sign up with the insurers — and, of course, their employees." It wasn't that long ago when these things were common business practice. I remember great swag and offers from paper mills and print shops. But that all died out in the mid 90s. It's surprising to see how retro the healthcare industry really is. And why did most businesses restrict or outright outlaw these types of things? "'It's a classic conflict of interest,' (Eric Campbell, director of research at the University of Colorado Center for Bioethics and Humanities) says." And it cost the businesses the employees worked for. Just now that extra cost goes to a third party instead of an employee.

While the rest of the retail market saw a slumping 4th quarter, "Walmart reported on Tuesday earnings and revenue for the holiday quarter that topped analysts' expectations, as its e-commerce sales surged 43 percent thanks to more shoppers using its online grocery delivery service and spending more per trip."

Living on the edge. "Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has sent out a warning to Asia in the face of mounting aggression from Beijing… In an exclusive interview with CNN, Tsai said the military threat posed by China was growing 'every day' in line with a more assertive foreign policy under its President Xi Jinping." It must be time for another series of arms sales to Taiwan.

How goes Brexit? "Three Conservative MPs – Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen – have quit the party to join the Independent Group founded by former Labour MPs." Destroying political norms and throwing the UK into chaos. Right on time.

How goes the Trade Wars. "Gilroy, Calif., is known as the garlic capital of the world. And two policies of the Trump administration — one on trade, the other on immigration — are having a mixed impact on this agricultural community south of San Francisco." The Trump giveth, the Trump taketh away. Don't fuck with my garlic, man. I'll cut you. Like a hammer.

"Teachers spent only a few hours striking before West Virginia's House of Delegates effectively killed a new bill that would pave the way for charter schools and private school vouchers in a state that relies primarily on public education."

"Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo says his department will stop serving 'no knock' search warrants, weeks after a raid on a house left two married suspects dead and five officers injured. Acevedo also reiterated that the officer who led that raid may face criminal charges… No heroin was found at the residence… The official narrative changed after it emerged that the police seemed to have opened fire first — shooting the couple's dog." You know who the villain in the story is once they kill the dog. While the investigation should probably be handed off to a third party, thank you Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo for acting responsibly in this.

"In 1994, 32 percent of Democrats said immigrants strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents. Today, 83 percent of Democrats feel that way, according to polling from the Pew Research Center." One could look at it as an evolution of party dynamics, or you could look at it as proof of the sorting of America into parties of authoritarianism and anti-fascists. Also there is a difference in the kind of immigration we're seeing today. Back in the 80s and 90s people moved across the border on a regular (if not easy) basis. Workers moved North with the seasons, following the work. Now, with "tightened" border control which increased the cost of crossing, we have a fairly stable community of immigrants living in the US without documents. They don't move back and forth (but do move internally). So we've had almost 2 decades of people contributing to their communities, putting down roots, forging friendships and business relationships. We've gotten to know them. And as we do that, the fear tends to fall. "The 2008 Democratic Party platform spoke about both the need to secure the country's borders and hire more Customs and Border protection agents, but by 2016, the platform only spoke about immigration enforcement in the sense that it needed to be 'humane.'" Yes, we tried that. It didn't work and ended up hurting more people. One party recognizes that it's a money pit and is trying to stop throwing money in it.

"CBS News has confirmed that the Vatican has secret guidelines for priests who father children, despite their vows of celibacy. Vincent Doyle, the founder of a support group for children of priests, told CBS News that a Vatican official showed him the confidential instructions."

Putin engages in chest thumping. "Russia will respond to any U.S. deployment of short or intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe by targeting not only the countries where they are stationed, but the United States itself, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday."? Oh noes. Whatever will we do? Zzzz zzzz zzz. Wake me when there is real news. "In his toughest remarks yet on a potential new arms race, Putin said Russia was not seeking confrontation and would not take the first step to deploy missiles in response to Washington’s decision this month to quit a landmark Cold War-era arms control treaty." Whispers, yes you are seeking confrontation and you already have deployed systems targeting Europe. We still have satellites you know. "Russia will be forced to create and deploy…" zzz zzz zzz. Say, Vlad, remember your big "Lookee at all our New Weapons" show last year? I do. To my Russian friends, you do understand that Putin is spending your pension money on this, right?

"The federal government has acknowledged that it shares its terrorist watchlist with more than 1,400 private entities, including hospitals and universities, prompting concerns from civil libertarians that those mistakenly placed on the list could face a wide variety of hassles in their daily lives." And you thought Facebook was bad. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"The Trump administration sought to rush the transfer of American nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia in potential violation of the law, a new report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee alleges." What could possibly go wrong? (Grokked from Dan)

Penguin cosplay wannabe Roger Stone is in trouble. "Judge Amy Berman Jackson scheduled a hearing for Thursday at which Stone will be required to argue why Jackson should not alter the gag order she has imposed or reconsider the bail Stone was granted after his arrest." Of course, this is what he was going for. To prod the judge into making a mistake that would allow him to make an argument for a new trial.

"Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has vowed to launch an investigation into whether top officials at the Justice Department and the FBI had plotted an 'administrative coup' to drive President Trump out of office." It's the new Benghazi.

As Rick said in Casablanca, "You aren't subtle but I get your message." "The Trump administration said Tuesday that it plans to cancel $929 million awarded to California's high-speed rail project and wants the state to return an additional $2.5 billion that it has already spent… Gov. Gavin Newsom vowed a fight to keep the money and said the move was in response to California again suing the administration, this time over Trump's emergency declaration to pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border."

"President Trump intends to nominate Jeffrey A. Rosen as deputy attorney general, the White House said Tuesday. Rosen, who is currently deputy transportation secretary, will replace Rod Rosenstein, who is expected to leave his post in mid-March, CBS News reported earlier Tuesday."

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Linkee-poo runaround Tuesday

The alligators are getting sneaky.

"Wallace Broecker, a climate scientist who brought the term 'global warming' into the public and scientific lexicon, died on Monday. He was 87." And so it goes.

"The French Fencing Federation that oversees Olympic level swordplay with foils, epees and sabres has added George Lucas’ laser sword to its cache of recognized weapons for competition, the Associated Press reports." I'm now trying to think of how you could create a light saber that would survive full contact like this as most of the ones I have seen would break at the first real blow.

"'What will these instruments sound like in 200 years? I hope they can still be played,' (Fausto Cacciatori chief conservator of the Violin Museum in Cremona, Italy) says. 'But you never know. All it takes is one unfortunate event. An earthquake, for instance. Think about what happened to so much art during World War II.'… Cacciatori says Stradivarius instruments need a 21st century failsafe — and someone who understands music as well as technology to pull it off… Enter deejay Leonardo Tedeschi." I guess I'm sort of gobsmacked that this hasn't been done before.

"Like Adee, many beekeepers across the U.S. have lost half their hives — they call one with no live bees inside a 'deadout.' Some beekeepers lost as many as 80 percent. That's unusual. And many of the hives that did survive aren't strong in numbers."

"Electric vehicles are currently a tiny fraction of the car market, which is dominated by internal combustion engines. But many more electric car models will hit showrooms in the next few years, and several factors have analysts convinced that is part of a major transition in the industry." Another question is how will we fund and maintain roads, which are mostly paid for by gas taxes.

"Community Clinic serves 37,000 low-income patients in the northwest part of the state. Irvin Martinez, its health insurance enrollment specialist, says he's witnessed a lot of turmoil among patients attempting to comply with the new Medicaid rules. In Arkansas, the program is called Arkansas Works." Work requirements aren't justice, they're an excuse to throw people out of systems that help them. They're a disgusting ploy disguised as "basic civility"and an "attempt to give them dignity" while stripping the powerless of any hope.

"To own a gun, Illinois residents are required to have a Firearms Owners' Identification, or FOID, card issued by the state… Days after buying the gun, he applied for a conceal-carry permit. Police discovered a 1995 conviction for felony aggravated assault in Mississippi — an offense they said might not have turned up on the background check necessary for a FOID card. Police revoked his FOID card and sent him a letter telling him to relinquish any firearms. Ziman said police records show that the letter was sent, but she doesn't know whether police attempted to follow up."

In Ohio our state legislature is thinking of hiking our $0.29 gas tax to $0.30. So, "A conservative think tank is calling on lawmakers to make changes to counter an increase to the gas tax by making cuts elsewhere in Ohio's tax structure." Yes, conservatives are thinking of raising the gas tax which haven't been increased in decades, but only if they cut some other taxes. Instead of saying it should increase by a penny per year for the next decade, while they figure out how to replace the gas tax as more vehicles either use less or no gas.

"Two Republican state representatives will unveil legislation tomorrow to change the state’s prevailing wage law. Actually, Ohio’s lawmakers have been trying to alter those laws for a while now." Because, yes, conservatives are just that petty.

"Three months after the midterm elections, North Carolina officials are publicly laying out their evidence for the first time that the outcome in the state's 9th Congressional District may have been tainted by election fraud."

"During Monday’s North Carolina Board of Elections hearing on alleged election fraud in the 9th district, worker for political operative McCrae Dowless Lisa Britt testified that he told her to plead the 5th Amendment since 'they have nothing on us,' per NPR affiliate WFAE." Considering the worker refused the advice, they now have something on Dowless. Dowless was a hired consultant of Republican candidate Mark Harris. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

How goes Brexit? "The deadlock over the terms of the United Kingdom’s departure from the EU continues and the prospect of the nation leaving the bloc without an exit deal looms larger… And that’s fueled an upsurge in stockpiling, which has reached the highest level in a G-7 country since comparable records began in 2007." Preppers come to the UK.

"The Washington Post reports that Nauert's nomination (as the US Ambassador to the UN) 'faced complications' after it was revealed that she had 'hired a foreign-born nanny about 10 years ago who didn't have the proper work visa and Nauert didn't pay proper taxes on time, according to two officials involved in her nomination process.'" Heather Nauert is a former Fox and Friends host.

"A study released on Sunday tallies the chemical weapons attacks over the course of the Syrian civil war, which has left hundreds of thousands dead. At least 336 have occurred, according to authors Tobias Schneider and Theresa Lütkefend of the Berlin-based Global Public Policy Institute." War crimes which will most likely go unpunished.

"Bernie Sanders is campaigning for president again, officially entering the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential field on Tuesday with a vow to finish what he started in his last race for the White House." I haven't been sharing all the announcements of people running because there are going to be a fucking lot of them. Most will drop out this Summer as they hit the stumbling blocks of raising funds and getting an organization up and running. Bernie has the advantage of having done this before, so he has the organization part ready, it remains to be seen if he can raise the funds this time, despite the BernieBro Brigade. But, seriously, can we get someone from the next generations (Boomers or Xers)? The GOP (lead by President Trump) have already dusted off the socialism drum and are beating it hard already. The Democrats will need to develop a counter-narrative.

"CNN reports that McGaughey, the husband of (William) Barr’s (our new Attorney General's) youngest daughter, has been hired as an attorney in the White House counsel’s office, where he’ll 'advise the president, the executive office, and White House staff on legal issues concerning the president and the presidency.'… Meanwhile, Mary Daly, Barr’s oldest daughter, will be leaving her current job in the deputy attorney general’s office for a gig at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which has had its own Russian intrigues." I'm sorry, this entire subplot either needs to be heavily rewritten or cut because if just defies suspension of disbelief. (Grokked from Jim Wright)

"In Roger Stone's new Instagram post on this President's Day Monday, he appears to be attacking Judge Amy Berman Jackson, the federal judge overseeing his case. The symbol in the upper left corner of the image looks like crosshairs, or a gun target next to her head." (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

Monday, February 18, 2019

Linkee-poo Monday

"'Every day is a good day when you're floating,' (astronaut Lt. Colonel Anne McClain) said. 'Your whole life you spend walking around Earth and then all of a sudden you get to fly like you've dreamed of.'"

"Nearly a year in space put astronaut Scott Kelly's immune system on high alert and changed the activity of some of his genes compared to his Earth-bound identical twin, researchers said Friday."

"'And that's when Dr. Vink told us that, you know, rare diseases are being cured in this day and age, but we don't know what triggers full-term labor,' Crystal recalls. 'That just collectively blew away everyone in the room.'"

"'It is probable that human cases of chronic wasting disease associated with consumption with contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead,' (Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota) told the Minnesota legislature last week. 'It’s possible the number of human cases will be substantial, and will not be isolated events.'" Remember when we didn't really have to worry about Mad Cow because it could never infect humans? Yeah, not so much anymore. In humans it's known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (although CJD covers a wide range of disease vectors and is diagnosed by the affects these diseases have on the human brain).

"The boy was arrested for causing a disruption and refusing repeated instructions from school staff and law enforcement, Polk County Public Schools spokesperson Kyle Kennedy said in a statement. He was not arrested for refusing to participate in the pledge – even though students have the right to do so by Florida law and district policy."

"When asked if that support would continue if (the YPG) aligned themselves with Assad, LaCamera said: 'No… Once that relationship is severed, because they go back to the regime, which we don’t have a relationship with, (or) the Russians ... when that happens then we will no longer be partners with them,' LaCamera told a small group of reporters." The wicked webs we weave.

"Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the country's major political parties were hacked earlier this month alongside the federal parliament by a 'sophisticated state actor'." Whom might it be?

"Vice President Mike Pence left room for applause. But no one clapped. At a security conference in Munich on Saturday, Pence mentioned President Donald Trump, noting he was there 'on behalf of a champion of freedom and of a strong national defense.' The vice president went on: 'I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.' Pence then paused for applause but no one in the room clapped. After what seem like a very long five seconds, Pence continues with his speech." Awkward.

"'I don't know that we have ever seen in all of history an example of the number, the volume and the significance of the contacts between people in and around the president, his campaign, with our most serious, our existential international enemy: the government of Russia,' McCabe told NPR's Morning Edition. 'That's just remarkable to me.'" Or as I put it, there sure are a lotta Russians hanging around.

Another day when Trump again declares his fellow Americans and American institutions to be enemies of the people… This has become our norm. Just another day in America. Jim Wright on the president's assault on our liberties. And here I will note that the 1st amendment is a restriction on the government censoring speech and freedom of religion, not incumbent on us citizens. Just wanted that noted before someone decides do to the "put you have to print my comment on your blog because of the 1st amendment." No. I do not, because I am not the government, or in government (any longer - see CV).

"Baldwin is asking if Trump's tweet 'constitutes a threat' to his family's safety." President Snowflake tweets his disapproval.

"A federal court will likely first analyze whether the president had the statutory authority to act, and whether he exceeded the limits of that authority."

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Linkee-poo Sunday edition

Betty Ballantine. And so it goes.

"All of this, climate reports have emphasized, is likely to begin much sooner than previously expected, within the next 10 years in fact. But if you require a more visceral visual in order to really wrap your brain tentacles around the staggering scale of looming change, consider this scary map. Click on your city, and by way of comparison, the map reveals what the climate there will feel like in 2080." Note that for most of these stories they don't include such things as where animals will migrate to, what new problems that would create. Such as if NYC has the climate of Arkansas, that means fire ants, killer bees, chigger, and potentially alligators and various snakes not seen in NY will be moving in. Also, the plants you have, probably not going to survive well in the new climate. Including the crops grown locally.

"Hundreds of 'witches' marks' have been discovered carved into caves on the border between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire - with some thought to signal a supposed entrance to 'hell'." Ah folk magic. It's amazing. But what is really amazing is, "Tours of the caves containing the witches' marks will start for the first time in late February." And now you know why this is a story. (Grokked form Matt Staggs)

"People who sell crafts and other goods on Etsy, an e-commerce site focused on handmade and small-batch products, say they woke up to a nasty surprise Friday morning when thousands of dollars were withdrawn from the bank accounts and credit cards sellers are required to have on file in order to have an Etsy storefront." (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"In a stunning decision, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and safety Eric Reid have reached a financial settlement with the NFL in their joint collusion complaint against the league and will take no further action in the case. While sources declined to offer specifics for the decision, Yahoo Sports was told on prior occasions that Kaepernick and Reid would only settle the complaint if a lucrative financial agreement was reached between the players and the NFL."

"The federal budget deficit in December totaled $13.5 billion, helping to push the deficit for the first three months of this budget year up 41.8 percent from the same period the previous year." Ah those good conservative fiscally responsible peoples. (Grokked from Joy Reid)

"The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the Trump administration can add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The decision grants the administration's request for an immediate review of a lower court's ruling that stopped plans for the question. A hearing is expected to be held in April."

"Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has interviewed White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, she told CNN on Friday."

"President Donald Trump on Friday signed a national emergency declaration to address 'an invasion of our country with drugs, with human traffickers, with all types of criminals and gangs.' He also spoke about a wide variety of issues, including trade with China and the national debt." Fact checking the president.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Linkee-poo Friday

Alligators. They're back.

"… The querying process can be unnerving. It's hard to figure out how to write that perfect query letter, and there is a lot of contrasting advice out there. Some of us like comparative titles, some agents don't care about them. Some agents want a brief bio, others don't… Here are some links to the query letters by some of my authors, complete with details about why these pitches were so good…" (Grokked from Delilah S. Dawson)

"In November, (NASA) tagged nine American companies as eligible to bid on delivering robotic NASA payloads to the moon, via Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts. Thursday (Feb. 14), NASA officials announced that the first "task order" for such a delivery will likely come out in a month or so — and that flight is expected to follow in relatively short order."

"More bad news for diet soda lovers: Drinking two or more of any kind of artificially sweetened drinks a day is linked to an increased risk of clot-based strokes, heart attacks and early death in women over 50, according to a new study by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association." Not to mention what artificial sweeteners do to your liver, brain, and kidneys. But again, you have to understand how the numbers are being presented. And "This study, as well as other research on the connection between diet beverages and vascular disease, is observational and cannot show cause and effect." Finally, "Critics also point to the possible benefit of artificially sweetened drinks for weight loss…" There is no evidence this actually is the case.

"The United States is in the middle of flu season and new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says this year's flu vaccine appears to be working." For those who got the flu shot. Good news considering the last few years haven't been good one for the flu prediction part of the vaccines.

Things that keep one awake at night. "Current and former employees of an Ohio nursing facility are accused of mistreating two patients in their care, including one who died as a result of the nurses' actions, Attorney General Dave Yost said Thursday."

"For well over a year, visitors to Florida's beautiful Gulf Coast beaches have found dead fish lining the shoreline. A red tide algae bloom afflicted coastal communities from Florida's Panhandle to its southern tip. But in the past few weeks, monitoring conducted by marine scientists shows that the red tide bloom is finally disappearing."

"A Dallas man was sentenced to eight years in prison on Wednesday after the authorities caught him with a partially 3-D-printed rifle and what federal prosecutors described as a hit list of lawmakers in his backpack… The man, Eric Gerard McGinnis, had been under a court order that prohibited him from possessing a firearm when he was discovered to have had the partially printed AR-15-style rifle in July 2017, according to a statement from the United States attorney’s office for the Northern District of Texas." Alex, I'll take why gun restrictions are necessary for $400. (Grokked from Jim Wright)

"After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last year, many schools received federal funding through the Stop School Violence Act to establish a threat assessment program to help prevent school shootings and other kinds of violence… Van Dreal's school district has been using its own version of the approach since 2000 with good success in identifying kids in crisis and getting them off the path to violence." Please examine the case they consider a "success." The kid is blind in one eye and had abdominal surgery because of beatings he received at the hands of his fellow students. I'm not sure schools are focused on the real problem here.

"India said there was 'incontrovertible evidence' that Pakistan had a 'direct hand' in a bomb attack on a convoy that killed 37 paramilitary soldiers in Indian-administered Kashmir." Double plus ungood.

"Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday accused Iran of pursuing 'another Holocaust' as he lashed out at some of America's closest allies for trying to undercut U.S. sanctions against Tehran." I'll just note that for this conference in Poland we sent our top diplomates, including the VP and the Sec. of State. Other countries send their second and third tier functionaries.

"A member of Portland's city council said Thursday a newspaper's report that the commander for the police rapid response team exchanged friendly text messages with a leader of far-right protests that have rocked the city confirms collusion exists between some police and right-wing extremists."

How goes Brexit? "'Has the prime minister's new defeat in parliament made the EU more likely to compromise?'… In a word: no." Dear UK, you need the EU more than the EU needs you. A no-deal Brexit would be bad for both sides, but comparably would be devastating for the UK and just a major pain for the EU.

"Those wondering how many zeros Amazon, which is valued at a trillion dollars, has to pay in federal taxes might be surprised to learn that its check to the IRS will read exactly $0.00." Second year in a row. Tell me again how fair our tax system is. I keep forgetting. (Grokked from Lara Kristin Herndon)

"The reasons for these smaller refunds vary. For most people, it's because each paycheck has grown slightly, thanks to reduced withholding. On balance, they are likely to come out ahead." Note that this is just speculation, not actual data. "What started off as a strong holiday shopping season ended with a whimper, as consumers, rattled by a trade war and a government shutdown, tightened their belts. The Commerce Department said retail sales fell 1.2 percent between November and December, the sharpest drop in nine years." Maybe I was a little early with my mea culpa? Nah. It was a bad drop during the holiday shopping season, and it will certainly drag down GDP numbers, but not enough to send us into a recession. What I think hilarious is people saying, "Oh, but January was better, look at the stock market!" Yeah. Not so much. And for those talking about how the shutdown affected the numbers, yeah. No so much. I think looking at the numbers of people in arrears on their loans and you might seem something more important.

"Amazon will no longer build its additional headquarters in New York City… The decision announced Thursday comes after an outcry from local politicians, union leaders and community organizers who had organized weeks of protests against massive financial breaks promised to Amazon, one of the world's most valuable companies."

Why is it important for government to work? "A critical new report from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General finds the department's student loan unit failed to adequately supervise the companies it pays to manage the nation's trillion-dollar portfolio of federal student loans. The report also rebukes the department's office of Federal Student Aid for rarely penalizing companies that failed to follow the rules." Because when it doesn't, it ruins peoples' lives. It's also a story of why outsourcing government functions is never a good idea.

"President Donald Trump plans to sign a compromise border security measure Friday and then announce that he is using executive action, including declaring a national emergency, to spend $8 billion for border barriers, a White House official said."

"When President Donald Trump declares a national emergency to free up funding for his border wall he will follow a long line of presidents dating back to George Washington who have relied on emergency authority to achieve a goal… But experts say national emergencies have rarely been used in the way Trump intends."

There's always a tweet. "In 2014, President Donald Trump railed against then President Barack Obama over his use of executive power on immigration. Fast forward five years and Trump is expected to do the same thing." But here is the difference, President Obama used his power to extend protections to groups of people, enhancing their lives, removing their fear, and improving our economy while costing us less. President Trump will remove protections, worsen lives, is increasing fear, and driving our economy into the toilet while spending more deficit money.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Linkee-poo Thursday

The Opportunity Mars Rover. And so it goes.

"If we have a book idea related to our work, even if fictional, the company wants unfettered power to claim control over whether it gets written, who owns the copyright and what we might get paid for it. The company also wants to claim the film rights to such books even if the company grants permission for the book to be written, on unpaid leave, for an outside publisher." Heinous fuckery most foul. Although I have had to clarify and get in writing from some companies I've worked for that their IP rules don't pertain to my freelance or my writing. (Grokked from Hannah Bowman)

"Harley-Davidsons are famous for their iconic deep rumble. But the Milwaukee-based motorcycle maker's latest model features an electric motor that emits a high-pitched whirring sound. Will Harley fans go along for the ride?" If you had asked me 5 years ago, I wouldn't have figured HD to be the first major motorcycle builder to push out an electric bike in the US (note that Zero and a few others have been shipping electric motorcycles for many years now). But at $30k (a Zero DSR with updates for battery and charging is about half that), I have a feeling they won't be selling many.

"SpaceX has filed an official protest with the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) after NASA awarded competitor United Launch Alliance a launch contract for Lucy, an interplanetary probe meant to explore a belt of unique asteroids clustered around Jupiter’s orbital swath." Lawsuits are not uncommon for large government contracts.

Until now, this was only a funny comic. "They say the trolls may have contributed to the 2018 outbreak of measles in Europe that killed 72 people and infected more than 82,000 -- mostly in Eastern and Southeastern European countries known to have been targeted by Russia-based disinformation campaigns." If this proves out, this could be big. Oh my Russian friends, you may have overstepped the legality line here. Not from how you did it, through a disinformation campaign, but that this could be seen as waging biological warfare against civilians (depending on how a court may wish to define some terms). IANAL, but I hope you all have one. (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"The wife of White House communications chief Bill Shine said Wednesday that childhood diseases such as measles 'keep you healthy & fight cancer.'" The lack of actual, factual knowledge in the current conservative leadership is absolutely stunning. "Measles is one of the leading causes of death for children, according to the World Health Organization." Get the goddamn vaccinations. That said, just because you have the MMR shot does not mean you are protected. Working in healthcare, not only do we need to get the vaccines, we are also tested for their effectiveness. The rubella part of the MMR doesn't work on me. I've had the childhood vaccines, and I've had 3 vaccines for it as an adult. My blood does not show rubella antibodies. So just because a kid who had the MMR appears to also have contracted measles, this does not invalidate the efficacy of the vaccine for the majority of people. While I don't wish shingles (the chickenpox virus) on anyone, I wouldn't be terribly upset with Mrs. Shine came down with a case of it.

I'm sure you've heard (or uttered) the phrase, "One of these days, you're going to do that to the wrong person." Whelp. "If you're trying to extort money from people, there are probably better choices for a victim than William H. Webster. Back in 2014, Webster was called by a Jamaican man, 29-year-old Keniel Aeon Thomas, who was attempting to perpetrate the all too common advance-fee fraud scam… According to Thomas, Webster and his wife had won $15.5 million and a Mercedes-Benz in the Mega Millions lottery, and the caller would be all too happy to release those funds, just as long as Websters first paid $50,000 to cover taxes." (Grokked from John)

"For this week's (On the Media) pod extra, we feature a conversation from WNYC'S Brian Lehrer Show. Brian talked with Columbia University President Lee Bollinger and University of Chicago Law Professor Geoffrey Stone, editors of The Free Speech Century, a collection of essays by leading scholars, marking 100 years since the Supreme Court issued the three decisions that established the modern notion of free speech."

"After more than 20 years in business, Prime Time Sports Owner Stephen Martin says he can’t afford his monthly lease anymore at Chapel Hills Mall… It’s not the first time Martin has slashed prices like this–choosing to get rid of all Nike apparel last fall, following the company’s ad campaign with Colin Kapernick." (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

Trigger warning. Whenever I hear people talking about late-term abortions, I think of a few mothers like this I've known (not all of whom were raped), the ones I've seen in the ER. "If I had been allowed the option to choose a 'late-term abortion,' would I?… Yes. A hundred times over, yes. It would have been a kindness." I've deleted a paragraph of examples because of HIPAA, and they're not my stories to tell. This is an example of mental cruelty which started with the rape and continued through the law which removed the option of a late-term abortion. You might say God only gives us what we can handle and I'm here to tell you that's a crock of shit. Sometimes we break, and what we can re-assemble from the pieces is never fully what would have been. Pregnancy is not the easy, happy time like they show on TV (even if they makes jokes about the pain of contractions). If that's how it played out for you, congrats. Not everyone is so lucky. (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

It just sorta slipped out. "The cartoonist who drew the strip, Wiley Miller, told the Post that he had forgotten about the scribbled message until it was published. He added that he wrote the phrase several weeks ago when he was frustrated by the Trump administration's actions." (Grokked from Jim Wright)

"One year after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the urgency for new gun restrictions has declined, but roughly half the country is concerned a mass shooting could happen at a school in their community, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds." It's only been one year, it seems like an eternity.

"A Connecticut judge has ruled that Infowars host Alex Jones must undergo a sworn deposition in the defamation case brought against him by family members of Sandy Hook school shooting victims."

"When news emerged that Qatar may have unwittingly helped bail out a New York skyscraper owned by the family of Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, eyebrows were raised in Doha." Who can keep track of a paltry billion dollars? I mean, it just sorta slipped and feel into investing. (Grokked from Dan)

"Fukuyama was hardly alone in pronouncing nationalism all but dead. A lot of other people had, too. That’s what worried Degler." To paraphrase Jim Wright, when you ignore Nazis, that's how you get more Nazis. " The endurance of nationalism proves that there’s never any shortage of blackguards willing to prop up people’s sense of themselves and their destiny with a tissue of myths and prophecies, prejudices and hatreds, or to empty out old rubbish bags full of festering resentments and calls to violence. When historians abandon the study of the nation, when scholars stop trying to write a common history for a people, nationalism doesn’t die. Instead, it eats liberalism." (Grokked from Robert J Bennett)

"President Donald Trump late Wednesday demanded California return the $3.5 billion it received from the federal government for a 'disaster' high-speed rail project." Vindictiveness and political shenanigans. Well, he's learning. A little. And slowly.

Somebody going to emergency, somebody's going to jail. "Manafort "made multiple false statements to the FBI, the OSC and the grand jury concerning matters that were material to the investigation," including his contacts with his Russian associate during the campaign and later, Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote on Wednesday."

"Paul Manafort's latest legal debacle deepened the core intrigue underlying special counsel Robert Mueller's probe: Why have so many of President Donald Trump's associates been caught lying about contacts with Russians?"

A snippet of Andrew McCabe's book on his time as FBI Director, post Comey, published in the Atlantic. "People do not appreciate how far we have fallen from normal standards of presidential accountability. Today we have a president who is willing not only to comment prejudicially on criminal prosecutions but to comment on ones that potentially affect him. He does both of these things almost daily. He is not just sounding a dog whistle. He is lobbying for a result. The president has stepped over bright ethical and moral lines wherever he has encountered them. Every day brings a new low, with the president exposing himself as a deliberate liar who will say whatever he pleases to get whatever he wants. If he were 'on the box' at Quantico, he would break the machine." (grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Linkee-poo, your eyes follow like a spotlight, two eyes like the sun

"Rather than the snowman-like two spheres stuck together, the new images show what looks like a pancake-shaped object (called 'Ultima') stuck to a walnut-shaped object (called 'Thule')."

"What happens when Walmart leaves town." Walmart is not your friend. (Grokked from Matt Staggs)

Burning Chrome. "Email provider VFEmail said it has suffered a catastrophic destruction of all of its servers by an unknown assailant who wiped out almost two decades' worth of data and backups in a matter of hours." Malicious hacks have been around since the early days, but this has a different texture to it. (Grokked from John)

"Look out, beef. Plant-based patties are vying to win over meat lovers." But here's the real kicker, "It’s okay to have a plant-based burger if you think it’s helping to save the world, says plant-based dietitian Julieanna Hever — just don’t expect it to keep you healthy. She said she sees more and more non-meat eaters who are starting to have the same health issues as meat eaters because they’re consuming plant-based products that are engineered to mimic meat."

"The IRS faces a number of challenges as a result of the recent 35-day government shutdown, including a backlog of correspondences and a decline in the level of service on its telephone lines, the agency’s in-house watchdog said in a report released Tuesday." The IRS is the department everyone loves to hate, until they need help. (Grokked from Jim Wright)

"Mexican drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzmán is heading to prison after his conviction Tuesday on 10 charges, including engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise and multiple counts of distributing tons of narcotics into the U.S."

"The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that Apple, which is preparing to introduce a subscription news service, is asking publishers to give the company 50 percent of any revenues that they generate." Let the garment rending and naysaying begin! Since Amazon introduce Kindle Unlimited, these payment schemes are growing in (if not popularity) regular occurrence.

How goes Brexit? "ITV News said chief UK negotiator Olly Robbins was overheard in a Brussels bar saying the EU was likely to allow an extension to the Brexit process… The PM suggested MPs should not rely on 'what someone said to someone else as overheard by someone else, in a bar'." Tick tock, says the clock.

"U.S. stock index futures rose on Wednesday, with market participants hopeful that Chinese and U.S. trade authorities will reach an agreement." Sure.

"The New York Fed released the numbers on Tuesday, which included data until the end of 2018. The 7 million Americans with serious delinquencies ― when vehicle loan payments are at least 90 days late ― is more than 1 million higher than in 2010, when Americans were still recovering from the financial crisis of 2008." Insert dramatic music here. You may remember that repossession was a good business to be in during 2006-2009.

And here, I guess, is a good time to mea culpa. It appears increasingly likely that the US economy didn't enter a recession by 4CYQTR 2018. SO my prediction has not come true. And while I feel it's sorta cheating to just continue to say, "It's coming" (because eventually we will have one), I'm seeing stronger signs for this year. This economic situation feels very similar to early 2007 with the various news (confidence high, stock market roaring, but debt rising and business investment slowing). The few months of stimulus the tax cuts created are now behind us. We are still engaged in trade wars, and despite what the President says, we're still operating under NAFTA which is increasingly showing it's age. And in case you haven't been watching, the national debt reached a new milestone this week. At economic times like these, the government should be retiring debt and building, but none of that is happening and we're increasing our deficit spending (note, not all deficit spending is bad, and some is often necessary).

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israeli forces had carried out another strike in Iran-aligned Syria, a day after the Syrian army said an Israeli drone fired missiles near a demolished hospital and an army observation post." Sometimes proxy wars don't remain proxy. And sometimes people die because politicians want to appear tough and/or save face.

"Mr. Trump pronounced himself unsatisfied with the agreement brokered by House and Senate negotiators, and he refused to publicly commit to signing it. But he all but ruled out another government shutdown and emphasized that he would find “other methods” to finance a border barrier, leading aides and allies to predict he would grudgingly go along with the deal." The key to knowing what Trump will do is to find the option that creates the most chaos and then bet that way.

"Declaring a national emergency to build a wall would not be a simple matter, however. It would stretch the definition of a national emergency beyond any previous point and trigger challenges in Congress and the courts."

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Linkee-poo had white horses and ladies by the score, all dressed in satin and waiting by the door

Something new has been added. "A chance discovery, hidden away in a series of 16th-century books deep in the archive of Bristol Central Library, has revealed original manuscript fragments from the Middle Ages which tell part of the story of Merlin the magician, one of the most famous characters from Arthurian legend." (Grokked from Cat Rambo)

On the religion of the space programs and their influence in SF movies. I'm not sure if I've mentioned I wrote a senior thesis on Arthur C. Clarke's depictions of God in his writing, so this is always an interesting topic to me. Maybe not to you. But for me it always has been an interesting question that no matter how much the religious groups want to say there is no God in science, and that SF/F is "godless" and no matter how much the SF/F community likes to tout its rationalism, God (in the infinite variations) shows up an awful lot. It could just be a matter of Western Culture leaking through, but I'm not entirely sure that's a solid answer. So, interesting topic. Then there was this "…and there certainly wasn’t an opportunity for any sort of sci-fi religion to crop up as Cosmism has in Europe and Russia." And my immediate response was, "Scientology, anyone?"

"The quick and easy noshes you love are chipping away at your mortality one nibble at a time, according to new research from France: We face a 14 percent higher risk of early death with each 10 percent increase in the amount of ultraprocessed foods we eat."

"Researchers from antivirus provider Trend Micro made that discovery after analyzing an app available on a Torrent site that promised to install Little Snitch, a firewall application for macOS. Stashed inside the DMG file was an EXE file that delivered a hidden payload." Clever girl. (Grokked from Dan)

"On a bitter cold afternoon in front of the central bus stop in Bangor, Maine, about a half-dozen people recently surrounded a folding table covered with handmade signs offering free clean syringes, coffee and naloxone, the drug also known as Narcan that can reverse an opioid overdose… They're with a group called the Church of Safe Injection that is handing out clean drug-using supplies in cities around the U.S." They intend to use religious protection as their legal defense. Although CSI is a pretty good acronym.

"Russian environmental authorities have deployed a team of specialists to a remote Arctic region to sedate and remove dozens of hungry polar bears that have besieged the people living there." Be safe, my Russian friends. (Grokked from Matt Staggs)

Remember when we were all told that the market is a "rational actor" because investors don't "speculate"? "U.S. stock index futures rose Tuesday amid news that U.S. lawmakers had secured a tentative deal on border security funding on Monday."

How goes Brexit? "Prime Minister Theresa May will tell British lawmakers on Tuesday they must hold their nerve over Brexit to force the European Union to accept changes to the divorce deal that would pave the way for an orderly exit." Ah, the call to a "stiff-upper-lip." Looks at watch, well a little later than I expected.

"A former White House aide is suing President Donald Trump and arguing the government is trying to illegally penalize him after he wrote a book that portrayed an unflattering picture of life in the West Wing." So I guess we have the case that will try the legitimacy of the NDAs the Trump Administration had people sign. IANAL, but I think Trump will have a rough time of it.

"Utah’s governor on Monday signed legislation into law a limited Medicaid expansion plan, defying voters who approved a full expansion in November… The bill signed by Gov. Gary Herbert (R) would cover far fewer people, and cost taxpayers more money, than the plan voters approved in November." And there you have conservative politics in a nutshell. Not the will of the people, does less, costs more.

"The resolution lays out a number of concerns with Trump's rhetoric surrounding illegal immigration, particularly as it relates to El Paso. The resolution says Trump 'has continuously made inaccurate claims about the United States’ southern border, including El Paso.'"

"Senate Republicans are fuming at President Donald Trump for telling lawmakers he would disregard a law requiring a report to Congress determining who is responsible for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi." Concerned Senators are once again concerned.

"A possible agreement also doesn't mean the President won't end up declaring a national emergency to secure the kind of money he really wants to build a wall… Republicans in Washington aren't so thrilled by (the idea of declaring an emergency)… doing so could set off a chain of events on Capitol Hill that risks splitting the Republican conference, undercutting other parts of Trump's agenda and likely opening the administration's actions to legal challenges. It would also provide a clarifying moment that Republicans on the Hill have managed to avoid since Trump took office -- casting an up or down vote on whether to build the full-scale wall Trump desires." It's all fun and games until the chaos comes to your house.

"President Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, on Monday again broke with the US intelligence community's consensus regarding Iran's nuclear program, less than two weeks after Trump publicly berated the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, for saying Iran wasn't seeking to build a nuclear weapon." Healthy skepticism is one thing, this is another.

It's just all talk, I mean, the president vilifying the press is all just showmanship, right. It's not like it's going to lead to actual violence. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"And while those two potentially embody the core split within the Democratic primary – pragmatism versus pugilism – President Trump will be waiting in the general election with another distinction he hopes to make: 'socialism' versus 'greatness.'" Uh oh, someone is firing up the Red Scare again. It's one of those giant air dancer guys at the used auto stores. "The denunciation of socialism and the attempt to tie the philosophy to Democrats is President Trump's and his campaign's attempt to invert the argument that he is an extremist."

Monday, February 11, 2019

Linkee-poo is back at it

Need an icon? The Noun Project. Eh. (Grokked from John)

Darwinism in action. "They show people in parts of the U.S. hit by the polar vortex and record low temperatures throwing hot water into the air and watching it turn to ice crystals in the freezing air… But hospitals are warning that the challenge has led to those taking part suffering serious burns, as the wind blew boiling water back onto them." Look, boiling water is dangerous. I appreciate the DIY attitude, but seriously this kind of thing shouldn't be done without precautions, the first of which is understanding that boiling water is dangerous.

"SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says the company’s Raptor engine, meant to power Starship and Super Heavy, has surpassed a rocketry record held by Russian scientists and engineers for more than two decades." Not so fast there, Bucky. The Russian RD-180 has been actually launching payloads into space and SpaceX's Raptor is still on the test bench.

"SpaceX is gearing up for a big human-spaceflight milestone… Elon Musk's company aims to fly the first demonstration mission of its Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station (ISS) on March 2… This flight, known as Demo-1, will be uncrewed."

"Insect populations are declining precipitously worldwide due to pesticide use and other factors, with a potentially "catastrophic" effect on the planet, a study has warned… More than 40% of insect species could become extinct in the next few decades, according to the 'Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers' report, published in the journal Biological Conservation." We're boned.

For those people who think the anti-science mentality of the right only extends to global warming and abortion, I offer this. "Fox News host Pete Hegseth explained on Sunday that he doesn’t wash his hands because 'germs are not a real thing.'" I would suggest avoiding the communal bowl of M&M's in the Fox News green room. (Grokked from Jim Wright)

"These stories highlight additional problems with exaggerating the importance of 1619 (as the start of African slavery in the Americas)." (Grokked from Patrick Nielsen Hayden)

"The chef has made a name for himself on the local and national culinary scenes, both for his widely praised farm-to-fork menus and for his leadership on causes such as homelessness and domestic violence. Now, he's channeling some of his energy into suicide prevention." Chef activists seems to be a thing these days.

The stories we tell ourselves, about how families who suffer tragedies must be strong and forge ahead. "The Schentrups' activism is overlaid with the daily struggles of just getting through another day without their daughter. Reminders of Carmen are prominent throughout their home: here, a photo of her striking a sassy pose in her homecoming dress. There, a photo of her in the graduation cap and gown she would never get to wear." Not everyone can be, not everyone should be. And sometimes the peer-pressure to behave in "socially accepted" ways can be too much. Everyone's pain is their own.

"Russian authorities and major internet providers are planning to disconnect the country from the internet as part of a planned experiment, Russian news agency RosBiznesKonsalting (RBK) reported last week… In addition, Russian telecom firms would also have to install 'technical means' to re-route all Russian internet traffic to exchange points approved or managed by Roskomnazor, Russia's telecom watchdog." I'll miss our Russian friends.

How goes Brexit? "Brexit uncertainty dragged U.K. investment to its worst slump since the financial crisis, leaving the economy with barely any momentum."

"Asian stocks were mostly higher on Monday as traders watched for developments on a fresh round of trade talks between American and Chinese officials in Beijing this week. Markets in China and Taiwan, reopening after a weeklong Lunar New Year break, posted broad gains." Let's see how long that lasts.

Let's give rich people even more money, because their job creators and will help the rising-tide economy lift all boats. "By year-end, most of the nation’s largest lenders met or exceeded their initial predictions for tax savings. On average, the banks saw their effective tax rates fall below 19 percent from the roughly 28 percent they paid in 2016. And while the breaks set off a gusher of payouts to shareholders, firms cut thousands of jobs and saw their lending growth slow." It's almost as if it were a long-term grift the entire time. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"From the looks of it, GOP politicians got what they wanted, too. From the time the tax bill was first introduced on Nov. 2, 2017, until the end of the year, a 60-day period, dozens of billionaires and millionaires dramatically boosted their political contributions unlike they had in past years, giving a total of $31.1 million in that two months, a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics found." Everybody got what they wanted, except for the majority of people who weren't watching or caring. And now you know why AOC scares the hell out of them. "Such giving is not unusual, said Thomas Stratmann, a professor at George Mason University who has shown how contributions to lawmakers from PACs are aimed at encouraging them to vote for a bill or to reward them for passing it." But I'm sure this SCOTUS wouldn't consider that quid-pro-quo. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"The top US commander in the war against ISIS aligned himself Sunday with the US intelligence community assessment that there are 'tens of thousands' of ISIS fighters spread across Syria and Iraq." I'm sure they'll all fade into the background, peacefully, once the president tells them we've won.

"California Gov. Gavin Newsom will announce plans Monday to pull back all members of the National Guard who have been deployed to the border with Mexico, saying the state would not be part of the Trump administration's 'manufactured crisis.'"

"America could be sliding toward a new government shutdown and President Donald Trump may face a fateful choice over his border wall as another knife-edge week opens in Washington." Anyone surprised? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? All because the GOP wants to keep locking up people, and paying their friends to do it.