What if Kurzweil doesn't make it?
What if all the switches get stuck on destroy?
When the shuttle goes, we won't take it
When the final counter-measures are deployed
All we'll have is all this time

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Linkee-poo closes out the year

Hope 2020 is better than 2019.

"If you’re a pantser you are not in sole charge of the work. The characters, the plot, the theme, all chip in and drag the book to new and exciting places. You want them to do that. This is the whole point of pantsing in the first place. The book will go to places that you, if you outlined it at the beginning, could never have imagined. You know the thing’s really alive, when it gets up and runs!" For the current WIP (of which I've said little) I am pantsing a lot. I know the major plot move for the end of Act II and I have ideas for how it runs through Act III, but how we get there and how we get through it all, I have no clue. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"The Mars 2020 rover, which sets off for the Red Planet next year, will not only search for traces of ancient life, but pave the way for future human missions, NASA scientists said Friday as they unveiled the vehicle." I have an idea, guys, why not make it dual power, both sunlight and the nuclear reactor, with the reactor as backup (and for keeping warm during the Martian winter)?

"An automotive assembly plant closing in a US county has been associated with 85% higher opioid overdose death rates among working-age adults in that county after five years, according to a study published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday." This is not my shocked face.

"Gatzke-Plamann is the only full-time family physician in the central Wisconsin village of Necedah, population 916. She wanted to help but had no resources to offer. She and the patient started searching the Internet while still on the phone, trying to find somewhere nearby that could help. No luck." Welcome to rural America. There ain't shit out here. Okay, well, there is a lot of shit, but there's no real services beyond the basics. Also, there is a very good reason you'll find the best orthopedic doctors in or near rural areas. Also good on this doctor for knowing there is more than one way to treat chronic pain and that not all pain medications have the same effect on patients. Wish more doctors understood that.

"The number of homeless homicide victims in Los Angeles is increasing. While only 1% of the city's population lives on the streets or in shelters, homeless people accounted for about 17% of its homicide victims during 2019."

"Canadian police were prepared to shoot Indigenous land defenders blockading construction of a natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia, according to documents seen by the Guardian… The RCMP commanders also instructed officers to 'use as much violence toward the gate as you want' ahead of the operation to remove a roadblock which had been erected by Wet’suwet’en people to control access to their territories and stop construction of the proposed 670km (416-mile) Coastal GasLink pipeline (CGL)… In a separate document, an RCMP officer states that arrests would be necessary for 'sterilizing [the] site'." They also tried to hide the operation and intent to use force from the media. (Grokked form someone, sorry, lost the link)

"Wang Yi, a leader in one of the most well-known Christian congregations in China, has been quietly sentenced to nine years in prison, according to a statement on the website of the Intermediate People's Court of Chengdu Municipality." Rhut rho.

"West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday he has approved recommendations to fire all of the correctional officer cadets who participated in an apparent Nazi salute during a class photo." That only took, what, a month. Oh, and supposedly the salute was to honor the person who taught cultural diversity and supposedly they also encouraged it's use. And they were unaware of the cultural context. Again, stupidity is not a defense (and if they taught cultural diversity to police correctional guards and did not know the heritage of that gesture, they are grossly unqualified). "The participants were instead motivated by 'poor judgement, ignorance, peer pressure, and fear of reprisal.'" And those are disqualifying for being a correctional officer.

"According to an analysis by the New York Times’ Peter Eavis, large corporations have not only lobbied Treasury Department officials to interpret provisions in President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax bill in such a way that they pay less in corporate taxes on offshore profits, but they are also hiding the decreased amounts in their public filings." Not only was it designed to allow them to rape the economy, but it also helps them hide the crime. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

Hey, remember that talking point about how embassies of strong presidents are never attacked? It was used against Obama after Benghazi. Whelp… "An angry mob protesting American airstrikes in Iraq and Syria tried to storm the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday, smashing through the main entrance and setting fire to a reception area as Marines guarding the compound fired tear gas to hold them back." They made it through the outer security. Also a reminder that Iraq is considering ending our tenuous SoFA (Status of Forces Agreement).

Monday, December 30, 2019

Linkee-poo works with bearskins and flint knives

So, big power outages because of the storms. So nothing fresh today, sorry. But here are some links from over the weekend.

"In the binary times in which we live, it might not surprise anyone that people can't even agree on when one period of time ends and another begins. The question many are now asking is: When we ring in the new year and welcome 2020, should we also celebrate a new decade?" Whispers, "There was no year 0." But then we had this fight in 1999.

"Tour operators of (Upper Antelope Canyon in Arizona), known for its red-orange sandstone walls, on the Navajo Nation announced last week that photo-only tours will cease, The Arizona Republic reported."

"Retailers legally selling marijuana for the past month in Michigan say they have drawn customers from surrounding Midwestern states where the drug remains illegal and, as Illinois prepares to joins the recreational market on Wednesday, officials are renewing warnings to consumers against carrying such products over state lines."

On the Media 2019 wrap-up, "2019 started on a note of fakery, as we made sense of the conspiracies and simulacra that distort our information field. It's ending with a similar air of surreality, with impeachment proceedings bringing the dynamics of the Trump presidency into stark relief. Along the way, we've examined forces, deconstructed narratives, and found the racist core at the heart of so much of the American project. And as we've come to look differently at the world, we've come to look differently at ourselves."

"Law enforcement and fire officials have responded to a shooting in or at a church in White Settlement, Texas, outside Fort Worth." So much for the myth that shooting only occurs in gun free zones.

"A man accused of stabbing and wounding five people at a rabbi's home in an Orthodox Jewish community in Rockland County, New York, just as they were lighting candles for Hanukkah, pleaded not guilty on Sunday to five counts of attempted murder."

"But if 2017 was the wake-up call, 2019 was the year the call was answered… 'We did see movement in public policy and public rhetoric on violence inspired by white supremacy and white nationalism,' said George Selim, who oversees the Anti-Defamation League's Center for Extremism."

"'We find that the 2018 tariffs are associated with relative reductions in manufacturing employment and relative increases in producer prices,' concluded Fed economists Aaron Flaaen and Justin Pierce, in an academic paper." This is my shocked face.m(Grokked from George Takei)

"On Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office said that the federal deficit will reach $960 billion for the 2019 fiscal year, which ends September 30, and breach the $1 trillion mark in 2020. Previously those figures were expected to come in at $896 billion and $892 billion, respectively, but the damage from the president’s tariffs, along with a sharp falloff in revenue thanks to the 2017 tax cuts, have caused deficit projections to rise faster than expected." Longest expansion of the economy EVAR and we're swimming in debt. Hey, remember under Obama when the deficit got over $700B and the rightwing went batshit crazy and launched the Tea Party? So, guess how they're thinking of solving this problem? "Conservative groups—which largely supported Mr. Trump’s tax cuts—have pushed Congress to cut future deficits by reducing benefits for federal health care and retirement programs, like Medicare and Social Security." And the president has signaled that would be a fun second term project. Guess what they're going to run on. (Grokked from Seanan McGuire)

"Two years ago Friday, Republicans in Congress passed a sweeping tax cut. It was supposed to be a gift-wrapped present to taxpayers and the economy. But in hindsight, it looks more like a costly lump of coal… 'It will be rocket fuel for our economy,' Trump promised… 'The tax plan will pay for itself with economic growth,' Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said… It hasn't worked out that way." Funny, that. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"Putin thanked Trump “for information transmitted through the special services that helped prevent the completion of terrorist acts in Russia,” the Kremlin said in a brief statement posted on its website." Uh, yeah. I'm gonna need a little more here.

"Trump has long railed against clean-energy-producing wind turbines, but recently he's added light bulbs and other household items to his repertoire. It's an unusual political rallying cry, but one that fits with Trump's deregulatory agenda."

"President Donald Trump retweeted a post that included the alleged name of the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint ultimately led to Trump’s impeachment by the House." Considering that the reposted tweet appears to come from an automated account, that's pretty interesting. Also, the president doing so may have violated the law (again).

Friday, December 27, 2019

Linkee-poo is a jet-fuel genius, I can solve the world's problems without even tryin'

"The number of people confirmed dead since Typhoon Phanfone hit the Philippines on Christmas Eve has risen to 28, as thousands of people affected by the storm remain in temporary evacuation shelters, authorities said Friday."

"'Stories are a kind of magic trick,' says cognitive scientist Vera Tobin. 'When we dissect them, we can discover very, very reliable aspects of those tricks that turn out to be important clues about the way that people think.'" The Hidden Brain on the stories we tell ourselves and using movies/stories as brain scans.

"Today, many of the largest mineral corporations in the world have launched underwater mining programs." I'm sure they'll do it in a totally sustainable way with all the best environmental practices to only take what they need, and leave everything else undisturbed. And that they'll exploit all the recoverable mineral resources in their given stakes and not destroy other valuable resources in their search to extract a single item. You know, like they did on land. I'm I'm totally sure they won't disturb any methane hydrates which may not only kill anything on the surface when they rise, but continue to exacerbate global warming. (Grokked form Laura J Mixon)

"The indoor concentration of carbon dioxide concerns him—and not only for the usual reason. Karnauskas is worried that indoor CO₂ levels are getting so high that they are starting to impair human cognition. In other words: Carbon dioxide, the same odorless and invisible gas that causes global warming, may be making us dumber." This explains so much. Also, we're boned. (Grokked from Jason Sanford)

"Fad diets come and go, and there's no one diet that's best for everyone. So, here are some simple tips to help you pick one that's best for you." The most successful diet is the one you're able to maintain over the long haul. As Michael Pollan says, "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

John Scalzi's thoughts on exercise after a year of… well, exercising.

"A woman was able to escape from a frightening situation on Christmas Eve thanks to the quick thinking of McDonald’s employees." Well, the employees had actual training on how to help those in need. So kudos to the McD's owner for choosing to participate in Safe Place, and even bigger kudos for the employees for stepping up. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"Several years ago, a $15-an-hour minimum wage was the pipe dream of a national coalition of striking fast-food workers… Now, it’s increasingly becoming a reality across the country, with significant gains expected in 2020." Expect to hear the great news of "wages going up" in the forthcoming monthly jobs reports.

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has officially changed the federal minimum age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21… The new minimum age applies to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaping cartridges." But not right away. Begin the lamentation of "old enough to die for the country, but…".

"Legal experts expected this to be the year we answered big questions about the liability that drug companies face for the deadly opioid epidemic and for their role in marketing high-risk prescription pain medications… Instead, the legal fight over who will pay to clean up the addiction crisis dissolved into confusion and infighting." You say that like it wasn't the plan.

How go the Trade Wars? China blocks American books. Oh China, you don't understand America at all. Or they're betting on the fact that publishers took on Amazon about ebook pricing and won, so maybe they'll be able to convince the president to stop his trade wars.

"Global stock markets moved mostly higher on Friday amid optimism that U.S.-Chinese trade relations are improving and on early reports that online Christmas shopping was up over last year in the U.S." AND "Global stock markets were mixed Friday after Wall Street rose amid optimism that U.S.-Chinese trade relations are improving." Both by the same AP reporter, and posted with only a little time between them. And after a quick read, only the first two paragraphs are different.

"Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be his party's leader when Israel holds a national election in March, after notching a landslide victory in the Likud Party primary Thursday. Netanyahu had faced a rare challenger in Likud's primary race, but he secured more than 70% of the vote." Some people like their nationalism. But it'll only make a difference if Netanyahu will be able to win and form a government after the March.

Better shield, meet better sword. "A new intercontinental weapon that can fly 27 times the speed of sound became operational Friday, Russia’s defense minister reported… The Avangard is launched atop an intercontinental ballistic missile, but unlike a regular missile warhead that follows a predictable path after separation it can make sharp maneuvers in the atmosphere en route to target, making it much harder to intercept." Welcome to the new arms race set off by our deployment of anti-ballistic missile technology. Although it's not like superpowers haven't been known to tout vaporware before.

"A passenger jet has crashed in Kazakhstan, killing at least 12 people but leaving dozens of survivors… The Bek Air plane was flying from Almaty - Kazakhstan's largest city - to the capital Nur-Sultan when it smashed into a building just after take-off."

"Japan on Friday approved a contentious plan to send its naval troops to the Middle East to ensure the safety of Japanese ships transporting oil to the energy-poor country that heavily depends on imports from the region." Um…

In case you think our political process is dysfunctional… "Montenegro’s Parliament adopted a contested law on religious rights Friday after chaotic scenes that saw the detention of all pro-Serb opposition lawmakers." But it's all about church property and requiring them to show proof of land ownership. You might remember the late 70s as the Carter Administration looked to revoke Liberty University's tax exemption and the disruption that brought about.

"Folks: A troll's goal is to get you to fight. A particular tactic is to use topics that they KNOW will trigger you into responding." Jim Wright on the information warfare happening on social media. "To deny, disrupt, deceive, degrade, deflect: i.e. to prevent consensus, to prevent rational public discourse, to derail conversation, to corrupt information and opinion. THAT's the mission of these agencies…" and that's the goal.

"President Donald Trump can't seem to get Nancy Pelosi out of his head, even as most of the rest of the nation enjoys a holiday halftime break from the impeachment drama." She's living rent free in that cramped, little brain.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Linkee-poo hangovers

The brouhaha over at the RWA. "Romance novelist Courtney Milan, a former board member of the Romance Writers of America and longtime advocate for tackling racism in the genre and the industry, was suspended by the group this month following complaints by fellow authors that she violated the group’s code of ethics with her negative online comments about other writers and their work." (Grokked from Jason Sanford)

"At the beginning of the 2010s, the world seemed to be poised for an ebook revolution." The revolution has been postponed. Funny how people discovered the cost of publishing isn't affected by the actual cost of print. For those outside the rarified world of design, printing is a commodity. That means it compete on price (mostly). Since the 2000's print has been in a race to the bottom (well the mid 90's actually). Printing is very cheap for most items (a few have become more expensive).

"Abstaining from food for 16 to 18 hours a day could be key to treating a variety of health conditions -- even if you've got to train yourself to push past the hunger." We've been down this road before. Yes, there are studies which show our health can improve if we limit caloric intake to "daylight" hours. And it's best if you don't eat after 8pm for those on a "normal" schedule. But it's that "normal" schedule thing, who has that anymore? Also we evolved to survive periods of starvation. However, just remember, it's also been shown that intermittent deprivation (fasting) can also trigger the body's mechanisms to lower metabolism and increase fat storage. So it's a mixed bag. Eat less, exercise more.

"In a study published in August this year, led by Caltech mineralogist Chi Ma, scientists analysed the Wedderburn meteorite and verified the first natural occurrence of what they call 'edscottite': a rare form of iron-carbide mineral that's never been found in nature." Ah, something new has been added.

"By comparing star catalogues dating back to the 1950s with more recent datasets, researchers with the Vanishing & Appearing Sources during a Century of Observations project have identified around 100 bright dots that seem to have vanished without a trace." Something has been taken away.

"Normally, Betelgeuse is among the 10 brightest stars in the sky. However, the red giant began dimming in October, and by mid-December, the star had faded so much it wasn’t even in the top 20, Villanova University’s Edward Guinan reported in an Astronomer’s Telegram." Astronomy is looking up.

"Whether you have a new gift card burning a hole in your wallet or an unwanted gift to return, after Christmas sales offer a chance to buy what you want for yourself at a discount." Let the greed and avarice continue.

"In the end, though, the Navy punished its own sailors for failing to master a flawed system that they had been inadequately trained on and that the Navy itself came to admit it did not fully understand." Just another day in the military, which took 9 lives and which the Navy was quick to say was the result of other sailors and the captain. It's a long read, btw. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"The SECURE Act opens the gates for more employers to offer annuities as investment options within 401(k) plans. Currently, employers hold the fiduciary responsibility to ensure these products are appropriate for employees’ portfolios, but under the new rules, the onus falls on insurance companies, which sell annuities, to offer proper investment choices." I'm sure it'll be fine. I mean, aren't we all PhD level investment wizards?

"The Trump administration proposal would require millions of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries to re-prove their eligibility for benefits as often as every six months — far more frequently than is currently the case. There is no justification for this policy. The United States already has some of the strictest eligibility criteria for disability benefits in the world. More than half of all claims are denied." (Grokked from Michele)

"Toxmap allowed users to pull up detailed EPA data for each toxic release site, and to overlay other information, such as mortality statistics, onto those maps… Those capabilities appear to no longer be available to the public." (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"Hundreds of protesters marched through festive Hong Kong shopping malls on Thursday, aiming to disrupt business in the Asian financial hub for a third day over the Christmas holidays, with riot police deployed in the event of unrest."

"The photojournalist Mark Peterson has documented this year, traveling the country to surface the extent of the activity and catalogue the most dangerous ideologies. His quotidian look at contemporary American Confederacy and white nationalism shows us our neighbors in other robes. The people portrayed are living among us in every region of the country, in our workplaces, in our government, on social media, and, for some, in our homes. Their culture is made up of both public rallies and private rituals." White supremacy in America. Fucking Nazis.

"An Iowa woman who told police she ran over a teen because she 'was a Mexican' has been charged with another attempted murder after police say she hit a 12-year-old boy on the same day." There's a whole bunch of lone wolves out there, almost like they're a pack or something.

"Deaths in custody. Sexual violence. Hunger strikes. What we uncovered inside ICE facilities across the US… A USA TODAY Network investigation revealed sex assaults, routine use of physical force, poor medical care and deaths at facilities overseen by ICE."

"Two Russian state institutions with close ties to Vladimir Putin funded substantial stakes in Twitter and Facebook through an investor who later acquired an interest in a Jared Kushner venture, leaked documents reveal." For it being Ukraine, there still are a lot of fucking Russians around here. Also Jared "forgot" to disclose that he formed a company with his brother to help funnel that money. He just forgot a few hundred million dollars. (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"Trump’s business applied for the trademarks (in Argentina) in late December 2017. Shortly after the close of the trademark opposition period, in May of 2018, the United States reached a deal with Argentina and a few other countries to permanently eliminate tariffs on aluminum and steel, on the condition that the countries agreed to limit steel exports… After Argentina approved the trademarks in November, the Trump administration restored the tariffs on steel and aluminum." Wow, what another unbelievable coinkydink. (Grokked from Chip Dawes)

"To gain more context and insight into this ongoing crisis, I asked several of the country’s leading mental health experts for their thoughts on Trump’s impeachment letter and what it indicates about the president’s emotional state and behavior."

"The ostensible purpose of the (Chuck Todd) Rolling Stone interview was to promote a special edition of Meet the Press on December 29 that will focus on the weaponization of disinformation. But its effect is to bring MTP — and by extension similar shows — into epistemological crisis. With Todd’s confessions the mask has come off. It could have come off a long time ago, but the anchors, producers, guests, advertisers and to an unknown degree the remaining viewers colluded in an act of make believe that lurched along until now. One way to say it: They agreed to pretend that Conway’s threatening phrase, 'alternative facts' was just hyberbole, the kind of inflammatory moment that makes for viral clips and partisan bickering. More silly than it was ominous." The choices we make. And no, I doubt Meet The Press and Chuck Todd will make the actual changes required to combat this disinformation. That would be uncomfortable and alienate a large audience (which needs that alienation, IMHO). It also requires a hellofalotata hard work (although with how TV shows function that work could be distributed). (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"Monday’s split-screen drama, as the House Judiciary Committee weighed impeachment charges against President Trump and as the Justice Department’s inspector general released a 476-page report on the FBI’s handling of its 2016 investigation into Trump’s campaign, made one truth of the modern world inescapable: The lies and obfuscations forwarded ad infinitum on Fox News pose a dangerous threat to the national security of the United States." They have been since the 90s, it's just finally become so apparent that people can no longer pretend it's a matter of perspective. (Grokked form Xeni Jardin)

"Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, said she was disturbed to hear Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell say there would be 'total coordination' between the White House and Senate over the upcoming presidential impeachment trial." Ah, concerned senator is concerned again. Murkowski and Collins should form their own caucus, the Concerned Senators of America. Basically they'll leverage their slight inclination toward moderation to gain some benefit for their states. It's an old fashioned kind of politicking.

"Security officers in Moscow raided the offices of Alexei Navalny, the most prominent foe of President Vladimir Putin and the governing United Russia party." The beatings will continue until moral improves. Stay safe, my Russian friends. You never know when it'll be your turn. (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Happy Merry Whatever You Celebrate

Just as a reminder, the 12 Days of Xmas is not Advent, they start on Xmas.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Linkee-poo Monday

Just an FYI, with the holidays there will be disruptions of the linkee-poos. If you celebrate Christmas, happy holidays. Joyous Solstice (although that was last week). Happy Hanukkah (which again has already started). Good Kwanza. Great Boxing Day. Whatever you like. And may the New Year close on a much brighter future than this past year.

The year without a Santa Claus. "Throughout Europe and North America, throngs of Santa impersonators like Zander have been busy preparing children for Christmas. But in Germany, the number of people willing to play Santa Claus has dropped precipitously, after a student union that traditionally supplied candidates stopped doing so last year out of a lack of interest among students. It was a code-red Santa emergency."

"Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft safely returned from orbit on Sunday morning, landing at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico before sunrise. The capsule very nearly hit its bullseye, and initial reports from astronauts on the scene say the vehicle came through in 'pristine' condition… The question is whether this will be good enough for NASA to proceed with a human test flight of Starliner without a second uncrewed test to determine the capsule's capability to dock to the space station." Yeah, that might be a good thing to test first. You know, before people real people inside.

"The Ohio River Valley has seen some of the largest jumps in mortality rates among people in midlife — those between ages 25 and 64 — in recent years. Appalachia has been hit especially hard by the opioid epidemic, and Ohio and West Virginia have suffered the worst, with the highest rates of overdose deaths." Another year in the opioid (or recreational drug use) epidemic. Oh, and… "'Right now, methamphetamine is the drug of choice,' says detective sergeant Stewart. 'It's probably topped the charts around here.'" This is not just about opioid abuse and the pharma industry involvement. That doesn't mean they're not culpable for what they did, but they didn't start the fire, they just stoked it.

How bad is our fucked up retirement system in the US? "When Jeanne Souron-Mathers died in November, police in Tooele, Utah, were startled to find the body of her husband Paul in a chest freezer… Police also discovered a notarized letter from Paul stating that his wife was not responsible for his death… Investigators now believe that Paul Mathers died a decade ago and are investigating the possibility that monthly payments to him from Veterans Affairs and Social Security kept coming in after his death." Also, he was being treated at the VA for a terminal illness… that he stopped going for treatments 10 years ago.

"Kasdan visited her primary care physician, Roya Fathollahi, at Manhattan Specialty Care, just off Park Avenue South and not far from tony Gramercy Park… Then the bill came." The problem here isn't so much the amount of the out-of-network testing ($28,395.50), but that the majority of these tests were not necessary, yet the insurance company was going to pay $25,865.24 of that bill. Considering we see people who need diagnostic imaging to accurately diagnose/stage their cancer get denied because it's "not medically necessary", how the fuck were these tests not flagged? Of course the answer is, "automation" (and updated form of "the computer did it"). The billing and the process conformed to the rules and so was paid. And that's how it's done.

Another weekend in America. "Across three states, at least 28 people were shot in three separate incidents over the weekend."

"More than 60 vehicles have been involved in a pile-up in foggy conditions on a motorway in the US state of Virginia… There were no reports of fatalities in the crash on Interstate 64 near Williamsburg but more than 50 people were injured, two critically."

"A United States soldier has been killed in action in an attack claimed by the Taliban group in northern Afghanistan."

"As a girl, Milgrom says her maternal grandmother taught her some of the family's food customs. Many years later, she realized they revealed their secret Jewish roots." For me it wasn't recipes, but the way we celebrated, what parts were emphasized and what parts were overly done.

How go the Trade Wars? "China will reduce import tariffs on hundreds of goods next week as it tries to boost trade, shore up its slowing economy and soften the impact of a devastating swine fever epidemic."

"It is 'more important than anything' to keep up the momentum for talks between the United States and North Korea, South Korean President Moon Jae-in told Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Monday."

"Former White House national security adviser John Bolton said that he doesn't believe that President Donald Trump 'really means it' when he says that he is determined to stop North Korea developing nuclear missiles that could be used to target the US."

"A new satellite image of a factory where North Korea makes military equipment used to launch long-range missiles shows the construction of a new structure." Oh, he's going to send us a present for Xmas after all. Or maybe it's an anti-missile battery and they're going to shot down Santa Claus.

"A top reelection adviser to President Donald Trump told a group of influential Republicans in Wisconsin that voter suppression is 'traditionally' part of the Republican Party’s strategy to compete in battleground states, according to audio obtained by the Associated Press. When asked about it, though, he said his remarks were being misinterpreted and he was referring to the frequent accusations that Republicans take part in such tactics. A liberal advocacy group provided the roughly 20-minute audio of Justin Clark’s remarks at the Republican National Lawyers Association’s Wisconsin chapter to the Associated Press." Which, you know, he says this is taking his comments totally out of context.

The state of civics education in America… "'Minnesota’s thirteen million dollar taxpayer-funded presidential primary ballot is spoiled by an unconstitutional system allowing political party chairs to choose their respective candidates.' Kaardal said. 'Fortunately, the Minnesota Constitution prohibits the state legislature from granting such powers to an individual, association or corporation.'" A person is suing the state of Minnesota because only Donald Trump will appear on the Republican primary ballot. Dude, you should be able to write in the candidate of your choice, and people only have their names on ballots when they file for election and meet the minimum requirement (usually a certain number of valid signatures). And presidential primary ballots are run by the parties. Here in Ohio I'll note that Joe Walsh did not file an application to appear on the ballot (again, Joe Walsh's run is more about his ratings and book sales than being a serious contender). This is also about the lamentable state of political (or any) reporting in the US. Sure, it's The Hill, but seriously, "we reached out for comment" and then they don't do the basics of explaining the actual goddamn rules for primary ballots.

"The White House is considering making the argument that President Trump has not officially been impeached, given that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not transmitted the articles of impeachment to the Senate, two sources involved in the president's impeachment defense told CBS News." Uh, yeah, Bob. (Grokked form Jim Wright)

"Democrats Sunday issued new demands for Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call witnesses that the President refused to provide for the House investigation… They seized on fresh ammunition for their case after the release of emails that show Trump's budget office ordered a freeze in security funding for Ukraine 90 minutes after Trump spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25."

"'I'm trying to see if the dots get connected. If that is the case, then I think it's a serious matter. I think it's an impeachable matter,' (Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama) said. 'But if these dots aren't connected and there are other explanations that I think are consistent with innocence, I will go that way too… What I really want to see, though, is to fill in the gaps,' he said. 'There are gaps.'" I will go that way too… uh, you gotta make a choice, Doug. This isn't the Scarecrow telling Dorothy how to get to the Emerald City.

"Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was scheduled to visit Ukraine in November following his trip to Germany to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall falling. But President Donald Trump, in coordination with the State Department, cut the Kyiv trip from Pompeo’s schedule at the last minute amid the impeachment inquiry, according to a U.S. official and two other individuals familiar with the matter." That doesn't sound like someone who has nothing to hide.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Linkee-poo Fried-days

Alligators, what can you do. "A large-scale analysis of bird migrations in the contiguous United States confirms what ornithologists and amateur birders already suspected: Overall, birds’ seasonal long-distance flights are happening earlier than they did a quarter of a century ago… This shift is probably due to higher temperatures, which have risen on average around half a degree Celsius per decade, researchers report December 16 in Nature Climate Change." We're boned.

"A slice of the world's oldest fossilised forest has been found cemented into the ground at an abandoned quarry in Cairo, New York."

"It was reported last year that Facebook accesses your location even when you have switched off Location Services for the app, and the company has now confirmed this in a letter to two senators… The company says that it uses three different methods to track user locations, only one of which needs Location Services." Burn it with fire. (Grokked from John)

"This fall, there were nearly 250,000 fewer students enrolled in college than a year ago, according to new numbers out Monday from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which tracks college enrollment by student." Looks like there will be fewer tenure tracks in the future. Also, the economy is good, population is decreasing, college costs more than ever… yes, these are observable trends.

"When it comes to children's prospects in life, the neighborhoods where they grow up matter a lot. Schools, safety, access to healthy food, places to play are all things that help to shape their futures… Now, new data from the Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy at Brandeis University reveal a sharp racial divide in access to such opportunities in almost every major metropolitan area of the country." It's almost like something systematic or designed… Note the trend holds even in higher than average opportunity areas. (Grokked from Mary Robinette Kowal)

"Boeing’s spacecraft Starliner did not achieve the proper orbit it needed to reach the International Space Station, shortly after the capsule launched from Florida early Friday morning." Oopsie. Although it's yet another blow to Boeing.

"Cybersecurity researchers said on Thursday that more than 267 million Facebook users had their personal data exposed in an online database that collected their names, Facebook IDs, and phone numbers. The database was available online without a password to anyone who accessed it for about two weeks, according to Comparitech, a tech website, and Bob Diachenko, a data-security researcher." They say this like it's a bug and not a feature.

"If the year ended right now, it would be the best annual gain for the stock market in six years. But if the rally keeps going just another couple percent, there’s a good chance at the best annual return in 22 years." Nothing to worry about. Everything is fine. Just a reminder that the stock market is not the economy.

"The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits dropped from a more than two-year high last week, pointing to sustained labor market strength that should continue to underpin consumer spending and the economy." One month's data does not make a trend.

"As 2019 comes to a close, the US economy earns its highest ratings in almost two decades, potentially boosting President Donald Trump in matchups against the Democrats vying to face him in next year's election, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS." Pops champaign cork, scoops up some caviar.

There are reports of shooting around the FSB headquarters in Moscow with 3 dead yesterday. Keep safe my Russian friends.

"But today, thanks to relentless demonization by the Hindu right, more of India’s Muslims are more afraid, and adrift, than ever before. And following another governmental measure meant to further stifle Muslims’ rights, many of India’s college students are finally fighting back against this ostracism at an undeniable scale."

"A Missouri church leader allegedly tried to pay for sex on the gay hookup app Grindr — with an Arby’s card, according to a report." We have the meats. He also offered to fill up the prospect's tank, if you know what I mean. (Grokked from John)

"The Supreme Court refused Monday to hear a major case on homelessness, letting stand a ruling that protects homeless people’s right to sleep on the sidewalk or in public parks if no other shelter is available." I would like to say "yeah", but the cynical part of my brain says the majority view is, "we're not here for that."

And in the State of Washington… "'Representative Shea, as a leader in the Patriot Movement, planned, engaged in and promoted a total of three armed conflicts of political violence against the United States Government in three states outside the state of Washington over a three-year period,' according to the report released Thursday. 'In one conflict Representative Shea led covert strategic pre-planning in advance of the conflict.'… Immediately after the report was released, Rep. J.T. Wilcox, the Republican minority leader of the House, said Shea 'has been suspended from any role in the House Republican Caucus.'" Well, see, the Republicans can recognize treason, when they want to. (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"The U.S. asylum system has been upended by the Remain in Mexico program… More than 55,000 migrants have been told to wait in Mexico under the program… The court data released Thursday show that about 24,000 of their cases had been completed as of Nov. 19… The success rate is less than 1%." Again, they say this like it's a bug and not a feature.

"'[Trump] said, "Hey, here's my deadline, here's what I need you to do." So we're gonna continue to work towards meeting that deadline," said Qualia, who is in charge of the Rio Grande Valley wall team. 'And we're either going to make it or not.'" Things down on the border don't seem to be going to well for Trump's border wall. Mostly because, surprise, many people who own land along the border aren't so keen to give it up for the wall. You know, despite the political rhetoric of these people shouting for relief from all the illegal immigrants crossing their land. "'It's very difficult to know who the rightful owners are. That's the biggest challenge,' said Rosalva Guerra, the chief appraiser of Starr County, where property records are notoriously incomplete." Um, how the hell can you assess property taxes (and values) if you don't know who actually owns the land. This is almost criminal neglect. And, "Garza is fighting the border wall. He voted for Trump, but he says he won't do so a second time. He fears the wall will kill his infant winemaking business." The "Exception Clause Fallacy" in effect. Well, yes he's going to build a wall, but it won't affect my property because… Yeah, sorry, you guessed wrong. "The president has asked for frequent updates. He reportedly told aides earlier this year, just 'take the land.'" Remember when conservatives were against eminent domain? And here's the president saying he's just going to confiscate land, ignoring laws and due process. Also note, this is exactly what a dictator would do, and it's what a fascist would do.

"Sarah Sanders apologizes for tweet mocking Biden during Democratic debate." And here we have the anatomy of conservative politics. Sarah Sanders is not a disconnected person, and yet she didn't know some of the basic facts about the former VP. Not because the facts weren't in the open, but because she just doesn't care to know. Because knowledge isn't prized on the right, adherence to ideology is. And then we have the "attack then apologize" MO of conservative social media.

"A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, conducted as the House prepares to vote on two articles of impeachment against the president, shows a deadlock. Among American adults, 48% favor his impeachment and removal and 48% oppose it… That represents a tiny shift in Trump’s favor since late October, when a 49%-46% plurality favored impeachment and removal." Um, those numbers are within the polling's margin of error. What you're seeing is a sampling anomaly being touted as "news."

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Linkee-poo dragged by the force of some other tide

"House lawmakers voted to impeach President Trump on Wednesday in only the third such rebuke in American history." Now comes the hard work. "The nation endured its hottest-ever day on Tuesday, but that record was smashed again on Wednesday - which saw an average maximum of 41.9C (107.4F)." Fine. We're all fine here, how about you? Note the temperature map has been recalibrated after they had to introduce new colors last year to show the extent of the heat wave. "Koyawena is one of 25 artists from more than a dozen Southwestern tribes taking part in the art exhibit 'The Force Is With Our People.' The pieces reflect Star Wars themes, such as endurance and rebellion, that have resonated powerfully with the franchise's devotees for decades. As it turns out though, Star Wars also speaks strongly to the historical experiences of many in the Southwest's Indigenous communities." The Throughline podcast with, "A record number of Americans have died from opioid overdoses in recent years. But how did we get here? And is this the first time Americans have faced this crisis? The short answer: no. Three stories of opioids that have plagued Americans for more than 150 years." Not discussed, our current drug laws, including the 4 tiered-schedule of drugs, came about because of opium (morphine and heroin) use in patent medicine in the early 20th century. The story is snake-oil did nothing for you. On the contrary. It got you high. "The Centers for Disease Control is investigating a multi-state outbreak of a drug-resistant infection that they believe is linked to contact with pet store puppies." "Your phone's blue light might not be disrupting your sleep pattern after all, or at least not as much as night mode does. That's the word from University of Manchester scientists, who said Monday that looking at cooler-colored lights in the evening and warmer colors in the daytime 'may be more beneficial to our health.' The body clock uses the dim and blue appearance of twilight to determine when to sleep, they say." What all these "studies" (which aren't really studies, but computer scientists missing that the "scientist" in their graduate degree doesn't mean what they think it means) miss is that there are many more qualities to light than just color (or temperature as we say in the biz). (Grokked from Chuck Wendig) "Chili peppers aren’t for the faint of heart, but maybe they should be. Scientists in Italy say the spice slashes the mortality rate from heart attack and cerebrovascular disease (which restricts blood flow to the brain and includes strokes and aneurysms)." Capsaicin is both a vaso-dilator as well as a blood "thinner", although the article doesn't point this out. "The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit does not want to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act less than a year before the election. But it may still invalidate the whole law—from Medicaid expansion to tax credits to protections for preexisting conditions—if given the right opportunity down the road." I'll note there still is no conservative plan to replace Obamacare except, "what we had before." Which was why we have Obamacare. "President Donald Trump on Wednesday night again addressed the plumbing issues of Americans, telling a crowd at a Michigan rally that 'women tell me' about how they have to repeatedly run their dishwashers." The president is rolling back those terrible regulations that reduced fresh water and electrical use. Because people are running their dishwashers "12 times" and flushing the toilet "8 times." And apparently only women use dishwashers. "Wakanda's free trade agreement with the United States wasn't forever… Until Wednesday afternoon, the fictional country from the popular 2018 Marvel superhero movie 'Black Panther' was listed as a free trade agreement partner of the United States on the Agricultural Tariff Tracker maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service." Supposedly it was "test" data that was inadvertently left up. Uh huh.

Another day in America… "Police are searching for five suspects after four people were shot at a San Antonio mall Wednesday night, officials said." "A Pennsylvania man accused in the recent vandalism of a Beverly Hills synagogue was arrested in Hawaii and is being charged being charged under a hate crime enhancement, police said Wednesday." Well, if you're going to be arrested, might as well make it Hawaii. "Congress is set to pass a $1.4 trillion spending package this week, which President Trump has said he'll sign. The legislation includes policy changes and funding increases that public health advocates are celebrating, as well as the permanent repeal of three key taxes that were designed to pay for Obamacare — a win for industry groups." There's a lot in this bill, and I'm sure there's a lot more that won't come out until after it's passed. How goes Brexit? "It means Johnson looks certain to finally pass a Brexit deal in Parliament on Friday after years of political deadlock, a huge symbolic moment that will ensure Britain leaves the European Union next month… So Brexit will be 'done,' right?… The most likely answer is no." Boris Johnson is promising to enact Brexit on Jan 31. This will likely be a hard Brexit. But Johnson is saying he'll have a comprehensive trade deal with the EU by Christmas 2020, which nobody thinks is actually likely. Deals like that take years. So unless he's planning on adopting a deal like the Nordic countries have, which is unlikely, he's not going to have anything. Not to mention, he needs to negotiate a trade deal with every other country the UK wants to do a lot of business with at the same time. All while dealing with Scotland which may break with the UK, defining the border in Northern Ireland, and passing all the legislation necessary once the EU regulations are no longer in effect. And finally, while Conservatives have the majority, not all conservatives agree about how Brexit should be implemented. "The people of Scotland have already rejected the U.K.'s political agenda, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says – and now she wants them to vote in a public referendum on leaving the U.K. altogether. Sturgeon says she's sending Prime Minister Boris Johnson a letter formally requesting that Scotland be allowed to hold a vote on its future." Here we go. How go the Trade Wars? "The trade war between the US and China may never be settled, experts fear, even after the two sides agreed on an outline 'phase one' deal." Oh look, somebody has actually sobered up. "Also, there are more rounds of talks to go before an official signing of this phase one deal." There is no deal. On the Media podcast with the rise of nationalism in India… "As Indian historian Romila Thapar recently wrote in The New York Times, 'extreme nationalists require their own particular version of the past to legitimize their actions in the present.; Producer Asthaa Chaturvedi examines how Hindu nationalists are rewriting Indian history in the world’s largest democracy, with journalist Shoaib Daniyal, political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot, and sociology professor Nandini Sundar." The playbook is exactly the same everywhere (including the US). "Fox News host Tucker Carlson ripped into immigrants in the nation’s capital, accusing them without evidence of contaminating the Potomac River." Sad racist yells at clouds. "Last month, Okafor made history in the larger community: The attorney and small-business owner became the first immigrant and first person of color elected as a councilor in the small, overwhelmingly white city. Okafor's election is part of a growing wave of women of color who are running for political office, and winning."

"Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, one of President Donald Trump's most visible allies on Capitol Hill, is not seeking reelection in 2020, he announced in a statement Thursday." Someone's auditioning for their next role, which may not go to production. "Meadows' decision to step away from Congress makes him the 21st House Republican to announce they won't run for reelection in 2020."

"'The United States and Tennessee have always been, since the very founding of our nation, a shining beacon of freedom and opportunity for the persecuted and oppressed, and particularly those suffering religious persecution,' (Gov. Bill) Lee wrote. 'My commitment to these ideals is based on my faith, personally visiting refugee camps on multiple continents, and my years of experience ministering to refugees here in Tennessee.'… Lee’s consent is valid for only one year." And the state legislature disagrees.

"The extraordinary order, signed by Judge Rosemary Collyer, presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, requires officials to submit an explanation in writing about how they're remediating the problems identified by the recent inspector general report about the Russia investigation." Somebody is in trouble.

"President Donald Trump attacked Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell and her late husband, Rep. John Dingell, during a rally on Wednesday, implying the former congressman was 'looking up' from hell." The president is trash.

"Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned on Wednesday that if Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's personal lawyer, is going to publicly suggest a 'cover-up' involving the Bidens and Ukraine 'then I hope you know what you're talking about.'" Keep wishing, Lindsey.

"One of the things that has been lost in the smog of disinformation, misinformation, and lies throughout this impeachment process is that the president, Rudy Giuliani, and select members of the House and Senate are still peddling, as an affirmative defense to claims that the Trump tried to extort Ukraine into 2020 election interference, the idea that Ukraine—not Russia—meddled in the 2016 election, and that Joe and Hunter Biden have committed vast crimes of corruption… The former claim is a Russian hoax. The latter is a lie." One side of this doesn't accept the truth, because they can't.

"'First and foremost, U.S. military aid represents a physical manifestation of American support, which is essential,' (Lt. Gen. Ben) Hodges told NPR in an interview. 'No. 2, the actual capabilities have provided help: The Javelins provided a deterrent effect; the counterfire radar has helped save lives because of the early warning it provided.'"

"Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his annual news conference Thursday that US President Donald Trump's impeachment was based on 'made-up reasons,' and expressed doubts that Trump will be removed from power." Go home, Sergei, you're drunk. Again, for Putin this is win-win. If Trump is removed, the political upheaval will advance his cause. However he's not going to like the rebound if that happens. With the impeachment, however, Putin's window of opportunity has been cut in half.

"House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff accused Vice President Mike Pence of refusing to declassify information 'directly relevant' to the impeachment inquiry in order to conceal his role in the quid pro quo scheme for which President Trump is being impeached." Ask not for whom the bell tolls.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Linkee-poo, time has come today

Pharmaceutical companies have to charge all those high prices so they can fund research on new drugs. "An audit commissioned by Purdue, and introduced Monday during the company's bankruptcy proceedings, found that the Sackler family withdrew more than $12.2 billion from the company since federal regulators approved the sale of OxyContin in the mid-1990s. Roughly $10.7 billion of that sum was pulled since the start of 2008, after several Purdue executives had already pleaded guilty to misleading regulators and consumers about the drug's risks." It always was a fucking lie. And understand, this wasn't their salaries (which were also substantial). These were profits that they paid to themselves. And let us not really discuss the $35M being paid out as bonuses to Purdue Pharma executives this year.

"Australia experienced its hottest day on record on Wednesday and temperatures are expected to soar even higher as heatwave conditions embrace most of the country." It's fine. Everything is fine. We're all fine here. How are you?

"It's morning in Berkeley, California, and the Kiwibots are heading off to work… It's a real-world test of robot delivery that sometimes collides with reality." The final mile is the hardest.

"By some estimates, Americans paid $34 billion in overdraft fees in 2017 — fees incurred by people with $0 in their bank accounts who are often just waiting for their paychecks to come… Today on the show: we find out how paychecks and pay periods were born in the first place." And at the end of the show there is "new technology" that may help, and I just want to call bullshit on it. It sounds great, access your money when you need it. Except you're still paying fees. They may be lower than the $35 overdraft fee, but note that this company isn't seeing people transferring all the money they have to their bank accounts, but just enough to cover a (singular) bill. At almost $3 every time. So while that's one-tenth of the fee, it's still a fee to access money that is yours. Just pay people more (and include basic financial literacy, it won't help in this case because the problem is simply lack of income, but it's still good). And the story also ignores that even with biweekly pay, employees are still typically 1 to 2 weeks in arrears with their pay.

"Facebook says California’s new privacy law doesn’t apply to its trackers. These lawyers disagree."

"Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot maker PSA have reached a binding agreement over their roughly $50 billion merger that will reshape the global car industry."

"(Boeing) is so important to the economy — it's the No. 1 exporter — that its decision this week to suspend production of its troubled 737 Max airplane is expected to reverberate throughout the manufacturing sector… Several analysts project that the move will slash economic growth by half a percentage point and eventually lead to layoffs."

"If the richest 1% of American households paid at the same rates they did in the 40s and 50s, the change could be transformative." For one, there would be no deficit.

"They call themselves the 'Sardines' — because they want to quietly pack Italy's main public squares like fish in a can. Organizers say their goal is to stop a far-right, anti-immigrant wave rising in Italian society and politics."

"The process for receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is already notoriously complicated, and the Trump administration is attempting to add yet another layer of complexity that critics say is aimed at slashing people’s benefits… The Trump administration’s proposed rule would another category called 'Medical Improvement Likely,' which would subject beneficiaries to disability reviews every two years." So much for cutting regulations.

"Maine Sen. Susan Collins announced Wednesday she intends to run for reelection, seeking a fifth term in what will likely be the most difficult campaign of her career." But she's very concerned about it… or something.

"The top U.S. diplomat for Ukraine, Bill Taylor, will leave his post at the end of the year, a current and a former U.S. official told NBC News on Tuesday." I don't expect anyone who testified to still have that job by the end of January. So continues the gutting of the State Department.

"President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been hospitalized for a cardiac event while serving his over seven-year sentence for charges related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, according to two sources familiar with his situation." Setup for a hardship commutation? Manafort attempted (and somewhat succeeded) in subverting our democracy. He's got 5 more years left on his sentence.

"Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Sean Hannity that he would seek to conduct any Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump according to the whims of the accused, promising to 'take my cues from the president’s lawyers.'" Want an example of white/rich privilege, there it is.

"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Tuesday bluntly acknowledged some of the political realities surrounding the upcoming Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, notably saying, 'I'm not impartial about this at all.'" Funny thing is, he must swear to be impartial when the trial starts. He has disqualified himself from his job. I hope Sen. Schumer has his immediate point of order ready to go after the swearing in (probably in January).

"Republicans in Congress are avidly denying the obvious truths about President Donald Trump’s serial criminality. Though they lack the votes to stop impeachment in the House of Representatives, they are poised to acquit Trump in the Senate, where they easily can block the necessary supermajority of 67 votes required to evict a president from the White House." Again, the DNC needs to actually explain this narrative to the public. One party no longer has any interest in governing, they only want to hold power.

"Impeachment seems to have struck a nerve in President Donald Trump. On the eve of the House’s impeachment vote, he sent a six-page public letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, replete with self-justification, recrimination, and accusation. I will leave the psychological profiling to others. My job is to address the constitutional arguments, such as they are, in the extraordinary document. They may or may not be made again on the floor of the Senate in the upcoming trial; regardless, Trump has now made them part of the historical record." Opinion piece. But stupidity is no defense in the face of the law.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Linkee-poo Tuesdays

Still lotsa alligators.

"Dr. Hall’s research, recently published in JAMA Surgery, has found that frail, older adults are more likely than other patients to die after even supposedly minor procedures — and even when the surgery goes well, without complications."

"But investigations by The Washington Post and BuzzFeed have described networks of fake reviewers paid to inflate ratings for lesser-known sellers on Amazon. Merchants might also have their own employees write favorable reviews, or trash competitors." Just like you shouldn't read the comments, don't just rely on the reviews.

"Experts at the University of Oklahoma believe they have found a possible mass grave site from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre at a city cemetery, although they are unsure how many bodies are underneath."

"After more than eight hours of pounding drums, invocations of a holy power and unrelenting screams from outside the New Jersey state Senate chamber, lawmakers in the upper house on Monday declined to take up legislation that would eliminate the religious exemption for mandatory childhood vaccinations." Get the goddamn vaccinations.

"Boeing will temporarily halt production of its troubled 737 Max airliner in January, the manufacturer said."

"Apple, Google, Tesla and Microsoft are among firms named in a lawsuit seeking damages over deaths and injuries of child miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo." The human cost of our high-tech. Also, "artisanally mined ore"? That's a fucking bad euphemism.

Burning Chrome, "Two computer programmers in Las Vegas pleaded guilty last Friday to criminal copyright charges after an FBI investigation revealed they had been working on two massive, illegal online streaming sites, iStreamItAll and Jetflicks, according to plea agreements."

How goes Brexit? "The government is to add a new clause to the Brexit bill to rule out any extension to the transition period beyond the end of next year."

How go the Trade Wars? "Mexico’s lead negotiator for the accord that will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement was in Washington Monday to reaffirm that Mexico would not accept a proposal for U.S. representatives who would inspect labor conditions in Mexican plants." You mean those provisions that got US labor on board?

"Former Pakistan President and military ruler Pervez Musharraf has been sentenced to death in absentia for high treason following a six-year legal case." You may remember Musharraf as "our man in Pakistan" for the War on Terror.

"The aides in Van Drew’s Washington office wrote in a joint letter to his chief of staff that Van Drew’s decision to become a Republican after winning his seat last year as a Democrat 'does not align with the values we brought to this job.'" (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"The roster of add-ons (to the spending appropriations bills) grew over the weekend to include permanent repeal of a tax on high-cost 'Cadillac' health insurance benefits and finance health care and pension benefits for 92,000 retired union coal miners threatened by the insolvency of their pension fund. A tax on medical devices and health insurance plans would also be repealed permanently… The deficit tab for the package grew as well — almost $400 billion over 10 years to repeal the three so-called “Obamacare” taxes alone — with a companion package to extend several business-friendly tax breaks still under negotiation. The Obama-era taxes have previously been suspended on a piecemeal basis."

"The House Judiciary Committee released a sweeping report Monday bolstering the case for impeaching President Donald Trump, laying out the rationale and charges that accuse him of betraying the nation for his own political gain."

Fact checking the president (and others) on his statements surrounding impeachment.

"President Donald Trump wrongly claimed the Commission on Presidential Debates was 'forced to publicly apologize for modulating' his microphone in the first 2016 general election debate. The bipartisan commission did not apologize for any willful tampering, but acknowledged 'there were issues regarding Donald Trump’s audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall.'"

"In particular, the decision by virtually all House Republicans to view their role as defending Trump, rather than pursuing a genuine assessment of the underlying facts, underscores how partisan imperatives have almost completely eclipsed any commitment to Congress' independent authority to check and balance the executive branch." This is almost as bad as the Trump presidency. And you may remember that a conservative Congress did the same thing with GW Bush. That is a big threat to democracy.

Meanwhile, on Bullshit Mountain… "Giuliani, one of Trump's most loyal defenders, told Laura Ingraham on 'The Ingraham Angle' that he helped forced out Yovanovitch because she was corrupt and obstructing the investigation into Ukraine and the Bidens."

Monday, December 16, 2019

Linkee-poo Mondays

"This application generates a random medieval city layout of a requested size. The generation method is rather arbitrary, the goal is to produce a nice looking map, not an accurate model of a city. Maybe in the future I'll use its code as a basis for some game or maybe not." For your fantasy fun. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"When NASA astronauts visit Mars, they'll probably need to harvest the planet's water ice for drinking water and fuel… It makes sense, then, for the space agency to target a landing spot near easily accessible ice - and they now have a 'treasure map' detailing where that ice exists to make the process that much easier."

"The Hubble Space Telescope had a front row seat to capture the best and closest image to date of interstellar comet 2I/Borisov, a visitor that originated from outside of our solar system. On Sunday, the comet passed within 190 million miles of Earth on its closest approach before continuing on through our solar system."

"The longest United Nations climate talks on record have finally ended in Madrid with a compromise deal… Exhausted delegates reached agreement on the key question of increasing the global response to curbing carbon." Whereas in the US press, the conference is described as ending in confusion.

"In 2018, her doctor mentioned a study that was taking place nearby at the University of Arizona: Researchers were testing if daily exposure to green light could relieve migraines and other kinds of chronic pain." Using light to stimulate the brain's opioid response.

"Three years ago, 3.9 million Americans received a plain-looking envelope from the Internal Revenue Service. Inside was a letter stating that they had recently paid a fine for not carrying health insurance and suggesting possible ways to enroll in coverage… The experiment, an unintended result of a budget shortfall, is the first rigorous experiment to find that health coverage leads to fewer deaths, a claim that politicians and economists have fiercely debated in recent years as they assess the effects of the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansion." (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"There's no doubt that invalidating the ACA in whole or in large part would have a dramatic effect on the U.S. health system — and not just for those 20 million or so Americans whose coverage directly flows from the law."

"Over 11% of all households in the United States are food insecure… It is clear food insecurity leads to poorer health. Regardless of age, food insecure individuals are more likely to struggle with anxiety and depression. Children are at higher risk for asthma, malnutrition and cognitive problems. Non-elderly adults are more likely to have hypertension and diabetes, and seniors see limitations in their daily activities… The connection between food insecurity and obesity may seem less obvious." An opinion piece, but one that matches to my experience.

"Facing a barrage of criticism for pulling ads featuring a lesbian couple from its airwaves, the Hallmark Channel has reversed course, and says it will now work to 'reinstate the commercials.'" Zola has already pulled their total ad buy. I wonder if it's the fact that Hallmark Channel realized that the Million Moms is actually a few thousand men?

"New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy told CNN Sunday that he has full confidence in the multi-agency investigation into the Jersey City shooting that killed four people. That investigation has already resulted in an arrest and the discovery of new evidence over the weekend."

How goes Brexit? "Hopefuls to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader are examining the reasons for the party's election defeat."

How go the Trade Wars? "As part of this Phase One agreement announced Friday, the U.S. suspended tariffs that were planned on $160 billion in Chinese imports that were set to take effect Sunday. The U.S. also halved the September 1 tariffs from 15% to 7.5% — they included all kinds of consumer products such as clothing and sports equipment… Under the deal, China will purchase an unspecified amount of American products and has also agreed to 'structural' changes, which have so far not been detailed." "Which has so far not been detailed." Or signed. Also note, China is facing a sever pork shortage from African Swine Fever and (IIRC) their domestic soy harvest is way down. So that they're buying more agricultural products is not the result of deft negotiations, it's that China is looking at mass starvation if it doesn't. Here we go again.

"On Friday, both countries held separate press conferences to announce that they reached a so-called phase one agreement." You know what you do when you reach an important agreement? You hold a joint press conference. This is classic smoke and mirrors.

"Looking at the latest U.S.-China trade numbers, one wonders how the agreement announced last week could lead to an acceptable balance of bilateral trade accounts… China’s surplus on its U.S. goods trade in the first ten months of this year was $294.5 billion, and amounted to 40% of America’s total trade gap." Draw a line and declare victory. Even if that line is set back from the previous status quo.

"Mainland Chinese stocks jumped at the close on Monday afternoon, as data showed that the country’s industrial output and retail sales rose more than expected in November." Say, which one of us is winning?

"Stock-index futures pointed higher Monday, with the upbeat tone tied to a preliminary U.S.-China trade deal, though questions remained over the details of the long-awaited 'phase one' accord." Stock brokers really need to listen to more Who.

"International Flavors & Fragrances on Sunday said it will merge with DuPont’s nutrition & biosciences unit in a deal that will create a new consumer giant valued at more than $45 billion." I'm sure it'll totally be fine.

"Boeing shares fell Monday as the company is expected to soon decide whether to further cut or suspend production of the 737 Max as the timeline for the beleaguered plane’s return to service slips into 2020." It's always just a couple of months away.

"In late November, a group of laid-off garment industry workers in Indonesia collected more than $4 million in severance pay owed to them by their employer… It was a rare victory, won with the help of local labor unions, international advocacy groups and major retailers like Nike. But it may not happen again: The government there is moving forward with a controversial plan to roll back labor protections in the hope of attracting more foreign investment."

"Congressional negotiators have reached tentative agreement on a package of bills to fund the government through the end of September 2020. Lawmakers have until the end of next week to approve spending legislation to avert a government shutdown. The White House has not publicly weighed in on the agreement." We've been here before.

"Former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin… a Republican who narrowly lost a bid for a second term last month, issued pardons to hundreds of people, including convicted rapists, murderers and drug offenders… In one case, Bevin pardoned a man whose whose family raised more than $20,000 to pay off money still owed from his 2015 gubernatorial campaign."

"But if the Republican president is hoping for a public backlash like the one against the 1998 impeachment of Democratic President Bill Clinton, it has so far not worked out that way, Reuters/Ipsos polling data over the past few months shows."

Meanwhile, on Bullshit Mountain, "Democrats have reached their point of inflection. Either they can admit they have failed to convince the total American public that President Trump should be removed from office by virtue of the impeachment process, or they can suffer the consequences at the ballot box."

Tweet of my heart: @ArmeenaRK ‘The forest was shrinking, but the trees kept voting for the Axe, for the Axe was clever and convinced the trees that because his handle was made of wood he was one of them.’… Turkish proverb. (Grokked from Laura J. Mixon)

Friday, December 13, 2019

Linkee-poo is living in twilight

"The House Judiciary Committee on Friday approved two articles of impeachment against President Trump, making him the fourth president in American history to face impeachment." I tell yeah, the republican counter arguments yesterday were an extreme example of double-though. The procedure was both too fast and too slow, done for ratings and to appease the base even though the ratings were low and the democrats were losing their base, just wild.

"Crows have long been considered cunning. But their intelligence may be far more advanced than we ever thought possible." Well all corvids are very smart.

"The suicide of that construction worker for RK in 2014 became a pivotal event for the company, shaking its 1,500 employees, including co-owner Jon Kinning… The death brought home some painful facts. Construction and mining (including oil drilling) have the highest suicide rates of all occupations, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." Changing cultures to help each other (and the business).

"Video showing a hacker talking to a young girl in her bedroom via her family's Ring camera has been shared on social media amid warnings people need to secure the devices better." Big Brother gets hacked. Love how the story is framed as "well, they just didn't set up the security protocols well enough" instead of, "the tech being sold to the homeowner is inherently flawed."

"Los Angeles Police Department officer David Rojas was charged Thursday with one felony count of having sexual contact with human remains without authority, officials said, after he allegedly fondled a dead woman's breast… A two-minute buffer on the camera captured the incident even though Rojas had turned it off, sources told the affiliate." Oh look, something the police union actually won't defend.

"Facebook users are sharing a fake document from the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), which allegedly outlines a seven-step strategy to strip civilian populations worldwide of all their weapons. UNODA is a real agency with a goal to limit weapons of mass destruction and illegal small arms circulation, but the reference number on the document does not exist, and the agency told AFP the entire document is forged." The pro-gun lobby will lie to get their way?

"Three days after two shooters killed four people, including a veteran police officer, in Jersey City, questions still remained about the pair that carried out the crime and the circumstances that led to it."

"Search crews in New Zealand recovered six of eight bodies Friday from an island where a volcano erupted, killing up to 16 people, authorities said."

How goes Brexit. "Boris Johnson will return to Downing Street with a big majority after the Conservatives swept aside Labour in its traditional heartlands." Hard Brexit here we come. TO my UK friends, notice all the people celebrating today? Remember their faces and names. Because next Christmas (2020), as you dig out of the smoking crater that is your economy, have lost Scotland, and the return of Northern Ireland's Troubles (v2), those assholes are the ones responsible. Don't let them off the hook.

"When he's done celebrating his thumping election victory, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is going to realize he's got a problem -- some constituent parts of the United Kingdom are heading in different directions."

How go the Trade Wars? "U.S. stock index futures pointed to a third day of gains Friday as investors hoped China and the U.S. would finalize a so-called phase one trade agreement. Gains were kept in check as doubts remained about the deal’s details." This is the moment where in the future people will say the stock market became uncoupled from economic reality. Buy on rumor, sell on news.

"According to a recent survey by the National Association for Business Economics, seven out of 10 economists expect a recession by the end of 2021." And I agree, although I will note I thought a recession would start in 2018. "An economic downturn may tempt investors to put even less into retirement savings while waiting for a bull market to return. On the surface, it seems like this strategy protects savings. During the last recession, personal savings as a percentage of disposal income fell from 6.4% to 3.7% between December 2008 and January 2009." One, don't pull money out of your 401k unless you really, really need it. Two, a Bear Market is exactly the time to increase your 401k savings. It's easy to mistake money in with value out. As you're actively investing, don't mistake your 401k for a savings account, like you'd have at a bank. You are buying shares (value). What you're hoping is to "buy low, sell high." You're gambling on the magic of compound interest and that the stock market, overall, will be higher when you retire than now. To that end, you want as many shares as possible. Now, if you're near retirement, a down market sucks. But if you're in the middle (or better, the start) of savings in your 401k, a down market is what you want. But here I'll just say the 401k retirement swap that happened in the late 80s was a terrible and cynical bait and switch on the American public. The 401k was only for the uber rich (and they're the only ones who really benefit from it). But it's the game we have, best play your hand as well as you can.

"Each year the UNDP looks at human progress around the globe. This year the authors say that major societal shifts around technology, education and climate change are creating a 'new great divergence.' Achim Steiner, the UNDP administrator, sums up the problem this way: 'an increasing number of young people are educated, connected and stuck with no ladder of choices to move up.'… Global inequality is now more about disparities in opportunity than disparities in income." I'm not sure those two things are uncoupled.

"Russia's only aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, caught fire on Thursday morning during repair work in Russia's Arctic Sea port of Murmansk, according to Russian state news agencies… The fire broke out during maintenance work in the first power unit and a thick plume of black smoke was seen from the upper deck." So much for the Syrian shakedown cruise.

"The Senate on Thursday passed a measure officially recognizing the century-old Armenian genocide — a move that was vociferously opposed by the Turkish government and that had been blocked by the White House… The resolution passed unanimously after having been blocked three times by three different Republican senators." History like this is not controversial, except for those who would also deny history. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"Instead of demolishing NAFTA and starting over, 'it’s a renovation of North American trade,' Ujczo said. 'We put a fresh coat of paint on about 60 percent of the deal, so we kept what worked in the original NAFTA. But we have upgraded some applications and fixtures in terms of the technology chapters and customs chapters. And then we knocked down some walls.'" USMCA is NAFTA v2.

"A Pentagon watchdog is auditing the contract awarded to a North Dakota company to build a portion of President Trump’s border wall… Thompson requested the probe last week after worries that 'inappropriate influence' affected the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’s decision to hire Fisher to construct 31 miles of the wall in Yuma County, Arizona." Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. is a big supporter of the president, and he has called them out by name.

On the Media podcast with… "On Monday, the Washington Post released the fruits of a three-year investigative effort: the "Afghanistan Papers," a once-secret internal government history of a deadly, costly, and ultimately futile entanglement. The hundreds of frank, explosive interviews — along with a new tranche of memos written by the former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld — revealed the extent to which American leaders misled the public on their efforts to hunt down Osama Bin Laden, rout the Taliban, expel Al Qaeda, install democracy, and undo corruption."

How nationalism rises… "It wasn't the content of White House adviser Stephen Miller’s leaked emails that shocked Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat from El Paso, Texas, but the silence of her Republican colleagues that has followed."

"President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at tackling anti-Semitism on college campuses on Wednesday ― but one of the speakers at the event has said that Jews are going to hell… But the president also called upon evangelical Christian leader Robert Jeffress to speak, claiming he’s a 'tremendous faith leader.'" (Grokked from Ellen Kushner)

"On a hunting trip to Mongolia earlier this summer the US president’s son Donald Trump Jr killed a rare species of endangered sheep. A permit for the killing was retroactively issued after Trump met with the country’s president, according to new reporting from ProPublica." Asshole. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"Is Trump profiting off the presidency?… A trio of lawsuits claiming that Trump's business dealings are violating the Constitution have been ping-ponging in federal courts for months, but all three cases are now advancing to critical stages."

"As House leaders begin drafting articles of impeachment, examples from the Nixon and Clinton eras abound. This week, On the Media rewinds to the 19th century — and the turbulent impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Plus, what a debate between two right-wing intellectuals means for the future of conservatism." History may not repeat, but it sure does rhyme. Highly recommended, especially the second part of the show.

"Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee considered amendments to the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump during a Thursday session that lasted more than 14 hours ahead of Friday's expected vote."

"Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Fox News that Republicans would be in sync with the White House counsel when impeachment proceedings against President Trump advance to the Senate." Mitch McConnell is a traitor to the US. He has erased the separation of powers. He's ceded his authority to the executive.