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

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Linkee-poo Thursday May 20

Apparently I forgot to hit the publish button yesterday. Sorry about that and if this combined post is a little jumbled.

A brief history of (mostly computer) type. (Grokked from John)

And because they're pretty and they were pointed to in my twitter TL, Bradbury & Bradbury Art Wallpapers.A If I had to get wallpapers, they would be something like these. They're expensive, though. (Grokked from Stina Leicht by way of many others)

And you think COVID is rough on us, at least you're not a cicada.
"'It’s this gender-bending, death-zombie fungus,' Lill said." A fungus parasite that evolved to match cicada broods, hijacks their bodies to spread it's spores anyway possible. Oh, and because evolution, it's evolved to pump those little bodies full of amphetamine and the hallucinogen that makes magic mushrooms special. Somewhere right now a grad student is trying to come up with a way to measure how high a cicada is.

"As with the original processor, known as the Wafer Scale Engine (WSE-1), the new WSE-2 features hundreds of thousands of AI cores across a massive 46225 mm2 of silicon. In that space, Cerebras has enabled 2.6 trillion transistors for 850,000 cores - by comparison, the second biggest AI CPU on the market is ~826 mm2, with 0.054 trillion transistors. Cerebras also cites 1000x more onboard memory, with 40 GB of SRAM, compared to 40 MB on the Ampere A100." Okay, again, actual brain function is not a computer (computers are just the most complex machines we have, so that's the comparison we make). But that might actually be a game changer, at least for the limited AI we have now. Also for the kids, true story, when I started with computers back in the 80s, the size of that silicon wafer (which isn't really that large for the manufacture of processors, it's just normally that silicon would be cut apart to form a hundred or so CPUs not used as one giant processor) was roughly the size of a 4kb memory unit. In a distant alternate reality, one of those 4k units that I bought at a college "get this shit out of here" auction sits on my desk (I think it sold for $25 or so, originally purchased it was probably over $1000). I is olds. (Grokked from John)

"NASA Administrator Bill Nelson congratulated China for successfully landing a rover on Mars, but also used the milestone to warn Congress of China’s competitive threat to American leadership in human spaceflight." Let's get ready to ruuuummmbbbblllleee! Whispers, Russia is still the only country to successfully land on Venus.

"The water crisis along the California-Oregon border went from dire to catastrophic this week as federal regulators shut off irrigation water to farmers from a critical reservoir and said they would not send extra water to dying salmon downstream or to the half-dozen wildlife refuges that harbor millions of migrating birds each year."

"Now, a team of scientists have developed a realistic and colorfully stunning simulation of what just the beginning of a star's life looks like… It's called STARFORGE, or Star Formation in Gaseous Environments, and it models an entire gas cloud that serves as a stellar nursery. It's the place where stars are born… From this swirling gas cloud, stars form and evolve, showing off the dynamics of this process. The model also accounts for other activity, like radiation, wind and supernovae, or the explosions of nearby stars, and how they impact the formation of a star."

"This past year, the nation's more than 300 safety-net hospitals found themselves on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, which disproportionately affected the communities that safety-net hospitals are most likely to serve. They took on a greater share of the patient burden, even as other hospitals emerged from the pandemic with huge profits, an investigation by NPR and the PBS series Frontline has found, further widening the gap between wealthy hospitals and hospitals like LAC + USC." Best health care system in the world, eh?

"Nearly two-thirds of people tested in India have shown exposure to COVID-19, a chain of private laboratories said on Wednesday, indicating a runaway spread of the virus as the daily death toll rose to a record 4,529."

"The B.1.617 variant (India) is one of the factors driving the current crisis in India and neighboring Nepal. It may also be linked to recently rising cases among unvaccinated people in the United Kingdom… The variant is believed more contagious than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, but as yet there’s no clear evidence it causes more severe disease or more deaths. The same public health measures — masks and social distancing — can prevent the spread of the virus variant, experts say. And while it might have some impact on the vaccines, its mutations will likely not be enough to weaken protection against serious illness, research suggests."

"But vaccination rates across the United States are uneven -- a worrisome trend that could obstruct efforts to end the Covid-19 pandemic. Rates range from more than 78% of adults in Vermont with at least one vaccine to less than 45% of adults in Mississippi… And over the past week, states with higher vaccination rates have generally had lower Covid-19 case rates, a CNN analysis of data from the CDC and Johns Hopkins University found."

"Lifting mask mandates represents a monumental step toward a pre-pandemic public life and confidence in the United States' vaccine-driven offensive against the coronavirus, but the move is not being met with enthusiasm everywhere." I think they meant "post-pandemic", because it's very doubtful things will be the same.

"The first Americans to be vaccinated against the coronavirus could require a third 'booster' shot as early as September, the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna told Axios." Hopefully not, but again this is all very new.

"The European Union took a step toward relaxing travel rules for tourists from outside the 27-nation bloc Wednesday when EU ambassadors agreed on measures to allow in fully vaccinated visitors."

"The authors say what they found shows just 44 films — 3.4% — featured an (Asian American and Pacific Islander) lead or co-lead performer, and only six films were led or co-led by an API woman. Breaking it down further, the group's work reveals that of those 44 movies, 14 of them starred Johnson. That is a third of the films starring API people. Additionally, nearly 40% of the films reviewed had no API representation at all."

"Two reporters for the USA TODAY Network were arrested on Wednesday night while covering a protest in Elizabeth City, North Carolina."

"What a difference a year makes. When the pandemic began, the BBC spoke to some economists to make sense of what was happening to the US economy. We went back to those same experts to see how things played out, and what they're keeping their eye on in the future."

So in Canada they did an experiment where they gave 50 homeless people $7,500, no string attached, and compared their lives over 1 year to 65 homeless people who were given the same access to support services, but not the cash. "The people who received cash transfers moved into stable housing faster and saved enough money to maintain financial security over the year of follow-up. They decreased spending on drugs, tobacco, and alcohol by 39 percent on average, and increased spending on food, clothes, and rent, according to self-reports… 'Counter to really harmful stereotypes, we saw that people made wise financial choices,' Claire Williams, the CEO of Foundations for Social Change, told me." Also, for $7,500 cash payments, they saved the Canadian government $8,100 per person over the "standard" way they were dealing with the homeless. There are, of course, caveats. It's a small study, the people chosen for for the cash payments had been homeless for less than 2 years and had no history of addictive behaviors or mental health issues.

"The procession of Americans heading to the unemployment line fell last week, with jobless claims totaling a fresh pandemic-era low of 444,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday… Economist surveyed by Dow Jones had been expecting 452,000 new claims as the jobs picture improves thanks to an accelerated economic reopening across the country."

"Microsoft Corp is pulling the plug on its once omnipresent browser, Internet Explorer, next year as it prepares to battle market leader Chrome with its slicker Edge browser… Launched in 1995, Internet Explorer became the dominant browser for over a decade as it was bundled with Microsoft's Windows operating system that came pre-installed in billions of computers." Kill it with fire. Note, the system we use to manage radiology appointments, and enter data, requires IE.

"The day that a white mob came to Greenwood Avenue in Tulsa, Okla., Viola Fletcher was just 7 years old… During emotional testimony on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Fletcher, who is now 107, recalled her memories of the two-day massacre that left hundreds of Black people dead."

"It’s known as the stepped-up basis rule, or, as President Joe Biden called it this month, the 'trust fund loophole,' and Biden’s American Families Plan aims to put an end to it for many people who inherit big estates."

"In 2019, more than 130 million metric tons of single-use plastics were thrown away, with most of that waste burned, buried in a landfill or dumped directly into the ocean or onto land. Now, a new report finds that just 20 companies account for more than half of all single-use plastic waste generated worldwide."

"French police officers held a huge demonstration outside parliament Wednesday to press for a law that protects the protectors who are feeling vulnerable to attacks, angry and useless."

"Palestinians across Israel and the occupied territories went on strike in a rare collective protest Tuesday as Israeli missiles toppled a building in Gaza and militants in the Hamas-ruled territory fired dozens of rockets that killed two people."

"Over 3,150 rockets have been fired by Palestinian militant group Hamas from Gaza into southern and central Israel over the past week, targeting both Israeli population centers and border villages. Approximately 90% of those Hamas rockets have been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, according to Israeli officials."

"Israel unleashed a wave of airstrikes across the Gaza Strip early Thursday, killing at least one Palestinian and wounding several others. The latest strikes came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed back against U.S. pressure to wind down the offensive against Gaza's militant Hamas rulers, who have fired thousands of rockets at Israel."

"Belgian forces kept up their manhunt for an armed soldier who is on a terror watch list because of his extreme right sympathies while the government remained nonplussed over how a known threat to society could have had access to an array of heavy weapons."

"The Biden administration is leading a campaign against Russian attempts to assert authority over Arctic shipping and reintroduce a military dimension to discussions over international activity in the area."

"Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday signed into law a bill that bans abortion the moment a fetal heartbeat has been detected, a move that makes Texas the largest state in the nation to outlaw abortion so early in a pregnancy… The Texas law effectively prohibits any abortion after around six weeks of pregnancy — before many women are even aware they are pregnant."

"Now Thomas is 72 years old with a head of gray hair and he is awaiting a new season on a 6-3 conservative majority court. The justices have agreed to hear a case next term that critics -- and some supporters -- say is meant to gut Roe. They will also hear a Second Amendment case that could expand gun rights. And Thomas, the longest-serving member of the court, will likely find himself in the majority."

"When the Pentagon launched its first-ever independent financial audit back in 2017, backers of accountability in government welcomed it as a major step for a department with a track record of financial boondoggles… But the Defense Department failed that audit – and the next two as well. Now lawmakers are introducing a bipartisan bill that would impose a penalty for any part of the military that fails to undergo a 'clean' audit." After "non-discretionary" spending (Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid), the Department of Defense is the largest budgetary item by far.

"A Florida man was arrested Tuesday after an 11-year-old girl fought back during an attempted kidnapping and escaped to safety Tuesday morning, the Escambia County sheriff said."

"De Young spent her career studying moral panics — specifically, what became known as the 'Satanic Panic' of the 1980s, when false accusations of the abuse of children in satanic rituals spread across the United States… Decades later, echoes of that same fear had emerged in QAnon. The seemingly novel conspiracy theory has grown in far-right political circles since November 2017. Adherents of QAnon believe that a shadowy cabal kidnaps children, tortures them and uses their blood in satanic rituals. The alleged perpetrators in the QAnon conspiracy theory are Democratic politicians — not preschool teachers, as had been the case in the 1980s — but the accusations are eerily similar." And the problem with these Satanic Panics, as it was in the 80s, is that there are actual child trafficking and sexual abuse problems in the US. And these stupid outliers tend to discredit legitimate political actions to solve these longstanding social ills. The 80s and 90s were a huge cultural shift when it came to child abuse (and harassment in the workplace). But the effects, echos, and memories of the Satanic-Panic blunted efforts to help society change for the better, to the point that the problems are nearly as bad as they were when they first "came to light" (true story, Freud's initial theories centered around child sexual abuse, he published monographs on his research into how this trauma warped culture and scared people for life causing generational and personal dysfunctions, and for that he was exiled from the psychiatric community until he recanted and came up with the Oedipal Complex).

"President Biden's commission tasked with studying potential reforms to the Supreme Court is set to gather for the first time Wednesday as pressure to expand the number of seats on the high court grows following its decision to hear a blockbuster abortion dispute in its next term."

"The State Department will now approve U.S. citizenship for children born abroad to same-sex or heterosexual American parents via in-vitro fertilization, surrogacy and by other assisted reproductive means."

"One in 10 US police departments can now access videos from millions of privately owned home security cameras without a warrant."

"Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner survived a challenge in the Democratic primary that pit his progressive reforms against growing concern over a rising tide of homicides and gun crimes… The primary was seen as referendum on whether a wave of prosecutors elected on promises of criminal justice reform - measures like shorter probation and parole and a curtailing of cash bail that disproportionately keeps poor defendants confined before trial - would be blamed for increasing violence."

"New York Attorney General Letitia James is joining the Manhattan district attorney's office in a criminal investigation of the Trump Organization, James' office said Tuesday… The attorney general office's investigation into the Trump Organization, which has been underway since 2019, will also continue as a civil probe, but the office recently informed Trump Organization officials of the criminal component." That usually means they've found something, however that doesn't mean it'll come to actual charges.

"A US House of Representatives vote Wednesday on setting up an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the Capitol insurrection will expose the quandary that now defines the Republican Party… Republicans everywhere are making the same choice, and almost all of them are siding with former President Donald Trump, his false claims of election fraud and his unchecked assault on US democracy." And the vote is no longer one of the representatives' conscience, as originally promised by the minority leader. Instead for conservatives the vote will be whipped, that is the party leadership will expect members to vote as a block. And as of this moment that means they are expected to vote no. Deals may be made to keep members in line, and the stick will definitely be wielded against any who fall out of line. Considering that some in the House Minority leadership (and rank and file) may be implicated by a forthright investigation, and Trump will most certainly will be, this isn't exactly unexpected. "Yet McCarthy's claims were undercut by the fact that the framework for the inquiry was agreed on after weeks of negotiations produced a bipartisan deal between New York Rep. John Katko, the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, and that committee's chairman, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi."

"Firms hired to run a partisan audit of the 2020 election for Senate Republicans in Arizona said Tuesday that data was not destroyed, reversing earlier allegations that election officials in the state's most populated county eliminated evidence." Funny how many of these claims are abandoned when people are asked to show their evidence.

"A recently unsealed search warrant application shows the FBI believes a Hawaii defense contractor illegally funneled $150,000 to a pro-Collins super PAC and reimbursed donations to Collins' campaign. There's no indication that Collins or her team were aware of any of it." But you have to ask yourself, why would the Russians want you to be in the Senate?

"A statement released Wednesday on Capitol Police letterhead, said to be authored by multiple officers on the force, delivered a rare public rebuke of top Republicans for opposing a proposed bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that injured scores on their force… The department distanced itself from the statement, noting that it 'has no way of confirming it was even authored by USCP personnel. The U.S. Capitol Police does NOT take positions on legislation.'"

"The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to form an independent 9/11-style commission to investigate the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol… The bipartisan legislation, which was introduced by Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and John Katko, R-N.Y., passed the Democratic-controlled House 252-175… Thirty-five Republicans voted in favor of the bill, which was opposed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy."

"The state attorney general is joining forces with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who has been conducting a separate criminal inquiry into Trump's business practices and possible insurance or financial fraud as well as alleged hush money payments to two women who said they had affairs with Trump before he became president."

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