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

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Linkee-poo wants to be your fantasy, maybe you could be mine

Alligators up to the armpits again.

Even though there's a lot of talk about #MeToo, and for clarity, I support the movement, it doesn't mean that society has changed yet. "In a small county in rural northern Nevada, Melanie Keener was once the second-most powerful person in law enforcement. She was Storey County's chief deputy, overseeing detentions, investigations and the patrol division… That ended in 2016 when she reported her boss, Sheriff Gerald Antinoro, for sexual harassment." Women (and in some cases men) who report sexual harassment are still shamed and face retaliation.

"The House passed what advocates call the most significant gun control measure in more than two decades on Wednesday when it approved the first of two bills aimed at broadening the federal background check system for firearms purchases." Waits for right-wing freakout in 3… 2… 1…

"In 2019 the world looks different. Two years after President Trump took office, the U.S.-German relationship is at a new low." Putin's gambit pays dividends.

"The U.S. economy expanded at a solid 2.6 percent rate during the last three months of 2018, but growth was significantly lower than it had been earlier in the year, the government says." Everything is fine. We're all fine here. How are you?

While the US was focused on the Cohen testimony, the rest of the world got on with it's business. "Indian air force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, captured by Pakistani forces on Wednesday, has become the point of focus amid tensions between the two countries." The struggle over Kashmir is heating up.

"A woman arrested for allegedly assaulting a Massachusetts restaurant patron wearing a 'Make America Great Again' hat faces proceedings that could result in her deportation, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said." I wonder when some smart lawyer will make the argument that the MAGA hat is an explicit provocation and then make it stick?

"North Carolina prosecutors have announced that Leslie McCrae Dowless, the political operative accused of illegally collecting absentee ballots in that state's 9th Congressional District, has been indicted on charges of obstruction of justice and possessing absentee ballots." Also, Mark Harris has announced that he won't run in the new election. That was a Good Idea™.

"A federal judge in Texas ruled that state officials "created a mess" when they questioned the citizenship of about 98,000 voters and mistakenly concluded that many of those voters were not eligible to cast ballots… The sharply written ruling by U.S. District Judge Fred Biery of San Antonio ordered Texas officials to halt the removal of any registered voter from state voter rolls."

"Stocks sensitive to trade with China fell hard as U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told Congress he is looking for a tough deal with China that will include enforcement and be bigger than just an increase in Chinese imports of U.S. goods."

"President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un left their summit meeting on Thursday in Hanoi, Vietnam, without agreeing on a denuclearization deal. A planned signing ceremony was canceled." Walking away at the last minute is a negotiating tactic you use to get a reduced price on a car. "'When we walked away, it was a very friendly walk,' Trump said, characterizing the meeting between the two leaders as one filled with 'warmth.' There are currently no plans for future meetings, but Trump said he looks forward to the next one, whenever that may be. "I would hope it would be soon, but it may not be for a long time.'" A "friendly walk"? What does that even mean? Also, who want to bet the next meeting will be during the 2020 election season? Anyone? Anyone?

"The testimony on Wednesday from Michael Cohen, President Trump's former personal lawyer who's headed to federal prison in early May, was a potentially seminal moment in the myriad investigations into the Trump administration House Democrats are expected to launch now that they control the chamber. It also provided a window into the real estate developer's surprise rise to the presidency in 2016 from the perspective of a top lieutenant who was by Trump's side for a decade." Are we not entertained?

"Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York is earning praise from pundits over her performance during Michael Cohen's testimony, but there's more to her line of questioning than meets the eye… Pundits praised her performance, including her use of time, efficient questioning, and lack of grandstanding, and the fact that she asked follow-ups to questions raised earlier during the hearing." I was able to listen to most of her time, and yes it was unlike most of the rest of the congresspeoples' questioning, some of whom didn't actually ask any questions.

"Among the allegations in Michael Cohen's blistering testimony Wednesday about President Donald Trump is that his former boss 'cheated' -- Cohen's word -- to inflate his net worth. Trump's former lawyer said the documents were generated as Trump was seeking to move up on the list of Forbes billionaires as well as obtain loans from Deutsche Bank in an effort to buy the Buffalo Bills." A handy timeline of events.

"The Florida Bar is investigating Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz after his threatening tweet last night about President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen." Good. He deserves it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Linkee-poo climbed a mountain and I turned around and I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills till the landslide brought me down

"A thousand years ago, huge pyramids and earthen mounds stood where East St. Louis sprawls today in Southern Illinois. This majestic urban architecture towered over the swampy Mississippi River floodplains, blotting out the region's tiny villages. Beginning in the late 900s, word about the city spread throughout the southeast. Thousands of people visited for feasts and rituals, lured by the promise of a new kind of civilization. Many decided to stay." The cities of ancient America. (Grokked form Ann Leckie)

"In 2017, a 69-year-old man with pancreatic cancer went to hospital with abnormally low blood pressure. Sadly, he died only two days later, and his remains were cremated… Just one day earlier… he had been injected with a radioactive compound at another hospital to treat his tumour – and when his mortal remains were incinerated, this radioactive and potentially dangerous dose of lutetium Lu 177 dotatate was still inside his body… This alarming case, reported in a new research letter this week, illustrates the collateral risks potentially posed by on average 18.6 million nuclear medicine procedures involving radiopharmaceuticals performed in the US every year." No, it illustrates the dangers of our fucked up for-profit medical system that fractures a patient's medical record and doesn't allow continuity of care.

And the ant-science stupidity continues. "Some lawmakers in Texas are apparently very unworried about the growing number of epidemics across the country involving diseases once nearly eradicated by vaccines, including a five-county one in their state. A few of them are even pushing a bill that would make it even easier to opt out of vaccinations, the Texas Observer reported Tuesday, with one of claiming that people can always just get 'antibiotics.'" Guess which party they belong to. Measles are viruses, antibiotics works against some bacteria. You can't get antibiotics to cure or lessen measles.

"Even better for Jacob Wohl, the 21-year-old Californian who ignited the Harris birther claim with a tweet, some people actually seemed to accept it as fact… 'The believability stuck at about 15 to 18 percent by my measurement,' Wohl said in an interview shortly afterward, declaring it 'not a bad campaign.'" It amazes me how many Americans who think they're patriotic are actually volunteering to be the first against the wall. He's in charge of an intentional disinformation campaign. We have a word for that. It's called "traitor to the Unites States." (Grokked from Matt Staggs)

"We’ve been given the tools and access to god-like awareness, but not the training or the intellect or the self-discipline to manage it." Damnit, Jim Wright. Truthiness comes to the left. It's easy to meet mindless rage with mindless rage. The left's greatest strength and monumental weakness is "we understand." We have empathy, we try to see the other side and understand it. Not everyone. There's a lot of people who got woken up recently. But be honest, Jim, I know you wanted to write, "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." I'll bet you even typed that out and then deleted it.

How goes Brexit? "British Prime Minister Theresa May said Tuesday that she’ll give Parliament a chance to delay Brexit." A shit-sandwich is still a shit-sandwich 3 months later.

"In an interview released by Fox News on Monday, Trump was asked about Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal proposal and what she would say to people who are enticed by the proposal's job guarantee. In response, Trump said, 'I don't think most Americans in their heart want to be given something.'" Huhn. I don't remember a jobs guarantee in the GND? I remember something about living or "family-sustaining" wages.

"The next Chicago mayor will either be a self-described political outsider who's never run for office, or a longtime city alderman and chair of the county's Democratic Party. Either way, for the first time, the city's top political official will be an African-American woman."

"Less than 24 hours before former Trump fixer Michael Cohen is scheduled to appear in an open hearing to discuss his relationship with the President of the United States and shed light on his involvement in a hush money scheme involving two women alleging they had affairs with the billionaire businessman, Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz directly threatened Cohen via Twitter." Lap dogs gonna lap… or something like that.

"President Donald Trump knew in advance that WikiLeaks was going to release hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 election that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign, his former personal lawyer plans to say at an open congressional hearing Wednesday."

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Linkee-poo it's gonna be a long day

Alligators is sneaky.

Ross Lowell, inventor of gaffers tape, and so it goes. Didn't know who he was, but damn do I love his product. (Grokked from Annalee Flower Horne)

Hey, remember when it was just silly, new-age woo-woos who said that eating the right foods was the best medicine? Oh, how we all laughed. "Launched in 2017 by the Geisinger Health System at one of its community hospitals, the Fresh Food Farmacy provides healthy foods–heavy on fruits, vegetables, lean meats and low-sodium options–to patients in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, and teaches them how to incorporate those foods into their daily diet." Everything you put in your body affects you. Even how much (and the quality of) water you drink. And no, it's not just for people who have Diabetes Type 2, or who are overweight, it affects everybody. Why do I drink unsweetened green tea? Because black tea doesn't leave me feeling as well as green tea. Listen to your body, not the advertising. Why the change? "But knowing intuitively that food can influence health is one thing, and having the science and the confidence to back it up is another. And it’s only relatively recently that doctors have started to bridge this gap." Yeah, they're finally looking at it instead of dismissing it out of hand. Now we're in the stage were the conversations invariably lead to the Mediterranean diet. Eye-rolls a plenty. (Grokked from Michelle) "The PETM doesn’t only provide a past example of CO2-driven climate change; scientists say it also points to an unknown factor that has an outsize influence on Earth’s climate. When the planet got hot, it got really hot. Ancient warming episodes like the PETM were always far more extreme than theoretical models of the climate suggest they should have been… Evidence is mounting in favor of the answer that experts have long suspected but have only recently been capable of exploring in detail. 'It’s quite clear at this point that the answer is clouds,' said Matt Huber, a paleoclimate modeler at Purdue University." We're boned. When I say that, you might take it as a tongue-in-cheek joke, and it is to some degree. But this model incorporating a loss of low-altitude clouds predicts an 8°C warming. At 4°C warming we start talking about human extinction being a real possibility (so by the time we reach the CO2 level needed for this change, there's a good chance we'll already be dead, and don't get me started on the ill-fated plans of the prepper community). The bad news is that we may see that in a century if we continue on the same path we are now (with CO2 emissions). (Grokked from Dr Caitlin Green)

"Researchers are monitoring a giant crack in the center of the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica. The crack had been stable for 35 years but has started accelerating toward another called the Halloween crack."

"And yet, the biggest and most influential tech companies are making deals and partnerships with oil companies that move the needle in the opposite direction. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have all struck lucrative arrangements—collectively worth billions of dollars—to provide automation, cloud, and AI services to some of the world’s biggest oil companies, and they are actively pursuing more." To be fair, they're attempting to bring AI into all industries. And yes, they have teams targeting at specific industries. Now part of the issue is that as renewables become cheaper than fossil fuels (which depending on location and type of power is actually the case at this point, but it's not universal). Making fossil fuel production cheaper may change that equation. But you know what, fossil fuel extraction, even fracking, are mature industries and costs have been driven out of production as they have been automated as much as they can. So, except for back office work (and white collar automation, or inventory management, I don't think there is that much more to reduce here. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"Expect sparks to fly Tuesday as senators get a rare chance to grill the heads of seven major pharmaceutical companies under oath about the budget-busting prices of prescription drugs." Other than shaming them in front of the camera, there's not much they will do about as they take Big Pharma checks in their offices.

"Elected officials in Florida and Georgia are upset that in its recent budget deal, Congress didn't include money for long-term assistance for communities hit by Hurricane Michael. Of particular concern: losses to farmers and money needed to rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base." Sorry, the president you all supported (yes, I know, not all of you) is going to take what little money was there for those things and repurpose it to build his wall. I say we start calling the wall Trump's Folly.

Remember when parents complained that Warner Brothers cartoons were too violent for kids to watch? They've got nothing on YouTube. "Tips for committing suicide are appearing in children’s cartoons on YouTube and the YouTube Kids app." And that isn't the only thing appearing in videos aimed at kids. (Grokked from John)

Why do we need a single-payer healthcare system? "Total bill: $48,512, with $46,422 of that total for one preventive medication… What gives: When you are potentially exposed to a fatal disease, you need treatment. In the moment, it's hard to shop around or say no to high prices." Because healthcare is typically something you can't shop around for. If something is not critical, you can sometimes shop around for the best doctor or the best price (those are not typically the same). However, even in that case, not all consumers have a choice either by location, situation, insurance, or combinations of all of those.

"Combs has one of Walmart's trademark front-door jobs: He's a 'people greeter' at a store in Vancouver, Wash. But, he was told, come April 25 his job is going away. And he is not alone. According to Walmart, greeters are being removed at about 1,000 stores around the country… NPR has found that Walmart is changing the job requirements for front-door greeters in a way that appears to disproportionately affect workers with disabilities. Greeters with disabilities in five states told NPR they expect to lose their jobs after April 25 or 26."

"US broadcaster Univision says its team was briefly detained in the Venezuelan presidential palace where they had been interviewing President Nicolás Maduro… The incident happened after award-winning journalist Jorge Ramos showed Mr Maduro images of Venezuelans eating from a bin lorry, the network says." Hey look, the president has a friend in Venezuela. They like the press just as much. It's almost as if a hatred of the press is a common trait of their personalities.

How goes Brexit? "The pound has hit a 21-month high against the euro following increasing speculation of a delay to Brexit… At one point, sterling was up by nearly one euro cent at €1.1643, its highest since May 2017."

How's that economy working? "Home Depot on Tuesday reported fourth-quarter earnings and sales that missed analysts' expectations and offered a weaker-than-anticipated outlook for fiscal 2019… With U.S. home sales and prices under pressure, fewer shoppers are heading out to buy materials for home projects and renovations." Whispers, "housing is a leading indicator."

"During last fall’s campaign for governor, Republican Mike DeWine ran tough ads – one claimed Richard Cordray would 'raise taxes and kill jobs'… And faced with a hole of more than a billion dollars at the Ohio Department of Transportation, it’s DeWine who’s raising taxes – proposing an 18 cent hike in the state’s 28 cent gas tax – a 64 percent increase. 'You have to have a gas tax increase. There’s no doubt,' DeWine said at an event last week." See, conservatives are willing to raise taxes. Especially if it hits poor people more than rich people. Right now the proposal is to increase Ohio's gas tax by 18 cents a gallon to plug a that budget hole. Note Ohio has been cutting taxes for the past decade plus. And six years ago, faced with a tax increase, Gov. Kasich decided instead to float bond secured against I-80 tolls. Well, that money is running out this year. But don't worry rich people, the lobbyists are trying to get you a tax break somewhere else (to which, I'm sure, you'll be the exclusive beneficiaries). Or you could all buy Teslas. "Asked why he didn’t mention as a candidate that the gas tax might have to be raised at the same time he was claiming that Democratic opponent Rich Cordray would raise taxes, DeWine didn’t directly answer." Now I'm not opposed to raising gas taxes, but instead of raising them under Kasich, which would have been some modest increases, we now have to raise them to cover both new construction/maintenance, but also to cover the debt for those bonds. Conservative fiscal policy, always screwing you in the end.

Makes "ta-da" hands. "State lawmakers are now considering Gov. Mike DeWine’s 18-cent gas tax increase, to plug a hole of more than a billion dollars in the Department of Transportation’s budget. But one legislative leader says they’re also looking for ways to cut taxes – again." Ta-da! Conservatives will try to make Ohio's tax structure more punitive and regressive than it already is (we rely a lot on sale taxes, which impact lower wage earners more than the rich).

"For years Republican state lawmakers have tried repealing or rolling back what they call renewable energy mandates, arguing the standards force companies and ratepayers to pay for expensive energy sources. Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) says he expects the issue to come up once again this year… Obhof added that wind setbacks, which determine where a turbine can be placed in relation to another person's property, is another issue senators are interested in addressing. Fakhoury and other wind energy advocates say the current setbacks are too strict and drastically hamper wind farm development." Yes, they're thinking of increasing setbacks. You know, the party that doesn't want government interfering in your personal life wants to tell you how you can use your land. It's almost as if their anti-zoning rhetoric is all a ploy.

"The House is expected to vote Tuesday to overturn President Donald Trump's emergency declaration to build a wall on the US southern border." It'll pass the House. It might even pass in the Senate, but not by a "veto proof" majority. Conservatives who railed against Obama's executive actions are showing their asses here. They should get a swift kick. This will be determined by the Courts (which it really should be, balance of power and all).

"Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers signed an executive order Monday to withdraw all of his state’s National Guard troops from the U.S. southern border with Mexico. Wisconsin troops have been stationed in Arizona since last June. Currently, 112 soldiers are working as part of border security."

"North Korea's main nuclear reactor for making weapons-grade plutonium may be operating, just days before this week's summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un… Satellite images of the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center from Planet, a San-Francisco based company, indicate the main 5-megawatt reactor on the site is running, according to Jeffrey Lewis, a scholar at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey." Naughty, naughty.

"Trump has maintained that his ultimate goal is to get Kim to relinquish the regime's nuclear program. But, in the lead up to this second summit, he has repeatedly stressed that he's not setting a deadline for North Korea to act." The capitulation begins early. Basically the president is happy if the North Koreans just don't do any testing of their systems. The only reason for that stance is he wants the appearance of having been successful without doing the actual hard work. Like the way he's lead the rest of his life.

"President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen is expected to tell lawmakers this week about alleged criminal conduct Trump committed while in office, NBC News reported, citing a knowledgeable source." I'm willing to bet this is more hype than reality. "Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., told The Associated Press that senators will have staff ask questions in Tuesday's session but will be there to observe."

Monday, February 25, 2019

Linkee-poo, mostly harmless

"Serruyo won’t be the only one using that underbelly, exploiting the lack of real guardrails on Amazon and other sites for a few bucks." Nora Roberts on plagiarism, ghost writing, novel mills, and some of the problems with the modern self-publishing industry. (Grokked from Patrick Nielsen Hayden)

"New Yorkers fond of eating out in the last decade weren’t just saved from doing the dishes. Residents’ blood levels of artificial trans fats, which increase the risk of heart disease, dropped following a 2006 citywide policy that banned restaurants from using the fats." Just nit picking here, but IIRC, all trans fats are artificial. It's sort of in the definition.

While most conservatives continue to deny climate change, the military has to make plans. "At the farthest edge of North America, across the Bering Strait from Russia, U.S. military radar stations are threatened by the consequences of climate change." No transcript as of this posting, but worth listening. We're seeing changes we didn't expect until after 2040. It'll be costing us tens of millions to save some of our vital national security infrastructure from the effects of global climate change. To bad the president didn't feel this was more important than a wall on our Southern Border.

"They're now measuring real-world impacts (of global climate change): everything from sharp declines in bird populations to the rapid spread of human diseases carried by deer ticks." (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

There is burying your head in the sand, and then there's Arizona. "As the measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest continues to worsen, an Arizona House panel has approved multiple bills to expand vaccine exemptions in the state, the Arizona Republic reported Friday."

Also in Arizona… "Arizona is one of at least seven states with curriculum laws around LGBTQ issues, according to the advocacy group GLSEN. But of all the state laws, Arizona's is the only one that bans promoting 'a homosexual life-style,' says University of Utah law professor Clifford Rosky."

The troll in all of us. "Even if you're not aware of it, it's likely that your emotions will influence someone around you today."

The new benefit. "That financial pain is also creating a recruitment opportunity: Some employers are offering to help repay loans on workers' behalf as a way of attracting and keeping people like O'Brien."

Trigger warning. A story from the inside a content management group for Facebook. "Collectively, the employees described a workplace that is perpetually teetering on the brink of chaos. It is an environment where workers cope by telling dark jokes about committing suicide, then smoke weed during breaks to numb their emotions. It’s a place where employees can be fired for making just a few errors a week — and where those who remain live in fear of the former colleagues who return seeking vengeance." Remember when FB told us they had AI working to do this? Nope, years after that it's still an intense, human driven effort. "The median Facebook employee earns $240,000 annually in salary, bonuses, and stock options. A content moderator working for Cognizant in Arizona, on the other hand, will earn just $28,800 per year." (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"A new investigative report from The Wall Street Journal today looks into the controversial practice of popular third-party iOS and Android apps sending very personal user data to Facebook. In some cases, this happened immediately after an app recorded new data, even if the user wasn’t logged into Facebook or wasn’t a Facebook user at all. Notably, the report highlights that Apple and Google don’t require apps to divulge all the partners that user data is shared with." With Facebook, you are the product. (Grokked from John)

"A federal judge in Texas has declared that an all-male military draft is unconstitutional, ruling that 'the time has passed' for a debate on whether women belong in the military."

"A giant concrete cross standing in the middle of a busy median strip is the latest symbol of a constitutional fight that has raged for decades. It's a fight over the concept of the separation of church and state, and what the Founding Fathers meant when they wrote into the First Amendment a ban on government 'establishment' of religion… Just how to treat such religious symbols and taxpayer funding for programs at religious institutions will play out Wednesday before a newly constituted conservative Supreme Court majority."

"A decade after Sig Sauer inked a deal to sell up to $306 million worth of pistols to Colombia's National Police, company CEO Ron Cohen is facing jail time in Germany for making the sale."

How goes Brexit? "Theresa May once again postponed a final vote on her Brexit divorce agreement, raising the stakes in a battle with members of her own cabinet who are fighting to avert a no-deal exit."

How go the Trade Wars? "U.S. President Donald Trump and China's state-run news agency Xinhua both announced "significant progress" from the last week of trade negotiations."

"Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s decision to raise the minimum salary in her Congressional office led to some jeers over on Fox News… 'Fox & Friends' weekend co-host Pete Hegseth slammed the move, calling it 'socialism and communism on display' and mockingly urged her to give some of her own salary to her staff." Yes, that's what they call socialism and communism, paying people a decent salary instead of exploiting them with a lower wage to pay the top end of the staff even more. It seems crazy until you realize their version of capitalism is a winner take all scheme, a "got mine, fuck you" strategy. (Grokked from Xopher Halftongue)

"Last week, Sanders launched his second presidential campaign, amid a field of presidential candidates who are trying to figure out how to position themselves around the policy. Trying to stand out from the pack, though — especially on health care — poses a problem: Differentiating yourself means getting into the details, and getting into the details can turn voters off." Yes, Virginia, there are many differences in single-payer systems. And it seems to get lost in the noise surround healthcare reform, but half of the people who opposed Obamacare did so because it wasn't a single-payer system/didn't include a "public option."

"President Trump is ramping up his formidable digital operation nearly two years before the 2020 election, doubling down on a playbook that helped pave his path to the White House… Trump's campaign has already spent more than $3.5 million in small, targeted ads on Facebook, while an allied group has spent over $6 million, making him the biggest U.S. political spender since Facebook began tracking ad spending in May 2018."

"CNN reports (February 21st) that Senate investigators plan to question David Geovanis, an American businessman based in Moscow whose ties to Donald Trump in Russia date back decades. Witnesses told investigators that Geovanis may be able to fill in missing details on Trump's business and personal activities in Russia which are now believed to date as far back as the 1990s." (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"Prosecutors for special counsel Robert Mueller say they take no position on what Paul Manafort's prison sentence should be, but say President Trump's former campaign chairman acted in 'bold' fashion to commit a multitude of crimes." Ah, that "bold action" thing again. There's a meme in conservative politics to "be bold", doesn't matter for or about what, but just be bold about it. In this case, Manafort was being bold by breaking a lot of laws.

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.