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

Friday, November 29, 2019

Linkee-poo Black Friday Night

"This is the story of the Rinka family and what happened when tragedy befell them. It's a story that explores how the choices we prefer when we're healthy may no longer make sense to us when we're actually confronting death." The Hidden Brain podcast on our choices, the power of wanting to live, and the effect of those choices. When of sound mind, the choice can appear easy and clean. In the crux, though, choices start getting fuzzier.

"Astronomers have found a compact group of galaxies clustered around an active galaxy, and that central galaxy's black hole is so powerful it's blowing a wind that's causing star formation in the galaxies around it!"

"FRONTLINE investigates the promise and perils of artificial intelligence, from fears about work and privacy to rivalry between the U.S. and China. The documentary traces a new industrial revolution that will reshape and disrupt our lives, our jobs and our world, and allow the emergence of the surveillance society." It's one of their longer shows (almost 2 hours), but highly recommended. But again, we're taking the state-of-the-art and drawing the line behind us to declare we've arrived. This is not AI except by the loosest of definitions. Mostly it's allowing the computer machine learning to determine it's own dataset and process for very specific, and limited, functionality. But this show does a good job running out where we are, how fast the future is coming, and where it may be leading us.

"But an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found that, as Gov. Eric Holcomb sought to lure Amazon’s HQ2 to Indiana, state labor officials quietly absolved Amazon of responsibility. After Amazon appealed, they deleted every fine that had been levied and accepted the company’s argument — that the Amazon worker was to blame." There is a culture war, and we're losing. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"Police said two people were killed in a stabbing near London Bridge on Friday afternoon that authorities are describing as a terrorist incident. A male suspect was shot and killed at the scene."

"The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that the U.S. economy was expanding at a modest pace in October and early November, supported by growing consumer spending." I'll just note they don't give an actual number.

"The Commerce Department said Wednesday that consumer spending rose 0.3% last month, the best gain since a 0.5% rise in July." See, because they do have numbers.

"The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that its pending home sales index, which measures the number of purchase contracts signed, fell 1.7% last month… Still, declining mortgage rates over time have lifted home sales. The index is up 4.4% from a year ago."

"An Indiana judge has canceled a trial challenging limits on the state’s religious objections law, finding conservative groups failed to prove they were harmed by changes the Republican-dominated Legislature approved shortly after then-Gov. Mike Pence signed it." But the religious groups feel they have been harmed because :: checks notes :: can't discriminate against gays, women, or any LGBTQ persons.

"After weeks in a makeshift refugee camp in the Mexican border town of Matamoros, Martinez knew he had to send 5-year-old Benjamin and 7-year-old Osiel without him. Benjamin had contracted bronchial pneumonia, and Martinez couldn't afford any more antibiotics." The changing face of asylum seekers, people who send their kids to the US alone.

"Mexico's Foreign Ministry is requesting a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after President Donald Trump told former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly he planned to designate Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations." Words have meaning, and consequences.

"Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said Friday he would step down following weeks of violent protests and a call for his ouster by the country's top Shia Muslim cleric."

"During a surprise Thanksgiving Day visit to troops stationed in Afghanistan, President Trump said that his administration has reopened peace talks with the Taliban, nearly three months after he abruptly canceled them. Trump made the announcement at a rally staged at Bagram Airfield outside Kabul, where he exchanged handshakes and posed for photographs with U.S. troops."

"A former Deutsche Bank executive who signed off on several controversial loans to Donald Trump killed himself in his Malibu home earlier this month." Oddly, when I first heard about this I thought it was a retread of an old story, but it's not. This is not the first time an executive at Deutsche Bank, connected to loans to Donald Trump, has hung themselves. Add in Epstein, and you'd think the lunatic conspiracy fringe of the right would be adding 2 and 2 to get 22 and saying that Trump is having people bumped off. You know, like what they believe of the Clintons. (Grokked form Kathryn Cramer)

"President Donald Trump on Tuesday denied that he directed his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to go to Ukraine and seek out investigations on his behalf, contradicting his own words to the Ukrainian President in the White House released transcript of the July 25 call." It's getting crowded under that bus. And then there's Rudy's statement about having "insurance" in his safe for just such an emergency.

"Former Republican congressman Charlie Dent said Thursday some of his former colleagues in the House of Representatives have privately told him they are 'absolutely disgusted and exhausted by the President's behavior.'" Doesn't mean squat unless it's done in public. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Linkee-poo found an old puzzle somebody had quit, tried a few pieces and hoped that they fit

So tomorrow is a national holiday, don't expect updates until next Monday as I think I need a break for a little bit (now watch me post 6 things). If you celebrate, have a great day. Remember, family of choice is always an excellent option. If your family is difficult to be around, we see you. You aren't alone.

"A storm packing heavy snow and high winds that wreaked havoc as it whipped through Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska marched into the upper Midwest on Wednesday as anxious Thanksgiving travelers buckled up and barreled headlong into a busy, if not perilous, holiday week." Stay safe, peoples.

But on Jupiter, "Earlier this year, several amateur astronomers spotted an unusual anomaly on the planet Jupiter: bits of the gas giant's famed Great Red Spot appeared to be flaking off, raising fears that the planet's most identifiable feature might be showing signs of disappearing. But Philip Marcus, a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, begs to differ."

"It can be hard to stay relevant in the ever-changing world of children's entertainment, but Highlights For Children magazine has lasted for generations by sticking to the formula of mixing fun with learning."

"Moscow-area farmers strapped modified VR headsets to cows to see if it improved their mood -- and, of course, their milk production. The project subjected cattle to a simulated summer field with colors tuned for the animals' eyes, giving them a decidedly more pleasing landscape than a plain, confining farm." We're really fucked up. (Grokked from someone, sorry, lost the link)

"Smith has never been diagnosed, but he thinks this was just another instance of sleep paralysis. Short Wave spoke with doctors who confirmed that Smith's symptoms are consistent with the disorder: complete immobility upon waking, a feeling of terror and occasionally, hallucinations."

"According to a new study published in the American Journal of Medicine, 42% of new cancer patients lose all of their life savings in two years because of treatment. The average amount a cancer patient lost was $92,098." In case you want to know why I fear a cancer diagnosis (other than what I have), it's this. I'm not afraid of the disease (fuck cancer). I'm afraid of how it will leave my spouse when I'm no longer here. (Grokked from Sarah Goslee)

"Mackin is using an MX908, a mass spectrometer initially marketed as a counterterrorism tool. The machine can help military teams looking for traces from biological or chemical weapons, or hazardous material specialists trying to identify materials used in spills or explosions. But now the MX908 has been commandeered in the fight against fentanyl, one of Boston's — and the nation's — top killers."

"A final tally of babies born in the U.S. last year confirms that the birth rate fell again in 2018, reaching the lowest level in more than three decades." Panic, consternation… Yes there are societal ramifications of this (examples in China and Japan), but hey, we have a lot of immigration that could solve those problems. All we need to do is be less racist.

Also, we're automating more. "On a recent night, the bar was quieter. Still, customer after customer strode up to a stainless steel wall lined with beer taps to insert a card, touch a screen and pour a glass of self-serve beer… No waitstaff. No waiting." I personally think this sucks, but I think back on some barcon experiences and think this may be good. Essentially, though it's about making the customer more of an employee.

How go the Trade Wars? "Chinese President Xi Jinping has had a 'horrible couple weeks' politically — and he’s not likely to sign a 'phase one' trade deal with U.S. President Donald Trump without any roll back in existing tariffs, one expert said." Show of hands, who think that'll happen?

How goes Brexit? "Labour says it has evidence the NHS would be at risk under a post-Brexit trade deal with the US… At a press conference in London, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he had a 451-page dossier showing initial talks had taken place on drug prices and the NHS."

Ohio's broken law enforcement system. "In 1993, Jeanette Crabb was raped in a field. She immediately reported her attack and got a sexual assault kit. Twenty years later, her kit was finally tested and there was a DNA hit. But, no one told her about that hit, until 5 On Your Side Investigators started asking questions." The result came back to late to actually prosecute the rapist. And even after promises to test all of them, there is a huge backlog of kits to be tested. (Grokked from Michele)

Meanwhile, in Texas, who needs regulations? "County Judge Jeff Branick says his emergency management coordinator is reporting to him (the explosion) is the TPC plant off Highway 366 in Port Neches, once known as Neches Butane."

"The border post, OP 247, offers a commanding view of this starkly beautiful area some 250 miles above the Arctic Circle. To the east, on the other side of the border, is a Russian observation post and a coast guard facility. Directly ahead, across the Barents Sea, is the small Norwegian island of Vardo, which houses a U.S.-funded military surveillance radar system." In case you're wondering why Russia may want a disorganized and weakened West. Waves to my Russian friends.

"Guardian analysis finds VDare and Red Ice TV among several outlets that are still on the platform despite Facebook’s promised ban." Shocked, not shocked.

Remember when I talked about how the conservative want to control the court as their last ditch effort to hold power long after the demographics of the country have changed? "In that opinion, Gorsuch suggested that current law risks giving agencies 'unbounded policy choices.' His explanation of what new limits he would impose on federal agencies is vague and it’s hard to find a clear legal rule in the opinion. Nevertheless, Gorsuch writes that a federal law permitting agencies to regulate must be '"sufficiently definite and precise to enable Congress, the courts, and the public to ascertain" whether Congress’s guidance has been followed.'" And there's the power grab. Fortunately it's only in a dissent, for now. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"Senate Republicans voted Thursday to advance another of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees, Justin Walker, who earned a rare and embarrassing 'not qualified' rating from the American Bar Association." The Republicans only care that they will be activist judges and will hold to the ideology of conservatism (as fostered, instilled, and enforced by the Federalist Society). (Grokked from Chip Dawes)

"In the latest case, the occupancy rate of the Trump Tower’s commercial space was listed, over three consecutive years, as 11, 16 and 16 percentage points higher in filings to a lender than in reports to city tax officials, records show." The president is a liar. And with this (the 3rd major property to show this disparity) he has the choice between saying he's a tax cheat (criminal and civil liability), or he lied on official documents to a bank (mostly civil, but possibly criminal liability). (Grokked form Laura J Mixon)

"This trip also marked his first official campaign visit as a permanent resident of Florida — a move partly designed to lower his taxes and partly to give the finger to New York, a city where he remains deeply unpopular among left-leaning voters — not to mention the city’s top political and legal officials who keep launching investigations into him and keep trying to track down his tax returns."

"President Donald Trump has made… Jared Kushner, the de facto project manager for constructing his border wall… according to current and former administration officials… The president’s son-in-law and senior adviser is pressing U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the process of taking over private land needed for the project… More than 800 filings to seize private property will need to be made in the coming months if the government is going to succeed, officials said." (Grokked from someone, sorry, lost the link)

"In addition to a lawsuit the House Oversight and Reform Committee filed Tuesday over redacted documents, two recent surprising turns of events have resurfaced questions about whether administration officials are holding on to potential evidence of the (Census) citizenship question's true origins."

"That result is being spun in some corners of the internet as great news for Trump, because that 50% number is unchanged from a CNN poll in mid-October, the conclusion being that the last 10 days of public impeachment hearings have not convinced more of the public that the President needs to go." It still means 50% want the president impeached AND removed.

Meanwhile, on Bullshit Mountain… "House Dem now sees no 'value' in impeachment, as polls show falling support among independents." Because 1 Democrat in the house said so.

About that "nobody said anything against the hold" of Ukrainian military support… "(Mark) Sandy also testified that another unnamed official at the OMB resigned. 'Yes, this individual did express frustrations,' he said. 'He expressed some frustrations about not understanding the reason for the hold.'… In a further sign of pushback, the Pentagon raised concerns, Sandy added."

"But a New York Times report Tuesday night suggests Trump was briefed on the existence of the whistleblower in late August… That makes it all the more important to take his actions in early September in context."

"Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he thinks the U.S. should investigate a conspiracy theory — debunked by American intelligence services — that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee's computer server in 2016." There isn't enough eye-roll capability in the US for this. We may need Mexico's and Canada's help.

"The Texas Republican Party mistakenly sent a document laying out their upcoming 2020 primary and general election plans to Democrats Monday evening, including a target list of 12 statehouse districts they are focusing negative ads on ahead of next year's elections. In a move The Dallas Morning News described as the party's latest "bizarre political blunder," the internal strategy email offered advice on how to counter the 'narrative driven by Democrats' about the GOP's lack of diversity as well as a timeline for a rollout of websites which will bash specific Democratic opponents." Oopsie. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Linkee-poo gives you shelter from the storm

"Arctic researchers just starting out face an intriguing but unsettling reality: much of the sea ice that's covered the Arctic Ocean for thousands of years may rapidly melt away over their careers. In fact, some projections say the region may see its first ice-free summer in modern history by 2040." Let's see, last I knew 2040 is earlier than 2050, and much earlier than "by the end of the century." We're boned.

"However, this year's report describes more of a chasm than a gap. Global emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gasses have continued to steadily increase over the last decade. In 2018, the report notes that global fossil fuel CO2 emissions from electricity generation and industry grew by a mammoth 2%." Really boned.

"Weather forecasters pushing for strict limits on 5G’s rapidly growing footprint were dealt a blow today by the World Radiocommunication Conference in Egypt. Delegates there voted to create a new international standard that places much looser limits on interference from 5G operating in a specific radio frequency that’s crucial to accurate weather forecasting. Meteorology experts worry that this decision could one day seriously impact their ability to forecast severe storms, leaving communities around the world vulnerable to extreme weather events." All for a chance at better crappy internet service. Note that some parts of my commute I only get 3G service. And given the technical limits of 5G, more than likely it won't come out to us.

"Storms emit sounds before tornadoes form, but the signals at less than 20Hz are below the limit for human hearing. What causes these rumbles has also been a conundrum." Borborygmus?

It'll be safe, they said. It's the state-of-the-art technology they said. It's perfectly safe. "The amount of land impacted by an oil spill in North Dakota is almost 10 times larger than initially reported, officials say. The disclosure comes about a month after the Keystone 1 Pipeline leaked about 383,040 gallons of oil… TC Energy, the company that owns the pipeline, shut down it down on October 29 after discovering that the oil had leaked from the pipe into the surrounding wetlands. The pipeline was returned to service on November 10 following approval by the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, TC Energy says." It destroyed crucial habitat and poisoned waters. The Keystone XL cuts through the Ogallala Aquifer. If it spills there, we are fucked. (Grokked from Tobias Buckell)

"Uganda has come up with a solution that goes back to basics with one of the world's original painkillers: morphine… The government mixes a powdered form of the drug with water to create a drinkable analgesic that officials say has provided patients with effective relief without giving rise to widespread addiction. Just as important, it's cheap." This is something big pharma doesn't want you to know, the older drugs still work and many newer drugs aren't as effective (although sometimes the reverse is true).

"A measles outbreak in the Pacific nation of Samoa has killed 22 people, nearly all children under five."

"A 63-year-old man in Germany has died after contracting a rare infection when he was licked by his dog."

"Earlier this year, (Texas) lawmakers from both parties came together on legislation to protect people in state-regulated health plans from getting outrageous bills for out-of-network care. The new law… creates an arbitration process for insurers and providers to negotiate fair prices in those cases. The intention of the law is to get to those fair prices without ever involving patients… But that protection is at risk of becoming 'irrelevant,' consumer advocates in Texas say." Who writes the rules is also very important.

"McDonald's has agreed to pay $26 million to settle a years-long legal battle with California cooks and cashiers who have accused the company of failing to properly pay them for their work and expenses." That's a nice way to say McD's ripped their employees off.

"Amazon subsidiary Ring, which makes home surveillance equipment and cameras, has 'partnerships' with more than 600 law enforcement agencies nationwide, allowing those police access to users' footage. And while Ring says it sets terms around how and when it will share that footage with police, anything the police do with it afterward is entirely out of its hands, the company says." All your face are belong to us.

"But looked at another way, the prospect of free tuition does inspire students to enroll in college who might not have considered it previously. A recent report found that 15% of Chilean students in the program would have otherwise not sought a college education. And Chileans who get free tuition are also slightly less likely to drop out than their classmates who don't, the government has found." Chile goes to (limited) free college.

"But economists say the dramatic proposals from Sanders and Warren to free millions of Americans from the burden of student debt could boost the economy in significant ways and help combat income inequality."

"A nonprofit student loan group is suing the nation's most powerful consumer watchdog agency. The lawsuit, first obtained by NPR, alleges that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has abandoned its obligation to oversee companies that manage student loans, in particular a troubled loan forgiveness program." You government, unable to work for you.

More guns make us safer. "The man charged with murder in the shooting death of Lowndes County Sheriff 'Big John' Williams appeared in court Monday morning… William Chase Johnson, 18, arrived escorted by four state troopers. He is the son of a sheriff's deputy in neighboring Montgomery County." He was asked why he was playing his music so loud, and then he shot the sheriff. But he didn't not kill the deputy.

"Russian athletes will have a chance to compete at next year’s Olympics, but their flag would not fly in Tokyo if the World Anti-Doping Agency approves a recommendation it received Monday." Waves to my Russian friends.

How go the Trade Wars? "Liu He, China’s top negotiator on trade, spoke with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday morning, China’s Ministry of Commerce said in an online statement."

"The watch towers, double-locked doors and video surveillance in the Chinese camps are there 'to prevent escapes.' Uighurs and other minorities held inside are scored on how well they speak the dominant Mandarin language and follow strict rules on everything down to bathing and using the toilet, scores that determine if they can leave." Just so you know the quality of those very fine people Trump is trying to get a deal with.

"Stocks ended higher Monday as the market’s rally to records resumed amid increasing expectations that China and the U.S. will reach a so-called phase one trade deal." Here we go, again.

"U.S. consumer confidence declined slightly for a fourth consecutive month, but it remains elevated with the holiday shopping season ramping up."

"The letter was from Deutsche Telekom, the parent company of T-Mobile, and it accused Lemonade of stealing its trademark… But, oddly, the dispute wasn't over the name T-Mobile or even its logo or tagline. It was over a color. In this case, Pantone Rhodamine Red U, also known as magenta." Uh, yeah, Bob.

"General Motors is building a $175 million plant in Ohio to produce truck engine components that will employ about 100 people… Plant construction is underway and is expected to be completed by the end of next year in the Dayton suburb of Brookville." GM to Lordstown, "Fuck you."

"On November 22nd, roughly 200 Google employees and supporters rallied to protest the suspension of two colleagues, Rebecca Rivers and Laurence Berland, for allegedly accessing internal information they shouldn’t have in the course of their worker activism. Now, it appears Google has fired both those workers, as well as two other employees who participated in the rally." How much deeper are they going to bury "Do no evil"?

"More than a decade and a half after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, a new study found that babies are being born today with gruesome birth defects connected to the ongoing American military presence there. The report, issued by a team of independent medical researchers and published in the journal Environmental Pollution, examined congenital anomalies recorded in Iraqi babies born near Baghdad at Camp Taji, a base operated by the U.S.-led foreign military coalition. According to the study, babies showing severe birth defects — including neurological problems, congenital heart disease, and paralyzed or missing limbs — also had corresponding elevated levels of a radioactive compound known as thorium in their bodies." "Depleted" uranium rounds, they're a bitch. (Grokked from Ali A Olomi)

Oh look, after months of searching, they finally came up with a reason the president said the US wanted to buy Greenland. "The craggy hills surrounding the town are estimated to hold about a quarter of the world's rare earth minerals. With names such as cerium and lanthanum, rare earths contain key ingredients used in many of today's technologies — from smartphones to MRI machines, as well as electric cars and military jets."

"Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he was 'flabbergasted' to discover that then-Navy Secretary Richard Spencer had been working a White House back channel to resolve a standoff over controversial Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher." Shocked, shocked they were to discover… Meanwhile I'll just note the silence of all those who like to trot out the "unit cohesion" and "force readiness" arguments whenever it comes to progressive issues. In this case, here is something that demoralizes the troops (Trump's pardons and interference in the chain of command decisions) and breaks down good order, and yet we hear crickets from them. Gallagher is not an "ultimate fighter", he's a cowboy and a criminal.

"'However busy or essential a presidential aide might be, and whatever their proximity to sensitive domestic and national-security projects, the President does not have the power to excuse him or her from taking an action that the law requires,' Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote." Don McGahn must obey the subpoena and testify before Congress. And there goes the "executive privilege" argument. And yes, they're appealing to SCOTUS. They have until mid December to file their briefs. No kings or landlords.

"Louisiana senator John Kennedy, a key ally of President Trump, has meanwhile admitted he was wrong to push a debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, who hacked a Democratic National Committee server in 2016." Now do it on Fox. And apparently to build the border wall, Trump went to Jareds.

Oh yes, the left is full of anti-semites. "Popular conservative Christian TV Host Rick Wiles warns his followers that the effort to impeach President Donald Trump is a 'Jew coup.'" Just dripping with them. (Grokked from Ellen Kushner)

"President Donald Trump has been working to defend himself against the ongoing impeachment inquiry by citing polling he says shows support for impeachment is on the decline. While some polling does in fact show a decrease in support for impeachment, it is not 'dropping like a rock' as the president has claimed, nor have polls 'turned very strongly against Impeachment.'" Can't wait to see the Nielsen Overnights for this.

"The Supreme Court is shielding President Trump's financial records from House Democrats for now. On Monday, the court agreed to temporarily stay the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruling demanding that Mr. Trump's accounting firm, Mazars, hand over his tax and financial records to the House Oversight Committee… The high court's stay will remain in effect until December 5, the deadline it has given the president's legal team to file its appeal of the lower court's ruling." It's going to be a big Christmas for Trump's lawyers.

Meanwhile, on Bullshit Mountain… "'Democrats have been talking about impeachment since the very day that Trump was inaugurated, but until recently, no one here in Washington took that idea very seriously,' Carlson said on 'Tucker Carlson Tonight.' 'Suddenly, we had impeachment hearings playing out live on TV. Nobody explained why. Looking back, what exactly happened? Well, part of the answer is that Democrats were simply responding to their own cheerleaders on cable news.'"

Monday, November 25, 2019

Linkee-poo Monday

"But, while the meal known as the First Thanksgiving did happen—scholars believe it took place at some point during the fall of 1621 in the recently-founded Plymouth colony—that story reflects neither the 17th century truth nor the 21st century understanding of it. Rather, the American public memory of Thanksgiving is a story about the 19th century." The Separatists were assholes. Two other colonies were created to get away from them.

"But scientists have come to realize that flu vaccines are less effective for people who are overweight or obese. Considering that excess weight affects more than two-thirds of the U.S. adult population, that's a significant shortcoming." Rhut rho.

"Burglars broke into one of Europe's largest treasure collections - the Green Vault in the German city of Dresden - early on Monday, police say."

"Hong Kong’s democrats romped to a landslide and symbolic majority in district council elections after residents turned out in record numbers on Sunday to vote following six months of anti-government protests in the embattled city." Uh oh, someone has some 'splaining to do. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"China responded sternly to the landslide in the vote widely seen as a referendum on public support for the anti-government demonstration movement. Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that no matter how the situation in Hong Kong changes, the semi-autonomous region is part of China."

How goes Brexit? "Former prime minister Tony Blair said on Monday that Britain was in a dangerous mess and that neither his own Labour Party nor Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives deserved to win a Dec. 12 election."

"The day after Brexit the UK will embark on arguably the biggest negotiation of the post-war era: to reconstruct 46 years of trade, security and foreign policy ties with the EU. Philip Rycroft, the former permanent secretary of the Department for Exiting the EU, told the Guardian: 'Obviously it’s going to be a huge negotiation, probably four or five times bigger than the withdrawal agreement negotiation and will absorb a huge amount of government effort.'"

"Transport for London said Monday that it would not renew the San Francisco-based ride-hailing giant operator’s license, citing a 'pattern of failures' that had 'placed passenger safety and security at risk.'" I guess "move fast and break things" isn't a good mantra for a transportation company.

"This issue came to a head last week, when Trump threatened to issue an order many senior military leaders see as bordering on unethical. The order would have effectively undermined efforts by a Navy leader to restore good order and discipline among the vaunted Navy SEALs." Gallagher is a war criminal, he violated his oath, and he brought shame to the service. He doesn't deserve to wear the trident and eagle.

"Navy Secretary Richard Spencer (not the Nazi) was fired Sunday by Defense Secretary Mike Esper, who ordered that a Navy SEAL acquitted of accused of murder be allowed to remain in the elite commando corps, the Defense Department said." At least for this decision, stands and salutes. While this could cover up other discrimination, as I remember it, SEALS determine who wears the trident, not the president or the Sec of Defense. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and other top White House officials have been hosting weekend getaways with House Republicans as President Donald Trump remains under intense scrutiny amid the impeachment inquiry… One lawmaker who attended a weekend getaway described Camp David as an 'adult playground.' Others were in awe of the 'famous White House staffers and other dignitaries who have slept in the same beds,' participants told The Post." Your tax dollars at work. But wait, isn't this how Russia typically gathers Kompromat? (Grokked from Michele)

"A confidential White House review of President Trump’s decision to place a hold on military aid to Ukraine has turned up hundreds of documents that reveal extensive efforts to generate an after-the-fact justification for the decision and a debate over whether the delay was legal, according to three people familiar with the records." I believe that's the very definition of "coverup." (Grokked from Michele)

Or from CNN "The Post, citing three people familiar with the records, said the office's confidential review surfaced hundreds of documents, including emails between acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House budget officials. Those emails from early August showed a search for an explanation for why Trump stalled the money Congress had approved to go to Ukraine after the President had ordered it held the month before, the Post said." The usual way is to have the reason before the decision. Which they did have, but it wasn't a reason they could say or admit to.

"The House Intelligence Committee is in possession of audio and video recordings and photographs provided to the committee by Lev Parnas, an associate of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who reportedly played a key role in assisting him in his efforts to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and Ukraine, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News." No word on what is actually in those documents and audio/video… but my guess is there's a lot of worried people at the moment. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"Slotted in between Chairman Adam Schiff’s daily paeans to conscience and Constitution and the witness’ earnest introductions—Nunes fundamentally sought to change the channel on impeachment. The millions of viewers getting a steady drip of Trump’s questionable activities on Ukraine were abruptly brought in, for five to ten minutes each day, into an entirely different political universe." The conservative media bubble on display.

In search of the unicorn. "More than a decade after his election, which represented one of the most hopeful moments in American politics, a debate is breaking out among Democrats over Obama's legacy and the direction the party should go in at a moment in which the historic divides Obama sought to bridge seem more vast than ever."

Friday, November 22, 2019

Linkee-poo Friday

Sorry, alligators up to my armpits.

Pan-spermia. "Space rocks that fell to Earth contain ribose, an essential molecule for life’s genetic machinery, and other related sugars. The finding, reported online November 18 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, lends support to the idea that many of life’s ingredients were delivered to Earth by interplanetary debris." The universe is alive.

"A glitch in Medicare’s revamped prescription plan finder can steer unwitting seniors to coverage that costs much more than they need to pay, according to people who help with sign-ups as well as program experts." A "glitch."

"You’ll soon be able to buy merchandise featuring the breakout star of 'The Mandalorian,' CNBC has learned… Other products will also arrive at the Disney Store, ShopDisney and at the Disney Parks before the holidays." They say that like you wouldn't be able to. Like viral marketing is a "new concept" to them.

"The Tesla pickup truck is here. Elon Musk presented the Tesla Cybertruck tonight in Los Angeles, putting one giant bow on this year’s L.A. Auto Show that’s already seen the reveal of the electric Ford Mustang Mach-E. Tesla played it completely straight with its reveal, but we're still struggling to believe that the whole thing wasn't one big joke. If it isn't, well, here are all the details." It looks like someone jacked up their uncle's DeLorean on big wheels.

"Israel’s attorney general on Thursday formally charged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a series of corruption cases, throwing the country’s paralyzed political system into further disarray and threatening his 10-year grip on power. Netanyahu angrily accused prosecutors of staging 'an attempted coup.'" Uh, Benny, you're not actually the prime minister. You couldn't form a government coalition.

So, how's that recession coming along? "Americans are hungry for personal loans that they can use as quick cash to pay for anything from vacations to credit card debt, a potential red flag for the economy… Personal loans are up more than 10 percent from a year ago, according to data from Equifax, a rapid pace of growth that has not been seen on a sustained basis since shortly before the Great Recession. All three of the major consumer credit agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — report double-digit growth in this market in recent months."

"The entrenched trade and investment challenges mean governments must make deeper changes beyond simply rolling back tariffs of the last two years. This could mean updating global rules and reducing subsidies with harmful effects on trade, the OECD said." Ah, one more tax cut for the rich should do it.

"South Korea on Friday said it would not suspend its intelligence-sharing deal with Japan, in a dramatic, last-minute reversal that signaled a breakthrough after months of frigid relations over their painful wartime history." Or their fear that the US is going to withdraw from the peninsula.

"Donald Trump Jr.’s new book, Triggered, hit the top of the New York Times’ bestsellers list this month with the help of nearly $100,000 in purchases from the Republican National Committee… Federal Election Commission records list a $94,800 payment — identified as 'donor mementos' — to BooksAMillion.com on Oct. 29." That's one way to juice your numbers for the NYT bestseller lists. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"The under-fire White House adviser Stephen Miller said in a 2016 radio interview that immigration could see America lose its sovereignty and be 'decimated', echoing racist and white nationalist themes at the heart of a current scandal that has seen growing demands for him to resign."

Meanwhile, on Bullshit Mountain, "Their (Democratic lawmakers) letter (asking for the removal of Stephen Miller) came after the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) -- a left-wing group known for accusing conservatives of 'hate' -- published its findings from more than 900 emails it obtained from former Breitbart editor Katie McHugh."

"The California Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a state law that would have required President Trump to release his tax returns in order to appear on the state’s primary ballot."

"An FBI official is under criminal investigation after allegedly altering a document related to 2016 surveillance of a Trump campaign adviser, several people briefed on the matter told CNN." The rumors are the change was significant enough to alter the meaning of the document. However it is "a" document, and Carter Page bragged about getting with Russians (which is how the investigation was launched). Although expect to hear how this completely vindicates the president. (Grokked from Xeni Jardin)

"Gordon Sondland made a LOT of news in his opening statement to the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. There was a quid pro quo between the Americans and the Ukrainains. Everybody in the White House knew about it. And the Ukrainians knew too… But there was one piece of Sondland's testimony that didn't get as much attention as it should have… 'He had to announce the investigations. He didn't actually have to do them, as I understood it.'" And now Lindsey Graham announces he'll do the investigations of the Bidens. "In a way, Graham’s attempt to find something, anything that will make it look like Trump was after something legitimate, shows how little there is to hold on to in defense of the president’s indefensible conduct."

"President Donald Trump presented little in the way of defense in the opening phase of his impeachment proceedings… He refused to give Congress documents. He ordered subordinates to defy subpoenas. And he issued blanket proclamations of his innocence, over Twitter and in exchanges with reporters, without testifying under oath on Capitol Hill." Good thing the Republicans were there to spin their conspiracy theories for the president.

"But Hill also had a warning for Democrats. In response to questions from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Hill said: 'The Russians’ interest is frankly to delegitimize our entire presidency,' noting that her point would likely resonate with Republicans. 'The goal of the Russians was really to put whoever became president, by trying to tip their hands on one side of the scale, under a cloud,' she said. 'We need to be very careful as we discuss all of these issues not to give them more fodder than they can use in 2020.'" And now you know why Pelosi was so reluctant to launch an official impeachment inquiry. The opinion article then goes on to lie about the Steele Dossier. Although it is true we should view anything (even information that seems "friendly") with skepticism. But eventually you have to separate the truth from the dross, because there are truths here. Also, while removing the president might "damage" our democracy in the short term (but probably would decimate the Republican Party long term, there has already been talk of the GOP dividing), the long term health of our country would be helped and our rule of law reinforced. So attempts to "wave off" the impeachment (which seems a foregone conclusion at this point, unless the president resigns) fall into the dross category. Removal of the president would be a restatement of our commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law (at least, for me, the president is guilty of abuse of power and abandoning his oath of office, this is just the latest in a long string of his crimes).

"'Everyone was in the loop,' Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the EU, told Congress on Wednesday. As he made clear, that very much included Vice President Mike Pence… Sondland’s testimony that he had informed Pence about Trump’s Ukranian squeeze – and that Pence simply responded with a nod — elicited what at first glance appeared to be denials from Pence’s office, but really weren’t." What did the VP know and when did he know it. Accessory is also a crime.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Linkee-poo Thurseldays

"More than 1,700 books began the autumn with a chance at winning a National Book Award. Now, after a swanky ceremony Wednesday night in Manhattan, the folks behind just five of those books have each emerged with a trophy, a purse of $10,000 and the right to slap that precious gold medallion on the front cover of their work."

As I've said, bluetooth is a security risk. "A recent rise in laptop and gadget thefts from cars, particularly in San Francisco and the larger Bay Area, has left victims and police wondering if burglars are using Bluetooth scanners to choose target cars based on which have gadgets inside emitting wireless signals. Many laptops and gadgets will put out a sort of beacon by default when their Bluetooth is turned on, so that other Bluetooth devices can find them and potentially pair—even when closed or idle."

"SpaceX’s Starship Mk1 prototype encountered an explosive failure during early testing in Texas on Wednesday… basically it blew its lid during cryogenic testing – a standard test that you use to see if the vehicle can hold up to extreme cold temperatures, like those it would encounter in actual use." Oopsie.

"Astronomers at a Chilean observatory were rudely interrupted earlier this week when a SpaceX satellite train consisting of 60 Starlink satellites drifted overhead, in what scientists are apparently going to have to accept as the new normal." Not content with polluting the oceans and the surface of the Earth, we now are going full scale into polluting our skies (more than we do now). There's a line from Carl Sagan's Contact where he states early man was awe-struck and intimidated by the vastness of the night sky and so built civilization in order to block out the view so we wouldn't feel so insignificant.

"An international team of astronomers has detected a pair of gamma-ray bursts with energies more powerful than anything ever seen before. GRBs are the strongest explosions known in the cosmos, but these latest observations suggests we’ve significantly underestimated their true potential." One teraelectron volt, sweet Jesus.

"The shale oil boom that catapulted the U.S. into the world's largest oil producer may be going bust. As oil prices drop amid weakening demand, bankruptcies and layoffs are up and drilling is down, signs of a crisis that's quietly roiling the industry." Rhut rho. Note the "actual" boom might not have been all it was cracked up to be (pun intended). But we did go forward and alter water tables, pollute the environment, and delay the switch to non-fossil fuels just for the fun of it. Also note that these "fracked" wells don't produce over the long run without inducing more pressure into the well. While older well technology would produce wells whose life was calculated in decades, these new wells often don't (productively/cheaply) last more than 5-8 years.

"A Canadian teen developed a dangerous vaping illness that doesn't look like lung illnesses seen in patients across the U.S. Instead, it resembles the kind of lung damage workers at a microwave popcorn factory developed years ago from breathing in a buttery flavoring."

"Nebraska and federal health officials say a hepatitis A outbreak that includes Nebraska, Indiana and Wisconsin has been traced to blackberries sold in Fresh Thyme grocery stores."

"A northern Indiana hospital has alerted more than 1,000 surgery patients who may have been exposed to hepatitis, HIV and other infectious diseases due to a sterilization failure." Oopsie. Most packages of sterilized instruments have tape keeping the sterile cloth closed. That tape is made to change colors (stripes appear) if the sterilization process has succeeded. So there's more than one failure here. My guess (and I don't have any actual facts here) is that the tech did follow all procedures, but the equipment was faulty.

Our post-racial society… "An Illinois student is facing a hate crime charge after he placed a photo of a black classmate on Craigslist with the caption 'slave for sale,' authorities said."

"The home where Adolf Hitler was born will be turned into a police station, Austrian officials announced Wednesday, putting an end to a years-long debate over what to do with it."

"In a shocking move, Prince Andrew released a statement on Wednesday announcing his decision to 'step back from public duties' following his bombshell interview with the BBC about his ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein." I'm sure they're hoping that will end the criticism and be the biggest penalty he'll have to pay.

"The president of the United Autoworkers Union, Gary Jones, abruptly resigned Wednesday just as union leaders announced they would expel him and another top UAW official in an unfolding corruption scandal." (Insert dramatic music here) There's also claims of Fiat Chrysler bribing UAW officials to get better contracts.

"The lawsuit, filed Thursday by 17 workers from the Chicago area, alleges that McDonald's and its franchisees have failed to protect workers by extending work hours late into the night, designing stores in ways that left workers more vulnerable, and providing inadequate security training and support." Having worked in fast food, yes, this.

How goes Brexit? "A Brexiteer who is running against Anna Soubry in the general election has been convicted of harassing the Change UK leader… Amy Dalla Mura was banned from entering the Broxtowe constituency at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Wednesday." Broxtowe is the constituency she is running for. Just when you think the car is empty, out pops another clown.

"Few chance encounters have had a greater political impact than Gordon Brown’s fateful meeting with Gillian Duffy on an April morning in Rochdale in 2010. When the then prime minister was caught on a hot mic calling the Labour-voting pensioner a 'bigoted woman' – after she cornered him with complaints about immigrants 'flocking”]' into Britain – it did not just sink his floundering campaign. It set the tone for the way immigration would become the most toxic issue in British politics for the decade to come." I wonder how Russia ever figured out race relations were the way to cripple the West? "Study after study has showed that EU migration, in particular from A8 countries, produced a net economic gain for the UK." But don't confuse people with the facts.

"Chinese officials and state media have reacted with fury to the almost-unanimous passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act by the US House of Representatives on Wednesday." Now it remains to be seen if the president, in his belligerence against China will sign it, or in a sign of his weak hand in negotiations, veto it.

"Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has claimed victory over the ongoing unrest in the country, state media reported Wednesday, six days after nationwide protests erupted following an abrupt spike in gas prices." Yet the internet is mostly still offline.

"Nine days after Evo Morales resigned the presidency, Bolivia remains in political and social turmoil… At least six people were killed in violence Tuesday as the military escorted fuel tankers from a gasoline plant in the high plateau city of El Alto. Supporters of Morales had blockaded the plant for five days, causing fuel and food shortages in La Paz, the administrative capital."

"The United States on Thursday denied a South Korean news report that it was considering withdrawing up to 4,000 troops from South Korea if it does not pay more for maintaining a 28,500-strong U.S. contingent deterring North Korean aggression." I'm sure that we can trust the word of this administration and they wouldn't pull any hijinks while attempting to strong-arm the S Koreans into agreeing to a 400% increase.

"While the Southern border gets all the attention with President Trump's massive wall and the backlog of desperate asylum-seekers stuck in Mexico, things are tense on the northern border with Canada, as well. The number of illegal crossers is on the rise. And residents complain that heightened security has changed the character of the once-neighborly frontier."

"Every election cycle seems to have a key demographic said to define the race, and 2020 is no different. This is the campaign of the 'boo-hoo billionaire'." Apparently billionaires are very sensitive people. I'll just note that as Bill Gates is supposedly this era's Rockefeller handing out dimes to everyone and trying to give away his fortune and by doing so his net worth has :: check notes :: increased by a few billion dollars making him the richest person in America, making Jeff Bezos number 2.

"The White House attempted to get access to EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s explosive opening statement days before his public hearing, but was denied access by Sondland’s lawyers, the Washington Post reported Wednesday." De-nied. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"Sondland's impeachment testimony proves Trump foreign policy is run by corrupt clowns." An opinion piece, but I don't think it stops at just foreign policy.

"Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told three prominent Republicans in recent weeks that he plans to resign from the Trump Administration to run for the U.S. Senate from Kansas in next year’s elections. The problem: how to get out in one piece." This just in, rats worried ship is sinking. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"The public gallery watching Wednesday’s impeachment hearing gave it a cinematic climax – they stood and applauded after Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) concluded the session with a lengthy statement explaining why Gordon Sondland’s testimony was 'deeply significant and troubling.'… 'Getting caught is no defense – not to a violation of the Constitution, or to a violation of his oath of office. And it certainly doesn’t give us reason to ignore our oath of office.'" When even the entertainment business gets into political discourse.

"Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman corrected Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and asked him to call him by his military title during an impeachment hearing." A side show, but instructive of how the conservatives are conducting themselves. No, they don't actually support the military except to use as props to demonstrate "toughness" and as a foil to suck up as much money as possible (and give contracts to their friends and supporters).

"Laura Cooper shared some startling information during her opening statement in Wednesday’s impeachment inquiry hearings: evidence that Ukrainian officials may have known about a hold on U.S. assistance well before news of it broke in late August… The Pentagon official said that as early as July 25 — the same day President Donald Trump spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — her staffers received two emails indicating the Ukrainians were aware of the hold." So much for the "they didn't know" and the "no pressure" defense.

"(Fiona) Hill is telling lawmakers about the concerns she had about Trump's efforts to seek concessions from Ukraine's president in exchange for engagement and continued financial assistance that had been authorized by Congress."

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Linkee-poo Wednesday

Sorry, alligators ate my homework.

"Doctors are reporting the first evidence that genetically edited cells could offer a safe way to treat sickle cell disease, a devastating, incurable disorder that afflicts millions of people around the world." (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"Health insurance companies pay wildly different amounts for the same vaccines depending on how negotiations go with individual medical providers across the country. In some cases, providers have forced insurers to pay upward of three times the price they would pay to other providers, according to an investigation by Kaiser Health News."

"In her powerful new (2017) book, Nomadland, award-winning journalist Jessica Bruder reveals the dark, depressing and sometimes physically painful life of a tribe of men and women in their 50s and 60s who are — as the subtitle says — 'surviving America in the twenty-first century.' Not quite homeless, they are “houseless,” living in secondhand RVs, trailers and vans and driving from one location to another to pick up seasonal low-wage jobs, if they can get them, with little or no benefits." In the early 20th century, as this part of capitalism began to grow, we created Social Security. Unfortunately I doubt our society has it in them to go that far.

Who needs regulation? "An Air Quality Advisory has been issued for several counties in Northeast Ohio through Wednesday… The alert is for Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage and Summit counties." It's rare we have these in the late Fall.

"With the threat of another power outage looming, state lawmakers hammered Pacific Gas & Electric at the state Capitol on Monday for botching shut-offs that left millions of Californians in the dark this fall and blamed the company for failing to upgrade its system over time." And even with the power outages, their power lines sparked fires.

"Boeing's response takes issue with several parts of NASA's report. But the company appears especially exercised about the claim that NASA overpaid Boeing for seats on the third through sixth Starliner missions, payment over and above what was originally agreed upon as part of the company's fixed price contract with the space agency." Maybe they forgot to carry the "1"?

"New research has linked air pollution nanoparticles to brain cancer for the first time… The ultra-fine particles (UFPs) are produced by fuel burning, particularly in diesel vehicles, and higher exposures significantly increase people’s chances of getting the deadly cancer. Previous work has shown that nanoparticles can get into the brain and that they can carry carcinogenic chemicals." But let's burn more coal. Again, initial study, blah blah blah.

"A group of physicians, alarmed that the Trump administration is denying flu vaccines to immigrants in custody, is urging the Department of Homeland Security to accept its offer to provide free flu shots to California detainees." Because we know what will happen.

"As Hong Kong police continued to lay siege to one of the city's universities Tuesday as the former British colony's embattled leader urged around 100 protesters holed up inside to leave the campus 'as soon as possible.'" Not ending well (not really ending).

"The son of former German president Richard von Weizsaecker was stabbed to death while he was giving a lecture at a hospital in Berlin where he worked as a head physician, police said Wednesday." The start or attempt to start something or personal vendetta?

"Swedish authorities are ending their investigation into an allegation of rape against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the country's deputy chief prosecutor announced Tuesday." Wonder if it's because of the lapse of time (statute of limitations, of which 3 of the 4 have passed), or lack of "evidence"? Or if it's a way to Punk Assange (as in, you spent all those years in hiding for "nothing") and wait for him to come within the Swedish police's grasp on his own. (Grokked from John)

"The Navy will review whether an officer who was convicted of posing with the corpse of an ISIS captive before President Donald Trump intervened should be allowed to remain in the elite SEAL corps, along with three of his supervising officers, a defense official told NBC News on Tuesday night."

"A CBS News investigation has uncovered a possible pay-for-play scheme involving the Republican National Committee and President Donald Trump's nominee for ambassador to the Bahamas. Emails obtained by CBS News show the nominee, San Diego billionaire Doug Manchester, was asked by the RNC to donate half a million dollars as his confirmation in the Senate hung in the balance, chief investigative correspondent Jim Axelrod reports." It's not a secret that ambassadorships are often given to major donators (often bundlers) of campaigns. It is unusual to tie those donations so directly to getting an ambassadorship. These people don't even crime well. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"The complete inability of the political press corps to respond properly to even the most obvious deceptions emerging from the Trump White House has never been more evident than over the weekend, when Trump was rushed to Walter Reed hospital and his press office provided an explanation that was not remotely credible."

"The President of the United States had some free time on his hands Saturday, so he decided to go to Walter Reed Hospital for some routine medical tests as part of his annual checkup — next year’s annual checkup. That’s the explanation from the White House about President Trump’s apparently impromptu hospital visit… Uh-huh." And then there is this, "If this were a normal White House… there would be an opportunity to ask questions and get information via regular — they used to be daily — White House press briefings. Since being named to her job in June, Ms. Grisham has yet to hold a single one." No scheduled press briefing since June. And before that, Sanders wasn't holding many either.

"House impeachment investigators are probing whether President Donald Trump, or anyone in his inner circle, directed the president’s former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, to press Ukrainian senior officials to shut down a criminal investigation of ex-President Petro Poroshenko, according to sources close to the impeachment inquiry and committee records." So much for them being concerned about corruption in the Ukraine. It's getting really crowded under this bus. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"Ambassador Kurt Volker faces a serious credibility problem for having denied knowledge or involvement in President Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to press Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. He also appears to have lied about a crucial July 10 meeting at the White House and other related matters. Volker faces a serious legal liability problem too. He made these apparent false statements to Congress in his deposition under penalty of law. The Chart below presents detailed information comparing Volker’s testimony to the testimony of at least eleven other current and former U.S. officials whose statements contradict what Volker told Congress." I wonder if we'll remember the name Kurt Volker in the same way we remember John Dean (note, Volker will have to recant before that happens). (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"Former US Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker was widely seen as Republicans' impeachment ace in the hole. On Tuesday on Capitol Hill, it didn't work out that way… Volker's opening statement repeatedly acknowledged that statements he made during his October 3 closed-door deposition in front of House investigators had been not fully informed. And that, in the six weeks between that first appearance and his public appearance before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, much had changed that forced him to also revise and extend his original contentions." Let the side-eyes begin.

Like this, "Among the most jolting reality checks that hit Volker at some point in the previous 46 days—perhaps during a pensive autumnal stroll—was his realization that perhaps President Donald Trump’s interest in corruption at a specific Ukrainian natural gas concern was not on the level." I wonder if many conservatives will view this as a viable option to explain their support for the president as it because clear he committed crimes in office (using his office).

Meanwhile, on Bullshit Mountain, "Republicans sounded a celebratory note as House Democrats' impeachment inquiry wrapped up another day of public hearings Tuesday evening, saying the day's witnesses had served only to highlight fundamental problems in the case against President Trump." Apparently for conservatives if you don't say the words, you haven't committed the crime.

"After a meeting in which President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed concern over the status of US security assistance to Ukraine, Ambassador Gordon Sondland had a possible solution: publicly announce investigations into President Donald Trump's political rivals and the hold on the aid would be released… It was a meeting that Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, left out of his initial deposition in front of House impeachment investigators -- and only came to light after Sondland amended that testimony. The episode was, however, described in more detail by others who have testified since, including one White House official who was so unsettled that it was reported to the White House counsel." He testifies in public today. Although part of this is an attempt to pain Sondland as "freelancing" and the whole thing as his fault.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Linkee-poo muddled Mondays

"'When you find out the Earth is flat ... then you become empowered,' Weiss says." The flat-earthers and their perspective.

"Four people were killed and six more wounded when 'unknown suspects' sneaked into a backyard filled with people at a party in central California and fired into the crowd." Obviously we need more guns.

"Sophie Vershbow has seen her share of 'OK, boomer' memes in recent weeks. The phrase that's suddenly everywhere is meant to convey a fundamental disconnect between younger generations and baby boomers who cling to outdated, off-base ideas."

"U.S. Steel has announced it aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2030. The plan relies in large part on upgrades at two large facilities near Pittsburgh… 'However, this sort of corporate announcement probably would have been notable a decade ago,' Mehalik said. 'Nowadays, a 20 percent efficiency improvement is really a run-of-the-mill improvement'"

"For many people, turning on the tap or flushing the toilet is something we take for granted. But a report released Monday, called 'Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States,' shows that more than 2 million Americans live without these conveniences and that Native Americans are more likely to have trouble accessing water than any other group."

"After California wine industry mogul Hugh Reimers illegally destroyed at least 140 acres of forest, meadow and stream in part to make way for new vineyards sometime last winter, according to a report from state investigators, state officials ordered the former executive of Jackson Family Wines to repair and mitigate the damage where possible. Sonoma County officials also suggested a $131,060 fine." Why our environment continues to degrade.

"Donald Trump reportedly stalled a planned ban on flavored e-cigarettes, intended to combat the rise of teenage vaping, after hearing it could alienate voters and hurt his chances of reelection next year." Screw your health, as long as you vote for Trump.

"The president of the Right to Life Action Coalition of Ohio, Margie Christie, says this abortion bill has one goal. 'We’re tired of it being regulated. We want it ended.'… This new bill has a third of the House GOP caucus as co-sponsors. At 723 pages, it’s more than twice as long as a total ban introduced last year. It creates new criminal offenses of abortion murder and aggravated abortion murder, which could carry the death penalty. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. And if a woman’s life is in danger, doctors would likely have to wait much longer to do the procedure." This is the desire of the Right-to-Life movement, no abortion ever for any reason, no birth control, no sex education, no women's health initiatives.

"Over the past few years, abortion providers in Texas have struggled to reopen clinics that had closed because of restrictive state laws… Even though abortion providers fought those restrictions all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, and managed to get the restrictions overturned in 2016, most of the affected clinics remain closed."

"Sanitation workers in lower income countries often endure grueling conditions to perform a service that's vital to keeping their communities healthy. Yet their suffering has largely gone ignored — even by advocates for the poor."

"So when Prince Andrew set out to explain his friendship with the financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in a BBC interview broadcast Saturday night, it backfired predictably… Viewers were left shaking their heads at the wisdom of consenting to a polite-but-relentless grilling by the journalist Emily Maitlis in the first place. Many said they found his statements alternately defensive, unpersuasive or just plain strange." Prince Andrew may not be the first domino to fall, but he will be the one that starts the cascade.

How go the Trade Wars? "While you weren't looking — perhaps while you were watching impeachment hearings – the trade war with China went completely off the rails and lost its meaning."

"China on Monday called on the U.S. military to stop flexing its muscles in the South China Sea and to avoid adding “new uncertainties” over Taiwan, during high-level talks that underscored tension between the world’s two largest economies." And yes, this is tied into the trade war.

"A trove of leaked government documents reveals details of China's clampdown on Uighurs and other Muslims in the country's western Xinjiang region under President Xi Jinping, the New York Times reported."

"As night fell on Hong Kong, police tightened their siege of a university campus where hundreds of protesters were trapped in the latest dramatic episode in months of protests against growing Chinese control over the semi-autonomous city." Reportedly the Chinese military stationed in Hong Kong left their barracks in civilian clothes and "volunteered" to help clean up city streets. This will not end well.

"U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday the United States and South Korea have indefinitely postponed a joint military exercise in an 'act of goodwill' toward North Korea." Fuck that.

"That day, Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested approximately 680 people at seven plants across Mississippi. Just more than half the total — 342 people — were arrested in Morton alone." How ICE's and DoH's draconian policies and impact far beyond those who are directly involved. This is not unexpected or unplanned. Terror is a part of the operating procedures. "No charges have been brought against the companies involved in the raids, or their executives. But Miles says that it's 'an ongoing criminal investigation,' and that the goal in every probe is to 'see a conviction at the very highest level that we can get at.'" I'll note that no business owners have ever been convicted and jailed (at least that I have heard) for recruiting and hiring undocumented workers.

On the Media podcast with "Millions tuned into impeachment hearings this week — the first two of five already scheduled. On this week’s show, why shifts in public opinion may not necessarily sway the GOP. Plus, what we can learn from the predatory tactics that enriched Bill Gates." A little in-depth on how the Republicans, facing little blow back from past bad behavior, no long feel ties to popular opinion. Also how these impeachment proceedings aren't the same as Watergate. Those two pieces take up only the first half of the show. The second half about how the wealthy are shaping our society (and laws) is also highly recommended.

"The House impeachment inquiry begins its second week of public hearings with the Intelligence Committee scheduled to hear testimony from eight more witnesses over three days." Get yer programs here.

"The president confronted Pompeo, who has been his closest ally, during an Oct. 29 lunch at the White House, according to four current former senior administration officials who spoke to NBC News… '(Trump) just felt like, "rein your people in,"' said one senior administration official." It's from RawStory, but pointed out here for added spice. (Grokked from Laura J Mixon)

"A Republican member of one of the House committees involved in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump said Sunday that information provided about Trump during a closed-door deposition of a former National Security Council official 'is alarming' and 'not OK.'" But he still doesn't think it's impeachable, or that the president tried to intimidate Ambassador Yovanovitch.

"U.S. President Donald Trump lashed out on Sunday at another witness in Congress’ impeachment inquiry against him, saying the aide to Vice President Mike Pence was a 'Never Trumper' who should 'work out a better presidential attack.'"

"An overwhelming 70% of Americans think President Donald Trump’s request to a foreign leader to investigate his political rival, which sits at the heart of the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry, was wrong, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll finds… A slim majority of Americans, 51%, believe Trump’s actions were both wrong and he should be impeached and removed from office. But only 21% of Americans say they are following the hearings very closely." This numbers really haven't changed much, they're simply asking the question in different ways. The number that should worry the president is, "The survey also finds that 1 in 4 Americans, 25%, think that Trump did nothing wrong." That's down from 33% last month. Also, "Of those following the House impeachment hearings very closely, 67% think Trump’s actions were wrong and he should be impeached and removed from office." That should be very worrying, although there's no breakdown on the demographics of who is watching "very closely".

"Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited President Donald Trump to testify in front of investigators in the House impeachment inquiry ahead of a week that will see several key witnesses appear publicly." The queen is the most dangerous piece. Check.

nkee-poo muddled Monday

Friday, November 15, 2019

Linkee-poo, bah bah bempbah beh bah bah bempbah, I wanna be sedated

(Edited for last minute story of importance) Roger Stone, a veteran Republican political operative and longtime confidant of Donald Trump, was found guilty by a federal jury in Washington, D.C. on Friday in his false statements and obstruction trial… The verdict, announced after two days of deliberations by the jury, adds another chapter to Stone's long and colorful history as a self-described dirty trickster." Chuck Wendig on doing what you're told (in writing). "But then, ideally, as you get older and more experienced in writing you realize, fuck that." I'm still working on that.

"Here’s a list of 100 common publishing terms and their definitions, including the meanings of ARC, high concept, simultaneous submissions, and so much more."

"'I've been planning to perform a medley of my hits throughout the decade on the show. Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun have now said that I'm not allowed to perform my old songs on television because they claim that would be re-recording my music before I'm allowed to next year,' (Taylor) Swift wrote in a lengthy statement she shared." A warning call to creatives to always control your IP.

"Boeing's per-seat price already seemed like it would cost more than SpaceX. The company has received a total of $4.82 billion from NASA over the lifetime of the commercial crew program, compared to $3.14 billion for SpaceX. However, for the first time the government has published a per-seat price: $90 million for Starliner and $55 million for Dragon. Each capsule is expected to carry four astronauts to the space station during a nominal mission." And yet Boeing continues to get favored status.

"The US Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning letter to Dollar Tree for receiving over-the-counter drugs produced by foreign manufacturers that have been found to be adulterated, including acne treatment pads and Assured brand drugs." But they're cheaper.

"Above all: why was the information being handed over in a form that had not been 'de-identified' – the term the industry uses for removing all personal details so that a patient’s medical record could not be directly linked back to them? And why had no patients and doctors been told what was happening?" Google gets its own whistleblower. HIPAA compliance, if you don't have medical information experience, it can be a little confusing. But HIPAA is a sledgehammer, and someone needs to start swinging. (Grokked from Kathryn Cramer)

"The man busted for eating a sandwich at a BART station last week has taken a first step toward suing the transit agency, CBS San Francisco reports. In a news conference Thursday afternoon, Bay Area civil rights attorney John Burris announced he had filed a claim against BART on behalf of Steven Foster." Eating while black.

"Natural gas is mostly used for heating homes or fueling power plants. But when it comes out of the ground it contains another key ingredient — ethane, a building block of plastics — and that is now fueling another booming industry."

Instant Karma… "Veneto regional council, which is located on Venice's Grand Canal, was flooded for the first time in its history on Tuesday night -- just after it rejected measures to combat climate change." (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"World-famous St Mark's Square, a magnet for tourists, has been closed, and schools are shut for a third day."

"The change, first announced over the summer, would eliminate Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, or SNAP, as the food stamps program is now known, for more than 3 million people by eliminating something called broad-based categorical eligibility, a policy that gives states the flexibility to waive some asset and income limits for households that receive both SNAP and other welfare benefits." More people going hungry, another generation of poor kids that we'll rob them of their futures.

"Three off-duty officers dropping off their children Thursday at a Southern California school rushed in seconds after gunfire erupted, likely saving lives… The shooter opened fire at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, killing two students and wounding three others before turning the gun on himself. The suspect… allegedly carried out the attack on his 16th birthday."

"North Korea may be preparing a military air demonstration of a sort it hasn't carried out for over a year." Who doesn't love a parade?

"Trump is demanding that South Korea pay roughly 400% more in 2020 to cover the cost of keeping US troops on the peninsula, a congressional aide and an administration official confirmed to CNN." We're arguing over the price of the hose.

"U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper pressed South Korea on Friday to pay more for the cost of stationing U.S. troops in the country and to maintain an intelligence-sharing pact with its other Asian ally Japan that Seoul is about to let lapse." America, your money or your life. Seriously, our military presence in the world shouldn't be run as a protection racket.

"Amazon has revealed that it's formally challenging Pentagon's decision to award Microsoft the $10 billion JEDI cloud contract. The project would modernize the agency's cloud infrastructure and would connect the different divisions within the agency, which currently has over 500 separate clouds." Because of course they are.

"Turkey has said it sent eight people with links to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group to Germany and the United Kingdom."

"The Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating Rep. Ross Spano (R-Fla.) over allegations of campaign finance violations, the House Ethics Committee announced Thursday."

Breaking government. "Patterson's story showcases a growing trend in the Trump era: career civil servants enduring attacks on their credibility in conservative media. And it is more than just unflattering coverage. The campaigns against government workers have resulted in harassment, or in the case of the whistleblower at the heart of impeachment inquiry, death threats."

"The official in question is Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a 36-year-old national security specialist fluent in Persian and Arabic who helped craft the Iran nuclear deal in the Obama administration… Back in 2017, conservative websites labeled her a 'a trusted Obama aide,' and called her 'a Muslim spy,' among other allegations."

"With this fight over borrower defense still working its way through the courts, it's unclear when the (D)epartment (of Education) will process those 200,000-plus outstanding claims and how it will determine debt relief. That's why Rep. Bobby Scott had threatened to subpoena department documents — and potentially testimony from DeVos herself — to shed light on the department's thinking." With a transcript of this article how it played on All Things Considered. I'll point you to the exchange between DeVos and Patty Murray. "After the hearing, the department did answer Murray's question in writing. It had not approved a single borrower defense claim in nearly a year since June 2018. Instead of granting defrauded borrowers full loan forgiveness, the department has tried to use student earnings data to make a new argument that defrauded borrowers who end up earning a decent wage shouldn't have their loans totally forgiven."

"A vast hall filled with members of the conservative Federalist Society on Thursday night welcomed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as a conquering hero, while outside on a large screen protesters played video from Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing of testimony by Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused him of sexual misconduct." The Federalist Society, destroying America from within.

"Back in May, three Indiana judges got into a fight. It was the crescendo of an incident brimming with colorful details: a gaggle of judges drinking the night before a judicial conference, a failed attempt to visit a strip club called the Red Garter, a brawl in the parking lot of an Indianapolis White Castle." There is so much in there to unpack.

"President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court Thursday to block a Manhattan grand jury subpoena for copies of his financial records and tax returns, teeing up a test of Trump's expansive claims of immunity." No kings or landlords.

"FRONTLINE investigates how President Trump turned immigration into a powerful political weapon that fueled division and violence. The documentary goes inside the efforts of three political insurgents to tap into populist anger, transform the Republican Party and crack down on immigration." It was always about racism.

"The number of people apprehended by U.S. authorities, either attempting to cross the southwest border illegally or presenting themselves at a port of entry, declined for the fifth consecutive month, according to new figures released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection."

"The first day of public impeachment hearings reinforced what the previous month of closed-door depositions all but confirmed: that President Trump attempted to extort Ukraine into interfering in the 2020 election. Witnesses George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state, and Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, laid out the case in exacting detail, while also revealing additional damning information, including that Trump was more concerned with Ukraine investigating Biden than the 2016 election… Nevertheless, Republicans have claimed victory." Debunking the Republican's defense tactics. (Grokked from Chuck Wendig)

"US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland's cell phone call to President Donald Trump from a restaurant in Ukraine this summer appears to be a shocking security breach that raises significant counterintelligence concerns, according to several former officials, who told CNN there is a high probability that intelligence agencies from numerous foreign countries, including Russia, were listening in on the conversation." Okay, now tell us how the president using his personal cell phone in the White House has lured at least 3 spurious cell-phone "repeaters" to appear around the White House. (and I thought long about including this line) It just saves the president another phone call.

"A second U.S. embassy staffer in Kyiv overheard a key cellphone call between President Donald Trump and his ambassador to the European Union discussing the need for Ukrainian officials to pursue 'investigations,' The Associated Press has learned." Waits for the president to try and tell us he never calls anyone.

"President Donald Trump on Friday released the summary transcript of an April congratulatory call with Ukraine President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the latest salvo in the White House struggle to blunt Democrats’ contention that Trump abused his power in calling on a foreign leader to involve himself in the U.S. presidential election." First, it's not the call in question, and second after promising a full transcript again we just get notes. "The memo was released minutes before former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch began her testimony. The top Republican on the panel, Rep. Devin Nunes, read the rough transcript aloud into the congressional record." Also, again, corruption is never mentioned on the call.

"Former U.S. Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch provided chilling detail in Trump impeachment hearings Friday of the “big threat” she felt upon suddenly being ousted from her post and learning President Donald Trump had denounced her in his July phone call with Ukraine’s president."

And for dessert, "David Holmes, a career diplomat, is testifying Friday afternoon to lawmakers behind closed doors and is expected to discuss his recollection of a July 26 call between Trump and Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union."