And they come with no warning,
nature loves her little surprises.
Continual crisis!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Linkee-poo another week

"Alex Trebek, who has hosted the Jeopardy! game show since 1984, announced Wednesday that he has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer." Fuck cancer.

Something new has been added. "Scientists say they've found a mysterious type of killer whale that they've been searching for for years. It lives in parts of the ocean near Antarctica — and it could be the largest animal to have remained unidentified by biologists."

"SpaceX's first Crew Dragon spacecraft cast off from the International Space Station for the return to Earth Friday (March 8) as it wrapped up a historic test flight for NASA."

"At six p.m., Denver’s air quality index measured 162, an unhealthy level more than three times worse than the moderate rating of 51 now in Beijing. The pollution triggered health warnings across the northern Front Range." I'm old enough to remember when this was kinda normal for a city. I'm really glad we don't live like that anymore. Oh, wait. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

Oh look, crappy insurance again. "One health plan from a well-known insurer promises lower premiums — but warns that consumers may need to file their own claims and negotiate over charges from hospitals and doctors. Another does away with annual deductibles — but requires policyholders to pay extra if they need certain surgeries and procedures… Both are among the latest efforts in a seemingly endless quest by employers, consumers and insurers for an elusive goal: less expensive coverage." Single-payer.

"Measles cases are on the rise globally, including in wealthy nations such as the United States and Germany, where some parents shun life-saving vaccines due to false theories suggesting links between childhood immunizations and autism… In Madagascar, one of the world’s poorest countries, parents are desperate to vaccinate their children, many trudging for miles to get to clinics for shots. But there are not enough vaccines, the health ministry says, and many people are too poor to afford them."

"Scientists hope to genetically modify microbes from the human microbiome to treat a range of diseases, including digestive disorders like ulcerative colitis and inflammatory bowel disease." There's a less sexy way to help treat some of those (*cough*fecal transplant*cough*), but you can't charge a lot of markup for it, and then there's the squeamish factor. Although, "One company, Actobio Therapeutics, Inc., of Ghent, Belgium, has just started using genetically engineered microbes to try to treat Type 1 diabetes. Another one, Oragenics, Inc. of Tampa, Fla., Inc., is testing a modified bacterium to treat mouth sores caused by cancer chemotherapy. And Osel, Inc., of Mountain View, Calif., hopes engineered microbes could prevent HIV infections."

"Nobody reads the fine print. But maybe they should."

Why we shouldn't have a surveillance state. "A local NBC affiliate in San Diego reported on Wednesday that the U.S. government secretly tracked journalists and activists covering and assisting the migrant caravan that traveled from Central America to the U.S. in 2018… Journalists and activists were placed on a secret tracking list, which not only flagged them for extra screenings at the border but also allowed the government to collect information on them, according to the report." (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"A federal court made it harder Thursday for the U.S. government to quickly deport asylum-seekers if they fail an initial screening at the border."

Whistling past the graveyard. "Americans' net worth fell at the highest level since the financial crisis in the fourth quarter of 2018 as sliding stock market prices ate into the household balance sheet… Net worth dropped to $104.3 trillion as the year came to an end, a slide of $3.73 trillion, according to figures released Thursday by the Federal Reserve. The decline amounted to a drop of 3.4 percent." (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"The U.S. economy added only 20,000 jobs — far fewer than expected — last month, the Labor Department said Friday. But the unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent from January's 4 percent, and earnings growth picked up." Rhut rho.

"U.S. stocks posted a fourth consecutive day of losses as the European Central Bank hinted at worsening economic conditions in the eurozone."

"Finland's entire government has resigned over its failure to achieve a key policy goal on social welfare and healthcare reform… Finland's extensive welfare systems are under financial pressure as the nation's population ages, yet reform plans remain politically controversial."

"Much of Venezuela remained engulfed by darkness early Friday amid one of the largest power outages in years, a problem President Nicolas Maduro's government quickly blamed on 'sabotage' at a hydroelectric dam."

"An 'artificial' earthquake has reportedly been detected in North Korea… The 2.1-magnitude seismic activity is thought to have been caused by an explosion in a mine, according to the Korean Meteorological Adminstration." I wonder what's in the air?

"Facing accusations in an election year that he pressured his former attorney general on a prominent criminal case, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisted Thursday that the debacle stemmed from a breakdown in trust and communication." America's platonic boy-crush is in a bit of trouble.

"It hasn’t always been this way. 'Twenty years ago, and even as recently as 2014, the top priorities of Democrats and Republicans were much more aligned than they are today,' writes the Pew Research Center. 'In 1999, improving the educational system topped the list of priorities for both Republicans and Democrats, and four of the top five issues for Republicans were listed among the Democrats’ top five issues as well… Today, there is not one overlapping priority between the top five priorities for Democrats and those of Republicans." Why we can't have nice things. Amy Walter concludes with, "The only thing that can change this dynamic is an existential threat to the country that almost all of us can agree upon. Sadly, that usually means something has gone very, very, wrong." Which is exactly what we don't need. When such happens, the majority of Americans dive toward authoritarianism. Well, one party is already fully entrenched there (note the top priorities of Republicans and think of which are responses to external pressures), the other party isn't. An external threat is to the benefit of conservatives.

"Omar was destined to stand out: After Congress changed its 181-year-old rule prohibiting headwear to accommodate her, she became the first person to wear a hijab on the House floor. But it wasn’t her wardrobe, or her religion, or her gripping biography as the congresswoman who came of age in a refugee camp, that distinguished Omar in her early days on Capitol Hill. Rather, it was her usage of social media and the uproar that ensued." There's a lot of "inter-party struggles" in the article. While it is crippling on the right, even though the GOP says they're a big tent they do have ideology litmus tests, on the left we have always been fractious. The party is used to this.

"Under White House direction, the administration is drawing up demands that Germany, Japan and eventually any other country hosting U.S. troops pay the full price of American soldiers deployed on their soil -- plus 50 percent or more for the privilege of hosting them, according to a dozen administration officials and people briefed on the matter." Nice country you've got here. It'd be a shame if anything happened to it. Well, this is one way to reduce our footprint on the world stage. I guess people don't remember the 80s when there were active protest movements against US military bases. It's also one way to assure that the US won't stage troops in the Baltic NATO member states. "As evidence, they say officials at the Pentagon have been asked to calculate two formulas: One would determine how much money countries such as Germany ought to be asked to pay. The second would determine the discount those countries would get if their policies align closely with the U.S." That's not a dangerous policy at all. Our president is a moron. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"When Paul Manafort was sentenced to about four years in federal prison, the backlash was fast and furious on social media." What's not really stated in a lot of these articles is that this judge has been dismissive of this whole trial. The only good thing is that this isn't his only trial and his only sentencing hearing.

"Michael D. Cohen, the former personal lawyer and fixer for President Trump, sued the Trump Organization on Thursday. He accused the company of breaking a contract when it refused to pay about $1.9 million in legal costs after he began cooperating with federal prosecutors." The president it a petty man.

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