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

Friday, February 26, 2021

Linkee-poo Friday Feb 26

The symbolism on Perseverance. Design is communication. (Grokked from Steve Popernack)

"An influential current system in the Atlantic Ocean, which plays a vital role in redistributing heat throughout our planet's climate system, is now moving more slowly than it has in at least 1,600 years. That's the conclusion of a new study published in the journal Nature Geoscience from some of the world's leading experts in this field." We're boned.

"North Dakota has lots of coal. It also has strong and consistent winds. It might be the perfect spot to showcase the long-awaited "energy transition" from climate-warming fossil fuels to climate-saving renewables… Yet that transition has hit a snag. Two counties in the state have enacted drastic restrictions on new wind projects in an attempt to save coal mining jobs, despite protests from landowners who'd like to rent their land to wind energy companies. It's a sign of how difficult that transition can be for communities that depend on coal for jobs and tax revenue. The economic benefits of wind power, even though substantial, often flow to different people." Those good old conservative values at play.

"Costco plans to edge up its starting wage to $16 an hour starting next week, CEO W. Craig Jelinek said on Thursday… Costco raised its starting pay to $15 per hour in 2019. More than half of Costco's hourly workers in the U.S. are paid above $25… 'I want to note this isn't altruism,' Jelinek said. 'At Costco we know that paying employees good wages ... makes sense for our business and constitutes a significant competitive advantage for us. It helps us in the long run by minimizing turnover and maximizing employee productivity.'"

"One of the key aims of President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill is to send money to people who were already at risk of falling behind on bills or slipping into poverty… Democrats say the relief bill set to pass the House Friday includes several new programs intended to create a new social safety net that some in the party are comparing to a new, smaller version of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal."

"Eight employees of Russia's Embassy in Pyongyang and their families spent more than 34 hours trying to leave North Korea this week, a grueling trip that ended with at least one diplomat pushing his luggage and young children on a railway trolley into Russian territory."

"The UK Supreme Court ruled Friday that "ISIS bride" Shamima Begum cannot return to the United Kingdom to appeal the revocation of her UK citizenship… The President of the Supreme Court, Lord Robert Reed, said that the UK Court of Appeal made four errors last year when it ruled that Begum should be allowed to return to the UK to carry out her appeal."

"Late Wednesday, President Biden revoked a controversial executive order that then-President Donald Trump signed in December called 'Promoting Beautiful Federal Civic Architecture.' The announcement from the White House was included in an executive order that revokes a number of Trump's actions as president." Good.

"The Biden administration is facing growing criticism for failing to lift US sanctions imposed last year on war crimes prosecutors at the international criminal court, at the same time as Israel is lobbying to keep the punitive measures in place… The sanctions, targeting officials in the ICC prosecutors and their families were imposed by the Trump administration in September in retaliation for launching investigations into the Afghan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts."

Good news, everybody! "Mass shootings jumped nearly 50% in 2020, due in large part to a pandemic year rife with crippling unemployment, violent protests and idle youth… With COVID-19 cases falling and vaccines rolling out, some criminologists hope a rebounding economy and reopened schools will drive down those numbers in 2021… Early results are promising, says Mark Bryant, founder of the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, which tracks gun incident trends. In the first seven weeks of this year, there have been 63 mass shootings — defined as four or more people injured or killed in one incident —which if continued would show a drop from 2020, he said."

"Office of Management and Budget director nominee Neera Tanden previously sent a tweet taking issue with the salary of former CEO of pharmaceutical company Mylan, Heather Bresch, who is the daughter of Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV)… Tanden's confirmation has been cast into doubt due to opposition from lawmakers, including Manchin." So was it a mean tweet? If you're Heather Bresch or family, yes. But it was a true tweet about rapacious capitalism.

"The head of the state's power grid operator on Thursday defended the group’s decision to order widespread blackouts during last week's winter storm, telling state lawmakers that doing so helped prevent a larger disaster… Last week’s freezing weather led to skyrocketing demand and unprecedented strain on the power grid, forcing the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to enact sustained outages across the state to keep its grid from collapsing."

"The U.S. launched airstrikes in Syria on Thursday targeting Iranian-backed militia groups in the first known offensive military operation carried out by the Biden administration… The Department of Defense said the strikes are a response to recent rocket attacks against Americans in Iraq, including one in which a civilian contractor working with American forces was killed and several U.S. service members were injured. Officials believe the Feb. 15 attack in Erbil, Iraq, was conducted by Shia militants."

"Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman, testifying remotely through a video link, told a House committee that her agency head had requested military backup about a half-dozen times in the first hour after the Capitol complex was breached on Jan. 6, the day of the insurrection."

"One of the rioters accused of storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was turned in by his ex-girlfriend after sending her several videos and texts from the scene, including one calling her a 'moron,' court documents show." Who's the moron now, asshole.

"Republican legislators around the country are moving aggressively to strip governors and other officials of their power to change election rules -- after states made it easier to vote last year during the coronavirus pandemic and turnout surged to record levels… The measures have been introduced in at least eight states with Republican-controlled legislatures -- including the key battlegrounds of Georgia and Arizona. Some bills would give more authority to lawmakers to establish the ground rules for voting, in an escalation of the already bitter partisan fights that have erupted following the 2020 presidential contest."

"Nearly eight years after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, Democrats in Virginia are poised to enact state-level legislation they say would boost voter protections."

"The agenda for the Conservative Political Action Conference, the influential right-wing summit best known as CPAC taking place in Florida this weekend, provides attendees multiple forums that appear to perpetuate conservative mythmaking around the 2020 election as well as ways to discuss the new wave of voting restrictions pushed by the Republican Party. The featured speaker is the former president himself on Sunday." Russian propaganda continues to find a home in the conservative mind.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Linkee-poo Thursday Feb 25

It appears as if my Italian and Russian readers are back. Welcome back, fellas. Missed you. Make sure you get paid upfront, okay.

"Five basic principles of graphic design."

"The car-sized Perseverance captured a gorgeous 360-degree panorama of its surroundings on the floor of Jezero Crater, which harbored a lake and a river delta billions of years ago." And in high-def.

"Despite the 95 percent effectiveness at preventing coronavirus infection after two doses of its vaccine, Pfizer is now seeing what a third dose might do… The company announced Thursday that a booster dose is being studied among people who received their first doses of the vaccine more than six months ago." See, once everyone is inoculated and SARS-CoV2 drops off the map, there's little money to be made for all that went into the research of the vaccine (don't forget, you've already paid for that research with your tax dollars). Also note the "softening the ground" for the concept of a yearly booster, like the flu shot.

"Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday warned Americans to steel themselves against a sense of Covid-19 complacency even as coronavirus infections plummet and some scientists predict that herd immunity is just around the corner." Yes the news has all been about the "plummet" in infections. But we still are above the daily infection rates of the infection spike last July. Remember last July?

"Israel’s defense minister on Thursday called for an immediate halt in plans to ship surplus coronavirus vaccines to a group of allied nations, accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of acting without oversight or transparency."

"A group of economists, ecologists and anthropologists is seeking to challenge a central plank of global economic policy — that more is better… The 'degrowth' movement has received renewed attention in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic after the spread of the virus last year coincided with the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s… Yet, as policymakers prioritize an economic rebound, scholars are backing an idea that pushes social and ecological wellbeing over a system that pursues relentless economic growth."

"Jobless claims fell sharply last week despite brutal winter storms that swept across Texas and other parts of the South, the Labor Department reported Thursday… First-time filings for unemployment insurance totaled 730,000 for the week ended Feb. 20, well below the Dow Jones estimate of 845,000… That total represented a substantial decrease from the 841,000 the previous week, a number that was revised lower by 20,000." A "sharp" drop of 90,000, or 10%. Note most claims are submitted electronically these days, and if you don't have any electricity, that makes it kinda hard to submit a claim.

"A former top aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has accused him of intimidation and sexual harassment, expanding on allegations she first made in December. In an essay posted to Medium on Wednesday, the former staffer accused the governor of going 'out of his way' to touch her 'lower back, arms and legs,' and kissing her during a one-on-one meeting."

"In a tweet voicing his opposition to raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour, Republican South Dakota Senator John Thune said he made $6 an hour working at a restaurant as a "kid." Adjusted for modern inflation, that would be $24 an hour today." You can do your own calculations here at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics calculator.

"GameStop shares climbed rapidly and were halted twice for volatility ahead of the closing bell Wednesday. The gaming retailer's stock was priced at $91.71 at market close, up nearly 104% from the previous day." AMC also had a bump yesterday. You know what that means? (Pops your speculation bubble) It means the short contracts that traders entered as those stocks skyrocketed in January are coming due, so there has to be some hearty buying going on as those investors close out their shorts.

"Tattoo artists in Europe are fighting a new ban on two commonly-used green and blue pigments, saying that losing these ink ingredients would be a disaster for their industry and their art… Meanwhile, in the United States, where about a third of Americans have a tattoo, tattoo ink is almost completely unregulated and there's little known about what's in tattoo ink."

"There's something off about the butter in Canada that's left many flustered residents looking for answers… For weeks, Canadians have increasingly churned up debate on social media with anecdotes about 'hard' butter that fails to spread as easily as it once did." Yesterday was "what have we done to animals", today is "what have we done to food."

"The militaries of India and Pakistan said in a rare joint statement on Thursday that they had agreed to observe a ceasefire along the disputed border in Kashmir, having exchanged fire hundreds of times in recent months." I give it three months.

"The Biden administration will release an intelligence report Thursday that concludes that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, three U.S. officials familiar with the matter said."

"Myanmar’s military has been banned from using Facebook and Instagram with immediate effect, Facebook said in a blog post on Thursday."

"Amnesty International says it no longer considers jailed Russian anti-Kremlin activist Alexei Navalny a 'prisoner of conscience,' citing past comments he's made that 'reach the threshold of advocacy of hatred.'" Half a point to Putin.

"President Biden on Wednesday revoked a Trump-era suspension of certain immigrant visas that had dramatically cut legal immigration to the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic."

"Now, Republican politicians across the country are moving to stop the road-blocking maneuver, proposing increased penalties for demonstrators who run onto highways and legal immunity for drivers who hit them. The bills are among dozens introduced in Legislatures aimed at cracking down on demonstrations."

"If your mail has not been showing up some days or you're getting second notices on the bills you thought you'd paid, you're not alone. The U.S. Postal Service has been beset by continuing delays in delivering the mail… Postmaster General Louis DeJoy apologized for those delays in testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday but warned that the postal system is 'in a death spiral' and needs legislation to help restore it to financial stability… (DeJoy) said the current three- to five-day standard for delivering first-class mail has not been met 'for years.'" Well certainly it's felt like "years" since last May, but nope.

"As President Joe Biden works to overhaul U.S. health care policy, few challenges will loom larger for his health secretary than restoring access to family planning while parrying legal challenges to abortion proliferating across the country… Physicians, clinics and women's health advocates are looking to Xavier Becerra, Biden's nominee to run the Department of Health and Human Services, to help swiftly unwind Trump-era funding cuts and rules that have decimated the nation's network of reproductive health providers over the past four years."

Rumor tweet with receipts: "So it turns out Neera Tanden criticized @Sen_JoeManchin's daughter for her extraordinary pay increases, after she raised the price of the Epi-Pen from $100 to $600 and moved Mylan's HQ to the Netherlands to reduce taxes." Kinda hurts when people call out your baby for fleecing the public.

"'Once we see something that prioritizes the security and accessibility of elections, we’ll throw in support,' (Georgia Secretary of State Brad) Raffensperger tweeted on Wednesday. He added that many of the bills, which would directly impact state elections, are 'reactionary to a three month disinformation campaign' that he said could have been prevented." No no, Brad. See, it's because too many of the "wrong people" voted last time. These are bills to secure the elections from their interference by electing Democrats. This is about making sure only Republicans win elections in Georgia.

"A close ally of Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene took part in the January 6 mob at the Capitol and said he was among those who eventually made their way into the building… Greene, a freshman congresswoman with a history of promoting dangerous and violent conspiracies and comments, encouraged the big lie that the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump by voting to object to the election certification and fanned the flames of the insurrection by telling her supporters to 'fight for Trump.'"

"Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., placed a sign outside her office Wednesday mocking Democratic Rep. Marie Newman, whose office sits across the hall, after Newman hung a transgender pride flag next to her door in protest over Greene's opposition to a LGBTQ rights bill." Haters gonna hate. And I love how the anti-trans people try to claim "science." Science tells us the exact opposite, that gender is fluid, in humans it's a social construct, and we are not binary.

"When the annual Conservative Political Action Conference — CPAC for short — kicks off Thursday in Orlando, Fla., it might as well be called TPAC… That's because this year, it is all about Trump."

"Newly disclosed documents from inside the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan capture a sense of panic and dread among prosecutors and their supervisors as one of their cases collapsed last year amid allegations of government misconduct… The materials include a rare look at sensitive emails and text messages between junior prosecutors and their overseers after a federal judge began to inquire about lapses that ultimately led the Justice Department to abandon a conviction in a case it had already won." Say, isn't Trump being investigated by the that office? I'm sure this has nothing to do with that.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Linkee-poo Wednesday Feb 24

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and so it goes.

"Octavia Butler's alternate realities and 'speculative fiction' reveal striking, and often devastating parallels to the world we live in today. She was a deep observer of the human condition, perplexed and inspired by our propensity towards self-destruction. Butler was also fascinated by the cyclical nature of history, and often looked to the past when writing about the future. Along with her warnings is her message of hope — a hope conjured by centuries of survival and persistence. For every society that perished in her books, came a story of rebuilding, of repair." The Throughline podcast on Octavia Butler.

"When researchers began to excavate a tunnellike cave on the west coast of Alaska in 1998, they were hoping to discover the remains of ancient bears. Instead, they unearthed something even more intriguing: a tiny chip of bone belonging to the first known dog in the Americas. The find supports the idea that dogs accompanied the first humans who set foot on these continents—and that both traveled there along the Pacific coast."

"A sheep named Baarack received a much needed shearing after rescuers in Australia found the abandoned animal with more than 75 pounds of wool weighing it down." Noted for the "what have we done to animals" aspect of the story.

"In an analysis released Wednesday, the US Food and Drug Administration said the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine has met the requirements for emergency use authorization… The efficacy of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against moderate to severe/critical Covid-19 across all geographic areas was 66.9% at least 14 days after the single dose vaccination and 66.1% at least 28 days after vaccination, a new analysis meant to brief the FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee said."

"A coronavirus variant that emerged in mid-2020 and surged to become the dominant strain in California not only spreads more readily than its predecessors, it also evades antibodies generated by COVID-19 vaccines or prior infection and it’s associated with severe illness and death, researchers said." USA leading the way with dangerous SARS-CoV2 variants.

"Patients who have recently taken the Covid-19 vaccine are advised to reschedule their yearly mammogram screenings as the presence of swollen lymph nodes, which is one of the known side effects of the jab, could be mistakenly identified as a sign of breast cancer."

"As Australia entered the third day of its vaccination drive its health minister told local media on Wednesday that two people had received incorrect coronavirus vaccine doses… The two patients, aged 88 and 94, were given four times the recommended dose of the Pfizer vaccine." Oopsie.

"Some residents of Marin County are misusing access codes intended for people living in Black and Latino communities to book vaccine appointments at the Oakland Coliseum through the state's vaccine scheduling system My Turn, SFGATE has learned."

"A national health care provider has administered COVID-19 vaccinations to people deemed ineligible for the scarce vaccine by local health departments, including people with connections to company leaders and customers of its concierge medical service, according to internal communications leaked to NPR." Best healthcare in the world, as long as you're rich.

Farmers are the stewards of the land… really? "Farming has destroyed a lot of the rich soil of America's Midwestern prairie. A team of scientists just came up with a staggering new estimate for just how much has disappeared… The most fertile topsoil is entirely gone from a third of all the land devoted to growing crops across the upper Midwest, the scientists say. Some of their colleagues, however, remain skeptical about the methods that produced this result." Farmers mostly pillage the lands, increasingly salting it and rendering it unusable except for applying huge amounts of chemicals and fertilizers. You might remember that the Dust Bowl was created by unsustainable farming practices.

"Five members of the board of directors at the entity that operates Texas' electrical grid will resign from their posts Wednesday, according to a notice posted to the Public Utility Commission website… None of the five members resigning from their posts live in Texas."

"Tiger Woods escaped a Tuesday morning car accident with his life, but suffered 'significant' leg injuries that required extensive surgery and a rod being inserted into his lower right leg… Woods suffered 'comminuted open fractures affecting both the upper and lower tibia and fibula' said Dr. Anish Mahajan, interim CEO and chief medical officer of Harbor-UCLA Hospital, where Woods was taken to the trauma center and treated."

"Warner, who was 63 when he died, was not among the angry QAnon followers who came to believe the unlikely theory that Donald Trump would hold onto power and defeat a satanic cabal. He was a computer specialist with a deep distrust of government, according to his own writings and to those who knew him. A loner, he had made at least one female friend feel manipulated and frightened. And he had cultivated a bizarre obsession with shape-shifting alien lizards and a dense thicket of other peculiar ideas… As Warner’s best friend in his final months, Deck believes that some combination of a fatal cancer diagnosis salted with a belief in conspiracy theories led Warner to kill himself in such a brutally spectacular manner." By blowing up his RV in downtown Nashville.

"A court in Germany has found a former Syrian regime official guilty of being an accomplice to crimes against humanity, in a historic first victory for efforts worldwide to bring legal accountability for atrocities committed in Syria’s long war… Eyad al-Gharib, a 44-year-old former colonel in the Syrian intelligence service, carried out orders in one of Bashar al-Assad’s notorious prisons."

Why did the Trump administration and Mitch McConnell work so hard in appointing judges (while ignoring most everything else)? "A federal judge late Tuesday indefinitely banned President Joe Biden's administration from enforcing a 100-day moratorium on most deportations… U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton issued a preliminary injunction sought by Texas, which argued the moratorium violated federal law and risked imposing additional costs on the state."

And… "Judges with backgrounds as prosecutors or corporate lawyers, who represent the majority of federal district court jurists, are significantly more likely to rule in favor of employers in workplace disputes, according to a new study of diversity on the bench."

"The supply chain failures are two examples of why the Biden administration wants to jump-start production of critical materials that go into cell phones, computers, cars, medicine and other sectors… The sectors are part of a sweeping review of critical supply chains that will kick off on Wednesday when President Biden is expected to sign an executive order and meet with a bipartisan group of lawmakers who have worked on the issue." Waits for the GOP to start wailing about "controlled economies" and that we should let business run business how they see fit which will help :: checks notes :: China. Just wait until they find out about global supply of some rare earth metals, like lithium.

"Administration officials said Biden’s executive order, to be signed at 4:45 p.m. EST Wednesday, will launch an immediate 100-day review of supply chains for four critical products: semiconductor chips, large-capacity batteries for electric vehicles, rare earth minerals and pharmaceuticals." Boom, there it is.

"The House of Representatives is set to vote Wednesday on the Equality Act, a bill that would ban discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It would also substantially expand the areas to which those discrimination protections apply… It's a bill that President Biden said on the campaign trail would be one of his top legislative priorities for the first 100 days of his presidency."

"A coalition of evangelical Christian leaders is condemning the role of "radicalized Christian nationalism" in feeding the political extremism that led to the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by supporters of former President Donald Trump… In an open letter, more than 100 pastors, ministry and seminary leaders, and other prominent evangelicals express concern about the growing 'radicalization' they're seeing, particularly among white evangelicals." I think they've missed how the history of evangelicalism in America has been tied tightly with Christian Nationalism and white supremacy.

"Secretary of State Antony Blinken recommitted the U.S. to rejoining the United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday, three years after former President Donald Trump withdrew over what his administration called bias against Israel."

"DeSantis’s popularity among Republicans has been steadily rising in the state and nationwide amid his handling of Covid, and now a new survey from top GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio gives a clearer picture of just how much the Florida GOP likes what he’s doing… In a hypothetical three-way primary for president, DeSantis gets 64 percent support compared to 12 percent for Rubio and 10 percent for Scott, according to Fabrizio’s survey, which was conducted last week for a private client and shared with POLITICO." DeSantis. Popular. For his handling of COVID in Florida. JFC.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Linkee-poo Tuesday Feb 23

"New video from NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover chronicles major milestones during the final minutes of its entry, descent, and landing (EDL) on the Red Planet on Feb. 18 as the spacecraft plummeted, parachuted, and rocketed toward the surface of Mars. A microphone on the rover also has provided the first audio recording of sounds from Mars." And actual audio recordings from Mars.

"Norway’s National Museum says a small, barely visible sentence written with a pencil on Edvard Munch’s 1893 masterpiece “The Scream” was penned by the Norwegian painter himself."

"Scientists have cloned the first U.S. endangered species, a black-footed ferret duplicated from the genes of an animal that died over 30 years ago."

"A father-to-be from New York state has died after a device he was building for his child's gender-reveal party exploded, according to police… Christopher Pekny, 28, was assembling the device in the town of Liberty when it exploded just before noon on Sunday."

"Facebook has reached an agreement with the Australian government and will restore news pages in the country days after restricting them… The decision follows negotiations between the tech giant and the Australian government, which is set to pass a new media law that will require digital platforms to pay for news." Well, so much for linking to Australian news outlets.

"In April 2019, Facebook was preparing to ban one of the internet’s most notorious spreaders of misinformation and hate, Infowars founder Alex Jones. Then CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally intervened." Facebook is not a friend of democracy.

"A family in Arizona bought a toy worth far more than what they paid for when they discovered more than 5,000 pills believed to be fentanyl inside the doll." Wasn't that a plot line in Christopher Nolan's Batman?

"Then Pollock knew her tribute, however heartfelt, would never begin to convey the grief of a pandemic that has now claimed 500,000 lives in the U.S. and counting."

"Vaccine advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration will meet Friday to discuss whether to recommend Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use authorization."

"President Joe Biden marked the grim milestone of 500,000 lives lost to the Covid-19 pandemic in a brief but poignant address to the nation Monday evening, drawing on his own personal tragedies as a rhetorical salve for a country still combating the deadly disease."

"Snow and ice melted across Texas over the weekend, but plumbers are still racing from home to home to patch uncounted stretches of burst pipe. Many residents are unsure when they’ll be able to make permanent repairs, what they’ll have to pay out of pocket or even when they’ll be able to go home."

"According to Arizona Department of Corrections whistleblowers, hundreds of incarcerated people who should be eligible for release are being held in prison because the inmate management software cannot interpret current sentencing laws."

"Women’s rights activists and allied Democrats are growing increasingly vocal about what they call the unfair targeting of women and people of color nominated by Joe Biden to top posts in his administration… Their fears had been bubbling for weeks, as Biden’s nominees of color came under sharp attack from conservative groups or saw their nominations delayed or opposed in greater numbers. But the worries burst out into the open over the weekend as Neera Tanden’s nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget neared defeat at the hands of a Democrat."

"President Biden plans to welcome Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a delegation of Canadian officials to the White House on Tuesday – a virtual session due to COVID-19 constraints that will try to recreate some of the ceremonial flourishes of an in-person visit to Washington."

"More than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup 10 years ago, the Guardian can reveal."

"The Biden administration’s early efforts to resurrect the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are getting a chilly early response from Tehran. Though few expected a breakthrough in the first month of the new administration, Iran’s tough line suggests a difficult road ahead."

Meanwhile, on Bullshit Mountain… "Biden administration officials, including John Kerry and Robert Malley, had meetings with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif during the Trump administration that were orchestrated to undermine President Biden's predecessor, a recent report from The Washington Times claims." Only… "Kerry has been open about the fact that he met with Zarif at least twice during the Trump administration…"

"Former US Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund will tell lawmakers Tuesday that law enforcement was prepared for the January 6 US Capitol riots based on the intelligence it had but that intelligence did not suggest a violent, coordinated attack, which overwhelmed their forces that day."

"A member of an Ohio militia group facing federal charges in connection with the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol is now backing off claims that she met with the Secret Service before a rally for former president Donald Trump… A.J. Kramer, a court-appointed defense lawyer for Jessica Watkins, 38, wrote in a court filing Monday that Watkins spoke with Secret Service members while passing through a security check but did not meet with them, according to Reuters."

"A sprawling lobby and bar with only a handful of people. Confused guests asking where everybody went. Elegant, but empty hallways. These are the scenes CNN observed inside the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, this month as the once-humming destination confronts a new reality without its namesake in the White House." Sad trombone sounds.

"When New York prosecutors finally get to examine the federal tax returns of former President Donald Trump, they will discover a veritable how-to guide for getting rich while losing millions of dollars and paying little to no income taxes… Whether they find evidence of crimes, however, will also depend on other information not found in the actual returns."

Monday, February 22, 2021

Linkee-poo Monday Feb 22

Cat Rambo on the Baen Bar and dis-inviting Toni https://catrambo.medium.com/more-fuel-for-the-recent-baenfire-2d8bdfa7f795 as the WoldCon GoH.

"A California lawmaker has introduced legislation that would decriminalize psychedelics in the state, the latest bold step in a movement to end America’s war on drugs… Scott Wiener, the state senator who authored the bill, hopes that in following the lead of places such as Oakland, Santa Cruz and the District of Columbia – all cities which have decriminalized psychedelics – California will move one step closer to decriminalizing the use and possession of all drugs, something that Oregon passed by voter initiative in November."

"Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged Sunday that state and local health officials have stumbled in distributing the COVID-19 vaccine equitably among Latino and Black communities in California… Speaking at a mobile vaccination clinic in Inglewood, Newsom said the state needs to “do more and do better” to provide outreach and set up vaccine sites directly in the communities that have been hardest hit by the virus."

"Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration during the Trump administration, predicted Sunday that declining COVID-19 infection rates are 'likely to continue' due to more Americans receiving their vaccines and the amount of people who have already contracted the coronavirus." And, you know, we've passed the holiday season. Next up, Spring Break.

There was this conspiracy theory about how the numbers of deaths from COVID were wrong, that it couldn't be that high, that doctors/hospitals were somehow profiting by labeling random deaths on COVID. Well, they were correct that the numbers were wrong, but not in the direction they thought. "Ohio's COVID-19 death toll has been underreported by as many as 4,000 people, the state Department of Health announced Wednesday… Officials say the issue was discovered during 'routine employee training,' and the unspecified problem apparently began last October and went on for months. The bulk of the so-far uncounted deaths occurred in November and December, according to the ODH."

"All schools in England are to reopen on 8 March as part of the prime minister's 'cautious' four-part plan to lift the coronavirus lockdown… Boris Johnson will share his finalised roadmap with ministers later, before unveiling it to MPs and then leading a news conference at 19:00 GMT."

"Texas officials are cracking down on businesses they say have hiked the prices of food, water, and hotel rooms while the state continues to deal with shortages caused by unprecedented winter weather." Now do public utilities.

"The surge in pricing is hitting people who have chosen to pay wholesale prices for their power, which is typically cheaper than paying fixed rates during good weather, but can spike when there’s high demand for electricity. Many of those who have reported receiving large bills are customers of electricity provider Griddy, which only operates in Texas."

"The brutal winter storm that turned Texas roads to ice, burst pipes across the state and left millions of residents shivering and without power has also damaged the reputations of three of the state’s leading Republicans." It won't last long.

"A suspected oil tanker leak off the coast of Israel last week has led to Israel's biggest maritime ecological disaster in many years, with authorities closing the country's beaches and beginning a massive cleanup effort."

"Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. is buying competitor and fellow Ohio tire maker Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. in a deal valued at $2.5 billion, the companies announced Monday morning." Ah, it's the "mergers to make insanely large companies while reducing customer choice" time of the recovery.

"While the President bungled two different statistics at a CNN town hall last week, the thrust of what he said is accurate: The minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009, has fallen far behind in terms of both inflation and productivity."

"Even with a raise to $15 per hour, a typical family of four couldn’t afford the basics in any U.S. state, according to a CNBC analysis of cost-of-living data assembled by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (This example assumes two kids and two adults working full-time for minimum pay.)"

"Showers of jet engine parts over residential areas on both sides of the Atlantic have caught regulators’ attention and prompted the suspension of some older Boeing planes from service."

"Disney+ is warning viewers that some episodes of 'The Muppet Show' feature 'negative depictions' and 'mistreatment of people or cultures.'… The variety show, which ran for 120 episodes in the 1970s and features puppet characters interacting with celebrity guests, was added to Disney's streaming service last week. Viewers are being shown the warning label before episodes." Also, The Muppet Show was a show for adults, it wasn't kids' fare.

"For months, Democrats in Washington have been debating what to do about student loan debt. About 43 million borrowers owe $1.6 trillion in federal student loans. While some lawmakers have pushed for President Biden to forgive up to $50,000 per borrower via executive order, Biden has so far only expressed support for more limited forgiveness, of $10,000, through pandemic relief legislation."

"Now, the once-snubbed Supreme Court pick will finally come before the Senate, this time as President Joe Biden’s choice for attorney general. Garland, an appeals court judge, is widely expected to sail through his confirmation process, which begins Monday before the Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee, with bipartisan support."

"In a reversal of the past four years, President Biden has vowed to take on the violent threat posed by the far-right. But how? On this week’s On the Media, a look at the techniques and tactics used to undermine extremism, here and abroad."

"But in the four years since he had joined the church as a pastor, Stacy had found himself increasingly up against an invisible, powerful force taking hold of members of his congregation: conspiracy theories, disinformation and lies… Stacy has seen the real consequences of these lies build up over the years; he says it has tainted the name of his faith."

"As happens at such moments, some editorialists and on-air voices are saying the Grand Old Party is over. But premature obituaries of this kind are neither new nor convincing. The latest batch of them might just set the stage for the next remarkable Republican comeback."

"South Dakota's Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg was charged Thursday with three 2nd-class misdemeanors for his role in a car accident that killed a man who was walking down the side of a highway in September."

"Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said on Sunday the US had begun to communicate with Iran over the detention of American citizens, calling the matter a 'complete and utter outrage'… Iran has arrested dozens of dual nationals, including several Americans, in recent years, mostly on espionage charges. Human rights activists accuse Tehran of trying to use the detentions to win concessions from other countries, a charge it dismisses."

Meanwhile, on Bullshit Mountain… "President Biden’s 'radical' foreign policy agenda is 'turning upside down our Middle East policy' and giving Iran an 'out' to become a nuclear state with a return to the Obama-era nuclear deal, Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said Sunday." Up is down, black is white. He then goes on to shove Jan 6th down the memory hole.

"Former vice president Mike Pence has declined an invitation to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where former president Donald Trump is scheduled to make his first public speech since leaving office." Ouch.

"About 19,000 Pennsylvanians have left the Republican Party since Jan 6. That’s a drop in the bucket for a state with more than 8.8 million registered voters, and almost 3.5 million Republicans. But it’s also an unusually high rate of defections: Almost two-thirds of the voters who have switched parties this year left the GOP, compared with a third or less typically."

Friday, February 19, 2021

Linkee-poo Friday Feb 19

"The NASA Perseverance rover safely landed on Mars after its 292.5 million-mile journey from Earth, the agency confirmed at 3:55 p.m. ET Thursday. The rover landed itself flawlessly, according to the mission's team."

"This new information has led them to link the flipping of the poles to key moments in the prehistoric record, like the sudden appearance of cave art and the mysterious extinction of large mammals and the Neanderthals. They argue that the weakening of the Earth's magnetic field would have briefly transformed the world by altering its climate and allowing far more ultraviolet light to pour in."

"Texas Gov. Greg Abbott continued to slam the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) on Thursday for what he says are failures to prepare the state for the winter storm that has left thousands freezing in the dark without running water… But the governor also said he had the responsibility to ensure the nonprofit company functions properly and he vowed reforms." I guess the "blame windmills/blame New Green Deal" strategy didn't work out so well. Don't worry, though, I'm sure we'll get back to that.

"The number of people in Texas without running, drinkable water dwarfed the number of homes and businesses without power Friday morning as the state continued to struggle to recover from the storm that paralyzed it with a blanket of snow, ice and frigid temperatures… Some 12 million people were under boil water notices, the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality said. And while approximately 187,000 utility customers were still suffering from outages, according to poweroutage.us, that was down from a peak of some 4 million." Good luck with that if you don't have power. Also scroll down to read the story about "Some Texans are going to be dealing with surprisingly high electric bills."

"Texas’ power grid was 'seconds and minutes' away from a catastrophic failure that could have left Texans in the dark for months, officials with the entity that operates the grid said Thursday."

"The first dose of the Pfizer vaccination is 85% effective against coronavirus infection between two and four weeks after inoculation, according to a study published in the Lancet medical journal. The pharmaceutical giant and its German partner BioNTech, meanwhile, have told the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that their vaccine can be safely stored at standard freezer temperatures, which, if approved by the FDA, could help facilitate faster distribution by negating the need for expensive deep-freeze storage."

"CVS Health plans to contact Americans living in underserved communities to help them schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments amid signs that white people are getting the free vaccine at higher rates than Black Americans."

"A Manatee County, Florida, commissioner broke protocol for equitable vaccine distribution, which she had previously voted in favor of, when planning a vaccine drive initiated by Gov. Ron DeSantis… Vanessa Baugh admitted on Thursday that she 'wanted to make sure certain people were on the list' for vaccination after emails revealed that she directed county officials to create a list to let her and others jump the line. In response to criticism that county officials had only permitted residents from the two richest zip codes in the county to get vaccinated at the event, Baugh further admitted that she picked the zip codes herself." Making sure the "good people" get their vaccines first.

"Life expectancy in the United States fell by an entire year in the first half of 2020 as Covid-19 swept through the country, health data published Thursday found, a decline not seen since World War II."

"Amid reports of a federal probe into Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's handling of COVID-19 nursing home deaths, Democrats from New York's General Assembly and Senate have begun discussing the possibility of stripping Cuomo of broad executive powers granted to him last March to oversee the state's COVID-19 response efforts."

"According to a new Politico profile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is already positioning himself as one of these post-pandemic White House hopefuls. The basic gist of the story is that while DeSantis, just 42 years old and still in his first term, formerly 'drew national scorn for his stewardship of Florida’s Covid-19 response,' his 'resistance to restrictive measures' like mask mandates and the blowback he got for being 'divorced from science' has now 'strengthened' his standing 'among the GOP grassroots and elites heading into his 2022 reelection' — and even inspired 'conservative chatter nationwide about a presidential bid.'" Of course conservatives love him. See comment about the "good people" getting the vaccines first. But then they say there is no bad press as long as they spell your name correctly.

"Lawmakers grilled Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev for more than five hours Thursday over the online brokerage firm's role in frenzied buying last month of GameStop shares and other beaten down stocks. Although Tenev apologized for his company's decision to restrict trading in the video game retailer and other high-flying shares, he also defended its business model as one that benefits average investors… Tenev was joined by two hedge fund managers, Citadel CEO Kenneth Griffin and Melvin Capital CEO Gabriel Plotkin, as well as Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, Reddit investor Keith Gill and the Cato Institute's Jennifer Schulp. Together, the group faced questions about the intersection of social media, hedge funds and small investors that use Robinhood."

"When investigators raided a strip mall store in Garden Grove, California, in December, they found a line of customers snaking around the parking lot and huge stacks of cash inside the store… Orange County prosecutors say Nguyen Social Services was charging up to $700 a pop to file false unemployment claims for people who did not qualify to receive Covid-19 relief money."

"Uber drivers must be treated as workers rather than self-employed, the UK's Supreme Court has ruled… The decision could mean thousands of Uber drivers are set to be entitled to minimum wage and holiday pay… The ruling could leave the ride-hailing app facing a hefty compensation bill, and have wider consequences for the gig economy."

"Facing a rapidly approaching April deadline to act, Democrats are instead coalescing around a targeted effort to pass popular immigration bills that already have bipartisan backing, including legislation to provide a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented group known as Dreamers and immigrants from war-torn areas."

"President Joe Biden’s administration wants to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, but is demanding to see changes from Tehran before it will lift the heavy sanctions imposed on the country by the Trump team… Meanwhile, Iran says it wants Washington to step up its game and make the first move, refusing to budge until those sanctions are lifted."

"Donald Trump’s ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands, violated federal law when she urged Americans to donate to her boss’s campaign using her official Twitter account… She did it again when she tweeted — once more from her official account — an article questioning whether Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants, was eligible to be vice president." Appoint an independent investigator/prosecutor who can move on these investigations without political interference.

"Democratic leaders are racing to get President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic aid plan through Congress, fulfilling one of his biggest early promises. But even if they hit their ambitious targets, major parts of the bill may already be too slow for many Americans walloped by the virus."

"Sen. Ted Cruz said that flying to Cancun, Mexico, as a winter disaster in his home state left millions without power or water 'was obviously a mistake' and that 'in hindsight I wouldn't have done it.'… Cruz, a Texas Republican, spoke to reporters after returning to his Houston home Thursday evening from a trip that has earned fierce criticism on social media and in his own backyard." And then goes on to blame his daughters (he Ted, you're the adult in that relationship), moves to both siderism (it's because of the "atmosphere of vitriol" that you helped create, Ted), and what's not mentioned is they left their dog at home, alone.

"U.S. Sen. John Thune is criticizing Republican activists and party leaders for engaging in 'cancel culture' by rushing to censure GOP senators who found former President Donald Trump guilty of inciting an insurrection." Conservatives have a long history of "cancel culture." It's just their boycotts tend to fail, but internally they've been doing it for decades.

"Six US Capitol Police officers have been suspended with pay, and 29 others have been placed under investigation, for their actions in the January 6 riot, a department spokesman said Thursday."

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Linkee-poo Thursday Feb 18

"Teeth from mammoths buried in the Siberian permafrost for more than a million years have yielded the oldest DNA ever sequenced, according to a study published on Wednesday, shining a genetic spotlight into the deep past."

"NASA's Perseverance Mars rover is scheduled to touch down on the Red Planet today (Feb. 18) at 3:55 p.m. EST (2055 GMT) — or at least that's when NASA will find out if it landed."

"A blanket of snow covered portions of the Mediterranean basin after a winter storm swept through the region Tuesday night… Snow is common in the mountain ranges outside of Athens, Greece, but rarely does it fall within the city limits. Children opted to skip online classes to play. Adults did the same, including Norwegian Ambassador Frode Overland Andersen, who shared a video of himself skiing near the Olympic Stadium in Filothi on Twitter, The Associated Press reported."

"As winter storms and freezing temperatures continue to wreak havoc across Texas, many are having to fight for survival… Millions in the state remain without power on Wednesday, trying their best to stay warm and dry as burst pipes flood homes… Here are just some of the struggles some Texans said they are facing during this winter crisis."

"But the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which supplies about 90% of the state with its power, said Tuesday that wind power is responsible for just a fraction of the loss. Of the 45,000 megawatts of power offline during the peak, 30,000 megawatts stemmed from natural gas, while 16,000 megawatts were from wind turbines… Experts say traditional energy sources, including coal and natural gas, performed below expectations, while wind power actually performed above expectations." I guess ERCOT didn't get the memos in time.

"'Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business,' (former Gov and presidential candidate Rick) Perry is quoted as saying. 'Try not to let whatever the crisis of the day is take your eye off of having a resilient grid that keeps America safe personally, economically, and strategically.'" Which is hilarious because that's exactly the opposite of what you have, Ricky. And Texans, I think you should let your former governor know exactly what you think of his proposal that you're willing to suffer for his gain.

"Police in Brazil are investigating allegations that healthcare workers are giving fake Covid-19 inoculations, amid reports of nurses injecting people with empty syringes… Police announced a criminal investigation on Wednesday, amid speculation that the nurses were either anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists, or were pocketing vaccine shots to be sold on the black market."

"As first reported by New Scientist, the B.1.429 variant of SARS-CoV-2 that originated in California has somehow had a "recombination" event with the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant that originated in the United Kingdom. If confirmed by other scientists, this would mark the first recorded time that the novel coronavirus has developed a recombinant strain during the pandemic, although it is not unusual for coronaviruses in general to recombine." It's Thunderdome, two viruses enter, one virus leaves.

"Two men are accused of pretending to be federal marshals and flashing phony credentials to get out of wearing facial coverings at a South Florida resort hotel… When the staff at the Wyndham Deerfield Beach Resort asked Walter Wayne Brown Jr., 53, and Gary Brummett, 81, to cover their faces, the men refused, and threatened to arrest employees and saddle the hotel with a fine, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported." Just wear the goddamn mask.

"Prosecutors asked a Dutch court Thursday to drop the case against a 68-year-old father who is accused of isolating and abusing his own children, who were kept secluded from the outside world for years in a remote farmhouse." In case you thought Europe was more enlightened when it came to abuse.

"First-time filings for unemployment… totaled 861,000, the highest level in a month and above the Dow Jones estimate of 773,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday… The total for the week ended Feb. 13 marked only a slight uptick from the 848,000 a week earlier. That number was revised up from the initially reported 793,000."

"In a memo to U.S. associates obtained by Yahoo Finance, U.S. CEO John Furner said the wages for Walmart’s 425,000 store associates in the digital and stocking workgroups would increase to a range of $13 to $19 per hour, depending on location and market. The pay increase will take effect on March 13." The anti $15/hr wage arguments are starting to look a little ridiculous.

However… "Walmart said its minimum starting wage for workers will remain at $11 an hour. Its U.S. workforce numbers about 1.5 million people, making it the nation’s largest private employer." Nothing says you're special to your employer by creating a perverse incentive to cut costs by firing you.

"The 'meme stock' saga that began with wild swings in the price of GameStop stock last month opens a new chapter today. The House Financial Services Committee is convening a noon hearing to hear from major players touching several facets of the story… In announcing the hearing, Chairwoman Maxine Waters took particular aim at hedge funds, saying 'private funds engaging in predatory short selling to the detriment of other investors must be stopped.'"

No, no, no, see… "‘What I would like to point out here is that we have come dangerously close to the collapse of the entire system, and the public seems to be completely unaware of that, including Congress and the regulators.’… That’s Thomas Peterffy, founder and chairman of Interactive Brokers Group Inc., detailing Wednesday on CNBC the dire situation in which the market stood in late January as individual investors on social-media platforms banded together to send a handful of heavily shorted stocks, including bricks-and-mortar videogame retailer GameStop Corp.and movie chain AMC Entertainment Holdings to sky-high levels, with shockwaves registering throughout the market." It all depends on who you see as the hero and who you see as the villain.

So, with all the stories about how state GOP organizations are voting to censure those conservative representatives who voted for impeachment (both in the House and the Senate), kinda puts the lie to the "Big Tent" party line, doesn't it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Linkee-poo Wednesday Feb 17

EDITED: Late breaking news: Rush Limbaugh, and so it goes. Do let the door kick you in the ass on the way out, Rush.

Who needs regulation? "A devastating winter storm that has plunged Texas into an electricity crisis offers warning signs for the U.S. as the Biden administration seeks to prepare for a future in which extreme weather is a greater risk and America is almost entirely powered by renewable energy… Wind and solar, still fairly small slices of the state's energy mix, played only a minimal role in the sudden power shortage, utility officials said — contrary to a wave of conservative critics who tried to falsely pin blame for the situation on renewable energy." Most of Texas's power grid is isolated from the rest of the US because Texas didn't want to follow federal regulations. They apparently had hardly any regulation on their operation, including no mandate to cold-weather proof their systems. So as the rest of the country had to deal with broken power lines from the storm, Texas also is dealing with the fact their their gas, coal, and nuclear power production had to shut down because temperatures were too cold to safely produce power. And while, yes, we need to modernize all 3 major power grids in the US and increase our ability to store generated power, this is not a tale about how terrible everything is. The wind turbines in Iowa (and Norway) and working just fine, thank you. This is the Texas government's (conservative lead for over 2 decades) fault, totally, 100%.

And they had warnings… "Still, Magness said ERCOT could not offer a firm timetable for when power might be fully restored. The outages are the widest Texas' grid has suffered but hardly a first in winter. A decade ago, another deep February freeze created power shortages in Texas the same week the Super Bowl was played in Arlington. A federal report later flagged failures in the system, including power plants that are unable to stand up to extreme cold."

"The mayor of a Texas city resigned after telling people it was their own fault if they were suffering from the vast loss of electricity in the state this week amid a historic cold snap… Tim Boyd, the mayor of Colorado City, accused his constituents of looking for a 'handout' as power went out across the state. He encouraged residents with no water to 'think outside the box to survive.'" What an asshole.

"At certain levels, just five minutes of carbon monoxide exposure is enough to be fatal. The colorless, odorless gas is produced wherever fuel is burned and can build to deadly levels especially quickly in enclosed spaces. Portable generators, whose engines each emit as much carbon monoxide as approximately 450 cars, are especially common culprits."

"The apparent uptick in MIS-C cases coincides with a decrease in COVID-19 cases nationwide, in the wake of a post-holiday surge. But experts interviewed by ABC News explained that there is often a lag -- sometimes three to four weeks -- between COVID-19 infections and the onset of MIS-C symptoms."

"The U.K. is set to be the first country in the world to run a Covid-19 'human challenge' study, following approval from the country’s clinical trials ethics body." Uh, yeah, Bob. Imma going to put my marker down on "this study is too dangerous."

"Fully vaccinated people can now skip quarantine even if they've been exposed to Covid-19, according to new guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But at the same time, the agency also acknowledges there's a lot researchers don't know about how vaccines impact transmission… The new guidance only applies if it has been at least two weeks since your final dose, no more than three months since that dose, and provided you don't develop symptoms." That's a lot of caveats. But, again, new disease, it's only been a little over a year that we've recognized the disease, yada yada yada.

And in England… "People with learning disabilities have been given do not resuscitate orders during the second wave of the pandemic, in spite of widespread condemnation of the practice last year and an urgent investigation by the care watchdog." The patients did not ask for them, or consent, they were just assigned. That's criminal and the people responsible should be held accountable for their actions (which are tantamount to murder).

"After last Friday night's unprecedented COVID-19 press briefing addressing the return of students to schools around the state, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday doubled down on his request to prioritize getting kids back into the classroom… During his Tuesday afternoon COVID-19 briefing, the Governor once again stressed the importance of vaccinating teachers and school employees and the hard deadline of getting kids back in schools by March 1."

"President Biden said Tuesday night that teachers should move up in priority for getting vaccines, although he didn't say whether he thinks teachers should be vaccinated before returning to the classroom. Mr. Biden's own Centers for Disease Control has said teacher vaccinations are not a prerequisite for school reopenings."

"For months, Nicholas Atencio and his girlfriend, Heather Surovik, spent nearly every minute of their lives together in a 2000 Cadillac Escalade… After Atencio, 33, lost his job as a plumber in May, he and Surovik, 36, delivered for Grubhub by day and at night curled up with their puppy on an air bed in the back of their car parked in a lot in Longmont, Colorado… Americans are being driven into their vehicles by COVID-19 pandemic-fueled woes. And their ranks are likely to grow as the government safety net frays and evictions and foreclosures rise."

"The benchmark Treasury yield rose again on Wednesday as U.S. retail sales easily topped expectations, adding to fears of potential inflation during the post-Covid economic recovery… The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.316 at roughly 8:35 a.m. ET, while the yield on the 30-year Treasury bond slipped to 2.073%. Yields move inversely to prices."

"Consumers flocked to spend their stimulus checks in January, sending retail sales for the month up 5.3% in a blockbuster start to 2021, according to a government report Wednesday… Economists surveyed by Dow Jones were expecting a rise of just 1.2%."

"New York Attorney General Letitia James sued Amazon on Tuesday, claiming the massive e-commerce company's 'flagrant disregard for health and safety requirements' during the coronavirus pandemic put the lives of workers and the general public at risk."

"Gunmen from a suspected criminal gang stormed a school in central Nigeria, killing one student and kidnapping dozens of other pupils, teachers and relatives, the local government said Wednesday, in the country's latest mass abduction."

"The princess-daughter of Dubai's ruler is being held captive by her family and fears for her life after a foiled attempt to flee the wealthy emirate in 2018, according to new video evidence in a case that has been highlighted by USA TODAY."

"Alaska Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Tuesday she knows her vote to convict former President Donald Trump during his recent Senate impeachment trial could have political consequences, 'but I can’t be afraid of that.'"

"Former President Donald Trump went after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday, calling him 'a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack' in a broadside attack just days after the Kentucky Republican voted to acquit Trump in his second impeachment trial." How do you feel about your vote now, Mitchell?

"Leo Brent Bozell IV, the son of a prominent conservative activist and media critic, has been charged for his alleged involvement in the Capitol insurrection… His father, Leo Brent Bozell III, is the founder and president of the nonprofit Media Research Center, which describes its mission as working 'to expose and neutralize the propaganda arm of the Left: the national news media.' The organization runs the NewsBusters website, which frequently accuses mainstream media organizations — including NPR — of liberal bias."

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Linkee-poo Tuesday Feb 16

"This is an investigative report about how Baen’s Bar, the private forum run by the science fiction and fantasy publishing company Baen Books, is being used to advocate for extremist political violence. Evidence will be presented. Comments by a number of the forum’s users will be shared." Jason Sanford finds the receipts. Baen's current publisher has suspended the operations as it looks into this problem, good for them. Jason is facing a backlash for this in the form of death threats and harassment. Just shows what small people with small minds these supposed tough people are. Baen's Bar at one time was being pushed as a way to get published by Baen. You could post your stories there and they would be voted up or down, also you'd receive feedback and could rewrite (IIRC). It's unfortunate, but not entirely unforseeable given their market focus and previous problems. It's a place the radical right would gather beleiving they have a sympathetic corporate sponsor (weither it's true or not). As SWFA cleaned it own house and pushed to modernize, Baen became a symbol for conservatives/the right.

"Five people have now died from Ebola in Guinea as the government launched an urgent contact-tracing search after the disease’s latest reappearance… Guinea announced the outbreak on Saturday – the first in West Africa since a 2013-2016 epidemic that left more than 11,300 dead in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone."

"For decades, the prevailing theory about the extinction of the dinosaurs was that an asteroid from the belt between Mars and Jupiter slammed into the planet, causing cataclysmic devastation that wiped out most life on the planet… But new research out of Harvard University theorizes that the Armageddon-causing object came from much farther out than originally believed." If you're the dinosaur, it's a difference without much meaning.

"North Korean hackers tried to break into the computer systems of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer in a search for information on a coronavirus vaccine and treatment technology, South Korea's spy agency said Tuesday, according to a South Korean lawmaker."

"Energy prices jumped Tuesday as a deep freeze in the South boosted demand for fuel and hampered production… More than 4 million people were without power across Texas on Tuesday morning, according to poweroutage.us, as the electric grid couldn’t keep up with heightened demand, forcing utilities to implement rolling blackouts in some cases."

"President Joe Biden is extending a ban on housing foreclosures to June 30 to help homeowners struggling during the coronavirus pandemic."

On the Media on taxes… "Few clichés are as well-worn, and grounded in reality, as the dread many Americans feel towards doing their taxes and the loathing they have for the IRS. But as much as the process is despised, relatively little is known about how it could be improved. Pro Publica's Jessica Huseman said that's largely because tax prep companies keep it that way. Brooke spoke to Huseman in 2017 about what an improved system might look like and how tax prep companies work to thwart any such changes."

"Ashenfelter is an economist at Princeton University, and he's spent a couple decades studying McDonald's. Back in 2012, when he was president of the American Economic Association, he even dedicated part of his big presidential address to the company… He views McDonald's as a kind of natural 'laboratory' to compare and contrast different labor markets… each McDonald's restaurant is pretty much the same; the workers have almost identical jobs, regardless of which part of the world they're in; the food they make is generally the same; and McDonald's are basically everywhere." Yeah, not really. Now, if it's a study of the corporate owned McD's, sure. And this seems to leave out that restaurants do have widely varying prices depending on the markets (such as how much you pay for a Big Mac at an airport, toll road rest stop, or side street in a small town).

"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced plans for Congress to establish an outside and independent commission to investigate "the facts and causes" related to the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6… In a letter sent to her Democratic colleagues on Monday, the California Democrat said the commission will be modeled on the commission established after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks."

"On the heels of the Senate's acquittal of Donald Trump, the NAACP, Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson and civil rights law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll filed a lawsuit against the former president, Rudy Giuliani and two white supremacist groups, citing their role in the Jan. 6 insurrection."

Monday, February 15, 2021

Linkee-poo Monday Feb 15

"A mix of wintry weather conditions is bringing warnings and advisories for some 150 million people, stretching from the Northwest down to the Texas border into the Northeastern U.S. early into the week."

"A winter storm dropping snow and ice also sent temperatures plunging across the southern Plains, prompting a power emergency in Texas a day after conditions canceled flights and impacted traffic across large swaths of the U.S."

"The lions are thought to bring good luck and prosperity for the Lunar New Year. And as they strutted and danced in the streets of Chinatown, decorated with silver bells and fur trim, they passed Rose Wong who was walking inside a wearable red and gold lantern she created as an artwork and symbol of hope for the neighborhood." Happy Year of the Bull.

"Perseverance, NASA's most sophisticated rover to date, is expected to land on the surface of Mars on Thursday, February 18, around 3:55 p.m. ET."

So what do we mean by a carbon tax and why is it necessary? "Air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil was responsible for 8.7m deaths globally in 2018, a staggering one in five of all people who died that year, new research has found… Countries with the most prodigious consumption of fossil fuels to power factories, homes and vehicles are suffering the highest death tolls, with the study finding more than one in 10 deaths in both the US and Europe were caused by the resulting pollution, along with nearly a third of deaths in eastern Asia, which includes China. Death rates in South America and Africa were significantly lower." Besides being tragic, these are "costs" being incurred by the rest of us to support the profits of industry. Your health insurance is higher, Medicare payments are increased, the loss of productivity because of illness, all of this is a cost borne not by the industry that caused it. A carbon tax attempts to make industry pay the full cost of their actions.

"Drilling through half-a-mile-thick ice and peering beneath Antarctica's Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf, researchers have accidentally stumbled upon strange creatures lurking on a rock beneath the icy continent. Using a GoPro, a team of polar scientists with the British Antarctic Survey examined a boulder at a depth of over 4,000 feet and found it was alive with alien stalks."

"For the first time since November, average new daily coronavirus infections in the U.S. fell under 100,000--well below the average infection rate in December and January, according to data from Johns Hopkins University… The seven day average of new infections dropped below 100,000 on Friday, continuing at that level through Sunday, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Researchers reported 83,321 new infections and 3,361 new deaths Sunday."

"Researchers have discovered seven variants of the coronavirus in the US, with a mutation in the same genetic letter, a new study found… They were discovered in states across the country and it's not yet clear if the strains are more contagious, but researchers are concerned." Concerned scientists are concerned.

"The first travellers required to stay at quarantine hotels have begun arriving at Heathrow Airport… All British and Irish citizens and UK residents who arrive in England after being in a high-risk Covid country now have to self-isolate in hotels."

John Oliver's Last Week Tonight on the Next Pandemic. Winter is coming.

"For people suffering addiction, (seeking treatment) can be a life-or-death moment. Studies show that getting high-quality medical care can make a huge difference, leading to long-term recovery and a healthier life. So what Beetham's team found was troubling… According to their peer-reviewed study, published in the February issue of the journal Health Affairs, many for-profit rehab programs charged inflated fees and used misleading sales practices to attract patients without evaluating their actual medical needs."

"There’s no question that the pandemic has been hard on children, whether or not their schools have reopened. A flood of research in recent months has found alarming spikes in depression and anxiety among children and their parents. Multiple studies have found that students — especially those with disabilities and from low-income families — are learning less than they should… But a new study from NBC News and Challenge Success, a nonprofit affiliated with the Stanford Graduate School of Education, is one of the first to shed light on the differences between students whose classes have been exclusively online and those who’ve been able to attend in person at least one day per week." And this is part of the reason why the bungling of the pandemic is as terrible as we say it is. You can count the cost in the dead and sick, the direct medical expenses and calculate the continuing expenses for those who now have chronic conditions due to COVID (as we're discovering more long last effects of this disease), but then there are the hard to evaluate costs of lives disrupted, thrown off the rails, the costs of having depended on schools to deliver vital social services to those in need and what happens when that support is cut.

"The United States Coa(s)t Guard is searching for 16 people who have gone missing from two separate boats off the coast of Florida. Officials said 10 people went missing near Key West while six others disappeared off the coast of Fort Pierce."

"Some industries are thriving and eager to hire, which should be welcome in an economy that has recovered only a little over half of the 22 million jobs lost during the coronavirus pandemic… Data from the Labor Department this month, for example, showed job openings at a five-month high. Meanwhile, job search site Indeed said recently that job postings are back to pre-pandemic levels." Pay. Living. Wages. Understand that when this owner says "increased wages" he means $11/hr (most likely, looking at local business, which oddly, we have a lot of plastics manufacturers in the area, most of which pay less than $10/hr).

"The rally in commodities that some say is the start of a supercycle continued on Monday, buoying resource stocks… The West Texas Intermediate contract, the leading benchmark for oil in the U.S., topped $60 a barrel for the first time since Jan. 2020. Middle East tensions and an unusual cold snap in Texas that could cause supply disruptions was credited with moving prices higher. Other commodities including platinum also advanced."

"Even before taking office, former President Donald Trump's administration obsessed over the U.S. census… From a failed bid for a citizenship question to a presidential memo about unauthorized immigrants that was fast-tracked to the Supreme Court, its moves over the past four years followed a playbook first drawn up more than four decades ago by the Federation for American Immigration Reform." Again, Trump isn't an aberration, he is the culmination of 50 years of conservative politics.

"More than 46,000 Missourians have also gotten letters demanding repayment. The state says it paid out more than $150 million last year to people who it later determined weren't eligible. The federal COVID-19 relief package passed in December gave states the power to forgive overpaid federal unemployment benefits. Many states, such as Illinois and Colorado, have decided to offer waivers — but not Missouri."

"Business and civil rights groups in California are demanding action after a recent surge of xenophobic violence against Asian Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area left one person dead and others badly injured… The brazen, mostly daylight assaults have rattled nerves in communities ahead of (last) Friday's Lunar New Year holiday."

Trying to make it Biden's fault. "President Joe Biden kept his head down during the impeachment trial of his predecessor, which ended Saturday afternoon with Donald Trump’s acquittal… And now he can’t move on fast enough… Biden is traveling to Wisconsin and Michigan this week as he presses ahead on the challenges that will make or break his own presidency: defeating the pandemic and reviving the battered economy."

"Democratic and Republican lawmakers have issued fresh calls for a bipartisan 9/11-style commission to investigate why government officials and law enforcement failed to stop the attack on the US Capitol in January, following Donald Trump’s acquittal in his impeachment on charges that he incited the insurrection."

"Sen. Lindsey Graham is taking aim at Vice President Kamala Harris with a warning that she could be impeached if Republicans take over the House of Representatives in 2022." Serious eye roll. Yes, this is how conservatives think. Sure, the president standing before a crowd, telling them to march on the Capitol and fight like hell which lead directly to an insurrection just a few minutes later is exactly the same as :: checks notes :: contributing to a bail fund which also inadvertently released someone who then committed a violent crime a few days later. And yes, conservatives do think it's the same thing.

"But now the decades-long love affair is over. After a member of Publix’s founding family donated $300,000 to the Donald Trump rally that preceded January’s deadly Capitol riots, Mize is pulling out of what she says has become 'an abusive, dysfunctional relationship', and joining others in a boycott of the Florida-based grocery chain that operates more than 1,200 stores across seven south-eastern states."